Monica was on her way below, searching for Scott, when she rounded a corner and stopped short. Down at the other end of the passageway, Lew Stevens, the ship psychologist, was wigging out, babbling to a master-at-arms about being attacked by the SEAL. Something about… blowing up the ship?
That was crazy.
But that announcement, just a few minutes earlier. Escaped prisoner, armed and dangerous? That had to be the SEAL. She’d watched them arrest him barely 10 hours earlier.
He’d been in the passageway that night, outside Kris’s ready room, watching. She remembered thinking how creepy it was, the way he was skulking the passageways. Remembered what she’d told Jackson about Kris’s state of mind.
Almost like she was being stalked.
She turned and ran.
Back through the passageway, back above toward the hangar deck, slipping once on a ladder and nearly falling. Get to her phone. Find Scott, find the chief of security, find someone.
She reached her office, yanked open the door and stepped inside. Closed the door, put her back to it—and stifled a scream.
In the shadows, a figure sat splayed out on the floor, his back to the bulkhead.
“I need your help,” said the SEAL.
“Christ!” she cried out.
The SEAL looked terrible. Crumpled on the deck, like a heap of old clothes.
He shifted slightly — and she saw the speargun.
A speargun. Jesus.
Armed and dangerous.
Monica raced through a mental inventory of her office, searching for anything she might use as a weapon. Should she risk turning and grabbing at the door to make a run for it?
“Did you kill Kristine?” She blurted out the question without even knowing she was going to do it.
The SEAL gazed up at her.
Didn’t move. Didn’t reply.
She took two steps forward. “Goddam you — DID YOU KILL MY BEST FRIEND?” BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM!
A loud fist pounding on her door.
“Lieutenant! Are you alright in there?” A different voice this time. A pair of masters at-arms.
“I’m — I’m here,” she called out, still staring at Finn in horror. The man she’d seen in the video footage, with the goggles. Thin, lithe, tightly controlled movements.
Chief Finn was thin and lithe.
“Stay there, Lieutenant,” called the first voice. “Do not come out. Chief Finn, the SEAL — he’s on the loose somewhere. Armed and dangerous.”
Monica felt herself weaving on her feet.
She took a breath.
Shouted, “He’s right — ”
The man in the goggles…
“He’s right below us,” she shouted back over her shoulder, “deck 3, maybe deck 4 by now. Heading for the nukes.”
She heard the two break into a run, the sound receding into silence. She was alone with the SEAL.
Captain Eagleberg was losing it.
Now the lights were back on, but flickering. Then there was a POP! followed by a split second of darkness. Then those blasted, useless e-lights again.
“Mother of God!” he barked into the phone. “Whatever it is, just find it and fix it! Put your best man on it!”
Arthur Gaines knew that wasn’t going to happen — their best man was miles away on the Stockdale, banished there by the captain himself — but he wasn’t about to share that thought. Arthur’s mind was on Chief Finn.
Something bothered him.
“Cap,” he said once Eagleberg was off his phone. “Anything odd strike you about that encounter with Chief Finn last night? Anything strange?”
“Everything about that knuckledragger is strange,” the captain snapped. “Man’s a walking freak show.”
“No, I mean, the way he went off on you. It wasn’t just disrespectful. It was over the top. Almost as if he wanted to be tossed in the hole.” They looked at each other.
“Call,” barked the captain.
Arthur dialed the four-digit number for the brig and put the handset to his ear. After a moment he hung up without saying a word and looked at the captain. “No answer.”
He punched in another number. “Mac. Arthur. We’re not raising anyone in the brig. Have your nearest MA get over there on the double and report back. I’ll hold.” He looked at Eagleberg.
“Man’s on his way down to the brig now.”
Thirty seconds went by, Arthur listening, head down. Then he gave a grim nod.
“Copy. Hold a sec.” He looked up at Eagleberg. “Security overpowered. Finn’s gone.”
“FUCK!” said Eagleberg.
Everyone on the bridge froze. None had ever heard the captain utter any oath stronger than “Balls.”
“Tell him to have every goddam MA fan out across the ship,” he snapped at Arthur.
“Launch a full security sweep. Find this lunatic!”
Arthur spoke quietly into the phone. “You heard?”
“Bring him in at all costs, Mac,” the captain shouted. He snatched the handset from his XO and barked directly into it. “The man is extremely dangerous. I am authorizing the use of deadly force. I repeat: deadly force.” And handed the phone back to Arthur.
A kill-or-capture command.
Emphasis on the kill.
SOFREP is releasing one excerpt a day until publication day next week, 7/13. Please consider pre-ordering the book here and becoming eligible for a private fireside Zoom chat with the authors Brandon Webb and John Mann who spent more than 10 years bringing this story to life. Pre-orders make a huge difference.
“Sensationally good — an instant classic, maybe an instant legend.” — Lee Child
“An absolutely amazing thriller! Steel Fear comes in hot and never slows down. Exciting, action-packed, and twisty from stem to stern. This will be one of the hottest books of the summer!” — #1 New York Times bestselling author Brad Thor
Sincerely thank you for your advanced order. -Brandon
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