Snippet #1 for Investigating Deceit
It's that time again, and I couldn't be happier! With the new year, comes a new OpusX book! It's time for Investigating Deceit and I have the first snippet for your reading pleasure. 🙂
January 5, 2229, Neo Southern California Metroplex, Pacific Tactical Center
Erik crawled over the leaf-covered forest floor.
The density and texture of the dirt and plants were off, a subtle reminder everything around him was simulated. A device resembling a thin silver choker was wrapped around his neck.
He’d signed all the waivers and paid for the full sensory immersion package, including mild pain and stuns. The physical risk of the average barfight was greater, but it was enough to discourage bad habits.
One arrogant turn on a real battlefield might end with him missing more than an arm.
“How are we doing, Jia?” he whispered as he looked through the foliage. “You in position yet?”
A building stood nearby, partially obscured by the dense trees.
“I need a couple more minutes,” Jia sent back, her voice beamed directly into Erik’s ear via his PNIU. “The guards changed their patrol pattern suddenly, but I did spot the hostage before they covered the window. Given the size of the building, we’re talking less than ten meters between either the front or back door and the room they’re keeping the hostage in. We time this right, and it should be an easy recovery.”
“Good. And changing patterns? That’s some good simulation work. That stuff isn’t always predictable in the real world.” Erik ducked a spider web as he continued crawling forward, a dense patch of shrubs keeping him out of sight of the two guards standing in front of the ramshackle wooden building nestled in the trees.
Both men held rifles, and they were surveying the forest with bored expressions, not speaking.
Jia snickered. “At least this time, I don’t have to shoot through any walls. Sometimes I’m worried I’m becoming too accustomed to the absurdities of being your partner.”
“I thought you wanted to do real cop work?” Erik challenged.
Jia looked around before replying, “I meant investigative-type work. Not so much shooting people.”
Erik chuckled. “I do have a way of getting in trouble, but you’re doing great. You’ve come a long way.”
“Meaning what?” Jia sounded more amused than offended. “What does it mean to ‘do great’ as your partner?”
“Not get killed?” he offered. “Not use your head as a way to stop bullets?” She snickered again as he answered truthfully, “You’re willing to do what you need to when the time comes.” He pushed a leaf aside to get a better view in front of him. “I can’t say that was true when we first met, even if it wasn’t all that long ago.”
“Getting shot at so many times kind of has that effect on a person.” She glanced down at her PNIU to see if she had any alerts before continuing the conversation. “I suppose running into corrupt and deadly criminals was like beating my head against the wall of absurdity. Either I had to change my beliefs to fit the reality I was living, or it was time to ship me off to a psychiatric ward. If I didn’t worry about those kinds of people, I wouldn’t be here training with you so often.”
“Oh, come on, admit it! You like it!” Erik grinned. “I can’t turn you into a Special Forces operator with only a few months of part-time training, but you’ve got a lot of natural talent.” He checked behind him. “You might have done well in the Army, Jia. You could be out on the frontier, taking down terrorists and insurrectionists while giving your family conniptions.”
“I don’t think I’m military material,” Jia replied.
His smile was still evident in his voice. “The Army has everything you love—lots of rules, and stern men and women who like to chew people out. They support order in the UTC in their own way.”
“I’m fine with being a detective. I’m not saying there’s no other way I might serve the UTC, but I think my real talent lies in investigation. Having to get rough occasionally is a side effect of that.”
“I understand, and now I’m in position for the assault.” Erik stood and flattened his back against a broad tree trunk. He could easily hit the guards at this distance even without aim assist, but eliminating the opposing forces was a secondary goal.
The primary objective was to rescue the hostage, which required coordination with his partner.
They trusted each other, but the more they fought and trained together, the better they could predict each other’s movements and instinctive tactics. It’d taken him years to achieve with the 108th what he’d already achieved with Jia in months.
That meant something.
“The guards are sweeping back,” Jia reported, scanning the area. “I’ve got a count of five roaming. I confirm at least two inside. We’ve got two out back as well.”
“Two out front,” Erik replied. “And your five-count matches what I’ve seen, but we’re running out of time before they execute the hostage.” He paused before adding, “Emma was extra-sadistic with this one.”
The AI remained quiet. Sometimes she felt the need to offer an acerbic running commentary, but they’d been blessed with silence since the beginning of the training session.
Jia looked to the left. “Most of the roamers are heading toward the front,” she noted. “They should be there in about a minute. I think we should make our move then. You should start taking them on, and that will draw off most of the remaining guards. I can down the two in the back while I’m moving toward the entrance, but I wonder if we can be sure they won’t execute the hostage.”
“They won’t.” Erik’s eyes narrowed. “Emma made it clear in her briefing that they won’t kill the hostage until the time limit is up, tight as it is. You’ve got a good plan. Just wait about thirty seconds after I begin shooting so I’ve got most of the roamers heading my way.” He nodded, satisfied with the plan. “I’ll give you a count before I shoot.” He took a few deep breaths, his hands tightening on his rifle stock. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t real.
That didn’t make this exercise a game.
He stood and peeked around the trunk. The trees thinned between his position and the building. A straight charge would end up with him taking several rounds to the chest.
Emma might not cheat and give the guards superhuman aim, but she didn’t make them rank amateurs, either.
Two guards emerged from the trees on one side of the building. Another appeared on the other side. All of them displayed the same vaguely annoyed look.
“Going to start in five, four, three, two, one…moving!” Erik murmured. He popped around the tree and opened fire. His first shot ripped through one of the door guards. The second door guard didn’t even have time to turn his head before Erik’s next round pierced his head.
Both bodies dropped to the ground with muffled thuds.
The five roaming guards charged forward, their shouts of alarm joining the cracks of their rifles. Bullets whizzed by Erik, and the large trunk serving as his shield stopped others. He finished off two more of the roaming guards as the rest rushed toward the front of the building.
The plan was working.
I almost forgot I was reading a snippet and practically screamed when I got to the end! But then I remembered Investigating Deceit launches on January 24. Or, you can pre-order it now and have it automatically delivered to your inbox the moment it's released. Remember, OpusX is available wide, meaning anywhere you buy eBooks, you can get Investigating Deceit. And the audio version will be live only 4 days later!