ALL'S NOT QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
When Rawlins Prison suffers a massive breakout, resulting in the death of most of its personnel and the escape of 72 inmates, The United Territories takes on the greatest manhunt of all time. But with the jailbreak occurring under such mysterious circumstances, a mad dash from the law becomes a scramble for what may be the most dangerous weapon in United Territories history.
Dan Q and Cole Jackson are two fugitives of the recent prison break. Linked by a pair of shackles, the two find themselves in the under siege town of Saratoga, aptly nicknamed "The Den of Bounty Hunters." With a gang of corrupt bounty hunters on their tails, and the United Territories marshals not far behind, will Dan and Cole make it out alive?
Chapter One: Rawlins Prison
The two thin crescent moons hung high on either side of Rawlins Federal Prison, where the lowest of the low took up involuntary residence. The dim, pulsating lamplights bled through the barred slits along the outer brick walls—the only semblance of human life in the otherwise black void of night.
Within the confines of the brick and mortar prison, silence and lifelessness only pervaded the atmosphere even further. One would have thought they’d arrived among the dead were it not for incessant droning of Cooper’s snores.
The overweight, middle-aged guard had his arms crossed in front of him, his head leaned back, and his mouth wide open in what was a sure sign he had grown too complacent in a room full of criminals. He had it easy compared to most guards, though. In his wing—the smallest and most remote wing of the prison—he only had to deal with the thieves and rapists. The more murderous folk were kept deeper within its confines—folks who’d cheated hangmen all around the United Territories. It was only through the good graces of what the politicians called “human decency” that these men still breathed behind lock and key.
A prison. What a novel concept that had been for the United Territories—a country where justice was usually dealt swiftly by a town’s sheriff. It had been enough to ignite a civil war that nearly ripped the country apart, and its conclusion resulted in the opening of Rawlins Prison.
The first of its kind.
Cooper’s mouth snapped shut and he was on his feet in an instant, wiping the line of drool caked to the side of his face. He blinked hard twice as he stared down empty hallway, clearing his vision from the deep sleep he’d been awakened from. His calloused and crusty fingers rubbed up against his leather holster, ready to free his six shooter from its cradle at a moment’s notice.
“What in the shit is that?” an irritated voice cried out from down the long corridor of prison cells. A pair of meaty hands grasped onto the bars from within one of the cells near the end.
“Back to sleep, Garreth!” Cooper said.
“Fuck off. I never get to see shit in here,” the prisoner yelled back.
“I ain’t gonna tell you again,” Cooper said.
“Well shit fire to you then. If I’m gonna—“
“AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!” An ear-piercing voice rang out, sounding like a man getting ripped limb from limb.
“Whatever you say, Boss.” Garreth’s arms retreated back into his cell.
Cooper felt his legs grow weak with fear. He was used to dealing with crooked fuckers in the cells, but he knew what to expect from them. Whatever was making the man scream like that was…
He slid his pistol from the holster, raising it with both hands, and taking slow, deliberate steps down the row of prison cells.
Clink! Clink! Clink! The sounds grew more relentless as Cooper inched closer to the corner. Eyes paved the sides of the hallway, and Cooper felt the gaze of every prisoner as he made his way down. Whatever the hell was happening, they wanted to know, too.
The clinking stopped by the time Cooper reached the end of the corridor. He turned the corner to find the hallway empty.
“What is it?” One of the prisoners called out.
“Nothin’,” Cooper said, placing the gun back in its holster. As he did, a sharp and bitter scent wafted into his nostrils. He wrinkled his nose and squinted his dumb eyes.
“The hell’s that smell?” one of the prisoners said.
“I know what that is,” another responded. “That’s burned rock, that is.”
“Shut it,” Cooper said, trying to listen for any further indication of movement.
“Look at that!” Garreth’s finger pointed to a red glowing string stretching from the ceiling to the floor right outside his cell. A wisp of black smoke floated from where the string touched the floor.
“I’ll be damned…” Cooper said, mesmerized by its glow. Garreth’s hand inched toward the string. “Don’t touch it, jackass! You don’t know what it is.”
“It ain’t string.”
“I think it’s string!” the bucktoothed prisoner across from Garreth called out.
“No one ain’t asked you, Bucky.”
“I think it’s string, too,” the long-haired man down the hall said.
“You can’t even see it from there, Hank!” Cooper said. “And when did this turn into a goddamn democracy? All y’all shut the hell up while I figure this out!”
“Aaaah!” Garreth screamed, recoiling back into his cell. “It cut my finger!” He said through clenched teeth. He held up his pointer finger. It was split right down the middle from tip of the finger to the second knuckle, the bone splayed out in opposite directions
“I told you not to touch nothin’, you whiny sack of cow shit,” Cooper said. “Now nobody touch the damn glowy string! I feel like I shouldn’t even have to say that!”
Bzzt! The red string bolted from Garreth’s cell over to Cooper, leaving a mark along the floor.
Cooper looked closely and saw it wasn’t just a mark, but a deep cut etched through the floor. A cut so deep he could see through it into the cells below. He looked up at the ceiling to find a similar trail etched into the brick above.
The red string made a high-pitched sound as it darted into a nearby cell, cutting a thin line clean through the bars. The prisoner inside let out a squeal as the string sliced through his body in a second. A pool of blood splashed outward into the corridor.
Panic erupted in the cells as the prisoners pulled on their barred doors, begging to be let out. The string picked up its pace, swinging from one cell to the next in the blink of an eye and without discretion.