The Alliance (Paperback)

by Gerald N. Lund


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Product Description

It's 18 years after the end of civilization as we know it. Slowly, ragtag villages of nuclear holocaust survivors are being relocated to a new society known as the Alliance. At first it seems like a dream come true to Eric Lloyd and his family. There is work and safety and food enough to spare. But the trappings of civilization wear thin when Eric learns that the violent human impulses that lead to crime and rebellion are controlled by pain chips surgically implanted in the brain.

Eric vows to destroy the Alliance. But can he have any hope of withstanding the wrath of the Alliance's Major and his computerized Punishment Mode? And what of Eric's growing attraction to Nicole, a Guardian in the Alliance?

Futuristic in setting but timeless in its message, The Alliance makes a stunning statement about agency in a gripping and entertaining way.

About the Author

Elder Gerald N. Lund received his B.A. and M.S. degrees in sociology from Brigham Young University. He served for thirty-five years in the Church Educational System, and he served as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 2002 to 2008. He is a prolific and bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction and is best known for his historical novels, including The Work and the Glory series, Fire of the Covenant, The Kingdom and the Crown series, and The Undaunted. He and his late wife, Lynn, are the parents of seven children.

Chapter 1

Before the world ended, the place was known as Star Valley, Wyoming. For the past eighteen years they had called it simply “the valley.” Eric Lloyd removed his broad-brimmed, crudely woven straw hat and wiped at his brow with his sleeve. The cornfield he was irrigating skirted the edge of the foothills and was slightly higher than the rest of the valley. From that vantage point he could see the whole sweep of it before him—the mountain ranges that hemmed it in on both sides, shoving some peaks up over ten thousand feet, still laced with winter snows; the neat patchwork of wheat, barley, corn, and alfalfa fields; the deeper green, more erratic lines of cottonwoods and willows along the creeks rushing down from the mountains to the Salt River; the meadowland dotted with dairy and beef cattle. From almost any spot in it, the valley presented a dazzling array of color and beauty, and Eric never tired of looking at it.

“Ricky! Ricky!”

Eric straightened and looked around, his gray eyes squinting in the early afternoon sunshine. For a moment the only sound was the soft gurgle of water as it slipped out of the irrigation ditch and into the furrows. Then the call came floating across the fields again. He replaced his hat and squinted into the sun, still unable to pinpoint the source of his sisters’ voices. Then he saw the tops of two heads—one dark brown, one a golden blonde—bouncing up and down above the level of the chest-high field of corn.

With a smile, he took two quick swipes with the shovel, slicing through the thick grass and soft dirt of the ditch bank to open up another furrow, then stuck the shovel in the opposite bank with one quick thrust. His boots made a pleasant sucking sound as he uprooted his feet from the soft mud and moved to dry ground.

“Lori! Becky! I’m over here.”

Two figures rounded the edge of the cornfield, then exploded into a spontaneous and uneven race toward him. Long-legged Lori, nine years old and three inches taller than her sister, easily outdistanced Becky. Her blonde hair streamed out in back of her as her face contorted with the efforts of victory. Becky, six and destined to be small all her life, tried valiantly to keep up, her ponytail bouncing as her feet pounded up little puffs of dust in the narrow path. They were both clothed in plain homespun woolen dresses with white pinafores. Deerskin moccasins covered their feet, standard wear for most of the children in the village during the summertime. Shoes laboriously cut and stitched from handcured and tanned cow hides were too expensive for anything but wintertime or Sunday wear.

“Ricky! Ricky!” Lori shouted as she slid to a stop, almost catapulting into the ditch. “School’s out!”

“I get to tell! I get to tell!” Becky cried as she collided with Eric’s legs.

“No more school,” Lori gasped between heaving breaths, determined to win the verbal race as well.

“Lori!” Becky wailed, swinging at her sister with a fistful of crumpled papers.

“Whoa!” Eric commanded, sweeping them both into his encircling arms and pulling them down next to him in the grass. “First, both of you get your breath. Then we’ll take turns.”

They both nodded, grateful for the reprieve.

After a few moments, Eric released them. “Okay, now. Who wants to start?”

Becky, still fresh from the regimen of school, shot up her hand. But Lori, ever the practical one, said, “I get to tell him about the party. Then you can tell him about your report card first.” She shot Becky one of her I-dare-you-to-disagree looks.


“Oh, Ricky, it was so neat.” Her blue eyes danced with excitement. “Mr. Wilson checked in all our books and equipment, then we sang songs, had refreshments, played games, and—”

“Yeah,” Becky broke in, her eyes wide. “We didn’t do any work. Not any, all day.” Her nose, liberally sprinkled with a light dusting of freckles, wrinkled with the wonder of it.

“Becky,” Lori complained, “it’s not your turn.”

“Right,” Eric said sternly, giving her a quick wink. “Let Lori tell me.”

“We played Red Rover, and Run Sheep Run, and Kick the Can. I broke through the arms of Kenny Miller and Peter Carlson in Red Rover.” She beamed with a broad, thoroughly uninhibited smile. “Mrs. Crookston said that I proved girls were as strong as boys.”

Eric nodded soberly. “I have heard that’s true.” Then he shushed her gently, as she prepared to plunge in again. “Okay, it’s Becky’s turn now.”

Becky’s head ducked momentarily as she pawed quickly through her papers. When she looked up, she was radiant with excitement. “Look, Eric,” she said, thrusting her report card at him, “I got all ones except in writing and spelling, and those are two pluses.”

“And I only got two twos, too,” Lori blurted, holding her own card out for inspection.

Eric took the cards, smoothed them out on his legs, and leaned over to study them.

“My,” he said finally, “you both did really well. Mom and Dad will be proud of you.”

The girls beamed happily.

Eric peered more closely, comparing the two papers, then looked at Lori. “I thought you and Becky walked to school together.”

“We do.”

“Then how come you have six tardies and Becky has none?” The six for Lori was not a great surprise to Eric. Her immense curiosity about the world caused her to stop and inspect every new flower, chase any errant toad, or sometimes just brought her to a stop in the middle of the road to daydream for a moment or two. But the discrepancy puzzled him, for Becky was always a willing partner in such delays.

Becky cocked her head to one side, her brown eyes earnest. “Oh,” she said helpfully, “Mrs. Crookston is real nice. She doesn’t even mark us down when we are retarded.”

Eric nearly choked, then whooped with laughter.

“Not retarded,” Lori said in disgust. “Tardy.”

Becky blushed and lowered her eyes, her thick lashes lying softly on her cheeks. “Oh, yeah,” she said, that irrepressible grin breaking through her embarrassment. “That’s what I meant.” Then she giggled, causing Eric to laugh out loud again.

He leaned over and hugged her. “That’s my Becky.”

Lori suddenly jumped up. “Look!” she cried. “Here comes Stephanie.”

Eric stood up as their older sister, astride her sorrel mare, came at a hard lope from the direction of the village.

“Eric!” she cried, pulling the horse up to a sliding halt and leaping off to face them. “Dad is back. He wants you in the village right now. All the men are meeting at the church.”

“Dad?” Eric echoed in surprise. “He and Cliff aren’t supposed to be back for two more days.”

“I know, but last night they saw lights.”

“What kind of lights?”

She shook her head. “They were a long way away. But Dad said that they looked like the headlights of automobiles! Coming down old U.S. Highway 89 from the north.”

“Car lights? How can that be? How could there be automobiles?”

“What’s an automobile?” Becky asked, looking up at her brother and sister.

Stephanie ignored the question and thrust the reins into Eric’s hand. “I don’t know how it can be, but Dad is worried. So go! The meeting has already started.”

Eric swung up, kicked the mare in the flanks, and leaned over her neck as she leaped forward into a pounding run.

Eric’s eyes snapped open, and it took him a moment to realize he had dozed off again. He shifted his weight, trying to find a more comfortable position against the rough bark of the tree, then glanced up at the sun through the boughs of the pine trees. It was now just past its zenith and starting its downward slide toward the west. He had ridden all night, finally joining up with Cliff shortly after dawn. But Cliff had not given him any time to rest. They had immediately headed north again, not stopping until a little before noon. His eyelids felt as heavy as the anvil irons in Ralph Maddox’s blacksmith shop.

Eric turned his head slightly and studied the lean whip of a man, now in his seventy-first year, who sat a few feet away. His bony frame was cushioned in a small mound of pine needles, and his elbows rested on his knees, holding the binoculars to his eyes with steadiness. The afternoon breeze moaned in the pine branches above them, then softly ruffled Cliff’s short-cropped hair, once saddle-brown but now mostly gray. Except for that slight motion, he could have passed as part of the forest, a gnarled old stump clad in brown deerskin. Somewhere behind them a red squirrel scolded harshly, breaking the gentle quiet of the forest.

Eric shook his head. It must have been that kind of singleminded concentration that had made Dr. Clifford Cameron one of the foremost neurosurgeons on the West Coast—and the most consistently successful hunter in the village.

The Appaloosa mare and the black gelding tethered a few feet behind them stopped their stamping and turned toward the canyon below them, their ears cocked forward. “Cliff,” Eric said softly, “the horses hear something.”

There was no response for almost a full minute; then a deep grunt and a low whistle from Cliff brought Eric’s head up sharply. He peered down into the canyon below them, where the steep, thickly forested mountainside formed a V and allowed the Salt River to disappear from sight. Even to the naked eye it was evident that the bright orange object emerging from the gorge about half a mile from where they sat was not natural to the forest.

“It is!” Cliff exclaimed, his voice tinged with awe. “It’s an automobile!” He lowered the glasses, stared at Eric for a moment without seeing him, then swung back to peer through the binoculars once more. “And there’s another one! Can you believe it? After eighteen years—cars!” Cliff was rarely awed by anything, and Eric felt a tiny shiver, half fear, half excitement, run down his spine.

“Look!” Cliff commanded, tossing the glasses to Eric.

It took Eric a moment to find the vehicles, but then he too stared. Through the binoculars, he could see both vehicles clearly. They were not unlike the automobiles he had seen many times in books and in old videotapes, and yet they were different. Clear, bubble-shaped covers sat atop squat, nearly square bodies. Oversized tires held them well above the weed-strewn highway, giving them an awkward, overbalanced look. Though the hot afternoon sunshine glinted off the bubble, Eric could make out several figures inside each car. They were coming slowly, almost cautiously, moving not much faster than a man could walk.

He handed the glasses back to Cliff, his expression puzzled.

“Listen!” Cliff commanded, peering through the glasses again. “No motor sounds. Nothing! We would’ve heard a regular car’s engine at least a mile away in these mountains. That means—” He leaned forward intently. “Look! Here comes another—no, it’s not a car, it’s a truck.”

The third bright orange vehicle moved out of the canyon, but without the glasses, all Eric could tell for sure was that it was much larger than the lead vehicles.

“It’s an open truck filled with men.” Once again Cliff lowered the glasses to stare at Eric. “In uniform. Blue and orange, like the cars.” He turned back, and Eric watched his lips moving as he counted silently. “There are close to thirty of them.”

Cliff didn’t speak again, and Eric stared at the scene below as one orange truck after another emerged from the trees. Finally Cliff stood up. He shoved the field glasses back into the battered case and shook his head. “Two cars and ten trucks, one of which is carrying a bulldozer. I count about a hundred men in the first three trucks—the others seem to be empty. I can’t see any weapons, but the men are all in uniform.” He picked up his rifle and stared down at the long column moving toward them. “A veritable army.”

“They can’t be just another group of Marauders.” It was not a question. The occasional bands of men roaming the countryside raping and pillaging the pockets of survivors were like packs of wolves—vicious, savage creatures of the wild scavenging from the weak, then, likely as not, turning on one another. Their only weapons were clubs, axes, any other crude tools they could steal or make. Trucks, bulldozers, uniforms? No, they weren’t just another band of Marauders.

Cliff shook his head and scratched at the thick, grizzled stubble that lined his cheeks. Eric watched him closely, amazed how little weariness showed through the deep creases that lined his face. He, like Eric, must have been up most of the night, but it showed hardly at all. He seemed like a weatherbeaten piece of granite, impervious to all external forces.

“But trucks! Cars!” Eric exclaimed. “That implies civilization, industry, technology.”

“High technology,” Cliff agreed, his eyes troubled. “No engine noise means either they’re electric—which seems unlikely for any long distances—or they’re nuclear powered.”

“Nuclear? Is that possible?”

The doctor shrugged. “Who knows? There certainly weren’t nuclear-powered automobiles before.” His face reflected a curious mixture of hope and longing and worry.

Eric had seen that same look on the faces of those in the village who were old enough to remember before. He had also sensed it in his father, though he usually refused to talk about the times before life in the valley. Dipping into the pitcher of the past, his father often said, can only sour the cup of the present.

“What do you suppose they want?” he asked, staring down at the passing procession, now less than five hundred yards below the ridge where they sat.

That seemed to pull Cliff out of his thoughts. He turned and walked swiftly to where the horses were tethered. “That is what we’re supposed to find out. It will take them about twenty minutes or so to loop around the road and reach the spot where we dropped that tree across the highway. We can be there in half that. Let’s get into position.”

They cut directly down the back side of the ridge, the way they had come up earlier. In ten minutes they reached a place where they had a clear view of the road and the clearing where they had dropped a big pine across it and blocked it off.

Cliff pulled up and pointed with his rifle toward a thick clump of undergrowth. “You stay up here. That’ll give you a clear line of fire to the road where they’ll have to stop.” His face softened slightly. “But don’t, for heaven’s sake, get jumpy until I’ve had a chance to see if they’re friendly. Okay? You’ll be close enough you should be able to hear what we say clearly.”

“Yes, but—”

“Once I’m sure it’s safe, I’ll wave you down.”

“Cliff,” Eric protested, “I want to come down with you. If something goes wrong, I can’t be much help from up here.”

Cliff let his voice ease into what Eric’s father called his cornpone drawl. “Ricky, my boy, if somethin’ goes wrong, Ol’ Doc can handle hisself. You git yo’self off to where yo’ daddy is settin’ up at the river crossin’. You hear me, boy?”

“But Cliff!”

“Eric!” The sharpness in Cliff’s voice sliced off further protest. “That’s an order. We’ve had people come to our little valley before—some friendly, some with murder in their hearts—but we’ve never had a group this large or this well equipped. It’s my fervent hope that they come in peace.” His eyes darkened momentarily. “Surely after what the world has seen—surely they come in peace.”

As quickly as it had come, the dark mood had gone, and his mouth set into a firm line. “But if not, your job is to slow up this column and then get to your dad as soon as possible. Tell him what’s happening. Understood?”

Eric took a deep breath. “Yes, sir.”

Cliff’s hands, surprisingly gentle for their bigness, came up and rested briefly on Eric’s shoulders. “I’ll be fine. In fact, I have to admit, I’m actually tingling with excitement. Imagine—people! Civilization! You’ve no idea what that could mean.” Then he was gone, moving through the trees like the patterns of shadow and sunlight in the forest.

Eric watched him go, keenly aware that of all men, only his father engendered a fiercer sense of attachment and loyalty than did this man. His drawling reference to Eric as Ricky, and himself as Doc, brought old memories flooding back. Everyone in the village except his father and mother called Clifford Cameron “Doc.” And for as long as he could remember, Doc had always called him Ricky. That had changed six years ago, shortly after Eric’s eighteenth birthday. It had been late fall, and he had accompanied Doc and his father on a week-long hunting trip to supplement their winter meat stocks. Just after sundown of the third day, they had found a huge bull moose grazing in a marshy area of the forest. Eric could still vividly remember the huge rack of antlers, silhouetted against the sky.

Eric’s father had taken the shot, but to their surprise the moose gave a wild bellow, then crashed away into the brush. Positive it had been hit, the three had cautiously started out after it, his father taking the point, Eric and Doc about twenty yards back and thirty yards apart. The light was rapidly fading, but large splashes of blood were easily discernible in the wet grass. His father had just entered a thick stand of pines when the underbrush off to the right of Doc exploded. Out hurtled a black mass of fury, weighing over eighteen hundred pounds and standing seven feet high at the shoulders. With a startled cry, Doc spun around—too fast. His feet shot sideways in the mud, and he went down.

To this day, Eric still maintained he had reacted in blind panic, but he dropped to one knee and snapped off a quick shot over the prone figure. It was as though he had used a scythe on the moose’s front legs. Nearly a ton of raging flesh slammed into the mud and slid to a shuddering halt less than ten feet from Doc’s scrambling figure. The bullet had caught the bull just below his left eye and shattered in his brain.

Both of the older men expressed their breathless thanks, but it was later that night, as the long strips of moose meat were being cured in a heavy smoke, that Eric had started to say something to Cliff, calling him Doc. He had raised his hand, interrupting him. “Why don’t you call me Cliff?” Even now, the memory sent a thrill of warmth shooting through Eric. And that was the last time—until just a few minutes ago—that Cliff had called him Ricky.

Eric shook his head impatiently at the sudden surge of emotions, laid the rifle butt against his cheek, and sighted in on the fallen pine tree.

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