Edge of Control

By: Trish Loye

PROLOGUE





Somewhere in the Hindu Kush, Afghanistan





Navy Lieutenant Jake “College” Harrison forced himself to lie still and reassess the situation. He wanted to curse and fire his FN SCAR into the Taliban lurking below, killing all the bastards he could see. But Jake had been a SEAL for nearly eight years, and he didn’t let his emotions rule him. He’d learned that lesson long before joining the Navy. Once emotions came into play, judgment and reason went out the window, usually leaping to their deaths.

A soft curse came over his earpiece. “These aren’t good odds, College.” Petty Officer Second Class Rhys “Lucky” Lafayette was hiding among the scrub brush about fifty yards to Jake’s left.

“Copy that, Lucky,” Jake responded.

Jake surveyed the scene from his vantage point behind a grouping of boulders high above the village. The other two men in his team lay hidden along the ridge one hundred yards above him. The small village housed maybe two hundred Pashtuns, the warrior-like people native to this mountainous region of Afghanistan. His team’s mission had been to meet with the elders and secure the village.

They’d already had two previous meetings. This was supposed to be a mere formality before the village elders decided to play host to a few members of the spec ops community until the fighting left the area. The village would gain protection, and the United States would gain another small foothold of eyes and ears in the Hindu Kush region.

The simple mission had gone completely SNAFU. Taliban soldiers swarmed the village below.

“What’s your count, Scat?” Jake asked. Petty Officer Second Class Nick Scattalone had the sharpest eyes, and as their tech guru, he also had the best head for numbers.

“About twenty-five, College,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense. There’s nothing around here for them.”

“They could be transporting something,” Rhys said.

“Or someone,” Jake said. “Keep eyes on. I want to know who or what they’re protecting.”

“Roger that,” the rest affirmed.

They all waited in their hides, occasionally ribbing each other, none of them breaking position. Jake remained silent.

“College, you having a nap over there?” Rhys asked after a bit.

Jake snorted, but didn’t reply. He didn’t have to. Rhys knew he wasn’t asleep, since Jake wasn’t the type to ever shirk his duties. Rhys had been with him through BUD/s—the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training course—which, after surviving Hell Week together, made them closer than brothers. Now they served together on SEAL Team Five based out of Coronado and were sent anywhere in the world.

“Something’s happening down there, College,” Scat announced over their comms.

Jake focused on the village and the surrounding area. More Taliban came out of the trees. Two of them dragged a body between them. “Can anyone make out their prisoner?”

“Wait out,” Scat said. “I’m changing scopes.” A few seconds later they heard him swear. “It looks like it might be that journalist who got himself captured last week.”

Dammit. “Well, that complicates things,” Jake said. “Roddy, move to the ridge for a better signal and call this in.”

“Copy that.”

They wouldn’t see Petty Officer Rodriguez moving upslope. All of them had trained extensively for covert ops like this one. Below them, a Taliban soldier hoisted the journalist upright. Jake could see him clearly through his own scope now. The journalist appeared to be barely conscious, leaning heavily on his captor. Another man walked up to the journalist and placed a pistol to his head, but he turned to the mountains, waving his other arm. He yelled something.

“I don’t like this,” Rhys said.

Jake wanted to curse, but he didn’t. He forced an even, calm tone. “They know we’re here.”

“Would the village elders have told them we were coming?” Scat asked.

Four Taliban soldiers hauled two women and two children to the village’s edge. Each held their weapon to a prisoner’s head. Jake could see, if not hear, the wailing of the hostages.

“It looks like they did,” Jake said. “We have high ground and can take out the shooters before they hit anyone.”

“But won’t the other tangos just turn on the villagers?” Scat asked.

“Not if we give them something to chase,” Jake said.

Scat cursed softly. “But they might not fire.”

“They’re gonna fire,” Jake said. “We all know it.”

“Shit,” Scat said. “We’re all gonna be bloody heroes now.”

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