The following is a preview from my next novel titled Persona Non Grata, which is about a former SOF soldier and OGA (Other Government Agency) contractor who is PNG’ed and turns to conducting vigilante strikes against human traffickers in the United States.  What follows is the draft form prior to going through the editing process. -Jack

Call in a TIC!”

Combat boots pounded across the dust, gun shots cutting through the air as the Counter-Terrorism Pursuit Team opened up on the enemy up hill from their position. Deckard took a knee next to a irrigation canal, muddying his desert tiger stripe uniform.

“Troops in contact, troops in contact,” Trey yelled into the radio as he knelt beside him.

Terraces rose up in front of the two Ground Branch operators, the enemy firing down on them from an elevated position. The mechanical ambush had been kicked off with the blast of two IEDs, then heavy machine gun fire from above that disabled three Hiluxes and killed a dozen of the Afghan CTPTs (CounterTerrorism Pursuit Team) immediately. Trey, a former Special Forces soldier looked at Deckard with his handset held to his ear and shook his head.

“Fixed wing twenty minutes out.”

The deadly Little Bird AH-6 attack helicopters didn’t fly during hours of day ight. They would have to wait for Close Air Support.

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Looking back, Deckard saw the CTPTs either firing unaimed shots, dying where they stood, or pointlessly hiding behind their thin skinned vehicles. The third Ground Branch contractor was a grizzled old Delta Force Sergeant Major who stood out in the opening kicking the CTPTs to getting them moving to cover, all while puffs of moon dust kicked up by enemy fire burst around his feet. Trey and Deckard looked on in horror as the old man of the team threatened to kill their Afghan counter-parts before they got up and ran for the terraces.

When Wes finally joined them he just took a knee and wiped some sweat off his forehead. His hair was close cropped and he was clean shaven unlike the other two contractors who sported full beards. Wes didn’t see any point in having long hair and a beard when they were running direct action operations.

“I’m too old for this shit.”

We were trapped on the wrong side of a narrow valley, in a country we were not exactly supposed to be in. The Haqqani network realized they had hit a gold mine ambushing the CTPTs and no doubt spotted their American advisors dressed like commandos out of a Soldier of Fortune magazine. Pinned down and under fire, twenty minutes seemed like a life span, theirs specifically.

The terraces crept up the side of the valley like a set of steep basement stairs leading to a series of mud huts built into the side of the valley.

“I’ve seen you do some pretty gnarly physical training,” Trey said to Wes.

“Down for a frontal assault under machine gun fire?” Deckard asked as a stray round kicked up some dirt just above his head.

The old man smiled.

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“I’ll beat you two pussies to the top. I’m on point, Deckard you stay on my coat tails and try not to die. Trey, you push these maldoons up behind us.”

Just like that, a bullshit plan came together.

“Get the CTPT’s to lay down some suppressive-” Wes’ words were cut off as Deckard jumped over the edge of the first terrace. “God dammit!”

Squishing his way through the mud that used to grow rice for the village above, Deckard came to the next terrace wall. Popping over the top, he leveled his M4 rifle and looked down his Aimpoint sight, cracking off shots into the windows of mud huts and then swinging his barrel to light up several rocky outcroppings above his position. The enemy answered back, sending Deckard ducking down. He had to identify where that machine gun position was. The blast of the DShK 12.7 caliber rounds was hard to mistake for anything else.

“Hey, high speed,” Wes said grabbing Deckard by the sleeve of his fatigues. “If you do anything like that again, I’ll shoot you myself.”

“Roger, Sergeant Major.”

None of them held military ranks anymore as contracted CIA employees. They were a deniable force behind enemy lines. No Geneva Convention was going to save them now.

“Smart ass.”

Trey got a very reluctant CTPT element up onto the terrace and returned fire. The DShK swept their position, racking back and forth. One of the Afghans had put his faith in Allah rather than cover and concealment. He quickly paid the price as a 12.7 round nearly sliced him in half. The pulped mound of gore toppled backwards into the irrigation ditch.

“Trey, get the RPK and PKM gunners up. We need to keep up our momentum,” Deckard yelled.

“What momentum?” the OGA contractor asked sarcastically, his words lost in the gunfire.

Wes stayed as low as possible as he pushed off the wall in front of them with the toe of his boot and rolled up to the next level. Deckard sprung up after him. The Haqqani machine gun above chugged through belt after belt of ammunition, delaying the American and Afghan soldier’s progress. During delays in the bursts of fire, they moved knowing that the terrorists were reloading the gun or clearing a malfunction.

Deckard risked another look above the terrace, trying to figure out exactly where the machine gun emplacement was, but the enemy had done a good job at digging it in while maintaining a wide field of fire.

FWOOOSH!

Deckard and Wes both hit the ground as a RPG rocket sailed over their heads and exploded in front of what was left of their Toyota Hiluxes down on the valley floor. The CTPT’s returned hopelessly inaccurate fire, but hopefully it gave the enemy something to think about.

“I’ll cover you,” Wes said.

He began firing at what he thought was the machine gun position, making bold corrections as moved his gun sights laterally as he fired. Deckard jumped the terrace, his heart thumping in his chest and sweat streaming down his face. Despite being behind the wall, a splash of mud was flung against his ankles. Looking up he saw a lone shooter up on a rocky peak to their flank.

“I got this,” Wes said as he came up alongside him.

“You got this? That dude is like five hundred meters away which is why he isn’t hitting shit-”

Wes exhaled and gently squeezed the trigger on his M4. A single 5.56 round punched through the AK-47 wielding terrorist. He flopped over and took a nose dive off the cliff. The two OGA contractors watched him splash down, face first, into the dried river bed below. His body lay twisted in a very unnatural position.

“Never mind.”

Turning, Deckard fired through the rest of his magazine, and then stopped to reload, yanking a fresh magazine from his olive green nylon chest rig. Wes accelerated his rate of fire, then bent down to reload himself once Deckard was ready to resume shooting. Trey was leap frogging up behind them with a couple dozen Afghans while Deckard and Wes closed the distance. As they visually identified the muzzle flash of the DShK, both began dumping their mags into it. 5.56 rounds sparked off what was probably the feed tray cover and the gun went silent. The two men surged forward climbing up the five foot tall terraces to close the distance.

The two men strained as they climbed higher and higher up the side of the valley. Each carrying around fifty pounds of weapons, ammunition, and gear, their muscles burned with lactic acid. Wes down half of a bottle of water and handed it off to Deckard who finished it while they waited for Trey to catch up again.

“Get the fuck up here Trey,” Wes bellowed.

Deckard squeezed off round after round as gun smoke stung his eyes. He hesitated, seeing something flash in his peripheral. A oblong round object flew through the air and landed at his feet. Instantly recognizing one of those green football shaped Soviet deals, Deckard threw his weight into Wes, taking him to the ground just as the grenade exploded. A plume of mud and dust burst above them.

Wes squinted, in obvious pain from the ringing in his ears.

“Get the fuck off of me, it isn’t man love Thursday.”

Deckard rolled off and snatched an M67 frag grenade from his chest rig. Peeling off the 100 mile an hour tape used to secure the pin, he twisted and yanked it out. Over handing the grenade, he ducked back down behind the terrace. The explosion resulted in the satisfying screams of agony from at least one Haqqani terrorist.

Then another grenade landed near their position on the terrace just above them. The two men ducked as it detonated. The former Delta operator lobbed a grenade of his own as the fire fight devolved into a full-on frag party. Deckard threw one and another came back. The OGA contractors hit the ground but the enemy frag didn’t go off this time. Dumbass probably forgot to pull the pin while he was in some kind of battle haze.

Trey and his men finally arrived and began suppressing enemy positions, automatic fire tearing into the mud huts above them where they had seen muzzle flashes. Deckard pulled himself over the next terrace, Wes following after. As the CTPTs struggled their way up behind them, the Americans suddenly came under fire from their flank. Several terrorists popped up from a well concealed fighting position camouflaged into the side of the valley, raining PKM fire down around them.

Several CTPTs collapsed and rolled down the terraces as 7.62x54R bullets sought them out like angry hornets. Green tracer fire streamed through the orange hued valley as the sun began to sink below the horizon. Deckard slammed a fresh magazine into his mag well and dropped the bolt, chambering the first round. Without thinking twice, he jumped over the last terrace and dashed away.

“Deckard! What the fuck!”

Wes was furious, but Deckard didn’t hear him.