Chesed is the fourth installment of the Harbinger Series and it’s where we get a view of what Matt Hurst’s vision, American Pride, looks like thanks to TJAC and Robert Leme, who has the American Pride franchise alive and thriving despite a lot of pushback from the entities they are targeting.
Ruining their ability to enjoy the moment, Matt and his cohorts realize a phantom villain is killing off their fellow TJAC members, disguising the murders to look like accidents. Also, the team tries to prevent a very sadistic man from becoming the next President of the United States of America.
Jon Jon Hurst stepped up to the plate, a dead-pull hitter, the opposing team put on a shift when he came up, bringing the second baseman right over the top of the bag. This kept the shortstop from having to cover the middle, which, of course, allowed him to play more toward third base, filling the gap between the two bases.
Shift or not, this time he was going to line the ball right out of the shortstop’s reach; that would teach them to put on the shift when he came up. He was seeing the ball clearly. Keeping his eye on the ball and his elbow up, the batter stepped forward with the proper mechanics and the ball did just that, it lined up over the shortstop’s head.
Jon Jon Hurst ran past the fallen tee and was heading to first base when his father, Matt, noticed his two uncles already on their feet. One would have thought that this was a Yankee playoff game the way Jason Evans and Chase Viana carried on. First of all, it was amazing enough that these two billionaires cared enough about Matt and his family to stay in touch, even though he had just about dropped off the face of the earth to everyone else.
But second, the fact that they refused to be called anything other than family was quite touching. Jon was only allowed to refer to them as Uncle Jason or Uncle Chase, and when they came to town, like now, they stayed at Matt’s spacious five-bedroom home.
Of course, the two of them were just dear friends and not blood relations, but as Jon had no living uncles or aunts, their role was a welcome one.
Matt’s father, Don, was on his feet now, too, as was his best friend, Luke Slate, not to be outdone by the two jubilant uncles. Then Matt’s best friend, Doug, got ridiculously loud, which normally would have embarrassed him, if it weren’t apparent that they were just happy people celebrating his son’s God-given baseball talent and not some folks that might have had a drink or two prior to showing up. Doug was as happy as he was, but that was no surprise. They had become very close since Doug had moved to Seattle. Currently, he was talking to some potential new employers about flying international flights.
Matt watched as his son rounded first base and headed for second, completely oblivious to the base coach telling him to stop.
He could see that to Jon Jon it seemed like a perfectly good idea being that the entire infield ran out to greet the outfielder getting the ball. So, Jon took no notice of the poor first-base coach as he blazed by, even though the man was having conniptions trying to get his attention. Matt chuckled, as he would have done the same. After all, second base was wide open.
Jason Evans had never had children of his own, whereas Matt knew that Chase had two grown daughters and that he and his wife, Janet, had them very early in life. So maybe for that reason, Matt felt a different vibe coming from Jason than he did from Chase. Not that Matt doubted Chase’s sincerity, but Jason just seemed to have a special bond with his son, one that was just short of paternal. Matt knew that one of the reasons Jason had divorced Katie last year was that they had never had children and somehow after all their years together it had become a cause of disagreement with them that reached the point of separation.
That was probably why Jason was so connected to his son, but regardless, the man was vested in Matt’s life as well as that of his family, and it was flattering. Although Matt was someone who did not need protection, having all these people in his life who would do anything for his family was cathartic in a way that he never knew he could feel—he truly felt safeguarded.
Jon Jon was halfway to second base when a boy emerged out of the pack in the outfield with the ball. Everyone on his team and in the stands for the defense were standing and shouting for their player to run to second base with the ball. And everyone on Jon Jon’s team and in the stands was telling him to run! His wife, Jan, was next to Matt with her head half buried in his shirt. She hated the thought that her son could get hurt playing these games, especially after everything they had been through.
Matt could see it was going to be close, as the boys were heading to the bag simultaneously. Jon was just starting baseball and Matt did not want to start confusing the boy with too many things to learn, so sliding had not been covered yet—by him anyway. The day before, however, Matt’s dad and Jason had been out teaching the boy to slide, and when they got home from the park, they swore that he had it down.
Matt placated them, but he was an avid baseball player and knew that sliding correctly was advanced baseball. He thought the men to be just pumping the boy’s ego—so Matt was fairly shocked to see his son execute a near-perfect slide.
Unfortunately, in this instance, the tag from the outfielder was high and struck his boy right in the face. Jon immediately grabbed his face and screamed, as did Jan. Jon turned and was writhing on the ground when Matt extricated himself from Jan’s hysteria and double-timed it over to the boy. It was not lost on Matt that Jason had already beaten him to his son and then helped Matt turn him over to reveal a busted-up lip that was spurting blood.
Jan came up next, trying to contain herself. When Matt and the umpire inspected it closely, it was determined that his son was going to need a couple of stitches. When they had him try to smile to check his teeth, blood gushed out, which made Jan bury her head in Jason’s chest and cry. But no teeth were lost or broken.
Matt scooped up the boy. Doug drove their car, Jason and Chase took Jan with them, and Don and Luke followed behind. Doug and Matt had darted off before she could protest, but of course she had wanted to go with her son. Once at the hospital, the whole clan practically filled up the emergency room, making it look a lot busier than it really was.
The staff was protesting, and they had been ignoring them, but they eventually relented and all but Matt and Jan went to wait at the Hurst home for the boy to return. When the doctor came in, Jon Jon was very brave while they gave him a shot in the flesh below the mouth before his six stitches. Matt was relieved to hear that no teeth were damaged.
Two hours later, they brought Jon Jon home. In the meantime, Jason had made a trip to a specialty beverage store. Jon was going to have to use a straw to eat for a couple of days and Jason made sure that at least some of it was going to be spent drinking exotic sodas of every imaginable flavor, including bacon, which was not as bad as it sounded.
That night, after Jan and Jon Jon were asleep, the men lit a fire and talked for hours. Matt brought out the brandy that Chase had given him for Christmas, and after some serious drinking, he discovered a great deal that he did not know about the men he thought of as family. Such as, both of them were veterans for starters.
Jason had been a Seabee in Vietnam, and when he told his story, one could see it was not easy for him. He had been told from the time of induction not to make friends, but he and a guy named Keith Paro had bonded early on and did just that.
Once in country, they worked as a team and they really counted on each other, watching each other’s back. They had climbed a ridge to start the construction of a landing zone, when suddenly all Jason could remember was a loud explosion. The mortar had exploded directly on Keith. Jason lay at the bottom of that ridge with his only friend blown all over him.
When he finished his story, the room was stoic and dark, each man imagining what it must have been like to have one’s best friend blown up all over him.
Matt knew there were those nut-job ex-military guys out there who vetted every soldier’s tale with a microscope, and Matt doubted even one of those misguided souls would doubt the veracity of Jason’s story. Besides, no one would dare lie to two men like Don Hurst or Luke Slate, no way. Matt now knew something he had not known before about Jason Evans, and it sure did not do anything to tarnish the man’s image.
Chase, of course, stole the show. He revealed that he too had been in Vietnam, but he never saw much of it, as he was a fighter pilot (Matt saw Doug get real interested), so his experience consisted mostly of flying overhead and dropping bombs. That was until the day he was shot down and he was taken on a quick tour of his death and destruction before heading straight to the Hanoi Hotel.
Before they finished with him, Chase revealed how many plastic surgeries his money had purchased (twenty-five) and then he showed them a picture he had on his phone. It was a picture of him taken the week after he was released in a trade for a North Vietnamese Colonel. Chase looked unrecognizable. Matt always thought Chase’s perfect smile was one hundred percent natural, but after viewing the picture, he now realized at least one of those surgeries had been dental.
It was a crazy night capped off by the terror and madness that Don and Luke also shared. Matt had no idea how many times he came close to having no dad…literally. If a North Vietnamese patrol had looked behind a particular shrub, Matt would never have been born.
It was an all tribal, all bonding man-talk, and Matt realized that compared to these guys, Doug’s and his adventures weren’t even worth mentioning in that company, and he would be the first to agree.
Of course, Captains of Industry do not stay and hang out with society’s dropouts very long, having corporations to run, and people to rule. But Matt let them both know that he would never forget what they had done for him, and most importantly, what they meant to him and his family.
General Steve Hatten of the Air Force observed with pride the command crew inside the control room, noting they were first rate. He was not just an Air Force General; he was now the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appointed by none other than his biggest detractor, President Lawrence Caulfield.
General Hatten hated the President with all the venom of a king cobra. The two had been at each other’s throats almost from the beginning of the President’s tenure when General Hatten was on the Joint Chiefs of Staff representing the Air Force.
It was back then that the President of the United States broke the law and General Hatten could surely have had him impeached— but he did not. He did not because he knew he could use the leverage with the President to get things done that he wanted but had no budget for, like today’s test flight—all accomplished with that very leverage. The President had thought it would be prudent to let his defense contractor buddy, Chase Viana, in on Pablo Manuel’s satellite technology, information that was highly classified.
With that knowledge, they were able to build and launch two prototype killer satellites into Space, under the guise of private industry—one in the Western United States and the other in the East. Although they thwarted and destroyed Pablo Manuel, the man responsible for untold mayhem, they could not reveal that it was Matt Hurst who had used this private technology to kill Pablo. Manuel had a rabid following that would have hunted Hurst to the ends of the Earth. In order to stay in office, President Caulfield put forth the story that Manuel had been captured, then he had Chase Viana and his Company, the Teledine Corporation, hand over all the data and control of the two killer satellites to the Air Force, satellites with megawatt lasers built inside. Once that happened, Lawrence Caulfield had become compromised, and thus, became a lame duck, a duck who was now nothing more than a plaything for General Steve Hatten.
Once they conquered what was once Pablo Manuel’s automated military, they started collecting the pieces. His drones were mighty. They were piecemealed out among the branches of the U.S. military as new highly classified toys for them to play with, his branch getting the lion’s share of air drone technology, as well as picking up some other branches’ data. And thanks to his newly forged alliance with his unlikely partner, President Lawrence Caulfield, General Steve Hatten had moved things in the direction he wanted them to go.
The inept politician, Caulfield, wanted to take the acquired drone technology and either stow it, or share it with his new friends, the Russians, which was what the Russians were requesting, of course.
The President feared that there had been enough war on his watch, and he did not want to be remembered as the president “most likely to start a war,” or in the case of the Russians discovering that they were developing New Age Weapons, a new Cold War. President Caulfield’s only other alternative was to sit on the acquired technology and not allow it to be developed until some rainy day.
It took General Hatten’s reminder of the perch the President was sitting on to get the lifelong bureaucrat off his ass, stop being a coward, and embrace the future. Others might have called it coercion or blackmail, but Steve Hatten knew he was just doing his patriotic duty to keep America strong. He was sick of seeing spineless people run the country, which was also why he hired his devilish little friend to get him into that very office. Very soon he was going to show people how a president was supposed to act.
General Hatten observed his subordinate, General Calvin Yount, who was currently in command of this exercise, and felt a twinge of disdain. This particular Field Commander had been praised by the President personally for his amazing work, yet Steve felt the need to be less than cordial to the man, as sometimes relationships simply came down to the “death by association” factor.
Once his branch dissected and analyzed Pablo’s technology, it had only taken eight months to get this test approved. The reason Manuel’s drones were so deadly, it was discovered, was the battery and stealth skin. Same as the satellite they used to attack from Space, the drones inside the atmosphere were discovered to have a special battery that when overloaded let out a violent EMP wave that would short out all electronics in its proximity. It also self-destructed so the enemy had nothing left to collect. Additionally, Pablo added a small charge of plastics to coincide with the battery, to make sure the destruction was absolute.
Again, acting like Mr. Harvey Milquetoast, and not the president of the greatest country the world had ever known, Lawrence Caulfield wanted to conduct these tests on domestic soil so they had time to make sure there were no glitches. General Hatten thought that reasonable, but four weeks was all the President was allowed. Then his arm got bent to get things moving to achieve this moment, where they would utilize technology already tested against U.S. forces. That was something the politician did not seem to understand, these drones had already been battle tested…against us.
They designed a drone to have two additional new properties.
First, they used Pablo’s new skin design with a cooling system, which made their drones invisible to infrared technology, and then they used the battery they later determined was James Haberman’s invention. Turns out it was meant for my Air Force all along.
The drone was currently way inside of Iranian airspace, in a place where other drones had previously been detected and even shot down. One famous failure led to a drone being captured. But that would not be happening this time, as they put a self-destruct device in this one; it was the only way to get the President to capitulate. Since early in the year ISIS inspired insurgents had been pushing into the Sunni heartland, into places where his men had died defending the Iraqi people. After the U.S. withdrawal, they had handed the reins over to the Iraqi soldiers with the under- standing that American blood gave them the right to this post.
Now they were giving up those old U.S. posts like it was nothing, just running away in the face of adversity and shitting on every American soldier who had died there trying to free their piece of God-forsaken dirt.
This drone, however, was going to be a game-changer. It truly was what they had feared when they themselves were up against it—it was invisible.
The test was being done during the daylight and it was going flawlessly, just as they expected. Pablo Manuel had designed these things to be able to fly for up to eight hours, utilizing a design that was a crossbreed of the Tesla Coil and Haberman’s battery. That is why they were able to Beta it so quickly. For all his amazing ability, Pablo Manuel’s mind broke things down to simplicity of design. So many things that were complicated to everyone else had been so simple and clear to him, much like Nicola Tesla himself.
With this drone, or realistically, a larger version, they would have the ability to control the strike first unseen and undetected, which is why the President was sitting on pins and needles right now, waiting for the General to call and tell him everything was okay.
General Hatten could see the contour imagery-mapping switch to a live video feed as the drone was now filming the compound like it was programmed to do. After five minutes of filming, the drone banked toward the mountain range that lay between them and the compound . . . when all of a sudden the screen went “white out.” At first, they all thought it was a power surge in the building, but then they realized that the flash was the drone. Something had happened to it yet they could see that its self-destruct had not initiated the automatic process—the beacon was still active. They tracked its course with a sense of foreboding as it was heading on a downward trajectory that should have initiated its self-destruct but did not. Steve saw that his prized drone was going to drop down in a remote, yet very bad neighborhood. Both a good and bad thing, thought General Hatten. It looks like the President will have to wait for that answer.
"Wow! Another great read by Timothy Jon Reynolds. I've" enjoyed the Harbinger series immensely but was wondering where he was going to take it after Without Wrath. I'm happy to report that he was taking it to an all-new level! This book has everything. It delivers as an action thriller, it delivers as a social message piece, and it delivers in the development of some of his most beloved characters. Reynolds knows how to give the reader what they want and always makes them wanting for more."
– Ana Motley
"How does this guy do it? Reynolds is able to blend fiction and nonfiction in a way that you wonder what is real and what is not? His concept that he carried over from Without Wrath should be the blueprint of America's economic policy for the future. Forget tariff and trade imbalance conversations, this guy has the answer right here and it's been right in front of us the whole time. His concept of American Pride is so on point, how has someone not thought of this and moved it forward? I feel his characters are so lifelike that I know them. I cannot wait to read the next book in this series."
– Dave Grossman
"Another winner from Timothy Jon Reynolds. Matt Hurst is obviously the protagonist throughout the series, but I love the character of Lauren Betton the most. She was so rough and hardheaded in Without Wrath, but her development in Chesed is quite believable and impressive. She shows just the right amount of vulnerability to reflect her past, but also the right amount of strength to be a great role model for female fans. Reynolds never fails to deliver strong female characters from the first Harbinger book to this last installment. This book has something for everyone, as he weaves this tale right into the tapestry that is the Harbinger of Change series. Reynolds has created the kind of series that I know I will want to read again once he completes it."
– Vanessa Gonzalez
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