Death's Head: Maximum Offense (Death's Head Series #2)

Death's Head: Maximum Offense (Death's Head Series #2)

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by David Gunn

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Sven Tveskoeg–antisocial, antihero, anti-you-name-it–is a one-man killing spree whose best friend is an intelligent handgun with a bad attitude and whose worst enemy is, well, just about everybody else. These qualities have earned Sven a lieutenant’s commission in the Death’s Head, the elite corps of assassins and enforcers whose purpose in


Sven Tveskoeg–antisocial, antihero, anti-you-name-it–is a one-man killing spree whose best friend is an intelligent handgun with a bad attitude and whose worst enemy is, well, just about everybody else. These qualities have earned Sven a lieutenant’s commission in the Death’s Head, the elite corps of assassins and enforcers whose purpose in life is to serve OctoV, a tyrant who is part machine, part boy, part god, and all evil. Sven’s new assignment? Lead his ragtag band of Death’s Head rejects to the artificial world of Hekati to find a missing citizen of the United Free, a vast empire that turns out to be a vicious den of backstabbing and betrayal where nothing and no one can be trusted. Looks like Sven is on a suicide mission. So what else is new?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Gunn is an excellent storyteller. . . . ‘Action packed’ doesn’t come close to describing this tale.”—SciFiDimensions

“Sven’s snarky smart gun, the SIG-37, provides plenty of verbal firepower.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Addictive . . . military SF that moves faster than the speed of light.”—BookLoons

Kirkus Reviews
Further adventures-bloody warfare, loyalty tests, ethical dilemmas, the plight of innocent civilians-of ex-foreign legionary sergeant Sven Tveskoeg. Sven, now a decorated, elite Death's Head brigade lieutenant with his own squad, the Aux, receives new orders from his boss, General Indigo Jaxx: Emperor OctoV has seconded him to assist Paper Osamu, ambassador of the snobbish, highly advanced U/Free. In the blink of an eye, Sven and company are struggling to survive on a bleak, frigid chunk of rock, having been sabotaged before they could land, then assaulted by insensate savages. Naturally, when Sven finds the mission is nothing more than an elaborate test-one of his troopers lies dead-he kills the U/Free responsible. (Death, though, for the U/Free isn't permanent.) At last the real mission begins: Sven's group must recover a missing U/Free observer on a "deserted" ringworld-deserted, this is, except for enemy cyborg Enlightened, select troops and numerous hostile, savage or just plain terrified human survivors. Complicating matters, Sven must babysit and take orders from a teenaged colonel . . . Jaxx's son. Worse, the Aux find themselves fighting not only the Enlightened and the savages but an entire regiment of Death's Head deserters. In the sardonically amusing first half, Sven's snarky smart gun, the SIG-37, provides plenty of verbal firepower; the second half, much darker and more ethically challenging, presents ugly truths that no Death's Head fan will want to miss.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Death's Head Series , #2
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.94(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The man spins around, knife already drawn, and hesitates. It’s not his fight. Anyway, he’s in Farlight only for OctoV’s birthday, unloading luxuries from a cargo ship on the edge of a landing site. And his knife is new, bought that afternoon from a stall in the road behind Golden Memories.

He doesn’t feel ready to use it yet.

A wise choice. Someone is about to get hurt, and it doesn’t have to be him. That someone is standing in my doorway. And half of my bar door swings from a rusted hinge, while the rest lies at his feet.

“Shut it,” I say.

A girl next to me does.

I am not sure she knows she screamed.

This is my bar, but it is Aptitude’s home, and she’s family. At least she is until her mother and father get out of prison.

“Sven,” she says.

“Later . . .” My gaze flicks across the room and settles on a wiry young man with a pointed face, floppy hair, and narrow shoulders. He’s reaching into his jacket. At a shake of my head, he lets go of his revolver.

Neen’s twenty-one.

In the field he’s my sergeant, but we’re not in the field; we’re on leave. So he’s running security for a bar I own on the outskirts of this city.

Raising his glass, Neen grins. He, for one, obviously intends to enjoy tonight’s show. As we watch, the man in my doorway jacks the slide on an oversized pistol and takes a slow look around to check that we’ve noticed.


Aptitude is getting nervous.

I smile, but it is at another girl entirely. Wandering over, she sits on my lap and snuggles up to me. Aptitude scowls to see me slide my hand up Lisa’s skirt. What she doesn’t see is the knife I take from Lisa’s garter.

“Subtle,” says a voice. “Understated, anything but obvious.”

The intruder believes that my gun is talking about him. He has pegged my corner of the room for the comment, but he can’t work out who’s to blame. As the man lumbers over, Lady Aptitude Tezuka Wildeside leans back in her chair.

“You,” he says. “Got something to say?”

She shakes her head frantically.

Satisfied, the man starts to turn away. Big mistake. Turning Lisa off my lap, I pick up my chair and smash it over the back of his skull. He drops, but only to his knees.

“Finish it,” Aptitude says.

“Not yet. I’m enjoying myself.”


Clambering to his feet, the thug stares at me.

“Yeah,” I say. “I’m Sven Tveskoeg.” How many seven-foot-tall ex- legionnaires can he see in this bar?

Behind the man stands another: Federico Van Zill, provider of protection to half the bars and brothels edging the landing fields below Calinda Gap. A rumor says the war against the Uplifted will be over soon.

That is bad for Van Zill.

As long as we’re at war, there’s a chance I’ll be killed and my troopers with me. An end to the war would mean Van Zill gets some permanent competition. Peace isn’t going to happen, of course. And it’s disloyal, unwise, and probably treasonous to suggest otherwise. However, Federico Van Zill is an idiot, so I’ve been expecting this visit.

When Van Zill’s thug pulls a knife, I laugh.

It’s huge, with slots cut into the back of the blade. The slots are meant to say, This is a man ready to drag his enemy’s entrails through an open gut wound. You can tell a lot about a man from the knife he chooses.

You can tell a lot about a woman, too.

The blade I take from Lisa’s garter is a third the size. It lacks teeth, blood channels, and other finery, but it’s razor-sharp and made from glass.

All you have to do is stab once, then snap it off at the handle. You can buy ten for the price of the shiny toy in the hands of the man oppo- site me.

When Neen flashes five fingers, a boy behind the bar breaks the news to the bettors crowding around him. The odds on our fat friend have just halved.

“Come on,” I say.

Watching my blade, he fails to spot that I’m watching his eyes. This is a man used to getting his own way, and that is a weakness. In addition, he’s impatient. So he stabs and leaves himself open, only not open enough.

I block.

And go back to circling.

Neen’s seen me kill swiftly. All my troopers have. But catching Neen’s puzzled face in the crowd, I realize he has never seen me bide my time. Kill early, kill often . . . It’s our unofficial motto.

This is different.

I’ve never gutted someone in front of Aptitude. She’s a well-brought-up girl, and I’m trying to keep it that way. That’s one of the reasons this man’s made me cross. He’s still watching my blade and I’m still watching his eyes.

The man’s still watching my blade, and I’m still watching his eyes.

Soon everyone is waiting on what happens next. And their expectation makes my attacker clumsy. He jabs so obviously, it has to be a feint. As his gaze flicks right, I know what’s going to happen.

He waits for me to begin a block before switching hands, smiling at his own brilliance. Then his brain is playing catch-up, because Lisa’s knife is deep in his stomach and I’m dragging it upward. A single rip opens him from groin to breastbone, and a tumble of guts slides to the floor.

Aptitude screams.

Lisa’s more practiced. She opens a window.

You can say what you like about the girls from the barrio below Calinda Gab, but they’ve seen it all before, probably twice. Tossing a blanket over the twitching corpse, my bar manager Angelique nods to a boy behind the counter. He can drag it out later.

“Boss,” says my sergeant. “What about Rat Face?”

Van Zill looks less smug with Neen’s revolver to his head.

“Take Rat Face outside,” I say. “Shoot him.”


No need to ask who that is.

“A week ago,” I tell Aptitude, “a man refused to pay protection to this piece of shit. What do you think happened to his twelve-year-old daughter?”

Aptitude is fifteen.

She doesn’t like my question.

Turning back to Neen, I say, “Take him outside. Make sure he knows what happens if he ever comes back.”

Our glorious capital is built in the caldera of an old volcano, and smog traps heat and makes the air hard to breathe. Corpses rot quickly here, and large ones rot faster than small ones. Don’t know why, but it’s true. Lisa ends up helping the boy behind the bar drag the body out back, then fetches ice to keep it fresh until Angelique can arrange collection.

“Do I close up?” Angelique asks.

“No way.” I shake my head. “We stay open.”

The music goes back on. We offer a round of cold beers to everyone, on the house. A couple of cargo captains who were going to call it a night change their minds and head upstairs with three of the local girls.

A technician watches them go, summons his courage, and follows. He has two blondes in tow, and I’m not sure he looked closely before grabbing their wrists. No doubt, he’ll discover soon enough that one is a boy.

“Chill some cachaca,” I tell Lisa. “Make sure our customers have a night to remember.”

Drunks talk.

That thug will become a giant, his knife a razor-edged saber, my own moves unstoppable and insanely vicious . . . Our reputation will grow. That’s good, because tomorrow sees me, my sergeant, and the rest of the Aux present ourselves for duty. I need that reputation to keep Aptitude safe until we get home.

“All done,” says Neen, rubbing his fists.

“Good. Anything I should know?”

Neen hesitates.


“Told the little shit to pay us from now on.”

I grin. It’s a good call.

“How much?”

“Twenty percent,” says Neen. “Straight off the top, no deductions. Last day of each month. No exceptions, no excuses.”

This is a farm boy, an ex-militia conscript who should be dead months back. Would be if I hadn’t taken over his troop. I wonder where he got the idea. Then I see his sister behind him and know exactly where she thinks he did. Shil is scowling, but that’s nothing new. Shil’s always scowling. We have history.


“No, sir,” says Shil.

“Good.” I look around the bar. “Get drunk,” I tell Neen. “Get laid. Acquire a hangover. We ship out tomorrow.”

Neen grins. “Is that an order, sir?”

His sister sighs.

Meet the Author

Smartly dressed, resourceful, and discreet, David Gunn has undertaken assignments in Central America, the Middle East, and Russia (among numerous other places). Coming from a service family, he is happiest when on the move and tends not to stay in one town or city for very long. The author of Death’s Head and Death’s Head: Maximum Offense, Gunn lives in the United Kingdom.

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Death's Head 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
NeoRonin More than 1 year ago
A great author first. A strong anti-hero that it is easy to empathize with, you root for him from the opener. Supporting cast is good, and the humor and sarcasm found is a welcome deviation from the standard milsci-fi fare. Read this, then pick up the sequel!
Anonymous 4 months ago
Fast paced and generally well written it is a shame the book is aimed squarely at teenaged boys who think killing someone is the cool thing to do. And the lead character is the best killer in the universe, so this has to be the koolist story for pre-teen boys ever written! (NOT) Stupid violence, sex, and a very distorted view of military life. Not recommended unless you can wade through the blood and gore, impossible rescues, and the dead brought back to life if the author desires that mask some interesting story lines. Personally I would never read this again and will not buy anything else by this author but then I have been in the military and war - it is anything but fun and honorable. At your own risk.... JC
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And will appeal to most men who are real men. The book is engaging yet at times the author switches scenes so fast one had to stop readin, back up, reread and if lucky, figure out where the story ended up...sometimes you just have to shrug your mental shoulders and plow onward, eventually you'll realize where your at.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun ride
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