Former SAS. Injured in combat. Redeployed with the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.
Nathan is issued with a new mission.
Objective: Relocate the Asset to the safe house in Melbourne.
Objective: Protect the computer disk at all costs.
A trained killer must learn to forget everything he has come to know as a well beaten path. He must become both father and protector to an orphaned ten-year-old girl. The Asset. Angel. A girl with a special gift and a destiny, who will change the course of history and human-kind. Nathan must oversee Angel’s upbringing. He must see to it that Angel is groomed and prepared for her induction into ASIS as an adult. At the same time, he must maintain the security of the disk. The stolen intelligence leading to MILESTONE.
That was the plan. It went so wrong.
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About the Author
Carl Lakeland lives with his wife in the sleepy town of Snake Valley, 36 kilometers southwest of Ballarat in Australia.
Lakeland grew up during the early seventies western suburbs of Sydney. Having enlisted into the military at the age of seventeen, he draws on his experience to create powerful and engaging speculative fiction.
“Sometimes, I can’t let things be,” says Lakeland. “I write stories with a passion that others might see as being obsessive. I live and breathe it. I dream it when I sleep. But I never write down my dreams. If I can’t remember those things I’ve dreamt, they’re not important enough.”
Carl Lakeland’s stories revolve around the element of ‘what if?’ He pushes the boundaries of his stories to the edge of the Official Secrets Act, which will have the reader wondering about the aspect of creative license, or the possibility of fact in his writing. Either way, the reader will be left to make up their own mind. His books are fast paced, edge of your seat thrillers which are distinctively written in a way that will have the reader guessing which way the story is about to head.
“As a writer, unpredictability is the key essence. If I write something that can be foreseen in coming chapters, it’s not good enough. I will scrap it. My goal is to keep the reader wondering, even sometimes to the detriment of my good guys!”
Read an Excerpt
Alice Springs, 1996
She said nothing after I picked her up from the safe house and drove her away. Heading south out of Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway, all I had for company was the constant rattle and whine of the diesel engine. Not that I minded so much. I had no experience making chit chat with a ten-year-old girl. Most kids I considered a right royal pain in the arse.
When she did say something meaningful, we were kicking up long dust trails, several hours south on the Oodnadatta Track.
"Hey, mate, slow down!"
Did she just call me that?
I glimpsed her from the side for a second while the Land Rover bounced hard over the ruts and potholes. "What's the problem?" I yelled over the noise of rushing gravel.
"You're going too fast, and my bum hurts!"
My Land Rover wasn't all that forgiving in the suspension. A road like the Oodnadatta Track tended to show its weaknesses. I slowed things down a pace, considering my arse was also about to fall off.
"Where we going, mate?"
"Don't call me mate," I said. "Away ... We're going away."
I checked the rear-view mirror for the umpteenth time. Nothing but dust. No cars. We were on our own. My brain thumped hard thinking about all the things that must get done. When we get there. South, to the big smoke. About as far south as we could get.
"Then, what do I call you?" she asked in what I thought was an annoyed undertone.
"You mean, who. I'm Nathan. And you're Angelique."
"Maggie said not to call me that anymore."
"Yeah. I know. Angel is your name from now on."
"You still haven't said where we're going. And what's wrong with your leg?"
"You ask a lot of questions," I said. But then I realised kids must be like that. I reached down and tapped my prosthetic limb with my knuckles, loud enough for her to recoil in her seat.
"Oh my god! You've got a wooden leg!"
"Yeah, just like a pirate. My leg is somewhere on the side of the road in Iraq. And we're going to Melbourne." I expected a barrage of questions, but she took it on board and went back to being silent. She didn't even bother to ask where Iraq was.
Thank you, Jesus ...
I shot another quick sideways glance her way. Angel, with big, orange, foam headphones on her head, positioned her camera lens through the window at the rushing landscape. She took a few shots. The motor drive whirred. Then, she placed her camera in her lap as though poised for another opportunity to take it up again. Pentax 35mm. And she appeared to use it like a pro. A ten-year-old photographer. An artist in the making, I thought.
"What's that you're listening to?" I asked. She didn't respond. I leaned over and lifted an earpiece away and repeated my question.
She gave me eyes that said 'as if you would know', before saying it was Metallica. I hadn't previously partaken in music by Metallica. Now was the time, I decided.
"Hey," I said. "Go ahead and share your music." I tapped the dash a couple of times, then went back to eyes on the road. Angel smiled for the first time in hours, getting out the compact disc from a rather large-looking portable device with the word Walkman written all over it in big letters. I figured maybe I'd get one of those. But I was no big music lover. My collection stretched across a couple of LPs by Supertramp and that was about it.
"How do I play it?" she asked.
"Feed it into the slot. You'll get it."
"Oh. Yeah, I see."
No sooner did she do that; I was greeted with a most awful sound. Screaming guitars. Yelling voices. No way could I make out any lyrics. She liked it?
I moved to turn the volume down. She flicked my hand away. "Don't, Nathan. It's Metallica. It's supposed to be loud."
I rolled my eyes. What have I gotten myself into? But I had to ask.
"You like it?"
"Figured you'd say that. And no. You're not getting any tattoos. Forget it."
"We'll check back in ten years. I'll still have the same answer."
Angel giggled and began to bounce her head around in time to the noise I knew would stuff my speakers in a minute. Oddly, after a while, I began to ... like the sound. I found myself bouncing my brain in my skull, the same as Angel.
"What's the name of the song," I said. "I can't make out the words."
"The God that Failed. It's my favourite. Will you take me to see Metallica one day?"
"You never know. That depends on if Metallica decides Melbourne has a big enough crowd. Do you reckon they'll come?"
"I know they will. I just know it."
* * *
A few more hours driving the dusty track saw us pulling up at William Creek. A hotel and a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere was a welcome sight, and an opportunity to fill up with food and get a tank of diesel. The sun sat low on the horizon. The track to the blacktop at Marree would have to be driven through the night. Heading inside to pay for the diesel, I noticed a sign behind the counter. 'Rooms 30 bucks mate.' That decided everything for me. A dusty track through the night wasn't on the radar if I could help it. If someone was tailing us, maybe they'd drive on past.
"I'll take a room," I said to the woman with no front teeth and a dirty pinafore that looked as though it'd been worn while slaughtering pigs. "And a bottle of bourbon in a paper bag."
After giving her hands a good wipe with what appeared to be a dishcloth coated in filth, she said flat, "No likka after three. Them's the rules."
I forgot about the local laws.
Figuring what the heck, I tossed her a lie. "I've got a sore throat and a killer of a headache. Gonna use it for medicinal."
"No booze after three," she said again. "Those bloody government fellas will have me head on a stick. It ain't so much for me not sellin' it to ya. God knows the few bucks I make from it, just ain't worth me losin' me licence, mate. Them's the rules. Can't 'elp ya. Sorry 'bout that."
"What'll it take then?" I asked.
"Bribin' me won't do nothin' neither. Take a look 'round outside, what do ya see? Nothin' but desert out there, mate. You reckon I got any other chance for makin' a livin'? If those government fellas get to knowin' I've sold anythin' illegal, they'll shut this place down. Then what?"
She huffed and rolled her eyes. I laughed a little under my breath. Here it comes, I thought. She reached under the counter and got a plain glass jar with a clear liquid. "Locals round 'ere call it rocket fuel. Government fellas 'ave got no record of this stuff. And it's 'alf the price."
Angel was gone by the time I got back to my Land Rover. I placed the jar of clear liquid down on the hood and scanned a full three-sixty. No sign of her anywhere. Where had she gone? Should I panic? Why didn't she stay in the car like I asked her to?
I looked inside the window and saw her camera on her seat. She hadn't gone to take pictures. Damn it! I specifically instructed ...
Angel rushed past me, grabbed the door handle, opened the door, and hopped inside. Just like that. No nuisance. No concern.
"Didn't I tell you ..."
"I had to go to the toilet, Nathan."
I put my head down and carried on.
A couple of minutes later, I opened the door to our motel room with a brown paper bag containing the jar of so-called rocket fuel tucked under my arm. Angel went through into the dirty, but somehow as-clean-as-it-could-get accommodation. Musty smelling. Mildew, but that didn't make sense. Mould doesn't grow in the desert unless there's something in the ground.
Dead bodies ...
I pushed the thought out of my head, but still the mildew. How?
Angel came back from inspecting the bathroom. "There's no hot water. And there's water all over the floor."
There it was. Leaking pipes. I wondered how long those pipes had been leaking. In the middle of the desert, where fresh water meant life or death. Surely someone would fix it quickly.
"Figures. That's okay, Angel. It's like we're camping tonight."
She looked at me with a set of sad eyes as I sat on the edge of the lumpy bed, rubbing the itch away from my left thigh. "What happened?" she asked. "How did you lose your leg?"
In my mind I wondered how to answer. All the things I've done. All the things I've seen. There was no short answer, I realised. Only the long. But she was too young to hear it. Her little mind would never process it. There'd be the day when I'd have to 'fess up. She'd have to be much older than she was today. So, I did the thing I thought was best. I avoided it. I deflected. I gave her something else. The guilt at just doing that - no way could I be a parent. Now, the question was rushing up in my head. Why me? I couldn't do it. But before I knew it, it was time to get ready for sleep.
* * *
I heard a muted yelp from the bathroom. The girl had decided a cold shower was better than none. Something I chose to avoid. Not only that, she'd sorted herself out with no prompting. No fuss. No bother. It was in that moment I realised her determination. I admired that. I admired it even more in a ten-year-old girl. When she was out of the shower with her hair wrapped high in a towel, she said words that forced me to the edge of tears.
"My mum and dad are dead." She stated it without any emotional attachment, as though reading words from a dictionary.
"Yeah," I said, not able to add anything further. Not knowing how to respond.
"Did you know my mum and dad?"
"Yeah." Again, my words came in the multitudes. As she stood there intensely eyeing me, I thought back to the time I'd met Franco and Alisha. Basic training. Kapooka, 1980. Franco was a young recruit, the same as me. Alisha, a civilian nurse, who on occasion would show up at the base RAP to administer inoculations. They instantly hit it off. After they'd married, their relationship went toxic and I asked myself why I didn't bother to come between them. To stop them from making the worst mistake of their lives.
Shit ... Why didn't I do anything? I had the power. I didn't see it ...
But, as a seventeen-year-old boy soldier, I couldn't have known the future. I couldn't have foreseen Franco's demise and the damage he'd leave in his wake.
Angel never left my gaze as I reminisced. For a moment it seemed as if she knew what I was thinking about. That fiery stuff in the jar stopped me from saying the right words.
I had a small sip, but couldn't bear to drink any more. It burned from my throat right down to my stomach. It tasted like vodka with a tequila aftertaste that blasted the taste buds into numbness. The rush to my head was almost immediate. No wonder it was kept under the counter. Maybe I'd have reacted better without it. Maybe I'd have been a bit more comforting to her. But somehow, she was doing well on her own. She reached over and placed a tiny finger on my cheek. "You're crying?"
"This place is dirty. I must've got dust in my eyes."
I felt her tiny arms around me, and her head, smelling of motel soap, resting on my shoulder. She was there for a couple of minutes. I couldn't have helped it if I tried. All the demons I kept locked in my head erupted, and I wept for just a second or two. A moment of weakness. I knew all about them.
So many nights I'd spent in my solace with a bottle of Wild Turkey and a loaded Beretta. The barrel at my lips. Only a small amount of pressure on the trigger and those demons would be gone for good. All those memories whirled at the back of my mind like a silent movie. All the while, Angel held me close and tapped on my back with her little hands. Could it be in that precise moment her purpose was to extract all my woes?
"Nathan, please don't cry. It makes me sad too," she said, sobbing a little.
"Sorry, Angel. I'll be sorted in a bit. I have a lot of stuff in my head, y'know?"
"What should I do to make it better for you?" she asked.
How can a girl so young ask such a grown-up question? I was taken aback and immediately rose from that place I'd been. I'd no business being there. It was a moment of complete openness. A place I tried hard over the years never to venture. This wasn't about me. How could I have been so selfish? My mission was Angel. My mission was Eagle Shield. I pulled my head out and got on with it.
Standing before me, with her little eyes gleaming, Angel gave me the warmest smile. "You're all better now, aren't you?"
Bowl me over with a wet sponge. Immediately, I felt lighter.
She reached and lightly tapped my prosthetic limb with a tiny knuckle, in the same way I'd done only an hour and a half before. "You were going to tell me what happened to your leg."
"Yeah, I was, wasn't I? But that's for later. Plenty of time, Angel. Time for sleep. We need to get going early." Another deflection. I wasn't happy.
The deflections will only last so long. One day, I'll man up ...
There was the typical ten-year-old's displeasure. But again, her disappointment seemed fleeting and she left to get ready for sleep with no argument. I wondered how my mission would turn out. Angel was no longer the pain in the arse I thought her back in Alice Springs. Franco and Alisha's legacy was far from that. As I realised it, there was something else. I felt my heart being ripped from my chest. How was I to know that kid would take my heart away? Something I never expected, nor imagined possible. I was so far away from being paternally capable. I knew it. I felt it. With Angel, I could already tell it was going to be a different relationship than I at first assumed.
* * *
Late in the evening, occasionally, a road train thundered past. Exhaust brakes rattled anything not screwed down and could be heard a kilometre or so up the track. With the sounds of the thumping road trains and Angel's snoring, which was similar to a two-stroke lawn mower, I tried to sleep but failed.
Under a single, dim light bulb, at the crooked and aged TV table, I lifted the paperwork from the yellow folder Maggie had thrust into my hand. Among the papers was a fresh birth certificate bearing Angel's new name; I had to wonder how it was made possible. A bank passbook account had been set up. A new passport due to run out in five years. A blue computer floppy disk. The decryption codes for the disk were printed on a single sheet of silk and placed in a plastic sleeve.
A document entitled Eagle Shield, and a mission brief that had an attached address in Melbourne, accompanied with a set of keys. Acceptance papers to St Michael's Grammar School in Melbourne. I poured over the paperwork and navigated through the objectives in my head.
My mind drew back to Maggie before we left Alice Springs. I'd met her out on the street, in front of the safe house. Who'd know if even safe houses were safe? "Nathan, above all, keep her from harm," she'd said. "Your charge is of the utmost importance. Eagle Shield can never be taken for granted. You must never fall behind in your objectives. The agency will continue to fund Eagle Shield up until it's concluded, or until further notice."
"Concluded? You've made no mention of a conclusion."
"The day Angel steps into the Ben Chifley Building is when Eagle Shield is completed."
"Ben Chifley? Maggie, what makes you think Angel will even want to be an ASIS player? Don't you think that's being a little presumptuous?"
"We don't have the luxury of choice, my boy. It is what it is. You must make it happen. You must guide and direct her into position. Your mission brief explains all of your objectives. After she comes of age and starts her ASIS training, only then is Eagle Shield regarded as mission accomplished. I know you well, Nathan. Better than you might think. If there's anybody up for the job, it's you. Your package has had a close call. Much too close. We cannot risk that again. Her parents are gone. We've lost assets. We almost lost Angel. A couple of millimetres to the right and that bloody sniper would've accomplished his mission. We don't get to decide if it was fate or just good luck."
"Hmm ... That's why we're going to Melbourne. To hide among the masses."
"Not only for that reason," Maggie put in. "But also for what Alice Springs cannot provide."
"Investment in private schooling?" I asked as though I was surprised. I wasn't surprised.
"It's expensive, yes. The agency's budget will cover all of it."
"Lucky girl," I said. "If only for the education." What would've been the case if Franco and Alisha were alive? Maybe she'd get to grow up like any normal kid.
"Don't make me regret my decisions, Nathan," Maggie said, as though cutting through my thoughts. "The facts are Franco turned. He played us all. He murdered his wife," she trailed off, pausing a beat. "Look. There's a special something with that girl. I saw it from day one. Her mother was also astonished by her abilities."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Eagle Shield"
Copyright © 2018 Carl Lakeland.
Excerpted by permission of Aurora House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Alice Springs, 1996, 1,
William Creek, 17,
Kapooka, 1980, 29,
Lies And Secrets, 39,
Lake Eyre, 65,
The Young Gun, 89,
The Seven, 103,
The Grazier, 113,
Sometimes They Come Back, 131,
First Blood, 139,
Coffea Arabica, 161,
Game On, 171,
Stand to, 219,
Fallen Angel, 239,
Hell for Leather, 247,
North by South, 253,
Return to Base, 261,
A Different Perspective, 265,
Cobalt Blue, 271,
What Now, 277,
Melbourne 1996, 287,
Of All Things, 291,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A book that will evoke emotions from beginning to end. Just when you think the plot is at its thickest, the lies and secrets will bring you back to the beginning of the guessing game. Which part of Eagle Shield is a depiction of real-life experience and which is fantasy is indistinguishable. Readers beware: if you have a tendency to lose yourself in a good book, Eagle Shield will not disappoint. In fact, you will be so deeply drawn in that you may need to take a break from reading to recompose yourself!
This book grabbed me from the first word and kept me glued to the pages. There were a few areas where I would get lost in the military jargon (and I'm retired military) but the storyline was so impressive that it didn't matter. I was on the edge of my seat like a great movie that stays with you after finishing, making you want more stories about the characters. This is the first book I've read by this author but I am clearly a new fan and will be looking for more of his great works. I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
I received a free copy of Eagle Shield (Milestone Rising) by Carl Lakeland in exchange for an honest review. Nathan Masters with the Australian Secret Intelligence Service makes one despair for the future of the free world. ASIS has placed the future of the entire world in his hands, but Nathan cannot seem to prevent himself from making the most stupid mistakes. His first instinct, after all, is to get blind drunk shortly after the start of a multi-day road trip wherein he is the sole driver and caretaker of a traumatized child. The mistakes continue, escalate, and compound. #EagleShield #NetGalley