Vengeance: The Program Book 4, page 1
By N.M. Catalano
THE BEGINNING & VENGEANCE
Copyright © 2018 N.M. Catalano
Published by N.M. Catalano
All rights reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied or reproduced or transmitted in any form, including electronic or mechanical, without the express consent of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental, except in actual circumstances.
Purely for entertainment purposes for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it to the seller and purchase your own copy.
Thank you for respecting the author’s work.
This is for all of the soldiers and those brave individuals who selflessly protect us.
Thank you is not enough
The Stranger Series
STRANGER, Book 1
SWITCH, Book 2
KINK, Book 3
PERFECT, Book 4
HIDING, Book 5
SUSPICIOUS, Book 6, coming soon.
Black Ink Series
BLACK INK, Part I
BLACK INK, Part II
BLACK INK, Part III
BLACK INK, The Complete Trilogy, all three parts in one book.
The Program Series
THE BEGINNING, A Prequel
CANVAS, Book 1
TRIFECTA, Book 1.5
BREATHE, Book 2
TORTURED, Book 3
VENGEANCE, Book 4
THE ROOSTER CLUB, The Best Cocks in Town
A Note From Me
About The Author
It all started with a promise.
Everything I’d said, I’d meant. Every word, every vow, every God forsaken action, I meant from the depths of my soul. I was insane with it, I ate it, lived it, breathed it. It consumed me, it was my only focus, nothing else mattered, there was nothing beyond that promise. It became me and I became it whether I was awake or asleep. There was no life outside of that promise. I did anything I could to keep it.
It all went to shit.
Just like that, I’d gone from having a reason to live, to hating life and despising myself.
I messed up. I messed up real bad.
That’s why I ended up here.
The Army is the taint of the world.
You don’t know what taint is? It’s that space between your nut sack and your asshole. Necessary but completely ignored. Until you need it, like when my mama gave birth to me, I was so big even then, I ripped the hell out of her and they had to sew her back up.
It holds shit together.
I’d be a simmering pile of dog crap that’d been run over by a tractor trailer if I hadn’t joined. The Army smashed me back together into a nice solid form of fecal matter. Perfectly shaped and of no significance except to get rid of waste.
I do my job very well.
The air is a hundred and twenty-five-degree blanket of dry dust decorated with military fatigues. There’s nothing but shit brown and puke green scattered throughout the military base, the soldiers pretending on the outside we’re hanging around a massive man cave shooting the shit and playing war in the forest.
Except the forest is a desert at the entrance of hell and the deadliest place on the planet. We’re all jacked on testosterone and anger. The only thing we want is death.
The desire to kill the enemy goes against everything we’ve ever believed in, and that in itself fucks with your head. We breathe it, smell it, taste it, there’s nothing else but destruction. The art to staying human, I’ve come to find out, is holding onto compassion. When you’ve watched your buddy lose his legs from a bomb so you can save a kid from a spray of bullets, only to have the kid get strong enough to carry a weapon and come back to try and put a bullet in your brain. That’s the difference from becoming a monster and being a soldier.
Sometimes when I’m covered in someone else’s blood, I wonder if I can still tell the difference. Truth is, I’m not sure the monster didn’t exist long before I signed my life over to serve our country. At least that’s what the outside calls it. Me, I ran away. Maybe I had a death wish. I’d failed. I couldn’t live with myself after I’d fucked things up royally, maybe I thought this was a game of Russian Roulette. The odds were pretty even, at least to me, that I’d take a bullet. The odds were also pretty good that I’d eat that bullet doing something good, like saving someone else. Hell, that’s why I was in the Army in the first place.
I’d failed at saving the only people that mattered to me.
“Private Smith,” the Commanding Officer calls me.
John Smith, how much more generic could I be? Perfect name for just another government issued killing machine. They assign us numbers, line us up, make us into the perfect weapon, and create an army of America’s finest. In order for all this to happen, we must lose ourselves. The person we were ceases to exist. Once we step foot inside basic training, we become a cog in the largest assembly line of the world. Death manufactured and made to order.
“Yes sir,” my deep baritone conditioned response booms from my chest.
“My tent,” he barks before turning his back on me and walking across the compound.
I follow behind him. I don’t wonder what this is about, but it doesn’t matter. I’m here to do whatever the hell the army tells me to do. That’s my job. It’s kind of a blessing in disguise that I don’t have to worry about making the wrong decision. That responsibility was taken from me and left me with nothing else but to follow orders. That I can do.
I tuck my head as I peel back the tent flap and enter the sergeant’s command post.
What in the hell?
Sitting behind his desk is the Commanding Sergeant. His boss. In front of him are three men I don’t recognize all standing at attention, all lower ranking officers, same as me according to the stripes on their arms. Taking a spot next to the man at the end of the line, I salute the commanding officer I’ve never met.
“At ease, gentlemen,” he states casually, leaning back in the chair with hands folded in front of him as he studies each of us.
In sync, the four of us lower our hands and assume
I don’t know what the other three guys are thinking, but I’m wondering what the hell I did to get called in here.
“Gentlemen,” he begins as he reaches for the files in front of him. I don’t avert my gaze. Did I fuck something else up? I damn sure would know if I didn’t follow an order. Are we being discharged? Perspiration beads on my brow, more so than usual in this inferno. “The four of you have been selected to participate in a special mission.” My jaw clenches and my muscles flex as I hold back the questions and keep my large body riveted. The air in the small space has become charged with his statement. “Each one of you have shown exemplary traits in specific categories that are needed for what the army is about to offer you.” He pauses and I can feel his eyes on us once again. “Should you decide to accept this mission, you will be placed in a separate division where you will be trained for Special Ops assignments. That means,” out of my peripheral vision I watch as he stands and rounds the desk, “when you go out on assignments, there will be no platoons to protect you, you will not have anyone else to get you out of any fuck-ups you may inadvertently get yourselves in.” He pauses again as he takes another few steps. He stops and faces us. “You will be completely on your own. Do I make myself clear?”
On cue, the four of us practically bellow, “Sir, yes sir!”
Without a word, he returns to the chair behind the desk. “Good. Let’s get you four introduced to each other, seeing as you’ll practically be wiping each other’s asses.” I cringe a little inside as he slides the first folder in front of him. “Private Silva,” he sighs as he flips it open. Ah, hell. I tense. He’s going to lay our lives out in front of us in all of its glory. In all of my shit storm. “Here we go. You, son, are the product of our government, a child of the foster care system. Didn’t graduate from high school,” he reads silently a moment, then lifts his head to look at the black haired dude at the end. “It says here they tried to pin an attempted murder charge on you of a son from a foster home. Is that true?”
Sweet Jesus, who the hell are they sticking me with?!
“Yes, sir, that is true.” The guy says it loud and proud.
Oh, hell no!
“Would you like to tell me why?” the commander doesn’t skip a beat.
“He tried to rape the thirteen-year-old foster girl in the home, sir.” Silva barks his answer.
“Good for you, soldier,” he turns his attention back to the file in front of him.
What in the ever loving fuck? Yeah, if that was what happened, then hell yes, but did the commander actually say that?
“It doesn’t appear you did that again,” the commander continues reading.
“No sir, it wasn’t necessary. The boy wanted to keep his di…penis,” Silva replies.
The commander grunts a laugh. “I imagine he did.” He closes that one then moves to the next one. “Private DeJesus,” the commander flips the page. “Grew up with only your mother in the Bronx.” I can feel the energy pulsing off the man’s body next to me. “It seems we have a prodigy in our company.” The commander raises his face and fixes him with a stare. “Why are you here, Private? And don’t give me some bullshit story.”
DeJesus is at my side, and I can hear his heavy intakes of breaths. The silence stretches, the commander’s gaze never wavers from the stone statue beside me.
“I belong here,” DeJesus finally answers, it’s tight and clipped.
The commander narrows his eyes at him. “This is the only time you will be asked a question a second time. Why. Are you. Here?”
I can almost hear DeJesus growl in frustration. Whatever he’s hiding has got to be ugly as shit.
“I killed a boy, sir,” DeJesus answers tightly.
My blood turns to ice.
I’ve killed people, not just men. It’s part of my job in the army, part of what each of us does, even the commander in his own way. But what DeJesus just admitted is nothing like what we do now. I can feel his pain as if it were my own, his anger radiating off him. I want to look into his face and see his expression. But I can’t. By his answer and the way he said it, that wasn’t a man who was proud of his actions. Whatever his reasons were, that is not something you can live with if you have even a shred of human decency.
The commander doesn’t respond, not right away. His eyes never leave DeJesus’ face, studying him, reading him, peeling back the thick veneer, probably witnessing the scene embedded in the guy’s soul as it unfolded.
Finally, the commander breaks the glare and returns to the papers that don’t really tell him jack. He closes DeJesus’ file and moves to the next one. I can feel DeJesus relax next to me, although his body doesn’t flinch.
My heart is hammering, dreading when he gets to mine, hating what’s not printed in black and white, what he’s going to make me reveal. My mind is processing the events that led to me being here. Did I kill someone? No, there’s no blood on my hands, at least not from before the time of my enlistment. Is there guilt in my heart? A shit ton of it. Did I ruin someone? Hell yes I did, and I’ll never forgive myself for it.
“Private Priest,” the commander taps his finger on the desktop.
Relief washes over me. It’s comforting having the other men’s pasts wrung out before mine, bludgeoned until the ugly truth with its hideous glory is laid out to suffocate us once again.
“Yes sir,” the man with the bleached-blonde-buzz-cut-second-to-the-end replies. There’s something different to his tone than the others.
The commander caught the slight intonation in the man’s voice.
Priest is a cocky little bastard.
“What was that, Private Priest?”
There’s a stillness in the air for a fraction of a second.
“Nothing, sir,” Priest shoved his balls up his ass and answered the correct government issued response the right way.
“I thought so,” the commander returns to his perusal of Priest’s paperwork. “Single mother, moved around quite a bit,” the commander flips through the paperwork looking for something in particular. He stops. “Your father was mafia.”
Well slap my ass and call me shocked.
How in the hell does he know that?!
“With all due respect, sir, I did not have a father, only a sperm donor,” Priest rebuts the statement. Without being asked.
“Explains a lot,” the commander comments. He continues scanning the documents. “You were labeled as a troublemaker, in and out of school. Always fighting.” He fixes his glare on the smart ass. “Bored? You’re not very big, were you bullied?” The commander’s expression never changes. “I would imagine you had some pretty big shoes to fill, your dad being part of a syndicate.”
The man is intentionally taunting Priest, setting him up like bowling pins to knock him down and aiming for the strike.
“No sir,” Priest does not sound fazed. At all.
“So you enjoy terrorizing people for no reason,” the commander continues antagonizing him.
“No sir,” Priest still doesn’t take the bait.
“Well, what else is there, Private?”
I can hear the man take a deep breath from where I’m standing. “I was protecting others, sir.” Priest’s voice is emotionless.
“How’s that soldier, you’re as skinny as a rail. Seems to me someone like Private Smith could snap you in half.”
Frustration grows in the pit of my belly.
Why is he attacking him?
“He’d be dead before his fist hit me, sir.” There is obvious pleasure in Priest’s reply.
Screw him, the cocky little prick.
The commander laughs. I almost snort, and I swear I saw the corner of DeJesus’ mouth twitch trying to stifle a smirk.
“This I’ve got to hear. Please do tell me how,” the commander leans back in his chair obviously enjoying this
“I’m a third degree black belt, sir. My hands are registered as weapons. They neglected to consider the rest of my body.”
The older man leans forward as his expression sobers. “So you went a little wild for a while practicing on the kids in the schoolyard, is that it?”
“No sir. Anyone’s ass I kicked was either a sociopath, murderer, or just deserved it. Sir.”
Tap, tap, tap goes the commanders finger on the desktop.
Well, damn boy.
The information about the three men standing beside me is like a shaft of sunlight in the pit of a cesspool. Clear as fuck in the midst of shit.
My heart starts to pound as the commander closes Priests file and moves to the last one. Mine.
“Sir, yes sir!” I practically choke out of my suddenly dry mouth.
The commander doesn’t say anything as he goes through my file. The seconds are like a rope cinching tighter and tighter around my throat, suffocating me. After the way he tore Priest a new asshole, I’m sure he’s going to take a sledgehammer to me and break open my shame.
“Tell me something, Private Smith,” he flicks through the pages quickly. “According to this you were the All American boy. Grew up on a farm in Kentucky, the only son to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, no marks in your record, graduated high school with good grades,” his eyes continue scanning the documents in front of him. “You were the prime candidate for football scholarship,” he mumbles. He closes the file and looks up at me. “How come you’re not home married to your childhood sweetheart and bringing apple pies to the church cookouts?”
What the hell do I say?
The silence in the tent is broken by the noise of the men in camp outside, the sound of jeeps, and a helicopter in the distance. I clench my fists behind my back and will myself to let the truth come pouring out.
“I lost the farm, sir.” Shame and guilt engulf my solid six foot six frame.
He leans forward and tilts his head to the side, his scrutinizing gaze still fixed on me. “Excuse me? How can a twenty-acre farm get lost, Private?”
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