Here's an excerpt from Weaponized, a new thriller by Nicholas Mennuti and David Guggenheim.
Kyle West is a wanted man. Having fled the country to escape the false charges filed against himself and his former boss, billionaire government contractor Christopher Chandler, Kyle's hiding in Cambodia, living on borrowed time and finding more and more reasons to be paranoid.
When a mysterious stranger named Julian Robinson walks into Kyle's favorite café and offers to swap passports with Kyle, Kyle can't believe his luck. Robinson looks so much like Kyle it's almost unreal, and seems in every way the yin to Kyle's yang -- self-assured, charismatic and wealthy beyond measure. Traveling on business, Robinson needs Kyle's passport to get to Africa, where a lucrative deal awaits. Kyle needs Robinson's passport to safely flee Cambodia. The swap seems almost too good to be true. Unfortunately for Kyle, it is.
This one decision plunges Kyle into a Pandora's Box of intrigue that threatens to swallow him whole. Suddenly he finds himself being pursued by Russian oligarchs, Chinese operatives, the CIA, and a beautiful woman trained to kill; because Robinson certainly isn't who he seemed. And time is running out for Kyle to discover who he is.
1. PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA
Kyle West lies atop stiff sheets with his eyes half closed. It burns to keep them open, but shutting them is a paradoxical tease. He would kill for distraction, for the benevolent throb of a headache.
There’s nothing worse than insomnia in a tropical climate.
He can’t go much longer subsisting on stolen naps, he thinks. Falling asleep for five minutes on public transportation, chickens pecking his hands, children picking his pocket, and a background of hacking lungs.
His brain and body work overtime to fend off the inevitable systemic collapse.
His arms and legs vibrate, a plucked violin string beneath his skin replacing the beat of a pulse. He’s hyperaware of the world around him, keyed in on an almost cellular level but unable to take in anything specific, the environment reduced to a passing blur in a rearview mirror.
He turns on his side and thinks, Maybe not sleeping is a blessing. Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. Because when he does sleep, his dreams are ruthless, rooted in fact, absent of unconscious properties. There’s no fever logic, no abstract questions answered, no deviant acts banned during waking hours fulfilled.
He tried to end the pain, picked up some natural remedies at the pharmacy. All they did was give him a dull drone of a headache and an erection lasting three and a half hours. He bought some capsules off the black market, purported pharmaceutical grade. Turned out to be expired Tamiflu.
He rolls onto his back and listens to the singed symphony of bug zappers.
The heat in the room is unbearable, a constant reminder. If you can’t sleep, you can’t forget your body, and forgetfulness is sleep’s universal gift.
The walls around him are slathered in a white gloss. There’s extensive water damage underneath. In response, the hotel management keeps adding more coats of paint. The wall is now several inches thick with subterfuge.
The only art is a print of Buddha in a chrome frame. The Bodhisattva sports almond eyes and an android smile. Behind him, the jungle explodes in plumes of purple and pink and green, its vines falling around his shoulders like fairy-tale hair.
The air-conditioning is a collapsed lung, helpless against the heat. The time before the rainy season. The time no one wants to be here. The daily room rate, normally twenty-two dollars, has dropped to sixteen while everyone waits for the storms to come and drown the city.
Even at sixteen dollars a night, the room is starting to strain Kyle’s purse strings.
He exhales, puts his hand over his heart, hoping to slow it down.
This is how you measure the length of your exile, he thinks, by the topography
of your hotel rooms.
He rises from the bed, runs his hand through his hair, and gets it caught in a knot. He hasn’t cut it since he got here; hasn’t shaved either. Which is fine. The expat populace isn’t famed for their grooming. The West’s prime export to Southeast Asia is tall blond surfer girls with unshaven armpits who do nude yoga on the beach while their scraggly boyfriends case the waves, looking for the perfect one to die in.
Kyle turns on the LCD television, flips the channel to CNN.
He was never a news junkie when he lived in the States, but now CNN has become a reminder of a world he misses terribly;
Senate hearings trigger a warm rush of involuntary memory. Even though—as of late—those hearings have been focused on him and his former boss Christopher Chandler.
Excerpted from Weaponized by David Guggenheim with Nicholas Mennuti. Published in July 2013 by Mulholland Books / Little, Brown and Company. Copyright © 2013 by David Guggenheim and Nicholas Mennuti. All rights reserved.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects