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Authors: Ben Brunson

Esther's Sling

BOOK: Esther's Sling

Esther’s Sling

A Novel

Ben Brunson


Robert Brunson, my father and inspiration


Esther’s Sling
is a work of fiction. All events and characters contained herein are a product of the author’s imagination.

2013 by Interactive Partners Group, LLC

All Rights Reserved

Published by Interact Press, LLC


Table of Contents


Part I

1 – Seeds

2 – The Kitchen Cabinet

3 – The Nuclear Option

4 - Decisions

5 – Home

6 – A New Year

7 – Back to Work

8 - Contact

9 – Cutting Deals

10 – Myrtus

11 – Outside Influence

12 – Block G

13 – Lunch with Friends

14 – To the Drawing Room

15 - Olympus

16 – Olympic Games

17 – Business Matters

18 – The View

19 – Investing

20 – The Boneyard

21 – Special Delivery

22 – No Debt Financing Required

23 - Simulations

24 – Levy Comes Calling

25 – Into Baghdad

26 – West to Anbar

27 – Outback Games

28 - Tindal

29 – Delamere

30 – The Team at Ras-Al-Khaimah

31 – Election Time

Part II

32 – The Archer Draws his Bow

33 – Ready, Aim

34 – Bullseye

35 – The Armenian Trucker

36 – Task Force Camel

37 – Family History

38 - Insertion

39 – Point Kabob II

40 – Handshake across the Desert

41 – Midnight Flight

42 – The Road to Dehloran

43 – The Climb to Dehloran

44 – Morning in Iraq

45 – The Midas Touch

46 – The Kingdom Sleeps

47 – Northwind by South

48 – Assault on Dehloran

49 – Logging On

50 – UAV Assault

51 – Major Meyer Takes Charge

52 – Securing Shangri-La

53 – Flight of the Herons

54 – Aircraft Carrier in the Desert

55 – The Hammers Fly

56 – The Madhatters Come Calling

57 – Esther Loads Her Sling

58 - Slingshot

59 – Desert Pit Stop

60 – Protocols

61 – Accidents Happen

62 – Tally Ho

63 – Northwind by North

64 – Through Point Delta

65 - Extraction

66 – A Visit to Bushehr

67 – Going Home




“It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map of the region.”


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
, Assistant Professor of Transportation Engineering,
Elm-o Sanat University;
at a meeting of the International Conference for Support of the Intifada; as quoted by the Fars News Agency of Iran on January 15, 2001.


”We declare explicitly that we will not be satisfied with anything less than the complete obliteration of the Zionist regime from the political map of the world.”


Hossein Shariatmadari
, Confidant to Ayatollah Ali Hoseini Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran; in a written editorial in the Iran Daily
published on October 30, 2005.


"With God's help, the countdown button for the destruction of the Zionist regime has been pushed by the hands of the children of Lebanon and Palestine. By God's will, we will witness the destruction of this regime in the near future."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran; as quoted by the Fars News Agency of Iran on June 3, 2007.


“Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews, people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler by means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.”

Youssef al-Qaradawi
, Muslim Brotherhood intellectual leader; Cairo, Egypt, January 30, 2009.


"The Zionist regime wants to establish its base upon the ruins of the civilizations of the region. The uniform shout of the Iranian nation is forever 'Death to Israel.'"

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran; as quoted by the Fars News Agency of Iran on October 10, 2009.


"See what has become of Israel. They gathered the most criminal people in the world and stationed them in our region with lies and fabricated scenarios. They waged wars, committed massive aggression and made millions of people homeless. Today, it is clear that Israel is the most hated regime in the world. It is not useful for its masters anymore. They are in doubt now. They wonder whether to continue spending money on this regime or not. But whether they want it or not, with God's grace, this regime will be annihilated and Palestinians and other regional nations will be rid of its bad omen."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran; in a speech inside Iran on March 11, 2010.


“I am telling you that a new and greater Middle East will be established without the existence of the U.S. and the Zionist regime.”

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran; in a speech inside Iran on April 20, 2010.


"Zionists, who have no faith in religion or even God, now claim piety and intend to take away the Islamic identity of the Holy Quds. This ridiculous move is in fact the continuation of the colonialist polices of oppressors, which will not save the Zionist regime, but also take the regime closer to the endpoint of its existence."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran; in a speech inside Iran on January 3, 2012.


“The Iranian nation is standing for its cause and that is the full annihilation of Israel.”


Major General Seyed Hassan Firuzabadi
, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Iran; in a speech to a defense meeting inside Iran on May 20, 2012.

Part I


1 – Seeds


If war is hell, then covert war is purgatory
. Or so thought Amit Margolis as he waited in room 901 of the Ramada Pudong Airport Hotel just outside Shanghai, China. For over a year he had been wheeling and dealing as a businessman based in Moscow, fully embracing the free spending style of connected capitalism that infused life into the capital of the Russian Federation. Brains and knowledge helped, but success was really correlated to the degrees of separation between your circle of friends and the center of power. And the power center around which everyone with aspirations orbited was clear to all: Vladimir Putin.

Margolis was not sure if his nineteen months of investment would have a
satisfactory ending. Today he would find out. Success meant that the nation he served would be a little safer tomorrow and he could think about going home. Failure meant that he would have to rethink his approach to his work and maybe, if his managers willed it, start over on a process that could keep him away from home for another year or longer. He picked up the morning’s issue of Shanghai Daily, a business newspaper published in English.

The date was Thursday, September 28, 2006. Outside, summer continued its grip on the weather. The forecast high was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Through his window
, Amit could see the early formation of dark clouds that would bring afternoon rain. He was happy to be stuck inside this day, even if the reason was nerve racking. He was eager to turn his mind to any subject other than the pending knock on his door that, if it came, would be the first sign that today would bring a happy outcome. As he read the lead story about the dismissal of a previously high-flying Communist Party leader in Shanghai, Amit looked at his watch. It was almost one in the afternoon.

At that moment, Mikhail Gordienko stepped out of the back seat of a taxi and onto the curb in front of the Ramada lobby entrance. The taxi had picked him up an hour earlier at the headquarters of the Semiconductor Materials International Company, known simply as SMIC in the world of integrated microprocessor chip design and manufacture.

Gordienko, the 45-year-old Director General of Phase Technologies Corporation, a company based in Moscow, had flown to Shanghai the day before to take delivery of 120 integrated circuits designed by his company and fabricated by SMIC, one of the world’s most advanced chip foundries. His job now was to transport this valuable cargo back to Moscow and he had about four hours to kill before he would board a nonstop flight home. Six weeks earlier, five engineering chips – the prototypes of the chips now in Gordienko’s possession – had been delivered to the test lab of Phase Technologies in Moscow by Federal Express. They were put through a series of tests, each chip performing exactly as designed. But only Gordienko knew that SMIC had shipped only three chips for testing, not five.

The Russian executive was in his room on the seventh floor of the Ramada within a couple of minutes. His overnight bag was already packed as he took
one last look around. He paused in the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. This was his last opportunity to back out of the bargain he had struck months earlier. This was the point when second thoughts were supposed to play on one’s conscience, challenging concepts of integrity and duty. He wondered how his life would be different tomorrow. But as he pondered these questions, the face that looked back at him in the mirror was not his own. He could only see the face of his younger brother Yuri. The brother he had taught to curve a soccer ball with both feet. The brother he had tutored in math. The brother who came to his defense when a high school bully demanded Mikhail’s money.

While Mikhail earned his PhD in Computer Science and Engineering at Lomonosov Moscow State University, Yuri Gordienko had gone on to become a pilot in the Russian Air Force, flying Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack aircraft.
Yuri’s love of flying kept him in the Air Force, where he was called to duty during the Second Chechen War.

Yuri Gordienko was
on a combat mission when a shoulder fired infrared missile shot down his plane on May 29, 2002. Yuri was fortunate; he survived a low altitude ejection, something that was far from certain given the poorly maintained aircraft of the Russian military at the time. But his good fortune had lasted only the time it took for his parachute to float him down to earth. He was taken prisoner by Chechen guerillas under the command of Dokka Umerov, the Islamic warlord and ally of al Qaeda.

Yuri’s family had no information about his fate until the afternoon of June 8 when a videotape was delivered to the studios of NTV in Moscow. Mikhail and
his family learned that night, along with the rest of Russia, that Yuri Gordienko had been executed two days earlier. The video was aired on TV, Mikhail only seeing it later that evening after receiving phone calls from family and friends. The beaten body of Yuri Gordienko was barely alive as he knelt down facing the camera. His head was bowed and his eyes closed as three men stood behind him wearing camouflage combat jackets. His wrists were bound behind his back. But what burned into Mikhail’s mind was the thick black beards of each man, the white Jihadist scarves wrapped around their foreheads and the pure evil in their eyes. The video was stopped as the man in the middle pulled Yuri’s head back with his left hand while he began to raise a long-bladed knife in his right hand. There was no need for the news commentator to say what happened next, but the details still were reported with the faux intonation of concern and pity that was belied by the station’s desire for ratings.

Mikhail went through the full range of emotion that night, from disbelief when his friends first called him, to the shedding of tears, to a feeling of rage and anger that he had never before known. It was the last emotion that lingered. And as he looked into the mirror of this Shanghai hotel room, his hatred of the Muslim killers of his brother was as intense as it had been that summer night in 2002. That hatred made what he was about to do very easy. He would probably have done this for free. At least that is what he told himself. But he was still more than happy to make a profit in this transaction.

Five minutes later, a knock on the door of room 901 penetrated the thoughts of Amit Margolis. He put down his newspaper and opened the door to his erstwhile business partner, now his official partner in espionage. “Good to see you, Mikhail,” said Amit as he reached out to grab the travel bag in the Russian’s left hand. Amit’s Russian was fluent, even if his accent was indeterminate.

Gordienko offered the bag and quickly walked into the suite, suddenly self conscious about being in the hall. Once the door closed behind him, he relaxed enough to talk. “How are you, Mike?” The Russian knew Margolis only as Mike Jenkins, a Canadian businessman.

Margolis placed the bag on the floor and walked across the room to a desk that jutted out from the wall. He sat down as the Russian executive settled in the seat across from him. “Good, good. I am very happy to see you. I assume everything went well this morning?”

“Yes, I have the ICs,” replied the Russian. Gordienko placed an aluminum briefcase on the desk and opened it. Inside were 128 integrated circuit chips, each in a sealed pink electrostat
ic discharge shielding poly bag, forming a flexible Faraday cage.

“Wait,” said Amit. He reached down to grab hold of his own aluminum briefcase that was sitting on the floor next to the wall. He lifted it up and placed it on the desk next to
Gordienko’s briefcase. He opened up the case and removed two wrist bracelets attached to each other by a thin wire. Gordienko immediately recognized the anti-static devices commonly used to protect sensitive electronics. Attached to the center of the connecting wire was another wire about twenty feet in length that had a large alligator clip at the end.

Margolis stood up
, walked into the bathroom and attached the clip to the copper pipe under the sink. He returned to his seat and each man wrapped one of the Velcro-secured bracelets around his wrist. The men were now grounded, helping to ensure that their bodies would not build-up an excess number of electrons to be suddenly discharged into the delicate integrated circuit chips they were about to handle.

Margolis reached into his open case and lifted up one pink poly bag with a single integrated circuit chip in it. “I have one hundred and twenty of these, per the terms of your contract
,” he said. The bag that contained the chip was identical to the sealed bags in Mikhail’s case.

“There’s a problem.”


“Well, they … um,” Mikhail
said, looking into his case, “gave me a hundred twenty-eight.” The Russian looked at Margolis and shrugged his shoulders. “The eight extra were bonus.”

“No problem. Just take my one

“I can’t do that. They gave me an invoice that says they delivered a hundred twenty-eight ICs. They already emailed the invoice to accounting.”

Amit Margolis thought for a moment. “I guess we will swap out one twenty and you can keep eight originals.”

“I can’t think of anything else. Let’s do it.”

The pair spent the next fifteen minutes carefully substituting 120 legitimate ball grid array chips with perfect forgeries manufactured by Citadel Semiconductors in Migdal Haemek, Israel – complete with the logo of SMIC on the military grade gold/tin alloy packaging lids that sealed the circuits from the elements.

Half way through the process, Gordienko spoke. “How did you pull off the thing with the prototype chips?”

“What, adding the two chips?”


“Not very hard. Intercepting a FedEx package and adding our two chips was no problem. We needed our chips tested alongside the Chinese chips.”

“What about the email?”

“What email?”

“SMIC sent an email to our engineers saying they shipped five chips. They copied me and just about everyone else.”

“Oh, that.” Amit just shrugged his shoulders. “IT nerds. Nothing I understand really.”

Gordienko shook his head in amazement. “Do you like what you do? Being a spy? James Bond?”

Amit replied with a harsh look at his friend. He wanted him to know that the question was out of bounds. The Russian returned the look, unwilling to retract his query. Finally Amit stated flatly, “It’s a job, Mikhail. Just a job.”

When they were done, 120 of the original chips were now in Amit’s case and all of the fake
Citadel chips plus six originals were in the metallic briefcase of Mikhail Gordienko.

Mikhail left two original SMIC chips on the desk and lifted both of them up between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand to show them to Amit. “You don’t know why I left these out, do you?”

Amit did not know. He simply gazed at the Russian with a quizzical look that clearly answered the question.

The Russian smiled and shook his head. “Tsk, tsk. You see Mike, this is the type of detail that gives you away. It’s a good thing you and I are partners.” Margolis was thinking exactly the same thing. “These will be our ‘randomly’ selected sacrificial chips. We pick one chip at random per hundred to take apart and put under the microscope. My engineers will scan the circuits to ensure that they are exactly as designed. It is a key part of our certification standards. Of course, the chips are destroyed in the process.”

Margolis struggled to maintain his composure. This was the type of oversight that he knew could destroy years of effort. Internally he was cursing himself. At the same time, in that instant, he was certain for the first time that Mikhail Gordienko was fully on his team. “Thank you, Mikhail Andreievich. I am very glad we are on the same side.”

Gordienko put the two integrated circuits into a separated area of h
is aluminum case and closed it.

Amit removed his anti-static wrist bracelet, stood and walked into the bedroom of the suite. He returned with two glasses and a bottle of Moët &
Chandon Brut Imperial champagne. “I had room service bring this up earlier today,” he said. The bottle was dripping water from the ice bucket it had been in until a moment earlier. Amit was careful to keep the bottle over the rug.

Gordienko smiled as he peeled the bracelet from his wrist. “You remembered.” The tension in his body eased for the first time since he entered the room.

“I don’t forget important things, my friend.” Amit put the glasses down on the desk, popped the cork and poured some champagne.

Mikhail lifted his glass, no stranger to alcohol consumption. “To your health.”

Amit lifted his glass up. “To health.”

Amit sipped his champagne in western fashion. Mikhail chugged his beverage in one gulp, returning the glass to the desk top with a relish that announced his Russian heritage.

“Ah, that is good,” said the Russian. He looked into Amit’s eyes. “Who are you, really?”

“I am Michael Jenkins.”

“No. Really.”

Amit took another sip and put the glass down. “You know all you need to know about me, my friend. Anything else is counterproductive.”

Gordienko lifted the bottle of Moët and filled his glass back up. He took a sip this time. “When can you pay?” The request by the Russian was blunt, much in keeping with his temperament. The offer from Margolis that enticed the Russian to show up at this hotel room was a deal that guaranteed a tidy profit margin for Gordienko’s company. Times had been tough, with Russian arms exporters losing a lot of business to American companies in the wake of yet another Russian-supplied military having been easily destroyed by the U.S. Army. The latest victim, Iraq, was the second time in a dozen years that the country had been knocked off. The spectacle of a large paper army trained and supplied by Moscow being so handily defeated by the U.S. with minimal losses, made it a hard sell for Russian arms makers in the competitive global marketplace. Gordienko’s company, despite its ties into the Kremlin, could not thrive when Russian weapon systems were not selling. The result was that the cash flow of Phase Technologies Corporation, or PTC, was extremely tight and the offer from Margolis had to be considered.

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