Angels of Vengeance: The Disappearance Novel 3

BOOK: Angels of Vengeance: The Disappearance Novel 3
13.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

This is the New World. Born of chaos and blood. Remember that if nothing else.

Jed Culver, President Kipper’s sword and shield, knows that what is right and what is best are rarely the same thing. Can he serve the President by defying him?

Mad Jack Blackstone, rogue governor of the Republic of Texas. To some he is slowly but surely destroying the United States. To others, he is an American saviour.

Their time has come.

In New York, Caitlin Monroe’s one shot at vengeance may lie buried beneath the rubble of the city. Is her nemesis still alive somewhere?

Unknown killers hunt Lady Julianne Balwyn in the anarchic, violent freeport of Darwin. Can she survive long enough to save her friends?

Sofia Pieraro is all alone in the empty heart of a haunted land, revenge her only reason to keep moving.

After many years the long trail of the dead will bring them all together.

The final battle for America and the new world will not be fought with armies, but in the quiet and the dark, by individuals, driven towards vengeance and annihilation.

For Jane.
‘Beside every great man . . .’
Well, I’m not that great, but she is, and she’s always there beside me.

CHARACTER LIST
 
URUGUAY, SOUTH AMERICAN FEDERATION
 

Staff Sergeant Michelle Royse: squad leader, 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion, US Army

Caitlin Monroe: Echelon senior field agent

Ramón Lupérico: former prison governor on Guadeloupe, Leeward Islands

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON AND VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA
 

James Kipper: forty-fourth President of the United States

Jed Culver: White House Chief of Staff

Barney Tench: Secretary, Department of Reconstruction and Resettlement

Paul McAuley: Secretary, Department of the Treasury

Sarah Humboldt: Secretary, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Admiral James Ritchie: National Security Advisor

Barbara Kipper: America’s First Lady

Henry Cesky: CEO, Cesky Enterprises

Wales Larrison: Echelon deputy director and US liaison to Echelon Secretariat

SYDNEY AND DARWIN
 

Lady Julianne Balwyn: erstwhile smuggler and reluctant fugitive

Rhino A. Ross: part-time fishing boat operator

Narayan Shah: CEO, Shah Security

Piers Downing: lawyer to Mr Shah

Paras Birendra: operations manager, Shah Security

Nick Pappas: security consultant, former Australian Army SAS operative

Norman Parmenter: contract killer

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
 

Miguel Pieraro: stockyard foreman

Maive Aronson: community college teacher

Sofia Pieraro: high school student, part-time hospital worker

Cindy French: interstate truck driver

Dave Bowman: interstate truck driver

Special Agent Dan Colvin: FBI inter-agency liaison, Kansas City field office

TEMPLE AND FORT HOOD, TEXAS ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISION
 

General Tusk Musso (retd): the US President’s special representative in Texas

Master Sergeant Fryderyk Milosz: squad leader, US Army Rangers

Tyrone McCutcheon: aide to Governor Blackstone

Corporal Amy Summers: junior NCO, US Army Rangers

General Jackson Blackstone (retd): Governor of Texas

Bilal Baumer (aka al Banna; the Emir): fugitive terrorist leader

ANGUS AND WILTSHIRE
 

Bret Melton: gentleman farmer and full-time parent

Francis Dalby: Echelon UK field supervisor

1
 
FORMER URUGUAYAN–ARGENTINIAN BORDER REGION, SOUTH AMERICAN FEDERATION
 

Staff Sergeant Michelle Royse, of the United States Army’s much diminished 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion, scanned the northern banks of the river delta as the Black Hawk pounded up the narrowing channel over dark, choppy waters. Through her night-vision goggles, the slightly fuzzy green imagery of heavily wooded banks was blurred even further by the shuddering of the helicopter as it roared along above the wave tops. A solid nor’easter was blowing directly up the mouth of the river, adding an extra thirty knots to their airspeed, but demanding extreme levels of concentration from Captain Tim Lindell and his co-pilot as they guided the chopper through hostile, if poorly guarded airspace. Far behind them, no one paid their improvised helicopter carrier much mind – a battered and rusty container vessel salvaged from Mexico. Royse didn’t like to ponder on what would have happened if the vessel had been detected by the South American Federation Navy.

Hey, probably not much to worry about
, she consoled herself
. It’s just a paper navy, at best, with most of their top ships laid up in docks rusting away.

A bit like the US Navy nowadays, she thought, with grim humour.

Lindell had not spoken for five minutes, which still made him a hell of a lot chattier than their passenger. The spook. Michelle knew the woman had to be a spook, because in spite of the faded, summer-weight BDUs she wore, the kit they had loaded for her was all high-spec, exotic stuff. The sort of gear the military simply couldn’t afford nowadays. No way the army or SOCOM was running this operation. They were just providing a bus service for some ghost recon superwoman who’d drifted down from far above the upper reaches of the tier-one food chain.

Michelle snuck a sideways glance at the passenger. The woman wasn’t unfriendly, not like some of the ego monsters she had met while shuttling T1 operators around. But she was entirely self-contained; she spoke only when necessary and had a way of discouraging questions without actually asking you to mind your own business. She stood maybe an inch taller than Michelle, but even in her BDUs, body armour, webbing and equipment, she seemed . . . well, not slighter – perhaps more wiry. There was a tightly wound intensity about this spook that made being in her presence distinctly uncomfortable. Impossible to guess her age, under all that kit, but Michelle thought maybe early to mid thirties. The woman’s physique looked totally ripped, but her eyes were old beneath a stray lock of dirty blonde hair.

Royse looked away quickly as their mystery passenger shifted position. She was happy enough to attend to her duties while Jane Bond here sat in a furious still-life study of cold, impacted rage.

For the moment, those duties mostly involved scanning the shoreline north of the river. Nothing appeared to move out there, on what had once been the Uruguayan side of the border. Not now, though. Now it was all part of
la Federación
. A few bright emerald pinpricks of light burned in a cluster about ten miles inland, but the shoreline was dark. The Black Hawk banked gently a few degrees to the north-east, taking them over land for the first time. Michelle craned around to peer over her shoulder into the cabin, which glowed like a child’s idea of a fairy cave in her night-vision goggles. Far ahead of them, she could make out a faint dome of opalescent light on the very horizon, marking the location of the Federation Navy’s fleet base.

She would have sneered at the vanity of the pompous title ‘fleet base’, were it not for the fact that their own aircraft was held together with hundred-mile-an-hour tape, bailing wire, and promises. And that most of the US military bases she’d flown out of in the close-to-five years since March 2003 had all suffered from the same air of neglect and making do. Salvaged gear, left exposed to the elements or in compromised warehouses and storage depots, only took you so far.

Yep, two paper tigers staring each other down in a burning barn – that’s the world of tomorrow. What a fucking joke.

‘Five minutes to insertion.’

Captain Lindell’s voice barely registered in her earphones over the roar of the engine and the deep, thrumming bass note of the chopper blades. It was as though the tension had strangled his voice down to a clenched murmur. Royse held up her hand with all five fingers splayed and nodded at the spook. She was already preparing herself, but nodded back anyway. Michelle had watched the woman take inventory of her load before they lifted off from the container ship, three hundred miles off the coast. She watched her repeat the performance now that they were almost at their destination.

A minute later, obviously having reassured herself she had not forgotten her passport, wallet or Gerber Mark II fighting knife, the woman closed her eyes and let her head loll back until her helmet touched the bulkhead behind her. It was the first human gesture, the first intimation of weakness, or fear, or exhaustion that Michelle had seen her make, and as quickly as it came, it passed. Her head snapped back up. Her eyes blinked once.

‘Two minutes out.’

The woman chambered a round in her HK-417, a metallic
kerrchung
that never failed to lay a cold finger at the base of Royse’s spine. The 5.56 mm HK-416s she had seen here and there, but the 417, with the heavier 7.62 mm round, had been a rumour until tonight. The spook’s brand-new Heckler & Koch was another sign that she wasn’t your standard-issue self-loving, spec-ops asshole, whispering, ‘For I am the baddest motherfucker in the Valley.’ No piece-of-shit M16 or M4 for this chick.

Fuck it
, she figured.
Another day, another dollar.

Michelle readied herself at the door, training the electric M134 minigun over the treetops, which rippled beneath her feet at a hundred and forty knots. Her knees bent to compensate for the sudden twisting, diving flight path as Lindell began to track the nap of the earth, heading for a small clearing marked on their maps as Objective Underwood.

‘Thirty seconds.’

The Black Hawk pivoted, seeming to turn on a dime, as if Lindell were trying to throw them both out the rear hatch by way of momentum. The woman braced herself against the bulkhead, holding tight to a grab bar over her right shoulder. Royse sank deeper into a squat, until her knees were bent almost at right angles. Then the inertia bled away swiftly as they came to hover over a patch of field between two clusters of trees. Michelle checked the ground beneath them and reported that the aircraft was clear. She signalled to the woman to step forward and hook up.

The spook needed no help attaching herself to the fast-rope apparatus. Royse had one second to look into her eyes before she stepped out and dropped away into the night. The woman did not look scared, but there was something haunting her eyes. Something in the back of the deep, clenched lines which made her face appear unusually long and drawn in the low-light amplification of the NVGs.

One brief nod.

A thumbs-up gesture, and she was gone, dropping down into the darkness.

*

 

Caitlin fast-roped down to the clearing floor, which squelched under the tread of her canvas-sided jungle boots. She scanned the tree line for any hint of enemy presence without expecting to find it. If they were going to be fired on, chances were she’d have seen the tracers arcing in while she was dangling, all but defenceless, in midair. Releasing the rope, she signalled to Staff Sergeant Royse that she was clear and hurried off to find cover as the chopper increased power and clawed up into the humid night.

A flick of the wrist revealed the time: 0126 hours.

She had four hours of movement before she would have to lay up for the day. It wouldn’t take her all the way to her objective but she planned to be well within observation range by the time the sun rose.

The Echelon field agent moved quickly away from the drop zone, heading north by north-east, following the track programmed into her mil-grade Navman GPS unit. The brush wrapped itself around her, slowing her down as soon as she’d passed under the first tree canopy. Night-vision goggles resolved the environment into a flat, eerily phosphorescent landscape of sinuous roots and vines, of fat, nodding leaves, thick snarls of creeper, of rot and genesis. The smell of decay and of new life growing over the top of older, worn-out vegetation was strong, almost cloying. Clusters of such flora dotted the grassland steppe behind her during this, the height of the South American summer. It combined the worst of all possible worlds: a main course of humidity with a side platter of wide-open kill zones, topped off with jungle-like collections of trees, brush and other plant life.

Caitlin was familiar with the fecund crush of the jungle. She’d spent a good year and a half tracking two targets through the old-growth forests of Sumatra and Aceh, long before the Disappearance, while posing as a Peace Corps volunteer helping to build schools. She knew the jungle. They had come to terms.

But the problem now was more than one of terrain – all in all, this was a tactical nightmare. She proceeded to the nearest point of cover and pushed further inside the forest.

Two hundred yards in, she came to a small stream, a couple of feet across and easily forded. Shallow water gurgled down a slight but noticeable slope, where Caitlin spied a small animal drinking upstream from her, a squat, barrel-shaped grazer of some sort. It sniffed the air cautiously a moment after she’d spotted it, but returned to drinking when no obvious threat came charging out of the night. A couple of boulders, huge moss-covered menhirs, formed a natural fort. She decided to lay up there for a minute.

The stream led most of the distance to her objective, covered by varying degrees of thick vegetation: it was the best bet for a concealed approach in the dark. It was also probably the most obvious . . . She pushed that thought away. Nothing could be done about it. Traipsing through open grassland in full gear was a sure way to get a third eye drilled into her forehead.

Hundreds of bugs scuttled away as she laid her HK-417 against the rock. A giant centipede reared up as if to strike. Caitlin swiftly killed the insect with one slash of a spring-loaded wrist blade, flicking the two halves away with gloved fingers. The last thing she needed was to call in an extraction because of a bug sting.

She let her senses expand out into the surrounding landscape
,
listening for human speech, or footfall, the clink and rattle of poorly secured equipment; sniffing the air just as the animal had done, tasting it for the scent of man, or the last meal he’d eaten, or the soap he had washed with, or not, as might be. When she was certain no immediate danger existed, she relaxed fractionally. Or rather, she redirected her energy to her first lay-up procedure.

Again she inventoried her equipment. Nobody wants to be the guy who turned up at the beach without his towel, or the state-sponsored killer who forgot her ninja throwing stars . . .
Okay
, she conceded,
I don’t have ninja throwing stars. But it would be totally badass if I did.

Caitlin flipped up the monocular night sight on her PVS-14s to check the digital map velcroed to her left arm. As was so often the case nowadays, Echelon resources didn’t stretch to a live overwatch link. No one had that – not even the Russian SVR had the resources for live overwatch anymore. She was on her own, which was not entirely a bad thing. Nobody was recording her every move for an embarrassing moment with the media further on down the road. Nobody was barking at her through a headset, telling her to do shit that made no sense. She had good data, though, and with that and her experience, there wasn’t much else Caitlin really needed.

The little stream beside which she’d laid up ran through the centre of the dimly illuminated screen. Her own position was marked with a blue dot. She hoped to follow the stream up-slope for at least three klicks before it began to veer away from her intended destination, one of Roberto’s many detention facilities, this one tucked away in an old police station about ten kilometres inland. The best intelligence they had, placed her target there. Wales had called it a ‘memory hole’: a dark place where the regime stuffed away its mistakes, embarrassments and occasional secrets. Caitlin wondered if they understood the nature of the secret they had stashed down here in the back forty of the former Uruguayan Republic.

She picked up the 417, resettled her pack a little more comfortably, and took a mouthful of chilled Gatorade from the camel-back bladder woven into it. The brush reappeared in eldritch green as she snapped the PVS-14 back down over her dominant eye. The potbellied beast (was it a tapir – was that what they were called?) scuttled into the undergrowth as she began to move.

You’re a long way south
, Caitlin thought of the tapir. Maybe it had got loose from a zoo or something.

Time to move on herself. Quickly setting the GPS unit to vibrate when she had covered two-and-a-half kilometres, Caitlin carefully stepped down onto the sandy creek bank from the small grassy bend on which she’d been resting.

She was her own point and cover, responsible for her flanks and rearguard. She was alone; her natural state of being. Consciously pushing away thoughts of her husband and baby back at the safe house in Scotland, wilfully forgetting the life they had tried to make for themselves on the farm in Wiltshire, Caitlin Monroe, Echelon’s senior surviving field agent, let her true nature take over. A predator, she stalked through the primordial heat – teeth out, fangs ready, all of her senses twitching and straining, searching for prey.

It didn’t matter to her that this part of the country, thinly populated before the Disappearance, was even more sparsely peopled now. She had been trained to assume the worst, to prepare for ill chance and disaster as a certainty. There were no large townships within thirty kilometres, and the terrain between here and the objective was undoubtedly deserted.
La colapso
had emptied it, and Roberto Morales’ regime kept it that way. But still, she would move forward as though snares blocked her path at every turn.

BOOK: Angels of Vengeance: The Disappearance Novel 3
13.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Fog by Annelie Wendeberg
The Haunting of Josephine by Kathleen Whelpley
Glaciers by Alexis Smith
Love Among the Walnuts by Jean Ferris
The Viking by Talbott, Marti
All Hail the Queen by Meesha Mink
The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty
Demon's Web by Laura Hawks