As the group continued to wade through the desert, High Priestess Isis increased her pace. She pulled up beside Samia. They walked in silence for a moment. Isis waited for the Hunt Leader to acknowledge her, but she never did. Isis was the first to speak.
“I said nothing before in front of the others, but how long do you want to continue this? We both know who is really in charge.”
Samia grunted, “I wasn’t kidding. I lead this Hunt, and will continue until our city is retaken.”
The High Priestess paused in her step but quickly recovered. She tried another tactic. “So what are we hunting?”
Samia stopped walking and looked hard at her. “Not ‘what’ but ‘who.’ This Hunt will continue until we see Lilith’s head on a pike for what she’s done.”
Maani was beside them now, sensing that her sister needed backup. “Well, said, sister. We will see Lilith’s head on a pike.”
High Priestess Isis lowered her head. The words of Bast echoed in her mind. A true leader knows how to follow.
Isis nodded and moved back to walk with the others.
Behind the group Zahra raised her voice. “We should angle north. We are near a Union outpost.”
Amaunet laughed. “After facing the army that attacked our city, what is a small Union outpost? They stay behind their shield, anyway.”
The group of hunters murmured their agreement. Isis counted them off. There were seventeen hunters, including Samia and Maani. The battle priestess, Meri, rode atop the manticore along with Char. She shivered as she thought of their perverted bond.
It was sad that Amaunet was the only Raven to remain. She was walking and talking with Kerr. He had saved her life in the battle. Strange, that. A man saving a woman. It sounded like the opening of a joke.
The Cheetah had fared a bit better. Two of them had survived. Zahra and Thoeris walked together, apart from the others. She was honored to have their two best fighters guarding their flank.
They were such a small group. How would they retake the city with such a tiny army?
Up ahead was the Union outpost and its’ glowing green energy shield. From this close, she could see that the shield was made up of interlocking green grids, each in the shape of a giant hexagon. Nothing could get through. Her women had tried in the past. It was like a giant turtle sitting out in the desert wasteland. She found it better to ignore them. They kept to themselves.
Nicko flashed his white fangs, “Strap in, big guy. We’re about to do this. Countdown commence! TEN!”
Liam growled, throwing himself into the captain’s chair. It protested under his considerable weight. Nicko was strapped into the navigation chair, but both legs were hanging over the arms. He looked like he was lounging even when he was tied down. “Hold on, little buddy! I need a couple second…”
“There’s no time! We need to launch before the next guards come on duty. EIGHT!”
Liam clicked the belt down around him and squinted through the windshield. The massive docking bay doors were rumbling open. Beyond, the green energy shield glimmered. His brain calculated the mass of the ship and the force that would be required to punch through the shield.
Nicko was flipping switches and punching buttons. All the while, he was continuing his maniacal countdown.
“SIX! What’s up, Liam? FIVE!”
Liam nodded his head toward the bay opening. “What was your plan to get through the energy shield?”
“THREE! I don’t know. TWO! I thought you ONE! would think of something!” He screamed, “LIFTOFF!”
The acceleration pushed Liam back into his seat.
Zahra trotted around them to scout ahead. She took a couple steps and then froze, staring at the Union outpost.
Behind her, the other women followed her gaze one by one.
“Huh,” said Shukura, standing beside her. “What are they doing?”
A small ship launched from the outpost. It was quickly approaching the energy shield.
“Shouldn’t the shield be opening to let it out?” One of the hunters asked the question they all thought.
The craft was drawing closer and closer to the energy shield. There were murmurs among the onlookers. Would it crash?
At the last moment, the ship banked to the side, and the women saw guns flash and missiles fire. Both exploded against the shield. There was no apparent effect.
“They are trying to escape!”
Amaunet raised her bow, “Any enemy of the Union is a friend of mine! Ladies, focus your fire on the same part of the shield. Maybe we can weaken it.”
Kerr chuckled. “With bows and arrows?”
Amaunet turned her head to glare at him. Her voice sounded like she was lecturing a child. She had to be patient and remember that he was just a man. “When I pray, God, my god, gives light to my arrow. It is no longer a weapon made by humans. It is a weapon of pure light from the almighty. It flies as light. It penetrates as light.”
“So… you can fire lasers.”
Amaunet grunted, not acknowledging the silly word.
Around her, women raised their bows. As whispers of prayer filled the air, arrows shimmered with light.
She whispered her own prayer, and her arrow hummed. Angry light hummed. She released the arrow of light and it whistled away.
The LENS in Kerr’s eye magnified his vision. He watched the arrow as it flashed and struck the shield in a blink of an eye. The energy shield crackled where the arrow hit. A red color overlayed his vision, and words scrolled across his vision.
SHIELD INTEGRITY: 99%
Kerr firmed his lip. “I stand corrected,”
“Fire there! Where the tiles of the shield come together, the shield is weak.” Around them, all of the other women let fly with their arrows. The air was filled with the flashes of light.
SHIELD INTEGRITY: 87%
This might work.
“We’re sitting ducks here!” Liam was screaming. He was terrified. He hated flying. He hated being shot down even more. “Our weapons don’t do anything to that shield!”
Nicko was busy picking lint off his uniform. He glanced up. “Why don’t you concentrate your fire where those other explosions are coming from?”
Was he insane? “What other explosions?! Are we on the same ship? I don’t see any other…”
Liam’s voice trailed off. There were other explosions, coming from outside the shield. Liam didn’t question his luck. He banked hard toward the new explosions and opened fire with all of his guns.
“Keep it up, ladies!” Amaunet was a battle leader again. Her voice carried loud over the group, “Fire! FIRE!”
Energy arrows filled the air with a symphony of whistles.
Kerr smiled as the readout on his vision continued to drop.
SHIELD INTEGRITY: 46%
Inside the shield, Kerr could see the ship turn and fire at the same spot. Now the number on his eye was dropping faster.
SHIELD INTEGRITY: 32%
Another light flashed in the air. Kerr turned to see Char had begun to project energy from his hands, as well. That boy seems to have some serious control over energy.
SHIELD INTEGRITY: 26%
The getaway ship was barreling toward the energy shield, lasers firing. Kerr bit his bottom lip. Would it be enough?
The manticore let out a screech and took to the air. In three flaps of his wings, he was hovering near the energy shield. It opened its’ mouth wide, and a stream of green, bubbling liquid hit the shield in a torrent.
SHIELD INTEGRITY: 12%
Now Kerr could see a crack beginning to form. It wasn’t visible to the naked eye, but he could see it. The shield was weakening.
SHIELD INTEGRITY: 5%
Was it enough? The energy shield started to flicker. Kerr could see a crack in the energy shield, like a broken pane of glass.
With a crunch of metal, the ship struck the energy shield. Kerr winced. It sounded and felt like he was watching an automobile accident. There was a fireball explosion. The craft shot from the flames.
Kerr realized he had been clenching his fists.
The ship was pointed down. It was no longer flying, it was falling.
“We’re going down!” shouted the Borg. “Better brace for impact!”
Liam pulled hard on the controls of the ship, but to little effect. They were, indeed, going to crash. Liam slowed the feed of his video down. It was a trick he had learned when he needed to process extra information.
The desert under him slowed to a crawl. Would it soften their crash? They were passing over a hill. He tried to match the downward angle. It was the best he could do.
The cheers of the women turned to murmurs as they watched the ship disappear from view. A sickening sound of twisting metal reached their ears.
They broke into a run.
It’s been many MANY years, but I am writing again. I feel good. It feels right. I am writing out on Medium, too. I will eventually make money, but I’m under no illusion that it will be quick. I’ve heard it takes nearly a year to start getting traction. Until then, it’s all about consistency. I need to get into a daily habit.
I was so pumped when book one launched, and then it was crickets. I was sooo disappointed. I hung up my typewriter for awhile. It all just seemed like a waste. I have since learned that it is common for a first book to fail.
I’m normal, y’all.
And, looking back, the writing of my first book is not that great. When I finish book two and start to accumulate a following, I will re-edit book one so that the “voice” matches. Then I will write book three online.
Here’s my big master plan: Have a big following online and THEN publish the trilogy on Amazon. I should have done it that way first, but I’m learning, here. I should create a course on all this… assuming it’s a hit.
At the end of book one, I wrote a long writer’s note. I told everybody (all three of you) that I was engaged. I have since gotten married. That was January of 2019. She is still working in Rome while I process her VISA application so she can come here. Anyway, sign up for my mailing list to get announcements of the next instalments!
Did you miss the last instalment? Here ya go!