Retired Lt. Col. Brad Taylor has followed up a 21-year Army career with rousing success as the author of the Pike Logan series of military thrillers. "American Traitor," the 15th novel in the series, goes on sale Jan. 5, 2021, and we've got an excerpt from the new book.
It's hard to believe, but it's been only 10 years since Taylor introduced former Special Forces operator Nephilim "Pike" Logan in "One Rough Man." He's kept the books coming, and the novels now routinely top bestseller lists.
In the upcoming novel, Logan and new wife Jennifer Cahill are looking for downtime at Australia's Great Barrier Reef, but there's a looming military confrontation between Taiwan and China that only one man can stop.
That man, of course, is Pike Logan.
There's adventure, advanced spycraft and the kind of hard-bitten dialogue that makes you wonder when Pike's stories will be turned into movies. There's a successful series here for the right team, if they'll just get it together.
Taylor himself served with the U.S. Army Infantry and Special Forces, including eight years with the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment -- Delta. He's got the background and the knowledge that helped launch the series, but it's his imagination and craft that have elevated the series to the great success he enjoys today.
Check out the first chapter of "American Traitor" below.
From "American Traitor" by Brad Taylor, published by William Morrow. Copyright © 2021 by Brad Taylor. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollinsPublishers book link.
April 9th, 2019, Misawa, Japan
Jake Shu saw the afterburners kick in, the flight of four F-35 Lightning II aircraft leave the gravity of earth and head into the night sky. It was but one of many flights leaving the airbase, a stream of lights bursting into the night one after the other, some headed out over the Pacific Ocean, others over the Sea of Japan, but this one was special. Special to him.
The cold began to seep in under his trousers, an unrelenting contact from the iron park bench he was sitting on, as if it was asking him to leave. But he could not. He had a mission here, and he would see it through.
The airbase in Misawa was about as far north in Japan as one could get on the main island, leaving him in the upper echelons of cold weather on the spit of land, but the April weather wasn't bad enough to drive him inside. He was too invested in a small bud in his ear. Connected to a scanner tuned to the open-net air traffic control frequencies emanating from the tower behind him, he was listening intently. So much so he actually had a bead of sweat on his brow in the forty-degree air. Like a scientist conducting an experiment in a controlled environment, he was unable to alter the outcome once it was started. But he wanted to see the results. All that remained was to watch and wait. Or in his case, listen.
The initial contact from the aircraft sounded normal, which was not what he wanted to hear. He had a lot invested in this particular experiment, and if it didn't work, he would be the one paying the bill.
The F 35 jet, known as the "Lightning II," was the most advanced fighter aircraft ever envisioned. Capable of unimaginable things, from stealth penetration to combative control of synchronized drones, it was unstoppable. With construction on each airframe happening in more than twelve countries all over the world, it was the finest fighter aircraft to ever take to the skies. The ultimate killing machine, but it had an Achilles heel.
Jake worked for a company called Gollum Solutions, a subcontractor of a subcontractor for BAE Systems -- something that was a common occurrence in the byzantine world of military procurement. You'd be hard pressed to find a military contractor who didn't take the profits first, and then subcontract out, but in this case, the subcontracting company's name had a double meaning.
It was derived from the riddle of the ring in J.R.R. Tolkien's novels. Built solely to gain the contract for the F 35, Gollum Solutions promised to solve the riddle through software, and in so doing make the F 35 invisible. Just like the ring could do. As much as the name was enticingly clever, what the owners never realized was that there were two sides to the ring, and they would pay a price for it.
The ring in Tolkien's world was corrupting, with anyone who wore it turning against his nature to serve a different master, and the chosen name Gollum would prove prophetic. Which is where Jake Shu came in. A Chinese American, he was well placed to create havoc for money. A Gollum in his own right, he had worn the proverbial ring, and had been corrupted.
Two months ago, he'd been detailed from his company in Australia to the F 35 final assembly plant in Japan -- an unexpected advantage. Japan had the only final plant in the world for the F 35, with all other aircraft being built in Fort Worth, Texas, and because of it he had an opportunity.
He'd helped with the byzantine construction process, with his expertise being in software. He'd done the job he was asked -- along with a bit more -- and was now wondering if it had worked.
Sitting in the cold air outside the control tower, now it was time to see if his inject actually mattered, because a human being was behind the controls. At the end of the day, he could alter the sensors of the plane, but the pilot was king. And yet, that man only did what his sensors told him to do. At least that's what Jake hoped.
His inject was simple; alter what the pilot thought was correct. There was ample reason to believe that his alterations would work. There were plenty of pilots that crashed because they thought one thing and the unforgiving earth thought another. The difference in those cases was that they chose to disbelieve what their instruments were telling them.
What if the instruments themselves were telling the pilot something different?
The helmet of the F 35 was a monstrosity -- a four hundred-thousand-dollar piece of gear that gave the pilot innumerable feeds, showing him everything that was occurring within his airspace. A literal ability to read the world in real time, giving the aircraft commander an unrivaled capability to defeat anything that chose to fight. The pilot read all of those feeds and trusted them explicitly.
And it was all software driven.
The pilot controlled cameras that could detail everything around the aircraft, giving him a 360 degree view that would be impossible without the helmet. He had feeds telling him every threat near the aircraft within a hundred miles. He had sensors that detailed when to fire his weapons, only locking on when the computer told him it was correct, giving him an unparalleled ability to prevent collateral damage in modern warfare. He had more control over his destiny than any other pilot in history.
But what if what he was seeing was wrong? If his actual experience wasn't what was happening? What if his helmet told him one thing, and reality was another?
Jake heard the control tower say, "Comet four-two, Comet four-two, go to thirty-one five. Inbound aircraft at thirty-seven."
He heard, "Yes. Understood."
He waited with bated breath, conflicted. If this worked, he was murdering a person he'd never met.
He heard, "Comet four-two, you just passed through twenty-thousand feet. I instructed thirty-one five. Are you understanding?"
Most of the Japanese airbases used by the United States were solely manned and operated by Americans, a symbiotic relationship that Japan allowed because they fell under the United States umbrella of protection. Misawa was different. It was the only combined airbase in the Pacific theater, run jointly by both Japanese and US personnel, and as such, was chosen as the base for the first Japanese F 35s to showcase the partnership between the two countries. He knew the men inside the control tower were Japanese, as was the man in the aircraft. They spoke English, because that was the air traffic controller lexicon the world over, but it was still a little surreal. Especially since he wasn't Japanese.
The pilot responded a little miffed, "Yes. Knock it off."
He heard nothing for a pregnant second, and then the voice from the tower showed the first bit of urgency, "You've passed through fifteen thousand at five hundred knots. Acknowledge."
"I understand.I have it."
Nothing more. Then the voice from the tower became frantic. "You're at two thousand feet and going six hundred knots. Acknowledge. Acknowledge."
Jake waited, but heard nothing else. He knew the radar track ended at one thousand feet. He stood up, glanced left and right, and then saw the first indicator of his success -- five men rushing out of the tower. He waited a beat, then sat back down, wanting to hear the calls from the tower.
There was nothing else broadcast, the plane lost to radar intercept at one thousand feet. The recovery of the aircraft would take four months, the body of the pilot itself not found until a month after that, with the United States concerned that the Chinese would attempt to find the top-secret information laying on the ocean floor.
The final report was that the pilot had experienced spatial disorientation flying over the Pacific Ocean at night, where the horizon and the ocean seamlessly joined into one. There was a lot of chatter amongst the pundit class worried about the Chinese stealing the vaunted technology of the F 35 by submarine or other means, but they failed to realize that the Chinese had no intention of diving into the depths of the Pacific for technology that was destroyed by a plane flying at six hundred knots straight into the ocean. Why should they?
Since Mao Tse Tung, they have been the masters at unconventional warfare, and this was just one more moment for their success. Why find an aircraft at the bottom of the ocean to learn its secrets when you can make every single one of them irrelevant?
Jake dialed a number on his cell phone and said, "It's done. And I think it worked."
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