This teaser consists of the first few pages of the sequel to Red Mist, the second in the trilogy. It’s copyrighted Larry B. Lambert and Jules Smith, 2021, all rights reserved.
In Chapter One, you meet Miguel Vega, who changes careers from a United States Marine Corps Captain to an arms dealer and occasional assassin. You join him on his way back to the Philippines.
Set in a dystopian future five years after Red Mist ends, China is on the move. The US has ceded Guam and Saipan to the PRC and there is talk of the new administration giving up Midway and the Hawaiian Islands in the spirit of comradeship. At the same time, China is dominant, there is the nagging specter of Loki’s Fire, which they do not understand nor can they control.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)
They call it the Philippines Protectorate, short for the Chinese People’s Philippines Protectorate, and I’m in line to clear customs. While I’m in line, I’ll bring you up to speed. My story doesn’t begin here in line, and I don’t want to go back too far. Just far enough for things to make sense and to put everything in context for you. My father, Rear Admiral Adam Turner, had been Director, National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office (NMIO) when he retired. As things went to hell in a handbasket politically in the country, he punched out of the US Navy, and his oldest son, which would be me, ceased to exist in the same week. There had been a car accident, body burned beyond recognition, dental records confirmed the death of Timothy Adam Turner, as Miguel Vega, rose like a phoenix from the ashes at the tender age of twenty-two, and where better to have that happen than Phoenix, Arizona? It’s a long way from Annandale.
Miguel (Mike) Vega, an orphan, raised in Arizona by a foster family now deceased, holding a bachelor’s degree in English (backstopped), from Arizona State University, applied for a commission in the US Marine Corps. It took the better part of a year for me to wade through the paperwork, chew through Officer’s Candidate Course, and receive my reserve commission as a second lieutenant, with a slot in The Basic School (TBS). Six months of TBS, fifteen-hour days, endless lectures, and the back-stabbing peer evaluation climate. I did better than they thought I’d do since nothing in my background reflected military references. There were whispers among the cadre. Maybe I was some sort of military savant? My scores allowed me to pick my Military Occupational School and my career track: Flight School, Intelligence, or the Tech Trades like cannon cocker. I chose a rifle platoon. Maybe I wasn’t a savant? Who would decide to be a mud marine when he had other options? Still, I excelled at navigating the conventions, bureaucracy, micromanagement, showing flashes of brilliance when they were required. Rules, manuals, traditions, and enduring strategic misdirection from the top had become my life, and making weak superiors look good had become my only reason for living.
If none of that sounds anything like Timothy Turner, it wasn’t, but I wasn’t there to continue my life as I had known it. I joined the Corps for another reason. My father and others remained distant but influential shadows as I ran three places behind the leader on the grinder. I stood tall as the third man in the fourth row as they directed, and I became somebody new. The national agency check that had been conducted when I joined the Marine Corps had been expanded slightly. A bit more scrutiny had been applied when I received my upgraded security clearance. Rifle platoon second lieutenants don’t need anything above secret, and they handed out my updated secret clearance, pro-forma. If I’d have been flying an F-35B, or the new F-40 tactical hoverjet, they’d have taken a lot harder look and it had the potential of becoming problematic.
Without anything else in my life to distract me, I didn’t find the high tempo and pre-deployment frenzy to be bothersome. I found myself a platoon commander in Lima Company, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division, a subset of the First Marine Expeditionary Force. The Fifth Marines, nicknamed the Dark Horse Regiment, was an inspiration when I went head-over-heels in debt and bought a black Ford Mustang (a dark horse) in honor of the regiment. Marine officers weren’t technically supposed to go into debt for a car, but if you didn’t, people wondered what was wrong with you. I loved the car and kept up expectations by living slightly beyond my means. I polished the car on the weekends, I dated the daughters of senior officers, and I remained unentangled. Two years and two deployments later, I was automatically promoted to first lieutenant. The Marine Corps officer promotion system is based on a hierarchal structure of laws, instructions, and orders. In a military framework, the laws can be associated with strategic guidance, the instructions with operational guidance, and the orders with tactical guidance. None of that applies to the promotion from second to first lieutenant. It’s automatic.
I surfed the gentle waves at San Onofre, upgraded to Del Mar for more challenging surf conditions, and then took military hops with other officers who surfed, to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii to better hone our skills. I had half a dozen good boards in my quiver. My bottom turns were better than average, and I occasionally managed surprisingly decent cutbacks in total chunder but didn’t have the surf craft to join the surfing circuit or keep up with the best Marines, but I held my own on the Pipeline, at Hale’iwa and Sunset Beach. It wasn’t all work and no play.
Promotion led to reassignment as platoon commander, weapons platoon. If it seems like I’m getting in the weeds with you while I’m standing in line to clear customs, maybe I am. The point is that I progressed as a model marine through company executive officer to promotion to captain two years later. I moved to Alpha Company, Fourth Marines, on the same base. Major Nathan Spears was a typical battalion commander. He had a secure job that sounded glamorous but was actually routine and it wasn’t taking him anywhere in the Corps. Two marriages behind him, the courts took most of his income and he felt bitter at the rulings. He partied hard, drank too much, and took his misery out on me personally and publicly, which worked out better than I could have hoped. Six months after that I broke up with my girlfriend, daughter of the Deputy Base Commander, and left the United States Marine Corps.
I had lived on base so that made me jobless and homeless, but I still had the car and the payment.
Priscilla Braddock, Chief Executive Officer of Southwest Positronics hired me to work with the firm, based in San Diego, California. The managed private and government engineering programs. Of course, Priscilla’s husband, Andy, had known me since I had been in junior high school. I learned to sail under his watchful eye, as we went before the wind along the Virginia Capes. He knew me as Tim, not Mike. Dad worked for Southwest Positronics, too. More about the Braddocks and my father, the retired admiral, later.
I handed my passport to the Chinese Customs Officer at the Philippines port of entry and they scanned it along with my retina and took an electronic image of my fingerprints. Miguel Vega, a real person with no connection to Timothy Turner had been allowed to pass. You see, Miguel Vega separated from the Marine Corps based on a racial grievance issue and I knew that the Chinese quietly flagged the matter. Who knows what value a former Marine officer might have as a cat’s paw for the Worker’s Paradise and their octopus-like agenda?
Ruy Lopez de Villalobos claimed the islands of Leyte and Samar for King Phillip II of Spain in 1542 and Las Islas Filipinas were ruled by Spain for 300 years. The British occupied Manila from 1762 through 1764. The islands were ceded to the United States as a result of their victory in the Spanish American War. The Japanese invaded during the Second World War. After the war, in 1946, the United States recognized that the Philippines were an independent nation. Four years ago the People’s Republic of China arranged a military coup wherein the new leader of the Philippines asked China’s help. China responded with 300,000 troops, to aid the new government in the establishment of order. A new election had been immediately undertaken wherein people voted overwhelmingly to accept the Chinese People’s Philippines Protectorate as the legitimate government. Meet the new boss.
The Bangsamoro Region (Mindanao) being mostly Muslim, had been targeted for deportation to work camps in Western China, where they could join others of their faith. They immediately resisted, and with donated Saudi money, were buying anything that would shoot. Wherever there were buyers, sellers inevitably appeared. It wasn’t the Marine Corps but it was my new job. You can call it cover for status if you’d like, but you’ve always been a cynic.
You can read Loki’s Fire without having read Red Mist (first in the trilogy), but will you want to?