Wednesday, November 22, 2017

JC Hay & 5 others writes collaborate to create The Great Space Race

Start Your Jump Drives!

Yesterday saw the culmination of almost a year-long effort between myself and five other writers, all luminaries of science-fiction romance. I’ve got to say - Collaboration is a crazy drug.

We started the series with a singular vision – what if you took a movie like 1965’s The Great Race, or a TV show like The Amazing Race, and gave it that wonderful SFR twist? And what if we made it more like a reality TV show? That was the birth of The Great Space Race.
Each of us sat down to plot our own teams, charted out our planets and went to work figuring out where we could cross over with each other to make the race feel “lived-in.” It was every bit as wonderful as it sounds. Writing is such a solitary profession for much of the time, so it was incredible to sit around the virtual table with people whose work I already knew and enjoyed, and just brainstorm together.
Even better was the way our ideas fed each other – we enjoyed a sort of easy harmony where each idea caused a cascade of similar ones, like scree in a landslide.
For my part, it culminated in Flare, the story of Team Corona. The back grew out of an early comment by series originator CJ Cade – that pirates and brigands were likely to attack the well-known raceways. I immediately wondered what would happen if one of those pirates got roped into competing in the race. Since we were writing space opera, I cast the pirate-heroine as from a race of aliens I’d been working on in some side stories (my strangely honor-bound, devilish looking Malebranki), and paired her with her polar opposite – a shiftless, cowardly grifter named Ax.
As I’d hoped, it created a lot of tension between them, but it also gave them plenty of room to grow towards and with each other. That’s something they’ll need, since Octiron – the company that sponsors the race – isn’t in the business of giving away shares of the prize money. So they’ll stop at nothing to make sure as few contestants finish as possible!

They could go all the way, if they don’t go straight to hell.
All Kayana wants is respect. Jilted by her fiancĂ©e, turned out by her family, and rejected by her crew – esteem is in short supply. When she hears about the cash prize for winning the Great Space Race, she realizes it’s more than enough money to get her old life back. Or buy herself an asteroid someplace where she won’t care what people think.
Ax Turner just needs to hide, and the Race gives him the best opportunity to do so. In plain sight. Surely the thugs and criminals he’s ripped off won’t come after him while cameras are rolling on the galaxy’s most popular reality game show. And if they do, well, having a partner who’s able to fight and looks like a devil seems like a win.
They’re on the run –  from the past, from the lethal challenges of the Great Race, from their feelings, and straight into each other. They’ve got more than their share of problems, and those secrets could drive them apart, or be the key to winning the biggest prize of all: each other.
Want to learn about the other Great Space Race Books? Go to http://gspacerace.com to read about the other books and download a free preview of the series!



Excerpt from Flare: Team Corona

The woman with the scarlet skin stepped the rest of the way through the door and pointed the pepper-box muzzle of the pistol at him. As she spoke, the universal translator in Ax’s comm unit immediately converted her speech to Galactic Common. “I am Kayana, Daughter of House Frissyn, Banner-bearer for House Garryk of the Nine. Surrender or die.”
Ax appreciated the easy choices. He slowly put his hands up, careful not to set himself tumbling through zero-g. “I’ll take surrender, thanks.”
The pistol didn’t waver as she reached out to snag his ankle with her free hand. She dragged him to the deck and pinned him in place with one magnetic boot. “Where is the rest of the crew?”
“You’re looking at it, devil-girl. The only other guy is dead upstairs.” Technically true, since the camera crew wasn’t going to help run the ship.
The woman snorted and lifted him to her face. Up close, and without the flames to distract him, Ax could get a good look at the pirate for the first time. Her eyes were black, the white so small as to be nonexistent. Wavy dark hair tumbled over her shoulders and into her face in a cloud that bordered on unruly. In the dim light, he could just make out the edges of the tiny scales that chased the high bones of her cheeks and the point of her chin. In another situation, he’d consider her damned attractive. So long as she wasn’t threatening him. And she didn’t smile. Smiling showed off the sharp points on her canine teeth and made her a lot scarier.
She leaned into his face, giving him a full view of her vicious dentition. “Turn on the gravity.”
Fortunately, he was used to terrifying women. He shrugged. “I’d love to help you with that, but no can do, Kay.”
“Kayana,” she spat. “And you will do it, or I’ll kill you.”
“You’re big on that threat. Problem is, the ship’s all biometric controls. Once you kill me, you’ll be locked out of the system completely. I’m the only the person you’ve got.” He gave her his most charming smile, the one Gobby had buckled for.
It didn’t work.
“All I need is your hand.” She reached for a blade at her hip. “You don’t need to be attached.”
“Actually, I do. It’s a pretty sophisticated system they’ve got in place, and a dead hand is no better than the wrong hand. But you’ve got bigger problems than the security.” He took a deep breath, hoping he had put enough bait on the hook to keep her from killing him. Or cutting off his hands. He was especially attached to his hands.
She rolled her eyes. “Such as?”
“Well, the AI is a complete pain in the ass, for starters.” Ax chuckled at the understatement.
Kayana knotted her fingers in his collar and began to drag him up the steps to the main deck. “An AI is just one of the ship’s systems. It does what it’s told.”
“Yeah, and this one’s been told to be completely unmanageable.” He scrambled his feet before realizing it was easier to let her drag him in micro-gravity than to fight against it. “I assume it’s be-cause Octiron gets some kind of sick thrill out of making everything as difficult as possible.”
She tugged him back up to eye level, and Ax found himself staring into eyes like the black emptiness between the stars, and just as warm. “Or you could be stalling, looking for an excuse while you try to figure out a way to render me unconscious.”
Ax donned his best grin. “I’m a lover, not a fighter.”
Her nostrils flared, and she snorted. “Said every man who was lousy at both.”

About JC Hay

JC Hay writes romantic science fiction and space opera, because the coolest gadgets in the world are useless without someone to share them.
In addition to Romance Writers of America, he is also a proud member of the SFR Brigade (for Science Fiction Romance), the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance chapter, and a proud member of RWA’s PAN (the published authors network).
In addition to piracy in high space, JC writes the Corporate Services series, a set of connected cyberpunk romances set eighty years in our future where the limits of humanity are being stretched and tested.
Follow my Bookbub Author Page: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/jc-hay
Like my Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJCHay/
Follow me on Twitter: @j_c_hay: https://twitter.com/j_c_hay

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Jay Shaw presents The Hunted


Hi everyone, thanks Liza for having me over to visit.

I'm Jay Shaw, I’m a six-foot red-haired, single mum of two teens, who hails from New Zealand. My first job was delivering pizzas. I have a passion for dark-haired military men in combat boots and thigh holsters, but I’m not opposed to the occasional sexy shirtless cowboy in worn denim. I’m a night owl who prefers dogs to cats, and dragons above anything. And I’ve always wanted to go on a date to a fair, ride the Ferris wheel, and the roller coaster.

I write sci-fi, paranormal, action, and contemporary, romances. My characters will, through trial and tribulation, adventure and discovery, ultimately find their one great love. A love that all of time and space will lie down and be still for.

I adore the creative freedom science fiction offers. The opportunity to escape into alternate universes and other worlds, with characters who are swept up in things greater than themselves, is a sensation to which I'm addicted. I hope by reading my books, readers get to experience that same sense of escapism from their daily lives; to feel the atmosphere of an alien world, or fly a space fighter through a nebula, if only for a few hours.

My Dragonus Chronicles series is a science fiction space opera romance - and a perfect fit for that description. When complete, it will comprise nine books in three trilogies. The first begins with The Space Colonel's Woman, continues in The Hunted, and concludes in The Shifting Tide, which is one of my works-in-progress. 

Here's the blurb for book two:



Abducted without a trace, Colonel Mark Holden remains in the clutches of Arcadia’s Grand Chancellor - a maniacal dictator who continues to enslave and experiment on X2 humans. 

Meanwhile, far away on an alternate reality Earth, Julia Holden lives a life she no longer belongs to.  She spends her days rescuing those who cannot save themselves, and pining for her lost love.

Can the Arcadians achieve galactic domination, or will Hayden rescue Mark before his genetic secrets are stolen? 

And when Phoenix City calls, will Mark and Julia return to fight for the hunted?

I hope that whets your appetite for some adventure and romance among the stars. One of my reviewers said, “an all-around great story and space adventure with plenty of action, and full of heroes determined to overcome the most impossible of circumstances and difficult of ages.”

If you'd like to share in Mark and Julia's journey, check out the links.

I'm working on a website, but in the meantime feel free to stop by my Facebook, or Twitter, I love new visitors.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Aurora Springer shares Europa, Taxyon Space, Book 1


EUROPA, Taxyon Space, book 1
SciFi Thriller &Romance

Daredevil scientist & scarred alien
 in perilous alliance. 



Dr. Nikki Bell’s plan to discover intelligent life hits a rocky start when her spaceship crashes on the icy surface of Europa. Seconds before she blacks out, she spies a man’s face in the water beneath the ice. When she wakes on the submarine Station, nobody believes her story. Convinced the mysterious stranger saved her life, Nikki searches for him while she explores the ocean and its alien inhabitants. 

Kiron Arqin Ramis chose exile as a Watcher on a remote outpost to redeem his family’s honor. He never expected to find an attractive Earther woman close to death. He violates the prime policy by rescuing her. Despite suffering the penalty, he strives to warn her about his hostile leaders.

Nikki’s unexpected meeting with Kiron triggers a chain of disasters in Europa’s perilous oceans. Can the daredevil scientist and scarred Watcher forge a new alliance despite their people’s antagonism?  


Excerpt

Water rippled. Giant bivalves clacked shut on all sides. A large object loomed in the darkness. A monstrous siork propelled by long fins like a winged serpent moved into the blue glow of the mollusks. Its enormous fang-filled mouth gaped three times the length of a man. Biting her lip, Nikki eased her zapper from the holster. Her hiding place seemed a fragile and inadequate protection against this monster.

The green skinned man whirled toward Nikki. Diving into the same shelter, he knocked her to the ground and dropped beside her. Jolted by the impact, she blinked at his face, faintly visible in the blue luminescence. His eyes widened a fraction, and he gave a wry smile of recognition. Pinning her down with one arm, he gripped his harpoon and stared out.

Waves surged against the giant mollusks, rocking their shelter. The blue glow faded. Above them, the monstrous beast bashed against the shells. A loud snap indicated a cracked shell. Swirls of blue-green blood spurted across their view as the siork crushed its victim.
 
Her heart thumping in terror, Nikki cowered next to the strange man. 

Long minutes later, the roiling waves calmed as the giant predator moved away.

The man stood, gripped her elbow, and pulled Nikki onto her feet. The diagonal slits of his gills pulsed open and closed on the sides of his deep chest. His intense gaze flicked up and down, appraising her figure in a rapid glance. Settling on her face, his green eyes warmed in admiration. He smiled. The handsome smile she remembered so well.

Flushed in triumph, Nikki gave a silent laugh. She had located her mysterious rescuer, and they were grinning at each other like fools. 



Review of Aurora Springers’ Europa

There is none better than Aurora Springer when it comes to creating biological creatures. Her books are always rich with unique beings, and Europa is no exception. I was fascinated with the multitude of creatures she creates for Europa.

I thoroughly enjoyed the love story between the female human (biologist) and a water alien (Watcher).

Not surprisingly, not everyone trusts the other humanoid race. The question is, will those who mistrust the other sentients destroy all chances of the two species working together. There are those on both sides who believe the other beings are a threat and should be removed.


And as always, Aurora provides exceptional detail in setting the stage and keeping the reader on the edge to see what happens next. And with her, you really don’t know until you turn the page.
I give this five stars!


Buy Links
International: http://authl.it/B0764DFSDM/?d


Aurora Springer’s Published Stories are listed HERE


Author Bio
Aurora Springer is a scientist morphing into a novelist. She has a PhD in molecular biophysics and discovers science facts in her day job. She has invented adventures in weird worlds for as long as she can remember. In 2014, Aurora achieved a life-long ambition to publish her stories. Her works are character-driven adventures and romances set in weird worlds and described with a sprinkle of humor. Some of the stories were composed thirty years ago. She was born in the UK and lives in Atlanta with her husband, a dog and two cats to sit on the keyboard. Her hobbies, besides reading and writing, include outdoor activities like gardening, watching wildlife, hiking and canoeing.

Media links:


Monday, November 13, 2017

Veronica Scott shares her latest release: The Fated Stars


Veronica: Thanks for having me as a repeat guest! Always love being here…and this is the first time I’m guest blogging about my new release, THE FATED STARS, which just came out.
Liza's response: I love having you stop by.
This is the fourth story I’ve written involving a captive alien empath and the brave Sectors soldier who rescues them, but for this book, I wrote a male empath and a female bad-ass mercenary. My daughters have been challenging me to write a female soldier and I thought this book was my golden opportunity. I wanted to have the adventure be markedly different from the other three in this quasi-series I’ve got going.



Here’s the plot:
Larissa Channer, a tough no-nonsense mercenary in the Sectors, is celebrating success on her last job and a big bonus, with no slightest thought of taking on another assignment anytime soon. Out for a night of carousing with her friends at a third rate carnival on a backwater planet, she walks into the tent of a fake fortune teller and finds herself confronting the most intriguing man she’s ever seen. But something’s wrong, ominous currents lie beneath the surface of their encounter and Larissa can’t leave well enough alone.
Samell, a powerful, high born empathic priest, has been kidnapped from his own primitive planet along with a number of his people and sold to the shady operator of an interstellar carnival. Kept enslaved, pretending to be a fortune teller while forced by his captor to steal information from the minds of all who come before him, Samell despairs of ever breaking free.
Until Larissa walks into his tent and he recognizes the warrior who might mean the difference between life and death.
The situation becomes dire when Larissa and Samell come to the attention of the Shemdylann pirates who kidnapped him in the first place and the deadly Mawreg aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the empathic alien noble, and derail the Mawreg plot against the Sectors? And will the soldier end up with her prince when all’s said and done?


The excerpt:
In a happy drunken cluster, she and her friends roamed the carnival grounds. They scoffed at the trained animal acts, featuring beasts supposedly imported direct from Old Terra, and the group of them threw tips in the hat for the strolling dancers and acrobats and lost credits at the rigged games of chance. The attractions were as lackluster as she’d predicted, until they reached the back of the lot.
       “Ooh, a fortune teller.” Pamila wobbled in her space boots, leaning on Devlin. It was obvious to Larissa those two would be sharing a bunk in his ship before the red sun rose. “I want my future read.”
       Half-baked superstitions rising in her somewhat fuddled mind, Larissa shook her head again. “Bad idea for a mercenary. I can tell you right now, our future’s uncertain as the path of a rogue comet. See, I just saved you a credit. Thank me later.” She spun on her heel to walk away as fast as she could.
       Pamila grabbed her elbow. “Come on, it’ll be fun. More fun than losing credits on the bucket toss or the ring loop.”
“I doubt that.”
       But she was overruled, and they each paid the minimal fee then stumbled into the darkened tent. Larissa paused on the threshold, stunned by the urge to flee. What the seven hells? Larissa Channer doesn’t back down from a real challenge, let alone a mangy fake seer. Gritting her teeth, she followed her friends.
       Lavishly decorated with gaudy odds and ends, the temporary structure was meant to suggest a remnant of an ancient civilization perhaps, or accouterments of magic. Larissa had no idea. Her attention was riveted on the fortune teller himself.
He was the most compelling man she’d ever seen and undoubtedly the handsomest. Dizzy from more than the feelgoods, Larissa felt warmth spreading from her core, pulsing outward. Annoyed, she rested one hand on the nearest faux column to steady herself.
She’d seen good looking men before, even shared her bed on occasion in a no-strings attached friends-with-benefits manner, so why was she craving the sensation of his body under her hands?  Practically swooning? Which was the only applicable word here, Larissa admitted to herself. Like a fairytale princess in a trideo. If there was one thing Larissa could never be accused of, it was mimicking a fainting fictional heroine. Built on solid lines and taller than many of her fellow mercenaries, male and female, she was a well-trained, kick-ass warrior.
And she did not get her panties in a twist for random, good-looking men. Especially not members of a third rate carnival.
Drank too much of the cheap feelgoods.


Buy Links:  
Amazon     Kobo     B&N     iBooks     Google


Author Bio:
USA Today Best Selling Author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “City On the Edge of Forever.”
Amazon Author Page: 





Friday, November 10, 2017

Arcadia Shield shares book 1: HEATH of the Ember Quest series.


A Q&A by Arcadia Shield

Q - How would you describe the series?
A – Love wins against everything. It makes broken men heal, bitter women laugh, and damaged people use their last breath to save the things and people they love the most. It’s about the toughness of the human spirit, not giving up against something deadly and dangerous. The series is science fiction romance with a dose of dystopian sharpness and a dash of military might and muscle. There’s full on adventure and lots of romance - although not too steamy. The bonds of love, friendship, and family run through the books. Not just the brothers' bond but the deep bonds formed when people fight together in extreme adversity.

Q - Why did you write this series?

A – Heroes rising against impossible odds. Love, action, romance, all mixed up. Swoon! Science fiction opens new possibilities for forming unbreakable bonds between people fighting for their lives. I love the idea of a strong family, working together to protect themselves and fighting for something so much bigger; their soulmate and the planet.


Q - What order should I read them? 

A - The books have stand-alone romances in them, but the action arc grows with each book. Characters from earlier stories appear in later books and it adds to the experience to read them in order. Here's that order:

- Heath
- Kade
- Lincoln 
- Arlo (coming December 2017)
- Jude (coming February 2018)

- Tobias (coming April 2018)


 The Ember Quest series summary
When the world falls, heroes will rise and fight for truth, justice, and their hearts.
Overnight, a tyrannical, mysterious power takes control of the world. The State are ruthless and deadly. In the aftermath, the population is controlled by an unbending hypnotic suggestion that keeps people compliant. But some know the truth, and this group of resistance fighters won’t stop until the State are destroyed.

Heath – Book 1
In a world tipped on its head, Professor Annie Grimwald—a distinguished lecturer at Helstone University—is anxious. Her father, an eccentric dragon relic hunter, is missing. She’s tried everything to find him, and won’t rest until she's discovered what happened. In a moment of rashness, Annie contacts disgraced, brilliant, and gorgeous Heath Ember. Once a maverick, passionate lecturer, he's now ostracized and branded a criminal for arguing the State are a lie and an aberration who must be destroyed. But Annie is desperate, and Heath is someone she trusts. But at what cost?

When Heath and his brothers accept Annie’s plea, they find themselves in the brutal Badlands, infiltrating a state-run prison and discovering just how strange the world has become. Annie insists on going on this mission, determined to help her father and figure out why her memories conflict with the truth from the State. What do her flashes of memory containing dragons mean? And why does the State rule so fiercely against anyone who questions them?

Heath Ember is a fighter. He leads a group of stubborn, headstrong, brilliant warriors who fight to destroy the mysterious, deadly world leaders, restore the rightful powers, and protect the innocent. That includes his former colleague, the smart, and stubborn Annie, who makes him pause and wonder if there could be love among the ruins. Could there be hope in the dust, and a chance of happiness that seems like a distant, twisted memory? They find themselves fighting together and battling the State and their desire. Heath realizes love and Annie are the most important things. She ignites a fire in him he’s stamped on, and he never wants it to die. Whatever it takes, he will keep Annie safe.

Note to readers: This post-apocalyptic, dystopian sci-fi contains romance with action (think mysterious, tyrannical powers, gunfights, and hand-to-hand combat), battle-hardened warriors (my gorgeous, former soldiers and brothers) and life-changing, smile-inducing, heart clenching romance.


Buy links
Amazon
Amazon UK




Extract from Heath

“How much farther?” The sulphuric stench surrounding Heath Ember burned his nose. Although the smell conjured nightmares, he also found it strangely comforting. It meant he was close to his goal. Swiping sweat out of his eyes, he inched along the narrow underground passageway, his broad shoulders scraping the sides.
“You should be there.” The distorted voice of Jude, his younger brother, echoed through the remote comms link in Heath’s ear.
“You said that half a mile back.” Heath kept his voice low, knowing Jude could hear him. He doubted anyone else was in this foul-smelling tunnel, but couldn’t risk being discovered. He’d only just managed to squeeze down the narrow shaft that gave him access to this site, and that had meant leaving behind his backpack of weapons. All he had for protection was a small blade tucked into his khaki combat trousers, and his fists.
A chuckle sounded through the comms link. “Didn’t want you losing motivation when you realized how far you’d have to go.”
“You’re always looking out for me,” said Heath dryly.
“And don’t you forget that the next time I ask for a share of your holo-suite credits. Got my eye on a sweet experience involving an alien predator and a canon blaster.”
“Great way to waste my credits.” Heath flashed a quick smile in the gloom. “Kade can fix you up with extra credit, if you’re running low.”
“Not for free, though,” said Jude. “He’ll only trade for coffee and chocolate. The guy loves his caffeine.”
“Almost as much as you love your alien shoot-’em-ups.”
Jude’s laughter died. “Fuck! You’ve got company. Hold your position.”
Heath did as instructed, his breathing slowing as he strained to hear. Jude might be a wiseass most of the time, but he never messed around when they hunted for fragments. There was always the chance of meeting other hunters, or encountering the creatures that had slid out of the darkness ever since the annihilation of the dragons.
“Movement one hundred yards to your left,” said Jude. “A large mass, and warm-blooded, from the heat signature.”

“Just the one?”
“Yes. But it’s fast-moving.”
“One of those freaky giant millipedes?” Heath grimaced. It had been a year since the world had been plunged into chaos, but now and then he was still surprised by the things he ran into.
“If it is, watch out for the saliva,” said Jude. “Those things spit like the devil.”
“You don’t have to remind me.” Heath had a pale scar across his left forearm where a mutated millipede had gotten too close and tried to slice off his arm. He’d been left with a jagged, broken mess of an arm which had burned for days, thanks to the venom.
“Use a flash bomb if it gets any closer,” said Jude. “They hate the noise and light.”
“I had to leave them,” Heath admitted, missing the feel of his backpack full of weapons and explosives, plus his excavation tools. “Not enough room for equipment and me down here. I’ve got the container and a few bits of kit, but that’s it. No guns or bombs.”
“You need to drop a few pounds,” said Jude. “You can’t afford to start leaving the kit behind.”
Heath grunted. “I’ll do that when you learn how to grow a decent beard.” Jude played around with his facial hair more than their sister had her actual hair. She’d be in pigtails one minute, and a halo of messy curls the next. He’d had to chase off several guys who got interested in his baby sister because of that hair.
Heath frowned, as memories of Izzie crowded his thoughts. Now was not the time to be distracted by loss.
Jude’s chuckle pulled him from his thoughts. “Looks like you won’t have to worry about going into any hand-to-antennae combat. Whatever it is, it’s moving in the opposite direction, now. Keep following your original path. You’ll find a small cave on your right. The fragments will be in there.”
“This had better not be another hoax,” said Heath. He’d wasted good hours and resources tracking rumors and jokes. He could never figure out why people thought it funny to pretend they’d discovered something of value.
“The source of the information is good.”
“The crazy bartender running the Down and Out isn’t my idea of a good source.” Heath sucked in air and regretted it as the rotten taste of sulphur hit the back of his throat. If he had to carry on for much longer, he’d need help to get back to base; a boost to shed the tiredness from his bones.
“Lion hears all the gossip,” said Jude. “He might be fond of consuming what he sells, but he listens to his customers and remembers everything. From the latest rumor about new fragments, to the newest rule set out by our friendly neighborhood dictators. Lion will know what’s happening.”
“Still doesn’t make him reliable.” Heath and his five brothers had been going to the Down and Out for years before the chaos began. And Lion McGinty had run that bar for thirty years and wasn’t about to give up because the world had gone mad. He’d moved his bar somewhere safe, made sure the right people knew where he was, and had kept on trading. His drinks were cheap, the women were easy, and the entertainment was lousy. But McGinty offered a warm welcome, and a place where trouble was excluded when you shut the door behind you.
“You should be right on top of it,” said Jude.
The near pitch-black wasn’t helping Heath’s mood. He slowed to a crawl, his fingers resting on the rough rocky surface of the tunnel. These tunnels were part of a huge underground network across much of the former United Kingdom. They didn’t link to all locations, but were an ideal place for people who’d come to the attention of the State, and for those who needed to hide themselves. Survival was the most important thing nowadays, especially against the State.
And the State were cruel and mysterious. Descending on the world overnight, killing those in charge, and convincing the population they were the rightful rulers using powerful hypnotic suggestion methods. Their shadowy leader, Emperor Endrir, rarely appeared in person. He hid behind a wall of security guards, and broadcast pre-recorded lies to the population. Keeping them tamed. Although, there were still a few who knew the truth.
“Any second now,” said Jude. “Keep going.”
Heath’s heartbeat quickened, as his fingers slipped off the rock and into an empty space. No matter how many times he did this, he got the same rush, as the possibility of what he was about to discover grew closer with every rancid inhalation. “I found it.”
“Go slow,” said Jude. “McGinty reckons there’s a haul to be had.”
Heath edged forward, gingerly testing each footstep to make sure he wasn’t treading on anything precious. Every fragment they found was crucial.
“Got anything?”
“Give me a second,” said Heath. He inhaled through his nose, seeking the familiar scent of calcium crystals and egg dust. He’d been accused of lying about the fact he could smell a genuine dragon egg fragment. But he’d handled thousands of fraudulent fragments and knew when he was in the presence of the truth. Everything about it was different, from its feel to its smell, he knew when he was handling a fake. He couldn’t explain it any better than that, but something in him sang when he held the real thing.
“We’re dying of curiosity back here,” said Jude.
“I thought it was only you on comms this evening,” said Heath, not letting his focus slip, despite the sweat trickling into his eyes.
“Lincoln’s hanging around, trying to convince me to take the evening off.”
“Everyone needs some down time,” said the deep, glee-filled tone of Lincoln Ember. “We can’t have Jude getting too serious about his work. You know what happens when he stops having fun.”
“He gets stuff done,” retorted Heath.
“He gets dull.”
“Get off the comms link,” said Heath, shaking his head. Lincoln was always up for a party and a pretty face.
“By the way, I had Arlo in not so long ago, wanting to know if he can test out his new plasma bomb,” said Jude.
“I hope you told him no.” Heath flinched and adjusted his footing as his toe nudged something solid.
“You’re the boss, not me.”
Heath sighed. He wasn’t the oldest Ember brother, but he often felt like it. And he also wasn’t in charge. He left that to Danni. She was welcome to the nightmare of trying to organize him and his brothers, alongside the other squads and thousands of civilians they sheltered.
He crouched and brushed the tips of his fingers along the floor. The flares were in the bag he’d had to leave behind, but Heath pulled out a glow stick and struck it against a rock, filling the cave with green light. The cave wasn’t big enough to stand in, but what Heath saw on the floor made his breath catch in his throat. There were several spiky shards of egg casing on the ground.
Heath lifted one up, not letting the hopeful sensation in his gut take over. Inhaling deeply, he closed his eyes. There it was, that familiar twinge in his gut, telling him this was genuine. To confirm his find, he slid the electro-scanner from his pocket and fitted the shard into the end before activating it. It sent a small current of energy through the shard, and instantly, readings flickered across the green screen.
The tension in Heath’s head faded, and he risked a smile. This was the real thing, egg fragments from a dragon’s egg. For every genuine piece they found, there were fifty fakes, so this was a success.
“What’s the verdict?” asked Jude, the tension in his voice clear.
“We’re onto something,” said Heath.
“Good to know, but you need to hurry,” said Jude. “You’ve got company again.”
Heath gritted his teeth as he collected the rest of the fragments. “The millipede is back?”
“And he’s got friends,” said Jude. “I’m reading six faint heat signatures and they’re approaching at speed.”
Heath swallowed. “I used a glow stick. They must have picked up on the light source.” He clicked open the small container he’d brought with him and placed the fragments inside, before sealing the latch. The container was made of toughened glass and metal, and the inside pressurized. The finds would be safe in there until he got back to the bunker and had them studied.
“Time to go,” said Jude.
“I’m on my way,” said Heath, as he moved into the corridor, leaving the glow stick behind as a distraction for the unwanted visitors. With luck, they’d get hung up on the light and wouldn’t notice him slipping away. Or rather, scraping away. This damn tunnel felt like it was shrinking, threatening to trap him underground.
He took a deep, slow, calming breath. Not far to go, then he was free.
“Lincoln will meet you at the exit,” said Jude.
“I can take the underground passages.” Heath shot a look into the gloom, but couldn’t see any sign of the unwelcome visitors.
“Too risky. And he’s already on his way,” said Jude. “State patrols have passed the exit three times. They must have had an alert that you’ve surfaced. Or a do-gooder decided to report seeing movement after dark and assumed it was people breaking curfew.”
“Then it’s even riskier, if Lincoln’s out as well.” Heath’s leg muscles strained as he ran along the corridor, his energy continuing to fade. This was not good.
“Lincoln can outrun anyone on that modified bike of his,” said Jude. “Just be sure to hold on tightly when he takes off. The guy almost gave me whiplash the last time I was on the back.”
The first flood of adrenaline Heath had been using to get back to the ladder leading to the exit faded. He slumped against the wall, his breath shaking out of him. He needed to get a grip.
“Anything wrong?” asked Jude.
“I’m good.”
“Why have you stopped moving?”
Heath hissed out a breath. Jude was tracking everything from his comms post, using the inbuilt tracker in Heath’s earpiece. He pulled the syringe pen out of his pocket and jabbed it into his thigh, through the fabric of his combat trousers, and was rewarded with a flood of energy.
“Tripped.” Heath dropped the syringe and crushed it under his boot. If the others discovered an empty syringe in his pocket, there would be unwelcome questions. He’d had enough of those. You did what you had to, so you could survive another day against the State.
“Make sure you don’t trip again,” said Jude, his tone cautious. “Those creatures are almost on you.”
Heath tilted his head to one side as the repulsive scurry of multiple limbs grew louder. The term giant millipede was a disservice to these lethal creatures. Laid out flat, they were seven feet long, and had jaws that cut through bone.
Taking a risk, he pulled out a pencil-thin flashlight and flicked it on. It would attract attention, but he needed out of here. Heath pushed away from the rock and sprinted the rest of the way. There were times to run, and times to fight. And today, he didn’t want to waste his newfound energy on fighting these creatures. Not when he had to get these finds safely back to the bunker.
He let out a sharp breath of relief when the exit came into view. Grabbing the lowest ladder rung, Heath pulled himself toward the surface, and the relative safety of the back of Lincoln’s bike.
Once he was out of this tunnel, all he had to do was avoid the night patrols, make sure they weren’t arrested, and get to base. It was another typical night’s work.
“Dammit!”
“Something wrong?” Heath continued to haul himself up the ladder, the flaky rusting metal peeling off under his palms. The drug working through his system gave him a pleasant buzz. He resisted the urge to hum a happy tune. Danger felt a long way off, now that he was wired.
“Comms are being messed with,” said Jude. “Could be an electromagnetic pulse. You might lose me in a few seconds. Doing what I can to minimize interference.”
“I can always listen to Flame if I lose you.” Flame Radio was a pirate station run by an unknown DJ with a voice like honey, who blasted out hard rock and roll, and had eerily good insider knowledge about State activities.
“She plays better music than I do.”
“Lincoln’s outside?” Heath reached the top of the ladder. He grabbed the backpack he’d discarded, shoving his flashlight into it. He could hear the juicy grinding of giant mandibles below him and was grateful the creatures couldn’t climb.
“He was thirty seconds ago,” said Jude. “You’re on your own for now. Can’t see a damn thing, thanks to this EMP.”
“Not a problem,” said Heath. “I’m almost out. See you back at base.”
All he got in response was a low hiss through his earpiece.
Heath twisted the closed hatch lid to the open position, edged it up and peered through the crack. A quiet starkness met him. He was in the middle of what was once central London, a city known never to sleep. Once, it had been full of noise and bustle at all hours, as residents and tourists found fun distractions. But not anymore. Not for a long time.
A low whistle filtered through the darkness. Heath opened the hatch wider. He spotted the dark gleam of Lincoln’s modified Harley. It ran on a quiet hydrogen engine. Removing the throaty purr of the Harley had been the best thing Lincoln had done to that bike, although he’d bitched about it for weeks.
Heath climbed out of the hatch and secured it behind him, before running to the bike and jumping on the back, making sure the box containing the egg fragments was secure inside his backpack.
Lincoln grinned at him as he handed over a helmet before powering off into the night.
A visual comms link lit up on the inside of Heath’s helmet.
“Thought you’d like to see this.” Lincoln’s voice sounded in his ear. “Just before the EMP blast took everything out, you received a coded message. Someone reported that a dragon hunter has gone missing.”
 Author biography
Arcadia Shield grew tired of Earth men and their obsession with Tinder. She jumped on a starship and discovered true love still exists, and those aliens are hot, sexy, and made for adventure and faithful devotion. Arcadia lost her heart, fell in love with intergalactic adventure, and never looked at Tinder again.

Author of the Vortex Warrior series and The Ember Quest, you can sign up to receive news and updates on all her book here

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