When hard times fall, will you rise?

Great question, right? Plenty of people puff out their chests and declare all sorts of promises of valor. I vividly recall taking a van from Fort Bragg, NC to Fort Campbell, KY. I had been home from Afghanistan for a few months and was now heading over to Mosul, Iraq to join my unit. No rest for the wicked, right? After a ten hour drive, we stopped at the PX and grabbed something to eat before heading to the unit we were reporting to.

Inside were several very young soldiers bragging to their girlfriends about how they were going to war. (The girls weren’t very impressed.) One stood up and almost shouted, “We going to Iraq, baby! Yep, yep!” I wasn’t impressed either, but then again I was in my late 20s the first time I went to war. These guys were still kids.

We went through our pre-deployment processing through the 101st Airborne Division and got on the plane for what was to become my 3rd of 8th trips to and from the Middle East. 18 hours and 3 stops (Newfoundland, Frankfurt, Kuwait) on a plane filled with weapons and soldiers. the plane touched down at Ali Al Saleem Air Base in Kuwait and we bused to Camp Wolf. C-130 cargo planes were waiting to shuttle us up to northern Iraq.

The second Sergeant First Class with me spied our heroes from the PX. All of their faces were pale and they were visibly scared. Shit had just got real. My buddy swung by them and, with a massive grin, said, “We going to Iraq, baby! Yep, yep!” 14 years later and I still laugh at that.

I don’t know if those guys made it home fine or not, probably, but I was struck by the bluster of people in the face of the worst danger you can think of. I used that to forge one of my favorite characters: Gerald LaPlant. Gerald is a quiet guy just going through life in the distant future. Divorced and keeping to himself, his life changes one night when he witnesses a murder.

That singular act propels him on a journey across the planets, thrusts him in the middle of a treasure quest and a secret war going on with a shadow organization most have only heard rumors of: The Lazarus Men. Can you imagine Sam Spade in space? Think on it. Gerald is forced to discover what kind of man he is when the dark falls. Will he rise? Will you?

Read on, my friends. Read on.

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