Read Independence Day: Crucible (The Official Prequel) Online

Authors: Greg Keyes

Tags: #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #Space Opera, #Thriller

Independence Day: Crucible (The Official Prequel)

Contents

Cover

Don’t Miss a Single Part of the Independence Day Saga

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Prologue

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

Epilogue

About the Author

Acknowledgements

Independence Day Resurgence

DON’T MISS A SINGLE PART OF THE INDEPENDENCE DAY SAGA

The Complete Independence Day Omnibus
by Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich, and Steven Molstad

Independence Day: Crucible
by Greg Keyes

Independence Day Resurgence
by Alex Irvine

The Art of Independence Day Resurgence

Independence Day: Dark Fathom
graphic novel by Victor Gischler and Steve Scott, Rodney Ramos, Alex Shibao, and Tazio Bettin

Independence Day: The Original Movie Adaptation
graphic novel

OTHER NOVELS BY GREG KEYES

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm
Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization

Independence Day: Crucible
Print edition ISBN: 9781785651304
E-book edition ISBN: 9781785651359

Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP

First edition: May 2016
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

TM & © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

For Karen Hunt Spangler

PROLOGUE
JULY 7
1947

Corporal Jackson Hardy knew the alien wasn’t dead. When he was helping Reynolds stuff it into the body bag, his hand touched the smooth, mouthless face. He jerked back as if stung, every inch of his six-foot-two frame tingling in alarm. He felt like he’d just kissed a copperhead on the lips.

Reynolds laughed at him nervously.

“Least you know it can’t bite,” he said.

That was what Jackson’s grandfather used to call laughing in the graveyard. However well hidden, every man on the detail was battling at least some amount of terror. Jackson didn’t have anything more than a high school education, and someone might have been able to convince him that the crashed ship was a government prototype, or a Soviet spy plane, or a Chinese weather balloon. What did he know about that stuff? But no amount of convincing could explain away the things in it. No way they came from the same world that had produced Jackson Hardy. Not the creature he and Reynolds put in that body bag.

A spider was closer to being human.

It was alive, too. He wasn’t sure how he knew, but he did, and with absolute certainty. His fingers prickled long after the thing was taken away. He worried a little that he might be infected with something, but as the day wore on the sensation faded, and with it, his apprehension.

* * *

The next day they went back to the site, with a lot more men, and cleaned everything up. Where the higher-ups took the ship and the scraps, he didn’t know and didn’t want to know. Like most of the other soldiers Agent Leigh had picked for the mission, Jackson had worked under military intelligence before, and knew how to keep a secret. That started with not asking questions, even in your own head.

At that point, he figured the whole thing was done, and he could start packing this mess in with all of the other nightmares he was trying to forget from his tour in Europe. But the next night he was loaded into a truck with a bunch of the other guys and driven out through the desert.

When Jackson stepped out of the truck, it was beneath a waning gibbous moon in a New Mexican sky. At least he assumed they were still in New Mexico. Even in the dark, he could make out that there wasn’t much but sand and the scrubby cacti locals called
cholla
. It was a thoroughly inhospitable landscape, an alien world compared to the lush subtropics of Louisiana where he had been born and raised.

Made all the more inhospitable for what he’d seen in the past few days.

Still, there wasn’t anything particularly alien about the ranch house and its little scatter of outbuildings and corrals, the sheep bleating in the darkness, the yard dogs sounding their canine alarms as the soldiers invaded their territory. Agent Leigh hadn’t explained what they were doing on the ride over, and he didn’t explain now. He sent Jackson and two privates to check out the barn.

Jackson rarely had nightmares. His old flame, Irene Clay, had chalked that up to what she called his thorough lack of imagination, but the night after touching the alien, he’d had a night terror. He didn’t remember the details, but it had left him shaken.

It was like being back in the war, where death seemed to hide around every turn taken, in every shadow entered. If not his own death, then the sightless eyes of other men, and sometimes women and children. But now there was more, a deeper kind of dread. Like the world he knew was just fresh paint on a house already gone to rot.

In Belgium and Germany, the monsters had at least looked human.

Despite nearly giving him the shakes, the barn didn’t contain anything out of the ordinary, so they took positions around it. Fidgeting a bit, Jackson got out a cigarette and a book of matches. As he was shaking the match out, he caught something in the corner of his eye, something that sent a shiver up his spine. He turned a little.

The moon was behind the barn, and he was in its shadow. He stared into the darkness, alert for any motion, while he took another match and struck it.

The barn wall appeared in the fitful yellow light, and he saw what had startled him. Someone had painted a big circle on it, and then painted a line through the circle. Jackson took a step back and nearly jumped out of his skin when he bumped into Reynolds.

“What the hell is that supposed to be?” Reynolds said.

“I don’t know,” Jackson said, “but I don’t like it. Not one damn bit.”

PROLOGUE
JULY 3
1996

Mr. Marshall was in the lead, and he came to the top of the big hill first. He stopped and motioned for them to stay back, and then stood still for a moment, looking down the other side. After a minute he turned back to them, and Jake saw tears running down his face.

Jake’s father cried the day Nana died, but Jake was five then, and only understood a little bit about what was going on. He was older now, and had watched his goldfish, Tuna, die, twisting in the water, trying to right himself, moving less and less and finally not at all. They had buried the fish in the backyard, and now—at seven—Jake knew that when someone died—like Nana and Tuna—you never got to see them again, at least not until you died and went to heaven yourself.

Sometimes his mother cried, but when that happened Jake almost never knew why, and that was worse, because he didn’t understand at all.

What he did know was this—that when grown-ups cried, it meant something really bad was going on, usually something Jake didn’t understand.

Jake had never seen Mr. Marshall cry. He was a big man, with curly red hair, a big smile, and white teeth. He cracked his knuckles a lot and called everyone “sport.” He always knew what to do.

Except now he was crying and it scared Jake, a lot, so much so that he was on the verge of tears himself. He wanted to be home, watching TV, wrestling with his dad, helping his mom make cookies. Anything but being up here, on this hill, where something bad was happening.

Hank—Mr. Marshall’s son—started walking forward. He was twelve, one of the oldest of the kids there.

“Stay where you are, Hank,” Mr. Marshall said. “All of you, stay back. You don’t need to see this.”

“It’s true, isn’t it?” Hank said. “It’s all true.” He began walking uphill again, even with his father waving him back, and this time some of the others followed him.

Before the hike, Mr. Marshall had counted heads—fifteen including his own. They had taken the bus from camp to the trailhead and spent all morning hiking to reach this point. It had been awful—Jake’s legs were chapped and his feet had blisters on them. Mr. Marshall was the only adult with them. The rest were kids between the ages of six and twelve. Jake was one of the youngest.

Usually when Mr. Marshall said to do or not do something, the kids listened. Not this time, and though he kept waving them back, Hank and the older kids just walked right around him. A girl named Marisol took Jake’s hand. She was ten. She had long black hair and was nice to him, although she treated him like a little kid, which bugged him sometimes.

He walked with her to the ridge top, and he saw the spaceship.

The camp wasn’t supposed to have a TV, because camp was supposed to be about being outdoors and fresh air and all of that stuff, but Mr. Marshall had one in his cabin, and several of the kids had radios, so they knew about the spaceships. Everyone was talking about them, how big they were, wondering why they were here. Some of the talk Jake didn’t understand, but he could tell the adults were scared. Some of them left the camp and didn’t come back. Some of them took kids with them. Then, all of a sudden, Mr. Marshall turned off his television and took all of the radios, and everyone that was left at camp was loaded onto the bus.

And now they were here.

“It’s not as big as I thought,” Jake said. It reminded him of a manhole cover, except that it had a sort of fin on one side. He felt better now, because although it was a little weird-looking, it didn’t seem to him that there was anything to cry about.

“Because it’s so far away,” Marisol said.

Black smoke rose from beneath the spaceship and spread along the ground, curling into the sky and darkening the horizon. The sky was a weird reddish color in that direction, but when Jake looked behind him it was blue, like a normal, sunny day.

“It’s all gone,” Hank said. The older boy was crying now, along with most of the others. Jake still didn’t understand why.

“The city,” Marisol whispered. “It’s gone, see? They burned it all up. See all the smoke?”

“That’s the city?” Jake asked. “That black stuff under the ship? I thought it was its shadow.”

“That’s not a shadow,” she said.

“You mean L.A. is burned up?” Jake said. “The whole city?”

Around the smoking area, he saw what looked like roads and buildings, all made tiny with distance, and he finally started to understand how huge the ship really was.

“Most of it,” Marisol said.

“What about my house?” Jake asked. “Can you see it?”

“I don’t know where your house is,” she said, “but it doesn’t matter. I can’t tell where anything was. It’s all too different.”

“I bet my house is okay,” he said.

All of the kids were talking now, yelling, some screaming hysterically, and Jake suddenly felt tears in his own eyes, because it was all really confusing and scary and
wrong
.

“I want my mom,” he said. He started crying harder. Marisol put her arm around him, but it didn’t help. He started to shake.

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