This sci-fi/ action/ romance novel is set in the distant future around the year 3036 in a part of space so ancient, it’s the stuff of legends. The planet they live on, Shakazhan, is virtually dead above ground. Underneath, it teams with life–all of it dangerous and deadly.
Wil & Matilda VanLipsig, along with their friends Ben & Marc, are chasing the beast, Surau after he escapes from his prison inside Shakazhan.
The passage grew increasingly dim as they went further in. They had never been so far from Sentience and her repaired networks before. They initiated their Kindred suits as the air around them thinned and grew stale.
The dark men surged down the tunnel after them, unable to use their spears. Their numbers were overwhelming. Ben and Marc formed a wall, with Wil directly behind them. He tried to contact the ship to teleport them out, but there was too much interference. Backing slowly as the men advanced, Marc picked off two with very carefully aimed shots. Ben joined him, taking out a couple more. Their weapons were set to stun, but to the dark men, their comrades appeared to be dead.
Instead of stopping, the dark men grew more determined, advancing rapidly. Suddenly, as one, they lunged forward, making a grab for the small, retreating party of humans. One grabbed Marc, who crushed the dark man’s skull with a blow from his gun butt.
One held Ben, who summarily broke his arm, yanking it from the socket. The dark man screamed in pain as Ben’s blow to his head killed him. Wil kicked another one in the teeth, aiming down the tunnel, attempting to determine which was the leader.
His kill shot was true, the men stopped advancing as their leader’s head exploded. With a mighty roar, they made a last, monumental attempt to grapple with the humans. Wil pressed his wife behind him, trying again to contact the ship. There was a crackle of static and a faint acknowledgment from Hammer.
“Smith, get us the hell out of here!” Wil roared into his com.
The dark men gathered their dwindling numbers, preparing for a final assault. Growling angrily, they reformed their ranks around the fallen, glaring at the humans with hatred.
Wil shouted to his wife, “Run, Baby! We’ll catch up to you! Run! Run!”
Matilda hesitated a moment. The passageway was dark, she could feel it surround her. Even the Kindred suit couldn’t compensate for the complete lack of light. The nightmares came back, freezing her in place.
“Wil, I can’t! I can’t see a thing! Oh, God, Wil, I’m so scared!”
“Baby, it’s okay. Hammer has us. He’ll get us out of here. Please, keep going a little longer.”
Hesitantly, she picked her way along, the floor sagging beneath her feet. The ceiling was lower with so much debris, she had to stoop to move. The others were engaged in combat, she could hear it. All her instincts screamed at her to go back, to fight beside her mate.
Wil’s voice echoed down the passage, “Run!”
One of the dark men broke through their line, scrabbling over the stones, nearly on top of her. Matilda knew Wil was aiming at him. Flattening herself against the wall, she pressed back as far as she could.
“Now!” she screamed. “You have a clear shot!”
The weapon fired as she ducked, turning further away, sensing the electromagnetic pulse from Wil’s gun, hit the dark man in the back, hurling toward her.
She tried to dodge him, but a hand shot out from his dying body, clutching at her flowing dress, dragging her with him. The floor collapsed beneath their combined weight. The man fell like an anchor into the nothingness below her. Kicking wildly, she scrabbled for a hand hold, screaming hysterically.
Wil heard her scream, felt the give in the floor and ran full speed down the passage. The ceiling collided with this forehead, the sides of the passage snagged his clothing. “I’m coming! I’m coming! Hang on!”
“Wil! Oh, Wil! I’m falling! Wil!” A scream ripped from her throat, fading away as she fell.
Wil reached for her a second too late. He saw her falling into the bottomless pit. His cry of despair turned into a howl of grief unmatched by any sound Ben or Marc had heard. Then he grew fuzzy. They lost sight of him and a moment later, found themselves on the bridge of Hammer. Matilda wasn’t with them. Wil lay on the floor, still as death.
“Oh, God,” he whispered. “Oh, God! No!”
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