Guest Post: John O’Brien

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A New World: Conspiracy Excerpt

 

Come on, Leonard. Do what you’re going to do and do it soon or we won’t be around for it to do any good, Krandle thinks, having an idea of what Leonard has in mind.

Focusing on those across the street, the sudden sting and burning on his forehead takes him by surprise. It feels like someone pinched him and then held a burning cigarette to his skin. He reaches up to the sudden sensation trying to wipe the burn away with the back of his hand. His glove comes away with a smear of blood soaked into the fabric. The blood mixes with the sweat and the warm flow trickles down his brow. He wipes it away again and continues firing.

“Chief Krandle,” he hears Leonard call over the radio.

“Krandle here,” he answers, resuming fire between clicking the mic button.

He’s the only one delivering fast-moving projectiles to this side of their front and they can’t afford to slack off on their fire. They have to keep the pressure on.

“Five minutes…ready, ready, mark,” Leonard says.

Krandle, having set a countdown timer on his watch, reaches up and clicks a button starting it.

“Copy,” he replies.

“Be sure you’re at a minimum of two hundred meters. Four hundred would be optimal, but two hundred should provide a measure of safety. Not much, but some,” Leonard states.

“Copy. Call you in five.”

“Five minutes. We’re leaving out the back in three plus forty-five. Ortiz, we’ll be coming out your way. Then we’re across the back yard to the cliff edge. Be ready to peel away on my call,” Krandle informs the team on the radio.

“The back is clear for now, Chief,” Ortiz radios.

That will be cutting it close to be away in time but they can’t leave too early as that will give their assailants time to chase them and put the team at a greater risk in the open.

Offshore, in the deeper water of the bay miles to the northwest of the Palos Verdes headland, the rolling swells are interrupted by an eruption. Water is flung upward and out. Through it rises a sleek, cylindrical shape. The roar of a rocket echoes across the bay and the object launches into the sky at an angle, leaving a trail of fire and smoke. With a rumbling roar, it picks up speed as it gains altitude.

A short distance later, the solid propellant rocket that provides its initial boost detaches and falls into the ocean with a splash. The smoke trails off as the turbo-fan motor engages and the object vanishes from sight as it hurtles toward its destination.

Krandle glances at his watch for the hundredth time, watching the small numbers wind down. They hit the one minute, fifteen second mark.

“Everyone empty two mags and then we’re out of here. Blanchard, you start with Miller now. Franklin, Speer and I will follow you out,” Krandle calls.

Krandle fires continual bursts at anyplace that anyone could possibly be hidden in. He hears the shuffling of Miller and Blanchard behind him as they make their way to Ortiz. Replacing his mag, he sweeps the area with gunfire again. A series of rounds impacts the edge of the window near him, splintering the already shredded jamb. He feels a sting as several sharp fragments cut into his cheek.

“Okay, Franklin, you’re next…Go!” Krandle calls, down to the last few bullets in his mag.

Seconds later, as Franklin dashes by, he touches Krandle’s shoulder to let him know he’s past. Krandle fires the last rounds, replaces his mag, and looks at his watch. Fifty seconds to go.

It’s past time to beat cheeks out of here.

“Let’s go, Speer!”

They rise and race toward the back, passing Ortiz on the way. Ortiz follows them out a back door. Franklin, Miller, and Blanchard are part way across the large, open back yard. Speer, Ortiz, and Krandle emerge from the rear door when shouts ring out from both sides of the yard. Gunfire follows seconds later. They are being assaulted from both sides. The team’s unexpected appearance causes the assailants to fire hastily and therefore inaccurately.

Krandle hears rounds zip through the tall grass. He feels the pressure of one round passing just in front of him. Not slowing one bit, Franklin aims his carbine haphazardly in one hand and fires. The rounds go wide, but it causes the attackers to take cover. Miller shoves Blanchard away with his good hand, grabs his arm on the wounded side, and continues running toward the bluff edge.

Blanchard unslings his M-4 and adds his rounds to the fray. Krandle and the remaining two fire as they race across through the tall grass. Mindful of their limited time remaining, Krandle sacrifices his aim to keep pace. It’s now a pell-mell race for the edge as they try to outrace time itself. Krandle and the two with him catch up and pass Miller and Blanchard close to the bluff threshold.

The edge looms near with nothing in sight beyond except the ocean far below stretching out to the horizon. Their pace doesn’t slow. Rounds continue to pepper the air around them, following their mad race. Only a few feet separate the team from the long drop.

“Over we go, gents. Slide down,” Krandle shouts.

A couple of feet from the rim, they sling their M-4s and go to the ground like they were sliding into second. As their feet go over the edge, they roll onto their stomachs. Their legs slam into the rocky sides of the cliff and they begin skidding down. Stomachs, chests, knees, and elbows scrape against the rocky outcroppings as they scramble to grab hold of something to arrest their fall down the cliff.

The angle of the bluff at the top allows them some control and Krandle manages to grab hold of a rock projecting out of the steep wall. His feet find purchase on a small ledge and he secures himself. He looks up in time to see Miller falling past him, unable to catch himself with his one free hand. With a firm foot and hand hold, Krandle reaches out and grabs a handful of shirt. Miller screams in pain as Krandle has grabbed the shirt near his wounded shoulder. Krandle feels his feet slip and his hand aches holding onto the rock, but he doesn’t let go. Miller’s slide stops and he manages to secure his footing. With his good arm, he finds a handhold. Miller looks up, the pain evident in his eyes, and nods his thanks.

Krandle secures his grip on the cliff face once again and looks over his team. They have all found holds of some sort, but they are all hanging precariously to the side of the cliff. Just a few feet below them, the angle they slid down comes to an abrupt halt and plummets straight down onto a rocky shoreline two hundred feet below. Krandle begins to feel a little more secure in their situation as long as those above don’t appear at the edge and begin firing down on them. His watch chimes as the countdown ends.

Krandle hears a sound rising above the roar of the surf below, similar to that of a low-flying jet. This is followed quickly by a storm of explosions. The cliff wall shakes from the multitude of blasts above, each detonation sounding like a mortar round going off. The thunderous explosions are indistinguishable from each other and form a continuous, rolling barrage. The shaking precipice on which they only have a tentative hold threatens to knock them loose. The ten feet between them and the straight, two hundred foot drop seems to shrink. Rocks shaken loose pelt the team members and continue past them over the edge.

Krandle hugs the wall, trying to push farther into its solid exterior. As quickly as it began, it’s over. Krandle feels his heart beating rapidly and hears his hoarse, panting breath as he exhales into the cliff, blowing dust away with each breath. He feels small rocks and grit fall out of his hair, and sand makes its way into his collar. Looking up, he sees dark smoke roiling above the ridgeline overhead.

John O’Brien
Author of the series, A New World

 A New World - Conspiracy lg

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