More on the Obligatory “Strong Female Character”

This clip is from a female Youtuber who evidently didn’t get the Grrrrl Power Memo.

While her opinions and tastes in entertainment don’t exactly line up with ours (ahem), she does make some valid points, articulated well.

Why does the Kick-Butt Womyn Warrior Narrative always have to involve making men look weak, cowardly, corrupt, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum? For a reason similar to why Marxist faggots have used “critical theory” over the generations to poison minds against America.

Marxists can’t point to any credible success stories of nations that prospered by adhering to their economic doctrines, so they instead have to ceaselessly badmouth the system that made America the most free and prosperous country in history–steering societal lemmings away from ever asking the questions that would make their entire Narrative collapse.

White knights can’t sell their Amazon Superninja Fetish Narrative without comparing their cookie-cutter RWT (Rambo With Tits) character to a man. That comparison always entails making the male character look pathetic.

Life does imitate art in some ways. People indoctrinated by the Fetish Narrative over the decades think it’s a dandy idea to put women in the combat arms, and in elite units. But they suddenly balk at The Narrative when you suggest that women be held to the same standards as men in the military. Just as they would balk if somebody seriously considered matching women against men in full-contact sports (where the predictable and embarrassing results couldn’t be covered up by legions of white knight bureaucrats in uniform).

A Letter From the G.O.P.

…Or rather, based on how the letter addresses me as a “conservative” (whatever that means), the email was probably generated by a bot calling itself “Rob, NRCC CFO.”

Here’s what he or it wrote in his/its email to me:

“Fellow Conservative,

Without your continued support, our conservative elected officials might not be in the majority in Washington. That’s why, out of our appreciation for your support, we want to offer an upgrade to your membership to the Elite Level.

Just take a stand for our president’s conservative majority, and we’ll upgrade your membership…

We couldn’t have achieved the same level of success in 2016 without you: the House, Senate, and the White House are all Republican thanks to you.

Now we must protect our majority from Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections.

Our president is counting on you to help us keep the House during his presidency, and you can start right now by pitching in $10 or more to upgrade your NRCC Sustaining Membership to the Elite Level.”

Not that anybody will likely read it (even if there’s a hefty donation attached), but I replied to the email thusly:

Pray tell:
If you’re going to screw us just like the Democrats, what does it matter who has the majority?

The All-New Revised History Series

Along with Barack Hussein Obama, William Jefferson Blythe Clinton and innumerable other altruists, Virtual Pulp has been deeply inspired by the blatantly orchestrated sincere, heartfelt speeches given by David Hogg and other tools wise, experienced and courageous youth insisting our rights be stripped from us. One has to marvel at the caliber of education that has led them to such a level of understanding.

Wouldn’t it be, like, really dope if everyone, y’know, was able to learn the real important stuff, like they have, so we could all, like, make such an impact? So starting with this post, Virtual Pulp will be publishing the fake history woke history that has made Camera Hogg & Company such model spokespeople for their generation.

9/11 and the War on Terror

Once upon a time, there was an area called the Middle East. Diverse peoples in the Middle East followed a Religion of Peace, which is no different from Christianity (except that Christianity is silly, racist, sexist and oppressive, whereas Islam is merely misunderstood). There were no problems whatsoever in that region before Israelis and Americans came on the scene. Republican administrations from the US made these peace-loving, tolerant people defensive and suspicious of infidels ruthless, exploitative colonialists.

Meanwhile, in that oppressive despotic dystopia of the USA, a secret team of Bible-thumping home-schooled NRA members hijacked several passenger jets and crashed them into buildings in New York City because…um, they hate women…or black people…or something.

The buildings collapsed perfectly into their own footprints just like a controlled demolition, because that’s what tall buildings always do, with absolutely no planning or preparation. These right-wingers hated with such a hot heat that World Trade Center #7 (which was never touched by an airplane or had its superstructure exposed to burning jet fuel) also collapsed perfectly into its own footprint.

Or maybe it was global warming that caused the steel girders to melt. Anyway: home-grown right-wing terrorists are a far worse threat than Islamic workplace-violence-committers. So there! That’s why we need millions more Muslim immigrants inside the country (taxpayer-funded, of course), but need to abolish the Bill of Rights for law-abiding American citizens.

The coward George Dubya Bush hid in an elementary school, using the bodies of school children to protect him from the blast of the jet crashes. Then he returned to the White House and signed The Patriot Act, which was an immoral, tyrranical act of oppression right up until Barack Hussein Obama bullied persuaded Congress to renew it. As soon as Saint Hussein vouched for it, of course, the Patriot Act was instantly transformed into a reasonable, common-sense protection that is totally not a despotic police state measure to further strangle the Bill of Rights. Saint Hussein further advanced the cause of liberty by giving us Indefinite Detention–so that Americans can be imprisoned for life without a trial or even charges.

It goes without saying that President Trump would be LITERALLY HITLER if he was to use any of these usurpations laws signed by Democrats. (Well, he’s already literally Hitler, of course. But he’d be, y’know, even worse than Hitler if he was to do what his predecessors  did.) Worse than literally Hitler, like…Joe McCarthy…or somebody. (More about that deplorable monster in a future installment.)

Since 9/11, there have been multiple incidents when some distraught motorists, disgruntled nightclub patrons and other oppressed victims have accidently engaged in behavior that inadvertently caused harm to others, while shouting, “Allah akbar!” Deplorable racist xenophobes have alleged that this phrase somehow indicates Islamic ideology. But our experts have discovered that this assumption is just redneck ignorance at work.

It turns out that “Allah akbar” is really from a secret code language spoken by Bible-thumping home-schooled NRA members, and, literally translated, means: “MAGA!” (Make America Great Again.) These home-grown domestic terrorists love to speak in code, as you well know. Our experts have decoded phrases like “American citizen” to actually mean, “Aryan ubermensch.” Similarly, “Second Amendment” actually means “Death to school children!” And “voter ID laws” means “We hate minorities!”

So those incidents were really carried out by Tea Party operatives–the most dangerous terror threat in the universe! Therefore any such atrocity should be classified as terrorism and be followed immediately by crackdowns on individual rights insensitive civic behavior.

The end.

Death Couldn’t Stop Him

Scholars couldn’t outsmart Him.

Government couldn’t silence Him.

Nature couldn’t resist Him.

Demons couldn’t defy Him.

The devil couldn’t trick Him.

The cross couldn’t dissuade Him.

The grave couldn’t hold Him.

We have it on the most reliable authority that there was no man ever born of woman as righteous as John the Baptist. And yet even John the Baptist recognized that he wasn’t fit to untie the sandals of the One he most famously baptized.

Looking for a God-king or God-emperor to make everything right? He’s already come, and He will return to do just that. His “government name” was Yeshua. His Anglicized name is Joshua. His Greek name is Jesus. He will be called Immanuel.

He is Son of God and son of man. He could be killed as a sacrifice because He was a son of man. He overcame death because He is the Son of God.

There’s coming a day where every living being will acknowledge him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Unfortunately for most, this will be involuntary and a bitter pill, because they didn’t accept him before time ran out.

Tooting the Horn

Actually, just quoting some Amazon reviewers who tooted for me.

“Author Hank Brown has created quite the enduring cast of characters here. …Heckuva Ride!”

“Pulp Fiction is back with a vengeance! It is truly a must read in the genre, or in any genre.”

E-Book

“This was a fantastic read with plenty of action. The characters are well defined and carry over from the first book. If you loved the first book you will want to read the second one too. …I can’t say enough about this author Henry Brown. I will probably read every book that he has put out. Happy reading!”

“I read the author’s first work, Hell and Gone, and was amazed by the author’s strong, engaging prose and pacing. …Tier Zero capitalizes on the author’s keen sense of pacing of Hell and Gone and the result is a story that naturally progresses in a meaningful way. …Tier Zero is a must-read for anyone who is a fan of the action-adventure/thriller paramilitary genre.”

#1 in The Retreads Series.

“Damn, better than first book! …Not just action (lots of good stuff) but now international intrigue. Great character development, good storyline, great action. What more can you ask for? …Oh yeah: liberal wusses need not bother, not your type.”

“…Brown clearly has ‘been and done.’ He gets the terms and the tactics right, which not all authors [not to mention movie plots] do. I place a high value on this because I read to learn as well as be entertained. Action stories with nothing but a high round-count bore me.”

“Henry Brown has written some of the best military fiction out there and I personally enjoyed this one the most. …The characters are very believable and complex and the action is non stop. If you like old school weapons, escape and evasion and a good shoot-em-up thriller this is one of the best.”

“If you like military kick ass take names kind of books you will love this series.”

The Audible audiobook.

“The author’s experience and insight helps deliver a story that is action packed, yet not so far fetched that it detracts from the story.”

“I loved Hank’s sequel to Hell and Gone and that it focused in on one of my favorite characters from the first book, Tommy Scarred Wolf. Tier Zero (a great play on words) harkens back to the classic bygone era of Men’s Adventure when you could find Mack Bolan books in all the book shops. Today the genre is enjoying a bit of a comeback and Hank is one of the author’s driving that.”

Tier Zero comes loaded with a kickass protagonist–unique, flawed, thoughtful, and capable of extreme violence–hitting southeast Asia in a rescue mission alongside a team of mercenary ex-soldiers (all equally unique and memorable) that bring so much ass-kick to the game it makes me want to write every action-film director and tell them to stay home–their work bores me. Now, I know Brown likes to call his work an homage to the bygone mens’ pulp-fiction genre, but it surpasses that. Sure, he hits on the essentials–the attractive women, the brave, rugged fighting men, and the unmistakably evil bad guys–but he’s a master storyteller, too.”

“Although I have no doubt legions of Men’s Adventure fans have tried to imitate the writings of their favorite authors over the years, in Henry’s case, the student has definitely become the master.”

Paperback

“I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, HELL AND GONE. As good as it was, TIER ZERO is better in every way. The characterizations are deeper, the plot has more twists, and hard as it may be to believe, it has even more of the gritty, well-written action scenes at which Brown excels. I thought I knew where the story was going, but it takes a nice hard turn about halfway through that powers it on to the end of the book.”

“As much as I enjoyed Hell & Gone, this book is better. Hank has polished some of the character interactions. There are still conflicts between even characters on the same side, much like there were in Hell & Gone (both books are about ad hoc units put together for a particular mission). He even has a bit of a romantic subplot going on, but it certainly doesn’t detract from the action. There are multiple threads running through the plot, and several betrayals ratchet up the tension between the good guys, over and above the tension of being on their own in a foreign land, surrounded by enemies. Questions are raised about who to trust, both within and without the group. ”

#3 in The Retreads Series.

“In this tough, gritty paramilitary thriller (sequel to the popular HELL AND GONE) author Brown harkens back to the ‘men’s adventure’ novels that were so popular in the 80s and early 90s. He does an exemplary job of carrying on that tradition and even adds some depth and background to his characterizations that increases their humanity, makes them seem more real — all without ever getting in the way of the balls-out, full throttle action. The plot is tight, with plenty of twists and surprises, and the ‘good guys’ are characters you really care about. So much so, that you will be rooting for a continuation of this intriguing, exciting series.”

“I listened to the Audible version, and it kept me entertained from start to finish.”

What’s Happening at Amazon?

PJ Media reports on a purge of reviews that seems to be calculated to hurt the livelihood of non-leftist authors.

“I asked several independent authors about the review losses when it occurred,” Del Arroz told PJM. “My left-wing author contacts said they didn’t lose any reviews, but the right-wing authors who are members of a group called the Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance all lost an incredible amount of reviews,” continued Del Arroz. “One author said he lost seventy-seven on his books, which is devastating. I believe the CLFA was targeted by an extreme alt-left troll mob running an email harassment campaign to Amazon who were enabled by a rogue Amazon employee.”

It’s nearly impossible to sell books these days without customer reviews. It’s a symbol of “social proof.”

Too herd-mentality, personally, but it’s a concern for me as an author because it has a striking effect on a book’s discoverability…whether I like it or not.

This could be a sign that Amazon is following Goolag, FascistBorg, et al, by getting into the Thought Police gig. Some speculate that it’s just a rogue SJW employee selectively enforcing rules.

Tipping at Windmills and Men’s Adventure

As a young paratrooper back in the day, there were many times when I wanted to escape from everything that reminded me of my job. But there were other times when I couldn’t get enough.

A limited sample from my personal library. Some of these are in bad shape from being stuffed in a rucksack or buttpack during Happy Camping excursions.

Literarily (is that a word?) speaking, I was probably spoiled. All around Fort Bragg, it was easy to find stuff to read that appealed–namely: anything that offered more excitement than what I was getting out of real life. During my escapist periods, I gravitated toward sci-fi, sword & sorcery, and pulpy adventures (I was a big Indiana Jones fan, to give you an idea). When I was gung-ho, I read Vietnam novels, WW2 novels, military sci-fi, and tons of paramilitary fiction. The 100-mile radius around Bragg probably has the worst male-to-female ratio in the world, so options were limited for off-time–especially when on DRF-1 (a ready-stand-by status for the Rapid Deployment Force; when troopers were on a short leash and had to be close and sober awaiting deployment).

Here’s the new E-Book cover.

Anyhoo, as a civilian later on, I noticed my reading options dwindling quickly. The New York Publishing Cartel just wasn’t producing anything I enjoyed reading anymore. I’ve blogged about this before, so to make a long story short: when I first discovered the opportunities presented by publish-on-demand (POD) and e-publishing, I assigned myself the quixotic task of reviving the “men’s fiction” I had once so enjoyed.

Surprisingly, I ran into other fledgling authors with similar goals.

The revival did happen–albeit on a small scale (because men have by-and-large given up on reading). Some of us carved out a niche for ourselves. My most focused effort to date is Tier Zero.

Here’s the original, pulpy retro-paramilitary adventure cover (which I still like best).

Fellow author, blogger, and men’s adventure fan Jack Badelaire over at Post-Modern Pulps has a nice post about his connection to the revival, combined with a review of my testosterone-fueled shoot-em-up.

The e-book is currently on sale for 99 cents at the online stores. But for those of you who don’t have time to sit down and actually read, there’s an audio version you can listen to while driving or performing mundane tasks, narrated by Johnnie C. Hayes.

Weapons Malfunctions are Such a Bloody Nuisance

By the time everyone was buckled in, the chopper was rocking and bouncing in place like a hyper child on a trampoline. With the clock ticking toward the call to prayer, it seemed to take years for it to finally lift off. The wind from the rotors kicked up a dust storm all around the helipad as the Chinook got airborne.

The pilot, Wade Haugen, had once flown Harriers for the US Marine Corps. Since transitioning to a paramilitary career, he had mastered a variety of fixed-wing aircraft and added choppers to his repertoire. After being hired by SSI, he converted the old Chinook into a combination troop carrier and gunship. There were rocket pylons on both sides, topped by miniguns. He had flares and chaff, too—not that he should need them on this sortie.

The fuel tanks were full. Every weapon system was go. Haugen was primed to deliver these ground-pounders and get waist-deep in some close air support.

Underneath the reaction force, the land gradually transformed from the fertile ground of the Euphrates Valley to dry, harsh desert.

The Chinook (an ugly beast resembling an old telephone receiver upside-down) was a fairly fast bird, stable and tough, mostly due to its absence of a tail rotor. It got the QR force to its debark point quickly. The ramp dropped as it settled onto the ground just long enough for the light platoon to pour out, then the chopper tilted nose-down and accelerated to max speed at low altitude.

Leon, his spotter, Warner and his gun crew remained on the bird.

Up in the cockpit, the target compound came into view. As the chopper neared, Figures came into view—several men, bowing toward the east in an open area between buildings. But several rose from their penitent positions and scattered.

“Guess they hear us coming, eh?” Ryan Flees, the British copilot groused. “And that looks like a lot more than ten hostiles.”

Haugen shrugged. “Intel is sketchy—based mostly on what the Iraqi cops can see from their location.”

“Which apparently wasn’t too bloody much.”

“Patch my mike through to the loudspeaker,” Haugen said.

Flees did so and said, “You’re live.”

They were close enough now to make out faces on the men running, pointing, and leveling weapons at the helicopter. Haugen popped his bubblegum and keyed the mike. “What’re you all looking at me for? You’re supposed to be facing Mecca!”

The miniguns opened up and Haugen raked fire across the compound as he came over, banking left to catch a concentration of fleeing hostiles…and to avoid the building where the women were supposed to be. A few hostiles were shredded by the streams of 7.62mm rounds.

Down below, the first squad was moving into position to take their first building, trusting the bedlam caused by the gun run to divert attention from them. By the time the Chinook cut loose the miniguns on its second pass, they were ready. During the BRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAPPP!!! of Haugen’s burst, the lead man used a shotgun to breach the door and First Squad burst in to sweep and clear, room by room.

They encountered no hostiles in the building, and declared it secure. Now watching key avenues of approach from in and around the building, First Squad held their position while Second Squad took the adjacent building.

Only one hostile was found inside—an armed adult male trying to escape the big, ugly gunship. He lost a quick draw contest with Chris Reecio and the second building was soon secured. One fireteam from each squad was left to hold the two buildings and the rest of the force linked up, preparing to move to the next position.

On the ground, with eyes on the small building where the cops were trapped, Mac keyed his radio mike. “Double Dragon, this is Hudson Hawk. We’re ready for Santa Clause…Mechanic, over?”

“Roger, Hudson Hawk,” Haugen replied. ”Santa Clause One coming in.”

The Chinook came around again, this time settling into a hover low over the roof of the first building. Leon and his spotter dropped down onto the roof. Flees told Haugen they were off, and the chopper slid over to drop the machinegun crew on the second roof.

Small arms fire was incoming now, but poorly aimed and sporadic. Haugen swung wide out to the northwest and charged back into the thick of it. His amplified drawl echoed throughout the compound over the noise of the rotors, “Out on the streets, they call it MUUURRRDEEERRR!”

Flees put hands to both sides of his helmet as if covering his ears. “Oh, bloody hell, Wade! I’m sure that must be against the Geneva Convention. Open fire already, and put them out of their misery.”

So instead of singing it again, or worse: trying to rap the lyrics; Haugen opened up with the miniguns.

Leon and Anwar, his spotter, dropped to the prone at the edge of the roof. They were down less than a second when a man popped out of a doorway, shouldering an RPG and pivoting to track the Chinook.

“RPG!” Anwar cried.

“Got ‘im,” Leon said, taking up trigger slack. “Welcome to Jam-Rock, baby.” The Monolith SWAT spoke, and the man with the RPG nearly folded in half backwards as he fell.

Three men, who had been hiding behind a wall, ran for the building where the women were, once the chopper had passed by. The assistant gunner yelled and pointed. Warner traversed the Vektor SS77 on its tripod and put the trio in the dirt with a couple of eight-round bursts.

On the ground below, Mac led the bulk of the QR force out and around the back of the compound. They came at the third building from the flat desert, bounding forward by fireteam.

A figure appeared behind the scratched, dusty glass of a window. The mercs caught the movement and dropped in their tracks. Fire crashed through the glass to the familiar tune of an AK47 on full auto.

A gunner in Second Squad ripped a burst through the window, and the man. Mac shot to his feet and closed the rest of the distance to the building’s wall. The other shooters did the same, as the SS77 laid covering fire. One merc cooked off a frag grenade and dunked it through the shattered window. When it detonated, the covering gun crew rushed to join their comrades.

Ideally, the mouse hole should be blown in this back wall. But the wall was the only cover they had, so they couldn’t go somewhere else when the charge went off. Around the corner seemed the best plan, since not that much enemy fire was concentrating there.

Mac peeked around the corner nearest the second building and yelled to get the rooftop crew’s attention. “Warner! Yo! Warner!”

Warner’s ammo bearer heard him, looked down and to the right until he spotted Mac. “Yo!”

Mac pointed in the general direction of the rest of the compound and yelled, “Cover!”

The ammo bearer nodded, turned to Warner and the assistant gunner and said something inaudible from where Mac was. Warner poured it on, raking fire back and forth across his sector.

Mac turned back to his men, holding out one hand, palm-up. “Demo!”

Barry Teor, the new demo guy, slapped a crude shaped charge into his hand and Mac rounded the corner. He slammed the charge against the wall facing the second building and got back around the corner with no new bullet holes in him.

“Fire in the hole!”

The charge blew. He allowed time for the dust to settle, then peeked around the corner again. The outside wall now sported a four-foot-diameter mouse hole. He turned back to his men. “Breach!”

The lead fireteam plucked grenades from their vests. There would be no flash-bangs on this sweep. They knew there was opfor (opposing force) in the building and they could afford to take no prisoners until they broke through to the besieged police. Hopefully there were no women or children inside.

The lead team stacked on the corner while other shooters got out of their way. With a strangled grunt the team leader rounded the corner, lurched sideways and tumbled through the mouse hole. The second man went through almost on top of him. A short burst from an AA12 sounded inside, then one of the mercs called back through the mouse hole, “We’re in a hallway! We’re going left; next pair go right!”

The next two men jumped through the breach. The next fireteam stacked on the corner, waiting for their turn to go in.

Inside, the shooters cleared each room methodically: kick in the door, toss in a grenade. After the blast, the first man entered the room and buttonhooked left; the second man entered, buttonhooking right. Anyone still moving or breathing got a double tap. In fact, they got a double tap even if they weren’t still breathing. Mark the room secure and move on to the next door.

It was the kind of overkill professional soldiers hadn’t employed probably since Stalingrad or Kassino. Fragmentation grenades in every room; universal double taps…

But SSI’s quick reaction force believed in overkill. Big Jake McCallum swore by overkill.

The building was secured quickly with no friendly casualties and six opfor dead. By now it was obvious, even to the mercs at ground level, that enemy strength had been underestimated.

With a team pulling security outside to the rear, the remainder of the force gathered inside the freshly-cleared building. Now four of them, including Mac, positioned themselves at doors and windows facing the inside of the compound. The windows were smashed out with rifle butts. They yanked pins and hurled smoke grenades into the gap between their building and where the police were holed up.

“Litter teams up!” Mac barked.

Six men moved toward the front door and readied their litters—still collapsed so far. Mac glanced outside several times to assess how the smoke was spreading. Second Squad’s gun crew set up their SS77 on an old desk, poking out the front-facing window. The litter teams assumed the ready-scat position.

Mac switched his radio to the Iraqi Police frequency. In Arabic, he said, “This is Hudson Hawk. We are coming to get you in one minute. I say again: 60 seconds. We have litter teams for your casualties. We’ll be coming from the building west-southwest of you. Do not fire at us! I say again: do not fire on us. Do you copy, over?”

“We copy, Hudson Hawk,” a quavering voice replied. “We are ready.”

Mac switched back to the QRF frequency. “Double Dragon, this is Hudson Hawk. Are you ready to bring smoke, over?” He could hear the Chinook hovering outside and knew it was in position, but had to be sure its weapon systems were still functioning.

“Hudson Hawk, this is Double Dragon,” Haugen drawled. “We are guns-up and awaiting your verbal, over.”

“All shooters…all shooters,” Mac broadcast. “Covering fire initiates on Double Dragon’s gun run.” He glanced once more at the smoke, now probably at its maximum spread. “Double Dragon: execute!”

The turbines throttled up and the pounding of the rotors grew louder. Mac turned his back to the door, making eye contact with the litter teams.

BRRRRRRRRRRAAAPPP!!!

The QR force opened up with everything they had, and the noise was terrific.

“GO! GO! GO!” Mac bellowed, running to get out of the litter teams’ way as they charged through the door and across the open ground. Tracers streaked over their heads in such volume that nothing downrange of them could possibly survive.

Atop the roof of Building One, Anwar screamed to be heard above the din. “Target two o’clock, 90 meters, window!”

Leon’s peripheral vision had already caught the jihadi popping up in the window. His cross hairs centered on the head—a chip shot from this range—and he tickled the trigger. The man disappeared from view, leaving a splatter of blood and brain on the wall behind him as a memorial to his curiosity.

Below, the litter teams reached the small building. The door opened. Verbal conversation impossible at that location in the circumstances, the litter bearers pointed, gesticulated, then finally yanked and shoved the cops into motion. Three cops dashed for the secured building across from them as the litter teams entered the building.

When they reemerged, the litters were deployed, bearing three human figures. The litter teams sprinted back across the open ground. When they reached cover, the firing slowed to a trickle.

At the same two-o’clock building from Leon’s position, a jihadi appeared on the rooftop with an RPG.

“See that?” Anwar asked.

Leon could barely hear him over the ringing in his ears, but nodded and said, “I see him.”

“How did he get up there?”

“Your guess good as mine,” Leon drawled. “But I got a hunch how he gonna get back down.”

The Les Baer rifle fired. The man spun half-around and tumbled over the edge of the roof, the RPG flipping up in the air like a baton during a majorette’s juggling trick.

As the litter teams burst back in the doorway of Building Two, Mac examined their cargo. Thankfully, the wounded cops were still alive. He turned to the three still on their feet. “What can you tell me?” He asked, in Arabic.

One of the men in plainclothes pointed back the way he had come. “As you were laying down fire, most of them gathered in that building.”

“What building?” Mac demanded, unslinging his fag-bag. He extracted the aerial photo and held it out.

“That building!” The cop said, pointing to Building Seven.

Mac stared at the photo for a minute, thinking. He turned to his men. “Weapons check, reload and head count! Get ready to move!” Hey keyed his radio. “Santa Clause One and Two: exfil in two mikes. Over.”

“Wilco, Hudson Hawk. Santa Clause One out,” Leon replied, and Warner replied right after. “Roger: exfil in two. Santa Clause Two out.”

Mac pulled out his cell phone and texted Haugen about the concentration of opfor in Building Seven. His following text said, “Whatever u do, don’t violate R.O.E.”

After a few seconds, he heard Haugen’s voice on the radio. “Hudson Hawk, this is Double Dragon. I’m afraid we must have taken some hits. We seem to be experiencing a weapons malfunction.”

And then the rockets fired—three in rapid succession. Through the window, Mac and his men watched Building Seven obliterated in a strobing flash, quickly replaced by a tremendous cloud of dust and smoke.

Two of the Brits grinned at each other. “Weapons malfunctions are such a nuisance,” one of them said.

“I just hate it when the Rules Of Engagement are blown to hell and gone,” one of the Americans added.

The squad leaders reported to Mac with head counts and ammo inventory. None of the mercs had been lost or even wounded. He would celebrate later, but for now he didn’t want to wear out his welcome with Lady Luck.

“Alright, move out!” Mac bellowed. “Rally Point Echo!” Then, supervising the exfiltration by squads, Mac muttered, half under his breath, “They can stick the Rules Of Engagement where the sun don’t shine.”

This was an excerpt from Tier Zero.

Scramble Hot

The truck bounced around the corner toward the checkpoint.

Leon Campbell yawned and stretched, rolling over to the prone and getting behind his rifle, still resting on its bipod. He keyed his radio mike. “One truck. Two bodies—driver and passenger. Tarp coverin’ somethin’ in the truck bed.” His voice spoke in a marble-mouth Georgia drawl. His lazy brown eyes found the sight picture through the Les-Baer Custom SWAT’s scope. His brown hands, now much darker from the desert sun, slid into a familiar grip on the sniper rifle. He flipped off the safety and his index finger rested against the trigger guard.

Leon had a nice pair of gloves, but didn’t like having them on for “surgical work.” For some reason, it was a lot more difficult for him sensing when the sears would trip with glove material between his skin and the trigger—no matter how thin that material was.

“Get ready, girl,” he told the three-year old shepherd mix sharing the shade of a jujube tree with him. Shotgun rose from her sitting position so that all four of her legs were straightened and she watched the truck as he did.

Below the hill Leon and Shotgun observed from, Johnny and Drew got into position, their rifles at the ready. Drew stood in the roadway with one hand raised, palm toward the approaching vehicle, while Johnny remained off to the side.

The truck rolled to a stop some ten meters from Drew. Johnny stepped up to the driver’s window and asked the standard questions. The driver produced his ID and answered the questions.

Examining their faces through the scope, Leon recognized both men in the cab as regular visitors to the power plant. But that meant nothing, of course, in this part of the world.

“On station,” he said, and Shotgun charged down the hill to the truck.

She sniffed all the way around the vehicle and made no fuss. Now Johnny had the two Iraqis get out of the cab. Drew sidled over to stand a safe distance from both of them while Johnny moved around back to have a look under the tarp. Seeing nothing that caused alarm, he lifted Shotgun off the ground and let her snoop around in the truck bed. She finished and wagged her tail a bit.

Satisfied, Johnny put her back on the ground. They let the two men climb back in the vehicle and start it, then waved them on their way.

Shotgun climbed back up the hill and joined Leon with a wagging tail and a dripping tongue. Leon gave her a piece of jerky and said, “Good girl.”

“Mechanic, this is Home Alone, over?” squawked the radio.

“This’s Mechanic,” Leon replied. “I copy, Home Alone. Over.”

“Scramble hot. Romeo-Fox is hammer down, over?”

Leon bolted upright, gathering his rifle and gear. It was time to play war, finally. He’d shot nothing but paper targets for months.

The quick reaction force (Quebec-Romeo-Foxtrot, or Romeo Fox for short) only scrambled when hostile contact was made. “Hot” meant live rounds were already flying. Home Alone was the current call sign for their base camp, and Statler was the one minding the store today.

Leon ran down the opposite hill slope from the checkpoint, where the HMMWV was parked, Shotgun trotting along beside him. Over the radio, Statler gave him the code for the link-up site.

A rough, dusty ride later and Leon’s Hummer rolled up next to the QRF’s helipad. There were two dozen men standing near the ugly old surplus CH-47 Chinook, all armed to the teeth but weighted down with little more than their ammo and ballistic protection.

The other Black American working for Secure Solutions, International happened to be the vice president, Jake McCallum—who was also leader of the quick reaction force. McCallum had the frame of an NBA superstar, but with a lot more muscle on it. His stature was intimidating for a lot of men, offset by a face which somewhat resembled the comedian Eddie Murphy’s.

There was nothing comical about Mac’s expression right now. He was hungrier than anyone else in SSI to get some trigger time and now that it was imminent, he was all business.

“Okay, we’re all here,” Mac said. “Gather ‘round.”

He squatted at the corner of the helipad, spreading a topographic map out, then setting an aerial photograph next to it. The force mobbed in around him.

Mac pointed to a grid on the map. “Here’s where we’re going. Anybody remember those guys from Interpol that came by last week?”

A few men nodded.

“Well,” Mac said, “they got a lead on Liberace.”

“Liberace” was a confirmed leader of a terror cell responsible for over 50 deaths, most of them westerners, with some west-friendly Iraqis, mostly unfortunate Sunnis, thrown in. Nobody could pronounce his real name.

Mac pointed at the photo. “Them and some Iraqi cops came into this place, showing mugshots, asking questions, as if they were in Mayberry with Sheriff Taylor and Barney Fife.”

Most of the men looked confused by this reference. Mac frowned. He had forgotten that the younger generations grew up with a lot more than three channels to watch; all kinds of cartoons and kids’ shows to choose from and never had to watch reruns in their life.

“Like they were on CSI or Law and Order or something. Never mind. As you can see, it’s a collection of 13 abandoned buildings. It’s been populated for a while now, by what were assumed to be just a few families of squatters.”

Leon leaned in to get a better look over the shoulders of a couple contractors. The compound was a scattershot of various-sized flat-roofed structures, out in the middle of nowhere.

“One of the cops has been killed,” Mac went on, “two others wounded. They’ve locked themselves in this small building, here. They’ve only got sidearms and not much ammo to hold off the hostiles. It’s only a matter of time before the door or a wall is breached. When the jihadis give up on having hostages to torture and decide to just kill them, they’ll run up there and plant some demolitions, or just fire an RPG at the building. We gotta get there first.”

A couple of the mercs barked their enthusiasm.

Mac nodded, approvingly, shifting focus back to the map. “We’re coming in east-southeast. The chopper’s gonna set us down in this draw right here. It’s got to be a quick offload, folks. Pilot drops the ramp; we unass the bird; he continues on for the first gun run. It needs to happen so quick that the hostiles don’t realize he’s dropped us off.” Mac pointed back to the photo. “First Squad takes this building with Second in overwatch. Once secure, Second Squad takes this building right next to it.”

Mac continued on with the plan, only going over it once and entertaining few questions afterward. He was investing supreme confidence in his squad and team-leaders because, frankly, he had no choice with the time crunch he was faced with. One question he did answer pertained to the enemy’s strength.

“Estimate is ten armed men,” Mac said, then his expression turned especially grim. “Twice that many women, and an unknown number of rugrats.”

The mercs moaned, groaned and cursed.

“I know. I know,” Mac said. “But this is nothing new. When they can’t hit us, then disappear inside a mosque, they hide behind women and children. They understand that ‘weak infidels’ don’t normally have the stomach for that.” He took a deep breath and tried to grin. “But we’re a bunch of bloodthirsty, cold-hearted mercenaries, right?”

“Hoo-hah!” cried one of the Brits.

Mac abandoned the morbid humor tack, and nodded toward the pilot, who nodded back, shared a look with his copilot and climbed inside the Chinook. “If we go wheels-up right now, we’ll catch them during the next call to prayer.” He pointed at a building in the photo. “The women all gather together in this building.” He made eye contact with Leon and Warner, one of the machinegunners. “That’s why I want you guys where I put you. You get me?”

Leon nodded. “Roger that.”

“Loud and clear,” Warner said, in his Cockney accent.

The Chinook’s turbines whined to life, and the rotors began to turn.

“One minute for weapons check,” Mac shouted over the noise of the turbines. “Then let’s go.”

The mercs formed a rank facing west, where there was nothing but empty countryside, and did a brief test fire. The crackle of small arms echoed across the plain, then safeties clicked back on and they loaded the bird, some topping off their magazines as they went.

 

This was an excerpt from Tier Zero.

Excerpt #1.

Excerpt #3.

What’s the Difference Between an Illegal Semi-Automatic and an Illegal Full-Automatic Weapon?

Read this excerpt from Tier Zero to find out.

Two vessels knifed through the waves, away from the port and out to open sea. The Barbara Gee was a recreational trawler, and the Tinseltown was a diving support craft once used for underwater cinematography, as well as towing robot sharks and other sea monsters. It was now stripped of all deck machinery and had plenty of open space inside the horseshoe-shaped fence of antennas and satellite dishes, bristling from just inside the gunwales like the mutant quills of a giant aquatic porcupine.

Tied down to the deck was what looked like a radio-controlled airplane. Only it wasn’t a scale model of an existing aircraft. There were no fake windows or any markings at all. It was made of smooth, nondescript aluminum painted dull green on top, blue on the bottom.

Rocco Cavarra had procured both the watercraft and the captains when Tommy gave the green light. The line of credit provided by Vince’s new pal in New York paid for them, and a whole lot more.

“How does that work again?” Josh Rennenkampf asked, pointing at the German shepherd mix on the deck of the Tinseltown.

“First you gots to put her in demo search mode,” Leon Campbell replied. He called down to his dog, “On station!”

Shotgun put her nose to the deck and ran immediately to the ammo crates not yet loaded in the hold below. She bellowed low, like a cold engine being turned over with a weak battery.

“That’s her bark for powder-type explosive,” Leon explained. “Good work, girl. Now check that one.” He pointed to the foot locker which contained bricks of C4.

Shotgun trotted over to the footlocker and yelped repeatedly at a higher pitch.

“And that there’s her bark for putty-type ordnance. Good job, Shotgun. Stand down.”

Shotgun stopped barking and returned to Leon’s side, sitting beside his feet.

“I bet she comes in handy in Iraq,” Tommy said.

Leon nodded. “She saved a few lives.”

“How long did it take you to train her?” Gunther Scarred Wolf asked.

“Well, I ain’t done with her, yet,” Leon replied. “Folks say I shoulda’ trained her like the bomb squad dogs, but I didn’t know I’d even be able to teach her this much. She still tend to put herself in demo search mode all by herself when new ordnance come into a secured area. I’m workin’ on it.”

“The last thing we need on this trip is a mutt,” Vince said. “You better clean up behind it, ‘cause the first time I step in something that stinks, I’m throwing it overboard.”

Tommy glared at his brother, then slapped Leon’s shoulder. “Hey, we’re glad to have a mascot, buddy.”

Dwight Cavarra came up the ladder from belowdecks huffing and puffing. “Okay, somebody else’s turn to stack gear down there.”

“I got it, Rocco,” Campbell said. “Go lay down, Shotgun.”

Shotgun slunk away to the stern and curled up on a coil of ropes.

Rocco caught Leon’s attention before he climbed down. “Hey, I think I found a stock for your M21 you’re gonna like.”

“Not one of them ‘chassis’ I hope,” Leon replied. “The ones cost both arms, a leg and your firstborn.”

“I can get you a deal on those, too,” Cavarra said. “But no. This is a polymer stock with a nice grip, and an adjustable cheek piece. A fraction of the price. We’ll talk about it later.”

“Okay, sounds good,” Leon said, and disappeared into the hatch.

“Speaking of weapons,” Tommy said, nodding to Josh, “we’re far enough away from snooping eyes, now. Show me what we got.”

Josh nodded, kneeling beside a large plastic case. He unlocked it and swung it open, pulling out a heavily-oiled M10. Out of habit he racked the bolt to check the chamber before handing it to Tommy. “It’s Christmas, Chief. Mr. Ingram has seen to our short-range room-clearing needs.”

Tommy worked the bolt himself, peering into the empty chamber, then inspected the exterior of the little blocky box of a machine pistol.

Vince stepped closer for a look at the weapon. “Is that a MAC-10? Those are illegal.”

Josh cocked an eyebrow up at him as he pulled another Ingram from the case. “According to who?”

“According to the law,” Vince said.

Tommy groaned. He knew there was a volatile mixture of personalities aboard, but it looked like they were going to touch off even faster than he feared.

“The law says the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” Josh said. “If you’re a cop, and you sure act like one, then you swore an oath to uphold that law…not the so-called laws that violate it.”

“Those are easily converted into automatic weapons,” Vince declared. “And full-auto weapons have been banned from civilians for 80 years, hot shot.”

“These are full-auto, Vince,” Tommy said.

Vince’s complexion darkened. He appeared ready to blow a gasket. “Do you even know…? I mean, I could throw all of you… I could lose my badge just for…”

Josh handed one of the submachineguns to Cavarra. “Why waltz when you can rock & roll? Do you know what the difference is between an ‘illegal’ semiautomatic weapon and an ‘illegal’ full automatic weapon?”

Cavarra worked the bolt and gave it the once-over. “Yup. Firepower.” He snapped the fingers of his free hand and strode across the deck, stooping to unzip a nylon rifle case. From it he produced a Galil rifle with an M203 grenade launcher mounted underneath. “Remember this?”

“Fondly,” Tommy said. “In fact, I got a variety of 40mm rounds for it in some crates downstairs. Brought a 60mm mortar too, just for giggles.”

“Tommy,” Vince protested. “You know better than this! These guys are all…” the words froze in his mouth when he saw Josh screwing a suppressor onto the threaded barrel of an Ingram. “Silencers? Silencers!”

Josh rose to his feet with an irritated scowl, gesturing toward Vince with his free hand, and asked Tommy, “Is he gonna do this the whole trip?”

Excerpt #2.

Excerpt #3.

Red-Blooded American Men Examine Pop-Culture and the World