Joe Ledger series by Jonathan Maberry

 

Patient Zero

I wondered what expression I had on my face. Maybe shock, probably fear; but if my features truly reflected what I felt then my expression would be mingled horror at what had been about to happen to these poor kids and a dead sickness for what I had just done. That I’d been forced to do it made no difference to me at all. I felt unclean.
Five minutes ago there had been dozens of people in this room. Now most of them were dead. I’d killed at least a quarter of them myself. I’d killed so many people that I’d lost count. The realization hit my brain like a fist. I’d killed before, but this was worse. Ten times worse than the task force raid. And part of the guilt I felt was a secret shame because deep inside my soul the warrior part of me was beating his chest and yelling in exultant triumph even while the more civilized parts of me cringed. (150)

He looked at me for a long time. “But, you’re marked, too. Not with guilt, but with the awareness of the beast that lives in all of us, in every human heart. The awareness is in your eyes.” (177)

 

The King of Plagues

On that ship, out in the middle of the dark Atlantic, I had moved among the very best humanity has and fought against the very worst humanity can be. 
Was this my life?
So…was this my life? Fighting and fighting and fighting?
It is a horrible moment when you can no longer count the number of people you’ve killed. I closed my eyes and leaned my forehead against the window glass. It was mild for December, but the glass was cold.
I heard a rising burst of laughter from the adjoining suite. Rudy and Circe. They sounded happy. I felt gutted and empty.
Was this my life?
Was this who I am?
I opened my eyes and saw the first of the candles flare up down in the Mall. A tiny spark in the sea of late-twilight gloom. For amoment there was only that one small light in the darkness, and the loneliness of it was almost unbearably sad.
Then someone bent close and used the flame to light their candle. And others did, and more, sharing out the light so that it spread. Slwoly and sporadically, but steadily. An infectino of light that did not defeat the darkness—the darkness was to big, too vast, too powerful to ever be completely destroyed—but for now, for this moment, those tiny flames conspired together to drive the darkness back.
I placed my palm on the glass. I don’t know why. Maybe it was a romantic or childish need to feel the heat of that light. But the glass was cold.
And yet…
I smiled.
The cold was okay. The fact that I was up here in the darkness of my room, in the darkness of my thoughts, was okay. The flame was still there. If this was who I was, and if it wasn’t for me to be part of the light, then maybe that was as it should be.
I am what I am. I’m a hunter and a killer. I’m the Cop and the Warrior, and the Modern Man. As I—as we—watched the light from the vigil candles spread, the answer to the question was there. It had always been there.
Was this my life?
Yes. (435)

 

Assassin’s Creed

If I ran into another Red Knight, it was going to be a substantially different encounter, no matter what Church or Violin thought about my chances. I fet like saying “Fuckin’ A” or “bring the pain,” but I knew Ghost disapproved of that kind of rah-rah crap. (286)

I wanted to fall down. Swooning like a Victorian maiden seemed like a proper response. (374)

She met the rushing vampires, and even though I am trained to observe and understand combat at any level, I could not follow what happened. Her arms moved so fast, her body spun and danced as she threaded her way through the pack, the silver blades whipped with such frenzy that the monsters seemed to disintegrate around her. It was so fast that their blood hung in the air like mist. It was hypnotic and beautiful in the most awful way that perfect violence can be beautiful; and it was horrible because there was nothing natural about what I was seeing. (395)

 

Extinction Machine

That Kevlar underwear had to be more than protection. Those wires must be part of a muscle enhancement system. I’d read reports on those but no one had perfected the science yet. Or, so I thought.
I hate it when I’m wrong about stuff like that. (15)

Snider didn’t answer. She didn’t need to. Everyone there at Dugway, in the stands, in the control booth, and even the pilot up in the F-35 knew what it was.
No one wanted to say it, though.
Because this was the US military, and the US military does not believe in flying saucers. (157)

I stopped and looked around, and despite everything—my errand, the video, the crisis—I smiled.
The door opened and Junie Flynn stepped into my life.
I know how that sounds. Absurd, dramatic, corny. But there are moments in life—precious and rare—when no matter what else is hanging fire or clawing at your attention, you have to simply pause and focus your attention. You do so because something of great importance is happening and you are suddenly aware of it. Maybe not in a conscious away, but deep down, on the level where you instincts trump your thoughts. The voice of your essential self whispers to you: Behold. And ou stop because you must. You know that to fumble the moment through inattention or to pollute it through triviality is to lose something of great value. Even if you cannot then—or ever—ascribe precise parameteres to that value. You are acutely aware, though, that if you blunder through the moment without giving it its proper due you are one very dull fellow. This, you are sure, is an event in life so rare and significant that it can only be described as having a flavor of importance. (169)

The Warrior paints himself with camouflage greasepaint and crouches in the tall grass waiting for the bad guys to come by, and then he hunts them with a cruel and savage delight. (177)

Helen became lost in that carnival funhouse of the damaged mind, where all images of her destruction and violation were reflected in twisted and deformed mirrors. And in that darkness she became so utterly without hope that she needed to find a permanent way out.
Which she did.
I found her—too late. The Warrior in me rose up and screamed so loud that it broke the fragile shell of mercy that hung around his neck. There is no mercy left in him now. (178)

She said, “Then I’d better make some tea.”
With that Junie Flynn turned and went back inside, leaving the door open for me to follow. I glanced down at Ghost. He gave me a “hey, you’re the super secret agent guy; I’m just a dog” look.
We followed her inside. (178)

I cried out, too, both of us wordless but articulate in the message we shared, in a statement that we are still alive. For now, in this moment, we are still alive. (351)

President Collins and his executives sat in stunned silence as they watched doomsday approach. No one said a word. Everything had already been said. Everything had already been done.
Now all that was left was to watch the horror unfold. (418)

The war might still be there, it might always be there, but at moments like this I could take a deep breath and remember what it was we fought to preserve.
And if our world was larger, and if we were not alone in the glittering vastness of the universe, I found that I was no longer afraid of that.
I found that it gave me hope. (433)

 

More to come as I finish reading the series 🙂