The Campaign first chapter

PART ONE

ARRIVAL

1

The dull thud of rotor blades sounds as a helicopter descends out of the clouds, flying over open water. In the front, Chris Erickson sits beside the pilot who is invisible beneath his headgear. Chris has curly dark hair and a two-week stubble of beard that glints red as the light catches it. Behind him, a cameraman, poised on a jump seat, lowers his camera from the young couple that sit opposite him.

Rain, slight and pale, with smooth dark hair, absently scratches the head of the small curly-haired dog that pokes out of a pouch slung across her chest as she scans the horizon, her eyes alert.

Jason, clean-shaven, his dark blond hair falling forward, reaches over to scratch behind Buddy’s ear. He covers Rain’s hand with his own, squeezing it lightly. “Worried?”

She holds his blue-gray eyes for a moment and then shrugs slightly.

“We had to do this,” he says reassuringly. “If we stayed in the forest, we would have drawn an attack that would have destroyed the sanctuary the women built for themselves. We’re lucky we had this chance to get out. What do you know about the guy who is bringing us in?”

“He’s the man who funded the Innovation Institute for years when the government cut off funding. He and Olympia go way back. She vouches for him.”

He nods. “That’s good enough for me. If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t have this chance. We would still be running from the likes of him,” he tilts his head toward Chris, “or dead.”

“It was your blog going viral that got us into the public eye.”

“But you talked me into putting my journal out there. Thank you.”

“You expecting company?” Chris nods out the window.

The cameraman raises his camera, training it on a black object the size of a bird that appears several hundred yards away.

“It’s a drone,” Rain says.

Several more drones appear, heading directly toward the chopper.

The pilot glances at his instrument panel, which shows a half-dozen drones approaching the chopper from all directions. He speaks urgently into his mouthpiece. “What’s going on? We’re surrounded by drones that are closing fast.”

Suddenly, a government fighter plane breaks through the clouds, heading directly toward them.

“Are you expecting an escort?” Chris asks.

The pilot shakes his head. He listens for a moment. “Roger.”

The government fighter turns sharply to parallel their course. It is close enough that they can see the face of the young pilot looking over at them.

Their pilot speaks over his shoulder. “Word got out that a government plane took off heading in our direction, and the drone hobbyists scrambled to make sure there were plenty of witnesses to whatever happened.” He glances out the window. “Looks like we’ve got a hell of an escort. You can bet this is being broadcasted live.”

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