Free Fall: A Prelude to Hidden Order

Free Fall: A Prelude to Hidden Order by Brad Thor

Book: Free Fall: A Prelude to Hidden Order by Brad Thor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Brad Thor
    T hrough the hazy-green of Scot Harvath’s night-vision goggles, it looked like an illusion. The infrared markers, which had been carefully laid out on the rear deck of the ship beneath him, should have been floating—rolling with the swell of the ocean—waiting for him, not racing up to meet him like tracer fire. He was coming in way too fast.
    He’d had no choice. The wind had changed, and coming in quickly was the only way to keep up with the speed of the enormous vessel. There was no other way to do this. It had to be tonight.
    They might wait weeks for another moonless night like this, but by then, all the hostages could be dead.
    It had to be tonight and it had to be moonless, because that was the only way a dangerous, borderline-psychotic insertion like this could ever possibly work.
    Most of the operators Harvath had approached had simply shaken their heads. You didn’t parachute onto a supertanker in the middle of the night, in the middle of a shark-infested ocean, and you didn’t do it with only four guys and expect to take control of the vessel. You used a minimum of eight guys and you snuck up on the hijackers by using one of their own resupply boats. That was how you took pirates by surprise. At least, that was what the previous team had thought.
    The supertanker Sienna Star was a vessel owned by a Maltese shipping conglomerate, crewed by Greeks, and insured out of the United Kingdom. Politically, its hijacking was a maritime nightmare. The government most responsible for resolving the standoff was the Maltese, but it had no firepower in the Indian Ocean.
    In response to the exorbitant ransom demand, the insurance company had stepped up and sent in a team it had used in similar hijackings. The results this time, though, had been disastrous. The team had not only used the same tactics they had employed in the past, but they assumed their enemy was unsophisticated, and they discounted the hijackers’ ability to network and trade intelligence with other pirates. When the rescue team showed up, the Somalis were ready for them.
    The attempt not only failed, but the pirates were so angry, they executed the ship’s navigator as a warning against any future attempts. They also increased their ransom demand, ratcheting it above the conglomerate’s coverage.
    The insurance company recommended that the shipping company put up the difference and that, together, they pay the hijackers off. But although the owners of the Sienna Star were ready to spend money, there was no way in hell they were going to do so to buy back their own ship.
    They knew all too well that if they paid this time, there’d be another hijacking in the future, and another after that. Someone needed to send a crystal-clear message that their ships, and more important, their crews , were not to be trifled with.
    The key to getting that message across would depend on bringing in the right messengers. On paper, the insurance company’s team had been good, but they needed the best. The Sienna Star ’s owners wouldn’t tolerate any more mistakes, nor would they tolerate another single crew member dying.
    It took the shipping company forty-eight hours to find the men they were looking for. There was a group based in Northern Virginia headed by a distinguished former Central Intelligence Agency operative named Reed Carlton. Carlton had created the CIA’s counterterrorism center in the 1980’s and now helmed his own boutique, private intelligence and counterterrorism organization. The Carlton Group was exorbitantly expensive, but it had an impressive pedigree and guaranteed something none of the other private contracting firms would— results . Carlton promised that if his team wasn’t one hundred percent successful, the shipping company wouldn’t owe them a dime. It was an offer the Sienna Star ’s owners couldn’t refuse.
    Harvath thought the terms the Old Man, as he referred to

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