The thrilling sequel to Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s bestselling Orbs—when one of their own is captured, Dr. Sophie Winston and her team of survivors must exit the safety of their biosphere and fight off the growing horde of aliens.
The Organics are still draining the oceans, raising temperatures worldwide, and the few remaining humans have been herded into farms, where the water in their bodies is harvested to support the growing alien army. Humanity’s last chance lies with the biospheres that the mysterious New Tech Corporation has planted across the globe. With resources dwindling, and a new, more terrifying form of alien hunting humans down, not all the biospheres will make it.
But there is still hope. In Sophie’s biosphere, her team has managed to create a magnetic weapon that just might give the human resistance a fighting chance—if they can live long enough to use it. Meanwhile, the lone survivor of another failed biosphere treks across the California desert to the ocean and is rescued by an NTC submarine that has been tracking the movements of Sophie’s team and the development of their magnetic weapon.
An exciting update of the classic alien invasion story, Orbs II weaves together horror, suspense, and science fiction in a thoroughly fresh, modern, unputdownable book.
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
DR. Sophie Winston replayed the message on her tablet again. It was the fourth time in as many minutes, but she needed to hear it once more just to be sure it was real.
“This is Alex Wagner with the Biosphere facility at Edwards Air Force Base in California, requesting assistance. Over.”
Their mission had been a lie from the beginning. A damned rotten lie straight from the mouth of Dr. Hoffman, the CEO of New Tech Corporation—the man she had thought would lead humanity to a sanctuary on Mars. But there was at least hope: Someone else had survived the invasion, someone who needed help. And if there was one, Sophie knew there would be others.
Dr. Emanuel Rodriguez crossed the mess hall and plopped down on the metal stool across from Sophie. He slid a glass of water to her and with a hesitant smile said, “It’s starting to sound like a broken record’s playing over here.”
Sophie frowned and studied the clear liquid in a way she never had before. At first glance, there was nothing special about it. Then again, gasoline had seemed ordinary before the resource had become scarce.
She met Emanuel’s concerned gaze and tried to return his smile.
“You all right?” he asked.
“Yeah, there’s just a lot on my mind. Sergeant Overton still can’t get a message through to this other Biosphere, and their SOS stopped replaying four days ago. Something catastrophic must have happened,” Sophie said.
Emanuel sighed. “Well, then I should probably keep this next comment to myself. I don’t want to add to your stress,” he said, reaching for her hand.
She smiled but pulled away from his touch, reaching instead to massage her side. The weeks-old injury was healing nicely, but there was still the sporadic pain, and the scar that would be with her for the rest of her life. A slight twinge of pain followed her fingers but quickly faded away.
“Just spill it,” she said.
“It’s the readings from the drone we sent outside. The temperature is still rising. In the past five weeks, it’s already gone up two degrees—and that’s about to become three. If this keeps up—”
“We may die before the Organics drain the oceans after all?”
Emanuel nodded. “I’m concerned about the carbon locked away in the polar ice caps. When they melt, it will be released, increasing the greenhouse effect. That’s probably why the temperature is rising faster than Alexia calculated.”
“My God,” Sophie whispered.
Even after five weeks of living in this new world, Sophie still hadn’t fully grasped what had happened outside the Biosphere doors. Sure, she’d seen the empty streets, the orbs, and the alien monsters, but it wasn’t until she crunched the numbers that it finally became very clear—the planet, and all the life upon it, was taking its last breaths.
She had to remember the positives—the things she was thankful for, starting with the fact that the Biosphere was functioning well and Biome 1 was close to producing its first harvest. They still had power from the solar panels and backup generators for an indefinite amount of time. The reverse magnetic pulse generator they had taken from Luke Williard’s bunker was still fully operational. Without the RVM, they would have perished weeks ago. And Sophie couldn’t forget Alexia. The AI had proven more useful than she ever imagined.
Sophie reached for the glass of water and took a slow sip, savoring the liquid as it slid down her throat. “What about the oceans?” she asked. “What do we know about their current levels?”
Emanuel shrugged. “It’s hard to tell. The only way to really know is to send another drone.”
Sophie crossed her arms and watched Emanuel as he compulsively pushed his glasses farther up his nose. It was something he always did before testing a new hypothesis.
“I think we should send the second drone,” he said.
“We already discussed this.”
“I know, but things have changed. The temperature is rising faster than we thought.”
Sophie sighed. They only had two robots. One was in the field, and the other was out of commission. They could fix it, but she didn’t want to risk losing them both. “I’ve said it before: We need to wait for the other drone to get back safely.”
The PA system suddenly crackled to life, and Alexia’s holographic avatar flickered over a console in the center of the mess hall. “I’m sorry to interrupt, Doctors, but a pressing matter requires your attention,” she said in her calm voice. Emanuel spun in his chair. “What ya got, Alexia?”
“Sir, our drone has picked up some unusual activity outside.”
Sophie stood, groaning from a jolt of pain. “Unusual?”
“I think it’s best if you go look for yourself . . . and I encourage you to go now,” Alexia said in a voice that sounded almost frightened. Can robots feel fear? Sophie wondered briefly. She shook the thought away and raced out of the mess hall, with Emanuel close behind.
The sound of their footsteps echoed in the narrow passage as they made their way to the command center (CIC). Sergeant Overton met them at the door. He wore a serious face, more pale than usual, but it was his eyes that caused Sophie to skid to a halt. They were wide and intense.
What has he seen? What has Alexia found?
She stood on her toes to get a look at the blurry monitors at the other end of the room, but couldn’t see anything besides the flickering glow the devices emanated.
“Will you move, please?” she blurted, her voice anxious.
“I don’t think you want to see this, Sophie,” Overton replied.
Whatever the drone had relayed to the CIC had turned the battle-hardened sergeant into a silent observer. It was odd not hearing him curse or grumble. Sophie’s curiosity grew. The scientist in her wanted to see, had to see what it was.
“Excuse me,” Sophie said, edging past the marine.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he said as Emanuel followed her.
Sophie moved up to the monitors and saw the drone had stopped on the edge of a clearing surrounded by a forest of dead trees. Leafless branches swayed in the light breeze, partially obstructing the view.
To the north the ground fell away and dropped several feet into a dry lakebed. Moving across the cracked dirt was a long line of . . . something.
Sophie edged closer to the screens. Squinting, she focused on the shapes as one of them let out a blood-curdling—and undeniably human—scream.
She clapped her hands together when she realized what they were looking at. The drone had found a group of survivors. So why did Overton seem so disturbed?
When she saw the alien tails of two Sentinels flicking across the dirt, her joy quickly turned to shock. The humans were prisoners, being herded across the lakebed.
The team watched the monitors in helpless silence.
A tiny blue dot flickered on the horizon.
“What’s that?” Emanuel asked. He pointed at the light racing across the skyline toward the clearing.
“One of their drones,” Overton said.
The ship stopped over the lakebed, filling the empty basin with its blue light. It was then Sophie could see the prisoners’ faces. Most of them were children, but there were a few adults among the group. To the south, a pack of Spiders broke through the underbrush and scurried across an old playground. One of them climbed to the top of a slide and shrieked into the night.
The group of humans slowed to a halt. Sounds of terrified, whimpering children filled the CIC. Sophie resisted the urge to cover her ears. Instead, she moved closer to the monitors and watched the Spiders surround the pack of prisoners. It wasn’t hard for her to imagine what the aliens would do with them, but somewhere inside her, she still had hope they could be saved. She had to believe it.
“Is that—” Overton shoved Sophie and Emanuel to the side. “Holy shit! Is that Thompson and Kiel?”
Sophie squinted. Two men in fatigues moved slowly across the field.
“Holy shit,” Overton whispered again. The sight shocked him into motion, and he rushed over to the map of Colorado Springs on a nearby desk, unfolding the edges carefully.
“Thompson? Kiel?” Sophie asked. “Were they part of your team?”
Overton nodded. “Fucking miracle,” he mumbled under his breath. “Alexia, can you get me the coordinates of our drone’s position?”
“Yes, Sergeant Overton. One moment, please.”
A thunderous crash echoed through the room. The spiked tail of a Sentinel suddenly filled the video feed. Spikes swayed past the drone’s forward-facing camera. The creature had knocked the drone on its side, tilting the video angle 180 degrees. Now the team could see the entire lakebed.
There was something else.
Sophie didn’t believe it at first. Blue rods jutted out of the ground, like enormous electrical poles. They reminded her of sharp teeth biting into the sky. From their tops swung large, dark shapes. Sacks?, Sophie thought. But of what? And then immediately she knew: they were people. She turned away, blinking rapidly as if trying to clear the image from her memory. But it was too late. The cruciform outlines of bodies suspended on the glowing shafts were tattooed on her mind.
The Organics were farming humans.
Overton’s frantic voice rang out behind Sophie, startling her. “We have to help them!”
Sophie’s eyes snapped open and she turned to see the marine folding one of the maps in two.
“I need to find Bouma. We have to get out there and help those people.”
A wave of anxiety rushed through Sophie as she attempted to compartmentalize what was happening. With bated breath, she moved back to the monitor. One of the bioluminescent Spiders approached the prisoners. With one swift motion it accosted a woman clutching a child to her chest. She screamed as the alien snatched the child from her arms. It scampered away, and vanished over the hill.
“Sophie!” Overton yelled.
For a moment she stood there. How was this possible? How was any of this possible?
“Goddamn—” Overton began to shout.
Spinning, Sophie narrowed her eyebrows, rage swelling inside her. “Sergeant. Will you please stop yelling? You are not helping our current situation.” She watched the marine’s face glow red with anger. His lips quivered and then he continued yelling.
“I don’t give a fuck! My men are still out there; we have to help them!”
Sophie took a step forward, feeling Emanuel’s hand on her shoulder. “You will not leave this Biosphere unless I authorize it. And right now is not the time for a suicide mission!”
Overton regarded her with a cocked brow. “Sophie, I don’t think you understand what’s at stake here. My men. Those marines,” he said, pointing at the display behind her.
“Oh, I completely understand what’s at stake. The entire Biosphere is at stake. And if you leave, you put us all at risk. So again, I’m telling you to cool it and stand down until I’ve figured out what to do.”
Overton grunted and then snorted, storming out of the room.
Emanuel loosened his grip on Sophie’s shoulder and grabbed her wrist. “It’s okay. Just give him some time.”
Sophie nodded, her face flushed and breathing labored. She watched the sergeant vanish into the next hallway and then turned back to the monitors.
The same Spider from before emerged at the top of the hill overlooking the lakebed. Sophie could feel the tears rising in her eyes as the alien, cradling the small child between its claws, climbed up one of the poles and attached it to the top with bioluminescent webbing.
Sophie forced herself to watch, but was relieved when the Sentinel’s tail whipped into the camera once more, blocking the scene from view. The crunching sound of metal filled the room as the alien crushed the robot and cut off the video feed for good.
Dr. Holly Brown looked up from her tablet and caught Corporal Bouma staring at her from the kitchen entrance. He glanced away, his cheeks flaring red with embarrassment. She brushed a strand of blond hair behind her ears and cracked a half-smile.
“What are you doing over there?” she called. “Come sit with us.” She smiled and moved over to make room for him. As she scooted her chair, an odd sensation raced through her body.
Was it her nerves?
No. She could control those.
This was something else—something she’d ignored for a long time.
She looked up nervously at the marine strolling across the mess hall. His fatigues were snug against his body, highlighting every bit of his muscular chest and arms.
“Holly! Owen won’t let me have the ball,” Jamie yelled. Holly looked away from the marine and watched Owen and Jamie wrestling on the cafeteria floor. David sat on a bench nearby, his older brother, Jeff, by his side, laughing at the other two.
Seeing them reminded her of the role she played in the Biosphere and how it had changed. At first, she only monitored the team’s mental health, and now, on top of that, she was officially the teacher and babysitter. Not that she minded. With a PhD in psychology, she was exactly what the kids needed. Without her, the children would surely suffer from post-traumatic stress.
“All right, kids, time for the first lesson of the day.” She smiled at Bouma, who took a seat at one of the metal tables. Moans filled the cafeteria as the children dragged themselves over reluctantly.
Bouma laughed. “It’s been a while since I was in school.”
“I wouldn’t exactly call this class, but it’s the best we can do for now,” Holly said, turning to the AI interface. “Alexia, let’s start Lesson Three.”
The console glowed to life, and a hologram projected over the table.
“Today we will learn more about early mammals,” Alexia said, her hologram emerging over another console in the corner of the room.
Jeff groaned. “Do I really have to sit through this?”
Holly nodded. “Pay attention.” She watched the image of a saber-toothed cat scroll across the table.
“Historically, it was believed the saber-toothed cat died out from lack of prey. But scientists have unearthed fossil evidence that reveals the true cause of their extinction: climate change,” Alexia narrated.
Holly stared as the cat curled up and wasted away. For a moment, she thought of what an alien narrator might say about the human species someday after unearthing its fossil records. Would they explain how humans had died of the same fate? Would they explain how the Organics had finished what humanity had already started?
She glanced at Bouma. His face was emotionless. He was a marine, after all. The entire reason for his existence was to prevent the same thing from happening to humans that had happened to the saber-toothed cat, to prevent their extinction. But as she studied him—the rifle strapped around his back, the pistol on his hip, and the knife sheathed to his leg—she realized that even brave men like him had little chance of protecting the human race against an invading army like the Organics. Humanity had finally met its match.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
ORBS II: STRANDED is the second book set in a chilling dystopian world. Dr. Sophie Wilson and her small team continue their fight against the Organics. The Organics are still harvesting all of the water on Earth, not only the water found in oceans, but in all living organisms, too. In one of the NTC’s Biospheres, Dr. Wilson and her team are working on a weapon to combat the Organics and give them a chance at survival. ORBS II: STRANDED is very well written and carries you easily from start to finish. The author has a way with words and a writing style which keeps the reader engaged throughout the whole book. The beautiful blend of character growth, action, and drama will keep you riveted to the pages. I could feel a real connection to the characters and they all have distinct personalities. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to Dr. Wilson and the remaining humans. ORBS II will keep you watching the skies.
Excellent continuation to the orbs series. Our favorite characters return along with a few new ones and great new subplots! Tensions rise high in Smith's latest story!
After ready the first book and needing to know how the characters faired, I was not disappointed. The book has multiple story lines going on, but they all tie in. With the ending of this book, you need to keep reading the third installment to find out what happens to the rag tag bunch in the biome.
Really enjoyed books 1 and 2. Looking forward to more by this author.
Very exciting edge of your seat story. Well worth the cost. Fast paced none stop action. I could see a movie made from this story. One quible ... the solar system does not have hundreds of planets...
I found this book more satisfying than the first. With the groundwork laid out, we uncover revelations about the aliens and about the earthling survivors and left anticipating the next installment.