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End Of An Era
Conquest Of Heroes
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-115-3
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 300 Pages
Published: July 2013

From inside the flap

Europe has fallen to an ancient power that rose within the shadows of history. A year after the war the seemly unstoppable power of the Order is poised to strike across the Atlantic. The world stands on the brink of total subjugation, with only the United States as the last superpower capable of standing against the rising darkness.

However, unknown to them, the true enemy lies closer than anyone could have expected.

When one of the Orderís greatest generals, Velvet, is found in Alaska, her arrival sets new events in motion as the doomsday clock is fast approaching.

Hunted by her people, Velvet seeks to learn the truth about her origins. What she will learn can change the course of history forever.

End Of An Era (Excerpt)


Late winter

Southern Alaska, 2020

Snow fell from the gray clouds as it had done for three straight days, even though the calendar said it was two weeks before the new spring. The fine powder covered everything in a sheet of white flakes and a thin layer of ice. While it was still midday, visibility was poor. Few would have dared to venture out into such extreme conditions. Still, some had no choice.

For those who worked for the nearby oil refineries, transferring the lifeblood of a nation down to the shipyards four hundred miles further south, the Morning Star Bar and Grill was a welcome detour for hungry truckers. The bar was a landmark in these parts, having stood along the narrow two-lane highway forty years. The faded green and yellow glow of its long worn-out neon sign flickered, welcoming all drivers with the promise of a warm and satisfying meal, topped off a cup of piping hot coffee.

The highway was empty of traffic as frequent layoffs brought an unwelcome silence to the state. During the best of times the Morning Star would have been overflowing with truckers. Its roomy dining hall and long bar filled with a constant hum of laughter, crude language and amusing tales of danger and near misses with the grim reaper on the frozen roads. Those times were a distant memory - tales that were still cherished, but seemly gone forever as the world had changed drastically.

Since the loss of the war and oil cut off from the Middle East, the United States had exhausted its reserves. Only a few thousand barrels made its way to the mainland, which struggled to hang onto some semblance of civilization. However, the country, the whole world was holding on by a thread, ready to snap.

The seemingly endless silence was broken as the powerful headlights of one eighteen-wheeler broke through the snow and pulled into the parking lot, coming to a gentle rest before the main entrance. Along the side of the trailer it read, "Jackson & Son Oil".

The driver of the rig hopped out from his cab leaving a CD of the Beach Boys running as he slammed the door behind him. He didnít intend on staying long. He had a schedule to keep, but it was habit for him to stop and fill his twenty-four ounce thermos with some of Maryís famous Joe and, perhaps a small bite to eat as well.

Pulling the collar of his dark blue worn-out Navy pea coat tightly around his thick neck, the gray bearded trucker trotted off through the ankle-deep snow, towards the front door.

Inside was as one might have expected of a joint this far from nowhere. The walls were stacked logs which were covered at points with moss. Nailed to the wood were dozens of street signs that screamed out to all that read them, Stop! Yield! Rail Crossing! It was a credit to the odd taste of the owner.

Animal hides also lined the interior. Most were native Alaskan species such as deer, elk, beaver and otter. There was even a fully stuffed Kodiak that stood near the front door, which everyone had affectingly come to call, Fred. In a humorous turn for the once mighty Fred, it stood in a fearsome stance - its mouth was wide open with its claws pointed outward. Atop its head he wore an old style black-brimmed hat. A wooden cane was attached to its right hand with a monocle hung over the bearís left eye.

The lighting was all natural, as the flickering of the dancing flames that were hung from lanterns cast a soothing glow throughout the diner. A large fireplace sat near the back. This gave a sense of comfort and warmth for all who came to the Morning Star.

The food wasnít bad either; the air was thick with the smell of beefsteaks and mashed potatoes. All of it was served in large portions, topped with sloppy brown gravy that would stick to menísí ribs.

Alongside the filling meal would be a piping hot cup of Maryís home-brewed black coffee - A legend in these parts.

As Hank walked through the front door, fresh snow followed him and settled on the floor where it melted on contact into tiny droplets of water, before it evaporated. He looked over his shoulder to a group of men who sat together at two tables. Each of them looked much the same: beards, graying hair and rough faces, and all with thick bellies, save for Tim, the supply trucker. He was young and bragged about working-out five times a week and upholding a balanced diet.

Hankís destination was the old woman who stood behind the counter. In her hand was a white dish rag, which the owner of the Morning Star used to wipe dry the insides of a dozen beer mugs that lay top-down before her.

"Howdy Hank," Mary called out.

Mary was in her late sixties, but years of roughing in Alaska gave the old woman a tough finish. She could have been younger, but her eyes and face told a different story.

"Cold out there is it?" She asked with a humorous grin.

"Funny, Mary, youíre a riot," Hank answered as he rubbed his frozen hands together.

Grabbing a clean mug Mary poured Hank a cup of steaming black coffee, which she had just made fresh only a few minutes earlier. "Well dear, warm yourself up with a drink and I will have your usual special number three up for you in a few minutes."

Hank eagerly scooped the coffee up and took one long and slow sip of the black liquid, thankful that it was fresh and hot.

The drink went down nicely.

"Thanks, Mary. Youíre the best!"

"And donít you forget it," she grinned.

Hank decided before he took his second sip that heíd spend a couple of hours in the diner. He would have a bite to eat, three or four more cups, two cigars and spend most of his time talking with his friends, not about anything of any importance. He figured, what the hell, keeping schedules were for chumps.

Normally the conversation with his friends was the same, as each of the burly men would tell unimaginable tales of wonder and adventures theyíd seen and lived through. Now, Hank overheard Frank telling his famed UFO story, for about the one hundredth time.

The other truckersí were laughing as Fred eagerly assured them that he was abducted by six tall, sexy, big breasted green women who claimed they needed him to help save their species.

Hank couldnít dream of a better time in his not-so-average life than being here, in this diner, sharing his own tall-tales. None of them would, however, talk about current events even though it was always on their minds. They were reminded daily, by the news, by their bosses who gave them uplifting patriotic speeches about how they were keeping the industrial strength of the union alive. They had had enough of all of it. So living in the past, remembering better days was preferable to the hard truth of their everyday lives, and the trials that their country was facing now.

His story wasnít all that unique as everyone had a similar tale to tell. What Hank liked most was, he could live by his own rules. He had no drunken father who would beat him and his mother every Friday night, no snot-nosed junior officer barking orders at him every day for four years; there was just the open road. Even the law was sparse in these parts. Still, there were days when Hank wished for a little more excitement in his mundane life, and when those days came, he attacked it with vigor.

Luckily for him, sitting on a barstool at the edge of the counter was something, or more so, someone that sparked his imagination.

She was a snow angel, unique and exquisite, unlike any woman he had ever recalled seeing in his fifty two years; certainly more interested than Frankís big breasted green alien women.

Women, alien or not were rare and cherished creatures in these parts. Even more precious were women who looked as this one did.

She was unusual to say the least, young, powerful and strikingly beautiful. Her deep blue eyes, so clear they could have been made from glass, looked down into her full cup of black coffee; an abyss that seemed to stare back at the young lady. She was tall and had a strong athletic body, one that looked as if it had been sculpted from clay, like a statue of a Greek goddess. Her long, curvy legs stretched out from under her trench coat as her heels of her calf-high boots were wrapped around the base of the barstool.

Primal urges started to take hold as Hank licked his wrinkled and blistered lips, as if he was staring down at a fine T-bone steak.

His eyes ran up and down the womanís shapely body, undressing her right then and there as he admired her most striking feature: her pure white hair that dropped down to her waist. It seemed as wild and soft as freshly fallen snow, which glisten with the flickering light from the surrounding lanterns that lined the barís walls.

He could imagine rubbing his hands through that thick white mane as his fingers danced down her back, feeling every bend and curve as he memorized every square inch of this strangerís amazing body.

Well, he wasnít a man who was known for letting opportunity pass him by. He was bored, and more importantly, horny.

Taking one step forward, he planned to reach down and pull out the stool that sat next to the young white-haired woman, and spend the next hour or so getting to know her. Where it went from there, his mind was already imagining all the limitless possibilities. The back of his camper was big enough for the two of them to get to know each other more intimately. While it wasnít comfortable and cold as hell outside, he didnít much mind. He figured between the two of them, there was enough heat to keep them warm for hours.

However, before he could take a step, Hank felt a sharp and unexpected slap strike his shoulder.

"Ouch!" Hank blurted as three drops of his coffee landed onto his bare hand, burning the flesh on his wrist.

"Donít even think about it!" Mary cried out harshly after she smacked him with her dishrag. Her face was stern and serious, a look Hank had seen more times than he cared to remember.

"Get that big ass of yours over to your table and sit down! Or, you can park it outside and let the bears pick your frozen corpse clean," Mary demanded, with her right arm stretched out towards the tables where the other four truckers were sitting.

That group stopped what they were doing and looked on with amused grins. It wasnít often that Mary raised her voice, but when she did, everyone knew they might need to dive under their tables if things got out of hand.

"Okay," Hank said as both his palms were raised in a surrendering gesture before he turned and ventured over towards the collection of grinning truckers.

Mary took a deep breath as she shook head before looking towards the stranger who kept her gaze down, unfazed by what had happened.

"Sorry about that. Hank can be a handful if you let him get out of line, most of all with pretty young things such as yourself. Heís driven more than a few young ladies out from my establishment with his advances in the past."

"Iím fine, thank you," Velvet replied quietly as she glanced up and looked over towards Hank. He had joined his friends, each of them giving him a hard time for what they had witnessed.

The laughter between the men was playful, but as Hank took a second to look back at her, she could see the same murderous look in his eyes - a stare that she had seen hundreds of times in her life.

She knew the trucker wasnít what he seemed to be. Inside, locked away behind his friendly exterior, he was a monster. Not one of any real power or mythical stature, but a monster nonetheless.

"You do not like him very much, do you?" Velvet asked as she turned her attention away from Hank, as he began to speak to his friends.

"Oh, he is okay once you get to know him," Mary answered with the friendliest response she could manage. "However, if someday a moose just so happened to leap out in front of his rig, causing him to lose control and crash into a river and drown, then I canít say that I would shed too many tears for him," she commented quietly with a small grin.

Velvet managed a very rare smile as she took a sip of her coffee before replying. Before her, all along the walls were newspaper clippings of such things happening over the years. This land was still wild and dangerous.

"But then the moose might get hurt," Velvet commented, not meaning to be funny.

Mary nearly laughed, forcing herself to hold it in as she didnít want to draw any attention towards her from the five truckers.

"True...that would be quite unfortunate," she replied beneath her whimsical grin.

The old woman finished wiping one beer mug clean before she moved onto the second. Velvet noticed that she spent just under six minutes per glass, cleaning them in a slow up and down motion with the tips of her index and middle fingers. None of the glasses needed much in the way of cleaning, but time moved slowly in these parts, more so now than ever. It was something to do, and it was clear to her that Mary was a woman who took joy in her duties, regardless of how empty or full her diner was.

"Your accent, I have been trying to place it. Are you from the mainland, dear?" Mary referred to Velvetís subtle English accent that sounded as if it had been washed down from a lifetime of world traveling, but still noticeable. Her question was polite and was asked more from boredom than actual interest.

"I, myself am originally from Montana. I came up here, oh, forty years ago with my husband when the government was building the pipeline. Todd had a wild ambition about making a fortune off the workers. They need to sleep and eat too, honey, he would always say to me."

"No, I am not from the United States," Velvet quietly answered, keeping her gaze low and focused on the cup that she held firmly between her fingers.

"Oh, where are you from then, dear, if you donít mind me asking?"

Velvet was silent a moments before she answered.

"Iíve lived in Europe, England, most of my life, until recently," she eventually answered.

"Oh dear, Iím so sorry. Are you a refugee?" Mary asked thoughtfully.

Velvetís eyes glimpsed upward, looking at Mary as she went to cleaning another mug. Then she answered; her voice suddenly cold.