I’m working on final edits, but here is a preview, the first chapter from The Great Turning, which is book one in the trilogy. It’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi with a MMF element to it. I’m self-pubbing it as Lesli Richardson. I don’t have a firm release date yet, but I’m hoping to get it out this month.
It’s almost one hundred years since The Great Turning, the catastrophic meteor strike that changed the world forever. Russell Owens is a recently discharged New North Americas Army sniper who only wants to return to his home just outside of Yellowstone, and resume life with his gentle husband, Ted. Russell doesn’t want to re-up and hates that he had to kill for a living.
Zola Wright is the most skilled assassin the NNAA has ever had. She was tricked into re-upping—once. When the burned-out Red is sent to find Russell to talk him into returning, what her commanding officer doesn’t realize is that she’s not coming back. Her conscription time is up, and she wants out. She’s also reluctantly falling for Russell.
Now the sniper and the assassin are the ones being hunted, on the run from the army they just finished serving. Their former CO has secrets he’ll kill to keep. But Russell and Zola have more in common than their killing skills. And when Russell and Ted both fall for Zola, she knows their only option is to stand and fight together for the happiness and peace they yearn for—or die trying.
Russell Owens no more noticed the noontime heat of the mid-April sun beating down on him as he hiked than he’d noticed the stifling humidity in Houston after his first month stationed there. It just…was. Nothing to be done about it except keep moving.
He’d opted for an easterly trek instead of a more direct north and westerly course, following the skeleton of what remained of Old 10 toward the shipping yards of Baton Rouge.
It could take him possibly weeks longer to reach his final destination, depending on the roads between there and home, but it would keep him well clear of the wastelands of the western Texas and New Mexico territories. And he could hop a boat to take him up the Mississippi at least as far as New St. Louis, which would put him squarely in the heart of the Midwest Territory.
From that point, it should be easy to join a caravan heading northwest toward Rapid City, or even farther. If his luck held, maybe he could find one going all the way to the Seattle Stronghold, which would take him even closer to home. He’d listened to the radio chatter during his five-year conscription at Houston. He’d read reports. He’d studied the weather patterns. He’d researched the ShiT reports—shipping and transportation.
Late spring and summer meant caravans traversing the high passes and cutting months off transport times.
Someone would be able to help him get to Montana.
With that thought firmly gripped in his mind, he kept moving.
Overhead, the sun slowly swung across the sky until it was beating against his back instead of directly against his battered floppy lid, one of the few things from his conscription period he didn’t mind holding on to. The beige canvas hats were practical, durable, and came in handy.
He’d burned a uniform shirt the first night he’d camped out. Just pulled it off and set fire to it. In retrospect it was a foolish move, one which could give anyone who might be following him a clue to his route, but he didn’t care.
It felt good to do it.
Not like he needed it any longer.
Despite requests from Lt. Colonel Craige and Major Hicks for Russ to reconsider opting out, once his paperwork came through, he’d been issued a civvie ID card, and his chip had been updated, Russ had packed his ruck and bugged out of Houston.
And now, back to Ted.
Maybe if they’d tagged him for a different role he would have reconsidered. Go for corporate status, a lifer. Or even a wonk. If there were no available transfers to the Bozeman barracks, he could have easily afforded to pay Ted’s passage and been assigned digs on base and lived a boring, humdrum life as a fleet mech, or a clerk, while Ted made a decent living as a civvie sol-ec tech.
Hell, he wouldn’t have minded being a cook.
But no. That wasn’t possible. Not with what they wanted him to do.
He despised every second of it. He hated being shipped out on midnight air runs to territories foreign and domestic to back-up other Red units or ground grunts doing enforcing, or calming Fundie rebel skirmishes.
And he wasn’t good enough at kissing ass—or willing to engage in dirty tricks—to step on the backs of his fellow Reds to get a promotion over the rank of captain.
He might have been the best sniper the New North Americas Army ever had but each shot he took, each kill he made, it chipped away at a piece of his soul until he knew the only good thing left inside him was his love for Ted.
That’s where the rest of him still lay.
And that’s where he’d go, home to Ted, in Montana.
Or he’d die trying.
* * * *
His second night on the road, Russ made a nest for himself a few dozen yards off the old roadbed, in some tall brush. He ate a protein bar for dinner instead of starting a fire and hunting something, or popping open one of the MREs he’d bought on base before he left. The night felt warm and a nearly full moon gave him plenty of light. Not to mention it kept his position safely hidden from anyone who might pass his location.
Yes, he was once again a legally free citizen of the New North Americas, whatever that meant. He’d done his five years of mandatory conscription time, earned enough coin to help him and Ted buy the spread they’d always talked about one day owning, and he could live out the rest of his life in peace.
If the nightmares would ever stop.
He never slept well or deeply, especially when out in the open. A few hours later he startled awake, his fingers closing around the grip of the 9mm he’d purchased during conscription for his own use.
Listening, he waited, body tensed. He knew what had awakened him—all the normal sounds of crickets, birds, and other nocturnally active denizens had gone silent in his immediate vicinity.
It took a while until his ears heard what his instincts had already picked up, the sound of footsteps of several people walking along the crumbling tarmac of the old highway. No one spoke.
He didn’t move and kept his breathing slow and light through barely parted lips.
Still, his heart raced. From the sound of it, they all wore boots similar to what he wore on his feet, tactical hiking boots, thick and waterproofed and made for keeping troops vertical and mobile as long as possible. They made heavy, unmistakable footfalls to the trained ear, however.
Especially when the troops wearing them made no effort to stay quiet.
Russ didn’t spot any telltale lights and knew they were using the moon for illumination, conserving precious batteries so they didn’t have to resort to loud hand-crank chargers.
Craige and Hicks had both been off-base when Russ left. He hadn’t replied to their requests to speak with them one last time once his opt-outs were formalized. They hadn’t made it a command, and his chip had already been changed over to reflect his freeman status.
As a civvie, he didn’t owe them shit.
But he wouldn’t put it past either officer to send someone out after him “just to talk.” To try to haul him back in by whatever means necessary so they didn’t lose the best sniper they’d had in over twenty years.
He’d heard the rumors during his conscription, about how Craige and Hicks had the highest re-opt numbers of any other Red units, or any barracks in general.
Russ didn’t plan on helping their numbers.
As he lay there and listened, the footfalls passed him without slowing. Either they weren’t looking for him, or they were and weren’t equipped with one of the precious few night-ops glasses the Houston barracks had for just such an occasion.
If they were looking for him, he suspected they weren’t looking very hard.
Or weren’t very good at it.
Russ was invisible in his nest in the tall grass. He’d started to relax when something else pinged his attention. On high alert, he held his breath until, yes, he sensed someone else. This one moving far more stealthy than the first batch. Much lighter on their feet, possibly even a woman.
They slowly worked their way down the old highway, pausing now and again as a night noise caught their attention.
Then they stopped, not too many yards from where he’d entered the high brush off the highway. In daylight, a trained eye would easily pick out his trail. At night, however, even with the bright moon, they couldn’t. Not without a light.
Eventually, he heard the person continue on until once again the only noises surrounding him were the normal nighttime sounds of these sparsely inhabited regions.
Still, he knew his sleep was shot for the night. Instead he chose to think about Ted, about how he’d be back together with him soon. At six-one, his lover was only two inches shorter than him, with blond hair and blue eyes and a gentle sense of humor that never failed to get his motor running.
He fought the urge to rub one out. He didn’t want to make noise, didn’t want to be distracted. It’d be too easy for someone to sneak up on him.
Instead, he smiled as he fantasized about getting home.