ATTENTION GAMERS – Here’s a chapter from my latest book “HOT EXTRACT” It moves fast. It’s all action. You can snag it on Amazon.
Borough of the Bronx, New York – Ryker Finn
It was a dark and stormy night on-line. The Gamer, Ryker Finn, pushed back from his twenty-seven inch monitor, shut down the multi-player, single-shooter game and logged off. He always got his ass blasted when the game played out in rain. His on-screen vision sucked in wet weather. Lights glaring in the game’s rain-slick urban streets made spotting lurkers tough. He hated lurkers, even in clear daylight. No matter conditions or time of day, the gutless creeps still hunkered, hiding in crumbled buildings, dark alleys and rubble piles. Shot you to pieces as you passed. He didn’t consider lurking fair play. In good weather he picked out likely lairs, let them try to catch a grenade for their trouble. He killed enough other players to always stockpile extra-reward grenades and ammo. He sent a barrage into suspicious looking spots. This game, and its pile of Bitcoins to the winner, too important to risk on reckless play.
The rain finally sent him into a deserted basement for shelter. He could barely see in the rain. He nestled back against a cement wall using a rubble-pile as cover against random enemy grenades. He was not the only expert playing here. He’d wait out the rain.
Finn tilted back in his chair. It squealed like a pissed-off pig. He kept forgetting to lube the goddamn swivel. Each time the chair squealed he was reminded one of his failings; getting pissed off about things but not troubling to promptly deal with them. Prompt action in the game let a player survive and win. To procrastinate was to be dead.
He stood, and walked across the room to his desk. Soles on his Clarks shoes made no sound on the floor. Dark slacks broke their creases above his instep. A fraction under six feet tall, he wore a dark turtle-neck pullover. The inside temperature in his place, set at sixty-two, promoted a sharp state of mind. The Bitcoin games were best played with a chill in the air.
No one was sure who ran the Bitcoin Games but all the players kept multiple-cutout hiding places for their stashes. In all probability the wager pools of the players and the Game Master resided offline, stored in a drive or memory stick which could not be hacked. Coins in-play moved into the Game pool for each segment. The Game Master, thought to reside in Asia, took a percentage from the players in each session, much like the neutral dealer in a high stakes poker game. Various players won and lost, except the Game Master who always won.
The Games had begun as a simple, pirated VR combat contest modified with custom code inserts. Inserts seemed to be added each couple of weeks. Always minor but different to the extent of reach across the base program. Any player who planned to practice what they had defined as the basic platform would be mistaken. An insert would render them minus the Bitcoins they wagered. The Game Master was not named Master without cause.
The Gamer, Finn, was riding a good couple of weeks. He knew his strengths and weaknesses. Careful, he did not risk his streak in wet weather where he did not excel. He opened a drawer in his desk . Took out a flat black box labeled ‘Walther Arms.’ Opened, the flocked interior revealed his PPQ, semi-automatic pistol. 15 rounds of 9mm, hollow-point ammunition would be right for a little single-shooter, tune-up trip. He shoved a magazine into the pistol and put another in his pocket. The Walther trigger had a short reset. After the first round fired the trigger engaged at release for the following shot. Much quicker than any other pistol. If he got excited or twitchy he might fire twice as many rounds as intended. Sufficient reason to carry a backup magazine.
He wore his yellow glasses. Yellow took the glare out of night surroundings. He tried them at the game console when programming delivered rainy weather. But yellow didn’t work as well with the monitor, where things weren’t real.
Nothing works as well if not real, Finn thought. He racked the slide on the Walther to chamber a round. This was Real.
Ryker stepped into beautiful night through his the oak front door of his brownstone house Â A real night, clear, dark, not stormy. Good. He hummed a classic rock song. No closet rock star, he stayed on key as he descended the steps to the sidewalk.
Living for danger, he resided in a ‘transition neighborhood,’ as they called his block. He didn’t sit out on his front stoop. He did not solicit conversations with neighbors. In warmer weather he sat on his little deck in the back and sipped a drink or two. He listened to pops of occasional gunfire off to his left. A section of the neighborhood which hadn’t transitioned yet. The pops were maybe anti-transitional people shooting at developers, or street entrepreneurs shooting at budding yuppies, or each other. Who knew, in the fluid world of modern real estate?
New restaurants catering to ever more populous yuppies blossomed within a few blocks of his place. At the bottom of his front steps he turned, walked away from the pseudo-genteel section, into the darker streets. The genuine night.
The first obstacle, Level One, came at Embert and Doube streets. A few midrange punks beating up on a street bum for no apparent reason. “Get off him,” Finn yelled. They turned, all holding weapons, distracted from their ritual of getting wound up to kill the street guy.
Two raised their arms to fire and Finn snapped off four rounds from the Walther. The short trigger reset made the reports sound almost full automatic. He ran toward the action as two of them fell. The third thug cut and ran, limping. A second round, after Finn missed with his first, dropped the runner with a bullet to center mass. The hollow points left all three aggressors either dead or almost dead.
He turned right before he reached them leaving the homeless street person to explain to the cops what happened, if any cops ever came.
Level Two came up as a corner-boy cadre serving crack-heads from the project and kiters from the suburbs. The corner operation was only a couple blocks from dumpy Essex Boulevard. A major artery serving as customer mainline, Essex funneled buyers in to the corner boys, who dealt their party poison on side streets.
Alerted by his shots from Level One, the corner boys faced Ryker. Too young for felony prosecution, more than old enough to shoot and kill Ryker.
The Gamer held his arm out from his side, bent up at the elbow, palm facing them. Gave the boys a side view of the Walther in his palm, held between thumb and forefinger. One gangster prudently stepped back into his doorway. The other three fanned out. One went behind cars parked on his curbside. Two crossed the street using cars along the other side as a screen.
Finn stepped between hood and trunk of two cars and knelt, bracing himself on the oily blacktop with his left hand. Five cars up, between the rows of tires, he saw sneakers. He squeezed off three rounds, a shrill scream indicating a hit. When the owner of the feet fell into view, one more of Finn’s shots hit him and he lay still.
The doorway lurker peeked out to spot him and the first bullet from the Walther spattered brick shards in his face. The second bullet caught him full-on, punching his head back into the shadows. From his crouch the Gamer sneaked a look at the doorway. A foot flopped out on the stoop. The foot didn’t appear ready to get up and walk any time soon. He turned his attention to the other side of the street.
A figure in a hoodie darted away, around the far corner, to find a quieter place and perhaps consider some career options. The runner’s buddy, still crouched behind the parked car, hissed curses after him. The Gamer couldn’t distinguish the words. The guy was keeping his head down while he spit his venom like some chicken-shit cobra. He didn’t keep his head down far enough. After his first bullet skirled off the car’s hood Ryker’s second bullet splattered his brains inside his hat. Level Two, complete.
The Gamer turned left at the now-empty corner, away from Essex. The neighborhood grew darker, most streetlights broken. Eerily quiet. He changed out his magazine, dropping the used one in his pocket.
A couple of rounds remained in the first clip but not enough to get home. You couldn’t be too careful out here. He had been right to allow for the Walther’s quick trigger.
Occasional parked cars picked up reflection from distant lights as he walked. Who in his right mind would park a car in here? Not anyone with a half a brain and a nice ride. He held the Walther at his thigh. His finger rested parallel to the bottom of the slide, ready, but not risking an accidental pull of the super-short trigger.
Something banged metallically in an alley on his left, a dumpster lid? A scrawny, dirt- ball diver, looking for a snack? He moved his head toward the sound, saving his life. Low and behind him, a shot exploded. Shooter in a parked car. Must have been obscured by a headrest, wearing a hoodie. Asshole lurker. The bullet ripped his earlobe. He imagined he hearing his skin tear and whirled in a crouch. His first two rounds went through a windshield on the sidewalk side. The trigger of the Walther returning to reset with audible ‘clicks’. He took four quick zig-zag steps toward the car, firing as he went. The man in the front seat slumped over. A corner boys’ lookout? Whoever. Three Levels were enough.
Finn turned toward the light from Essex Boulevard his chest visible in the light. Blood from his ear dribbled down the front of him. He touched the ear and made his fingers sticky. The lobe all mushy. He wondered if the hole would be too big for an earring. Guy almost popped him.
Not bad though. Three Levels, including a lurker for dessert. Time to go home. Clean his face. Change clothes. Put a bandage on his ear. Boot-up. Check if the rain stopped on-line. He felt ready again, after this little tune-up.
The Gamer, Finn, turned back, his footsteps silent in the clear dark, under winking stars. His thoughts turned to Bitcoins. He pushed the money aside in his mind. He missed several first shots. Have to get a few boxes of ammo and go to the range in Hackensack.
“The guy Arlo told us about is at the start line,” said Rufus, “in the blue shirt. Membership roster lists him as Mr. Finn, no first name.” Crombi watched the man stand ready to enter the pop-up neighborhood.
The man raised his gun hand to waist level. Crombi studied the movement, caught the smooth release of the safety, the move from cocked and locked to ready. A small red light on the floor changed to green. The man entered the maze of the Range.
After the first four targets popped-up Crombi had seen enough. Mr. Finn nailed three bad guys center mass. He held fire on the little old lady with a bag of groceries. Walked past her, turned right into a side street. The reports of his pistol receded.
“He’s quick on threat recognition,” Crombi said.
“You could say,” agreed Rufus.
“I’d like for us to speak with him when he comes out,” Mel said behind them. He walked up as Crombi and Rufus concentrated on Mr. Finn.
“Let’s walk around to the exit. Rufus can set up some coffee in the meeting room. We’ll sit down and relax.”
*Before final edit