Division Zero by Matthew S. Cox (Division Zero #1)
Published by: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication date: March 7th 2014
Genres: Cyberpunk, New Adult, Paranormal
Most cops get to deal with living criminals, but Agent Kirsten Wren is not most cops.
A gifted psionic with a troubled past, Kirsten possesses a rare combination of abilities that give her a powerful weapon against spirits. In 2418, rampant violence and corporate warfare have left no shortage of angry wraiths in West City. Most exist as little more than fleeting shadows and eerie whispers in the darkness.
Kirsten is shunned by a society that does not understand psionics, feared by those who know what she can do, and alone in a city of millions. Every so often, when a wraith gathers enough strength to become a threat to the living, these same people rely on her to stop it.
Unexplained killings by human-like androids known as dolls leave the Division One police baffled, causing them to punt the case to Division Zero. Kirsten, along with her partner Dorian, wind up in the crosshairs of corporate assassins as they attempt to find out who – or what – is behind the random murders before more people die.
She tries to hold on to the belief that no one is beyond redemption as she pursues a killer desperate to claim at least one more innocent soul – that might just be hers.
About The Author:
Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.
Hobbies and Interests:
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- after="" and="" deliberate="" fiction="" happens="" intellectual="" it.="" life="" nature="" of="" questions="" reality="" science="" span="" that="" the="" what="">->
He is also fond of cats.
Awards: Prophet of the Badlands (excerpt) – Honorable Mention – Writers of the Future
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“Nice kid, that Samir.” Dorian glanced at the boy. “They should at least let him grow up before they put him to work.”
“He’s learning mechanic skills; it’s more like tech school.” Kirsten shrugged. “You remember Heather?”
“That other astral sensate? Yeah I think I saw her once; didn’t she move to the East coast?”
“Yeah… They sent her out into the field when she was thirteen. They said they had no one else strong enough. So stupid, they wouldn’t let her carry a weapon either.”
“Would you let a thirteen year old have an E90?” Dorian clucked his tongue. “Still, they shouldn’t have put her out there. I’m surprised command gambled with lives like that. Why didn’t they send you?”
“That was Burckhardt’s call.” Kirsten frowned. “I was only six then. They had no idea who I was.” Her gaze fell off to the side. “I wish they did…”
He laughed, trying to cheer her up. “I bet they’d have sent you instead of her if they did.”
The absurdity of it carried with it a nugget of doubt. If they needed a ghost destroyed, Deputy Director Burckhardt just might have considered a six-year-old Kirsten to do it. Her combination of psionic gifts created a rare and dangerous weapon against astral beings.
I’m not sure he would have cared, even if I didn’t know how to use the lash back then.
Her words rode upon a fake chuckle. “Yeah, I guess they would have.”
The car banked around the side of a gleaming skyscraper, coating the building with a flickering shimmer of blue from the emergency lights. Faces appeared in the windows as people looked over, curious at the sight of an all-black police vehicle.
The coffee slid out of the cup holder during the turn, but floated up into the air and leveled off before it could burst open in her lap. She grabbed it as fast as she could move her hand, but Dorian had already levitated it out of harm’s way.
“Thanks for that.”
“Hey, we’re still cops. Wasting coffee is a class-A felony.”
They exchanged a laugh, and soon she came in for a landing in the parking lot of the hotel. Division 1 patrol cars dotted the area around two immense armored assault vehicles pulled right up to the steps. On the roof of each A3V, a Division 5 trooper kept a hatch-mounted 30mm cannon trained on the door. They looked quite disappointed at not having been given a chance to use them.
Kirsten killed the bar lights and hopped out, letting the door sink closed behind her as she walked up the steps through the crowd of police. Most of them moved with haste out of her path or looked away to avoid eye contact. Where someone else might have gotten a power trip, she felt a stab in her chest as the label of “outcast” sunk in deeper. Terrified faces turning away sent her gaze to the ground and made her feel alone in a swarm of people, wondering if mother had been right.
Kirsten fed the destination to the autopilot and hit the bar lights. From the air, the starport area resembled a square valley in the city. Zoning laws prevented the construction of anything over five stories for several miles in all directions to minimize loss of life in the event of a crash. The main terminal had the shape of a twenty-story chocolate chip made of white plastisteel and studded with millions of little lights.
Square fire containment walls sectioned off landing pads capable of handling everything from small inter-coastal craft to large shuttles used to carry passengers up to hulking interstellar vessels too ponderous to breach the atmosphere. Between the landing pad walls ran thousands of pipes and wire conduits.
21-47 meant a hostile manifestation. For it to be called in implied a non-psionic saw an apparition. Flashing lights littered a pad cordoned off by the starport security team and a few Division 1 cops who arrived seconds ahead of her. She circled around to bleed off altitude and came in low over the wall.
Her car cleared the barrier and settled onto a pad near a Mars shuttle. Two hundred feet long, the craft’s bell-like silhouette turned crimson from a coating of Martian dust, and the vapors of recent use still wafted from the engines. Near the right rear landing strut, a dark-skinned man in a grey jumpsuit hung suspended in a coil of silver fueling hose, screaming. The nozzle dripped luminous blue liquid that boiled upon contact with the ground.
Kirsten scrambled out of the car and ran over to him. Dorian paused to hold up a hand at the Division 1 cops by the entryway, warning them to stay back―but they ran past him as if he did not exist. Kirsten sensed spiritual energy in the hose, but saw no entity holding it. Her eyes found only a pair of shadows gliding along through the darkest point of the yard.
Oh, shit. If they are checking him out this could be dangerous.
Kirsten looked around. “Ok, where are you?”
“I’m right here,” shouted the suspended man. “Get me the hell down.”
“Sir, please stay calm. I’m trying to do that.”
“I’m held up in the bloody air by a bloody hose full of Cryomil, and she tells me to be calm. One little spark and I’m a samosa.”
“I’m surprised you even bother telling them to stay calm.” Dorian pointed. “I got this guy, check the splat by the nose gear.”
She trotted to the front while Dorian wrestled with the hose. The man wailed at her as he swayed back and forth, slipping free as Dorian strained against the force imbued in the serpentine line. The man slapped to the ground on his chest, shot Kirsten a terrified look, and ran off.
At the nose end, a wide pattern of blood spattered out from under the front landing cushion. A crumpled glove peeked out from beneath.
Kirsten cringed. “Damn. It landed on someone. He’s probably angry.”
“Damn right I’m pissed.” The sound folded in on itself like speech through a metal tube.
Kirsten crept forward. “Who’s there?”
A thirty-something man with scruffy brown hair sat up out of the landing gear, clad in a formerly-dark grey jumpsuit now black with blood. His helmet hung around his neck in a mass of cracked material like a stepped-on egg.
“What the hell are those?” He flailed at the drifting shadows.
“They are just watching, but I don’t think they have much interest. Of course, you might have changed their mind if you killed him.”
“Sanjay did this. He did not follow the safety protocols.”
“Do you think Sanjay wanted to kill you?”
The man fidgeted, his face a flurry of emotions. Speech started and stopped several times.
“You’re angry, and that’s perfectly understandable given the situation, but it looks like an accident.”
“W… What do those things want?”
“Well, if you were a bastard in life they take you where you belong. If not, they sensed your rage and came to see what they smelled.” Her voice softened. “Do you have any family or any friends you want me to pass any messages on to?”
He looked down at the tarmac, fury faded to sadness. “No.”
Dorian slipped behind, putting her between him and the Harbingers.
After a few minutes of reassuring talk, the ghost trudged off with his head down, muttering about the importance of the safety checklist. Halfway to the gate terminal, he vanished in a grey-silver cloud of light. Audible murmurs regarding procedure lingered for several seconds.
“Another lost soul ferried into the light. Nice job.”