“Shit,” Phil whispered. “I knew they had a fucking drone up.” I didn’t answer, but scanned the road carefully. Once again, thanks to the woods, we were far closer than we should have been, but the spotlights weren’t pointed at the woods, not yet, and the rising growl of the helicopter, along with the rumble of the armored cars’ diesels, seemed to have drowned out what little noise we were making. Slowly, carefully, I eased back deeper into the shadows, Phil doing the same. Looking up and down the road, I didn’t see a good spot to cross. The six armored vehicles were spaced out along the road. They were too close to slip through, and too spread out to find a good spot to go around. At least, not with that helicopter closing in. Two klicks of open country separated us from the border at its nearest point, and that would have entailed going through Leuba. As urgent as it was that we get the information back to Poland, we weren’t going to do anyone any good if we went charging out there and got killed or captured. And as confident as I was in my team in combat,
On the ground, at night, Germany didn’t look all that different from Slovakia. The differences lay in details that might not have been all that readily apparent to someone without our recent experience. Aside from a dog barking down by Schönau-Berzdorf, it was deathly quiet. No distant thunder of artillery rumbled. No small arms fire rattled. There weren’t even any aircraft to be heard in the sky. The lights were still on in Görlitz to the north, casting an orange glow against the low clouds overhead. Unlike the all-too common flickering light of burning towns and villages in Slovakia, it was a steady illumination, adding to the ambient light that our AN-PSQ-20 fusion goggles had to work with. It made navigation through the shadows of the German woods quite a bit easier. That same quiet was making me suspicious. The entire landscape around us seemed asleep and dead. Given that every indicator that intelligence had gotten in the last few weeks was pointing to Görlitz being the staging point for a major offensive aimed at Poland, there should have been more activity. Phil Kerr took a knee next to a mostly-bare tree. The fall had been colder than the Poles
Three Weeks Later, And Still Few Answers It has been three weeks since the beginning of the catastrophic blackout that has cut off electrical power to the Pacific Coast, the Southwest, much of the Southeast, and the Eastern Seaboard. Efforts to restore the grid in effected areas have largely met with failure, either due to technical problems or attacks by gangs. This seems to have bolstered theories that the blackout was caused by a terrorist attack. Authorities that this reporter was able to reach have not endorsed this view, however, insisting that there is no solid evidence of such an attack. Nor have the rash of infrastructure attacks been linked by any such authorities. The official, who preferred to remain anonymous, dismissed such links as “conspiracy theories.”
In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place: and in the sky The larks still bravely singing fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the dead: Short days ago, We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved: and now we lie In Flanders fields! Take up our quarrel with the foe To you, from failing hands, we throw The torch: be yours to hold it high If ye break faith with us who die, We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915 during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium by Lt. Col. John McCrae The ghosts come back a little, today. I realized while at the local Memorial Day ceremony just how long the list has gotten. Men I knew well, men I only knew in passing before they were gone. Men who died in combat. Men who died in training. Men who took their own lives. Not a lot to say about it, today. Fair winds and following seas. We have the watch.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about “subverting expectations” in storytelling, due to the recent ending of Game of Thrones. So, since I’m a storyteller, let’s take a bit of an aside to discuss it. Much of the praise that George R. R. Martin’s book series, A Song of Ice and Fire received was about how it didn’t play it safe. It “subverted” the old fantasy tropes (which, admittedly, had been largely done to death by Tolkien copycats who didn’t understand Tolkien). Unexpected things happened. The good guys didn’t win just because they were the good guys. (It was sometimes hard to tell who the good guys were.) Now, some of this was simply marketing. To listen to some people, you’d think that George Martin invented moral shades of gray in fantasy fiction. David Gemmell, Glen Cook, and a host of others beat him to it by decades. Full disclosure: I read the first three books, the year that the TV show started. I quit after A Storm of Swords. And a great deal of that decision was based on the nature of this “subverting expectations” model of storytelling.
As I’ve written elsewhere, setting a story in the near future sometimes requires some attempt at clairvoyance. Some of the weapons systems that will be used in a future war are still in development. Some might not exist yet, but getting too crazy sci-fi could derail things, so I’ve got to strike a balance. One of those systems that I introduce in Escalation is the M5 Powell Infantry Fighting Vehicle. This is set up as the replacement for the M2 Bradley IFV, which has been in service since 1981. Now, there is an M2 replacement in the works. The Army calls it the Next Generation Combat Vehicle program, and the Request For Proposals went out in March of this year. Right at the moment, there are three major contenders, the BAE Systems CV90 Mk IV, the Rheinmetall and Raytheon Lynx IFV, and the General Dynamics Griffin III.
I’m running a Kindle Countdown Deal from May 6th to May 13th for the entire American Praetorians series. Kindle Countdown deals are limited-time promos that KDP lets authors conduct, where books can be significantly marked down for no more than a week. During that week, you’ll be able to get the Kindle versions of the entire series for less than $9. Task Force Desperate will be $0.99, with Hunting in the Shadows, Alone and Unafraid, The Devil You Don’t Know, and Lex Talionis each running for $1.99. I’ve gotten slots on a couple of book promo sites for it, as well. I’ll be putting it out on the newsletter next Monday as well, but here’s your heads-up. The American Praetorians series was my first and the one I cut my teeth as an author on. It remains some people’s favorite. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, this will be a good way to pick it up. What started as a rescue mission turns into a bloody shadow war The primary US base on the Horn of Africa has fallen. America’s overseas assets have been allowed to slip. Now the survivors’ only hope is a group of hard-bitten, veteran contractors,
The Maelstrom Rising series already features some “cutting-edge” tech. Some of that tech has already been fielded; some of it is in development. One of these pieces of tech are “kamikaze drones,” which get employed to devastating effect in Escalation. A couple of my readers have commented on how scary they are. But they’re real, and we’re going to see more of them in the years to come. (Side note: While tech will feature in the Maelstrom Rising series, it will never be depicted as the panacea that you might find in a lot of ’90s techno-thrillers. Anyone who has read my stuff before should already be aware of that. High tech complicates logistics, and logistics are already hampering everybody’s war effort in Maelstrom Rising.) These kamikaze drones have been in development for some time. The US and Israel appear to have been the primary developers. The US has begun fielding the Switchblade drone several years ago.
The thunderous report of the 7.62 echoed across the hills around the town, shattering the early morning calm. The dark-clad man with the FAMAS bullpup staggered, staring down at the widening dark stain on his chest for a brief fraction of a second before he crumpled, crashing to the deck with a thump and a muffled clatter as he landed on top of his rifle…
It’s becoming harder and harder to get the word out to you, the fans, that I’ve got new books out. Facebook throttles everything. Amazon Marketing Services has gotten less and less effective over the last six to nine months, as the market has gotten more and more saturated. And that same market saturation makes visibility more difficult, as well. So, the solution is more of a direct contact between me, the author, and you, the reader. The newsletter is one of the best ways to accomplish that. So, if you haven’t read Drawing the Line before, or even if you have, go ahead and sign up. It will help ensure that you do get the word when I’ve got stuff happening, instead of letting it get lost in the noise.