F.O.R.C.E., by Sam B Miller II, was such a fantastic and refreshing Sci/Fi read. Being a huge fan of this genre, I have a lot of knowledge and experience when it comes to this topic, and I found this book to be mind blowing. Miller puts a new spin on the average alien invasion subject, and by the end, I definitely wanted more. I love the fact that in the opening of this book, Miller delves into a real unsolved mystery that most people will be familiar with. That gives this novel more of an actual feel, as opposed to just another science fiction read. ~ Review by Veronica
Short Book Summary: "A young alien raised by human scientists and military Special Forces, along with influences from The Cisco Kid, Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis, helps protect Earth from an invasion destined to turn all of mankind into an organic food source."
EXCERPT: Chapter 8 - Wiesbaden
The City of Wiesbaden, Germany, sat north of the Rhine River in the western edge of Germany about 100 miles east of Luxembourg. It had been one of the cities fortunate enough to be of little strategic significance during the WWII bombing campaigns by the Allies. Some may feel the word fortunate is not appropriate since almost 20% of the homes in Wiesbaden were destroyed by aerial bombs, but nevertheless, a large majority of the buildings in the city survived the war. The central business district of Wiesbaden was very elegant. Known as the Palace Square, it contained several imposing, high spired churches, the former Summer palace of the King of Prussia, and a beautiful, extravagantly large and ornate, hotel and spa known as the Kurhaus built around one of the natural hot springs which dotted the area. All in all, a wonderfully romantic place for Dr. Lucy Smith and Lt. Mike Jenson to travel for their meeting with Hans Gutlang, the German soldier who had reportedly lifted the front end of a 3-ton class half-track transport off one of his fellow soldiers in France.
The flight to the Frankfurt military base controlled by the U.S. Army had taken a couple of days. Thankfully, the road trip from the airfield in Frankfurt to Wiesbaden had only required around 45 minutes as both Smith and Jenson were fed up with hours listening to loud engine noise. Everywhere they looked during the drive to Wiesbaden, the devastation of the war was evident. Hollow shells of buildings, piles of destroyed vehicles, and deep holes blasted in the earth seemed to go on for miles. Mike Jenson knew what to expect from his training at West Point, but Lucy had enjoyed a protected life in academia, safe in her studies of animals and plants behind the brightly lit walls of university libraries and laboratories. She found she couldn't take her eyes off the destruction that lined every road as they traveled toward Wiesbaden. Jenson knew she was deeply troubled by what she saw. She kept her gloved hands tightly clasped in her lap, her eyes wide and seldom blinking, face emotionless, as they drove through the war torn countryside. She only slightly relaxed as they arrived in the central plaza of Wiesbaden where the damages from the war were much less visible.
It was about 1730 hours when their army green sedan pulled up to the main entrance of the Kurhaus in the cobblestoned central plaza. Gazing about the plaza and entryway, they saw two beautiful, carved stone fountains shooting jets of water into the air near the center of the plaza. Ornate street lamps placed around the plaza created a nice warm glow over the whole area. Some children were playing around the nearest fountain, occasionally splashing water on each other. A few pigeons pecked around the cobblestones, searching for one last bit of food before it got too dark to see.
Exiting their car at the main hotel entrance, they were greeted by a liveried concierge, sporting of all things a gold ringed monocle, who officiously welcomed them to the hotel. Peering at them with his chin raised so it appeared he was looking down his nose at them, his eyebrow above the monocle highly arched, the concierge said "Willkommen Herr und junge Dame zum Hotel. Ich vertraue Ihrer Reise hier war ohne Schwierigkeiten." Translated to English, he had said, "Welcome Gentleman and young lady to the hotel. I trust your journey here was without difficulties."
Without skipping a beat, Jenson replied, "Ich danke Ihnen sehr. Bitte sammeln unser Gepäck und führen uns an der Rezeption. Wir sind beide müde von unserer langen Reise, und die Dame, bevor unser Abendessen ausruhen möchte." Translated, he had said in perfect German, "Thank you very much. Please gather our luggage and lead us to the front desk. We are both tired from our long trip, and the lady wishes to rest before our evening meal."
The arch in the concierge's eyebrow lifted even higher, threatening to disappear into his hairline. He had not been expecting the American to reply like a native German.
Lucy, completely surprised by the exchange, looked at Lt. Jenson with narrow eyes, a sly smile curling up the corners of her lips. She purred, "Well now, aren't we full of surprises!"
Glancing at her with a sheepish smile, Jenson replied, "Kind of a required language course at the academy. These days you never know when you're going to need it."
Quickly gathering their luggage, the obviously more respectful concierge preceded them up the wide entry steps and into the grand lobby towards the reception desk. Lt. Jenson extended his right arm to Dr. Smith, and smiling, she took it.
As they followed the concierge into the hotel arm in arm, Mike Jenson thought about how pretty Lucy looked. She had changed the style of her dark, black hair to a nice side swing with dramatic curls. He remembered their first meeting when he thought her hairdo reminded him of his mother. There was nothing motherly about her now. She had even changed her horn rimmed glasses to a thin wire frame that attracted less attention to her coke bottle thick lenses. He had to admit she was a real looker.
Dr. Lucy Smith felt like she was on a date with the most handsome, debonair man she had ever met. The straight laced graduate of West Point was relaxing a bit, and she liked that very much. Thinking about their trip and its purpose, she thought to herself, "Granted we're on a top secret mission funded by the U.S. Government, and granted the mission is of vital importance to the future of the Earth, but damn it why can't a girl have some fun!"
They got adjoining suites, each with a large sitting area, canopied bed, and balconies overlooking the central plaza. Lucy thought her bathroom was large enough to hold her entire apartment back in Washington. Later that evening as she drifted off to a dreamless sleep, Lucy couldn't imagine experiencing a more pleasant day. It was a good thing she wasn't clairvoyant. If she could have seen what was going to happen the next day, she wouldn't have been able to sleep a wink.
The next morning over a light breakfast and some of the strongest coffee they had ever tasted, Mike Jenson and Lucy Smith planned their meeting with Hans Gutlang.
"You are sure you have the time and place pinned down?" Lucy asked as she munched on a buttery, brown pastry that fairly melted in her mouth.
Looking up from his note pad, Mike replied, "Yes. The guy I worked through is the U.S. Liaison for German Affairs. I know him personally. If Ben Tippering tells you something, you can count on it."
Lucy was still unhappy. "But if we run into any trouble, we're sort of in enemy territory. I feel like we're on the German's home field with no protection."
Reaching over to cover her hand with his, Mike said reassuringly, "Lucy, stop worrying. I speak the language fluently, and I've studied the maps." Then he smirked and said, "Besides that, remember I'm a highly trained product of the U.S. Military Academy. There's nothing I can't handle!"
Lucy smiled demurely and shot back, "Yea, Mr. Advertising Exec. If they're armed with a typewriter and harsh words, I'll feel real safe."
Smiling lopsidedly with a twinkle in his eyes, Mike retorted, "Hey. Words hurt you know! I'll give them a tongue lashing they'll never forget!"
Lucy laughed because she liked his cute smile and easy humor, but she just couldn't get rid of a feeling that danger lurked in the war torn back alleys of Wiesbaden.
Forty minutes later they were driving to the agreed rendezvous where they would meet the alleged German strongman. Lucy marveled at the quaint, narrow streets lined with two and three story buildings that combined markets, cafes, clothing and hardware stores, and residences, all mixed together. The architecture was a jumble of Roman and Bavarian influences that was both charming and foreign, all at the same time. All the buildings suffered from advancing age as well as a greasy layer of smoke and explosion damage from the war. Cracks in walls and foundations were plainly visible. As they neared the Rhine riverfront and industrial area, everything seemed to get even dirtier. Even the sunshine from the sky seemed to lose its brightness, and both Lucy and Mike felt oddly depressed the closer they got to the river.
At last they turned a corner and entered the riverfront roadway known as Biebricher Straße. The right hand side of the road toward the river was lined with a combination of fuel storage facilities, small warehouses, and docks where river barges could be loaded and unloaded. The left hand side of the road was lined with larger storage and manufacturing buildings. Pointing ahead, Mike indicated a long railroad bridge that had once spanned the wide river but was now just a destroyed heap of twisted steel beams and broken stone foundations.
Speaking like a tour guide, he said, "See the big, stone building there on the bank of the river? That used to be a 10-story stone castle gate where the railroad left this side of the river and crossed over. The whole bridge structure was destroyed when the German army retreated from the Allies back into Germany. The bridge was called the Emperor Bridge."
Lucy felt her hands tightening together in her lap as she stared at the derelict structure. It was hard for her to grasp the thought processes that drove men to commit such horrible acts of destruction.
At that moment, Jim turned sharply left off the road and through an open gate into a large graveled parking lot and came to a stop. A high, wood plank fence bordered three sides of the lot, serving to protect the squat warehouse's doors and windows from the prying eyes of passersby. Piles of waste metal and wood lined the western wall of the fence. A line of rusted, useless cars and large steel pipe casings arranged along the eastern wall spoke silently to the industrial downfall of Germany following the war. Weeds grew everywhere they could get purchase in the gravel, soot, and grease that covered the lot. Every surface in the lot and on the building was layered with greasy black soot. The smell of rotting fish stung their noses.
Both of them exited the sedan and walked to the front of the car, staring at the quiet warehouse as they leaned against the hood. Most of the windows in the building were boarded up, giving them the feeling it had been abandoned a long time. Other than a forlorn tugboat horn blaring in the distance, not a sound could be heard. They had not seen a dog or cat prowling around the lot and not even a pigeon strutted around the roof edges of the warehouse. It was too silent.
A scruff in the small rocks behind them suddenly broke the silence. Turning quickly, they saw 3 men walking through the gate. The man in the center was the largest, fully 6 feet, 6 inches tall, his open shirt with rolled up sleeves revealing the big chest and arms of a weight lifter. Flanking him, the other 2 men were shorter, the one on the right appearing to be about 4 inches shorter than the leader and the one to the left the shortest at 6 feet. All of them had the same color blond hair with close cropped military style cuts. Their hands were empty, but they strode with a confidence indicating they had little fear of the man and woman standing near the car.
As they walked closer, Lucy saw that they all had the same gray-blue eyes. "Brothers," she thought to herself.
The burly leader walked to within 8 feet of Mike Jenson and spoke directly to him, completely ignoring Lucy. The other 2 men stationed themselves on each side of the car where they could easily thwart any attempt at escape. Crossing their arms over their chests, they stood like silent statues. Although the ensuing conversations were spoken in German, I will translate all conversations into English for the convenience of the reader.
"What are you doing here?" the big man asked in a tone that indicated he was in no mood for trivialities.
Jenson responded immediately, "My companion and I are supposed to meet someone here."
"You are American," the big man declared. "I can tell from your clothes and accent and because you are standing in a very poor, very dangerous part of the city where good Germans would never dare visit."
Lucy nervously glanced over at Mike Jenson, but he seemed reassuringly calm. Not even a frown line creased his forehead.
"And just who are you?" Jenson replied in an even voice.
Looking first to his right and then to his left at the men standing near him, the big German moved a step closer to Jenson and replied, "I am Hans Gutlang." Jerking his thumb back in the direction of the other two men, he said, "The guy over there is my older brother, Manfred. The little one is my brother, Ernst."
Upon hearing the name, Hans Gutlang, Lucy expelled the breath she had been holding in a loud whoosh. She hadn't understood a word the men had been saying, but a person's name usually stands out clearly in any language. Relief was plain on her face, and the ghost of a smile crept onto her lips.
Slowly raising his hand to his jacket pocket so not to alarm the men, Jenson pulled out a piece of paper that was the German newspaper article describing how a soldier named Hans Gutlang had lifted a massive 3-ton class half-track off a fellow soldier who had been run over on a muddy road in France. Handing the article to Gutlang, he said, "This is why we have come so far to meet you. Please read it."
Glancing quickly at the paper, Gutlang handed it back to Jenson and said dismissively, "So it is true. So what! My friend was sure to die. I did what was necessary. Nothing more."
Looking at the defiant man, Jenson knew his next few words would spell the difference between the success or failure of this trip. Without Whatsit here to show the man physical evidence of the coming alien invasion, he had to rely on his wits to convince Gutlang to give them a DNA sample. He was sure that a physical confrontation with the man could only result in his own hospitalization.
Thinking quickly, Jenson said, "Mr. Gutlang, the United States Government has determined that you are the best example of natural human muscular strength it has ever found. My government has ordered me to retrieve a sample of your genetics to preserve as the best example of the muscular, male human body."
As the last syllable of the sentence left Jenson's lips, the big man swiveled his head to the right and left, looking at each of his brothers in turn. All of them began laughing, and Gutlang returned his attention back to Jenson and declared, "What a pile of horse shit!"
At that moment, a gang of men walked through the open gate from the street. There were seven of them. They acted like they owned the place, confidently taking up positions blocking exit from the fenced lot. Five of them held either a length of steel pipe or a thick wooden pole resembling a baseball bat. The remaining two held wicked looking knives with 7 inch blades.
A man with large tattoos on his neck who seemed to be the leader shouted out, "Traitors working with American swine are what lost us the war!"
Every man blocking the gate nodded, their faces grim death masks. Lucy Smith had never been so terrified in her life. She couldn't understand a word of German, but she could clearly hear anger in the voices and the menacing weapons were unmistakable. Seven armed men against four. She knew she was of no use in a fight and poor Lt. Jenson was a desk jockey, not a fighting soldier. She reached out to the hood of the car to steady herself, feeling as if she was about to faint.
Without warning, the gang of seven advanced. Two men went after each of the Gutlang brothers, Manfred and Ernst. The remaining three, two with the knives and one with a metal pipe, went for the bigger brother, Hans. Lucy felt Jenson grab her right arm and pull. Glancing toward him, she saw one of the Chrysallaman ray pistols clutched in his hand. Her eyes wide and her lips forming an O, she allowed herself to be pulled back toward the warehouse wall as Jenson kept the pistol trained on the advancing group of men.
The middle sized Gutlang brother, Manfred, sidestepped the swing of a bat towards his head and swung his arm in a clothesline swipe across the adam's apple of his first assailant. There was a muffled thump, and the bat swinger's head snapped backwards. The blow was so hard the guy flipped in a backwards somersault and landed in a heap in the gravel. The second man took advantage of the distraction of the bat swinger and clubbed the back of Manfred's right knee as hard as he could with his steel pipe. The knee buckled and Manfred let out a groan as he dropped and rolled away from his attacker.
Lucy watched Manfred get hit by the pipe, and her eyes darted around the lot desperately seeking a way to escape the confines of the fenced trap. "Everything is happening so fast!" she thought.
The shorter brother, Ernst, crouched down and widened his stance, his head moving back and forth as he tried to keep an eye on both his attackers. The thugs coming at him bore a resemblance to brutish gorillas. Each man had oversized arm and shoulder muscles and inch long curly hair covered their arms all the way up to their shoulders and poked out from under their shirt collars. The ugly smiles on their faces and the confident looks in their eyes were clear indications they were bullies who enjoyed preying on smaller men. They spread out quickly to his right and left, trying to position themselves for a simultaneous attack. They looked very confident as they inched closer to him. Ernst crouched down and shuffled backwards against the car trying to use it to protect his back. As he did so, the height of the car hid him from view making it impossible for Lucy to see what was happening to him.
Manfred had managed to roll away from his attacker and reach his feet, but it was plain he was unable to put any weight on his right leg. Desperately trying to walk on his injured leg, he limped toward the side of the lot where the scrap wood and metal were piled. His attacker leisurely followed him, confidently whacking the pipe he held in his right hand against his left palm.
Hans was suffering the worst of the attacks. The two men with knives slashed at him, sometimes separately, sometimes together. The man with the pipe would jab towards Han's body, then swing mightily at Han's head, forcing the man to defend himself against all three attackers at the same time. Savage, deep cuts appeared on his forearms and one of the blades cut deeply into his thigh, causing him to stagger. It was obvious from their coordinated attack that the three men had worked together in the past against a victim.
Lucy felt a shiver of fear run down her spine as she realized the constant fighting and loss of blood had weakened Hans to the point that he was unable to fend off a swing of the metal pipe. With a sickening crunch, the pipe bashed the back of his skull, and Hans tumbled to the ground and lay still. The three attackers looked at each other, evil grins spreading across their faces.
The leader with the tattooed neck had been holding his knife so he could slash and cut upwards. Now he casually flipped the knife into the air and grabbed it in a stabbing hold. Kneeling down next to Hans, he raised the blade to stab down and complete the kill.