Hey folks. How are you? How’s your Wednesday? Well that’s good. I have something for you. Here’s the prologue of my first book, which just came out, which you can get right here. Just a bit more pimping and I’ll stop bothering you about this thing.
Without any further ado:
Earth’s moon is an alien place and it wants to kill you. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that in a world devoid of life, death is the default. Earth’s moon is a dead rock with no atmosphere and no air. But you are there, and you are breathing.
At least you will be for the next two minutes.
You’re running through a vast desert drained of color, dotted with craters and mountains, all covered in a slippery layer of dust. Your planet floats as a mirage out there in the black. It’s full of oxygen you can’t get to. But there’s some air up here that you can get to. A canister of it is nearby. And if your calculations are right you’re about to run right up on it.
The gravity on this dead rock is weak and lazy. About the same as being underwater on Earth. Your suit has a system of small thrusters spread over your joints to make your movements more natural. Even so, you still feel like you’re wading through gelatin.
Movement: forty feet to your right. A blur streaks between two rocks. You realize you’re no longer alone. Bad news. You know there’s only one canister ahead but now there’s two of you. And neither of you are going to feel much like sharing.
You check the red numbers on your wrist meter. One minute, forty seconds.
There’s another glimpse of your competition. Another runner, like you, in a dull gray suit, like yours. The newcomer is probably a guy; there aren’t very many people on the moon and most of them are men. You cut to the right to converge on his path and maybe get the drop on him. There’s no sound up here. It could work. You’re following his trail of scuffed boot prints down a boulder-strewn foothill and as you plant your glove on a rock to vault over it, something whips in from the left and you take a hard tackle.
Black space and gray moon blur together and you cover your face so your helmet won’t crack open on the rocks. The express-train force of the hit carries you ten, twelve, fifteen feet before gravity drags you down again. Your lungs are deflated. You watch the other guy jump away, eating up the rest of the distance to the canister.
Now you’re getting pissed.
You scramble forward, letting yourself slide down the foothill before pushing up and transitioning into a run. You give fast pursuit and get right up behind your prey. You catch the guy’s leg on the backswing and twist it hard. Trying to rip the limb out of its socket. Now you both go down, grappling and jabbing in a dust cloud.
You both get to your feet and he shoves you down the hill. You bounce off a tall rock and come down on your feet. Plant your cleated boots in the soil to reform your stance for round two.
The enemy is back on you. The loose gravity slows your footwork and reaction time. It’s harder to fake him out, so you stay close and use quick strikes from your knees and elbows. The scuffle is oddly detached from sound. You can only hear your own ragged breathing and the crunch of your suit as you move. The enemy pummels your ribs and stomach. Now you’re going into oxygen debt and your vision clouds as your carbon dioxide level spikes.
Disengage, you tell yourself, just fucking run for it.
The enemy grabs a rock and you duck as he shot-puts it at you. It splits apart on the boulder behind you and you come right back up with two fistfuls of dust and toss them underhand into his face. Instinct kicks in and he waves a hand to clear the air. You grab his wrist. Flip the enemy around and slam him down on your bent knee. Then you wind up and drive an elbow into the exposed solar plexus. His limbs spasm and it’s strange not to hear the gasp you expect.
Twenty seconds. You’re off the blocks, hustling downhill again. The canister is small but you know it should have blinking lights on it. But you reach the target area there’s nothing there. No canister, no air.
Hot panic swells in your chest. No, this is wrong. It should be right here. You’re going to be the asshole who just stood around as his oxygen ran dry—
–Wait. Through the fog you see an odd discoloration over there, behind that clutch of rocks to your left. You see the colors red and blue instead of gray. They’re the beacon lights on the canister.
You lunge and dive. Slide though the soil and gather the canister against your chest. You swing it around to your back, pop the empty one out, and swap in the new one. Cool oxygen circulates in your suit again. You drop the dry canister and shiver as you inhale.
Fight, win, repeat. Your name is Tom Hackett, and that is all you really know how to do.
Now a voice comes into your helmet:
“And that’s a canister grab with ten seconds left on the clock. Congratulations, Lieutenant Hackett, you’re our winner.”