Authors: Eric Meyer
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #War, #Men's Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Thriller, #War & Military
ECHO SIX: BLACK OPS 7
By Eric Meyer
Copyright © 2014 Eric Meyer
Published by Swordworks Books
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
The gentle sounds of bells. Water, running down a nearby rock face, diverted into a temple pool. Tenzin Davaika stopped to listen and to contemplate, as he had done for every hour of every day since he'd come to this place. A cold breeze ruffled the folds of his saffron robe, and automatically he adjusted the closure. The robe was short on his lean body, for he was tall for a Tibetan, a testament to his half-American parentage. His body was spare, almost to the point of emaciation, and his head shaved bald. Despite his puny physique, he moved with a steady, steely grace, evidence of a huge reserve of inner strength, either mental or physical, maybe both. He showed no sign that he was aware of the bitterly cold, snow-covered landscape.
Tibet was a high, cold country nestling in the Himalayas, the highest region on earth, and an average of five thousand meters above sea level. The sky was clear and blue, and the air temperature hovered around zero, as it usually did. It was all part of the natural glory that had once made this place a paradise on earth. Snow, mountain peaks, temples, streams, he had come intending never to leave. Times change.
The Chinese invaded paradise in 1950. The invasion marked a beginning of the pain, not an end; soldiers, policemen, beatings, imprisonments, harassment, and the theft of Tibetan property. Worse still, the MSS, The Ministry of State Security, brought their apparatus of terror to this peaceful land. Here in Lhasa, the hands of the MSS were drenched in the blood of innocent Tibetans. The warning had come just this morning from the Abbot. It was only what he expected.
"Tenzin Davaika, I received a message from a friend in the city. The Ministry of State Security has somehow discovered you are not a native Tibetan. They plan to come here and arrest you as a spy."
He'd worked to keep calm, reciting his mantra, controlling his breathing. Still, his mind was in turmoil. At best, it would mean a life sentence in a harsh labor camp, at worst, a 9mm bullet in the back of his head. No appeals, no mercy. It could hardly be any worse. Except for one indisputable fact. He was an American spy, or had been once. However, there was something else, something far more important they must never find out, no matter how much pain they inflicted.
They may well discover he'd worked for CIA. He was resigned to that. Even though he'd left that organization, they may find out he still passed information to a contact in Lhasa for transmission to the outside world. He was resigned to that, too. For he passed on information about Chinese atrocities, pogroms, troop movements, weaponry, armor, anything that might be of interest to China’s enemies. And hasten the end of the occupation. As long as they never discovered the real secret. And they never would, not from him. He calmed his mind, as he was about to set out on a long, hard road, and there would be much pain and agony along the way.
"How long do I have, Master?"
"They will come in the early morning, as they always do. You must leave here by tonight. Do not say goodbye to your brothers. We know some of them are Chinese plants. I will send you to a monastery in the southwest, close to the Nepalese border. You should be safe there, and you can cross into Nepal if danger threatens."
He'd thanked the Abbot; the man meant well and wouldn't know what he faced. Couldn't know. He spent the rest of the day in prayer and contemplation. He was ready. It would begin when he stepped through the gate. He wore his inner robe, outer robes, and a thicker robe to protect him from the elements. The rest of his possessions he carried in a small bundle, a bowl, a water-strainer, a razor to shave his head, a needle and thread, and his medicine. Insulin syringes for diabetes. They were the only possessions a Buddhist monk was allowed to own. He would have given up all of them for the chance to stay.
The night was cold as he waded through thick snow on the track that wound its way down the mountainside. Not the quickest route to Lhasa, but State Security could easily be watching the main road. Overhead, a pair of fighter jets descended, their navigational lights bright, to land at the military airfield outside Lhasa. Probably Shenyang J-11s, the Chinese variant of the Russian Sukhoi 27. He'd seen similar aircraft on the ground when he reported in to his controller in a previous life, when he worked undercover for the Agency. The People's Air Force had many such jets with which to subdue their slaves, as did tyrants the world over. There was always money for weapons and soldiers, but never enough to feed and house their populations.
Help me understand, Buddha. How can we reach the minds of these men?
He was shivering with cold when he reached the outskirts of the city, but inside he was calm, as he'd learned in the monastery. He recited a prayer as he walked and felt warmed by the familiar beauty of the words. Even though the Chinese brutes infested every part of his beloved Tibet, he was content.
He picked them up in the distance, a few hundred meters away. A group of soldiers clustered around a jeep, an ugly, Chinese-built Beijing BJ212. They had no lights, so they were waiting in ambush. Waiting for him. He'd seen the glow of a lighted cigarette. China had the highest percentage of smokers in the world. He tensed, ready to run.
He jogged off the track, just as a searchlight came on and flooded the area with harsh, bright light. He was too slow, caught in the periphery of the beam. They shouted, and he started to run across the snow, running from the city, and floundering away from the soldiers. He heard the jeep engine start, and then it was behind him, hurtling across the soft snow. He changed course, headed for a ditch, a place he could hide until they were gone. But it was too late, as he'd known it would be. The vehicle swung past him and skidded to a stop.
Soldiers leapt out, three men carrying Type 56 assault rifles, the AK-47 clones manufactured in China in their millions; the weapons utilized by the PLA, the People's Liberation Army, to suppress dissent to the dictatorship who ruled China. They were also used by Ministry of State Security troops, Department Two, the thugs who broke most heads in Tibet. The men wore Department Two flashes on their green uniforms. These men wore the Department Two flashes. State Security.
The first soldier smashed his rifle butt on his head, and he went down. The saffron robe was no defense against the flurry of kicks that followed, and the pain almost caused him to cry out. Instead, he recited his mantra and began a chant to Padmasambhava, the Guru Rinpoche. The noise infuriated his attackers, who redoubled their efforts to cripple him with their boots until a single word cut through the clear night air.
The kicking ceased at once, and the monk raised his head to inspect his foes. The two soldiers who'd attacked him had moved back, panting after their exertion, and their officer stood over him. The face was known to him. Known to every man, woman, and child resident in Lhasa, a Chinese senior officer. The brutal face was topped with a baldhead, and he wore no hat, despite the cold. It made the sheen of skin look even more brutal and threatening.
The thick lips were twisted in a sneer, like a spoiled, sadistic child who has the entire world as its plaything. Beneath the brutal head, he possessed a physique that matched his propensity for brutality. Of average height, he was built like an oak tree, with thick muscles and a huge, broad chest, big enough to stop a tank.
His reputation was of a man who found enjoyment in the amount of pain he caused, especially to Tibetans, who he regarded as sub-human. He was a legend in Lhasa, the stuff of nightmares, something to frighten unruly children.
The sneer twisted into a smile.
"Good evening." He spoke in clear English, almost without an accent, although he was known to be fluent in Tibetan, and of course Mandarin. "A cold night for a stroll. We've been waiting for you, Tenzin Davaika, American spy. Do you know the penalty for spying in the People's Republic of China?"
"This is Tibet, not China."
The smile broadened. "A million soldiers of the People's Army say different. The Autonomous Region of Tibet is a part of China, and always will be. And you, my friend, will face punishment for spying. You know what that is?"
"Good. In your case, there will be no long term of imprisonment while awaiting execution. The court will, of course, sentence you to death."
"Chinese justice," he spat out, angry with the brutal State Security officer. He cautioned himself to be calm, but it was too late, the words were out. He'd known they would be here, would arrest him, would imprison and probably execute him. It was the way it had to be.
"It is the justice of Major Xu Xilong."
He nodded to his two men, and they moved in with their boots raised, ready to resume the beating. Tenzin Davaika restarted his prayer.
The call had come in less than an hour before they were due to go on leave. It had been a grueling training exercise above the Arctic Circle, in Northern Norway. After the snow and ice, even returning to the quirky old city of Brussels was welcome. And Abe Talley had an even more pressing reason to look forward to this coming vacation. Sitting apart from the others, he worked to control his rage when they entered the conference room.
The commander of the NATO Special Forces outfit Echo Six, he had the tough, confident air of a man born to command. He was taller than average for a Special Forces operator, long-limbed, with curly, dark brown hair over a face that showed the effects of wind and weather. A man that any girl would look at twice, and frequently did. Except any girl didn't interest him, only one. He tried to relax.
His men saw the signs and gave him a wide berth. They knew what the problem was, and knew it was unjust. They also liked and respected him. And knew he'd have no choice but to follow orders.
Talley bunched his fists, then relaxed them, and made an effort to calm his racing brain.
I have to get to Israel and see her. It may be my last chance. I could lose her.
A visit to Israel, the Holy Land. To make a last attempt to talk to his girlfriend Nava. She'd made it to her ancestral home for the first time, and he'd gone through hell to make it happen for her. In a complete turnabout, she'd joined a religious commune and turned her back on him. It was maybe his last chance to work things out with her. Somehow, he knew he had to make it work. He loved her with an intensity that hurt.
Except it started to unravel when Admiral Carl Brooks, their boss, called them into the briefing room just after they landed in Belgium. His face was grim.
"Your vacation is cancelled. I’m sorry. No, I'm not sorry," he amended, "You know about the upcoming Mid-East peace conference to be held next month in Geneva? The American NSA guys have been working overtime to sift through the heap of intercepts that tie into the conference. It's obvious the Islamists would dearly love a chance to disrupt it, and kill a few Western diplomats at the same time. The US Vice President will be there, as well as the US Secretary of State, so it’s a tempting target. Too tempting for our old friend Wasim Aziz. NSA believes they're gathering their resources for a major attack, to be preceded by suicide bombers, and followed by at least a score of their fighters breaching the building with heavy weapons. We want you to go get Aziz. Without him, and more importantly, without his money, it'll fall apart."
"Where is he?" Talley asked. Lieutenant-Commander Abe Talley, commander of Echo Six."
Brooks paused for a moment. "Kashmir. The Pakistani-controlled segment."
"Shit," Reynolds exclaimed, "Sorry Sir."
Brooks smiled. "Shit about sums it up. I intend to use two units for this operation. Echo Six will drop into Kashmir and terminate Aziz. He's the moneyman, the most important link in the chain. Terrorism doesn't come cheap, as I'm sure you know. At the same time, Alpha Six will target the hostiles who've already entered Europe. Some of the insurgents are known to be hiding in Switzerland, and the Swiss police are cooperating with NATO, as far as their neutrality will allow. As you're all aware, since the Congress of Vienna in 1815, their constitution forbids them from joining NATO. That's all, you fly out tonight."
Amidst the groans, they heard the voice of Lieutenant Domenico Rovere, the Italian who claimed as his hobbies Shakespeare and women. Not in that order. He was also a lethal and effective killer. Right now, Shakespeare was his choice.
"The fire-eyed maid of smoky war, all hot and bleeding will we offer them."
"Can it," Guy Welland murmured, but loud enough for most of them to hear. Welland was a specialist, a specialist in war and in killing. A veteran of the British SAS, he was also the unit's second-in-command. A sergeant, when there were men who were more senior in Echo Six, but no one argued he didn't deserve the job, even though he didn't look to be up to much, not physically.
At first glance, he looked average. Medium height, medium coloring, and conventional haircut. He was also the owner of smooth, unremarkable features, enough to make him almost invisible in a crowd, although his build was anything but average. His shoulders were the width of library shelves, and even in a tough outfit, he was known to be an extraordinary soldier. His dark, brooding eyes were always on watch, always alert for a hostile threat. When Guy perceived a threat, his strength and speed of response were nothing short of phenomenal; as so many of his enemies had found out, to their cost.
* * *
Abe Talley, in command of Echo Six, the NATO Special forces unit, and with the rank of Lieutenant Commander, was thinking about his number two. Guy had been different of late, moody and introspective. Even so, he’d clammed up when Talley offered to talk it through. Guy was Jewish, or at least, of Jewish ancestry. The problems his people encountered, most often in Islamic countries, were no surprise to anyone who kept up with current affairs.
that it, the
problem that’s bugging him?
The nature of their work, most often countering the threat of Islamic terrorism, meant they were confronted with the ugly face of Muslim violence against non-Muslims. And if there were Jews they could attack, they rarely missed the opportunity. Was it something like that?
try again, and
if I can get him to talk about it.
He put it into a corner of his mind and resigned himself to a journey that would be long, numbingly cold, and exquisitely uncomfortable. They flew in a C-17, the huge four turbojet Boeing transport designed to be as much a test of men's endurance as much as a means of transport.
No one complained when they took a short stopover at Bagram Air Base outside Kabul in Afghanistan. It was a break from the wearying monotony, and they had a chance to stretch their legs. Night had fallen when they landed. An Air Force colonel driving a Humvee came out to meet them. He had a truck trailing behind, which took them aboard and ferried them across the airfield to the Special Forces compound, screened off from the rest of the base. He led them inside the secure briefing room, and in the bright white light, they were able to get a good look at the man. His eyes were bloodshot, and his face had the unhealthy pallor and broken veins of a man who was sick. Or one who drank more than was good for him.
"My bosses asked me to give you a rundown on what to expect in Kashmiri airspace; weather, temperature, landscape, and most important, enemy troops. It's a place with special problems," and he put the accent on the word 'problems', "In that part of the world, Gentlemen, everyone is the enemy. The Indians may assume you're Pakistani and shoot you. The Pakistanis assume you're Indian, and shoot you just the same. Then there's Al Qaeda, who shoot everybody, anyway."
"What about the LZ, is it secure? What do we know about it?" Talley asked.
"It's high in the mountains, pretty damn cold this time of year, but it's deserted. The last time we took a detailed look at the satellite intel, it was clear. You'll land less than five klicks from Aziz's headquarters," he pointed to a map surrounded by photos of several buildings, "There'll be more than enough time to locate him and destroy the target."
Why doesn't he say 'kill Aziz'? That's what we're going for. Why so squeamish?
"How're you planning to get us out? What's the plan for exfil?" Guy asked.
"The Night Stalkers offered their services," he replied. There was no need to say more.
The United States Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also known as the Night Stalkers, was a Special Operations unit of the United States Army that provided helicopter aviation support for various clandestine forces.
"They're old friends," Guy told him, "If they say they'll be there, they'll be there."
"Gotcha. I've uploaded the maps and relevant data to your tactical pad, and we have prepared the demolition charges that Sergeant Jackson requested. This should be a straightforward operation. We've allowed for every eventuality. Little more than a training exercise."
Talley looked at him sharply.
In which case, why did they transport us halfway across the world? What isn't he telling us?
"Just one small thing," he continued, "Lashkar-e-Taiba have moved a number of men into the area. They're regrouping their forces since the Pakistani Army gave them a bloody nose last year."
"Any connection with Aziz?" Talley asked.
"No." He shook his head, "Absolutely not, we've checked and double-checked. It's just coincidence."
Talley shared a look with Guy. 'Coincidence' was a word they'd heard on too many occasions in the past. It usually translated to 'total fuckup'. The Colonel continued.
"This operation has been well planned from start to finish. It's a milk run. Straight in and straight out."
"A milk run, Colonel?" Rovere exclaimed, not hiding his disbelief, "Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, they're not exactly amateurs."
He smiled. "We've gone through the satellite overheads, UAV footage, and a heap of intercepts from cellphones and local traffic. These local groups in the Kashmiri badlands are not at all sophisticated. Believe me, they're not the Taliban. Their equipment and training is pretty basic, to say the least."
Talley nodded, still skeptical. Nothing was that easy, except maybe death and taxes. "You're certain?"
"One hundred percent. Our intel is as tight as the security here at Bagram. You can bet your pension on it."
His voice was full of confidence and enthusiasm, yet his expression was at odds with the strident tones. The Colonel was clearly a man used to saying what people wanted to hear, regardless of accuracy or truth. He finished with a sickly grin that didn't fool anyone.
In that moment, Talley was convinced it was all going to go as wrong as anything could go wrong. He kept quiet, and the officer indicated the meeting had ended. The Colonel walked across the room and out through the door at the end. He emerged outdoors in the full spill of light from the briefing room.
In the chill winter air, they heard it clearly. The shot was loud, a single 'crack' that was little louder than a plank of timber splitting. Immediately, sirens began to wail, and searchlights came on, bathing the area in hard, bright light. Guy was first to move. He raced for the light switch, plunged the room into darkness, and ran outside, followed by Talley and Reynolds. They dragged the Air Force officer's body back inside, and Talley went back out to take a look. It was good shooting, but not for the victim.
Jesse Whitefeather, one of the unit snipers, was already there. He glanced at the fence designed to obscure sight of the compound from the outside and pointed to a small hole in the fabric.
"It's the height of a man's head. The shooter watched and waited until a target presented, then 'bang'. So much for the Colonel's confidence. He bet his pension and lost."
They looked out at the surrounding landscape. Whitefeather was seeking out any places where the bullet could have come from, and none was close. He whistled in awe.
"That was one hell of a shot, more than just good shooting. Those people are learning their business."
Ain't that a fact? And now the operation has suffered its first casualty. How many more?
Guy came back outside and stared at Talley. "Didn't that Colonel say something about 'the security here at Bagram'. I guess it means his intel was worthless, Boss. I've got a nasty feeling about this one. The enemy is ahead of us, no question."
"I can't argue with that."
His number two gave him a satisfied nod.
"It's time go find them and kill them. Islamic turds"
He's not usually so passionate,
Talley thought to himself.
"Guy, what is it with you? What's the problem? You're letting your emotions rule your thoughts."
A pause, then he shook his head. "It's this operation, Boss. They're waiting for us. I can almost smell 'em."
He stared at Sergeant Welland for a few moments.
Is he right? What are we getting ourselves into?
* * *
He looked around the cold, dark night, as the icy winds 10,000 meters above the Himalayan peaks swirled around him. They'd HAHO jumped, High Altitude, High Opening, from the open ramp of a C-17 Globemaster, flying at 11,000 meters above Pakistan.
The plan was to glide across the border in a long, shallow descent, and he needed to make constant adjustments to the 'chute to stay on course for the LZ, inside Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. Although the region they were headed was controlled by another master. Al Qaeda.
He thought back to the briefing earlier that day and the death of the Air Force colonel. They never found the sniper, and he hadn't expected them to. The business of combat sniping meant taking the shot, and then moving out fast. The shooter had known his business, no question. One thing was certain; they were getting their act together, using a degree of skill and professionalism that was something new. No matter what they called themselves, Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hamas, and a hundred others, they continued to improve their tactics and skills. Clearly, they regarded the taking of innocent lives as a serious business. And even more serious, and better trained than most of them, was the main enemy, Al Qaeda. Wasim Aziz's group.