By J.A. Huss
In 2152 the avian race is on Earth looking for something stolen from them decades ago – their genetics. At the center of the search lies the Rural Republic; a small backwards farming country with high hopes of military domination and a penchant for illegal bioengineering.
19 year old Junco Coot is the daughter of the Rural Republic’s ranking commander. She’s the most foul-mouthed, wildly unpredictable and ruthless sniper the Rural Republic has ever trained. But when her father’s death sparks a trip into forbidden places, she triggers events that will change everything she knows to be true.
As an elite avian military officer, Tier’s mission is to destroy the bioengineering projects, kill Commander Coot’s daughter, and return home immediately. There’s just one problem. Junco isn’t who she claims to be.
With no one to trust, not even herself, Junco must confront the secrets of her past and accept her place in the future, or risk losing herself completely.
J. A. Huss never took a creative writing class in her life. Some would say it shows. Others might cut her some slack. She did however, get educated and graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. in Equine Science. She had grand dreams of getting a Ph.D. but while she loves science, she hated academia and settled for a M.S. in Forensic Toxicology from the University of Florida.
She’s always packing heat and she is owned by two donkeys, five dogs, more chickens and ducks than she can count, and of course, the real filthy animals, her kids. The I Am Just Junco series was born after falling in love with the ugliest part of Colorado and the Rural Republic is based on the area of the state she currently resides in, minus the mutants, of course.
Author Blog: http://jahuss.com/
"I think we should stick together, Junco. In fact I was thinking I can help get ya back to safety. Ya know, help ya get the Goat back up on the road. Even though yer healed, yer still pretty–" He hesitates.
"I’m pretty?" I ask.
He laughs a little and shakes his head, which pisses me off for some reason. "No, I was going to say pretty weak, ya know. From yesterday’s crash. But then I wondered if ya would take that as an insult as well."
I roll my eyes and try to push past him to get the winch hooked up to a tree, but he leans his hands on either side of the Goat, essentially boxing me in. I shoot him a nasty look and he drops his hands to let me through.
"Thanks for all your help," I call back to him, "but I’m going to take it from here. And I won’t report you, so don’t worry about that. Just get hell out of the RR before anyone else sees you." I turn to see how he’s taking the news but he’s not there. When I turn back he’s in front of me again.
He shakes his head at me.
I shake mine back and raise my eyebrows.
"You’ll refuse my help?"
"Look," I huff, "you have those people tracking you and neither of us is supposed to be out here in the first place, so let’s just cut our losses and move on. Separately."
He looks down to the tech that is still in his hand. "They can’t see anything here. Some sort of shield."
"Right. That’s called a defense system. The deeper you go into the Stag, the thicker the shields. So why don’t you just fly over to the Mountain Republic where they probably can track you?"
He lifts the device to illustrate his point. "In case ya haven’t figured it out yet, these people aren’t my ride home."
"So why are they tracking you?"
His eyes twinkle and I know what’s coming and push past him at a full run. He’s on me before I can take more than half a dozen strides and pulls on my shirt until I slip in the mud and go down hard on my back.
"Stop!" I scream, but instead of stopping he pins my arms down and sits on top of me as I wriggle and kick to try and get him off. His legs twine around mine, essentially cutting off any thoughts of getting him off me that way. Then his eyes are glowing again and his lips are touching my cheek, whispering for me to settle and be calm.
To my surprise, I do settle. I can’t help it. I realize too late that the soft words brushing past the sensitive skin on my cheek are controlling me. I can feel the sound waves trickling into my ear canal, making their way to the nerve pathways that control my muscles, and I bring my shoulders up to try and push his face away. His lips remain next to my ear and I am just about to fully give in when the tech device, forgotten and left on the ground during our struggle, sounds off an alarm. He loses his concentration and the words stop for half a moment, but that’s all I need.
I take my opportunity and flip myself over so that I’m on my belly. This takes him by surprise and for a split-second he is off balance. I flip back around and use my right arm to knock him in the windpipe as my body turns. He goes reeling off of me and I’m up and running down into the little creek.
A boot goes flying just past my head, but I don’t stop and wonder at this weird turn of events. I run as hard as I can, over the opposite bank, out of the small grove of cottonwoods, and into the tall flowing prairie grass. I’m short, so the leftover husks slap me in the face as I run, blurring my vision.
The wings descend and he’s swooping down upon me. I look up to see talons where his boots were just a few minutes ago and they latch onto my shoulders, puncturing my skin and making me scream. His grip tightens and clutches onto my shoulders making me fall. I roll as I land and pop back up, booking it again without missing a beat.
One second I’m hauling ass towards the open prairie, the next he’s on the ground in front of me and we’re on a collision path. I plan my move and let him get to within a few strides of me and then I flip into the air and land on the other side of him. He misses a step and I take advantage of it, turn and deliver a hook kick to his jaw. His head snaps to the side and he stumbles over sideways a little.
I run hard for a few seconds and don’t look back. Off in the distance I hear the roar of a hovercopter and a few seconds later I feel the effects of the prairie grass wind tunnel it creates from the blades, but still I push my way through the now wildly swaying wheat until I come upon the alien again.
His lip is bleeding and his jaw is slightly red from my kick. I stop in my tracks, bent over and panting hard.
He’s not even out of breath.
"I’m not the enemy, Junco," he screams above the roar, "and if you know what’s good for ya, you’ll run like hell because if those guys from the Mountain Republic get you, you’ll end up in the same messed-up place as your father."
He flies off, disappearing in the tallgrass before I can even string together a sentence.
But his words stay with me. Dead like my father is not something I want to be so I follow his advice. I run until the MR soldiers in the hovercopter blast me with a plasma bolt and I fall to the ground unconscious.