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Curse of the Ancients
by Hawk MacKinney
As Craige Ingram climbed the stairs of the derelict building, that peculiar stench of a dead body hit him. It was the same smell no matter where—SpecOps SEAL encounter gone sour, or in a vacant, roach-infested apartment. Inside, his SEAL buddy-turned head of Buckingham Parish Homicide’s Investigative Support Division, Grayson MacGerald, was huddled with the coroner next to a swollen decaying corpse that was days old and hardly more than oozing dead meat. The PI inside Craige had a gut feeling that there was more to this than a dead body, and Craige’s Grannie always told him, “Trust your feelin’s.” But that was before Mihály Keaulescu set down two of his Black Falcon choppers on Craige’s Moccasin Hollow private airstrip in an uninvited stopover. It got worse. From his airstrip to Israel, to Turkey and a nightmare-dream of one-of-a-kind ancient artifacts that not only threatened the serene life Craige knew and loved at Moccasin Hollow, it would destroy the world.
Craige cinched his chinstrap tighter and in the distance, glimpsed a profile of what looked to be a Bell Textron’s 62X KW warrior carrying an ALQ 131 or a 144 or a modified 147A white-noise jammer in the crook of his arm. Craige pressed his goggles to the ground tighter. Ready as he could get for the back-blast inferno and flesh-boiling incandescence. The ground punched his belly. He felt more than heard the rumbling plasma-searing waves tearing the ground with seismic jolting thuds. The pressure waves jarred his eardrums.
Follow-up chopper runs unleashed a consuming churning hell along the steep walls and dry wadi. Low-altitude chopper sorties took over with end-of-the-world sunbursts sterilizing a morass of targets. Laser guided missiles pulverized crumpled ledges and overhangs into igneous mini-lahars. Bunker buster smart bombs whistled into caves smashing tunnel walls, roasting any bottom feeders hiding inside. Secondary strikes continued, napalm, thermite, and phosphorous blanketed the area. The smothering white-heat boiled in the solar-hot overkill incineration of containers of stored Marburg-Ebolapox, leaving a sterile landscape of glazed sand, gravel, vaporized odds-and-ends, and a few recognizable body parts. The fearful kill-beauty of magenta and mauve mushrooms and cherry-white red-orange acrid plumes left the eerie shimmering moonscape. Avram ordered re-targeting the whole valley, including the passageways that had been tunneled into. He was taking no chances.
Craige felt a sad lament as the gunships made their final runs, missiles and bombs slammed into the mountain. Undiscovered artifacts destroyed, the site possibly entombed beyond recovery. It wasn’t the worst of what might’ve been. If the virus had been loosed, there’d be damn few survivors.
With postgraduate degrees and faculty positions at several medical universities, Hawk MacKinney has taught graduate courses in both the United States and Jerusalem. In addition to his work in classrooms and laboratories, he has written numerous professional articles on chordate neuroembryology and authored several novels that reflect his southwest upbringing in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. Moccasin Trace, a historical novel nominated for both the prestigious Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the Writers Notes Book Award, details the family bloodlines of his protagonist in the Moccasin Hollow Mystery Series. Hidden Vault of Secrets and Westobou Gold, Books 1 and 2 in the series, have received national and international attention. Hawk is also writing a science fiction series, The Cairns of Sainctuarie.