Old soldiers never die... except inside, when they lack a reason to live.
Wes Stauer, a retired US Army Colonel, is slowing dying inside from a lack of purpose, when he receives a plea from help from an old friend: "Our leader's son and heir has been kidnapped. We don't know where he is. We need you to get him back for us. The people who have him are numerous, warlike, and well armed. But money is no object."
Reinvigorated, Stauer assembles his force - old soldiers, sailors and airman - and finds his purpose.
Written by Tom Kratman, the author of the Carrera's Legions books, the Countdown series follows a professional mercenary company as it forms up firstly to mount a hostage rescue, and then later as it becomes embroiled in conflicts not entirely of its choosing.
The books in the series, as of May 2012, are:
- Countdown: The Liberators
- Countdown: M Day
- Countdown: H Hour
This Series uses the following tropes:
- Combat Medic: M Day's medics are trained to shoot and heal; the initial cadre was several Green Beret medics.
- Crapsack World: It becomes clear that the world is slowly but surely going to hell, and that civilisation is crumbling.
- Helicopter Blender: As a self-inflicted injury, in Countdown: H Hour a British doctor ran towards a helicopter that landed on the beach to retrieve a critically wounded soldier, only to run into the chopper's tail rotor. As the book put it: "Think: Cuisinart."
- Private Military Contractors: The protagonists, who form the company M Day Inc. However, it's simply referred to as "the Regiment", and acts like a proper army. An excursis, with a publishing date following the period of the novel series, also talks of the rise of other PMCs in the face of the governments commanding national militaries becoming unwilling to act against the rising tide of barbarism destroying civilization.
- Multinational Team: M Day initially began as an all-American force, but then slowly picked up various nationalities; by the time of book two, they have American, British, Canadian, Chinese, Guyanan, Russian and Gurkha soldiers.
- Obligatory War-Crime Scene: A Venezuelan sniper in Countdown: M Day assassinates Seamus O'Reiley after the rest of her unit had formally surrendered. In a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, M Day soldiers start killing Venezuelan POWs, until his wife stops the unit... eventually. If not for thinking about what he would have done in a similar situation, she would have taken even longer to order his unit to stop the POW killing.
- Sergeant Rock: A great many of them.
- In The Liberators, one chopper pilot is humming Ride of the Valkyries as he prepares to launch.
- An interrogator uses Fernandez' playbook when interrogating a journalist, and says he got it out of a book by a hack science fiction writer.
- In H Hour, a line infantry Captain and a special forces Sergeant have an argument on weapons safety in the mess. "This is my safety," says the Sergeant, waving his trigger finger.
- From H Hour, in response to the reactions of people at a terrorist camp the M Day people are assaulting: "Bugs, Mr. Rico. Zillions of ’em. I’m a burnin’ ’em down."
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: His other series, Carrera's Legions is pretty cynical, but the Countdown series is a great deal more cynical, with civilization falling apart around the protagonist's ears.
- 20 Minutes into the Future: The setting of the novels (the prologue of The Liberators takes place around the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.