The Liberator wasn’t built for comfort. But the party members have all learned to grab some shut-eye whenever and however possible. So all sleep soundly throughout the nightflight until they are jolted back to consciousness as the plane touches down on the Gibraltar airstrip.
As they exit the aircraft and stretch their legs, they see that dawn is just breaking over the large, jagged rock at the centre of the island. A few minutes pass before a Bedford pulls up next to them.
“Sling your gear in the back, mates and I’ll take you to the NAAFI. You’re just in time for breakfast.”
The party member have also learned to grab a good hot meal whenever the opportunity arises, and so all take advantage of the airfield canteen. Especially Lodd.
They are allowed to enjoy their meal and relax for another half hour before the driver returns.
“All finished?” he asks. " I need to take you to the Naval HQ."
With Gibraltar being such a tiny speck on the map, it takes less than ten minutes before the truck pulls up outside the imposing white building that is the RN’s main centre of operations for the Mediterranean.
“I’l look after your gear,” says the driver. “Just introduce yourself at reception. Commander Fleming is expecting you.”
“Good to see you all again, chaps,” says Commander Fleming. “Please all take a chair.”
“So I hear that you’ve been operating in Northern Europe for a while. Well I’m sure you’re all glad to return to the lovely weather down here and to be where the action is.”
“Anyway, I am sure that you are all very curious as to what we have in store for you. Well I am glad to say that we are sending you on a nice little cruise around the Med.”
“In submarine or big ship?” asks Lodd nervously.
“A submarine, actually,” Fleming replies. “But it is a big submarine.”
“Јебена курво!” Lodd curses at the memory of his last submarine journey. Taffy doesn’t seem too impressed with the idea either.
“To do what, exactly?” Grumpy Bob asks. Grumpily.
“The first part of the mission will be quite routine,” Fleming explains. “You’ll be sailing through the Med on HMS Torbay, stopping off at four different places to pick up four different S.O.E. agents. The first three stops should be fairly routine: Go ashore to a prearranged rendezvous point, contact the agent and transport him back to the sub. These pickups are secondary to the main mission and extraordinary risks are not to be taken in carrying them out. Under no circumstances is anything to be done that will jeopardize the completion of the main mission.”
“The fourth landing, however, is part of your primary mission: Operation Prometheus.”
“So what’s Operation Prometheus?” asks Terry.
“You will be landed in Greece, near Thessalonika.”
“Near my home!” Lodd says, cheering up quickly.
“Yes,” Fleming replies patiently. “Not too far from Yugoslavia.”
“Here you will contact a chap called Paul Gorich. He’s an SIS agent who was based in Moscow in the late Thirties, in the years when the Soviet Union was as much of a threat to us as the Nazis. There he was part of a network which had just managed to convince two important Soviet scientists to defect when Stalin started on his purges and contact was lost with them.”
“For a long while it was assumed that they had died in the purges – and Gorich along with them, as nothing was heard from him either. But recently, Gorich managed to contact us – from Romania, where he has been working with partisans. He says that he has been able to track down the Popoviches through a member of the Romanian resistance. His contact wants to make a deal – we supply him with arms and ammunition and he gives us the Popoviches.”
“Naturally we are more than happy to oblige. The more trouble that the partisans can cause to Hitler’s allies, the sooner they are likely to sue for peace or come over to our side – like the Italians did.”
“Lieutenant Clutterbuck, commander of the HMS Torbay, is in overall charge of the mission, but the six of you will have full authority over all operations on land. You will be accompanied on the mission by agent Paula MacDonald from the S.S.I.”
Lodd’s eyes go wide and he smiles broadly.
“Please all keep your paws off her now, chaps. The relations between S.O.E., S.S.I, and O.S.I. are messy and fragile enough already without any of you making things even worse.”
“So, to summarize, the primary goal of Operation Prometheus is to locate Drs. Alexei and Tanya Popovich and to bring them back under Allied control, along with whatever technical information that they possess, at all costs.”
“Seems simple enough,” says Piotr, confidently.
“There is just one minor little complication,” Fleming says a little sheepishly. “We don’t actually know where Gorich is. All we know is where to find somebody who we think knows where he is.”
Fleming looks at his watch.
“Any quick questions from anyone at this stage?” he asks. “All of the crew and the weapons and ammunition for the partisans are already onboard the Torbay. They are just waiting for you before they get underway.”
Terry smacks his left fist into his right palm, and smiles, “Good. A chance to do the Heinies some harm in their soft bits. And, speaking of heinies, are Greek women really as beautiful as I’ve heard, sir?” he pauses, then laughs outright, “I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough anyways…”