We are now halfway through the month of celebrating fathers by featuring scenes from books with dads in them. Today, author John Steiner visits to share a scene from his science fiction novel Fire Alive! published by Melange Books. This isn’t a YA/NA book, but if a reader is okay with some strong language and violence, it would be a good fit for teen scifi buffs. What I’ve read here sure sounds exciting.
If you like what you read, there are links to get yourself a copy below. Please feel free to scroll back and read some of the other book excerpts and leave a comment
Fire. The light by which we tell our stories and mythic tales. It kept the night at bay for hundreds of thousands of years. It guided humanity's migrations across the globe, and became mankind's first weapon of mass destruction.
What if fire developed a mind of its own?
Firefighting is already a tough job, even in 2026. Captain Duane "Longhand" Longhurst and probationary firefight Malcolm O'Connell of Salt Lake City's Station 8 discover it's going to get much harder. A phenomenon of particle physics called Self-Propagating Organized Thermotroph or S.P.O.T. emerges to burn whatever they can to ingest the heat that fuels their semi-living existence. Breaking in a new enigmatic probie, and struggling with memories of past fire calls, Captain Longhurst has to now take on the blazing entities.
In this excerpt the main character, Captain Duane Longhurst has been married to his wife for thirteen years, but married to the fire department for even longer. He is a father of two, and he also thinks of all in his fire company as family. His son dreams of one day being a firefighter just like him.
A stockpile of phosphorous ignited. Longhand and O’Connell barely had time to realize the thermal imagining changes inside the wall they worked on. He didn’t immediately pick up on an upper floor collapse, but did register crumbling from the roof. The wall gave way, just as Duane was about to shout to O’Connell to climb down.
“Awh shit!” Longhand heard Malcolm yell, before roaring bellows of flame washed over the two of them and ladder falling through.
The world became an angry, hungry, yellow an instant before the ladder crashed onto hard blackened cement. Longhand’s arms and legs took a jolt, as he attempted to brace for the fall. Tumbling off to one side, and letting his limbs go to jelly, prevented any bones from breaking. However, his helmeted head cracked hard against the floor, as debris rained down around him.
For a moment he didn’t hear anything, and rather passively saw the ladder appear to sweat. Stickers and decals blistered, before Duane really got a sense of himself. Ears ringing, he fumbled around a bit until he could get a trembling hand under him and rise off the floor. Seeking out the hose became his first instinct. While searching, something screamed itself from his mouth, “O’Connell! Probie where are’ya?”
“‘Got the hose, boss,” Malcolm shouted back from somewhere out of sight.
A couple seconds of clearing his head became necessary, before Longhand could think to pull up O’Connell’s GPS location. Without warning, smoke from deeper into the warehouse billowed northward into their compartment. The sudden breach had changed the internal draft. Brilliant flames vanished in a choking sooty underworld of ever-night.
Sounds dampened due to the dense particulate cloud of fuel. Roaring fiery wrath drowned out a skittering spitting hose. In his head, Longhand pictured which way the hose line hydraulically spoke from. Staying on hands and knees, he crawled along the floor, and frequently threw out quick light slaps at the cement ahead to sense for fire. He tracked his position, until his visor shut off with a crackle.
That’s when he realized how hot it grew.
In contrast to what people would’ve expected, smoke carried more intense heat. It hugged at his whole body through turnout clothes, helmet and SCBA mask. The combustible aerosol also sucked considerably more heat energy from other compartments within the warehouse. Only through a fleeting gap in the black hellish cloud, could Longhand pick out O’Connell spraying away on a kneeling position.
The probationary firefighter shot water everywhere, except the most critical place, that being the way out behind him. Longhand tried his radio to say as much. “Connect, O’Connell! Probie, attack to your rear! Do you hear me! To the rear! That’s the breach! Connect, O’Connell! We need to clear an exit!”
Longhand made a note to handwrite his eternal gratitude to Motorola for making a radio to withstand possibly a thousand degrees and still work. The only reason O’Connell didn’t answer at first had been background noise overwhelming what came through his headgear. The kid grinned, when finally answering, “I think I got a handle on this, boss!”
“No,” Duane shouted irritably. “Secure the breach first!”
“Oh, right!” Malcolm realized aloud and turned to defend trailing hose line.
Then more of the structure surrendered under a relentless assault of heat. Struggling to rise into a full bore run, Longhand couldn’t reach O’Connell before debris came down right on top of him. Duane dug at smoldering crumbs of failed architecture, heedless of the contact heat biting through his gloves, all the while screaming, “Probie!”
Still working to uncover his brother, Longhand called out to anyone. “Connect, battalion! We’re just inside the north wall breach! We need an attack line and rescue team!”
Prepared to scratch off that letter to the electronics company, Duane heard someone else other than Station 8 sound off. “We hear’ya Captain! On the way now!”
Past smoking amber filled ash, Longhand felt his fingers strike something smooth. Wiping hastily at the source of the sensation, he discovered O’Connell’s visor and an unconscious O’Connell. Clearing more ruins off him revealed that Malcolm seemed unburnt. Before he could extricate the probie fully, Duane hefted a beam with more grunting strength than he thought he could muster otherwise.
“Get off my boy,” Longhand yelled at the steel structural support he threw aside.
His arms transformed instantly to mechanisms of speed and dexterity, as Longhand whipped out his webbing to work into a Hasty Carry. Ready to run out dragging a limp Malcolm behind, Duane himself felt attacked. He first took it to be burning debris. Yet, what fell upon him with an incendiary hunger turned out to be a Spot.
Madly clutching anchor points worked at his turnout coat with a flaring roar, fluctuating with a disturbing verbal sound. Without conscious thought, Longhand dropped down to rub out the fiery attack and swat at where he felt the creature’s devouring heat. Though the rolling was not effective, the thermotroph did turn its attention toward O’Connell lying in a heap of ash. Again, something kicked on in Longhand’s brain.
Before he knew it, Duane’s hand struck out to find the hose line. Reeling up the stiffly charged line, he pulled in the nozzle and anxiously grappled for a hold. Turning it on, he shot at the Spot, as it started on Malcolm. Longhand’s voice became its own furnace of fury. “Fuck you! You’re not getting him!”
A larger stream shot down from overhead, frothing with white foam. Snapping a quick check behind, let Longhand know Williams had the water cannon blasting at the pyr’organism to destabilize it and increase the viscosity of both lines’ water.
Flinching from the attacks, the fiery creature dared strike once more at O’Connell before retreating deeper into the warehouse. Wanting to drop the hose, Longhand realized that this Spot, unlike other thermotrophs, left a fire in wake of its contact.
Duane sprayed over Malcolm, and adjusted to a fog conic so as to not knock him around with the stream’s force. He didn’t know what injuries the probie sustained and didn’t want to worsen any. Only with the fire greatly diminished, did Longhand shut off and let go of the line. He lifted O’Connell easily onto one shoulder and ran out of the building. The rest of the wall fell away behind his screaming and bounding form.
Thirty feet away from the once standing inferno, Duane laid O’Connell down. Removing Malcolm’s SCBA and helmet, Longhand then opened the turnout coat and Malcolm’s shirt all slick with foamy water. He looked, listened and felt for vitals and then started CPR. Marcus and Williams raced over with the EMT kit. Longhand kept up on compressions until they dropped down next to him. All the while, Duane commanded of his charge. “C’mon Probie! Come on, snap out of it kid! You’re not fuckin’ done yet!”
For a moment, Longhand thought he saw chainmail glistening over Malcolm’s exposed chest. Taking his own mask off, he wiped away at grime on his forehead. T.C. took over with the defibrillator. The mirage vanished into a mental desert.
Melange Books (publisher website)
John Steiner earned his Associate of Biology at Salt Lake Community College, where he is currently working as a tutor in math and chemistry. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.