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by J.T. Nicholas


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"The Sickness unto Death

The Synth revolution has come at last. The supposedly synthetic beings humans crafted to do their dirty work for them have fully actualized their own humanity—and they no longer acquiesce in their enslavement. Victory in the struggle to tear down the institutions of oppression seems just a matter of time. But the halls of power are not so easily shaken—and a counterstrike is inevitable.

Former Detective Jason Campbell has pledged his life to the Synthetic cause. So when a mysterious virus starts wiping out Synths left and right—and shows signs of mutating to target everyone else—he must lead a race against time to prevent the outbreak of the most horrific plague the world has ever seen. If he succeeds, he’ll expose the moral bankruptcy of the depraved elites who will stop at nothing to restore the old order. If he fails, it could mean the end of life on this planet. For both Synth and Human.

Praise for SINthetic

“Darkly engrossing, SINthetic shines a stark light on the age-old question, what does it mean to be human?”—Julie Kagawa, New York Times bestselling author


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781635730098
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: 09/18/2018
Pages: 198
Sales rank: 723,820
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.45(d)

Read an Excerpt


You went into a knife fight knowing you were going to get cut.

It was one of the cardinal rules of weapon defense, and the reasoning behind it was simple: you had to prepare yourself for the inevitability so that when it happened, you didn't freeze up. When blades came into play, inaction was synonymous with death.

The chow line at the New Lyons City Prison moved slowly, a long line of orange-clad men shuffling forward, trays in hand. It reminded me, more than anything, of my time in the Army. Sure, the uniforms were different, but the sense of routine, the loss of any sort of control over your day-today life, those were ... familiar. Easier to adjust to than I'd anticipated. Boot camp had just been a different flavor of prison.

Of course, in boot, I'd only thought the instructors were out to kill me.

Here, in the loving hands of the New Lyons Department of Corrections, things were a little different. I had not — technically — been convicted of any crime. At least not yet. But the charges leveled against me — which included everything the prosecutors could think of but could be best summed up as domestic terrorism — had equated to an automatic denial of bail and ensured that Momma Campbell's favorite son was headed to the big house for holding. Normally, former cops wouldn't be put into the general population. But somewhere, somehow, a clerical error had been made. The guards assured me — with the biggest shit-eating grins they could muster — that it would all get straightened out soon and I'd go into protective custody.

In the meantime, I was sharing a cell block with a few hundred inmates who knew that I was a cop. The guards hadn't even had to tell them. Denying inmates 'net access had long ago been determined "cruel and unusual" punishment, access to the web being deemed as vital a service as electricity or clean water, and with hours on end of sitting in a cell with nothing but a screen to occupy their time, damn near everyone knew who I was.

They'd all seen the first 'net hijacking that Silas and the other synthetics had engineered, showing the world Evelyn, the synthetic impregnated by her human rapist. That wasn't supposed to be possible, or course, since everyone know the synthetics were genetically sterile inhuman things and not people at all. Right. They knew about Silas's demands, that all synthetics be granted full rights of citizenship and freed from their captivity. They knew about the stick that those in the revolution — myself included — claimed to have, the mountain of secrets that could bring down governments. And, they'd all seen Hernandez, my former partner and friend, escort me to the precinct and turn me over into the fat, greasy hands of Francois Fortier.

They didn't know why or how that had happened. They didn't know that I'd turned myself in, after nearly a month of avoiding the cops and feds on my tail. They didn't know about the documents Al'awwal, the first synthetic, had helped us recover from his "father's" lab. The documents that proved not only that Walton Biogenics knew the synthetics were human, but that they had deliberately suppressed that information along with significant medical advancements that could have benefited all of humankind, in the pursuit of profit.

But they would. The deadline was up. Sometime this evening, Silas, LaSorte, and the rest would flip the switch or press the magic button or whatever the hell it was they did, and that information would go out to the world, along with the first round of skeletons aimed at discrediting the most vehemently anti-synthetic politicians. And my presence here, turning myself in, was all in an effort to get some of that information into the official record, somewhere where an army of paid 'net trolls couldn't try to muddy the waters with a focused disinformation campaign of their own. Evidence presented at trial became the subject of deposition and investigation almost by default, and there was only so much Walton Biogenics could do to hide the truth.

* * *

Somewhere among the ocean of orange-clad inmates, there were probably a few like-minded individuals. If not believing in the push for equality for the synthetics, I knew beyond a doubt that there were those who would love to watch the existing system burn. But there were more — far more — who just wanted to take out their anger on a cop. I could appreciate the irony — despite everything I had done over the past few months to tear down the status quo, despite being kicked unceremoniously into an early retirement only to turn around and make myself public enemy number one, I was still the symbol of the system that had put these people away.

I'd been expecting the attack since I'd been shunted off into general population. The fact that it had taken three days to materialize had been nerve-wracking, but now that it was here, I felt something akin to relief. I didn't miss the fact that it was coming on the same day as the deadline the synthetics had given the world governments. Someone — and not an inmate — was trying to make a statement

There were two of them, one standing behind me in the chow line, and one ahead. They hadn't been subtle in their movements, pushing into their respective places in line and staring down anyone who dared object. Few did. The chow line had an anticipatory air, and I had little doubt that most of the inmates — hell, probably the guards, too — knew what was about to go down. And yet, the two tried to appear nonchalant as they boxed me in. It would have been comical, if I hadn't been smart enough to realize I was about to get shivved.

I wasn't dumb enough to stand with my back to any of my fellow inmates, not with the mutters of "pig" and the less-than-subtle oinks and grunts that followed me wherever I went. But one thing I'd learned in the infantry, the only thing better than executing an ambush was letting the other guy think he had lured you into one. So, I stood at just a slight angle, enough to keep an eye on the guy behind me in my peripheral vision, but giving him enough of my back to let them think their plan, whatever it might be, would work.

The guy behind me was huge, probably pushing three hundred pounds and standing a few inches over six feet. He was more fat than muscle, but mass had a strength all its own. His head was shaven, revealing an intricate tattoo — something with a skull and flames that stood out against the pale flesh. His nose had been broken multiple times, and his hands looked big enough to palm my skull. The guy in front, by contrast, was thin and wiry with a frenetic energy about him that I associated with addicts. His orange coveralls hung loose on his frame, but something about the way he moved told me he was the more dangerous of the two. He appeared to be of mixed racial background, black and Asian. He was keeping his back toward me, but I could see the tension in the set of his shoulders and read his intent in the slight rocking of his feet.

I guessed it was going to be a grab-and-stab. No way the little guy could hold me, so the guy behind was going to go for the grab while the guy in front would have to turn, pull his shiv, and try to find somewhere important to stick it. If they did it right, it would only take seconds, and maybe not even draw the attention of the guards.

A quick glance showed they already had the attention of the guards. Who were smiling.

No help on that front.

I should have made the first move. I was already in prison, and the odds of beating the terrorism rap were vanishingly thin. What did it matter if they tacked on assault or murder charges? Either way, I was looking at life, and if I could get myself labeled as dangerous enough, maybe I'd do that life in an isolated box without any other prisoners trying to shiv me. That didn't seem so bad.

And yet.

I knew they were going to attack me. Could read it plainly in the faces of those around me. But they hadn't attacked me, not yet. All the years of training said attack first. Eliminate the threat. Take the advantages of surprise and initiative to act now.

And give the media more fodder, more fuel, to paint me as a ruthless killer. A villain. The cameras — unavoidable inside the prison — would catch it all, but they could only show what happened, without the context and emotion of why it happened. They would either show me being attacked and defending myself, or ruthlessly lashing out at my fellow prisoners, apparently without cause.

So I waited.

When the attack came, it unfolded as I thought it would. The bruiser behind me exploded into action, moving to clamp his arms around me in a bear hug as the one in front spun on his heel, producing an honest-to-god knife. Not a makeshift shank, but a tactical folder with a tanto-point and an edge that looked razor-sharp. No way he should have been able to smuggle that inside. A toothbrush shaved down to a point, or a paper-and-glue spike maybe, but not an actual knife. More evidence that the guards weren't just complacent, but rather, complicit.

It didn't change what I had to do.

The instant the big man started to move, I stepped back with one foot, crushing my heel down into the instep of his foot. At the same time, I lashed out and behind me with my left palm. My hand found its target as it crashed into the big man's testicles. I didn't just strike. I grabbed. And twisted. Fair and honorable fights are for victims.

The noise the big man made was somewhere between a gasp and squeal, and I felt a warm wash of vomit flow over me. The arms that had been seeking to grab went suddenly limp. I grabbed on to one with both of my arms before it could drop, went down to one knee and rolled my body forward, pulling down and across as I did so. My kneeling form provided the fulcrum, the big man's own arm the lever, and all three hundred pounds went tumbling over me.

Full into the face of the charging knife wielder.

They went down in a tangle of limbs, giving me a half-second to look around. A semi-circle had opened around us, blocked on one side by the chest-high sneeze-guard of the serving line and the other by a wall of sneering orange. The guards still hadn't moved. The alarm hadn't sounded. I had defended the opening foray, but no help would be forthcoming. I knew that at any moment, some other inmate might decide to jump in as well.

The small man was on his feet, kicking at the bigger man to try to get him back in the fight. I wished him luck. I'd heard more than a little bravado about how a shot in the groin might just slow down an opponent and not disable him, but the foul-smelling bile now coating my coveralls told me that the bruiser wasn't going anywhere. I cast about again, this time not hoping for help. I was looking for something else.

The first rule of surviving a knife attack was to accept that you were going to get cut. The second was don't be unarmed. That second rule was good general life advice, but something I hadn't been able to follow once the doors to the prison had shut behind me. Still, a determined and resourceful man could almost always find something to serve as a weapon. I snatched up the meal tray, a thin plastic rectangle maybe ten inches by fourteen inches, and none too soon.

He came at me, knife held low, point facing toward me, ready to stab it repeatedly into my midsection. It was a technique sometimes referred to as a typewriter, and other times, with good reason, a prison shank. He lunged forward, leaping over his downed compatriot, left hand questing to grab my shoulder, coveralls, anything to keep me from moving away while his right hand was already thrusting in short, vicious jabs.

I didn't wait for the grab. If he got hold of me, no matter how good I was, I was dead. His left hand was leading, and I met it with my own, raising my arm up and across my body, creating a wedge in front of me. I kept my right hand, plastic tray held as firmly as I could, low, interposing the makeshift shield as much as possible between the blade and my guts. My left arm met his and I turned, keeping both my arms pressing forward, questing toward his body. I felt more than saw the point of the blade strike the tray and slide, cutting a long gouge in the plastic.

As he pulled the knife back to strike again, I swept my right arm, tray and all, up and around, following the blade back and forcing his arm high into the air. He turned away, seeking relief from the pressure, which freed my left hand to act. I darted it up, found the bicepss of his knife arm and pushed, shoving the arm down and forward, toward the center of his own body, using not just the strength of my arm, but moving my body weight forward as well. I had close to a hundred pounds on my attacker, but even if our weights had been reversed, he still wouldn't have been able to resist the mass of my body with the strength of his shoulder joint alone. I pinned his knife arm against his body even as I crashed down with my right fist.

And the tray held within it.

I struck edge-on with one of the corners. The rounded edge was a much smaller surface area than my fist, concentrating the force of the blow on a relatively small point of impact. The result was a satisfying crunch as the plastic shattered the cartilage of his nose, and a gout of blood added to the other fluids already staining my jumpsuit.

He staggered away. I tried to follow, but my foot touched something — blood or vomit — and slid out from under me. I dropped to one knee, but managed to keep from going all the way to the ground, though I had to drop the tray and catch myself with my hand to do it. I was back on my feet in an instant, but it was already too late. The knife-wielder had recovered. He glared at me from behind a mask of blood. He had changed stances, and now held the knife at about chest height, closer to his body with his left hand out in front of him more, almost like a boxer's guard. Shit. However he'd come at me at first, it was the stance of an experienced knife fighter.

"You gonna die, asshole," he hissed. "Ain't nobody gonna help you."

It was true enough, at least the second part. I couldn't see the guards anymore, not behind the wall of orange jumpsuits, but there was no panic among the inmates, no sense that the guards were about to come crashing down on us. Just a tangle of shouted insults and encouragement that blurred together into a low and hungry growl. Things were definitely not looking good.

I smiled.

"You got a little blood on you, buddy," I said. I swiped one finger across my upper lip in two quick motions, as if trying to discretely inform a friend that they had crumbs stuck on their lips.

He must not have liked that, since he snarled, and charged.

This time, he kept the knife moving in short, slashing arcs. Despite his anger, he exercised a surprising amount of control, forcing me to give way before the blade. I circled, trying to avoid the blood and vomit. Trying to avoid the crumpled body of the big man, who still lay shivering and groaning on the floor. Trying to avoid the encircling mob, who I had no doubt would be quick to grab me if I moved into their reach. With an explosive surge, the small man lunged forward, knife slashing at my hands held defensively before me. I snatched them back, but too late, and I felt hot pain as the knife scored a line down the back of my forearm. My blood joined that of my attackers on the floor.

"You got a little blood on you, buddy," the small man mocked, throwing my earlier words back at me.

I ignored the jibe. The cut on my arm stung, and I flexed my fingers. Everything seemed to be responding normally, so I knew the cut couldn't be that deep. It was bleeding a fair amount, but not enough to put my life at risk. I shunted the pain off to the back corner of my mind, ignoring it as best I could, and focused on the knife.

Damn near every martial art had some sort of "what do you do if confronted by a knife" technique. A lot of them would get you killed in a hurry. Among the good ones, it boiled down to two possibilities — address the knife directly by attacking the arm controlling it, or address it indirectly by disabling the attacker before he could cut you to ribbons. In the first case, you had to deal with the fact that a trained knife fighter was a slippery bastard, and a fast-moving arm was a tough target. In the second case, you had to find a way past the knife to attack something more important, like a head, throat, or groin.

There's a reason why, in most martial arts, they say the best thing to do when confronted with a knife is find a longer weapon ... or run. Unfortunately, I didn't have that luxury.


Excerpted from "SINdrome"
by .
Copyright © 2018 J.T. Nicholas.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.

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