Publisher: Dropship Publishing (July 11, 2023)
Publication Date: July 11, 2023
In a tech-addicted dystopia, a young cop struggling to survive is forced into a high-octane gladiatorial grudge match, where sinister corporate overlords pull the strings and humanity’s fate hangs in the balance.
ONE WAY IN. NO WAY OUT
In the super-city of Neo Terminus, millions of tech-addicted fans surround a walled-off inner-city wasteland to watch nano-boosted gladiators called Enforcers fight to the death in the Conglomerate-controlled event known as The Zone. Enforcers are promised wealth and celebrity—if they survive.
Officer Chance Griffin fights to clean up the mean streets of Neo Terminus, and scrape together enough money for his infant son’s vital surgery. Driven by his family’s need, Chance signs on as an Enforcer for The Conglomerate.
As Chance rises to the top of the Enforcer ranks, The Glom’s mysterious Founders coerce him into competing in the greatest Zone trial ever conceived. Chance knows he’s the favorite to win. He believes his family is safe. He believes his son will get the medical care he urgently needs.
Chance is wrong.
Too late, he uncovers a plot by The Glom to rig the trial and enslave the citizens of Neo Terminus, ensuring obedience—forever.
Blinded by fame and fortune, and used as a pawn by the corporate machine, Chance resists. But he is about to discover that every deal with the devil has its price…
“Hey.” Benny jerked his chin toward the window.
“What?” Chance said.
“Take a look at the scene down on Morgan.” Benny cut the wheel, and the VTOL banked left so Chance could see below them. A group of young men, all of them wearing purple jackets and hoodies, surrounded a young teenage male without colors.
“I see it.” Chance unbuckled his seatbelt. “Death Squad. Looks like a jump in—either that or they’re just being assholes.”
Benny held up a hand. “Hang on, bro. Us getting in the middle of that is only going to make it worse.”
Chance jabbed a yellow key on the console. With a clunk, the full-sized surveillance drone disconnected from the cab of the Aeron police-issue VTOL and lifted away. Blade-thin wings extended, it banked and circled slow, its telephoto camera capturing identities with facial recognition software.
“Technically,” RITA said, “a child is in danger. As sworn peace officers, you are obligated to intervene.”
“That’s right, RITA.” Chance said, pushing up the wing door to the VTOL. He reached up and connected his tether to the eyebolt on the doorframe. “You do what you want, Benny, but I’m going in.” He slipped his Devcon assault helmet on and gave Benny the hang ten sign.
“You reckless son of a—” Benny called after him.
Bailing out of the VTOL, Chance zipped down toward the crowd, controlling his speed with a gloved hand by pulling the rappel cable away from his body. Chance landed and ripped the end of the tether free from his armor. He unclipped the sub-compact Electro-stream shock rifle from his chest and flicked it open, the stock clicking into position. The bulky rectangular muzzle snapped arcs of electricity as he snugged the minimalist stock into his shoulder. Oversized power coils in the frame glowed white, static-charging with a whine.
Standing over the bloody, beaten teen, Chance swiveled back and forth, the “less lethal” shock rifle aimed at the furious gang members. The Death Squad goons encircled him, a sea of plum-colored jackets shifting, the gangbangers unzipping to produce concealed weapons. Chance slapped a raised orange triangle on the chest of his armor. A piercing siren shrieked from the hovering VTOL, followed by a concussion like rolling thunder. Blue lights strobed across the surface of his armor.
“Attention.” RITA’s voice boomed from the VTOL’s megaphone above, echoing across the street. “By section six-zero-nine-five-two of the Neo Terminus Criminal Code, you are engaged in criminal gang activity and will be sent to the Blocks if you do not cease and desist. Disperse immediately by order of the NTPD.”
The terrified kid at Chance’s feet stared in shock at the gang, then at the single cop standing over him. Blood dripped from his nose and off his chin.
“What’s it gonna be, fellas?” Chance said, his body coiled for action.
A veteran law enforcement officer, Stu Jones has served in patrol, narcotics, criminal investigations, as an instructor of firearms and police defensive tactics and as a team leader of a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team. He is trained and qualified as a law enforcement SWAT sniper, as well as in hostage rescue and high-risk entry tactics. Recently, Jones served for three years with a U.S. Marshal’s Regional Fugitive Task Force - hunting the worst of the worst.
A Dragon Award Nominee, Jones is the author of multiple sci-fi/action/thriller novels, including the multi-award-winning It Takes Death To Reach A Star duology and Condition Black, written with co-author Gareth Worthington (Children of the Fifth Sun, A Time for Monsters).
Known for his infectious storytelling and blistering action, Jones strives to create thought-provoking reading experiences that challenge the status quo. When he’s not chasing bad guys or writing epic stories, he can be found planning his next adventure to some remote or exotic place.
Jones is represented by Italia Gandolfo of Gandolfo Helin & Fountain literary. He lives in Alabama with his wife, two children, and a golden-doodle who thinks he's human.