Heart-sick over the deaths of so many of his Keldara followers, and one in particular, former SEAL Mike Harmon, hero of Ghost, Kildar and Choosers of the Slain, decides to sit this one out. WMDs headed for the US no longer matter to the Kildar. But when his best friend and intel specialist both are seriously wounded in an ambush aimed at him, the Kildar gets his gameface back on. Mike has always said that he's not a nice guy, and he's about to prove it to a boatload of terrorists and Colombian drug dealers. Set in the Bahamas and Florida Keys, A Deeper Blue is a fast moving thriller that never slows down from the first page. With the return of some old faces, the action-packed novel proves, once again, the adage that sometimes it takes some very bad people to do good things.
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A Deeper Blue
By John Ringo
Baen Publishing EnterprisesCopyright © 2007 John Ringo
All right reserved.
"Anybody got a fucking clue?"
The meeting was unusual. The group had all met each other before, even had meetings together, but there was one person missing and that threw the whole balance out.
Nielson looked around at the faces, searching for an answer to his question.
All six of the Keldara Fathers were present as well as two of the Mothers.
The Keldara were an ancient race of mountain warriors, descendants of the Norse guards of the Byzantine Emperors, the Varangians. Marooned by the flow of history as the Empire receded, they had endured a series of conquerors over the years but always maintained their traditions. Forced, like the Ghurkas and the Kurds, to be farmers for survival, they had, nonetheless, kept up their warrior tradition. In part this was due to a quiet and subtle breeding program.
Over the years they had had many "lords" occupy the caravanserai where the meeting was taking place. Some of them were courtiers exiled from centers of power but most had been foreign adventurers attached to whatever empire "owned" the Keldara at the time. The courtiers didn't tend to last. They died mysteriously of diseases or sudden heart attacks or hunting accidents.
The other lords, the warriors, well "a soldier that won't fuck, won't fight." Those lords, naturally, wanted to sample the beautiful Keldara girls. And they were beautiful, so much so that people that met them commented on it constantly. Most such lords assumed the right as part of their position.
The Keldara had made that right their own, though, sending only girls who were about to be married and also in their period of maximum fertility. And they had insisted, quietly, subtly, but very determinedly, that the "lord" pay for his "rights" by presenting a dowry to the young lady.
Called the "Rite of Cardane", over the centuries it had been used to carefully breed to dozens of different races, but every bit of that genetics had been from proven warriors. Those that weren't ... Well so many accidents can befall a person.
Tartar eyes, a legacy of Genghiz' hordes, blonde and red hair from the Norse, black from the Turks and Ottomans, the men were powerful and handsome, fell beyond belief in battle, the women gorgeous and fey and nearly as dangerous.
But they needed their lord, their Kildar. They needed his genes, yes, but very nearly as good sat in the room with them. What they needed, most, was his leadership and the knowledge that each generation had brought to the Keldara of the best, most modern, way to destroy his enemies. The Keldara had been axemen from the North, bow-men riders and armored knights in their time. They had swung swords and fired long jazeels. They lived on the cutting edge of the blade, whatever would kill the most enemies was fine by them.
Now they armed themselves with M4s and machine-guns, MP-5s and sniper rifles. Their armor was Kevlar and composite.
None of it was any good without the Kildar, though.
"I could beat him up," Master Chief Charles Adams said.
The burly and bald-headed former SEAL had known the Kildar for years, since both were in BUD/S together in the infamous Class 201. They'd been on the same team, briefly, then the Kildar had gone off to teach meats while Adams climbed the ladder of rank. Adams had next run into his old buddy in a stinking underground fortress in Syria, finding him shot to ribbons after holding off, with very little support, a Syrian commando battalion.
Later his "friend" had called him up and asked him to assemble a team and come train some weird group of mountain people in the country of Georgia.
Adams had been hanging out ever since. The Keldara were great people, the scenery was awesome, the living conditions, given that there were three hookers in-house, were great and the beer was fucking awesome.
He acted as the Kildar's field second and had been at his side for several hairy ops. But it wasn't the ops, directly, that had led to this fuck-up. Just one fucking casualty. You'd think a big guy could get over one fucking casualty, no matter how good a piece of ass it had been.
"I don't think that would help," Colonel Thomas Nielson said, dryly.
The colonel was a former infantry and civil affairs officer, Ranger tabbed, airborne qualified and once an instructor at the War College. The only professional officer in the group, he acted as the Kildar's chief of staff. Short with black hair going gray and green-eyes that worked remarkably well on the ladies, he was about ready to go for the Master Chief's suggestion.
"It'd help me," Adams argued. "I'm about sick of his pouting."
"The Kildar is soul damaged," Father Kulcyanov said, wheezily. The oldest remaining Father, Kulcyanov was a veteran of WWII, in the Red Army. He'd been in every major campaign, to include Stalingrad, and had so many medals he kept them in a very large box. In addition, he acted as the Keldara's high priest. Given that that position had to be held by a warrior, it made sense. "It has happened before."
"I hate to say this, but I have to question this whole Rite thing," Captain Kacey Bathlick said. One of the pilots recently hired to support the Keldara she knew she was the most junior member of the group, at least in experience. But not only had she proven her merits on the last mission, she wasn't the sort to just keep her mouth shut. And, hell, Gretchen had been her crewchief. She was pissed about her getting blown away but she wasn't sitting crying in her fucking room! She'd just sent the Chechens who did it to meet Allah. Blasted the hell out of them, actually. "I mean, I get the whole point and the history. But fraternization is never a good idea."
"That is, unfortunately, a point that is past," Anastasia Rakovich pointed out. The "house manager" for the Kildar, she was a former harem slave and harem manager hired to fulfill much the same role. She had more or less inserted herself into the position of "house manager" since the Keldara housekeeper, Mother Savina, was less than experienced in managing the household of a lord. Anastasia had been a junior manager from the time she was seventeen and the manager of an Uzbek sheik's household from the time she was twenty-one. Still only twenty-seven, she was model beautiful with long blonde hair and blue eyes, much like the late Gretchen Mahona. But while she regularly warmed the Kildar's bed, and he her back given that she was a high-level sexual masochist, the Kildar had never been infatuated with her as he had become with Gretchen. "And, frankly, if he'd had more time with her the hurt might have been less. Or more, I don't know," she added with a sigh.
"The reason we originally gave for the Rite is, of course, no longer ... effective," Mother Mahona said. "Which is well, since I don't think the Kildar is willing to continue with the Rite."
The previous mission had involved the sale of WMD by the Russian mob to Al Qaeda. The mob had the WMD, the Al Qaeda members had a very large quantity of portable currency and gems. Most of that had been captured and brought back, despite the battle. Mike had stated, bluntly, that dowries, now and for the foreseeable future, were covered.
Gretchen had not been her daughter by body but held her name due to being of the extended "Family" of the Mahonas. Mother Mahona and Mother Silva, Gretchen's birth mother, were both at the meeting to see if they had any idea how to pull the Kildar out of his depression. Neither had come up with anything.
"I'd be more than willing to let him sit in there until his liver gave out," Nielson continued. "But the point is we've got a mission. Pierson is really exercised."
"What?" Patrick Vanner asked. The crew-cut and stocky former Marine, former NSA analyst and current electronic intel chief wasn't sure what to do about the Kildar. The problem was, well, he was the Kildar. He owned the damned place, he was a total free agent and he had more money than God. There wasn't any way to shake him out of his depression unless the guy did it himself. And that didn't look to be happening any time soon.
"WMD, inbound to the States," Nielson said. "That's all I've got right now."
"So we'd be operating in the States?" Adams asked. "They don't have enough people?"
"The Boss asked," Nielson said.
"But I suspect he asked for the Kildar, yes?" Father Kulcyanov said.
"Yeah, but what the hell," Adams replied. "Kildar, Keldara, big diff. So he sits this one out. I can lead the teams, Nielson does the mission planning. Heck, I can do most of that. We bring a couple of teams, keep the rest here for positional defense. Not that we need it much, given the condition of the Chechens."
The last mission had been "the world's most successful fuck- up." Due to "insufficient data", notably that a large and professional Chechen brigade was moving into the area, the Keldara had ended up in a pitched battle. It was there that Captain Bathlick and her "co" Captain Tamara Wilson had won their spurs. It was also the reason Gretchen Mahona had been killed.
The battle had broken the back of the Chechens - their main local threat - when the Chechens assumed that four thousand fedayeen could easily wipe out a hundred "pagans." In that they had been so very very wrong. The battle had left the cream of the Resistance's most elite force scattered for the ravens. Patrols had not picked up any sign of Chechen movement in their sector in the two months since the battle.
"The Keldara are not the Kildar," Father Kulcyanov said, cautiously. "If you choose to take the Keldara, if the Kildar approves, we will not stand in your way. They will, undoubtedly, win glory and those that fall will be lifted to the Halls. But do not mistake the Keldara for the Kildar. We do not."
The Keldara had masked as Islamics and Christians over the years. They did not care what religion their masters wanted them to practice. But they had retained their true faith in the Old Gods of the Norse and traditions drawn from both Norse and Celts. Since the Kildar did not seem to care they had, slowly, come "out of the closet" about their beliefs. One of those was that a person could not enter the Halls of Feasting, Valhalla, unless they had been proven in battle.
To Father Kulcyanov the last battle had been a mixed blessing. Far too many of the Keldara had entered the Halls, but for the first time in a generation Keldara were entering the Halls. The dun of the Keldara, their massive burial mound that most people mistook for a gigantic glacial hill, had been added to. The Keldara had added to their glory and had found favor before the Father of All. He would see his fallen children, nieces and nephews, in the Halls. His place was assured by the slaughtered crews of German Tiger tanks and broken units of the Wehrmacht and SS.
He had warned the Kildar, who he had seen falling into soul-death, not to lose the path of the warrior. For Kildar's sake, who was warrior born, and for the Keldara. The Keldara were nothing without war.
But his words had, apparently, been insufficient.
"He's got a point," Vanner said. "Master Chief, you're a good shooter and the Keldara will follow. And Colonel, you're a good planner. And I can, as always, handle the intel and commo. But ain't none of us the Kildar."
"I've known Mike since he was a wet behind the ears BUD/S recruit," Adams said. "Of course, so was I. But the point is, he's human. God knows he's human. And he's replaceable. Everybody is. We do the mission. Maybe we find the WMD, maybe we don't. But if the Boss calls, we do the damned mission. Period fucking dot."
"Okay," Nielson said, sighing. "You take the teams. I'll stay back here and handle the details. I can do that long range. Who do you want?"
"I'm going," Vanner said. "There's some tech I've wanted to pick up in the States for a while, anyway. And I'd rather be on site to handle tricky stuff. I'll take four of the girls."
Vanner's staff was mostly Keldara females, most of them under twenty. They had soaked up the details of communications and intelligence as if they'd been training in it from birth. Lately, Vanner had been picking up some pieces of intel that made him wonder if that wasn't truth. While the Keldara men were top-flight warriors and many of them smart as hell, the Keldara girls were so smart it was scary. And they were sneaky in ways he was just beginning to souse out.
"I'll take Oleg ... shit," Adams said, pausing. The Keldara's top team leader had had his leg blown off by a mortar in the battle. He'd gotten a state-of-the-art prosthetic, but he still wasn't in top shape. And his Team was shaky without him. His other top choice, Team Sawn, had lost its leader in the battle and was still shaking down. Padrek, another he would have liked for their technical expertise, had been ravaged. About half of them were dead or still recovering.
"I'll take ... Vil and Pavel. Daria? I could use somebody to handle the ..."
"Details," Daria said, dimpling. The Ukrainian girl had been picked up on a mission, a kidnappee being held in a snuff house in Montenegro while the teams were hunting for another girl. A trained but out-of-work secretary, she was still kicking herself for accepting the offer of "a good job in Europe." That was a well known ploy that slavers used to capture females. But the con, and that was the only way to put it, had been well laid. She had been awaiting death when the Keldara showed up. She'd been hired while still on the mission to handle the burgeoning administrative details of the Kildar and stayed around ever since. The pay was good, the living conditions excellent and it wasn't like she had to worry about slavers. "I'll put in a call to Chatham for a plane big enough to handle two teams and support staff. And I'll coordinate with the BCIS for entry of the teams and their equipment."
"I'll go as well," Dr. Tolegen Arensky said. "If you'll have me."
The Russian WMD specialist, short, round with balding black hair, was a recent addition to the team. He'd been picked up during the previous mission after having been forced to betray the Russians and smuggle out samples of weaponized smallpox. He'd stayed on because he was also a trained physician and, well, not particularly welcome in Russia at the moment.
"With it being WMD, hell yeah!" Adams said.
"Okay," Nielson said. "You go break it to the Kildar. When you get his okay, I'll call Pierson."
"We taking Katya?" Vanner asked. "And has anyone seen J?"
"Two very good questions," Nielson replied, smiling grimly. "You're not him, are you?"
* * *
Martya Dzintas wasn't happy to be knocking on the girl's door. But the noise was disrupting class.
Martya was fifteen, a harem girl and proud of it. She had been raised on a small farm not far from the caravanserai and at fourteen she'd been sold by her parents to a group of Chechens. She didn't hold it against her parents, being "sent to town" was just one of those things. Not only did the Chechens have guns and a serious interest in buying the beautiful fourteen-year old, her parents needed the money.
She didn't want to be a whore, which was what the Chechens intended for her, but there wasn't much anyone could do about it. Except the Kildar. When the Chechens made the mistake of kidnapping one of the Keldara girls, the Kildar had responded with his usual understated manner.
After he had the girls in the van cleaned of the blood, though, he had a problem. None of the girls had homes to go back to. To their parents they were "no deposit, no return." Not only were they, presumably, no longer virgins, the farms in the area were too marginal to bring another mouth back to feed.
The Kildar had, therefore, brought them into his own household as concubines. But he had a very odd view of what to do with harem slaves. The first rule he'd laid down, damn him, was that the girls had to be sixteen before he'd bed them. It was, as he pointed out, younger than his culture would consider "okay" but given that twelve was considered marriageable in the area it was a good median. The second rule he'd laid down was that the girls had to learn. When they were old enough he intended them to move on, to go get a job, go to university, get a husband, have kids, have a "real life."
Excerpted from A Deeper Blue by John Ringo Copyright © 2007 by John Ringo. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
John tells a great story. I've enjoyed his descriptive talents in every one of his published works. Except for the explicit interactions between the Kildar and the various women he beds the story is clear cut and hard lined. A fighting man's fighter without fear. I await the next volume.
Mike Jenkins, otherwise known as the Kildar by his band of Georgian warriors has just lost his lover and fighting companion. He is devastated by this loss and depressed, so when the U.S.President asks for his help he gives one of his key people the job of finding and neutralizing a group of islamic terrorists who want to smuggle nerve gas into the United States. His team is ambushed and he has to break out of his depression and find and destroy the terrorists, Columbian drug runners allied with them and the nerve agent. As usual, Ringo's prose is hard to put down and the story moves along swiftly in a well plotted way. It isn't War and Peace and won't win any awards, but it won't put you to sleep or bore you either.
Ringo has outdone himself once again
In the Caucasian Mountains, the Keldara Kildar Mike Harmon mourns the deaths of so many of his warriors, but it is the demise of his lover Gretchen Mahona, a warrior as good as any under his command, that huts the most. The Keldara war lord and former US Navy SEAL decides no more for his adopted people who have been very helpful in the war on terrorism.------------ Mike refuses to risk one more of his warriors even when the American president begs him track down nerve gas heading to Florida. However, he allows some of his subordinates to volunteer. When they are ambushed including a close friend, Mike decides he has had enough with the terrorists who care nothing about innocent lives. He vows to kill every jihad member and anyone supporting tem. His Keldara warriors will follow their Kildar leader into hell if need be, but they hope instead they can pull him back before he goes over the edge of insanity, destroying what is left of his humanity.------------- The key to the latest Keldara thriller (see GHOST, KILDAR, CHOOSERS OF THE SLAIN and UNTO THE BREACH) is the anguish and grief suffered by Mike. As the Ghost Kildar war lord he struggles with the deaths of his loyal courageous warriors especially the woman he loved and begins to question their role in the Global war on Terrorism. Readers will feel the hero¿s anguish, pain and doubts as John Ringo provides his strongest tale to date with his champion suffering from A DEEPER BLUE depression yet begins to swing from withdrawal to the suicidal manic need for vengeance. This is a great saga from a master.----------- Harriet Klausner