A terrorist hit is coming. CIA, FBI, and Department of Defense systems have spiked, but traditional intel is going nowhere. It falls to the Taskforce-a top secret team that exists outside the bounds of U.S. law and is charged with finding and destroying asymmetric threats-to stop the unknown conspirators… A shadowy trail leads the Taskforce to Egypt-where an attack leaves one Taskforce member dead and another barely alive. Veteran warrior Pike Logan and his young partner, Jennifer Cahill, are forced to helm the increasingly convoluted and dangerous mission: a mission that tests both Jennifer's ability to justify her actions, and Pike's tenuous ability to stay in control. Sifting their way through the opposing plots of two terrorist organizations will turn out to be the least of their problems when a weapon of unthinkable power touches American soil-the only country in which Taskforce members are forbidden to operate, and the only country that Pike Logan may be unable to save…
In Taylor's exciting second Pike Logan thriller (after 2011's One Rough Man), Pike, who's been mustered out as the leader of Taskforce, a secret unit authorized by the U.S. president to target terrorists, heads a civilian business designed to assist Taskforce activities worldwide. When U.S. intelligence operations pick up Internet chatter indicating that an attack on American soil is imminent, Pike gets back in the game. He turns for help to Jennifer Cahill, his girlfriend and business partner, who saved his life in the last book and under his tutelage tried out for Taskforce. The supporting cast includes such familiar types as the well-meaning president, the government traitor, the craven high-level government adviser, and an assortment of Middle Eastern terrorists, this time aided by Americans recruited from prisons. While some readers may find the terrorists' U.S. targets insufficiently important, the high violence level and authentic military action put Taylor, a retired Delta Force officer, solidly in the ranks of such authors as Brad Thor and Vince Flynn. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/07/2011
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January 17, 2012
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Excerpt from All Necessary Force by Brad Taylor
Slithering the last fifty meters on his belly, Staff Sergeant Chris Hale reached the edge of the depression where the engine noise was coming from. Slowly parting the jungle growth to his front, he had his first clear view of the hollow. The sight caused his gut to clench.
Milling around as if they were about to start a parade were at least fifty North Vietnamese Army regular soldiers. Behind them was an elaborately camouflaged structure that looked like a large lanai that Hale had seen on his R&R to Hawaii, complete with wicker chairs and a ceiling fan lazily turning. Which explained the noise. There was a generator somewhere close by.
Hale continued to scan, peering intently at another intricately camouflaged structure about a hundred meters away.
Trying to stitch together what he was seeing, like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces, he realized it wasn't a building, but a helicopter. A Soviet Mi-4. He couldn't believe it. What's more, he knew nobody at MACV-SOG headquarters in Danang would believe it. He inched up his camera, hoping the lens was good enough to make out the chopper from this distance.
After a couple of snaps, he turned back to the lanai, now full of NVA officers. The mother lode, he thought. Looking closer, he saw they weren't NVA, but something else. They were taller than Vietnamese, and wore a different uniform. Shit, they're Chinese. He watched them all turn at the same time and look toward the rear of the room, where another man entered dressed in civilian clothes. With a start, Hale saw he was a Caucasian. A fucking Russian. No way will the FOB buy this. He'd heard many strange tales about what recon teams had seen across the fence inside Cambodia or Laos, including Chevy station wagons with Texas plates or Soviet armor, but this compound was taking the cake.
The Caucasian walked to the edge of the lanai and stood with his hands on his hips, surveying the activity before him in the hollow. Hale snapped as many pictures of him as he could, no more than thirty meters away. When the man returned to the group, Hale continued to photograph, fired up with the thought of providing evidence of both Chinese and Russian advisors helping the NVA in supposedly neutral Cambodia. When he figured he'd pushed his luck enough, he slithered backward to Houng, the Montagnard native he'd left pulling security to his rear. After a brief exchange of hand and arm signals, they began creeping back to the Remain Overnight Position, or RON, where the rest of the five-member team waited.
They crept very slowly, covering only ten or fifteen meters before stopping to listen. Such movement required extreme patience, as Hale fought the urge to stretch the fifteen meters into fifty. They had to cover only about a football field, but it took them close to an hour to reach the team.
Moving inside the small security perimeter of the team, Hale signaled his one-one, Sergeant Dickie Thomas. Second in command, Thomas carried the team radio, their only lifeline if anything went wrong.
Thomas crept up and whispered, "What about Cummings?"
Specialist Cummings was the only other American on the team. The remaining four men were Montagnard mercenaries recruited for their fighting prowess and their fierce hatred of the Vietnamese. All belonged to the Ground Studies Branch of the U.S. Military's Studies and Observation Group, more commonly called SOG. The cover name made it sound like they were a bunch of scientists out taking soil samples to improve the South Vietnamese rice crop. In reality, they were Special Forces soldiers who'd volunteered for top secret cross-border reconnaissance missions into the countries neighboring Vietnam to develop intelligence on enemy movements down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Specialist Cummings was new to SOG's Command and Control South--the element responsible for Cambodia--and was accompanying Hale's team as an orientation before assuming one-one duties of his own on another team. Hale had forgotten he was there. He motioned Cummings over.
Speaking in a whisper, he told the two men what he had found. As expected, they were skeptical, which aggravated him. How was he going to convince the boss at CCS if his own team doubted him?
"I got fucking pictures. I'm telling you, there's a head-shed meeting going on between the NVA and a bunch of foreign advisors."
Thomas grabbed Hale's arm as his voice began to rise.
"Shhh. Jesus, remember where we are?"
Hale abruptly became quiet, with the entire team straining to hear anything out of the ordinary in the jungle growth. His team was on day four of a five-day mission, and the strain of working alone deep inside enemy territory was wearing them down, with last night bringing them to the breaking point.
They had pulled up into the RON just as the sun began to set. After the darkness had descended, a black curtain that was claustrophobic in its intensity, they had noticed fires all around them, winking like fireflies and extending off into the distance. Cooking fires. For a large number of people.
Somehow, they had managed to penetrate inside the perimeter of a large enemy base camp without either them or the enemy realizing it. As the one-zero, or team leader, Hale had made the call to use the RON instead of trying to thread their way back out in the darkness, then thread their way back in during daylight for the recon. The night had been sleepless, but the decision had paid off big-time. All they had to do now was live to talk about it.
Hale whispered, "Let's get the fuck out of here. Before some idiot out to take a shit stumbles over us. We've still got a day's walk before we exfil."
Thomas grimaced at the thought of walking all the way back to target area Lima 7, but understood why. Lately, it seemed as if the NVA knew the SOG Recon Teams were coming. Even if they managed to insert across the border, the NVA found them within hours, forcing a running gun battle for survival. Several teams had vanished without a trace, the last contact by radio simply saying they were okay, then nothing. The rumor going around was that there was a mole somewhere within higher headquarters. A plant that was feeding information to the enemy.
This, coupled with the importance of Team Anvil's mission, led their commander to use a little misdirection, hiding the team's true objective. The operations plan was fake, detailing the team moving northeast into target area Lima 7 after infil. Instead, they had walked southwest into Kilo 8 for their real objective, but due to the sensitivity of this undeclared front, they would need to return to Lima 7 for pickup.
Hale waited for the team to ruck up, then gave the signal to move. They had gone no more than seventy meters when the point man signaled enemy to his front. Shortly, Hale heard the sounds of movement from their left flank. A lot of movement. He felt his adrenaline spike, the blood flooding into his muscles in preparation for the fight. He looked at Thomas with an unspoken command. Thomas prepared to call the Forward Air Controller flying somewhere nearby to let him know the situation, as seconds would be precious.
Hale waited until he could clearly see the first five men of the platoon-size patrol before he opened up with his CAR-15. Immediately, the rest of the team began firing, killing man after man as the surprised NVA tried to understand how they were being attacked in their own backyard.
Hale gave the order to break contact, and the team began an intricate dance to the rear, with half firing while the other half moved. Hale could hear Thomas trying to remain calm on the radio.
"Covey, Covey, this is Anvil, contact. I say again, contact."
"Anvil, this is Covey. I copy. What's your location?"
While still on the move, Hale pulled out his signal mirror and sighted into the sky.
Changing magazines, Thomas said, "Using a shiny. Do you see it?"
"Roger. Got you. Stand by."
They had managed to break from the engagement but were moving in the wrong direction due to the contact, perpendicular to where they needed to go. Hale knew they were on the verge of bumping into another enemy element and that everyone in this world would do whatever it took to kill them. The team was holding up, but he could feel the fear surrounding each man like a physical thing. He felt it himself. Abruptly, they were hit again, from the direction of the lanai.
The team began to pour fire out again, repeating the dance, but they had lost the element of surprise. The NVA came in looking for a fight.
Hale screamed, "Claymore!"
Cummings ran over and took a knee, firing at the enemy while Hale tore into the rucksack on his back, pulling out a claymore mine rigged with a thirty-second time fuse and a white phosphorous grenade taped to the front. He jammed it into the ground and set the fuse while Cummings provided cover, then both bounded back to the team.
The ball bearings of the claymore shredded the lead NVA element in pursuit, with the white phosphorous grenade spewing out a blanket of fire that incinerated anything it touched. The enemy response died off, replaced by the screams and moans of the wounded.
The team continued running, everyone panting. Hale did a head count and saw he was missing his tail gunner.
He shouted, "Where's Houng?"
"I don't know," Thomas said. "He was right with me when we started to break."
They both knew there was no way they could search for him. To do so would cause the entire team to be annihilated. Hale strained to see some indication in Thomas's face, but it was his decision to make.
Hale paused for a moment, torn, then said, "Fuck. We can't go back in. Call Prairie Fire."
He got the team up and moving again, hearing Thomas relaying the call to Covey. Prairie Fire was the code word for a team about to be overrun. It was used only in absolute need, because everything available was dedicated to that team. No one-zero wanted to call Prairie Fire and have another team die because he had taken their support.
Thomas said, "Covey's got two Thuds inbound with some ordnance left from a run to Hanoi. No idea what they're carrying."
The flight of F-105 fighter/bombers would help, but only if they got to the team soon. Hale knew it would be a matter of minutes before the NVA gained control and began a methodical hunt, using what appeared to be an entire regiment around them. After what he had seen at the lanai, he was sure they wouldn't quit until the team was dead, and maybe not even then. He could see the team knew it as well, the fear pulsing off them, the whites of their eyes stark against the camouflage greasepaint on their faces. He was reminded of a treed raccoon from his youth, hissing and snarling while the dogs barked in a frenzy below. He'd often wondered how the raccoon felt right at the end. Now he knew.
Still on the move, he heard Cummings empty a magazine at the rear of the formation, screaming, "B-40 rocket! B-40 rocket!"
An explosion lifted Hale off of his feet. Momentarily stunned, he saw his right side covered in blood. The team lay scattered, some still firing, others in a daze. Shaking the haze from his head, he moved from man to man. Reorganizing the defense, he was relieved to see that, despite various wounds, everyone with him was still alive and ambulatory. In front of him he saw nothing but khaki uniforms darting between the trees, perhaps a hundred NVA advancing toward them. The sight caused him to momentarily freeze, the sheer magnitude of their situation sinking in.
The enemy unleashed everything they had, the rate of fire preventing the team from moving, the bullets snapping through their small perimeter like a swarm of angry bees and shredding the vegetation around them. Hale scrambled through the fire to Thomas, intent on breaking the NVA momentum before they realized they had it. He took over the radio, talking directly to the inbound F-105 pilots, giving them instructions on where to drop their load.
He dropped the hand mike and shouted, "Hug the ground! Danger close! Danger close!"
No sooner had he said it than the earth rocked violently, literally lifting the team into the air, the shock wave of the ordnance hammering them. The firing from the enemy slacked off to nothing.
"Let's go! Let's go!" Hale said, urging the team forward before the enemy could recover. He heard Thomas asking Covey for an exfiltration LZ, and heard Covey reply that the closest one was two kilometers to the north.
We aren't going to make it two klicks through this. Hale said nothing out loud.
After ten minutes of movement without contact, Hale began to think that maybe they'd broken through. That now it was just a footrace, with only the team knowing the location of the finish line. He began to hope. Five seconds later, something slammed into his chest, knocking him to the ground. The air around him erupted in pops from incoming rounds. The team immediately returned fire, with someone grabbing his combat harness and dragging him forward. The Yard pulling him was hit, causing him to let go. Immediately, another took his place, continuing to drag Hale to cover.
Amazingly, the enemy fire grew fainter the farther they ran. After the experience with the claymore, the NVA were pursuing cautiously, not wanting to charge into another wall of ball bearings and fire, giving the team some much needed breathing room.
Hale shook the hands off of him and tried to stand up, then sank back to a knee. He felt like he couldn't get any air, like he couldn't inflate his lungs.
Thomas checked him, then began to work, putting a plastic strip over an entrance and exit wound on his breast. He said, "You got an in-and-out. It's sucking."
Hale saw the look of fear on his face and nodded. He slowly stood up, adrenaline alone willing him forward.
"Let's keep moving. Those fuckers will be back on us soon."
To confuse the enemy tracking them, they took a right turn, walked for about a hundred meters, then continued toward the LZ, now moving at a much slower pace. Hale was struggling to keep up, the gap between his diaphragm and left lung filling with air and preventing him from inflating it. He heard Thomas get confirmation that three helicopters were five minutes out, two slicks with gunship escort. Hale figured the team was at least thirty minutes from the landing zone.
It dawned on him that with the loss of Houng, they were down to a normal team of six men, which could be extracted by McGuire rig--a simple sling seat that was dropped from both sides of the aircraft, three to a side, allowing exfiltration without having to land.
"We aren't going to make it to the LZ," he said. "We get hit again, and we're done. Tell Covey to pick us up here, with strings."
Thomas relayed while they moved. Minutes later, he was talking directly to the helo, coordinating the extraction with the team spread out in a perimeter around him.
"I'll pop smoke. You identify." He pulled the pin and tossed the grenade, knowing it would be a beacon for the NVA but vital to get them out.
The pilot's voice came back calm and mechanical. "Roger. I see green smoke."
"Roger. That's us."
The team could now hear the chopper and smell salvation. The first Huey was sliding into position when a 12.7mm heavy machine gun opened up from the camp, strafing the tail. The gunship immediately obliterated the fire with its miniguns, but the damage to the first helo was done. Hale watched it pull off and begin limping back toward the South Vietnamese border. He prayed it would make it.
The second Huey came overhead and dropped the rigs, the rotor wash beating the brush around them in a mini hurricane. As the men were frantically getting inside the slings, one of the Yards began screaming and pointing. Out of the wood line, Hale saw Houng stumbling toward the hovering aircraft, weaponless, one arm dangling uselessly at his side, his face a bloody mess. In the distance behind him, he saw swarms of NVA drawn by the smoke and noise of the helicopter. He slipped out of his sling to give it to Houng.
Thomas shouted, "What are you doing?"
Hale looked at him with sadness and said, "You know what I'm doing."
Thomas started to leave his sling as well, tearing at the slip noose around his wrist. Hale stopped him.
"No. You're not getting off. Remember what I told you about the camp. Get that information back to the FOB."
"Fuck that! No fucking way! You die, we both die."
Hale pointed to his chest and side, both freely bleeding from the multiple wounds. "I'm already dead. Go."
Without waiting for an answer, Hale turned and assisted Houng into the last sling. Thomas helped as tears left tracks through the greasepaint on his face.
The NVA began running forward and firing through the trees in a desperate attempt to stop the extraction. Doing figure eights overhead, the gunship unleashed its twin mini-guns, knocking soldiers down by the dozens as if they had been swatted by a giant hand.
"Go, go go!" Hale screamed. He turned and stumbled away, wobbling toward the brush while firing his last magazine into the advancing soldiers. The enemy paid no attention to him--not even realizing he was there. Instead they focused all of their fire on the helicopter as it lifted off. Hale crawled forward underneath a tree that had been shattered by lightning, pulling brush over his body in an attempt to hide himself, the fear of death coiling in his belly like a snake. Wheezing from his destroyed lung, he watched the team lift off, dangling beneath the helo like spiders on a web, heading toward safety. Toward home.
He remembered he still had the camera in his rucksack, with the proof of the meeting. Intelligence of tremendous value to the war effort. He cursed himself at the oversight, knowing the information would die out here with him. Disappear as if it had never existed. At least Thomas would pass the basics along.
As the helo got smaller, another heavy machine gun opened up. The tracers arced through the sky and cut into the aircraft, punching through the thin skin to the avionics beneath. Hale watched the bird lose tail-rotor function and begin spinning out of control, the team now flung out on the end of the ropes like a pinwheel from the centrifugal force. He watched in disbelief as the helicopter slammed into the earth in a fireball. He heard the NVA cheering.
The fear left his body, replaced by despair at the futility of it all. He closed his eyes and drifted into unconsciousness.