Following this introduction is Chapter 1 of Sullivan's War: Book II - A City without Walls. If you like action-packed science fiction, you will love Sullivan's War! The series has been receiving rave reviews on Amazon and has been a regular inhabitant of Amazon's Bestsellers in Science Fiction Series list. If you enjoy this preview, please consider purchasing Book II from Amazon or Barnes & Noble (links here). If you've yet to read Book I, links to purchase it can be found here.
Trenton was a miserable place. So miserable that not even the corporate mining interests would touch it. They had touched it at one time, briefly, just long enough to build a habitation and mining complex that covered twelve square kilometers. And they had touched it just long enough to let two thousand men and women die when the planet’s highly unstable tectonic plates shifted, destroying a quarter of that complex as the planet’s surface split apart and lava flowed up through the fissure and into the streets.
They could send automated machines, steel behemoths that could mine and process fifteen tons of rock per hour, but their accountants had convinced them that it wasn’t worth the risk. The loss of a dozen machines would break any mining interest. The loss of two thousand men had been quite a bit less costly. No, there were other worlds to exploit. It was best not to risk it.
Because of this, all this and a dozen other reasons, Harvey cursed under his breath when he saw the tracking data on the stolen freighter. It had left Damaris after Richard Sullivan had stolen it and, presumably, killed its owner, a freight runner named Oscar Jones. Then the ship had disappeared. It was only a matter of time before it would turn up again, though. Harvey had been waiting ever since, waiting for a probe or any other passing ship to pick up the freighter’s identification signal. It was finally detected by a private ship that had done a fly-by over Trenton. They were sight-seeing, looking at the impressive lava flows, but when their ship flew within range of the freighter it had silently logged the ID signal, as was routine, then uploaded that information to Damaris’s planetary database upon its return.
Harvey had flagged the ID signal and when the freighter’s location finally reached him he was ready to go within six hours. He didn’t know what Sullivan was doing on that god-forsaken world but he hoped he’d still be doing it long enough for Harvey to find him.
Harvey had cursed again when he and Ross arrived at Trenton. He’d never been there but the sight was overwhelming. It was a Mars-sized rock covered in a thick atmosphere. It had boasted life a million years ago but now the tectonic shifts, the eruptions and the continent-wide lava flows had killed off all but the simplest of microbes. It was technically a moon, not a planet, orbiting a gas giant that shared the same sun as Damaris. Sullivan had not gone far. It was clear he wanted to keep close to Damaris for some reason. Harvey didn’t much care why.
As Harvey’s ship dipped below the cloud layer and the forbidding surface came into view, a notice popped up on the screen in front of him. The freighter’s ID signal had been detected. Sullivan was still here, or at least the ship was.
Harvey programmed the ship to touch down near the freighter. “Alright,” he said, turning to Ross. “You ready for this?”
Ross, in response, tapped the firearm at his side and smiled.
“Good.” Harvey checked his own gear. “But if we’re lucky, he’ll already be dead. It would mean no bounty, but I have a bad feeling about this one.”
Rebreathers weren’t absolutely necessary on Trenton but Harvey and Ross wore them anyway. Keeping clean air in their lungs would help them if they had to confront Sullivan.
They touched down in a landing zone next to the freighter. This part of the complex had been one of the industrial sections. Massive warehouses lined the streets in each direction. This was where the minerals extracted from the ore had been transferred to ships for transport off-world.
Ross scanned the freighter and the area around it. There were no life signs. Cautiously, he and Ross exited their ship. A lack of life signs didn’t necessarily mean anything; bioshrouds were technically illegal but Sullivan could have easily picked one up on Damaris. That planet wasn’t a member of the Stellar Assembly and the legality or illegality of devices like bioshrouds didn’t concern them too terribly.
Harvey approached the stolen freighter, gun drawn. The number written across the side of the hull in white matched the number Harvey had on record. This was definitely Oscar Jones’s ship. Harvey knew Jones had been the man who’d smuggled Sullivan off of Earth after Sullivan had killed the assemblymen. Why Sullivan would, almost a year later, track down and kill Jones wasn’t known. Harvey didn’t much care about that either. The death of Jones only meant that Harvey’s bounty would be bigger. The Stellar Assembly paid good money for multiple murderers.
After searching the freighter, Harvey and Ross entered one of the warehouses. There was nothing in it. A search of several of the other structures revealed those to be empty as well. The mining company had kept men on the ground long enough after the disaster to make sure all the equipment was loaded onto ships and taken off-world.
Harvey took out his tablet and studied a map of the mining complex. If Sullivan was still alive he’d be in the residential zone. Despite the company’s removal of all their equipment, Trenton had been abandoned hastily after the accident. There would probably still be a fair amount of canned and dehydrated food left in the miners’ apartments.
Slowly, deliberately, Harvey and Ross made their way to the residential zone. Harvey studied his bioscanner carefully every few meters. Even if Sullivan did have a bioshroud they didn’t always function perfectly. Contraband items weren’t necessarily manufactured to exacting standards and all Harvey needed was a temporary glitch for Sullivan to register as a blip on the scanner.
Ross didn’t need any such gadgets. He’d been Harvey’s right-hand man for six years and the bounty hunter’s ability to sense his prey was uncanny. Harvey could count a dozen perps that would have gotten away if Ross hadn’t been with him. There were two or three more that would have taken Harvey’s life if Ross hadn’t been watching his back.
So when Ross held up a fist as they entered the residential zone, Harvey halted. He followed as Ross silently padded up to the side of an apartment building and ducked into the building’s entryway.
Harvey lifted his rebreather from his nose and mouth. “What is it?”
“This building. I saw movement in a fourth floor window.”
Harvey looked through the glass doors of the apartment building. Aside from a thick layer of dust, the lobby looked as it might have when the miners and their families had lived here. But the dust revealed that someone had been here more recently than that. A trail of footprints led from the doorway to what Harvey assumed was the stairwell. The elevator wouldn’t be operational, of course. There was no power in the city.
Harvey scanned the lobby. “Alright,” he said. “I’ll go around and find a back exit and make sure there’s not another way up. You watch the main stairwell from here. I’ll let you know if I find a way inside. If I do, take a position just to the side of the stairwell door. If I don’t, I’ll meet you back here.”
Ross nodded and drew his gun. Harvey hugged the side of the building as he made his way around it, watching the windows above him. He arrived at the rear of the building and found the emergency exit. He pulled at the handle. Locked. He continued on around the building to make sure there were no other doors. He rounded back to the main street, took another glance at the windows above him and made his way back to the front entrance.
Ross wasn’t there. Harvey peered into the lobby. There was no sign of his partner. Harvey hadn’t signaled, so Ross should have stayed put. No, Ross would have stayed put. The only thing that would have moved Ross from his position would have been Sullivan. Sullivan must have come down the stairs; Ross must have seen him and taken chase.
Harvey drew his gun and opened the door to the lobby. Once inside he could more clearly see Ross’s boot prints in the dust leading toward the stairwell. Harvey traced those steps and peered through the small square window of the stairwell door. All clear. He pulled open the door and winced as the hinges creaked. He opened it just enough to slip through then held it so it closed quietly behind him.
A central shaft ran down the stairwell. Looking up it he could see the top floor ten, maybe twelve, stories up. He watched carefully for any movement on the stairs before cautiously making his way up.
Ross had to be in the stairwell. He would have followed Sullivan until he exited onto one of the floors. Ross would have then waited for Harvey in the stairwell before pursuing Sullivan further.
Harvey worked his way up the stairwell. When he reached the halfway point between the ninth and tenth floors he then knew that Ross wasn’t in the stairwell. For some reason he had pursued Sullivan into one of the dark corridors alone.
The fourth floor. That’s where Ross had seen the movement, so that’s where Harvey would look for Ross. He thought about radioing his partner but decided against it. If Ross was close to Sullivan, Harvey didn’t want to give away his position. Worse, if Sullivan had gotten ahold of Ross’s earpiece… no. That wasn’t possible. Sullivan, from what Harvey had read, was good. But Ross was better.
Harvey inched opened the door to the fourth floor. Thankfully, this one didn’t squeak. The corridor was almost completely dark, illuminated only by the light coming in through two or three open doors. Harvey came to the first open door and peered inside. It was a small but comfortable apartment. A love seat sat facing a holographic projector. To the right a kitchenette looked out over a counter into the living room.
Harvey cleared the living room then approached the open door of the bedroom. As he peered in he heard a faint noise behind him. He made a quarter of a turn but before he could fully bring himself around something struck the back of his head. Harvey reeled from the blow and landed hard against the wall. He used his momentum to push back against the wall as he landed and flung himself at his attacker. It was too dark for him to see the man clearly but there was only one person it could be: Richard Sullivan.
Harvey barreled into Sullivan with his shoulder, knocking the gun from his hand. He used his weight to try and land hard on Sullivan as he fell but Sullivan managed to roll away. Harvey’s knee struck the floor, sending a bolt of agony through his leg.
As Harvey was temporarily incapacitated by the pain, Sullivan retrieved his gun and pistol-whipped Harvey across the side of the head. Harvey went down. He struggled to maintain consciousness but lost. The dim light in the apartment faded even further and then all was black.
I hope you enjoyed this preview of Sullivan's War: Book II - A City without Walls. Please follow these links to purchase the books in the Sullivan's War series.
Sullivan's War: Prologue - Sergeant Riley's Account This stand-alone novella doesn't directly involve the Sullivan's War story line but it is a great introduction to Rick Sullivan's universe.
Sullivan's War: Book III - Edaline's Dawn Coming in May, 2012!