Warren Murphy: Survival Course

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Warren Murphy Survival Course
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    Survival Course
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Mexican Slayride The bad news was that the U.S. President was shot down over Mexico. The good news was that he survived. The bad news was he was captured by drug thugs. The good news was he was rescued by his courageous Vice-President. But the worst news was that the Vice-President was definitely not as heroic as Robert Redford or Jack Kennedy, as his photo ops would have the world believe. And now only Remo and Chiun could save the President from a free-form fiend who made bloodthirsty Aztec gods seem sweet and even the power of Sinanju helpless...

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Destroyer 82: Survival Course

By Warren Murphy apir

Chapter 1

Not everyone agreed the President of the United States should go to Bogota.

A Pan American drug summit was scheduled for the next day in Bogota, Colombia. The embattled President of Colombia was the host. Leaders from as far north as Canada had already arrived. All that remained was for the President's arrival, which everybody did agree would be a tremendous show of support in the long war against the Colombian drug cartels.

The polls were evenly split on the matter. It was a hot topic on radio call-in shows, Sunday-morning TV information programs, and in bars. In Washington, politicians debated the subject with unusual intensity. Only the White House staff was unanimous in its support of the President's brave decision. In public.

In private, it was a slightly different matter.

"For the last time, you gotta cancel!" pleaded the President's chief of staff: "Tell them you have the flu."

"I'm going," the President said firmly in his slightly nasal voice, a voice that mixed New England consonants with a Texas twang. When excited, the President sometimes sounded like an out-of-tune steel bango. He was not excited now. He was firm.

"I'm going," he repeated firmly.

"The drug barons are blowing up buildings all over Bogota," the chief of staff pleaded. "This thing is a security nightmare. If we postpone it-just postpone-there's time to work out a change of venue. Relocate the thing to Texas, or even northern Mexico. Say, Nogales. On the U.S. side of the border."

"How would it look if the President of the United States bowed to the threats of these narco-terrorists?" the President demanded. He was seated at a kidney-shaped desk, trying to finish a thank-you note.

"A damn sight better than if the presidents of Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Canada, and Mexico all ended up in body bags-provided there are any nonliquid parts left over to bag," the President's press secretary said pointedly.

The President stood up. Outside the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, a Marine helicopter was whining to life, ready to ferry the President to the waiting Air Force One.

"No," he said, "I'm going to Bogota. Now, you two get on the train or stop playing with the whistle."

"If we can't talk you out of Bogota, how about we move the conference to another Colombian city?" the chief of staff whined. "Just to throw those narco-thugs off-balance?"

"Can't," the President said irritably. "You know that. The other delegates are already settled in."

"Think of your family."

"I have. And of millions of other families wounded by drugs."

"Then think of the Vice-President in your job!" the chief of staff blurted.

The President stiffened. He adjusted his glasses. His voice grew chilly. "He's a good man. He'll grow."

The chief of staff subsided. "Fine," he grumbled. "Let's hope if they do bomb the conference, they do it before you get there."

"Let's hope they don't do it at all," the President added pointedly, reaching for his blue poplin windbreaker with the presidential patch.

At Massachusetts' Hanscom Air Base, where Air Force One was being refueled, the topic of the President's trip to Bogota was on the lips of the ground crew as they pumped Jet-A fuel into the thirsty 707's fuel tanks.

"He's crazy to go," said a corporal as he kept one eye on the truck's gauge. The fuel truck resembled a common oil truck that delivered fuel oil to residential homes. Except it was shorter and painted a military gray. "Those Colombians, they're cold," the corporal added. He snapped his fingers. "They'd snuff him out just like that."

"He's committed," said the other, an airman. "He can't back down now. He'd lose face."

"Better to lose a little face than have your legs and everything between them blown away. Know what I mean?"

"If we back down to these scum, they'll only get braver," the airman retorted, frowning in perplexity at the round grille he suddenly noticed under the fuel intake. He could have sworn it hadn't been there a moment ago. "We'll lose Colombia, then Peru, and the rest of South America. How long before Mexico is run by drug lords? Then what do we do? Build a fucking wall like the East Germans?"

"We execute the pushers in this country, that's what. Dry up demand, and those bastards are out of business. "

"You know," the airman said in a funny little voice, "I could have sworn that grille wasn't there a minute ago."

The corporal looked up. He noticed the chrome-ringed mesh grille. It looked like a tiny speaker.

"What do you suppose it is?"

"Probably some electronic sensor or something. This bird is loaded with the latest electronic warfare equipment. What I'm wondering is, how come she's drinking so much fuel? We've been here quite a while. "

"That's what I was thinking too." The corporal tapped the gauge. The pointer stayed where it was.

"If I didn't know better," he muttered. "I'd say we just pumped in more fuel than this bird's capacity."

"Well, you know that ain't so."

"Yeah, you're right. I guess we were jawing when we should have been paying attention. Ah, there it goes. "

A little cough-syrup-red fuel sloshed back from the intake and the corporal hurriedly threw a lever, cutting off the flow. He pulled the nozzle from the intake and capped it.

"I still think the President is a fool for going," he added, dragging the hose back to the truck. "Prestige is important, but survival's what counts."

"That's what this is all about, America's survival."

Together they retracted the hose in silence, and then drove away.

After they were gone, the chrome-ringed grille retreated from sight and the white metal skin healed over as if from a wound.

In the cockpit, Captain Nelson Flagg was running through the preflight cockpit check with his copilot. The damper switch was stuck.

"Hit it again," the copilot said.

The captain did. A telltale amber light came on.

"This thing hasn't been right since eighty-eight," he growled. "I can't wait until the replacement comes in."

"They should have retired this bird years ago. It guzzles gas like a Cadillac, the controls are finicky, and she burns oil like a Sherman tank."

"Just a few more months. If they ever get the wiring fixed in the new bird."

"Yeah. And if we survive this trip. I don't know about you, but I belong to the club that says the President is a fool to go."

"I'll be sure to pass your vote along to the chief executive if he pokes his head into the cockpit. You got the booster pumps?"

"Center off, main on," said the copilot, unaware of the chrome-ringed microphone disk that appeared on the floor beside his shoe like a metallic eye opening. It had appeared, as if on cue, when the copilot uttered the word "survive."

Then the clatter announcing the arrival of Marine One and the President caused them to forget their argument and focus on the remainder of their flightline check.

Hours later, over the sparkling blue of the Gulf of Mexico, Fort Worth air-traffic control handed over Air Force One tracking to Mexican air-traffic control in Monterrey.

"Here's where it gets hairy," Captain Flagg warned his copilot. "Just remember. These Mexicans traffic controllers may sound like they understand English, but half the time they don't catch what you're saying. Ask 'em if we can put her down on an oil platform in the Gulf and they'll happily roger the request. Or as they say, 'royer' it.

The copilot laughed. "It can't be that bad."

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