A Rising Storm: A Man Against the Silent Coup

DARKNESS. Suffering. Prison. Of the mind. His soul in chains. His body in solitary confinement. Nothing but darkness. All life is suffering, Reece remembered.

How long have I been in here? Days? Weeks? Certainly not a month. It was hard to tell when you were living in darkness. But he wasn’t living in silence. The voices were his companions. What are you looking for?

“Salvation,” Reece said. What truth do you seek? “I seek a reckoning.” You’ve found it. “Have I?” You are going to die in here, Reece. You deserve to die in here. In the dark. Alone. Your wife died alone.

“No, she didn’t. She had Lucy.” And an unborn child. You failed them, Reece. You failed them all. Just as you failed your men in Afghanistan. Freddy died on that rooftop in Odessa because of you. You deserve what’s coming. “And what is that? The grave?” Death would be too merciful for you. You killed them, Reece.

“No!” You are beyond redemption. You killed your wife and daughter. Had you been home, had you hung up the gun years earlier, they would still be alive. It was an unwinnable war. You knew that from the start. You studied your history. Those who sent you neglected to study theirs. “Imperial hubris,” Reece whispered.

They failed you and those they sent to fight. For twenty years. They filled the coffers of their defense industry allies, enjoying dinners and drinks with lobbyists, none of whom had the balls to step into the breach. You knew it. You went anyway. And you didn’t do it for God and country. “Then who did I do it for?” You did it for you.

“No.” Where is your faith? “It’s gone.” Gone or dormant? “I don’t know.” It never fully disappears. “I feel forsaken.” You should. By surviving the ambush in Afghanistan, you sentenced your family to death. Had you died in the Hindu Kush, they would not have been killed in your home. You know it’s true.

“I wanted to hold those responsible accountable.” But accountability wasn’t enough, was it? “There needed to be consequences.” Consequences? “Yes. I believe in consequences. Judgment.” Darkness. Pain. Suffering. Is vengeance yours? How does it feel? “I did what was necessary.” Did you?

“Yes.” Or was it because that is all you know? Because that is what you do best? Because that is where you feel most alive? “I wanted to die.” You needed to die. Death becomes you, Reece. War—it’s in your blood. You became war. “It was the only way.” And you are beyond redemption. “I know.”

You brought it home. You brought war home to those who sent a generation into combat. You put the fear of God into those growing fat off the dividends of death. You got what you wanted. “I wanted justice.” No, you didn’t. “I wanted revenge.” You became vengeance. “A reckoning.” Did you get it?

And what of Katie? Reece tensed. If you stay with Katie, she will die. “I’ll protect her.” The way you protected your wife and daughter? The way you protected your troop? The way you covered Freddy on that rooftop? “I need to get out of here.” You won’t leave this cell. Its walls are already closing in.

Soon, even you won’t be able to survive. “I will.” Are you a survivor, Reece? “I’m a fighter.” Every fighter goes down. “But they get back up.” Darkness. Welcome it. Become it. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. You are sealed in your tomb. Forever. “Bullshit.” Life is pain. Life is suffering.

Why didn’t they just kill you? Why didn’t you kill yourself? Save Katie. She deserves her life. “There’s a safe-deposit box I need to find.” What’s inside is poison. And now Katie has the safe-deposit box key. A key to a box you will never find. You put her in danger again. If she dies, you are responsible. “What’s in it?”

Your father knew. “What was his tie to Russian intelligence?” What do you think? “I don’t know.” You will rot in this cell, Reece. You will die in darkness. You will never get answers. “Where there is darkness, there is light.” Somewhere, but you will never see it again. Death is on the wind. “No.” Yes. “Then this is what I deserve.” It is what you deserve. Suffering. Darkness. This room will drive you to madness. “I know.” All you have is your mind.

Your mind and one meal a day. Why do they want you locked up? “Who is ‘they’?” Did Alice betray you? “She warned me.” Maybe she did both. Is she friend or foe?

“Alice, where are you?” All those who killed Lauren and Lucy are dead. “I know.” You killed them. The man behind 9/11; you killed him, too. “I did.” The man responsible for Freddy Strain’s death. “Dead.” The man responsible for your father’s death? “Dead.” Is he? “They are all dead.” Then what of Russian intelligence?

Why would Mikhail Gromyko take his own life? The head of the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, went to the grave with your father’s list on his last breath. The list and Thomas Reece. What was Gromyko protecting? Who was he protecting? You will never know, Reece. “I will.” You are not leaving this cell alive.

Be it a day or decades, you will die here. Your brain will deteriorate, and you will spend whatever time you have descending into madness. You should smash your head against the wall until death comes. Force yourself to choke on what passes for food. Get creative. End it. Everyone will be better off without you.

“They will.” No one even knows where you are. “Someone knows I am here.” You don’t exist. “The food coming in once a day tells me someone knows where I am. Existence is enough.” Is it? “It has to be. There is still work to do.” You will never do it. “Katie is looking for me. She will find me.” Then she will die.

“No.” Just like all those you have loved. Dead. “No!” You are granite, Reece. You will not change. But those who love you—Katie, the Hastings family—they will be battered to death against you, protecting you. Save them now. “That’s not true.” It doesn’t matter. You are locked in this cell. A prisoner of your own mind.

“Freedom.” No. “Hope.” No. “To exist. That is enough.” Pain is life. Life is pain. Suffering and pain. That was your life out there. That is your life in here. “Someone killed the president.” Someone killed him and framed you. “Why?” The answers are out there. “I am in here.” You need to get out. “I do.”

You will never get out. That is your truth. “What is truth?” Give up. “No.” Quit. “No.” Fail. “No.” Die. “Not today.” Suffering. Nothing but darkness. Life is darkness. All life is suffering. “It must be enough to exist.” For now. But if you once again see the light of day, existence won’t be enough. Reece felt the cold concrete wall against his back. “No. But it’s enough for today. I’ll get out and get my answers. And when I do, there will be a reckoning.”

The Residence at Cape Idokopas Krasnodar Krai, Russia PERCHED ON A CLIFF overlooking the Black Sea and sitting on 168 acres heavily forested with Turkish pines is a lavish estate protected by walls, sensors, and drones. The perimeter security and barricades along connecting roads are manned by enough armed uniformed guards to rival any military base in the world.

Residents of the nearby resort village of Gelendzhik first suspected it could be a new hotel complex, then concluded it was to be a vacation home for one of the oligarchs, but as construction continued and rumors swirled, it became apparent that this property was for one man in particular, the president of the Russian Federation.

Ownership of the estate is hidden through a myriad of corporations, shell companies, and offshore holding firms all put in place to give the actual owner plausible deniability, especially when its construction cost the Russian people the equivalent of $1.4 billion in U.S. dollars.

Protected by a natural reef near the base of the cliffs and prohibited special-use airspace above, more commonly referred to as a “no-fly zone,” the structure draws inspiration from nineteenth-century Italianate architecture.

The sprawling 191,000-square-foot residence boasts a host of amenities, including swimming pools, spas, saunas, a greenhouse, bars, a casino, an underground ice hockey rink, a shooting range, multiple wine cellars, a hookah bar, game rooms, theaters, a library with reading room, a 2,800-square-foot master bedroom, guest rooms to accommodate the entire Russian Security Council, and a strip club to keep them busy.

The grounds contain multiple helipads, an airstrip, a chapel, a teahouse connected to the main structure via a bridge, an outdoor amphitheater, barracks, and administrative buildings. Bordering properties are owned either by Russian oligarchs or the FSB, Russia’s internal security service.

A marina at the base of the cliffs allows access to the surrounding waters by security boats of the Federal Protective Service (FSO). In addition to the impressive array of structures aboveground, an entrance dug into the hillside off the marina leads into an underground bunker complex designed to withstand a nuclear detonation.

It was within one of those underground rooms that Pavel Dashkov and his longtime secretary Kira Borisova waited. An electric rail system had transported them from just inside the entrance deeper into the bunker system to one of the conference rooms. Kira had taken a seat against the wall.

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