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Tom Clancy, David Michaels EndWar

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The author would like to thank the following individuals whose assistance and support made this book possible:

Mr. Tom Colgan

Mr. Chris George

Ms. Sandra Harding

Chief Warrant Officer James Ide, USN (Ret.)

Major Mark Aitken, U.S. Army

Master Sergeant Randy McElwee, U.S. Army (Ret.)

Major William R. Reeves, U.S. Army

Major Craig Walker, USAF


FROM UBISOFT:

Joshua Meyer

Richard Dansky

Alexis Nolent

Olivier Henriot

Cedrick Delmas

The Ubisoft legal department

John Gonzalez

Audrey Leprince

Nathalie Paccard

Michael De Plater


FROM BLACKHAWK PRODUCTS GROUP:

Mr. Mike Noel, U.S. Navy SEAL (Ret.)

Mr. Tom O’Sullivan, U.S. Army (Ret.)

Mr. Michael Janich, U.S. Army (Ret.)

Mr. Steve Matulewicz, Command Master Chief (SEAL) (Ret.)

Mr. Brent Beshara, Canadian Special Forces (Ret.)


Mr. Michael Rigg, Paladin Press

Mr. Darrel Ralph, custom knife maker (www.darrelralph.com)

Dr. Rudy McDaniel, University of Central Florida

Mrs. Carole McDaniel (carole.mcdanieldesign.com)

Nancy, Lauren, and Kendall Telep

EPIGRAPH

And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

— REVELATION 6:4

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

— ALBERT EINSTEIN

CAST OF CHARACTERS

JOINT STRIKE FORCE (JSF) LEADERSHIP — U.S.


David Becerra, President (“American Eagle”)

Roberta Santiago, National Security Advisor

Mark Hellenberg, White House Chief of Staff

General Laura Kennedy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS)

General Rudolph McDaniel, Vice Chairman of the JCS

Major Alice Dennison, USMC, JSF Tactical Operations Specialist (“Hammer”)

Charles Shakura (lead interrogator for JSF)


JOINT STRIKE FORCE, ODA SPECIAL FORCES


Team Sergeant Nathan Vatz (“Vortex”; “Bali”)

Captain Tom Gerard, Detachment Commander

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Douglas Barnes, Assistant Detachment Commander

Sergeant Zack Murrow, Weapons Sergeant (“Volcano”)

Captain Mike Godfrey, Detachment Commander (ODA 888, “Berserker Six”)

Captain Manny Rodriguez, Detachment Commander (ODA 897, “Zodiac Six”)

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Samson, Assistant Detachment Commander (ODA 888, “Black Bear”)

Sergeant Jac Sasaki, Senior Medic (ODA 888, “Band-Aid”)

Staff Sergeant Paul Dresden, Assistant Medic (ODA 888, “Beethoven”)


JOINT STRIKE FORCE, MARINE EXPEDITIONARY FORCES


Colonel Stack, Company Commander

Staff Sergeant Raymond McAllen, Force Recon Team Leader (“Outlaw One”)

Sergeant Terry Jones, Assistant Team Leader (“Outlaw Two”)

Corporal Palladino, team scout/sniper (“Outlaw Three”)

Corporal Szymanski, team scout (“Outlaw Four”)

Lance Corporal Friskis, radio operator (“Outlaw Five”)

Navy Corpsman Gutierrez, medic (“Outlaw Six”)

Sergeant Scott Rule, New Assistant Team Leader (“Outlaw Two”)


F-35 DETACHMENT, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES


Major Stephanie Halverson, USAF (“Siren”)

Captain Jake Boyd, USAF (“Ghost Hawk”)

Captain Lisa Johansson, USAF (“Sapphire”)


STRYKER BRIGADE COMBAT TEAM


Captain Chuck Welch, Company Commander

Staff Sergeant Marc Rakken (“Sparta Six”)

Sergeant Timothy Appleman, Vehicle Commander

Private First Class Penny Hassa, Vehicle Driver


USS FLORIDA SSN-805


Commander Jonathan Andreas

“Jack” (Operations Officer)

Senior Chief Radioman Sheldon

Chief Electronic Technician Burgess

“Dan” (Communications Officer)


JSF NAVY HIGH COMMAND, HONOLULU


Admiral Donald Stanton, Commander, Pacific Fleet (COMPACFLT)

Admiral Charles Harrison, Commander, Submarines, Pacific

“Smitty” USS Florida’s Submarine Squadron Commander


RUSSIAN FEDERATION


Vsevolod Vsevolodovich Kapalkin, President

General Sergei Izotov, Director of the Glavnoje

Razvedyvatel ’noje Upravlenije (GRU)

Colonel Pavel Doletskaya (GRU)

Major Alexei Noskov, Tactical Operations Officer (“Werewolf”)

Colonel Viktoria Antsyforov (GRU)

Commander Ivan Golova, commander of the Ulyanovsk

Captain Pravota, Ka-29 chopper pilot

Captain Second Rank Mikhail Anatolyevich Kolosov, commander of the Romanov

Alexi Vasiliev, aka William Bullard, Russian mole


EUROPEAN FEDERATION


President Nathalie Perreau

General Amadou Bankolé, EF Enforcers Corps

Capitaine Ilaria Cimino, EFEC Executive Officer


CANADA


Robert Emerson, Prime Minister

“Khaki,” chopper pilot and ex-Canadian Special Forces


TERRORIST


Green Vox (symbolic head of the Green Brigade Transnational)

MAPS

Map concept by James Ide Graphic design by Carole McDaniel
Map by Carole McDaniel
Map by Carole McDaniel

ONE

“He’s coming around! Everybody get—”

Team Sergeant Nathan Vatz never finished his sentence. The Russian T-100 main battle tank on the opposite end of the intersection finished it for him.

Vatz slammed onto his gut, sliding across the rain-slick pavement as the office building fifty meters ahead exploded with a thunderous boom.

Shards of concrete, glass, and mangled metal arced into the cold night and fell in a hailstorm on the blackened remains of the HMMWVs and a pair of eight-wheeled Stryker infantry combat vehicles, behind which Vatz’s special forces team had taken cover. A black rose of smoke backlit by fire bloomed across the intersection, driven by a wind thick with the stench of cordite.

With a sudden lurch, the fifty-ton tank rumbled closer, its 152mm smoothbore main gun swiveling menacingly, tracks grinding over the bodies of the rifle squad — the tank’s first victims — who’d been hit as they’d dismounted from one of the Strykers.

Vatz wiped sweat from his eyes, cleared his throat, and spoke into the tiny voice-activated boom mike at his lips: “Victor Six, this is Vortex, over?”

His voice had cracked. Calm down. They just had to get the hell out of here. That was it.

But now their exfiltration had gone to hell. No bird to swoop in, land on the rooftop helipad, and whisk them to safety. No nothing.

And that tank wasn’t operating alone. The rest of that platoon had to be nearby, with dismounted forces from the BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles parked outside the gate.

“Victor Six, this is Vortex, over?”

Where was the rest of his twelve-man team? They’d been right behind him, and the captain had been holding up in that doorway, which was now empty.

Vatz bolted to his feet, darted back behind the still-burning hulk of a Mercedes SUV, and suddenly raised his pistol, about to fire—

When he realized the men down the alley were friendlies, his team, easy to mistake because of their Russian Spetsnaz uniforms.

Weapons Sergeant Zack Murrow had already shouldered the Javelin antitank missile they had recovered from one of the dead infantrymen and was moving toward the street, about to lie prone and get a bead on that tank.

Vatz rushed toward Zack; never breaking cover, he said in perfect Russian, “Don’t miss.”

The sergeant answered in English. “Right. But forget the Russian, Nathan. Our cover’s been seriously blown.”

Vatz and his colleagues were Joint Strike Force soldiers wearing enemy uniforms. They would be considered spies. They would not be taken prisoner. There would be no diplomatic negotiation for their release.

Hurrying farther along the wall, Vatz found the detachment commander, Captain Tom Gerard, and the assistant detachment commander, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Douglas Barnes, speaking softly, Gerard working an index finger over his pocket PC. Next to them were the team’s two commo guys, and farther back were the two engineers and assistant weapons sergeant, Russian Varjag heavy pistols drawn as they covered the end of the alley. One of the two medics was positioned at the near side.

Somewhere in the distance voices lifted. The Spetsnaz dismounted forces were drawing closer. And the drizzle was beginning to get heavier, promising a downpour.

“Hey, Vatz,” grunted the captain. “Heard you calling, but I was on the Shadowfire with higher.”

“Bad news?”

Barnes, a round-faced man with more than twenty years of service, smiled broadly. “We have to fall back another half klick. Our friends across the street have pushed too far forward, and our bird can’t get in here. She’s already found a secure spot behind a parking garage near the old municipal airport.”

“Couldn’t be easy, huh?”

“Vatz, we’re a Joint Strike Force team in the middle of Moscow. Operational Detachment Alpha. Special Forces. The world is at war. Damn. If you wanted easy, you should’ve joined the—”

“My cousin’s in the Air Force.”

“I was going to say the circus.”

“We got one right here. What the hell happened? They were waiting for us.”

Gerard and Barnes just shrugged.

Vatz swore under his breath. “Let’s move.”

As team sergeant, Vatz was responsible for the fighting men during combat situations, which freed up Barnes and Gerard to maintain close contact with their company commander and coordinate team movements within the larger battle plan.

At the moment, Vatz was all about giving one order: Run!

He called the others out of the alley, just as Zack announced that his missile was locked, his eye pressed tightly against the command launch unit’s night-vision sight. A heartbeat later, he fired.

The missile ripped away with a terrific whoosh while a massive chute of fire extended from the launcher’s tail.

Like a star in the night, the missile streaked up into the dark mantle of clouds. Even as Zack ditched the launcher and scrambled to his feet, the projectile abruptly changed course, coming straight down in top-attack mode. It struck the tank’s turret with a powerful explosion that shattered nearby windows and, in turn, tore into the ammo compartment, creating several more explosions, white-hot shrapnel fountaining from the wreckage.

As more tongues of fire rose from the dead tank, Vatz signaled the others on down the avenue, then stole a glance at his wrist-mounted GPS. The captain had already programmed in their destination. All they had to do was leap over the debris and bodies, connect the dots, and they’d be home.

If you wanted easy.

The two medics, Patterson and Eck, were in charge of keeping the “package” in good shape, said package being one Pavel Doletskaya, a special forces colonel working for the Glavnoje Razvedyvatel’noje Upravlenije (GRU), or the Main Intelligence Directorate.

According to intel intercepted by the European Federation Enforcers Corps (EFEC), Doletskaya worked for the big man himself, General Sergei Izotov, the director of the GRU. The two were planning a covert operation with mention of the Amundsen Gulf region up in Canada. The EFEC had tipped off the Joint Strike Force, and the team had gone into isolation until the opportunity arose to abduct the good colonel. Weeks of planning had resulted in a clean snatch as Doletskaya was leaving “The Aquarium” (the nickname for GRU headquarters) and heading home for the night.

Moreover, the team had done a fine job of wrapping their package. They had bound his wrists, taped his mouth, and placed a ballistic assault helmet with full visor over his head. They needed to protect that head. What he had in it could prove extremely valuable. They had also fitted him with a Dragon Skin armored vest composed of silver dollar-shaped pieces of silicon carbide ceramic. The pieces overlapped like fish scales to help dissipate a bullet’s kinetic energy. Doletskaya was far better protected than any member of the team and, of course, worth a lot more to the JSF than they were.

Rifle fire suddenly erupted behind them, rounds burrowing into the wall just a meter behind Vatz.

He wanted to scream for the others to move faster, but that incoming was more than enough motivation.

They charged forward, Barnes and Gerard in the lead, the medics and Doletskaya and the rest right behind them. Vatz pulled up the rear.

Vatz raced to the next corner, dodged behind a wall, then rolled back and opened fire as Zack arrived at his side, adding more suppressing fire.

Six Spetsnaz troops were hustling across the road about a block away, muzzles flashing as they cut loose another salvo.

Vatz and Zack fired a few more rounds that sent them into crouching positions; then Vatz urged Zack back and the sergeant nodded and took off.

The wind picked up and the rain finally came, hard and heavy, in time with Vatz’s pulse.

Meanwhile, the team ducked right down another alley, heading for the next street, and a glance at his GPS told Vatz that the captain was taking a shortcut, probably getting word from Detachment Bravo. That Special Forces team was back at the tactical command post, monitoring their Blue Force Tracking screens and informing the captain that more soldiers were beginning to surround them.

Vatz got on the radio. “Victor Six, this is Vortex.”

“Go ahead, Vortex.”

“We have a squad in pursuit. Maybe more coming, over.”

“Roger, there are at least a few guys coming from the west, along with a vehicle from the north.”

“I figured. We’ll break off and intercept the dismounts. Buy you a little time, over.”

“Do it.”

“On our way. Vortex, out.”

Zack, who’d been listening over the channel, slowed as Vatz caught up with him. They continued straight up the street, toward a two-story warehouse or factory.

As they reached the corner, they jumped down a meter into a loading bay area, where collected rainwater nearly reached their knees.

Zack swore, slipped, fell face forward, and Vatz seized his arm and dragged him up. They trudged forward, out of the puddle, toward where flashlights — three to be exact — shone across the street from an alley that divided another two factory buildings in half.

Vatz tipped his head in that direction, and they sprinted off, able to reach the wall near the alley before the Spetsnaz troops emerged.

There they paused, and in the seconds it took to catch his breath, Vatz tapped his GPS, zooming in on his location to see if they should circle around the alley and come in from the back side or simply try a frontal approach.

A man’s voice, low and heavily burred, echoed off the walls. The Russians were right there.

Zack’s expression grew emphatic with the need for orders.

Vatz motioned Zack to crouch down, then whispered into his mike: “I got the first one.”

“Okay.”

The soldier reached the end of the alley, and Vatz already had his BlackHawk Caracara knife in hand, a black talon of steel that would cut silently and effortlessly through flesh.

The soldier came forward, waving his light—

Vatz sprang on him, drawing his blade across the soldier’s neck in one fluid motion while cupping his hand over the man’s mouth.

Even as the blood gushed from the Russian’s severed carotid artery, Vatz gave the soldier a second punch — the kill shot to the spinal cord. He grew limp and crumpled.

One of the troops called out to his buddy.

Zack’s eyes could not grow any wider.

Vatz nodded, and Zack whirled forward, into the alley, just as the second soldier drew near—

Yet even as Zack fired point-blank into the man’s head, the third and final soldier fired before Vatz could.

It all happened so fast that Vatz wasn’t sure what had happened until…

The two Spetsnaz soldiers collapsed to the puddles.

Followed by Zack.

“Aw, no…”

A hollow pang struck Vatz as he rushed to his friend, dropped to his knees, eyes already burning.

Zach had taken a round to the head. He was already gone.

Vatz froze. In shock. No time now. Just nothing. Emptiness. And suddenly, he thought of the day he and Zack had been sitting in the barracks and had heard the news about the nukes going off in Saudi Arabia and Iran, destroying both countries. People always asked: where were you on the day the nukes went off?>

I was with my buddy Zack.

Vatz reached out, wanting to touch the man’s cheek, when the captain’s voice boomed in his ear: “Vortex, this is Victor Six. We’re nearing the pickup zone, taking heavy fire, over!”

Vatz just breathed.

“Vortex, this is Victor Six, over!”

“Uh, Victor Six, this is Vortex.”

“Taking heavy fire!”

“Roger that, Victor Six. We got those other guys but lost Volcano, over.”

The captain’s tone shifted. He swore then said, “Just rally on us now!”

Watching Zack die right there in the street got under Vatz’s skin, that impenetrable Special Forces skin. And suddenly, he wasn’t thirty-two years old anymore but just about eight, propelled by utter fear as he raced down the alley. He came out, glanced around, and began to hear the heavy whomping of the chopper. But it was accompanied by another sound, a whirling alarmlike noise that droned on.

He was at full sprint alongside the parking garage now, the chopper just on the other side, the alarm growing louder; and as he rounded the corner, he saw what was happening: a Russian BMP-3 was rolling up and blasting the team with its Long-Range Acoustical device. The sound was so loud that you couldn’t help but cover your ears while the enemy gunned you down.

They hadn’t opened fire with their big guns because they wanted their colonel back alive. But that didn’t stop five or six dismounts from putting more selective rifle fire on the team, just as they reached the chopper’s open bay doors.

The chopper’s two door gunners did what they could, firing wildly, but they couldn’t concentrate with that sound blaring in their ears. No helmets or plugs would help.

Vatz wasn’t sure if he’d taken a round or not as he came in from the other side of the bird and launched himself into the air, crashing into the bay, someone shrieking in agony as the helicopter tipped its nose forward and suddenly took off, the gunfire still pinging off the fuselage.

The BMP-3 crew cut loose with their 7.62 mm machine guns, deciding that they’d take the risk and bring down the bird. But the team’s pilot descended quickly to the other side of the garage, out of the line of fire, then suddenly banked right and headed back east, keeping low, weaving between buildings, heading for the front lines, for Joint Strike Force-held ground, for safety.

As he looked around the bay, entirely out of breath and bleary-eyed, Vatz realized that only Gerard, Barnes, one medic, and one engineer were onboard, along with Doletskaya.

“Where’s everyone else? Where are they?

The captain shook his head.

Barnes and the medic were no longer moving, and the engineer was clutching his leg, shot in the femoral artery and bleeding all over the bay floor.

Just then Gerard pulled open his bloody jacket and lifted his shirt, revealing a pair of dark holes in his chest. He wouldn’t make it, and neither would the engineer.

“We need help!” Vatz cried to one of the door gunners.

The guy ignored him, tending to his own shoulder wound.

Gritting his teeth, Vatz pushed himself over to the Russian, wrenched up the man’s visor, and grabbed him by the neck. “Are you worth it, you bastard?”

The Russian stared up with vacant eyes.

Vatz glanced back at the remains of his team, then glared at the colonel once more and screamed, “Are you worth it?”

TWO

“Obviously you don’t remember my father,” said General Sergei Izotov as he rose from his office chair. “He was a division commander and hero of the Motherland in World War II. To imply that there is a lack of intelligence in my family is going much too far.”

Izotov felt certain that there was only one man in all of Russia who would take such a tone with President Vsevolod Vsevolodovich Kapalkin. He was not that man, but the chance that he might not survive such a conversation was not the point.

He would not allow Kapalkin to insult him or his family, no matter the cost. And he could not believe the insult had come from a man whose own father was a low-level functionary in the KGB, a man whose own fortune was amassed through smuggling personal computers, blue jeans, and other luxury items while attending university. How dare Kapalkin take such a tone with him!

Perhaps he would not survive the conversation!

Izotov glared at the president, who stared back at him from the computer screen. Kapalkin’s pronounced jaw, penetrating eyes, and impeccably combed hair stripped a decade off his fifty-four years, as did his daily exercise regime of swimming, which kept his waist narrow, his shoulders broad.

The president began to shake his head. “I’ll say it again. I’m shocked that your Spetsnaz and security units allowed such a breach. And now they have Doletskaya.”

“We were addressing the breach, but they had help from the inside.”

“Which is even more disturbing. And now you tell me the colonel’s chip has been deactivated by the Americans? We can’t kill him? If Doletskaya talks—”

“I think he will hold out for as long as possible. But it won’t matter either way. There’s nothing those cowboys can do to stop us. The wheels are already in motion. And I will plug this leak.”

“General, I want to believe you’re right. But then again, I believed your security was the best in the world.”

Izotov snorted. “I’m right. Believe it.”

President Kapalkin considered that. A smile nicked the corners of his lips as he glanced away at another screen. “The Americans are beginning to pull out of Moscow. It seems Major Noskov is having more success than you are at the moment.”

Izotov discerned a dismissal in the president’s tone. “At the moment the major is doing quite well for himself and his unit, but we, too, will succeed. Spasibo, Vsevolod Vsevolodovich. Thank you.”

The president nodded, and Izotov broke the link. Then he whirled around and smote a fist on the table, highly unlike him.

He wanted to call someone, vent his anger, but he had no real friends, just a shifting coterie of allies. Even his spartanly furnished office seemed to taunt him, to remind him that despite all the blood, sweat, and tears, there were still men like Kapalkin who would dismiss his sacrifices as cavalierly as they would a waiter.

What had he become?

The rumors had spread among his subordinates that he only slept one or two hours per day, that he was perhaps part machine, constructed by the government itself. Sometimes he felt that way.

And oh, he had served that government well, in the first and second Chechen wars, twice a hero back then. He had commanded the 6th Spetsnaz Brigade from 1998 to 2006, and was head of the Vozdushno-Desantnye Voyska (VDV), the Russian Airborne Troops, from 2007 to 2012. In 2012, he had assumed his post at the GRU and for the past eight years had expanded the directorate’s power and purpose.

But had he focused too much on the work?

His subordinates even questioned his wife’s death, wondered if he was somehow involved.

He would speak of it to no one, purge all thoughts of it from his mind.

He returned to his seat, leaned forward toward the computer screen, and reminded himself of the dream he shared with his subordinates, the dream he shared with the president:

There could be only one superpower. And he would do everything he could to ensure that.

Why? To restore the Motherland to greatness. To achieve a level of personal power nearly unimaginable.

And to be like his hero, Stalin, who never wore a personal sidearm yet boldly thrust out his chest against the Nazis. Stalin would know how to bring the European Federation and the American Joint Strike Force to their knees.

At sixty-one, there weren’t many things left in this world that truly moved General Sergei Izotov.

War was one of them.

And while agonizing at times, it was still terribly fun.

THREE

Major Alice Dennison, USMC, wanted to speak to the prisoner herself, so she had caught a flight to Helsinki, where he was being temporarily housed at Vantaa Prison before being sent to Guantánamo Bay.

Two well-armed rifle squads of European Federation Enforcers Corps troops had been dispatched to reinforce security at the prison, and two sergeants stood at the gate, unflinching in the morning rain.

But as Dennison exited her armored SUV, their expressions shifted, eyes playing over her face and drifting down to her legs, despite the trench coat.

She was used to the ogling but never tolerated it. Her glare sent their gazes straight ahead, and she offered them a crisp and official-sounding, “Good morning.”

“Morning, ma’am,” they said in unison with thick accents.

Dennison was escorted into the building by a trio of heavily armed Joint Strike Force military police, along with a pair of her own personal security guards dressed in civilian clothes.

After passing through four separate checkpoints, they reached the small, ten-by-ten interrogation room.

The JSF had already sent in a team of six of their best interrogators, and they had already spent more than ten hours questioning Colonel Pavel Doletskaya.

Joint Strike Force doctrine gave the interrogators twenty-one approaches to “convince” prisoners of war to divulge critical intelligence. The approaches were designed to exploit the prisoner’s personal history, morality, sense of duty, love of country, relationships with comrades, and even his sense of futility. Carefully applied in the correct combinations, the approaches were said to work on nearly everyone.

But during the flight over, Dennison had learned that Doletskaya had given up nothing. He made no attempt to invent information or misdirect the interrogators. He simply refused to cooperate and demanded that the consequences of such refusal be carried out immediately.

“Hello, Major,” came a voice from behind her.

The lead interrogator, Charles Shakura, proffered his large hand and introduced himself. He was an impressive-looking black man despite his tattered business attire and the dull haze in his eyes.

“Nothing new since we last spoke?”

He shook his head and sighed in disgust. “I haven’t been given authority to use enhanced measures.”

“We’ll go there, but only if it’s absolutely necessary. I want to speak to him now.” She headed toward the door, while Shakura motioned to one of the guards to unlock it.

Dennison stepped into the room, closed the door behind her.

The colonel sat at the head of a small, steel table bolted to the floor and kept his head lowered.

He had a graying crew cut, and from what she could tell from beneath his straight jacket, a barrel chest and thick arms. His face was flushed, the white stubble of a beard tracing his mouth. He was, in most respects, a beautiful man, a predator with his wings clipped.

“Colonel, look at me.”

Slowly, his head rose, and his semi-vacant eyes began to focus, grow brighter. He spoke with a Russian accent, but his English was excellent: “Major Dennison, the most famous executive officer of the Joint Strike Force. And one of the youngest. You are more beautiful than all of the photos and videos I’ve studied. They do you no justice. How old are you? Twenty-nine?”

“What’s going on up in the Amundsen Gulf?”

“You are thirty-four. I know how old you are. And such a beautiful young woman given such a terrible job.”

Dennison spoke through her teeth. “What’s going on up there?”

“Nothing.”

“What is Operation 2659? Who is Snegurochka?”

“Major, if you came to ask me those painfully obvious questions, you’ve wasted your time. Don’t you want to know more about your adversary? Doesn’t it fascinate you that I am here, in the flesh? I’ve studied you for a very long time. I know everything. Your father was an Air Force pilot. You went to Virginia Military Institute, graduated the class of 2005.”

“Two thousand four,” she corrected.

He smiled. “Of course. And then you went to the United States Naval Academy, got your B.S. in systems engineering, graduated summa cum laude. Very impressive. You’ve been in U.S. Naval intelligence and logistics and went on to serve in the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command. I even know you were handpicked by General Scott Mitchell to join the JSF. Your favorite ice cream flavor is rocky road. And you watch that romantic comedy with… I don’t remember the actor’s name. You watch that over and over. Too many times.”

Her face twisted into a deep frown. “I didn’t know I had a Russian stalker.”

“Stalker? Of course not. Details are my god. Know your enemy, keep him close, study him, learn his weaknesses, exploit them, then bring him down — if you want to call that stalking. I call it hunting.”

“You’re planning another attack. And you’re going to tell us all about it.”

“Please, Major. We know where this will go and how it will end. Fly home. Forget all about me.”

She narrowed her gaze. “I’m going to get authorization to use enhanced methods to interrogate you. Do you know what that means?”

“This is where you promise to torture me, but it never comes because there are too many bleeding hearts in your government. If we had captured you, I would have already strip-searched you — and taken my time with that. And then we would stick a long needle in your arm. Do you know what SP-18 is?”

“I thought it was seventeen.”

“This is the new serum, more potent; but like the old, it’s tasteless, odorless, and has no side effects. Best of all, you would never remember our heart-to-heart talk. We use it on our own agents all the time, to ensure their loyalty. We would have what we want from you in one hour. I have been here a long time, twelve, fourteen hours? I do not know. They took my watch. And you have nothing after all that time, nothing except a team of dead soldiers, spies who deserved to die.”

Dennison’s chest grew tight, her breath shallow. She stood and came around the table, leaned over, and got into the colonel’s face. “Those men gave their lives to bring you back here. Oh, you’re going to talk. But first, I suspect, you’re going to bleed. A lot.”

“Like I said, you are a beautiful woman with a terrible job.” He laughed again, under his breath.

Her fist connected with his nose, driving his head back, and she thought, My God, I just punched him, but there was no taking it back.

The door swung open and the guards rushed in, followed by Shakura. “Major, please, we have strict orders not—”

“I issued those orders,” she said, rubbing her knuckles.

Doletskaya faced her, blood streaming over his mouth. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For allowing me to bleed for my Motherland.”

She cursed at him.

He smiled, blood filling the cracks of his teeth. “Major Dennison, you are apparently the only man here.”

She regarded Shakura. “Clean him up. He’s off to Cuba.”

“I’m sorry, Major,” said the colonel.

She frowned.

“I’m sorry we don’t have more time to talk.” The guards took the colonel by the arms and forced him to his feet. “I wanted to express my condolences about your mother,” he added quickly.

“My mother?”

“The cancer. And yes, I wanted to tell you that you should talk to your sister, that she is still your sister despite your political differences. And I wanted to tell you that it’s okay to cry, late at night, like you do sometimes when you eat all the ice cream. The rocky road. It’s okay.”

She balled her hands into fists, glowered at him, flicked her glance to Shakura. “Get this… freak… out of here.”

Doletskaya winked. “Dosvidaniya, Major.”

Chills ripped across her shoulders as they shoved him out of the room, blood dripping from his chin.

She trembled violently now, began to lose her breath.

“Major?” called Shakura. “Are you all right?”

She closed her eyes.

Bared her teeth.

And inside, she screamed.

FOUR

“Oh, damn, Mick, we got only ten minutes till the Russians arrive.”

Staff Sergeant Raymond McAllen, leader of a six-man USMC Force Reconnaissance team, didn’t need his assistant, Sergeant Terry Jones, to remind him of that. He’d set his stopwatch within a minute after the eighteen-man platoon fast-roped down into the valley as their Black Hawk had thundered off to seek cover until they called her back.

“We got less time than that, Jonesy. But the crash site should be just over that ridge.”

“Yeah, but it don’t look good. No contact from them. We don’t even know if this guy is still alive.”

“Our job’s to find out. Come on!”

The sun was beginning to set over the Sierra Maestra mountains in southern Cuba, and the shadows grew longer across slopes covered in mud from the midday rains. McAllen and his men had already shouldered their way through some dense jungle in sweltering, humid air, but they were almost at the site.

And no, this wasn’t a run-of-the-mill TRAP (Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel) mission. Apparently, one of the passengers onboard the Learjet was a Russian colonel who’d been on his way to Guantánamo when the Russians had shot down his escort fighters. They’d also managed to strike a glancing blow to the jet, forcing it down into the mountains.

Fortunately, McAllen and his entire Force Recon company had been engaged in a weeklong, live-fire training exercise at Gitmo and been able to respond within minutes of the call.

Unfortunately, they’d been out in the field doing some physical training when the call had come, and they’d been forced to board the chopper with whatever they had, leaving behind their best high-tech toys — advanced body armor, weapons, and communications systems that were all part of the military’s Future Force Warrior program.

They’d get by with just the conventional gear. McAllen believed that if you depended too much upon technology in the field, you’d become sloppy and soft, a kid at a convenience store who can’t make change, a Marine who can’t aim because the computer does it for him.

He waved on the others, Jonesy first; then his two recon scouts, Corporals Palladino and Szymanski; his radio operator, Lance Corporal Friskis; and finally the team’s medic, Navy Corpsman Gutierrez, who carried the team’s biggest gun, the Squad Automatic Weapon, because putting more steel on target was the best form of preventative medicine.

Palladino and Szymanski moved out ahead, walking point, ready to throw hand signals or call in via the intra-team radio at their first sign of contact.

Meanwhile, the other two six-man teams were about three kilometers west, moving to head off part of a company-size Russian ground force that had already inserted, minutes after the crash. A second Russian team was just north of the site, and higher was scrambling to put another Force Recon platoon on the ground there, but McAllen still bet that his team would reach the jet before the Russians did.

Their friends in Moscow were taking no chances and assuming nothing. They’d actually planned in advance to drop troops on the ground and ensure that this colonel was dead.

That certainly had McAllen’s attention.

He pulled up the rear, sweeping the jungle with his carbine, head low, repeatedly stealing glances behind.

They stole their way even higher up the slope, boots digging deeper into the mud, as the mountain grew darker and the hoots and cries of birds seemed to drift off into an eerie silence, save for their footfalls. The stench of the crash grew stronger, a combination of mildew, smoke, and spilled fuel.

“Outlaw Three, this is Outlaw One, over,” called McAllen over the radio.

“Go ahead, One,” answered Palladino; he was also the team’s sniper, six feet of muscle and hard heart.

“Got eyes on the site, over?”

“Just now, but we’ll need to approach over that hill to the east. We can’t get down this way. Too steep. Come on up and have a look, over.”

“Coming up.”

After reaching the ridge and jogging over to where Palladino and Szymanski were hunkered down, McAllen caught his breath and saw what the sniper was talking about.

The approach was far too steep. Even so, this perch afforded a perfect view of the valley below.

The Learjet had burrowed into the side of the mountain, yet most of the fuselage was intact. Its wings were gone, though, its side door open, smoke still pouring from its engines and the long, meter-deep furrow stretching out behind. They couldn’t get to it, but circling around as Palladino had suggested would kill even more time.

“What do you want do, Sergeant?” asked Szymanski, his chiseled face and thick neck dappled with sweat.

“Shift around.”

“Uh-oh,” interrupted Palladino, staring through a pair of night-vision goggles into the gloom ahead. “Enemy contact, tree line north. At least six guys, maybe more. They’re moving in.”

McAllen tensed. So the Russians had beaten them to the site, but they hadn’t reached the jet itself yet. He got on the radio: “Outlaw Team, this is One. I want Outlaws Three and Six up here on the ridge. I want sniper and SAW fire on that tree line. The rest of you come with me!”

Gutierrez hustled forward with his big machine gun, setting up a few meters away from Palladino, who dropped to lie prone with his M40A3 sniper rifle balanced on its bipod.

McAllen led Jonesy, Szymanski, and Friskis along the ridge, weaving through the palms and other trees until they reached the aforementioned hill east of their position. It, too, was particularly steep but draped in enough dense foliage to conceal their advance — and the possibility of a tumble down the hillside.

“Outlaw One, this is Outlaw Six,” called Gutierrez. “They’re breaking from the tree line, over.”

“Let Outlaw Three take the first shot, and that’s your signal to open up, over.”

“Roger that.”

McAllen imagined Palladino up there on the hill, staring through his scope, making hasty calculations—

When suddenly his rifle resounded, a great thunder-clap echoing off the mountains.

A gasp later, Gutierrez began delivering his lecture, the Professor of Doom bathing himself in brass casings, the SAW rat-tat-tating loud and clear.

McAllen’s group had a handful of seconds to make their break from the slope and weave a serpentine path toward the downed plane.

He ordered Szymanski and Friskis out first and they charged away, vanishing off into the trees, while he and Jonesy took a more westerly path, closer to the Russians in the tree line. McAllen figured that even if the enemy got closer, at least two of his men would make it to the plane, while he and Jonesy could intercept.

Up on the hill, Gutierrez and Palladino continued laying down fire, the Russians only answering with sporadic shots.

McAllen and Jonesy reached the Learjet, two seconds behind the other guys. “Stay out here,” McAllen ordered Szymanski. “Mask up. Pop smoke. Friskis, stay with him. Call the PL, tell him we’ve reached the site.”

“You got it, Sergeant.”

McAllen and Jonesy slipped on their masks and McAllen followed Jonesy into the hazy confines of the jet, his rifle at the ready.

The cabin walls and ceiling were heavily scorched. He glanced right.

And wished he hadn’t.

At least ten people were strewn about, their blackened limbs twisted at improbable angles. A few of them were dressed in the burned remains of civilian clothes while the others wore military uniforms, Navy mostly.

“Check the cockpit,” he told Jonesy, then rushed forward to the nearest body, whose government ID had melted into his chest. There wasn’t much left of his face, either, but it was clear he wasn’t their Russian colonel. He was a black man, about middle age.

McAllen was about to move on to the next guy—

When the man’s eyes snapped open, shocking the hell out of him. “Jesus!”

The survivor’s voice came thin and cracked. “Help me.”

McAllen leaned over the man. “Whoa, God, buddy, yeah, yeah, I will. And you help me. We’re looking for a guy, a Russian colonel.”

“Sergeant!” hollered Friskis from the doorway. “I think we got another squad. They’re moving up!”

“Okay, get ready to fall back. We have a survivor here. Jonesy, check the others!”

McAllen’s assistant emerged from the cockpit. “Roger that. Pilots are dead,” he reported, his voice muffled by his mask.

The black man grabbed McAllen’s arm. “Please, my daughters need me.”

“Don’t worry, buddy, I’ll get you out of here. What’s your name?”

“Charles Shakura.”

“All right, Mr. Shakura, stay calm.” McAllen carefully unfastened the man’s seat belt. “But listen to me, man. The colonel. We need to know about that Russian colonel. He’s supposed to be onboard.”

Shakura grimaced.

Abruptly, gunfire began drumming on the outside of the fuselage—

And Jonesy came rushing forward from the back of the jet. “Looks like some civilians and officers, but no one’s cuffed, Sergeant.”

“Charlie, where’s the Russian?”

Shakura swallowed.

McAllen seized him by the collar. “Where is he?”

Shakura slowly blinked. “He got here by sub. We’re just the… just the decoy. He was never on this flight.”

McAllen’s shoulders slumped. He released Shakura and glanced over his shoulder at Jonesy.

“Well, I thought I was a Marine, not an actor,” snapped Jonesy. “And I just love being expendable.”

McAllen took a deep breath, composed himself. “All right. Doesn’t matter what’s going on here. Decoy, no decoy. We got a survivor. Help him out, get him strapped into a litter.”

Jonesy sighed in disgust. “You got it.”

Drawing in another deep breath, McAllen shifted outside, where Friskis and Szymanski had taken up firing position on their bellies alongside the fuselage, whose port side faced the tree line, now obscured in thick walls of gray smoke.

McAllen got on the radio with his platoon leader, shared the grim news that they were just part of a decoy mission but that they did have one survivor to rescue. The PL promised close air support within five minutes.

A pair of grenades exploded somewhere behind them. That would be the Russians trying to take out Gutierrez and his big gun. “Outlaw Six, this is One. Take Three and rally east to our second hill, over. We’re bringing up a survivor.”

“Roger that, One. On my way, out.”

McAllen and Jonesy moved Shakura out of the Learjet. As Jonesy unfurled the portable litter he had removed from his pack, Friskis and Szymanski kept the Russians busy, triplets of fire drumming repeatedly.

Somewhere in the distance, the whomping of helicopters began to grow louder.

Once Shakura was strapped in, McAllen called back the scout and radio operator from their firing positions and gave them the unenviable task of hauling the injured man back up the hillside. He and Jonesy would remain behind to cover.

“Go now!” he cried, and while the two men took off with their survivor, he and Jonesy set up on either side of the fuselage.

Not three seconds later, something remarkable and utterly breath-robbing occurred:

The damned Russians decided to storm the jet!

A wave of six troopers in masks appeared in the smoke not twenty meters away, running directly at McAllen, their rifles blazing, rounds punching into and ricocheting off the plane, popping in the mud, whizzing overhead.

Out of the corner of his eye, McAllen spotted at least as many troopers charging toward Jonesy.

“Oh my God, Ray! Here they come!” cried his assistant.

A terrible ache woke deep in McAllen’s gut as he realized he couldn’t get them all. Damn, there was too much life left in him. He hadn’t even found the right woman…

And he’d worked so damned hard to get where he was, a Force Recon warrior — swift, silent, and deadly — the eyes and ears of his commander. ...

All rights belong to the author: Tom Clancy, David Michaels.
This is a short fragment for review the book. The full version can be purchased in the store.