Laynie Portland, Spy Rising


In one way or another, every “righteous” clandestine operative is sought out, enlisted, and trained for the difficult and often terrible work intended to ensure that the principles of freedom triumph over ideologies that seek to dominate and enslave.

The year is 1977; the Cold War is intensifying. Helena Portland—Laynie to her family—is set to graduate from the University of Washington, when recruiters from Marstead International invite her to dinner and an informal employment interview. Laynie is flattered: Marstead International is a technology and aeronautics firm with a global presence and reputation.

But behind their corporate image? Marstead is a front for joint U.S./NATO covert operations.

Not far into the dinner conversation, the recruiters make their pitch: “We have offices around the world, Miss Portland, and we actively seek college graduates with the right mix of aptitude and skills to work and grow within our worldwide market. Actually, we have been observing you for some time. We feel that you have the potential to serve . . . the interests of your country.”

Laynie catches their drift and confronts it. “Let me see if I understand you correctly. You are representatives of a U.S. intelligence agency, unnamed so far, and you are trying to recruit me. Do I have it right?”

When Laynie accepts Marstead’s offer, she is sent through the Company’s rigorous tradecraft and tactical training program. Laynie soon discovers that the world of clandestine service is dirty business. To succeed, operatives must bend and twist the tenets of liberty. Along the way, noble objectives tarnish and corrode, hearts harden, and methods and means drag virtue into the gutter.

Laynie perseveres at the work set before her; she enters into it because she holds a secret—a secret she has never shared with anyone, a view of herself that not only condones the awful choices she is asked to make, but justifies them.

I am worthless; my life has no value. I am only useful when the work I do serves a greater purpose.