(This just went live over at the publisher’s site so I thought I’d cross-post here, too: www.NiftyEntertainment.com)
by Mat Nastos
Cover By: Mat Nastos and Thomas “Orc Girl” Boatwright
Synopsis: Malcolm Weir returns in the thrilling, high-octane sequel to the Amazon #1 Best Selling Cyberpunk Title, The Cestus Concern.
Following his escape from Project Hardwired, Weir arrives in Manhattan to track down one of the men responsible for stealing his life and turning him into the cyborg killer known as Cestus. Unbeknownst to him. the government isn’t quite ready to let him unravel their plans and are ready to do whatever it takes to stop him.
Review: “Nastos continues to show why he is the next great voice in sci-fi. —Rob Liefeld, Creator of Deadpool, Cable, Youngblood and X-force, and founder of Image Comics
“Mat Nastos is one of the most exciting writers working in the field of adventure fiction today. Every page is an adrenaline rush and by the end of the story, you’re left breathlessly anticipating the next. If you’re not reading Nastos, you’re truly missing out.” -Barry Reese, Award-winning author of The Rook, Lazarus Gray and Gravedigger
It had been nearly a month since anyone had tried to kill Malcolm Weir. Nearly a month since he’d escaped from the downtown offices of the top secret government agency that had stolen away a year of his life. Nearly a month since the newly freed cyborg had been forced to keep watch over his shoulder in fear of retaliation.
It had also been nearly a month since Malcolm Weir, former black ops agent better known as Designate Cestus to the men who had destroyed his entire world, had been able to get a good night’s sleep. As a former US Army Ranger, Mal was used to having his enemy in front of him. Used to knowing an attack was coming and being prepared for it no matter what shape it took. And that was precisely what troubled the powerfully built cybernetic warrior the most: the not knowing.
The month of peace had done more to give the thirty-five year-old Mal an ulcer than had fifteen years serving in the military and more than sixty combat missions.
For a man used to living surrounded by violence, the illusion of peace, the illusion of security, put him on edge. Mal had heard it best said by his former C.O., Lieutenant Colonel Michael Denman: ‘With war, things would only get better. In peace, things could only get worse.’
That thought, powered by the sort of OCD that had led to two divorces and a spotless military record, was what encouraged Mal’s left foot to uncontrollably tap out an erratic tempo that drummed along somewhere in excess of a hundred beats a minute as he sat wedged into the very last seat in the very last car of the PATH train heading under the Hudson River on its way into Manhattan.
The entire twenty-four hundred mile trip from Los Angeles had worn Mal’s nerves down to the nubs and the final few had been the worst. With his large, six-foot two-inch frame crammed tight onto the tiny vinyl bench seating of the commuter train packed with rush hour traffic and chugging along at 12 miles per hour, the man was convinced conditions were perfect for an ambush by his hunters.
As formidable as the bionic enhancements the scientists at Project Hardwired had given him were, Mal wasn’t sure even they would be able to help him survive an attack in the confined concrete Hudson River Tunnel that ran one-hundred feet below the river between Hoboken and the island of Manhattan.
Mal tried to reach out with his computer senses to scan the radio waves and cellular transmissions in his immediate area to see if he could pick up any suspicious actively and failed. Not that he truly expected a different result. He’d attempted the trick a hundred or a thousand times over the past four weeks without success. When the Abraxas Array had been destroyed in his attack on Project Hardwired headquarters in L.A., the computer wetware in his brain had lost a number of its more interesting features—the ability to wirelessly connect or take control of other computer systems being the one he missed most. Grabbing bits of information from someone’s cellphone was something that had saved his life more than once while on the run from his former government handlers.
He’d also lost all access to the zetabytes of information stored across the millions of nanobots flowing through his body and the twin super-alloy metal arms he’d be fitted with more than a year ago when the government had turned him into the mind-controlled robotic assassin known as Designate Cestus.
Now his access to those abilities and that data—data the government still very much wanted to scoop out of his head in the most painful way imaginable—was gone and all Mal had left was a nagging headache and a backside numb from sitting actionless for seventy-two hours. He had to do something, and fast, or his brain was going to save his pursuers a lot of trouble by exploding all by itself.
Massaging the three-day-old stubble that had sprung up during the course of his public transit-powered trek from the West Coast with one gloved hand and bracing himself against the window with the other, Mal let his gaze roam across the sea of humanity that filled the subway car to capacity. His icy blue eyes, considered striking by most, held a look so intense in his search for suspicious movement or surreptitious attention that anyone foolish enough to meet them quickly took their own attention elsewhere.
When his quest came up as empty the eighth time as it had the previous seven, Mal half-growled under his breath, plunging his hand deep into the inside breast pocket of the old black leather jacket whose seams threatened to split with every motion. The action, accentuated by the vehicle’s juking and jiving, elicited a tiny yelp from the elderly woman who had been the only passenger brave—or foolish—enough to sit down next to the brooding man.
In response to a rather enthusiastic bump into her side, the blue-haired woman exclaimed, “I BEG your pardon!”
Barely noticing her as the object of his rummaging finally found its way into his hand, Mal excused himself and exited his position on the bench. The crowd parted for Mal, who lunged forward with a small cellphone clutched tightly in his hand, moving toward the door between cars at the front of his cabin; as far underground as they were traveling, and with the bulk of the Hudson River flowing above them, the tiny open space outside at the car coupling was he best chance at getting a signal.
A hard yank on the handle jerked the subway train’s door open and allowed Mal to slide outside, giving him unhindered access to the tiny platform between cars. Mal braced one hand over his ear to help drown out the thunder bouncing off the walls all around him and pounded out a series of numbers onto the cellphone in his hand.
Instead of the usual ringing, Mal’s ear was greeted with the grating sound of a lost connection. Wincing, Mal watched the tiny words ‘no signal’ flash across the top of his phone’s screen.He slapped the phone with his index finger to end the call, sending a spider’s web of tiny cracks veining out across its screen and drawing his attention to the abused device.
Mal’s eyes opened wide in astonishment as he noticed the scratches his frenzied dialing had caused. Deep grooves and divots covered its surface in an irregular pattern. The cyborg raised his right hand up in front of his face and saw the cause: his impatience and irritation had driven the billions of nanobots that controlled his cybernetic arms to go crazy, elongating his fingers into over-sized claws that could tear through steel or concrete like paper. Even as he watched, small blades were beginning to slice apart the motorcycle style leather gloves he was wearing into pieces, with spikes and ridges showing at the knuckles and tips of each finger. If he didn’t calm himself down his arms would bulk up and shred through the arms of his jacket like Bruce Banner through a pair of under-sized purple pants.
He could only imagine how the old woman would react to a government-created super-soldier ‘Hulking’ out in front of her.
Closing his eyes and breathing in deeply through his nose in an effort to slow his racing heart, Mal leaned back with half of his body outside the confines of the train’s cabin and the other pressing against the wall of its interior. After a few seconds of meditation Mal was able to bring himself back under control—something which had become much more difficult to manage in the weeks following his escape. <end excerpt>