Moscow has activated the sleeper agents!

Numbers stations are a mysterious phenomenon possibly related to espionage. They are radio transmitters in Russia which broadcast seemingly random numbers or sounds. Recently one of them, UVB-76, changed from its normal buzzing to garbled messages. Theories abound about what they could possibly mean. If this was part of the prologue to a piece of spy fiction it would signal the activation of a sleeper agent or cell intent on killing key members of the British establishment (or US government if you must insist on not being parochial). They would have been called out of retirement by reactionary forces within the Russian government intent on taking the world back to the uncertain certainties of the Cold War or creating a neo-Soviet empire.

Another real life event which sounds like the opening of a thriller is the gruesome and bizarre murder of Gareth Williams a specialist in codes who worked at GCHQ and had been seconded to MI6. The conspiracy theories are already being formulated on that one, and everyone’s calling him a spy when the label is almost certainly inappropriate, just to sex the story up.

The Irwin series of stories (I have ideas for a few more after Tiger has finished serialising) feature a former MI6 analyst, so stories like this are of great interest to me. The reality will be much more mundane than the imagined reasons behind them, of course, but they fascinate for alittle while.


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