Here is an excerpt from The Xandra, Book 8, Dark World. Soon to be released from Melange Books.
As it turned out, Ruuro had a twin brother who offered to guide Hunter. His name was Ramuuro. Ruuro also knew of a couple of warriors who were more than willing to go with Cameron and Malone. They were on their way four days after the decision to split was made.
One of the two warriors, Stasra, was the runner who had brought the news about Regina’s whereabouts. He was tall and wiry, with long, muscular legs. Markas, the other guide, was shorter but stout and wide-shouldered.
According to Cameron’s time-piece, it was early morning when the four men headed for one of the tunnels that led out of the cavern. Even after two months, he couldn’t get used to the constant daylight, and it was almost a relief to enter the twilight of the tunnel.
Just before they walked deeper into the tunnel, someone called Cameron’s name. He turned to see a figure hurrying toward them, carrying a spear in one hand. It was easy to see it was a female, and when she came closer Cameron recognized Carini, the mystery girl.
They waited for her, and Cameron wondered what she wanted.
“Rob,” she said when she caught up with them. “I’m glad I got here in time.”
“I’ve been looking for you everywhere, Carini,” he said. “I was hoping to see you again.”
She gave him an enigmatic smile. “I know.”
“Why are you here?”
“I’m coming with you.”
“So I can protect you.” She pushed the point of her spear into the ground.
Cameron looked at the spear. “I have a feeling it will be my responsibility to protect you.” He slapped his rifle with his free hand. “A spear is no match for my weapon.”
“That may be so, but I know the tunnels, and I know the dangers. You don’t.”
“That’s true, but I already have two guides.” Cameron looked at the two warriors. “She wants to come with us.”
Markas shrugged his massive shoulders. “That is her choice. If you accept her, we have no objections.”
Cameron nodded, hoping he wouldn’t regret his decision. “Okay.”
She carried a pack made from leather on her back. Strapped to her waist, she had a skin filled with water and a leather sheath holding a knife. He realized she was well prepared and wouldn’t have taken no for an answer, but he was puzzled, wondering about her real reason for coming along.
“Do you know this girl?” It was Malone who wanted to know.
“I met her some time ago,” Cameron explained.
“You’ve never mentioned her.”
“It was only a brief encounter and I forgot about her.” Cameron didn’t see any purpose in telling Malone about his involvement with her, as brief as it was.
“Why is she coming with us?”
“I don’t know. She must have her reasons.”
“Very strange,” Malone said, shaking his head. “Why would a woman you barely know want to join our search? It doesn’t make any sense. Do you trust her?”
Cameron grunted, annoyed at Malone for insisting on finding out more about Carini, especially since he was thinking along the same lines as Malone. “Like you said, I barely know her.”
“I hope she won’t become a problem.”
The first day went by without any major obstacles. They spent the night in a small cavern. There were no shrubs or trees. Neither was there a pond in which to bathe, but a narrow river provided them with fresh water and a chance to wash. The ceiling of the cavern was not covered with the radioactive crystals to create daylight conditions. A few glow-roots clung to the ceiling and the walls, providing them with barely enough light, but it was sufficient. Cameron didn’t mind. He had his headlamp should he be in need of more light.
He set up his Guard-Dog, which would warn them if unwanted visitors should drop by, but as it turned out it wasn’t necessary. Cameron slept well, considering a thin blanket was the only cushion between his body and the hard surface of the tunnel floor. Fortunately, it was warm in the tunnels and they didn’t need blankets to protect their bodies against cold drafts.
In the morning, Cameron and Malone ate from the rations they brought with them, not caring much for the strips of dried meat and vegetables the Jnaar offered them.
“I don’t think I could ever get used to this,” Malone grumbled as they moved on.
“Used to what?”
“The constant light in the caverns or the forever near darkness in the tunnels. Your system must get completely screwed up, not knowing if it’s day or night. This is daytime, isn’t it?”
Cameron looked at his wrist. “According to my computer, it’s seven in the morning.”
“The way my body feels it could be the middle of the night. I didn’t sleep well. At times I had the feeling I was lying on a bed of pointy, sharp rocks.”
“I have no doubts you were.” Cameron laughed. “Perhaps you’re getting soft, Malone.”
“You’re probably right. I haven’t seen any real action for a long time. A man needs to be active. It is the only way to live. I don’t want to get used to the quiet, comfortable life.”
“Some people don’t mind the comfortable life. It is much safer. Men like you usually don’t live very long.”
“It’s better to have lived a short but exciting life instead of a soft and boring long one.” Malone shifted his laser rifle from one shoulder to another. “What good is a superior weapon if you can’t use it once in a while?”
“Spoken like a true mercenary.” Cameron threw a sidelong glance at the big man. “Why did you join the colonization program in the first place? You must have known there wouldn’t be much demand for a mercenary.”
“I can’t give you an answer for that. Perhaps I thought planets a few hundred light-years from Earth would be different and more exciting. Maybe I was secretly hoping to discover a warlike alien race and my services as a soldier would be needed.” His gaze rested on the two Jnaar warriors walking in front of him. “We’ve met members of an alien race, but they proved to be a disappointment.”
“Their ancestors were probably superior to us when it came to technology. In fact, these are only descendants of stranded alien space travelers. Their people are still out there somewhere. Perhaps we’ll meet them someday. I hope they are peace loving, and our meeting with them will be peaceful.”
“You sound like a typical civilian who loves the soft, boring life.” Malone laughed.
“It does not have to be boring or soft, but I prefer to live a peaceful existence. There is nothing to be gained in warfare but misery and heartaches. People, and by that I include any alien race we may encounter, should be able to live together in harmony. Trading merchandise or knowledge instead of firing at each other with deadly weapons has always been more lucrative in the end for everyone involved.” Cameron knew his words did not exactly resonate with Malone’s beliefs. Malone was a mercenary, a soldier for hire. His life had always been hard and full of danger. Peace was not at the top of his list.
This is the Cover of Dark World:
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