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City Of The Long Night
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-207-9
Genre: Science Fiction/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Length: 177 Pages
Published: November 2014

From inside the flap

The sprawling mess of humanity that has consumed the world—known simply as the city—is controlled by Jonathan Small through the monolithic entity of Small Beginnings. Although a young man, Jonathan Small is dying. He has, however, one remaining ambition in life. To kill his father, Rye, whom he blames for the death of his mother. To lure Rye out of hiding from the City Beyond (the name given to the outer universe), Jonathan Small allows his paranoid grandfather, Grand-daddy Small, to escape from the imprisonment he himself imposed and unleash his secret mercenary army. During a single night, their conflict engulfs the seething city. An army of mercenaries and the Small Beginnings trooper forces battle furiously among the soaring high-rises and dirty alleyways. As the fighting brings down the energy network, causing blackouts to ripple through the city, the façade of civil law and order collapses. The Rones, the human’s perfected but emotive robotic slaves, seize the occasion to rise up against centuries of oppression. The newly awakened Reapers, sentient plant creatures born of disastrous long forgotten experiments, also return home seeking to reclaim their stolen birthright. In the midst of the city’s end, an array of ruthless individuals pursue their own ambitions, including the city’s greatest assassin Tough Love, the pilot First Dog, the rone leader Attic, the immortality seeking Rone-gods, the banished preacher Clergy, and the ancient Arch-rone Temper. Jonathan Small’s desire for revenge against his family drags them all to a final bloody showdown beneath the Hale Sea. As night falls, humanity rules. As morning arrives, humanity is in deep trouble.

City Of The Long Night (Excerpt)

Chapter I

The Return

This is how life should be lived. This is where life should be lived. A city spread over the entire planet. It never slowed. It never lost a moment. A population of unknown layer upon layer of humanity. The rich, the crazy, the strong, the young, the pock-marked, the mean, the powerful, the old, the sane, the beautiful, the sad, the lonely, the healthy, the foolish, the happy, the poor, the wise, the ugly, the weak, the brilliant, the normal, the low, and the broken. They all lived together whether they wanted to or not. A mess of people ruled over by a clutter of squabbling governments. Monarchies, oligarchies, democracies, tribes, committees, federations, dictators, and every other senseless scheme ever conceived of to govern man. Some areas of the city lay outside the control of any recognizable government as huge shantytowns or feral tracts deserted by all but the most hardened and desperate of people. It was just beautiful. He had missed it. He had been away for too long. It was good to be back. After passing through port security, he stopped at the medical station in the outer arrivals hall to receive the standard ad-trenides to help his body adjust after the journey home. He was a tall, broad, and sour-faced man who dwarfed the petite nurse as she pulled the wrappings off his arm to inject the medications. She finished the task in silence, wiped away the blood spots, and absently turned to wave the next man forward. He walked on to the port entrance. Stepping out into the evening beyond, he paused with his eyes closed to breathe in the city. Despite the ad-trenides, the cold air mixed with the wash of fumes from the port almost caused his empty stomach to retch. He rested against a near wall, listening to the distant hum of the City Beyond the order of the port. Finally, a sense of equilibrium returned and he headed for the outer security gates.

He had timed his arrival at the port towards the end of the day when the stretched light of the setting sun was lost among the pollution that clung to the overshadowing high-rises. Tired workers were emerging from their jobs to begin the long trek home. They mingled with the night shift slowly waking to go about their own living. He pushed into the crowd and made his way along the street to a blue sign advertising a public c-screen.

His sudden stop under the sign formed an immediate barrier to the people pressing along the narrow pavement but the street kept going. The hunched mass just adapted and flowed around him. Nobody looked at him and muttered under their breath. Nobody asked why he had chosen to stand there, at that moment, blocking their way. They did not care. He could drop to the ground and cough up blood before any of the passers-by would barely glance at him. Even then, it would only be to avoid him as they continued on to their destination.

He loved that anonymity. The city swallowed a man whole. It made him invisible. A man could leave everything that he had worked for, everything he held sacred, and everything he loved. Leave who he was and by the next day have forgotten it all. Secure in his old life, he had believed that he understood the city and his place in it. He was an important man at that time, moving among the higher privileged few, and saw all around him as commodities to be manipulated and exploited in order to gain the greatest advantage. How little he had truly known. After her death, as his life had collapsed around him and he could no longer bear the aching, one day he had simply walked away from all that was familiar. He was soon lost among the ever-mounting debris of worn out lives that paved the city floor. He quickly discovered that the people who inhabited the bleakness beyond his protected tower were not as he had expected and for a while, he had managed to bury the pain in this new existence. His enemies had, however, eventually found him out and begun to gather around seeking revenge, forcing him to flee again. He leaned into the graffiti-covered glass of the c-screen, which was cracked, but working. He activated the screen and keyed in an address. The call was connected; there was a slight buzzing noise from the other end, although the screen remained blank as the receiver wished to hide their identity.

"You're here," a male voice said. "We were afraid you wouldn't show, Mr Rye."

"It's just Rye, no mister. How did you find me?"

"You were tracked, but don't ask how, I don't know how. I was just given your location, told to contact you and pass on my employer's message."

"Why now, why tonight?"

"Tonight is important," the voice said. "My employer wants you here."

"Tell your employer that I didn't come back for him. Tell your employer to go fuck himself."

"Tell him yourself, that's your concern, Rye, and has nothing to do with me. I'm just passing on the message."

A map appeared on the c-screen.

"You'll be picked up here. It's a restaurant called Kaplans, in the Great Lake Minor region. It's not far but you'll have to make your own way there. Our presence around the port would attract way too much attention."

The communication line was then cut.

Tough Love was the best in her business. An executioner of the greatest excellence. An assassin without equal who always got her man, woman, or child. She had once even been hired to kill a dog. A local district official discovered that his son-in-law was stealing money from the election fund and, wanting to send the little shit a message, he had taken out a contract on the bastard's beloved dog. A whimpering pile of brown fur. Tough Love went to the son-in-law's house, cut the dog's throat, and painted the children's playroom bright red. He quickly got the message and promptly returned the money, with pledges of newfound loyalty. She always killed in a gloriously brutal way. That was deliberate. It made a statement. She had discovered the value of such promotion when a client, who, believing his honor to be at issue, had asked that the hit be as public as possible. She dragged the offending man to the nearest ControllingEnergy station and threw him into the cooling turbine. It took all day to get him there but the result was worth it. Cut, cut, cut.

Tough Love was not by nature a cruel woman but after that hit, she had found that the mere mention of her name now made people nervous. This meant they made mistakes, changing bodyguards, leaving fortified positions or placing orders for extra security precautions. All of these allowed her greater access, so the kill was that little bit easier. If she were honest though, she would admit that she still loved a good hit. It was the hunt. In many ways, the final scene was a disappointment. Most people behaved the same at the end. The screams, the pleas, and the last remaining certainty of this life. A few had been different. Some died better.

She had made her first hit when she was twelve. She was living in the Maw Network at the time. A scrawny unwashed girl with matted hair, trying to survive her first year on the streets. She was running the money-drops for one of the local gangs, the Mobility, in order to prove herself, so as to be accepted as a member. The Mobility were small-time players who controlled a few streets in the Maw Network. They were controlled by Trine, a stupid man who pawed at Tough Love with dirty hands and boasted of his plans for reconstructing the entire underworld. The Maw Network was run by the Sanctuary under the iron control of the hereditary family head, currently At-ferdn-lottkan. The Sanctuary allowed the minor gangs to run their streets in return for regular payments and the enforcement of the peace they required to manage the bigger operations. Trine figured that, by removing At-ferdn-lottkan, the Sanctuary would fall on themselves and therefore leave an open field for incomers. He gave the hit to Tough Love and at the time she had believed that the task was her initiation into the Mobility. Only later did she realize she had been picked because the rest were too scared.

She had spent weeks outside the Sanctuary estate waiting for At-ferdn-lottkan to appear. Nobody noticed an underfed girl hanging around the street fires at the estate gates. She was lost among the crowd, who camped at the gates and depended on the daily food handouts from the Sanctuary. She managed to befriend one of the kitchen hands and learnt that At-ferdn-lottkan rarely left his estate. Even within its relative safety, the only time he was by himself was the weekly visit to the family temple when, as tradition stipulated, he alone could leave the gifts demanded by the ancestors. The temple was surrounded by his bodyguards during the offering but otherwise was left to the care of the aged monks. She slipped in over the estate wall and spent three nights slowly covering the ground from the wall to the temple, while remaining hidden during the day. She reached the temple the night before At-ferdn-lottkan's visit and climbed high into the freezing rafters.

The next morning, as At-ferdn-lottkan was preparing the offerings to be burnt, Tough Love had dropped to the hardwood floor holding a weapon almost bigger than her. His head went up as she approached from behind and he turned to face her. He stared down at the trembling girl standing before him. She said nothing, trying to regain the determination she had spent all night building up. He remained waiting, almost impatiently, for her act. She then felt the hard deliberate recoil as the weapon flashed and he fell without a sound.

Two days later, Trine and every member of the Mobility were found nailed to the underside of the Grand Way Bridge. Except for Tough Love. As At-ferdn-lottkan's assassin, she was accorded the respect due to a great man's killer. She injured two of the Sanctuary before they brought her down. Brought her down screaming. She was dragged before the new Sanctuary head, At-ferdn-lottsan, who was curious to meet the girl who had succeeded against his father where so many had failed.

"Quieten down," he said, as she struggled against his men's hold.

He looked at her with the cold eyes of a young man.

"You have to repay the debt you've run up," he finally said.

He took her in and trained her. He taught her to be afraid and to be feared. She was given a modest position within the Sanctuary but under his guidance, she quickly worked her way up. She became his bodyguard, then his personal assassin, and in time, his lover. After some years he called a meeting of the senior Sanctuary from throughout the Maw Network and, in their presence, he recognized her as a full member. They shouted their approval and drank to her new standing. Later, when they were alone, he told her that he had secretly placed her name among the honored few in the family temple and looked forward to the time when their union would become official. They lay together that night and she had hoped the morning was far off.