An excerpt from Chapter One of The Caspian Intercept:
February 1979: Site T-1, Caspian Coast, Iran
Azad Shirazi, consumed by an ominous sense of unease, examined the deserted operations center. Racks of electronic equipment glowed softly in near darkness. Days ago, Azad had a secure job and comfortable lifestyle. Working at the intelligence-gathering site instilled a sense of pride and patriotism. Now, the turbulent events of the past few weeks had turned his world upside down.
Site T-1 offered an awe-inspiring view of the Caspian Sea. The facility, one of five ground stations of Project IBEX, a joint American-Iranian intelligence effort aimed at the Soviet Union. The primary mission was to intercept telemetry transmissions from missile launches at Tyuratam in Central Asia. From the first moments of launch to splashdown, the missile streamed a flood of vital telemetry data. Signal intercepts allowed analysts to measure Soviet missile performance and development.
An electrical engineering graduate, Azad's job had been to oversee the electrical system. Whenever the emergency generator kicked in, everyone knew what to do — 'Call Azad.'
Azad, a slender man in his early thirties, hailed from the desert garden city of Shiraz, proud of his surname that echoed his heritage. He viewed himself as a perfect Persian, the inheritor of thousands of years of culture. He longed for his home city of Shiraz. The people on the Caspian coast spoke a different dialect and the region was far from his beloved Shiraz.
A devout Muslim, he managed the temptations of the West and the strict code of his religion. His faith gave comfort and stability as he worked among strangers. It had been a satisfying job, defending his country against the godless Communists. They stood for everything evil in the world, until now.
Three weeks before, the impossible happened. The Shah fled the country in the wake of escalating riots and protests. Azad had been sure the Americans would never let that happen. They did nothing. Two weeks later, American technicians abandoned the facility leaving the equipment running, intercepts sent to a satellite. Khomeini returned from exile and a few days later took over the government. Azad, ever faithful, stayed on the job, his skills needed to keep the facility running. Without doubt, the new regime would want to be on guard against the Russians.
Five days ago, his worst fear came true. A delegation from the Committee of the Islamic Revolution showed up at the gate. The men were not Mazandarani from the local area, but an advance group from Tehran. They arrested the remaining local employees and took them away.
Azad pleaded with the leader, a young Mullah wearing a green armband, to spare him. Azad insisted he was from the south, a real Persian, not one of the locals. He was an electrical engineering graduate, they needed him to maintain the equipment. It worked. The leader of the group ordered him to stay at the facility and keep it running. Guards posted outside the main gate had orders to allow no one in or out.
A different faction returned the next day. They called themselves Basij-e Mostaz'afin, the Mobilization Resistance Force. A young Mullah led the group made up of rough characters, men from the street. Azad sensed danger.
The Mullah, an intense man wearing wire-rimmed glasses, asked questions. "Why did you work for the American Satan? Why did you work for the Shah against the Iranian people?"
Azad tried to explain: he was protecting the country against the godless Communists. He was a patriotic Iranian. They did not believe him.
The interrogation began. Azad told them what they wanted to hear, but to no avail. A large angry man administered a professional beating. Azad, at the edge of consciousness pleaded, told them he was a good Muslim and prayed five times a day. He worked for the Americans only to spy on them.
They demanded proof he was spying on the American Satan. Desperate, he told how the Americans sent their data back to the den of spies in Washington. The data transmitted to a satellite in space and beamed back to the United States for analysis. They drug him outside. He pointed out the satellite dish. A volley of bullets destroyed the last means of communication.
In the end, his job saved his life. They needed his unique skills to maintain the facility until the new regime decided what to do. The Mullah instructed Azad to stay and keep the equipment running. He did not tell them the automated collection system continued to run. Tapes collected intercepts, but no longer transmitted data.
Trapped, his future uncertain, Azad kept his established routine. Check the electrical circuits every two hours. Start the emergency generator daily. Wait for the unknown. It had been three days since they left, but he realized they would return. In his heart, he knew he was expendable.
He sank into a chair in the operations center, desperate for an idea. Anything that would save him from an uncertain fate.
Startled when a tape machine began recording, Azad eased over to the bank of equipment. He placed a hand on the lever intent on halting the process, hesitated for a moment, and looked back at the intercept operator's console. Although not a trained operator, he had seen the Americans in action.
The panoramic display flashed with the unmistakable signature of a Soviet missile launch. He knew that much for sure. Antennas focused on targets in Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea monitored Soviet missile telemetry. His hand released the lever and hurried back to the console.
For a full five minutes, he stared at the display, pausing only to look back at the revolving tape reel. The germ of an idea began to form. The Americans always celebrated a successful intercept. It was an important occasion. This was a test they would never know about, unless Azad took the tape.
THE CASPIAN INTERCEPT: A RAVEN-ONE TEAM THRILLER transports you to the secret front line of the Cold War.
A Full-length novel |Book Four in The Secret Cold War Series.