WhiteSpace: Episode 5 & Free Books
We’re just 20 days away from the debut of Yesterday’s Gone Season Three (June 19th), and Sean and I are mapping out the season this week. We can’t wait to delve back into the world of Yesterday’s Gone, and we’re looking forward to picking up where we left off.
We get lots of email asking about the storylines we put on the back burner during Season Two such as Jade and Teagan and Black Island. Without posting any spoilers, we will be revisiting some of the threads we left dangling early on in Season Two.
But first, we’re putting the finishing touches on WhiteSpace: Season One, and I’ve gotta say, you’re gonna LOVE how the season ends. It may be our best (most WTF) ending yet!
The mystery deepens in WhiteSpace: Episode 5, as secrets are revealed, Houser’s life is endangered, and Milo receives a surprise guest in the hospital. We also learn what happened so many years ago to drive a wedge between Sarah and John.
WhiteSpace has been a blast to write. The sense of looming danger, the mystery, the family dynamics, the secrets, the paranoia, it’s all coming to head as the season winds down. Of all the series we’ve written, WhiteSpace is the one that feels most suited for television.
You can download Episode 5 now at Amazon: www.amazon.com/dp/B00870FI2A/
If you missed last week’s Episode 4, you can get that here: www.amazon.com/dp/B00856ID28/
Want free books?
We’ve made a few of our short stories free at Amazon over the next few days.
May 30,31, June 1 – The Watcher www.amazon.com/dp/B006KTH8J6/
June 2,3,4 – Respero Dinner www.amazon.com/dp/B006KTHC1K/
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO?
What are you most looking forward to in Yesterday’s Gone Season Three? Which characters are you looking forward to seeing again? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.
See you next week.
& Thank you for reading,
We’ll have an announcement next week about our next project (after Yesterday’s Gone: Season Three)
SNEAK PEEK OF WHITESPACE: EPISODE 5 — THE FIRST 2 CHAPTERS
We’re including two chapters this week because the first chapter is a flashback chapter, and the second chapter is where the action picks up.
If you’ve not already read the previous books, you should probably stop reading this email now:
Chapter 1 — Jon Conway Part 1 (age 13)
Jon stormed home from school, through the house and into the kitchen, where he dropped the cardboard box on the floor with a resounding thud. He then tore open the refrigerator and grabbed an IBC root beer from the front of a neat column, leaving another eleven behind.
Mrs. Rasmussen appeared behind Jon, smiling.
“I can’t believe you didn’t take a jacket with you,” she said, shaking her head. “And why do you look like something that’s about to start shooting steam from its ears? Was it the ferry ride that has you all bothered, or the science fair?”
Jon twisted the cap from the top of his bottle, then pitched it into the trashcan.
Mrs. Rasmussen crossed the kitchen to the fridge where Jon was still standing, then knelt to the floor, crossed her legs, and pulled Jon to the floor beside her.
Though Jon was plenty used to Mrs. Rasmussen’s unique brand of conflict resolution, the gesture still caught him slightly off guard. He had to balance his bottle on his way to the floor, tipping a sip’s worth of liquid over the lip of the bottle, where it splashed onto the Pietra Firma tile below.
Jon looked up at Mrs. Rasmussen, horrified.
She said, “Like you’re gonna clean it up?” then laughed.
Jon laughed, too, but looked down, embarrassed by the truth.
“So what happened?” she said. “Your homemade plastic didn’t go over so well? Is that what has you looking like you’ve been sucking on a jumbo bag of Sour Patch Kids all afternoon?”
“I’m not sucking on Sour Patch Kids.”
“Well, you’re 13 now, young Mr. Conway, and pouting is for children. So let’s start all over and tell me what’s in that head of yours?”
Mrs. Rasmussen said, “Say that again and see what happens.” Her crimped blond hair draped between her breasts. Like always, it made Jon think of a mermaid. Mrs. Rasmussen was pretty, especially for being so much older then him, and Jon imagined she had been quite attractive, and maybe even beautiful when she was young.
She had on her dangerous face, even though her, “Say that again and see what happens” had never led to any sort of cruel or unusual punishment, or really anything at all. After years, Jon was curious. But not curious enough to push her. Not today.
Jon had gone to the science expo in Seattle with his class. His project was his own brand of homemade plastic. Jon hadn’t known much about plastic, much less that you could make your own, until he started his research. Even though Jon couldn’t see caring much beyond his presentation, he did find the research relatively interesting. Though most plastics had to be made in factories, Jon used a recipe that allowed him to use milk, vinegar, and a concoction of other stuff from the kitchen and laundry room which made the plastic not only stronger than the kind which used just milk and vinegar, but which seemed to provide for more uses.
Jon thought his idea was original, or at least an original twist on a common project, but there were four other projects at the Expo which used homemade plastics, just like his and better. Only volcanoes were less original.
“I got one of those ‘nice job’ ribbons,” Jon said. “It may as well say, ‘thanks for being total crap.’”
“Your work is not crap. You’ve never shown much of an interest in science before the Expo, so why do you even care what type of ribbon you earned? You entered the fair, did your best, and tried something you’ve never tried before. And that’s exactly what you were acknowledged for. Nothing more, nothing less. I would count this one as a success.”
Jon shook his head. “Warren got First Place when he did the Expo. First out of everyone. And I mean like, the entire state. Every year he entered!”
Mrs. Rasmussen said, “I know, he wouldn’t shut up about if for months each time.”
“Ah, so that’s what’s bugging you — Warren,” she said, breaking into a wide grin and patting his shoulder.
He lost his smile, almost immediately. “He does everything better than me.”
She shook her head. “No. He does some things better than you.”
“Yeah, all the stuff that matters.”
“Hot sauce,” Mrs. Rasmussen said. “And crackers. You are colorful and articulate, and friendly and funny. You, Jon Conway, are a gentleman, and if you don’t mind me saying so,” she leaned in, just close enough to turn their conversation conspiratorial, “a delightful, but total pain in the cactus patch.”
Jon fueled his smile with another long swig of root bear. When he looked up, he saw his father, Blake Conway, suddenly in the kitchen.
“Mind if I take it from here?” Jon’s father turned to him, smiled, winked, then opened the fridge and grabbed an IBC from the front.
He twisted his cap and pitched it in the can.
“You’re home!” Jon cried.
“Of course,” his dad said. “Today was the science expo, right? Big day.”
Jon looked puzzled. “But you weren’t there?”
Like Jon, Mrs. Rasmussen was now standing. his father put his hand gently on her shoulder and said, “Thank you.”
Mrs. Rasmussen nodded, then said, “Of course, Mr. Conway,” and left the kitchen.
Jon’s dad hefted himself onto the countertop, then patted the granite and waited for Jon to join him. Jon hefted himself up beside his father.
His father said, “No, I wasn’t there. I’ll give you three guesses why. And please, no need to spare my feelings. I hate it when you pull that crap. If you can’t learn to shoot straight, you’ll never learn to shoot shit.”
Jon said, “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know lives on I Don’t Give a Shit Street.” His father took a sip of root bear. “Do you live on I Don’t Give a Shit Street, or do you live in the beautiful, unblinking eye of Cedar Park?”
Jon said, “I live in Cedar Park,” then, “Because you had a meeting at the same time, and it couldn’t be rescheduled?”
“Because Hillary messed up your schedule, like she always does, and it’s a goddamn question of your sanity why you keep her on your payroll, especially with all the bonuses you throw her measured against the number of times she fucks shit up?”
“BZZZZZZZZ.” his father grinned. “And don’t be a smart ass.”
Jon laughed. “Because I suck?”
“Just because I’ve never smacked you before, doesn’t mean I won’t start. I figure I have at least another few years before you get enough meat on your bones to kick my ass back. Now stop saying you suck. It pisses me off.” His father wrapped his arm around Jon’s shoulder. “None of those are reasons why, and no, I didn’t forget. I saw your giant pile of homemade plastic sitting on the table this morning. I didn’t need to go to Seattle and see it there, too. Not when I could arrange my day around being here when you came home instead. Know what I mean?”
“Sure,” Jon said. “It means you pretty much figured I’d suck.”
“Nope,” his father shook his head. “I didn’t figure anything of the sort, but I also didn’t think your homemade plastic stood a chance against science geeks who’ve been working on their projects all year. If you had won, then you would have only won because you’re Blake Conway’s son. And that would’ve been bullshit. Right?”
“Right,” Jon grumbled.
“Don’t whine or pout. Listen. You entered the science fair to prove a point. I hope you feel you proved it. If not, better luck next time. I love you, son, but if you thought you were gonna waltz in and win that science fair because you decided to throw your dart at the board up around two weeks ago, well that’s just downright disappointing to me, since I figured I raised a smarter boy than that. In general, shit in life is not that easy.”
“It is for Warren.”
His father smiled. “And that’s why I’m here,” he said.
Jon took a swig of root beer then looked up at his father, eyes suspicious.
His father said, “Warren is one of those science geeks who worked on his projects all year each time he entered. Unlike your homemade plastic, his projects deserved to win. His projects were groundbreaking. He built robots and grew artificial flesh, stuff that has applications at his job now! And hell, if Warren had the edge because he’s Blake Conway’s son, well that’s an edge, son, not a conspiracy.”
He clapped his hand hard on Jon’s back. “Did Warren get the lead in that play your class put on last year?”
“And was I as sparkly as a firecracker when you did, even though I thought that shit was sorta gay?” his dad said with a laugh.
“What about art? What about when you wanted to play the guitar? What about everything you ever say you’re going to do? Don’t you always have my support, one hundred percent even if you never finish a tenth of what you set out to do?”
“Yes, but…” Jon said before his dad cut him off.
“But Warren is smarter and you like talking to him more because he always talks about business.” His dad finished Jon’s sentence, nearly word for word, though in a whinier voice than Jon would have actually used.
Jon’s cheeks went flush. “I don’t like it when you do that.”
“I don’t like it when you’re predictable,” his father said, setting his bottle on the counter. He turned his eyes to Jon. “Warren is Warren. Stop trying to be so much like him that you’re not enough of you.”
“I don’t want to be like Warren,” Jon set his bottle beside his father’s, then crossed his arms.
“Well, you could have fooled me,” his father said. “For the millionth time, I don’t love Warren better than you, and I never will.”
“If I was more like Warren, you’d want to spend more time with me.”
“Oh, great,” his father sighed. “Looks like today’s gonna be a highlight reel displaying all of my favorites. Listen, Jon, I work with Warren. He’s got 12 years on you. That means we’re going to have plenty to talk about, naturally. Plus more time to talk about all the stuff we have in common. You need to get over that. Our relationship is different. I admire you for who you are, and for who you aren’t. And I’m getting goddamn exhausted feeling like I have to renew our vows every few months.”
Jon said, “Sorry.”
“It’s fine, but I’d like you to stop it. You are you, and I will never stand in your way. I support your choices.”
“You don’t like Sarah,” Jon said, not planning to bring her up, but unable not to in the moment.
“I never said anything about her one way or another.”
“Warren hates her,” Jon said.
“Warren hates everybody, at least anyone he doesn’t think is as smart as he is. But as you well know, he didn’t get that shit from me. Warren may have been born with a license to drive life like an asshole, and that might be my fault, but he’s the one who gets behind the wheel each day.”
“Warren says that Sarah’s not good enough for me, and that I’m making the family look bad.”
“That’s bullshit,” his father said. “He thinks he’s looking out for you. He probably thinks you’re taking this relationship stuff a bit too serious at your age. You’ve got your whole future and the world ahead of you, so you don’t want to settle with the first girl that lets you feel her tits.”
Jon flushed with embarrassment, finished his root beer so he wouldn’t have to acknowledge that comment, and got up from the counter to grab another drink from the fridge, plus one more for his dad.
They sipped their bottles to empty, while talking movies and books and plenty of other stuff Warren would never want to talk about, then they left the kitchen and the fridge with just six IBC’s as they headed outside, the both of them laughing, with a book of matches, Jon’s science project, and a bottle of bourbon.
Blake Conway was going to show Jon how easy, and fun, it was to burn shit that no longer mattered.
Chapter 2 — Brock Houser Part 1
Brock Houser drove back to the Sands of Time, where he was staying in one of Jon’s rooms on the rented floor. All he could think about was the flash drive and what might be on it.
The part of him that loved a good mystery believed that maybe there was something explosive on the flash drive — something that would rock the island and give Roger Heller motive to mow down his classroom. But the more realistic, and experienced, part of Houser’s brain said he was far more likely to find nothing but the ramblings of a tin foil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist.
In either case, he was curious to know why a seemingly happily married teacher, and by all accounts, helluva nice guy, would kill his students. Even if the why was batshit crazy, at least batshit crazy was a reason.
Houser considered himself an excellent judge of character. That made him an excellent judge of motivation. While Houser hadn’t known Heller, the picture painted by his wife didn’t make him seem like your typical nut job. Of course, there was always the chance Liz didn’t really know her husband as well as she thought she did. Maybe Roger Heller was so good at hiding his crazy or dark side that nobody could have seen what was coming. Which was all the more reason Houser couldn’t wait to see what Heller put on the flash drive.
Houser’s longtime friend Martin Graves created a program which blended a brute force attack along with some new algorithmic shit beyond Houser’s depth, which could open and decrypt most files within a few hours. Most, but not all. Depending what Heller was using to encrypt his files, there was a chance Houser might have to wait until he returned to California to discover the treasure buried on the drive.
Houser parked at the hotel, then crossed the lobby and went into the elevator. As he passed the front desk, the cute girl behind the counter smiled. He smiled back, resisting the urge to go flirt. If Jonny Hollywood was behaving himself, Houser was obligated to do the same. Jon had left a message on Houser’s phone saying that he and his brother had a big blow up and he was gonna go to Cassidy’s house to chill out and that he’d call if he needed a ride to the hotel.
Houser went to his room, removed his shoulder holster, laid it on the table beside his computer then went in the bathroom and splashed cool water on his face. He grabbed a Diet Coke from the mini fridge, popped it open, and took a drink as he opened the lid to his laptop and pressed the startup button.
As the computer chimed and booted, Houser opened the sliding doors, stepped onto the balcony, and looked out at the night sky. He stared at the moon hanging fat in the sky, hovering just inches above the island as the sound of waves crashing a block away rolled into the room. Houser loved the sound of the ocean. It reminded him of home. Below the balcony, a beautifully lit swimming pool beckoned. Late night swims were always nice. Maybe once he was done for the night, he’d take a dip, but only if the pool was heated. Houser didn’t care much for hotels, even when Jon rented an entire floor, but he always enjoyed having a pool to relax in.
Houser left the doors open to the salty cool breeze, sat at the desk, and logged into the computer before slipping the flash drive into a USB port.
He waited for the computer to recognize the flash drive and clicked to open the folder, and promptly received a corrupted data message.
Houser searched the web for how to repair corrupted files, but wasn’t sure if the instructions applied to encrypted files as well. He certainly didn’t want to lose anything, assuming the files could be recovered.
Houser decided to call Graves even though it was likely too late. He got voicemail.
“Hey, it’s Houser. I’m in Washington, working a case. A client gave me a flash drive which I think is encrypted. When I put it in the port, I got a corrupted data error. I need your genius skills to walk me through a simple fix, if there is one. Call me back when you get this. If it’s after one in the morning, hit me tomorrow. Thanks.”
Houser ejected the flash drive, closed his laptop, then placed the flash drive on top of his computer, annoyed that he’d have to wait even longer to see what secrets it held. He took another swig of Diet Coke, figuring all the trouble and anticipation would likely lead to nothing. It was pretty hard to imagine that Heller’s “secrets” were anything more than Grade A looney bin material.
Houser clicked on the TV for some background noise as he sorted through his thoughts and tried to figure out what he wanted to do. He should get to bed, but wasn’t particularly tired. He thought of the girl working the desk downstairs again, then pictured himself hitting the hotel bar. He’d had a couple of drinks with Jon, but wasn’t even close to feeling inebriated.
Houser went into the bathroom to take a piss. He was in midstream when he heard the sound of his electronic door lock click.
What the fuck? Housekeeping? Jon?
He tried to stop pissing, but couldn’t.
The door slowly opened and he heard another sound, something bouncing into the room, before the door swung closed.
Houser raised his zipper, wetting the front of his pants, as he ran back into the room to grab his gun from the table.
A small grenade was lying on the ground, breathing gray smoke like a dragon.
Houser held his breath, put his shirt over his nose and mouth to block the harsh smoke, then grabbed the gun and flash drive from the table and ran back outside onto the balcony.
Houser slid the door shut and saw two men in full black gear with masks storm into his room. One had an AR-15. The other was wielding a pistol equipped with a silencer. Both were looking for him.
They saw him and fired.
The glass doors shattered. Houser spun around and leaped over the balcony railing, pushing himself out as far out as he could. He plummeted into the pool below, holding the flash drive and gun as tightly as he could.
Icy water screamed on his skin. The pool was not heated.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Houser surfaced, coughing chlorinated water from his lungs, and glanced back up toward the balcony from where he had just jumped. He wouldn’t have long until his attackers were taking aim.
He put the flash drive in his mouth, then swam as fast as he could toward the closest ledge. He pulled himself up and then out of the pool, his soaking clothes adding what seemed to be 50 pounds to his already bulky frame. Houser slipped the flash drive into his wet pants pocket and then took a quick glance around.
He cringed, fully expecting to get shot as he ran from the pool, then toward the hotel, getting as close to the wall as he could until he was out of the gunmen’s range.
Who the hell are these people?
And are there more?
Houser ran forward, yanking the gun from its holster as he headed toward the parking lot, eyes scanning the night for any more men in black. Whoever his attackers were, they meant business, and he had little doubt he’d find more of them lurking.
Houser grabbed his keys from his wet pocket, and made his way toward his rental car.
A gunman appeared between him and the car, aiming an AR-15 at Houser.
Houser squeezed two shots, one hitting the man in the chest, knocking him back about a foot and a half. The other landed in his head, sending him to the ground, firing wildly as he died.
The gunshots had murdered the night’s silence. Eyes would be on the parking lot in seconds.
If there were others lurking nearby, Houser didn’t yet see them.
He opened the car door and threw the AR-15 in, then held the pistol in his left hand as he started the car with the key in his right. He threw the car into reverse and gunned the engine, tearing from the lot with a rubber-on-asphalt shriek.
More gunfire erupted behind him and his back windshield shattered.
Houser was inches from the road, and took a hard left, racing onto the street.
The two lane road leading from the hotel was long and narrow, and he hoped no traffic was on the street. Houser had to put as much distance between himself and his pursuers as he could. He had to get away, then call Jon.
Fuck, I left the phone in my room!
He could circle back if he had to. He could take these fuckers out. But the phone wasn’t worth going back for.
A red Toyota appeared in the right lane ahead of him, going 100 miles under the speed limit.
Shit! Shit! Shit!
He wanted to weave around the bastard, but there were too many cars in the oncoming traffic lane. Houser spotted a fast moving pair of headlights about a block behind him. It had to be his pursuers.
Shit, shit! Shit!
“Come on!” Houser screamed, slapping the steering wheel and waiting for a break in the other lane, as he was stuck behind a battery operated shit wagon.
Houser saw a break in the traffic, then took a hard left and gunned the engine, racing up the street into the path of oncoming cars before swerving back into the right lane. He drove a block, and then took the first right along another small road in the tourist district. The boulevard was crowded, as patrons from the bars and restaurants spilled into the street.
Shit, fuck, shit!
Houser looked back in the rearview to see if he could back up, but two fast moving headlights appeared in his rearview, gaining inches by the second.
Fuck, shit, fuck!
“Come on, you stupid fucks!” he shouted.
Houser honked his horn and gunned the engine, racing toward a cluster of people just standing in the road, drinking and not realizing enough to give a shit that they were seconds from roadkill.
They scattered all at once, their eyes wide and mouths cursing him as he flew past. A beer bottle hit the side of his car and shattered. Houser kept going, taking his first left, then turning again, until he found himself on the main road — four lanes along the coast.
Not knowing which was the best way to go, Houser headed north, figuring he’d probably have to navigate through less traffic on the north end of the island. He kept his eyes on the rearview, half-surprised, and the rest of him relieved, not to see any sign of pursuit.
Houser didn’t think he was clever enough to have lost them so quickly. Particularly if they had any familiarity with the island, which he had barely at all. He drove until he found a left turn that looked like it wouldn’t lead to a dead end or back to a road which might put him face to face with the men in black.
Houser took a few more turns until he found himself at the end of a cul de sac in a residential neighborhood. He killed his lights, then backed up to a vacant looking house. Many of the homes on the island were used as island getaways, the sort of homes you’d visit often when the ink was still fresh on the mortgage, but less and less as years passed, until you eventually decided to rent the place or sell it.
Houser killed the engine, then rolled his window down, listening to the evening for any sound of a threat. He wished like hell he’d thought to take his phone now. He could call Jon to tell him what was going on. Maybe he’d call the cops, too.
Who the hell are these people? What do they want?
Houser saw three possibilities.
It was a kidnapping gone bad, in which case, Jon Conway was the most likely target, which meant Houser had to get a hold of Jon as soon as possible so he could make sure he was safe and didn’t go back to the hotel.
Option two was that Houser had made an enemy, but that seemed unlikely, especially given the weapons and number of people. He’d pissed off a lot of people in his lifetime, scumbags each and every one, but none with that kind of firepower or organization.
And then there was option three — the flash drive.
As weird and unlikely as option three appeared, it made the most sense. If it had been a botched kidnapping, they wouldn’t have chased Houser from the hotel or drawn so much attention to themselves.
Houser dug into his wet pocket and found the flash drive. He shook water from it, and wiped it off with a napkin he had in his console, hoping the water hadn’t damaged the flash drive’s contents further. He held it between his fingers and narrowed his eyes, wondering what in the hell could possibly be on it.
What had Roger Heller stumbled onto? What enemies had Roger made? And how did they know Houser had the flash drive? Had they already gone to the Heller house and extracted the information from Liz? Had they harmed her family?
Houser felt a stew of sick stirring in his gut.
He had to check on Liz. But first, he had to find Jon and make sure he was safe. Houser glanced down at Ted D. Bear. “I bet you weren’t expecting this kinda action, eh, buddy?”
He was about to key the engine back on when he saw a black sedan cruising along the connecting road with its headlights dimmed.
The car turned onto the cul de sac.
“Shit,” Houser said, leaving the key in the ignition and reaching over to the AR-15. His left hand wrapped around the mag well and his right finger slipped in front of the trigger as he raised the rifle.
He watched as the car slowly rolled toward his end of the block. The windows were jet black, so he couldn’t see who was inside, but as the car drew closer, Houser grew certain it was the men looking for him.
Houser was parked far enough into a deep driveway, under a thicket of shadows from the surrounding trees. He figured they might not notice him if he stayed perfectly still. He had considered ducking, but wanted to keep his eyes on the sedan, in case he had to fire.
The car was three houses away, closing in.
Houser’s heart pounded. He could taste metal on his tongue as his nerves worked triple time.
He adjusted his grip on the AR-15, ready to use it, but hoping he wouldn’t have to.
The car was now one house away, cruising just faster than a crawl. It rolled silently by him, its black windows looking like black robot eyes scanning for life.
The car passed him and though he couldn’t see it past the trees to his left, he imagined it would soon start its turn at the end of the cul de sac and head back up the street on its way toward Houser. This time, the passenger side occupant would have a much better view of Houser.
If shit’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen now.
The car, still out of Houser’s line of sight, seemed to be taking forever to crawl back up the street.
Had it stopped?
Had the driver noticed something worth investigating at another house?
Did the car simply belong to someone who lived in one of the houses at the end of the street?
Houser waited for the car to appear again, holding his breath the entire time.
The car finally came into view, now just one house away. Houser raised the rifle, bringing it level with the dashboard. He inhaled, exhaled, inhaled again, then held his breath.
Come on, you fuckers. Keep driving.
The car pulled even with the house and Houser glared into its black windows, wondering if the person on the other side could see him. He watched as the car slowed even more, as he stared into the abyss of those black windows. Houser waited for the red of break lights. The second he saw them, he would launch into action.
Come on, come on, come on.
The brake lights stayed dim and the car kept crawling.
Houser exhaled a sigh of relief.
Houser stared at the car as it went back up the street, and counted the seconds until it turned back onto the arterial road.
Once the car was out of sight, Houser keyed the ignition. As he did, he heard something just above the sound of night. Something out of place.
Then he saw it in his rearview. A bird. But not a bird.
The thing was shaped like a bird, but was obviously robotic. It had no wings. It just hovered in place, breathing with the slightest of mechanical hums, as though spying on him.
Houser started to reach for his pistol when blue sparks shot from the robo-bird and sent Houser into a painful seizure.
He screamed. Or tried to, but nothing came from his mouth as his entire body was seized by the robotic thing and its electric leash which burst from its chest and shot its electricity into Houser’s skull.
Though the world was little more than a painful, violent blur, Houser was still aware enough to see the robo-bird zip to the right and then back into view, before slowly floating toward him.
Houser stared helplessly as it made its way toward his face, looking even more like a bird, if nature had a workshop where it added black sensors to dead eyes. The electric arc shut off, but the pain, and immobility remained. Houser watched as the robo-bird hovered inches from his face as if inspecting him.
Houser’s eyes caught movement in the rearview — one of the men in black coming around to his side of the car.
Oh, fuck me.
Houser felt movement returning to his limbs. Not slow, but all at once. He reached up, grabbed the robotic bird, hot in his hands, and threw it back and through where the rear window had shattered, and outside toward the man behind him.
Houser’s right hand found the gear shift, threw the car into drive, as he slammed his foot down all the way on the gas, then lurched forward, peeling out onto the street.
Gunshots erupted behind him, a few slapping into the metal on his car. The others missed him entirely.
The car quickly accelerated, roaring forward faster than Houser had ever driven on a residential road, and nearly lost control as he turned onto the main road, his heart hammering in his chest.
What the fuck was that thing?
Who are these people?!
Ahead, Houser saw the car that had been looking for him. It was in the opposite lane headed back toward the street where he’d just been.
He jerked his car into the oncoming lane and aimed straight for his enemy.
The other car swerved at the last minute, then ran up onto someone’s yard, hitting a tree.
Houser considered stopping, getting his rifle, and taking care of business right there, but his body was still buzzing from whatever the bird had done to him, and he couldn’t be sure he’d be able to accurately hit his targets.
So Houser kept going, as fast as he could.
He raced back to the main road, and had the car nudging 120 as he raced north to find somewhere to call Jon, and put as much distance between himself and the men as possible. The road narrowed from four lanes to two, and twisted and turned as it he went up a steep incline. Thick forest buried the night on either side of him obscuring him from anyone who might be following.
Houser was so distracted, staring into the rearview, that he didn’t see the car without its lights in the middle of the street until it was too late.
He slammed on the brakes and swerved right off the road. His car tumbled down the steep incline and into the forest below. The car kept flipping, turning over and over as the airbags on the sides and steering wheel exploded open and Houser felt as if he were being pummeled by darkness.
The car finally came to a stop.
For a minute there was nothing but silence and pain, followed by darkness.
* * * *
To be continued…
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