Courage in the Apocalypse Collection
For a limited time get 19 never seen before incredible apocalyptic and dystopian stories. Crafted by some of the most notable authors of the apocalypse. Inside find epic tales of courage and perseverance against insurmountable odds amid an apocalyptic world, as told by your favorite bestselling authors.
DJ Cooper, Boyd Craven, TL Payne, Mark Tufo, Millie Copper, L. Douglas Hogan, Maira Dawn, Derek Shupert, Javan Bonds, Bruno Miller, Ray Wenck, David Simpson, Austin Chambers, Heather Carson, AJ Newman, Courtney Konstantin, DA Carey, Marcus Richardson, Kellee L. Greene.
For those who put their lives on the line every day to defend and protect; to show courage in the face of adversity every day. It is the universal theme of Courage and Perseverance that lead to victory and heroism.
Here is a Sneak Peek at This We'll Defend
An Desperate Age Novelette
Estes Park Resort
Estes Park, Colorado
Day of Event
After ten long, cold days conducting winter warfare exercises at the remote Special Forces’ Black Canyon training area in western Colorado, it was finally beer thirty. Staff Sergeant James Cannon was more than ready to kick back by the fire with a beer and a few of his old friends from college. But when he yanked on the elk antler door handle, the door swung open to reveal a standing-room-only situation at the resort’s restaurant and bar. Over the crowd of tourists and Estes Park locals, he spotted his former college roommate, Isaiah “Bam Bam” Jones, and the others seated at the bar, so he began slicing his way through the crowd toward them. “Pardon me, ma’am,” Cannon said when his North Face parka brushed against a young woman waiting in line for a table.
“What’d you say to her?” the man next to her asked.
Cannon ignored him and kept walking toward the bar. The drunk man pushed past his girlfriend and followed after Cannon.
“What did you say to my girl, asshole?”
Cannon stopped, turned, and locked eyes with the man. “Why don’t you go back to your girlfriend to wait for your table and stop making an ass out of yourself?” Cannon noted the man’s balled fists in his peripheral vision as well as the man’s waistband and pockets, looking for signs of a concealed weapon. Cannon’s 1911 pistol was upstairs in his hotel room, but he carried a SIG SAUER P229 9mm pistol holstered inside his waistband. He had his tactical knife in his left front pocket, but he wouldn’t need either of those things for this scrawny dude.
“You think you’re a tough guy?” The man’s words came out slurred.
“Stop, Steve. He didn’t do anything,” the girl said, rushing up and grabbing her boyfriend’s arm.
“You think you’re such a badass, let’s step outside, and I’ll show you what a little punk you really are,” the drunk guy continued. The dude’s girlfriend looked mortified. Cannon had hoped to just walk away without even acknowledging the drunk’s challenge. It was the man’s hand on his forearm that Cannon couldn’t let slide. Due to his size and muscular build, Cannon often got challenged like this by guys who thought they needed to exert their dominance or who felt threatened somehow by his presence.
At six foot five and two hundred and fifty pounds of solid muscle, Cannon knew he could easily put the guy on his ass, but this was a crowded restaurant and his college friends had traveled all this way to spend the weekend with him. Besides, he wouldn’t risk having to call his first sergeant to tell him he was in jail for smacking a civilian no matter how much the pipsqueak deserved it.
Cannon’s eyes drilled into the man as he uncurled the man’s fingers from his forearm and twisted his hand back into an unnatural and quite uncomfortable position. The man’s face contorted, and he tried to pull away, but Cannon held on. “I’m not doing this with you right now. I came here tonight to have a drink with some old college friends. But later, if you would like to show me what a punk I am, I’ll meet you at the marina.”
“Okay. Okay. I got you, dude. You’re right. Not here,” the man said, holding his left hand up, palm out.
Cannon released his grip on the man’s other hand and the dude took several steps back. He jabbed a bony finger at Cannon. “I’ll see you at the marina at midnight, dude,” the man spat, sounding like a grade schooler. “We'll settle this like men.”
Cannon tried to keep a straight face so as not to provoke the idiot. He knew the coward would never show. Even if the man had the courage to show up, he was already too drunk to find the bathroom, let alone the marina.
Cannon’s college flame, Pammy Reymont spotted him from across the room and waved him over. She nudged Bam Bam in the ribs and he turned on his bar stool, a bottle of Guinness in his hand. “Hey, Cannon. Glad you could finally make it, man,” he shouted across the restaurant. Four of his former frat brothers twisted on their stools. They were already wasted. It was like old times—nothing had changed, though, in reality, everything had changed.
Cannon kept an eye on the drunk dude as he reminisced with his friends. The drunk eventually made a scene when the bartender cut him off and got himself escorted from the establishment. Sometime after midnight, Cannon excused himself and returned to his room, leaving Bam Bam and the others to their night of heavy drinking.
* * *
Twelve hours later, Cannon was back at the bar. He’d passed the drunk from the night before getting off the elevator. The little dude lowered his head and gave Cannon a wide berth.
Pointing to a bottle of German wheat beer on the bar in front of him, Cannon said, “Bartender, I'll have another one of these.”
When the bartender returned with his Hefeweizen, Cannon thanked him through a yawn. He’d just come off a grueling three days of winter mountain training and needed some down time before he and his team headed back down range. The restaurant’s three hundred and sixty-degree panoramic view of mountains and Lake Estes was just the place to unwind and recharge his batteries.
Staring off at the distant peaks, Cannon ran a hand through his close-cropped hair. Three months from now he'd look totally different. He’d already started growing his beard back for a covert mission he had coming up. Cannon rolled his broad shoulders and rubbed his muscular thighs that were still feeling the effects of his morning workout. At twenty-six years old, he was in the best shape of his life. Training ten to twelve hours per day tends to keep a guy in shape.
Cannon’s cell phone buzzed. It was a text from Bam Bam. “Hangover from hell. I’ll catch you at dinner.”
Cannon had gotten to the resort late for this spring reunion get-together. They’d graciously held the gathering in Colorado so he could attend. Some had flown in from the East Coast. He hadn’t seen most of them in two years or more. Pammy Reymont had acted as the event planner. On the agenda for day three was a climb up Mount Olympus for a view of Estes Park and several other high peaks like Lumpy Ridge and Signal Mountain.
It felt strange somehow to be back among his college friends. The partying they’d done the night before had sure brought back memories. He’d paid for it during his morning run, though.
He hadn’t had much time for socializing in the last year or so. After two back-to-back tours in Afghanistan, Cannon and his special forces teammates had pulled a six-month tour in Africa. Now, after nearly six months of training for their next mission, he was eager to get back down range to use the skills he’d honed during mountain training at Black Canyon.
Another restaurant patron pulled out a stool and took a seat at the end of the bar. He removed his ski jacket and twisted in his seat to drape it over the back of his chair. “I’ll have a Scotch on the rocks and my wife will have a margarita,” the man said to the bartender.
The man and Cannon made eye contact, and the guy gave him a nod. A moment later, a tall, slender brunette joined the man. Cannon could tell they were in love by the way they greeted each other. There was an ease and trust there like he'd seen between his parents. A meaningful relationship was something he had yet to find. He’d spent so much time focusing on and building a career, that he hadn’t had time to find a wife or even the chance for a first date with anyone lately.
Cannon finished his beer and was just about to head to his room for a nap when something on the television in the corner of the bar caught his attention.
A news anchor was interviewing some government type dressed in a suit. Cannon couldn’t hear the reporter’s question or the man’s answer, but the video stopped him in his tracks. The image had changed to a video of mass panic, rioting, and fires burning in New York City.
“Can you turn that up?” the man at the end of the bar asked.
Cannon watched the screen as the bartender searched for the television’s remote.
Riots break out as the city goes dark, scrolled along the bottom of the screen.
“That looks bad,” the man said, noticing Cannon had taken an interest in the televised chaos.
The bartender pointed the remote at the screen and turned up the television’s volume.
“Expect massive power outages, phone disruption. The internet will be down,” the expert said. “Oil and gas pipelines, and even satellites, can be affected by the cyberattack. The transportation industry that relies on GPS and internet for routing will be disrupted, causing massive supply chain issues.”
“Which areas have been affected by this current cyberattack?” the news anchor asked.
“Most of the East Coast, but the effects will be felt around the world as the internet, banking, and communications go down.”
“How long before they’re able to restore the power and get everything back online?”
The official’s expression darkened. “About twenty-four to forty-eight hours. With an attack of this magnitude, the systems have to be brought back up slowly.”
The anchor looked like she’d been sucker-punched.
“I bet it was Russia or the Chinese,” the brunette said.
“Could have been,” her husband said, placing a hand on hers.
Russia and China both had the capability to hack into critical US infrastructure. Officials had been warning that foreign adversaries had probed and likely penetrated the digital infrastructure of banks, transportation, oil pipelines, and electrical grids. The private sector had been warned to take steps to strengthen their cybersecurity, but obviously whatever steps they’d taken hadn’t helped the folks on the East Coast. Russia had even threatened to use nukes. Cannon considered that an empty threat though. If the Russians did use their nuclear capabilities, it would be in the form of an electromagnetic pulse, he thought.
“Where are you two from?” Cannon asked.
“Oklahoma,” the man said.
The middle of the country.
“What part?” There were areas of Oklahoma that were sparsely populated. Under the circumstances, that would be ideal.
“Northwest of Tulsa, about an hour,” the wife said.
“Near Pawhuska?” Cannon asked.
“You know the area?” she asked.
Cannon had driven through Oklahoma on his way to Nashville once with his mother. Visiting the Grand Ole Opry was on her bucket list too, but she’d refused to fly. Along the drive, she had insisted on stopping in Pawhuska to visit the television set where some famous cooking show was filmed. It had felt good to see her happy and enjoying herself after such a brutal battle with breast cancer.
“I took my mom to visit the town.”
The wife flipped her long dark hair over her shoulder and smiled. “You ate at the Mercantile?”
“We did.” He smiled. He remembered the food was good, but the restaurant and store were quite crowded with tourists even in the middle of the week. “How long are you two staying in Colorado?” Cannon asked. He wanted to tell them to go upstairs and pack their shit and head home now but didn’t want to scare them.
“We’re here for another day,” the husband said. He wrapped his arm around his wife’s shoulders and smiled lovingly into her eyes. “We’ve loved our vacation here, but we were thinking of leaving early. We really miss our kids.”
“Safe travels,” Cannon said as he slapped a twenty-dollar bill down on the bar and grabbed his cell phone. He paused for a second, wanting to warn the couple not to drive through Denver. He glanced up at the television as a woman began instructing viewers what they should do to prepare for up to forty-eight hours without power, phones, or mass transit.
“Make sure you have enough non-perishable food and water for at least three days. You’ll need one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation,” the woman was saying.
Cannon pointed to the television. “Might be a good idea to leave early.”
Tapping his phone’s call icon as he nodded goodbye to the couple and turned to leave the bar, Cannon selected Bam Bam’s number as he headed toward the elevator. He wanted to warn him about what was happening on the East Coast and let him know he was heading back to Fort Carson. He was sure most of his friends would be happy to get a couple of extra days’ vacation, but Pammy lived in New York and had kids. She’d freak out once she saw the news.
After saying quick goodbyes to his friends, Cannon loaded his ski equipment and climbing gear into his vehicle. He planned on making a stop in Denver to see his sister before returning to Fort Carson. Generally, Cannon preferred to speak to his sister over the phone as opposed to visiting her home. He’d like to avoid her mouth-breather boyfriend as much as possible, but this needed to be done face to face, even though it meant going through Denver. He had to convince his sister to leave the douchebag, Ian, behind and to pack up and take his niece to their parents’ house in Casper, Wyoming. The first time Cannon had met Ian, the idiot had been drinking and pulled up with his sister and niece in his car. Cannon had been waiting for thirty minutes outside Glory’s apartment. He had been invited to dinner but when he arrived, no one was home. Glory had called a moment later to let him know her car had died and that Ian had come to pick her and Journey up. Ian should have had the sense to tell her he had been drinking. Cannon would have gladly picked them up. Not only was Ian not good enough for his sister, Ian was an idiot.
Cannon dialed his sister’s number as he threw his backpack onto the front passenger seat of his Ford F250 pickup. The phone rang several times then went to voicemail. He left Glory a message to call him back and said it was important.
He called his father’s cell. His dad picked up after the first ring. “I knew you’d call. I saw the news about the East Coast. Are you shipping out?”
“I can’t talk about stuff like that, Dad. Operational Security—you know—OPSEC? I just wanted to make sure you and mom have everything you need in case that crazy New York shit makes it to Wyoming.”
“Son, you know we do. The power goes out here all the time during winter storms. We have the generator, plenty of fuel, and all your momma’s stored canned goods. We’ll be just fine. Don’t you worry about us.”
“I’m going to try to convince Glory to come up and stay with you guys for a few days. I was hoping you could help me out with that—maybe tell her that mom needs her.”
Glory had taken a leave of absence from the hospital to care for their mother during the hardest parts of her cancer treatment. He knew if his dad asked, Glory would do it again. A little white lie never hurt, right?
“Is it going to get that bad, son?”
“I’d just feel better if she and Journey were there with you.”
“Okay, James. I’ll call her tonight after she gets off work.”
“She’s working today? I thought she only worked weekends.”
Cannon’s sister was a pediatric intensive care nurse and had been for years. Lately, she’d cut back her hours to spend more time with her daughter, who was having some adjustment issues with the new boyfriend who had moved in.
“Normally, she does, but she got a call from the hospital this morning. The neonatal intensive care unit was too understaffed and they begged her to come pull a shift.”
“That’s why she’s not answering her phone,” Cannon said. “I love you, Dad. Tell Mom I’ll call her.”
“I will. Be careful, son. I love you.”
“I love you too, Dad.”
Cannon plugged the hospital’s address into his phone’s map app and headed south toward Denver. His mind was on his upcoming mission. It could prove to be the most important operation of his career. His thoughts flashed back to the news reports he’d seen in the restaurant’s bar. He was confident the folks at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) would be able to stop the cyberattacks before they went nationwide. But what kind of hell would be unleashed if that mess did spread across the country?
Cannon and the operators on his special forces team would head out to where the tip of the spear was needed to execute another no-fail mission. After six months of training stateside, most of the SOF team was eager to deploy. Normally, Cannon would have been too, but this time was very different. This time, he might be leaving his family at a time when they needed him and his skill set the most.