The Azrael Initiative (Kayla Falk Series #1)
by K. Hanson
Genre: Adult/New Adult Thriller
Release Date: March 2017
Best friends Kayla Falk, an engineering student, and Olivia Bellamy, who is studying nursing, are nearing the end of their college career when terrorists attack their university. Through a combination of cleverness, bravery, and luck, the two manage to foil the deadly plot. A mysterious man from the United States government, Mr. Hightower, sees their potential and attempts to recruit Kayla and Olivia for a program to take on ISIS. They initially refuse, but another terrorist attack that strikes close to home pushes them to change their minds and join the Azrael Initiative.
After several months of hard training, the two women are dropped into Al-Raqqah, the capital of ISIS, in Syria. Once there, they must blend in with the locals as they strike from the shadows to kill ISIS leaders, destroy their facilities, and free captives. As Americans deep within enemy territory, they know that they will be killed if discovered. As women, they also know that they would suffer before death. Walking the line between vengeance and justice strains their relationship. As they work to resolve their differences, the symphony of brutality around them ultimately pushes them closer together and forges them into the warriors that they were meant to become.
Dodging to her right, Kayla sidestepped the fist aimed at her head as it passed close enough to feel the air move. Her auburn ponytail swinging as she danced around her opponent, Kayla watched with bright green eyes and waited for any opening, any weakness to exploit. She did not waste her energy on extra movements or attacks, preferring to let her adversary tire herself and present an opportunity.
Her opponent had a fierce look in her blue eyes as she came at Kayla with a strike of her left hand. Kayla stopped the blow. The hand latched onto her shoulder and dug into the flesh above her collarbone. Kayla staggered back at the pain. The hand released, then both combatants regained their balance.
As another blow came toward Kayla, she sensed that her foe had placed too much weight on her front foot. With a swift movement, Kayla slid to the side, grabbed the incoming arm, and sent her attacker tumbling to the blue padded floor.
“Enough!” said Olivia, with her arms up and palms facing Kayla.
“Next time, don’t let yourself get caught off balance,” said Kayla, as she extended her hand to help Olivia to her feet.
“Off balance? Naw, I just hadn’t done a somersault in forever,” grinned Olivia, her sapphire eyes twinkling. “Besides, I felt like taking a nap on this comfy mat.”
“Maybe next time I’ll give you that nap.” Kayla joked.
“Just make sure you tuck me in first,” responded Olivia as she brushed herself off.
“I believe that I’m two out of three this week. Hope you’re not losing your edge,” teased Kayla.
“Of course not. After kicking your ass all of last week, I thought you could use a couple of wins,” Olivia smirked.
Catching her breath, Kayla glanced around the gym where they held their morning training sessions. She saw other pairs finishing their own bouts and heading to the locker room. Training here required hard work, but Kayla always left feeling reinvigorated and confident about facing the challenges of being an engineering student. Besides, she always enjoyed throwing Olivia around a bit.
As the two of them walked toward the locker room, Kayla wiped the sweat from her forehead and Olivia shook her long blonde hair free of her headband.
“I’d better get ready so that I can head to the workshop to work on my senior design project,” Kayla said.
“Yeah, I need to head out, too. Class is in half an hour. See you for dinner?”
“Sure, we’ll just meet at the Union around 5:30, if that works.”
“Sounds good to me!” smiled Olivia.
As Kayla undressed and stepped into the shower stall to rinse off the sweat from her workout, she ran through a mental checklist of everything that she needed to do that day. Despite not having class on Thursdays, she had a lab report to finish and at least two hours of engineering homework to do. She also needed to spend a significant amount of time in the workshop working on her senior design project, a new design for a small, efficient wind turbine. She would certainly have a long day, but another day closer to graduation in just two months.
As she stepped out of the shower, Kayla dried her hair, pulled it back into a neat ponytail, and put on her jeans, a modest purple tank top, and black cardigan. She stuffed her workout clothes into her duffel bag and hauled it to her shoulder as she hurried out of the locker room.
As she left the Wellness Center and stepped out into the spring air of the South Dakota State University campus, Kayla Falk lifted her hand to shield her eyes from the crimson sun rising on the horizon, before she turned west toward the rest of campus. The closest building was the Student Union, a large building that was in a constant state of expansion. After countless meals and endless hours of studying within those walls over the course of nearly four years, it had become practically another home for her.
Kayla took a deep breath of the spring air. The grassy smell and cool atmosphere were refreshing changes from the heat and sweaty odor of the gym. In the distance, the bells of the campanile rang through the atmosphere. While she looked forward to seeing what the next chapter of her life brought, she would always treasure lovely mornings walking across campus.
As she strode toward the workshop on the other side of the SDSU campus, she slipped one of her backpack straps off of her right shoulder and pulled the bag around to her front to access its contents. Unzipping the small pouch, she pulled out an energy bar and an apple for her post-workout breakfast. The sight of the food made her stomach growl and her mouth watered as she bit into the peanut flavored bar.
While she chewed, she thought about how it was basically a candy bar for breakfast. It did, however, contain some protein, so it didn’t entirely lack nutritional value. At least she also had her apple for something a bit healthier.
As she approached the shop, she tossed her wrapper and apple core in the trash bin just outside. Opening the door, the sound of power tools greeted her, as other engineering students worked on their own projects. The oily smell in the air always reminded her of the time she had spent helping her father, a mechanic, in his garage. When she had been younger, he had her do simple tasks like changing oil or putting new tires on a car. By the time she had become a senior in high school, she could dismantle and reassemble an engine almost as well as her dad.
She walked over to the work area that her team had reserved for their project and set her bag under the workbench. Today, she had set the goal to assemble the system of gears that transferred energy from the turbine blades to the generator. Having worked with automobile differentials in her father’s shop, she had volunteered to design and assemble this piece of the project while other members of her group handled other aspects.
Kayla opened her project binder and flipped through the pages until she arrived at the diagram depicting her design. For several minutes, she reviewed the schematic and contemplated the steps she needed to take to assemble the collection of parts correctly. Her design was a planetary gearing system. She would attach the generator shaft to a sun gear, at the center of the arrangement, with blades attached to interlocking gears flanking it. By using such a system of gears, the generator shaft would rotate in the correct range of speeds when the blades rotated.
Satisfied that she had refreshed the design in her head, Kayla hauled the crate of parts to the top of the workbench. She pulled out each gear and piece needed for the assembly and arranged them in the order in which she needed them. For the next several hours, she fixed each gear in its proper place.
When she finished, she checked her phone and saw that it was already one o’clock. As the task at hand required all of her focus, she didn’t realize until then just how much she craved lunch. Kayla’s stomach growled as she gave the gear assembly a test spin. Satisfied that it operated smoothly, she set it in the crate before putting away all of her tools and equipment. After stashing her design binder in her backpack, she threw it over her shoulders and walked out of the workshop to find something to eat.
Reaching the Union, she went to Weary Wil’s Sports Grill to grab a burger to go. When it was ready, she put it into her backpack so she could head to the engineering building and find a quiet corner to grind through some homework. After she reached the building, she walked into the mostly empty study area, which was surrounded by rows of windows.
On a sunny afternoon such as this, it made for a cheerful and energizing work environment. Settling into a comfortable seat, she pulled out her lunch and munched on it as she started working through her Turbomachinery homework. Her work kept her busy until the time arrived to meet Olivia for supper.
At a quarter after five, Kayla packed up her notebooks, calculator, and pencils so that she could meet her friend. After sitting down for three and a half hours, she groaned as she stood up, her muscles stiff and sore after the morning’s workout. Gathering her bag, she left the engineering building to head back to the Union. As she approached her destination, she spotted Olivia Bellamy walking on another sidewalk.
“Hey Liv,” Kayla called.
Olivia jumped a bit as the shout startled her. She looked around for a second before spotting Kayla. “Oh, hi! Good timing.”
“Have a good day?”
“Yeah, classes weren’t too bad today and clinicals at the hospital were pretty interesting. You?”
“Definitely. Got a lot done on our project and made some good progress on my homework for the night. For now, I’m ready to grab some food and relax, at least for a bit.”
“Same here. Let’s head in and get a bite to eat.”
***About the Author***
K lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he works as a software developer. In his spare time, when he isn’t writing, he enjoys reading, working out, playing video games, and spending time with his wonderful fiancee, Bobbi. Some of his favorite authors are Tom Clancy, George R. R. Martin, and Sarah Maas.