Black Flagged VEKTOR

By: Steven Konkoly
Book Four in the Black Flagged Series



Vektor Acknowledgments




To my wife, for reading through Vektor twice. She’s become my primary sounding board for nearly every step in the process. The kitchen has become our boardroom.



To the beta reader crew. Trent, Nancy, Joe S, Jon, and Bruce. Special thanks to Nancy and Jon for providing an exhaustive list of edits.



To the multinational production crew, starting with editor extraordinaire, Felicia A. Sullivan (Maryland). No deadlines on this one…sort of. Jeroen ten Berge (New Zealand) for another stand-out cover. Stef (UK) for keeping my blood pressure in the green by taking care of the formatting. I used to set aside several days to do this, and still didn’t come close to getting it right. Finally, Pauline (Canada) for another solid proofing job. As a writer, I couldn’t ask for a better team. Thank you.





About Black Flagged Vektor




Black Flagged Vektor is the fourth book in what I call the “core” Black Flagged series. I had originally intended to squeeze Vektor into Apex, but was stopped by good friend and writer, Joseph Souza. He kindly informed me that 1.) The book would run another 200 pages and already contained enough sub-plots to keep the most avid Clancy reader occupied 2.) The idea deserved its own, fully developed story line. After finishing Vektor, I’m glad he stopped me. There is no way I could have closed the loop on this aspect of the Black Flagged world without cheating readers. Black Flagged Vektor takes place a few weeks after the events of Black Flagged Apex.



Like the rest of the Black Flagged series, keep in mind that the scenes occur in chronological order and are labeled in local time. Here is a list of the time zone differences between the locations featured in the Black Flagged Apex and the U.S. East Coast: Argentina +2 hours, Kazakhstan +10 hours, Moscow +9 hours, Germany +6 hours, Novosibirsk +11 hours, Sweden +6 hours, Ukraine +7 hours.



Finally, don't forget about the Vektor Character List, which can also be accessed from the link in the Features Index.





PART ONE





BLACK HOLE





Chapter 1





10:25 AM

Mountain Glen “Retirement” Compound

Green Mountains, Vermont


Karl Berg walked briskly down a wide, raked gravel path bordered by weathered cedar planks. The main walkway cut directly through a rough landscape of knee-high grasses and lichen-encrusted granite chunks. Several smaller paths branched off into the thick pine trees that surrounded the clearing. He easily found path number five, which was marked by a solid-looking post displaying the number. He stopped for a moment and took in his surroundings, shaking his head slowly. If the American public ever discovered that their taxes funded places like this, the CIA would have hell to pay. Even he had a hard time coming to terms with it.

For such a small “guest” population, the Mountain Glen facility cost U.S. taxpayers an unimaginable sum of money. The compound had been designed as the final “deal” for enemy foreign nationals willing to provide information critical to U.S. national security. Enemies too dangerous for release were offered a lifetime “retirement” in exchange for their knowledge, which would be vetted and confirmed. Prior to permanent acceptance at Mountain Glen, the director of the CIA carefully reviewed each case. If the information turned out to be bogus or failed to live up to advertised expectations, the “guest” would be evicted.

The process involved a significant element of trust, but few prospective guests turned their back on the deal after spending a few days at Mountain Glen with its fresh air, mountain views, babbling brooks, gourmet food, and first-class accommodations. Most of them had already tasted the alternative while in regular custody. Only the most stubborn or distrustful chose to spend the rest of their lives trapped in a dank, poorly lit prison cell, pissing and shitting into a rusty coffee can that was emptied once a day.

He turned down the path and let the pristine air fill his lungs. Cold pine air. Quite a difference from the crowded confines of the Beltway. He couldn’t imagine anyone turning down the offer to stay here.

The temperature dropped a few degrees as he passed through the green curtain of pines. He could see a small post-and-beam structure with two dormers and a green metal roof situated in a tight clearing fifty meters ahead. He searched the trees while he walked, trying to spot one of the cameras or sensors. He felt exposed walking to Reznikov’s villa alone.

Berg approached the front door cautiously, scanning the windows for signs of life within the house. Security had assured him that Reznikov was awake. Breakfast had been delivered thirty minutes ago. He thought about that. They delivered breakfast at Mountain Glen. Reznikov certainly didn’t deserve a place like this, but what other options did they have? The door opened before he could knock.

“Come in, my friend. Breakfast is waiting,” said an invigorated looking Anatoly Reznikov.

“I already ate,” Berg said, stepping across the threshold, fully expecting to defend himself from a hand-to-hand attack.

“Nonsense. Please, this is my treat. Welcome to my mountain dacha.”

“It’s not yours yet. We’re still a long way from securing your stay, which is why I’m here,” Berg said.

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