Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Eden Plague: Book 1 (Plague Wars) by David VanDyke (Excerpt)


Hoping the clapping meant the source held nothing in his hands, Daniel didn’t do anything sudden. Instead he turned around smoothly, weapon still ready but pointed low.

There stood a suit. Mid-twenties, about five ten, dark hair cut short, straight and expensive, the five-o’clock shadow curse of the swarthy on his face and chin. To Daniel he looked like Agency. You know, he thought, OGA, the Other Government Agency that everyone likes to talk about in those breathless hushed tones, like they think it’s so cool, like they’re in love with its very existence, they don't even actually use the acronym: C.I.A. He realized it was this man’s cologne he’d smelled, not the dead shooter’s, though that had helped him anyway.

“Hello, suit,” Daniel said. “What the f– …what do you want?” He’d promised God to try to curb his vulgarities after all the jams He got him out of, and Daniel was a man that kept his promises.

Taking a breath, he asked, “Why are you in my house, and why did you just make me kill a man?” He hung on to the tension between them, because he could feel the post-kill nausea trying to make itself known, and if he started on that he’d get the shakes and he’d want a drink and he really needed to stay away from that dark hole.

Pharms, he could control.

No, really.

But alcohol was a treacherous serpentine thing.

“Not a man,” the suit said, “but don’t worry about her. She’ll keep.”

Flippant. Cold son of a bitch. The kind that expends people like cartridges, like the one on the floor in there dead. Then Daniel did a double-take. She? Dammit, have I just killed a woman? I didn’t have much choice, right? Can’t think about that now. Deal with what’s in front of you.

“Let’s go upstairs,” the suit said jauntily.

So they did go up, the intruder first, the XD’s front sight fixed on his spine, center mass, just out of reach if he suddenly turned and made a grab. They angled right at the top of the stairs, walked through the kitchen, and the suit sat down in the dining room. Daniel reached over and pulled the curtains shut, flipped on the light.

The suit took out a silver cigarette case, a matching lighter, and lit one. “Smoke?” He took a deep drag.

“I don’t smoke,” Daniel said automatically.

“Of course you do. You have a display case of Turkish meerschaum pipes right there, and some of them are used. And a humidor with some nice Cohiba. I was tempted to get one.” He gestured toward the case in Daniel’s living room.

“I mean, I'm not a smoker. Are you a liar?” Daniel asked him.

His eyes widened, baffled by the conversational turn. “No. Not the way you mean.”

“But you’ve lied before?”

“Sure, occasionally. Most people have.”

“I rest my case.”

The swarthy man rubbed his eyes, the gesture condescending, as if dealing with a child. “Okay, I get it,” he sighed theatrically. “Occasional user, no dependencies, right? You quit drinking, quit smoking cigarettes; you’re an exercise junkie now. Nothing but endorphins, meditation, yoga, martial arts, the Quantico Shooting Club, going to church, anything to keep the nightmares and the demons at bay.”

Shows how much you don’t know, Daniel thought, but that’s good, since it means my little chemical issues are well hidden.

“I’m surprised you don’t have a dog or a cat,” the suit went on.

“I have a serpent.” Daniel barked laughter, a little too loud, on the edge of control. “And I had a dog. But my ex took him. I didn’t want to separate hers and mine. But to hell with all that. Start talking.” He sat down, because he was coming down, and wanting a drink, but he clamped down on that desire.

Resting the gun on the table, Daniel kept it pointed at the other man’s chest, his finger off the trigger but close, very close. The serpent kept trying to wrap around that finger, make him squeeze. “What’s your name, anyway?”

The suit took another drag, then looked at his cigarette, speculatively. “Jenkins. J. Andrew Jenkins the Fourth.” He said it as if it should really mean something.

It occurred to Daniel that Jenkins had no ashtray, so he got up, took a cereal bowl out of his cupboard and slid it across the dining room table to him. Since he was up anyway, he filled a tall glass with orange juice from the fridge. After violent action, the next best thing to alcohol was sugar. He didn’t get the suit any; he had his smoke.

Daniel sat back down and sipped, feeling the cold sweet run down his insides. It steadied him a bit. He took a deep breath. “Okay, Jenkins, talk.”

The suit smiled, smarmy, superior. “Just like that. The secrets of the universe?”

The serpent coiled. Daniel kicked the man under the table, hard, somewhere near his left knee.

Jenkins convulsed forward, dropping the cigarette and clutching for the pain, and Daniel reached over, put his left hand on the man’s head and mashed his face into the table. With his right he used the magazine extension of the automatic to grind out the burning cigarette. “Now you owe me for a new tablecloth.”

With his weight still on the man’s head, Daniel put the pistol down out of his reach, picked up the still-smoking butt and dropped it in the bowl-ashtray. He scooped up the gun again.

“You can’t play conversation control games with me, you stupid suit.” Daniel made that word into an epithet. “I’ve been through every resistance training course, every combat psych and psy-ops and mind-freak exercise, and you are in my house now.” He felt violated, and it fueled him and what control he had left drained away like water through a colander of pasta.

The serpent egged him on.

“MY HOUSE!” The snake and the Dexedrine seized control, the worm in his hindbrain that he prayed about and tried so hard to keep caged every day since the IED and the brain damage, his nemesis, that God-damned satanic serpent, forgive me Lord. This idiot, this suit, is a child playing with blasting caps and batteries in a toybox full of explosives and he might die, right here, right now, for that ignorance and stupidity. Daniel was on the edge of a whiteout, and the snake longed for it, longed to throw itself and the body he possessed into that bright hot place where all he had to do was destroy. Annihilate every threat, kill everyone that wasn’t on his side, and this fool, the serpent screamed, IS NOT ON YOUR SIDE.

He wrapped his fingers into the intruder’s hair and dragged him to his feet, moving around the table. Daniel was a bit under six feet, 200 pounds and muscular, but the berserkergang closing in let him shake the smaller man like a rag doll, lifting him onto his toes with one hand. Nose to nose, the muzzle of the XD jammed hard into the man’s solar plexus, he screamed into Jenkins’ face, “I just killed one person, and I just. Might. Kill. You. Too So. TALK!”

Then he threw the man back into his chair almost falling over backward, but he caught himself against the wall and Daniel stood over him, shaking. They were both shaking, he with barely-suppressed chemical rage, the cologned man with dawning fear.

Finally afraid. “You can’t kill me,” Jenkins said, shuddering.

Wrong thing to say. Oh, so very, very wrong.

A silent explosion in his head, and the serpent took him, wrapped him up and dragged him under. Daniel watched his hand move of its own volition, watched himself as he shot the man twice in the chest.

It felt so good.

The serpent writhed in ecstasy.

Jenkins gaped upward, then looked down. Touched the entry wounds. Tried to speak. Slumped and was still.


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Genre – SciFi /Adventure

Rating – PG13

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