December 7th is right around the corner, as is the launch of the next installment of Collin W. Buechler’s MI86 series. This book is presently available for pre-order at Amazon as an ebook, with delivery automatic on December 7th, just in time to remember the heroism of our brave men and women who died at Pearl Harbor.
In volume 3 of the series James Dennesy and team head to Greece and Norway in search of artifacts critical to keep out of the vile Baron von Sterb’s control, a man with revenge in his heart for what happened to him in Prague. A sample action sequence from the first story in the book “Operation Harling” follows the leap. We pick up with the MI86 agents sitting in a smoke filled room in a small, Athenian antique shop talking with a new and mysterious entry into the MI86 universe when they are rudely interrupted. (more after the jump
Rachael Erstweather sat in the smoke filled back room of Arcturus’ shop, it seemed as though the man smoked non-stop and even when he did not have a cigarette lit the dank smell of burning tobacco stayed with him. The Captain had noticed even Lance Cogswell had increased his smoking around the man, which seemed to only compound the issue of the dense air in the back room.
“Gentlemen, could we open a window, or at least a roof vent?”
“Rachael has a point,” responded James, who although was not smoking exhaled a huge cloud of tobacco smoke.
Arcturus smiled, although it was not a comforting smile for the three British agents, “Sorry, we can’t. The smoke would be seen by the Italians and Germans. There is nothing magical about this smoke.”
“What do we know about the location of the gorgon’s head?” inquired James Dennesy.
“The head was used on three occasions,” began Arcturus calmly. “Twice by Perseus as has been passed down through time as myth. The third time was when the head was hidden, there was no other way to keep its secret.”
“You mean they killed the men who hid the head?” Rachael Erstweather was horrified.
“It was not as you think, the men volunteered for the duty. It was too great a threat to the world and the safekeeping of the gorgon’s head was an immense responsibility.”
“So we are looking for an army of stone statues, in the land where stone statues are common place?” Lance Cogswell puffed on a cigarette and cracked his knuckles.
“Not actually an ‘army’ of soldiers, there were eight soldiers in total accompanying the high priest to lay the gorgon’s head to rest and stand guard over the resting spot for the rest of time.”
“Do you know where in Athens this resting place is?”
“Oh it’s not in Athens. Perseus returned to his place of birth and accidentally killed his grandfather as had been foretold. He then returned to Argos with Andromeda and fathered seven children. The gorgon’s final resting place is rumored to be in a location Perseus knew from his adventures and is likely well hidden in the Gorgopotamos Valley.”
“I thought he had returned it to Athena, who in turn gave it to Zeus.” James Dennesy gnawed on a piece of beef jerky as his body tried to deal with the heavy cloud of smoke. The zombie felt that after a few more hours in the back room his lungs would be more heavily smoked and cured than the jerky he was presently eating.
“We should expect to find the head in a temple to Athena, what the goddess may have done with its spiritual essence is not known, but the physical form will remain where it was placed.”
“Then we should return to the North and begin our search through the valley.” Lance tapped his cigarette out and looked intensely at the old man. “Don’t suppose you could give us a clue as to where to start looking.”
“I can, and I can give you a warning as well. My eye sees all that takes place around it, and there are creatures here at the behest of a witch who seek to not only beat you to the prize, but also to kill the shadow walker and those who journey with him.”
“So Gretel has sent us a welcoming committee, I thought there was more to that candy smell than the store could explain.” James spoke through a mouthful of smoked meat, he had a certain level of discontent with the knowledge the UWG had troops in the area.
“They want you dead, and by that I mean utterly destroyed since you are already…” Arcturus paused, considering for a moment that he had just stated something possibly offensive to the Gunnery Sergeant.
“Don’t worry about it, I think she makes a hobby out of trying to destroy me, and I have grown comfortable with my current status of not quite alive.”
“Well, be careful of these creatures. They are unlike anything this eye has ever seen, and it has seen some truly terrible things. Alas all I can say as to the location of the temple is that it lies in the heart of Athena’s chest.”
“Wow, you can’t be slightly more cryptic could you?” Rachael looked annoyed at the clues provided.
“It is what I can see. The magics that protect the temple stop me from seeing more. They are ancient and of an extremely powerful nature.”
James scoffed, “What could be more powerful than something crafted by the gods.”
“Quite a bit since the gods in question are no longer empowered by belief. This eye has been losing its ability as the number of believers has dwindled. The magic protecting the gorgon’s casket is one of personal sacrifice and there is no stronger magic.”
“What I think the worst thing is,” stated Lance as he put his feet up on a cushion and reclined back into his chair. “We have to get back to where we started this journey out. We traveled hundreds of miles through enemy territory only to have to turn around and start over.”
Rachael Erstweather smiled as she coughed, “I thought you would have rejoiced being back closer to where the action is.”
“Not at all Rachael, in fact I don’t exactly relish the idea of being back where people are shooting at me first and asking questions later.”
James had to agree with the Lieutenant, but didn’t dare let the Royal Marine know they shared a common concern. The undead Marine was concerned for the safety of his companions and did not care for the idea of entering a war zone where a firefight was much more likely than being taken prisoner. “Come on Lance, it’ll be fun…unless you were scored as w.i.m.p. during basics.”
“Wimp, what the hell are you talking about Gunny?” Lance was indignant, perceiving an insult without actually knowing if one was present.
“It means ‘Weak In Mountain Phase,’ and it just means you can’t climb.” James Dennesy stood up and began to pace. His skin was beginning to crawl and he could not explain why.
The look of revelation on Lance’s face was in part intended to mask his initial response, “Oh is that all. Sorry to say Gunny I excelled at mountaineering and wilderness survival, it’s the Captain you need to worry about.”
Rachael shot the Lieutenant a look that could kill as effectively as standing at the wrong end of a German’s rifle. “I will have you…”
James interrupted her, “be quiet you two, someone is approaching.”
“The Gray Walker is right, there is something outside the front door, but it cannot decide if it is seeing a door or a wall.”
“How can it be confused like that?” asked Rachael.
“It is quite simple ol’ girl. The creature is of inferior magic to the protection, and therefor may not be able to penetrate the illusion protecting this building.”
“It is ‘inferior’?” inquired Lance. His confusion clearly displayed on his face.
“Yes, there are many levels and varieties of magic in this world. The can-diah magic which animates the confection outside this shop is the lowest form of magic possible. The protection woven on this shop is of the highest form de-etay, much like the magic which the Gray Walker uses.”
“Well we have fought those lowest forms in the past and they are quite powerful.” Rachael squinted her eyes and tried to focus on the old man who appeared to be shimmering slightly.
“Oh I am certain they are, which is why I must be going,” the old man smiled wickedly and waved as he blinked out of existence in a cloud of thick smoke.
BANG BANG BANG
The wooden door rattled its hinges.
“Well he picked a fine time to leave us.” Lance stood up and looked around the room for his knapsack.
Finding the bag resting casually next to a shelf of ancient looking jugs the Lieutenant dug through it and removed a long barreled revolver and loaded it with bullets painted with a red tip.
BANG BANG BANG
“Shooting this thing doesn’t do anything Lance,” stated Rachael Erstweather as she looked around the smoke filled room for a suitable weapon.
James Dennesy looked uncomfortable, the close quarters of the small shop meant he would have to exert an extra effort to control the raging beast inside of him if he wanted to make certain not to injure his companions. “I don’t suppose there is a back door to this shop?”
BANG BANG BANG
The hinges on the door were beginning to buckle under the immense force of the creatures pounding.
Lance positioned himself behind a shelving unit facing the heavy wooden door. He casually pushed the ancient looking vases to the floor to clear his line of sight.
CRASH CRASH CRASH
BANG BANG BANG
“Lance those were ancient artifacts,” stated Rachael Erstweather astonished at the man’s disregard for the artifacts.
“If we are lucky we won’t be joining them on …”
BANG BANG CRACK
The heavy wooden door flew off its hinges and hit the Lieutenant mid-sentence. His gun scurried across the floor and under a tall set of shelves weighed down by years of dust and a collection of small stone statues. Lance groaned as he fell unconscious from the blow.
In the door way stood a tall, imposing figure. Light shrouded his facial features. Even through the dense fog of cigarette smoke, James could smell the sweet aroma of confectioner’s sugar and cherry. The figure passed through the magical portal and into the room. Without so much as a single word it began destroying everything standing between it and James Dennesy.
Once through the door a wall grew over the gap, sealing the three British agents in with the German soldier. Rachael Erstweather ducked as a particularly heavy marble statue flew effortlessly through the air and smashed against the wall above her head.
James rushed the creature, placing himself between the Nazi and his two British companions. The Marine Gunnery Sergeant landed a crushing uppercut to the German’s jaw. The man’s face squished and then rebounded back into shape as though the blow had been dealt to a pillow.
James was not as lucky as the German, who landed a powerful blow to the zombie’s stomach, breaking ribs and forcing several pieces of chewed beef jerky back up the zombies throat and out of his mouth. The impact also lifted the Marine into the air and threw him across the room. Flying through the air with the ease of an ancient, armless, marble statue James suddenly came to a stop against the mud brick wall and slid to the floor. The Marine was slow to stand back up, although he did stand back up to the surprise of his opponent.
James spit out a dark, blackish red spray of coagulated blood as he cleared his mouth. Grunting loudly the Gunnery Sergeant could feel his internal organs attempting to relocate themselves back to their original position. “Right, so that’s how it’s going to be is it?”
“You will die, and die for good,” hissed the German soldier. “It is my mistress’ command.”
James launched himself through the air and into the nearly seven foot tall leather clad German. The Marine’s fists were a blur as he pummeled the soldier. The soldier’s form squished and shifted around like it was filled with fluff. James could feel his hands sinking into the man’s body and face, the German’s skin wrapping loosely around his fists with each blow. When the soldier hit back the Marine felt like his fists were filled with bricks, the blows impacted like a howitzer sending James stumbling backwards.
Moving around his opponent quickly James Dennesy searched for a weakness. He was desperate for any sign he was having an impact on the German. He was not, and there were no weaknesses. The Marine Gunnery Sergeant ducked a powerful fist from the German and punched the man in the groin. It had no effect.
Rachael Erstweather attempted to stay out of the way of the two titans battling it out in the main area of the small shop and instead attended to Lance, who was coming to from the initial shock of having a door thrown at him.
“Get my gun…” whispered the man.
Rachael looked at him, “bullets won’t help this.”
“Get my gun!” stated the lieutenant firmly. Lance attempted to dislodge himself from under the ancient wood door, but he was stuck. Pointing to the shelves his gun had slid under Lance grimaced as the form of James Dennesy crashed into it burying the weapon under the rubble.
It was apparent the Gunnery Sergeant had failed to dodge a blow. The Marine picked himself up off the floor and dusted the fine powder of crushed history out of his eyes. As Rachael reached out for the gun it was kicked away by James as he rushed the German. She cursed under her breath as the pistol slid into a pile of pottery pieces.
Rachael scrambled on all fours through the crumbling remains of vases and statues searching for the gun. The whole time the woman was having to dodge the blows being dealt out by James and the German soldier; which made her search all the more dangerous.
The air filled with marble mist as James changed his tactic and started to pelt the soldier with small statues and vases. Each piece of history exploded into a fine powder as it struck the soldier and immediately turned to dust.
Rachael dug through the pile of rubble and found the large revolver. It was a clearly modified large caliber hand cannon. Trying to level the gun at the German the British Captain was amazed at how heavy the gun felt. Pulling the trigger the pistol leapt out of her hand and scurried across the floor, coming to a stop near Lance Cogswell. An explosion of flame erupted from where her shot hit the wall behind the German, the bullet barely missing the giant.
Both the German and James Dennesy turned their attention and disbelief towards Rachael. James stepped in between the German and the female Captain blocking the soldier’s path to the new threat, giving Lance just enough time to retrieve his revolver and line up his shot.
The German burst into flames, melting into a pool of pink syrup. James collapsed to the floor, his broken and battered body giving up now the immediate threat had been terminated.
“Candy magic, meet military fire power,” stated Lance as he collapsed back into unconsciousness.
There was a puff of sweet smelling tobacco smoke and Arcturus appeared again in the middle of the rubble that had been his stock. His eyes flared red as he looked around the room like the lit end of a cigar. “What in the hell did you do to my shop?”
James Dennesy groaned slightly as he picked himself off the ground.
“And you Gray Walker, what is your excuse?”
James was not provided time to answer as Arcturus slipped on the pool of syrup on the floor next the empty skin of the dead German. “Damn the gods and this eternal war. I did not want to be involved in this. I am neutral.” The man screamed the last line towards the heavens.
It seemed as though Arcturus expected a response as he kept his gaze turned towards the ceiling of the small shop. If someone did answer him, the three MI86 agents could not hear the response. James was lifting the wooden door off from Lance Cogswell, who besides being battered and bruised was not seriously injured.
“Fine, Fine, I’ll do it,” called out Arcturus, again the man was addressing the ceiling.
Turning his attention towards James, Rachael and Lance and smiled. Rachael noticed his teeth were stained a dark brown from smoking and she suddenly got a very real sense there was much more to the man than they had been lead to believe.
“You three, I want you out of my shop now! Oh and do try to remember to get off the train before the bridge.”
James suddenly found himself in a box car filled with goats. The clacking of the rails told him the train was in motion. Looking around the darkened interior of the box car the Marine sighed in relief as he saw Rachael and Lance lying on the floor on the opposite side of the small space. A faint hint of tobacco smoke hung in the air.