The IX by International Bestseller @WestonAndrew is a Christmas and Holiday Book Festival Pick #scie
Title: The IX
Author: Andrew P. Weston
Genre: Science Fiction
Roman legionaries, far from home, lost in the mists of Caledonia. A US cavalry company, engaged on a special mission, vital to the peace treaty proposed by Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln. A twenty-first century Special Forces unit, desperate to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. From vastly different backgrounds, these soldiers are united when they are snatched away from Earth at the moment of their passing. Thinking they may have been granted a reprieve, imagine their horror when they discover they have been transported to a failing planet on the far side of the galaxy, where they are given a simple ultimatum. Fight or die. Against all odds, this group of misfits manages to turn the tide against a relentless foe, only to discover the true cost of victory might exact a price they are unwilling to pay. How far would you be willing to go to stay alive? The IX. Sometimes, death is only the beginning of the adventure.
(Thunder Plain—10 miles north of Rhomane)
A shrill whistle from behind caused Lex to rein in sharply. Whirling around, he scanned the savanna and was able to make out a couple of the warriors from Clan Calhoun, running hell-for-leather away from the lip of the Issamun Canyon. The rim was only about two hundred yards off, but seeing the fleeing pair made the distance between them seem like an ocean divide.
As one, the Caledonians interrupted their flight to turn and make a stand. One dropped into a fighting crouch, sword drawn, while the other released several arrows in quick succession at an unknown target still within the draw of the ravine.
Several riders from Three Squadron were galloping toward them in support. Over the sound of hooves and shouting, Lex thought he could hear the noise of muted explosions.
Thank goodness I extended the outer pickets when we entered the grasslands. I knew the extra space would come in handy.
Lex looped around a second time, reassessing the position of the other Vacomagi in relation to his own troops.
Good. This can work in our favor. “Sergeant Rixton? Take One Section and form a line about half a mile northwest of here. We’re heading toward the dry riverbed as ordered. The captain should be ready and waiting for us as planned. When Corporal Williams comes in, I’ll lead Two Section through your position and form another column, four hundred yards beyond you. We will maintain order, and leapfrog steadily toward the RV. The signal to move each time will be a three-blast bugle call. It’ll also let Houston know we’re coming. Understood?”
“Yes, Sir,” Rixton snapped.
Lex turned to Searc Calhoun. The clan leader stood close by, studying the unfolding drama. “Searc, will your men want to ride double or will you make your own way out of here?”
The sound of urgent whistling followed by several shots interrupted the conversation.
Searc didn’t bother looking away. Grinning like a madman, he calmly waited for the reports to fade before answering. “Och, me and the lads will run along for a while to see what happens. They’ve just signaled the fact a whole hornets’ nest has been stirred up. If things get too troublesome we can always jump on board for a turn or two. Catch our breath and rest our legs while you put some distance between us and certain death.”
Lex couldn’t help but smile. “Okay, you crazy kilt-wearing maniac. But if things get too hairy, I’ll have my men lasso you and drag you along.”
Searc’s reply was drowned out by further shots and the sound of Sergeant Rixton’s section riding out. His gesture, however, made it clear what he thought of Lex’s idea.
Chuckling, Lex trotted over to his bugle-boy, Bobby Fisher. “Bobby, sound the fall-back. I want Corporal Williams and his men to muster around me. The highlanders will follow them. Once the fighting begins, stay behind us and away from the beasts. We have to tease them, slowly but surely, toward the ambush. The success of our mission depends on you staying alive and able to signal to everyone what’s going on. Okay?”
“Yes, Sir,” the boy replied, struggling to hide his fright behind a look of stolid determination.
At seventeen years of age, Bobby had only served in the Army for six months, and Lex couldn’t help but feel sorry for the young man. And his family. It doesn’t seem fair. He’s too young and inexperienced to die, but to all intent and purpose he’s already dead. To the folks back home, anyhow. And instead of being able to hang up his hat and rest, he’s being forced to face an enemy that shouldn’t exist. Lex spat in disgust. If there is a God, he’s surely abandoned us. Ah well, at least I can watch over him.
Corporal Williams and his outriders came charging through his position. As he passed, Williams shouted, “There must be over fifty of them, Sir. Looks like we discovered a whole nest in a cave,” he cocked a thumb over his shoulder at the following Vacomagi, “and those idiots think it’s fun!”
Sure enough, as the Caledonians ran past hot on the heels of the cavalry officers, every single one of them was whooping in delight.
Incredible! It’s — Lex caught his breath. The long grass near the edge of the gorge was swaying and bending madly, as if being trampled by a great weight. The horizon started to shimmer. Lex fumbled with the control on the side of his sunglasses in an attempt to define what was causing it.
A rippling, ululating cry squeezed through the ether. As it did so, angry flashes of blue and red lightning skittered through the air in the same proximity. A terrible enmity congealed along the ridgeline. Lex’s blood ran cold.
The screams united, rising into a terrifying roar. Then the monsters charged.
And they’re not running away.
Lex drew his saber. “Corporal Williams. Draw carbines and divide your section into squads. Retreating lines. Keep pace with Searc’s men. Wait until they are a safe distance away on each occasion before firing a volley into the spooks. One round only. And if the highlanders begin to lag, drag them.”
Lex’s comments drew a peppering of colorful metaphors from those Vacomagi close enough to hear. Ignoring them, he cantered over to the nearest soldiers and joined their file. Standing in his stirrups, he raised his sword and cried, “Wait for it . . . wait . . .”
The seconds stretched into eternity. The bellowing got louder, rising in volume until it threatened to overwhelm them.
Eventually, Lex deemed the time was right. Dropping his arm, he yelled, “Fire!”
And the nightmare began.
Share a holiday family tradition:
When I was little, my parents used to decorate the house on the very last evening of November so that everything was ready for December 1st. My father always said, “The advent calendar runs from the beginning of the month, and so will we!” So, while mom laid everything out, I would follow dad around putting up the decorations. Then, one he was finished, I’d help mom with the tree.
It was a fantastic way to usher in the month, and boy, did it put you in the mood for Christmas.
Why is your featured book perfect to get readers in the holiday mood:
Because when the nights grow longer and people gather together to celebrate, it’s only natural to reflect on those who are no longer with us. It’s the end of the year. The new one’s just ahead. What will that New Year bring?
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if those we’ve lost were only just taking the first steps of their greatest journey? We all find out the answer to the ‘definitive question’ one day, and though our heroes and heroines of the IX are thrown into a conflict on the far side of the galaxy, the concept behind their story kindles the embers of hope and “what ifs” that warms the heart.
Death is not the end – it’s merely the beginning of the ultimate adventure.
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Runs December 1 – 31.
Drawing will be held on January 3, 2020.
Andrew P. Weston is an international bestselling author from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats. An astronomy and criminal law graduate, he has the privilege of being a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the British Science Fiction Association, British Fantasy Society and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.
When not writing, Andrew devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA with one of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for Astronaut.com and Amazing Stories.
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