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by Darrell Bain
Category: Science Fiction/Suspense/Thriller
Description: Darrell Bain's finest novel to date. Savage Survival is a coming of age novel like no other and Lyda Brightner is a character you'll remember forever. Raped at eleven. Forced to kill. Subjected to suffering in one brutal and horrible environment after another, with no parents or guardian to protect her as she grows up. Millions of earthmen have been captured by invulnerable aliens and are being put through the strangest and most terrifying survival tests ever imagined. Young Lyda Brightner's first experience after being thrown into the midst of undisciplined humans is horrible enough, but she doesn't know that the trials are just beginning. She doesn't know that only a few hundred of the millions of captives will live through the vicious and cruel winnowing process. Again and again as she grows into a young woman, she has to call on the only resources she has available: her own innate bravery, her quick mind, her unwavering belief in the goodness of the majority of humans and ultimately, an enduring hope that one day she will find someone to love. But even if she lives through all this, she will still have to face the final question. What do the aliens have in mind for the few survivors?
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, 2005 DDP
eBookwise Release Date: April 2005
258 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [352 KB]
Reading time: 247-346 min.
Her parents were scared; horribly scared. Eleven year old Lyda Brightner could tell that much by how white and strained their faces were, by the way they tried to keep her away from the viewscreen in the den where they had been practically living for the last few days. They would only leave for short breaks and even then, wear the earpieces so they could follow what was happening. It was a war, an invasion; she was pretty sure of that from the little snippets of news she had heard when peeking into the den, and from conversations with the few friends she had been able to talk to. Mostly, the phone lines were always either busy or made strange crackling sounds like bacon grease popping in a hot skillet. It must be bad from the way Mom and Dad are acting, she thought. And there had been no school this morning; that was the real signal, because always before, there was an explanation, like a tornado or storms or a terrorist threat. This time, nothing had been said except 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 on her computer or on the phone.
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, like in Watership Down , she thought. 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 what she was seeing; she thought Mom and Dad must be watching a monster movie. Bright silvery spiderlikeconstructs 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; the ants were people trying to avoid…being eaten? That was what it looked like at first, but then she realized the people were being herded, with the spider things acting like cowboys on horses, or sheepdogs working a flock. The silvery spiders were nothing to fool with; she could see that. Anyone who tried to fight or run the wrong way was killed gruesomely by mandiblelike appendages that pierced bodies like giant needles stitching clothes 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. 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? The mandibles of the creature moved constantly, opening and closing as if seeking something to bite, though nothing except humans who chose to fight ever came within their grasp. Other appendages waved in a roving pattern below the mandibles, touching the ground, dead bodies, ruined vehicles, poking into shattered doorways. Whiskers, she thought. They're like the whiskers of a cat, telling it what's near.
The whole scene was awesomely frightening, but so fascinating,she couldn't look away. Lyda thought it must be real, not only because of the way her parents were staring so fearfully, but because the colors weren'tas bright as animations and the movements of the spidery beings and the humans were too smooth and natural looking. But if it were real… "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." "This is nothing someone your age should see," Dad said sternly. He cut off the sound and picture, leaving only the earpiece to provide him a feed.
"Your dad is right, honey," Mom said. "It isn't necessary for you to see such...such…" "It's real, isn't it?" Lyda asked, already knowing it was. She loved her parents. Sometimes they were even cool, but they still tried to treat her like a little girl and she wasn't that little anymore. She was eleven now, going on twelve.
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 real, but we're not in any danger yet. Maybe the military will…" His voice trailed off.
Lyda thought 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. "What are those spider thingys? Are they aliens from outer space?" 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?" Mom raised her head. "They won't come here. Will they, Bruce? Why doesn't the military 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 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.
"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 a gurgling sound Lyda 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, 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 we need to tell her." "Tell me 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 want her to beexposed to graphic violence or sex yet. They thought she was too young. Lyda always felt guilty when the subject came up. She had already seen plenty; little flash drives and printouts from books passed around from kid to kid; images on her cell phone; movies at her friends' homes 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 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. We've seen images 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 Lydawho sighed. Finally, she was going to find out exactly what was happening!
• • •
Bruce Brightner thought about how much he should tell Lyda. He realized that both he and Elaine were perhaps a bit overprotective of their only child, but it was perfectly natural.She was a prodigy, absorbing knowledge almost effortlessly. Even so, she was still an eleven year old girl, emotionally immature as yet, he thought, even though she had more sense than most girls her age. The other reason he kept a close watch on her was because she was beautiful; at least he thought so. Her startlingly red hair fell in natural wavy curls to below her shoulders. She was bereft of the frecklesher mother was prone to, leaving her with an even-featured elfin face that would become regal and extremely attractive as she changed from a girl to a young woman.
"Sweetheart, all of earth has been invaded by beings from somewhere else. I guess from outer space is as good a description as any. We don't think those spider things are the actual aliens; they're simply mechanical constructs being used to round up humans and perhaps for other purposes we don't know as of yet." "Did the spiders ruin all those buildings, or did the aliens do it?" Lyda wanted to know.
"It wasn't them; we were the ones who caused most of the damage. We tried bombing them, but bombs don't seem to harm them at all. They don't seem to care what we do, unless we oppose them. It appears that it's live humansthey want." "Bruce…" Elaine warned.
"Well, it's the truth. That's all they've done so far, simply used their mechanicals to round up enormous numbers of people from all over earth. Lyda, they herd them into cul-de-sacs like you just saw, then force them into flying machines. After that, they're transported to other locations in bigger flying things. You'll see that soon if we keep watching." "What happens then, Daddy?"
"She surely doesn't need to know any more right now, Bruce. Let it be." "Well…"
Copyright © 2005 Darrell Bain