First Sergeant Samuel Adams “Goose” Gander is on the front lines, fighting a battle against superior forces. Goose's wife, Megan, is fighting for her freedom in a court case where all the facts seem stacked against her. Meanwhile, Chaplain Delroy Harte believes that the Rapture may have happened but can't be sure until he has dealt with the demons of his past. Stunning action and technical accuracy ensure this series will satisfy the fans of the original Left Behind series who are looking for more.
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By Mel Odom
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2004 Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneUnited States 75th Army Rangers Temporary Post Sanliurfa, Turkey Local Time 1422 Hours
"Help me! Please, God, send someone to help me! My wife! They took my wife!"
The agonized and fearful cry jerked First Sergeant Samuel Adams "Goose" Gander from the mental paralysis that had gripped him for the last several moments. The early afternoon sun blazed over Sanliurfa, beating down on the city with an unrelenting heat. Shimmering blasts of ovenlike air radiated from the shattered buildings surrounding him and the hard-baked asphalt beneath his boots. Sweat soaked Goose's BDUs and ran down his face from beneath his Kevlar helmet. The helmet shaded his eyes and would deflect most bullets and shrapnel, but right now it felt like a stewpot slowly parboiling his brain. Sand stuck to his chin and burned his eyes. The coppery taste of his own blood still lined his mouth, a souvenir from the fight he'd just had with Icarus.
Goose still stood in the alley where minutes ago he had first fought, then talked with the man he knew only as Icarus, the rogue CIA agent that Special Agent-in-Charge Alexander Cody and Ranger Captain Cal Remington had scoured Sanliurfa to find. Despite their desperate efforts, neither had been able to locate their target.
Goose, however, had encountered the fugitive on three different occasions. On two of those occasions, Icarus had sought Goose out. The rogue agent had staged the circumstances of those events so that Goose had had no choice but to let him walk away. The third time, at their meeting in this place, Goose had discovered by accident where Icarus was hiding. He'd forcibly taken the rogue agent into custody. But he hadn't remanded Icarus over to Remington, Goose's commanding officer.
Though he and Remington disagreed on the matter of Icarus-as they had on many other things over the long years of their association in the military-Remington was Goose's good friend and a brother in arms.
But in the end Goose hadn't held Icarus. He'd allowed him to slip free. Now Icarus was gone, once more loose to pursue whatever mission drove him to remain within Sanliurfa's boundaries despite the dangers of the Syrian army, poised to attack the city, and the presence of his hunters Remington and Cody. If any of his pursuers caught up with him, Icarus's odds of survival, Goose knew, were essentially zero.
Goose also knew that he should be in hot pursuit of the rogue agent. But it appeared that chasing Icarus wasn't an option just now. Something else was going down, and Goose couldn't ignore the plea for help. He was a soldier, and soldiers defended those who couldn't defend themselves. In Sanliurfa, there were a number of defenseless.
"Help me! Someone help me! For the love of God!"
Goose stared toward the mouth of the alley, tracking the plea for help. He automatically slid his M-4A1 assault rifle from his shoulder and canted the weapon so the barrel pointed down and the butt rested on but not against his right shoulder under his chin. Four inches shorter than the M16s that infantrymen had carried in past wars, the M-4A1's design lent itself to close-quarter combat. Today's battlefields moved increasingly in the direction of urban warfare rather than open terrain. The weapons the Rangers carried reflected that.
A man in brown khaki shorts, hiking boots, and a gray shirt staggered in front of the alley mouth. He appeared thirty-something, balding and sunburned. Blood poured down the side of his face from a wound at the top of his head. Crimson lines ran down his chin and neck, disappearing into his shirt. His battered features were red and raw. Swollen bruises almost closed one eye.
"Sir." Goose kept his voice strong but neutral. The man jerked away and covered his head with one arm.
Peering fearfully under his forearm with his one good eye, the man looked at Goose. "You are American."
"Yes, sir," Goose replied. The wounded man stood partially behind Goose's Humvee, hiding as well as he could. Goose had driven into the alley to have his confrontation privately with Icarus. But right now the man was using the Humvee as cover. Goose cleared his throat, searching for the right words to get through to this man. "I'm First Sergeant Gander. With the United States Army 75th Rangers from Fort Benning, Georgia." His words were tinged with a southern accent, acquired courtesy of Waycross, Georgia, where Goose had been born and raised.
"Thank God," the man said. "Thank God." He started down the alley but almost fell over a loose hunk of debris from the nearby bomb-blasted buildings. Syrian artillery hadn't hit this part of the city as extensively as it had in other sections, but fallen debris still blocked the alley behind Goose.
"Sir," Goose said in a sterner voice, "stay where you are."
The man gaped at Goose but halted where he was.
Over the past few days, the Sanliurfan citizens and visitors had quickly learned to obey commands given by the three armies that currently held positions within the city. In addition to the Syrian threat looming outside the city's borders, the strange anomaly that had ripped away what most experts agreed was at least a third of the world's population had left people everywhere confused, paranoid, and afraid. No one knew if the disappearances would start up again, or who might disappear next.
"What?" the man shouted.
"Stay where you are," Goose repeated. "I don't know you."
During the past few days, the Rangers as well as the United Nations Peacekeeping teams and the Turkish army had learned that Syria's blatant and unprovoked attack on Turkey and the subsequent invasion had inspired a number of local terrorists to start ratcheting up their own campaigns to make political and religious statements. Most of those campaigns concentrated on raising the body count. Several soldiers of all three armies, various Sanliurfan citizens, and some innocent tourists trapped in this mess had paid the price for the terrorists' convictions.
The man stopped. "Mon Dieu! This is insane! I need help! My wife needs help! Do you not understand? They have her! They took her!"
Goose listened, straining his ears for any sounds of a struggle or confrontation. Distant vehicle noises and the roars of earthmoving equipment used to clear the primary streets and reinforce fighting positions, none of them nearby, created a constant aural backdrop over the city. He blinked stinging sweat from his eyes. He was edgy from not sleeping for more than twenty-four hours, and even the last sleep he'd managed hadn't been uninterrupted for more than an hour and a half at a time.
"You have got to help her." The man leaned heavily against the alley wall, as if the realization that he would have to win Goose over was almost too much to bear. Blood continued to thread down the side of his face and neck. His injured eye seemed to close a little more with each frantic heartbeat. "I do not know what they will do to her. Please."
"Your wife was taken?" Goose asked.
"Oui." There was no mistaking the pain in the man's eyes.
"Who are you?"
"I am Jean Arnaud," the man replied. "I am a university professor in Paris." He named the school, but his French was so rapid Goose couldn't understand him. "I have papers." He reached for his shirt breast pocket with trembling hands that left bloodstains in their wake. "I was here in Sanliurfa on a sabbatical with my wife, Giselle. They took Giselle. You must help her." His fingers fumbled with the pocket and barely got the papers out.
Trusting his instincts that the man was telling the truth as well as the physical evidence of the beating Jean Arnaud had obviously undergone, Goose lowered his weapon but didn't put it away as he approached the man. If someone had kidnapped the woman, time was already working against a rescue effort. Sanliurfa, with its hodgepodge of architecture and hundreds of years of history, was a rabbit warren of hiding places.
Goose gestured to the Hummer. "Get in."
Arnaud hesitated just for a moment.
Grabbing the man by his arm, Goose pulled Arnaud into motion. He escorted the man to the passenger side of the Hummer and shoved him into the seat.
Goose jogged around to the driver's side, limping a little on his bad knee, and slid behind the wheel. Starting the Hummer's engine, he tagged the communications headset he wore to open a channel, then pulled the pencil mike to the corner of his mouth.
"Base," Goose said. "This is Phoenix Leader."
"Base reads you five by five, Phoenix Leader," the calm male voice responded.
"I need a com network for an immediate SAR op and access to soldiers at this twenty." Goose gave his location, then looked over his shoulder and backed the Hummer out into the street.
"A SAR, Phoenix Leader?"
"Affirmative," Goose replied. The call for a search-and-rescue team drew immediate attention, especially after the Syrian attack that had taken place the previous night. The city and the Rangers were still picking up the pieces from that. "The SAR target is a civilian, not one of our own."
"Understood, Phoenix Leader. Go to two-one for your network. I'll get a detail assembled for the SAR."
Goose flicked the headset to channel 21 and looked at Arnaud as the Hummer rolled to a stop in the middle of the street. "Which way?"
Arnaud looked around for a moment. His face was pale and anxious. Indecision weighed heavily on him. "There." He pointed to the right. "Giselle and I were in a little cafe. They ambushed us in the alley. They robbed us and took Giselle. I thought they were going to kill me."
Maybe they thought they had, Goose told himself, looking at the damage that Arnaud suffered. He put the Hummer into forward gear and let off the clutch, feeling another twinge of agony from his knee.
For the past few years he'd been careful with his left knee. He'd been wounded during a firefight in the first Iraq War, barely getting by on medical reports after extensive surgical repairs, because the doctors had known he was a dedicated soldier and wanted to muster out with a full pension, and because he'd always been able to handle the load. The crisis in Turkey was slowly eroding his physical ability to function. He needed rest but he wasn't getting it. The cortisone shots he'd used in the past to block the pain weren't working as effectively here, thanks to the continual stress and strain of constant use; even though the shots provided some relief, they didn't help the knee heal.
"Who took your wife?" Goose asked.
Arnaud shook his head miserably. "I do not know." He continued on in French.
"Sir, I don't understand what you're saying," Goose interrupted. He spoke just enough French to order a meal from a restaurant, and the man's rapid pace made comprehending him impossible. Goose's mind was still whirling from all the secrets that Icarus had revealed during the past few minutes.
"I was drawn to you, First Sergeant," Icarus had said. "By something greater than myself. I know that now. There's a reason we've been put in each other's path."
Goose gripped the Hummer's steering wheel harder. He knew how Arnaud felt, how the panic and helplessness slammed through the man. He forced himself to focus.
Shaking, Arnaud made a visible attempt to control himself. "The men, First Sergeant, they were not known to me. They are Bedouin, oui? Very probably traders. Scavengers." He glanced around, half out of his seat as he craned his neck to peer into buildings and down alleys. "You can see any number of them in the city. They come. They go. Some of them take what they can from the wreckage of the city. Others bring supplies into Sanliurfa. By any other name, most of them are still looters, taking profit from the hardships the rest of us have gone through. Now they have taken my wife."
Goose knew about the Bedouin. With the military satellite reconnaissance systems presently off-line in the Middle East, the nomadic people were a major conduit of information for the military forces currently hunkered down in Sanliurfa. The Bedouins existed as they always had, by trading and scavenging and taking whatever they could find. The Syrian assault on Turkey had proven a boon to the Bedouins, allowing them to capture prizes to own and to trade that they might never have gotten legally. According to news reports Goose had seen, several of the Bedouin tribes had started caches of war booty in the caves in the surrounding mountains.
"When was your wife taken?" Goose felt compassion run through him for this man. He hadn't seen his own wife in months, but if anyone ever tried to harm Megan, ever tried to take her away against her will-
God took Chris.
The thought rattled through Goose's mind, making him feel hollow and helpless, stripping away his confidence. The fact that God had taken Chris during the Rapture had been part of the message Icarus had delivered. "Your son," Icarus had said in a quiet voice, "is safe. God came and took your son up as He took all the other children."
Goose couldn't allow himself to believe everything Icarus had stated. If he did, he had to give up on ever seeing his five-year-old son again.
In this life.
That possibility ripped at Goose's mind. He didn't have a faith strong enough to allow him to accept that. He'd tried, but he couldn't believe God would do that. Not to the point that he could give everything -his hopes and his fears-over to Him. Goose didn't know how a person did that.
Bill Townsend, his good friend and a devout Christian who had always talked about the end times and the fact that the Rapture might happen any day, had disappeared during the anomaly. If Bill were here, Goose was certain his friend would tell him that he'd see Chris again. At the end of the seven years of Tribulation. If he wasn't one of those who would die long before the end of that time.
But Goose couldn't help hanging on to the possibility that all those disappearances had been man-made-or even, though the concept strained his credulity, of extraterrestrial origins-and that he could somehow find a way to reverse those disappearances and bring those people-bring Chris-back. God wouldn't take his son away from him. The God Goose wanted to believe in couldn't be capable of that kind of cruelty.
"Over there." Arnaud pointed toward a small cafe and brought Goose's focus back to the present op. "I asked the people inside the cafe for help, but no one would help me."
That didn't surprise Goose. Most people who had remained in Sanliurfa after the mass exodus that came on the heels of the SCUD missile launch had stayed because they believed they would prosper, that Turkish reinforcements would arrive at any moment-which wasn't going to happen-and push the Syrians back.
Excerpted from Apocalypse Burning by Mel Odom Copyright © 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is an excellent book written about the end of times. It talks about a soldier named "Goose" who is in Asia fighting a war when the rapture takes place. It then goes to his wife back in the states and what she is going though. Written quite well. Keeps you interested
I enjoyed it as a side story to the rest of the "Left Behind" stories.
PLEASE, PLEASE/ PLEASE finish this most exciting series. I'm in limbo here wondering what happened to Goose and his troops and the world on the brink of destruction.
The disappearance of millions of people around the globe which includes all the children under twelve years old fails to stop the latest Middle East flare-up. When Syrian forces attack the Turkish city of Sanliurfa US Ranger Captain Cal Remington vows that this engagement will not derail his career so he eagerly accepts help from the soon to be appointed Secretary General of the United Nations Nicolae Carpathia, who sends his minion to abet the ambitious American soldier. First Sergeant Samuel Adams ¿Goose¿ Gander realizes that his friend has aligned himself with the forces of evil, but has no idea what he can do about this but he is not willing to give up on Cal.................. Goose is unaware that at Fort Benning, Georgia fighters are skirmishing in a different battlefield. His son Chris is one of the children that vanished and his stepson Joey is nowhere around. His wife Meg, a post counselor is being charged with dereliction of duty for failing to inform an abusive father that his son was hospitalized; depriving him of their last minutes together. He plans to sue Meg and the Army in civil court if she is found guilty............................... APOCALYPSE BURNING follows the trials and tribulations of Goose and Meg as they cope with war, the disappearance of their child, and forces that want to destroy them. Goose remains an admirable leader of soldiers especially in contrast to Cal who will use murder to further his career. Using two fronts and a global backdrop, Mel Odom has written an exciting war and legal thriller that focuses on two decent people trying to do the right thing in a world heading towards its final countdown.............. Harriet Klausner