The story you are about to read is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. No, scratch that. Nobody named in this story is innocent. And the veracity of the story is … questionable. So questionable that fifty-one former top intelligence officials might very well say that it “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation”. And if you can’t trust fifty-one former top intelligence officials, who can you trust?
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My older brother was always the golden boy of the family. His real name was Joseph, but everyone called him “Beau”. He joined the Army, served in Iraq, got a medal. Five years later he died of brain cancer, but Dad likes to think he died in battle. Maybe he believes it. The Big Guy believes a lot of things. He believes that in high school he stared down a gang leader named Corn Pop, that in college he played football for the University of Delaware, and that in law school he finished at the top of his class. And all that was before he entered politics.
Salvatore Babones appears in every Quadrant.
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It’s a good thing for me that he did enter politics. I was still in diapers when the Big Guy got his big break: a US Senate seat from Delaware. He was up against a Republican who fought the Nazis with Patton in the Ardennes. Dad was only thirty years old, so he ran on an anti-war ticket. Going to Washington sure beat going to Vietnam. By the time I finished law school, Dad had been in the Senate for twenty-three years. He got me a job at a credit card company, and by “job” I mean executive vice-president. Not bad for a kid of twenty-eight whose only prior work experience was a one-year stint in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
After the credit card gig I bounced around the Hill for a while. I did some two-bit lobbying, borrowed a lot of money, joined AA. Heck, Dad even got me a seat on the Amtrak board of directors. But it was all retail stuff. The family business was politics, and business was bad. The big money goes to the big stars, and after thirty years the Big Guy’s star was setting. Then the stars changed, for the better. The Democrats took control of the Senate by a whisker, and that put Dad at the helm of Foreign Relations. The Iraq War was hot, and Foreign Relations was the second-hottest seat in the Senate. Goodbye, Amtrak; hello, hedge funds.
Or at least: that’s what I thought. Uncle Jim and I wrangled up some ready cash and bought a failing hedge fund from the Moonies. We were all set to go to town with foreign money looking for a parking space close to the Capitol. Then I got the call. The Big Guy needed me, and so did my country. With Beau out of business, it was my turn to do the family dirty work. That meant some shady dealing in shady places like Iraq, Ukraine and China. It meant putting my life on the line with Korean gangsters and the Russian mafia. And toughest of all, it meant doing it all in the dark.
It was thankless work, and dangerous. I might fly out on assignment on Air Force Two, but I always knew that I might find myself flying back in a wooden crate to Dover Air Force Base for what they call the “dignified transfer”—only in my case it might not be so dignified. That didn’t matter to me. When the Vice-President calls on speakerphone to ask about the weather, you don’t say rain. You say “Yes Dad”, and you live up to the name he gave you. The name he gave me was Robert. But everyone calls me Hunter.
My first special assignment from the VP desk at the Naval Observatory was in Iraq, kicking some Korean ass. The South Koreans had a contract to build half a million homes for Iraqis displaced by American troops. The Koreans sent 3600 peacekeepers to Iraq, and they thought that entitled them to $35 billion in hard-earned Iraqi oil revenue. It didn’t. Me and my Uncle Jim made sure of that. The Koreans subcontracted to a New Jersey company, and the Jersey boys subcontracted to us. We made sure that the homes never got built. If the Iraqis want to build houses, they damned well better do it themselves—and they better not spend our oil money doing it.
Next stop: China. We needed China to make the green batteries for our latest green energy plan, but there was some trouble finding enough cobalt. The Big Guy flew me into Beijing under cover of a diplomatic mission. We were about as diplomatic as the Death Star on a mission to Alderaan, and we were determined to source that cobalt, no matter how many African governments we had to overthrew to get it. As things turned out, we didn’t have to overthrow anyone. We got an American company to transfer a majority stake in a Congo mine to the Chinese, then strong-armed the Canadian minority shareholders to follow suit. Canadians. They’re worse than the Iraqis.
But the big daddy of all my black ops was Burisma. I was inserted via a Russian sex ring in DC. Like that 007 guy said, “The things I do for England”. Only I do them for America. I got myself inserted into some call girls and had to insert some drugs myself, but it was worth the sacrifice. It convinced our Russians that I was legit, like when the cop in the movie has to off a civilian to prove that he’s not a narc. I was in, and the Ukrainians—that’s what Dad calls our Russians—put me on the board of this gas station. My official cover was Head of Legal Affairs. My real job was to get Nato and the Brits off our back, and deliver Kiev for America.
They say that Nato exists to kick the Americans out, the Germans around, and the Russians in the balls. Not our Russians, the other Russians. But even Nato couldn’t kick us out this time. It was April 2014, and our Russians had just taken over in Ukraine. The old president flew off to Moscow, but some of his cronies stuck around. One of them was actually one of ours. His name was Mikey Zlochevsky. He was the Secretary for Gas Stations under the old guys, but he also owned the biggest gas station in Ukraine: Burisma. He won it in a casino in Cyprus, or something like that. When the real bad guys left town, he was exposed like an Australian skinhead with no sunscreen.
When Uncle Sam’s laundry needs cleaning, Dad calls me. Mikey was a big asset, but he had a bad reputation, and the new boys in Kiev went gunning for him. Their chief prosecutor was some wise guy named Shokin, and he was causing a lot of trouble. Or maybe he wasn’t working hard enough to get a conviction. I don’t remember. Either way, Dad said that Shokin was one bad dude—just like Corn Pop—and he had to go. So I went to Kiev, put on the speakerphone, and got the Big Guy on the line. Six hours later, Shokin was gone.
The Brits were investigating Mikey too, saying that he stashed stolen money in their Virgin Islands banks. The truth is that they only investigated when he tried to move his money from their banks to our casino in Cyprus. The Brits are still angry that they lost the place. Well, the Brits lost a lot of places, and we weren’t about to let them get their hands on our Ukrainian gas as some kind of consolation prize. I was in Kiev to make sure of that. The Brits can cry into their warm beer all they want, but gas is our business. Always was, always will be.
So I told the Ukrainians to keep mum about Mikey. Without a claim from Kiev, the Brits couldn’t hold his cash, and the whole case fell apart. They didn’t make me Head of Legal Affairs for nothing. The judge threw out the case in April 2016, just in time for my Dad to say goodbye to the Naval Observatory and move into the house I bought him in Rehoboth. Our man was in charge at Burisma, our Russians were in control in Kiev, and our companies were fracking for gas in Ukraine. That’s how things stood until 2019, when I stepped down from the Burisma board and planted a fake laptop at a computer repair shop in Wilmington. Dad was back in politics, and I was ready to get back in the game. But that’s a story for another time.