Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Annihilation Protocol by Michael Laurence

Today is release day for The Annihilation Protocol (on sale August 25; St. Martin's Press), the latest installment in author Michael Laurence's Extinction Agenda series

Bestselling author James Rollins has described the series as “Jack Reacher falling into a plot written by Dan Brown." The Annihilation Protocol will appeal to fans of such intriguing authors as Jonathan Maberry, Gregg Hurwitz, and Mark Greaney.

For centuries, a mysterious syndicate known as the Thirteen has staged a silent coup, infiltrating governments and manipulating the course of world events. It’s more powerful than any nation, deadlier than any army. The time has come for it to emerge from the shadows and claim the entire world as its own. And only FBI Special Agent James Mason and his longtime friends stand in its way.

Eight million lives hang in the balance and their only chance of surviving lies in the hands of Mason, his old friends, and a new partner he’s not entirely sure he can trust. 

Can his team track down a sinister agent codenamed Scarecrow before toxic gas fills the streets of New York City, or will the true power pulling the strings from behind the scenes—the Thirteen—succeed in enacting its genocidal agenda?

With a complex and propulsive plot that will grip readers from its first pages, The Annihilation Protocol will have readers clamoring for more Michael Laurence when they reach the end!

The Annihilation Protocol is available to purchase at
* Amazon

Just to add to that tantalizing synopsis, here’s an excerpt for your reading pleasure.

Shelter Island, New York

The man seated at the Macassar ebony desk was not accustomed to being made to wait. He wore a tie the color of honey to call attention to his amber eyes and had the silver hair and aquiline nose of his fore- bears, as evidenced by the gold-framed portraits hanging in the trompe l’oeil arches. The fireplace behind him cast a flickering glare upon the Gothic armchairs, bookshelves, and red stag heads staring down at him from their mounts. The velvet drapes were drawn, stranding shadows as dark as his mood in the far corners of the room.
He was known as Quintus, Latin for fifth, an honorific bequeathed to him by his father, although if everything went according to plan, he would soon assume the mantle of Quartus, if not higher. Even his esteemed great-grandfather had never aspired to such heights, and yet here he was on the cusp of elevating the status of his family name.
For the last hundred years, the members of Pantheon Maioris Tredecim—literally translated from Latin as Pantheon Majority Thirteen—had been content in their respective roles, largely because they had all been in agreement about their vision of the future. Despite their numeric rankings, their voices had been equal. Decisions affecting all of them had been made by the majority, and always after considerable debate. Technology had shrunk the world, though. Gone were the geographic boundaries that had once defined their empires, blurring borders that had been carefully negotiated and strictly enforced since the advent of the syndicate nearly three and a half centuries ago, allowing the more ambitious among them to discreetly enter industries formerly considered off-limits to all but the specific member who controlled them, causing fortunes to fluctuate and tensions to rise.
None of them had previously contested his ranking, as the wealth and power each honorific possessed had remained relatively constant. The path to ascension—rising in rank and stature—had been one that took decades, a combination of careful long-term planning by one house and a stroke of misfortune for another, and even then, Quintus was aware of it having happened only a handful of times. Time had changed that, however. Estates had diminished over time, members had grown complacent, and power had diffused through lineages that did nothing but squabble over it. Families were no longer satisfied with maintaining a seat at the table and conspired to rule it. While there had always been such men, none of them had ever attempted a coup d’état.
Until now.
Secundus had fired the first shot in a war that many of them believed had become inevitable. Although he’d vehemently denied it, his family, through subsequent generations, had patiently acquired solid minority holdings in critical resources outside of its designated sphere, resources that would increase exponentially in value after the coming cataclysm, the Great Culling, the time for which, they all agreed, was now at hand. While the other twelve argued over the ultimate mechanism by which they would thin the herd, he’d gambled on releasing one of his minion’s engineered viruses—the profits from the fallout would have easily doubled his already considerable estate and elevated him to Primus—and lost. In doing so, he’d not only risked exposing the entire organization; he’d altered its dynamics by sowing the seeds of distrust and instigating what Quintus speculated would become a thirteen-way free-for-all for supremacy that each could blame one of the others for starting.
He’d spent his entire life preparing for this opportunity, though. As his father and grandfather had before him. And now, with Seconds’ failure to unleash his pandemic, his position was ripe for the taking.

Tertius and Quartus were undoubtedly already implementing the machinations of their ascension and Quintus’s rise was by no means guaran- teed, which meant he needed to succeed where Secundus had failed, and his entire plan hinged upon the man who had already missed the prearranged starting time of their virtual meeting.
His laptop chimed to announce the arrival of an external user to his secure virtual conference room. The screen remained black for several moments before the shadowed form of a man drew contrast from the darkness. He wore a sugegasa, a conical Asian hat woven from straw. It was frayed around the brim and concealed the upper two-thirds of his face. Only the lobes of his ears, the tip of his nose, and his effeminate mouth and chin were visible above his slender neck and narrow shoulders.
“You’re late,” Quintus said.
The man made no reply. He rarely spoke, for reasons that were obvious to anyone who’d ever heard the sound of his voice.
“I trust you had no trouble relocating my cache.” The man offered a nearly imperceptible nod. “Then I assume we’re still on schedule.”
Again, a slight dip of the chin.
“You know why I called this meeting. Are you prepared to commence?”
A faint shake of the head.
“Must I remind you that the remainder of your payment is contingent upon the successful demonstration of the efficacy of the product?” The sound of breathing from the speakers became agitated. Quintus intuited the man’s question.
“You want to know what happened to the team at the slaughter- house.”
The man nodded.
“Let’s just say that no one who knew you were there is in any kind of condition to share that information.”
The man made no appreciable movement.
“I’ve reviewed the forensics reports myself. The containment tanks were pulverized and buried under tons of burning rubble when the roof collapsed, and the gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer failed to detect the presence of any of the precursor chemicals. Everyone with working knowledge of the experimentation is dead. No one has any idea you were ever there.”
The man’s lips tightened.
“As far as the Thirteen are concerned, you were only there for your experience in bioengineering, to help incorporate that infernal bacterium into the Hoyl’s virus. None of them has the slightest idea of what you were working on for me. Or what I intend to do with it. Trust me when I say that if they did, we’d both already be dead or spending what little time we have left on the run, like Secundus.”
The man’s facial expression remained unchanged.
Quintus felt a surge of anger. He was in charge. The man on the screen was his subordinate and in no position to dictate the direction of this meeting. The hardest part of his job was already done. Anyone could finish it from here for a fraction of the cost. He should just con- sider himself fortunate that Quintus hadn’t already had him killed.
“The Hoyl is dead. His men are dead. Your lab was sanitized before the entire building was incinerated. Any residual traces of the chemicals burned off in the fire. The other twelve in the pantheon are oblivious. My assistant and I are the only two people alive who know what you were doing there.”
A knock on his office door. There was only one person who would have dared to interrupt him. He pressed the button underneath his desktop and the lock disengaged.
The door opened inward and a hulking silhouette entered from the anteroom. While Marshall was technically his personal assistant, he hadn’t been hired for his secretarial skills. The former U.S. Navy SEAL was the team leader of his personal security detail, which formed a veritable special ops team at his command, day and night. He stood close to seven feet tall and looked like he’d been chiseled from a mountain. His buzz cut was flat, his face angular, and his chest muscular enough to absorb a shotgun blast.
“This arrived at the gate.” He carried a rectangular box in his mas- sive hands. “The guy who dropped it off claimed he was given fifty dollars to deliver it to this address. He was told we’d be expecting it.”
An unsettling smile appeared from the shadows beneath the brim of the man’s triangular hat on the monitor. Quintus glanced up at his assistant, who confirmed his suspicion with a nod.
“What’s in the box?” he asked.
The man’s smile widened and revealed his teeth all the way back to his molars.
It appeared to be an ordinary cardboard box with Japanese char- acters scrawled on the top. Quintus recognized them. He knew exactly what they meant.
“I demand an answer,” he said. “What’s in the box?”
The man’s smile didn’t falter. He made a rolling gesture with his delicate hand.
Quintus nodded to Marshall, who grabbed the box and walked halfway across the room with it.
“Carefully,” he said to Marshall.
His assistant removed a knife from beneath his jacket and slit the tape. Lifted an edge. Tried to see inside. Cautiously raised the opposite flap. He appeared genuinely confused until his eyes suddenly widened and locked onto his employer’s.
“What is it?” Quintus asked.
Marshall reached inside, pulled out a gas mask, and let the box fall to the floor. The color drained from his face.
Quintus glanced at the empty box on the floor. There wasn’t a second mask.
“Give it to me!” he shouted. “Hurry!”
Marshall looked at the gas mask, then at Quintus, and then at the gas mask again.
The man on the screen started to laugh. It was a horrible sound, like a wet, rasping cough.
“I order you to give it to me!”
His most trusted confidant, the man who had sworn to protect his life, met his stare.
Marshall’s free hand clenched into a fist. He bared his teeth and released a humming noise from deep in his chest. Took several deep breaths.
“I’ve seen what it does,” he said. “How it kills. The pain. Jesus Christ.
I can’t . . . I’m sorry.”

He quickly donned the gas mask.
“You can’t do this to me!” Quintus shouted at the laptop monitor. “Do you have any idea who I am? The other twelve will scour the globe to find you. And when they do, you will be subjected to suffering beyond any the world has ever known. You and everyone you hold dear.”
The man on the screen continued to make that awful laughing sound.
Marshall stiffened. Sputtered. His eyes widened. Filled with tears. His pupils shrank to pinpricks. He coughed. Grabbed his chest. Tore at his shirt. Vomited into the mask.
Quintus looked at the man on the computer screen, whose laughter abruptly ceased.
Marshall collapsed to the floor. Started to convulse. Flopped onto his back. Gasped. Choked. His entire body clenched, then went limp. He issued a hissing sound that freckled the inside of the visor with blood as his chest deflated.
It didn’t rise again.
That had been the promised demonstration.
The Novichok agent had been inside the gas mask, presumably within the canister filter itself.
Less than thirty seconds. Start to finish.
Had Quintus opened the box, there was no doubt in his mind that he would have put on the gas mask. The man on the screen had gambled that his hired hand would betray him and, in doing so, eliminated the only other person who could connect either of them to the slaughterhouse.
When the man finally spoke, it was in a gravelly voice. His cadence was strange, halting. He had to take deep breaths between words.
“I trust . . . you . . . approve.”
Quintus walked around his desk and stood over Marshall, whose blood and vomit concealed his face. Like the gas itself, they were completely contained inside the mask. The formerly imposing figure was now little more than a useless mound of flesh.
He was going to need a new assistant.
“Yes,” he said. “I believe that will work just fine.”
When he returned to the laptop, the man was already gone.

Meet the Author

Author Michael Laurence, photo by Bryan Grant
Michael Laurence was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado to an engineer and a teacher, who kindled his passions for science and history. He studied biology and creative writing at the University of Colorado and holds multiple advanced certifications in medical imaging.

Before becoming a full-time author, he worked as an x-ray/CT/MRI technologist and clinical instructor. He lives in suburban Denver with his wife, four children, and a couple of crazy Labrador Retrievers. 

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. Doesn’t this sound like a book that would keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what could happen next?


  1. You have been really, really busy recently featuring new books. Many, many thanks (despite the fact that I should (but will not) resist temptation).

  2. Sounds good. And sounds a little like what might be happening in real life.

  3. This certainly sounds suspenseful, Mason! And it sounds almost frighteningly like some of the things happening in real life; I think Alex has a point there. Thanks for sharing.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.