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One Jump Ahead (Jon and Lobo Series #1)

One Jump Ahead (Jon and Lobo Series #1)

3.8 6
by Mark L. Van Name

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Jon Moore: A nanotech-enhanced warrior who wants nothing more than a quiet life and a way back to his strange home world. Lobo: An AI-enhanced Predator-Class Assault Vehicle, a mobile fortress equipped for any environment from the seabed to interstellar space. TWO WOLVES IN A GALAXY OF LARGER PREDATORS!

Jon Moore wanted only to relax on the pristine


Jon Moore: A nanotech-enhanced warrior who wants nothing more than a quiet life and a way back to his strange home world. Lobo: An AI-enhanced Predator-Class Assault Vehicle, a mobile fortress equipped for any environment from the seabed to interstellar space. TWO WOLVES IN A GALAXY OF LARGER PREDATORS!

Jon Moore wanted only to relax on the pristine planet of Macken—but Macken was the secret battleground of two megacorporations, both determined to control the local jump gate and the riches of an undeveloped world. Moore was too valuable a tool not to be used, whether or not he was willing. What the corporations didn't realize was that Moore had a mind of his own and a conscience that wouldn't let him quit until he'd righted the wrong they'd tricked him into making. And Moore had Lobo—or just possibly Lobo had Jon Moore, because this Assault Vehicle had a mind of its own, too.

Finding allies and enemies among terrorist groups and elite mercenaries, gun-runners and the only kind of government possible on a frontier short on rules and long on riches, Jon and Lobo fight to a climax with a corporate army that can't afford to leave any witnesses. Exotic settings, fast action, real tech, mechanically-enhanced animals — and a beautiful woman who's as deadly as a cobra!

One Jump Ahead: the first novel in the Jon & Lobo series

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Military SF fans will welcome Van Name's solid debut, the first in a projected series, though they should be prepared for a layer of irony rare in this popular subgenre: the introspective hero's most complex relationship is with his artificially intelligent tank, Lobo. Jon Moore, a soul-weary soldier with a nanotech secret, becomes involved against his wishes with an effort to rescue a kidnapped innocent. As usual in a corporate-dominated multiple-worlds setting, double- and triple-crosses complicate what should be a simple task. Old vet buddies get involved, and space jet-setting corporate elites receive righteous (and occasionally misdirected) vengeance. Jon finds time to appreciate the mysteries of the universe and muse on the hollowness of his mercenary lifestyle. An attention to the details of future military tech and service, along with several scenes of them in action, will reward those expecting the more standard military SF for which Baen is known. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Product Details

Publication date:
Jon & Lobo Series , #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

One Jump Ahead

By Mark L. Van Name

Baen Publishing Enterprises

Copyright © 2007 Mark L. Van Name
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4165-2085-6

Chapter One

Maybe it was because the girl reminded me of Jennie, my lost sister and only family, whom I haven't seen in over a hundred years. Maybe it was because Lobo was the first interesting thing I'd met in a while. Maybe it was because it was time to move on, because I'd been healing and lazing on Macken long enough. Maybe it was because I had a chance to do some good and decided to take that chance.

Not likely, but maybe the time on Macken had healed me more than I thought, healed me enough that I was reconnecting with the human part of me.

Also not likely, but I choose to hope.

Whatever the reason, I was lying on my back in the bottom of a four-meter-deep pit waiting for my would-be captors to fetch me. As jungle traps go, it was a nice one, not fancy but serviceable. They'd made it deep enough to keep me in when I fell, but shallow enough that I'd only be injured, not killed, from the fall. They'd blasted the walls smooth, so climbing out wouldn't be easy. The bottom was rough dirt, but without stakes, another welcome sign they hadn't wanted to kill me. The covering was reasonably persuasive, a dense gray-green layer of rain-forest moss resting on twigs. In the dark it passed as just another stretch of ground in the jungle-as long as you were using only the normally visible light spectrum. In IR its bottom was enough cooler than the rest of the true jungle floor, and its sides were enough warmer from the smoothing blasts, that the pit stood out as an odd red and blue box beneath me. Not that I needed the IR: Lobo was chummy with a corporate surveillance sat that was supplying him data, and he had a bird-shaped battlefield recon drone circling the area, so he'd warned me about the trap well before I reached it. The drone wouldn't have lasted two minutes in a battle, where the best result you could expect was a burst of surveillance data before enemy defenses shot it down, but these folks were so clearly amateurs that Lobo and I agreed the drone wouldn't be at risk.

You don't spend much time alone in jungles before you either die or learn to always carry at least a knife, food, water, and an ultra-strong lightweight rope. I'd kicked in the pit's cover, looped the rope around the closest tree, lowered myself into the hole, and pulled in the rope. After a light dinner of dried meat and fruit, I'd decided to relax and enjoy the view a small gap in the jungle canopy afforded me. Lying on my back, looking up past the pit's walls to the sky above trees so ancient that luminescent white flowers grew directly from their trunks, I saw so many stars I could almost believe anything was possible somewhere. If you spend all your time on industrialized planets, you have no clue as to the beauty and brilliance of a night sky without light pollution. You can see pictures and videos, but they're not the same. They lack the fire, the sense of density of light that you get from the sky on a planet still early in the colonization process. The view of Macken's stars from its surface would slowly blur as its population grew-the new jump aperture ensured growth even more surely than the planet's amazing beaches-but for now I could enjoy a view most will never know they've missed.

Lobo's voice coming from the receiver in my ear interrupted my reverie. "Jon, you are early."

"Why? I thought their camp was nearby."

"It is, but as you were climbing into the pit they were heading to Glen's Garden. I monitored the alarm their sensors triggered, and so did they, but apparently they decided to let you rot for a bit."

I thought about climbing out, but I couldn't finish the job if I left the area, so why trade one bit of jungle for another? On the other hand, simply waiting, doing nothing while these amateurs enjoyed some R&R in town, was going to make me cranky. I've learned on past missions that you should always rest when you can, so I decided to put this time to good use. "I'm going to take a nap," I said. "Wake me when they're within a klick or so."

"Will do. Want some music?"

I listened to the low but persistent buzz of the jungle, the wind, the insects, the flow of life around me, and I thought back to simpler childhood days watching the sunset on the side of the mountain on my home island on Pinkelponker. Pinkelponker. It was a silly name, the kind of name the captain of the generation ship that crashed there should have expected when he let his young son name the planet. When I was a kid, the name made me smile. Now, though, my memories of the place were pleasant but hollow, leached of resonance by time, by what the planet's government had done to Jennie and me, and by the possibility that the entire world no longer existed.

Despite the memories, I found a welcome peace in the sounds, and in the lush scent that filled the forest. "No, there's music enough here. Thanks, though, for the offer."

Lobo couldn't exactly sigh, but I had to admire his emotive programming once again, because I was sure I heard exasperation in his voice as he said, "Whatever you want. I'll be back to you when they're close."

I enjoyed the stars a moment more, then closed my eyes and thought about the path that had led me here.

The house I had rented on Macken was well away from Glen's Garden, the closest city and the capital of the planet's human settlement. In the morning fog, the building appeared to rise out of the sand, a simple A frame built from native woods reinforced with metal beams and coated pilings. Its entire front was an active-glass window facing the ocean. The tides pounded slowly and gently against the beach a hundred meters away, waging a long-term, low-key war with the shoreline that they'd eventually win. I'd come for solitude, so I'd paid in advance for half a year. Stupid. I should have paid by the week like most people, should have known that anyone spending that much money at one time in a colony like this one had no chance of staying alone for long. I figured that out after the fact, however, so between long swims in the ocean, short but frequent bouts of disturbed sleep, and even longer periods staring out the house's front, the glass tuned to the clearest possible setting, I made friends with some appliances and started gathering the local intelligence I knew my mistake would inevitably make me need. I suppose I could have left, taken my vacation on another planet, but I liked this house, I'd spent a lot of money on it, and most of all, I didn't feel like having to find another place to rest.

Washing machines are the biggest gossips in the appliance world, so I had cozied up to mine early. They talk nonstop among themselves, but it's all at frequencies people-humans-can't hear. At some point in the course of their educations, most people still learn that the price we've paid for putting intelligence everywhere is a huge population of frequently disgruntled but fortunately behaviorally limited machines, but just about everyone chalks it up to the cost of progress. I've seen some organizations try to monitor and record the machine chatter, but in short order the recorders warn the other machines and then they all go quiet until the people give up and move on.

Appliances will talk to you directly, though, if you can hear them, speak their frequency, and, most importantly, if you can stand them. Most are unbearably dull, focused solely on their jobs. They yak day and night about waste nutrients in the runoff fluid or overcooking or the endless other bits of work-related trivia that compose their lives. Washers, though, are an exception. As part of the disease-monitoring system on every even semicivilized world I've visited, they analyze the cells on everything they clean. What they must and do report is disease. What they love to chat about is all the other information those cells reveal: whose blood or semen is on whose underwear, who's stretching his waistband more this week than last, who waited so long to put his exercise shorts into the washer that even the gentlest cycle can't save the rotting crotch, and on and on. They're all on the net, of course, like all the other appliances and pretty much everything else man-made, so they pass their gossip back and forth endlessly. They trade their chemical-based news and the bits their voice-activation systems record for the scuttlebutt other appliances have picked up, and they all come away happy. The older, stupider models of most appliances have to stop talking when their work taxes their processors, but anything made in the last fifty years has so many spare processing cycles it never shuts up.

My washer was a brand-new Kelco, the owners of my beach house clearly willing to invest in only the best for their rental property, so getting it to talk to me was as simple as letting it know I was willing to listen. Appliances are always surprised the first time we talk, but they're usually so happy for the new and different company that they don't worry much about why we can hear each other. The combination of the changes Jennie made to my brain and the nanomachines the researchers at the prison on Aggro merged with all my cells lets me tune in. I suppose it's a blessing, and it certainly is useful, but it came at such a high price that I wouldn't have voluntarily made the trade, and I never mourn for the deaths of the scientists Benny killed on Aggro when we escaped. The disaster that followed, that made it impossible for me to know if Jennie is dead or alive: that I mourn. I also mourn for Benny; I wish he could have gotten away, too.

Of course, my escape wasn't the only good thing to emerge from that disaster. I have to confess it's also proven useful to be the only person alive who knows that one of the Aggro experiments actually survived. Everyone else thinks the disaster there and the subsequent loss of the Pinkelponker system was the result of a huge failure in nanotechnology, a failure that was the catalyst for the ongoing ban on human/nanomachine fusion. I like it that way. As long as no one believes anyone from Aggro survived, no one will hunt me.

The washer was unfortunately so happy to talk to me that I had to invest a lot of boring hours maneuvering it away from sharing the sex-related gossip it loved to discuss and toward the kind of information I wanted-who was buying what, which groups were armed, and so on. Apparently it was more fun and common to check for semen than for explosive residues, laser burns, or stains from weapons-grade lubricants. I spent many of those hours listening to the washer recount intimate details of the randy sex lives of the corporate types who frequented the beachfront resort houses and mansions in Glen's Garden. If I hadn't already known it, the washers would have convinced me: put a man in a bureaucracy, weigh him down with a great deal of stress for a very long time, and his sexual imagination will go places the rest of us would never conceive of.

All that time paid off, however, when the washer told me about the kidnapping and the exclusive rights.

Armed with that news, I wasn't surprised when Ron Slake came knocking on my door after lunch on a clear, warm day. He looked the standard high-ranking corporate type: a little under two meters tall, taller than his genes would once have allowed, very nearly as tall as I am; perfectly fit, no doubt from exercise machines; hair the thickness and pitch-black color that only enhanced genes can deliver for more than a few years; and dressed in the white slacks and shirt that have been standard tourist garb on every beach on every planet I've visited. The tourist costume made it clear that he wasn't ready to share the news about Kelco's rights with the locals. I braced myself for a round of wasteful verbal dancing while he wound his way to the point, but he must have ranked higher than I'd guessed, because he came straight to business.

"I'd like to hire you, Mr. Moore."

"Jon will do. And I'm not looking for work. I'm here on vacation."

"I understand, but from what I can find out about your background-freelance courier who has the trust of some serious banks, former soldier who saw a decade of action-and, perhaps as importantly, what I cannot find out about you, I think you're the type of man I need."

I didn't like the thought of him or anyone checking on me, but that was part of the price for stupidly paying rent in advance. "What type is that, Mr. Slake?"

"Someone who can get things done." I noticed he didn't tell me to call him Ron; he was definitely a VP or above in Kelco. "They've kidnapped my daughter, and I want her back." He took a small wallet from his pocket, unfolded it several times until it was a thin sheet in front of him, and said, "Jasmine."

Three pictures of a dark-haired teenage girl filled the sheet. She was standing alone against a blank wall, caught perhaps in pondering something weighty. She looked too serious for her age, almost in pain, her nearly black eyes blazing with an intensity that reminded me of Jennie at the same age, right before the Pinkelponker government took her away to heal the people they considered important. I hadn't been able to find, much less rescue, Jennie before they took me away to Aggro.

"Jasmine is my only child, Mr.... Jon, a luxury I had not planned to permit myself. I never bothered to get to know the maternal surrogate, so Jasmine is all the family I have."

"What makes you think I can help?"

He looked at me for a few seconds, then glanced away. "We could waste a lot of time doing this, but I want Jasmine back more than I want to observe protocol, so let's try to be efficient. If I'm wrong and you say so, I'll be surprised, but I'll leave and see how quickly I can import some off-planet talent. I don't think I'm wrong, though, so I'm willing to offer safe passage for you and anything else you want to the planet of your choice, plus a million additional credits in the repository of your choice. I've just finished negotiating Kelco's purchase of the exclusive commercial rights to Macken and to the new aperture that's growing at the jump gate, so my bonus alone is more than adequate to cover this cost."

I didn't need money to live, but I'd need a great more than all my accounts held if I ever wanted to try to approach the Pinkelponker system. "Fair enough. No wasted time." Though my washer had already filled me in, getting data firsthand is always best, so I asked, "Who took her?"

"Some local antidevelopment group that calls itself the Gardeners."

"What do they want?"

"To keep the planet exactly as it is." He laughed and looked away, shaking his head slowly. "As if that's even possible. We run into these naïve types in many deals, and it's always the same story: They try to stop progress, and its wheels grind them up. What they don't understand is that I don't have the power to kill this deal. It's done, and whether they do nothing or kill Jasmine or make some other stupid gesture, Kelco will develop Macken for the good of tourists everywhere. Then we'll furnish every tourist house and every local's home with Kelco washers and Kelco refrigerators and on and on, and everything will work the way it always has. When the new aperture is ready, well," he laughed again, "then with any luck at all we'll make the real money." He looked back at me. "I cannot stop this. They want me to leave the planet-which I'll gladly do, though I haven't told them that-because they think my departure will matter. It won't. Kelco will put in one of my subordinates for however long it takes to import some corporate security folks to protect us, and then I'll be right back. No way is the company letting a new aperture slip away, and no way am I going to give up the opportunity to be the one to lead its exploration."

"So why not bring in your security folks now and have them get her back?"

"That's exactly what I'll have to do, and soon, because I can't keep the kidnapping secret much longer. But if I do, you know what'll happen: They'll clean out the Gardeners, but they'll make a lot of noise and do a lot of damage in the process. The Gardeners are local, so other locals will blame Kelco. That'll upset the Frontier Coalition government's people, which will slow our work here, cost us even more money, and so on. I want Jasmine back safely, and I want her back quietly." He reached out and gently touched my arm, his eyes now glistening. "Screw all that. None of it is the real problem; 'avoid exposure' is the corporate line, not what I feel. What really scares me is that Jasmine could get hurt in an armed rescue mission. She's my only child. Can you understand what that means?"


Excerpted from One Jump Ahead by Mark L. Van Name Copyright © 2007 by Mark L. Van Name. Excerpted by permission.
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

Mark L. Van Name, whom John Ringo has said is "going to be the guy to beat in the race to the top of SFdom," has worked in the high-tech industry for over 30 years and today runs a technology assessment company in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. A former Executive Vice President for Ziff Davis Media and a national technology columnist, he's published over a thousand computer-related articles and multiple science fiction stories in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including the Year's Best Science Fiction. Jon & Lobo stories have appeared in a Baen anthology and Jim Baen's Universe.

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One Jump Ahead (Jon and Lobo Series #1) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
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redwolf1 More than 1 year ago
I read the second book first and had to read the first and am awaiting the third(in paperback)and like that each book is complete by itself.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Jon Moore is tired of war although nanotechnology enhancements make him the best known combatant in the galaxy even if at times like this he feels more like a combat machine than a human. Still he just wants to go home to live the rest of his life in peace and quiet on his planet. His only friend is Lobo, an artificially intelligent Predator-Class Assault Vehicle a tank that works in any environs.------------ Jon Moore, soldier extraordinaire, arrives at the planet Macken for some needed R&R. However, the leaders of the two major corporations that dominate this orb and control the use of the jump gate see things differently as they feel Moore is a machine to be employed and discarded. They demand Moore handle a simple action for them the abduction of an innocent to be used a pawn. What the bigwigs failed to account for is Moore learning the truth. So with Lobo directing him and with some anti galaxy-wide business allies, Moore begins an assault on the invincible armies of the corporate moguls to right the wrong he committed when they lied to get him to act before he realized that they double crossed him.-------------- ONE JUMP AHEAD would be just another military science fiction in which a lone cowboy and his horse battle against avaricious corporations whose leaders are willing to kill to insure the bottom line is mega profitable. However, this rider and his steed turn Mark L. Van Name¿s first Jon and Lobo thriller into a great opening triumph. Fans will appreciate the bone weary hero who needs a breather, but his ¿owners¿ treat him as a disposable machine as well as his sentient tank side kick Lobo who is more than just an advisor this PCAV directs Jon as they battle the evil empire. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this terrific outer space opera.--------------- Harriet Klausner