The CIA's deepest secrets are being given away for a larger agenda that will undermine the entire Western intelligence community. Director of National Intelligence Mary Pat Foley wants it stopped but doesn't know who, how or why.
Jack Ryan, Jr., is dispatched to Poland on a different mission. The clues are thin, and the sketchy trail dead ends in a harrowing fight from which he barely escapes with his life.
If that's not bad enough, Jack gets more tragic news. An old friend, who's dying from cancer, has one final request for Jack. It seems simple enough, but before it's done, Jack will find himself alone, his life hanging by a thread. If he survives, he'll be one step closer to finding the shadowy figure behind the CIA leak and its true purpose, but in the process, he'll challenge the world's most dangerous criminal syndicate with devastating consequences.
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About the Author
Mike Maden is the author of the critically acclaimed Drone series. He holds both a master's and Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Davis, specializing in international relations and comparative politics. He has lectured and consulted on the topics of war and the Middle East, among others. Maden has served as a political consultant and campaign manager in state and national elections, and hosted his own local weekly radio show for a year.
Date of Birth:April 12, 1947
Date of Death:October 1, 2013
Place of Birth:Baltimore, Maryland
Education:Loyola High School in Towson, Maryland, 1965; B.A. in English, Loyola College, 1969
Read an Excerpt
Partido de Bah’a Blanca, Argentina
He was a Scorpion.
First Ensign Salvio was never more proud of that fact than now. He checked his watch.
Three minutes to target.
Like his men, he was kitted out in body armor, a leg-holstered Glock 17 pistol, an M4A1 carbine, and a ballistic ATE Kevlar helmet with night-vision goggles.
The noise of the whining twin turboshafts of the EC145 Eurocopter filled the dimly lit cabin. His platoon of special operators of Grupo Alacr‡n-Scorpion Group-was the best unit in the Gendarmer’a Nacional Argentina. Maybe the whole country.
Grupo Alacr‡n was Argentina's primary antiterror weapon. Like Israel's Yamam-the elite police unit with whom Salvio's team had trained in the Ayalon Valley-his men were the bleeding tip of the spear.
Salvio flashed three fingers to his trusted number two, Sergeant-Adjutant Acu–a, who acknowledged with a nod and a feral grin. The two of them cut their teeth fighting armed Mafia gangs and Islamic radicals in La Triple Frontera, the border region where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina collided. Long a bastion of drugs, guns, and human trafficking by international and indigenous gangs, the region's violence and crime grew worse each year. The Lebanon civil war drove tens of thousands of Lebanese to the region, and with them, Hezbollah.
And with Hezbollah came Iran.
Hell, even Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Mohammed had visited La Triple Frontera years ago.
His government couldn't root them out. Couldn't even stem the tide. But after OBL appeared on scene, American money and technology flooded in and brought the war on terror to La Triple Frontera. Kept the cancer contained for a few years. But then the Americans turned their attention elsewhere and now Hezbollah was on the move again. South.
Tonight's mission was proof of that.
GNA intelligence had spotted a Lebanese Hezbollah commander two days ago, and CIA confirmed. But the CIA confirmation yesterday of an actual Iranian Quds Force commander on the ground near the coastal city of Bah’a Blanca put blood in their mouths.
Against his government's protests, a gathering of Hasidic youth in Bah’a Blanca was scheduled for next week. Hundreds of young Jewish people from all over the country would attend. A perfect target.
And an Iranian Quds Force commander to lead the attack.
Hezbollah had killed in his country before. More than a hundred Jews in two separate bombing attacks in the nineties.
And they'd promised to do it again.
The two terrorists were holed up at a small abandoned horse ranch just twenty-six kilometers north of the city. "Capture them-alive" was his only order, straight from the mouth of the comandante mayor. A chance to finally break the Hezbollah network, he said. And to knock the bastard Iranians back on their heels.
So they saddled up at their base in Ciudad Evita, loading out three helicopters with twenty-three of his best troopers. The three Eurocopters took three different flight vectors, avoiding direct routes from the base to the target. He was pushing the EC145 range limit to the maximum but there was no point in making it easy for any shoulder-fired MANPADS the tangos might have with them. His aircraft would need a refuel for the flight back for sure.
"Two minutes out," the pilot said in Salvio's headset. He glanced around the cabin. Tarabini, Gallardo, Zanetti, Crispo, Birkner, Hermann. His boys were young but well trained, good shooters and duros. They met his eyes with confident smiles. They were like hungry wolves in a pack.
"Kill the lights," he told the pilot. The dim red bulbs extinguished.
Salvio switched his comms channel. "Bravo One, this is Alpha One. Sitrep."
His sniper team-a shooter and spotter posted a kilometer away in the flat, open field surrounding the ranch-replied. "Eyes on. No movement. Lights out. Good to go, sir."
"ETA ninety seconds," Salvio said, adding in English, "Stay frosty!" He logged off. Like every other Argentinian man his age, he grew up on American movies, but it was his Black Hat jump instructor at Fort Benning who'd first barked that order at him.
Time to rock 'n' roll.
Based on drone surveillance photos shot the day before, Salvio ordered the pilots to put down in a NATO ÒYÓ formation at twelve, four, and eight o'clock relative to the broken-down main house. The only trees in the area were a few dense mesquites surrounding the house, partially blocking the view of the windows. Fence rails were down in several places, and a few ramshackle outbuildings were scattered around the now horseless ranch that had seen better days.
Each Eurocopter flared in near perfect sync to just a meter above the hardpacked dirt one hundred meters from the house. Salvio jumped first. His men followed, boots hitting the ground on a dead run. The choppers roared away and took up overwatch, circling high and wide as the Scorpion operators raced toward the main house. Beneath the moonless blue-black sky, the ancient farmhouse was a gray shadow.
Salvio landed at the four o'clock. He whispered orders into his comms for the advance of the rest of his team, knowing full well his men could do it without him.
"Bravo One, we're on the ground," Salvio said. "Watch your fire."
"We have your back, sir." The sniper team was positioned at six o'clock, the big Barrett M95 directly opposite the front door, ready to put a .50 BMG slug through any cabr—n that stepped into its night-vision glass.
Salvio's squad advanced at a slow, crouching trot, as did the others. Out in the open on the flat, grassy plains there was little chance of finding cover, so dropping in close was the only choice. He'd chosen the night, hoping the fighters inside didn't have night-vision capabilities.
The twenty-four troopers closed in rapidly from three directions, weapons high, rounds chambered, safeties off. Heavy boots thudded onto the rickety wraparound porch, where the squads split up, stacking on either side of windows and both doors, front and back. Flash-bangs were pulled.
Salvio took the front door. Arab music blared from a tinny radio inside. He whispered another order into his comms. Flash-bangs crashed through window glass in six places simultaneously. The men closed their eyes and opened their mouths just as the grenades detonated.
Doors crashed open under their boots and Scorpions poured through into darkened rooms. The tactical light on Salvio's Glock 17 illumined the living room, as did the swiftly panning lights on the carbines around him.
"Clear!" one of his sargentos shouted from the back of the house. Other shouts of "Clear!" soon followed. Soon, Acu–a appeared, disappointment in his flash-lit eyes.
"All clear, sir. Nobody's home."
Salvio swore as he holstered his pistol. Where the hell were these bastards?
"Aqu’!" a man shouted from the kitchen. Salvio and Acu–a dashed in. Private Gallardo's lighted weapon pointed at the floor inside a small pantry closet. A trap door. Salvio tore it open and pulled out his pistol, activated the tac light on the barrel.
"Gallardo, Hermann, with me," Salvio ordered as he dropped into the darkened tunnel.
Salvio and the others returned to the kitchen entrance empty-handed. The tunnel ran seventy or so meters to an empty outbuilding. The terrorists must have fled from there, out of sight of his sniper team.
Salvio checked in with the chopper pilots on his comms, all deploying night vision and thermal imaging. "See anything?"
"No, sir. Not even a rabbit."
He was supposed to report the capture of the two terrorists to the comandante mayor as soon as it happened. The old man would be pissed. All he had in his hands at the moment was his own swinging dick. Not exactly what HQ was hoping for.
Salvio barked orders. He'd tear the place apart for intelligence. Maybe come away with something to show for their efforts.
They ripped through the house front to back, flipping mattresses, tossing drawers, pulling rugs, tearing up floorboards. The place looked like a debris field after a tornado.
Somebody had been here-trash and butts on the floor, a filthy, unflushed toilet.
But not one shred of intel to bring back for a trophy.
While his men stood around gulping water from their hydration packs and scarfing down protein bars, Salvio called his pilots, ordering them to land for exfil. Might as well get back to barracks at Ciudad Evita and call it a night.
Ten minutes later, his unit's three Eurocopters touched down, their turbines slowed. His men ducked low to avoid the carbon-fiber rotors raking the air just above their heads and piled into the choppers. They made room for the sniper and his spotter, who'd had to hump in six klicks by foot the day before to avoid detection. The sniper grabbed a spot on the floor at Salvio's feet.
At least the men were in good spirits, Salvio told himself. They laughed and joked among themselves as young men do for release after the adrenaline rush of a combat operation.
Even one where no shots were fired.
"Ready, Ensign?" the pilot asked.
"Let's get back to the barn," Salvio said, in English. Just like his instructor at Fort Benning used to say. "R‡pido." Salvio's son, a striker, was finally starting on his fœtbol team. With any luck, the refuel would go fast and he'd make it home in time to catch his game.
The turbines whined as the choppers lifted in unison, arcing into the warm, starlit sky, streaking for home in single file.
A heartbeat later, alarms screamed.
Salvio grabbed a handhold as the helicopter plunged violently to escape, blowing auto-chaff in a steep banking turn. Through the gunner's door he saw a fiery streak slam into one of his choppers and erupt in a cloud of flaming metal.
The last thing Salvio heard was the roar of the exploding HE charge that tore his aircraft apart, killing most, including him. The screaming survivors perished when the burning wreck slammed into the ground five hundred meters below.
In the space of thirty seconds, the entire Scorpion platoon ceased to exist.
Proof of concept number one.
Jack pulled up to the curbless street in front of the modest one-story white frame house and killed the engine. It brought back memories. He hadn't been here since his freshman year in college, when Cory's mom cooked the two Georgetown students a roast. "Stick-to-yer-ribs food, Jack. That's what you boys need if you're sailing today," she'd said. Taking the skiff Cory's dad built out onto Daugherty Creek was one of Jack's favorite memories.
Cory's working-class family was a lot like that little house. Solid, sturdy, dependable-and certainly nothing fancy. But Cory had been a good friend, and the memories Jack had from the summer road trip they took in their sophomore year, hiking fourteeners in Colorado, still made him laugh.
Jack approached the front door with trepidation. He hadn't seen Cory in years. Always meant to, but they both got busy. When his father died in his junior year, Cory gave up his dream of law school and dropped out of Georgetown to take over his father's hardware store, and to care for his ailing mother. Jack made it out a few times that year, but Cory was too tied up with customers and inventory to really do anything but shoot the bull over coffee at the store. Jack's academic plate was also overflowing. No hard feelings. Just a fork in the road. They went their separate ways.
Jack found his dream job with Hendley Associates and The Campus.
Cory stocked lumber and bird food.
Cory's mother died a few years back, but Jack missed that funeral-he didn't even know about it until a year after she was buried. He meant to call Cory and offer his condolences, but it just felt too damn awkward after so much time had passed.
Some friend, asshole.
Jack rang the doorbell. A moment later, a smartly dressed middle-aged nurse in blue scrubs opened the door. Jack noticed her lapel pins. Mary Francis was an RN and a nun. She smiled.
"You must be Jack. Cory's expecting you."
"Thank you, Sister."
Jack followed her through the neat and tidy home, the old wooden floors creaking under his two-hundred-pound muscled frame.
"How's he doing?" Jack whispered, as if in church.
"As well as can be expected," she replied at full voice. "It won't be long now."
He followed her down a narrow hallway. A dozen family photos in cheap frames hung on the walls. One of them was a picture of Jack and Cory standing next to that skiff so many years ago.
"This way," the nun said, pushing open a bedroom door. An invitation for him to enter alone.
Jack halted for a second. He would've felt more comfortable charging blind into a Tora Bora cave with an empty pistol than dealing with what he imagined was waiting for him inside.
"Jack, you came."
Cory smiled broadly, sitting up in his adjustable bed. He held out his hand. Despite the pallid skin and skeletal frame, he exuded warmth and grace.
Jack sighed with relief. He crossed the room and took Cory's soft hand. Jack was six-foot-one and powerfully built. More so now than when they were in school together. But back then, Cory had been six-four and two-twenty. A state champion lacrosse player. A real beast. Hard to believe the frail wraith in the adjustable bed had once carried a 175-pound Jack a mile and a half down a Colorado slope on his back after he twisted his ankle. Now Cory was half his former weight, if that, and could barely hold up his own arm.
"Good to see you, Cor."
"Sorry for the long drive out. I know you're a busy guy."
Cory saw the flinch. "Sorry, I didn't mean it that way. I know working for a financial firm like Hendley Associates must be an eighty-hour-a-week job."
"Sometimes I bring a cot to the office. Better to sleep than commute."
"Good for you." Cory lay back on his elevated bed, obviously fatigued by his efforts.
Jack glanced around the room while Cory got comfortable, adjusting the IV needle taped to the back of his bruised and sallow hand. A large crucifix hung on the wall opposite the foot of his bed. Next to it was a framed wedding photo of his parents. Cory was an only child.
Standing next to the bottles of pain meds was a framed novena-"Our Lady of Good Remedy." A rolling IV stand with a bag stood on the far side of the bed.
"So, I like what you've done with the place," Jack said.
"My designer calls it Medical Modern. Sort of like Mad Men, but with drugs instead of booze."