From last week's comments, a winner has been selected to receive a free eBook of their choice from my (now multiple) award-winning series The NADIA Project.
Jill Denney, come forward and collect your prize! (sorry, should have had you all leave an email address in your comment to make it easier to collect!) Send me an email at cyrus DOT keith AT yahoo DOT com, and I will send you your eBook.
Thanks one and all for your comments. Sorry for the headache, Rob, but I like blue way too much (though my actual favorite color is red).
Now, the next item of interest is this:
*Insert girlie squeal* Two of my books have won Top Ten honors in the Annual Preditors and Editors' Reader's Poll! Yes, my novel Critical Mass took 4th place in the Best Thriller Novel category,
and my novella Lies and Paine took 4th place in the All Other Short Stories category.
Thank you to everyone who logged in and voted for me.
I'm deeply honored.
Last week, I regaled you with an excerpt from Lies and Paine. I think it fitting that this week, you all get a sample from Critical Mass.
Jenna Paine is a super spy, genetically enhanced to be more than human.
Nadia Velasquez is a living weapon of mass destruction.
When the secret organization who built them both decides they are no longer useful, two enemies are thrown together for the only purposes they could have in common: survival and revenge.
There's only one way out of The Pinnacle, and that's on a coroner's slab. Jenna lives through a treacherous attack vowing to exact her vengeance on the people who trained her to be the most deadly agent on the planet.
Wounded and on the run, she turns to the man who's sworn to make her face charges for her involvement in The Pinnacle's nefarious schemes.
After years spent hiding from The Pinnacle, Nadia runs into the one thing she never counted on: Shelf life. As her body breaks down, she realizes it's only a matter of the short time she has left to redeem her existence and give her daughter a chance to live free.
In the final showdown, the two transhumans join forces against a common enemy, and The Pinnacle come to know the deadly significance of…
A flip of a switch at the end of the hall lit up doors on the left and on the right. At the far end of the tunnel, another staircase went up. Jon entered the first room on the right and turned on the light. A small counter and fridge greeted him. On the counter sat a coffee maker. He started a pot and walked back out into the common room.
Eleven people taunted him from candid photos tacked on the corkboard. Next to each was a printout. Jon put a finger on each photo as he named them out loud, a ritual he engaged in every time he came down: “John Bowman. Armando Lopez. Bruce Wilkes. Vladimir Kuznetzov. Bernadetta Caglioni. Noor Ah’halaami. Sirdar Karina Hattangadi.” Four other photos were pegged to the board in a separate group. “Jenna Paine. Walter Brady. Alan Whitfield. Mark Boyle.” Whitfield’s and Boyle’s pictures had thick borders drawn in red marker.
Footsteps on the stairs interrupted his thoughts. Bunny came around the corner and joined Jon at the board. Today’s T-shirt said BYTE ME. When he spoke, his Brooklyn accent came through strong, showing how many late hours he’d put in on this data. “Whaddaya think, Jonny?”
Jon waved at the top group of photos. “I think we’re up to our elbows in alligators. These people have more power and influence than most kings do. Are you positive these are the ones who built Nadia?”
“They’re the ones who put in the order. I’d stake my life on it. They’re all tied into the Global Unification Alliance. They dump tons of cash into it, on the order of billions a year, but they refuse to take a bow for all their little Boy Scout good deeds for the day. They’re clients of Twin Oaks Spa, and none of them ever go there without at least two others.”
The skinny little man touched a fingertip on the note beside each picture as he recapped. “Wilkes owns more ships than most third world navies. There ain’t a thing comin’ across the Atlantic that he don’t approve. Lopez moves oil and cattle all over Mexico and beyond, and for some reason all the drug cartels leave him be.”
“Maybe he’s moving more than cattle and oil.”
Bunny scowled deeper. “Or maybe they’re all afraid of him, Jonny. Ever figure that?” He went on with his litany. “Kuznetzov started in electronics engineering and got into arms dealing about twenty years ago. Rumor is the Russian mob is his little lap dog. Caglioni owns Aeritalia Airlines and Itamax Clothing. Miss Noor Don’t-Even-Ask-Me-How-To-Pronounce-It is a secret majority holder of Vandalore Industries, and a half-dozen other major conglomerates. She farts dollar bills, Jonny. In secret, of course. And our friend the Sirdar swings a bigger stick in OPEC than anyone wants to admit. She’s a sly one, that.”
Bunny sat in one of the chairs and spun it so he faced Jon. “Bowman we know. Dude owns the news. He paid Nadia’s hospital costs from the time she came alive ’til Twin Oaks released her. So he knows about her, and he was the one who sent her to Iran to ‘interview’ President Javad.”
Jon interjected, “That implicates him in the murder of President Bello in Nigeria, because another NADIA was used in that assassination. We have the video to prove it.”
“But to bring him down, Jonny, we have to bring Nadia forward, show the world that she’s an artificial person. So unless you wanna give her up, you gotta catch him some other way.”
“We need one more person on our side, to get through his mask.” Jon fingered the photo of Jenna again. “If we can turn her, she may help.”
Bunny shook his head. “That’s like reasoning with a rattlesnake. You met her twice, and you’re lucky to be alive.”
“Exactly. She doesn’t want to kill me for some reason. I think I could talk with her, if I could just find her.”
“If you’re an example of what she does to people she likes, I’d hate to see what happens to people she don’t like.”
“You’ve seen it, Bunny. Mark Boyle, the man who took the girls hostage. She popped his head with one shot. I wouldn’t be so sure she didn’t do Whitfield, too.”
“Still think she had somethin’ to do with that breakout in Vegas?”
Jon nodded. “The Air Force thought they had Nadia. Three dead Air Commandos and a crashed police car later, and suddenly they have nothing. Jenna and Nadia have similar builds, and they had the same hair color and style then. I think that’s too much of a coincidence, don’t you?”
Bunny pushed his glasses up on his nose with a nervous finger. “You sure you wanna get within ten miles of that?”
“We have to start somewhere, Bunny. I can’t touch the big wheels yet. The OSI wants solid proof before they can call out the dogs. Jenna could be just what the doctor ordered.” Jon went into the kitchenette and filled two cups as the conversation continued.
“So you want I should change my search to her?”
“We’ve hit nothing but dead ends on the others. We sure couldn’t lose.”
“What would the Doc say?”
“I’ll make it right with Donna. She’s the team leader, but I’m still the chief investigator.”
“Okay, buddy, it’s your neck. Myself, I wouldn’t feel safe on the same land mass as that woman.”
Handing one cup to Bunny, Jon took a sip from his, swishing the brew around in his mouth before answering. “I didn’t say I’d feel safe, Bunny. But she’s our best chance.”
“Suggestion—if we can’t find her, there’s one sure way to get hold of her.”
“Do I even want to ask?”
"We get her attention and let her find us.”
A vague sense of dread rose in Jon’s chest as he sighed and rubbed his neck. “Yeah, I was afraid you’d say something like that.”