Read an Excerpt
APRIL 10, 2026
The repaired, jury-rigged walkie-talkie crackled with an unavoidable burst of strident static before the Vietnamese resistance fighter’s voice came through loud and clear with his distinctive broken-English speech.
“Hurry, my friend! They coming! I see now! Three—no, four tanks! Large number troops. Hurry! Fast! Over!”
Ben Walker cursed silently as he struggled with the wiring beneath the mixing console. “Kelsie, throw me the wire cutters!” he called, but there was no answer. He bobbed his head out from under the counter and saw that she wasn’t even in the control room. “Kelsie, where are you?” he shouted louder.
“On the roof with the antenna!” she yelled back. He could barely hear her through the hole they’d made in the studio’s ceiling. “The wind is not cooperating!”
“Where are the goddamned wire cutters?”
“Aren’t they by the generator?”
Walker scooted across the floor on his butt toward the hand-cart-mounted engine-generator, where Kelsie Wilcox had left the tool case. He rummaged through the various tools she’d dropped and finally found the cutters.
“Walker!” spat the walkie-talkie after another rupture of noise. “You almost done? Over!”
He grabbed the device and spoke. “Nguyen, how much time do we have?”
The two-way radio spurted again. “Five, ten minutes, tops! I see troops, maybe five mile away on Highway 50.”
Oh, Jesus, we’ll never make it.
Walker left the walkie-talkie on the counter and returned to the mess of wiring under the console. As he cut and restrung the cables according to Wilcox’s instructions, Walker feared his struggles over the last sixteen months had been for naught. After the ordeal of trekking across the desert, nearly dying, recovering, and then surviving the Las Vegas blitz, it made no sense that he should give up the ghost now. Not when he had finally found his true calling, a purpose that actually meant something. His college journalism professor, Shulman, once told him, “Walker, your thinking is way too existential for your own good. You need to relax and take life with a grain of salt.” Back in 2011, when he was a mere twenty-year-old smart aleck and cynic, that kind of advice went right over his head.
Now that he was thirty-five, he could only dream of taking life with a grain of salt. No one in America could do that in 2026. Not with the destruction of the country’s electrical infrastructure, the food and water shortage, the breakdown of mass communication and transportation, and, worst of all, the Korean Occupation.
Korean Occupation. Just thinking those words sent shivers down Walker’s spine. Never in a million years would he have thought the United States could be invaded by a foreign power during his lifetime.
No, Walker wasn’t about to die now. He had to get the broadcast out before the bastards from the so-called Greater Korean Republic overran the small but strategically important city of Montrose, Colorado. Walker had to get the abandoned and decrepit old radio station working so he could rally the resistance fighters. It was his job and his destiny.
On top of the small building, Wilcox struggled with the Yagi-Uda antenna she had built from scratch. The radio station’s old antenna was no longer functional, as pieces of it had been scavenged long ago for its scrap metal and electronic hardware.
For a thirty-one-year-old woman with a degree in electrical engineering, it was ironic that her skills hadn’t been in demand until a year ago. Before the devastating EMP blast that wiped out nearly every electronic device with an integrated circuit all across the United States, Wilcox had floundered in the country’s collapsed economy by working as a blackjack dealer in a depressed Las Vegas that was a shoddy shadow of what the city had been fifteen years earlier.
The strong wind was an unexpected obstacle in their plan to make a broadcast before the Korean People’s Army stormed the town. Wilcox quickly drilled holes for an extra set of brackets to secure the antenna. Once she was done, she tried wiggling the damned thing. It was sturdy enough.
She looked across Rose Lane and saw several members of the resistance cell on Main Street, otherwise known as Highway 50. Nguyen Huu Giap, the unconventional leader of the original rebel group from Utah, was busy supervising the Ragtag outfit and ordering them to guerilla-warfare defensive positions. Wilcox knew Giap was related to a powerful Viet Cong general from the Vietnam War, which she found paradoxical.
Then there was Boone Karlson, the head of the Montrose resistance cell. Wilcox spotted him issuing orders to men who had never had military training; now they were faced with defending their homeland with their lives. It appeared the team was busy setting roadside IEDs. Wilcox looked eastward. The dark mass of troops moved closer by the minute. The army must have come from Denver or some other point east of Montrose.
The resistance members scattered, taking positions behind buildings, natural objects, and piles of sandbags that were placed in the road.
How many of them were there now? Thirty? Forty? How could they hope to defeat an oncoming army?
“Is that the best you’ve got, you dog-eaters?” shouted Connor Morgan from the road.
Wilcox had to smile. Morgan probably could have taken on the Korean army by himself.
She then looked back along the lane toward the elementary school. As it was mid-afternoon, classes were finished and parents flocked around the building to pick up their children.
Damn! Didn’t someone tell them the Koreans were coming?
An explosion rocked the ground.
Screams and confusion. Moms and dads who hadn’t connected with their kids ran into the building. Others fled in terror.
“Kelsie, where the hell are you? Aren’t you done yet?”
She couldn’t worry about the civilians. Wilcox scrambled down the ladder and rushed inside the building that back in the day was the site of a popular country-and-western AM radio station.
“We’re ready,” she said. “How’s it coming down there?”
Walker slid out from under the console and took a seat. He carefully tapped the homemade transistor board they had plugged into the console. “I think we might be good to go. Tell me again—you sure our signal will be stronger through this station?”
“Ben, remember this is still LPAM. When we were using our kitchen sink transmitter, we were lucky to be heard across the state—maybe two or three. You’re usually not going to get a strong signal with low-power broadcasting. But the equipment here has what it takes to get your signal out across the country in both directions. Given that the airwaves are awfully damned empty these days, I think the chances are pretty good. Trust me.”
“If you say so, sweetheart,” Walker said. He and Wilcox had built the portable transistor board out of spare parts and old-school equipment. Now it was live, its indicators glowing dimly. He tapped the microphone. “Testing, testing.” The needles on the control board meters jumped with his voice. “Kelsie, you’re a friggin’ genius.”
They knew pockets of Americans around the country had access to repaired AM/FM radios. Ever since Walker began transmitting music over the air in the various locations where they’d been, the response was surprising—and encouraging. Not everyone in the country had capitulated to the unwanted guests who were wreaking havoc across the nation. Walker believed that in every town, in every state—even if there was no communication between anyone—there were clusters of determined individuals who were prepared to resist the attackers.
Another explosion rocked the building. Wilcox lost her balance and fell against the console. Then they both heard gunfire from their colleagues’ M4s and M16s. Shouts. And some screams.
“Oh my God, Ben,” she whispered as she dropped to her knees. “The school just let out so there are civilians all over the fucking place. Hurry.”
“Goliath’ll stop the Koreans,” Walker said.
“Not if it’s outclassed in firepower, and it is. I saw them. They have tanks.”