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Perfect Dark: Initial Vector Excerpt

Perfect Dark: Initial Vector Cover

Perfect Dark: Initial Vector Cover

Joanna Dark was tired of killing.

Her lungs burned for air, the muscles in her thighs, back, and arms ached, and her mouth felt filled with hot sand. Sweat stung her eyes, blurring her vision, perspiration running freely down her face and neck, soaking her shirt until it felt five pounds heavier in water-weight alone. Blood and smoke burns peppered her skin. The smell of gunpowder and feces and rotting trash assailed her in concert, and she was half-deaf from the repeated sound of gunfire, both hers and that of her enemies. For the first time since her father had taught her to shoot, her hands felt clumsy and thick when she wrapped them around the butts of her pistols.

She crouched on her aching haunches in the alleyway, her back to the wet brick of the nightclub wall, trying to catch her breath. Neon flashed off puddles formed in the uneven asphalt, and overhead, barely heard beyond the ringing in her ears, she could discern the whine of the city traffic as it flew past, cars riding on their self-made pockets of anti-grav. She licked her lips, tasted salt, and hoped it was sweat and not blood, and that, if it was blood, it wasn’t her own.

Jo tried to tally her kills, and realized she’d lost count, but she wasn’t certain when. Somewhere in the mid-sixties, she suspected, when the dataDyne recovery team had ambushed her outside the hotel. That had been a good fight, there’d been eight of them, all in body armor and armed to the teeth, laying down a spray of automatic weapons fire that had drawn sparks like a string of firecrackers along the walls. She’d taken cover behind a Bowman Constellation, one of the new models, just as it had landed, rolled out, and dropped three of them in quick order, all with single shots, two to the neck, one straight through his faceplate.

Then she’d used a grenade, blowing up the rest of them, along with the car and half of the windows on the first floor of the hotel.

Despite her fatigue, the memory made her grin. That had been a while ago, quite a while ago. Maybe in Rio.

She wasn’t certain where she was now. What she could see of the signage on the buildings around her looked Korean. Maybe P’yongyang? Maybe Los Angeles?

It didn’t matter.

Jo checked her pistols, the two Falcons she’d been working with almost exclusively, feeling the heat radiating from their barrels. Good guns, the Falcons. Her father had taught her to shoot on them. Nine round semi-autos that could fire as fast she could squeeze their triggers, and sweetly accurate. When she worked with the Falcons, Jo could make the bullets go exactly where she wanted.

She pulled a last deep breath, filling her muscles with oxygen, then launched herself forward, at the rusted metal door planted in the wall opposite her. She took the impact on her left shoulder, and the door gave way, and Jo pitched through, turning the move into a roll, tumbling through an instant of darkness, coming up again into a low crouch.

It was a Japanese restaurant, all tatami mats and rice paper walls and soft white lighting, and Jo turned slowly in place, swinging each of the Falcons with her, covering her arcs. Silhouettes glided past, hidden by the walls around her, clad in kimonos and robes, and Jo checked her fire, not wanting to kill anyone who didn’t have it coming to them.

Ahead of her, the hallway reached a t-junction, and just as she started to move, a black canister bounced into view, settling on the floor fifteen feet away.

Jo launched herself left, up and through the wall, tearing paper and wood and flying into a private dining room. She sprawled onto a low table, sending California rolls and cups of tea flying. Patrons screamed, recoiling. It wasn’t until she’d made the move that Jo understood why she’d done it, why she’d gone left, instinctively moving in the direction the grenade had come.

The explosion came, tearing flame and shrapnel through the insubstantial walls, and she saw the first target, then, a Caucasian male in gang colors, shotgun in hand, and he was pivoting. Jo fired once, still in motion, and the left Falcon put a bullet into the man’s ear. The screaming around her got louder.

Jo finished her slide, rolling off the edge of the table, turning as she came up, and now she could see three more of them, all in the same colors, all men, two of them with shotguns and the third packing a Liberator submachine gun. She hit the Liberator first, a double-tap with the right Falcon, both shots to the high sternum, and the man dropped without managing a round. She took the first shotgun with the left Falcon, again double-tapping, this time both bullets hitting the groin.

The second shotgun fired and Jo spun out of the blast just short of in time, felt the slap of buckshot as it peppered her right cheek, felt the sting and her own blood starting to spill. She came around, fully to her feet, and the last one was tracking her as fast as he could, trying to get the shotgun around for a second blast, but he wasn’t anywhere near quick enough, and it felt like Jo had all the time in the world. She put both pistols on him, pulled the triggers, then pulled them again, and again, until the body hit the ground and didn’t move again.

Jo stopped, catching her breath, feeling all of her aches return, the slick heat of blood running from her cheek down the side of her neck. Behind her, she heard whimpering, the sounds of the frightened patrons.

Then she felt her head snap forward, the impact of something small and hard and sharp against the back of her skull, and the world flared white, then began to fill with red.

Oh shit, Joanna Dark thought. I’m dead.