Deliver or Die
A Newton's Gate Series
Series: The Delivery Mage
Get the e-book:
Paperback available at:
Click to Read an ExcerptCollapse the Excerpt
The forty-year-old hybrid electric-ethanol Jeep sputtered and coughed as Kurt Carter turned into the empty warehouse. The headlights lit the far wall and the cluster of figures standing there. Kurt counted ten of them.
“Great,” he said to himself. His contact on this side was supposed to be here alone.
A few shied away from the bright LED lights. Others stared at Kurt and his vehicle, open contempt on their faces. From what he could make out from fifty meters away, half were definitely not human.
Of the non-humans, he counted three elves, a pale, blue-skinned woman who, judging by short ridged horns emerging from her long dark hair, was likely demon spawn, and also a tall, scaly reptilian humanoid. All of them, humans and non-humans alike, wore a sleeveless denim or leather vest adorned with gang patches representing their affiliation with the Hell’s Gate Clan.
“Trent,” Kurt muttered as he powered down the engine and climbed out. “I’m going to have a few words with you when I get home about the lack of intel on this job.”
The Hell’s Gaters were unpredictable at best, and he would have taken precautions to make the transfer of the package in a more public location to ensure they behaved.
Kurt raised his right hand in greeting, keeping his left at his side, near the holstered stun baton on his hip.
“Hello, I have a delivery for you. Which one of you is called Jag?”
A tall, heavily muscled figure moved forward. His upper arms were as big around as Kurt’s thighs. Kurt assumed he was human until he spotted the tilted, almond eyes and the tip of a pointed ear peeking out from beneath shoulder-length greasy black hair. He was an elf, too, but definitely not a pure blooded one. He was way too bulky for that.
In the back of his mind, Kurt wondered what manner of creature or human was responsible for this guy’s appearance.
The other gang members fell in behind Jag, forming a semi-circular line to either side of their leader, the edges curling around towards Kurt. He resisted the urge to back up. It definitely wouldn’t be a good idea to get surrounded at this point.
“I’m Jag. Do you have the package?”
Kurt hooked a thumb over his shoulder. “It’s in the back of the Jeep.”
Kurt went to the rear of the vehicle. An itch between his shoulder blades betrayed his reluctance to turn his back on these thugs.
Pulling down the tailgate and reaching inside, Kurt pulled the black, armored case towards him with a grunt. It was the size of a standard suitcase but was way heavier than it should be, no matter what his customer had stuffed inside.
There were two padlocks, one to each side of the central clamping latch keeping the hermetically sealed container airtight. As if the locks and clamps weren’t enough, there was a pentagram inscribed on the lid in what had to be blood. Whatever was in the case, it was warded against magical intrusion as well as having the mechanical locks.
“Do you know what’s inside,” the bulky elf asked.
“I never look inside the package. Ever. Call it the standard ethics of someone in my line of work.”
Kurt stared at Jag. Did this guy not get the memo about this delivery?
Kurt smiled and shook his head. “I can’t.”
That wasn’t technically true. The fact was, while he hadn’t tried to open it, he was sure he could’ve gotten in. Given the time and the right gear plus his own magical abilities, there was very little that stayed locked if Kurt wanted to get inside.
It had been a necessary skill of his former job and the U.S. Army Special Operations Group had spent a lot of time and money on the best training, magical and technical, to make sure he knew everything there was to know about getting past locks, wards, and network firewalls.
Jag’s teeth ground together. Kurt resisted the urge to cringe at the grating sound it made as the gangbanger stood next to him. Jag wasn’t happy with the short answer.
Kurt tried to defuse the tension. “I was contracted to deliver this to you intact. I was given no key or spell to bypass the wards. If you can’t open it, you’ll have to take that up with the sender. I’m just the delivery guy. Now, where do you want it? It’s really heavy.”
Jag pointed to the reptile guy and one of the human men, nearly as muscular as the boss himself. “Scales, Nico, come get the box.”
Kurt backed up and made room for the two gangbangers to come and lift the box from the back of the Jeep. He couldn’t help his grin when both of them grunted in surprise at the weight of the package. It had been a royal bitch for Kurt to load it into the back by himself in the first place.
Pulling a datapad from his back pocket, he held it out to Jag for a thumbprint and aura signature.
“Why should I sign for it?”
“The magical wards are triggered by delivery to the correct party,” Kurt lied. “You’ll have to sign to breach them and open it, once you figure out how.”
The gang leader reached out and pressed his thumb on the small glass screen. It flashed green, marking receipt of the package and Kurt put it back in his pocket.
“You two,” Jag growled at two other members of his group. “Help these two idiots with the box and follow me.” He started walking towards the door in the far wall.
Two of the three elves hustled forward and took the handles on the two remaining sides and the four of them started after their leader.
Jag looked back over his shoulder, a leering grin on his face. “The rest of you can give him his tip.”
Kurt cursed and dashed for the open door of the Jeep as soon as he heard Jag’s words but he didn’t make it.
Hands grabbed him from behind and spun him around.
The blue demon chick stood in front of him, a wicked grin revealing jagged, razor-sharp teeth.
“Sorry, hon, you’re not my type,” Kurt quipped. He brought up his left hand from his side, pulling the stun baton from its holster in the same motion. A flick of his wrist deployed the collapsed weapon to its full telescoped length.
The slight whine as the baton powered up alerted the demon spawn of his strike. She raised a hand to block it in a shower of sparks.
Damn, she was immune to electrical attack. Kurt swung his other hand around, jabbing forward and punching her in the solar plexus.
The wind drove out of her lungs in a whoosh of fetid breath and she doubled over to meet his raised knee with her chin. She collapsed in a heap at his feet.
Kurt realized he was never going to get into the jeep before the others reached him and he dodged back to the rear of the vehicle around the back bumper. Maybe he could make it to the open garage door leading to the alley before they caught up.
Then again, maybe not.
Something tripped him up, striking him in the ankles. Kurt fell to the ground, trying to roll over and use his forward momentum to bounce back to his feet.
A short, squat gang member landed on his back, driving him back down to the pavement. The guy had a metal pipe and rained blows down on Kurt’s back.
Despite the ceramic and reactive carbon fiber body armor he wore, the beating hurt and prevented him from getting up.
Kurt reached back awkwardly with his left hand and jabbed the baton into shorty’s side, thumbing the trigger.
The body on his back spasmed, groaned and rolled off to lay beside him, dazed eyes gazing up at the metal ceiling beams.
Pulling his feet up and rolling over, Kurt saw the bolo wrapped around his ankles. The leather strap and weighted balls made an effective binding.
Kurt pulled the folding knife from his jacket pocket, thumbing open the blade and slicing through the leather straps. The other three gang members were closing in on him and he stood up just in time to fend off the initial blows.
With three of them on him, he couldn’t block every blow and his head rocked back as several punches made it past his defenses. Blood trickled down the side of his face from a cut above his eyebrow.
The woman to his right spun around with a kick aimed at his head. He ducked under her steel-toed boot and jabbed the baton into her crotch.
The force of the blow elicited a brief, high-pitched scream. It quickly cut off as the stun charge knocked her out.
A strike from the side drove into his knee and he felt the joint give as his leg bent inward. It twisted too far in the wrong direction and hurt like hell.
The guy on that side had a shaved head and face covered in tattoos. He pulled his hand back to punch down into Kurt’s knee again.
Kurt slashed down with the knife in his right hand, slicing open Baldy’s hairy arm to the bone.
Snatching his hand back with a gasp, the gang thug clutched at the cut with his free hand, trying to staunch the blood spurting from the open wound.
There was one more guy left to fight and Kurt turned to find his last attacker.
He turned the wrong way.
The snarling gangster swung at Kurt with Shorty’s metal pipe, retrieved from the floor.
Kurt saw the strike at the last second and ducked under the blow. He almost made it and the pipe caromed off the back of his head.
Lights flashed in the corners of Kurt’s eyes and his ears started ringing. He was lucky it had only been a glancing blow. He wore body armor but not a helmet.
Standing up straight and focusing through the haze induced by the last attack, Kurt raised his forearm just in time to block the followup blow.
The move nearly broke his forearm, even with the reactive armor of his jacket and he grunted in pain. The block broke the flow of his opponent’s attacks, though, and Kurt swung the stun baton up and around in a wide arc, the weighted ball at the end slamming into the other guy’s temple.
The weight of the blow would probably have been enough by itself. The stun charge that dropped the spasming brute to the concrete was just overkill.
Kurt didn’t care. He needed to get out of there before Jag looked back and decided to send his thugs some help.
Realizing he was closer to the door than the Jeep, Kurt opted for the street outside, limping on his injured knee into the shadows, disappearing into a night lit by flickering neon lights and holovid billboards in the distance.
He was going to be late to the extraction rendezvous. He hoped there was still time to open the gate and get back to Earth Prime.