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Prince Joe by Suzanne Brockman

Prince Joe by Suzanne Brockman

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Published by Green_Honey_

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Published by: Green_Honey_ on Jul 10, 2012
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12/25/2013

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1 - Prince Joe
 For Eric Ruben, my swim buddy.
 
Prologue
Baghdad, January 1991
Friendly fire.It was called friendly because it came from U.S. bombers and missile launchers, but itsure as hell didn't feel friendly to Navy SEAL Lieutenant Joe Catalanotto, as it fell fromthe sky like deadly rain. Friendly or not, an American bomb was still a bomb, and itwould indiscriminately destroy any-thing in its path. Anything, or anyone, between theU.S. Air Force bombers and their military targets was in serious danger.And SEAL Team Ten's seven-man Alpha Squad was definitely between the bombers andtheir targets. They were deep behind enemy lines, damn near sitting on top of a fac-toryknown to manufacture ammunition.Joe Catalanotto, commander of the Alpha Squad, glanced up from the explosives he andBlue and Cowboy were rigging against the Ustanzian Embassy wall. The city was lit upall around them, fires and explosions hellishly il-luminating the night sky. It seemedunnatural, unreal.Except it was real. Damn, it was way real. It was danger-ous with a capital D. Even if Alpha Squad wasn't hit by friendly fire, Joe and his men ran the risk of bumping into a platoon of enemy soldiers. Hell, if they were captured, commando teams like the SEALswere often treated like spies and executed—after being tortured for information.But this was their job. This was what Navy SEALs were trained to do. And all of Joe'smen in Alpha Squad per-formed their tasks with clockwork precision and coolcon-fidence. This wasn't the first time they'd had to perform a rescue mission in a hot war zone. And it sure as hell wasn't going to be the last.Joe started to whistle as he handled the plastic explo-sives, and Cowboy—otherwiseknown as Ensign Harlan Jones from Fort Worth, Texas—looked up in disbelief."Cat works better when he's whistling," Blue explained to Cowboy over his headsetmicrophone. "Drove me nuts all through training—until I got used to it. You do get usedto it.""Terrific," Cowboy muttered, handing Joe part of the fuse.His hands were shaking.Joe glanced up at the younger man. Cowboy was new to the squad. He was scared, buthe was fighting that fear, his jaw tight and his teeth clenched. His hands might beshak-ing, but the kid was doing his job—he was sticking it out.
 
 Cowboy glared back at Joe, daring him to comment.So of course, Joe did. "Air raids make you clausty, huh, Jones?" he said. He had to shoutto be heard. Sirens were wailing and bells were ringing and antiaircraft fire washammering all over Baghdad. And of course there was also the brain-deafening roar of the American bombs that were vaporizing entire city blocks all around them. Yeah, theywere in the middle of a damned war.Cowboy opened his mouth to speak, but Joe didn't let him. "I know how you're feeling,"Joe shouted as he put the finishing touches on the explosives that would drill one mother of a hole into the embassy foundation. "Give me a chopper jump into cold water, give mea parachute drop from thirty thousand feet, give me a fourteen-mile swim hell, give mehand-to-hand with a religious zealot. But this... I gotta tell you, kid, inserting intoBaghdad with these hundred-pounders falling through the sky is making me a littleclausty myself."Cowboy snorted. "Clausty?" he said. "You? Shoot, Mr. Cat, if there's anything on earthyou're afraid of, they hav-en't invented it yet.""Working with nukes," Joe said. "That sure as hell gives me the creeps.""Me, too," Blue chimed in.The kid wasn't impressed. "You guys know a SEAL who isn't freaked out by disarmingnuclear weapons, and I'll show you someone too stupid to wear the trident pin.""All done," Joe said, allowing himself a tight smile of satisfaction. They'd blow this holeopen, go in, grab the ci-vilians and be halfway to the extraction point before ten minuteshad passed. And it wouldn't be a moment too soon. What he'd told Ensign Jones was true.Jesus, Mary and Jo-seph, but he hated air raids.Blue McCoy stood and hand-signaled a message to the rest of the team, in case they'dmissed hearing Joe's an-nouncement in the din.The ground shook as a fifty-pound bomb landed in the neighborhood, and Blue met Joe'seyes and grinned as Cowboy swore a blue streak.Joe laughed and lit the fuse."Thirty seconds," he told Blue, who held up the right number of fingers for the rest of theSEALs to see. The squad scrambled to the other side of the street for cover.When a bomb is about to go off, Joe thought, there's al-ways a moment, sometimes just atiny one, when every-thing seems to slow down and wait. He looked at the familiar facesof his men, and he could see the adrenaline that pumped through them in their eyes, in the

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