Snippet #3 for Cabal of Lies!
Yes! It's here today, and tomorrow the book goes live! Woot Woot!!! If you haven't already pre-ordered your copy, why not? LOL If you pre-order it will be on your kindle device/app when you wake up on Friday morning! Just begging you read it! And let me tell you, this book is FANTASTIC! Then, only 5 days later we get the audio version! Score!!! (In case you can't tell, I'm super excited.)
The final snippet, enjoy!:
An hour later, with her flitter parked deep in the Shadow Zone, Jia noticed she was biting a fingernail.
How many times am I going to worry that the flitter will be stolen?
Despite the sophisticated antitheft features, she wasn’t convinced it could survive the attention of a dedicated Zone criminal intent on scoring a fancy new red flitter.
As much she despised antisocial criminals, after working so many cases, she couldn’t deny their ingenuity. The smart ones stuck to nonviolent crimes, so they didn’t end up getting shot by a TR-7 or some ex-soldier in an exoskeleton. Of course, the truly intelligent didn’t take up that kind of crime. They just joined a corporation, found a method to steal from people, and called it legal.
Jia took a deep breath and shook her head. There was a thin line between being pragmatic and being jaded. Counseling and Erik’s friendship had helped pull her out of a dark spot, but she needed to be careful not to fall back into it.
Erik stood near the back, loading the weapons crates onto a new hoverdolly and whistling like he was having the greatest time in the world.
Earlier, he’d stepped through a loading door leading into a huge but decrepit warehouse and disappeared for several minutes before returning with the dolly and a man in a faded red uniform with epaulets he had introduced as Big Bill Zantini, the owner of the range.
The lack of patches or other insignia made it impossible to determine if it was real or a costume. Jia leaned toward the latter. The perpetual grin and faint hint of madness in Big Bill’s eyes made her harbor doubts he’d been part of anything more organized than a sphere ball fan club. The scars crisscrossing his face only fueled more concern.
Why hadn’t he had them taken care of?
Despite that, Erik didn’t seem worried by the man, and whatever questions Jia might have, she trusted her partner.
She glanced his way. When he’d agreed to the fake dating proposal, Jia had hoped it might help quell some of the thoughts that ran through her head at night, but it had only made them worse. She understood his reasoning, but that didn’t mean she had to like it.
Jia had never met a man like Erik, and she suspected that if he left her life, she would never do so again. There was only so long he would wait before taking Alina’s offer to become an Intelligence Directorate contractor. It made sense. His investigation was dead-ending on Earth, and that position would give him the resources and flexibility he would need to get his revenge.
She took a deep breath and slowly let it out. He was only staying because of her, but she wasn’t sure about gallivanting around the galaxy. Taking down whatever conspiracy had killed Erik’s people might make the UTC a better place, but she might better serve humanity as a cop.
Unfortunately, she just didn’t know.
Erik opened a crate and ran a hand over his TR-7. “Nothing like a lucky gun, but I think I’m going to stick to an assault rifle today.
Jia let out a mock gasp. “How do I know you’re Erik and not some Zitark using a holographic disguise?”
He looked up. “I don’t think Zitarks like beignets?” Erik questioned with a shrug. He closed the crate and snapped one lock, then the other. “I was just thinking about how I shouldn’t get too overly dependent on any one weapon. The recent fun on our vacation proved that. I might not always have my preferred toys.”
Big Bill ran a hand through his graying hair and whistled in appreciation. “Even without the TR-7, from the looks of things, you’ve got a lot of nice gear to play with. You’re going to be like two platypuses in zero-G in there.”
Jia stared at the man and awaited an explanation, having a hard time understanding his comparison. She knew plenty about platypuses and plenty about zero-G. She’d even fought under such conditions not all that long ago, but what the man had said didn’t make sense. Her mouth opened to question him, but she closed it.
Sometimes it was better not to know the truth.
“You’re right.” Erik patted the longest case after setting it on the dolly. “Got a man-portable laser rifle in here. I prefer my TR-7, but it’s nice to be able to blast a hole through something when you really need to.”
“A MANPLR?” Big Bill whistled in appreciation. “Nice. I’ve been aching to get my hands on one, but it’s still a bitch to get one of those away from the military. It must be nice to be a vet.”
Erik nodded, not looking Big Bill in the face. “Something like that.”
Jia took note of Big Bill’s further admission that his uniform didn’t represent any sort of military service. That wasn’t surprising unless he was a time traveler from several centuries prior—although, given all the nonsense she’d run into Neo SoCal, she almost wouldn’t be shocked.
“I’ll buy it off you, Erik.” Big Bill’s grin somehow managed to grow wider. “If you’re willing. I could make a killing renting it out. I know a guy who can get me the right kind of power cells, but even he can’t get me a rifle.”
“No way.” Erik shook his head. “I need this to shoot terrorists and armored yaoguai, and it’s too damned fun to sell.”
Jia laughed. Erik’s boyish enthusiasm for his heavy weapons had pushed out all the negative thoughts. His predilection for destructive toys was infectious when she let it be.
“I remember a time when I thought a stun pistol was all I needed.” Jia patted the weapon. “And now it shocks me that the average patrol officer doesn’t carry a rifle.” She pointed to another crate. The shape was suggestive of a particular weapon. “Wait, are we shooting missiles, too?”
Try as she might, Jia couldn’t keep the excitement out of her voice. Erik was really infecting her mind.
“The more we both practice using everything in our arsenal, the better things will be if we get ambushed by gangsters, terrorists, yaoguai, Tin Men or,” he eyed her, “Zitarks trying to start a harem.”
Jia raised an eyebrow. “Zitarks trying to start a harem?”
“It could happen.” Erik shrugged. “I don’t know what the hell they’re into. Pictures of raptors?” He finished loading and pushed the dolly toward the door, then inclined his head toward the flitter. “By the way, I saw you looking at your flitter and around earlier. You don’t have to worry about that. Big Bill will make sure no one messes with it.”
Jia eyed the strange man with suspicion. “I’d hope so.”
“I can’t have my customers getting annoyed with losses, especially customers dropping as many credits as you two are today.” Big Bill tapped his PNIU.
A low, rattling growl sounded behind Jia. Her hand shot to her slug-thrower. Red eyes stared at her from the darkness of a nearby alley.
“Don’t,” Jia spat through clenched teeth. “Unless you want to get shot.”
“Calm down there, Detective,” Big Bill soothed. “Everything’s under control. I’ll show you.” He snapped his fingers.
A robotic dog complete with ears, a tail, and a mouth full of metal teeth jogged out of the shadows. Light glinted off the metallic surface, and now that it was closer, Jia thought it more resembled a metallic skeleton of a dog than the beast itself. There was something absurd and almost wrong about making a bot that semi-resembled a real animal, but that was probably the point. A robot dog with a mouth full of teeth probably scared most criminals worse than a faceless security bot.
“I see,” Jia commented, lowering her hand. “Next time, don’t surprise me.”
“Touchy. I’ll try to remember that.” Big Bill gestured around the area, highlighting small protrusions from nearby walls or a glint of metal from a pile of trash. “I’ve got a lot of toys hiding around, just in case someone decides they’re going to be a dumbass and try to steal anything from here. It’s not like people aren’t aware of the gear I keep and the kind of money I make. Before, I made deals with the boys who ran this part of the Zone. I paid them a security fee, you could call it.” He sucked air through a gap in his teeth. “But they’re all dead or in jail now. That’s progress for you. It’s been fun fortifying my place, though.”
“You’d prefer criminals backing you up?” she asked. She was truly curious.
Big Bill shrugged, his grin now more playful than insane. “There’s something to be said for a man honest about his violence.”
Erik stopped at the door and nodded inside. “Let’s get going. We have bots to trash and guns to shoot.” He started to walk in, his voice carrying as he continued, “Maybe not in that order.”
Jia jogged after him, content not to press Big Bill on his fondness for syndicate protection schemes. Despite the conversation and the killer robot dog, she had relaxed.
Before meeting Erik, she’d never even been in the Shadow Zone, and now it felt like a good, fun place to spend a day off, firing missiles and laser rifles. She chuckled at the thought.
Her family would be aghast if they understood how much she had changed.
So, how much would you pay to be a fly on the wall of that range? Oh, wait! Maybe I'd rather be in the control room watching it all go down. I doubt flies would survive what Eric and Jia have going. Hehehe
Grab your pre-order of Cabal of Lies today and find out April 17th! That’s this Friday! Woot Woot!