There’s sabotage from within and a strange virus is infecting the last human survivors of an alien invasion in Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s smart and exciting third book in the bestselling Orbs series.
With the alien armies growing stronger, Sophie’s biosphere decides to join forces with the team from NTC’s submarine. Using data from a surviving satellite, they discover strange, alien poles at each of the world’s seven highest summits: alien technology that the survivors believe may hold the key to shutting down the alien ships once and for all.
But before the two teams can launch an offensive, the biosphere must deal with sabotage from within and a strange nanotechnology that has infected several of the survivors. As tensions rise, Sophie and team must decide whether their new discovery is worth abandoning the biosphere. The more the team learns, the more they realize that Earth may be beyond saving and that salvation may require leaving the planet forever.
A splendid mix of horror, suspense, and science fiction, Orbs: Redemption upends the classic alien invasion story into an edge-of-your seat thrill ride.
About the Author
Nicholas Sansbury Smith is the USA TODAY bestselling author of the Hell Divers trilogy, the Orbs trilogy, and the Extinction Cycle series. He worked for Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management in disaster mitigation before switching careers to focus on his one true passion—writing. When he isn’t writing or daydreaming about the apocalypse, he enjoys running, biking, spending time with his family, and traveling the world. He is an Ironman triathlete and lives in Iowa with his fiancée, their dogs, and a house full of books.
Read an Excerpt
CAPTAIN Rick Noble sat silently in his chair, stroking his freshly shaved face with two fingers. He traced a circular pattern across his jawline. The unfamiliar smoothness of his skin felt as foreign to him as the aliens he watched silently creep across the screen hovering above his desk.
The video feed, recorded weeks before their mission to Colorado Springs, was a source of morbid fascination for him. He’d watched it a dozen times now, replaying the film over and over with the hope of learning something new about the aliens. But each time the grainy feed revealed little about the insectlike creatures. And each time he watched one of his soldiers get torn apart, he felt the regret any commander inevitably felt after leading men into battle.
A flash of movement pulled him closer to the screen. The horde of aliens surrounded a single figure. The camera mounted to the chopper had managed to catch the last heroic act of Marine Sergeant Ash Overton.
Noble flinched when the first Spider sank its claws through the marine’s matte black armor, but he did not close his eyes—Noble focused on the screen. He owed it to the man. Overton had given his life to save one of his soldiers. Watching the sacrifice filled Noble with strength.
There were still honorable men to fight a merciless army.
The skin on his forearms tingled, goose bumps forming as he remembered his father. The man had been a firm believer that humanity would eventually destroy itself. He had drilled that into Noble’s head from a young age. The retired soldier claimed that the end would come sooner rather than later. All that time, Noble thought his father was just another washed-up, paranoid commander. But his father had been right.
He was goddamned right, Noble thought. The corner of his mouth twisted as he recalled what his dad used to say.
The apocalypse will bring out the best and the worst in men. When the horsemen come, you will have to decide what type of man you are and if you will run from the horrors or fight.
Noble turned away from the screen and eyed a picture of his late father.
Like his father, Noble believed that all men were created equal. In war, that meant either side could win. But what if you weren’t fighting men? What if the enemy was more advanced and intelligent than his father could ever have imagined?
“What would you do?” he muttered to the photograph. He wished the man were still around to give him advice, or to see the real horsemen of the apocalypse. Now he was alone. His father was dead, and so was every other ally he could have counted on in the past. He was the last NTC commander on Earth.
Noble shoved the thought to the side. He had to maintain his focus. He needed to find the enemy’s weakness. There had to be a way to fight them.
Glancing back at the monitors he saw the Spiders teeming across the lakebed. They consumed Overton quickly. Even without audio, Noble could imagine the sound of talons puncturing flesh and breaking bone. The grotesque wet thunk of every slash echoed in his mind as the feed cut out.
With a sigh, he flicked the screen off and ran his fingers over his jaw once more, back and forth. The images told him nothing he didn’t already know. And Overton’s death reminded him of all the other men and women they’d lost. Some deaths had been expected, a sad fact of war, but others, like the death of high school history teacher Alex Wagner, were unexpected. It was his suicide that illustrated exactly how dark the world had become.
Noble scanned his office. He needed a drink. Something stiff. Anything that would subdue the memories. As soon as he reached for a bottle of Scotch, his desktop monitor chirped with an incoming message. It felt late, past the normal time for his daily evening briefing. He’d lost track of time watching the video feed from Colorado Springs.
He glanced down at his watch.
Something must be wrong, Noble thought. His new executive officer, Lt. Commander Richards, was never a second late with any of his reports. The man had proven to be the most punctual member of his crew.
Hesitating, Noble eyed the liquor one last time before hunching over the aged mahogany desk and swiping the screen with his index finger. An image of Richards appeared. The blond stubble covering his young face had grown dangerously close to what one might consider a beard, another unusual characteristic for the officer.
Filling Lt. Commander Lin’s shoes would be difficult for anyone, but Richards was struggling. The cramped spaces, the dwindling hope for survival, the death of billions of civilians at the hands of a terrifying alien species, and finally the loss of their one military ally, the Chinese X-9 submarine—the combined pressure was enough to crack the hardest of minds. Considering everything they’d been through, Noble wasn’t surprised to see Richards’s eyes were glazed over with fatigue and fear.
“Captain, I apologize for the delay but . . .” He paused; the muffled sound of raised voices crackled over the speakers. Richards craned his neck to silence the crew with a raised hand. The officers behind him huddled around the main monitor, staring at something just out of Noble’s view.
Turning back to the camera, Richards simply said, “Sir, please report to the bridge. There’s something I’d like you to see.”
Another series of stifled voices emanated from behind the XO. He turned again, this time focusing on the monitor that Noble couldn’t see, and then the feed cut out.
Noble hurried from his quarters. He squeezed past deckhands in the hallway, navigating the halls without offering the courtesy of his typical hello.
Had the Organics found them?
He glanced up at a bank of emergency lights protruding off a bulkhead. Surely Irene, the ship’s AI, would have alerted him if the aliens had found them.
Rounding the next corner, he hurried into the hallway beyond. Thick gray pipes ran the length of the ceiling. He eyed them as he ran. Like metal veins, the tubes served as the vessel’s lifeblood, carrying various resources throughout the sub. He grabbed one of them to steady himself before ducking into the next corridor. The pipe groaned from the weight of his grip, reminding him that the ship, like a living creature, had a lifespan. They couldn’t hide beneath the surface forever.
By the time he reached the last hallway he was out of breath. He slowed and tried to regain his composure as he approached the doors to the CIC. He halted a few feet away from the guard, pausing to straighten his wrinkled uniform with a quick brush.
The guard threw up a quick salute and then swept his keycard over the sensor. The glass panes whisked apart, and Noble strode onto the bridge. He scanned the three-level room from the top floor. A group of officers crowded around the main display at the bottom.
“Captain,” came a frantic voice. He glanced over to see his navigation officer, Athena, staring up at him with owlish eyes from her station.
“What the hell is going on?” Noble asked.
Before she could respond, he crossed the metal platform and loped down the ramp to the first floor.
Athena called out after him, but her voice faded against the chirps and beeps of various sensors that echoed through the chamber. The world slowed around him as he walked. His eyes darted from station to station until each console and face became a blur of colors. Several officers on the second level shouted his name as he passed, but he ignored them.
When he reached the bottom deck he finally caught a glimpse of the main display through a gap in the gathered crew. He squinted, standing on his tiptoes for a better look.
“Move,” he said, making his way through the crowd. Up near the screen, Richards wore a solemn look, and Noble finally saw why.
The front-facing cameras on the GOA had captured a ghostly image: the body of the X-9 Chinese submarine.
“My God, we’ve found it,” Noble said, studying the outline of the vessel. His awe lasted only briefly before reality set back in. A warning sensor blared behind him.
“Irene, systems check,” Noble ordered the Russian AI, rushing over to her interface.
“All systems at one hundred percent, sir.”
He looked next to his communications officer, Trish. Noble knew it was a long shot, but held onto a flicker of hope that the crew was still alive. The sub hadn’t steered itself to the rendezvous coordinates.
“Have you been able to hail Captain Quan?” Noble asked.
The young woman’s voice was cool and calm. “Negative, sir. I’ve attempted to send messages over the analog channel and through Morse code. So far, nothing.”
Noble nodded at her thoughtfully and then paced over to Lt. Richards. “Have our scanners picked up anything?”
The XO flicked his console and squinted. “We are picking up multiple life-forms on the X-9, sir.”
“Human?” Noble replied.
“Inconclusive.” There was a slight deviation in his voice. “The titanium shell is blocking our readings.”
Noble gritted his teeth, letting his frustration show. If the Organics were still aboard the X-9, then he was putting his crew at risk with every passing second. He had to make a decision. “Get our weapons system online. And patch me through to Sergeant Harrington. I want his men prepped and ready to board the X-9 within the hour.”
He looked down at his watch.
He pushed down to turn on the stopwatch function. Good old-fashioned Swiss engineering, he thought, more accurate than any digital timepiece aboard this billion-dollar sub.
The watch clicked and another mechanical sound instantly followed. Noble saw Irene’s ghostly blue hologram flash in his peripheral vision. Her presence meant one thing—she had other plans.
“Captain, I would highly advise against boarding the X-9—”
He raised his hand to silence the AI. “I understand the risk we are taking, Irene. No need to give me the statistics on this one. But I’m not abandoning Captain Quan or Lieutenant Commander Lin again. Not now.”
“Sir,” Richards whispered.
Noble looked at his XO. The man seemed terrified. And he wasn’t the only one. Athena, Trish, and his entire crew stared back at him with the same uncertain looks. He huffed and flared his nostrils out of habit.
Was he doing the right thing? Was the slim chance of finding Lin or anyone else alive on the X-9 worth risking his crew? Especially now, when so much was at stake?
Noble bowed his head in defeat. The men and women of the GOA had already sacrificed so much. And he couldn’t jeopardize their new mission of saving the remaining Biospheres. Despite Dr. Hoffman’s orders not to interfere, Noble would continue the fight—would continue to ensure the Biospheres survived. They were humanity’s last hope on Earth.
Without further thought, he puffed out his chest and said, “Irene, cancel the order to Harrington. Load two Class-4 missiles and prepare to fire on the X-9.”
The image of the Russian AI faded without a response.
“No!” a voice yelled from a dim station at the edge of the first floor. Lt. Commander Le from the X-9 stood and raised a hand, his eyes pleading for Noble to reconsider. The captain had been so captivated by the discovery of the X-9 he’d forgotten about Captain Quan’s XO.
“Trish, will you translate?”
“Aye, sir.” She rose from her chair and made her way over to Le’s corner. Noble waited with the rest of his crew in silence as they spoke. A minute later Trish paced over to the helm.
“Sir, he’s volunteered to lead a mission with the Chinese Special Forces that came aboard with Captain Quan earlier. He’s suggested putting a safe distance between the GOA and the X-9, at which point he will use a mini sub to board and check for survivors.”
Noble shot Le a glance. The short officer stared back at him confidently. The X-9 had been his home for more than a decade. Even though remote, there was still a possibility there were survivors.
Noble couldn’t take that away from him. And truthfully, the Chinese officer’s plan wasn’t all that bad. Risking one of the mini subs was better than risking the GOA.
Glancing back down at his wrist, he watched the second hand rotate. Every moment they spent floating idly brought them another dangerous second closer to being discovered by the Organics. He had to make a decision.
“What do you think, Richards?” Noble finally asked.
The young officer ran a hand through the back of his blond hair. Raising one bushy eyebrow, he said, “Worth a shot, I suppose.”
Noble cracked a grin. His XO had some fight in him after all.
“Notify Engineering. Tell them I want the mini sub prepped for launch ASAP.”
Richards nodded and picked up his headset. “Aye, sir.”