Today we wanted to share this preview from “Kill Yuan,” a novel by former Force Recon Marine Pete Nealen.—Jack

Dan quickly saw what had prompted Dave’s sudden halt. They were at the objective. Not the assault position, but the objective. The small group of tents and plywood buildings was right in front of them, maybe fifty yards away, and the nearest sentry was even closer than that. They’d gotten so focused on making up for lost time that they’d overshot.

“Fucking dammit,” Dan muttered to himself. This just kept getting better and better. The sentry, an OPFOR role-player wearing tiger stripe cammies and a simunition mask, was already starting to move toward them. He had to have heard the splash, or maybe he’d just heard the racket they’d been making for the last three quarters of a klick. There was no time to deploy in any sort of formation, no time to make sure everybody was set. They had to go now. So he rose to a knee, shouldered his rifle, and shot the role-player in the facemask.

Even as the man swore, scraping at the orange splatter on his goggles, Dan bellowed, “Assault right, base of fire left!” Suiting actions to words, he got up and dashed forward toward the nearest plywood shack, hoping against hope that the team would react accordingly, and he wasn’t about to turn himself into Leroy Jenkins.

Gratifyingly, he felt the impact as Vernon and Max hit the wall next to him. The faint snaps of sim rounds indicated that the base of fire had opened up, punctuated by a few noticeable thuds as the plastic rounds smacked into plywood.

*****

Lambert would appeal to greed and envy, two of the strongest motivators among the contractors, particularly those who were just there for a paycheck and some action. Which actually sounds a hell of a lot like what I signed up for, Dan mused. But there were definitely those with stronger moral compasses than others, and many of them were currently standing there in the room with him.

“Fortunately,” he replied, “I talked to Decker earlier, and whatever Lambert tells the teams, management hasn’t decided that I’m enough of a fuck-up to fire me yet. So Lambert’s just going to have to wait.”

“And if he doesn’t?” Bill put in. Dan looked at him. He’d never talked much with his teammate; Bill was older, in his late forties, and didn’t mix or talk very much. When he had spoken, it had mostly been business. Dan knew next to nothing about the man or his background outside of his time as a Ranger, yet he apparently had decided that he was on Dan’s side in this particular case. “I’ve seen his type before. The only thing holding him back is the possibility that he gets caught and punished if he moves too soon. He’s starting to think that this entire situation is fluid and lawless enough that he might just be able to get away with fragging your ass.” The older man looked like he wanted to punctuate the statement by spitting, but there wasn’t anyplace to spit in Dan’s hotel room. “His bullshit is calculated to mentally prep everyone else to just shrug and turn to him once you’re out of the picture. Whether he can get you fired or get you killed is immaterial to him.”

*****

The sentry was starting to struggle. Using the hand he had clamped on the man’s face, he tried to knock his head against a rock, but the sentry resisted, and he managed not much more than a tap. Desperate, he dropped to the ground beside the target, wrapping one leg around him and wrapping his knife arm around the man’s free arm. Of course, now he had the sentry somewhat restrained, but couldn’t stab him.

The sentry was thrashing now, the desperation of his position getting through the drug-induced fog in his brain, clawing at the arm Dan had clamped around his chest. Dan held on tightly, keeping his off hand clamped over the man’s face, while he tried to figure out what to do next.

He suddenly rolled on top of the sentry, letting go of the man’s jaw just in time to keep from pinning his hand between the sentry’s head and the tree root beneath them. He clamped that hand on the back of the man’s neck, but now his knife hand was pinned beneath the sentry’s body.

Taking a chance, he let go of the knife and yanked his arm free, putting his weight on the other hand, pressing the man’s face into the mold and loam under the tree while he sank a knee into his back. Hastily switching hands, even as the sentry got a hand free and tried to reach back to claw at him, he snatched up the knife and plunged it into the side of the man’s neck. He didn’t want to slit his throat; he’d start aspirating air and blood through the wound and making a lot of noise. He just wanted to cut the blood vessels.

Hot blood pulsed out over the blade and onto his hand. His victim bucked and thrashed under him, and he shifted to pin the man’s hands down with his knees, even while the sentry’s feet scrabbled uselessly at the jungle floor, his soft shoes unable to get a purchase. He had to be running out of air, too, with his face mashed into the ground. Dan held on, keeping the man still while his lifeblood poured out over both of them. He’d hit the artery; it wouldn’t take long.

Peter Nealen is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the author of the American Praetorians paramilitary thriller series and the Jed Horn series of supernatural thrillers. His latest novel, “Kill Yuan,” is now available on Amazon.

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