The first book in THE BLEED trilogy – RUPTURE – written by CHRIS PHILBROOK, MARK TUFO and myself, is released on 14 July. Here’s an introduction to the second story strand which takes place on the moon.
It was 2035, the year the earth came to a tipping point it could not recover from. Deforestation, pollution, melting of the polar ice caps, overpopulation, and an inability to provide enough food had pushed the world into a war that dwarfed the two great wars combined. Nearly every country that had a standing military had joined the fray, battling for scraps of an ever-diminishing supply of resources. Alliances were tested, broken and reformed on a continual basis. It got to the point that most didn’t even know which side, or who exactly, they were fighting with anymore. Humanity was on the brink of extinction, and somehow killing each other seemed the best solution. For twelve years, unbridled savagery was released upon the planet. Billions died in the conflict, and there seemed no end to the misery. War and the wretchedness of it were all anybody knew.
It was a French woman, Esmee Marchand, who had covertly approached what remained of the governments with a plan to save what was left. Esmee had been an ecologist; she’d studied at Harvard and Cambridge University before the war started. She bore witness to the destruction of her planet and had switched her field of focus to terra-forming. She’d devised an original method of rejuvenating environments; creating safe zones for human life, and with this knowledge in hand, she had offered an escape, a fresh start. So, even as countries tore themselves and each other apart, scientists and technicians worked in secret to create rockets and gather the materials, people and animals that would inhabit the moon, always with hope that someday they could return to the earth, once peace had been restored and the threats facing our survival had been removed. What they did not know, what they could not know, was that the Bleed had found their oasis among the stars, and it was doing what it had always done: destroy.
Day 1 8:02 a.m.
“Woohoo!” Samantha Morrison screamed as Tyler sent the M.O.W.E.R., the Moon Octagon Wheeled Express Rover, into a tight donut. She was standing up in her seat, holding on to the turbulence bar mounted on the dashboard.
“Sam, sit your ass down!” her brother, Derrick, said from the back seat.
“Just drink more of Maddie’s hot water and stop being a prude!” She smiled and twisted around, making sure Tyler got a good view of her backside.
“This beats the shit out of calculus!” Juan said, grabbing the illegal bottle of alcohol from Derrick’s hands.
“Speaking of which, don’t you think they’re going to know something is up when half the kids are missing?” Derrick asked.
“Moon flu,” Tyler said as he got the mower out of its slide and was now racing forward. At sixteen, he was the oldest of the four by three months. He stood nearly six feet tall and was the object of desire to almost every girl in his class, though there were only five. It didn’t matter to him, as he only had eyes for Sam. He yearned for her. The only downside was her twin brother Derrick, whom she insisted come along on whatever adventure they leapt upon.
To Tyler, Sam was the perfect woman. She had dark hair, piercing blue eyes, and a smile that made him want to lasso the earth and give it to her on a charm bracelet. Then there was Juan, Tyler’s oldest and dearest friend. Their parents were molecular scientists and had been working closely together since they’d landed on the moon some twenty years ago. They’d known each other since their first remembered thoughts. They were as different as two people could be; where Tyler was tall and wiry, Juan was short and stocky. Their only similarity was that they both loved a Morrison. Tyler often smiled when he imagined what Derrick would think if he knew Juan had a thing for him.
“Don’t hog that!” Sam had to shout over the music blaring from the mower’s speaker system. She reached her hand back for the hot water. She took a hefty swig and sat down hard. “I think I might be…ebriated.”
“Ebriated?” Tyler laughed, looking over at her.
She laughed and then hiccupped. Tyler could not take his eyes from the heavenly sight.
“Dude! Tyler, man, look out!” Juan shouted from the back.
“Oh shit!” Tyler turned and was looking at one of the massive support pillars of a Terraforming Transfer Tower, a big one—a T3. The structure itself was over two hundred feet tall; the support pillar was ten feet across by ten feet high made of steel-reinforced concrete and it filled his windshield view. The mower wouldn’t so much as scratch it if it struck. Tyler pulled the wheel hard to his right; the internal gyroscopes did not have enough time to compensate for the sudden maneuver. The wheels on the left came up off the ground just as the front passenger quarter panel squealed in protest and collided with the tower. The force tipped the vehicle completely over and sent it skidding and twirling for close to five hundred feet before it came to a teetering stop on its roof. Dust swirled around outside and inside the vehicle. Electrical circuits began shorting, leaving a smell of burnt ozone in the air.
“Fuck! Everyone all right?!” Tyler fell to the ceiling as he undid his seat restraint. He looked over in panic to Sam, who was in a curled-up heap, blood flowing from her head.
“Good,” Juan said as he sat up and tried to help Derrick, who angrily shoved him away.
“Sam?” He was scurrying to move to the front and help his sister.
She sat up. “What a rush!” She was laughing.
“You scared us to death!” Derrick shouted.
“So dramatic, this one,” Juan said. “Uh, guys, better suit up,” he said as he watched a small crack in the window closest to him sucking out the all-important life-giving oxygen and replacing it with choking moon dust. “We’ve got a leak.”
The mirth at having survived the accident quickly gave way to alarm as Derrick moved to the rear of the vehicle to grab the pressurized suits.
“How far are we from the base?” Juan asked as he began to dress.
“I…I don’t know….” Tyler was quickly putting his feet through the legs as more oxygen seeped out. An alarm had sounded, warning of the loss of air, but promptly ceased as all electrical functions on the mower died.
Derrick again rooted around in the trunk, grabbing some liquid sealant. He squeezed the end of the tube; the semi-liquid moved toward the hole and before it could slip through, it spread out and sealed the breach.
“Good move, dork,” Sam said. He stuck his tongue out at her.
Once Sam had her suit on, she looked to the tower and up. “That’s number thirty-four, so we’ve got to be close to ten miles out.”
“You know the layout of the towers?” Tyler asked as he pulled up the front of his jacket.
“Our dad helped put them there and is responsible for the maintenance. He takes us out all the time to show us, as eventually this is supposed to be our job. Of course, we’ll be lucky if we don’t end up in jail over this,” Derrick replied, looking sourly at Tyler.
“There’s no jail on the moon,” Juan said. “That’s only in the books and movies from Earth.”
“Yeah, well, they might make one now just for us. We need to get moving; we’ve got two hours of air and a lot of miles to travel. Dumbasses,” Derrick muttered that last part.
“What about the winch? Can’t we use that to turn us over?” Sam asked.
“I think the damage is too severe to drive, and besides…” Derrick pointed to a spot some hundred feet away where the spiraled winch cable sat in its housing.
“Um, we have another problem,” Juan said as he held up the broken faceplate of his suit.
“Shit, take mine,” Tyler offered. “I’m the one that got us into this mess.”
“Okay. Sam and I can go and get help; Tyler, you stay here with Juan. When the oxygen inside the vehicle is finally tapped out, you’ll have to share what’s in the suits. Should have plenty.”
“Look at Take Charge Derrick, my hero!” Tyler went in to give the other a kiss.
“This is serious!” Derrick pushed him away.
“So was I.” Tyler put on a mock countenance of hurt.
“Come on, sis.”
“Shouldn’t she stay here? It would be safer,” Juan said.
“Not sure about that,” Derrick answered, moving toward the airlock. “And you know we’re always supposed to go out in pairs in case something happens.”
“Not sure if the rules apply anymore,” Tyler said. “We already drank something we weren’t supposed to have and stole a mower.”
“That’s on Maddie for even making it,” Juan said, trying to make light of the situation.
“I didn’t drink any, and I didn’t steal this truck.” Derrick was next to the manual override. “Sam, come on.”
“Why’d you even come?” Tyler could not hide the hostility in his voice.
“To save your asses when you invariably did something like this.” His sister came up beside him. He turned the crank quickly; the inner door to the airlock opened with a hiss. He and Sam walked into the small anti-chamber before he shut and locked the door behind him. Then he went for the outer door. It took the combined effort of both of them to turn the wheel, the door having suffered damage from the collision.
“You should take it easy on him,” Sam said through the comm device built into the suits.
“And maybe you should reevaluate what you see in him. He could have killed us all and we’re still in a lot of trouble out here. It’s not recommended to be more than a mile away from a facility, and here we are, ten times that.”
“It’s so boring here, Der! You know that. You must. You’re always reading; don’t the people in those stories ever have fun?”
“Most of what I read is on science.”
“Maybe that’s your problem.”
“I hate to tell you this, sis, but Tyler isn’t going to be riding a white stallion to your rescue any time soon.”
Sam pushed him. “Shut up. I’m sixteen—almost seventeen—and besides playing board games with our parents, I barely have any fun.”
“And I’m the dramatic one,” Derrick sighed. “You should talk less and walk more. This is going to be close.”
“Shouldn’t we run? Jog, maybe?”
“We’ll use up our air faster.”
“What about the oxygen level outside? Haven’t the towers made enough yet?”
“I realize Tyler is dreamy and all, but don’t you pay any attention in school?”
“Why should I? You always fill me in.”
“The oxygen around us is a little over sixteen percent.”
“That’s not enough?”
Derrick let his head sag.
“I’m kidding, okay? I know twenty-one percent is the optimal zone for human life, but won’t sixteen point-two-five be enough?”
“The only thing that can survive in that is fire. It’s going to be five more years before we can live outside.”
“Oh, can you imagine? To be free of these suits…to lie out on grass and stare up at the stars?”
“We can do all of that in the solarium.”
“You mean that domed building with the glass ceiling? Not the same, baby brother.”
“By four minutes. My guess is you probably tripped me on the way out so you could be first.”
They walked the next few miles in silence, doing their best to conserve oxygen. Sam tapped the base of Tower 12 then looked over to her brother; his eyebrows furrowed.
“Five miles out,” he said.
“I’m at a third of a tank,” Sam replied.
Derrick said nothing.
“I’m at less than that,” was all he offered as he plodded on. After a few hundred yards, he stopped. “Sam, I’m not going to make it. If I give you my tank, you should have just enough.”
“You’d sacrifice yourself for little old me? That means so much! Okay, take it off, I’ve got to get going.”
“Not a chance in hell I’m leaving you out here. We’re both going to make it.”
Derrick didn’t think so, but he didn’t want to waste oxygen arguing with his sister. He couldn’t remember the last time that had worked out in his favor. His visor began to flash red just as they saw the facility on the horizon. So damn close, he thought. His head began to swim as he took in more carbon dioxide than air.
He didn’t remember falling to the ground.
THE BLEED: RUPTURE is released on 14 July as an ebook, paperback, and Audible exclusive audiobook narrated by SCOTT AIELLO. THE BLEED: RAPTURE follows next March, with THE BLEED: ARMAGEDDON to finish the series in September 2021.