Slayers (Jake Hawkins Book 1)

This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author

s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is a coincidence.

 

 

SLAYERS

Matt Rogers

 

PART ONE

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

Operation Shield.

0800 hours.

The Amazon Rainforest.

Seventeen years ago.

 

The five-man Delta Force unit had been travelling through the Amazon Rainforest for four days.

Wolfe raised a clenched fist. The four soldiers crawling through the undergrowth behind him froze before his gloved hand formed the signal. They knew what their leader was about to tell them almost before he did.

As they lay motionless, Wolfe took a moment to catch his breath. It had been a hard week.

They had been deployed by helicopter, dropped into the middle of the jungle with nothing but the packs on their backs and their weapons. The terrain had been harsh and unforgiving. It was mid-March, the middle of the wet season. Their waterproof khakis did little to protect them from the constant downpour. Mosquitoes buzzed incessantly and bit every sliver of exposed skin. Malaria shots provided peace of mind, but did nothing to stop the irritation. They had been briefed on how to deal with anything from jaguars to crocodiles, but so far had faced no such threats.

They had maintained a strict schedule of sixteen hours of travel a day. It was a physically demanding operation, but they were Delta soldiers, after all. This was what they trained for.


See anything, boss?

Wolfe turned to his men. The four of them were lying prone, dressed in mud-soaked fatigues, faces painted with dark green camouflage. They were awaiting his call. Crank, Thorn, Python and Phoenix. He had no official authority over them, but they did as he said. No-one could do a better job. The five men had been a unit for three years. They were the best.

Crank had been the one to decide that staying on their feet was too risky. They were too close to the enemy. For the past hour, they had ghosted across the forest floor on their bellies. The rain that fell constantly from the trees above masked all noise. The mud enveloped them, blending them into their surroundings. To the untrained eye, they were practically invisible.

Wolfe crested a rise on his stomach and saw the campsite in the distance. It was a dingy setup in the middle of a natural clearing, but it was more than a hundred metres away and he couldn

t make out much more than that. He slid a pair of military-issue binoculars out of his vest and lifted the lenses to his eyes.

The clearing swam into focus. There were poorly pitched tents made of cheap canvas scattered across the ground, surrounding a single palm tree in the centre of the clearing. The tree towered above everything else. Its fronds drooped down on all sides, providing cover from the rain. In the dry season, they would have cast shadows over the clearing, but the sky was overcast and the lighting was dark. Aside from the tree, the clearing was completely bare, nothing more than a flat expanse of earth cut out from the rainforest. A few men were playing a card game around a rickety wooden table they had erected under one of the fronds. Another group were lounging around the base of the tree. Away from the tents, a burly man sat at a second card table, this one strewn with documents.

Wolfe wiped a hand across his face, sweeping a trickle of sweat off his brow. Even when it rained, the humidity never eased up. Through the binoculars he could see the men in the clearing were wet with perspiration.


Sir?

Crank whispered.


Eight men visible,

he said.

Looks like four more in the tents, judging by the shadows.


You sure?

Thorn said.


Does it matter?

Wolfe said.

We know there

s twelve men in there. That

s what the intel told us and I trust it.


I

m wary of guards.


There

s nothing to guard. We

re hundreds of kilometres from civilisation. And they

re waiting
for
something, remember. That

s why they

re here. They don

t have it yet.


So what now?

Python said.


We wait,

Wolfe said.

We were told to hole up and observe them until they meet with whoever they

re waiting for. They have to have a damn good incentive to want to come all the way out here. We watch them and report their actions back to base. They

ll give us the word if
–”

A roar

astonishing in volume

cut him off. It came from the other side of the clearing and echoed through the trees, silencing the sounds of the rainforest. Wolfe jerked upwards in shock and pressed the binoculars to his face.

The clearing became pandemonium. Men were overturning tables and scrabbling desperately for their weapons. But they weren

t fast enough.

Sweating and shaking and suddenly cold, Wolfe watched five silhouettes burst from the trees on the other side of the clearing and sprint for the tents. They looked like men, fast and muscular, but their features were shrouded by the darkness of the storm. A lightning bolt zigzagged through the sky, fully illuminating the clearing. Wolfe caught a glimpse of deathly-white skin and bald heads before two powerful hands clamped down on his back and wrenched him to his feet.

Raindrops pounded down across his face. His vision blurred and spun. The hands tugged him backwards, and there was a crushing pain in his back as he slammed against a tree. An instant later, his arms were wrenched back hard, pinning him helplessly against the trunk. He couldn

t move.

A figure dropped down from the treetops above and landed silently on both feet in amongst the rest of his team. The four men hesitated, still shocked by the sudden turn of events.

Wolfe could make out its features, even though the light coming down through the rainforest canopy was dim. It looked human, but only barely. Its skin was pale and there was not a single hair atop its head. Wide, unblinking eyes bulged from their sockets, bloodshot and red, and its mouth was filled with razor-sharp teeth stained yellow with decay. It wore khaki jungle pants and nothing else, exposing a torso compact with dense slabs of muscle. Its whole body glistened with a sense of raw power.

Wolfe was beyond words. All he could do was stand and watch.

The creature spun and kicked out with savage ferocity, punting Thorn in the head like a kicker booting a ball out of the stadium. The big man went limp. Before the other three had time to react, it reached down and picked Crank up by the scruff of his neck. Clenched knuckles arced through the air, coming down on Crank

s nose in a blur. A loud crack sounded through the jungle and he dropped like a stone.

Python and Phoenix were already on their feet, suspending their disbelief. Python slid a combat knife from his belt, fifteen centimetres of cold, serrated steel. Both men charged at the creature.

It ducked underneath Python

s knife almost effortlessly and caught his fist in an iron grip. In a single motion, it lashed out with a brutal front kick to the centre of his chest. He went flying back into Phoenix, and the knife slipped from his grip. The creature reached out and caught it by its hilt just before it hit the ground. It rose up and drove the blade low into Python

s gut. Python let out a blood-curling yell and doubled over onto the ground, motionless.

One left.

Phoenix squared up to the creature, showing no sign of fear. He swung a hard fist, honed by years of practice, but it parried the blow with ease. The next strike was a little slower. The creature darted out and caught Phoenix

s forearm with a clawed hand. It twisted his arm around until the elbow snapped, accompanied by the sound of cracking bone. He grunted in pain and bent over slightly.


No,

Wolfe whispered.

The creature was in perfect position. It lined up its aim before kicking Phoenix in the face with incredible force. The last remaining soldier jerked as his neck twisted. He shot upright before collapsing into the bed of plants just as the others had, with his neck bent at a grotesque angle.

There was silence.

Wolfe had never witnessed anything like what he had just seen. Four of the most lethal men on the planet had just been dispatched with ease by whatever was standing in front of him. It had been toying with them. He had no idea what was going on, but there was one thing he knew for sure.

He wasn

t going down without a fight.

Just as the creature turned towards him, he kicked backwards with a steel-capped combat boot. The toe of the boot plowed into the shin of whoever was holding him against the tree. Accompanied by a sharp growl, the grip against his arms slackened a little. That was all he needed. In one move, he swung back again with the same boot, this time planting it firmly against the tree trunk. He pushed off with all the strength he could muster and broke free, stumbling forward into the undergrowth.

The creature in front of him snarled and tensed its legs, ready to spring. Wolfe didn

t miss a beat. He turned left and broke into a flat-out sprint, legs pumping like pistons. Behind him, there was a scream of rage. He didn

t look back. He vaulted over a log and took off into the rainforest.

The next ten minutes were a combination of adrenaline and fear. Falling rain whipped against his face and the howls of jungle predators echoed through the trees, but he never stopped running. The rainforest in the middle of a storm was terrifying. Thunder cracked overhead. Already, Wolfe was splashing through ankle-deep puddles of muddy water as he ran. After a long career in the Delta Force, he wasn

t scared often, but now he struggled to keep his heartbeat under control, seized by fear.

Fear of the unknown.

Finally, after his body could go no further, Wolfe thought it better to hide. The jungle provided plenty of cover. It took him barely any time at all to find a fallen tree trunk, lying horizontally across the rainforest floor, its roots torn from the ground. There was a gap underneath the trunk with just enough space to fit.

He squeezed himself underneath, inhaling the musty aroma of dirt and ferns. And then he waited.

The silence was deafening. Time seemed to pass in slow motion. His visibility was obscured by the tree trunk, casting his surroundings into darkness. He could only listen. The soft pitter-patter of rain against the earth was the only sound audible, apart from the
doom-doom, doom-doom,
of his heart beating against the wall of his chest.

Suddenly, a cold voice broke the quiet.


Nice try,

it rasped.

His surroundings rumbled. A second later, the entire trunk shot up into the air, lifted by something immensely powerful. Loose dirt cascaded down over him. The tree was cast aside and it slammed into the ground with an earth-shaking thud, far out of reach.

The same creature that had butchered his squad stood over him. Its chest heaved with exertion. It had picked up the entire tree like a child

s toy. Wolfe lay on his back, staring up at it, defenseless. He was too frightened to move. It bent down and grabbed a handful of his vest. Their faces were almost touching.

He had never seen a more terrifying sight in his life. It bared its teeth at him. Behind it, he watched three more creatures emerge from the shadows, staring with wide eyes. They looked different to the one holding him, like mindless drones serving their master

s bidding. This one seemed intelligent.


What are you doing here?

the creature spat.


We

re Delta Force,

Wolfe said.

And we have backup coming. They

re less than a minute away.


No you don

t,

the creature said. A malicious smile crossed its face, mocking him.

Even if you did, I

d kill them all. Now, what are you doing here?

Wolfe didn

t respond.


Do you really want to go down that route?

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