The Measure of a Man [The Exceptionals Book 1]
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by Jerry Kokich, Teel James Glenn
Category: Science Fiction/Suspense/Thriller
Description: It was not a world anyone wanted to live in except the terrorists. Their desperation to make the rest of the world conform to their view of the universe, as far back as the 1980s, had changed the world. It was a slow change at first, and then like a dam that burst, the violence and irrationality of their vision was imposed on the rest of the world. It was from this chaos and lawlessness that a terrified world came to embrace the concept of the Exceptionals: extraterritorial bio-enhanced bounty hunters, who could go anywhere, do almost anything in the name of law. Their lives were always at risk from the narco terrorists, tyrants and hate mongers of this not-so-brave new world. The United States Government and the United Nations mandated that their identities became a closely guarded secret. Now the Exceptionals must confront demons from their past, a horror from beyond the grave and a conspiracy from within their ranks that threatens everything they hold dear. For one, it may claim his very soul!
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2008
eBookwise Release Date: July 2008
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [342 KB]
Reading time: 198-278 min.
"The Exceptionals is a great book and the start of what I hope to be a long series in the science fiction/thriller suspense genre. The authors' fictional world set in the mid 21st century is so vivid and compelling you find yourself believing that this reality of the world actually exists. Teel James Glenn and Jerry Kovich have created a great fictional world for their Exceptionals and I for one can't wait to return. If you like your suspenseful thrillers with a healthy dose of science fiction thrown in, The Exceptionals is the one for you."--A Simply Romance Reviews Outstanding Read! Reviewed by Whitney, Simply Romance Reviews
Part One: The Price of Heroism
The fetid jungles of northern Cambodia near the Laotian border were green with life and red with death. The birds and the monkeys competed with each other for which could cry the loudest. Their voices echoed shrill and sharp through the trees.
Then another sound cut through the green and won the noise contest--gunfire.
There were three camouflage-clad soldiers, faces smeared with paint to look like so many golems, running for their lives. They took no notice of the full-throated cries of the jungle birds or the rainbow of colors from the plants; they heard only the bursts of fire from automatic weapons, chopping the foliage around them into a hangman's salad and sending the birds to flight.
The youngest of the camouflaged soldiers was running at rear guard. "Frag it! Eddie, we're not gonna make it!" he said in a gentle southern accent through clenched teeth. There was fear in his hazel eyes.
"Don't sweat it, kid! Its only chicken-spit small arms. This old wolf has gotten out of worse." Eddie--Major Edmund Winters--smiled a grim smile, but let a twinkle light up his eyes. He, like the other two, wore a dog rag around his forehead bearing the image of a laughing wolf baying at the moon, their 'company signature.' "You and Retlow are in my wolf pack, Le'Schott. Uncle Sam doesn't pay us heroes to get dead, kid."
Both men 'crab'-ran, alternately half-facing backward returning fire, then double-timing forward through the shattered foliage.
"Keep up, ladies." The broad-shouldered, muscular black, not much older than Le'Schott, called out the advice from point position. "We have extraction at the Mekong in ten and they won't wait."
"Go Big Wolf, go," Le'Schott yelled.
"Can't go any faster 'cause of Abe," Eddie called, after he loosed a long burst of automatic fire into the foliage behind them. "His freakin' extra-wide shoulders are blocking the trail--"
Without warning, a mortar shell exploded near Winters, lifting him into the air, and slamming him into a tree. Le'Schott was flattened and half-deafened by the blast.
The boy picked himself up and looked at Winters, who was sprawled like a broken doll over a fallen log, unmoving.
"Eddie?" was all Le'Schott had time to murmur before another round slammed into the jungle five yards to his right. He made to move toward Winters, but hesitated as he heard a new round whistling in above the trees. Abe's muscular arms grabbed him and pulled and they turned to run off.
As his legs pounded and tracer rounds slashed the green around him, all Le'Schott could see in his mind's eye was Eddie Winter's prone body across the log. It was an image that lived in his nightmares and waking dreams for years to come. * * * *
The Janssen biochemical research laboratory was a nondescript building near Bayshore, Long Island. In fact, it was almost painfully nondescript. Just a collection of prefabricated warehouse buildings, sheds and a concrete main building, all neutral beige just haphazardly painted and kept up. Neither too well maintained nor neglected.
And that was its main security, its very averageness. It was the center for a secret government biochemical research project hidden among the other factory buildings in a long strip in an industrial park along the highway.
The night was moonless with thick clouds masking the weak light of the stars from view, and that helped the small group of intruders who broke into the center.
They did it with professional cool and almost absurd ease. They neutralized the ground radar with a simple jamming signal and cut a hole in the fence at the end of a dark street. A series of wires and clips around the circumference of the hole circumvented the contact alarms.
The interior security was just as easy and within minutes two security guards were bound and gagged and propped against a wall in the main laboratory in the concrete building, beside a massive open steel door.
A muscular young woman, wearing a t-shirt bearing a burning New York skyline, and the words 'New York, where the weak are killed and eaten', held a huge handgun on the guards. She had almost white-blond hair worn close-cropped and a domino-type mask doing very little to hide her angularly pretty features.
"You boys can call me Sniper," she said in a silky tone. "You don't think these combat pants make me look fat, do you?" The startled guards stared at her with disbelief. "And watch the eye line; I'm sensitive about being ogled."
Down the hall from the laboratory another young woman in a skintight mimetic bodysuit scanned the corridor. She wore a full-face mask that still revealed she had pale skin, jade-green eyes and long red hair worn in a braid. "Wind on watch," she said softly into a wrist microphone. "All clear in the north corridor."
Through the doorway of the steel safe in the laboratory came a tall, broad black man in a midnight-blue jumpsuit. He was festooned with weapons, most notably a large handgun on his right hip. He had a black bandana with a red smiling wolf baying at the moon tied over his head, dew rag fashion, but with eyeholes so that he looked like an African-American Zorro.
"Mercenary here," he said in a resonant voice. He used his 'professional name'. "We have the items, so let's pull in the outriders. That means you, too, Void. Got that, Eel?"
On the other side of the building was a small, wiry man dressed entirely in mottled blue. He wore his black hair in a braid that hung to past his waist. He also wore a hood concealing his features, though with a hole for his braid. The effect of the whole outfit was a figure reminiscent of an evil gnome. "Eel here, Mercenary, coming in."
Suddenly a uniformed guard stepped around the corner of the hallway and caught sight of the man called Eel. The guard drew his sidearm, but before he could bring it up to bear, the tiny Eel had sprung forward. He kicked the nine millimeter pistol from the guard's hand and spun in the air to kick the man in the head before the gun had hit the floor. The guard's helmet absorbed some of the kick and he rode the attack into the wall.
The former Marine all but bounced off the wall, straight into an attack on the smaller man. He threw three powerful punches in rapid succession, which Eel just barely managed to evade. Then Eel counter-attacked with an open-palm strike to the taller man's floating ribs. This staggered the guard. The Eel dipped his head to the ground and whipped his body into the air in a 'butterfly' kick. His feet swung like rocks on a rope and hit the guard, one in the chest and one again in the head, slamming him to the ground unconscious.
The Eel landed soundlessly, made a gesture as if to wipe his hands off and sauntered down the hall to keep his rendezvous.
When The Mercenary stood beside Sniper, the woman looked up at him and sneered, saying, "This is a whole lot of nothing, boss. Is there any chance they got some of that Regen stuff in the safe--it would help even things up with The Bodyguard."
"Not what this lab does, honey," the Mercenary said, "And we don't need the increased healing factor the Regen gives The Exceptionals--it'll all be over with them before it'll make a difference."
"Well, I thought this Saviton Eleven stuff was dangerous--so how come it was so easy to steal?"
At that moment, a fifth intruder, wearing black velvet trousers, a formal lace-trimmed shirt, brocade vest and a black velvet cape, came out of the safe carrying two small, metal canisters. He set the canisters down at The Mercenary's feet and opened a tiny, handheld microcomputer to make an entry.
"I truly am The Artist," he said in a voice bigger than his thin frame. "Direct, Succinct. Perfect!"
"Just how deadly is that stuff?" Sniper asked. She twirled her gun like an old west gunslinger while she spoke. She winked at the two tied-up guards and blew them a kiss.
The Artist smiled a truly evil smile. His features were pale and pretty, his eyes an odd shade of purple; they seemed to glow from inside. He picked up the canisters with a careful gesture and said, "Pray you never find out."
One of the guards, who had worked his feet free, chose that moment to lash out with them, hitting The Artist in the shins, tripping the man and sending him crashing into The Mercenary. The well-dressed criminal dropped one of the canisters, which landed on its side on the concrete floor with a cracking sound, followed by a low hiss.
"Move!" The Mercenary reacted like lightening, grabbing The Artist by his jacket and racing out the laboratory door even as klaxons sounded. The Sniper, who had reacted as quickly, yanked the door closed as they raced through. She hit a 'panic button' beside the door and they heard the soughing sound of an air seal, like a giant taking in a breath.
"What the hell happened," The Eel asked as he raced up. The klaxons were still sounding and they could hear other doors automatically sealing themselves around the complex.
The Artist, looking like he had sucked on a lemon, put his hands over his ears and moaned, "Somebody please stop that noise."
At that moment the last member of the criminal team stepped out of the shadows, a figure in white and grey whose particular features somehow remained indistinct even in the full light. The figure seemed almost formless. He made an expansive gesture, waving his arms and the klaxons silenced.
"Gene Kelly here dropped one of the bug boxes." The Mercenary was trying not to hyperventilate, his broad chest heaving. Like most soldiers, he could fight people, dodge bullets, but 'bugs' scared him. He covered his fear with anger.
"I was tripped," The Artist insisted. "I'd opened the outer seal in the vault to check the lot number and I guess it didn't close completely." He still held the second canister, cradling it to his chest like a babe-in-arms.
"Can we still do it with only one of them?" Sniper asked.
"Take a look," The Artist suggested.
Sniper, Wind and The Eel pressed their faces to the thick viewing glass of the laboratory door.
Inside the lab the hissing canister was inches from the security guards. Nothing could be seen escaping from the canister, but the leaking material was taking effect: The two men, trying desperately to crawl toward the door of the lab, began to cough explosively. Their bodies spasmed violently as if they'd been electrocuted. They flopped around like fish who were 'drowning in air' on the deck of a ship. This elicited a giggle from the white-haired woman at the window.
The terror-filled eyes of the two men bulged from their sockets, blood began first to drip, and then pour from their nostrils. In less than fifteen seconds, they were dead.
"Cool," Sniper whispered. Her eyes were aglow with sexual delight and she unconsciously ran her hands up the side of her body. The Eel cast a sidelong glance at her and worked to hide his sneer.
"Yes indeed," The Artist said as he surveyed the carnage and his fellow criminals with obvious delight. "Cool!"