Code Zero (Joe Ledger Series #6)

( 18 )

Overview

For years the Department of Military Sciences has fought to stop terrorists from using radical bioweapons—designer plagues, weaponized pathogens, genetically modified viruses, and even the zombie plague that first brought Ledger into the DMS. These terrible weapons have been locked away in the world’s most secure facility. Until now. Joe Ledger and Echo Team are scrambled when a highly elite team of killers breaks the unbreakable security and steals the world’s most dangerous weapons. Within days there are ...

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Code Zero (Joe Ledger Series #6)

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Overview

For years the Department of Military Sciences has fought to stop terrorists from using radical bioweapons—designer plagues, weaponized pathogens, genetically modified viruses, and even the zombie plague that first brought Ledger into the DMS. These terrible weapons have been locked away in the world’s most secure facility. Until now. Joe Ledger and Echo Team are scrambled when a highly elite team of killers breaks the unbreakable security and steals the world’s most dangerous weapons. Within days there are outbreaks of mass slaughter and murderous insanity across the American heartland. Can Joe Ledger stop a brilliant and devious master criminal from turning the Land of the Free into a land of the dead? 

Code Zero, a Joe Ledger novel from Jonathan Maberry, is the exciting direct sequel to Patient Zero.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/27/2014
Bestseller Maberry’s sequel to 2009’s Patient Zero, his sixth starring Joe Ledger of the ultrasecret Department of Military Science (after 2013’s Extinction Machine), does a good job of making its variation on the zombie menace plausible. A copy of VaultBreaker, “the absolute bleeding edge of cybersecurity technology,” designed to keep America’s foes from turning off its energy grid, has fallen into the wrong hands—specifically, those of an Asian woman who calls herself Mother Night, the liaison to a team of cyberhackers from China and other unfriendly foreign countries. Ledger and his team take what appear to be successful steps to thwart the threat posed by these hackers, but his optimism proves to be ill-founded. The Berserkers, monsters believed to have been wiped out, resurface and go on the attack, spreading infections that turn people into ravenous killers. Maberry’s shout-outs to popular culture’s depictions of zombies lessens the tension and feeling of doom, albeit just slightly. Agent: Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger Inc. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"Top grade horror fiction." - Booklist, Starred Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250033437
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/25/2014
  • Series: Joe Ledger Series , #6
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 81,846
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Maberry

JONATHAN MABERRY is a New York Times bestseller and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Patient Zero, the Pine Deep Trilogy, The Wolfman, Zombie CSU, and They Bite.  His work for Marvel Comics includes The Punisher, Wolverine, DoomWar, Marvel Zombie Return and Black Panther.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

 

 

The philosopher Nietzsche didn’t get it right. He said, “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster.”

That’s not exactly true.

Or, at least, not all the time.

If you battle monsters you don’t always become a monster.

But you aren’t entirely human anymore, either.

Chapter Two

1100 Block of North Stuart Street

Arlington, Virginia

Thursday, April 14, 1:22 p.m.

Some cases start big. Something blows up or someone unleashes a nasty bug and Echo Team hits the ground running. Most of the time, even if we don’t know what the endgame is going to look like, we have some idea of what kind of fight we’re in. And we can usually hear that big clock ticking down to boom time. Other cases are running fights and they end when one side runs out of bullets and the other doesn’t.

I’ve had a lot of both.

This one started weird and stayed weird, and for most of it felt like we were swinging punches at shadows. We didn’t even know what we were fighting until we were right there at the edge of the abyss.

And even then, it wasn’t what we thought it was.

Not until we knew what it was.

Yeah, it was like that.

It started four months ago on one of those sunny days T. S. Eliot wrote about when he said that April was the cruelest month. When spring rains wake the dead bulbs buried in the cold dirt and coax flowers into first blooms. When we look at the flowers we suddenly forget so many important things. We forget that all flowers die. We forget that winter will come again. We forget that nothing really endures and that, like the flowers that die at the end of the growing season, we’ll join them in the cold ground.

I spent years mourning the dead. Helen. Grace. My friends and colleagues at the Warehouse. Members of my team who fell in battle. All of them in the cold, cold ground.

Now it was April and there were flowers.

In my life there was Junie Flynn. She was the flower of my spring.

As far as we knew, her cancer was in remission, though we were waiting for her last panels. But for right now, the sun shone through yellow curtains and birds sang in the trees.

I sat at a kitchen table with a cup of coffee and the remains of a big slice of apple-pecan pie. The rest of the pie was gone. There was evidence of it in crumbs and beige glob smeared on the floor, on the aluminum pie plate, and on the muzzle of my dog. Ghost. Big white shepherd.

He loves pie.

The mess was considerable. However, I had no intention of cleaning it up. It wasn’t my pie.

It wasn’t my house.

When the actual owner of the house—a Mr. Reginald Boyd—came home and then came storming into the kitchen, he told me, very loudly and with lots of cursing, that it wasn’t my house, my kitchen, or my goddamn pie.

I agreed with those observations. Less so about his accusations that I fornicate with livestock.

Reginald Boyd was a big man gone soft in the middle, like an athlete who has gone to seed. Played some ball in college, hit the gym a bit after that. Started going soft probably around the same time that he started getting paid for stealing some real important shit from work.

“Work” was the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA. Basically a collection of the most dangerous geeks on earth. Except for idiots like Reggie, those geeks try to keep America safe.

“Get the fuck out of my house,” yelled Reginald Boyd.

Ghost, his face covered in apple pie and pecan bits, stood up and showed Boyd how big he was. And how many teeth he had.

I smiled at Boyd and said, “Lower your voice.”

Boyd backed a step away. “You broke into my house.”

“Only technically. I loided the lock with my library card. Loided,” I repeated. “It’s a word, look it up. It means to bypass a lock. You have a two-hundred-dollar dead bolt on your front door and a Mickey Mouse spring lock on the back door. A moron could get in here. So … whereas I got in, I did no actual breaking.

He didn’t know how to respond to that, so he glared at what was on the table. “You made coffee? And you ate my pie?”

I felt like I was in a Goldilocks and the Three Bears reboot.

“First off, the coffee is Sanka. How the hell can you call yourself an American and all you have in your pantry is powdered decaf? I ought to sic Ghost on you just for that.”

“What—?”

“The pie’s good though,” I continued. “Could use more pecans. Store-bought, am I right? Take a tip and switch to Whole Foods, they have a killer deep-dish apple that’ll make you cry.”

“You’re fucking crazy.”

“Very likely,” I admitted.

His hand touched the cell phone clipped to his belt. “Get the hell out before I call—”

I reached under my jacket, slid the Beretta 92F from its clamshell holster, and laid it on the table. “Seriously, Mr. Boyd—actually, may I call you Reggie?”

“Fuck you.”

“Seriously, Reggie, do you really want to reach for that cell phone? I mean—who are you gonna call?”

“I’ll call the fucking cops is who I’ll call.”

“No you won’t.”

“Why the fuck not?”

“’Cause I’m a cop, Einstein,” I said. Which was kind of true. I used to be a cop in Baltimore before I was shanghaied into the Department of Military Sciences. The DMS gig gives me access to credentials from every law enforcement agency from the FBI to local law to the housing police. I need to flash a badge; they give me the right badge. The DMS, though, doesn’t have its own badges.

Boyd eyed me. “You’re no cop.”

“I could be.”

“Bullshit. I’m going to call the cops.”

“No you’re not.”

“You can’t stop me, this is my house.”

I drummed my fingers on the table next to my gun. “Honestly, Reggie, they said you weren’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but come on … Big guy? Big dog? Big gun? You’re armed with a cell phone and a beer gut. How do you think this is going to play out?”

“I’m not afraid of any stupid dog.”

I held up a finger. “Whoa now, Reggie. There are all kinds of lines we can step over. Insulting my dog, however, is a line you do not want to cross. I get weird about that, and you do not want me to get weird on you.”

He stared blankly at me, trying hard to make sense of our encounter. His eyes flicked from me to Ghost—who noisily licked his muzzle—and back to me.

He narrowed his eyes to prove that he was shrewd. “What do you want?”

“What do you think I want?”

“I don’t know.”

“Of course you do.”

“No, I don’t know.”

I sighed. “Okay, I’ll give you a hint because you may actually be that stupid.”

He started to open his mouth.

I said, “VaultBreaker.”

His mouth snapped shut.

“Proprietary military software? Am I ringing any bells here?” I asked. “Anything? Anything? Bueller?”

That’s when Reggie Boyd tried to run. He spun around and bolted down the hallway toward the front door.

I took a sip of the coffee. Sighed. Said, “Go ahead.”

Ghost shot after him like a bullet, nails scratching the hallway floorboards, one long, continuous growl trailing behind him.

Reggie didn’t even make it to the front door.

Later, after we were past the screams and first-aid phases, Reggie lay on the couch and I sat on the edge of a La-Z-Boy recliner, my pistol back in its shoulder rig, another cup of the pisswater Sanka cradled between my palms. Ghost was sprawled on the rug pretending to be asleep. The living room was a wreck. Tables overturned, a lamp broken. Bloodstains on the floors and the walls, and one drop on the ceiling—for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how that got there.

My chest ached, though not because of anything Reggie had done. It was scar tissue from bullet wounds I’d received last year during the Majestic Black Book affair. Couple of bullets went in through the armhole opening of my Kevlar and busted up a whole lot of important stuff. I was theoretically back to perfect health, but bullet wounds are not paper cuts. I had to keep working the area or scar tissue would build up in the wrong places. Wrestling Reggie onto the couch helped neither my chest nor my mood.

“We could have done all this in the kitchen,” I said irritably. “We could have had a pizza delivered and talked this through like adults.”

Reggie said nothing.

“Instead you had to do something stupid.”

Nothing.

“That alone should tell you something, man,” I said. “Didn’t your spider sense start to tingle when you found me sitting at your kitchen table? No? Maybe you’re good at your job, Reggie, but beyond that you are as dumb as a box of rubber hammers. You assumed you were being slick and careful, but since I’m here, we can agree that assumptions about your overall slickness are for shit. Ass out of you and me, you know what I’m talking about?”

Nothing.

“The question is, Reggie, what do we do now?”

He turned his face away and buried it in the couch cushions.

Back in Baltimore, Junie was shopping for a dress to go with the killer shoes she bought last week. We were going to see Joe Bonamassa play stinging blues at the Hippodrome. Thinking about that, and about how I was pretty sure I was falling in love with Junie—real love, not the unstructured lust into which I usually fall with the women who pass through my life. I don’t want to get all sappy here, but I was beginning to get the feeling that Junie was the one. The actual one. The one they write cards and movies and love songs about. The kind of “one” I used to make jokes about, as all male outsiders make jokes when they don’t think they’ll ever meet, or perhaps don’t deserve to meet, their one.

All of that was waiting for me once I cleared up a few details with Reggie Boyd.

I leaned over and jabbed him with my finger.

“Reggie? Listen to me now,” I said quietly. “You know I wouldn’t be here if you weren’t in trouble. You know that you’re going to be arrested. We both know that. What we don’t know, what you and I have to decide, is where you go once you’re charged. There are people who want me to take you to a private airstrip so we can send you to Gitmo, where you will never be seen again and from where—I guarantee you—you’ll never return. Personally, I don’t dig that option. I’m not a huge fan of enhanced interrogation. Not unless I’m up against a wall. There’s a wall pretty close, though, and I don’t think it’s in either of our best interests if you push me against it. You dig?”

He didn’t answer, but he lay so still that I could tell he was listening.

“Second option is I bust you through main channels with the NSA. That means you get charged with treason and you’ll spend the next forty years in a supermax prison learning what it means to be a ‘fish.’ It’s not a lesson you want to learn, trust me. If we go that way, I lose control of the situation and less friendly people run your life henceforth.”

Reggie shook his head, still silent.

“Third option is the one I like. Yes, it still ends with you in prison—that’s going to stay on the table, no way around it—but in that option it’s a federal country club prison and you don’t spend every Friday night giving blow jobs to tattooed members of the Aryan Brotherhood. I think you’ll admit that it’s a better option.”

“You’re lying to me,” he mumbled. “You’re going to kill me.”

“If I’d wanted to kill you, Reggie, I wouldn’t have pulled Ghost off of you.”

Ghost opened one eye, looked around, closed it. Made a soft whuff sound.

“We don’t want you dead, Reggie. What we want is for you to become a cooperative person. Totally open, totally willing to share everything you know. That kind of thing opens hearts, Reggie. It earns you Brownie points.”

Reggie said nothing.

“Now, I need to make a phone call, Reggie,” I said. “I need to make that call in the next five minutes. I need to tell my boss that you’re going to cooperate with us. I need to tell him that you’re going to help us plug the leak in the Department of Defense. I need to tell him that you’re going to name names and make connections so that we can make a whole bunch of arrests. And, yes, some of them will go to Gitmo and those that don’t will be doing the shower-room boogie-woogie in supermax. You, however, won’t. You’ll be watching American Idol on cable, eating food nobody’s spit in, and sleeping soundly at night with all of your various orifices unviolated. Not sure if that’s a word, but you get my gist.”

He turned and looked at me, uncertainty and conflict blooming like crabgrass in his eyes. “How do I know I can trust you?” he said in a near-whisper.

I smiled, then reached behind the chair and dragged out a heavy leather valise, opened it, and spilled the contents onto the rug. Reggie stared at what spilled out and his color, already bad, went from pale to green. The light from the one unbroken lamp glinted from the curves and edges of pliers, bone saws, wood rasps, electrical clamps, scalpels, and rolls of duct tape. “Because I didn’t use these.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“I know, right?”

“But you fucking brought them! You were going to use those … things on me.”

“Actually,” I said, “I didn’t bring this shit.” Before he could reply I got up and walked over to the small coat closet beside the door. I opened it. Two bodies tumbled out. A third lay twisted inside. “They did.”

Ghost made his whuffing sound again. It sounded like laughter of a very bad kind.

Reggie gagged. Even from where he lay he could see bullet holes and bite marks.

“Two of those guys are North Korean,” I said. “Other guy’s Iranian. They’re working together, which I find interesting as all hell. They came here and began unpacking their party favors. Can you imagine what fun you would have had with them? They’d have had to bury you in separate boxes. Ghost and I dissuaded them.”

I sat down again and gave him my very best smile. The one that crinkles the corners of my eyes and shows a lot of teeth. The one I never show to Junie.

“Now,” I said, “how about we have that talk?”

He licked his lips. “What … what do you want to know?”

 

Copyright © 2014 by Jonathan Maberry

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 18 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2014

    Joe Ledger is BACK, and better than ever! As head of the DMS's k

    Joe Ledger is BACK, and better than ever! As head of the DMS's kickass Echo Team, Joe, along with his team, are brought in with the task of going after Mother Night, a super smart psycho, who is he'll bent on reigning death and destruction upon America. But, for fans of Joe Ledger and Echo Team, we know they're going to save the day. Or will they? And at what cost?

    Jonathan Maberry has done it again - he's managed to create another nail biting, edge of your seat, thrill ride, that puts YOU in the middle of all the crazy action! Code Zero is, as it's been promoted, a direct sequel to the debut Joe Ledger novel Patient Zero. It is the sixth overall entry in the Joe Ledger series, with two more scheduled to follow.

    One of the many great things that Maberry has been able to do, across all of his novels - from the Pine Deep trilogy to the Ledger series to his Rot & Ruin series, and even to his "Night" series (Dead of Night, and the forthcoming Fall of Night), as well as all of the short stories/novellas in between - he's been able to connect them. Characters from one series show up in another, events from one series inform the events of another series, and so on. It's a really genius concept, and Maberry has been pulling it off with great success! 

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2014

    Just Amazing

    I waited a full year for this book and Maberry did not disappoint me at all the whole book, it was witty, action filled, serious, and compelling to both my mind and soul. I highly recommend that if you're reading this series and it's time to read this installment strap yourself in because its about to hit the fan!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2014

    You can't kill this guy!!!

    OMG THIS WAS THE BEST OF THE SERIES.... Now I have to go through Joe Ledger withdrawal until Sept!!! Noooooooooooo

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2014

    Read it. Now.

    Ever since Patient Zero a few years back, Jonathan Maberry is one of those authors that I drop what I'm reading when his new work comes out. Great follow up to the original. Now we must wait patiently for the Dead of Night sequel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2014

    Great Series: This book delivers

    Jonathan Maberry really got it right with this series on Joe Ledger and the DMS. This book picks up from the last one and continues to move at a fast pace. I would recommend this to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2014

    Good, intense, entertaining read

    Another Joe Ledger book that was extremely difficult to put down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2014

    Joe... oh Joe

    Best read so far this year! I have laughed, cried, got angry, got scared but I never put the book down. Thanks Maberry. I hope there is a Joe Ledger, Mr. Church and DMS making the hard decisions.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2014

    No one needs sleep anyway!!!

    I am always on the edge of my seat when reading a Maberry, but even more so when I'm reading a "Ledger". This book doesn't disappoint!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2014

    great novel

    when a writer leaves you cringing at what might happen next, you know you have a great story in your hands. you never want the book to end. truly a great novel

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  • Posted March 31, 2014

    Once again the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) are called

    Once again the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) are called to action. Joe Ledger and his elite team are confronted with a seemingly unbeatable nemesis that endangers the world. At first glance it may seem kind of silly or unbelievable, but this series is so much more than that. This is where the writing skills of Jonathan Maberry come into play. If you have never listened to a Joe Ledger Novel in the past, not sure where you have been, you will be happy to know that you will be able to enjoy this sixth book in the series. No prior knowledge is needed, while it is full of flashbacks and references to characters and events from the prior books, everything is explained very well. Joe Ledger, possibly the worlds best killing machine, is happy. He is starting to rebuild his life with a new love. His team is at the top of their game. Queue the villain, Mother Night, the leader of an bunch of what are thought to be simple anarchists, they are so much more than that. What was different for me was the story speed slow down, less action, but much much more character building of both living and of the ones that have passed, and not in a boring way. Maberry brought together all the horrible things from all of the previous books and multiplied them by 100. The DMS definitely had their hands full being attacked by so many different angles. Pulse pounding action, horrifying situations, and an ending that brought me to tears. This will continue to be one of my favorite series that I will drop everything to consume the next installment as fast as possible and begin the excruciating wait for the next one.

    Audiobook purchased by me.

    Please find this complete review and many others at audiobookreviewer dot com

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 31, 2014

    Once again the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) are called

    Once again the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) are called to action. Joe Ledger and his elite team are confronted with a seemingly unbeatable nemesis that endangers the world. At first glance it may seem kind of silly or unbelievable, but this series is so much more than that. This is where the writing skills of Jonathan Maberry come into play. If you have never listened to a Joe Ledger Novel in the past, not sure where you have been, you will be happy to know that you will be able to enjoy this sixth book in the series. No prior knowledge is needed, while it is full of flashbacks and references to characters and events from the prior books, everything is explained very well. Joe Ledger, possibly the worlds best killing machine, is happy. He is starting to rebuild his life with a new love. His team is at the top of their game. Queue the villain, Mother Night, the leader of an bunch of what are thought to be simple anarchists, they are so much more than that. What was different for me was the story speed slow down, less action, but much much more character building of both living and of the ones that have passed, and not in a boring way. Maberry brought together all the horrible things from all of the previous books and multiplied them by 100. The DMS definitely had their hands full being attacked by so many different angles. Pulse pounding action, horrifying situations, and an ending that brought me to tears. This will continue to be one of my favorite series that I will drop everything to consume the next installment as fast as possible and begin the excruciating wait for the next one.

    Audiobook purchased by me.

    Please find this complete review and many others at audiobookreviewer dot com

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2014

    Easily the best Joe Ledger book yet. I know with this series I'm

    Easily the best Joe Ledger book yet. I know with this series I'm being told a tale that's deliberately a little over the top, the volume's turned up to 11 and tongue is occasionally knowingly lodged in cheek, yet this volume in the series had me laughing out loud at times and put a lump in my throat more than once, too. Mr. Maberry has mastered the art of taking situations that range from the terrifying to the ridiculous and making them so engaging, so riveting and so compelling that it's nearly impossible to put the book down.

    Code Zero is a great ride, from beginning to end. My only regret after reading it is that I've finished it - it's over, and now I'll have to wait another year or so for the next book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 27, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Patient Zero was the first book I ever ready by Maberry, and sec

    Patient Zero was the first book I ever ready by Maberry, and second to the The Rising was my favorite zombie novel of all times. Although the rest of the Joe Ledger series is really good, this sequel to the first book was an amazing idea. Action horror at it's best.

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    Posted April 20, 2014

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    Posted August 8, 2014

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    Posted May 20, 2014

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    Posted April 18, 2014

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    Posted September 12, 2014

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