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Flash in a Puddle

 

October 2038

Phoenix, AZ

 

 

The arid desert breeze wove its way in among the towering steel monoliths of the downtown district, and brought rolling thunder with it. A violent burst of light in the thunderclouds briefly illuminated his black leather cowboy hat and long matching duster. The muscular stranger heaved himself off of his Harley and strode down the blind alley to meet his prey.

“You know why I’m here,” he said from behind an orange burning cigarette. His face was masked by the brim of his hat and three-day stubble.

“Y-You don’t understand,” the figure across the alley said. “This is all just a big misunderstanding.”

The assassin took a long drag off of his hand-rolled smoke, and blew a small cloud of white out into the strengthening wind.

“That’s not what the Cloud Court said,” the killer contested. “They pegged you as an embezzler. Fourteen million to be precise.”

The biker walked to within a few paces of his contract. He drew the right side of his duster back in a swift stroke revealing a pistol strapped to his outer thigh.

“I’m feeling philanthropic tonight,” the man said. “So, we’re going to do this like gentlemen.”

“But, I told you,” his target said holding up his hands, “I’m innocent. Somebody framed me.”

“I’m not the judge, or your jury,” the assassin said. A thin line of smoke snaked up around the brim of his headpiece.

The biker unstrapped the .45 on his thigh, and handed it over to the lean middle-aged gent.

“Put that on your hip,” he stated in a mellow tone. “We’re going to step off thirty paces, and do this.”

His contract did as he was instructed. His slender fingers fumbled with the worn silver clip at his belt.

“Come on,” the banker said, “I’ve got a wife and three little kids. You’ve got to reconsider.”

The cowboy was silent as he backed away from his prey. The rumble overhead radiated down into the earth beneath his boots.

“When I say draw, you go for your widow maker,” the emotionless man said.

“Don’t you have a boss, or someone that I can appeal this to?”

“You knew I was coming, and why.”

“That doesn’t make this whole judgeless law system right!”

“They’re your tax dollars, too.”

The killer’s steady hand hovered over the walnut grip of his favorite replica revolver. Rider could sense the fear in the worried man’s eyes. They were wide – begging for a recount.

Another clap of thunder was quickly followed by a deluge that soon gathered in the indentations in the battered alley.

“Draw!”

The lanky banker didn’t have a prayer, and Rider knew it. Before Larkin could even manage to wrap his ghostly hand around the grip, the assassin had already plugged him with his sentence.

The loner strode over to his victim who now quaked upon weakening knees in the alley. A line of bright red fluid slithered down the bridge of Larkin’s nose and onto the street. Rider stood in front of his contract waiting to ensure that he was good and gone. The banking executive’s horrified face fell into a puddle with a cold plop. The distant wail of sirens told the seasoned assassin that it was time to depart.

“The path for you is decided,” he said as he reclaimed his weapon.  

Another bolt of fury cracked across the Arizona skies as the stranger mounted his Bad Boy, fired it to life and rode off away from the growing sirens.

 

 

 

 

 

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Our first exclusive interview is with the Hunter Cell’s gunslinger, Rider. Find out what makes this assassin tick. What did he do before joining the Cell? Where did he get his signature weapons? These questions and much more are available to our cleared personnel over in the Briefing Room. To gain clearance to this room, you must get the password only found in the eBook version of “Hunter Cell.”

Next time, we’ll be sitting down with the muscle behind the Hunter Cell. That’s right. We’re talking with Sledge. If you have a question or comment for him then leave it below in the comments.

The Briefing Room has been added to the site. There you will find exclusive content, interviews, bonus material and extra artwork not found elsewhere on this site, nor in the books. The password for clearance into this compartment can only be found near the end of the eBook edition of this work. In the event that you purchased a copy prior to the creation of this room, please email me at my contact listed via the about.me link in my Bio section. Give me the purchase verification information, and I will supply you with the code.

 

(Script excerpt taken from recovered Hunter Cell training archive. Source unknown)

 

(A man wearing a black fedora and tan trench coat fades in)

MAN:

I’ve been asked the same question a lot over the years: what does it take to be in the Cell? Well, I’ll tell ya what it takes – a lack of empathy and a broken kill switch.

(The man takes a drag off of his cigarette)

MAN:

You can call me Judge. The group of you have been recruited to train for a spot in our reserves. Only the top three of you recruits will make into our reserve program. For the rest of you, if you’re still alive, you’ll be debriefed and sent packing. Nothing personal.

(JUDGE strides over in front of an image of an open meadow.)

JUDGE:

You will be loaded onto a bus and shipped here to The Meadows for your eight-week basic training course. This will tell us which of you has the fundamental skills needed to survive in this racket. From there, you will go on to eight more weeks of specialized instruction. You will then have to prove your mettle in The Crucible – a hands-on final exam. For those recruits that survive, you will have to sign a 16-year reserves contract. Should you go active in the Cell, your contract will reboot, and you’ll be required to serve ten years on active duty. Should you never get called up from the reserves, you’ll be debriefed and free to go after 16 years.

(Judge walks over next to an older man with white hair in a high-and-tight)

JUDGE:

I’ll now turn you over to my friend and mentor, Phobos. He will serve as your instructor for the duration of your stay here in basic.

PHOBOS:

Hello, and welcome to the basic training phase of your journey. It’s my job to take you pissants and turn you into killing machines. The first lesson you’ve all got to learn is that there’s no room for fear out there. I am fear! If you feel like shitting in your slacks then you’d better do it now. If you so much as give your target an inch, you’ll be worm chow.

(Phobos paces across the stage with his hands clasped behind his back.)

PHOBOS:

A little bit about me… Once upon a time, I was a General and led hundreds of brave Marines to their deaths. I may have led them to their graves, but I ALWAYS led them to victory!

(The shaking man gathers his emotions.)

PHOBOS:

That was a long time ago, though. These days, I have the fun task of building assassins. There aren’t very many of you out there in our reserves. So, not many of you standing here will become agents. Alright, enough with storytime, maggots! Grab your crap and make for the bus parked outside. You belong to me now.

FADE OUT.

Judge took one last drag off of his hydro, and then flicked the Chesterfield onto the damp bricks.

She tried to lose him on the other side of the fountain, but the murderer was smarter than that. Sorry, Doll Face. He smelled blood. Nothing was going to stop this madman — or so he thought.

The assassin jogged after the mysterious figure in the fog over the paved bay trail, and into the Fisherman’s Wharf. The crosshatched strings of white bulbs still burned overhead in the fog. All of the shops and restaurants had been long since closed up. Judge peered around frantically.

“Now, where did that numbskull get off to?”

Just then a dark formed passed under the halo of a lamppost at the end of the main wharf.

Not tonight, clown. I jogged down to the corner of Isabella’s restaurant, and set my case down in front of me. Yeah, I had something really special planned for just such a jackass.

His long coat draped over either side of his instrument case as Judge made quick work of putting together his newest toy.

I had spent the last eight months doing all of the research and rounding up all of the replica parts for it.

He pulled out a small black metal ammo drum, and snapped it in place at the front of the barrel. He then slid the front pistol grip into place just behind the drum.

judgepicthc

Artwork by and courtesy of Christopher Stroud.

Judge tugged the action slide back toward him, and let it go with a click. Muffled cries pierced the dense cloud from the shadows of the docks. The assassin stood up, and let his M1921 Thompson Annihilator hang at his right side.

“No! No, stop it!” the young girl shrieked through the struggle. “Someone!”

The towering man felt her frail hands trying to pry his off of her mouth and throat. There was something primal deep within the recesses of his being that got a cheap thrill out of watching people die. He loved the power. He yearned for the control over who got to live, and who was taken.

He clenched his massive hands around her fragile throat choking her screams at his knees. The young beauty’s eyes bulged, and her body went tight. It wouldn’t be much longer…

“Hey, jackass,” a mellow voice said from behind him. “Why don’t you try picking on someone at least your own age.”

The massive brute turned to see a man of average stature standing at the other end of the pier. His black fedora hid his face. A thin line of white smoke trailed up from the corner of his mouth. The murderer tightened his grasp on the teenager’s larynx. She gasped in desperation.

“I said,” the stranger proclaimed with force, “let the girl go. Now!”

The man in the charcoal suit swept his long brown coat aside, and tilted a Tommy gun up beside his black hat. His left hand took the hydro out of his mouth.

“You will pay with your life for interfering with other’s affairs,” the strangler said tossing the child to the wet dock.

The lean stranger placed the cig back in his mouth, and dropped the machine gun to his right hip.

“This is for all of those kids,” the man said through his smoke. “Do unto others, you smug son of a bitch!”

The massive monster tried to whip out his Sig Sauer pistol, but he knew it wouldn’t matter. The Bogart look-alike unloaded his 100-round drum of .45 caliber bullets. Revenge tore red holes in the murderer’s torso at 1200 bullets per minute.

“One round for every school kid you murdered!” Judge shouted as he advanced on the staggering mass of blood and gore.

The young girl cried and raced behind her strange savior as he marched on her killer. The towering nightmare tumbled backward with every strike. The rounds’ momentum pushed the beast back into the sea. Rounds thwipped off of the planks and wooden posts on the pier. Empty casings rained down leaving a trail to their relentless source.

“How does it feel now, tough guy?” the assassin exclaimed as the killer stumbled over the end of the pier.

Judge walked up to its edge and peered over at the floating corpse in the bay.

“Tell it to the judge, pal,” he said coolly. “Court’s adjourned.”

He strode back over to where the young girl lay whimpering.

“You okay?” he asked.

She nodded without making eye contact.

“You wanna ride to the local police station?”

Again, she only nodded.

Judge held out his left hand, and the girl’s quivering grip tightened around his. “It’s gonna be alright, sweetheart.” he said as he led her back to his midnight blue ‘38 Chevy Hornet Coupe.

Hunter Cell is coming soon.

For those interested, an excerpt from Hunter Cell is now here on its own page. It’s not for the faint of heart.

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