Home » Edge of Apocalypse » EoA: Espionage in Romania

EoA: Espionage in Romania

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 63-68 (Chapter Thirteen)

Having moved to Bucharest, Romania, we meet Atta Zimler. We’ll be seeing more of him throughout the book, but let’s find out about this man:

“Wrapped in a luxuriant hotel robe, Zimler sipped his Turkish espresso and contemplated the upcoming day’s events. He wiped his mouth with his napkin as he ran through the checklist in his head.”

I find this rather amusing, given that Left Behind has been criticized for trying to fit literature to a “checklist” laid out by LaHaye’s theory of the Rapture and Revelation.

But moving on.. 🙂

“He’d always been a careful man, organized, some might even say obsessively meticulous. He knew the outcome of each of his actions in advance, along with the potential reactions of those around him, and he planned for every possible scenario. He credited this preparation for his ongoing success in his chosen line of work–preparation, and a total lack of emotion. Had anyone else been in the room, they would not have been able to discern from his calm demeanor that he was in the process of formulating the minute details of the murder he would soon carry out.

Turning back to the room, he set his cup on the dining room table, removed his robe, and folded it neatly over the chair. Clad only in his undergarments, he lowered himself onto the Oriental rug and began his daily rapid-fire routine of fifty push-ups, fifty sit-ups, and as many leg raises as he felt were needed. By the end of the workout he was breathing heavily, though not exhausted in the least.

For years he had trained his body far beyond the capacity of most human beings. He had mastered karate, judo, and aikido. His strength was not obvious, not like those American bodybuilders and football players. But that was what served him. He was stronger than most athletes, yet on the street, he looked like everyone else. He had accepted that most people were either too stupid or too self-involved even to notice him.”

This all pretty much shouts “secret agent of some kind”. Given his name and nationality we may fairly assume he’s to be the terrorist in this book. At least one of the ghostwritten Ludlum books had the imaginativeness to feature a Serb terrorist.

If there was any doubt as to his connection to the RTS-RGS system, it’s pretty much wiped away in this dialog:

“The phone rang. A male voice on the other end was direct and emotionless.

‘Is this the Algerian?’

‘Who is calling?’ Zimler countered while simultaneously fastening the last button on his shirt.

‘I am calling on behalf of someone who has a serious problem.’

‘Oh?’

‘His mail keeps getting returned…’

‘Sounds like he has a bad mailman.’

‘Yes,’ the voice responded. ‘A very bad mailman. The mailman needs to be eliminated.’

‘Is that what you are really after?’ Zimler asked. ‘The mailman?’

‘Well…the bigger problem lies in the delivery system.'”

Gotta say, this is way ahead of “the flowers are in the trash” for a coded message*. The conversation goes on to establish that whoever’s paying him wants the technology ASAP. We now see some cloak and dagger stuff:

“Twenty five minutes later, the Algerian rode the hotel’s mirrored elevator down two flights to the fourth floor. He waited until the hallways were clear before making his way to room 417, which he knew was unoccupied. From his right pants pocket he pulled out a pair of latex gloves and put them on. From his left pocket he took out a magnetic programming device, similar in size to a standard deck of playing cards. Zimler then extracted a blank hotel room card key from the magnetic box and inserted it into the room’s door lock.”

He slips into the room and waits. And who might he be waiting for, you ask?

“Yergi Banica was clearly nervous–and it wasn’t simply because he was running a few minutes late. Having already parked his car on the north side of the Piata Revolutiei as instructed, he quickly made his way across the square toward the hotel. His mind was on euros–ten thousand of them to be exact. His job, teaching political science at the Romanian University of Craiova, paid little, barely enough for him to get by in his small apartment with his much younger new wife. Personally, he didn’t mind the close quarters, but he knew Elena aspired to better things.”

And how might he have gotten into this situation?

Well, anyone who’s read any spy thrillers at all, or for that matter, read any books by former KGB agents (e.g. Oleg Kalugin, Stanislav Levchenko, etc) knows of variants on this acronym: MICE.

Money, Ideology, Compromise, and Ego. Getting a sleeper agent (or a freelance agent, if you will) working for your intelligence agency usually involves one or more of the four things listed.

In this case, Mr. Banica wants money. I would suggest some ego involved too, as we’ll see below:

“A year earlier, Yergi had been approached by a Russian student in one of his political science classes. The student was friendly, bright, and engaged in his studies, but that was just a ruse. In reality, the young man wanted to know if the professor would be interested in earning a little extra money. All Yergi would have to do is slip him some details about the political persuasions of some of the more radical professors and wealthy students on campus. Yergi was old enough to have lived through the KGB and their successor, the secret Russian Federal Security Bureau. So he knew what they were asking of him; to be their informant. He really wouldn’t be hurting anyone, he rationalized, just passing along little innocent bits of information. Besides, the extra money would come in handy.”

If Banica is a Romanian, technically he “lived through the Securitate”, but he could have been Moldovan and moved over to Romania after 1989. They do speak the same language for all intents and purposes, so not unreasonable to assume, though hardly germane to the present discussion.

As an unintentional side effect, this new arrangement actually brought Yergi a newfound sense of confidence. Always trying to impress his wife’s younger friends, he’d let it slip a few times after several drinks that he was a man who knew things, a man with connections. He might have even jokingly referred to himself as a spy. Yes, he even privately entertained the idea he was an Eastern block [sic] equivalent of James Bond.”

Ok. That last paragraph right there? I’m wincing right now at this man’s stupidity. I’m no spy expert at all, but goodness gracious, why bring attention on yourself by being a braggart? Five’ll get you ten if the FSB ever heard about it they’d be shopping for a new information source posthaste.

And maybe eradicating the old one, just for insurance.

“Then he became more practical. The Algerian was offering twenty thousand euros for the information, half now, half upon delivery. It was more than enough money for him and Elena to move away and start a new life together somewhere else. So he turned to the young FSB agent he’d been working with and offered him a deal–to exchange half of his upfront payment for any information that could be found pertaining to the American, Joshua Jordan. But did the young FSB agent have access to that? He said he would see what he could turn up.

A week later Yergi received a copy of the FSB’s comprehensive dossier, which included pictures, biographies, personal data, and all manner of classified details on the American in question.

[…]

After all, the man had already paid ten thousand euros in advance, half of which was secure in Yergi’s small apartment near the university. And he was moments away from being handed another ten thousand. Yes, the transaction would go smoothly. He had exactly what the Algerian wanted.”

And we discover why this Mr. Banica fellow is here at all. But will the Algerian actually pay him off? We’ll see next chapter.


* Or “the fist is in the nostril”. 😛

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12 thoughts on “EoA: Espionage in Romania

  1. “Turkish espresso”? Clearly a Vile Unmanly Furriner. A Real Man would be sipping moonshine. And he’d be naked, none of this “hotel robe” nonsense. And what’s this? A napkin? A NAPKIN?

    …erm, by the time he takes it out of the programmer, it’s not a blank any more. Sloppy.

    Compromise is in there too – once he’s started talking, he knows he doesn’t want that to be widely known. Unless he’s really very very stupid… oh wait, he is, in fact approaching the Richard Pryor in Superman III level of stupid.

    I’m mildly surprised he’s not already dead.

    • Yeah. He’s compromised himself to any espionage agency that knows he’s a loose talker – e.g. the CIA. All they’d need to do is send an even younger agent over to him. 😮

    • When and how did “masculinity” and “genteel” become mutually exclusive, in this understanding? We need to introduce those who adhere to it to the samurai. They’re the ones who regarded flower arrangement (keep in mind that up to the late 19th century, ikebana was a strictly MALE pursuit), poetry, and tea ceremony as proper things for a man to do, after all. AND they were very capable fighters…

      But really…Rugged all the time? The phrase “total exhaustion” comes to mind in a hurry…

  2. And a “luxuriant” hotel robe, at that. I do not think that that word means what they think it means– is the robe sprouting living tendrils of silk and velvet all over the place, or something?

    His “much younger wife,” eh? Yes, that’s right, blame it on the woman. And why did a young woman who aspires to better things settle for a middle-aged middle-rank teacher, anyway? I guess things are tough all over.

    I’m no expert either, but from what I’ve read, more low-level spies and informants than you’d think, are surprisingly stupid. And yes, this guy has pretty much made himself available for whoever wants to take the risk of using him, if he ever wants to eat lunch in Bucharest again.

    • “luxurious” certainly sounds better. 😀

      The younger wife thing — TBH it’s probably just another stock appeal to male vanity that these LaHaye books tend to come drenched in.

  3. I’m reminded of a comment on another blog (I think from Slacktivist, but maybe from Schneier’s security blog instead) that one of the main reasons we know as much as we do about several old conspiracies (such as the original Bavarian Illuminati) is precisely because a number of low-level members tended to use their membership as a ‘see how important I am’ pickup line.

    So the problem of bragging low-level informants has a very long history behind it. Which is why you never give people like that any real information, limit their contacts to one member of the core group, and always set up the contacts from your end so he never has enough information to get the main organization in trouble. People like Banica should be very deliberately expendable, capable of being thrown to the wolves to save everybody else in the conspiracy. Which is what I suspect is about to happen.

    • Well, it was lampshaded rather bluntly when the Algerian (dun dun DUNNN) said he was preparing for a murder.

      What’s confusing to me is that the Algerian apparently arranged with this Banica to get Joshy’s Generic Intelligence Agency(tm) dossier, and yet only just now received the message asking him to either take care of Josh or steal the RtS tech. Uh… which came first? Or have I misunderstood this entire scene? =)

  4. “As an unintentional side effect, this new arrangement actually brought Yergi a newfound sense of confidence. Always trying to impress his wife’s younger friends, he’d let it slip a few times after several drinks that he was a man who knew things, a man with connections. He might have even jokingly referred to himself as a spy. Yes, he even privately entertained the idea he was an Eastern block [sic] equivalent of James Bond.”

    Okay no. This is not how it goes.
    Maybe if you live a comfortable middle class life in western suburbia, you might think it’d be sexy to be affiliated with spies, but not in the east, and especially not if you were “old enough to have lived through the KGB.” My father is doing anthropological research in parts of modern Russia and one of the first things he noticed when he started surveying all the literature in the field was that all publication “mysteriously” ceased in 1936-7. Even though this was a decade after the fall of communism, he saw one of his older colleagues visibly flinch when another colleague made a joke about “rehabilitating” some of the work.
    To hint that you’re affiliated with the state apparatus that was once used to crush academic freedom is NOT the kind of thing you’d let drop at parties to impress people. If anything you’d get looks of disgust and horror. It’d be the kind of thing that would get you kicked out of any decent social event and shunned by any decent company.
    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Escapist fantasy for comfortable people that have never known hardship or fear. And who don’t want to know either.

  5. To hint that you’re affiliated with the state apparatus that was once used to crush academic freedom is NOT the kind of thing you’d let drop at parties to impress people. If anything you’d get looks of disgust and horror. It’d be the kind of thing that would get you kicked out of any decent social event and shunned by any decent company.

    It might be the kind of thing that you’d drop to *intimidate* people, though. People might certainly be reluctant to contradict you, let alone kick you out of their parties, if they were worried you might report on *them*. Of course, that requires the appartus to still be active, though…

    When and how did “masculinity” and “genteel” become mutually exclusive, in this understanding? We need to introduce those who adhere to it to the samurai. They’re the ones who regarded flower arrangement (keep in mind that up to the late 19th century, ikebana was a strictly MALE pursuit), poetry, and tea ceremony as proper things for a man to do, after all. AND they were very capable fighters…

    It’s the frontier mystique, I guess. The eras that seem to be idolized by this mindset are the wild west (or at least the theme park version), to a large extent, Vietnam, and (to a lesser extent) WWII. All of those are areas where the perception is one of general brutality. Finesse, let alone ‘refinement’ is devalued in the right-wing war mentality.
    Although, of course, the Samurai were hardly a uniform example of serenity themselves, but… it is a *tad* bit interesting.

    His “much younger wife,” eh? Yes, that’s right, blame it on the woman. And why did a young woman who aspires to better things settle for a middle-aged middle-rank teacher, anyway? I guess things are tough all over.

    It’s just a completely random dig at ‘gold digging whores etc.’ Pay it no respect, for it deserves none.

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