Yeah, that’s right, you read that correctly. This is it. The official cover reveal for Jungle. Along with a light synopsis (not at all final, but it’ll give you a good idea of what to expect) and a preview excerpt from chapter one!
Also, folks, in the coming days you can expect to see pre-orders open up, the official synopsis, and the official release date. So get ready! Because Jungle is almost upon us!
Now, let’s get a look at that cover! Are you ready?
Now that’s a thing of beauty, isn’t it? Jungle picks up where Colony left off, with the trio—Jake Tames, Annalyne Neres, and Ray “Sweets” Candy—arriving back in the Sol system after the events on Pisces to find things there aren’t nearly as stable as they’d hoped. Their contract extended, the three once again find themselves in circumstances beyond their control.
At least, for the moment.
Yeah, that’s not the official synopsis, but it definitely hits a few of the opening moments. It’s been three years, folks, but the trio is back.
And I really don’t trust myself to say more without dropping spoilers.
So, a few specifications, and then we’ll get to the excerpt so you guys can catch up on Jungle‘s opening moments. First and foremost: How long is it?
Well, brace yourself. Colony was 334,000 words long. With some change. Which, after Amazon refined their page system, ended up around 1300 pages (and too big to bind, at least for right now).
Jungle weighs in at … 457,000 words. For the record, that’s long than the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. So yeah, if I do my math right, around 1800 pages. Too big to bind. And if you’re wondering why this title ended up such a titan, well … it’ll make sense once you crack it open. Right around eight or nine hours later, probably, when you look up in a daze and wonder where the sun went. Before questioning whether you really do need to go in for work tomorrow.
Okay, so it’s big. What about price? Surely something of such weight and depth is going to cost a pretty penny, right?
$7.99. Same as Colony was when it launched. This is one book. I’m not splitting it into ten little novels and nickel-and-diming you readers. You get the whole thing.
Release date? I’m not going to share that just yet but … I will say this. You will see the trio before Thanksgiving in the US. Definitely a late Fall release (and stretching the definition of “Fall” a bit) but still hitting before winter!
So, we’ve got a cover. We’ve got a price. We’ve got a rough page count. Now who’s ready for that excerpt?
Hit the jump and get to it. And if you’re a Patreon Supporter, congrats! You’ve already seen this! Head on over to Patreon for another supporter preview!
Jake Tames tapped his fingers against the wooden tabletop, beating out a steady, staccato rhythm that kept pace with the faint-but-intense pounding of his heart. He frowned as the connection occurred to him, the rapid tap-tap of his fingers stuttering somewhat before settling for a lower speed.
You’ll let them know you’re nervous, he thought. Play it cool.
Then again, they probably already knew he was nervous. Whoever they were. And even if he hadn’t been, they would have expected him to be anyway. Getting grabbed by armed security guards in full neural skinsuit armor had a tendency to set one’s heart on edge.
Maybe grabbed was too strong a word. Politely requested was more like it. If one could consider brandishing Sluggers in a way that meant they would definitely be used if the response to “come with us” was anything other than “absolutely” to be polite.
His fingers had picked up pace again, tapping out an ever-increasing staccato beat. He let out a sigh and pulled his hand away from the tabletop, dropping them into his lap as he took another look around the room.
He had to admit, it was pretty nice. Not only was the conference table he and his companions were seated at genuine wood, but the walls themselves were decorated with the material as well; deep, rich colors that spoke of luxury and more than enough cash to go around. Combined with the plush carpet underfoot and what felt like genuine leather seats, the conference room didn’t so much scream luxury as it did exude it in quiet, subtle overtones.
How much would it cost to rent this even for an hour? Jake wondered as he ran his eyes around the room again. A place like this can’t come cheap. Especially considering where they were. It was one thing to sit in a room such as the one they were in on Earth, but in orbit?
He took another long, slow look around the room, wondering how many hidden cameras were analyzing everything from the color of his shirt to the frequency of his pulse. How long are they just going to let us sit here? he wondered. An hour? Two hours? They’d already been waiting in silence for at least thirty minutes, the only outward indicator of the world at large the faint hum of the orbital station’s reactors and the occasional deep rumble of a ship docking. He lifted his hand again, but this time caught himself before he could start drumming on the tabletop once more.
He shut his eyes, leaning back in his seat and doing his best to put on a cool, unconcerned expression. Not that it would likely fool those working the cameras. The tension in the room was almost physically tangible, rolling off of both the other occupants though in very different ways. To his left, Annalyne Neres was scowling, her jaw clenched and irritation written across her face. Not that he blamed her. The mercenary had been looking forward to getting back to Earth and getting paid, if only so she could leave again as quickly as possible to meet up with her family on whatever colony world they’d ended up at. To be so close, and then get pulled aside at the last moment, with Earth itself in view, wasn’t doing her normally abrasive nature any favors.
Meanwhile, while Anna was biting back enough anger for all three of them, Sweets, sitting on Jake’s other side, was definitely handling the nervousness. A white-hat hacker by trade, Sweets—or Ray Candy, if one didn’t feel like using the handle he went by—was the least experienced of the three of them with the current situation. And while the last time he’d been grabbed he’d been a lot cooler, the last time hadn’t come on the tail-end of a job that had gone so wrong it hadn’t just gone sideways, but in directions Jake wasn’t even sure were named yet.
Pisces. A colony world of Earth, and one that had been home to a number of dangerous secrets. Secrets that had very nearly gotten them, and everyone living there, killed multiple times over.
And everything started out so well, Jake thought, smirking. For given values of “well.” Most jobs didn’t start with an employer kidnapping you at gunpoint and then dropping you onto a colony ship with two strangers you’d never met before. Though he understood why they’d done it. One of the premier megacorporations on Earth, SoulComp’s interest in the three of them had revolved around an ex-employee of theirs that they’d very much wanted to ask a few questions of. Questions regarding an exceedingly expensive, highly valuable operating and logistics system they’d built and provided to none other than the United Nations Space Exploration and Colonization program, one of the largest arms of the United Nations and the only real power in space at the moment. The last thing SoulComp had wanted was for their little inquiry to go public.
He grimaced. And then Pisces had … happened. He, Anna, and Sweets had made it out with their lives intact—though with plenty of injuries to go around—but they’d definitely left a bit of a mess in their wake.
And now, he thought, something tells me that mess is about to catch up with us.
It was a real shame too, because the last week traveling back had been pretty nice. For the first time since the job had started, all three of them had been given a chance to relax, to interact with one another without the specter of a planetary war or despotic governments hanging over their heads. There had been no worry about bugged cabins, no fuel readings to keep track of, no job to work on. There had just been the three of them, their mutual relief at having survived, and the promised rewards to look forward to spending.
The same hadn’t been true for the rest of the ship they had been traveling on, of course, but that was hardly their problem. They’d only had to fend off several attempts from the captain and crew seeking answers the three of them didn’t have before their hosts had gotten the picture and left the trio to their own devices. And that had been that. They’d spent the next week relaxing, talking, or just doing their own thing.
It had been nice. He’d learned new things about both his companions during the trip. Sweets had once managed an antique electronics store. Anna had an enjoyment of century-old shows. Sweets had once lived in Florida. Anna liked jazz.
And then they’d arrived back in the Sol System, course set for Earth … and everything had started to show signs of going sideways once more.
The first clue that things weren’t quite ordinary had been when the captain had made a ship-wide announcement ordering all passengers back to their cabins shortly after arriving in-system. There had been an explanation tied into the command, something along the lines of keeping passengers out of the way of the crew while they prepared to dock with the Mexican orbital station, but it had held the tone of an explanation given as an excuse. And though he couldn’t claim to be an expert on interstellar travel, Jake could remember that during their trip to Pisces aboard the Starseeker’s Hand, there hadn’t been any such order given.
Of course, the second clue was when the Outward Light had docked with the station and the team had found their door locked. Though at that point it had been less of a “clue” that something was amiss and more an outright declaration. The armed escort that had shown up moments later had been the icing on the cake.
And whoever had grabbed them hadn’t skimped on that, either. No fewer than six armored soldiers had been outside their door when it had opened, four armed with multipurpose Slugger pistols, and two further back carrying riot shotguns. None of the weapons had been raised, but the message behind them had been clear. The trio was coming with them, willingly or by force.
From there, they’d been marched off of the Outward Light, across the airlock onto the Mexican orbital station, and straight to the conference room they were now sitting in. Their bags had been deposited by the door, the escort had told them to stay put, and then they had waited. Their guard had left, leaving as quietly and as quickly as they’d arrived, though he had no doubt that even if one of the doors leading out of the conference room were unlocked, he’d find a contingent of them standing outside.
All in all, the whole situation was starting to feel quite a bit like a repeat of something that had happened not too long ago on Pisces, right down to the sneaking suspicion of who was behind it. The armor that had led them to the conference room had been unadorned, lacking emblems or any identifying marks past the light-blue color, but there were few who could afford to march a crowd of skinsuit-wearing soldiers around an orbital station without repercussions. Fewer still who could exert enough pull to clear the hallways of said station so that such a group could walk through an entire arm without running into a single person.
He didn’t like it. The origami feeling in his guts, gone since the ordeal on Pisces had ended, was back, his insides doing a slow, tense fold as if to try and warn him of what was coming. Not that he knew. But he could feel it.
His hands were tapping again, this time on his leg.
Relax, he told himself. Admiral West himself put in a good word for all three of us. And he can’t renege on that. It’d be too risky. If he did, he’d damage everything he built with Rodriguez. And he couldn’t keep Rodriguez from finding out.
Assuming Rodriguez took enough issue with it for it to be a problem, he thought, frowning. No, relax, that’s just paranoia talking. West wouldn’t backstab you. Not after what you did. Which was really the only reason the three of them had dared come back to Earth in the first place. Without West’s assurances that he was holding open negotiations with UNSEC hostage as a stopgap against reprisals toward the three of them, none of them would have braved heading back after what had happened.
Then again, reprisals can come in a lot of forms, Jake thought. What if—?
His thoughts were interrupted as the door opposite the room from them let out a faint click, an electronic lock disengaging. A moment later it slid to the side, and two armored figures walked into the room, their skinsuit armor gleaming under the lights.
Jake relaxed a little. At least that shoe had dropped, and one of his estimates had borne out. He knew who was meeting them, and he could tell from the alert look in both Anna and Sweets’ eyes that they’d made the connection as well. Dark-blue-and-gold were the corporate colors of one megacorp only, and one they’d expected to see as soon as they’d returned … though perhaps not quite so soon.
They were the brand colors of their employer, SoulComp.
All that we need to know now, Jake thought as the sound of footsteps began to echo outside the doorway, is who are we meeting with? Apatos? Or—
Nathaniel Lang, CEO of SoulComp, stepped through the door.
Unlike their last meeting, this time the man was clad in an immaculate pearl-white suit, laced through with what looked like—and probably were—threads of gold. His dark-blue tie floated in front of his chest, and it took Jake a moment to realize that it wasn’t actually physical, but a hard-light construct resembling the real thing. Jeweled cufflinks sparkled as Lang clasped his hands in front of him. Clearly, he was dressed for appearances.
Which made the haggard pallor to Lang’s face all the more apparent. Despite the stony, disapproving look he was giving them, Jake couldn’t help but notice the barely concealed bags under the man’s eyes, nor the tightness in his lips. His hair, while almost perfect, was slightly off, stray hairs calling attention to their position, as if Lang had attempted to do his hair himself and either hadn’t known or hadn’t cared that the job had been less than spot on. And then there were the eyes themselves: Bloodshot and streaked with red. Lang hadn’t been getting a lot of sleep.
Which, all things considered, made the glare he was giving them as he sat down a bit more understandable.
For a moment, the room was quiet, the two parties simply staring at one another, Jake flanked by Anna and Sweets, and Lang flanked by his two guards. Then, at last, the CEO broke the silence, opening his mouth to speak.
“Do you three have any idea what you’ve done!?” His words were almost an outburst, the cohesion slipping near the end as his volume rose. “I hired you because I trusted that you could do one, simple, not-that-complicated thing. Go to Pisces and bring back Carlos Rodriguez! And yet, now, here you sit!” he said, gesturing with one hand. “Without a care in the world! No concern at all that you came back without Rodriguez. Nor that you sold out my entire company!”
If his previous words had been a shout, the last bit came out like a storm, Lang rising from his seat and leaning towards them, face reddening. “Do you three have any idea what you’ve done?” He dropped back into his chair with a thump. “Do you?”
Jake glanced to either side, but neither Sweets nor Anna looked as though they wanted to speak. Anna in particular looked more like she wanted to twist Lang’s head off.
“We did what we could to try and salvage the mission,” Jake said, turning his attention back to Lang and looking the man in the eyes. “Most of what transpired was out of our control.”
“Oh, it was?” Sarcasm dripped from Lang’s words. “Really? Was it out of your control when you decided to tell Admiral West outright that you’d been sent to recover Rodriguez because we were worried that he may have built vulnerabilities into the very system they were using? Because I seem to recall saying something about hiring you that was for the express purpose of preventing something like that from occurring.”
Jake glanced at Sweets, who had blanched a little. To be fair, that had been part of their mission. “There were … complications to consider,” he said, turning back towards Lang.
“Complications? Really?” There was an almost nervous tone to Lang’s voice. Unbalanced.
“Yes,” Anna said, cutting in. “Complications.” She leaned forward, her own glare matching—and in Jake’s opinion, overruling—Lang’s own. “Complications like Rodriguez being dead when we arrived. Meaning you’d sent us in pursuit of a corpse. Who then, when we did a little digging on your behalf, turned out not to be dead, but very much alive and leading an active revolt against the ruling government of Pisces with that very backdoor your company let him install.” Lang bristled at her words. “And had Sweets not told the admiral what was going on, it’s likely that the entire planet would still be embroiled in war, rather than the tenuous peace they worked out.”
Lang was silent for a moment as Anna finished speaking. Then he leaned forward, his eyes narrowing. “Who the hell cares?” he said, his glare not leaving his face. “I didn’t hire you to care about some backwater mudball and the nits that live there; I hired you to protect my company’s interests!” Once again his voice had swollen to a shout. “Let them kill one another for all I care,” he said, waving his arms. “Let them fight and die over some pisswater world! You were supposed to protect SoulComp! Not Admiral West. Not Carlos Rodriguez. Do you have any idea what’s happened? What you’ve done?” He looked at each of them in turn. “Well?”
“We were in-transit,” Anna said, her tone dry. “It’s not like we were getting the news.”
“Oh,” Lang said, mock horror on his face. “So you didn’t know.” His expression went flat. “Then allow me to fill you in. Pisces is in open revolt against Earth, with your admiral acting as an intermediary of sorts. Included in his report was a full summary of Rodriguez’s methods and the holes in LockOut, the system my company provided! Our system was supposed to be secure—was promised to be secure. Trillions of Euromarks rode on that promise. A promise you exposed!”
“The UN is furious,” Lang continued, spittle leaking from one corner of his mouth and going completely unnoticed by the CEO. “They’ve called it a breach of contract. Reneged on a deal worth more than any of you three could ever hope to conceive. They sued for damages! Do you know what happened when they tried rolling back the system on other planets?”
“No—” Jake began, only for Lang to cut him off.
“Revolt!” he shouted, rising again. “Troublemakers everywhere exposed and plunging them into turmoil! And all of it, all of it, laid at my feet!” He was panting, heavily, sweat sliding down his face. He was clearly unwell.
“So … we failed the job,” Jake said. “Fine. You keep what was left of the payment.” Not like we weren’t awarded enough by West and Rodriguez to cover it.
Lang let out a high-pitched laugh. “Oh, that’s all there is to it to you, Mr. Tames? Just a job that didn’t turn out?” He twitched, his face snapping to a snarl and back, and Jake’s estimation of the man’s sanity slipped another few notches.
“Oh, that’s not even close to ‘it,’” Lang said. “You still don’t get it, do you? The United Nations went after us for damages. Colonies in revolt, alongside all the tension between independent businesses and the UN here on Earth?” He let out another nervous laugh, and a slow, slimy feeling began to creep into Jake’s stomach. “Fines and fees we could never hope to pay. And we were at fault, we made it possible. Legally, they were in the right. There was only one recourse. Two days ago, the board voted.”
“You don’t mean—” Jake began.
“Yes,” Lang said. “The United Nations now owns SoulComp. Completely. All assets, property, rights, etc, etc.”
“They …” Both Anna and Sweets wore looks of shock that Jake was sure were a mirror for his own. “They can’t—”
“Oh, they did,” Lang said, glowering. “And they do. SoulComp, one of the most powerful corporations in the world and certainly in the United States, is now just another subsidiary of the United Nations. They will, of course, operate ‘independently,’ though all are aware of what that means.”
Well … Sands. Doesn’t look good for the trio, does it? What’s coming next? Well, you’ll have to pick up Jungle to find out!
See you later this week with an official synopsis, pre-order announcement, and release date!