A Free Chapter for the Holidays

Hopefully everybody had a good Christmas.

I posted earlier that I was working on facelifting the American Praetorians series.  That project is now complete, with new front and back matter, some edits, new covers for Task Force Desperate and Hunting in the Shadows, and standardized formatting through all paperbacks.  In honor of it, and for those of you who might be new, for a limited time, here’s a chapter from the final book, Lex Talionis.  Bullets and blood aplenty for the holidays.

(I’m working on possibly coming out with a couple of boxed sets for the series in the next couple of months.  Possibly with some previously-untold short stories.)

Continue reading “A Free Chapter for the Holidays”


The Colonel Has A Plan Part 3

They hadn’t gone far when Lewis was tugging on Brannigan’s sleeve.  “Sir, we just got a message from Team Two,” he yelled in the Colonel’s ear.  “They are mission complete, but are pinned down under fire, and cut off from the beach.”

Brannigan glanced forward, where the wounded Lance Corporal Clark was lying on the deck.  Time was short, but he had a responsibility to those boys down on the ground, too.  He started working his way forward, stepping over and past knees, boots, M27s, and two LSATs, carefully moving around Clark’s supine form, until he got to the cockpit.

“We need to divert to Shilka Position Two,” he shouted to the pilot.  “Some of my boys are in trouble, and need some support.”

“This ain’t a gunship, sir, and we’ve got a casualty aboard,” the copilot protested.

“Don’t try to bullshit me, son,” Brannigan replied.  “We’ve got a minigun and a 240 mounted for a reason, and it’s more than that team on the ground has.  Take us in.”  He stayed where he was, but motioned for Lewis to hand him the handset, cursing the multiple tac frequencies that went along with combined arms warfare.  The recon teams were on one channel, the Battalion Combat Team was on another, and the birds were on a third.  And that was after he’d ranted and raved to simplify matters as much as possible.

Lewis handed him the handset and he flipped his right-hand Peltor headpiece out of the way, pressing the black plastic to his ear.  “Tiburon Two, this is Kodiak Six,” he called.

The answering radio call came after a moment’s delay.  He could hear the rattle of gunfire in the background.  “Kodiak Six, Tiburon Two,” Staff Sergeant Holmes replied.

“We are inbound to your position with air support, Tiburon Two,” Brannigan said.  “ETA two mikes.  Give me a sitrep and a position.  We’re going to lay waste, and I don’t want you boys getting burned down by accident.” Continue reading “The Colonel Has A Plan Part 3”

The Colonel Has A Plan Part 2

“Sir?  We just got a message from Team One.  ‘Macallan.’”  Corporal Jamie Lewis stopped and listened.  It had to be rough, trying to hear the radio over the noise of the Osprey’s idling props.  “Wait,” he said.  “There’s Team Three.  ‘Buffalo Trace.’”

Brannigan resisted the urge to grin.  Leave it to Marines to make all of their brevity codes the names of either alcohol, sports teams, or porn stars.  “Any word from Team Two?”

“No, sir,” Lewis replied, the handset pressed against his ear.  “Still nothing.”

Brannigan nodded, and thought for a moment.  Staff Sergeant Holmes would do the job if he could.  But the enemy was also undoubtedly alerted now, with two of the Shilkas having gone up in smoke.  “Screw it,” he decided.  He reached forward, tapped the pilot on the shoulder, and gave him a thumbs-up.  Then he keyed his own radio, which was on the Battalion Tac channel.

“All Kodiak units, this is Kodiak Six,” he called.  “Crazy Horse.  I say again, Crazy Horse.”  The odds of anyone listening in on a SINCGARS channel, out in the middle of the Red Sea, were minimal, but Brannigan hadn’t gotten to where he was by being sloppy.  He’d use the brevity codes as they’d planned.  They used less time, anyway.  In planning, he’d set codes for each contingency; “Crazy Horse” meant that the two outer AA sites had been neutralized, and the center one was either still active or unknown.  The pilots knew the course to fly in that case.

Seconds later, the Osprey pilot was pulling up and away from the Boxer, the LHA’s lights dwindling behind and below them in the early morning darkness on the sea.  The rotors took a moment to transition from vertical to forward flight, and then they were howling across the water, heading toward the dark line of the coast ahead. Continue reading “The Colonel Has A Plan Part 2”

The Colonel Has A Plan Part 1

Staff Sergeant Elias Martinez had just checked the quick release affixed to the bow of the partially-deflated Zodiac for the third time when something made him look up.

There was a towering figure standing at the base of the CH-53’s ramp.  Martinez instinctively straightened, then yelled for the rest of his team.  There might be plenty of big Marines aboard the USS Boxer, but there was no mistaking the silhouette of the MEU Commander.  Colonel John Brannigan cut an altogether different figure.  There was something about the way he carried himself that set him apart and made him immediately recognizable.

What was surprising was the fact that the Colonel, with the squat form of Sergeant Major Santelli beside him, was in full kit.  Helmet, NVGs, plate carrier, mags, radio, blowout kit, rifle, the works.  He looked like he was ready to climb right on the bird and insert alongside Martinez’ Force Recon Team.  Which was unheard of, and something that Martinez suddenly found he more than vaguely dreaded.  No team leader wants an officer looking over his shoulder on an op, let alone the Colonel.

“Bring it in a minute, gents!” Brannigan boomed, managing to make himself heard over the racket of the Boxer’s flight deck.  The team clambered over the soft-ducked Zodiac and the rest of their gear until they were gathered in a tight semi-circle around Brannigan and Santelli.  They were a group of dark specters in the dimness of the flight deck, yards away from the superstructure’s lights, already kitted up and cammie-painted for the upcoming op.

“I wanted to meet up with all of the teams before you stepped off,” Brannigan shouted.  “You boys are going to be the envy of the entire Marine Corps, you know that?  You’ll be the only infantry Marines in the Fleet with an armored vehicle kill to your names, probably for years to come!”  He reached out and shook each man’s hand.  “I just wanted to stress one more time that we’re all counting on you.  Yeah, me included.  My ass is going to be on the lead bird going into the target village, so if you gunfighters don’t take those Shilkas out, I’ll be one of the first ones getting burned down.  So go get your kill on!  Good hunting, gents!”  He shook Martinez’ hand last, looking the Staff NCO in the eye as he did so, nodded once, and then turned and motioned to Santelli, jogging toward the next ’53 aft, where Team Two should be loaded up and ready to go.

“Let’s go!” Martinez yelled.  “Wheels up in,” he checked his watch, “three minutes!”

As the team clambered back on the helo, Sergeant Frank Able, Martinez’ Assistant Team Leader, leaned in to shout in his ear.  “Did you see the Colonel’s rifle?”

“Yeah,” Martinez replied.  Brannigan had been carrying an ancient, battered M4, with a lot of the bluing worn off.  It stood out in a unit that had already mostly transitioned to the newer M27s.  “That’s the way the Old Man rolls.  The word going around the Lance Corporal Underground says that he threatened to throw any officer overboard if he caught them with an M27 before all of the shooters had ‘em.”

“Damn,” was all that Able said, before he scrambled up and over to get into the CH-53.  He did a quick head count, then gave Martinez the thumbs up.  Martinez passed the same signal to the crew chief, and a moment later the big helo was surging up off the deck and into the East African night. Continue reading “The Colonel Has A Plan Part 1”