Making their way to the Burj Khalifa, the team made their way to At The Top, the highest level observation deck on the 148th floor.
At The Top:
Shortly thereafter, their old UNAD handler, Jason Shaw, also arrived. The clandestine meet went down, with Jason explaining that the trio were indeed burned, and were actively being targeted by MI6 assets for termination. He went on to explain that there was a mole within UNAD, and that while he would do everything he could to help his old protégés, without knowing who was working against them he would be limited in what assistance he could offer. Direct contact was impossible, but he could use his contacts in the Middle East to provide some succor. He suggested that the team leave immediately, but to avoid the airports and ports, instead heading via car further south – through Oman and to Yemen.
It was a dangerous trip, especially for non-Arabs, but was the least likely avenue that MI6 would monitor for that same reason. The team had rearmed earlier from Lee’s hidden supply cache. That coupled with the additional funds they had “acquired” from the Russian Bratva, meant they were as well-supplied as could be under the circumstances, so they agreed to Shaw’s plan and set off for the country of Oman.
Passing through the checkpoint along Route 21 in Al Ain, the trio made their way south, stopping a passing native and trading cars, much to the delight of the poor farmer who now found himself in possession of a new BMW 7 Series sedan.
They continued onward, down Route 29 and 31, arriving in Salalah a few days later. They took some time to ensure that they were not being followed, before setting off for Yemen along Route 47, passing through the checkpoint in Al Mazyunah and heading down the coast in their old Range Rover until arriving a few days later in the port city of Aden. There, they made contact with Shaw’s contact, who was apparently working for the Houthi rebels.
The team laid low for a few weeks, spending their time evaluating the mysterious emails that had been sent to their secure accounts. It was a file called the “Dracula Dossier,” and purported to be an unredacted version of the Bram Stoker novel. A novel, apparently, that was not a novel, but supposedly an after action report of British agent Bram Stoker who oversaw recruitment of the fictional (or not?) character of Count Dracula as an asset for the British Naval Intelligence department.
The email was heavily encrypted, but also incomplete. There were indications of a series of annotations by different individuals but it was impossible to verify the completeness and authenticity of the document without seeing the original. A tracelog of the emails led to a series of offline servers in London, England, and analysis of the physical location also proved fruitless, as the refurbished warehouse had apparently burned to the ground the night that the emails were sent.
It was near the end of September when their Yemen contact, Mokhtar, announced that he had received a message from Jason Shaw. There was an UAE vessel currently headed south down the Bab al Mandeb strait that was going to be targeted for attack by the rebels. In addition, the ship was carrying a special passenger – one Nikolai Limrovich, aka Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier. As part of the exchange, Shaw had requested that the team be given the privilege of being the first to board the enemy vessel. They had agreed to the terms – albeit reluctantly. The ship, HSV-2 Swift, would be in the area in a few days, so the team set out to prepare for another encounter with the remarkably resilient “Bucky.”
Houthi rebels attack the HSV-2 Swift:
Two thumps thudded through the ship’s hull as the Chinese C-802 anti-ship missiles launched into the cool night air. Trailing steam and smoke traced their path over the dark waters and explosions lit up the night as they struck home on HSV-2 Swift. The Swift was afire and obviously damaged, but did not appear to be in immediate danger of sinking, as the team alit into a waiting Zodiac and headed towards the burning ship.
After making their way onboard, the team quickly moved through the main deck, finding evidence in the officer’s quarters that their target, Bucky (Nikolai), was indeed on board – a laptop emblazoned with a symbol for Marvel’s Winter Soldier was probably Nikolai’s.
A chance encounter with a UAE navy sailor was quickly defused thanks to Quinn’s quick thinking, and the search continued.
The med bay contained a number of what appeared to be a Russian mercenary, so the team engaged with deadly precision. The Russian was no match for the team, and they left his body booby-trapped with one of Quinn’s frag grenades.
Finding a comm station, DuBois and Lee were able to use the intraship monitoring system to locate another group of Russian mercenaries on board. The team moved quickly to isolate the squad and took them out with one of Quinn’s ever-present M67 grenades.
Moving onwards towards the bridge, there was no sign of the Winter Soldier, but there were more Russians. They put up a bit more resistance, but again were outclassed. It was then that Nikolai appeared. Quinn took a powerful punch to the head that sent him flying, as DuBois pulled his pistol and Lee maneuvered to engage in melee, attempting to spear him through a metal wall? Bucky was caught with a number of solid bullet hits, but as usual, seemed preternaturally hale and undaunted by damage that would have incapacitated a normal man. However, the odds were not in his favor this time. Quinn missed with a tackle and fell down a set of stairs, and Lee was thrown into a computer station as he took more hits from DuBois’ pistol. Bucky turned and ran into the main control bridge, throwing the hatch shut behind him to buy him time to escape. As the team gained entry, they saw their target jumping through the bridge window, hurling towards the forward deck. They pulled up at the edge of the shattered glass and saw Nikolai on his feet and running towards the prow. DuBois pulled off one last shot and was elated to see Nikolai stumble and fall. Their nemesis was down.
The team descended to the forward deck, taking pains to ensure that Bucky was indeed dead – Lee spearing him through the heart and DuBois cutting off his head may have seemed excessive to some, but they were taking no chances. The trio then disembarked and headed back to the rebel’s ship, as the hobbled Swift slowly began to get underway once more. Without any further anti-ship weapons, the Houthi could only yell and curse as their target slowly moved off into the strait.
Having recovered the laptop’s drive, Lee set to breaking it’s encryption once they returned to their safehouse in Aden. He found a number of Skype calls made to a contact that he traced to the city of Ludwigshafen, Germany. The calls happened at seemingly random times, but always originated from Nikolai’s laptop. Lee was not convinced about the randomness, and sure enough discovered a connection between the times that the calls were made and the occurrence of a low tide in the coastal areas connected to the Arabian Sea. A perfect match, in fact.
The next low tide would occur in a few hours, so the team planned to make a call and pretend to be Nikolai. They would opt for a text-only approach, saying that connection issues were preventing Skype from working properly. At the appointed hour, the call was made, and a brief, cursory conversation happened. Traceroutes showed the call was indeed in Germany, but there was little insight gained from the perfunctory discussion. The team knew that whomever was on the other end would soon learn of the attack on the HSV2 Swift and the death of Nikolai, so they opted to pack up and follow their lead to Germany.
Travelling to Djibouti, the team made use of Lee’s skills and soon had working passports, identity cards, and travel papers to take a flight to the city of Ludwigshafen, Germany. There, they quickly set up shop in the Business-Hotel René Bohn, and planned to use the laptop as a honeypot to lure in whomever was in communication with Nikolai.
Business-Hotel René Bohn
Choosing the nearby Lilos internet cafe, Lee set up the laptop and made a Skype call, leaving the connection open. The team were waiting in place when a small company car pulled to the curb a few minutes later.
BASF Electric Concept Car:
The young man clearly knew no tradecraft, as he drove directly back to the BASF headquarters, parking in their employee lot and heading into the main building. Whatever was going down, was happening at the BASF complex.
BASF Chemical plant: