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excerpt from Chapter 27 of the novel Public

Chapter 27 Excerpt

Chapter 27 (Excerpt)

Piece de Resistance

A masked woman in a white bodysuit fell twisting through the air, continuing the motion of her leap off the high balcony. Even as she plummeted toward the street, she brought her weapons to bear on three targets: darkly uniformed men with KOJ collar patches, carrying their own automatic firearms. The men reacted a hair too slowly to glimpsing her in their peripheral vision, with the result that by the time their guns began to swivel in their hands, a fusillade of supersonic projectiles was already streaming toward two of them. The chests of those two men imploded, and their bodies settled akimbo on the asphalt like dropped puppets, even as the woman landed five yards away.

Gracefully but improbably taking the impact shock from the five-story dive in her knees, she bounced up off the pavement in a dancer's leap that carried her toward the remaining man, rotating in midair to present a more difficult target while holstering her sidearms. The third man discharged his weapon frantically in her direction, but aimed too high as she fell short and landed in a crouch right in front of him. Even as he corrected his aim and fired again, she deflected his gun barrel aside with one hand, drew a long knife with the other, and punched it through his throat.

With a gurgle, the last KOJ goon collapsed to the ground, even as his killer relieved him of his weapon, spun it around, and gratuitously turned his head into soup with a point-blank burst. Casually discarding the machine-gun, the woman retrieved her dagger, wiped it clean on the dead man's uniform, and re-holstered it at her waist. Then she reached up and pulled off her white head mask, revealing long black hair tied back and a face to stun a man. She faced back the way she had come, expectantly.

A male form, similarly clad like a ninja in white, dropped off the same balcony and landed nearby, rolling, and came smoothly to his feet in the twilit city street. He walked over and likewise doffed his concealing headgear, revealing dark, curly hair and sparkling green eyes.

"Damn, girl," he expostulated.

Salma Rivera laughed. "You said, go get them."

Clay grinned and cuffed her playfully on the shoulder. "I did. Just don't get that flashy when we do this for real in meatspace."

"Oh, I won't," she assured him. "But the point of practicing is to accustom our neocortexes to the capabilities we'll have with the full-spectrum nanite implants. You're sure this is an accurate simulation?"

"Very accurate. It came from the implant manufacturer. And it's governing our movements based entirely on our own unique neocortex activity. No smoothings or approximations local to the virtual environment. So the capabilities we have now are very close to what we'll have in meatspace. I'm having everybody do a few days' worth of training in here."

Salma nodded. "It's actually fun. I enjoy it."

"Killing people?" he asked incredulously.

"No, silly. I mean taking sixty foot leaps and having the hand-eye coordination to shoot accurately while falling. But I'll do the killing too, when I have to." She waved dismissively at the dead bodies.

"I'd say these assholes are gonna know they were in a fight," Clay agreed grimly.

Salma stepped close to him and put an arm around his waist. "It's wonderful what you've put together, darling. I'm proud of you."

Clay snorted softly and gave her a lingering kiss. "I told you I was a marketing guy," he said with a smirk.

She had to laugh. "So you did."


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