The Sleeper SEALs are former U.S. Navy SEALs recruited by a new CIA counter-terror division to handle solo dark ops missions to combat terrorism on US soil.
This is how it began:
Retired Navy Commander Greg Lambert leaned forward to rake in the pile of chips his full house had netted him. Tonight he would leave the weekly gathering not only with his pockets full, but his pride intact.
The scowls he earned from his poker buddies at his unusual good luck was an added bonus.
They’d become too accustomed to him coming up on the losing side of five card stud. It was about time he taught them to never underestimate him.
Vice President Warren Angelo downed the rest of his bourbon and stubbed out his Cuban cigar. “Looks like Lady Luck is on your side tonight, Commander.”
After he neatly stacked his chips in a row at the rail in front of him, Greg glanced around at his friends. It occurred to him right then, this weekly meeting wasn’t so different from the joint sessions they used to have at the Pentagon during his last five years of service.
The location was the Secretary of State’s basement now, but the gathering still included top ranking military brass, politicians, and the director of the CIA, who had been staring at him strangely all night long.
“It’s about time the bitch smiled my way, don’t you think? She usually just cleans out my pockets and gives you my money,” Greg replied with a sharp laugh as his eyes roved over the spacious man-cave with envy, before they snagged on the wall clock.
It was well past midnight, their normal break-up time. He needed to get home, but what did he have to go home to? Four walls, and Karen’s mean-as-hell Chihuahua who hated him. Greg stood, scooted back his chair, and stretched his shoulders. The rest of his poker buddies quickly left, except for Vice President Angelo, Benedict Hughes with the CIA, and their host tonight, Percy Long, the Secretary of State.
He took the last swig of his bourbon, then set the glass on the table. When he took a step to leave, they moved to block his way to the door. “Something on your minds, gentleman?” he asked, their cold, sober stares making the hair on the back of his neck stand up.
It wasn’t a comfortable feeling, but one he was familiar with from his days as a Navy SEAL. That feeling usually didn’t portend anything good was about to go down. But neither did the looks on these men’s faces.
Warren cleared his throat and leaned against the mahogany bar with its leather trimmings. “There’s been a significant amount of chatter lately.” He glanced at Ben. “We’re concerned.”
Greg backed up a few steps, putting some distance between himself and the men. “Why are you telling me this? I’ve been out of the loop for a while now.” Greg was retired, and bored stiff, but not stiff enough to tackle all that was wrong in the United States at the moment or fight the politics involved in fixing things.
Ben let out a harsh breath then gulped down his glass of water. He set the empty glass down on the bar with a sigh and met Greg’s eyes. “We need your help, and we’re not going to beat around the bush,” he said, making Greg’s short hairs stand taller.
Greg put his hands in his pocket, rattling the change in his right pocket and his car keys in the left while he waited for the hammer. Nothing in Washington, D.C., was plain and simple anymore. Not that it ever had been.
“Spit it out, Ben,” he said, eyeballing the younger man. “I’m all ears.”
“Things have changed in the US. Terrorists are everywhere now,” he started, and Greg bit back a laugh at the understatement of the century.
He’d gotten out before the recent INCONUS attacks started, but he was still in service on 9/11 for the ultimate attack. The day that replaced Pearl Harbor as the day that would go down in infamy.
“That’s not news, Ben,” Greg said, his frustration mounting in his tone. “What does that have to do with me, other than being a concerned citizen?”
“More cells are being identified every day,” Ben replied, his five o’clock shadow standing in stark contrast to his now paler face. “The chatter about imminent threats, big jihad events that are in the works, is getting louder every day.”
“You do understand that I’m no longer active service, right?” Greg shrugged. “I don’t see how I can be of much help there.”
“We want you to head a new division at the CIA,” Warren interjected. “Black Ops, a sleeper cell of SEALs to help us combat the terrorist sleeper cells in the US…and whatever the hell else might pop up later.”
Greg laughed. “And where do you think I’ll find these SEALs to sign up? Most are deployed over—”
“We want retired SEALs like yourself. We’ve spent millions training these men, and letting them sit idle stateside while we fight this losing battle alone is just a waste.” Ben huffed a breath. “I know they’d respect you when you ask them to join the contract team you’d be heading up. You’d have a much better chance of convincing them to help.”
“Most of those guys are like me, worn out to the bone or injured when they finally give up the teams. Otherwise, they’d still be active. SEALs don’t just quit.” Unless their wives were taken by cancer and their kids were off at college, leaving them alone in a rambling house when they were supposed to be traveling together and enjoying life.
“What kind of threats are you talking about?” Greg asked, wondering why he was even entertaining such a stupid idea.
“There are many. More every day. Too many for us to fight alone,” Ben started, but Warren held up his palm.
“The president is taking a lot of heat. He has three and a half years left in his term, and taking out these threats was a campaign promise. He wants the cells identified and the terror threats eradicated quickly.”
These three, and the president, sat behind desks all day. They’d never been in a field op before, so they had no idea the planning and training that took place before a team ever made it to the field. Training a team of broken down SEALs to work together would take double that time because each knew better than the rest how things should be done, so there was no “quick” about it.
“That’s a tall order. I can’t possibly get a team of twelve men on the same page in under a year. Even if I can find them.” Why in the hell was he getting excited, then? “Most are probably out enjoying life on a beach somewhere.” Exactly where he would be with Karen if she hadn’t fucking died on him as soon as he retired four years ago.
“We don’t want a team, Greg,” Percy Long corrected, unfolding his arms as he stepped toward him. “This has to be done stealthily because we don’t want to panic the public. If word got out about the severity of the threats, people wouldn’t leave their homes. The press would pump it up until they created a frenzy. You know how that works.”
“So let me get this straight. You want individual SEALs, sleeper guys who agree to be called up for special ops, to perform solo missions?” Greg asked, his eyebrows lifting. “That’s not usually how they work.”
“Unusual times call for unusual methods, Greg. They have the skills to get it done quickly and quietly,” Warren replied, and Greg couldn’t argue. That’s exactly the way SEALs operated—they did whatever it took to get the job done.
Ben approached him, placed his hand on his shoulder as if this was a tag-team effort, and Greg had no doubt that it was just that. “Every terrorist or wanna-be terror organization has roots here now. Al Qaeda, The Muslim Brotherhood, Isis, or the Taliban—you name it. They’re not here looking for asylum. They’re actively recruiting followers and planning events to create a caliphate on our home turf. We can’t let that happen, Greg, or the United States will never be the same.”
“You’ll be a CIA contractor, and can name your price,” Warren inserted, and Greg’s eyes swung to him. “You’ll be on your own in the decision making. We need to have plausible deniability if anything goes wrong.”
“Of course,” Greg replied, shaking his head. If anything went south, they needed a fall guy, and that would be him in this scenario. Not much different from the dark ops his teams performed under his command when he was active duty.
God, why did this stupid idea suddenly sound so intriguing? Why did he think he might be able to make it work? And why in the hell did he suddenly think it was just what he needed to break out of the funk he’d been living in for four years?
“I can get you a list of potential hires, newly retired SEALs, and the president says anything else you need,” Warren continued quickly. “All we need is your commitment.”
The room went silent, and Greg looked deeply into each man’s eyes as he pondered a decision. What the hell did he have to lose? If he didn’t agree, he’d just die a slow, agonizing death in his recliner at home. At only forty-seven and still fit, that could be a lot of years spent in that chair.
“Get me the intel, the list, and the contract,” he said, and a surge of adrenaline made his knees weak.
He was back in the game.