Points of Attack

Mahoney & Squire #3
June 25, 2024

Available in: e-Book

Points of Attack

She’s flanked by enemies, inside and out. Can this dedicated officer execute a strategy to save a colleague’s life before they’re both MIA?

South Korea. Navy Captain Kate Mahoney is fighting battles on all fronts. When a Navy doctor reports suspicions of a botulism strike at an American facility, the rising 7th Fleet star orders an immediate investigation. And her challenges multiply when she learns a fellow female pilot is missing in North Korea…

Facing her own trials when a former superior threatens to court martial her, Mahoney vows to do whatever it takes to bring the woman home. But with intel of biological weapons hidden in the dictator-ruled country putting everyone on high alert, the captain’s mission to extract the tortured captive hits a serious hurdle when the country’s leader parades her on international media.

Will she and those under her command survive the final assault?

Points Of Attack is the pulse-pounding third book in the Mahoney & Squire Military Fiction series. If you like courageous characters, intense suspense, and page-turning plot twists, then you’ll love this thrilling drama from Mike Krentz, US Navy Captain, Medical Corps (retired).

Buy Points Of Attack for swift retaliation today!

Paperback and Audiobook versions in progress!

Chapter One

Scarlett

Navy Captain Kate Mahoney, call-sign “Scarlett,” maneuvered the F/A-18 Superhornet into the initial approach for landing. She leveled the wings to line up the nose precisely on the midline of Runway 07. A quick glance out the cockpit to her one-o’clock position took in the peaceful greenery over Mount Suribachi, the scene of  a pivotal Pacific battle of World War II—when this island was called Iwo Jima. Kate squinted to glimpse the US flag flying at the spot of the iconic flag-raising photograph taken on February 23, 1945.

Show time, Scarlett.

Kate tightened her torso harness and latched the oxygen mask over her nose and mouth.

Seconds later, her young “nugget” wingman lined up his Hornet alongside hers at a proper interval. The two jets descended as one, then screamed over the runway at 500 mph. At the opposite end, Kate gave her wingman the standard “kiss-off” gesture to indicate her solo turn into the traffic pattern. She recited aloud the mantra she’d learned years ago in flight school.

“Flop.”

Kate jammed the stick hard to her left, rolling the aircraft into a ninety-degree banked level turn 500 feet over the terrain. The immediate 9-G force from the high-speed maneuver pressed her body into the ejection seat as the anti-G trousers compressed her legs to push blood to her head. Her vision tunneled from the abrupt reduction of blood flow. She growled the word “hook” and strained against the darkness on the edge of her vision.

“Chop.”

Her left hand pulled the throttle back to reduce airspeed as her right hand eased the control stick to the right. The jet rolled out of its turn exactly 180 degrees to her original heading of 070. Kate popped out the speed brakes, eased further back on the throttle, and raised the aircraft’s nose to maintain level flight parallel to the runway.

“Check.”

Kate monitored her airspeed as it continued to bleed off to the proper landing envelope.

“Drop.”

When the airspeed indicator showed the right number for safe gear deployment, she cycled the handles to drop the landing gear and tail hook into landing positions.

Abeam her expected touchdown point, she nudged the throttle back and began a slow left turning descent. Kate rolled the jet out of its turn to align the nose on the touchdown point, spotted the Fresnel lens “meatball” alongside the runway, noted her remaining fuel, and keyed her microphone to identify herself and report the jet’s fuel state.

“Hornet two one five, six point eight.”

The landing signal officer’s voice answered over the radio. “Hornet two one five, roger. Call the ball.”

“Roger ball.”

Kate relished the familiar feel on the controls as she worked throttle and pitch to keep the meatball centered between the reference lines. The ball dropped a bit when the jet crossed the runway’s edge. Kate eased the throttle forward just before the landing signal officer’s verbal advice on the radio.

“Little power.”

In seconds, the ball rose. Kate touched the throttle to lose just enough airspeed to keep the ball centered. She let the Hornet float the last few feet into the arresting wires. As soon as she felt the wheels touch asphalt, she jammed the throttle forward to full military power for an immediate takeoff if the tail hook failed to grab a wire.

The jet lurched to a sudden stop as the arresting gear yanked it back. Kate reduced the power to idle. When signaled clear of the wire, she raised the hook and expedited her taxi off the runway, just in time for her wingman to make his arrested landing behind her.

As she taxied her jet to the ramp, Kate gave herself a fist pump.

“Yes!”

Early in her aviation career, “Scarlett” Mahoney often boasted she loved flying more than sex. Now in her early forties, she’d gone so long without either that she couldn’t vouch. She preferred actual control of an aircraft over flying a desk, no matter how important or career-enhancing the job. As for sex, Preston Davis remained eager to sponsor her re-entry. She’d not found the right occasion, or mood, in the two months since he’d surprised her by showing up on the pier from the US with her teenager son when USS Shenandoah returned to Yokosuka, Japan after a four-month deployment.

Kate had found flying easier, safer, and less daunting to resume.

“Scarlett” reveled in full control of the world’s most sophisticated and deadly carrier-borne fighter/attack jet. With this landing, she had completed her successful re-qualification as a “full-up round” US Navy Hornet jockey. She still had to execute the same proficiency landing on an actual aircraft carrier at sea, but her military mind harbored no doubt that she would succeed.

Earlier in the month, Kate had difficulty convincing Vice Admiral Darnell Lewis, USN, Commander US Seventh Fleet, to allow her to fly at all, much less perform carrier landings.

“Why should I allow my chief of staff to risk her ass flying jets?” The twinkle in the admiral’s eye belied the sternness in his voice, so Kate rolled in at full throttle.

“You never know when you’ll need me to lead a sortie. When national security is at high risk, you want your best fighter/attack pilot leading that mission, don’t you, sir?”

“You’ll get enough sorties of another kind just keeping the staff and subordinate commanders in line, COS.” Lewis had smiled when he said that. “Let the young fighter jocks take their turns at guts and glory.”

“I understand my primary job as chief of staff, sir. I also understand there’s not another pilot in the air wing with my record in actual combat. You know what I did over Iraq. I should keep my skills current, just in case.”

When the admiral scowled, she changed tack. “I will gain credibility. The staff and subordinate commanders will see me as a fellow warrior, not some privileged woman wearing the loop and manning the desk outside your office.”

In the end, Lewis had relented, and Kate had relished every moment in the Hornet cockpit. In all her life, nothing had satisfied her inner soul more than flying—not even her son, or Colonel Preston Davis, United States Marine Corps (retired), Kate’s would-be lover.

Kate brought the Hornet to a stop on the ramp, shut down the engines, and completed the post-flight checklist. She pushed thoughts of Preston from her mind, climbed out of the aircraft, and headed to the squadron ready room for the debrief. She would spend the night on Iwo To. Tomorrow she would fly a Hornet back to its home base at Naval Air Facility, Atsugi, Japan, on the outskirts of the Tokyo/Yokohama megaplex. Because the Atsugi NAF was in a densely populated area, the Navy conducted its field carrier landing practice at the remote Iwo To Japanese facility, both for noise abatement and to avoid the unpleasant—albeit minimal—risk of a jet crashing into the Japanese community surrounding the base.

By seniority, Kate could have opted to fly home in the C-40 transport aircraft. The modified Boeing 737 had arrived that morning and would return to Atsugi the following day, filled with personnel and equipment as the air wing redeployed to its home base. Instead, she had cajoled the air wing commander to allow her to take the Hornet. Kate felt only a twinge of guilt about bumping one of the squadron junior pilots from that sortie. She’d made plenty a transit in the C-40.

Scarlett Mahoney had paid her dues and now reaped the benefit.

 

Chapter Two

Troy

Where else in the world could a US Navy lieutenant doctor fresh from family practice residency run his own low volume, low acuity medical practice in an exotic land far removed from meddling medical bureaucrats?

Doctor Troy Pearson, Lieutenant, Medical Corps, United States Navy, relished his job as medical officer-in-charge of the small clinic at the sleepy US Navy station adjoining the vast Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy base near the quaint town of Chinhae, South Korea. A short ride away, the sparkling resort city of Busan offered unfettered access to robust night life—a fabulous playground for a handsome single American doctor. Six months into his one-year tour, Troy had already requested an extension of his orders for another twelve months.

Cooled down and showered from his vigorous morning workout at the base gym, Troy swaggered through the front doors of his clinic.

Mrs. Moon intercepted him. Fear distorted the South Korean clinic manager’s usually placid face. Her voice quivered. “We need you right away in the main treatment room.”

Without waiting for his reaction, she motioned him down the short hallway.

Troy dumped his gym bag at the door and followed Mrs. Moon into the treatment room. A distraught mother, whom Troy recognized as one of the Navy spouses on base, clutched the hand of a child about six-years-old, lying still on a stretcher. Two hospital corpsmen fretted over the young patient. Troy did not need a wealth of medical training to see that the child was gravely ill.

He spoke to the senior corpsman. “What?”

The mother looked up, recognized him, and answered. “He’s so weak, Doctor. He couldn’t swallow a glass of orange juice. Now he can’t even sit up.”

Troy glanced at the two corpsmen. Their distraught expressions mirrored those of Mrs. Moon and the mother. Troy steeled himself not to succumb to the aura of fear that permeated the room. He thought about his emergency department rotation while a resident at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, CA.

“Take your own pulse first,” the sage ED attending had counseled him.

Troy took a breath, moved to the boy, and tried to engage him with a smile.

No response.

The child’s eyelids drooped at half-mast. Troy used his thumbs to raise the lids to full open. The pupils pointed in different directions.

“Diplopia,” Troy said.

He inserted a wooden tongue blade into the boy’s mouth. The child did not resist. The tongue and mucous membranes appeared dry. Troy touched the soft palate with the tip of the blade, stimulating a weak gag reflex.

He looked at the mother. “Can he talk?”

“A little, but he sounds drunk.”

Troy told the boy to squeeze his hand, but the child could not grip, only flexed his fingers. Troy moved each of his patient’s arms and legs through normal range of motion. Like trying to make a soggy, well-used rope stiff again.

“Flaccid paralysis.”

The mother gasped. “Paralyzed? He’s paralyzed? It can’t be polio. He’s had all his shots.”

Troy wished he could remember the woman’s name. He touched her shoulder. “He’s not paralyzed, but weak. Not polio. Could be several things. We can’t do much for him here. We need to transfer him to a Korean hospital in Busan.”

He worked at keeping his voice calm as he turned to Mrs. Moon. “Call St. Mary’s Medical Center and tell them we’re transferring a child with ascending paralysis involving the brain stem, of undetermined etiology. I’ll talk to their physician myself.”

As Mrs. Moon scurried off, Troy addressed the younger of the two corpsmen, a female on her first assignment after completing hospital corps school. “Warm up the ambulance. I’ll ride along with the patient.”

As the young corpsman hurried out, he called to her. “First, bring in the crash cart. Just in case.”

The young lady stopped at the door, face ashen, eyes wide, mouth agape.

Troy had not performed a major resuscitation since he took over the clinic. When did he last do so on a child? During his residency?

He spoke to the corpsman in what he hoped was a calm but urgent voice. “Crash cart. Now, please.”

“Aye, sir.” She ran out of the room.

Tuned into the tension in the room, the mother hugged her son. Troy touched her arm. “I need to ask you some questions, Mrs…”

“Mattox. My husband is Lieutenant Commander George Mattox. This is Georgie.”

“I know your husband.”

Most permanent personnel on the base knew each other. They lived in an American enclave in suburban South Korea, as close-knit as a small rural town in the USA.

Troy kept one eye on Georgie while he talked to the mother. “When did this start?”

“Two days ago. He said he felt tired. We thought he was faking to get out of school.” She grimaced. “This morning he couldn’t get out of bed.”

“Have you been anywhere unusual around Korea or elsewhere?”

“No, sir.” A pause. “Well, we went into town for dinner a few nights ago.”

“Where?”

“That Korean barbecue place on the main drag. We’ve been there many times.”

Troy knew the restaurant, a frequent haunt of Americans from the Chinhae Navy base.

“Anyone else sick at home?”

“No, sir.”

The corpsman appeared at the door, without the crash cart. Her face had turned from ashen gray to pallid white. “Sir, we just got another patient, a girl with the same symptoms.”

Alarms blared inside Troy’s head.

Two patients with bulbar palsy? Doubtful a coincidence.

“Put her in the next room. I’ll be right there.”

As the new patient and her mother passed the main treatment room, the women recognized each other. The girl’s mother stopped.

“June? What are you doing here?”

“Georgie is sick. Weak. Can’t get out of bed.”

“Oh, my God, Melissa same thing. She can’t walk.”

Troy intervened and addressed the newly arrived mom. “How old is Melissa?”

“Six. She and Georgie are in first grade together.”

The alarms in Troy’s head burst into full cacophony. He turned to the senior corpsman. “Get Melissa into a bed right away so I can examine her.”

He addressed the other corpsman. “Monitor Georgie. Call me if anything changes.”

It took only a minute to confirm Troy’s suspicions. Melissa also had signs of brainstem dysfunction and advanced flaccid paralysis. He issued similar orders for her and asked Mrs. Moon to tell the Busan hospital to expect two transfer patients.

As he returned to the main treatment room, the front door opened. Troy turned to see another distraught mother carrying a young boy in her arms.

“First grader?” Troy asked.

The mother nodded, confusion overtaking distress. “He can’t walk.”

Troy had no more treatment rooms, so he pointed to a chair in the waiting area. “I’ll be right with you.”

He went to the front desk and spoke to Mrs. Moon. “Call the base commander. Tell him I can’t get away from my patients right now, but I need him to trust me. He must close the base school. Now. No students or teachers should enter or leave that place until I figure out what’s happening.”

Troy started back to the mother and child in the waiting area.

“Doctor!” The female corpsman’s voice shrieked from the main treatment room. “Georgie stopped breathing!”

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“Couldn’t put it down! Intense, gritty, tightly plotted and emotionally charged, POINTS OF ATTACK is another thrilling entry in this fascinating series focused on the unique challenges confronted by modern military women. Mike Krentz is a born storyteller and an insightful observer of the complex relationships that define life in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a Naval warship.” — Jayne Ann Krentz, NYT Bestselling Author

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