by Frederick Lee Brooke
"Matt, Raine went to California because her parents thought it was safe. It’s not. You’ve got to get her out as soon as possible. She could die, Matt.”
When 19-year-old Matt Carney gets a cryptic message from his father telling him to go to California and save his girlfriend, Raine, he doesn't hesitate—he grabs his AK-47, revs up his blue pickup, and gets ready to make the 2,300-mile roadtrip.
But cross-country travel in 2021 isn't easy—or, sometimes, even possible. The U.S. has become a near-military state: 17,000 checkpoints severely restrict interstate movement, Predator drones target innocent civilians without cause, and explosions rock cities daily. Matt and his stepbrother, Benjy, face deadly attacks from a corrupt government, ruthless local law enforcement, and bloodthirsty terrorist groups as they embark on their trek. They're about to find out that their trip is much more than a private journey, and their success could change the face of the country—forever.
Can Matt and Benjy outrun the drone missiles raining down on their heads? Can they avoid assassination by government officials hell-bent on taking over what little is left of the country? Can they outsmart the deadly schemes set in motion against them?
Break the rules.
Save the girl.
He only gets one chance before she's gone forever.
The pickup lights cut a path through the darkness as they shared a bag of tortilla chips. All at once, Matt’s eyes picked up a familiar form in the grass by the side of the road. He pulled over fifty yards ahead.
“What’re you doing?” Benjy asked.
Matt got out without answering, and walked back up the road. Benjy followed. They found a small doe sprawled in the ditch, eyes staring.
“Is it dead?” Benjy asked.
“Dead and delicious,” Matt said. “Can you lift her?”
His stepbrother studied the deer, trying to figure how to pick it up. He bent down, then stood again.
“You sure it’s dead?”
Matt prodded the deer with his boot. “Even if she weren’t, they don’t bite.”
Benjy worked his left arm under the animal’s neck. With his right hand he grabbed one of the hind legs, just below the knee. When he stood up, he managed to get about half the deer off the ground before collapsing.
“She’s too heavy. I can’t.”
“Let’s do it together,” Matt said. He picked up the neck and the front legs while Benjy lifted the hindquarters. Matt could’ve thrown the animal in the back of the truck himself, but getting Benjy to help somehow seemed right. Although he was tall for fourteen, Benjy’s arms and legs were thin as twigs.
Off in the distance, another car was coming. They jumped in quickly, and Matt hit the gas. After a brief stretch at high speed, they entered a town and had to slow down. The car tailing them had caught up, an old red Chrysler. The other driver rode him close, his high beam lighting up the truck interior. Matt looked away from his mirror, but the lights blinded him just the same. People shot each other over less.
“Want me to check him out?” Benjy asked.
“You’ve got your own Viper?”
“I brought two Vipers and two Tornados,” Benjy said. He rolled down his window and released a small quadcopter. Then he studied his Jetlink.
“What’s a fourteen-year-old doing with four drones?”
“These are just the ones I decided to bring.”
Matt looked at his stepbrother, unbelieving. Where had Benjy been hiding all these drones? He himself, like most people, owned one all-purpose Viper. “Well, what about those guys back there?”
“Two men. Skinheads. Maybe locals, picking a fight.”
They had reached the end of town, and the speed limit was back up to 50 mph. Matt gradually increased to 40 mph as the Chrysler rode up his tail. The road was deserted.
“Why doesn’t he pass?” Benjy asked.
Matt rolled down his window. “Get ready to take the wheel.” “What? I can’t drive.”
On the next straightaway, the Chrysler made its move and pulled alongside. Matt met the gaze of the man in the passenger seat, whose shaved head gleamed in the ambient light.
“Pull over to the side. Pull over now.”
Matt had the slingshot ready while Benjy guided the truck with one hand on the wheel. In a split second, he could kill the man, whose impassive face was less than six feet away.
Something made him decide not to shoot. Maybe there’d been enough killing for one night. Maybe it was the fact that the man didn’t show a weapon. Maybe he was just tired. He retook the wheel, braked, signaled, and pulled over.
The skinheads got out and walked back to the truck, two men in black leather. Still no weapons. He got out to meet them.
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AN INTERVIEW WITH FREDERICK
-What inspired you to become a writer?
When I was a little kid, we used to go to the library every week and check out books. As a six-year-old, I was fascinated by the cards they used. On the inside cover of every book the librarians had pasted a sleeve, and the checkout card showed the names of all the people who had read that book in the past, and their due dates, going back years. I loved all the books we brought home, I loved reading the stories and looking at the pictures. But I also thought it was really cool that so many other people had read the same book I was reading.
One time my Mom brought me to the library, and then drove away again, saying she’d be back to pick me up in half an hour. When I went to the entrance, it was locked. The library was closed. I was the little kid in shorts sitting on the sidewalk outside the library with no book to read. In those days there wasn’t much danger of being kidnapped. I don’t remember getting cold. I was just mad I didn’t have anything to read.
Reading was an important part of my life from when I was very little, into grade school, high school and college. I loved escaping in a good book, and could never get enough. I majored in English in college, and later did an M.F.A. in creative writing. I got kicked out of my shared apartment once, because my neighbor got tired of listening to my typewriter going all the time. I discovered writing was the surest way to finally get enough of the thrills of escaping.
-What draws you to your genre of choice?
Having written three unorthodox mysteries, and now working on a dystopian/sci fi/thriller series set in the year 2021, I’m not absolutely sure if I have a genre of choice. I like reading in just about all genres. But I’m certainly most comfortable writing scenes and action and dialogue that seem realistic (as opposed to fantasy). Also I have a weakness for the humor in absurd situations – people betraying each other, people doing things they never thought they’d be dumb enough to do. I like to laugh once in a while when I read a book. Is that so strange?
-Give us a fun or interesting fact you learned researching this book.
I learned that small UAVs – or drones – are already very much used in hundreds of useful applications around the world right now. For example, large scale farm operations use drones with video and specialized apps to go out over their fields looking for areas of blight or other problems. The drones can cover huge areas systematically and provide early warning. Same with citrus growers who want to know what’s happening at the top of their trees throughout an entire orchard. In Switzerland, where I live, tiny drones are being used to create the most accurate maps ever of sheer granite mountain faces.
As we all know, Amazon plans to start delivering small packages using drones within five years. The German postal service is testing this service right now, as are package delivery companies like DHL and TNT.
Based on the experimentation going on now, I predict we will see an explosion of different uses for drones in the coming years. Naturally, as with the internet, there is a downside that comes with all the new functionality. People will be unable to resist using drones for all their creative purposes, and we’ll all be confronted with invasions of privacy and will have to figure out how to deal with that.
-Which of your characters would you go out for pizza with?
I’d really enjoy sharing a pizza with Matt Carney and his identical twin brother, Luke. Never were two identical twins less alike than these two. Matt has grown up learning to hunt with guns and a slingshot, and is in his third try as a junior in high school as SAVING RAINE begins. His brother, Luke, who was raised by their mother far away from Matt, was a child prodigy and developed his skills as a world-class hacker, but suffers from ALS motor neuron disease and is confined to a wheelchair. When the two finally meet, they discover they can communicate telepathically, sending thoughts back and forth as easily as if they were sending texts. This special link they enjoy has tremendous benefits for the rebel group they are part of.
-For aspiring writers, any tips?
In earlier years I had trouble writing because I allowed myself to become distracted. Writing a book, and then revising it till it’s finished, requires tremendous focus and staying power. Keep your butt in the chair, and turn off social media.
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
I don’t know about that, but there is a genre I’ve been hankering to try, and that’s literary fiction. I finished a mystery series, and now I’m in the middle of a dystopian/sci fi/thriller series, and when that’s done I’m planning to flesh out a couple of new ideas I’ve had which wouldn’t be part of any series. That is something I’m really looking forward to. I hope my loyal readers will by willing to follow me once again, as I jump from one genre to another.
Frederick Lee Brooke launched the Annie Ogden Mystery Series in 2011 with Doing Max Vinyl and following with Zombie Candy in 2012, a book that is neither about zombies nor sweets. The third mystery in the series, Collateral Damage, appeared in 2013. The first book in Fred's entirely new series, Saving Raine, came out in December 2013.
A resident of Switzerland for the last 20 years, Fred has worked as a teacher, language school manager and school owner. He has three boys and two cats and recently had to learn how to operate both washing machine and dryer.
When not writing or doing the washing, Fred can be found walking along the banks of the Rhine River, sitting in a local cafe, or visiting all the local pubs in search of his lost umbrella.
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