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Authors: Nancy Holzner

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Hellforged

BOOK: Hellforged
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Table of Contents
 
 
PRAISE FOR
DEADTOWN

Deadtown
is fresh and funny, with a great new take on zombies.”
—Karen Chance,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Death’s Mistress
 
“Part demon-busting tale, part political thriller, Holzner’s take on urban fantasy is exciting and fresh. Here’s to the future adventures of Vicky Vaughn!”

Romantic Times
 
“Beginning with its first page, this exciting, gripping novel sustains its high-octane suspense throughout the narrative, keeping the reader guessing until the end.”

Bitten by Books
 
“Fast, fun, and feisty, Holzner’s
Deadtown
is chock-full of supernatural action, danger, and creatures who do more than go bump in the night.”
—Devon Monk, author of
Magic at the Gate
 
“Zombies, demons, and a sassy slayer.
Deadtown
sparks with an incredibly realized world and a cast of vivid characters. I can’t wait for the next book!”
—Chris Marie Green, author of
Deep in the Woods
 
“Full of dangerous magic and populated with characters so realistic they almost jump off the page. I loved this book. Nancy Holzner is a master of characterization, and I’ll be buying her next book the moment it hits the shelf.”
—Ilona Andrews,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Bayou Moon
 

Deadtown
is a perfect blend of mystery, fantasy, humor, and even modern-day social issues. It’s Boston as you’ve never seen it … where the shapes shift, the zombies gnaw, and the blood flows warm through the oh-so-delicious veins of the area known as Deadtown. Victory Vaughn gives evil a run for its money.”
—Anton Strout, author of
Dead Matter
Ace Books by Nancy Holzner
 
DEADTOWN
HELLFORGED
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
South Africa
 
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
HELLFORGED
 
An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the author
 
PRINTING HISTORY
Ace mass-market edition / January 2011
 
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
 
eISBN : 978-1-101-44595-2
 
ACE
Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
 
 

http://us.penguingroup.com

To my daughter, Tamsen, with lots and lots of love
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Cameron Dufty saw the potential in Vicky’s story and gave me a chance, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
Tamsen Conner, librarian extraordinaire, educated me about how the Library of Congress classifies demon-related books. (If I got anything wrong, it’s entirely my mistake.)
My editor, Jessica Wade, offered encouragement and insight. She could also teach most saints a thing or two about patience. Thanks also to the other professionals who helped turn my manuscript into a book: cover artist Don Sipley, text designer Laura Corless, production editor Michelle Kasper, copy editor Erica Rose, and proofreader Valle Hansen.
Thanks to the Mostly Sundays writing group for reading parts of this book in draft form and taking my crazy fantasy world seriously: Emily Johnson, Pat Carlson, Jeanne Mackin, Nicola Morris, Linda Meyers, Doris Wright, Lisa Harris, and Janis Kelly.
I’m grateful for the support of my family and friends: my parents, Harold and Lois Brown, who fostered my love of books and always believed I could write; Michelle Brandwein for long-term friendship and all-around awesomeness; Karen Brandwein for fascinating insights into speculative fiction; Maria Giacoletto for inspiration; Margaret Strother for getting me out of the house once in a while; Carlos Thomas for stopping by Creature Comforts; my agent, Gina Panettieri, for her hard work on my behalf.
My husband, Steven Holzner, never minds helping me brain-storm, giving real thought to questions that begin, “If you were a zombie …” His unflagging love and support mean more to me than I can say.
Finally, thanks to all the readers who’ve ventured into Deadtown in search of a fun story. I hope you’re enjoying the ride!
1
THERE ARE FEW PLACES CREEPIER THAN A DESERTED COMPUTER lab in the middle of the night. And believe me, I know creepy.
Dozens of fans whirred, their white noise pressing like cotton into my ears and making me jumpy about what I
wasn’t
hearing. Eerie blue light half-lit the room; other lights blinked randomly on the machines. Although it was late January, fans blew in streams of frigid air. Even with my leather jacket over my sweater, I had goose bumps prickling both arms. I was alone with MIT’s new supercomputer, and that made this particular deserted computer lab
super
creepy.
That, and the fact that I wasn’t really alone. In here with me, somewhere, was a demon.
That’s why I’d been called in, to exterminate a Glitch in the supercomputer. Supposedly the world’s third biggest, fastest, and smartest, lately this giant machine hadn’t done anything but spit out error messages. The MIT brainiacs tried everything they could think of to eliminate the Glitch, but none of their usual fixes worked. In desperation, they called me. I’m Victory Vaughn, Boston’s only professional demon exterminator. And I deal with Glitches the old-fashioned way: by killing them.
Fifty or sixty locker-sized cabinets, each holding multiple processors, lined up in rows like ghostly soldiers standing eternally at attention. I opened a cabinet, leaned in, and sniffed, checking for that characteristic Glitch smell: a strong scent of ozone with an undertone of grape bubble gum mixed with sardine paste and rotten eggs.
Nothing. I’d been here half an hour with no luck. It was slow going. A supercomputer is basically a series of ultra-fast processors linked together to ramp up the computing power. All those processors in all those cabinets gave the Glitch hundreds of places to hole up in our little game of hide-and-seek.
I opened the next door.
Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Inside, a tangle of wires and cables snaked around stacks of circuit boards. Hard to believe a mess like that could perform billions of calculations at the speed of light. Except it couldn’t—not with the Glitch frying its circuits. I sniffed again, then tensed at the sharp smell of ozone. Beneath it, almost too faint to detect, was the stomach-churning odor of Glitch.
BOOK: Hellforged
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