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PJOmega
May 5, 2009


Still more grounded in reality than most of Right Wing Media.

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chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



This will be the last entry before moving on to the final book.

quote:

It had not been a good 24 hours for General Rushton.

Spooked by the near hit at the Oak House two nights before, he’d quintupled his force of Global Security bodyguards, both near his home and in his traveling entourage. But even his closest friends were indicating now that so many armed men surrounding him were becoming an embarrassment and, even worse, way too visible. Enough was enough. Even the President was taking notice, and no one wanted that.

This did little to help Rushton’s demeanor. He was paranoid anyway and growing more so by the hour, afraid that he had bitten off more than he could ever chew. Grand plans, counterplans, deceptions, deceit-it was all becoming too much for him. In a strange way, he longed for the “old days” just a few months before, when he was simply the military whip on the NSC, cleaning up messes and barging into the President’s office anytime he wanted.

Maybe it was all those trips to the Oval Office that had got to him. Maybe that whiff, so close to power, was what did it. But whatever the cause, he was in very deep now. Too deep to get out. Too deep to turn back. Too deep to do anything but complete the plan. It was now almost 5:00 P.M. He’d been holed up in his secret office near the top floor of the EOB ever since the assassination attempt He’d gone to the Oak House club that night to sign up more allies in his plan, a necessary trip, he had believed. But as it turned out, most of the members he’d wanted to speak to were not on hand, scared away that night by all the security Rushton was towing around with him.

Rushton's desk phone rings, making him jump. It's his secretary, letting him know that he has a woman visiting him. She's from the DSA and holding a badge that indicates the highest level of security clearance.

Mary Li Cho walks in a few seconds later, after being frisked twice. She lets Rushton know that she has information on the men trying to kill him, and she opens up the Fast Ball and Slow Curve files on her laptop. She then provides extremely detailed information on every step the ghosts took from start to finish, even giving their names. Apparently she was a double-agent, pretending to be with them to gather information.

As Rushton tries to leave with her, she stops him and opens another file. It shows the paper trail regarding the Iranian Transall cargo plane that the Superhawks hijacked from Guantanamo, and the list of shell companies ends at Global Security Inc., Rushton's private security detail. With Li telling him that Global Security may be involved in the plot to break the ghosts out of Guantanamo and everything else, he agrees to go with her alone to a safe place.

They rush out the side door alone to Li's car on Pennsylvania Avenue, Rushton bringing his computer along.

quote:

As soon as he walked out into the waning light, Rushton became distraught. He felt very exposed after so long being surrounded by bodyguards. People on the street who recognized him stopped and pointed at him. He tried to turn around and go back, but Li calmed him down, assuring him this was the right thing to do, that he was finally in good hands. At last, they reached her car. She let him in, locking the door behind him, then went around to the driver’s side and got in herself. She turned the key and the Toyota’s engine roared to life.

“Where to now?” he asked her, nearly in tears. Li just looked at him and smiled.

“Do you like haunted houses, General?”

Rushton didn’t know what to say. That’s when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around to see a fist coming right at him.

“Hi, General,” Ozzi said, delivering a crushing blow to Rushton’s nose. “Remember me?”

Rushton wakes up in Li's house upstairs, his hands and legs tied with bed sheets. On the walls around him are printouts of the picture of the coffee-stained napkin. Ozzi and Hunn are sitting nearby, and he recognizes both of them from Guantanamo. He's been had.

As Hunn shoves his boot in Rushton's stomach and lets him know that they're not getting out alive, Li quickly gets into Rushton's laptop. She finds a copy of the file from Palm Tree's PDA that they couldn't get past the security for, labeled "May 1-7".

quote:

Sure, Rushton had been in cahoots with the terrorists, as well as the French intelligence services. He was the one who’d arranged for the Stinger missiles to get into the hands of Al Qaeda; he was the one who’d cleared the way, with an assist from the DGSE, for them to be spirited into the United States via the port of LA without a security search. He’d made sure no one was looking for the Greyhound buses by scaring the hell out of the entire country with false reports about WMD bombs soon to explode somewhere in the United States. He was the one who denied that terrorists were roaming around the country, taking shots at airliners, and that a rogue team of special ops people was chasing after them, trying to prevent disaster.

He did all these things—but it wasn’t for money or revenge or some other crazy reason.

He did them as a diversion. For a coup d’état …

An overthrow of the American government. Once again, it was the oldest trick in the book. Get everyone looking in one direction, while you plan something in the other. Cause havoc inside the Beltway and out, then gather together the real power brokers in Washington and basically say to them: See what is happening? The people who attended his secret lunches, the people who smoked fat cigars at the Oak House. Convince them that America had changed way too much since 9/11—or that it hadn’t changed enough. Whisper that typical politicians were too weak to deal with a changing world. Portray the President as a misguided intellectual boob. Stir the pot with a few select military commanders who had the same ideas and have them call their troops into the streets for a week, just enough until people in D.C. got used to seeing them—then strike! Tie up every key intersection in the district. Surround the White House and the Capitol with troops. Knock the networks off the air. Then seize power … and change the world.

Would it have worked? No way. Rushton’s plan read like a bad movie script. But would America be weakened just by the attempt? In the minds of the people? Of the world? Of the financial markets? Absolutely.…

“The May 1-7 Plan … Seven Days in May,” Ozzi said now after reading it through, putting the pieces together, connecting the dots. A famous novel about a near coup back in the 1960s. That’s why the file was labeled as it was.

Hunn loads up his M15 to pop Rushton, but Ozzi stops him. Killing Rushton here will do nothing to vindicate them, leaving him a martyr.

quote:

Rushton spit back at them. “Look at this,” he said. “A Chink, a commie, and a moron, trying to put the world back together again. It’s exactly people like you who are ruining this country. Can you honestly say you think the person in the White House is capable of dealing with things today? Or those idiots in Congress? We’re on the same side here, in a way. Power speaks. Power gets respect.…”

They let him talk, but they weren’t really listening to him. They were huddled in the corner, trying to think of a way to prevent Rushton from becoming a martyr and thus encouraging others like him.

In the end it was Ozzi who came up with the perfect solution. No, they wouldn’t pop Rushton here. They would do it someplace that would at least lead people to suspect that the facade he’d put forward—true-blue, family values type of guy—was not the real Rushton at all. And once that happened, maybe other people with more juice than they had would start looking into the whole thing. And maybe it would get exposed that way. Ozzi told the others his idea, and they agreed it was worth a shot. But they would have to work fast.

At 2:00 AM the next day, the Baltimore police get a call for an "undisclosed" disturbance at a brothel on the south side of town, the same one where they got called last week over a Filipino John Doe found shot in the face.

Inside the same room is the body of an overweight older man, his face swollen and leaking pus until he's just barely unrecognizable to the officers. His corpse is naked on the filthy bed in the corner, a needle in his arm and his hand still on the plunger. He doesn't look like a junkie, with clear skin and manicured nails. Nobody at the cathouse remembers where he came from or how he got in the room.

quote:

The cops were also hip enough to know that this was probably a setup, that whoever arranged the scenario had done it to disgrace the victim—a simple homicide not being good enough for him. The cause of death would eventually be determined as air being injected into a major artery, causing a bubble to race and then burst in the victim’s heart. Painful and not as quick as it might sound.

With the dark humor of the police in a tough part of town, they’d almost appreciated the joke. Someone who wasn’t really a junkie dying a junkie’s death.

But there was one last puzzling piece. Something that didn’t quite fit in, at least not yet. Shortly before the body was discovered in the whorehouse, a butcher shop nearby had reported a break-in with some of its goods stolen. That might have solved the how but not the why, for the guy was found dead with an animal in the bed with him.

A tiny pig.

One week later in Las Vegas, the trial is about to begin for the ghosts who crewed the now destroyed firefighting plane. They were treated like celebrities in the Nellis holding cell and given accommodations more like a hotel than a jail cell. Unfortunately they're still guilty of federal crimes, and they can only be held by Nellis and the city of Las Vegas for so long.

On their 7th day at Nellis, the ghosts (wearing unmarked flight suits) are bundled into an admin car as the soldiers profusely thank them and apologize for the trouble they're going through. While the attempt to avoid the media at Nellis succeeds, there's another army of reporters at the courthouse bombarding the ghosts with questions about movie deals and endorsements.

Finally, Ryder agrees to a short speech on camera.

quote:

“We did what we did for all the people who died on 9/11,” he began. “We did what we did for the families of those who lost loved ones that day. But we’re not heroes—not in the way you people in the media might want us to be. We’re just Americans, trying to do what’s right. Trying to protect our country.”

A short pause. His audience was rapt. “September Eleventh was an awful day,” he began again. “No matter what’s happened before or since, it’s true, we will never be the same—not until we find every last person who was connected with those attacks and put them in the ground where they belong. But something very special also happened on 9/11—or at least I think it did. I heard someone say this once, and so I want to pass it on to you. We know the terrorists spent several years planning the attacks of September Eleventh. We know they got it down to the last-minute detail. The time and effort they put in, the sneaking around, the deceit, all to kill three thousand of our countrymen. Three years, twenty-four hours a day, planning to commit mass murder."

“But what really happened? Yes, those three thousand people died, especially in the towers—but twenty thousand people were saved that day. Twenty thousand people who didn’t lose their lives … because of the bravery of the cops and the firemen and just ordinary people. Like you and me. “And here’s the thing: how much planning went into that? These murderers took three years to plan how to kill three thousand people—but we, we Americans, we saved twenty thousand of our countrymen, and it didn’t take any planning at all. The people there just did it. It just happened. Because that’s how we are in America."

“And that’s why we’re different from them.”

It's like an incoherent Trump speech. "Can--can you believe how little planning our stuff took? The terrorists on 9/11 spent years planning their stuff and we didn't need to do anything! We're just amazing, absolutely amazing."

The ghosts are led into the courtroom to find it packed with their allies: Finch and the Doughnut Boys, Li, Hunn, and Ozzi, the firefighters, all the minor characters who came across the ghosts' murders like Bo Tuttle and Zoomer and Hep. Li blows Ryder a kiss, but they're all nervous; any of the federal charges they could be arraigned on after this local court date could put them in prison forever.

quote:

Li was thinking the same thing. They’d been able to slip out of D.C. cleanly to get out here—and even better, no one seemed to know who they were. But she knew that it could very well be her name on the docket next, along with Hunn and Ozzi. Murder? Conspiracy? Numerous violations of the National Secrets Act? They would have been better off leaving the country. But there was no way they were just going to let their comrades hang. Still, their future was uncertain, too.

Finally the court officer came out and asked everyone to rise. A side door opened and the judge walked in. And this was where Li got the biggest surprise of her life. She recognized him. This day judge from Las Vegas, a place she’d never been before—she took one look at his face and realized that he looked very familiar.

He was a small man, about sixty-three or so. An unimpressive face, with a red nose and huge ears. He seemed almost unsure of himself, his judge’s robes appearing to be too big for him by a factor of two. But that face—it was unforgettable. He was the little man who’d walked out onto the court of the Wizards basketball game that night so long ago to help the two kids revive their singing of “America the Beautiful.” The man who had brought the entire arena to the brink of tears. But what was he doing here? The little man took his seat up on the bench and fiddled with his glasses.

Meanwhile the court officer called the proceedings to order by saying that the regular day judge, the Honorable J. C. Hood, was on vacation this week and that a substitute jurist would be handling the cases today.

This substitute judge was the Honorable Bobby Murphy.

THIS IS THE loving STUPIDEST BOOK

I haven't read the fourth, and I'm going into it blind. At the rate this series has gone, the finale will literally involve bombing Mecca as Hunn rapes Muslim children in front of their parents. Here's the preview of the fourth book, to give you a taste of where we're going to be visiting:

quote:

Stocked with new helicopters and weapons, master spy Bobby Murphy’s floating air base, Ocean Voyager, sails for one final journey. But in West Africa, a supersquad from America’s premier special ops unit, Delta Force, comes under attack. Though they take out over fifty terrorists, the secret Delta Thunder team is captured. It’s up to the Superhawks to invade the terrorist fortress, save the Delta Thunder guys, and flatline the “crown prince” of terrorism before he can execute the Delta team on live television.

Psion
Dec 13, 2002






I knew what Cyrano was getting into with Ghost, and even Pitch emerged from Unintended Consequences relatively unharmed (the anime thing predated it ) but ...this poo poo

is beyond bad

muscles like this!
Jan 17, 2005



gently caress you, book.

PJOmega
May 5, 2009


quote:

But what really happened? Yes, those three thousand people died, especially in the towers—but twenty thousand people were saved that day. Twenty thousand people who didn’t lose their lives … because of the bravery of the cops and the firemen and just ordinary people. Like you and me. “And here’s the thing: how much planning went into that? These murderers took three years to plan how to kill three thousand people—but we, we Americans, we saved twenty thousand of our countrymen, and it didn’t take any planning at all. The people there just did it. It just happened. Because that’s how we are in America." 

“And that’s why we’re different from them.”

That is simultaneously the dumbest thing I've read in the past week and the deepest insight into the conservative mindset regarding public works ever. "We don't see the tens of thousands of man hours that go into drilling and practicing and planning and educating so it must be really simple and easy and spur of the moment."

Actually, it might be the most believable part of the whole thing. Spec Ops guys aren't exactly the most well spoken guys, or the deepest thinkers. I'm not denigrating their real life counterparts, as they're very good at a specific set of tasks. But they're not selected for their oratory abilities.

And lol at sneaking their ringer judge in to what would be the most publicized trial of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The whole thing is frothy freep wet dream at this point.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



PJOmega posted:

And lol at sneaking their ringer judge in to what would be the most publicized trial of the 20th and 21st centuries.


No no it's okay, Bobby Murphy is the smartest and most talented secret agent ever! Even the judges in Las Vegas are close personal friends of his and buy perfectly into his way of viewing the world and the president himself gave him a blank check and $1 billion to do anything he wanted to save Freedom, so he can just do whatever he wants.

I have some blog posts from Mack Maloney talking about Superhawks, by the way.

quote:

Strike Force Alpha: Back in 1972, Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and killed a number of Israeli athletes competing in the Summer Olympics in Munich. The German authorities allowed many of the terrorists to escape — there were about two dozen in all. Shortly afterwards, the Israeli government put together a secret unit whose sole aim was to hunt down and kill every terrorist connected with the Munich Massacre. It took them more than 15 years, but this special unit got every one of the murderers, shooting each one between the eyes after first announcing who they were and why they were whacking them. This sent a message to the Palestinian terrorists: if you screw with us, we’re going to get you, no matter how long it takes.

This was the inspiration for the Superhawks books. Like many other people in this country, I believe that the full resources of the US military should have been aimed at finding and killing Osama bin Laden and his gang. I still can’t figure out why this hasn’t happened — can you? I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve received since the books have come out asking the same question, and wishing that the Superhawks were a real unit and that this country was doing what the Israelis did.

Book One tells of the formation of the Superhawks unit and how they become so ardent in hunting down the perpetrators of 9/11, they turn into terrorists themselves. The basis for the ship they use comes from an idea the British military had back in the 1970s for turning container ships into aircraft carriers for their Harrier jumpjets. Many of the NSA spy devices mentioned in the book actually exist, plus the terrorist plot which takes up the second half of the story was based on an actual Al Qaeda plan that was eventually uncovered in the Philippines.

This book also gave me the opportunity to revive Colonel Ryder Long, the character from two books I wrote back in the late 1980s “Thunder Alley” and” War Heaven.” Back then he was chasing Vietnamese warlords and UFOs. Now he’s after OBL and anyone else who would harm this country. Many people have written me saying they are glad that he’s back.

quote:

Strike Force Bravo: I was more surprised than anyone that after the heaviness of the first Superhawks book, Book #2 — Strike Force Bravo — turned out to be almost a comedy. Or, more a comedy of errors. The Superhawks re-emerge from hiding to save a Singapore skyscraper full of innocent Americans from being blown up by Al Qaeda. They do this live, on world wide TV, which puts them in the headlines. Pentagon types who abhor the idea of a rogue special forces team operating without any control send a crack SEAL team after them. Meanwhile, a top-secret B-2 bomber is shot down over the Phillipines. Needing to find the bomber quick, the Pentagon types make a deal with the Superhawks: help us find the B-2 and we’ll go easy on you. And all that’s in the first 30 pages!

What follows is the Superhawks finding the B-2, tracking down a load of missing Stinger missiles, busting up an Al Qaeda operation in Manila, then getting screwed by one of America’s “allies,” who is trying to help terrorists sneak the Stingers into the United States.

The comedy comes in when the head Al Qaeda mook is whacked by our heroes — leaving only his doltish, mentally-challenged eunich to try to get the missiles out of Manila and into the US. Of course, this guy has no idea what he’s doing, but it happens anyway. The book ends in a cliff hanger which leads into Book 3.

The plot came about at least in part from experiences I’d had when I worked for Corporate America many moons ago. I’d seen examples of people in my office who’d worked their asses off getting completely screwed when it came time for promotions, while at the same time, very important projects and promotions were being handed to complete idiots. Why do things like that happen? Is it God’s way of laughing at us? I don’t know — but that’s the underlying theme of this book.

quote:

Strike Force Charlie : This is a haunting book – literally. Because the team is known as “The Ghosts,” I thought it might be cool to show them acting like real ghosts, or as far as Hollywood portrays “ghosts.” The old “things-that-go-bump-in-the-night” thing.

This is also a story about traitors and power-hungry assholes at the center of our government, not unlike our current problem in Washington DC. The main idea is this paradox that, many times, when faced with people who have no consciences and are egomaniacs, it is those with integrity and valor that are hunted down and punished. Why don’t people just do the right thing? How can the powers-that-be sleep at night when they know they have sent American troops to their deaths needlessly? If Iraq grew bananas instead of exporting oil, we wouldn’t be anywhere near the place.

So, it’s left up to the Superhawks to do the right thing – and of course, they wind up in jail for their efforts.

Luckily, they know the judge.

quote:

Strike Force Delta : This is a bittersweet book, for several reasons, not the least of which is that I knew while I was writing it, that it would be the last of the series. Don’t ask me why. The series sold great, is still selling, now a few years later, and I still receive royalty checks from the sales of the books and dozens of Superhawks fan letters every month. So why cancel it? Again, I really have no idea.

This book is also about revenge and how it can be a two-edged sword. There’s no need to get into details about the plot: it has the usual twists and turns, and for anyone who hates the Al Qaeda mooks as much as I do, then it’s a fantasy come true.

The publisher let me tack on a last-second ending – my way of leaving the door open that the Ghosts will return at some point. And that might still happen. Watch this space for details.

One really bad mistake happens at the end, though. A publishing error; a sentence about the AC-130 gunship that should have been deleted wasn’t, and it confuses everyone who reads it. Not a great way to end the series.

I think after Superhawks ends, I'll properly finish the series with the other Ryder Long books.

chitoryu12 fucked around with this message at 22:49 on May 18, 2017

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


quote:

Pentagon types who abhor the idea of a rogue special forces team operating without any control

Sounds like just the kind of guys we would want in Pentagon, TBH.

quote:

Strike Force Alpha: Back in 1972, Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and killed a number of Israeli athletes competing in the Summer Olympics in Munich. The German authorities allowed many of the terrorists to escape — there were about two dozen in all. Shortly afterwards, the Israeli government put together a secret unit whose sole aim was to hunt down and kill every terrorist connected with the Munich Massacre. It took them more than 15 years, but this special unit got every one of the murderers, shooting each one between the eyes after first announcing who they were and why they were whacking them. This sent a message to the Palestinian terrorists: if you screw with us, we’re going to get you, no matter how long it takes.

And the Israelis never had to fight Palestinians or terrorists ever again. The End!

quote:

This was the inspiration for the Superhawks books. Like many other people in this country, I believe that the full resources of the US military should have been aimed at finding and killing Osama bin Laden and his gang. I still can’t figure out why this hasn’t happened — can you? I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve received since the books have come out asking the same question, and wishing that the Superhawks were a real unit and that this country was doing what the Israelis did.

Man, if only the US military had done something to find Osama. Could they have, dunno, invaded a country at the very least?

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



JcDent posted:

And the Israelis never had to fight Palestinians or terrorists ever again. The End!

I covered this in the first book when it discussed the operation to hunt down the terrorists; much like the Superhawks, the Israelis killed a good number of innocent people (including police officers and a random old lady who wandered in to see what all the commotion was).

JcDent posted:

Man, if only the US military had done something to find Osama. Could they have, dunno, invaded a country at the very least?

What gets me is Mack's supremely personal idea of how terrorism is stopped. I get his desire for personal justice where we torture and execute the masterminds to show how angry we are, but it also feels like he treats reality like a Buck Rogers serial: there's a single charismatic, evil leader at the core of everything. After fighting your way past his most dangerous minions, you kill him and all terror is stopped forever because everything just falls apart without him and you scare the other terrorists away.

There's absolutely no sense of why terrorist attacks occur or how difficult it is to stamp out an insurgency. He looks at how many identical terrorist groups form whenever one is destroyed or disintegrates and decides "We must not be killing hard enough!" He looks at their motivations, from hatred of the constant American bombing campaigns that kill civilians to interference in world governments to economic problems that they feel are caused by capitalist countries, and decides "They're just evil and hate freedom!"

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014





We're rapidly closing on the end of Superhawks, but I'll continue with the few Ryder Long books that Mack wrote outside of the series before concluding our adventure. They're similar in crazy levels to Wingman, only set in the "real world" instead of an alternate history.

This is the only book in the series to be written in 2005. By this point we're 4 years divorced from 9/11 and Iraq has just elected its transitional government. I'm going to make this a long one, as I'm going on vacation for 2 weeks at the end of this week so there's no guarantee I'll get more out before leaving.

quote:

There was enough plutonium in the suitcase to blow up half of West Africa.

The suitcase was locked in the trunk of the old battered Land Rover, wrapped in lead blankets and duct-taped over and over, more than a hundred times. At the moment, it was leaking only a small amount of radiation. Six men were riding in the Land Rover. They were all carrying AK-47 assault rifles and machetes. They were members of the Angolan Popular Front, hardened veterans of insurgency and jungle warfare fought over the past few decades against a variety of enemies, including the armed forces of South Africa.

There was another Land Rover driving in front of this one. It was painted white with huge red crosses on its hood and doors—but this vehicle had nothing to do with the International Red Cross. It, too, was filled with armed men. They were mercenaries, many of them ex-members of the British SAS.

The third vehicle in this strange parade was a doubly armored Humvee. Eight men were jammed inside this tanklike truck. They were members of Delta Force, America’s premier Special Forces team. They were the most heavily armed group of the three.

It was midnight. It was raining hard. The three vehicles were speeding along a muddy winding mountain road very close to the border of Nigeria and Cameroon. The three disparate groups were not compadres—far from it. They were three parts of an exchange team. The plutonium, partially enriched and near weapons grade, was being swapped for 16 pounds of uncut diamonds worth $70 million. Russian-made and in the possession of the Angolans via a very circuitous route, the nuclear material would be disposed of at sea once the insurgents were paid. The diamonds were being provided by Central Bank of Paris; the United Nations had purchased them via a secret bank account. The British mercs had arranged the transaction; they were in for 10 percent. The muscle, needed as insurance that the deal actually got done, was being provided by Delta Force.

The plan was simple, this after months of intense negotiations. The plutonium and its caretakers would drive to a point just over the border into Nigeria where officials from the United Nations’ Non-Proliferation Group would be waiting. They had the diamonds, plus bags full of cash. The Brits would be paid their $7 million, then sent on their way. The plutonium would be surrendered to the UN group and the diamonds would be handed over. Then the Angolans, too, would be allowed to disappear.

From there the material would be taken aboard a French Army helicopter for its trip two hundred miles out to sea to be dropped to its watery grave. The UN group would then combine with the Delta escort and together they would drive to the port city of Oran, where a U.S. Navy cruiser was waiting offshore to take them aboard.

The three vehicles were right on schedule, crossing into Nigeria just a few minutes after midnight. The meeting point was at a border station next to the Okewa Bridge, a place conveniently abandoned by Nigerian troops for the evening.

The tiny convoy pulled up to find the UN group already there. Four men wearing blue windbreakers with the letters UN emblazoned on the back were waiting on the porch of a tiny cement block building. They had a strongbox containing the diamonds; they also had the $7 million in cash for the mercs. A French Army Alouette copter was parked nearby, its rotors spinning, its crew looking out on the proceedings anxiously.

After passcodes are exchanged, the mercs are handed their $7 million and rip off the Red Cross insignia before driving off. The Angolans hand over the plutonium to one of the UN representatives, a nuclear physicist, who examines it. Satisfied, they hand the Angolans the diamonds and board the helicopter.

Suddenly, a bunch of Al Qaeda fighters with "German assault rifles" show up and brutally gun down the UN folks and wreck the engines of the vehicles. There's no fanfare or ambiguity about who they are; Mack just says outright that it's Al Qaeda. The Delta Force guys are outnumbered, but hide behind their Humvee and exchange fire with their M16s and M60s. They pile bodies like cordwood in front of the disabled truck, but after the 8 men kill over 50 enemy fighters they find themselves overwhelmed and captured. Meanwhile, the French helicopter simply watches the proceedings and then slowly flies away.

One week later...

quote:

It was called the Extraterrestrial Highway.

It ran for miles into the Nevada desert, north of Las Vegas, up toward the mysterious towns of Tonopah and Rachael—mysterious because they were relatively close to Groom Lake, the top-secret U.S. military base also known as Area 51.

There was a stretch of this lonely roadway known as the Straight Snake. It ran for nearly 40 miles with barely a curve. At night, cars could be seen pulled over to the side of this road, their occupants looking up into the sky, hoping to spot a UFO or a top-secret U.S. military airplane. Sometimes they saw both. It was late afternoon now, and a very earthly activity was taking place.

Twelve men wearing sun-bright orange jumpsuits and armed with extremely sharp sticks were picking up litter along the road. They were prisoners, inmates of the Las Vegas County Jail performing community service for the state. The trash along the highway was a predictable mix of beer cans, soda bottles, condoms, and fast-food wrappers. A stretch van had carried the prisoners here; most were awaiting the outcomes of their trials or trying to raise bail. Four county deputies sat inside the air-conditioned vehicle, watching their charges in comfort, protected from the 100-plus-degree temperatures outside. The dozen prisoners went about their duty slowly, trying to stay as cool as possible in the stifling dry heat.

At some point a plain Ford four-door sedan came ambling along, smoke pouring out from under its hood. It rolled to a stop across from where the deputies’ van was parked, the only other vehicle on the straight-as-hell stretch of highway. At just about the same moment, the air around the prisoners and the deputies began to shake. It was a strange sensation. The sky was clear; visibility was 100 percent—yet it seemed like everything around them was moving. Everything except the ground below.

This was not an earthquake. It was something else.…

The sensation is a V-32CX Super Osprey, a sort of uber-VTOL Mack made up for the book. It's just a V-22 the size of a small airliner, painted all black. A "ghostly Asian woman" is standing in the side door, whom I'm sure you all know already.



Five of the prisoners throw down their litter pickers and break for the tilt rotor, the deputies struggling to keep up with them. As one of them gets on his radio, two men come out of the "disabled" sedan nearby. He can immediately recognize their demeanor and build as government agents.

quote:

One of the two men fanned out a wad of cash. Thousand-dollar bills. Twenty of them. He passed half the bills to the four deputies, while his comrade passed the rest to the prisoners, this as the strange aircraft, having taken in the five prisoners, left quickly, going straight up, turning, then disappearing at astonishing speed over the eastern horizon.

“Government business,” one of the men said to the deputies calmly. “No one here saw a thing.”

Between the giant Osprey, thousand dollar bills, and Li's all-plastic magnum from the previous book, this series is getting further into sci-fi with every passing moment.

The Super Osprey flies under radio silence until nightfall, being refueled twice by KC-10s. It finally lands at Cape Lonely, the windswept and sea-sprayed cliff airbase helmed by Eddie Finch. He's a bit annoyed at the VTOL, having spent all night pulling weeds for the landing.

The ghosts pile out of the weird plane and put the old man in a group hug. Unfortunately, they don't have long to stay. The thick fog parts below their position on the cliffside to reveal the rusty Ocean Voyager 500 feet below. And then one of the titular Superhawks reappears out of the mist.

quote:

It was about one-third bigger than the typical Blackhawk, though, and it was very wide. It could carry nearly a dozen more people than a standard UH-60 and many more weapons, too. This one was festooned with heavy machine guns, Gatling guns, grenade launchers, missile launchers, the works. In many ways, it was a flying tank.

Add in its sound-dampened engines, its suites of high-tech navigation and communications gear, its night-flying capabilities, and the fact that, again, it was covered in the technology of Stealth, no surprise its nickname was the Superhawk.

“It’s only because that thing,” the old man was telling them, pointing back to the futuristic transport, “is too big to land on the ship that they had to send this up for you. But I understand you’ll appreciate the ride itself. For sentimental reasons.”

“Amen to that,” one of the five men replied.

As they try to board their chopper, the door opens and a man is led out by the pilots. It's Martinez, their former commander who suffered a completely unexplained and random psychotic break in the second book and went mute. They carefully lead the weak and sunken Martinez over to Finch, who will be taking care of him for now. Finch returns the favor by handing them a bag of doughnuts, their little inside joke.

Finally, Mary Li Cho steps out of the VTOL dressed in all white. All 6 board the helicopter, which falls down the cliff onto the container ship and is brought down below on the aircraft elevator.

Chapter 3 opens with a rehashed description of the Ocean Voyager without any new information. They're holding a reunion in the Captain's Room, the ghosts numbering over 100 now. Beer and liquor is flowing, and Bobby Murphy is sitting at the head of the table. They're free for the time being thanks to Bobby Murphy's influence, but they still have a job to do.

quote:

“Our ‘new friends’ at the Pentagon have a problem,” Murphy said soberly. “And they would like us to get them off the hook.”

A murmur of discontent went through the room. No one liked the sound of this. The idea of helping the people who were trying to chase the team down just a few weeks ago did not sit well with them. Murphy sensed this tremor right away. He held up his hand and quieted the grumbling.

“I know exactly how you feel,” he said. “But I think we have to help them out, for one simple reason: Because we are still Americans, and some of our brothers are in trouble. Big trouble.”

Murphy hit a button and one wall of the room disappeared, to be replaced by a huge projection screen. It was showing a close-in satellite photo of a clearing in a very dense jungle, a bridge nearby, and a small cement building. Two vehicles were aflame; smoke was obscuring one-third of the image. There were shot-up bodies lying everywhere.

“This picture was taken about a week ago,” Murphy began. “That river is in West Africa; it separates Nigeria and Cameroon. This was the scene of an exchange of enriched plutonium for money involving some British mercs, the UN, and the French military.”

Another groan went through the room. The unit had no love for the French; in fact, they had very strong evidence that the French Secret Services were helping Al Qaeda in their quest against American interests. The bastards.…

“It’s a long story,” Murphy went on, “but the exchange was being chaperoned by a unit from Delta Force. A special team called Delta Thunder.”

Murphy looked around the room and saw a few confused faces. More than a few of those present were past members of Delta Force, America’s premier special ops unit. “Never heard of ‘Delta Thunder?’” he asked them. “No surprise. It’s a very secret unit within Delta. It’s so classified that even the rest of Delta doesn’t know about it.”

A few people just shook their heads and sipped their beers at this. Black on black, secret upon secret—just how deep did America’s deep operations go? Did anyone really know?

“Because no one knows about these guys is the very reason that we’ve been asked to help them out,” Murphy explained. “They were kidnapped, after this gunfight, by a local Al Qaeda cell. These mooks are undoubtedly torturing them—and we know they have plans for their demise. But because very few people know about these Thunder guys, there’s really no one deep enough to go in after them without blowing their cover.”

He waited a beat, then said: “And that’s why we’re the perfect people to rescue them. Because very few people know about us, either.”

Another point I can't get over: Mack thinks the French are evil now.

The image changes to Loki Soto, a ramshackle port city on the border of Guinea and Sierra Leone. It's home to Casa Diablo, an old Portuguese colonial prison resembling a medieval castle.

quote:

Casa Diablo was about the size of a city block, and there were only two means of access: a huge front door and a smaller one out back. The back door was called Door of Death, because prisoners who were murdered inside the prison were just dumped out back to be disposed of by local animals. The front door came complete with a large wooden gate, a drawbridge, and a moat. Whenever either door was opened, it was heavily guarded.

Al Qaeda has been in control of the prison for the past 2 years, the anchor of their "Arabs in Africa" movement that involves human trafficking and weapons and drug dealing. Because to Mack, nothing is worse than Arabs in Africa.

The satellite image of Casa Diablo shows a huge satellite dish on the roof; Al Qaeda is not only holding Delta Thunder here, but plans to murder them on live TV with the "upstart new network" Al-Qazzaza TV. They're funded by Al-Jabazz Saud Ben-Wabi, "The Diamond Prince" and a cousin of Prince Ali Muhammad al-Saud who got crashed into his own skyscraper in the first book. I want to point out that Bobby Murphy says outright that he wanted the US to blow up the Saudi Royal Family instead of invading Afghanistan and Iraq, because Mack has absolutely no sense of world politics and thinks that's just something you do.

The Diamond Prince has investments in the diamond mines in the area and Bobby Murphy somehow knows that he's funding the occupation of Loki Soto. Along with using the villagers as hostages, the fortress is packed with explosives so a direct assault is liable to blow up the whole town.

When the meeting wraps up, Ryder heads down into the below-decks hangar. His Harrier is still sitting there, having been repaired into a barely flyable state after Hormuz; there are so many patches and weld marks that it almost looks like it's got a coating of urban gray camo paint. As Ryder checks out his plane, Mary Li Cho walks into the hangar; much like the Dominique of Wingman, she's so ethereally beautiful that her presence brings the whole shebang to a halt as she comes inside. Maybe they're just horned up from so many weeks at sea, especially since she's wearing a full woodland camo uniform right down to the cap.

quote:

Ryder was out of the cockpit quicker than if he’d hit the ejection seat. He landed on the deck, feetfirst, right in front of her.

“Colonel? Am I disturbing you?” she asked with a nervous smile. He tried to stay cool.

“Not at all.…”

She was carrying a large plastic bag. “You didn’t get your new uniform yet, did you?”

Ryder was still in his prison garb. “Not unless orange is the new color this year.”

She handed the bag to him. “Mr. Murphy asked if I could bring this down to you. He thought it was a good way for me to start finding my way around the ship.”

It's yet another black flight suit covered in pockets, with their 9/11 patch on the shoulder. Ryder asks, but Li hasn't been given one for herself.

quote:

Suddenly she was out of things to say—and so was he. But he didn’t want her to leave. “What do you think of my ride?” he asked in some desperation.

She turned to the Harrier. “Is this the McDonnell Douglas version?” she asked. “Or is it the Brit-built?”

Ryder felt a zing go through him. A girl who knew the difference between a GR-8 and an AV-8? Now, that was sexy.…

I'm gonna puke.

Ryder takes the excuse to give her a tour of the ship, with Li asking dozens of questions about this and that. They stop in the mess for some coffee just past 1:00 AM, then head for the bow of the ship. Those infamous F-14 engines are pushing the ship at a fast clip through the water under a clear night sky and full moon. As they drink their coffee outside, Ryder reveals to her the mystery of Martinez and how he got PTSD over everyone else who suffered far more brutal treatment. He also tells her a little bit about the bizarre Area 51 poo poo he did, which we won't see until the last few books of this thread.

They start getting closer and Li goes to ask him a question, when suddenly a klaxon sounds.

quote:

Captain Bingo’s deep voice came over the intercom. “Condition Blue. All hands to battle stations. Unidentified aircraft incoming.…”

Ryder and Li were stunned. “Battle stations?” she gasped. “Where the heck is my battle station?”

The ghosts scramble to the deck with their M16s and M60s and the CIWS units pop out of their red containers on the sides but stop when they get the IFF reading: it's running a Vatican City Papal Air Service transponder code.

Sadly, the Pope isn't coming to visit Bobby Murphy like the ghosts initially think (and I'm disappointed we didn't get what would have inevitably been a horribly hamfisted scene). It's actually a black CIA helicopter with two plainclothes men inside, whom Bobby welcomes into his chambers.

quote:

Murphy fought to stay cordial. It was hard to do.

He led the two men into the Captain’s Room and invited them to sit at the big table. One agent was older, midfifties, red faced, with coal-black eyes, a real veteran of the Agency. The other was midtwenties, moussed hair, wide-rim glasses. An egghead. Murphy offered them coffee, beer, or a drink of something stronger. They declined. Taking a beer himself, Murphy settled into a chair across from them.

The big room suddenly seemed empty with just the three of them in it. The two had a matter of importance to discuss with Murphy, they said. As a preamble, they tossed out various code words and names of high-placed CIA officials to convince Murphy they were who they said they were. There was no doubt, either, that they were well aware of the Ghost Team and what they had done in the past year. The two men were able to recite details of some of the team’s more famous exploits, spitting out information that only someone deep on the inside would know.

Still there was tension in the room. Murphy despised the CIA. Didn’t trust them, didn’t respect them. Because of their ineffectiveness and bumbling in the days leading up to the attacks of 9/11, Murphy blamed them almost as much as he blamed Al Qaeda for what happened.

Surprisingly, the CIA guys are here to help the ghosts instead of trying to arrest or murder them again. They just want one member of their crew to join them for their plan to take out the Diamond Prince for good: Mary Li Cho. Murphy tries to refuse, but they threaten to yank their freedom and arrest all of them if they won't acquiesce.

Upon hearing this, Ryder furiously rushes out to the helipad where Li is being led onto the helicopter. He tries to stop her even as Murphy tells him it's no use, but she wants to go. She still believes in doing her duty for her country, even if it does mean working with the CIA. And she feels that she has to do something like this to earn her own 9/11 patch.

quote:

She reached over and touched the side of his face for a moment. Her hand was cold and trembling. Then she climbed aboard the copter and it took off, just like that.

The last Ryder saw of her, she was looking out the side window, waving good-bye.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


Why are the French evil? Because they opposed the invasion of Iraq or something, which makes them terrorists.

And look, I am no saint. I would like to put ERA and active protection systems on a T-55 or to have all the Hinds ever upgraded to Mk V Superhinds. But Mack just transforms existing vehicles to monstrosities that might as well be a clean sheet design with a new name. But I guess having the name of an existing vehicle slapped on something that barely resembles it makes it ~~~authentic~~~. Why do they even need the SUPER OSPREY if a regular one could have easily made the same pick up?

Yond Cassius
May 22, 2010

horny is prohibited

JcDent posted:

Why do they even need the SUPER OSPREY if a regular one could have easily made the same pick up?

It's a title callout. Superhawks gotta ride in a super hawk, right?

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



JcDent posted:

Why are the French evil? Because they opposed the invasion of Iraq or something, which makes them terrorists.

I was re-reading my original Let's Read thread with the knowledge I have now, and I noticed that during the opening cruise ship save (where they pick up the terrorists' bomb boat so they can drop it on their hideout in the mountains later) there's a sly mention of how a plane full of French tourists mysteriously never showed up to board the ship. It reminds me of the "Jews were told to avoid the World Trade Center on 9/11!" conspiracy theories.

Also I still can't figure out when or how Martinez becomes a PTSD mute. He's prominent in the opening parts of the second book and seems just fine.

Monocled Falcon
Oct 30, 2011


Read the whole thing.

The dumbest thing for me was still the Superhawks and the rest of the US special forces community being outplayed by corrupt third world cops.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



That which is already dead may never die.

I have returned from my vacation, and I feel it necessary to christen it with a continuation of this horrible thing.

quote:

The prison ran on gasoline. Two generators, powered by a pair of old Ford truck engines, provided electricity for the old fort. These engines ran 24 hours a day and were notoriously inefficient. Spark plugs were always fouling, gaskets blowing, oil leaking. Two prison guards were assigned around-the-clock just to keep them going. The surrounding city of Loki Soto had no infrastructure, no power grid. Without the engines turning, there would be no electricity to light the lights, warm the ovens, or run the torture devices.

The Ford engines were incredible gas-guzzlers. They had to have their fuel tanks refilled every two days. This meant four hundred gallons of gasoline had to be delivered to the prison, by tank truck, every 48 hours. This was a downside for the terrorist named Shaheen Faheeb.

He was the commandant of the prison, a close associate of the Diamond Prince, and an experienced jihadist. Osama bin Laden himself had approved Faheeb for the prison job. Born poor in Saudi Arabia and just 30 years old, Faheeb was one of Al Qaeda’s top operatives in West Africa.

No surprise, he was a ruthless, sadistic individual, someone who had directed suicide bombings in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and post-Saddam Iraq and had gleefully blown up women and children on his own, all in the name of Allah, of course. Faheeb was also an expert at security, with an eye to perception. He knew that this prison ran as much on its reputation for being impregnable as it did on its 12-foot-thick walls. Impossible to break into. Impossible to break out of. Impossible to bomb. It was his job to maintain that reputation.

Trouble was, Faheeb hated the smell of gasoline. He’d grown up near the great refining fields in northeast Saudi Arabia, and when he was a child his nose was always filled with the stink of gas. That was one reason he liked it here in Africa. All he could smell here was the jungle and the fish and the sea. Except every other day when the fuel truck rumbled up to the prison’s front gate and he had to supervise its scheduled delivery of a couple hundred gallons of gas.

And today was a delivery day.

Faheeb (and most of the rest of the crew) is hungover from a lot of "elephant wine" the night before; Googling the term brings up a liquor retailer based out of New Jersey, so God only knows what Mack is referring to here. He heads downstairs to his hookah full of hash and tobacco, praying in the general direction of Mecca as he goes.

quote:

He found his way to the bottom level of the five-story prison, soon arriving at his master sergeant’s post. The man jumped to his feet and greeted Faheeb with a deep bow. Faheeb replied with a hard slap to the man’s face. This was his way of asking the sergeant a question: How are our guests? The Delta soldiers? Are they still alive?

The sergeant covered his head and began yipping. “Yes! Yes!” They had survived the night, despite the repeated torture sessions.

“And everything is on videotape?” Faheeb bellowed. “Recorded in color,” the sergeant replied in Arabic.

Faheeb slapped him again, but this time less hard, almost affectionately. “Good dog,” Faheeb told him. “You get to eat and sleep and breathe, for at least one more day.”

Really? Really, Mack?

Delivery day (every other day) is the only time outsiders ever get access to the fortress; the walls are only 20 feet from the edge of town, and the guards are known to be alcoholics with itchy trigger fingers so most people clear out of the nearby streets when the truck arrives. The same two drivers are never used twice, to keep anyone from getting too good a look inside, and Faheeb makes sure everyone is on high alert because the ridiculous amount of TNT wired to the fortress means that one spark too close to the gasoline tanker can send the whole place sky high before any fire suppression system could work.

Faheeb greets his officer of the guard with a very gentle slap, and he reports that the team is ready and waiting. The fuel truck will be covered by AKs from all directions and two Chinese heavy machine guns. The drawbridge slowly lowers to reveal the old 4-wheel tanker idling outside the gate, letting Faheeb check out the situation before they wave the truck in. He first lets in the food delivery children with baskets of bread and raw lamb, then points at the truck in a "sinister manner" to let the driver know to enter.

quote:

The man hit the accelerator a bit too hard, causing the truck to backfire and nearly giving everyone involved a heart attack. The tension became as thick as the stink in the air. The truck rumbled uncertainly across the old bridge, its driver hidden by the early-morning shadows. Faheeb watched its approach like a hawk. Was it going a little slower than usual? Was this even the right truck? He raised his weapon a notch. Was something wrong here? Or was his paranoia just getting the best of him?

Faheeb stayed frozen in the open doorway as the gas truck lurched through the main gate and finally stopped. He immediately yanked the driver from the cab. Faheeb was a big man, and the driver was a slight black teenager. Or at least that’s what he appeared to be. Faheeb began slapping the driver viciously, this as his guards closed in on the driver’s assistant in the passenger seat.

“What do you know?” Faheeb screamed at the driver. “Who sent you here to do this?”

But the driver could only cover up from the blows and shake his head. “It is my job!” he began screaming back. “Just my job!”

Faheeb finally stopped striking the man and pushed him back toward the tanker’s hose. “If it is your job, then get your lazy rear end to work!” he shouted at the man.

I can't believe it. Faheeb literally communicates through slapping people.

The two African youths inside the truck meekly drag the hose over to the fortress fuel tank and begin filling it at gunpoint. Tension fills the air as Faheeb waits to see if the truck explodes in a suicide bombing or opens up to reveal a special forces unit hidden inside, but the truck runs dry and leaves.

Satisfied, the group heads inside to have breakfast. Faking a prayer, the group digs into their freshly delivered sugar rolls....and suddenly fall over dead, thanks to the curare-based poison that resembles sugar and somehow causes them to instantly foam at the mouth and die within 1 second of taking a bite. Because that's clearly what curare does.

quote:

Captain Johnny Jackson was dreaming that Boy Scouts had rescued him when he heard the mighty crash.

He was chained, by hands and feet, in the lowest jail cell at the bottom of the notorious Diablo fortress. The cell was just six feet by six, big enough for him and his torturers—three if they all squeezed in. Just big enough to reel back with a whip or a piece of electrical cord or a rubber hose. That’s what his tormentors had been using on him, 12 times a day, 24 hours a day, for the past six days. The bottom of his cell was covered with his own blood.

It was the worst kind of torture. His kidnappers did not want to kill him; nor did they want to get information out of him. That would have meant the beatings and whippings had a point to them. No—they were doing it to him, these Al Qaeda people, simply because they liked it, got a rush from it, found it satisfied their ingrained long-repressed sexual urgings, twisted from eons of wandering in the desert and stepping in camel poo poo. They did it because they were all sadists deep inside—all terrorists were; he knew this much from his Delta Thunder training.

They did it simply because they could.

Also there's one unique thing about Delta Thunder that we haven't been told until now: everyone in the unit is black. And hoo boy are we about to get an explanation.

quote:

There were many special warriors fighting for the Stars and Stripes—but most of them were white. Why? Were America’s Special Forces racist? Discriminatory? At least in the case of Delta Force, the answer was no. In fact, in the past few years Higher Authority had secretly selected the most qualified black candidates for units such as Delta Thunder, one of six operating in Africa, sometimes hiding their advancement by pretending to wash them out. This had been kept so quiet, most people in Delta Force itself did not know. But the black warriors were out there, fighting just as hard for America and her ideals as their white brethren.

These black guys are just so awesome that Delta Force...pretends to wash them out so nobody knows they have an all-black special forces team. The unfortunate implications sore.

At exactly 10:15 AM, a Superhawks chopper crashes onto the roof of the fort. Literally crashes, thanks to Red Curry's piloting; in order to avoid any anti-air defenses, they intentionally sacrifice one of the brand new choppers in a crash landing rather than try and hover overhead to drop off the squad. The four commandos on board fire the mounted M60s in all directions, as cans of lubricant that Murphy attached to the sides catch fire and create a huge smokescreen around the chopper. A few seconds later, a second chopper roars overhead with guns blazing and takes out the rest of the rooftop guards. This allows two more helicopters to land with commandos for the actual rescue mission.

12 Americans head below, banking on the poison to get rid of most of the guards in their way.

quote:

There was none of the hand-holding six-guys-grouped-together-going-as-slowly-as-possible thing here. There was just no time for that. Instead, the strike guys went down the stairwell at full speed, two abreast, the first two wearing almost total body armor and carrying powerful Mossberg shotguns. The next two were armed with M-60s, and they, too, were like sci-fi monsters, so thick was their armor. Behind them everyone else was carrying their standard M16 cut stock with extra-long magazines. This was not a silent entry. Crashing the copter on top of the fort had made that impossible. This was all about surprise and confusion and speed.

Going against convention, the idea was to make as much noise as they could. It took them 10 seconds to reach their first objective: the prison kitchen. The true tale would be told here.

They burst in to find 10 dead men, heads on the table, white foam bubbling out of their mouths. An eleventh body was on the floor, twisted into a grotesque position, white foam mixing with blood from its fractured skull. One of the troopers snapped a photo of this body—making sure they could ID it as Shaheen Faheeb. Then he spit on the corpse, and the other troopers let out a grim cheer. The poison had worked, on time and as advertised. Still, the troopers sprayed the room with gunfire, making sure the dead really were dead.

Outside, the jump jet screamed by again, rocking the old fort to its foundation a second time. The strike team formed up again and continued their descent.

They ran into the first real opposition on the third floor. Two fighters somehow revived from deep below were coming up the stairs as the shock troops were coming down. The Muslim fighters got the first shots off in the winding stairwell—their bullets bounced off the first two team members, one of them ricocheting back into the neck of one of the fighters. The second mook was cut in half by twin blasts from the Mossberg shotguns.

The strike team didn’t slow up a bit. They trampled the dying bodies and just kept on going.

Somehow the gunfights get more ridiculous as the series goes on, with mooks getting shot by their own bullets ricocheting off body armor.

On the second floor, the team splits off. While half continue the descent, the other half go to the engineering room and begin opening the valves for the fire suppression system supplied by the ocean.

quote:

Meanwhile, Two Squad had reached the first level and was still going down. Five terrorists were waiting at the bottom of a stairwell one floor up from the prison’s dungeon cells. Undecided and frightened, they had no desire to advance toward the commotion above but would shoot anyone who came down the stairwell. That’s why a couple grenades came down first. They were short-fused blockbusters, and there was nowhere to turn for the mooks. The two bombs went off one-two and literally splattered the five terrorists all over the walls of the stairwell.

The shock troops came rumbling down just seconds later, again not stopping to inspect the goo, just charging on, the sound of rushing water in their ears, finally to the bottom level of the prison: the place where the jail cells were located. Here the battle began for real.

Ryder is flying his Harrier overhead, the battered plane using an egg timer to replace the broken panel clock. He makes low and fast passes after 60 seconds of waiting, bursting some eardrums and scaring the townspeople away in case the fortress explodes. Some Al Qaeda-supplied militia fires up at him with their ever-present tracer rounds and he tries to fire back, but his gun jams. The egg timer goes off again, so he ignores them and returns to the fort to drop a Paveway guided bomb in the lower-right corner of the castle.

Back in the dungeon, Jackson is fearing drowning as much as being blown up as water drips into his cell amidst the sound of gunfire and explosions. The drips quickly become a torrent, a waterfall of salt water into his cell.

quote:

Then the cell door opened, and in the next second two soldiers stumbled in. Jackson had no idea who they were. All he knew was that the water was coming down on them as well …

Then Jackson saw the patch on their shoulders. A symbol of the Twin Towers and the stars and stripes and the initials NYPD and FDNY, and the motto “We Will Never Forget.” That’s when it hit him. These were not fellow Delta soldiers. These were the infamous Ghosts—the mysterious special ops unit that had saved the world at Hormuz, and then at Singapore, and again in stopping terrorists recently from shooting down scores of airliners in the U.S. Now they were here to save him.

The two soldiers saw him, saluted, then released him from his chains by firing directly at the locks. Jackson collapsed immediately. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t stand. One of the soldiers injected him with something. Jackson felt like he was suddenly lifted off the ground. Morphine … he could feel it coursing through his veins. In an instant, he felt on top of the world.

The soldiers pick him up and carry him into two-foot deep water outside his cell, the corpses of the terrorists floating in it. Releasing the water not only killed many of the terrorists, it somehow dampened the explosives enough to keep them from being detonated. You might ask yourself "Wait, what about all the explosives at the surface that couldn't have flooded?" Mack asks you to politely go gently caress yourself, commie scum.

quote:

Just before they reached the end of the flooded hallway, the two soldiers stopped, pressed him against the wall, and covered his body with their own. A second after that, the northwest corner of the prison was blown to pieces.

Next thing he knew, Jackson was looking out onto the street that bordered the prison. Townspeople were running by, fleeing from the commotion around them. A rush of water was following them down the street, emptying into the harbor beyond. In front of him was a helicopter—big, fat, and bristling with weapons. Sitting in this copter surrounded by more soldiers in outrageous combat suits were Jackson’s men, the rest of Thunder. All of them were wounded and bloody, but they were still alive and breathing. They’d been carried out by the mystery soldiers, too.

That’s when Johnson’s rescuers picked him up again and carried him to the helicopter. More gunfire could be heard. A jet fighter roared overhead. The castle seemed to be on the verge of collapse.

Above the chaos, one soldier yelled to Jackson: “Time to go home.…”

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


why do I keep reading this

Curare sounds scary, it's like one of those super deadly cobra poisons.

Well, at least Wiki claims it to be paralytic and the victim can be saved if you are willing to do mouth to mouth until the poison wears off or something. No foaming of melting guts.

It's like Mack is spinning himself apart the longer he writes this. The whole assault is like a videogame. Crashing a helo for faster landing, sending the tanks first followed by DPS dudes... Thought the shot ricocheting off the armor and killing the guy that fired it is something to behold.

That and racism.

Mzuri
Jun 5, 2004

Who's the boss?
Dudes is lost.
Don't think coz I'm iced out,
I'm cooled off.

Thanks for touching the poop so we don't have to. I have actually reached the point where I am looking forward to the next instalments of both this clusterfuck and the WIngman thread.

It's Stockholm syndrome in literary form

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



JcDent posted:

Well, at least Wiki claims it to be paralytic and the victim can be saved if you are willing to do mouth to mouth until the poison wears off or something. No foaming of melting guts.

Curare basically just makes your muscles slowly seize up until that includes your lungs and heart. Mack seems like he took his poison description directly from movie/TV depictions of cyanide pills.

muscles like this!
Jan 17, 2005



Call me crazy but it doesn't seem like a good idea to put a poison that instantly kills on food if you're trying to get a bunch of guys.

Dick Trauma
Nov 30, 2007

God damn it, you've got to be kind.

Clapping Larry

I forgot to ask if this thread includes mental health counseling to repair our wounded psyches.

Eediot Jedi
Dec 25, 2007

This is where I begin to speculate what being a
man of my word costs me



If Mack didn't get it after 9/11 why should you?

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


Yeah, what if some rear end in a top hat started eating earlier?

drat plug'n'play muslim fanatics, only caring about very specific parts of scripture.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



JcDent posted:

Yeah, what if some rear end in a top hat started eating earlier?

drat plug'n'play muslim fanatics, only caring about very specific parts of scripture.

It feels like Mack is trying to soften the blow by pointing out how the terrorists don't really care about Islam and aren't very faithful (with the implication being that real Muslims would never do this), but he shoots himself in both feet by never once portraying a positive Muslim. Literally every named Muslim we've seen in these books so far has either been a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer. The only ones not to be portrayed as evil are background noise, the crowd of extras running from the market when a Superhawk lands to chop some dude's hands off.

PJOmega
May 5, 2009


chitoryu12 posted:

It feels like Mack is trying to soften the blow by pointing out how the terrorists don't really care about Islam and aren't very faithful (with the implication being that real Muslims would never do this), but he shoots himself in both feet by never once portraying a positive Muslim. Literally every named Muslim we've seen in these books so far has either been a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer. The only ones not to be portrayed as evil are background noise, the crowd of extras running from the market when a Superhawk lands to chop some dude's hands off.

Or the victims of the Superhawk's outright terrorist attacks.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



quote:

The casino was built in the shape of a Bedouin tent. It was a grand, futuristic facade, polished white, with red flags billowing from its top. It had two main floors. The first level, expansive and square, held a huge overly ornate casino, baccarat and roulette being the featured games. Women in short tunics, plunging necklines, and high heels flitted through the crowd dispensing Egyptian beer and cheap Russian vodka. Many other women were drifting through the casino as well. Young, well-dressed, and Eastern European mostly, they were prostitutes, plying their wares.

There were many private rooms located around the periphery of the casino floor. Originally built for private games of chance, this was where the more connected clientele went to consume drugs in private. Amphetamines and barbiturates, occasionally cocaine, and sometimes even pure opium would make an appearance here. Women, gambling, liquor, and drugs … this was not the French Riviera.

The casino was in Bahrain, a deeply Muslim country that nevertheless offered the sins of Gomorrah to the right people for the right price. The “right people” meant the members of the Saudi Royal Family, whose homeland was just a short plane ride across the Gulf. The casino was located in an isolated part of the island nation. There was a private airstrip here, and that’s how most of the Saudi princes arrived at this place. The runway had been built long enough to accommodate not only private planes but also fighter jets, such as the American-built F-15, a model flown extensively by the Royal Saudi Air Force.

Why would jet fighters ever land here? Because the royal princes who flew over here from Saudi Arabia many times requested armed fighter escorts for their short hop across the water. A matter of prestige more than security, many times these supersonic escorts would be told to wait—either in the air or with their engines running parked on the taxiway—until the escorted Prince was ready to go back home. On busy nights, toward the end of the week, there might be up to two dozen F-15s either flying around above Bahrain, making for a very crowded sky, or jammed up on the tarmac below.

Tonight was a busy night.

This is actually the same club from the first book, where the evil Saudi prince antagonist (not this one, the other one....no the other one) beat a hooker to death.

Al-Jabazz Saud Ben-Wabi, the Diamond Prince (known as "the DP" through most of the book), lands at the airstrip in his Gulfstream just after 9:00 PM with 3 bodyguards. True to his name, he's wearing so many diamonds on every part of his body that one bodyguard is on hand just to protect the diamonds. He also has two of his cousins with him, both identical twins named Gebeeb because this is just a loving adult cartoon now. He's going to leave them on the first floor, as he's one of the elite few allowed to the secretive second floor.

quote:

The second level consisted of an immense ballroom. Ninety percent of its floor was covered with fur rugs and silk pillows. The lights, hanging low from the gold-leafed ceiling, looked like lanterns from a Chinese junk. There were gently gurgling fountains and lots of ferns and vines, and ice tubs containing the best champagne, the best wines. Equal parts lavish and tasteless, it was right out of Aladdin—the cartoon version.

There are 22 girls here, and the cops have been paid off to ensure that they won't be a factor for the fun tonight. The DP also makes sure his two cousins downstairs win at the tables before sending the managers away.

quote:

He found his guest soon enough. He was Jabal Ben-Wabi, his older, uglier brother. Just slightly less rich than the DP, Jabal was a lot less glamorous and very unrefined. Due to a childhood illness, he was missing his left eye. Because he wore a covering over this empty socket, his nickname was Qacba, Arabic for “Patch.” He was as grubby and gnarled as the DP was polished and clean.

While he was in the favor of the Saudi Royal Court, Jabal was not as well liked as the DP. Jabal was worth about $1 billion, the DP ten times that. And where the DP was usually dressed in white robes or Western-style clothes, Jabal wore the attire of a peasant, robes of reds, blues, black. There were 32 brothers and sisters in their family; Jabal and the DP were actually more unalike than having much in common. The DP thought of himself as being much more cosmopolitan.

They did share one bond, though: Both were thick in the underground world of Islamic terrorism. The DP was a financier and dreamed of starting his own empire in West Africa; Jabal was frontline hard-core Al Qaeda. Just like the DP, Jabal had had a hand in the attacks of 9/11. He’d worked with bin Laden himself on the overall plan and was the middleman in arranging for passports for more than half the 19 hijackers and their handlers. Without him, many would have never been able to get into the United States in the first place.

When the United States invaded Afghanistan a month later and crushed the Taliban, Jabal escaped to Iran, as did many of the Al Qaeda bigwigs. Since then, he’d been moving back and forth over the border between Afghanistan and Iran, directing many of the terrorist operations in Pakistan and Kashmir and recruiting new members to fight in Iraq. More chilling, though, he was also known as one of bin Laden’s chief executioners.

Jabal had come here at the invitation of the DP, who had yet to hear about the attack on the prison at Loki Soto and needed some more warm bodies for his grand designs in West Africa. Jabal was in the business of providing warm bodies. The DP was hoping they could make a deal, but only after a night of entertainment.

They greeted each other warmly. They hadn’t seen each other in months. The DP bid Jabal to join him atop a particular high pile of pillows. Two bowls of yogurt and warm lamb guts were waiting for them. The Patch settled in beside his brother, and by custom they shared a date palm. Then a servant poured a glass of champagne for each of them. Their night had officially begun.

The casino here has obtained a reputation for bad luck after Prince Ali Muhammad's airplane "went off course" and crashed into the Pan Arabic Oil building after killing a girl through incredibly rough sex shortly before. The DP waves off Jabal's concerns, insisting that the death was really because of the Crazy Americans and not the murder. It's an odd way to reassure someone when they're the exact kind of people the Crazy Americans would be going after next, and Jabal is sensibly quite afraid of them. Turns out the DP just thinks they're a myth, American propaganda. Never mind that his connections should be deep enough that he'd have a massive amount of evidence that they're real (such as, you know, their widely televised attacks on terrorists in the United States from the last book).

The duo have a meal of their favorite foods: grilled cheese sandwiches, Chinese takeout, and German ice cream and cookies. They're presented with the 22 girls, a mix of the DP's well-paid harem and various sex slaves. Jabal's Viagra kicks in and he grabs what looks like three blonde triplets, but the DP only has his eyes on one woman: an Asian in a tight BDSM leather outfit, held together by what look like knitting needles.

quote:

The Diamond Prince was almost too handsome to kill.

Li hadn’t expected this. He was tall and dark, with the looks of a male model, at least in the low light of the second-floor ballroom. His dark eyes radiated a certain air of intelligence. He had an attractive smile. His physique wasn’t too shabby, either.

But she knew all about the DP by now. Her CIA handlers had made sure of that. His extensive connection to 9/11. The billions he’d made selling weapons in Africa. His involvement in the ongoing genocide in the Sudan. The girls he’d murdered, during rough sex, right in this very building. Dashing or not, he was a very bad guy. And he had to go.

But Li was scared stiff. She’d never trained to be an assassin. The furthest she got was a self-defense course at FBI Quantico. But as her Agency handlers had told her, this was war and what she had to do was no different from shooting an enemy general on the field of battle. By her one act, many future terrorist attacks could be prevented. Many lives might be saved. She had to see it through. She was carrying just the weapon to do it with, too—thanks to no small piece of brilliance on the part of the CIA, considering she’d gone through more security to get into this place than someone coming to see the President of the United States.

It all started when her handlers made arrangements with a Bulgarian slave trader to insert her into his cache of young females earmarked for Bahrain this weekend; getting to the Arab country was the easy part. Once on the ground, though, she’d been taken to a building attached to the casino, strip-searched twice, questioned by the DP’s security people, and then strip-searched again—and only then were she and the other girls allowed into the casino itself. Once in, they were frisked, every hour on the hour, until the DP finally showed up and the vulgar chorus line assembled. Bottom line, it would have been impossible to sneak a gun or a bomb or even a knife inside here.

But still, Li was packing a murder weapon, hiding it on her body, in plain sight.

The DP chooses Li and a 17-year-old blonde Slovakian girl who's just happy to be here and takes them into the bedroom, done up in the same gaudy style as the ballroom. Li pretends to sip her champagne as he puts the other girl in leather restraints. The DP's usual modus operandi: strangle the girl to near-death with a silk scarf, gently caress her almost lifeless body, and finish the job with his fists covered in diamond rings.

As the girl begs for her life, Li walks up and taps him on the shoulder. As you probably guessed, those needles holding her outfit together don't stay very long.

quote:

There was surprisingly little resistance going in. The spike was nine inches long but was essentially a carpenter’s nail. It went through the pupil, then the entire eyeball, and then into the DP’s brain as easily as if it were going through butter. There was very little blood, too, and only the slightest sucking sound. Li gave the spike one last thrust, pushing it all the way in, and then let it go. The DP just stared back at her—his remaining pupil going wide—baffled by her sudden betrayal. He reached out, not to grab her but just to hold on to something, anything. Li just took a step back. He fell to the floor with a thud.

Then the words just tumbled out of her mouth: “Now you’ll need a patch, too—just like your brother.”

....huh.

You would have thought this guy would be a major villain. A quarter through the book and he's already dead and Delta Thunder is rescued.

Li leaves the girl tied up after vaguely promising her that she'll get out alive and walks out, mentioning to the managers that the two of them wanted some alone time. She passes by the Gebeebs and heads for her limo, ready to take her to the airstrip where a CIA-owned Gulfstream will land and snatch her up. But the airstrip is now covered in soldiers, cops, and F-15s with their engines warming up.

As Li tries to exit the car, every gun is pointed at her. The CIA jet lands and immediately takes off again as soon as they see what's going on, leaving Li behind. The Gebeebs run up and open the other door to the limo, pointing at her and "yipping". They recognized her from the ballroom and found the DP's body.

quote:

Suddenly someone pushed them out of the way and took their place in the door. It was Jabal Ben-Wabi, the Patch. Smelly, drunk, ugly. He was holding Li’s bloody spike in his hand.

“You bitch!” he screamed at her. “You American bitch!” He launched himself into the back of the limousine, grabbing her arm and twisting it. Instinctively she started to fight him off. But he began slapping her and then punching her—hard. Then he put his face right up to hers.

“I’m going to kill you,” he hissed at her. “And when I do, the whole world will be watching.…”

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



quote:

Ryder was freezing in the desert. He saw sand dunes and scorpions and even a few palm trees off in the distance. Yet, his hands were covered with ice and his feet were encased in snow. It was like he was standing at the North Pole and in the middle of the Sahara. As for his late wife, she was nowhere in sight. That’s why he wasn’t sure if this was a dream or not.

Then, from behind, a voice beckoned to him: “Get up. We’ve got a problem.”

Ryder opened his eyes to find Red Curry, the team’s other senior pilot, shaking him awake. “And it’s a big problem,” Curry was saying to him. “Get up to Murphy’s cabin right away.…”

With that, Curry left, allowing Ryder to crawl out of bed with some dignity. It was hard to do, though. His legs were stiff; his arms were aching; his head was ready to burst. He’d just slept for nearly 24 hours, yet he was still bone-tired.

Ryder barely made it back with his Harrier, both due to damage from the gunfire coming up from the town and the hasty patch jobs just plain falling apart. He bounced on the landing, starting a small fire and sizzling out some of his displays.

Ryder bursts into Murphy's quarters to find the little superman sitting alone at his table.

quote:

“I’ll just give it to you straight,” Murphy began. “Because there’s no other way to do it.…” Ryder just stared back at him for a moment. Then it hit him. Li …

“What’s happened to her?”

“She’s dead,” Murphy told him starkly. “The mooks got her. Executed her.”

Ryder went numb. He couldn’t feel his fingers. He couldn’t feel his boots on the deck. The room began spinning 360 degrees, yet he remained still. He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing would come out at first. Finally he was able to croak: “How …?”

Murphy shook his head. “The Agency sent her into that freak show casino over in Bahrain. Her mission was to ice the Diamond Prince—and she actually did it. But then something went wrong. She was supposed to fly out as soon as the DP was toast, but the DP’s guys caught her at the airstrip seconds before she could get on the escape plane.”

Again, Ryder just stared at him in disbelief. If the mooks caught her just seconds before she was to get on the escape plane, that meant the CIA guys must have been there to witness her capture—and didn’t step in to help. “You mean they left her behind?” he asked Murphy, anger growing.

Murphy nodded slowly. He was almost in tears. “We left her in the hands of those assholes,” he said. “And they chickened out on her. They might as well as have put the gun to her head themselves.”

Now Ryder was shaking; his brain was just not accepting what he was hearing. He’d begged her not to go. They all did. But she’d become convinced that it was the best way to serve her country—and become a real member of the Ghost Team. The result was now a nightmare. Murphy poured Ryder a drink. He downed it without even knowing what it was.

“The guy they saw pulling her out of the limo was the DP’s brother—Jabal Ben-Wabi,” Murphy explained. “They call him the Patch. He’s one of Al Qaeda’s chief executioners. He already beheaded at least six American hostages on TV, people Al Qaeda snatched in Iraq. When someone falls into his hands, it’s just a matter of getting the execution videotape to Al-Qazzaza TV. Daniel Pearl. Nick Berg. Jack Hensley. Eugene Armstrong. You know their names. You know how they met their end. In every case, Jabal Ben-Wabi was there, front and center, hiding behind a mask.”

“Yes, but, maybe—” Ryder whispered. Murphy stopped him from saying any more.

“We intercepted a call before you got up here,” he went on. “A line we got into Al-Qazzaza’s news desk. The caller told them to expect a new execution tape very soon—that it was being made with a girl and two guys from the Philippines and that he was watching them getting … well, beheaded … at that very moment. This Patch guy works fast. That’s his trademark, the bastard.”

Ryder put his head in his hands. Murphy patted his shoulder, trying to comfort him. “As soon as Li left the ship, I told our friends down in the White Rooms to start eavesdropping on the CIA’s black ops communications net, as a way of following her on her mission. I heard their phone calls when things started to go wrong. That’s how I know what happened. I knew it even before the guys at CIA headquarters back in Virginia did."

“The only upside of all that,” Murphy continued slowly, “is we’ll know where she is as soon as the CIA does. The body usually turns up, you know, just before the beheading video airs.”

That's literally the worst upside you could have given, Murphy. "Look on the bright side, at least we'll have her headless corpse so you can say goodbye in a day or two!"

Ryder barely hesitates before declaring that he's going to quit the team to go hunt down Patch and the CIA agents who assigned Li to the assassination. Before he can run off, though, Murphy has him walk over to the window. The rest of the Superhawks are getting ready to go with him, even if it means going rogue....again.

Murphy traced Patch's last phone call to Khrash, a city in western Afghanistan right on the Iranian border full of Al Qaeda. It's supposedly the real location for all of those infamous beheading videos.

quote:

The ship turned 180 degrees and was now heading toward the Mediterranean Sea. It was moving at incredible speed, its four jet engines firing in afterburner mode. Ryder soon joined the activity on the deck. The trio of helicopters was in position, rotors turning. Some of those team members who were going—Delta guys, SEALs, SDS, 36 in all—were wearing uniforms still dirty from the mission to Loki Soto. It made no difference to them, though. Their shoulder patches were clean. The copters were loaded up with little ceremony. As always, most of the troopers were carrying short-stock M16s with extended magazines. But some were also carrying backup weapons such as Mossberg shotguns or grenade launchers. Each man also had his razor-sharp bayonet attached to his first weapon of choice. This was a trademark of the team.

The mood was grim but determined. Murphy had been right. Romantic subplots aside, they’d all thought of Li as one of them—just as much as the SEALs who’d defected or the SDS guys or the original Delta operators. They had to go avenge her death. Had to find her killers and had to make them pay. Or at least die trying.

The question, though, was how were they going to do it? Usually they were very well prepared before leaving on a mission. Everything planned to the last detail by Murphy, backed up by intelligence from the Spooks. Just like the recent attack on the Loki Soto prison. Noodled down to the second, never complex, always beautifully timed. And never without enough equipment, weapons, and fuel. But this? This was different. They didn’t even know where they were going. Only that they were heading deep into Al Qaeda territory. That is, if they could even get that far. But again, that was the whole idea. Successful or not, they had to try. They would just have to pick up stuff they needed along the way.

There were some last-minute additions to the strike force. Team members could be seen throwing such items as extra ammo, flares, and American flags onto the waiting copters. One of the Delta guys called a sailor over and made a quick request of him. The sailor disappeared only to reappear a minute later bearing the man’s hollow-body guitar. The Delta guy took his knife from his belt, quickly snipped the strings from the instrument, and took them with him. The sailor casually threw the de-stringed guitar over the side of the ship.

Murphy hands Ryder some final equipment: "the most secure phone in the world", which has a scramble feature and video screen for receiving and sending pictures, and a duffel bag with $2 million for buying anything they need in country. Their choppers only have enough fuel to reach the Mediterranean at best, so this will be an odyssey of unparalleled racism. Before leaving, Johnny Johnson of Delta Thunder calls and says that his men will meet up with them when they're able.

quote:

It was another long night above Afghanistan. The strange-looking airplane had been airborne for six hours and 32 minutes. In that time, it had endlessly circled a small target area over the western part of the country, going nowhere fast. The seven-man crew was already drained. It had been a bumpy night, with turbulence shaking them ever since takeoff. Still, they had six more hours of flying to go before they could even think about landing. And even then, after a little food and a little sleep they’d be back up here again, circling, circling, circling … like some monstrous mythical bird unable to find its way home.

The aircraft’s official name was EC-130H2/P. It most resembled the American-built C-130 Hercules cargo plane; indeed, stripped down to the bare essentials the EC-130H2/P was a typical 130. But there was nothing typical about it in its current form. In fact, it was probably one of the weirdest airplanes ever built. Most noticeable was its elongated nose; it stuck out nine feet from the front of the cockpit. Looking out over it were a multitude of oversize cockpit windows, tinted black and resembling bugs’ eyes. There were wires strung from these cockpit windows back to the aircraft’s tail fin, and on these wires hung mysterious-looking gray spools.

The tail wings themselves were hideously distorted; there were four instead of just two, and each of these four winglets had a small forest of antennae sprouting from it. The aircraft carried no country markings or insignia. The fuselage and main wings were extra thick, giving the overall impression that the plane had muscles. Plexiglas blisters ran up and down the airframe. More strange protrusions grew behind the four overly large turboprop engines. The plane itself was painted crystal-camouflage black to mimic the stars at night. This only added to its bizarre, sinister appearance.

On the airplane’s underbelly was the strangest thing of all. It was an igloo-shaped compartment that could be raised and lowered from the body of the aircraft. Called the Snowball by the crew, it was one of the most closely guarded secrets in the U.S. military.This strange bird was not built for combat.

It carried no weapons, or not the typical ones anyway. It was a psych-ops plane, an aircraft jammed with electronic gear whose purpose was to influence the hearts and minds of the people it was flying over, in this case the wild hill tribes of northwest Afghanistan. Predictably nicknamed Psyclops, the plane could bend minds, shape opinions, “get under the skull” in psych-ops lingo, of anyone within its reach. It could do this in several ways, all of them highly classified. The plane was flown by the 31st Special Operations Group. Its call sign was Commando Solo—commando meaning “special operations” and solo meaning what they did they did alone.

But its crew wasn’t black warriors or deep-ops types. In fact, of the seven onboard, two were cops, two were volunteer firemen, one was a high school teacher, one was a banker, and one was a paramedic. And maybe the strangest thing of all was that these men didn’t belong to the CIA or the DIA, AFIA, NSA, NRO, or any of the short list of America’s deep-secret operations like Ruby Fruit, Seabreeze, and Team 99.

They were actually part-time soldiers. Members of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. Civilians, in uniform.

Captain JC Dow is the commander of the Psyclops plane, in his civilian life a 51-year-old police chief in Fort Indiantown Gap, PA. The other five members of the crew are known as the DJs, as one of their many jobs is broadcasting music of various kinds down to Afghanistan below. The plane can also perform TV broadcasts of American propaganda (breaking into the local signal), flood the Internet with messages through extremely powerful wi-fi, drop leaflets, make announcements via huge loudspeakers on the wings, and that's not even getting into the Snowball.

This might be the most "this should be in an anime" ridiculous creation in the Superhawks novels.

quote:

The place was called Reggio di Brizzi. It was located on the southernmost tip of Italy, at the very end of the boot.

Whoa wait, hang on. We were just being introduced to this stupid-rear end plane with sci-fi technology broadcasting propaganda across Afghanistan. Why are we suddenly shifting gears to Italy? Because Mack just kinda trails off the chapter with "Dow has a hunch that something is coming soon" and leaves it there. It'll be a bit before we actually continue with where his thought was going. For now, Psyclops is just left sitting there in Afghanistan.

Anyway, in Italy we're at the LORDS, the Long Range Distribution System building. It's a plain concrete building that uses Gray supercomputers to keep track of the massive logistics inventory of the US military, handling supply requests automatically. The only person manning "Reggie Breeze" and monitoring the computers right now is Ensign Gary Olsen, whose job basically consists of reading comic books and checking the computers occasionally to make sure they're still functioning.

An alarm beeps, indicating a pallet of several thousand .50 BMG rounds reported missing. No big deal, he figures; most of the time it's just fallen through the cracks and been sent to the wrong warehouse or something, so he just logs it and moves on. But then he gets another beep: 1500 gallons of aviation fuel missing from Sicily. Then four Hellfire missiles from Bosnia. Then a pair of 2000 pound bombs and an M-31/EAS portable arresting cable system. All in less than 5 minutes.

Olsen pages his CO, then checks the reports. They seemingly confirm that the missing items are thefts instead of just misfilings, moving east across Europe. Each report involves at least one unauthorized helicopter spotted in the area and unknown people skulking around the base.

The CO shows up, but tells him that intervention won't be necessary: The Ghosts are involved.

quote:

Both men had heard about the Ghost Team, of course. They were a very mysterious special ops outfit that might very well be operating without government approval—or at least beyond the control of the Pentagon. That’s what made them so cool, though. Their exploits at Hormuz, Singapore, and right inside the United States had made them folk heroes. Like characters from a comic book, these near-mythical figures seemed to be the only people actually fighting the perpetrators of 9/11.

“I talked to someone just a few minutes ago,” the CO finally confided in Olsen. “Someone with a Level six security rating, which he proved to me was legit. He asked that we just turn a blind eye to this, said that it would end shortly.”

“All this stuff must be for something important,” Olsen said, in a million years never thinking he would be involved with the Ghost Team someday, however tangentially. “Something to tell my kids, I guess.”

The CO nodded, then joked: “But only if your kids have a Level Six security rating.”

Then almost as an afterthought, Olsen asked him: “If I might be so bold sir, this guy you talked to—what was he? An admiral? A general? CIA?”

The CO just shook his head. “He didn’t say. He just gave me his security level and the day’s passwords.”

He thought a moment, then added: “Funny, though. He did give me his name—Mullen, or Murphy, something Irish. But he sounded like he was right out of the middle of Texas.…”

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



Also, I just want to say that I skimmed through to the end of the book. I decided that I would feel better knowing how this series ended and where the twists go.

The ending to this series is the most unbelievably stupid and offensive thing I have ever read. It's like an autistic Free Republic member who's never heard of racism figured out how to solve all of the worlds' problems. If I wasn't wearing glasses, I would have probably slammed my head into my keyboard. Somehow, Mack took his most grotesquely offensive series and found the perfect capstone. And I can guarantee, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that not one of you will guess what it is.

PJOmega
May 5, 2009


At least I am reassured by the fact that neither Superhawks nor Mack Maloney have a wiki page.

Eediot Jedi
Dec 25, 2007

This is where I begin to speculate what being a
man of my word costs me



under threat of further ghost attacks, the entire middle east unconditionally surrenders to the U.S.. Bobby murphy is appointed Boss Man and under his guidance islam is extinguished forever.

real answer: copy cat ghost units are established and World Peace is attained.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



It was a resolution that I took a few seconds to fully comprehend. Not because it's hard to understand, but because it was so amazingly offensive.

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:

And I can guarantee, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that not one of you will guess what it is.

You mean it doesn't involve the total destruction of Mecca?

PJOmega
May 5, 2009


Sperglord Actual posted:

You mean it doesn't involve the total destruction of Mecca?

Well of course not. Mecca is discovered to be the entrance to a cave network where the ultimate terrorist is hiding. Immortal Muhammad, from whose lips all Islam and all terror is brought into the world. When the ghost team bravely fights through the labyrinth network, they make the ultimate sacrifice to collapse it. In doing so they finally kill Muhammad, and everyone the world over renounces Islam and all become beautiful exotic people. Well all the women do. All the men kill themselves because they were all terrorists.

Is the real ending more offensive than that?

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


chitoryu12 posted:

It was a resolution that I took a few seconds to fully comprehend. Not because it's hard to understand, but because it was so amazingly offensive.

US promises to buy every Muslim who fights for them 72 virginal goats and all terrorism ends?

PJOmega posted:

Well of course not. Mecca is discovered to be the entrance to a cave network where the ultimate terrorist is hiding. Immortal Muhammad, from whose lips all Islam and all terror is brought into the world. When the ghost team bravely fights through the labyrinth network, they make the ultimate sacrifice to collapse it. In doing so they finally kill Muhammad, and everyone the world over renounces Islam and all become beautiful exotic people. Well all the women do. All the men kill themselves because they were all terrorists.

Is the real ending more offensive than that?

Well, this reminds of Clive Barker's Jericho, which I think makes it very offensive.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



PJOmega posted:

Well of course not. Mecca is discovered to be the entrance to a cave network where the ultimate terrorist is hiding. Immortal Muhammad, from whose lips all Islam and all terror is brought into the world. When the ghost team bravely fights through the labyrinth network, they make the ultimate sacrifice to collapse it. In doing so they finally kill Muhammad, and everyone the world over renounces Islam and all become beautiful exotic people. Well all the women do. All the men kill themselves because they were all terrorists.

Is the real ending more offensive than that?

I'll give you one hint:

Al Jolson.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



quote:

Colonel Armeni Barji was asleep at his desk. Again.…

He was commander in chief of Iranian Revolutionary Air Force Base #3, here at Hakpit, in the extreme western portion of Iran, a place near the vast southern marshes that led right into nearby Iraq. Commander in chief of an entire air base might have sounded like a big job, with lots of authority and political pull, but in this case, the opposite was true. Base #3 wasn’t a combat facility. It was a graveyard. And what was buried here? Fighter planes. Old ones.

Base #3 was where the bulk of Iran’s F-14s had come to die. Not to be refurnished or made ready to fly again. But to be entombed.

Iran was the only country the U.S. Navy’s premier F-14 was exported to—this back in the days of the Shah, a pig by another name, but a pig who had many high-level friends in the White House at the time. The sale had taken place more than 30 years before, and because Iran had been turned upside down by Islamic radicals in the intervening years, for a while the Tomcats wound up being flown by one of America’s staunchest enemies. That situation didn’t last long, though. Lack of spare parts started humbling the Iranian F-14 fleet after just a few years. These days, hardly any of the exported Tomcats were flying regularly. Eighteen of the F-14s were now here at Base #3. Officially, only four of them were airworthy, and them just barely.

Could those four actually go into combat? Could they ever hope to fire the weapon the Tomcat was built for—the very dangerous over-the-horizon Phoenix missile? No way. These planes were used mostly for training purposes by the Iranian Air Force or, on occasion, for aerial flyby displays made during military holidays.

Barji hates his job here. He's almost 60 years old, a former general who was reprimanded and reduced in rank after getting in a fight with his CO over a lack of flying time. To get his revenge, he's been having some of his staff build two flyable, fully armed Tomcats with spare parts from the broken ones (after reporting one of the few good ones destroyed in a hangar fire to take it off the books) with the plan of offering them for sale on the black market and retiring to South America as a millionaire. It's been over a month so far and he hasn't received any replies, and since his home doesn't have a phone he's been sleeping at his desk in case he gets any calls.

Barji is suddenly awoken by a thud, during a nighttime lightning storm. He wakes up to find a man dressed in all black, including a ski mask and black helmet, sitting across from his smoking a cigarette and holding two fat stacks of cash in his hand. Barji immediately recognizes the Twin Towers patch on his shoulder, and sees more men in black out his window leading his staff away at gunpoint.

quote:

“You are here … to buy the airplanes?” he mumbled again.

“That’s right.…”

Barji was very confused. “But … you’re the American military.”

The masked man just shrugged. “We’re Americans,” he corrected Barji. “Let’s just leave it at that. Now, do you want to deal or not? We’re in a hurry.”

Barji was still baffled. He didn’t know what to say.

“Look, I’m here to make a purchase,” the man insisted. “What do you care who you sell them to?”

Barji suggests that he could just shoot the man across from him and take the money, but the man in black points over his shoulder. There's two more standing behind him, M16s with bayonets attached at his back the entire time. Barji accepts.

They use some 2-ton trucks to tow the phantom F-14s over to the disused auxiliary runway at the far end of the base, close to the Iraq border, along with more trucks full of bombs and ignition units. The planes are totally stripped down, missing a lot of the avionics and weapons systems and even the rear seats. They offload the bombs into the Superhawk choppers, and two pilots get out and manage to crank up the engines and barely take off in the F-14s. Performing a short aerobatic routine in the night sky, they zoom off to the south.

quote:

Barji looked back at his buyers, confused again. He was expecting a bullet to his head by this time. Instead, the man who’d originally spoken to him handed him the packet of bills held together by many rubber bands. “I still don’t understand all this,” Barji said. “Why pay us? Why didn’t you just shoot us all—and simply take the airplanes?”

Suddenly the American got right in his face. “Listen, rear end in a top hat,” he growled. “When we start a war with you guys, you’ll know it.” With that, all of the men in black walked back to their helicopters, climbed aboard, and took off. They, too, flew south.

Barji and his men fall to the ground wailing in prayer at being spared. He begins greedily flipping through the packet of bills, which looks to be in $1000 bills. These are a large denomination note that haven't been a regular bill since the late 1800s and are so rare that collectors often pay more than the face value to acquire them. I think Mack is just writing a first draft by the seat of his pants at this point, whatever vomit comes from his fingers spewing across the page even if it doesn't make a lick of sense.

quote:

The first thousand-dollar bill looked real … but to Barji’s dismay, the rest of the pack were fakes, hundreds of pieces of a green-ink Italian newspaper, cut precisely to look like dollar bills. They blew out of his hands, one at a time, and soon covered the runway.

Then Barji looked closely at the first bill, the only authentic note in the pack. Or so he thought. It, too, was fake, a very clear, photocopy of the front of a real thousand-dollar bill. The reverse side was blank white paper. On it, written in thick black pen, was one word: Sucker.…

He should be glad that the Crazy Americans didn't just chop his balls off and leave him behind a running engine for daring to be Iranian, honestly.

So where shall we go next? How about a tiny backwards village in Afghanistan where you don't have to feel bad about anyone being killed!

quote:

Abdul Harbosi was having a bad day. He was a low-level Taliban operative, middle forties, unmarried of course, the eleventh son of what once was a prominent Afghani family. He lived in a place called Qimruz Gorge, an almost-forgotten region of western Afghanistan. Made up of tall mountains and barren valleys, the Qimruz straddled the far eastern border of Iran. Only a few mountain passes separated it from the Persian state, and the traffic, such as it was, flowed both ways. Over the years, the tribal inhabitants of the Qimruz considered themselves as much Iranian as they were Afghani. That’s how close they were.

Back when the Taliban ran Afghanistan—before the Americans threw them out—Islamic terrorists from all over the region came to the Qimruz because of its proximity to Iran. Supply lines for weapons and money were easy to find here. As it was also a place from which someone being pursued could get inside Iran in a matter of minutes, it was the perfect place for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters to come to hide. No surprise, most of the twenty thousand people who lived here were bin Laden sympathizers.

Afghanistan was changing. It was becoming more modern, more democratic, in many of its regions, ever since the Americans arrived. Not so in the Qimruz, though. The old rules still applied here. Women were still required to wear coverings head to toe or risk being stoned to death. The population still had to pay almost 100 percent of their meager incomes in mullah taxes or risk having their homes demolished by the notorious religious police. Anyone caught singing had his or her throat cut. Anyone reading a Western-style book had his or her eyes gouged out. Get caught flying a kite, playing with a toy, or wearing more than three bright colors at once, and you’d find yourself hanging at the wrong end of a noose. No matter what your age was, man or woman, child or elderly, if you stepped out of line and defied the religious authorities, you felt the wrath of Allah big-time.

These harsh rules didn’t apply to everyone, though. Those Taliban and Al Qaeda types who’d relocated to the region had the run of the place. They stole the people’s food; they raped their daughters. They drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes, and were gluttons. They engaged in perverted sex, alone and with others, and they murdered on a whim. They did anything they wanted, and that meant just about everything that was forbidden for the civilian population to do.

The gorge is run by Kundez Sharif, a brutal warlord and multimillionaire who charges smugglers tolls to pass through Qimruz and its "capital", the city of Khrash. Abdul Harbosi's boss is the Khrash chief of police, and he's ordered Harbosi to travel through the gorge in search of a VHS tape. Doesn't matter what it is, as long as it can be taped over. And they're surprisingly hard to find in Qimruz, despite being near a major trading route with Iran. The only people who might have such expensive and rare Western technology would be the "subwarlords" of the gorge.

After more than 8 hours on a humpbacked horse in the cold rain, Harbosi has had no success getting anything from the minor warlords but some dates and nuts and a few "Praise Allah" well-wishes. His next stop at 1:00 AM is Goshi, a warlord who once murdered a family of 22 because he heard some of them hadn't been removing their shoes at prayer time. He knocks on the door of the small mud hut, but receives no response even from a member of his entourage. The house is empty, with a pot of tea on the dinner mat and the candles still lit. Harbosi knows there's only one place Goshi could be.

quote:

Few people in the world, including just about the entire U.S. intelligence community, knew that the Al Qaeda network had its own air base.

The airfield was located inside the Qimruz, on a ridge called the Obo. It was a small, flat piece of land, hidden by mountains on three sides and a steep cliff on the other. Hard against the same peak that separated this part of Afghanistan from Iran, Khrash was about twenty miles to the south.

Obo Field held just one runway, about thirty-five hundred feet in length, plus three support buildings and a small fuel tank. This place had been built originally by the Russians during their occupation of Afghanistan; it was used as an emergency base for damaged aircraft to land. This was why the runway was only so long and the base support buildings large but spare. After the Russian withdrawal and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the Great Mullah himself gave the airfield to bin Laden as a gift.

No warplanes could be found here—Al Qaeda didn’t have an air force. But it did operate a small fleet of leased cargo planes, all registered to fake companies in Nigeria. Most of them two-engine French-built transports these airplanes picked up supplies from places such as Damascus and Tehran and landed them here. The typical cargo—guns, money, explosives—was then dispersed among Al Qaeda sympathizers on both sides of the border. On rare occasions, very sensitive cargo also flew into Obo Field. WMD materials. Captured U.S. smart weapons. Hostages.…

The small airstrip was activated only when a supply flight was scheduled to sneak in, maybe once every two months. The base lay dormant the rest of the time, which was probably why it had escaped the gaze of U.S. spies—or most of them anyway. But as it was, the field just happened to lie within Goshi’s territory; in fact it was just a half-mile up the road from his house. This was the only other place Harbosi could imagine Goshi might be this time of night.

As Harbosi starts down the trail to the airstrip, there's a sudden series of explosions from somewhere in the valley. He sneaks over and peeks over the ledge, and sees that the base is under attack; helicopters are swooping overhead, opening up with the ubiquitous tracer rounds on the buildings and fuel tank. Goshi and his entourage are running for the hills as the choppers hunt them down. One of them lands and disgorges a squad of black-clad soldiers who chase Goshi's bodyguards into a corner underneath Harbosi, where they execute them. The rest of them offload equipment at the smoking base, and one of them flies off before returning with two pieces of machinery the size of a small car on wheels, which they secure to the ground.

The machinery is just the portable arresting wire system, and the Superhawks have just captured the base to allow the Iranian marked F-14s to land.

quote:

That’s when Harbosi felt something very cold touch the back of his neck. He looked over his shoulder to find four of the enormous soldiers standing over him. They were all wearing black ski masks, had huge knives sticking out of their belts and bayonets on the ends of their weapons. One of these bayonets was now resting on the side of Harbosi’s cheek. Harbosi threw up his hands in surrender. The soldiers hauled him to his feet.

He started babbling, telling them that he was a servant of the Chief, who himself was a servant of the warlord Sharif, who praised the Great Mullah and al Zawhari and the sheikh bin Laden himself.

“My friends from Persia,” Harbosi was crying now, “we all praise Allah. You have your own reasons for attacking this tiny piece of my very large country. But I am like you. I am like a brother to Iran.”

That’s when one of the huge soldiers pulled off his ski mask. Beneath was a very Caucasian face with steel-cold eyes and fire coming from his mouth. A name was written on the collar of this man’s uniform. It said: Hunn. He looked absolutely ferocious.

He grabbed Harbosi by the neck and yanked his face to within inches of his own. “Do I look Iranian to you?” he growled.

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




It just wouldn't be complete without our patriotic racist murderporn writer ignoring the Sunni-Shia divide.

chitoryu12 posted:

I think Mack is just writing a first draft by the seat of his pants at this point

Are you telling us he wasn't doing this all along, in true Ringo fashion?

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



Sperglord Actual posted:

Are you telling us he wasn't doing this all along, in true Ringo fashion?

It gets further and further from sense with each page. The first book was at least a little grounded in reality, with stuff like the Ocean Voyager being mostly plausible with a few elements that were at least reasonable from a "this was written by a 13-year-old boy" standpoint, like the White Room being jacked into the Internet and radio and TV signals all the time to be the ultimate intel station.

Now we're in the realm of Super Ospreys, plastic magnums, $1000 bills, satellites that can read a cigarette pack in a guy's hand, and the Snowball (its purpose doesn't get revealed until the end of the book, but it's pure sci-fi superweapon wank).

Also a major reveal in this book hinges on, I poo poo you not, running out of video tape.

PJOmega
May 5, 2009


chitoryu12 posted:

I'll give you one hint:

Al Jolson.

Well time to go make popcorn.

chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



Some of you who kept up with Wingman may remember that the last book visited the Suez Canal. Mack Maloney returns in this timeline with the Ocean Voyager.

quote:

It had traveled at high speed over the past 48 hours, keeping its four jet engines on the naval equivalent of afterburner whenever possible. They’d tried to be careful. A huge containership moving at the same speed as a racing boat would tend to drawn attention. Bad weather across the Mediterranean had helped; it allowed the Ocean Voyager to rush its way through rain showers and fog, cutting down on the number of potential witnesses. Still, they left more than a few fishermen along the coasts of Italy and Greece scratching their heads and asking the same question: How could something so big and so ugly move so fast?

In case anyone was afraid that Mack forgot that the Ocean Voyager uses F-14 jet engines instead of regular engines and zooms like a speedboat, rest assured that he has not forgotten.

Murphy's turned his cabin into a war room, a mountain of books on everything from kidnapping to the 19th century history of Afghanistan to secret reports on the Battle of Mogadishu nearly burying him as he tries to find inspiration for the next phase of their plan.

There's only a few ways they can think of getting Patch. Murphy has discounted kidnapping, as even though it's practically a cottage industry in Afghanistan they'd need to work their way into his inner circle to find the right people to trust and bribe to do the job. A smash and grab would work, but a big battle over Khrash would turn into another "Black Hawk Down" pretty fast. There's only one other option, one so dangerous and suicidal that Murphy doesn't even want to consider it. But there's three things they need to do in order to let any plan have a chance in hell of working: get solid recon from the ground, make some friends to help them, and let the mooks know they're coming and hope that they're scared.

quote:

The weird airplane known as Psyclops was preparing to head back to base when everything changed.

It was 0530 hours, the typical end to a typical mission. The sun was coming up; the crew was exhausted, the big airplane almost low on gas. Because the light inside Psyclops was so eerily subdued, shades of red and blue emanating from the dozens of VDT screens being the only illumination, the crew felt caught inside an endless night, even in the daytime. Nothing was bright inside the Psyclops—except the so-called White Screen.

This little-used piece of equipment was located at the far end of the cabin. When it came on, the interior of the plane lit up like high noon. And that’s what happened just as the big plane began its turn off mission orbit. One moment, the cabin was dark; the next, a bright white light washed through it. The large TV monitor at the rear of the plane had suddenly come alive.

This was highly unusual. The airplane carried dozens of radios, set to dozens of wave lengths. AM, FM, Ultra-FM, Ultra-AM, shortwave, long wave, burst wave, scramble wave—it was a Marconi wet dream with wings. It also contained what amounted to a small TV studio, capable of receiving and transmitting broadcasts on UHF and VHF and via satellite.

But the White Screen was something entirely different. It was a highly secret first-tier broadcast channel that had the ability to block out every other TV channel within a five-hundred-mile radius of the plane’s location. The channel was reserved for one thing only: when the President of the United States wanted to address the people whose TV sets had been commandeered below.

Now it had clicked on. A blinking amber light, right in the middle of the pilots’ control board, indicated a message was coming through.

“What the hell is this?” the copilot, Clancy, asked. “There’s nothing like this scheduled tonight—is there?”

The plane’s CO, Captain Dow, checked their mission log. “No freaking way,” he said. “We’d get at least a week’s notice on something like this.”

Dow turned the plane over to Clancy, then followed the rest of his crew back to the TV area. The White Screen was a 55-inch HD TV set, surrounded by a myriad of buttons and dials. At the moment, it was filled with snow static.

The number 30 had appeared in the upper right-hand corner. It began counting down: 29 … 28 … 27 …

At 10 seconds, the blue light for the voice channel blinks on. When the screen comes up, rather than the President, Bobby Murphy is sitting at his desk. He quickly rattles off a series of passcodes to let them know how high his security clearance is. Murphy apologizes for interrupting them, but says that some Americans on the ground need their expertise. They try to deny and stick to their orders, but Murphy tells them they've just been drafted. The two stolen Iranian F-14s (black paint over the old markings) suddenly appear alongside Psyclops and blink their lights, the universal "Follow me" signal. Without any way to argue with the guns at their backs, Clancy turns the plane to follow.

quote:

All the tales about Khrash were true. Everything that was bad about the Muslim religion could be found here. Hate schools. Bomb-making schools. Weapons schools. Schools for young terrorists. This was a place where women were used for just two things: rape and servitude. A place where children were molested, then disposed of like soiled tissues. A place where torture chambers and opium factories could be found inside the city mosques. That was a lot of wickedness to fit inside just 1.4 square miles. Sometimes it seemed Khrash was bulging at the seams with evil.

Just about everything within the city limits was built of clay and stone, although a few taller apartment buildings in the center of town were constructed of steel and cement. The Farāh River bordered the city on the south, then cut around it up to the north. There was just one major road leading in and out of the place. Highway 212 went through the middle of the city, turned west, and went over the Habeeb Bridge. From there it narrowed into a mountain pass that led up and into Iran.

Like many cities in Afghanistan, Khrash had a front gate. It was 22 feet high, made of wood and scrap metal. It anchored a wall, made of similar materials, that encompassed about two-thirds of the city, known as the Old Quarter. The rest of Khrash, the newer areas, was made up of blocks of warehouses, repair barns, and scattered housing. All of it was surrounded by wadis, manmade trenches that doubled as sanitation ditches and public latrines.

The main gate was guarded by members of the city’s religious police. They manned two machine-gun posts atop the gate itself, as well as an ancient but still effective 75mm cannon left over from the days of the Soviet occupation.

The 12 guards of the Khrash gate are on edge from the tension in the city, and the search for video tapes many of them were sent on earlier. With electricity at a premium, the gate is lit by huge bonfires in metal pots on the top of the wall. In the light of the fire, the guards see some kind of bloody phantasm seemingly stumbling down the road toward them. They hold their fire out of superstitious fear that even showing poor hospitality to a demon would bring them terrible bad luck.

It's Harbosi, his hands cut off and tongue cut out. He's naked except for a bag tied around his neck. Written in ink on his chest is Take me to the Chief.

The Chief lives in a palatial apartment on the bottom floor of one of the Holy Towers, a pair of 11-story towers that hold the barracks for the religious police. As the guards' pickup truck arrives, a bloody and dazed teenage boy (the Chief's latest rape victim) stumbles out the door.

The Chief is a huge, scarred, bald man in his fifties, possibly from Chechnya. He's furious at being interrupted, but the guards shove Harbosi in front of them and hand the Chief the bag, then run off. The Chief makes the 11-story climb in 2 minutes and pounds on the door of the penthouse upstairs; Saheeb the Syrian, Patch's bodyguard, lets the Chief in after being threatened at gunpoint.

quote:

The Chief handed Jabal the bloody bag Harbosi had been carrying around his neck. Jabal blindly reached inside. He came out with Harbosi’s two bloody hands, hacked off but still tied together with cord. Jabal turned white. There was something still clutched in the cold, dead fingers. It was a badge, taken off the shoulder of a uniform. It showed a drawing of the Twin Towers of New York City, with the letters NYPD and FDNY floating nearby and an American flag in the background. Beneath were the words We Will Never Forget.

Jabal dropped the pair of bloody hands to the floor. “Praise Allah!” he cried. “The Crazy Americans … they are here?”

“That’s the message,” the Chief replied. “And this is the proof. They let him live only so he could bring these to you.”

Jabal looked about to faint. The Chief studied him. He knew Jabal to be one of the most ruthless men in the jihad movement. He’d personally seen Jabal behead women and children—and certainly more than a dozen hostages captured by Muslim terrorists in Iraq. Jabal had had no qualms about chopping … chopping … chopping away at some struggling, screaming victim’s neck and dealing with all the gore something like that entailed. But now, at the mere mention of the Crazy Americans, for the first time Chief actually saw Jabal look frightened.

Saheeb the Syrian now spoke. He addressed Jabal directly. “My sheikh,” he began. “There is no real reason for concern. Even if these unbalanced Americans are in the area, we know their numbers are few. We have never heard of them being more than a few dozen people. On the other hand, we have a whole city here, filled with loyal mujahideens. These crackpots might be able to do their magic tricks when they catch one of our unfortunate brothers out on his own. But we are strong here together. They have little chance of hurting us.”

But the Patch wasn’t buying it. Having the Crazy Americans on his trail was his worst nightmare come true. “You don’t know them,” he spewed back at the bodyguard. “They can do things others cannot. They’re demons. Even their own people call them Ghosts.

Suddenly there's a roar outside, and a huge plane screams past the penthouse, missing a collision by just 10 feet. The trio of terrorists run downstairs and out of the Holy Tower, where more terrorists have gathered after being roused from their sleep. They begin blindly firing their guns in the air, but the plane comes back.

quote:

Everyone got to see it for a few seconds this time. It was big and black and had lots of strange things growing out of it. It resembled a cargo-type plane that the Americans in the eastern part of the country always flew, but that bore just a passing resemblance to this thing. And yes, they all saw the cameras this time. Not only a huge lens in a bubble located on the belly of the aircraft—next to a big white ball—but also people in black uniforms were seen aboard the aircraft, hanging out open windows, taking pictures with hand cameras.

The Chief started screaming at his men again—this time to resume shooting at the airplane. But it was already too late. The plane was gone, heading back from where it came, the mountains to the north, the rumbling fading like distant thunder. Suddenly everything was quiet again. Many people were just standing around, dazed or in shock. Nothing like this had ever happened in Khrash before. They were protected here. Or at least they thought they were. But it had transpired so quickly, so unexpectedly, it had scared them. Wailing could soon be heard coming from nearby homes.

The Patch finally lost it. He collapsed to the ground, hitting the dirty pavement like a ton of bricks. He had fainted dead away.

It took both the Chief and Saheeb the Syrian more than a minute to bring the Patch back around, slapping his face and pushing on his big stomach to make him breathe. When Jabal finally woke up, his face had completely drained of color.

“Allah, have mercy on my soul,” he gasped. “The Crazy Americans … they are coming to get me.…”

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


Everything that was bad about the Muslim religion could be found here.

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chitoryu12
Apr 23, 2014



10 minutes later and 40 miles away, one of the Superhawks lands silently on Mount Zabul.

quote:

It was still dark up here, as the mountain was so high and they had landed on the western face, away from the sun. There was a village up here whose inhabitants were not ruled by a subwarlord under the thumb of Kundez Sharif. These people were also known as the Zabul. Mountain dwellers who eked out a living three miles high, eating pinecones and mountain goats, they had a long history of fierce independence.

Ah yes, the favored foods of Afghan tribes: pine cones and goat.

The helicopter is carrying Ryder and Major Fox, both virtually unarmed. For once, they're on a mission to make friends with Muslims instead of chopping their heads off on national television. They find a larger hut than the rest, the back door nothing but some goat hides hanging as a curtain. Sneaking inside with their night vision goggles, they find a sleeping figure inside. Because they have no other way of communicating with brown men, Fox shakes him awake while pressing the barrel of his 1911 against his head and holds him down to stop him from struggling.

They manage to calm the old man down by saying they're friends of Bobby Murphy. He's Tarik Aboo, the eldest elder of the Zabul tribe. He's one of the tiny handful of Muslims in the Superhawks universe who doesn't agree with the terrorists, so he's a reluctant ally to the Americans. He lights up a long black cigarette.

quote:

“Bobby Murphy is an old friend of mine,” he began in thick English. “He is also friends to my brother and my cousin and my cousin’s cousin. When we fought the Russians many years ago, I felt Bobby Murphy was here with us, pulling his trigger as I pulled mine. He arranged for us to get weapons. Rockets, missiles, bombs. He got us medicine and food. He helped us throw the Russians out. We owe him many favors. That is the only reason I don’t kill you both right now.”

Fox and Ryder explain that they're out to kill Jabal Ben-Wabi. Tarik thinks it a fool's errand, a suicide run against an impregnable fortress. Even the US government won't attack Khrash despite being out in the open because it's too close to the Iranian border, and they're just not willing to win enough to start a war with another sovereign nation over it.

Tarik's big reason for saying he can't help them is Kundez Sharif, the local warlord and slave/drug trafficker. He provides protection for the Patch and would exact swift retribution upon everyone living on the land if he caught wind of the Americans being around. He lives on a fortified compound 10 miles from Khrash, with enough weapons to shoot down anything within 5 miles. Ryder and Fox whisper for a little bit, then relight Tarik's cigarette and tell him they'll be back.

quote:

Kundez Sharif’s compound was a palace by another name. It was a collection of two-and three-story whitewashed buildings, rambling by Afghani standards, a half-dozen in all. The buildings were made of simple hand-shorn brick, but there were many ornamental touches on their exteriors. Islamic designs of circles within circles, squares, and triangles along the gutters, fountains and trickling waterfalls around the front door. And palm trees planted everywhere. Add in its white-pebble walkways and high ornamental gates, and this place would have been comfortably at home in the Arizona desert.

It was located on a high hill, which was bordered all round by snow-covered mountains. The vantage point gave a clear view of the surrounding countryside and all of its approaches. And on a clear night, the glow from Khrash could be seen on the southern horizon not a dozen miles away. The compound even had its own minaret, though it was never used. Like many powerful people in Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East, Sharif used his Muslim religion only as an excuse to maim and frighten and kill. He wasn’t even sure which way Mecca was.

One of the smaller buildings, stuffed in the corner out back, was a barracks for Warlord Sharif’s elite company of bodyguards. Heavily armed with Russian weapons, including AK-47s and RPG launchers, these fighters were the cream of the crop of Afghanistan’s warrior class. They were also among the highest-paid people of their ilk in Afghanistan.

In addition to their assault rifles and grenade launchers, the bodyguards were also armed with 75mm cannons. These ex-Soviet Army weapons had great range and accuracy. There were four of them, one at each corner of the place. The way they were positioned, they could hit just about any target in the valley surrounding the compound’s hill. The compound was also protected by a quartet of 88mm antiaircraft guns, also of Russian manufacture. These weapons were highly accurate. They could hit a target as far as three miles up if operated properly. On a clear day, any target flying closer than that could be picked off almost at leisure.

For these reasons and because of Warlord Sharif’s mystique, this place had enjoyed a reputation for years as being under the protection of God himself.

Until today.…

As far as I know, the Soviets never produced 75mm anti-tank guns or 88mm anti-air guns. That's all Nazi Germany.

The guards hear the distant roar of aircraft engines just before 7:00 AM, when about half the guard complement is asleep (have you ever noticed how every "fortress" in this book has all or almost all of the guards asleep whenever the heroes attack?). Three helicopters roar over the compound extremely low and fast, one of them dropping a 2000 pound bomb on the compound's main house. When the ensuing mushroom cloud blows away in the wind, the building is gone.

The helicopters come back for three more passes, using rockets to destroy the barracks, opium drying house, pump house and swimming pool, and generator building. The nose cannons destroy the weapon stockpiles while the commandos in the troop bay fire rifles, machine guns, and shotguns down at the terrorists on the ground. They finally make one more pass, dropping another 2000 pound bomb on the wreckage of the main house to penetrate the underground vault and destroy Sharif's fortune of gold and cash before swooping off.

Half a mile away, Fox and Tarik are watching the airstrike. Tarik is impressed by the Americans' boldness, so he pulls out a folded cloth from his robes that has hand-drawn images of various heavy weaponry on it.

quote:

“This being Afghanistan,” he explained, “you can get weapons just about anywhere. You can buy them or you can rent them. You can even rent whole armies. My cousin, next valley over, has two hundred men at your disposal. Another cousin has some artillery. Still another has some tanks. This and more is available.”

Fox asked for more details. Tarik’s first cousin had two Russian-built T-72 tanks; he’d been using them as tractors to plow his poppy fields. Tarik’s second cousin owned a platoon of 125mm guns, fairly long-range artillery. A third cousin ran his own personal army the next mountain over. Again Tarik assured Fox these cousins would do just about anything for their kinsman. Fox asked Tarik to intercede on his behalf and the tribal leader agreed. They shook hands and then kissed cheeks, sealing the deal.

Then Tarik turned back to the ruins again. Nothing over a foot tall had been left standing. Sharif’s compound looked like a small atomic bomb had hit it.

“I have one more question,” Tarik said.

Fox replied: “Go ahead.”

“Why are you really doing this?” he asked unexpectedly. “I mean, what is your true reason for going after the Patch? I’ve dealt with the CIA before. I’ve dealt with the American military before. But you people—you are not like them. You are like characters in a book. You are going up against an entire city, just to get one man? What military person would do that? I suspect this might be more of a matter of the heart.”

“The Patch was in on 9/11,” Fox told him. “He killed three-thousand Americans.”

But Tarik was a smart old bird; he shook his head and slowly wagged his finger at Fox. “The American Army came to Afghanistan to avenge that September day and they’re still here. But even your brothers in Kabul are not willing to come to Khrash, simply because it’s not a militarily prudent thing to do. That’s how I know something else is happening here.” He turned and pointed to Ryder sitting in the cockpit, about ten feet away.

“There was a look in that man’s eyes,” Tarik said. “I saw it when you first visited me this morning. And it’s in your eyes as well. It’s what we call kapak. You call it revenge.”

Fox shifted uneasily. He didn’t want to get into this, but the old guy was persistent. Finally Fox said: “OK—the Patch also killed a good friend of ours recently.”

Tarik’s eyes went wide again. He was obviously fascinated by this. “So, you’re really here because one person died?”

“She was killed,” Fox corrected him coldly. “Murdered, here, by Jabal Ben-Wabi.”

The old man just shook his head. “Sir, the soil of this country is filled with people who have been murdered. They’re buried everywhere. It is our history—and we live with it. But you—you are really doing all this, whatever it is going to be, for a woman?”

Fox just nodded again but remained silent.

So Al-Qazzaza TV got mentioned early on in the book as being Al Qaeda owned. It's in the bizarrely named UAE city of Umm al Qaywayn on the Persian Gulf. Their headquarters looks like a flying saucer, covered in antennae and satellite dishes. The upstart young network is the go-to network for terrorists to post their beheading videos and combat footage, and terrorist couriers are constantly seen going to and from the building.

Three Mossad agents are camped out in an apartment across from the studio with a list of terrorist suspects to assassinate; they've spent 3 days there so far without seeing any potential victims. Suddenly just before 7:00 AM, a well-known terrorist by the name of Ishtar Abdula (the most sensible Middle Eastern name in the book so far) is spotted climbing out of an unmarked white van in the studio parking lot. Ishtar is a courier for Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah; strangely, he's not carrying any bags or briefcases full of tapes today.

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What’s more, Ishtar was only inside the Al-Qazzaza building for a few minutes before he reemerged carrying a white canvas bag. By this time, two of the Mossad agents were down in the street, huddled inside their disguised taxicab. Ishtar climbed back into the same van that had dropped him off. When it sped away, the Mossad agents followed in silent pursuit.

They weren’t surprised when the van turned back toward the nearby harbor. This fit Ishtar’s pattern. No matter who his clients were, the terrorist delivery boy always moved in and out of Iran, as this was the easiest country in the area for someone like him to transit through. Indeed Iran was the only country willing to give him a passport. From the nearby port it was just a short trip across the narrowest part of the Persian Gulf to landfall on Persia’s western shore. If Ishtar made it onto his waiting boat, it would be impossible for the Mossad or anyone else to get him until he popped up again, somewhere else.

Ishtar’s van pulled up to a small dock where a French-built yacht was waiting for him. The Mossad agents pulled in right behind him. Moving very calmly and naturally, one agent walked up to the passenger side of the van and pumped three bullets into Ishtar’s head. The van driver, a local terrorist confederate, got three in the hat as well, courtesy of the second agent.

Now the Israelis knew they had mere seconds to search Ishtar before the local police showed up. So, while one agent watched the road leading to the isolated dock, the other frisked Ishtar’s bleeding body. He found nothing. Then he checked the canvas bag the man had been carrying, this as the second agent joined him. In the bag they found only a six-pack of high-grade, broadcast-quality blank videotapes, along with Ishtar’s Iranian passport.

Attached to the passport was a small map of Afghanistan and Iran. In the lower right-hand corner, circled in red pen where the borders of the two countries met, was Ishtar’s apparent destination: the city of Khrash.

So what plan do the Ghosts have? As the Ocean Voyager steams into the foggy Persian Gulf at the same time the Mossad agents shoot Ishtar in the head, Murphy is going over all the information he's received from the team in Afghanistan. Using images from the Psyclops plane and bottles, books, and pieces of wood, Murphy has created a mockup of Khrash on the floor of his cabin.

What Murphy's been able to determine from analyzing the imagery is that the Taliban (sleeping in large groups in apartments) and Al Qaeda (sleeping in single family homes that they've taken over) are separated into opposite sides of the city and don't have any ordnance bigger than rifles. The religious police are scattered everywhere, with their heavier weapons fitted to pickup truck technicals. They also have an SA-6 Gainful SAM with a single missile, which they move around the city to keep it from being too easy of a target for a US bombing. Bafflingly, one part of the city is totally isolated (seemingly off-limits to everyone) and receives no traffic except food trucks.

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Sometime during the long night’s trip here to the Gulf, Murphy slowly became convinced that the strike team’s only hope for success was what he called the third option. There were several reasons for this. His preliminary needs had turned out well: They needed recon, so they got the Psyclops plane. They needed military help, so they got his old friends the Zabul on board. They’d needed to put a scare into the mooks, so they’d buzzed the city and made sure everyone knew these were the Crazy Americans above them, people who had yet to show any mercy to anyone of the terrorist ilk, as the late warlord Sharif had just found out.

Then there was the makeup of the strike team itself. The State Department Security guys were very, very stealthy, cool but cruel. The Delta guys were great land warriors. The SEALs were good at guarding the flanks. Even the Marine mechanics and the regular Navy guys accompanying the strike force were seasoned shock troops, having participated in previous missions. The pilots who actually flew the helicopters, Air Force special operations guys, had also had some down and dirty combat experience, as did the DSA guys, Fox and Ozzi.

Murphy also knew that perceptions were important. There was a reason the World War Two flag raising on Iwo Jima, long before the battle itself was ever decided, had been a crucial factor in the eventual American victory. Every American soldier on the war-torn Pacific island was able to see the Stars and Stripes flying from the highest point of land, and they, too, were uplifted. In the same vein, every Japanese soldier who saw it was plunged into despair. There was power in Old Glory. Murphy would have to remember that, too. So they had some things going in their favor, including the sky-high revenge-motive factor.

But there was no getting around the fact that Khrash was a city crowded with terrorist fighters. And somewhere in the middle of them was Jabal Ben-Wabi. How the hell were they going to get him? During the night, all of the principals left aboard the Ocean Voyager stopped in and communed with Murphy for a while. The Spooks. Bingo. Even the Delta Thunder guys. They all studied the mock-up. They all prayed over the pictures. They offered advice. They answered questions, trying to visualize what the future might hold. But in the end, the decision came down to Murphy alone.

The third option. Was it as impossible as it seemed? The Ghost Team had put together a strike force in an insanely short amount of time and then armed and fueled themselves. But it was a shoestring operation at best. Three helicopters, two poo poo-box F-14s, three dozen American soldiers, and what would probably amount to a few more dozen local fighters and their near-antique equipment.

And what lay ahead would be both mind-bogglingly dangerous and extremely complex. A city could change quickly during battle. Streets filled with rubble. Wrecked buildings became ideal hiding places for weapons. Fifteen thousand very pissed-off people running around with AK-47s and RPGs? That was Mogadishu times ten.

The numbers didn’t lie. But Murphy knew on several occasions in the last decade, during uprisings and wars in Africa, small mercenary groups numbering less than 100 fighters had defeated insurgency groups that had numbered in the thousands. It had happened in Angola; it had happened in Sierre Leone. Smaller, better-trained forces defeating overwhelmingly superior numbers. And at least some of that fighting had taken place in cities. So it wasn’t going to be easy. But it could be done. Besides, with time slipping away, they had to move quickly.

That’s why Murphy decided, just before dawn, that the only way they were going to get Jabal Ben-Wabi was to go with the third option.

The Ghosts would invade the city. All 36 of them.

Or at least that was the plan.

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