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The dark-clad figure turned, slowly, smoothly, menacingly. The blank, staring eyes were expressionless, robotic. The figure lifted a weapon from the floor, an immense M168 six-barreled Vulcan cannon, and pointed it right at Patrick McLanahan. From less than thirty meters away, he could not miss. The cannon, normally mounted on a large vehicle like an armored personnel carrier, could fire hot-dog-sized shells at up to three thousand rounds a minute—there would be nothing left of his body, even after only a one-second burst, to clean up with a sponge.
Patrick heard a clink of metal—the Gatling gun ammunition feed mechanism as the figure adjusted his grip. He couldn't see a trigger—the Vulcan cannon was normally electrically operated—so he could not even guess when the gun would start firing. It wouldn't matter anyway—at this range, he'd probably be dead before he heard the sound.
"Feels good," the figure said, his voice electronically distorted. In rapid succession, he elevated the cannon straight up into the air, side to side, and around in all directions. The movements were smooth, mechanical, effortless, as if the one-thousand-pound cannon were little more than a wooden stick. He set the big gun down on the floor, then unfastened some latches, removed his helmet, and handed it to a technician standing nearby tohelp him. "I feel like a damned clown miming on the street, but it works pretty well."
Patrick looked at Hal Briggs but said nothing. Hal was wearing the new and improved Tin Man battle armor, and he looked as if he was thoroughly enjoying it.
The first version of the electronic armor was designed to protect the wearer from bullets or bombs—fast-moving blunt trauma or shock—but did nothing to enhance strength. The new suit added a fibersteel exoskeleton structure with microhydraulically operated joints at the shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and ankles, with stress supports on the hands, fingers, and feet. The suit's onboard computers read and analyzed all of the body's normal muscle movements and amplified them through the exoskeleton, giving the wearer unbelievable physical strength, speed, and enhanced agility.
"Now, let's see if it fits in its convenient carrying case." Hal entered a code into a small panel on his left gauntlet, which powered down the exoskeleton and released the bindings. The exoskeleton remained standing like some sort of metal sculpture or futuristic scarecrow. He entered another code into a small control panel inside the frame on the spine, and the exoskeleton started to fold itself. In less than thirty seconds, it had collapsed down to the size and weight of a small suitcase. Hal placed the folded exoskeleton into a padded duffel bag and slung it over his shoulder—because of its composite construction, it was light and easy to carry, although the fibersteel components were many times stronger than steel. "Very cool. Every kid should have one."
Hal stepped over to Patrick, the duffel bag slung on his back, and clasped his longtime friend on the shoulder. "You okay, Muck?" he asked.
Patrick shrugged. "It just feels like one of those days when you know something's not going to go right."
"Well, Wendy did a good job getting this thing tuned up," Hal said, motioning to the bag on his shoulder. "It's very cool. I want to start putting it through its paces right away, before Masters decides to invest production money on something else."
"That may be sooner than you think," they heard a voice say. The voice belonged to Kevin Martindale. He was watching the demonstration from a corner of the test chamber. The young, handsome, energetic former president stepped over and greeted Patrick and Hal. Kevin Martindale, also a former vice president, had stayed only one term in the White House. He was a strong military advocate, but was voted out of office mostly because of actions he failed to take when the United States was threatened. What the public did not know was that Martindale preferred to use secret, unconventional forces to destroy an enemy's ability to make war before the situation grew worse.
Now Martindale was head of a secret organization called the Night Stalkers, composed of former military men and women, who performed similar unconventional-warfare missions around the world. But these operations were neither ordered nor sanctioned by any government—Martindale and his senior staff decided which missions to perform and how to perform them. In addition, squeezing or outright stealing money, weapons, and equipment from their their defeated opponents usually funded these operations.
"Very impressive," Martindale said, a fascinated gleam in his eye. These days, Kevin Martindale wore his hair much longer than he did in his days in the White House or Congress, and he had grown a goatee. He looked and acted quite a bit differently than his more conservative, buttoned-down government persona: Patrick hadn't yet decided if he liked the new Kevin Martindale. "One of Jon Masters's new toys?"
"An old toy with some new tricks," Hal responded, handing the duffel bag over to Martindale.
He was surprised at how lightweight it was. "That's it? Everything but the armor and backpack?"
"That doubles the weight—still very transportable."
"Excellent. We should talk to Jon and see if he can make a few units available to the Night Stalkers."
"I'm sure that can be arranged," Patrick assured him.
"With the usual three-hundred-percent markup," Hal chimed in with a broad smile as he finished removing the Tin Man battle armor and stowing it in the duffel bag.
"Fine with me—I'm not paying for it," Martindale responded dryly.
The comment bugged Patrick—it summarized all of Patrick's misgivings about being part of the Night Stalkers. Yes, they were doing important work—capturing international drug dealers and criminals like Pavel Kazakov, the Russian oilman and Russian Mafia chieftain, who had the incredible audacity to bribe generals in the Russian army to invade and occupy Balkan states so he could build a pipeline across those countries and make it more profitable for him to ship oil to the West. They had captured Kazakov and dozens of other terrorists, drug dealers, assassins, and international fugitives in less than a year.
But no one in this group was independently wealthy. They had to do an old infantry soldier's trick taken a few steps further: raid the land as they marched across it. Patrick himself had threatened Pavel Kazakov, one of the world's most wealthy but most dangerous individuals, with taking his life in exchange for the tidy sum of half a billion dollars—he still made sure he was tossed into a Turkish prison, but he also threatened to kill him instead if he didn't pay up. They had stolen guns, computer equipment and data, vehicles, aircraft, ships, and hacked into hundreds of bank accounts of known international criminals to raise money for their operations. The logic was simple: Not only did they arrest the bad guys, but they also substantially reduced their ability to carry on their criminal or terrorist enterprises.
Patrick tried to tell himself that it was all for the common good—but those words kept on ringing hollow.
"Good to see you came through your `test flight' over Libya all right," Martindale said to Patrick as they made their way out of the test lab. "But may I respectfully suggest you just get Dr. Masters to schedule some range time with the Air Force or Army on their ranges in North America to shoot down some missiles."
"Unfortunately, we can't blame that one on him, sir," Patrick admitted. "The test flight idea was mine. Jon wanted to make a big splash to impress the Pentagon, and I picked the closest country I thought would take a shot at us without starting World War Three. It turned out to be one of the most successful test flights we've ever made in a Megafortress, and certainly the most successful one for the Dragon airborne laser."
"Not too shabby for you either."
"I suppose you haven't heard—I heard it from very back-channel sources," Martindale said. "You know, of course, that President Thorn has never chosen a national security adviser."
"Yes, sir. He claims that the purpose of the President's cabinet is to not only administer the government but to advise the President," Patrick said. "He claims it's the way our government was set up. He thinks bureaucrats like national security advisers distort and politicize the decision-making process."
"What do you think of that?"
"I think any leader, especially the leader of the free world in the twenty-first century, needs all the advisers he can get," Patrick replied. His eyes narrowed, and he looked at Martindale carefully. "Why?"
"Because your name was being bandied about as being on the President's list for national security adviser." Patrick stopped and looked at Martindale in complete surprise. "He's putting together his reelection campaign, and the word is that folks would be more comfortable with him in a second term if he had a more identifiable, complete set of advisers—national security adviser being the number-one pick. That, it appears, is you."
"Me? That's insane!" Patrick retorted.
"Why insane?" Martindale asked. "After you put together and then commanded that Air National Guard EB-1C Vampire unit over United Korea, you're one of the most popular and well-known military guys out there. Some folks equate you with Jimmy Doolittle putting together the Tokyo air raids in World War Two, or with Colin Powell. The guys who have access can look at your record and just be amazed and awestruck at the stuff you've done. Plus, you have one more advantage."
"You're not Brad Elliott," Martindale said with a smile. "They look at what you and your team did over Russia and Romania in the Kazakov incident, over Korea, over China, over Lithuania, and all the other secret missions you've been involved in over the years, and they realize that you were fighting for your people—that shows pride, determination, and tenacity. Brad Elliott didn't fight for his people—Brad Elliott gladly sacrificed his people to do whatever he wanted. They know where you're coming from. Thorn likes that. I know you disagree with Thorn on military policy...."
"`Disagree'? It goes way beyond `disagree,' Mr. President! Thorn was the one who had me involuntarily retired from the Air Force! Thorn ordered my wife and daughter arrested by the FBI, and his Justice Department has got agents watching and listening in on Sky Masters Inc. night and day. Thorn and I have absolutely nothing in common except loathing for each other."
"Incase you haven't noticed, Thorn likes surrounding himself with advisers that disagree with him," Martindale said. "In fact, I can't think of one person in his entire administration that thinks like him or is even remotely simpatico with his throwback Jeffersonian ideology. Even his close friend Robert Golf and he constantly butt heads."
"I'd work with Goff, Kercheval, or even Busick any day," Patrick said. "But there is no way in hell I'd ever serve under Thorn."
"We don't just disagree—I feel his views of the military and America's role in the world suck," Patrick said. "America has the moral wisdom to use its military forces to protect peace and freedom around the world. This `stick-your-head-in-the-sand' attitude is causing widespread uncertainty in the world, and scumbags like Pavel Kazakov are crawling out of the woodwork and taking advantage of it."
"Then why wouldn't you go to the White House and tell Thorn what you think?"
"Because you can't talk to guys like Thorn. He's a fanatic, an extremist ideologue. I'd be arguing real-world situations and alternatives to crises that require fast responses, and he'd be quoting Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. No, thanks."
"You would decline to accept the nomination?"
"Loudly and publicly," Patrick said finally.
Martindale nodded. "Good. You're the heart of this team, Patrick—I hope you know that," he said sincerely. "We'd exist without you, but we wouldn't be the same—not nearly as dedicated, not nearly as hard-charging. I'd move heaven and earth to keep you here."
"Thank you, sir," Patrick said. "That means a lot."
Patrick and Hal followed Martindale into a secure conference room in the main headquarters building of the Sky Masters Inc. campus, a large industrial and research center in what was the old Blytheville Air Force Base in Arkansas, now called the Arkansas International Jetport. They warmly greeted Patrick's brother Paul, one of the first members of the Night Stalkers and the most experienced Tin Man battle armor user, along with Chris Wohl, a retired Marine Corps master sergeant and Hal Briggs's longtime partner. Martindale took his place at the apex of the conference table while Patrick secured the room, then motioned for Chris Wohl to begin:
"We are closely monitoring developments on the border between Libya and Egypt," Wohl began. "Libya has recently sent several thousand troops to the Sudan, on Egypt's southern border, supposedly to support the president of the Sudan against rebel insurgents that are using Chad as a safe haven. However, the insurgency was crushed last year, and Libyan forces remain deployed in three Sudanese bases—all within a day's armored vehicle march of five major Egyptian oil fields. Egypt has reinforced its armed forces in the region and maintains a rough parity with Libyan forces."
"So Libya wants to take Egypt's oil fields?"
"That's nothing new," Martindale said, "although they've preferred in the past to try to form a partnership with Egypt in developing its oil reserves. However, Egypt wants to form a consortium with some Western oil companies to tap its oil fields."
"Lots more money that way, I'd guess," Briggs offered.
"Exactly right—and ExxonMobil and Shell don't bring troops with them to the contract-signing ceremonies," Martindale said. "The consortium wants to build a four-hundred-and-sixty-mile-long pipeline from southern Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea capable of shipping two million barrels of crude per day, along with building refineries. It's a three-billion-dollar project that Libya desperately wants to get involved with."
"Doesn't Libya already export oil?" Paul McLanahan asked.
"Yes, but with U.S. sanctions still in place, they don't ship much to the West," Martindale replied. "The new president of Libya, who calls himself King Idris the Second, is even worse than Muammar Qadhafi. Idris, whose real name is Zuwayy, has reorganized the Muslim Brotherhood, the group of Muslim fanatics that seeks to make every Arabic-speaking nation in the world a theocracy—governed and steered by strict fundamentalist doctrine. Libya, Sudan, and Yemen are solidly in his hip pocket; Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are leaning toward him; Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Egypt so far oppose him."
"And the Muslim Brotherhood has been linked with the assassination of President Salaam of Egypt and his wife," Hal Briggs added. "Sounds like recruitment by intimidation to me. Join—or else."
"It looks like Zuwayy's going further than just assassination," Martindale said. "Sergeant Wohl?"
"Intelligence experts suspect that Libya has imported surface-to-surface missiles from someone—China, Pakistan, Russia, we don't know for sure yet—and has set up several bases from which to stage attacks into Egypt to destroy their military forces," Wohl went on. "The rumor is, the missiles have chemical, biological, and nuclear warheads, as well as conventional high-explosives. We have been tasked to find those missiles, identify them, and destroy them if possible."
"`Intelligence experts'?" Patrick asked suspiciously. "Who might they be, sir? I know we're not getting any cooperation from U.S. agencies."
Kevin Martindale looked at Patrick with a mixture of irritation and surprise in his features. "A group hired by the Central African Petroleum Partners," Martindale replied uneasily.
"You mean the oil consortium with a stake in the Egyptian oil fields?"
"Do you have a problem working for them, General?" Martindale asked.
"Sir, I want to head off trouble as much as anyone," Patrick said. "And I certainly don't like Zuwayy any more than I liked Qadhafi and the terrorist organizations they sponsor. But I don't like the idea of being a hired gun for an oil cartel, either."
"Would you like them better if I told you we would be getting our first paychecks out of this?" Martindale asked. "That's the difference between this mission and all the others—we are given a target, but we're also well compensated for our services."
Excerpted from WINGS of FIRE by Dale Brown. Copyright © 2002 by Target Direct Productions. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted October 28, 2004
Wings of Fire is a very interesting book. The McLanahans all go to the east in a mission for an oil company, but runs into trouble with the Libyan army and there leader Zuwway and his supplier of weapons Kazakov. Much happens when they get there and much will happen before they leave.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 28, 2003
Posted July 9, 2003
My first introduction to Dale Brown was when I picked up a copy of 'Warrior Class' thinking that it might be a decent book. But once I finished it I was astonished at how incredibly horrible the novel was. A crazy billionaire conquering half the Balkan states so he can build a pipeline? A hippy 3rd party President? And super-advanced planes and armor that wont exist for two decades? Please! 'Wings of Fire' just ups the anty. Starting with the unbelieveable and unrealistic assassination of the Egyptian President and the near assassination of his shockingly beutiful American wife who just happened to serve in the Air Force years back. This whole plot was cooked up by the nutty Libyan King who managed to oust our old pal the Colonel Qadafi and an Egyptian Supreme Court justice. Oh, and guess whose funding this odd couple? None other than Pavel Kazakov! Back after striking a deal with Interpol and turning over all his crime buddies. Next a lone B-52 (called an AL-52) with a laser strapped onto the nose flies over Libya and shoots down a buncha SAM's and even a MiG-29, wow. Then we find out that Kevin Martindale the former President is leading a top-secret mercenary force with weapons and technology that wont exist for probably thirty years. This group called 'Night Stalker' (so original) includes Patrick McLanahan, his little bro, his wife, and his entire crew who just happend to end up taking an entire frigate captive with only 50 people. Then Jon Masters (CEO of Sky Master Inc.) merges with another company and the whole merger his negotiated by...a 9 year old little girl who just happens to be a supergenius and the worlds leading expert on lasers and quantum mechanics! Jon and his little partner 9 year old Kelsey rig up a laser with a 10000 gigawat output. Then there are the numerous time and event discrepencies that occur in the book. I wont even continue because it is becoming physically painfull for me to recount the horrors of Dale Browns novel. The book is just a downward spiral from front page to the epilogue, enough said. From 9 year old little girl supergeniusus to the crazy wife of an assassinated Egyptian President to unbelieveable military weapons Dale Browns book 'Wings of Fire' is sure to give you a headache.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
He is one of America¿s most respected war heroes, known as much for his bravery as for his belief in his nation¿s strength. His career soared until a new president was elected and asked for his resignation. Now Patrick is part of a clandestine organization called The Night Stalkers, run by the former President of the United States. Different organizations or groups hire them but they will not accept a mission that could harm the United States. <P>The Night Stalkers are hired by the Central African Petroleum Partners to prevent Libya from attacking Egypt and their oil fields. The team has advanced weaponry systems that they have developed themselves that make them very attractive to world leaders, especially Susan Bailey Salaam, the widow of the recently assassinated president of Egypt. A former American intelligence officer Susan manages to attain Patrick¿s help in her grandiose scheme, a move that manages to destabilize the region bringing it one step closer to war. <P>Dale Brown is the king of techno thrillers and his latest novel WINGS OF FIRE is his best novel to date. His hero, a recurring character in his military thrillers, comes across as a patriotic and honorable man whose loyalties don¿t always allow him to make wise decision. This flaw humanizes him and endears him to the audience. The Night Stalkers are a fascinating group that comes across as real people who love America with all their hearts and are loyal to each other despite disagreements in policy. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.