Colt smelled his own sweat, and that of the men around him. It smelled of days unwashed spent in the heat, tinged with adrenalin, and just a touch of fear.
He stared at the rugged landscape of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a part of Afghanistan on the western border of Pakistan. Dirt two-tracks and trails unsuitable to vehicles were worn between the hills, providing many ways in and out of the area where he and his team lay in wait for one of the most noted terrorists of the day.
Intelligence said Azul was traveling east on one of these tracks from the Peshawar area of Pakistan to recruit Afghan rebels. Colt’s Marine team was positioned where the track split at the base of one hill, where Azul was forced to travel north or south before he could finally circle around to the east again.
Their own exit strategy straight to the east through rugged terrain wasn’t great, but this was the only point they felt confident of intersecting Azul and giving themselves at least a fighting chance to reach the closest rally point.
It was worth the risk.
Orders had come down from the President himself to leave only a corpse, and they were willing to give their lives to accomplish that mission.
In the valley behind Colt were their horses, since traveling in military vehicles was impossible in this region where even civilian vehicles were out of place. The required horseback ride in and out over rough terrain to their Blackhawk rally point made selection of his team even more unique.
Colt was in the select category to lead this mission because he knew Azul, at least by sight. Early in his training Colt had been at Camp LeJeune when Azul—then considered a “friendly”—had been in an engineering course at the camp. And his memory had been augmented by recent photos.