How's the winter going? I see the editing is well under way , and good choice on splitting Sam's entry chapter in two (and even more kudos for interspersing a Merci chapter). I'll review The Great Oz before Merci's chapter as that fits better with my printed copy of your story (for editing I still tend to use hard copies, which puts me at odds with most of my generation ).
Mother Nature's ancient camouflage... Mother should be capitalised.
"Sam controlled the speed of the fan." ROTFL, great imagery. Special Operations; I could be wrong, but I think Special Ops is capitalised. Kudzu; is this a well know species in America (and please note, throughout when I write America I mean Canada and the States combined, I will use US/USA to denote the States separately), because I had to look it up. In Britain, we would simply say 'like weeds' or 'wild fire' - is this a similar example?
I'm familiar with the names Ranger, Delta and of course, Seal (technically SEAL), but am not entirely sure where they fit in the US hierarchy; will your readers? If yes, then great; leave as. But if not, then it might be worth encompassing the sentence with just Special Ops or 'missions from teams like Ranger, Delta and SEAL were in the news regularly/on a regular basis,' equivalent.
Most, if not all, readers will be familiar with shadow/black ops style anonymity and funding, so a lot of the description around the next paragraph is redundant; although it is worth keeping the notion of the team's loyalty to Sam (and thereby Khol?). Espirt de corps should always be italised.
No matter where you were, general General Kohl's aura always arrived before his body, semi-colon? his presence preceded by a shiver of energy that radiated through your nervous system like an invisible tap on the shoulder. In his audience, men unconsciously stood at attention.He is a general - of course they stand to attention. Perhaps they stand straighter, or even non-military personnel stand to attention? Kohl would be the first to admit that he had an irrational effect on people. It was a rare physical trait, giving him the ability to recruit extraordinary men and hold enormous sway over the powerful elite.
The bright corridor lights shadowed Kohl's face, but his eyes still shined with a strange inner power. He shut the door and moved into the room. Sam stood and saluted his superior officer, not out of military protocol, but out of respect for the man. Kohl stopped at Sam's desk and returned the gesture, his face stony. Telltale worry lines etched his brow. Even though he was pushing hard on seventy, his body stood tall, toned, and rock hard. The most notable change was his shaved head. Sam thought it made him look more sinister. Neither man spoke as if challenged to read each other's mind.
The general was dressed in desert fatigues, all business, blood and guts, God and country. He had an iconic German face—an eerily cinematic visage of a U-boat captain. His presence set the tone without a word. Kohl leaned on the desk and gave Sam the once over, and then his eyes circumnavigated the room. Sam, who would not be intimidated by any other man, was first to break silence.
Thank you for getting rid of MARPAT in the fatigues description - it tightens the narrative straight away. (It also reminds me how behind I am with these reviews ).
Please see notes from previous review about the Schenleys - but this is a great place to elaborate on the General's drinking taste without making Sam look like a brown-nose (and FYI, when referring to Khol throughout as the General, general should always be capitalised as it is being used as a name. I am not sure if you are aware of this rule, or if the instances where you write 'the general' are typos, so I thought I'd just mention it ). Like a Tombstone barkeep waiting for a two-dollar piece. Quite a catchy simile, and I especially like 'barkeep' rather than 'bartender' or even 'barkeeper', but the pithiness of the line has been worn by overuse of similes in the past pages.
Sam thought he saw hesitation in the man's face, a subtle apprehension.... I would, personally, insert a semi-colon between 'face' and 'a subtle'.
Both Kohl and Sam strike me as men of action (I feel the General is only a pen-pusher in Sam's world through necessity, not through choice), so Kohl dramatic stance on Plan-B (which you spell as both plan-B and Plan-B) is rather school-girlish. Surely he would either order Sam to do it, or - as an old friend - be more resigned; perhaps shrugging his shoulders in exhaustion, pain-lines crinkling his eyes, rubbing his forehead, etc. This could be a tense bromance scene or a sharp alpha male scene. Either or which would set us up for Sam's later interaction with his team (does he behave toward them the same or different to this interaction with Khol?).
Space Cowboys - italicise. And interesting that you have picked older men for this mission and not just plucked Sam out of obscurity to mentor a younger pack. I (as a reader) look forward to seeing how this works out. I (as a reviewer) like the balance between Merci and her age squad, and these veterans.
Ask those questions when you have them squared away in the bunker. Should that be squirrelled away?
"No, sir," he said, his mind screaming what he truly wanted to say, you've go to be fucking kidding me.
"How's the leg? I heard your engineering guys built you an outstanding prototype." Please see notes in previous review regarding the prosthesis - here would be a perfect place to insert the show rather than the tell from earlier in the original chapter.
Kohl pointed to the ceiling. "The devil is coming, Sam, and he's bringing his most loyal and dangerous minions. Seeing the face of our new evil, and knowing where he comes from is going to put a stain on your khakis." .....Good line. Good line. Then he kicked the door shut.
Sam stared at his office door, mouth agape, trying to digest the General's cryptic words. His brain raced with the stories his friend Jessie had been telling him for years about DS9, the underground warren of back-engineered alien technologies just six miles away. Nice introduction to Jessie He still had complete control of his emotions, but an errant squirt of adrenaline had just tweaked his heartbeat, elevating his mood to another level. NEAR complete? ALMOST complete? NORMALLY complete? New evil?
A muffled voice echoed in from the hallway. "Call Angel.”
Sam slid his hand over the glossy image of his old team, remembering each man as if the last ten years had been a dream. He exhaled a long sigh. They were unstoppable then, the best of the best. But now, with a disbanded bunch of retired adrenaline junkies … What the hell was is the General thinking?
Either italicise to empathise Sam is thinking this (IS present tense) or un-italicise as a narrative question (WAS past tense)
I like the way you've brought Jessie Riker* in at this point, it softens his entrance later and is a big improvement on the original. It is also gives the reader an inkling as to what Jessie/Sam might experience/uncover later.
*I presume you are using the spelling Jessie as it crops up several times, but in his original entrance you write 'Major Jesse Riker had always been paranoid'. I don't know if it is the same in America, but in Britain traditionally Jesse is the male spelling and Jessie (pronounced the same) is female. Jessie is becoming more unisex, but still suggests it is a diminutive rather than a name in its own right (Jessie is normally short for Jessica).
like a slap of Deja vu. - Because it is in the middle of the sentence, déjà vu should not be capitalised, but it should be italicised. I'm not sure if accents are possible on WdC (I certainly don't know how to do them here!), but should you wish to use them, they can always be cut/copied and pasted in.
I like the revised next section - it reads smoother and more concisely than the original version - and I like Angel's sarky humour. I can clearly picture the banter going back and forth between him and Sam, and the relationships between Angel and the rest of the team.
Russia, Sam thought. Originally you had Russia italicised to represent Sam thinking, whether undoing this was a typo or not, I think it read better italicised. Likewise, the last line in this section, I'm getting too old for this shit, works better italicised.
* * *
I'm liking this revised version more and more (and will need to update my printed copy to avoid confusion!).
Jessie Riker still has a hole in his marble bag? Oh thank goodness - I love that choice of expression. It also resonates as affectionate disbelief from Sam's PoV. Jessie reads a little like a military Agent Mulder; intelligent and educated, but just a liiiiiittle kooky. I hope he is going to have a larger part later on.
The difference between the hard copy I printed (*blush* several months ago) and the electronic version I am reading now, is brilliant. Tiny little tweaks have tightened the narration and made it read smoother. I'm intrigued as to how far along this revision is - I know I tend to edit and re-edit and then edit again. Is this a near-end/final version (in which case I'm sorry about the lateness of my views - would you prefer me to review later chapters?) or is this another sanding down before the varnishing begins?
I hope you've had a good Christmas and New Year, and look forward to hearing from you.