I've managed to clean up the first chapter. It's still under editing but here it is, for now. as I've stated before this particular book is not a true mytharc book but a villain of the week sort of book that is tangentially related to the big mytharc of the series - alien invasion! Anyway, hope you like it, it's chapter one. Happy reading!
My hands were steady along the shaft of the rifle, my concentration keen. Not only was I looking for the sneaky target, I was also in expectation of the powerful jolt of the weapon itself. Instead of fear this time, I felt an exhilaration. Okay, well, maybe a little fear. I still found it disconcerting to use but my skills were growing. At least that's what Fred said. I could sense my growing skill in the strength I'd acquired over the months working out. I was pretty proud of it, no doubt about it. The target moved across the wall again, this time it was a ghost bird, barely perceptible. I was quicker this time, holding the shaft of the rifle still and straight, lifting it up just enough to get a bead on the image fluttering in and out of sight. It disappeared again and I stilled myself until all around me was utter silence except the thundering of my heart in my ears and the faint trembling of my own breathing. I stopped breathing and even in this tense moment I felt relaxed. The light target flew up again this time to the right, near the top of a fir tree. I arched slight upward fixed the rifle on the target and pulled the trigger. Missing the first time and undeterred, I lowed it it a centimeter and fired again, this time a small explosion flying up as the power of light from my ancient retrofitted atomic rifle exploded out. I felt the physical power of the weapon surge through me even into my back and spine but I held my ground against its force as fred had showed me. He said to anticipate the power and ride with it. Until I had lotd of practice I had no idea wht he meant by “ride with it”. Basically, it meant to not fight the power of the weapon or fear it. It felt satisfying. I could handle an atomic rifle without dislocating a joint now. Atomic rifles were unpredictable though, which is why few people used them. The federal government had even banned the use of these particular kinds of rifles. They were only supposed to be decorative is used by civilians and the vast majority had been destroyed or collected by museums. Normally, I always followed the law, but lately. . .
I'd been practicing with a few other weapons as well, especially the long bow and arrow, a truly ancient weapon that one needed a certain amount of strength to use, I'd taken up broadsword practice and also target practice with various laserguns. I wouldn't say I was mastertful with any of these weapons but I was proficient in using some of them. With work and family I didn't have enough time to progress in weapons training as much as I would've liked.
My phone beeped. I tapped my ear piece which erupted in a flutter of blinking light.
“Yeah, what's up?” I could tell by the ring it was Jerome, head of security at Vartan Inc.
“Bob! Glad I got a hold of you. You know the flight lessons you asked about?”
“Well, we've finally arranged for someone to help you out. My younger brother James is a pilot. Used to be military but now he's an indie contractor carrier-pilot. Flies cargo for different companies and owns a few ships of his own. I don't know if you've ever heard of him but a long time ago he made a name for himself among the Firewake set.”
“Firewake? What's that?”
“Young daredevils. Let's just say they have their own way of doing things. Anyway, word got to me you needed some lessons and that's the guy I know. Texted his number to your phone. Best pilot this side of the west coast! Anyway, I gotta meeting. Gotta go!”
“Jerome-” He hung up with a click.
Firewake? Looks like I had some research to do.
. . .
You see, what Jerome didn't tell me was that this brother of his also had some shady connections. I took it that Jerome didn't know about his brother's other activities. Gangsters, drug dealers, illegal arms dealers and all kinds of other rogues with something to trade or sell often kept tabs on and sought out young people who were a part of Firewake. He not only worked as a cargo carrier but he was a smuggler. I'd already figured that if he was part of the Firewake crowd – those brave young souls – or fools depending on one's take on it - that go out to the Antarctic or the Kalahari desert with their air craft and do amazing, insane stunts, then he was a bonafide, highly skilled daredevil. I had no idea about what he was smuggling. But more on that later.
I contacted him and instead of another voice on the other end I got directions to go to a specific location. A place called Burning Man's Field. I was already not liking this. But my little network that I was trying hard to grow wasn't exactly official and I needed all the help I could scratch up. It was small and secret as of now and those of us in it wanted it to stay that way. When I thought about it, I guess I couldn't really look askance on James, given my own shady situation. I chuckled a bit at that and then my heart started pounding. Learning to fly a spacecraft was frightening to me but I am sure that sometimes auto pilot didn't work. I didn't want to get out in the middle of the great black maw of space and find that the auto-pilot program on my ship had stopped working.
I kissed Pam goodbye after dinner. It was late evening, September and a year after my first mission to Mars. Pam was my rock and I'd told her enough of my situation without going into too many details that she understood that that I had extra duties assigned to me from the Mr Vartan – of which no one had seen in a great long while after his supposed ouster. That was a confusing situation that no one at work talked about. An interesting black-out of information on that. I say so because the rumor usually went full tilt on things like that.
So, I went to this field of fire. It was really a small meadow in the middle of the city. An abandoned field surrounded by walls of unruly blackberry bushes. Above the sky was crowded with traffic to the east. To the west there was still a good view of the stars, though. Standing in the middle of the field with a small civilian ship behind him, leaning across it lazily was a tall, slim young black man who looked as if he could pass for Jerome's eldest son. He grinned as he saw me approach.
“So you're the mysterious dare devil Jerome's been talking about.” I said.
“Jerome's been talking about me? I thought he'd given up speaking to me, let alone talk about me. Anyway, I was told you needed some flight training.”
“I do. How do we get started?” I asked. He looked me up and down and then grinned.
“Well, the first thing we do is get acquainted with the ship. Oh, by the way, the name's Diamond Dog. That's what everyone calls me.”
“Diamond Dog? What kind of name is that?”
“A damned fine one.” I nodded still bewildered by what I might be getting in to.
“Well good. My brother told me that some big wig at his company was looking for a pilot instructor. So they got me. I'm the guy that's gonna teach it to ya. Never had a student before. This should be very interesting,” he said with great relish, clasping his hands together. Oh great.