Saturday, 24 March 2018

New Releases, Audiobooks and an Early Easter Sale!



One Summer in Montmartre audiobook is live! I thought about doing an audiobook for a long time, but hesitated to take the plunge. However, after a reviewer's encouragement (thank you, Steve!) I finally went for it. As my first audiobook it was a real learning curve, but I’m thrilled with the final result. One Summer in Montmartre was also the first book I published on Amazon in 2014 and has a special place in my heart. There's also a large print version for those who are visually impaired but still enjoy reading. 

Here’s the blurb:
Paris 1873: Despite being a devoted husband and father, Luc Marteille, a charismatic Impressionist artist, becomes obsessed with his young model, Hélène. Flattered by his attentions, she becomes torn between Luc and her fiancé; and faces a decision that could destroy the lives of everyone around them.
Paris, 2007: Grieving over the death of her son, and with her marriage in trouble, Anna's life is falling apart. When a long-hidden love letter is discovered in the back of her favorite painting, she seizes the opportunity to go to Paris. Intending to research Hélène, the mysterious recipient of the letter, she is thrown together with the arrogant François. Dependent on his help, Anna realizes the tension between them is attraction. Should she continue a lifetime of playing it safe or listen to her heart?
 
You can download the audiobook as one of two books in a free trial with Audible: 



I hadn't planned to publish another new book this week, but I recently pulled together and polished some short stories I’d written, and my marvelous editor returned them sooner than expected. So I'm thrilled that my first short story collection, Untender Lives, is live!
 


Here’s the blurb:
Five compelling stories about five women who face very different challenges—some more common, some less so. From a young rock singer, who wonders if her dream of success is about to disappear, to a billionaire, who’s looking for a shortcut to salvation, this entertaining mix of genres is perfect for a quick read.
The book is now available at all amazon stores and free with Kindle Unlimited. 



And last, but by no means least...an EARLY EASTER SALE!!

If you want to grab a bunch of my books to read immediately or over the Easter break, now’s the time to go for it. From today Saturday 24th March to 26th March the following books are free or part of a kindle countdown deal.  

Happy Easter reading!

To download:  go to your country's amazon page, type in Teagan Kearney in the search box, click on the book(s) you want, and when you arrive on the book's page, download and enjoy!

This weekend, the following books are FREE :



The following two books are part of KIndle Countdown Deals:
The Kala Trilogy countdown deal starts 24th March. One Summer in Montmartre countdown starts 25th March.
Both books are 99 cents the first day.




That's all for now, folks. I'm off to start Book Three of the Saoirse Saga, and in the meantime, a genuine thank you for your invaluable support. Have a great Easter break.

Stay well, keep reading and best wishes,
Teagan.



Monday, 5 March 2018

New Release! Yay!


ANCESTRAL SECRETS is LIVE!!



Ancestral Secrets is now available on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited for those who subscribe to that program. Yay! The last few days have been hectic, and at one point I wasn’t sure I’d make my deadline, (I’ll spare you the details and myself some embarrassment) but somehow everything has come together.
Early reviewers of Hekate’s Chalice, the first in the series, asked for more relationship development between the characters so, although there’s a crime to solve, I’ve tried to satisfy readers in this respect. Here’s the blurb:
Blackmail, double dealing and dubious secret organizations. Solving one problem one is doable for the Adept Solutions crew but dealing with all three will be a challenge.
Someone is blackmailing three of the most powerful citizens in Tropolis; the mayor, a master vampire and a ruthless crime boss, and all three have hired the Adept Solutions agency to find the perpetrator.
Unfortunately JB's investigative team are not at full strength. Jason is in thrall to Zhanna, the faerie, Nikki's worried about her new husband cheating on her and JB's father is dying. He's also distracted by his new relationship with Gemma, the fourth member of the group. Added to the mix, two secret organizations, with conflicting agendas, have surfaced in the city.
Can the team put their personal difficulties aside, track down the blackmailer and outwit their rivals before their clients' secrets are revealed?
If you like cozy mysteries interwoven with entertaining doses of magic and humor, then you’ll love this urban fantasy novella, and if you haven’t read any of the series, Hekate’s Chalice, Book One is free to download - click the Newsletter Sign Up tab at the top of the page to receive your free copy. 
In the meantime, keep reading, stay well and best wishes,
Teagan,

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

January Bonanzas!


January Bonanza with Giveaways Galore!

Don't we all love freebies? So check out these great giveaways.
What have you got to lose? And you may discover a new favorite writer!

Something Wicked This Way Comes

An absolutely fabulous collection of paranormal tales and previews:






And for Science Fiction fans...

Welcome to the Future
Take a journey into the unknown with this specially chosen
selection of sci-fi gems.









ENJOY!





Monday, 11 December 2017

Season's Greetings!

This year has been a very busy one, and today I'm super excited that the second episode of the Saoirse Saga, Awakening Defiance, is live! Yeah! Lots of smiley faces and jumping up and down alternating with release day jitters. I'm exuberantly happy at sending my latest story out into the world, but there's always a moment of sadness at leaving the characters and world I've created... but if that's my only worry, I'm counting my blessings.




Here's the description:


       Kia wants more than survival. She wants vengeance and her freedom.

       Kia has joined Lord Rial’s elite guard and is collecting secrets. Secrets that can get her killed. The pretense of being Rial's consort offers some protection, but neither of them trusts the other. When the chance for retribution on her father's betrayers comes, she takes it. But there is a price to pay.
       Her feelings toward Rial change, and Kia is shocked when she discovers the emperor’s schemes include experiments on his son. If her ambition to destroy the emperor is to succeed, she must rescue Rial. But are her desperate last minute plans enough to save him?

The book is 0.99c and here are the links:

If you haven’t yet started the Saoirse Saga, I’ve also released Books 1 & 2 in a two-for-one deal at $1.49.




Here are the links if you enjoy compelling action-adventure tales with a tenacious heroine who doesn't know the meaning of defeat. 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0782Z8ZV5           
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0782Z8ZV5


***


I'll soon be back in my warm cosy writing cave as Book 3 of Adept Solutions with JB and his maverick team is half planned, and ideas for Book 3 of the Saoirse Saga are popping into my head at the oddest moments. So, it's all go and it's all good.

In the meantime, stay well, keep reading and best wishes!







Friday, 10 November 2017

I did it again!

The day your book is published is an exhilarating and nervous one. You sigh with satisfaction because you've somehow managed, after a lot of sweat and tears, to achieve something you could only dream of ten years ago. Then, with your fifth (or is it your sixth?) coffee in hand, you check the websites, make sure your promo links work, and check the websites again, knowing you'll be doing this all day.

Okay enough with the introspection, here's the first chapter of Stars & Ashes, Book One in the Saoirse Saga. If you like it, here's the link: https://tinyurl.com/y8ronwh4  The book is $0.99, and I'd love it if you enjoyed the first chapter enough to pop over and follow Kia's thrilling journey!


Chapter One: Invasion

The class of eight and nine-year-old girls and boys, their faces rosy with effort and eyes shiny with pleasure, straightened their thin brown tunics, wiped a hand or two across a sweaty forehead, stood tall, and bowed to the teacher.
Kia returned the bow. They were eager to please, and it took nothing but a kind word of encouragement for them to blossom. “Thank you, disciples,” Kia intoned the solemn, formal dismissal, then couldn’t hide her smile. “Okay, you’re dismissed, off you go. Don’t forget your homework.” Her eyes twinkled with satisfaction.
The ordered formation broke and became a fluid mass of grinning children surging for the practice hall door.
Little Diago threw her a wave and a wink as he went, making her laugh. The lad showed a lot of promise, and Kia thought he had a bright future if he practiced, which she could tell he didn’t always do. A swift glance around the hall—neatly stacked mats, the floor swept—and satisfied everything was as it should be, she tossed her waist-length pale-blonde plait over her shoulder and headed out pleased with the afternoon’s class.
The srilao hall was in the older section of Sestris amid the narrow, cobbled twisting streets near the port, and the temple was close by. Late afternoon and the city dozed, dreaming slow dreams in the warm lull between noontime and evening, though the streets were never completely silent.
She had time to stop and make an offering to Cossanta, the golden four-armed patron Goddess of srilao devotees before buying the sweetfruit and berries for the tart her mother wanted to make that evening.
Training for the Southern Continental Championships last month was the hardest thing she’d ever done and winning had been beyond her expectations. The Goddess deserved as many offerings as Kia could manage. Returning to Sestris, standing in the packed town square under the blazing midday sun, and hearing the roaring cheers as the Head Elector—her proud father—placed the golden medallion around her neck, had been dizzying. Yet the class of under ten-year-olds was the most rewarding assignment she’d been given in her training to become a srilao teacher.
Srilao was both a martial art and a dance form, and practitioners were fighters, gymnasts, and dancers who could earn their living performing and teaching in any of the three branches: champions were those who proved they possessed superior skills in all the forms.
She’d put the key in the lock and was studying the round metal symbol on the door, her gaze tracing the three whorls emanating from the center, about to turn the key when the siren screamed, sending every startled seabird in the vicinity flapping into the air. Later she would remember that moment; how the city crouched, waiting, how time elongated, the feel of the cool gray metal in her hand, the grain of the pale ashwood door, the warm breeze stirring the hairs on the back of her neck. When birds fly, something this way comes. Beware, the old saying went. Her other hand clutched the medallion underneath her tunic. She would remember because nothing was ever the same afterward.
At first, the ear-piercing shriek confused her. Then the world stopped. This rhythm of wailing blasts meant one thing—invasion. The thought ignited a chain reaction, and she twisted the key, hearing the lock click, stilling as a fleet of low flying craft skimmed the rooftops, and a wave of heated air buffeted her. A single thought. Home. She needed to get home. Her mother was strong and capable, but the twins would be scared.
The synchronized regulated thud of boots was loud in the thrumming silence after the siren, and she froze at the sight of the menacing line of black uniformed soldiers. They marched, six abreast with weapons raised, along the narrow street toward her, herding a bewildered frightened crowd in front of them.
“Citizens of Sestris, this is the Nadil-Kuradi Empire taking control,” an emotionless voice boomed. “Please leave your houses, head for the main gate, and wait outside the city walls. Those disobeying this order will be shot.” The soldiers marched closer.
She was too late. Dark visors hid their faces, but she’d no doubt one, or more, had their phaserifles trained on her. Kia thrust the key in her pocket. How polite and typical of the Xaruntian conquerors to say please as they ordered you to surrender or die, she thought, fighting the blind panic threatening to overwhelm her. She recited the pre-fight invocation under her breath, pulling on every bit of training she’d learned since childhood to stay calm. Bit by bit the black wave receded, and she continued putting one foot in front of the other.
The srilao practice hall was near an intersection, and as she passed the shops and houses, doors opened and more people joined the shuffling fearful throng, accompanied by the loud, monotonously repeated command to comply. As they neared the main gate out of the city, the streets were packed. The normal city smells of street flits, food stalls, sea or sand—depending on the wind; the mix of innumerable odors given off by a city full of people was replaced by the acid scent of fear. Everyone had seen the holovid or heard about the Urkat massacre where every house, village, and city on the planet had been obliterated on the orders of the Emperor Teyrn because its inhabitants had defied the might of the empire. The message was clear, and no Sestrian was foolish or brave enough to try that stunt.
Kia shot a look behind her. She saw a second, and then the third row of armed soldiers. She heard doors being smashed as the invaders went house to house, checking for anyone hoping to avoid detection. The soft pff of a weapon firing, followed by the cutting off of a child’s sobbing followed her along the street. Had they captured her father? Dear Goddess, please let him have escaped. Kia kept moving, her fists clenched and her jaw aching from gritting her teeth too hard.
She thought of little Diago, worry shivering through her. She had to trust all the children had made it home. Why hadn’t they been warned? The entire population had known one day the emperor’s spaceships would appear in the pale lavender sky like a plague of dusky aljarads out of the desert. The insects appeared every few years and stripped the city’s trees and gardens. However, unlike the insects, these aggressors wouldn’t fly out over the ocean and disappear. The vast amount of accessible rich mineral deposits had guaranteed that, even with Emankora’s position at the far end of a galaxy arm, the world was too rich a plum not to be plucked. Accordingly, some of those in positions of power, including her father, had made plans for this eventuality, always with the hope they would never be needed.
Kia staggered as the realization hit her. A traitor in their midst must have uncovered the Elector's schemes and sold them out to their enemies. Her father had refused to disclose his plans to her, saying he’d bring her in after she started the Electoral training program the following year. Yet the invader's sudden appearance demonstrated their sleepers must have already been in position. She stumbled and would have fallen, but the woman next to her reached out and steadied her.
“Be strong. This is no more than the beginning.” The woman was lean and worn down with hard work, and her lined sun-browned face gave nothing away. “Life will get a lot worse before it gets better.” Her harsh expression softened for a moment before she strode ahead.
As the multitude reached the large tree-line square adjacent to the Main gates, they came to a standstill, the sheer mass of people making it impossible to move any farther.
Kia could see the elaborately decorated pink sandstone arch, but the enormous crowd filling the square milled in confusion with mothers clutching children’s hands, soothing their cries, huddling beside their husbands, and both old and young afraid of what was coming next. Most of these people had been among those who celebrated her triumph, as her success was their success. These were the citizens who had voted for Madaxa Xefe over the previous twenty years, first as councilor then as Head Elector, but today their gazes slid elsewhere, and they trembled, scared for themselves and their families.
Judging by the number and positioning of the troops, Kia estimated they’d first encircled the town and moved inward, sweeping everyone before them: another sign that no matter what defensive measures the resistance had organized, the empire’s agents had eliminated them. Her father and his cohorts had seriously underestimated the enemy’s ability to neutralize their strategy. Or they’d overestimated their people’s loyalty. If she had to choose, she’d favor the former. The sun had moved low toward the horizon by the time Kia, trapped in the midst of the thirsty hungry crowd, stumbled forward, at last able to see what was causing the blockage.
 A three-row-deep line of soldiers, with their weapons trained on those passing before them, stood on both sides of the short road leading to the gates, where two men, who looked more like officers than regular infantry, questioned everyone and tapped answers into their comunits.
If they’re here, they’ll target my family, her father had said, and here’s what you’ll do.
When her turn came, the black-visored man stared at her. “Name?”
She studied her red leather sandals. “Kia O’Afon.” O’Afon was her mother’s family name, and afon meant river. Her mother came from the remote south where the land was green and forested, unlike the central desert that stretched out and covered half the southern continent behind Sestris. The mineral rich desert, mined by the Sestrians for centuries, provided a living, trade, and was the reason for the port’s existence.
“Age.”
“Twenty-three.” At least Jared wasn’t here. Her older brother had gone north on a trading expedition with Keyon, his best friend. Brown eyed, serious Keyon, who last time they’d talked had told her if she didn’t say yes to his offer of partnership soon, he would always love her but would look elsewhere.
The questioner leaned in, snapped his fingers in her face. “I asked you your status?”
She flinched. “Single.” Focus, she told herself. This wasn’t the time to daydream about what ifs.
“Family?”
“None.”
“None?”
“I’m from the south, and I'm here for work.”
“Guess that explains your coloring.”
Kia took after her mother and with her pale blonde hair and irises so dark the pupil was barely discernible, her looks marked her out. Native Sestrians had darker hair, green or blue eyes, and paler skin. He held a scanner to her eyes and checked his comunit again.
Kia held her breath.
“That way. Go left.” He pointed through the gates.
Altering the civic records to give her a new identity had held up under inspection. She breathed out.
Outside the walls, another avenue of black-visored figures waited.
Kia subtly altered her posture, slumping her shoulders and scuffing her feet instead of striding. One-on-one in unarmed combat, she stood a chance. Her average height and slender build were deceptive because she was well-trained with lightning fast reflexes and hadn’t yet met an opponent whose body she couldn't read. As she walked, she sensed the hidden eyes assessing her. Tales of the Nadil-Kuradi Empire’s cruelty toward its new vassals were endless. Crush and crush again, until there was nothing left but blind obedience to the emperor.
Far too quickly she reached the end of the intimidating gauntlet, and a phaserifle directed her left. On the flat expanse of dun-colored sands beyond the town, she caught a brief glance of the fleet of spacecraft that had brought their vanquishers. Teaching in the hall, she hadn’t heard their arrival over the excited cries of the children practicing. Some looked bigger, most likely troop carriers, and nearby were a dozen or more fighter craft. As if Sestris possessed the capability to fight anything military, let alone an interstellar space fleet of any size. She hitched a breath at the thought of the same scenario happening all over Emankora.
Kia joined a large group of young men and women sitting on the ground guarded by yet more soldiers. They were separating people into groups. Where were her mother and sisters? She scanned the area, but it was several minutes before she spotted the women and younger children.
“You.”
Kia looked up to find the barrel of a phaserifle about a handspan from her face. She swallowed.
“Look down and don’t talk. See him.” The soldier pointed his weapon over to the right.
Kia’s gaze alighted on the body of a young man who lay unmoving as blood pooled beneath his head.
“He did what you’re doing. Looking for his kinfolk. Don’t. From here on, you are nobody. You have no family or friends. You belong to the emperor body and soul.”
Kia looked down. Body, maybe, soul, never.
The sky darkened, the temperature dropped, Osupa rose in isolated splendor, and still they sat on the cooling earth as the invaders catalogued the townspeople. The youth’s lifeless body was eventually dragged away, and while they were all were aware of what was happening, they were powerless.
Kia passed the night in a frozen stupor listening to the faint intermittent wails of children or the barking of a command. If you needed to relieve yourself, a soldier escorted you past the outer line and trained his phaserifle on you as you did your business. Animals, Kia thought, raising a hand when her bladder was about to burst. Animals. That’s all we are to them.
Rumor had it the empire used neural implants to boost the speed of their reactions, physical strength, and endurance. The soldiers’ behavior, impervious and vigilant throughout the night, appeared to confirm the story.
As the predawn sky turned gray, then pink, she heard hammering in the distance. Sweet Goddess, what was happening?
With shouts of ‘Stand,’ and swift use of phaserifle butts to ensure compliance, the guards harried the cold, stiff prisoners to their feet. They soon found out what the noises meant. A raised platform had been thrown up, high enough that even those at the rear could witness whatever was about to take place.
Kia’s heart drummed faster, and she glanced at those standing near her, meeting the frustrated gaze of a tall young man. She blinked in acknowledgement, and he returned the signal, but any further communication stopped as a sleek dark airship flew low over the gathering.
“The Emperor Teyrn’s Heir,” one soldier hissed, “Lord Rialoir himself!” The guards nearby stood straighter as their eyes tracked the small fighter, but movement on the makeshift stage drew their attention away from the new arrival.
Kia watched, blinking hard, not wanting to believe what she was seeing as four men and four women were marched onto the platform.
A groan of collective sorrow rose from the townsfolk.
Kia’s heart stopped. Her legs trembled, and she locked her knees as she recognized the figure in the center. Her father. She couldn’t look away. He would want her to witness. To witness and remember.
“These people are all traitors. Their families have been executed.”
Kia gasped, the breath leaving her lungs in a rush as sobbing broke out in several places. She’d have fallen if a hand hadn’t gripped her upper arm, holding her upright. All she could see was her mother’s face: one minute chiding, cross with her rebellious daughter, the next, smiling and proud of that same daughter’s achievements—and always loving. But Lilia and Alsling, her curly-headed lively young sisters, always up to mischief, and the sweetheart twins of her parents’ later years, would have been with her mother. This wasn’t possible; it couldn’t be happening. They should have had enough warning to flee before the invaders arrived. What had gone wrong? No, no, no, her mind reiterated, refusing to accept reality.
“Hey!” A soldier thrust the butt of his weapon into the young man's chest, shoving him away from her. He staggered backward and quickly raised his arms high in the air.
The guard turned toward her, and her muscles shivered with the effort of controlling herself.
“These men will be executed.” The speaker announced.
Kia’s attention jerked back to the dais. Her father was too distant to be sure, but she would swear his gaze roved the silent tense citizens, and rested on her, before passing over his people.
A soldier walked out and stood at the edge of the platform facing the city’s Elected with his back to the captive Sestrians. He raised his phaserifle and eight soft pffs sighed through the air.
Kia burned the image of her father slumping to the platform with a small circular mark in the middle of his forehead into her mind, and her heart broke at the knowledge that his bright intelligence and the warmhearted gaze he turned on the world and its antics were gone forever.

***

Click the link to buy this enthralling story today: https://tinyurl.com/y8ronwh4 



Saturday, 24 June 2017

Veiled Planet Revealed



After an intense week of editing, tweaking, and formatting, I uploaded Veiled Planet to Amazon yesterday. Pressing that 'Publish Now' button is always a thrilling, yet nerve-wracking moment.

I want to let you know that the book is $.99 for its first week of release (until the 30th June), after which the price will be $2.99) or free if you're with Kindle Select. 

Here's the first chapter of the book, and I hope you enjoy the start of Kara's journey.


Veiled Planet© 

Chapter One: An Encounter

Kara squinted, peering through the tall, thin jezebel trees. Their bare pallid trunks crowned with wide red leaves provided shade from the midday sun, but not from the heat, and she periodically wiped the sweat off her forehead before it dripped into her eyes. She could see where the upward trail led, but there wasn’t a single olive green cadet uniform in sight.
“Hey, wait for me!” Kara winced at the saw-edged whine in her voice, but they should have waited. The core element in this test was cooperative functioning as a team, and leaving someone behind broke the first rule of colony survival—you didn’t abandon anyone. If she didn’t catch up, she’d drop back to bottom ranking in her class. Not the result she wanted after she’d spent the last year clawing her way up two paltry places. Where in the universe were they?
Kara blew out a breath of frustration, ran her sweaty hands through her short hair, and put her sulk on hold. Lifting one foot at a time and putting it down while scrutinizing the ground for signs of spring-beetle occupancy took every bit of her attention. The small pyramidal mounds were thankfully absent. A bite from the insect, while not life threatening, could swell to horrible proportions. Her study of the insects last semester had given her far too much insight into the varying sizes and discomforts of post-bite swellings.
Two corco birds flew high above the canopy, cackling to each other as their heavy wings beat the air with a soft thump thump. They were herbivores, although there were still many unknown species of plant and animal on the planet awaiting detection and classification.
Kara halted for a second to observe their ungainly flight. Next year she would begin studies in her chosen subjects—botany and biology. She ignored the flush of guilt at the thought of the tiny gold speckled plants which had caught her eye. She was fully aware this wasn’t a field trip, but the urge to pop a couple into one of the specimen bags she always carried had been overwhelming. That was probably when she’d dropped behind, but one way or another, she would finish this course. If it had to be without the support of the rest of the class, so be it.
Since she’d become a student at the academy two cycles ago, she’d had plenty of experience of being the outsider. Joining the class late, because she’d remained with her father after her mother died, made her different from the rest. Friendships, cliques, and lines of allegiance were already long cemented by the time she arrived. Her shyness had been interpreted as unsociability, and her absorption in her studies seen as boring. Then there was her lack of interest in team games. She had what was called a delicate build which translated into a lack of enthusiasm for the more physical aspects of cadet training. Kara didn’t consider herself weak, she just wasn’t the least bit interested in throwing her classmates onto the practice mats and giving loud shouts every time she did so. The local flora and fauna were far more fascinating, and at least they couldn’t make nasty remarks about her within her hearing.
Her pack contained a map of the route, water, an emergency medical kit, and enough basic rations to ensure survival. Naturally, there was no comunit because calling for help defeated the point of the exercise. The original treaty with the Maruts, the planet’s indigenous hominids, prevented a true survival experience because they were forbidden to go beyond their settlement area, but now, alone—even though she was within a two-day's walk of the colony—this so-called practice was worryingly more authentic than she’d anticipated.
Fifty cycles ago, the Triumvirate gained permission from the Maruts for a colony on the planet, and the settlers’ situation was still far from permanent. Dangers from the flora and fauna, a variable climate, and the planet’s position at one end of a galaxy spiral placed it in the category of a limited outer world. But for Kara, it was home.
She mentally ran through the list of worst possible dangers as she continued up the trail. The small red-humped salamanders were dangerous when they were in heat and defending their territory, but thankfully this wasn’t the season. Kallin bears hadn’t been spotted anywhere near this location for the last ten cycles, and this area wasn’t on the seasonal migratory route of the Maruts. However, these were merely a few dangers on a long list. She shunted these thoughts aside, lumping them together with her irritation and resentment.
Kara ignored the mid-day heat as the hot Hamarkhian sun beat down on the forest, and wiped away the sweat trickling into her eyes with the back of her hand. She listened for indications that her companions were up ahead. Nothing. Her heart started to pound and she sucked in small puffs of warm air as she heard her father’s instructions in her mind. If you’re out there alone, be alert and don’t think about anything else except for what’s around you. Focus on the next step that’ll get you back to safety. Survival is a matter of breaking down the major objective of staying alive into smaller, achievable tasks.She closed her eyes for a minute breathing slow and deep  till her pulse slowed and her flight impulse subsided.
If she didn't complete the exercise but retraced her steps to the starting point by going back down the hill, the entire unit would fail the exercise, drop their group rating, and have to repeat it after the term ended. This would give the other cadets more reason to resent her than they already did. If she finished the course, they wouldn’t achieve top ranking, but at least the assignment would be complete. Memorizing the route had been part of the preparation, and all she had to do was continue up the mountain to the summit, turn left and follow the trail till she arrived back at the spot where they’d camped last night. Easy.
Ignoring the burning ache in her calves, she pushed herself and walked faster, clinging to the small hope that maybe a couple of cadets had been instructed to wait for her at the top of the hill. Yet a knot of anxiety remained, no matter how frequently she told herself everything was going to be fine. After another spell of steep climbing, the thinning trees warned her she was approaching the edge of the forest. She’d catch up with them soon. The trouble with fear is it doesn’t stay boxed away.
Abruptly the forest ended, and a stretch of bare red rock led up to the summit. Here and there, the hardy brownish native moss had secured a grip, giving the landscape a burned mottled appearance and the slight breeze lifted small curls of dust. But there was no sign of any cadets.
Thank the stars this wasn't the storm season, although on Hamarkhis no season was without irregularities as weather patterns were notoriously unstable and hard to predict. If a storm had unexpectedly blown in from the desert, the group leader, Nina, would have received notification as she had a comunit for emergencies—which was no help to Kara.
She would have loved to collect more specimens but was far too aware of the price she was paying for her last stop. She listened and checked ahead before leaving the shelter of the trees. The low drone of the forest’s inhabitants rose and fell behind her.
Where in the universe had they gone? Sixteen trainee cadets on a routine survival exercise couldn’t disappear. Practical jokes were the warp and weft of dorm life but this wasn’t funny. Anything might happen. Kara’s anger skyrocketed, and she stormed ahead with her eyes fixed on her goal as outrage fueled the last half klick to the summit. Well, no one was going to be laughing when she reported this to Commander Trench.
As she mounted the final slope, she forgot her predicament and gasped in pleasure at the view. Row after row of red jagged peaks, crowned with snow, marched to the horizon. These mountains were the start of the Founders Range and covered the northern third of the continent.
Pre-settlement surveillance had discovered the Maruts pastured their herds of satyrs in valleys peppered throughout this range. An anthropologist among the first colonists had nicknamed the herbivores satyrs, a creature out of an ancient fable, as a joke, and the name had stuck. However, the Maruts didn’t keep satyr herds for their meat, but for their coats which molted seasonally; they used the thick satyr wool and satyr hides for clothing, housing, carpets, tents. They milked the satyrs as well, which produced at least half a dozen food products. The satyrs were the basis for their way of life, and without them the Maruts could face extinction.
Kara searched the slope below. No sign of her team-mates. How had she dropped this far behind? She hadn’t been that slow, had she? She started walking, but half-way to the summit, her stomach started making loud noises, and she figured she ought to eat. Basic survival training began early. The necessity of staying hydrated and fed was drummed into children living in a world of hidden hazards.
She didn’t bother about the spring-beetles―the forest was their habitat―but sat on a handy outcrop of rock and stuffed the bland emergency rations into her mouth, glugging the tepid liquid from her water bulb. The concentrated bars of essential vitamins and minerals were light to carry and quick to digest, and she brushed the final crumbs off her hands ready to face the downward trail. She would have to get moving if she wanted to reach camp before darkness fell.
Then she heard it.
A low growling, some distance away, behind and below her. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up as she recognized the sound. It was one every colonist was familiar with, but only through educational holovids. She turned, and froze as a huge red and green kallin bear emerged from the forest. Kara stared, stunned, then pinched her arm hard. No, she wasn’t hallucinating.
The beast raised its giant snout and sniffed the air. Catching her scent, the animal paced toward her, paw by gigantic razor tipped paw.
Kara’s training kicked in, and she pressed the adrenaline patch on the underside of her arm, releasing its one dose. As the hormone mixture flooded her bloodstream, enhancing her responses and donating an artificial mental clarity, she recognized she had no way of escape, and was unlikely to survive this encounter. A rapid stream of thoughts flashed through her mind. If only those in charge of such matters had anticipated needing more than one adrenaline boost. If only the others had waited, together their prospects would have been better, and what a story that would have been to tell her father. Rage at her classmates’ carelessness swept through her, and she cursed them a second time.
Tracking the giant predator’s progress, Kara removed the stunner from her belt with careful slow movements.
The animal began to charge, gaining momentum as it grew closer.
Logic and reason informed her there was no way she could outrun the beast, even if she’d been in the forest, as its formidable sense of smell would allow it to track her scent as easily as following a lit pathway. She remembered the kallin bear’s swiftness and natural weaponry made it one of the dominant mammals on this planet. She very nearly smiled; her last moments and all she could summon up were facts from a biology lesson.
She raised the pistol, it had a range of approximately a quarter of a klick, but she was a lousy shot. Martial arts, self-defense, in fact, any of the physical skills that helped the colonists survive fell into the category of no ability and even less interest. But while Kara intellectually understood the longer she delayed the more she increased her chances of hitting the creature, her hands shook as she observed the slavering mouth and sharp canines as the bear increased its speed.
The bear’s fast rolling gait made it hard to get a fix on a vulnerable spot, but she zeroed in on the left eye. She aimed, fired, and hit the animal in the shoulder. Damn. She fired another shot. The stunner had ten more shots before it needed recharging, but the rabid predator closing in on her clearly had a quick lunch on its mind. Her next shot hit the upper chest and made not a whit of difference to its approach. She fired again, and the stun charge struck close to her first shot. The animal’s pelt shivered, but it came on relentlessly. An irrational urge to flee seized her, but the bear would outpace her in minutes, if not seconds. No, she’d stand and face her death. She fired repeatedly. With each hit the creature keened, an eerie high-pitched moan, began to slow but didn’t stop.
She kept count in her head. Three shots left. Nothing worse than thinking you have ammunition you haven’t, their instructor had joked at every session as he hammered the necessity of this procedure over and over into their brains.
The bear finally slowed and part of her mind continued analyzing the animal even as the gap between them narrowed. She noted the unkempt fur, emaciated hide, and the prominence of its ribcage. The beast must be far from its home territory, making it more dangerous as its need for her warm-blooded flesh was greater.
At this distance, she couldn’t miss, and, as the bear closed, she could see its red pupils and smell its rank fetid breath. She pumped out the last shots, clinically observing the bear’s pelt shimmer and quiver, as each shot hit home, yet she still managed to miss its vital organs. After the last shot, and impelled by an undeniable primal compulsion, she turned and fled—her last chance as the adrenaline boost would only last for another few minutes.
After inhaling the delicate flavor of a prospective meal, the bear, galvanized by the sight of its prey escaping, intensified its pursuit.
Kara scrambled and slithered down the escarpment, trying to avoid the small boulders and stones littering the surface. She hit a patch of shale and lost her balance. Sharp stones scraped the skin off her arm as she slid. Stumbling to her feet, she threw a backward glance at her pursuer and noticed the bear had slowed. The stun shots had finally had some effect, and she’d gained a tiny lead. She sucked in a deep breath and took off running.
Then it happened. Her foot landed on a small rock, and as her ankle turned, she lost her balance and toppled sideways. A fierce stabbing pain shot up her leg as her full weight bore down on the twisted ankle.
The bear stalked toward her, its massive claw-tipped paws moving softly on the slope. She tried to get up but arrows of agony shot up her leg. She hadn’t panicked, and had given her best, but she was going to die. If her father could have seen her, he would be proud of her. Shortly she would join her mother.
The last of the adrenaline drained out of her body and she shut her eyes as the backlash of fatigue hit. Shaking and terrified, she curled into a fetal position, and squeezed her eyes tight as she attempted to block out the awful sight and sound of her approaching death. She lay paralyzed, expecting to feel the kallin bear’s teeth and claws rip and shred her skin and muscles at any second as it prepared to feed. Please let it be quick, she begged.

***

If you enjoy stories full of drama, action, intrigue with a romantic twist, and a strong heroine, then click the link and enter Kara’s world today.

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Teagan.

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Apart from writing, I'm compiling a bucket list of places I'd like to  visit...from Iceland to Hawaii and onwards....
         

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