Authors: Lloyd Tackitt
Table of Contents
Copyright © 2013 by Lloyd Tackitt. All rights reserved.
First Kindle Edition: 2013
Cover and Formatting:
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
n the first of this series – “A Distant Eden” - Adrian Hunter was orphaned at an early age and raised by his uncle Roman and aunt Sarah. On graduation from high school he joined the army. His large size and athletic build, along with a keen sense of duty and abnormally high IQ caused him to be quickly recruited into special operations. Several years into his military career, while stationed at Fort Hood, a huge coronal mass ejection from the sun wiped out the world’s electric grids.
The army, being unable to feed its soldiers, discharged the vast majority of the military. Left to make it on his own Adrian and several of his fellow team-mates walked to Fort Brazos (as it was to become known) where Roman lived. Roman was a prepper, had been most of his life, and had created a survivable environment. Roman was exceedingly glad to have Roman and his troops on board. After many adventures and a war with a neighboring but hostile faction, Adrian settled down at Fort Brazos and married.
In the second book of the series - “Adrian’s War” - his wife, a doctor, soon died from a plague disease from a patient she treated. Adrian, heartbroken, set off on his own on a journey. He’d believed that by moving to the Rocky Mountains he could live a life of solitude. But as soon as he arrived he became embroiled in a war with a group of cannibalistic raiders.
In the third book - “Eden’s Hammer” - Adrian returned to Fort Brazos after a call for help from Roman. A large band of vicious raiders were heading directly for Fort Brazos and Adrian created a militia, trained them, and took on the raiders. He became involved in not just a war with the raiders, but a personal war as well.
The fourth book – “Eden’s Warriors” – describe a situation that Adrian gets into that propels him into a leadership role he never wanted, but performed out of a sense of duty. Adrian was forced to grow in ways he never dreamed of.
This fifth book is a culmination of the series. Adrian is thrust into an even larger role, again one he doesn’t want, but is duty bound to carry out. He reluctantly grows into the role, and takes on a responsibility larger than any he had ever, even in his worst nightmares, thought he would have to take on.
his book is dedicated to my family and the many loyal fans of this series. To my wonderful wife, my children, my brother and sisters and nephews and nieces. If it wasn’t for their constant encouragement it would never have been written.
I have also been blessed to receive a continual stream of encouraging emails and reviews, those readers too helped write this book, in more ways than I can enumerate. Thank you to each and every one of you.
ace gently squeezed the trigger. She was too focused to feel the slight recoil as the .223 bullet left the barrel at three-thousand-five-hundred feet per second. She didn’t hear the loud roar of the expanding gases leaving the barrel behind the bullet either. She was too intently focused on her target, a portion of the man’s head protruding from behind a tree limb, for sensations to register. Her eyes were locked on the front sight and the man’s head, the back sight more of a blur.
As the hot gasses exited the barrel there was a micro-second of heat bloom that distorted her vision of the target, but the distortion disappeared immediately and she saw the red mist that blossomed behind the man as the bullet entered, expanded, and exited the back of his head, blowing out bone, brain tissue, and blood in a spray of fine particles.
One down, three to go.
She had tracked the four men for two days. A Texas Ranger, Race and her wolf, Bear, were at the end of a six-week rotation of solo patrols, and had been on their way home for a much-needed rest when their path crossed the raiders’ trail.
The newly re-established Texas Rangers were not much like their original’s name sake. Or maybe they were but only in the original Ranger’s earliest days. The new Republic of Texas was in desperate need of law and order, but it also needed to make a fast and decisive cut into the number of criminals roaming the countryside at will. The new republic was still woefully short of formal law proceedings.
The new Rangers – unofficially called Race’s Rangers where the female Rangers were concerned – operated in several different modes. There were solo excursions such as Race was currently on, “Patrols” or trio-teams, where three Rangers worked together, and occasionally full size “Companies” of ten. Periodically the Rangers would team up with a local militia when the size of the operation required it.
Race had been heading back to Fort Brazos when Bear suddenly took off in a different direction. A full-grown, adult wolf, raised and trained by Race’s adoptive father, Adrian, Bear weighed almost one-hundred pounds of sleek muscle and tough sinew. He enjoyed the hunt, and accompanied Race wherever she went.
Knowing Bear’s keen senses, Race followed and soon came across two bodies – a man and woman in the front yard of a small ranch. The house had been ransacked, and a clear trail of hoof prints led away from the property. One of the disadvantages of traveling by horse was that they left easily-seen prints, not that Bear would have had any trouble finding them anyway.
Adrian had explained to the first Ranger graduating class that formal law and order could come only after the bad guys were cut down to a manageable size. At present there were far too many outlaws to try to bring them into the few courts for trial; at present imposing law and order was not a police action but a war. Thus each Ranger would be judge, jury, and executioner in the interim. “Because of this” he explained “It is imperative that you take all possible precautions to be sure of your verdict before passing and executing sentence.” Race had no problem judging these four men on the evidence she had found, and she was more than sure of their guilt based on that evidence. Now she was executing the sentence.
This wasn’t her first “trial” on this trip. Hopefully, it would be the last before she got home to rest. Living under the stars might sound romantic, but in practice, she had learned, it was grueling and exhausting.
She had followed the men and caught up to them in their night camp. Hobbling her own horse a sufficient distance from the camp to avoid discovery, she and Bear scouted the area and then chose her location carefully. She had a clear field of fire, while having some large rocks for cover from return fire. The men were in a mostly open area that didn’t afford them much cover, and if they ran she could easily pick them off before they could get out of range. She chose her first target because he was already behind cover – although he had no idea of her presence, he just happened to be leaning against the off-side of a tree while relieving himself. The other three men were still in their bedrolls, the sun barely up. After the first shot, she calmly traversed the rifle sight to the second man and fired, then the third. The first man hadn’t had time to react, the third sat up rapidly but wasn’t clear on what was happening, and after she pulled the trigger he never would. The fourth man leapt to his feet and ran for the tree where she had shot the first man. An easy shot, he didn’t make it halfway.
Race rode into Fort Brazos three days later, leading the four recovered horses, Bear surging out in front. She was exhausted, filthy, and dreaming of a hot bath, a hot meal and a soft bed, in that order. The sentry had sent a runner to alert Adrian of Race’s approach, and Adrian was waiting for her at the barricade. Bear ran up to Adrian and powered into him at full speed. Adrian, barley rocked back by the one-hundred pound wolf missile, gathered him up in his arms and held him as easily as a baby.
Race slid out of the saddle and scratched at her matted hair. “Appears Bear missed you, he must be tired of my company.”
“You look like hell.” Adrian said with a grin.
“Yeah, well… I look better than the killers I found.” She scratched at her hair some more, “Do you want a report right now?” The expression on her face said that she would prefer to let that wait.
“Nope, just wanted to welcome you back, and see my dog.” Adrian put Bear down and stepped forward and gave Race a hard hug. She nearly disappeared in his embrace; Adrian was a huge man, easily filling a doorway with his six-foot-four inch two-hundred-eighty-pound muscular bulk. “Damn Race, you been rolling around in dead animals or something? You smell like shit. Let’s get to the house, Linda’s running a hot bath for you. Said it’d be the first thing you’d want. It’s damn sure the first thing you
.” He said with a big smile that took the sting off the words.
Race melted into the hug and returned it just as hard. She was happy to be home. She loved Adrian like a father, and had adopted him as one. “You married a damn smart woman General Bear. That’s exactly what I want right now,” she said, using the nickname Adrian had been given by the settlers because he’d once killed a huge grizzly bear with a flint-tipped spear. The settlers had later added the title of General after Adrian led them in several battles against raiders.
“How about dinner after you get cleaned up? I think we can rustle something up. Then off to the guest room for a good long sleep and you can make your report tomorrow, unless there’s something urgent.” Adrian turned to the sentry and said “I’ll send someone for the horses.”
“Nothing urgent, just the usual.” Race said, fatigue in her voice.
Adrian walked her back to his and Linda’s home, the large log house that the citizens of Fort Brazos had built for them after the battle of Del Rio – a large home suitable for the President of the newly formed Republic of Texas and First Lady. Bear had already gone to the house, racing ahead of them.
Linda met them at the door. Sarah greeted her far more gently than he had Adrian. She took one long, smiling look at Race, eyeing her from feet to matted hair, noticing the heavily stained clothing and overall look of exhaustion. “I’m so happy you’re back healthy and safe! The bath is ready, just go straight in. I’ll bring fresh clothes in a few minutes. Soak as long as you want to. Then when you’re done soaking take a long hot shower – the solar tank is full and the water is nearly scalding hot.”
Race gave a charmingly bright smile back to Linda, not missing the fact that Linda hadn’t told her she looked like hell and smelled like shit like Adrian had. Linda’s manners were always impeccable. Race noticed that Linda didn’t move to give her a hug though.
, Race thought with an inner smile.
“Linda, you are grace personified.” Race replied, then happily headed for the bathroom.
She entered the large bathroom, took her rifle off her shoulder, and stood it in a corner. Unlike its owner, the rifle was extremely clean. She next unbuckled the belt that held her knife and pistol and looped it over a towel rack, then sat on the edge of the tub and removed her boots. Following Adrian’s training she had washed her feet and changed socks at least every day and sometimes more. Her feet were the cleanest part of her body at the moment. It was the most basic and fundamental training he had given her, taking care of her feet so that they didn’t get into a condition that would cripple her in the field.
Good old infantry basics.
She had seen examples of how important that advice was.
Race removed the stiff and grimy camouflage fatigues, tossing them into a pile near the door.
Too far gone to wash, almost stiff enough to stand on their own
. Her clothes were stained with every kind of matter imaginable, including blood.
Probably where that dead animal smell came from.
Race removed her undergarments and looked down at the slim muscular build of an eighteen-year-old athlete. The only imperfection were the scars.
As Race stretched out in the hot soapy water a heartfelt sigh escaped her lips
. Bliss, pure and absolute bliss.
There was a quiet knock on the door, and then Linda entered, exchanging fresh clothes for Race’s soiled ones. She smiled at Race. “Doesn’t get any better than that does it?”
Race just nodded in agreement and closed her eyes as Linda left the room.
She lay in the hot water, not moving, just enjoying. She thought back to the days when she was a young girl and a hot bath didn’t seem at all special, back before she was thirteen, when the huge solar storm blasted the earth with a coronal mass ejection, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since 1859, and probably not even then. The monster had fried the power grids in every advanced country on the planet. Starvation and disease had killed off most of the human population over a period of months following the grid dropping. By the time she was fourteen her family was dead, and she was only a few days away from dying of starvation herself when she was taken prisoner and forced into prostitution. She had endured that for three horrible years until the very happy day Adrian had rescued her and fifteen other girls from the predators that held them as slaves.
Lying in the luxury of the hot soapy water Race recalled when she first saw Adrian, dropping off Lila and Rita – two young girls he had rescued from kidnappers just a few days before, believing that the establishment was an orphanage for girls. Race smiled as she recalled trying to warn Adrian with eye signals and facial gestures not to leave the girls there, trying to signal him without her captors seeing her do it. Later Adrian told her that at first he thought she wasn’t right in the head. But he had become suspicious enough to return that night and had seen what was really going on. He killed the slavers, then took all of the girls away from that awful place. She had torched it when they left.
She smiled broadly as she recalled Adrian’s consternation at realizing he had saddled himself with, and had become responsible for, sixteen young girls. Adrian didn’t have a clue what to do with a group of girls, so he ended up doing exactly what he would have done if they had been boys. He spent several weeks training the girls to live off the land, and in basic combat techniques. Over time he turned them into a self-sufficient and lethal team. It was his only way of giving them independence, of teaching them how to survive in this new harsh world. How to stop being victims.
It had worked far better than he had anticipated. The girls, used to being treated harshly by adults, especially men, adopted Adrian as their father, to his gradual but eventual delight. It took Adrian a long time to get used to the idea. He was a trained killer, had been a soldier in the army, had been sent on scores of special operations missions. Being a father figure to a group of young girls was a challenge he had never dreamed of facing – one he found daunting, even scary at times.
After the battle of Del Rio and becoming the President of the new Republic of Texas – another position he didn’t want – Adrian created a military style academy at Fort Brazos for orphans, and installed the girls as its first class.
He re-established the Texas Rangers, and the students that graduated from the military-style academy could automatically join the Rangers, if they chose to. Race and most of the girls that Adrian rescued chose to. All of the orphan boys that found their way to the academy joined without exception. At first Adrian had intended that the school’s graduates wait until the age of twenty-one to become Rangers; but in this post-grid world children had to mature faster than they had in the pre solar storm civilized world.
Within a short time Adrian relented and allowed Race to join at the age of eighteen, mostly because Race was far more mature than her years would indicate, and because she harassed him constantly on the subject.
Where in the world would I have been without Adrian? Still a slave or even more likely – dead
As Race put on the fresh clothes she worried about Adrian. He had been drafted into becoming the President of the Republic of Texas even though he didn’t want the job, and over the past year it had been apparent he still didn’t want it – but was doing it in spite of his reluctance. It had also become apparent that Adrian had become the de-facto President of the former United States, such as they were these days, and that a looming threat from across the ocean was weighing heavily on his mind. Because Texas had the only regulated democratic government in the former USA, the military looked to him as its civilian Commander in Chief. He wasn’t quick to smile anymore, and was often lost in long silences of deep thought, eyes open but not seeing his surroundings. Race could only wonder at what he