Brink of Disaster
Deep in the heart of Burma's thickest jungle lies the deadliest military secret of modern history. After generations of strategic planning, the Red Chinese have grasped the vital key to world power. In a desperate, zero-hour maneuver the Death Merchant is given the go-ahead. Infiltrate. Destroy!
Never before has Richard Camellion encountered such brilliant defense. No loopholes, no missing links. The Death Merchant is slam up against terror on a scale far beyond the imagination of the average citizen, locked into a global game he knows will have only one winner...
The Red Chinese are planning to launch 352 missiles filled with chemical weapons from the jungles of western Burma into Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, killing millions and showing that the communist nation is a world force to be reckoned with.
As the Chinese prepare their attack, US satellites have detected activity in the Burmese jungles. A huge area has been cleared and buildings and an airstrip have been constructed. The CIA and Britian's SIS agree that a group of mercenaries should trek into the dangerous jungle and find out exactly what is going on. (For some reason, although the US satellite cameras are so powerful they can read car license plates from space, the US is not entirely sure of the location of the Chinese installation.) That means it's a job for Richard "Death Merchant" Camellion and "Mad Mike" Quinlan and Quinlan's Thunderbolt Unit: Omega team of mercs.
Camellion, Quinlan, and Krishan Darhangak head to Rangoon, posing as British film representatives, supposedly scouting locations for a film of the Japanese occupation during WWII. They are in Rangoon to meet up with Alfred Knowles, an agent who will take them to the local man who will lead them into the jungle. (Unbeknownst to them, however, Knowles has already been kidnapped.) While out walking one evening, the three men realize they are being followed by members of Chinese intelligence. Although they are unarmed, the three quickly turn and surprise the agents, killing six of the nine assailants. The local authorities are naturally suspicious, but eventually let the three men go, agreeing that they acted in self-defense.
The three men head to Mandalay to meet up with Chit Soe Kha, an Indian intelligence agent who will be their jungle guide. On the train, Camellion recalls his briefing for the mission, and we get a two-page flashback in which Camellion argues with a CIA man about the supposed accuracy of self-proclaimed psychic Jeane Dixon.* In Mandalay, they meet Kha - the Death Merchant and Quinlan have darkened their skin to better fit in - and are transported to the lower hills of the Angew Taungdan mountain range by hiding in the false bottom of two trash carts drawn by mules, a journey that was "the most miserable that Camellion had ever been forced to endure".
* Camellion offers his own predictions: "It's not difficult to predict certain events if one has a sense of history, uses logic and keeps informed on world events. ... I can predict that Mexico, about 1986 or 1987, will experience the same kind of turmoil that is going on in Iran, or that the United States is going to collapse financially, or fall entirely. But my predictions are based on real events, on facts and trends, as proven by history." Later, we read: "Camellion knew that by the year 2000, there would be only radioactive rubble where New York had once proudly stood. In fact, every major city in the United States would be destroyed by the year 2000. The old cycle would be ended, and the new cycle begun ..."
Camellion and three others must first hike to the camp of the People's Freedom Army, led by Po Dat Wol. While en route, they anticipate an ambush near a canyon pass, and Camellion and Quinlan sneak up ahead and get the drop of a couple of small groups of Chinese soldiers, killing them all. Heading back to Darhangak and Kha, they discover that they are now with Camellion's old friend Lester Vernon Cole and five others from the PFA camp.
Cole, who last worked with the Death Merchant in #47 (Operation Skyhook), is an ardent admirer of Hitler and is not shy about expressing his unabashedly racist views. Interestingly, we get the same right-wing nonsense even in the chapters that are written from the enemy Chinese's point of view, that the "stupid" United States government is turning the "land of the free" into a third world nation by "permitting all sorts of trash to enter their country", namely Mexicans and Latin Americans. Cole cites the supposedly higher-birth rates of these minorities, which he says will threaten "the continued existence of the white race". (Along the way, we also get rants against the postal service, homosexuals, the peace movement, the integration of the public school system, and Amtrak.)
While Camellion and Quinlan are at the PFA camp, the 253 members of Thunderbird Unit: Omega are relaxing in Calcutta, waiting for the call to action from Mad Mike. The Death Merchant is trying to arrange helicopters to take himself and Quinlan to the spot where they will meet the other mercs and start their jungle mission. (So why they travelled for days to the PFA camp is not really clear.) There is a traitor in the camp and he has used a transmitter to broadcast the camp's location, which prompts a furious aerial and ground attack from the Chinese.
After much mayhem, the members of the camp and the Death Merchant and his men begin an eight-day trek out to a series of caverns where they will be safe. From there, Camellion and Quinlan are picked up by two helicopters and flown to meet up with the 250 Omega mercs. It turns out that there will be no hike through the jungle. (There is only about 30 pages remaining in the book at this point.) After the other copters riddle the base with air-to-ground missiles, destroying most of the buildings, the men land right on the airstrip. The 500 or so Chinese troops are in hiding - and the Death Merchant and the 250 mercs stand around in the rain planning their strategy. The final fight is similar to the end of every Death Merchant book. Both sides let loose with their automatic weapons until they run out of ammo - at the same time! - and because they are in too-close proximity to reload, they end up fighting hand-to-hand.
You two pieces of trash should get a break today, but you won't from me! Camellion stepped lightly to his left, twisted so that the right side of his body was facing Yi'fing and ducked the stabbing muzzle of the T-50 SMG. One eye on Shuti Ju'chan, Camellion calculated his rush, then punched Yi'fing's final ticket with an expertly delivered right-legged groin kick, his foot coming up between the man's legs. Only a grenade or a bullet to one of his vital organs could have done more damage to the man. Camellion's kick had been very accurate and his foot had crushed Yi'fing's testes, broken his pubic bone and flattened his bladder to the extent that urine should have jumped from Yi'fing's mouth, nose and ears. Yi'fing couldn't even scream. The horrible agony, inducing shock in the central nervous system, was more than any human being could stand. A look of stamped, frozen horror on his wedge-shaped face, and with gurgling sounds thrashing about in his throat, Hai K'an Yi'fing dropped the T-50 SMG. His knees buckled and he wilted to the ground at the same time that Camellion turned to his left, sidestepped quickly to his right and reached out with his left hand. He had timed Shuti Ju'chan's rush correctly, to the split second. The bayonet cut the air only several inches from the Auto Mag holstered on the left side. By then it was far too late for Shuti Ju'chan. The most any enemy, face to face with Death Merchant, could hope for was one chance. Ju'chan had blown his. By the time he realized his mistake, Camellion's left hand was wrapped around the barrel of the T-56-1 assault rifle, right behind the raised wrapped-around-the-barrel sight, and his right hand was streaking toward Ju'chan's throat. In an instant it was over, and the ridgehand slam had crushed Ju'chan's trachael cartilage and CameIlion was jerking the T-50 SMG from the dying man's limp hands. His eyes almost popping out of their sockets, gurgles and burbles percolating in his throat, Shuti Ju'chan fell sideways and almost collided with Mike Quinlan who had just killed two Chinese, stabbing one in the solar plexus with an all black Tekna survival knife and cracking the skull of the second enemy with the side of a Safari Arms "Black Widow" .45 semiautomatic. The man with the cracked skull fell in front of a furiously fighting Jose Jesus Santino who was ducking a bayonet thrust by a bare-headed Che'il Kkuno who was wasting a lot of time and energy screaming, "White debil die! White debil die!"Rosenberger, who claimed to once have been a karate instructor, gives us a long list of martial arts moves employed by the Death Merchant and his men: a three-finger Hapti Tun stab, a right Herabasemi inside ridge hand, a left Shuto knife hand, a high Mae Geri Keage front snap-kick, a right-legged Yoko Geri Kekomi side thrust kick, a Ura Uchi Ken back knuckle strike, a Hira Ken angular knuckle strike, and a right-legged Yoko Geri bill-of-the-foot kick.
Before the final fight, we learned exactly what firearms each man is carrying:
All five Thunderbolts were dressed in hot weather olive-drab jungle fatigues, U.S. Special Forces mountain boots and black berets. On the front of each beret was a silver death's head. There were no crossed bones at the bottom of the death's head. Instead, there were two crossed thunderbolts. All the mercs wore Ace type combat harnesses, complete with ammo pouches for pistol and SMG magazines. Yet each man carried different types of weapons.At the very end of the fight, Camellion learns about the Chinese high officials and officers hiding in the underground cavern, and he and his men rig the air shaft and entrance with RDX. The mammoth explosions trap the men inside, burying them alive. While the other mercs debate the pros and cons of being a mercenary in the 1980s, Camellion is already thinking of his next mission ... in Germany!
Alexander Pratt carried an Israeli Galil assault rifle. On his hips were two 9mm Sig-Sauer P220 auto-pistols in black nylon holsters. Strapped to his narrow chest was a short machete; on his left leg was strapped a steel tomahawk.
Rene DuBois, the Frenchman, was armed with an FN-FAL A-R, two Star M-28 auto-pistols and a USAF survival knife. In addition, he carried five Marauder throwing-combat knives. Double-edged, the Marauder had a guard that terminated in two sharp points. Three more points were at the end of the handle, two perpendicular, one horizontal.
Other than his shotgun and Valmet assault rifle, Santino—quick, keen-eyed—had two Llama .44 magnum revolvers in tan leather shoulder holsters. At his waist, a large SHIVA knife was holstered on the right side. A holstered Colt .45 auto-pistol was on the left side.
The Peppermint Kid sat holding a Steyr AUG 5.56mm A-R upright between his legs. Two H/K P7 pistols were strapped around his slim waist. A Buck custom commando dagger and a SEALTAC-I knife were in sheaths fastened to a wide strap across his chest. What fascinated Darhangak the most was the huge canvas holster hanging from a heavy cord around O'Malley's neck. In the holster was a 9mm semiautomatic Linda pistol with a long magazine that contained forty-three rounds.
Finally there was the huge Bruckner who, to Darhangak, looked like a giant box with arms and legs—and a bullet head. Bruckner was holding a Heckler & Koch MP 5K submachine gun in his lap. In two shoulder holsters were P-38 Walther autoloaders; a curved jambiya Arab dagger, in a metal sheath, was stuck in his belt. To his right front thigh was buckled an M16 bayonet.
"The Death Merchant had not been impressed with the visit to the Shwe Dagon, mainly because of his realization that all things existed only for a moment and that the only real constant was change, with the real Universe occurring as a series of instantaneous occurrence on a moment-to-moment basis."
"Mad Mike twisted his body slightly to the left and his left leg came up as his left arm streaked outward, the tip of his Chukka boot catching Lung Ting-yi where the sun never shines and the moon never casts a shadow, the short but deadly snap-kick crushing Ting-yi's testicles with the force of a sledge hammer slamming down on a slice of lemon."
FN: "Hindus are very prejudiced against nursing ..."
FN: "This writer has always warned that the West has more to fear from the Chinese than from the Russians."
"Frig a frozen frog!" ... "Shit on a shiny shingle!" ... "Beaver balls!"
Camellion's Law Number Three: "Aim for perfection. Half right is always half wrong." [To my memory, Rosenberger has never revealed Laws One or Two.]
"Red Chinese strategists had planned well, reasoning with typical Oriental logic that while the only two nations capable of stopping them were the United States and the Soviet Union, neither the U.S. nor the USSR would interfere."
FN re opening, reading, and resealing someone's mail: "Burmese intelligence is behind the times. American intelligence, the F.B.I. and Postal Inspectors use a chemical, a 'letter bomb visualizer,' that turns most papers transparent for thirty to sixty seconds. They don't have to open the letters. The chemical costs about $40.00 per bottle, but liquid Freon, purchased from photographic suppliers, will do the same job. Yes, there is a way to circumvent 'letter bomb visualizer.' I'm not going to explain how, however."