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Hunters - A Trilogy

          

                                                                    Paperback cover.                                                                 eBook cover.

 

HUNTERS is the final edition of my 'Parallel' trilogy. The entire story has been re-written, polished, and edited. You can now buy the complete tale under the covers of one book.

Hunters is an epic, contemporary, fantasy thriller. It is a tale of love and sacrifice, of hatred and selfishness, of beauty and the unbending will of those who focus upon the never-ending battle of good over evil.

Hunters is filled with twists, adventures, thrills and spills.

Sometimes it will be brutal, sometimes it will be heart-rending. There are no little green men in this yarn, only an ordinary man - Ken - who suddenly finds himself immersed in extraordinary circumstances and surroundings. Ken learns that there are far more things that lay outside of his present understanding of the world, than he could ever imagine.

The tale is contemporary, modern, and sees Ken being given the choice to follow the path of the Hunters. However, sometimes his new masters can be extremely cold-hearted, and there are times when he's given no choice at all. But, unfortunately for Ken, he's a natural and the life of a Hunter seems to fit him like a glove...

I hope that you'll give the book a whirl. I spent five years in the writing of this story and now, I believe, it is finally ready for your eyes.

I think, and hope, that you'll love the story, and that it won't be quite what you expect it to be.

We shall see!

HUNTERS is available in paperback from many different retailers.

The
eBook
is only from available Amazon.

Readers' reviews:

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USA

Here's an example of the back cover text.


Hunters

By Paul A. Rice

Some are born and some have been chosen. Born or chosen, it matters not – once a Hunter, always a Hunter. Pure of soul, clear of eye, and brave to the point of insanity, to be a Hunter is their destiny. They live to fight an invisible evil, one lying scattered amongst everything mankind knows. The Darkness must be destroyed, and there is no price the Hunters will not pay to achieve their goal.

Kenneth Robinson sees himself as a normal guy, simply working hard and trying to make the best of his life. Unfortunately, he managed to acquire a certain set of skills during the course of that life. Those same skills just so happen to be very desirable when it comes to dispensing with the Darkness and its evil hosts. Ken is about to take a ride through insanity, a mind-melting trip to the far side of reality. In order to survive he will need to call upon the experiences from a life filled with adventure, with danger, and with blood. However, nothing is ever certain in the life of a Hunter, least of all life itself.

Only those chosen to be Hunters may render battle unto the Darkness.

Ken has been chosen – this is his story.


Here's the first chapter, for your perusal...

This Trilogy has been my labour of love, my journey of discovery, my awakening.

 

The tale has been my constant companion for the past five years. Together we have climbed steep learning-curves, fallen into bottomless pits of blinding naivety, struggled against the endless tides of our own imperfection, and fought many battles against the Demons of our own design.

 

Finally we lay here, our journey complete. In this moment of time, this micron of eternity, with our efforts wrapped between these simple covers, we bow before you. Holding our breath in trepidation, we wait in the hope that our voyage was to be worthy of your audience.

 

We are yours – do with us as you will.

 

PAR

November 2012


One

Chained

 
Only the chosen may render battle unto the Darkness.
 
But first – they must be chosen.
 
 
2006.
They punched him again, and again, and again. And then again one more time, just for good measure. Or fun. After they had finished beating him, the man lay in the sogginess of his own blood and faeces. Warm urine pooled, a brown tide lapping upon the torn shore of his weeping feet. He assumed brown, for by now it would have mixed with his own droppings, surely. No underwear here, only a boiler-suit to provide unfettered access, bowels to feet.

It was dark, darker than a black night on the inside of Lucifer’s crack with all the curtains drawn. And in a crack he most certainly was – the deepest, smelliest crack of all time. It wasn’t entirely due to his own stupid fault that he’d ended up here, either. Stuck in the black crack of hell’s master, chained and beaten, paying the Devil his keep, his board, his rent. Other people needed to take their share of blame, for this, his most dire of situations.

‘Perhaps they’d like to come and pay their share of the bill?’ he thought.
‘Dark taxes…’

The feeble grin was a big mistake, a grimace that served only to send more blood spilling from his mouth. Acres of chipped teeth firing a barrage of their psychopathic opinions, lasers, into the very depths of his creaking jawbone. The hood never helped. Filthy thing, imprisoning his mind more effectively than the chains holding his ankles, he was incarcerated, mind-and-body, stinking blackness.
The fetid rankness of suppurating body-fluids caressed his nostrils, their reminder gentle, yet brutal. He was here, and here he would stay, stay until death. Stay until, until they cut his...

‘Until they cut my head off…’
His mind screamed: ‘NO!’

Deep breathing, he was able to do that, if only just. Tepid air sucked deep into bruised lungs. Broken ribs freely-moving, like pick-up-sticks on a wind-rushed pond. Wait for the pain, the grinding, grating crepitus. What little of his body they had not yet violated now seemed to be in someone else’s possession. The rest, the parts they’d punched and cut, bitten and slashed, burned and electrified – splashed with lighter fluid – those parts definitely belonged to him. He wished they did not. The pain was beyond pain. It was his world.
Yes, he was imprisoned in a World Of Pain.

The thoughts whirled by on their merry-go-round of anguish.
‘Am I a pain-prisoner?’

No, he was just a prisoner-prisoner. Chained and hooded in his world of pain. His mind drifted, struggling to remember the name of the film where he’d first heard those words. ‘If you don’t do as I say...then you, mister, are gonna be in a world of pain!’ Maybe it was a book, he wasn’t able to think clearly, memories blurring, a murky backdrop to the fear and pain.

He slept. Not for long.

He cried again, hot tears casting their salty tracks down his lacerated cheeks, searing his cracked and feathered lips. And yet, even whilst drowning in the depths of such anguish, his blinding naivety, the rushing arrogance, still failed to allow the reality of the situation, and his own part in it, to register.

‘It wasn’t just my fault, no. The security advisor was as much to blame, the stupid bastard! Why hadn’t he been more forthright, why hadn’t he made sure we never went downtown unaccompanied?’ He blubbered inside the hood. ‘Why, it was his job to take care of us, why hadn’t the guy done something? Look at what’s happening now. Look at the mess I’m in. Look at it – stupid bastard!’

His blindness knew no bounds. He’d always been the same and it had been observed on more than one occasion.
‘John McGuire? Arrogant little prick, damned know-it-all!’
He’d heard it said. He didn’t care.

His own thoughts ruled the roost around here. ‘We paid them to take care of us. I’ve been in more dangerous places than this, Pakistan is really not as bad as they make it out to be, the stupid bastards!’ But it was. His thoughts brushed the admission away. ‘It wasn’t as bad as they made it out to be, it just wasn’t – I was simply unlucky!’

He’d had plenty of experience, plenty. He knew the score. He’d drunk gallons of beer in Kabul, taken hundreds of hookers in Rwanda – taken hookers everywhere – he’d partied like a gypsy in Yemen, fornicated like a king in Baghdad, rocked the darkest corner of the Congo, and drank himself senseless in a scintillating Syria.

‘Pakistan was just another place of work, why the hell can’t I venture into downtown Karachi to check out the scene, why? One little trip downtown in a taxi, it’s no big-deal.’

The crystal-green eyes of the ex-pat security chief bored into his dark, pain-filled world. Those softly spoken words, the clear warning, seared through the blackness of his purgatorial prison. ‘Under no circumstances are you ever to use taxis, gentlemen – that’s why we pay a fortune for our own cars, are we clear?’ Looking at them without a smile whilst proceeding to point at the map, indicating the forbidden areas, the dangerous spots, the out-of-bounds places.

McGuire’s thoughts had been idle.
‘They seem interesting, definitely worth a little trip down there…’

The ex-pat’s words hammering home endless other procedures to be followed ‘in case of emergency.’ Apparently, he’d been doing this stuff for more than thirty years, ex-special forces, or something. Who cared? The briefing droned on. ‘Blah-blah-blah…’ The man’s gravel-filled voice faded into white noise as McGuire had let his thoughts return to the girl from the bar last night. The Russian, the blonde one, she was something else.

‘Dubai, party town,’ he thought, mind wandering.

Here and now, in the present, whilst drowning in the bitter blackness of his prison, he barely remembered the man’s name, the security chief.

‘Old whatisname...yes, what was his name?’ He tried to think.

‘Ken?’
‘Yes, Ken, that was it.’
‘Ken...something-or-other…’
‘Robertson?’

His mind seemed disjointed, throbbing fear knocking on the door of his conscious, niggling, disrupting his ability to think clearly.

‘Perhaps it was Rob-in-son?’
‘Robinson, yes, that’s it, Robinson…’

McGuire couldn’t seem to remember the man’s face, only the eyes. They were green. Green eyes, icy eyes, emeralds.
‘Who cared?’

He tried to hide the restless chain of thought, resting his temple upon the knuckles of a bloodied hand propped between head and floor. It was a cold and damp floor, a black and stinking floor.

Thoughts drifting like a sleepwalker. ‘Who cares now?’
He sniffed miserably, a droplet of snot shooting back up his nose.
‘No-one, that’s who cares now, no-one.’

More tears, a gentle cascade of soft, helpless admittance. Stinging, wet truth. He and the others, those who wouldn’t care, just as long as this wasn’t happening to them they wouldn’t, had sniggered silently. Casually leaning against the doorframe as the big man gave them his ‘security’ briefing.

‘Yawn, yawn – yawn! The guy’s a bloody dinosaur; making things sound worse than they really are, too busy justifying his job!’
And as for his side-kick, Noman, the cocky Asian fool, he was just another local henchman who was too busy licking the security chief’s boots to really know the score – the guy had never even been outside of Karachi, what the hell would he know? Well, those two and their stupid rules weren’t a problem, because dollars buy everything, especially the favours of a skinny gate-guard and his taxi-driving cousin.

But, there was, apparently, a major difference between favours and loyalty.

Yes, well, McGuire knew that now, didn’t he? Now he did – now he knew. But now it was too late. He knew that one for sure, and the knowledge burned him.

Wished he’d listened, wished he’d taken the advice, wished…
He slept again, but not for long.

They awoke him.

Rattling steel, squeaking hinges, footsteps. More pain, the shocking agony of a hard-soled boot stamping down on his unsuspecting fingers. Something hard, viciously wooden, clacked off his skull with a hollow, thunking sound, its impact ushered his mind to the front row of a fantastical firework show, a rather agonizing display of lights and sparkles. The ticket was VIP.

A voice spoke in the dark, its words thick, guttural.
‘Food...you...eat...food!’

The fireworks subsided, if only slightly. He groaned.
Iron fingers, steel claws digging into his armpits, dragged him into a sitting position. Head forced towards the steel bench – it was steel, he knew that much, his legs were chained to it and he’d explored every inch of the bench. Escape was impossible, chained like a dog, a mad dog, and twice as rabid – face shoved at the food, the same plate of barely warm, sweaty food as before.

‘The stew again, no doubt spicy and twinned with naan bread, a single flop, surely not the same piece of floury, flaccid naan bread again, surely not?’ He preferred to think of it as faeces bread: eminently palatable. The stench of his cell overwhelmed any feeble aromas the food may once have possessed.
‘Oh, how wonderful, faeces bread and sweaty stew again…’

The rusty voice, its words thick, spoke once more.
‘Close eyes – very quiet, shsshh...you eat!’

His own voice croaking, words wheedling through broken teeth.
‘Water...please?’ Not his voice, the sound of a stranger, hollow, detached.

A curse and then a blow, more of a chiding cuff than a blow, a little slap for the insolent, a reminder of who exactly was in charge around here. Then a pause...followed by some rustling and a shout, dialect unknown. Screaming hinges and more footsteps, pause...whispered words, a soft laugh. The clank of tin, a hollow sound, empty like his soul. A moment of silence, soft breathing and the smell of sweat, was followed by a rolling drumbeat of pouring water. The final clank of tin preceded one more slap to the back of his head, just for good measure. The blow was unexpected and made his head jerk forward to greet the bench’s cold caress; its steel greeting was merciless, mocking. Yet more pain.

‘Eat!’

Heavy footsteps, hinges wailing, door crashing, tomb sealed.
Hear the silence, a deep and thick silence, a sleep-like, black silence.
But not total. He cocked his head, straining to catch the noises.

Banging and shouting.

‘A rescue, have they come for me?’

No.

Faint laughter, mirthful sounds, floating through the prison’s thick walls. They would have been of more use were he at the bottom of a well. At least he would have been able to shout in the well. No shouting here. Maybe a scream, just one, final scream. The sound of their laughter was bitter-sweet, a sound of happiness being enjoyed in some other world by some other people. People who would
never come, not to come and help they wouldn’t. No, all they were going to do, when at last they came, was...

‘Yes, all they would do was cut my head…’
‘No!’

Shuddering panic, a tide of fear raced towards the matchstick boat of his sanity, he drifted helplessly in the face of its black wave, a tsunami of unstoppable horror. The darkness swelled, he felt himself wrapped within her terrible arms, bound by his fear.
He was a fear-prisoner, a prisoner-prisoner.

‘Breathe!’

He turned to the bench and lifted the hood, that wretched dominatrix, over his mouth and rested its chafing edges upon the bridge of his nose. Wincing, fingertips cautious, gently stroking the unfamiliar, misshapen lump of his broken, nasal slope. He prised a kernel of snotty blood from his nostrils, holding it in his fingers, half-contemplating whether to eat it or not.
At least he knew where it had been.

With a groan, he flicked the morsel away and stared down through the bottom of the hood, vision blurred by a curtain of loose-hanging, cotton strands. He left the hood covering his eyes. Something inside of him knew the heavy price that would be paid if ever he tried to remove it. Fear taxes, pain invoice. No twenty-eight days’ period of grace around here; he would pay and pay immediately. Of that he had no doubt because...because they watched him. They watched him, he knew they did, and he knew that it was better to play safe, better to stay in the darkness. McGuire felt their eyes upon him, rapists, scouring his mind and body. They watched him, all the time they watched him. He felt those eyes – they were just like Ken Rob-in-son’s eyes, relentlessly boring into his soul.

He ate the food and drank the water – the food was tasteless, he may as well have been eating air. The water was aluminium, cold and metallic, sandy. It smelled of urine. He pushed the plate away and lowered the hood. With his stomach already starting to grumble, sphincter complaining like an old woman with the shakes, McGuire eased himself back down onto the floor, pushing his legs nearer the gaoler – the closer to the bench his legs were the better. It seemed to ease the pain of the iron clasps fixed to his ankles.

He lay back and listened to the obscure grumblings of his bowels.
His sleep was fitful and far from empty.

Noises, harsh noises, filled his dreaming mind: steel dragons, cackling laughter and screams...
‘Screams, who’s screaming...screaming?’

Jerking awake, listening to the silence.

What silence? The noise was overwhelming. A steel jackhammer, wielded by a giant maniac, was beating a staccato rhythm against the side of his cell. No, it was down the corridor from his cell – outside. The noise was horrific, pulsating waves of shrieking sound entered his ears, their intrusion buffeting what few senses remained in the mush of his half-awake mind.

Screams, shouts, curses and jackhammers.

McGuire shuffled into the sitting position, pulling himself upright in front of the bench, heart beating louder than the giant’s blows. His head was ringing and old mother sphincter was just about to break into a terminal fit. He clenched his muscles against the horrible loose feeling in his guts and tried to get his pureed brain working.

‘A rescue, they are coming for me!’

Yes.

Reaching up, he grasped the hood and began to ease the hateful thing over his face. Then the noise stopped, stopped with the abruptness of an unwound Grandfather clock, stopping when the old man died. ‘Tick-tock-t…’

All noise ceased, time froze. So did his breath.
He waited in frozen, breath-holding fear.

He heard the sound of running feet, the noise filtering into the room, boots running. They were running up the corridor towards his cell, towards him! Then the old woman in his guts stopped, just like the clock. Dropped dead and unleashed her torrent. The flush of escaping fluids only serving to make his fear more palpable – he jerked the hood back down and cowered against the bench, his steel saviour, his protector, with tears running down his face and shit running down his legs.

Murmured voices came from outside the door, keys rattled, hinges complained. A moment of silence before heavy footsteps came thumping across that cold and dirty floor.

He cowered against the bench, crying out: ‘No, please no!’

Iron fingers lifted him to his feet. The chains clanked alarmingly.
A curse, in English...‘Fuck!’

More keys rattling.
‘Get those damn clamps off his legs, Mike. Hurry up!’

Then he was free, stumbling backwards to be saved by those iron hands. They pushed his head down, grabbing his wrist, jerking him forwards.

‘Follow me!’ It was a different voice, Australian, gruff and uncaring. ‘Come on, McGuire. Don’t just stand there, hold my hand and follow me – run or die, you prick!’

Jerking forwards, gripping the man’s large hand, McGuire did as he was ordered, he ran on frozen legs, pins-and-needles firing in waves of static down his thighs as his guide pushed ahead without seeming to care. The rest was nothing but a blur, daylight searing under the lip of the hood. Running whilst bent over – stumbling. Panting like the rabid dog, and twice as thirsty – being inexorably dragged forwards by his iron-fisted rescuer.

Fear and a sudden wave of terrible doubt washed over him.
‘He is a rescuer, they have come to help, right?’

No choice but to follow, dragged by the wrists, stumbling and moaning, blood, snot and tears slicking across his face and dripping down his chin. The hood was now nothing more than a cloth oven. It boiled his head.

He heard people shouting. ‘Move it, come on you guys! That’s it, watch out – fuck, they’re here!’ The sound of gunfire filled his being. Deliberate shots, loud, single explosions. Then the other type, a ripping steel cacophony, an awful clattering melee of automatic fire, such horrendous noise, such madness!

The last coherent sensation he had was one of being lifted clean off the ground and thrown, his equilibrium went haywire in the strobe-like surroundings of the hood, darkness and light flashed in crazy patterns. He felt himself flying through the air. His tensing muscles were unnecessary. The leathery springiness of a car seat saved him from the pain of the anticipated, concrete landing.

Car doors slammed around him, an engine roared and he was thrown against the rear of the seat. Tyres squealed – he felt the vehicle tilting over to the left, then accelerating hard, diesel engine bouncing against the rev-limiter. The first voice from the cell spoke again, the English one, its tone familiar, but...

‘Left-left-left, that’s it, straight through there! Go, go – Go!’

More shooting from behind, there were some loud, metallic, thumping noises on the door by his head. Someone in his car started firing; the noise was so loud that McGuire screamed in anguish. The last thing he heard was the sound of a metallic clinking noise. Then something hot, red-hot, hit the back of his neck.

The pain seared into him. McGuire shrieked: ‘I’m hit! I’m hit!’
In utter fear, he collapsed into the black pit of unconsciousness.

***

Kenneth Robinson glanced across at the driver. ‘We can slow down now, Mikey,’ he said. ‘We’ve lost ‘em. Anyway, Noman’s boys will sort them out if they try and follow us...Did you see him? He was like a Tasmanian Devil! He must have dropped five of ‘em at least!’

‘Yeah, he was outstanding!’ Mike grunted, sliding a sideways glance towards Ken. ‘What are we gonna tell his family?’ he asked, softly.

Ken sat in silence; the recent memory of his deputy rushing without fear towards the heavily-armed kidnappers was still fresh in his mind. His blood still dripped and Ken still smelled it. Noman had gone down in a blaze of glory, not senseless by any means. They hadn’t been told about the extra guards, Noman had seen them first and simply did what anyone would have done, anyone with balls the size of melons – he’d attacked the group of gun-toting kidnappers without a second thought, allowing Ken and Mike to gain access to the building.

Noman’s actions had saved them, but he’d been killed in the process. His bullet-riddled body, now cold and lifeless, lay on the back seat of the white Toyota shadowing them through the packed streets of Karachi.

Ken had no idea what he was going to do. ‘I dunno,’ he said, blowing out a stream of anger-filled breath. ‘I guess the company will have to fork out some cash for Noman’s family – bollocks, what a waste of a good man!’ He looked at the unconscious form of John McGuire.
The man lay across the back seat of the Land Cruiser, a pool of blood and snot soaking through his hood. Ken decided to leave it there as the sight of the man’s face would most likely drive him over the edge.

Noman’s last words were still ringing in his ears.

‘Oh, I’m so sorry, Ken. I...oh, my son, my boy, oh...’

He died soon after, no more words, no more Noman.

Ken shook the image from his mind. ‘We should make this prick pay Noman’s family – look at him, the waste of space,’ he said, nodding at McGuire’s quivering form, ‘one empty shell-case to the head and he passes out! And he’s crapped himself, too, the dickhead!’ He stared out of the side window to watch the madness of Karachi’s traffic.

Mike nodded. ‘We should get out of here for good, Tommy says he can get us flights anytime we want,’ he said, manoeuvring expertly around a stuttering motorcycle, which carried a family of seven.

Ken reached for his smokes. ‘Yeah, that sounds like a plan to me, I’m up to the gills with these retards,’ he said, nodding at the back seat. He and Mike had known each other for several years now and they’d been through a lot of situations together, both good and bad. Today was definitely leaning toward the latter. Ken knew there were better jobs out there, and better people to work for.

‘Yeah, get me outta here,’ he said, sarcastically. ‘I’m a fucking mercenary!’

Mike laughed, floored the accelerator and burst through the junction, just as a red traffic light illuminated. An array of screeching tyres and blaring horns erupted behind their racing vehicle.

‘Mikey, you’re a twat!’ Ken murmured, grabbing hold of the handle above his side window.

‘And you, Kenny, sound just like my old Mum…’ the Australian retorted, grinning as he swung the vehicle into yet another tyre-smoking manoeuvre.

More horns.

Ken held on tight. He knew that the ride ahead was likely to be a bumpy one, and not just in the next five minutes, either. He had his mind set on going back to Afghanistan. If Tommy was able get them out of here this week, well...who knows what the future would bring? Ken knew that whatever the outcome, it was likely to be a wild ride.
He was right about that, he just didn’t know how right...

 
Chapter Two

The Storm

Four years later.

Ken left the office and walked out into the early morning sunlight, standing on the steps for a moment to watch the dust blowing across the airfield. It was the leading edge of a much bigger storm, one that had been brewing for a couple of days now. In the distance he saw the redness of the sand as it flirted with the sky above. Ken had been caught in the open on more than one occasion and it was never good. He stared across the base and watched as the dawn began to unfold into the day, yet another day in this godforsaken, shit-hole of a place – Kandahar airfield, or KAF, as it was known to all who lived there.

The airfield was massive, its perimeter covering a least a couple of square miles. From the air the place looked like an intoxicated spider had been busy. A giant web of makeshift buildings, shipping containers, portacabins, and hundreds upon hundreds of tents in all shapes and sizes littered the place. Huge hangars, sprawling fuel stations, busy kitchens and prefabricated shopping areas lay spread in organised chaos. A maze of dusty roads and endless gravel tracks tethered the whole lot together in a crazy weave. All of it was covered in dust.

Every few minutes overworked helicopters whirled across the airbase, the thudding ‘Wocka-Wocka’ of their spinning rotors easily being drowned out by the incoming thunder of the cargo planes that took off and landed morning, noon and night. It was, however, the explosive howl of the fighter jets that completely dominated the endless noise war. They always took off in pairs, the wingman about fifteen seconds behind his leader, the ground vibrating as they hurtled into the dirty sky with a deafening scream. One of Ken’s American friends had once said: ‘You know what that noise is, buddy? That noise is the sound of freedom, my friend – the sound of freedom!’ The irony of that particular comment still made Ken think, even to this day. With a wry smile, he climbed into his vehicle and inserted the ignition key.

It was already hot at this early hour, endless streams of traffic had picked up their daily momentum and begun to bustle across the base. Heavily-laden military transport trucks, open-topped Land Rovers bristling with machine guns, dozens of American Humvees and convoys of light armoured vehicles scurried amongst the ubiquitous herd of Toyotas, their movements only adding to the dust that rose into the tepid air.

‘Where in God’s name do all these bloody people go every day?’ Ken muttered. He shrugged at the thought and looked at the sky again, letting the Land Cruiser meander through the dust, glancing up through its cracked windscreen as he headed for the bunker. The brown haze had already started to hang above the base like a filthy net-curtain. Half of him did actually hope for a storm, but a proper storm, one with a lot of rain in it. ‘Yeah, a good downpour to wash some of this crap away – that would be great!’ The thought was an appealing one.

Rumbling to a halt besides a half-buried shipping container, he killed the engine and stepped out of the dirty blue Toyota into the heat. Walking over to the container, he waved nonchalantly at the sentry who watched him from the guard tower over to his left. The American infantryman raised his hand in a lazy return salute. They were used to seeing Ken as he was there two or three times a day, every day. Anyway, the sentries were more interested in what was happening on the outside of the wire where the insurgents still caused havoc whenever the fancy took them.

There was a rocket or mortar attack almost every other day, but it was a numbers game and the base was so large that a person would have to be pretty unlucky to be hit. Ken figured it would be one of those ‘shit happens’ moments if he did get hit and didn’t let the thought stop him from going about his daily business. As he started to go down the stairs, Ken paused and shot another look into the horizon behind the airbase, into the far distance where he saw the dust rising again. The storm still brewed and he felt it thickening the air, the sensation pressing down on his mind,

‘Yep, this is gonna be another big one, that’s for sure!’ he thought. The sensation stayed with him as he walked down the stairs to the bunker and reached for his keys – the last really big storm had been during his first year working in this lousy place.

‘That was bloody years ago and I’m still here, I must be out of my tiny little mind!’ He grinned ruefully at the thought as he fumbled with the Chubb padlock.

Once unlocked, he pulled the heavy steel door open, took one last glance at the threatening sky, and then stooped his six foot, broad-shouldered frame into the bunker. It was a long, steel affair that they’d made from an old shipping container, he and Mike placing the steel box into a large hole they had excavated in the unyielding Afghan earth.

There were racks and shelves all around the inside of the container, each one stacked neatly with boxes of crystals and cables. There were also a variety of cameras and lenses, plus a collection of other specialist equipment that his company, K&M Electricals, dealt in. It had taken him and Mike two years of hard work to build up the business and now they were starting to reap the rewards.

Ken’s job today was to install some of his fish-eyed cameras onto the Predator Drones for the Americans. The cameras were the latest, most technically-advanced pieces of equipment that only a handful of people worldwide had access to. If the clients were happy with the results of today’s test, then the deal was going to pay handsomely in the very near future.

He set to the task and opened a box before removing one of the bubble-wrapped cameras. Carefully laying out all the associated parts in a neat row, Ken placed the instruction booklet on the end of the shelf and turned the black camera-mount over in his large hands – some of the wiring confused him, and supposing he might need Mike’s advice after all, he fished out his mobile phone and pushed the speed dial. The slight clicking noise in his ear told the story of an unavailable signal; it was normality in this place and one they all simply became used to working around. He turned back to the camera and tried to figure out what the diagram meant. As he worked, Ken thought of their business and of how much he and Mike had achieved...

They’d met each other whilst doing security work in Iraq and had hit it off immediately, sharing the same sense of humour and a burning intolerance of fools. Both of them had been career soldiers, who at the end of their time in the military, gradually began to find it difficult to make ends meet in civvy-street. And so, like many others before them, they’d ended up working in the security industry. Both of them had spent time serving in the Special Forces of their respective armies: Ken doing years of footslogging, whilst Mike had been heavily involved with electronic warfare.

Eventually, after the disaster in Pakistan, they had ended up working in southern Afghanistan; it was a contract that proved to be their final venture in the security industry. For it was whilst they were down there – in the death trap of Helmand Province – that the two men had decided to do something for themselves.

Mike was a wizard with all things electronic and mechanical; he’d studied for some degree or another, too. Ken didn’t know what field, exactly, all he did know was that Mike only had to raise an eyebrow in the direction of a malfunctioning machine, and the bloody thing just seemed to fix itself. Ken knew how to sell and how to do the figures, so between them they had gradually built up a reliable supply-chain of specialised, electronic equipment. It wasn’t long before their reputation spread and they had wangled their way onto the airbase. They’d been through a lot together and had busted their arses to get this going. Then, before they knew it, things had started to become very sweet indeed; in fact, they were so busy these days that Ken had even started turning some work away.

Returning to the present, he tried ringing Mike again, there was still no signal. It was the poor network in this bloody place, plus the military guys used a lot of jamming and other electrical equipment, which took to playing havoc with the phones. In disgust, Ken dumped the Nokia on the shelf and turned back to the table to gather some more of the cameras and tools he would need later in the day.

With an increase in its velocity, the outside wind seemed to take on a more menacing intent; he looked up in surprise as the heavy door to the container rattled alarmingly. Remembering he had left the window open in the Land Cruiser, Ken placed his tools back on the shelf and ran outside, bounding up the steps, desert boots clattering on the steel as he rushed into the swirling dust. Reaching the Toyota, he turned the ignition on and activated the electric window. When it had ground upwards to a halt, he pocketed the keys, slammed the door shut and then turned to face the storm.

To his amazement he saw that a large cloud of red dust had already started to cover the far corner of the base. He raised a hand to shield his eyes and tried to see how far away the storm was coming from. Sometimes they were just a few hundred yards deep and passed within minutes – he hoped that would be the case this time. However, by the looks of things, this storm was anything but that, his disbelieving gaze saw that the cloud of dust appeared to be at least a mile long and several hundred feet high.

‘Jesus, that’s massive,’ he said, shaking his head in astonishment.

The speed with which the storm was approaching was unbelievable. Ken only had time to see a stray satellite dish being hurled skywards before he turned on his heels and sprinted for cover. With his vision blurring in the vibration of the storm’s power, eyes blinking against the swirling dust, he raced down the steps to the bunker. Just as he was dragging the door open there was a sudden flash of lightning, the unexpected strobe of white light flickered several times, vividly illuminating his surroundings. As he staggered and looked up from the stairwell, his eyes were filled with the horrifying sight of the storm – it was right on top of him! A wall of debris loomed above, he felt his ears popping and another flash of brilliant light filled his vision.

‘Lightning in a dust storm, what the hell?’

The last thought he had, before slamming the door shut, was an almost surreal one. For some reason the dust had felt different: the colour had a weird depth, a shimmer, and it...His own thoughts began to whirl.

‘It’s red, definitely red, but it has a...a green tinge. Green dust, what the hell is going on?’ Blinking away that crazy dust, along with his equally crazy thoughts, Ken leaned forcefully against the door and rotated the steel locking arms downwards.

There must have been twenty tonnes of earth on top of the bunker and yet he still felt the storm. It was as though he was being compressed, his ears popped again and the container hummed with a high-speed vibration. As it emanated through the steel, the strange sensation seemed to chisel its way into his skull. He grimaced, temples lancing with pain. Ken made sure the door was locked properly and then stood there for a while, listening to the strange moaning noise outside.

‘That is some storm, man!’ he thought, almost in disbelief.

As he turned toward the back of the container, there was a sudden loud bang accompanied by the sound of screeching metal, both coming from somewhere very close outside. Then the lights exploded in a shower of glass and fluorescent dust. The container was plunged into darkness, Ken jumped in shock at the unexpected sound; half-blinded and somewhat disorientated he turned and walked right into one of the shelves.

This time the flash of light which burst in his head had nothing to do with any strange lightning. No, this was a jab of white-hot pain, a teeth-grinding flare of agony caused by the sharp corner of the metal shelf as it sliced into his right cheek. He cursed in the darkness as the pain lanced through his face.

‘Shit!’ The stickiness of hot blood running down his cheek angered him. ‘Bloody hell, what a frigging idiot, that’s just what I needed!’ Cursing, he gritted his teeth and gently rubbed his face. The shattered bulbs had covered him in splinters; Ken felt them, glass needles pricking his face and head. This was the first time he’d seen light bulbs exploding and he guessed that maybe it had been a power surge from the generator, or something...

‘This is crazy!’ he said, and reached for the torch on his belt.

After rotating the head, in order to switch it on, he began using the narrow beam of light to see through the gloom. There was glass everywhere, those bulbs hadn’t simply exploded, they’d nearly vaporised, tiny glass fragments lay on every surface and a fine, powdery haze remained suspended in the still air of the bunker’s interior. Making his way to the rear of the container, Ken took a bottle of water from the stack leaning against the back wall. He took the water and turned around to pick up his phone. Just as he was in the process of undoing the bottle’s cap, he noticed the booklet sitting on the shelf, the instructions for the cameras. Something was not quite right with it. It was dark and yet he quite clearly saw it – the booklet was glowing. He edged through the darkness towards the shelf, torchlight struggling to penetrate the gloom of dust and smoke.

‘Smoke…!’ The paper began to smoulder. ‘What the fuck is going on?’ he whispered, reaching over to swat the pamphlet with his left hand – it flew off the shelf and burst into flames. Ken jumped on it, stamping out the fire, thoughts going crazy. He looked up at the shelf, eyes darting in disbelief.

Then the heat smothered him – unbearable heat, oven-hot, filled the container. Things started to explode, camera lenses made loud ‘chinking’ noises as their lenses burst. The shelf sagged, cheap metal legs surrendering without a fight to the blast of rising temperature. Then everything started catching fire all around him: paper, plastic folders, pens, his clothes. Ken’s shirt and trousers started to heat up. He felt his face crisping, hair beginning to shrivel.

‘Shit, shit – Shit!’ he shouted, diving towards the back of the container and knocking the sagging shelf over in his haste. It flopped to one side and the equipment started to avalanche away, making expensive smashing noises as it piled onto the floor below. Ken disregarded the sounds and hurriedly started cracking open bottles of water, pouring the contents over his head and shoulders, dousing his sleeves and trouser legs. He grabbed an old cloth and soaked it thoroughly before clasping it to his face.

‘I need to get out of here, right now!’ he thought, and turned to scramble his way to the door, trampling and sliding across the carnage. ‘Fuck!’ he cried out, in anger and pain, dropping the red-hot torch. ‘What the…?’ Its slim metal body hit the floor, Ken heard the lens popping.

The light went out.

Then his clasp knife started burning his thigh; he felt the heat through his hip pocket. Ken doused his trousers again and lowered himself down out of the rising heat. Crouching in the smoke-filled darkness, dripping wet cloth held to his face, he looked at the door. Any thoughts of bursting out and escaping to freedom left his mind in an instant. The door was glowing, red light flooding between the cracks. Not just red, a kaleidoscope of colours, blasting their way through the gaps around its ill-fitting sides. Bright reds, glowing whites and shimmering greens, all of them appeared to be hot, blisteringly hot.

The door seemed to pulse with heat.

‘Oh, bollocks, now I’m dead, man!’ The thought was almost too much for him.

The desire to get out forced its way to the front of his mind. He had a sudden moment of panic, just the one, and then leapt into action like a madman. His first thought being not one of escape, no, it was the thought of the ammunition and grenades that spurred him into action. A metal trunk lay next to the pile of water and it was filled with all sorts of things, amongst them a stack of ammunition and at least ten hand grenades.

Ken stumbled across to the trunk, desperately fumbling with the sizzling clasp; he used his wet cloth to grasp it, flipping the lid open. The smell of hot metal and gun oil filled his nose; he choked and then started pouring water into the box. Although the contents were hot, they weren’t yet up to the temperature of the box’s sides, which hissed as water filled the interior. In seconds, he had drowned the contents. He slammed the lid shut, and then started searching for the pile of empty sandbags.

‘They’re in here, somewhere…’ he said, as his hands scrabbled.

Finding the Hessian sacks, Ken wrapped several of them around his head and body, pouring water onto them as he did so. He crawled into the back corner of the container, thankful that its metal side was not yet too hot, yards of solid earth outside protecting it from the source of awful heat. He lay flat on his back and made sure his steaming body was covered by as many of the wet sacks as possible. The heat was now at a steady level.

Not rising. Not falling. A hot and airless, steady heat.

He peeked out from under his wet canopy. No fires anywhere and the bunker in darkness. He watched the door where the strange exterior light still flickered, weaker now, its beams strobing through the cracks and swirling amongst the thin layer of smoke that clung to the ceiling. He breathed more deeply, the acrid air burning his throat. He coughed and spat out a lump of coal-tasting phlegm.

It didn’t sizzle upon landing.

‘Good,’ he whispered, ‘at least the heat’s not rising – I wonder how long the air’s gonna last?’ He coughed again, the taste of burning plastic catching in his throat. ‘How long am I gonna last?’ Ken lay still, breathing softly, trying to conserve oxygen. A slow drip of warm water found the hollow of his neck with maddening regularity. He dozed in the heat, the noise outside sounding like an open blast furnace, roaring in anger. Heat, steaming heat and blackness surrounded him; he thought of Mike. ‘That fire outside, no-one could’ve survived it, I...I’m gonna be lucky to survive!’ Pushing the dark thoughts away, he tried to focus his mind on more positive things. ‘I’ll get the door open in a bit – it’ll be cooler soon.’

Then he slept. It may well have been unconsciousness or it may well have been the precipice. Either way, it was dark and silent.

Ken only had one dream whilst he was in the silent darkness.

In the dream he was carrying a strange spearhead. He heard the sound of Mike calling his name, Ken couldn’t see the Australian as his friend was too far away, much too far away, standing and screaming in the middle of a burning desert, a green and fiery desert.

With an aching head and fear in his heart, he tried to call his friend’s name. But, no matter how hard he tried, the words simply would not come out of his parched throat. He felt himself spinning, strange, powerful sensations of blackness and sliding began to smother him, he forced them away and looked for Mike again. The fear was almost too real, it filled him with the desire to cry out and yet he was unable to move or to speak. All he heard was the sound of Mike screaming. In silent horror, Ken Robinson watched the fire as it raced towards his friend.


Chapter Three
 
Aftermath
 

A flare of agony sliced into his mind. He eased his crust-laden eyes open and then nearly screamed as the blood flowed into his hip, forcing a dry-throated curse from his mouth. ‘Ahh, Christ – cramp!’ He jerked the leg from under him, gritting his teeth as the blood flowed back into the quivering calf muscle. His head was killing him, thumping on the walls of his consciousness like an angry neighbour. Unable to recall the last time he’d felt such pain, Ken groaned, levered himself into the sitting position and then sat still in the darkness, picking the sandbags off his slightly-damp body, one by one.

The container was almost pitch-black. It felt like the inside of a coffin. He pushed that particular thought away and sat there rubbing his head, sniffing at the air, grimacing as a strange smell entered his nostrils. The air smelt like dried fish, or maybe something else, something rotten. And it was cold...colder. The sudden recollection of heat came back to him. He glanced around: the smoke was gone, the light outside faded.

Just blackness now, blackness and...and he was alive.

The reality of his thoughts was shocking. ‘Am I alive...what just happened – a nuke? The Russians, maybe they’ve gone and...China? No way, it’s more likely to be the Iranians. Maybe it’s Pakistan and India; maybe they’ve finally had the big punch-up! Maybe Israel, they’re not shy when it comes to…’ One thing was for sure – something had definitely happened, something big.

‘Maybe there’s just been an accident…’

With that armada of unanswered thoughts and possible theories floating through his mind, Ken ran a set of weary fingers over his face. He was surprised by the heavy layer of stubble that it seemed had sprung up overnight.

‘Overnight?’ The realisation leapt into his mind. There was more than one night’s growth sprouting from his face. ‘How long have I been asleep, what the hell is going on?’

He desperately tried to figure out a way in which to find the light-switch in his head. Ken felt like his mind was stumbling around in the darkness and knew that if he didn’t get some coherent thoughts going, and soon, then he was maybe going to lose that very-same mind. He peered at his watch, it didn’t appear to be working but he couldn’t really see, vision blurring in the blackness. He reached for his glasses, patting the empty pocket.

‘They’re in the bloody Land Cruiser, bugger!’ His whispered words didn’t seem to help. He shook his head in frustration, still half asleep. ‘Damn it, Ken – get a grip!’ He eased himself to his feet, groaning as his calf protested again. ‘Shit, I must’ve slept for twenty-four hours!’

He stood in the darkness for a while, just to let his body wake up and to gather his thoughts. Feeling slightly more coherent, he limped over and looked up at the sky through the gap above the door. The sky was dark and the strange red hue had faded somewhat compared to the last time he’d looked; things seemed slightly more normal.

The thought alarmed him. ‘Normal, huh...yeah, we’ll just have to wait and see about that, won’t we?’ He reached out gingerly and touched the door. Its warped metal surface was cold, corpse-cold. Something wasn’t right, so he waited, thinking. ‘Stay inside, wait a while – just wait...’

Mind made up, he turned and made his way back to the metal trunk. It contained all of their weapons: pistols, assault rifle and lots of other useful things, which they’d stored for that ‘just in case’ moment. Well, that moment had now arrived, big time. Ken dragged the soaking medical pack out and dumped it on the floor; water pooled around its sodden and blackened canvas bulk. He delved into the box for his Kalashnikov. There were two of them in there, plus his prized Dragunov sniper rifle, along with a couple of Glock 9mm pistols, and the grenades.

Only, they weren’t there.

Ken rummaged around the box like a burglar, hands scrabbling once more. That was bad, he’d never ‘scrabbled’ in his life, and yet he’d done it twice today, at least. He took a breath and knelt before the box, like a man in prayer. He whispered: ‘Come on, Kenny, get your act together, mate – they’re in there, just calm down!’

But they weren’t.

The box was empty and the only thing remaining in the bottom of its swampy interior was a thick covering of a paste-like substance. It felt like wet foot powder. But there were no guns. ‘Mike must have moved ‘em,’ he grunted, in a failed attempt of self-reassurance. Then another, slightly more alarming, idea entered his head – it just slipped in and sat down quietly in the back row of his mind.

‘Mike would never have moved those weapons, never ever – no way!’

He heard the sound of that dark thought, sitting and sniggering, as it started to applaud his gradual realisation. ‘Welcome to the show, Mr Robinson, welcome to the show!’ The sound of a slow handclap echoing around the inside of his empty head was almost too real to cope with. He peered at the paste, scooping up a fingertip of the stuff, sniffing it. Gun oil, metal filings...

Ken couldn’t stop the exclamation. ‘Shit! What the hell is happening to me?’ ‘Bugger this!’ he said, wiping a hand on the thigh of his trousers. ‘How can they have just disintegrated?’ He ran his hands around the inside of the box, the half-light of the container not blinding to his fingers. The only thing they found was a thick stack of gloop, a pile of wet powder sitting exactly where the grenades had been stacked. Ken shook his head in dismay. ‘You’re losing it, my old son. It’s time to visit the head-doctor – come on, wake up!’

He touched the cut on his cheek, letting his fingertip trace the wound. It had scabbed over and seemed to feel as though it was in the shape of a triangle, pointed like an arrow, or maybe even a spearhead. Ken kicked that thought right out into the night. The memories of that horrible dream were still fresh.

He whispered: ‘No way, you’re just letting this get to you! You’ve inhaled too much smoke; this is all in your mind, get a grip!’ His own words calmed the racing thoughts a little. Ken imagined Mike’s reaction when he was told that his best friend and partner had turned into a raving loon, one who had started seeing green sand and a pile of desiccated weapons...‘Yeah, great, that’ll go down just great!’ he thought, in dismay.

Looking at the trunk once more, he knew it wasn’t concussion and the awful realisation didn’t make him feel any better, whatsoever. There had been a lot of weapons in there, there had been! Well, up and until he’d woken with a headache and a dry mouth, there had been. With his position becoming weirder by the second, Ken took a seat on the metal box and tried to make sure he stayed calm, knowing that perhaps he should just relax and take two minutes to think. He desperately wanted to go outside, but there was just something stopping him. The sensation was like a voice in his head. ‘Wait, just wait ten minutes – wait!’

Ken breathed deeply and tried to let his mind think of other things.

He’d learned to become more patient as he grew older, previously he had been more impulsive and many of his bosses had chastised him about it over the years. Ken put it down to the fact that his brain worked more quickly than theirs, especially when the situation was getting sticky. ‘It’s either that, or perhaps I’m just a crusty old bastard…’ he said, sighing to himself as the stinging truth of his own loud admission echoed around the container.

Lately he’d learned to be calmer, more patient, and a lot of that he had to put down to his wife. She’d taught him to stop and smell the roses, to enjoy his life whilst he still had one. Yeah, she’d made him a better person and he missed her, but it didn’t stop him from wanting to get the hell out of here, and right now. He lit a smoke and sat there, thinking. The fact that he was able to sit still and think amazed him. In days gone by he would’ve most likely burst through the door with all guns blazing, there was always a time when the thinking had to stop and the trigger-pulling needed to begin.

‘Mind you, I would need some guns for that, now, wouldn’t I?’ he thought, wryly. Then he thought about how weird it was that only his weapons seemed to have disintegrated, why not everything else, why not him – why? Ken shook his head in confusion, he was sure that even the empty box beneath his backside would be having a little laugh at the mess he was in.

After about ten minutes, he rose to his feet and went across to check on the damage to the shelves. All their contents were littered across the floor; anything plastic was now just a twisted and charred, unrecognisable mess. Ken didn’t even bother looking for his phone. Instead, he walked over to the door and forcefully yanked the locking arm upwards; with a decent shove and a quick bit of encouragement from the toe of his boot, the door swung open with a slight moan.

He took a breath and stepped out into the silent night, pausing at the bottom of the stairs to listen for a few seconds before moving up to ground level. The metal staircase was twisted, warped by the heat. He clambered up the steps and peered over the lip of the pit, scanning the area as far as the dark night would permit his eyes to see. After a while he began to realise that there were no lights on anywhere and that he couldn’t hear a sound, either. The air was warm and dry and the smell of burning was a lot stronger out here. He was almost able to taste it in the night breeze that wafted over the bunker.

On a normal evening the base would have been humming with activity, the sound of generators, vehicles, aircraft and people would have been filling the air like white noise. Nothing stirred tonight. Even the everlasting barks of the almost wild Afghan dogs, which roamed constantly outside the wire, were totally absent.

Nothing, not a single damned thing, stirred in the blackness.

His old buddy, Geordie, would have said something like: ‘It was so quiet that you could’ve heard a mouse fart!’

Ken grinned to himself at the thought of Geordie’s stupid face, but it wasn’t a mirthful action and his own face felt like it was cracking. In truth, Ken was half hoping to see the sturdy gait of his thick-set northern friend, ambling over through the darkness with those huge hands of his giving them all the wanker sign, deep voice berating anyone stupid enough to have screwed up.

Ken smiled at the thought. ‘Yeah, that would be good, old Geordie Mac and me, yeah – we were usually able to sort most things out!’ It was a shame the guy had been dead for nearly ten years now, a real fucking shame.

Ken flicked the memories of Geordie from his mind.

He remained standing on the stairs for about five minutes, listening intently, desperately hoping to hear something, anything at all. It was a while before Ken realised that he was gripping the steel handrail a little too tightly. ‘Relax,’ he told himself, ‘it’s cool, there’s no drama. Just make a plan and then crack on, let’s see what happens.’

Turning away from the black night, he went back into the container. Even in the dark he was able to see that it was ruined. Ken didn’t bother even looking at the med pack, knowing full well that its contents would be mostly useless. With a final shrug, he walked outside and ascended the stairs into the night. He did think about locking the door, but one look at the devastated remains of the storeroom changed his mind. His plan was to get back to the centre of the base, find Mike and then figure out what was going on. He wondered if the Toyota would start.

A ridiculous thought, but still, he’d give it a go.

The stupid idea immediately threw up another slight problem.

‘Where the hell is the Land Cruiser?’ he said, to himself.

It’d been about three or four yards away when he’d seen it last. Ken knew it would be badly burned, but, even though that may have been the case, it should still be there. He felt like one of the Three Stooges as he stood there, scratching his head, peering into the darkness and talking to himself like a nutter. The wagon must have weighed a couple of tonnes, easily. ‘Where is it?’ he murmured, looking around again. There was no sign of the vehicle. Not quite sure what to do next, he stood and thought for a while, before deciding to have a quick walk over to the nearest guard tower, just to see if there was anyone left who might know what was going on.

Ken hurried across, his tall silhouette almost seeming to float across the hundred yards between the bunker and the tower. The building loomed out of the darkness; there was not a sound coming from it. No thrumming generator, no dim glow from the red interior light, and worst of all, no perimeter lights. The Taliban were probably at the fence, standing twenty feet away from him at this very moment. Eyes straining to see through the murky night, he stared at the fence.

‘What fence?’ he whispered.

It was gone, melted like soldering wire. The tower, with its bullet-proof windows and steel-plated sides, was also melted. It leaned over like a three-legged dinosaur. The roof was ripped off and lay twisted and burned next to the tower’s remains. Needing no second invitation, Ken turned on his heels and began to walk quickly away from the fence. The thought of having an unmanned perimeter at his back raised the hairs on his neck.

‘I’m unarmed, there’s no fence, the troops have gone and the bad guys might be on the way right now!’ He glanced over his shoulder. Only the eerie darkness met his probing eyes. Ken hurriedly turned away and kept walking.

As he went trekking past his bunker, he caught a glimpse of something behind the bulging mound of dirt that covered its roof. Something shiny lay beyond. He hadn’t been able to see from that angle when he’d stood upon the stairs earlier, but now, standing some thirty yards away, he was able to see over the top of the bunker. There was something behind the mound of earth. Whatever it may have been, it glinted dully. He decided to check it out and walked over for a better look.

Rounding the mound of earth, he finally found his beloved Land Cruiser.

The sight rocked his thoughts. ‘What the hell has happened out here?’

The Toyota had been tossed some forty yards away from where he’d left it. The vehicle now lay on its roof with every one of its windows smashed, shattered safety glass sitting in the dust like piles of crystals, laminated windscreen sagging mournfully against its dashboard. The whole thing looked as though a giant child had picked it up like a toy and then hurled it away in a tantrum. It was also badly burned, but as the vehicle was upside down, the fire had mostly damaged the underneath of the chassis.

Ken had a quick glance over his shoulder, then without hesitating he ran across and quickly booted out the remains of the passenger window before bending down to have a look. Peering inside, he saw that the interior was not too badly burned, definitely crispy, but still in one piece. He crawled halfway into the upside down vehicle and opened the glove box, letting the contents tumble onto the ceiling. He only wanted one thing.

Straight away he saw the remains of his spare pistol. The Makarov was just as the other weapons had been, only much drier – the dust of its remains now scattered across the headlining of the roof. He swore under his breath, reaching across to rescue his wallet and reading glasses, which rested amongst the dust in their battered old case. Ken was in the process of wriggling back out of the window when he saw his spare pack of smokes; they were lying just out of reach. He pushed back into the vehicle and reached for them. Just as he was stretching out his hand, fingers coaxing the cigarettes nearer, Ken’s situation became decidedly worse…

Chapter Four...

 

Internal images for Hunters, the original book covers for early editions:

 
       

                                                                                               Book One - The Awakening.                                Book two - The Gift.

  
 

                                                                                             Book Three - The Final Hunt.                            Back Cover, internal image.


Where to find HUNTERS is eBook format:

Amazon UK

Amazon .com

The eBook is also available from all of Amazon's worldwide sales portals.

Where to find HUNTERS in paperback:


FeedAread - my publishers. usually cheaper.

Amazon UK

Amazon .com

(You can also find all of the early editions of the tale - from the original idea and its progression - under the 'Awakening' & 'Parallel' titles, on Amazon and other paperback sellers that may still be stocking some copies. To be frank, I'd bypass them and just go straight for HUNTERS - the others were in their raw, unedited editions.)

Please - if you do read 'HUNTERS' then I'd be eternally grateful if you could leave a review on the site where you purchased it from. Reviews are the lifeblood for us indie authors, and are an invaluable aid to prospective readers. It only takes five minutes and makes a massive difference. Thank you!

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