Lifting weights is an interesting activity. It can be cathartic and liberating as much as it is something that makes you feel good while making you hurt. At other times it can leave you wiped out and clueless, and that is the story I’m about to relate.
I’m in my last week of this particular routine. It’s been a good one, but I’m starting to stagnate and I don’t mind admitting I’m tired of the minimal rest between sets that is kicking my butt. That combined with a cutting diet has me wondering if I’ll survive the trip home after the gym each night.
Seeing as that it’s my last week, I’ve been pushing myself a little harder. I upped the weights to 80lb dumbbells for incline benching last night, for example, and found it challenging but the right weight to use, especially as I pushed for a few bonus reps on my last set.
With that in mind, I started out low doing trap bar deadlifts – a measly 260 pounds. I could have slept throught it and the next set as well, at 350lbs. The third set, however, pushed me up against the wall. 8 reps at 480 pounds was no picnic, but they were solid reps. Afterwards I spent a few moments gasping and sweating and gathering myself while I racked more weight on for the final set.
The final set was ready and eventually so was I. I squatted down, chalked up my hands, then grabbed on and heaved. My lower back protested with a sharp pain. Upon closer examination it appears that I racked up 45lb plates instead of 25lb plates on the bar. That put it at 570lbs, 5lbs more than I have ever lifted before – especially after exhausting myself on 480 for 8.
Thus the mathematical error was my ability to add simple numbers. The rounding error was what occurred in my lower back. Couple days of rest and it’ll be good as new though – and now that 570 has spit in my face over time I will eventually defeat it!
Written by an editor by the name of Valerie McCarty:
Voidhawk 3 – Redemption by Jason Halstead is a steal for the price. This entertaining novella is for all of us who at the end of Voidhawk 2 – The Elder Race said “What the…? Rosh?!” and have been simmering in suspense for the next installment of the Voidhawk series. This book follows Rosh’s adventures after he leaves the ‘Hawk and while he has left them he can’t forget them. As he wanders and works his way through life, seemingly to escape his past emotional entanglements, Rosh learns some life lessons, understanding, responsibility, and earns absolution and redemption. Rosh has grown as an individual, approaches life with his own code, and is “Rosh” through and through. So, Mr. Halstead, when’s the next installment of your great Voidhawk series?
I’ll take that with a smile any day. Interested in what she’s talking about? Well it’s available on Kindle, Nook, and just about any other ebook venue you can come up with:
Amazon / Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Voidhawk-Redemption-ebook/dp/B0057XY0UQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1309093193&sr=8-1
Barnes and Noble (Nook): http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Voidhawk-Redemption/Jason-Halstead/e/2940012787897
Novel Concept Publishing: http://www.novelconceptpublishing.com
Sample of Human Nature, a stand-alone story that takes place in a near future world that has been overrun by an alien invasion. Yeah, aliens – why not? I actually got the idea back in 1994 when Independence Day came out, but it took well over a decade to mature in my head to something worth writing. I thought, what if the aliens won?
It’s been getting some good interest lately so I figure this is a great time to spring off that and make a sample available for it. Same rules as before, if you like it enough to want more of it, prove it by going to the links below.
A distant hammering noise intruded dimly into Dawn’s mind. She heard it and tried to ignore it, focusing instead on the dream she was having. It had been a pleasant spring day, she remembered, and a fine time for her and Chad to have a picnic.
The idyllic scene was about to go horribly wrong, she knew. It wasn’t the way it had happened, but it kept coming back to her. She struggled, hoping desperately it wouldn’t happen, but it always did. She could see Chad looking at the disturbance in the trees. She tried to warn him; tried to stop him; tried to save him. It was to no avail; he stepped closer and the first blue green head burst out of the undergrowth, shark toothed lipless grin open hungrily.
Dawn gasped. Torn from the dream, she fumbled about in the cab and tried to recover from the shakes the adrenaline left her in. She turned, not really awake, and threw back her blanket. “Get in here, chicky! I had a bad dream…”
There was a gasp followed by silence. Alarmed, Dawn turned and saw the Sarge staring at her. She glanced down, everything happening slowly, and saw her shirt had ridden up to her belly, displaying the lacy black panties hugging her hips and dipping between her thighs. With a squawk of indignation, Dawn pulled the blanket back over herself. “What the hell are you doing?” she demanded.
The Sarge actually blushed. It was dark, but with her driver’s side door open the overhead light showed it clearly. That alone stalled her growing tirade and gave the man a chance to recover.
“Doc, we’ve got wounded,” he said after clearing his throat.
“Oh,” she mumbled, then fumbled around for a moment trying to think of what to do. She looked up, realizing if it had been an attack on the camp she would have heard it. That meant somebody else got hurt, somebody not at the camp. Somebody in a small unit that had been sent out to do something. Somebody like Angie.
She threw her blanket off, surprising the open mouthed Sarge into silence. She grabbed her pants and yanked them on quickly, then forced her boots on without bothering to tie them. “Let’s go!” she snapped at him, grabbing her vest and slipping into it before pulling the jacket and finally her first aid bag after her.
He turned, still silent, and led her quickly through the camp toward the command truck. She hopped on one foot, tying her boot, then repeated the process with the other. She regretted leaving her bra hanging in her ambulance, but not enough to make her consider going back for it. She knew the difference of minutes in reaching somebody could mean the difference between life and death. Especially if it was the life and death of Angie.
Outside the trailer a small area had been set up with blankets and pillows. Two soldiers were trying to rest while being gently debriefed. Dawn’s breath caught in her throat as she approached, but she said nothing. It was a man and a woman, but the girl was not Angie. She thought hard and pulled her name out of a conversation Angie had once shared with her. Her name was Tess; she was another spook.
Tess had a lot of blood around her lower thigh and knee. The entire leg was soaked, she realized, but dirt had clung to her shin, ankle, and foot. She had some bruises and scratches elsewhere and seemed to be favoring her left arm, but aside from that she seemed unhurt. The other soldier had a clearly broken arm and a gash along his chin that included a swollen and split lip.
Dawn hurried over to Tess and knelt in front of her. She grabbed her scissors and started cutting into the leg of her pants. She aided it with a few well placed twists and yanks to tear the fabric away, then saw the source of the blood. Something had hit her leg at a glancing blow, tearing into the meat of her thigh. She frowned and doused some antibiotic powder on it, then turned to check out her arm.
“I think we lost three, but we got separated. The others were falling back to our bolt hole. We were supposed to join them, but with the fishheads between us and them, and not being able to fight worth a damn, we came back here instead,” Tess said, between hisses of pain as Dawn worked on her injuries.
“Fishheads?” Dawn asked softly. She refused to look up to see or hear her answer.
“How many were there?” Colonel Wilson asked. Dawn glanced at him briefly and saw he looked even more tired than before.
“I counted sixteen, Sir,” the male soldier replied.
“Tess, you twisted your arm, but it’s not broken,” Dawn told her softly.
“Thanks,” Tess said, glancing down at her.
“I have to stitch up your leg. It’s going to scar and you might have a limp,” she told her. “But it’ll wait until I check him out.”
“Sixteen against seven?” The Colonel mused aloud.
“I’ll need a splint; your arm’s broke. What’s your name?” Dawn asked the wounded man.
“Steve. Steve Csontos,” he said.
“Well Steve, this is not going to be fun for you. What happened to your face?”
He tried, and failed, to grin. “One of their weapons hit a rock in front of me and broke off a chunk of it. Clubbed me in the face.”
“Sounds like you got lucky,” Dawn told him. “I’ll put a couple stitches in that lip too.”
“Sir, we know where they are,” Tess said, addressing the colonel. “There won’t be any surprise this time. If our team’s holed up they can only hold that position a few hours before they’re overrun.”
“You guys were the best we had,” Captain Snow burst in. “If we send in regular troops, we’re fucked! Those guys know how to shoot, but they don’t know how to react in a serious offensive.”
Dawn finished her stitch work on Steve and tied it off. She moved back to Tess and looked at her, eyes brimming with sudden moisture. Tess looked at her and closed her eyes. She shook her head. “I don’t know,” she whispered.
Dawn coughed, hiding the sob that tried to escape. She turned away, pretending to be focusing on her bag, while she desperately blinked her eyes and tried to regain her focus. She had to fix Tess’ leg and she knew it. Anything else could wait. Even her feelings. She had a job to do and there was nobody else that could do it.
With a few deep breaths to center herself, she grabbed her alcohol and gently cleaned the wound before she began to quickly and expertly thread her needle along the cut to give Tess as little pain as possible.
“I don’t like leaving men behind,” The Colonel said, ignoring the drama going on before him. “We can handle sixteen fishheads, Captain.”
“They’ve still got their weapons, Colonel!” Captain Snow pointed out.
Colonel Wilson nodded. “What do you suggest?
“We’ve got no options. Either throw everything at them or we head back into Chicago…or we head back towards Indiana and we know what’s back there: nothing.”
“Doc, you got anything for pain?” Tess whispered to her.
“Tylenol for you. Ibuprofen will make you bleed too much more and you’ve lost enough blood,” Dawn said, speaking as though she was in a fog. Her doctor persona took over, even if she’d never really made it all the way. She was a Physician’s Assistant: she could prescribe drugs and treat people, but she wasn’t a fully fledged doctor.
“No, Doc,” Tess said, shaking her head. “I mean something real. I’m not going to leave them out there.”
Dawn stared at her, her chin trembling as she thought of the others stranded out there and fighting off a small horde of fishmen. The same aliens that had taken Chad from her. The same…
She shook her head. “No!” she growled. “Not again…I won’t let it.”
“Doctor? Is there a problem?” The Colonel asked, confused at her sudden outburst.
“No problem, Sir,” Dawn said, turning to face him. “So long as you put me on the team that goes to get them back.”
The Colonel looked stunned for a moment, then he shook his head. “Stand down, Doctor, that’s not going to happen.”
“It’s not?” She asked, then shrugged. “Fine, I quit. Find yourself a new doctor.”
“What!” Snow burst out. The Colonel stared at her, one eye twitching while Snow carried on, “You can’t quit!”
“I just did, Captain. Sorry,” Dawn said, shrugging. She turned back to Tess and dug into her pouch, then pulled out a small bottle that rattled with a few pills in it. “Vicodin. Don’t take more than two every six hours or you’ll be shooting at imaginary people.”
“That’s a lot,” Steve opined, sitting up and bracing himself on his good arm. “I’ve been on Vics before and that’s a big dose right off the bat.”
“She doesn’t weigh much,” Dawn said, nodding. “She won’t feel her leg, though.”
“Jesus,” Steve muttered.
“Doctor, please, be reasonable,” the Colonel said, his voice tight but forced.
“You know you can’t make me stay. You can’t force me to heal people, I won’t do it. If you turn your back on those people…if I turn my back on those people then I’d rather be dead,” she explained.
“Doc, do you even know how to shoot a gun?” Top asked her, breaking his silence.
“I’ve got a gun in my ambulance,” Dawn said. It had been a poor gift, but she kept it stashed away in case she’d ever need to barter it for medical supplies.
The Sarge grunted and glanced away.
“Doctor, let us take care of this our way. Once we clear it out you can-“
“Stow it, Sir. I’m going. Tess?” Dawn asked, offering her hand to the girl. Tess looked fearfully at Captain Snow and then the Colonel. Then she nodded and slapped her hand into Dawn’s. Together they stood her up. She grabbed her rifle and slung her good arm over Dawn’s shoulder; the pills needed time to take effect.
“You’re both going to get yourselves killed without any help!” Top growled at them.
Dawn swung partially around to look at him. For a while there she thought there might be a decent man buried beneath all the code of the warrior bullshit, but now she knew better. “I don’t want to live in a world where people aren’t willing to risk it all to save someone else.”
Sarge grumbled something Dawn couldn’t make out, but she knew it probably reflected very poorly on her relationship with farm animals or worse. They started moving away, heading back to her ambulance slowly. Tess limped along as best she could, slowly gaining momentum as the stiffness wore off and the painkillers began to take hold.
“I’ve got some codeine in my truck,” Dawn whispered to her. “That’ll help too. Just don’t stop moving or you might fall asleep.”
“You’re all right, Doc,” Tess said, laughing. “I guess I see why Ang is always talking you up.”
“Angie talks me up?” Dawn asked, blushing a little. God she missed her friend.
“Sun rises and sets on your ass, to hear her tell it,” Tess said.
Still blushing, Dawn laughed at the description. “She told me she thought I had a nice ass a while ago…I guess I never believed her. I mean, with her chest…”
Tess laughed, then groaned as she took a misstep and came down hard on her wounded leg. “Ouch…okay, gotta be careful. I gotcha.”
Dawn nodded. “Yeah, I got some crutches you can use.”
“Maybe one,” Tess said after a moment of thought. “That way I still got the gun in the other hand.”
Dawn nodded. Guns… she shivered but realized it was a means to an end. If picking up a gun and using it meant she might be able to save her friend then it was a price she would pay.
“You don’t want to live in a world like that?”
Dawn turned, forcing Tess to twist and hiss in pain. Top was quickly overtaking them with his long-legged stride. On anyone else the tall man’s look would have been lanky. On Top it was lean and wiry. “That’s right,” Dawn said, staring hard into his eyes and challenging him.
He nodded. “It’d be a shame if your friend didn’t make it back to turn all the guys’ heads.”
Dawn opened her mouth, then closed it. She shook her head but couldn’t shake the smile that made its way to her face. It was still there when they made it to her ambulance a few minutes later. The smile faded when another thought entered her head. Did the Sarge have a thing for Angie too? He’d said all the guys, but he was a guy. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye but looked away quickly as he turned towards her. Why did she care? He was the Sarge. He probably ate nails and stayed clean shaven because he picked the hairs out with his fingers every morning, one by one. She sighed, angry at herself, and dove back into her truck.
After a few minutes of rummaging she handed Tess the promised codeine pills and found the varmint rifle Oscar had given her a long time ago. She had no idea what it was, but it had a stash of bullets with it that fit in the internal magazine and had several to spare.
“Got yourself a Savage .223,” Tess said, admiring the rifle.
“Yeah,” Dawn said, having no idea what the woman was talking about. She fumbled with the shells, loading them clumsily into the magazine until she couldn’t fit any more. She lost count quickly, but knew there were no more than seven bullets in it…or so she thought.
“Safety’s here,” Top said, pointing at the little switch on it with red on one side. “You see red, it’s live. Work a shell in by pulling the bolt back then sliding it in, then aim and pull the trigger.”
Dawn nodded, then glanced up at him and offered him a smile. “Let’s go… Tess, you sure you can find it?”
“In the dark and stoned on painkillers?” she asked with a lazy grin. “Absolutely!”
Top cursed and Dawn shook her head. She hoped the excessive drugs wouldn’t harm the girl. That, or cause the girl to harm herself. “All right, let’s go.”
“Come on,” Top said, leading them away. He slipped his rifle behind his shoulder and led the way through camp and up over to a break in the arrangement of the camps and vehicles. Less than a hundred feet outside the camp they came across a group of people already gathered.
“Colonel,” Sergeant Kinnison said, nodding in deference as they came up to them.
“Sir! What are you doing?” Dawn asked, nearly squeaking in surprise.
“I said I don’t like leaving men behind,” he said. “I damn well won’t let my doctor head out and put herself in harm’s way without me doing everything I can to protect her.”
She turned, uncertain how to respond. Captain Snow and some others she instantly recognized were there as well: Oscar and Billy Haskins, the pair of troublemakers who couldn’t help but make her grin. They wore their combat gear and carried weapons looking every bit as lethal as the ones that Top and Tess carried.
“Okay,” Dawn said, letting out a deep breath. “Let’s go.”
“Five yard spread,” Captain Snow said. “Top, you stick with the Colonel and the Doctor. Haskins, you take the back, Chavez and Robinson, you’ve got point.”
Chavez was Oscar and Robinson was Tess though it was not until they moved into the positions they were ordered into that Dawn made the connections. She nodded and fell in near the Colonel and Top, waiting for her turn to move out. The excitement and terror built in her, but she stamped it down with the simple vision of what Angie would look like if she was laying somewhere and bleeding, waiting for Dawn to come and rescue her.
Amazon / Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0053K3WXO
Novel Concept Publishing: http://www.novelconceptpublishing.com
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/human-nature-jason-halstead/1023733608?ean=9781609824211&itm=2&usri=jason%2bhalstead
A sample from my best seller: Wanted. Hopefully this sample makes you want to know more – the and the answer to those questions lies at the links below. Pretty sneaky, huh?
Breathing harder than he should have, Carl paused after crossing over a once paved road that had fallen into disuse. He considered it part of his land now, even though he seldom went that far. His house was another 30 minutes by foot, but given how much his leg was throbbing and burning, he expected he might need more time. He sat down on a rock and loosened his tourniquet. It scared him to do so, but he knew leaving it tied tightly for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time would do more damage than good. He was already pushing it waiting that long.
Less than a minute later he wrenched the belt tight again and lurched to his feet. His foot was now on fire from the poison and tingling with renewed circulation. He reopened the bite every time and tried to squeeze out the tainted blood, but he knew what he’d be saying if he had to perform the battlefield triage on anyone else. Fortunately for him, there was nobody else around to point that out.
He started across the barren landscape again, dodging around the more dangerous looking obstacles and using the more benign natural decorations to help him make his way. Sweat ran down his face and his heart was racing, all signs of bad things happening to his body. Better that it was racing, he figured, then slowing down. Still, racing meant the poison moved faster through his body. Now he felt like he was racing against his own heart.
He stumbled and paused a few minutes later when he heard a distant thump. Trying to stifle his noisy breathing he listened, ear cocked to the west. He heard another explosive whump and he knew what was happening. His minefield. His home was being invaded. Carl snarled out a curse and moved forward, forgetting his concerns about the snake bite and its effects. Instead he focused only on how irritated he was at how the injury slowed him.
Dizzy, short of breath, and drenched in his own sweat, Carl moved through the parking spot where he had hidden Jessie’s car a few days ago. He had his M4 in hand, relying on his instincts to save him in case his other faculties failed. He had heard a short burst of automatic fire at one point, but aside from that there was nothing amiss to be heard for several minutes. He moved up a narrow ravine littered with loose rocks, slipping in places he knew he would never have stepped under normal circumstances. He stopped only when he came to the spot where he had carefully concealed his bolt hole.
Wasting no time, he cleared away the dirt and rocks concealing it, then lifted off the metal door . It was heavier than he remembered it being, making him wonder if that was due to exhaustion or poisoning. He pushed the thought aside and slid into the passage, crawling along it into the darkness. After what seemed an eternity, he emerged into a room that was pitch black aside from the faint light that spilled in from the crawlspace.
Carl stood up and felt along the wall until he found a switch. He flicked it and blinked at the sudden light that filled the small, subterranean room. Along one wall were shelves lined with banks of batteries. Cables ran from them up to the ceiling and into conduit, where they either ran to provide power or to obtain power from wind turbines and solar cells. He leaned his M24 up against a cabinet and moved to a reinforced steel door. He listened at it carefully, then killed the lights in the room before opening it.
More light spilled into the opening, this time from above. It was a ladder set against the rock, with steel supports hammered into the rock to hold it in place. Carl froze, knowing that if there was light above, it had been discovered. Sure enough as he looked up he saw a man descending the staircase towards him. He still had a dozen feet to go, and had not looked down to see the suddenly open door.
Wasting only a few seconds to stare upwards, Carl confirmed a second man was descending above the first. While he could not make out details, they looked to be wearing similar clothing to the Maelstrom rent-a-cops he had taken out the other day. He wondered if they were stupid enough to send another squad of four men or if they had learned and this time an entire regiment was waiting for him.
He slipped back into the room, shutting the door silently behind him. He waited beside the door, setting his rifle against the wall and drawing his knife. In the near dark he waited, hearing his pulse in his ears and sensing that his breathing was too loud. He felt shivers run up and down his back and fought to contain himself.
The door pushed open, at last, longer than it should have taken the first man to reach the ground. Carl swung around, hammering his knife into the man’s chest and ripping through ribs and neck. He pushed back as well, throwing the man into the soldier behind him and knocking them both off balance and into the ground.
“What the fuh!”
The second soldier’s cry of surprise was cut short as the point man fell on him. The hot spray of blood coated his face and smelled of coppery death. He scrambled to push his dying comrade away and raise his gun, but Carl landed on top of him and slashed across with his knife repeatedly. What Carl’s strikes lacked in finesse they made up for in sheer brutality. The man lay dead a few moments later, ribbons of skin hanging from his face, throat, hands, and shoulder.
Carl looked up again, breathing hard. He wiped his knife clean and sheathed it, then grabbed his M4 and proceeded to climb. Every other step up the ladder was agony to him. His foot was numb but his leg was on fire. He wondered if it was too late, if he had already done enough damage to lose the limb forever. He snarled at the thought and pushed on, determined to not let it end in a dark tunnel.
The top of the ladder opened into his shed. It was more of a garage or pole-barn than a shed, and housed multiple tables with fruits and vegetables growing under rigged up lights. A few had broken over the years and remained to be replaced, but by and large it was his private oasis. A large drum in the back served as his water reservoir, giving him a gravity feed when the power was down and he could not run his pump.
Carl glanced around, seeing that it was empty, and scowled when he saw some of his fruits and vegetables had been picked. The men he had just killed had apparently died with treats in their bellies. “Fuckers deserved to die,” he muttered, moving toward the door to his shed and slowing as he approached it.
He saw that the wires on the door had been cut. It had been rigged to explode, but apparently he was dealing with professionals this time, not rookies who were more used to hunting than fighting. Carl paused, making sure he was out of the line of sight of the back door to his house, and then turned to the refrigerator where he kept medical supplies. With an eye on the door at all times, he looked through it until he found the bottle of anti-venom he had traded for a few years back.
Reluctantly, Carl set his rifle down and worked quickly, grabbing a syringe and filling it full of the anti-venom. He had no idea what a proper dose was, nor did he have time to hunt through the books he had in a crate to figure it out. He stripped off his gilly suit and shirt, and made a fist to try and help find a vein in his arm. Being unfamiliar and out of practice, it took Carl a few burning pokes to find his target. Once it was empty, he clamped a hand over it, expecting heavy bleeding given his lack of expertise.
Carl knew he was on borrowed time. With or without the snake bite, somebody would come looking for the men he had killed. He loosened the strap around his leg and shrugged his shirt back on. In seconds the numbness in his foot was replaced with a searing agony of awakened nerve cells. He pushed on, forcing it to work even though it caused him to limp more than ever.
A quick check outside showed it was still clear. Rifle in hand, he scrambled in an awkward lurch to the back of his house, then waited outside the open back door. He could hear people inside moving about and talking. “Who is this guy?” he heard one of the assholes say.
“Waters,” another asshole said. “That’s the name on a lot of these ACUs. Looks like he was a staff sergeant in the Army.”
“No sign of Corporal Garcia or his men?” asked a third asshole.
“These were some of their weapons,” asshole number 1 said.
“Where are the rest?”
“No idea, Sir.”
“Jerkins and Liebold back yet?” Carl figured the man he had dubbed asshole number three was the leader.
“No word yet.”
Carl’s eyes narrowed when he heard the quieter voice of the leader of the men in his house talking on what had to be a radio. He missed the majority of it, but caught enough to hear the information he had learned being passed on to somebody else. He ground his teeth in silent fury and stood up. His foot was feeling good enough to bear his weight, even if it was hot and swollen with the snake’s venom.
Carl swung into the doorway, gun held in the rock and roll position. A man stopped, staring at him with eyes wide in surprise. To his credit, he was reacting quickly and trying to raise his gun as well as jump out of the way when Carl’s burst of 5.56 millimeter slugs turned his chest, neck, and chin into bloody hamburger. The others in the room dropped whatever they were doing instantly and took cover.
Carl noted the leader, a man near the front door. Another had ducked into the closet Jessie had used as a bedroom. The third man was raising his rifle from where he had been kneeling next to the trunk of clothes Carl kept near his bed, less than a dozen feet from the doorway Carl now stood in.
The soldier’s gun spat out a single round, which ricocheted off the smooth concrete floor and passed next to Carl’s wounded leg on its way out the door. Carl’s gun painted the Maelstrom commando with three rounds into his face and helmet, blasting his lifeless corpse into the trunk. Carl dropped down to his good knee then just in time to avoid a controlled burst from the man leaning out of the closet.
He threw himself forward before the guy in the kitchen could catch him in a crossfire. He rolled in front of his couch, taking a brief moment’s respite, and heard the leader calling for fire support into his radio. Carl kicked out with his good leg, sending a makeshift table skidding around the end of the couch, and then leaped up to fire at the man in the closet.
The commando in the closet was not as green as Carl had hoped. He ducked back as soon as he saw the table, rather than firing at it, and saw Carl expose himself. He ducked back further and aimed through the sheet metal wall, hoping to hit him or at least put Carl on the defensive. Before he fired a round, Carl’s bullets punched through the same sheet metal, striking him repeatedly and making him try to dance away from the burning and stinging impacts. There were too many, and once again volume made up for accuracy. Carl saw him fall to the floor and try to crawl out of the closet, but the strength fled from him faster than it was summoned. He lay still, struggling to breathe, and passed out as the blood drained from his body.
“I’ve got men down!” Carl heard the Maelstrom leader hiss into his radio.
“How many more are there?” Carl demanded, standing up and pointing his rifle at the remaining intruder. He had made his way over to the very same spot Jessie had eaten breakfast at many times, sitting at the L-shaped counter that framed his kitchen off from the rest of the open floor plan.
Carl would have laughed at the surprised look on strike team leader’s face had he been in any other mood or in anyone else’s home. He started to raise his gun instinctively at Carl, but Carl put an end to that with a single bullet that chewed through the threaded Kevlar armor and into the commando’s lower arm.
The gun fell to the ground and, with a strangled grasp, the invader grabbed his arm with his other hand. “You broke my arm!”
“Next time I’ll aim better,” Carl spat at him. “How many?”
“This is it,” he said through gritted teeth. “The rest are at the crash.”
“The rest?” Carl asked, glancing at his window.
“My CO, his pilot, and his team,” the man said, looking at him fearfully. His eyes darted around, searching for something, some advantage he could use. Carl saw the look and knew what he was doing.
“Who are you?” the man asked him.
Carl looked at him, eyes narrowing. He felt nauseous and light headed, but forced it aside. Now was not the time to show weakness. “What those kids do to you?”
“Fuck you, old man,” the commando said to him. “They know where I am. You kill me and you’re dead.”
Carl lowered his M4 slightly, then pulled the trigger again. The commando jerked and screamed once more. “You piece of shit!” he howled, his good hand now going to his leg. He could not reach the latest injury. It was just below his knee and was clearly a bone shattering wound.
“Do I look worried?” Carl snarled at him. “Why you after those kids?”
“They’re Jiri Kurkova’s kids!” he told him, a frantic edge in his voice from the wounds Carl had given him. “We work for him.”
“You’re hunting. This ain’t a search and rescue,” Carl accused.
The commando just stared at him, his expression switching from fear to surprise that Carl could be so stupid. “Mr. Kurkova needs bodies to satisfy the insurance claim.”
Carl’s eyes widened and his gun lowered slightly in surprise. “Insurance? What kind of sick fuck-“
The commando lurched, rolling to his side and reaching for his pistol. Carl snarled and fired again, striking him just below the sternum. The wounded intruder doubled over, the pistol dropping from his off hand. He gasped, unable to draw in his breath.
“My name’s Carl,” Carl told him, walking around the counter and coming through the opening into the kitchen. He stared down at the man and raised his gun to finish him. “That’s all you need to know.”
A gust of wind blew in through the open front door, distracting Carl and sparing the commando’s life for another few seconds. The wind continued, blowing dust and sand in. Something about it seemed wrong to Carl, something he couldn’t put his finger on. He kicked the pistol away from the commando and then his assault rifle as well, then turned to investigate the door. Something about the sound that accompanied it was familiar to him. It was rhythmic, as though it has a repeating pattern. It almost sounded like…
Carl’s eyes widened. He turned and ran, heading for the back door. The sound of rolling thunder lit his house behind him. Spears of daylight stabbed into the room, allowed in by the penetrating 30 millimeter rounds. They shattered the house, turning the fallen commando into something that barely resembled road kill. Shrapnel shot past Carl as he ran, his injury forgotten in the adrenaline spike that drove him forward. He cleared the back door and ran up the short path to his shed even as a pair of 70 millimeter rockets crashed into his home and sent him flying through the shed door.
Carl picked himself up, his ears ringing, and glanced over his shoulder. It was a helicopter, as he had realized. A model he didn’t recognize, though it resembled the Apache AH-64’s he’d seen in the Middle East. Unlike typical gunships, this one was silenced. He pulled himself forward, knowing he had no time to waste. The gunship was already lifting, flashes from the chain gun tracing a path through the wreckage and up the short path behind him. Carl made it to the trapdoor with seconds to spare, hearing the destruction of his indoor garden taking place behind him.
Carl landed roughly, having slid down the ladder rather than climbing it, and was thankful for the bodies that served as a cushion for him. Explosions overhead signaled with finality the end of his life of solitude. He rolled away, dodging falling rocks and debris, and made it into the room just as a deluge of water from his burst storage tank flooded into the room. Exhaustion, pain, and a stinging in his side left him stunned and breathing hard, trying to make sense of what had just happened to him. He lay on the cool floor, wanting the pounding to stop for just a few moments.
Amazon / Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0053KJ2QU
Novel Concept Publishing: http://www.novelconceptpublishing.com
Createspace (Print): https://www.createspace.com/3407980
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wanted-jason-halstead/1019445610?ean=9781449578732&itm=1&usri=jason%2bhalstead%2bwanted
A sample from “Voices”, a book taking place a few decades into the future from when Dark Earth was written, but in the same setting. Same options as before – if you like it check out the links at the end or feel free to let me know in some way, shape, or form. If you don’t…well, what’d ya read the whole thing for?
Billy woke up to dull agony. He lifted his head, knowing he shouldn’t. The room remained uncomfortably bright. He didn’t need to twist his head to see his arms were still stretched out on either side of him. The strap holding his neck in place had rubbed his throat raw, much the same as the ones around his wrists, ankles, and waist. He glanced down, giving himself a brief respite from the powerful lights, and saw a puddle at his feet. A puddle that was mixed with a variety of things that had once come from him. He looked away quickly, lest the sight of it rob him of what he needed most.
“I remember,” he gasped, his throat sending stabs of irritation as it rubbed against the rope. “It was the third one that built his house out of straw!”
There was no response. He looked around, squinting, and found himself alone in the room. Just him and the mirror. He glanced down again, briefly, wondering if he could add to the insult by relieving himself. With a painful bark of laughter he realized it was too late, the last round of electricity they had pumped into him had already voided his bladder. That was one of the ingredients of the chunky morass on the floor.
“They’re going to kill you.”
Billy said nothing. The voice seldom cared if he responded to it. To her. She’d tortured and tormented him for years, never caring what he wanted or did. He was certain it was that part of him he thought missing trying to bring him back around. His conscience, or sense of morality. Whatever it was that stopped most people from doing the things he did. By pushing it away he came to the conclusion that he had snapped. Gone insane, without hope, and now it was coming back to prove it to him by using the voice of a dead woman.
“No friends, no family, no backup. You’re going to die Billy. Are you ready to face your creator?”
Billy looked around, gritting his teeth and feeling the fresh ache in his jaw from clenching it through the torture. It didn’t matter how much they tortured him, they couldn’t learn anything. He didn’t know anything, only that he was given a job and he did it. Whoever benefited from it was hidden from him. He only knew that he was good at it. He needed it, otherwise his life held no real meaning. No feeling of life, just surviving.
He spat out another bitter laugh as he realized he felt more alive right then than perhaps he ever had. And this time he didn’t even have one of his girls with him. He sighed, bloody drool dripping from his lip. If only he could run his fingers along Betty Lou one more time or wipe Leigh Anne down. There were others, of course, but those two were always there.
“What will you do, Billy, when you die? Do you think you’ll finally see me? Finally know what you’ve done? What you’ve missed?“
He snorted. What had he missed? A lifetime of living on his knees? Answering to other people and kissing their asses so he could make his next house payment? Being held back from doing what he wanted because the kids needed to be run to soccer practice? He hung his head as much as the strap allowed and closed his eyes. “Fuck off,” he muttered.
“I don’t want you to die,” the voice sounded angry. “I hate you. Maybe more now than ever, but I don’t want you to die.“
He was accustomed to her not making sense. She’d told him how much she hated him many times. He supposed it was his own self-loathing. Some deep part of him that couldn’t stomach what he’d become. He wondered where it came from, even as a kid he’d never wanted to be a fireman or a cop or a doctor. He wanted to be gunman from the old west, or maybe a soldier. Something special and powerful. Somebody that didn’t need anybody else.
Then there were the times where she was sad or even sappy. Times when she told him she wished things could have been different. She said they were linked, two people to one soul or some nonsense. She wanted to be with him and be a part of him. She told him how different things could have been. To him it was just more proof that he was lucky to not be in an asylum drooling on himself while somebody shoved pills down his throat.
“This is going to take a long time and I don’t want to see you suffer. Not like this. They have no clue what they’re asking. You won’t even admit things to yourself, how can they expect to get a straight answer out of you?“
“Tell them that,” he grumbled.
A door opened. “Mr. Paquard, you’re an amazing individual. Not a touch of technology in you. No robotics, no replacements, no assistance at all. Your DNA is your own and other than trace amounts of mild pain relievers, you don’t even touch any chemicals of medicines. What is your secret, William?”
“Wheaties, every morning,” Billy quipped to the mirror, though his eyes tracked the enforcer who joined him in the room. He had changed to a fresh white lab coat, complete with clean latex gloves.
The warning was unnecessary. Billy grunted, spraying spittle on the pristine white coat. He tried to double over, but the straps held him in place and prevented him from cradling the blow to his midsection.
“Jesus Billy, tell them something! Anything!“
It took Billy a few moments to catch his breath. When he finally did he shook his head. “Lost my virginity when I was nineteen, does that count.”
At least the voice was surprised. Billy’s captors seemed unimpressed by their prolonged silence. He smirked, dripping some fresh pink stained saliva. He was hearing multiple voices now, both that of the woman, Julie, and the unnamed man behind the mirror who kept demanding answers that Billy didn’t have.
It also appeared that his smirk was taken as a further insult. His body stiffened without warning as the pain erupted inside of him.
Amazon / Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0053KJBMA
Createspace (Print): http://www.amazon.com/Voices-Jason-Halstead/dp/1461096073/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1309097333&sr=1-1
Novel Concept Publishing: http://www.novelconceptpublishing.com
The following is a sample of my book, Dark Earth. If you like it, follow the links below to check out more of it, leave a comment, or send me email. If not, well, thanks for trying!
On all sides of the garden the earth was shredded and broken. In some places piles of dirt had amassed, in others trenches. Jessica gasped and I came to her side in time to see the bloody carcass of a deer laying in a shallow rut. It was one of the spotted fawns she’d mentioned. Elsewhere we saw other bodies of animals, all of them not only dead, but torn apart as though they had been set upon by a malevolent piece of farm machinery.
“Jess, back to the house,” I told her, even as she bent down to pick up the body of a squirrel that seemed physically unharmed, yet was still stiff as a board. “Now!”
She hurried back with me, my eyes still searching everywhere. The sun, almost on cue, dipped below the trees just as we left the clearing behind. We had enough light to get back but I was more paranoid than ever as I tried to pierce the deepening gloom of the forest looking for shadowy attackers. We made it to the house without a problem.
I set the drill and the screws on the kitchen counter and took a deep breath. Jessica was huddled over the squirrel, her shoulder shaking as she sobbed and her tears running down her face to drop on the dead animal. I shook my head and wondered what I had done to deserve whatever punishment was being given to her.
I checked the pistol at my side, making sure it was where it should be. It had felt awkward earlier, having it holstered there, but now I was accustomed to its weight. I glanced outside and, on an impulse, locked the door.
A gasp made me spin back to Jess. I looked around, seeing her not staring outside but rather into the dead critter in her hands. I looked up just in time to see a dark shape hurtling towards the door. It slammed into it, making Jessica scream and me jump a little in surprise. The door held, but whatever was out there hit it again. I heard the cracking of wood and I knew the door wouldn’t hold.
“Upstairs!” I shouted at her, backing up some but stepping in front of the door and drawing my pistol. She ran to the stairs and flew up them. I heard her dive under my bed once she got there. The sound of her hitting the floor coincided with the third, decisive strike against the door. The deadbolt tore free of the jamb, taking a chunk of wood with it, and the door slammed open to reveal the largest wolf I had ever seen.
I pulled the trigger but felt it resist. The safety! I’d forgotten to take the safety off in my excitement. I flicked it and squeezed the trigger again as the wolf lunged at me. Not only was it huge but, just as Jessica had told me, it was clearly very angry. Its fur was mottled silver and black, and it had a blue eye and a brown one. Half-unconsciously I noticed these things-those and how large its jaw was and sharp its teeth looked. I pulled the trigger two more times.
Each firing of the cannon in my hands was like hitting my eardrums with a sledgehammer. In the house the sound the .50 caliber handgun made was on the other side of deafening. The pistol leapt in my hands with each shot, guaranteeing I would have trouble hitting the broadside of a barn even if I had been inside it.
The first bullet missed and tore up a large chunk of my hardwood floor. The second one I thought hit the wolf; hair flew off its flank. It seemed the bullet only grazed it though, causing it to duck under the third one before it slammed into me.
I could hear nothing but a dull ringing, so I had no idea what noise I made as I crashed to the ground with a wolf atop me. The handgun fell out of my hand as I tried to fend the wolf off, but I managed to lodge my forearm in the back of its mouth to keep the jaws from snapping on my neck. My other arm I wrapped around it, keeping it close to me to prevent it from getting its mouth free and snapping it shut on my head. As it was the pain in my arm was excruciating, but my sturdy denim Carhartt jacket kept the teeth from piercing my skin. Instead the wolf crushed my arm with its teeth.
I knew I was a dead man when I felt one of the wolf’s hind legs kick up and try to rip my belly as it thrust backwards. My belt and jeans saved me the first time, but I knew I would tire out long before the wolf did. I let go of him even as he tried again and managed to tear some great furrows on the inside of my right thigh all the way to the knee. I felt it, but the pain was a distant thing. Adrenaline was doing its job again. My hand grabbed the pistol and I shoved the barrel into the side of the wolf’s thick chest and pulled the trigger.
One handed, the gun kicked even worse and made me wonder if my wrist had just been broken. The wolf yelped and jumped away from me, yanking me off balance and spinning me on the floor until it whipped its head back and forth and tore its jaw free of my arm. It backed away even as I struggled to bring the gun around to aim at it again. I saw it turn its head, nostrils flaring as it sniffed, and it looked up to the loft. It turned back to look at me and licked its lips, then, with a final growl, it turned and bolted through the door. I tried to rise up and go after it, or at least get another shot off at it, but my leg made its injury known to me as I attempted to use the shredded muscle in my thigh.
I managed to crawl over and shut the door at least, and I rested there against it, breathing heavily and staring around dazed. I set the pistol down beside me and put a hand on my leg, putting pressure against the surprisingly little blood that seeped from it.
Before my hearing had returned and before I could even really begin to try and think straight, I saw Jessica enter my field of vision. She was there, in front of me. I reached out for her with my other hand, happy to see her and wanting to hold her close to me at the same time I wanted to hide her away from whatever was after her. She came to me and hugged me, wetting my chest with her tears. I tucked one arm around her, holding her closely. I could still hear nothing but the ringing noise, though it was slowly fading and I thought I might be able to hear something muffled in the distance.
She pulled away from me and pulled her ponytail back away from her face. With a look of serious concentration, she reached over to my leg and pulled my hand away. I resisted at first, but she insisted, and eventually I let her win. I did not want her to see me hurt. Anybody, really, but especially not her own father. I was supposed to be invincible; the man all other men would be judged against.
I grinned at my own stupid thoughts and then realized I was probably going into shock. Why else would I be so lethargic and disoriented?
My hearing came back with a sudden clarity that was every bit as deafening as the pistol shots had been. I heard her sniffing, my own labored breathing, the wind blowing against the trees and the house, the fire crackling in my wood stove, and even my own heart beating. For a second I thought I could hear her heart beating too.
“Daddy, get up, you need to rest,” she told me, circles under her eyes as she turned to look at me.
I nodded, even though I knew sleep was the last thing I could afford. If I slept the wolf might return. It wanted her, I knew that now. It was crazy and impossible, but I knew it beyond any doubt. As surely as Johann had tried to claim her, so did the wolf. I was just an obstacle in the way.
“It wants you, honey. We have to get away. Far away,” I told her.
“Daddy, you shot it,” she reminded me.
I nodded. I had shot it. Shot it right in the chest with a really big gun. My hand slipped down to the gun and I lifted it up to look at it. “I did,” I said.
“Come on, you’re too big,” she said, pulling on my other hand.
I nodded again and used my good leg to rise to my feet. I was off balance and a little nauseous , but I found I could bear weight on my shredded leg as well. It was weak, but it worked. I was unable to think, so I just let her lead me to the stairs. The stairs were a challenge, but I tackled them with a single minded effort that seemed Herculean at the time. Jess squeaked and rushed past me right before I collapsed onto my bed. She grabbed something from it, then came to me and helped me get situated. She kissed me on the cheek and told me to rest, that she’d be right there. That was the last I knew.
Amazon / Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0053KJ6PM
Createspace (Print): https://www.createspace.com/3442772
Novel Concept Publishing: http://www.novelconceptpublishing.com
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dark-earth-jason-halstead/1021375494?ean=9781451572964&itm=4&usri=jason%2bhalstead
I’ve been busting my butt this weekend trying to get a lot of work done. I start my next MBA class tomorrow and I really wanted to accomplish as much as possible with Novel Concept Publishing; and my own writing / marketing. To a surprising degree, I was successful.
I’ve got NCP set up to distribute to PubIt, which is the site that takes submissions for Barnes and Noble. Only made one typo too (sigh). I loaded myself up on a new service called Wattpad where I can list samples of all my stuff, including links to where the full versions can be found. Wattpad is the leading mobile ereader app, or so I’m told. Heck, I even put up one story (Voices) for free on it, with more short stories sure to follow when I get a minute.
So what’s embarrassing? Did I not make it to the bathroom in time? Did I use the wrong fork at lunch? No, nothing like that, it’s a matter of pride. I’ve got to figure this crazy thing called Twitter out if I want to properly broadcast my stuff and get people checking it out in large quantities. But alas, I know nothing of it and I feel like an idiot. Me, the IT Manager / computer guy / web developer who doesn’t know jack about how to tweet. Closest I’ve come to a tweet was when I hunted birds as a kid with a pellet gun. I was a damn good shot too, for the record.
So for anyone who happens to be interested in Twitter, let me know what I should be doing with it. Follow me or let me follow you or we could follow each other I guess – so long as it doesn’t end up in some disturbing circle jerk. I promise, in due time, to be using Twitter to unwittingly harass people as much as possible.
Ooh, on a positive note, I happened across Nathan Fillion on Twitter and hell yeah, I’m following Captain Mal! Think I’ve liked most everything I’ve seen him in but like the true Browncoats out there, he’ll always be Captain Mal to me.