An Assassin’s Accord: McFadden and Banks Book #1
Some are haunted by the monsters in their past, McFadden and Banks are also haunted by the monsters of their future. Read the first chapter here and be captivated by a world we don’t yet know.
The situation felt weirdly familiar, enough so that it triggered his instinct and demanded attention.
Taylor looked at himself. His six-foot-six frame was encased in a suit of mechanized armor, and he could feel his long red hair and beard being pushed up by the helmet he wore. He couldn’t remember a time when that felt uncomfortable, although it was probably due to the fact that he had been clean-shaven and sported a crew cut when he first climbed into one of them, and he had simply grown into the comfortable habit from there.
After years of walking and fighting in a suit like this, he wasn’t surprised that the whole feeling was so familiar. But this was a new suit. It wasn’t one of the chunky, difficult-to-operate ones that broke down more often than an Alfa Romeo. And predictably in the middle of a fight.
He looked around and narrowed his eyes as they adjusted to the darkness around him.
“Come on, McFadden, get your head out of your ass!”
He snapped his head around and a familiar face registered in his HUD.
“No, it’s the fucking tooth fairy, and I’ll take those teeth out manually if you don’t scan your sector like you should, dumbass. Also, I’m a little short on quarters, so I’ll do that shit for free.”
The rest of the team laughed.
Right. The rest of the team because he didn’t head into the Zoo without a team.
And he was in the Zoo. His gaze flicked around. The familiarity settled in with more assurance as the surroundings grew steadily more visible. His eyes finally began to adjust to the darkness. He could see the trees, the vines growing around them, and the flickers of motion that his motion sensors told him were monsters on the move. The jungle denizens, for now, kept an eye on them but weren’t quite ready to attack.
Even the thought of being there had him in a cold sweat, but he forced himself to keep moving. He took his customary post at the front of the line and grasped his rifle a little tighter.
Suddenly, he froze in place, alerted by his inner sense that something was wrong. His teammates halted when he did, scanned the area, and everyone felt the ground shake even when the heavy suits had stopped moving.
“Shit!” Davis called. “We have a big fucker heading our way!”
The group knew what to do already and no one needed to be told. Weapons were aimed in the direction of the massive, dinosaur-like monster that approached as the team began to move away at an angle. Everyone hoped the creature simply wouldn’t see them and would walk past. It was the only scenario that would enable them all to come out of this alive.
Taylor had a bad feeling best-case wouldn’t happen. It never did. The big fuckers were hard to avoid when they trundled through.
As if in response to his thought, a massive shadow stepped between the trees and made it difficult to focus on anything else as it pushed through the jungle like it owned the place.
Hell, for all he knew, it probably did.
He stood immobile and held his breath as he waited for the beast to hopefully lumber past them.
His inner prediction proved accurate. He had already stiffened in preparation when the impossibly large head turned and caught sight of the group that tried to evade it. A brief second was required for recognition before the beast uttered a bone-shattering roar.
“Son of a bitch.” Davis growled frustration and annoyance.
Everyone knew what to do. They’d been through the drills in sims before and a handful had already been through the process in real life.
All that notwithstanding, they still didn’t like their odds.
“Smoke this asshole!” Taylor called and fired the grenade from the launcher under his rifle. It streaked into an arc that brought it down into the side of the creature’s head. All he saw was a flash of light and a minor annoyance on the dinosaur’s part as it shrugged the impact aside.
The series of explosions that followed was enough to throw it off balance and it collided heavily with a couple of nearby trees. The rest of the jungle seemed to wake with that and suddenly, a wave of roars, screeches, and hisses erupted from all around them.
“Formation!” Davis shouted and motioned for them to form a circle so they could watch each other’s back. “And keep fucking moving! If any of you fall behind, you’ll be left behind!”
Taylor knew the threat was far from an empty one, but they would at least try to not leave anyone behind.
Hundreds of the creatures appeared on his motion sensors as he loaded another grenade into the launcher. The bigger, badder mutant was still out there, likely circling and waiting for the rest of the monsters to have their fun before it finally stepped in.
He hated how intelligent these fuckers were.
“We have them moving in from the flank!”
His teeth gritted, he repressed every instinct to turn and help since it was his job to keep those that tried to attack from the front at bay while the group pushed forward. He could hear the heavy steps coming in behind them as the creatures continued to press in.
A moment later, he registered smoke in the air. He needed a few seconds to realize that it wasn’t some kind of mist seeping through the jungle but actual smoke. Maybe that explained where all the sunlight had gone, and he felt the heat from it lick at his back.
Too many of the creatures rushed through the flames all around him. They didn’t seem to notice that their fur caught fire when they maintained their charge.
The Zoo wasn’t known to catch fire, he thought with a bemused frown. Well, he wasn’t in the Zoo, was he? He was in Southern California. New beasties appeared all over the place and were driven out of the wilds and into population centers. He and Tanya needed to get rid of the creatures before they could cause any fatalities.
“Tanya!” he shouted, looked around, and saw her vaguely through the smoke.
But where was the big fucker? It couldn’t be too far behind them.
“Tanya, get a move on!”
She moved too slowly, and the smoke parted easily as the massive dinosaur of a creature pushed through behind her, stretched its thick neck, and snapped its impossibly large jaws at her.
It missed, but in avoiding the strike, Tanya tripped over a pile of burning branches and tumbled end over end down a small hill.
“No!” Taylor roared, yanked grenades from his belt, and lobbed them in front of the lurching creature. They forced it back a couple of steps and into the bushfire it was trying to escape from.
No, wait, Tanya hadn’t met Bobby yet. And if she died on the hills of California, she never would. He reached her and skidded to his knees beside her.
“Hey, are you okay?”
She nodded and pushed up slowly. “Yeah… The fucker almost got me.”
“Not if I have anything to say about it.”
He hauled her to her feet and registered the heavy footsteps of the dinosaur cryptid coming up behind them again. With a muttered curse, he tossed another grenade behind his back to slow it while they made their escape.
“What the fuck, Taylor? Why are you throwing grenades around like that without even seeing what you’re throwing them at?”
Was that Bobby? It sounded like the man, but Taylor couldn’t be sure. He hadn’t gone on the trip to California.
Wait…no, the heat was at normal levels for Vegas. The smoke came from the exhausts in the cars. It was still too blisteringly hot to stand out in the sun during rush hour in Vegas, almost hot enough to melt the tires of the cars that usually crawled bumper to bumper in a traffic jam.
Not this time, though. They all gave the armored car a wide berth. Taylor looked over his shoulder. Tanya was gone and the weight was only the bags that carried the cash they were robbing from the armored car. She was there again in the next moment, but she carried a bag of her own with her assault rifle ready and opened fire at the creatures that ran between the cars.
The monsters had finally gotten their lazy asses to Vegas. He’d always known it was only a matter of time until they did, but he had hoped they would take a little longer. But there was no need to be afraid of the inevitable. He tightened his grasp on his rifle and watched as the creatures forced themselves through the gaps between the cars. They pushed beyond the traffic directly into the rain of bullets he let loose.
One of the panthers jumped on the armored car and waited for him to approach before it pounced. Its fangs flashed in the bright sunlight. He couldn’t tell if the creature had specifically targeted him out of the rest, or if maybe it had merely waited on top of the vehicle for someone to approach, but it didn’t matter. With his free hand, he drew his knife and waited for the creature’s momentum to meet the blade he drove up to stab into its jawline.
Blood coated the side of his suit, and he made a mental note to double his elbow grease to get it clean again and then burn all the rags he used to do so.
“Taylor,” Niki called over the comms. “You need to get out of here.”
Niki? She wasn’t on the heist with them. Maybe she was calling from the outside.
He turned and heard the sound of helicopters approaching in the distance, which made it difficult to not realize what she was talking about. They intended to clear the whole area out and make sure the infestation wouldn’t spread.
“Wait,” he protested. “I need to get out? What about you? Where the hell are you?”
“I’m pinned down,” she explained. “I won’t be able to reach the drop point. You guys need to get the hell out of here without me.”
“No fucking way!” he snapped. “That’s my move, and you know it!”
“I guess I have to take a page from your book, Taylor.” He could hear her voice cracking as she spoke. “Good luck!”
“Fucking—” His response was cut short by the noise and he scowled at the helicopters as their rockets flared, dozens at a time, to wreak destruction on the city of Las Vegas. Once the missiles were finished, they were followed by bombs that shook the ground when the explosives detonated. It made it difficult to keep his feet, even with the suit working to counteract the seismic effects.
“What?” he whispered as the helicopters banked away to leave a massive crater smoking and flaming where the Las Vegas strip should have been. “Niki, are you there? Niki, answer me right now! Niki!”
Someone grasped him by the shoulder and shook him. Taylor pulled away and tried again to contact her. He needed to hear her voice again, to hear her speak through the chaos.
The shaking worsened and made him feel like additional explosives impacted around him. Someone’s hand clutched him and tried to pull him back, and he twisted to shove the hand away from him.
Vertigo filled his body as he spun into space and struck nothing until something cold and hard slapped him across the face. Hell, across his whole body. He shook violently, pushed up, and reached out for whatever had hit him. The whole place was suddenly dark, which made it difficult to see what was happening around him.
But the hands had hold of him again and pinned him in place. What happened to the suit?
Oh, right, he wasn’t wearing one.
Taylor sucked in a deep breath and his eyes opened as he looked up from the ground to where Bobby stood over him and pinned his hands down.
The other man smirked, finally released his arms, and patted him on the cheek. “Are you having a nightmare there, buddy?”
He looked around the room. It was sparsely decorated, and even in the darkness, he could tell it needed a coat of paint. A desk stood on one side and a bed on the other, although bed might have been something of a stretch. It was barely a cot, the kind used to quickly set up sometimes when he was in the field. He had spent more than his fair share of nights on one of them and in the end, his comfort needs were fairly minimal.
Still, things would change over the next couple of weeks in that regard. He merely couldn’t bring himself to part with the room he had spent so much time in. For a guy who had traveled around the world for most of his adult life, connecting to a place—any place—meant it was home.
Bobby finally pulled away and moved to one of the chairs. “What was the dream about? You shouted Niki’s name while you were under, but…it didn’t sound like a sex dream, between you and me.”
Taylor scowled at the hefty man. “Yeah, whatever, you Jet Li lookalike. And no, it wasn’t a…pleasant dream. We were…in the Zoo? I think? Then in California. And then here. There were monsters here and she…she died. I think. It’s getting hard to remember.”
“Well, first, I’m very sure I have a solid foot and a half and a hundred and fifty pounds on Jet Li, so we look nothing alike. Secondly…well, yeah, that’s kind of how dreams go, I guess. Still, it sounds like it was rough.”
He shrugged. “Right…yeah. I feel like I was in a rigorous workout. Shit.”
“And you smell like you’ve been in a rigorous workout too.”
“Fuck off, Bungees.”
“I’m not kidding. You smell like shit and honestly, I’d think about changing the sheets on that bench you call a bed.”
Taylor paused and peered at his shirt. Sure enough, it was soaked with sweat. He didn’t need to get in closer to know that he reeked of it too.
“Shit. You’re right. I’ll take a shower and I’ll be right down. Did you bring doughnuts?”
“Don’t I always?”
With a nod, he pushed to his feet and rubbed some feeling back into where the other man had held him down. “Awesome. I’ll head down to the shop in about…thirty minutes?”
“Sure, but remember that I’m your boss now and I’ll be tracking your hours.”
“In McFadden’s Mechs only. I’ll be here part-time, remember?”
“Right, right. I’ll still track your hours with Zhang and Novak—”
“Ass. At least my name wasn’t a mouthful.”
“Says the guy who smells like one.”
Bobby stood and flipped him off as he headed to the door.
“I need to put a new lock on that door,” Taylor mumbled as he yanked his drenched shirt off and threw it into the laundry bin with perfect accuracy. It was three times wider than the average basketball hoop and less than three feet away, but he still couldn’t help a small smile as he headed into the bathroom.
What a whirlwind… From the Jungles of California to the Concrete Jungle of Las Vegas. Will his future resemble his past. Looks Like McFadden and Banks are lucky to have each watching their back. Keep a look out for Snippet number two, and while your waiting head over and pre-order An Assassin’s Accord The First Book in the McFadden and Banks Series. The book is set to release on November 3rd and I for one can’t wait.