We've got an excerpt from the new book: Steele is forced to deal with his mother and an assault on his house at the same time. How would you handle your mom in a combat situation?
Parnell made his debut as an author with the 2012 best-selling memoir "Outlaw Platoon," which detailed his service with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007. He somehow made a seamless transition to novels with 2018's "Man of War," which introduced Steele as his lead character and earned Parnell comparisons to Vince Flynn and Brad Thor.
"All Out War" proves that Parnell's career as a novelist has legs. Consider this the second step in a series that seems likely to entertain us for decades to come.
Here's the book excerpt:
Steele knew the risks that came with being an Alpha. Everyone in the Program did. It was why they trained so hard for operations. But threats like this weren't supposed to follow you home to the States.
He brushed the thought out of his mind and opened the door. Outside, Steele heard his mother slam a car door. She was humming to herself and he recognized Nina Simone's "Feeling Good."
It was one of her favorites. The one she listened to when she was in a great mood.
Susan Steele came around the corner, and her face stretched into a smile when she saw her son. The grin was infectious, and Eric opened his arms wide for a hug.
His mother hadn't had the easiest life, but you could never tell by looking at her. She was blessed with a timeless beauty, which made it difficult to guess her real age. The time she'd invested with her personal trainer, plus her fresh Bahamian tan, didn't hurt.
"There's my baby boy," she said.
"Mom, it's good to see you," he said, wrapping his arms around her, his eyes drifting to her purse.
She caught his glance and Steele saw the stern look, the same one he'd gotten when he was a kid and tried to pull something over on his mom.
"You hungry?" he asked, trying to divert her attention. "Starving," she said.
Steele was pleasantly surprised that the steaks turned out as well as they did. He typically liked his medium rare, but considering everything that had happened today he was content with well done. "So how was the cruise?" he asked, eyeing her purse again, which she had left in the kitchen.
"Wonderful," his mother replied. "You know," she said, picking up the glass of wine he had poured for her, "you should take Meg on a cruise."
Here we go, Steele thought.
"Women like that don't come around very often. She's a keeper, and I would hate to see you lose her. She's not like some of the others."
"Mom, please," Steele said, gathering the plates and carrying them into the kitchen. His mother wasn't subtle about the fact that she wanted him to settle down, and ever since he'd introduced her to Meg, her suggestions had become less subtle.
"Eric, all I'm saying is that you aren't getting any younger." "Uh-huh."
"Eric, what is going on?"
"What do you mean?" he asked, feigning surprise. "You have been staring at my purse since I got here." "I thought that--"
"Eric Steele," she said, cutting him off.
Dammit. Steele winced. You blew it.
It was the same tone she'd used on him growing up, the one that told him she was serious, and he knew without looking that she had her hands on her hips.
"You want to tell me the truth?"
Steele shut off the water and slowly turned around to find his mother standing just as he'd imagined.
"I need to see that package," he said. Susan opened her purse and pulled it out.
The package was the size of a book and wrapped in brown paper, with Steele's name written in bold black letters. According to the postmark, the package had been mailed in Wellington, New Zealand, two weeks prior.
Steele held it up to the light. He inspected the top and bottom first, looking for any hints of wires or subtle bulges that would signal any type of device. Next, he checked the tape along the seams to see if it had been opened. In the center of the front edge, he found a single hair. It had been placed vertically over the seam and then taped over.
"What are you looking at?" his mother asked.
Steele answered without thinking. "You see that hair?" he asked, lowering the parcel so his mother could see.
"Yes," she said.
"It's old school."
"Looks like a hair to me," she replied.
Steele smiled. "That's the point. You see, I looked this up. During the seventeenth century more commoners were learning how to read and write, and they started sending letters. This was prior to envelopes that were sealed with glue. Before long, people realized that the postmen were reading their letters before delivering them."
"Really?" Susan asked indignantly.
"Yeah." Steele laughed. "I mean, what else did they have to do?"
"Their job, maybe?"
"Long story short, they developed a tamperproof wax that they would stick on the letter and seal it with specially designed rings." Steele pantomimed, stamping his ring finger down on the package. "That way you could tell if anyone opened it."
"Fascinating story, Eric, but you still haven't answered my question. What is going on?"
"Mom, you remember when I said that I worked for an import-export company?" Steele said, tugging the preloaded go bag from the compartment and dropping it on the floor.
"Well, I, ah--"
Before he could finish his sentence, Steele was interrupted by the alarm panel on the wall.
"Perimeter breach Zone One. Perimeter breach Zone One," the digital voice warned.
The monitor flashed to life, filling the room with the last sound he ever expected to hear in the States -- the unmistakable shriek of an RPG-7 leaving its launcher.
Steele turned to the monitor in time to see the RPG flash past the camera, the rocket motor leaving a white trail behind it. As the warhead hit the gate and exploded, the fireball flared in the camera view.
The detonation rang like distant thunder. Vibrating the warehouse walls and knocking plaster loose from the ceiling. The overhead lights flickered, then came back on. They were barely able to cut through the shroud of dust hanging in the air.
Steele coughed and yelled, "Master arm."
"Arming," the panel answered, tripping the door locks with a resounding thunk. "Doors and windows secure. Motion sensors armed."
"Lockdown," Steele ordered. Dismounting the security monitor from the wall, he grabbed his mother by the hand and pulled her through the kitchen and into the living room.
He hurried her into the den. He noticed his mother's breathing was fast and her eyes wide. He knew she was hyperventilating.
"Mom, look at me." Her eyes danced, and his big hand gently grabbed her face. "Look at my eyes and breathe."
She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. She was tough, but she hadn't ever encountered anything like this. Steele had to ignore the rage that came from seeing his mother this way.
He had lost count of how many men had tried to kill him. He had been shot, stabbed, blown up, and almost drowned, but his training had always kept him alive. Yet he was totally unprepared for how to keep his mother calm when men were trying to kill him. "Wh-what is happening? I-I can't stop shaking . . . ," she stuttered.
"There are men out there who are trying to get that package," Steele explained patiently. "You are shaking because your body is dumping adrenaline into your blood, getting you ready to run."
"What do we do?"
"Just look at me. I'm here, and I am not going to let them hurt you. Just look in my eyes and breathe like I am."
He repeated the process, a deep inhalation followed by a slow exhale.
"Just breathe. You are in control."
He didn't have time to coach her. He set the monitor on the hardwood floor and examined what was happening outside.
The security camera for the front gate had been blown out in the explosion, and he toggled over to the secondary camera in time to watch a dump truck roar through the smoke that hung over the driveway and ram his five-thousand-dollar gate.
The gate was made of reinforced iron composite. Steel support pillars were buried under four feet of concrete. It was rated to withstand three thousand pounds, and even after the blast of the RPG, the dump truck almost didn't make it through.
The impact crumpled the front end, sending a shower of sparks cascading over the hood. The dump truck buckled the gate but didn't rip it from its moorings. As a cloud of steam rushed up from the injured engine block, it rolled a few feet and came to a halt.
Two vans made it through the breach, and Steele saw them skid to a stop, side cargo doors already open. Two teams of assailants dressed in black BDUs and ballistic vests jumped from the vehicles and angled toward the warehouse.
In the den, Steele pressed on the wall right beside the shelf holding his military warfare books, and a hinged compartment clicked open. Inside was a palm reader. He pressed his hand against it and the wall safe clicked open. His memory touched upon the class on dealing with assets in stressful situations. He could hear the instructor's voice: "Give them something to do. It takes their mind off the now."
"Take this, Mom," he said, handing her the monitor. He explained how the buttons worked. Then he pulled a ballistic vest from the vault.
"Duck your head and tell me what they are doing."
She complied, allowing him to slide her head through the opening and secure the Velcro straps that closed the vest around her chest. "I see them," she said, her voice oddly choked.
"One, three, five," she counted, growing more alarmed. "Eight, I see eight men in black. I think they are splitting up, Eric."
"They are going to hit the front and back doors at the same time."
Steele took out a second vest. This one was his. He had worn it in Algiers, and the cloth was faded and stained with sweat and dried blood. He shrugged it across his shoulders and pulled it tight. The final piece of kit was a magazine-fed shotgun.
He'd been so impressed the first time he shot the FosTech Origin 12 that he'd bought one for home defense. Not only was the recoil manageable, but it was also deadly accurate at close range. The true selling point for Steele, though, was that it was magazine fed, which allowed him to reload just as quickly as he could with a rifle.
Steele had two preloaded magazines with rounds he'd borrowed from the Program's R & D department. They were hypervelocity sabot rounds capable of penetrating any body armor on the market.
Steele inserted the magazine and pulled the charging handle to the rear. The bolt carrier raced forward, stripped the slug from the magazine, and thunked it into the chamber.
"The first team is coming toward the back door." Her voice was gaining more confidence. The instructor had been right about that role advice.
"Hit the two buttons on top at the same time. It will show both cameras," he instructed. "Can you do that?"
The image shifted, showing the front and back doors.
Her breathing had slowed to almost normal, but her hands were still shaking because of the adrenaline coursing through her veins.
"Hey!" she shouted.
"What's wrong?" Steele said, turning toward the back door. "That asshole is shooting my tires out."
The fact that he didn't hear the shots told him that they were using a suppressor. Not that it mattered. The only people out on Neville Island at this hour were bums and winos, and they weren't going to call the cops.
"Why would he do that?" she said, outraged.
"They must dislike Audis," he deadpanned.
"Eric, that is not funny, you bought it for me."
He couldn't help but smile. It was a typical response from a woman who'd worked two jobs and had never bought much of anything for herself.
"We have insurance, Mom. We will get the car fixed."
"That's not the point, Eric," she huffed. "Those tires were brand-new, and now I am going to have to go down to --"
"Mom, this is not the time," he said. He grabbed her by the hand, hard enough to show that she had to pay attention, and started for the stairs.
Tactically speaking, taking the high ground gave him the advantage because it allowed him to engage his attackers from above. If they maneuvered under a base of fire and tried to pin him down, Steele could simply break contact and move to another position.
But first he had to get his mother to the saferoom. His major fear was that he would get pinned down before he could get her there.
"Eric, they are putting something on the back door."
Breaching charge. Time to move.
He took a final piece of gear from his bag: a pair of full-spectrum goggles.
Unlike night vision, which amplified only the ambient light, full-spectrum goggles allowed Steele to fight in any environment. If there was not enough light, the goggles were able to pick up the heat energy a living body radiated. Steele flipped the switch and ordered the security system to "blackout."
The room went dark.
Under the night vision, everything was eerie green but clearly visible.
"Owww," his mother said, knocking into a lamp. "Eric, I can't see. Slow down."
"Sorry," he said, looking back at her.
The glare from the monitor flared his goggles and he was reaching down to put it on night mode, but his mom turned away from his hand.
"Wait, that wasn't the back door. It was the --"
Steele had just enough time to shove his mother out of the way, and then the front door exploded. The overpressure buckled the Krieger blast door at the hinges and sent him sprawling to the floor. He landed awkwardly and lost control of the Origin 12. Steele looked up just in time to see the three-hundred-pound blast door flying straight at him. He forced himself flat a second before the Krieger skipped off the floor on its way into the dining room.
A cloud of dust and grit enveloped the room, blinding him. Before he could take a breath, the dust filled his lungs. It burned them, leaving a sweet residue on his tongue: the telltale sign that they had used C-4 to blow his front door.
Steele got to his knees and started searching for the shotgun like a kid playing blindman's bluff. Who are these guys? His hands closed around the shotgun, and he grabbed it by the pistol grip. He was getting to his feet when he heard the distinctive tink of a flashbang hitting the floor.
The exhaust fans had kicked on and scattered enough of the cloud that Steele was able to pick out the flashbang skittering toward him. There were two schools of thought when it came to deploying a "bang." The safest and more popular method was to toss the "bang," wait for it to explode, and then enter the structure. The lesser-used technique was known as crashing the bang, a tactic reserved for only the best-trained teams. The idea was to time an entry so that you had two men entering the room at the exact moment the device exploded. It required precise timing and extensive training but maximized the effectiveness of the device.
Neither method accounted for what Steele did next.
Instead of trying to get away, he ran toward the flashbang, scooped it off the floor, and sidearmed it toward the breach.
The flashbang exploded just as the first two of the assault team were coming through the door. The point man stumbled into the wall, the blast knocking his helmet to the side. Steele centered the reticle on the side of the man's head and fired.
Steele swept to his right, placing his body between the door and the stairwell where his mother was hiding. The second shooter reeled drunkenly into his field of view, and Steele dumped him with a shot to the center of the chest.
The others were pouring through the door, and Steele knew that if they got a foothold it was over. He shot the next man in the chest, and the heavy twelve-gauge sabot shoved him back through the door. For a moment, Steele thought they were going to keep coming and he had every intention of wiping out the entire team. Then the fourth man appeared with a ballistic shield.
Steele fired into the center of the shield, hoping the slug would penetrate. It punched through the front but did not have enough ass to kill the man holding it because he didn't fall. Steele was lining up for a second shot when a muzzle appeared over the lip of the shield.
"No freaking way," he said, recognizing the weapon from its heat shield.
It was an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
Steele threw himself out of the line of fire a second before the light machine gun opened up on full auto.