Wei Over Your Head
The two reconnaissance teams had returned with a reading on the Americans’ location. They had nervously reported their findings to General Wei. One was never sure how the general would react to the findings of a recon mission. One of the two teams reported that they had identified one of the scouts sent out previously. He was alive and well and, apparently, moving about the Americans’ site freely. The leader of the team reporting this finding was particularly nervous when he reported it.
Uncharacteristically, General Wei received the news stoically. The second team’s leader had expected an explosion of some sort – perhaps a tirade of colorful swearing or some angry stomping, anything but the calm and quiet actions of an unusually unemotional General Wei. Wei simply dismissed the team leaders and politely asked them to send the radioman over when they returned to the main area of their impromptu camp.
When the radioman hustled up to General Wei and saluted, the general didn’t even bother returning the salute.
“Get me Watanabe,” was all he said.
The comm specialist dialed in the correct frequency and called out for General Watanabe.
Several miles away, another communications specialist was hunched over a collection of radio equipment, encryption and decryption devices and an armored laptop computer. If the Chinese were careless with their communications, it was possible that he would be able to hack their encryption keys with his homegrown software. He had successfully hacked Taliban communications in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda communications in Iraq. There was a distinct possibility that he could do the same with careless U.N. troops who believed they were far superior to the American resistance.
“Anything yet?” Pappy’s rough voice startled the electronics wizard.
“Not yet sir …,” radio static interrupted the man’s response. “Hold one.”
The man turned away from Pappy. His fingers began to fly over the keyboard of his laptop. The static died away replaced by silence. The comms guy’s fingertips hovered over the keyboard waiting anxiously for the next transmission. He didn’t have to wait long. Only a few seconds later, the receiver’s speaker buzzed with static again.
Pappy watched in bemused amazement as the younger man fought a virtual battle with his enemy’s encryption. It was all Greek to Pappy, but he knew the kid sitting at the table in front of him was one of the best there was. The Ranger Migration, as Pappy like to call it, had brought them a number of individuals who were arguably some of the best in their fields in the world. The day that the Rangers had arrived, led by Pappy’s own grandson, had been a bountiful day indeed. Their arrival meant several more mouths to feed, but their skills far outweighed that minor inconvenience. Food was plentiful in the swamp … if you knew where to find it and how to prepare it.
“General Wei, this is General Watanabe,” Wei’s radioman handed the handset to his commander.
“This is General Wei. We have located the Americans’ position.” Wei again tried to sound as military and official as he could.
“Excellent,” replied Watanabe. “How would you like to proceed?”
“I would like to confer with you in person,” Wei responded. “We’re in a clearing in the swamp. Could you have a helicopter here to pick me up in an hour or two?”
“Pappy,” the American communications specialist turned in his chair, “if I hack their encryption, I’m going to need Manny here to translate. Would you mind?”
“I’ll have him back here in a jiffy,” Pappy drawled and turned on his heel to round up their Puerto Rican linguist.
As the screen door slammed shut, the radio crackled again. This time it was possible to make out garbled words.
Manuel Colòn flung the screen door wide and huffed to a stop next to his Ranger buddy. As he slid into a chair, the radio crackled again. This time the transmission was flawlessly decrypted.
Manny translated, “I can have a helicopter at your location in a little over an hour.”
The radio operator took notes.
A second voice transmitted. Manny continued to translate, “Excellent. I will be waiting at the coordinates provided. Upon my return, we can plan the air strike.”
The comms specialist paused in his note-taking … just long enough to absorb what the second Chinese transmission meant … and then finished writing down what Manny had translated. Only an experienced poker player would have noticed the change in his facial expression.
“Wei out,” General Wei finished his transmission.
“Watanabe out,” his PLAAF counterpart confirmed the end of the communication.
Manny turned to his friend of many years and several wars who handed him his handwritten notes. Neither said a word as Manny sprinted for the door. Both knew what the transmission meant and what needed to be done. Before Manny had made it five yards from the front door of the shack, the comms guy was shutting down his gear and pulling hard-sided cases from under the table.
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