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Authors: Summer Lane

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State of Pursuit

BOOK: State of Pursuit
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State of Pursuit

Collapse Series #4

Summer Lane

Copyright 2014

WB Publishing

All Rights Reserved

1
st
Edition

No part of this book may be reproduced, except to quote on blogs or reviews, without the express permission of the author. Any unauthorized reproduction of this work is punishable by law.

This is a work of fiction. Any parallel to persons alive or dead is purely coincidental and is not intended by the author.

For Grandma & Grandpa.

You’re the best. I love you!

Praise for
The Collapse Series

“The 20 year old Reedley resident is a prolific writer.”

- Rick Bentley,
Fresno Bee, AP

“State of Emergency is an engaging read that is compelling and believable.”

- Roy Huff, author of the bestselling
Everville Series

[Summer Lane] is quite a talented writer with an amazing gift for narration.”

- Janice White, Editor and co-author of
Clarity: A Text on Writing

“Cassidy Hart is a smart, snarky, scared and sassy protagonist.”

- Brian Palmer, co-author of
XII: Genesis

“At 20, Lane is establishing herself in the competitive ‘Young Adult’ area of writing.”

-
The Reedley Exponent

“Summer’s ability to craft a compelling story seems effortless.”

- Jenny Graber-Peters, Editor of
Traffic Magazine

“Absolutely heart-stopping! Cassidy and Chris have come a long way since they first fled into the mountains…If you enjoy dystopia even a little bit, you will love this series.”

- Leti Del Mar, author of
Land of the Unaltered

“What is extraordinary is that Summer has made it so that you’ve come to care about these secondary characters almost as much as the main characters – Cassidy and Chris.”

- Ruth Silver, author of
Orenda
and
Dead Girl Walking

“Intense, fast-paced, never a dull moment. You feel as if you’re with Cassidy every step of the way, cheering her on.”

- Ellen Mansoor Collier, author of
The Jazz Age Mystery Series

“I was totally engrossed from the first sentence until the very last period…This series is one of my favorites.”

- Michelle Kullman,
Mom with a Kindle

CONTENTS

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Prologue

Omega POW Facility – Somewhere in L.A.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had water. It’d been a while. He knew that much. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he realized that it had been too long. He could tell by the way he swallowed. There was no moisture left in his mouth.

There was blood on the floor.

Why? He couldn’t remember that, either.

He only knew that he
was
, and for the moment, that would have to do. Survival depended on focusing his thoughts on a single point. One thought. One object. One name.

Cassidy
.

“You know…it wouldn’t take much to help yourself,” a tall, lithe man in the corner drawled. Harry Lydell. He was handsome, impeccably dressed in an Omega uniform. Black jacket and pants, boots. Piercing blue eyes. He looked bored, watching the prisoner lean against the wall in the corner of the cell.

He was a sight. All blood and bruises. Radiating pain.

Just the way Harry liked it.

“You’re stubborn,” Harry continued, crossing his arms. “You remind me of someone I know. Someone
you
know.” He paused, a cruel smile creeping across his lips. “Cassidy Hart.”

The prisoner looked up, dirty blonde hair plastered against his unshaven face. Sweat dripped off his forehead. He said nothing. Only glared.

“Nothing has changed,” Harry went on. “This is still a war. We are still enemies, and at the moment,
you
are at a disadvantage.” He stopped. Waiting. “You can either divulge your secrets…or die. Because that is what
will
happen. You, Chris Young, the Commander of the beloved militias – dead. It’s not quite the glorious death of a warrior you envisioned for yourself, is it? Crammed in a hole, bleeding to death?”

Chris still said nothing, but his silence spoke volumes.

Harry remained silent for a moment. Pensive. He better than anyone knew exactly what Chris Young was capable of, and what he would do to protect the people he loved the most. And right now, those people were out of Harry’s reach. And that put
him
at a disadvantage. Chris Young would not give him any information regarding the militias if his life depended on it.

The fool
, thought Harry.
He would give his life for anyone except himself
.

“We will talk in the morning,” Harry said at last. He tilted his head, straining to get a better glimpse of Chris’s face. “Don’t go anywhere.”

He smirked at his own joke and retreated from the cell. The door clanged shut behind him as the guards locked it tight again. The concrete hall glowed softly with generator-powered lights.

That didn’t work
, Harry mused internally.
If only I had something that was important to him…some
one
important…

But there was only so much time Omega would spend interrogating Commander Young before they would simply kill him. Chris Young, like the rest of the POWs in this prison, were valuable only if they were willing to talk.

And Chris would not talk.

Chris would die first.

So die he must, in Harry’s mind. That was the only logical option left.

He checked his watch, exiting the hallway. The heavy door slammed shut behind him. He entered a wide office room, desks and cubicle dividers creating a maze-like illusion. Omega officers nodded their heads in respect as they passed.

Ah. That was what he liked. Respect.

His office was here, at the opposite end of the building. A private room with a window overlooking the street below. It was a clean room, a tight one. Efficient and practical. That’s how Harry preferred it.

He stood at the window with his hands clasped behind his back.

And he thought.

Of all the militia officers that Omega had managed to take prisoner, Chris Young was the most annoying – the most trouble. The man had remarkable leadership capabilities. He had, after all, taken mere civilians and turned them into a viable fighting force. One that sent Omega reeling on more than one occasion. Thanks to him – and Cassidy Hart – militias were coming out of the woodwork across the state. The country, even.

Chris Young was a threat that should be eliminated.

But Harry wasn’t an impatient man.

She’ll come
, he thought.
And when she does, I’ll kill her, too. All of them
.

Because for Harry Lydell, very few things mattered besides power, hatred and revenge. And revenge was exactly what he had in store for Chris Young and Cassidy Hart.

He would make sure of that.

Chapter One

National Guard Headquarters – Militia Forces – The Grapevine

Rain is pouring from the heavens, freezing.

My curly red hair is soaked, sticking to my face. I pull my jacket tightly around myself, gazing across the expanse of asphalt and abandoned buildings. There are soldiers everywhere, looking like ants in the distance. They are bloody, torn, bruised and exhausted. I kneel on the roofing, perched like a bird. Watching. Waiting.

I’ve been up here a couple of times in the past ten hours.

Maybe, if things had been different, I could have gone back. Maybe I could have saved him. Maybe I could have saved
both
of them. I squeeze my eyes shut, tears rolling down my cheeks, hot and salty. I could have saved at least
one
of them, couldn’t I?

You know that would have been impossible
, my inner voice reasons.
You were outnumbered a hundred to one. Jeff’s death wasn’t your fault. Chris staying behind to help Max isn’t your fault either
.

I feel like it’s my fault. Why should I be the one to make it back alive and safe?

What if Chris is dead? It’s been twenty-four hours since Manny rescued me in his biplane and brought me back to Headquarters, where our National Guard forces have amassed. Twenty-four hours since I watched Jeff Young die, Chris’s younger brother. Twenty-four hours since Derek and Max went missing and Chris promised me he’d be right behind me.

He broke that promise.

I’ve been scanning the horizon every hour since I got back. I’ve hardly slept. I’ve barely eaten.

And here I am. Battered, but cleared for duty.

No sign of Chris.

God, please don’t let him be dead. Please. I’m begging you
.

A commotion on the south side of the parking lot draws my attention. I lean forward. Someone is arriving. Soldiers straggling in on foot. My heart leaps in my chest. Chris? I jump over the ledge and swing my legs onto the rusty fire escape on the side of the building. I climb down the ladder, hit the asphalt and run across the parking lot. I bypass idling Humvees unloading injured soldiers to be carted into the medical building.

A mountain rises up at the end of the parking lot, one of the Tehachapi hills, the beginning of the Grapevine next to the I-5 Interstate running into Los Angeles.
National Guardsmen are gathered around the arriving group of soldiers.

I push through the crowd. Several of the guards step aside. I am a Lieutenant here, and I am well known. When I reach the front of the crowd, I beam. Derek, lithe and blonde, is supporting Sophia Rodriguez. They’re both caked in mud, filthy, bloody. But alive.

And then I frown because Chris is not with them.

The medical team hurries to the scene, helping Sophia and Derek toward the
Jack in the Box
. I have no time to say hello or exchange greetings. I lock eyes with Derek. He nods briefly, a sorrowful glance.

He knows.

I stand on the edge of the parking lot, staring into the hills. The pillars of black smoke that were poisoning the air only yesterday have already diminished. The rain has been too heavy for the fires to continue burning.

But we have pushed Omega back.

For now.

The sky is dark. Mud and rocks slide down the sides of some of the hills, piling across the freeway like manmade blockades.

Still no sign of Chris.

I turn on my heel and head back toward a restaurant set away from the freeway – the
Taco House
was its
former name. Right now we’re just calling it Headquarters. I enter the front door.

The National Guard’s Colonel Rivera is inside, along with his officers. Many of our own militiamen are here, too. Candles inside of lamps illuminate the building. Rain pelts the windows. Rivera, a burly man with powerful, defined features barely glances at me as I step into the room. Angela Wright, a fellow militia commander, straightens up, alert. Her white hair is pulled in a tight bun. Her daughter, Vera, is standing nearby, her platinum blonde locks in a ponytail. We make brief eye contact before she looks away, staring at the maps on the counter.

“Have you sent out another search party?” I ask.

“It’s on its way back,” Angela replies, casting a sideways glance at Rivera. One that he doesn’t return. “We’ll know for certain when they get here.”

I swallow a massive lump in my throat.

It’s taking everything in me to hold myself together.

Everything
.

I assess the crowd gathered here.

Derek, Sophia and Vera are accounted for. Angela survived. Rivera is alive. Max and Uriah haven’t returned yet. Jeff is dead.

I’m alive. Barely.

I stare at the smoking cigar Colonel Rivera is nervously chewing on.

“How many of our men defected?” I say.

The word
defected
makes everyone flinch. Maybe a better word would be
betrayal
. Because that’s what happened. Our own men turned against us during the battle last night. Turncoats. Spies.

Murderers.

“We don’t have an exact number yet,” Colonel Rivera states, briefly looking at me. “It’s not as bleak as you think.”

“Yes, it
is
,” I snap, startled at the venom in my voice. “How did this
happen
? How did
that
many of our own men turn on us? How long have they been infiltrating our ranks?”

BOOK: State of Pursuit
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