Hey SOFREP readers, some of you may be aware that I have a side project I work on: an action-adventure series about modern-day mercenaries tearing it up across the globe. I love writing these books because they allow me to do everything that I can’t do as your editor at SOFREP. My day job requires me to be diligent with facts, check every detail, and play by an ethical rulebook. With my novels, I reserve the right to do whatever I want. I just finished the draft for the fourth novel in the Deckard series, titled “Gray Matter Splatter.” I hope you enjoy it, and be warned, the characters are former SOF guys-turned-freelancers, and they talk like it, too.—Jack

Chapter 1

“I’ll tell you boys what,” the mercenary said with a knowing grin. “It smelled so bad that I almost didn’t eat it.”

The room exploded with laughter as his fellow mercenaries roared in approval.

“Anyway,” he continued. “That’s how I got pink eye for the second time.”

Spinning turbines hummed outside, the buzz growing louder as the engines flared. It was one of two C-27J transport aircraft owned by Samruk International, a Kazakhstan-based private military company the mercenaries worked for. Outside, the C-27J screamed down the airstrip and lifted off, its passengers successfully delivered to the remote outpost in northern Russia.

The door swung open with a gust of arctic wind that sent playing cards flying off an overturned cardboard box that had served as a poker table. In filed a dozen new recruits, big European and American dudes looking to secure their slot on Samruk International’s oil security contract with American gas and oil companies in the Arctic.

Pre-Order Gray Matter Splatter, a new military thriller by Jack Murphy

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The mercenaries looked at the new guys with a mixture of curiosity and skepticism. Samruk was a multinational company, split down the middle between Kazakhs and Westerners. Over the last couple of years they had seen action in Afghanistan, Burma, Mexico, and Syria. Killing was their business, and a batch of new guys could prove to be a valuable asset to the team, a team that had taken plenty of casualties over the last few missions. The newcomers could also prove to be incompetent idiots who got their teammates killed.

“Lookit these new jacks,” the mercenary with a sense of humor commented. The men shuffled by to their boss’s office carrying rucksacks, black roller bags full of tactical gear, and OD green aviator kit bags.

“Welcome to the thunderdome, assholes.”

* * *

“Send the first one in!” Chuck Rochenoire yelled. The former Navy SEAL sat on a folding chair next to the door. Also sitting with their backs to the wall were other leaders within the private military company. Pat, Aghassi, Frank, Nikita, Kurt, and Sergeant Major Korgan sat in on the informal board which would be the final interview for the new recruits. New hires would begin training, and rejects would be sent packing.

The first recruit came through the door and set his bags down. He was tall, with dark hair and a two-day beard.

“It says here you served in Italy’s counterterrorism unit?” Pat, a Delta Force veteran, asked.

“Colonel Moschin,” the Italian responded with the name of his unit.

Gray Matter Splatter released TODAY!

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“You were a member of Task Force 45,” Pat said looking down at the resume in his hands. “Maurizio?”

“Yes. Also deployed to Libya and Sudan.”

“You also list military free-fall and sniper operations among your qualifications.”

Pat grilled him on technical and tactical data for a few more minutes before looking across the room at the CEO of Samruk International. He sat behind a desk with a mug of coffee in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. He nodded his head.

“Arctic, mountain, or winter warfare training?”

“High-angle sniper courses and mountain warfare courses that my unit did with the French.”

“Welcome to the team,” Pat said, shaking Maurizio’s hand. “You’re on probation for three months, meaning your contract can be cancelled at any time if you fail to perform.”

“I won’t,” the Italian soldier said, clearly happy with their decision.

The next recruit strode in as the Italian departed and stood in front of the desk.

“Name?” Pat asked.

“Jacob.”

The former soldier had the physique of a bull, but his muscle mass was the type built through long, hard endurance exercise and training. His hair was salt and pepper and hands the size of catchers’ mitts.

“Former unit?”

“Jaeger Corps.”

“Danish special operations,” Aghassi commented. “Were you on Operation Anaconda?”

“Ja, calling in air strikes for U.S. forces.”

“I appreciate that.”

“You were there too?” the big Dane turned to look at the former Army intelligence operative.

“I don’t remember,” Aghassi replied with a smile.

“Six rotations to Afghanistan,” Pat said interrupting Aghassi’s stroll down memory lane. “It says here you did clandestine intelligence work out of the Danish embassy in what country exactly?

The questions came hard and fast.

“We are specifically interested in your arctic warfare training,” Aghassi announced toward the end of the interview.

“We did plenty,” Jacob said. “Cross-training in Greenland with Danish forces and other exercises in Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway.”

Pat probed for details for another few minutes until the CEO waved him away. Another new mercenary to add to the company rolls.

The next recruit walked in wearing a North Face jacket and Danner mountain boots.

“Nate,” Pat began. “Served in Force Recon until you guys got absorbed into MARSOC, huh? How did that go?”

“It was a total nut roll,” Nate answered. “But we eventually got our shit straightened out.”

“Did you go through Derna Bridge?”

“Later, yeah.”

“And MTSC?”

“Yeah, to learn the spooky shit.”

“How many deployments?”

“Nine, including the Indonesia deal.”

“What about arctic warfare training?”

“I did some of the mountain warfare and cold-weather training at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in California.”

The Samruk boss took a sip of his coffee and nodded before stubbing out his cigarette in an ashtray.

“Next!” Rocheniore yelled.

In walked another towering European.

“You served with Norway’s FSK?”

“Yeah,” the Norwegian guffed.

“Dag, is it? It says here you worked in an intelligence cell for your unit for several years. Tell me about that.”

Pat grilled him before asking about arctic warfare experience.

Dag laughed. “We get plenty of that. A third of our country is inside the Arctic Circle.”

The CEO nodded and Dag was sent out to sign his contract with the others.

“Bring in the next—” Chuck’s words were cut off as the next recruit floated into the room. He had shed his cold-weather gear once inside, opting for something more comfortable. He wore capri pants and Vibram Five Fingers so that his little toes could stretch out. His shirt had some ironic pop-culture reference on it that the other men were too old to even understand.

“Please tell me you are not American,” Pat pleaded.

“Whah-ut? Of course I am,” the new guy replied.

“Jesus. Throw me a bone and tell me you were one of those West Coast SEALs or something?”

Rocheniore’s eyes narrowed.

“I was Special Forces, man.”

Pat rested his face in his palm.

“Why are you guys so aggro?”

The boss slammed his coffee mug down on his desk.

“Get the fuck out of my office.”