dEaDINBURGH: Hunted – Preview

Jess is a new character created for the fourth dEaDINBURGH novel. 

The following excerpt is pre-edit and copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing:




One Year after The Battle of Edinburgh Castle

Jess

 

 

The tree bark digs into my back but does not betray my position. The afternoon’s rain has soaked though enough to lend the outer bark a little flexibility. A snap of underbrush to my left sends me to my haunches. Spider-like, hands and feet, I crawl silently from my cover under the oak, moving across the wettest, softest parts of detritus towards a fox hole I’m likely small enough to fit inside.

Feet first, I slide my entire body length into the burrow; silently praying that foxy isn’t home. My legs continue to disappear into the humid darkness. Each inch of progress without resistance from earth or occupant slows my pulse. Finally, I clear the burrow entrance with my head without incident and pull some brush over the opening.

My legs are extended straight behind me, my butt scrapes the ceiling of the burrow, the crown of my head touches there also and my chin the ground. My arms are extended in front of me, fingertips mere centimetres from the brush I’ve placed to disguise my sanctuary. It’s a tight fit, even for me, the smallest and youngest of my community. Just as I’ve been taught, I breathe very deliberately and deeply, taking a small part of my mind elsewhere, the Claymore’s pavilion, a sun-drenched patio area I lounge and read in regularly. Once I mocked the gentle passiveness of Claude’s training.

Now, entombed in damp, warm earth, my only protection from the four adults trailing me, I say a silent prayer thanking him for teaching me to tame my physiological responses and take my mind elsewhere.

 

The footsteps of two of them draw near and I pull my scarf up over my mouth that my breath- fogging on the cool springtime air- doesn’t betray my presence.

Abruptly they appear a man and a woman. As I’ve been trained to, I take in their appearance, their mannerisms, their gait, physical strength, the movement of their bodies; likely stamina and flexibility. I assess the danger they present to me and decide to stay clear of them for now.

The man has been tracking me through the undergrowth of the forest. This surprises me, it shouldn’t, no-one survives in the dead city without some level of skill. I mentally chide myself for having assumed that he was less than able, simply because he did not walk, move or behave like a fighter. He may not have the physical attributes to make me wary of him, but his mind and senses are quick. Mindful of his busy eyes, I slow my breathing further and relax my muscles lest an involuntary tic or twitch betrays me.

The man is young, perhaps twenty-two. The woman with him looks to be around forty, I find it hard to tell with people that old. He makes a wide sweep around the clearing directly outside where I lay. The woman rests against the same trunk I took cover behind a few moments previously. Fearful that somehow they’ll hear the movement, I fight a smile that’s tugging as she obliterates all trace of my having leaned there for a spell with her own actions.

The young man scans the ground, his eyes moving to the oak where his companion rests her rear. “The trail ends there, at that oak tree you’re under,” he gasps worriedly. “There are a few scratches here and there.” He points out a fee tracks in the leaf litter leading away from my actual position. “But, anything could’ve made them, Mags.”

The woman’s eyes fill with tears. “She’s just a kid, Michael. She can’t be more than eleven or twelve years old. We have to try to help her. God knows what these maniacs have in mind for her.”

The man, Michael roots around, shuffling leaves and branches aside with his feet fruitlessly. A sag of his shoulders set the woman off again.

“C’mon Michael,” she screeches.

Michael’s face is a mask of fear. “For God’s sake be quiet, Mags,” he hisses. They’re bound to be gaining on us by now.”

Mags snuffs at her sleeve, her eyes boring into Michaels, but stays silent.

“You saw what they did to the group they sent out here yesterday.

Mags’ face blanches at the memory.

“C’mon,” Michael says softly. “Let’s keep moving.”

Mags, making enough noise and leaving a trail obvious enough to give her position away to even the most dim-witted pursuer, follows Michael, who would plainly be better off leaving her behind.

 

A few minutes after they leave, the other two from their group stumble through the same little clearing. Both men, they are an odd pairing. One of them is small, clearly terrified. He has a bookish look to him, soft hands and a thin frame. The movement of his eyes and head as he walks reminds me of those of a frightened sparrow, starting at shadows and woodland sounds.

The other man is a big one. Heavily packed with functional-looking muscle, his movement screams not just strength but speed also. He trudges clumsily, which tells me he has no finesse to him. It also implies that he doesn’t require any. His power and speed would make any subtle execution of combat a hindrance to him. Come within six feet of those shovel-hands and gigantic feet at the ends of long powerful limbs and he’s in control of the situation.

I mentally note all of this, comparing it with past experience and formulating a handful of possible strategies. The others shouldn’t be too much of a problem to evade or engage. This one is going to be a challenge.

The giant turns angrily to his cowering companion. “Stay here.” He barks. The smaller man whimpers…an actual whimper, like a cowed dog.

The giant’s lip curls into a sneer. “You shut the hell up, Steve,” he says pointing a thick sausage finger into the smaller man’s face.

Steve lowers his eyes.

The giant sighs. “Look, I just need to go follow Mags and Mike’s trail. I’ll catch up to them and be back for you, alright?”

Steve manages a nod. “You think they caught up to that wee lassie?” he asks.

The Giant shrugs, “Don’t know, don’t care. They were stupid to follow her.”

Conversation over, the giant smoothly disappears into the dense treeline, leaving Steve to find himself a stump for a seat.

Seated with his back facing my bolt hole, Steve shifts and fidgets so much he masks the minute sounds of me removing my camouflage and shifting my body across the ground, out of the burrow. Slowly I use my fingers and toes to gradually drag myself from the close confines of the fox burrow. The sounds of the forest keep his sparrow eyes darting to all the wrong places as I clear my knees from the burrow and rise silently to the balls of my feet.

Picking my way around any twigs or other potential noisemakers, I near him, smiling to myself at the dullness, or perhaps shrillness, of his senses. I draw my blade as I take one final light step towards him. Something primal in his psyche recognises a predator stalking him, but Steve is simply too busy jumping at shadows to listen to the ancient voice in his head trying to alert him to the hunter. Me.

My blade cuts through his carotid artery as my hand stifles any trace of sound from his mouth. I follow up with a stab through his voice box, just in case then shove him face first to the leafy ground to die quietly.

One down, three to go.

Three of the Ringed shuffle clumsily into the clearing, drawn by the loo, I suppose.

Fighting the urge to whoop with the thrill of the kill, I dampen my excitement and follow the giant’s messy trail, leaving the Ringed to their meal.
dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (Din Eidyn Corpus 4) is due for publication on 13th July, 2016 and available to pre-order now at Amazon

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Jack Thatcher – dEaDINBURGH: Alliances Preview 


The following excerpt comes from dEaDINBURGH: Alliances (Din Eidyn Corpus 2) by Mark Wilson. 

Available now as a paperback and kindle at Amazon UK and US 

Jack

Noticing light breaking through the gap in his curtains, Jack squinted at his Holo-
Screen, blinking the fog from his eyes. Seven a.m.

He’d been playing the dEaDINBURGH: Lair of The Ringed video game since
midnight, when the feed had been cut from the live show. He flicked his finger across
the air in front of him, causing the UKBC screen to pop up. The countdown until the feed
re-connected sat at 00:15. Just fifteen more minutes until they had the show back in full
High-Def Holo-Image. Jack saved his progress and kicked at the desk in front of him,
sending his ergonomic chair scooting backwards through the pile of empty energy drink
cans and takeaway boxes littered across the carpet of his living room.

Scratching at his crotch with his right hand, he lifted his left arm and sniffed at
his arm-pit, screwing his face up at the sourness.
Should have time for a shower if I get a
move on.

Jack stood with a groan in protest at the crack of his knees. It’d been a while since
he’d had quite so long a session on the game. S
cooping a handful of Cheesy-Puffs off the
desk and into his mouth,
he headed to the apartment’s little shower cube.

As he sang from the shower, the dEaDINBURGH theme began blasting from the
surround-sound speakers, eliciting a whoop of delight from him as he barrelled from the
bathroom, not bothering to dry himself, body wobbling back into his still-warm chair.

Leaning forward he made a little gesture to enlarge the screen and scanned the
info-bar along the bottom of the page to catch any updates. There were too many to
read so Jack flicked a finger at the Holo-Screen, bringing up a highlights reel on a smaller
screen within the main one. Whilst the main screen flickered into life, he jerked his eyes
to the highlights feed, gleaning everything he could about what had happened to his
favourite
Survivors during the feed-loss.

Suzy Wheels, Danny McGhee and Jennifer Shephard, his main characters, were all
more or less where th
ey’d been when the feed had cut twelve hours earlier. Jack flicked
at the screen a few more times, bringing up images of one of the less popular and least-
covered
Survivors he’d been following.

Joey MacLeod’s face filled the frame. Jack liked this kid. He’d begun to get a little
more airtime recently, mostly because he’d been in a few scraps
with Zoms of late. Jack
remembered him fondly
from the episodes where he’d left The Brotherhood a few years
back, with the old Padre. Those were amongst some of the most unexpected and
emotional scenes he’d ever watched and he’d replayed them many times in his mind’s
eye, lying in bed.

Padre Jock had been a favourite of Jack’s as a kid. As a Zom-Hunter and one of the
most colourful characters on the show. H
e’d had a huge chunk of airtime over the years
and had consistently been in the
Survivorstop ten chart for over twenty years. When
he’d been killed by Bracha, Jack had shed a few tears for the old man. For Jack’s  generation, who’d grown up watching him, Padre Jock was as intricately tied to the
show as its theme tune.

Three years later, Jack still felt grief whenever he looked at one of the many
images of Jock on mugs, posters, T-shirts and other merchandise around his home. Jack
had a massive poster of Jock over his bed. It depicted a scene from the show with a
young Jock, blades flashing, silencing five Zombies. It bore the legend:
Running rings
around The Ringed.

One of Jack’s online friends had a tattoo on his cheek in the shape of the
characteristic Ring o’ Roses rash of The Ringed. Despite being into its third decade of
transmission, dEaDINBURGH showed no signs of losing popularity, and if anything it
had gained more viewers than ever. In part this was
because of Jock’s protégé Joey and
his best friend, Alys Shephard. Quite simply she was the most skilled combatant the
dead city had.

Many of Jock’s fans had now latched onto the eighteen year old he’d trained out
of the need for a connection to the familiarity of the Padre. Aside from that, they’d
grown to know and love Joey during his time with Padre Jock. Many more had chosen
Alys as their new prime
Survivor because of her attachment to Joey and her own
considerable talents. The pair were fast becoming the definitive
Survivors of their
generation.

The screen Jack scanned showed Joey and Alys, from behind, in a large open field.
Joey had his bow over his back and was following along behind Jennifer’s daughter.
Their body language suggested they were tired and were both covered in grey dust. Jack
watched as the cameras zoomed out, revealing a mass of Zoms spilling out into the field
from a cycle path and a little clearing in a woodland. From the trail in the long grass, it
was obvious that the teens had come from the Zom-infested area.

It was a beautiful shot, so much so that it moved Jack to click the little thumbs-up
icon at the corner of the screen. He was only the hundredth to do so. It made him feel a
part of something special that he was amongst the first to see the beauty in the
photography.

Wondering how the teens had survived the massive congregation of Zoms and
why the infected weren’t pursuing them, he whirled the highlights footage over to the
main screen and began searching through it, hoping that he hadn’t missed something
special. He looked at the view counter at the edge of the highlights screen.

One view.
A single viewer besides him.
Jack felt a thrill surge through him and clicked the thumbs-up icon, making

himself the second person to have done so. He watched amazed as Joey and Alys moved
like crowd-surfers along a mass of the dead. They seemed completely calm, so at ease as
they slipped through and over a swarm of the Ringed. Jack had never seen anything like
it.

Nobody had.

 As the scene progressed, it was suddenly cut with footage from earlier in the day.
The pair had battled hundreds of the dead in that same clearing, Joey with an injured
foot in a tree firing arrows, and Alys a whirling, kicking and stabbing demon with her
twin Sai. The images were astounding and contrasted so sharply with the serenity of the
previous footage that Jack felt a prickle all over his skin. 

He watched Joey and Alys’ Survivor ratings rocket from around ten thousand
straight to positions two and one, respectively. Realisation suddenly made him jerk in
his seat. He motioned at the screen and watched as his viewer rating appeared. Last
night he’d been somewhere close to the ten-million region. A respectable position for
someone in Kent. The total viewing figures worldwide for dEaDINBURGH were at
around four billion.

Due to his early support for Joey, and lifelong support of Jock, whom he’d voted
for and thumbed-up hundreds of times, maybe thousands, in his lifetime, Jack’s viewer
rating would receive a boost. Factor in his support of Alys by proxy of being a Jennifer
Shephard supporter, and combined with this
morning’s early acknowledgement of both
the live-feed and the highlights package, and
Jack’s viewer rating should be at an all-
time high, perhaps in the top one million.

Jack blinked in disbelief as he looked at the numbers.
His rating had been propelled into the Top 500, worldwide. Number 1 in Europe.
His Holo-Screen suddenly lit up with emails, messages and invitations regarding

interviews, expert analysis and insights he might be happy to offer. He was being lined
up for a series of appearances across some of the biggest shows on the network and a
clutch of major blogs and newsfeeds. Hell, a news-crew were on their way to his
apartment at that very moment.

Messages of congratulations from his network-family scrolled across his screen.
In an instant
he’d gone from being another nobody – an above-average fan who spent a
little too much time watching the most-watched Holo-Programme on the planet and one
of those guys who haunted the thousands of fan sites and pages looking for insights and
extra-footage
to the hottest viewer-consultant in Europe.

Jack’s eyes glazed as he considered the possibilities. He’d always known that he
was someone special. Always felt that he was destined for something better than his
current station in life. Something more important. His great-grandmother had been an
exceptional woman, the first woman to become a true world leader. His own father,
Mark, was a world-famous author. Sure, Dad had ridden the coat-tails of his
grandmother too, but
his books continued to sell well years since the old lady’s death.

Jack conjured up an image of his father, Mark, with his arm around him,
congratulating his son, expressing his pride. He watched his fiction-writing father and
himself plan interviews and write opinion pieces together. He teared-up as an image of
himself spoke to an audience of billions whilst his father stood at his side, beaming with
admiration.

This was it. Finally.

Jack glanced down quickly at his mostly-naked wet body, edges of the towel
barely meeting around and under his belly. He gave a curt, decisive nod, to himself.
Time
to get sorted. The first thing I’ll do is get that liposuction and skin removal. And my teeth.
Get my teeth fixed. Pectoral implants. The UKBC will pay for everything, they always do for
their correspondents.

With the kudos and the money that’d be coming his way, it was time to get
himself together.

Rising from his seat, he stopped for a second, lifted his right thigh a little and
expelled a cloud of gas before heading to his wardrobe. Drying off, he pulled on a pair of
clean sweatpants, figuring that he’d aim the Holo-Camera from the waist up. Best to be
comfortable.

Jack then pulled on an old dEaDINBURGH T-shirt his dad had given him on his
thirtieth birthday, with an image of Jock in full Plague-doctor outfit on the front. It felt a
little tight, but also felt familiar.

Striding back through to take his seat, he flicked open the Comm for his first
interview with an American news network, allowing himself to enjoy a moment of
satisfaction at finding his rightful place.

Jack Thatcher smiled warmly and connected his call.


End of excerpt  

This excerpt comes from dEaDINBURGH: Alliances (Din Eidyn Corpus 2) by Mark Wilson. 

Available now as a paperback and kindle at Amazon UK and US