It became clear that many of those worlds had been attacked by an interdimensional invader that left untold amounts of manipulation, hardship, and annihilation in its wake. It's only a matter of time before the colony becomes the next target.
When a trusted ally requests Connor's help to investigate claims of new widespread invasions, he has no choice but to help. Connor believes that the only way to stop the invader is to find their homeworld, but its location is a closely guarded secret. Many civilizations sought to discover the invader's homeworld and none have succeeded.
Time is running out for the colony, and Connor and a team of CDF soldiers may be the only thing that stands between survival and annihilation.
Invasion is the eleventh book in the bestselling military science fiction series, First Colony. Read the eleventh book of this epic today!
Release date: December 22, 2020
Publisher: Acoustical Books LLC
Print pages: 312
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An audible chime drew Connor’s attention to a nearby holoscreen, where an amber-colored notification hovered in the upper-right corner of a darkened, semi-transparent box. He hated notifications. They were a distraction but unavoidable sometimes. Lenora had no such reservations about notifications, which was why he usually switched off her workstation when he was in their home office.
Berwolf Pack Tracker.
He pursed his lips as he tapped the notification. A regional map opened, prominently revealing Sanctuary’s location. Several trackers flashed northeast of the colonial city. He peered at the cluster of pack designations and frowned. Berwolf packs usually traveled apart, but the tracker data showed that the cluster had banded together a few months earlier and was steadily making its way toward Sanctuary’s borders.
Connor selected the largest pack cluster and a data window expanded, showing preliminary reports of the berwolfs’ biochips. His lips lifted as he recognized the pack alpha.
“Bull. You’ve been productive.”
He hadn’t realized that Lenora still kept track of the berwolf cub she’d rescued all those years ago. Connor leaned back in his chair. That must have been almost ten years ago. He frowned in thought. Had it been ten years? He couldn’t remember. He hadn’t seen Bull in years.
Berwolfs were giant canine specimens the size of an Old Earth grizzly bear but with the agility of a wolf. They were pack hunters and natural competitors to ryklars, New Earth’s other apex predator.
Bull must have absorbed two other packs during his migration and probably collected more than a few battle scars. Connor’s eyebrow twitched at the thought.
Another notification appeared, but this one was on Connor’s screen.
Nathan Hayes: Connor, this just came to my attention and it’s . . .
That’s all the message header showed, so Connor acknowledged it. As he read Nathan’s words, his brows pushed forward in consternation, and he blinked several times. He shook his head and read the message again.
Samson, why didn’t you tell me?
The front door opened, and he heard his daughter run inside.
“I want to tell,” Lauren said, and then in a much louder voice yelled, “Daddy!”
Connor braced to stand as Lauren raced into the room, leaping up into his arms with all the power and speed her four-year-old body could muster. He grinned and growled playfully as he stood, pulling her into a bearhug.
Lauren squealed in delight amid a peal of laughter. “Daddy! Daddy, I’m getting a baby brother!”
That kicked Connor out of his mental zone. He stopped spinning his daughter around and tilted his head to the side. “What?”
“A brother! I’m getting a baby brother!”
“From where?” he asked, the words escaping his lips before he could stop them.
Lenora chuckled from the doorway, her eyes gleaming. “Where do you think, soldier?” Her mouth twitched at the corners.
Connor lifted his eyebrows, and Lenora tilted her head to the side. Her long auburn hair cascaded past her shoulders while sparkling sapphire eyes stabbed him. “You sure?” he asked. Blood was rushing to his head, and he felt the heat rise on his cheeks.
“Yes, love. You’re going to be a father again.”
The dam holding his thoughts hostage burst. He crossed the room, pulled Lenora in, and held both his girls in a family hug.
“We have to name him,” Lauren said.
“I think we need to give Daddy a minute or two, dear heart,” Lenora said.
Lauren peered at him with a pair of sapphire eyes that matched Lenora’s.
Connor’s eyes darted from his wife to his daughter, and he swallowed hard.
“A son,” he said, his voice becoming thick.
Lenora gave him a small nod, both in acknowledgment and in understanding. He’d had a son who was left behind when he’d been shanghaied onto the colony ship. Connor felt a pang seize his chest that was a mix of both sorrow and happiness. He closed his eyes and held on to his girls, an image of their happy faces clear in his mind. The warmth of their bodies made him feel whole, pushing back against the sorrow. His son had died long ago, and while Connor would always regret not being there for him, he had found balance in his life, even though he’d never be at peace with leaving his son behind.
They left the home office and headed to the kitchen.
“So, can I name him?” Lauren asked.
Connor arched an eyebrow toward her. “It’s a big deal, choosing a name.”
Lauren’s eyes widened. “It is?”
Connor smiled. “Yes, of course it is. Your mother wanted to name you Punky, but I wouldn’t let her.”
Lauren’s mouth opened wide, and she swung her gaze to Lenora.
“Don’t tell her that,” Lenora said.
“She also wanted to name you Snail because babies crawl on the floor.”
“Eww,” Lauren said and regarded Connor for a long moment with an expression akin to her mother’s. “No, she didn’t.”
“Lauren, I am your father, and I would never lie to you. You were almost our Punky Snail Gates.”
He watched Lauren look at Lenora, and when they both looked back at him, they were united. His four-year-old daughter was a realist.
“I’m going to make a list of names,” Lauren said as Connor put her down.
She ran to the table and activated the holoscreen.
Connor looked at Lenora.
“Surprise,” she said.
The lump in his throat had gone down, but it was still there. “A good surprise.”
Lenora smiled. “I just found out while we were taking a walk,” she said and glanced toward Lauren, who was recording a list of names using the speech-to-text application. “She was so excited and couldn’t wait to tell you.”
“I guess she really wanted a sibling,” Connor said.
“She’s asked before, and even more often recently,” Lenora said softly, her voice sounding a bit distant.
“How do you feel about it?” he asked.
“We’re ready, and even if we weren’t, he’s coming,” Lenora said, gently rubbing her stomach.
How could they not be ready? They were already parents, but Connor knew their lives would never be the same when their son was born. Lenora sent him the report from her biochip that confirmed her pregnancy. He was still in shock, and it hit him in waves of realization.
“I almost can’t believe it myself,” Lenora said.
Connor exhaled. “I’m glad you said it because I was thinking the same thing.”
He looked over at Lauren, who glanced at him through the semi-transparent holoscreen and beamed a smile. Then she turned her attention back to the task at hand.
“How do you feel about it?” Lenora asked him.
“I’m sure after the shock wears off, I’ll be happy about it, but I might need to stay away for a few days,” Connor replied.
Lenora’s expression became severe for a moment, and then she punched him in the arm. Connor laughed.
“Jerk,” she said. “You—”
“I know. I don’t know how you put up with me.” He leaned back on the counter and sighed. “A lot of changes.”
Lenora frowned. “Why? What happened?”
“Samson is leaving.”
“Leaving? For where?”
“He’s volunteered to go with the second colony. Nathan just sent me a message about it.”
“He didn’t tell you himself?”
Connor shrugged one shoulder and shook his head. “He’s off-world.”
Lenora looked unconvinced. Samson had been part of the original Ghost Platoon with the NA Alliance military. He’d helped Connor create the Colonial Defense Force but left the colony before the Vemus War.
“Still, I think he should have told you something like that himself. It’s odd that he didn’t. How did Nathan find out?”
“Saul Ashworth, the director of the Ark II program, told him,” Connor said. “Actually, he was checking to see whether Nathan would okay the transfer, and I don’t think Nathan would have okayed it unless Samson had told him his intentions.”
“What’s Samson going to do with the new colony?”
“He’s going to head up security. I think so, anyway.”
“And he never said anything to you?” Lenora asked.
He shook his head. Connor was Samson’s commanding officer and, more importantly, a friend. Finding out about Samson this way was like a punch in the stomach. It shouldn’t feel personal, but it did. Connor could veto the transfer. So could Nathan.
“I’m going to talk to him about it,” Connor said.
“Good. You should. I know you two have been at odds, but . . . I guess I’m just surprised.”
“He never wanted to be here, which is why he left the colony before. He only came back because I asked him for help,” Connor replied.
He’d recruited Samson back into the CDF to help them prepare for the Krake, an interdimensional invader that had conducted terrible experiments on the Ovarrow—New Earth’s native inhabitants. The Krake were aware of humans and were undoubtedly trying to find New Earth as diligently as the CDF was hunting for the Krake home world. It was just a matter of who would find the other first.
Lenora regarded him. “Listen to what he has to say.”
“I am. I will. Why would you say that?”
“Because I know you. You’re taking it personally.”
“You just said that he should have told me himself.”
“I know, and maybe he is planning to tell you but wants to do it in person.”
Connor was quiet. He looked at Lauren and then back at Lenora. Over the years, he’d begun to understand why soldiers chose to stay home. Off-world missions were incredibly high risk. Connor had had more than his share of them, but as he looked at his family, it was becoming increasingly difficult to leave. And now that he was going to become a father again, he expected that leaving would become nigh impossible. He’d already begun delegating more dangerous missions to other officers. As a general in the CDF, that’s what he should be doing, but sometimes Connor still wanted to be there. It wasn’t that he craved life-threatening danger. He didn’t. He just believed he was still best suited for the job of protecting the colony. But he couldn’t figure out a way to defeat the Krake from the safety of New Earth, and with a growing family, maybe it was time that he let others take the lead.
The CDF aerial transport vehicle, better known as a C-cat, climbed into the sky and headed for Sanctuary’s Civilian Recreation Consortium—a wide expanse of both indoor and outdoor activities designed to expand the growing database about New Earth. These events ranged all the way from hands-on laboratory exercises to physical conditioning. There were several campuses throughout the city that were accessible not only by students but by any adult who wanted to participate. With its cyclical curriculum, colonial education was tailored to individual learning styles.
The colony had more than doubled in the last fifteen years of its existence. Three hundred thousand human beings had gone into stasis and traveled for over two hundred years, covering a distance of sixty light-years from Earth. The population of those original colony members represented a unique genetic makeup that hadn’t happened in all of human history. For the first time, children ages fourteen and under had been more plentiful than adult colonists. Procreation was one of the prime tenets of the colony and the key to its survival.
For just under a decade, Connor had been preoccupied with establishing the Colonial Defense Force rather than starting a family. He’d convinced himself that he didn’t have time for personal attachments, which had nearly cost him everything. After the Vemus War, he’d married Lenora, but many years had passed before they’d had Lauren. Now Lauren was four years old, and he was going to be a father again.
Ever since his daughter had come into his life, he’d begun to pay more attention to how the colonial youth were being educated and prepared for a life on New Earth. Colonial preparation for the Vemus War had been centered on the theory that a catastrophe had affected Old Earth, and that whatever had caused that was coming to New Earth. Preparations had included the formation of the CDF and outposts that monitored the interstellar space-buoy system that went all the way back to Old Earth. Colonial preparation had included education in small civilian arms so colonists could protect themselves. However, with the advent of the Krake—a threat much closer to New Earth—they now required a more aggressive posture for the education of all colonists in the event that the Krake invaded New Earth. The question inevitably came up as to whether or not to include the colonial youth in these training efforts that were undeniably military in nature.
“We’ll be landing in just a few minutes, General,” the pilot said.
The pilot flew them to a landing field near the campus, where the activities were already underway.
“Looks like Governor Mullins’s transport has just arrived as well.”
“Maybe we should circle around a few times,” Connor said.
Surprised, the pilot looked at him for a moment. “Say the word, General Gates.”
Connor was a little tempted. Mullins wasn’t in favor of the CDF’s contribution to the education of colonial youth. “Thanks. As you were, Lieutenant Donovan.”
“Yes, General,” Donovan said and brought the ship in, setting it down with the precision of the adept pilot he was.
Connor waited on the landing field alongside his military escorts, who occupied a position several meters from his location. He heard the dopplered wail of a C-cat, along with Field Ops and Security Hellcats that landed on two smaller landing pads nearby.
Connor watched as Bob Mullins walked down the stairs, leaving the C-cats behind. Mullins had short-cropped, curly hair that had an oily shine to it, and his face wore its usual piggish gaze. Even though he’d had a rocky start as acting governor of the colony, Mullins had grown into his role. He’d taken over when Dana Wolf had become sick and couldn’t serve out her term. Recently, Mullins had been confirmed beyond the position of acting governor, meaning that he would serve out the remainder of Dana Wolf’s tenure as governor, at which point another election would be held. He and Connor hadn’t always seen eye to eye on more than a few things, but they could work together because they had to. Dana Wolf had advised Connor on more than one occasion to try to work with people like Mullins. They might never be friends, but at least they weren’t adversaries. Connor had endured that under a different governor during a time when the colony could least afford it.
Mullins walked over to him and smiled a greeting. “General Gates.”
In a show of solidarity between the colonial government and the CDF, General Nathan Hayes, the leader of the CDF, had put forth the suggestion that they attend these events together. Connor had come to accept that Nathan was, by nature, much more diplomatic than he could ever be.
Mullins traveled with a group of advisors who helped him with his day-to-day tasks. He looked at his entourage. “Give us a little bit of room so I can speak with General Gates.”
The cluster of advisors halted, allowing Connor and Mullins to walk ahead. Several squads of Field Ops and Security personnel formed a perimeter around them as they walked onto fields filled with colonial youth grouped by ages. They were performing certain tasks, some of which were recorded in the student’s record while others were purely for experience.
They made their way toward the area where the age group included ten- to fourteen-year-old colonists. There was a wide array of obstacle courses that were designed to challenge the participants—some based on tactical abilities while others were more physical in nature. Participants made their way through the various courses, some of which required the use of various civilian-grade firearms, ranging from sonic hand blasters to hunting rifles. The power regulators on all the equipment used by the participants were dialed down to prevent serious injury. There were team exercises and capture-the-flag scenarios, all designed to teach the colonists that there were times to stand and fight, as well as times to abandon the field and seek cover.
Mullins looked at him. “You’re unusually quiet, Connor. Is there anything I should know?”
Connor shook his head. “Nothing CDF-related. I’m going to be a father again.”
Mullins lifted his eyebrows a little and smiled. “Congratulations. Did you just find out?”
Mullins watched him as if gauging Connor’s reaction.
“We’re having a boy. Lenora told me this morning.”
Mullins nodded. “That’s excellent news, Connor. I’m very happy for you.”
Mullins was also a father, and Connor could see that familial bonds shared between parents differed from those who’d never had children. It wasn’t until he’d become a father for the second time that he’d gained awareness of the profound difference when someone’s entire existence was dependent upon him. There were no breaks or putting things off until it was convenient. Children demanded attention. It was a balancing act practiced by parents and was also an experience that had to be lived in order to be understood.
“Thank you,” Connor said.
“How old is your daughter?”
“She’s four years old now.”
Mullins nodded. “That’s a great age. I bet she’s excited.”
“She wants to help name her brother.”
Mullins chuckled and turned his gaze toward the activities. More than a few people glanced in their direction, particularly at Connor since he was wearing his CDF uniform.
“I’m curious,” Mullins began. “Does being a father affect how you feel about these types of activities?”
“If anything, it further drives the point home,” Connor replied. “This training will save lives, especially if the Krake come here. They’re not just learning combat scenarios—or very light versions of combat scenarios, in this case. They’re also learning how to assess problems, and all of them are required to take basic medical courses. Those are good skills for anyone to have.”
Mullins continued to watch the activities and nodded a little. “I’m not questioning the value of what’s occurring, but I am . . .” He paused for a moment, trying to find the words. “I just feel like we’re stealing their childhood from them, and they’re not mature enough to realize it now, but one day they will.”
They made their way toward the area designated for the older youth, thirteen to fourteen years old. Adolescence had given some of them a good dose of hormones. They looked healthy and strong.
“I don’t like the necessity of this any more than you do, Mullins, but we don’t get to decide. I think it would be more of an injustice not to prepare them as best we can. The alternative is a very steep learning curve should the Krake invade, and many more lives would be lost. Future generations are going to judge us regardless, and I think the records will have to show why we chose to do this. I guess it comes down to the fact that if my daughter were out there, I’d much rather she knew how to handle herself. I’d rather give her the best chance of surviving instead of keeping her wrapped in a safety bubble. I think they know what’s at stake. They’ve lived through it before.”
“I’d rather they didn’t know.”
“They’re all volunteers. Beyond basic survival, none of them have to do any of these things.”
“They view it as exciting,” Mullins said. “They’re very impressionable. What concerns me is that we’re on a path to becoming a militaristic society, and if anything, history has taught us that those societies don’t endure for long. I guess my concern is that I don’t want us to go too far down this path without being able to get back to where we should be.”
“If you’d asked me a couple of years ago, I would’ve just said that it’s my job to make sure we get to a point where we can make those decisions in the future.”
Mullins looked at Connor without turning his head and arched an eyebrow. “And now?”
“Kids change you, but that doesn’t mean I want to protect them any less. Sure, we teach them survival skills and how to defend themselves, but we also teach them ethics so that if and when they’re called upon to take action, they’ll understand why and hopefully be able to live with the decisions they make. It’s true for all of us,” Connor said as he returned a wave to several people. “I can’t make it any plainer than this, Mullins. I’d rather my daughter didn’t grow up in a world where she had to keep a gun in her hands, but I’m also not going to keep her away from the knowledge of how to use that gun just in case she needs it. The Krake, the Vemus, and even some of the Ovarrow. It doesn’t matter. The choice will be hers.”
“The Ovarrow are still making the case to become colonial citizens, but they’re very rigid. It’s going to be a challenge to help them acclimate,” Mullins said.
“Senleon understands this, and so do many of the other faction leaders in the Mekaal.”
“And the Konus?”
Connor gritted his teeth. The Konus had tried to absorb the Mekaal while testing the CDF’s response. Lives had been lost and the Konus had paid a heavy price, but they didn’t seem bothered by it. They’d come out of stasis almost forty years ago and chosen to live in secret, preparing for the eventuality that the Krake would return here.
“It might take the Konus longer to learn.”
“That’s putting it mildly,” Mullins said. “I read the reports. They do love to push the envelope and test whether we’ll respond. I spoke to Dana the other day, and she seems to feel that there are things we can learn from the Konus. All I keep thinking about is how much I’d rather they migrated far away from us.”
Connor smiled a little and sighed. “You know, when I first started dealing with the Ovarrow, I felt the same way. It took years of working together to build up that trust. I think there’s more tolerance for the Ovarrow in the CDF than there is in the colony itself. So, I think it’s just going to take time. There are going to be bumps along the way.”
“I remember you reporting to Dana about the Mekaal, but more recently I’ve been looking at the history of the NA Alliance and the European Union, as well as their formation. It took a long time for those unions to emerge in such a way that it didn’t entirely make the participating nations lose their identities. So, I agree with you that it’s going to take time—probably a lot of time, as in you and I will be old men by the time it’s the norm,” Mullins said.
The rest of the day, they watched the colonial youth show off their skills and vigor through various activities. Connor recognized the need for the colonial youth to begin learning skills beyond basic survival. They had a say in what their futures would be. Many of them requested various forms of tactical training, and Connor hoped that the balance was there so that the colonists wouldn’t become like the Ovarrow—rigidly viewing the world through a lens that required armed conflict to resolve their problems. These thoughts were new for him, and if they survived the conflict with the Krake, this balance would become his focus.
The Salty Soldier—owned and operated by one Juan Diaz, Connor’s oldest friend on the colony—was the destination of Connor and Lenora’s leisurely walk. Lauren was practically pulling them up the long, dark, wooden stairs. A warm glow came from old-style lanterns, lighting up the area over wide planks of dark hardwood that smelled of longevity and good times, as if the restaurant had always been there. Whenever Connor walked toward the front doors, he always caught a healthy whiff of delicious food that made his mouth water.
“Sounds like the celebration has already gotten started,” Lenora said.
“Diaz will use any excuse to celebrate,” Connor said.
It was early evening and the sun had started to set, but New Earth’s rings shone brightly in the night sky. It was never truly dark here.
There was a sign posted outside that said the restaurant was closed for a private party. One of Diaz’s offspring came to collect Lauren, and she was soon whisked away to play with the other kids. ...
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