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Somebody Awful
Nov 27, 2011

BORN TO DIE
HAIG IS A FUCK
Kill Em All 1917
I am trench man
410,757,864,530 SHELLS FIRED




chitoryu12 posted:

I'm getting the feeling that Mack has never been to Manila

Considering that he seems to think a long-time Spanish and then American colony would be a good place to set up a limey cricket club...

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PJOmega
May 5, 2009


I feel Mack had just read (or more likely been told the plot of) Of Mice and Men or Flowers for Algernon.

Why else make a simpleton terrorist as the secondary antagonist. Much less one that we follow around for multiple chapters? It'd be weird enough if the lead's right hand man was an "idiot strongman" archetype but to follow his POV?

All of this rationalization is my brain's desperate attempt to not fall into chanting "what the gently caress Mack" in a growing cacophony.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



I had a slight moment of panic at work today. I was registering a proctor in Ypsilanti and his name is Phelan.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



This is pretty long but that's because one chapter is long as gently caress and we're almost done with this book.

Uni returns to the Xagat by 6:00 AM, battered, soaking wet, pants full of urine (I left out the part where he peed himself when he nearly got hit by the Ocean Voyager), and trembling. He has to bum money from the doorman to pay the cab fare. Uni refuses to go to a doctor, so the doorman brings him a first aid kit to patch up his bleeding head wound.

quote:

He took his Nokia phone from his suitcoat pocket. Was it waterproof? He pushed the power button, and the internal displays slowly came on. But they were dim, and condensation fogged the screen. Uni started to cry. He felt very alone.

He stared at the phone for a long time. These things worked both ways, didn’t they? But he’d never placed a call to Palm Tree; the judus had always called him. Uni wasn’t sure if he even knew how to contact his guardian angel. Was it just a case of pushing buttons? Or were there special ones? Uni didn’t know. He wasn’t good with numbers; more than three in a row tended to confuse him. And even if he knew how to enter it, he didn’t have Palm Tree’s number. Or did he?

He went into the bathroom and, standing in front of the huge mirror, examined the underside of his tongue. But he found no answers there either.

DID YOU KNOW THAT FORESHADOWING IS A TECHNIQUE WHERE

As the sun rises, Tiffany comes with another package, this time with two VHS tapes and notes on watching them. He puts in the first one, and it shows the Crazy Americans throwing Kazeel's hacked-up remains in a pit and dropping a pig with its throat cut into the grave, to deny him Paradise like they did in the first racist as hell book. They taunt him that they're only 3 hours behind him, and tell him to watch the second tape. The second tape has a note saying not to watch it for 1 hour. So Uni sits, terrified out of his disabled mind, without moving from his spot on the floor. Then he loads the tape.

quote:

The tape opened with the same scene as the one he’d just watched. The five soldiers still out in the desert, still staring into the camera, sun rising behind them. But now they were all laughing. Hunn stepped forward once again. He said into the camera: “Thanks, Cue Ball—now we are only two hours behind you. You stupid poo poo.”

Uni takes a tuk-tuk cab to the poor part of Manila, where he's supposed to meet the man with the Buddha statues and pay him if they've been shipped. Instead, he finds the man tied to a chair with tape and wire. He's been shot in the forehead twice, an American flag stuffed in his mouth, and not a Buddha in sight. He takes $200 from the cash register, along with a shipping manifest that proves the Buddhas were sent, and hails a cab to take him to Ghost Town.

The casket maker is the same: bound and gagged, two bullets in the head. There's some discarded wood and waste on the floor, so Uni figures the three boxes were sent and moves on....until the same police officer who was at the site of the Buddha murder taps him on the shoulder. He recognizes Uni from the scene and wants to know if he's involved in the killings, so he runs.

quote:

Uni was in full panic. He knocked over a squad of police going out the door, slipping near the deceased man’s Jaguar, unintentionally sliding across the hood of the taxi, then finding himself riding a torrent of mud and dirty water down the hill into one of Ghost Town’s largest cemeteries.

He began falling, slipping, sliding out of control, colliding with brittle gravestones and old wooden crosses. He could hear people screaming, ordering him to stop. He heard sizzling noises, a series of pops—even through the sheets of rain, the police were shooting at him!

He smashed into the side of an earthen tomb, tumbling right over it and losing both his Guccis in the process. He slid across one road and through the gates of yet another graveyard. He saw nothing but wooden crosses everywhere—a nightmare for a Muslim if there ever was one. He continued his flight, trying to dodge as many graves as he could but crashing into many as well. It seemed to take forever, but he finally slid to the bottom of the hill, landing in a clump in a drainage culvert.

He hit his head on impact and for a few moments was only aware of the dirty water running over him. Somehow he lifted himself up, expecting to see an army of police charging down the hill after him. But all he saw was the gravestones and crucifixes. No one was chasing him. Perhaps no one had been at all. He lay back down in the stream and let the water flow over him again. Even if this kills me, he thought, at least here I’ll get some sleep.

The rain stops as night falls. We cut to Marcos, the owner of the Impatient Parrot brothel. He receives a call from Palm Tree, letting him know that the Stingers are packaged and ready to go but Uni is nowhere to be found. It's revealed that Uni moving around in his flashy suit was intentional on Palm Tree's part, meant to attract the attention of any interlopers so they go after Uni instead of the really important people, but they didn't expect to lose track of him altogether and they need him to activate the sharfa.

And then he looks at the security camera and sees a battered, drunk Uni cheering at the mud fight downstairs.

quote:

The change came for Uni after he woke up in the ditch.

Bleeding, battered, chilled again to the bone, he’d looked up the hill, back toward Ghost Town. The last rays of the sunset were creating weird patterns of shadows and light in the graveyards, especially streaming through the crucifixes. The silhouette of a huge cross fell upon him as he raised himself from the stream. It would have been too poetic for this to be a conversion, but the vision, plus his nap, definitely gave him a different perspective on things.

He no longer wanted anything to do with Stingers, or Ramosa, or yachts or minibars. He wanted to remove himself from history, from any involvement in the Second Time of Falling Sparrows, from the ways of Allah. He wanted himself rid of Kazeel’s ghost. In fact, Uni was interested in doing just one thing: resuming his search for the Impatient Parrot. And this time he found it, just after the evening’s shower drenched him again, washing his clothes in the process. Clearheaded or with a clear conscience, he found the War Zone, turned this corner, then that corner, and boom! there it was, that psychedelic neon sign that to Uni meant “the place where girls fought in the mud.”

Why here? Because it was here that he’d last felt really safe—before the Crazy Americans broke in and started all this new trouble. Getting into the brothel wet was no problem. Everyone was wet in Manila tonight. He’d made his way through the crowd, using money stolen from the Buddha man to buy a glass not of champagne but of whiskey—the taste he’d acquired in the limo the night before. He found a seat in the rear of the back room and settled down to forget everything else. He watched many mud fights, staring over the smaller people in front, laughing as they leered, drinking whiskey like it was milk. He could live here, he decided. Just drink whiskey, sit in the back, and watch girls wrestle in the mud. That was his Paradise.

He would have to eat, though, eventually—that might be a problem. Did this place even serve food? he wondered. It was as if the devil himself had heard Uni, for at that moment he saw two more girls making their way across the back room. One of them was holding a huge frying pan with something smoking and crackling inside. The girls stepped over and around the businessmen who were close to the mud pit, eyeing Uni while trying to keep the huge pan level.

He was hungry—back when things were normal he used to eat as many as six meals a day.

The girls indicated that they were indeed heading his way—they were moving in a dreamlike fashion, almost as if they were in slow motion. Maybe as a newcomer he was entitled to a free dinner here? Uni didn’t know, but the combination of the whiskey and his long ordeal in the past 24 hours had his stomach aching for food. The two girls finally reached him. They were even prettier than the two rolling around in the mud—and that was a milestone for Uni, brought on, he was sure, by the alcohol, because he’d never graded women before in his life, simply because they’d never interested him.

But these two girls were raven-haired beauties, wearing short white dresses and smiles a mile wide, almost like angels. And the frying pan was not only hot; it was absolutely sizzling. He sat up straight, hoping this might be lamb curry and cabbage, his favorite dish. The two girls never stopped smiling.

Uni drunkenly pointed to himself with both thumbs, as if to ask: “For me?” Both girls nodded. “It sure is,” one replied. “Big-time, Joe.” With that, she lifted the large red-hot skillet and with a form rivaling a MLB player gave it a mighty swing and hit Uni square in the face.

Uni awakens lying face-down on an oily floor, blood pouring from his face and every part of his body feeling broken. He eventually recognizes his confines as a Manila Airport hangar, and he's on the ground next to the Stinger crates.

Marcos leans over him with a straight razor, and demands that he turn over the sharfa on pain of death. It looks like he thinks Uni just took off and gave up on the plan (which he kinda did), and is now trying to get it from him so they can move forward without him. He's accompanied by some armed Filipino men in blue UN jumpsuits. Before he can do much, however, Palm Tree calls.

quote:

What followed was an intense conversation between Marcos and Palm Tree on how the weapons were to be packed and shipped. Marcos did all the talking at first. He explained to Palm Tree that he had followed his previous instructions to the letter.

The crates had been clearly marked 1, 2, and 3 on their inside panels. The missiles and launchers were about to be packed in all three, using layers of Buddhas to surround them. This way, the crates could pass, at least by a cursory inspection, as nothing more than a shipment of chintzy religious statues heading for the United States.

But then Palm Tree started talking, and clearly there had been a change in plans. Marcos’s men were now to pack all the Buddhas into Crate 1, and all of the weapons into Crate 2. Crate 3 would be left empty. Furthermore, Crates 1 and 2 would be the only ones shipped. Crate 3 was to be dumped on a beach nearby.

Uni could tell Marcos was hearing all this for the first time. The Filipino hoodlum actually questioned Palm Tree as to why they went through all the trouble of getting the 2,000 Buddhas if they weren’t going to be used as camouflage for the weapons during shipment. “I thought the whole idea was to move the weapons disguised as a load of statues,” Uni heard Marcos say. It was impossible to hear Palm Tree’s reply, but it was short, curt, and Marcos got the point right away. Things had changed.

Marcos slams Uni against the wall, taunting him and even playing a voicemail from Palm Tree stating that he was to be killed regardless of whether they got the sharfa from him. Uni's eyes go wide....not because of what Marcos is saying, but because there's a heavily armed man looking down at him through the skylight.

As soon as Marcos's razor touches Uni's neck, there's a huge crash overhead. Four men in combat fatigues, wearing American flags as capes I am not making this up this is actually happening, rappel down as they fire M16s. Within 10 seconds, everyone inside except Uni and Marcos are gunned down and the electrical system is cut, plunging the building into darkness.

The fifth guy to come down the rope is Ozzi, the intelligence guy who became BFFs with the Superhawks. It's glossed over how they got here: they stole a drug running junk to reach the Ocean Voyager, got on the trail of the real Dragos, and killed them and stole their identities. They invented all of the attacks on Kazeel to make them look like competent bodyguards and earn his trust before filleting him. Ozzi had long ago hacked into Uni's cell phone and was using it to track his movements as he kept talking to Palm Tree; the only information they weren't able to get of the Next Next Big Thing was the sharfa that would activate the plan, which is why they're going for Uni.

Ozzi, being an idiot, crashes to the ground after the battle ends and accidentally fires his gun into the wall trying to get his flashlight and night vision goggles.

As the lights come back on, the team is hooting and hollering and cutting the fake UN patches off the corpses to take as trophies. And then because all good things must come to an end, Ramosa and his secret police come barging in again.

quote:

The lights went out in the hangar a second time—a moment later everyone in the room who had a weapon opened up. The pyrotechnics when the American team first crashed in on Marcos were a sparkler compared to these fireworks. Stretched out flat on the floor now, Ozzi started firing wildly in the direction of the doors the secret police were streaming through. They all did.

Ozzi was astonished that he could actually see the armed men, never mind hit some of them. That’s when he realized this time he was looking through his night goggles.

It got very weird, very quickly, from there. The big hangar was again awash in fluorescent gunfire, a single round of which could obliterate a heart or explode a skull. In the sudden murk of gunsmoke Ozzi could only see faces—just faces amid the bullet streaks—eyes wild, heading right for him, firing their weapons in his direction. Then, just a few seconds into this thing, someone grabbed hold of Ozzi’s feet and started pulling him backward. He was dragged across the floor for 20 feet or more. He never stopped firing, though—he couldn’t. Not with a tidal wave of bad guys who wanted to kill him just a few meters away. His finger was melded to his trigger.

It was Puglisi who was pulling him along the oily floor. As soon as the first shot was fired, the American team had assembled into a defensive formation known as “Zulu 2.” Everyone but Ozzi, that is. Puglisi had yanked him back into the fold. Finally Ozzi took a half-second to look around him. The team was set up three deep. Some were lying on the floor next to him; some were on bent knee; the rest were standing up. Their weapons raised, they formed three ranks of continuous fire. It was a brilliant tactic, quick and ballsy, but it reminded Ozzi too much of Custer’s Last Stand.

The attackers were advancing with fanatical drive. The Americans were dropping them like flies, but they kept on coming anyway. The bad guys didn’t have night goggles, and for the first 30 seconds that made all the difference in the world. The Americans were mowing them down, like a grisly shooting gallery.

The battle lasts barely a minute before the Americans run out of ammo, however; they only brought enough ammo for a quick raid. They've killed over half the attackers, but without their ammo they're quickly disarmed. Ramosa reveals that they had been watching the hangar for hours, and if they tried to come in through the front door instead of the skylight they would have known (because the Superhawks are still kinda dumb, they apparently don't bother doing recon on the building they're raiding). The Americans and Uni are all lined up against the wall for execution.

Marcos hands Ramosa the razor, revealing to him that the sharfa is 14 numbers tattooed on the underside of Uni's tongue (backwards so he can see them in a mirror). It's a phone number: call it, and the phone ringing triggers the attack. Because the disabled guy hasn't been through enough today, they slice off the end of Uni's tongue that has the numbers.

The hangar doors are opened for a plane to back inside, and Marcos and Ramosa have a shouted conversation over the engines about how Ramosa was given another change in plans from Palm Tree. Ramosa leaves with the piece of tongue and leaves Marcos and a few men to take care of the Americans and Uni.

One of the hoodlums left with Marcos walks down the line with a .357 Magnum, fiddling with "the safety button" and walking down the line of prisoners pretending to shoot them. It doesn't do anything to scare them, and the Americans actually start laughing at it. Marcos points the gun at the back of Uni's head and pulls the trigger....and Marcos topples over with a bullet in his head. Divine intervention? Is his skull so hard that the bullet bounced off?

Nope. Another bullet hits the guy next to him. The top of the hangar explodes off, and SEAL Team 99 parachutes in. through the hole as the rest of the men are killed by precise head and neck shots. In the third sudden "People crash in and begin shooting" moment of this single building today, Major Fox comes in through the roof with the rest of the team and liberates the Americans.

quote:

“Sir? What are you doing here?” he cried.

“Let me ask you the same thing,” Fox replied. “I thought I left you back at the office.”

The team that found the B-2F remains tight-lipped about how they found the Gitmo guys, only suggesting that they may have had inside help. They need to get on the trail of the missiles, but in true Rashomon style everyone has a different story they overheard about how the missiles are supposed to be packed and shipped. The only thing everyone's story agrees on is that one crate is supposed to be left on the beach in Manila.

Uni immediately begins motioning in his mute manner as to how he wants to make a deal, from waving a white rag to kissing an American flag to pantomiming the pledge of allegiance. They spend the next 10 minutes excruciatingly trying to translate Uni's pantomimes, crude sign language, and virtually unreadable Arabic writing. He's able to get across the plan and the travels he had made across Manila the past few days, and is able to help them understand that they hosed up in the exact same way: by running around shooting and blowing up poo poo instead of investigating, just like with the Strait of Hormuz, they signaled their activity and were easily duped.

Uni finally uses some coffee cups and a coin to mimic a shell game, and Hunn (a native New Yorker) figures it out: they were intentionally switching plans right in front of the Americans over and over, planning to trick them into following the wrong crates. The only solution is to split up and begin shaking down the harbormaster and airport manager to see what info they can get.

Superhawks: the best soldiers in the world?

Somebody Awful
Nov 27, 2011

BORN TO DIE
HAIG IS A FUCK
Kill Em All 1917
I am trench man
410,757,864,530 SHELLS FIRED




chitoryu12 posted:

Superhawks: the best soldiers in the world?

gently caress no.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



Mack intentionally wrote two books in a row in which the protagonists come to the brink of failure before pulling out a last minute win. Not because they were facing overwhelming odds, but because they squander their resources on blindly swinging their fists and murdering everything in their path in the name of vengeance and letting the terrorists know they're coming.

Also the three-time hangar raid that escalates until the roof is being blown up to allow paratroopers to land, complete with soldiers wearing American flags as capes. It's like something from a Leslie Nielsen comedy.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


I loved the part where the super soldiers bullied the mentally disabled person. Almost as much as I loved the part where Superhawks effortlessly know every part of the terrorist's plan and never come to harm. Even when they get into a Napoleonic three rank formation to live out their Rorke's Drift fantasies and never find out why close formation is abad thing in a world where automatic weapons exist.

I'm also loving how one of the moest fiercly Christian nations on Earth has a police department full of cops ready to march into certain death to help Islamic terrorists. Those are some well disciplined crooked cops.

goatsestretchgoals
Jun 4, 2011

in soviet russia, you shove robot

Is Mack going to end up giving Uni his virgins in this life or has he just decided that Muslims are bad and retarded Muslims should have known better?

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



JcDent posted:

Almost as much as I loved the part where Superhawks effortlessly know every part of the terrorist's plan and never come to harm.

And then they nearly get hosed up anyway because they just barge in and shoot everyone and then high-five while wearing American flag capes (still not over this loving visual) without even doing basic recon or more intelligence work than necessary to find someone to murder.

Both books so far have been the story of the Superhawks being loving idiots and succeeding at the last moment due to extreme luck (like holding onto the shoe of the teenager they just threw out of the helicopter which just happened to be the shoe he was keeping his code book in) or someone else saving them.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



77% of the way to the end! Mack opens up with another description of a plane that may or may not be fictional.

quote:

The F-10 “Babuska” was a German-designed aircraft built in Slovakia by a Hungarian airplane manufacturer. It was just about the size of the venerable C-47 but looked more like a boxcar with wings. Its landing gear was fixed to its undercarriage, and struts held up the large rear stabilizer. It was powered by only one propeller, strange for an aircraft of its girth. The prop was stuck on the aircraft’s nose like someone’s idea of a practical joke. But while the plane looked ugly, and flew the same way, it could lift more than 20 tons of cargo, outrageous for an aircraft with only one engine. That engine was a powerhouse, though, a big 20,000 horsepower CAD/CAM vision of Prussian efficiency. In many ways it was more sophisticated than some jet turbines.

The plane’s wings were thick and gangly, which only added to its quirky appearance. But they also allowed the plane to make short takeoffs and landings. Amazingly short. Under the right conditions, the F-10 could set down on a small runway, a road, or even a dirt path just a few hundred feet long. It could also carry a lot of fuel onboard, and with just that one engine it could fly forever. Simple, strong, fuel-efficient, expert at getting in and out of tight spots. It was the perfect smuggling plane.

The only planes I can find that even vaguely fit the description are the Fokker F.10 (which resembles a Ford Trimotor and didn't see use past the late 1920s) and the Hannover F.10, which was a World War I triplane fighter converted to a 2 passenger airliner because people in the 1920s were desperate. I'm going to assume Mack is making poo poo up again.

The F-10 is being flown out of Manila by a legitimate three-man cargo hauling crew from Trans-Pacific Air; while they do legit work, they're also on call for Palm Tree (who pays handsomely for his unusual and secretive orders) and are currently holding one of the three crates. They were making two fuel stops in the Pacific, their orders given piecemeal by Palm Tree at each stop to maintain security. The crew figures they're on their way to Colombia, where Palm Tree's men on the ground can sneak the cargo into the United States.

The F-10 has a top notch autopilot, so after a quick poker game the copilot takes first watch in his seat while the rest of the crew naps. About an hour into the flight, the copilot sees an odd cloud formation down below with a pulsating yellow light in it. Suddenly, a massive and blindingly bright beam resembling a search-and-rescue floodlight shines from the cloud into the cockpit. The copilot throws autopilot off and tries to dodge the mysterious craft as it flies up to meet them, the harsh maneuvers straining the plane to its limit. Eventually they're close enough to see that it's a Japanese Kai seaplane.

The crazy flying by the Kai and the forceful dodging by the F-10 eventually damages Palm Tree's cargo plane enough that its engine starts sputtering, and it's forced to crash land on the small, uninhabited half-moon island and lagoon of Talua. As the three men climb out of the burning plane into the water's edge on the beach, the Kai lands nearby and the Superhawks start running over. They yank the crate out and it smashes on the ground.

quote:

drat!” someone cried out. The soldiers couldn’t believe it. The Babuska crew was astonished as well. Rolling in the heavy surf were hundreds of red and yellow Buddha statues. Suddenly all the soldiers were standing over the F-10 crew. One picked up the copilot with his bare hands and held him three feet above the sand. The copilot began choking even as he became aware of this man’s shoulder patch. It was red, white, and blue with a silhouette of the New York Twin Towers on it.

“Oh, crap …” the copilot coughed. He knew of the Crazy Americans.

It was Dave Hunn holding him up. And he was as angry as ever. “Where are the missiles?” he screamed at the copilot.

But the copilot couldn’t really speak, as his voice box was being crushed. He tried to mumble something, but it was not quick enough or clear enough for Hunn. He tossed the copilot way out into the surf; the man hit the top of a wave like a broken doll. Hunn then turned his attention to the pilot—he was the American, ex-Army Aviation, in fact. Hunn bellowed the same question at him, this while pushing the man’s face into the wet sand with his boot. But the pilot couldn’t breathe, never mind talk. Hunn finally picked him up and let him catch a breath. The pilot kept shaking his head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he gasped. “We just got paid to move a big box. That’s all we know.…”

By this time, Ozzi had run up to them. Still buzzing from the heart-stopping aerial pursuit, he’d inspected the broken airplane and the plastic statues bobbing in the waves. “These guys are just mules,” Ozzi said to Hunn now. “They probably don’t know what the gently caress is going on here.” He looked back at the dozens of Buddhas washing up on the beach. “We’re the real suckers here,” he said. “We just looked under the wrong shell.”

Hunn reluctantly agreed. He dropped the pilot back into the sand, kicking him in the nuts for good measure. Then he started barking orders. A few of the statues were gathered up and loaded onto the Kai. Then the American soldiers themselves climbed aboard the flying boat. Soon the big airplane was backing out into the growing tide. It turned quickly and, with a great burst of power, took off in a great watery ascent, leaving the three F-10 crewmen stranded on the deserted island below.

Being Caucasian and non-Muslim is likely the only thing that saved these men from being forced to shoot each other in the liver as part of their interrogation. Either way, they just left these guys stranded on a deserted island and may or may not tell anyone to go rescue them.

The next target is the Sea Demon, a tramp steamer crewed by escaped prisoners from the worst Chinese prisons, operating as arms smugglers. It's a good thing the entire crew is murderers and child rapists, because it easily justifies the Superhawks murdering all of them later!

The Sea Demon is known as one of the best arms smuggling ships in the business, making runs from Shanghai to Los Angeles once a month. To make their ship the fastest, the interior is completely stripped hollow (the crew even sleeps on the deck) to be stuffed with crates. Like the F-10, they've worked for Palm Tree before and they have no idea what's in the crate they were given.

The Sea Demon's radar picks up a ship moving like a bat out of hell despite its speed, so fast that it's almost like the tramp steamer is standing still. The captain orders the crew to break out their personal weapons and the .50 caliber machine gun, just in case.

quote:

The Sea Demon actually had a formidable arsenal onboard. These men were veteran arms smugglers, and as such they were not above picking off a few of the larder when it suited them. Each man was issued an AK-47 or an M16, leftovers from Vietnam. Each would also get a .45 pistol and a machete.

The big fifty-caliber was also a ghost of Vietnam, a powerful one. Mounted on a capson pod attached to the stern point, it fired a round so large, just one could take off a head, blow a hole clear through a stomach, or tear into the side of a tank. Or a ship. They had plenty of ammunition onboard as well. Toe to toe they could take a military patrol boat, maybe even a small frigate. A fast yacht they would blow out of the water.

The crew was cranked now as word went through the ranks that this was some kind of sports boat gaining on them. The night was dark here, stars and moon hidden by a very low overcast. At 5,000 yards, the crew could only make out the fast-moving light, and nothing of the shape around it. Still they were hungry for a kill. Weapons were checked. The big 50 test-fired. The captain left only the helmsmen up on the bridge. The Sea Demon was still plowing along at full speed, so the orders to the helm were simple: don’t stop for anything less than a direct order.

The captain himself carried a slightly newer model M16, one equipped with a removable and very rudimentary “star scope.” It gave him a limited capability to see in the dark, a version of night vision from 30 years ago. He was standing now on the stern railing, fiddling with this scope. The wind was up and they were taking some spray.

He finally got the device to blink on, this just as he heard the first officer call out: “One thousand yards …” This was convenient, as the old star scope had a range of about that far.

The captain put the rifle up on the rail, aimed it at the light, and finally looked through the scope. The next thing he knew, the first officer was picking him up off the deck. “What’s the problem?” the first officer asked him harshly. The captain could not speak. He simply pointed to the night scope now lying on the deck nearby, then pointed to his eye. Then he started to crawl away.

The first officer picked up the scope, took one look, and then wanted to join the captain. What he saw in the hazy light of night vision wasn’t possible. It looked like something from a bad dream. What was gaining so rapidly on them was not a top-secret military vessel or a sporting yacht. It was an enormous, old, and very ugly containership, much uglier than the Sea Demon. And it was making at least 50 knots.

Before the first officer could say anything, the big ship was just 300 yards off their starboard. So the first officer shouted one word: “Fire!”

The resulting fusillade was five seconds long and only served to light up the night. Now the crew could see what the captain and his first officer had seen. The enormous ship. Moving impossibly fast.

The Ocean Voyager returns, using its loving F-14 Tomahawk engines (did you really think that wouldn't come up) to zoom at 60 MPH toward the cargo vessel. Even the .50 rounds bounce off the Ocean Voyager, which responds in kind with its Phalanx CIWS guns that never saw any use in the first book. Rather than shooting the crew, however, they fire over their heads and walk the tracers down to the propellers and blow both screws away. The Ocean Voyager comes up at 25 knots and sideswipes the Sea Demon, allowing the soldiers aboard to swing across on ropes like Errol Flynn.

Recognizing the Crazy Americans, the Chinese crew throws their weapons aside. Apparently they think the Superhawks won't just start killing them for existing too close to terrorism. True to their nature, the Superhawks cut the only lifeboat from its moorings and throw the Sea Demon crew overboard to sink or swim. And of course, because drama, the single crate in the hold is the empty one.

The last place they're looking is Katang Bay, one of many dirty inlet beaches south of Manila Airport. Ryder Long, Martinez, and Atlas (the B-2F pilot) are atop a massive sand dune, and they have eyes on the third crate. It's sitting in the middle of a junkyard/garbage dump for the shantytowns nearby, apparently just thrown off a truck without stopping.

quote:

Martinez’s mental condition had deteriorated badly over the past week or so. Sure, he’d popped Aboos with the rest of them during their island-hopping campaign to Manila. But at the same time he’d become more remote than ever, at times almost catatonic. Ryder had to get him home, back to the United States to his family and proper psychological care, before he slipped any further into the abyss. So this was his solution: take Martinez here, giving him a sense that he was helping out but at the same time keeping him out of the line of fire.

This section greatly confuses me. Last time we saw this team, Fox was the one who was jacked into the communicator and sitting on a rock doing nothing because he had lost all contact with the government. Martinez even told Ryder and Atlas that the mission was messing with Fox's head. Suddenly, Martinez is the one who's going insane for no apparent reason and Fox is quipping at Ozzi and rappelling through holes in the roof like some kind of badass. Martinez hasn't even appeared between now and when they were on the middle finger island.

Martinez is suffering from too much sudden onset PTSD to speak, but he frantically points down the beach at three men marching out of the nighttime water. Ozzi calls at that moment and relays to Ryder that the Sea Demon and the F-10 came up empty, which means the apparent decoy crate wasn't a decoy at all....

The team grabs their gear and slides down the hill, and everything rapidly goes to poo poo.

quote:

Just as the three landed at the foot of the dune, they saw a flare go up about fifteen hundred feet offshore. It was followed by a great boom! An object came flying out of the night from the same direction where the flare was launched. It was a grappling hook; they could see the reflection off its prongs as it landed with a thud on the beach. It was attached to a rope that disappeared into the dark water. No sooner had it come down than the three ghostly figures retrieved it and hooked it onto the crate.

The Americans got to their feet and began running. Helmets flying, ammo belts falling off, they were like three soldiers who’d overslept and missed the start of the battle. They’d been fooled again, the smugglers’ shell game sucking them right in. And now, if they let this crate escape, the Stinger missiles would be on their way to the United States, with no way to stop them.

The crate started to move. It was on a skid made of eight pontoons, which had lain hidden under the wet sand. The crate was being pulled right into the water, the three men who’d done the attaching casually riding on top of it. It started to sink at first but then bobbed back up and leveled off. By the time the Americans reached the spot where the crate had stood, it was already disappearing into the darkness.

Ryder came to a slippery halt, pulled his weapon up, pulled his night goggles down, and started firing. His tracers lit up the night. The three men riding atop the crate had to hastily dive into the water, his bullets came so near. For the first time they realized someone had seen what they had done. They were soon swimming madly alongside the big floating box.

Ryder runs all the way into the water until he's shooting while up to his neck, but the crate rapidly disappears into the distance. Suddenly, Martinez roars in behind the wheel of a speedboat he had hijacked from the deus ex machina nearby. A chase begins in the darkness, the stolen boat's engine sputtering and flaming as Ryder and Atlas fire tracers (I guess the Superhawks acquired exactly one ammo type in bulk) into the night.

quote:

In the green glow of night vision about a half-mile ahead was what at first looked to be nothing more than a diving platform, something that might be found floating in the old swimming hole back home, just a lot bigger. There were six more scuba divers standing on top of it. They had an electric winch, and with it were reeling in the crate and its pontoon float.

Ryder had seen one of these things before. It was an SLP-I, for surface loading platform, inflatable. It was a kind of temporary docking place used by waterborne special ops soldiers to tie up small raiding boats, store fuel, set up communications. SLPs had been used a lot in the Persian Gulf over the years, especially during the secret war against Iran.

The crate was quickly up on this platform and indeed frogmen were unloading the Stingers within. Other people on the inflatable platform were in the process of stacking the weapons. The speedboat was only about 1,200 feet away by this time, but then the engine really started chugging. At the worst possible moment, they began slowing down.

“Son of a bitch!” Ryder and Atlas screamed in unison.

Atlas takes out one of the divers, sending him falling into the water. As the body drifts over, they drag him into the boat....and underneath the mask is Teddy Ball-game, Atlas's former flying partner.

And then a loving submarine lurches out of the water underneath, smashing their boat to pieces.

quote:

The Kai found them the next morning, floating 20 miles out in the South China Sea. Ryder, Martinez, and Atlas were all clinging to the coffin-shaped packing crate, barely alive.

Their encounter with the huge submarine had nearly killed them. The discarded crate was the only piece of debris large enough to save their lives; it had floated right up to them in the hell that followed the sub’s sudden appearance. As they drifted away, half-drowned, they saw the weapons being loaded into the sub by men in dark naval uniforms. Once done, the divers on the floating platform climbed onto the sub themselves. Then it disappeared, vanishing beneath the waves.

Ryder remembered little after that. He’d been hit on the head by something after crashing back down into the water. He barely recalled Martinez pulling him up to the top of the crate. But then sometime during the long night he’d pulled Martinez back up after he’d fallen over.

Throughout this, Atlas just held on, blank look on his face, never quite recovering from finding his ex-partner floating in the water, torn apart by his bullets. Why would Teddy be in league with the people stealing the missiles? How could he possibly be involved? There was no way to tell. But now Atlas had the same haunted look in his eyes as Martinez.

The sun had just come up when the Kai appeared overhead. Ryder had emerged from his haziness by this time. The big flying boat was a welcome sight as it orbited them once before coming in for a landing. The coffin-shaped crate rode the swells over to it, and soon helping hands were pulling the three men aboard. Ryder went first, glad to get off the crate. But both Atlas and Martinez seemed reluctant to go. Finally they, too, were hauled aboard the big Kai.

The empty box, their strange lifeboat, was then allowed to drift away. It was only when the plane’s door was closed and Ryder’s eyes adjusted to the faint light inside the Kai’s cabin that he saw the other members of the American team were aboard. Both the group who’d pursued the F-10 cargo plane and those who’d chased down the smuggling ship the Sea Demon.

But the Americans were not flying the plane. The people at the controls were members of the Japanese Maritime Forces, its original owners. The Americans were sitting in rows inside the cargo compartment. All of them were in handcuffs. Watching over them were several squads of heavily armed, rock-jawed Green Berets.

Standing on the flight deck above everyone else, dressed in brand-new, never-been-worn combat camos, was General James Rushton, presidential advisor for special operations.

He did not look happy.

This book is confusing the hell out of me.

Crazycryodude
Aug 15, 2015

Lets get our X tons of Duranium back!

....Is that still a valid thing to jingoistically blow out of proportion?




I... what... I don't even...

Where the gently caress is this going?

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



Crazycryodude posted:

I... what... I don't even...

Where the gently caress is this going?

Where we're going, we won't need Mack to see.

Somebody Awful
Nov 27, 2011

BORN TO DIE
HAIG IS A FUCK
Kill Em All 1917
I am trench man
410,757,864,530 SHELLS FIRED




Let me guess, treasonous LIEberals were behind it all along!

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



I normally wouldn't update so fast, but I really want to bring this crazy-rear end book to a close and move us one step closer to finishing the series.

Ironically, the team (minus Atlas, who was flown off to parts unknown) is currently crammed into temporary brig cells on the USS Abraham Lincoln that they had saved less than a year ago. Ozzi, in particular, is in what used to be the chaplain's confessional.

quote:

As it turned out, a quadruple whammy had been in play all along. While the two American teams were off doing their various things, General Rushton had organized yet another special ops team to track them down; this one was made up entirely of Green Berets.

Their tip-off? When the Kai contingent turned over the prisoners they’d rescued from the Aboos to a passing cruise ship, the freed hostages went directly to the U.S. embassy in Manila to spin their tale of the mysterious American unit that had saved their lives and was still out there, skulking around in a Japanese flying boat.

Rushton and his search-and-arrest team left the United States soon afterward. They’d arrived in Manila about the same time the Ocean Voyager was intercepting the Sea Demon. Traveling in a top-secret KC-135 surveillance plane known as Compass Point, they’d followed both the Ocean Voyager’s activities plus the Kai’s forcing-down of the F-10 cargo plane by using an NRO real-time TV satellite, the kind of eye in the sky that could count the number of buttons on your shirt. Both the Kai team and the crew of Ocean Voyager were contacted by the Compass Point plane and told to surrender.

Navy jets flying in the area gave them little choice but to comply. The containership and the flying boat were seized soon after that.

Ozzi is with two special prosecutors from the National Security Council. They tell him that everyone else has already been interrogated and he's last in line. It takes 15 minutes for them to go over his charges, totaling about 500 years of prison time. While tales of rogue special ops agents are popular fiction fodder even in Mack's bizarre universe, the military doesn't tolerate them. Even though everyone has their stories straight, they rightly find the tale completely unbelievable.

quote:

“You must have known none of this would check out. Your boss, Major Fox, was sent out on a simple recovery mission to look for two missing aircraft—and suddenly he falls off the map. Meanwhile you write out false orders to get some very sensitive detainees released—then you all meet up in Manila. Then all this nonsense takes place, and that’s when the bullshit really starts to fly. You have to admit, it sounds like a plot from a bad paperback novel.”

Rushton explains his own theory: the whole group is actually involved in a major drug smuggling operation. They did fly to Afghanistan and Pakistan where poppies are grown, the F-10 and Sea Demon are well known in heroin smuggling, and the Buddha statue man and coffin man from Manila are likewise involved in drug smuggling.

Ozzi starts thinking that Rushton could be the traitor here. He may have been the one who told Ramosa about the Gitmo team's plan to kill Kazeel, since the false report Ozzi crafted to cover his trail would have made his way to the general's desk. There's also the mysterious cargo of Stinger missiles loaded aboard the B-2F ready to get shot down for Palm Tree's recovery operation and the apparent work of Teddy Ball-game in the plot, which suggests someone incredibly high in the government involved in everything.

Rushton also brings up one good point: how did the Superhawks know about the Tonka Tower attack and have the exact news helicopter that the terrorists would say is allowed to approach the tower? Ozzi knows the rumors of Bobby Murphy and his seeming omnipotence, but even he's starting to wonder if the good guys arranged it. Ozzi offers to let himself be the fall guy for everything in exchange for the Superhawks being given immunity.

quote:

Rushton opened his mouth—but no words would come out. He stared down at the floor instead, unable to look Ozzi in the eye. The NSC wonks were averting their gaze as well. Ozzi took this as a sign his words were finally hitting on target.

“All these guys wanted was to get home again,” he said, his voice cracking. “They just wanted to get back to America. To see their families again. To touch American soil again. You’re a soldier—or at least you used to be. Don’t you at least owe them that?”

Finally Rushton looked up. His face was beet red now, his lips pursed and sinister. But his eyes, they were telling a different story. Puffy, watery—they were oozing guilt. Yes, Ozzi thought, this is a man who is definitely hiding something.

“Nice speech, lieutenant,” Rushton said. “But on the contrary, I consider the whole lot of them security risks. Not to do so would be dereliction of duty on my part. So not only are these men not going home; they will stay in my custody until further notice. And when I return to Washington, I plan to seek a Executive Order barring them from ever entering the United States again.”

Rushton instead offers Ozzi a sort of plea deal: explain how he knew that the B-2F was carrying Stingers and fall in line with the official report, and he'll be released as a free man. Ozzi realizes that if Rushton is asking him for this information and he really did interrogate everyone else, the rest of the team must have turned down his offer. So he tells Rushton to go to hell.

At the bottom of the Lincoln, Ryder and Hunn are in bright orange jumpsuits and sharing a cell. Hunn reaches deep into the crotch of his jumpsuit and pulls out a cell phone ("Don't ask, don't tell" he says when Ryder asks where he was keeping it). It's the phone he took off Uni just before he gave up the info on the plan.

Hang on, what happened to Uni? There's no mention of what they did with him, and we're at the end of the book. As far as I can see, the poor guy has just disappeared from the plot once he's no longer needed.

Anyways, they shrug and hit redial on the phone to see what happens.

quote:

On the other side of the world, on a messy desk inside a soundproof office on the thirteenth floor of an otherwise nondescript mercantile building, a special red cell phone lit up.

Just by habit, the man known to some as the judus went to answer it, but then hesitated, his hand hovering over it. He’d been sitting at this desk now for the last 100 hours, managing the acquisition and shipment of the Stinger missiles to America. Despite some bumps in the road, his plan had worked beautifully. The 36 weapons would be inside the United States within hours, all the diversions and feints having been played to perfection. It was exactly the ending he wanted. So why ruin it?

Answering the ringing phone would probably do just that, he thought.

He was exhausted. He needed a cigarette. He needed a drink. But most important, he needed to celebrate, just a little bit. So he let the phone ring until, finally, the person on the other end gave up. Then he picked up the cell phone, erased its memory, and disconnected the battery. Putting the phone between the heel of his shoe and the floor, he crushed it so it could never be used again. The remains he threw into his wastebasket.

He checked his watch. It was early afternoon. Yes, it was time for him to go home. He put all sensitive materials into his office safe. He also shredded a few very incriminating documents and placed them in the burn bag for disposal. Then he turned out the lights and locked the door behind him.

He walked through the outer office. There were several dozen people here, lower in rank than he, lording over computer screens, fax machines, and banks of scramble phones, the typical landscape of a foreign intelligence office. He nodded good-bye to several of them, chatted briefly with a few more. It had been raining for the past four days, they told him, something he could not tell from his windowless office. They all remarked with humor about his staying power and dedication. They told him to go home and get a few days’ sleep. He assured them that he would.

He walked to the elevator, passed his ID card through the egress security check, then placed his briefcase up to the document scanner. The machine confirmed that he was not taking any unauthorized security materials home with him. He stepped onto the elevator and rode it down to the small hidden lobby on the first floor. Another security check waited for him here: another X ray of his briefcase and a retina scan. He was cleared for the final time, and went through the unmarked door to the building’s real lobby, the one that served the import-export businesses that made up about half the tenants in the unassuming building.

He stepped out onto the street, and took his first deep breath of fresh air in almost five days. The neon sign from the restaurant next door was crackling slightly, trying to lure him in. It was a chic bistro called The Palm Tree. He’d been there many times before, but the cognac was rarely up to his standards. And a bottle of some very good stuff awaited him at home. That’s where he would go. Normally he would have taken a cab. But the rain had stopped by now, and he knew he had to stretch his tired legs. So he lit a cigarette and started walking.

He liked the way Paris looked after it rained.

And so ends the second book, with little to nothing in the way of resolution. I get the feeling that Mack intended this as a limited series, given its 4-book length and the second book ending with more questions than answers. I'm going to wait a bit, and then we'll get started on Strike Force Charlie.

PJOmega
May 5, 2009


This reads like the really goony looking fucks doing military roleplaying in the back of your local game store. The ones who are all overweight, wear camo, have a surprisingly both in-depth and nonsensical understanding of military hardware, and unironically used the term "Ah Rab" even before 9-11.

They seem mostly harmless until you notice everytime you check in on them they're in the middle of a torturous interrogation scene.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014





Strike Force Charlie is the only one of these books that I read back when they were new. I was already a Mack Maloney fan who often brought Wingman novels to middle school to read in my free time (this being the time before more than the most basic Internet connections on cell phones), but my juvenile mind found the experience much more boring than the simple and action-heavy Wingman series and I never really picked it up after a few attempts at reading. However, this does mean that it holds a special place in this series as the book that brought this series to mind and led to these threads.

We begin somewhere in the Pacific Ocean...

quote:

Diego Suarez had been lost at sea for three days.

He had little memory of his fishing boat sinking. One moment the ocean was calm; the next, a strange darkness had enveloped everything. The huge wave had come out of nowhere, blotting out the sky. He’d been belowdecks when it happened, making himself a cup of coffee. The tsunami hit with such ferocity, the trawler disintegrated around him. Pieces of wood, pieces of metal and glass, pieces of fish from their recent catch, flying in all directions. Then came the mighty crash of water. And then, nothing.…

When Diego woke up, the sun was reflecting off the ocean so brilliantly, it hurt his eyes. He was sure he’d died and gone to heaven. No one could have survived that catastrophe. But then he thought, People do not feel pain in heaven. That’s when he realized he was still alive.

But how? He’d been washed overboard when the wave hit. In the confusion that followed, he’d somehow climbed on top of a large wooden box. It looked like nothing less than a water logged coffin. He’d hung on to it so tightly that even when he was unconscious his fingernails dug deep into the soft pine. Where had the strange box come from? He had no idea. Certainly nothing like it had been aboard his cramped fishing boat. But it didn’t matter. He was alive.…

But he was also alone. The rest of the crew was long gone; he could see no wreckage from the boat. And because these fishing grounds were so far off the charts, he was nowhere near any shipping lanes, big or small. Diego knew the only soul he would meet out here would be just as lost as he.

Three days after waking up, Diego spots two ships stopped in the water nearby. One is a rusty old freighter carrying, of all things, Greyhound buses on its deck. Tied up next to the freighter is a submarine, riding just above the waves. Men in black uniforms are moving boxes between the sub and ship, and Diego is close enough as he madly paddles to rescue that he can hear them shouting instructions at each other. Unfortunately, as soon as the men spot him, they whip out rifles and shotguns and begin shooting at him. He stops paddling and hides under his crate as bullets whip through the water, and the sub quickly dives undersea while the steamer engages its engines and takes off.

Diego gets left behind.

Two days later...

quote:

Georgie Mann hated this part of LA. The mechanical loading docks. The rotting wooden piers. The jumble of railroad tracks. Dirty harbor water running around and underneath it all.

The Port of Los Angeles. It sounded exotic. It was anything but. As for coming down here at night—forget about it. Venturing around some of these docks after dark was more dangerous than driving the freeways. Crackheads, Latino gangs, drunken longshoremen could be lurking about anywhere. Yet this was where Mann found himself. Stumbling around the old fishing wharves, tripping over the Alimeda tracks, hopelessly lost, looking for a phantom.

He’d been at it for more than two hours; it was now close to midnight. A thick mist had begun to fall. Everything became cold and dank. The bare orange glow of halogen lights perched high overhead only added to the creepy noir. Mann could hear voices arguing, radios blaring foreign music, the baleful moan of a foghorn. And was that gunfire off in the distance? He shivered once.

This was no place for a sportswriter. It was stupid, the reason he was down here. An amateur soccer team from Indonesia was touring the United States this summer. They’d arranged for pickup games across the country, their goal being to improve relations with the United States through the common love of soccer. True, soccer was big in LA. But Mann hated this kind of touchy-feely bullshit. He didn’t even know where the gently caress Indonesia was. Yet because his boss didn’t have the beans to come down to the docks himself at night, he’d told Mann to do it.

His assignment: hook up with this team of foreigners, interview them, then follow them to a couple “local” games, in quotes because the nearest one was almost a hundred miles away.

At 42, Mann was way too old for this. He’d been breaking his rear end as assistant sports reporter for the tiny LA Weekly Sun for nearly 10 years now. He hated his job. He hated his boss. Hated every high school soccer practice he’d ever covered, every dikey coach he’d ever interviewed, every snotty pampered kid he’d been forced to write about. But he had to make his rent and keep gas in his car, and there was nothing else he really knew how to do. So here he was.

The ship he's looking for is the Sea Conqueror, a cargo vessel. He doesn't even have a pier number, let alone an idea of which part of the port to look in. He finally finds it at the stroke of midnight, a vessel so rusty that it must be World War II vintage.

As he approaches the vessel, he's nearly run over by a speeding Greyhound bus with HELLO SOCCER TEAM, USA written along the top of the windshield. Diving out of the way, the bus clips his foot and knocks his shoe off. He sees dark faces staring out through the windows at him, the driver grimacing in fear as if he's terrified to be driving such a large vehicle so fast.

As he goes to retrieve his shoe where it lodged between two railroad ties, he's force to jump for cover yet again as a second Greyhound nearly crushes him. He falls to his butt on one of the rails in exasperation and anger at being nearly killed by the soccer team he's trying to write about.

The next day, in what Mack calls the "Mujave Desert"....

quote:

There was no shade in Shade Hill. No trees, no awnings, nothing to deflect the brutal heat of the day. The small town, 95 miles northeast of Los Angeles, was hot 24/7/365. Its residents, all 82 of them, usually stayed indoors during late morning and early afternoon; the combined whine of all those air conditioners could sometimes be heard a mile away. In fact, the only thing worse than the heat in Shade Hill was the duststorms.

It was now almost 11:30 A.M., beginning the hottest part of the day. The temperature was expected to top 104 degrees by noon, with no clouds and no wind. Not the best weather for soccer. The only playing field in Shade Hill was on the east end of town, next to the tiny Apache Regional High School. Built as a football field, neglect and the unrelenting heat had so hardened the surface, playing football on it was almost as crazy as playing, well … soccer. The field was more dirt than grass, and what grass there was had long ago turned brown.

There were two sets of bleachers, one on each side of the field. They were made of aluminum, another poor choice for the desert climate. In the past, people had fried turkey eggs on the metal seats to snack on during games. There were about two dozen people sitting in the bleachers at the moment, a real crowd for Shade Hill. Most were parents of the eleven teenagers currently doing wind sprints up and down the field, torture by another word. The boys constituted the Apache School District Class C soccer team. This was their last day of school before the summer break. Many had already started working jobs as cattle feeders and wranglers. None of them wanted to be out here.

About two months ago, coach Clancy Cook accepted an invitation from a foreign soccer team to arrange a late season match. They were barnstorming their way across the United States to spread the good word about Malaysia or Indonesia or wherever they're from. Clancy's brother, Sheriff Jim Cook, is sitting at the top of the bleachers. He's not too sure the faxed invitation wasn't a prank by one of the townspeople. But lo and behold, a Greyhound bus is approaching town at about 100 MPH. It slows down just enough to make the turn on the town's tiny streets and screech up to Apache Stadium. The bus disgorges about a dozen dark-skinned men in shiny, brand new soccer uniforms and white shoes who begin kicking balls around and talking in a foreign language.



Eli Port, the town banker (because this is a town in the 21st century so small that it still has a singular banker), referees the game. And the foreigners are terrible. They seemingly don't know the first thing about soccer, even how to kick or carry the ball with their feet. At several points they come close to kicking the ball toward their own goal. The match is called after less than 30 minutes with the high school students winning 22-0.

The foreign players and coaches don't even pause for a post-match handshake, rapidly boarding the bus and practically slamming the door in the coach's face. As the players settle in, one of Shade Hill's huge dust storms hits and begins rocking the bus. They want to just say a few prayers and rest here until nightfall when they can move on to a truck stop to the east...but there's a knock on the door. It's a very sweaty, sunburned, and dusty Georgie Mann, and he always gets his story.

The coach begrudgingly lets Mann aboard out of the dust cloud. The bus is clearly unusual: it's very dark on the inside, with the rear half blocked off by a partition and padlocked door. The coach says he doesn't speak much English and only has a little time for an interview.

quote:

Mann took out his cell phone and dialed his number back in LA. His home computer accepted the call, making the connection with an annoying chorus of blips and bleeps. Using his phone’s keypad, Mann opened a new audio file in his computer, then entered a command for the PC to start recording the phone call. This done, he entered another command, which would allow him to transmit one image from his photophone every five seconds to be put into his PC’s JPEG file. Words and pictures, just like that. This was the lazy man’s way of reporting sports, and Mann had become very good at it. His hosts had no idea what he was doing, though. For some reason, they thought he was calling his mother.

Mack never tires of using technology that doesn't exist as a catch-all deus ex machina. Why be creative and reasonable when you can just invent solutions out of thin air to keep the plot moving?

quote:

For the next five minutes Mann asked questions from a prepared list, using his phone like a long-distance microphone. Where was the team from? What did they hope to accomplish during their tour of the United States? What international soccer stars did they hold in high esteem? The coach’s answers were murky at best, each one either too short or too evasive or just plain dumb. The team was from “the South Asian Pacific.” They hoped to bring “peace and understanding” to anyone they met in the United States. They didn’t know or care about any international soccer stars. They knew very little about the World Soccer League. They’d never heard of Pele or Ubu. They had no opinion on the movie Bend It like Beckham.

“How about your schedule?” Mann finally asked in exasperation. “Can you at least tell me how many places you’re playing?” The coach shook his head no, pointing to his ears as if he didn’t understand. Yet the clipboard he was holding had the word “Schedule” written right across it.

Mann gets so exasperated he actually takes the clipboard from the guy to show him the word "schedule", and snaps a few shots of the paper on it. It's a map of the United States with towns circled and labeled 1 through 9 with arrows pointing to them, which Mann figures is the places they're playing. It all looks like Mann is done and heading off....and then he asks where the second bus is.

The players immediately tense up. The coach smiles and says, in his best English of the day, that he's got a real scoop to show him. Opening the padlocked door leading to the back of the bus, Georgie Mann sees boxes and boxes of cell phones, camping supplies, and at least fifteen Stinger missiles.

quote:

Mann could only utter one word: “Wow!” The pistol was against the back of his head a second later. The trigger was pulled twice. He was dead before he hit the floor.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Mack really doesn't know poo poo about anything, does he?

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



JcDent posted:

Mack really doesn't know poo poo about anything, does he?

Mack knows as much about reality as these terrorists know about soccer.

Also I wonder if Mack is gradually building up to demonizing every Muslim-dominant nation. The first book was pretty exclusive to the Middle East, but the second covered South Asian Muslims and they were all depicted as the bad guys from the first book with different eye shapes. Even the white guys from Chechnya (when they weren't the Superhawks in disguise) were the craziest Muslim terrorists known to man.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Well, we still have white Balkan Muslims to go through! Maybe they'll crop up in book four.

Somebody Awful
Nov 27, 2011

BORN TO DIE
HAIG IS A FUCK
Kill Em All 1917
I am trench man
410,757,864,530 SHELLS FIRED




I wonder how 'Mack' feels about Bosnian Serbs.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



We return to Guantanamo Bay. A huge storm blows in just after sunset, right after an Iranian Air Force plane touches down. The Transall C-160 (in real life flown by several countries, none of which are Iran) is here as part of a super duper secret negotiation between Iran and the United States for a number of Iranian nationals in the prison camp. It's a prisoner swap: 7 Iranian prisoners with connections to high-ranking mullahs back home in return for 7 top echelon Al Qaeda fighters that Iran had captured. The hurricane has thrown a wrench into their plans: the transfer is so top secret that the documents were burned after signing, and they're on an extremely strict schedule to load the Iranian prisoners and take off.

quote:

Things had to go right on the ground, too. The isolated section of the air base was surrounded by no fewer than a hundred Marines, backed up by at least two squads of SEALs watching the waterfront nearby. (There would later be some dispute about the number of SEALs present.) There was also a Delta Force sniper team stationed in the hills above. This small combination army had been in place for hours, sweating out the brutal heat of the waning day, only to be soaked through now by the driving rains of night.

A stretch van would be transporting the seven Iranian prisoners from Camp X-Rray (sic), the main Gitmo holding facility, to runway number two. The van would be escorted by two Marine LAVs, small, heavily armored tanklike vehicles. A U.S. State Department representative would also be accompanying the van, traveling in a separate car. His name was John Apple. His counterpart, a general in the Iranian Air Force, was serving as the copilot for the transfer plane.

Once the van reached the runway, Apple and the Iranian general would individually count each of the seven prisoners as they got out of the van and again as they climbed aboard the plane, this last bit of diplomatic nonsense insisted on by the Iranians. Only after both men were certain that the seven prisoners were safely aboard the plane would it be cleared for takeoff.

The Transall would then land in Mexico to refuel, then again in Fiji and Beijing, before landing at Tehran 32 hours later.

The van arrives a few minutes late with the 7 prisoners, each wearing the distinctive black hoods and bright orange jumpsuits. There's some confusion over them being out of order, but they get it straightened out and the plane quickly lifts off the tarmac.

Apple heads back to his quarters just outside Camp X-Ray and breaks out some cheap Cuban whiskey. It's looking like he'll be retiring in just 3 weeks....and then a Humvee roars up and a bunch of soldiers spill out. They charge through his door, M16s sweeping everywhere, and practically carry him to the vehicle outside.

quote:

The ride up to the detainee compound was the most hair-raising event of Apple’s life. The Humvee driver was a kid no more than 18, and the other Marines were screaming at him to go faster … faster!… faster!

The kid followed orders and drove the winding, muddy, very slippery road like a madman, nearly sending the Humvee hurtling over the cliff many times. Somehow they made it to the main compound gate. This barrier was open—never a good sign. The Humvee roared right through, drove the length of the barbed-wire encirclement and down another series of hills to an isolated plywood barracks. This was where the seven guys named Khameni had been kept during their incarceration.

There was another gaggle of Marines here, and a few SEALs, too. All of them were excited and soaked. Conversation had been hopeless in the swift ride here; the wind and torrential rain did not help it now. The Marines yanked Apple out of the Hummer and into the isolated prisoner barracks. The interior was dark; only the beams from several flashlights broke through the fog that had seeped in here. The State Department rep, not used to all this excitement, nearly slipped three steps in. The floor was coated with something very sticky. A young Marine beside him directed his flashlight at the floor.

“Be careful, sir,” he told Apple. That’s when Apple realized they were both standing in a pool of blood.

More flashlights appeared and now they lit up the entire room. On the floor in front of him Apple saw the bodies of seven men lined up in a row. Clad only in their underwear, each had had his throat cut.

Apple’s first thought was that these people were Marine guards—but actually the opposite was true. They were detainees; more specifically, the seven Iranian prisoners named Khameni. It took several long moments for this to sink into Apple’s brain. Then, through the blood and rain and wind and chaos around him, it hit like a lightning bolt. He grabbed the young Marine next to him.

Who got on the planes? They can't answer that one. But I think you, the reader, know who was being kept at Guantanamo.

Back in Washington DC, the MCI Center is packed.



The Washington Wizards have made the playoffs for the first time in a long time, and everyone's excited as hell. Everyone except Mary Li Cho, a pretty Asian woman who's here on a date with Pershing Nash from Army Special Operations Command. At least, she would be if he was here; he's half an hour late.

Mary Li Cho publicly works as a secretary at the Pentagon, pretty enough that Playboy wanted to do a pictorial on her; in reality, she works for the same Defense Security Agency that Major Fox and Ozzi worked for.

The chatter the DSA has been hearing isn't too good. Al Qaeda has been activating many of their sleeper cells and passing down money from their laundering operations to the terrorists on the ground. Everything from smallpox in Kenya to rumors of dirty bombs is going off. And to make matters worse, her superiors Fox and Ozzi are missing in action. The DC office of the DSA only has 3 employees, which means Li has been left by herself since their disappearance. The only thing she's had left to do was follow Fox's last directive to keep searching for Bobby Murphys in the US government.

Li gets a text from Nash, telling her to move to a secure location and call him ASAP.

quote:

But then the lights in the arena dimmed even further, until there was just a single spotlight shining on center court. According to the PA announcer, “America the Beautiful” was about to be sung. Li couldn’t leave now. The way things were in D.C. these days, she’d probably be called a Taliban. So she sat back down but stayed poised on the edge of her seat. What happened next would stay with her for a very long time.

Two young children walked onto the court. A boy and a girl, no more than eight years old, both dressed in their Sunday best. Both kids were holding microphones as big as they were. Both looked nervous. A recorded piece of music began to play, the opening notes to “America the Beautiful.” The kids started singing. Off-key but cute. The crowd warmed to them immediately. Even Li had to admit it was precious—for the first few seconds, anyway. Because when the part about the “fruited plain” came along, both kids froze solid. They’d forgotten the words. The music played on; the crowd became hushed. The kids began to cry, tears falling onto their microphones. The spotlight seemed to be burning holes in them now. No one knew what to do.

Finally someone stopped the music and the lights came back on. Li just shook her head. What was happening to this country? We can’t even sing our favorite song anymore.…

Suddenly, from across the court, a small, wiry man appeared. He was sixtyish and dressed plainly in slacks and a golf shirt. He was certainly not part of either team; nor was he wearing the red blazer sported by all arena employees. He had to be one of the spectators. The crowd went silent as this tiny man walked across the floor, approaching the children with a smile. The two kids stopped crying, looking up at him more curious than anything. He patted each one on the head, then took the boy’s microphone. Everyone in the arena heard him say, “OK, let’s try it again.…”

A few uncomfortable seconds passed, but then the music recued and resumed playing. Very softly, the little man started singing the first verse to them. The kids got the idea. He would tell them the words, and the kids would sing them, somehow keeping pace with the recorded music. It became very awkward, though. The crowd began hooting; some were even mocking the unlikely trio. But the little man persisted, and so did the kids. They sang on, getting a bit louder, a bit more confident, with each note.

And slowly … everything began to change. The crowd went quiet again as the three voices rose, shaky but oddly in tune. Li began to listen to the words of the song. They actually sounded beautiful, so much better than the screechy “Star Spangled Banner.” By the third line, the kids were really into it, the little stranger easing them along with every measure. Then came the chorus … and very unexpectedly other voices began to rise.

First from the balconies. Then the loge. Then from the fat-cat seats way down front. Just like that, the entire MCI arena was singing. Li felt pins and needles from head to toe. What was happening here? She stole a glance at the father and young son beside her. The father was holding a cup of beer in one hand and hugging his son with the other. Tears were in the man’s eyes.

Li spied other people around her. Many of them were crying, too. Crying and singing. The overhead scoreboard came to life: a moving digital image of the American flag, blowing in the wind above the wreckage of the World Trade Center. It was so sad yet beautiful at the same time. Li felt something wet fall on her own cheek. She thought it was beer. It wasn’t.…

The kids, the little man, and the crowd soared into the big finish: “From sea to shining … sea!” Then, complete silence—for about two seconds. Then the cheering began. It washed through the arena like a giant wave. Louder and louder. Feet stomping, hands clapping, seats smashing. The building’s foundation began to shake. The crowd was delirious and the delirium seemed like it would never end.

Finally, the little man drawled into the microphone, “Now, let’s play some ball.…”

The crowd erupted again. Twice as long, twice as loud. The players took to the court. Someone secured the microphones and the kids were escorted off, waving and laughing and taking happy bows.

As for the little man, he disappeared back into the crowd, leaving as quickly as he came.

Bye Bobby.

Li drives to a parking garage three blocks from the MCI and heads to the top floor, which is practically empty of vehicles. Over the next 10 minutes, she speed dials Nash over 50 times and his phone doesn't even ring. Curiously, some F-15s are circling the capital. Finally, he picks up; something crazy has gone down at work, which is why he couldn't answer. Making sure she's alone, he asks her what she knows about the Strait of Hormuz and Singapore incidents.

For weeks, Li had been receiving strange emails from Fox and Ozzi with titles like "Fast Ball" and "Slow Curve". She could never fully open the attachments, but she could print out some of it. The lines that weren't blacked out or blurred mentioned a few places like the Philippines, the Abu Sayeef terrorist group, and missing US weapons. "Slow Curve" has nothing but the title, mentioning notes from G. Mann of the LA Weekly Sun.

Nash explains that there's a third side to the triangle now: a prisoner breakout at Guantanamo Bay. Nash reveals to Li that Americans suspected to be the "ghosts" responsible for the Hormuz and Tonka Tower saves were being held at Guantanamo, and suspects that they just broke out. Only problem is, shortly after takeoff the plane exploded and crashed into the sea with all hands aboard. Nash thinks the Iranians planted the bomb, hoping to get rid of the troublesome terrorists instead of needing to bring them home to their mullahs.

quote:

“Now, you’ll probably never hear word one about this ever again. We got our Al Qaeda guys as promised at a checkpoint in Iraq, and the Iranians got rid of seven troublesome relatives, one way or another. A good day all around. Everyone should be happy.”

“Except for the ‘special prisoners’ on the plane,” she said. “Who were they really?”

“Well, that’s the bad news,” Nash answered slowly. “That’s why I felt it was important to tell you all this. That you heard it from me first—and not someone else.”

A much longer pause. “They’ve ID’d at least two of the people who were aboard that plane.” A troubled breath. “And it was your bosses, Li,” he said.

“Those guys Fox and Ozzi. We just got the official word from Gitmo. Both are confirmed deceased.”

PJOmega
May 5, 2009


Weirdly enough, the Basketball Game Jingoism is probably the most disturbing passage so far. The rest are so outlandish that while they're disgusting in their being written down. The basketball game is someone's furious fantasy about nationalism and it gives me the heebie jeebies.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


PJOmega posted:

Weirdly enough, the Basketball Game Jingoism is probably the most disturbing passage so far. The rest are so outlandish that while they're disgusting in their being written down. The basketball game is someone's furious fantasy about nationalism and it gives me the heebie jeebies.

Yeah, it's like the coke lesbo sacrifice in the Wingman, only this time the author is rubbing himself raw to a country.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



Li drives around Washington DC for the next hour, aimless and crying. When her fuel warning light comes on, she finally gets on the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway and starts driving home. She panics a little upon finding that the streets are totally empty, but turns on the radio and hears the normal music and advertisements and figures she's just being paranoid, even as a column of Humvees and troop trucks drive past.

quote:

It wasn’t quite House on Haunted Hill, but it was close.

It sat behind a row of empty warehouses at the end of a dead-end street, near the Potomac Reservoir extension road, just over the line in Virginia. The Navy had built this place back in the twenties as an auxiliary weather station, but the sailors back then were better at sailing ships than constructing houses. This one was ugly from the first nail, and eighty years of rain and heat had only compounded the error. It had a strange miniature Kremlin look to it, with a skin of faded green shingles and two creaky turrets rising from the back. A black brick chimney, leaning 70 degrees, sprouted atop the sagging roof. Add the rickety fence, the dirty brown lawn, and the two dead apple trees out front and what was once homely was now just plain creepy.

This was what Li called home. She lived here for one reason only: the rent was very, very low. In fact, when she first came to D.C., she nearly had to turn around and go back home, so scarce were safe living spaces for young women just starting out on the government payroll. After weeks of searching and living out of a bag, this place became available. It was convenient and it was affordable. So, creepy or not, she took it.

It's a chilly and foggy night as Li returns home. The only sound is another two F-15s flying overhead; the rest of the neighborhood is so quiet it almost seems deserted. She opens the door and finds that the lights are all off. Strange, since she always leaves one or two on. She tries flicking on a lamp, but it doesn't work. Not because the power is out, but because the socket is empty.

quote:

Her hand instantly went to her ankle holster. Her cell phone wasn’t the only thing she carried here. She came up with a Magnum 440H Specter, a powerful handgun with not an ounce of metal in it. Composite fibers and plain old plastic, it was the first Stealth gun. And Li knew how to use it. That was a requirement for her graduate degree.

She searches the whole house with her sci-fi plastic magnum, each light coming up with the bulb missing. Searching the bathroom, she finds the big bars of Ivory soap she kept there missing as well. Finally, she makes her way to the kitchen where she keeps her single spare bulb and uses it to light up the living room. Even stranger, everything is clean. The rug is vacuumed, her pencil drawings are neatly stacked, her dirty dishes cleaned. Her burglars have cleaned up the house better than she ever could in her life. Terrified and confused, Mary Li Cho slumps against the wall in defeat.

quote:

The waiters rolled three carts of champagne into the reception hall to polite applause. There were about fifty guests on hand, the usual crowd for the Portuguese embassy’s weekly Friday night cocktail party. The raison d’être this evening was the announcement of a new EU trade agreement between Portugal and France. It was expected to garner both countries upward of $50 million, mostly in the exchange of costly dinner wines and perfumes.

Or that was the excuse for the gathering, anyway. Most of these events, especially those held here at Portuguese Hall, were just a cover for various European operatives to exchange intelligence. Trade secrets, military assessments, weapons sales. Most people here were interested in things other than Beaujolais and Paree Sourie. The place was crawling with spies.

Among them was an agent of the DGSE, the General Directorate for External Security, France’s equivalent to the CIA. This man, sometimes known by the code name Palm Tree, lived in a world made up of weapons that shot down aircraft. Stingers, Rolands, Hawks—surface-to-air missiles of all shapes and sizes. He bought and sold them like some people bought and sold Merlots. The difference was, he made sure these weapons, purchased either on the black market or in third-party deals, secretly went to organizations that saw eye-to-eye with French foreign policy, even in its most subtle forms.

The French agent mingled, ate frogs’ legs, did a little business, but then left the reception early, meaning before midnight. He had a flight back to Paris tomorrow morning that he had to make. He had to get back to his hotel and check his cables, his faxes, his e-mails. Then he had to pack and get to JFK before 4:00 A.M., for the 5:30 plane out. He walked out the front door, looking for the embassy’s street captain; he needed his rental car brought around. But the doorman was not in sight; neither were any of his assistants.

“Lazy asses,” Palm Tree cursed under his breath. Though his home station was actually in Paris, he’d spent enough time in Washington to dislike just about everyone who lived here. Blacks and foreigners mostly, crude and undependable. He would have to retrieve the car himself.

Oh hey, it's Palm Tree! The judus! The big, secretive villain of the second book! The guy whose identity was kept in the shadows, who made his first appearance on the last page and never explained who he was or what his plans were! I mean, it's a bit of a shame that we just kinda suddenly got told exactly who he works for and what his job is, but they didn't tell us his name or anything. I'm sure he'll continue to be the secret bad guy the Superhawks are trying to hunt down, since he's organizing a giant terrorist attack against the United States and needs a dramatic confrontation in the finale.

Hey wait, why are two guys in ski masks mugging him?

quote:

He gave it all to the switchblade man. But an insolence that creeps up on robbery victims during the act began to rise to the surface. “Are you happy now?” he asked them bitterly.

“No, we’re not happy,” the first man hissed at him, the switchblade now pricking Palm Tree’s skin.

“What else could you possibly want?” he asked them, authentically puzzled.

They never replied. Instead, the man with the switchblade shoved him to the ground while the other mugger tore the lapel from his suit coat. This uncovered a secret pocket. Palm Tree’s most valuable asset—his personal data assistant—fell out to the pavement. Palm Tree went to grab for it, but one man’s boot landed squarely on his hand. The other man retrieved the cell phone—size device instead, and both muggers examined it for a second, keeping Palm Tree pinned to the ground. Then they nodded to each other and displayed two thumbs-up.

Almost as an afterthought, the first man looked in Palm Tree’s billfold and discovered 300 American dollars, all in fifties, and a similar amount in euros. He crumpled the bills and threw them in Palm Tree’s face. Then he tossed Palm Tree’s other valuables into a trash barrel nearby. Both muggers then spit on him and left, vanishing back into the shadows.

Okay I'm just gonna assume these are the Superhawks. I've read enough of these books to know when they're suddenly omnipotent and making an appearance out of the shadows. And now they have his PDA, but maybe he's got a backup pla

quote:

He had to get to his car, leave quickly, and figure out what to do from there. So he ran down the alley, soon reaching the relative safety of the dimly lit parking lot. The muggers had not taken his car keys; still, he had trouble getting them into the lock, his hands were shaking so much. Somehow the key went in, though. The door popped open and he leaped inside, starting the engine and hastily locking all the doors.

He left the lot with a squeal of tires, screeching down the alley to West Avenue. But it was blocked by a construction detour, so he was forced to continue over West and down another alley. At the end of this side street, a white delivery van was parked half on the sidewalk, half on the pavement. There was only a thin space for him to squeeze through. He slowed to a crawl and began the tight navigation. As he was halfway past the van, he noticed something strange propped up on its dashboard. A car battery … surrounded by a web of electrical wires.

drat.…

The van exploded an instant later. The bomb, hidden under the passenger seat, was made up of two pounds of gunpowder and such curious items as thumbtacks, lightbulbs, gelatin, and soap. The tacks provided the outer core of the blast. Three dozen in all, they vaporized the rental car’s windshield and driver’s side window. The soap and gelatin, fused by the explosion, transformed into hundreds of tiny blobs of quasi napalm, igniting everything they touched. The lightbulbs, or what was left of them, came last. Six of them had been embedded deep in the gunpowder. Superheated by the blast, their outer shells evaporated into a cloud of minuscule glass particles that moved with such velocity, they easily cut through exposed skin and bone. This deadly combination tore Palm Tree’s head off in less than a second, leaving his upper torso a burning, bloody mass.

In that eternal second between mortal injury and death, though, the French spy had one last thought: Those crazy bastards … they finally got me.…

OH COME ON!

Why? Why would you escalate this guy to the level of supervillain, to the point where the closure of the last book is playing up his appearance as a dramatic cliffhanger and his plan succeeds perfectly, and then decapitate him in the fifth chapter of the next one? This reminds me a lot of Kazeel: he's the creepy bad guy who gets away even after his plan is foiled and is built up as a recurring antagonist or at least a major force of evil for the protagonists to defeat, but not even halfway through the next book he suffers one humiliation after the other before being kidnapped and chopped up in front of a camera while peeing himself.

Mack is just so unable to contain his hate boner that as soon as he creates an evil anti-American villain, he loses all restraint after a few hundred pages and suddenly feels the need to torture and gruesomely kill them. Palm Tree should count himself lucky that he's not Muslim, or his death wouldn't have come so quickly.

quote:

Beethoven’s Fifth …

Digital notes, more annoying than dramatic, woke Li from her deep sleep. It took a few seconds for her to realize where she was, what was happening. But suddenly she was sitting straight up, eyes wide with terror. She couldn’t believe it! She’d fallen asleep on her hallway couch—a very scary thought considering what she’d come home to a few hours before. She was still wrapped in her sleeping bag, still in her street clothes, pistol still in hand.

But the couch itself had moved. It was no longer next to the back door where she had positioned it, intending to sit guard, with a clear means of escape, until morning. Instead, it was up against the wall, clear across the hallway. How did that happen?[/quote]

The Beethoven is her text tone. She has a text from Nash: “DGSE op term’d ex prej this PM west ave improv car bmb. Sht hits fan. Call me ths AM plz.”

As she struggles to translate the 2004 text speak, she hears a thud from upstairs. She aims her gun up the stairway, but hears another thud and sees a light down the hall. Rushing inside, she sees two figures sitting at hear breakfast table, drinking her tea. Smiling, Fox and Ozzi turn around to look at her.

[quote]The next thing she knew, Li was flat out on her back, a wet facecloth draped across her brow.

She’d never fainted before, and judging from the size of the bump on her head, she never wanted to again. Only slowly were her surroundings coming into focus, illuminated by the light of another candle. She was no longer in her kitchen. The walls around her now were painted cruddy green, the ceiling a hideous navy blue. There were two open windows off to her left, bare light and fog streaming through both. To her right, a painting of somebody’s steamboat paddling its way up the Potomac. Spiderwebs covered the vessel’s name.

That’s when she realized she was still in her house. But she was upstairs, on the second floor, the place she always feared to tread. And finally, she was aware of two worried faces looking down at her. Fox and Ozzi … They really were alive.…

She pulled them both down to her, as if she were going to smother them with kisses. That would have been very unlike her, though. She was glad, if totally flabbergasted, to see them but shocked that they were actually here. In her house. Going through her stuff. The bastards.…

She didn’t kiss them—she knocked their heads together instead, eliciting a painful crack! Both fell backward, stunned. Li started kicking at them, furious that they had scared her half to death. And these were not wild kicks, either. She’d dabbled in Tae Kwon Do. And she knew how to hurt a guy.

Okay I'll admit, this sequence would actually be pretty funny in a better book.

As Fox and Ozzi try to untangle themselves from Li, five more men grab her and hold her down; two of them come in through the window, inexplicably soaking wet. As she calms down, she looks around the dark room she never went into.

quote:

In one corner, two M15A2 rifles, the civilian clone of the military M16, were leaning against the wall. Both had bayonets attached to their muzzles with thick rubber bands. Next to them was a large hunting rifle, complete with an electronic gun sight. Next to the rifle, a jumble of laptops sitting atop a spaghetti pile of modem wires. More M15s were hanging off the coat stand beneath the big painting. And everywhere on the floor were junk food wrappers, soda cans, blankets, empty ammunition boxes, newspapers, and cigarette butts.

There's just wrong after wrong when it comes to guns in this update.

Down by her feet, she spots a pile of garbage: empty Jell-O packets, shotgun shells emptied of gunpowder, a box of thumbtacks, and empty Ivory soap packages. She starts to put this together with the text about the car bombing, and also that there were 7 men on that plane who took the place of the Iranians. She asks Fox and Ozzi how they survived the crash, but they tell her it's top secret.

One of the masked men heads downstairs to make Li some tea, then she promptly starts yelling about how Fox and Ozzi just did a car bombing inside their own country. They insist Palm Tree deserved it, but can't tell her any more details. They also admit to having tapped her phone (they didn't think she'd be home because of her date with Nash) and Fox guiltily admits that he hasn't let his wife know that he's alive, to keep her from getting involved.

They head onto Li's laptop to try and get access to the Fast Ball and Slow Curve files. Fox and Ozzi explain that they actually had someone else sending the files from their account to Li's email, with the expectation that they could retrieve them from her account later; they didn't expect her to be able to break into the files to see even a little of the unencrypted data. Li threatens to go to the Pentagon if they don't let her in on the secret, so they lock her in the other bedroom while figuring out what to do with her.

The other five Superhawks are Hunn and Puglisi (who had swam across the Potomac to escape the Palm Tree bombing), Ron Gallant (the Clark Kent lookalike helicopter pilot), Gil Bates from the White Rooms, and Colonel Ryder Long. They gather around Li's laptop as Gil breaks through the encryption.

Fast Ball is a transcript of the Superhawks' interrogation from the end of the second book. Slow Curve is made up of the information recovered from Georgie Mann's automatic phone uploads, ending with a fleeting image of the Stingers in the back of the Greyhound bus. A paragraph at the end indicates that the information was obtained through Keypad, a super secret NSA satellite that can listen in on any phone call in the world because Mack can't write for poo poo and needs a deus ex machina for everything.

quote:

Who secured the “Slow Curve” file? Why was the NSA’s Keypad satellite intercepting Mann’s phone transmissions or was the system routinely monitoring everyone’s cell phones? How was it that “Slow Curve,” as well as “Fast Ball,” wound up in Li’s e-mail box? And, most important, why hadn’t this information raised alarms within the Homeland Security department? The file did not provide any answers to these questions.

But it did contain one last tantalizing piece of information. Shortly before he was killed, Mann had taken a phone-picture of the faux soccer team’s schedule, a cross-country map of the American South and Midwest showing where they were supposed to play their goodwill games. Was it possible that these sites, Numbered 1 through 9, were the places where the terrorists intended to use the missiles to shoot down U.S. airliners?

The answer was: yes. The analyst confirmed each site was within 12 miles of a major airport and each had ample higher elevations around it, providing the terrorists with perfect hiding places from which to do their murderous work. And there were 9 game sites in all. Eighteen missiles. Two missiles per airport? It seemed logical—and no doubt the first bus was heading to one of those locations right now.

Very, very scary.…

But as unsettling as this information was, it also left one last, very disturbing question: Mann was able to track down one of the buses—and he saw 18 of the missiles aboard it. Yet the ghost team members knew there were at least 36 missiles on the loose and two buses involved.

So where were the other missiles? And where was the other bus?

As this goes on, Li turns to the seventh man on the team, who was left to be her guard. Ryder Long is stretched out on the bed, and she gets a little bit flirty with him in a section too boring to really bother covering. Even though he insists everything is top secret, she goads him into revealing his name and rank.

quote:

“My father’s a colonel—in the Marines,” she said. “But I’ll bet he’s not quite as old as you.”

He might have chuckled for a moment. “Thanks for nothing,” he said. Another silence. More rain on the window. Another flash of lightning outside.

“And are you married, Colonel?” she asked, her words floating up into the dark. She saw him shift uneasily on the bed.

“Used to be …” he replied.

“And were you happy?”

“Used to be …” he said again. Silence—at least 30 seconds of it.

“And do you miss her?” Li finally whispered.

The shadow on the bed let out a long, sad breath. “Sorry,” he said. “Top-secret.…”

MY LOVE FOR MY DEAD WIFE IS TOP SECRET OKAY

PhotoKirk
Jul 2, 2007

insert witty text here


chitoryu12 posted:

Gil Bates from the White Rooms, and Colonel Ryder Long. They gather around Li's laptop as Gil breaks through the encryption.



GIL BATES?????

THE COMPUTER WHIZ IS NAMED GIL BATES?

Holy poo poo, this book just broke out a jackhammer to go past rock bottom.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



PhotoKirk posted:

GIL BATES?????

THE COMPUTER WHIZ IS NAMED GIL BATES?

Holy poo poo, this book just broke out a jackhammer to go past rock bottom.

Oh yeah, he was covered in the very first book. He's 22 and skinny with a propensity for spiky hair, Hawaiian shirts, and piercings.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


So a bunch of American black ops soldiers are helping islamic terrorists get stinger tubes (which aren't a thing) in an operation orchestrated by a French intelligence agent and the terror act is going to be carried out by Indonesian dudes. Meanwhile, other black ops dudes can somehow go wild in Gitmo, kill and impersonate prisoners without notice, escape a plane explosion... and then perfectly time a timebomb so that it would only kill the French agent... who they could have easily stabbed in the mugging.


Fuuuuuuuuuuuck

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



JcDent posted:

So a bunch of American black ops soldiers are helping islamic terrorists get stinger tubes (which aren't a thing) in an operation orchestrated by a French intelligence agent and the terror act is going to be carried out by Indonesian dudes. Meanwhile, other black ops dudes can somehow go wild in Gitmo, kill and impersonate prisoners without notice, escape a plane explosion... and then perfectly time a timebomb so that it would only kill the French agent... who they could have easily stabbed in the mugging.


Fuuuuuuuuuuuck

Likewise, they could have easily just shot Kazeel in the back of the head after pretending to be the Chechens and getting him in the SUV, or even just bombed his house (they had enough connections to orchestrate fake airstrikes against themselves just to sell the deception). This probably would have kept everything from happening in the first place, since Kazeel never would have gotten to buy the Stingers and Palm Tree's plot would have fizzled before it began.

But no, they had to get their psychopath on.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

IT *BZZT* WASP ME--
IT WASP ME ALL *BZZT* ALONG!




chitoryu12 posted:

MY LOVE FOR MY DEAD WIFE IS TOP SECRET OKAY

Somebody send this to Lowtax, this line needs to be in the next Doom house.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



As dawn comes, the rain stops and the fog goes away. But Ryder Long feels important plot points coming in his bones. The sky is red outside, a bad omen in his mind. Maybe Long is the alternate universe Hawk Hunter?

He heads down to the master bedroom, where the rest of the Superhawks are scattered around like they were hurled into place by a bomb.

quote:

Ozzi was lying half off the bed, just staring up at the ceiling. Fox was slumped in a corner, head down on his knees. Gallant was beside him, hands together, as if in prayer. Even Hunn and Puglisi looked wiped out. Their wet clothes still drying in front of a dangerously old-looking space heater, they were sitting close by the window, in their underwear, their M15 weapons at ready, should anyone come down the reservoir extension road.

But it was Bates who looked the worst. Eyes red, jaw clenched. Punked hair more out of control than usual. Still sitting in front of the computer, only he turned around to look at Ryder.

Bates explains why everyone looks to be in shock: they hooked up Palm Tree's PDA to a drain line, a device that "literally sucks information" out of it. His device is loaded with "hundreds of memory chips" that add up to almost a whole gigabyte of data you guys. I have no idea how you fit "hundreds of memory chips" in a PDA, but I guess that's what Mack thinks PDAs use for memory. And each of these is compartmentalized, like one chip just has the entire French dictionary and another has the individual results of every Tour de France. Presumably for distraction.

It took almost 4 hours to crack everything, but Bates found a file marked "Travel Plans" in English. It's tons of names with numbers next to them, which Bates somehow figures out is payments going in and out of a Swiss bank account. One of the names is A.L. Zeke, an anagram for Kazeel. I want to imagine that Mack chose to name his villain "Kazeel" just so he could have an anagram that sounded like a normal English name. Anyways, analyzing the payments has let Bates figure out that Palm Tree was the one orchestrating the transactions in the Stinger shipment to the United States.

The second file Ryder is shown traces the money trail to prove that the missiles and their launchers were provided in two separate purchases.

quote:

“Remember now, these are American-made weapons,” Bates told Ryder. “And I might be wrong, but I think that while the launchers can last awhile, the missiles only work well if they are up-to-date. Those missiles in the Mann photo look to be the latest model. And believe me, the Pentagon keeps close tabs on where they all are. Am I right, Major Fox?”

Yes, Bates. You're wrong.

The PDA has a list of phone numbers and a call log as well; Palm Tree was using his PDA to dial on his burner phones for him, either out of laziness or to maintain a record of the calls made on his burner phones. Mack is so reliant on fictional technology for his plots, he even ascribes anachronistic technology to PDAs.

One number (011-333-0001) has been dialed several times in the past few weeks, but cut off before any connection was made. 011 is a secret exchange for the White House (in real life, it's the international exchange number for Kazakhstan) and 333 is used for the secure phones of the National Security Council offices. Palm Tree has been dialing someone who works in the White House itself.

How do you figure out whose phone it is? You call it, of course!

quote:

A woman answered. She said, “General Rushton’s office.”

That was it. The smoking gun …

At least a few of you probably saw this coming from the last book.

Going deeper into the files, Bates pulls up a top secret NSC operations memo that Rushton apparently turned over to the French spy. It states that due to a massive case overload, only cognizant threats identified by Rushton personally will be given priority for investigation. Because Rushton has demanded that all threat reports go through him first, any official report they'd try to make to the NSC would have to go through him first and he'd just bury it.

Now you may ask yourself "Why do they need to make an official NSC report?" After all, they're fugitives on the run from justice. You'd think if they had credible evidence that Rushton was a traitor, they'd just find an unofficial way to do it. Maybe breaking into the president's bedroom in the middle of the night because the Superhawks are omnipotent when the plot demands they accomplish something, and waving all the evidence in front of him until he orders Rushton's arrest and a full pardon.

But Mack needs to keep the book going, so they have no solution.

quote:

“You know, something like this could never have happened in this country ten years ago,” Bates said, his voice low. “Or even five years. But with 9/11, and everything’s that’s happened since, abuses of the Patriot Act, the CIA and the FBI running around with their heads cut off, Iraq … poo poo, a guy like Rushton was able to come out of nowhere and fill a vacuum. And this is the result.”

Of course, that's not even the worst news.

One particularly large folder is labeled "Family Photos" and is mostly just random pictures of ugly Gauls, none of whom look related to Palm Tree. As they skim through one set, however, they find a photograph of a napkin hidden among the images.

quote:

The napkin had a large brown coffee stain in its upper right-hand corner, along with, oddly enough, the impression of two coins, embedded beneath the stain. With all the artistry of a six-year-old, the drawing appeared to show a collection of things in flight, both big and small, traveling over what might have been hundreds, if not thousands, of people but, tellingly, no buildings. Because of the large stain and the imprint of the coins, though, it was difficult to count just how many of these flying things were being depicted. There may have been at least a dozen. But what were they flying over?

The logo in the corner of the napkin is from Drive, Shop, n' Go, a chain of convenience stores in eastern New Jersey. The coins look to be two nickels. There's a crude drawing of a bus in the corner, with straight lines coming from it. There's some writing in the corner, but obscured almost entirely by the coffee stain and impressions of the nickels. They have some guesses that the number of planes could be representing a time lapse of aircraft taking off and leaving and that it could be representing a huge attack on an airport, but that doesn't gel with the plans for 9 different airports and only two buses. They table it for now.

The team finally sits down together to start discussing a plan. Even Mack admits that Hunn's anger problems are going to lead to him trying to invade France at this rate. They need to simultaneously deal with Rushton's betrayal and find and stop the Greyhounds when they may have less than 24 hours before the plan is put into motion.

The very last file in Palm Tree's PDA is labeled "For Immediate Action", and had the tightest security. It's troop movement orders from May 1st through 7th, even though it's currently June.

quote:

More silence. They were all tired, hungry, and miserable. No one wanted to move. Then Ozzi said to Fox, “But what about Li?”

Fox thought for a very long time. He looked over at Ryder, the senior man, who just shrugged. Finally Fox said, “Bring her in here and let her read everything, including those first two e-mail files. We’re going to need her help more than we thought. And we can’t keep her in the dark, not if she’s going to put herself at risk.”

Then he looked back at the two files “Fast Ball” and “Slow Curve,” which Bates had brought back onto the screen.

“And tell her she can stop looking for Bobby Murphy, too,” Fox added. “Because I think we just found him.”

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


gently caress Mack. gently caress him good.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



Also I think this is the first time an update has been dedicated to an entire chapter not because of length, but because of ridiculous density. There's a ton of information and dialogue, some of which I cut out for only the most important bits. There's even a whole recap that lasts about a page to explain what happened with General Rushton and who he is (each book contains at least two or three recaps of past events that I cut out).

And somehow everything ends up being wrong. Mack's grasp on technology seems to grow more tenuous with each passing chapter.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


You'd think people that are Clancy fans would read the books for the hard-boiled authenticity, but I guess they read it for its flavor... or the hard men doing hard things action. They're probably all chickenhawks with marginal understanding of the military and, being old farts, an even worse grasp of modern technology.

Certainly when I was reading... this one book about a vigilante for hire chasing a Serbian war criminal who had killed a humanitarian son of some rich dude during the wars... I was drawn into the whole nitty and gritty thing. I didn't know how realistic the book was and I still don't, but that's what attracted the younger me. That's what I find attractive about Ralph Peter's Red Army; what's more, he doesn't even name drop all the tanks or planes in the book, because the names or spergy technical specs don't really matter in the face of what's happening.

Also, all of the books I've read had a lot less sex. Like Dogs of War barely has any sex at all.

PJOmega
May 5, 2009


Realized she's renting a whole house but doesn't go upstairs because it's scary. The super competent, Playboy hot, Oriental flower, secret spy wrangler special agent won't go upstairs. In the ugly house she's renting because "it's cheaper."

JFC I'd say 9/11 did a number on Mack but his views on women were already broken as shown in Wingman.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



JcDent posted:

You'd think people that are Clancy fans would read the books for the hard-boiled authenticity, but I guess they read it for its flavor... or the hard men doing hard things action. They're probably all chickenhawks with marginal understanding of the military and, being old farts, an even worse grasp of modern technology.

Certainly when I was reading... this one book about a vigilante for hire chasing a Serbian war criminal who had killed a humanitarian son of some rich dude during the wars... I was drawn into the whole nitty and gritty thing. I didn't know how realistic the book was and I still don't, but that's what attracted the younger me. That's what I find attractive about Ralph Peter's Red Army; what's more, he doesn't even name drop all the tanks or planes in the book, because the names or spergy technical specs don't really matter in the face of what's happening.

Also, all of the books I've read had a lot less sex. Like Dogs of War barely has any sex at all.

I think it's a power thing in this one. Mack's sheer vitriol toward Muslims, lionization of America, and practically turning the Twin Towers into a crucifix-style symbol suggests that the purpose of these books is anger and pain. They're meant to appeal to anti-Muslim chickenhawks who think we just need to go and glass the Middle East to send a message to all terrorists everywhere, the same crowd that wants to totally ban Muslims from entry into the country and close down mosques because they think they're hotbeds of child rape and suicide bombings.

It's like when an angry middle school kid writes a story about how he would totally humiliate and murder the bullies who torment him every day if he could get away with it.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



quote:

There’s a full moon up there, somewhere, thought Master Chief Eddie Finch (Ret.), watching the low clouds blowing over his head. At least I think there is.…

He was on his knees, a large flashlight in one hand and a pair of hedge clippers in the other. A small hatchet was close by, too, but he was woefully unprepared for the job that lay ahead of him. He was cutting down weeds, hundreds of them, poking through the cracks in the old CG airstrip. Some were the size, of small trees, thus the hatchet. But he’d been at it for nearly four hours now and he was still only a third of the way up the 3,600-foot runway. A very strange way to spend a Saturday evening. It was almost midnight. Finch was cold, and it was dark without the moon, and, at 62 years old, he knew this was going to leave his knees in agony for weeks. Still he kept pulling and chopping. The job had to be done, because an old friend had asked him to do it.

An old friend named Bobby Murphy.

Cape Lonely Air Station was the most isolated CG base on the Atlantic seaboard. It was built on a cliff nearly 300 feet above the ocean. Six hundred acres, held in by a rusty chain-link fence, the road to get here ran two miles through a thick pine forest. A wildlife preserve bordered the station on the north; a 20-mile stretch of empty sand dunes and beach lay to its south. The closest highway, old U.S. Route 3, was more than 35 miles away.

There was a time, though, when Cape Lonely was the busiest Coast Guard station on the East Coast. CG aircraft from all over came here for engine change-outs and maintenance checks. New pilots endlessly practiced touch-and-go landings on its extra-wide runway. But that was back when the Coast Guard not only rescued people in peril but also searched for Russian submarines. Ten years ago, the base had been downsized to the point of nonexistence. It was like a ghost town now.

The only two things of value left at Cape Lonely were a small lighthouse and a Loran radio navigation positioning hut. Both ran automatically. An administration building, some support huts, and four dilapidated aircraft hangars were the only other structures remaining of the once-bustling air station. Behind the hangars was an aeronautical junkyard, a place where old CG aircraft had come to die. Airframes, big and small, wings, tail sections, landing gear assemblies, all rotting away, many leaking nasty fluids into the soil. No surprise, Cape Lonely was a hazardous waste site, too.

I don't think Cape Lonely's quite as good a name as Cape Disappointment.

Finch is a "trim Santa Claus" figure with thick glasses, who was stationed here on and off from 1964 until it was downsized in 1994. Behind Finch, the Superhawks (minus Hunn and Ozzi) materialize in their black suits, ski masks, and black ponchos with rifles held.

quote:

Finch just looked up at them, though, and said, “Oh, it’s only you guys.…”

The team had stuffed themselves into Mary Li Cho's tiny car for the long trip down to Cape Lonely. Finch is one of their allies and a friend of Bobby Murphy, so the Superhawks trust him. Inside the mess administration building, the Superhawks find another eight elderly men who all exchange nods with them and eat doughnuts; they are henceforth referred to by Mack as the Doughnut Boys. Fox asks why he was out weeding the runway, but Finch just says that Murphy called them up for the second time in 20 years to help him.

Ryder heads out to the four hangars at the end of Cape Lonely's runway. It takes a little work because the padlock had somehow rusted under the salty sea air within a week (Mack thinks that not only do skyscrapers suffer decompression when windows are opened, but that the atmosphere on the New England coast is so thick with salt that metal corrodes to uselessness within days). Inside is the Iranian Air Force cargo plane that had taken them from Gitmo; there are clumps of weeds stuck in the engines and trees and half the tires are blown out, but it's definitely not blown up.

Ryder has one of Mack's famous flashbacks to explain things. Using stolen weapons and keys hidden in their jumpsuits, the Superhawks broke free of their restraints and "the three Iranians onboard took a swim for Allah", as Mack so graciously describes them murdering legitimate government soldiers. Forced to remain in the thick of the storm around Cuba to stay hidden, Gil Bates used a signal diverter slipped to him by a sympathetic Marine to take direct control of the plane's flight computer. Using the latest and greatest deus ex machina technology, he overloads and burns out the flight computer with a bunch of false signals that mimic an explosion and fire on board. Ryder put the plane into a huge dive, then they cut off all communication and blacked out the plane to make it disappear from radar before pulling up at just 500 feet.

Except the bomb was real. They didn't know it, but Puglisi went to the head for a piss and smelled "the distinctly sweet odor of plastique", because I guess you can find C4 by smell now. Probably planted by Iranian secret police (who seem to be fictional unless there's something I haven't been told about, since the real SAVAK was hunted down and exterminated during the 1979 revolution), it's hooked up to a crude altimeter meant to blow it at 7500 feet. Since they stayed at 7200 feet to hide within the storm, they stayed just under the ceiling necessary to kill themselves for real. Staying low, they landed at Cape Lonely and blew out half the tires stomping on the brakes.

quote:

He climbed inside the airplane; the cargo hold smelled of low tide and oil. The flight deck itself was as messy as Li’s house. Finch and his cohorts had been up here trying to steer the beast while pulling it out of the ditch and into the hangar with their small fleet of jeeps and SUVs—all this after first disposing of the bomb. Ryder was glad he missed that little adventure.

He sat down at the controls and looked over the flight panel. He threw a few switches, but nothing would even turn on. He tried the engines, just for the hell of it, but there was little power left inside the plane. There was no way anything was going to start. The Transall appeared dead for good. Enough of that. He reached up to the sun flap above the pilot’s side window, and there it was: the photograph he’d hidden here. It showed a beautiful woman, in her garden, just turning to smile after being caught unawares by the camera.

It was his wife, Maureen. The only true love of his life. Gone now almost four years.…

She’d been aboard Flight 175, the second plane to go into the World Trade Towers. Ryder had taken this picture a few months before that dark day and had carried it with him ever since. Yet he’d left it here, inside the Transall, after landing seven days ago. For some reason, he’d decided not to bring it up to D.C. with him. Perhaps he’d been afraid that if he got caught doing what he was doing they would take it away from him after he was arrested and he’d never see it again. Or maybe it had been something else. But at last he had it back again—a great relief.

He looked at it now, and as always, her eyes looked right back out at him. Blond. Sexy. Sweet. Deep blue beauty with a big smile. drat.…

The flap where he’d stashed the picture fell back down suddenly, startling him. Its hinge had been shaken loose in the landing just like everything else aboard the airplane. But there was a small mirror attached to it, and now Ryder was looking right into it. From forehead to chin he didn’t recognize the person in the reflection. Skin burned and creased, hair not cut in months. Nose looking broken, though it wasn’t. Lips cracked, beard erupting. Chin quivering. But it was his eyes—they scared him the most. Red and watery, they looked absolutely insane.

He flipped the mirror back up in its place and pushed it in so it stayed there, cursing the cosmos for this unneeded piece of synchronicity. He already had enough reminders that he was spiraling downward. He didn’t need any more.

Gallant calls for Ryder and takes him over to the fourth hangar, where their next ride is waiting. Master Chief Finch has a three-ring binder and is reading off speed, range, altitude, and other factoids about the aircraft inside. He seems to be trying to convince Ryder and Gallant more than anything else.

Inside is an old Sikorsky Super S-58, the "Sky Horse."



The massive Korean War helicopter was put together in six days by the old men with Finch, all out of spare parts in storage and the junkyard or whatever they could steal. They even rebuilt the cockpit with Radio Shack parts. Gallant and Ryder are so disheartened that they try to leave, but Finch drags them back and explains that the aircraft's origin makes it untraceable, and they've got some surprises in store. More importantly, they have less than half an hour to learn how to fly the thing and get airborne so they can put their plan for stopping the Greyhounds in motion.

First, the control panel has three laptops wired to it as a jury rigged flight computer. It's been rigged up with a GPS, a heads-up display, and a bank of TV monitors and small cameras placed around the outside of the chopper. Second, it has three M2HB heavy machine guns: one in the nose and two on swivel mounts at the doors, which can be removed for handheld use if you're like Zangrelli from the first book and built like Dwayne Johnson.

Around 1:00 AM, they finally push the old chopper out of the hangar and crank it up. Amazingly, the eight men are basically aircraft geniuses and it starts up like it's brand new with barely a noise. Surprise, the old S-58 is also a stealth helicopter because why the gently caress not. Ryder flies it like it's a futuristic hovercar, zooming around with an agility only matched by Apaches and similar modern combat choppers. They finally land it in front of the crowd, and ask just who the hell the old guys are who built this thing.

quote:

Finally one of the group stepped forward, took a picture from his wallet, and showed it to the pilots. It was a photograph of an X-15. One of the most advanced aircraft ever built, it was a rocket plane that could actually fly to the edge of space. “I just helped rebuild one of these,” the old guy told him. “For NASA. They’re going to start flying it again to test parts for the new shuttle design. But that’s just a hobby. I worked for Lockheed Special Projects for years.”

He turned to his colleagues and started pointing. “And this guy helped design the F-117 Stealth plane. This guy worked on the F-22 Raptor. This guy helped design the Apollo capsule. This guy worked on the Osprey.”

On and on: This guy retired from advanced designs at Boeing. This guy from the Jet Propulsion Lab. This guy former Air America.

One of them finally gives Ryder something to explain exactly why they're so eager to help the Superhawks. It's here that we start to reach peak MAGA.

quote:

He had something in his hands. It was in a simple paper bag. He reached in and came out with a crude but crisply folded flag, at least six feet long. It had 13 red and white stripes like a typical American flag, but instead of the field of stars there was a picture of a coiled snake, with the words “Don’t Tread On Me—Ever Again” embroidered underneath it.

“My only son was killed in the Pentagon on September Eleventh,” the old guy went on. “He was helping rescue his office mates when he died. The wife of a man he saved sewed this together for me, stayed up for two days and two nights doing it, for his memorial service. I know it’s not the prettiest flag in creation, but it meant a lot to us then, and it means a lot to me now.” He retrieved a handkerchief, wiped his eyes once, and then blew his nose.

“This is a great country,” he went on. “But only because its people are great It’s a brave and fair and moral and honest country, too—but only because a great majority of its people are. This country is not about its politicians or its corporate presidents or its movie stars or its nutty generals. It’s about the guys fighting in Iraq because they feel it’s the right thing to do. It’s about the guys dying in Afghanistan trying to find the rest of those pukes. It’s those cops and firemen who died that day in New York City. It’s about those people who crashed that plane in Pennsylvania so it wouldn’t hit the White House. The world has gone crazy, but that doesn’t mean this country has to be pulled down with it. At times like this, it’s up to us to step up to the plate and try to fix things.”

He looked back down at the flag. “I’ve been holding on to this for a special occasion,” he went on, fighting off another sniff. “And now that I know about you guys, and what you’ve done and who you really are, well … will you take it with you?”

Jesus Goddamn Christmas. We need a huge version of the emote.

In terms of supplies, the team gets newer, darker uniforms with brand new Twin Towers unit patches. They get a few dozen MREs, nine big American flags, half a dozen laptops for Bates, and--

quote:

Then came aboard the strangest piece of cargo of all: a huge battery-powered freezer. Inside were three dozen tiny dead pigs, flash frozen to the point that they almost looked like cuddly toys. There was also several packages of bacon in the cooler.

“Now, don’t go eating any of that stuff,” Finch joked with them again. “That wouldn’t be kosher.…”

Oh. Oh no.

quote:

But when Ryder looked back down into the cargo bay he was surprised to find everyone was gone. He climbed out of the copter but again found the area around the Sky Horse deserted. He was just starting to wonder what other weird thing could possibly happen when he heard a voice coming from the air station’s Loran building. Loran was a worldwide communication net that was maintained for the U.S. military by the Coast Guard in many locations around the world. Like one big electromagnetic antenna, the building itself seemed to be crackling with energy. Ryder could see flashlight beams inside.

He walked over to the igloo-shaped building, opened the door, and found the rest of the team huddled within. Finch was with them, as were the Doughnut Boys. They were all smiling, ear to ear. What was going on here? As soon as he appeared, Fox said to him, “I know we’re in a hurry. But man, we had to see this. Check it out.”

Everyone extinguished their flashlights and now all Ryder could see was Eddie Finch. He was holding a halogen lightbulb in his hand—but it was not attached to anything. He was simply holding it. Yet it was glowing, very brightly.

“Can you believe it?” someone asked Ryder. “These Loran places have so much juice running through them, you don’t even have to screw the lightbulbs in.…” Ryder just stared at Finch as the retired Coast Guardsman held the lit bulb under his bearded chin like a Halloween prank. He looked like something from a horror flick.

“drat,” was all Ryder could say. It was one of the strangest things he’d ever seen.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Hey, so we took this <thing> and rebuilt with <enough stuff to make it something totally else>.

Which is how all of Mack's objects of fascination go. Hey, the F-16 is cool, but what if we doubled its weight with upgrades to make it cooler?

Preechr
May 19, 2009

Proud member of the Pony-Brony Alliance for Obama as President


JcDent posted:

Hey, so we took this <thing> and rebuilt with <enough stuff to make it something totally else>.

Which is how all of Mack's objects of fascination go. Hey, the F-16 is cool, but what if we doubled its weight with upgrades to make it cooler?

To be fair, didn't we do that to the F-16 IRL? I've seen pictures of original F-16 and modernized bombtruck loadouts, and the difference is insane.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Preechr posted:

To be fair, didn't we do that to the F-16 IRL? I've seen pictures of original F-16 and modernized bombtruck loadouts, and the difference is insane.

Yeah, but real life has to take the limitations of the airframe into account. If you really want an F-16 that would go in with guns, just say that USAlternate actually employed F/A-16 or something.

Plus, even with the polips that the newest F-16s have, it's a lot less ridiculous than "every helicopter is a stealth helicopter if you just believe in freedom enough"

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chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



Preechr posted:

To be fair, didn't we do that to the F-16 IRL? I've seen pictures of original F-16 and modernized bombtruck loadouts, and the difference is insane.

Hawk Hunter's F-16 in Wingman is faster and more agile than even the lightest and snappiest real F-16 after he modifies it to carry 6 Vulcan guns and something like 2 dozen Sidewinders. Mack just handwaves it as upgrades to the engines and airframe and leaves it at that, which brings up the question of why he hasn't done his super modifications to every plane his allies get.

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