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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Faith Machine by Tone Milazzo Book Excerpt



Welcome to our stop on Storytellers on Tour’s blog tour for Tone Milazzo’s The Faith Machine. Here's the schedule - follow it and learn more about the book.



Official Author Website
Order The Faith Machine over HERE(USA) or HERE (UK)



AUTHOR INFORMATIONTone Milazzo is the author of Picking Up the Ghost, The Faith Machine, and the ESPionage Role-Playing Game.

Stories have always been Tone's first love. When the first hunter told another about the one who got away, stories made us human. Stories lead to understanding. Fiction, religion, biographies, gossip, gaming, and history, it all goes into the slow cooker and out come stories.

To those ends Tone's been around, professionally speaking. Marine, taxi driver, teacher, assistant to scientists, and coder. This breath of experience has given Tone a little knowledge about a lot of things, good and bad.

He lives in San Diego with his wife Melissa Milazzo (author of Time is a Flat Circle) and two dogs, all of whom are more capable than he is.

BLURB: Welcome to the dangerous, clandestine world of ESPionage. Welcome to The Strip, where operatives on the fringe command teams of ‘Cards’: Agents cursed with subtle, specialized, and sometimes sloppy psychic powers. Dr Ken Park, Korean-American psychologist and spy, dares to lead six of these Cards. Together, they tackle esoteric threats the Department of Homeland Security cannot.

Park takes his team to Africa to retrieve the Faith Machine. Built by the Soviets to turn prayers into suffering, the psychotronic device fell into the hands of a demented warlord. Tragically, the mission fails and the madman slaughters hundreds of innocents while the machine burns.

They return to the States in disgrace, and into an ambush by the mysterious and brutal Casemen. Cut off from command and each other, the scattered agents rush to their safe house in the west. While spy agencies from around the world want retribution for the catastrophe in Africa. Park’s team outplays enemies left and right, while uncovering the true threat. There’s another Faith Machine, one destined to bring hell on earth.


FORMAT/INFO: The Faith Machine published on May 10, 2020, with Running Wild Press. 

CHAPTER ONE


CHAPTER ONE

To say the Colonial Motel was past its prime assumed it ever had one. Run-down, infested by a dozen kinds of vermin, and stuck between cities off I-94's run through Indiana, the motor lodge was a good place to make a drug deal and a likely place to get robbed.
Which summed up Park and Ainia's evening.
Dr. Ken Park sat, back against the bed, and stared at the lamp's torn shade. He was no stranger to hallucinogens, but the woman's psychic attack had sucker-punched him in the prefrontal cortex. His pistol lay on the stained carpet, empty and out of reach. Colors still pulsed and shadows twitched, but he'd straightened out for the most part. The trip felt like hours. The clock said fifteen minutes.
Sweat ran into his eyes as he crawled toward the open door after Ainia, his best agent. She'd chased after the psychic and her boyfriend. No telling what would happen out there if the woman's card -- jargon for psychic power -- had set Ainia tripping too. The mission might be a wash. What mattered now though was her safety.
Ainia dropped into the doorway, curled in a squat, like a cat ready to pounce. She was dressed in a sports bra and shorts, hair cut short like a boy's, body a tight coil of muscle, her life written across it in scars. Park knew most of the stories. None were pretty.
"Ainia," he mumbled, "it's fading. Just another ten--"
She closed her eyes and hissed.
He rose to his heels, hands up. "Stay calm, wait this out, and you'll be fine." An aggravated, hallucinating Ainia scared him more than the unexpected trip did.
She caught him looking at his gun. "Don't bother. I'm fine." She rolled inside, leaned against the bed, and covered her eyes. "Wouldn't do you any good, even if it was loaded."
He waited on the floor with her for a few more minutes, until the shadows stopped flowing. "I'm good now. How about you?"
She nodded. "Why'd you unload your gun? You should've been firing it."
He gathered the pistol and empty magazine. "Those two were gone before I could draw. I didn't want to risk shooting you." He picked bullets out of the worn carpet, loading the pistol magazine with sweaty, shaking fingers. A round slipped out of his grip, arcing through the air.
She caught it and handed it back. "How sweet."
He slid the magazine back into his pistol. "What happened to your shirt?"
"I tore it off, thought it was filled with bugs, hundreds of biters. In this place it might have been. Still, maybe the cops were right. Could that be some kind of aerosol weapon?"
He shook his head, stood, and jammed the pistol back into its underarm holster. "The cops didn't know what they were dealing with. It sure wasn't like any drug I've ever tried. I think the woman was the psychic we're looking for. Everything went weird after she hit that snuff bullet."
"Snuff bullet? I thought that was some kind of asthma medicine. What if she's not psychic? What if it's in the drug itself?"
"Then we'd be in a lot of trouble. Fortunately, cards are in people, not chemicals. It's psychosomatic. Ingesting the drug just activates her card."
The empty spot on the floor between their bags reminded Park of his failure. The bait had been too good. A ten-pound bag of sugar pills, pressed to look like Sudafed. The tweaker and her boyfriend had snatched it and run. "Shit. Have we ever had a mission go south so fast before?"
She stood and loosened up her neck. "Doesn't matter. We fall, we learn, we get up, and try again."
He checked himself in the bathroom mirror. His hair was stuck to his forehead with sweat. "I look like crap."
She pulled a yellow lacrosse ball out of her gym bag and idly began rolling it back and forth between her hands with hypnotic grace. "At least we identified the target. I bet you're glad we didn't have the real stuff with us."
He washed his face. "That'd be great if we were here to flood the market with dummy meth. But our mission was to evaluate the psychic. Now they're gone, and I didn't even get a chance to talk to her."
"You think an addict is Project Dead Blind material?" She took her turn at the sink.
He peeled off his sweaty coat and shirt. "They deserve a chance, like everyone else. The new girl, Agent Gabby, she's in recovery and has a lot of potential."
The hotel phone rang. She stopped the ball, balancing it on the back on one finger. "Is that who I think it is?"
He shrugged and went to pick up the phone. "We won't know until we answer will we?" He lifted the receiver. "Hello?"
"Hi, Dr. Park. It's Exposition Joe." He nodded at Ainia. She threw her hands up and stepped back. The chipper-voiced teen continued, "You ever heard of urban decay?"
"I'm..." Park sighed, bracing himself for another asymmetric conversation with Project Dead Blind's precognate. "I'm aware cities aren't exempt from the force of entropy. If that's what you mean, Joe."
"Kinda. More like the people who are all about it. They take pictures of ruined old buildings and post them online. Sometimes they break into places, like this water park in Indiana, Splash Down Dunes. It used to be an amusement park called Enchanted Forest. I guess it's still amusing, if you think about it --"
"Are you saying our target robbed us, then ran off to an abandoned water park?"
"Something like that. When you go there, you'll see what you need to see. Hey, I gotta go. Say hi to Ainia for me." Joe hung up.
He put the phone back in its cradle. "Joe says hi."
"Yeah. Great." She rocked the lacrosse ball on the back of her hand. "What else did he say?"
"He told me about an abandoned water park near here." Park powered up his satphone and called up the map.
Ainia flipped the ball over, snatching it in the palm of her hand. "'Near here'? How does he know where 'here' is? He's not on this mission. I don't trust Joe."
"The same way he knew the phone number to this room."
"That doesn't answer my question."
He didn't have an answer that would satisfy her. "But he's never wrong. Let's see this abandoned water park."
She dropped the ball back into her bag. "If you're lucky, the balloon animal guy will still be around."
"I can make my own balloon animals," he said, a note of defensiveness in his voice.
She cast a skeptical look in his direction, but reconsidered. "You probably can, too. Dork." 
Real Name: Ken Park or Park Hyun-Ki
Born: 1985 Centreville, VA
Lives: Washington DC
Appearance: Asian (Korean), black hair, black eyes, 5'7", thin build
A spy before he graduated from sixth grade, Agent Park self-trained in sleight of hand, lock picking, information gathering, technology, and surveillance.
He came to Project Dead Blind's attention after exposing his eighth grade math teacher for selling grades in an elaborate sting operation, which started with statistical analysis of data, and ended with Park averting a violent confrontation with the teacher and his three sons. He sealed them in their car with fast-drying epoxy.
Since then, I've groomed Park to be the field leader for the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, as my knees weren't going to be up to the job forever. I guided his education through a BA in Cognitive Psychology, a PhD in Abnormal Psychology as well as the best training the private sector has to offer.
Park is skilled and capable, but soft, maybe too soft for this work. I intended for him to be my successor, but I'm starting to wonder if his leadership has hit its limit in the field.
-James Ensign



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