The ANZAC Conspiracy, by Ben Benjamin
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A fictional story about a possible terrorist bomb threat in New Zealand.
From: The ANZAC Conspiracy, by Ben Benjamin
Chapter One: Wellington, the Capital of New Zealand — Sometime in the future
It was a cold, wet, blustery winter’s day in Wellington as the wind chased the rain clouds around the sky. Joe Clarkson, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, was a puzzled man. He had arrived at his office as usual at eight o’clock only to find that his secretary had cancelled all his appointments for the morning and had replaced them with an unscheduled meeting with the Australian ambassador at nine o’clock.
“Mary, what does he want to see me about?”
Mary Rose was a prim and proper mid-thirties woman who was incredibly efficient at her job and someone Joe had come to rely on to organise him.
“I have absolutely no idea, Prime Minister, but he said it was a matter of extreme urgency and he had to see you today. He should be here soon. Is there anything I can get you while you are waiting?”
Mary was used to his habits and knew that he would undoubtedly ask for a strong cup of coffee with two sugars.
“Yes, I’ll have a coffee extra strong with two sugars thanks.”
“Yes,” thought Mary, “true to form.”
As Joe sipped the coffee his mind began to wonder why the Australian ambassador needed to see him and why it was so urgent. Looking out of his office window in the Beehive executive wing of Parliament buildings he could see pedestrians scurrying to and fro and he laughed out loud at the sight of some of them having their umbrellas turned inside out by the strong wind.
There was a gentle knock on the door and Mary Rose ushered the Australian ambassador, Graham Alexander, into the office. Joe stood to greet him and as the two men shook hands Joe thought of the many times they had shared morning or afternoon tea in his office and if it was later in the day sometimes the whisky bottle would come out.
Motioning Graham to be seated, Joe sat down opposite on the couch and asked quizzically, “OK, what is so serious that you have me cancel all my morning appointments so that you can see me? It’s not another underarm bowling incident is it?” This was a reference to the time when the Australians bowled the last ball underarm in a one-day cricket game to deny New Zealand the opportunity of tying the game. The media had a field day with the incident and it had almost led to the two countries facing a stand-off, at least on the sporting fields.
Graham looked serious and said in carefully chosen words, ”No, Prime Minister, it is something much more serious than that. The Americans have intercepted communications that indicate that terrorists are planning an operation on New Zealand soil and the Yanks want me to convey this to you.”
“Why couldn’t the Americans contact us directly?” replied a concerned Joe.
“Well, Prime Minister, I shouldn’t need to remind you that ever since David Lange declared New Zealand to be nuclear free and effectively banned their ships from coming to your country due to their ‘neither confirm nor deny’ policy, resulting in the collapse of the ANZUS Treaty, the Americans have taken New Zealand out of the information loop and prefer to pass information to you via us. We don’t have a problem with them because we are not nuclear free and we welcome their ships. Also, remember at the time of the Iraq war when one of your predecessors, Helen Clark, wouldn’t send troops to fight, whereas we were in boots and all and it wasn’t until later that New Zealand committed a force for re-building the country.”
He let the words hang in the air awaiting a reply, which was not long in coming. “Can you be more specific about the information?” asked Joe.
“Sorry, Prime Minister, but that is all I have. I can assure you, however, that the Australian government is prepared to provide all its resources to you and is willing to co-operate with your security forces to try to prevent this thing from happening. You will obviously want to talk to your security organisations and once you have decided what you are going to do please feel free to contact me further and we can then work in with you to try to find who these bastards are and what they are up to.”
With that the Australian ambassador arose from the couch and headed towards the door, turning as he reached it, saying, “Prime Minister, we are all in this together but I suggest that you act and act quickly because we really don’t know how far these guys have advanced in their planning.”
“Thanks, Graham, I shall get right on it,“ replied Joe as he closed the door.
Joe pushed the button on his intercom and asked Mary to come into his office. As she did so she asked how his meeting had gone and he informed her of what had been said. She had been given the maximum security clearance and was authorised to hear anything the Prime Minister wished to tell her.
Speaking softly she said, ”I suppose it was only a matter of time before something had to happen down here and obviously you will be wanting me to contact various people, yes?”
“Yes, Mary, we shall need the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, the head of the Police, the head of Customs and Immigration, and the heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force. That should do for a start. Please have them at my office tomorrow morning at nine o’clock, but before you go, make me another cup of coffee and put an extra teaspoon of coffee and sugar in the cup will you. I think I need something strong.”
As he pondered his next move, Joe wondered what would be a likely target. Could it possibly be an assassination attempt on his life or perhaps a bombing of Parliament? He thought back to when the French had bombed the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour but that had been carried out by a government, not a terrorist organisation. New Zealand had caught and jailed two of the French agents responsible but under pressure had released them into French authority, only to see them given their freedom and even decorated for their actions. This was after one of the Greenpeace crew had been killed in the explosion. “What price human life?” mused Joe.
After the ambassador’s visit, Joe found that he could not concentrate and asked Mary to cancel the rest of his day’s appointments. She had already informed him that she had contacted all the people he had asked her to and they would all be at his office the next morning as requested.
“What a gem,” thought Joe. “I couldn’t run the country without her. I wonder if the voters realise how much the Prime Minister is dependent upon his secretary. If they only knew they probably wouldn’t vote for him,” he chuckled to himself.
Joe needed a clear afternoon to work out what he needed to say to the heads of the government departments and armed forces the next day, and he spent some time going through possible scenarios. Since that didn’t seem to work for him he decided to concentrate only on what he knew and leave conjecture to those who were better at it than himself. He decided that any information was to be on a strictly “need to know” basis because it was evident that maximum security was necessary for what was going to be a large scale operation. He had, as an afterthought, decided to invite Graham Alexander to attend because no doubt they would need the Australians as a line to American intelligence.
Arriving home in his chauffeur-driven limousine, Joe greeted his wife Barbara and prepared himself for dinner. Normally he would have discussed with her what he had done that day but on this occasion he felt it was better to be silent. Even so, Barbara sensed something was troubling him and directly asked him what was wrong.
“Nothing to worry about dear,” replied Joe. “Just a little matter that came up today that I have to sort out tomorrow morning. Don’t worry yourself about it. It’ll pass in a few days.”
“More likely weeks, possibly months,” thought Joe.
After finishing their evening meal together, Joe relaxed by watching television and followed his wife to bed at the end of the ten thirty news.
The next morning he was up earlier than usual and, after going for a jog on his treadmill, he showered, dressed, ate breakfast and waited for his driver to pick him up. As he was driven into the city he looked across the windswept harbour and wondered what his next action would have to be. So far, apart from the Rainbow Warrior bombing, New Zealand had managed to escape terrorist activity but it now looked as though this was going to change.
Mary Rose was waiting for him with a fresh cup of coffee when Joe walked into his office. He accepted the drink and wandered over to one of the office couches.
“Well, did you manage to get hold of everyone, Mary?”
“Yes, Prime Minister, even the Australian ambassador can attend.”
“Good. Now all we have to do is wait for them to arrive.”
Knowing what sort of men they were and the organisations they represented, Joe was expecting to see them at nine o’clock on the dot. True to form, as the clock in his office moved to nine o’clock there was a knock on his door and Mary Rose entered, followed by seven men.
The first, Michael Ford, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, Joe knew well. He had often met with Michael to discuss other matters concerning intelligence questions for the country, but nothing as important as this. Next came Malcolm Coup, the head of the Police, and a man who Joe was pleased to have on his side. Malcolm was straight up and down and ran a tight ship when it came to his staff. After Malcolm came Clint Farlane, the head of Customs and Immigration, and then the heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force, Major-General Wayne Blundell, Rear Admiral John Adams and Air Vice-Marshall Alastair Cook respectively. The Australian ambassador, Graham Alexander, was the last to enter the room.
Joe greeted each in turn and ushered them into the conference room adjacent to his office. Once everyone was seated Joe cleared his throat and began to speak.
“Gentlemen, thank you for coming at such short notice. Yesterday, Graham informed me that the American intelligence gathering service had picked up a communication indicating that New Zealand was a target for terrorist activities. I have therefore assembled you all here today to do something about this threat to ensure it does not happen. Each of your organisations will have its part to play in the operation and everything will be co-ordinated by Michael, who of course as head of the SIS reports directly to me. I am sorry but I do not know any more than that. It’s your job to activate your organisations to somehow find out who these terrorist are and what they are planning.”
Looking around the room, Joe could see the expressions of surprise on the faces of the six New Zealanders, and there was a slight murmur as the impact of his words sunk in.
Nodding in the direction of Graham Alexander, Joe continued. “The Australians have offered us their assistance and we shall no doubt be taking advantage of it. They are the link to American intelligence and can be relied on to give us whatever they deem to be helpful. Now, are there any questions?”
Michael Ford spoke first. ”Prime Minister, have we anything to go on or are we looking for a needle in a haystack?”
“Unfortunately the latter, Mike. We are all in the dark on this one so what all of you have to do is activate your organisations that something is happening but as yet we haven’t a clue what it is.”
Next to speak was Wayne Blundell, as head of the Army, a stickler for protocol if ever there was anyone. “OK so we don’t know what we are looking for but I think we need a code name for this operation, something we can refer to easily and won’t draw attention if it is heard.”
“What do you suggest?” enquired Joe, having not thought about such matters.
“Well, since we have Graham and the Australians involved, I suggest we call it ‘Operation Anzac’ and then if anyone gets wind of it they will simply think it is about Anzac Day or something like that.”
There was a murmur of agreement from the others around the table and Joe said emphatically, “Right, that’s settled then. Operation Anzac it is. Clint, we do not know if these people are already in the country so you are going to have to do some checking through your immigration records and make sure of everyone who has recently entered. Not an easy task but this will have to be the starting point. It may pay to beef up security at airports and gateways to the country. Anyway, you can discuss that with Mike and come up with some sort of plan. Alastair, as head of the Air Force you will have maritime surveillance to conduct just in case they try to do what the French did in the Rainbow Warrior bombing.”
Joe recalled how the French agents had hired a yacht and sailed it to New Zealand. Perhaps the terrorists might do the same and it would be up to Alastair and his airmen to patrol the seas to make sure that if the terrorists were to use this route, they would be discovered.
“As for the rest of you,” Joe continued, “you will have to work in with Mike and the SIS, and remember, it doesn’t matter how insignificant you think something to be, it might be linked and everything is to be taken seriously if we are to avoid loss of life and stop these bastards. John, as head of the Navy you will no doubt wish to work in with Wayne and his Air Force boys but please co-ordinate everything with Mike so that we have and overall picture. Now unless there are any further questions I think we should call it a day and get on with our work.”
With that the meeting finished and, as the last of the officials left, Joe turned to Mary Rose, who had been taking the minutes, and said quietly, “God help us if this ever gets out Mary, there will be hell to pay.” Slowly walked back into his office, he added, ”You had better get me a cup of coffee, extra strong with lots of sugar.”