First published by Brain in a Jar Books 2020
Copyright © 2020 by Gary Gibson
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise without written permission from the publisher. It is illegal to copy this book, post it to a website, or distribute it by any other means without permission.
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
Gary Gibson asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
Cover Art by J Caleb Design
This book was professionally typeset on Reedsy
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Island of Death
Guns, Cars and Kaiju
Sidekick Du Jour
To The Rift
About the Author
Before the riot started and the cannibal came looking for her, Dutch McGuire dreamt she sat behind the wheel of a ‘69 Ford Mustang that rode low on the road, its chassis stiffened from high torque, the starred and broken tarmac of a desert highway reduced to a smooth blur beneath its wheels. A city rose up at the end of the road, and a great beast prowled through its streets, sweeping apartment buildings into dust as it searched for her. She should have been afraid, yet she felt nothing but a kind of serenity emanating from somewhere deep in her bones.
At last the beast faded away, and the city, and Dutch woke to unexpected darkness.
She blinked and sat up. For as long as Dutch had been an inmate the cell-block lights burned twenty-four seven from behind metal grilles, but for the first time they were dark. Indeed, the very absence of light had been sufficient to wake her.
She listened, hearing others come awake and calling to each other. A series of mechanical clicks and thuds echoed up and down the steel-grey corridor outside her cell, as if every door in the block had come unlocked at once.
For a moment the whole of the cell-block fell deathly quiet, followed by an uproar of yelling.
Yara stirred and muttered something foul in Russian from the bunk above Dutch’s, her voice still thick with sleep.
Dutch swung her feet onto the cold concrete floor and listened to the shouts of the other inmates. Judging by what she could hear, nobody else had any idea what had happened. She stood and touched the barred door of their cell. It slid open with ease.
Well, thought Dutch. That’s what you got for relying on a centralised computer-controlled prison system.
Dutch stared at the corridor beyond until a sudden thought sent her to the cell’s one tiny window, which looked out across the prison yard. She had to stand on tiptoe, but from what she could see, the cell block on the far side of the yard had also gone dark—and if both blocks were thus affected, she might as well assume the whole damn prison had gone dark.
Dutch listened. It sounded like some of the shouting came from over there too.
She grabbed hold of the iron bars in front of the glass and pulled herself up so she could get a better view. She looked across the yard in time to see a door come crashing open. Inmates spilled out in a flood, some carrying improvised weapons.
Dutch dropped back down and searched under her mattress until she found the bar of soap hidden there. She fumbled with it, cursing when it slipped out of her hands, picking it up once more and breaking it apart to reveal a shank.
Yara swung her legs over the side of her bunk and looked down at her. ‘What the fuck is going on?’ she asked in Russian.
‘Riot,’ Dutch replied, also in Russian. ‘Or some kind of mass breakout. Maybe both.’ By now, her sight had adjusted to the darkness.
Yara levered her immense bulk out of her bunk, climbing down beside Dutch and flexing arms made thick and ropy with muscle from long hours of weight-lifting. ‘A riot?’ she asked with ill-concealed enthusiasm. ‘What started it?’
‘I don’t know. But all the cell doors just came unlocked at once.’
Yara let out a heavy breath, her broad, meaty hands flexing at her sides. Once, Yara told Dutch she’d considered a career as a Sumo wrestler before killing three men in a brawl. ‘All of them?’
Dutch nodded. ‘Far as I can tell, yeah. The other blocks look like they’re all opened up too.’
‘Are vastly outnumbered,’ said Dutch. ‘We don’t have much time.’
Yara’s heavy brows drew together. ‘You’re making a run for it?’
Yara’s lips pressed together in a thin line of disapproval. ‘Why even try? They can find us easily enough.’
She meant the tracker chip embedded deep beneath the skin of every prisoner, of course. ‘Yara,’ asked Dutch, ‘exactly when is your release date?’
You could almost picture the wheels clicking into place one after the other any time Yara thought through anything of sufficient complexity. ‘I don’t have a release date,’ she said at last, glancing at the open cell door.
‘Me neither,’ said Dutch. ‘So since they’re never going to let either of us out, what else is there to do but run while we have the chance?’
Dutch touched the other woman’s wrist. ‘There are well over a thousand prisoners, Yara. They can’t catch every last one of us.’
Yara nodded with a ponderous motion and reached out with her other hand. Dutch hesitated before grasping both of Yara’s hands in hers, wincing at the other woman’s powerful grip.
‘Good luck,’ said Yara. ‘And watch out for Anna. She still hates your guts.’
‘I’ll be gone before Anna can find me,’ said Dutch. ‘Good luck, Yara.’
Yara nodded, then loped out of their cell and into the darkness and chaos without another word. Dutch never saw her again.
Dutch tucked the shank into a pocket and slipped into the