Chapter 50: Mousetrap
Copyright© 2016 by Graybyrd
“Eric, Buzz ... how confident are you that we’ve got the food stocks and the incoming food supply chain secured? Everything is in locked containers, guarded, and it’s all safe from contamination? It’s all monitored, and the people responsible can be trusted? I worry about infiltrators, fanatics, guards who’ve been bribed, all of that,” Michael asked.
“No guarantees, Mike,” the General answered, “but Eric and I have been with our best people, and they’ve been right on top of this thing since we got the warnings. We’ve got literally hundreds of people focused on the problem. They’re breathing down the necks of everybody in the supply chain, from the shipping docks at the points of origin, right through to the unloading points at our staging areas, to following the transports into the camps. Nothing is left open and unguarded at any of the camps!”
“He’s right,” Eric added. “And we’ve got an insane level of safeguards in place. Every container, without exception, has tamper-proof seals. Every collection or staging area is totally lighted, with a circle of surveillance cameras and guards. Every container movement is tracked, recorded, monitored ... and every convoy is over-flown to prevent interference.
“We’re spending a ton of money and employing a lot of people to make this work,” he added. “As for infiltrators or bribed guards, we’ve got so many eyes on everything, so much monitoring, that it’s really hard to see how they could get into the food,” he said.
“Okay, I’m satisfied,” Mike said. “I guess that leaves only the very beginning of the line, at the factory or farm, or at the very end of the line just before it goes into the cooking pot that it could be messed with. Let’s hope we’re not missing something.”
“We know we’ve got a pack of fanatics out there carrying botulinum toxin. Given a chance, they’ll sprinkle, spray, or inject it into any exposed foodstuff. So do we just hope our defenses are tight enough to stop ‘em? Or do we set a trap?”
“Think of it as a pantry,” Eric suggested, “with a pack of rats trying to get at the food. We’ve got almost everything sealed up and guarded. They can’t get past the cat and they can’t get through the food containers. But there’s always a little spillage, a bit laying about, and the rats go for that when they think the cat’s not watching.”
“So what you are suggesting, in kind of a round-about way...”
“We set rat traps!” Eric finished. “We set a lot of them, a couple at each camp. We don’t know where the rats are coming from, exactly, or where they’ve scattered to, but we know for damned sure that they’re already infiltrated into the camps and they’re circling about, sniffing around the food areas, just looking for any weakness, anything exposed. So we set out the traps, bait them, and wait for the rats to stick their evil little noses in and we chop ‘em off!”
“Blood-thirsty!” Mike grinned at Eric and General Buzz. “Actually, I’d really prefer to squeeze ‘em a bit to hear them squeal. Don’t forget, we really need to know who sent them!”
“So what have we got, so far,” Eric asked his Ranger leaders.
“Seven camps so far; we’ve taken eleven poisoners, caught on camera. The traps are still in place and baited. We took the prisoners just as they left the scene, very quietly, so if there’s any other rats lurking about, they haven’t been frightened away,” Ranger Lieutenant Sam Black reported.
“How’d you set it up?”
“Easy, really. At every camp, we brought in a small stake-bed truck loaded with mixed goods: bags labeled lentils, bags labeled corn meal, and containers marked as supplements and concentrates. It was made to appear as a last-minute arrival, parked in an overflow area,” Black replied.
“So, how did they attack it?”
“During the daytime, wearing coveralls like the regular work crews, during the busy part of the food-handling day. Every one of them waited until the area was crowded with workers. They slipped away, tried to keep the bait truck between themselves and the workers. They used long-needle syringes to inject the dry goods. They’d jab the bags in several places, as many bags as they could reach. Then they used another syringe with a short, sharp needle to inject as many of the liquid containers as they could reach, piercing a corner seam in the tops of the bulk packs. Nasty!” Black explained.
“Are we going to have a problem with that contaminated food?” Eric asked.
“Hell no, Sir!” Lt. Black laughed. “It’s not real food. We had bags of sawdust and rock salt instead of corn meal and lentils, and we put salt brine in the liquid paks. There’s no chance any of that will get confused with something to eat.
“And we’re leaving it all in place. None of the rats are the wiser, sir. We’ll keep watch and keep catching them until we’re sure there’s no more to be caught!”
“Beautiful! Just beautiful. When this is all over, we’re going to throw one hell of a beer and barbecue celebration for everybody involved, guys. Tell your Rangers how proud we are, right?”
“Iran?” Michael snapped upright in his chair, pushing back from his desk.
“Yes,” Andrei Gulichov replied. “A tangled web with Iran at the center.”
“Why?” Michael insisted.
“It’s very complicated,” Pietor Grovischenk replied, “but essentially, mass deaths in the camps would discredit us, enhance the reputation of Hezbollah and the Shiite factions. A peripheral benefit was to cause us to lash back against Al Queda and their Khartoum base.”
“All that?” Michael exclaimed.
“Well, you’ve got to remember that when they’re not hating the West, hating Israel, hating the Christians — and now hating us — the dysfunctional world of Islam is engaged in hating each other. Sunnis and Shias seem hell-bent on sending each other to perdition. So in a twisted way, it makes sense,” Pietor said.
“So the Al Queda assholes, who are Sunni, and the Hezbollah assholes, who are Shia, hate pretty much everybody else but most especially each other?”
“Ya, but they will come together to kill you space alien infidels. Then they can go back to hating and killing each other again,” Andrei added.
“But ... Iran?” Michael questioned.
“Yes. Iran. And Hezbollah, and the other Shia factions and splinter groups, all funded and sanctioned and spreading out from Iran’s religious regime like cancer,” Pietor replied.
“And Al Queda?”
“A festering pustule of Sunni assholes, sprung up from extremist factions in Saudi Arabia,” Andrei answered.
“So what’s the deal here in central Africa?”
“Easy. Sunni factions in North Sudan run the government. Christians want to live unmolested in South Sudan where they have gold and oil. A few years ago, they broke away. The north wants the south’s oil money but no Christians. A perfect setting for genocide and domination.
“As for us, we eagerly jumped into the middle of it, thinking to save the people, when most everybody else wanted them all gone or dead!” Andrei said.
“I’m getting a headache!” Michael groaned.
“Agreed. These are painful lessons,” Pietor smiled. “Now would you like me to tell you about ISIS?”
“No!” Michael snapped.
“So we’ve taken on a humanitarian mission right in the center of a region of religious hatred, terrorism, and social instability?” Jon’a-ren said.
“Yeah. It seems our ladies neglected to pay much attention to that when they begged us to save the children,” Michael replied.
“But we did have some fore-knowledge of conditions down there?”