The gripping second Strategic Solutions Inc. military thriller from Coyle and Tillman (after Pandora's Legion) details the workings of a PMC, or private military contractor. The U.S. government, which wants plausible deniability if things go wrong, hires SSI to send a team to a corrupt, unstable Chad to train its army in counterinsurgency techniques. The authors dig into the contract negotiations, move through the operation's organization and planning stages, and open out into training and the operation itself. Things begin to fall apart when stopping a secret shipment of yellow cake uranium destined for Iran takes precedence over the SSI team's original mission. An overabundance of characters leaves little time for development, but the operational minutiae are absorbing (even the contract negotiations), and the action, which ranges from the desert to the high seas, explosive. The authors keep reader interest high from the intriguing beginning to the final promethean twist. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Prometheus's Child: Harold Coyle's Strategic Solutions, Inc.by Harold Coyle
In Prometheus's Child, the first in an explosive series from New York Times bestseller Harold Coyle and noted military author Barrett Tillman, a new type of war is being fought by private paramilitary companies at the beck and call of the highest bidder. With the military and intelligence agencies spread thin, the United States is constantly calling/i>/i>
In Prometheus's Child, the first in an explosive series from New York Times bestseller Harold Coyle and noted military author Barrett Tillman, a new type of war is being fought by private paramilitary companies at the beck and call of the highest bidder. With the military and intelligence agencies spread thin, the United States is constantly calling upon the services of these organizations--and Strategic Solutions Inc. is among the best.
What begins as a relatively simply military-training mission in Chad turns into a high-stakes game of nuclear brinkmanship as the men and women of Security Solutions, Inc. stumble across a plot to extract and ship yellowcake—the base fuel for a nuclear weapon—to any number of countries hostile to the US. The in-country force tracks the operation to a supposedly abandoned remote mine in the desert. They strike, but a convoy carrying the yellowcake shipment escapes their trap.
With time running out, the SSI teams must pull together like they never have before to find a ship in international waters and recover its deadly cargo—by any means necessary.
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By Harold Coyle, Barrett Tillman
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2007 Harold Coyle and Barrett Tillman
All rights reserved.
"Bugger me, they're at it again!"
Gunfire erupted fifty meters away as Warrant Officer Derrick Martin wiped his hands on his "spotty dots" camouflage trousers and unslung his Steyr F88C assault rifle. Peering 'round the corner of the bullet-pocked market front, he was glad not for the first time that he had violated orders in carrying his personal weapon in the "blood box" armored ambulance. "Presence" was fine and good when all you wanted to do was impress the locals. It was downright stupid when those same people wanted to nail your hide to the wall like a plaster duck.
The American-made M113 "Bucket" continued burning a block and a half down the littered street, drawing a crowd of African celebrants. Few in the mob were armed, but some realized that the white soldiers who escaped from the light armored vehicle must be on foot. One Australian had not. His body was dragged away from the APC and some teenagers began stripping the corpse.
"They nailed Joji all right," Martin called to his wounded driver, two meters behind him.
Lance Corporal James Frasier looked up from his sitting position. "What about Dimitri?"
"Never bleeding got out, I reckon." Martin shook his head, pondering the geographic irony. What were the odds that a Fijian and a Russian would emigrate to Australia only to die in Chad?
It's Mogadishu all over, Martin thought. Arsehole politicians keep sending Diggers as peacekeepers, then complain when we enforce the bloody peace. He looked around, seeking a hiding spot. Besides his carbine, he was most grateful for the Wagtail radio that the wounded driver dragged in his left hand. The man's right hand was blistered and raw from detonation of the RPG, as was his right leg. Martin glanced down at his friend. "Jamie, how ya going?"
"I'm about buggered, Derro," Frasier croaked. He was hurt, winded, and scared. The fact that he addressed a superior by his nickname was an Aussie trait.
Martin ignored the response. "You got anybody yet?"
Frasier hefted the backpack radio. "Nothing yet. I've tried the allocated frequencies but this kit is only good for about eight kilometers. Only thing left is the high setting, but it'll use more juice."
"Well, give 'em a hoy. Every bleeding sot in this bleeding pesthole must know where we are by now."
As Frasier switched channels, Martin realized that the Australians had been seen. Several armed men motioned in their direction from up the street and began jogging toward the market. Martin looked around, confirming that he was out of the mob's line of sight. Sure enough, a woman waved a cloth from the second floor of a building behind him. She was saying something in Arabic, pointing to him and shouting to make herself heard.
Bloody bitch. Martin swung his Steyr to his shoulder, put the "death doughnut" aiming circle on the black woman's torso, and took up some of the slack in the single-stage trigger. She saw the 5.56mm muzzle raising toward her and ducked inside, not knowing if the white man had intended to shoot.
Neither did Martin.
Frasier got his attention. "I can't get through, mate. It's jammed with calls. Apparently the army and a rebel faction are fighting all over the city."
Martin safed his F88, slung it again, and leaned down. He raised Frasier to standing and helped him limp down the dirty street, forcing his way through pedestrians with a wave of the Steyr. Along the way, Martin's U.N. cap slid off his head but he was glad to be rid of the baby blue "target marker."
"In there!" Frasier called.
Frasier did not reply. He just pointed inside an office with a sign "Importons et Exportons." Without asking why, Martin helped his friend through the door and shut it behind them.
Frasier reached for the telephone. "Please, Lord, let it work. I frigging promise I'll go see the damned God botherer on Sunday." He lifted the receiver and grinned through the smoke on his face. "I've got a dial tone! What number should I ring?"
"Hell's toes, I don't know. Try ..."
A middle-aged Arab emerged from the rear of the office. He stopped dead in his tracks, assessed the uniformed strangers, and smiled. "Sir, I can help?" He spoke English with a French accent.
"Too bloody right, mate." Frasier extended the phone.
Martin responded more formally. "Yes, sir. We sure would appreciate any help. We need to contact our lot at the United Nations compound."
"Ah, oui." The dignified businessman bowed slightly, raising a hand to the tie he wore. He accepted the receiver from Frasier, dialed a number, and spoke alternately in French, Arabic, and English. Less than two minutes later he passed the phone back. "This is U.N., ah, house. Person talks not good English. Mostly French."
Bloody ethnics. Martin nodded his thanks. "Could you please tell him where we are? Ask if we can speak to anybody in the military advisory group." He tried to conjure the phrase: something like Groupe advisory militaire.
Mr. Haroun, as he introduced himself, was helpful and patient. Perhaps uncharitably, Martin was wondering what the businessman would expect in return for his assistance when a crowd of blacks rounded the corner half a block away. The composition was made for trouble: young, male, and angry.
Martin reached for Frasier and helped him toward the rear of the office. Mr. Haroun, apparently unflappable, remained standing at the desk, phone to his ear, awaiting more response from the functionary in N'Djamena.
Moments later the leading elements of the crowd reached the debris-littered street in front of the storefront. One of the young men leaned down and picked up an object. To Haroun it appeared as a colored rag. Apparently it meant something to the angry rioters.
Then he knew.
He slammed down the phone and paced to the rear of the store. Gesturing animatedly, he made shooing motions. "Allez, allez! You go! Now!"
Frasier looked up, confused. "What's he ..."
"Oh, my God." It emerged as a low, fervent curse. Martin was peering around the hallway corner, fifteen meters to the front door. He turned back to his friend. "The bastards found my hat. We gotta be off like a bride's nightie."
Crashing glass and rising voices echoed through the building. The front rank of rioters reached the outer office, smashing furniture and fixtures. Martin turned his head. "Mr. Haroun, see to him, will you?"
"Derro! C'mon, mate!"
"Can't do it, Jamie. They'll catch us sure. You chuff off!"
With that, Martin turned back toward the hallway, already filling with men vocally intent on homicide. There were few firearms but several machetes. Martin looked over the top of his optical sight and began shooting.CHAPTER 2
Peggy Springer buzzed the inner office.
"Mr. O'Connor is here, Admiral."
Michael Derringer punched the button on his console. "Thank you, Peggy. Please send him in."
The founder and CEO of Strategic Solutions, Incorporated, sat back and almost physically braced himself. Ryan O'Connor was not even on the third page of a single-spaced list of people the retired admiral wanted to see. It was not as if Derringer disliked the tweedy career bureaucrat; it was more that the ex-naval officer objected to the concept of most State Department dweebs.
Derringer knew the basics: Ryan O'Connor (Brown, class of '73; MA international relations) had joined State during the Carter administration and had climbed the GS ladder in pedestrian style. Considering that the earnest Bostonian had retained an Ivy League post-Vietnam view of America — aggressively imperialistic, hopelessly militaristic — Derringer occasionally marveled at O'Connor's advancement under three Republican administrations.
The door opened and Ryan Michael O'Connor entered in all his Foggy Bottomed glory: charcoal gray suit; power tie; $60 haircut; and $350 monogrammed attaché case.
Derringer pushed himself out of the padded chair and extended a hand. "Ryan, welcome back." He shook hands, remembering to grip extra hard, and was rewarded with the flicker of a grimace on O'Connor's face. "Please, sit down."
Beneath the cordial tone of his voice, Derringer cordially detested O'Connor's John Lennon glasses. It was a visceral reaction, not unlike the response the former naval officer had toward slouching, slack-jawed youths wearing ball caps backward. A sign of mindless conformity.
O'Connor took a seat and placed his black leather case on his knees. He did not bother to look around, as he knew the layout of the office, having dealt with SSI on occasion. The good admiral's walls were adorned with the sort of I-Love-Me esoterica common to retired military officers: lithographs depicting "glorious" historic events; signed photos bearing saccharine inscriptions from Very Important Republicans; and all manner of shield-shaped plaques denoting various assignments and commands. O'Connor almost sighed. So little time, so many wars.
He cleared his throat and began. "Admiral, as you know, I'm here on behalf of Undersecretary Quiller. He's expanding the role of Arms Control and International Security, and I'm his new deputy for human rights issues."
"How may we help you, Ryan?"
O'Connor bit his lip. He made a point of playing the Sir and Admiral game with the military types, and in turn they addressed him as if he were an adolescent nephew.
"Well ... Mike ... I know you're accustomed to working with DoD, but this time State has the ball. You've probably seen the coverage from Saharan Africa, especially Chad. Frankly, we're concerned about things getting even more out of control in the region, and the military doesn't have the resources or even the expertise to step in, as usual."
Derringer permitted himself a tight smile. "As usual." It wasn't entirely true, but he conceded that SSI and other private military contractors relied on DoD's perennial shortages.
O'Connor leaned forward, his vest bulging over the case on his lap. "You should treat this as close-hold for the present, but I can say that we are going to be a major player in that part of the world, both for diplomatic and humanitarian reasons."
"So the U.N.'s really pulling out."
The GS-14 sat back and blinked. Behind his rimless glasses, his wide-eyed gaze reminded Derringer of an astonished owl. "Well, I did not say that, Admiral. I certainly did not!"
Derringer shrugged. "Very well, then. Forget I mentioned it. But if we're getting more involved, obviously there's some sort of vacuum. With or without the blue berets, American interests are going to include PMCs." He raised a suggestive eyebrow. "Right?"
O'Connor retrieved the moment by nodding while looking down to unlock his attaché case. He withdrew a stapled document and placed it on the desk. "This is a summary of the situation as of last week, with predictions of near- and long-term requirements. Because SSI did such a fine job in Pakistan, Mr. Quiller wants to offer you first refusal on this training contract in Chad."
Derringer retrieved the paper, which had been left slightly beyond his reach, and idly thumbed through it. "Very well. I'll take a look and get back to you in a few days." He plopped the document on his desk pad and folded his hands. "Ryan, I know you're mainly concerned with human rights. What's your interest in Chad? I mean, it must have one of the worst reputations on the planet."
"Well ... Mike ... we're not so naïve as to think that we can convert the rest of the world to our kind of democracy merely by example. But neither can we affect events there without being involved. You know — directly engaged. When possible, State's position is to bring about change by helping from the inside rather than exerting force from the outside. As usual."
Gotcha, sonny. The tight little smile was back on Derringer's face. "You're certainly right there, Ryan. I can think of three examples right off the bat."
"Germany, Italy, and Japan."
The elegant attaché case snapped closed. "Good day, Admiral."
"Good day, Mr. O'Connor."CHAPTER 3
If you wait long enough, you can see interesting things even in the most barren desert.
However, on the south side of the Chad–Libyan border, in the area known as the Aozou Strip, there is precious little to draw sightseers. The scenery is drab and the climate unattractive, often with a daytime low of ninety degrees Fahrenheit. Wildlife, though varied, is rare. Fortunate spotters might see antelope, gazelle, or ostrich.
The unfortunate might witness murder.
Early in the afternoon, amid swirling dust devils, a well-used Land Rover lurched to a stop in Chad's Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti Prefecture. Three men and a woman stepped out; the men dragged two human forms from the rear, feet first. Each of the unfortunates was bound hand and foot and gagged. One had nearly suffocated during the long drive to the remote area.
The tallest of the three captors produced a stiletto and cut the straps securing each prisoner. Both raised themselves from the sand; one even bothered to dust himself off.
Both knew what was coming.
The driver leaned into the back of the vehicle and withdrew two shovels. He tossed them at the men's feet and merely said, "Dig."
The older of the doomed men folded his arms. "Why don't you just be done with it?"
"Because I don't dig."
"Well, then, mon vieux, we have something in common. Neither do I."
The leader of the captors resisted the urge to knife the insolent bastard where he stood. Instead, he rocked back on his heels and regarded the man. He had courage, and one had to admire courage wherever one found it.
Even in the Sahara. Maybe especially in the Sahara.
One of the captors picked up a shovel and swung it in an overhead arc, connecting with the defiant man's shoulders. The victim staggered, biting off a cry of pain, then sagged to one knee. "There are many uses for shovels," the assailant said evenly. He looked to his comrades for appreciation. Finding none, he raised the shovel again.
"Etienne!" The leader's bark stopped the offender in midswing.
The leader turned to the other victim, who stood trembling visibly. "You, dig for both of you."
The younger man looked to his partner, vainly seeking guidance. There was none — the older prisoner was still gasping for breath, rubbing his shoulder.
After an agonizingly long age — perhaps closer to an eon — the younger man found himself. "I won't dig, either." He spit into the dirt for emphasis, though his mouth was cotton-dry.
"Oh, I think you will." The leader turned to the senior prisoner and, with practiced ease, drew a 9mm Makarov from his belt and fired into the kneeling man's cranium from four meters away. Eighty kilos of dead weight pitched face forward, twitched imperceptibly, and expired.
The executioner holstered and kicked the second shovel toward the survivor. No words were necessary.
I can see the hate and the fear in his eyes, the killer told himself. It's always like this. At least one will always comply.
The doomed survivor sucked in lungs full of arid Saharan air. He looked upward, saw cumulus clouds in the direction of the Atlas Mountains, and tried to control his bladder. Briefly, he thought of running. But where? Even if he escaped, he was literally in the middle of the desert.
With trembling hands, he picked up the shovel and began to dig.
"You see, Etienne? What did I tell you? Some men choose to die on their feet, but most will lick your boots for five more minutes of life."
It was longer than five minutes, for the spade man was neither strong nor eager to finish his task. But at length he reached a satisfactory depth. "Enough," the leader said. He drew the pistol again. "You wish to pray?" They always do.
The victim merely nodded, lowered his head, and cupped his hands. He mumbled the ancient words, dredged up from a far-off childhood.
The leader intended for the man to die before the prayer was over — as much a kindness as one could muster at such times. He motioned to the driver, who nodded compliance, raised his own pistol, and began to press the trigger.
"Let me." It was the woman.
The leader waved a hand. "My God, Gabrielle, you've seen men die before."
She leaned toward him, fists clenched before her. "But I've never done it, Marcel! Don't you understand? I want to know how it feels!"
Mentally he catalogued the progress of the situation. Her insistence on accompanying the killers; her pledge of silence on the drive, which had mostly been honored. Now, however, he recognized the signs: the little-girl petulance, complete with pouting lips.
With an eloquent shrug, the leader drew his Russian pistol and handed it to her. He was going to remind her about the safety but she was familiar with the weapon. She raised the pistol in both hands, flipped the lever, took two seconds to align the sights, and three more to press the double-action trigger.
The 9mm round spat out, impacted the supplicant's left temple, and he collapsed into the hole he had dug.
She decocked the weapon and handed it back, butt first. The owner changed magazines and holstered it, faintly shaking his head.
Excerpted from Prometheus's Child by Harold Coyle, Barrett Tillman. Copyright © 2007 Harold Coyle and Barrett Tillman. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
New York Times bestselling author, HAROLD COYLE is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and spent fourteen years on active duty with the US Army. He lives in Leavenworth, Kansas.
BARRETT TILLMAN is the author of many fiction and nonfiction books including, Clash of the Carriers and Hellcats. He lives in Mesa, Arizona.
New York Times bestselling author, Harold Coyle is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and spent fourteen years on active duty with the U.S. Army. His books include No Warriors, No Glory and They Are Soldiers. He lives in Leavenworth, Kansas.
Barrett Tillman is the author of many fiction and nonfiction books including, Clash of the Carriers and Hellcats. He lives in Mesa, Arizona.
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