Take It To The Limit, the second novel of the Attacks on America, Mike Hatch Terrorism Series, is an action-packed suspense thriller in the style of Tom Clancy, Ken Follett and Jack Higgins. It is the most exciting account of air terrorism ever written! A European Baron dealing in international illegal arms loses an important nerve gas shipment on the Mediterranean Sea. His ship and its deadly cargo are captured during an action-packed US Navy SEAL commando raid. To save his family fortune, the Baron takes even more sinister work. He agrees to plant a bomb aboard a Boeing 747 bound from Chicago to London. The Baron hires a disgruntled airline employee and they develop a devious and clever way to plant the bomb. The horror of the disaster for those on board is depicted as the bomb detonates during flight over Canada. FBI Agent Sally Stein and CIA Agent Nick Barber continue a tumultuous romance as they track the air terrorism to its evil source. Will they be in time to prevent a second bombing attempt on a flight originating at Los Angeles International Airport? Closing scenes find Sally and Nick in a desperate firefight at a gangster’s plush north woods hideway. Follow the breathtaking action on the high seas and in exotic locales across Europe and North America. Horseshoes and Nuclear Weapons, the gripping account of a nuclear terrorist attack on America is the first in the series. Mike is at work on the third in the series.
In the opening backstory, you're transported back to 1944, as a World War Two fighter pilot raids a German port:
Black flak began to burst in the cloudy sky.
As Gordon pulled back on the stick, he compressed the trigger switch on the front of it, strafing the west bank of the inlet with the six .50 caliber guns. He could barely hear the clattering of the powerful guns over the roar of the engine. The submarine shipyard came into view. He held the button at the top of the stick, releasing his rockets in train, then pulled further
back on the stick. He climbed at full throttle as shells began to burst everywhere in the surrounding skies. In less than a minute he was in cloud cover, out beyond the inlet over Kiel Bay. He would do one strafing run at the west rail lines, then head back. He banked left and came down out of the clouds above the inlet mouth.
Suddenly, a Messerschmitt 109 came at him from the west, machine guns and cannons blazing, flying belly up for a fast dive away escape. This tactic was usually reserved for use at high altitude against bombers. His plane jerked and shuddered, he had been hit. Gordon sucked breath as he felt a sharp pain in his lower back, shrapnel had entered his right kidney. He was dazed for a moment, his plane continued to dive. He lost the feel of the plane briefly. Then he came to, the vibrating airborne machine an extension of his body again. He pulled the stick back, managing to bring the plane level only twenty feet above the water of the inlet. The city was dead ahead. Huge anti-aircraft guns thundered in the hills surrounding the inlet, spitting exploding shells up everywhere in the skies. He banked to the right and began to climb. Suddenly, out of the mist and smoke a cone shaped mountain of coal loomed in front of him. He pulled back hard on the stick. With his left hand he pushed the throttle all the way forward, past the gate stop, breaking the safety wire. Take it to the limit, he thought as the engine RPM's increased to the absolute safety limit called: "war emergency power". In a moment, the plane jarred for a split second. The belly of the plane had scraped the top of the pile, but he was still airborne. The engine was screaming now, as he continued to climb toward the west. As he gained altitude, the black flak bursts were everywhere again, some so close he could see the red-yellow flash as they detonated. He was climbing steeply now, abruptly there was a bright flash and burst to his left, then to his right. Oh God, he thought, the antiaircraft guns are sighting me in!
Later, he is forced to bail out and discovers a NAZI treasure being hidden by the infamous Heinrich Himmler.
In the 1990's a ship carrying illegal arms is boarded in a raid by the US Navy SEALS. CIA Operative Tommy Garcia is aboard posing as a crew member; he screams at the ship's pilot:
"Tell him to stop the ship. NOW!"
The Captain struggled, but Tommy held his wrist up behind his back with an iron grip. "No", came his reply as he looked into the barrel. Tommy relaxed his grip, letting the man stand back, a puzzled look came over the Captain's face again. Then Tommy squeezed the trigger. The silenced weapon coughed like an air rifle. The bullet entered the Captain's head between his eyes. A small, blood-spattered hole instantaneously appeared in the metal wall plate behind his head. His hands reflexively went to his face, as his body crumpled against the wall behind and slid to the floor. Tommy's attention was already on the pilot.
He held the pistol to the man's head and said in English, "Stop the ship. NOW!" The man, terrorized, shrugged and shook his head. Tommy repeated the order in Spanish, then in Farsi. The man nodded, he seemed to understand. He pulled the throttle control back down through its arc. In a moment, Tommy could hear the ship's giant steam turbines slow. He could also hear the helicopters overhead. Tommy pulled the man from the stool and shoved him around the console toward the starboard door. "Get out", Tommy shouted at him in Farsi.
Lights and gunfire came from above and ropes swung down to the deck, as the helicopter blades chopped the night air. Navy SEALs festooned down to the front and rear decks. Their HK G11 assault rifles were peppering the deck with gunfire.
As the pilot lurched for the door it swung open and two Libyan guards were there, AK-47s pointed in. They opened fire, bullets tearing the pilot's body apart, as he danced backwards into the console. Bullets, blood, fatty flesh and bits of bone were flying, spattering and ricocheting everywhere. Tommy crouched down behind the console in an instant. He felt a numbness, then a burning in his right calf and realized he was hit. He held the small pistol, ready for a hopeless battle against the heavily-armed guards.
As a result of a newly discovered letter written in 1944 by the downed pilot, CIA Agent Nick Barber is sent to Denmark to locate the treasure. He is spied on by the beautiful Eva Van Damme, mistress of international arms dealer Baron Von Kloussen:
At 9:00 P.M., Nick was in the restaurant of the Tre Roser just finishing his meal. He had ordered fillet of sole with green beans and almonds and boiled potatoes, one of his favorites. He had a view out of the windows toward the pool and had been watching, as a beautiful blonde woman emerged from across the complex and walked toward him along the pool. She was tall and her lithe body moved with a smooth, probably practiced, seductive style. She wore dark sunglasses and a black string bikini that barely covered her firm, ample breasts. As she rounded the end of the pool and walked along the opposite edge, it was obvious that the thong bottom of the garment didn't even attempt to cover her shapely, lightly tanned buttocks. She selected a lawn chair across the courtyard, directly between Nick's room and the edge of the pool. Nick went into the bar and ordered a Carlsberg. He nursed it while he watched a soccer game on a television in the corner. Denmark's team was doing well and the other patrons were very excited about the game. Nick couldn't get his mind off the blonde. Nick left and walked around the pool toward his room. It was 9:30 P.M. and still there was hazy sunlight everywhere. In the summer, it never gets completely dark in Denmark. There is a dusky light even in the early morning hours. She was still there as he approached her chair from behind. As he passed he looked down at her, noting her full lips and turned-up nose as she looked at him. He went into his room and opened the drapes. He flipped on the television and relaxed in the recliner. The blonde was walking around the pool now. It was almost, he thought, as if his passing had triggered her to move. She entered a room across the pool. Nick could see a light come on and she stepped in front of it. Only the sheer drapes were closed. He could see the sharp outline of her body as she slowly removed the bikini.
Nick is sailing along the coast with a Danish farmer, looking for evidence of the treasure when:
Suddenly, Anders yelled to Nick, "Cecil, get the binoculars please! Below decks stowed under the table in the center." Nick looked up at him and then at the shore. There was a beach. Naked men and women played in the sand and sunned themselves on blankets. Nick retrieved the binoculars and handed them to the grinning old man. He surveyed the beach for a couple of minutes, then handed them back to Nick. Nick adjusted the binoculars as he studied the people. He saw Gertrude Reinhard on a blanket by herself. She wore nothing but a pair of large, dark sunglasses. He adjusted the binoculars and squinted for a clearer view. Only her breasts, and a small strip at her lower abdomen, were a lighter shade than the rest of her tanned body. She rested on her elbows. She seemed to be watching them.
Now spying on each other, Nick and Eva go for a swin after a meal at an exclusive Danish restaurant:
"Why don't we go down to the beach for a while?" she suggested, nodding toward the expanse of beach below. "I have a blanket in the back. We're not in a hurry are we?"
To Nick, she smelled like a spring flower and her red lips tasted like strawberries. Her offer was too tempting to resist. Besides, he chuckled to himself, my boss has ordered me to check her out thoroughly. In a minute they were walking from the restaurant parking lot down to the beach below. The air was a bit cool and Nick helped her adjust the blanket over her shoulders as they walked. Lights from sailboats dotted the harbor in the distance. They walked along the beach to a secluded spot, near some trees some distance southeast of the restaurant. They lay on the blanket. Eva removed her clothes and Nick his. They embraced. Then Eva broke away and, laughing loudly, sprinted across the beach into the water. Nick followed, splashing and rolling in sea water that seemed warm in comparison to the cool air. Eva swam out to deeper water and Nick followed, lunging after her and tackling her naked body among some reeds in four feet of water. Nick bent his knees and put his hands at her waist, pulling her toward him. Eva let herself float toward him, her legs apart, straddling his thighs. Her lithe body, buoyant in the salt water, moved as easily as a toy balloon in air...
The Danish Baron enlists the help of a disgruntled and criminal former airline employee. With the former employee's help they hack into the airline's computer database and access supplies transport and loading schedules. They place a bomb in the supplies of a Boeing 747 bound from Chicago to London. The bomb detonates over Canada:
At that moment an air traffic controller at Ottawa, Ontario had flight 283 on radar at 34,440 feet passing north of the city. The cart containing the tissue box was stowed under a counter in the back service area near the rear pressure bulkhead. Ten rows of seats ahead, John Richards had loosened his seat belt and relaxed. The seat belt warning light was out and several passengers were up and about in the aisle. He lifted the his coffee cup.
Suddenly, there was a deafening, roaring blast behind him. First the noise and then the increased pressure caused excruciating pain in Richards' ears. Then, his eardrums burst and he heard only a faint ringing. Instinctively, he bent over in his seat. As he so did the back of the seat came with him. Debris was blasted forward from the service area in a gust of smoke. The bomb had destroyed the front wall around the service area and the rear bathrooms. The ceilings and back walls of the bathrooms were ripped open. The aluminum-alloy pressure bulkhead behind the bathrooms and the access hole cover to the vertical stabilizer were blasted open. The shock waves of the bomb, amplified by the cabin pressure, exploded into the unpressurized tail section area. This caused aluminum skin panels on the thirty-five foot vertical stabilizer to rip loose. The panels blew away into space. All that remained of the huge vertical fin was the skeleton framework, useless for control of the plane as the icy wind sailed through it. The floor directly below the blast was torn open. Parts of the floor and its structural support became shrapnel that was blasted downward as though out of a giant cannon. This shrapnel shattered the heavy, fiberglass duct below the floor. It carried the hydraulic lines and electrical wires to the tail section. These provided control of the rudder and trim, so the pilot could control horizontal direction and most importantly, flight stability.
The control of an airplane involves nothing more than presenting solid surfaces at various angles to a mass of fast moving air. The process of maintaining stability is one of frequent small adjustment by moving the various surfaces of the wings and tail slightly. Direction of the airplane is changed by moving them a bit more. The loss of control or the loss of the surfaces themselves puts the plane in danger of going hopelessly out of control.
Both the cabin level loading door and the cargo door below popped from the starboard side of the plane like corks from an over-agitated champagne bottle. Aluminum panels at the narrow section of the fuselage bowed out, but the structural ribs held.
In seconds, shockwaves of the bomb subsided and a great hollow whoosh signaled the drop in cabin pressure. The pressurized cabin air was escaping rapidly to the atmosphere through the tail section and door openings. Oxygen masks fell from the compartments above the passengers. The cabin filled with a white mist. This resulted from the rapid cooling and condensation of the cabin air caused by the sudden pressure drop. In the first moment after the blast, there were many people dead. The occupant in each of the five rear bathrooms, the dozen people waiting at the bathrooms and the three flight attendants in the rear service area were killed instantly. The shock of the blast hurled their bodies or crushed them in the wreckage amid flying shrapnel. Nearly all of the people in the last six rows of seats suffered a similar fate. Seconds after the blast, those bodies and parts of bodies that had not been twisted into the wreckage or otherwise secured were forced out the loading door. The raging, powerful torrent of air rushing from the plane spewed debris and bodies of the dead and the near dead out into open space. In the fiftieth row, John Richards bent over and tried to secure his oxygen mask. He had barely escaped sudden death. He felt the plane begin to shake violently.
The plane lurched suddenly down to the right and dipped into a dive.
In the cockpit the crew had secured their oxygen masks. Captain Diener was frenzied, as he surveyed the flashing, warning lights and accompanying readouts. He spoke loudly and frantically into the small microphone under his oxygen mask. "Cabin pressure gone...rudder inoperative...tail auxiliary power unit out.....going out of control and into a downspin!!!" He pushed the throttle forward quickly and dropped the flaps slightly. The giant plane slowed and leveled.
"Have you at twenty-eight thousand feet," the controller said. "Should we prepare for emergency landing at Ottawa?"
There was no response. The plane rolled down to the left. Diener dropped the left flap to correct and then there was a roll to the right and the plane went into a wide, downward spiral again.
In the cabin, human beings both alive and lifeless, were thrown about like rag dolls. Carry-ons, books, pillows, clothes, cups and other items flew about as the plane dropped through the skies. John Richards, bent forward in his seat, felt the sudden, heavy impact of a body crash onto the back of his seat, then lift off as quickly.
"Have you at eleven thousand feet!" The controller said loudly, "Can you stabilize?" Diener saw the green forest far below as the nose of the plane dipped. He again pushed the throttles forward and leveled the plane with the flaps. It went out of the spiral at a tangent in a slow roll, first dipping one wing then the other.
Diener's face was covered with sweat now. The co-pilot and flight engineer watched in terror as he worked the individual engine throttles with his right hand and the flap lever controls with his left. He was attempting to find some coordination of them that would keep the plane level and stabilized. This was nearly impossible with the vertical stabilizer gone and without control of the rudder and tailplane. The plane leveled and actually gained altitude momentarily, then lurched into a downward spiral again.
The controller at Ottawa watched in horror as the image on his radar screen dropped below ten thousand feet, then disappeared from view...
The Baron's henchman Rashidii smuggles another bomb aboard a flight from Los Angeles to New York. Will CIA Agent Nick Barber and FBI Agent Sally Stein be there in time to prevent a second disaster? A daring motorcycle chase along the California coast reveals the answer:
Ahead Rashidii slowed. He took a curving exit off the highway to the right onto Torrenca Canyon Boulevard. He checked his mirror and the other cycle was rounding the exit curve behind. There were wide curves in the road now, sloping upward into the foothills of the coastal mountain range. He opened the throttle. He accelerated past eighty, past one hundred then to over one-fifty. Still the pursuer stayed behind, even gaining on him. They flew by other vehicles on the right and left. There was a straight stretch with no traffic ahead now, Rashidii cracked the throttle. His HUD readout was climbing quickly to two hundred. He checked the mirror and the cycle was still there. Rashidii couldn't believe it, no other motorcycle was as fast as the Honda NR 750. He kept the throttle open.
Nick hit the button on the right handlebar and the spoilers came out as the bright orange heads up readout passed one eighty. The cycle hugged the road in response to the updirected mass of the airflow over the small wings. He kept the throttle wide open now. The gas turbine engine was screaming loudly. Power was being assisted by the liquid oxygen burning the fuel more rapidly in the combustion chambers. The readout passed two hundred and still the rocket-assisted gas turbine engine accelerated the bike rapidly. Nick's hands felt numb as he tightened his grip and hunched down behind the small windshield. Then he remembered, from his study of handling motorcycles, that this was an undesirable survival reaction. He relaxed his grip to restore circulation to his hands. Rashidii shot by a car, then another and pulled back into the right lane. Nick pulled out and flew by the next car, then he was gripped by sudden fear as a semi-tractor approached head on. He moved slightly to the right and raced past the car, between it and the massive vehicle.
Ahead, Rashidii saw a road to the right. He rolled off the throttle dropping his RPMs to ten thousand. Applying the front brake judiciously, he slowed for the ninety degree turn. He leaned into the turn, coasting momentarily, then opening the throttle to transfer weight to the rear wheel for traction and balance and to accelerate out of the turn. Nick, slowing as rapidly as he could, overshot the turn. He had to slow drastically and turn off the highway, riding across the gravel terrain. Rashidii was climbing the mountains, nearly out of sight, as Nick sped onto the side road in pursuit. Nick opened the throttle trying to keep Rashidii in sight. As they climbed into the mountains, Rashidii took each winding turn with a riding expertise that Nick couldn't begin to match. They wound along the mountain road, past residences. Nick cautiously slowed on the curves, while Rashidii moved out of sight. The road came back down onto the same highway with no other outlet. As Nick came out of the high hills, he could see Rashidii far below. The man was leaning into another expertly executed turn back onto the highway. Nick followed, with Rashidii out of sight again, as he turned back onto the highway headed north again. Nick realized he couldn't hope to outride this man in rough country. The superior speed of the turbine powered machine on a straight highway would be his only hope to catch the man. He opened the throttle all the way and the bike surged forward.
In the mirrors, Rashidii, unbelieving, saw the chrome and black image of his pursuer grow larger once again. His readout was now two hundred and ten, near the theoretical maximum for the bike. He kept the throttle wide open to take it to the limit. The speed continued to increase slowly, finally hovering between two-eighteen and two-twenty. On the right, buildings were whizzing by. They were coming into a more populated area. They passed above U.S. Highway 101 on the viaduct and down into a populated area with a straight stretch ahead.
Nick was gaining now, his readout at two hundred and thirty-nine. Rashidii's speed seemed to have leveled off. Far ahead there was a stoplight. The intersection was one half mile ahead. At the speed they were going they would be there in little more than eight seconds. Rashidii did not slow. Nick backed off the throttle. The light was red and there was a group of small schoolchildren crossing the street. The crossing guard, holding a red stop sign, looked up and saw Rashidii coming. The guard yelled at the children and they scattered. The light was just turning yellow on the intersecting road. The Honda switched to the left lane to get by cars at the stop sign and then back to the right lane as it whizzed through the intersection. It went through a narrow opening in the group of children. Nick held his horn button down as he took the same zig-zag through the intersection, still traveling at over one hundred and fifty miles per hour. Rashidii had taken a chance in hope of losing his pursuer. It hadn't worked.
Buildings whizzed by as Nick speeded up again, keeping his eyes on the road far ahead. He swerved out to avoid a car in his lane. Such maneuvers had to be planned far ahead at these speeds. He could see the red helmet again. A large discount store was coming up fast on the right. Beyond it, Nick could see what appeared to be open country again. Rashidii, seeing Nick in the mirrors, held the throttle wide open again. Ahead, past the discount store yard was a fork in the road. The right branch led to a one lane viaduct that passed over a highway they were approaching. The left branch led to a frontage road. Rashidii leaned slightly to the right, guiding the cycle into the right branch. He checked his speedometer readout, as he accelerated up the incline leading to the viaduct, two hundred and eight.
Nick opened the throttle again and the powerful acceleration kicked in. As he leaned into the long, wide curve toward the viaduct he was going over two hundred and twenty.
In the rearview mirror, Rashidii could see Nick approaching again, gaining on him quickly. In disbelief, he turned his head quickly and looked back. In that split second, the front wheel of his motorcycle had left the pavement. It was on the gravel, then on the paved sidewalk between the guard rail and the road. He had lost control! The left side of his cycle slammed the formed ribs of the metal guard rail at over two hundred miles per hour. The force of the impact crushed his left leg between the motorcycle and the rail. As he slid along, the friction of the motorcycle sliding along the rail tore away first the skin and then the muscle of his left thigh. His upper body leaned hard to the left from the force of the blow. A black and yellow striped rectangular warning sign flashed in a blur, only a few feet ahead. It was at the end of the guard rail, where the concrete rail of the viaduct started. It seemed he would slam right into the sign. Instinctively, he raised his left hand to ward off the blow, keeping his right on the handlegrip. The handlebar shimmied in his hand. As he reached the end of the metal rail it flattened out, the top edge now a sharp, square corner. That corner severed his thigh nearly all the way through, like a giant knife, as he slid along helplessly. His outstretched left hand hit the sign and the impact straightened his body momentarily. His left arm, instantaneously broken in several places from smashing into the sign, snapped behind his back as it recoiled from the impact. The front wheel of the bike now hit the four inch curb at the beginning of the concrete viaduct itself. Rashidii and the bike went airborne...
Sally Stein and a US Attorney's daughter are kidnaped and taken to a north woods hideaway by gangsters suspected in the bombing. Will they be rescued? In a desperate battle with high tech weapons:
Johnny Grimm had stepped out from behind the tree into the open. His suit was soaking wet. He was stepping backward as he squinted into the sky, where the plane had been. His mouth was agape and he held the M-16 rigidly in his hands.
Tommy sighted the laser beam on the center of the man's chest. "Drop your weapon and put your hands on your head," he yelled in a demanding voice.
Grimm looked at him and aimed his weapon as he screamed, "Fuck you."
They each squeezed triggers simultaneously. The M-16 rattled in Grimm's hand spraying the spiraling bullets in Tommy's direction. Tommy checked quickly to see that the beam was still on the man, then pulled his head behind the tree. He heard the siren scream behind him, as the missile came down seeking to join the beam. Tommy felt a numbness in his right hand. A bullet had scored his knuckles, as he held the pistol against the tree to steady it. The laser beam shifted down slightly as a result. The fins of the missile made a last, microsecond adjustment and followed the beam to the ground. Tommy flopped to the ground, his arms covering his head. The nose of the missile buried itself below the sand, several inches in front of Grimm's feet. Grimm had stopped firing and was turning to run as the ground below him erupted.
There was a giant flash of bright red-yellow light and a cracking, ear-splitting, boom rolled throughout the forest. The ground trembled and vibrating waves quivered on the surface of the pond. Grimm was blown twirling into the air in a pink cloud that was his own atomized flesh and blood swirling in sand.
Tommy looked up as the man's body slammed to the ground in a cloud of dust and smoke. He raced around the edge of the pond. The smoke and dust was settling as he approached. Tommy felt a great wave of relief from the tension of the battle and from his victory. He looked down at Grimm, what was left of him. His left arm was gone, only a shard of the humerus bone protruding from the ragged, bloody flesh at the shoulder. His legs had disintegrated. The lower trunk of his body was shredded at the pelvis and impacted with bloody sand. Amazingly, the man was still alive. His right arm waved about on the ground and his mouth opened and closed soundlessly. He stared up at Tommy.
"Like a land mine," Tommy said aloud to himself. Then he spoke to Grimm. "You hit me and threw my aim off. But then, close counts in missiles as in horseshoes." His right hand was numb and bleeding. He shifted the pistol to his left hand and raised it close to his face. He pushed the antenna back into the pistol with his chin. It clicked into place. There was an unintelligible sound from Grimm's mouth now. "Will I be kind today?" Tommy said. He aimed the pistol between the man's eyes. "Yes, I will." He paused for a moment, then squeezed the trigger firing a single shot...