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An invasion is being planned in the secluded woods of West Virginia. Ravagers from a distant world have set up a gateway allowing them to move their forces through space. Earth is their next conquest.
When push comes to shove, Earth's Marines are shoving back and taking the fight to the enemy. Outnumbered and outgunned these Marines will look to each other for the will to go on. Allies will be found along the way, as well as a haunting prophecy for one of their own.
If you like the fast-paced action of JN Chaney's Renegade Series and the twist and turns of Ken Lozito's Genesis: First Colony then you'll love The Invasion. Click now to start reading instantly.
Release date: February 7, 2019
Publisher: Archimedes Books
Print pages: 225
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Remmy Cole watched fat snowflakes fall as his brother, AJ, sped down the highway. AJ had shaken him awake at ten in the morning and told him to pack a bag, they were going on a weekend hunting trip. AJ was on leave for Thanksgiving, which also coincided with the opening of hunting season. He’d tried to get out of it, but his brother dragged him out of bed by the foot and towed him to the bathroom with an order to be downstairs in half an hour.
It was better than being shipped off to military school, though. His parents had threatened it often enough and after this last stunt.
“Where are we anyway?” He reached over and turned the heat on high. They’d left Florida and driven north. Remmy snoozed most of the way, but the growing cold woke him. He wasn’t used to it and he definitely didn’t like it.
“Say what?” He glanced over to make sure AJ wasn’t pulling one over on him. His brother concentrated on the road, not even paying attention to Remmy. “You are taking us to Deliverance country?”
AJ laughed. “Don’t let Rambo hear you say that. That’ll get you a beating.”
“Rambo? Like in Sylvester Stallone Rambo?”
This time, his brother did look at him. Clear amusement was stamped in his baby blues. “Yes, just like Sylvester Stallone’s name in the movie. Careful with that Deliverance reference, though. Rambo takes offense at anyone comparing the people of West Virginia to that movie. Says it caused the entire country to get the wrong idea about them. They’re not hillbillies who rape and murder and partake in incest. Rambo’s exact words.”
Remmy curled his lip in disgust. Everything he knew about West “by God” Virginia came from that movie and all the stuff he’d read on the internet. He might be wrong, but he doubted it. The internet equaled gospel.
“So, is this Rambo person coming too?” Just his luck to be stranded in the middle of nowhere with a crazy Deliverance-esque Marine. “Sucked” seemed to be the wrong word now. It went so far beyond that, the right word escaped him.
“My squad will be there.” AJ turned off on an exit where Walmart’s cheery blue and yellow sign could be seen. “It was supposed to be a team-building trip to try and get the new guy to feel more like one of us, but he bailed at the last second.
You get the honor of taking his place.”
How much worse could it get than spending the entire weekend with a bunch of Marines talking about the military? Not that he had anything against Marines. He had mad respect for them, especially his brother. They went out and kept the rest of them safe, but it didn’t mean he relished spending all weekend listening to them talk about it. He’d rather be playing video games. As it was, he was losing his rank in Fortnight. He was in the top five on the leaderboards. The longer he was off on this stupid hunting trip, the more everyone else gained on his high score.
“Then why am I here?” Remmy asked sourly and slumped against the seat.
“Because Mom and Dad are worried about you,” AJ replied and pulled into the Walmart parking lot.
He grunted but didn’t say anything, which earned him one of AJ’s patented stares and prompted him to speak. “Look, it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
“Getting arrested wasn’t that big of a deal?” AJ shook his head. “They had to go down and bail you out, Rem. Do you know what that did to them, how Mom felt?”
So yeah…it was funny as all get out, but it did land his butt in the county lockup. He and his friends were still cracking up about it.
“People were hurt, Rem.” AJ’s words pierced him in a way nothing else could. Remmy did feel guilty about that. They didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt, let alone a police officer.
“That was an accident.”
“An accident?” AJ’s hand slammed against the dashboard, making him jump. “What’s accidental about hacking into the town’s traffic lights and causing them to turn off and on when they aren’t supposed to? You had to have known you were playing with people’s lives.”
It was just a stupid prank. He’d been bored and his best friend, Carl, had brought up the subject of joy riding. Carl’s dad had just bought a new BMW and they were contemplating taking it for a spin, but Remmy’s brain jumped to something else. Why not take all the cars for a joyride by hacking city transit?
Remmy was a genius, his IQ right up there with Einstein, and he got bored easily, which prompted some of his crazier ideas. No one understood what it was like for him. His mind never shut up. It ran a million miles a second, so many things slamming into him all at once: equations, ideas, thoughts. He could run every scenario to a situation in less than a minute flat. He’d learned to write code and hack by the time he was nine. Lines of code made sense to him and helped to focus his crazy, out of control mind.
His parents refused to let him graduate early. They wanted him to have the high school experience and be as normal as everyone else, but he wasn’t normal. The more they tried to fit him into a square box when he so obviously was a circle, the more desperate and reckless he grew to stop the madness eating away at him. That was what it felt like to him anyway. His brain was starving for nourishment, and when it didn’t get what it needed, it started to eat away at everything, making him think sometimes he was going crazy.
So he did insane stuff like hacking public transit. It gave his mind a single thing to focus on and it shut everything else out. Not that he’d ever admit to how he really felt. His mom would drag him to a shrink. He had enough to deal with without that stigma, thank you very much.
“I’m sorry, okay?” Remmy shivered as soon as AJ cut the Jeep off and the heat died. “It was a stupid prank we didn’t think through.”
“It’s going to take more than an ‘I’m sorry’ to fix this,” AJ said, his voice tired. “The DA wants to press charges and there might be nothing we can do to stop it. You’re not some ten-year-old kid anymore; you’re sixteen. It means they can try you as an adult. You could do serious time.”
Like he didn’t know that already? The six hours he spent in the county lockup was enough to drive that point home. He and prison did not mix. He’d been terrified and stayed as close to the bars that made up the front of the cell as he could. He’d been squished in with twenty other guys confined in the cell. They kept giving him appraising looks that had him on alert for any hanky-panky funny business. He watched enough TV to understand what happened to baby-faced boys in jail.
Remmy knew he was handsome. He had more than enough girls flirting with him to know that. Sky blue eyes and blonde hair, along with his charming ways, guaranteed him a spot in the popular crowd. He could hang with the football players and end up with the girl at the end of the night. It wasn’t vanity; for him, it was simple truth.
And all that awesomeness in jail? Not gonna happen, even if he had to hack the judge.
“I get it, AJ.” Remmy rubbed his hands together. “I’m in a lot of trouble. Don’t think I don’t understand the situation. I understand it better than anyone. I just don’t know what to do about it.”
His brother let out a sigh. “I wish you’d think before you do this stuff. You’re smarter than this.”
Remmy laughed, the sound hollow and bitter.
“I’ve been talking to Mom and Dad,” AJ said, finally turning to look at him. “You need something to challenge you more and then maybe you wouldn’t get into so much trouble. Been reading up on kids that are as smart as you are.”
“No one’s as smart as me,” Remmy quipped.
AJ grinned. “Don’t be so sure about that. Anyway, I think if we can get you out of this trouble, they should let you graduate and go to college. MIT or someplace that will keep you too busy to be getting into trouble. Someplace where you can let that mind of yours loose.”
Remmy gaped at his brother. Did AJ really understand the chaos going on in his head? He’d assumed his parents turned a blind eye because they didn’t want to see what was going on inside him. AJ hadn’t been around for a couple years, so how did he know how Remmy felt every day? How desperate he was for the solution his brother offered?
AJ reached over and shoved him. “I’m your brother, idiot. Of course I know what’s going on with you. I might have been overseas this last year, but I talk to you every week.”
“I thought…” Remmy cut himself off. He was an idiot. AJ might be eight years older than him, but they were close. His brother was his real best friend. Of course he knew what was bothering him. “How am I going to get out of this mess, AJ? I don’t know what to do.”
“We’ll figure it out.” AJ mussed his hair. “You need this hair of yours cut, kid. You’re starting to look like some boy band wannabe.”
“Shut it!” Remmy laughed and followed his brother out of the truck. “Crap, it’s cold.”
“That’s why we’re here,” AJ said and started walking toward the store. “You need a coat. It’s supposed to be in the teens this weekend with lots and lots of snow. I think the forecast said they were expecting seven or eight inches.”
“And you came here on purpose?” Remmy griped.
“Yup, I sure did. The cabin belongs to Rambo’s family. Perfect place for all of us to get together and do some bonding.”
“So, who is all of us?” Remmy shouted as they ran for the door. The minute the heat from the store hit him, he stopped just to luxuriate in it. He was a frozen popsicle and this small blast of warm air was divine.
“You’ll meet them all soon enough. Rambo might already be at the cabin. I told her we were stopping to pick up some clothes and supplies. Might grab some food in town too. You up for some pancakes?”
“When am I not up for pancakes? They got an IHOP around here?”
“Not sure, but Rambo said Ma’s Place served the best pancakes in three counties.”
“Local diner.” AJ grabbed a shopping cart and motioned for Remmy to follow. They hit the men’s clothing section first and found heavy thick jackets as well as some long-sleeved shirts. Remmy had only brought t-shirts with him. He’d been worried about his wardrobe choices once he realized they were driving into Antarctica but leave it to his brother to come to the rescue.
They also picked up some food, water, and a few toiletries. Rem had forgotten his toothbrush, but he refused to take the blame for it. He wasn’t the one who kicked him awake at one in the morning demanding he get a move on. Nope, that was all AJ’s fault.
Once they were back in the Jeep and on the road, it didn’t take long to reach the exit for White Sulphur Springs. A blanket of white coated the roads and the trees, a glimpse of what was coming as the day progressed.
Snow. He lived in Florida. They’d gotten snow this year, the first time in about three decades, and it shut his city down. He vowed to never see the white stuff again and yet here he sat, watching it fall to the ground. Rem would even go as far as to say it was pretty, if only it didn’t have to be so freaking cold! He shivered in his thick insulated coat and hugged his hands to the heat vents.
AJ pulled onto Main Street and Remmy looked around curiously. The buildings were old, from an era long gone, their brick exteriors well-kept despite their age. Cars lined the streets as people went about their business. They weren’t even buttoned up in layers of clothes. One guy sauntered from his car into the post office without even long sleeves. Were these people immune to the cold or something? He saw a couple more people with barely anything on, just roaming. It was crazy.
When his brother pulled into the diner, his stomach let out a long grumble. He was starved. The promise of pancakes outweighed the cold and he ran inside as soon as the car came to a stop. The place was awesome. Dark wood floors, a counter along the wall with a large open view of the kitchen behind it greeted him as he stepped in. Cooks were busy while the counter held no empty seats. His eyes roamed until he spotted a booth near the middle and made a beeline for it. AJ would find him.
The booths were green vinyl, the tabletops a solid wood butcher block surface with some kind of coating on top. Probably to keep it from staining. The walls were done in a cream color and pictures decorated the walls, featuring the coal mining heritage the state was famous for. He’d definitely have to snap some photos before he left. This place was da bomb.
AJ sat down across from him and looked around. “Nice place.”
“Why, thank you,” the waitress said as she reached the table. “Ma prides herself on this place.”
“So there really is a Ma?” Remmy asked.
“Why sure, honey. Ma Pratt owns the place. She’s gettin’ on in years, so she’s not in as much as she used to be, but she can still sling a spatula with the best of ‘em.”
The woman’s accent wasn’t exactly southern like people from Georgia and Mississippi, or Texan, or even the Carolinas. It was a mixture of the three and came off quite charming. She tended to stress her I’s. Pretty little thing. Maybe twenty with her brown hair up in a high ponytail and the jeans and sweater she wore wasn’t any kind of uniform. He noticed the other waitresses were dressed casually as well. Must be because of the cold. They had to stay warm.
“I’m Ellie and I’ll be your waitress,” Ellie told them and handed over menus. “Can I start y’all off with something to drink?”
“Coffee?” AJ asked, opening the menu. “Largest one you got, please.”
“How about a cappuccino?” Remmy took his menu and started looking over it.
Ellie laughed. “Honey bear, we ain’t got no froufrou drinks here. You want some plain jane coffee, we got that. I can even find you some real cream, but we don’t mess with all that other nonsense in here.”
Remmy scrunched up his nose. He was in the middle of this godforsaken place and they didn’t have good coffee. AJ was to blame.
“Coffee and cream, I guess.” How bad could it be?
AJ managed to hold his laughter until after Ellie took off. “Dude, I thought that girl was about to smack you with your menu at the look of horror on your face.”
“Can we find a Starbucks before we head up to your weekend nightmare? I need at least one good cup of coffee for strength.”
“You boys’ll need to drive over to Oak Hill if you want Starbucks,” the old man sitting at the table across from them spoke up from behind his newspaper. His white hair was wild under his cap bearing the WVU logo. The beard that hung down and rested on his overly big belly was just as unruly as his hair. Brown eyes twinkled with mirth as he studied them.
“Where’s that?” AJ asked him. “We’re not from around here.”
“I figured,” the old man drawled. “You got that lost touristy look about you. Name’s Ben Larson.”
“I’m AJ Cole and this is my brother, Remmy.” AJ introduced them with a nod of his head. “We stick out that much, huh?”
Ben smiled, his lips almost lost in the beard. He’d make an awesome Santa Claus. “It’s a small town. Ever’one knows ever’one. You two stick out like a sore thumb.”
AJ laughed. “I guess we do. We’re up here on a hunting trip for the weekend with some friends.”
“Good weather for it. Deer can’t hide their tracks in the snow. You using bows or rifles?”
“Bows. Rambo said we could use the ones already there.”
“Good choice. Bows are quieter, and you run less chance of spooking the other deer in the area if you miss. Rambo, you say? You mean Earl Rambo?”
AJ frowned, thinking. “Not sure what her dad’s name is, but I’m talking about Chrissy Rambo.”
“Chrissy?” Remmy asked, horrified. “You mean Rambo’s a girl?”
Ben roared with laughter. “Son, don’t let her hear you say that. That girl is the best shot in six counties ‘round here.”
“That she is,” AJ agreed. “She’s the sniper on our squad.”
Sniper? Not only was Rambo a girl, but she was a sniper? Remmy just about lost his mind. A girl. Hunting. Had a last name that inspired thoughts of a soldier in the wild. And a freaking sniper to boot?
“You in the Marines with our girl?” Ben asked.
“Yes, sir,” AJ replied. “She offered her cabin up this weekend for a group trip.”
“Don’t be telling her daddy she’s up there with a bunch of men. She might be a grown woman, but he has distinct ideas about that sort of thing.”
AJ’s eyes went round and Remmy nodded to him. Deliverance.
AJ rolled his eyes, understanding what Remmy meant. AJ might think this was ridiculous, but Remmy had seen that movie and did not want to be on the receiving end of Rambo’s daddy’s temper.
Ben drained his coffee cup and stood. “You boys enjoy your trip. Should be good hunting weather. You listen to Chrissy up in those mountains. They’re dangerous and you can walk right on top of a mining break and not realize it until it’s too late. Some of them holes are a good thousand feet deep. She knows where they all are, so if she tells you to move, you move.”
“Good to know,” AJ said. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Larson.”
Ellie came back and took their orders and Remmy looked outside. The flurries had turned into an all-out snowstorm. “You sure we shouldn’t just find a hotel and wait for the snow to stop before heading up in the mountains?”
Said mountains could be seen anywhere you looked. They were decorated with the skeletal bones of trees. It reminded him of a graveyard full of bones and freaked him out just a little. Granted, snow was starting to stick to them, but he had no desire to go up in the middle of all that.
“I have a four-wheel drive,” AJ said and leaned back against the seat, looking at the snow himself and the darkening sky. “We’ll make it.”
“You ever driven on snow before?”
“Sure.” AJ yawned around the word. His brother wasn’t immune to driving all day either. The drive up here had been seven long hours. “Piece of cake.”
Remmy had his doubts, but he refrained from saying anything when their food came a few minutes later. He’d see if his brother’s driving skills were as awesome as he claimed later, but for right now, he just wanted to eat and not think about his own looming jail problems.
Everything else could wait.
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