Critical Exposure

Critical Exposure

by Don Pendleton

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781460344873
Publisher: Worldwide Library
Publication date: 01/01/2015
Sold by: HARLEQUIN
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,084,634
File size: 440 KB

About the Author

Phil Elmore is a freelance journalist, author, and technical writer who lives and works in Western New York State. He has contributed extensively to various trade magazines in the "tactical" gear and self-defense fields. He is also the senior editor of an IP development company based in Florida and the author of multiple commercially published scifi and action novels.

Read an Excerpt

Benghazi, Libya

Lieutenant Commander John Falk, leader of SEAL Team Four, emerged from the murky waters off the pier at Dock 17. He lifted his goggles, disconnected his lips from the mouthpiece and withdrew waterproof binoculars from his pack. Through the enhanced NVDs he could make out at least a dozen sentries aboard the massive cargo freighter that had arrived in port early that morning.

While the freighter claimed to hail from a port of call in Capetown, Falk knew better. Military signals intelligence—MIL-SIGINT—reports claimed the raw materials such as the metals and other goods the freighter officially hauled were actually weapons to supply Islamic dissidents that had formed a local rebel group in Benghazi designed specifically to foil U.S. interests. The fighting had grown fiercer in Libya the past few weeks and the government leaders in Tripoli were screaming for U.S. assistance.

Personally, Falk didn't like the people in power. He didn't see much difference between them and the former regime headed by Moammar Khaddafi. But he knew the Islamic radicals running through the country unchecked weren't any better. They were an offshoot of Ansar al-Sharia, with sympathizers sent in to shore up Islamic terror-group operations. Those operators were active members of the AQIM and U.S. intelligence circles knew the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb bankrolled Ansar al-Sharia efforts in Libya to the tune of millions of dollars. They were basically out of control. Many civilians and innocents had died at their hands, and this new cache of weapons and explosives aboard the freighter was only going to make a bad situation worse.

Enter SEAL Team Four to neutralize the cache by Executive order.

The mission parameters were simple. Get aboard the freighter, locate and blow the weapons cache, get out and await extraction. Simple and straightforward tactics for which they had trained time and again. Whether the mission itself would be simple remained to be seen— Falk didn't wear any blinders on that point. No mission, however standard it might seem, was ever without potential complications.

After one more sweep of the entire deck, Falk stored his binoculars and then reached to the laser light on his belt and keyed the button built into its base three times. A moment passed before five more figures surfaced. The alpha squad of the team would make the actual breach through the maintenance hatch in the hull while the second team provided a distraction for the sentries on deck.

"You guys ready?" Falk asked his men.

Each gave him the proverbial thumbs-up. He nodded, donned his scuba gear and they all submerged in unison. The swim through the coastal waters in the dark was nothing less than hazardous. Tides were rough and their safety margin was minimal at best. The waters in the port were horrendously dirty and rife with potential hazards. They could swim through the wrong spot and rip their bodies open on sharp scrap metal or acquire some sort of bacterial infection—or even worse.

Falk didn't let it faze him. There were more hazards to be concerned with; hazards such as human enemies toting subguns and harboring a distinct and unyielding hatred for any Westerner—especially Americans. Like those water-bound hazards that burned in the back of Falk's consciousness, they were without remorse and wouldn't hesitate to kill the SEAL team members if they were detected.

They swam toward the vessel, keeping to a depth of about twenty yards beneath the surface, Falk in the lead. They reached the target without injuries and Falk signaled his men to ascend. As soon as he broke the surface, he heard the shouts of men and reports from at least two dozen SMGs.

What the hell…? he thought, removing his mouthpiece.

The operation had been blown! There was no other reasonable explanation for them to be engaging the team intended to provide the distraction. Somehow they had given themselves away and it had resulted in an all-out battle on the top decks of the freighter. Falk whirled toward the heads of his men now just bobbing above the surface and was about to order them to submerge when the entire area suddenly came alive with light.

"We're compromised!" he shouted. "Evacuate! Evacuate now!" He gestured to his men to abort the mission.

Some of the men dipped immediately beneath the surface. He fitted his mouthpiece and whipped his body into a dive, moving toward the bottom as fast as his legs could propel him. He knew the best place for safety would be the keel of the ship.

Falk turned, headed for that point and more toward the stern so the docks would provide additional safety. His intent proved short-lived, however, as underwater lamps illuminated his position and temporarily blinded him. His instinct was to go deep, but even as he turned to do so he felt something lance his leg and a burning sensation ride a point from just above his right knee all the way to his hip.

Falk looked down toward his leg—or was it actually up since he was in a descent maneuver?—and in the light saw the source of the pain. A speargun projectile had gone completely through his thigh with such force that it had severed most of the nerves in his thigh muscles and nullified further use of that leg.

Before he could decide on a new course of action, someone grabbed his left arm. He sensed the body of another man in dive gear next to him.

Falk turned as he withdrew his diving knife. He was ready to plunge it into his assailant when he realized it was Cantrell, one of his own men and the team medic. They looked into each other's eyes, visible through the goggles, and Falk saw the crinkle of a smile just a moment before he watched his teammate's expression melt into horrific realization. Then the light left Cantrell's eyes and the water became cloudy with blood. Falk looked wildly in every direction trying to find the attacker, but there was too much confusion.

Then the world around him exploded into a series of lights and ear-splitting concussions, and he realized they were being bombed by a form of antipersonnel depth charges, perhaps even grenades. Falk broke free from Cantrell's grip and kicked off the body. There was nothing he could do for his friend and he had to evade capture. He gained maybe thirty yards' distance before another burning ripped through his body, this time from a point in his lower back to a point in his left upper chest.

The water around him clouded once more and Falk realized he'd just taken a bullet in the back. He spun and twisted, trying to avoid further injury as every muscle in his body seemed to scream with protest. He realized in the delirium that the screams were his own. The regulator seemed to disengage from his mouth and he sucked water into his nostrils. His lungs burned, and he knew the pain in his mouth had been from the force of his jaw clenching against the regulator stem. The burning in his lungs increased and his panic turned to terror. Stars popped in his eyes and blackness rimmed the edges of his sight.

Within a moment, Falk's sense of direction had left him and he realized there would be no escaping it. The limbs in his body no longer seemed capable of function and the initially controlled movements of swimming turned fiercely and irrevocably into thrashing as he lost control of other bodily functions. Falk never came to the realization the loss of sensation signaled something more ominous and terrifying than anything he'd ever experienced before.

Quietly and unwittingly, Lieutenant Commander John Falk slipped from life into death.

Munich, Federal Republic of Germany

Eli Brighton chewed absently at the plastic tip of an unlit electronic cigarette.

He'd given up smoking more than eighteen months earlier; a fanfare event that had not spread beyond the boundaries of his own small and relatively impersonal world. As head of a Delta Force unit assigned to counteract terrorist activities in the European Common Union, Brighton had other things on his mind more important than self-improvement. Quitting smoking had improved his physical health, sure, but he could hardly consider it anything other than what is was: a victory over personal habits.

Oddly, Brighton hadn't been a smoker when he'd first started with Delta Force. The opportunities had come rarely, if at all, during initial training and he'd wanted to maintain peak physical conditioning. The demands of the job called for the omission of such self-indulgence. He'd taken up the habit while playing a role undercover, the byproduct of social acceptance inside the neo-Nazi group calling itself the League of Aryan Purity. When he'd first undertaken his cover to penetrate the group, he'd been amused by the oxymoron. This group boasted anything pure in body, mind or soul—they hated anyone who wasn't like them and, as in most such organizations, wouldn't hesitate to kill the racially impure.

"What's eating you, Eli?"

Brighton looked at his partner and longtime friend, Sol Gansky. The big man's shadowy outline—features marked by a bulbous nose and prominent forehead—bore out his Irish roots. His fiery red hair was subdued by a knit stocking cap, and he sat bolt upright in his usual sense of alertness. Their car sat at the curb of a run-down neighborhood in central Munich, beneath a broken streetlight.

"What do you mean?"

"You're quiet," Gansky replied.

"So what," Brighton groused. "We aren't hosting a talk show here."

"You're just usually a little more talkative."

"I like my silence sometimes, Sol."

The man shrugged. "Okay. If you say so."

Brighton returned his attention to the club they'd been staking out for the past three hours. The expected arrivals, two of the top guys inside the terrorist group headquartered in Munich, were more than forty-five minutes late for the meeting. Their contact inside the club, intelligence specialist Greg Hiram, had been doing everything he could to maintain an air of indifference.

Brighton had just about given up on the whole scenario and was minutes from calling it quits when a lone vehicle turned off a side street and made its way in their direction.

"This could be it," Brighton said as he and Gansky immediately hunkered down in the vehicle.

Brighton watched with concern as the late-model Citro n approached, icy fingers of nervousness prickling the back of his neck. At the speed the vehicle was traveling, and given the cramped space on the street, it was likely anyone driving by might spot them in the vehicle, even if both sides were crammed with parked cars. The moment passed when they saw the vehicle whip abruptly into a space just past the club entrance in a feat of parallel parking only achievable by an experienced European driver. Two men emerged from the back and Brighton immediately recognized their expected company. "Those are our guys," he muttered. "Get ready."

They waited until the pair swaggered down the sidewalk and entered the club.

Gansky pulled the stocking cap tighter on his head, climbed casually from their two-door VW and began to stroll up the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. Brighton waited until Gansky was parallel to the Citro n before starting the engine. He could barely see the driver who seemed to scrutinize Gansky as he walked past, but Gansky played it perfectly and ambled along the sidewalk, pretending not to notice the driver. Gansky could hold his own if it went sour since he had a .38-caliber snub-nosed pistol concealed in his jacket.

Brighton waited; his gut rumbling with anticipation. This was what it had all come down to, the months of preparation and undercover work. If they could take down the two leaders of the LAP here and now, they could glean enough intelligence to dismantle the group and its operations and strike a crippling blow to the head of the organization that had spread its poisonous doctrine insidiously to like groups inside the U.S.

Brighton counted down two minutes, put the gearshift in reverse and eased back, depressing the clutch just in time to tap the bumper against the car behind him so he could stop without engaging the brakes. He cranked the wheel hard left and waited with the clutch to the floor and his right foot hovering over the gas pedal.

As soon as Gansky made his appearance and eased into view from the rear of the Citro n to come up low on the driver's side in a crouch, pistol at the ready, Brighton swung out and turned on his headlights. The light blinded the driver temporarily and Gansky made his move. The big man whipped open the door and stuck the barrel of his pistol to the driver's temple.

Brighton pulled parallel to the vehicle and screeched to a halt as Gansky yanked the driver from the car. The two climbed into the backseat of the VW and Brighton tore out of there, driving two blocks before turning into an alley.

"Wait here," he ordered Gansky, who kept the barrel of the gun to the driver's head.

Brighton killed the engine and bailed from the VW. He jogged up the street, turning up the volume on his headset as he ran. He couldn't make out the conversation between Hiram and the two LAP heavies over the dance music, and he cursed. He didn't know what was in store for him, only that they had to get the neo-Nazi leadership out of the club without creating any sort of ruckus.

Brighton got within twenty feet of the club entrance before the heavy wooden door swung out and three men emerged. Brighton immediately recognized Hiram and the two LAP leaders, one of whom had his arm around Hiram. Odds were good he also had a weapon on the intelligence agent.

Brighton skidded to a stop and reached for his pistol but in the next moment he found his arm didn't work right, most likely because of the silenced bullet that had entered the upper part of his back and severed his spinal cord.

Brighton opened his mouth to scream but nothing really came out and in that moment he registered the reason for all of these events culminated in the fact that he'd been shot by a sniper. White-hot light exploded in his sight and his breath exploded from his lungs as he pitched forward and his chest hit the sidewalk. The last thing Brighton saw was a flash where Hiram stood with the two neo-Nazi terrorists and the gory explosion of intestines and blood from Hiram's stomach.

Brighton never heard Hiram's body as it toppled forward and bounced down the stone steps—neither did he hear the explosive sound of the pistol pointed at Gan-sky's head through the back window of the VW.

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