Blood Debt Chapter 2

Blood Debt Chapter 2

Dan Tackett heard the phone vibrating on the workbench, even over the faint strains of Charley Crockett coming from the small speaker on the shelf above, but he ignored it. One thing at a time. He wasn’t going to leave the job half-finished just to answer the phone. He finished tightening down the housing and stepped back from the bike appreciatively. Hondas weren’t his favorite to work on, but he was good at it, and he had to admit that this Shadow Phantom was a nice-looking bike. Looking around the shop, he nodded. It never quite ceased to amaze him, even after five years, how much he’d managed to build. He knew he couldn’t have done it without Mitchell Price’s payoff after the Anambas mission had gone horribly awry, but all the same, there’d been a time when he’d wondered if he’d ever be good for anything but packing a gun in dangerous and far distant places. It had been that wonder, as he’d been working a dead-end job and trying to maintain the lifestyle he’d had before his first wife had died, that had led him to that ill-fated contract. After the hell he’d gone through on those islands,

Blood Debt Chapter 1

Blood Debt Chapter 1

Vernon White was just glad that they were in the truck and heading up into the mountains. It promised to be a rough ride, as the old, Soviet Ural truck had clearly seen better days, but at least he and the rest of the team were in the covered bed and out of sight. Max, Travis, and especially Sam, lean and crooked as he looked, blended in with the Russians in Kyrgyzstan far better than a tall, muscled, bald-headed black man. Bishkek had been bad enough. Kochkor had been far worse. Even the rest of the team had caught stares there. The Kyrgyz themselves weren’t Russian, and all the MMPR Special Projects team were either too pale or too dark. He looked around the inside of the truck bed. Max hadn’t changed much since their first mission together, in that ill-advised trip into the Anambas in the South China Sea. He never tanned, instead turning bright red for a few days before returning to a “lighter shade of pale.” He’d always been hefty, and that hadn’t changed, no matter some of the austere environments that Mitchell Price’s special tasks had taken them to. Sam hadn’t changed much, either, except to

Area Denial Chapter 1

Area Denial Chapter 1

“Contact, starboard side, five miles and closing at fifteen knots!” The warning crackled over the intercom speaker in berthing. Hank Foss rolled out of his rack, grabbing for his gear and his rifle. He’d been halfway expecting this alert for days now. Shrugging into his chest rig, he slung the modified M5E1 in front of him as he climbed up out of the berthing, clattering up the metal-grated ladderwell along the starboard side before turning through a narrow hatchway and into the modified command center that they’d built out of about half the galley. Space aboard the Jacqueline Q was at a premium, as large as she was. The Triarii command center consisted of three laptops on a table, with charts, maps, and printed imagery tacked up on the bulkheads. Right then, Cole Spencer, Hank’s second in command and his closest friend, was studying the laptop that showed their current drone overwatch feed. “What have we got?” Hank was tall and spare of frame, with a lean, hatchet face and black hair starting to show some gray at the temples. Having retired from the Marine Corps as a Gunnery Sergeant before joining the Triarii, he was surprised there wasn’t a

Area Denial Prologue

Area Denial Prologue

Lines of Demarcation Stiffen Within the United States   Following the fighting in south Texas, internecine clashes between domestic groups and even states themselves within the United States have seemingly intensified. While rioting has broken out anew in multiple cities, protesting the activities of the right-wing militia known as “The Triarii,” as well as the Texas state government’s cooperation with them, federal authorities have begun intensive investigations into the actions of the Texas governor, as well as what appears to be full-scale war preparations on the part of the Triarii. Support or opposition for the investigation has fallen out along largely state and partisan lines, though several of the Middle American states that have opposed it have large urban populations that have protested their state governments’ stance on the matter. The current—and continuing—disruption of power grids and supply chains has become yet another source of friction, contributing to the spreading chaos. Rumors abound of federal task forces preparing to move into the dissident states, while militias and even state National Guard units are being mobilized to respond. The rumors about open armed clashes between Triarii and People’s Revolutionary Action in several “border states” have yet to be confirmed. A hard

The Alliance Rises Chapter 1

The Alliance Rises Chapter 1

If not for many years of discipline, Centurion Erekan Scalas would have been stifling a yawn behind his visor. The Regonese flock leaders, war chiefs, and politicians had been talking at Brother Legate Dravus Maruks for three hours, while Scalas and his other three brother Centurions had stood by and listened. If not for the climate controls in the Caractacan Brothers’ combat armor, they would have been freezing in the cold, whispering winds that sifted across Kego City’s Peace Plaza. Maruks had his helmet off, and his squarish, sun-blasted face was red with cold and wind-burn. Maruks looked tired. As well he might. Regone was the fifth such system that the Avar Sector Legio of the Caractacan Brotherhood had needed to visit recently. It seemed that every brush fire in the galaxy was flaring up since Valdek had fallen to the so-called “Galactic Unity,” two thousand hours before. The Brother Legate was in the midst of telling the gathered Regonese leaders that the Caractacan Brotherhood was not a mercenary company that they could hire to crush the Exiles on the third planet. The fifty, three-meter-tall avian nashai gathered around him at the base of the towering stone spire that formed

The Defense of Provenia Chapter 1

The Defense of Provenia Chapter 1

The halftrack grumbled to a halt with a lurch; the driver was clearly new, and hadn’t yet gotten used to the slightly different handling. In the turret above, Mertens was knocked against the double coilgun and swore. “Who let that fumble-fingered nuyak drive?” Mertens demanded, his voice muffled by armor plating. “He needs the road time,” Corporal Gaumarus Pell replied. “I remember your first few musters, Mertens. Don’t make me start telling stories.” There was a general chuckle through the halftrack’s troop compartment at that. Gaumarus looked around at his section. Well, not his section. Sergeant Verlot was the section leader. Gaumarus was just a fireteam leader. He was glad he’d gotten a chuckle though. It had broken some of the tension, and he’d actually managed to relax a little bit himself. On most days, he was responsible for two thousand acres of tillage on the Pell Family farm, both supervising the human workers and the remote tractors. The humans were easy; it was the bots that made him want to tear his hair out. Even after centuries of computer development, they were still frustratingly glitchy, overly literal mechanisms, that could plow up two months’ worth of crops in an

War to the Knife Chapter 2

War to the Knife Chapter 2

The Rocking K Diner was quiet, but it was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday. Most people in that neck of the woods had to work. John Brannigan had plenty of chores to do around his cabin up the mountain, but his situation was a little different. And the message he’d gotten from Mark Van Zandt had been more than a little intriguing. Brannigan threaded his way between the tables toward the back, trading a friendly wave with Ginger, Mama Taft’s granddaughter and permanent waitress, who would probably inherit the diner whenever Mama passed away. Granted, Mama Taft was hard as nails, and probably wouldn’t die until Death himself came and dragged her away, cussing and punching him in the face. It would be a long time before Ginger inherited, but the cheerful, bouncy young redhead was fine with that. Van Zandt was sitting in the corner booth, all the way in the back, nursing a cup of coffee. He’d dressed down a bit since the first time he’d come to the Rocking K, wearing jeans and a flannel shirt. The first time, he’d been in slacks and a corporate polo shirt. Brannigan and Van Zandt had a

War to the Knife Chapter 1

War to the Knife Chapter 1

There was no warning. Miguel Jurado was a heavy sleeper, especially when he’d eaten well and had downed about half a bottle of aguardiente. So, he didn’t hear the door open, despite the noise outside. He was dead to the world until he found himself shaken roughly. “Mayor Jurado! Mayor Jurado, you need to wake up, Señor!” He cracked one eye, his head already starting to pound. He couldn’t handle the aguardiente as well as he had when he was younger. It took a moment to register that it was Sebastian Casas, his chief of security, who was shaking him. That can’t be good. He sat up in bed with a groan, squinting against the light that spilled through the open door. He wasn’t really fat, not yet, but his body was going soft as he got older and balder, and for some reason, that meant that he always hurt when he got up, despite the alcohol. Maria, his third wife, twenty years his junior, didn’t have that problem. She was sitting up in bed, covering herself with the sheet, staring at Casas with large, dark, frightened eyes. “What is it?” Jurado peered blearily at the clock beside the massive

The Guns of “War to the Knife”

The Guns of “War to the Knife”

One of the fun aspects to writing the Brannigan’s Blackhearts series is the gun porn. It’s always been a staple of the Action/Adventure genre. I do try for a bit more authenticity than some of the older works in the genre (which will remain nameless), while at the same time avoiding the multi-page descriptions, so as not to bog down the story. Featuring a wide variety of weaponry is still cool, though, which is why I’ve been running this series of posts since the series started. Most of the time, the Blackhearts use a common service weapon in the Area of Operations where they’re working. War to the Knife is no different. Their local contact gets them IWI Galil SARs, which have been an issue service rifle in the National Army of Colombia. There are also a couple of the 5.56 version of the IWI Negev light machinegun. And Flanagan gets a chance to use a Galatz sniper rifle. The Green Shirts, the narco-communists who have taken over San Tabal, carry a mix of weapons based on many carried by the FARC. That means a mix of mostly M16s and AK-47s for rifles (mostly either captured from the Colombians or trafficked in by

Thunder Run Chapter 3

Thunder Run Chapter 3

A week and a half later, I walked into our TOC in Fort Grodzisko. The bunker hadn’t gotten much warmer since the winter, though it had gotten brighter, as more work lights were brought in. We still did some planning and intel collection on computers, but given how fast and how nasty the cyber war had gotten—not to mention how often power grids were being targeted, on both sides of the Atlantic—we used paper maps, whiteboards, and as much analog stuff as we could. And those needed light. Brian Hartrick was waiting in the “Grex Luporum Corner,” along with Shane Tucker and Bobby Burkhart, the other two Grex Luporum team leaders in country. There weren’t a lot of us, and we were in high demand in the States—and there were whispers about new ops in the Western Pacific, though those were extremely hush-hush at the moment—so Shane, Bobby, and I were it for the moment. We were also all understrength. We’d taken losses over the last few months since all this started. None of our ten-man teams were sitting at more than eight bodies. “You made it.” Hartrick’s sardonic tone always sounded like he wasn’t sure if what he was