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Apr 23, 2014

On January 17th, I began a thread to do a Let's Read of Superhawks by Mack Maloney. I named it "Ringo Lite", as the books (in my memory, having not touched them in over 10 years) seemed to be a mediocre -- if silly -- rah-rah patriotism action series similar to John Ringo's hideous, rape-filled trash.

Boy, did I miscalculate.

We instead began a roller coaster ride of racism. The pulp writer, better known for his Wingman series of Crimson Skies-meets-Ace Combat novels from the 80s and early 90s, had his brain irrevocably shattered by 9/11. He seemed to snap, gaining a bizarre hatred for the Muslims that had previously been allies to the protagonists in his books. In 2004 and 2005, he wrote a series about revenge. It was about a top secret group of American black ops commandos who can do literally anything they want without government oversight of any kind.

And they go hard. Torture, dismemberment, burying bodies with dead pigs, and lots and lots of innocent civilians meeting their maker at the hands of America. Whether it's poisoning the fruit sold by an Al Qaeda front and killing over 1000 people, teenagers being thrown out of a helicopter for being related to a terrorist, or buses having grenades fired into them for accidentally driving near a war zone, nobody is safe. The mythical Bobby Murphy who leads this group justifies it with a strict "eye for an eye" treatment toward terrorists, scaring them out of terrorism against the great and mighty United States by killing their own civilians just the same. Somehow, Murphy is so convincing that he can easily get American citizens to make suicide attacks against civilian targets.


A terrorist cell with direct links to al-Qaeda’s leader captures Singapore’s Tonka Tower Hotel, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. The terrorists contact dozens of news organizations so the world can witness its destruction. News copters surround the building just as the Superhawks enter—rappelling from military choppers, guns blazing, disarming the terrorists’ bombs seconds before they detonate. It would seem that kudos are due, but the Superhawks are supposed to be top secret. The Pentagon bigwigs are steamed and send in a team of Navy SEALs to wrangle with the Superhawks. But al-Qaeda is hatching a new plot involving Stinger missiles. Can the Superhawks stop it in time? Or will the sprawling American military bureaucracy trip itself up before they even have a chance to try?

Our second book, as you can tell by the description, spends a good amount of time with the official American government. Readers of the first may remember how the Superhawks got cut off by the US government after one of their many terrorist attacks made headlines with an American flag front and center, but the team has elected to go rogue to keep killing "mooks" around the world until all terrorism is stopped forever.

How many civilians will die at their hands this time? Hopefully fewer since so many of the crazy Delta guys died in the first book, but we'll see!

chitoryu12 fucked around with this message at 17:20 on Apr 13, 2017


Apr 23, 2014

We begin in Singapore.


The terrorists came dressed as waiters.

They arrived at the rear service entrance to the Tonka Tower Hotel at precisely 10:00 A.M. There were eight of them. They unloaded six food carts from their two vehicles. There was no security in this part of the building and the rear door had been left open for them. They rolled the carts up onto the kitchen’s loading platform and simply walked inside.

It was checkout time and the lobby of the enormous hotel was packed. Hundreds were waiting in line; hundreds more were picking up luggage or trying to find cabs. The routine chaos gave the eight terrorists all the cover they would need.

They walked right through the lobby, heads down, pushing their carts, and made for the service elevators. Once there, they pushed the button to call the largest of the hotel’s 16 service lifts. It arrived a few seconds later. Loading the carts and themselves aboard, they quickly closed the doors and hit the button to go up.

The Tonka hotel was one of the tallest structures in the world. It was shaped like a futuristic pagoda, with a tower that soared 1,200 feet in the air. There were more than 3,000 rooms here, most of them expensive suites, plus many function areas, shops, and trendy restaurants. The hotel’s grand style and downtown location made it a popular place for foreign businesses, especially American companies, to hold meetings and corporate events. The Singapore government encouraged such things and frequently picked up the tab.

The hotel was especially crowded with American citizens today, as it had been declared America Day by the city government, a fete for the families of U.S. business and foreign service people living in Singapore. Several gala events were being held at the Tonka. A huge breakfast for the American consulate was in progress on the sixteenth floor. A reception for U.S. Embassy employees was about to begin on the forty-fourth. Another for the Ford Motor Company was scheduled for 10:30 on the ninety-sixth.

But the disguised terrorists in the elevator passed all these floors. They were heading directly for the top.

These guys are part of Qeza al-Habu, a terrorist group that is (of course) linked to Al Qaeda because in this universe Al Qaeda is the biggest and most evil terrorist group that runs all the other terrorist groups. The penthouse on the 140th floor is hosting a party for the children of the US diplomats in Singapore, over 300 kids (mostly under the age of 12) with 22 adults watching over them.

This is starting off really well....

The terrorists operate like clockwork, jamming the elevators and knocking out all the power from the 99th floor down.

If you're sensitive to child death, look away now.


The six remaining terrorists proceeded to the Top Room function hall. They reached its one and only door and wheeled the food carts in. The large triangular room had a long dining table set up in the center. On it sat four gigantic chocolate cakes. Huge lime-tinted windows made up the three walls of the room; balconies went all around the outside. The Top Room was so high, wisps of clouds could be seen passing the windows.

The terrorists were met by several adults who greeted them quizzically. The children’s party had already received their cake order from the kitchens downstairs. Why were these men here?

The terrorists didn’t reply. They simply locked the door behind them, then uncovered their food carts. There were eight AK-47 assault rifles hidden inside. The terrorists pushed seven of the adults against the nearest wall and calmly shot each one in the head.

Panic erupted. Children began screaming; some of the other adults tried to hide. The terrorists fanned out around the room, hunting down five more adults and killing them, including two shot at point-blank range found cowering under the banquet table. This thoroughly terrorized everyone in the room. The remaining adults froze in place. Many of the children went numb with fear. A few, however, did not. Some began crying. The terrorists walked around the room and shot each one. Soon enough, the room was deathly quiet.

The terrorists made their captives lie facedown on the floor. Some muffled cries could still be heard as the young hostages and the adults complied. Those terrorists charged with disabling the elevators joined their colleagues in the function room. Besides their tools and more weapons, their food carts were full of plastique, the highly volatile plastic explosive, nearly 60 pounds of it in all.

I don't think I've ever read the combination of words "the terrorists" so many times in such a short time span.

The leader is Moka, a tall and skinny Arab who surprisingly has no other deformities like glass eyes or pus-leaking scars like most Mack Maloney villains. They attach the plastic explosives to the pillars in the room, which are load-bearing to hold the pagoda roof in place. Each man has 3 cell phones (Moka has 5) which they use to dial news agencies with numbers pre-loaded into the phones, announcing their intentions to destroy the Tonka Tower in 15 minutes. Moka's final call is to Sing-One TV, the largest news organization in Singapore, demanding that they bring a helicopter over to broadcast the destruction of the tower live, as a way of addressing the grievances of the Muslim population. Only the Sing-One helicopter will be allowed nearby, with the terrorists killing hostages if any others come closer than 1000 feet.

Over the next 10 minutes, the city police cordon off the building. A military rapid response team is deployed around the structure and an emergency diplomatic team is on its way to negotiate (despite being told that the terrorists have no negotiation or ransom in mind and are just about televising the destruction). A variety of civilian and military helicopters begin hovering in an orbit 1000 feet away from the tower, except for the bright yellow Bell of Sing-One TV. Moka and three other terrorists come out to the terrace and hang a banner written in Arabic and crude English, stating their intentions.

The timers are set to detonate at 10:30 AM. Only five minutes before detonation, the Sing-One helicopter flies in to offer Moka and his team one last shot of their faces before their martyrdom.


Moka then signaled the copter that the explosives were about to go off. Sing-One TV had to back away. But the copter remained where it was, just 15 feet off the balcony. Moka signaled again. But the copter came in even closer. Moka became furious. He began shouting into the phone that the aircraft had to get away; it was important to him that the copter crew live to tell their tale. But with the explosives just seconds from going off, the helo kept coming in.

Now Moka was confused. He squinted his eyes, trying to see into the copter’s open bay. What was this? The man who had been holding the Steadicam just moments ago was now holding a rather large gun. Men on either side of him were holding guns, too. Moka saw the muzzle flashes but never heard the shots that killed him. Six rounds, in rapid succession, went right through his head. The same barrage killed the other four terrorists on the balcony, this while the copter’s TV camera, now relocated to its cockpit, kept rolling for all the world to see.

Then incredibly, and still on live TV, the helicopter touched down on the balcony’s railing, an amazing feat of piloting. Six men burst from the copter’s open bay. They were not TV reporters or cameramen. They were wearing combat suits—American combat suits. All black with armor plating, ammo belts, side arms, and helmets that looked like props from a fifties sci-fi movie. All with stars-and-stripes patches on their shoulders.

At the same moment, two of the Top Room’s great plate glass windows came crashing in. Men swinging on ropes flew through the openings. The sudden change in air pressure created a minitornado inside the room. Some of the adult hostages screamed, kids began crying, but it was the remaining terrorists who panicked. They were stationed next to the explosive-packed pillars, but now the noise was tremendous, the wind like the devil. And suddenly a small army of armed men was coming at them.

Once again, Mack thinks air pressure will cause a tornado inside a skyscraper if you break a window. I feel bad for anyone in a hotel who tries to get some fresh air. I remember once when I was on the 26th floor of a hotel and opened the window, and was promptly sucked out to my doom. I am posting this story because I'm in Hell.

The terrorists try to guard the explosives with just 30 seconds to go; one is shot 5 times in the head for trying to block the explosives with his body. One takes 40 shots to the stomach nearly simultaneously, his guts splattering to the floor before the rest of his body.


Suddenly alone, this terrorist grabbed two small children and pulled them back against the pillar with him. The kids began screaming. Shrieks of horror went through the hall. “Don’t shoot!” some of the adults started screaming.

Nine seconds.

The terrorist fired in the direction of his attackers. He was sure the soldiers would not shoot him, not as long as he was holding the two terrified children.

Eight seconds.

The soldiers kept advancing, moving quickly, but in a crouch. Their weapons were raised, but they were not firing.

Seven seconds.

The terrorist fired again, hitting the soldier closest to him, but still about twenty-five feet away. He watched in astonishment as his bullets staggered the man but then bounced off his armor plating. “You cannot all be supermen!” the terrorist cried out.

Six seconds.

Most of the adult hostages were crying now; they knew the explosives were about to go off. One pack, 20 pounds, was more than enough to kill everyone in the room.

Five seconds.

The soldiers continued advancing toward the last terrorist. But would they sacrifice two children in order to save many?

Four seconds.

As it turned out, they wouldn’t have to.…

Three seconds.

One armed man, undetected in the distractions around him, came up behind the terrorist and put a pistol to his head. He pulled the trigger and the terrorist’s skull was blown apart. He never knew what hit him, dead before he hit the floor.

Two seconds.…

The man with the pistol hastily reached down and began pulling wires out of the block of plastique.

One second.


There was one loud pop! as the last electrical wire was yanked from the explosive pack. The noise scared the hell out of everyone … but nothing happened except one long fizzle. The bomb did not go off. The hostages were safe. The crisis was over.

In the situation room at the Pentagon, everyone at the top of the food chain from four-star generals to admirals have gathered for an emergency meeting. They're transfixed watching the room's TV as the commandos usher the hostages into the hallway, then take the explosives and guns and carefully load them aboard the helicopter. Finally, they tear the terrorists' banner in two and hang a giant American flag in its place.

Nobody in the room has any idea who this unit is.

Apr 23, 2014

Deadman63 posted:

I stayed up until 6am reading that other thread, what a wild loving ride it was.

Also for a team that supposed to be operating in secret they do anything but. One guy leaves a card with his name and address on it at the scene of an attack for fucks sake.

I completely forgot about that! I was expecting something to come of it, but Hunn just dies on the plane. They don't even make his death obvious like Zangrelli's or Phelan's, either! There's just one last mention of him "fading" before he makes a quip about flying the plane to Queens, and then he never gets mentioned again.

Edit: Whoops never mind, Hunn is loving alive. I hope him leaving his name and number at the scene of a crime doesn't come back to haunt him!

chitoryu12 fucked around with this message at 15:41 on Mar 1, 2017

Apr 23, 2014


Lieutenant Mikael Ozzi did not see the miraculous rescue at the Tonka Tower.

Stuck in one of the most remote sections of the Pentagon, his office was not wired for cable. It was big enough to accommodate his desk, a chair, and his PC and little else. In fact, before he arrived here, the space had been used to store cleaning supplies, this only because by the Pentagon building codes it wasn’t big enough to be considered a broom closet. Ozzi was sure it was the smallest office in the massive building. But if the first rule of military intelligence was to stay out of sight, then this tiny room was the ideal place for Ozzi to do his thing.

He was part of one of the most secret units in the history of the U.S. military. It was called the Defense Security Agency. Created by executive order in the wake of September 11th, the DSA’s mission seemed simple enough. It was to “maintain security within the ranks of the U.S. military.” This was a deliberately open-ended phrase, though.

The DSA actually played several roles in the post-9/11 world. First, it rooted out any U.S. military personnel who might be terrorist agents in disguise. (It sounded improbable, but the DSA had already caught five such sleeper agents, all of them Saudis, one serving as an instructor at West Point.) The DSA investigated any unresolved disappearances of U.S. military weapons, from bullets to bombers, another growing problem. The agency also watched over the Pentagon’s on-line security systems, its communications networks, even its bank accounts. Any irregularities there might indicate foreign intrigue.

The DSA was so secret, many of the highest officers in the Pentagon had no idea of its existence. Its members wore Army uniforms, but even this was a misdirection. Ozzi was a Navy man, others in the DSA were Air Force, and Marines; only a few were true Army. The agency was practically unknown to the CIA, the DIA, the NSA, and the rest of the United States’ intelligence services. It was a secret unit hidden in a sea of secret units. It was a small operation by necessity. Just a dozen people, three staffed here, in offices found at opposite ends of the Pentagon, the rest undercover overseas.

But in this case, size really didn’t matter: small or not, the DSA was really wired in, and when needed, it could get some juice. It could call on any number of U.S. special ops units to do its bidding; it also had access to all intelligence gathered by any other U.S. spy agency. It took its orders directly from the National Security Council and operated under its cover. When the DSA got a mission, they were allowed carte blanche to see it through. Their unofficial motto: “Go Anywhere. Do Anything. Just Don’t Tell Anybody.”

Ozzi was just 25 years old, a graduate of Annapolis near top in his class. He was barely five-five, diminutive in size and frame, with pale skin and premature baldness already setting in. He was a hard worker, frequently staying at his desk past midnight and sometimes not leaving until dawn or later. Service to the country was the hallmark of his well-to-do Baltimore family, descendants of czarist royalty. His father had been CIA for 35 years. His grandfather had served in the OSS.

The spy business was in Ozzi’s blood. He was not exactly a cloak-and-dagger guy, though. His specialty was advanced systems analysis. Most of his work was done poring over data flowing into the Pentagon’s massive computer networks, again looking for anything out of the ordinary. He enjoyed his job, here on the front line of the battle for cyberspace. But often he yearned to leave his four small walls and actually get his hands dirty for a change.

Soon enough, he would have his chance.

We're already off to a good start with the suggestion that there's a ton of Saudi sleeper agents in the highest ranks of the US military. Because of course, Mack views anyone with brown skin as suspect after 9/11. Also the DSA sounds suspiciously like the Superhawks, being given a blank check to do anything in the name of their mission with unlimited intelligence from every spy agency in the entire country. I think Mack just really wants us to throw out the Constitution and do anything and everything in the name of nebulously "stopping terrorism".

Shortly after 9:00 PM, Major Carlson Fox walks into Ozzi's office. He's tall, rugged, and handsome, in his early 50s and married to a gorgeous former model in a nice Silver Springs home with kids. He still has an Alabama drawl though.

Fox sets down a DVD player and portable TV and plays a burned recording of the Tonka Tower rescue for Ozzi. He's astonished at the skill of the operation, but neither he nor Fox have any knowledge of who the team is and can't find any records in a database search despite having access to all the intelligence everywhere.

Fox gives Ozzi a badge giving him the same Red-Nine security clearance that he acquired, and then reveals to him that this is the same mysterious team that stopped the attack on the Abraham Lincoln in the Strait of Hormuz a little more than a month ago; the government is covering everything up by claiming that the strange special forces group is a super classified group that they can't tell the media about yet, but the truth is they still don't know exactly who they are.

Fox also tells Ozzi that General Jim Rushton, an rear end in a top hat assistant to the president on special forces who was left over from Bill Clinton's administration despite knowing nothing about special ops, was demanding that the DSA find out their identities for him. So Ozzi is being sent to Guantanamo Bay for an interrogation.

Two hours later, Ozzi is aboard a C-12. He gets off in Jacksonville to transfer to a C-2 Greyhound, which then lands on the USS George Washington and transfers him to a Sikorsky SH-53 (a fictional Naval version of the CH-53 that might be Mack loving up designations) to actually fly to Cuba. There's a quip that Ozzi doesn't trust helicopters because they were invented by a Russian and he doesn't trust Russians despite being one himself.


The SH-53 took him to a spot about twenty-five miles off the southeast coast of Cuba. There it entered the strict air corridor allowed by the Cuban government for the United States to travel to Guantánomo Bay, the unlikely, oddly placed American base found hanging by a nub off the eastern end of the communist island. This flight took about thirty minutes, ending as the chopper set down in the middle of a severe, if local, thunderstorm. This while the sun was just peeking over the horizon.

Ozzi practically fell out of the old copter, the rain lingering just long enough to soak him to the skin. A Navy ensign was waiting for him. There was a flurry of ID checking, which ended with the scanning of the bar code on Ozzi’s new security pass. Then he was put in a Hummer; it left the airstrip with a screech.

They drove up and over a hill or two and through several security checkpoints. Soon enough, up ahead Ozzi could see the detention camp set up for Al Qaeda fighters captured during American combat operations in Afghanistan after 9/11, and more recently other places. Though it was considered bad taste locally to call this place a prison, it was nothing but. A fortress of razor wire and wooden buildings, it looked surreal in the damp early-morning sun.

His vehicle roared past the line of simple plywood barracks, all of them skewered by miles of electrical chain link and barbed wire. He spotted a few small figures wearing bright orange jumpsuits kneeling in a holding pen. Handcuffed and shackled around the ankles, they were no doubt Al Qaeda prisoners. Ozzi could see their faces as they drove by. None looked happy.

He was heading for a barracks built separately from this main compound; indeed, it was nearly a half-mile farther down the road. It was a slightly smaller building, with its own half-dozen rings of razor wire encircling it. While Ozzi had seen small armies of guards watching over the Islamic detainees back at the main compound, the road leading to this barracks was being guarded by three Bradley Fighting Vehicles, each sporting a huge cannon and several machine guns onboard.

His Hummer reached the barracks’ main gate and a squad of Army Rangers appeared. Ozzi had his ID card scanned once, twice, three times. Finally the Hummer was allowed in. Inside the front door of the building he was met by another squad of Army troops. Green Berets, no less. The Army is all over this place, he thought. Two were guarding a door at the far end of the room; three others were manning a check-in station. Once again Ozzi’s bar code was triple-scanned. Then he was frisked. He was beginning to think there were little green men from Mars behind the next door.

He was finally led into the room, escorted by two Green Berets. Four men in prison garb were sitting around a crude metal table. Two were sporting bandages on their heads and hands. They were not Arabs. All four were white, obviously Americans, obviously military. The oldest was in his early forties and had bright red hair. He was one of the bandaged. Ozzi pegged him as the officer in the group. The other three were just kids, like him, in their early twenties. All three were the size of linebackers, though, with WWF muscles straining the upper sleeves of their bright orange detainee clothes.

I like the 2004 whitewashing of Guantanamo. I think this book was written when information on Gitmo basically being America's own version of a Syrian torture prison was only just starting to hit the public eye. Also the out-of-touch Mack calling it the WWF two years after the name change.

Ozzi introduces himself as a member of the President's National Security Council and sits down across from the prisoners. The redhead in the middle is Curry, the Superhawk operative who crash landed his helicopter on the Abraham Lincoln to warn them of the incoming attack airliners, and the rest are the Delta soldiers (including Hunn, the crazy guy who threw kids out of helicopters and fired a grenade launcher at a bus under an amphetamine binge) who brought down the airliners that didn't get shot down. Since none of them revealed a thing about the Superhawks, they've been jailed as suspected mercenaries.

Ozzi tells the group about the Tonka Tower rescue 12 hours ago, hoping to convince them to reveal the truth behind their team. He tries to appeal to their patriotism as Americans, telling them that they're not technically prisoners yet despite being held in loving Guantanamo Bay for a month. Ozzi offers them money and freedom in exchange for information, but they just want two things: a full pardon for every member of the team, and posthumous Medals of Honor for the members who died in the line of duty. Ozzi says to tell him everything, and they'll go from there.


Ozzi emerged from the special barracks three hours later.

He climbed into the back of the waiting Hummer and told the driver to get him back to the airstrip immediately. It was now close to noon, but Ozzi had lost all track of time. His head was spinning, his hands shaking.

He’d been in the DSA since its existence. He’d heard some crazy stuff in that time, but never anything like this. Ozzi had been taught from his first days in the intelligence game that after leaving an interrogation he should write down his first impressions immediately. Key words, bits of phrases, body language. Inevitably, these notations would prove invaluable when it came time to compose a formal report.

But now, bouncing down the dusty Cuban road, his pen hovering over his notebook, he was suddenly at a loss for words. He didn’t know what to say. How could he start writing anything about what he’d just heard and the people he’d just met? But he felt compelled to write something down.

So he scribbled just one word:


Apr 23, 2014

Fox meets Ozzi at the 15th floor revolving bar of the Holiday Inn near Ronald Reagan National Airport, near midnight. I did some Googling and I think this is the Skydome Restaurant, in what's currently a DoubleTree hotel run by Hilton rather than a Holiday Inn. Not sure if it really was a Holiday Inn back in 2004 or if Mack just didn't do the research.


The bartender was clearing away three empty glasses in front of Ozzi when Fox walked in. There was no one else at the bar. Fox smelled bourbon. Cheap stuff, mixed with Coke. He never knew Ozzi to drink much or drink alone. Yet here he was, in the middle of the night, doing both.

Fox took the seat next to him. Ozzi thanked him for driving so far and apologized for the late hour, but both were necessary, he said. The story he’d heard from the “Gitmo Four” was still spinning around his head, just as the bar was spinning around D.C. Indeed, he’d been going in circles up here most of the day. In that time, he’d concluded it might be wise to brief Fox somewhere out of the Pentagon’s immediate neighborhood. Fox told him he understood.

Ozzi ordered another drink. “I know this will sound like a bad Clancy novel,” he began. “But what I just heard from those guys down there has to be the truth, only because I don’t think anyone could have made it up.”

Fox tried not to roll his eyes. Ozzi was bright and dedicated but still somewhat new to the spy game. Fox ordered a drink for himself and lit up a Marlboro. “OK, Lieutenant,” he said. “Let’s hear your report.…”

What follows is basically a recap of the first book's plot, from their recruitment by Bobby Murphy to their defense of the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Strait of Hormuz. The only important information we've learned is that the CIA has officially blamed the Heavenly Fruit poisoning and bombing of the bank on Israel, which almost made me laugh out loud. Mack Maloney, defender of all that is patriotic, is having the CIA paint Israel as the bad guy as the cover? The guy's so anti-Muslim you'd think he would be slobbering over IDF cock at the slightest inclination.

Fox admits that it all sounds like a bad pulp novel (which this is), but the events really did happen and there's no denying that. He wants to run all the Robert Murphys in the intelligence community, but it's probably an alias anyway. Fox also asks how Ozzi managed to get these guys to open up over him. Trumpets painted like American flags rise up behind him as he explains:


“I can’t explain it any more than to say these guys are authentic heroes. I mean real patriots,” he told Fox emphatically. “They bleed the flag, Major. Remember the stories about the New York firefighters and cops who saved people on nine-eleven? Ordinary people doing extraordinary things? That describes these guys to a T. You see, they all have something in common, something the regular special op guy might not have. Every one of them lost someone on September eleventh or to some other terrorist attack. So it was personal, you know? They were so focused, their unit patch showed the Twin Towers for God’s sake. And what they went through for this Murphy guy was unbelievable. They almost had me in tears.”

Fox sipped his drink. It sounded a lot like what Israel did after the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972. When a number of their Olympic athletes were taken hostage and eventually murdered by Palestinian gunmen, the Israelis secretly sought revenge. They identified about two dozen PLO members who’d been connected to the massacre and quietly, over the course of the next decade, hunted each one down and put a bullet through his head. What Ozzi was telling him mirrored the Israeli model yet was pumped to the max with stealthy Harriers, Delta guys, and an enormous undercover spy ship.

Ah, there we go. There's the Israel worship. The Superhawks even follow the Israeli method of collateral damage, as a number of innocent people (from police officers to civilians seeing what was going on) were killed in the real life operations.

Fox is unsure about all the things Ozzi promised the guys, and notices that Ozzi seems to have fallen under the Bobby Murphy spell that convinces him that the Superhawks are the world's ultimate heroes who should be given unlimited ability to do everything. Fox makes a mention that they'll need to bring these guys in for making such a public spectacle of themselves, but Ozzi can't stand the idea of punishing such heroes.


“Bring them in?” Ozzi asked, incredulous. He was drunk and suddenly getting pissed off at his boss, which was rare. Usually he and Fox agreed on everything.

“Listen, Major,” Ozzi said, words slurring but sincere. “I’m not such a pup here. Especially after what I just heard down in Gitmo. And I know those guys are not a bunch of angels. But going after them, in any way, shape, or form, questioning them about what they did, it would be like going after all those firemen and cops at the World Trade Center that day. Few of them were angels, either, I suspect. But look what they became. Same thing for the people on that plane that went down in Pennsylvania. The people at the Pentagon. Our first boots on the ground in Afghanistan. God drat it, these guys are just like all of them. And they’ve gone through a lot. Why can’t we just leave them alone?”

“Because we have to follow orders, Lieutenant,” Fox said with heavy emphasis on the last word. Ozzi just stared back at him. It was clear Fox didn’t like this any more than he did. Someone must have been pressing him from above.

“That rear end in a top hat, Rushton?” Ozzi asked him. “He’s behind this?”

Fox just nodded and sipped his drink. “He wants to send Team ninety-nine out after them. He’s logging it in as a rescue mission.”

Ozzi couldn’t believe his ears. In the special ops biz, Team 99 was known as the “Super-SEALs,” though some suspected it was a self-designation. In any case, they weren’t ordinary fish. They were hunter-killers, a particularly cunning and vicious SEAL element that was sent on only the toughest missions, usually to track down the most notorious bad guys. They, too, were a very secret unit.

“I had to call Rushton after we talked,” Fox revealed to Ozzi. “I had no choice. He’d been burning up my line all day—meanwhile I’m stalling for time until I hear from you. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that if you got a lead on the Tonka Tower guys, he was unleashing T Ninety-Nine.”

Ozzi continued staring at his boss in boozy disbelief. “But those assholes will more likely kill them than rescue them,” he argued, but weakly, as if all the air had gone out of him. “And those people out there are heroes, sir. They don’t deserve that.…”

Fox’s eyes were downcast. “I know,” he said. “But heroes or not, we just can’t have a rogue team like them operating beyond the realm. No control? No oversight? No accountability? They might be right out of the movies, but this is the real world. And in the real world, these things cannot be allowed to exist.”

Ozzi’s eyes went black. His face turned uncharacteristically stern. He began to say something but stopped. To cause a scene here would be highly unprofessional, especially with the subject they were discussing. He finished his drink. The bar seemed to be spinning a little faster. He had to change tactics.

“But how are they going to go about finding them?” he said finally. “They’re floating around out there somewhere on a containership. And there’s got to be hundreds, if not thousands, of containerships in the world. How do you find just the right one? That’s even if they are still on the ship. They’re experts in avoiding contact. I mean look how they’ve managed to stay invisible so far.”

Fox finished his drink. “I know that, and so does Rushton,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean he’s not going to try. Besides, you know how it is these days. No one can hide for very long anymore.” He signaled for the check.

Ozzi could barely move at this point. Fox was torn between duty to follow orders and compassion for his junior officer. The bar spun so that they were looking at the nighttime skyline of Washington.

“Look, Oz-man,” Fox said, giving him a fatherly pat on the back. “If there’s some way I can derail this, I promise you, I’ll give it a shot.”

“And if not?” Ozzi asked him point-blank.

Fox put on his hat and zipped his jacket. “If not,” he said, soberly, “you’d better hope those guys out there choose not to resist.

Apr 23, 2014


The stars always seemed extra bright above the secret air base known as XH-2. On clear nights, with no moon, it was like you could reach up and touch them, the sky out here was so crystal clear.

The base was located on the southern tip of the small jungle island of Oki Jima, which itself was just three miles off the coast of the island of Guam. XH-2 was old. Originally built by the Japanese Army as a radio listening post in the mid-1930s, it served as an intelligence base during World War II and was one of the first places to fall after the battle for Guam. The U.S. Air Force built two runways here during the Vietnam War from which to launch U-2 spy planes. The base had remained open, at various levels of readiness, ever since.

There were three hangars here. They looked like very, very expensive warehouses. They were painted with a coating of charcoal black paint that turned two shades of green during the day. This chameleon act was in place to baffle any photo-satellites going over the highly classified place, unfriendly or not.

It was almost 10:00 P.M., the hangars were charcoal now, and the stars above were dazzling, making the buildings look bejeweled. There was a distinct, if muffled, sound coming from each building. These were very elaborate air-conditioning units working overtime. It was a pleasant tropical Pacific night, low seventies and low humidity. But what lay within each structure worked best at temperatures of 55 degrees or below. For them, being chilled meant being invisible.

They were B-2Fs, a top-secret variation of the famous B-2 bat-winged Stealth bomber. They were bigger, stealthier, and more expensive than their $1 billion cousins. The stock-version B-2 had a large bomb bay where a mix of bombs weighing many tons could be carried, dispensed by a rotary launcher. The B-2Fs were equipped with these bomb launchers, too, but they were portable and could be quickly changed out, opening up a large area of the spy bomber to carry … well, just about anything. Photo recon packages. Jumbo jamming pods. Radiation detectors. Even black-ops eavesdropping gear. These exotic cargoes were called NLPs—for non-lethal payloads. Things that either the military or the intelligence services needed to be put over a target low and fast, without anyone knowing about it.

These three B-2Fs had been in existence since the late 1990s. They’d flown missions all over the world but had been home-based here on Oki Jima since the latest war in Iraq. Their mission was to help U.S. assets in and out of the Pacific Rim get whatever they needed whenever they needed it. And the B-2Fs could fly to the northern tip of North Korea and all the way to the last hill in Syria in order to get it.

Major John Atels, code-named Atlas, had been flying B-2Fs for two years. He was early forties, divorced, no kids. He was known as one of the best B-2 frame pilots around, which was actually a backhanded compliment, as the B-2 was the only plane in the U.S. inventory where the pilot was the crew member and the mission commander was the captain of the plane. Still it took great skill to jockey the big black bomber around, especially into and out of the nutty places Higher Authority wanted the B-2Fs to go.

The plane could fly anywhere in the world on auto pilot; its almost roboticlike flight system was called Hal by many of its crews. It was that sophisticated. But once the B-2F had to go in on its target—or, in its non-lethal mode, its “target sweep”—human hands were needed on the controls. For those few sometimes scary moments, Atlas was indeed one of the best.

I'm almost disappointed that there's no mention of the B-2Fs dropping SEALS as its payload.

Atlas meets his flight partner, Ted Ballgaite (nicknamed "Teddy Ball-game" by people who must hate him), at 2200 hours for their assigned mission. Teddy is a genius who maintains the suite of electronic countermeasures, jammers, and other devices that help maintain the plane's stealth. When Atlas arrives, Teddy is talking to two guys who immediately come off as spies: jeans, denim shirts, expensive sneakers, handguns, and sunglasses at night.


He’d been dealing with Intelligence types for years. These days many were from the NRO, the National Reconnaissance Office, a strange collection of individuals with the nonthreatening name. Reconnaissance to most people meant taking pictures at high altitudes by either fast-flying aircraft or satellites.

But that was just a small bit of it. The NRO guys reconned everything and had the stuff to do it with. When a story came out years before that the United States had a satellite that, from 180 miles up, could zoom in so close to an individual on the ground it could read the label of the cigarette pack in his pocket, the NRO guys were pissed. That was their satellite—but they weren’t upset by the security leak. They were mad that their eye in the sky, code-named Dressing Mirror, wasn’t given its props.

Reading the name of a person’s cigarette pack had been achieved approximately around the same time as Saturday Night Fever. These days, the NRO could count the number of threads holding on the top button of the smoker’s shirt. And if that button popped off, they would be able to listen in on his cell phone conversation telling his wife that she had some mending to do tonight. Then they could track the wife as she went to the sewing shop to buy thread to do the repair and hear just about every conversation she had along the way. And then they could find out what TV shows the lovebirds watched that night, what radio stations they listened to. What time they went to bed. Even what they did when the lights went out.…

Cigarette label? It was an insult.…

These guys don't look like NRO, though. They're fairly old, in their 30s, while NRO guys are young and wide-eyed. They both disappear as Atlas walks up, Batman-style, so he and Teddy climb aboard their plane. The plane's bomb bay is being loaded with about 30 suitcases made of some kind of composite fiber; they're confused, but it's their job. Even more confusing, the coordinates indicate that they're being delivered to the communist Vietnamese government.

The B-2F takes off for its flight to Vietnam. The plan is to land at Pha Dong Airfield, a secret Vietnamese government base about 20 miles northwest of Hanoi, and have a group of Vietnamese soldiers unload the cargo without even needing to turn the engines off. The autopilot does most of the work, with Teddy reading a biography of FDR and Atlas reading three months' worth of Sports Illustrated magazines. At 10,000 feet, Atlas takes over manual flight to refuel with a KC-10 over the Bangtang Channel.

As they're refueling, the threat warning buzzer suddenly starts blaring in the cockpit. Someone has fired a surface-to-air missile at the bomber. They think it's a glitch, but realize too late that the B-2F is too advanced to have glitches.


Finally they went into action, but time was not on their side. Teddy frantically called the guys in the tanker, this while Atlas began to manually unhook from the tanker.

But it was too late; this was a monster missile coming up at them and it was traveling very fast. Atlas tore his eyes off his controls, just for a second, to look out the window into the night—just to see if this was real. He saw a huge fireball climbing toward them. It was barely 500 feet away. Could anyone be this unlucky? Even with the missile, just seconds before impact, the irony was as bright as its exhaust plume.

Atlas and Teddy knew the SAM wasn’t going to hit them. Their radar signature was less than a marble. The KC-10, however, was like a huge bull’s-eye flying in the sky. Atlas finally got the B-2F to unhook from the fuel spout. The missile hit the big refueler two seconds later. It exploded in violent slow motion not 30 feet in front of them. The missile had impacted square on the Extender’s belly.

There was a white flash, so bright, it blinded Atlas and Teddy. Then the concussion hit. Their control panel’s TV screens blew out, showering both pilots in shards of glass. All of their primary electrical systems shorted out at the same moment. Suddenly the cockpit was filled with sparks. Then came a noise so intense, the headphones inside their crash helmets blew outward. The result was simply deafening.

The B-2F rolls over, but Atlas manages to flip it right-side up again as the flaming KC-10 drifts toward the ground.


Atlas now fought with the controls, at the same time aware that pieces of the bomber’s wing were coming off. The engines coughed again. Then the plane began spinning. Atlas was thrown to the back of his seat. His Sports IIlustrateds were flying all over the flight compartment. Teddy had his nose pressed up against the cockpit window; he couldn’t move. They were falling like a rock

“Do you see anything flat down there?” Atlas somehow yelled through the smoke and sparks.

But Teddy never replied.

Apr 23, 2014

Sperglord Actual posted:

Suffice it to say that 'Oki Jima' (would probably actually be Okishima) does not exist, and there is no way in hell the Japanese would be able to build anything sensitive on an island three miles off Guam.

I don't know why Mack felt the need to make this poo poo up when Saipan and Tinian aren't even that far away.

Mack invents a ton of places with names that look kinda accurate if you squint, like the Bangtang Channel or the SAM being launched from the small island of Fuggu. I think just about every Middle Eastern place in the first book that wasn't a major city like Riyadh was fictional as well.

Then again, this is the guy who names his Arabic villains "Zoobu".

Apr 23, 2014

WrenP-Complete posted:

Jeans and denim shirts at the same time?!

The Texas Tuxedo is the standard CIA uniform.

Apr 23, 2014

Sperglord Actual posted:

Incidentally there is a real island called Okishima, but it's on Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture.

If you Google 'oki jima' you'll get a bunch of hits for these books on the first page.

I've found that the easiest way to tell if a name or place is even close to real in these books is to just Google it. If it's something Mack pulled out of his rear end like "Bangtang Channel", the Superhawks books are on the first page.

Apr 23, 2014

24 hours later in the Vietnamese village of Go Dong on the Mekong Delta, it's raining in sheets. The little village over 100 miles south of Saigon still has a bustling marketplace in the rain, selling everything from rice to American-made sneakers and cigarettes laced with opium.


Most of the people in the village were wearing long rain ponchos that covered from head to toe. This helped SEAL Team 99 blend right in.

There were six of them. One man was watching each end of the tiny waterlogged village. Two more were sitting on the porch of the village exchange building, an old stucco structure left over from French occupation a half-century before. Two others were lingering on the periphery of the marketplace itself. Each man was covered with an innocuous poncho; each was carrying a small submachine gun beneath.

They were all watching a small woman in her twenties named Li Ky. She was the daughter of a farmer who raised ducks and grew rice down by the Da Thong river two miles south of the village. Li was pretty, and recognizable by the streak of premature gray that ran down the center of her long otherwise jet-black hair.

Li had arrived at the marketplace early. She’d been observed by the SEALs purchasing items that might have seemed typical for a peasant’s daughter: dried fish, some candles, a roll of baling wire. But Li was also buying some unusual items: rice wine, opium blunts, cigarettes, and some decidedly American food, like canned spaghetti and soup. These were considered luxury items in this part of Vietnam, and normally well beyond the means of a simple farm girl.

Li was carrying two canvas bags; in itself this was a tip that her shopping was not typical. Most people in the area could afford only about as much as they could carry with two hands or in a pot on their heads. Li paid for her last purchase and then climbed on her bicycle and pedaled away.

Subtle hand gestures were exchanged among the SEAL team members. They moved out of the village with great stealth, climbed aboard a Toyota truck hidden in the brush nearby, and began following her.

It was raining so hard now the SEALs could barely keep her in sight. Their training told them to stay at least 500 feet behind. Li pedaled for two miles before reaching a rickety bridge that spanned the Da Thong river. A crossroads lay on the other side. Taking a right at the crossroads would lead her back to her family’s hooch. Taking a left would not. She started across the bridge but paused for a moment halfway across. Was it the weather or a sudden change of heart or just a moment to catch her breath? There was no way to tell. She began pedaling again. When she got to the other side of the bridge, she turned left.

Eventually the jungle is so thick that Li Ky and the SEALS have to maneuver on foot. The rain stops, which brings in brutal heat. They follow her for a good 5 kilometers until they're winded, sweaty, and totally lost. She leads the SEALS past the rusting wreckage of an F-105 from the Vietnam War and to the shore of the South China Sea. The SEALS pull out an IR scope and use it to look at a small island just off the shore, and can see a huge container ship camouflaged against the brush.

The SEALS rush over the dune and climb aboard the ship, which has been so expertly camouflaged with foliage from top to bottom that it's almost invisible even when the SEALS know where it is.


The SEALs moved slowly across the bridge level, weapons pointing this way and that. Up ahead, the main hatchway that led into the ship’s aft end bridge house. This was their first goal. But just as they turned toward this hatch, suddenly came the most god-awful groaning sound. It shook the ship for 10 long seconds before fading away.

The squad members froze in place. “What the gently caress was that?” one whispered.

“It’s just the ship moving in the water,” the squad leader barked under his breath, but really he had no idea what the noise was.

They moved 10 feet forward—and the noise came again. Twice as long and twice as loud. The SEALS froze a second time. The deck was vibrating under their feet. “Is someone messing with our heads?” one man wondered aloud. “That almost seems like a psy-ops effect.” No one answered him.

They reached the main hatch and started climbing up to the next level. It was pitch-black in here. Each man lowered his IR goggles, but this just gave the place an even spookier look. The sound of their boots on the ladder seemed extremely loud, this even though the SEALs were experts in stealth.

Reaching the first passageway, they heard more strange noises around them: machinery turning on and off; a woman crying. Even the rattling of chains. Yet as soon as the squad leader took two steps into the next passageway, all the noise suddenly stopped. One step forward, the noise started again. Another step, it stopped. The squad froze again.

“This is like a bad ride at Disneyland,” one member said. They started moving again and finally reached the ship’s bridge. It was empty. They climbed up to the next deck, to the captain’s quarters. It was surprisingly ornate, but it, too, was vacant.

They continue their search through what we obviously know is the SS Ocean Voyager, descending deep into the bowels of the ship as more groaning and clanging echoes around them. Finally they find the Vietnamese woman sitting at a table eating steak....with four men sitting next to her. Bingham, Gallant, Martinez, and Ryder Long.


Then the ship groaned again. The SEALs jumped in unison. The four men almost laughed. The SEAL squad leader was growing both anxious and angry. He raised his weapon to eye level. His men did as well.

“Look …” he said forcefully. “I’m not in the business of shooting other Americans, but you’ve got to know who we are and why they sent us to get you. If you resist in any way, I can’t guarantee your safety.”

Finally one of the men spoke. It was the Navy officer. He said: “Nor can we yours.…”

At that moment, the huge hatch leading into the mess slammed shut, sealing them in. Now dark figures began to emerge from the gloom. They were more heavily armed than the SEALs and they, too, had their weapons raised. And there were at least eight of them.

Team 99 was trapped. That had never happened before.

Their captors were wearing uniforms, special ops uniforms. Black, not camos, like them. Their weapons were M16/15s, the specialized variation of the M16 combat rifle. Their helmets were oversize and came with night-vision goggles already attached. Every guy seemed enormous in size and breadth. The SEAL squad leader was the first to realize just who these people were.

“Delta Force …” he breathed. The words had trouble coming off his tongue.

Dead silence. No one moved. The SEALs were still holding their guns on the men sitting at the table; the Delta guys had their guns on the SEALs. Blue-on-blue. That’s what they called it when different Americans units wound up firing on each other. But these were always friendly-fire accidents, mistakes made in the heat of combat. This was a little different.

Ah yes, the famous M16/15.

Bingham talks to the leader of the squad, Lieutenant Charles Barney (what may be the stupidest name in this series so far). He tells them, in very simple and terse terms, to turn around and go home before they get shot.


“We have our orders,” Barney, the squad leader, said again. A bead of sweat was making its way down his nose. His arms and back were soaked with perspiration. He looked at the Delta guy closest to him again. The man wasn’t sweating at all.

“And we have ours,” Bingham repeated, his voice very low. “And you’ve got five seconds, starting now, to lower your weapons. Four seconds … three …”

Each SEAL remained in place. They had to. They were Team 99; there was no way they could back down to these freaks.

“Two …” The Delta guys flicked on their laser aiming devices. Now each SEAL had a tiny red dot dancing between his eyes.


There was a loud pop! An instant later, a great white flash filled the hall. Its light was blinding. An instant after that, the huge door that had been slammed shut behind the SEALs was blown into a million pieces. The flames and smoke were intense, just for a moment.

Then, more armed men began streaming into the room. They were not military, or at least they were not in uniforms. They were all wearing flak vests, sunglasses, ball caps, and jeans. They moved with frightening swiftness, taking up positions around the Delta guys. Just like that, the circumstances inside the mess hall had changed again.

The new arrivals aimed their weapons at the Delta soldiers, who still had their guns trained on the SEALs, who had never taken their guns off the four men sitting at the table. The four looked more than mildly surprised at the sudden appearance of the civilian gunmen.

Finally, someone yelled: “Who the gently caress are you guys?”

That’s when one more person walked into the mess hall. He took off his helmet and calmly brushed back his unruly hair. It was Major Fox of the DSA. A long way from home.

He waved his red ID badge over his head. “I am from the Defense Security Agency,” he announced to the mystified crowd of soldiers. “Anyone here ever heard of us?” His question was met with blank stares all round.

“I didn’t think so. OK, all you have to know for now is that I’m in charge here. And as my first order, I want everyone to lower his weapon.” Fox put his helmet back on and took a paper bag from his pocket. Then he collapsed into the nearest chair and said: “There’s something very important we’ve all got to talk about.”

Fox had spent the past 20 hours in a bewildering chain of transits, from DC to Utah to Guam to Oki Jima to Guam to the USS Roosevelt to an isolated old CIA base a hundred miles east of Taiwan. This is where he met up with the men in civilian clothes, State Department Security (SDS). Supposedly they're the toughest and least-known special forces unit in America, which sort of pales in comparison when you're in the same room as the Superhawks.

Fox unwraps the peanut butter sandwich his wife packed him and takes a big bite. Nobody moves. Eventually as he finishes his sandwich, everyone sort of awkwardly lowers their weapons in confusion.

Fox namedrops General Rushton to Lt. Barney, indicating that he's now in command of the SEALS.


“OK then,” he said. “Let’s get jiggy with this thing.”

He directed the SDS men to arrange the mess tables into a semicircle. All the SEALs, all the Delta guys, and most of the SDS guards sat down. The four men sitting in the back didn’t move, though. Neither did Ky Li. They remained where they were.

Fox had a laptop that could project images onto the wall. Even against the black paint, these pictures were crisp and clear. There was no need to douse the lights in the mess; it was already dark as a dungeon. Fox activated his remote and put up the first image.

Fox goes over the existence of the top secret B-2F project and the plane that went missing on its way to Hanoi. Because the plane is highly classified and was loaded with classified cargo, the conflict between the parties needs to be set aside to find it. The main threat, of all things, is the Filipino government; Fox says they'll have "every mook within 5000 miles" hunting them if word of the crash reaches them. The odd situation of Team 99's attempt to arrest the Superhawks has meant that they're now accidentally the closest team to the crash site, and they've been ordered to go find the B-2F and KC-10 before anyone else does.

We get another overview of the four Superhawks here. In case anyone forgot, Wayne Bingham is the "Captain Bingo" who got a quick mention in the beginning of the first book and never appeared again. Ron Gallant is Curry's partner, the one who looks exactly like Clark Kent.


With all this in mind, and after listening to Fox describe the highly unusual circumstances as to why he was here, Ryder raised his hand like a kid in school. Fox finally saw him, waving from the back of the room. “Yes, a question?”

Ryder stood up and half-shouted: “What does this have to do with us, Major? Personally, I’d rather be arrested.…”

Laughter went through the room. Fox indicated that everyone could relax; then he walked to the back of the hall and casually took a seat across from the four rogue officers. He produced a fresh pack of Marlboros and offered them around. By time he got the pack back, it was empty.

As the four men and the Vietnamese girl lit up, Fox remembered the bio on Ryder. Test pilot. Black ops veteran. Did some time inside the military’s top-secret Nevada Special Weapons Testing Range, the place known in the biz as War Heaven. That gave them at least one thing in common.

“I understand you’ve been to ‘the desert’?” Fox asked him, his voice low, using the unofficial name for the ultra-high-tech weapons range. “What did you think of the place?”

“It was like a bad episode of The X-Files,” Ryder replied.

Fox chuckled. “Exactly.…” War Heaven specialized in advanced psychological warfare training as well.

War Heaven is a location from a different Mack Maloney series that also covered Ryder Long, where he participated in simulated battles for intense training for super secret missions. It's about midway between Wingman and Superhawks on the sliding scale from crazy pulp to hateful anti-Muslim vengeance fics.


He pulled out a small loose-leaf binder. Inside were the notes Ozzi had taken down at Gitmo. Fox had read them over many times in the past 48 hours. He could almost recite them by heart.

He looked up at the four men and then just told them bluntly: “Unlike Lt. Barney and his friends, I know who you people are. And I know what you’ve been up to out here. I know about the food poisoning. I know about the bank you bombed. I know what you did over Hormuz.”

Ryder, Gallant, and Bingo shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Only Martinez remained still.

“Now, I came out here for a reason,” Fox went on. “But it’s probably not the reason you think. I don’t expect you to answer any questions that might compromise national security. What you were all doing to a month ago … well, by some people’s clocks, that’s already ancient history. It is by mine. What we have to talk about is this thing that’s happening right now, just a few hundred miles away.”

Ryder's still not buying it, so Fox pulls up another image on the screen: Kazeel, the hideous bad guy from the first book with the popping eye and scarred face who shot dudes in the balls when he was 13 or something. Kazeel was the architect of 9/11 and the Strait of Hormuz attacks and never got captured or hacked to piece with axes in the first book, but much of the uninhabited land north of Manila is controlled by Abu Sabas, a Philippines branch of Al Qaeda. Kazeel was spotted flying into the area 48 hours ago, suggesting that he's making his way to the B-2F crash site as well. Fox promises them not only a shot at killing Kazeel, but a chance to be sent home no questions asked.

Back up on deck, Fox spots a shipping container and runs up to it before Ryder and Gallant can stop him. It's the yellow Sing-One news helicopter they used for the insertion to the Tonka Tower Hotel. They won't tell him how they knew what was going on or how they got the correct helicopter for the plan so fast.


When Fox reached the bow, Ryder and Gallant were hanging over the front railing, mouths agog. This was pretty much the reaction Fox had been expecting. “Well?” he asked them dryly. “What do you think of her?”

Floating on the calm sea about two hundred feet off the bow was one of the ugliest airplanes Ryder had ever seen. It looked about a mile long and a mile wide. In reality it was roughly the size of a 727 airliner. It had a high wing sitting atop its fuselage. Its cockpit windows looked like a pair of yellow eyes staring out from the plane’s long, bulbous black nose. It had four huge engines, arrayed across the wing, with a small pontoon at each end. The tail sat unnaturally high, not unlike that of a C-5 Galaxy.

Ryder heard himself groan. This was no seaplane. It was a boat—a flying boat. “This is the pooch you were asking us about?” he said to Fox.

“‘Pooch’?” Fox replied with feigned insult. “Colonel, this airplane features the best in Japanese engineering and manufacturing. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces have been flying these things for more than fifteen years. It’s also just about the only flying boat operating today. It can fly almost anywhere in the Pacific, get to islands that have no runways, pick up people who are sick or whose ships are sinking. Hundreds owe their lives to this aircraft.”

Ryder just shook his head. “And this is how we’re going where we’re going?”

Fox nodded.

“And you expect us to fly it?”

“Can you?” Fox asked them.

Ryder and Gallant contemplated the huge aerial boat again. There was an old saying in aeronautics: If it looks good, it flies good. But the reverse was also true. Just looking at the airplane, Ryder knew it would be a bitch to fly. “Fifteen years old, you say?” he asked Fox. “Does it have flight computers onboard? Pilot assistance? Fly-by-wire, things like that?”

“You bet,” was the reply. “The guys who flew it here tell me it handles like a dream.”

Ryder and Gallant just looked at each other. The guys who flew it here? “If they loved it so much, where are they now?” Ryder asked Fox looking around. “And why can’t they be the drivers?”

Fox readjusted his wraparound sunglasses. “Number one, even though they are on the CIA’s payroll, they don’t have the security clearances that you guys do,” he said. “Number two, they have an idea where we are going … and, well, they wanted no part of it. So they’re on their way up to Saigon as we speak.”

Sure enough, Ryder and Gallant could see a small motor launch north of them, two people onboard, waving furiously but moving away from them as fast as they could. In the movies, this was the part where one of the men on the boat would yell out: “So long, suckers!”

This segment is actually kinda funny. Good job, Mack.

The seaplane is simply referred to as a Kai, and was apparently stolen by Fox from the JSDF and had the red meatball on the side hastily painted over. It took a while but I figured out that it's probably a Shin Meiwa US-1A Kai.

The team loads onto the Kai, the SEALS sulking in the back and Martinez sitting in the cockpit with the pilots. Ryder and Gallant use a crudely translated manual to start the plane up and get ready to take off as Bingham, Ky Li, and the others who are staying behind watch the huge seaplane take off.


A spontaneous cheer rose from those on the ship. The Kai went up grudgingly, though. At just 50 feet or so, it began a wide shaky turn, its engines now crying and billowing smoke. For one frightening moment it appeared to be in trouble. But it climbed a little more and then leveled off.

It was also heading right for the ship again.

More cheers, more waving. Another roar from the engines. The big plane was coming on full guns—but it was not climbing anymore; in fact, it had dipped a little. The noise of those four engines, a moment before so powerful, now became frightening as the plane seemed way too low to clear the top of the ship.

Everyone on the deck stopped waving and started ducking. The big Kai went over the Ocean Voyager a second later. It clipped the main antenna off the top of the ship’s forward mast, sending a rain of parts down past the camouflage canopy and onto those below.

“Jesuzz!” Bingham cried. “Those bozos are trying to kill us!”

The plane somehow cleared the rest of the ship and finally got a little more air under its rear end. Flying it was obviously a work in progress for Ryder and Gallant, but at last it began to gain significant altitude. It managed to wag its wings back at those on the ship before taking another long slow turn, this one to the east.

That’s when a separate hatch on the deck popped open and a handful of people climbed out. They mixed freely with Bingham’s crew. They were a ragged lot. Uncut hair, overgrown goatees, tarnished earrings, thread bare Hawaiian shirts. All were in their early twenties; they looked like a bunch of hip Wall Street investment bankers who’d been shipwrecked for a month or so.

In reality, these were the Spooks, the contingent of computer geniuses that had run the eavesdropping devices aboard the Ocean Voyager during its short heyday. They weren’t CIA and resented any suggestion that they were. They were, in fact, employees of the National Security Agency, the NSA, America’s biggest and probably by size its most secret spy works.

The Head Spook was a guy named Gil Bates. He was just 20 years old. He’d been a key figure in the events leading up to Hormuz—and a controversial one. Not only had he been in charge of the ship’s high-tech listening station (still buried at the bottom of the boat); he’d also fathered the plan to attack downtown Abu Dhabi in broad daylight, an act that killed more than a thousand innocent civilians. In many ways, his heart should have been weighed down just as much as Martinez’s. But Bates had had a reprieve: he was the one who cracked the terrorists’ code at the last possible moment, just before the Lincoln was attacked. It was only by his warning, carried to the carrier by Red Curry in his crash landing, that the big carrier had been saved.

Incredibly though, despite all the special ops activity on the boat in the past two hours, no one—not the State Department guards, not the SEALs, not Fox himself—ever asked about the NSA Spooks. And no one onboard the ship was about to volunteer the information. After all, they had to keep some things secret.

The Spooks had to allow their eyes to adjust to the sunlight. They didn’t come up from the bottom of the boat too often, and today was now an intensely bright day. “Anyone mention us?” Bates asked Bingham as the Navy captain lit a cigarette for him.

Bingham just shook his head. “All clear as far as I’m concerned.”

But Bates had already started back down the hatch, heading to the bottom of the ship again. His eyes were starting to hurt. “That’s good,” he said over his shoulder. “Though I’d prefer it if they thought we were all dead.”

Bingham watched the flying boat disappear over the horizon. “You never know,” he said. “We might still get that wish.”

Amazingly, we're already 1/4 of the way through the book. It goes a lot faster than the first one, I think.

Apr 23, 2014

Atlas wakes up in a bamboo cage, four feet square and 18 inches tall. The last thing he remembers was aiming the B-2F on a jungle beach, the impact so violent that it split his helmet in half but he somehow survived. He's too scrunched up in the box to tell how injured he is, but he can see what looks like Teddy unmoving in a nearby cage.


He was a prisoner of the Abu Sabas terrorist group. They were the Filipino affiliate of Al Qaeda and had been operating in the islands around the northern and central parts of the Philippines for at least a couple years. Their aim was to create a radical Islamic state in this part of southeast Asia—and kill as many nonbelievers as possible in the process.

Known locally as the “Aboos,” the Muslim terror group was vicious even by Al Qaeda standards. They had a penchant for kidnapping American tourists and making long lists of impossible demands for their safe return. When those demands were not met, the group would make good on its threat to execute their hostages. Their favorite means of dispatch: decapitation.

As with all the pilots at the secret base on Oki Jima, Atlas had been briefed on the Aboos, because sometimes their classified missions brought them over territory held by the terror group, just like the mission the night before. But never did Atlas ever think it would amount to anything like this.

To keep his anxiety under control, Atlas begins looking around the camp and taking stock of the layout. Many of the Aboos are gathered in a hut in the middle of the camp. Despite the crude living conditions, they have plenty of modern technology like GPS, satellite TV, and cell phones with cameras (remember, 2004).

Around the middle of the afternoon, the terrorists open up one of the cages and drag out a man in his 50s with a beard, dressed as a minister; he's been sharing the cage with his wife, and both are badly emaciated. They film a harsh interrogation of him on a Super 8 camera before an old Willys jeep drives up. The minister's wife cries out, suggesting that she's seen this before.


Atlas contorted his body, hoping to get a better view. The back panel of the jeep was lowered. A large piece of wood had been bolted to this panel, with belt buckles for straps located at either end. The man was made to lay his head on this block of wood, his hands put into the buckle restraints.

He looked over at his wife; his face was pure white. He knew what was about to happen. She did too. He mouthed some words of comfort to her; Atlas tried to lip-read them.

That’s how he failed to see the terrorist who walked out from behind the Jeep with the huge ax in his hand. The terrorist set himself over the man, made sure the camera was running, then raised the ax over his head.

Atlas was able to close his eyes just a second before the blade came down on the minister’s neck.

We cut to the Kai being flown by Ryder and Gallant. They're about 10 miles out from Fuggu Island, the smallest of the three islands in the Bangtang Channel and shaped like a fist with an extended middle finger. The Kai has been flying at wavetop level to stay under the radar and monitoring radio traffic, especially the weather channels.

Suddenly a typhoon begins to catch up to them, and they climb the Japanese plane to 2500 feet. The plane begins bouncing around the sky, tossing the Delta and SEAL soldiers around the back like ragdolls. Only the creepy SDS guards have stayed in their seats, having buckled up and tied down their gear before takeoff. They come close to crashing into the water, but they finally break through the storm and find themselves flying over the dark Fuggu.

They land the plane in a tiny inlet in the knuckle of the island's "finger", bouncing against the waves, and deploy the landing gear to roll up onto the beach. The "Nipponese engineering", as Mack puts it, holds up to the impact. The Delta and SEAL guys in the back look ready to either hug or kill Ryder after their trip.

Ryder taxis the plane into an overgrown rubber tree grove just 20 feet off the beach to camouflage it. Fox stands on an ammo box to finish briefing the soldiers: the disappearance of the plane hasn't been reported because of how top secret it is, so nobody else in the US government is looking for it. The Pentagon has very few clues as to where it went down, the most prominent being an NSA Key Hole satellite that picked up a speck of light around the middle knuckle of the "finger" at the time the B-2F went down.


They climbed out of the flying boat and onto the tiny beach. It was past dusk and the last light was fading fast. They contemplated the jungle before them. It was heavily overgrown and looked antediluvian, prehistoric even. The trees seemed much taller than what would be expected in a tropical jungle, much thicker and darker, too. Running throughout them were vines upon vines, covered in green moss, a massive spiderweb that looked like thousands of years in the making.

“Jesuzz Christmas,” Fox said, startled by the forbidding jungle up close. “Haven’t I seen this in a movie before?” The sun had disappeared for good by now, just as they were standing there. Not two seconds after the last ray faded into darkness, a symphony of strange and disturbing noises erupted from the thick Asian forest. Hoots, cries, caws. Roars. Screams.… Not all of them were coming from birds.

“Yeah, I saw that movie, too,” Ryder finally replied. “This place looks like Kong Island. All we need now is the big monkey.”

Two of the SDS guys would stay with the Kai; they were equipped with a .50-caliber machine gun and a cell phone. This was such a remote location, it seemed impossible for another human to be anywhere close by. But no one on the team was naive enough to believe that.

“I think I might even smell him,” Gallant said to Ryder as they checked their weapons. He was talking not about King Kong but Kazeel, the man they’d been enticed out here to capture—and kill. According to Fox, the terrorist mastermind was in the Philippines and might have even been spotted in this area just a couple days ago. Though the thickly jungled island seemed a long way from the sands of the Middle East, Ryder replied: “If he’s out here, we’ll find him.”

Like the Delta guys, Ryder and Gallant were carrying M16/15s, the special ops version of the famous M16 combat rifle. This model had a shortened stock, an oversized bullet clip, and extra gear that allowed its user to fire grenades, flares, and even shotgun shells. Most had laser-aiming devices on their muzzles; a thin line of red light would tell the bullets where to go. The Delta guys were all wearing night-vision goggles as well. The SEALs were carrying their standard assortment of weapons, waterproof M16s mostly, with a couple shotguns as backups. The SDS guys were all sporting Uzis, including Fox. Only Martinez was unarmed.



Fox also had an unusual communication device connected to his Fritz helmet. About the size of a Nokia cell phone, with tiny headphones and a microphone built in right above his chin strap, it was called a UPX, for a universal personal communicator. The UPX was a highly classified piece of equipment. It could contact anyone, anytime, anywhere on the planet by either phone, high-band radio, E-mail, or even instant messaging. It could send and receive digital photo images. It could send and receive voice mail. It also served as a GPS device. It was obvious to the team that Fox was the type of guy who had to be plugged in at all times. His UPX would see plenty of action in the hours to come.

The team moves swiftly, Ryder and Gallant leading the charge. The island is only six miles long and three miles wide, with the team journeying about 2 miles to the center of the "knuckle". The terrain is a nearly impassable nightmare of potholes, vines, fallen trees, and narrow rivers and streams. Fox keeps ducking away to whisper progress reports into his UPX. Finally, after about an hour, they make it to a small clearing that smells of burning rubber and aviation fuel. The team heads down into a shallow gully and comes up on the other side of a ridge about 50 feet above the clearing.

In the center of the clearing is a large, black wing and the twisted remains of a cockpit below it. Unfortunately, looking through their night vision shows that it's actually part of the KC-10 rather than the spy plane. Strangely, some of the pieces of wreckage have been neatly stacked around the periphery of the crash site.


Fox finally joined them up on the ridgeline. He quickly realized that this was not their primary prize—but declared it a valuable discovery nonetheless. Without another word, the DSA officer went over the top and started scrambling down the other side of the slope, sliding toward the wreckage.

But at the same moment, Ryder noticed something moving in the rubble. Just beyond the smashed cockpit, a glint of metal against the dark sky. A man stood up, alerted by the sound of Fox dropping down the hill. This man was dressed in a black uniform, with a red bandanna wrapped around his head. He was holding an AK-47 assault rifle.

“It’s one of those Aboo assholes,” Gallant whispered urgently to Ryder. “The Filipino Al Qaeda.…”

No sooner had this man stood up, than another, dressed the same way, emerged from under the bent right wing. Then another appeared near the tail. Then another, and another. And another. Many gunmen were popping up at the bottom of the ridge itself. So the Americans were not the first to discover the tanker’s crash site. The terrorists had made it here before them. If these gunmen had been sleeping when the team came upon them, they were quick to break out of their stupor.

All of them turned their guns on Fox, who was just now reaching the bottom of the slope. Ryder raised his weapon; Gallant did, too. But it was too late. The Aboos had spotted Fox and were taking aim at him. Ryder couldn’t believe he was about to see the peanut butter sandwich guy get killed. Yet there wasn’t even time to shout out a warning to the unsuspecting DSA officer. Disaster seemed inevitable.

But then came an explosion of gunfire from somewhere over Ryder’s head. A dozen streams of green tracers combined to hit the terrorists like a tidal wave. The gunmen danced in grotesque slow motion as they were unmercifully riddled with bullets.

No sooner had it begun than it was over. Ten Aboos were dead, and Fox was scared shitless. But he was still alive. Ryder and Gallant looked behind them. It wasn’t the Delta guys who’d saved the DSA officer. Not the SEALs, either. It was the SDS guards. Still looking natty in their Banana Republic combat wear, they’d quickly formed a firing line along the ridge and disposed of the Aboos in frighteningly efficient fashion.

Ryder and Gallant were astonished by their coolness and accuracy. Gallant leaned over to Ryder and whispered: “These dudes are beginning to scare me.”

Let's Read Superhawks: The Peanut Butter Sandwich Guy

They form a defensive perimeter around the crash site and begin checking the bodies. They're all Asian, none carrying more than a gun and ammo. The charred corpses of the crew have been dragged out in front of the crash site; Fox scoops a handful of ash from each corpse to deposit in a plastic bag for burial back in America this man is gross. They also find a hole in the fuselage surrounded by leaked red hydraulic fluid, resembling a stab wound, which I guess is what a SAM impact looks like?


They climbed back up to the ridge. The rest of the composite team had reassembled here. Fox separated himself from the group, then activated his UPX communication device again. He was soon talking, to someone on the other end. The conversation was brief. Fox hung up and informed the team that they had to move off the ridge and all the way back to the edge of the clearing. This took about ten minutes.

Once there, Fox had these words of advice for those present: “Get down and hold on to something,” adding, almost as an afterthought: “I hope we’re far enough away.”

Ryder heard it coming seconds later. A deep rushing sound at first, getting louder and louder until suddenly there was no noise at all. He looked up just in time to see the Tomahawk cruise missile flash over his head. It nicked the top of the ridge and detonated right above the KC-10’s wreckage.

The explosion was tremendous. The shock wave felt like an earthquake. It sent a shower of hot mud and debris on top of the team members. A fiery cloud rose into the night, but Ryder never saw it. He was down in the muck, holding on to something, just like everyone else.

Apr 23, 2014

Crazycryodude posted:

Pretty sure that Jeeps don't actually have a tailgate or rear panel or whatever the gently caress that folds down to behead dudes on.

I know the civilian jeeps that were offered post-war have them. I'm more concerned about the OVERSIZED BULLET CLIP and the grenade launcher that's apparently also an underbarrel shotgun?

Apr 23, 2014

About half a mile from the crash site, the Aboos have a small camp dug into the side of a mountain. They're in a panic over the nearby Tomahawk impact.


They were about halfway through bugging out when suddenly one of their comrades appeared at the edge of the camp. He was one of four men stationed between the plane wreck and the Aboo mountain camp, a trip-wire squad of sorts. The man was out of breath and in shock. He’d climbed out of the bare jungle, his uniform torn and bloody, with no weapon, no boots, no bandanna. It was obvious someone was chasing him; indeed, someone was right on his tail.

The man raised his arms in small triumph upon making the camp, but in the next instant a combined fusillade of M16 tracer fire nearly severed him in two. What was left of him hit the ground and slid back down the mountain. His fellow Aboos were horrified. Their decision to withdraw had come too late. Their aerie camp was already under attack.

A small army of men in black uniforms was advancing rapidly up toward them. Streams of tracers were suddenly coming at the Aboos from all directions. Panic ensued; men began dropping, screaming, dying. Those fighters getting hit were all being shot in the head. Red laser horror, in the middle of night.

Twenty-six terrorists were caught in this crossfire. It took less than a half minute to kill them all.

The Superhawks had come across a squad of 4 terrorists trying to set a tripwire in the jungle and killed all but one, whom they followed back to the camp. They initially can't find anything interesting, but they find a tent hidden under a camouflage net. Underneath is an SA-4 Ganef missile launcher without any missiles left on it, clearly the vehicle that took down the KC-10.

Also apparently the entire missile launcher is painted the same bright silver as the missiles and it has both Chinese and Cyrillic writing. They're confused as hell by the plot: they can't see why such a big launcher would have been hauled up the mountain to randomly shoot down airliners (so they don't think hitting the KC-10 or B-2F was an accident), but they also wouldn't have known when the top secret plane was flying overhead or that they'd need to indirectly shoot it down by hitting the KC-10 instead.

A few seconds later, Fox gets a message from his UPX. It's footage from a Predator drone showing the crashed B-2F about a mile away, on a small river beach in the middle of the jungle. The team books it down the mountain to the site....and there's nothing. No river, no beach, no B-2. It's just regular jungle. They double-check where they are and the coordinates are exactly correct.


The team collapsed at the water’s edge, exhausted from their grueling, breathless trek. This didn’t make any sense. Fox rechecked his data over and over again. He gave it over to Ryder and Gallant. They did the math. It still came out right. Everything matched—except the lake.

“Are we on the right island?” Gallant wondered.

Just then Martinez, who’d been sitting quietly a few feet away from them, suddenly got up, took off all his clothes—dived into the dark water.

“What the hell is he doing?” Gallant yelled. He and Ryder were both up on their feet in an instant; the whole team was. “Not the time for your guy to go for a swim!” Fox yelled.

They all watched the surface of the water, black and treacherous. The seconds ticked by. Five. Ten. Fifteen … Martinez never came back up. Ryder and Gallant began ripping off their boots, intent on jumping in to save their colleague.

But just as they were about to dive in, Martinez came back up. He looked half-drowned. He could not swim. He was struggling to catch his breath. Ryder and Gallant jumped in, pulled him to the water’s edge, then dragged him up to land. Only then did they realize he had something in his hand. It was a long, thin piece of metal, with several tiny protrusions on the tip. Fox took it from him, though for a few seconds Martinez was reluctant to let it go.

“This is a high-gain UHF antenna,” Fox said, examining the object through his night-vision goggles. “It’s right off the front of a B-2 bomber.” They all turned back to the lake.

“Son of a bitch,” Ryder said. “It’s under the water?”

“drat,” Fox said over and over again. “drat … it must be down here.”

“But how?” Gallant asked. “The photo shows it on dry land.”

They stood in silence for a long time, trying to solve the puzzle. It was Barney, the chief SEAL, who figured it out first. “They dammed a river,” he blurted out. “They raised the water level in this area somehow … and covered the bomber over.” He and his SEALs were off like a shot. They began running along the south bank of the lake. Just as quickly, the Delta guys headed north.

In two minutes, the Delta squad called Fox’s cell phone. They’d found an ancient water gate 500 feet up from the team’s location. It was in the open position. Then the SEALs called in. They’d discovered a temporary earthen dam about the same distance to the south. This barrier was keeping the water in. Fox gave two quick orders: he told Delta to close the water gate; then he told the SEALs to blow the temporary dam.

Then everyone else just sat down on the edge of the small lake and watched the water go down.

Ten minutes later, the top of the B-2F comes into view. It's twisted and torn and the cockpit windows are all blown out, but it clearly crashed rather than being shot down. Fox searches the belly of the plane and finds it empty.


“Time to come clean!” Ryder yelled down to him. “What was supposed to be in there? A bunch of nuclear bombs?”

Fox glanced up at him. He looked very dejected. “We should be so lucky,” he said.

Back at the camp where Atlas is being held, he's woken up by an explosion just 10 feet from his cage.


The horror he’d witnessed in the camp over the past few hours seemed to be enough to guarantee that he would never sleep again. The Aboos had executed three more people since the man with the beard was so cruelly murdered. His wife had been brought out next. She was too hysterical to go through the Aboos’ videotaped interrogation routine. They roughly put her head on the chopping block and decapitated her just minutes after she was taken from her box.

A younger man went next, this just as the sun had gone down and the terrorists had started drinking what appeared to be homemade beer. The Aboos tortured the young man—he looked Hawaiian—burning him with cigarette butts and candles and making him sing a song before they cut off his head. The Aboos then urinated on his body.

The fourth victim was taken at the height of the drunken rage. She was a young overweight teen, probably 15 or so. The terrorists tried to sexually assault her, but they were too intoxicated and she fought them to the end. They decapitated her, but because the executioner was drunk, it was messy and she went very badly. Her killing disgusted even the drunken terrorists, and the blood lust ended abruptly. In a way then, the poor girl saved Atlas’s life, as he was certain he would have been next.

Somewhere after that, exhausted and depleted of adrenaline, Atlas fell asleep.

Another terrorist falls dead in front of Atlas, his glassy eyes staring at him. He's taken a 3-round burst in the throat, mouth, and right between the eyes. More explosions rock the camp and Aboos are cut down by machine gun fire, and one of the Superhawks hoists Atlas out of his cage. He sees no quarter given to the Aboos, with men being burned alive in their huts by incendiary grenades or beaten to death with rifle butts. Eventually, almost every Aboo is dead except the camp commander, who's been tied to a chair in his bamboo hut.

Fox begins violently interrogating him in a mixture of Portuguese, Tagalog, and English. Whenever he refuses to answer a question, he gets a rifle butt across the face or a stomp to the balls. Atlas is only able to get that they're demanding to know where the cargo of the B-2F is.


The terrorist commander was white with fear by now. He could barely speak, his lips were so bloody. The soldiers brought in one of the CO’s underlings; he was the only other Aboo member left alive in the camp. Atlas recognized him as the guy who drove the execution truck. They put a gun in this man’s mouth and then made it clear to the Aboo CO that if he didn’t start answering their questions, he would suffer the same fate as was about to befall his hapless colleague. The soldiers then made the underling pull his own trigger. His skull exploded and he went over like a lead weight.

The Aboo commander threw up all over himself. He was pleading with the raiders for mercy. In bits of English now, he went into detail about people coming to him with a plan to shoot something down, on a certain night and in a certain place, and saying that he and his men would be paid to provide men and guns for the operation, but that their involvement ended there. He knew nothing about any cargo. In between all this, the Aboo commander was asking the soldiers over and over: “How did you find me? We were supposed to be hidden.…”

Suddenly one of the men wearing the strange stars-and-stripes patch got right in the terrorist’s face. “We smelled you, rear end in a top hat!” he roared furiously before being led away.

Another man in a black uniform appeared and shoved a digital photo of someone in the Aboo CO’s face. Atlas caught a glimpse of the man in the photo. He was an Arab, in full turban and robe. He had a pop eye, bad skin, and terrible teeth. “You know him?” the man was screaming at the Aboo CO. “Has he been here?”

The Aboo shook his head violently no, but Atlas thought he might be lying. He was beaten again, this time savagely about the face and stomach. He started crying and threw up again. He looked up at Atlas, as if he was the only sane one in the room—and maybe he was right. But Atlas turned his back on him. He was not in the business of helping murderers, even if it was at the hand of other, if friendlier, murderers.

This went on for what seemed like forever. The last Aboo was beaten to a pulp. Finally the terrorist uttered his last two words: “Dirty Arabs.…” It was clear he was unable to say any more. The soldiers put a gun in his mouth a moment later. Someone pulled the trigger and his head was blown away.

I hope none of you felt like we were going too long without gratuitous torture and racism. I'm sure you missed it.

The Americans hustle Atlas and the three surviving missionaries out of the camp, as he wonders whatever happened to Teddy Ball-game. They stop a mile east of the Aboo camp at Wabala Tang, a mountain on the tip of the island's middle finger, and call in Tomahawk strikes on the Aboo camp, the SAM site, and the B-2F crash site.

The next morning, Fox is standing on the ridge like an antenna for his UPX. He's trying to raise anyone, but nobody is returning his calls after they wiped all evidence of their mission via high explosives. Eventually he gives up and takes a seat as the afternoon comes.

Martinez talks to Ryder and Gallant about everything. They were told the B-2F was on a "training mission", but they also know that "training mission" is almost always spy talk for covert ops. They find it suspicious that the Aboos were right where they needed to be to shoot it down, and also that Fox was searching the plane for cargo instead of just calling in an airstrike on the site without needing to send a squad to recover something.


He turned and pointed up to Fox, still stationed atop the pile of rocks, still staring out to sea, still waiting for a callback.

“And I’ll tell you one more thing,” Martinez said grimly. “See that guy up there, waiting for his phone to ring? Well, it ain’t going to ring. Take it from me: A very dirty job has just been done and now someone is seriously messing with his head. And now he’s stuck out here, too. Just like the rest of us.…”

Apr 23, 2014

Two days later...


Sheik Kazeel had never laughed so hard in his life.

Tears were rolling down his face. His sides ached. He could barely catch his breath. He was usually as joyless as a man could be, an occupational hazard of being the world’s first “superterrorist.” But at the moment, he could hardly contain himself.

He was sitting in the back room of the Impatient Parrot brothel in downtown Manila. This part of the Philippine capital was known as the Combat Zone. A throwback to the days of the Vietnam War, it was a six-block area heavily populated with strip clubs, saloons, dance halls, and whorehouses. These days the streets were crowded not with US soldiers on R and R but sex tourists, from Europe and Japan, who were looking for a little bit of the strange. They’d come to the right place. It was a Saturday night and the Zone was rocking. There was plenty of strange going around.

The Impatient Parrot would have seemed an unlikely place to find the shadowy Kazeel. He was a devout Muslim. He prayed the required five times a day and never went anywhere without his copy of the Koran. Alcohol, drugs, slatternly women, young girls? Just about everything the Prophet Muhammad had warned all Islam to avoid was on display at the Parrot.

Kazeel was then sitting in a defiled place, and to do so was considered unholy. He was also a senior member of Al Qaeda. Being spotted in a whorehouse might not please the Saudi fundamentalist mullahs who were still the backbone of Al Qaeda’s financial network.

So why was he here then? And why was he laughing?

I'm gonna open a bar and call it the Impatient Parrot. One of the drinks will be the SS-18 Satan: potato moonshine, kvass, and 15-year cognac (the same age as Mike Harmon's girlfriends).

The book goes into an explanation of the Kazeel's plot here; rather than using clever writing to have it be a mystery unfolded, Mack just tells you everything as an omniscient narrator and leaves out a handful of details to keep some semblance of a twist later on.

Everyone in the world knows that Kazeel was responsible for 9/11 and the Lincoln attack, and he's even made the cover of Time magazine via a blurry surveillance photo, but he feels that Al Qaeda has been made to look inept by the attacks foiled by the Superhawks. He needs to make an even bigger attack that they can't gently caress up to help make the world afraid of terrorism again.

To that end, Kazeel has gotten involved with some mysterious ashaab judus, or "newfound friends" (I have no idea if this is authentic Arabic, but Google Translate gives the direct translation as asdiqayih aljudud). These strange benefactors arranged to have a load of 36 Stinger missiles loaded onto the B-2F and hired the Aboos to shoot it down as it passed over Fuggu Island. Kazeel doesn't know how they managed to arrange this, but he doesn't really care as long as he gets to blow up American poo poo. They've also used their "high-level connections" to pay off all the authorities in Manila, allowing Kazeel to walk around without risking arrest.

So why is Kazeel laughing? It's a long story. He met with Marcos, a local Filipino thug, who showed him the bunker full of Stingers on a small island in Manila Bay; the cases were made of the same material as an aircraft's black box, allowing them to survive the B-2F crash.


All Kazeel had to do now was get three dozen missiles to mate with the launchers and the next big assault on America would be one step closer to reality.

Stingers are factory-packaged as complete launchers Mack.


The viewing in the bunker had been complete by early afternoon. When the yacht docked back in Manila, Marcos asked if he could join Kazeel for dinner. Normally Kazeel would have told him a flat no. But in this new world of his, he surmised the contact wasn’t doing this because he longed for Kazeel’s company, but rather that his judus wanted someone to keep an eye on him while he was in town. And Kazeel was learning to become flexible. So he accepted Marcos’ request.

Kazeel spent the rest of the day holed up in his five-star hotel. Around 6 P.M., Kazeel received a message from Marcos. He was on his way up. Dinner was eaten in Kazeel’s suite, during which Kazeel lectured the hoodlum on the fruits of Islam, his one condition for agreeing to meet. The conversation after that was trite. Marcos quickly grew bored. It was so obvious he was here just to keep tabs on Kazeel, it was almost painful. But then room service arrived and a bottle of post meal wine was offered, courtesy of the house.

Kazeel rarely drank alcohol, as it ran counter to Muhammad’s laws. But for whatever reason, he didn’t feel very Muslim tonight. He’d had a very stressful past couple months, trying to get the world to stand on its head for Allah. He deserved a little respite. So he agreed to just one. That one glass quickly led to another however; Marcos fancied himself a wine connoisseur and he was also a lush. Soon the first bottle of wine was gone, and room service brought two more. They were drained as well. Then Marcos ordered some liquor Kazeel had never heard of. They drank it in little glasses poured right from the bottle. Kazeel was soon very drunk.

That’s when Marcos revealed that in addition to working for the judus, he was also the owner of a brothel, downtown. In the Combat Zone. That was how Kazeel found himself here now, in the back room of the Impatient Parrot, cackling hysterically, not unlike a jackal.

What was making Kazeel laugh so hard was the two girls sloshing around in the mud pit in front of him. They were young and topless and they were wrestling each other ferociously. A dozen well-heeled Filipino businessmen were sitting around the pit. They’d made a corral of metal folding chairs and were occasionally flipping U.S. half-dollar coins into the mud as tips for the two young combatants.

Kazeel and the Parrot’s owner sat in padded seats at either end of the squared ring. The back room was small and grimy. A giant plate glass window, covered in thick black paint and pictures of some rather sick pornography, made up one of its walls. Brick and perforated bamboo sticks made up the other three. The room was filled with tobacco, marijuana, and opium smoke. The floor was a half-inch deep with spilled beer. The stink of sweat was almost overwhelming.

For the most part, the other men sitting around the pit were silent, intense. Not unlike a pride of lions getting ready for the kill. The two girls would be made available to all after this slop match. If the crude pictures on the black wall were any indication, a rough outing was guaranteed for both. But Kazeel’s delight was not coming from anticipation of sex. Having been taught from an early age to hate women, he was virtually sexless. Yet he was finding it highly amusing to watch the two girls roll around in mud, slapping each other, pulling hair, ripping off what was left of their clothes, groping at their privates.

The others in the room saw the mud fight as a prelude to nocturnal depravity. Kazeel saw it as slapstick.

The other guy with Kazeel is Abdul Abu Uni (is everyone a loving Abdul Abu in these books), his shuka (assistant, or companion, supposedly according to Mack). Uni looks exactly like an Arabic Mr. Clean, complete with a huge gold earring in his left ear, but he's also a eunuch after being mutilated by his uncle when he was 2 and has an IQ of about 75.

Uni is laughing uproariously at the slapstick mud wrestling....until the bullets start flying.


The brothel’s four security men had been arrayed around the room in a protective box, one for each corner. Standing back in the shadows, they couldn’t see anything but the back of a lot of heads.

Kazeel had just downed another glass of Stoli when he noticed one of these guards suddenly disappear behind the row of Filipino businessmen. One second the man was there; the next he was gone. As this was registering in Kazeel’s woozy brain, another of the bodyguards went down, the one directly off to his left. But this time, before he fell forward, Kazeel saw a button of blood appear on the man’s forehead. A bullet, shot through a silencer and passing through the bamboo, had cracked the man’s skull in two.

Kazeel’s mind began racing. Then a third guard, the one right in front of him, got a bullet between the eyes. His head, too, split open like an egg. Everyone noticed it this time. Someone killed the music. One of the mud girls screamed. Then came another loud pop! and the fourth guard went down, another bullet to the brain. Kazeel froze with drunken fear. Each of the bodyguards had been killed by a tap shot, a single round to the skull. This was a favorite means of dispatch by many of the world’s more notorious special ops teams.

“Praise Allah!” Kazeel screamed.

An instant later, Sergeant Dave Hunn came crashing through the window. He was 20 pounds heavier since the last time he’d done something like this. His forty days at Guantánomo Bay as both a prisoner and someone recovering from wounds received above Hormuz had done a job on his waistline. If anything he and his three associates had been fed too well in captivity. But if he was just a bit older and fatter, he was also a bit wiser. And as fired up as ever to grease some mooks.

He’d come through the room’s plate-glass window, feetfirst. The crash alone was deafening. This was Hunn’s specialty back in Delta Force—he was a door kicker, the guy who went in first. He was armed with a shotgun, two pistols, and butcher’s cleaver. Landing in a crouch, he fired his 12-gauge at one of the room’s two lightbulbs. It exploded in a storm of sparks.

Two more men came crashing through the window. These were Puglisi and McMahon, the other two Delta Force guys who’d shared Hunn’s prison down in Gitmo. Unlike Hunn, they came in headfirst, like two guided missiles, taking down the line of Filipino businessmen and firing into the ceiling as well, adding to the confusion.

A fourth and fifth quickly followed behind. One was Red Curry, the heroic special ops helicopter pilot who’d also taken the unexpected vacation in Gitmo. The other was Lieutenant Mikael Ozzi, he of the DSA.

I love the idea of Hunn being any "wiser". He's the guy who threw children out of a helicopter for maybe being related to a terrorist.

We get a little backstory on why Ozzi has suddenly gone from a desk job to raiding Filipino brothels. A "For Your Eyes Only" message meant for Fox accidentally passed over his desk, revealing that Kazeel had been tracked to Manila. The Philippines Intelligence Service had forbidden the CIA to act, since they were all in the pocket of Al Qaeda and diplomatic niceties prevented the United States from publicly accusing them as such. Because Ozzi was now the acting leader of the DSA while Fox was gone, he decided to follow the Superhawks' lead and write a bunch of orders to himself approving the attack, then forged Fox's name on a fax to release the Gitmo Four from custody and recruit them.


The Filipino businessmen dived for the floor at first sight of the Americans. The mud girls went down, too. Only one lightbulb had been spared in the barrage. It was swinging wildly back and forth, casting strange shadows across the crowded, smelly room.

The businessmen were quickly frisked; each had been carrying a pistol. The two girls were obviously clean, but Puglisi frisked them anyway. Red Curry frisked Marcos and found a list of all the underage girls who worked in his establishment. Curry hit the guy on the jaw with the butt of his shotgun. The man went over with a thud. All this happened in just seconds.

With the room secured, Hunn walked over to Kazeel sitting petrified in his fancy padded chair and put the muzzle of his shotgun against the terrorist’s substantial nose. Meanwhile, McMahon’s gun was resting on the back of Uni’s neck. Hunn’ got up in Kazeel’s face.

Hunn’s young sister had been in the World Trade Center the day the towers were hit. At 18 years old, she was among the youngest victims. That’s what gave Hunn the bones to be in the secret unit, and now here was a dream come true. His sister’s murderer just the length of a gun barrel away. One pull of the trigger, sweet vengeance would be at hand—and lights out for the world’s first superterrorist.

There's only one thing that can gently caress this up: the cops.

Over two-dozen heavily armed Filipino cops charge into the room, holding the group at gunpoint. Captain Ramosa, a National District Police chief, walks in after them. Like any good Mack villain, he's got oily, pockmarked skin, gold teeth, and beady eyes....and he's wearing a cheap paper armband with "UN" printed in blue ink.

Ramosa claims to be representing the United Nations (which Hunn insists has no jurisdiction in Manila), specifically the UN Subcommittee of Refugees, and that Kazeel is a foreign national under their protection.


Hunn scanned the room. His comrades would never know just how close he came to pulling the trigger and greasing the supermook—and getting them all killed. But if the situation was now impossible, that didn’t mean Hunn was going quietly.

He got right back in Kazeel’s face. He screamed at him: “Look at me, rear end in a top hat! I’m from Queens, New York! My name is Dave Hunn! Remember me. Next time you see me, I’ll be chopping you to pieces!” At that point, the mighty Kazeel, superterrorist, wet his pants.

On a curt nod from Ramosa, two of the policemen lifted Kazeel to his feet and quickly carried him out of the room. Uni followed close behind. Ramosa turned back to the five Americans. “I assume everyone here has a valid passport?”

Hunn spit in his face. Ramosa wiped it off with a neatly folded handkerchief. He never lost his snide grin. “I’ll take that as a ‘no,’” he said. He gave a quick “hup-to!” to the rest of his men. They began filing out, but with their weapons still up, still ready for anything.

Ramosa went out last, walking backward, protecting his tail. “My condolences on Nine-Eleven, gentlemen,” he said, flashing his seedy gold smile again. “My prayers were with you that day.…”

Cut to Manila International Airport. "Typical third world chaos," as Mack puts it: planes taxiing every which way with little regard for traffic controllers and lots of guys running around with SARS masks and knives in the terminal. A dirty white cargo jet with "UN" hastily spray-painted on the side rolls onto the tarmac and a pair of hooded figures are hustled off a police jeep into the plane, which quickly takes off.


Past the airport’s fences, over the highway, over the dump, over the shantytowns, the shacks, and up on a hill overlooking the southern end of Manila International a battered rented Ford Taurus was parked, engine running, AC blowing, all four doors wide open.

Ozzi was sitting on the hood, shoulders drooped, ball cap pulled low. He watched the UN plane a half-mile away pull up its gear and start to climb. In the backseat of the Ford were Puglisi and McMahon. Both were trying to sleep. Red Curry was sitting behind the wheel, chain-smoking. They were all exhausted, except Hunn. He was stalking around the car like a madman, talking to himself and swearing mightily.

“Jesus Christmas!” he screamed, shaking his fist as the airplane carrying Kazeel went right over their heads. The noise was tremendous. “I just can’t believe these Zips let that rear end in a top hat go! Didn’t we free these people from the Japs a while back?”

“Gratitude isn’t in much supply these days,” Curry said over the roar of the departing jet’s engines. “Not for guys like us.”

“Then how about we just nuke this lovely little place?” Puglisi asked with a yawn from the backseat, eyes still closed. “You can get a nuke, can’t you, Lieutenant?”

Ozzi took the question half-seriously. “It might take a few weeks. But …” He looked out on the mountainside slums. They stretched for miles. “I’m not sure it would make much of a difference here,” he added. A brutal, smelly wind blew by them.

They were quiet for a long time. Then Ozzi let out a moan. “Well, this is just great,” he said. “We’re at the end of the world here—and drat it, now we’ve got to fly back. I’m not looking forward to the ride home, boys. I don’t even know if I still have a job.”

Suddenly Hunn stopped pacing. He looked at Ozzi strangely. Hunn was a huge individual, perpetually unnerved and like a time bomb ready to go off at any moment. But for a few seconds he turned pro. “Wait a minute,” he said to Ozzi. “Why are you getting us all bummed out?”

Ozzi just looked up at him. “Did you just say ‘bummed out’?”

“Yes … sir. You’re bumming us out.”

Ozzi was confused. “Don’t I have a good reason to?” he asked sincerely. “We just went through a major-league Chinese fire drill, and I’m sure, with the UN involved, we lit up every phone between here and D.C. I’ll be lucky if they let me sweep my office when I get back.”

“Get back?” Hunn asked him. “You keep saying that. Get back where?”

“To the states. To Washington. And for you guys, probably back to Gitmo.”

All four men started laughing and couldn’t stop. Hunn was almost in tears. “Oh man, Lieutenant,” he told Ozzi, “I understand you’re the new guy around here. But, sir … you got to get a four-one-one on this. We ain’t going back.”

He turned toward the spot where the “UN” plane was now just disappearing into the west. “And believe me, that guy ain’t getting away this easy.…”

Superhawks: stopping terrorism, one nuked Filipino city at a time.

Apr 23, 2014

Sperglord Actual posted:

I wonder if 'Mack' has ever heard the names Jacob Smith or Littleton Waller.

Mack probably considers Waller's orders perfectly sensible, given how he seems to treat Filipino terrorists.

Also, I looked it up but "Zips" is actually a slur for Italian-Americans. They can't even be racist right.

Apr 23, 2014

Yond Cassius posted:

I think he means it to be short for 'ziphead' or 'zipperhead', which are definitely slurs for Asians.

Ah, never mind. Just as racist as he should be.

Apr 23, 2014

Just after midnight, on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, three SUVs pull up to an abandoned airbase; Bakrit was built for the CIA during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to help them secretly supply the Mujahideen. The men in the SUVs are members of the Intelligence Service of Pakistan, which I shouldn't need to tell you is tied to Al Qaeda in Mack's world. They meet the Airbus that touches down with Kazeel and Uni to transport them; there's a mention that both travel in separate vehicles because each of them holds the sharfa, Mack's made-up Arabic for "The Key" that will activate the sleeper agents for their Next Next Big Thing.

The convoy passes through several paid-off checkpoints to Pushi, one of the most isolated and Moon-like landscapes on Earth. In the center of this valley lies the hidden village of Ubusk, Kazeel's home for the past 10 years.


The three SUVs roared through the village at high speed, waking many of its 400 villagers. Then the vehicles began climbing the boodi on Ubusk’s north side. This small mountain was known as Pushi-pu. Kazeel lived at the top.

His house was square, two stories, with a flat roof and many windows. It had four rooms in all, a palace by this region’s standards. The largest room was the master sleeping quarters. It was all windows, including six in the ceiling. Kazeel had a monstrous water bed in here, but he never used it. Most nights he spent here, he slept in a blanket on the floor. The rest of the house was spare of furniture.

However, there were many high-tech media devices about. Large-screen TVs, radio receivers, video recorders, CD players—all American-made. There was also an extensive videotape and DVD collection on hand. All of these were American as well.

The house had a grand view of the ring of barren mountains surrounding it. It looked out over the valley and gave an impressive panorama of the night sky as well. The view from the bedroom was the best. Both the sunrise and sunset could be seen from here. In the morning, the mountains turned a weird orange; in the late afternoon, they took on a shade of blue.

But the house’s location had nothing to do with aesthetics. Kazeel, being joyless and sexless, saw nothing of the beauty in nature. Why he lived at the top of this mountain was all about his security.

There was only one road up to the top. A small army of security guards watched this entrance, located at the southern base of the boodi. These guards were Ubusks, men from the village; they were also distant cousins of Kazeel. They kept an eye on things while he was away, guarded him when he was home, and provided protection for him whenever he moved about Pakistan or Afghanistan. They were very loyal and fierce fighters. Kazeel trusted them highly.

Their checkpoint was heavily fortified. Not only were they armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades; they also had an old T-72 Russian-made tank hidden inside a rock shed next to the entrance to the access road. The tank could hit a target just about anywhere in the valley below, including the village, as well as the road leading up to Kazeel’s mountain.

Kazeel arrives shortly after 4:00 AM, catching the guards sleeping at their post (which scares the poo poo out of them). Waiting in the house for him are his 7 closest advisers, who helped him plan 9/11; they live in caves around the area. As soon as he walks in, Kazeel has Uni pass out yogurt, lamb guts, and tea as he begins the meeting.

Kazeel explains that while they have Stinger launchers, they still need missiles to load; the entire plot is apparently based on Mack grievously misunderstanding how Stingers are manufactured as complete units.


The seven men looked at their dirty feet for a very long time. Finally one man spoke up. He was Abu al-Saki el-Saud, a minor Saudi prince.

“But just as with the launchers, the missiles too are a very hard item to get these days,” he said nervously as Kazeel was known to have a volatile temper. “Supply was never very good anyway. And now, our friends in the Afghan are all gone. Our friends in Iraq, gone as well and our brothers in Syria have become women since the Americans landed next door. And Brother Ghadafi—well, as we all know he is a woman. So, my sheikh, it has become very hard for us to …”

“Are you saying you could find no one who would want to make a deal with us?” Kazeel cut him off tersely. “With all our contacts? Are our old friends deserting us?”

“It is the quantity, brother,” El-Saki told him bravely. “We could probably get one or two missiles from the Yemenis. A couple more from the Egyptians. One or two from the Irish. Maybe even our friends inside the Pakistani military could find two or three. But you require at least thirty-six. A very large number all at once. Why?”

Kazeel is tight-lipped about the details. He wants to keep the exact information about the plan a close secret, known only by himself, to ensure the utmost security. The rest of the men are nervous and doubtful of Kazeel's plan, but none are willing to back out just yet. The only problem is they have a single person willing to deal with them for the missiles: Usay Bhazi. Bhazi was a Ba'ath Party member and black market arms dealer for Saddam Hussein, fleeing into Pakistan hours before American troops rolled into Baghdad. He's notorious as a sneaky cheat and very dangerous, but he does have legitimate connections that could help Kazeel.

They're also thrown off by the destruction of the Pan Arabic Oil Exchange. After Tom Santos crashed that airliner into the building, Kazeel has been forced to deal with a lot of people he ordinarily wouldn't have. They arrange a meeting with Bhazi in Sat Put, and the men file out the door....except for Ali Hassan Wabi, an elderly Kuwaiti. Wabi is Kazeel's closest associate, and he grabs him as he tries to leave so they can talk in private.


“I have a favor I must ask of you especially,” he said to Wabi.

“Anything, brother …” Wabi replied.

Kazeel lowered his voice. “I need new bodyguards. Can you help?”

Wabi paused a moment. “You mean, you want additional bodyguards, my brother?”

But Kazeel shook his head. “No—I must replace the ones I have now.”

Wabi was very surprised to hear this. Kazeel’s Ubusk security people had been with him for years. They were considered the best in the business. It seemed like a strange time to change them out. But Wabi knew better than to ask Kazeel why.

“I will talk to my contacts,” he said instead. “And I will let you know.”

“Make it fast, my brother,” Kazeel told him before showing him out the door. “We have many challenging days ahead. Whoever you get for me will have to be the very best.” Wabi didn’t like the sound of that. He’d never seen Kazeel this nervous.

“Can you confide in me?” Wabi asked him. “What is the problem, brother?”

Kazeel paused a moment. He did not open up to people so quickly. But …

“Let’s just say my escape from Manila was not as clean as it might have seemed,” he told Wabi. “I was a breath away from Paradise, and pray, brother, I do not want to go there so soon.”

“But you are now here, my brother,” Wabi said, trying to provide comfort. “And Allah be praised you are still in one piece.”

Kazeel just shook his head. He was suddenly on the verge of tears. “Brother, you don’t understand. For the first time in my life I am looking over my shoulder. These people who almost had me in Manila. They weren’t just some CIA group. They were the Am’reekan Maganeen. I’m sure of it.”

Am’reekan Maganeen, the infamous Crazy Americans. The words sent a chill down Wabi’s spine. The Crazy Americans were the secret special ops unit that had been sent against them—the 9/11 plotters—even before the attack on the Lincoln took shape. It was widely believed in the Islamic underworld that these special U.S. soldiers had been the reason the carrier survived that day. There was even talk that they had foiled the big attack in Singapore as well.

Unlike most U.S. special ops troops the jihad organizations had come up against, the Crazy Americans held to none of the conventions that other American units did. No Geneva rules of war for them, the Crazy Americans were terrorists themselves. They rarely spared anybody who crossed their path, especially anyone who was in on the planning of the 9/11 attacks. Their means of extracting information from those they collared was already legendary for its sheer brutality.

Wabi promises to contact a protection outfit in the area, using the code term "Blue-eyed Muslims" to refer to them. Kazeel's face lights up when he hears that they'll be his new bodyguards. As Wabi leaves, he sees that the guards who fell asleep at their shack were executed by the Pakistani Intelligence guys.

Five days pass at Casa de Racism. Kazeel barely sleeps or eats, and even gets a Roland SAM launcher left over from Desert Storm installed outside. He's terrified beyond measure that the Crazy Americans are coming for him to punish him for all of his murdering. He's especially terrified by Hunn, as he believed Americans didn't even have emotions and had never met an American until that day in Manila.

Shortly after midnight on the sixth day, the phone rings. It's Wabi, letting Kazeel know that he secured the Blue-eyed Muslims' services. Just before noon on the seventh day, three black Range Rovers drive up to Kazeel's compound.


The trucks’ windows were tinted to opaque and each had a small forest of cell antennas poking up from the roof. They arrived and parked three abreast. They turned off their engines in unison; then every door on each of the three vehicles opened, again in unison. Five men stepped out.

Four were huge, towering over Kazeel’s five-seven frame. They were wearing identical black combat uniforms, with plenty of ammo belts, utility packs, and night-fighting gear but no insignia. Each man was carrying an AK-47 assault rifle, a Magnum pistol in a shoulder holster, and a gigantic knife in his boot. All five were also wearing black ski masks, with holes cut out for their eyes and nothing else.

Kazeel met them by his back door. They formed a line in front of him, and each snapped off a smart salute, his first and last for the new boss. Kazeel didn’t even have to say a word. He already felt psychically connected to them. Their body language said it all: they were ruthless, unwavering. Their regimentation was hugely impressive, yet they didn’t seem real somehow. They were more like Robocops, characters from one of Kazeel’s favorite American movies. Having them watch his back was a fond wish come true.

His new bodyguard detail hailed from what many thought was the worst place on earth: a place called Chechnya.

How fanatical were the Chechyans? There was a slang term going around the Gulf these days, being called Chechnya meant you were a “totally crazy person.” According to Wabi, in addition to their mercenary work these blood-and-guts fighters had been battling the Russians for nearly 10 years in their own country. For the most part, they’d embarrassed the old Soviet empire almost as badly as it had been in Afghanistan twenty years before. What made them even more different was that these blue-eyed Chechyans were also Muslim fundamentalists, some of them even more radical than Kazeel and his Al Qaeda cohorts.

This particular group was known as the Dragos. They were famous for two things: their masks, which were for intimidation purposes but also so the men could never be identified even by the one they were protecting (You don’t want to see our faces was a favorite Drago phrase), and, more important, their uncanny ability to extract those they were protecting from some of the tightest, most dangerous predicaments. Assassination attempts. Predator drone strikes. Carpet bombings. The Dragos always managed to pull their client through.

Kazeel was smiling so wide now his cheeks hurt. These men would make a great match for the Crazy Americans, he thought. If the two teams were to ever meet up, it would be the battle of the century, at the very least.

I'm not even going to try tearing apart the inaccuracies in this section here. The Dragos take a look at the Roland, and then ask him if he arranged for his trip on a cell phone.


Kazeel was taken back by the question. He rarely kept a cell phone longer than 24 hours these days. This procedure had been drummed into all the Al Qaeda hierarchy from the very beginning. Simply put, the United States could intercept cell phone calls and track their user. That was a quick way to get a Hellfire missile dropped on one’s head. But Kazeel hadn’t dumped his phone now in nearly a month. He couldn’t. Just about everything having to do with the next big attack on America was locked into the photofone’s extended memory. Kazeel had nowhere else to put it.

“I’m sorry, but yes, I did use my cell,” Kazeel finally admitted. “But it was a necessity. Time was running while I was waiting to hear from you. I had to set up the meeting quickly.”

“It’s fine,” the bodyguard replied with a touch of good nature, a big surprise. “No problem at all. Can you leave in two hours? It’s a fourteen-hour drive to Sat Put and it’s best that we sleep along the way.”

Apr 23, 2014


Early the next morning, Kazeel was standing on a small mountain overlooking the village of Sat Put. He’d spent the night up in these hills, sleeping soundly again as the Dragos kept watch over him. He awoke with the sun, refreshed despite the grueling drive to get here the night before. He shunned any morning hygiene and told the Dragos that they should proceed into town immediately.

Alexi, the lead Drago, had accompanied Kazeel on the trip down from the Pushi, riding with him in the backseat of the middle Range Rover. (Uni rode in the car behind.) Kazeel and Alexi discussed many things on the way. The success of 9/11. The failure of Hormuz. The embarrassment of Tonka Tower, which Kazeel claimed to have no hand in. But most of all, they talked about Bahzi.

Kazeel told the Drago leader about Bahzi’s habit of staging ambushes near the site of his business dealings, sometimes absconding with the money if the person who’d just paid him happened to get iced. Yet when he did make a legitimate deal, the Iraqi’s prices were usually fair and the merchandise always top quality. You just never knew which Bahzi you were going to sit down with. For reasons like this, the Dragos insisted on taking all three vehicles to the meeting; in case one or two broke down or were damaged, they would have an option for escape. Kazeel liked that kind of thinking.

He also liked the transportation. These weren’t ordinary Range Rovers, Alexi had revealed to him along the way. They were actually Italian Fiat armored cars with Range Rover bodies fitted over them. They were moving arsenals as well. The Dragos carried everything from shotguns, to grenade launchers, to antiaircraft guns inside them and more. The trucks’ armored siding could take a .50-caliber round fired less than 25 yards away. Their windows were made of glass and epoxy 17 layers thick. The tires weren’t tires at all. They were steel wheels.

Sat Put is a tiny, desolate village made up of a dozen small buildings and some tents surrounded by mountain peaks with a permanent snow cap. The local warlords anticipated the meeting and told everyone to stay inside with the doors locked and windows shuttered until noon.

The place of business is the village mosque, which is gigantic and ornate unlike everything else. The vehicles pull up to find two armed men peeking out the front door, waiting for them. Kazeel tries to open the door, but one of the Dragos holds it shut and motions for him to stay still.


The bomb went off a second later. It was in the building across the street, an abandoned grain silo. The blast was so powerful it nearly tipped Kazeel’s car over. Every window in every building on the street was blown out. The sound of the blast reverberated through the small town like a roll of thunder. Kazeel was thrown across the backseat by the concussion, smashing his head on the truck’s rear window. Suddenly the back door opened and one of the bodyguards jumped on top of him.

Gunfire rang out. Two Dragos ran by the rear of the truck, firing their weapons into the burning building across the street. Ignoring the danger, they poured it on with AK-47s, and grenade-throwing rifles. Suddenly the snowy street was awash in tracer fire. Kazeel was astonished. Where have such brave men been all my life? he found himself thinking anxiously.

The gunfire lasted for nearly a minute; then it died away. The bodyguard waited about ten more seconds, then finally climbed off Kazeel and allowed him to sit up. Kazeel saw three things at once: the building across the street from him was gone, his bodyguards were ringing his truck with their bodies, forming a human barrier between Kazeel and further mayhem, and Bahzi’s men, cowering behind the doors of the mosque.

Another Drago yanked Kazeel out of the vehicle. “Inside!” the man growled at him. “Now!”

He was hustled up the stairs and through the mosque’s door, two more Dragos practically carrying the enormous Uni right behind him. The Dragos pushed Bahzi’s men aside and led Kazeel and his shuka down into the basement to a safe room located in the center of the structure. It had 12-foot-thick walls and 15 feet of concrete for a ceiling. It also had seven separate exits, a labyrinth of escape tunnels should the occupant get advance word that something really bad—like a U.S. air strike—was on the way. Around the Middle East, these places were known as Saddam Rooms. Just about every grand mosque had one.

I can't believe this book sometimes.

Kazeel stops to catch his breath, then heads into the Saddam Room for his meeting. Bhazi is sitting behind a table covered in magazines like Time and Mad, all with Kazeel on the cover. Mack describes him simply as "big and ugly" like something from Star Wars. Bhazi feigns concern regarding the bombing, then they get down to business.

Bhazi tries to ask why Kazeel needs 36 Stinger missiles, but he won't describe his plan in any more detail than going after 36 different targets. Bhazi suggests that he'd be better off turning in Kazeel to the Americans for $25 million, but the Dragos intimidate him into standing down. Bhazi pulls out his "photofone" as Mack calls it in 2004 and shows Kazeel images of Stinger missiles in storage tubes, with someone holding a newspaper in the picture to show that the photos are recent. Bhazi explains that missiles from the batch were tested around the world, and the remaining ones "recalibrated" and "recharged" however the hell you would do that to a Stinger.

They negotiate silently by writing down a price on a piece of paper and tearing it until they agree, then Kazeel gives Bhazi the number to his Swiss bank account. Uni will remain with Bhazi until the missiles are delivered, at which point Kazeel will release the $17 million in the account to Bhazi. To ensure that Bhazi can't ambush and kill Kazeel like he's been known to do to other business partners, the Dragos take a different route back home from Sat Put.

They spent the next 4 hours driving up through the mountains, onto roads at cloud level that were built in the 1800s. They pass through rain and snow, which Kazeel panics about every time. Remember when this guy was the creepy, soulless bad guy who never panicked and scared the poo poo out of everyone he ever interacted with? Now he's wetting himself and crying every time his car swerves too hard.


Then Kazeel lay back and closed his eyes for the first time in a long time. They only had about seven more hours to go. Perhaps he could sleep some of the way home. No such luck.…

The instant he closed his eyes, his vehicle was rocked by an enormous explosion. Kazeel was thrown to the floor, violently gashing his head on the way down. Smoke suddenly filled the truck’s interior. His masked driver began swerving madly, back and forth, steel wheels screeching on gravel. It was so wild, Kazeel didn’t know if the man was really in control of the truck or if he’d been shot or even killed. The smoke was that thick inside. Kazeel tried to pull himself off the floor but found this nearly impossible. They were moving that crazily. All this happened in a matter of seconds.

Somehow Kazeel finally found the strength to crawl back up onto the seat. It was then the truck crashed through a wall of fire; it was so intense, Kazeel could see his reflection in the raw flames outside the window. “What is happening!?” he finally yelled. The guard just gave him a quick grunt—at least he was still alive. But he was driving so intently Kazeel knew it was best that he shut up.

Another explosion went off not 10 feet in front of them. Then another, on the left shoulder of the road. Another, off to their right. “Big bombs … from air …” was what the driver finally yelled back to him in very broken English. Kazeel got the message. The little convoy was under air attack.

The driver remains cool as a Chechen, yelling something Slavic into his phone while driving. He swerves out of the way of every bomb blast, almost as if he's able to predict where they'll drop, and then pulls the convoy behind an outcropping of rock that shields them from the ordnance. After five minutes, the mysterious aircraft is gone and they begin driving again.

They come over the top of the Meshpi mountain the next morning and find Pushi below them....and Kazeel's house is in flames. The driver takes a call about the situation, and explains to Kazeel as best as he can that the friends of his former bodyguards (the ones he had executed for being asleep) are pissed as hell and burnt down his home. He sees dozens of armed men with literal torches and pitchforks tearing through his burning home, and is astonished that he didn't instill enough fear in the populace to keep this from happening.


Suddenly there was a great crash against the passenger side door. Kazeel turned to see the face of a very bloody man pressed up against the window. He looked like something from a horror movie, screaming and bleeding from hundreds of wounds. But it was his eyes that were the most frightening. They were positively bugging out. The man began saying something—but he suddenly disappeared, only to be replaced by another face, this one bloodier.

Now came the crash of explosions—not aerial bombs this time. Kazeel could hear sprays of shrapnel hitting the side of his vehicle; RPGs were landing all around them. Their sound was unmistakable. Then came the gunfire. Torrents of it. Again unmistakable, it was large-caliber and vicious.

Only then did it dawn on Kazeel what was happening. Despite their best efforts, they’d driven right into an ambush.

This is not a very good day, Kazeel thought. And quite possibly, his last. He knew these armed men on the outside of the car, knew whose dirty hands were trying to get him. They were also Ubusks, people from the village near his mountain. A trademark red cloth worn to keep their hoods on was a dead giveaway. Erasing his former bodyguards so close to home was going to be the end of him, Kazeel was sure. He should have carried his former guards up into the hills and disposed of them quietly. It would have avoided the catastrophe he found himself in now.

Dozens of these people were swarming over his Range Rover. The vehicle ahead of him suddenly exploded in flames. The two Drago bodyguards tumbled out just a second before the truck was blown apart.

Their truck trapped, the biggest Drago rips open the door and drags Kazeel out. Two of the Dragos throw Kazeel down the hill, sending him rolling into a pool of mud and moss near a raging mountain stream, and then jump down the hill after him. Kazeel fears the inevitable, but the Dragos tell him that they have a way out. A helicopter appears, and he's amazed to see that once again the Dragos have prepared with amazing foresight!


But there was something strange here, at least to Kazeel’s battered mind. It was the helicopter itself. It wasn’t really a military aircraft. It was roomy inside, but he saw no weapons. And to his amazement, the Dragos knew how to fly it. Two of his sterling bodyguards were behind the controls. Or at least men that looked like them.

But the really odd thing was the helicopter’s color. It didn’t seem appropriate somehow for a battle zone. Not green or black or a camouflage combination of both. Instead, it was painted very bright yellow.

And on its tail were the words: Sing-One TV.

Well gently caress.

Apr 23, 2014

When we left off last week, our buddy Kazeel just had the wool pulled over his eyes by the Superhawks! What a wacky twist!


Her name was Tiffany, and she was quite possibly the only Tiffany in all of Manila.

She was the assistant day manager of the Xagat Pacific Hotel, by far the most expensive place to stay in the Philippine capital. Tiffany was an American, but on duty she spoke English with a vague European accent. She was just 22, attractive, and stranded in the Philippines by a failed romance. She hated her job. Hated her boss. Hated the hotel’s well-heeled customers. She was also in charge of the Xagat’s public relations.

She arrived at her office this Saturday morning, 20 minutes late to begin her shift. No sooner had she sat down with her first coffee of the day than she got a call from the front desk. There was a strange man in the lobby. He was claiming he had to pick up a very important message from his boss, yet no message had come in for anyone under his name. He was causing a bit of a ruckus and would not leave.

“Is his boss a guest here?” Tiffany asked the front desk.

“He was about a couple weeks ago,” came the reply, or at least that’s what the strange man was saying. But he refused to give his boss’s name, so there was no way to check. Hotel security had the man under surveillance, but no one working the floor knew what to do. Tiffany gulped the rest of her coffee and charged down to the lobby. This was not the way to start her day.

Her elevator arrived, and she marched past the front desk to a cluster of couches near the main door. The disruptive individual was now sitting here quietly. Tiffany approached the lobby matron, the person who’d first flagged the problem. She was standing about ten feet away from the strange man, giving him his space.

He wasn’t really being difficult, the matron explained to Tiffany in a whisper. He was just slow on the uptake. If the message from his boss hadn’t arrived yet, he would just wait here until it did. That sort of thing.

Tiffany walked around the couch and finally got a look at him. Bald head. Big muscles. Gold hoop ring in left earlobe. He was odd-looking. And his scowl was frightening. But Tiffany noticed he had the eyes, and the eyelashes, of a woman. Six security men were watching him from afar, but Tiffany could tell the guy was making them nervous. She couldn’t blame them; he looked like he ate children for breakfast. He reeked, though, and was dirty and was wearing filthy Middle Eastern–type clothes. He would have to go.

It took all the security people, two bellhops, plus the concierge to finally get the man out. He was half-dragged, half-pushed through the huge revolving door and deposited, butt-first, on the sidewalk outside. Yet no sooner was he on his feet than he was up against the plate-glass window looking back in. He was crying.

Tiffany went over to shoo him away. He pressed an index card up against the window for her to read. It contained just one sentence, written in several different languages. She recognized only two of them: Arabic, which she couldn’t read, and English, which she could.

The card said: My name is Abdul Abu Uni. Can you direct me to the nearest bathroom or airport?

I see our terrorists are as incontinent as ever. I get the sneaking suspicion that this mentally disabled man is going to suffer a painful, undignified demise.

After Bhazi sent the missiles (disguised as decontaminated hazardous waste on a UN plane), Uni was put on a plane to Manila; this is a bit of a massive undertaking, as Uni is no smarter than an 8-year-old. He was supposed to wait for a message from Kazeel....and 48 hours later, it's not here.


Once tossed from the Xagat, Uni was at a loss as to what to do. Although he’d stayed in a very seedy hostel around the corner from the grand hotel during his first trip here, he’d accompanied Kazeel everywhere he went in those few days. They’d toured the Bangtang Channel together on a private yacht. They’d met the judus’s contact. They’d seen the mud fight in the brothel.

Desperate, Uni began searching for familiar places now, just as a child would do. He wandered the streets of Manila, a big ugly stranger in a strange and frequently ugly land. The slums were horrific; they overwhelmed Uni, who’d grown up in the isolated high desert of northwest Pakistan. Somehow he found the waterfront and from there the marina from which they’d embarked on their yacht trip. The yacht itself would be easy to find, even for him. It was painted in blue, white, and red, and it was so clean, so smooth, so sleek, it seemed to glisten. But though he searched the marina several times, all he saw were fishing boats and junks. The yacht, which in his mind was the size of a battleship, was no longer there.

He was crushed. He’d loved riding on the expensive vessel. It was big and fast and protected him from falling into the water. He’d actually dreamed of riding on it again someday.

He drifted for several more hours, going back through the shantytowns, stumbling his way through the crowds, pushing away the beggars who seemed to be everywhere. By dumb luck he found the fancy restaurant where Kazeel and Marcos had had lunch. It was called the Luzon Cricket Club. Uni stationed himself outside its front door, closely examining anyone going in or out, hoping to see a familiar face, but scaring many. A small army of security men showed up, and just like at the Xagat, he was told to move on.

More hours of confused meandering followed. Night fell, and it began to rain. By the glow alone Uni found the section of downtown Manila called the War Zone, the neighborhood where young girls fought in the mud. He stumbled from saloon to dance hall to strip club, looking for the one sign he thought he would recognize in the neon watercolors of the night.

But though he searched for it until way past midnight, he couldn’t find the place called the Impatient Parrot.

Uni makes it back to the Xagat, crying in the fetal position under one of the palm trees outdoors. Tiffany comes to find him, in a bit of a shock. A message has come for Uni, but not the one he was waiting for.

She leads him into the tiny employee break room behind the kitchen, then brings him a package with an unmarked VHS tape inside. Tiffany leaves him to his own devices, and I think we all know what the tape is going to be.

The shaky camerawork opens up on a snowy ground. It shows Bhazi dead with a bullet in his head, and his bodyguards with their throats slashed. It cuts to Kazeel's home, with the council of seven terrorists all dead of headshots on the rug. Another cut, and it's the Pakistani intelligence guys garroted to death in some abandoned house. Finally, it cuts to Kazeel. He's on his knees, hands bloody, naked, and begging for his life in the desert.


Four masked men appeared behind him; each was carrying a small hand ax. It was early morning, and the sun was coming up. Kazeel saw the men, saw the axes, and commenced wailing even louder. He began pleading with the man operating the camera, begging him to spare his life, that he was sorry, that he would make restitution. It did him no good. The men with the axes converged on him and began chopping him up. His screams were hellish. It took a long time for Kazeel to die. Uni threw up on himself.

But still, one part of this didn’t make sense. The people doing all this were the Dragos. Uni knew because they were wearing the Dragos’ jet-black battle garb, including their trademark black masks. But why would they kill Kazeel? The answer came when one of the men turned toward the camera and slowly took off his mask.

Uni threw up again. This man was not a Chechyan. He was an American. The face he would never forget. The man smiled and said: “Remember me? Dave Hunn, Queens, New York.” He continued staring into the camera, cruel smile glued to his face, as if he was waiting for Uni to put it all together.

This he did in a surprisingly few seconds. The Chechyans were never Chechyans at all! They were Americans. The Crazy Americans.

And they’d somehow fooled Kazeel—and everybody else. Suddenly Hunn was holding up Kazeel’s photofone. His smile had turned demonic.

“And look what I found,” he said into the camera as it was turning to show a bright yellow helicopter in the background. “That’s right; we got the whole plan right here. And now we know where you are and what you are doing. And so we’re coming to get you. You got that, Cue Ball? You’re next. See you soon.…”

Uni huddles in the corner for the next 10 minutes, shaking and crying uncontrollably. Somehow, this makes me angrier than Hunn killing those kids and grenading the bus in the first book; that was horrific, but glossed over. We're supposed to be rooting for them to kill Uni, taking pleasure in tormenting a mentally disabled man who was talked into terrorism, as Mack shows him vomiting and spilling tea on himself and crying in fear.

And then his phone rings.


He heard a man’s voice, speaking in Arabic but with a very strange accent, certainly not American. “Thank you for answering, my friend. And we are friends; let me first assure you of that. And we are friends of your friends. We are all one together. We are aware of what has happened to your colleague Kazeel. We grieve his loss along with you. But don’t worry. We are here to help you. You must not be afraid.”

Uni was dumbstruck. At first, the voice sounded like Kazeel, talking to him from beyond the grave. But of course that accent—there was no mistaking that.

“Though we’ve had this setback, we can still proceed with the big plan. It is very important that we do. You just have to do exactly what we tell you and the attack will go off as scheduled. The people who will use the weapons are in place. As you know, they’ve been in place for years. Kazeel worked hard, and he put everything together. The weapons just have to get to their destination and our brother Kazeel can enjoy Paradise knowing his dream will be fulfilled.”

The person reveals themselves only as the judus, the "newfound friend", of Kazeel. He wants Uni to give him the sharfa, the code to activating the sleeper agents in America. And his code name is "Palm Tree".

Who wants to take bets on the judus being Bobby Murphy pulling a long con?

Apr 23, 2014

For the record, I skimmed through the rest of the book after posting that.

This does not get better, especially not for Uni.

Apr 23, 2014

Two days later...


Uni had no idea who Georgio Armani was or why he was wearing one of his suits. Yet here he was, in a light gold pants and jacket ensemble, white Lord & Taylor shirt, red Savoy silk tie—and Gucci shoes, of course.

He was standing on the concourse of the Luzon Cricket Club, the exclusive resort on Manila Bay. This place had been built by the British a hundred years before, its snotty appeal surviving World War II and many periods of internal unrest in the Philippines. The club was palatial, white and silver and surrounded by a small forest of palm trees and tropical plants. Their colors were dazzling; they were reflecting wildly off Uni’s mirrored aviator sunglasses.

Less than 48 hours ago he’d been chased from this very same place. Now he was a guest for lunch. He nodded to his limo driver; the car had been provided to him by the Xagat hotel, the same one he’d been tossed from, again just two days ago. The driver bowed deeply, lit up a cigarette, and settled down to wait.

Palm Tree made a call to the Xagat's owner (an old Arabic friend) and got Uni up in the presidential suite. He spends the next few days on the phone with Uni, explaining to him that he basically needs to walk the same path that Kazeel was before his untimely trip to Paradise to ensure that the missiles get to America; if their collusion gets found out, Palm Tree's government likely wouldn't survive. Uni destroys the video tape to hide the evidence that Kazeel is dead and is given a series of index cards with instructions and "Palm Tree sent me" messages to get what he needs.

The first thing on his list, at the Luzon Cricket Club, is meeting Palm Tree's main Manila contact. A Filipino servant girl brings him to the veranda, where he's reintroduced to Captain Ramosa, the gold-grilled cop who saved them at the Impatient Parrot when the Superhawks attacked. Ramosa and his bodyguards amaze Uni with a deceptive shell game before continuing with their business and food.


Finally, he got down to business. Ramosa said to him: “We can secure both the missiles and the launchers tonight. We can put them together by early morning. Pack them correctly and they’ll be on their way by tomorrow night. There are many people in this city who will help us to this end.”

He took out a matchbook and wrote an address on the back. “But first, you have things to do, and so do I,” he said, passing the matchbook to Uni. “Meet me at this place, tonight, at ten. And we will begin the final leg.”

Uni took the matchbook. A silence passed between them. Ramosa sipped his mineral water.

“I understand you are carrying a key piece of information regarding the implementation of this attack,” Ramosa finally said to him. “Something referred to as the sharfa. This must be quite a burden for you, holding the key to putting the plan in motion. If so, I am here to tell you, should you ever want to share that information, please be my guest.” He smiled, but this time not so flashy. “I mean, if recent history is our guide, should anything happen to you, my friend … well then, all would be lost, wouldn’t it?”

But Uni wasn’t really listening. He’d finished his salad and was now using one of the five spoons next to his plate to scoop up the remains of the dressing. This done, he began to lick the plate clean, as he usually did at mealtime. Only the appearance of a bowl of sherbet stopped him.

Ramosa took a call on his cell phone, and this signaled the end of their meeting. They shook hands and Uni left. He was intercepted again by the girl in her tight club uniform. This time she took his hand tightly in hers and walked him to the front door. As she bid him good-bye, she pressed a card into his hand. It was her private phone number. Uni picked his teeth with the card, then threw it away.

Uni's next destination is Makak, a strip of beach near the poorest section of town. The structures here are built on stilts above the sewage-filled water, clustered around a market that (like every market in the Superhawks third world) sells everything from cheap trinkets to HD TVs, all foreign knockoffs or stolen.

Uni is directed to a store that sells nothing but small plastic Buddha lamps in red or yellow; he purchases 1000 of each color, the owner recognizing Palm Tree from the index card given to him.

Next is the Ghost Town, a section of city dedicated to cemeteries (I'm getting the feeling that Mack has never been to Manila). The limo pulls up in front of an old barn with an expensive Jaguar parked out front. The coffin maker inside immediately begins groveling and bending over backwards to help Uni when he hands him the card from Palm Tree. The man is normally a coffin maker, helping the police when they need to murder homeless kids and addicts to clean up the streets (okay maybe Mack was predicting Rodrigo Duterte's presidency), but he also makes crates to order and is making three crates to exact specifications for Palm Tree.

Chapter 15 begins and we're thankfully 61% of the way through this book by now.


Uni tasted whiskey for the first time that night.

A bottle had been placed in the back of the limo the hotel was providing for transportation to his meeting with Ramosa. Uni found the fifth of Jack Daniel’s as soon as he climbed in; on hand as well were five chilled glasses, a bucket of ice, and three varieties of mixers: ginger ale, soda water, and seltzer. Four beautiful women had delivered these things to the limo. Uni knew this because all four were sitting in front of him right now, each holding a glass with whiskey and some mix in it.

The women were here for instruction purposes, he believed, on the proper way to put alcohol and non-alcohol together. That the hotel thought to send four women to teach him these things, though, seemed like overkill to Uni. One female would have been sufficient to explain it to him, and he would have got it, after a while. There was no reason to send four, each with a sample drink in her hand. And what was with their clothes? They were barely wearing anything.

It had already been a whirlwind day for him. Lunch, the meetings with the exporter and the woodworker, it had run Uni ragged. He wasn’t used to this hustle and bustle. Luckily, he’d found a few hours to relax. He’d returned to the Xagat after visiting Ghost Town, did a Jacuzzi, and then emptied out the minibar again. He’d developed a passion for the Pepsi, saving the bottle-cap for each one he drank. He washed his Armani suit in the bathtub, using the hotel-supplied shampoo for soap. A room service meal followed. Uni sat on the bed, licked his plates, and channel-surfed for the next two hours.

A phone call from Palm Tree sends Uni back outside in his slightly damp Armani suit, and he waves the women off so he can mix his own drinks (fascinated by the bubbles in his ginger ale). The car drives through streets clogged with hookers and beggars through the slums and drops Uni off at the docks 48 piers short of his destination; he tries to bribe the driver to stay around, but he takes off rather than stay in this part of Manila.

Uni begins walking, encountering gunfire and stab victims stumbling out of warehouses; apparently this part of Manila is just a war zone 24/7. He meets Captain Ramosa and heads down to the red, white, and blue yacht Uni had loved so much. The yacht's crew is dressed in black combat fatigues and secret police shoulder patches (is your police really secret if they have identifying patches?), but he's just happy to be in paradise again.

They arrive at the small island of Gugu (come on, Mack) and head into an artificial cavern built by the US in World War II, guarded by either Ramosa's men or Aboos. The cavern is an elaborate bunker, filled with everything from machine guns to unexploded JDAMs. In one corner is a pyramidal stack of long black leather suitcases, each holding an empty Stinger launcher for inspection. Ramosa's men load the Stingers into the yacht, and they set off into the dark waters.

After about an hour of sailing, they pull up beside a green ferry; Ramosa hides his contraband in ferries that resemble the thousands of boats traveling around the Philippines, and this one is loaded with the missiles for the Stingers. Strangely, there are 37 missiles for 36 launchers; Ramosa plans to test the merchandise.

The protagonists may not be kicking puppies for freedom, but the villains are certainly targeting poor orphans!


The ride to the island of Kaagu-Tak took another two hours. It was 20 miles farther out from Manila than Gugu. The yacht arrived just before four in the morning, having parted ways with the bright green ferry just after 2:00 A.M. Kaagu-Tak was another pinprick of rock rising up out of the deep blue water. They approached it from the north side, Uni now up on the bow with Ramosa and some of his policemen. They had both a missile and a launcher by their side.

Ramosa handed Uni his night-vision binoculars and suggested he look at the coral lagoon dominating the island’s north side. Beyond its rocky beach was a runway, one as basic as basic could get. Even though they were a mile out, through the night goggles Uni could see a small two-engine commuter plane was on this strip, its engines warming up. Behind it was a small aircraft shelter, a control hut, and three long barracks-type buildings.

“It’s an orphanage,” Ramosa told him, answering the only question Uni could possibly have. “It’s run by a bunch of priests. Maryknolls, they are called. They have five camps on the islands out here. Every morning, around this time, they warm up that old plane, take off, and go island-hopping, moving orphans around, tending to their unfortunate flock. They’ve been doing it for years.”

Uni was a certified simpleton, but as he watched Ramosa load the missile into the launcher, he was certain what Ramosa had in mind was nothing more than a test of the missile’s aiming system, a fake firing to show that yes, if the trigger was pulled while the plane was in its sights, then it would hit the plane and the plane would go down. The missionary plane took off. Ramosa stood on the yacht’s bow pulpit, his head cocked to one side, allowing him to talk on his cell phone as he raised the loaded Stinger launcher onto his shoulder. He was getting instructions from someone on the other end; that was obvious. But who?

Ramosa proved very agile, trying to converse and line up the weapon at the same time. Finally he was heard to say: “Yes … it is a lock. I think it is a lock.” The voice on the other end became so loud, everyone on the yacht heard it say: “Fire, my friend.… Fire!”

And so Ramosa did. The missile went off its rail with a whoosh of smoke and corkscrewed itself into the air. It quickly caught the scent of the slowly rising airplane and in an instant made a beeline for it. It was strange that it had still not registered on Uni that this was a live fire test—not until the missile actually hit the plane.

There was an immediate puff of white smoke, then an orange ball of flame. The noise reached them a second later, a loud pop! followed by a sharp, guttural roar. The plane emerged from the fireball, or at least what was left of it. Its slow ascent indicated it was probably at full weight when it took off, meaning it had a dozen or so passengers onboard and that most of those passengers were probably orphans. Uni could actually see bodies falling out of the sky now, each one hitting the sea with a splash, sometimes colliding with pieces of flaming wreckage on the way down.

Uni was too dumb to be shocked. He was surprised, though. Ramosa looked back at him, just as reality was settling in. He flashed his gold-plated smile.

“Worried about the authorities, are you? I can tell by your face. Well, I assure you, my friend, this matter will be investigated by local law enforcement. Which, of course, is me.” He looked out on the surface of the water broken only by the smoke and the sinking wreckage of the missionary plane. He never lost the 24K grin.

“And I have now fully investigated this matter,” Ramosa went on after just a few seconds, as the crew and the female servants laughed around him, “and I have concluded that the poor orphans’ plane crashed due to mechanical problems.” More laughter.

“They were orphans when they awoke this morning,” Ramosa concluded. “But certainly, they are orphans no more.”

I'm starting to hope Palm Tree isn't a Bobby Murphy long con now.

Don't worry, though! Uni is described as literally too dumb to feel remorse, so it's okay for the Superhawks to brutally murder him if they so please later on. The yacht starts heading back....until another ship appears in the night.


The ship was passing not 10 feet away from them now and the yacht was being tossed about like a toy. Uni tried to shut his eyes, but he was too frightened to look away. He was hit by another wave and thrown violently to the deck, cutting his scalp on the broken bowl of cherries on the way down. He looked up from his prone position and saw the overhang of the huge vessel going right over his head. Engines rumbling, metal screeching. Such a horrible sound!

It was a containership; that much Uni could tell. But even with blood pouring into his eyes he knew this vessel was lucky to be afloat. True, it was enormous, but it was also very old, very rusty, and seemed to be full of holes. And there were pieces of branches and trees hanging off of it. How crazy was that? And then just as suddenly it was gone, disappearing into the night. But not before Uni could read the words painted on its rear end. Ocean Voyager.…

Uni ran his hand over his bloody bald head. Where had he heard that name before?

Apr 23, 2014

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

Apr 23, 2014

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Superhawks: the best soldiers in the world?

Apr 23, 2014

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

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

Apr 23, 2014

JcDent posted:

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

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

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

Apr 23, 2014

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He did not look happy.

This book is confusing the hell out of me.

Apr 23, 2014

Crazycryodude posted:

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

Where the gently caress is this going?

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

Apr 23, 2014

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He liked the way Paris looked after it rained.

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

Apr 23, 2014

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

We begin somewhere in the Pacific Ocean...


Diego Suarez had been lost at sea for three days.

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

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

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

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

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

Diego gets left behind.

Two days later...


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Apr 23, 2014

JcDent posted:

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

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

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

Apr 23, 2014

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back in Washington DC, the MCI Center is packed.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye Bobby.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Apr 23, 2014

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Beethoven’s Fifth …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Very, very scary.…

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

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

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


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

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

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

“Used to be …” he replied.

“And were you happy?”

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

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

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


Apr 23, 2014

PhotoKirk posted:



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

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

Apr 23, 2014

JcDent posted:

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


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

But no, they had to get their psychopath on.

Apr 23, 2014

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Yes, Bates. You're wrong.

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

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

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


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

That was it. The smoking gun …

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Apr 23, 2014

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

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

Apr 23, 2014

JcDent posted:

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 23, 2014


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

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

An old friend named Bobby Murphy.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Oh. Oh no.


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

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

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

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

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

Apr 23, 2014

Preechr posted:

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

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


Apr 23, 2014

Art imitates life...

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