Maurice Broaddus has a new novella set for release through Apex Books called I Can Transform You. To help get the word out, Maurice and the fine folks at Apex were generous enough to provide an excerpt of the book to whet your appetite. Have a look then follow the links at the bottom to learn more about this talented author and his new book.
Mac Peterson left the employ of LG Security Forces and now cobbles together a life in the shadows of the great towers, filling policing needs for people too unimportant for the professional corp-national security to care about. His ex-wife, Kiersten, stayed behind on the Security Forces, working undercover. When she turns up dead alongside one of the tower jumpers, Mac pairs up with Ade Walters, a cyborg officer, to uncover who would try to hide Kiersten's death among the suicides. Searching for the murderer of one of their own, Mac and Ade discover plans to transform the Earth and its inhabitants...plans that only started with the great upheaval and The Trying TimesTM.
I Can Transform You (an excerpt)
by Maurice Broaddus
Maybe the eruption event had been a sign of the end and the apocalyptos had it right.
Rows of phosphorous blue lanterns blotted out the night sky, creating an alien vista, completely different from the memory of only a few years ago, the only remnants of the caustic dust kicked up those nights twenty years ago. The glowing canvas rendered the downtown skyline in a perpetual twilight, like a forest under a thick canopy of tree branches. Giant stone buildings rose in the dimness, obsidian behemoths, like death’s bony fingers protruding from where they had inexplicably ruptured from the ground. Since the eruption event, the city-dwellers liked to whisper stories of men and women, those mixed-up souls ready to end it all, blissfully swimming upward through the opaque, dense air until they reached the top of the alien structures, where they found paradise and disappeared into the forever of the cosmos.
“Bullshit,” Mac whispered to no one in particular.
Mac viewed life through a lens of skepticism and impatience; the towers and the flight to heaven—complete and utter nonsense. Surrounded by a mess of blood, brain matter, and pieces of bits he could only guess were the remains of internal organs, the crime scene told another story he struggled to make sense of. Two bodies had exploded like human grenades upon impact after falling from the top of the tallest structure. His gaze followed the jutting stone until it disappeared into the haze. Maybe these two had been evicted from heavenly paradise and tossed to their deaths, he mused. The foul stench failed to turn the detective’s stomach, as he’d long grown accustomed to the stink of death. Thousands had died when the tower first shattered the mantle of the earth’s surface. It appeared as if this tower had simply claimed two more.
Mac lit up a Redi-Smoke and inhaled. Genetically engineered to mimic the effects of nicotine, the companies benefitted from using chemical formulas that hadn’t been banned yet. The packaging of the Redi-Smoke produced only wisps of smoke, which dissipated in the mouth almost immediately. The company’s marketing campaign preyed on the ritual of smoking itself, per VCC regulations. All Mac needed to know was that the burn leeched away at his lungs; the genetically-enhanced tobacco-like buzz hit hard and quick, dispelling most of his annoyance at being called out in the middle of the Godforsaken night for yet another tower death. The victims had been falling for months now, one or two a week. No leads, no evidence. Nobody could make out whether the jumpers were murdered or simply succumbed to an inner nihilistic cry, compelled to commit suicide. Whatever the case, Mac wished the bullshit would end.
“Hey, Mac. Sorry to call you in, but you know how it is.” The city’s deputy chief of police appeared out of the fog. Hollander grimaced at the scene around them before he shook Mac’s hand. Gray hair wrapped like a horseshoe on the chief’s otherwise bald head. He sported a Hitler mustache on his egg-shaped face as if he could bring the affectation back, but his extra jowls only accentuated the ridiculousness of his appearance. And his hands were too soft, like a woman’s. The blue haze darkened his eyes, seeming to erase them. Mac held the pack of smokes out to him, but the deputy chief declined.
“Yeah?” Mac pushed his hat down over his face, covering his eyes in shadows. “Well, fuck you. You want to tell me why the fuck either of us are out here stomping through the remains of some sorry-assed tower jumpers?” He knew the dance of bullshit when he saw it. The chief was holding back. No way was he going to be on scene, much less call out Mac, unless it was important.
“It’s a bad one.” The chief stepped gingerly around bits of innards. “It’s one of our own this time.”
“What do you have?” Mac asked.
The chief grabbed Mac by the elbow and led him a couple of feet away from the nearest set of ears. Mac couldn’t help but think that his former boss didn’t want to be seen with him. “A lot of shit is going down and I need you braced for it. Does the name Harley Wilson ring a bell for you?”
“Not even a little.”
“Goddamn, Mac, you live in a cave?”
“Hey man, fuck you. I don’t have a Stream connect, so I also don’t get the latest news on your favorite teen pop stars. You’re lucky I have a cop-net linkup.”
“Right. Whatever, you Luddite piece of shit. Harley Wilson’s that gangbanger out of Easton. Suspected of making that hit on, shit…”
“Shit? Seems strange that a loving mother would take a look at the sweet product of her loins and name it ‘Shit,’” Mac said.
“Always with the jokes. Anyways, I can’t remember the name. Some corporate muckety-muck. It’s in my notes back at the office. But this isn’t about him. It’s about Kiersten.”
“My ex?” That serpent in his belly stirred. The gentle swell of anxious nausea left him uneasy, and Mac wanted Hollander to just spit it out. “Last I heard, she’d been working undercover. Bravest lady I know.”
“Kiersten had been running with Wilson the past couple of months.” Hollander stared at his feet. “The squints in the lab have confirmed that the bodies who fell tonight were Harley Wilson and Kiersten Wybrow.”
The world lost its axis, and Mac leaned against a storefront wall. Kiersten. A rush of emotions hit him at once. Mac covered his face with his hand. The azure haze of the night skies shifted with the clouds, hiding his grief. He pushed the pain back, down into a personal dark space, a well to draw upon when needed, when the time was right.
“You all right, Mac?” Hollander stepped closer, concern underscoring his voice.
“Me and Kiersten were still…close…” A moment of silence passed between the two men. The bottom fell out of where he thought he had bottomed out. Only a yawning chasm of grief awaited him. His head went light with the vertigo of pain, but he steadied himself before anyone else saw. He scanned the onlooking sets of eyes just in case.
“I’m sorry, Mac. I had no idea.”
If you enjoyed this excerpt and you'd like to get your hands on a copy of I Can Transform You, you can find it on Amazon.com and other book retailers, or just head on over to Apex Books and support the author and publisher directly.
Maurice Broaddus has written hundreds of short stories, essays, novellas, and articles. His dark fiction has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and web sites, including Asimov's SF, Cemetery Dance, Apex Magazine, Black Static, and Weird Tales Magazine. He is the co-editor of the Dark Faith anthology series (Apex Books) and the author of the urban fantasy trilogy, Knights of Breton Court (Angry Robot Books). He has been a teaching artist for over five years, teaching creative writing to students of all ages. Visit his site at www.MauriceBroaddus.com.