Authors: Craig Sargent
Just when he knew he was dead, that he had reached the bottom and there was no farther to go, he felt something pulling at
him. For a split second, in his half-delirious drowning state he thought it was giant snakes, a childhood fear suddenly dredged
up out of the terror of imminent termination. He struck out at the grasping snakes trying to dislodge them from his body.
Suddenly he was sucking in air and realized he wasn't even in the water but up on land and that he could breathe. But when
he opened his eyes Stone saw the meanest-looking bunch of dudes he had ever laid eyes on, and every broken-toothed, scarred
face was streaked with garish stripes of reds, greens, and yellows in sharp, nasty-looking patterns. It was an Indian war
party. And Martin Stone was General Custer.
The Last Ranger
The Savage Stronghold
The Madman’s Mansion
The Rabid Brigadier
The War Weapons
The Warlord’s Revenge
The Vile Village
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First eBook Edition: September 2009
HE strangest thing about an avalanche is how quiet it is at first. A few pebbles bounce noiselessly down a slope, or a little
ridge of snow from high on a mountain skitters down with no more sound than that of the wind through trees. It is almost like
a dream, at first. A thin veil of rocks or snow fills the distance, then the gray curtain seems to grow and expand in every
direction like a stain spreading across a piece of fabric. A mist shoots up violently from the ground and blots out the sky
above. And just before the moving wall of matter—the twisting maelstrom of dirt and snow and twigs and dead animals that it
has already consumed—strikes, the sound comes. And it comes with a terrible roar.
Martin Stone looked up startled as he pulled back on the throttle of his immense Harley 1200cc. A deafening noise seemed to
envelop his every cell as if a blanket of pure sound were descending on him. He was totally confused for a second as the sound
seemed to come from everywhere, from all around him. But it took only another second for his ears to pinpoint the truth. Then
he saw it—the wall of death coming down like the smashing hand of a jealous god. There was no way out.
“Jesus, mother of Mary,” Stone muttered through suddenly chattering teeth as he saw the waterfall of ice roaring down the
four-thousand-foot mountain slope straight toward him. In his stark and sudden terror Stone did not realize that the statement
he had just uttered was both biologically and theologically impossible.
Behind him there was a sudden low growl from the ninety-pound brown-and-white pit bull that lay clamped around the leather
seat like an oyster around a pearl. The furry head of the canine lifted up and its eyes opened, instantly growing to the size
of well-cooked eggs as the animal saw that it was about to die. But if the avalanche had the slightest bit of mercy in its
thundering soul, it was that it wasn’t going to give them both a hell of a lot of time to worry about it all.
Even as Stone ripped back on the Electraglide’s throttle so hard that the Harley did a wheelie for a second, the wall of white
and gray came down the steep slope like a tidal wave, fifty feet of sheer grinding annihilation. A sound emerged from the
very core of the thing, as if the gods were roaring out in pain. Then, before he could tear a hundred feet along the deer
path he had been driving down, hitting nearly sixty miles per hour in three seconds, the avalanche slammed into the motorcycle
like a million fists made of steel.
Stone didn’t know where the hell he was. In a split second he was out of the normal world and into a grinding hell in which
he was twisting around, as if inside a spin dryer. Somehow he hung onto the bars, gripping at the sides of the Harley with
his thighs. The avalanche lifted the bike right up onto the crest of the crashing wall of white. He was riding a fucking motorcycle
surfboard on an avalanche wave. For a second he heard the shrill squeals of the dog behind him even above the deafening roar
of total destruction. Then the thunder grew so loud he couldn’t hear a damned thing.
Suddenly he could see through the grinding mist that rose up everywhere around him. And he wished he couldn’t. Because riding
at the very forward curl of a fifty-foot wall of crashing ice and heading straight toward a wide ravine ahead was not exactly
Martin Stone’s primo choice of how to spend a crisp Rocky Mountain morning. But then, the avalanche didn’t give a shit about
his feelings. Avalanches were like that.
Martin Stone knew he was going to die. And in a paradoxical way, because he
he was going to die, he relaxed deep in his guts. He’d known it was coming. That was for damned sure. From the moment he’d
left his father’s ultramodern mountain bunker, Stone had been living on borrowed time. When the major had been killed by a
heart attack and Stone had taken the rest of the family out into the New America—after five years of living behind granite
mountain walls—it had begun. First his mother had been raped, mutilated, and killed by bikers within just hours. Stone had
been beaten and left for dead, only inches from death. Now it was only him and his sister, April. And God knew what would
happen to her or what was happening to her right now, because he wasn’t going to be able to continue on his quest to find
and rescue her. Sorry sis, gotta die.
He seemed to hang up there, suspended on the very forward lip of the great avalanche as if it were the Perfect Wave that all
surfers spend their lives searching for. He must have been a good sixty feet in the air as the avalanche just grew even larger,
like an expanding conglomerate, as it shot down the slope. Somehow the bike was caught in the surging tip of the fall and
just kept plowing ahead, almost as if it were riding the thing of its own free will. The sky and the mountains flashed all
around him as the Harley bucked and shook, rose and fell ten yards at a time. Stone’s face and eyes were peppered with a cutting
ice as the spray shot out like a geyser from the rushing waterfall of frozen debris. It was bizarrely beautiful with the sun
still coming up and the sky all orange and glowing like the face of a Halloween pumpkin, the clouds shining with a luminescent
blue. It was beautiful if you liked dying.
Suddenly everything seemed to speed up into overdrive as the great wave accelerated. The whole world was spinning topsy-turvy,
blue and orange and white, until Stone thought he would vomit from the loss of gravity as he didn’t even know which way was
up. He felt as if he were on the edge of losing his sanity.
He heard the dog let out a piercing yowl behind him and realized he had forgotten that there even was a dog behind him. Suddenly
the bike with both of them hanging onto it like laundry onto a clothesline was sucked down into the lower regions of the pounding
snow. The snow blotted out the sky like dirt being shoveled over a corpse’s eyes, and in an instant Stone was being buffeted
every which way. He suddenly was ripped right off the bike and thrown around like a broken doll, his arms and legs snapping
out wildly in all directions, so powerful was the centrifugal motion created by the crashing ice and snow.
Stone took a deep breath but sucked in only thick slush that filled his lungs with a terrible freezing wetness. Then he was
tumbling end over end and could feel an incredible pressure—as if he was being crushed—coming from every side. The pressure
increased until he could feel his lungs being squeezed in, constricted as if he were in the grips of a python. It was over.
He couldn’t hold his fucking breath any longer, and Stone knew when he opened his lips the next time it would be the last
time. Ice, not sweet air, would fill his throat and lungs.
He ripped open his jaws and gasped, and air came pouring in. Stone threw his eyelids apart and saw in a flash that he was
falling. There was a river below, wide, with foaming brown water rushing along fast. The avalanche had reached the ravine
and tossed him right over. Stone’s eyes searched madly in the air as snow followed down in sheets all around him. For a moment
he thought he saw the dog scampering wildly in the air as if trying to swim. But then it vanished in the mists that were rising
as the snow hit the rapids below.
Stone felt the presence of something just above him and quickly arched his neck to see the Harley, perhaps twenty feet up
and hurtling down like a black missile on his tail. He ripped his head down again. The river was coming up at him like a brown
fist but it was worse than that. He was coming down not into the water but onto the jagged rocks lining the shore like rows
of waiting teeth. Somehow he spread out his arms and legs and quickly twisted his hips again and again, trying to pull himself
back out over the water. If the gods had been messing with him they suddenly gave him a break, for a moment anyway. A huge
load of snow over the ravine suddenly hit the river and sent up a cloud of mist and spray that caught Stone full in his spread-out
chest and legs. It pushed him with the kick of a mule about twenty feet further out from shore. But he didn’t have time to
say any thank you’s.
For the water was there, ripping up at him in a brown blur. He slammed into the rushing river and felt a jolt of intense pain
rip through his body as if he had just been stuck with a cattle prod. After all, he had fallen nearly two hundred feet. Stone’s
brain tumbled into complete darkness as the sheer impact of the fall was too much for his nervous system to handle. It just
went on overload for a few seconds, the timer fuse blowing out and then resetting as his body reached the end of its downward
trajectory about twenty feet deep in the water. The current plus the natural buoyancy of his body ripped him back up again
and he popped to the river’s angry surface like the bobber on a fishing line. Stone’s lungs filled deeply again just as his
head cleared the water and the breath brought him back to half-consciousness.