Shadows of Power
A small nation that bolsters the terrorist cause is flexing its military muscle in a far corner of the world. On a mission to the now—volatile Mediterranean, F/A-18 pilot Lieutenant Ed Stovic shoots down an Algerian MiG at the climax of a dramatic, high-stakes dogfight and becomes an overnight hero in the eyes of his countrymen—and the target of a zealot's revenge. Suddenly, Stovic and his loved ones have been marked for death by an enraged avenger, a pawn of powerful Islamic extremists with devastating plans for America.
But there is another player in the shadows, unseen by the hunters and the hunted alike. A specialist who moves covertly through the most secret branches of the government—Kent "Rat" Rathman—a lethal tool of an ambitious National Security Advisor who will stop at nothing to attain the power she covets. Rat must now devise a brilliant counterstrike ... to save a friend and his country.
Behind the Book
My roommate on the Nimitz became a Blue Angel, as did a few other friends. I've always admired their power and grace and decided to write a novel about them. Once the book got underway, I realized it was really about the Special Operations expert, Lieutenant Kent "Rat" Rathman. A Navy SEAL on loan to the CIA's secret "Special Activities" section, Rat is an intriguing character. He works in the shadows of the government, and relentlessly pursues terrorism wherever he finds it. He also uses means that are unorthodox, and possibly illegal and immoral.
Shadows is a compelling story of an attempt to humiliate the United States by shooting down the Blue Angels. I try to explore some of the edges of the War on Terrorism. What should we do? What are the limitations on you when the men you're fighting have no limitations whatsoever?
"James Huston is easily the hottest new writer of military thrillers to come around in quite a while . . . Consistently entertaining . . . firmly set in the current war on terrorism . . . [it] will leave readers more than satisfied—not to mention a bit breathless."
Lieutenant Ed Stovic stared at his name on the flight schedule in his squadron's ready room aboard the USS Harry S. Truman. He was listed as the wingman for Commander Pete Bruno, the squadron commanding officer. Stovic hardly ever flew on Bruno's wing. His eye quickly scanned over to the mission—covert escort of an EP-3. The big slow EP-3 was to fly down the Mediterranean coast of Algeria and "listen." Collect intelligence. There had been some talk that the Algerians were getting testy about the American battle group crossing into Algeria's newly claimed two-hundred-mile economic zone. It was just the sort of thing that might stimulate a response from the new Algerian government.
Stovic tried to contain his surprise as he looked around the ready room. All the other pilots were watching, some smiling, some giving him looks of feigned anger for having scored the only good hop on the schedule. He was to launch before the official first launch.
Stovic briefed with Bruno and manned up. The excitement was noticeable in the crisp movements of everyone involved in the special launch of the two fighters. It came off beautifully. The two F/A-18E Super Hornets rendezvoused with the tanker above the carrier to top off their fuel tanks. They pulled off the tanker and flew low and fast to their rendezvous point, a random latitude and longitude in the middle of a lonely section of the Mediterranean Sea where the EP-3 waited for them, orbiting a thousand feet over the sea.
The EP-3 wagged its wings on seeing the Hornets across the rendezvous circle. The Hornets closed on the EP-3 from the left and slightly behind. Stovic studied the ungainly plane. He had never seen an EP-3 close up. He had never wanted to see it close up. It wasn't a fighter, so he had never thought much about it. But now he noticed the bulges and antennas all over it, like body piercings defacing its otherwise clean body. Stovic watched Bruno carefully, waiting. Bruno glanced at him, raised his left hand above the canopy rail, then closed his fingers and thumb together, like grabbing a sandwich, to indicate he was about to open his speed brakes. Stovic moved his finger to the speed brake button. Twice, three times Bruno made the signal; then he moved his head forward and quickly back to signal execution. They deployed their speed brakes simultaneously, and their closure on the EP-3 slowed even more.
The EP-3 was flying at two hundred twenty knots, slow for the Hornets but manageable. Bruno moved up close to the EP-3, up to the cockpit where he could see the pilot, who waved at them. Bruno nodded. He looked over at Stovic, who was tucked comfortably under his left wing. Bruno backed off, dropped under the EP-3's left wing, kissed off Stovic, leaving him there, and crossed under the EP-3 to the right wing where he took up his own position. They tucked up close to the larger plane, now invisible to any radar that might be looking. Chakib Nezzar glanced ahead as his flight lead lifted off the runway. He pushed his throttles all the way forward. Brilliant flames roared out the back of the enormous engines of his MiG-25 Foxbat as the huge Russian-made fighter raced down the runway outside Algiers. Nezzar raised his landing gear and climbed after Hamid to join him as they headed out to surprise the American spy plane.
They climbed through fifteen thousand feet, careful not to use any of their electronic equipment. The American plane could detect any electronic signal they might make, and it almost certainly had Arabic linguists aboard listening to any radio communications. It was nearly impossible to surprise one of the U.S. Navy's EP-3 intelligence-gathering airplanes, but they were sure going to try.
Nezzar heard the first intercept transmissions. "Bearing 350, distance 300." It was in the blind, requiring no acknowledgment. He knew it was for him, and he was to add ninety degrees to whatever heading they transmitted and subtract one hundred fifty kilometers from any distance. So the American plane was 080 from them, one hundred fifty kilometers away.
They increased their speed, pushing through the sound barrier, through Mach 1.2, and headed directly for the unsuspecting American plane, which was ten thousand feet below them. Kent Rathman used his new CIA badge to open the door to the Counter-Terrorism section on the first floor of the enormous office building in Langley, Virginia. He was surprised it actually worked. The first time was always iffy. He walked down the hallway, looking for Don Jacobs, the Director of Counter-Terrorism at the Agency. He spotted Jacobs's office across a large area full of cubicles and walked around to approach it from the side without the window so his approach couldn't be seen. He looked through the crack behind the door where it stood open and saw Jacobs still sitting at his desk checking his watch. Rathman stepped silently through the door. "Morning, sir," he said quietly.
Jacobs jumped, catching the expression on his face before it could fully develop into the shock he felt. "What are you doing in here? Are you Rathman?"
"We're supposed to meet in a conference room. Didn't you get my message?"
"Yes, sir, but there wasn't anyone there. I thought I'd come find you and save you the walk."
"We're still going to the conference room." He started walking down the hall, then stopped. "We need to get one thing clear right away. I don't like games. If you like games, you're in the wrong place. You got that?"
Rathman tried not to smile. "Sorry, sir."
They reached the conference room. Jacobs grabbed a carafe and poured coffee from it. He...