“What’s your name?” the bespectacled kid asked.
“Samantha,” she said. “But I go by Sam.”
The bespectacled boy nodded. “I’m Arnel.” He pointed to the tall boy that Samantha had knocked down. “That’s Blake.” He pointed to the other boy next to him, “Carter.”
Samantha nodded and pointed to the boy on the ground, the one that Blake had been pointing the stick at. “What’s his name?”
“Seth,” the boy on the ground croaked. “My name’s Seth.”
“How come you’re messing with him?” Samantha asked, gesturing again at Seth.
Blake stood and dusted himself off. He grabbed his stick back from Samantha and iced her with a look. “Because he almost gave us away to them, that’s why. He broke the first rule of this place.”
“Never reveal your position, never let the bad guys know where you are.”
“That actually seems like it’s two rules.”
“Whatever,” Blake grumbled. “You screw up around here, you get beat down.”
Samantha moved over and helped Seth to his feet. He smiled and she turned to Arnel and the others. “Where are your people, Samantha?” Arnel asked.
“I don’t have any,” she replied.
The boys whispered to themselves, then Arnel mustered a smile. “You need something to eat, you can follow us.”
Blake jabbed at the ground with his stick. “The hell she can. I ain’t busting my butt so some little girl can blow up our spot and take our food!”
“Don’t mind him,” Arnel said, ignoring Blake even when he lifted the stick as if to strike. “He’s just pissed that he got his ass whupped by a girl.”
Samantha held Blake’s look, giving no ground to him. There was a screeching sound far overhead, the sound Samantha knew came from the alien gliders. Arnel and the others tensed.
“The beetles are coming,” whispered Arnel. “We best get our stroll on.”
Samantha followed the boys out through a gap in the rear of the building. They galloped between surrounding structures and down over weed-choked lots that lay between tenement buildings that had been bombed and now lay in ruins. Samantha scampered over piles of cement and between forests of rebar and twisted steel and all of the other debris that once formed the building’s innards.
They took cover in an immense cement pipe that was large enough for a grown man to stand up in. Peeking outside, they watched alien gliders circle over the nearby city.
“Beetles are taking up more of ‘em,” Arnel said.
Samantha arched an eyebrow. “Beetles?”
The boys nodded and Arnel smirked. “That’s what we call ‘em. The aliens. On account of their shiny armor and all. They look like bugs.”
Blake slapped his hands together. “And they’re taking up lots of the older people. Just sucking them up into the sky like they done before.”
“Why do they do it?” Samantha asked.
“Don’t nobody know,” Arnel answered. “But they ain’t getting’ all of them. I mean, there are lots left who are fighting back.”
“The resistance,” Samantha said, and the boys smiled and nodded.
The gliders disappeared from view and Arnel motioned for Samantha to follow. They blitzed down through the pipe and emerged into the light and skidded down a gravel embankment. There was a warehouse visible up ahead, partially collapsed, but largely hidden from view, tucked behind several other, taller fabrications.
Arnel guided the way, lifting a flap of metal as Samantha and the boys bolted inside.
The interior of the warehouse was gloomy, but well ventilated and stocked with all manner of supplies. Samantha was surprised to see sleeping bags and solar lamps and magazines and games and more food than she’d seen in weeks stacked along one wall. Most of it was junk food, but there was also canned food and cardboard boxes filled with vegetables and some fruit. As far as Samantha was concerned, this was heaven.
“Okay, so it’s safe to come out ya’all!” Arnel shouted.
A dozen figures emerged from the shadows. Most were boys, but there were a few girls as well. The majority were younger than Samantha, but a few were older by two or three years.
Arnel traded looks with Samantha and pointed to the food. “We scavenge what we can, I mean, we’re working on growing some stuff, but we’re not there yet.” He reached down and grabbed a soda and tossed it to Samantha. She popped the top and took a long pull from it. Not having touched anything sugary since the invasion, the sweetness of the soda overwhelmed her and nearly caused her to swoon.
“How long have you guys been here?” she asked.
Carter pointed toward a faraway wall which was tagged by scores of white chalk marks.
“I’ve been here since the second day,” Carter said. “They took my mother and father away and so my uncle brought me here. He used to work on the second floor making these little parts for machines.”
“What happened to your uncle?” Samantha asked.
“What the hell happens to everyone,” Blake said. “He went outside and never came back.”
Arnel handed a bag of chips to Samantha along with a pouch of what looked like baby food. She had no idea what was in the pouch, but it didn’t matter. She gulped the food down in less than a minute.
“Where’d you learn to handle yourself like that back there?” Arnel whispered to Samantha. “I mean, Blake talks a lot of shit, but he ain’t no pussy.”
She looked up, using a sleeve to wipe her mouth. “My mother taught me to defend myself.”
“Your mom taught you how to hold your ground, huh?”
Samantha nodded. “She was a Marine.”
Arnel’s face fell. Samantha could read the look in his eye
“What?” she asked. “What is it?”
He looked at her, trying to decide if she was ready, it seemed, and then said, “It’s just … the Marines. I don’t mean to grief you, but they were all wiped out. Got no idea if that’s fake news, but it’s what we heard. I’m sorry.”
Her chest rose rapidly, her fists clenching and unclenching. She didn’t want to hear that. Her mom was alive, she just had to be. Before she could respond, a series of explosions sounded outside, close enough to shake the building. Most of the other kids squealed and darted for cover.
Blake moved toward the other end of the warehouse and Arnel, Carter, and Samantha followed. They climbed a staircase and stopped at a second floor landing. A massive hole in the wall provided a view of an industrial area which was located on the other side of the river in the general vicinity from where Samantha had just come.
Smoke rose up from dozens of small fires and Samantha could see clusters of drones the size of cars, clattering around the sky over what looked like an old foundry. Something would move on the ground and the drones would open fire with rockets that churned up the earth, knocking down small pods of what she could see were resistance fighters like tenpins.
“We’ve got to help them,” Samantha muttered.
Arnel shook his head. “Do we look like soldiers to you?”
“They’re all gonna die unless we do something,” she replied.
Arnel didn’t reply, turning instead and moving back across the warehouse. Samantha followed. She watched Arnel grab a few granola bars and snug earbuds connected to an old cellphone into his ears. He cranked some music and slumped against a wall, slowly grooving to the tunes. Having been on her own for several weeks, Samantha had forgotten what little manners she once had. She slapped the cellphone away from Arnel.
“’The hell is the matter with you?!” he thundered. “I give your ass food and a place to coop and you smack my shit away?!”
She pointed back toward the far wall. “Those are our people out there!”
Arnel pursed his lips. “Maybe yours, but they sure as shit ain’t mine.”
Samantha just stared at him. “I’ve been on the run for two weeks.”
Arnel looked at the ground and twirled a finger. “Big whup.”
Samantha ignored this. “I’ve seen people die, good people, because there was nobody who was willing to do something about what’s been happening. I’m tired of running.”
Arnel looked up at her. “Have you looked in the mirror?”
“I don’t have a mirror,” Samantha replied. “In case you haven’t noticed.”
“Because you’re barely five foot tall and maybe a hundred pounds if I tossed you in the river.”
Samantha glared at him. “You gotta punch above your weight, that’s what my mom always said.”
At this, Arnel smirked. “You’re crazy, girlie, you know that?”
She tapped her boot on the ground. “Runs in my family.”
Arnel rose and followed Samantha back over to the others.
“They’re using swans,” Samantha said, along the way. “The flying drones, the smaller ones. They’re called swans.”
Arnel shot her a glance. “Swans? Who came up with that name?”
Samantha shrugged. “I just liked it, that’s all.”
“Tell me why I should care?”
“Because I’ve seen them before,” she said, and then smiling, “and I kinda know a way to beat them.”
FROM JUSTIN >>> Book 1 has been doing VERY well, and we’re super appreciative of you all, but also authors like Michael Anderle, TS Paul, Chris Fox, Drew Avera, and others who have shared the release. This is so much fun, we might just do it again! Haha, we are — book 2 is less than 2 weeks away from LAUNCH (June 13).
As you can see, there’s some focus on Samantha (Quinn’s daughter). But don’t worry, the regular characters are there too!
All three are on Amazon now (book 2 and 3 are preorder – June 13 and then July 13).
If you’ve read book 1, you can probably see why we are ranking #1 in LGBT scifi. The whole book isn’t about that, but it’s a big element of one of the main POV characters. I’d love to hear your thoughts (but not bigoted ones), as I think this is the first time we’ve represented the LGBT community in our books. Shouldn’t be a big deal, but… you never know how it goes over.
All that aside, let’s share a cool book for you all to check out. Today’s book is:
Mallory Quinn is just your everyday witch. Badass, honorable, and able to go toe to toe with the best whiskey drinker this side of Tennessee, but when NASA comes to recruit her for a daring space rescue, she’ll find herself among a motley crew of the supernatural world.
Their goal is simple, keep the evil lord Zug of space planet Maverick from acquiring the Gideon cube and using its immense power to rain down destruction on earth. Sounds easy right? Well, it would be if not for the niggling thirty-six hour timeline that started yesterday…
So there you go, our second snippet of our second SYNDICATE WARS book! Don’t forget to get book 1 if you haven’t yet, and book 2 is up for preorder. Thanks!