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Authors: David Wood

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Men's Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Thriller & Suspense, #Sea Adventures, #War & Military, #Women's Adventure, #Genre Fiction, #Sea Stories, #Thriller

Amber

BOOK: Amber
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AMBER: A Dane and Bones Origins Story

By David Wood and Rick Chesler

Amber- A Dane and Bones Origins Story

Copyright 2015 by David Wood

Published by Gryphonwood Press

www.gryphonwoodpress.com

This book is a work of fiction. All characters and situations are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons and events is entirely coincidental.

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Prologue

 

East Prussia, 1945

 

Anguished cries of
the dying echoed through the underground chamber. A weary contingent of German soldiers lay about the grungy space in various states of fatigue and illness-induced stupor. Major Hans Goering, their superior officer on this outing, gave a final shove with a pry bar, wrenching the lid from a wooden crate as one of the few men still able to move about staggered over to him. Goering let the tool drop to the dirt floor as he addressed his soldier.

“Private Schmidt, what is it?”

The young man quickly glanced back at the group of ailing soldiers lying on a disheveled mass of impromptu bedding before looking the major in the eyes.

“The men are saying it is the curse.” He lowered his head, no longer able to maintain eye contact with his superior.

Goering pursed his lips at his subordinate and then reached into the crate. He removed an object from it and held it in his hand while he admired its artistry. At length, he told his soldier, “There is no such thing as a curse,” without taking his eyes from the artifact.

At that moment something caught his eye and the major’s heart skipped a beat. He dropped the item as if it had bitten him and it landed on the dirt next to the crate. The soldier stared at it intently.

“Sir, what—“

Suddenly they heard loud voices and the clatter of footsteps approaching from the chamber’s sole entrance, the trammel of jackboots echoing into the subterranean cavity. The major used his foot to hastily cover the fallen object as best he could with pieces of splintered wood from the crate. He stood ramrod straight, forgetting about his newfound object as the new arrivals entered the space. His pulse quickened while at the same time his blood seemed to turn to sludge. Goering was used to being in command of his field unit, but these men would change that.

Schutzstaffel.

The word ricocheted around his skull like a kernel popping in a hot pan.

Of all the entities of the Third Reich, the SS was not to be trifled with. Their very presence demanded the utmost in attention to detail and signified that something was happening deemed to be of great import by Hitler himself. Goering didn’t recognize any of the individual men but he had no trouble identifying their uniforms. The boots, the red armbands bearing black
swastikas
, the...masks? That part was unusual. The SS men wore some type of gas mask.

The first of the contingent of eight SS into the room stepped up to Goering and spoke, his only preamble a cursory glance at the crate the major had just opened as well as a few more farther away from them. The major’s first impulse was to ask about the masks—he and his men did not carry them, were they safe? But he stifled that itch. It was the type of insubordination that could get him demoted or worse, and besides, he thought, as he listened to the groans of his men, clearly they were not safe. Not willing to risk unintentionally running afoul of the SS officer, he merely waited for the man to speak.

“Do not unpack these crates. They are being moved.” The voice was muffled behind the black rubber mask but still audible enough at this close range.

Goering flashed on the item now lying on the ground next to his own boots. He made a conscious effort not to look down. “Very well. I will have my men pack everything up.”

The lead SS man moved closer to the major while the other SS stood behind him, all of them staring intently around the chamber, at the crates, the walls, the slovenly men and their pitiful condition.

“We will do that. You and your men should retreat to your quarters and take
these
with you.” He pointed to the most ragged-looking of all the soldiers, those who wore not German but Russian uniforms.

The major’s face twisted into a mask of confusion.

“Forgive me, sir, but I do not understand.”

The SS officer’s voice rose. “It is not for you to understand. It is for you to obey.”

“Very well, sir. With your permission I will have my soldiers remove the unpacking debris to clear the area for your men to work in these cramped quarters.” He nodded at some broken pieces of wood left from opening a few of the other crates but did not reference the one at his feet.

“Be quick about it, Major!”

“Yes, sir!” He saluted the man and then spoke to his soldier who had seen him take the object from the crate. “Private Schmidt, gather the wood scraps and take them over there.” He pointed to a small alcove carved out of the earth. Schmidt followed his gaze to the area he knew was designated as the major’s private quarters, and Goering could see the questions forming on his lips.

“Private Schmidt!” He spoke sternly but at low volume. “Did you not understand my orders? I said gather the packing waste...” Goering flicked his eyes ever so briefly to the scraps of wood covering the item at his feet. “...and remove it to that area there.” He pointed to the adjoining small chamber. At this Schmidt saluted him smartly and bent down to the ground beneath the crate, his back to the SS officer who was now talking to his fellow officers, something about how the attacks were intensifying.

Satisfied he had done everything he could, the major retreated to the rear of the chamber where he gave additional orders to those few of his men still able to carry them out, relating to moving them to their field quarters above ground. Then, with the SS still in the room, pointing to open crates, he retreated to the small antechamber that served as his private quarters while down here underground.

He lay on a cot and stared at nothing while the sounds of hammering reminded him of nails being driven into his own coffin.

Chapter 1

 

Joshua Tree National Park, California

 

The commander stood
on a desert plain, surveying a vast jumble of car-sized boulders not far away from where he stood with his squad. A large tract of the vast park had been closed with the cooperation of the National Park Service for the Navy’s usage of the terrain. He raised a megaphone to his lips.

“SEALs: Sea. Air. Land. Today’s training exercise will focus on the latter part of that equation. Are you ready to begin?”

“Yes sir!” A chorus went up in unison, but one voice was perhaps a bit louder than the others.

Dane Maddock squinted into the noonday sun as he looked at his commander. He knew the desert around them was wild and unforgiving, its topography varied, making it a favorite spot in which to train. There was also a surreal beauty about the place, with its red and brown dirt and rock hues dotted with green scrub brush and the occasional strange-looking trees like something out of a Dr. Seuss book that gave the park its namesake. Maddock found he had to disregard all that in order to stay focused on his mission, instead choosing to see his surroundings only in terms of tactical awareness—potential sniper nests, foxholes, climbing routes and survival resources.

“You all right, Maddock? You look like you just walked in on your parents making the beast with two backs.” This from the fellow SEAL by Maddock’s side.

“Don’t bug me, Bonebrake. I’m thinking.” 

Uriah “Bones” Bonebrake, a broad-shouldered Cherokee who stood six-and-a-half feet tall, made a face that Maddock knew signified,
“Well, excuse me for living.”
He also knew from prior experience that it was unlikely the boisterous Indian would stay silent, and he did not disappoint now.

“Don’t strain yourself.”

The commander’s voice interrupted them both. “On the cargo net there you will find one rucksack per man. They are all identical so there’s no advantage to first pick. Each of you gets one. It contains all equipment sanctioned for this exercise, including climbing gear, weapons and med-kit. You will be using only non-lethal rounds for this exercise. Eliminating the opposition is not required in order to achieve your objective but may prove helpful.”

Maddock leaned in close to Bones while he eyed the heap of a dozen packs along with the other ten men lined up next to them. “I need every advantage I can get. This is more your kind of country than mine.”

Bones frowned in his direction while Maddock shifted his gaze to watch a golden eagle soar overhead. “The Cherokee tribe is from the southeast, genius.”

“Yeah, but some of you relocated to the west, didn’t you?”

“Not my family. We hid in the woods and built a casino.”

Once again the commander’s voice boomed. “Look at the exercise theater. A target asset to be recovered has been hidden somewhere within these boulders.” He spread his arms wide as the SEAL team collectively groaned at the expansive rockscape spread out before them. It was thick with boulders large and small, and even a rock face towering perhaps six stories from the top of the stone heap. It was a geologist’s dream but a field operator’s nightmare.

“The twelve of you have been divided into three teams, denoted by your uniform color. None of the three colors confer a camouflage advantage over the others in this terrain.” Maddock looked around the group and saw that this was true. None of them wore desert camo or even khaki or tan. He and Maddock each wore olive drab fatigues, while some of their fellow SEALs wore black, and the third squad dressed in navy blue, all of them of little use from a tactical standpoint in this part of the arid desert.

The commander continued. “The asset itself is small enough to fit in your packs or to be carried by one able-bodied man. It does not move and does not in and of itself pose any danger to you.” He grinned devilishly at the looks of hopelessness on the soldiers’ faces. Clearly they had been hoping the target was large, perhaps a structure of some sort, not something that could be carried.

“Like finding a needle in a haystack, right?” Maddock said quietly to Bones.

“More like finding your mom in the strip club. Wait, she’s probably easy to find. She’s the one with a body like the Michelin man.”

By this point in their military careers Maddock had grown accustomed to Bones’ wisecracking at often inappropriate moments, but that didn’t mean he was okay with it. He was about to return the insult in kind when the commander’s voice rang out.

“Green Team, you have earned yourselves a three-minute handicap. That’s one hundred eighty seconds for those of you who failed grammar school mathematics.” He shot a dark look at Bones. “After the Go signal, you can park your carcasses right there until I give you the word.”

Maddock instantly became aware of the withering stares shot his way by their two other Green Team squad mates: one stood four men down to their left, a dark-skinned African-American with a clean-shaven head almost as tall and broad of shoulder as Bones, and three down to their right, a Caucasian similar in stature to Maddock.

“Sorry, Willis,” Bones said to the black man, Willis Sanders,
who only narrowed his eyes in return.

“Got your back, Prof,” he offered to their other teammate, whose name was in fact Pete Chapman, but who was known as Professor due to his affinity for trivia as well as his general intelligence. He, too, had no verbal reply for Bones.

“Gear up and standby!”

“Hooyah!” The SEALs bolted for the mound of bags at their commander’s order. Maddock, Bones, Willis, and Professor each donned one of the packs along with their fellow SEAL competitors. The megaphone sounded again as the commander looked at his watch.

“All teams ready except for Green! Mission starts in three...two...one...go!”

Maddock, Bones, Willis and Professor watched dejectedly as Black Team and Blue Team fanned out and ran for the boulder field. After a few seconds Maddock knelt and began going through the contents of his pack. He noted that none of the other teams had taken the time to do this, and they had nothing better to do while they waited out the three minutes.

“Comm check,” Maddock said holding up a handheld radio he pulled from his pack. All four of them turned their units on and found them to be on different channels. They agreed on one that they would use and then Maddock set his to scan mode to search the frequencies for radio traffic so that they might hear the other teams’ comm traffic later.

Meanwhile, Bones had his firearm out of the pack, a Sig Sauer P226 pistol. “Paint rounds, dudes, ours are bright green.” He raised the weapon and traced a member of Blue Team through the sights as he reached the rocks. “Time?” he inquired as he followed the special warfare operator’s progress up into the boulders with his pistol.

“Two minutes until you may engage!” the commander answered him.

Professor and Willis both narrowed their eyes. The implications Bones had raised were clear.

Professor eyed Bones, who still sighted through the P226. “If you have a shot then they’re going to have a shot, too. They all know we’re just sitting ducks out here. We’re going to have to spread out just as soon as we can.”

“I still think I can take at least one out.” Bones didn’t look up from his gun.

Maddock, now coiling a length of rope and clipping it to his belt, looked out on the boulder field. “Professor’s right, Bones. All any of us has are pistols, so there’s no real sniper threat, but a guy on the edge of the rocks could take out all four of us pretty easy.”

“Thanks again for getting us into this mess, Bones. I always wanted to know what a fish in a barrel feels like.” Willis voiced his opinion.

“Help me out, would you Willis? I need a steady platform. Just kneel down in front of me, I’ll rest this little paint shooter on your shoulder, and it should give me steady enough aim to take this guy down.”

“You crazy?” Willis took a step closer to Bones, staring at him as he looked down his gun sights. “We need to be ready to move, man!”

“Relax. They’re probably all scrambling around looking for the asset. No one’s even opened a pack yet that I can see.” Bones continued tracing the man as the member of Blue Team ducked in and out of various nooks and crannies.

“One minute to engage!”

Maddock shouldered his pack and looked out at the rocks. “If we play our cards right, Bones can take out one or two guys
and
we can spread out quick.” He pointed to a central rock spire, by far the most salient feature of the playing field. It consisted of three individual monoliths, each rising perhaps six stories vertically until they touched together at the top. The base was surrounded by an intimidating array of huge rocks haphazardly arranged. “A lot of guys will assume the asset is up there,” he finished.

“It could be up there,” Professor added.

“Time-consuming climb, and easy to pick climbers off that high wall if you’re close enough,” Maddock said.

“Hopefully the other teams eliminate a few of their own with cross-fighting before we get there.” This from Professor. “Thirty seconds. What’s our plan?”

“I still got this guy.” Bones looked at Willis. “C’mon, Willis. I need support here.” The big African-American muttered a choice curse under his breath and knelt in front of Bones, facing away from him. Bones rested the barrel of the pistol on his rock steady shoulder and took aim at the soldier on the edge of the rock field. Other men were visible farther away, very difficult targets for a pistol at this distance.

Maddock shouldered his pack and addressed the team. “Two reasons taking the top of that spire is worth doing: the asset could be there, and even if it’s not, it’ll provide a bird’s eye view that could help us locate the asset.”

“And it would make the ultimate sniper’s nest up there...Speaking of which, I got this guy...” Bones’ finger began squeezing the trigger in anticipation.

The commanders’ eyes were glued to his watch, his arm slowly rising as he looked at it.

Maddock continued, speaking rapidly. “Let’s split up in case they do try to shoot us in the open. Bones and I will meet up at the base of the tower. Professor and Willis: you two prowl the boulder field, separately. Stay in comm. Sound good?”

All three men gave one syllable answers indicating their agreement. Then the commander’s voice came over the megaphone, loud enough to be heard by the other teams in the rocks, painfully so for Green Team.

“Green Team cleared for go in three...two...one...now. Engage!”

The report from Bones’ P226 served as a starter pistol for Maddock and Professor, each of whom set out in opposite directions toward the boulder field. A shouted curse followed by the words, “I’m hit!” told them that his round had found its mark. Per the rules of engagement, the Blue Team member who had been shot placed his hands in the air and began walking back to the cargo net.

Bones’ pistol spat again, multiple rounds this time, and a member of Black Team who had been bouldering on the near perimeter of the rock field froze when struck by Bones’ paintball, and then slid to the ground. Two men now took the walk of shame across the open plain to the commander.

“Six left. Let’s find that thing.” Bones thumped Willis on the back and rolled off to his right, aware that standing now would present a higher profile to those seeking to return fire. Willis dashed straight ahead toward the boulders, keeping his considerable frame low to the ground, moving almost crab-like at times as he sought whatever low, rocky cover he could find.

A paint round splattered a squat barrel cactus next to Maddock as he took the longest, most off-center route to the rocks. He raised his radio to his lips and hit the transmitter. “Taking fire, still moving.”

“Copy that, under fire,” came the grunted reply from Willis, already on the move himself, straight toward the rocks.

Bones, meanwhile, had just holstered his pistol and taken the first few steps toward the rocks when he saw a bright blue spot bloom on the hard-packed dirt in front of him. Blue Team was shooting at him. He dropped and rolled before transitioning into a low crawl behind a mesquite bush for cover.

“I made the rocks.” Professor’s voice boomed over Green Team’s channel. Even though Maddock, Bones and Willis still needed to get there, the news buoyed their spirits. Running the gauntlet could be done. Maddock’s voice came over the comm channel in panting rasps.

“Copy. Anybody still taking fire?”

Three replies in the negative greeted Maddock’s ears.

“I made it, too.” Willis’ voice informed them over the radios.

“Me three. I’m in a small boulder cave. Nice and cozy. ” Bones sounded almost happy, like there was nothing else he’d rather be doing.

“I see a man on the tower wall,” Professor reported.

“Copy that, I see him too,” Maddock sucked in a deep breath. “I just reached the rocks, east end.”

Maddock was formulating his next sentence when they heard a shot.

“Oh! He’s down. Picked off the wall!” Willis reported.

Blue or Black, you know?” Maddock asked.

“No bino’s in this kit and I can’t see from here.”

“Only five guys in our way now, whatever color they are. Green 1, ready for tower approach?” Bones’ voice traveled through the comm system.

BOOK: Amber
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