To celebrate the beginning of my fourth draft of my in-progress novel, the Phoenix Gene, I’m posting a more complete version of Chapter One. You can also find it under the tab, Read Chapter One from my main page. See if you can determine where the science I post about will fit in this novel.
The Phoenix Gene
Rob’s transfer case was the farthest from the closed cockpit, and as the plane neared Dover Air Force Base, ice crackled in the end stenciled Head. Muffled thumps began in the Foot side. Soon pounding echoed through the cargo hold. Steel closures at the base clanked andstood their ground, but the aluminum holding the latches stretched and tore until the top fell sideways and a body bag flowed from the container on a torrent of ice and water. A small knife blade darted through the vinyl and Rob gasped a breath for the first time in three days.
At first, he was blind and his muscles burned and twitched as his nerves began to fire again. When his vision returned, he was peering through the hole in the body bag at the steel grate on the floor. Jet engines screamed outside. Am I lucky or what? He knew the flight was in progress and no one would be in the cargo hold, no one living anyway. In his 250 years as a United States Marine, he had never revived in the morgue or the coroner’s lab. If he had, there would be too many questions the Code would not let him answer.
Eager to escape his prison that reeked of blood, he hacked at the bag until he could pull his broad shoulders through the gash. His shirt had been cut off when his corpse was brought to the command post and the phoenix tattoo emblazoned on his back appeared to rise from the body bag.
Halfway out and exhausted, Rob rested face down on the cold steel grate. It was a welcome contrast to his burning muscles. The last thing he remembered was an involuntary back flip and landing on his face. And pain; searing, blinding pain. There must have been a car bomb. Wouldn’t you know it? The last patrol I take before retiring is the one that sends me home without a pension.
He lifted his head and glanced at the transfer cases behind him, they stretched beyond his view and were strapped to the floor at regular intervals as if at attention. He wondered how many of his friends were there. Not that it mattered, he would never be able to see any of them again, living or dead. He chose to ignore the other cases.
He raised himself to his elbows to look at his arms and shoulders. There were new shrapnel scars; some were coin sized pockmarks, others were streaks a few inches long. Running his hands over the scars proved some shrapnel was still embedded. Or was it old shrapnel?
The sudden hum of landing gear startled him. He crawled on his elbows from the body bag, but it was difficult. He couldn’t feel his right foot. It had to be the ice chilling his leg senseless. Once out, he pulled himself into push up position. He still couldn’t feel his right foot, so he looked down. A scarred stump had taken the place of his right calf just below the knee. He lowered himself back to the floor and lay there. He’d been in so many battles and someone had always been there to put him back together. He had always been young and athletic…
The rumble of the landing refocused him. He had to hide now or risk breaking the Code. Unsure how to treat his damaged leg, he crawled back to his transfer case and tossed his body bag onto the lid. There was something in the bottom. Sickened, he froze. They found it. He wanted to dive into the bag and shove his dismembered leg back on like a lost shoe, but it was too late, he had healed. He straightened the bag and struggled to lift the case back onto the lid. He was losing a part of his life couldn’t imagine living without.
Rob didn’t have time to mourn. With his leg hidden, Rob stood, tottering on one foot and hopped toward the shadows at the back of the cargo hold. He could tell the plane had taxied into place. Soon, the pilots would leave the cockpit and open the door for the honor guard. All he could do now was hide and wait.