What do you do with a deadly weapon when it's no longer needed?
Nicholas Trailer is the last of The Augmented Men, beings created first by society and completed by a political group the public can't even imagine exists. Captain James Donaldson takes severely abused and traumatized children and modifies them into monsters capable of the most horrifying deeds without feeling any remorse or regret.
But the horrors of war never stay on the battlefield. They always come home.
Battling what society and science has made him, Nick Trailer discovers he is loved. From the horrors of childhood to the horrors of a war, what does it take for someone to find true love and peace? Especially when everyone has their own agenda, from the senators who sanctioned his making to the Governor of Maine who wants to use Nick's struggle to propel himself to the White House.
The Augmented Men were good at war, perhaps a little too good. Now they have to come home...or do they? What do you do with man-made monsters? Nick must decide if his friends are his friends and if his enemies are his enemies, all while protecting the woman he loves.
And are you truly the last of your kind?
What if you must remain a monster to defeat a monster? Will you sacrifice love to protect what you love?
|Publisher:||Black Rose Writing|
|Edition description:||First Printing ed.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
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Trailer closed his eyes and sat at the end of the bar where the cigarette-burned, cheap black Formica countertop met the wall. He eased himself onto the last stool, tucking into the corner in the dim light, a spider hiding out of sight at the edge of its web. His fingers hovered over the cigarette burns closest to him as if divining their cause, sensing them like small, unhealed wounds, seeing the people involved, learning if each burn was an accident or intentional.
The door opened and he smelled the cool April evening on his skin. It was followed by the alcoholic breath and sweat of two men and a woman they supported between them.
Trailer brought his attention back into the bar, collating the activity immediately around him.
The barkeeper, a heavy smelling man gnawing a toothpick, his face somewhere between needing a shave and growing a beard, walked over to Trailer. "Yeah?"
"A beer. Whatever you got."
The man grunted and walked to the other end of the bar. When he left, Trailer opened his eyes. A river of tattoos flowed up the man's left arm. An old style claw prosthetic served as his right, its hinges and catches polished like silver and glinting in the mirrored bar light. He wore black jeans and a tie-dyed t-shirt over powerful shoulders and an ample gut. Trailer closed his eyes again as the man returned. It seemed to Trailer that the man swam upstream in a river of his own sweat.
He placed a bottle of Coors in front of Trailer. "Six."
"Six. Six dollars."
"Can I run up a tab? I'll probably stay a while."
The man shook his head. "Uh-uh."
Trailer handed him the money and nodded at the prosthetic. "Amazonas?"
The man eyed him and shook his head cautiously. "Loreto."
"I was there, too."
The man eyed him a moment longer then nodded as he walked away. "Uh-huh."
A five-man band walked onto a stage surrounded by a plexiglass cage reinforced with steel fencing, closed the cage door, set up and tested their instruments.
A woman screamed from a room hidden by a beaded curtain.
Trailer stood up. The barman caught Trailer's shirt in his claw. "You gonna drink your beer or what?"
Trailer stood a head and a half taller than the barman. He said nothing, closing his eyes when the woman screamed again.
"Eddie, Bill?" the barman called out. "We got ourselves a pretty boy here."
Two scar-faced men got up from a table near the door and walked towards Trailer. He shook his head slowly, searching with his ears as a blind man might search out a strange sound. He moved his head from side to side and made a sound, quiet and deep in his chest, a great cat purring. His head snapped back and shook. He whispered, "No ... no," as if tasting something tart, bitter, something he wanted to spit out.
Eddie and Bill smiled as they moved closer. Thin and wiry, Eddie had a chain around his waist held on by a drop hook. Rolled back sleeves revealed lean, muscular arms, but with shoulders too high and too stiff for the arms they supported. He wore tight-fitting pants and taped his boots, the laces stopping half way up. The right boot's tape stopped half way down on one side.
Trailer's eyes snapped open wide and he catalogued, his irises retreating as if aflame. "Parkerized Military Machetes, fifty-centimeter, sheath cross harness. Walther P38 9mm Short nine round capacity, right ankle lift grip, Rockwell C57-59 EK Combat Knife left ankle rip release."
Bill's face and scalp looked as if he'd been lyed. Short and squat, the lines on his clothes were clean, hiding no weapons but revealing the scarred musculature common to bikers who played too hard too long.
The woman screamed again. Trailer counted Eddie and Bill's footsteps by sound, measuring the two men by heartbeat. He felt Eddie's muscles twitch as Eddie thought about dropping his chain belt.
Before Eddie's thought became action, Trailer's spine released and he grew.
The barman's claw didn't open in time and he screamed as his prosthetic ripped out of its socket.
Trailer's eyes closed and his face relaxed, becoming calm, pacific, the face of a child fallen asleep. He brought his head down hard onto Eddie's skull and smiled at the sharp-sounding crack.
2 April 2053 1835 hours
Henry's Bar & Grill, Chelmsford, Massachusetts Surface plus 22 hours, 30 minutes (approximate)
Major Donaldson and Lieutenant Rivers stood in the cold, early April rain facing a fuel bunker door mounted against the brownish-red brick wall of a small strip mall. They kept their backs to the parking lot, its asphalt cracked and missing in places. Most of the mall's store windows had 'For Lease' signs in them.
The door didn't belong.
Such heavy iron doors belonged on runways and LZs, combat area landing zones placed to provide air support, not on the brownish-red brick walls of domestic mini-malls. On the LZs, the heavy iron doors sealed explosive turboprop and jet engine fuels into the earth, opening like a glass raised in toast to quench a thirst before a mission. Occasionally a Pancho shell would catch an LZ. The fuel bunker doors would glow then melt then slag over the infernos beneath them, first making the LZ sag then run like black sulfur-scented pudding until what remained cooled into a brittle, frozen dessert.
The door broke the regularity of the tiny mall's empty storefronts. Two steel runners, angled slightly up and against the wall, allowed the door to roll shut like a warehouse fire door. A sign - big blue letters on top, small red letters underneath - hung on the wall about two-thirds of a meter above the door's runners:
Henry's Bar & Grill
Live Entertainment Friday&Saturday Nite
Donaldson nodded. Rivers keyed the lock and slid the bolt back.
Globs of rain arced down from the sky and exploded on Donaldson's shoulder boards. Drops like tiny and persistent mortar fire tapped against the flat metal of his major's shield and hat then dripped from the Corfam brim down his dress blues. He'd turned up his topcoat collar. A few drops of cold found their way in and raced down the back of his neck, only to be stopped by the starched and tightly drawn collar of his regs. Streams flowed from the bottom of his topcoat and soaked his pant legs. The steady rainfall rat-a-tat-a-tatted on his shoes.
Rivers inhaled, grabbed the handles, and, with no hydraulics to aid the movement, slid the door up the runners with a smooth precision and a clarity of movement that pleased Donaldson. Rivers' military dress and topcoat couldn't hide his powerful shoulders and arms. Remarkably well proportioned, with close-cut blond hair, bright blue eyes, strong jawline, and the broad calloused palms of a long-time weightlifter - his size deceived people until they stood next to him, until they had something normal - a doorframe, furniture - to compare him to.
Aryan, Donaldson thought. Rivers is what Hitler wanted his master race to be.
Rivers exhaled as he held the door at the top of the rails. A hook hung on a steel eyelet screwed into the brick wall at the end of the door's transit. Rivers used the hook to hold the door open then stood aside.
Donaldson studied the revealed wall before entering. The remnants of a standard windowless commercial door and doorjamb remained, the doorjamb bowed and cracked. The door no longer fit snugly. One of the hinges hung halfway out of the wall, its bolts stripped as if some monstrous force had pulled the door from its housing. To the left of the doorjamb was a hole the size of a man. An explosive hole. Something, maybe someone, left as if in a hurry, and probably with no choice in the matter.
Inside, Donaldson saw a mix of bikers' bar and slaughterhouse. Harley-Davison, Indian, Norton, and similar decals stenciled mirrors, now shattered, lining the wall behind the bar.
Broken bar taps lay near his feet: Bud, Rolling Rock, and Coors among them. Some local brands. No designer labels. No craft brews, no light beers, no imports.
Shattered bottles of Stolichnaya, Hiram's, Jack Daniel's and assorted bourbons and ryes stood like sentinels behind the bar, against the broken mirrors. No liqueurs, no wines, nothing that could be considered a before or after dinner drink. A screened and fenced stage, both screen and fence remarkably intact, sat opposite the bar against the wall with the explosive hole. Broken glass and crushed beer cans mated on the floor. The smell of blood permeated the bar. Under that, the smell of stale beer, urine, and sex.
At the far end of the bar, in a small room partially obscured behind a beaded curtain, a pool table waited. There were no pool cues, no chalk, no rack, and no balls. Just the table with notches on the side and ashtrays where the pockets would be.
The wall behind it hosted a bizarre rainbow. It started with Polaroids on the left, some black and white and some color. Climb the rainbow's arc and down the other side and you journeyed through the history of modern imaging systems: dot-matrix printouts to grainy color images to glossies to various cell phone screens ending with the latest mobcomms and glasses.
Donaldson parted the beads to inspect the images. Regardless of technology, each image showed a different woman, each sporting leather, each mostly naked and most of them average looking, plain. Each image was autographed and dated - the mobiles, mobcomms, and glasses digitally. Donaldson guessed the date signified when the women'd been inducted as mommas.
He had not witnessed what happened in the bar less than twenty hours ago, but it reminded him of a slaughterhouse he'd worked in as a teenager.
In the slaughterhouse, steers didn't know they were on the killing floor until the Judas screamed as its left hind leg was caught in the rail chain and it felt itself upended. Its eyes would go wide as it bellowed in fear. Before the beast could gather itself for a second alarm, the butcher would slit its throat. Donaldson remembered the look of the steer's eyes as they glazed over but never closed, the tongue as it fell forward and wagged from the slack jaws, the blood gurgling from the clean, deep cut in the animal's throat, pulsing from the arteries and draining down over the open eyes, the free legs still twitching - you could tell the apprentice slaughtermen because they'd always catch a hoof in the head or throat or side.
Most of all, Donaldson remembered the slippery, blood-slick footing of the butchers as the cattle were herded, upended, and slaughtered, all in the sick precision of the assembly line.
Rivers surveyed the bar. "Posttraumatic stress disorder, Major?"
Donaldson grunted agreement but wasn't sure. With the amount of stress inoculation Trailer and his team had undergone, PTSD was unlikely. He planned this. Trailer knew what he was doing and did it for a reason.
He inventoried the damage, his eyes stopping, focusing, his mind analyzing, then his eyes sweeping to some other island of destruction until they rested on two knee prints clearly discernible in a pool of fetid, drying, brownish blood, some roaches at its edge like horses at the edge of a stream.
They left the old man like that. The old man Trailer brought to me.
"Yes? What is it?"
"I'm sorry, sir. I thought you said something."
"Oh? No, just thinking about an old man I interrogated once. Pancho sympathizer, I think. I remember he had one hand. Iraqi mercenaries, you know? Trailer caught him stealing rations. He had one hand and that's how I knew he'd been stealing from the Iraqis. Christ. Then the old man tried to steal from us."
Donaldson walked over and ground the roaches under the toe of his shoe.
"The old man, sir?"
"That's all. There's no more. That's all I remember." Donaldson shook his head and continued his inspection. Through the warehouse mounted door, the clouds far on the western horizon broke and revealed the setting sun. Bright orange light ripped through the bar all the way to the mirrored wall. Rivers stood in the doorway, a huge silhouette forcing Donaldson to turn on the bar lights as he worked.
"Major, Mr. Ingman is here."
Ingman appeared as another set of legs behind Rivers' silhouette and barked, "Make a hole, Lieutenant."
Donaldson remembered Ingman as a tall, thin man. Ingman entered the bar and Donaldson added graying hair, owl rim glasses, and a sparse mustache covering what looked like a cleft palette scar, a conservative gray overcoat, and a purple collar pin to that memory's inventory.
Once inside, Ingman focused his attention on Donaldson. "Incredible, don't you think? One man could do all this and leave no witnesses? I think so. Incredible. He must have really submerged for us not to be able to track him for ten years. I told you we should have rechipped him." He swept his gaze over the room and wrung his hands, his voice now conciliatory and condescending. "Well, looks like the last of the Augmented Men rides again, Jim." He patted Donaldson's back as if disciplining a recalcitrant horse to accept the reins. "Just think what might have happened if he was upset." He pulled a handkerchief from a breast pocket, placed it over his nose as he went back to the door. "Christ, I told them to turn off the heat in here. You there, Lieutenant. You look like a big boy. You think you could do this?"
Rivers eyed Donaldson. Donaldson shook his head, no.
Ingman's voice turned conspiratorial. "What are we going to do, Jim? We can't afford to keep the man alive any longer. You can only put so much grease on the pig, you know."
"Where is he?"
"In lockup and ready for transfer. Hell of a way for him to surface, Donaldson. Hell of a way."
Donaldson joined Ingman by the door. "I'd like your opinion, Lieutenant."
Rivers walked gingerly around pools of dried blood. Someone had come in and cleaned up the gut pile, but the outline remained on the floor. Like all good hunters, Trailer and the other Augmented Men were taught to clean and gut their kills.
While Rivers worked, Donaldson leaned towards Ingman. "Beat up anymore Cochican barmaids? Or is the pip for some real action?" Ingman's hand instinctively went up to his lip. His eyes jumped to Rivers and back.
Rivers stood by the lone upright bar stool. It alone remained standing, a sentinel at the end of the bar and against the wall, furthest from the door. A wedge of destruction emanated from it, with the bar on one side and the wall on the other, as if somebody had used a sharp knife to cut a pie then became impatient trying to remove the first slice.
Donaldson asked, "Your thoughts, Lieutenant?"
Rivers studied the bar a minute longer before answering. "He came in and sat there." He pointed to the standing bar stool. One of the puddles had some shoe prints in it and Rivers nodded at them next. "He wore civilian issue leather sole shoes and not Runners - "
Ingman interrupted. "How do you know what kind of shoes he wore?"
Rivers looked at Donaldson and Donaldson nodded. "The foot placement is for spine stretching and all the other prints were made with various civilian boot treads. Runners have a special sole design, modified on the combat model, to sustain an Augment's leg strength, bone structure, and the increased mass of the calcaneus. The only other possibility is that he was barefoot and I see no footprints.
"The blood pool makes me think he did the first one here. Perhaps some civilians attempted to aid the target. Trailer doesn't want to hurt people." Rivers considered. "He probably stretched his spine to frighten them off."
Donaldson shook his head. "Look again."
Rivers' eyes jockeyed from blood pool to blood pool to overturned chairs to broken bottles, spending an extra moment on each before racing to the next. "What am I missing?"
"You're looking but not seeing. He came out of hiding after how many years in the deep woods? And this is his first noticeable act? He wanted to be found and he wanted to be found in such a way we could only respond one way.
"No, this was completely intentional. Never underestimate him, Lieutenant. Start again."
Rivers went to the stool at the end of the bar, the only one left standing, and sat facing the direction blood splayed on the floor and walls. He closed his eyes. The pupils moved like steady pendulums under his eyelids then stopped. He inhaled slowly, deeply, and exhaled the same way. He nodded and opened his eyes as if waking but not wanting to let go of the dream. His head turned like a camera slowly panning the room.
His nostrils flared. His eyes opened wide and he restarted his narration. "It went like this ..."
Rivers voice was lost as Donaldson remembered the Augmented Men.CHAPTER 3
3 Oct 2031
Outside Loreto Two months, two days post Augmentation
Trailer, Wartella, and Donaldson huddled behind a wall. Two stone columns, each two-plus meters tall, framed the wall on either side. The wall barely provided cover for the three of them. Every time one of them moved, rapid machine fire chipped at the top of the wall, between the columns and down their sides, splintering rocks and forcing the three of them to cluster.
Wartella sniffed over Donaldson's head, picking up the tinny smell in his sweat, the rime of fear. "Don't fret, Major," he said. "Do what you taught us," knowing Donaldson couldn't, chuckling at his own joke.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Augmented Man"
Copyright © 2019 Joseph Carrabis.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 April 2053,
2 April 2053 1835 hours,
3 Oct 2031,
2 April 2053 1900 hours,
25 Dec 2031,
2 April 2053 1945 Hours,
13 March 2042,
2 April 2053 1946 hours,
31 Dec 2031,
2 April 2053 2000 Hours,
15 Aug 2031 1500 Hours,
3 April 2053 0059 Hours,
15 Aug 2031 1513 Hours,
3 April 2053 0115 Hours,
15 Aug 2031 1540 Hours,
3 April 2053 1225 Hours,
15 Aug 2031 1549 Hours,
Note from the Author,
About the Author,