Hey folks!! Archer Garrett, has let me post and all of us preview a chapter from his new book The Nine of the North. If you actually follow the links below you can read the first seven chapters for free! By visiting Archers website itself you can read chapters 1-5, chapter 6 from TSLRF and chapter 7 exclusively here! Very cool huh?
Bam! here you all go!
Update from Archer:
In celebration of the release, I am dropping the prices on the following books to 99 cents for several days (starting Friday, 3/22):
If this is something your readers would be interested in, please pass it along.
The Nine of the North (NotN), the third book in the Western Front series (Book 1: the Western Front; Book 2: Kratocracy) and the fourth book in the series’ universe, should be released in a few days. Chapters 1-5 are available here. Chapter 6 is available exclusively at TSLRF and Chapter 7 is available exclusively here:
Tombigbee River, Alabama
Lobo awoke in near-complete darkness. He strained to distinguish any likenesses or silhouettes of likenesses in the surroundings, but there were only shadows and darker shadows. The starless, cloud-filled sky stubbornly refused to reveal any of its secrets to him.
He tried to move, but he was curiously restrained. Lobo struggled to recall where he was and how he might have gotten into such a predicament. Why, not long ago he was – what was he doing? He attempted to rub his head, to help massage his hazy mind, but his flight helmet blocked him. The helmet! The plane, he had ejected!
Suddenly, a surge of thoughts rushed through his mind. He remembered the feeling of dread and panic as he received the final, cryptic message from Austin:
| Mission Compromised | We’ll Find You |
He remembered pulling the D-ring between his legs and exploding upwards at an acceleration of somewhere around 9g. He had felt so small and insignificant in those first few moments – a tiny speck of a man, at over 80,000’ in altitude. He remembered falling and falling, for what seemed like forever. A strange, reoccurring thought haunted him throughout the descent: what if he never quit falling? What if the darkness never ended? He tried to brush the feeling aside, he was a pilot. He had certainly jumped before, but falling from such a high altitude was a feeling like none other. It felt as if at any moment, he might be sucked out to space.
He remembered looking up and seeing the plane explode high overhead. Watching the U-2 burn in the sky was terrifying. The scene above him only served to further reinforce the urgency of his situation:
| Mission Compromised | We’ll Find You |
Or, would he be found by someone else, hiding in a farmhouse, or behind the exposed roots along a creek bank?
Find me, Lobo’s mind screamed, Oh God, find me before they do.
A strong breeze swirled about him and invoked a strange feeling of etherealness. He fumbled through several pockets on the flight suit with bulky, gloved hands, before finally retrieving his flashlight.
He cursed aloud as he illuminated his surroundings. Lobo estimated the distance to the ground to be approximately fifteen feet, maybe more. He looked up and saw that his parachute was thoroughly tangled in the confusion of tree branches above him. It was not the fall that worried him, though. Dry land was nowhere to be seen. Below him was a body of dark, muddy water – some sort of cypress swamp or flooded bottom. The depth of the stagnant body was completely unknown to him; it could be six inches or six feet.
If the water was too shallow, he could break a bone from the fall, or perhaps from the impact with a submerged cypress knot. If the water was too deep and his suit tore, it would quickly fill with water and he would certainly drown. Of course, he could not stay where he was – twisting in the wind like brightly-colored Spanish moss.
He struggled awkwardly for several minutes as he gauged the difficulty of shimmying out of the flight suit while in suspension. Ultimately, he decided it would be near impossible. The suit was hard enough to remove by oneself while firmly on the ground. He would have to risk the fall in the suit.
Lobo opened the pouch that held his large, fixed-blade knife. With one hand, he blindly located the first of the straps overhead; with the other hand, he began to cut. With each successful cut, his position became more precarious, until finally he was hanging horizontally by a single strap. The fall would be painful, and he could easily break several ribs form the impact.
Here we go.
With the final strap cut, Lobo thrust the blade as far away from his body as possible, while he careened uncontrollably towards the muddy waters. The impact was harsh and unforgiving. A sharp pain pierced his side and rushed throughout his body. Lobo gasped for air, but there was none. He writhed in agony for several moments, before panic overtook his mind as its governing sensation. Thoughts of sinking deeper and deeper into the murky depths plagued him as he flailed about. Finally, he managed to roll into an upright position and realized that he indeed was not sinking, but was rather in water less than four feet deep. Lobo stumbled to his feet, tore his helmet from his head and desperately tried to suck in even the shallowest of breaths.
With his lungs finally yielding to his demands, Lobo began to trudge through the flooded forest – sinking in some places and rising in others. In the distance, he spotted a dry knoll and began to wade in its direction. Once on the tiny island, Lobo began the frustrating task of escaping the flight suit. Like an amateur stage magician negotiating a straightjacket, he twisted and contorted until he was finally free. After extricating himself from the suit, he gathered his meager supplies and laid them out in front of him.
Lobo had at his disposal: a compass, knife, flashlight, survival drinking straw and a small first-aid kit.
His radio, where was it?
A wave of hopelessness overtook the downed pilot. He closed his eyes and dropped to his knees in defeat. Without a means of communication, how could he be rescued? Completely overwhelmed, he perched on the muddy knoll and repeatedly mouthed a silent prayer. After what seemed like an eternity, a feeling calmness settled upon him.
Lobo forced the crippling panic back into the recesses of his consciousness. They would rescue him – he just had to stay vigilant. He sunk his flight suit beneath the surface of the muddy water and arose. Lobo cupped the flashlight and examined the compass, before slogging west through the cypress-filled swamp.
Every step was a struggle as he continued to push through the flooded forest. The ground was slick and uneven, and the constant sound of splashing water dashed any hopes Lobo may have had of a silent escape. Thick, hanging vines threatened to entangle him, while walls of thorns shredded his suit liner and ripped at his face. Soaked and shivering, he refused to stop and rest. The more distance he could put between himself and his landing site, the safer he would be. To be caught by the men that downed his plane would mean an endless nightmare of torture and deprivation. Lobo pushed the thoughts aside and urged himself onward. To dwell on such things would only slow him down, and he needed all his wits about him if he was to survive.
Lobo cursed under his breath as he stepped out and found himself standing on the edge
Slowly, the floodwaters became shallower as he began to ascend from the muddy hollow. The open expanses of the flooded swamp, peppered with bald cypress and blackgum, began to transition into a mixture of white oaks and slash pine, with a heavy blanket of undergrowth. Lobo was forced to use both hands to claw his way through the thorny thickets.
The sound of a jet engine overhead instinctively caused him to dive under a nearby fallen tree. He sat shivering beneath the rotting trunk, unwilling to emerge for fear of being discovered. Of course, he knew that the aircraft that were truly dangerous were those he would never hear – the silent drones circling high above like mechanical vultures, unblinkingly searching for their frightened prey. After several minutes of silence, he cupped the flashlight tightly and squinted at his compass once again, before creeping out of his den like a field mouse and scurrying away.
At the edge of the woods line, he crouched low and peered across the open pasture. A break in the clouds allowed the light of the moon to shine through, revealing the faint silhouettes of several distant farmhouses. Lobo turned north and weaved through the thick brush along the forest’s edge. After several hundred yards, he emerged and again pushed west along a narrow wind break that split two large pastures.
A barking dog somewhere in the distance caused him to dive to the ground and lay motionless. The animal alternated between yips and bawls for several minutes, before turning its attention to other distractions. Uncertain if he was ever even the focus of the sentry, Lobo held his position for several more minutes, searching for any signs of trouble. Hoping that he had gone unnoticed, Lobo pushed up from the ground and resumed his pace.
Lobo peeled off from the wind break and raced across the open expanse of a pecan orchard. The crossing was dangerous and provided little cover, but the alternative of continuing to follow the narrow line of trees would have taken him perilously close to several farm houses and outbuildings. He had gone too far to turn back for the swamp. Lobo had no choice but to risk the orchard.
On the far side of the orchard was a small cluster of bayberry bushes intertwined with honeysuckle. Lobo faded into the concealment and cautiously glanced about as he listened for any pursuers. The night’s only sounds were the occasional hoot of barn owl, or the distant, mischievous rustling of undergrowth – the culprit most likely an unassuming possum or armadillo, ambivalent to the woes of the world as they repeated their moonlight rituals. After several long minutes of observation, he readied himself to cross the dusty back road that lay just beyond the orchard.
Midway across the red-dirt trail, a pair of high-beam lights flashed on and blinded Lobo. The downed pilot recoiled with surprise as the throaty sound of a large-block engine roared to life. He dashed to the other side and into the thick lowlands, while the vehicle raced closer. Lobo splashed through the boggy bottom as he fled blindly. Behind him, the anxious sounds of man and beast could be heard as they prepared to give chase. The pack of hounds bawled rhythmically and bounded back and forth in the bed of the truck, in anticipation of the hunt.
A raspy voice called out from the darkness over the discord and cacophony.
“Stop now or we’re coming in!”
Lobo did not respond, but rather pushed forward even more feverishly.
After several moments, he heard the distant voice of a second man command, “Send in the hounds.”
He heard the dogs bellow as their front paws hit the ground, and then as their bawls transformed into a more frenzied, chop! chop! chop!
They had his scent.
There was no escape.
Lobo stumbled and fell headlong into an outcropping of cypress knots, after slipping on the muddy banks of a narrow, black-water creek. The pain was fierce and paralyzing as it dulled his senses and forced a guttural gurgle from his depths.
With blurred vision, he rolled onto his side and watched as three hounds began to circle him, growling and snapping at his every movement. Lobo unsheathed his knife and prepared for one final attempt at escape, when a blinding light illuminated him. The loud racking of a pump-shotgun was immediately followed by the same raspy voice from earlier.
Lobo tried to focus on the vague figure behind the glowing beam, but his vision began to narrow until it was only a tiny tunnel. He laid his throbbing head back down on the stinking, black mud. The lights and sounds faded away until there was nothing but a peaceful blanket of darkness wrapped tightly around him. The last sensation he experienced before blacking out was the feeling of being lifted into the air and floating effortlessly through the moonlit mire.