Read Trident's First Gleaming: A Special Operations Group Thriller Online
Authors: Stephen Templin
ALSO BY STEPHEN TEMPLIN
SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper
(with Howard E. Wasdin)
SEAL Team Six Outcasts
(with Howard E. Wasdin)
Easy Day for the Dead: A SEAL Team Six Outcasts Novel
(with Howard E. Wasdin)
I Am A SEAL Team Six Warrior
(Young Adult version of
SEAL Team Six
, with Howard E. Wasdin)
A Special Operations Group Thriller
This is a work of fiction. Any references to names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Some tactics have been changed to protect operators and their missions.
All Rights Reserved © 2014 by Stephen Templin
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher.
Published by Stephen Templin
Cover design by Nuno Moreira
Special Operations Warrior Foundation
hris Paladin sped through the murky straightaway, the foul, viscid air of the Euphrates clogging his nostrils. The camouflage he and the other six SEALs wore couldn’t hide them from the rank wind when going nearly forty knots against the dying flow of the ancient river. Around them, the desert choked the stretches of the bank, leaving the land barren as they raced into Syria.
Chris glanced at Little Doc sitting next to him.
Only weeks ago, back at their base in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, Chris and Little Doc had paired off in a game of pool against a talented Agency cyber warfare tech named Young Park and a top spook, Hannah Andrade. They’d played an epic contest of SEALs versus CIA. But so much had changed since then.
Young’s kidnapping was why they were out here now. Those damn tangos had dressed up as Iraqi troops while Chris and his crew were out on an op and snatched the man. And along with him, potentially dangerous knowledge that needed kept out of enemy hands.
A terrorist named Professor Mordet was behind it all, intelligence told them. Chris struggled to focus on the mission rather than his anger. This mission was personal—and a top priority for JSOC and the Agency. He had to keep a clear head.
He took a breath and pushed back the messy emotions, locking them down in the depths of his psyche. His laser focus picked apart the dark fig palms and tangles of weeds that appeared on the portside shore. He searched for anyone or anything that might deny their rescue.
After traveling another klick, off the starboard side became farmland, too, dotted with a scattering of farmhouses. Where there were buildings, there were people, and Chris didn’t want to meet any of them. He only wanted to see two people, the kidnapper and the hostage.
Even when there weren’t farmhouses, there might be people, he reminded himself.
Expect the unexpected.
Chris surveyed his team. They carried light, sound-suppressed weapons, and to add to their stealth and speed, they’d dispensed with their bullet-resistant vests. The moonlight negated much of the advantage of night vision goggles, too, so they’d left the cumbersome devices behind. Although some might consider going without reckless, it was one of many tactics they’d used with monster success again and again. They were ready.
Several more klicks up the river, a shadowy island emerged in the middle of the Euphrates, and the coxswain veered to the starboard side, putting the Special Operations Craft-Riverine (SOC-R) in a stretch that cut the river’s width in half. On each side of their boat, there were only fifty meters between the frogmen and the shore—close enough for enemy assault rifles and machine guns to tear into them. Chris and his team continued to scan 360 degrees around their boat.
If the enemy is expecting us, this would be the place to stick it to us.
Chris’s pulse quickened at the thought. In Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Training, he’d learned to control his fear by remembering a peaceful experience, like when he was a child riding his bicycle, but after repeated practice, he could skip the remembering and trigger the result by using one word:
He took a deep breath and exhaled. His pulse slowed.
Then his pulse crawled.
Anyone who says they aren’t scared is a liar or an idiot.
Chris and the guys on the portside of the SOC-R studied the vegetation, looking for movement or the sudden flash of an enemy AK-47 muzzle. The SEALs on the starboard side did the same. The boat passed the small island, then another. After half a klick, the SOC-R slowed, pulled up against the mainland bank on the port side, and stopped.
They hopped over the side of the boat and onto land. The bulkiest SEAL, nicknamed
as a joke, slipped on the muddy bank but caught himself, narrowly preventing a noisy back flop into the water. Chris scowled. Beanpole was a joke. He told the officers and senior enlisted men what they wanted to hear and told them often, but in the field, he was a tactical loser. Two weeks earlier, Chris’s squad had lost a teammate during an ambush. Chris and the others had mourned his loss. Although eager to add another gun to their side, they were disappointed to find out that the new gun was Beanpole.
The olive-drab-colored SEALs faded into the vegetation then crouched while the Navy SOC-R crew sped up-river to do a couple false insertions in order to confuse anyone who might be paying attention. Chris and his teammates crouched, waited, and listened for surprise guests. Although the SEALs had inserted as silently as ninjas, the unknown was still out there, and it could sneak up at any time and stab him in the back. Running ops every night for as long as he had, and multiple times in the same night, he’d snatched or killed more tangos than he could remember, but the one fact that had been seared into his mind was that the hunter could always become the hunted.
A strange darkness permeated the area, despite the moonlight. Chris tried to pinpoint the reason for the blackness, but even where the moon shone, gloom remained, as if each particle of plants and dirt rejected the sky’s illumination. There were no clouds or any indication of a storm front arriving. Yet a dark, giant hand seemed to press down on him.
After fifteen minutes of lying low, adrenaline was pumping freely through his veins, heightening his senses and making him stronger. Chris’s patrol leader, a senior chief, signaled for them to move out. Then the point man, nicknamed Gorgeous because hordes of women wanted to have his babies, led the SEALs out, and Psycho brought up the rear. In the middle, Chris and the others watched everything to the left and right of their crew.
The SEALs eased out of the dense vegetation and walked into a winter wheat field. After they patrolled 150 meters, the field came to an end, and the men lay prone on the hard ground. Even though the wheat protected them from prying eyes, it wouldn’t protect them from bullets. Chris peeked through the wheat. Fifty meters ahead stood their target building—the back of a two-story structure with an expansive roof. Each floor had thin, white wooden columns along it, thirty-meter wide porches, and French doors. The French colonial plantation house seemed eerily surreal sitting on the Syrian landscape where humble farmhouses sat on small plots of land to the south.
The silhouette of a guard was visible, ghostlike, on a large wooden chair on the left side of the first-floor porch. An AK-47 stood propped between his legs. Hannah’s asset had reported that one guard always sat on the porch in front of the house, but Chris couldn’t see that one yet. Another guard was supposed to be inside. Chris didn’t want to shoot Ghost from their current position and risk hitting a window and waking up the neighborhood.
He signaled for Psycho to follow him, and the two stalked from their six o’clock position clockwise using hibiscus shrubs for cover until they reached nine o’clock, the edge of the porch, ten meters away from Ghost.
Chris peered into his sight, where a red dot floated in the middle without projecting out for others to see. He aligned the red dot on the side of Ghost’s head and squeezed the trigger then rapidly aligned and squeezed again:
. The guard’s upper body flopped sideways over the chair’s armrest with the AK-47 still between his legs. Chris’s heart smiled at the satisfaction of completing his task, and his pulse calmed with the relief that he’d taken out a potential threat.
Chris wasn’t born a killer; he valued life as much as most people in the human family. As a child, he’d once killed a bird with a BB gun. His stomach had revolted at what he’d done, and he never did it again. But also as a child, the son of US diplomats in Syria, terrorists had kidnapped him and killed a classmate; as a result, Chris considered terrorists to be disposable members of his species. The tragic deaths of 9/11 had reinforced his distaste for terrorists and spurred him to join the military. Drawing on similar strengths that helped him survive his kidnapping, he’d survived SEAL training, and it was during that training that he’d further dehumanized the enemy by focusing on their crimes against humanity and shooting them in the form of paper and steel targets. The first time he’d killed a real terrorist, his stomach had churned and he’d become somewhat light-headed, but the more he’d killed, the more that feeling had gone away until he no longer had the feeling. Although he could remember the mud huts, dusty alley, and body of the first man he’d killed, he couldn’t remember the name of the village or the man’s face. He remembered the sick feeling of taking a life but not the mission—when it came to fighting, either the enemy died or Chris died. Even worse, if he didn’t do his job, his teammates could get hurt.
Chris wouldn’t let that happen. The tango was a threat, and then he wasn’t.
Chris had eliminated so many insurgents since then that he couldn’t count them all, and in his memory, they faded into a blur. Most SEAL ops were considered perfect if no shooting occurred, but he and his crew hardly lived in a perfect world. Now they had to find Young, and the danger zone was about to heat up.
Chris and Psycho sneaked around to the front, and Psycho dispatched another guard. Chris keyed the transmitter on his radio once, signaling the others to advance to the back door. The sentry removal duo returned to the back door, and Chris tried to open it—no luck. He looked at the lock—the keyhole was upside down from American locks. He inserted the small length of an L-shaped Quiet Steel tension wrench into the top of the keyhole and turned it. Then he took a Quiet Steel pick, a long, thin bar with a hook at the end, and poked it into the bottom of the keyhole until it reached the back of the lock. He finessed them until the door unlocked.
Chris opened the door, and the others poured in first. Chris brought up the rear as he stepped into a well-furnished room. There were two doorways, so their crew split up into two Teams, and Chris’s slipped into a living room lit by the moonlight through the French windows. He turned left, staying close to the wall. From the couch stood a guard with an AK in his hand. He raised the muzzle in Chris’s direction. Chris fired twice into his chest—
—then once in his head—
—dropping him to the floor. Between training and real experiences, he’d done this thousands of times, and his motor skills functioned with an automaticity like breathing.
After both fireteams cleared the first deck, they crept up an unlit stairway to the second deck. The first fireteam approached the door on the left, and Chris’s team moved to the door on the right. Now, the giant black hand that had been pressing on him since they’d set foot on the grounds pressed harder, as if to bury him under heaven and earth.
Something ungodly is behind that door.
His pulse quickened, and he lost control of his speeding respiration as he turned the knob—locked.
It was a simple lock, so Chris simply slid his pick in and gently turned it. A thump sounded against the wall— Chris’s heart rate launched into hyper drive—and he glanced at his team. Beanpole’s muzzle swayed in his hands. He must’ve tapped the wall. Chris and others gave Beanpole a dirty look.
The door unlocked and Chris pushed it open. Beanpole and Psycho entered first. Chris followed. His gaze darted around the room. A man lay still on a silky bed sheet, unmoving. Professor Mordet, the kidnapper. And next to the bed was an empty bottle of wine. He’d played right into the SEALs’ hands; he was out cold.
Chris and Psycho zip-tied Mordet’s hands behind his back while Beanpole duct taped his mouth. When Chris and Psycho had finished the zip ties, Beanpole was already putting a black hood over Mordet’s head.
The three SEALs poked and prodded Mordet until he awoke. He fought to free himself and scream, but Psycho struck him down. When he regained consciousness, they helped him to his feet. Now he was compliant.
They left the room and slammed him to the floor in the hall before propping him up on his knees.
Chris and Psycho helped quickly clear the other rooms while Beanpole stayed with Mordet.
After clearing each room, they scoured the house for hidden rooms or other areas where Mordet might be keeping Young. The SEALs bagged intel: USB sticks, DVDs, laptops, papers, and other items. There was no sign of Young in the building, diffusing Chris’s hopes of rescuing him tonight.
Chris kicked the wall, making a hole. “Shit!”
Back in the hall, Beanpole continued to guard Mordet, who sat with a meditative stillness.
Gorgeous led them out of the house with the same hushed discipline they’d had as they’d arrived. They headed toward the river. On the return trip was when it was natural to sigh a breath of relief, but for Chris, the pucker factor was higher.
This is the time when men make mistakes; this is the time when men get killed.
Did he really fall or is he trying to slow us down on purpose?
Beanpole jerked him to his feet.
The squad didn’t use the same route they’d taken when they’d arrived, in case someone had seen their insertion and was waiting to spring an ambush on them. They slipped into a neighboring field with its wheat tips stabbing at the sky like arrowheads. The SEALs patrolled to the end of the field, heading for their haven—the water. Just before they exited the wheat field, the guys in front of Chris dropped to the ground and stayed there. Chris lowered himself to the prone position, too. He glanced behind—Beanpole pushed Mordet into the dirt, and Beanpole and Psycho lay low. Soon, Little Doc gave Chris the hand signal:
. Chris relayed the message behind.
Even if there was only one insurgent, he might be the point man for a whole squad, platoon, or battalion of insurgents. With only one SOC-R sitting hidden upstream and no airpower on site for support, the SEALs were probably outgunned. They’d bagged their man, and now wasn’t the time to become greedy—and end up in a body bag. They had to stay still.
I am the earth
, Chris thought to himself.
I am the ground.
He relaxed all his muscles, sinking deeper to become one with the ground.
I am the earth
, he repeated to himself.
I am the earth.
His heart rate and breathing slowed to an almost vegetative state.