The Unmaking Engine is finished, the final edits are being put in place and it will be published on Amazon 30th September. Warm up your Kindles and your Kindle apps. The print version is next on my list, hopefully for October or November.
Rather than blog about the process, or my plans for book three (yep), I thought I’d just drop Chapter One here for you. The pre-order links are here:
Apologies to readers in other countries, but I’ll run out of space if I include all the links 😉
If you like what you read, but haven’t read The World Walker yet, I’ll put links to that at the end.
THE UNMAKING ENGINE
There were five of them and only one of him, which was the first problem. One of them—the biggest, ugliest one—had just unloaded both barrels of a shotgun into his chest from a distance of five feet. That was the second problem. The third, most serious problem was the presence of 19 witnesses. This was causing Seb Varden a real headache.
He was in a bank in Dover. He was there because he knew the police weren’t going to show, the armed gang had already carried out similar robberies in the last six months, and the death toll attributed to them had hit double figures. The ugly guy was trying to kill him because Seb had asked whether his mother had had sex with a genetically-modified pig to produce him. Or if he’d got his good looks by running into a wall. Twice.
The alarm in the bank wasn’t ringing because the gang was backed by a sophisticated syndicate which had disabled all security systems, including cameras. This was one of the two ways the syndicate earned its 50% of the haul. The other was its handling of the Delaware police department which, even Seb had to admit, was inspired. Right now, the city’s finest were racing to a bank 12 miles west of the one currently being robbed, due to seven 911 calls apparently made from that location. Some remotely triggered explosions and a lockdown of the premises in question meant police resources were looking in entirely the wrong direction when the actual robbery took place. When the security system had gone down at the exact moment the cops were hauling ass in the opposite direction, Seb2 had nudged Seb into action. The gang thought they had everyone in the building covered until Seb walked out of an office near the main door.
Seb knew Ugly was going to shoot him 0.37 seconds before he pulled the trigger. The man’s eyes had dropped from Seb’s face to his chest at the same time as he raised the weapon and held his breath.
“Here we go,” said Seb2. Seb was used to his consciousness being split into three parts—although Seb3 was pretty much a silent partner. It was one of the consequences of having a body full of advanced alien nanotechnology, 87% of which, according to Seb2, he still had little idea how to use. He twisted to his left just before the flash of light at the end of the barrels let him know two cartridges of lead shot were heading his way.
A shotgun cartridge is designed to spread its payload of hundreds of lead pellets as it travels toward a target some distance away. Close up, as long as you’re facing the right direction, you can’t miss. No one gets up and walks away from a close-up encounter with a shotgun. Which was unfortunate for the two members of the gang directly behind Seb.
As he twisted, 57 of the 410 tiny lead balls tore across Seb’s ribs and stomach, ripping widening channels through his flesh. By the time the shot had passed through him, his body was unmarked again, blood vessels, muscles and skin knitting together so fast as to be virtually instantaneous. Since sound travels at a significantly slower speed than light, he only heard the near-deafening blast of the shotgun just after the two men behind him were blown off their feet.
The two gang members covering the hostages at the far end of the bank started to turn as Seb considered his options. The way he had twisted meant that the hostages would assume the shotgun blast had missed him completely. Today, his appearance was that of a fit, Asian man in his mid-twenties, which meant any witnesses would be likely to ascribe his speed and fighting skills to knowledge of some mysterious martial art. It was lucky, really—he’d only chosen this face after watching an old movie the previous night. If he’d decided on an overweight 60-year old, he might be in real danger of attracting attention. And, for Meera’s safety and his own sanity, attention was something he was determined to avoid.
It would take Ugly about four seconds to reload under normal circumstances. Under abnormal circumstances such as, for instance, having just accidentally killed two of your colleagues during a robbery, Seb thought he might have seven or eight seconds to take him out. If it wasn’t for the hostages watching the action unfold, he could have easily sent tendrils of Manna directly toward Ugly and his two friends and cut off their oxygen supply briefly. Couldn’t do that with eight bank employees and 11 terrified customers watching.
The two men guarding the hostages had nearly completed their turns, but only one of them had swept his gun around. The other, a short, bald, older man—possibly the leader, turned his head but kept his weapon trained on the terrified men and women on the floor in front of him.
Seb hit the floor and rolled, fast. Ugly had no time to react before his feet were swept out from underneath him. His head hit the marble floor hard, he grunted once, then lay still.
“He’ll live,” said Seb2 as Seb picked up the shotgun and, with an enhanced flick of his arm, sent it sailing toward the taller man. It was an ungainly object to throw accurately and Seb had to give it some height to allow it to reach its target. That gave the tall man plenty of time to dodge to the side before it hit him. Which meant he was an easy target for the pistol Seb had thrown after it. There was a solid smack as metal hit flesh and the tall man crumpled.
The leader’s eyes narrowed as he began to evaluate the changed situation. All his men were out of commission, it didn’t look like he’d be walking out with any money. But there was only one crazy Asian guy between him and freedom. There were other banks, there would be other days. And he had hostages. He might have to shoot a couple of them to slow this idiot down.
Seb knew the older man would likely consider the hostages his best chance of retaining the advantage, so he did the most counter-intuitive thing he could think of. He ran directly toward the armed man, waving his arms and shouting.
The leader’s eyebrows shot up as the crazy man sprinted toward him. Perhaps it wasn’t going to be too complicated after all. He raised his gun.
As Seb ran, he watched the man’s arm come up toward him, the dark hole of the barrel slowly turning into a perfect circle.
“Now!” said Seb2. Seb threw himself onto the marble floor head-first. The molecular structure of the outward-most layer of his sweat pants and top changed to minimize friction as they made contact, so his slide was much faster than physics would otherwise have allowed. The leader had excellent reactions, and the bullet that ricocheted off the floor and shattered the front window would have hit Seb if he had been where he should have been. The man didn’t get the chance to fire again, as Seb plowed into his shins, disarmed him as he fell and jabbed him in the neck with three fingers. His body went limp. 29 seconds had passed since Seb had insulted Ugly.
The hostages broke into applause and cheers. A few of them brought out their phones and started to film. Seb moved quickly and tried to avoid anyone getting a clear picture. For the most part, he succeeded, but a kid, his face puffy from crying, managed to get a reasonable photo as Seb turned back to the other hostages. That was the one the media used.
Seb pulled up his hood, his face now in shadow. He raised his hands for quiet.
“They may have brought explosives,” he said, indicating a couple of heavy bags near the gang members. There was a moment of renewed panic, and Seb raised his voice to be heard. “Let’s just get out quickly,” he said. He helped a couple of people up and they all headed toward the doors. As he followed the group out, Seb sent short bursts of Manna toward the three unconscious men. They would sleep for a few more hours and wake up in custody.
Reports of shots fired meant the sound of sirens was finally audible as they left the bank and made their way across the parking lot, some crying, some laughing, a few slack-jawed and silent, stumbling as they made their way to safety. Seb caught up with a old, grizzled man in a check shirt.
“Sir? Do me a favor?”
The man looked at Seb, grinned and shook his hand.
“Helluva thing you pulled off back there,” he said. “Wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t see it with my own damn eyes.” He gave Seb a playful punch on the shoulder. “Always thought that kung-fu stuff was bull, myself. Guess I was wrong. What d’ya need?”
“You got a car?”
The old man nodded toward a battered Chevy truck. “Will that do?”
Seb nodded. “Can I borrow it?” he asked. “I, er, don’t really want to be here when the cops get here, if you catch my drift.”
The man pressed the truck’s keys into Seb’s hand. “It’s stick,” he said. “You ok with that?”
“No problem,” said Seb. “I’ll leave it at the bus station. Keys on the front tire. If you could just delay telling the police for an hour or so.”
“Far as I’m concerned, you can keep it,” said the man as Seb jogged across the lot and got into the Chevy. It started with a cough and a plume of blue smoke. “Good luck!”
Seb waved his acknowledgment and pulled away. By the time the other hostages realized their rescuer was missing, he was a mile away. The pickup truck now looked like a Hyundai Elantra and Seb was caucasian, middle-aged and half a foot taller, with a full beard. He drove to the bus station and found a parking garage where no one would see the saloon transform into a pickup. As soon as it was done, he Walked and was thousands of miles away before the Chevy’s engine had even started to cool.
There are another 47 chapters where that one came from…
or buy book 1, The World Walker here:
That’s all folks – really looking forward to hearing from readers. Don’t forget you can sign up to mailing list for a FREE copy of the unpublished prologue to The World Walker by clicking the Sign Up Here link at the top of this page. I will also—very, very occasionally—email news about new books.