The author of "Hammerjack" returns with a gripping blend of cyberpunk and action-packed military thriller in a crackling new adventure—with the girls in charge.
In his riveting debut, Hammerjack, Marc Giller unspooled a futuristic thriller of global intrigue, corporate espionage, and techno-terrorism. Now he delivers a gritty new novel of deadly resurrection and a no-holds-barred fight for the future... Once an elusive hammerjack plunged into a virtual world of code, Lea Prism has been reborn as a corporate spook, hell-bent on ridding the universe of the anti-tech "Inru "terrorists. Their attempt to accelerate evolution robbed her of her once chance for happiness. Now the man she loved is nothing but a disembodied consciousness-and part of the computer matrix she has sworn to defend. But from the depths of a Martian volcano to the radioactive wasteland of Chernobyl, the "Inru "have launched one last offensive-giving rise to a final scenario more terrifying than anyone could imagine. The forces of technology are poised to distort the very worst of what nature has to offer...and the stage is set for battle.
"From the Trade Paperback edition."
Marc D. Giller lives in Florida with his wife and two children. A graduate of Texas A&M University, he has worked as a computer trainer, a television producer, and for the past four years as an information systems manager for a Florida law firm.
Chapter One Lea Prism took measure of herself the way she always didin fleeting glimpses, caught by accident, off some reflective surface that obscured her face in shadow. Tonight it was a window, her face flanked by pinpoint stars and glowing LEDs, the flood of virtual monitors elongating her features in a trick of the light. It was a mission ritual: a pause followed by a sideways glance, just to see how much the person staring back at her had changed since the last time. Outwardly, there wasn''t much. An Inru blade had grazed Lea''s neck some months ago, leaving a thin scar that trailed along her jawline, but everything else was the same. With her hair pulled back into a ponytail and her eyes narrowed to a scowl, the scar hardened her featureswhich was why she had decided against having it removed. It was also a reminder of some deeper wounds, not the least of which was the memory of what she had done to the Inru bitch who cut her. That day had marked the beginning of the spiraland Lea''s first realization of how far down she would have to go. That''s how they get you , a trusted voice had once warned her. You just wake up one morning, and you''re one of them. After that, you can''t go back . Worse still, Lea now understood that she didn''t even have the will to try. The mission was the only thing that stirred her passions. The job was her only purpose. And the kill , she added. What are you when that''s your only kick ? A spot of turbulence jolted her out of that thought, making her grab the nearest handhold. It seemed like she had already spent a lifetime in the airmost of it aboard heavy transports like this, sealed within cramped quarters rife with the taste of adrenaline. After more than fifty combat drops, she had developed a serious taste for it. "CIC," Lea heard the pilot say over her earpiece. "We''re crossing the Old Federation border now. Estimate thirty minutes to target." "Acknowledged," she replied. "Keep it dark up there, guys. You know the drill when we''re operating outside of jurisdiction." "When are we ever in jurisdiction?" Lea smiled. Even though Russia was technically part of the Incorporated Territories, there were still a lot of military freelancers in the former republics who made sport out of shooting down stray aircraft. "Just do the flying and let me worry about the travel arrangements," she said gamely. "Next time, maybe the bad guys will hole up someplace nicer." "Roger on that, Skipper." Lea closed off the channel, turning around to face the Critical Information Center. Once an empty cargo hold, the space was now crammed with rows of interface consoles, tracking nodes, and communications equipment: everything required to coordinate a complex mobile insertion. Manning the stations was a small crew of men and women wearing the black and gold uniform of Technical Branch. Independent of Corporate Special Services, T-Branch was an elite unit with a military chain of commanda hedge against the split loyalties and infighting that plagued the civilian security agencies. That autonomy had also spared her from having to deal with the layers of bureaucracy at CSSnot to mention an entrenched administration that still viewed her as an enemy. For that reason, among others, Lea eschewed the uniform, even though she held a commissioned rank of major as a condition of her job. She had always been wary of working with the big guns, based on her own experience with the kind of mercenaries CSS employed. In time, though, Lea had come to think of the team as an extension of herselfwhich included her cunning, her instincts, and sometimes even her rage. It was their work, more than anything, that had assured her reputation as a corporate spook. You mean your reputation as an Inru nightmare. The glint off her quicksilver blade reinforced that thought. The weapon had saved her life onceand since then, she never entered battle without it. She stowed the knife in the leg compartment of her body armor, then strode toward the rising fracas at the back of the CIC. Five members of her advance team were engaged in a game of breakneck poker, their voices rising and falling with the cards that flew around a pile of money on the deck. Epithets seared the air, volleying back and forth with the turn of each card, while the players fell one by one. Not even their own armor could protect them from the dealera skinny kid with fast hands and kinetic eyes, radiating a confidence that didn''t know when to quit. "Hey, Pallas," Lea told him. "Just make sure the house gets ten percent, okay?" The kid flashed her a knowing grin. "With this bunch," Pallas scoffed, "you''ll have to wait until payday." Lea shook her head, smiling. Alex Pallas was a natural hammerjack: cool and creative, with a singular talent for penetrating even the most secure networksbut too cocky to appreciate danger when it was staring him in the face. That same attitude had gotten him kicked out of MIT, after the board of regents discovered he had been looting the university''s research budget to finance his high-stakes gambling excursions. That Pallas had turned a handsome profit didn''t impress the disciplinary board, but it had impressed Lea. The kid might have been a liar and a thief, but his game was always honest. Pallas dealt out a quick hand of five-card stud, while Lea heard a baritone voice growling behind her. "One of these days," it said, "that boy is going to get himself launched ass first out of the back of this transport." Lea looked back to find the last member of the advance team sauntering up to her. Eric Tiernan was pure T-Branch: tall and angular, with a seasoned toughness that telegraphed his rank even more than his lieutenant''s bars. As squad commander, he was in charge of the tactical aspects of the team''s missions. He was also Lea''s executive officer. "Relax, Tiernan," she said. "He''s going easy on them." Pallas threw down an ace to match the other one he had showing. "I can see that," the lieutenant replied. Lea brushed off the remark but took it as her cue. " Stations , people," she ordered. "Preop briefing in one minute." The advance team jumped into action, throwing their cards down and scooping up what was left of their money. They then filed over to the weapons lockers, where they efficiently loaded up on all the gear Tiernan had speced outpulse rifles, flash grenades, stun pistols, plus the integrators Lea had designed for this missionwith the cool professionalism of a combat unit. Pallas, meanwhile, remained sitting on the deck. As Lea looked back at him, she saw his head shaking mournfully. "You really know how to hurt a guy, boss," he said. "You have no idea," Lea retorted. She helped Pallas up and walked with him toward the imaging station at the center of the CIC. Pallas plugged himself into the interface, and within moments a three-dimensional map of Ukraine sublimated out of the hazy mist that hovered over the console. A red line cut a slash across the country, following the transport''s approach from the Black Sea. A blinking graphic showed their current position near the city of Cherkasy, while a blue arrow pointed out their projected coursestraight toward the upper bend of the Dnieper River. Their target was a restricted zone near the southern border of Belarus, an area of rolling hills that grew larger on the display as Pallas zoomed in on it. Lea gave her people a few moments to absorb the image as they gathered. Tiernan assumed his place at her side, while the rest of the advance team formed a circle around the display. Joining them was a dark, matronly woman with closely cropped haira civilian like Pallas, with the perplexed eyes and deprived fashion sense of a scientist. She leveled a sour look at the display. "The last time I visited this part of the world," the woman said in a light Afrikaans accent, "I had hoped it would be the last." "Any reason in particular?" Lea asked. "The people mostly," the woman sniffed. Her tone was haughty, but as a genetic medical examiner Didi Novak wasn''t afraid of getting her hands dirtythough that never stopped her from acting the part. "Never will you come across such a dour and fatalistic culture." "At least they know how to have a good time," Pallas remarked, interrupting Novak. The two of them lived to needle each otherthough it was anyone''s guess how serious they were. "You know the only thing scarier than an Inru terrorist? A sober Russian." "Or a Greek hammerjack," Novak shot right back. "Particularly one who uses ouzo as an immersion drug." "Save it for later," Lea interrupted, stopping them before it got any further. "Patch in latest orbital pass," she told her hammerjack, who jacked into a satellite feed of the target area and positioned it over the display. High-res images assembled into a mosaic of visual and thermal elements, smeared by the telltale blur of creeping radiation. "Twelve hours ago," Lea began, "we received some intel that points to significant Inru activity. It seems that after prolonged conflict with our team, their operational cells are starting to get a little desperate." The crew murmured a wave of approval. From the start, Lea had been single-minded in her dealings with the antitechnology culta pursuit that bordered on obsessive. Usi