I’m always on the lookout for cool indie reads in sci fi and fantasy and just recently stumbled up V.A. Jeffrey’s work. Specifically, I found her website where she mentioned an upcoming book that may interest readers who enjoy a good space opera. The book is not yet available, but it called Mission: Harbeasts Of Mars. It is the fourth book in the Mission series, which takes place about 150 years in the future.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure if you can read this one as a stand alone book or if you need to read the others in the series. Though, to be fair, since you can’t actually buy this one yet, I’d suggest reading the sample below and if it interests you, then go back and pick up the other books in the series while you wait for this one to be available for purchase. You can view all of V.A. Jeffrey’s books on Amazon and follow the author on Twitter.
Excerpt below: Chapter One of Mission: Harbeasts Of Mars
Dawn’s light limned mountains in rust orange and red hues. All around I was engulfed in seas of blood sand and regolith. Dark reddish variegated landscape of desert stretched out into infinity at every point around me, and me, a singular point, a speck of flesh and blood in a bloody looking land. I didn’t see any sign of the harbeasts even though I’d just heard them a few minutes ago. I did have my guns with me and that was some small comfort.
But guns did nothing to relieve thirst and my fear of dying from lack of water out here before I could reach a station started to weigh on my mind.
My helmet’s compass skewed and buzzed for a few seconds and then restarted its systems. I waited in anxious patience, listening out for the fearful roaring of those engineered big cats again. Finally, after righting itself I could read it properly. I needed to head north.
The overlay map in my helmet was still showing signs of slight malfunction with corrupted characters and images that would skew and fade out. I banged my helmet, as that was the only thing I could think of to deal with the issue out in the open hostile Martian air. Also I did so out of nervous frustration. It stopped misbehaving and malfunctioning, for the time being. It also indicated that the nearest way-station, or any sort of civilization for that matter was about seven days away, traveling on foot. I had no idea if I would be able to hold out that long without food and water. I’d had several moisture pills, along with a small meal pellet last night, which could help stave off the dangerous symptoms of dehydration and starvation as they also contained minerals and other minute elements of protein to keep death at bay, for a time. But moisture pills were no miracle nor a match for too many days in the Martian desert without more nutrition and at some point I knew that if I didn’t keep a steady pace or find someone willing to help me before then, I would be in dire trouble.
Ahead in the distance directly in front of me I saw what seemed a small group of rocky foothills. I’d heard before that there were often criminal and political asylum hideouts hidden in these kinds of places. That was just as deadly as being stranded in the desert alone. Hideouts were usually the domain of dangerous folk. Perhaps enemies of the human race. But I couldn’t afford to dwell on such thoughts now so I quickened my pace toward the hills. I had to make short, reachable goals and I’d decided that this was my first one. Just make it to the hills, man.
During my hike I kept looking back and checking my helmet. The helmet’s view-screen processes were not working at optimal capacity and were putting most of its energy toward the breathing and air filtration processes, so I couldn’t detect any living creatures through the sand. Strangely enough, I caught sight of a few bleached skeletons of unknown creatures and one from what looked like it may have been a Glia. It was startling to come upon. It’s thin bone vertebrae protrusions in its back where the wings would have been formerly seemed to crumble into the air as I bypassed it.
The work of harbeasts, was my guess. Harbeasts, from my previous encounter with one seemed to blend in, in parts, with the surrounding environment. Very well engineered, if I had to say so. If they were there, and I knew they were, I couldn’t detect them. The sneaky bastards were keeping their distance. Sure enough, as if to let me know that they were indeed present, I heard an aggressive roar from far off behind me. Far enough that I had time to get my weapons ready but close enough that I would never out run them to the hills if they decided to run me down.
They seemed intent on waiting, for some unknown reason. And I was hell bent on getting to what I saw as at least some scant protection in the foothills. Making my way for hours, striding through the sand I felt myself growing tired. I slowed down slightly and paced myself to conserve energy. Suddenly, I felt another presence approaching.. I whipped around, breathing hard, to see the form of one of the creatures striding casually after me. I would never out run it. It came to a halt as I did, turning around with my rifle in my hands, ready to fire. Was it toying with me? It’s huge maw was open, baring obscenely long fangs, its red tongue lolling in and out of its mouth. There had to be another one around. I wondered if this was some ploy by the creatures to distract me with one at the front while another came at me from the rear. I whipped around in fear at the fleeting thought and then turned to see both creatures leaping toward me. The first one was almost upon me when I raised my rifle, aimed and fired. The harbeast, with lightening speed had swerved and flipped over in an arc, barely and gracefully missing my killing shot. It now stood boldly some yards away and stared me down. I aimed and fired a second shot. Only to find that the creature was now just out of shooting range. The other one it seemed had disappeared from my view like a phantom. Perhaps it was only a matter of minutes when I would feel its claws tearing into my suit, ripping into my skin underneath and ending it all. The beast strode proudly to the side, as if taunting me, all the while emitting a deep, menacing growl. Fiery nerve sparks of fear and excitement shot up and down my spine. Where was the other one?