RoF’s Amazing Open House on February 13th!
Due to technical difficulties we rescheduled the Ring of Fire Open House with special guest S.M. Stirling to February 13th at 2 pm EST (1 pm Central Time).
Use the Zoom link below to join in on the fun. We’ll see you there!
RoF’s Cover reveal for S.M. Stirling’s Daggers in Darkness!
S.M. Stirling’s alternate history epic begins with Daggers in Darkness and we have a cover for everyone to see what kind of ride they are in for!!!
RoF’s preview of David Brin’s High Horizon Series!
Ring of Fire is preparing to release book Colony High, Dr. David Brin’s first book in High Horizon series and to get everyone ready we have the third part of Chapter 1 for your enjoyment!
It turned into one hell of a Thursday night.
When Mark got off work around seven, he went home hoping to find his dad there, smelly and unshaven from a three-day field trial, but happy to tell his son the unclassified parts over coffee and an omelet. Something that would explain eerie vans and nervous helicopters, even the bizarre rumors sputtering around town, putting it all down to scuttlebutt and normal Defense Department weirdness.
But no. Dad wasn’t home.
Instead, Mark found Alex and Barry waiting for him by the battered old Cherokee. Barry held a steaming bucket of drumsticks from Chick-tish-n-Protie. Alex must have already let herself in the house, to fetch keys to the jeep. She tossed them at Mark, as soon as he parked his bike.
“You don’t waste time,” he commented.
“Life’s short.” It pretty much summed up her philosophy.
What could he do but shrug and climb into the driver’s seat? These two were his best friends since moving to this desert oasis. They had nursed him through those grueling Chemistry and Trigonometry midterms, making it hard to refuse, even though his body ached and there was school tomorrow.
“Here, swallow this,” Alex ordered, handing him a pill – a motrin, he saw – and a water bottle. Heck, did the girl think she was his mother? But Mark tossed back the muscle relaxer, which seemed a good idea. He shrugged off the bottle.
There’s a quiz tomorrow in pre-calc, but Alex drilled me on that chapter during lunch and I ought to get my usual B. Mr. Castro will be holding a discussion on the Thirty Years War, though I guess I know the subject well enough to say something in class, after watching that Tim Burton film about it. Though if I studied a bit more …
He pictured Helene Shockley, occupying the seat behind him in World History, always wearing some pheromonic scent that would fill his nostrils and send his head spinning. At times, Mark fantasized winning her over with some clever quip or insight in Clement’s class. If there were even a chance of impressing her —
Forget about it. She’s with Scott.
In fact, Mark had to admit, school was under control. He could afford a little weeknight adventure.
“Where to?” He asked, starting up the engine.
Barry pointed east. “The dunes. Near Skull Rock. That’s where Chloe said they found something, before she clammed up tighter than a trillionaire’s wallet.”
Cruising in that direction down Highway 62, they swiftly left behind both the town and the sprawling Marine Corps base to the north that hosted Cirocco Labs. To their right, Joshua Tree National Park rolled by, with its namesake plants resembling spiky warriors by the light of a waxing gibbous moon. A scattered army of those shadowy figures stretched across the plain toward dun-colored hills.
The dry air was cooling down quickly from today’s oppressive heat. Mark always liked this part of the evening, here in the high desert. That is, he would have enjoyed the drive, if Barry weren’t constantly reaching forward from the back seat, tapping Mark on the shoulder and shouting.
“There! Another helicopter …” he pointed urgently, “and one more off by the mesa!”
Mark overcame his irritation to glance that way. And yes, there were aircraft out there, crisscrossing above the sand and scrub. So? Helicopters and drones and such … next to Twenty-Nine Palms Air Station? Ooooh.
Though … yes … they were aiming searchlights downward, moving at low altitude, in what did kind of look like a search pattern.
Alex reminded him – twice – about the turnoff to Skull Rock. I would-of remembered, he growled inside while turning off the main highway onto a barely-graded dirt road, easy enough for the Cherokee to handle.
We seem to be headed right for one of the helicopter search grids.
“Suppose they really are searching for something. Do you think it’s wise for us to be –”
Alex shouted and Mark yanked the wheel hard, briefly blinded by headlights ahead, looming suddenly around a sharp bend. A pickup truck veered by, much too close, while five or so rowdies hollered and screamed from the back. Something hurtled toward Mark and he slammed the brake just in time for a beer bottle to shatter on the hood of the jeep, instead of his face.
“Jerks,” Alex muttered, with endearing understatement. “I guess this means we’re not the only ones chasing rumors. The only civilians, I mean,” she added, glancing toward one of the throbbing helicopters.
Mark pushed the clutch and re-engaged the transmission in low, taking the curve slowly… and pulled aside again for yet another pair of headlights. This time it turned out to be a little Geo Metro – one of the solar-charged conversions that really shouldn’t be out after dark; they’d be lucky to make it back to town. Whining and complaining in the grit and dust, it pulled up alongside the Cherokee and the window came down, with an unhealthy, grinding sound. The driver leaned out – a girl Mark had seen around TNPHS, with stringy, braided hair, glasses, a great figure – Isabel something…
“There’s a roadblock ahead,” she said in all-business tones, though with a nervous edge. Mark couldn’t make out her companions, cramped together in the dim cab. “They’re turning kids back and taking down names.”
“Thanks. Though can you tell us what you think is going —” Mark started asking, but the Geo was already speeding off, spewing grit in its wake. He turned to look at Alex and Barry. “Maybe we better think about —”
Alex agreed by both nodding and pointing ahead of them, where a trio of vehicle lights could be seen heading their way, weaving along the road’s sinuous path. From the pattern of head-lamps and spot beams, he could tell they were Newts – New Utility Vehicles, capable of switching from wheeled travel to charging cross-country on a cushion of air. You didn’t want to argue with guys driving stuff like that.
His passengers made no complaint about the failure of the mission as Mark turned around and headed back to the highway.
Only when they were approaching Twenty-Nine Palms again did Barry finally speak up, apparently back in chipper, hyper-curiosity mode once again.
“All right, then. That pretty much confirms that something big is afoot! Now let’s go to our natural habitat and hunt for the truth. I know just where to start. Rimpau Avenue.”