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New Short Story: Red Survivor

The Red Survivor is on a critical peacekeeping mission to deliver an ambassador to negotiate the end of a war that has humanity on the brink of extinction.

When Captain John Marchant orders the ship to respond to a distress call, First Officer Nick Williams immediately challenges the captain’s order. Nick struggles to persuade Marchant that the effort is futile and they are best served by staying on course to deliver the ambassador.

Ships explode, tempers flare, and their vessel is put in danger as the two square off.

In the Red Survivor universe, this is a standalone space opera short story that focuses on the inherent tension between Marchant and Williams. Buy your copy today!

Sneak Peek

“Starships can’t slow from above the speed of light in the time you’re demanding.” I kept my voice even and calm, though I was explaining something any first-year cadet would have known. “Is it possible, sir, that you’re letting your feelings get in the way of your impeccable judgment?”

He usually responded well to flattery, but it only served to further agitate him. He moved to take a swing. I stepped back and brought up my arms to protect myself.

The blow never landed.

His fist stopped midair.

“You’re relieved of duty, Commander,” Marchant said, his voice bristling with emotion like a hot blade thrust into a cold bath.

Blood Games – Episode 24



This week’s episode features a chapter from Blood Games, Jake Ramsey Book #3, the first book Black Brick is available as a free ebook from most ebook vendors. Here is an excerpt from the show: 

I ALMOST DROVE RIGHT past the mall and kept going. It would have been better for Kris if I did. She was way too involved as it was. But I thought of the kids, and that was what kept me going forward. 

I needed additional resources if I was going to track them down. Besides, I needed to ditch the car anyway because the drone had recorded everything that had happened and was following me. I’d turned my driver’s side mirror up to spot it but so far hadn’t had any luck.

I drove around the mall one time before I pulled into a parking garage. I’d never forgive myself if something happened to Kris. But I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t rescue the children. It was simple math, two lives against one.

My burner phone beeped as I pulled into the underground parking. Once I had parked, I saw I’d received a text from a number I didn’t recognize. It just said one word. Sorry.

I assumed it was Shannon texting me from a phone Diggon knew nothing about. Even though she’d made it obvious what she was doing, I didn’t know what to make of her apology.

The wound was too fresh. I supposed I should have been grateful she’d warned me but I wasn’t in the mood to think that way. Maybe once things had calmed down, I’d feel differently, but I was still trying to work my way out of the mess that she’d created for me.

Not bothering to respond, I left my car window unrolled and placed the keys on the dashboard. With a little luck, somebody would swipe the vehicle and throw DataRader off my scent for a few hours.

Blood Games – Episode 22




This week’s episode features a chapter from Blood Games, Jake Ramsey Book #3, the first book Black Brick is available as a free ebook from most ebook vendors. Here is an excerpt from the show: 

IT WASN’T UNTIL AFTER I’d walked several blocks that I realized I’d never done anything about the wound on my arm. I hadn’t even thought about the possibility I might have left blood in the Suburban.

Cursing, I punched the brick wall of a store I was passing, which of course made things worse. After examining my hand, I determined I was lucky to not have broken any fingers. Several of my knuckles were bleeding, but that was a small price to pay for such a loss of control.

I was on edge and I knew it.

I wasn’t prone to such outbursts, but this was the second time in just a few minutes. Perhaps it was a good thing I hadn’t returned to Reed’s place, who knows what other mistakes I might have made? The pain helped cut through the thickness I felt in my mind.

Maybe I had at least slowed down the police by wiping away my fingerprints, but the possibility of leaving behind DNA was a serious oversight.

Growling to myself I put it from my mind as I ducked into a McDonald’s bathroom. My makeup was almost gone, so I washed off what little was left and went into a stall so I could work on my new disguise without interruption.

My smartphone rang. It was Kris, but I didn’t answer. Perhaps I would never take a call from her again. That would be for the best. She and Maxine might think they have things together, but when Maxine had split from her former partner, any degree of operational competence had gone with him.

It would be reckless for me to allow them to be part of this. Without me pushing they would remain on the outside of the action. And that was where they belonged.

The Hikers: Chapter 2

2

I grabbed Jessica’s hand, pulling her off the trail and behind some bushes. She was so surprised she didn’t protest or bat away my hand. I released my hold once I was certain we were hidden from anybody who might come down the trail.

I had initially thought the gunshot had come from above us on the mountain, but I now doubted that assessment.

We had mountains on all sides of us. Their presence could have masqueraded the original direction of the sound, and it didn’t help that I thought I could still hear an echo.

I decided to trust my initial instinct and act as if it had come from up ahead but remain open to the possibility it had come from another direction.

“It isn’t hunting season,” Jessica said, her mouth right by my ear. The warmth of her breath sent a shudder down my back that I was unable to repress. I tried to pretend like it hadn’t happened as I studied the incline of the mountain. Even if it had been hunting season, the car we’d parked beside had been a regular sedan. A shiny black Chrysler with dark tinted windows. It was also clean as if it had been recently washed. I had a difficult time seeing the owner of the car strapping a gutted buck to the top.

“Might just be somebody doing target shooting,” I whispered, but I doubted this would be a popular area with shooters because it was too wooded.

“Then why drag me into the bushes?” Her eyes were big, and she panted for breath. “You aren’t trying to take advantage, are you?”

I noticed she was still whispering, so she must have known how ridiculous the idea sounded.

“The gunshot came at a perfect time.” I gave her a wry smile. “Chances are there’s no danger. Just somebody doing some shooting. Let’s give it a few minutes and head back down if there aren’t any more shots. We’ll come back for the view another time.”

“There isn’t going to be another time.”

“Yeah, sure. We’ll give it a few and then leave.”

Do you know how awkward it is to be crouched in the brush right beside a woman who has just broken up with you? So close that your bodies are touching and you can feel her breath on the back of your hand?

It’s the very definition of awkward.

I glanced at my watch after only a few minutes had passed, and wished it had been an hour. I wanted to just get up and go, particularly considering how we were both doing our best to not make eye contact, but I wasn’t at all confident we were safe despite my words to Jessica.

The black sedan made my skin crawl the more I thought about it. I hadn’t thought to look at the license plate, but I was beginning to wonder if maybe it was from out of state. If it had been a large truck or SUV, I wouldn’t have been so worried.

But the black car was all business, and the gunshot had been close. 

After a few minutes passed, we made eye contact, but neither of us moved. I could tell she was just as worried as me.

“How about we wait five, ten more minutes and if we don’t see anything, we head back down? We can’t be too careful.”

She nodded. “No funny stuff while we wait.”

“How do you mean?”

“No more hand-holding or affection of any kind. I mean to carry through with it this time.”

This time?

She’d never broken up with me before. There was one night I could tell she had been bothered by something, but she’d been fine the next time I’d seen her, so I hadn’t thought anything of it.

It sounded like she’d been struggling with her decision for some time. It made me sad because I’d thought things were going well.

But I wasn’t going to tell her that, not now.

“I want to make sure we both get down the mountain safely. After that, I’ll drop you off and you’ll never see me again.”

She didn’t respond, which I took to mean she agreed. Something about the expression on her face gave away her confusion as if she were having second thoughts.

This decision had not been easy for her. If I were to try, I might convince her to give it another go. Perhaps that was why she’d wanted me to know why she was dumping me. If she had this much uncertainty, I wasn’t about to tip the scale. It would be better for us to both move on. But if it helped her get some closure, I was willing to bite the bullet.

“Why—” I stopped what I was about to say when two men walked down the trail. They both wore suits.

Pick up your copy today!

War of the Fathers Series on Sale This Week

All four books of War of the Fathers are on sales this week. The first book, War of the Fathers, is free. Lord of the Inferno, Enemy in the Shadows, and Blood of the Redd Guard are $0.99 but just for a very short time, then the price steps up a $1.00.

All of these books are also in Kindle Unlimited.

Links to each are below.

The Hikers: Chapter 1

1

I smiled awkwardly at Jessica as the wind blew through my hair, making me want to shiver. I kept it from showing by doing some exaggerated stretches. My grin wasn’t as confident as the one I’d given her when I’d first picked her up. She seemed about to break up with me, and I figured I should let her know I knew something was wrong, but also still show her some affection in case I was reading the situation incorrectly.

“How much further?” she asked, not returning the smile while avoiding eye contact by looking further up the trail.

“A couple miles, maybe more. We should start climbing soon.” The hike had been mostly flat, but I knew from online that the last several miles were steep. I had been looking forward to seeing the honeycomb caves and the view from the top, but if she really were going to end things with me, I’d prefer she did it now and got things over with. I could always come back some other time when the situation wasn’t so emotionally charged.

“Let’s get going.” Her voice was resigned, and I wondered what she was waiting for. Why didn’t she just go ahead and rip the band-aid off already? 

“As you wish.” Something caught my attention in the grass. I bent down and picked up a worn leather wallet. “Suppose I’ll have to find the owner when we get back,” I muttered, sliding it into my pocket without looking for who it might belong to, something I probably would have done if I hadn’t already been feeling uncomfortable.

Jessica nodded as she glanced at me. I smiled, this time forcing myself into a full grin, but she still didn’t return it, making my insides colder than ice.

I knew that look so well. I’d seen it a few times before and even remembered giving it to others.

And just when I was starting to think she and I really had a future. 

I reviewed the morning, trying to think of what I might have said or done to cause such a shift in her thinking, but I couldn’t come up with anything.

Things had started out well enough. When I’d picked her up, she had greeted me with a hug and kiss, as warm and affectionate as any she had given me during the two months we’d been together.

At least she hadn’t asked to go to a public place. It was unlikely anybody out here in the wilderness would be audience to what I was expecting. We hadn’t seen anyone on the trail all morning, and I would have assumed we were alone on the path had it not been for the other car parked at the trailhead.

“Are you ready?”

I could tell by the way she asked she was no longer enjoying the hike and she was just trying to get through it. Perhaps she’d been unsure before we’d started but as we’d gone on, she’d firmed up her decision.

I tried to think of something I might have said but couldn’t come up with anything. Our conversation had been pleasant and friendly.

“Yep,” I said, wiping away the smile and giving her a serious look, racking my brain for anything that would give me a clue about what she was thinking. “I really think we’re going to like the view.”

She muttered something I couldn’t make out as she pushed on ahead, hiking up the trail with a renewed sense of purpose.

We shortly came to a bend and began to climb the mountain. It was steeper than I planned on, I wasn’t as active as I had been two years ago. I needed to lose ten pounds before I would be comfortable again.

I followed after, giving her a safe distance so if she were to fall down the steep incline, I’d have a warning before she hit me.

The climb was strenuous. I soon found myself distracted by the strain. And if she was determined to finish this hike, I was glad to have something else to focus on instead of stewing about what was coming.

Ten minutes later she stopped and pulled a water bottle out from a pocket on the outside of her backpack. She unscrewed the lid and took a long pull.

I put the mouthpiece of my water reservoir to my lips and took a sip.

Even though we’d been hiking for more than an hour, you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. If I looked closely, I might have spotted a drop of sweat on her forehead or some moisture on her neck. I, on the other hand, had sweat forming around my armpits and on my chest. My back was slick, especially where my pack made contact with my shoulders and waist.

“This is pointless.” Jessica put her water bottle away and finally met my eyes. “I’m breaking up with you.”

Even though I’d been expecting it, her timing took me off guard. Perhaps she had meant to finish the hike but had become impatient. I studied her and then slowly nodded, giving it some thought before answering.

“Sure, no problem.”

“That’s it? That’s all you have to say?”

“I could tell you were going to do it. No biggie.”

My response surprised her, but I’d been down this road before and had learned it was best to let somebody go if that was what they wanted to do. I wouldn’t gain anything by trying to convince her to stay. I’d only look weak. While I preferred that we didn’t break up, nothing I could say would change her mind.

“I’m not playing around.” Jessica’s eyes narrowed. “I’m quite serious.”

“I understand.” When I saw her skeptical look, I went on. “I’m not saying I’m happy about it, but if you’ve made up your mind, I’m not going to change it. I know better.”

“Aren’t you curious why?”

I didn’t answer for several long moments. The question felt like a trap, and I wasn’t so sure I wanted to spring it.

“If you feel the need to tell me I’ll hear you out—”

“Hear you out?” She frowned. “You have got to be kidding me. Look you’re a nice enough guy—”

A gunshot cut through the late morning air. It came from just up ahead.

Pick up your copy today!

New Short Story: The Hikers

I have a new short story out on Amazon today, The Hikers:

Tim gets dumped by his girlfriend Jessica in the middle of the wilderness and then hears a gunshot. Fearing the worst, they hide in the bushes. Moments later serious-looking men in business suits come traipsing down the trail. 

While Tim and Jessica try to decide what to do next, the men return, looking for a missing wallet. 

Just when Tim thinks they have figured out a safe path from the forest, they are caught at gunpoint. He must think fast and speak well; otherwise, there will soon be three bodies instead of just one.

If you enjoy thrillers with a witty hero that end with a twist, this short story is for you. Fans of Jeffery Deaver and Lee Child will enjoy this yarn. Buy your copy today!

Sneak Peek

Jessica shuddered. A cold feeling swept over me. Something was wrong. Men don’t hike in suits. Ever. I all the sudden wished we’d just turned and ran down the mountain when we’d heard the gunshot. My instincts had been to go for cover, but now those men were going to get down to the road and see that they hadn’t been alone out here.

A bead of sweat dripped into my eye, but I ignored it. I hadn’t given it a second thought when I had parked my Toyota Corolla right by their car. Would they care? Would they become suspicious when they saw my car but didn’t run into us on the trail? Or would they wait to see if we knew something?

As we waited for the men to pass, I noticed Jessica’s hand was touching lightly against my own. I wanted to yank it away but did not. It felt good, but at the same time, it filled me with bitterness.

“Wait here,” I said once they’d disappeared down the trail. “I’m going to see if I can figure out what they were up to.” It wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but I needed some distance between her and me, otherwise, cracks might start to form in my ambivalent exterior.

“Nope, we’re going down. We just need to give those men plenty of time—”

“Perfect, wait here. I won’t be long.” I walked in the opposite direction of the men, checking every step to make sure they weren’t coming back up the trail. 

Get it today!

Blood Games – Episode 21



This week’s episode features a chapter from Blood Games, Jake Ramsey Book #3, the first book Black Brick is available as a free ebook from most ebook vendors. Here is an excerpt from the show:  

MY HEART BEAT IN my ears and my head hurt as the final image of the man I’d shot hung in front of my eyes, threatening to distract me from the road. My hands would have been shaking if it hadn’t been for the way I clung to the steering wheel.

His hand had moved for his pistol while he begged. He’d been about to kill me, hadn’t he?

I replayed the event in my mind, wondering if there’d been another way out of the situation. His face had changed right before I’d fired, when he’d brought up his gun and thought that he’d had the upper hand. He’d thought he’d played on my emotions.

But I couldn’t get the image of what the bullet had done to him from my mind. It was a struggle to keep my focus on the road. Each breath was a battle.

He’d meant to kill me. I’d known it and had shot first. It had been my only option.

When I reached an intersection, I took the corner faster than I should have. The wheels on one side left the ground and I was afraid the vehicle was about to roll. In my hurry to leave I hadn’t put on my seatbelt, so I gripped the steering wheel even harder and jammed my feet up under the pedals, hoping I would survive.

When the tires slammed back onto the road, I exhaled. I pushed my foot onto the gas pedal, making the tires squeal. The potential accident had distracted me from my thoughts, but now that it was over, they came swirling back like a hurricane, threatening to uproot my sense of self and reality.

It had been him or me. I knew it. He had known it. If he’d put his hands in the air and surrendered he would still be alive. But knowing that didn’t make it any better.

Dead Man’s Fear: Chapter 4

 

To: Brigadier General Katrina Roth

From: Lieutenant General Regina Adams

Log date: 00429.209-05:22:37

Re: Officer Training Protocol Adjustment

General Roth,

You are poking your nose where it does not belong. I urge you not read anything into this message.

Your camp was selected because of your reputation for discretion.

Let the pieces fall as they may. Keep me up to speed as things progress.

Lieutenant General Regina Adams

Dead Man’s Fear: Chapter 6

It was strange to have the thought of death so near. I had a moment where it felt I would fall forever, in the next I had fallen for eternity. In the one after I could only think of how little time I had. My mind ran like a mouse on a wheel, frantically looking for any way to escape. The mental activity might have been useful if I could have focused it on my problems, but it was difficult to overcome the fear. The inner war on my terror was going about as well as the outer one on my fight to survive while I struggled to figure out how to engage the flying mechanism in my boots.

I once again knocked my feet together hoping that might do something. I pushed the buttons on my watch.

“Engage flying mechanism.” My words were ripped from my mouth.

Nothing happened.

Things were getting bad.

Vegetation passed on all sides and I was forced more frequently to bring down my hands to protect my face against the undergrowth as they flashed by.

I had assumed I would die when I made contact with the ground, but now I wondered if it wasn’t more likely I’d be skewered by a branch.

When I repeated my actions there was no difference in the rate I fell. I muttered a prayer to a God I had not thought of since I was a child, if my prayer could be heard in this far off world.

I tried every combination of words I could think of, but my boots did not respond.

The vegetation was bad enough I could hardly see a foot in front of my face, yet I continued to fall without major resistance. My boots took the worst of it as I used my hands to shield my eyes in between attempts to press my watch buttons.

I took in a deep breath, gasping as if it had been my first in minutes. The thought I was seconds from death felt like a monkey on my back that jumped up and down, threatening to topple me over and bring death that much faster. It did not recede without a battle, but I managed to poke a little hole into the thought. I focused on that pinprick and tried to widen it.

I brought my feet together.

Nothing.

I pushed the buttons on my watch and felt the jolt of something kicking in, a sudden force that would have tossed me forward if I hadn’t grabbed vines that dangled in front of my face. Neither the engagement of the flying system nor my hold of the vines broke my fall. I continued to slip through the ravine, my fingers tearing leaves from the vines as I descended.

I slowly came to a halt.

Everything was quiet, something I’d missed in my rapid descent down the ravine. I licked my lips, inhaled, and was glad to be still. The vegetation was so thick I could hardly move my shoulders. There weren’t any critters nearby, but I didn’t doubt they would show up before long.

The fact I was alive sunk into my frazzled brain. I’d tried everything I could to stop it from happening, but I’d known the most likely outcome.

A sigh escaped as I tried to come to terms with my renewed chance at life. My whole body was wracked with fatigue and stress, it felt like I had been seconds from succumbing to a heart attack. The silence washed over me as I caught my breath. I was not in a hurry to return, but I was anxious to get out of the green sea of poison.

The moment slipped away. It was difficult to say how long I waited, floating in the thick vegetation but my mind started to work again, the gears ground like they were breaking off rust.

The ability to fly came from my boots, I could feel the stabilizing force emanating from below my feet, but it wasn’t a propulsionary force like I’d first thought when it had finally kicked in.

It was something different.

For lack of a better term, I thought of them as anti-grav boots because I appeared to float.

I was surprised the boots had not stopped me dead in my tracks, but it was good they had not. They appeared to have a feature that recognized my descent and were smart enough to know nothing good would happen if they stopped me sharp in midfall.

As I shifted I became more certain the levitating force came from the boots alone, my jumpsuit did not seem connected to the experience.

Jeffords hadn’t mentioned the boots once when he had spoken about our jumpsuits prior to his jump.

Another deception. He hoped I’d die before I figured it out.

I was sure he hadn’t consciously touched his watch buttons when he’d approached the edge of the ravine, it had to be something he’d done without thinking.

His slip had saved my life.

I might have stumbled onto it if given enough time, but not before I had become well acquainted with the ground or embedded into a tree. I wanted to know how close I was to the bottom, but it was too dark and overgrown to tell. I could barely see six inches past my nose.

The dark seemed brighter at the top of the ravine, but it was far away and well enough hidden I wondered if it wasn’t just my imagination.

Sweat covered my body. At least I hoped it was just that, I was afraid I bled all over.

Hoping I had not touched anything poisonous I collected my wits and began to put my mind back together. The fear was gone but the aftereffects would be with me for some time. My hands shook, my legs seemed like they were about to fall out from underneath me. Luckily, it seemed my boots kept my feet together and me upright; otherwise, I would not have stood in the air so easily.

Was it my imagination or did the jumpsuit add support?

Jeffords wasn’t kidding when he said some of us would die today. If Logan is a teenager in a man’s body, does he have the presence of mind to hop off the ravine and survive a fall?

Maybe he could—I was surprised to be alive—but I doubted it would be the case.

Logan might hate me, but I did not want him to die.

Why didn’t the boots activate the first dozen times I pressed the buttons?

I had done nothing different the time it worked.

Could Jeffords turn off my anti-grav boots?

I growled.

It was one thing to make me run laps until I dropped. It was another to order me to jump into a ravine without teaching me how to fly while also disabling my anti-grav boots until the last minute.

What if I had not tried my watch again?

After waiting until I was less likely to throttle Jeffords upon arrival, I unclenched my hands and pointed my toes down just a little, remembering how the tiniest movement had pushed Jeffords back several feet.

My action propelled me up, limber branches and other vegetation scraping against me as I went. I winced with each new brush against the plants, afraid I had been exposed to enough poison to expect another visit to the infirmary. A smile crept across my lips when I thought of the look on Dolores’ face when I returned so soon.

It became easier to breathe as the vegetation thinned out the higher I traveled. I couldn’t see much because of the dark, but it was enough to know the way above me was clear. Once the path was not as cluttered, I pointed my toes down and shot up the ravine, feeling like a superhero.

The euphoria ended as soon as I thought of Sam and Jeffords.

Several minutes later I had enough light to get my first real look at the plant life. There were vines, lots of vines. And trees that seemed a cross between mushrooms and pines. They had branches, but instead of leaves there were bulbs that were covered with spiny needles. The thin barbs stuck out as much as a foot. Some of the bulbs were three or four inches around. In between the needles there was something else. I thought at first they were leaves, but when there was more light, I decided it was a different plant that grew on top of the weird-looking mushroom trees, a moss of some sort.

All this grew in two days?

Now that I was free I was careful to avoid touching anything. I didn’t know what poisons I had picked up by contact, but I was certain it was to my advantage to avoid further exposure. I felt a little lightheaded.

Was it the poison, the aftermath of the ordeal I’d been through, or the fact I was traveling in a way I never had before?

My anxiety was less now that I could see better so I slowed my rate of climb, not caring if Jeffords noticed because I wanted to think about how I was going to act at the top. It was a risk in more ways than one because of my exposure to poison, but if it felt like I was getting sick or if there were other obvious effects, I would increase my speed.

Jeffords is John Jeffs the convicted murderer, I thought while shaking my head. The same traits that had landed him on death row would betray him here. His time would come.

Patience was my friend. 

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