Author: Ray Ellis
Publisher: NCC Publishing LLC
Genre: Inspirational Science Fiction
The year is 135 New Reckoning. A Godless world is rebuilding itself.
When a stranger from Mike Stone’s past appears on his doorstep, his ordinary life is suddenly and violently destroyed. Mike’s past has come back to haunt him. Now with his family attacked and his home destroyed, Mike finds himself running for his life through a jungle-planet filled with terrors and a monster known only as the Kracken.
In the midst of the chaos, Ted Waters launches his plan for domination. In a post-apocalyptic world, Waters sets himself up as the sole leader of the emerging world government. Using children as slaves, he mines a new narcotic used to subdue the people’s will.
Kracken, the story of two men, two opinions and two bases of power set on a collision path. When the two collide, Mike finds himself confronted by the God he thought he left behind.
The village square was busy. Moist streets and the smell of sweat and dirt, mixed with the aroma of raw sewage, hung heavy in the air. Dirty-faced children played in the streets, and escaped animals ran under foot. Skipp Langg had come to find the needed components to finish the project that he was working on.
Skipp stopped, pretending this time to study a set of sonic amplifiers. He looked back the way he had come. The lone figure stopped as well. Now he was sure he was being followed. He rubbed his chin. He wasn’t sure by whom or why, but he was sure whoever it was or for whatever reason, it wasn’t good.
Tossing his raven-colored braid over his shoulder, Skipp used the occasion to scan the area more thoroughly. Nothing. Where are you guys?
He grimaced and spoke into his wrist communicator, “Jonas! Jay! Anybody!” He let his gaze travel over the sea of faces, studying them. He looked at the walls again. He swore. Signal must be blocked. His gaze shifted upward, tracing the canyon-like walls of the buildings in the inner city.
Since being let go by The Company, Skipp had made his home in the underground; the subterranean world, which had evolved in the abandoned subway systems that ran for over 4700 kilometers in length and more than 2.5 kilometers beneath the city streets. After years of no contact, Jonas had left a video message, calling in an old debt, urging Skipp to meet him that
afternoon in the city. Now he was wondering if coming had been the best decision. He called again; still no answer.
Closing the connection, Skipp glanced over his shoulder again and then burst into flight, hoping to draw his pursuers out into the open. As he did, he realized his plan had worked, if only too well. Lowering his head, he simply ran. Rounding a corner, he came to a skidding stop; he had run into a dead-end alley.
Skipp turned—too late. Behind him, blocking the mouth of the alley stood four very large men and one smaller figure whom Skipp took to be their leader. With slow, purposed steps, the men made their approach.
“Jonas,” Skipp called frantically into his wrist-com. “Jonas, now would be a good time to show up.” Despite the cool breeze and damp weather, beads of sweat rolled down Skipp’s aquiline face.
The group was near enough now that Skipp could see their faces. The five figures continued to close the distance between themselves and Skipp, fanning out in a half circle as they advanced. Suddenly, one of them pulled a handheld energy weapon from his pocket, an IMR/S457-Agitator. The weapon banned from legal sale had long been outlawed, even for military use. The energy beam did more than just kill its victim but was designed to torment as well. The beam attacked the central nervous system, disrupting the brain’s electrical activity, increasing the body’s core temperature. This would cause the brain to swell simultaneously, triggering violent muscle spasms. Finally, due to increasing pressure and contractions, the victim’s heart and other vital organs would simply implode.
As the man leveled the weapon on Skipp, he smiled, exposing broken, yellowed and missing teeth. “After all I he’rd about you, I thought you’d be smar’er than this.” He gestured with the weapon indicating the alley. “To allow yerself to be trapped in a blind alley. Too bad though.” He began to laugh. “You don’t get to learn from your lil’l mistake.”
Skipp could see the man’s dirt encrusted finger tightening on the trigger. “Wait!” It was all he could think to say.
“What, you want to beg first? Not that it’ll do ya any good.” The man continued laughing. “Hey, boys, he wants ta beg fer his life. Shall we let him beg or should we just kill em?”
“Oh, let him beg first. Who knows, he might even make me laugh, too,” the second of the large men said. Then turning a fiery gaze on Skipp, he said, “I’m not as easily amused as my friend is though.”
Skipp’s words came quickly, “You don’t have to do this. How much you getting paid for this? I’ll double it.” His hazel-blue eyes dancing all over the alley looking for something—anything that might be used in his defense. “You have me at a disadvantage.” He managed a nervous smile. “At least tell me who you’re working for. A man should at least know why he’s being killed.”
A third man spoke, “Our client just wants him dead. Didn’t say nothing about keep’n him pretty. I say we have some fun first.”
“Wait, fellas,” Skipp said slowly, lowering his hands.
The third man grabbed Skipp by his collar and threw him against the wall. Skipp slid to the ground, the side of his face landing in a thin puddle of rancid water. With his hands beneath him, Skipp worked frantically to remove his wrist communicator. Just as he pulled it from his wrist, he was kicked hard in his side. Along with a burst of air forced from his lungs, he felt several ribs crack.
As he lay there fighting for breath, Skipp could see his attackers. The smallest of the group stood back; Skipp assumed he was the lookout, though why they would need one, he couldn’t figure out. No one would interrupt them. Trying to force himself up, his breathing became labored; each intake brought with it a stab of searing, white-hot pain.
“Come on, get up, pretty boy. You’re not done yet,” the man said as he jerked Skipp from the ground and held him level with his face. Skipp’s feet dangled several inches above the ground. “Look at me,” the man bellowed into Skipp’s face, flecks of sour spittle spattering him.
Skipp winced before staring defiantly at the man. Taking a breath, he settled himself then spat in the man’s face. He grimaced. He knew this was going to hurt.
Roaring like a mad bear, the man flung Skipp all the way across the alley, slamming him off the far wall like a child’s play thing.
This time Skipp was expecting it; in fact, he hoped that it would happen. He was ready. Twisting as he flew, he managed to absorb the impact on his side. Lying on the ground, he finished connecting the new components to the energy cell in his wrist-com.
Staggering to his feet, Skipp defied the men. “So, you gonna let this brute beat me to death and cheat you out of using your toy.” Blood ran from Skipp’s nose and mouth, his eyes swollen nearly shut, each breath coming rough and ragged. He stepped toward the men, antagonizing them. “Go ahead,” Skipp yelled at the man, then closed his eyes and lunged forward. “Shoot me!”
The man fired.
At that precise moment, Skipp pressed the activator switch on his wrist-com. There was a bright flash and an accompanying blast, which threw him backwards, slamming him into a row of partially filled trash barrels. He felt the air rushing out of his lungs as his world suddenly began to grow dark.
Struggling to his knees, Skipp willed himself back from the brink of unconsciousness. Grasping desperately, trying to catch that elusive first breath, he celebrated the fact that he wasn’t dead.
Skipp looked up to see all five of the would-be assassins struggling to regain their footing. Overcome by the intensity of the optical burst, and unprepared for the backblast, the assailants had momentarily lost consciousness. Skipp made a mental note of the unexpected bonus and continued his struggle toward the mouth of the alley and freedom.
Willing his legs to obey, Skipp began in his best imitation of a man running but looking more like a common drunk after too many last drinks. Slowly, strength returned and just as he staggered past the last of the fallen men, he felt a hand close around his ankle.
With his body not fully recovered, he landed face first onto the murky pavement, his ribs screaming in protest. Dragging his breath through gritted teeth, Skipp turned to see the business end of another weapon, an optical neutralizer pointed directly at his head. Then the barrel swung away.
The cloaked figure turned and fired on the four other men, who in their weakened state, realized too late that they, and not Skipp, were the intended target. The men fell backwards, moaning and screaming, enraged and in pain. Their optical nerves seared, blindness claimed them.
The fifth and considerably smaller of the assailants turned his attention back to Skipp. The weapon leveled at him, directing Skipp to the back wall of the alley. The assailant stood, blocking any possible chance of escape.
As the assailant removed the hooded mask, Skipp realized to his amazement, that the fifth man was actually a woman, a fact lost to him during the earlier stress. “What?” A look of unbelief and confusion washed across his youthful face. “What are you doing here?” was all he could manage.
“Looks like I’m saving your rear end,” she said smugly. “And good thing, too, you were about to run into the rest of this squad. There’s Mercs all over the square.”
Skipp could see, now that she had taken off the too-big-for-her mercenary’s uniform, that although not a pretty girl, she had a strong athletic body and a confidence that gave her a certain attractiveness. Remembering himself and feeling slightly embarrassed at being saved by a female, Skipp tried bravado. “Well, I had everything under control. I was just about to—”
“—Get yourself killed and ruin an entire day’s work for me,” she said waving off his comment. “I saw these guys tracking you and was just about to make contact when you decided to run into this blind alley.” She couldn’t help smiling.
Skipp could feel his cheeks turning red. He looked away, pretending to check the burnt-out wrist communicator. “Not that I’m not grateful, but who are you anyway? So, I suppose I’m your prisoner now?”
She laughed. “Prisoner? You are full of yourself, aren’t you? No, Skipp, you’re no prisoner of mine. Jonas sent me in here to find you before these guys did. You almost messed that up.”
At that moment, a chirping noise came from her pocket. She answered her communicator with a crisp military tone, “Julie here.”
“Who is—” Skipp had tried to ask, but was stopped by an upraised hand.
“Copy. Setting position now. ETA?”
A rope ladder fell along the back wall, causing both Julie and Skipp to look up. Above the rim of the building, just over the rooftop, they could see Jay waving and speaking into a communicator. “How about right now,” said a voice with a Caribbean accent and a widening smile.
Behind them, the four men began thrashing wildly, a barrage of profanities flooding the quiet of the alley. Julie stopped to kick aside the discarded weapons, taking the IMR/S457-Agitator with her. “How did you get past those guys,” Skipp asked, stepping aside and offering her first up on the ladder.
“No way, pretty-boy, up you go,” she said, tucking the weapon in her belt. “I didn’t go through all this just to watch you get whacked while I’m climbing a ladder. Now store your chauvinistic attitude and climb the rope.”
“Some people call it chivalry, but—”
“You know, I really don’t care what you call it. Move your hiney before I carry you up.”
She was smiling, but something about her stance made Skipp believe she was serious, and looking at her, he believed she could.