Colin Barnes has recently released Artificial Evil: Book 1 of The Techxorcist and I am super excited to bring you news of its relation to Zombies!! First off, let’s meet Colin first…
Colin F. Barnes is a writer of dark and daring fiction. He takes his influence from everyday life, and the weird happenings that go on in the shadowy locales of Essex in the UK.
Growing up, Colin was always obsessed with story and often wrote short stories based on various dubious 80s and 90s TV shows. Despite taking a detour in school into the arts and graphic design, he always maintained his love of fiction and general geekery. Now, as a slightly weathered adult, Colin draws on his experiences to blend genres and create edgy, but entertaining stories.
He is currently working on a Cyberpunk/Techno thriller serial ‘The Techxorcist.’ which combines elements of Sci-Fi, Thriller, and Horror.
Like many writers, he has an insatiable appetite for reading, with his favourite authors being: Stephen King, William Gibson, Ray Bradbury, James Herbert, Albert Camus, H.P Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and a vast array of unknown authors who he has had the privilege of beta reading for. If you would like to connect with Colin, you can find him on Twitter or his website.
Now let’s take a quick peek at the book! (I know, I know – I’m teasing you with mentions of Zombies, but I promise they are coming!!)
All is well until the day family man Gerry Cardle, head of the death lottery, inexplicably finds himself the No.1 target of a malicious Artificial Intelligence. Gerry’s numbers are up, and he has just 7 days to save himself, find the source of the AI, and keep the last stronghold of humanity safe.
Gerry finds help in the shadows of the city from two rogue hackers: Petal – a teenage girl with a penchant for violence, hacking systems and general anarchy, and: Gabriel – a burnt-out programmer-turned-priest with highly augmented cybernetics.
With his new team, Gerry discovers there is more beyond the dome than The Family had let on, and his journey to find the source of the AI leads him through a world of violence, danger, and startling revelations.
Everything is not as it seems.
Gerry is not who he thinks he is.
Evil can be coded…. can Gerry and his friends stop it before it destroys humanity?
Artificial Evil is book 1 of 3 of The Techxorcist series. The larger-than-life offspring of Blade Runner, Mad Max, and The Exorcist.
Purchase Artificial Evil: Book 1 of The Techxorcist:
And now I give you an excerpt!
Gerry’s escort stopped him in front of a rough wooden door.
Gabe waved his hand over the lock. It chirped, and a small clunk sounded. The door swung open, casting a wide beam of golden light onto the dull street.
A pair of brass goggles with darkened lenses appeared in the gap. They gave the fragile girl wearing them the countenance of a nervous lemur. She wore her hair in a bright pink Mohican with complicated, almost filigree style tattoos on the side of her head.
“Petal, I found him,” Gabe said.
The goggled girl checked both sides of the street and then stood aside to let them enter.
She was young and twitchy in her synthetic leather trousers and a fitted faux biker jacket. Her lips were tattooed bright purple. It always amazed Gerry how these young girls could put up with the pain. There were few counter-cultures in City Earth; most were tame. He’d never seen a girl like this before. She screamed rebellion, danger. He was quickly getting out of his comfort zone.
As he passed her she cocked her head to one side, assessing him. He wondered what was behind the goggles; intrigued and scared in equal measure to find out.
“Go through to the back, Gez,” she said quietly. “Don’t fucking touch a thing.”
“Language, Petal—he’s a guest.”
Gabe touched the girl on her shoulder.
She stood a foot shorter than Gabe, who in turn stood a half-foot taller than Gerry.
The room was far grander than what Gerry had expected from the grim aspect of the exterior. Panelled wood, probably mahogany, lined the walls. Expensive. Wood was so rare, and to use it as wall decoration was so—the words escaped him.
“Careless? Vulgar?” she asked him.
“Wait, you can read my mind—”
“Nah, you’re on the network. Your AIA’s freaking out, spraying like a panicked skunk. Don’t worry; it’s secure here.” Her goggles switched from opaque to clear, revealing glossy black eyes, reflecting Gerry’s face like mirrored spheres. He caught himself staring, falling.
“I can see your code. It’s grim. You’re in a world of shit.” Her head twitched.
Gerry blinked, looked away, and gripped the sides of his throbbing head. He reached into his jacket pocket. Empty.
“Where’s my comm?”
“Smashed to bits. Your security peeps crushed it when they kicked you out.”
“Great. Can I use yours?”
“Off the grid. Don’t have one.”
“Your network? I just need to get word to a friend; he can sort out this D-Lottery nonsense. And then you can let me go. I’ve got family. I’m—”
“Exempt?” Gabe said. “Aye, should be, but a devil got inside ya and messed with ya algorithm. Tricksy as fuck. And ya can’t go transmitting out onto the main network. Too dangerous.”
“How the hell do you know all this? Just tell me straight. Who are you people?”
The girl spoke up, “We’re specialists—of a sort. A li’l bit off the beaten track. We slip through the cracks in the system. We tracked a demon right here in the City. In you, and in your pal, Mike.”
“He’s here? He’s okay?”
“Um… he’s kinda dead,” Petal said with a smirk.
“Mike? Dead? No. This can’t be, you’re bullshitting me… surely!
Petal and Gabe stood watching.
Gerry hoped this was all just a lie, or some kind of big elaborate joke. Mike was like that, always playing pranks, but would he go this far? It was funny, sure, about the D-Lottery numbers, but not for this long, and these freaks? Maybe they killed him, and he was next. A billion thoughts bloomed into life and expired almost instantly. He tried to access the logic portion of Mags, but she didn’t respond. Probably occupied with informing the various official channels of his imminent demise. They’d need cover at work. His daughters would need a new father figure; and then there was his wife, Beth. She would need a new husband.
A part of Gerry knew she wouldn’t be terribly upset; their relationship, for whatever reason, was never particularly intimate. She had a ‘defined role in the family unit’ and was apparently happy with that. Still, it didn’t make it hurt any less.
Turning back to them and trying to focus, Gerry said, “So tell me, what happened to Mike?”
“He’s out back,” Gabe said. “Wanna see?”
Gerry wasn’t sure if he did. All the time there was no physical evidence there was a chance this was all a massive misunderstanding—a nightmare.
“Come through, Gez,” Petal said, “You’ll see.”
“Is it bad?”
“It’s a little fucked up to be honest.” Her goggles returned to their inky opaqueness.
Petal took Gerry by the hand and led him through an open doorway into a clinical kitchen: compact and barely large enough for four people. The cabinets and worktops were the usual self-clean white alloy.
As he ducked under the low doorframe he noticed masses of wire mesh running through the ceiling from room to room. Shielding perhaps? Or a Faraday cage of sorts? That probably explained the security of their internal network.
The kitchen smelled of alcohol. Numerous antique glass bottles lined up on a wooden table. Next to them was an alloy container—about a foot square—filled with a writhing black liquid.
Petal must have seen his confusion. “NanoStem solution. Similar to the stuff that Gabe used to heal your facial wound. This one we’ve impregnated with defence nodes. It’s liquid virus protection. Cool, huh?”
Gerry didn’t know what to think. He just worked with numbers, factors, and probabilities.
Underneath the stench of booze something rotten hung in the air; a putrefied sweet smell that tingled his nose hairs and stuck in the back of his throat.
Petal walked to a nook and opened a curtain. Sitting on his ass was Mike Welling. His skin had mulched to a grey-green mottled colour, as if it had rotted from the inside out. It sagged in disgusting black and purple lumps. He sat in a pool of black viscous liquid that dripped from every orifice—the NanoStem solution.
“You can see we’ve been trying to help him. For two days we managed to keep it out, but last night the demon breached the stem defence, and … well, you can see the results. It’s a particularly brutal one.”
Waves of grief flashed through Gerry’s guts; his legs felt like rubber. He grabbed the edge of the table to support himself. “You’re mad, you’re all fucking mad.”
“That’s possible, my friend, but ya need us,” Gabe said from the doorway. “That thing there is ya pal Mike. That’s what’s gonna happen to ya. It hacked Mike’s AI first, changed the exemption list, and has chosen ya for poezession. Y’ain’t got long, man.”
“I don’t feel … Mags hasn’t changed, nothing’s bypassed my security.”
“Not yet,” Petal said. “But you feel those bastard shakes?”
Gerry nodded. “That’s just Mags doing her thing with the D-Lottery reg.”
“No. That’s the demon screwing the bejesus out of your Mags’s backdoor; trying to impregnate it like it’s done with your pal Mike. Here, watch.”
Petal pushed Gerry closer to the zombified creature that barely resembled his old friend and boss. They’d known each other since they were toddlers. Came out of the same breeding programme. Selected for the same career path. Gerry had always looked up to him, and here he was, a shell. A rotting shell.
He blinked the tears from his eyes, breathed deeply—and then regretted it. He gagged on the stench of bad eggs and rotting meat.
Petal took a micro-thin HackSlate from her breast pocket and swiped a three-fingered gesture across its neon-blue surface. She was connecting to their internal network. Gerry had heard about these devices. A few of his colleagues had worked on defence systems against them. They had the ability to bypass most front-line security systems. He’d have to ask her where they got them from, but now wasn’t the time.
Petal smiled at Gerry. Her full lips stretched wide, exposing sharp canines. She looked like a wolf pup on the edge of adulthood.
“Time to wake him up.” She drew yet more complex gestures across the slate until a few seconds later the body twitched. “Hey, Mike—your old pal’s here to say hi.”
Zombie Mike lifted its head, focused a milky eye on Gerry. A flash of recognition slithered across its vision. Its swollen lips parted and it spoke.
“Kill. Me. Kill me now …” And then the thing started to thrash against the restraints before a different voice spoke. “Ahhh, Mr Cardle, just the man I was sent to get—what treasures you’ll give to me … what secrets you’ll reveal. Now, come here!” The thing lurched towards Gerry, trying to claw at him, but the restraints held it back.
Gerry jumped back. “Oh, no. Mike… Mike!” Gerry screamed, shocked, unable to comprehend the horror of the situation. The thing moaned then whined, seemingly in pain.
“Can’t you put him out of his misery?”
“We’re tryin’, man.” Gabe pointed to the NanoStem solution. “The demon has royally screwed with his AIA. Got into his brain, neural pathways, nervous system; the lot. It’s like a living virus—an artificial evil. You guys, with ya goddamned brain-mods, are clueless as to what ya’ve done. It’s using him to get to get to the algorithm in ya head, in ya damned AIA.”
Gerry ignored the AIA argument. He’d monitored the anti-AIA groundswell for years, but The Family always handled it. Severe punishments for those who uninstalled them soon quelled the rebellion. And despite his wondering what it’d be like without a modded brain, there wasn’t a single report of anything detrimental to having one.
Looking back at Zombie Mike, Gerry turned to Petal “Have you tried—”
“Almost everything,” she said. “Apart from one thing.”
“And you need me for this one thing?”
“And it’s dangerous?”
So what are you waiting for? Go forth and buy! Now!
A huge thank you goes out to Colin for allowing me the opportunity to bring you news of Zombies! Don’t forget to check out Artificial Evil: Book 1 of The Techxorcist – it’s already got six 5 star reviews on Amazon!