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Snippet #2 for Cabal of Lies


I can’t wait to see what happens here:

Erik let out a hearty laugh as he stepped onto the parking platform, pushing a hoverdolly carrying numerous long, sealed crates.

A bright red flitter waited in the spot nearest the door, Jia sat behind the control yoke with a huge grin on her face. He shook his head and made his way over to the flitter. She’d actually gone and done it. He’d been sure she wouldn’t.

“I knew you would lose the bet,” Emma commented.

“Why were you so sure?” Erik scoffed. “She’s been talking about getting a new flitter forever. I figured a deadline would prove she was bluffing. And then she shows up in this thing?” He gestured toward the vehicle. “I’m surprised she didn’t have a heart attack when she chose the color.”

“Perhaps Detective Lin’s tastes are wider than you believe.”

“Looks like it.” Erik arrived at the flitter, wheeling his dolly opposite the driver’s side. He stepped away from the dolly and slipped into her passenger’s seat. Honesty compelled him to admit the seats were damned comfortable, although that wasn’t a huge problem. He didn’t intend to spend any more time in Jia’s new vehicle than he had her old one. He hmmmd and huh’d before sliding back outside and over to the dolly

“Huh?” Jia frowned. “You hate it that much?”

Erik pointed to his dolly. “I wasn’t pushing this for my health. Open the trunk. I’ll have to put some of this in the back seat. Good thing you bought a four-seater.”

Jia gestured toward one of the crates. “Are those what I think they are?”

“Guns, guns, and more guns.” Erik patted a square crate. “And grenades. Tightly-packed death.”

“Are you a rolling gun show today?”

“I told you to clear your schedule for something fun.” Erik smiled. “And these crates are filled with fun.”

Jia offered him a grin so wide it belonged on a shark yaoguai. “Before that, we have a little business to discuss.” She leaned forward in her seat to tap the screen on her console. The trunk popped open.

Erik grabbed a wide and long case that likely held his laser rifle. “I hate losing, but yeah, bring it on.” She could hear him just fine as he walked around to the back.

Jia waited for him to deposit the case in the trunk. “I believe the terms of our bet were quite clear. If I didn’t buy a new, sexier,” Jia made air quotes around the word, “flitter by the end of July, I would pay for your breakfast, including at least two beignets, for a month. If I won, you would pay for mine.”

Erik picked up another crate. “I was just trying to motivate you, and I was successful. In a way, we both won the bet.” He opened the back door on his side to access the back seat.

“You’ve motivated me to let you repay me after I buy more expensive breakfasts for the next month.” Jia laughed. “And don’t feed me a line. You totally thought you were going to win.”

“No soldier wins every battle.” Erik continued ferrying his supplies into the flitter, filling the trunk and the back seat with deadly cargo. “Let me run this dolly back to the utility room, and I’ll explain where we’re going.”

He departed with a quick nod to finish his errand. A couple of minutes later, he jogged back to the parking platform, settled into the passenger seat, and swiped over his seatbelt.

Jia tugged on the control yoke, and the Aurora began to rise. “I’m surprised you were so willing to let me pick you up.” She nodded toward the back. “Especially with the arsenal. This thing might be able to take a few bullets, but it’s not nearly as souped-up as your baby.”

Emma appeared in the back seat, arms crossed and partially obscured by boxes. “Alas.”

“The MX 60 is in the shop,” Erik explained. “I needed more hidden cargo space, and some of the electronics reinforced. It was one thing when we were just running into basic criminals, but now we also have terrorists and high-end cyborgs sent by conspiracies. I want to make it harder for them to kill us.”

“Funny. I was thinking the same thing when I bought the Aurora.” Jia pulled her flitter away from the parking platform. “Why do I have a feeling I’m going to end up spending half my savings improving my new flitter?”

Erik shrugged. “You don’t have to. We can just use the MX 60.”

“Sometimes I like to be in control,” Jia complained.

Erik laughed. “You don’t even use manual control most of the time.”

Jia’s hands tightened on the control yoke. “Well, it’s not like I never do. I am now. But let’s forget about all that. Care to explain why we loaded the arsenal into my new flitter on our day off? Unless there’s some secret syndicate raid I hadn’t heard about, I thought we were supposed to go to the tactical center?”

“The tactical center is useful, but it has its limits.” Erik pulled back his duster and patted his pistol. “All the fancy nanotech, holograms, and misdirection allow us to be anywhere, but it’s all fake in the end.”

“I’d hope so.” Jia chuckled. “We put our lives on the line often enough during our job. I don’t want to risk them for a training exercise.”

Erik shook his head. “Even the guns are fake, though—the weight, the feel, the recoil. It’s close, but not the same as the real thing. In the beginning, I only cared about getting you to shoot without reservation and making sure you had better tactical resources. The center is good for that, but we need to take it to the next level.”

“Meaning what?”

Her PNIU chimed.

Erik looked into the back seat and nodded at Emma. “Sent her the address already?”

Emma nodded back. “I figured we could discuss everything on the way.”

Jia’s eyes darted between them. “The Shadow Zone? Please tell me we aren’t doing some rogue raid.”

“Nothing like that.” Erik looked out the side window, a wistful expression on his face. “Live fire is important. I know you already get that, so it’s time to mix live fire with the training scenarios. The best simulation in the world can’t trick the human brain, and sometimes it’s good to train when you’re not getting shot at.”

Jia accelerated, and her flitter zoomed away from the parking platform. “I’m not saying I disagree, but what does this have to do with the Shadow Zone? And what does live fire constitute, exactly?”

“You’ve gotten over your tendency to use that stun pistol for everything,” Erik explained with a shrug, “but you need to be comfortable with a wider range of weapons, not just the occasional rifle. If we run into Talos’ Tin Men or yaoguai again, you’ll need to be able to use everything the colonel’s provided, and anything I can scrounge from a wrecked exoskeleton.” He nodded. “It’s simple. Alicia’s hooked me up with a place where we can train with all my weapons.”

Jia frowned. “My newfound willingness to play fast and loose with the rules doesn’t necessarily extend to illegal Shadow Zone operations.”

Erik grinned. “There’s nothing illegal about it. It’s just the kind of business respectable Uptowners don’t want near them. On top of that, very few people have the necessary permits to use the kinds of weapons we’re going to train with, so it’s on the expensive side.”

“Oh. That’s not so bad.” Jia’s frown vanished.

“Exactly. It’s not like I’m saving all my money for the future. This place won’t be as dynamic as the tactical center, but it’s not just a range, either. They’ve got target drones and that kind of thing. I want to hit it at least monthly, so we’re both comfortable with all the weapons we have available. You never know who or what we’ll run into. I still want to get you rated for exoskeleton piloting, too, but one challenge at a time.”

Jia shook her head and gave him a bright smile. “So, we’re spending a day off pretending to kill people?”

“Nope. We’ll be blowing actual things up. Totally different,” he replied.



So, how will the live fire go? Will there be any surprises? Grab your pre-order of Cabal of Lies today and find out April 17th! That’s this Friday! Woot Woot!

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