by Henry Okelue
The US-Africa summit just ended in Washington and it did not turn out as fine as members of the G-7 wished it would. Barack Obama flat out refused to budge on the issue many of the forty something heads of states and governments from Africa laid out as the most pressing. The need to share the secret serum against the dreaded disease or at least share the secret formula for making it.
Big pharmaceutical corporations seem to have him in their pocket and they were biding time before they released it and watch their share prices spike. Truth is, Africa can’t wait for that. The death toll was already over the thousand mark and many more were sick and waiting to join the toll.
“Peter, you need to fly into Abuja first thing tomorrow” Goodness Ebelebo Job, President of Nigeria said, on the phone to his Sierra Leonean counterpart
“We need to take very drastic measures to prevent this crisis from consuming us. I can’t bear to watch TV anymore these days” He continued
“Can you imagine that Liberians are now dumping their sick on the streets to die and rot, just for fear of contracting the virus?” Peter Koromah responded, anguish noticeable in his voice.
“I will be in Abuja tomorrow” He concluded and dropped the phone.
The meeting between President Job and Koromah took place in the very secret, high security resort of Obudu. The location is so secret that it is untraceable on Google Maps and very few people, including the Minister of Defence knew its location. The Israelis had to be paid top dollar to pull off the setup of the location.
“Welcome gentlemen to Fort Ajanlekoko, please feel at home” President Job said to the men seated across him and Peter Koromah.
These were men specially selected for their peculiar skills from both Sierra Leone and Nigeria. They had no idea why they were in that building that night, but because of their peculiar jobs, they did not ask.
“I know you do not have any idea why you are here, but it will all be clear to you in a moment” The Nigerian President began.
“As you all know, West Africa is facing one of its biggest public health and national security challenges in decades. If you have been following the news, over one thousand people have died and almost two thousand are very sick”
The men made no sound, none moved an inch.
“As of today, the WHO says there is no known cure, but we know the Americans have it and have refused to share with us…” he continued
“We do not have the science or the time to begin to work on a vaccine locally on the continent, but we also cannot sit back and wait for the Americans to pity us and ask us to come have some”
“We have therefore decided to go take it from them forcefully, and you gentlemen have been selected to carry out this noble task” He finished, looking at each of the men across him directly in the eyes as if he was trying to find out who was chickening out already at the piece of information they just received.
There was a silent murmur amongst the men, a shifting of eyes from the President’s gaze, but as highly trained and competent soldiers, they did not utter a word. They sat as they were, their hands placed firmly on the Formica topped table.
“Gentlemen, we understand that this is a very dangerous and seemingly impossible task, but the survival of West Africa, infact, that of the continent depends on it and on you” Peter Koromah of Sierra Leone picked up from where the President of Nigeria stopped.
“Lt. Generals Ekwutoziam and Song will give you full briefings on your mission, have a good day gentlemen” said President Job as he dismissed the men.
These were men handpicked for their extraordinary abilities. They were special ops soldiers, highly trained in infiltration, search and rescue, search and destroy, and any covert activity you could think of. Some of them have even never been heard of by some of the highest ranking officers of the military of both countries.
There was Sgt. Otokpa. His record in the Army has him as “deceased”. Well, he was an undead dead. He had been embedded in Maiduguri for years to mine intelligence about Boko Haram for the Army. Classified information has it that he led a covert operation that eliminated the original Abubakar Shekau. Otokpa was also a master hacker. He received five years of training in China and could from a Nokia 3310 hack into the database of the biggest banks in Nigeria.
Selected for this impossible task also was Sgt. Olembe Olembe from the Amphibious Unit of the Sierra Leonean Army. This officer was a master of camouflage; he could blend in under whatever circumstance. He could speak fifteen languages fluently and had passports for five countries. He could also fire any weapon that has been made.
Last of all, Major Effiong “Tomahawk” Bassey. This was the most decorated commando ever in the Nigerian Army. He was built like a reinforced concrete wall, which was why they nicknamed him the way they did. Urban legend has it that he once used bare hands to stop a 50 calibre round. This man was made for espionage and covert operations.
At the Forward Operations Base, General Ekwutoziam and General Song, decked out in desert fatigues, flanked by the Nigerian and Sierra Leonean Armies’ top mission tacticians and strategists, stood ready to deliver instructions to the three men who were about to head off to their most dangerous and most challenging operation yet.
“None of you might return from Operation Gore” Announced Ekwutoziam , using the code name of the mission.
“But have one thing in mind; the survival of your countrymen depends on your success. Take this as a sacrifice for the coming generation. If Ebola is not curtailed and goes out of hand, there will be nothing left, whole communities will get wiped out, whole provinces subjected to deadly quarantine” He continued, not mincing words as to the dire circumstances on ground.
“Here are the ops details” General Song, taking over from General Ekwutoziam, and drawing the men’s attention to a flipchart at the corner.
“The three of you will fly into the United States on commercial airlines, arriving separately in New York through JFK and La Guardia” using his pointer to touch marks made on the board.
“You will be picked up at the airports on arrival by NIA operatives currently embedded at your infil location. They will take you directly to the safe house where you will be introduced to the mission consumables” concluded Song, describing weapons as consumables.
“Gentlemen you leave tonight. God luck and God bless West Africa” said Lt. General Ekwutoziam, dismissing the men.
Sgt. Olembe Olembe arrived in JFK. He was dressed in very simple kaftan, with matching cap, carrying a Ted Baker leather bag which had only his shaving cream and books. He was stamped in with his Swedish passport which didn’t require a visa. He looked very nondescript as he was picked up in a 1998 Volkswagen Golf and headed towards the safe house in Brooklyn.
Effiong and Otokpa arrived 5 hours apart at La Guardia. Immigration formalities were a breeze. Homeland Security had never heard of them. A lot of the Intelligence community globally doesn’t know they exist. They were also picked up and taken to the safe house.
Major Effiong was going to lead the mission. It was planned for the entire operation to last under one hour from start to exfil. The weaponry was going to be light but deadly. Surprise and stealth was key, so silencers were standard. Considering this operation could potentially precipitate a war, deniability was key too. In the event of capture, each man knew they had to terminate their lives before any form of interrogation. They knew the Americans were brutal when it comes to interrogation.
Effiong called a quick hurdle of his guys after they had freshened up and taken custody of their weapons.
“Guys, this is it. We have sworn to uphold our sub-region’s continued existence. This is it. Z-hour is in 5 hours. Get some sleep. You will need it” He announced before dismissing the guys.
At 1:45pm, the three men set out in three different Yellow cabs, enroute to 4 Pennsylvania Plaza. From actionable intelligence, corroborated by plenty underground spy assets, ZMapp, the secret serum that the US has stubbornly refused to release to afflicted African countries was stored in a fortified basement refrigerator inside the Casino inside Madison Square Garden. A boxing match was going on there tonight. The date of the operation was carefully chosen.
The floor plan of the location had been carefully studied. The three man team will quietly make their way into the casino dressed as janitors. Between the casino entrance and the top secret refrigeration facility there will be five marines dressed as civilians. They will be carrying side arms as if they are just bouncers. Inside the refrigerator will be five well armed marines. They are all assigned to the Centre for Disease Control. They will be dressed in PVC protective gear. All the ten men will be wearing bulletproof vests.
The West Africans got into Madison Square Garden at the same time, using different entries. They proceeded immediately towards the casino. It was filled with all manner of rich people reaching to outdo one another to the delight of the ladies, many of them with fake breasts and surgically enhanced lips, backsides and eyelashes.
Identifying the marines was easy. Being military themselves, Effiong, Olembe, and Otokpa knew the telltale signs of a soldier trying to blend in. The five Marines were located around a particular door with the sign “Staff Only”. That obviously was the entrance into the top secret storage. There were no cameras to be seen. The Americans sure took plenty liberties to make this place look as unsuspicious as possible.
The noise in the casino was at high decibels. The ladies were screaming at the top of their voices as the gamblers rolled the dice in a bid to play away their money. The noise was good. The area around the door was dimly lit. Probably a security procedure. It was dim enough for nobody close to it not to hear when a man drops from a suppressed gunshot.
“Guys, on my count, we will take out the three marines closest to the toilet doors, the remaining two will not realize what has happened until we are already at their nose” Effiong said to Olembe and Otokpa via the secure comms unit buried under their skins.
“One, two, three, fire” Effiong ordered
“Tut, tut, tut” from three muffled sounds and three marines dropped.
“Move!” Effiong ordered again and the other two men moved forward towards the door
Otokpa was the first to reach the two Marines who obviously did not know they were currently under attack.
“Hey stop, this place is out of bounds” said a Marine to him. Otokpa from the corner of his eyes caught the languid figure of Olembe coming in from behind the men.
“I am so sorry sirs, but how do I get to the swimming pool area. We need to fix a blown fuse” Otokpa continued, trying to buy enough time for the other men to get close enough.
“The swimming pool is the other way, not h…argh,argh argh” responded the Marine just before getting garroted by Effiong.
“What the fuck…..ugh” reacted the other just before a knife was sank into his heart from the back by Olembe. He picked up the Marine’s weapon and slung it over his shoulder. It wasn’t a riffle he had used before, but that did not matter.
“Clear the entrance of the bodies quick. Take their access cards first” Ordered Effiong. The two men immediately began to drag the bodies out of sight. The casino was still so noisy and nobody was aware of what had just happened.
The access panel by the side of the door had a keypad on it and also a card swipe bay. Since they did not know the access codes, they had to hack it.
“Otokps, here is a job for you. We have only five minutes” Effiong instructed
Otokpa brought out his Titanium X10z flat panel tablet with its cobra head probes and set to work. The TitanX, as it is called for short, is a Hex-core, 256GB memory, Five Petabyte storage handheld device. It had a 128-bit RSA encryption algorithm. You need to be a god to crack its code. But it cracks codes, almost any code. Only ten of it was ever made before the project was shut down. It cost the Nigerian government a king’s ransom to lay hands on this beauty.
The door’s access encryption system was piece of cake, and was cracked in three minutes.
“We are in sir” Otokpa announced.
Effiong switched on his heat meter. The position of the guards inside was important to keeping this element of surprise going.
From the readings, he could see that the Marines inside were unaware of what was going on just outside the door. This was the time to move in and move in heavy.
“There is a man close to the turnstile, three very close to something emitting negative forty degree celsius temperature. That must be where the serum is stored” Effiong said, giving the men a quick map of what was inside.
“The fifth man is sitting behind what I am sure is a machine gun, above where the others are” he continued
“Olembe, as soon as we get in, your immediate assignment is to take out the machine gun. Let’s go gentlemen” He concluded
Otokpa pushed the door open, and the two other men walked in slowly with Olembe in front, his eye in the scope of his assault rifle with a suppressor screwed on.
“tut! tut! tut!” he fired three short bursts at the marine behind the machine gun. They were headshots. The armored tipped Bulldog bullets blew large holes in the visor of the marine. His brain was all over the place. He died before he hit the ground. What ensured after that was a massive fire-fight as the four remaining marines engaged the team. The three guarding the cold storage unit stood their ground around it. They knew that was what the intruders came for.
“Kekekekekekeke, kekekekekeke, tut, tut,tut” a mixture of M16 and suppressed assault rifle gunshot bursts with bullets hitting metal as fire was exchanged from both sides.
“Olembe, smoke bomb, blind these assholes” Effiong instructed through the comms.
The room went blind in a cloud of smoke and the team snapped on their gas masks. The three men inched forward towards the storage unit under a hail of bullets.
“Otokpa to your left!” said Olembe as the Marine stationed at the door appeared suddenly. Otokpa dived to the ground and opened fire with his body twisted in what would have made a contortionist green with envy. His bullets almost cut the soldier in two.
The commotion could now be heard above in the casino. The sounds of gunfire scattered the gambling crowd. It was a matter of time before NYPD showed up at the scene.
“Guys we are running out of time, move for the objective!” Effiong screamed
The three Marines were not yielding. They had firepower and they used it to pin the three men in a position about thirty meters from the storage unit.
Using a grenade in this situation was inconceivable. Any explosion might take the storage unit with it. They had to shoot their way to it.
“Olembe, Otokpa and I will cover you with rapid fire. I want you to take down the guys with sniper fire while we engage them” Effiong ordered
“Roger that sir” as he began to set up his sniper rifle.
“kekekeke!, kekekeke!, tut! tut! tut!” there was smoke and flash of rifle nozzles as both sides fought on
“put!” came from Olembe’s gun as the first marine suddenly gave up his gun and fell backwards. He reloaded and aimed again.
“put!” and a second marine fell forwards from a bullet to the neck. The remaining marine retreated behind the storage unit. The West Africans advanced, carefully, because they could not see where the Marine was actually.
Suddenly from on top of the storage, the surviving Marine released a volley. Olembe ducked but not before three bullets tore into his left arm and shoulder. Effiong and Otokpa looked up and riddled the soldier with bullets. His body slide down the side of the storage tank, blood streaming down with him.
“OO, are you ok” Effiong calling him by his nickname for the first time, as he ran across to the injured man.
“I am ok, just a blown shoulder and some shattered bones” responded Olembe, rather sarcastically.
“Quick then open up the storage and load the serum vials in the MRB.” Effiong ordered. The MRB, Mobile Refrigeration Bag as it is called, was specially made for the mission. It could take up to five thousand vials and carried as a backpack.
Sirens could now be heard outside. The NYPD was almost here.
“Olembe, you have two more minutes. Load that shit fast” Effiong ordered. He looked at Olembe and did not think he was working fast enough, so he joined him. Otokpa, with his injuries, joined in too. In no time, the MRB was filled, about three thousand vials. That was enough to cure all the victims still alive from Liberia all the way to Nigeria.
“Guys we are leaving now!” ordered Effiong, leading the way through the wreckage up the stairs out of the place. He knew they were going to face NYPD outside. This needed to be dealt with quickly as their exfil pickup vehicle had instructions to abandon them if they don’t show up at the E-zone by 2:45 am. Time now was 2:15 am.
“Drop your weapons and put your hands behind your heads” a police voice bellowed from a megaphone.
Outside the deserted casino were police lights from at least ten squad cars, with police guns trained on the door.
“Guys, we have just fifteen minutes to clear this rubbish” Effiong announced to his men.
“Otokpa, RPG fire on the leading police cars. Olembe change into a police uniform and head out with the MRB as soon as the bang bang starts. We will catch up with you later”
Everything was still according to plan. Olembe casually strolled out of the backdoor, dressed as NYPD, into a waiting yellow cab. The man behind the wheels was NIA. He sped off in the direction of the Nigerian Embassy. The MRB will be transported from there out of the United States tonight as diplomatic cargo. Time was of the essence.
On the other side of the building, the other men were getting ready to make good their escape. Otokpa fired an RPG round at the NYPD car closest to the door. The car jumped into the dawn sky. The explosion from the gas tank blew the two adjourning cars. Immediately NYPD returned fire. A bullet whizzed past Effiong’s ear, another grazed his temple.
Otokpa fired another RPG round, and another. Effiong opened machine gun fire. He cut down like five policemen as he advanced outside. Otokpa joined him too with the rifle he collected from the Marine inside. The M16 and machine gun fire was doing major damage to the NYPD men. The police had to retreat. Effiong knew that in no time they will call for air cover and ground reinforcement, most likely SWAT. Now was the time to leave. They dumped their rifles, took off the janitor uniform and ran into the darkness immediately before NYPD had time to react. They could see their getaway vehicle about two hundred meters away, head lamps dimmed. They ran for it. Police was still disoriented and still did not react.
Effiong was the first to get to the vehicle and jumped in. The vehicle kicked into motion and Otokpa had to make a run for it and barely jumped in through the window. The car zoomed off in the direction of JFK International.
******Six Months Later********
Major Effiong was awarded the Commander of the order of the Niger and a Triple Gold Star, the highest honor of the Nigerian Army by the President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodness Ebelebo Job, in the presence of President Peter Koromah of Sierra Leone. Sgt Otokpa and Sgt. Olembe were awarded Silver Star. Sgt. Olembe was the first non-Nigerian to be so honored.
Following the success of Operation Gore, Nigeria was now in the position to mass produce ZMapp which it named “BittaKhola” and was also in the final process of manufacturing a serum from its components to eradicate the Ebola virus.