Thanks to Jeff Somers, here's an exclusive extract from his latest, The Final Evolution. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
If they didn't have guns, I'd be insulted
The corridors were tight and filled with the steady, nerve-shredding noise of the alarm. I led the way, followed by Adora, then Remy facing our rear and making sure no one got behind us. We owned the straightaways; so far the crew didn't have a fucking boomer among them, and I was shocked and appalled that they might have scrupled to lie about being armed.
There were multiple staircases leading to and from each deck, and at each one we had to stop cold and make sure the way was clear before I hedgehogged up, boosted by Adora so I could keep the Roon in action. The first three decks went by fast, empty and grimy, little-used. I didn't know how much crew a tanker like this normally required, but it looked to me like they were running light, with the lower decks largely abandoned. As I was pushing my head up over the top step from the third deck to the fourth, I contemplated the fucking ridiculous bad luck that we'd been noticed in the first place.
As I looked up over the lip of the stairs on the fourth deck someone tried to put a boot on me and I had to let go of the railing and slide downward, colliding with
we're going to try a hot shot
Adora and sprawling to the third deck floor. Behind me I heard three of Remy's deafening shots, loud enough to hear even over the endless whine of the alarm.
“What the fuck are you shooting at?!”
“We got a crowd,” he hollered back. “Just keeping 'em back!”
“Watch your bullets!” I growled, pulling myself up and ducking up the stairs to check the way. “We can't shoot every cocksucker on this boat!”
so try to relax; the effect is not going to be
To make myself look ridiculous, I underscored this advice by putting two shells into the air straight up the stairway, making one burly-looking man with a bald head and a heavy-looking striped shirt screech and throw himself backwards from the stairwell.
“Coming up!” I bellowed. “Back the fuck up!”
I grinned. Reminding myself that just because we hadn't seen a gun yet didn't mean there wasn't a gun somewhere on the ship, heading our way, I had to admit I was enjoying myself. Two weeks sleeping in the dark, breathing Remy's farts and having headaches—just being able to move was pleasant, which is why we had to
Creeping up the stairs, I took a breath and popped my head up again, then ducked down. Below and behind, Remy peeled off another two shots, and I got the impression we were in a rush to keep moving. I took a step up and sighted down the fourth deck—about four, five crew carrying heavy wrenches and pipe fittings in their hands, ten, twelve feet away. I spun rapidly and found three more creeping up the other way.
I squeezed the trigger and put one shell into the floor right in front of the trio, then spun again, putting my gun on the first group.
“Kid! Get up here and take my flank!”
I felt Adora pushing up behind me. The five in front of me were four men and one woman. One of the men, a short man with a tan, deeply-wrinkled face and a yellowed beard like cake frosting on his face took a step forward, holding his spanner out in front of him like a shield.
restrain you. You're experiencing a dissociative
“What in fuck is wrong wit' ya, you fuckin' blödes arschloch?” He shouted, his eyes wide in outrage. By his accent I marked him as Captain Kaufman. “We ain't tryin' to kill ya!”
I put a shell at his feet too, because I could—I felt so sharp and light, I thought I might be able to put a bullet between his eyes without even looking, just based on my spatial memory.
“That's good news,” I shouted. The alarm, I had to admit, was getting under my skin like a termite and chewing on my nerves. “Because if this is you trying to kill me, it's a fail, and when people fail to kill me it gets unpleasant.” I gestured a tight arc with the Roon. “We just want off this fucking boat. You have my apologies for stowing away.”
He squinted at me, chewing his lip, but he didn't move. Remy fired again, and someone behind me started screaming like a cat in a sack.
“Mutterficker!” Kaufman yowled, eyes going wide. “We canna let you go!” His voice had taken on a pitiable quality I didn't like. “We fuckin' sold ya, and took the yen already.”
I grinned again, a thrill going through me. I'd been sold like cargo so many times, it was familiar territory, but this time, for once, I still had my gun and a field of vision. I suspected this transaction was going to
break due to the psionic's pressure, causing you to relive immediate experiences, and we have to introduce a
turn out differently than I was used to. For a moment, I imagined the Cosmos had tried to put me back on the Rail, and I'd kicked a stone under the wheels and bucked myself off. It was an exhilarating thought. I grabbed onto it and decided to see how far the ride would get me.
“You sold me,” I said slowly, stepping forward and keeping the gun directly on Kaufman's face. “You sold me.”
He put his hands up and took an involuntary step backwards, colliding with his crew and stopping short. “We—we put the name out there, an' hell, we got an offer in two hours. A decent offer.” His face reddened and he found his balls again. “What the fuck were we supposed to do? You were stowaways! You don't have any fucking rights!”
I nodded. “Back up.”
Kaufman pushed himself back up straight and cocked his head. “You can't shoot all of us, Mr. Cates.”
I raised an eyebrow, still grinning. “I can't? You sure?” His crew, standing behind him, weren't convinced, I could see that. “Back up.”
He swallowed, and for a second I thought Captain Kaufman was going to try and be a hero, but his crew started to fall back and that settled him. He didn't turn his back on me, though; he started walking backwards, hands still up to show me he wasn't going to try anything. I trusted Remy to guard my rear and we started walking. Now that he was doing what I wanted, I was inclined to feel friendly towards Kaufman.
“All we want is
off this ship,” I offered.
Kaufman's anxiety seemed to bloat inside him, pushing out the leathery skin of his face. He almost looked back over his shoulder, but caught himself, and a sudden idea
in order to
formed in my head. “They're here—right? Your buyers. Taking possession?”
We'd reached the next set of narrow, steep metal stairs leading up to the next deck. A bilge of dirty water stood an inch deep on the floor here, and I figured that meant we were near the main deck.
After a moment's hesitation as the crew behind him stopped moving, confused, at the bottom of the stairs, he nodded. “Ya. They came just before the alarm. We assured them it was just a malfunction.”
I nodded, gesturing up the stairs with the gun. The stairs were going to be tricky, because if anyone was inclined to try for a grab of the gun that would be the ideal spot—my field of vision truncated, a third dimension I couldn't easily police introduced. If there was any talent in there, this would be where I'd find out. I didn't have much choice, though; it was up the stairs or
stay in the floating hell forever.
The buyers were another problem altogether—the chances that people who would pay money to buy me did have guns were about 100%. If they didn't have guns, I'd be insulted.
The crew began climbing the stairs, one by one. When the captain, a man who was shrinking right before my eyes, stood nervously at the base of the stairs, watching me in an agony of indecision and horror at the twist his life had just taken, I stepped back and gestured Adora ahead of me.
“Backwards,” I said. “Be my eyes.”
She scowled and muttered a string of Spanish. Then she waved at the gun. “Are you pointing it at me, as well?”
“That depends,” I said, “on whether you're doing what I tell you.” I smiled. “Just
tell me if anyone's trying to fuck with me as I come up.”
She nodded. “I cannot wait to say goodbye to you, Mr. Avery Cates,” she said, smiling a little. She was filthy, caked in a dark sort of mud that glazed her hair and stained every visible inch of her. “You are the worst thing to happen to me in many years, and that is saying something, senor.” She fell into place in front of the captain as they backed up the stairs. When she had cleared the deck she looked around and then shouted down to me.
“They're all still backing away down the corridor. Oh, thank you, the fucking sun.”
I chanced a glance behind me to make sure Remy had everything under control, and headed up the stairs quickly, ascending into bright, liquid sunshine streaming in through the huge plate windows that lined the corridor of the main interior deck. The ocean, gray and listless, stretched away from us on all sides, and for a moment, I was dazzled just like Adora. Fresh air and sunlight had never looked so good. My HUD even snapped into clarity for the occasion, showing me mostly green status bars with a few yellowed ones here and there—but I never knew how much I could
if you can
trust the HUD anymore, with my implants rotting away in my head, gifting me with audio hallucinations and sudden, random headaches like a sweating drum of toxic waste buried in my brain. I stepped aside to let Remy come up and stand next to me, then gestured with the gun again.
“You assholes down there,” I shouted. “Come up and join everyone else. Let's have you all in one place.” I didn't know if there were other crew creeping about the ship, but I could see the fucking water. We were getting off the Daniel Krokos if I had to shoot everyone
in my way.
I took a handful of Kaufman's shirt and shoved him. “Let's go. Where are your clients?”
I wasn't sure he'd tell the truth, but it didn't make any sense to not ask. He backed away with his hands up as I advanced on him, his eyes everywhere as he licked his lips nervously—I was starting to think Captain Kaufman had never been hijacked at gunpoint in his life, which seemed fucking impossible in the new world, without police, without government, with men like me walking around free.
“My quarters,” he said, blinking rapidly. “Where they could be comfortable while we fetched you.”
I thought about it for three steps, and decided I believed him. A sign over the pair of swinging doors was in English, with arrows pointing up for GALLEY and BRIDGE. I didn't want to go either place, but I wanted to get out into the open air as quickly as possible.
“Can you swim?” I shouted over my shoulder.
“Yes,” Adora said immediately.
“Fuckin' hell, no I canna swim!” Remy snarled. I blinked. Remy could swim. I'd seen him swim. He swam like a fucking fish. Before I could think on that any further, Kaufman crashed through the swinging doors and I followed him out into the warm, wet air. For a moment all I was aware of was the warm sun on my skin and the distant sound of birds. Then I was aware of the ten or twelve armed men and women waiting for us on the deck. A shaft of pain stabbed up from my neck into my head, making me wince as I struggled to figure out who to put the gun on first. A thin, medium-sized man wearing glasses stepped forward