A deeper blue pos 5, p.1

A Deeper Blue pos-5, page 1

 part  #5 of  Paladin of Shadows Series

 

A Deeper Blue pos-5
 



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A Deeper Blue pos-5


  A Deeper Blue

  ( Paladin of Shadows - 5 )

  John Ringo

  Heart-sick over the deaths of so many of his Keldara followers, and one in particular, former SEAL Mike Harmon, hero of Ghost, Kildar and Choosers of the Slain, decides to sit this one out. WMDs headed for the US no longer matter to the Kildar. But when his best friend and intel specialist both are seriously wounded in an ambush aimed at him, the Kildar gets his gameface back on. Mike has always said that he’s not a nice guy, and he’s about to prove it to a boatload of terrorists and Colombian drug dealers. Set in the Bahamas and Florida Keys, A Deeper Blue is a fast moving thriller that never slows down from the first page. With the return of some old faces, the action-packed novel proves, once again, the adage that sometimes it takes some very bad people to do good things.

  A Deeper Blue

  by John Ringo

  This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book and series have no connection to reality. Any attempt by the reader to replicate any scene in this series is to be taken at the reader’s own risk. For that matter, most of the actions of the main character are illegal under US and international law as well as most of the stricter religions in the world. There is no Valley of the Keldara. Heck, there is no Kildar. And the idea of some Scots and Vikings getting together to raid the Byzantine Empire is beyond ludicrous. The islands described in a previous book do not exist. Entire regions described in these books do not exist. Any attempt to learn anything from these books is disrecommended by the author, the publisher and the author’s mother who wishes to state that he was a very nice boy and she doesn’t know what went wrong.

  For the poor bastards, male and female, guarding the thugs in Guantanamo, stuck in paradise doing pretty close to the world’s crappiest job. This one’s for you, folks.

  And, as always:

  For Captain Tamara Long, USAF

  Born: 12 May 1979

  Died: 23 March 2003, Afghanistan

  You fly with the angels now.

  Acknowledgments

  As usual I’d like to thank RingTAB, the Ringo Technical Advisory Board, for help on keeping the technical details of this book somewhat close to accurate. In addition I’d like to thank William Ringo, former Army chemical weapons instructor and current FEMA contract safety officer for help with both chemical weapons details and safety response.

  Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to thank my daughters, Jenny and Lindy, for helping Daddy research details of South Florida culture, and Miriam, for her usual able support.

  Prologue

  No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue

  I could not foresee this thing happening to you.

  If I look hard enough into the setting sun

  My love will laugh with me before the morning comes.

  — Rolling Stones

  “Paint it Black”

  The freighter rolled eastward on easy swells, but nothing was easy about the task.

  It might have helped if some of the crew were handling the winch, but they were all below under strict orders to forget anything unusual had occurred. And even stricter orders to keep quiet if they did remember. The crew wouldn’t talk, though. They were all good Islamics and supported the jihad. What was more, they knew that if any word of this event got out, their families as well as themselves would pay the penalty.

  So Ibrahim had to keep an eye on it all. He had carefully instructed the fedayeen on the plan, but nothing beat experience. And he was the only one with experience. He’d shipped out on boats just like this in his youth, escaping the hell of the Karachi slums. And over time he had worked his way up to bosun, the senior deck worker of a ship. It was then he came to the attention of the Movement.

  The Movement often needed cargo shifted around and it had ships aplenty. What it did not have was enough trustworthy people who knew the ins and outs of how to move cargo… covertly. Oh, there were many such but there were never enough. Guns, rockets and ammunition, women and drugs to pay for the weapons, people, there were so many things the Movement needed… moved.

  This mission, though, was so complicated Ibrahim could only hope any of it went right. But he only had to ensure this one small part. And that was difficult enough.

  The offshore speed boat he was lowering touched the waves and Ibrahim slowed the winch. The massive boat, nearly fifteen meters long, was big and tough but it wouldn’t take it well if the waves slapping the ship’s side overwhelmed it or it slammed into the freighter’s hull.

  Hiding the damned things had been bad enough. If Ibrahim had had his way the boats would have been locally purchased; there were many such in the area. It would have been a joke straight from Allah to buy them from the American government. The Americans often seized such boats running drugs in this area and just as often sold them back to the drug runners at auction.

  Instead, these had been purchased in Europe, shipped in one of the many freighters owned by the Movement to Africa, transferred to another and transferred again to Ibrahim’s ship, carefully secured out of sight in the hold. The transfer had been effected in West Africa in a port notorious for its lax customs. If anyone had noticed the midnight transfer no word had come to the Movement.

  Now it was Ibrahim’s job to get the damned thing into the water without it smashing against the side of the moving ship or being swamped by a wave.

  It was down and he waved to the men on the boat to unhook. They had better get that one right; if one of them slipped over the side they were likely to be crushed between the two vessels. And even if they were not, the ship was not going to stop. Once this boat was in the water it could pick up anyone overboard. Until then, though…

  The fedayeen, though, did the job right. Allah knows, Ibrahim had been careful enough in his instructions. First the young man, a Yemeni with some small boat experience, started the engine and unhooked the rear connection. Very important. If he’d unhooked the front, the boat would have spun in place and probably swamped or been pulled under the ship. Starting the engine was only good sense before casting off. Only when it was free did he make his way forward, carefully crawling over the broad, flat expanse of the front surface, and unhook the front connection. They were both fast connections with lanyards to release them. The front connection was under massive tension and sprung back with a twanging sound, striking the side of the ship hard enough Ibrahim knew he’d need to check it before the next boat was released.

  It took nearly an hour before the five boats were in the water, following the ship in a long string; then came the last, and strangest, part.

  A crew of fedayeen had been working on one of the surface containers, a standard shipping container carried on the deck. The fedayeen had fitted the container with a set of pontoons and a cable. The cable was attached to a massive steel plate.

  The steel plate had to be suspended over the side, first, then the container swung out.

  Ibrahim couldn’t handle both of the winches for this one. The commander of the mission was on the main crane, holding up the container, while Ibrahim handled a smaller crane that lifted the plate. With both of them swung over the side, the ship was listing by nearly seven degrees, but it wouldn’t stay that way long.

  Ibrahim released the connections on the steel plate and it splashed into the water, the cable attached to the bottom of the container spinning out furiously. A bare moment later the container splashed into the briny deeps, floated for a moment on the surface, supported by its pontoons, then was snatched under like a fishing bobber. All that was left was a trail of bubbles.

  “You have done well, Ibrahim,” the commander of the fedayee
n contingent said as the bosun climbed out of the seat of the winch.

  The fedayeen commander was strange. He wore the proper dress and prayed five times a day as the Prophet decreed. But his eyes were gray, unusual in a believer, and sometimes he seemed more European than Middle Eastern for all his dark skin and hair. Little things you’d only notice on a long voyage, but telling.

  “Thank you, Haj,” Ibrahim replied, breathing in relief. “Go with God.”

  “And you as well,” the man said, drawing a pistol. “Go with God.”

  Kurt Schwenke watched the body tumble over the side, slid the silenced pistol into the rear waistband of his pants, then walked to where a ladder dangled over the side. As he climbed down, one of the boats came alongside. It was tough getting from a moving ship to a small boat but Kurt had no particular problems. He kicked outwards and landed on one of the seats of the boat, then settled into place.

  “Do we have it?” he asked.

  “Souhi has it on sonar,” Sayid Al-Yemani replied, powering up and turning, the boat splashing up and over the waves then crashing down in a shower of spray. “Allah’s beard! I am still having problems with these, Haji. Sorry.”

  “Not a problem,” Kurt, AKA Sabah Arif, replied, wiping at his face. “You will have much time to learn.”

  The boat turned away from the waves and powered up more, jumping over them now so that Kurt had to put on the safety belts. It was only about a quarter mile, though, to the place where the container had gone over the side.

  “There,” the driver said, powering down and pointing to the sonar screen. “It went deep, though. Now it is on its way up.”

  Kurt nodded and watched the sonar contact rising. The water in the area was nearly two thousand feet deep, so the massive plate had a ways to descend. The coil of cable on the container was supposed to play out evenly, never letting the container get too deep, until the plate hit bottom.

  The container was hanging, now, between about seventy-five meters and a hundred. Deep. Possibly too deep. But even as he watched, the numbers began to drop. Sixty meters. Fifty. It leveled off at twenty and stayed there, steady.

  “Are you ready, Kahf?” Kurt said, looking over his shoulder.

  The Egyptian already was pulling his SCUBA rig out of the racks. A former dive instructor at the resort in Sharm Al Sheik on the tip of the Sinai peninsula, he was experienced in both conventional and “technical” diving. The rig he was using for this was a simple SCUBA apparatus, one steel 80-cubic-foot tank, two-stage SCUBAPRO regulator, the only difference from beginner-quality equipment being that it was a NITROX setup, which used extra oxygen in the mix to extend down time.

  Kahf just held up a thumb and forefinger in an “Okay” signal and kept getting it on. In a few seconds he was ready to dive.

  He tucked his regulator in his mouth and slid over the side into the warm waters, grabbing a rope on his way. Using the rope, he trailed behind the boat, searching the waters and occasionally using his body to plane downwards. After a moment he surfaced again and held up another “Okay” signal, then let go.

  “He’s spotted it,” Kurt said. “Hold this position.”

  Kurt was surprised to see that he could pick up the diver on the sonar. The sonar system tagged him as a fish, admittedly, but he could still follow his progress on the three-D imager as the “fish” made his way down to the container.

  The “fish” hovered around the container for a moment, then came back up.

  “It’s all good,” Kahf said, pulling himself out of the water onto the dive platform at the rear of the boat. “I got the doors open. That was harder than we expected but they’re open.”

  “Right,” Kurt said, waving at another boat and making motions for them to dive.

  This time the diver was carrying more gear. Double air tanks, a third dangling in front of him, and float bags were the big part of it. As Sayid pulled away, the second boat came over the container and as soon as it was there the pre-rigged diver hit the water. It was a bit of a wait but Kurt was patient. After a moment, though, two lift bags popped to the surface. Kurt watched as the boat came alongside the bags and the driver and a third man pulled a blue barrel over the side, carefully. The barrel was rolled out of sight just as another bobbed to the surface.

  The process was repeated three times, a total of four of the barrels, and then Kurt gestured for the boats to assemble.

  “I repeat,” Kurt yelled. “Only one boat at a time. That is very important. Follow your bearings. You all know where to pick up your routes. Souhi goes first. The rest of you will wait.” He stopped and then grinned. “By the way, welcome to the sunny Bahamas!”

  “What are we doing about this?” the President asked.

  “It’s tough,” the FBI director replied. “We don’t want people panicking. But we’ve upped the terrorism alert level and we’re flooding the South Florida area with agents. They’ve been told they’re looking for a major shipment of something that’s going to look like drugs but is terrorism related.”

  “We’re clamping down on port checks,” the head of Customs and Border Protection added after a glance from his boss, the secretary of Homeland Security. “All my people are on overtime for the foreseeable future and we’re checking both pre-checked containers and uncleared. But even with the extra manpower we can’t check them all, Mr. President. We’re up from our normal, low, percentage but short of mostly closing the ports down…”

  “National Guard is helping with the search,” the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said. “And I’m pulling in all the teams. We’re not going to get caught forward like we were the last time. If it’s something that Delta or Rangers can operate on, they’re going to be ready to shoot.”

  “Shaking all the trees,” the director of National Intelligence added. “NSA is on high alert and I’ve sent out a classified memo for any information, barring what we already have, on the shipment.”

  “Same here,” the Defense Intelligence Agency director added. “And we’re trying to squeeze anything we can from recent detainees. But I don’t think there’s much there other than what we got from Al-Kariya and his computer. Once Kariya broke, he broke hard. We’ve pretty much got everything he knew. Short of picking up someone high-level who is aware of the op, I think we’re about done there.”

  “Where is the ship?”

  “Should be just about to Miami,” Homeland Security said. “We’re low-keying it.”

  “But they were supposed to be ‘transferred’ before reaching port, right?” the President asked.

  “Yes, sir,” the DDIA said. “We picked the ship up late. It was definitely off the sea-lanes. The transfer possibly occurred somewhere north of the Bahamas.”

  “The Navy’s looking for it,” the CJCS added.

  “Mr. President,” the secretary of Homeland Security said, “we’re using every available resource.”

  “Not every resource,” the President said, looking at the secretary of Defense. “Call Pierson. Now.”

  “Sir,” the DNI said, rolling his eyes since the President wasn’t looking, “you’re not talking about…”

  “Get me the Kildar.”

  The painting had been made by a renowned cover artist, an artist of the “old school” that still used acrylics to create massive paintings just to grace a book.

  The subject was a Valkyrie but one far different than most. She had the blonde hair and busty build of one, but her hair was unbraided, long golden tresses floating in the breeze of her passage. And instead of the traditional overendowed “breastplate,” she wore only a white dress, rich with seed pearls, cut daringly down the front to nearly the navel and short in front, high on the thigh. She was riding, sidesaddle, a white, winged horse and held in her right hand a blazing minigun, pointed at the ground. And she was smiling, a vicious smile of triumph and victory.

  Her face was a vision, but only to Mike. Oh, she was pretty, even beautiful, but you could see a dozen like her in any American college, three or four
as good looking among the Keldara and several who were, arguably, more beautiful. But none of that mattered to the man in the comfortable chair placed at perfect viewing distance from the painting.

  Mike lifted the glass and considered the lips for the thousandth time. He had given the artist very precise instructions and even a photograph. And in almost every way the artist had caught Mike’s vision, or surpassed it. That, and the secrecy with which the picture was made, was why he’d been paid a fee four times his normal. But if the artist had one flaw, it was in lips. He almost invariably used his wife as a model for his art, and she had a very definite Hapsburg lip. Oh, pretty, yes, but not right. Not for this painting. Everywhere else the image was perfection. A way to ensure that no matter what, Mike would never forget that face. But the lips were creeping in, erasing the image of them caressing his chest, his stomach…

  He lifted the glass, realized it was mostly ice, and poured in more Elijah Craig. Hey, you couldn’t fly on just one wing.

  Or two. Or a dozen or a thousand. At this point, the bottles lined one wall of the small room.

  “When the mound reaches the very sky,” Mike said, not looking at the bottles.

  There was a tap on the door and he pressed a solenoid, dropping a steel plate over the painting. Then he hit the release on the door.

  “Come.”

  “Kildar,” Mother Savina said diffidently. “There is a call from Colonel Pierson.”

  “You can tell Colonel Pierson to fuck off, with my compliments,” Mike slurred. “And tell him to tell his boss the same thing.”

  “Yes, Kildar,” Mother Savina said, closing the door.

  Mike pressed the solenoid again, locked the door, and took another sip.

 
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