Forty-four years after the disappearance of her father, Simi Duan has turned his ambitious vision into a corporate empire. Her main business is constructing space station. Her latest station, the Duan Gardens, is set to orbit further from Earth than any other outpost. This risky venture makes her the target of politicians, competitors, and militants who feel the Simi Duan is pushing society too far too fast. Zahir Bard is a recently retired diplomat for a government rapidly becoming obsolete. The United Earth Administration coaxes him back to public service to supervise the burgeoning frontier, especially the operations of Simi Duan. He agrees, as much to protect his own legacy as to protect the bureaucracy that employs him. Skulking in the dark corners of man’s prefabricated outposts is mercenary Cyril Tarsi. He has spent his adult life running from the mistakes of his youth, each contract possibly his last. He wants to find a life where he can be just a normal, anonymous citizen. His latest target might take him to that goal, or might get him killed. Desmond Colson is a twelve-year-old boy who has bounced along humanity’s path into deep space. His family’s nomadic lifestyle has left him isolated and weary. But the family’s next move is to the Duan Gardens, the literal edge of human civilization. Dez hopes that this move will finally bring the Colson family to a place they can call home. The entrepreneur. The politician. The assassin. The child. All pioneers moving deeper into the Solar System, and closer to the Mesh. ** Mesh: Book 1 consists of the previously released e-novellas: The Pioneers, The Other Side, and Horizons **
back down. Don’t back down. Don’t back down.
Tarsi stood against the wall of the crowded marketplace. A deluge of
people pushed by the skinny, five-foot-eight, forty-five-year-old
standing in the shadows. Relax
and stay focused. It will be over soon.
checked his thumbnail watch: four minutes to three. Four minutes to
occupy his mind while he waited; four minutes to keep from backing
out. He tried to remember the Mars time zone correlation to Earth.
What time was it in Kingman, Arizona, the dull, hellish place where
he hid before shuttling to Mars? What about on Tycho Base, his
hideout before Kingman? Or was there another stop in between? Could
he even remember all the holes he hid in?
cares? Focus, Cyril.
time-wasting activity quickly lost hold of his mind. He had a job to
do, and that’s all he should be thinking about. Two
minutes now. Focus, man. Don’t chicken out. Don’t think about it.
glowered at the bustling city around him. New Persia was no better
than Arizona: hot, dry, boring. The generators pumped in the warm,
dusty oxygen in loud bursts, filling the encapsulated settlement like
a balloon. Most settlements on Mars were just population run-off.
Instead of growing a culture and character of their own, the places
were generic, sanitized, cookie-cutter communities, devoid of
ideology or convictions, save for one: consumerism—the true binding
force of humanity. At least on Earth, the people were allowed to
erode their own cultures, not have them handed down, pre-decayed.
bitching. Focus on your job. Focus.
took one step into the crowd and was absorbed into the flow of
traffic. A gray trolley stopped at the corner of the boulevard. He
quickened his step, his eyes locked on the trolley door. A behemoth
of a man stepped off the car, gazing across the crowded bazaar. Cyril
slipped between two pedestrians.
looking, he slid a tiny needle out of a synthetic skin patch on his
forearm, careful not to prick himself. It
will be over in seconds. Move.
a big bastard, the guy had some speed. Cyril nudged a woman aside,
increasing his pace. He moved the needle between his thumb and index
finger. It was only three centimeters long and so thin he could bend
it, but the juice inside could kill an elephant. His employer
insisted he share the formula with him. Not
Cyril had been working for years perfecting the “sting” and his
delivery of it. It got him work as a hired killer all over the system
until he missed once. Idiot.
he was stuck on Mars. He had considered a real job––he was good
with his hands and there was plenty of construction work to be
had––but no legitimate company could protect him. He had thought
of leaving the seemingly ubiquitous confines of the UEA and joining
one of the “Auto” factions, but the Autonomous regions were worse
than prison camps. Locked out of the UEA’s commerce and protection,
they were hives of squalor, the place where anarchists, outcasts, and
mental defectives went to die. No, he would make no desperation
moves. Not yet.
corpulent target took a sharp turn, cutting against the crowd. Cyril
fought to keep pace, only a yard or so behind him now. The man turned
again, moving out of the flow of traffic and between two food kiosks.
Cyril hesitated. Was he on to him? Should he abort? No.
One jab and you’re done. Finish it.
moved around the kiosks and came upon the man standing at a building
entrance, fumbling in his pockets for a passkey. Perfect.
Cyril quickened his pace. A couple walked toward them. Would they
notice? If he timed it right...Focus!
man withdrew his passkey (a
few more seconds)
and waved it in front of the door (just
A little light above the handle turned green (another
The man slid the door open as Cyril bumped into him and placed his
hand on the man’s lower back, as if bracing himself. “Excuse me.”
man gasped noticeably (keep
undoubtedly sensing the tiny pinch in his back like someone plucked
out a hair. Cyril wanted to turn around (no);
he wanted to witness his handiwork (and
end your career),
but he resisted the temptation (run).
his mind’s eye, he could observe the whole scene unfolding: the
rotund gentleman rubs his back and glares in Cyril’s direction. He
takes a few steps into the building, dismissing the pinprick as
nothing, a phantom pain. A few more steps into the building, he
perceives a sudden increase in body temperature. Sweat coats his
back, chest, and forehead; beads form on his upper lip. A numb
sensation swarms his left hand, rising through his arm. A heart
attack? His tongue swells, choking off any cries for help. His vision
blurs and tears stream down his reddening face. He tries to run to
someone, to pantomime for help, but his legs feel like lead. Sharp
muscle twinges drive him to his knees; his arms flail uselessly at
anything in reach. In rapid succession, his vision fails, his jaw
seizes shut (possibly severing his swollen tongue), and his bowels
vacate. His final moments are spent on the floor, thrashing and
gasping like a fish on hot asphalt. Then it is over.
didn’t smile at the mental image. He didn’t enjoy the killing,
but he was proud of his efficient work. He was proud that he always
hit his target and his target only. There was no collateral damage.
There was no swath of destruction or security lockdown. Cyril’s
targets rarely dented the news cycle, maybe showing up as a blurb and
an obituary. His employers appreciated this quality and they paid
handsomely for it.
shove from behind snapped Cyril out of his self-congratulatory haze.
He tried to turn but a vice-like grip kept his neck stiff. “Don’t
look back, Tarsi. Just move for the van.” They knew his name. Who?
Who knows my name?
Parked at the street corner a few yards ahead was a blue cargo van.
The tinted windows masked its occupants.
abrupt wiggle freed Cyril from his ambusher’s grasp. Before he
could take a second step, two more sets of hands grabbed his arms.
Cyril’s eyes darted between the towering musclemen who flanked him.
Both kept their eyes straight ahead. “Relax, Tarsi. No reason to
run. Just get in the vehicle,” a voice behind him whispered.
Check out Mesh: Book 1 on Amazon