By Piers Platt
Crystal: I'm honored to host Piers Platt today. Welcome Piers! I'm so happy to have you here today. Would you share a little bit about yourself with us today?
Piers: Sure! I'm Piers, I'm a Cancer, and I like reading long books on the beach ;-) Aside from writing (and reading), I love to scuba dive, and my wife and I can't wait until our daughter is old enough to get certified. I'm also a veteran, having served four years on active duty (including a tour in Iraq) as a cavalry officer.
Crystal: Do you have a favorite scene you would like to share with us?
Piers: Yeah! To set it up, Rath has just been caught stealing a firearm, but instead of taking him to jail, the detective takes him to a fancy restaurant:
Inside, Rath immediately felt inadequate in his tattered utility pants and t-shirt. He ran a hand through his sweat-dampened black hair, doing his best to clean himself up. A tuxedoed maître d’ whisked them to a private booth, where, Rath realized, the rest of the patrons wouldn't be able to see him. Or his clothing. A waiter arrived soon afterwards.
“Order what you want: I’m paying,” the detective told him.
Rath was overwhelmed by the menu, until he remembered seeing a movie where the character ordered filet mignon in a restaurant.
The detective sighed. “No – you’re not having filet mignon, that’s what women order at a steakhouse.” He turned to the waiter. “We’ll have two rib-eyes, medium rare, and bring out a couple different sides. I’ll have a vodka tonic with a twist of lime, and he’ll have soda.”
The waiter bowed and left.
“Filet mignon is expensive, but cost doesn’t always equal quality, kid. Rib-eye’s not as tender, but it’s better marbled – means it has little streaks of fat in it, which add to the taste.”
“You haven’t told me your name,” Rath said, ignoring the lecture on cuts of meat.
“Nor will I.”
“Then what are we doing here?”
“For now, enjoying a good meal. We’ll talk business later.”
When his steak arrived, sizzling next to a pile of steaming mashed potatoes and French-cut green beans, Rath put aside his misgivings and dug in. Afterwards, the detective wiped his hands and mouth with a steaming towel brought by the waiter, and then motioned the man away.
“Okay, on to business. What do you know about the Guild?”
Rath grunted. “The Guild, like, ‘Fifty for Fifty’? It’s an urban legend. Just some fairy tale they made up to make people think there’s a way out of the lower levels.”
“Humor me,” the man said.
Rath crossed his arms. “You sign a contract, and the Guild trains you to be a hitman. You get to keep fifty percent of the profits, but only if you make it to fifty kills.”
“Fifty for fifty,” the man agreed. “You gotta make it all the way to fifty without being killed or caught.”
“Sure. So you kill people and get rich while doing it. Rich enough to eat here every day,” Rath said.
“Rich enough to own this place,” the man corrected. “And a hundred more like it, across the inhabited worlds. If that’s what you decided to do with all that cash. Some go into legitimate business, others stick with crime, and run high-class whorehouses out in the Pleasure Districts. Most just buy their own luxury spaceliner and cruise around deep space, stopping in at the tourist spots when they feel like touching down for a while.”
Rath narrowed his blue-grey eyes. “This is the part where you try to convince me it’s real?”
“No,” the man shook his head. “This is the part where I show you it’s real.”
Crystal: Where did you come up with the idea for your latest release?
Piers: I wrote a short story about an assassin struggling to complete the final kill in his contract (Last Pursuit, available free at all major e-booksellers), and I really liked the concept of it, but the short story didn't really give me a chance to explore that world in much detail. People really liked it, and readers kept telling me it was too short! So I sat down and sketched out the Janus Group series...and then started writing!
Crystal: What are you currently working on?
Piers: Books 2 and 3! Actually, they're mostly complete, I'm just putting the finishing touches on them. Rath's Gambit (Book 2) will be out on Dec 1st, and Rath's Reckoning (the grand finale, Book 3) comes out Jan 1.
Crystal: Do you have any special routine that you follow when you are writing?
Piers: I do outline first, so I have a good sense of what needs to happen when, and how the characters are going to handle different scenarios. Aside from that, I like to listen to film scores while I write...no lyrics, so it's not distracting, but they're exciting and jam-packed with emotion, so they help me get into the flow of things.
Crystal: Did you have to do a lot of research for this book or any other? If so do you have a fascinating fact that you have learned you would like to share with us?
Piers: Nope! It's not hard sci-fi, I don't delve into physics or anything too scientific. Here's a fun fact, though: my cover artist is the legendary John Harris, who has provided artwork for some of the biggest names in the business: Orson Scott Card, John Scalzi, and Ann Leckie.
Crystal: Who are some of your favorite authors that you like to read?
Piers: Aside from the spec fiction greats (Tolkien, Herbert, Heinlein), I love Piers Anthony, Terry Pratchett, Tom Clancy, and Rickard K. Morgan. I could keep going!
Crystal: Is there a genre you haven't written that you would like to try?
Piers: Yes! I'd love to try some historical fiction, or maybe a contemporary thriller, building on my experiences in the military. But I think I'll stick with sci fi for the short term...it's my favorite genre.
On the cut-throat streets of Tarkis, orphaned teens like Rath end up jailed … or dead. So when the shadowy Janus Group offers Rath a chance to earn riches beyond his wildest dreams, he seizes it. But the Janus Group is as ruthless as the elite assassins it controls. Rath will have to survive their grueling, off-world training, and fulfill all fifty kills in his contract before a single cent comes his way. And ending so many lives comes with a price Rath can’t anticipate. It’ll certainly cost him what’s left of his innocence. It may well cost him his life.
Publisher: Piers Platt
Genre: Sci Fi/Thriller
A light flickered on the edge of Rath’s peripheral vision: his internal heads-up display had an incoming message.
<Urgent: mission update>
<New target: Deputy Ambassador Sorgens>
<Original target is not to be harmed>
Rath felt a bead of sweat form at his brow. He smiled at another group of guests and offered them his tray of canapés, simultaneously advancing through screens in his heads-up display to find a photo of Sorgens in order to identify him.
Okay, got it.
“We’re all done, thanks,” one of the guests told him.
“Of course,” Rath said. “Sorry.”
Guess I lingered a little longer than a normal server would have. He stepped away from the group, spinning slowly in place as if planning which group he would approach next. There’s Sorgens – far side of the room.
Rath stopped at three other groups of party-goers, working his way around the outside of the room in a looping curve, careful to avoid heading directly for the Deputy Ambassador. As he left the third group, he rearranged the napkins on his tray, as if straightening them, and surreptitiously jabbed one of the canapés with a tiny hypodermic needle, before slipping the needle back into his sleeve. Then he turned and headed for the Deputy Ambassador, but a security guard cut in front of him. Rath changed direction smoothly and headed for a different group, but he kept Sorgens in his line of sight. The security guard was leaning in close to Sorgens, covering his mouth to whisper in his ear. Rath dialed up his audio implants.
“… credible threat. Intelligence is rated ‘High Reliability,’ so we’re taking it very seriously,” Rath heard the man say. The Deputy Ambassador blanched, his face turning nearly as white as his tuxedo shirt. “I’d like to get you out of here right now, sir.”
Sorgens turned to the other guests, and made his apologies. “I’m sorry – I’m afraid duty calls, there’s an urgent message that needs my attention.” He headed toward the room’s exit, closely followed by the guard.
Want a snack before you go? Rath thought, chagrined. He broke away from the group he was serving and walked briskly toward the kitchen, which was in the same direction Sorgens was headed.
Let’s hope the kitchen has another exit close to wherever Sorgens is headed.
Rath ducked inside – to his relief, he saw an exit at the far side of the crowded room. He dumped his tray into the first trash can he saw and elbowed through the servers and cooks, heading for the door.
“Hey, watch it, asshole!” a busboy protested, spilling several plates onto a steel countertop.
Rath ignored him and continued toward the back of the room, pushing through the swinging door. Sorgens was just disappearing through a side door halfway down the corridor, while the guard positioned himself outside the door. That looks like a restroom. Rath walked toward the guard, who was watching his approach closely, hands behind his back.
Probably got a pistol in a belt holster back there, Rath decided. So much for the frontal assault.
Instead he took a sharp right turn down a side corridor, disappearing from the guard’s view. Mechanical plates implanted within his face shifted, obeying Rath’s commands, while his hair greyed, and his skin tone lightened. In the space of three seconds, he looked exactly like his original target. He turned on his heel, and stepped back out into the main corridor, looking both ways before appearing to notice the guard.
“You,” Rath pointed at the man, “have you seen my deputy around here?”
“Sir?” the guard asked, confused. “Oh, yes, Mr. Ambassador: Deputy Ambassador Sorgens is right in here.”
“Ah, excellent,” Rath said, walking up. He was at least two inches shorter and thirty pounds lighter than the real ambassador, but people were slow to notice body type differences – if the face and hair matched, such discrepancies were usually dismissed. Rath’s voice matched the Ambassador’s as well. As ever, hearing another man’s computer-generated voice from his own lips made Rath’s skin crawl. “Let me just have a word, and then you can get him out of here,” Rath told the guard.
“Of course, sir,” the guard said, holding the door open for him.
Rath let the door close behind him, then strode over toward Sorgens, who was standing at a urinal along the wall. Sorgens looked up and saw Rath.
“You heard about the threat?” Sorgens asked.
“I did,” Rath replied. “Glad to see you’re on your way out of here.” He called up the targeting module in his heads-up display, and slipped a pen out of his pocket. The implement was known as a ballistic pen, built out of reinforced titanium for use as a close-quarters weapon, and modified by Rath to include a nerve toxin coating, for a faster kill. As Sorgens zipped himself up, Rath’s eye implant overlaid an anatomical model on his image, matching it to fit his size and body orientation relative to Rath, highlighting his bone structure and major organs. Sorgens turned away from the wall, and Rath stepped forward, putting his full body momentum behind the thrust. The pen punched between two ribs, directly into the highlighted outline of Sorgens’ heart, while Rath covered Sorgens’ mouth with his other hand, stifling his shocked gasp of pain. Rath left the pen embedded to minimize the bleeding, and, still covering Sorgens’ mouth, he grabbed him under the arm and dragged him silently across the room into one of the toilet stalls. He propped the dying man on top of the toilet, pulled the door shut behind him, and walked over to the sink, where the ambassador’s reflection stared back at him.
Need to wash this blood off my hands. But my guess is that guard is supposed to escort Sorgens out of the building, so it’ll be an easier exit if I pose as him.
“Everything okay, sir?” The security guard was pushing open the door.
Rath reacted instinctively, and bent over the sink, splashing his face with water as he shifted his hair and face to match Sorgens’. He stood up and reached blindly for the paper towels, and dabbed at his face as he completed the transformation. When he opened his eyes, the guard was eying him in the mirror.
“Ready to go, sir?” the man asked.
“Yes – let’s get going,” Rath told him. The guard glanced at the closed stall door and Rath tensed himself in readiness, but the man simply turned and walked back out into the hall, checking in both directions before motioning for Rath to follow. That was close, Rath thought, falling into step as they headed off down the hallway. He’s going to be pissed when he finds out he personally escorted the killer out of the building.
About the Author
Piers Platt is the New York Times bestselling author of "Combat and Other Shenanigans," a memoir of his year-long deployment to Iraq as a tank and scout platoon leader. Piers grew up in Boston, but spent most of his childhood in various boarding schools, including getting trained as a classical singer at a choir school for boys. He joined the Army in 2002, and spent four years on active duty.
When he's not writing or spending time with his lovely wife and daughter, Piers works as a strategy consultant in New York city.