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Authors: Brendan Dubois

Tags: #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #Military, #Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic, #Action & Adventure

Dark Victory - eARC

BOOK: Dark Victory - eARC
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Table of Contents


A Novel of the Alien Resistance

Brendan DuBois

Advance Reader Copy


A decade ago, the alien Creepers came to Earth, dropping asteroids to drown our coastal cities, detonating nuclear weapons overhead to destroy our communications, power and computer systems, and to set up their network of killer stealth satellites to kill anything on our planet that used modern technology. In a matter of days, Earth was driven back to a nineteenth century existence.

Then the war really began, as the Creepers descended and set up domed bases that were impervious to everything save a nuclear bomb.

For ten years then, the battered and surviving members of humanity have fought against the Creepers and their mechanized exoskeletons, until something unexpected has happened: a chance for victory.

Sixteen-year-old Randy Knox has the usual problems of a teenage boy: getting along with his father, dating his sweetheart, and trying not to fail his junior year of high school. But Randy also has other demands on his time, as a sergeant in the N.H. National Guard, attached to the U.S. Army, and fighting the invading Creepers.

Randy has dim memories of a time of electric lights, laptop computers, television screens and above all, plenty of food at every meal. On his twelfth birthday, he enlisted in the Army to carry on the fight, since most of the world’s adults have been killed off and it’s up to the younger generations to serve. But now, as a veteran of the Creeper war and with his K-9 partner Thor, Randy has learned to focus on the essentials: the best way to kill a Creeper, scrounge through abandoned buildings for old canned goods, and to avoid being turned into “barbecue bait.” He has earned the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Endless war is all he knows.

But now change has drastically come to his life. The current President of the United States—a former Assistant Secretary of Defense—has announced that scattered remnants of the Air Force have destroyed the Creeper’s Orbital Base, ensuring victory over the alien invaders. Those surviving Creepers on the Earth’s surface will be hunted down and exterminated, as a weary and wary population celebrates victory.

Yet Randy is assigned a new mission: to escort a secret representative from the Governor of New Hampshire to the nation’s capital, to meet with the President. And at the last moment, a fellow teen soldier—the beautiful Serena Coulson and her mute younger brother Buddy—are assigned to join Randy.

This secretive mission proves to be the most dangerous assignment of his life, as Randy tries to protect his charges from rampaging Creepers and criminal humans. And as he fights to reach the capitol with a vital mission, Randy learns that all of his skills in combating aliens may not be enough to survive the dark conspiracies of his fellow humans.

Baen Books by Brendan DuBois

Dark Victory

The Lewis Cole Mystery Series

Dead Sand

Black Tide

Shattered Shell

Killer Waves


Buried Dreams

Primary Storm

Deadly Cove

Blood Foam

Other Novels

Resurrection Day

Six Days


Final Winter


Story Collections

The Dark Snow and Other Stories

Tales from the Dark Woods

The Hidden

Stone Cold, Blood Red


My Short, Happy Life in Jeopardy!


This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 2016 by Brendan DuBois

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

A Baen Books Original

Baen Publishing Enterprises

P.O. Box 1403

Riverdale, NY 10471

ISBN: 978-1-4767-8092-4

Cover art by David Seeley

First Baen printing, January 2016

Distributed by Simon & Schuster

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data: TK

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


This is for my older brother Michael, who’s been reading my works for more than four decades, with constant encouragement and a sharp eye.


First of all, I would like to extend my deep thanks and gratitude to Iraq combat veteran Chris Chesak and former U.S. Army Captain Vincent O’Neil, Company Commander, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry Regiment—skilled authors both—who read the manuscript and offered key corrections and suggestions. Any military-related errors in the book are mine alone. Thanks also goes to my wife, Mona Pinette, for her editorial suggestions and advice, and to my niece Molly DuBois, for giving the manuscript a crucial early read.

And finally, thanks to Toni Weisskopf and Tony Daniel of Baen Books, who helped make a dream of mine from 1970 come true.

“If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

—Stephen Hawking,

cosmologist and theoretical physicist, April 2010


In the rear of the old surplus M35 Army transport truck it’s dirty and noisy, since the original engine was ripped out after the war started and replaced by a steam system, powered by either firewood or chunks of coal, depending what the overworked Quartermaster Corps can get their collective hands on.

I’m sitting on one of the two wooden benches, facing the open rear, my Colt M-10 across my lap, assault pack at my booted feet, watching the late May New Hampshire countryside pass by with every turn and rise as we race to the site of yesterday’s raid. Canvas overhead flaps and bangs as we move on. I’m tired and pissed off. The war is supposed to be over and I should be worrying about possible civilian life, but here I am, with so many others, out in the field again.

Goddamn Army.

An hour earlier the rear of this old deuce-and-a-half truck had been jammed with the rest of my squad, part of Second Recon Rangers, First Platoon, “Avenger” Company, First Battalion, New Hampshire Army National Guard, attached to the resurrected 26
Yankee Division. The last guy out was PFC Raymond Ruiz and his partner, Apache, who deployed at a covered bridge about ten minutes ago. Ruiz is from a refugee family from Boston—not that I hold that against him—and this is his first mission since he made Recon Ranger. He was eager to get to work and when he got out in full battle-rattle, his brown face grinning widely, I said to him, “Don’t have to prove yourself tonight, bro. Just get the mission done and come back alive.”

He said something back to me in quick Spanish, and added, “Just want to prove I belong, Sergeant,” before walking up a dirt lane near the bridge, Apache pacing him.

Now it’s just me and two others: my partner Thor, sitting in the middle of the truck bed, tongue hanging out, panting, watching the farmlands and forests pass by, and Corporal Abby Monroe, combat dispatcher, with her mechanical partner, a reinforced Trek mountain bike.

Abby sticks her tongue out at me, laughs. I laugh back, knowing it’s too damn loud for her hear anything I say, so I go back to looking out at the few farmhouses as we rattle on. With my Kevlar-helmeted head turned, the truck doesn’t seem that loud because of an old injury that took out a chunk of my left ear, about twenty percent of my hearing, and also earned me my first Purple Heart a couple of years back at the Battle of the Merrimack Valley.

We pause at a crossroads, take a left. At the intersection is a granite boulder with a brass plaque, marking the war dead from World War II, Korea and Vietnam for this small New Hampshire town of Montcalm. Faded American flags hang from wooden dowels shoved into the brown grass. If and when plaques are made to commemorate the dead in this conflict, I doubt there’ll be enough brass in the world to get the job done.

The truck downshifts, brakes, and then goes down a narrow dirt driveway. My chest tightens and Thor starts whimpering. The truck turns at a dirt lot and I catch sign of a Creeper raid, the scent of things burnt and destroyed. The truck rattles to a halt and the engine wheezes and puffs. I lean over the tailgate, undo the hold chains, and let it slam down. I jump to the ground, wince at the pain in my sore left knee, which had gotten me my second Purple Heart last year, and then I turn as Thor leaps down. He picks up the ambush smell as well and his fur bristles. With a low growl, he trots off to a nearby field.

I’m kicked in my left shoulder. Abby is at the rear of the truck, glaring down at me with dark brown eyes underneath her Kevlar helmet. “What, the doggy gets first dibs?”

I grab her about her slim, muscular hips, lower her to the ground, and then help her get the Trek out.

“You’ve got opposable thumbs,” I say. “Gives you an advantage.”

Her brown hair is cut short and she has on a fatigue jacket with a MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) vest for her gear, plus a small assault pack, but she has on unofficial black bicycle shorts that show off her muscular, tanned legs. Her legs are splotched here and there with old burn marks and scar tissue. Around her thin waist she has a flare gun on one hip, and a holstered 9 mm Beretta pistol on the other. On her back is a Camelbak water container, the end of the hose fastened near her neck. She’s the best combat dispatch biker I know, male or female. I’m glad she’s going to be out here tonight, biking up and down the nearby dirt road, ready to get back-up if me and the other troopers find trouble.

She says, “You be careful out there in the woods, Randy.”

“Careful’s my middle name,” I say.

“I thought danger was,” she says, grinning, running a finger under her helmet strap. I swing my bulky Colt M-10 over my right shoulder, take in the ambush site. Typical Creeper raid. A silo’s been burnt in half, silage spilling out, and part of the near barn’s roof has also been scorched. A farmhouse with a wide porch sits to the right of the barn and looks undamaged. Over the entrance to the barn is a rusted basketball hoop, and a light orange ball is stuck in some weeds by a fence.

A voice to my rear. “Admiring the view, Sergeant Knox?”

“Not particularly, Ell-Tee.”

Our platoon leader, Lieutenant David May, closes the door of the steam-powered truck and ambles over, leaving his driver, Schwartz, behind. He’s about a foot taller than Abby and me, wiry and muscular, and keeps his red hair trimmed high and tight. He’s an honest-to-God West Point graduate and shouldn’t be riding herd with us Recon Rangers, but last year, his right arm had been toasted off at the elbow during the Second Battle of Saratoga in the upper Hudson River Valley, when the Creepers tried to split off New England from New York State. With that and some burn injuries to his face and torso, he could have gone out on disability but instead he re-upped, and ended up with us instead of a regular Army unit.

I look up at the sky. Mostly overcast. Not many clear days, even now, ten years after the war started. Off to the south there’s a relatively large patch of blue sky, and just then, I see a line of flashing lights and sparks as a piece of random orbital debris re-enters and burns up.

The lieutenant says, “Catch that?”

“That I did, sir.”

He coughs. “Our grandkids will probably be still seeing that, down the road, no matter what else happens.” He pauses, like he’s thinking about the possibility of living long enough to have grandkids, or maybe he’s thinking about the possibility of
having children. “Come on, let’s get going. You and Monroe have a busy night ahead of you.”

The lieutenant starts walking and Abby and I fall in step with him. While our unit’s fatigues are worn and dirty, he always keeps his freshly washed and pressed, like a good West Point graduate should. His fake right arm sticks out at an odd angle. Before the war started, prosthetic arms and hands that looked like the real thing for Iraq and Afghan veterans were created, thanks to computer work and all that. But that had been all pre-war. The lieutenant’s right arm is old-school, with cables and hooks at the end.

I whistle for Thor and he trots over, as I take in more of the damage from the Creeper raid. The smell is stronger now, of wood burnt and flesh scorched, the faint scent of cinnamon, the true sign of a Creeper rampage. Even Thor can sense it. He comes up to me, black fur bristling, tail quivering, and I scratch his head. Thor is a Belgian Malinois, supposedly a direct descendant of the dog that helped Navy SEALs kill Osama bin-Laden nearly a quarter century ago, but even if it’s not true, he’s still tough enough.

Lucky dog back then, I thought, as we walk to the nearest barn. What we were up against tonight would make Osama bin-Laden and his crew look like kindergarten children.

Check that, I think, seeing two dairy cows, burnt black and on their sides, charred leg stumps sticking up in the air by the barn.

Make it nursery school children.

We gather in an open barn, me, Thor, the lieutenant, Abby and the owner of the farm, a stout fellow with boots held together by twine, patched overalls and a checked flannel shirt. His hands are rough and dirty, his brown beard flecked with gray streaks. Fine lines are around his forehead and eyes. His name is Gary Parker and he seems damn glad to see us. He looks me up and down. “That by God a real Colt M-10?”

“It sure is,” I say.

“Can I take a look?”

I unsling the Colt M-10 and hold it out. It’s a bulky, tubular-looking weapon, with an old-fashioned single-shot breech-loading device that can be clumsy at times, but I love it to death. Which explains what happens next.

“Can I hold it?” he asks shyly.

I shake my head, sling it back over my shoulder. “No, you can’t. Sorry.”

Parker’s face flushes and he looks away, and maybe I should feel guilty, but I don’t. It took a lot of training to be able to carry this bad boy, and I wasn’t going to let a civilian hold it. The lieutenant coughs and spreads out an old topographical map on a nearby workbench, and the farmer then points out where the Creeper had come out of the woods and where it had gone after hitting the farm.

“Started last night, just after sunset,” Parker says. “Came out down by this cut here on the other side of the hill. First thought it was peepers, what we were hearing, that clicking sound, and then we could smell cinnamon.”

Lieutenant May says, “What did you do then?”

Parker looks humiliated. “Took the family and went to the basement. Heard the cows crying. Heard the silo get hit, smelled things burning. After a while, popped my head out and saw some smoke, over at the west pasture, where the damn thing skittered away.”

My boss drags his prosthetic hook down part of the map. “Here, then. Where this stream bed cuts through?”

The farmer nods, bites his lip. “That’s right. I guess I should have gone out and followed the damn thing to see where it went . . . but . . . I was scared shitless. I guess you could say I was a coward.”

Lieutenant May carefully rolls up the map with his good hand. “I’d say you were a smart man, Mister Parker. The Creeper came and you did what you had to do to protect your family. To tell us where he went. We’ll take it from here.”

Parker looks at my one-armed boss, then me, Thor and Abby, and shrugs. “God, I hope so. But damn it, I thought the war was over.”

“Oh, it is,” the lieutenant says. “Has been, for a month, now.”

Another tightness in my guts. Just over a month ago, the President had announced we had won the war, following an unexpected and successful manned raid by what was left of the U.S. Air Force up to low Earth orbit. Our post got the news from a telegraph message that had gotten to the state capitol, Concord. Lots of us had partied into the night and the next morning after the news was read at evening mess, but here I was, about thirty days later, near the Vermont border, getting ready for yet another bug hunt. As the lieutenant had said in our pre-mission Operations Order, this was typical in all wars, and they even had a phrase for it: mopping up. Which is great, so long as you’re the mopper, not the moppee.

Mopping up. Sounds so innocent, like being assigned to KP duty, peeling potatoes, helping dress a whitetail deer, or sweeping out the fort’s dining facility. But on this cool dusk in May, mopping up meant another Creeper hunt, with a very good chance of me or one of my buds coming back in a potato sack, our remains looking like lumps of greasy burnt charcoal. Barbecue bait.

I look over at the other side of the barn, where a car is up on wooden blocks. A sheet of canvas covers it and Parker sees me checking it out. He grins, revealing a gap at the side of his mouth where two teeth are missing, and motioning me to follow, he walks over, like he wants to make up for his earlier attempt to touch my Colt. He lifts up one end of the dusty canvas, revealing a low-slung sports car, bright red. It has orange and black New York license plates, registration just over ten years old. The tires sag, the air long ago having seeped out.

Parker stares, sighs and drops the canvas. “Jaguar XJ-6. Damn, what a sweet ride.”

“How did it get here?” I ask.

“This place was a weekend home for my wife Ginger and me, before . . . Used to make a high-speed run up Friday afternoons, spend the weekend unwinding and relaxing. Then we’d get up bright and early Monday morning, make the drive south back to Manhattan. Lucky for us, we were here when the war started on 10/10.”

“Did you work in New York?” I ask, thinking about that ghost city, and all of the ghost cities from the attacks that October 10

“Yeah,” he says, wiping his hands on his overalls. “I worked for a hedge fund.” Then he barks a short laugh. “Now I’m a dairy farmer. Boy, if my parents were alive, wouldn’t they be pissed, knowing how I ended up using my Harvard education.”

Thor comes up to me and I scratch his head. “What’s a hedge fund?”

Another laugh. “Even back then, I had a hard time explaining it. Now? Don’t worry about it. It doesn’t matter anymore. Seems like an old dream, or a fairy tale from a strange country.”

Then he comes to me, shakes my hand. “Good luck tonight, okay? We’ll be praying for you.”

Not much to say after that, so I go out to the dirt yard.

Out in front of the barn, Lieutenant May says, “Randy, just a reminder. You’re one of our best, but remember the Recon part of your job. Don’t be afraid to call for back-up, all right? If you make contact tonight, you don’t have to take it on your own. Don’t be a hero.”

My assault pack weighs heavy in my right hand. “Understood, sir.”

“I doubt it,” he says, slightly smiling, the healed burn tissue stretching, and I try not to smile back. This is where the Creeper had struck, and this is where I’ve been deployed. Corporal Monroe strolls over, pushing her Trek at her side. The lieutenant says to her, “Safe riding, corporal. Keep a sharp eye out tonight. We’ve got five other Recon Rangers out in the woods tonight depending on you, especially Ruiz. Don’t care how tough he thinks he is, this is his first mission.”

“You got it, sir.”

“Fair enough.” He stands for a moment, staring at us both, and says quietly, “Good hunting,” and walks back to the deuce-and-a-half. His driver Mike Schwartz, a PFC who’s in his sixties and who’s content being a PFC, steps out and opens the door for our boss. They both get in, the Ell-Tee leaning on Schwartz to hoist himself up to the truck’s cab. Belching and burping starts up, and the truck starts out of the yard and goes down the dirt driveway, leaving behind a trail of smoke, steam and sparks.

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