Book 4 Epilogue – False Dawn

Syndicate Wars False DawnUNEDITEDHello, all. We thought it would be fun to have an epilogue to book 4 and are sharing it with you exclusively here 🙂  A little bonus for being on my site.

Downside? It’s unedited right now. So if you’d like to take a look and find errors, please send them my way. I’ll have it edited when my editor is doing with this other book of mine she’s finishing up. THANKS!


 

A gentle breeze blew the grass along the hilltop where Dan sat, like a breath of calm and peace brought down by the gods. An odd thought, he noted to himself, considering that he was sitting there and staring out at the massive destruction in this syndicate-made lake. Rumor had it, Samantha had been behind this, and now she was gone.

Dan had seen her in action though, he had seen what she was capable back when he was supposed to be guarding her and she’d caused an explosion with her mind. If there was one thing he was sure of, it was that Samantha couldn’t really be gone. That girl was a survivor.

Sitting here, staring at this destruction, Dan realized that he too was going to be a survivor from now on. And not just a follower, not a straggler, and not someone who managed to find their way into other’s protection.

He was going to follow her example and ensure that, as long as he had breath to fight, he would be fighting back and helping to bring others to fight alongside him.

That was the power of her, in addition to this magic. He had sensed something more in her the moment they had met—an ability to inspire.

Even now, when everyone told him she was dead, he was inspired.

He stared up at the heavens, considering the time ship and those who had gone after it. Quinn herself, even.

It had been one week, and nothing had changed. NOTHING.

Considering that their mission had been to go back in time and fix it, or at least ensure Samantha didn’t die, he had to take this status quo as a sign of failure. For a moment he considered other timelines and the fact that, maybe they had succeeded, but that he might be stuck in this old timeline.

Whether that was the case, they had failed, or they just hadn’t succeeded yet, he knew one thing—he wasn’t about to give up.

He pushed himself up and wandered away from the graveyard of Syndicate and resistance fighters. This was no place for the living.

The trudge back over the nearest hill exhausted him and he pushed the feeling of hunger aside, wondering when he had eaten last by doing his best to ignore the thought. He let Mary Beth, his shotgun, rest on his shoulder, wandering back to the outpost he had passed by on the way over.

He had been welcomed by a young couple, two love birds so happy to have survived the nearby fight that they had thrown their weapons in the corner and been caught humping like rabbits when he had arrived. They even invited him to join, part of some resistance free love thing they said they were starting. An appreciation for life and every moment the universe grants you.

Rejecting the offer, he’d tried not to stare at the two nude forms as he asked about the crash, and they had pointed him this way.

So now he was returning, mostly hoping he didn’t have to put up with that crap again, but partly curious. He pushed those unwelcome thoughts aside, trudging on.

When he arrived at their doorstep, he found it cracked open, a line of blood leading in along the wooden floor.

He lowered the shotgun and prepared for the worst, but instead of two bullet-ridden bodies like he had expected to find, he followed the trail out back where the two were helping a Syndicate Marine out of his armor. The Marine’s side was blown open, a red-stained cloth pressed to the wound there.

“Dan,” the girl said, turning to him with a wild look in her eyes. Dan was, he was pretty sure, relieved to see the two dressed, though the bleeding out Marine counteracted that relief slightly.

“What’s this?” Dan said, glancing around for more of the guy’s Marine buddies.

“Insurrection,” the Marine said, at a work camp.

“And they got you…” Dan turned to the couple, glaring. “So why are you helping him?”

The man bit his lip, running a bloodied hand through his golden hair. His lover shrugged.

“It’s not… it’s not like that,” the Marine said. “They turned on the Syndicate, but not without help.” He groaned, putting extra pressure on his wound, and then took a gulp of brownish water from a cup at his side. He grimaced, then added, “I was part of that help, along the rest of my Marines.”

“But you’re Syndicate…?” Dan was hesitant, his fingers massaging the shotgun.

“They forced us… some got away earlier. Others… well, we’re still trying.”

“And the work camp, they’re fighting back?” Dan’s heart was thudding with excitement at a real reason for hope. “People are resisting, and Syndicate Marines are joining in?”

The man squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, then looked at him again. After several deep breaths, he said, “That’s right. But they won’t last long. I was supposed to show them where the armor and weapons stash was, but… that didn’t turn out so well.”

Dan rolled his eyes. “Only Syndicate can wear their armor. Anyone tries to turn a Syndicate gun against one of theirs, the shooter gets blown up. Isn’t that how it works.”

“Not exactly.” The Marine motioned him to come forward, then added in a raspy voice, “It’s only true of those who have received a chip. You…you don’t have the chip, do you?”

Dan nodded, pulling back at the ferocity in the Marine’s eyes.

With a look around at the three of them, the Marine nodded, closes his eyes for a moment, then opened them again in a flash. “A pen, paper.”

“Excuse me?” the other man asked.

“I need a pen and paper. I’ll draw a map, and the three of you can get the armor and weapons. You can make a difference.”

“We aren’t…no, we escaped all that,” the woman said.

“NOW!” the Marine shouted, then grunted in pain again. “There isn’t much time…at least, not for me.”

“Ash, do you mind?” the other man said.

“Ricky,” she started to protest, but a simple shake of his head told her to go, then he followed her in, leaving Dan and the Marine alone.

“You…you want to make a difference,” the Marine said. “I see it in your eyes.”

“I want to end the suffering. I want us all to be free.”

The Marine laughed. “Great dreams. Bad grasp of reality.”

“You prefer I give up?”

“I prefer you give ‘em hell,” the Marine said. “I just want you to know…your limitations.” Again his eyes closed, but they didn’t open this time until Dan shook him.

“Stay with me, buddy. Come on.”

Ash, or Ashley, as Dan guessed her name to be, emerged a moment later with a piece of cardboard and a pen. To their luck, the pen worked. The Marine drew a circle, then various shapes, and in the back corner, and X.

He handed to Dan and nodded. “There you go. That’s the work camp, and that in there will be your target.” He motioned to each spot, careful to look Dan in the eyes. “Do you got that?”

Dan nodded, then had a thought. “Couldn’t you have just told the workmen and women this?”

“I did. None of that group made it.”

“Forget this,” Ash said, shaking her head and looking pleadingly to Ricky. “We can get out of here, just keep going.”

Dan looked at the map, then at each of them. “Or you can do your part to keep the resistance alive.”

“They’re right,” Ricky said, hanging his head. “I don’t know how big of a difference this will make, but…imagine a world where it could’ve made all the difference, and we did nothing.”

Ash sighed, looked back at the Marine and said, “Oh, damn.”

Dan glanced over and saw what she had meant—the Marine was slumped over now, his cold, empty eyes staring at the ground. Dead.

“We get in there, find out who’s alive that’s still on our side, and we keep the resistance alive.”

“That’s not our responsibility, guys,” Ash said, still not totally buying it. “We’ll end up like this guy.”

“Or they will,” Dan argued. “Listen, we had a chance, some people I know who took a big risk…but they haven’t come back yet. There might be another great chance out there in the form of a young girl—don’t ask—but…nobody knows if she’s still alive. If everyone else is dead or disappearing, we have to act. We have to step up and ensure someone is fighting for our freedom.”

“You sound like a fucking recruiting poster,” Ricky said, chuckling. “Since I’m already in,” he glanced over at Ash, “did it work?”

She glared at Dan, then rolled her eyes and sighed. “I was getting kinda bored with nothing to do besides screw this one’s brains out anyway,” she said to Dan. “and since you’re not putting out, sure, let’s go get ourselves killed.”

“Or save the world,” Ricky said. “And… hey, I’m a bit offended over here.”

“You weren’t exactly chomping at the bit, Mr.”

He nodded. “I mean…the world is falling down around us. We got it out of our system. But still, a man’s got pride.”

“Okay, fine,” she gave Dan a look like See what I have to put up with, and then added, “You’re an awesome lay, Ricky, and incredibly well endowed. I’d love to get it on all day and all night, but let’s go put our lives on the line instead. Good enough?”

Ricky considered it, broke into a smile and dug an elbow playfully into Dan’s side. “Eh, you hear that?”

“You two got issues,” Dan said, taking the map in one hand, his shotgun in the other, and heading out. “Hurry the hell up, will you?”

They had water and snacks and a pistol each when they caught up with him on the road. It wasn’t long before the three of them were moving up and over another hill, though this one they all ducked low to maintain a low profile. Just on the other side, they saw the metallic fencing erected by the Syndicate. Drones whirred by to their right, heading toward the work camp, and on the other side several office buildings from whatever city this had once been still stood erected. Much of the surrounding area was demolished—piles of rubble, burnt buildings still smoldering, and the occasional wall looking like it was about to topple.

“Okay, genius, how do we get in?” Ash asked, though it wasn’t clear which of them she was addressing.

Dan lay there, keenly aware that the spot where his elbows rested was starting to give and a slight dampness was creeping in, racking his brain. He had never been the leader. His job was to guard, to shoot when they told him to shoot. If he had a sniper rifle or knew how to use one, he’d pick off those Syndicate pricks and drones one at a time. Though, then they would probably find him.

His mind worked in overdrive, accessing new levels he never knew existed, and then suddenly it was clear.

“The sewers.”

“Fuck you,” Ash hissed as if on instinct. She put a hand to her mouth, shaking her head.

“Never again,” Ricky said. “We both agreed…never again.”

Judging by the looks on their faces, the issue was best left alone.

“Fine, we just march right up to the front gate and volunteer then, is that better for you two?” He scooted back, whipping the wetness from his elbows as best he could. Sure enough, they’d left slight, muddy imprints where he had been. “It’s that or, I don’t know try to avoid the drones while searching for a way under the fence.”

“Wait…” Ricky’s eyes lit up. “The Marine back there, he escaped, right?”

“Yeah…?”

“He sure as hell didn’t just run out the front gate in the state he was in. The drones would’ve nailed his ass like tuna.”

Dan blinked, then frowned. “When do you nail tuna?”

Ash bit her lip, trying not to laugh.

“It’s a…” Ricky actually blushed.

“Oh come on.” Dan looked between the two, not wanting to know. “Another sexual reference? In the middle of what we’re about to do?”

Ricky shrugged, then winked at Ash. “Always.”

She smiled, but then her eyes met Dan’s and she became serious. “He’s right though, there might be a way in, if they haven’t found it and fixed it yet.”

“It’s worth a shot,” Dan agreed, relishing the idea of not sliding through tunnels of shit to sneak into an encampment where, if caught, they would at a minimum enslave him. There were better things to crawl through shit for, after all. He frowned, remembering something, and then pulled out the map.

Holding it up to look at the base and the map at the same time, he noticed the Marine’s crude drawing had a small circle drawn at what would be the large section of the gate back toward the section with the tall buildings still standing.

“Nobody thought to point that out?” he asked, pointing it out to the others.

“I figured it was his way of drawing a window,” Ricky argued.

Ash just smiled.

“On my lead,” Dan said.

He turned his gaze to the sky, watching for any sort of pattern with the drones. On the third time of them passing overhead, he scrambled up, down the hill, and then was sprinting over to the wall. Heavy breathing sounded behind him, and then an “Oomph.”

Ricky had tripped and fallen, just as the drones were reaching their turnaround point. There wasn’t time to think, just do, so Dan sprinted back, grabbed Ricky and pulled him up, so that together they reached the wall a split second after Ash, and just in time for the drones to not spot them.

Only problem was, no hole in the fence.

Ash started following the wall, their nervousness practically seeping out of their pores. A whirring sound came, meaning the drones were close. Dan’s left bicep started twitching—something he’d noticed happened from time to time when he felt a fight or flight moment coming.

Ricky and Ash kept moving, searching. Finding nothing.

“It’s gotta be hidden,” he hissed, head spinning from one side of the wall to the other, looking for anything out of place. “Like a pile of leaves, or some bushes, or—”

Ricky’s foot hit the ground and there was a hollow sound. He looked up with excitement, then stomped and a sheet of wood hidden under the dirt cracked.

“Come on,” Ricky said, quickly kneeling to begin moving dirt aside.

Dan and Ash joined him, and a moment later they had a tunnel the size of a large man in armor. Moving quickly so that the drones wouldn’t spot them, they all slipped in, Dan being sure to put the wood back in place.

It was dark down there. If only they had some Syndicate tech already, maybe they could use the fancy lights on the guns or something to see with. As it was, they had to move with their hands on the walls.

At one point, one hand on the wall and the other in front to see where he was going, Dan found himself pressed up against Ash. He was about to step back, when she grabbed his hand and pulled it around her, holding him close.

“I’m not fond of the dark,” she whispered.

“None of us are when it’s like this,” Ricky’s voice came from a little farther ahead.

Unsure what to do here, Dan gave her hand a reassuring squeeze and didn’t pull back. As they moved in the dark, her fingers moved across his and he welcomed the distraction—instead of imagining vile Syndicate creations creeping up on him in the dark and tearing his guts out, his mind wandered to images of him and this woman lying in the grass, their nude forms pressed together, those gentle fingers caressing more than just his hand.

He breathed heavy, unsure if he felt guilty about these thoughts or if he even should. If all of humanity was possibly doomed, what harm could letting his imagination run wild do? And a little hand-holding when earlier that day Ricky had even invited him into their bed…yeah, he wasn’t going to feel bad about that.

First, survive the darkness. Second, kick alien ass. Third, stop with the teenage yearnings and pull himself together.

Again they stopped, and this time Dan had to be conscious about pushing his hips back, to avoid surprising the woman and making her yelp out or something.

“There’s light,” Ricky said, and now that he mentioned it, Dan realized he could just barely see the silhouette of Ricky’s head.

Thank the heavens.

Creeping forward now, Ash gave his hand a squeeze of thanks, then let it drop.

When they rounded a bend and emerged into a hole with light coming down from above, Dan couldn’t help but notice with a hint of jealousy as Ricky reached back and took Ash’s now free hand.

A look passed between Dan and her, but she just smiled and said, “We gotta get up.”

Dan bit his lip, thinking how getting up could be interpreted at that moment and how he was hating his immature mind at that moment.

Focus, dammit, he told himself, and took a deep breath and closed his eyes, remembering all of the bloody corpses, eyes full of sorrow and loss. He focused on what would happen to these men and women in the work camp if he and his companions didn’t succeed, and he thought about that girl, Sam, somewhere out there right now, all by herself.

When he opened his eyes again, he was focused. In the game.

“One at a time,” he said. “You two push me, and I think I’m strong enough to pull Ash while Ricky boosts her, then me and Ash pull up Ricky.”

The quickly had him up top and he found himself in an abandoned basement of one of the buildings. He turned and laid down, reaching for Ash, and soon had her up and then Ricky.

Pulling out the map, he tried to see the harsh lines in the dim light.

“I’m guessing we’re somewhere around here,” he said, pointing to the edge of the buildings away from the wall. “We walked quite a bit, though in dark like that it’s hard to say how long.”

“It always feels so much longer,” Ashley said, giving him a glance that had both relief and something else hidden there. This girl was trouble.

He wouldn’t allow himself to be distracted. Not right now. His finger traced the distance between where they were and where the supplies were kept.

“I think we can move through the buildings,” he stated.

“And the others?” Ricky asked. “The workers, or…slaves?”

“We get the armor and weapons first, then free them and see who’s willing to fight.”

Moving through the buildings was more of a challenge than they had expected, but more because of the state of collapse and lack of connecting tunnels. They would find their way around one wall, only to have to backtrack and work their way through debris, then dart between buildings while hoping no Syndicate soldiers or drones would happen to be keeping watch.

On the third run, Dan was half way to the next building over when he noticed a silhouette of someone staring at him—a woman? Or…a girl?

He turned to go to her, a sudden burning sensation pulling at his hope-strings and telling him it was Sam. She wasn’t dead at all, but here, ready to kick more butt.

“What’re you doing?” Ricky whispered, running back to pull him along.

The moment passed and when Dan looked back, she was gone.

“Did you see her?” Dan asked when they reached the building. “The girl, or woman over there, watching?”

Ricky shook his head. “If there was someone, she just as well could’ve been with the Syndicate. Maybe they keep the younger ones, teens and children, as lookouts.”

“We’re almost there,” Ash noted.

Dan glanced back, craving to know if it could have possibly been Sam, but they were right. If it was her, she likely had her own mission. If not, there was no point in exposing themselves quite yet.

As he moved along after them, his mind was racing, though. What would it mean if she was here? Simply that she had survived, or that somehow the time travel mission had been successful?

Had they gone through all that just to bring her back, but not changed anything else? If that was the case, he reminded himself that he definitely needed to link up with her at some point. If the resistance and Marines thought she was worth so much—which made sense, considering what Dan himself had seen her do—he wanted to be sure to stay close. She could be his best chance of surviving, of truly forming a resistance capable of toppling the Syndicate.

But what if it wasn’t her? What if, as some speculated, she was gone? Dead?

That didn’t change how he felt one bit. Regardless, he was realizing, he would be a part of this changing world. He would see the Syndicate fall, and preferably at his hand.

He turned, readying his shotgun, and moved through the next door with the other two hot on his heels. What he found was eyes staring back at him from a dimly lit room. Eyes that belonged to people in cages. Slaves, at least a few dozen, he guessed.

The three walked between the two cells, unable to say a word, just staring. All of these people were being forced into labor for the Syndicate. Many of their eyes had hollow expressions. Most weren’t able to meet Dan’s gaze.

But one stood tall, glaring.

“What the fuck is this?” the man said in a hushed but firm voice.

“This is your liberation,” Dan said, glancing around at them all. “We met one of your friends…on the outside.”

The man’s posture became less firm, less defensive, but he still frowned. “And?”

Dan shook his head, signaling that the Marine hadn’t made it.

“Just like I thought,” the man said. “You don’t leave now, we’ll all end up like Julius.”

“Julius? That was his name?”

The man allowed a hint of a wistful smile. “No, but it’s what everyone called him. Something about the old days and liking something called an Orange Julius.”

Even Dan didn’t get that reference, so he just nodded. “How many are there? Syndicate I mean? And how many would turn, join our side if we put up a good fight?”

The man shook his head. “You don’t get it, do you. You can’t win.”

It was clear this man wasn’t going to help, so Dan motioned Ricky and Ash onward. As they were going though, a woman stepped up—older than the rest, probably in her late fifties, but she had strength in her eyes.

“Hey, you take out the drones, we’re with you.” She came close to the bars, glancing back at the others, all eyeing her with caution. “These people, they just want to survive. While the drones are up there, that ain’t happening. It’s not just that they shot everyone down last time, it’s that they can send a signal, have more help here in a matter of minutes.”

“Great,” Ricky hissed. “We’re here fighting for these people and they don’t even want to fight for themselves.”

“The drones,” the woman repeated. She stuck her hand through the bars and waited. “Call me Merriam. But don’t call me until you have the drones taken out and weapons to fight.”

Dan shook her hand and said, “Deal.”

Then they were moving on, trying to ignore the many sets of eyes behind them, relying on them for any chance of escape.

As soon as they were in the next room, Ricky paused, hand up. “We made a mistake coming here.”

“Ricky…” Ash went to take his hand, but he pulled it away. “No, you heard those people. They’re cowards.”

“You were so much better?” Dan asked.

“I’m here now.”

Dan eyed him, waiting. “You can go. No one’s forcing you to stay.”

Ricky’s eyes darted from him to Ash, then back, and then he cursed and punched thin air. “Let’s just get this over with already.”

Dan had the map, and showed it to him, smiling. “Good, because we’re here. Next room over.”

Unlike the rest of the buildings and rooms that had been totally run down and in need of repairs, this door had a keypad for a password and was a shiny new metal. Likely of some alien construct.

“We’ll find another way,” Ash said, trying to stay upbeat. Her eyes told a different story.

Dan, however, just smiled. He recognized this keypad, and not only was it not alien, his old factory in Delaware had made some just like it. He’d spent evenings playing with them, figuring out the electronics and how to work around such codes. At the time it had been a simple hobby, one that led to more workarounds, hacking some called it.

Before the invasion, he had started to build up quite the reputation for himself in the back channels, even been contacted for a red team out of Virginia for a position. The irony was, he would have been trying to intercept signals from the Syndicate and translate them, or maybe hacking into their systems, if possible. It would’ve been challenging work, but he couldn’t leave his sick grandpa behind in Delaware, so had declined.

When the Syndicate invasion started and riots broke out, his world changed. That same grandpa who had been told he would have a maximum of six months to live had decided walking to the corner market would be an adventure. He never made it back.

From that day, Dan had regretted not joining that red team when he had the chance, but now here he was, getting the opportunity to put his otherwise useless knowledge to the test.

The other two watched in confusion and awe as he disassembled it, then manipulated the wires as he had learned to do. With a click, the door opened, and he beamed.

“You’re full of tricks,” Ash said, impressed.

“Wait ‘til you see what’s coming,” he replied, not thinking about anything specific, but feeling in a boasting mood. Ricky glared, eyes narrowed as he turned to Ash and followed her through the door.

Apparently, he had taken that as flirting, and wasn’t so free loving as he liked others to believe.

Whatever, Dan thought, since his focus was on the fight anyway. He didn’t have time for these childish games.

Inside, they couldn’t believe their eyes. It was a treasure trove of Syndicate weapons and body armor. Fusion rifles lined the wall, ten of them in all, and other confiscated weapons too. Dan had learned that the fusion rifles would backfire if someone with an implant tried to use them against their own, but there was no way to make it work like that for regular people like him. He would be able to use the guns, and so would all of the others there, he imagined.

“This doesn’t help,” Ricky said, his voice shaking with excitement in spite of his doubt. “They won’t fight, and it’s not like the three of us can take out the drones.”

“We just need to get one of them, in working condition,” Dan replied. “Let me take care of the rest.”

Ricky frowned in confusion, but Ash’s eyes moved back to the door and she smiled.

“You think you can hack ‘em?” she asked.

Dan nodded. “If not, we’re all screwed.”

“Fuck my life,” Ricky said, hands over his head.

Ash, on the other hand, picked up a fusion rifle and checked it over, then said, “Let’s capture us a drone.”

Dan lingered, hating the idea of giving up May Beth. But there was no doubt the fusion rifles would serve him better in the next phase of their plan. He tucked the shotgun under one of the benches, thinking he might be able to come back for it, and then grabbed a rifle. Watching the way Ricky’s hands were shaking and seeing how pale his face was, Dan made a decision.

“Stay here, Ricky. When we give the signal, arm these men and women as best you can. Think you can handle that?”

After a quick mental accounting, Ricky nodded, unable to make eye contact with Ash. Dan got that—the man probably felt like a coward, but would rather take his chances down here. He was right, Dan thought, it was a cowardly choice, but it also worked toward the end goal, so he couldn’t complain. Plus, in Ricky’s current state, he would likely be more of a liability out there.

“Come on,” Dan said to Ash and together they made their way out of the building.

They decided the best move was to work their way to a rooftop and shoot one of the drones down, moving as fast as possible to then drag it inside and get to work. Dan hadn’t ever hacked a Syndicate drone, but he knew his business. It was their best shot at the moment.

A gust of wind blew strong as Dan pulled himself up and onto the rooftop. He was just reaching back for Ash, elbow scraping on the rough cement, when he heard the sound of metal boot scraping across gravel.

He spun to see a Syndicate soldier stepping around a ventilation unit. It froze when it saw him, then charged.

Good. At least it wasn’t calling for backup or alerting the drones. Dan’s eyes went wide as the Marine lifted his weapon to fire, but a blast from Ash hit its legs and sent it sprawling out on its belly, fusion rifle clanging across the rooftop.

Dan moved fast, darting up and finishing it off with two quick blasts to the back of the neck. The second seemed to hit a weak spot, and Dan looked closer, realizing that’s exactly what it was. He had just discovered a point where the Syndicate armor was incredibly vulnerable. A laugh burst out, but Ash was at his side a moment later.

“Company,” she said, nodding to the edge of the building where two drones had just risen.

“Perfect,” Dan replied, and they ducked down on one side of the Syndicate warrior as the drones approached.

Their whirring grew loud as they were likely scanning to the body to see what had happened. Dan counted to three, hoping they were close enough now, and then leaped up and went for the closer one.

His rifle sent it spinning, but then the drone corrected itself and turned on him, ready to shoot.

Ash sent blasts up at them, completely missing, but causing the drones to take note of her too. While one was scanning her and likely preparing to send the alarm, Dan jumped. He grabbed ahold of the drone by wing with one hand, blaster at its under belly with the other, and then let loose. He was careful to avoid the area where he figured the computing took place, and hit right on.

The drone stopped trying to fly, instead collapsing at his feet. Meanwhile, the other opened fire.

A laser burst singed the edge of Ash’s leg as she dove for cover behind the Marine, and she let out a scream. Dan had the one, but that wouldn’t do any good if a whole army of drones swarmed them.

He had to act fast.

Diving behind the ventilation unit, he used the rifle to shoot open the casing of the drone, then found what he was looking for—the interface. He expected strange alien letter or something, but was pleased to find straight up American style coding language.

Only, when he tried to type using the screen, it said he was denied. He stared there, dumbfounded, contemplating his options. He glanced at the rifle, remembering that it worked for him because he didn’t have an implant. What if… Yes! He dove over to the fallen Marine and shouted, “Cover me!”

Ash unleashed hell on the nearby drone and happened to land a lucky shot. It went spiraling off to crash into the next building over. Only, it had apparently gotten its signal out, because a fresh whirring arose, signaling that many more were coming.

“HURRY!” she shouted.

Dan had already slipped the Marines glove off and pressed his fingers to the screen. Sure enough, it recognized the chip in him and worked! Now he was in business. He dropped the dead hand and was able to type freely now with the touch screen.

It was like working on an old router, he thought, moving through the commands to see what was possible. What did this mean? Could someone from Earth have been working with the Syndicate to set all this up? The thought sent his head spinning, so he blocked it away. If there was ever a moment in life he needed to focus, this was it.

The whirring grew louder, and Ash ran to the edge of the building, then turned back as she yelled, “SHIT!” and came charging back as lasers and bullets exploded the rooftop behind her.

“Come on, come on,” Dan shouted to himself, and then he saw it—the kill command.

Select all. Cease operations. Enter.

Ash leapt, shots behind her, and she landed on Dan throwing him back and onto the rooftop, as suddenly the shooting stopped. A moment, and then all of the drones began to drop. Some fell lifeless to the remaining rooftop, others fell far below, exploding on impact with the ground.

Her body pressed against him, hands on each side of his face, Ash stared down with him with wide, amazed eyes. “You did it,” she said, then repeated herself before pulling him up to her and pressing her lips to his.

Dropping him she said it louder, “YOU DID IT!” and then let out a loud, “WHOOP!” before jumping up and running to the other edge of the roof, the side that was still in tact but allowed a view of the ground below. As soon as he caught his bearings, Dan heard the sounds of shouting and jumped up to join her.

Ricky must have taken the explosions as the signal, because doors were open and men and women were streaming out. Some had the ten fusion rifles, others with the confiscated weapons, and Ricky had the shotgun.

When the Syndicate Marines saw what was happening, some laid down their arms and surrendered. The rest were plowed down in a matter of minutes, and Dan was glad to see his shotgun do a nice piece of work point-blank at one Marine who tried to charge Ricky.

“What now?” Ash said, turning to Dan, biting her lip.

He hesitated, looking down at Ricky and the others. “We have a war to wage. I don’t want to get between you, and…I can’t afford the distraction.”

She laughed. “I meant, what now with the war?”

“Oh.” He blushed, then shrugged. “The Marines who surrendered might be able to point us to more weapons caches, more work camps and refugee camps where we can find warriors. The resistance will live on.”

She nodded her approval, and soon they were with the rest of the new warriors, taking whatever supplies they could find to start their journey.

As they made their way out of the compound that had served as their work camp, Dan glanced back. He hoped to catch another glimpse of what he had thought was Sam. The others passed by, and all he saw was the smoldering remains of the camp. He watched, knowing that hadn’t likely been her.

If not, he’d do his best to find her on the way, always keeping one eye open for the girl he knew would make the difference in this fight against the Syndicate.


FROM JUSTIN >>> So… anything caught your eye? I’m sure there are errors. How about other thoughts? Thanks!

(Boks 1-4 can be bought on Amazon)

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