The Project Files
Genre: Contemporary SF
Publisher: Smedge Press
Date of Publication: July 18, 2016
Number of pages: 297
Word Count: approx. 80,000
Cover Artist: Robin Ludwig Designs, Inc
Dr. Dean Frey is a man of science. His lifelong desire to create a better future for mankind has led him to the prestigious, and highly mysterious, Wilderness Institute of Scientific Research & Technology, as the head of their Robotics Engineering department. Building on the research and designs of others before him, Dean’s own genius culminates in the successful creation of Anthony—the first fully-automated, free-thinking android prototype. And now Wilderness wants to sell Anthony to the military.
Unwilling to allow his achievement to become weaponized, Dean reaches out to a former Wilderness employee with the resources to help him steal Anthony and relocate them both to safety. He’s put into contact with the very secretive Nick and Olivia, who ask for one simple thing in return: trust us, no matter what you see or hear. Blind trust isn’t in Dean’s cautious nature, but he has no other choice.
For telekinetic Olivia, rescuing a fellow Psion from a life of imprisonment and experimentation is one of her favorite things. Being paid is nice, but she’ll do the job for free, if it means giving Wilderness the finger. When Olivia’s reclusive mentor solicits her and her telepathic partner Nick’s help in smuggling a very special Project out of Wilderness, they jump at the chance to infiltrate their former home and do some internal damage to the institute that created them.
With their combined knowledge of the facility, breaking Anthony out of Wilderness should have been easy—but Olivia learned a long time ago to never underestimate her enemies, or the lengths they’ll go to retrieve what’s theirs. And this time, the price for stealing the Project may be more than she’s willing to pay.
Brooke remained unconscious for the two-hour drive to the rendezvous spot, a rest stop along I-77, just over the Ohio state line. She showed signs of waking during the last five minutes of the trip, so Olivia kept close watch. She didn’t know if the girl’s powers were dormant or active, and she didn’t want to find out the hard way.
Been there, done that, with no intention of going there again.
Nick steered the SUV toward a wooded area a few hundred feet from the brick restrooms and information building. A blue pickup truck was parked in front of a cluster of picnic tables, and a figure emerged as Nick pulled into a neighboring space.
Olivia climbed out of the passenger side, her stiff back resisting movement after being still for so long. The ungraceful landing on her ass had definitely left its mark, and she wouldn’t be surprised to find some black and blue down there later.
She joined Nick on the other side of the vehicle. Patrick McGreary approached them, hands at his sides, deep-set eyes wide with silent questions. His thick frame and sunburned appearance bore little resemblance to the girl in the back of their vehicle—not surprising given how Wilderness tended to treat their Projects.
“Did you find her?” McGreary asked.
“Yes,” Olivia replied. “She’s still asleep, but we found her. Exactly as you said we would.”
McGreary expelled a deep breath. “Thank you both. You don’t know what this means to me. When they took her, I didn’t think I’d ever see her again.”
Nick opened the rear door. McGreary leaned inside and stroked Brooke’s bald head. His shoulders started to shake, and Olivia looked away. Gave him some privacy with his emotions.
“You’re lucky,” Nick said. “Most of the time, when Wilderness takes something, you don’t get it back. I just hope we weren’t too late to make a difference.”
“Look what they did to her,” McGreary whispered. “My pretty little sister.”
Olivia busied herself watching the small rest stop crowd, his genuine gratitude both overwhelming and embarrassing. This was why she hated meeting clients face to face. It made the jobs personal when she wanted them to remain professional. Getting emotional led to thinking about the past, and she couldn’t do that and remain objective.
Do the job and reap the rewards.
Watching Wilderness occasionally take one up the ass was purely a bonus.
Once McGreary regained his composure, they gently transferred Brooke to his truck and buckled her into the passenger seat. She stirred, but didn’t wake, and thank God for that. Olivia didn’t need to see their joyous reunion.
“I have a doctor friend who’s waiting for us,” McGreary said as he closed the truck door.
“You should get going,” Olivia said. “Disappear before they start hunting for her.”
“If they hunt for her. But even if they try, being a precognitive has its advantages. I never have to ask who’s at the door, and I always know if the train’s running late.”
“Just keep her away from Wilderness. Get out of the country, move to Istanbul, I don’t care. Keep her safe. And yourself, too.”
“I appreciate the concern, but it’s not necessary. You did what I paid you to do, and I thank you for that.”
Olivia shrugged. They would take on any job that insulted or damaged Wilderness. A tenuous truce prevented her and Nick from attacking the scientific research organization outright, and they abided by those unspoken rules. But these sorts of odd jobs were fun. Something she would have done for free if the interested party couldn’t pay. Fortunately for them, McGreary had created his independent wealth betting on football games.
Precognition definitely had its financial advantages.
“Our concern is free,” Nick said. “We’ve been dealing with Wilderness most of our lives. We know what they’re capable of, and we don’t take unnecessary risks when they’re involved.”
McGreary nodded. “I understand. At least let me read you. A sneak peek at your future.”
“I know my future, thanks.”
“How about this week then? What can it hurt?”
Olivia stole a glance Nick, whose gaze had shifted to the ground. She had a good idea of their future, as well, thanks to their biology, but that future was in three to five years. Not the events of the upcoming week. Moreover, McGreary seemed eager to provide them with some sort of parting gift.
“What the hell?” she said. “Give it your best shot.”
McGreary took her right hand in his and held it loosely. She expected him to close his eyes or start to hum or something equally cliché. Like television psychics who only pretend to have the kind of talent that truly existed in people like him. Instead, he stared at her. His dark brown eyes dilated and seemed to look right through her head. She visualized a hamster running on its wheel and couldn’t imagine what he saw in there. Seconds passed. He blinked and released her hand. His eyebrows furrowed into a knot.
“What?” she asked.
He tilted his head to the left, seeming to debate his reply, and that made her kind of nervous. “I saw two strangers coming into your life. I’m not sure who they are, but one is mundane and the other powerful. Unique. They’ll help unlock a secret.”
Olivia bit back a sharp retort. Two strangers had already come into her life this week, and she was staring at one of them. He’d tried, but perhaps his power went on the fritz occasionally.
Then again, he’d said one was mundane, and both McGreary and his sister had talents.
“Well, that was enlightening,” Nick said. “But seriously, you should get going.”
Patrick nodded, seeming distracted.
They waited for him to drive away, hopefully taking Brooke as far from Wilderness and West Virginia as possible, before they climbed back into their borrowed SUV.
Olivia pulled the safety belt across her lap. “Well, whoever this mystery pair is, I hope one of them’s cute.”
“What if they’re both girls?” Nick turned the key and the engine roared to life.
“Still hope one of them’s cute, because Nicolas, my friend, you have no sex life.”
He put the gear into reverse. “And you do?”
“Well, not at this very moment, but I hope to have one tonight. After a hot shower, some ibuprofen, and a long nap.” She settled against the seat, shifting until she found a comfortable position for the long ride home.
About the Author:
Born and raised in Southern Delaware, Kelly Meding survived five years in the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia, only to retreat back to the peace and sanity of the Eastern Shore. An avid reader and film buff, she discovered Freddy Krueger at a very young age, and has since had a lifelong obsession with horror, science fiction, and fantasy, on which she blames her interest in vampires, psychic powers, superheroes, and all things paranormal.
Three Days to Dead, the first book in her Dreg City urban fantasy series, follows Evangeline Stone, a paranormal hunter who is resurrected into the body of a stranger and has only three days to solve her own murder and stop a war between the city's goblins and vampires. Additional books in the series, As Lie the Dead, Another Kind of Dead, and Wrong Side of Dead, are available in both digital format and mass market paperback from Bantam. Books five and six, Requiem for the Dead and The Night Before Dead, are published in digital and paperback by Smedge Press.
Beginning with Trance, Kelly's MetaWars series tells the story of the grown-up children of the world's slaughtered superheroes who receive their superpowers back after a mysterious fifteen-year absence, and who now face not only a fearful public, but also a vengeful villain who wants all of them dead. Trance and Changeling are available now in both digital format and mass market paperback from Pocket Books. Tempest and Chimera are available in digital format only via Pocket Star. All four books can also be purchased as a digital bundle.
Writing as Kelly Meade, her paranormal romance trilogy with Berkley Intermix features three shifter brothers and the women they come to love, starting with Black Rook, and continuing with Gray Bishop and White Knight.
Blog Organized Chaos http://chaostitan.blogspot.com