Authors: Trish Loye
EDGE OF REASON
Copyright © 2015 Trish Loye
All rights reserved.
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author and publisher.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, incidents, and places is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
There are so many people who have helped in some way in the journey to becoming an author. I belong to an amazing critique group, where I have learned so much from some incredibly talented writers. In particular, Leanne Shirtliffe, an amazingly funny writer, teacher and superwoman, has taught me that I
do it all, but sometimes the kids eat cereal. Brad Somer is an inspiration to me, he writes with a dark humor that epitomizes who he is. From him I’m still learning how to craft killer sentences and how not to be afraid of the raw topics. Nancy Hayes is an extraordinary woman, traveling the world and helping others, while most women her age are just looking after their grandkids. She has shown me who I want to be when I grow up. Thank you all.
I also want to thank a good friend of mine, Will. I feel privileged to have him in my life. As former special operations and current soldier, his help with the military aspects of this book have been invaluable. Any mistakes are solely mine. Thanks, buddy.
And last but never least. To a woman who raised four kids while working nights as an emergency room nurse. Thanks for showing me how to work hard and for too much to say here.
This book is for you, Mom.
Eighteen months previous…
Somewhere in the Hindu Kush, Afghanistan.
Petty Officer Rhys “Lucky” Lafayette’s legs burned as he raced to the mountaintop with the dead weight of an unconscious man over his shoulder. His lungs labored to gasp in enough air. Fifty yards to the plateau.
He and the rest of his team had just snatched the kidnapped journalist from the Taliban, who now gave chase. Somewhere at the top of the plateau a helicopter was on its way. He hoped.
His two other teammates already lay in wait at the top, their sniper rifles taking out any Taliban getting too close to him, while his best friend stayed at the bottom and also covered his ass. He pushed harder, knowing the longer he took, the longer Petty Officer Jake “College” Harrison was under heavy fire below him.
Sweat dripped into his eyes. Fucking mountains. Give him a flat beach or, hell, even surf torture any day over this scree-covered shit.
He crested the ridge and spotted his teammates Roddy and Scat aiming their rifles downhill. He lowered the haggard man to the ground behind a boulder to protect him from stray bullets, grateful to be rid of the dead weight. “At the top, College,” Rhys said into the comm. “Haul ass.”
Rhys dropped to the ground and sighted along his rifle downhill as Jake did a last spray of bullets into the trees, switched out his mags, and sprinted up the slope.
Rhys breathed deep to slow his heart rate. The butt of his FN SCAR Mk 17 dug into his shoulder as he fired round after round into the Taliban assholes chasing Jake.
The thumping of helicopter rotors sounded close behind him, but he didn’t look. It was friendly.
“Run faster, College,” he said into his mic.
“Roger,” came Jake’s panting reply. Sure enough, Rhys watched him speed up.
But it wasn’t fast enough. Rhys fired again and again.
A large dark-skinned man in unfamiliar fatigues dropped down beside Rhys with an M249 SAW light machine gun, and started strafing the Taliban soldiers who climbed behind Jake.
“Don’t hit my guy,” Rhys growled.
“Never,” the man answered.
“What unit are you guys?” Rhys asked while still firing.
“E.D.G.E.” he replied.
“Edge? What the hell is that?”
“The unit saving your asses.”
Rhys would have replied but below him, Jake stumbled and clutched his leg. Rhys’s chest tightened as Jake went down to one knee. It looked like he’d taken a hit to the thigh.
Rhys didn’t even realize he’d gone to a crouched position. “Get up, Jake!” he screamed.
“Dude, where’re you going?” the soldier beside him yelled.
Rhys didn’t answer. He ran downslope, slipping in the scree, counting on the rest of his team and the new guy to keep him alive.
Jake was moving again—slower than before, but still upslope. It was a testament to his willpower that he kept going at all. Blood drenched his pant leg.
Rhys slid to a stop by Jake and tucked his shoulder under the shorter man’s arm. “Come on, College. You’re slower than molasses running uphill.”
The new soldier had followed Rhys and took Jake’s other arm. Together they got him to the top. More men from the new unit lay down covering fire for them. Rhys breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the helicopter sitting just behind the ridge. Jake would need an immediate evac.
Having crested the ridge, they stood in a relative calm on higher ground, protected from enemy fire by their location and the soldiers firing downhill keeping the Taliban back. A soldier from this Edge unit carried the journalist to the helicopter.
A tall woman strode toward them, shouldering her rifle. Her blazing blue eyes held his attention. “I’m Valkyrie,” she said. “The team leader.” She waved at the dark-skinned soldier holding Jake’s other arm. “Doc’s our medic, he’ll see to your leg.”
Rhys couldn’t help but stare at the woman. What was she doing here? She turned to him, her face stone cold. “Do you have a problem, sailor?”
That stopped him. She knew they were SEALs, even without identifying insignia. “No, sir,” he said and then corrected himself, feeling like a heel. “I mean, ma’am.”
She rolled her eyes and faced Jake again. “My team can handle this from here. Get on the bird.”
Jake didn’t move, just stared at Valkyrie. “You’re a woman.”
Rhys snorted. No shit.
Valkyrie’s voice took on an uncompromising edge. “I’m a captain, and you’re done here, sailor. This is now my mission.”
But Jake, stubborn as always, just kept going. “You’re not spec ops.”
Rhys almost grinned at the sparks of temper in Valkyrie’s eyes. Whoever she was, she wasn’t backing down from confronting a SEAL.
“No,” she said. “We’re E.D.G.E. operators. Now get your ass onboard.”
She marched off.
Rhys stared after her. “I think I’m in love.”
“Edge?” Jake asked the soldier nicknamed Doc.
“E.D.G.E.,” he said, as they helped Jake to the waiting helicopter. “Elite Digital and Global Enforcement unit.”
“Never heard of it,” Jake muttered.
The soldier grinned. “That’s the idea.”
Rhys knew that secrets lived within secrets in most governments and military units. But it was unusual they hadn’t heard even a whisper of this group before. He helped get Jake settled in the MH-60 Black Hawk. Doc knelt beside him and unzipped a medical kit.
The unconscious journalist had already been strapped down and another soldier lifted his eyelids and shone a light in them.
“Thanks for your help, Doc,” Rhys said.
“No worries.” He applied clotting powder and bandages to Jake’s wound, while the other soldier on board turned and immediately got a tourniquet wrapped around Jake’s upper thigh, before pulling a saline drip out of a medical kit.
“We’ll take care of your friend,” Doc said.
An explosion thundered on the slope behind them. Rhys hoped that these E.D.G.E. guys had set that off and not the tangos.
Doc touched his PTT button on his headset and spoke into the mic. “Roger, Valkyrie.” Then he nodded at Rhys. “She needs another set of hands outside.”
“I’m on it.” Rhys jumped out of the helicopter. Valkyrie crouched behind a boulder with two other men. Gunfire had escalated in the area. He raced over to them and hunkered down.
“We need to get out of here,” he said.
She scowled at him. “The Taliban just got reinforcements.”
“Let me guess. They’ve got RPGs.” Rocket-propelled grenades could shoot their helicopter out of the sky.
She nodded. “But don’t worry, I’ve got something better.” She pulled out six small metal balls from one of the pouches on her webbing.
“You gonna play marbles?” Rhys asked.
She handed three to one of the soldiers and then pointed down one side of the slope in front of them. “Position them there.”
“Wilco,” the guy said, and he and his buddy took off, staying low.
She watched them for a moment. “Okay. Cover me while I set these little guys.”
Valkyrie took off—Rhys had no choice but to follow her. She ran down the mountain straight toward the tangos.
“Are you fucking crazy?” Rhys yelled.
She slid to a stop next to another boulder and crouched behind it. “We can’t let the tangos hide in these rocks. They’ll be able to take down our bird with those RPGs before we reach altitude.” She pulled a strip of plastic off the back of one and stuck it to the rock face in the direction of the tangos.
“What are those things?” Rhys asked.
“Motion-sensor explosives. I designed them myself,” she said with a grin.
He wanted to grin back, but this was serious stuff. “But will they work?” She scowled at him. “I just meant they’re kinda tiny.”
“It’s not the size that matters,” she said. Her lips quirked in a small smile. “I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Now cover me.”
Before Rhys could think of a reply, she started setting her charges and he went to work firing at any tangos that popped their heads out of the woods below.
As soon as they left, the tangos would rush this slope and land right in the motion sensor’s path. He prayed this woman knew what she was doing. He wasn’t sure he fully trusted her yet, but she seemed confident about her little bombs.
“They’re coming closer,” he said. “You done yet?”
“Almost.” She moved further downslope to another set of rocks, closer to the tangos.
“Woman, you are driving me insane,” he muttered as he followed her, firing as he went.
She hunched down and set the last explosive. A bullet pinged off the rock near her head. Rhys waited for a reaction, but she didn’t flinch, just continued working with steady hands. He picked off the tango who’d gotten too close.
“Done. Let’s move, sailor,” she said. She grabbed her rifle and laid down covering fire. “Run!” she barked at him.
He scowled. “I’m not leaving you.”
She looked at him like he was crazy. “Of course you’re not. But you must be almost out. Change your mag while you’re on the move and then cover me.”
“No way,” he said, changing his mag while he crouched beside her behind the boulder. “We go together.”
Her eyes blazed with anger. She shot more rounds at the encroaching enemy, swore, and then ran up the mountain.
He sprayed another burst and then followed her, pumping his legs, expecting to catch her within a few steps. He planned to run right behind her to protect her back with his body.
But he never got the chance. She raced up the mountain like some kind of deer. He pushed hard, not wanting to be hit by the gunfire that followed them, and he gained on her, but he didn’t catch her.
He made the top and ducked behind the ridge, laying flat out beside her to watch the tangos enter their trap.
“Three little bombs might not be enough,” he said. “Why don’t you get on the bird? My guys and I can cover you and then haul ass to the next ridge where you can circle back for us.”
“Shut the fuck up,” she said.
She turned to him. “Call me Valkyrie, or don’t call me anything. Now stay on target.” She watched down the mountain. The tangos started running full bore up toward them.