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Authors: Dean Crawford

Tags: #action, #Thriller, #Adventure

Revolution

BOOK: Revolution
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REVOLUTION

© 2013 Dean Crawford

Published: 19th December 2013

ASIN:B00HET1UKO

Publisher: Fictum Ltd

The right of Dean Crawford to be identified as author of this Work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved.

Also by Dean Crawford:

The Ethan Warner Series

Covenant

Immortal

Apocalypse

The Chimera Secret

The Eternity Project

The Eden Saga

Eden

Holo Sapiens Series

Holo Sapiens

Young Adult Books

Soul Seekers

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“A people that wants to be free must arm itself with a free press.”

George Seldes

1

They were closing in on her.

She could hear them as she scrambled up the frozen hillside, her threadbare clothes drenched with moisture spilling like diamond chips from the foliage clogging her path. She looked up through veils of mist at the trees towering into the sky, then risked a quick glance over her shoulder.

Terrific mountain ranges smashed across the horizon, their ancient heights draped with blankets of snow, and far below the silvery thread of a river reflected the dawn sunlight.

Deep, insistent barking haunted the valley. She recognised the breed from the sounds they made: North–Caucasian Volkodavs, a giant Kavkaz mastiff. Completely fearless, they were trained to hunt bears and wolves. Or humans.

She plunged onward through ferns and bracken as her breath sawed in her throat and the chill air numbed the tips of her ears and nose. A thick tree root grasped for her ankle, the satchel that she protected under one arm almost falling from her grip as she stumbled. It briefly came undone to reveal a sleek, black object that seemed far too modern to be in her grasp. She staggered back onto her feet, closed the satchel and forged onward.

The barking of the dogs competed with the shouts of men echoing through the forest behind her. Their voices conjured memories that reeled through her mind – vehicles charging through the grey dawn, burning buildings, thick coils of smoke filling the streets; the dogs, the cackle and thump of machine guns, cries of terror and pain and confusion. The chorus of mankind’s hymn of war.

The trees thinned as she fought her way through a brittle tangle of thorn scrub and staggered into a clearing, surrounded on three sides by the forest and with an open ridge ahead of her.

She hurried across to the ridge and looked down into another valley far below. Fields of frost–hardened earth spread into the distance across a barren, icy plain. A scattering of old barns stood beside a farmhouse, distant figures toiling in the fields. Biting her lip to stop it trembling, she judged the distance to the farmstead against the sounds of pursuing men and animals. Too far,
much too far
.

Twigs snapped amid the trees close by, curses and shouts following. They had flanked her, coming in from both sides as well as from behind. A dizzying wave of panic flushed like ice water through her. A fallen tree caught her eye, dominating the edge of the forest, its bulk entombed within coils of frozen vines. Lunging toward it, she knelt down and buried her satchel deep within a cavity in the decaying trunk.

Backing away from the tree, she returned to the ridge and stared down at the quiet little farmstead, the serene view more bitter–sweet now than she could ever have imagined.

‘Arretech!
Arretech!

The man stumbled out of the forest nearby, the ugly barrel of his AK–47 assault rifle pointed at her. She froze in place as though a part of the forest and fought to keep her expression neutral.

The soldier kept the weapon trained upon her as the sounds of men and animals echoed ominously across the clearing, camouflaged shapes moving like demons through the trees. The soldier glanced to one side, and a smile twisted across his skeletally thin face.

Hordes of troops broke through the forest and into the clearing, pointing and shouting at her. Her legs emptied of strength as though hollow, her throat thick with loathing as she watched. The dogs were leading them, each animal restrained by two soldiers holding thick leashes. The animals glared hungrily at her, catching her scent and spouting dense clouds of breath from huge chests. She counted six dogs and perhaps fifty soldiers armed with various types of machine guns and pistols, all moving to surround her in a loose ring.

A silence enveloped the clearing, until the only sounds she could hear were the breathing of the dogs and the muted patter of countless water droplets falling through the trees to drench the forest floor. The troops watched her with silent, sullen expressions. Slowly, the ring of soldiers parted and a tall man walked between them, his shoulders bearing the epaulettes of an officer. She shrivelled under his gaze as he approached. Obsidian eyes observed her without emotion from beneath thick brows, thin lips framed by a heavy jaw dense with grey stubble.

‘Salut,’ he said softly.

The girl’s vision jolted as the world toppled over before her, and it was several seconds before she realised that she had been struck. Blood dribbled from her split lips and lined her tongue with a metallic tang. White pain ripped across her scalp as she was yanked by her hair onto her knees, the officer glaring at her from inches away.


Voul Americanis, niet?
’ he asked, and then in distorted English. ‘Yes, you are an American. Always you appear where you are not wanted.’

The girl did not reply, her skin taking on the pallor of the frosty earth. The man held her for a few seconds and then thrust her back into the dirt. She looked at the ring of soldiers as she lifted her bruised, bloodied face. They returned her gaze with neither excitement nor shame, the brutality of conflict having long ago scoured them of their humanity.

The officer casually lit a cigarette as he looked down into the valley, watching the villagers tending their fields. Several of them were looking up toward the hills, and he guessed that they had heard the barking of the mastiffs. The girl watched as the officer drew slowly upon his cigarette, then turned away and gestured to the soldier who had intercepted her.

The soldier lunged forward, pinning the cold metal barrel of his assault rifle to her forehead as he squeezed the trigger.

‘Belaye! Wait!’

The soldier scowled before reluctantly jerking his weapon away from her. The girl turned to see the officer staring thoughtfully at the village below.

‘They will hear the gunfire,’ he murmured, and then turned to two of his lieutenants. ‘Bind and gag her.’

The two men hurried across, grabbed her roughly and bound her wrists with cords that wrenched her skin before gagging her with a length of coarse leather. Satisfied, they backed away. The impassive ring of soldiers stirred, their eyes hungry now. She trembled both from the cold and the fear that scraped at the lining of her stomach as the officer leaned down to bring his face level with hers, his features quivering with exotic excitement. The smell of stale tobacco smoke wafted across her face as he spoke.

‘Many a foreigner has vanished in these mountains,’ he whispered. ‘The bears, the wolves, the wild dogs, we are all prey when out here alone.’

She recoiled as the officer regarded her with his sullen black eyes and licked his lips, taking a long pull on his cigarette before dropping the butt and grinding it out with his heel. He straightened and walked toward the circle of his men.

‘Unleash the dogs.’

It took a moment for her to comprehend what the officer had said. Bright tears burst from her eyes as she gazed imploringly at the handlers, who had not moved and were staring blankly at their officer. The watching ring of soldiers also looked up at him as though confused. Some of them began backing away as though distancing themselves from her fate. The officer snatched his pistol from its holster and screamed at the handlers.

‘Unleash the dogs!’

She scrambled to her feet with a muffled cry and staggered away toward the ridge as fast as she could with her awkward, half–bound gait, fleeting visions of her family flickering like ghosts through her mind. The dogs snapped and snarled as their handlers fought to loosen their ties, and then she heard all six of the beasts lurch in pursuit of her with a broadside of deep barks.

The soldiers stood paralysed in a rictus of horror as she ran from them, screamed for help through the gag as she looked over her shoulder at the dogs pursuing her in a roiling cloud of muscle and fur. Behind the pack, the officer stood with his pistol drawn, his features shining with primal excitement as the mastiffs bounded up and launched themselves at her.

In a flash of movement she glimpsed one of the watching soldiers cry out and raise his rifle, aiming and firing a single deafening shot that shattered the frigid air. Something slammed into her back with the strength of a fallen angel and the world spun around her as she fell, the back of her head jarring as it smashed onto the unforgiving earth.

The mastiffs scattered fearfully from the sound of the gunshot and hurried back to their handlers. Through blurred vision, the girl saw the officer turn and fire his pistol in one fluid motion. The bullet hit the disobedient soldier squarely in his chest and hurled him backwards into the foliage nearby. His body shuddered and then fell still as the shots echoed in endless symphony into the distance.

She lay silent and still, her eyes closed now.

There was no pain from the wound, and yet she knew that the deep numbness enveloping her must surely be a terminal embrace. The sudden silence of the forest around her seemed filled with a dense pall of shame that hung over her captors. She sensed the officer stride past her to look down into the valley. She could hear distant shouts, the villagers already running toward their farmstead for their own guns. But she knew they would be too late.

She felt the officer kneel down beside her and savagely tear the fabric of her clothes. For one terrible moment she feared that he was not yet finished with her, but then she felt him place a pistol in her palm and stand. His voice broke the silence as he pointed at the dead soldier nearby.

‘Strip him of his uniform and leave them both to the peasants.’

There was a flurry of activity nearby in the bushes, and then in sombre silence the troops moved away from the lonely clearing, the sound of their boots and the dogs fading. She managed to force her eyes to open and saw the soldiers vanishing like ghosts into the forest, some of them casting glances back over their shoulders until, finally, she was alone.

Lying paralysed on the cold earth she saw the forest above her fill with twinkling stars and galaxies of light before plunging into a darkness as deep as time itself.

***

2

London

Megan Mitchell tried to jog in a straight line and ignore the loathsome jolts of pain grinding around the interior of her skull.

The sun had just risen over the glassy surface of the Thames as she ran beside the embankment, the towering edifice of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament looming through a light mist hovering above the water. She squinted up into the powder–blue sky as she plodded miserably along, struggling to contain the bolts of nausea churning through her stomach.

She jogged the same route every morning and for the same reason. From Tower Bridge, along the Embankment past St Paul’s Cathedral and down to London Bridge to cross the Thames and make the return journey. By the time she returned home the headache and nausea would have faded, the pungent film coating the back of her throat vanished and the poison purged from her veins for another day.

She wore headphones like the other runners who passed her with brief nods of greeting, but no music played within. Megan wore them only to deter others from attempting conversation and ruining the silence of her unsteady rhythm.

BOOK: Revolution
7.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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