Blood Ties (Part One: Daddy's Little Girl) by Claire Monserrat Jackson by Claire Monserrat Jackson - Read Online

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Summary

Making a living in the twenty-third century ruins of America can be murder.

The world has grown darker in the wake of the Malthusian War, and humanity finds itself sharing the planet with all the fairy stories, myths, and abandoned gods they once pushed into the shadows. But even in a world where people are outnumbered by things that go bump in the night, it's not hard to find somebody who wants someone else dead—or people who need killing.

Cat Cruz is accustomed to solving other people's problems—permanently. She's been doing it for a long, long time. But when a furious young woman with a patricidal axe to grind comes calling one rainy afternoon, Cat soon finds herself embroiled in a case that'll take more than a quick wit—and a fast draw—to resolve.

Facing off against Georges Silver—a power-hungry madman with a penchant for tapping into the forces of magic and mystery—Cat will need all of her considerable talents to get the job done. Her target has wealth, weaponry, and a worldwide reach on his side, and while Cat has a few aces up her shadowy sleeve, this case might just be her last.

With help from her young board-man Danny and her friend Tommy O'Shea, Cat is forced to navigate a complex web of bloody betrayal, confront her own family's dark past, and hold onto her humanity as she fights to avert Silver's plan to conquer what's left of humanity.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: this 20,000-word novella is part one of a four-part, serialized novel. Look for Part Two, coming Christmas 2015!

Published: Claire Monserrat Jackson on
ISBN: 9781311032560
List price: $2.99
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Blood Ties (Part One - Claire Monserrat Jackson

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Jackson

Prologue

Somewhere in the Schwarzwald

The chase had been a long one. But as the day drew down, and the sun—fat and flabby as a rotting orange—sank toward the horizon beyond the trees, the calls of horn and hound came together in the shadows that cloaked the forest’s depths.

The men and their dogs were exhausted, but no more so than their quarry, which managed to elude them even as it spent the last of its energy, a flagging but still formidable spectre carried by unseen winds through the tangle of ice-rimed undergrowth. Silver hooves rang with muted thunder on the thick layers of snow-crusted needle and root, and in their wake, flowers climbed through into the slanting beams of ruddy light that dotted the forest floor. Moss shot outward from the beast’s path, thick and lush, and as the sunset began in earnest, the fairies crept from that green carpet to greet the evening. For a moment, the forest was still, a Technicolor tapestry tossed on a wall of white, bleeding magic into the cooling air.

Spencer Engelson and his men, patently uninterested in the haunting beauty of the Fae, torched the lot.

OK, boys, this is the home stretch, said Engelson into his NeuroCom as he stepped through the flames. The moss was curling ash under his boots, and he paused to flick a charred wing, delicate as gossamer, from his snowsuit. This son of a bitch has led us a merry chase, but he’s just about out of gas. He glanced at the darkening sky and then tapped a flat metal bar set into his temple. A flickering blue image wavered in the air before his merciless grey eyes. Satellite intel says we’re about half a mile behind. At this pace, we’ll be heading home by morning. He tapped the metal bar again, dismissing the image, and turned to a tall Japanese man at his side.

"Lee, you’re on point. Take the dogs and C-Squad and push ahead. Follow push-pull procedure; I want that thing chewing on its own guts when it gets to the clearing. Remember, if you get close enough for a visual, do not approach until B-Squad gives the all-clear."

Engelson’s lieutenant nodded, gesturing to the dog wrangler and a handful of men carrying pulse rifles and net-guns. As one, they fell into formation and slid into the shadows. Engelson turned around to address his remaining men. You boys are D-squad. Cleanup crew. I want you to head back to the trailhead, cleaning up this fairy-dust shit on the way. Remember, total sterilization. Those fuckers may be little, but that won’t mean shit if they’ve got you on their strings. Masks up, goggles down, seal checks every two miles. If you get back before we do, break down the bivouac and head for the rendezvous point at Devil’s Pulpit.

He paused, looking back over the trail they’d blazed over the past three days. You better take Bessie, too, he said, pointing at their remaining ‘bot. You run into another of those Uruks or Aurochs or whatever the fuck they’re called, and those flame throwers are just gonna piss it off.

He had to give his crew credit. Only two of the remaining six shifted uneasily at the mention of the creature that had stomped A-squad into jelly and left two of their Kriegbots in jagged metal pieces halfway down the Seebuck—and one of those was the Kid. Still, green or not, nervous or not, they took orders well enough. Kid, you’re on point for this one.

Twenty-three, wiry as a gibbon, and with just three missions under her belt, the Kid started to sputter her protests before Engelson cut her off. Shut it, soldier. You and Thompson were the only two that kept your heads on the Seebuck. If you hadn’t rigged that deadfall, we’d all be toe jam for Babe the Blue Ox back there. Now form up and roll out!

Engelson followed the blue-white candles at the end of the flamethrowers until they slowly faded into the distance, then sat down on a boulder with a sigh. Seven good soldiers dead, two top-of-the-line mechanical infantry drones irrecoverably scrapped, and for what? Yet another of his enigmatic employer’s fairytales.

Except they weren’t fuckin’ fairytales, were they? He’d hunted down two manticores in the ruins of Shiraz. That trip had only cost him the hearing of five men, not counting one on the permanent D/L with no legs and catatonic paralysis. And that was a cakewalk compared to what the Boss had called a Cu Sidhe—some kind of gods-blighted bog-dog—they’d had to drag out of some no-name churchyard in Cork. That was the Kid’s first mission; as with the Aurochs, her quick thinking was the only thing that kept her from being dragged off instead of doing the dragging. It hadn’t saved the six men that were torn to shreds while the Kid did her thing, though.

Three months later, his team had tracked and trapped an honest-to-God giant outside Hedmark in Norway, but not without losing fifteen soldiers, five vehicles, and a handful of ‘bots. Engelson had almost bought the farm himself in the waist-deep snow, managing to leap out of the way just seconds before the pine tree the monster had used as a club came whistling down to smash an APC and all the soldiers inside it.

It was stupid, really. He’d let himself get distracted when the thing spoke. It had ranted at them, no mere beast, but a thinking being. Fighting for his life, freezing and exhausted, Engelson nevertheless marveled at the sound of it. He’d even imagined he could make out some of the words. His Oma, his granny, had come from the old country, and for just a second, he thought—but then the giant had brought the pine tree around again, and there’d been no time to think, only to fight.

They’d had to use a tranq shot the size of a water barrel to take the thing down. He shuddered at the memory of the enormous face, slack with drugs and exhaustion, pressed against the window of the containment unit and fogging the steel-glass.

Twelve years in the Territorial Army, six as a commando,