Alright!!! We got three reTweets on one of my Hunter RT requests, which means that you all get a sneak peek from the new full-length Hunter novel. I typed this part of the book up yesterday and this morning.
Throwing myself the last ten feet, I cross the pavement land hard on the cracked marble floor of the hotel lobby. The dust on the floor plumes behind me as I slide, kicking the plate-glass inner door shut as I pass.
Picking myself up and dusting my trench-coat off is the first priority. I know, I know; the leather coat is for protecting my hide, but that doesn’t mean it can’t look good while doing it. The dirt falls off easily, raising a light cloud of dust in the lobby. With that out of the way, I inspect the lobby. There’s not much to see but a desk and dust; certainly nothing that might interest me.
That said, the tremendous crash from the door behind me is intensely fascinating. So much so that I fall down while backing up, in order to get a better view of the cracking glass. Everyone knows you can see better from a sitting position.
Something shifts rapidly in the rubble just outside and I get a glimpse of a long tail vanishing around a corner. Just as it disappears entirely, a second shape blurs across the sidewalk and slams through the door. The long, slender form wriggles free of the glass shards, shaking its head dizzily. Great. Just what I need. Snakes. Snakes big enough to smash through a plate glass door.
Shotgun aimed, I climb to my feet. Storm-warped snakes can be insanely hard to kill and my shotgun is loaded with slugs. Not good. A shotgun slug can stop an elephant at close range but snakes are slippery and tough to hit. I’m already missing the wide spread of the buckshot loads I removed earlier. Unfortunately, opening the breech to change the cartridges isn’t an option just now.
The snake that broke the glass finally slithers off the shards, hissing angrily. The other appears at the corner again, massive neck curved around the bricks. Standing perfectly still, shotgun ready, I study the creatures. After a moment, recognition dawns. Pythons. I’ve seen snakes like this before, in southern India. However, those beasties weren’t Storm-warped. They were also running from something much bigger. A very large spider, to be specific.
These guys are not running and they are definitely Storm-warped. That is, unless you know of any natural reptiles with rudimentary wings and one more eye than they’re supposed to have. Snakes with wings. As if they weren’t bad enough already. The one in the lobby curls around itself, turning into big coils of muscle and scale. If I had to guess, and I do, I’d say it weighs close to four hundred pounds.
Out of curiosity, I twitch the shotgun a little higher. The big head comes up like lightning, following the weapon with an air of intelligent caution that sends shivers down my spine. A flicker of motion from the outside catches my attention. The shotgun swivels that way, just as the second python pulls it’s head back under cover, hissing wildly. Huh. I’d say they’ve been shot before.
Out of the corner of my eye, I can see elevator doors, a set of big steel grates. I n an older building, they’d be electric and therefore not functioning. Given that this is a post-Storm building, though, they’re manual. One slow step later, I’m two feet closer to them. The snakes are still watching, the one outside peering out again, but they aren’t showing any signs of coming closer.
That’s a relief. Fast on my feet I might be, but I’m willing to bet I wouldn’t win a foot-race against these things. Which is actually really insulting, since they don’t even have feet. Two more steps and I’m next to the elevator, one hand on the knob. Unfortunately, this building hasn’t been maintained in the last thirty years. A little grease goes a long way, as does a lack of it. The creak of the opening doors would have woken a hibernating Storm-tortoise. And the results are almost as bad.
The slithery beasties uncoil in a flash, streaking across the open space. Eight hundred pounds of muscle and bone hit the doors just as I slide them shut, steel shrieking in protest. The boom echoes up the elevator shaft, shaking dust from beams, and the doors bow inwards. Two very angry pythons hit the floor, shaking their snouts in pain.
Just as the larger of the two rears back for another try, my finger tightens on the trigger. The shaft echoes again, much louder this time. A hole the size of my fist appears in the steel grating of the doors and a mirror on the other side of the lobby turns into a hail of shiny glass. The snakes rear back, hissing, hovering warily just beyond reach of the doors.
Getting out of the elevator is my first problem and the most important one. If there’s anything more agile than snakes in this building, I’m an easy target. Being served up in a cage to something with big teeth isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. Searching the elevator reveals a large hatch in the roof, designed to open downwards. Unfortunately, the big padlock doesn’t appear to have lost any strength with age.
I’ve never been much of a gambler; I like the odds in my favor. That’s not an option here, though. Getting out of here alive means going through that trapdoor. Going through that trapdoor means getting through the padlock. The only way that’s happening is if I blow a hole in the latch with a shotgun slug.
Unfortunately, one of the two barrels of the weapon is empty . I’ve a bad feeling those snakes know how many shots are left. And if I empty the shotgun…. that elevator door isn’t strong enough to make me feel safe. Most people gamble with money; if I gamble here, I’m all in. The pythons are still at a safe distance, maybe twenty feet from me. That’s enough.
The shotgun blurs, fast enough to surprise me. Panic can make you do amazing things. The roar of the blast hurts my ears and the crack of lead on sheet steel is almost covers up by the sound. The latch on the trapdoor flies back, the padlock hitting the floor with a clang. Half a second later, I’m sliding the bolts back, dropping the hatch open. Heaving myself into the space above the elevator, with the speed of sheer terror on my side, barely takes two blinks of an eye.
From below, I hear the steel grating fall to the floor as two tremendous bodies strike it simultaneously. Angry hissing comes up, followed by a big triangular head. One yellow eye studies me, mouth opening slowly. With a final hiss, the snake drives forward, teeth snapping.
I catch the bite on one leather-armored forearm, yanking it’s head downwards. The other hand swings the shotgun like a club, crashing the butt onto the heavy skull. Two more times; each blow sparking a fit of frenzied thrashing. Finally, the beastie releases my arm, dropping back into the elevator. Breathing heavily, I look around, spotting a line of spikes driven into the wall of the shaft.
A maintenance man’s ladder. Good; climbing the elevator cables in an option, but not the fun one. I start up the ladder, faster than I would normally climb, mostly because the beasties behind me have had quite enough of my company. Wouldn’t want them to get spoiled.
Well, guys, I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek! If you’d like to read more (before the full novel is finished) I suggest you keep an eye out. I ask for RTs with sneak peeks often! ReTweet them if you’d like another peek! If you’d like to read more Hunter without having to wait, check out the Library.