Time frame: the month leading up to his appearance in Paradise Point.
Adam Lark leapt off the C-130 plane like he had a hundred times before. The wind smacked his face and pushed against his entire body. He closed his eyes. The sensation of free falling both exhilarated and terrified him. When he opened his brown eyes, his mind flooded with the mission objective, steps, and his team.
He counted four heads and their water craft incased in a crate below. In ten seconds they would all drop deep into the Indian Ocean three miles off the coast of Mogadishu. Adam couldn’t wait. Falling through the sky made them all exposed targets. Exposure wasn’t a positive in his line of work.
The frigid water surrounded him and he waited for the shock to wear off. Although routine, his mind and body never remembered. He rose to the surface using only necessary energy. His team met at the zodiac, cut the straps of the crate, and one by one loaded.
They silently motored inland, until they reached a hook of land. Adam caught the laser focused stare of his men and knew their minds were as attentive. Good. Just like we’ve trained. He didn’t want it any other way. The cloudless night shielded his team from their enemy. Reed Lennox, the military combat diver on his team, and Kaden Tambo, a man who could gather intelligence wherever he may be, secured the team’s fast trek to land.
Thad Darby, whom Adam swore was a human Google Maps, took the lead on the tether because he was their compass man. All five men made quick work of their systems check and were subsurface in less than a minute. The closed circuit re-breathers they used left no air bubbles in the water. Remaining undetectable was vital. Tambo, Lennox, and Sword packed the middle leaving Adam at the end.
Given the choice, he’d pick the road less traveled to gain the upper hand every time. There was nothing better than the element of surprise. Years of training honed his team’s skills to navigate the treacherous deep blue and complete the task at hand, which usually fell on land. Combat Divers were a thing of beauty; they were trained tactically to infiltrate combat situations using water. Luckily, his team was made up of not only combat divers, but men who had also specialized in other branches of the military.
Darby signaled they’d reached the end of their water path, the next leg involved dirt. The four men rose out to the water at the same time.
Now I remember why I hate Somalia. The rain he could deal with, it was really only a slight irritant. The real point of contention was the dammed terrain. The prairie was a bitch—grassy clumps and small bushes slowed them yet didn’t hide them. This is the worst. When the water no longer shielded their presence the slip cover of darkness did. And, tonight, not a star or cloud could be seen in the Somalia sky. Their shadows weren’t even traceable which allowed Adam and his team a brazen path straight toward the structure and the captors holding the two American soldiers.
He didn’t do this job for the love of travel or humidity. No. He did it because two American soldier hostages were being held by a militia group. These men had put their lives on the line for their country and in turn Adam and his team would come to their aide. His team always answered that call.
“Lark.” Willamina’s strong voice shouted in his ear piece.
Sonuvabitch I’ve got to remember to check the volume on this thing. He was going to go deaf before thirty-five.
“I hear ya.” His voice was low and he knew his entire team was patched into the same comm system.
“Satellite shows movement on the parameter and two heat sources in the upper right corner of the house. They haven’t moved since I’ve been watching — has to be Stephens and Ponco.”
“Need a number on hostiles.”
“Five surrounding and two in the…wait, six surrounding. Shit.”
Adam heard the clicking on her keyboard as she raced to give him the most current intel. Willamina, being their tech and communications specialist, stayed in the office to assist them from afar. She was more deadly from her desk than half the men he’d come up in the ranks with were in the field.
They’d made great time, but didn’t have long to breech the house that held the captive soldiers to stay on schedule. They were on a strictly-timed rescue mission.
“Five and a dog.”
“Say what?” Sword voiced everyone’s reaction.
“That or a kid,” Willamina deadpanned.
With the guerrilla fighting in deprived, angry countries, it was a tossup.
“Tambo. Darby,” Adam called out and signaled to his right. “Lennox. Sword. With me.” He signaled to the left and they broke.
Willamina’s intel placed the back door as the fastest route upstairs. His orders were clear: rescue the hostages with extreme prejudice and force. Don’t hold back, boys. Not that you ever do. He had two minutes to position himself before they initiated the attack. Radio silence commenced until the gun fight started.
In the four years since Adam had been part of Wingfield Intelligence Group, or WIG, he spent the last two years with this specific team. His team had been a naturally well-timed bunch from the first mission, each clicking into their assigned slot and performing exceptionally well. He trusted each of them with his life; he had to, their missions weren’t cushy and always fell under the radar.
Gunfire erupted on either side. Adam and his men were more selective of their shots, no doubt due to their hours and hours of training.
Lennox and Sword advanced, watching their respective sides, while Adam watched their six. Their footsteps were synced as if they were all listening to the same music. The three reached the door and Adam broke off in search of the two captive men. Once through the door, he hung right and swiftly ascended the stairs.
All five team members had studied the floor plan on their long flight, agreeing on their strategy. In less than forty-eight hours Adam’s team will have received the mission, completed it and would be back at WIG in San Diego ready for another.
Three bedrooms and one bathroom completed the second level. The team had debated the merits of each door, all four of them making a case for the most likely to be holding Stephens and Ponco.
Adam gently turned the knob on the bedroom door to his right, pointing his M-16 from side to side and found no one. He moved out and back down the hall to the far left. He repeated his sweep. Door number two was empty as well. His heart rate kicked up and he steadied his breathing so his reactions would be precise. He retreated to lucky door number three. Nearly holding his breath he opened the door and immediately swung his gun to the left as movement caught his gaze. He fired and one hostile dropped. He moved about the room to make sure it was clear.
Adam hefted his gun over his shoulder and cut the ropes on the men with the knife he always kept secured at his shin. He sized up the battered men. Even in the dim light he could tell they were in bad shape.
“Can you move?” Adam asked. He wore Army fatigues and didn’t bother to introduce himself. They didn’t have time.
“Yes,” both men answered and nodded.
“Targets acquired,” Adam said into his comm system.
“Roger,” four male voices and one female responded.
“Moving,” Adam replied to signal evacuation and both men were able to move on their own, he didn’t need assistance.
The experienced military men signaled to Adam that the second man guarding them had gone down stairs when the fire fight started. Adam hesitated before leaving the room. Something wasn’t right. They don’t get weapons. It might’ve been a bonus to have two more guns helping, but he’d rather be safe than dead.
Adam went down the stairs first. He knew the two men had been hostages for at least three days. His reaction times would be better. As they reached the bottom, Adam signaled with a fist in the arm for the men to halt.
He heard footsteps to his right. He peaked out of the stairwell with his weapon ready and fired. A body dropped to the ground.
Adam ushered the men out of the door and headed back the way they’d come in. “Out and moving. Status,” he demanded. If they all weren’t able to leave yet, he’d go back.
“Tambo and Darby moving to rendezvous,” Darby replied.
“Lennox and Sword wrapping up,” Sword reported.
“Assistance needed?” Adam stopped.
“Negative. On the move now,” Sword confirmed.
Seconds later Sword and Lennox met with the team to take the trek back.
“Here.” Lennox shoved a pistol toward Stephens.
Adam reached out as soon as the metal glint caught his eye. Are you crazy? He grabbed the weapon before it touched Stephen’s hand. We don’t know what happened while they were captured. He secured the weapon. Adam always erred on the side of caution. He glared at Lennox before giving the two fingered signal for his team to head out. Lennox had made a rookie mistake that would not go unanswered.
*Check back April 21st for the final installment in the Paradise Point prequel!*