Thomas Galvin
Purveyor of Fine Pulp Fiction

Triquetra
Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general -Mark Rippetoe

Well, this should pretty reliably break the internet.

Jeremy Renner as Scarlet Johansen

via Unreality

Jack Skellington Cosplay

via Reddit

Fox made the best decision in their long and storied history this week, and announced that the Deadpool movie will be in theaters February 2016!

Why is this the best thing in the world? Because Deadpool is a fourth-wall breaking super ninja assassin with Wolverine’s powers and a mouth that never stops. Here’s the test footage:

And here’s Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, which was the only good thing about X-Men Origins: Wolverine:

For a while, I’ve been wrestling with the idea of Amazon exclusivity.

Amazon makes no secret that they want as many authors as possible to be available only on their devices, a program they call Kindle Select. The biggest incentive they offer used to be the ability to offer five free promo days in a three-month period, and a lot of authors have made their career by giving away the first book in their series to a few hundred thousand new fans.

They sweetened the deal with the Kindle Lending Library. The Lending Library lets people who own a Kindle device to borrow a new book every month, and read it for free. The author, though, still gets paid, out of a fund created by Amazon.

Recently, they introduced Kindle Countdown Deals, a way for authors to temporarily put a book on sale and have it automatically, gradually increase in price.

The latest benefit is Kindle Unlimited. Unlimited costs $9.99 a month, and gives the reader access to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Basically, it’s Netflix for books. Like the Lending Library, authors still get paid whenever someone reads past the ten percent mark (basically, they get through the free preview), and like the Lending Library, the only way to get your book in is to be Amazon exclusive.

There are a lot of perks to being Amazon exclusive. I’ve resisted, because I’ve wanted my books available to as many people as possible. Recently, though, I decided to take the plunge. Starting today, and until at least the end of the year, my eBooks will be available only through Amazon (but the paperbacks will still be available everywhere).

Why?

Exposure

This is the big reason. Between free promos, Countdown Deals, the Lending Library, and now Unlimited, there are a ton of ways to get noticed on Amazon. And just as importantly, my books are on the shelf next to a bunch of other authors’ who are using these tools to make their books more affordable and more attractive. Being in the Kindle Select program isn’t even about gaining an advantage anymore; it’s about evening the playing field.

The vast majority of my sales come from Amazon anyway

Sure, I might gain exposure on Amazon, but I’m also losing all of the sales I’d have coming from Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and all of the other eBook outlets, right?

Kind of. Almost all of my sales come from Amazon already, so I might be giving up five or ten percent by going Amazon exclusive. My bet is that the perks of Kindle Select more than make up for that loss. Hugh Howey, author of Wool, has been experimenting with this for a couple of months, and he’s found that the sales jump on Amazon easily overcomes the loss of other outlets.

Still, I want as many people to be able to read my stories as possible. Turns out, there’s an answer for that.

Kindle apps everywhere

If you have a Mac, a PC, an iPhone, an Android phone, a tablet, or even a Nook HD, you can download a Kindle app and read your books right on your device. And, unlike the Nook, this app actually works on Mac.

Also, my books are sold DRM-free, which means you can easily load them onto another eReader, including Nook. You can use Calibre to do your conversion and loading automatically.

Becoming Amazon exclusive gives me more exposure, and really doesn’t limit readers from getting ahold of my stories, so I’m going to experiment. I expect this to be win-win. And if not, I’m only committed for three months.

I was listening to Joe Rogan and Sam Harris discuss free will, and figured I’d share some thoughts on the subject.

I side with Harris on this; I believe that “I” is an emergent phenomena, and that free choice is an illusion.

From a scientific point of view, our brain is a machine. It’s orders of magnitude more complex than a computer, but fundamentally no different. Chemicals and electrical impulses combine to create thoughts and emotions, to create “me.” In a very real sense, we are these hormonal surges and electrical firings. Our thoughts, our responses, and our desires do not exist outside of these real, physical systems.

That raises the question: if there is free will, what is its source? If we examine the universe scientifically, the machine that is our brain operates from one of two sources: determinism or free will.

Determinism

In a deterministic universe, reality is essentially a giant watch. It was wound up at the beginning of time and it will proceed until the end, mechanically.

If determinism is true, we can view our brains as an infinitely complex set of cogs and gears. In this scenario, we have no more free will than a car; if someone pushes the gas peddle, it goes forward. Our inputs and resulting actions are more complex, but the principle is the same. Or, you can view the mind as software being run on the computer that is our brain; if you provide the exact same inputs to a piece of software, it will always behave the exact same way, because it cannot do anything else.

In this reality, we are not responsible for our choices, because our brain is simply playing out the predetermined script.

Randomness

In a random universe, our thoughts and actions aren’t predetermined, they’re the result of chance. Something, maybe something operating at the quantum level, causes an input to our brains, our brains process that input, and we act based on that processing.

In this reality, our brains are like software with a random seed; our thoughts and actions cannot be predicted, because we don’t know all of the inputs, but if we were given the exact same inputs again, we would behave in the exact same way.

In truth, our minds are probably a combination of both determinism and randomness. Quantum activity provides random input, but at larger levels, we play out our responses deterministically. This isn’t to say that the process is simple, just that it’s mechanical.

If our mind works in either (or both) of these two ways, there is no free will. We are either playing out a predetermined script, or we are responding mechanically to random inputs. For free will to exist, its source must be something outside of physical reality. Which brings us to:

The Soul

Theists, mystics, and pretty much everyone else point to the soul as the source of our free will. In this version of the universe, our brain isn’t so much a machine as it is a radio, which sends information to and receives decisions from the soul. The fact that damaging the brain can alter the personality is explained away as merely a signal degradation; the soul remains uninjured, but also incapable of communicating perfectly with the brain.

There are several problems with this, the first being testability. The soul is a hypothesis, and to validate a hypothesis, you need to be able to test it. So far as I know, no one has been able to put forth a set of testable criteria that would point toward the existence of absence of a soul.

If our thoughts, desires, and actions really are a product of the soul, communicated to the brain, how would that be measurably different that if those same thoughts, desires, and actions arose naturally from the brain itself? Until this question can be answered, the concept of a soul remains firmly outside of science. People can hope that we have a soul, even believe that we have a soul, but there’s no way to prove it.

But even if we accept the idea that our mind is a product of the soul, we still don’t have room for free will. Why? Because the soul is a thing, created with certain properties, and responding to stimulus based on those properties. Just like the brain, the soul is either a deterministic piece of machinery, or it is a random number generator, or it is a combination of both.

And if we assume that we have a soul in the Christian sense, the case for fee will actually gets even worse. Take this verse:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son …
-Romans 8:29

Two concepts are inseparably linked here: foreknowledge and predestination. If you have a god that is all-knowing and all-powerful, literally nothing can happen outside of his or her design. Every choice you make–every sin committed and every virtue lived out–was known ahead of time, before the deity ever created you. And when it was knitting you together in your mother’s womb, to borrow a phrase, it knew exactly what you would do, for every single moment in your life. The deity knew when you would have your first kiss, when you would tell your first lie, when you would be filled with anger, when you would be overcome with love, when you would be born and when you would die.

No, the idea of a soul makes free will even less likely, not more.

So what does this mean?

We’ve looked at three possibilities: a mechanical universe, a random universe, and a supernatural universe, and we haven’t found room for free will in any of them. So what does this mean?

In practice, not much. A lot of what we know about human psychology, about motivation, willpower, and so on, is still true. It still makes sense to reward behaviors that we desire and punish behaviors we dislike, because the machinery of our brain will respond to those inputs in a fairly predictable fashion.

It does, however, kind of eliminate the justification for retribution. It makes sense to punish undesirable behavior as a deterrent, but not as vengeance. The fact that a person is a murderer stems from their genetics, their family, their experiences, and countless other variables that are entirely outside of their control. Sometimes its simply a facet of the hardware of the brain malfunctioning. The fact that a person was born without dopamine receptors is no more their fault than the fact that they were born in poverty. Again, punishment can make sense as a deterrent, but there is no moral basis for revenge.

Of course, the desire for revenge is also born into us. Turtles all the way down.

Finally, it should alter the way we go about achieving our goals. If we’re on a diet, for example, rather than beating ourselves up because we run out of willpower and eat a slice of pizza, we should examine what science tells us about choices and willpower, and use that to get the desired result out of the software of our brain.

We shouldn’t look at ourselves as weak, or as morally flawed, but as a system, a system with rules that can be manipulated to achieve our goals.

Zack Snyder, director of Batman v Superman, just tweeted this high-res image of the new Batmobile:

Batmobile

God. Damn.

A Park Avenue Award winner and Final Draft / Big Break screenplay competition quarter finalist!

Emily is like any other teenage girl. She goes to high school, has a crush on her best friend, Duncan, and is stressed out about college applications. Oh, and one more thing: Emily isn’t real.

She’s actually Nocturne, the leader of a team of super soldiers created by the Janus Project. Genetically engineered. Surgically enhanced. Chemically altered. Psychologically conditioned.

Perfect. Driven. Deadly.

Emily’s cover identity is so convincing that even Emily herself doesn’t realize that she’s been turned into a human weapon. When a crazed soldier from the rival Ares program comes gunning for her, Emily’s perfect life is shattered, and Emily has to fight to discover who–and what–she really is.

Available on Kindle and in paperback.


God, it was good to be out of the box.

It had been three weeks this time. Nocturne had gone to sleep, and when she woke up it was suddenly October. The lab geeks talked about how her neural patterns needed time to cement and how the cognitive enhancements would fry her noodle if they were kept running all the time, but none of that mattered to Nocturne. What mattered was the fact that her life was slipping away, one lost day at a time.

But she was awake tonight, and she was going to make the most of it. On paper, the mission was just a simple infiltration, a little bit of reverse corporate espionage, and a quick exit. But in reality …

Her target loomed in front of her. DNA Digital was one of the largest biotech firms in America, according to the dossier she’d been given. They worked on artificial hearts, cures for cancer, all that crap.

They were also a shell corporation, a cover for Jade Dragon, China’s latest attempt to create a super soldier.

The building was right out of the Evil Overlord’s Home Shopping Catalog: fifteen stories tall, gleaming, black. DNA Digital’s red logo glowed like the Eye of Sauron. Yeah, she’d seen Lord of the Rings. Even the Janus Operatives got an occasional movie night.

A guard complex sat on the South side. They had tried to make it inconspicuous, but Nocturne knew that the reinforced concrete and bulletproof glass weren’t cheap, and they weren’t added without good cause. The pair of barbed wire fences were a good indication that there was more going on here than pain pills and diabetes drugs. And the guards, with their body armor and assault rifles, really pushed it over the line.

Nocturne had to laugh. These people hadn’t learned the most important lesson of SPECOPS: invisible is better than invincible.

Heavy boots crunched on gravel. Nocturne slowed her breathing and let the shadows embrace her. The guard walked by, flashlight playing off the grass inches from her feet, but he never even suspected she was there.

Nocturne waited until he rounded the corner, then counted to fifteen. The next guard wouldn’t be by for six minutes.

She leapt from the shadows and ran straight at the fences.

She crouched, her muscles coiling like springs, and threw herself into the air. She cleared the ten foot tall fence without a problem and dropped to the ground between the two. The second fence was even taller–fifteen feet, probably–and Nocturne would have loved to see if she could clear that, too, but the fences were only four feet apart. Not nearly enough room to get a running start.

Instead, she started to climb. Quickly, silently, she scaled the fence. Her gloves, woven with Kevlar, protected her hands from the biting razors at the top. They gloves weren’t even fancy; you could order them from Amazon. Nocturne wondered why people bothered trying to secure their facilities.

Nocturne dropped to the ground inside the compound. She raced to the left, toward the biggest patches of shadows, and melted into the darkness. That was another mistake; DNA Digital should have covered their lawn with lights, illuminating anything that would allow an infiltrator cover. Instead, they planted lots of pretty bushes and trees and kept the lighting to a minimum. Probably worried about their carbon footprint or something.

The next guard was thirty seconds late. That was actually good OPSEC. You don’t want to be too predictable. If the guys running this shop really knew what they were doing, they would have completely randomized the patrols. Apparently it’s hard for a nefarious organization to hire decent help these days.

He was wearing about thirty pounds of gear, mostly Kevlar armor, but the guard moved easily, confidently. This guy was no rent-a-cop. He wasn’t exactly an elite–an elite would have known something was wrong, sensed that someone else was there–but he seemed capable.

Nocturne watched him turn the corner. He didn’t lead with his weapon, which was smart. You don’t want someone to grab it before you spot them. He stepped away from the building, too, so he could see what was waiting for him. Quietly competent. Nocturne was almost impressed.

Ninety seconds until the K-9 unit arrived. Nocturne ran.

DNA Digital had made one more mistake when they built this place: the building wasn’t square. It had all of those nifty little outcroppings and angles and crap that let you know the architect’s degree had cost a ton of money. If they had set up their headquarters in a normal building, she would have been exposed the entire time she climbed, but this fancy architecture provided plenty of cover.

The freaking guy with his freaking dog showed up just before she started to scale the building.

Nocturne took cover behind a row of hedges. She willed herself to be invisible, forced her heart to slow, clenched her hands to stop them from trembling. The guard, and more importantly his dog, came closer. The dog sniffed the air, tugged its master toward the hedges.

“What is it, boy?” he asked.

The dog stopped a foot from Nocturne’s hiding place. Its snout was inches from her face. Its eyes, amber in the dim lights, looked right at her.

She looked right back, glowering, asserting dominance.

Go. Away.

The dog whimpered, tucked its tail, and turned aside.

“Silly mutt,” the guard said. He ruffled the dog’s head and walked away.

The next guard was two minutes away. Nocturne had to move. Now.

She hurried from the hedges and threw herself at the wall. She hit the gleaming black surface sixteen feet up, and her magnetic gloves locked on with a metallic clunk. Hand over hand, she started to climb.

The wind didn’t hit her until she was halfway up, her feet dangling in the air. Suddenly, chilly air rushed over her body. It was nice; her combat suit wicked the sweat away from her body, and the air was refreshing. Less nice, though, was the way the air made her sway left and right. She had to fight to maintain her grip, even with the gloves.

She made short work of the last few stories and hauled herself over the edge, onto the roof. She raced across the gravel–everything was gravel here–and knelt by the ventilation grate to unscrewed the cover.

The ventilation shafts were narrow. Good thing Nocturne kept her girlish figure. She shimmied her way from the roof to the room on the thirty-fifth floor, removed the grate, and dropped down.

There were no laser trips or motion detectors. Good to know that the Project’s intelligence was solid. She crawled, quietly but quickly, through the maze of ductwork and shafts, until she reached her target.

The room was empty. You know, except for the elevator door and the giant, featureless cube right smack in the middle of the floor. Thirty feet tall, smooth steel, and accessible only through a reinforced door on the West face.

Nocturne crouched by the door, pulled a set of tools from her belt, and started working on the card reader that controlled access to the cube. It took her forty-seven seconds to make the reader flash green and the door whush open. That was three seconds faster than she’d managed in training.

She screwed the card reader back into place and entered the cube.

Inside was a server farm; row after row after row of computers, each one the size of a refrigerator, each one as black as the DNA Digital building itself. The room was lit with soft blue lights, and the computers’ LED status indicators twinkled like fireflies.

Nocturne pulled the door closed and ran down the rows. The control panel sat at the far end of the room, in a drawer concealed in one of the servers. Nocturne slid the drawer out, raised the screen, and deployed the keyboard.

A login screen appeared, showing the Jade Dragon logo.

“Subtle,” she whispered. Nocturne inserted a USB drive. The device blinked, and a moment later the screen unlocked.

She typed, and a search program ran. Nocturne opened a handful of the results. A schematic of a building in Colorado, which was officially a credit union, but actually had five subterranean levels that weren’t on any of the blueprints. A video of a firefight in the Czech Republic. A dossier of a scientist named Kurt Vaulner.

Nocturne touched the communications unit strapped to her neck. “Guys? Our informant deserves however many renminbi we paid him, because these guys have everything.”

***

Doctor Sarah Williams was picking at her fingernails.

It was a bad habit, something she fell into every time she was nervous. She’d done it since elementary school, and she’d never been able to stop, not even when her mother used to snap her with a rubber band every time she caught her doing it.

She was nervous every time Nocturne went on an operation. She couldn’t help it. Despite her training, despite the fact that Sarah knew she wasn’t supposed to get attached, she was starting to realize that she cared about her Operative.

Of course, being in the field herself was also pretty nerve racking.

She understood the why. Jade Dragon was a serious threat, the biggest threat Janus had ever dealt with. And if their intel was correct, Jade Dragon was the biggest threat to the Janus Operatives, too. If something went wrong, it would be important for Sarah to get to Nocturne as quickly as possible. But she’d still prefer to observe the operation from the safety of the lab.

The van was big, but she still felt claustrophobic. The bench seats had been removed, and the space filled with computers and communications equipment. Oh, and a small cache of automatic weapons.

Creede, the Project’s head of security, sat in the driver’s seat, slicing an apple with his giant, gleaming, clearly-overcompensating-for-something knife. He acted like this was just another night, like they were waiting for an oil change or something. It freaked Sarah out. His partner, Hauk, was on top of the telephone pole outside, pretending to be performing maintenance. Creede was cold, but professional. Hauk, on the other hand, actively scared her. He had cauliflower ears and scars around his eyes, and a slash than ran from his right ear to his chin. And they way he went about his job … Creede called what they did a necessary evil. Hauk seemed to enjoy it.

Sarah was glad she wasn’t responsible for his psych evaluations.

Ryker Jennings, who was technically a Doctor (three times over), sat in the back with Sarah. He was supposed to be monitoring his computers, but instead he was reading a comic book. Sarah had only known him for six months, but she had already exhausted all of her anger toward him. Now all she could feel was exasperation, and a deep, abiding wonder that he ever managed to pass his dissertations.

Nocturne’s voice crackled over the intercom. “Guys? Our informant deserves however many renminbi we paid him, because these guys have everything.”

Creede stopped mid-slice. “Damn it. Even Dr. Vaulner?”

“I’m looking at his picture now,” Nocturne said.

Creede swore. Ryker giggled, but Creede shot him a homicidal glare. Ryker choked and nearly fell out of his chair.

Sarah just shook her head. Ryker’s file claimed that he was one of the most gifted scientists in the Project. He acted like a reject from The Big Bang Theory.

“Um, okay Nocturne,” Ryker said, finally turning toward his comm station, “just run the program I gave you, and it’ll take care of the rest.”

“Really?” Nocturne asked. “I thought I was picking up pizza.”

Sarah bit her lip. She wished that their star Operative would take the mission just a little more seriously.

***

Nocturne clicked on Ryker’s program. A window opened, with the title JNS-187. A progress bar appeared and started slowly climbing towards one-hundred percent.

Outside the cube, the elevator door dinged open and a security guard stepped onto the floor. He made a complete circuit around the cube, walking casually, swinging his flashlight to the rhythm of the old rock song he was humming to himself.

He unclipped the walkie-talkie from his belt. “Control, this is Stevens. Thirty-Five is, and I know this is gonna be a shock, empty and secure. I’m heading into the cube now.”

The security guard held his badge up to the card reader. A moment later it flashed green, and the door whooshed open.

Nocturne’s head whipped toward the sound. Her eyes narrowed like a viper’s. Her muscles tensed, and her mind filled automatically with thoughts of violence.

The progress bar read seventy percent.

The guard walked into the cube, humming a song that hadn’t been popular since his prom date stood him up to bang the quarterback. He took his time, swinging his flashlight down each row, seeing what he expected, not what was really there.

But an entire person? An open terminal, uploading a virus? Even Bob Seger there wouldn’t miss that.

Eighty percent.

The guard stopped halfway into the room and bent to pick up an empty Twix wrapper. “Damn geeks,” he muttered. “They know they ain’t allowed to eat in here.”

Ninety percent.

Nocturne suppressed a growl. Her muscles coiled, ready to lash out.

Bob Seger shoved the wrapper into his pocket and resumed his inspection. The control room would be expecting him to call back in five minutes, ten at the max. If Nocturne took him out, that’s how much time she’d have to finish uploading Ryker’s virus, get back to the roof, climb down thirty-five stories, run the three blocks to the van, and get the hell out of there.

She could do it, probably, but it would be close.

The guard drew closer.

Ninety-five percent.

Damn it, Ryker. Write faster software.

Bob Seger was one row away, humming something about night moves. If Nocturne didn’t have better discipline, she would have shuddered.

Fight scenarios flashed through Nocturne’s mind. A swift punch across the jaw. A rear naked choke. A flurry of knees and elbows. Any one of them would take him out long before he could scream. Not that screaming would do him any good inside the cube.

Nocturne pressed up against the server, waiting for the guard to turn the corner.

One-hundred percent. Nocturne ripped the thumb drive out of the computer, stashed the control console, and jumped into the air. She grasped the top of the server and silently hauled herself up. She laid flat on top of the server rack. Bob Seger walked below her, completely unaware.

He took his time wandering back out of the cube, and Nocturne almost started drumming her fingers to pass the time. But he finally scanned out, and Nocturne felt her ears pop as the vault door whooshed open.

“Control, this is Stevens. Cube is big, empty, and boring.”

“Copy that, Stevens,” control said through the walkie-talkie. “Food’s here. Get back down here before Tony eats it all.”

“On my way,” Seger said as he pushed the door closed.

Nocturne jumped down from her hiding spot, counted to fifty, and left the cube, slipping back into the ventilation shaft and heading toward the roof.

***

Scott was dead.

He hadn’t meant to come in late. He really hadn’t. But he’d only been married for three months, and Tina was very persuasive, and …

He’d been good all week, on time for every shift, but Dennison had made it pretty clear that he was running out of patience. Maybe the box of doughnuts would smooth things over.

Huh. The electric company had a van parked on the North side of the complex. That wasn’t impossible, Scott figured, but it was still weird. The only time Scott had ever seen the utility company work after hours was when the transformer blew, in that big ass thunder storm last spring. A quarter of the city had lost power, and they had all hands on deck trying to get things back up and running. But tonight the sky was clear, all of the street lights were on, and Scott couldn’t see a good reason for the van to be there.

“Nice of you to show up,” the guy at the gate, Turner, said.

“Yeah yeah yeah,” Scott answered, flashing his badge. It was a formality, but the bosses were big on formalities. “Wife, uh, lost my keys again.”

Turner smirked. “I’ll bet she did. I’ll bet she stuck them right up–”

“You are a disgusting human being, and I hope you die alone,” Scott said. “Shut up and take a doughnut.”

“You get any chocolate cream?”

“Of course I did. You know I love you.” Scott passed the box through the window. Turner grabbed it gleefully.

“Hey,” Scott asked, “how long has that van been parked there?”

“Van?” Turner said around a mouthful of pastry. He stepped out of the gate shack and looked down the street. “Huh.”

Turner grabbed his walkie-talkie. “Control, this is Turner. We’ve got a suspicious vehicle on the North perimeter. Probably nothing, but can you send a team to check it out?”

“Copy that, Turner,” the walkie-talkie crackled.

***

“Okay,” Nocturne said into her comm unit, “mission accomplished, the Eagle has landed, Houston we have no problems. Let’s make like a tree and get out of here.” She fit the grate back over the rooftop ventilation shaft and screwed it into place.

“Copy that, Nocturne,” Sarah said. Nocturne could hear the stress in the doctor’s voice. “Come on back to the van and we’ll get out of here.”

“Can we stop at Wendy’s on the way home? I’m starving.

“Nocturne,” the scientist began. Nocturne smirked. She wondered why Kingsley had sent her into the field. The girl clearly wasn’t ready. Hell, she was a sexy librarian that somehow wandered into a secret government project. Chances were, she’d never be ready.

“I’m on my way, Doc. Don’t get your unmentionables all twisted up.”

Nocturne slipped on her climbing gloves and started her descent.

***

Thank God. Nocturne would be back in a few minutes, and then they could get out of there. Sarah would feel infinitely better once she was back in the lab’s safe confines, away from espionage and intrigue and Creede and Hauk and anyone else with a gun. She’d …

Oh, no.

The guy walking toward the van was wearing a private security uniform, but he was no rent-a-cop. The shotgun he cradled in his arms was very, very real. At least, it looked real to Sarah. She wasn’t trained to know the difference between a real gun and a fake, between an unloaded weapon and one that was ready to punch a big, red hole through her Pilates-sculpted stomach.

Crap. She’d missed her Pilates class, too.

Sarah shook her head. Calm down, focus. “Um, guys?”

“Shut up and stay down,” Creede hissed. He slid his knife back into the sheath strapped to his hip and drew his gun. His apple fell to the floor and rolled into the back of the van.

“We’ve got company,” Hauk said into the radio.

“Eyes on one,” Creede added. “Total hostile force unknown.”

“I see five moving in this general direction. Could be more on the way.”

It was going to be okay. None of them were dressed up like ninjas or commandos or anything. Well, except for Nocturne, but she was still a hundred feet in the air. The van was dark, and all of the gear and weapons were hidden from view. It was going to be okay.

“Nocturne?” Sarah whispered into the microphone. “We may have a problem.”

“God,” Nocturne responded, “I leave you guys alone for five minutes.”

“I said shut up!” Creede spat, a whisper as harsh as a gunshot. Sarah turned off the comm link.

The security guard stopped by Creede’s window and tapped on the glass. Creede rolled the window down. “Evening, sir,” he said. His voice was pleasant, almost cheerful.

“Evening,” the security guard said. His tone was light, friendly, and he had a light Southern accent. “Can I ask what you all are doing out here this evening?”

“DSL’s down,” Creede said, jerking his head toward Hauk.

The guard craned his neck to observe Hauk, who nodded in acknowledgment. The security guard whispered something into his wrist, then turned back to Creede. “Kinda late for a maintenance call, isn’t it?”

Creede shrugged. “I just go where they send me, man. People been calling, complaining, so here we are.”

The guard tried to peer into the van, but couldn’t make out anything in the darkness. He talked into his wrist again. “Control? You guys having issues with your internet?”

“Negative,” a little box on his shoulder crackled.

The guard raised an eyebrow. “We aren’t having any issues.”

“You a corporate account?” Creede asked.

“What?”

“A corporate account. You from that big fancy building over there?”

“Yeah,” the guard said, suspicious.

“Gotcha. Yeah, you’d be running a business class connection. Different wire.” He jerked his chin up, toward the cables running overhead. “This one serves the residential accounts.”

Creede pressed his gun against the door frame, pointed right at the security guard.

Sarah picked at her fingernails.

“Okay, then,” the guard said. “I just need to take a peek in the van here, and you guys can be on your way.”

“Come on, man. My wife’s already pissed that I left her with the kid. Don’t make this night any shittier.”

“I don’t want to cause you any undo grief, sir,” the guard said, “but procedure is procedure.” He raised a flashlight and shone it into the back of the van.

Onto Sarah and Ryker, crouched beneath the makeshift desks.

Onto all of their computer equipment. And surveillance gear. And weapons.

Damn it.

The guard choked up on his gun.

“I’m gonna have to ask you to step out of the van, please.” His tone wasn’t friendly anymore.

“I don’t think you want me to do that,” Creede said, his voice barely more than a whisper. He was staring straight ahead.

“And why’s that?”

Now Creede turned to face the man, and his face was a grim mask. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Get out of the van, now! Bill, open that door!”

Someone ripped the sliding door open, revealing an entire team of guards, their weapons all pointed into the van.

Sarah screamed. Ryker threw his hands into the air and pushed back against the far wall.

The lead guard shoved his shotgun toward Creede’s face.

Sarah tried to look away. She didn’t want to see what happened next. She didn’t want to see the gun go off. She didn’t want to see what that would do to Creede’s body. She didn’t want to see…

Creede moved, lightning fast. His hand darted out the window and grabbed the shotgun. He pushed just as the guard fired, and the shot went wide. Holes appeared in the van’s roof. Creede grabbed the man’s collar and pulled, slamming the guard’s head against the door frame. There was a sickening crunch and the guard fell to the ground, blood streaming from his flattened nose.

In the same instant, Hauk dropped from the telephone pole, gun drawn. He fired rapidly, emptying his clip in a fraction of a second. He ejected the magazine, caught it, and threw it into the van, then quickly inserted more ammunition into his weapon.

Three of the guards were on the ground, big, silver welts in their bullet proof vests.

Creede threw his door open, slamming it into another one of the guards. “Hold on!” he screamed.

Sarah barely had time to register the words. Hauk jumped into the van and slammed the door shut. Creede slammed the gas pedal to the floor. The van lurched and shot forward. Sarah was thrown out of her seat. She tumbled to the back of the van, banging her hip on the console edge, and slammed into the back doors. Ryker careened off the comm station and landed in her lap.

“Hey,” he said. “You know, every once in a while I have a dream about you holding my head like this.”

Sarah tried to push him away. The van rocketed down the road.

The security team opened fire.

Bullets punctured the van’s back door. Sarah screamed. Hauk leaned out the window and returned fire. Creede ignored it all, focusing only on piloting the vehicle.

One of the tires exploded. Creede fought for control of the van, but the vehicle careened off the road and smashed into a telephone pole.

The windshield shattered. Glass filled the van’s interior.

Creede and Hauk jerked against their seat belts.

Sarah and Ryker flew through the air and smashed into the chairs before them.

Everything went black.


Available on Kindle and in paperback.

Mockingjay second poster

Continuing in the tradition of “that’s not a car, that’s a goddamned tank (because I’m the goddamned Batman)”, here are four new on-set pics of the Batman v Superman batmobile:

Batman v Superman Batmobile

Batman v Superman Batmobile

Batman v Superman Batmobile

Batman v Superman Batmobile

(via Blastr)

As you can see, I did a complete re-write of my website, including a new landing page, where you can find all of my novels and stories. I did a similar thing for my publishing company, St. Troy Press.

The websites are running the same WordPress backend, but the frontend has been completely redone in Bootstrap, a Javascript/CCS framework developed at Twitter and released as Open Source.

Bootstrap is stupid easy to use; if you have a basic understanding of CSS, you’ll be up and running in minutes. It took me about a day to figure out how to create a three-column, collapsible layout, and it took me another day to write this website from the ground up.

Best of all, Bootstrap is “mobile first,” which means the site should be way easier to use on a phone. All of the functionality will still be there, but scaled and formed to fit on a tiny screen. And that comes for free.

I know I’m a little late to the game, but Bootstrap is amazing.