Authors: Dale Brown and Jim DeFelice
Lieutenant General (Ret.) Harold Magnus
Magnus once supervised Dreamland from afar. With Colonel Tecumseh “Dog” Bastian as its on-the-scene commander, the organization succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Now as deputy secretary of defense, Magnus hopes to repeat those successes with Whiplash. His handpicked commander: Bastian’s daughter, Breanna Stockard.
After retiring from the U.S. Air Force to raise her daughter and help her husband’s political career, Breanna found herself bored with home life. She was lured back to a job supervising the development of high-tech wizardry under a combined CIA and Pentagon program. But will she be happy behind a desk when her agents are in trouble?
Jeff “Zen” Stockard
Now a U.S. Senator, Zen still keeps a close eye on national security matters—and his wife.
Reid’s official title is Special Assistant to the Deputy Director Operations, CIA. Unofficially, he’s the go-to-guy for all black projects, the dirtier the better. He knows how to get around agency politics. More important, he knows where all the agency’s bodies are buried—he buried half of them himself.
Colonel Danny Freah
Fifteen years ago Danny Freah won the Medal of Honor for service far beyond the call of duty. Thrust back into action as the head of a reconstituted and reshaped Whiplash team, he wonders if he still has what it takes to lead men and women into battle.
Nuri Abaajmed Lupo
Top CIA operative Nuri Lupo is used to working on his own. Now the young CIA officer has to adjust to working with a quasi-military team—at least half of whom he can’t stand.
Chief Master Sergeant Ben “Boston” Rockland
Boston finds himself shepherding a group of young CIA officers and special operations warriors across three continents. To do it successfully, he has to be part crusty old dog and part father figure.
Captain Turk Mako
An Air Force pilot on special assignment to the Pentagon, Turk Mako thinks of himself as the last of a breed. Real live fighter jocks are being rapidly replaced by “back home boys”—pilots who control unmanned aircraft from hangars in the States. Mako is out to prove neither he nor his profession is obsolete.
Al “Greasy Hands” Parsons
Once responsible for the teams that kept Dreamland’s top aircraft in shape, the former chief master sergeant is now Breanna Stockard’s right-hand graybeard and fixer.
Southeastern Sudan, Africa
t felt as if God himself were hunting him, circling beyond the clouds, watching every movement. An angry, vengeful god, a god obsessed with obliterating him. It felt as if God had singled him out above all to be the focus of his persecution, the modern-day Job. Except that this Job must die, and die harshly, in bloody fire and unimaginable pain. To survive, this Job must do nothing less than outwit God.
Such thoughts would have been blasphemous to a believer, but Li Han did not believe in the Christian god, let alone the vengeful, twisted Allah his paymasters had created from their own misinterpretations of scripture. To Li Han, all conceptions of god were superstition, tales told to children to get them to bed at night. Li Han had no religion except survival, and no ambition beyond that.
Once, he had dreams. Once, he’d even had desires beyond staying alive.
He was going to be rich. He desired this so badly that he would do anything for it. And he had. Like a fool.
Too late, he learned that wealth and comfort were illusions. The simplest facts had taken so long to understand.
The pilotless aircraft droned above. Li Han could hear it above as he rested at the side of the mine shaft. He had constructed a passive radar device to tell him where the aircraft was, but it wasn’t necessary now. All he needed were his ears.
Li Han waited as the engines grew louder. He saw it in his mind’s eye as it came overhead. It was the shape of a dagger, sleeker than the UAVs he’d seen farther south, different than the one in Pakistan that had fired at his car but missed.
It was a special UAV. He flattered himself that the Americans had built it just for him.
The noise grew to its loudest—God’s angry voice, calling him out.
The drone banked. The sound began to dim.
“You will go when I tell you,” he said to the man standing near him.
The man nodded. He knew he was a decoy, knew even that he was very likely to die. And yet he stood there willingly, prepared to run, prepared to take the drone away.
The sound lessened as the UAV banked toward the farthest edge of its track above.
“Now,” whispered Li Han.
The man pulled the scarf over his head, pitched forward and left the cave.
elissa Ilse felt her breath catch as the figure emerged from the shadow of the hillside.
Mao Man, or an imposter?
Not for her to decide—Raven would make the call.
She watched the video feed change as the UAV’s sensors locked onto the figure. His back was turned to the aircraft. The plane changed course slightly, angling so it could get a look at the man’s face.
Melissa folded her arms to keep herself from interfering. This was the hardest part of the mission—to let Raven do its job on its own.
“Here we go,” said Major Krock. The Air Force officer headed the team piloting the Predator UAV, which was flying with and helping monitor Raven. “Here he comes.”
Melissa folded her arms. Even on good days she found Krock barely tolerable.
Four vehicles were parked along the hillside below. The figure kept his head down as he reached the dirt road where they were parked. Raven took data from its sensors, comparing what they gathered to its known profiles of the criminal the CIA had nicknamed Mao Man. The system began with the most basic measurements—gender, height, weight—then moved on to the more esoteric, measuring the figure’s gait, the arc of his head movements. The computer could identify and sort over twelve hundred features, weighing each one according to a complicated algorithm. Using these data points, it then determined a “target match probability”; it would not strike unless that probability went over 98.875 percent.
It currently stood at 95.6.
Melissa watched the man on the ground reaching for the door handle of the vehicle. She could see the computer’s calculations in real time if she wanted, pulling it up on her main monitor.
She didn’t. What she wanted was for the operation to be over, to be successful—for Raven to prove itself. They’d been at this for over a month.
Nail him, she thought.
Suddenly, the main video feed changed. Melissa looked over at the computer screen—target match probability had dropped below fifty percent.
There was another figure moving from the mine, scrambling down the hill.
Raven wasn’t sure. The computer learned from its mistakes, and having been hoodwinked just a few moments before, it would be doubly cautious now.
It was 87.4 percent.
It has to be him, she thought.
Come on, come on—kill the son of a bitch already!