Anyone else excited for Halloween? I know I am! I’m celebrating by releasing my next novel, The Chronicles of Threa, Book 1: Hunting Gatherers! Have no idea what that is? Click Here to read the blurb and get an idea, and then jump past the break to read an amazing excerpt straight from the novel! Even more exciting, I’ll be doing a special on launch day. On Halloween only, get The Chronicles of Threa, Book 1: Hunting Gatherers from Amazon for FREE! Hope to see you all there! 😀
A Daring Escape from a crashing aircraft into Enemy Territory!
Scritch Fischer, a Scout in the Hunter army, has just leapt from a troop transport which the dreaded Gatherers shot from the unfriendly skies. Will he survive? Read on to find out!
The outside air slapped Scritch like an angry giant, driving the air entirely from his lungs, but he remembered his training and curled up into as tight a ball as he possibly could. The insane air currents surrounding the plummeting transport bounced his small body around like a salmon tossed amongst a group of playful bears. He knew he couldn’t pull his ripcord too early, or the BubbleChute would run out of juice before he hit the ground, but it was all he could do to not slap the release right away. Who knew how long he could stay out here without getting hit by some broken piece of aircraft, or even caught by the explosion of an enemy anti-aircraft round? Scritch was still gasping for air, but he forced himself to exhale completely and inhale as slowly as possible. Finally, when he felt he couldn’t wait any longer, an insistent beeping reached his ears from the BubbleChute disc. “It’s about time!” Scritch barely had the breath to growl, and he frantically banged the release button on his chest.
For a split second, Scritch worried he’d gotten a dud. But just as the worry turned to panic, a tremendous explosion rocked his body. The next moment he felt something enclose him in a soft but firm grip, and the entire world around him became muted. He could still hear and feel the buffeting of the wind and explosions, but it was as if they were all on the other side of a thick blanket. Scritch gathered together some courage and straightened his body out just enough to take a cautious peek around. Right in front of his eyes, he could see the tiny, transparent, gelatinous bubbles protecting him, but by consciously focusing outward, he could also glimpse the outside world through the thousands of bubbly layers. He almost shut his eyes again as a wave of nausea racked his body. Everything was spinning violently around him, and it was very difficult to tell what was going on. But, he was fairly certain the dark, brownish bits were land, and the bright bluish smear was the sky – especially since the dark part took up more and more of his view as the seconds passed. In fact, each time the ground spun back around into view, it was alarmingly more clear and detailed. Scritch barely had time to process this before he struck the ground. The collision – even through layers of the super-absorbent Bubble-Chute material – was so violent that he lost his breath once again, and was barely able to keep himself curled up in a protective posture. Although the ‘chute was strong, it was not impenetrable. Scritch flew back into the air missing a few chunks out of the sphere. Each time he bounced, more pieces were torn away, until finally he found himself rolling down a hill with only a few ragged streamers dangling from the disc on his back. Eventually, Scritch managed to control himself, coming to a crashing, stumbling, bruised halt.
“Oooooh, where the scat am I?” Scritch moaned as he painfully picked himself up from the ground. BubbleChutes may be safer than the old parachutes, but that didn’t mean they were painless, and he was now feeling every bump and bruise that his adrenaline had allowed him to ignore on the way down. He unbuckled the pod from his back and looked around warily. Smoke drifting through the air and the distant thumping of explosions told him he was still in a war zone, and still in excessive danger. He quickly discarded the remnants of his brightly-colored ‘chute and opened the pack he had so carefully clutched all through his chaotic flight. If he was going to be able to survive this, he’d need the correct equipment. He began by grabbing a high-powered pistol from the top of the pile, snatching up the matching magazine and slamming it home. Feeling slightly less vulnerable, Scritch dug around the pack a little more. Grinning, he pulled his equipment harness from the bag. A few seconds work, and he had the familiar straps buckled around his torso and legs. His gun snapped easily into place on his hip, but he kept digging. Several several solid, but light pieces of armor appeared, and he clipped them snugly to various attachment points on his harness. In the end, his uniform disappeared under a flexible grid of armor plating. Scritch felt much more confident now, but still looked carefully around him, hoping no charging Rhino or flying Squirrel would come crashing through the underbrush. He knew it was only a matter of time until something of exactly like that happened, so he quickly hooked the rest of his equipment about his person and moved out.
“Scritch to the crash survivors. Any of you knuckleheads out here?” Scritch made sure his communicator was tuned to the general encrypted band. He knew it was a risk, but he had to connect with someone friendly, and it really was unlikely that the grass-eaters would have already broken the encryption. However, they could still monitor his location if they really tried, so he hoped someone would respond soon.
“Is that you, pipsqueak?” Scritch almost laughed as Slash’s grumpy growl grated in his ear. “We gotta get off this band. Tune to private channel alpha-eight.”
Scritch did so. “What’s your location? Did anyone else make it out?”
“The transport is down, but its beacon is still functioning. We’ll give it a wide berth of course, but we’ve used it as a home point for the trackers. We’re about two klicks northeast of there. Think you can handle that, rookie?”
“Aye Sir! Although technically, you should call me Sir, Private!” Scritch chuckled and winced simultaneously as his earpiece was almost blown out by the force of Slash’s enraged roar.
“Soldiers, can the chatter!” The commanding voice of the Sergeant broke in. “Scout Scritch, radio silence until you rejoin the squad. Move out!” Scritch did so, reminded of how much Sergeants killed the fun, and missing his solo missions more and more. He powered up his relative location finder and centered it on the only beacon it could see, which must be the downed transport. He was glad they’d be avoiding that place. Quite aside from the obvious dangers to being close to a radio beacon anyone could pick up, he wasn’t too eager to see the carnage of the crash site.
“Let’s see, two klicks northeast of the beacon is about … here.” Scritch muttered as he tapped the interface buds built into his forearm, entering a temporary waypoint that turned out to be about four klicks away from his current position. Suddenly, a soft swishing sound rose above the normally subtle forest noises, intruding on his thoughts. He froze in apprehension. Was that an enemy soldier? Scritch swiftly moved away from the sound, being careful to set his feet on the wettest twigs and dryest stones. He knew he needed a way to lose his scent trail as well as his physical trail – and the sooner the better.
Just as he was looking around for signs of a stream, an ear splitting screech rang out from the tree above him. “Graaaah! I’ve got you now, you dirty murderer!” Scritch’s mouth gaped as he looked up and saw exactly what he was hoping to avoid: a rabid Squirrel flying through the air toward him, yelling like a banshee. Scritch reached for his gun, but it was too late. His attacker fell on him like a ton of rocks, and the two went rolling into the underbrush. The Gatherer was fierce, Scritch had to give him that. He hadn’t drawn a weapon, but was spitting and hissing like a madbeast, pummeling Scritch everywhere he could reach. It didn’t do much good; Scritch’s armor was more than a match for one creature’s fists – especially one as untrained as this.
“Wait a minute!” Scritch gasped involuntarily. He caught the squirrel’s next punch easily, locking his arm behind his back in a simple hold from Basic Training. “You’re not a soldier!”
“Of course I’m not, you dummy!” The squirrel squealed shrilly as he wriggled in his captor’s grip. “I’m not a murderer! Now, unhand me, you stinking life-ender!” The irate creature threw his head back, hitting Scritch under his chin, knocking his teeth together, and making his head ring. The confused Scout stumbled backward, shaking his head and cursing.
“You dumb runt!” Scritch drew his knife and charged his enemy with a battle cry of his own. The Squirrel held his ground, but was shaking so much he could barely stand. Although he was a civilian, he’d clearly had a little training, because he managed to block Scritch’s initial stab. But when he tried an attack of his own, Scritch was ready. He swept the weak punch to the side and brought his knee viciously into his opponent’s face, spraying blood and teeth everywhere. The brave Squirrel’s eyes rolled up into his head, and he swayed on his feet for an instant before crashing to the ground, out cold.
Scritch stood above his enemy, chest heaving as he caught his breath once again. He had met Gatherers in battle before, but they were all soldiers, and they almost never got close enough for hand-to-hand combat. He’d never had a problem ending the lives of those trying to kill him and attack his way of life – at least when they were at a distance and just shapes in his gun scope. But now, as he raised his knife to make sure the kid wouldn’t follow him or alert his mates, he hesitated. For some reason, the old Supply Officer’s words intruded on his thoughts.
“Remember young one, we’ve all been made by the Creator. Whether we’re Hunters or Gatherers, we all share that connection, so we’re not really that different.” Scritch had always thought the old beast was crazier than a frog in a desert, but all of a sudden he wasn’t so sure. He gazed upon the brave creature who had attacked a strong, trained soldier without a second thought. What would he have done in the same situation; if a soldier had come upon him suddenly in his own territory? Being honest in his own head, Scritch had to admit that he would have done the exactly the same.
“Still, since I can’t have you following me …” Scritch muttered and tied the unconscious spitfire into such a complicated configuration that he knew it would take the young Squirrel hours to get out; plenty of time for him to get away and to the rest of the squad. Then, he headed in the exact direction his finder told him the crash site lay. Let any veggies who found their mate think he was going in the obvious direction – he’d change it up soon enough.