Author: Alec Nortan
Release Date: February 6, 2017
Format: ePub, Mobi, PDF
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Theme: Young Adult
Word Count: 83700*
Sex Content: N/A
Warning: This book contains scenes of violence and death.
The Gaia Protocol
Alec Nortan © 2017
All Rights Reserved
I’m crouching behind the wall of a half-collapsed building. I usually don’t taunt the Fates like this, but my hiding place seems safer than the arrows of my pursuers.
I hear footsteps outside. I take a peek, just long enough to see a dozen hoplites marching down the street, their bows at the ready. They’re scanning, surrounding, searching. As they come nearer, my heart beats faster. I flatten myself on the ground. If I could sink into it, I would, but the only thing sinking is a painfully sharp stone into my ribs.
The Goddess Tyche has blessed me with her luck: I hear them move away at a brisk pace.
When I’m sure they’re far enough away, I sit, propping myself against the wall in a more comfortable position. I massage my ribs to ease the pain. Only then do I muster the courage to look at my leg. It’s still shuddering from the electric arrow, but luckily, the arrow missed, only grazing the flesh. Had the arrow really hit me, I would already be dead. I know how it works. I’ve seen it before.
A few years ago, during a search, a Technologist hiding in our village tried to run away. The hoplite shot him in the arm. The man jerked but kept running. He snatched the arrow out of his limp arm. The hoplite then shot several arrows as fast as he could without even aiming. The arrows flew, veering toward the Technologist midflight. None missed.
Though the arrow missed me, it still hurts like hell, from both the wound and the aftereffects of the jolt. I take off my neckerchief and improvise a bandage to stop the bleeding.
Why did the legion attack me? Scavenging in the old city isn’t forbidden.
I used to come here as a child and climb inside the deserted skyscrapers, looking for objects to trade on the market. Today, I’ve found some kind of amulet. It’s a small, flat, metallic rectangle with geometric signs on it. It’s probably not worth a bowl of soup, but it looks nice. I’ve put a leather string through a small hole and kept it around my neck to offer to Malia. She’ll like it.
I look at the sky. The sun is already halfway down the horizon. I have to move if I want to make it home before nightfall. My leg doesn’t feel much better. I take a tentative step and wince at the pain. I won’t be able to run, but I can walk.
Walking back should usually take me a couple of hours, but not today. I have to move carefully between the buildings, hiding at suspect sounds, checking for movement in every direction before crossing a road. Two hours walking only brings me to the outskirts of what used to be a great city. Here, the last remnants of houses are swallowed by the first trees of the forest.
“Fuck!” My outburst sends a few scared birds flying away. It has taken me far too long. The sun is already sinking behind the highest ruins. Now I really have to hurry, despite my leg.
I scrutinize the nearby trees. I don’t see anything moving. I walk to them and find a broken bough to use as a crutch. I come back swiftly to the safety of the road.
During the day, traveling on the road is usually safe enough. But the forest… Only parties of adults enter it. Sometimes, one goes in alone. And sometimes, they don’t come back.
During the night, forest or road, no one goes out. Too many things lurk in the dark.