by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Trackers Book One
The end of the world is just the beginning of the hunt…
Estes Park Police Chief Marcus Colton and tracker Sam 'Raven' Spears have never liked one another, but when a young girl goes missing in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colton hires Spears to help find her. Their search ends after a night of devastating horror. When word reaches Estes that the nation has been hit by a coordinated electromagnetic pulse attack, Colton and Spears are forced to work together again. But they quickly realize they aren't just tracking a killer--they are tracking a madman. As the United States descends into chaos, the hunters become the hunted.
Halfway across the country, Senator Charlize Montgomery awakes to find the nation's capital has gone dark. Forced to set off on foot, she treks across a city that has woken to a new world, and as the night progresses, she learns the EMP attack was just the beginning…
Genre: Sci Fi Thriller
Content/Theme(s): Suspense, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Cops, EMP
Release Date: January 11, 2017
Trailer, Excerpt & More
A six-man Marine force recon team boarded the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk just after midnight. Staff Sergeant Sam “Raven” Spears sat inside the belly of the bird, smearing camouflage paint across his tan skin. After a ten-year career with the Marines, he was accustomed to slipping his combat gear over his muscular frame for missions at the ass-crack of dawn, but he wasn’t used to the Predators receiving orders directly from the President of the United States.
Raven turned to look out the window as the Black Hawk flew away from base under the cover of darkness. The pilots swooped low over flat fields on approach to the North Korean border.
His current enlistment with the Marines was over in a few weeks. He had hoped to buy land, start a business, and make a home in Estes Park, Colorado after over a decade of war, but the sight of the mine-studded fields and the presence of the Korean civilian in the troop hold made him question if that would happen now.
The Black Hawk was closing in on the demilitarized zone, and Raven could see why it was known as the most dangerous border in the world. To the north was one of the most oppressive and violent regimes on the planet. Barbed wire fences, landmines, and guard posts seemed like flimsy defenses against the totalitarian nation. Troops were stationed on both sides of the border, so close they could practically hit each other with hand grenades. The whole area was a tinderbox—and the Predators were being dropped right into the middle of it.
Shit was about to get very real, very fast.
The Marines with Raven all specialized in deep reconnaissance and were trained in search, seizure, and raid missions. He had a feeling the thin Korean man dressed in black sitting across the troop hold was going to help them track a target. Sad eyes framed by crow’s feet met his gaze for a moment before Raven looked away to the members of his team.
The men were all dressed in black-clad armor, fatigues, and helmets mounted with “four eyes” night vision optics. They carried suppressed M4s as well as M9s. Gunnery Sergeant Rodney Black, the middle-aged team lead, had been studying a map as the rotors thumped nearly silently overhead. He folded it and met the eyes of each man in turn with the cold gaze of a Marine that had seen the horrors of war for too long. He had a hard-on for rules and respect, which made Raven the least popular Marine on Team Predator.
“All right. Listen up, everyone, because we don’t have much time,” Black said in a firm, authoritative voice. “Our orders come from the Commander in Chief himself.”
He reached into his vest and pulled out two pictures. The first showed a dark-haired young woman in a party dress smiling happily at the camera.
“This is Hannah Sarcone, or Lima 1,” Black said. He passed the photo around for the men to look at. As the picture circulated, Black held up the other photo of a redhead wearing a peace sign t-shirt.
“This is Sarah Baker, or Lima 2. Both girls are being held at a small prison camp near the border. The best map we have of the area is shit, which is why Mr. Lee is here.”
The photos reached Raven, and he studied the faces of the young women. They looked…nice. Sweet. How the hell had two pretty girls ended up in a North Korean prison?
Black pointed at the Korean man across from Raven. “Lee here used to work at the prison before he defected to South Korea.”
Every helmeted head turned to Lee. Raven wasn’t one to judge; his own past wasn’t all roses and daffodils. But he could tell the rest of his team was unhappy about having a traitor in their midst, regardless of who he’d betrayed.
“What’s so special about these girls?” asked Staff Sergeant Billy Franks.
Black scowled, even though the question was a good one. “They’re American citizens and college students who went to Seoul for some human rights protest. They must’ve taken a wrong turn at the border, because Miss Baker and Miss Sarcone are now being held in a North Korea detention facility.”
“Hang on just a sec, Gunny,” Franks said. “Sarcone? Not any relation to Senator Mack Sarcone, is she?”
Black’s hesitation was answer enough, but he admitted, “She’s Senator Sarcone’s granddaughter.”
Raven could guess how the rest of the story went. Sarcone had pulled some strings, and now President Brandon Drake had authorized the Predators to drop in behind enemy lines to bring Sarcone’s granddaughter home.
There was a skeptical snort from the other end of the troop hold, and Black held up a gloved hand to silence his men.
“I know what you’re all thinking. But we’re Marines, and our job isn’t to question orders. Our job—our duty—is to extract our targets and bring them safely back to base. Got it?”
The Predators answered “Yes, Gunny!” in one voice.
Black held up the map he’d been studying earlier. “We believe Lima 1 and 2 are both being held here,” he said, stabbing the laminated paper. “There are three buildings in the compound, but our intel points to this one.”
“If we storm the wrong building, Senator Sarcone’s going to be really pissed,” Billy whispered.
Raven shook his head. He didn’t have many friends in the Marines besides Billy. The young man had a sense of humor and could do a killer impersonation of Sergeant Black that consistently earned him and Raven both extra laps and push-ups.
“Lee has given us a rundown of the defenses. He numbers hostiles at least two dozen soldiers armed with RPGs, .50 cals, and whatever else they’ve been able to get their hands on. We’ll take out the guard towers first with the M240 to clear a path. Then we split up and head in.”
Black pointed at Raven. “Staff Sergeants Spears and Franks, you’re with me on Alpha Team. Lee will guide us. Everyone else, you’re on Bravo Team with Staff Sergeant Nixon as lead.”
A few seats down, Nixon acknowledged the order with a nod of his large head. He looked ready to crush some North Korean skulls in his massive hands. Raven caught Billy’s nervous gaze and tried to give him a reassuring smile. The kid had been on plenty of missions with the Predators, but nothing like this. Hell, none of them had ever done something this crazy.
Maybe I shoulda stayed on the Rez, Raven thought. At least back on the Rosebud Reservation, the biggest threat had been whatever damn fool his sister was dating.
“We don’t believe the North Koreans know who Lima 1 is yet, otherwise they would have already moved the girls to a more secure facility. We’ve only got one shot at this. If we fail, these young women will be dead or locked up in some Pyongyang rat hole, which could escalate this situation into an all-out shit storm. President Drake wants this done ASAP, which means speed is more important than stealth. Understood?”
Mr. Lee, who had not yet said a word during the briefing, ran a finger across his throat as Black looked at his men individually.
“They kill us all if we get caught,” Lee said in halting English.
“Our Korean friend is right,” Black said. “He’ll lead us inside. The plan is to get the girls and get out as quickly as possible. Bravo team has the C4, and Nixon will be responsible for planting it.”
“They have my brother,” Lee said. “Put him in prison when I leave. We will get him and American girls.”
Command must have promised the former prison guard that they’d rescue his brother. Raven didn’t have the heart to tell him that his brother was at the bottom of their to-do list.
“Gunny,” Franks said, “just curious, but what happens when the Supreme Leader finds out the US was responsible for this raid?”
Black knitted his brows and very firmly said, “He won’t. ‘Cause there won’t be any evidence.”
Staff Sergeant Nixon nodded at that and patted the satchel holding the plastic explosives.
“Prepare for radio silence,” said one of the pilots over the comms. “We’re approaching the demilitarized zone.”
“Any questions?” Black asked.
Franks raised a hand tentatively, but he lowered it when Black looked away.
“That was one of those rhetorical-type questions,” Raven said with a chuckle. “Just stay close to me, rookie. I got your back.”
Final gear and weapons checks sounded as the Crew Chief, a corporal named Hendrickson, worked his way to the door. The dim light in the cargo bay was switched off, shrouding the team in complete darkness.
Raven listened to the rush of wind and low whoosh of rotors, waiting to flip his optics into position. In the pitch black of the early morning, he could only see outlines of the rolling mountains in the distance. There was a single light somewhere to the west. He had seen satellites images of the Korean Peninsula at night, and the whole country was almost completely dark north of the DMZ. It didn’t look much different as he gazed out from the Black Hawk.
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Be on the lookout for Nicholas Sansbury Smith's future release(s): The Hunted (Trackers 2) coming June 2017, Ghosts (Hell Divers 2) coming July 2017, Extinction Lost coming Summer 2017 and Extinction War coming November 2017
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