20 Miles off the Cuban Coast
April 17th, 1961
The three transport ships cut through the ocean at a steady six knots. The waves lapped against the rusty hull. I sat at the front of the ship, looking up at the star dotted sky and crescent moon glowing.
"Hola, jefe," a voice said behind me in Spanish. I turned and saw Raul, lighting up a cigarette. "Mind if I smoke?"
"Only if you blow it away from me. Nearly twelve years since I stopped, I don't need any temptations."
Raul took a drag off his smoke and sat down beside me. We sat in quiet for several minutes while he puffed and blew smoke.
"I want to thank you," he finally said. "You and your CIA friends for all their support. What we are doing here is a good thing. We are taking our country back from that comunista cabrón
Castro. For that, the men and I got together and decided to give you a gift."
Raul reached into his waistband and pulled out a pistol. The metal glinted against the moonlight, illuminating the gun. "An original Colt 1911."
He handed me the gun and I held the weight in my hand. Made in 1911. Nine years before I was born.
"This is thoughtful, but I can't--"
"Take it," he said, holding his hands out. "Take it and keep it. You never know when you made need it."
"Says the man preparing to invade a country..."
"After your bombers crush Castro's tanks and planes, they won't be able to stop us. Soon as Fidel's pendejo
lapdogs see us on the beach, they'll drop their weapons and run as fast as they ****ing can."
I nodded silently, glad that Raul couldn't see my face. A CIA cable came in a half hour ago with the bad news. Feeling heat from the UN and the Soviets, the President ordered the bombing on the island to be severely cut. From a major bombardment down to just one measly pass over the island. I don't want Raul to know. The type of confidence he has right now, it'd be dangerous to deflate it.
"I have to go," he said, flicking his cigarette butt over the side of the ship. "Final prep is in forty-five minutes. After that, we'll be ready to land."
Raul stood, his hand out for me. I took it and shook, avoiding his eyes even in the dark. "Senor Rogers, thank you. When this is over, I want to show you my thanks properly. You and your wife can come to Havana to vacation, all at my expense."
"Thank you... I'm sure Gail would love that."
Raul patted me on the back and walked away, heading down into the ship's hold. Six hours later, I would watch from the boat as the Cubans waded out of the waters of the Bay of Pigs. Then, I'd watch as Castro's troops and tanks tore them to shreds. I nearly jumped off the side of the boat and swam the three miles to shore to help fight. Direct orders to stand down from the CIA Director and the Secretary of Defense managed to back me down.
I never saw Raul again. His name never appeared on the killed in action list the Cuban government put out. His name never popped up in the intelligence briefings the CIA smuggled out of Cuba. No official record of him in Cuba, all knowledge of him disavowed by the US government. It was like he never existed. Except for the Colt. I have it framed and mounted on a wall in my cabin. With the gun is a note: Raul Fernandez, April 17th, 1961. My government wanted to forget he ever existed, but I never did.
SHIELD Multicarrier USS Charleston
800 Feet Below the Surface of the Persian Gulf
"Iran is trying to develop supersoldiers," Nick Fury said in his usual direct tone. He stood at the front of the nearly empty briefing room. His right hand woman, Bordeaux, sat off to the side watching silently. "And they're getting pretty damn close."
Fury slid a tablet across the table to me. I picked it up and looked down at the screen. Grainy and black and white photos of test tube babies with tubes running through the tanks and into the children's bodies.
"All the way from birth?"
"All the way from conception. The babies there were conceived two days earlier in an incubation tube. The best genes are chosen by scientists before the process of conception even starts."
"Where did this come from?"
"Our source in Iran, codenamed Eagle. Eagle's been working inside the Iranian military for nearly two years now. Those pictures came to us a week ago. Twelve hours after sending it, Eagle sent out a distress signal to his handler's imbedded in Tehran. Since then, nothing.... until yesterday."
Fury motioned for the tablet. I slid it back to him and he flipped over to another photo. This one of an Arabic looking man laying on the street, dead. Cuts and bruises covered his body. There was a hole in the man's head where his left eye should have been.
"I believe the way the body was left, it was a message to the US. To me."
"To you from whom? Nick, you're so deep inside the system, half the Joint Chiefs think you're a myth."
"But this is different. This is a message from an old friend... or someone who used to be a friend."
"Have you ever heard the story of Rustam?"