Would you like a preview of Garbadon Major, Book 3 of the Jazz Healy, Reunion Series? Well, here you go! Chapter 1 in its entirety.
I hope you enjoy…
Behind Jazz Healy in the dimly lit, roughhewn tunnel, someone shouted. She spun around, gun up, ready to fire.
A pair of men in ragged coveralls staggered out of a doorway. One belted out a slurred chant proclaiming the greatness of Kinon, the close-orbiting planetoid of the blue sun Jekanel that Jazz found herself within, while the other accompanied his buddy with wordless hollers.
Jazz watched them wander off in the opposite direction and sighed. She had to have arrived on Landfall Appreciation Day, a public holiday marking the moment humans first touched down on the planetoid’s surface. Then again, Kinon’s official calendar indicated every second day was some kind of national celebration. No, that was an exaggeration. Once a week was more accurate.
Despite having only been in the planetoid’s bowels for a couple hours, Jazz could understand the rationale behind the near constant festivities. Already she was giving serious thought to taking her rebreather off and heading into one of the tunnels marked ‘Out Of Order’ just to see how quickly she’d asphyxiate.
“Easy now,” she muttered. “Don’t do anything you can’t regret.”
A drop of water struck her shoulder, the splash wetting the side of her neck. Moisture falling from the ceiling. Satisfied that the drunks behind her were who they appeared to be, she returned to her task. Five hundred feet more and she should be at the current residence of one Arteen Vendta, wanted for murder in the Qitani System. The price on his head: twenty thousand Commonwealth dollars. After expenses – fuel, entry fees at five different non-Commonwealth worlds, and the rest – she should come out a little bit ahead.
She adjusted her torso-plate and brought up on the lower left-hand corner of her optic implants the feed from the mote camera she’d attached to Rainbow Ninja, her waist-tall, gene-spliced cat. She’d sent Rainbow Ninja prowling from the opposite direction in case Vendta got to running before she arrived on his doorstep.
Of course, he might already have lit out but she didn’t think so. Her intel was that he’d used his last cash reserves several months ago to get to Kinon and had been holed up here ever since. Acquiring his address had proven surprisingly easy, the Port Authority clerk just happy to have a visitor to talk to. And possibly drunk.
The tunnel broadened into an area wide enough for several benches set out in an approximate circle. A whole mess of the flickering fluorescent tubes that lit the rest of the planetoid had been lined up together on the ceiling, creating a nauseating, incomprehensible pattern of flashing. A storefront cut out of the rock, within which stood a disheveled woman, sold snack packs and other canned goods. Two men stripped to the waist but more beer gut than chest wrestled halfheartedly in between the benches, a small group of spectators equally halfheartedly cheering them on. The loudest of the bunch waved a small wad of paper money around.
Jazz holstered her pistol and affected an inebriated shamble. The shop proprietor fixed her with a dead-eyed stare but nobody else took any notice. Once past them, the corridor narrowing again, she redrew her gun and upped her pace. The sooner she could get off this creepy rock the better.
All appeared normal at Rainbow Ninja’s end. The cat surprised Jazz, almost on a daily basis, with her intelligence. In this situation Jazz had no doubts Rainbow Ninja, despite her size and rippling muscles, would draw little attention to herself. In fact, she’d probably be less conspicuous than Jazz.
The map Jazz had downloaded – upper right corner of her optics – told her to veer right at the next junction, up a dead-end tunnel full of what the Port Authority clerk had described as ‘cheap’ housing.
Rainbow Ninja reached the intersection at the same time Jazz did.
“Any trouble, girl?” Jazz said, the rebreather muffling her voice. She minimized the camera feed while scratching the cat behind the ears.
Rainbow Ninja responded by rubbing her head against Jazz’s thigh.
“Good.” Jazz headed down the corridor. “Let’s get this done.”
Several open doors showed empty rooms, the interior walls cut in the same crude manner as the tunnels. Finally Jazz came to a closed door and checked her map. This was the place. The door – some sort of imitation wood, moldy – was locked. Jazz weighed up her options. She had a device stored in her cybernetic arm designed to overload electronic locks but it would be useless against the old-fashioned deadbolt sticking out here. She could always knock. Jazz smiled to herself at the joke. She’d been doing a lot of that lately, with the mental giggles often turning into full blown conversation.
She would knock. Just with a bit extra force. Curling her metal hand into a fist she drove it into the door beside the lock. With a crack the paneling gave way. She reached through, grabbed the deadbolt from the other side and wrenched. It came free with barely any resistance and the door swung open.
The problem with that approach was the loss of any element of surprise. Jazz stepped out of line of sight and touched Rainbow Ninja on the snout. The signal meant for the cat to go on guard duty. Dutifully, Rainbow Ninja turned away from the door and settled into a crouch.
After checking that her gun was set to stun – her default but sometimes switches got toggled – Jazz dialed her optics to low-level thermal. She’d only recently had that upgrade installed and now was as good a time as any to try it out. She listened for a moment. No sound from inside. No light either. The stench of spoiled food. It’d be just her luck to find Vendta dead. He was worth a pittance dead.
This residence was laid out differently from the others she’d passed. A narrow entryway, lined on Jazz’s right by a bench dug out of the rock, with a doorway on either side at the other end. The more expensive kind of cheap, perhaps. Keeping low, Jazz drifted inside. Nothing emitted heat, the bench piled high with stuff.
Now she could hear sound. The low thudding whir of a fan, coming from the doorway on the right. Pressed as close to the wall as possible, Jazz shuffled forward, knees bent. She couldn’t stand in one doorway without exposing her back in the other. She risked a peek around the left-hand doorframe. A bed, no heat sources. She turned the other way, could see the outline of a chair frame, the fan turning overhead. Slowly she shifted her balance to give herself a better viewing angle.
Two human-shaped heat signatures beside the chair. She ducked back, almost overbalancing in the process. One signature stood, the other sat. Had Vendta hired protection? Had another hunter beaten Jazz to the punch?
A voice said, “Lights on,” and Jazz scrambled to switch her optics back to normal. The voice was familiar. Out of place but familiar.
The lights, weak but still brighter than darkness, powered on, illuminating walls streaked with green mildew. Half-eaten snack packs and water canisters, probably bought from the shop Jazz had passed, covered the bench beside her.
Now would’ve been a good time for one of former boyfriend Tollett’s smoke grenades. Jazz chased the thought away. Even after six months that was still too fresh a wound.
She peeked around the corner again, yanked her head back. No gunfire. No knife whistling past to clang off the rock. No movement other than the incessant turning of the fan. Just as she was about to take another look Jazz realized whose voice she’d heard. Letting out a noiseless growl, she straightened and stepped into the open, gun up.
“Hello dear,” Mother said, standing over Vendta, pistol pressed against the back of his head. “You are a devil to get hold of, you know that?”
Thanks for reading! Book 1 & 2 of the series, Miltan Epsilon & Chak’r’Das, have already been released. Miltan Epsilon is free to read! Get them from your favorite online bookstore today (paperback also available via Amazon)!
Garbadon Major is slated for an early August 2021 release. The final book in the series, Bil’Tross, should be out in November.
Clicking the links attached to the books above will take you to a page where you can choose which bookstore to buy from but I’ll also include the direct links for the major bookstores they’re available at below. Once again, thanks for reading!