CUT UP GIRL will be available an Amazon tomorrow, and can be pre-ordered today! Here's a taste to whet your appetite!
CHAPTER ONE: SLICE
AS I CLIMBED the ladder to the deck of the submarine, a huge hand clamped onto my shoulder. Any hope that it was Harry vanished as I looked up into the snarling visage of an injured steam-ape. The tangled wires inside his glass skull dome glowed red hot, giving off smoke that smelled like battery acid. The sound of gears stripping and grinding filled the air as he tightened his grip. The steam-ape looked like he was seconds from death, but he still had enough strength to jerk me off the ladder, drawing me toward his slathering jaws.
Suddenly Harry towered over both of us, his enormous fists raised over his head. Glass and gears flew as Harry smashed the beast’s mechanical brain. My attacker’s grasp went limp. Harry grabbed my forearm before I fell back into the hold.
“You all right, Valentine?” he asked.
“Yeah.” I said as he set me on my feet. “You get Chopper?”
“He’s cruising higher than I can jump,” he said, craning his thick neck to look at the sky.
I followed his gaze and saw Chopper’s helicycle in silhouette against the glowing clouds. I heard his engine screaming as it strained to lift the Victorian’s time-bomb. He was barely a quarter mile away, for all the good that did us.
“What genius put together an assault squad without a single goddamn member who can fly?” Screaming Jenny screamed as she came up the ladder.
“Take it up with the Retaliator,” snapped Harry.
“Don’t panic, I got this,” said Nimble as she leapt from the dock onto the sub beside us, knocking two of the remaining steam-apes into the river with her extended arms. All the holes the kill-bot had punched in her earlier had closed up. I guess having a body the consistency of Silly Putty makes Band-Aids unnecessary. She wrapped her legs around the ladder for support, then stretched skyward, turning thin as an extension cord as she reached for Chopper’s ride.
There was a flash of bright blue light as her elongated fingers wrapped around his torso. Nimble recoiled with a TWANG, snapping back to her human form with such force she bounced right off the hull of the sub.
“Nimble!” Harry shouted, diving into the river.
He was only under for a second before he surfaced with Nimble pressed against his chest. She spat water, then sputtered, “Cut Up Girl, you didn’t warn me he had a Taser!”
“You just survived a kill-bot,” I said. “How can a Taser hurt you?”
“Without total command of my muscle fibers, I’m useless. Electricity screws me big time.”
“We’re all screwed,” Jenny said, her voice a sob. She sat down, running her black fingernails through her purple hair. “Oh, Jesus, he’s going to trigger the bomb. I’m going to start wearing corsets again!”
“It’s going to be okay,” said Harry as he climbed back onto the sub. He placed his hand on her shoulder.
“No!” she said, twisting away from his touch. “No! I’ve been on the other end of the Victorian’s time ray! It’s terrible! I can’t go through that again! If we don’t stop that bomb—”
“We’re stopping it,” I said. I locked eyes with Harry. “Throw me.”
“What?” he asked.
“Throw me! It’s our only chance to catch him.”
“You’re confusing me with Golden Victory,” he said. “There’s no way I could get you that far.”
“You can with my help,” said Nimble. “I’m too jangled to stretch after him again, but I make a pretty good slingshot. Big Ape, I’ll need you to pull me back and aim Cut Up Girl.”
“You’re both out of your minds,” said Harry.
“There’s no time to argue!” Screaming Jenny shouted, punching Harry in the center of his leathery black chest. “Do it!”
Nimble was already stretching her trembling limbs toward two sturdy pilings at the entrance of the dock. With her rubbery skin still wet from the river, it sounded like some invisible clown was building the world’s biggest balloon animal. She wrapped her arms and legs around the two supports and called back, “Let’s do this, Valentine!”
I jumped down onto the dock and ran toward her.
“You’re going to get yourself killed,” grumbled Harry.
“Shut up and do it!” Jenny screamed.
I pressed myself into Nimble’s crotch, holding my breath. Thanks to her dip in the river she smelled like sewage.
Harry leapt down from the sub. The whole dock shuddered as he landed behind us on all fours.
“Are you trying to kill yourself?” he asked. “I know that finding out the truth about your father was really messed up, Val, but—”
“This isn’t suicide,” I assured him.
“I can’t let the bastard win,” I said.
“Why is this up for debate?” Nimble asked, her voice squeaky and distorted by her stretched out lungs. “We can’t let that bomb go off!”
I swallowed hard. “If I don’t… don’t get through this… take care of Bullet, okay?”
Harry clenched his jaw and didn’t answer.
“We need to do this now,” said Nimble, with increased strain in her voice.
Harry grabbed Nimble and started pulling us back.
I glanced over my shoulder. Our faces were only inches apart. Maybe it was just the water running from his fur, but it looked like he was crying.
“Please don’t die,” he said. “I… I… hate your dog.”
He let go.
The sudden acceleration shunted the blood from my brain. When I regained my senses I was hanging in midair, at the apex of my arc, weightless at the moment my rise stopped and my descent began.
Harry had aimed high. I was falling toward the rotors of the helicycle.
Time slowed to a crawl. The Vectran-sheathed titanium rotors knifed through the air at eight rotations a second, but adrenaline had speeded my perception until I saw each blade. I briefly wondered if I’d slip between them without harm until I realized I was falling too slowly for that to work. The blades would slice me to ribbons. Was this suicide after all?
No. Whether I survived or not, I wasn’t choosing to die. I was choosing to fight. For the first time in my life I was completely in control of my destiny. I had no regrets, and only one final, lingering doubt.
You know how they say that, when you’re facing death, your whole life flashes before you? I had a life flashing through my mind. But after what I learned earlier… was it really my life? I rose that morning thinking I was Valentine Summers. Now, as I fell, I was no one but Cut Up Girl.
Beneath me, the blades were close enough to touch.
I stretched out my fingers and touched them.