G.I.JOE: America's Special Mission Force
Paktika Province, Afghanistan May 2002
The six man Ranger patrol worked its way through a pass in the Shahi-Kot mountains, eyes nervously checking every potential hiding spot. This was two months after the foul up of Operation Anaconda and scattered groups of insurgents remained active in the region. The patrol came to a stop in a thin copse of trees and stared out at the desolation.
The young Japanese-American point man slowly worked his way to a boulder near the trees. He motioned the all clear as the team followed.
"Okay Storm, you and Sap move to that gully and cover us." Staff Sergeant Lonzo Wilkinson said as he pointed forward.
Storm, the smallest man on the team at a wiry 5'8", gave one last sweep; looking through the scope of his M4A1 carbine. He took a tentative step forward, covering his left.
Dick "Sap" Sapperstein followed, covering the right with his M60E3 machine gun. Sap was the largest man on the team at 6'4" and built like a bulldozer.
They slowly made their way to the gully, a small hollow studded with boulders from centuries of rock slides. Storm pushed his black hair back under his head band and motioned for the others to follow.
Lonzo "Stalker" Wilkinson looked right with his M4/M203 combo. The 6'2" black man crouched low, squinting beneath the tan beret he wore, as he stalked forward like a big cat.
Private Ramon Escobar came next carrying the radio. The medium built Brooklyn native watched the left with his M4.
They took up positions on either side of the gully as Stalker motioned the next two. Sergeant Wade Collins moved his tall, slim body with a nervous gait; scanning with his suppressed M14. Sweat dripped from the red blond hair beneath his helmet.
Shooter came last on drag. He was slightly over six feet with a medium build and his dark hair cut short beneath his boonie hat, which was pulled low over his blue eyes. They were halfway to the gully when Shooter dropped to a knee and opened up with his M249 squad automatic weapon. An explosion shook the ground as the man holding the RPG pulled the trigger as he fell, spraying a cloud of rubble fifty feet from the patrol.
Shooter and Collins threw themselves to the ground as bullets whined from a crevice. The Rangers at the gully returned fire at the two men with AK-47s. Stalker loaded his M203 and a thump was heard as the 40mm grenade shot toward the crevice. The explosion killed one man and the other took off running. Storm tracked him through his scoped and squeezed the trigger, dropping him with a head shot. Stalker motioned everyone to cover as things went quiet.
"I'm willing to bet there's a cave up there." Stalker said as he popped a fresh clip into his M4. "Ramon, radio our coordinates in; we're going to take a look." Stalker pulled out his binoculars and checked the area as Escobar called into base. "Storm and Shooter have point, Sap's drag."
"Any idea how many are in there?" Escobar asked.
"Could be none, could be a battalion." Stalker told him.
"So no problem then," Sap said.
"Fine time to joke," Collins growled. He had been rotated into the squad two months earlier and was constantly on edge.
"Rangers lead the way, Sarge." Storm said. "Ready little brother?"
Shooter, the quiet member of the team gave him a thumbs up and they started up the hill. The two had grown up together and had somehow managed to stay together from enlistment to Ranger school. They crept forward, checking high and low. After they had gone forty feet Stalker and Escobar followed, With Sapperstein and Collins waiting to follow them.
"Tommy, there's movement at the entrance." Shooter whispered.
"See it. Looks like they're letting us come to them."
"Maybe there aren't many left."
"When did you become such an optimist?" Tommy Arashikage asked. "And do you have to keep using Tommy? I get a cool name like Storm and you can't use it?"
"You'll live," Shooter told him as they reached the man Storm had killed. "He's got one of our tactical vests."
"Probably from the supplies that disappeared last month. The militia's getting a little brave with their stealing."
Storm crept up the narrow trail to the crevice as Shooter covered him. He peered around the corner and saw nothing. Grinning, he waved Shooter up to him. He pointed to the right and held up two finger, then held up one and motioned left.
The others caught up and Shooter held up a hand stopping them. Storm and Shooter pulled out XM-84 stun grenades and rolled them in, looking away as they went off. Then the two charged forward, Storm shooting the two on his side as Shooter kicked another in the head as he crawled away.
Stalker crept forward as Storm motioned an all clear. "We have a live one" Shooter said, motioning to the one he kicked.
Collins secured the mans arms and legs as the others stood guard.
"More of our tactical vests," Stalker said as Sap picked up a gun. "And it looks like am M16 we supplied the militia. Ramon, call in that we found some of our gear. So what do we have?"
"Two tunnels," Storm told him. "One up, one down."
"Sap and Collins, you two have watch. Ramon and I head up, Storm and Shooter down."
Stalker and Ramon headed into the dark tunnel, which abruptly ended two hundred feet later, with a series of small caves. Stalker looked inside the first as Escobar stood watch.
Storm and Shooter worked their way down the other tunnel. They found some rough steps carved into the rock that went slightly up and around. Slowly they crept up the steps, checking for traps. They peered over the top step when bright lights flared and a machine gun opened up. Storm threw himself behind a pile of rubble as shooter dropped onto the steps.
Ramon turned at the sound of gunfire. The 7.62mm rounds caught him in the chest, knocking him down. Stalker dropped to the floor and sighted in on a young looking insurgent that had been hiding in the last cave. One shot later he was dead.
Storm and Shooter peaked from their hiding spots. The machine gun nest was pretty much some hastily overturned tables and a couple of barrels. A hi-tech mini-gun was being operated by two men, three more covered them with AK-47's. Shooter motioned for Storm's attention and held up five fingers. Storm nodded his confirmation and opened fire, drawing the mini-gun towards him. Shooter stuck his head up and and opened fire with his SAW. Then dropped down as the big gun turned toward him.
Stalker finished checking the last cave and checked on Ramon, rolling him onto his back. Ramon's body armor had done the job, unfortunately two rounds had caught his throat. Stalker said a quick prayer then picked Escobar up.
Shooter fired again without looking as Storm rolled a grenade. The explosion broke a table and allowed Shooter to move to better cover.
Sap nervously listened to the firefight below as movement caught his eye. He turned his gun as Stalker emerged, carrying Escobar.
"What the hell happened in there?" Sap growled.
"Ramon bought it," Stalker told him. "Collins, make sure no one flanks us outside. Sap keep an eye on the tunnel, don't fire until you're certain it's not one of us. I'm going to check on Shooter and Storm."
Stalker worked his way down the tunnel, finding the steps lit by a bright flood light. The sound of the mini-gun caused him to slow down and worm his way up the steps. He peaked over the top step to see Storm and Shooter exchanging fire with four men.
The sound of the grenade leaving Stalker's launcher could barely be heard over the noise of the mini-gun. But somehow Storm and Shooter hugged the ground as it exploded. Then they were up, charging the nest, Storm blasting the only man still moving.
"What kept you?" Storm asked as Shooter drew a knife and flung it between him and Stalker. They turned to see a man fall, clutching the knife buried in his chest.
"Told you there were five."
"No time fore jokes," Stalker said. "Ramon's dead and we need to get this place under control."
It took only a moment to see no one else was left alive. It took only two more to find the trap door. Storm and Shooter took positions on either side of the door as Stalker went to get the others.
"Collins, check out that mini-gun. I've never seen anything like it. The rest of us are going to see where this door leads.
Collins, an expert in weapons and engineering, looked over the gun as they walked away. Searching he found some papers, one of which was a shipment receipt signed by him. "Morons," he muttered. "I told them not to leave this stuff lying around." He looked at another and saw MARS printed across it. He folded them ans slipped them into his pocket.
Sap pulled the door up as the others provided cover. Below them was a dimly lit room, shadows dancing around. Storm and Shooter put down their guns and dropped their packs, drawing pistols and knives. Shooter dropped through the hole and rolled left, followed quickly by Storm who rolled right. Two thuds and a gun shot were followed by an all clear from Storm. Collins came up and followed Stalker down the ladder.
Three men lay dead in front of four cylinders. They were about the size of a large refrigerator and each had a keyboard and timer.
"Ammonia bombs," Collins said. "We heard rumors of stuff like this but these are the first I've seen. The blast would take out maybe half a block and release am ammonia cloud that would cause burns and respiratory problems for the survivors."
"What are these?" Sap asked, pointing to a table across the room.
"Shit!" Collins exhaled.
"What's up?" Stalker asked coming up beside Collins.
"Man portable nuclear warheads."
"Jesus Christ," Sap muttered.
"How the hell did they get their hands on those?" Stalker asked himself.
"Got me," Collins answered anyway. "You'd better radio a team in while I make sure nothing will go off."
"Right," Stalker said. "Shooter has demo training so he'll stay and help. Sap will stand guard up there. Storm and I will head outside and radio HQ.
Five minutes later Collins turned to Shooter. "How long have you known?"
"Since you've started acting so nervous when we come across our own equipment. Plus I saw the papers up there. Pretty low, selling us out to terrorists."
"This big stuff wasn't me."
"But the grenades that killed those kids last week were."
"You can't prove that. I have a kid of my own to support and the black market is guaranteed money. Now it looks like I have some new business opportunities."
"There's plenty of evidence here."
"Fortunately, when these bombs go off there won't be any."
Shooter turned to see all four timers running on the bombs as Collins drew and fired his M9. Shooter twisted and drew his own, firing two shots before a bullet grazed his head and punctured an ammonia tank; venting a cloud of the stuff into Shooters face.
Collins grabbed his wounded hip and limped to the table with the nukes as Shooter collapsed. Sap jumped into the cave to see what was happening and Collins dropped him with a double tap to the head. Then Collins grabbed the nuke case and took off through an escape tunnel he had found earlier.
Storm was there a moment later, grabbing Shooter and pulling him away.
"Bomb" Shooter hoarsely groaned, waving toward the bombs.
Storm checked Sap then picked Shooter up in a fireman's carry and scurried up the ladder. He hit the floor at a run toward the cave entrance.
"Stalker!" He yelled as he reached the first cave. "The bombs are activated!"
"Where's Sap and Collins?" Stalker yelled as he ran after them.
Sap's dead! Couldn't find Collins!"
They reached the gully as the bombs went off; diving behind rocks as debris and dust shot from the cave mouth. Storm covered Shooter as another rock slide thundered toward the gully.
Stalker was the first to make it to his feet and rushed over to the others. Storm was starting to move as he reached them, and Stalker helped dig them from the rubble. It was the first time he had noticed the matching red tattoos, showing through their tattered BDU's, on their right forearms.
Germany, Location Classified July 17, 2002
Shooter lay in the hospital bed; his face, hands and chest bandaged. His doctor had just finished examining him and the nurses had re-bandaged his wounds.
Stalker and Storm walked in, followed by a tall well built man who appeared to be in his early forties. At forty-seven, Colonel Clayton Abernathy still had his dark brown hair and fearsome gaze that had earned him the name Hawk. Nearly thirty years of military service had kept him in excellent shape.
The doctor turned as they entered and quickly saluted when he saw the third visitor.
"How is he, Doctor?" Hawk asked.
"The bandages should come off in two or three days, sir." Doctor Carl Greer replied as he glanced at his chart. "He'll end up with some slight scarring and discoloration. His lungs are fine. The only serious problem is his vocal cords. I'm not sure if he'll ever be able to speak above a whisper, and even that will cause some discomfort."
"Thanks Doc," Hawk said. "When you're finished we need a few moments of privacy."
"we're finished now, Colonel Abernathy." The doctor said, motioning the nurses toward the door. They left and Hawk stepped outside. A moment later he returned with two chairs. He st them down by the bed and shut the door.
"Have a seat, you two." He said motioning for Storm and Stalker to sit.
"Thank you sir'" Stalker said as he and Storm sat down.
Hawk pulled another chair from the table in the room and sat down.
"I guess it's time to explain why you've been confined here the last few weeks. Storm, Stalker I've met with you both individually. Shooter, I'm Colonel Clay Abernathy. Sergeant Wilkinson, your after action report is half the reason we're here. As you can guess, the loss of our best possible lead to possible WMD's would be upsetting to our bosses."
"I can imagine, sir" Stalker said. Sergeant Collins turned out to be part of a black market weapons ring and used the explosion to possibly escape. He also destroyed several high tech weapons that needed to be examined."
"And possibly left with several nuclear warheads." Hawk added.
"Sir, I'll take full responsibility. My men did their best and then some."
"At ease, Sergeant. I said would be upsetting to our bosses. Fortunately I'm the only one who knows your report exists."
"I've got a job offer for the three of you. One where you'll be able to put your unique abilities to proper use and make a difference."
"What kind of proper use?" Storm asked cautiously.
"That's the other half of why you are here. You're the best of the best. Special Forces and Delta have both been scouting you. You take my offer you'll be better. Then when I consider you ready you'll be the front line on the war on terror. You'll be ghosts. You'll go in and do what's needed."
"Assassins?" Storm asked quietly.
"No," Hawk said. "The job won't always be pretty, but you will never be given an illegal order. You and Shooter will be shipped out to the S.A.S. for training. After that will be survival schools for every conceivable climate. Then some miscellaneous training to fill in the remaining gaps."
"Stalker, you're going through Delta's officer course. Congratulation, with your acceptance you're an officer. After Delta you'll be given tactical and strategic training. Then you'll work directly beneath me."
"We'll never be given an illegal order?" Stalker asked.
"If I give you an illegal order I expect you to shut me down. Just as I would my bosses."
Shooter grabbed a pen and notebook, quickly writing something and handing it to Hawk.
"Outstanding." Hawk said. "What about the two of you?"
"You certain about this, brother?" Storm asked Shooter who gave him a thumbs up. "In that case I'm in."
"In that case," Stalker said, "I'm in also."