Excerpt from “Phoenix Rising” by Dameon Gibbs and Corey Ballard

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I just wanted to update everyone on one of my latest writing projects called “Phoenix Rising” which will be released later this fall. So for now I am going to start giving everyone a taste of what’s to come. Below is an excerpt from the beginning of my book, please leave your comments and thoughts below. Thanks and enjoy.

Winds blew across the sand dune sweeping up clouds of dust that formed swirls in the air. After a few moments the ground started to shake, and something started to emerge from the sands. The thing raised its hand to his neck and whispered. Behind him the ground shifted and six more emerged from the sand as if they came from the earth itself. The members of Delta Force Sierra have been sent to kidnap a key member of Saddam’s military advisors. The team leader, Nicholas “Edge” Pierce, scanned the village in his mind converting what he saw to the satellite images his team was given to study. His mind was calm but full of all sorts of information: what the target looked like, the expected number of his protection detail, plus soldiers already at the outpost. They were all considered expendable; however, the target was not……
Edge scanned the compound. It was not an impressive fortification; majority of it was the foundations of old stone buildings. It looked like a village that had been abandoned for some number of years. Where old buildings once stood were now tents. It was at most 300 feet in diameter, with only a few lookout posts set up around the perimeter. At the far end stood three buildings connected like a town house: the target’s location. This concerned him: “We are being sent in to capture a guy whose security detail is weaker than a carnival.” He switched his binoculars to thermal.
“Doom left side, Hawk right side. Go thermal and give me body count.” Edge ordered. The two men did as ordered. After a few seconds they knew what was going through Edge’s mind. Hawk pulled out his binoculars and did the same. He got a few hits, but not enough to make him happy.

“None,” Replies Doom

“Four by the right perimeter.” Reported Hawk.

“The only activity I see is in the center of the building. Two on roof center building, three on first floor, and four on second floor. There is no fucking way he is here,” Edge said as he signaled the group to circle up. His sniper, call sign Doom, knelt next to him. Doom had a hard face with intense green eyes. He was soft-spoken yet a serious person. Only the members of the team and his wife had ever seen his lighter side.

Next to him was the hulking Irish behemoth of muscle known as Robert “Quake” Flynn, the team’s happy explosive expert. After the goliath was Leandro “Hertz” Vega, the team’s expert on communication technology as well as their translator, as he spoke four languages besides English. Vega was only 5’6″ which led Flynn to once refer to him as “Short Wave,” in response to which Vega good-naturedly but firmly informed him in each of the five languages he spoke about the consequences of doing it again. The scout of the team, Daryl “Dust” Washington, sat next to Hertz, double-checking his weapon. He was the fastest member of the team, a sprinter in high school track and field whose speed could only be matched by his tongue. Next was the marksman, Karl “Hawk” Reed, who got his call sign from his ability to notice everything, no matter how small. On many missions he has acted as Doom’s spotter. While on a mission, the two spoke so little that it was a wonder they could coordinate anything but their success rate was so high that there was talk of some kind of telepathy between them.
Finally, Trident, the medic of the group, was the youngest member at 28. He was known for having everything in his life happen in threes, as exemplified by his name – Michael Marshall Masters – and the number of times he repeated his freshman year of college before joining the military.

“I doubt this guy is still here but we are going in anyway. Doom, you take care of the guards on the top of the building. Then cover red team’s approach to the building. Blue team watch your approach, there may be more than we can’t see. Remember, do not breach until you hear from me. Any questions?” Edge asked. His team gives him the thumbs up. “Alright, move out.”

The two teams moved in slowly, making sure they would not be detected. It took them almost fifteen minutes to reach their respective points of infiltration. Meanwhile, Doom lay in the sand, rifle steady, locked on the two guards. He knew that they were the only ones that would have a chance of seeing the approaching team. Judging by their lackadaisical approach to guard duty, the team could have approached with bells on and they would not have noticed. Still Doom kept them in the crosshairs so as soon as he got the “go” he could drop them. He flipped of the safety switch on his HK MSG – 90 Sniper rifle, his weapon of choice for this type of mission.

“Blue team in position,” Doom heard over his earpiece. Dust’s voice was very distinctive and Doom recognized it easily. Or, he though, it’s just that Dust talks so much I can hear him in my sleep. Quake, Trident and Dust were in the position ready to start their assault on the building. Now it was a matter of how long it would take Edge and Red team to get to their position.

Doom had met Edge when they were placed on the same team eight years ago, along with Hertz. The three had become very close, Edge was even Doom’s best man at his wedding. Edge had risen to the rank of team leader about two years ago, and had proven to be a natural at it. The team had unflinching loyalty and faith in his skills. Most importantly, Doom’s wife was happy that he was the leader and when she was not happy not even his sniper rifle would help him.

“Bring it, Doom.” Edge whispered. As soon as he heard the command Doom took a breath, exhaled and pulled the trigger. Anyone standing within five feet of him would hear a muffled ping; anyone beyond that would hear nothing. Just like the first guard who caught the bullet in the side of his head. No sooner had the first round left the barrel had Doom set up the second guard and pressed the trigger. He dropped just seconds after the first, not even knowing his partner had died. Two shots, two dead, not bad Doom thought to himself.

“Tangos Down,” reported Doom as he swept the camp. “Blue team no visible tangos on your side of the camp. Red team four tangos on your side. Two of them four tents straight ahead on left side. Last two are six tents to right.”

“Got it!” Replied Edge as he signaled to Hawk and Hertz to take out the two on the right. They slung their assault rifles and pulled out side arms: Hawk and Hertz pulled out their HK MK 23, while Edge pulled out his preferred Beretta 9mm. They all attached silencers and waited for the go. “Doom, I am going to need you to take out the tango closest to the tent,” Edge said looking towards Hawk and Hertz then counted silently, “1…..2…..3.”

Red team broke out into two directions: Edge heading straight ahead, Hawk and Hertz heading right. They moved with perfect precision, no step wasted. Edge moved silently with his gun up. He crept to the end of the tent and heard the patrol coming his way.
Doom’s voice came over the radio, “I’ve got the one furthest from the tent.” Even though it was the dead of night, the moon gave just enough light for the patrol’s shadow to be seen. Edge realized the guards were closer than he thought and he drew his knife, readying himself to pounce like a panther on his unsuspecting prey. All was quiet except the sound of the sand beneath the guard’s feet. Controlling his breathing to soundlessness, Edge was as still as the night. The sand was going to shift under his feet and prevent him from pushing off quickly when he attacked so he had to wait for Doom to strike first and create the distraction.

Nerves kicked in, then adrenaline, as Edge waited for his cue. The shadows were closer, the voices louder, and the time was near. The sand kicked up in front of Edge, as the guards walked in front of him. Edge heard a muffled thud before the remaining guard turned to look at his partner that was now sprawled dead a step behind him. With the distraction in place Edge pounced upon his victim, jamming his knife into the guard’s neck. A quick twist and the soldier went limp. Edge quietly scanned the area as he cleaned his knife on his pants leg.

In the distance Doom changed his focus to Hertz and Hawk. On the other end of the camp Hawk and Hertz moved towards their target as they hunched down making smaller, smoother, quieter steps so as not to alert the guards that were now two tents away. The deadly duo had their night vision goggles pulled down, their guns raised and sights set. Remaining alert, they continued to scan their green world which flickered with white lights from distant lamps.

Doom calmly spoke over their earpieces, “Hawk, tangos walking your way.” Hawk stopped and dropped to one knee. Hertz, followed right behind him, stopping just in time to see the first guard come into the intersection. They waited as tension built: Hertz expected at any moment the guard would turn around and notice them. However to their favor the guard continued talking with his back to them. Not too long after the second guard walked out and was just as unaware as the first.

Hawk and Hertz took aim and fired. Their bullets hit their mark and the guards dropped. They ran up to check the bodies. Hertz realized one of them could have been no older than twenty five, and was the one he heard talking about his dream vacation. “This is not a nice job my friend,” he said to Hawk, who just nodded.

From his location Doom watched while his teammates took down the four guards with relative ease. As Red team weaved through the tents making their way to the front door, Doom scanned ahead to make sure the route was clear. Confident the coast was clear he focused on the structures further in the distance, for the guards there had no clue what was about to happen. He watched as blue team reached the far building first by using a ladder to gain access to an adjacent roof which connected to their designated building. He did a quick adjustment on his scope, readied, and watched the show.

A few minutes prior to Blue team’s entry, Red team set themselves up in front of the building, Edge and Hawk on either side of the front door while Hertz knelt below a nearby window. Sliding a small fiber optics camera under the door, Hawk scanned the room and found a few guards seated at a table eating and looking over documents. He removed the optic camera, then signaled to Edge that they were unaware.
“Go,” Edge said with a smirk.

On that word all six members of the team began moving as though they were a single entity. Their jobs, movements and teammates’ jobs had been rehearsed and mastered to the point of that they have become instinct. Quake ran to the wall and planted explosives. He pressed the button on the time detonator before he ran back and in five seconds later the wall would cease to exist.

In the room on the other side of the wall two guards played cards in the far corner, finding it much more pleasant than sentry duty. They paused as they heard a noise on the other side of the wall, before the wall blasted into the room filling it with dust and large chunks of stone. The concussion from the blast not only deafened but blew sand and dust into their eyes, blinding them. Either out of fear or being well trained, they grabbed their guns and started firing blindly in the direction of the explosion.

Dust waited as the hail of bullets whizzed by the opening and by how they were firing he knew that they were blind. He slid down his thermal vision goggles over his eyes and as soon the gun firing ceased he spun into the opening and dropped to his knee. His AR-15 made short work of the two guards, as two short bursts hit them center mass. He then ran to that corner of the room to clear it. Trident ran in crossing behind Dust and cleared the other side of the room. Quake ran to the door way with his Mossberg 500 tactical pump action shot gun up. As expected the loud explosion brought a soldier running to the room gun up, ready to fire. Quake beat him to the punch and fired hitting the soldier in the chest. The soldier flew backwards into the wall hard and dead. Another soldier was behind him and, seeing his fellow soldier fly back like he was hit by a flatbed truck, decided to turn and run.

On the first floor the guards at the table hastily jumped to their feet when they heard the roar from the explosions and gunfire above them. Grabbing their weapons the guards looked up as pebbles and dust fell from the ceiling, bouncing off them and onto the floor. The low thumping of bullets upstairs was clearly audible but it was followed by the sound of breaking glass in their room. Turning to the source of the noise, the guards found themselves blinded by a powerful flash.

As soon as Hertz’s flash-bang went off, Edge set off a small explosive device that blasted the door off its hinges and sent it slamming to the floor. Hawk moved reflexively, based on instinct and years of training he ran in with his AR-15 up and firing, taking down two of the guards. Hertz popped up in the window and fired two controlled burst into the other two unsuspecting guards, shredding their chests.
Edge came in behind Hawk covering the rear. He searched the room and was not surprised to find that no one was moving. Then Quake shouted over the radio, “Stairs!” Edge spun to his left facing the stairwell and saw a soldier running down. The guard made a futile attempt to raise his gun and get off a shot, but he panicked and pulled the trigger a second too early, his shots hitting the ground just missing Edge’s feet. Edge returned fire hitting him center mass, the impact sent the guard onto his back and for three seconds his body continued to slide down the stairs until it came to rest at the base.

“Status?” Edge asked.

“Clear,” came back to him over his ear piece from each team member.

Edge loosened his grip on the gun and gave a sigh. He looked down at the ripped up ground, That almost had my name on it. He took in another slow breath and paged Doom. “All clear. Doom, come on in.” he said as he adjusted his rifle. “Everyone meet up on first floor.”

“On my way.” Replied Doom. Nothing like a long walk to relax one’s soul after a good fight, he thought.

Trident was the first to arrive down the stairs. “We spend all these frickin’ hours in the desert, I have sand in areas I wouldn’t even let my doctor explore. And we still have nothing.”

“I take that to mean you found nothing upstairs?” inquired Edge.

“Ammo storage upstairs. Not a lot but enough for a small unit,” said Dust.

“They got some good explosives,” added Quake with a smile of a boy who just found a toy chest.

Hawk came out of the backroom he cleared earlier. “Sir, we have a lot of stuff we need to sift through back here. I think we can find where he went.”

“Hertz you’re the only one who can read any of their stuff, help him. Trident, take the comms and get a secure connection to HQ ASAP. The rest of you search this building and find whatever you can to locate him. This guy has wasted our time and because of that he has forfeited his.” Edge said, not hiding his irritation.

After tearing the building apart the only thing the team found were reports on weapons caches, duty rosters, pornos, and a secret stash of candy. The rest all pointed nowhere. Doom had made his way in by this point and saw Edge sitting in a chair tearing through papers and drinking what looked like water…or vodka.

“Any luck sir?” he asked

“The water takes like oil. Plus, the intel was way off. Best guess is the guy left yesterday, and I have no clue as to where. I would like some good news right now,” Edge said drolly.

“Sir, we got something,” Hertz yelled from the back room.

“That will do nicely,” Edge said with a sigh of relief.

“Tell me you received word that Saddam is going to surrender,” Edge remarked with a hint of sarcasm as he entered the room.

“Sorry sir, but if you find a genie in a bottle that can be your wish,” replied Hertz while he spun around in his chair. “We found layouts for a bunch of cities; most are difficult to read, except for two. They have writing all over them but I cannot make it out.”

“I didn’t think there was a language that you couldn’t read,” commented Trident while thumbing through his recently acquired porno.

“I can’t read it because it’s written in chicken scratch, much like yours.” Trident chuckled at the jab. “Sir, all I decipher from this is there were security plans. It looks like they were analyzing these cities to see which would be better to use as a hideout.”

“Nothing indicates that they might have picked one over the other?” inquired Hawk.
“Nothing.”

“Trident, get me another connection with command,” ordered Edge. Trident started playing with Hertz’s radio set. “What two cities Hertz?”

“They are Safwan and Abu Al Khasib,” Hertz said as Trident handed the phone to Edge.

“Command is on the line Sir.”

۞۞۞۞
Tucker looked up at the sky. The fresh air did him good. For the past hour, he had been going through file after file, report after report trying to figure out where Wafeeq could have gone. Since the call had come in that Wafeeq was gone at least twenty four hours ago, Richard had been on the phone trying to connect with his contacts and Langley. The tent flap opened and one of the soldiers came out.

“Sir, Langley is one the line with Richard. I thought you might want to know.”

“Thanks.” Tucker could not help but think that if the soldier had not got him, Richard would have just let him sit out there. He stretched his back and walked in as Richard hung up the phone.

“Well, it looks like word has come in that many of Saddam’s supposed loyalists are not that loyal anymore.” He said turning to Tucker who wanted to jump all over Richard.

One of Tucker’s crazy hypotheticals that Richard kindly reminded him to not mention was the strong possibility of a coup from Saddam’s chain of command. “Apparently three of his top officials have formed a secret plan to over throw Saddam and place one of them in charge,” Richard continued

Odier looked less than pleased. “If there was a way to screw up an op, you guys sure as hell found it.” Tucker saw Richard’s lips twitch. “No one at your agency saw this coming.”

Tucker went to speak but once again was cut off by Richard. “It happened recently and quickly. None of our intel ever pointed in this direction.” Odier noted Tucker’s reaction as Richard spoke.

The comms came to life breaking Tucker’s thoughts. A young soldier picked up the receiver and handed it over to Tucker. “It’s the team leader of Nightwolf.” The mic was instantly snatched from the soldier’s hand by Richard.

“You’re early. What did you find Sergeant?”

Edge quietly snarled as he heard Richard’s voice. He never liked spooks, as he always assumed that they were holding important information back or changing the op to fulfill some secret agenda. The last time he worked with a spook two men on the op died because the bastard changed the objective. The extra time resulted in the enemy catching his team in overlapping fire. Edge never got to punch the spook’s lights out because he was one of two that died.

“Well, Dick,” Edge responded. Tucker was not entirely sure if Edge meant it as a name or no. “We have two cities: Safwan and Abu Al Khasib, which one do you recommend?” Edge answered.

“Ever the subtle one,” Quake whispered into Dust’s ear.

Richard let Edge’s jab slip. It was obvious Edge had not liked him from the beginning.

“Hold on a minute.”

“Yes sir.” He responded as he lets the phone hang in his hand. The team looks at him quizzically. “He put me on hold like I’m talking to customer service.”

“Prick! Did you at least get to listen to music?” asked Hertz.

“No you would think so though.”

Back at the base Richard hung up with Langley and clapped his hands together. “They say he is going to head to Abu Khasib.”

“Ya sure this time?” asked Odier.

“Yeah,” Richard said reaching for the mic as Odier interjected.

“I would like to hear Mr. Tucker’s point of view on this one.” Scanning over the aerial photos Tucker looked up confused.

Richard had a similar reaction. “Umm. General, he is just one analyst. I have gotten confirmation from a whole team. Time is of the essence sir!”

“Time is what we want most, but… what we use worst.” Odier said, causing Richard to raise an eye brow.

“William Penn.” Tucker chimed in.

“Smart man. I am going to make sure the time is used properly with no more screw ups. So tell me Tucker, what do you think?”

“Well sir.” He looked at Richard whose face no longer hid his displeasure. “I do not agree.”

“Of course you don’t” Odier replied unsurprised.

“It would make sense to say Abu Khasib, because it is near a base loyal to the other men in the conspiracy. However, if you look at Wafeeq’s thought process he’s deceptive and only a hair less paranoid than Saddam,” Tucker continued as walked towards the map. “He may be a part of the coup, but he is an educated man and knows that throughout history conspirators often betray each other, as Richard has just confirmed has happened. So I think he will head to Safwan where he has men loyal only to him.” Tucker jammed his finger over the city on the map to emphasize his point.

The general nodded. “You’ve put a lot of thought into this.”

“A couple of days at least sir,” he responded. Tucker saw Richard out of the corner of his eye and swore he heard the man’s teeth grinding.

“Corporal, inform Delta to head to Safwan.”

“Negative. I am sorry sir, but if I am not mistaken you were told this is a CIA run op. That means I get to make the call. Langley’s brightest have suggested Abu Khasib. While I respect your opinion, Tucker, my experience says they are right.” Richard remarked authoritatively as he spoke into the mic.

At this point Tucker knew, without a doubt, that he himself was right. Before, Tucker forced himself to give Richard the benefit of the doubt, although it was against his better judgment, , but now Richard was just throwing his ego around. Oh, what the hell! If the op fails he will probably blame it on me anyway. With that Tucker reached over and grabbed the other mic. “Sergeant! Do not go north, head to Safwan…”
“Belay that Sergeant. Head north.” Richard says staring with daggers in his eyes.
Tucker did not want an argument; it was going to waste even more time. His mind was racing through a bunch of ideas in an attempt to figure out a way to get the team in the right direction. Ok…..think quick… this guy is paranoid and deceptive. That’s it. “Sergeant. Wafeeq is going to mislead you. One of those maps is a fake plan…..” Before Tucker could finish his statement Richard pulled the plug on his mic with a look of complete disgust and stepped into Tucker’s face.

“You’re out of line. Now sit down,” he said through clenched teeth. “Maybe when this is all over, I will not have you shipped to a surveillance station in Alaska.” Richard stepped back and informed Edge that the helicopter was in route and would take them to Abu Khasib.

Well if you’re wrong you’ll be there along with me, Tucker thought.

Looking at the general, “Your man will follow his orders, right?”

The general understood the chain of command but he also understood its limits and his own authority. He paused before beginning to speak in a level and controlled tone.
“This may be your op but those are my men. I am responsible for them body and soul. And I have to write the letters to families when they don’t come back alive. I am not sure that you have been entirely forthcoming with all the relevant information and, from the tone in Sgt. Pierce’s voice, I think he shares those misgivings. I am tired of you puzzle palace weenies sending us out on missions where we get in over our heads because we’re only half informed.”

“We have to protect our sources…” Richard began defensively but the General cut him off.

“I have heard nothing in Mr. Tucker’s comments that indicate any reliance on confidential sources. Frankly, he has simply taken information that was generally available, thought a little more deeply about it and put the pieces together better than you have. He seems to be an excellent resource, on a par with you, in fact, at least as far as this mission is concerned. But since you walked in you have done nothing but marginalize him and try to deny us the benefit of his knowledge. I don’t know if you’re insecure in your position or just unappreciative of how good he is. However my report on this mission will state that I believe you have allowed personal matters to cloud your judgment to the detriment of the mission and that safety of my men!”

The general had raised his voice only slightly as he spoke but it was enough to communicate a total disdain for Richard. Implying that any harm that came to his men would also be visited upon Richard, surely organizationally, not ruling out physically but guaranteed to be abundantly painful in whatever form it came. Richard showed no emotion but he and Tucker both knew that General Odier had enough stature within senior command that a report such as he promised could derail even the most established career. Tucker allowed himself the guilty pleasure of savoring the moment.
The general continued, “Those men are the best out there and they have eyes on intel that we don’t.” He glanced at Tucker. “They will make the right call.” Glaring at Richard he said, “Are you sure you did?”

۞۞۞۞
Edge had listened and processed everything. This was an interesting predicament. The person who was supposedly running the op was telling him to go north, while the person who seemed more knowledgeable on the situation said go east. It was not the first mission he had been on where the intel was screwed up. At the same time what were the odds that an entire CIA analyst team could be wrong? He took a second and then realized it was better not to ponder the latter question. The rest of his team realized that something was off about the conversation but knew better than to ask.
Edge looked at the plans. “Alright, everyone we need to find which of these plans is a red herring. Translate for us, Hertz.”

“Just what exactly are we looking for?” inquired Quake as he scanned the two maps.

“I want you to tell me the second you find it,” Edge said without taking his eyes of the maps.

“I love riddles,” chimed Trident with a smirk.

Hertz was busy writing the English translation on the maps for the team to read. After a few moments of studying the plan of Abu Al Khusib, “Sir, check out the escape route. It takes a very long roundabout path that places him in a trap. This escape plan is pointless,” Hawk said.

Dust looked over the map, “I agree Sir. There is no way anyone in their right mind would want to be in this.”

The team quickly looked and all agreed. “It’s set then,” said Edge. “We go to Safwan. Quake and Dust go upstairs and pick us out some toys to bring the party we are about to crash. Hawk and Trident go out and convince the pilot where we are going.” As the men went to complete their tasks Doom and Hertz walked up to Edge.

“Richard is going to have your head on a plate,” commented Doom.

“I’ll deal with him after we successfully complete the mission,” responded Edge. “Right now, we need to figure out how to do that.”

While loading necessary supplies the team talked through their options. By the time they were ready to leave, the plan had been developed. As the team boarded the chopper, Edge looked over the map one more time, “Time to walk on water.”

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