|H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath by Natalie Wright|
Book 1 of the H.A.L.F. Series
- View the Cover
- View the Trailer
- Meet the Cast of Characters
- Read the Book Description & Excerpt
- Listen to Clips from the "Soundtrack"
- BUY the Book
My newest series, H.A.L.F., is here and The Deep Beneath (H.A.LF. 1) and The Makers (H.A.L.F. 2), are available in paperback and hardcover (available wherever books are sold), digital (Amazon only), and audiobook (Audible, iTunes & Amazon).
*And H.A.L.F.: ORIGINS (H.A.L.F. 3) is now available for PRE-ORDER! The book releases August 24, 2017 but you can view more about this NEW RELEASE on the dedicated ORIGINS webpage here: http://bit.ly/HALF_ORIGINS_PAGE
*And H.A.L.F.: ORIGINS (H.A.L.F. 3) is now available for PRE-ORDER! The book releases August 24, 2017 but you can view more about this NEW RELEASE on the dedicated ORIGINS webpage here: http://bit.ly/HALF_ORIGINS_PAGE
From the Back Cover:
H.A.L.F. 9 has taken his first breath of desert air and his first steps in the human world. Created to be a weapon, he proved too powerful for his makers and has lived a sedated life hidden from humans. But he has escaped his underground lab he called home, and the sedation has worn off. He has never been more alive. More powerful. Or more deadly.
Erika Holt longs to ride her motorcycle east until pavement gives way to shore. She bides her time until graduation when she’ll escape the trailer she shares with her alcoholic mother and memories of her dead father. But a typical night in the desert with friends thrusts Erika into a situation more dangerous than she ever imagined.
Circumstances push the two together, and each must make a fateful choice. Will Erika assist H.A.L.F. 9 in his escape despite her “don’t get involved” rule? And will H.A.L.F. 9 let Erika live despite the fact he was trained to kill?
The two may need to forget their rules and training and if either is to survive the dangers of the deep beneath them.
H.A.L.F. Cast of Characters:
|Erika Holt, Protagonist in H.A.L.F. by Natalie Wright|
There's just one little problem. Something big is brewing in the desert. Something Erika and her friends know nothing about. They may well wish they had spent their Saturday night at home rather than cruising in the desert.
|Jack Wilson from H.A.L.F. by Natalie Wright|
JACK WILSON: Carefree, free-spirited, guitar-playing poet Jack Wilson is new to Ajo. Jack began the summer as Erika's friend and ended it by falling in love with her. As soon as the three little words "I love you" left his mouth, Erika pulled back from him. But Jack's a patient guy, willing to hold back in the 'just friends' zone until he finds a way to convince Erika that she can't live without him.
Jack would follow Erika to the ends of the Earth. But will he follow her farther even than that?
|Ian Frew, Erika's Best Friend in H.A.L.F. by Natalie Wright|
IAN FREW: Ajo High School's star quarterback and the hottest guy in the senior class, Ian Frew is Erika's best friend. Soon he'll be fighting for more than just points on the gridiron. But will the dangers that lie ahead force a wedge between Ian and his oldest friend?
|H.A.L.F. 9, aka "Tex" from H.A.L.F. by Natalie Wright|
He is naive. He is dangerous. And he has escaped.
|Commander Lilly Sturgis in H.A.L.F. by Natalie Wright|
COMMANDER LILLY STURGIS: Commander Sturgis is our last hope. She and her creations stand between salvation and total annihilation. At least that's the way she sees it. When they need to win a battle, they call a general. When they need to win a war, they call her.
|Alecto, aka H.A.L.F. 10 in H.A.L.F. by Natalie Wright|
ALECTO: Who is she? Where did she come from? And what are her intentions?
THE GREYS: When their ship crashed in the New Mexico desert back in 1947, more was recovered than just debris. In an above top secret project, scientists have labored for years to create a new species: An alien-human hybrid. And in 1998 they succeeded. But why were H.A.L.F. 9's alien cousins here on Earth in the first place?
Here's a peek at the tunes that inspired me as I wrote H.A.L.F. The first track, Cowboys & Aliens, was the actual inspiration behind the entire plot. I was listening to this strange techno-rap song while driving in the Arizona desert and the plot just came to me. When I got home I wrote an outline and I was off and running from there. Check it:
H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath Excerpt:Copyright 2015 by Natalie Wright. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced in whole or in part without express written permission of the author.
H.A.L.F. 9 took his first ever inhalation of desert air. The arid breath filled his lungs and burned. He had become accustomed to the dank, humid recycled air of A.H.D.N.A.’s underground lab. A chill ran through him, but it was not from the coolness of the night. His senses, dulled by the humid conditions he had been kept in, were coming fully alive for the first time in his seventeen years.
Though capable of emotion, he had lived a sedated life and had not experienced the full gamut of feelings one typically experiences by their late teen years. He had learned to strain his facial muscles into a smile when he knew a smile was expected. But the smile that came to his face now was natural and easy, not forced. He was overcome with the joy of the freedom he had longed for all his life.
He was alone and nearly naked save for the A.H.D.N.A. standardissue light blue cotton elastic-waistband pants and rubber flip-flops. The night was young but already dark, only a few stars dotted the inky sky. But the darkness was no matter for him. His large eyes allowed him to see clearly without light.
H.A.L.F. 9 stretched his arms over his head, bent and touched his toes, then ran. He didn’t care that rocks poked his tender feet through the thin rubber of his flip-flops, or that desert shrubs scratched his legs. He knew only that he was compelled to put distance between himself and the abandoned mineshaft from whence he came. Commander Sturgis probably already knew he was missing. They would soon come for him.
With each step, the cobwebs cleared from his mind. He could practically feel the synapses firing, alive with electricity.
He had never had the chance to truly run. He did not count the time on the treadmill, electrodes pressed to his body, a computer recording his every breath and heartbeat. He widened his stride and ran faster than he had ever run before. In the dry air, he was quick. He moved more swiftly than a mere human. Faster than he had known he could.
H.A.L.F. 9 tripped over his flimsy shoes and fell to the hard, sunbaked ground. He skinned his hand and laughed out loud as he picked a pebble out of his broken skin. The sound of his laugh in the otherwise quiet, still night startled him. He had never heard himself laugh before because he had not had occasion to make such a sound. He laughed again and thrilled at the robust sound his voice made in the dry air.
Blood the color of an eggplant oozed from the slice in his palm. He had been poked with needles and had his blood siphoned out so many times that he had become numb to the process. But this was different. The pain thrilled him. He could heal the wound if he wanted to, but he did not. I will let it bleed and scab over. I will have my first scar.
Well, maybe not his very first scar, though the first he would have from living his own life rather than scars inflicted by others against his will. His mind was flooded with memories of needles and tests, of them scraping tissue samples and of rough pushes and shoves. His smile disappeared. The memory of wounds inflicted reminded him of something he had to do before he went any further.
H.AL.F. 9 rubbed the flesh between his thumb and first finger. He could feel the tiny implant just below the skin. He had neither a scalpel nor a sharp object to break through and extract the tracker. But the sharp rock he had landed on had done an adequate job of slicing his palm open. H.A.L.F. 9 searched the ground until he felt a stone with a jagged edge.
He took a deep breath as Dr. Randall had taught him to do when he was being pricked with a needle. He jabbed the sharp point of the rock against his flesh and pushed until the skin tore.
The cut sent a wave of heat up his arm. Instinct compelled him to pull the stone away from his skin, but he ignored his impulse. He continued to press down and across until he could feel the chip exposed.
No larger than a grain of rice, he plucked the chip out of his skin with his finger. The tiny device had tracked his every move since he was a baby. A record of his existence.
H.A.L.F. 9 had a desire to hurl the miniscule object as far as he could. He knew it did not have the mass to go very far, no matter how hard he threw. But he flung it anyway and was satisfied with the action.
His smile returned as he imagined Commander Sturgis and her black-clad commandos searching for him. They were likely gathered around their instruments, tracking him and preparing to hunt him down. They would surround the spot where the rice-sized chip emitted its signal to find only desert scrub. Commander Sturgis’ pale face would flush with anger when she found out that he had outsmarted her.
Or maybe Commander Sturgis would not bother to join the search. Perhaps she would prefer instead to remain in the comfort of her underground lab while others chased after him into the night.
The thought brought him first relief that gave way to disappointment. H.A.L.F. 9 had never been afraid of a human other than Commander Sturgis. He could strangle her long, thin neck without laying a finger on it. At least he assumed he would be able to accomplish such a task out here in the dry air. Yet his bowels felt like they had turned to water at the mere thought of Commander Sturgis turning her disapproving gaze upon him. Commander Sturgis had looked disapprovingly on Dr. Randall and now the doctor was dead.
H.A.L.F. 9 pushed the thought of Commander Sturgis and her recriminations from his mind as he ran. He had no compass or map. He had neither a cellular phone equipped with GPS nor any familiarity of the desert terrain.
But he had studied astronomy and had a working knowledge of the constellations and their positions in the sky. And he knew that A.H.D.N.A. was south, so he was determined to go north. He found Polaris and steered himself toward it.
With each step, H.A.L.F. 9’s senses awakened further. Not only could he hear the scuffle of small desert creatures scurrying about searching for food, but he could sense them as well. Every object, living or inanimate, emits energy. It was as though he could feel the energy not with his sense of touch but with his whole mind. As he sensed the world around him, a mental picture formed that was more than merely visual. He sensed the size of objects and whether they were hot or cold. He knew if an object was alive or dead. And if something were alive, he could tell if its energy was vibrant and healthy or near death. Mere seconds before he stepped on it, he felt the slow throb of a snake’s heartbeat as it lay coiled on the cool ground.
He had not used his weapon since he was a child. The purpose for which he had been created had proven too dangerous for his creators. After ‘the incident,’ as it had come to be called, the humidity in his room was increased and had been kept that way for the past ten years. Humidity. A natural sedative for a H.A.L.F.
The snake’s heart beat slow and steady. As H.A.L.F. 9 concentrated on it, the heartbeat became erratic. The creature thrashed for a few seconds then went silent. A part of him was glad to know that he still possessed the power to kill. He may have use for the skill. But he also felt guilty. Even though the creature was a snake, not a human, H.A.L.F. 9 knew that Dr. Randall would not have approved of him terminating the life of the animal solely because he could.
A month before his escape, he had received an unscheduled visit from Dr. Randall. He had been sleeping. The lights were low to simulate night, but the low light affected only the humans, not H.A.L.F. 9. He had no trouble recognizing Dr. Randall’s tall, lanky frame and hunched shoulders.
Dr. Randall paused while the sliding door locked behind him. “I don’t have much time, my boy, so please listen carefully.” Dr. Randall’s face was covered in stubble indicating he had not shaven. His hair was sticking out here and there and his eyes were rimmed in red. H.A.L.F. 9 had never seen Dr. Randall look so unkempt and unwell.
“Are you dying, Dr. Randall?”
“No. Not yet anyway. But losing the battle. It’s too much to explain fully now. All you need to know is that Commander Sturgis is winning this one. I’ve done my best to protect you and the program. To keep it from going in the wrong direction. But Lilly has political prowess that I’ll never have. My days here at A.H.D.N.A. are numbered.”
“It means I won’t be here much longer. It means I won’t be able to see you anymore.” Dr. Randall paused, waiting perhaps for an emotional response that never came. Though H.A.L.F. 9 displayed no emotion, a tear came to Dr. Randall’s eye.
H.A.L.F. 9 said, “I do not desire for you to go.” And it was true. Dr. Randall was the only human that had ever treated him like anything other than an experiment and talked to him about the world outside of A.H.D.N.A. And though he had seen less and less of Dr. Randall in recent months, if Dr. Randall were to permanently leave the underground lab, H.A.L.F. 9 would be wholly alone.
“Believe me, I don’t want to leave you. If there were a way to take you out of here, I’d do it. I’d take you with me. But … ” Dr. Randall snuffed his nose and wiped at his cheek with the back of his hand.
“I have never set foot beyond the confines of this dark, concrete prison that I call home. I know nothing of the human world other than what I have read or that you have told me. But I fear that there is no place out there where a creature such as myself would be welcome. Am I correct, Dr. Randall?”
H.A.L.F. 9 did not need to wait for an answer. He had been around humans all his life and knew that his overly large, black eyes, tiny facial features, and strangely colored greyish skin would make him stand apart. He would always be ‘other’ than human. And if there was no place for him in the human world, how could he ever escape the underground prison?
“You may have to find a way. You are a wonder, dear boy. Never forget that. Now, I must go before Lilly realizes where I am. But listen. If I have not returned before thirty days have passed, speak with Dr. Dolan. Ask him to tell you about the route that cockroaches take. Do you understand?”
“I do not. Is that sarcasm, Dr. Randall?”
“No, it’s not sarcasm. Look, it doesn’t matter if you understand what it means. Just remember what I told you and do as I said when the time comes.”
“What is happening, Dr. Randall?”
“You’re not what Lilly – what Commander Sturgis – expects from this program. I’ve done my best to argue on your behalf. But I fear that I won’t be tolerated here much longer. The hows and whys are many and ultimately unimportant to the task at hand. Now all that matters is this: Save yourself. Count thirty days and if I have not been here in that time, then talk to Dr. Dolan. He knows what to do.”
“Dr. Dolan?” H.A.L.F. 9 was confused. Dr. Dolan was a medical doctor but as far as he was concerned, Dolan was not a very good one. Perhaps Dr. Dolan was quite capable of caring for humans aboveground. But H.A.L.F. 9 had never trusted that Dr. Dolan knew more than the attendants about how to attend to the medical needs of an alien-human hybrid. It seemed odd to him that Dr. Randall would suggest that Dr. Dolan be trusted with what sounded as though it could be an important task.
“Yes, and no one else. Never speak a word of any of this to anyone except for him. Don’t tell the attendants that bring you nourishment. Do you understand?”
“Do not speak of it.”
“That’s right. Goodbye, H.A.L.F. 9.”
“Goodbye, Dr. Randall.”
Thirty days came and went without any further visit or communication from Dr. Randall. H.A.L.F. 9 recalled how ill Dr. Randall appeared when they last met and his concern for Dr. Randall’s welfare grew with each passing day. While he had previously seen only a single armed guard stationed at the door that led out of the H.A.L.F. wing, there were now two. Even in his groggy, sedated state of mind he saw the pieces of the puzzle coming together. Something had happened to Dr. Randall and that meant that Commander Sturgis was solely in charge of A.H.D.N.A. – and of him.
During his next monthly physical examination, H.A.L.F. 9 did as Dr. Randall advised and asked of Dr. Dolan, “Please tell me about the route that cockroaches take.”
felt silly asking such an inane question. But Dr. Dolan did not laugh or poke fun at him. Instead, the doctor’s face turned ashen and all mirth left his features. For a few seconds, Dr. Dolan said nothing. But then he began speaking about the proclivities of the American cockroach. As he spoke, he went to his desk in his glass-walled office, opened the second drawer down on the left, and used his hands to search the panel on the top of the drawer. After a few seconds, he retrieved a small piece of paper stuck there and tucked it discreetly into his palm.
Without interruption of his speech about how roaches travel at night and how they use walls as their highway, Dr. Dolan walked back to where H.A.L.F. 9 sat on the examination table. The doctor folded the paper further and tucked it into H.A.L.F. 9’s inside pocket. He held his fingers to his lips and lightly touched the place where the paper lay hidden.
As soon as H.A.L.F. 9 was alone in his quarters, he retrieved the paper from his pocket, unfolded it and read the tiny handwriting that he recognized as Dr. Randall’s. He had wasted no ink on an effluent goodbye. Instead, the page was filled front and back and top to bottom with instructions on how to escape A.H.D.N.A. It also detailed how Dr. Dolan would be his accomplice to let him out of his room so that he could implement the rest of the plan laid out by Dr. Randall.
Dr. Dolan had known what to do. That night after the evening nourishment, he opened H.A.L.F. 9’s room with an attendant’s card and a slice of silicone that masqueraded as the attendant’s fingerprint. “That way it cannot be traced back to me,” he’d said. He didn’t explain how he had acquired the silicone fingerprint but handed it and a keycard to H.A.L.F. 9. “You may need these. Now go. Quickly!”
There was no time to ask questions. Dr. Dolan looked the other way as H.A.L.F. 9 ran as swiftly as his shaky legs would take him down the corridor to his left. At the end of the hall, he had to use the rubbery print and card to open a door that led to a hallway lined with closed doors. This was where Dr. Randall’s instructions became necessary. He had said to open the third door on his right with the card and to go to the back of the room where he would find a wall of cabinets. “Do not linger in this room though you will be tempted to. Remember you don’t have much time. Open the cabinet on the far left side and remove all of the contents of the bottom shelf. You will see a small hole in the back. Wiggle your way through that hole to freedom my boy,” Dr. Randall’s note said.
H.A.L.F. 9 did as Dr. Randall instructed. Once he removed the large, glass canisters and bottles of chemicals stored there, he saw that the cabinet material had been torn from the back leaving jagged edges. A cool breeze of drier air came from the hole he found at the back of the cabinet. Though the opening was no more than two feet wide and tall, he did as Dr. Randall had suggested and wiggled his slim body through.
Once on the other side, he was able to stand and found himself in a tunnel of roughly hewn stone. The shaft was pitch black. Even H.A.L.F. 9 had difficulty seeing in the total blackness, but he felt his way along the rocky corridor and walked uphill for what seemed like an eternity. After many minutes of shuffling and groping his way through the tunnel, a faint light from overhead poured into the dark void. As he neared the light, he recalled Dr. Randall’s instructions. “To the left, a ladder. You’ll have to jump to reach the first metal rung. If you can’t jump high enough, I’m afraid your quest will be over. But if you can reach the first rung, pull yourself up and climb to your freedom. This abandoned mine shaft will take you all the way up top. Good luck, my boy.”
H.A.L.F. 9 had jumped as high as he could and missed the rung by a few inches. He sprang into the air again and again, but each time he failed to grab hold. A few times his fingertips grazed the metal bar, but he was unable to grasp on. He knew he didn’t have much time. After the last time he saw Dr. Randall, guards commenced nightly bed checks once per hour throughout the night. It had been nearly an hour since his last bed check.
The bright, almost effervescent feeling within him faded. All he had to do was jump a few inches higher and he would be able to climb the iron ladder to freedom. But his legs were weak from disuse and the sedating humidity. H.A.L.F. 9 could not recall ever feeling the need to let water drip from his eyes, but a water droplet formed at the corner of his eye now. He sat on the cold, bare stone and was about to let the water droplet flow down his cheek when it happened.
A chill ran up his spine. His fingers and toes tingled. Every centimeter of his skin prickled. The sedation was wearing off. The corridor of stone was not filled with the artificial humidity as was the H.A.L.F. wing in A.H.D.N.A. His senses awoke.
H.A.L.F. 9 rose to his feet, breathed deeply and filled his lungs with the dry air. With each breath his head was clearer, his senses became more alert, his body stronger.
He jumped again and this time touched the metal bar but was unable to grab hold. He stood firm, breathed deeply for a few breaths more, bent his legs and launched himself up. He grabbed the bar and hoisted his other hand up as well. He reached and found the next rung and the one after that.
Finally, his feet scrambled up and found purchase on the bottom rung. He climbed and climbed until he was in the desert. He did not stop to take stock or to consider his surroundings. He knew only to run for his life so he did.
And H.A.L.F. 9 was running now. He ran in a northerly direction as fast as his legs could take him. He should have been tired, but the adrenaline kept him awake and aware.
Aware that for the first time in his seventeen years, he was free. Aware that the dry desert air had cleared his senses as they had never been cleared before. Aware that though he had tested his abilities on a small, hapless creature, there was a big difference between a snake and the small army of men that Commander Sturgis would send after him.
And aware that for the first time in his life, he was happy.
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Audio Book on Audible: http://www.audible.com/pd/Teens/HALF-The-Deep-Beneath-Audiobook/B0100THZPI/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1442000851&sr=1-1