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PictureDharma Six...In many ways it was like his own home world of Mars. Its barren aspect painted in autumnal hues of rust and brown, the wide swings of temperature, the sudden violence of her storms all reminded him of home. But this virulent jungle, this profusion of life forms tangled one with another--this was something he had never experienced before. The Wild Zone was truly alien to him, and he felt uncomfortable even here at its thinning edge. Once inside he knew the oppressive airs and vaporous mists of the jungle would surround him again, as if to impose themselves between body and mind, drugging his will and sense of self, and stealing his life in the process.

Ryan was a single thing--stubborn, individual, apart from the whole. He shielded himself with protective masks and clothing, and was laden with tools and equipment to shape the world around him to his own purposes. But the Wild Zone was the world around him now, and it would bear nothing apart from itself. It wanted them all...wanted them lost, forgotten, empty in the weave of its inscrutable pattern. That was the worst part of it, Ryan remembered. He could take on things like the Lyrpa, tangible focal points for his Tech Rifle. But the Wild Zone was something more than the sum of its parts. It was like another mind constantly pressing on his own, whispering and tugging at the edge of his awareness with its persistent murmur.

Ryan-Mc-OptA short while later Ryan was lost in the weave of alien growth. He picked his way through the leafy plants, noting that the stalks and branches of the organisms here had an almost phosphorescent glow about them. They were deep in the Wild Zone now, under what CLEM called the "Third Canopy." High above, the taller plants reached into the darkening sky, so thick and unbroken that the clouds above were largely obscured. Even the sound of the wind seemed muted and oppressed under the growth, but it was gathering strength in the higher reaches. Occasional gusts buffeted the taller branches and shook loose a rain of dew which dribbled down through the canopy to the forest floor. The ground was wet with sodden patches of rusty water, and Ryan found it difficult to maintain his footing in places.

Try as he might, he could not fend off the notion that had been gnawing at his mind of late. The feeling he had about this place didn't fit in anywhere with his training or the logical way in which he was accustomed to dealing with a situation. Often times he found himself making minor adjustments on his infrared visor, as if he could bring the intangible aura which hung over the land into some kind of clear focus with the device and understand it. But the feeling he had about the Wild Zone, about Dharma VI, would not assume any reasonable definition. Like a vague shadow, it persisted at the edge of his awareness, dogging his every step, and waiting for him around every twist and turn in the pathway he was forging.

"Haunted..." The feeling found a word and whispered out into the still air. That was the only way he could describe the disquieting tremor in his mind. The place had a mind of its own. Everything around him was a part of that mind, and he was forever beyond the silent communion of the Wild. No matter how much time he spent on this world, he knew he would never get used to it. His body adjusted well enough, heart lungs and metabolism responding to the challenge of an alien environment. He could move about with energy and a good measure of strength now. The wild fluctuations of temperature and weather did not bother--but in his mind he was a changeling here. He did not belong.

The place was haunted.

There was a presence that watched his every move, and no matter what he did to try and convince himself otherwise, he had the feeling that it wanted him dead. It was not his body that the Wild Zone hated, but his mind. He watched the smooth, unconscious mechanism of his arms and legs as he maneuvered through the forest. His body synchronized itself with the environment. His movements were well timed and deftly avoided thorny barbs and other suspicious protrusions extending from the plants around him. His eyes swept the terrain; his ears took in on the murmured wash of sound, noting any variance in the patterns that might signal danger. His body moved on its own, moved by his instincts and training, and merged with the rhythms of the wild. But his mind stood stubbornly apart from the process, a distant observer driven by his will and a sense of self that was wholly other. This was what the Wild Zone hated, Ryan knew at last. It wanted to consume his mind--to smother his individuality and devour his consciousness. He could feel it pressing on the borders of his awareness, probing for any weakness it could find in the carefully fashioned structure of his identity. The more he thought about it, the more relentless and oppressive the pressure became on the thin borders of his personality. He suddenly realized that the construct of who he was, his character, his ego, took real effort to sustain against the encroaching enmity of the Wild...

[From the Dharman Series Novels - by John Schettler]

Visit www.dharma6.com an extensive on-line showcase for the novels by John Schettler.

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Wild Zone - ISBN: 0-9713170-2-X (Print) - 978-0-9833542-3-9 (ePub)

Digital Versions:
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  • Sci-Fi Adventure ( 5.5” by 8.5” Quality Trade Paperback)
  • Full color cover
  • 47 Chapters & Epilogue - 430 Pages
  • 9 Illustrations, 1 Map
  • Author’s Introduction and Afterword
  • Avg Price: $15.00 Print  - $4.99 eBook
  • To learn more about the book visit: www.dharma6.com

Don’t miss the exciting sequel to Wild Zone as Ryan Returns to Dharma 6 to search for the missing Ensign Gates: Mother Heart

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