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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Kill Switch

A Joe Ledger Novel

Joe Ledger (Volume 8)

Jonathan Maberry

St. Martin's Griffin






For the record, I don’t believe in this stuff.

No goddamn way.

There’s possible, there’s improbable, there’s weird, and there’s no-fucking-way. This is a mile or two past that. So, no, I don’t believe in it.

What pisses me off is that it seems to believe in me.





AUGUST 19, 11:41 A.M.

I was four minutes away from calling it a day and cutting out early to catch an Orioles-Padres game at Petco Park here in San Diego. Hot dogs loaded with everything that’s bad for me, ice-cold beer in big red cups, and the opportunity to spend a few hours yelling at a bunch of young millionaires trying to hit a little ball with a big stick. Baseball, baby. The American pastime.

It was the first game I’d managed to catch since the craziness at Citizen’s Bank Park last year. You know what I mean. The drone attacks on opening day. I’d spent a lot of the rest of the spring in hospitals. A bunch more time in rehab, then way too much sitting behind a desk doing paperwork and feeling my ass grow flat. Then I went back into the field and since then I’ve done nothing but run.

The Big Bad for us right now was ISIL. The press writes about them like they’re a disorganized goon squad who are only a threat to the notoriously unstable governments in the Middle East. They’re not. They’re a whole lot scarier than that. Most of the people running them are former officers from Saddam’s army. These are experienced soldiers who have been nurturing grudges. That was bad enough, but now they’ve upped their game and have put several special ops teams in the field. Real pros, too, and they managed to scoop up leftover Kingsmen from the ruins of the Seven Kings organization. Was it weird that ISIL was using shooters who were not Muslims? Yup. Very weird. And very scary, too, because it allowed them to come at us in unpredictable ways. A bunch of their SpecOps fighters were Americans, so even with the heightened security and paranoia here in the States following the drone stuff, we were feeling some rabbit punches from them. Attacks on power grids, an attempted sabotage of a nuclear power plant. Like that.

And our super-duper computer system, MindReader, has been picking up some hints about a really big attack planned for the US of A, and if the rumors were true then it was going to involve some kind of electromagnetic pulse weapon.

So, yeah … bad guys. Really scary bad guys, and they were causing a whole lot of very serious trouble. We had DMS teams running joint ops with the CIA and Homeland, with Barrier in the UK, with Mossad in Israel, and with a dozen other special operations crews.

Overall, I was busier than a three-headed cat in a dairy. That’s not to say I spent all of my time in the field kicking terrorist ass. Mind you, I’m still a gunslinger for Uncle Sam, but now that I run the Special Projects Office I’m also management, which sucks six kinds of ass.

Baseball kept calling to me, though, and today was the first time I could reasonably justify leaving the shop early to have some actual fun.

The phone began ringing while I was tidying my desk.

If you work in a bank, an insurance company, or pretty much most jobs, you can pretend you don’t hear that call. I know cops at the ragged end of a long shift who swear their radios were malfunctioning.

But when you do what I do, you have to drop everything else—your time off, your family, your friends, even baseball—and you take the call. Kind of like the Bat-Signal. You can’t just blow it off.

So I answered the call.

It was my boss, Mr. Church.

“Captain Ledger,” he said, “I need you on the next thing smoking. Dress warm, it’s going to be cold.”

I looked out the window. This was August and the Southern California summer was cooking. Temperature was eighty-eight in the shade. I was wearing shorts, flip-flops, and a Hawaiian shirt with surfing pelicans on it.

“How cold?” I asked.

“This morning it was minus fifty-eight.”

I closed my eyes.

“I hate you,” I said.

“I’ll manage to live with your contempt.”

“Okay,” I said, “tell me.”

Copyright © 2016 by Jonathan Maberry