Snippet #1 for Shadows of Opinion!
I've been asking the author several times a week to move this launch forward, but he hasn't! Ugh! Time for Pitches and Matchfork crews to unite! After reading the 3 snippets I have for you, I know you're going to be right there with me. July 10 can't come soon enough! But, here's a little taste of what's to come. Enjoy!
Jia’s mini-flitter zoomed forward, surging past Erik’s vehicle. She dove under a web of sky bridges connecting the nearby packed towers. There wasn’t even the smallest hint of hesitation in her flight despite the tiny distances separating her head from…
Well, to be truthful, an untimely decapitation.
Erik growled in frustration as their targets receded into the distance. Earlier, there had been a group of armed men astride mini-flitters, and now they were turning into dots.
“Don’t worry.” Jia narrowed her eyes. “We’ve still got eyes on them. They’re not getting away.”
He appreciated the sentiment, but it didn’t do much to kill his irritation. Emma’s swarm of drones, both launched and hacked, were keeping the enemy in sight, highlighting them for Erik’s and Jia’s smart lenses.
That might help, but it wasn’t a guarantee, and he knew it. There were too many towers and too many places to hide in Lagos, and the drones weren’t fast enough to keep up with the fleeing terrorists.
“This is fun,” Erik muttered. “I’m glad we had a big breakfast. I don’t like to have high-speed chases on an empty stomach.”
“On the other hand, I bet my mother would recommend not chasing terrorists for at least thirty minutes after your last meal,” Jia joked.
“Yeah. I’m sure there’s some poor bastard who crashed after cramping up,” Erik admitted. “There has to be at least one.”
The bright early-afternoon sun glinted off a nearby building. The network of sky bridges, tunnels, and walkways between the towers obscured much of the ground beneath them, but even without the construction, the earth below was more a collection of color impressions, greens, browns, and grays than specific structures at their height.
That detail reminded Erik that mini-flitters weren’t designed to be operated at that altitude, and he glanced over the side. A helmet wasn’t going to save either of them if they fell.
Erik grinned, the annoyance finally melting away. He was in a good position, but the terrorists weren’t.
He might not be a danger junkie, but he’d dropped from orbit onto enemy-held planets while drop pods were getting picked off by anti-air artillery fire. Chasing terrorists around Earth on a glorified flying bike was nothing in comparison, especially when the enemy wasn’t putting up a decent fight. They had to be worried about their own meet-and-greet with the ground.
“They’ve got a whole damned gang,” Erik complained, grateful his helmet blocked the wind. “So why the hell are they running instead of trying to kill us? They don’t even know it’s us.”
“Us?” Jia asked. “They know we’re not part of their terrorist cells.”
“I mean, us. You know, you and me.” Erik dodged a flagpole and wondered why they couldn’t use a holographic flag. “The Obsidian Detective and Lady Justice. We are just two random cops or mercs for all they know, so why are they running? We don’t even have our guns out. For a bunch of murderous terrorists, I am going to complain that they are pretty chickenshit.”
Jia angled her mini-flitter to avoid a head-on collision with an antenna. “There’s no law that says just because they’re terrorists, they have to be brave. Or they might be on a very tight schedule for their plan, whatever it is.” She accelerated and slid into a gap with almost no clearance.
Erik’s brow lifted in surprise. Jia’s flying was risky even by his standards. It was hard to believe, and he wasn’t sure if he would if he hadn’t seen it.
“I remember when you didn’t even want to get on a mini-flitter,” he commented, rising up and over a sky bridge. Excited children waved at him through the windows as their parents looked on in horror. He would have expected the cops to have shown up already. “But now you act like you were born on one of these things.”
“I have a better sense of balance in three dimensions now,” Jia replied. “No, I always did, but I didn’t trust myself. Now I do. A lot of training, lessons, and getting shot helped. Confidence does wonders.”
Erik chewed on that comment for a moment. “Confidence lets you pull those kinds of flight stunts?”
“Sure does,” Jia responded cheerfully.
Erik might have harbored a few remaining doubts if she’d just been talking about her ship training, had he not witnessed Jia’s natural talent with an exoskeleton. She was a piloting prodigy who hadn’t been living up to her potential, and it came out every time she applied herself to a vehicle with aerial capacity. Their assignments could turn violent and mobile in an instant.
Every additional capability helped.
The terrorist mini-flitter pack slowed, giving Erik and Jia precious seconds to catch up before the killers shifted into a tight V formation, nobody bothering to fire at their two pursuers.
As a group, they flew toward a narrow gap between two towers.
It turned out to be too narrow. Some men on the edge didn’t make it.
Erik whistled, impressed, as their mini-flitters slammed into the building’s exterior and broke into clouds of debris, launching their riders on their final trip to meet their Maker. The terrorists’ bodies bounced off the buildings, but they were outside the grav fences. There was nothing to save them.
They dropped to the ground, flailing as if that would protect them from their coming doom. The remaining terrorists didn’t even look back, which helped save them from the same fate.
“Those guys could use a few lessons from you,” Erik joked.
“Did one of them have the bomb?” Jia asked, the levity gone from her voice. “It might not take out a tower, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t hurt someone if it exploded on the way down.”
“Shit,” Erik replied. “I’m not sure.”
They were in Lagos at Alina’s request. Her instructions for the assignment had been simple. Erik and Jia were to go to the metro and investigate alleged terrorist activity there, with a focus on observation and intelligence-gathering rather than elimination.
The Intelligence Directorate was interested in this particular batch of terrorists rather than kicking them over to the Criminal Investigations Directorate because the terrorists had received some unusual off-world funding. Erik and Jia didn’t mind.
Taking down terrorists in between hunting vast conspiracies was a nice way to train.
Alina had said it’d be easy compared to assignments she’d sent them on before. Then their simple intel-gathering and observation job had turned into Erik and Jia screaming through the towers of Lagos after terrorists with a bomb.
The only thing Erik didn’t get was what the bastards planned to blow up. They could have killed more people just by hitting a commerce level with guns. There was something he and Jia were missing. They’d have to ask the terrorists.
Well, assuming any survived.
“The bomb remains secure,” Emma reported. One of the terrorists’ highlights turned bright green. “The man in the front has the bomb in his carryaid. I must warn you, though, they’re almost out of range of most of my drones, as are you. You’re all going too fast, and it’s not like I can hack every drone in Lagos.”
Jia entered the narrow gap smoothly, accelerating and gaining on the terrorists. Erik slowed as he followed, but he didn’t come close to either building. A terrorist finally went for a gun, but his lack of control cost him as his mini-flitter drifted to the side. At that speed, a second was enough to make a deadly mistake.
He collided with another man’s vehicle. Both vehicles bounced hard away from each other, one scraping the building and shedding pieces before falling, the thrusters and grav emitters dead.
The other terrorist smashed into the back of an ally’s mini-flitter. The vehicle clipped the bottom of a sky bridge, taking the terrorist’s head with it. The other man righted his vehicle in time to smack into a tower. His piercing scream echoed in the metal canyon. There were far too many losses without taking a shot at their enemies.
Erik frowned in disappointment.
The predators and prey escaped their narrow flight space, exiting among a new batch of towers, then passing into a new tower canyon. Having learned their lesson from the sacrifice of their comrade, the terrorists didn’t go for their guns.
They concentrated on dodging the huge number of sky bridges stretching between two of the buildings. One man didn’t make it, and his mini-flitter bounced off the top of the sky bridge. The grav fence left the structure barely touched, but the sparking grav emitters on the bottom of the terrorist’s vehicle didn’t speak well for his future.
He made it only a few more meters before his vehicle plummeted.
“Idiots,” Jia muttered. “I’m almost insulted by how terrible they are at this. They should have just run away, not led us on this ridiculous chase and lost people without us firing a shot. Don’t they have any pride in their organization?”
Erik laughed. “Now that you’re the Pilot Queen, you only want to chase the highest quality terrorists?”
She considered his statement. “Something like that, or they could have saved us all some trouble and not run. This is like the worst of both worlds. It’s inconvenient and dangerous, and we’re losing potential witnesses.” Jia sucked in a frustrated breath. “It’s annoying.”
“Terrorists usually are.” Erik grinned. “And Alina said this was just supposed to be an observation mission.”
“Ever think Alina is the Lady in human form?” Jia asked.
“That would explain a lot.” Erik chuckled. “But she wouldn’t need us if this was easy.”
The surviving terrorists emerged from the latest metal canyon and pitched upward. They still outnumbered Erik and Jia by a significant margin, but the men stubbornly refused to engage. Free of further obstruction, they increased speed, zooming toward a huge floating platform in the sky—the famed Lagos Sky Garden.
“Oh, great,” Jia complained. “I wondered if this was where we’d end up. I knew we couldn’t have kept up with the exoskeletons, but it would have been nice to have the firepower.”
“Maybe.” Erik kept his attention on the terrorists, his hands gripping the handlebars tightly. Jia was right. The Sky Garden was supposed to be a pinnacle of advanced thruster and gravity manipulation technology, despite the ridiculous amount of energy required to keep it in the sky.
All he could see was something large that was ready to fall. It didn’t matter that the damned thing was positioned outside the outer edges of the Lagos Metroplex. If it fell, the people aboard would die.
Everyone had to die, but dying from being crushed by a tourist trap seemed like an awful way to go.
Something was wrong. There was no way they could hope to bring down the Sky Garden with the small bomb they had. If it were that simple, some murderous idiot would have taken it out a long time ago.
An assassination? It’d make more sense to just rush the Sky Garden and shoot their target dead.
The terrorists passed over the outer walls and disappeared behind them, now marked only by Emma’s highlighting. Erik wasn’t worried. The bastards wouldn’t be able to go that fast without flying above the trees.
“Should I come?” Emma asked. “Now that we have verified their target, it’ll be a simple manner for me to arrive quickly with the MX 60.”
“No,” Erik replied, his duster flapping in the wind. “I would have loved to have the TR-7, but I think once we corner those assholes, it’ll be a short fight judging by what we’ve seen. If they could take us easily, they would have tried already.”
“You have a point.” Jia scoffed, the sound more derisive than normal. “Cowards.”
The gray and silver underside and walls of the Sky Garden gave way to the vibrant greens, reds, and yellows of the trees and other plants covering the maze-like botanical park. That aspect almost bothered Erik more than the existence of the floating tourist site.
He could understand building something that floated in the air to show off, but he didn’t get why they needed to cover it with dirt and grow plants on it. There was a fine line between demonstrating human ingenuity versus dropping your pants and tempting fate with arrogance.
He frowned. There still weren’t any cops.
Erik and Jia didn’t want to call them in since it’d complicate things, but their conspicuous absence after the crashes fueled his suspicion. The kind of men who could keep the cops from showing up often had other annoying secret advantages.
The red targeting highlights vanished from Erik’s smart lens display. “What’s going on, Emma? Make my day and tell me they all crashed.”
“Alas, no,” Emma reported. “I’ve temporarily lost direct visuals on the gun goblins since they’ve moved too far into the Sky Garden. You’re usually better about killing gun goblins in a more contained area, and this will be over before I could hope to hack a satellite. You’re closer than any drones currently under my control.”
“Okay, time for our backup plan.” Erik’s mini-flitter passed over the outer wall. “Get ready to launch the microdrones. We don’t need a detailed map of the area. We just need to know where those bastards are to finish them off.”
Erik and Jia slowed, surveying the immediate area for the terrorists, but their small vehicles had disappeared into the dense foliage. No one fired at them. It didn’t matter if it was cowardice or careful tactical planning, the results were the same: a hidden enemy.
The thick canopy made it difficult to spot anyone deep inside the gardens from the air.
“This might not be their target.” Erik looked around. “They might have just come here to hide.”
“Is that what your gut tells you?” Jia slowly turned her head, surveying the area and seeking out the terrorists. “They couldn’t have gotten far. They didn’t have that big a lead on us. If they wanted to hide, it would have made more sense to go down instead of up.”
“Sometimes a few seconds is all it takes.”
Erik looked around, his jaw tight. Without the MX 60 there, they didn’t have access to their full sensor suite, and the microdrones had only the most basic options. It might come down to spotting the enemy with their own eyes.
“There!” Jia pointed and pitched her mini-flitter down.
Erik grinned. That worked.
I love that they are now able to go other places than Neo-SoCal!
Want to know what those pesky gun-goblins are up to? Check back next week for Snippet #2! And don't forget to pre-order your copy of Shadows of Opinion now! OpusX #7 goes live July 10. I can't believe it's already July! Christmas is just around the corner!
Be sure to tell Micheal Anderle you want to know how Jia and Erik celebrate Christmas.