Violent Peace by David Poyer: New Excerpt

World War III is over… or is it? Superpowers race to fill the postwar power vacuum in this page-turning thriller, the next in the Dan Lenson series. Read an excerpt here!

Chapter 1

 

Beijing

The huge gray transport shook as it corkscrewed downward, and a barrage of violent bangs rattled the fuselage.

Decoy flares being fired? The slim, fair-haired woman gripping the armrests hoped so. No doubt, to lessen the chance of some rogue commander targeting them as the mission came in to land.

No one was really certain this war was over, after all. And for some elements in China, Iran, and Pakistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs had warned, it probably wasn’t.

Blair Titus closed her eyes, fighting to avoid losing her cool in front of the other passengers. The C-5 Galaxy capped a huge cargo bay with a low-ceilinged passenger compartment. For this flight, it was occupied by the fourteen civilian and military members of the Allied Advance Mission. The seats were roomy, and the box lunches the flight crew had handed around after their takeoff from Andrews had been adequate to sustain life.

But since one of her previous flights had been cyberjacked by an enemy AI midway through the war, turned into a bomb, and targeted on Los Alamos, flying hadn’t been a relaxing interlude for her. Twice so far on this trip she’d had to retreat to the little enclosed restroom, to perch on the toilet and practice her deep breathing.

Blair’s family had been active in politics since Francis Preston Blair had moved to Washington to start a pro–Andrew Jackson newspaper. After being narrowly defeated in a bid for Congress, she’d reluctantly joined the administration, invited aboard to bridge the expertise gap as the country plunged into a world war with China, North Korea, Iran, and the other Opposed Powers.

Now she was the undersecretary for strategy, plans, and forces at Defense, with an office on the third floor of the E wing. And nearly four years of bitter conflict had ironed creases into her forehead and daubed shadows no concealer could hide.

“Four fighters are closing in,” a petite African American woman said, sliding back in beside her. Shira Salyers, who looked meek and pliable, was anything but. “Saw them through the little window back there. They’re practically wingtip on us.”

“Ours or theirs?”

“We should have both,” said an Air Force general across the aisle. “F-35s in the air corridor, and J-20s in barrier lanes.”

Trying to quell panic, Blair flipped open the order binder. She’d read it three times, festooning it with sticky notes covered with green scribbles, but it was still disturbingly vague on exactly what they were supposed to accomplish here. The official tasking had been outlined in bullet points:

  • Establish contacts with interim government and military leaders
  • Evaluate that government for support or regime change
  • Ensure no rogue military or security elements remain active
  • Make sure remaining nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons sites are secure
  • Recommend size/constitution of residual self-defense force structure

She rubbed her mouth, considering. The problem was, their goals were contradictory. If no government remained that the Allies could trust, and there were still rogue security elements loose out there, who exactly was going to secure these nuclear sites? The only Allied troops on the ground were Indonesian and Vietnamese forces, plus a few American support units, fifteen hundred miles to the south, on Hainan Island; and US Army and Marines a thousand miles to the east, on Taiwan.

But maybe it wouldn’t be that hard. According to StratCom, one of whose generals was sitting up front, most Chinese nuclear and missile sites had been wiped out by the massive American retaliation for the attack on the Midwest.

On its way west the C-5 had been forced to dogleg around large areas of the northern United States. Some of the heavy missiles from north China had been shot down by a Navy task force based in the Sea of Okhotsk. Others had been blown from the sky by ground-based missile defense in Alaska, or smashed out of existence by microsatellites steered to impact. As the survivors of that gauntlet reached American airspace, more had fallen to shorter- ranged Patriots and THAAD batteries.

But some had still gotten through. Seattle had been obliterated by megaton-range airbursts. San Francisco had been struck by a leaker that detonated over Pacifica. Montana and North Dakota had been hit hardest, with ground-penetrating warheads eliminating half of the US ground-based deterrent. Omaha was gone. Colorado and Wyoming had been blasted too, so heavily that no one really knew yet how many missiles had fallen.

The casualties were still being counted. Both from blast and radiation; the ground bursts had smeared massive plumes of fall- out across the Midwest as far as Ohio and Ontario. Millions were dead or missing, her husband’s daughter among them. She’d never understood the rationale behind placing America’s heaviest deterrent smack in the middle of the United States. Forcing the enemy to incinerate the very heartland of the country, instead of some outlying bastion.

But many things looked different now. Illuminated, by the searching rays of bomblight.

Shira Salyers leaned over to say something. But just then the engines bellowed. Blair grabbed the armrests again as she was yanked violently forward in her seat. Biting her lips, squeezing her eyes shut, she steeled herself for impact, disaster, fire, death.

But heard only the shriek of tires as the huge aircraft touched down, then the rumble of landing gear over uneven tarmac.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Shahezhen Military Airbase, Beijing. Our escort is waiting. Our radiation monitors register only slightly above background level. It seems safe to dis- embark,” the pilot announced over the onboard PA.

Knees shaking, she tripped her seat belt, gathered up coat and briefcase and tablet, and got ready to go to work.

* * * * *

SHE craned around as they descended a deplaning ramp toward four blocky black limousines. Barbed wire marked the airfield as military, but except for revetments in the distance it looked deserted. Obviously they were far outside Beijing proper, and she had no idea in which direction the capital lay. Beyond the waiting limos, military vehicles and a cordon of troops circled them, spaced out in a wide perimeter.

Ahead of her, Senator Bankey Talmadge, the senior member of the mission, limped down the stairs very slowly, supporting himself on the handrail. She’d worked for the old man years before, on the Armed Services Committee. Now she hovered behind him as he descended, ready to grab his arm if he made a misstep.

She lifted her face, to a sky blue and clear and somehow . . . rigid. She’d expected smog, but the horizon was only slightly hazy, tinted reddish brown as if with dust or a thin smoke from far away. Low mountains poked up to the north. Contrails, probably from their fighter escorts, were turning back southward. Build- ings prickled the sky in that same direction. Temperature, moderate. Early summer, so no need for the wool jacket she’d packed.

At the bottom of the ramp Talmadge paused, looking around, gathering his strength. She heard the effort in his breathing, the rattle in his chest. Two lines of troops in olive drab battle dress lined a path from the ramp to a low combination terminal and control tower in Stalinesque gray concrete. At parade rest, rifles grounded, they faced outward. Motionless. Expressionless. Not one spared the debarking arrivals a glance.

The flight crew stood around a tripodded instrument set up on the pavement near the nose. She flicked them an inquiring look, a raised eyebrow. They nodded slightly, and turned back to their readouts. Four State agents, Diplomatic Security personnel, stood off to the side, ready to accompany the principals. In plain clothes, suits, and dresses, they carried short-barreled submachine guns. But if it came to a shoot-out here, against all these troops, it was perfectly clear who would prevail.

Beyond the soldiery, another line stretched across the tarmac. Seen from close up, the military vehicles she’d noted earlier were tracked machines, green, tanklike, but too small to contain human beings. Their gun turrets, topped and shouldered with strange domed lenses, faced outward as well.

She shivered, looking up at that remorseless sky, then caught her heel on a step and almost pitched headlong down the last flight of stairs off the ramp. A strong hand on one shoulder barely saved her. “Thanks, Adam,” she muttered.

Heavyset, chain-smoking, master campaign fund-raiser Adam Ammermann was the deputy chief of staff at the White House. He was close to the president. A fixer. A hatchet man. Whatever they recommended here, he’d carry it up the line.

Or torpedo it, if he disagreed.

 

Copyright © 2020 by David Poyer


About Violent Peace by David Poyer:

In the next installment of David Poyer’s critically-acclaimed series about war with China, mutual exhaustion after a massive nuclear exchange is giving way to a Violent Peace.

While Admiral Dan Lenson motorcycles across a post-Armageddon US in search of his missing daughter, his wife Blair Titus lands in a spookily deserted, riot-torn Beijing to negotiate the reunification of Taiwan with the rest of China, and try to create a democratic government.

But a CIA-sponsored Islamic insurgency in Xianjiang province is hurtling out of control. Andres Korzenowski, a young case officer, must decide whether ex-SEAL Master Chief Teddy Oberg—now the leader of a ruthless jihad—should be extracted, left in place, or terminated.

Meanwhile, Captain Cheryl Staurulakis and USS Savo Island are recalled to sea, to forestall a Russian fleet intent on grabbing a resource-rich Manchuria.

The violent and equivocal termination of the war between China and the Allies has brought not peace, but dangerous realignments in the endless game of great power chess. Will the end of one world war simply be the signal for the beginning of another?In the next installment of David Poyer’s critically-acclaimed series about war with China, mutual exhaustion after a massive nuclear exchange is giving way to a Violent Peace.

While Admiral Dan Lenson motorcycles across a post-Armageddon US in search of his missing daughter, his wife Blair Titus lands in a spookily deserted, riot-torn Beijing to negotiate the reunification of Taiwan with the rest of China, and try to create a democratic government.

But a CIA-sponsored Islamic insurgency in Xianjiang province is hurtling out of control. Andres Korzenowski, a young case officer, must decide whether ex-SEAL Master Chief Teddy Oberg—now the leader of a ruthless jihad—should be extracted, left in place, or terminated.

Meanwhile, Captain Cheryl Staurulakis and USS Savo Island are recalled to sea, to forestall a Russian fleet intent on grabbing a resource-rich Manchuria.

The violent and equivocal termination of the war between China and the Allies has brought not peace, but dangerous realignments in the endless game of great power chess. Will the end of one world war simply be the signal for the beginning of another?

 

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