Re-Release: December 2, 2014
From James R. Hannibal—a veteran combat pilot with Top Secret clearance from the U.S. government—comes an electrifying high-tech thriller in the great tradition of Tom Clancy…Over ten years ago, Air Force major Nick Baron was part of a failed special ops mission that left a B-2 stealth bomber at the bottom of the Persian Gulf. Now, leading his men—the Triple Seven Chase team—Baron must find the bomber and dispose of it for good before any unfriendly nation can steal the onboard technology for its own purposes. But as the team embarks on its mission, there are greater dangers waiting.When the CIA intercepts a call signal from an operative in China long thought dead, the Triple Seven Chase team is given the perilous task of retrieving the lone soldier from deep within the Chinese wilderness. There is only one plane for such a dangerous mission: the Shadow Catcher, a plane with capabilities beyond anything that has ever flown.What Baron and his men don’t know is that the enemy is already among them—and that the Shadow Catcher itself may be the ultimate prize.
Where am I?
Nick stood on a dirt road in thick darkness. He could not remember how he got there. On either side of the road, he saw the high mud walls common to desert villages. They seemed to be closing in on him. He could not feel the ground beneath his feet. The sound of his own breathing echoed in his ears. Then he saw the mosque, its distinctive dome with the worn crescent carved into the west side. Suddenly he knew where he was. He knew what he had to do.
He had to save Danny.
Nick found his teammate less than fifty yards ahead, crouched next to a gap in the wall surrounding the mosque’s small courtyard. Danny looked back at him. He stood up and waved as if they were meeting on a neighborhood street back home in Maryland, wearing that same ridiculous grin that he always wore.
“Get down, you idiot,” Nick whispered into his communications implant. “Stay there. Wait until I get to you.”
Danny did not respond. Instead, he disappeared through the gap in the wall like a ghost.
“Drake, I lost visual with Danny,” said Nick, rushing forward. “What’s going on in that courtyard? Where is the target?” He had to get to his friend, but no matter how hard he ran, the mosque stayed fifty yards ahead of him.
“You can see what I can,” replied Drake, his voice mechanical, distant. “Check the image on your handheld. I’ve got nothing on the thermal.”
Nick checked the faintly glowing monitor attached to his Falcon ROVER handheld. The receiver pulled real-time thermal video from an RQ-7 Shadow UAV flying overhead. He held the small screen up to his eyes, but he couldn’t focus his vision. He couldn’t make any sense of the hazy green image.
The target, Zaman Ramiz, had smuggled a nuclear weapon out of southern Russia. The Triple Seven had chased him from Azerbaijan, across northern Turkey and into Bazargan, just across the Iranian border. Drake had stayed behind to fly the Shadow. Nick and Danny had crossed the border in pursuit. Now the arms dealer’s men were dead, and Ramiz was holed up in the small mosque.
The whole village seemed to shift around him. Suddenly Nick was at the wall. Where was Danny? What a stupid question. He knew where Danny was. He was in that courtyard, and that courtyard was a deathtrap. He looked down at the handheld again. He still couldn’t see the video feed. He put the receiver away and cautiously leaned into the gap to get a look with his own eyes. A spray of bullets ricocheted off the wall beside his head, kicking brick fragments and dust into his face.
“He just shot at me,” Nick shouted as he pulled back behind the wall. He tried to rub the debris from his eyes. “I need to know where that’s coming from.”
Drake gave no response.
Nick had to keep the pressure on. He burst into the courtyard with his MP7 tucked into his shoulder, searching for a target, searching for his teammate. There, just ahead. Danny was lying motionless beside a wide, square fountain. The ancient stones were wet with blood.
Another burst of gunfire rang out from the shadows of the mosque. Nick felt two bullets slam into his vest. He dove into a prone position behind the fountain, shouting at Danny. But Danny did not answer.
Nick felt an icy grip crushing his chest. Pain radiated through his torso. He couldn’t breathe. He rolled over and tried to rip off his Kevlar vest, but there was no vest. He wore no protection over his cotton undershirt. The fabric felt warm and wet against his fingertips. He raised his hand to his eyes. It was covered in blood.
Footsteps. Ramiz stood over him, a blur at first and then slowly coming into focus. The arms dealer smiled down from behind the barrel of his Stechkin machine pistol.
He pulled the trigger.
“Okay, that’s really annoying.”
Nick fought to open his eyes. Drake’s hand was on his arm, shaking him.
“Seriously, how does Katy get any sleep when you’re home? You’re thrashing around in your bunk and moaning like a creature from a low-grade zombie movie.”
Nick blinked until his small berth on the Illustro came into focus. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. After taking a moment to gather his wits, he rolled onto his side and glowered across the tiny room at Drake. “I wasn’t moaning,” he said, trying to steady his voice. “And for the record, all zombie movies are low grade.”
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