Saturday, July 05, 2014

Death Merchant #9: The Laser War

In 1941, Nazi scientists developed a laser gun capable of utterly destroying whatever it was aimed at. They had taken it to North Africa for testing but were forced to abandon the weapon, buring it near a series of ancient tombs near Al-Jaghbub, a village in Libya. In The Laser War, Richard "The Death Merchant" Camellion's job is to find and bring Die Brandwunde ("The Burn") back to the United States.

When the book begins, Camellion is on his way to see Otto Frenswagger - one of the only men left in the world who knows where the weapon is buried. However, Egyptian agents from Bureau 7 have reached him first and kidnapped him. Camellion wastes the agents who are remaining in the apartment - and soon decides that he must break into the fairly impenetrable Egyptian Embassy (where he believes Frenswagger is being held) before the Egyptians are able to get the laser gun information.

Armed with two 9mm Soviet Stechkin APS machine pistols and a short-barreled Colt AR-18S (a submachine gun with 30 5.56 mm cartridges) - Rosenberger is very specific about the firearms - Camellion gets inside the embassy via a roof skylight and advances from room to room, his quick reflexes saving his life time and time again, while his 5.56 slugs do their destructive, deadly work. He finds Frenswagger, who has been roughed up but has not talked, and they escape.

Camellion travels to Cairo, disguised as Osgood Godfrey Rodley, a British professor of "Egyptology". He goes to the home of Magdi Al-Shafik, a rugmaker, who is also the section chief of the local Shin-Bet cell. As they are talking about setting up a meeting with Okba Bin Naffa, who would guide the DM to the laser gun location, the house is raided by Egyptian police. Al-Shafik is killed and Camellion (unrecognized by the police) is taken to jail. They know his ID is fake, but they do not know his real identity; they believe he is an Israeli agent. So they handcuff him to a pole in a room where four guards play cards nearby.

Thankfully, the Death Merchant has a tiny lock pick "buried" in his left forearm, between his flesh and the latex scar tissue (which looks like a healed knife slash). While the men are distracted by their card game, Camellion gets the pick out and works it into the left cuff keyhole. Soon he has the cuffs off and he lunges at the men "with the speed of a meteor". With no weapons, he gives a four-finger strike to the throat of one man, kicks another in the kidneys, uses an "axe-hand Judo chop" on a third, and a back-breaking kick to the spine of the fourth agent. Once they are subdued, he grabs their weapons. He also creates some chlorine gas with some extremely handy cleaning supplies (bleach and vinegar)! He puts the mixture near the A/C vent and distributes the gas throughout the building. With other Egyptian agents overcome by the gas, he's able to shoot his way out of the building.

After lengthy discussions about how to get close to the location of the laser gun, the Death Merchant and eight others parachute out of an F-82 a few miles outside of Al-Jaghbub "into a night so dark that not one man could have found his mouth with a five dollar pizza!" They meet up with Okba Bin Naffa and his tribe at the tombs of the Ksar Mara Wadi, north of Al-Jaghbub. In no time at all, they find the buried weapon. It's as if they had a detailed map with an X on it!

Rosenberger cops out when the final battle is about to start. The Egyptians have four helicopters of troops (75 in each helicopter) ready to attack the DM and his small band of men. It is at this moment that the DM decides to try to fire the laser gun, which two of his commandos have been trying to assemble. The batteries, buried in the sand for roughly 30 years, appear to be fully charged (!) and the beam of green light coming out of the laser is at maximum strength. Aiming at one helicopter, the laser evaporates it. It is there one minute, then gone! They do that to two more helicopters, leaving just one to land and send its men to battle the DM. They kill many of them, but are forced to retreat into the underground chambers of a fort. There is one long hallway in the fort, with some rooms off to the side. The bad guys come down both ends of the hallway, but the DM has a flamethrower with him (pages ago, when they rattled off what weapons they were bringing, the flamethrower seemed odd; here is why it was mentioned). They roast dozens of Egyptians and many others flee from the flames. (There is also some hand-to-hand combat, intricately and minutely described - it goes on for 9 pages.)

Rosenberger has not offered much biographical information about the Death Merchant in the previous eight books, but here he identifies him as "Richard Joseph Algernon Camellion, the ex-school teacher from St. Louis". Camellion continues to enjoy eating raisins and blurting out unasked-for opinions about religion. When one of the DM's commandos makes a crude remark about some nearby Arab women, Camellion says, "I'd say they are pretty useless. About as useless as a professor of moral theology, or any other idiot who rearranges man's superstitious fears about gods and devils and calls it 'religion'!"

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