“Gentlemen, we’re going to be departing the aircraft shortly, so everyone get set,” Colonel Black hollered.
My breakfast rose in my throat. The colonel must’ve seen the look on my face because he chuckled as he drew a black watch-cap over his salt-and-pepper hair. From the look of things, he wasn’t the least bit concerned about jumping out of the plane, which made me feel like a wuss. That feeling wasn’t helped by the fact that Colonel Black was six-five, every bit of it solid muscle. Sure, I’d grown nearly a foot in the last year and put on some muscle of my own, but I had nothing on the colonel.
“Oxygen on,” the jumpmaster barked. “Eight-thousand feet.”
I sighed and put on a mask like the ones you see in hospitals. We were jumping from high enough up that we had to breathe pure oxygen from the plane’s air system until we switched to the tanks we’d wear on the way down. Uncle Mike explained this was to keep us from getting the bends from the altitude drop.
“So, Archer,” Colonel Black called to me, his voice muffled by his plastic breathing mask, “where are you this week?”
“Greece. Field trip for that ‘gifted and talented’ program General Richardson cooked up as my cover,” I said. “So far, so good. If my mom knew I was really jumping out of airplanes at high altitudes to hunt monsters, I think my number would be up.”
“Speaking of jumping…” Mike nodded at me. “You got that thing strapped on tight enough?”
My hand flew to the buckles and clasps holding my parachute pack to my back. “God, I hope so. Does it look loose?”
On my right, Lieutenant Johnson said, “Kid, the major’s just yanking your chain. You tighten those straps any more and you’ll cut off your own arm.” His laugh rumbled louder than the engine. “Stop worrying so much. You’re ready for this.”
“I’ve only done practice jumps, not combat.” I settled back against the wall and glared at Uncle Mike. “Just because you’ve jumped out of a perfectly good airplane onto mountains doesn’t mean I have. I’m allowed to be extra careful.”
Mike’s brown eyes crinkled up at the corners. Mine did the same thing when I was laughing at someone else. “Chief, what did you think being part of the 10th Airborne meant? The word ‘Airborne’ kind of gives it away.”
Schmitz, my hunting instructor, piled on. “Hooah, Major Tannen. We live to jump, sir!”
“That mean you’re going second today, Master Sergeant?” Mike yelled.
“Amen to that, sir!” Schmitz danced in his seat a little. The smallest member of our squad, Schmitz was wiry and less than medium height, his hair a five-o’clock shadow barely hiding his skull. He also practically buzzed with energy. “You hear that, ladies? I get to go second.”
“Not sure that’s a good idea, man. You’re so short, we won’t be able to spot you in the snow and one of us is bound to land on you,” Lieutenant Johnson said.
Schmitz made a face but his retort was cut off because the jumpmaster stood to start the ready protocol. Using a special set of hand signals, he motioned for us to prepare. The roar of the engines changed pitch and I felt the plane jerk as the pilots slowed so they could kick us out.
The jumpmaster gestured for us to stand and hook our parachutes to the anchor cable, shouting, “Green in ninety seconds.”
“You heard the man. Last check on equipment,” Colonel Black yelled.
My stomach did flips. “When do I go?”
“I’ll go first, then Schmitz, then you,” Uncle Mike said. He wasn’t kidding around anymore—his voice was tight and sharp. “Johnson will come behind you. Then the rest of the team.”
We took off our oxygen masks, lined up and clipped our chute lines to the wire suspended from the side of the plane. Schmitz stood in front of me with his head bowed.
“Our Lady, bless us and keep us,” he murmured. “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” He did the sign of the cross then let loose a bloodcurdling “Hooooo-aaaahhhh!”
The praying didn’t calm me down much. Too late to back out now, though, because the ramps at the rear of the aircraft opened. The sky yawned through the wide-open hatch and sunlight glinted off the metal around the edges of the ramps.
The jumpmaster signaled “stand by.”
Oh, man, this was it.
Mike turned around, his face totally intense. “Yellow light. Masks on.”
I slapped my mask into place on my helmet and a plastic smell invaded my nostrils as the oxygen started to flow from my reserve tank. Shouts of “Hooah” came from every which way, while my heart slammed around like a marlin caught in a net.
“Countdown!” the jumpmaster shouted. “In five…four…three…two…one. Green light. Go, go, go!”
Mike ran down the ramp, dragging his chute line, then leapt from the airplane with hands folded over his reserve chute’s ripcord. By the book. Seconds later, his chute opened.
Schmitz followed, screaming “Geronimo, you mother…!”
The last of whatever he had to say got drowned out in the howling wind.
Johnson gave me a shove. “Go, kid!”
I drew a huge breath and held it, ran, jumped, soared off the ramp just like I’d been taught in jump school. I braced myself for the pull of the chute as it slowed me down.
The tug never came.
My parachute didn’t open.
Review and Thoughts
Again I am so happy to have signed up for the next book in the series of Matt Archer, the adventures, suspense, the thrill and pretty much everything else was so exciting to have read. Matt is getting way more advanced in the training/killings, he has become more and more involved as a soldier. As always I enjoyed the book it was a action packed thriller all in one. The beasts were way more tough powerfull too. The more the author puts into the book the more i end up being amazed by it. The power the knife has, really took me by surprise I did not expect that. The book turned out to be way better than I thought it would, I knew I was going to love it like I did the first but I didn't know how much. Other than Matt Mike is such an awesome character, although I still feel like he is tough on Matt but only a bit. Its kind of a tough love relationship because he means well all he wants if for Matt to be safe and to be able to watch over and take care of himself.
I highly highly recommend this book everything about it you will like, each book sucks you in as if you were going on those "hunting trips" Too. It makes your imagination run free, while you picture every beast in your mind just to get an idea of what they look like, and so on and so on. The first one actually made it on my top 5 books of 2012. Seriously it was such a fun read and it also did it's job by keeping you on the edge of your seat!
You definitely want to pick these two books up they are so worth the read, especially if you enjoy fast paced books. Trust me you are going to be left wanting more...
Guest Post: Why Writers Need (and Love) Reviews
In the wake of the “sock-puppet review” scandal, it’s easy to see why readers are wary of leaving—and believing—reviews. But it’s still one of the most important things you can do to support your favorite authors. Genuine, earnest reviews lead to sales. (So does word of mouth…we’ll come back to that.) Sales lead to more books by your favorite author, which means more awesome stuff for you to read.
It’s not only for sales, though. Knowing what you like—and what you don’t—helps authors improve their writing, determine if a story-line in a series is working or whether certain characters are annoying or beloved. Let’s face it, though…the primary reason authors love reviews is because we want to be heard. It’s very exciting to know people other than Aunt Sally and the next door neighbor are reading our books. These days, readers expect authors to be interactive on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. For some, this is a necessary evil. For others, like me, it’s a chance to learn what resonates with our readers and make connections we might never have made.
So, let’s go back to the word of mouth thing. Publishers can buy all the advertising in the world. A book can get a stellar review from Kirkus and Booklist. Yet, it still might not sell. Why? Word of mouth. Even with the reviews and the advertising, if enough readers are saying “Meh,” about the book, its sales will level out, then drop.
To counter that point, there are tons of books selling really well on Amazon that have a mixed bag of reviews because people are talking about them. If you love a book, you tell your friends about it, right? And they might buy it. If your friend likes it, they might post something on Facebook, which might get shared, then suddenly the book’s sales take off. The readers—you—have the power to make or break a book. Writers rely on you…without readers, our stories would go unheard.
The next time you read a really amazing book, take a minute to leave a short review…or tell a friend about it. Your review or recommendation could be the one thing that keeps a writer going while creating that next story.
As a reader, it’s all in your power.
Author BioKendra C. Highley lives in North Texas with her husband and two children. She also serves as staff to two self-important and high-powered cats. This, according to the cats, is her most important job.
Kendra believes chocolate is a basic human right, running a 10K is harder than it sounds, and that everyone should learn to drive a stick-shift. She loves monsters, vacations, baking and listening to bad electronica.
More information about the Matt Archer universe, works in progress and the nature of the Higgs Boson* can be found at www.kendrachighley.com