Thursday, October 9, 2014
First Page Review Blog-Hop: Gene Cards
Today's post is part of the First Page Review bloghop. Here's how it works: if you are writer, on your own blog, post your first 1,000 words of something you're writing or have written, then sign up on this page, linking your 1,000 word post. Visit other people on the list and read theirs, then leave a comment to let them know if you liked it, what worked, what didn't, and if you'd keep reading. And if you don't have any work in progress to share... visit the First Page Review bloghop page to discover new, forthcoming books!
My excerpt is from my new book release, GENE CARDS. Here's the first 994 words:
The blue bar inched forward.
Thirty percent download.
Orange light pooled through the electrochromic windows and drew jagged lines across the walls. Outside, helicopter blades swooshed closer. Yulia waved a hand in front of the switch sensor and the glass went from opaque back to transparent. She watched the chopper—a Sikorsky quadcopter—maneuver through the sky. Thick billows of smoke enveloped it.
A red, angry sun watched with her.
Sirens blasted in the distance, a megaphone barked down the street.
Yulia’s eyes strayed back to the screen in her hand.
Forty percent download.
Nestled in the palm of her hand, the forty panels forming the screen of her Computerized Personal Assistant buzzed with activity. Bites of data rushed across firewalls, swirling through fiber-optic cables and eluding encrypted servers, slowly filling her CPA’s two terabytes of RAM.
“New message,” the CPA said. “Display?”
On the bottom right corner of her screen, Yulia read, Inbox(1).
She tapped the screen and said, “No.”
The blue bar inched to fifty percent. The beat of the quad skycrane hammered against the windows.
“New message,” the CPA repeated. “Display?”
Her muscles twitched, her foot rapped the floor. She tapped the Inbox. The screen went black, a new image quickly filled it.
She saw red, at first. Red, like the sun outside.
Red’s not good.
She bit her lip, watching.
He’s sick again.
Sick, like the sun outside.
Yulia’s fingers wavered. She peeked at the downloading bar at the bottom of the screen—sixty-eight percent—then back to the image: the rusty skeleton of a boat deck stranded on a gray beach. Ravenous ocean waves swelled around it, dark clouds looming above.
No time now.
“Close.” She tapped the screen and the image was gone.
The sirens outside wailed closer.
A tree on the street burst, sending debris and ashes drumming against the windowpanes.
A loud buzz, the electronic voice of the security system crackling to life. “Code nine-eight-nine. The system has been informed of an emergency.”
“Really?” Yulia snapped.
“Recognition failed. Please repeat.”
She bit her lip. Stay calm. You’ll get out of this.
With its syncopated cadence, the central computer dictated its impersonal warning: “The system will proceed to shut down at seventeen-oh-five GMT on August ten, two thousand fifty-six. Shut down will complete in ninety seconds.”
Yulia locked her fingers around her CPA. She had ninety seconds to finish the download and leave. The shutdown was irreversible. She could yell some random command at the speakerphone, but the voice recognition software would reject it.
Through the electrochromic windows, she could now see the plume of smoke loom over the horizon. The sky darkened, the red disk of the sun glimmered through the haze like a reversed eclipse.
“Electricity. Disconnected. Battery life. Fifteen seconds.”
Light burst through the OLED TV screen one last time and then died. Suddenly muted, digital frames scattered on the white walls flickered and went black. The wireless power source tower faded from red to gray.
Ninety percent download.
Down the street, barked the impersonal voice of a security drone: “Mandatory evacuation for all residents. Please evacuate. Now.”
Heedless, the central computer resumed its warning. “Q-Network. Dis—”
Another loud buzz, this time followed by sparks.
The system exhaled its last breath, Yulia thought.
Electronically controlled, all doors in the apartment closed. Sprinklers came down from recesses in the ceiling.
Yulia ducked to cover her CPA from the water.
The shelves rattled, one of the picture screens fell and crashed into a million fragments. The metal cabinet shook, its long forgotten treasures trembled: a black and white picture in an old-fashioned wood frame. A seashell. A vintage 35mm camera.
The CPA emitted a brusque bleep.
Yulia exhaled. She unplugged the cat-5 cable, morphed her CPA to a cube, and slid it in her pocket.
This is all I need.
The sprinklers spit rust-smelling water on her face.
Car keys. Check. Data. Check.
A whiff of gunpowder emerged over the reek of fire smoke. And blood. Not much, just a trickle snaking its way on the floor. Duane stared at her with vacant eyes, an arm loosely wrapped across the back of the couch as if he’d just sat down to chat. A hint of surprise lingered in his gaze. His wet forehead was plastered with strands of ash blond hair.
Yulia brushed her fingers along the back of his hand, the same hand that yesterday had run on her breasts, teasing, caressing.
Her two-millimeter H&K K45 lay on the cushion next to him. She picked it up, pressed the release and checked the magazine.
Twenty more rounds.
She snuck the handgun in her waistband and kissed Duane’s forehead—a wet kiss, lulled by the monotone hiss of the sprinklers.
“Bye, babe. Sorry you didn’t enjoy the ending.”
The acrid smell of wildfire welcomed her outside, stinging. The plume loomed and covered the sky, as if night had fallen. She heard the chopper but couldn’t locate it. Ashes prickled her face like soft raindrops. The metallic voice of the security drone sounded far away now, its distant call an unheard lullaby.
Her Toyota SX waited on the curbside, under a layer of soot. She climbed behind the wheel, called the engine on, then the wipers.
The fifteen-year-old engine roared. Without a GPS or QNet communicator to inform it of the current emergency, the navigator’s greeting seemed surreal.
“Welcome, Alex. Where should I take you today?”
“Away,” Yulia ordered the navigator. “As fast as you can.”
Headlights on, the Toyota whipped into the street.
She saw the flash first, through the rearview mirror. Then came the blast, so strong it made the car jump and propel forward. Glass shattered and exploded. Debris washed on the windshield.
She didn’t stop to look back. It no longer mattered.
Nothing mattered anymore.
Tires skittered on soot.
The Toyota lost ground, then gained it back.
When the cure for some means death for others, how far will you go to save your own?
Yulia Szymanski is a murderer and one of the best hackers of the century. Her mission: break her brother out of a high security jail before he dies of a rare genetic condition. On her trail is Biothreat Agent Skyler Donohue, a decorated Muay Thai fighter with a strange fascination for corpses. The obstacle to overcome: an invisible, deadly disease that strikes at random and has the city of Liasis locked in a bioterrorism siege.
When the latest to fall ill is Skyler's best friend's daughter, Skyler wants to drop the Szymanski case to chase the baffling pathogen that nobody is able to isolate. What she doesn't know is that finding Yulia is the only way to stop the epidemic and save the child's life.
In a world where identities are based on gene cards, and privacy no longer exists, survival is only granted to the rich, the healthy, and those who've learned to become invisible to the system.
Preorder GENE CARDS on Amazon (release date October 15).