Some people have asked if they could read a sample chapter or two of some of my books. I will start to put some on the website.
This particular book can be purchased in Print, on Kindle, or AudioBook over on Amazon.com:
The Pelindaba Nuclear Research Facility, South Africa
Captain Frank Banner looked around the airplane as they prepared to parachute into a hot landing zone. This was his Special Operations Team, his first command, and as such, it was a team he was very proud of.
He couldn’t believe just how calm the men remained. He was their leader, yet he drew strength from them. Here they were, about to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, parachute in to a foreign country, probably get shot at, and all of that at any moment. It amazed him more and more with every mission just how calm these guys could remain in the pre-insertion moments.
He couldn’t help but notice that this plane was a little older than their usual transportation. It didn’t matter. While sitting in the back, waiting to jump, all they needed was for there to be a large empty place to wait. This one came with fold down seats along the sides of the aircraft, which was a real plus, so it served their purposes just fine. This was not a plane designed for comfort, it was designed for utility.
They were given this assignment because they were the most geographically logical choice to a totally unexpected hot spot with the necessary skills, and ability to rapidly respond. That alert had come in from Africa Command, or AFRICOM, a mere ninety minutes ago. The only thing the team had been told at the time was to get on board the plane, with full combat gear, and be ready to jump. Once in flight they would receive an additional briefing. Being good soldiers, they followed those orders to the letter.
That briefing had been very brief. The voice on the radio had said that there were at least ten armed men inside the Pelindaba nuclear research facility in South Africa.
The reactor facility, or so the person conducting the briefing had said, was like almost every other nuclear power facility on the planet. Why that was important right now Frank didn’t know, but the briefer felt compelled to throw that fact into the discussion.
Essentially, the facility had a nested series of defenses that were supposed to prevent this sort of thing from happening. It also had a number of different shielding structures that would prevent radiation leaks in case of an accident. Those radiation shields would also stop non-armor piercing rounds. That was a double edge sword for this mission. The team could protect themselves behind those structures, but currently there was an enemy already using them as a protective barrier.
Captain Banner couldn’t help but ask the briefer if they could just surround the facility and wait them out, assuming they could use some of the local friendlies. Apparently, doing so would give the bad guys time to induce a radiation leak that would kill everyone for miles. The only advantage they had was that there was obviously something inside that facility that they wanted to get away from there with still intact. Otherwise they would have already blown the place up. The latest intelligence claimed they had already gotten into the facility far enough to gain access to radiological materials, it was assumed that was their reasoning behind the hostile activity.
In other words, in order to accomplish their mission, they had to come out at some point. That was one bit of good news. That assumed they could get on the ground and in position before the invaders could make their way out with a treasure trove of nuclear or radiological bomb making materials. It would be spectacularly bad news if they couldn’t get down there soon.
Frank couldn’t get the question Sergeant Fisher had asked during the briefing out of his head, “Why did any of this matter to the United States, or are we on this as a ‘help a friend’ mission?” This was not normally the type of question a soldier would ask, but it was not without purpose. It was intended to see if this was a serious response or just a perfunctory “go try but don’t get hurt, or blow too much stuff up.”
This one turned out to be far more important than just a political response.
Way back in 2007 four armed men had entered that same facility and made, what was thought to be at the time, a poor attempt at making off with some nuclear material which they wanted to use to build a nuclear bomb. This research facility had some experimental refining capability to make the high purity materials needed to make some very dangerous devices. It was now the consensus of the intelligence agencies in the loop of the current situation that the incident had been a test run in preparation for a real operation. It may have taken almost a decade to finish planning, but tonight could be that operation. If those materials, or worse, the plans for the refining capabilities ended up on the loose and in the hands of the wrong people, it was very much something that needed to be stopped for the sake of every nation on the planet.
The briefing had referred to the group of approximately ten armed men as “alleged terrorists.” Frank always had to chuckle at that phrase. He never cared about guilt or innocence in the court of law sense. His job was easier than that. Once bullets started to fly it was much easier to see who was a bad guy and who was an “alleged” bad guy. These particular “alleged” terrorist were already firing at the local security team, and therefore had graduated to actual terrorists in the mind of everyone on the airplane.
These allegedly bad guys were especially bad, as well as dangerous ones. They wanted to build a nuclear weapon in the worst way, and they seemed to be happy with just one. A nation that wanted hundreds of these weapons, in Frank’s opinion, wanted them as a deterrent to prevent an attack against their populace. A group that wants just one, that group has a target in mind.
They had to be dealt with before they could escape the facility, and disappear from sight.
Frank suddenly noticed just how rough the plane ride was becoming. No one on his team would ever complain. Special Operations Units dealt with all manner of harsh conditions while doing their jobs. Frank knew, as did everyone on the team, that this could be the most important mission of their careers. In one way, a real global balance of power could shift based on the results of what was happening on the ground at that very moment. If they were only allowed to get on the damn ground and get to work. So far they just kept circling. It was like a giant aerial circle jerk.
If a terrorist group, or terrorist state, it was growing more and more difficult to tell those two apart these days, obtained those types of weapons, or even the material to make them, the result would be that a large number of civilians would die. If they did not die as a direct result of the bombing, then it would be as a result of the ensuing panic. Captain Banner could not figure out a way to understand why there was any sort of hesitation in letting them go in and try to prevent that from happening. Yet the pilot just continued to circle, with no signal for them to prepare to jump.
Somewhere up the chain of command someone was vacillating.
Frank’s headset crackled to life, “Captain Banner, Warrant Officer Choi. We have been on station for thirty minutes, have you received any word on when we will go?”
“Chief, you know as much as I do,” Frank replied. The Warrant Officer was getting anxious.
“Roger that, Sir,” came the terse, yet professional reply.
Frank knew these men were all as professional as they came. For any of them to even ask the question spoke volumes of the pressure being felt by all.
He pushed the button on the intercom, “Major Wilkins, this is Captain Banner, any word from AFRICOM regarding insertion?”
“We have been told to circle and wait for orders from higher authority. We do have a SITREP. What little radio chatter we can manage to pick up from the ground is that there is an unknown sized force putting up some kind of fight larger than what we had originally been told to expect. Apparently, it is hard to tell who is who down there. Also, whoever is in there on the friendly team seems to know what we have in the area because they are asking for air support and troops. We have passed that word up the chain of command, and been told that it is all under consideration,” was the reply from the pilot.
Frank wondered for a moment exactly what “under consideration” meant but decided he would only get pissed if he knew.
“Roger that, Major. How high up does this go?” he asked.
The airplane shook with turbulence. Frank barely noticed anymore. At that moment, his focus was elsewhere.
There were men on the ground under fire, and his team could help. The men under his command would all want to provide that help, no matter what the personal risk. It seemed like the decision makers were either incapable of taking a risk, or perhaps even worse, incapable of making a decision.
There was a stockpile of material at risk that could cause the death of untold numbers of men, women and children at some unknown spot on the globe. The fear of this type of terrorist attack had been around for years, and it was thought that there were many groups that if they came to possess one of those devices would target the United States Homeland.
He didn’t understand why there was any delay in them getting into this fight. This theft had to be stopped. The world was a dangerous place. It would get a great deal more dangerous if this mission went badly.
“Captain, I think this one is coming straight from the White House,” answered the pilot.
Excellent, a politician is micromanaging the endeavor. To make it worse, a politician who was having multiple political problems and was known to allow politics to drive all of his decision making. Wonderful, just wonderful. He wondered how long until the focus group decided if the jump would be popular or not? That was assuming the night’s activity ever became public knowledge.
“Assuming they let us in there, how hot of a landing will we have?” Frank asked.
“Our equipment can’t get really good visuals, but even from this altitude we can see obvious explosive flashes. We think they have been using RPGs, but which side is using them we can’t be sure. Those ten alleged terrorists appear to be bunkered down pretty well, or there are more than ten of them. We do not know if the nuclear material has been compromised but they appear to be well equipped with enough firepower to either hold that position a very long time while they search for it, or shoot their way out if they already have it. That is assuming the situation on the ground doesn’t change,” the pilot said.
“Thank you, Major,” Frank answered.
The flight continued in relative silence for another twenty-five minutes. The plane would shake, the plane would rattle, but it continued to circle. There was nothing to worry about from an equipment standpoint; everyone had their equipment strapped on tight since before takeoff. Everyone was ready to go, no matter how rough the ride, no matter how long they were in the air, or how hot the landing, they would follow him out the door.
The young Captain couldn’t take it anymore. He unplugged his headset from the intercom system and made his way forward to the cockpit. Once there he heard the pilot arguing with whoever was on the other end of the radio to let the team go in. He heard the Major say that there had been no anti-aircraft fire and they could get the team on the ground without risk to the team while in the air, or to the aircraft and crew.
Finally the pilot noticed Frank, “Well Captain, it looks like someone back in the land believes we should be living a risk free life. Apparently you Green Berets are no longer allowed to get so much as a skinned knee.”
“I know you said the White House, but seriously, who is calling the shots? What kind of desk riding asshole are we dealing with?” Frank asked.
“Sir, as I have come to understand it, this one is coming straight from either the President or someone in the room with him,” answered the Major calmly.
“Well shit, let me revise my previous statement. I am sure that they know some vital piece of intelligence we don’t. Let’s follow orders gentlemen,” the men in the cockpit kept their bearing but all understood what he meant. They were just as tired of eternal political crap as all soldiers had become. Thiers was a life spent defending something. But, right now, there was someone wishing to do harm unto others, and they were in a position to stop it, yet someone was stopping them.
Without warning the radio came to life, the Major put a finger to his ear and turned to look at the cockpit visitor, “Looks like you and your men are finally going to get to go. Three minutes, to jump, get in position.”
Frank made his way to the back of the banking aircraft, “All right men. Get up, we have work to do!”
The men stood, their combat gear still strapped to them. They made their way to the back of the aircraft, stacked up in the right order, and silently waited for the door to open.
They waited, ten seconds, then another twenty seconds passed, and finally the door opened. They needed no prompting, no speeches, they poured out of the plane with Frank in the lead. Everyone had their tactical radios on and operating from the moment the order was given to stand.
Frank was glad that he had one of the new helmet visors equipped with a heads up display similar to what fighter pilots used. It showed the exact glide path to take during a jump, and gave some navigational assistance once on the ground. If enough situational awareness was known to the satellite and drone network feeding data to the thing it would even superimpose the locations of the enemy to make the job that much easier.
He watched the altimeter numbers rapidly decrease, 4000 feet; 3000 feet, pull the chord.
Frank felt his entire body jerk as the main chute opened. The decent was still rapid but not nearly as impactful as it would have been without it. With the new parachutes, and that new nav system he could hit the center of a landing zone every time.
The landing point was a short half a mile away from the firefight. Frank could judge from the sounds, someone was definitely shooting at someone else with large caliber weaponry. Soon they would be in a position to tell who was who and what weaponry they were really using. At their current distance it was still impossible to tell.
Two minutes later the entire team was on the ground, silent as ghosts, and the men assembled on Frank’s position.
“I will take point with Sergeant Fisher. We move in at best possible speed, find the internal security force, who should know we are on the way by now, if they are still alive, and move in. Do not wait, if you see a tango, eliminate that tango at best possible speed. If they have managed to get ahold of the material they came here for it will be in a heavily shielded containers. Hand grenades, and rounds from small arms are known to be unable to penetrate those containers. From this point forward unless absolutely necessary we will keep radio silence,” he said. There had been an intelligence leak that showed anyone with access to the Internet how to triangulate the US Military’s position with some simple electronic equipment lashed together in the right order. What they said would be scrambled, but giving away their position was not on Frank’s to do list.
As they approached the nuclear facility they finally got a better look at the firefight in progress. It was impossible to tell who was where at this point. Neither group appeared to have taken notice of them on their decent or approach. Frank quietly hoped the security team would realize they were here to help and not open fire on the team.
The facility was a nested series of buildings, each one increasingly more difficult to destroy than the last. However, the outer layer of defense was a simple chain link fence with a single strand of barbed wire at the top. That was the only bit of good news that could be seen.
From there on in, it was thick reinforced concrete walls and solid steel containment buildings, depending on where in the facility the bad guys were located.
They set about to locate and secure whatever was left of the security office. It should have cameras monitoring every single room in the facility. From there it was possible that they could get lucky and see what parts of the facility were under the control of the tangos. Perhaps Captain Banner and his team could also determine if they were on the way in or out of the area.
When Frank made it to the main entrance of the facility he started to see the signs of what had been an intense firefight. From the amount of damage and spent rifle rounds, there were either more than ten guys inside, or those ten were a hell of a lot better armed than the intelligence briefing had indicated. Frank decided they should slightly slow the pace and exercise a bit more caution.
Everyone stacked up with their backs to the reinforced concrete retaining walls that surrounded the main reactor facility. Frank inched closer to the entrance and quickly took a look around the corner before pulling back behind the wall.
There were no tangos to be seen. He used hand signals to inform the team about the lack of danger from humans at this corner. Booby traps were always a concern. Knowing its better to stay stealthy as long as possible, they slipped silently around the corner, vigilantly scanning for traps, and into the compound sticking to the shadows whenever possible.
The door to the security building was thirty feet past this entrance. They closed the distance in seconds silently, not knowing what to expect inside.
Once inside they found the surveillance room was right where they were told it would be. Unfortunately, there had been a large explosive set off in the room and nothing remained that could be helpful.
Shit, Frank cursed, this whole thing was starting to go sideways. These intruders were covering their own ass. That meant they were not just off the street thugs, they were an enemy to be taken seriously.
An unexpected explosion rattled the building. It was followed by a large burst of automatic weapons fire coming from where the main reactor was, which would also be where the nuclear material could be accessed from storage.
As they made their way toward the firefight they could see what remained of the security team was pinned down behind a large storage container. The storage containers were forty feet tall, cylindrical, and with each passing moment becoming more riddled with bullet impacts. The attacking force was obviously more than the ten men the “intelligence” services had claimed. They had large caliber automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades at a minimum.
So far neither side seemed to realize that a group of newcomers was about to join in the fight with the violent precision only a team of special operators was capable of delivering.
Frank took up position behind the rusted front end of an old two and a half ton cargo truck that looked like it had been built in the 1940’s. He knew the truck would offer Sergeant Fisher and his own rear-end some reasonable protection. Frank watched and waited as the remainder of the team picked the best available fighting positions and angles to engage the terrorist, he corrected himself, “alleged terrorist” force.
Using a flurry of hand signals, he let the team know the plan. They would start firing as soon as he let the first round go.
Frank took careful aim at what appeared to be the terrorist’s heaviest machine gun position and swiftly pulled the trigger. The team opened up as one. They had joined the battle. It was time to earn their combat pay.
Bullets impacted three of the enemy positions. Concrete chipped away from walls, adding to the deadly projectiles that were flying around. The tangos stopped firing at the security team, obviously surprised by this new development.
The new incoming fire he and his team were putting out was far more accurate and heavy than what the security team had been able to produce. Two of the terrorist positions had stopped moving due to the initial volley. That left six known positions to deal with.
Frank took aim at the closest of those remaining and continued firing. Just as he pulled the trigger an RPG was launched from one of the flanking positions directly at one of the team’s locations.
He watched helplessly as the shot tracked towards two of his men. The position that two Sergeants had taken would not protect them from a direct hit. They were forty feet away and there was not a damn thing Frank could do, and he knew it.
The two men saw the RPG coming their way, turned and started to run, but by then, it was too late. RPGs were too damn fast. It hit and all that could be seen was a violent fiery explosion followed by dust, debris and a fine red mist that had once been men under Frank’s command. His teammates, his friends, now dead.
They continued to return fire. They all knew what could happen. They would mourn the dead later.
Once the dust settled the only evidence that could be seen that there was once a living human in that location was a severed arm about ten feet away from the blast and riddled leg laying in a slowly expanding pool of blood. Small bits of unidentified matter were splattered against the walls. The bloody remains may not have been from the same person. Only time and DNA would be able to determine which body parts belonged to which of his soldiers. It was not the first time he had lost men under his command but it stung just as much each time.
Focusing on the battle, he looked up to make a count of how many terrorist positions were left. They were down to three.
There was no good way to get a clean shot at any of them. They had elevated, shielded positions. They had put themselves in a fantastic defensive spot. It was the position Frank would have chosen if he was trying to perform their mission. He touched Sergeant Fisher on the shoulder and pointed to the door of the building the tangos were holding and signed his intention to take the fight to the terrorist. Sergeant Fisher indicated he was ready with a thumb up and a feral smile. This is what they lived for, doing damage and harm to those who would do harm to the good people of the world.
He sprinted for the door with Sergeant Fisher right behind him. Their hearts beat faster with each step as they ran. They went up two flights of stairs to the level the enemy fire was coming from.
A right down a long hallway, then a left, and they could hear automatic weapons fire coming from at least two of the rooms. The sounds of battle were so loud it was hard to tell if it was two rooms or three. Perhaps the men on the ground had taken one more of their positions out, maybe they just couldn’t hear anything because of the continuous ringing in their ears.
Frank made his way to the first of the doors and braced himself behind the wall for a quick second. He stood, kicked in the door, and burst in the room with Sergeant Fisher right on his tail.
Without a second thought, they quickly dispatched the two men firing out the windows with short bursts to the back of their heads from their M-4s. The bullets entered clean enough, but exited taking the front half of the terrorists’ heads with them. What was left of the tangos fell to the floor with a very disturbingly loud wet sloppy sound. The walls of the room were decorated with blood red mosaics complete with chunks of grey matter that was starting to slowly slide down the walls leaving deep red gelatinous streaks in its wake. These two were down. They did not even have to double-check them. The faceless men were now crumpled on the floor, blood still flowing from the mess that had been their heads. To make matters worse for them, the other body functions relaxed and the smell of feces intermingled with blood and cordite.
In the room was an array of weaponry. There was an older Russian model PKM machine gun with bipod mount, a small stack of RPGs and a launcher. With all the firing still going on, it seemed the short in-room gunfight went unnoticed by the other tangos.
It was obvious they had two more rooms to clear. Frank looked at Sergeant Fisher, “Let’s get the other two rooms clear and end this.”
They could hear another RPG being fired out of one of the two remaining rooms and into the compound below. It was most likely aimed at the other men on their team. This had to stop!
Sgt Fisher yelled over the sounds of battle, “Sir, I can handle one of them alone, if you can handle the second.”
Frank knew it wasn’t the way they were trained to do these kinds of things, but he also didn’t want to lose more men. They had the advantage of coming in behind them so he decided they could afford the risk, “You got it, Sergeant.”
He sprinted down the hall. The sounds of automatic fire could still be heard coming from two different rooms. Frank was behind Sergeant Fisher by a few steps. The Sergeant took the first room and Frank continued down the hall. His target was only two doors down. Once both soldiers were in position they attacked in unison.
Frank burst into the room, and fired at the first of two targets. His shots were well placed and lethal. The second target was in the middle of reloading and had been caught off guard. Frank turned his M-4, pulled the trigger, and nothing happened.
The weapon was jammed.
The tango instantly realized what was going on, and charged.
Frank threw the jammed, useless weapon to the ground. He went for his handgun but the terrorist was moving too damn fast, and had a wicked looking knife in his hand that was at least six inches long.
The terrorist plunged the knife at Frank’s face and he instinctively reached up to grab it. Its razor sharp blade ripped into the flesh of his left hand and cut deep. Frank let out a yell of anger and pain that sounded like it came from something that wasn’t human, but he was sure it came from him.
Frank pushed back on the knife and saw blood pulsating in streams like a water fountain with every beat of his heart. He knew the knife had at least nicked an artery by the way that pulsating fountain kept spraying out onto the floor. If he didn’t end the fight soon he knew he ran the risk of bleeding to death.
He got his legs underneath him and threw the smaller man across the room, where the man hit the wall with a sickening thud. Adrenaline had to be doing most of the work as Frank’s muscles were tired and the blood loss was making its presence known.
As Frank’s world slowly compressed inward, he pulled out his pistol and put ten rounds into the tango’s head ending the confrontation.
Frank sank to the floor and put as much pressure on the wound in his hand as he could. He knew that he had to stop the damn bleeding or he was in deep shit. A few seconds later Sergeant Fisher came in the door. Thank God he was one of the team’s medics, and appeared to be in good health after his own brawl with the terrorist from the room down the hall.
Frank suddenly realized there were no more sounds of a firefight. He looked down and saw that his uniform was soaked with his own blood.
Sergeant Fisher knelt down beside him. “Looks like you have a little boo-boo, Sir” the Sergeant said as he calmly pulled out a medical kit.
“I think he fucked up my hand,” Frank said, indicating the now dead terrorist and knowing that shock would start to set in if he didn’t get the injury dealt with quickly.
“Well, I think I can fix that, just don’t go all crybaby on me,” Sgt Fisher said getting to work.
Five minutes later the bleeding was stopped, the hand was wrapped in bandages, and Frank was holding it close to his chest. Sergeant Fisher retrieved the jammed M-4, cleared and reloaded it for the Captain as they walked out of the building to rejoin what remained of the team.
Once outside they saw that aside from the two dead team members, there were only some minor injuries. At least they hadn’t lost any more soldiers.
The pair went over to where everyone had gathered with what remained of the internal security team.
“Sorry we ran a little late,” Frank said to what appeared to be the local in charge. “To the best of your knowledge do we have any more bad guys running around?” he asked no one in particular.
The tall man of at least six foot four inches answered, “No Sir, we don’t. You have done us a great favor. We were almost out of ammunition. If you guys hadn’t come along when you did more of them would have gotten away.”
“More of them?” Frank asked closing his eyes, wishing he hadn’t just heard that. “You mean some have already left the area?”
“Yes I am afraid they did. Four men with a truck load of nuclear materials.”
“Fuck,” he said thinking fast. “Does the truck have any kind of identifying marks?” Frank asked while trying to maintain his composure. He was even angrier now about the delay inserting than he was mere moments before. These guys were real pros. They left a team behind to cover their escape.
“Unfortunately we don’t know the answer to that. It was a very generic truck. We have ten that look just like it at this facility alone. We lost track of it less than two minutes outside the gate, without getting a really good look at it. They even took out our cameras so we don’t even have it on video,” the man answered.
“So, let me get this straight, we have four or more unknown guys, on the loose, with no way to track them, and they have a truck load of some really nasty stuff. How much of that material could that truck carry?” he asked, afraid of what the answer might be.
“Hundreds of pounds, easily.”
“Wonderful,” was all Frank could say. Doing the after action report was going to make this a very long night.
“Mr. Choi,” Frank called to the Warrant Officer, “Can you call for our helicopter evac. We need to make a report, and this one needs to be in person.”
The Captain sat down. The stab wound was starting to send throbbing sensations higher up into his arm. This was going to be a very long night.
AP NEWS FLASH: More trouble for the President today as polling shows him to be at his lowest popularity rating ever. The majority of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction.
AP ECONOMIC NEWS: The markets ended mostly flat today on light trading. Investors appear to be sitting on the sideline not wanting to jump into the market with uncertain economic policy direction coming from Washington. It is thought that the FED meeting tomorrow will answer some questions, which will allow investors to get back into certain, very specific sectors, such as technology and manufacturing.