You might be saying, huh? And with good reason.
See, Chapter 24 of Book 2 is really short. REALLY short! And it’s also the end of Book 2, so I persuaded Adam to let me do Chapter 1 of Book 3.
Put it on your calendars now: November 24.
Because Adam is going to do a blockbuster sale and promotional blitz that day!
He’s going to be all over the web, including at least one (and maybe two) LIVE appearances, PLUS giveaways and contests and all sorts of other fun things.
MOST of this will be on Facebook (see the button below), but he’s also going to be on the Meet The Author Podcast at 7pm EST (4pm PST) on the 24th as well.
Don’t miss out!
Chapter 24: Now What?
“She’s late,” said Mac for the fifth time in as many minutes.
“I know that,” ground out Montana. Dr. Mantchev was in the back of the transport, trying to make herself as inconspicuous as possible. “One more minute, then we go. She’ll have to manage on her own.”
“NO!” Dr. Mantchev’s temper was plainly tied to her classically red hair. “She risked her ass to get me out and we’re going to -”
“Do exactly as she told us to do,” finished Montana. “She was clear, and she was in charge. Fifteen minutes, then gone. Rendezvous at the hotel tonight.”
“And if she’s not there tonight?”
Montana hesitated. They hadn’t discussed that contingency.
“Well?” insisted Mantchev.
“Then, we head back to New Orleans and get Kendra.” It was the best she could come up with.
“Time.” Mac’s voice was, for once, subdued.
Without a word, Montana started the transport and left the HLC campus.
Chapter 1: I Get By
“Where are we going?”
“You didn’t answer me; where are we going?”
Christina Montana, agent of OutLook and specialist in hurting people and breaking things, took her attention from the road for a brief moment.
“Hotel.” The one-word answer was enough for the questioner, Dr. Lisa Mantchev, at least for the moment.
“So help me, Mac, you say that one more time and I’m gonna throw you through the window!”
“I can’t help it – Cass should be with us!”
Montana had to admit that her fellow agent, Amanda McAllister, known to all as Mac, had a point.
The two agents were returning after rescuing Dr. Mantchev from a holding cell in the headquarters of her employer, Heavy Lift Corporation. A fourth woman, Aiyana Cassidy Foster-Briggs, had spearheaded the effort. She had been an employee of HLC as well, until an assassination attempt at her wedding. She had discovered a theoretical break-through while working for HLC’s Optics lab. If correct, it could lead to a revolution in transit and transport, cutting right to the heart of HLC’s multi-billion-dollar business. Cass and her wife, Kendra Marissa Cassidy, had contacted Lisa to dig into the files and uncover any proof of HLC’s involvement in the shooting. Unfortunately for Lisa, she had left a trail, because goons from the Security Department of HLC had picked her and her husband up.
Cass and Kendra, meanwhile, had problems of their own, including a cross-continental chase from Los Alamos, to Massachusetts, and down to the ruins of New Orleans. There, hidden away in plain sight, was the headquarters of OutLook, a company with a secret. Ostensibly, OutLook was a support organization for far-sighted people and companies, providing inspiration and funding for true blue-sky projects. However, the optimistic exterior concealed a more sinister agenda: engaging in personal protective services, industrial and international espionage, and even assassination. Kendra was a highly-trained courier who had done stints as both a protective agent and assassin. She had semi-retired and moved to Los Alamos, in the Sonoran Republic, where she’d reconnected with Cass, her best friend from high school.
Kendra thought OutLook would provide them sanctuary. Instead, Director Talbott had sent Kendra off on a courier run and offered Cass quarters, and Mac as an escort, in the interim. Cass had taken the most liberal possible interpretation of the Director’s instructions and roped Mac into hacking HLC’s systems, discovering Lisa’s predicament. Cass felt guilty and decided to fetch her from her imprisonment. Of course, she couldn’t begin to stretch Talbott’s directives to Mac that far, and had to go to the Director herself with her request. To her shock, Talbott not only granted it but added another agent to serve as a bodyguard.
That agent was Montana. She and Mac had a history, but they put it aside to help Cass plan and execute her infiltration. Things had gone well for most of the op; they’d split up, Cass to fetch Lisa’s husband, the agents to release Lisa. Mac and Montana had done their end and headed for the transport, where they were supposed to meet Cass.
Cass hadn’t made the rendezvous.
It was a testament to the power of Cass’s personality that the two professionals had actually obeyed her directions. They departed for their hotel room, the secondary meeting point.
“You’re right,” Montana said at last. “She should be. She isn’t. Yet. Don’t give up on her, though. Maybe she’s following another lead.”
“Yeah, sure, like that’s liable to happen, if she fetched out Lisa’s husband, what did he do anyway, I don’t think we ever asked but I guess it doesn’t matter now, he’s a package deal, but maybe she got lost getting out or detained or there was some other problem and she came out right after we left, that would be horrible for her, she must think we deserted her!” Mac’s speech tended to be very stream-of-consciousness; working around IT had stunted her social skills. Still, it was a positive sign that she was saying more than just two or three words.
For values of positive, at least…
“What did you say? About my husband?” asked Lisa from behind.
Montana answered before Mac could drown her in a torrent of words. “The records showed two rooms being used to hold you and your husband. We chose one room, Cass the other.”
That was unexpected.
“Because you were in one and your husband in the other?”
Lisa’s voice caught. “My husband’s dead. Kaine’s goons killed him.”
The transport screeched to a halt as Montana attempted to mash her foot through the floor.
“I said, he’s dead. Did you suddenly become hard of thinking?!”
“Shit, shit, shit!” Montana clenched the wheel for another moment, then forced herself to relax. “Mac.”
“Hack back into HLC. I want video and audio taps on all their internal cameras, I don’t care if they can trace it, and I want it before we get back to the hotel.”
“On it.” For once, there were no questions.
The last connections were being made as they parked. Mac handed the padd to Montana.
“I don’t know how long the connection will last, it’s stealthed but a determined attack will reveal it, but at least they’ll just track it back to this padd, we can always just junk it if we have to, it’s an independent system, hopping networks -” Montana waved her hand at Mac.
“Can I search for audio clips?”
“Yes,” answered Mac, offended, but her pride in her work won out. “Tap the audio key, near the top? Then type in the search string in the pop-up.”
Montana typed in “Cassidy”. The screen shimmered, blurred, then reformed with a single scene. Montana tapped “Play”.
“…subject Cassidy apprehended without incident…” was all she heard before the clip ended.
“Expand that!” demanded Montana, shoving the padd at Mac.
Mac fiddled with the padd as they made their way to the room. “I told it to search for more incidences of the term, plus it’ll now play back until you tell it to stop, though that puts us at a greater risk of discovery.”
“Right, so we’d better listen carefully.” Montana keyed the padd to life again.
“…subject Cassidy apprehended without incident, being held pending interrogation. Subject Mantchev allowed to escape. Agents Beth and Malone assigned to Cassidy. Pause record.” The clinical nature of Kaine’s voice changed and became much more menacing. “If those two bitches that called themselves Jess and Amelia attempt to return, they’ll have an unpleasant surprise.” He cleared his throat. “Resume record. Interrogation commences at zero three hundred hours on Friday to allow for maximum psychological effect. End record.”
Montana stopped the playback. “He’s going to hold her for two days before talking to her. That gives us a window.”
“You heard him, Montana, he’s assigned two guards to her, he’s probably deleted all the access codes we used and I don’t know if I can get in and hack new ones, not with what we have here, and we can’t go back to OutLook, not yet, not after what we did on the way out, and Kendra doesn’t know where we are or what we’re doing either, and what are we going to do?”
“Call for help.”
“Not OutLook. Not directly, at least.”