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Engage at Dawn: First Contact

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Engage at Dawn: First Contact is an exciting and engaging, action-packed story that is easy-to-read and hard to put down!

Synopsis

The discovery of a drug-runner's derelict boat, with extensive and inexplicable damage, leads Coast Guard Officer Ben Wyporek and his crew on a dangerous mission to locate a crashed alien vessel before a transnational criminal organization, known as the 252 Syndicate, can find it.

Driven by Dr. Peter Simmons, a mysterious government agent obsessed with secrecy, the crew of the aging Coast Guard Cutter Kauai is ill-prepared to handle the mission. The operation quickly turns into a life-and-death race with the technologically-advanced 252 Syndicate to find and contact the first known extraterrestrial visitors to Earth.

For DIA Agent Simmons, the objectives are clear; he must preserve the secret of the aliens' arrival and discover if they are hostile or benign. Either way, he must keep the 252s from accessing alien technology. From his perspective, his ultimate mission is to save the world, no matter the costs.

Lieutenant Samuel Powell, Commanding Officer of the Kauai, distrusts Intelligence specialists like Simmons, and despite his best efforts to protect his crew, he still can't prevent his First Officer and best friend Ben from being drawn into the fight of his life.

Explore friendship and teamwork, in the face of unexpected and hazardous challenges.

The story unfolds as two exciting, interwoven strands: the search for a possible extraterrestrial vehicle and drug smugglers trying to recover their ship full of product that was accidentally destroyed when the alien ship materialized near it in waters off Key West. As I had previously read the prequel to this book, Vis Major, I knew some of what to expect in the extraterrestrial plotline, and I almost squealed with delight when the "old beachcomber" and shack finally appeared. The drug smugglers' plot is also exciting and very intense. I realized I was holding my breath at several points along the way, such as when the crew was working with a bomb and while Frankle and Bell were watching the path to the escape boat at the terrorists' hideout awaiting the "GO" signal.


I loved the peek inside the Coast Guard's operations and appreciate the "civilianization" of some of the dialogue to make it easier to understand what was going on. There were so many new and interesting things mentioned along this line that I googled quite a few phrases or object names for more information. For example, the mention of the 'fouled anchor' incorporated in the Kauai's crest is a very familiar image, yet one that has its own story and tradition I'd never known. The author writes excellent banter and includes some fun yet cynical and slightly irreverent jesting regarding military nomenclature.


I also appreciated the depiction of the Kauai's crew as robust individuals with lives and concerns outside their duty stations. The crew is comprised of both male and female members, and I thought the various working relationships were natural and true-to-life. I quickly connected with the characters and empathized with how they worried about balancing home life with their careers.


ENGAGE AT DAWN: FIRST CONTACT is very well written, which made this exciting and action-packed story easy-to-read and hard to put down. It can be read solo, but I highly recommend starting with the prequel, Vis Major, which is the flipside story (the aliens' point-of-view); it is excellent. I was delighted to see that there is a sneak preview of the next book in the series, Engage at Dawn: Seize and Destroy, included at the end of this volume. So, YAY! More to come! I recommend this book and series to readers that enjoy military adventure stories, Coast Guard-themed fiction, and first contact tales.


I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advance Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

Reviewed by

I love to read and hook up others with books that they might enjoy. I like genre fiction with a weakness for cozies, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, and westerns. My professional background is in law enforcement, fire, water, and environmental education. I have basset hounds and ham radio is a hobby.

Synopsis

The discovery of a drug-runner's derelict boat, with extensive and inexplicable damage, leads Coast Guard Officer Ben Wyporek and his crew on a dangerous mission to locate a crashed alien vessel before a transnational criminal organization, known as the 252 Syndicate, can find it.

Driven by Dr. Peter Simmons, a mysterious government agent obsessed with secrecy, the crew of the aging Coast Guard Cutter Kauai is ill-prepared to handle the mission. The operation quickly turns into a life-and-death race with the technologically-advanced 252 Syndicate to find and contact the first known extraterrestrial visitors to Earth.

For DIA Agent Simmons, the objectives are clear; he must preserve the secret of the aliens' arrival and discover if they are hostile or benign. Either way, he must keep the 252s from accessing alien technology. From his perspective, his ultimate mission is to save the world, no matter the costs.

Lieutenant Samuel Powell, Commanding Officer of the Kauai, distrusts Intelligence specialists like Simmons, and despite his best efforts to protect his crew, he still can't prevent his First Officer and best friend Ben from being drawn into the fight of his life.

Explore friendship and teamwork, in the face of unexpected and hazardous challenges.

Inquiry

Brickell Plaza Federal Building, Miami, Florida 0225 EST, 21 January


Benjamin Wyporek, Lieutenant Junior Grade, United States Coast Guard, hated the Federal Building. A lot. Nothing “good” happened when you visited the Federal Building—the best you could hope for was to break even. That was true for visits during a typical working day. And when they summon you and your commanding officer here to explain yourselves at two o’clock in the morning with your crew locked-down incommunicado awaiting the results? Well, my friend, you can be sure you’re facing one hell of a climb to get to “break even.”

The fun started the moment they arrived. The guards at the entrance took advantage of the absence of a lengthy queue of irate federal employees at this hour to give Ben and his CO, Lieutenant Samuel Powell, a thorough examination. Then, the two men passed through a similar screening by two cold-as-ice defense counterintelligence special agents outside the secure conference space on the eighth floor. After checking their IDs, scanning their fingerprints, and confiscating their cell phones and anything else electronic in their possession, the agents ushered the two officers into an anteroom. Before leaving and locking the door, the lead special agent said a curt, “Wait here until they call you.”

Ben was desperately worried. Nothing in his training or experience prepared him for the events he faced over the last week. Hell, before a week ago, he couldn’t even conceive of them. Sam’s expression did not help. Also deep in thought, he was apprehensive, and rightfully so: Sam bore the entire responsibility for everything within his command. After a brief time, Sam glanced over, and, seeing Ben’s worried look, his face softened into a sad smile. He put his hand on Ben’s shoulder and gave it a soft shake. “Take it easy, Ben. We’ll come through this OK.” 

In the heat of action, Ben and Sam’s decisions and actions seemed right, but many violated Coast Guard regulations, perhaps even the law. In the cold light of day, the achievements of bringing their crew through the ordeal alive and succeeding in their mission may not be enough. It was time to pay the piper. That potential payment ranged from a “slap on the wrist” in his next fitness report to dismissal from the service and imprisonment. Ben was anxious about what they faced, both for himself and his best friend, Sam. 

A muffled conversation outside the entry door made him turn. The door opened, and Dr. Peter Simmons, an erstwhile shipmate of the two men and defense intelligence special agent, entered, unusually dressed in a suit and tie, with his left arm in a sling. When the door closed, Ben stepped forward with his right hand outstretched. “Hi, Doc. Guess I’m glad to see you here. How’s the arm?”

“Still hurts like hell. How’s your head?” Simmons replied, eyeing the small bandage on the side of Ben’s head while he shook the young officer’s hand.

“Been better, but OK now.”

Sam watched the exchange with open hostility. In his view, Simmons was a reckless fool who nearly got his best friend killed and forced Sam to risk his crew and ship to save him. Sam and Ben’s professional life might come to an ignominious end in the next few minutes, thanks to the agent’s appalling judgment. Under the circumstances, Simmons’s smug expression infuriated him, and Sam’s folded arms and icy glare squashed any notion the agent had about a cordial handshake.  

Simmons turned to continue his chatter with Ben when the inside door opened, and Captain Jane Mercier entered. The two junior officers snapped to attention, and Mercier quickly said, “Carry on.” Mercier was the chief of response for the 7th Coast Guard District. She was responsible for the better-known Coast Guard missions of search and rescue and law enforcement in the region covering most of Florida, the Bahamas, and Puerto Rico. For now, she was also Sam’s boss, and his and Ben’s fates rested in her hands. “Mr. Powell, Mr. Wyporek, Dr. Simmons. We are ready for you now. Please come with me.” 

The men filed past Mercier into the conference room, and she closed the door behind them. Three men and two women, by appearance and dress, senior government people, already sat on the far side of a large table across the room, and Mercier sat down with them. A third, much younger woman sat at the end. An elderly man in the center spoke, “Please be seated, gentlemen.” He motioned to three empty chairs in the center of the room, about five feet away from and facing the table. 

The sight severely rattled Ben. The setup of the three chairs in a brightly lit area of what was otherwise a moderately darkened room screamed “inquisition” to him. Shit, they will rip us to shreds, Ben thought as he approached the chair on the far left. He was grateful he wasn’t going through this alone. 

After the three men sat down, the elderly man nodded to the young woman seated at the end of the table, and she activated what Ben assumed was a recording device in front of her. The man continued.  “For the record, this interview is conducted under Executive Order 10273, and all material discussed here is classified top secret, under codeword JUBILEE. Gentlemen, I need you to state your name and position and that you understand the security level of this discussion.”

“And gents, that means if you talk about anything said in here, you go away forever,” Simmons intoned. “Oh, yes, Dr. Peter Simmons, SA2, DIA-5B.” He turned to Sam and nodded.

“Samuel Powell, Lieutenant, United States Coast Guard, Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Cutter Kauai.  I understand the classification and penalties for disclosure.”

Ben’s mind raced as he stared at the people sitting at the table, mentally noting that none of them were providing their names for the record. After a few seconds, Sam nudged him with his elbow. “Um, Benjamin Wyporek, Lieutenant Junior Grade, United States Coast Guard, Executive Officer, Coast Guard Cutter Kauai. I acknowledge the classification of this discussion and the penalty for disclosure.”

Frowning at Simmons, the elderly man resumed. “Thank you, gentlemen. We are inquiring into the events occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Straits, and the Florida Keys from the 13th through the 19th of this month. Let the record show the U.S. Coast Guard is represented in these proceedings with an observer.” Turning to Mercier, he added, “Please state your name, rank, present station, and acknowledgment of classification, madam.”

“Jane C. Mercier, Captain, United States Coast Guard, Chief, Office of Response, 7th Coast Guard District. I acknowledge the classification of this discussion.”

“Thank you, Captain.” Turning to the three interviewees, the elderly man said, “Now gentlemen, this is a fact-finding session, not an interrogation. We need the full picture of this operation as quickly as possible. Dr. Simmons’s flippant remarks aside, we depend on your honesty and forthrightness here, and discretion afterward. Now we’ve dispensed with the formalities, gentlemen, what the hell happened out there? Please start at the beginning of your involvement, Lieutenant Powell.”

About the author

Edward Hochsmann is a retired U. S. Coast Guard search and rescue and law enforcement professional and author of the new sci-fi action-adventure novel Engage at Dawn: First Contact. The veteran mariner, aviator, college professor, and defense analyst has added “author” to his list of experiences. view profile

Published on September 15, 2020

80000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Science Fiction

Reviewed by

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