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May 5, 2017

The Hunted by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

The Hunted
The Hunted
by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Trackers Book Two

Another harrowing story of survival in a post-apocalyptic world… The deadly hunt continues…

Five days ago North Korea detonated three nuclear warheads over the United States, triggering an electromagnetic pulse that crippled the country. A second attack destroyed the nerve center of America in a nuclear blast that flattened the nation's capitol. As the government falls apart in the aftermath, the survivors must decide how far they will go to save the ones they love.

Police Chief Marcus Colton has struggled to maintain order in the isolated mountain town of Estes Park, Colorado, with the help of expert tracker Raven Spears and stranded pilot Major Nathan Sardetti. Together, they fought the evil terrorizing the town-but new threats are rising and old rivalries are coming to a head.

Charlize Montgomery, newly promoted to Secretary of Defense, is caught between loyalty to her country and love for her son, Ty. When the Marines sent to find Ty in Colorado discover a scene of unspeakable carnage, the straightforward rescue mission turns into a deadly chase as the hunters become the hunted.

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Thriller
Content/Theme(s): EMP, Military, SciFi, Suspense
Release Date: May 4, 2017
Publisher: High Caliber Press

Excerpt & More

Purchase link(s):  Amazon   B&N
Dr. Martha Kohler staggered down Highway 7, somewhere south of Rocky Mountain National Park, in a radiation suit she had constructed out of garbage bags. A pair of ski goggles and a scarf shielded her face, but she was all too aware that they wouldn’t be enough to block the radiation drizzling from the skies.

A nuclear blast had almost blinded her three nights ago, and the fireball had set fire to the surrounding forests. All around her were views of the apocalypse. Blackened evergreen trees swayed in the wind to the northeast, carrying the scent of burning pine needles. Flames engulfed an entire forest to the southwest, filling the sky with a wall of black smoke that choked out the sun.

When her car stalled out on the road, she’d been stranded. The National Guard soldiers had told her to stay put and wait for help. After two days, she decided to take action. Waiting meant dying. Running at least gave her a chance to reach help before it was too late.

Martha’s heart had been firing out of control since she had left her car. As a doctor, she knew what irradiation did to a human body. She had done everything she could to keep the radioactive material off her skin, but there was little she could do to stop breathing it into her lungs. A flimsy cotton scarf was no replacement for a CBRN suit.

The deep rattle of a cough rose in her throat. The sound seemed to echo in the quiet afternoon. She licked her cracked lips, desperate for a drink of water. A stream snaked along the left side of the road, but drinking the water would be a death sentence.

She slogged along, searching for supplies or someone to help her. She hadn’t seen another living person for three hours. Before that, a man had run from her, screaming nonsense about an alien invasion. Delirium was another sign of radiation sickness. For now, Martha’s mind seemed whole—but if it wasn’t, would she even know?

She’d seen plenty of bodies on the road over the past few days. Another victim lay ahead. The elderly man was on his back, hands twisted like a praying mantis. A second corpse, rigid from rigor mortis, lay a few feet from the man. The gray-haired woman was facing him, curled up in a fetal position. They had died within reach of one another.

At least they were together, Martha thought. She’d lost her husband to a heart attack ten years ago. Regrets surfaced in her mind. They always found a way of coming to a head when disaster struck, things she would have said or done differently during their marriage.

She sighed and pressed onward, even though stars were bursting before her vision. The journey was talking its toll, and she was only halfway to Denver. The soldiers had said to head that way to avoid radiation, but the bodies here told her she was still in the middle of the dead zone.

Reaching out, she steadied herself on the side of a mini-van. Over the howl of the wind came a faint, scratchy sound like someone was trying to clear their throat. Something moved inside the van. Martha peered inside the back window. Two small figures were huddled together in the back seat. A body was slumped against the steering wheel, and judging by the pale, blistered skin on its exposed arm, the kids were probably orphans.

She had been careful to avoid other people on the road. If anyone found out she possessed potassium iodide pills, which she carried in her medical bag, they would surely take them from her, maybe even hurt her to get them. But these kids weren’t going to hurt anyone, and she couldn’t just leave them here to die.

She scanned the road again. There was motion down the highway to the east, directly under a bridge. Several clusters of bodies rested beneath the overpass. Loose clothing rippled in the wind, but there was no sign of anything or anyone alive that way.

Satisfied, she opened the van door. The two kids reared back from her, their curly brown hair a disheveled mess.

“Don’t hurt us,” the boy sniffled.

Martha pulled down her scarf and pushed up her goggles so they could see her eyes. She could only imagine how terrifying she probably looked with the garbage bags covering most of her body. From a child’s eyes, she probably looked like an alien.

She summoned the same calm voice she used with kids at the beginning of a pediatric visit. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m here to help.”

“Can you help our papa?” the girl asked.

“Your father is sleeping,” Martha lied. She pulled a piece of duct tape away from her waist and reached to retrieve the bottle of pills from her pocket.

“I’m Doctor Martha Kohler, and I’m going to help you both feel better, okay?”

They just stared back.

“What are your names?” Martha asked.

The girl started sobbing, tears streaking down her red skin. The boy scratched at a sore on his cheek.

Martha unscrewed the lid and placed two pills in the palm of her glove. She managed a smile with her cracked, dry lips. “I want you two to take these. Okay? It will make you feel better.”

“Papa said to never take candy from a stranger,” the boy said. He rubbed at his bloodshot eyes and then squinted at her like he was looking into the sun.

“I’m a doctor, and this isn’t candy,” Martha said. “Didn’t your parents teach you to listen to doctors?”

The girl sniffled and dragged her sleeve across her nose while the boy slowly nodded.

“It’s okay, I promise,” Martha said, holding out the pills. “These will make you feel better.”

“Do you have any water?” asked the girl. “I’m really thirsty.”

Martha shook her head and held out her palm. She could see these kids had already been exposed to the radiation for a period of time. The pills helped block radioactive iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid gland, but they wouldn’t reverse what had already been absorbed. They needed water, and they needed protection from the radiation. She might be able to cut the tarp down and tape it around them, but it wasn’t an ideal solution.

First, though, she needed to get the children to trust her. She leaned in and mustered up a warm smile.

“How about we play a game?” she suggested. “Do you want to play a game?”

The boy tilted his head, his blue eyes brightening slightly.

“I do,” the girl said.

“No, Emma. Papa said we have to stay here until help comes.”

“I’m the help your father was talking about. Now, I know your name is Emma. What’s your name?” Martha said, looking at the boy.

“Micah,” he said shyly. His eyes flitted to the front seat. “Papa isn’t sleeping, is he?”

“I need you to take these pills,” she said, “and then we can play a game.”

The boy and girl both reached out and plucked them from her glove. Doubtfully, they examined the pills and then swallowed them with difficulty.

“Can I see that tarp?” Martha asked. “I need it to make you suits like mine to protect your skin.”

Micah hesitated but then pulled the plastic away. A fetid stench rolled out, confirming her fears. The kids were already sick. The initial symptoms of radiation poisoning were vomiting and diarrhea. Dehydration wouldn’t help matters. She needed to get these children clean water and medical care immediately.

“Come here,” she said, holding out her hand.

Emma and Micah scooted across the back seat, and Martha helped them both onto the road. It took her several minutes to carve up the tarp with her multi-tool, but when she was done she had enough pieces to wrap the children in makeshift suits.

“Hold up your arms,” Martha said.

The kids did as ordered, and she taped the plastic around them. Emma shivered in the wind, gooseflesh prickling over her arms.

“You ready?” Martha asked the kids.

They both nodded. She grabbed them each by the hand and guided them toward the stalled vehicles.

“Bye, Papa,” Emma said.

Micah was silent, but he looked over his shoulder several times as they walked away. Martha had to gently tug his hand to keep him moving.

“I’m sorry about your father, but he would want you to be safe,” she said.

A sniffle sounded behind her. She wasn’t sure if it was Micah or Emma.

If they started crying, they’d become even more dehydrated. Water wasn’t the only thing on her mind. She still needed to find a way to cover the children’s faces. She turned her attention to a Toyota Prius ahead, hurrying over with the kids in tow. A few of her friends drove Priuses, and all of them were the prepared type.

“Stay right here,” she said.

Micah and Emma remained at the bumper while Martha checked the front of the car. She opened the door and did a quick sweep of the dash and glove compartment. An empty bottle of raspberry tea was stuffed in the cup holder on the door. She climbed into the backseat and moved a blanket aside to reveal a pair of tennis shoes and a sweatshirt. There was a gym bag on the floor. She rifled through the contents and pulled out a nearly full water bottle.

For a moment, she just stared at the bottle. Then a natural smile formed on her face for the first time in days. She opened the back door, anxious to show the children. Smoke drifted across the road to the west. She clutched the bottle against her chest. The forest fire was shifting, but it wasn’t the flames she was worried about—it was the smoke. She couldn’t see through the black cloud creeping up on them.

Emma and Micah reached up for the bottle.

“Don’t drink it all at once,” Martha said.

Emma greedily gulped down the water anyway, a trail bleeding down her chin.

“Not all at once,” Martha repeated.

“Sorry,” Emma said. She handed it to her brother. He took several gulps and then handed it to Martha. She took a slow slug, licked her lips, and sealed the container. Then she placed it inside her suit, tucking it into her waistband.

Martha guided them onward, clutching Emma and Micah’s hands in the shifting winds. There were more bodies crumpled on the other side of the bridge ahead. There was no way to shield the children from the corpses, but nothing could be worse than watching their father die of radiation poisoning.

A faint whistling sounded over the gusting wind. It seemed to come and go as they walked. She listened for the sound again, catching it a moment later. Martha craned her neck to search for the source, but everything was shrouded in smoke. She turned back to the vehicles ahead. There were only two more before the bridge—a black sports car and a passenger van.

Halfway to the car, the rusty rattle of a motor vehicle rang out, stopping her mid-stride. The noise grew louder, clinking and clanking, and the cough of an engine joined the din. She pivoted back to the cloud of smoke. To the northeast, an army of skeletal trees jutted out of the hills like candles on a chocolate birthday cake. The frontage road twisting through the area was clear, with no sign of movement down the dirt path.

Was she hearing things? Was this the beginning of delirium?

She glanced down at the children and asked, “Do you hear that sound?”

They both nodded. “Sounds like a car,” Micah said.

Martha turned around just as a pickup truck broke through the wall of smoke. Several men wearing green CBRN suits stood in the bed of the vehicle. They were the same type of suits the National Guard men had been wearing.

Her instincts told her something was off. These men weren’t in a Humvee like those other soldiers.

Martha pulled the kids toward the black sports car and ducked behind the bumper. The pickup truck weaved around stalled cars, the tires screeching. Whoever these guys were, they were in a hurry.

“Are they going to help us?” Micah asked. He stood and looked around the car.

Martha pulled gently on his arm. “Be quiet,” she whispered.

The truck slowed, and Martha strained to hear their conversation over the clatter of the engine.

“Where’d you see those people?” one of the men asked, his voice distorted by his mask.

“Over there.”

Martha peeked around the bumper. The truck had slowed to a crawl. She glanced back over at the kids and said, “Get under the car and don’t come out until I tell you. Okay?”

The children stared back at her.

“Come on,” Martha said. “Doctor’s orders.”

She helped them crawl under the vehicle, and when they were safely hidden, she darted toward the van.

“There!” shouted a voice.

Martha halted and turned toward the pickup, praying her gut was wrong about these men. She held up her hands as the truck came to a stop. The passenger door opened and a soldier hopped out. The men in the bed angled assault rifles at Martha, forcing her throbbing heart into her throat. She squinted to see their features, but their faces were mostly obscured by their helmets.

“Stay where you are,” one of the riflemen said.
Purchase link(s):  Amazon   B&N
Other titles by Nicholas Sansbury Smith:
Book 1
Book 2
Book 3
Book 4
Book 5
Book 6
Book 6.5
The Biomass
Find Nicholas Sansbury Smith at:
Twitter: @greatwaveink
Nicholas Sansbury Smith on Tumblr
Nicholas Sansbury Smith Facebook page
Nicholas Sansbury Smith Goodreads author page
Nicholas Sansbury Smith Amazon author page
More Nicholas Sansbury Smith on Cover Reveals

Be on the lookout for Nicholas Sansbury Smith's future release(s): Ghosts (Hell Divers 2) coming July 2017, The Storm (Trackers 3) coming Oct 2017, Extinction War coming Nov 2017, and Deliverance (Hell Divers 3) coming in 2018

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