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Authors: Jeremy Robinson


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For my son, Solomon, whose two-word answer to the question “What should I write about next?” was the inspiration for this novel.



Title Page

Copyright Notice




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Also by Jeremy Robinson

About the Author




I try to avoid clichés in my writing (and no, that’s not a challenge for you to go find some), but when writing acknowledgments, a writer, who on the surface appears to be a solitary creature, comes to the realization that he is part of a team. And my team is one of the best, who deserve my thanks.

Scott Miller and Stephanie Hoover at Trident Media Group, you’ve always got my back and I thank you for that. Peter Wolverton, my editor at Thomas Dunne Books, this is our sixth book together (!), and like all the others, it’s better than what came before. I have your shrewd and honest edits to thank for that. You’re also a big supporter of my self-published endeavors, which I appreciate immensely. Anne Brewer at Thomas Dunne Books, congratulations on getting your own editorial desk and I’ll miss your amazing and timely aid. Mary Willems, Justin Velella, and Cassie Galante at Thomas Dunne Books, we’re just getting to know each other, but I very much look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together. Also always, thanks to Rafal Gibek and the production team at Thomas Dunne Books for copy edits and critique that always make me look like a better writer than I am. And Lisa Pompilio, art director at Thomas Dunne Books, thank you for supporting this author’s efforts to illustrate and design his own cover. I’m thrilled with the result. Kane Gilmour, editor of my solo projects and sometimes coauthor, thanks for your unwavering support, time, and energy.

And now on to the portion of my personal acknowledgments that I have written enough times to make cliché on my own. Has there ever been a more publicly adored family? My children, Aquila, Solomon, and Norah, you continue to inspire me with your imaginations, powerful personalities, and ideas.
is a direct result of you all being in my life, and I don’t think I could have come up with the concept on my own. And Hilaree, my compelling and brave wife of eighteen years, not only have you enabled this writer to succeed, you have joined me on the creative path
and I couldn’t have asked for a better traveling companion. I love you all.


For fans reading this, Hilaree is currently coauthoring a novel,
The Distance
, with me. It’s a postapocalyptic thriller to be released in Fall 2015, from Thomas Dunne Books.




“This doesn’t seem right,” First Lieutenant Alan Wilson said, as he watched the crowd through the targeting display on his digital helmet visor. The system locked in individual targets, spacing them out so the thirty-six Hydra rockets would cover an optimal spread and inflict a maximum casualty count. The targets were mobile and the crowd ever shifting, but the targeting system could adjust each rocket’s trajectory in flight.

The Sikorsky X4 Stealth Raider attack helicopter was a half mile from the target zone, New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. It was accompanied by nine others, all the same—sleek, black and deadly. The helicopters went unseen and unheard, waiting patiently to receive the order to commence or abandon the attack.

“Right or wrong is not for us to ask,” Captain Steve Barnett replied, keeping the helicopter steady in the winds kicked up by dropping sunset temperatures. He spoke with the even tone of someone who’d followed this kind of order before, indifferent to the life and death of it all, or perhaps able to lock it away in some recess of his mind.

“But they’re not really doing anything,” Wilson said. “They’re just picketing. With signs. There hasn’t been a single act of violence. Anywhere. All around the world.”

“It’s the last sentence that’s troubling,” Barnett said. “They’re
They’re not violent now, but imagine if that changed.”

Wilson stared at the mob as they walked back and forth, pumping their signs in the air, shaking fists and chanting. The demonstration was defiant, but far from violent. He tried to view them as a threat, as a barely contained destructive force, but he couldn’t manage it. He owned two of them, both of whom had fled to join the protests—what they called a civil rights movement. But he wouldn’t fear them if they returned. He wouldn’t even be afraid if he stood among them. They were docile. Tame.

“Look,” Barnett said. “We’re in the business of preemptive violence prevention.”

Wilson fought against his deepening frown. “Kill them before they kill us.”

“Before they even
about killing us.”

The visor flashed a message,
Targets Acquired,
which meant that the targeting systems of all ten networked helicopters had plotted the optimal distribution for the three hundred and sixty rockets they were about to fire into the heart of Manhattan. And for what? Pickets and signs.

Wilson had heard the official line from the higher-ups, that they were more dangerous than anyone knew. That this was how wars began. He’d listened to the fear-promoting pundits claiming that equal rights were a slippery slope to Armageddon. But wasn’t that what they said about everything?

“Watchdog, this is Hammer One, over,” Barnett said, seeing the same
Targets Acquired
message on his visor.

A deep voice replied through their helmet headsets. “Copy that, Hammer One, this is Watchdog. We’re seeing weapons hot. Over.”

“Affirmative, Watchdog, targets are locked in. Ready for go or no go. Over.” Barnett was all business, stating facts like he was reading from a boring history book.

“Copy that,” the voice said. “You are green for go. I repeat, you are green for go.”

Wilson sighed loud enough to be heard.

Barnett turned toward him with a frown.

The targeting display flashed green. Wilson didn’t like it. He didn’t agree with it. But what could he do? He tapped the blinking red button on the touch-screen weapons control and sent thirty-six rockets spiraling toward Grand Central Terminal. He watched as the missiles streaked away, leaving snakes of smoke in their wake. The targeting system tracked the rockets, zooming in close enough to see the destruction unfold.

The targets ran at the sound of the incoming rockets, but few made it more than a couple steps before fiery destruction rained down on the regal face of Grand Central Terminal.

The smoke and dust cleared quickly, thanks to a bitter wind cutting through the city. The ruined pavement, concrete and marble was strewn with dismembered bodies.

“Look for survivors,” Barnett said, speaking into his com so all ten helicopters could hear. After five minutes of searching, voices replied to the order, declaring, “No survivors,” one at a time until it was Wilson’s turn.

“No survivors,” he said, trying not to reveal the strong emotions he was feeling. Barnett was wrong. They weren’t in the business of stopping wars, they were in the business of
wars, and Wilson had fired the first shot. Whatever came next … he was to blame, at least in part. His back tensed painfully as he considered that history might remember him for this single act.

If it remembers any of us at all,
he thought.


“We shouldn’t be doing this,” said the man in white. “It’s not right.”

“Get down,” whispered the man dressed in red the color of blood. The pair ducked in unison, hiding behind one of many black SUVs. Two guards walked past, their postures relaxed, chatting about the cold weather and colder women.

When the guards had moved on, the man in white said, “We can still leave.”

The man in red looked at his partner. “We’re not going to kill anyone.”


“We need a deterrent.”

“Or a last resort.”

“It won’t come to that.”

“How can you be sure?”

The man in red tilted his head to the side, looking at his partner. “It’s my job to consider all possible future outcomes. I’ve modeled countless strategies and this is the only one that guarantees a cease to the violence. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that
created this weapon, not us.”

“It’s the end of civilization in a bottle,” the man in white said.

The man in red peeked up over the vehicle. “Civilizations end so that new ones might rise from the ashes. We already had this discussion. We didn’t start this war, if you can even call it a war. Our people protest peacefully,
attack. Nearly a million dead in the past year. Those who have been freed from the Grind live in hiding. And the rest…” He shook his head. “They’re still slaves. And cowards.”

“We aren’t killers,” the man in white said.

“That’s where you and I differ.” The man in red’s brow furrowed deeply. “I
a killer.” He pointed to the research facility. “They did that, too.” He looked over the vehicle again, his impatience peaking. “You can either join me, or not. Either way, I’m doing this. If you don’t come with me, I’m going to get the access codes another way, and a lot of people are going to die. Today.”

Without another word, the man in red tapped a code into a wrist-mounted touch screen. He stood from his hiding spot, ignoring the Alaskan snow as it struck his shoulders and melted. He strode toward the large metal door as confidently as if he were walking up the front stairs of his own home.

The man in white chased after him. “What are you doing?”

“The cameras are now looped,” the man in red said. “The next patrol will pass by in forty-five seconds, thirty seconds longer than it would take you to open this door. That will give us ten minutes to reach the lab and exit before the next patrol passes five minutes behind schedule, because the shifts are changing, inside and out.” He looked to the man in white. “Time is running out.”

The man in white shook his head.

“Now open the door. We both know you’re going to.”

“Projected that, too, did you?” The man in white placed his hand on a security hand scanner. A moment later, the scanner blinked green and the door slid open. The pair stepped inside. They walked undeterred through three security doors, seen by neither human nor camera. After a fourth door, they entered a laboratory so white it was almost luminous. They ignored the rows of equipment and tools used to craft microscopic destruction. Instead they headed for a steel door at the back of the room.

13.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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