Option Zulu Chapter 1

Option Zulu Chapter 1

Approximately 13 hours before Grex Luporum Team X, assigned PSD duties for Wenzeslaus Gorman, takes contact on the bridge over the Ochtum.   The Jacqueline Q might have changed her digital identifier so that she now appeared to any nautical tracking programs as the Maureen, but there hadn’t been the time nor the available equipment to change the lettering on her bow. They didn’t know that the PLAN had fingered her as the privateer she was, but as things stood, it wasn’t a great idea to take chances. So, she was well out at sea, south of Taiwan, while Hank Foss and his section rode the Zodiacs toward their target. Hank had essentially pulled rank as the section leader and had appointed himself coxswain. That was normal, but there was an added benefit on a long transit like this. He was still taking a beating, and he’d been soaked to the bone for the last two hours, but he wasn’t getting knocked around nearly as badly as Brule and Carrington up in the bow. Riding the bow in a Zodiac Combat Rubber Raiding Craft for a three-hour over the horizon transit to target was beyond miserable. The ocean around them

Power Vacuum Chapter 2

Power Vacuum Chapter 2

Almost cut off. Chris stomped on the brake and slewed the wheel over, throwing Gorman and David against me as I was crushed against the inside of the door. A moment later, he stomped on the gas again, struggling slightly against the sluggish weight of the armored vehicle, roaring up Am Pumpwerk, around the back of the “Autohaus” at the intersection. The other vehicles followed, chased by bullets and at least one rocket, which skipped off the pavement, as the idiot shooting it apparently tried to compensate for recoil that wasn’t there. We didn’t get far, though. A black UAZ Hunter roared out into the middle of the road in front of us, the doors flying wide and an HK21 sticking out through the “V” of the door on the right. The machinegun opened up with a ripping, staccato thunder. The gunner wasn’t very good, fortunately, and rounds sailed over our vehicle with a snarling crackle, but this wasn’t going to end well. We might be able to push past that Hunter, but then a moment later, two more shooters with LAWs came around the back. We weren’t going to dodge those rockets, even if they flinched. “Get out, get

Power Vacuum Chapter 1

Power Vacuum Chapter 1

I hate PSD work. One of the benefits of being in the Grex Luporum teams is that we can be mobile and unpredictable, moving quickly and often invisibly through the AO to get the mission done. When the mission is to act as a Personal Security Detachment, escorting a public figure, though, especially one who might end up becoming the next Prime Minister of Germany, it gets harder to stay unpredictable. Which was why I wasn’t all that surprised when the lead vehicle blew up just short of the bridge over the Ochtum. The armored Land Rover disappeared into a boiling black cloud that slammed out of the trees on the side of the road, the heavy thud of the detonation traveling through the ground toward us. I caught a glimpse of the vehicle a moment later, slewed halfway around with its back wheels against the median, the armored glass starred and a few hundred frag holes punched into the doors, as I keyed my radio. “Contact, right.” The Land Rover that had been hit cracked its doors, the Germans who formed the bulk of Wenzeslaus Gorman’s official PSD sticking their MP7s out through the “V” and covering down on

Power Vacuum Prologue

Power Vacuum Prologue

New Russian Military Exercises in Serbia   Recent reports indicate that what appears to be an entire Russian airborne battalion from the 7th Guards Air Assault Division has entered Serbia and is conducting joint exercises with the Serbian Army near the Hungarian border. So far, there have been no border crossings, but there are reports of live fire near the border. Hungarian Defense Forces are on high alert. Serbian relations with the West soured considerably following the Fourth Balkan War, in which Western forces intervened in the dispute between Serbia and Kosovo for the second time. The aftermath of that war saw Serbia drawn far more firmly into Russia’s orbit. With Russian forces pushing along the borders of Slovakia and Poland, ostensibly to create a “security buffer zone” between Russian-occupied territory and the war that erupted in Slovakia last year, this new movement presents a matter of some grave concern.   Chinese Naval Forces Shift Focus   Following reports of violence on and around the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, including the reported—though vehemently denied by PLAN spokesperson Bai Guanting—sinking of several PLAN destroyers and severe damage done to the PLAN aircraft carrier Shandong, it appears that the

Blood Debt Chapter 3

Blood Debt Chapter 3

I need to get up. Joe Flanagan looked up at the sunlight streaming through the window with some bemusement. With rare exceptions, he was usually up a good hour before the sun, this time of year. But as he turned to see Rachel—now Rachel Flanagan—lying next to him, breathing softly, he took a deep breath and settled back on the pillow. It’s not every day that a man has his honeymoon, and while there were chores that still had to happen that day, he was going to relax a little. After a while, though, he started to get restless, and carefully slipped out from under the covers, swinging his feet down to the floor before quietly getting dressed and padding into the kitchen, starting the water boiling for coffee. He turned as movement caught his eye, to see Rachel, wrapped in her bathrobe, her hair disheveled but lovely, smiling at him from the doorway. “You’re not quite as sneaky as you think, hon.” While Flanagan was ordinarily something of a stoic, his wife drew a grin. She’d had that effect on him ever since Kevin Curtis had introduced them, unwittingly setting events in motion that had led to this point.

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