PREVIEW: Excerpt from MANUS DEI (Prologue)


His ears were ringing. And they hurt. Badly. As he shook his head to clear his thoughts, Tyler A. West, SEAL E-6 on detached service, was desperately trying to regain his senses. The current composite operation code-named Night Wind was beyond doubt, FUBARed. Luckily, he had not lost his FAST high cut carbon helmet.

“Shit. Lost my NVG,” Tyler thought. He lost the advanced four-tube night vision goggles in the IED explosion.

He could feel the flow of blood running down his face. His blood. Must be a nasty cut there, he grimly thought. Internal hemorrhaging and possible serious damage was the pain in his ribs and chest. No to mention burst eardrums. The bloody bundle that was his left leg finished the list of major injuries he could see so far. Cuts, light wounds, and bruises all over the body rounded out the whole bloody mess.

In complete silence, they had entered the house at 0200. Other teams have already eliminated the three dogs in the Afghan walled compound. They stealthily crawled through a small side opening of the house which led to a storage room. The intel was picture perfect up to that point.

Then somebody pulled the trigger on the waiting IED in the room. Still, he was lucky. He was the last one in. The sudden explosion hit Evans and Gardner so bad that he could see bits and pieces of them around the room, even on the dingy walls. He was fortunate Gardner’s body shielded him from the brunt of the IED’s explosive force.

Roughly thrown behind some wooden crates in a corner of the room, Tyler was dizzy, disoriented, and knew he will die in an hour or so. If not because of the injuries, then the continuing blood loss will finish him off. Or a quick burst from the weapon of whoever was going to check on the IED’s effectiveness.

Most of his gear was gone, swept away or destroyed by the force of the explosion. He had his back turned when it happened as Tyler had just climbed down from the window. Even the MOLLE assault backpack was torn from his back. It did provide additional protection from the violently explosive blast. Unfortunately, it also contained his medical kit.

He didn’t know if he was lucky or unlucky to be still alive. It was a trap. A nicely baited one. Knowing the experienced enemy, a lot of men and firepower were going to be brought against them. Tyler wouldn’t be surprised if they hid some light armor around the compound. Even an old BRDM armed with a Soviet-era NSV heavy machine gun would be dangerous to the extreme.

It was plain that the enemy knew their tactical plan. He now expected that the details of their operational extraction were also compromised. Operation Night Fart would have been a better name for this FUBAR as every aspect of it stank to the high heavens.

Given the compromised situation, the rest of the assault team, the backup group and even the blocking team would be pinned down, dead or hopefully, doing retrograde action. He loved that word. Retrograde. Such a fancy term for running away after you’ve got your ass handed to you.

Hearing through his bloodied and deafened ears was almost impossible. But he could feel the detonating thumps on the ground and the structure of the house as RPG rockets started raining. Even heavier thumps started. Must be Russian B-10 or the Chinese copy, the Type 65. Old 82mm recoilless rifles but still deadly and fast firing. That a welcome party awaited them was evident. It was obvious that the asset had been turned and the stupid Powerpoint pogs bought the rumint hook, line and sinker.

The entire covert operation was to be a quick snatch and grab. The “very reliable” intel pinpointed the target to be in the house for tonight only, with minimal guards. Hence, the composite nature of the team.

The stupid black ops handlers were in an excited rush. But all special forces meat-eater teams were on assignment that night. So they grabbed what they can get. Cutting short Tyler’s R and R when they got him as he was waiting in Bagram Air Base for his flight to rest and relaxation.

Even the gear appeared put together by a fobbit. At least he got a Mark 18 Mod 0 CQBR M4 with an Aimpoint T-2 red dot and a Sig Sauer P226. And the NWU type II uniform. But the assault vest was a commercial one with provisions for plate inserts. He did have a Kevlar plate but it was at the front. Ammo loadout was only 240 rounds as “quick” was the word of the day. Communications gear was full bone conduction tactical communication equipment. Though as of the moment, the high-tech com system was useless. The damage had done its job. To make matters worse, his holed hydration bladder watered his back and his butt.

Yet, the sling of M4 was still within his grasp. Tyler pulled the weapon to him. The Aimpoint T-2, the infrared illuminator, and the visible bright light attachments were all damaged beyond use. He then checked the weapon by feel. He couldn’t see anything given the darkness and the sweat and blood dripping all over his forehead. A quick swipe with his sleeve remedied the problem though he could fresh blood flowing down his face again. The M4 appeared operational. But he couldn’t tell if the barrel had been twisted or bent. His P226 with its suppressor was gone, Tyler had unclipped the holding clasp of its holster as he slung his assault rifle on his shoulder preparatory to climbing done the small entry point.

Collecting himself, he laboriously dragged himself up. Muttering a quick prayer and moving as fast as he could manage, Tyler half-crawled through the terrible chunky and bloody mess in the room and up the stairs. Any rising panic at the desperate situation was squelched by experience and his rising anger. As he neared the middle of the steps, the door opened revealing two silhouetted figures. Each armed with the ubiquitous AKM. The distinctive barrel profile of the weapon settled matters for him. He quickly fired short bursts at each figure. At the distance involved, precise aiming didn’t matter.

He still couldn’t hear the thunder of the M4 though he saw the flashes from its suppressor as he fired. Its minimal recoil was a relief to his aching body. Tyler’s usual carry was an M14 EBR with a Leopold 3.5-10x scope. The recoil of that 7.62x51mm beast would have been painful. The two figures quickly crumpled to the floor. A dropped AKM slid past him.

Hoping that the firefight in the compound was still ongoing so the noise would cover the sounds of his firearm, he waited for a few anxious seconds. Rushing to the top of the stairs wouldn’t be a good idea considering his wounds. Despite his physical condition, Tyler could hear the palpitations of his heart as he waited with bated breath for any alarmed reaction. Adrenalin was pumping through his system. That would be enough to carry him through the next few minutes. A grenade suddenly rolling down the stairs wouldn’t be a far-fetched response, if anybody was still in the room above. The wounded soldier then gathered what remained of his strength and crawled to the top of the stairs.  He looked around. Empty.

The target was reported to be in a room to the right of the door entrance to the storage space.


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