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       Mirrored Man: The Rob Tyler Chronicles Book 1, p.1
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           GJ Fortier
Mirrored Man: The Rob Tyler Chronicles Book 1


  Mirrored Man

  The Rob Tyler Chronicles

  Book One

  By G. J. Fortier

  Text copyright © 2015 G. J. Fortier

  All Rights Reserved

  This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to actual events or persons, living or dead, are coincidental. Any trademarks or products names are used only for reference, not endorsement. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or in part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.

  This, my first novel, is dedicated first to the memory of my parents, Mary and Ted, whose wisdom and guidance made me the man I am today. We begrudgingly gave them up to Heaven far too quickly for my liking.

  To my son Christian, whom I have often thought was the only reason for my being. He is my friend, my support, and the love of my life.

  To my sister Geraldine, who has always been there for me. Whether standing behind, beside, or before, she has been there with love, strength, and encouragement through even the darkest days of my existence.

  To Terri, who is my sister in Christ. Without her friendship, encouragement, humor, skills with the written word, and willingness to help this storyteller with his strong lack of grammar skills, readers might never have had the opportunity to read this.

  Most of all, I dedicate this novel to God in Heaven, and I thank Him for the sacrifice that His Son, Jesus Christ, made on the cross for my sins. It is from Him that I was gifted with this meager talent to paint words on a page.

  Table of Contents

  Mirrored Man

  1 Method to the Madness

  2 Conundrum

  3 The Vice Chairman

  1 Method to the Madness

  17 January 2001

  1645 hours

  THE WIND WHISTLED softly through the crags around the two soldiers as they lay motionless, their ghillie suits and floppy boonie hats providing insulation against the elements. More importantly, their attire masked them from the prying eyes of sentries scouring the peaks of the surrounding mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

  Lieutenant Robert “Rot” Tyler peered through the optic mounted on the fifty-caliber M82 sniper rifle, sighted on the cave entrance 640 meters to the southeast and 250 meters below. Next to him laid Petty Officer First Class Stacey “Sack” Connery who also had the crosshairs of his spotter scope on the opening in the mountain face.

  They had made the jump into the Nurestan region during the new moon nearly three weeks before. Their insertion point near the village of Khamdesh Ghar was barely twenty-six kilometers from the border of Pakistan's Northwest Territory. The cave was so well hidden that it had taken the men five days using GPS satellites to locate it, and another six to find the best combination of location and cover from which to shoot should the kill order be issued, all the while evading their very adept enemy in his own territory.

  They had taken off from Dushanbe Airport in the capital of Tajikistan. Their ride had been somewhat different from what they were accustomed to. The Soviet-era IL-76 transport plane, codenamed “Candid” by NATO during the Cold War, was roughly the same size as an American Lockheed C-141 Starlifter. It was now owned and operated by Atlant-Soyuz Airlines in service as a freighter. This particular aircraft had been rented by a Russian flight crew and flown the roughly four hundred kilometers to the pair’s insertion point, twenty-two kilometers north of their current position. Armed with intelligence gleaned by the international community, the snipers from SEAL Team Six waited patiently, hoping that their extremely elusive target might turn up at this location.

  “Fifteen.”

  “That was fourteen.”

  “It was fifteen,” Rot insisted.

  “It was fourteen. You already said Cleveland.” Sack’s graveled voice was monotone as he played the familiar game.

  “I did?”

  Sack adjusted his tripod but remained silent.

  This part of the mountains was accessible only by foot trails. No airborne vehicle short of a helicopter could fly below fifty meters in the narrow passages. It was a perfect hiding spot for the terrorist camp. Their quarry, ironically, had been on the payroll of the CIA only a dozen years earlier during Afghanistan's war with the Soviet Union. Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian national, had taken up the cause of the Afghans against the Russians. He had proven himself to be a brilliant tactician in the rugged countryside and a ruthless warrior against the communists. But lately, his undertakings had caused him to fall out of grace with the U.S. He was wanted by the FBI in connection with several U.S. Embassy bombings in 1998 and, more recently, the October 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole while she was at anchor in the Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen sailors had lost their lives, and thirty-nine more had been injured. All intelligence, though yet unconfirmed, pointed straight at Bin Laden as the mastermind.

  It was time for some payback.

  “Okay, fourteen. That just leaves two, right?” Rot asked as he scratched his cheek on the stock of his weapon.

  “Yup,” Sack answered evenly.

  “Okay.” Rot paused as he adjusted his view to focus on three men emerging from the cave. The terrorists took great care to stay out of sight during the day, but after sunset they were less cautious and came out to get some fresh air.

  “Did I say Jacksonville already?”

  Sack followed the newcomers as well. “That's fifteen.”

  Rot peeked from under the cowl of his camouflage suit at his partner. Both wore gray and black camouflage paint on their exposed skin, but that was where the similarities ended. At six foot four Sack was three inches taller than Rot, eighty pounds heavier, and built like a linebacker. His barrel chest and tree trunk limbs were legendary, and his emerald eyes reflected intelligence and intensity. But nothing spoke more of the big man’s cowboy personality than his thick black mustache.

  “The Panthers?” Rot asked tentatively.

  Sack stared at Rot disparagingly. “They're in the NFC. Ain't you from South Carolina? You ought ta know that one.”

  “They've only been in the NFL since the expansion. I've only been back there a few times since then.”

  “More ‘n a few.”

  “Not during football season. Anyway,” Rot turned his attention back to his scope, “who's left?”

  Sack kept silent. It wouldn't be long before the sun dipped below the peaks and the temperature started dropping, which would make it difficult for them to keep the lenses on their equipment from clouding over. Scanning the cave’s perimeter, he spotted a larger group moving toward the cave from the southwest. “One o'clock.”

  Rot quickly found the second group moving toward the entrance. “Hello. Who do we have here?”

  “Is that him?”

  “I do believe we have a winner.”

  The man in the middle of the larger group stood head and shoulders above the others. His thick beard and turban obscured his face, but Rot had studied enough video to know the man’s stature and mannerisms. “Contact Method. Paper has been printed.”

  Sack complied without hesitation, speaking slowly and clearly into his headset's microphone. “Method, this is Wyvern. Paper has been printed. I say again, paper has been printed. Request instructions. Over.”

  Rot put his weapon's crosshairs on the tall figure's center mass as his index finger rested anxiously against his weapon’s trigger guard, ready to do its work. One shot from the Raufoss fifty-caliber explosive, armor-piercing round would be more than sufficient to eliminate his target.

  Rot listened to the unexpected response as it crackled over Sack's radio. “Wyvern. Method. Flypaper. Repeat. Flypaper. Over.”
<
br />   “Method says we hold. Can you believe it? We hold again.” Sack spat the words.

  “I heard.” Rot watched as the man in his sights laughed along with the others in the group. An odd feeling of relief swept over him. “Confirm your last.”

  “Method. Wyvern. I repeat. Paper has been printed. Please confirm your last. Over.”

  “Confirmed. Flypaper. Repeat. Flypaper. Over.”

  Sack rested his forehead on the rock that served as the platform for his scope. “Confirmed.”

  Rot sighed and thought of his wife as he watched the group disappear into the cave. She was right.

  For several moments, all that could be heard was the moaning wind before Sack growled, slammed his head hard against the rock and glared over at Rot. “What are we doin' here, LT?”

  Rot watched blood trickle down Sack's temple. “Relax.”

  “But this is the second time,” Sack protested. “First in Somalia and now here.” He looked through his scope only to see their target gone. “Well, that's just great. He's in there now. All of this fer nuthin'! Japan to Moscow to Tajikistan. The Russians, the jump, three weeks in the desert, fer Pete’s sake!” To this rant he added a steady stream of expletives.

  Rot ignored the rest of Sack's rant. The lieutenant's relief was growing, their mission over. But now Rot was faced with an even more difficult task. One he had been dreading more than the prospect of completing their mission.

  They packed up in the dead of night beneath the light of the waning moon and began the long trek back to their extraction point in the same riverbed where they had concealed their jump gear. Before, they had stopped frequently as they moved mostly at night through low ground, using what little light the moon had provided to survey the peaks around them for signs of the enemy. But now their course remained uninterrupted as they traveled closer and closer to the choppers and home.

  On the morning of the third day, Rot blurted out, “The Titans!”

  Sack was accustomed to the lieutenant spouting the answer to a question asked hours or even days earlier. “Congratulations. It only took you four days this time.”

  Rot smiled to himself. “I always forget the expansion teams. Hey, who's playing the Giants again?”

  “The Ravens,” Sack answered, amazed at Rot's lack of football knowledge. “How can you call yourself a football fan and not know who's playing in the fu—” Sack caught himself. The lieutenant's ears had become sensitive to bad language over the past couple of years, soon after he married his little church-going bride. “Sorry, sir. The freakin' Super Bowl.”

  Rot smiled. “I told you, you don't have to hold your tongue around me. I ain't a nun.” He was painfully aware of the widening gap between other SEAL Team Six members and himself since he had married three years before. His mellowing demeanor had caused a reciprocal change in attitude from nearly every one of his teammates. A couple of them had listened politely as Rot tried to explain his admittedly radical transformation, but most weren't interested. A few were even openly hostile at times. But not Sack—his observer, his partner, his friend. Snipers and their observers were the elite of the elite, and Rot and Sack were a team within a team, despite rank. And that fact was making Rot’s approaching chore even more difficult.

  Sack smiled wide. “I was jus' tryin' ta be respectful.”

  Rot gave him a knowing look. “Well, I appreciate that, but I ain't responsible for your mouth. Or your soul.”

  “My soul?” Sack lifted one of his booted feet, peering intently at its tread. “These boots're brand new for this mission, LT.”

  Rot ignored the quip. “Well, at least we'll be home in time to watch the game.”

  Sack squared his shoulders. “Go ahead.”

  Rot looked at him quizzically. “What?”

  “Ya might as well get it over with,” Sack stated stoically.

  “What are you talking about?”

  Sack sighed. “Every couple o' weeks for more 'n a year, you invite me to go to church with ya. Go ahead an' ask. I'll tell ya ‘no’ and then we can get on home.”

  Rot smiled. “Okay. Come to church with me when we get back.”

  “Can I bring Chiyoko? 'Cause we're both gonna need some forgivin' the mornin' after I get back.” Sack grinned, ending the statement with a wink.

  Rot frowned. “Sure Sack. You can bring Chiyoko to church.”

  The big man shook his head. “Best not. That chick ain't got no business bein' anywhere near a church.”

  “Well, it's an open invitation if you change your mind.” Rot turned his attention to the rising sun. “We better find some cover.” There was a short pause. "Now it's my turn," he added.

  "Here we go," Sack sighed.

  Ignoring him, Rot began. "Name all the countries of South America."

  "Aww, c'mon LT. I give you football—American football—and you give me friggin' world geography?"

  Rot grinned. "You don't want me to make it too easy do you? Besides, there's only twelve of 'em. Well, fifteen if you count the major territories."

  The two settled into a narrow crevice a dozen feet long and barely three feet wide, but with walls that stretched so high up into the peaks that only two stars were visible in the brightening sky. Sack tried to find a comfortable position while he asked, "What about the fifty states?"

  Rot gave him a disappointing look. "I'm tryin' to challenge you here. A third grader could name all fifty states."

  It took Sack the better part of the next hour to name all of the countries, including the three major territories, as they ate their MREs. The two then alternated between rest and watch duty in two-hour shifts as the day crept slowly by.

  Sack became oddly silent for the remainder of their journey, communicating only when necessary. At times they were separated by the rough terrain, which gave Rot an opportunity to pray for strength and wisdom for his upcoming task.

  It was shortly before midnight the night they reached the extraction point. The choppers were due to arrive at zero one hundred hours, so they took up positions with a clear view of the dusty riverbed where they silently watched the darkness for any movement among the jagged peaks.

  Rot checked his Luminox watch. With the extraction time fast approaching, he was compelled not to wait until they returned to base for the coming unpleasantness. Mustering courage, he sighed heavily and spoke barely above a whisper the words he had been dreading.

  “Um, Sack?”

  “Sir?”

  “I'm leaving Six.”

  “Copy that, Sir,” Sack said without missing a beat.

  Rot searched the darkness but couldn't see Sack's eyes clearly. Maybe he had underestimated the big man’s visceral skills. He thought a moment. “Did Walsh—?”

  Sack stopped him with a nod.

  Rot had served with Lieutenant Commander Benny Walsh aboard the USS West Virginia early in his career, before he became a SEAL. He had been more than Rot's superior officer. He became his friend and mentor as well. Sack had met the man when SEAL Team Six spent some time aboard The Silent Mountaineer for a training exercise in the Mediterranean where he became fast friends with Benny, the “preacher’s kid.”

  “How … when—?”

  Sack cut him off. “I guess he figured somebody ought’ a let me know that my partner of six years was torpedoin' me.”

  “Sack—”

  Stabbing an angry finger at Rot to silence him, Sack nearly shouted, “Just tell me it's 'cause of missions like this one where …” He trailed off for a moment, then continued with a lower, steadier voice. “… where we get called off at the last minute with no explanation. That, at least, I could understand.”

  Rot’s fingers tapped the stock of his rifle uncomfortably, but he said nothing.

  “Not 'cause you went and got married and let yer wife drag ya off to church.”

  Rot ignored the man's disrespectful tone. “I can't do it anymore, Sack.”

  “Can't do what?” Sack demanded.

  Rot knew he owed
the man an explanation, but he didn't want to say the words.

  “Can't do what?” Sack hadn’t intended to scream, but he was more frustrated than he thought he’d be.

  Ignoring the fact that Sack could've just given away their position, Rot simply said, “Kill.”

  “What?” Sack asked incredulously. Only days before, Rot had been poised to do just that, to kill a terrorist leader. And Sack had absolutely no doubt that the lieutenant would have followed the order, had it come.

  All at once Rot’s guilt lifted. “I got baptized.”

  The words hit Sack squarely, literally rocking him back where he was sitting. “You did what?”

  Rot nearly laughed out loud. “At the base chapel right before we left. I got baptized.”

  The silence lasted a full minute before Sack spoke again. “I thought you wuz Catholic.”

  “I am. At least I was. I don't know what I am.” Rot paused before concluding, “I'm a Christian.”

  Sack frowned. “Well, what's up with the …” The words trailed off as he touched his head, chest and shoulders as Catholics do when they bless themselves.

  Rot smiled, “Catholics are Christian, Sack.”

  The big man's face screwed up into another question, but the familiar sound of beating air interrupted his thoughts. He and Rot turned in unison and watched as a pair of MH-60K Black Hawks pirouetted around a rocky outcropping in the riverbed to the north. Flown by crews of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment based at Fort Campbell, the Night Stalkers were a team of Army aviators who trained specifically for high-speed, low-altitude operations at night.

  Sack reached into his ammo pouch and produced a three-by-three-inch square packet of chemical hand warmer. Activating it with a squeeze, he threw it in the middle of the riverbed. Although it was small, it was more than enough for the infrared equipment on board the choppers to use as a guide.

 
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