Read an Excerpt: Connor’s Gambit by Z Gottlieb

Brad Johnson is a lone witness to a UFO sighting and suddenly becomes an alien target. Risking everything to save Earth, he quickly finds himself embroiled in an off-world adventure, relying only on his training and streetwise skills to survive. While adjusting to his new life in space, Brad struggles to understand the bitter conflict between the aliens in an intergalactic war that has been waged for many centuries. Every day is a battle for survival which brings him closer and closer to the truth learning one faction threatens Earth’s security, while the other wants something entirely different. All Brad wants is to return home to his family, but not until he embarks on the greatest adventure of his life.

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Chapter 1

The light crisp breeze continued to cool the clear night air, giving Brad Johnson an unobstructed view of the night sky. Staring at the vastness of space, he couldn’t imagine a more perfect viewing condition. Well maybe if he was viewing it from the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii or in his Cessna. As far as he was concerned, this was almost as good, considering his location to the nearest town. Brad leaned back in his chair and stretched his shoulders back as he yawned. If he weren’t careful, the soft wind whispering past him and the easy rocking of his boat, Miss Lily, would lull him to sleep. Brad smiled thinking how fortunate life had been for him. He couldn’t ask for anything more. He had a great family, a boat, a plane, and a company he owned with his wife and brother- in- law. 

Brad glanced at the ripples across the dark lake. Either the fish were not interested in his new lures or the lake hadn’t been fully stocked with fish. While it would have been nice to have caught something, his father had taught him night fishing was more about spending time with family and friends and savoring the cool nights; a respite from the day’s oppressive heat. Sitting on the boat was his therapy. It allowed him to recover from work with its constant phone ringing and emails. At the lake, his mind could relax and meander through the worlds of “what ifs.” He never felt his time on the lake was wasted; his better- patented ideas came to him while just staring at the sky either on the lake or on the golf course near his home. 

Brad could have spent all night on the lake. He glanced over at his brother- in- law, Connor, asleep in a chair a few feet away with the spotlight precariously balanced on his lap pointing down toward the boat’s deck. 

Sighing, Brad recognized it was time to call it a night, especially when his “safety net” of an extra set of eyes and ears was not functioning. Their wives, who had set up a mini- camp near the pier with their children, were probably ready to go home too. The four of them rotated the parental duties to give everyone “lake” time. Tonight happened to be Connor’s and his turn. He treasured the nights when his wife Shinny and he would fish together, but those evenings often didn’t result in many caught fish, either. 

Brad wasn’t upset at Connor for trying to catch a few winks. Thinking about the thirteen years he had known Connor, this was one of those rare moments when he wasn’t working. Brad suspected Connor, always planning, working hard, was watching and waiting for something. He couldn’t quite put his finger on what the “something” might be. So, he chose to believe Connor’s attentiveness was related to expanding their business. Since high school, when he met Connor and Shinny, Connor’s twin sister, who was now his wife, Brad had known they were both overachievers, working constantly at every task they took on. Over time, Brad came to realize Connor’s overachieving was more than just making sure a job was well done. Brad hadn’t understood Connor’s attitude in high school. Over time, as he became more aware of Connor’s abilities, he learned to view it as a combination of a special type of awareness and take- charge personality. Connor’s ability to plan, along with his need to follow up on everything straight to the finish, were key components of his personality. In the process, Connor swept up Brad, dragging (or was it pushing?) him along. Brad refused to put much thought into it. Trying to analyze something that didn’t need to be analyzed would just give him a headache. 

Not wanting to spend any more time on the lake, Brad stood up and stretched his 6’4” frame. At times, his size seemed overwhelming especially when Connor, who was equally as tall as him were fishing together on his small boat. He pulled in his line quietly to let Connor get in a few more winks. He laughed quietly, thinking how Connor and Shinny seemed different when he first met them. Both of them came across smart and industrious, but oddly ignorant of common things. How he laughed at Connor’s disappointment upon learning the drinking age was twenty- one— six more years before he could legally have a beer— or never having heard of trick- or- treating. At the time he had wondered what planet New York was on, if the drinking age was fifteen and there was no trick- or- treating.

He was preparing to leave when a low humming sound began overhead, a sound similar to an incandescent light bulb filament about to blow out. Brad was perplexed since the sound wasn’t natural to Miss Lily or any other boat docked on the lake. He looked around trying to figure out what was making the sound. As the humming increased in intensity he looked around the lake again. He had a gnawing feeling someone was watching them, although the lake looked as empty as when they had first arrived. Brad was about to wake Connor up and ask him what he thought of the sound, when he looked up at the sky. He gasped. 

An airborne wedge floated directly over the boat, illuminated with an eerie green light that was pulsating with the humming. The soft translucent green lighting of the wedge was not reflecting on the lake. Brad did a double take; was what he was seeing real? He couldn’t be sure it was ever possible for light to be contained in a specific area, but that was the reality before him. 

What was that thing? Brad pulled his ball cap off and craned his neck further back trying to get a better view. It wasn’t any type of American military aircraft, unless it was experimental. A foreign power probably wouldn’t fly this far inland, as there were no military facilities nearby. He wasn’t aware of any aircraft that looked like that or could hover like that. Okay, a helicopter could hover like that, but that definitely wasn’t a helicopter. It didn’t have any rotors. From the shape and the way it was hovering, he wondered if it was even from this planet. 

Mesmerized, Brad stared at it for a few more seconds. Was he crazy thinking it might have come from another planet? He needed to wake Connor up and get him to look at it. Just as he moved toward Connor, something landed with a loud thud on the deck, followed by an intense white light from the object in the sky that shined directly into his eyes.

 “Oh, shit,” yelled both Brad and Connor. 

Brad squinted and turned toward Connor. “Did you see that thing in the sky with the bright light?” 

“Of course I saw the light. I dropped the damn spotlight on the deck. The light from the flashlight blinded me.” Connor squatted on the deck feeling for the spotlight that had switched off as quickly as it had turned on. “Are you okay? Did the light flash into your eyes, also?” 

“I’m fine, other than my eyes hurting. I wasn’t asking about the spotlight. Did you see the light in the sky?” Brad asked, emphasizing the words ‘in the sky’. “The aircraft in the sky that looked like a flying green wedge. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Did you see it?” 

Connor rubbed his eyes. “I don’t know what you are talking about and I didn’t see anything, except the spotlight falling from my lap and the light shining into my eyes and blinding me. Before that, I didn’t see much either because I must have dozed off.” 

“What about the hum? Did you hear that? It was loud and unnatural for the lake. I can’t believe you didn’t hear the sound,” Brad exclaimed in disbelief. “Are you okay? Is that what woke you up?” 

“What hum? There’s no hum now.” Connor stared at Brad. “I didn’t see anything either until the spotlight fell off my lap and blinded me. Frankly, I was in a deep sleep and didn’t hear anything either.” He stood and pointed the spotlight toward the lake to test it. He turned the light on and off and back on. “It looks like the light is still working.” Connor turned the light off. 

As the spots in his vision diminished, Brad looked at Connor with amazement, standing in front of him holding the dark spotlight. How could he have missed the aircraft or whatever the hell it was? “Connor, just look up and you’ll see the aircraft that I just saw,” Brad stressed, peeved at his brother- in- law’s rare moment of obtuseness. 

Staring at the sky, Connor shook his head, indicating he saw nothing. “Where did the aircraft come from? Which direction did it go?” 

Brad looked back at the sky but saw only the night sky with all the stars in place. “I don’t know. Whatever it was, I’m not making it up, and I know what I saw. I saw an object that looked like a flying wedge with a greenish cast, hovering over us, making a loud humming noise. It was unlike anything I have ever seen before. It must have flown away.” Brad turned in a circle, staring at the dark sky looking for the object, wondering how it could have moved as quietly and as fast as it did. Then again it had appeared with virtually no warning. 

“Brad, I’m not doubting you or what you saw. I just didn’t see anything earlier and I don’t see anything now.” 

“Could you take the boat in? I’m a little shaken by the UFO or whatever I saw.” Brad wasn’t sure what bothered him the most, the sudden appearance and disappearance of the UFO or Connor’s nonchalant attitude. Connor acted as if he didn’t believe him. Brad questioned whether he saw anything or if his brain had decided to jump off a cliff. His mind would sometimes wander, but never could he remember a time when both his vision and hearing were so severely affected. 

Connor reeled in his fishing line. “Sure, I’ll take the boat in for you. Did you catch anything?” Connor knew Brad had seen something. The description worried Connor and he had a hunch, but he wasn’t going to say anything until he had more information. He would check the flight paths on flightradar24 and use a special application he had downloaded to identify the aircraft Brad had described. 

“I didn’t catch any fish, just a glimpse of a strange aircraft, if I even saw it.”

 Brad reeled his line in toward the boat. “Why did you say that? I believe you saw something. You need to stop questioning yourself just because I didn’t see or hear it.” 

“You’re right. I wonder if Shinny and Nan saw or heard anything. I’ll call them once we are on our way and ask them. I’ll also have them pack up the camp and meet us at the trucks with the children.”

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