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Global Conflict:

Desolation



by A.M. Jermin



Copyright © 2017 A.M. Jermin

All rights reserved.

Distributed by Smashwords

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form whatsoever, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any informational storage or retrieval system without express written, dated and signed permission from the author.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Epilogue

About Author



PROLOGUE

“Video log entry 29-11.05, dated 30th October, 2023, Private Donna Moreau… Location… somewhere in the capital, who the hell knows… used to be a school, this place, at least before the bombs came… Jenson, Marius, Weatherly, Simmons, they're all dead, along with 300 something civilians… the rest are holed up in one of the shelters… Davies is with me, I lost contact with Sokolov after he… he blew up those propane tanks… the platoon went after him, they had dogs, they were shooting at him and I don’t know how he could have survived… we’re all damned here, this war and those old men sitting cozy in their blast proof bunkers while young men get torn apart by their decisions… this war, their war, it always was their war and we paid the price in the end…”

“This is Captain Michael Davies of the British Special Air Service, G Squadron, Mobility Troop… I don’t know how we managed to survive that hell but somehow we’re alive, for how long however, we don’t know… Russian forces swept the field and my entire troop was captured… they’re dead by now; at least I hope they are… I hope they didn’t suffer… nobody needs to suffer anymore… nobody needs to feel any more afraid than they already are… I don’t know who will hear this, or even if someone will… which begs the question why am I running my mouth when I have nothing to say… maybe it is because after all that has happened, I still have a sliver of a shadow of faith… maybe because I still believe, that after all that has happened, maybe a squad of angels will drop down, pick us up and take us to the nearest pint of ice-cold stout… maybe we won’t have to choke on our own blood and the blood of our brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and babies… maybe tomorrow the bombs will stop dropping, and the guns will cool and the machine of war will check its relentless surge… but I'm an old fool, what do I know…”

“There is no one else, just Davies and me, we had managed to find a car in this God forsaken place but it ran out of gas at the Square and we had to proceed on foot… we are somewhere north, what looks like a school… it was taken over when the occupation began… Russian armored battalions moved in, flattened half the city… they had the dogs with them, hundreds of them… they set them loose to find the sheltered… I watched those 4 girls get captured… the bastards… they took turns on them… they weren’t much older than Jessie… those monsters took them like they took everyone else and now we’re all that’s left…”

“The bombs will come because they need a level field; they want to make sure they are none left… Minsk needs to be cleared before they can advance further north, they will send the bombers and when they do… I would very much like to die now… at least when I die, my eyes won’t see more death and devastation and this cursed, blood-soaked tapestry will tear open and I will see the light, finally.”

Pvt. Moreau snapped awake from her weary stupor, eyes pointing skyward, through the partially fallen ceiling. The entire sky was awash with smoke and the black clouds of war.

A distant rumble of engines; a squadron of jets; faint at first but steadily rising.

Eyes closing with a mixture of dreaded anticipation and a desire to be rid of this terrible turmoil, she let her head slump down to her chest, defeat spreading like wildfire through her body.

“Bombers, I hear them… they’re coming to clear the path for the forces… my sister…” Donna’s voice broke and tears welled up in her grief-stricken eyes, “I never got to say goodbye, Jessie… I don’t know where you are, I don’t know who has you or even if…” she couldn’t bring herself to voice out her greatest fear, as though saying it would somehow make it true. “I don’t know if you got the chance to escape but… I love you sweetie… God save you… God save us…”

“God forsook us a long time ago, Private, he doesn’t want anything to do with the mess we have made of this world… they are the gods now, the ones with the bombers that are almost on us, they are the gods with their guns and their men and their might, they are the gods and soon they too will die… the gods will die, their bodies will rot and maggots will creep out of their eye sockets… the gods themselves will reek of death and decay and then… then there will be nothing left… there will be nothing and no one to mourn the dead, to remember what happened… there will…”

Like a roaring thunder, the jets sounded their loudest in the sky, as though diving down for a strike. This prompted Cpt. Davies to look up at the sky. But there was no fear in his eye, rather a longing, as though he longed for death; to be rid of it once and for all.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of…” Pvt. Moreau had closed her eyes. The silver cross bracelet that she had found in Bucharest clutched firmly in her hand, her prayer getting louder as the din of the engines drew closer. She could barely complete the verse, her sister’s face and their combined lives flashing before her tightly shut eyes when Captain Davies shouted jubilantly.

“DEATH, UPON US ALL,” he screamed as the earth shook and the world around them exploded.



CHAPTER 1

0900 Hours, Friday - November 2nd, 2022

Location: USS Gerald R. Ford, 13 miles off Port Angeles

“This is not summer camp Private. You wanted to play with the big boys, you got your wish. Now get back in line before I wash you out of this center like the horse crap off my front yard!”

“Hey Harrison, wake your ass up. It’s go time!” Petty Officer First Class Nathan Harrison was shaken out of his stupor by Petty Officer Jonas, the voice of his old drill-sergeant still ringing in his ears. The rest of the team was rushing off to join the elite SAD-SOG conference, all hoping to get inducted into what was regarded as the most prestigious, and downright coolest branch of the United States Military and Intelligence Service Group.

“Come on man, hurry up!” Jonas almost shouted. “Unless you want the Master Chief’s boot in your face, you better haul, now.”

“Shut it Jonas, I'm comin’. Just gotta collect my bearings, that’s all. This is a big day for me. My old man wanted me to be a big, important soldier. Hell, he got me my first BB gun when I was barely old enough to crap on my own!” Harrison’s Louisiana drawl would often cut loose and emerge out of the well-disciplined military exterior.

He was a country boy, having been raised on a farm on the outskirts of a city for most of his life. “You can take the boy out of the country, shove his buns in a suit and drop him off in Wall Street,” his father would often say, twisting the classic line to his liking and to suit the moment each time, “but you can never take the taste of good ol’ cornbread out of his country mouth and the love of the farmland out of his big ol’ heart!”

“Yeah I know your old man, bless him and your ma, she was the best.” Jonas picked up his reports, clutched them in his hand as though afraid they would somehow escape, and walked out of the room, a bounce in his step.

The atmosphere had been electric ever since the draft had been announced. This was not the first time that the CIA had drafted SEALs into their ranks. Harrison knew it all too well, having been refused every time he had asked an audience with the representatives.

“I do not have a say in this, Petty officer Harrison, they come and go as they please and they pick and choose whoever they want to pick and choose. If you want to join, I would suggest you step up your game, son.” Master Chief Oswald was used to Harrison’s badgering. Every time he would see him, it would be the same; denial of any say in the situation and advice to improve.

Harrison watched the men hurry along in the hallway, steeling himself for the opportunity of a lifetime. This was the first time that such a draft had taken place. It was usually a summons into the main base of operations, through the commanding officers. The SEALs were among the favorites for the Special Activities Division of the Central Intelligence Agency and while it was no news that they had come out into the forefront with their recruitments, an uncharacteristic move in itself, they retained a level of secrecy that was impenetrable still.

These are trying times, Harrison thought to himself. Only last week, they had been on a training exercise in the Dive, training in extraction from underground locations. 5 days later, he was preparing to stand in front of representatives of the most elite intelligence agency on the planet.

“This is gonna be my day, yes siree,” he said to himself, elation in every nerve of his body. His evaluation reports in hand, Harrison strode out of the room and into the hallway, joining the last of the throng, into the conference room.

“You go out there and make your family and your dad proud, boy.” His father’s words rang through his mind as he stepped into the small auditorium.

As soon as he entered the room, his wary eyes shot straight towards the men in the crisp uniforms at the head of the area, regarding each SEAL with intense scrutiny. The ‘Gray Men’, as everybody else referred to them, had previously recruited some of Harrison’s former company, to join the elite ranks.

“Settle down, people,” barked Master Chief Burns, the single toughest man on the entire floating base. With a long, horizontal scar running down the length of his left cheek, he looked just as tough as he was, having seen more fighting than any other Navy SEAL in service.

“Major Wolcott, you have the floor.” One of the SAD-SOG members stepped forward, as complete silence fell on the squadrons, each member giving their undivided attention to the man up front.

“Gentlemen, I believe there is no need to remind anyone how important it is that what you hear and see in this room, never reach any other ear,” Major Wolcott began, his demeanor exhibiting an icy calm that was characteristic of the CIA. Every ounce of his attention turned to the Major; Harrison began to listen as the latter laid out the most recent of military plans.



CHAPTER 2

Time: 2009 Hours, Friday - November 2nd, 2022

The Base - Location Classified

“Leopard is in place, General, carrying through now.” The excited voice of the operator registered in the ears of the stone-faced General, the latter’s face beginning to crack a leer.

“Good, very good.” The General had been waiting for this meeting for over 9 months and finally, it was happening. All the plans, all the exercises, all the long and grueling hours of hard work and espionage had finally reached fruition, as the monitor in front of him began to come alive with an incoming transmission. Voices, a few at first, alternating from man to man, muddled in the beginning but slowly beginning to clear.

“Finally we are in their midst,” the General thought to himself. He had served his country for 41 years, dedicated his life to the service of the motherland, given the blood in his veins, the sweat on his brow and the tears in his eyes, all of it and more, just to see his country prosper. Finally the moment was here when his sacrifice and the sacrifices of his men would bear fruit.

“We have no word on the location of this base, yet.” The voice coming through the speakers was still dotted with the hiss of static. “Gentleman, this has been the focus of the majority of our intelligence effort, and I’ll be damned before I let the enemy change their location again.”

“This is the best chance we have gotten since Operation Hit’n’Run and I am not prepared to let this pass. You are the best that our country has to offer, the best in the world, the pride of the people, and it is your responsibility, each and every one of you, to stay true to the flag.” Static again, more intense this time.

Suddenly, the static cleared as the voice came through the speakers once again.

“There have been 19 attacks in the last 5 months alone. They have been more active than ever and their funds are flowing into all the wrong hands. We have to prevent that from happening. We will be selecting eight men from among you, who will then be reporting directly to operations command. Their teams and missions will be assigned to them at the time of their first briefing.”

Good, tell me everything you can, svoloch, the General thought to himself, reveling within at the sudden barrage of revelations.

“We need 3 teams for the initial infiltration, on all three fronts. The rest of you will continue operating as instructed. New orders have been issued to your commanding officers and you are to return to them immediately. Remember gentlemen, all of you, the ones in this room, the rest of the people aboard this vessel, the ones at home or abroad, all of you have sworn an oath to protect this country at all costs. Now is the time to honor that oath. The enemy moves closer to us, to our brothers and our loved ones as we speak and unless we put the entirety of our efforts towards stopping its advance, there will be nothing left to protect. They do not care who gets in their path, they will burn them all. They have murdered our brothers, our sons and they will pay for this and you are the ones who are going to make them pay. We are the saviors, we are the last line of defense between the enemy and the rest of the world and unless we do something about it, there will be nothing left to fight for.”

The elation that the General had felt when the signal had been established slowly dripped off his face, to be replaced with cold fury. “They call themselves saviors, protectors, liberators …” Barely able to contain his anger, the General muttered through gritted teeth and a jaw quivering with anger. “After murdering our own women and children, after burning our own elderly and feeble, after committing all manner of crimes towards our people, they have the nerve to call themselves the last line of defense. No, you son of a fatherless whore, you are the one who will pay, for all that you have done to me, to my son, to my own flesh and blood, and to my people. You will pay for the blood that you have spilled in the name of ‘world peace’, you will pay for all the death that you brought upon my people in your thirst for resources and wealth… you gluttonous pigs took what was never yours to take, you spread your filth throughout the world, disguised in your smooth rhetoric. You may have fooled the governments but I know you. I know what lurked in the deepest fathoms of your ruthless hearts. And now, I know what you plan to do. Death awaits you, svoloch.”

It took all of his resolution to finally turn back to the information spilling through the speakers, to keep his head in the task at hand. Death will come to them, he thought, in due time.



CHAPTER 3

“Good going Harrison, always knew you were headed for big things; looks like I was right all along,” Master Chief Burns said in an admiring tone, smiling for the first time since he had heard of the alleged capture and interrogation of one of the top associates of Tovi Almon, the notorious double agent who had released the names of all the active CIA personnel in the West African region. Chief Burns had smiled and cracked open a bottle of Craig, followed by an entire case. The atmosphere in the entire base had been celebratory, as the agent’s capture had revealed to them the existence of a top-secret network that had been operating under the noses of the world’s governments. While this capture and subsequent jumping into action of the US clandestine forces had alienated some of the closest allies of the US from them, it was cause for celebration for the soldiers responsible for the capture nevertheless.

“Thank you, Sir,” Harrison replied, a smile spreading across his face as well. This was what he had been dreaming of since the day he had heard what the Special Activities Division gets up to on a daily basis. Espionage, spycraft, secrecy, the crème de la crème of the United States Armed and Intelligence Forces and now he was one of them.

The meeting had been brief and the objective had been explained without betraying too much information. Typical CIA, Harrison thought, reveal just enough to entice and attract, never too much to give the enemy anything to use against them. He knew that what the intelligence officers had told them in the meeting was only the tip of the iceberg, and that the real truth was something far graver.

Something of this scale, from the military point of view, had not happened for over six and a half decades.

Fresh out of the Marine Corps Boot Camp, he had made it a point to visit a veterans’ home every chance he got, to hear their stories. Almost every visit would be filled to the brim with tales of wartime, and opinions on how the world had finally settled down, how it had become too complacent, too ‘politically correct’ to fight.

If only they knew what state the world was in at the moment. Ever since the intelligence forces of the United States had decided to pick up their operational and recruitment momentum, the entirety of the armed forces had been in a constant fervor. Departments had begun to merge, people were being drafted left, right and center. As far as Harrison could remember, he had only heard stories of a movement of this scale.

When the second Great War had begun, every man and boy able to bear arms had been drafted into the military, at least every man and boy who volunteered. The armies of the world had stepped into the various fields of battle and the skies had been painted with the black of ash and soot. The veterans that Harrison had met in his time would always recount how they had to rely on sheer force of will and courage to survive; in a time when all men had to lean on, was each other and their own God-given strength. Those old heroes would then pray for such a time to never return, for their sons and daughters to never have to see a world at war again.

Hearing them then, Harrison would scoff and wonder; how could it not? Why was the country, and all the other countries, building weapons and war machines, if not in preparation for a conflict bigger than the world had ever seen? Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not in a year or fifty, but some day it was going to break out. Some day the buttons will be pressed, the missiles will be let loose, the bombs will be dropped, and people will die in their millions.

“No need for the formality, son, you’re way above my pay grade now!” Master Chief Burns turned around, the smile plastered firmly on his face, as he made his way back to the quarters.

“Yes I am Chief, yes I am,” Harrison whispered under his breath, his mouth spreading into a toothy grinned as the image of his former commanding officer springing to salute him filled his mind. “I’m headin’ for the big leagues baby!”



CHAPTER 4

To,

Mrs. Barbara Wilkins,

8182, 44th Lane, Nashville Grove, San Francisco

Dated: Monday - July 29th, 2022

Dear Nana,

I know I promised to write early, in fact I promised to write every week… and I know that Jess really hates me right now but hear me out okay, I’m still your girl and always will be! So, remember I told you that I’m gonna be on a different base for the quarter? Well, we’re here and I finally got to see the trucks up close and maaan, I was blown away! These things are huge, they’re at least 30 tons each, and that’s without all the guns and ammo! I tried to take a picture but they said it was classified, which is stupid coz they announced the tests and all, but yeah, they’re trying to keep it all hush hush for some reason. So yeah I saw them and guess what, I’m gonna be riding in them for the next tour! God I am so excited for this!

Anyway, how’s Jess? I know she’s probably home for the summer and digging in my closet right now… Well, she deserves it, poor baby, she’s probably scared half the time with all these reports of airstrikes over the South and how they’ve got those android things in there, and those sleeper agents… Me, I think that’s a load of bull coz if there were killer robots and sleeper agents, you think we’d be alive right now!? Hell, they would have taken over and put us all in hamster cages! But to be honest, I don’t know what to believe right now. I’m stuck in here with the grunt battalions and we don’t know anything about the outside world… We didn’t even believe this could happen. It was all over the news that they were gonna start a new war with all the weapons they were making and all that. I didn’t tell Jess that but I read it in a holler that the government was preparing for all out combat and I knew I wanted in so I enlisted. I still feel bad about leaving you and Jessie behind. I knew she was gonna be upset but dad would have wanted this and I couldn’t disappoint him you know. But yeah, I had to go and I knew jess was gonna understand and she did, brave girl.

I celebrated her birthday here, you’re gonna have to tell her! Yeah, I had a cake and all. Well, Max kinda ate the cake but I got a decent piece and I sang happy birthday and all! They wouldn’t let me send a video coz they were afraid someone was gonna intercept the signal and try to reach out to me and recruit me or something. Gosh they’re getting really paranoid but I can’t blame them, we’re officially in a state of war and there are protocols to follow.

I miss home though… I miss your honey glazed ham and that awesome sweet potato soufflé and the sweet tea… they only have coffee over here and it tastes like moose pee… but the pasta and garlic bread is kinda good, almost as good as old Foggy’s place. But I miss my bed and I miss my baby sister and I miss you. They haven’t yet told anyone when the tours will be over, or if they’ll be over at all coz it’s all hands on deck at the moment and they need all the hands they can get.

Anyway, I need to hustle on out of here before they confiscate this letter too, so yeah I’ll write to you as soon as I can. Hopefully there won’t be much excitement in the field, coz if there isn’t; I may get a chance to write even quicker. Love you and miss you so much, love you loads Nana!

Donna

Attached Post Statement:

Jessie, sweetie, I’m so sorry I had to leave you like this but you know how I got called away to the FOB, even though I was to be stationed near home where I could even visit every now and then. But yeah they sent me away and I miss you soo sooo soooo much… You know I even celebrated your birthday and made a video too but they took it so then I had no means of talking to you. Really hoping to get some stability in this tour thing so I can write and talk to you more coz it’s so hard being out here without the baby sister that I have known all my life and love with all my heart. I promise I’m gonna come back honey, pinky swear. I gotta go now babe, hope you’re doing great in school and having fun with all my clothes! Seriously though, you need to stay out of my things, you know I’m gonna get you for it when I come home! Love you tons Jess, see you soon!

End Statement.

Private Donna Moreau held the letter to her as if she was drowning in an unknown sea and this was the only lifeline that could bring her back to her loved ones. Her parents were gone, she had only her sister and her beloved aunt in the whole wide world and for the first time since her enlistment, she felt alone and scared, despite having an entire platoon of loyal friends to support her.

“You’re gonna let me have that or what?” the mail officer snapped at her, forcing her to reluctantly let go of the letter. It needed to reach her Nana and sister, they needed to know that although she was abroad and that she would be stationed here for a while, she was okay and that she was gonna come back to them soon. They needed to know that, even if it was a lie.

“What am I doing here? I’m a 20 year old girl from Michigan, what the hell did I get myself into,” she muttered to herself, not audible enough to make herself heard but just enough so that she could hear the nervousness in her own voice. Deep down she knew that she was making her father proud, that he would be looking down at her with a smile on his face and a proud thumbs up, as was his go-to gesture! But somewhere inside her heart she also knew that a time may come when she would have to decide whether her country and her duty were more important to her than her family. All she hoped, all she wanted in life now was to be able to meet her sister and hug her first, before she went.



CHAPTER 5

“The MI6 has always been famed among the intelligence community of the world for their exceptional skill and ability to execute some of the most difficult tasks on the toughest frontiers of espionage, in both hostile environments and while surrounded by rivaling agencies. An MI6 agent is respected among all the facets of the military and civil service, and their services are appreciated above all else. What is less known about the MI6 is that it is the single most technologically advanced, the most intellectually superior, and most naturally competent intelligence agency currently in existence. They are responsible for some of the most impressive and incredible feats of espionage, the world has ever seen. For the active agent, it is no news to be given the assignment to execute the key member of a global terrorist plot, or to foil an enemy country’s plot to cause damage to Her Majesty’s kingdom. Be it the M’bokou Sacking, or the Russian Linchpin, it is safe to believe that whenever there has been a truly incredible turn of events that has had a positive impact on the world, the MI6 has had some involvement in the affair. To date, the MI6 and its active agents in the field or in hiding have executed over 11 thousand successful missions, both at home and abroad. Their track record has been stellar, with minimal failures and a success rate that is the envy of the intelligence forces of the world. Even our neighbors from across the pond have acknowledged our efforts towards making the world a better place and have included us in the list of their lost trusted allies. This proves the mettle of the MI6 beyond doubt, and solidifies their position among the top intelligence agencies.”

“Oh really, is that so?”

“I believe so, yes, my dear boy. Now where are my tea and my biscuits? I do feel rather dodgy at the moment.”

“Do you even know what ‘dodgy’ means, Weylan?” Petty Officer Harrison scoffed at the unruly group of shirtless men crammed into one room, each wearing a different funny hat. It was Harrison’s birthday, an event that had been puffed up in magnitude since it had become common knowledge that he was now assigned to the CIA, doing whatever was required of them. The policy of compartmentalization ensured that no one soldier knew the whole story. This was a means to prevent any leaks from occurring, as to the location and identity of any of the CIA’s agents, whether former, current or future.

“Listen brother, don’t dis’ them Brits jus’ coz you ain’t got them smooth skills. God intended you to be an idiot and an idiot you must remain.” Petty Officer First Class Jason Everett was by and large the best friend Harrison had ever had. For all his unscrupulous and often annoying behavior, he was a good man, dependable as ever, a true carrier of the code.

“Semper Fi brotha, Semper Fi!” The motto of the United States Marine Corps had become his favorite catchphrase, something he would often take to, when there was nothing else to say or when the situation had demanded a level of intellectual prowess that was far above his own.

But he had saved Harrison’s life. He had proven what he was made of, by putting himself in the line of fire so his fellow soldier could reach cover. Harrison knew and remembered all too well that had it not been for Everett, he would not be here today, celebrating with his brothers-in-arms.

“Your Yoda is just as bad as his Brit, bro, you ain’t got no smooth skills either,” Harrison drawled at Everett, trying to rile him up.

“Hey you know I ain’t takin’ that bait, ladies.”

“That’s coz you can’t talk worth a shiitake. You’re the only guy ever to bail on the Chief’s daughter. Every other guy chatted her up in a jiffy, and she was easy dude!”

The laughter that erupted reminded Harrison of all the good times that he had shared with these men. They were rude, they were unhinged at times, they would get up to all sorts of hijinks, but they were his family. They were also some of the most highly trained soldiers in the world, and they had been through a lot, and seen a lot together. The friendship and the memories that Harrison had shared with these men were priceless and he knew in his heart that wherever he went in life, he would always be a SEAL at heart.

He had started out in the US Marines at the tender age of 18, enlisting the first chance he had. His mother’s side of the family had had six highly decorated Marines and one ace pilot who had set a record during the Gulf War for flying under radar at twice the speed of sound. He knew from the start that these were sizeable shoes to fill and that if he were to be given a chance to fill them, he would not hesitate even a heartbeat. He was the second youngest in his family to enlist, and the pride that he had evoked in his parents would often still warm his heart, to this day.

2 years of serving with the Marines, and he had been inducted into SEAL Team Six, something that none of his relatives could boast about. However, with the added honor, privilege and excitement, came more responsibility and more danger.

“YOU’RE SEALS, YOU DON’T BEND, YOU DON’T BOW, AND YOU NEVER, EVER BREAK, YOU UNDERSTAND ME?” Master Chief Burns had a reputation in what seemed to be the entirety of the US Armed forces, for being virtually invincible. He was a veteran of 12 tours, had the highest success rate of any soldier in the history of the SEALs, and to top off the already impressive list of accolades, he was the one every new member of the squadron would look up to and aspire to be like.

These qualities were what drove Harrison to perform better, be stronger, faster, and more intelligent, both in the field and at home; not because he wanted to emulate his commanding officer, but because he wanted to surpass him. He had wanted to surpass him ever since the El Foyel debacle when he and Petty Officer Jonas had been pinned down by enemy fire on every conceivable side, and it was Burns who had rescued them.

Two young, fit SEALs in the prime of their lives had been rescued by a grizzled veteran who they all thought too old and unfit for combat. And it bit and clawed at Harrison’s mind that he had been outperformed in the field by an old commander. He had grown jealous of Burns’ command after that and had found it extremely difficult to submit to it, as was his duty. That is until he had been confronted by the Chief himself about it.

The old warrior had admitted to sensing the animosity that Harrison had for him, and reminded him that he would have every chance to surpass him in the future. He had told Harrison how he harbored no negative feelings towards the men under his command, no matter what sort of behavior he got from them. And that is what had earned Harrison’s respect, but by no means had it succeeded in drowning the competitive spirit. He knew he wanted to be involved in big things, take bigger risks and know more about what went on in the world. And he had finally succeeded in accomplishing that goal. He had surpassed his Master Chief in rank as well as privilege, and from what he could see of his future, the sky was the limit for him.

But deep down where it mattered, he knew that his roots were in this floating fortress, that he always had a home here, and that the men who were in that room with him in that moment—his family—would always welcome him with open arms and open hearts.



CHAPTER 6

London was used to gloomy mornings, cloudy days and equally depressing evenings. The weather rarely turned pleasant and when it did, one could notice the delight on the faces of Londoners, all of them. There were some who had grown so accustomed to the constant cloud cover that the slightest bit of sunshine was regarded as divine intervention, and was laden with gratitude. There were those who would seek out places and times where and when sunlight could be enjoyed to the fullest. And then there were those who would not or could not care about something as trivial as the weather.

The last variety of people was in abundance at the new MI6 headquarters in Northern Oxfordshire. Even though the headquarters had moved to the more pleasant countryside, the weather had remained as gloomy as ever, forever dampening any signs of elation in the men and women who worked here. And if there ever was a group of men and women who deserved a break from all the turmoil, just to enjoy the odd ray of sunshine, it was the group that made sure Great Britain was safe from those who sought to destroy her. Ever since the agency had set its collective mind on an active part in the global affairs, there had been a number of significant changes in how it functioned.

It had all begun with the 2019 bombing in the capital; what was labeled the biggest breach in the history of Her Majesty’s secret services. And Intelligence Officer David Hartwell knew all too well about the ramifications, both then and after the attack. The impenetrable MI6, the most respected intelligence force in the world, had been broken into and made to admit that it too was fallible, and that it had not seen this coming.

Hartwell and his fellow officers had been recruited at a time when the world was beginning to understand the importance of fortifying one’s own defenses, instead of attempting to sabotage someone else’s. The intelligence community was becoming even more secretive than usual and old alliances were being forgotten in favor of confidentiality.

Hartwell had been one of 12 new recruits, a considerably large number for the MI6. This was due to a report on the American Central Intelligence Agency and its aggressive recruitment tactics in recent times. Not to be left behind in the hustle, MI6 officers had begun to reach out into universities and military institutions worldwide. But it had all been set back in flamboyant fashion on March 24th 2019.

He could recall them as clear as daylight, the events of that fateful day. The network was abuzz with news of the sighting of Tovi Almon, the most wanted man on the planet. Not only was he responsible for the brutal murders of well over a thousand innocent men, women and children, but through his network, he had conducted almost a dozen major cyber attacks to the mainframes and data centers of major corporations and military forces. This alone was enough to earn him a swift death sentence, but the killings had made it of utmost importance that the man be found and executed immediately.

To date, there had been several assassination attempts on the terrorist. Top field agents of the ‘Big Four’, the most advanced intelligence institutions in the world, had followed him, examined his movements, gone over his activities with a fine toothed comb, and yet they were unable to predict his next move. He had been targeted multiple times, both openly and through more clandestine means, and every time, he had slithered out of their clutches. And then the MI6 had gone after him with their best, the famed ‘00’ agents.

There were 3 of them in all, or at least according to record. 2 of them had been assigned to Almon, with a single purpose; eliminate the target at all costs, collateral damage be damned. They infiltrated the network of associates, found all of his hideouts and safe houses, and towards the end, when they were finally close to executing their target, they had been found, and Tovi Almon had made an example of them. This, instead of making the Global Intelligence Coalition buckle from the attacks, had caused them to accelerate their operations.

The GIC functioned as an international body that was made after the branded terrorist had leaked vital and potentially damning CIA information into the field. The US had been desperate to team up with someone, anyone, to eliminate the threat to their own intelligence fortress and British Intelligence had offered a solution in the form of a coalition that would protect the interests of each individual member, as well as the interests of other member states.

The result of this had been a warning, in the form of a bombing, right in the heart of the center of operations. An unknown number of bombers who were suspected of being patsies; pawns in a grander plan, had infiltrated the agency headquarters and set off bombs that had shaken the very foundations of British resolve.

It had taken a handful of men, planted by clandestine methods, deep into the infrastructure, with the purpose of causing the complete collapse of it. Agents were extremely difficult to recruit, so the terrorists had taken to ordinary office personnel; cleaners, assistants, bookkeepers, people with jobs that would be under constant surveillance. The ones, who the agency had considered the least dangerous, had turned out to be the most so, causing damage to not only human lives, but to the structural integrity of the intelligence forces of the United Kingdom as well.

They had snuck in individual components of the bombs over several weeks, assembled them in various hiding places, and hidden each deadly device in its designated place. All that needed to be done after that was the press of a button, and the world’s most respected intelligence agency had gone up in flames. The people who had dead relatives mourned for their loved ones. The sympathizers expressed their sympathies, and the well wishers extended helping hands. But the damage had been done and the image of the agency had been incinerated.

Walls had been rebuilt, pillars had been reconstructed, the workforce had been replenished but the wound was still fresh and the death sentence on Almon’s head had been given top priority. He was the mastermind behind the attack, the one who had orchestrated it for months, maybe even years, if the rumors in the intelligence community were to be believed. In a few short years, a former Mossad operative and ultranationalist had been propelled to the top of the world’s most wanted list. For many, killing him was a matter of personal interest. Top among them were the ones who had lost comrades to the terror attacks all over the world. Hartwell was one of them, and this vendetta was what consumed his thoughts whenever his mind drifted to the horrific events.

Intelligence Officer Hartwell had lost a dear friend and fellow Officer in the attack, the memory of whom would refresh itself every time he would set foot inside the main building. Today was different however, as there had been yet another sighting of Almon, on a surveillance camera in Amsterdam of all places. The single most elusive human being had finally surfaced in one of the most frequented cities in the world.

The audacity of it was what gave rise to such strong feelings within Hartwell. Not only had Almon decided to finally show his face, but that too, in a place where he was sure to be recognized. The move, as foolhardy as it might seem to the layman, most definitely had an ulterior motive, the thought of which sent a chill racing down Hartwell’s spine. Intelligence Officer David Hartwell knew that big things were headed their way once again, and this added thought did nothing to ease his nerves as he made his way down the lobby, to the main corridor.

“’What does he want?’ ’Why now?’ ‘Where are the rest of his associates?’ We’re continuously being asked this by all manner of correspondents and it is driving me bloody insane!” The permanently irate voice of the departmental coordinator was ringing throughout the corridor that led to the conference rooms. Heavy, hurried footsteps followed, approaching him as he continued at a controlled pace. “Bloody hell, you’d think there was a code of secrecy within these walls, now it looks like effin’ Waterloo…”

“Did you get the memo? Where are they meeting? Did they make anything out of it?” Hartwell let loose with all the questions that were badgering him at the moment, adding to his fellow officer’s exasperation. He did not care how much harassment the latter had been through, this was a matter of British lives and Hartwell was nothing if not deeply patriotic.

The look on the coordinator’s face was all Hartwell needed to realize that the situation was direr than he thought. Without another word, he strode onwards to his office, determined as he had ever been in his life.



CHAPTER 7

1355 Hours, Friday - August 2nd, 2022

Location: Red Rock Valley, en route to 12th Forward Mobilization Base, New Mexico

“Hey Moreau, you wanna get a beer or somethin’, get out of this place?”

“Piss off Lerman, go talk to your wife, or somethin’…”

“Hey who told you I’m married coz I ain’t married. I’m single baby, single and HOT DAMN, am I ready to mingle!”

“Knock off the ass grabbin’ Lerman or I’m gonna have Pvt. Moreau here beat 37 shades of crap out of your hillbilly ass…” Master Sergeant Pierce knew all too well the effect a young, beautiful female soldier could have on a platoon. “And on top of that, I’m gonna call your wife and inform her of your shenanigans personally. Now do you want that s***storm on your head coz I can bring it!” That silenced Pvt. Lerman instantly, as Private Donna Moreau sneered at him, giving him the most subtle of middle-finger salutes as she did so.

It had been 4 days since she had handed over her letter to the mail officer and yet, the feeling of letting go of something dear to her had not yet passed. She was now on her way to the largest, most expansive US military base in existence, among the several dozen platoons about to be mobilized for the various forward operating bases that the US had all over the world. She had tried to find out where she was being sent, all the while dreading the thought of the sensitive front in Northern Africa.

Years and years of wars and conflicts had ravaged the land and the people, and what little resources they had, were now gone. Thousands upon thousands of people had migrated in all directions, effectively emptying what had eventually become a gigantic war zone. As the region still had promise for those who knew how to avail it, warlords were still locked in combat with the armed forces of various countries, and casualties were beginning to number in the thousands now.

Pvt. Moreau had been fascinated at first, when she heard of the plan that the Secretary of Defense had come up with. Occupy the region with a show of force, ensure minimal casualties, and make sure that the land is secured in the best possible shape.

There was something a bit too shady about this, even to a patriot. What interest could an all-powerful nation have in a barren desert? And if they did have an interest, what was the United States prepared to do to achieve that interest? Being a minimally ranked member of the US army, it was not her job to ask questions and she understood it well. However, it would not stop bothering her, even when she had boarded the first of the BRONTOs and settled in for the slow ride to the mobilization base.

If there was one thing that excited Moreau more than anything, it was to be in one of the mega-transports that the US Army had commissioned. Nicknamed ‘BRONTO’, the latest in armored personnel carriers boasted enough room for over 100 passengers, excluding the command and the crew. Developed in absolute secrecy and only recently revealed to the world, they were meant to protect their occupants from all manner of attack, and bring them back home safe.

The machines themselves were a sight to behold. Well over 40 feet in height and with a total loaded weight of over 200 tons, they were deemed to be near unstoppable is a combat situation. The motors themselves were enormous, with enough grunt to power 5 battle tanks, and the armor could protect the troops inside from bullets, tank shells, even small missiles. Built specifically for the insertion of troops in areas otherwise inaccessible to regular military vehicles, the BRONTOs could do that and more, having proven capable of withstanding a truly astounding amount of punishment.

This was not the first time in recent years that new and innovative technology has been introduced into the battlefield. The leap in technological capability had come at a time when it was desperately needed, as the enemy grew stronger and smarter. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency had kicked its developmental efforts into high gear, following the unveiling of a brand new missile system by the Chinese technological research agency.

The event had been considered a tentative act of war by the United States armed forces and all their subdivisions. They had responded with the development of offensive, defensive and troop support systems, all to be tested directly in the field, instead of on bases and test centers. The prime objective however, was a transport system that could withstand all that the enemy could throw at it, and still keep pushing forward. The initial reaction to the new vehicles had been of wonder, and later of reassurance that finally the troops could ride into battle without having to worry about being intercepted and destroyed, as had happened several times in the last campaign against North African militia.

It was this dedication to the health and wellbeing of the troops that replenished Moreau’s faith in those that led the country. They had the best interests of their soldiers at heart, and would never put them in harm’s way for their own gain, Moreau would think to herself. Maybe there really was a positive motive behind the mobilization. Maybe it was to occupy a front that could then be used to execute attacks against her homeland. Maybe it was to protect her people from any attacks that could be launched at them in the future.

Thoughts like these would stoke the passion within her young heart. “You’d be proud of me, Mom, Dad… look at where your baby girl is now, on the biggest, toughest tank in the world, as safe as safe can be and about to make a difference in the world.”

Even through her elation, tears would find their way. Her parents, her dearly beloved mother and father had passed away when she was only 12. At that time she had been too young to truly gauge the empty void that she would experience in the bowels of her heart. She had cried her eyes out; she had refused to talk to anyone but her baby sister, clutching the latter close to her, crooning softly while fighting back tears. “I’ll be your mommy, you don’t worry okay,” she would say to the baby girl who didn’t quite understand the loss.

Her mother had been a teacher at the local high school, and her father worked in the department of education. From an early age, they were expected to reach certain academic standards, which would often prove to be quite a hurdle for the adventurous spirits of the young girls. Jessica was always the more free-spirited one, making sure that both got into their fair share of trouble on a daily basis, even while still quite young.

And then one day, their childhood bliss had been torn apart by the misjudgment of one drunken truck driver, who had snatched their world from them and left them orphaned and alone. At the funeral, they had refused to leave the caskets, crying loudly every time someone tried to take them away. If it wasn’t for their aunt’s pleading and begging; they probably would have slept at the same spot.

Her aunt had taken them in, being a widower without children of her own. She had raised her and her sister as her own, leaving no stone unturned in making both the girls feel well and truly at home. But even then, the emptiness would bite at Donna’s heart, reminding her that her parents weren’t there to listen to her stories in wide eyed amazement at what their baby girl had achieved in life. Her sister had recovered eventually, having had 2 maternal figures in her life. But Donna’s heart still wept for her parents.

“I know you’re watching me from up there and I know you're proud of me for being who I am, for getting what I have and for being an example. I know you’re proud of me mama, dad, and I know you love me because I love you too,” she would whisper to herself, looking up at the ceiling. This would always give her the strength to push on further, as she would have to in the very near future.



CHAPTER 8

The streets of Amsterdam were being frequented by the usual mixture of tourists and locals in the late afternoon. The air was fresh and crisp, carrying with it the scent of a variety of blossoms. The day, it seemed, bore good news, and he wasn’t going to let it go without extracting as much advantage out of it as he could.

All this time in hiding, looking over his shoulders, changing routes multiple times, changing identities on an almost daily basis, and undergoing a cornucopia of trials and tribulations; all of it was coming to a head. He could sense it with each passing second that the time had come for those who thought themselves powerful, to bend at the knee and beg for forgiveness. Forgiveness however, would be given in the form of blood and death, as his mission would finally be fulfilled and his conscience would be clear at last.

But they have to suffer first, they have to know the pain that my people went through; being driven out of their own land, the land that was promised to them eons ago, the land that had been taken from the ancestors and distributed among a handful of rich princes; he would make this his mantra as soon as his thoughts would wander towards the plight of his countrymen.

And they called them the oppressors; the violators of human rights, those who had been oppressed for centuries were being called the oppressors. The hypocrisy that the world had displayed, how the world had stood at silence when terrorists had bombed his home, how his family had wailed in grief while picking up their dead relatives, how his father had shed tears while holding his dead brother in his old arms. He was going to avenge them all; he was going to avenge every single tear that his family had shed that day. He had taken the sacred ‘shebuah’, the holy oath, to defend his homeland and bring righteous fury, anger and vengeance to those who sought to destroy him.

His will made him a force to be reckoned with, but what really bolstered his strength was the existence of others, who had suffered similarly ay the hands of those he was up against. He knew he wasn’t alone, and that gave him the confidence to even come out into the light, as rarely as he did. The friends he had in this evil, cruel world were the basis upon which he stood; a defiant face of devastation. And today he was going to meet with one of those friends.

“He is here, אח, and he is just in time; we have confirmation that they have seen us,” his comrade whispered in his ear, moving up behind him.

“Finally we meet, brother of mine, it has been a long time coming.” He spread his arms wide, welcoming an embrace. “Yes we do Tovi, at long last we meet,” the general replied, meeting the world-famous terrorist, the infamous death-dealer in a warm embrace. “I would question your decision to meet in such a place and at such a time though, as it appears that the eyes of all the intelligence forces of the world are upon us as we speak.”

“Fear not brother, I know they can see us but they do not dare to take one step, for I have what they fear most. They know that moving against me at this time would mean the end of them all, and they are afraid, brother,” he almost growled, his voice turning more menacing by the syllable.

“You mean, you have found it, the prize that we have been waiting for. You have it with you?” The General could not contain his excitement as he regarded this genius of a human being with the utmost admiration.

“Yes brother, I have it, and I intend to use in the moment I get wind of an attack on my person or on my kin. Meanwhile, I will continue my activities until they give me what I want, what I deserve, what my people deserve, what has been denied for hundreds of years.”

“May you have all the luck in the world, brother, may you prosper and may the cries of your enemies keep you sated and satisfied, for as long as there is breath in your lungs and beyond!”



CHAPTER 9

“Audio log entry 3—01.05, dated 2nd March 2023, Captain Michael Davies, G Squadron, 4th Mobility Troop, situation report is as follows… Our squadron has been pushed back by the advance. We are now an unknown distance from the city center and air support is a no-show. They are bombarding the bunkers now and there is nothing that we can do in way of retaliation.” Davies looked behind at the rest of his squadron, every single man shaken and afraid.


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