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Rogue Program
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-024-6
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Science Fiction/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Length: 539 Pages
Published: October 2012
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

DON’T MISS THIS ONE!

Rogue Program is an outgrowth of my popular novel, Savage Survival, which is combined with the sequel to make one giant book, essentially two books for the price of one! Almost from the time Savage Survival was published, fans and readers wrote asking, “What happened next?” This novel not only answers the question but includes a greatly expanded and revised version of the original novel, which then segues directly into the sequel of that book. The two together make up Rogue Program. This is the longest work I’ve attempted and I’ve worked hard to make it an interesting and highly satisfying read. Lyda Brightner is a female protagonist anyone can identify with as she grows up with millions of other human captives of an unknown alien species. Conditions are so harsh and change so often that death is a constant companion, winnowing the Survivors inexorably down to only a few thousand out of fifteen million before they are returned to Earth. And then comes the hard part: trying to divine the motives of the aliens who have never been seen. Only their mechanical avatars have been intermittently present during five long years of terrible struggles to live, with each change bringing ever-harsher conditions. What do the aliens want? Why did they push millions of captive humans into environments where survival or death were the only options? What do they intend to do next now that the Survivors are back? Read about Lyda Brightner and how she manages to stay alive by her quick wits, her innate bravery, her compassion for those weaker than herself and a determination never to give in to the tortures of captivity that leave so many older and physically stronger than herself by the wayside. Rogue Program is a coming-of-age novel like no other, and Lyda is a character you’ll remember for a long, long time. Follow her life from a privileged ’tween into an unimagined hell where she must constantly fight for her life, and on to an Enclave on the moon left by the aliens, where the biggest puzzle of the galaxy waits to be solved by the few Survivors of alien captivity. Failure to find the answer of this last test may mean oblivion not only for Lyda, her lover, and her fellow survivors, but for the whole human race! Don’t miss Rogue Program!

Rogue Program (Excerpt)


PROLOGUE

Alien invasions had been talked about and written about for decades, more than a century. Almost all of the stories included descriptions of the invading species. They were depicted in movies in various guises, sometimes favorably but more often as creatures we would never choose to meet in a dark alley at night.

When an invasion at last did come, the only aspect of aliens seen was their great globes orbiting Earth, presumably their spaceships, and their mechanical avatars that did their dirty work. No one knew what they looked like but everyone presumed they must be hideous in appearance, simply because of the horrible way they treated the humans captured by their mechanical monsters.

No one could have possibly imagined the reality. It was too bizarre.


CHAPTER ONE

Her parents were scared, horribly scared. Twelve-year-old Lyda Brightner could tell that much by how white and strained their faces were, by the way they sometimes tried to keep her away from the big viewscreen in the den when Parental Discretion Advised lines of text crawled across the bottom of the screen. They had been practically living there for the last few days, leaving only for short breaks and even then wearing the earpieces so that they could follow what was happening. From all the hours when she had been allowed to watch she knew it was a war, an invasion of Earth, presumably by aliens from outer space like in the science fiction books she liked to read. Only this was real, not something imaginary, and if Mom and Dad had been scared before, they were terrified now and she didn’t know why. She had caught only a few little snippets of news when peeking into the den and those hadn’t told her much. Mostly the phone lines were always either busy or made strange crackling sounds like bacon grease popping in a hot skillet when she tried to call her friends. It must be bad, she thought, from the way Mom and Dad are acting. That was the real signal, because always before when school was canceled there was an explanation, like a nearby tornado warning or a terrorist threat. This time nothing had been said except that she was to stay home and do her lessons in her room. She had done that, and now she was bored, with the rest of the day stretching out before her like a deserted playground. Not even a new book to read either, not on her phone or any of her other devices, nothing at all to sate her almost insatiable curiosity.

She didn’t know exactly why she had been forbidden to watch the news with her parents this morning like she had the last few days, but she maybe they were thinking the images being broadcast were too graphic for her. But that didn’t quite ring true. She had already seen some pretty horrible stuff about the alien invasion while with them. She couldn’t understand why she couldn’t watch today, after all they had seen together already. It must be really bad.

Lyda stood by the doorless entrance to the den, trying to turn herself into a small quiet animal that wouldn’t be noticed. A rabbit, she thought, like in Watership Down. No one notices a rabbit. She closed her eyes and envisioned herself huddled down in the grass, a little white bunny with ears laid flat so they wouldn’t peek out and give her away. It seemed to be working because for a while she stood and watched and listened, her presence undetected.

At first she didn’t understand why she had been told not to watch today since the scenes were much like those she had seen previously. Bright silvery spiderlike constructs crawled on multiple legs across a landscape of loose rubble and debris while little ant beings scurried to get out of their way. Then it popped into perspective. The rubble was the ruins of buildings of ... Lufkin, only a few miles up the highway! No wonder Mom and Dad were so frightened and didn’t want her to know. The ants were people trying to avoid ... being eaten? That was what it looked like at first, but then she saw that the people were being herded, with the spider things acting like sheepdogs working a flock. She had seen that before, too. The silvery spiders were nothing to fool with, she knew. Anyone who tried to fight or run the wrong way was killed gruesomely by mandible-like appendages that pierced bodies like giant needles attempting to stitch clothing on puppets.

Periodically a long broad tongue of blue fire would lash out from an opening among the multiple sets of mandibles adorning the front of the spiders and sweep a path through the crowds of people running frantically over the debris-strewn streets. Whenever the band of energy touched a person, bluish lightning flared and the figures would go limp for a moment, crash to the ground, then get up and run even faster than before-if they were able. Some weren’t and were ignored or stepped on and crushed by the multiple-jointed appendages supporting the spiders. Sometimes blood spurted from the bodies being crushed. In a few moments, out would come the tongue of energy again, touching more people with its blue lightning and hurrying them along like an extra powerful cattle prod. But where were they going? Why were they being chased and harassed like gangs of vermin? Mom and Dad didn’t know and she sure didn’t.

The mandibles of the creatures moved constantly, opening and closing as if seeking something to bite, though nothing except humans who chose to fight ever came within their grip. Other appendages waved in a roving pattern below the mandibles, touching the ground, dead bodies, and ruined vehicles, and poking into shattered doorways. Whiskers, Lyda thought. They’re like the whiskers of a cat, telling them what’s near.

The whole scene was tremendously frightening, even though she had seen similar ones before. It was the nearness to their home that was so fascinating that she couldn’t look away. Lyda thought it must be live news, not a recording, and that was why her parents were staring so fearfully. It had to be unedited because the colors weren’t as bright as previous scenes being shown again and the movements of the spidery beings and the humans were too smooth and natural looking. But if the alien mechanisms were in Lufkin now ...

"Lyda! What are you doing here?"

Lyda jumped guiltily. Mom and Dad were both staring at her like she had done something bad. "I only wanted to watch. You know I’ve seen this kind of stuff before."

"This is nothing someone your age should see," Dad said gently. He cut off the sound and picture, leaving only the earpiece to provide him a feed. Lyda knew he was trying to keep how close the invasion was to home away from her.

"Your dad is right, honey," Mom said. "It isn’t necessary for you to see such ... such ... "

"It’s because it’s close to us now. It’s Lufkin they’re showing, isn’t it?" Lyda asked, already knowing that it was. She loved her parents. Sometimes they were even cool, but sometimes they still tried to treat her like a little girl and she wasn’t that little any more. She was twelve, almost thirteen; she would soon be a teenager.

Mom and Dad looked at each other from where they were seated side by side on the big leather couch.

Dad sighed, as if releasing a terrible burden from inside his body. "Yes, sweetie, it is Lufkin, but we’re not in any danger yet. Maybe the military will ... " His voice trailed off.

Lyda thought that if the military was going to do something, it ought to get started-if that scene she had been looking at was any indication. She took a few hesitant steps into the den, the toes of her bare feet curling into the carpet. "Have they ever said what those spider thingys are? Are they the aliens from outer space or just their machines?" She was trying to prolong the conversation, knowing that the longer they talked the more likely she would be allowed into the den.

Abruptly Mom burst into tears. Dad put his arm around her and patted her shoulder. From around the tangle of Mom’s bright red curls, the exact same shade as her own, Dad said, "I guess so. Yes, they must be. But Lyda ... "

"Daddy, I should watch with you. How else will I know what to do if they come here? Besides, it’s no worse than lots of things I’ve seen with you."

Mom raised her head and looked at Dad while a slightly guilty expression hovered on his face. "They won’t come here, will they, Bruce? Why don’t they bomb them or something?"

"I don’t know. Maybe too many of our people are being held captive. Anyway, they already have. It didn’t work."

"It looked like those spider things were eating the people," Lyda said, taking another step inside. She hadn’t actually seen anyone being eaten, and wasn’t sure she wanted to in any case, but she had seen a few people being skewered by the thin silvery mandibles before Dad cut off the program. Blood had burst from the bodies then, too, before they were shaken loose. When it got that graphic Mom didn’t want her to watch.

"No, we don’t think anyone is being eaten, Lyda baby." Dad tried to chuckle but it didn’t come out like that. It was an ugly gurgling sound she had never heard him make before.

"Then what are they doing with them?"

Again her parents looked at each other rather than at her. Was there something more terrible than being killed, or maybe eaten later, that was happening to the people she had seen? What could be worse than that?

"Lyda ... "

Dad sighed again. "Elaine, she may as well stay with us. We can always cut the picture if it gets too gruesome. And she’s right. She should know what to do, just in case of ... just in case."

"In case of what?" Curiosity was replacing her fright now. She felt her heart beat faster. Mom and Dad always tried to answer her questions and be honest with her, unlike the parents of some of her friends. They just didn’t like her to be exposed to great amounts of graphic violence or sex yet. Curiously, it was her mom rather than her dad who was so adamant. Mom thought she was too young. Lyda always felt guilty when the subject came up. She had already seen plenty so far as sex went. Little flash drives and printouts from books passed around from kid to kid, transitory images on her cell phone, movies at her friends’ homes that she wasn’t allowed to watch in her own, graphic color prints that were sometimes freaky and gross but interesting all the same. She suspected that Dad, at least, knew she sometimes had access to things he would rather her not see, but he pretended that she didn’t.

"The people you saw the spiders chasing aren’t going to be eaten. They’re being transferred to big camps out west like those images we’ve seen from space."

Lyda took the last few steps to the couch and wormed her way in between the elder Brightners. She drew a grudging smile from both of them and this time it was she who sighed. Finally she was going to find out exactly what was happening today! On second thought ... Lufkin? That was awfully close!