Catch and Kill: A high-tech conspiracy thriller
Can a ragtag team of operatives thwart a biological attack on the U.S. mainland?When two assailants accost twenty-three-year-old Kaden Baker at an awards gala, she enters a world of high-tech intrigue that pits her against a mysterious foe.
It will take all her covert ops and hacking skills as she teams up with a group of family members to battle a mysterious enemy out to unleash a deadly attack in the U.S. and Europe.
Time is running out. Can Kaden and her team stop the unthinkable?
• “Catch and Kill blew me away. I couldn't put it down." – James Lee
• “I loved this book. It completely freaked me out, but I was fascinated and blown away all the way through.” - Kari Peterson
• “I LOVED IT!” – Deborah Duncalf
• “Clever use of augmented reality and artificial intelligence in a fast-paced crime thriller book.” – Heather the Book Blogger
Get it now! Strap on for a smart international thrill ride that appeals to both the head and the heart. (This is a stand-alone; no need to read book one first.)
Perfect for fans of Michael Crichton, James Rollins, Robert Ludlum, Matthew Mather, Tim Tigner, Leslie Wolfe, and A.G. Riddle.
Release date: March 26, 2019
Publisher: Best of Indie Publishing
Print pages: 404
Reader says this book is...: action-packed (2) dark (1) dystopian (1) entertaining story (2) high stakes (1) international intrigue (1) thought-provoking (1) unputdownable (1) likable hero (1) suspenseful (1) terrific writing (1) unexpected twists (1)
Content advisory: Violence, some adult language, no f-bombs
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Catch and Kill: A high-tech conspiracy thriller
Qaanaaq, Greenland, one year ago
The lone figure watched the private submarine rise from the depths, a craft that looked like a curvy concept car blended with a submerged rocket ship. He tightened the fur hood on his down parka and set off from the dock, nosing his one-man skiff through the bay’s biting cold.
As he drew closer, he saw two men fighting on the topside of the sub. A loud bang interrupted the purr of his outboard motor and echoed across the bay like the crack of a calving glacier. The target’s body slipped into the frigid waters with a muffled splash.
“Sorry you had to see that, sir.” Savić, his security chief, tucked away his snub-nosed revolver and held out his bearish paw to help his boss on board.
“All part of the deal.” Lucid’s breath formed a cloud. “Let’s leave the skiff and go below.”
They descended the hatch into the belly of the sleek private craft on loan from the Compact. “S’way,” Savić grunted. Lucid understood the shorthand for This way and followed his security chief forward to the bow.
As they entered the Observation Salon, a man dressed in a white uniform and officer’s cap shot to his feet, greeted him, and shook hands. “Honored to have you aboard. Captain Jan Kjellin, commanding officer.”
“The honor is mine,” the visitor said. “They call me Lucid.”
“Lucid. That’s clear as a bell, isn’t it?” The captain turned to Savić. “And the other fellow you were with?”
“He had to leave,” Savić said.
Lucid took in his surroundings. He had been on many cramped, godforsaken subs, but this room resembled a five-star hotel suite. Recessed lighting, leather sofas and seats, flat-screen TVs, and full bar. Instead of portholes, the room had four reinforced picture windows for a first-hand look at the arctic depths.
The captain moved toward the doorway. “Your chief scientist is down below.”
The captain guided Lucid and Savić down a carpeted hallway past a sleek dining room with pendant lights that swayed in unison as the sub began to move. Lucid captured video footage with his Eyecam as he stepped through the vessel.
They were out of Internet range and it would be impossible to live-stream the action for the Chairman. He felt an enormous sense of relief wash over him. Apart from sleeping, it was the first time in months he wasn’t always on.
The captain made small talk as he led them down a stairwell to the bottom deck. Lucid was pleased the captain didn’t seem to notice his artificial left eye—or was polite enough not to mention it. This model, version seven, appeared so lifelike that it often passed for the real thing. His Eyecam was already taking data readings. The exact geo coordinates of his location. The direction of true north. The amount of carbon, oxygen, and argon in the surrounding air.
“Here we are,” the captain said as they arrived at a small room marked Immersion Chamber. “I’ve been instructed to be accommodating—within reason.”
Lucid and the captain entered while Savić remained outside. The room was bare except for the butter-yellow deep-sea probe glistening in the LED lighting, held in place by steel rods on a metal track. Lucid’s people had flown out to modify this next-generation bathyscaphe. It had a large oval window, protruding metal arms, and an array of “specimen catchers” in front—large titanium containers custom-tailored for the mission.
Two men were inside the probe arguing about something. Adam Bashir, their chief scientist, wagged his finger at a fair-haired submariner.
Bashir spotted him, opened the hatch, and climbed out. “Good to see you, Lucid.”
The crew member also exited the submersible and introduced himself. “Systems engineer Erikson, sir. I’ll be piloting the craft.”
Bashir ignored the young submariner. “I’m going alone.”
“Not happening.” Erickson looked adamant.
Bashir turned to Lucid for support. “This is unacceptable. Tell them.”
“Kasparian promised us secrecy,” Lucid said.
“And that you shall have,” the captain said. “I often accompany Erikson on these deep-water missions. It’s a two-man undertaking. But this is no standard geological expedition, is it?”
Lucid’s face gave away nothing, like the ancient rock formations on the seabed floor.
“Bit of a mystery, is it?” Erikson’s palm brushed the side of the probe. “If we’re going that deep, I need to know what we’re hunting.”
Lucid knew they’d get only one shot at this, and the Chairman would not accept failure. At the Lab, Bashir had mastered the computer simulation they’d created for the expedition. But Lucid knew how wrong things could go at the bottom of the ocean.
“Erickson will pilot,” Lucid decided. “Bashir will co-pilot and direct you to our target. The details of the hunt should not concern you.”
The captain pivoted to face the two outsiders. “Listen here. I’ve made over forty expeditions to the deepest, darkest cracks under the sea, from the Mariana Trench to the hydrothermal vents below the North Pole.”
Lucid tried to stop him. “You and your people are on a need-to-know—”
“I’ve seen stranger creatures than maybe any living man. Giant zombie worms. Dragonfish. Sea pigs. Spookfish that come up to you like wraiths of the abyss. Seadevil anglerfish that swum straight up from hell.”
The captain moved close to Lucid’s fake eye. “If there’s one person on board you need on your side, it’s the captain.”
Lucid considered this. If anything went wrong at the crushing depths they planned to explore, he would need the man’s full cooperation. He grabbed the captain by the shoulder. “Let’s step outside.”
They exited the chamber, walked past Savić, and huddled in a stairwell.
“I’ll read you in, Captain. But you need to keep this strictly under wraps. None of your men can know.”
The captain gave a slight nod.
“Captain, our quarry is the oldest form of life on earth.”
The captain paused, then smiled as if he understood. But how could he? He couldn’t possibly fathom that today’s voyage would change the face of the world.
The clock is now ticking. Project Ezekiel is underway. The only question is how many millions will die.
Southampton, New York, present day
The young woman stepped into the gazebo and let out an unbridled laugh at the absurdity of the scene. The multimillion-dollar estates lining Shinnecock Bay in the Hamptons. The tight-fitting party dress she had to borrow for the night. The whole idea of heading to a gala where she’d be honored for killing a man.
“Who am I? What am I doing here?” Kaden whirled on her expensive heels. “Come on, this is nuts. Let’s go back to Brooklyn.”
“We can take a ride share back.” Gabriel followed her into the gazebo. “But I have a surprise for you first.”
They sat on the lone bench with its unobstructed view of the water. He took her hand as the raspberry sun slid into the bay.
I’ve got to admit, she thought. This is pretty damn idyllic.
A cool breeze prickled her skin and tousled the short blond hair she’d started to grow out. Gabriel slid his hand over her eyes and folded something cold into her palm.
“Happy two-month anniversary,” he said.
She opened her eyes to see a heart-shaped rose quartz pendant attached to a silver chain necklace.
“Oh my God, Gabriel. It’s gorgeous.”
He clasped the thin necklace around her neck. “Seriously, look at you. Smart, sexy, strong, athletic. You could break me in half if you wanted.”
She smiled. She had no intention of breaking Gabriel in half. He had his own sexy thing going—kind brown eyes, short beard, an open mind. Not a kickboxer like her, but buff enough.
Gabriel showed her both sides of the pendant. “It’s a wearable. You can put that photo of your mom in the front. There’s a digital display on the back. Just click twice to let me know you’re thinking of me.”
She held it up, clicked twice, and heard a ping from the phone in Gabriel’s suit jacket pocket. She leaned over and they kissed. When she opened her eyes, he slipped on the pair of smartglasses he’d borrowed from her apartment.
“I thought I could meet Amelia tonight,” he said.
She hesitated. “I haven’t shown her to anyone yet. Why do you want to meet her?”
“Can’t meet your parents. I figured Amelia’s the next best thing.”
I’ve been taking it slow with Gabriel, but is it time to get serious? Took till I was twenty-three to find someone who gets me. Maybe it’s time to stress-test the relationship.
Kaden used her smart contact lenses and aircracked a hotspot from one of the nearby estates. “Here goes nothing. Amelia, I’d like you to meet Gabriel.”
She blinked three times and Amelia materialized, perched atop the gazebo railing to the right. She wore a dust-colored aviator’s outfit with a gold aviator’s pin. She smiled, her face framed by a pair of goggles and a loose-fitting aviator’s cap draped over a tangle of curly brown hair. Her scruffy brown boots dangled a foot off the ground.
Amelia turned to face them. “Hi, Gabriel. Nice to meet you.”
Gabriel’s eyes grew large. He stared for a moment, turned to Kaden, then back to Amelia. “Nice to meet you, Ms. Earhart. I’ve never met an artificial intelligence before. I’m a little … wow.”
The Wi-Fi signal was temperamental but decent enough. Amelia appeared at full opacity—completely solid, even though you couldn’t touch her. Don’t want her to look like a ghost or it might freak out Gabriel.
“Nice of you to escort Kaden to the gala,” Amelia said.
“We’re still deciding whether to go,” Kaden broke in. “We only have a minute.”
She was nervous about what Gabriel might ask. Amelia knew nearly everything about her. Every detail about her abused childhood. Every file she’d hacked from her estranged grandfather. Every covert op she’d orchestrated.
Haven’t shared those little details with Gabriel yet. Working my way up the trust ladder.
Amelia hopped down, strolled across the gazebo, and leaned against a post. She fished a pack of cigarettes from her purse and lit one up. “You know, dears, back in my day, I’d be swinging almost every weekend. But this is the first party Kaden has invited me to. It looks absolutely rip-roaring.”
“Looks?” Gabriel appeared mystified. He turned to Kaden. “Can she see … everything?”
Kaden laughed. “Amelia can travel anywhere there’s an Internet connection.” She pivoted to face the AI. “I’m guessing guests are already sharing photos and videos online. That right, Amelia?”
“Yes, they are. Silly habit, if you ask me. They’re at a party!”
Kaden had programmed Amelia to stay true to her persona and never mince words. Modern social niceties could come later.
Amelia sat down on the steps of the gazebo and fixed Gabriel with her gaze. “Tell us one thing about yourself that Kaden doesn’t know.”
“Amelia, that’s personal,” Kaden chided.
“It’s all right.” Gabriel thought about it. “Let’s see. I had a childhood nickname.”
“I’ve heard worse.” Let’s not go there. “Why Chip?”
“I fell on the playground during third grade and chipped my front tooth. My family couldn’t afford to get it fixed.”
“Aww. You have an amazing smile.” Kaden poked the bridge of his smartglasses with her forefinger. “We should go. Say goodbye, Amelia.”
Amelia began to glitch in and out as the bandwidth strained to keep up with her. “So great to meet you, Gabriel,” she said. She straightened, dusted off her lap, and turned to Kaden. “Such a nice young man. And such a stud in bed last night!”
“Oh my God!”
Kaden felt her face flush hot red as she realized she’d forgotten to take out her lenses or put Amelia into sleep mode during her date last night. She reached up and snatched the glasses from Gabriel’s nose.
Gabriel’s expression turned from surprise to a satisfied smile. He lunged for the smartglasses and called out, “Glad you enjoyed the show!”
Kaden stalked off, mortified beyond belief. She removed the earpiece from her right ear—she didn’t want to hear any of Amelia’s excuses—and nearly flung it into the reeds along the bay before thinking better of it and stashing it in her pocket. Her lenses provided the visuals, but the two-way earpiece let her communicate with Amelia.
Gabriel caught up with her, enjoying the moment a little too much. “I liked her. She reminds me of you. Direct, honest. Knows more than she lets on. Bit by the wanderlust bug. So are we going to the gala?”
“Three more blocks,” she said. She needed a change of scenery. And she’d given her word.
As they walked along the lane, fall colors danced in the trees. They passed mansions with killer views of the bay—big estates with pools, tennis courts, sprawling lawns, and lights winking in the twilight. She was already working out what adjustments she’d need to make to Amelia’s social settings.
But first she’d have to make it through tonight.
She was still processing the fact she’d killed one of them—a member of the one percent.
Part of her wondered if they’d honor her tonight. Or arrest her.
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