Today’s stop is for Timothy Black’s Judgment of Blood,book two in The Gearteeth Trilogy, we will have info about the book and author,and a great excerpt from the book. Make sure to check everything out.
Happy Reading 🙂
In 1890 a disease that turned sane men into ravenous werewolves swept through the United States like wildfire. On the brink of humanity’s extinction, Nikola Tesla and a mysterious order of scientists known as the Tellurians revealed a bold plan: the uninfected would abandon the Earth’s surface by rising up in floating salvation cities, iron and steel metropolises that carried tens of thousands of refugees above the savage apocalypse. The remnants of mankind huddled fearfully in the clouds, waiting for the werewolves to devour each other.
Twenty years later, only one salvation city remains aloft, while the beasts still rule the world below. Elijah Kelly, an infected Thunder Train crewman exiled to the ground, ranges ahead of his beloved home, determined to keep it safe no matter the cost. But a telluric deadzone has caught Wardenclyffe in its riptide, forcing it toward airspace where its miraculous machinery will no longer function. Desperate to neutralize the deadzone before the flying city crashes, Eli discovers a brutal truth: humanity still exists on the ground, paying a terrible vampiric price for their survival.
Faced with an impossible choice between sacrificing thousands of innocent lives or betraying the rebels fighting for their freedom against an oppressive regime, Eli will be forced to rely on an unlikely ally lurking deep within his own blood to defy the inevitable.
Judgment of Blood
Being electrocuted ain’t half as fun as you might think.
Then again, waking up next to a beautiful woman had a way of making everything seem better.
“Sarah!” Maggie called out as she rolled over from cuddling me on the forest floor.
She was fuming as she spat half-chewed bones out of her mouth, taking no notice of the claw marks dug into the ground. She’d almost got me last night.
“Sarah, get out here!” Maggie shouted more insistently. “Did you let me eat a raccoon again? You know I despise those vermin!”
I stifled a snicker at her plight; in response, Maggie stared deadpan at me as she brushed the dirt and leaves away from her front. I turned redder than her hair and looked away, trying to maintain some of the manners I’d been raised with. Damn it, she knew that I was doing my level best not to take advantage of the unnatural bond between us. But she sure wasn’t making it easy.
Of course, it didn’t help none that we were both naked as the day we were born.
The summer morning was already making us sweat. Cicadas chattered in the underbrush even as heat lightning flashed silently in a cloudless sky. The weather had been weird lately, and the shifting telluric currents that controlled it felt off somehow. My stomach kept doing flip-flops that had nothing to do with Maggie pressing up against me.
Giggles preceded Maggie’s little sister before the girl emerged out of the bushes, gap-toothed grin flashing. She wore the ramshackle surge pack I’d managed to cobble together, powering the lightning rod she twirled in a playful fashion. Sarah took a perverse pleasure in letting Maggie and me almost tear into her before she put us down with the rod. Sometimes we’d awake to find she had let us run wild the whole night through.
Sarah was young enough that the change hadn’t taken her yet, but it was close. It wasn’t just for her sister’s company that the girl had left their pack behind when we’d left Sacramento; shifters were a danger to everyone until they settled into their final fur, and Sarah was on the cusp of starting her transformations.
“Gimme my britches, brat,” I called out. It was hard as hell keeping leaves and mud covering my privates, but she was a kid, and I was a halfway-decent man.
She waggled her eyebrows and laughed when I turned a deeper shade of red.
“Enough, Sarah,” Maggie scolded. Sarah stuck out her tongue and tossed me the bundle of clothes I’d stripped out of the night before. “Elijah is correct; your behavior is inappropriate for your age.”
I stole a look over to where the naked Maggie stood sternly, trying to keep a straight face as she lectured her sister on manners. She felt my hungry stare through the link we shared and snorted at me while rolling her green eyes in exasperation as I turned away.
“You are the strangest sort of hypocrite, Elijah,” she sighed. “When we are lost to the fur we alternate between rutting and attempting to murder each other. We do not need Sarah’s taunting to tell us that. Why then must you insist on acting as if we are blushing virgins when we wake?”
I shrugged into my patched pants, avoiding her gaze. “It ain’t the same, and you blasted well know it.”
Maggie’s presence was suddenly behind me, and with it the heady scent of her. It was a mixture of soft and wild, strawberries amid thorn bushes, the sinuous movement of monsters in the dark. It made my heart race; when her fingertips brushed across my neck, I nearly jumped out of my skin.
“I am well aware of the difference. When we run as wolves, the bond draws us together, to both love and devour each other. When we wear skin, I choose to be with you. I know you feel the same. Your insistence in playing at chastity when we walk as humans is . . . irritating.”
“Don’t matter,” I said, gruff as I put on the ruined hot-suit jacket with its multiple claw tears. “Like you said: the bond is still there. Should we go and get hitched just because I was the first one you turned? That might be enough for some folks, but it ain’t enough for me. You got to know me and I got to know you, down to the soul, before I’ll let this happen when we got hold of our minds.”
I turned around and met her gaze, for once able to ignore her nakedness as I hardened my resolve. “We were forced together because I was the first victim you bit. That ain’t romance. That ain’t love. Now, get dressed.”
The joy and playfulness in the air drained away, and Maggie turned away with a smoldering look. I cussed myself. Is there a beautiful, naked, hotheaded lady claiming love standing in front of you and teasing? How about you question her feelings for you and remind her how she infected you with a disease that turns you into a bloodthirsty werewolf every full moon?
Yep. I was a genius.
I sighed and stared south, toward what kept me from just letting go of my inhibitions and enjoying life on the ground.
Although the flying metropolis of Wardenclyffe was just a dot on the horizon, there were better than ten thousand men and women on the salvation city relying on me. They didn’t even know it, either. The last remnants of humanity sailed along atop the invisible telluric currents, shepherded by a secret society of wolf-infected scientists that kept their beasts in check through constant electric shocks. I had to admit, it was probably for the best they hid their affliction from the rest of the city. If folks knew what was beneath their obscuring goggles and respirators, they’d riot and crash the city within hours of the discovery.
I was just as much a secret as the Tellurians, though. When Sarah put me down with the surge pack every full moon, my flesh reacted differently than most. Instead of being just stunned by the electricity, I’d revert to being human again, and my body would need shocks throughout the night to keep me down. Only a few people even knew I was still alive, ranging ahead of my abandoned home and trying to find any threats before they got to Wardenclyffe.
“What’s wrong with you, Eli?” Sarah asked, breaking the silence imposed by Maggie’s huff. She dutifully passed over the surge pack so I could make sure the thing had survived another night of use.
Although she’d been raised by her sister and their wolf family without any contact with uninfected people, Sarah had adapted quickly to my presence, finding to her delight that she didn’t have to be stuffy around me. Maggie was too set in her ways to follow her sister’s example, but it was nice to talk to someone that wasn’t a walking textbook.
“Just thinking a bit too much,” I hemmed, poking at a couple of raw wires. They sparked with a cracking sound. Good enough. The surge pack would need to passively charge from the local telluric currents, but it would be fully juiced by the next full moon. An unexpected arc zapped my finger, making me jerk my hand back.
“Hey, don’t electrocute yourself; that’s my job!” Sarah giggled, but her laughter petered out in the empty air. Something was wrong. And we all knew it.
For three months we’d been trailblazing north of the city, barely outpacing it. Wardenclyffe was caught in a strange riptide in the electromagnetic currents, being drawn toward the mysterious Menlo Station where Edison and his vicious Cabal of flunkies waited. But we’d been pulling ahead from the city steadily the last week. It had slowed down. Why? More of Edison’s tricks? We hadn’t caught sight of his bastard followers yet, nor did we know why they’d attacked Wardenclyffe with one of their Thunder Trains three months ago.
What was abundantly clear to anyone with the wolf in their blood was that the telluric currents we were following were becoming unstable. I’d never heard of the streams ebbing and surging before in all my years aboard Wardenclyffe. Sure, a salvation city passing through would leave a disrupted wake of energy they couldn’t double-back on without shaking the city apart, but nothing could permanently change the eternal flows.
At least, that was what I’d thought.
“Something approaches from the city,” Maggie said, standing next to me as she shrugged into her patched prairie dress. “Do you see?”
My heart hammered with hope as I followed her pointing finger, straining my eyes. Maggie had been born as a werewolf, so she tended to keep some of her supernatural senses in human form, but I lacked her inborn abilities. Briefly I considered using the blinder goggles Sarah had taken to wearing around her neck like a talisman, but I shuddered at the thought. Sure, the black obsidian lenses wouldn’t burn my eyes out thanks to the wolf inside me; that said, it would still leave me with a headache for hours from viewing the world as a ghostly shadow of electromagnetic currents.
Instead, I closed my eyes and reached out my senses. I’d been trying to train myself to identify the telluric currents over the last few months. Lately, I’d begun to doubt my progress, as the electromagnetic streams north of us surged and flashed away in my mind. They had to still be there, but for some reason I couldn’t sense them.
At least my troubles with the currents didn’t extend to the south. I was able to tell that an object had launched from Wardenclyffe. But it was far too small to be a Thunder Train.
Maude had only been able to visit me one time since I’d been exiled from Wardenclyffe by Beta Steinmetz. Although my grandmother was the undisputed mistress of the Heaven’s Grace, the big Double T was the workhorse of the city and would be missed if it went haring off on a side trip without explanation. While I felt disappointment that the craft riding the currents toward us wasn’t the Heaven’s Grace, my curiosity was piqued by the size of it. Even the Tammany’s Troubles, the smallest Double T on Wardenclyffe, made more of a disruption in the telluric streams than whatever was heading our way.
The strange anomaly darted back and forth along its path, jagged and erratic. Between that and the distance it had to cross, the object was a good half hour away, even at the surprising speed it was traveling at. But it was definitely coming toward us.
“Shall we flee?” Maggie asked, as if reading my mind about it.
“Not much reason to,” I sighed. “Likely they’re tracking the residual from the surge pack. I’m sure as shit not leaving that thing behind. Besides, only folk that know we’re down here are friendlies. Ain’t nobody that wants me dead that thinks I’m still alive.”
“Why do you even bother protecting those people?” Sarah asked, holding up the blinders and peering through them. Even though she hadn’t experienced her first change into a beast, being natural born to it like her sister let her endure the goggles’ destructive nature without much discomfort or danger.
“My friends and kin are there. Don’t matter much that there’s people I don’t like on the city. I ain’t deserting Wardenclyffe just because of a few assholes.”
“But you’re here,” Sarah protested. “Not there. They don’t want you. You don’t belong to their pack anymore. You’re one of us now.”
I fought back an irritated sigh. To her it seemed very obvious; either you were part of something, or you weren’t.
“Leave Elijah alone, Sarah. He will learn soon enough the folly of clinging to such incongruent notions.”
I struggled to hold my temper, stalking off to rummage through the gear Sarah had kept safe. There was some dried squirrel strips in there. I tore into them with a little more vigor than was needed.
We spent the rest of the wait in uncomfortable silence, while I fumed over what the girls thought of me and my obsession with keeping Wardenclyffe safe. Nothing Maggie could say or do would ever get me to give up on my family and home. Nothing.
As our visitor rocketed closer, I forgot my temper as fascination took over. My initial impression had been correct: the oncoming craft was far too small and fast to be a Thunder Train.
The object looked like a shooting star knocked boots with a lightning bolt; their offspring was a glowing sphere of electricity that streaked across the sky with a tail of sparks instead of fire. Within a few moments the mass at the center resolved itself into a man riding a device three times his size, his legs locked hard against its sides, his body hunched down against the wind. My senses screamed at the brutal effect his steed had on the telluric currents, cleaving through them like a knife rather than sailing atop them like a Thunder Train.
“Elijah!” Maggie hollered in warning.
The lightning-comet was coming right for us.
We went to ground, scrabbling away from the path of the oncoming disaster. The sisters melted into the trees and underbrush, but I lacked their grace and knowledge. I just took off running at a right angle to the rider’s path, holding on to the surge pack for dear life. The lightning generator was the only thing that let me keep a shred of my humanity, and I wasn’t going to let some idiot suicide into it.
The comet rider altered his course to cut me off.
“Son of a bitch!” I panted, skidding to a stop.
My arm hairs stood up as the comet shot straight at me, static electricity heralding its arrival. Squall tubes, steel-hard glass containers filled with an alchemical sludge that allowed flight when electrified, were bolted onto the machine from front to back. I didn’t need to see the pilot’s bald head, goggles, and respirator to know there was only one kind of madman that could be responsible for such a thing.
The air shrieked at being violated by the contraption, but above its roar I heard the muffled shout of the storm prophet riding it.
I managed to twist away just as the thing blasted past faster than a cannonball, its lightning shroud caressing me like the fingers of a demented lover. The force of its passing tossed me against a tree with bone-cracking impact. My teeth chattered from the voltage passing through me, but the battered hot-suit managed to shunt some of the energy away.
Still hurt like a bastard though.
The comet crashed into a line of trees, smashing through them like a fist through paper. Wood blew apart as the machine and rider plowed a narrow swath through the forest.
At least the impacts managed to slow the iron horse a bit. The man nosed it down into the dirt, cutting a trench fifty feet long as the contraption finally came to rest.
The Tellurian riding the thing fell off, his arms and legs shaking with exhaustion from clinging to such a rough ride. Maggie popped out of the underbrush, eyes narrowed in suspicion. There was no sign of Sarah, but the kid was skittish around strangers. She was probably watching from the shadows, ready to toss out all the fury her skinny teenage fists could bring to any that threatened her sister.
“Successful test,” the storm prophet croaked with a half-laugh. “Well . . . I’m still breathing, at least.”
He was burnt all over with his head smoking, but the man wasn’t in any danger of dying. Despite what most folks on the salvation cities thought, the full-length lab coat, boots, and gloves that the Tellurians wore didn’t protect them from the electricity they worked with. In fact, the garments were laced with copper, conducting shocks and jolts directly to their skin to help keep their wolf-born infection under control.
I pulled out a heavy wrench from my pack and smacked it in my palm, all menacing-like. Well, as menacing as my tall, beanpole frame could muster.
“Who are you?” Maggie asked, unlimbering her delicately-filigreed Winchester rifle and taking aim at the intruder’s head. Damn. One of these days I’d learn to just let her take the lead with her gun, rather than trying to posture like an idiot.
“You’re going to hurt my feelings,” the storm prophet rasped. “After saving your life, I figured you might at least remember me.”
“Henry!” I shouted in realization.
“Of course me, you idiot,” my oldest and truest friend laughed, pulling himself into a sitting position on the crashed craft. “Who else would ride a dangerous prototype down to see you?”
Maggie lowered the Winchester, but she wasn’t grinning like me. While it was true that Henry had saved her life, she had a superstitious distrust of Tellurian technology and those who used it.
A hundred questions bubbled up, but Henry waved them off. He pushed up his blinder goggles, staring at me with the too-blue eyes that the Tellurians hid from the world. Wolf eyes, hungry and savage, kept in check only by constant low-level electrocution. Despite carrying the virus, Henry had no trace of hair on him, a side effect of the treatment.
“Eli, we need your help. Something’s wrong with the currents in Wardenclyffe’s path.”
“I knew it! Everything’s been feeling off for a few weeks. Like the streams are migrating. But that’s impossible, isn’t it?”
Henry shook his head. “It’s worse than you know. The telluric currents aren’t just shifting around. They’re disappearing. There’s a dead spot coming up where there’s no currents whatsoever, and the city is heading right for it. We have two weeks, maybe three, tops.
“After that, Wardenclyffe is going to crash.”
Catch up on the Trilogy with Book One
“In 1890, a disease that turned sane men into ravenous werewolves swept through the United States like wildfire. On the brink of humanity’s extinction, Nikola Tesla and a mysterious order of scientists known as the Tellurians revealed a bold plan: the uninfected would abandon the Earth’s surface by rising up in floating salvation cities, iron and steel metropolises that carried tens of thousands of refugees above the savage apocalypse. The remnants of mankind huddled fearfully in the clouds, waiting for the werewolves to devour each other.
Yet, twenty years later, only one salvation city remains aloft, while the beasts still rule the world below. Time has taken its toll on the miraculous machinery of the city, and soon the last of the survivors will plummet to their doom. But when Elijah Kelly, a brakeman aboard the largest of the city’s Thunder Trains, is infected by the werewolf virus, he discovers a secret world of lies and horrific experiments that hide the disturbing truth about the Tellurians.
When the beast in his blood surges forth, Elijah must choose between the lives of those he loves, and the city that is humanity’s last hope of survival.”
Award-winning author Timothy Black was born in the Deep South where he hit the road at an early age and quickly learned it could hit back. Driven by an insatiable curiosity, he studied Geology, Astronomy, and the Occult, ending up with a degree in Philosophy that twists through his writing. After traveling the world to find his great loves he settled down in the Pacific Northwest, where he writes unique twists on disturbing fiction. A serial killer of coffee and whiskey sours, he stays one step ahead of retribution with a rebellious cackle.