<div id="tab-container"><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><div class="tablet"><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><div class="tab"><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><center><img src="https://christinehorner.com/wp-content/uploads/bk-att-225.png"></center><br><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><h1 class="title">CHAPTER 1</h1><br><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Electric motorized engines off wing tips softly hummed, rotating before locking into position. Truby’s breath hitched along with the flying vehicle’s bumpy vertical descent through time and space into the abyss, a churning gut telling her there would be no more chances. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Anxiety filled her crumpled lungs. “I’m sick!” she exhaled.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“In a hurry, are we?” Lieutenant General Terrance Young shifted slightly in his seat to gloat.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><i>So, this was going to be it?</i><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby’s weary eyes burned through the darkness for a way out. In truth, the future was more frightening than the void below. And not just hers. Something was happening on a scale far more massive than the sliver of Wyoming wilderness she was to inhabit. She felt it in her bones. Otherwise, why would they have staged such a production to get her out of the way?<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Sir, blackout sequence initiated. Night vision confirms—”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Yep, Captain, I know the drill,” said Truby’s persistent nimbus cloud. “Just put Tina down without scratching her this time.”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“In a moment, sir. I’m picking up an object.”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby’s throat constricted loudly behind Young’s seat. She’d gladly let loose if it meant he would suffer. But in this tight space, so would she.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Set her down now!” Young ordered. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Sir, Tina’s alerted us to an obstruction.”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“I knew we should have taken the Patton.”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby despised the man’s ever-shifting face. Despite the acid Truby felt climbing her esophagus, her fast-thinking investigative mind made her begrudgingly smirk in the encroaching darkness. No one, including the vehicle she was desperate to escape, was a stranger to her. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Tina was Young’s pet name for his military-issued flying car. He was obsessed with the iconic Tina Turner who had lived to the respectable age of ninety-nine. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Those legs,” he’d reminisced. “Probably used them to kick the crap out of Ike. Tina didn’t put up with it for one minute. Nope.” <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby knew better. Tina had put up with it for more than a minute just like Truby herself had put up with Young for far too long. By the middle of the perpetual orange-red sunset the cloaked vehicle chased the last two hours as they moved west, she was sure Young idolized Ike Turner more than Tina. Maybe he embodied both. He was passive one moment, instantly aggressive the next like Yin’s inseparable twin Yang. Either <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->way, this middle-aged woman knew she had come to know way too much about this prick over the years. Like Tina, she would make her escape. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Now the man in the front, Ike, was bickering not with, but about Tina with his long-time female driver like an old married couple. The younger Captain Kovac had the mental agility to maneuver a petulant General Young without technically being insubordinate no matter how much Young dared her to cross the line. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Grief enveloped Truby as thickly as the coming night. What she would give right now to match wits with Claire or Hemmy. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Wedged in the back seat like a canned smoked oyster, Truby watched and waited for an opportunity. A few more bumps as they descended from flying altitude brought the queasiness on full force.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Approaching ground level, the soft glow of the vehicle’s dash vanished to avoid detection. Blackness covered them, the last remnant of the brilliant sun all but gone. Quiet once more, the only other sounds were the colliding of moving mechanical parts, not even the high-pitched whine of engines fighting gravity. Truby’s fast-turning mind noted these weren’t the old thrusters found in the likes of noisy British Harrier jets or even quieter all-electric jet engines. This vehicle was fully equipped with the latest technology taxpayers could buy. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->No longer relying on combustive propellants or battery power, electromagnetic waves quietly fueled microwave photons that bounced back and forth in a cone-shaped metal cavity to create thrust. A more sophisticated version had powered the first secret manned expedition to Mars, the mission recently disclosed to the public after a successful landing in 2025.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->For the briefest moment, Truby entertained the idea that she was alone. She imagined she was about to be dropped into a mysterious black box where she could reinvent herself as if the world had never known her. Maybe the box was called Mars. Just as she began to visualize who and what she’d become in her new life, the image of a woman and two young girls socked her in the gut causing her to clutch at her stomach. A strange garbling noise erupted from her throat.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Goodman, do not vomit in this car! That’s an order!” the mercurial man twisted in his seat to plead before his cheeks exploded like a puffer fish. <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“The Inn is just up the road. A park ranger and a few staff are keeping up the place. Vomit there, will you?” he begged.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->The prick’s a gagger! Truby saw the makings of opportunity. “You’ve got two seconds to put me down!” She’d rather not have to puke in the car.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby was about to make her next move when the starboard wing of the vehicle caught something firm, causing the left wing to tip at a <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->dangerous enough angle to trigger an alarm that not only lit up Kovac’s panel but issued a verbal warning.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Christ on a crutch! What’d we hit?”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Kovac skillfully keyed in a sequence into the control panel, “Increasing power portside. Stabilizing. That thing I tried to tell you.”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Let me out!” <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby dry-heaved, willing herself to vomit as she tore open her safety harness, activating yet another alert. She pushed on a newly lit display panel of colored lights on the back of the driver’s seat searching for any button that might eject her. A single rear seat, there were only windows each side over folding wings. Truby left her fingerprints all over those, too. The only escape was through and out the front of the flying box into a larger one.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Young wrangled a handheld portable oxygen mask over his mouth, lifting it to smile smugly. “Slow down, partner. You’ve got a contract to finish, remember? Violate our trust again, we’ll make sure you live to regret it.” <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Her trickery a failure, Truby fell back into her seat, trapped behind the safety harness that dug painfully into her back. Investigate, her mind screamed. As Kovac worked to restage a safe landing, Truby caught sight of a flashing emergency override button still lit on the control panel in the far upper left corner of the driver’s console. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><i>What was there to lose? She’d already lost everything that had ever mattered to her. </i><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby lunged between Kovac and Young, her left arm stretching out ahead of her like a viper taking aim as she struck her target. A vacuum-like whoosh and both the driver and passenger doors lifted vertically issuing more alarms. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Frigid wind rushed in to fill the once comfortably maintained cabin. The destabilized car wobbled precariously, falling slightly before bumping back up under the stabilizing forces of the engaged auto-safety’s increased thrust.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Young and Kovac were now barking at each other as Truby lay half across the Captain’s small lap. Head hanging out the door, she peered into the black box she called Mars wondering how far down and how hard the surface was as if it mattered. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><i>What did any of it matter?</i><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->She gathered her remaining strength to latch onto the bottom edge of the door jamb dragging her body across Kovac. She kicked someone in the head. Truby hoped it hadn’t been Kovac who was just doing her job, trying to survive this insane world like everyone else. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Launching herself into outer space, she called out, “Regrets are all I have!”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Merciful falling, that’s all she knew. That, and the transport vehicle carrying her only link to the outside world had just closed its doors and taken off into the freezing night with barely a sound like a phantom returning to its lair.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->When Truby awoke on her back, she saw stars, thousands of them, white and dense. Closing her eyes again, moving ever so slightly, it felt as if every bone in her body had been in a train wreck. A car wreck at least. It hurt to breathe. The burning in her throat was gone anyway. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><i>What if she has broken bones or worse is paralyzed? </i><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->On cue, a creature of the night let out a protracted howl ending in conversant yips.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Help! Is anyone there?” <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Greeted by a koan of silence, she eased her eyes open once more. This time, her vision cleared, and she really saw stars—millions, billions of them. The most beautiful twinkling luminous points of light she’d ever seen. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Her gaze landed squarely on the boldest within Heaven’s unending carpet. Maybe that’s Mars, though it was probably Venus. The stars were so radiant, they lit the sky in a way that revealed a bluish-purple haze filled with a line of dark clumps only viewable beyond civilization, the Milky Way galaxy. Yeah, she’d like to go there. Now would be just fine.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Ready to go, cowboy?” <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby nearly leaped out of a body gone rigid at the otherworldly voice that spoke to her from the ethers.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><i>How was it possible?</i><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“You fell eight feet.” Heavy feet, more than two, moved closer. “Get up. They’re expecting you,” said Young. <br><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --> <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><h1 class="title">CHAPTER 2</h1><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->2036 :: Americas Sector M4-66X :: Nevada<br><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“They said there t’weren’t no more. Buncha damn liars!” Leathery face etched as deep as the Grand Canyon, the old cowboy instinctively knew he was in trouble. Know the future, you not only control your fate, you control the world. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Grumbling bitterly to himself, had Divine Providence given him a cursory glance even once, he might be a little farther ahead in life. Instead, he was left alone to do things his way.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Maybe ten yards across the heavily patrolled sparse Nevada landscape, the last feral American Mustang’s dappled ears turned toward the man’s gravelly voice and vacuous wheeze his lungs emitted. Still, it didn’t stop the ownerless beast from pausing long enough to allow dry lips to search for moisture within a patch of brush rooted securely to the arid valley floor. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Hunkered behind a boulder next to his worn mare, the cowboy wiped the sweat that rolled into burning eyes with the bottom of his blue chambray shirt before reseating his cowboy hat. The thought that when the sweat no longer came, he’d really be in trouble flashed in and out of his mind as quickly as a skittering jackrabbit. Then, the valley’s author of both life and death, not he, would decide his fate. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->He raised himself to stand but fell back to a knee, wiry legs not yet ready to support him. The cowboy cried out when the soft spot of his knee landed upon a sharp stone. The mustang he’d been stalking for two days nervously pricked his ears and pranced in place. A loud warning whinny escaped its mouth. The cowboy’s mare answered sympathetically with a soft knicker.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Just then the sky darkened providing welcome relief from the relentless heat before relighting. Two red, white and yellow solar surveillance drones silently sailed onward. Equipped with infrared imaging and laser-piercing Lidar to map topography, the drones’ probing eyes captured and recorded all they saw.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“What I wouldn’t give for some Aztec Gold from one of Willy’s farms about now,” muttered the cowboy. “Shoulda never quit that job.”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->He took a full moment to uncharacteristically rebuke youthful impulsiveness before weighing present options. With a heavy sigh, the one thing he was certain, there was no way they didn’t know he was there now. Go home or go for broke. He’d gone home broke too many times.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->There was only one way to do this—naked just like the masters before him. How else could a man feel the muscles in his body connect with the sinew of the animal beneath him? Decision made. The cowboy unsnapped his shirt as smoothly as arthritic fingers would allow. Next came his father’s wide, genuine leather belt with the rodeo-sized silver belt buckle he wouldn’t let rattle as it dropped to the ground. Boots off, he wavered <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->indecisively before keeping his socks on to protect the soft parts of his feet. Black hat stays. Goosebumps pricked up all over his lean frame. The sun was more than warm, but the air that invaded uncovered body parts hadn’t yet responded in kind.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->At first, there was but a gentle vibration to make a man question the rightness of the world. Then came the outright shaking of the hardened ground. Eyes wide, the mustang bolted with a scream of terror. The fixated cowboy gave crooked chase barely aware a much larger event was in motion. He’d be damned before he’d let his prize get away.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Remembering he’d left his mare behind a boulder, he reversed course to hobble back to her as quickly as a stiff-jointed body would allow. The cowboy dragged his bucking horse by the reigns to a smaller rock for a step up. Delicate parts were about to connect with a rough-sewn saddle instead of a soft saddle blanket. The cowboy hadn’t planned on that, but then his plan had just been shot all to pieces. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->His left foot escaped landing in the stirrup several times as the horse seemed to fly forward and backward. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“What’s wrong with you, Libby? Hold still!” <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Finally mounted, brittleness forgotten, the gritty man trailed after the fleeing mustang as fast as the old mare could move over top the <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->rollicking ground. She seemed to fly like the wind by keeping her hooves in the air and off the surface as much as possible. The nude cowboy had never felt his horse run with such a light gait. He didn’t know what to make of it except he liked it. They were gaining on the mustang. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Steady now, girl! You can have the ‘ole boy once I catch ‘em,” he yelled to Libby.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->It may seem unfathomable to comprehend how even a seasoned man could be caught unawares he was in the middle of a major earthquake. But <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->to the passionate cowboy overtaken by single-mindedness, galloping at nearly thirty miles per hour in the open expanse of the Nevada desert, <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->he would have no trouble explaining it away. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->The real trouble began when the cowboy’s peripheral vision picked up activity. A ground fissure had explosively split the earth perpendicular to both horses’ beelines. Turning his head, the cowboy’s eyes flew open in surprise more than fear. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Returning his gaze to the closing gap, he yelled at Libby to go faster. “Do it or die, honey!”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->A shadow suddenly blotted out the sun, but this time, it didn’t go away. He was too busy to concern himself with why it lingered until the man’s inside voice said to look up.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->There it was, a drone. The thing’s eerily glowing “eyes” were round, first protruding then retracting only to protrude again. The eyes glowed amber, morphing to green, then blue depending on the technology it called forth. The tailless monster’s desert camouflage told him all he needed to know. Distended accusatory eyes rotated for 360-degree access before targeting the cowboy. Triangular-shaped, no wider than a boomerang, the drone unflinchingly kept pace with man and tamed beast. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Unsure what to think, it wasn’t until the drone produced two spheres that popped out of its belly like freed testicles that the cowboy felt his empty stomach drop down into his own throbbing singular testicle. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->A burst of white light that turned blue landed into the encroaching ground fissure causing a small explosion. At first, the man thought the drone was trying to close the widening gap when he realized with horror that the drone meant to aid the crevice in reaching its maxi-mum potential. Smoke rose from the ground like cautery as the fissure quickly cut a path across the valley floor. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Defiant, the cowboy bent down to decrease wind resistance. Every little bit helped. At that moment, he decided from then on, wherever he went he’d ride naked. To hell and back with what anybody thought. He hooped and hollered like a warrior heading into battle, kicking at Libby’s ribs urging her to go faster.<br><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --> <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><h1 class="title">CHAPTER 3</h1><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Americas Sector N3-24E :: Old Faithful Inn, Wyoming<br><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->A frozen image of the craggy cowboy’s rage filled Truby’s media screen. Both middle fingers were held rebelliously high over his shockingly pale <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->naked body except for a red-hot sunburn that extended from where his shirt collar would have hit, up his neck and into his scalp. This one bothered Truby, and not because even though he was thin, his skin hung off him like a Shar Pei. She’d become inured to the litany of work orders that crossed her desk, but she’d been caught off guard by this crazy character. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->He spurred something in her. Maybe the red-faced codger reminded Truby of her former self, the one she made a point of forgetting. They could have been accidental friends if fate had brought them together under other circumstances even though they came from different generations and different worlds.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby twirled a delicate wedding band on her pinky finger as she leaned back in her wobbly desk chair to stare at the video frame. She and the cowboy were both tall and well-proportioned, though he preferred clothing optional to her gender-neutral apparel. He had the same full head of untamed hair she did, Truby’s still a copper brown untouched by time.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->A journalist in a previous life, Truby had a trained eye for detail. It’s also why they made her do what they were waiting on right now. Her forearm’s subdermal BioIDentificator dispensed an indigo blue number three from be-neath her skin which rose to the surface like a tattoo that rapidly faded away to alert Truby she was three minutes over her deadline.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->This is what happens when you make a deal with the devil. First came random projects that had never been explained. At the time, Truby didn’t think much of it as they seemed innocuous in and of themselves. Maybe she hadn’t been thinking at all.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->She slammed her palm on an antique shaker-style desk. A little league baseball and a relic of a high-definition video camera along with replacement parts and batteries bounced in reply. It felt as if even her thoughts were subject to scrutiny. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby looked around at the juxtaposition called her life. It was a room at the now defunct Old Faithful Inn where the national monument once offered visitors the illusion that some things could still be counted on.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Drawn heavily-lined drapery kept out sunlight, and roving eyes, organic and otherwise, though it was likely wishful thinking. The suite was tastefully appointed with early 20th-century furnishings; a queen-size bed, the second bed removed for workspace; a decorative quaint wash basin next to a full bath, and a sitting and work area with a small refrigerator. Despite their age, the furniture along with the hum of the mini-fridge was soothing and comfortable as minimalistic styling went. Wide-planked pine wood floors, walls, and ceiling aided in keeping errant light from bouncing in-to her work while lending a natural woodsy fragrance, solitude’s companion that never grew stale. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby’s modern office chair, not built to last, was the only impediment to ideal working conditions. The work itself, too, she grumbled. As tasteful as her digs of three years were, the work required of her was not. Hidden in her room was one of the most advanced biocomputers issued by the military. Walk into the room; it was invisible. One only saw what appeared to be a few personal items strewn across the surface of a desk. It was what was unseen that was so impressive. A flat, pliable work surface blended in seamlessly with its environment using the same biotechnology a chameleon uses to change its skin to mirror its surroundings. It’s when the touch screen is activated via the user’s unique electromagnetic signature that the magic happens.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->The work surface revealed itself, emitting a hologram beam above it that served as the media screen. The screen size is adjustable from tablet to wall size. Smart glasses allow you to control your computer with your eyes replacing the mouse and stylus pens, but Truby always broke or lost her costly pair, thus, avoided using them. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Like quantum computers, biocomputers used molecules that worked in parallel rather than processing a single task at a time. The interface between the device and the virtual world it creates is the user herself. Nearly indestructible, the malleable work surface can be added materially to almost any object and as a wearable making it virtually undetectable. Though simplistic quantum hologram computers and technology as wearables became available commercially several years ago, the scope and depth of their application have been kept classified.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Stalling disobediently, Truby picked up the dirty white hand-stitched ball off the desk, tossing it from hand to hand. The sound of a ping like an elevator stop and a red circle appeared on her forearm. Truby swore before reluctantly reaching for an earbud within the objects on her desk, placing it in her ear. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->A genderless voice, “Good morning. It is 9:04 a.m. local time. You have one minute to upload your assignment, or your contract will be nullified.” <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Get out of my head!” Truby slammed the ball on the desk as several camcorder bits clattered to the bare hardwood floor. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Her hand smoothly waved in a circular motion over the keyboard, a preferred tracking mouse ball of light rising. She rolled the virtual ball backward to let the drama unfold once more. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->A drone recording the event left the old man below to sweep back toward the splitting Earth fissure that seemed to be losing momentum too soon. Making Truby jolt in her seat a second time, a white-blue laser beam from an unknown source, most likely the same drone, shot into the flagging crevice creating an explosion within that blasted rock debris large and small out of its innards. Next, the earth below appeared to shake like a panhandler shaking a box of dirt for gold. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->A wide stream of brackish water issued from the fissure that raced the length of the landscape at a high rate of speed toward its target once more. <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->The drone smoothly turned its lens to follow the churning earth emitting black dust and white foam from its depths. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby could hardly watch as the cowboy turned to see what was coming for him, turning back as if it were inconsequential. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><i>Why would he do that? </i><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->An unknown object moved in the corner of the screen. Truby zoomed in on the second target—another horse. She still couldn’t believe she was looking at living, breathing American Mustang. They were supposed to be extinct. She could barely watch destiny unfold. The wild mustang slowed by a wind-etched landscape gave the cowboy a chance to surge ahead. The unrelenting man took a rope off his saddle, struggling to twirl it overhead as his horse dodged the same ground conditions. Close enough to his prize, the cowboy let loose his cry of hope. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby’s heart sank at the man’s jubilance on his face. The man pulled hard on the rope to slow his catch and firmly establish command. Both horses were clearly exhausted despite the terror still visible in bulging eyes, sides heaving wide and narrow. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->That’s when it got them. The cowboy tried to hold on but a bucking horse much less two is too much for a tired old man chafed raw by time and circumstance. A final episiotomy of blue light and like the birth waters that gave him life, it was water that took it away. The Earth below the man and his horses dropped out beneath, but not before a two-fingered salute toward the sky Truby doubted she’d ever forget.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->She was furious. Truby worked haphazardly rather than carefully and methodically, scrolling the video in reverse again to a cowboy in socks and a cowboy hat, and his tired horse racing across the scraggly landscape. She froze the video before the mustang became visible, cutting the ending <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->to paste in a new one. Her hands worked as they would go.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“I think this story is far from over, don’t you, cowboy?” Truby keyed in the final sequence like lightning that plastered a flashing UPLOADING sign across the holographic screen. “Come on, come on.” <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->She eyed the time: 9:05 a.m. Truby picked up the baseball off the desk and threw it squarely at the wall, her aim high and true. A lone drape hook slipped off its aluminum rod allowing yellow sunlight to penetrate the haze of darkness. The messenger had delivered its mark in the wood plank next to a row of dents that traveled perfectly across the length of the wall like a wallpaper border. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->This was Truby’s wall of shame. Carved even more deeply into her heart, she bent over not only to repossess the ball that rolled back to her feet but from the heaviness of memories that had never heard of time.<!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><br><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --> <!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><h1 class="title">CHAPTER 4</h1><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->2023 :: Oslo, Norway — “Hemmy?” A dull seesaw wail of approaching sirens brought Thomas a little further out of the deep haze that gripped him like a vise. His head resounded with every beat of his heart. Along with the constant noise of the sirens, a loud, high-pitched ringing served to fill in the gaps the warm liquid missed in his bleeding ears. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Fresh waves of fear washed over Thom-as with each name he called, “Claire! Dev!” <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Light and shadow dappled his vision. Thomas’s racing pulse informed him he hadn’t been out long. Burning eyes wouldn’t focus to show him where he was, but hard concrete not so softly whispered he’d been thrown across the outdoor patio of the Oslo café where he and his young family had been having ice cream before hiring a car to take them to the airport. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Thomas tried to move blinking his eyes furiously to make sense of the twisted outdoor seating and blitz of bodies that seemed to block his every move. Dark shapes were approaching. He had to find his family and get out before it was too late.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Something moved nearby. An inscrutable shape lifted itself waving like a kite searching for wind, muffled sounds taking flight. A small voice pleaded delicately.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Hemmy!”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->A swarm of locusts descended. Thomas could barely make out that they were Int’l Terrorism Special Forces. That’s when the shouting began in a cornucopia of languages. Slowly he began to pick out words as he crawled toward something that moved. Every inch felt like a little death. Thomas<!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->uttered words of his own, but he wasn’t sure what they were.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Her borte! Gurney! American?”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Do not touch the bodies until we secure the perimeter! That’s an order!”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Daddy— Daddy's coming!”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Omkretsen er sikker!”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Thomas inched closer, glass embedding itself into his thigh making him cry out. He’d walk on fire to find them. If only he could walk. A body, still warm, lay between him and shadowy movement. Man, or woman? He pushed at it. It wouldn’t budge like the mountain it had become. Thomas tried to go around, but more glass shards and metal shrapnel made crawling over a body more appealing. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->A forearm and elbow gingerly reached out to begin the crossing. Why couldn’t he go to his knees? He vomited as he lifted his torso over sturdy lifeless legs. As Thomas’s second forearm stretched out, his eyesight cleared enough momentarily that he noticed the ring on the right hand of his mountain. He knew that hand! She had insisted on wearing her wedding band on the same hand as her Australian mother.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Claire? Oh, my God, Claire!” Thomas willed every ounce of remaining strength into his upper body, lifting it higher though everything within screamed at him. He commanded his head to turn toward the face. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Please, God, no.” Thomas wiped at his watery eyes with his torn jacket sleeve then turned his defiant gaze upward. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->The clothing was so badly shredded, he would never have been able to identify it, much less remember what she had been wearing that day. A face covered in blood, but he knew the earrings. Thomas had given Claire two exquisite opal studs yesterday, one an apology for all the secrets between them, the other to mark a new start to their lives. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“This isn’t like you,” she’d said with a worried twist of her mouth. “I should think these earrings to mean things were far more precarious than you let on. And not just between us.” <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Thomas opened his mouth to speak before closing it. He wouldn’t tell another lie. This time, he let his eyes convey what was in his heart. But would she accept them—and him? <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Claire was about to issue a condition when she decided to meet him halfway. “If it’s over now . . .” <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->That’s when Thomas had pulled her into his arms and kissed her tenderly on her favorite spot behind her ear. She had melted into his arms. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Thomas reached for her blood-slicked hand, collapsing over her body, lost in grief. Soul-wrenching anguish threatened to steal the remaining life out of him.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Two soldiers in different colored uniforms but similar insignia quickly approached carrying a gurney, scraping someone off the pavement.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Daddy?”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“She’s mine!” Thomas yelled. “Hemmy!” Thomas broke free of Claire using one hand to prop himself up enough to use his right hand to force a foot flat on the ground. “Stop!”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Two more soldiers with assault rifles appeared, pointing them at Thomas. <br>“Sir, stand down,” said the woman.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“They’re taking my daughter! She’s just twelve!” Thomas tried to stand, but she pushed him down.<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->The second soldier used her weapon to slip open Thomas’s charred jacket before moving in to pat him down. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Sir, it looks like you’re the only other witness. Your daughter’s in good hands. We’ll need your statement first.”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Thomas grabbed the stunned terrorism special forces agent’s pant leg, catching her off guard. He climbed her like a flag-pole, pulling himself to his quivering knees. “I don’t know anything!”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Another agent angrily grabbed Thomas’s arm to twist it behind his back, causing the already suffering man to cry out in pain. <br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->“Hemmy! Hemmy!”<br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Truby’s heart racing as it had then, she willed it to stop working. But that would mean getting off easy. Screaming Hemmy’s name every day for the last thirteen years. She had that coming. <br><br><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><footer><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] -->Excerpted from Attribution by Christine Horner. Copyright © 2017 by Christine Horner. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --></footer><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --></div><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --></div><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --></div>

Start Reading the First Chapters

A spectacular debut novel about the rise and fall of a journalist disgraced with nothing left to lose—obsession, the hunger for truth and victory, an unstoppable spirit struggling to come to terms with the fallout of an explosive past the only way she knows how.”

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About the Author

Christine HornerChristine Horner enjoys writing fiction and nonfiction that offers a higher consciousness perspective on the human experience. Nominated for the 2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for nonfiction, she is founder of What Would Love Do Int'l. Christine has been featured on many programs and written for international publications. Discover the miraculous within!

Navigating a Better World

New Earth Declaration
What Would Love Do Int'l
In the Garden Publishing