Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Excerpt: You Think This is a Game? by Bernard Maestas

Internet Tough Guys, Book 3
by Bernard Maestas
Rebel ePublishers
YA Thriller
179 pages

Wisecracking smartasses Ted and Alex are an elite army of two, fighting for fortune under the banner of their private military corporation Reagan Kirwan International. MIT-trained computer hacker and engineer Ted is the brains. Freerunning ex-French Foreign Legion commando is the brawn. With their unique combination of skills, they are in high demand on the blurry and ever-changing modern battlefields.

When oil is struck in a Somalian province, two titans of the energy industry collide head-on over the lucrative rights. The result is a war which rages both in the boardrooms and on the already bloody sands.

Hired for the simple task of tipping the scales, Ted and Alex’s mission takes a dangerous and deadly turn. They learn they are not the only trump cards in play and, this time, they may be on the wrong side. Facing the most dangerous of adversaries, constant perils, and treacherous corporate politics, they must stand together if they want to survive – and, more importantly, collect their paychecks.

Because war is a two-player co-op and all they have is each other.


“Hard at work, I see,” Ted said. He had no doubt Alex had known he was coming from the second he’d stepped out of the cafeteria. There was no flinch of surprise, no snap of the ex-commando’s head over his shoulder. That would have been near critical cause for worry.
In reply, Alex patted the butt of his rifle, slung and dangling in front of him. “I’m locked and loaded. My part of the mission is done until we move out.”
Ted stepped up alongside Alex, following his presumed gaze out to the horizon where he watched the sun sink lower towards the horizon. Neither of them said anything further for a few long moments. Alex smoked, the ember at the end burning down to the filter before he flicked it off into the distance and reached for another.
Ted finally broke the silence. “So are you going to tell me what’s going on with you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Ted sighed and shook his head. “You’re brooding like an emo Batman – Christopher Nolan Batman, not Tim Burton Batman – and it doesn’t suit you. You haven’t even made a Jewish joke in days. So, yeah, something’s up and you know exactly what I’m talking about.”
Alex’s soft features bathed in the flicker of his lighter as he brushed the flame over the tip of his next cigarette. It closed with a snap and vanished into his pocket with a sleight-of-hand flash. He plucked the cigarette from his mouth and exhaled smoke in short puffs with every syllable that followed. “It’s this op,” he lied. “Don’t you have a bad feeling about this one?”
“No, I don’t,” Ted replied. “I think it’s going to be an easy hundred grand and that we’ll be back in the States in time to see the Captain Justice movie on opening night. That’s not what’s on your mind, and you damn well know it.”

Straight ahead of him as he entered, Alex found a technician in a Banner Petroleum uniform. As he reached for the pistol holstered at his hip, Alex shot him; not in between the eyes like the movies, but in the mouth, where the round punched through the tech’s teeth and out the back of his head, ripping his brain stem out with it. Instant kill.
Alex swept the room, firing again as he took out an armed guard lurking in the corner. The back of the guard’s head exploded from Alex’s shot and spattered a thick, chunky wad of gore on the wall behind him as he slumped against it and slid to the floor.
“That was gory,” Ted noted as he moved into the room behind Alex and headed for the stack of servers.
“Headshots, bro. Bonus XP.”
Ted rolled his eyes, but it didn’t distract him from his mission as he opened his bag and slipped out the laptop. “Don’t you suck at Call of Duty?” he replied while stabbing USB cables into their ports as the laptop screen flashed to life.
“Shut up.”
Dark, confined, the housing container held the Arrowhead team’s doom. Inside, with visibility down to inches, their rifles were useless.
Blades scraped from their sheaths and glinted in the faintest slivers of light that filtered in from the street. Cold, cruel eyes flashed as well as teeth, bared in a vicious grin, as Duwende bolted out of the shadows.
The lead Arrowhead contractor choked on his own gasp as his throat opened in a gaping gash, his head lolling back as the muscle tendons supporting it were cleaved in two. He had been swinging his rifle to bear on the shadowy figure lunging at him but instead found Duwende’s blade cutting along the forearm of his firing hand, severing the tendons and causing the contractor’s grip to falter. He died on his feet, a torrent of blood streaming down the front of his vest, his brain still zapping the signal to fire to severed nerves that would never receive the message.
Duwende breezed past the first contractor still on his feet, ducking into a low crouch under the second’s sweeping rifle muzzle. He came in low and slashed upwards, carving deep wounds into the man’s inner thighs, the wide incisions crisscrossing over his groin. The massive arteries in his legs opened up, blood hitting the floor with a loud, hard splat.
On to the next, Duwende swooped in. The man’s armor protected his upper body, the sides of his neck, but that meant nothing. Lunging into the Arrowhead contractor, Duwende knocked him off balance. Blades twisted in his hands before he stabbed them upwards, into the Arrowhead contractor’s armpits, then guided their cutting edges down the length of his arms to the elbows.
More hot blood gushed from twin geysers, splashing off Duwende’s forearms and across the floor.
Unpleasantly torn from the dream’s peaceful reminiscence, Ted found hands on him. They weren’t the soft, dainty hands of Debbie the realtor lightly caressing his chest but big, strong hands roughly grabbing the padded collar of his vest and ripping him free from the smoldering SUV and fully out of the dream. Pebbles of shattered glass bit at his skin as he felt himself dragged out into the street. Sharp cracks of gunfire filled the air around him, stabbing at his ears.
Ted let out a cry of surprise as one, vicious wrench ripped him from the ground in and deposited him on his boots, on wobbly legs. He looked up to find Alex looming over him, having easily clean-and-jerked his lithe partner from the sizzling, broken asphalt.
“On your feet, soldier!” Alex barked in his face before grabbing the drag strap of his vest like the scruff of his neck and shoving him into a low hunch. “Move it!”
“I’m not a soldier!” Ted protested lightly as he stumbled under Alex’s unkind guidance. Through the smoke that stung his eyes and made them weep, he was barely aware of the building in front of him, the darkened doorway, and Alex’s broader body hunched over his like a protective cloak.
Alex rolled back behind the SUV, his left hand slapping at the pouches on his vest, groping for a fresh magazine. All he found was hollow pockets of nylon instead. He spat a virulent “fuck!” as he pulled the rifle’s sling over his head and hurled it down to the street in frustration. Despite his anger, his hard-won instincts made him instantly rip his Glock pistol from its holster on his thigh.
“Great,” Ted huffed. “Now what?”
“Will you shut up? I need to think. DDoSing a website isn’t going to get us out of this one.”
“Oh, sure, make fun. Your Rambo bullshit isn’t going to get us out of this either!”
Gunshots cracked in the air, bullets slammed loudly against the SUV behind them. Ted cringed and flinched with each one, but Alex barely seemed to notice them. Through his wincing, Ted could see the gears turning in Alex’s mind, then the return of that dangerous grin. He watched his partner reach with his left hand for a pouch on his vest and produce an olive-green cylinder that Ted only barely recognized.
“What are you going to do with that?”
“We’ve got no chance taking them like this,” Alex replied. “Our only hope is to lure them in close.”
“You want to bring the angry men with guns closer?! And then what?!”
“You take the one on the left. I’ll handle the other two.”
Panting, deep and raw, Alex stared at the dead hulk still locked between his legs. For a second, it was as if he were seeing his first dead body, the bizarre and surreal sight of the vacant husk that had once been a living, breathing, moving man. Then, he dropped back onto the street and let out a dramatic sigh of relief before rolling his eyes upwards, craning his neck, to look at his savior.
Hands still shaking, body squared in a perfectly trained and conditioned shooting stance, Ted still stared down the sights of his Glock, which let out a fading wisp of curling smoke from its muzzle. Slowly, he lowered the gun from present, let it hang in front of him from arms so weary it might as well have been an anvil.
“Well?!” Alex demanded, finally, from the ground in front of him.
Ted’s sharp jade eyes bulged as he looked down at his partner. “Well?! Well what?! I just saved your life!”
“Dammit, Ted! Have I taught you nothing?! You can’t blow a motherfucker away like that without a witty shine-on.”
“I remembered what you showed me! Square stance, steady breathing, two in the chest and one in the head! That’s what’s important!”
“No, no, no!” Alex disagreed as he kicked Duwende’s corpse off him and wriggled out from beneath it. “The most important thing is the one-liner follow up! ‘Hasta la vista, baby!’ Something, anything!”
“You’re a fucking idiot,” Ted replied. He shoved the Glock back into its holster and started towards the felled SUV he’d ridden in. His boots crunched over the broken pebbles of glass loudly in the suddenly still and quiet streets.
“Ted! Get back here and say something witty! Ted! Ted?”

Ted frowned. "Don't you feel anything? Killing all those people?"
"What? You mean recoil?"
A flush of frustration, just shy of anger, boiled through Ted. "Forget it." He spun away, not sure where he intended to go.
With Alex’s question hanging, unanswered, over their heads, the pair sat while Alex tended to their wounds, Ted’s first. His unclipped medical pouch rested on the street between them, opened, as Alex leaned in to examine the slash on Ted’s arm. “That will need stitches,” he noted. “But we don’t have time for that at the moment.” Instead, he produced a small metallic silver tube.
“What’s that?” Ted asked.
Ted recoiled. “You’re not Supergluing my skin!”
“Don’t be a baby,” Alex muttered, snatching his partner’s wounded arm and squeezing a gooey line along the oozing wound before pinching it shut. Ted hissed through his teeth but found the sting faded fast; seconds later Alex slapped an adhesive bandage over it.
“Huh,” Ted mused as he noted that the bandage held its tan color, no red stain soaking through. “That’s actually pretty effective. What else do you have in there?” Ted leaned over, peering into the strapped-down medical supplies in the open satchel. “Are those tampons? Why the fuck do you have tampons in your medkit? You don’t start your cycle for another week and a half.”
“Why do you know when I start my cycle?” Alex fired back with a jovial smile.

And here he is. . .

Bernard Maestas lives in paradise. A police officer patrolling the mean streets of Hawaii, he has a background in contract security and both military and civilian law enforcement. When not saving the world, one speeding ticket at a time, he can usually be found wasting time on the internet, playing video games -- or both. Occasionally, he finds time to write books.


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