A Teaser from Cloud Diver by Joshua Pantalleresco

Sample Read Cloud Diver

As you will recall, the last couple of weeks we have been getting to know Joshua Pantalleresco a bit.

He shared a great guest post on How Books Learned to Love Video Games

And had the best character interview we’ve had in awhile Chester the Zombie Mobster from Cloud Diver

Today he is back to give us a taste of his cyberpunk novel

Cloud Diver

I put it down.

“Walk until I say stop.”

I walked forward three paces.

“Stop.”

I stopped.

“Turn around.”

Steel underscored the velvet tone in her voice. There was an or else implied in her tone. I got a good look at the redhead I was trailing since this all started. She was smaller than I expected. Diamond hard grey eyes stared right though me as if there was nothing out of the ordinary. There was only the tiniest bit of tension in her stance. Her outfit was like some­ thing from the Victorian era. She looked like a video game character more than a real person.

“Who are you?” The redhead caressed the trigger with her finger. She wanted to pull it so badly; I could see the tension in her stance. Why hadn’t she pulled the trigger? Could it be that this gun was a bluff? That it was VOID L I FE2 2 L E V E L 1 – 1

more tool than weapon? I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh, this bullet will kill you,” she said, making my tension heighten. “This blade is more than it appears. Answer my question. Who are you?”

I considered my options. The tablet’s escape option mocked me right now—if only I’d brought it with me.

“Feeling shy?” She grinned. She had been in this place before. Her grin faded quickly and she resumed her hard-ass stance. “I will ask again, who are you? Or I will shoot you, and you will die.”

Was she bluffing? No way to know unless she shot me. I didn’t want to die here, but I wasn’t sure telling her my name was a good idea.

“If you don’t tell me your name and why you are here, you will die in five, four, three, two…”

“I’m an engineer at VoidLife!” I pleaded in a please-don’t-kill-me voice I didn’t know I had.

“Don’t you all play in the tower?”

“It’s a paycheque,” I admitted.

The honesty softened the steel in her gaze for just a second. The rational part of me realized that I should be asking her the same things. What was she doing here? What was she after?

“Why are you here?”

“I really don’t have a good answer,” I admitted. “The thirteenth floor isn’t supposed to exist. I opened it and saw you walking on air.”

“I see.” Her eyes softened again and they turned inward. She seemed to be weighing my words in her mind.

I blinked again, looking for my gnome-sized saviour, and did my best not to sigh in relief when I found him. I opened Stevie Y in silent mode, hoping she wouldn’t notice. He still seemed a little woozy in my mind’s eye when I gazed at him.C L O U D D I V E R 2 3

Dude, what was I thinking? His thoughts rattled in my skull. I didn’t respond, looking into the soulless eyes of a crazy chick with a gun, praying she hadn’t noticed me working on my own escape.

Stevie Y, naturally, was oblivious to my impending doom. At first. Why are you silent? Cat got your—ooooh. I see. The situation made Stevie Y go into his own form of silence as he worked on accessing the system’s nodes and pathways. He had managed to get into the system, and hopefully he could find a way to at least get to another room nearby.

“What’s going on in there?” A light flashed in her eyes and the gun was pressed tighter against my head. Perspiration trickled down my forehead.

I think I can get you away from her, Stevie Y said. It took every ounce of willpower not to squeal and show elation on my face; I was almost thank­ ful the gun was on my temple. There was no way for me to let my tension fall to a happy place while she still held my life in her hands. Sudden move­ ments might trigger my death knell.

You need to give me a minute, Stevie Y said. There’s a floor above here I can send you to. Stall her until I can. How could I last a minute?

“You gonna kill me?” I sucked at small talk. Small talk was significantly more difficult with a gun to the head when you are frantically seeking a way not to die.

“Thinking about it,” she admitted. “I like being the only one that knows about this place.”

“But…?” I thought asking this question might actually be beneficial for my well-being. Mentally, my count reached ten. Ten seconds down, fifty more to go.

“Why did you follow me?”

I stalled with silence. I was panicking, I admit. Should I tell her the truth?2 4 L E V E L 1 – 1

“Do I need to count down from five again?”

Okay then, the truth it was. Just had to last forty-five more seconds…

“I was curious.” I gulped.

“Of?”

“The thirteenth floor…” I gasped, catching my breath, finding it odd right here that I’m wondering exactly what I’m breathing in this simula­ tion. I really hoped this idle question wasn’t my last thought here.

“Ah.” She nodded and moved the gun just slightly away from my head. How many seconds was that? Five? Ten maybe? “My little back door. Must have been fate, I guess.” She considered me one more time and pointed the gun right between my eyes.

“You’re going to kill me?”

“I’m going to kill you,” she admitted.

I did the only thing I could think of to buy me another second or two. I screamed. Not my proudest moment, but my screeching grounded her movements to a halt.

“Ow!” She cringed. “No dignity?”

“Dead is dead,” I stated.

“True,” she admitted.

“Boss?” Stevie Y whispered in my mind. “Get ready.”

I braced myself as I saw her finally pull the trigger. I heard the gunfire before an intense flash blinded me. When my vision cleared, I was no lon­ ger standing in the disgusting remnants of a library. I was standing in a garden with trees and flowers blooming around me. I smelled dandelions and pine. This, much like the library, was an unvisited place; I felt like I was disturbing it just by standing there.

In the middle of this undisturbed realm stood an ugly bronze statue of a naked humanoid giant holding the scariest looking spear I had ever seen. C L O U D D I V E R 2 5

Pure menace was staring down at me. The giant’s spear itself was three of me. His only eye was closed as if sleeping.

Before I could sag in relief at escaping certain death, I heard a stone chip as the bronze eye blinked back into existence and the giant came back to life.

“WHO DARES DISTURB MY SLUMBER?”

His booming voice shook the room as he glared at me, his spear spin­ ning in his hands. That fear I felt with the gunblade paled into compari­ son, and I suddenly wished the chick had shot me.

I ran.

What would you do?

Want to read more? Grab Cloud Diver today

Where to Find Josh

You can follow his podcast Just Joshing

and you can follow him on Twitter @jpantalleresco

He has a great segment of motivational posts to really lift you up, shares lots of fun and wacky stuff, and is just an overall fun dude.

Until next time,

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