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When one man decides to send a message to the government by bombing a federal building, the explosion is felt all across the United States. The chain reaction that follows resonates most powerfully with members of a rebel band in Idaho who call themselves "Patriots." They want freedom from government control, no matter how much deadly force it takes.
Thrown into the battle is Lieutenant Nathan Dixon, who is sent to quell a potentially dangerous situation. He'll need every bit of his training, as Idaho's charismatic governor, George Oliver "GO" Thomas, unleashes an agenda all his own, and one that will truly have an effect on the whole country. In this modern military thriller, New York Times bestselling author Harold Coyle gives us an intimate portrait of the men and women who fight to uphold their different visions of America against all enemies.
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Harold Coyle graduated from the Virginia Military Institute and spent fourteen years on active duty with the US Army. He is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels, including The Ten Thousand, Team Yankee, God's Children and Dead Hand. He lives in Leavenworth, Kansas.
CHAPTER 1APRIL 25Making his way around the corner, Dale Stoner didn’t bother scanning the row of buildings that loomed up on either side of him like the walls of a sheer, gray stone canyon. The heavy afternoon traffic, which always starts earlier on Friday afternoons, covered the floor of this drab man made valley. The streets and roadways, populated by office workers and corporate professionals streaming out of the city for home demanded Stoner’s full attention, even though their forward progress was more akin to a creeping glacier than a roaring river.By nature a cautious man, Stoner drove with both hands on the wheel, keeping an eye out for inattentive drivers and lane jockeys. When threatened by one of these hazards, Stoner would maneuver his oversize delivery van out of harm’s way with an ease and grace that had earned him the respect of his fellow drivers and supervisors. That this praise did not translate into bonuses or pay raises did not bother Stoner any more. Nor did he mind the extra hours. The work, though tedious and routine at best, kept him from dwelling on his problems, most of the time. But not always.Despite his best efforts, Dale Stoner couldn’t keep his mind from wandering back to the chain of events that had led to this day. In high school, it hadn’t been his aspiration to be a delivery truck driver. It had just happened, just like the First Gulf War, and his estrangement from his own family. Before those tragic events he thought he had it all. He believed that he knew what was right and what was wrong, that there were people who loved him and upon whom he could depend. But then the war had come and nothing was ever the same again.Stoner had loved being a soldier. The camaraderie that grew out of shared hardships, the sense of purpose the Army gave him, and a comfortable illusion of security the peacetime military generates was worth the low pay and hassles that had gone with the job. He was just starting his second hitch as a combat engineer in the beginning of August 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Together with his companions, Dale Stoner swallowed whatever personal fears he harbored and sallied forth to meet his sworn obligations. Like millions of Americans had done in the past, Stoner was ready, able, and willing to defend his nation and his fellow countrymen. At a time when so many other Americans had nothing else but profit margins, net worth, and capital gains on their minds, he was out there, on the edge, doing things other men only dreamed of. Yet, despite years of training, Dale Stoner found he was unprepared for what happened to him.
A sudden blur in his sideview mirror alerted Stoner to a danger, more perceived then understood. With a shake of his head, his attention snapped back to the task of driving his van. It took Stoner a moment before he was able to focus on the potential hazard. There, in his right sideview mirror, Stoner spotted a road warrior coming up from behind, scooting about from lane to lane in a small metallic blue German import in an effort to beat imaginary foes. As he watched in his oversized mirrors, Stoner saw the little blue import cut in front of a white Japanese four door. The driver of the Japanese car, trying to enjoy a cup of cappuccino while jabbering on a cell phone and driving, was caught off guard by the sudden appearance of the metallic blue car in front of him. Stoner could clearly see the driver of the white car panic as he let go of his cup, grabbed the wheel with both hands, and swerved without looking. This set in motion a chain reaction that disrupted numerous phone calls and caused fellow drivers to spill drinks and or spew globs of late afternoon snacks all over their pinstriped suits and silk blouses.Having triumphed over the white car, the driver of the metallic blue car set his sights on Stoner’s oversized delivery truck as he began to maneuver into position to pass it on the right. Patiently, Dale Stoner did nothing as he watched the metallic blue car draw near. Confident of his ability to pass the lumbering van, the driver of the metallic blue car took one hand off the wheel and reached down to grab his cell phone. Stoner could see that the driver was a young, clean-cut, professional type, wearing a crisp white shirt, a nondescript tie, and sunglasses like those favored by aviators. There was no way, Stoner thought, that this character had served in the Gulf, or Bosnia, or Kosovo, or anywhere else. The closest this geek had gotten to the First Persian Gulf War had been on his television. With that thought in mind, Stoner watched and waited as the metallic blue car continued to close.Stoner’s patience was rewarded. Just as the front fender of the metallic blue car pulled even with the rear bumper of his truck, the driver of the car turned his head to search for something on the passenger seat. Seizing the moment, Stoner flipped on his right hand turn signal and jerked the wheel of his truck a tad to the right. He didn’t intend to move over into the other lane, for in truth there wasn’t any room in the traffic to do so. He just wanted the other driver to think he not only wanted to do so, but was, in fact, in the act of doing so.The ploy worked. The flashing turn signal and the unexpected motion of the big delivery truck caught the driver of the metallic blue car off guard. Panicked, he threw his phone over his shoulder, brought his free hand onto the steering wheel, and gave it a hard pull to the right. In an instant, the metallic blue car was up and over the curb. Unnerved and shaken, the driver struggled to control his car as the hard plastic bumper of his overvalued import glanced off not one but two parking meter poles, leaving a gash that would more than eat up his collision deductible.Though he would have liked to slow down some in order to savor his small victory over the forces of ignorance, Stoner’s turn was coming up. After having allowed himself the indulgence of becoming distracted from his task, it was time to concentrate on making his way safely to the left. Deftly, he nudged his large truck over into the left-hand lane, made his turn, and continued on to his target.
As he approached the Federal building and made for the driveway marked “deliveries,” Stoner tried once more to piece together how this nightmare had all started. Perhaps it had been during the air war when nightly SCUD alerts sent them scrambling into poorly built bunkers where they sat in the dark silence, masked and covered head to toe in chemical protective clothing, wondering what was to become of them. Or it could have been the day his platoon made its way slowly along the road north of Kuwait City that the media had dubbed “The Highway of Death.” Even the mere thought of that experience conjured up memories of sights and smells that still haunted him to this very day.Bringing his truck to a stop, Stoner sat quietly in his seat for a moment and thought. Given a chance, he could have dealt with any of those nightmares, singularly or together. If only he’d been allowed by his Creator to keep his health, Stoner was sure that he could have held things together, to have soldiered on and keep both his sanity and family. But like countless others, he was denied that opportunity by the onset of a series of nebulous and ill defined conditions that eventually became known as Gulf War syndrome.It crept into his life slowly, unnoticed at first. For him it was like an unending bout with the flu. He was never really outright sick, but neither was he free for more than a few days of misery that alternated between sweats and chills. First the military physicians, and then those at the VA after he was medically discharged, explained away Stoner’s continuous ill health with any number of theories, none of which solved his problems. Even his own wife, worn thin by his continuous complaints, did little to help. “Dale,” she’d scream at him in frustration, “it’s all in your head. You’ve got to pull yourself together. Forget about the Gulf and get on with your life.” And though he tried, tried with all his strength, he found he was unable to overcome either his chronic illness or those terrible visions that he kept locked away inside where no one could see them or be hurt by them.As bad as his separation from his wife was, the unkindest cut of all came in the fall of 1996 when the Department of Defense, after denying the existence of Gulf War syndrome, suddenly announced that yes, an unknown number of soldiers had been exposed to chemical agents during the Gulf War. To Stoner the admission that some of the illnesses experienced by Gulf War veterans could have been related to service there, after the government had denied any connection between the two for so long, was a breach of faith. Hadn’t he done his part? Hadn’t he fulfilled his obligations to his duly appointed superiors and the people of the United States in the belief that they would, if necessary, support him in his time of need?
The memory that no one had done a dammed thing to help him provided the last spark of anger he needed to carry him through the next hour. Like vets from the Vietnam War, Dale learned the hard way that those whom he thought he was protecting and serving wanted nothing to do with the human wreckage left in the wake of war. People such as the arrogant young professional who had been driving the metallic blue German import had their own lives to live, narrow and self-centered lives that left little time for those who had shouldered the rifle when duty called and suffered for their efforts.Once on the loading dock, Stoner dropped the hydraulic gate, opened the rear doors of his truck, and climbed in. Mechanically, he began loading the heavy-duty four-wheel cart. As he had done so many times before in his mind, Stoner stacked the boxes made to hold five thousand sheets of copier paper in a predetermined order. Carefully he placed the boxes he, himself, had packed in the center of the cart. A small arrow, all but unnoticeable unless you knew what to look for, pointed outward on one side of the box lids. These would all be stacked in the center, four high, and surrounded by boxes containing real copier paper.In silence Stoner completed loading his cart, watching out of the corner of his eye as an increasing number of Federal employees used his van as cover in their effort to slip out a bit early. It was no accident that Dale had selected this particular hour and weekday to make this “special” delivery. He had been here during this time of day before and noted how everyone, from the most senior judge in the building to the lowliest clerk in the mailroom, was in a hurry to finish up his work and leave. Stoner not only expected this outbound traffic, he was counting on it.Carefully he eased the heavily burdened cart down the aluminum ramp. From here on in it was all a matter of luck and following through. After closing and locking the door of his truck, as he did every time he left it unattended in a public area, Dale pushed his cart up to the double doors of the Federal building.“Someone doesn’t like you,” the security guard at the entrance called out by way of a greeting.Stoner struggled with his load, forced a smile and nodded. “Oh, I don’t mind,” he replied. “This is my last delivery.”The security guard returned Stoner’s smile as he looked over the cart full of copier paper. “Know what ya mean,” he responded with a halfhearted sigh. Nothing showed on the scanner as Stoner passed through the security checkpoint with his cart. Nor did any expression of concern, fear, or anticipation betray a man who had, by now, put aside any doubts. Used to seeing Dale Stoner deliver tons of copier paper to the Federal building week after week, the guard didn’t bother to check the invoice or make any effort to poke through the boxes that seemed to be precariously close to toppling off Stoner’s cart. Having done as much of his duty as he felt necessary, the guard went back to keeping one eye on the small portable TV he kept in his enclosed booth and let Dale make his way to the basement where the central supply room was.Any second thoughts that were trying to worm their way into Stoner’s consciousness disappeared when the doors of the elevator opened. With a grunt he gave his heavy cart a jerk to get it moving and maneuvered it into the elevator. After pressing the button for the basement, Stoner closed his eyes and started to take deep, slow breaths. He didn’t open his eyes until the elevator stopped. As if synchronized, his eyes opened as the doors of the elevator separated. With a heave, he shoved his cart out into the hall and began to make his way down the long, dimly lit basement corridor.The idea for his plan had come to him not long after making a delivery, much like this one, late one afternoon months before. Alone, and in a hurry to be finished with his paperwork, the manager of the supply room had pleaded with Dale to have a heart and wheel his cart into the main storage area. “Drop the stuff off wherever you can find a spot,” the frazzled Federal employee had explained to Stoner. “I’ll sort it out on Monday. I just want to clear my desk and get out of here before the traffic gets too bad.”Left alone in the basement of the building that day, Stoner had noticed that the room, used for storage of office supplies as well as unused furniture, had no walls. Most of the building’s main support pillars for the left half of the building, encased in concrete, stood exposed in one cavernous room. How easy, he had found himself thinking, it would be to drop this place. With a little bit of C-4 and det cord, Stoner was confident that he could bring at least half of the building down upon itself, just like a house of cards.That this thought had stayed with him long after he had left that day didn’t surprise him. Stoner had been in and out of that building on many an occasion on other business. He had wasted hours traveling from one Federal agency to another in an effort to eke out some sort of justice from a government that had turned its back on him. More than once he had stormed out of an office after being rebuffed by a pasty faced bureaucrat who was unable, or unwilling, to deal with him in a manner that he, Stoner, thought a disabled veteran deserved. More than once he had driven away from this very building wishing he could blow them all to kingdom come.It didn’t take much before his fits of anger began to transform themselves into a idea, and then action. Perhaps, he told himself as he made his way down the corridor, it had been only natural to come up with his plan, given his training. He had already sketched out a rough concept in his mind before he attended his first militia meeting. By that time, he was interested only in working out the details, not the reason or even the target. Dale Stoner had no intention of becoming a member of a group known as the 5th Brigade. They were only interested in beating their chests, and playing soldiers. He, on the other hand, had a purpose in life. The former combat engineer was intent on exacting his revenge from a government that no longer represented him or millions of other hard working, honest citizens like him. Armed with motive and the technical expertise his years of active duty had bestowed upon him, all Dale needed was the means.
When he pushed his way into the outer office, the employees charged with receiving and storing all the supplies used in the building were gathered there, waiting for their work day to come to an end. Stoner made it a point to bang his cart against anything he cou...
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Book Description Forge, 2003. Mass-market paperback. Condition: New. Mass market (rack) paperback. Glued binding. 432 p. Audience: General/trade. Seller Inventory # Alibris_0006556
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