Steve Wilson's Blog

May 18, 2016

'Tempest of Fire' deleted scene

Northern Somalia’s Minister of Defense was somewhat confused. Standing in the U.S. embassy, Desmond Okot arched his back and pulled his frame up to its full height. He was a tall man with a regal bearing—the blood of kings and tribal chieftains coursed through his veins—and was quite an imposing figure. Across the room, the American ambassador looked up from his desk and watched as the Somalian’s expression changed and a broad smile spread across his face.

“You must be joking,” Okot grinned, but the ambassador could tell he wasn’t really amused. “Do you have any idea what you are asking?”

William Tate-Smith raised a casual eyebrow and pretended to be surprised. “I assure you, Mr. Okot, indeed I do,” he replied calmly. Tate-Smith was about to cross the line between political negotiation and manipulative diplomacy, and few men were better suited for the task. “All we require is the cooperation of your government.”

The game was on.

Still smiling, Okot shook his head. “Cooperation?” He repeated. “Do you think we would allow your aircraft—your troops, your weapons—to invade our airspace?”

Tate-Smith frowned. “This is an extraction, Mr. Okot. A rescue mission—not an invasion. And we certainly mean no harm to your government or the people of Northern Somalia. We just want to save our people from those . . . insurgents . . . down south.”

From behind, a Marine captain opened the door and slipped quietly into the room. Okot was slightly distracted by the officer’s presence but his resolve was firm.

“I have great sympathy for your personnel, Mr. Ambassador. But my answer remains the same. You will have to find an alternate route to Meersala.”

The room grew very quiet. Tate-Smith pursed his lips. This was not the answer he’d hoped for. There seemed to be no clear rationale behind Northern Somalia’s obstinence at times like these. Even though the United States maintained a diplomatic presence, relations between the two countries remained fragile. More often than not, Tate-Smith was struck by how difficult this post was. It reminded him of the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan—a friend one day, and an enemy the next. He felt as if he was dealing with the same mentality here.

But there was also a history of violence in Somalia that had left scars on America’s psyche—the infamous atrocities committed against U.S. troops in the ‘90s, and the continuing problem of piracy on the high seas. For a diplomat, Tate-Smith was something of a hawk. These people understood only one thing—brute force. His tenure here had taught the ambassador that the Somalians regarded anything else as weakness. This was especially true for Southern Somalia. Tate-Smith suppressed a smile; here in the north, the ruling party considered itself very accommodating in its dealings with the west—yet with friends like these—

The game wasn’t over yet. It was just time to change tactics.

“Mr. Okot, perhaps I didn’t make myself perfectly clear,” he began slowly, biting off the end of each word. “Our troops intend to cross your borders whether you allow it or not. Of course, without your cooperation they’ll be running a terrible risk.” The ambassador paused for effect and turned in his chair to face the window. A Navy man, Tate-Smith always went to great lengths as an advocate for the armed forces. “Your military might try to impede their progress; perhaps attempt to shoot them down—even before they reach their objective. I needn’t point out that such an act would only sour relations between us.”

There was a courtyard on the other side of the glass. The ambassador wondered what the temperature was outside. Probably hot, he reasoned, even though the sun had been down for several hours. It was always hot in Somalia. “And that’s exactly why I’ve asked you here tonight, Mr. Defense Minister. A simple word from you to your military could avert such an unfortunate incident. Now—” Tate-Smith said hopefully, “—do we have your support or not?”

He knew that he didn’t. Issuing an ultimatum only strengthened Okot’s resolve. The Somalian’s eyes narrowed. “You underestimate me, Mr. Ambassador.” His voice held a decidedly nasty edge. “I am not some third world bureaucrat you can bully, and my country will not be used as a doormat by the United States or any other nation. Is that understood?”

Okot expected a more belligerent response, but Tate-Smith surprised him. With a deep frown knitting his brow, the ambassador merely heaved a sigh and nodded his head. When he finally spoke his voice carried a subdued tone.

“Is that your final word on the matter, Mr. Okot?”

The Somalian nodded. “It is, Mr. Ambassador.”

Tate-Smith rose slowly to his feet and smiled wanly. He seemed almost detached. “Then I suppose our business here is concluded.” He extended his hand. “Thank you for coming.”

Okot eyed him with suspicion. This was too easy.

“I am pleased you see things from my perspective, Mr. Ambassador.” Puffed with pride, Okot now felt superior to the American.

“Of course,” Tate-Smith gripped his hand firmly. Okot was surprised by the strength in the westerner’s handshake. He had no idea. “I believe your car is waiting for you out front. Captain, would you kindly show Mr. Okot to the door?”

The Marine officer wore a slightly pained expression. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Mr. Ambassador.”

Tate-Smith gave a startled look. “Is there some problem, Captain?”

“The embassy has been placed on alert status, sir.” The captain looked grim. “During such an alert we operate under very strict guidelines. No one comes in, and no one goes out.” He stepped forward and handed the ambassador a yellow message slip. “This just came in.”

Okot stiffened, his mind racing to understand what was going on. He watched intently as Tate-Smith unfolded the paper and quickly scanned the message.

“Oh, dear,” he murmured softly. “This is serious.” A look of great concern seemed to darken his face. “I’m afraid the Captain is quite right, Mr. Defense Minister. The rescue mission we’ve discussed has apparently been approved by the Joint Chiefs. Our troops are airborne as we speak.” He looked up and met Okot’s stare. “For your own safety—and as a concession to operational security—I must insist that you remain here with us. Temporarily, of course.”

Okot suspected as much. “I am to be your prisoner, then?” he asked angrily.

“Prisoner?” The ambassador shook his head. “Poor choice of words, Mr. Okot. I regret that such an idea would even cross your mind.” His face brightened a little. “I’m sure that by this time tomorrow, you can return—”

“That is unacceptable.” Okot growled. “I demand that you release me this instant.” For the first time, Okot noticed that the captain carried a sidearm; and as if on cue, two more Marines entered the room—enlisted men, judging from the black insignia they wore on their collars.

Tate-Smith held up his hands and smiled broadly. “Mr. Defense Minister, I understand what you must be feeling,” he said slowly. “At a time like this, your place is at your post. American troops have entered your airspace. Surely your government will want some answers. Undoubtedly, your President will be placing a call to your office, demanding an explanation; but here you stand, unable to give it.” He let that sink in.

The Somalian seethed. “Do you know what you have done?”

Tate-Smith nodded. “I think I do, Mr. Okot. Your absence—at this late hour—will raise questions in the mind of your President. Some might even believe that you came here seeking . . . well, some advantage—in the midst of this incursion? It could damage you politically—or even worse.” Tate-Smith didn’t have to elaborate on that point. Two Northern Somalian cabinet members had been executed a few months earlier for lesser crimes—and without any evidence to convict them.

The ambassador sat casually on the corner of his desk. He knew he was laying it on a little thick. “However, if you were to place a phone call to the commander of your armed forces—ordering your military to stand down—I’m sure that would go a long way toward restoring stability. I would be assured of your safety, and you would be free to go.”

Okot’s eyes narrowed. This was blackmail; but he had little choice. This—American—had outsmarted him. And he was right—leaving his office to come here, Okot’s motives might be misinterpreted. The Northern Somalian government was a republic in title, that much was true—but in reality, it wasn’t too far removed from a despotic theocracy. There was too much at stake to gauge just how forgiving the current President might be.

Okot sat back in his chair and tried to convey a look of indifference.

“All right, Mr. Ambassador,” Okot breathed. “I will make such a call.” He stood to his feet and stepped toward the phone on the ambassador’s desk.

The Marine also moved forward, cutting off Okot in mid-stride. The tall Somalian became aware of the presence of the two enlisted men beside him.

The ambassador turned and picked up the handset. “Allow me, Mr. Okot,” Tate-Smith said without expression. He punched in the number and waited for someone to pick up on the other end. “I’m concerned that you reach the proper authorities—we wouldn’t want you to dial the wrong number now, would we?”

Tempest of Fire by Steve Wilson
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Published on May 18, 2016 13:00 Tags: deleted-scene, tempest-of-fire, the-michael-neill-adventures

February 20, 2016

My Experience with the Veterans Administration

Over the past several years, the Veterans Administration has weathered its share of criticism, and justly so in many cases. Stories of horrendous wait times—and subsequent deaths—have saturated the media, and it seems new tales spring up on a regular basis. In Cincinnati, a report has surfaced of VA doctors and nurses who are alarmed by cost-cutting measures, and the quality of care afforded to veterans. Yesterday I saw an article that stated that the Veterans Crisis Hotline has, at times, become overloaded, and those calling have been 'put on hold'. (Ironically, today I received a newsletter from the VA, featuring a story on how they intend to improve the Crisis Line. According to recent statistics, 22 service members take their own lives each day, and hopefully the Crisis Line issue will be settled quickly.)

I've been to the Department of Veterans Affairs website (www.va.gov) and read some of the stories posted there. In many instances, veterans sound off loud and clear with their own personal comments, and again, there's no shortage of complaints to be found. It's enough to make you truly thankful for whatever health circumstance you might find yourself in.

I am a veteran myself, still serving in the reserves. I feel compelled to share my own experience with the Veterans Administration, at the C.W. Bill Young Medical Center at Bay Pines in Tampa Bay. Based on what I've read and heard, my own case appears to be quite different from many of the stories being told, and for what it's worth, I offer it to show a different perspective.

Beginning in March of 2015 I started having symptoms that I first attributed to dehydration. At the end of a few extended runs, I noticed that I was leaning to one side, and having difficulty putting one foot in front of the other. These symptoms persisted in the coming months, becoming very chronic, until I was incapable of running a few blocks, or descending a flight of stairs, without exhibiting the traits of cerebral palsy. At that point I knew something was very wrong, and that I needed to do something about it.

Orthogonal adjustments (gentle chiropractic) seemed to help, but these were only a temporary fix. Afterwards, attempts to run or walk resulted in the return of the symptoms. During this debilitating period, I talked to my doctor at the VA, and requested an MRI. I was hoping to rule out anything affecting my brain. A few weeks later, I made my way to Bay Pines, where the technicians performed the test.

I went home and took a nap (fatigue was another side effect I was experiencing), only to be awakened by a call from the doctor's office. The nurse told me they'd gotten the MRI results back, and had found an abnormality. She told me they needed another test, this time with contrast, and I needed to come back 'as soon as possible'. I was told to bypass the doc's office and to proceed directly to the emergency room.

For the rest of that day, and into the next, another MRI was performed, and Sheila and I spent a lot of time in a hospital room, just off the VA's ER. I was visited by two neurologists, who explained to me that in addition to a 'mass', I had a great deal of cerebral spinal fluid filling the ventricles of my brain. The mass was a tumor, blocking the flow of fluid exiting my brain.

There was nothing the VA could do for me, from a surgical standpoint. But one of the doctors had previously worked at Tampa General, and knew of USF's Neurology Department and the highly esteemed neurosurgeons there. She spent an entire day working the system, and by that night, an ambulance arrived to take me from St. Pete across the bay, where I was admitted to the hospital in Tampa.

I spent six days there, undergoing an endoscopic ventriculostomy of the third ventricle. Brain surgery. The greatest neuro doctor in the world, Harry Van Loveren, re-routed my brain fluid through a surgically created path, saving me from a severe stroke—or worse. I firmly believe the providential hand of God guided him. The tumor is benign, and at present it poses no threat. "Go and live your life," the doctor told me, and that's sage advice for anyone, brain patient or not. I'm sleeping better, I'm walking normally, and I've started running again, and staircases no longer fill me with dread.

In all of this, I have to give the VA a great deal of credit. The system might have viewed me as just another veteran with a medical condition, and my name might have simply gone on a waiting list. But that didn't happen. The doctors, nurses, and neurologists I saw took excellent care of me, and I always felt that my well-being was top-most in their minds.

Additionally, I had the love and support of my wife, who sacrificed sleepless nights to be at my side, before and after the procedure. The fact that she's a nurse certainly enhanced the care she gave me, and in the way she explained what was going on after the surgery.

Certainly my experience doesn't negate the poor care many veterans have received. My heart goes out to them. Slipshod medical attention is a poor recompense for our military. Americans need to continue to demand quality from the Veterans Administration. I have recovered well, and I don't have a horrific story to tell about the VA.

And ultimately, I am very thankful for that.

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Published on February 20, 2016 09:02

January 1, 2016

My blog, post-brain surgery

This will take the form of an update, in addition to what I've learned about my recent surgery.

The actual procedure was called an endoscopic ventriculostomy of the third ventricle, an operation intended to drain excess fluid building up in the first three ventricles due to excess tissue growing in the duct that usually drains that area. The surgeon drained the third ventricle and removed the duct tissue. I am pleased to say that it apparently worked beautifully; the surgeon told Sheila that he went in and did exactly what he wanted to do. The results? I am walking without shuffling my feet now, not leaning to the left and my headaches are fading fast. I have a nasty 5 inch incision on top of my gourd running front to back, but I am okay with that.

Here's the second thing I've learned. There are no cats running across clotheslines in hospital recovery rooms, despite what I THOUGHT I saw (under the influence of anesthesia, of course).

Today, Sheila and I went out to our favorite stomping grounds, Fort Desoto, and the Pinellas Trail. We both accomplished a 3 mile power walk, including going up and down the steps to the top of the fort 5 times. Granted, that's not what I'm used to; for years, we would walk/run that far, and I'd go up and down 15-20 times. But I'm taking it slow. My surgeon doesn't want me to run till I've seen him for my post-surgery appointment. He'll decide then what I'm up for.

I'd like to thank all of you who prayed for me during surgery, and in the days following. Please continue to pray for healing. My appointment with the doc is this coming Monday. Should get the results of the biopsy then, but until that time, we are resting in Jesus.

And what of book four? 'Eye of Charybdis' is back on track. I've written several pages over the past few days. Now up to 256 pages, and I hope to reach 300 by late January. Naturally, this means that the book won't be finished when I promised, but given my health issues and military obligations, there was no avoiding that.

That's all for now. Keep reading, and happy New Year!

Steve

Red Sky at Morning by Steve Wilson
Tempest of Fire by Steve Wilson
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Published on January 01, 2016 11:25 Tags: brain-surgery, the-michael-neill-adventures

November 22, 2015

Excerpt from 'Eye of Charybdis', part II

Far to the northeast, fog covered the Commander Islands, a normal occurrence during the summer season. Bering and Medny lie in the shadow of Kamchatka, and while part of the Aleutians, these narrow spits of land were claimed by the Soviet Union.

The hunter was exhausted. Using an alternating rhythm, he drove his oar down and back, propelling the hide-covered baidarka forward. He was called Anax, but that was just an abbreviated form of a much longer name. To his people he was known as Katmai, a title that brought to mind images of snow-swept Alaskan plains and the brown bears that lived near the top of the world.

Katmai and his tribe were Aleut, a label supplied long ago by the Russian pelt and fur traders of the eighteenth century, but the islanders themselves preferred a different appellation, Unangan—meaning ‘seasiders’ or ‘original people’. This was a nod to their way of life.

Despite their hearty constitutions, the Unangan had suffered under Russian influence. Disease brought by outsiders ravaged the population, a consequence not uncommon when two diverse peoples were met. Exploitation and hardship imposed by the trading company—again, a Russian entity—also took their toll. Not even the Unangan homes were sacred; in ages past, the consortium had uprooted entire families, relocating them to the Commanders as little more than slave labor—

Katmai shook off the fatigue gnawing at his bones. The gale sent spray into his face, and salt stung his struggling eyes. He had rowed twenty-five kilometers south of Bering Island, the largest in the Commander Chain, and now, thankfully, he was almost home again. He had little to show for his efforts. It was unseasonably cold—too much so, in fact, to hunt or fish, or be successful at either—and the shoals of the treeless archipelago were a welcome sight.

To the west, a pod of six orcas harassed a bowhead whale. Katmai watched but felt no fear. These powerful beasts were his brothers, and were much more interested in prey below the waves. At length the bowhead broke the surface for air, but the killers’ tactics proved their intellect. Swarming the victim, the orcas piled on, covering the larger animal’s blowhole. She could do little more than fight for her own survival, leaving her newborn calf to fend for itself. Even Katmai felt pity, but the outcome was nature’s way, and sunset would find the pod with full bellies.

The sudden change in weather took him by surprise, and Katmai tried to make sense of it all. One day earlier he had stood on the roof of his house, tasting the morning air and reading the winds. No warning touched his senses. The sky was clear and the sea calm. There was nothing above or below to suggest the threat of an impending storm. Only one explanation remained, and Katmai knew what that was.

He had begun his journey shortly after sunrise, embarking on a simple hunting trip, but the Spirits had other plans. They had drawn him away for another purpose—to bear witness to a spectacle no one else had laid eyes on.

Katmai almost missed it. The humidity contributed to that. The last bands of fog hugging the Commanders billowed south, following the warm currents fed by volcanism below the waves. It was the Unangan’s keen hearing that alerted him first. A deep and constant roar sounded from the west, muffled by the mists hanging low on the horizon. He thought it to be a ship at first, and then his eyesight was challenged. A broad, dull shape stretched across his field of vision—darker than the fog roiling around him—and in an instant, the winged monster ripped through the vapors masking its approach.

He had never seen anything like it. Massive in size, its speed was like something from a dream. Flying at sea level, just above the water’s surface, it was visible for scant seconds, with what appeared to be huge horns on either side of its head. The hunter felt a crushing pressure, and passing in front of him, the beast’s breath and forward momentum threatened to capsize the small kayak. Had he been just a dozen yards closer, Katmai would have been swept away.

An ear-splitting voice rose in pain as the monster skimmed the waves, and then came the sound of the sea entering the beast’s throat. A wrenching din filled the air; Katmai likened it to the cry of a dying animal, and then his view was hidden once more by the veil covering the waters like a shroud.

Blue and green lightning erupted behind the shifting cloud bank. An intense flash of orange appeared briefly before being snuffed out by the combers washing over it. Katmai could hear the leviathan’s death throes as air escaped its lungs and was replaced with brine, and then all was quiet as the beast was claimed by the sea and slid reluctantly below the waves.

• • • •

The drones were gone now.
Seventy-five kilometers to the northeast, five Czech-designed Delphin trainers left the skies above the Pacific and returned to the mainland. These planes were old and unmanned, piloted by aviators in metal trailers at a ground station nestled in the Koryakskiy Mountains. The location was austere, and one of the last outposts in the far-flung Eastern reaches of a country that spanned eleven time zones.

The first aircraft suffered a glitch, and lost contact with its control beacon before falling into the Aleutian Basin. Crews manning radar screens ashore were amused; it was an inconsequential loss, as scores of the simple jets were in service, and it was difficult enough to keep them aloft with a pilot on board—much less without one. And besides, this fixed-wing sortie was never intended to return.

The last four birds came in without incident, circling the airstrip and brushing the narrow runway one at a time before taxiing to an old hangar at the far end of the field. Air traffic controllers in the tower—the top floor of a simple three-story construct—considered letting the Delphin flight expend their fuel supplies and ditch in the sea, but the next test might come sooner rather than later, and it was decided to let the planes land and fly another day.
But that was not the original plan ...

• • • •

Katmai steered away from the angry waters and pointed the baidarka north. He rowed through the night, his strength waning, his arms and shoulders taut as the storm began to build. By dawn the fog had long since lifted, and the breakers fought against him, becoming gray and lifeless as he drew closer to the shoreline of Bering Island.

The Unangan snorted under his breath. He knew why the ocean paled. The sea had been disturbed, and digesting the mortal remains of the beast had soured her belly. Not everything was meant for the dark halls of the ocean floor, and there were many things, some evil, that would never find rest there.

In time, Katmai retrieved the seal bladders he’d left behind to mark his path. His actions had become rote. The sun hid its face, and he was chilled to the bone and numb from his experience. In the solitude of the return trip, the hunter tried to shut out the memory of the monster that had nearly claimed his life. He had no interest in sharing his story with anyone. Ultimately, he would speak of what he had seen to only one soul.

Some would see his encounter as simply happenstance. Others would view it through a different lens and call it Providential. It never occurred to Katmai that he had been singled out for a greater purpose, and that one day the account of his voyage might save lives.

The hunter harbored a secret. The sea did likewise, but that was the way of things. Something so vast could do no less, and was the perfect place for concealment. The ocean floor was the abode of riddles. Far below the surface, the unyielding depths held many mysteries.

Now they contained one more.

Red Sky at Morning by Steve Wilson Tempest of Fire by Steve Wilson
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Published on November 22, 2015 11:19 Tags: eye-of-charybdis, michael-neill

August 23, 2015

General George S. Patton

Over the past few days I've watched (I should say 're-watched') 'Patton', the movie from the '70s starring George C. Scott. It's an excellent movie; inspiring, patriotic, and while the producers take a few liberties, the story is told fairly accurately--in the broad strokes.
We need a few generals like Patton these days; officers who are pure tacticians, that give no regard to politics, and recognize the real purpose of the military.

Now I could say a lot more about that, but I'm still in the military, and doing so would land me in a lot of hot water. My personal belief is that the armed forces of our nation should be tasked with killing the enemy and breaking things.

In that order.

Back to Patton. The man really was a genius. Single-minded in purpose, and committed to victory. And I agree with his position on the Russians. When George Patton looked into the eyes of Ivan, he didn't get a warm fuzzy feeling. He wanted to continue WWII by advancing the front lines all the way to Moscow. In hindsight, I believe there was wisdom in that philosophy.

I won't belabor the tenets of that belief. There's an excellent work, written by Robert K. Wilcox. It's title is 'Target: Patton - The Plot to Assassinate General George S. Patton'. And if you're thinking of gleaning insight from O'Reilly's book on the subject, don't. Wilcox does a much better job.

Granted, there's a fair amount of conjecture in 'Target: Patton'. But the author lays it all out methodically, and it's a truly fascinating read. You might walk away unconvinced, but I guarantee you that the book will get you thinking (personally, I'm leaning toward Wilcox' conclusion--and you'll just have to read it to know more).

George Patton didn't believe that diversity was the bedrock of victory in war. He believed in ordnance on target, in bullets making contact with the enemy, and in the indefatigable spirit of the American fighting man.

Red Sky at Morning by Steve Wilson
Tempest of Fire by Steve Wilson
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...and here's one more:

Target Patton The Plot to Assassinate General George S. Patton by Robert K. Wilcox
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Published on August 23, 2015 14:34 Tags: target-patton, the-michael-neill-adventures

August 10, 2015

Excerpt from 'Eye of Charybdis'

“Still sure you want to go through with this?”

The earpiece crackled, and the voice asked the question for a second time. Sitting at the bar, the man in the leather jacket sipped his drink and smiled. Directly in front of him was a mirror, and his reflection stared back with no small measure of confidence—and an abundance of resolve.

“An American died for this treaty, Dmitri; let’s make sure his sacrifice counts,” the Ukrainian breathed. “Besides, it’s a little late to back out now.” His tone suggested a smooth, experienced disposition, but the reality went much deeper than that, touching instead on the spiritual. He stared at the glass in his hand. “How do you drink this stuff?”

Again, the wireless device sounded deep within his ear. “It’s an acquired taste, Oleg.” Dmitri Yaroslav enunciated carefully. He had trained himself to use that name only. “Was it expensive?”

The Ukrainian frowned. “Twenty hryvnia,” he answered. “Why?”

“Cheap stuff,” Dmitri snorted. “Drink it slowly. The alcohol content is probably more than you’re used to.”

“Don’t make fun,” Oleg warned. “When this is all over, I’ll buy you a round.”

“Ya viddayu perevahu pivo, tavarisch,” Dmitri shot back. I prefer beer. A case officer with Ukraine’s security services, Yaroslav was a native of Kiev, and his accent confirmed it. “Is Pyotr in place?”

“He’s in a booth,” Oleg replied, “nursing a whiskey.”

Dmitri’s voice rose slightly. “And our other friends?”

The frown gave way to a smile. “They’re close.”

“Very well,” Yaroslav sighed. “Now stay sharp—your contacts are just coming in.”

“So I see.”

The conversation ceased. Boris Isakov has arrived, the Ukrainian thought silently, with a bit of eye candy on his arm, it would seem.

The Ukrainian stared ahead. He never turned, but his eyes followed three men and a woman as they entered the bar. Each man was turned out in a dark suit; the woman wore a short, black skirt, split on one side with a scalloped neckline. She was clearly proud of her long legs—among her other ample assets—and Oleg allowed himself a moment to take in her beauty.

He identified her instantly, having seen her photograph during the morning briefing. Nadia Kolvec was Boris’s consort and technical associate, serving as the Russian’s number one. And Nadia wasn’t just a pretty face; she was suspected in the deaths of two Ukrainian police officers. Dmitri recognized her as well. He was growing nervous, but kept his emotions in check.

The group of four began the long walk from the entrance to Oleg’s stool. Two of the men peeled off, taking positions at each end of the bar. Boris moved casually to Oleg’s three o’clock, awkwardly close. A tactical consideration, the Ukrainian mused; most shooters were right-handed, and Boris must have felt that planting himself there would give him an advantage, should gun-play break out.

“Oleg Kerensky?” Boris muttered. He sounded perturbed, upset that Oleg hadn’t spoken first.

“Oleg Avarysius Kerensky.” He never looked up, but scrutinized the woman’s features as she found a seat. The bartender instinctively stayed away. “Boris Isakov?”

A grunt; there would be very little in the way of pleasantries. “Are you ready to do business?”

“What’s your hurry?” Kerensky paused for effect. “I am ready to consider doing business,” he answered. “And what of you? Did you bring the sale item?” Merchandise sounded so cliché, and trite terminology was something the Ukrainian wanted to avoid.

“Possibly,” Isakov hedged. “Are you armed?”

Oleg laughed softly, and then lowered his voice. “Of course I’m armed; I have a Glock on my right hip. And we all know your men are carrying.”

Boris raised an eyebrow. His precautions would do him little good; Kerensky might, under ideal circumstances—circumstances that favored him—draw a bead before the Russian could pin his shooting arm.

“Let’s keep things civil, Boris,” Oleg advised. An admiring glance went to the lady, but he displayed more interest than he really felt. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?”

“Nadia Kolvec, my chief of staff,” Isakov answered smugly. “You may look, Oleg Avarysius Kerensky—just don’t touch.”

The Ukrainian’s eyes bored into Nadia’s. He wore a four day-growth of beard and drew a hand across his chin. “You have property I covet, Boris. But I have no interest in your woman.”

“A pity.” Nadia was not one for wasting words, and Oleg saw her smile. She liked what she saw, and if conditions were different, she would have enjoyed this handsome foreigner.

Game on, Kerensky decided.

For the first time Oleg turned his face toward the Russian mafia boss. “Shall we commence the transaction?”

“Now who is in a hurry?” There was an edge in his voice, but Isakov seemed to relax. “I require more confirmation. How do I know you are who you say you are?”

Oleg heaved a sigh. “Let me put your concerns at ease, Pan Isakov. You received a promise of payment—a back channel pledge of reward. You came here expecting to find Oleg Kerensky, and here I am. I was told to meet with Boris Isakov, and here you are. For my part I represent the Polish government, and they are very eager to know your employer.”

“But you’re Ukrainian,” Boris deflected.

“That is correct.”

“And you don’t like Russians, do you, Kerensky?”

An odd statement, Oleg thought. He gave Isakov an icy stare. “They have not been kind to my family, no.”

Boris’s eyes narrowed. “Why is Dobrogost so interested in what I have to sell?” He was fishing.

Oleg shrugged and wore a tired look. “His role in this has been withheld from me.”

That much was probably true, Boris considered. Damning evidence of any kind would be compartmentalized, and not even the messenger would be privy to the details. But Isakov wasn’t through yet.

“And why send a Ukrainian to broker the deal?”

“So many questions, tavarisch.” Oleg allowed his gaze to fall on the woman’s legs. Nadia Kolvec was undeniably beautiful. “Why hire a Russian to fence the sale item? And why here, on Ukrainian soil?”

The turnabout was unexpected, but Boris was quick to answer. “Probably so that no one party has the advantage.”

Oleg nodded. “A fair assumption.” Easy now, he cautioned himself. “And how do you know I’m Ukrainian?”

“Your accent. You are from Kiev.” That was also true, but there was so much more to Oleg than met the ear.

“I was born not far from here,” he answered truthfully. “If that is not enough, I can tell you more—my village, the names of the schools I attended. Anything you like—but I should warn you. Your resistance to this arbitration is embarrassing the lady.”

Boris reddened, but Oleg’s prodding had the desired effect. For all his protestations, Isakov was being drawn in to this charade. The Russian turned to his left and nodded, bringing one of his associates from the far end of the bar. As he approached, the man retrieved something from his coat pocket.

“A padlock storage device,” Oleg observed. “You take security very seriously, my Russian friend.”

“All in the name of protection,” Boris answered. “Do you know what’s on this drive?”

He shrugged it off. “Does it matter what I know?”

Isakov pursed his lips. “It would matter to me—if my life was on the line.”

There was an interested light in Nadia Kolvec’ eyes. “I think Gospodin Kerensky knows exactly what’s on the drive.” She smiled, and the intensity behind it was more than alarming. “Don’t you, Oleg?”

“Steady,” Dmitri’s voice whispered in Kerensky’s ear. “Something just happened—don’t let them put you on the defensive.”

The Ukrainian kept his cool and decided honesty was the best policy. “Details of the new Polish defense shield,” Oleg answered quietly. “Firewall protocols for the software; I am no expert in this new digital age, but in the wrong hands, the warheads of SMOOTH STONE could be rendered inert—”

“—allowing my country to decimate anyone who stands in our way,” Boris announced.

Oleg smiled again. “Are you a patriot, Boris Isakov?”

“More like a venture capitalist,” the Russian replied. “If I were a patriot, I wouldn’t be selling it back.” He turned the drive over in his hands. “But this seems a fool’s errand. The Poles could just as easily reconfigure the codes and protect the missiles’ integrity.”

“They already have.” Kerensky smiled broadly, the dimple in his left cheek barely visible beneath the stubble.

“So what’s the point of all this?” Boris asked.

Nadia stirred atop the barstool, crossing her legs and allowing the hem of her skirt to ride higher. “To entrap those who stole the codes,” she purred. From her clutch she withdrew a revolver and leveled it at the Ukrainian’s chest. “Put the drive away, Boris.”

“That’s not very friendly,” Oleg said evenly. The pistol was close enough that she wouldn’t miss. “And I thought the two of us were getting on so well.”

Nadia continued to stare but said nothing. She reached out, squeezing Oleg’s thighs.

“What’s going on?” Dmitri’s voice came again. “I don’t like this.”

“Looking for something, Pana Kolvec?” Oleg asked.

“Firearms,” she answered. Her hand moved forward.

“Easy, Nadia,” Kerensky’s voice nearly caught in his throat. “You won’t find any there.”

Smiling wickedly, she ignored Oleg’s warning and tightened her grip. “Look closely, Boris.” Her palm lingered before grasping Oleg’s Glock. She worked it free and laid it in her lap. “Don’t you recognize him?”

He was confused, but Isakov trusted the woman’s judgment. A hand went into his jacket, and the bodyguards assumed a more defensive posture.

“This is the champion of Poland’s agreement with the west,” Nadia continued. “The American Marine turned diplomat—Captain Neill, is it?”

“If you say so,” Kerensky smiled

“You’re sure—an American?” Boris asked. “His command of the language—”

Nadia sighed heavily. “Try watching the news, Boris. He’s a bit scruffy—but it’s definitely him.” She lowered herself slowly to the floor, eyeing the four corners of the bar. “I think it’s time we leave.”

Boris’s own sidearm was on full display now. “There’s an exit in the rear—”

“—and we’ll take Capitan Neill with us,” Nadia licked her lips, “to ensure a safe departure.” The revolver was still pointed at Neill’s chest. “There’s a price on his head in Moscow.”

“On my head?” The Marine feigned surprise. “I’m flattered—but I think I like it right here. Besides, my friends would hate to see me go.”

Boris and his men traded glances, their heads turning in every direction. “He’s not bluffing, Nadia.”

At this hour, the bar was filled with the criminal element. Drug dealers, thieves and prostitutes. And the setting was becoming more fluid. From the shadows of the darkly lit room, Isakov saw movement. Pyotr Stanislaw—a lieutenant in the Polish Army—rose slowly from his table and edged out onto the floor. On the opposite end, more men stood, concealing their flanks, arms hanging loosely at their sides.

There was a wild look in Nadia Kolvec’ eyes. She kept them on Neill and seemed frozen. Etched on her face was a cold determination; a boiling anger intent on recovering control. This was not what she and Boris had planned. The reward was out of the question now, but escape was still a possibility. As the bar’s ‘patrons’ circled closer, she decided it was time to change the circumstances.

It was time for a distraction.

“Da svedanya, Capitan.”

The .38’s report was much louder than expected, but it did the trick. The first round struck Neill center mass. The second went high, over his shoulder, striking the far wall. Neill fell back and landed on the bar room floor. Nadia thought to fire again, but Boris grabbed her arm and pulled her away. His henchmen brought up machine pistols—one held an Uzi—and began to fire into the air, inciting chaos. There were screams and the clattering of chairs as customers began a frantic search for cover...

Red Sky at Morning by Steve Wilson
Tempest of Fire by Steve Wilson
Trinity Icon by Steve Wilson
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Published on August 10, 2015 16:50 Tags: eye-of-charybdis, michael-neill

June 20, 2015

Review of 'Oathtaker'

In the past, I must admit to being a fan of the fantasy genre, growing up reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As I have gotten older, my tastes have shifted to military espionage and historical fiction. Recently I broke away from my current reading list and discovered a wordsmith of impeccable talent, and I invite other readers to make the same discovery.

Author Patricia Reding’s Oathtaker is a brisk read, despite its 500+ page-count. The action is intense and begins right out of the gate. Excellent characterizations, with some very evil antagonists balanced by vulnerable heroes, Oathtaker is an impressive and ambitious debut in a genre that continues to enjoy a surge of popularity.

Mara and Dixon are Oathtakers, caring for the twin daughters of one of the Select, the ruling class of Oosa. Clearly not set on Earth (or any version of Earth familiar to this reader), this world is orbited by three moons, with a backdrop of forests, sanctuaries and palaces. You can see the locales easily in your mind’s eye based on Reding’s superb window-dressing. Incidentally, the artwork on the cover of the book establishes a solid feel for the environment her characters live in.

Honor and commitment, in spite of personal sacrifice, is the theme of Oathtaker. Reding fleshes this out well, calling attention to the various Oathtakers’ duties as they care for their charges. This world is filled with ‘attendant magic’, as well as oral histories and traditions that go to great lengths to establish the story’s societal hierarchy.

Oosa has a rustic feel. Technology is practically non-existent, and in its place we are introduced to the intangible mysticism that is the foundation of great fantasy and mythic story-telling. While I resist comparisons to other authors, doing so in this case might help put the story in the proper frame of reference. Patricia Reding has a voice similar to Ursula K. Le Guin, of Wizard of Earthsea fame, and Oathtaker has the same sylvan feel. In like manner, the book reflects a majesty that can be found in Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, and like those books, Oathtaker is an allegory to the Christian faith.

Reding is an idealist, and populates her world with characters readers can easily identify with. On the flip side, Oosa’s quasi-governmental/religious structure is meticulously detailed—an aspect of the story drawn, no doubt, from Reding’s background as an attorney. The main characters seem ready to kill each other at the beginning of the story, but personalities like these are bound to—well, you’ll just have to see for yourself, but I think most readers will catch on to how things eventually develop.

Props to Reding for building tension as the book progresses. I was perched on the edge of my seat while reading the climactic ending (on one occasion I stretched my lunch hour a little longer to absorb the action). I give her 5 out of 5 for her antagonists’ malevolent intentions. Lillith is especially diabolical, using her feminine wiles and seduction (tastefully done) to achieve her goals. Mara is the other side of the coin, young, idealistic, and virtuous, with a strong commitment to honor and integrity, and the character attributes of each are beautifully crafted.

To find out more, you'll just have to get a copy of the book for yourself. It's available in a handsome paperback version, as well as Kindle edition, and the second, soon-to-be published book in the series, Select, is already receiving 5-Star reviews from readersfavorite.com. I understand that Oathtaker is being considered by Wind Dancer Films for production as a television/movie feature, and the book has already garnered numerous awards from literary sources.

Read Oathtaker. I heartily recommend it. It's a complex but vastly entertaining story of good versus evil. This is undoubtedly just the beginning for Patricia Reding's writing career. Personally, I'd like to see what she does with historical fiction. She certainly has the chops for something along that line, and I doubt we've seen the limits to Trish's creative abilities.
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Published on June 20, 2015 04:48 Tags: fantasy-fiction, oathtaker, patricia-reding

May 26, 2015

Secrets of a Published Author

Okay, so you've completed your novel, and let's say it's Christian fiction, and is hard-hitting, edgey, and full of twists. You're saying, 'Okay, Steve, that's me. What do I do now?'

The first thing you need to do is find someone as passionate about your book as you are, and GET IT PUBLISHED!

(I wasn't yelling, I was just emphasizing that important piece of intel.)

Now some of you are rolling your eyes, because finding a publisher or an agent who will even LOOK at your manuscript is next to impossible. But having an agent helps tremendously in getting your work in front of a big time publisher. So where do you find agents? One great place is online; check out www.aaronline.org for dozens of them. Find one that represents your genre and start sending queries. Compare your manuscripts to similar published works, and explain to them why yours is better. Most won’t give you the time of day, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you’ve won an award, or been nominated for one, put that tidbit into the subject line of your inquiry. Something like, ‘2-Time Hugo Award Winner Seeks Agency Representation’, or ‘Christy Award Nominee Looking For Literary Agent’. You need some kind of a hook to catch their interest, and I have found that this can get their attention. Another method is to find out who represents your favorite authors and contact them as well.

You’ll get rejected. A lot. Most won’t even respond. I can't tell you how many rejections I got when I finished the first (and second, and third) draft of 'Red Sky at Morning'. But persistence has a way of overcoming resistance. So bear with me. I think this blog post will be very important when it comes to encouraging aspiring writers and authors.

On the other hand, you might be surprised. Since March, two of the biggest names in agency representation have corresponded with me about my novels (I won't mention names). One of these gentlemen invited me to submit future manuscripts to his attention. It seems he's very interested in a historical novel I've been developing.

Now the other agent told me he 'might be interested' in my books at a later date. He told me that all three of my books are sitting on his nightstand, and he might give them another look in the future.

Quite frankly, the latter individual has been in the game quite a long time. I think he's lost the enthusiasm for considering new projects. And admittedly, he doesn't have to; he's in a position to pick and choose as he pleases.

So don't give up hope!

Now here’s one of my pet peeves. One of the big hurdles for my genre is the 'Amish Factor'. If you've written Christian fiction, then you know it's dominated by Amish romance novels. Slap a soft, Photoshopped image of a corn-fed beauty on the cover, give it a catchy title (like 'My Amish Bouquet', or 'My Bonnet Stands For Love') and you're almost there. You laugh, but it’s true. Key to this whole process--write this down--is having the corn-fed beauty wearing (you guessed it) a bonnet.

Why do I call that a hurdle? Because unless you're writing Amish Christian fiction, you're facing an uphill battle. "But Tom Clancy never had this problem," you say. And you're absolutely correct. But Tom Clancy wasn't writing military/espionage novels with roots in Christian fiction. And that's the distinction. My goal is to include the very real aspect of faith that exists among military members.

Right about now, many of you have furrowed brows and are worried; because like me, none of your manuscripts feature bonnie lasses in ribboned bonnets either. And that's okay. There are authors out there who shy away from Amish fiction. Take a look at thechristianmanifesto.com, or straightoffthepage.com, two sites dedicated to reviewing Christian fiction. You'll find plenty. And at this point, I think it's best to move on to some of the other points I've uncovered as a debut author in the military genre. There are do's and don't's if you're writing fiction, and these apply to almost any category.

For one thing, you need to get reviews. They don't really sell books, but they get people talking about them, and the more good buzz you have, the better. The above-mentioned websites (thechristianmanifesto.com and straightoffthepage.com) are very good and very reputable sources for authors. Check out their submissions requirements and get the ball rolling. Another excellent site is readersfavorite.com. You can submit your manuscript for a free review. My motto is 'if it's free, it's for me'. So get moving. Readersfavorite also has an annual contest, but beware; there's a fee to enter.

I generally steer clear of 'for fee' review or contest sites (I've done a few of those, but not anymore). Put out a call for reviews on Goodreads.com (another site you really need to establish an account with--and it's free). The best reviews I've received for my books have come from the sites I've just recommended. On Goodreads, you'll meet other authors willing to give your books a look, and also reviewers, as well. So take advantage of that.

Writing conferences. I'm not a fan of those. And I'm not a fan of writers' societies that restrict your access to their site unless you've accrued ‘X amount of royalty money’ in book sales. I'm a member of one of those now, and I just requested a refund. These groups generally purport to be 'invested in your writing career', but they're really only invested in their own wallets. Many are put together by authors seeking a cult of personality, so mind the gap, as they say across the pond.

You're a writer. So write. And establish a social media presence. Promote your work there. Don't get bogged down in networking until you've got a bulk of written and/or published material. Once you've done that, focus on marketing your work. Even if you've got a big publisher behind you, you will need to be involved in spreading the word about your books. It's a big job, but ultimately, your writing career is in your own hands.

Remember that upwards of 80% of fiction readers are women. Here's another secret worth remembering: MEN CAN'T READ. That's right. It's been scientifically proven. They pretend to read, and they’d like you to think they can read. But they can’t. So unless you're writing non-fiction, gear your stuff toward the ladies. Trust me, their insights put the dudes to shame.

Here’s a few other things you can do. Giveaways, even if you’re only offering ebooks. Do contests on places like Goodreads.com. Set up a website. Blog about your work. Post excerpts of your books. But above all, write. Every day. Even if you’re just jotting down ideas for the pages you’ll write tomorrow. Write what God lays on your heart.

When it’s all said and done, you can’t sell what you haven’t written. So crank up the laptop and start writing.

Red Sky at Morning by Steve Wilson Tempest of Fire by Steve Wilson Trinity Icon by Steve Wilson
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Published on May 26, 2015 15:36 Tags: the-michael-neill-adventures

May 21, 2015

The Land That God Forgot

"He was born on Parris Island
The land that God forgot;
The sand is fourteen inches deep
The sun is blazing hot

And when he gets to Heaven
To St. Peter he will tell,
Another Marine reporting sir,
I've served my time in hell."


There's an undeniable mystique about the Marine Corps' recruit training facility (read 'boot camp') at Parris Island, South Carolina. You've seen it in the movies and on TV; 'Full Metal Jacket', 'The D.I.', (now that one's going back a ways), 'The Boys in Company C', and a host of others. Most of these representations are based at least partly in fact, while the rest are simply fantasy. And at the end of the day, when the credits are rolling up the screen, the fantasy fades for the real-life recruits undergoing training, and is replaced by a world-jarring reality.

MCRD Parris Island has a tenuous relationship with the Michael Neill Adventures; Nate Crockett was a graduate prior to becoming an officer. Christina Arrens is also an alumni, along with a few other members of the supporting cast (some will say these are just fictitious individuals, players in a make-believe world, but characters can be very real to the authors who create them).

Parris Island is a place of over-the-top cliches; 'Nobody ever drowned in sweat', 'We never promised you a rose garden', 'Hurry UP, Ladies!', 'We Accept Commitments, Not Compromise'. A list of all the colorful cadences would be almost limitless, and the storied history of recruits turned Marines turned celebrities might also surprise you. It did me.

There are iconic images everywhere. The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor; crossed rifles; the 'Smokey Bear' cover (hat) of the Drill Instructors (never Drill 'Sergeants'); the yellow footprints; the scarlet and gold signs planted everywhere on base; the salt marshes; and last, but not least (and never forgotten by recruits who endured summer training), the ubiquitous sand fleas.

There are two reasons I'm blogging about this incredible place. For one thing, this is Military Appreciation month. And secondly, Parris Island holds a very dear place in my heart (in addition to yours truly, my youngest son graduated from P.I. just 8 years ago).

This past week, I traveled there with two other prior service Marines, buddies I served with in the Air Force Reserve (yes, there is life after the Corps). My friends had suggested a trip to Las Vegas, but I had absolutely no desire to visit Nevada. Instead, I suggested we drive to the Corps' most famous recruit training depot, since all three of us graduated from there (between 30 and 36 years ago). We planned it around a Friday graduation ceremony for half a dozen male platoons, and a series from 4th Battalion, the women's recruit training regiment.

Part of our visit was darkened by tragedies that touched other Marines elsewhere in the world. Marines died just before and after we arrived. An Osprey had a hard landing near K-Bay in Hawaii, killing at least one and injuring others. More Marines died assisting in humanitarian relief efforts in Nepal. Our military members' lives are always at risk, even on friendly soil. We should pray for them without ceasing, until they all come home.

Aside from those somber events--never far from our minds--it was a good trip, and the three of us will remember it for a long time. I even managed to participate in a 5K Fun Run, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the island's military history. We visited parts of the base that were off limits to us during recruit training. We learned about the history of the depot, and were brought up to speed on how the Corps does things in the present, far removed from our indoctrination into the Marines so long ago (it's funny how time dims and alters our memories; parts of the island were very familiar, while others were not).

Overall, I think everything was pretty much where I left it. And even after all these years, approaching a drill instructor with questions was done with great caution.

I have to admit that I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye during the graduation ceremony. Seeing all those new Marines reunited with their families after 13 weeks of boot camp was a sight to behold, and it made me proud. One moment stood out.

A brand new Marine was greeted by a friend or family member who asked: 'What's that arrow thing on your sleeve?' He replied by saying 'It means I'm a PFC, and I make more money than they do!'

Marines. You gotta love 'em.
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Published on May 21, 2015 03:30 Tags: michael-neill, parris-island

April 16, 2015

Excerpt from 'Trinity Icon'

“They’re coming out.”

Breslov’s heart raced; he couldn’t believe their good fortune. Gripping the handle, he threw his shoulder against the door frame. “Time to deliver justice.”

Borla was both somber and resolved. “Insha’Allah.”

Exiting the car at the same time was a tactical error. It attracted too much attention—and there was something awkward about Breslov’s movements.

Borla’s pace was too hurried to be casual. The lead agent should have seen it sooner, but he was momentarily distracted by the red-headed woman advancing from his left.

• • • •
“She’s in the open.”

An odd foreboding tugged at Voskov. The hair on the back of his neck went up, and he quickened his steps. And something just ahead—

“Yuri—!”

“I see it, boss,” Tereshenko snapped.

Xander’s caution was not misplaced. There were times when a coat was just a coat, but to the captain’s practiced eye, the apparel worn by the bearded men was out of place. The lapels of each were open, and the arms of both strangers were briefly concealed in the heavy poplin.

Breslov pulled back his trench, revealing a weapon. The fabric caught on the rifle’s front sight post. Vasily jerked it free and hefted the AKM to his shoulder. Yevgeniy was also armed, and did the same, but neither man wanted to risk missing their target.

That was their second mistake.

• • • •

“Gun.” Yuri’s warning was matter of fact. “Boss—get the girl!”

He pushed Xander in Viktoriya’s direction and raced ahead, his long legs propelling him into harm’s way. Voskov didn’t argue, and each man dashed to the corner.

• • • •
The second agent brought up his Sig, but acted too late. He raised the service pistol just as Borla squeezed off a burst. Impacting his mid-section, the rounds knocked the officer to the pavement before he could return fire.

The lead member of the detail had more time to react. He brought his weapon to bear on Yevgeniy first; one slug struck his chest, while the second entered his skull, killing Borla instantly. The exit wound was not a pretty sight

Screams came from the street. Some ran for cover; others were frozen in place. Breslov ignored the din and focused on the shooter before him. He pulled hard on the trigger. Three rounds struck the agent center mass, dropping him to the sidewalk. Two more went high, chipping granite from the Bristol’s façade. He directed his aim toward the entryway, spraying another five round burst, but these went over Avery’s head, shattering the windows above the entrance.

Neill acted instantly. Reaching forward, he took hold of Avery’s overcoat and pulled him violently to the rear. As the two fell backward, broken glass cascaded around them. Before landing in a heap, the Marine collided with Arrens and Stanislaw, sending them rudely to the deck.

• • • •
With Avery’s protectorate sidelined, Vasily was free to complete his mission—or so he thought.

Marching forward, Breslov cradled his weapon at the waist, pointing the end of the barrel where his target had fallen. Neill could do little more than place his body over Avery’s. He was prepared to charge the shooter, but then his vision clouded as a dark fluid filled his right eye.

Viktoriya tensed as the world exploded. Even with the chaos around her, she knew that moving forward was a bad idea. One gunman was down, and the other was unaware of her presence. The journalist started to retreat—but her efforts were thwarted as she was tackled from behind.

• • • •
Breslov’s head snapped to the right, and he saw Xander Voskov diving toward Viktoriya. The sight was impressive; the rescuer wrapped his body around the woman, twisting in flight and landing on his back. The impact forced the air from his lungs.

The surviving member of the Faction hit squad returned his gaze to the front of the building. The image greeting his eyes startled him, and in the space of a heartbeat the gunman hesitated.

• • • •
“Stay down!”

Neill could only see with his left eye. A sharp pain came from the top of his head, and the two conditions left him dazed. Avery stirred and glass crunched beneath him, but the captain managed to keep him from rising. As he tried clearing his vision, Neill heard the sound of a slide being released on an M45 semi-automatic.

Stanislaw started to get up, his hand clutching the holster on his belt. “Mischa!” There was no response.

Aultman did a swift low crawl toward Neill and Avery. Arrens was on her feet now, stepping across the figures lying prone in the sea of glass. Her arms were extended, and she held a Colt 1911 with the business end aimed squarely at the attacker’s chest. Her finger moved from the dust cover to the trigger; she was preparing to squeeze when Yuri Tereshenko burst onto the scene.

It was indecision that robbed Breslov of success. The tall Ukrainian hit low and hard. He and the Russian tumbled across the flagstone, the rifle clattering out of reach. The two rolled to a stop. Yuri took a knee, pinning the shooter to the ground, and a stunned silence hung over the street.

The security detail began to move. Shocked but unhurt, they had been protected by their vests. The agents gripped their sidearms and got unsteadily to their feet.

Christina’s eyes and hands swept the area. She led with the pistol’s muzzle. Her priority was in judging the threat; one of the assailants was clearly dead, and the other lay subdued near the street. To her left was a woman who looked remarkably like Viktoriya Gavrilenko. On closer inspection—

“Christina!” It was Michael’s voice. He reached out, his hand gripping her leg.

That’s a first, she thought dryly.

“We’re clear.” Arrens relaxed, but didn’t drop her guard.

The captain recovered, crouching over the national security advisor. He pulled Avery into a sitting position. Small chunks of glass fell from each man as they got up.

“You hurt?” One eye was screwed shut, but Neill gave his charge a quick once-over. He was pleased to see that the man in the ruffled suit was uninjured. The sound of sirens came from blocks away.

“I’m fine.” Avery’s face was a portrait of surprise. He looked at the Marine. “Good Lord, Neill, you’ve been hit.”

Arrens dropped her gaze. “Oh, God—”

Trinity Icon (Michael Neill Adventure Series Book 3) by Steve Wilson
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Published on April 16, 2015 03:35 Tags: christina-arrens, michael-neill, trinity-icon