7th Son: Descentby J. C. Hutchins
As America reels from the bizarre presidential assassination committed by a child, seven men are abducted from their normal lives and delivered to a secret government facility. Each man has his own career, his own specialty. All are identical in appearance. The seven strangers were grown--- unwitting human clones---as part of a project called 7th Son./i>/i>
As America reels from the bizarre presidential assassination committed by a child, seven men are abducted from their normal lives and delivered to a secret government facility. Each man has his own career, his own specialty. All are identical in appearance. The seven strangers were grown--- unwitting human clones---as part of a project called 7th Son.
The government now wants something from these "John Michael Smiths." They share the flesh as well as the implanted memories of the psychopath responsible for the president's murder. The killer has bigger plans, and only these seven have the unique qualifications to track and stop him. But when their progenitor makes the battle personal, it becomes clear he may know the seven better than they know themselves.
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7th Son: Descent
By J. C. Hutchins
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 J. C. Hutchins
All rights reserved.
Saturday sex with Sarah was the best, John Smith decided. The very best. It was long, sweaty, dirty; nipple nibbles, fingernails raking the back and chest, obscene whispers, incomplete sentences. Headboard practically banging into the neighboring apartment's living room. Open windows to let the November Miami breeze cool them — and to let the rest of the world shift uncomfortably with envy. That sort of sex.
John marveled at this as he pulled himself off her body, panting, staring up at the ceiling with an expression that was half self-satisfaction, half awe. Sarah grabbed a sheet from the floor, laughed long and loud, and rolled sideways to face him. The sheet stuck to her sweaty breasts and hips. She brushed a red curl from her face.
"Unbelievable," she said.
John gazed at the ceiling and shook his head. "I know."
"It's getting better."
He shook his head again and blinked. "I know."
Sarah smiled. "You should write a song about it."
"Uh, how about 'Christ Almighty, Do Me All Nighty.'"
"You could've done better than that," she snorted, and climbed out of bed. John watched Sarah's hips as she gracefully stepped through his cramped bedroom, traversing the thirtysomething's version of hopscotch: a pile of books on the floor, last night's clothes, several ratty folders filled with sheet music, an empty box of Trojans, his Gibson guitar. She was nimble and beautiful, and John wondered, not for the first time, what she saw in him.
She opened the bedroom door. John's fat, fuzzy cat scrambled past her legs and leaped onto the bed. He stomped onto John's chest and meowed, malcontent.
"Buzz off, Cat," John said.
"You need to buy him food," Sarah said, stepping into the living room on her way to the bathroom. "You said it yourself last night. And, Jesus ... you should really clean up this place."
"Right," he called. "Wanna help?"
Sarah laughed. "Your house. Your mess. You clean it up."
John reached over and plucked a lighter and crumpled pack of cigarettes from the far end of the bedside table. He shook the pack, and two bent — but, thank God, not broken — Camel Lights rattled out and into his palm. He lit one, inhaled, and gazed at the ceiling.
Cat meowed again, sounding more surly this time. John absently scratched the critter's head, regarding him with a mixture of disdain and fondness. As Sarah showered, John watched the palm trees sway outside the window, stroked Cat, and finished his smoke.
He'd already put on a T-shirt and pulled his hair into a ponytail when Sarah came back into the room.
"Where ya going, stud?"
"Nowhere. Just to the Castle," he replied, slipping on a pair of jeans. "Gotta get the cat his food, and get me some more smokes."
Sarah looked at the unlit Camel by the ashtray. "I'm out, too."
"Have that one," John said, and kissed her. "Try to live through the nasty nonmenthol flavor. I'll take the bike. Won't be long."
Outside, as he pedaled his ten-speed into the apartment complex parking lot, Sarah called down to him from the balcony. She told him to hurry. She made a joke about how red-haired maidens reward bicycle-riding knights with breakfast and "muchly" hot sex ... particularly if they come bearing cancer sticks.
John laughed, imagining her in bed, his head between her thighs, and said he'd pedal as fast as he could.
Alleys — honest-to-goodness damp, dark, well-worn shortcut alleys — were one of the things John missed most while living in Miami. Cycling always reminded him of his childhood in the Midwest, and of bike races with neighborhood kids, up and down the alleys. Miami was a driver's city, a twentieth-century city, a pink place that had no love for kick-the-can or cobblestones. This was the land of the planned community, where "historic home" meant that the paint on a house's shutters had just dried.
As he pedaled to the Castle convenience store — Zero Hassle at the Castle! — John pined for alleys and shortcuts, redbrick roads that led to scrappy basketball rims and tree houses. But there was no sense begrudging it. Miami was different. Neither better nor worse, just different. And since Miami had been around a lot longer than John had, he thought it best to adapt.
Besides, Miami had palm trees. And November weather like this.
He was making a quick turn onto Flamingo, a scenic residential road that would add a few minutes to his ride — but what the hey, it was Saturday — when he spotted the white van barreling toward him.
I don't think it sees me, he thought. If it did, it wouldn't be going so fa —
John yanked the bike to the left, gripped both brakes, and nearly flew over the handlebars. The van's tires screeched. John's bike swerved between two parked cars, a Lexus and a very old, very cherry Beetle, and isn't it the damnedest things you notice at moments like this? The bike's front wheel struck the curb. John spilled onto the sidewalk, felt the flesh tear on his palm and chin.
He heard the van's front doors open, the rear slide-door whoosh along its rail, and the click-click of expensive dress shoes. John tried to slip out from under the ten-speed, but his foot was stuck on the chain. He looked up. Three men sporting sharp suits and crew cuts surrounded him.
"You know, a little help here would —"
"Grab him," the biggest suit said, and the other two pounced. Their gloved hands locked on to John's upper arms like talons, yanking him from under the bike in one fluid motion, as if he were in some street-fighter ballet.
One of the men twisted John's left arm behind his back — say uncle, isn't it the damnedest things you notice? — and John howled. The other suit held John's right arm out straight, like a wing. John couldn't move. He couldn't speak. They were going to break his arm; John could feel the muscles pulling apart.
The third man, the big suit, stepped before him. The stranger had gray eyes, a flat nose, a cleft in his chin, cheekbones carved from marble. No emotion was on that face. The men stood there on the sidewalk for what felt like an excruciating eternity.
Finally, the man raised his eyebrows. "You want it to stop?"
John nodded his head furiously.
The big man inhaled and exhaled slowly. "Good. Now. You're going to take a little ride with us."
The pain in John's left arm eased a little, and he used the moment to heave his body from side to side. His outstretched arm tore away from its captor and swung outward. He screamed for help. The talon on the throbbing wrist behind his back slipped slightly. He was going to do it, going to do it, going to run, going to break —
No air. No air.
The leader, the one with the Superman chin, punched John in the stomach a second time. Then a third. John fell to the sidewalk, clutching his midsection, cradling it like a squirming baby. Through the haze, he saw one of the men toss the ten-speed into the back of the van. He spotted the other with a syringe, felt the bee sting of the needle, then things became pleasant, sweet, dark, darker.
He heard one last thing before he lost consciousness, the leader's voice.
"Should've come quietly, Johnny-boy."
When Michael was a child, his mother and father took him for a drive through Indiana's corn country, the place where that state's true heart would always beat. American flags, high school basketball, Old-Time Religion. Those things were in the soil of the state — no, deeper than that even, a layer of bedrock geologists could never fathom. The drive into the heartland took two hours from where they lived in Indianapolis.
Michael had been only nine at the time, but he had noticed the transformation of the horizon during that drive: the mortar and steel of city giving way to the bland homes of the suburbs. Then, with the abruptness of a beachhead, the land of station wagons and culs-de-sac relinquished control to the flat expanse of Indiana's heart. The corn. It was a sea, Michael thought back then. Bright green combines occasionally slipped through its waves like barges. And like the sea, the corn could barely be contained; it ebbed just feet from the road.
There, at a family picnic by the roadside, Michael's mother had told him that places were like people; they had personalities. More important, she said, they had emotions. Souls. Sometimes you could feel the soul of a place. Michael had munched on a peanut butter sandwich and asked her what she meant.
"Close your eyes," she said. "Listen. Just breathe and listen. Listen with your ears. What do you hear?"
Quiet, he'd said. Grasshoppers. Corn leaves slapping against each other. A bird. The wind.
"Now what do you feel?" she asked.
Nice. Peaceful. Love, maybe.
"Maybe that's what this place is like," his mother said. "Maybe this place is peaceful, loving. Gentle. Maybe that is this place's soul. It's important to listen to a place sometimes, to hear what it thinks. Understand?"
Michael said he did, a little. Maybe. His mother laughed and kissed him on the cheek and said that maybe he would understand when he was older. He'd finished his sandwich, took a sip of cherry Hi-C from his thermos, and went to play Frisbee with his father.
Michael had never forgotten that conversation. And while he understood its mysteries now about as much as he had then, he always made time to close his eyes and listen to a new place. It had come in handy years later when he went to Parris Island, and then to Kosovo and Afghanistan and other countries with alien names and landscapes. Those places held power over their inhabitants. That faraway day's lesson had dovetailed with what he learned in boot, and later in Force Recon training. Know the land, and you'll know the people.
Michael knew Gitmo. He'd been here for only a week, and he knew it. Gitmo was angry. Gitmo was confused. Under the Kevlar and pride and posturing, Gitmo was crying for blood. Its inhabitants were restless. It wanted to put a hurt on whoever was behind the death of the president two weeks ago.
Michael ran to appease the lion inside. He ran to clear his head of the irrational, the emotions, the confusion and endless discussions that were unfolding at Guantánamo and, presumably, in America. He'd learned about the president's assassination a week after the rest of the civilized world. He had been on assignment, assisting CIA types in a nation where the scorpions were the size of ashtrays and the politics as volatile as nitroglycerin. Now he was back in the fold, catching up, getting informed.
Michael was into his sixth mile when a Humvee approached from behind. It pulled ahead by a few hundred yards and stopped. A full bird stepped out and waited for Michael to catch up.
Michael stopped, stood erect, and saluted. His breathing was even, but the sweat poured from his arms and face. His thirty-year-old body was a study in sculpture, loyalty, and endurance. Scars were on his arms and back. A USMC tattoo on his right biceps. Women remarked at his physique and his blue eyes, not that it mattered much to him. Men remarked at his ability to do seventy pull-ups in two minutes.
The colonel returned the salute and stepped forward.
"It's Saturday, son," the older man said. "Even God Himself rested one day of the week."
Michael half-smiled. "I expect to go to heaven, sir, and I'd like to represent our Corps in a mano a mano boxing match against the Lord God when I get there. This is prep."
"Blasphemous." The colonel laughed, then clapped Michael on the shoulder. They stepped over to the Humvee. The driver passed the colonel a clipboard. The old man scanned the sheet of paper.
"Says here you're to report to the airstrip in three hours. Heading to Virginia."
"Sir? I just returned from an op," Michael said. "I'm supposed to head back home to Denver. Two weeks' leave."
"I don't know anything about that." The colonel nodded at the clipboard. "This came to my office. Classified. I'm supposed to round you up personally and get you on that plane. Now I don't take a shine to running errands, Smith, particularly when they're so hush-hush I can't have one of my staff get their nails dirty for me. You're not going to give me any trouble on this, are you?"
Michael stiffened. "Of course not, sir."
"Then be there at eleven hundred, as ordered."
As the Humvee sped away, Michael stood in the sun, still sweating. He gritted his teeth. He breathed and listened.
Gitmo was angry. Gitmo was confused. For the first time this week, Michael was glad for that. He was glad he wasn't the only one. He began to run again, this time back toward the base.
The lion inside him had many questions.
the president is alive!! this is another attempt to create pandemonium!! an elaborate hoax is being staged against the american people. as you know my source inside insists this is nothing more than an excuse to get griffin out of the public eye. blackjack and Special(k) say there is no threat to america but the president had to be removed so he can conduct talks with the true entities behind this conspiracy.
the world had to believe assassination was true so no one could suspect the real reason why griffin is gone. the grays are finally reestablishing communications and wish to discuss total social and technological integration with us!! after two years of silence they are retransmitting their signals! there is proof, the photograph below was sent from blackjack and confirmed by another source as authentic. it is an image taken from hubble of the phobosian base where the grays have been stationed for the past decade. the time is at hand! the next great age of humanity has begun!!!! kilroy2.0 was here kilroy2.0 is everywhere
Kilroy2.0 leaned back from the computer screen in satisfaction. This new message had just been posted to his Web site TheTruthExcavated.com. It was one of six sites he updated daily.
He rocked back and forth in the wooden chair, his round, bearded face ebbing in and out of the light flickering from the five computer monitors. The rest of the apartment was soaked in shadow; the afternoon sunshine warming the rest of Washington, D.C., was blocked by the sheets of aluminum foil taped to the window frames.
Sunlight was not welcome here. This was a timeless place. A temple. Kilroy2.0 was beyond time, beyond day, beyond daylight. There were no Fridays or Saturdays or Mondays. Only Nondays.
Once, long ago during his life as a civilian, Kilroy2.0 had been known by another name, a man's name, a Pedestrian's name, forgettable. It was the name of an unenlightened tourist of the world, one familiar to worker bees who did not hear the whispers in the walls. But that name, that life, that was Before. Before he had seen the Truth that was seeping through the Media's Lies. Before he had his pulpits.
Before he was here. Before he was everywhere.
Kilroy2.0 smiled in the silence, rocking, cataloging and prioritizing the next series of Web-site updates in his mind. Beneath the desk, the small fans inside his five computers whirred softly. The wooden chair creaked as he rocked. The walls did not speak, for which he was grateful. Silence was like a sand castle to him: fragile, fleeting, golden.
The pounding at the front door shattered it all.
Kilroy2.0 started, glanced across the living room. The chain locks rattled at the impact. His eyes flashed back to Monitor Three, at the miniature video screen in the corner.
The feed from the wireless webcam he'd installed in the outside hall was dead.
The pounding, again.
Kilroy2.0 stood straight up, the chair hitting the floor like a pistol shot. Hands shaking, he dashed to the windows. This was it. They'd finally found him and they'd make him vanish, take away the Word and transform him into a Pedestrian just like Before and
— can't let that happen, have to get out of here —
He ripped at the aluminum foil on the windows, gasping and squinting through the furious sunlight.
A man was out there, waiting for him on the fire escape.
Kilroy2.0 shrieked. The pounding behind him stopped ... then the door exploded inward, nearly flying off its hinges. Kilroy2.0 whirled toward the door. The window behind him shattered. Arms reached out to him from inside, now from outside.
The voltage from the Taser stun gun surged through Kilroy2.0's body before he knew he was hit. He crashed face-first onto the hardwood floor, taking all of his 320 pounds with him. His dirty spectacles skittered across the hardwood.
One man was barking orders. Take everything with a motherboard. Monitors, too. Look for laptops, BlackBerries, cell phones. Clean it out. Cuff him up.
Kilroy2.0 heard it all, terrified, exhilarated. They dragged his limp body out of his home and down the apartment building's stairs. As they stepped out of the building and into the sunlight, a rogue thought flashed through Kilroy's mind.
He couldn't smile at the irony, but he wanted to.
kilroy2.0 was here
* * *
Hospitals may vary in shape, size, and design from the outside. They are all identical inside.
Hallway mazes, clanging doors, floors and walls colored in muted browns and blues. Hospitals are collages of impassive colors that do not offend, that make no promises.
Excerpted from 7th Son: Descent by J. C. Hutchins. Copyright © 2009 J. C. Hutchins. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
J.C. HUTCHINS created the podcast trilogy 7th Son, and the trilogy has had more than 3.5 million total downloads. He lives in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
J.C. Hutchins created the podcast trilogy 7th Son, listened to by over 40,000 people with over a million total downloads. The books Personal Effects and 7th Son: Descent were published by St. Martin's. He lives in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
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Not close at all. Keep going. Fifth: ((Unscramble!)) Eth nyol eabs rstule 1
I first was introduced by podcast. Love the author, his work speaks for its self. "READ ME!"
I had listened to this novel as a podcast. The book is even better! This is a thriller in every way. Can't wait for book two! I have to listen to the podcasts again after reading this book because I just couldn't wait to hear the rest of the story again. Great job J.C.
I'm actually a fan from before the book was published and after reading another reader's critique, I'm not going to really go into the plot. This is a thrill ride. Nothing more, nothing less. JC introduces you to seven interesting people, they are people that you want to know. You also have to keep in mind that this book is part of a trilogy. So, 'Descent' is just the beginning. Nothing is always as it seems and to go deeper, you have to read or listen to the rest of this rollercoaster of a ride.
At Bowling Green College in Kentucky, four years old Jesse Fowler kills President Griffin slicing the POTUS's throat when he was being kissed on the cheek. The Secret Service grabbed the child and his parents; a week later Jesse was dead and no one understood why. Government agents grab seven men of interest. Each looks similar enough to be at least siblings if not septuplets. Their memories up until they turned fourteen are identical and their names are offshoots of John Michael Smith. They react to what the Feds tell them in the same way as if they go through the phases of forming a strong cohesive group; this includes their hosts Dr. Kenneth Kleinman and Brigadier General Orlando Hill. The seven know that they are the "offspring" of Alpha, who stole top secret government technology that enables him to download a mind to override the original person's brain. The seven are his clones, but like their hosts none of them comprehend why their Alpha killed the President with a copy of his mind inside the preschooler or why he plays cryptic games with his seven clones. This is an entertaining science fiction tale that opens with the toddler assassin and never slows down. Although the enigmatic taunting seems old hat as does the cloning, the key to this fast-paced tale is the seven Smiths all have distinctive personalities and lifestyles even with their same origins; for instance Father Thomas questions whether he has a soul being a clone or father Jack was going to watch ironically D.A.R.Y.L. with his two daughters. Readers will enjoy DESCENT although Alpha acts too typical of a villain, his clones make for a lively science fiction thriller. Harriet Klausner