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Bulletfoot New Release Sneak Peek

 

Friday, March 27th will bring the latest book to the LMBPN list of offered readings in Kindle Unlimited! You won’t want to miss this fantastic and exciting Mech/Military Scifi set in a not too unrealistic future!

 

Chapter 1

Jessica13 dreamed of adventure outside the bunker. She never knew she’d get her wish—or that it would cost her almost everything about her old life. And she never knew the danger it would bring her.

She was out in the open in the mess hall, her focus on two books she had open on the metal table in front of her. People all around her talked and made considerable noise while they ate, and the room shook every once in a while. She continued to hum, however, and tapped her finger lightly on the table to the beat of the music playing in her headset.

Not many people made music that was fun to hum to these days. Most of the music those around her listened to was the kind with heavy thrashing on improvised electronic instruments and screaming rather than singing.

But occasionally, although not that often, someone got their hands on a ukulele or a guitar or something like that and simply strummed. They didn’t even have to sing for the most part. Something with a catchy tune was all she really needed to get into a rhythm and let her mind flow while she worked out the gears on the new converters they were bringing in. She didn’t know where they had found them, but she really wished they would stop selecting those that were almost exclusively broken.

People didn’t have fun with music anymore. In the Cities-That-Were, they said all people had done all day was listen to and make music for other people to enjoy. They got canteen credits for it and everything. What a way to make a living.

Even as an orphan with no one to speak for her, she had quickly been moved out of the lower work areas and up to the higher levels in the Sanctuary thanks to her Athena genes. She now lived and worked in the lowest of the three upper security levels of the bunker. The third and highest level formed the first line of defense and was manned constantly by Guardians.

“Hey, bulletfoot,” someone said behind her.

There were many bulletfoots seated in the mess with her so she could assume they weren’t talking to her since she was on her downtime.

She could have spent it in her room, which she didn’t have to share with anyone and so wouldn’t be interrupted. The folks who had moved her had pulled some strings to get her a room, but it wasn’t a great one. It had been a water pressure regulator closet that had been rendered redundant when they repurposed all the pipes inside.

While she’d been grateful and made it her own, it was still short on space. When she was reading, it was better to come out to the mess. It was cheaper on her canteen account to leave the lights off, for one thing, and with her headset, she didn’t need to worry about the noise. Which didn’t, of course, exclude possible distractions like this one.

“Bulletfoot, I’m talking to you,” said the voice again and a hand come down on her shoulder. It wasn’t rough but it sure as hellfire was an indicator that she was the bulletfoot they wanted.

Jessica13 pulled the headset away from her left ear and continued to listen to the music in the right.

The man who stood behind her was tall and lean with most of his hair shaved as was the norm with the chavs who spent considerable time in their combat mechs. It meant less chance that they would have issues with hair clogging their recyclers—although, as she was well aware, it still found a way.

This one, in particular, was the section’s CO, who went by the name of Armstrong7. He was the man in charge of running the ops out of their level, which was mostly only bunker defense at this point.

“Where’d you get the headgear?” Armstrong7 asked and tapped the headset she wore.

“Oh, I was running some repairs on the Minato’s gear,” she explained and gave him a mostly truthful version of the events. “I’m making sure it’s working before reinstalling.”

“Right.” The man narrowed his eyes. “Make sure you don’t bust the speakers in there. You break it, it’s out of your canteen. I don’t expect you want the lights in your room out for a week again.”

“No, sir,” she said and shook her head. “That’s actually why I’m working out here.”

Armstrong7 still didn’t look like he believed her. “Anyway, I’m sending a team Topside to investigate the seismic activity we’ve had a taste of. Us grunts say it’s probably dog packs tripping the mines, but the smart guys say we might be looking at a little Skyfall. I need a bulletfoot to head on up. Are you in?”

The CO was a tough motherfucker, but he did have a sense of what kept morale up with his people. He knew for a fact that Jessica13 liked to catch a glimpse of the Skyfall, at least when it wasn’t falling on them. And it was really beautiful to watch the streaks of light across the sky, day or night, whenever they decided to fall.

In this case, though, she couldn’t help a shrug. “Sorry. Like I said, I’m working on repairs on Mini. Do you have any other bulletfoots to choose from?”

“I do but thought you’d appreciate the opportunity,” he said.

“What are you doing anyway?” one of the other chavs asked and leaned in closer to try to peer at the manual she was working on.

“I’m trying to find out how to fix the AI in the Minato,” Jessica13 explained and pointed out the manual section that spoke about original AI designs. “Since the Minato AI designs are older versions, I thought some of the older manuals might have a way for me to make it work.”

“You really shouldn’t be so attached to that mech,” another chav with a mustache said, shaking his head. “They’re supposed to be tools, not toys or pets or…I don’t know, something else you might get attached to.”

“Shut up, Jackass,” Armstrong7 rumbled.

It wasn’t really an insult, although it was meant to be. The chav’s name was Jack5 but someone had used a piece of lead to graffiti a mission report, especially the 5 at the end of his name. It became a nickname and it had stuck.

Not all the time, of course, but when they wanted to piss him off. And given that it was his mech she ended up needing to snake because of that damn mustache of his, she liked to piss him off regularly.

“Nah, I’m being serious, here,” Jack5 said and laughed. “We have a whole troop of support mechs she can use, but she always insists on that Minato piece of crap.”

“You couldn’t operate a Minato,” she pointed out.

“Yeah, because it’s a piece of crap,” the man insisted. “Besides, I don’t know why you need all those manuals anyway. I thought the point of having these Athena freaks around is because they are genetically designed to know how to fix and build shit.”

Jessica13 bristled at being called a freak like it was somehow a bad thing that she was better at something than he was.

“Hey, Jackass, remember that time in the not too distant future when you’ll need someone to fix your suit?” Armstrong7 asked and raised a shaved eyebrow. “You know how it’ll probably be an ‘Athena freak’ who fixes it?”

“Yeah, boss,” Jack5 said and made some attempt to look contrite.

The chances were something would burn out in that Cinder 300 of his and he would need someone to fix it. It was never a good idea to antagonize the folks who would repair his suit.

No one would outright accuse any of the bulletfoots of being so wasteful as to let a member of their bunker—which only had one thousand, five hundred and forty-eight people to begin with—die. The resources required to bring another child into the Sanctuary were daunting enough, not to mention having a suit ruined because of it.

“With that said, though,” Armstrong7 continued as he leaned over the mess hall table to peer at the manual she was reading, “that bundle does look a little cobby. You sure it’ll be useful?”

She nodded. “It’s one of the older manuals from the Shimura-Sendai manus before they shut down production. It doesn’t cover anything on the Minato itself, only the basics of their AI coding. If I can get a bead on how they code them, that should be enough for me to fix Mini.”

The CO shrugged his shoulders again. “Never let it be said that A7 doesn’t approve of fixing and improving the mechs in my yard. With that said, though, you’re not supposed to get too attached to those mechs. It breaks, you move on and we scrap it for parts. Understood?”

“Of course,” Jessica13 replied. “I’m only hoping I can make it functional, is all.”

“Well, keep working on that but on your own time, ya hear me Jessie?” he said firmly.

Jessie was her nickname since the ‘i’ and ‘e’ looked like the 13 at the end of her name. She didn’t particularly like it but having her name spelled out every time she was in a conversation with someone became laborious sometimes.

Armstrong7, for his part, wanted people to call him A7, but that would never catch on. No one liked to be chummy enough with the CO to give him pet names.

Not to his face, anyway.

“Okay, move out,” he said and waved at another bulletfoot to head over to join the team that would go Topside. “We’ll make this quick and easy. Check the mines and…”

Jessica13 pulled her headset on quickly and glanced at the food she had ignored. The aluminum platter held a chunk of a cooling protein patty and dark green stew, which was better food than what they had in the lower levels these days. When she peered at her water, she noted that gentle ripples had formed around the rim.

Seismic activity wasn’t unheard of in this part of the world. There was always the worry that a real earthquake would split the Sanctuary open and expose them to the bio-weapons and radiation they had to deal with Outside.

But with all the reinforcing they were doing, she doubted that even a direct Skyfall on the mountain they were buried under would be able to crack the outer shell.

It wasn’t impossible and it was a fear they had to deal with on a daily basis, but compared to the fears the people Outside had to deal with, Sanctuary was a…well, sanctuary. It was safer than almost anywhere else in the world.

Still, she couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to live Outside. There were enough people out there that they didn’t die faster than they could reproduce. Maybe with no reproduction regulations, they simply had more kids?

While she didn’t know, she had always wondered. She was a curious one. Everyone said that, and they always attributed it to her Athena genes.

She would have to imagine what it was like as well until she encountered a couple of people who could tell her more about what it was like out there. The peddlers always did have the best stories—and the best music.

Maybe they made music in the Cities-That-Were. They were into some crazy shit out there if the peddlers were to be believed. That would be something to see. People singing in the cities that were likely to have some of the Skyfall on them any day didn’t seem overly nuts, comparatively speaking.

Maybe they had somewhere to hide?

Jessica13 placed a piece of paper over her cup of water almost before she realized what she was doing. It was an instinctive action since you didn’t want to have to drink water with dust in it, but she hadn’t really noticed that the ground was shaking far worse now.

The ripples in her cup became more and more intense, she realized and leaned in closer to investigate.

Another shudder followed. This time, it caught the attention of everyone present.

Jessica13 had already begun to push to her feet. Seismic activity wasn’t doing this. That could only mean one thing.

She was already halfway out of her seat when the lights flickered out, immediately replaced by flashing red that brought the whole mess hall to attention.

“Shit!” Armstrong7’s voice bellowed through the speakers in the room. “Attention. The Sanctuary is under attack! Repeat, under attack!”

Well, that wasn’t something anyone ever wanted to hear. She had been involved in attacks before but they had never amounted to much. Mostly, it was only scavengers and nothing the chavs who manned the mechs up top couldn’t handle.

It had been a while since she’d heard that kind of alarm in Armstrong7’s voice. In fact, she didn’t think she’d ever heard it at all. Hearing the guy who was usually calm now under a great deal of stress triggered an unsettling feeling.

It was easy to tell that the other people in the mess hall could feel it too. A stampede had begun to head toward the door but she was the first to reach it and slipped through.

There wasn’t any panic, she noted, not in anyone’s faces. Alarm, sure, but this was what they lived in the upper levels for. Protecting the rest of the bunker was their responsibility.

Jessica13 sprinted down the tight, concrete hallways until she reached her room and heaved the heavy metal door open with a sense of urgency.

It was a tight space but she had made it hers with a couple of small decorations here and there, items she had been able to pick up and get cleared by the AI running containment at the doors.

But she wasn’t there for any of that. She looked around the room and scanned the area quickly before she found the pieces she was looking for. The coding chips—used for the AIs that ran most of the mech suits they used—had been tossed onto her bed when she had elected to listen to music while reading.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time.

She snatched them up, left, and shut the door to her room smoothly behind her as the flashing red lights continued to suffuse the hallways with a sense of impending danger. This was made so much worse by the narrow spaces shaking while sheets of dust filtered from the ceiling with each strike.

The fight up top had grown more intense. She could tell.

“All teams to your stations!” Armstrong yelled over the speakers. “Damn it, get that crate up to the mechs now! Repeat, all teams to your stations!”

The CO had a habit of shouting orders to three different people at the same time, and this time was no different. While he called for everyone to get to their mechs, he shouted at those who were already in position to do their jobs.

Most of the folks up there would have no difficulty interpreting the relevant commands. They knew the man, but his mannerisms did take some getting used to.

Jessica13 fell in with a group of other bulletfoots headed toward the hangar to get involved in the defenses and snapped the chips into her headset along the way.

That done, she rebooted the headset and a few seconds later, a series of upbeat chirps could be heard through the speakers.

“Morning, Mini,” she whispered, mostly to herself. “Ready for some fun?”

__________________________

What do you think? Interested to find out what happens next? Then look for Bulletfoot on Friday!

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