Ballyclare is a small town with a predominantly Protestant population of 8770. It is part of the Six Mile Valley in County Antrim in Northern Ireland. Its close proximity to Belfast makes it a sleeper town for many professionals working in the capitol city of Northern Ireland.
Ballyclare was also the perfect setting for Colonel Spencer’s coup, and he was thrilled. Ballyclare was close to his office in Holywood, and he had his troops in place long before Whelan’s estimated time of arrival. His specialists had carefully determined the exact location to set up their satellite equipment. It was a small clearing North of the town close to B94 but hidden from plain view.
They had chosen civilian-looking vehicles to transport the soldiers to the site while the large BV206 military vehicle containing the satellite terminal took smaller roads, timed to arrive as soon as dusk set in. The last thing they needed was to stir even the slightest commotion among the local population.
Spencer himself had chosen the comfort of his official limousine, a Bentley Arnage, a four-door sedan with a 6.8-liter, eight-cylinder engine. Considering his position and the hostility of the surroundings, he was entitled to an armored vehicle, and his chauffeur was a highly experienced SAS officer. The backseat section inside the limousine provided ample space and allowed him to run it like an office away from his office at the Holywood barracks.
There he sat, a small folding-table with a stack of papers in front of him, and yet again he read the weather forecast for the evening. It called for mostly clear skies and a full moon, which meant they had to hide carefully in the clearing. Nevertheless, the conditions were perfect for the satellite’s video feed, rather than having to rely solely on thermal imaging.
Spencer also had a list of all farms in the neighborhood, and in the worst-case scenario, he was prepared to raid them one by one, but he did not believe that Whelan would lie to his brother about Sheehan’s whereabouts. The bug in Whelan’s car was still working, and Spencer’s people received real-time updates of his position. In addition, two of his squad members followed Whelan at a safe distance. He was convinced Whelan would take them to Sheehan’s hideout and hence, allow a quick, surgical operation without arousing any widespread attention.
He looked out of the window and watched the man code-named “The White Fox” as he stood in the clearing watching the sundown. Spencer wondered why the man had insisted on being present during the operation, but, after all, he liked the notion of picking the man’s brain in case Whelan made an unexpected turn.
He thought, under different circumstances, he might have liked the man. However, he couldn’t shake off the feeling of contempt for a man who betrayed his comrades as part of an ordinary business transaction. He had to admit, though, the man was an exceptionally experienced undercover agent.
Spencer sorted the papers and shoved them into his briefcase. Then he stepped out of the limousine and walked toward the man.
“I see, you didn’t spare any expenses,” the White Fox said as he turned to Spencer.
He pointed to the large vehicle and its trailer. “As far as I can tell, this is a Reacher satellite ground terminal. I take it you are using Skynet to communicate with your superiors in London.”
Spencer was impressed. Again, the man obviously knew what he was talking about.
“You are right,” he answered. “But this terminal is not connected to Skynet 5 alone. As you know, Skynet 5’s design delivers secure military communications via satellite to UK armed forces all over the world. For this operation, we will also utilize a real-time video feed.”
The White Fox looked surprised. “I didn’t know Skynet provided live feeds.”
“You are right, it does not. Skynet 5 provides instantaneous voice and data between ground, sea and air platforms. However, as I said, the terminal we are using is not only connected to Skynet. During the past years, we have installed an additional network of live-feed-capable satellites, but that is not public knowledge as of yet.”
“But how did you manage to redirect a live-feed satellite to this location?” the White Fox asked in disbelief. “I cannot imagine the effort it takes to request a change of trajectory.”
Spencer gave a smug smile. He enjoyed being in control and standing in the limelight.
“As a matter of fact, with the help of our good friends in Israel, we have established a whole fleet of light-weight, highly maneuverable satellites, which, when working in conjunction, can produce a live-feed of twenty-four hours a day anywhere in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and even beyond, if the situation requires it.”
He winked at the White Fox. “We made some modifications to the design that even the Israelis don’t know about.”
The White Fox looked properly impressed, and Spencer continued his lecture with obvious pleasure.
“We are using the newest series of Israeli spy satellites, the OFEQ-6. They circle the earth from South to North every hour-and-a-half. The extremely light launch weight, actually less than three hundred kilograms, gives them some of their tremendous agility. The satellites acquire images in all directions, including ahead of their trajectory, beneath and lateral to them. They are all-weather capable, meaning their sensors employ cloud penetration capabilities and thermal imaging at nighttime.”
The White Fox opened his mouth to ask further questions, but Spencer stopped him by holding up his hand.
“Excuse me for a moment.”
He walked toward the large vehicle and talked to the solider handling the terminal.
“Status report, Lieutenant.”
“Sir! Vehicle’s ETA is about thirty minutes from now and…”
“I am not interested in the vehicle,” Spencer interrupted him. “Do we have a satellite feed?”
“I am working on the Skynet connections, Sir. Still waiting for the video feed, too.”
Spencer was not pleased. “Inquire with headquarters and find out what the delay is. Report any updates immediately. I need that damn satellite!”
“Problems?” asked the White Fox after Spencer returned.
“Nothing we can’t handle,” Spencer responded casually, but it was obvious he was not pleased with the lack of progress.
The sun had set, and the landscape around them was embedded in an eerie dusk, illuminated only by the full moon in a clear sky, occasionally interrupted by a quickly passing small cloud. The troops had orders to keep lights to a bare minimum. Spencer and the man he only knew as the White Fox decided to join a small group of soldiers who had gathered under a tall oak tree about twenty yards away from the satellite terminal.
They remained silent, but Spencer, who checked his wristwatch frequently, became more and more agitated.
“Where is that damn satellite?” he finally burst out.
Out of the darkness of the tree line behind them they heard a voice calling out.
“I would not count on your precious satellite, Colonel.”
The soldiers, including Spencer and the White Fox, stiffened at first but then quickly turned into the direction of the voice. Everybody’s instinct was to reach for their weapon, but little red dots, produced by a number of laser beams coming from multiple directions and pointing to their chests, stopped their movement immediately.
“Pull your weapons and you’re dead,” growled the man out of the dark.
They looked in the general direction of the voice, and through the dim light, they saw the developing silhouette of a man walking toward them. They noticed his outstretched arms, and the gun nested in his hands.
“Pleasure to finally meet you, Colonel,” the man said caustically. He stopped at a safe distance.
“Just so you understand the seriousness of your position,” he continued. “You are surrounded by a squad of highly trained soldiers, who managed to approach you effectively and quietly. They have strict instructions to shoot to kill anybody trying to resist us.”
He nodded to the trees behind him. “Both your surveillance guys are back over there, as are the rest of your troops. They are neatly packaged, I might add. You can pick them up after I am finished here. First, there is some unfinished business to take care of.”
The man paused for a moment, giving them a chance to digest the new situation, and then he continued.
“Your plan had a major flaw, Colonel. Marty Sheehan is dead. He died of cancer three years ago.”
Then he addressed the White Fox. “And yes, brother, I lied to you.”
“You bastard!” was all Seamus could say.
Finn did not seem fazed by his brother’s insult. “Well, look who’s talking. You are quite a disappointment, brother.”
Finn lowered his weapon and turned back to Spencer.
“About an hour ago I called some friends at the American CIA. They, in turn, called your MI5’s Director-General to warn her of a potential embarrassment that might have devastating consequences not only for the service, but also the Director-General herself. The recommended action was to cut off your satellite access, which in turn allowed me to approach you undetected.
“You see, I gave them just enough information to convince them, but I did not disclose everything I know about your illegal operation. I admit I could not resist the opportunity to confront you and my dear brother personally.”
He took another step forward out of the shadows into a small spot filled with moonlight, allowing them to see him in full.
“Be assured, though,” he continued, “There will be a detailed report to your MI5 boss. You, Colonel Spencer, will be forced into immediate retirement, I’m afraid to say. As far as I know the MI5’s workings, I cannot believe they will go public by putting you on trial for deceiving the Prime Minister.
“It was a brilliant touch to involve the First Minister, but it was also a major mistake – besides messing with me – to present fabricated evidence to the Prime Minister.”
“What I did, I did for the safety and security of my country,” Spencer burst out. “It is mandatory that we destroy you and your brothers in arms before we can accomplish safety for the British people.
“And for the record, I piss on the Good Friday agreement. That agreement is a disgrace for the English people, and as soon as we have a new Conservative government – and believe me, there will be one eventually – we will do everything in our power to reverse that fateful decision.
“We have a responsibility to protect our people from terrorist elements like you and all the remains of the IRA. We will be back and…”
Finn, not willing leave the tirade unanswered, countered agitatedly. “And I will be here to meet you and…”
He closed his eyes for a moment. Not again, he thought.
“You, Sir,” he continued coolly. “You are fueling the last remains of a war that officially ended years ago. You and your likes are the reason why terrorist organizations like the Real IRA and Continuity IRA continue to receive support. Your prolonged mishandling of the situation makes this the real unnecessary war because you just do not get it.
“The people in the Republic and the Northern Provinces, Catholics and Protestants alike, are tired of war. If you would just learn to leave the matters of Northern Ireland to its people, all IRA splinter groups would die from losing their support. For God’s sake, I would be glad to be part of that process.”
“You, Sir,” yelled Spencer. “You are a terrorist! You are responsible for the death of people who were my dear friends. You deserve to rot in one of our prisons, and as long as I live, I shall…”
With a swift move, Finn raised his weapon and shot Spencer in the chest. Spencer dropped to the ground like a stone. Finn watched the scene with satisfaction and murmured, “God, that felt good.”
From the corner of his eyes, he saw Seamus reach for his gun.
“Don’t even think about it, brother!” he called out, pointing the gun at him. Seamus’ hand froze near the holster.
“I know you all wear bullet-proof vests,” Finn addressed the soldiers in front of him with a firm voice, “but believe me, my people and I are excellent marksmen, and the next shot will go right into your face!”
Seamus slowly raised both his arms and straightened his posture. Finn nodded toward Spencer who lay in the high grass, motionless.
“He’s fine. He will wake up soon,” he said.
He turned his attention back to Seamus, watching his brother curiously.
“Why, Seamus?” he asked calmly. “What drove you to betray your own brother?”
Seamus looked uneasy. “I did not betray you, Finn. I betrayed what I believed was a foolish quest and, honestly, I can live with that. Besides, I needed the money.”
Finn was visibly shocked. “Are you telling me this was all about money?”
“Of course it was! Why do you think my business took off so quickly? I could not have done that without help, and there was nobody else to help me. Certainly not you or – may he rot in hell – my father. So, I took the money from the Brits.”
“What about Shauna? You are responsible for her death!”
“I had no information that you and Shauna had plans to be at that meeting! I would have never…”
He paused and then continued with a good portion of resignation in his voice.
“What does it matter now? You came here for revenge. Do what you need to do.”
Finn hesitated for a few seconds, but then, with a deep breath, he raised the weapon and pointed it firmly toward Seamus’ head. Seamus closed his eyes, awaiting the ultimate punishment, but nothing happened. He slowly opened his eyes and looked at Finn, unsure what was about to happen.
“The war is over, brother,” Finn said. His voice was calm and controlled.
“I am at peace now. You and your friends here may go home.”
He lowered the gun and tucked it back into the holster. Turning away from his stunned brother, he looked at Spencer, who had started groaning and tried to get up. Two soldiers, who had attended his unconscious body, reached out and helped him to his feet. Spencer was groggy. He held on to the soldiers and looked at Finn, but was still not able to speak.
Seamus, still wrestling to grasp his brother’s reasoning, watched the scene, and then he turned to Finn.
“You will not make it to Belfast, Finn,” he warned him. “There is a massive police operation in place that cannot be stopped. You could save your life by surrendering right here and now – please, Finn!”
“You idiot!” Spencer could manage to hiss. “Why are you telling him this? That information was classified.”
Seamus looked angry and embarrassed, but Finn came to his help.
“You underestimate whom you are dealing with, Colonel,” he said. “I know you and I know how your organization works and, of course, I have my scouts out there. Whatever operation is in place, you will not be able to stop me. I will make it home safe and secure.”
Finn turned his attention back to Seamus.
“One last word, brother,” he said. “Leave Ireland. It would not be advisable for you to stay. I have forgiven you, but that does not apply to some of my dear friends, and, believe me, they will come after you, and they will kill you.
“I cannot say I am sorry for messing up your life and the loss of your major source of income. Since you have been compromised, I would imagine MI5 would consider you useless and cut you loose. Probably less than you deserve.”
Then he addressed Spencer. “I have a piece of advice for you as well, Colonel. Enjoy retirement and, most importantly, stay off my island!”
With those words, he turned around and quickly disappeared into the darkness.