Apr 19 2017 10:00am
Dogs of War: New Excerpt
Dogs of War by Jonathan Maberry is the 9th book in the Joe Ledger series (available April 24, 2017).
Dogs of War: Robots are no longer science fiction. Autonomous, programmed to react like animals: fast, relentless, deadly. From microscopic nanobots to massive self-guided aircraft. This technology is here, it’s assessable, and it’s dangerous. What’s even scarier is that almost anyone can get their hands on it.
A freelance terrorist uses the latest generation of robot dogs to deliver WMDs into cities across America. Sophisticated military weapons systems turn on their human masters. A technological apocalypse is coming and we may be too late to stop it.
Joe Ledger and a newly rebuilt Department of Military Sciences square off against this new and terrible threat. Dogs of War pits Joe against a merciless new enemy and an army of techno-terrorists in a race to prevent a global destruction.
THE IMPERIAL HOTEL
1600 BALMOR PLACE
APRIL 25, 2:12 PM
“Mom…?” she whispered into the phone. “Mom, I want to come home.”
The girl sat huddled against the headboard of the motel bed. It was scarred with cigarette burns. So was she. Old ones, from before she ran away.
Her words drifted down the telephone lines and only silence came back.
“Mom … are you there…?”
Tears broke and ran down the girl’s face. She was naked. Her clothes were torn because the last john liked to do that. She hurt inside, because he liked that, too. The sheets she’d wrapped around herself after he left felt stiff and coarse, abrading her skin, offering scant protection and no comfort.
“Mom, please,” she begged.
She heard the sucking sound of her mother drawing on a cigarette. A pause, then the long hissing as she blew smoke. It was so vivid that the girl could almost smell the unfiltered Camel.
“We looked for you,” said the voice. It sounded the same. Cold, with a cigarette rasp. “We looked all over for you.”
“I know … I’m sorry…”
“You just up and left.”
“I’m sorry, Mom … but I … I had to.”
“Had to? Bullshit, Holly. All you had to do was act right and you couldn’t even do that,” said her mother. “Why’s that? What’s wrong with you that you couldn’t even try to act like we’re all family.”
“He’s not my father.”
“Yes, he damn well is. Maybe not by blood, but what’s that matter? He raised you. He took care of you. He took care of us both. Who do you think paid for everything you ever had? Your school stuff, your health care. Who do you think bought your birthday presents and gave you that bike for Christmas when you were eight? Who do you think cares so much about us that he does that, even for an ungrateful girl that ain’t even his?”
“And how do you say thanks? You tell lies about him. Who do you think you are to tell lies like that about someone who’s always taken care of you?”
“I didn’t lie,” insisted Holly.
“You always lied. About that, about taking money from my purse. About the drugs.”
“I didn’t lie about him. About what he did.”
“You’re nothing but a little liar. And a junkie … and a whore. God, how are you even my daughter?”
“Mom … please!”
“And then you leave without so much as a goddamn note. You tell all those lies and then you break my heart and you don’t have the respect to even leave a note. Would that have been so much? A note? You could have fucking texted me. But no. Nothing. That’s so like you, Holly. It’s exactly the sort of mean thing you’d do.”
Holly was sobbing now, her tears clinging to the lines of her chin, then losing their purchase and falling onto the soiled sheets. Then suddenly she started to cough. Heavy, deep coughs that vibrated and burned in her throat. Spasms hit her so hard it made her ribs flare with pain, as if someone was punching her.
“Why now?” demanded her mother. “Why are you calling now? No, let me guess. You’re in jail and you need bail money, right? Or are you going to try and trick me into sending you some cash so you can buy—”
The coughing fit battered her, making the room swim. Lights seemed to pop and sizzle in her eyes and there was a buzzing noise in her ears, as if a thousand blowflies were swarming inside her skull. The lights seemed to flare and dim, flare and dim, and each time more of what she saw seemed to be painted in a thin wash of dark red. It was like looking through a red veil that shimmered and jerked.
“Mom,” she cried, when she could catch her breath. “I’m sick.”
“Yeah? Go to the free clinic. They’ll give you all the penicillin you want.”
“No, it’s not that. Please, I’m really sick.” The buzzing in her ears was worse now, blocking out her thoughts. “There’s something wrong with me.”
Her mother laughed. Actually laughed.
Holly wiped her face with the sheet and in the gloom didn’t notice the stain. Not for almost three full seconds. Then she saw it. The tearstains were wrong. So wrong.
They were red.
Such a bright, bright red. Not like the veil that covered her eyes, but the color of …
“Mom…?” whispered Holly. “Oh, God, Mom…”
“He said you can come home,” her mother said, harsh and icy. “But only on the condition that you apologize to him. You have to tell everyone that you were lying about what you said.”
“You need to fill out some papers at the school and with the police to take back everything you said. You understand that? You can’t just say stuff like that and hope it goes away. You hurt him with what you said.”
Blood was running from her nose now, too. She wiped at it with the sheet, terrified by how much there was. Then she felt warmth in her ears, and when she touched them her fingers came away glistening with crimson.
Her mother’s voice droned on and on, telling her of the damage she’d done, the wreckage she’d left behind, the betrayal, the lies, the humiliation.
Holly whispered one last word.
A question. A plea.
Then the pain began and all that came out of her mouth after that was the screams. The red veil seemed to catch fire, and black flowers blossomed in her mind. She bared her teeth, biting the phone, biting at her own hands.
And that’s when a sound came from deep inside her. It wasn’t the blowfly buzz, or even a scream.
When Holly threw back her head and let it loose, it all tore out of her as a howl of pure, unfiltered, unstoppable rage.
Copyright © 2017 Jonathan Maberry.
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Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times bestseller and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Code Zero, Fall of Night, 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. His Joe Ledger series has been optioned for television.