Here is a shortish snippet from Fire from Ashes. The book will go up for pre-order Monday. This excerpt is from the rough draft, so there may be spelling and grammar errors. There may also be non-grammar/spelling changes made in the final version.
Dirt and debris filled the air as another mortar round exp0loded mere yards from where they huddled behind what might euphemistically be called cover. Lt. Col. Lucinda Ortega ignored the inventive cursing of some of her Marines. Instead, she ordered them to sound off. That blast had been a bit too close for comfort. Not that the others had been much better.
“Someone get me a location for that mortar!” she ordered as she flipped through her visors various filters, studying the area around them.
Damn it, this mission had gone to Hell in the proverbial hand basket almost from the moment they landed. At least they’d managed to clear the shuttle before a mortar hit it. Not that it meant much in the grand scheme of things. Her Marines might have made it off but most of their equipment had still been onboard. Worse, they weren’t going to get any support from topside until they managed to take down the controls for the defense platforms. Assuming they managed to find a way through the No Man’s Land they found themselves in.
“Sorceress, we can’t stay here much longer,” Master Sergeant M. J. Anderson said as she moved to her CO’s side.
Ortega nodded. “I know, Reaper.” She blew out a breath. “Answer me this. The enemy’s had us pinned down for more than two hours. Why haven’t they moved in?”
Even as she asked, she knew on possible answer. By holding their troops back, they prevented the Fuerconese Marines from picking them off. This area might be a No Man’s Land for the Marines but it could quickly become one for the Callusian invaders as well. That might be why their commander continued to rely on his artillery. Still, it didn’t make any sense. By continuing this line of attack, it gave the rest of the [division’s name] time to get into position to flank them.
Not that it mattered much if the enemy managed to zero in on them. If they did, it would be over for Alpha Company. There wasn’t enough cover for them to hide behind. All it would take was a few good hits and there would be little for their fellow [division name] to find and return to the home system. Not that she had any intention of allowing that to happen.
“Wish I knew, Sorceress.” Anderson’s concern, as well as more than a little curiosity, about the enemy’s tactics was clear. “Orders?”
“Tell the heavies to be ready to move on my signal. If we have a drone left, I want it up. We need eyes on them yesterday.”
The master sergeant nodded and moved off, crouching low to the ground. As she did, Ortega closed her eyes, thinking hard.
Praying she wasn’t about to make a fatal mistake, Ortega carefully shifted positions. She dropped to her belly and inched toward the edge of the barricade. Barricade! What a laugh. For the last ten minutes, she had crouched behind a pile of rubble, part of what had once been a single-story building. As she did, she reached over her shoulder for her sniper rifle. For not the first time, she thanked whoever decided Marine armor should default to black unless its camo capabilities were activated. With the twin suns of the planet below the horizon, that meant the enemy would have to be checking with infared to be able to see her.
Unfortunately, that also meant she couldn’t see anything without using her own filters. Even then, her field of vision was limited. Even so, a little was better than nothing.
For several long moments, she ignored Adamson’s demands that she get back under cover. Instead, she scanned the area. A slight smile touched her lips as she caught sight of an enemy foolish enough to show himself. With a precision that would have impressed her Academy instructors, she carefully squeezed the trigger and watched as he fell to the ground a few seconds later. Then she continued her scan, looking for something, anything that would help them break out of this trap they’d found themselves in.
“Sorceress, if you don’t get your ass back behind cover, I’m going to drag you back,” Adamson growled over a private channel. “We can’t risk you, damn it.”
Ortega didn’t respond. Adamson was right. The [division name] had lost its CO a few months earlier. Even though Paul Pawlak hadn’t been with them for long, Ortega knew from personal experience that he’d been the kind of CO who quickly earned a division’s loyalty. His death, as well as the deaths of those with him, had rocked the division. When she and Adamson arrived to take command, they’d found Marines hurting and in need of a commanding officer who could not only lead them but who could gain their trust and respect. She’d worked hard to be that CO. She’d be damned if she did anything to set them back now.
Besides, she’d seen what she needed to. Safely behind her barricade of rubble, she sat up. One part of her brain listened as her company commanders reported in. Some called for medics. Others called for fresh battery packs or ammo. Others reported on enemy troop movement. Not that there was much along that line to report. It seemed each of the companies faced a situation similar to her own.
And it made no sense.
Somehow, she had to figure out a way to break her company free and quickly, before it was too late.
“Wraith, Sorceress,” she commed. “Report.”
“Sorceress, Wraith. Enemy dug in at two. No change in status.”
She produced her datapad and pulled up the drop zone map. For several long moments, she studied it. Nothing about the map matched what they’d dropped into except the geography. Troop placements weren’t where they were supposed to be. Defenses they enemy shouldn’t have had time to build were in place. Someone had fucked up and badly. If she lived through this, she’d make it her personal mission to find out who and make them pay. Every Marine she lost, every one of her Marines injured, would be avenged.
Risking not only her master sergeant’s ire but an enemy projectile, she once again looked around the edge of her cover. Filters flipped from one to another as she scanned the area. Instinct and training. That’s what she had to rely on. Her own and her divisions. They might not be the Devil Dogs but, by God, they were almost as good. They would not let the enemy win. Not here and not now.