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?”