Endgame snippet

In this scene from Endgame, the heroes have just “escaped” a mountain cave where they’d spent two nights waiting out a blizzard. They have a destination in mind–probably the only inhabitant on the planet of P-75–but nobody knows what that structure or its owner means to five soldiers on the run from their wartime enemies, the Mitasterites. The ‘I’ in this is Captain June Vereeth.

Enjoy!

 

“To the right,” I announced, and we got moving again. Prubius went on point and Esch took up the sled harness. We headed around the hills, as the lower trail appeared to be a dead-end of icy rock, anyway. A gentle descent lead to what, on other worlds, could’ve been a meadow above a beach. Ours was made of powdered sugar, with no flowers or surf in sight.

We’d progressed past the meadow and further across the valley floor when something happened. Prubius suddenly turned and kneeled.

With his rifle raised.

Contact!

I was being hit by something. By someone.

Dhani was on top of me. My face was in snow.

Why is he on—?

The buzz of a weapon was quick, coupled with another sound.

Boom!

Pressure. Vibrations. Heat.

I looked back, following everyone else’s wide eyes. Things were landing in the snow around me, around us, me and my protective Dhani. Small bits, metal.

A burst of smoke drifted toward us, coming down from a height. Three arms curled out, blue-gray, lengthening as they dissipated.

“By the gods!”

“Satok-satok-satok!”

“Flicking Mitties!”

Struggling against Dhani’s weight across my torso, I fought to look at Prubius.

My friend was still kneeling with his rifle pointed up at the sky behind us. Eyes narrowed, face pinched. He could’ve been frozen in place. When he finally took a breath, I could hear it.

A piercing odor reached me. Burning. The warhead.

“How did you do that?” Esch whispered.

Dhani, looking stunned, let me up. On my feet, I faced the spot where a Mitasterite missile was destroyed—within three secs of its target. Only a hint of smoke was left, now.

“Sorry, Captain,” Dhani said quietly.

“No-no,” I said, “you’re fine. Thanks.”

Bohl nudged a smoking fragment with his boot. “Probably a Rosekiller,” he reported. “Fired from orbit.”

A Rosekiller. Standard bombardment weapon. Six-point-two legs in length. Thirty-one miles-per-min velocity from launch. Homing capabilities. Four hundred bars of explosive compound. Capable of flattening a residential building. They sent one after us.

“From orbit?” Esch asked. “So, they were watching the storm, waiting for it to end. Then they tracked the first thing moving out here afterward?”

“They could be watching us right now.”

The four of us looked up. Somewhere up beyond the green, the Enemy was scanning with his finger on a button. Less than three mins ago, he tried for us.

“Prubius?” I asked. “You all right?”

He blinked, looked at me and slowly rose to his feet. “Cheaters,” he muttered.

“Will they know why the missile detonated?”

“Unlikely, Captain,” Bohl said. “That would require an amazing piece of technology, considering the lack of historical precedent in shooting down a missile.

Dhani was practically staring at Prubius. He looked up again and brightened. “Clouds,” he exclaimed. “We may be in luck.”

Sure enough, wisps of white were thickening, rolling toward us in great puffs.

“Let’s not sit here and get shot at again!”

“Agreed,” I told Esch.

“Steady hands,” Bohl said to Prubius as we moved on.

Steady hands. The greatest of compliments among sharpies.

Endgame cover by Greg Simanson Designs. Cover shows characters, rockets and a woman's eye against a green-ice background and twin suns, orange lettering. "The war begins" is added at the top.

Endgame

 

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Tempest Road snippet

A bit of “fun” from my forthcoming novel, “Tempest Road.”

 

Hands lock on MacLeod’s ankles and pull, and he is roughly dragged across the vehicle’s floor.

“Hey you, Yankee. Are you going to behave for us?”

He nods obediently, the warm, moist air under his chin exchanged for coolness. He must be soaked.

Hands pull him to sit upright.

“Are you? If not—” There’s a click and a loud hiss nearby, above him.

Someone laughs. The awful hissing approaches, coupled with a strange, foul brightness.

What in Hades is that?!

“Acetylene,” a man says, intuiting his thoughts. “You know what that is? It takes the number off the engine block. It can do other things, too.”

MacLeod shakes his head. The noise and light seem far too close.

 

Spring, 2017

Woman At War

In the interests of marketing tactics (not much skill to speak of, there) I’ve decided to title my first series of books: Woman at War.

Every novel published these days (it seems) has to belong to a family of works–same characters, same artfully-rendered world to inhabit, and so on.

Okay, there’s a part of me that’s already cringing about the idea. While Endgame never was intended to be a stand-alone work, per se, the idea of giving it a number and place in a glossy-cover series doesn’t quite feel right.

[Yes, I have marketing friends who’d be very quick to point out the relevance of my feelings in this. I.e., get over yourself, you idiot!]

Fine, I will. Not much ego left to defend, anyway (blown to dripping shreds deposited around various mountains of challenge and trial).

Woman at War is, of course, all about June Vereeth. She’s athletic, determined, skilled and level-headed. Along with being a reluctant leader (by rank, not her choosing) she’s also a sniper thrust into the Great War between the Trieste Union and the Mitasterite Empire. So “Endgame” takes place about five months after the war’s beginning. Vereeth and company are sent to defend a precious fuel on the frozen, uninhabitable P-75. During the battle, the fuel depot blows, leaving Vereeth and four friends alone and without transportation 70 million miles behind enemy lines. Animals are closing in, Mitasterites come back (repeatedly) for info leading to more fuel (and post-disaster assessment) and the heroes encounter numerous surprises. Fun, really fun.

Endgame cover by Greg Simanson Designs. Cover shows characters, rockets and a woman's eye against a green-ice background and twin suns, orange lettering. "The war begins" is added at the top.

So Woman at War fits because this really is about a rather Everyman-type woman caught up in a vast conflict. Being a sharpshooter, her decisions come with a finality most of us will never experience–but someone has to make them. Overall, of course, the series is about her nebulous-sounding quest to retain/regain her humanity, and she gets four novels in which to make that happen.

Am I skilled enough to make it happen? We’ll have to see. Up next: Destruction. Cheers!