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 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 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