Into a Dark Frontier

Into a Dark Frontier

by John Mangan

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Overview

Into a Dark Frontier by John Mangan

" Into a Dark Frontier is cut from the same cloth as the best of Vince Flynn and Brad Thor." —James Rollins

In the near future, Africa collapses into an enormous failed state, leaving the continent lawless and severely depopulated. For most, the breakdown brings horror, but for others—the outcast, the desperate, the criminal, and the insane—it allows unparalleled opportunity: a new frontier of danger and unlimited possibility.

In America, ex-Navy SEAL Slade Crawford, emotionally crippled after twenty years of front line combat, the dissolution of his marriage, and the accidental death of his son, is falsely accused of terrorism. Slade flees to Africa to build a new life and escape his past, but he is captured by an enigmatic American colonel, Gary Kraven, and blackmailed into tracking down a blood cult that is rampaging across the sub-Sahara. Struggling to stay alive and to free himself from Kraven’s grasp, Slade pursues the cult across the lawless African frontier. He soon learns that nothing is as it seems and that he is standing at the epicenter of a global struggle that will determine the course of history. Slade must decide whether to fight for his life or his honor—he can't have both.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608092611
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
Publication date: 09/05/2017
Sales rank: 823,674
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Lt. Col. John Mangan is a decorated combat rescue pilot, novelist and coffeehouse poet. He is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, was an instructor at the Survival Escape Resistance & Evasion (SERE) school, and is currently an HH-60G, Pave Hawk instructor pilot. He has deployed to the Middle East eight times and has commanded the 33rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron in Kandahar, Afghanistan. His actions in combat have been documented in the books Not a Good Day to Die , None Braver , and Zero Six Bravo . He has flown combat missions with PJs, SEALs, Delta, Rangers, and the SAS. John has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor twice, The Air Medal twelve times, and the 2009 Cheney Award.

Read an Excerpt

Into A Dark Frontier

A Novel


By John Mangan

Oceanview Publishing

Copyright © 2017 John Mangan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60809-261-1


CHAPTER 1

NEW JERSEY


Slade Crawford ran for his life, heart thudding, legs failing. He looked back over his shoulder to where his stolen truck burned like a funeral pyre, sending trembling bands of light through the trees. Defeat, dark and leaden, lay in his chest whispering that he'd lost, that his escape had failed and that the end was inevitable. His cadence broke and for a moment his run became a shambling trot. But then, summoning his grit, Slade willed the doubting part of his mind blank and allowed himself to know only one thing: that he had to continue running.

Placing the North Star off his left shoulder, Slade labored across a series of open fields, his feet heavy with mud, then he scratched through a fold of trees until he found a dirt road. Aiming toward glowing horizon lights, he covered the miles as best he could, pushing his body deep into nausea, hobbling and sprinting through the darkness. When he reached the concrete lanes of a quiet suburb, he slowed his pace to a walk then turned into a children's playground and seated himself on a wooden bench, sick with fatigue. As the lung spasms subsided, he ran a hand across his face and cleared the sweat from his eyes.

So this is how it feels.

Slade was no stranger to manhunts, but he had always experienced them as the predator — never the prey.

He gave himself a pat-down; he still had a burner phone, a multi-tool, headlamp, and most importantly, his treasured Sig Sauer P220, the engraved pistol that Bravo Platoon had presented to him on the day he was awarded the Navy Cross.

Back when they still called him a hero.

He checked his watch.

Despair hammered his gut. Right now, the freighter that would carry him to freedom was scheduled to depart and he still had fifty miles to go. He powered up the burner phone and called Abe Howard, his only contact on the freighter.

The phone's ringer droned on without answer. "Come on, pick up, pick up dammit."

As the seconds ticked by, Slade was acutely aware that in the darkness that surrounded him, a great and inescapable trap was closing. With the realization that a domestic terrorist was on the run, the FBI, DHS, and local law enforcement would be creating concentric rings of checkpoints, roadblocks, and roving patrols. Overhead, armed drones were converging on the area, their unblinking eyes scanning and probing.

The line opened. "Hello?"

"Abe! Abe, this is Bradshaw. Don't —"

"Where in the name of God are you? We're casting off now."

Slade bolted back to his feet and started across the park at a run, the phone still pressed to his ear, "Listen, you've got to stop the ship. Understand? I can make it. Just don't leave yet."

"But how long will you be? We're about to push back from the dock."

"Do what you have to, Abe. I'll be there in an hour. Just stop that ship." Breaking the connection, he pocketed the phone and continued his sprint.

Weaving his way through children's playground equipment, Slade grit his teeth in anger; his life lay in ruin, his escape plan had been reduced to ash, but as long as he was alive he had but one option.

Run.

CHAPTER 2

48 HOURS EARLIER, NORTHERN IDAHO


With the window for his escape fully open, Slade had sawed through the GPS tracking device that was bolted to his wrist, then taken to the highway in a stolen Tacoma pickup truck. Infused with the desperate energy of a fugitive, he'd left Sandpoint and headed south, knowing that alarm bells were already ringing throughout the Department of Homeland Security. From the day that he was released on parole, Slade had planned for this moment. Using the precision ingrained in him during two decades at Special Operations Command, he'd weighed risks, analyzed threats, and prepared for contingencies. None of that did anything to ease his looming sense of dread; he was off the grid now, but the problem with this grid was ... It would kill to get him back.

Passing through Coeur d'Alene, he turned east on Highway 90 and crossed the vast plains of Montana, stopping every four hours to relieve himself beside the road and refuel the truck from five-gallon jerry cans stocked in the bed. Traveling as he was, there had been no gas station receipts to flag his route, nor rest stop surveillance cameras to record his stops.

He drove without incident through the first night and into the following day, eating plastic wrapped food and downing amphetamines. But turning south outside of Sioux Falls he ran into an early winter storm. He pressed on, faster than he should, hunched over the wheel, wipers clacking, staring hypnotized at the endless snow streaks that sped out from some dark other-where and then back again into nothing.

With the pale dawn came clear skies and numb exhaustion after a night spent on edge. But the back roads that he used to skirt Indianapolis were old, rutted, and covered in black ice. Losing control, he fishtailed, left the road, and blew a tire in a forlorn, husk-stubbled cornfield.

Slade was fine and the truck was fine, but crouched there amongst the whispering corn stalks, trying to raise the vehicle, he found that the jack sank repeatedly into the muddy earth, confounding his designs. Hands raw and numb in the blowing cold, he laid down rocks and debris, jacked again and failed. He tried to goad the lamed vehicle forward and onto the road, but it spat and trundled, the blown tire flapping. He tried again and again, but there was no limit to how much of his effort the earth could consume.

The farmer who found Slade waving a jacket beside the road, mud-coated and wild-eyed, paused in helping the stranger. Hesitating, the farmer left his vehicle, offered assistance, and had the Tacoma pulled onto the road within the hour. He then helped Slade jack the truck up, change the tire, and go on his way.

Already hours late, his margin for error consumed, Slade pressed his speed as fast as he dared, knowing that another delay would end his new life before it had begun.


* * *

He was five miles past the New Jersey border and drunk with fatigue when he blew through a speed trap and woke a sleeping cop.

With red and blue strobes coloring the interior of his cab, Slade slowed the Tacoma and pulled to the side of the road. The cop coasted to a stop five meters back but stayed in his cruiser, running a vehicle license check.

Rigid in his seat, Slade weighed all, holding his life in the calculations. It had been forty-eight hours since he'd destroyed the GPS wrist monitor, more than enough time for the DHS to issue an arrest warrant. Had his stolen Tacoma already been reported?

Slade squinted through the rearview mirror, trying to determine if the cop had a partner. He drew the Sig. He fingered the seat belt release.

The clock on the dashboard marked the agonizing flow of lost minutes.

As the cruiser's door swung open and the cop lifted himself out, Slade dropped the transmission into reverse and hammered the gas pedal to the floor.

The pickup lurched backward, tires spinning, closed the distance and powered into the cruiser with a metallic crunk, knocking the cop down and both vehicles askew.

Slade unbuckled his seatbelt and was out the door, sprinting, Sig rising as the downed officer struggled to stand and draw his weapon.

Slade clacked two deafening rounds high over the fumbling officer's head, closed the distance, leapt, pinned him, then butt-stroked him across his jaw. The officer went limp.

He was searching for the cops's handcuffs when the screaming of locked tires sent him scrambling for the shoulder, dragging the unconscious officer behind him. A skidding car sluiced past and powered into the Tacoma in an explosion of glass and debris.

More screeching. More cars slamming into the pileup. Legs pumping, Slade hauled the dead weight of the officer until they were safe and clear of the road. Battling a wave of guilt, he checked the unconscious cop; he was bleeding heavily from a crushed lip but was breathing well. Slade positioned him so that his mouth would drain of blood, swept a loose tooth from his mouth, whispered an apology, then turned back towards the car accident.

The Tacoma was overturned in the middle of the road, blue flames spreading around it. People limped from their wrecks. Slade ran to and checked the crumpled vehicles, helped a stunned woman from her car and away from the growing flames. He ran back to his vehicle, but the interior was already engulfed.

Red and blue police lights flashed in the distance. Turning from the wreckage, his path lit by the burning Tacoma, Slade bolted into the tree line.

CHAPTER 3

NEW JERSEY


"Do what you have to Abe. I'll be there in an hour. Just stop that ship!" Breaking the connection, Slade pocketed the phone and continued his sprint across the playground.

Entering the surrounding neighborhood, Slade combed the streets looking for another car to steal. Hell, he'd already jumped parole, stole a truck, and shot at a cop, one more theft wouldn't hurt.

He didn't have to look long; the blue Chevy Impala was old, pre-blackbox with no security system. The window yielded to the butt of his pistol, the steering column and ignition yielded to his multi-tool.

With the minutes ticking by, Slade sped down darkened streets, knuckles white against the steering wheel. The path ahead was murky, his assets laughable, and with each passing second, his chances of success moved towards zero.

His heart leapt at the sound of a cell phone chime: a text message had arrived.

Couldn't stop them. We have departed. Clearing the harbor now. Best of luck to you

Slamming his fist against the steering wheel, Slade braked to a halt and screamed in frustration, watching as the best of his rage blew from his lungs and vanished into nothing.

He hung his head and sat unmoving, the idling engine the only sound in the cold night air. The door for his escape had just slammed shut, but goddamn if he wasn't going to kick it back open. What were his options? Jack a boat and chase the freighter down? He'd have to find a speedboat to overcome the freighter's head start. Then what? Perform an underway boarding with no boarding equipment? It wouldn't work. His mind turned ... He couldn't catch the freighter by land or by sea ... that left only air.

Utilizing his burner phone, he trolled the Internet. Three minutes later, having found what he needed, Slade hammered his foot on the gas and blasted back into the night.


* * *

Twenty minutes later Slade pulled to a stop in a dark parking lot at the end of a heavily forested road, his headlights illuminating a cluster of buildings, aircraft hangars, and a sign that welcomed visitors to the Central Jersey Skydiving School.

Target in sight, he drove onto the grass, angled toward the school, then accelerated forward, smashing the car directly into the building's front door. There was a pop of exploding headlights and crumpling metal as the door swung inward. Slade backed up, exited the vehicle then entered the building, headlamp splaying.

He found himself in a large room decorated with pictures of happy skydivers, grinning mid-fall and on the drop zone. Slade walked to the back of the room and kicked his way through another locked door. The room was lined with neat rows of packed parachutes. When he found one that suited his purposes he pulled it from the rack and slung it over his shoulder.

Slade then ransacked the school until he found his prize: a small brass key chained to a pink rabbit's foot. It was the ignition key to an airplane. He pocketed it and grabbed a pair of aviator headphones that hung from a wall hook.

Back in the main room Slade scoured the pictures hanging on the walls. There it was, in over a dozen pictures — a blue Cessna-172, tail number N39676. After memorizing the number, Slade switched off his headlamp, then turned and bolted from the building.

As he labored towards the parked aircraft, with crisp winter stubble crunching underfoot, Slade heard police sirens blowing on the night wind and saw the flicker of blue strobes breaking through the trees.

Hurrying, he crossed onto the concrete apron, flipped down the red filter on his headlamp and risked a dim glow. The third aircraft that he came to was a blue Cessna, tail number N39676. Ducking under the Cessna's wing, Slade rapped his knuckles against the metal skin. The response was solid and dull; the fuel tanks were full. He opened the cockpit door and flashed his light inside. All of the seats had been removed save the pilot's, leaving enough room for a handful of jumpers. Slade tossed the parachute and headphones inside then moved to the wings and unhooked the tie down cables, the cold metal clasps sticking to his fingers. With the aircraft unchained, he yanked the wooden chocks from beneath the wheels and pulled the nylon covers from the pitot tube and engine cowling.

As he lifted himself into the cockpit, Slade's nostrils filled with the smell of plastic upholstery, aviation fuel, and the tang of stale puke. Through the rear window he saw a fleet of tactical vehicles as they streamed into the parking lot, tires squealing, sirens moaning, men dismounting. Fighting the urge to rush, Slade swung his headlamp over the instrument panel. He was not a licensed pilot but had paid for enough lessons to get his solo certificate.

Slade brushed his fingers over the forest of knobs, found the battery switch, clicked it on, activated the instrument lights, then began the starting checklist as best he could remember.

Battery. Fuel. Avionics. Flaps. Throttle. Fuel mixture. Master Switch. Ignition!

The electric starter wined, the cylinders coughed, the plane shook, and the engine came to life with a clattering roar. Slade scanned the gauges as they jumped to life.

A brilliant light dazzled Slade's eyes from twenty feet out the right door. "Slade Crawford! DHS! Hands up! Hands up now!" a voice screamed.

The Sig came into Slade's hand and extended across the cockpit, bucking and exploding, deafening in the enclosed space. The passenger window evaporated in a white fog and the dazzling light disappeared. Slade worked the trigger until the gun fell silent then dropped it to the floor. He jammed the throttle full forward, but the aircraft bucked and roared and went nowhere as gunfire erupted behind him and bullets tick-ticked through the aircraft's aluminum skin.

"Parking brake's on!" Slade screamed at himself as he slapped the brake lever off. Suddenly loosed, the Cessna bolted forward at a cockeyed angle and nearly tipped. Working the rudder pedals, Slade straightened his course and trundled across the parking apron and into the grass, still accelerating.

Fumbling in the darkened cockpit, he clicked on the landing light, careened past a windsock then crossed over the runway at a right angle, still accelerating. Nearing takeoff speed, the airframe chattering as it jolted across the rough terrain, he struck a small rut and bounced into the air, but floundered and settled back to the grass.

Peering forward into the rushing lightpool, Slade glanced down at the airspeed indicator, waited through an agonizing chain of heartbeats then pulled back on the yoke, lifting the aircraft smoothly away from the great black mass of the earth below.

CHAPTER 4

Slade wiped at the bloody groove that a bullet had opened on the back of his neck. The wound was not through the muscle, and his neck still moved freely, but he could feel a sodden mess growing down the length of his back. He pressed at the flowing gash, wiped his eyes to clear the stinging fuel vapors, then swung his headlamp to confirm what he already knew: that his right-wing fuel tank had been severely holed and was blowing raw misted fuel through the shattered passenger window.

He reached for the fuel tank selector and turned the lever to "Left," ensuring that the engine would receive its fuel from the undamaged fuel tank.

Gritting his teeth, Slade replayed the brief encounter back at the airport. What had tipped the DHS to his escape route? Did they know about the freighter? Would they be waiting for him there? Knowing that he would find no answers, he turned his attention back to the task at hand.

He wiped at his eyes again, spit against the gagging petroleum and peered forward through the cockpit window. Before him stretched the endless never-dark of east coast suburban sprawl, the length of which was lit by cul-de-sac neighborhoods, pulsing freeways, strip mall colonies and big-box mega-hives. Flying at 500 feet over the halogen lightscape was as simple as flying in daylight. Slade adjusted the trim wheel, then kept only two fingers on the control yoke. True to its design, the sturdy Cessna tracked straight and level.

Slade glanced at the compass; he was headed south. Slight pressure on the yoke brought the aircraft into a gentle left turn which he maintained until he was headed east towards the Atlantic Ocean. With the aircraft on course, Slade flashed his headlamp around the cabin. Finding the aviator headphones, he slipped them on to deaden the bellowing engine. He then pulled out the burner phone, activated it, and sent another text message to Abe Howard, his contact on the freighter.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Into A Dark Frontier by John Mangan. Copyright © 2017 John Mangan. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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