USA TODAY BESTSELLING author and AMAZON ALL-STAR AWARD winner of The Last War series, The Age of Embers series and the Swann series presents the Dark Days of the After series. With hundreds of reviews (series wide) at a 4.8 star average, this high octane, tour de force series is post-apocalyptic fiction at its finest!
AS THE SOUTH AMERICAN ARMY wages war on the Chicom regime inside California’s most populated cities, the San Francisco survivors find themselves out of supplies and caught in the crossfire of the two warring armies. If they hope to escape the downtown ruins, they’ll have to cut a hot trail through the middle of a war zone and pray they can safely make it to the Oregon homestead.
THE DARK DAYS SERIES PUTS ordinary citizens on the front lines of a domestic conflict that was never supposed to happen, one that will either unify the country or break her for good. This intense new tale of strength, survival and patriotism marks the start of a brand new series critics are calling “jaw-dropping,” “prolific,” and “a post-apocalyptic tour de force.”
OTHER BOOKS IN THIS SERIES:
- Dark Days of the After
- Dark Days of the Surge
- Dark Days of the Apostasy
- Dark Days of the Enclave
- Dark Days of the Purge
Release date: February 27, 2020
Publisher: River City Publishing
Print pages: 259
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Dark Days of the Apostasy
The bombing started early that morning. Automatic gunfire, coupled with bouts of small arms fire, peppered the air with noise. The gunfire response coming from much closer had Skylar straining to open her eyes. She was in such a deep sleep that it felt like she was being pulled up from the bottom of the ocean up for air. Only the air wasn’t tranquil or inviting. Rather it was rife with chaos, the promise of bad things to come.
She finally got her eyes opened, and the first thing that hit her was confusion. Where was she? Whose bed was she in?
The next sensation was hot spears of pain in her shoulders from where she’d been shot. It was all coming back to her now. The building, the explosion, dragging Ryker away from the fight only to be shot in the retreat.
The small moan that escaped her lips was involuntary, an embarrassment if anyone else were around.
The heavy drum of helicopter blades wreaked havoc on her skull. There was so much pressure on the backs of her eyes she felt her body shrink within itself.
Turning away from the dusty Levolor blinds and the bright shine behind them, she tried to sit up. The movement in her arms caused her pain to double, then triple. She felt like she was going to throw up for a moment.
Another explosion scared her, the foundation of the house they were staying in rumbling, plaster bits and dust falling from the ceiling. She shook off the radiating pain in both her shoulders, fought through the nausea and an outrageous headache in an attempt to sit up. The second she flexed her arms, the very instant she fully activated her shoulders, she cried out, no longer concerned about her ego. Her skin felt seared, like she was hit with a branding tool that pulled away too fast, taking gooey bits of skin with it.
She glanced down at her injuries, looking first at one shoulder and then at the other. They were covered in the fabric of a long sleeved cotton shirt, but there were red blots on both shoulders. There was also the little outline of gauze squares.
Someone had patched her up.
As the fog in her head cleared, the noise of urban warfare intensified. Her head did not hurt as much now that it was off the pillow. A band of pain rounded her forehead, however, digging in at the base of her skull, almost like the muscles were pulling against each other in a tug-of-war attempt to deepen her pain.
The people they were staying with were low level Resistance. They knew who she was. She didn’t necessarily know who they were beyond their names and their willingness to shelter and protect her, but she was grateful for them. With everything having gone to hell in a hand basket, she didn’t know why they were helping her. The Resistance was in tatters, the city now a full blown war zone. Still, if not for their efforts, she’d be dead.
She heard the sounds of people hustling through the house outside her room. The door flew open and the thirty-something Chinese girl helping her appeared, wide eyed with concern.
“I’m up,” Skylar said, her throat scratchy.
Gingerly, she pushed the blankets off her and sat up, doing her best to ignore the sharp, grueling sensations in her arms, and in her body. Groaning, tilting her head from side to side, unable to pop her neck and loosen things up, she looked up slowly, found Dongmei Sun looking less concerned than she was both rushed and scared.
“We need to go,” she insisted, her voice teetering on the edge of frenzy.
Dongmei went by May, and from what little Skylar knew of her, May was not prone to worry. Even as Skylar’s shoulders had shown signs of infection the day after they’d patched her up and gave her a place to stay, she recalled snippets of that day. May had remained emotionally detached to the wounds, composed under pressure, which had soothed Skylar when inside she felt herself freaking out.
“Where’s Ryker?” she asked, her voice tapering off sharply. She coughed hard a few times, the pressure in her head causing her to slump back over. Skylar wasn’t sure which was worse, the dizziness or the nausea.
“They’re leaving right now,” she said. “They’re trying to get everything they can into the SUV. We need to go, Skylar. We have to get you out of here before this place comes down on us all.”
“So he’s with Griffin and Leo?” Skylar asked, testing the accuracy of her memory.
“I said that,” May said, reaching down to help Skylar.
“I got it,” Skylar said, raising a hand to stop her.
The hot-poker pain would have made anyone else wince, but in her Krav Maga class, you were punished for showing pain. The very act itself was verboten. Skylar forced herself out of bed, pulled down on the thin metal Levolor blinds and peeked outside.
“Holy crap,” she muttered when she saw the smoke, the grit and a handful of armed Chicoms moving through the streets.
“Yeah, we think the SAA is attacking,” May said, grabbing Skylar’s clothes and stuffing them into a duffel bag she could wear as a backpack.
SAA. The South American Army. The alliance Mexico made with Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala after the last President disappeared, reneging on trade agreements and border access. The patriots and local militia—along with what remained of the Border Patrol—took over armed border enforcement when the might of Mexico and her allies leaned on the wall, and on America herself. The Chicoms retaliated in kind, trying to keep what they caught, but not before the South American Army spun themselves into a violent frenzy.
This was that frenzy.
In the days before everything went south, it seemed the go-to response to the smallest national impropriety was to throw a tantrum, fuel the propaganda cannon, then mobilize an army and go to war.
This was the most dangerous attitude in a hundred years. This was also what led to the unraveling of America’s social fabric, a vulnerable state that left the country weak with division.
Some would say the fall of the nation began fourteen years ago, over a lost election. Others would say the rot set in long before that. No matter the origin, that formal divide—matched with the divisiveness that followed—served to corrupt every aspect of social life, eventually bringing the nation to her knees.
Geopolitical chaos was quick to follow.
The world now cowered in a shroud of darkness, an impenetrable night that touched every land mass on the globe. With such darkness upon them, death tap-tap-tapped its skeletal fingers on their windows and doors, for the unknown beasts of war were salivating, each wanting its pound of flesh.
“God help us all,” Skylar remembered saying the moment she felt the inevitable shift take place.
That was months ago and God was staying out of it.
Taking a vacation, if you will.
Another round of bombings shook the house, more drywall dust shaking loose from the ceiling.
“Skylar,” May said. She glanced at the thirty-something Chinese migrant. “If you’re not careful, you’re going to rip out your stitches.”
In her first months of Krav Maga, Skylar realized that Instructor Yoav’s tolerance for pain was higher than anyone else’s she’d ever seen. Conversely, he refused any such lenience to his students.
At first, when Skylar started sparring, if she slowed the action to show pain, he’d roll his eyes and say, “Does it hurt or are you injured?” If she wasn’t injured, she learned to keep her emotions off her face and to herself.
Yoav had since taken her to that fine line between pain and injury so many times, she’d learned to enjoy the rush. That was until real injuries set in.
She’d had a lot of them lately.
May grabbed one of two lengths of nylon and said, “Stand still, this will help.”
Skylar frowned as May bound Skylar’s arms to her side, tying off the rope in a knot just below Skylar’s breasts.
“No way, May,” Skylar said. “I can’t shoot, run, fight…”
“You won’t need to,” May replied. “You just need to trust me. If you want those wounds to heal, you can’t move your arms so much.”
“I don’t care about that! I need a weapon and a way to shoot it. Don’t you hear what’s going on outside? It’s the end of the world out there!”
“I know!” she screamed back out of fear, her once stoic constitution shearing. “Trust me, I know.”
Skylar shook her head, pissed, the nylon rope tight. I let her do this, she thought, scolding herself for trusting anyone but herself.
“This is some class A, blue ribbon BS!” she hissed.
“You’ll thank me later,” May said, grabbing the duffel bag stuffed with Skylar’s things. “Right now we need to get to the safe house. We’ll rendezvous with Ryker and the guys there, then we’ll get the hell out of this crap city.”
“So we’re finally getting out of California?” Skylar asked, a glimmer of light in the unfolding darkness.
“Yes,” she said, her eyes as serious as Skylar had ever seen them.
They hurried to the front door, Skylar following like an agitated duck, her arms tightly bound to her sides. At least the pressure was off her shoulders. May stopped at the front door, peeking out, her hand up indicating Skylar should wait for her signal.
She was timing their escape.
While waiting, Skylar glanced down at her shoulders again, her eyes tripping on the small blooms of red leaking through the soft, gray fabric.
This was new blood.
Can’t worry about that now, she told herself. Outside, she heard a truck start its engine, find a gear and then take off.
“Okay, let’s go!” May said in a hushed frenzy.
Together they ran to May’s four-wheeler, although for Skylar it was more of a playground gallop. Ahead, the old SUV barreled up the road into a boiling haze of dark smoke now churning through the streets and up into the air. She assumed this was Ryker, Griffin and Leo heading to the safe house.
The SUV hit the wall of smoke and disappeared into it, like a nightmare, the haze swallowing them whole, the back end closing up like some sort of chalky, demonic hug.
Skylar’s eyes started to sting from the grit in the air, the smell of smoke heavy in her nostrils, the dry burn of microscopic ash settling into her throat.
In the distance, maybe a block or two down, the chaotic sounds of urban warfare persisted. The thwump-thwump-thwumping of the SAA choppers was dizzying.
Two Black Hawks were hovering in view, both with gun pods and gunners firing into the streets and at the windows of nearby high rises.
Skylar knew enough about the trade deals with Mexico to know the Black Hawks she was seeing were equipped with the multiple M134 Miniguns. The spinning barrels could be heard from blocks away. With the naked eye, Skylar could almost make out the orange bloom of fire flashing off the barrels.
Part of the trade deal was the gun pods equipped with six-barreled Gatling guns. These were riotous beasts capable of dispensing three to four thousand rounds per minute. By the look of it, the aerial gunners were not exercising restraint.
“We can’t be near those Black Hawks,” Skylar said, almost losing her balance as she climbed onto the four wheeler with little grace.
“How do you know they’re Black Hawks?” May asked over her shoulder.
“The US military sold them to the Mexican Army, along with the M134’s you see blowing everything to smithereens down there.”
May suddenly turned around, looped a second rope around Skylar’s back, then bound the two of them together. Skylar was wondering how she’d hold on with no hands. Apparently she wouldn’t have to.
“This is super uncomfortable, but it will protect your shoulders,” May said, kick-starting the quad.
“I still think this is a terrible idea!” Skylar shouted in her ear as May revved the engine.
“We’re going either way,” May responded, dropping the quad into first gear, then working the gas and the clutch.
They lurched to a start and took off, Skylar captivated by the SAA and their Black Hawks. One of the aircraft banked hard, one of the gunners shot and toppling over the edge, his body falling into the streets and out of her view. Another gunner quickly took his place. The aircraft stabilized once more, and the shooting resumed.
On the other side of the Black Hawk’s platform, a thick rope dropped and several SAA soldiers fast roped it down. One of the last soldiers to descend slid down one-handed, firing on someone in a window taking shots at them.
“We need to catch up to Ryker,” she said, concerned at how much time they’d already lost.
“Depending on the conditions ahead, we may not arrive the same way they do. It’s a fluid situation in case you hadn’t noticed!”
“How is he?” she asked over the noise.
“Ryker,” she said. “How is he?”
“Let me focus on getting us out of here,” May responded, swerving around a pile of cars, onto the sidewalk, then slowing to roll over a dead body because there was no other way around. “You can ask him yourself when we meet at the staging site.”
“What are we staging for?” Skylar asked, looking backwards at the dead man.
“New command post, or retreat,” she said over the din of the engine. “Brace yourself!”
She tightened her core, pressed against May. They bounded over several dead bodies, pushed through a debris field of overturned chairs, tables and potted plants that were now broken with the soil scattered everywhere, the plant and its root bulb exposed. Beyond that was a wall of smoke coming from several nearby fires.
May tried to get around the thickest plumes, but Skylar still found herself squeezing her eyes shut and holding her breath much longer than she wanted.
“Is this an extraction point, or an alternate command post?” she finally asked, turning her head sideways.
“Stop asking questions!” May barked. “We’ll know when we get there!”
From the other side of the building, overhead, came the heavy whomping sounds of another Black Hawk, followed by the trademark buzz of an M134 in action.
Plaster and brick chips from nearby buildings jumped as 7.62mm rounds chewed the fascia to pieces above them. May dipped back into the smoke, heading for the only cover available.
For a long second, they were blind.
May let off the gas.
In spite of the destruction raining down upon them, May crept the four wheeler out of the other side of the smoke.
Where before they were moving slowly, now they came to a dead stop.
They’d hit a wall of cars, all of them out of commission from the EMP. Panic set in. There was no way through!
From the Black Hawk, RPGs zoomed down toward the base of the building behind them. Above them, automatic weapons were unleashing hell on the helicopter, but when the RPGs hit the building, the structure buckled low and started to crumble.
“Get us out of here!” Skylar screamed, wiggling her arms against her restraints despite an immense amount of pain. She had to get free of these ropes!
“There’s no way through!” May screamed.
“That building is coming down on us if you don’t get us the fu—”
The animalistic roar of the collapsing building blotted out the sounds of her voice. With a burst of fear-fueled adrenaline, Skylar started thrashing around in the rope like a caged animal throwing the mother of all fits. She had to break free!
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