The pilot switched on the seatbelt sign and I buckled up. I was on a public flight packed with civilians. Travelling incognito. As we dropped through the thick blanket of cloud I caught my first view of my home country. Rainy England. The Boeing 747 cut through sheets of drizzle over a mixture of dark green fields and iron grey city divided by the swathe of the river Thames as we came in to land at Heathrow international airport, London.
The familiar scent of English air bathed my nostrils as I disembarked. Cold, damp, mildly depressing. This was home alright. I made my way steadily through the crowded terminal which was possibly more hectic than I remembered it last time I'd been here. The biggest different was beefed up security. Dog teams and armed cops in black uniforms bristled around the arrivals entrances and customs. They were still a bit touchy on the whole counter terrorism thing and after the whole Korean incident who could blame them. If someone could target the President of the USA then they could just as easily go after our cabinet. Made sense to be better safe than sorry.
I wheeled my holdall through arrivals and knowing noone was waiting for me I made my way straight out of the door and hailed a taxi. An old fashioned black London cab pulled up for me and I hopped in the back.
"Vauxhall Cross mate."
"No problem guv'nor. Visitin' MI6 are we?"
The cockney accent brought a small smile to my face. I almost missed it compared to all the variations of American states I'd gotten used to. He glanced at me in his rear view mirror as he pulled away. I didn't respond to his joke. He had been absolutely right. I was headed for 85 Vauxhall Cross, the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service, more popularly MI6.
A fair while navigating London traffic later we pulled up a few blocks away and I handed over the fare. I walked the rest of the way. Fairly casually I stepped inside. I was instantly met by the suspicious eyes of not a few suited guards and a porter who came over to address me.
"State your business."
No questions asked. Just demands.
"Would you give Merlin a shout from me. I don't know if he's still here but tell him that Lewis is calling in a favour."
The porter eyed me down still suspicious and I just met his gaze until he moved over to a desk and spoke to another suit. He checked me over just as warily before picking up a phone on the desk and dialing. I must have looked fairly out of place in jeans, t-shirt, sweater and leather jacket compared to their razor sharp penguin suits.
After a fashion the porter returned with a slightly different look on his face.
"Please come with me sir," He said with humility.
"Thanks mate," was all I answered and followed him over to the lifts.
I wasn't sure which floor he took me to or how I'd be able to get myself back but eventually I found myself in an office. I hadn't been to this part of the building before. What was going on here? The porter backed out of the room and I was left facing a dark wood and leather desk in the middle of the room with a high backed leather chair facing away from me. The chair swiveled and I found myself facing a man with a just greying moustache and a impeccable comb-over. He was dressed in a navy blue suit and a black necktie with just the crest of the SIS emblazoned on it near the bottom. His cold, pale blue eyes found mine and we glared at each other coldly for a moment. Then he leapt up and embraced me.
"Lewis, you vagabond! It's been years. So long since we've caught up, how have you been? How do you like my new office? I'm enjoying these promotions. Right now I'm attached to counter-intelligence, quite high up I might add."
Hector 'Merlin' Anfield. A squaddie back with me back in the old days when we were in the royal marines. He'd always seemed to survive the most outlandish situations as if by magic. That's why he'd once been called Merlin. Now apparently quite a high flyer in the Secret Intelligence Service. A real character, Anfield was. Loved the show, the flamboyance. Could never resist splashing out on a bit of glamour here and there and it showed.
"It's real classy Anfield. Gotta say, you've done well for yourself."
"You should have stayed with us Lewis, really. After the operations in the Falklands they were dying to have you. But of course you didn't come here to chat about old times did you? What can I do for you?"
"I need some information. You know who I work for nowadays don't you?"
"Yes I heard, some American special force. I heard you're director there, so you've not done too badly yourself now have you?"
"Director of SCIT doesn't mean I get a cushy office like this mate. I still do field ops."
"Yes, yes I recall some intel suggesting you were part of the team that destroyed that Korean terrorist bunker and saved President Fullman. Amazing what satellite imaging can get you these days. I believe I have a photograph of you shooting down a helicopter in fact."
Damn rats. Figured they'd probably have files on me. MI6 were damn good at what they did, and when intelligence was their business there wasn't a lot that they didn't know or couldn't find out.
"Yeah mate, that was me. But listen, I've got a tip that there's someone gunning for my team, shady organisation of sorts. Our files come up blank. I'm here to see if you've got anything. Are you familiar with any agent or unit who go by the alias; 'the Stalker'?"
Anfield raised an eyebrow and fixed me with a penetrating look. He knew something.
"'Stalker' you say? You should come take a look at this."
He sat back in his chair and started bringing up files on the PC on his desk. I walked around and looked over his shoulder. My eyes narrowed at what I saw. This wasn't pretty reading.