Saturday, July 09, 2016
Welcome to Shakazhan!
Today, I'm proud to announce that Shakazhan – Book 2 in my Lone Wolf Series, is now available once more! Re-issued with fabulous new covers, Shakazhan and Lone Wolf are for sale on Amazon.
Please note, if you see paperback copies with any covers other than this dazzling blue, you're not buying the Dellani Oakes authorized edition, and I don't get any money for it. (For full disclosure onthis, click here.)
Below is a teaser from Shakazhan, as well as the last couple of pages of Lone Wolf – Book 1. Shakazhan begins just as Lone Wolf ends.
Riley was guided by someone who knew this world. His feet carried him across rocks and desolate land until he reached what had once been city gates. Nothing remained of the metal, but the stones stood silent sentry as he passed between the ruination of the arches. A stone lined, circular plaza stretched out before him surrounded by what had once been a beautiful city. Little was left save the shell of ancient buildings overgrown by tawny grasses and rust colored vines. The buildings formed concentric circles around the center.
Led by a voice inside his head, he found a room deep in the heart of the least damaged building. In the middle of the room, he discovered what he sought—an ancient teleporter. Scrambling over rocks and trash littering the teleport pad, he found the control panel.
By some miracle, he found a set of rusty tools. Tapping off the oxidized metal, he worked rapidly to repair the antiquated device. He had no idea what to do consciously, his hands moved of their own accord. Laughing and whistling as he worked, he saw the ancient controls take shape beneath his hands.
Unerringly, Wil followed Riley's trail. Somehow, he'd managed to find the most direct path to the ruins on the horizon . They approached the long abandoned ruins warily, unsure where to find Riley.
The remnants of a magnificent fountain formed the focal point of a crumbling courtyard. Slimy, green water gurgled lethargically in a noxious smelling stream. Wil and Matilda gave it a wide berth, stopping once they were past it, looking for Riley's trail. Wil was near to giving up when he spotted drops of dried blood. His son had cut himself on sharp, twisted metal not far from the fountain. Following the blood trail, they entered the only surviving structure, a large building to their left.
Matilda used hand signals now that they were inside. Wil nodded, coming up next to her. Moving in tandem, they checked their surroundings as they went. It was narrow, dark, dank and littered with ancient bones. The bones fell to dust as they passed, holding their shape all these centuries merely from habit. Signaling Wil, Matilda walked cautiously forward. He heard movement ahead of them; muttering and cursing, sounds of debris being shifted, shuffling and scuffling. They advanced in two directions, circling around to come up on Riley from different sides.
The old man straightened, head cocked in Wil's direction.
"Hello, Dad." Riley turned slowly, facing his father.
"Hello, Son." His gun was leveled at Riley's chest, unwavering, waiting for an excuse to fire. "She never told me about you. Never said a word."
Riley laughed. The cold, abrupt sound echoed around the room. "Would it have made any difference?"
"Yes. It would have." Wil's voice was soft, almost gentle. "I know it doesn't change things now, but I'm sorry. I know what that place was like."
"Hell! Like Hell on earth!"
Wil nodded, not taking his eyes off Riley, nor dropping his weapon. "So, what now, Son?"
"Are you going to kill me, Daddy?"
"If you make it necessary."
Riley shook his head slightly. "I don't think so. You look at me and see a part of yourself. Mother used to tell me I looked a lot like you. That is, before she lost her mind. After that, she thought I was you, come back for her."
Riley's voice broke with anguish. "She forgot me, but remembered you until the end. Ironic isn't it?" His laughter this time was hollow, as if he'd been left empty. He was no longer angry. He was a child, wanting confirmation that he was loved.
Matilda felt sorry for the man, but at the same time was wary. She sensed something about Riley she couldn't pinpoint. There was power here, evil, great, demonic. She hoped Wil wouldn't be taken in, that Riley wouldn't be able to play on his emotions.
Wil remained impassive, his jaw muscle flexing, the only indication of his discomfort. "Yes. If Cherise had just told me, we wouldn't be here now. But that doesn't matter anymore, nothing can change the past."
Wil approached Riley warily, sensing something different about him. He kept his weapon drawn as Matilda approached with a set of cuffs. Once she placed them on Riley, binding his arms behind him, Wil grabbed his son by the elbow, propelling him to the exit. Matilda followed a few feet away.
No sooner had his hand touched Riley, a scream sounded in Wil's head, disorienting him. Grandma screeched hysterically, "Kahlea! Kahlea! The Ancient Evil has returned!"
Knocking Wil to the floor, Riley scrambled to get his cuffed hands in front of him. Wil tried to right himself and stop the screaming in his mind, but he couldn't. A red miasma flowed before his eyes, his ears rang, disorienting him further.
Matilda tried to grab Riley, but he elbowed her roughly aside as he ran to the control panel and hit the combination of buttons to activate the machine. A grinding rumble filled the air. High pitched screeching of millennia old equipment made his eyes water, disorienting him slightly as he struggled to the platform. The earth shuddered underfoot as the age old conduits ground downward toward the undulating deposit of Trimagnite beneath their feet.
Matilda was overcome by incapacitating nausea. Unable to maintain her equilibrium, she collapsed in a pile of rubble. Wil struggled to rise, forcing himself upright. Hands trembling, he leveled his weapon at his son.
Riley's halting steps carried him to the transport pad. He stepped upon it, feeling the humming shudder grow louder, higher in pitch. The sound set his teeth on edge as if millions of giant fingers dragged their nails down a chalk board. He stepped onto the center of the pad, his skin crawling with the vibrations of the antediluvian device. The unshielded energy disintegrated his clothing as the transport slowly began.
Wil stood directly in front of Riley, weapon aimed at his heart. "I should have killed you long ago."
Riley's world slowed to a crawl. Wil's finger tightened on the trigger, sending the pulse of energy which would incinerate his son. Riley felt an excruciating pull on his head and the soles of his feet as if he were being bent backwards into a hoop and dragged through a key hole.
The pain of transportation was agonizing. A flash of orange light and a lancing, heat seared his chest and genitals as he fell backward into nothingness. Like a light speed roller coaster, Riley road the waves and undulations through space. He lost all sense of time, space, self; dragged away to the heart of darkness, to a hell he so richly deserved.
Shakazhan – Chapter 1
The Inhospitable Surface of Iyundo—1630 Galactic Mean Time (GMT)
"Where the hell did he go? I hit Riley point blank! It's impossible for me to miss at that range!"
In a fit of peevishness, Wil threw his gun to the ground, kicking debris over it. Matilda moved to the control panel. Flames licked at it, consuming the ancient device.
"We won't get this working again." She kicked it hard, the tip of her steel toed boot bouncing off the console. Finding a port for her scanner, she downloaded information from the console.
"That's a waste, baby."
"You never know what we can find out. Even a fragment can help."
Wil knew she was right, he just didn't want to admit it. "We need to get out of here before that blows."
"One more minute...." Matilda replied in a casual singsong.
Picking up his gun, Wil considered the flames. "The way that fire is going?"
"Put it out, then," she snapped as she watched the status bar on her download.
"Yes, Ma'am." He saluted flippantly, searching for something to extinguish the flames, but found nothing but unusable debris that would only succeed in feeding the fire.
"Speed it up, baby, I can't put it out."
Flames leaped higher. Wil watched with growing concern. Just as he was about to grab her and run, she uncoupled the scanner and set off at a sprint. Wil followed her, trying to shield her body if the console blew. They dove behind a pile of rubble, keeping their heads down.
A small, fuzzy creature burst into the room, gesticulating wildly. Eyes wide with panic, he chittered at them in a language their translators couldn't decode. His face sported a slight snout, but there was intelligence in the bright, dark eyes. Dressed in a loin cloth, his body was covered with a soft layer of fur and was only marginally humanoid in configuration. He had a head, two arms and two legs, but there the resemblance to humans stopped.
Wil aimed his weapon at it, calm but wary. Matilda stopped him with a hand on his arm.
"Wait! He's okay. Listen." She tilted her head toward the creature.
"Listen to what? That's gibberish."
"He's telepathic. Come on." She followed the creature without question.
"Shut up and follow him. It's not safe here."
Wil went after her reluctantly, more to protect her than because he trusted the creature.
"Hurry! Felix says it's about to blow."
"Who told you?"
She huffed sharply, exasperated. "He did."
The control panel fire gained intensity. The area around it blazed. A low rumble reached them, the earth trembled below their feet, cracks forming in the walls and floor. They moved away from the fire and deeper into the building, opposite the way they had entered.
The way was often blocked by fallen walls and broken, decaying furniture. This had been a showplace once. The vestiges of its long forgotten beauty were still visible—here a green marble floor, there a magnificent chandelier made of jewels.
"Where is he taking us?" Wil demanded.
"He's showing me a picture of a courtyard out this way." She pointed to their right. "It's safer than going back the way we came."
Wil followed unwillingly, senses alert. His hackles rose, his nerves tingled. Matilda could sense tension and concern in Wil's every move. The sense of urgency she got from Felix made her doubly uncomfortable.
The rumbling and rushing of air grew louder and closer. Risking a look behind them, Matilda saw the chamber they'd left seethed with flames. The front of the building, where they'd entered, fell into a flaming pit. Silver tinged fire burst suddenly from its depths.
"Hurry!" Wil yanked on her arm as he passed her.
The urging from Wil was unnecessary. Matilda tried to keep up, but his legs were considerably longer and he could cover more ground in a mile eating lope, hardly winding him. Panting, she trotted beside him. The hot, dry air burned the back of her throat. The fire raged to the rear, erupting anew. It raced closer, singeing their hair. Their lungs rasped with each breath.
Felix ducked behind a fallen set of doors, raced around a corner and led them to a courtyard, surrounded on three sides by the building they'd just exited. The fourth was gone, long ago fallen to rubble. The air behind them grew hotter. The walls bulged and vibrated violently.
"It's going to blow, Wil!"
Matilda took off at a dead run, legs pumping as hard as they could, her lungs burning. Wil moved behind her, shortening his stride. He wanted to take the brunt of the shock wave and any shrapnel. Matilda stumbled, sliding sideways. He reached out to grab her, missing as her body tipped away from him. Her knee hit hard on a sharp rock protruding from the rubble. Standing with difficulty, she gritted her teeth, determined to continue.
Felix stopped. The sight of her blood worried him. His saucer shaped eyes held deep concern. He glanced behind them nervously, though he waited patiently for her to rise.
Matilda could barely put her weight on her leg. Shaking her head, she limped forward a few inches, nearly falling again.
Wil scooped her up in his arms, running faster than Matilda could have on her own. His long legged stride devoured the distance toward safety. They ran over the stark terrain, Wil's legs rapidly eating up the miles. Felix chittered and gesticulated, pointing to a deep depression in the landscape. He ran toward it, not waiting for Wil, trusting him to follow.
The ground dropped sharply, turning spongy and damp. The depression looked like an artificially made ditch, not a river bed. The edges were too regular and smooth. There was a lot of rubble here as well. Wil slowed, careful where he put his feet.
Felix ran ahead, chittering and yelping loudly. Dozens of little furry creatures like Felix, ran out from a well concealed opening. They yelped and gesticulated wildly when they saw the humans, but ushered the party into their hiding place. Wil and Matilda were surrounded by a three foot high sea of multihued fuzzy people dressed in loin cloths and sarongs.
The tunnel they entered wasn't quite high enough for Wil to stand upright. The floor dipped downward at a steep angle. Stooping to enter, Wil bent his knees, his back bowed as the way narrowed.
Wil expected it to be damp and dank underground. Instead, it was dry, well lit and smelled of roasting meat and exotic spices. After about a hundred meters, it broadened out into an open area where three or four large pipes joined into an open common room. Soft pallets lay on the floor in neat rows. On the outer perimeter, they passed cooking fires.
Felix led him to a group of mats, motioning that Wil should put Matilda down on one. He did so, noticing that the bedding was meticulously clean. It was soft and resilient under her weight.
Another creature, this one with peppered gray fur, moved in beside Matilda. Felix stepped aside respectfully. She wore a leather bag at her side. Wil lingered a moment until Felix tugged his pants leg. Reluctantly, Wil allowed the healer near Matilda.
The healer pulled surgical instruments from her bag, laying them out on a pristine strip of cloth. Made predominantly of glassy stone, they glittered dully in the half light of the culvert. The healer hummed as she cut Matilda's stasuit away from the wound with a pair of shears. That accomplished, she held her hands over her instruments, chanting. They flared pale purple, continuing to glow brighter as she chanted.
As a counterpoint to her high voice, Wil heard and sensed the rumbling of the explosion building not far away. Worried, he looked around him. The serene visages of Felix and the others should have reassured him, but they didn't. The explosion he'd anticipated nearly knocked him off his feet. The ground undulated, the earthen roof groaned, sprinkling them with a fine dust. The tremors continued several minutes, lessened, gradually subsiding. It wasn't nearly as formidable as Wil had anticipated. Regaining his balance, he watched the healer do her work.
The healer leaned over Matilda's leg, protecting it as much as possible from falling debris. Her humming continued and her patient's eyes fluttered shut. Wil could tell Matilda was in a deep hypnotic trance. He took a step forward, but Felix stopped him, shaking his head, smiling. Wil was suddenly filled with peace. He knew the healer wouldn't harm Matilda.
Clearing her work area with sweeping motions of her hands and another song, the healer began again. She cleaned the wound with a bitter smelling liquid. That accomplished, she took up her first instrument, preparing for her incision.
Wil couldn't watch her cut into his wife's leg, for the first time in his life squeamish at the sight of blood. He turned away as the blade descended. His comlink squawked urgently.
"VanLipsig, go ahead Flotilla." He hardly recognized his own voice, it was partially choked with dust and partially constricted with anxiety for his wife.
"Wil! What the hell is going on down there? We registered a massive power surge, followed by a inferno and now a colossal explosion. Are you two all right?" Marc, captain of the mining vessel and Wil's long time friend, yelped. His voice sounded an octave higher than normal, showing his worry.
Wil gulped, trying to clear his throat. "We're alive. Matilda's hurt. She fell when ran away from the explosion. She's being looked after now."
"Looked after? Are you back on the ship?"
"No, we met some people here. One of them is tending to her."
"People? Wil, there's no sign of life there except the two of you!"
"Trust me, I was just as shocked as you. There's life here, just not as we would recognize it. They seem to be silicon based, not carbon. A science officer would have a field day down here."
Felix tugged on Wil's pants leg. His face held an urgency unequaled by any Wil had seen. The little rock man made a tapping motion on his chest, just like hitting a comlink.
"I think of one of them is asking me to end this conversation. I'll get back with you when I can. VanLipsig out."
© 2016 Dellani Oakes
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