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Executive Power
Author:Vince Flynn

PRELUDE
The sleek gray craft sliced through the warm, water and humid night air of the Philippine Sea at twenty-five knots, its twin engines rumbling toward its destination with a guttural moan.

The boat was in violation of international law and at least one treaty, but the men on board didn't care. Technicalities, legalities and diplomacy were for other people to sort out, people who sat in comfortable leather chairs with Ivy League degrees matted and framed on their office walls. The men standing on the deck of the special operations craft were here to get a job done, and in their minds, it was a job that should have been taken care of months ago.

The low profile Mark-V special operations craft was designed to sneak in under radar. It had been designed specifically for the United States Navy SEALs, and it was their choice of platform when running maritime insertions. It was eighty-two feet in length but the boat only drafted five feet when it was fully loaded and dead in the water. Instead of the standard screw it was propelled by two water jets All of this allowed the boat to maneuver very close to the beach with great precision.

Five men wearing black flight helmets and night vision goggles manned four. 50-caliber machine guns and a 40mm grenade launcher.

Eight other men dressed in jungle BDUs and floppy hats sat on the gunwales of the rubber combat raiding craft they would soon launch off the Mark V and went over their equipment for at least the tenth time. Their faces were smeared with warlike green and black camouflage paint, but their expressions were calm.

Lieutenant Jim Devolis looked down at his SEAL squad and watched them go through their last check. He'd observed them doing it countless times before and for some reason it always reminded him of baboons picking bugs from each other at the zoo. They meticulously examined their H harnesses to make sure every snap was secure and all grenades taped. The communications gear was checked and rechecked.

Fresh batteries had been placed in everyone's night vision goggles, and along with backup batteries the expensive optical devices were stowed in waterproof pouches attached to their H harnesses. Weapons were sand proofed with condoms secured over the muzzles and a bead of silicone sealant around the magazines and bolt covers. The only person wearing a rucksack tonight would be the squad's medical corpsman, and Devolis sincerely hoped they wouldn't be needing his expertise.

The group was traveling light tonight. No MREs, only a couple of Power Bars for each man. The plan was to be in and out before the sun came up. Just the way the SEALs liked it.

The tension grew as they neared the demarcation point. Devolis was glad to see that the jaw-jacking had subsided. It was time to get serious. Turning his head to the right and down, his lips found the tube for his neoprene camel water pack and he sucked in a mouthful of fresh water. The men had been drinking all the water they could hold for two days. Hydration before an op in this part of the world was crucial.

Even at night the temperature was still in the mid-eighties and the humidity wasn't far behind. The only thing that was keeping them from sweating through their BDUs was the breeze created by the boat as it cruised at twenty-plus knots. Once they hit the beach, though, that would change. They had a two-mile hike ahead of them through the thick tropical jungle. Even with all the water they'd drunk in the last two days, each man on the team would probably lose five to ten pounds just hiking in and out.

A firm hand fell on Devolis's shoulder. He turned to look at the captain of the boat.

"Two minutes out, Jim. Get your boys loaded up."

Devolis nodded once and blinked, his white eyes glowing bright against the dark camouflage paint spread across his face.

"Thanks, Pat."

The two men had practiced this drill hundreds of times back in Coronado, California, at the headquarters for Naval Special Warfare Group One.

"Don't go wandering off on me now," Devolis said with a wide grin.

The captain smiled in the manner of someone who's confident in his professional ability.

"If you call, I'll be there guns a'blazin'."

"That's what I like to hear." Devolis nodded and then turned to his men. With his forefinger pointed straight up he made a circular motion and the SEALs instantly got to their feet. A moment later the boat slowed to just under five knots.

The Mark V, in addition to being extremely fast, also came with a slanted aft deck that allowed it to launch and receive small craft without stopping. Without a word the men grabbed the sides of their black CRRC with the forty-horsepower outboard leading and walked down the aft ramp. The men stopped at the end of the ramp just shy of the Mark V's frothy white wake and set the rubber boat on the nonskid deck, the lower unit of the outboard hanging in the water. A crew member from the Mark V held on to the rubber boat's bow line and looked for each man to give him a thumbs-up. All eight men were low in the boat clutching their handholds. One by one they returned the sign.

The call came over the headset that the launch was a go and the crewman tossed the bow line into the boat. A second crewman joined the first and together they shoved the black rubber boat down the ramp and into the relatively warm water. The small rubber boat slowed instantly, the SEALs hanging as far to the aft as possible to prevent the bow from submarining. The boat rocked gently in the wake of the Mark V and no one moved a muscle. The men lay perfectly still, listening to the ominous moan of the Mark V as it sped away. Not one of them had any desire for the boat to return until they needed it. They eagerly looked forward to carrying out their mission. Unfortunately, they were unaware that thousands of miles away they'd already been fatally compromised by someone from their own country.