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Don Pendleton

Day of Mourning

The world dies 'twixt every heartbeat, and is born again in each new perception of the mind.

For each of us, the order of life is to perceive and perish and perceive again, and who can say which is which — for every human experience builds a new world in its own image — and death itself is but an unusual perception.

Live large that you may experience large and thus, hopefully, die large.

A soldada's final words.

Translated from the Spanish for Bolan in Miami Massacre

1

In the beginning, it was like any of the other missions in this government-sanctioned new war against world terrorism: Mack Bolan, the Executioner, now known as Colonel John Macklin Phoenix, the stony man of Stony Man, racing toward another confrontation with dark forces....

The AV-8B Advanced Harrier skimmed the endless expanse of the choppy Atlantic at a snappy 600 mph. Jack Grimaldi was behind the controls of the Vertical Short Takeoff and Landing combat jet, heading on a southeasterly course three hundred miles off the northern coast of Brazil. The Marine Corps' state of the art VSTOL aircraft was equipped with full cannon and missile capability.

Grimaldi's passenger was a big, icy-eyed man outfitted in scuba gear.

Mack Bolan, in the seat behind Grimaldi, felt wrapped in the steady low-pitched whine of the jet's engines.

A gray cloud ceiling melded with the turbulent ocean on the near horizon beyond the Harrier's Plexiglas.

Bolan jarred forward against his shoulder harness as Grimaldi, a longtime ally in the Executioner's old and new wars, slacked off sharply on the mighty aircraft's forward thrust.

Grimaldi then brought the Harrier to a stationary hover at fifty feet above the roiling sea.

The pilot's voice crackled through Bolan's headset.

'Radar beep, forty-seven miles due south. Right on the money, Striker. Do we hit 'em?'

'After you patch me through to Stony Man,' growled Bolan. 'I want a status report on Phoenix Force.'

'Check. Patching you through now,' came Grimaldi's voice.

This Harrier boasted a direct communications linkup to a satellite relay capable of establishing near-instant voice contact with the stateside Stony Man control base.

Stony Man Farm was a rolling 160-acre estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, three thousand miles away.

The 'farm' was in reality the command center of the Phoenix program, a covert operation unrecorded in official files, headed by Mack Bolan. The facility was the headquarters of the most formidable security force ever assembled, operating with full government support.

At this moment Hal Brognola, Stony Man's liaison with the White House, and April Rose, the farm's overseer and mission controller, would be monitoring the progress of both Bolan and Grimaldi, and the men of Phoenix Force, who were on their way to rendezvous with the Harrier.

Upcoming was the Executioner's first deep-sea action.

Underwater combat had been a part of Bolan's Stony Man training that he had not had to use until now. The warrior in scuba black was ready with the know-how and the best equipment and weaponry for this mission.

Bolan could not afford to wait for Phoenix Force. The numbers were falling too fast. But at least he would know their ETA, and that could make a difference.

Bolan noted the lengthy pause from the cockpit.

'What is it, Jack?'

'I'm not sure,' crackled the pilot's voice. 'We seem to have a communications breakdown.'

'Did you try the alternate frequencies?'

'Both of 'em. All I get is static.'

'Is it us?'

'Negative. Other channels are loud and clear. I can pick up any frequency from anywhere with this baby. But no Stony Man.'

'That radar beep. Is it stationary?'

'Affirmative. The coordinates are right. We're too damn far out for fishing. Anything else would be moving.'

'Anything else on the screen?'

'Nothing within range. That doesn't mean our target won't have backup. It would sure help to have Phoenix Force along.'

'You know the numbers, Jack. There's no time. Close in on the target.'

'We thunder it?'

'Affirmative,' growled Bolan. 'Do it now.'

Grimaldi punched the Harrier's afterburners. Another jolt and the jet shot forward, again at full throttle. The ocean below became a sleek blur like dark glass.

Bolan was concerned about the communications failure. But he was trying not to let it affect his combat consciousness as he prepared for the impending confrontation in a watery hellground.

Bolan could not remember Stony Man Farm ever having a communications-system malfunction.

The Executioner and his Stony Man combat units, Able Team and Phoenix Force, were supported by an intel and communications linkup masterminded and run by Aaron 'The Bear' Kurtzman. He was a perfectionist. Nothing Kurtzman touched at Stony Man had ever gone wrong.

Yet here were Bolan and Grimaldi jetting into hot contact with the enemy, and communications were blacked out.

Bolan was used to working on his own. He preferred it that way. Give him at most one or two allies, and this warrior felt confident in tackling any mission.

Many times during his war against terrorism, and that former life of warring against the Mafia, the Executioner had pulled off his most stunning victories with just his weapons. Bolan sometimes missed those days; more and more often lately, it seemed. He knew that it was not absolutely necessary for him to have a communications link with Stony Man at this time.

Nevertheless the unexpected breakdown did concern him.

What's wrong at Stony Man? he wondered.

The flight from Central America had gone off without a hitch. The mission had been a tough, violent one. Colonel Phoenix and Grimaldi had been heading home when Brognola contacted Bolan in flight.

The big guy's senses had leveled into a postcombat cool. He could feel weariness pestering to be acknowledged. His soul felt tired, and so did his body. That changed when he and Grimaldi had listened to Brognola's descrambled message.

'We may already be too late, Striker.' Brognola had sounded harried. 'A terrorist coalition has bankrolled purchase of a top-secret nuclear device from an as yet undetermined European source. A hell bomb the size of a goddamn suitcase was shipped on a Liberian freighter, but the ship went down in a storm. Precautions were taken, and there's a fifty-fifty chance the nuclear device is still intact in a waterproof container.'

'Do we have coordinates on the site?'

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