Excerpt - Chapter One
Amy J. Fetzer
0118 hours Zulu
Six fathoms below
Some people were a waste of human tissue.
Sixty feet underwater, Cumbiya speeches and tiptoeing around
countries harboring terrorists didn’t mean a damn thing. No
political sanctions, no gray areas.
Just the way Mike Gannon liked it. And if those in the
cheap seats yakked outside the eyes only perimeter,
any investigation usually followed a lot of, ‘I have no
recollection of that event, senator’ moments. Like
now. Stepping onto
Libyan soil was a no-no in the international ball game. Not
that he gave a damn.
This time, it was personal.
Mike frowned behind the dive mask when his rebreather suddenly
tasted like road kill, and he checked the filtration gauge for
toxicity. Traveling for two miles underwater was pushing
it. The last thing he wanted was to suffocate on a bad oxygen
mix before reaching the shores near Tripoli.
An ironic epitaph for a Marine.
In the black deep, he watched the glowing green lines of the
Global Positioning system, estimating time to target less than
five minutes. The
propulsion torpedo pulled him through the water and he finned for
extra speed, maneuvering beneath the surface like a shark after
its prey. Time for some pay back.
To the left and right of him, in tight formation were DiFazio,
Valnik, and Krane. When his fin touched ground, he switched
off the propulsion and let it float with him to the shore as well
as forty-five pounds of equipment could. He anchored it with
his dive weights, then drove a leash spike into the sand. He
had just enough fuel to get back to the sub. Maybe.
Removing his fins, he didn’t surface till his team was in
sync with him, then slowly they rose to eye level above the surface. He
switched the goggles from underwater illumination to night vision,
then checked the area. The ruins of an ancient village spread
over the top of a rock embankment, decaying and uninviting in the
Beyond it, lay the target, unlit and about thirty feet above
Eleven men had escaped from a Yemen prison. Convicted al-Qaeda
fighters. Spec Ops had already located and eliminate seven. According
to intelligence, the last of them were hiding out here on Farawa
Island. A low, flat nothing but palm trees piece of land
that was closer to Tunisia than Libya so no one could say al-Qadhafi
harbored them. There wasn’t a part of the Middle East
that wasn’t unstable, and no country wanted to send in forces
to clean up the mess. Except America. This time, there
would be no escape.
His orders were to proceed with extreme deadly force. When
in doubt, take it out.
The island had few inhabitants, and little tourism since it was
under development to be a vacation destination on the other side
of the island. Yeah sure, Mike thought. Come to Libya,
dine with suicide bombers. That’ll bring them in.
But the discovery of Roman artifacts put the kibosh on any progress
as archeologists dug furiously before construction vehicles lined
the narrow causeway from the Tunisia-Libya border. The advantage
for the team was--the place was dead except for a little street
traffic. The disadvantage was a boat loaded with sympathizers
ready to transport the three targets to their next safe house was
four miles behind them and closing fast. They had to be quick
At Mike’s signal, the team rose out of the sea like serpents,
the wet sheen quickly dissolving like a shedding skin, turning
invisible in the moonless night. Mike’s anti- ballistic
material in his dive vest grew instantly lighter as it drained. Moving
low and forward, he pulled back the hood, released the rebreather,
and concealed it in the hollows of rocks with his fins. On
one knee, Krane took up position to guard. Equipment stashed,
they stripped down the wet gear to minimal weapons, then advanced
quickly. Valnik remained on the shore, guarding their backs.
The three paused at the foot of the rock jetty. The wind
and sand had shaved down the crumbling walls above to no taller
than six feet. Mike was forward, his MP5 assault rifle equipped
with silencer, scope, and laser track still in the wet pack. He
wasn’t going for long distance shots. Close combat
was essential for concealment. The 9mm Beretta with suppressor
would do the job. Or a knife.
They climbed the rock embankment, soft-soled dive boots muting
their approach. Slipping over the wall, they entered the
ruins, clearing each section in a grid. It would be messy
if they found lovers hiding in here. None spoke, a whispered
voice carried, the erratic noises coming from the target was not
enough to cover anything more than muffled footsteps. Twenty
yards covered, ten yards, twenty feet. Mike stopped at the
southwest corner, beyond the suspicion of light and fusing with
the fathomless black of the landscape. They didn’t
have time to plan this assault; Intel confirmation was slow while
terrorists moved fast. The analysis was, these guys would
be bugging out on the boat tonight. His team was here to
stop that little trip.
I’m getting damn tired of capturing these
guys only to do it again a couple months later.
Krane rushed to disable the vehicles lining the street front,
DiFazio watching for stray traffic as Mike slipped around what
was left of a wall and kept moving in toward the target, a rectangular
building with a glass storefront. The satellite image he’d had
only minutes to memorize was accurate: one rear door, and only
one side window. From his position, Mike could see the lights
of traffic about a quarter mile up the road. He flipped the
night vision visor to thermal and found four heat signatures, all
about the same size. Military trained, two of them were the
masterminds behind the attack on the USS Cole. Mike was
alive only because he’d gone topside for some air ten minutes
before. The impact had sent him over the side of the ship.
Mike slid around the edge of the ruin wall, and moved in as the
rear door opened. A man appeared, a small flame brightening
his features as he lit a smoke. He dragged hard, unaware
that Mike stood within five feet of him. Carefully, Mike
holstered his sidearm and drew his knife. They couldn’t
afford gunfire this early. Mike slipped up behind him, his
hand closing over the man’s mouth as he drove the blade into
his kidneys. The pain was beyond a scream and he held him
silent till his muscles went slack. He lowered the body to
the ground and continued, Krane falling in behind him.
DiFazio was near the storefront to assure no one escaped and
ready to cut the electricity.
With Krane on the opposite side of the door, Mike opened it. Soft
light spilled on the sandy ground, wind off the sea swirling violently
and kicking up fine grains. From inside someone barked to
shut the door.
Gannon touched his throat mike and whispered, “Kill
The area went instantly black. The inhabitants scrambled,
falling over furniture in the dark as Mike and Krane slipped inside,
heat signatures showing locations. Four shots and the men
were on the floor.
our more to assure they didn’t
get back up.
“Clear.” Mike advanced, securing
the front of the store. Empty.
He inspected boxes from the front to the back, found a wild assortment
of snacks and trinkets, keenly searching for—bingo. He
located stolen C-4 and detonators that still had the Moroccan Army
insignia on it. One was ready to go and he carefully eased
the detonator wires from the pliable explosive, then lifted the
box, handing it to Krane for transport. He pocketed the detonators,
gathered the weapons, cell phones, a laptop, then scooped up paperwork
and anything else strewn over the tables. He stuffed it all
in a watertight sack. Let Intel sort it out later.
“Bug out,” he said moving around bodies to the exit. Within
moments, the team was down the jetty to their dive gear, suiting
quietly as they’d arrived, his teammates slid into the cold
Mediterranean sea, releasing the anchored propulsion torpedoes. Mike
was last, bringing up the rear, strapping on his rebreather as
he moved to the water.
He never saw it coming.
llets had a strange sound when they impacted flesh. Like
a fistful of mud thrown against a stone wall. The splat was
soft, the pain excruciating as it ripped through his deltoid, just
past his Kevlar.
Mike stumbled to one knee, refusing to go
face first in the sand.
“Tango One is down,” Mike heard
in his comms.
“The hell I am. Get your asses underwater,” he
ordered, and spun with his weapons drawn. Another shot came,
missing him, the muzzle flash giving a location as at that moment,
a car passed, headlights spreading a glow over the area--and silhouetted
Dark haired and wafer thin, a boy of no more than ten aimed a
e didn’t hesitate and fired, hitting the kid’s weapon. Ignoring
the infantile scream, he hurriedly yanked up his hood, put the
regulator into his mouth and fell into the sea. He put on
his fins and Krane was there, the propulsion launch already churning. He
grabbed Mike’s wrist and put the handles in his grip.
Salt water stung his wound. It just pissed him off.
Shot by a God damn kid, and attracting sharks with his blood
As he finned toward the approaching ship to finish the job, he
decided if anyone were going to be shark food, it would be the
enemy. Ooh rah.
Loma Negra Dig
North Peru, Same day
Dr. Eduardo Valez pulled off his straw
hat and swiped the back of his wrist across his forehead. The
effort was a failure against the cloying heat. He’d
grown up here, he should be used to it. Years in the city
had apparently softened his mettle. He pushed off the tree
stump and moved into the excavation, carefully stepping beyond
the string grids and further into the newly unearthed site.
He looked down at the shards of pottery, the explicit sex scenes
depicted in the fine painting still clear after centuries. He
didn’t see the value on the market or to a museum, but the
value to his people. His culture. The world. For
years, scholars thought the Incas were the first to build a society
here. But the Moche tribe had existed long before.
Slipping out his brush, he wisped at the chard, flushing a little
at the position of the lovers. Inventive, he thought, smiling.
Valez, section four and five have been cataloged.”
“Then package for transport, Gil.”
He looked up at the young archaeologist. The man had done
everything he could to get on this dig. American born and
raised, Gilberto had Peruvian blood and his ancestors, the youth
believed, lay in these ruins.
“You are well trained.” Eduardo
done the training. “Consider it another trial
The young man stood a bit straighter and nodded. The gift
of confidence was such a little thing to offer, Eduardo thought,
turning back to the chard as the young man moved beyond the site
to the tents and many crates waiting to be filled. Eduardo
inched forward like a duck, accustomed to the position as he reached
to brush away more of the land and reveal the history.
His breath caught when he realized he’d found an unbroken
urn beneath a stone table. The stone slab was at an angle,
likely from a recent cave in and before digging further, his gaze
rose upward to the uneven ceiling of rock and tried to judge its
stability. Removing the slab chiseled by hand was impossible
without excavation equipment, and that would destroy the site. If
he removed the earth below, perhaps the pot would slide free. He
worked slowly and beneath the bowl of the pot, he found bone and
a tooth. It galvanized him to keep going. Then he realized
the stone slab was not long enough for a table but more of a box. He
lost his balance, pain shooting up his kneecap as he tried to stop
his fall on the site. The ground was usually softer here,
and backing up, he brushed at the rock, and uncovered sharp edges. A
door? As he brushed he wished for some water to rinse the
grime as an etching appeared. Almost as if it were freshly
chiseled. More warrior drawings. He took measurements
of the stone opening holding the urn, then the slab. They
were nearly precise in dimensions. A chamber for a single
pot perhaps. Unusual. He couldn’t be certain
and reminded himself that creating what wasn’t there wasn’t
his job. He turned his attention back to the urn.
When he finally unearthed it, the morning had passed, and he
thought of his wife’s complaints about his obsession. But even
Magdalena would appreciate this. A half a days worth of painstaking
work later, Eduardo felt the fragile pot shift under his hand. He
stopped, simply to control his eagerness that might somehow ruin
“Senor Valez, Professor? It’s late.”
Eduardo looked up, frowning that the generator lights had come
on beyond the entrance and he could smell the aroma of food. He
shook his head, his smile ironic. “This is why my wife
threatens to divorce me once a week.”
Gil chuckled softly and handed him a canteen. “Must
be something good to keep you here for hours.”
Gil marveled at the stone tablet carvings but was instantly distracted
when Eduardo flicked on a pen light to show the object clearly. He
didn’t dare tug for fear of cracking it or scraping the delicate
“Oh man, it’s in tact.” Gil
stooped for a better look.
Groups of ten small offering jars, or ofrendas were
found at the foot of the burial site in groups of five, ten or
twenty. Eduardo glanced back at the shallow excavation behind
him. Perhaps these were the ofrendas of someone
important. “A prize for certain, but look at the drawings. It’s
not the lovers on it as the other chards. But warriors in
combat.” He’d seen this picture a couple of times
before, but only in fragments from a fallen ceiling.
none of the drawings show the Moche waging war for conquest or
attacking a fortified settlement. No capturing, killing,
or mistreating non-combatants.”
“Nor did they work as a single coordinated force like a modern army,” Eduardo
“I think they were guerillas.”
Romanticizing, Eduardo thought, yet the young man had a valid
burial was possibly a warrior of some significance. “This
drawing depicts ceremonial combat. One-on-one for the purpose
of producing a few vanquished prisoners. These unfortunates
were needed to fill a central role in the sacrifice ceremony that
followed battle. From the drawings on the walls and past
finds, we know the warrior prisoners were first stripped of clothing
and battle equipment, then naked and leashed around the neck with
a rope, they were brought to a ceremonial center. There the
prisoners’ throats were cut, their blood consumed by the
ceremony participants, and finally their bodies were dismembered.”
“Yes, but why? And who fought them? Why not use them as slaves
or integrate them into the tribe? If they had, they might
not have died out so fast.”
“Purity of race, perhaps.” Eduardo
needed sacrifices and wouldn’t do that to their own if they
could avoid it.”
“But outsiders didn’t believe it was an honor. Poor
Calan of UCLA found the burial tomb of a Moche priest and a child,
both with a bone deformity. Yet they weren’t ritually killed.”
“Which proves they honored their own and sacrificed the
Gil look disgusted.
“You’re glad it’s
an ancient culture?”
“Let’s just say I wouldn’t
want to meet up with them in the jungle.” The young
man pointed to the find. “The lid’s
in tact. Can you open it?”
“I want to x-ray it first, bring me a box please.” The
jar had a seal rimmed in flecks of gold and a wax-like substance.
Eduardo took photos and measurements, then tied the string grid
lines from the rest of the dig to this spot. Until he studied
and deciphered the icons on the urn, he wouldn’t open it. It
had significant weight, and whatever was inside was preserved--and
sealed for a reason.
US Army Medical Facility
Clancy’s heels clicking on the tile floor was like something
out of a slasher movie. Distance and unsuspecting. That
she was the only one working after hours magnified her seclusion. She
stopped outside the primate lab, swiped her ID access through the
security. Quick foot steps from somewhere to her left made
her skin tighten.
Sgt. Victors appeared, his sidearm drawn. When he saw her,
he pointed it to the ceiling and relaxed.
“Damn.” She snapped her fingers. “Lost
another chance to fire your gun, huh Daniel.”
I’m trigger happy tonight. Be careful.”
“Next time come at me with more firepower than that, I
He grinned like a new groom as she pushed open the door.
be okay with that creature?” he asked.
Clancy glanced into the lab at the sedated orangutan in the titanium
cage. “That wuss? Oh yeah.”
a two hundred fifty pound wuss, ma’am.”
“Yes, but I think our relationship is in the wooing stage. He
tried picking fleas off me this morning.”
“Did he find any?”
Her narrow look lost impact when she smiled. “Okay
that does it, you’re off my Christmas list.”
at him, she stepped into the lab, but didn’t turn on the
overhead lights. The bluish illumination from inside the
glass cold storage locker, and running lights under the tables
shone off the black floor and stainless steel with an incandescent
glow. Besides, Boris was sleeping and she’d
like to keep it that way. Whenever she was near, he shook
the cage and dry humped the bars.
The embarrassment wasn’t half as bad as the fact that her
only romantic prospect lately was a fat hairy orangutan that was
doped up most of the time.
And he had his happy juice three hours ago, she thought, checking
his stats for the day. Turning away from the computers,
she slipped on latex gloves and prepared a syringe to draw blood. A
pin prick was enough to examine under the microscope, but this
would just save Dr. Yates from doing it in the morning. Boris
had favorites and Francine Yates wasn’t one of them. Must
be pheromones, Clancy thought, moving to the cage and stroking
the sleeping orangutan’s forehead.
are an ugly creature,” she said softly, swabbing the
vein. “But I mean that in the nicest possible way.”
She pushed the needle into a protruding vein, then drew back
the plunger. Boris didn’t even flinch. The syringe
full, she drove the needle into the rubber stoppered vial, then
let a single drop fall onto the slide. Bending over a microscope
was passé, and she brought the magnified sample up on the
larger screen. At two thousand magnification, the blood cells
were still working. She sat in a wheeled chair and admired
the beauty of a simple cell.
She’d done this a thousand times in the last two months
and had completed her third stage computer synthesized tests just
last week. Implanting Boris was only the first stage. They
had to let it ride for weeks or perhaps months before they’d
know if it the pod did any severe damage to the animal’s
body, mostly the brain.
An injectable bio-nanotechnology with neuron synthesized capabilities
was not a cold medicine. It altered the brain, the body’s
ability to function. The reaction to physical antibodies,
the breakdown of the technology or white cell damage wasn’t
conclusive without knowing long term effects in the test animals.
Yesterday’s discussion with the commanding officer and
his medical board popped into mind. None of them were pleased
with her insistence on a longer test period. Though they
were on schedule, it was just not fast enough for the room full
of officers. They’d grilled her for three straight
hours till she was ready to confess her ex-husbands fetish for
wearing women’s panties. But then, that would prove
the caliber of loser she attracted. Clancy wasn’t swayed.
She’d created it. It was her baby, and the only reason
Clancy was sitting here in the first place was because her natural
ability--found too late in life to make her millions—got
her here. Short changing herself or the project was simply
not an option.
Relaxed in the chair, she stared at the cells on the screen,
then turning to the scope, she dropped a pinpoint of a simple flu
virus into the blood sample. The blood cells immediately fought
it off with amazing speed.
The implantation was changing his blood, and Boris’s behavior,
with the exception of his ardent displays of affection for her,
was normal. Non aggressive. Almost no change. A
good thing since they were altering his brain and body chemistry. He
could, for all the knew, turn into King Kong with a really nasty
She labeled the vial with time and date, then in the chair, rolled
across the slick floor to the cold storage locker and opened the
glass door. Frosted air swept around her face as she put
the vial in a new rack, then checked the sequential numbers. She
frowned, recounting, then realized there was a new set of four
samples on the next level at the back. She plucked a tube
from the rack and read. No name, only numbers. That
wasn’t necessary. Boris was the only candidate here
Curious, she jotted down the number, put the pallet of tubes
back, then closed the fridge door and pushed off. She glided to
the computer, grabbing the desk to stop herself, then opened log
files, and punched in the new set of numbers. She waited
for the search.
Her gaze skipped around the darkened room, flicking to the camera
panning in slow, quiet intervals. Colonel Cook’s personal
eyeball into your life. Did he watch everything around here? Made
her almost tempted to flash him. A portion of the massive
string of buildings was a hospital, and while it wasn’t hidden
from sight, what they did here was classified. Though, there
were hundreds at MIT and elsewhere around the world doing similar
research in micro engineering. Just not this kind.
Down the hall, teams worked on everything from light weight liquid
body armor to global positioning beacons implanted in military
personnel before reconnaissance missions. Cool stuff. All
to prolong lives in battle.
The access denied icon startled her. Deny me? “Oh
I so don’t think so,” she whispered, spinning in the
chair and attacking the keyboard.
My technology, my business, she thought and went through
the back door of the program. Her fingers flew over the keyboard,
syntax and screens of numbers coming up but Clancy saw through
it, saw the program’s
“You are completely toasted,” she muttered.
Inside within seconds, she opened files, scanned the content,
then went into another. She found a report with her name on it,
but it was Dr. Yates’s documentation procedure for the implantation. Wasn’t
surprising; they traded information all the time, and she barely
glanced at it, about close the file when she noticed the date. A
month old. She didn’t get this copy.
Orangutan implantation was two months ago.
Her gaze flicked to Boris snoring inside his cage, then back
to the screen. She scrolled and read, checking the vial numbers
against the implant document.
A chill slithered over her skin when she realized that Boris
the only test subject. They’d already used it.
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