The Rho Agenda

The Best-Selling Amazon Sci-Fi Series
by Richard Phillips

Immune, Book Two of The Rho Agenda "A second volume that stands alone - brilliantly" -Orson Scott Card 

Orson Scott Card's Review of Immune:

Orson Scott Card Reviews Immune: Book Two of The Rho Agenda

"A second volume that stands alone - brilliantly"

Richard Phillips has led such a life that he absolutely nails the science aspect of this new sci-fi classic - and yet also gets the action and the political aspects exactly right as well. Speaking as an old sci-fi writer myself, I know how hard it is to do what Phillips has done.

But here's the clincher. Reading on my Nano, I began this book without remembering that this was volume two of the Rho Agenda series. Within a few chapters I realized that there must have been an earlier book. But so skillfully does Phillips handle exposition, and so clearly and deeply did he create his characters and their relationships, that I felt no need to stop and go back to listen to the first volume.

I WILL go back and listen to The Second Ship, now that I've read Immune to its brilliant and completely satisfying end - but only because this new writer is so skillful and this storyline is so inventive and moving that I don't want to miss a chapter of it.

I promise you that Richard Phillips is going to be a popular and influential writer, period.

The Rho Agenda has young protagonists, and so the series could be viewed as YA (Young Adult) fiction. While the novel is brutally real, including sexual tension, there is NO explicit sex and nothing to keep you from handing this book to a mature and well-informed twelve-year-old. Yet it is also completely fulfilling for adult readers - as good as any science fiction being written today.

MacLeod Andrews gives a perfect performance. You forget you're listening to a book. All you can think about is what's happening and why. Moving back and forth among characters, he is always clear as to who's talking - without "doing" voices in any obvious way. This is how audiobooks are supposed to be read.

Orson Scott Card

Excerpt from Immune
Book Two of The Rho Agenda
The Best Selling Kindle Sci-Fi Trilogy
by Richard Phillips

 

Loading docks are never located in the best parts of town, and Manhattan Island’s were no exception. It was a rough place, where men got hurt on the job and where some men got hurt as part of much darker business. It wasn’t exactly where Freddy wanted to end up, but burrowed deep in the ass end of a long-haul truck, hidden amongst the cargo, he hadn’t been in position to ask the trucker to drop him someplace more convenient. For that matter, the way he’d been passing in and out of consciousness, he was lucky to have awakened at all.

He’d picked this particular truck out of the others at the Kansas City loading docks for two reasons. First, it had a shipment headed to New York. Second, it was pulling one of the new canvas-sided trailers, the kind that were so common in Europe. Perhaps that hadn’t been such a great move. While it made it easier for him to slip inside, it did the same for the wind, and November wasn’t the greatest of times for a ride from Kansas to New York in a windy trailer. Especially with an infected leg.

Freddy leaned back against the warehouse wall, struggling to catch his breath in the dark alley. Funny about that. He’d sliced himself badly on rusty barbed wire, but that was healing up nicely. Overconfidence was what was busy killing him.

Should’ve known the feds would be all over his cell phone. Hell, he had known it. Just hadn’t expected them to be on his ass the instant he used it. Who would’ve thought the people trying to shut him up were that good? And his editor hadn’t even answered. Gutless bitch.

Only incredibly good luck and a passing train had saved his ass. If you call catching a bullet in the left calf lucky. Now he looked the part of a drunken vagabond, having swapped his old clothes and a C note for his current wardrobe, courtesy of a Kansas City wino named Phil. The filthy garb was probably what had infected his wound.

Maybe he should’ve grabbed some of that new juice they were injecting into those poor bastards below Henderson House. Freddy shuddered. No thanks. He’d take his chances with gangrene.

Freddy felt his left wrist for his watch. Gone. Shit, he’d given that to the wino, too. Really hadn’t been in a good bargaining frame of mind when he’d made that deal. He looked around. Judging from the level of activity on the docks, it was somewhere between midnight and four in the morning. Good. That gave him a little time to do what he needed before it got light.

As a kid, he and some of his pals from the neighborhood had often come down to check out the docks after dark. Between that and a couple of news stories that had brought him down here later in life, he had more than a passing familiarity with the area. Although cell phones had killed off the old-style payphones, there were still a few around the docks that the phone company had never bothered to take out. At least that had been true a couple of years ago. If they were still there, if he could get to one, and if it still worked…if, if, if…

For three and a half city blocks, Freddy staggered and swayed through the dark buildings, his near perfect imitation of a drunkard more the result of his bad leg and raging fever than any brilliant acting on his part. Just as despair began to consume what little hope remained, he spotted it. While the chain that had once held a phonebook had long since snapped off, the metal-wrapped cord and handset remained intact.

Raising it from its cradle, Freddy cursed. No dial tone. He jiggled the toggle within its cradle. When the familiar tone warbled in his ear, Freddy gasped with relief. He didn’t know how far it was to the next phone, but he didn’t think he could make it.

He dialed zero and the operator’s voice responded, bright and clear.

“Operator. How may I help you?”

“I want to make a collect call to Benny Marucci.” Freddy recited Benny’s number from memory.

“Who may I say is calling?”

Freddy hesitated. Based upon his experience with the cell phone call, the NSA, CIA, FBI, and every other three-letter agency in the government probably had banks of computers listening to the country’s phone lines for any mention of his name.

Then it came to him. With the popularity of several recent mob-family television series, Italian American slang had gained wide popularity. Old-school Benny Marucci hated that crap with a passion. Of course, that had only made Freddy go out of his way to use the words and phrases in his greetings. It was their game.

“Tell him it’s from his goomba.”

After several seconds, he could hear Benny’s sleep-filled voice answer.

“Hello?”

“This is the operator. I have a collect call from a Mr. Goomba.”

Another pause. “I’ll accept the charges.”

The operator spoke again. “Go ahead, sir.”

“Benny, it’s me.”

“You don’t sound too good.”

“Been better. Hate to call, but you’re the only one I could think of.”

“You sure know how to stir the pot. Where you at?”

“Remember where your cousin Vito got whacked?”

Vito Calini had been a low-level mob enforcer who had gotten the cement shoes treatment back in eighty-eight, right here on these loading docks.

“Uh-huh. Do you see any cranes from where you are?”

“One right in front of me, two more off to the left.”

“Okay. When you hang up, I want you to crawl back into the shadows and wait right where you are. Someone will come for you.”

“How will I know them?”

“You’ll know. Don’t go anywhere, cugine.” Benny hung up without giving Freddy a chance to respond to being called a young tough-guy wannabe.

“Couldn’t if I wanted to,” Freddy said into the dead handset before setting it back in its cradle. Then he staggered back to the side of the building.

By the time the black Lincoln Town Car pulled up beside the telephone, the gray light of dawn was fast approaching. Freddy had already started hobbling forward when two big, mean-looking hunks of mob muscle stepped out and, none too gently, thrust him into the backseat, sliding in on either side of him.

The car was rolling before the doors slammed shut.

Freddy automatically glanced back as the car made its way along the docks, but saw no sign of anyone following them. The driver swung the car around a truck and into a side alley. Immediately, the truck backed across the alley entrance, blocking any access from that direction.

The black sedan turned again, this time down a much tighter alley before swinging into an open-bay door. The driver pressed the switch on a garage-door remote, sending the large, metal door rumbling closed on its track.

“Hey, watch it!” Freddy exclaimed as he was dragged from the car, sending pain shooting through his leg.

Instead of taking it easier, the other tough-guy grabbed his right arm, and together they dragged him down a set of cement steps. Freddy had never been big on ethnic slurs, but these two Guidos were starting to piss him off. They opened a thick door and pulled him into a concrete cellar, closing and bolting the door behind them.

Freddy didn’t like the look of the place, not one little bit. He’d done stories on places like this, places where the mob manufactured fish food. A pair of fluorescent light bulbs burned in a fixture on the ceiling, minus the softening filter of a plastic cover.

He expected to be strapped onto a metal chair in the center of the room. Instead, the bigger of the two enforcers half-carried him to a chair beside a shop-bench on the far wall. Dropping to a knee, the big man ripped open Freddy’s bloody pants leg

“Shit!” Freddy gasped as the pain forced beads of sweat out of his forehead like a squeezed sponge.

“Shit’s right,” the big man said. “Franky, get a look at this leg.”

Franky ambled over, glanced down, then grinned at Freddy, revealing a mouth badly in need of an orthodontist. “You like that leg?”

“Used to,” Freddy managed, between clenched teeth.

“Well it won’t bother you much longer, will it, Jimmy?”

Freddy knew he must be missing something. Probably the fever making him delirious, but this conversation wasn’t sounding good at all.

“Listen, guys. Maybe I should just be on my way. Don’t want to trouble you.”

“No trouble at all,” Franky said, moving so that he was behind the chair.

As the one called Jimmy picked up a power tool from the workbench, Franky pinned Freddy to his seat in a grip that threatened to crack ribs.

“What’re you doing? God damn it! I’m a friend of Benny Marucci’s!”

As Jimmy retrieved a bucket and walked toward the chair, his grin returned. “Oh, we know. Benny said to help you disappear, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Jimmy pulled a handheld recorder from his pocket, pressed the small red record button, and set it on the workbench. In a swift motion that belied his size, Jimmy looped a plastic tie around Freddy’s good ankle, binding it tightly to the steel chair leg. Then, lifting the damaged leg so that it rested on the bucket, he switched on the jigsaw.

As the saw bit into the skin and bone just above Freddy’s left knee, he began to scream, the sound echoing in the concrete room until it drowned out the high-pitched squeal of the saw. And despite the blood that splattered the case, the small gears on the cassette tape recorder continued to spin.