Read Echo Six: Black Ops 6 - Battle for Beirut Online

Authors: Eric Meyer

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Echo Six: Black Ops 6 - Battle for Beirut

BOOK: Echo Six: Black Ops 6 - Battle for Beirut
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Table of Contents

ECHO SIX: BLACK OPS 6

By Eric Meyer

First Edition

Copyright © 2013 Eric Meyer

Published by Swordworks Books

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

                             

Prologue
 

He used to beat his wife. Although not as harshly as he'd done to other women. The girl must have heard the screams in the night. Good, that was as it should be. Women were the property of men and should be reminded of that fact. He also knew she'd spied on him recently, at least once, in his special place.

He'd forgotten to lock the door, but when he heard her footsteps on the staircase, he decided it was as well she understood what he could do. He heard the handle turn, and from the corner of his eye, watched her peering in at him. He saw her put her hand in her mouth to stop herself from crying out in astonishment.

He was naked. Of course he was. The young girl was spread-eagled on a bed positioned in the center of the room. Her hands and ankles were tied to the four corners, and her gag had slipped down so that she was screaming and sobbing for him to stop. Her beautiful smooth skin was slippery with perspiration, and her musky odor making him aroused. It was familiar to him, the smell of absolute, mortal terror.

He ignored her cries and gripped his sharp dagger. The weapon was called a Janbiya, its curved, razor-sharp blade engraved with verses from the Koran. He slid it across his victim's face, carving the first gouge in her firm skin. It excited him before sex, and he found he was even more aroused knowing she was watching. He slashed twice more, avoiding the blood that spurted as he came too close to a vein. She shrieked even louder.

Patience, my dear, I am almost finished.

He adjusted the angle of the blade and pressed it against her throat so that more blood trickled out. His penis was hard and erect, sticking out like a baton from between his legs, as it always did on these occasions. He thrust into her and began pumping. Within seconds, he was on the point of a climax, and he shouted in ecstasy. At the same moment, he brought the blade across the girl's throat. She issued a final sigh, and the last of her breath escaped her body. He slumped over her, mingling the sweat of his body with the blood that had poured from the dead victim's throat. She was a worthy sacrifice, and he'd make certain she was buried in the Bedouin way, in an unmarked grave out in the deep desert. She deserved no less.

He intended for his daughter to remember that night as a warning, and to be obedient in future. But it was not to be. The stupid girl fell in love with a local boy, the son of one of his business contacts. As far as he knew, the two youngsters had gone no further than holding hands, and maybe stolen the odd kiss. But he decided that was much too far for a modest Muslim girl. The next step was inevitable and would bring disgrace on his family, so they had to be stopped. He called for her, and she stood in front of him defiantly, refusing to back down. Her face was red with anger when he told her the affair was over.

"No! We shall see each other whenever we wish, and you have no right to forbid it."

"No right! You are my daughter, and I had great things planned for you. This boy has defiled you."

"He didn't defile me, Father. We only…"

She stopped as he slapped her hard around the face.

"Be silent. Your life belongs to me, and I have made my decision. Your future has been made clear to me by Allah the merciful; you will become a Shaheed."

A Shaheed!
She almost choked in terror. "No, no, Father! I will not do it."

He smiled, enjoying her fear. Fear was control. "You will do as I say, or I will kill you now. It is also my wish that you change your name to that of a great martyr. When the time comes, you will bring great honor to my family by sacrificing your life to the cause of the Prophet."

"No, Father, no. I have my life in front of me. I want to…"

How dare she argue!

He snatched out his knife, knowing she would recognize it. How could she forget the Janbiya he'd used to cut the girl while she spied on him? She tried to run, but he was ready for her. He snatched her arm, pulled her close, and ran the razor sharp blade down her face in a lightning move. He watched in fascination as the blood ran down her neck and soaked into her robes. He slashed again, and again. Finally, he stood back in satisfaction to admire his handiwork. He ignored her howls of pain and anguish.

"No boy will want to look at you now. All you have left is to carry out my wishes, Shaheed."

For a long time, she stood shaking, numb with pain and terror, and the knowledge that what he said was true. Her life had ended. All that was left for her was death. Her father had decreed it, and in Saudi Arabia, he owned her as absolutely as the armored limousine he kept parked outside the palace. She looked up at him as he spoke again.

"Do you understand me? Who are you?"

"I am Shaheed."

He nodded. "Good. When it is time for your martyrdom, I will tell you. Until then, you will devote your studies to learning about Islam and the path to paradise. You may stay in this palace as my servant and make yourself useful. You will not leave until the hour of your martyrdom is near. Now get yourself cleaned up."

She bowed. "Yes, Father."

She walked away, and he grimaced. Why did men have to have daughters? They were useless. But perhaps he could make this one of some benefit to him. The Prophet had ordered her fate, through him.

Chapter One
 

Private Clinic - Brussels, Belgium

The physician was an older man, bald and plump, with the kind of rimless glasses sported by scientists and actors playing the part of Gestapo men in old B movie war flicks. He spoke English with a strong Germanic accent, which made him a Flemish Belgian. He was fluent. And chilling.

“Your problem could be anything, Herr Talley, or it could be nothing. I will need to take some blood before I know more. How often does the numbness afflict you?”

He’d told him it happened unexpectedly, maybe a couple of times a week. More when he was under stress.

“Ach so. You have a stressful job? A physical job, maybe?” he added, looking at the man's muscular physique. A soldier, surely, he looked like an officer. He had the tough, confident air of a man born to command, and this was the city of NATO Headquarters, after all. It wasn't hard to put it together. The patient before him was tall, long-limbed, with curly, dark brown hair over a smooth face; a face that showed the effects of wind and weather. His muscles were hard, like whipcord, and the skin on his body betrayed the scars of a number of old wounds. Bullet wounds, without a doubt. But the patient shook his head.

“Nothing like that. I’m a consultant. Nothing important.”

“What kind of consulting?”

“Security issues, mainly. Just admin stuff, that kind of thing.”

“I see," he replied doubtfully, "So you'd describe your job as undemanding, sedentary, even?”

“Sure, something like that. Most times it’s pretty boring.”

“I see. I suspect you may have a problem of the central nervous system, do you understand me? But it could be something else, we will see.”

He stared at the man. “Doc, tell me straight. Is it…?”

"You must wait for the blood tests. I cannot say more until then."

Lieutenant-Commander Abe Talley dressed and left the anonymity of the Doctor's office. It was not uncommon in the military to see a private physician first, when a diagnosis could lead to the end of a career, especially in an elite Special Forces unit. He laughed inwardly, a bitter laugh. His career, what about his life? What could he do, use a walking stick to lead his men into battle? Run operations from a wheelchair?

 
In his mind, the word, 'fuck' kept repeating itself, over and over.

What can I do? I’m finished. Washed up. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

* * *

They looked out of the Perspex window of the sleek, modern Boeing 737-800 beyond the upswept wingtip devices, the canards designed to reduce drag. The airliner was at 30,000 feet, passing the long, jagged line of mountains that formed the border between Syria and Lebanon. Below, they could see the rolling plains, the towns and villages, and several miles to the west, the shimmering blue of the Mediterranean. Hannah, an exuberant teenager turned to her older friend and grinned.

"Nearly there! We just have to fly of the length of Lebanon, and will be home."

Home. Nava savored the word and thought about what it meant - the struggle to survive constant Syrian brutality the oppression, the misery, and the deaths of so many friends. Now they were within an hour of landing at Ben Gurion International, entry point for the State of Israel, and the start of a new life. She stared out of the window, enjoying the endless blue of the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.

The sea was almost empty, except for a vast, flat-topped ship maybe ten miles distant. Smaller escort vessels surrounded the vessel, and as she watched, a pair of fighter jets flew in for a landing. They looked no bigger than houseflies, but she knew different. She touched her friend's arm.

"Hannah, look! It's an aircraft carrier. Probably American."

Her friend looked in the direction she pointed and pretended interest. "I guess."

 
Nava smiled. At eighteen years of age, Hannah had little interest in anything other than achieving freedom from the cruel savagery of the Syrian regime. And then to start doing the things normal teenage girls do; clothes, boys, makeup, music, and dancing. The fact the aircraft carrier belonged to the United States, part of NATO, the organization that had fought for their freedom, didn't occur to her.

At one time, it had seemed impossible that they'd make it out of Syria. Yet here they were, almost in Israel, thanks to NATO. And one very special man, a man who'd promised to join her when they were safe in Israel. The man she planned to spend the rest of her life with, if he would have her. She cautioned herself that they hadn’t arrived yet. How many times had their Islamic tormentors dashed the cup of hope from their hands?

"I can hardly believe it," she heard her friend exclaim, "It's as if…"

The cabin speaker clicked on to interrupt her.

"This is the Captain. We have a slight problem. Nothing at all to worry about, but I'm going to put down at Beirut International and get it checked out. My guess is we’ll be on the ground for an hour or two at most. Sorry about the delay, folks, but better to be safe than sorry."

"Harah!" Hannah murmured the Hebrew word for

shit

, "My cousins are meeting me at Ben Gurion. I hope the airline let people know we’ll be late."

"They will," Nava assured her friend, “My uncle Mahmoud will be there too. He’s taking me to my new home. I can't wait to see him.” She smiled at Hannah’s worried expression. “Don't worry. It's been so long, they won't mind waiting another hour or two."

It wasn’t just her family. She knew there’d be someone else on his way to meet her in Israel. Abe Talley, the Special Forces commander who’d done so much for her and her people when he was operating inside Syria. Since then, they’d only been in contact on the Internet, using Skype to conduct conversations. Conversations that were usually about the future they could make together. About the things they could do together. Her brow furrowed as she remembered the last time she’d spoken to him, just two days before.

The tough, confident man she’d come to know and love had been different. She couldn’t put her finger on the reason, but he seemed tense and preoccupied, about their future, maybe? Was there something wrong? With her, had he changed his mind? She couldn’t begin to consider that. No, it couldn't be true. It had to be something else. She’d talk to him soon when they met up in Israel. In the meantime, she tried to put it out of her mind. Somehow, they’d sort it out, whatever it was that was worried him. But as much as she tried, she couldn’t help gnawing at the problem. Was he ill? It didn’t seem likely. Nava was a trainee medic, and whatever else troubled him, he was fitter and tougher than any man she’d ever known. Her mind wandered again, and she pictured his hard, determined face.

Abe, whatever it is, we can work it out. Don’t shut me out, no matter what it is.

She sat back, forcing herself to relax and unwind. She saw Hannah glance at her, probably wondering if she was concerned about the inflight emergency. She kept her expression calm, and the girl relaxed but continued to stare at her. Once again, she could feel Hannah examining her face. Perhaps there was a tiny amount of envy.

Nava Khalil was slim, with an oval face and smooth, olive skin. People told her she was very pretty, and Abe told her she was the most gorgeous girl in the world, but she thought otherwise. Besides, there were other, more important things to be concerned about; like now.

She saw Hannah relax, reassured by the calm confidence Nava projected. It was something she'd been born with. When everything around her was chaos, she managed to focus on what was important, and what wasn't. It was an inner strength, an oasis of calm inside an aircraft filled with passengers becoming more nervous by the minute.

The aircon was struggling and failing to cope with the increased demand from frightened panicking people, and the air felt stale. It even tasted stale, thick, and cloying. The twin evils of a technical problem in the aircraft, and a landing in Beirut, were enough to prey on the strongest minds. The biggest worry was Beirut. Some people said the bad old days were returning, and that a visit to Beirut was akin to a visit to hell. Others said it was worse.

The big Boeing banked for the turn toward Beirut and began the final descent. The cabin, which had been filled with lively conversation, was now almost silent. Beirut, Lebanon, had for many years been a bloody battleground between the different religious sects who resided in the troubled country; Muslims, mainly Shiites fighting under the banner of Hezbollah, Christians, mostly Orthodox, and Druze, a minority Islamic sect, who were as quick to use violence as their infamous Shiite and Sunni cousins. The violence was fueled by proxy wars, fought by countries such as Syria and Iran. Israel, too, had a vested interest, but theirs was in maintaining peace on their border with Lebanon. Their armor had more than once crossed the border to pacify their northern neighbors, and they had no wish to repeat the bloody and costly exercise.

Beirut had become a byword for violence, destruction, and death; until recently, that is, and then a miracle happened. The fighting stopped, and the focus of its citizens ceased to be on destroying the city. The new mantra was to rebuild and renew. The old Beirut, once the playground of the Middle East, was re-emerging from the ashes and the rubble.

The Boeing thumped onto the tarmac and rolled to a standstill, close to a maintenance hangar where ground crew waited to start work. The cabin crew served cold drinks and kept the aircon at full power as the men on the ground went to work on the fuel system. They were told a simple pressure warning light had lit up on the panel in the cockpit, and until it was resolved, the Boeing was going nowhere.

They waited, and they waited some more. After an hour and a half, the Captain came into the cabin to speak to them. He was a tall man, fit, dark-haired, and suntanned; the right person to make nervous passengers feel confident again. He looked at them one by one; his white-toothed smile warm and friendly.

"I'm real sorry, folks. The repair will take a little longer than we thought. They're flying in a new part to replace a pump that malfunctioned, so the current estimate is we'll be on the ground for at least six hours. I spoke to the airport manager, and you may leave the aircraft to stretch your legs if you wish. There are facilities in the terminal, restaurants, and shops. Alternately, the city is only a couple of miles away, and we've made taxis available to take anyone into the center that wishes make the trip. No charge."

Another smile, maybe not so wide.

"Is it safe?"

The person who asked the question was an overweight businessman sitting next to the emergency exit over the wing. The seat gave more legroom, and the chance to get out first in an emergency. Obviously, he was a man who took his comfort and safety seriously. The Captain smiled at him.

"The war is over, Sir. Hostilities ended several years ago, and you'll find Beirut is a mighty pleasant capital to visit."

Nava noted he hadn't answered the question.

"I heard there was more trouble in the city," the businessman persisted stubbornly, "Some say the troubles are about to start again."

Another smile. Definitely forced this time. "You shouldn't believe everything you hear, Sir. People are taking their vacations in Beirut, which gives you an idea of how safe it is these days. It's up to you. If you prefer, you can stay in the terminal."

He turned on his heel and went back into the cockpit. Hannah looked at Nava.

"What you think?"

"I don't know. I'm not sure it's a good idea. Don't forget, we're Jewish. These Muslims still hold the last Israeli incursion against us."

Hannah dismissed her concern with a wave of her hand. "That's ridiculous. It's all in the past. I've heard Beirut is a place where people of all religions can mix together without feeling afraid. I'm going into the city center, even if you're not."

Nava was doubtful, but wasn't about to desert her friend.

"I'm not happy about it, but I won't let you go on your own. We'll disembark and find a taxi."

Before she left the aircraft, she put her hand under the neck of her blouse. Hidden inside was a Christian cross. A strange possession for a Jew, but given to her as a love token by Abe Talley. Touching it made her smile, and she felt just that little bit safer with the link to the man she loved. She smiled to herself. He'd said he would come to visit her when she reached Israel. Soon, they'd be together. She touched the cross again and thought of him.

Soon, Abe. Soon.

She was wrong.

* * *

War was coming. Heaps of rubble lined the streets, and she started to think they’d made a mistake visiting the city. It should have been a pleasant excursion. The sky was blue and clear, the climate mild and balmy. Besides, the civil war had been over for many years. But what they saw was new rubble, not old. New rubble for a new war. It was obvious the troubles were anything but over. The hard-faced men with guns were back. She flinched as the rattle of machine gun fire echoed along the street, and their cab was peppered with chunks of masonry. Abruptly, a group of armed men appeared, chasing another man into a burned-out building. Nava looked across at Hannah.

"I think it would be a good idea to go back to the airport."

BOOK: Echo Six: Black Ops 6 - Battle for Beirut
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