America is at war-and every battle may be its last.
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November 07, 2001
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Excerpt from The Sixth Fleet: Seawolf: Book #2 by David E. Meadows
THE TRUCK ROLLED into the dark Algerian village, its engine off, its lights out, and the tires crunching noisily on the loose gravel. The moon had set a few hours earlier, leaving a clear sky filled with stars as the only source of light. The smell of the sea was carried on the slight wind.
"This is the village of my relatives," Bashir said softly to President Alneuf, the only freely elected president of an Algeria now in civil war, and Colonel Yosef. The overweight Bedouin's eyes nervously glanced from one side of the street to the other. "But the lights are out. They may be asleep -- very unusual, very very unusual. I think I would feel better if there was some noise or something. . . ."
Bashir pulled the truck to one side, causing it to bounce several times as the left tires dropped a couple of inches when it moved off the road. Bashir pulled the hand brake. The metal-on-metal screech echoed through the silent streets. "There's some noise."
Yosef tightened his grip on the pistol in his lap and eased his finger onto the trigger. He shifted the barrel slightly so it pointed at the dashboard and away from President Alneuf, who sat between them. Yosef searched the shadows, expecting rebels -- at any moment -- to jump out and start firing. Bashir had better know what he's doing. Yosef didn't come this far to die at the hands of a bunch of smugglers. He was still wary of the overweight Bedouin, who just happened to be at the beach at the right time and who just happened to know how to get everyone to safety. But then, smugglers are supposed to know how to avoid the authorities -- that is, successful smugglers.
"I think we should leave the truck here at the edge of the village until I have announced our presence, Colonel. It is possible my relatives are treating visitors with skepticism while the new government decides who are friends and who are enemies."
Bashir opened the door. The rusty hinges sounded like fingernails down a chalkboard. No interior light came on -- burned out years ago and never replaced.
He leaned into the cab. "Mr. President, Colonel. My nephews and I will do a quick check. You wait here until we return. Okay?"
Colonel Yosef nodded reluctantly. "Don't be gone too long, Mr. Bashir."
Bashir motioned for his nephews. He turned to Yosef as he walked by the cab. "Colonel, if you should hear anything" -- he waved his hands -- "out of the ordinary, you know, like gunfire, screams, bloodcurdling yells, grenades, or mortar fire, then I would strongly recommend you take whatever actions you deem appropriate to protect the president."
Bashir touched his forehead and chin. Then he turned and, followed by his nephews, waddled off down the street. Yosef waited until the five men turned the corner and disappeared.
"Come on, President Alneuf," Colonel Yosef said as he shoved the pistol back into its holster. He opened the protesting door, reached into the cab, and half-pulled the fatigued president out.
Yosef turned to the Guardsmen in the back. Some napped among the few remaining sleeping sheep. The woman slept deeply, leaning against the cab of the truck. Her hands rested lightly on the sleeping baby curled in her lap.
"Sergeant, wake the men and get them out of the truck," Yosef whispered.
"What about the woman?"
"Leave her. She'll be safe," Yosef said. "And whatever you do, don't wake the baby." The last thing they needed was a squalling baby. Leave well enough alone. The longer Bashir was gone, the more likely it was they were being led into a trap. If so, Yosef intended to be ready.