Jammer and the Blade Excerpt
Here’s an excerpt from my novella, The Jammer and the Blade. The story is now available in ebook format at Amazon.com. If you’d like to be notified about this and other releases, be sure to sign up for my newsletter.
This section is from the opening of the story:
Sun li stared at the freshly cut arcoiris flower. Its rainbow petals were still crisp and buoyant, their color undimmed even in the fading light of her father’s shop. It lay on the counter, a bright splash of nature amidst the brown, overcrowded shelves stuffed with tea boxes and packets of incense.
“So what’ll it be? Will you take the job or not?”
The man asking the question looked up at her from the other side of the counter. He wore a worn military vest that was black and gray with a silver diagonal stripe across the chest, but Sun li could tell he had never fought a day for the Delegation. Every soldier Sun li had ever seen was an auger, someone who had been physically augmented to be superior to ordinary humans. Some of them for speed, some for strength, some for other, darker purposes that only those high up in the Delegation knew about. Weapon implants, artificial limbs, enhanced senses, anything to give them an edge in the Delegation’s wars.
The man in front of her was no soldier. Her sister probably could have bested him without breaking one of her manicured nails. He was short, had bloodshot eyes and a nervous tick on the left side of his mouth. And as if there were any doubt, he reeked of gutrot, the undersider’s beverage of choice.
“I need some time to think it over,” Sun li replied, though she knew she didn’t have any time left.
She didn’t want to take this job. The man hadn’t given her many details, but he had said the job would take them to Silenia. That was at least a day’s journey away and her father was far too sick for her to be away from him that long. Besides, she told herself, she wasn’t qualified for infiltrating a military installation. Most of her jobs had been on the back streets of Bracken, chasing dishonest merchants or hunting down undersiders who the Delegation had posted a reward for.
However, none of that mattered when she looked at the arcoiris. On the humid world of Kess, these rainbow-colored flowers were rarer than a day without rain, but somehow this low-life had gotten his hands on one. He was either fabulously rich or as desperate as she was. And judging from his soiled clothes and rancid breath, she had little doubt as to which of those was the case.
He grabbed the flower off the counter and unfastened his satchel. “Well, I’m sure I could always buy the services of some other blade with this,” he said. “So I’ll just take my business—”
“Wait,” she said, her hand darting out over the top of his. “I’ll take the job.”
The man gave her a curt nod. “Excellent,” he said, flipping his hand and allowing her to take the stem. “I knew there was a high probability you would accept my offer. I look forward to working with you.” He turned to leave, but she moved to cut him off.
“On one condition,” she said, staring at him with her dark, narrow eyes. “I don’t kill innocents.”
The man shrugged, “You won’t be killing any innocents on this job. I can promise you that.” He smoothed down the silver stripe on his coat as if that were some sort of sign that he would honor his word.
“All right, then,” she said. “You’ve got yourself a blade.”
“You’ll do just fine,” he assured her. “You’re exactly the kind of blade I was looking for.”
Sun li gave him a puzzled look. “Why did you choose me, after all? There are other, more experienced blades to be found on the streets of Bracken.”
He paused, scratching his stubbled excuse for a beard. It looked more like a fungus than part of his face. If it hadn’t matched the black bushy eyebrows above, she might have believed it was some form of disease. She had seen enough bizarre illnesses in her short lifetime that it would not have surprised her if this were some new sickness he’d contracted in the underside.
“You’re honest,” the man explained. “At least that’s the word on the street.”
“With all due respect, you don’t look like the type who does honest work,” Sun li replied.
A gleam flashed in his eyes. “Even jammers have feelings, love,” he laughed, assaulting her senses with his reeking breath. “But I am what I am,” he added with a shrug. “Can’t apologize for that.”
“But if you’re running on the under side of things, why do you need an honest blade?” she asked, taking a step back to avoid the smell.
“It wasn’t my decision to seek you out, love,” he replied. “It’s the people who hired me. They said they wanted someone who strikes true for this mission. Too many blades cut and run when it suits them. They want someone who still abides by the Code. My benefactors are not interested in failure, if you take my meaning.”
She knew, if not from the look in his eyes, from her own knowledge of the profession, what such words meant: death if they failed to complete the mission. She’d never been offered a job like that before and she would have rejected it now if there she thought she could get the arcoirises any other way.
“Fair enough. I’ll be ready when you come for me,” Sun li replied, bowing in the traditional manner.
The man gave her a curious look, as if he didn’t quite know how to respond to the gesture. “I’ll come around for you after day break. Pack light. I like to run fast.”
He moved up the steps and parted the beaded curtain covering the entrance to her father’s shop.
“You forgot to give me your name,” she called up to him.
His lips stretched into what must have passed for him as a grin. “Brit. The name is Brit.” He gave her a parting wave that looked more like he was swatting a fly and then disappeared into the filthy streets of Bracken.