Sci Fi Novel first draft – Chapter 20 of Arlo

Aloha – Chapter 20 is available in rough draft form for your pleasure.  Remember Chapters 1-19 are available in the Blog archives.  Also, if you’re interested in already published works, the first four volumes of the Demeter series are available in e-book for at

Chapter 20  Fishing

Tuesday morning Communications Officer Warren reported, “Weather is within acceptable ranges, with solar winds at 420 to 460 kilometers per second; particle density is ranging between ten and twelve.  No indications of solar flares.  We’re good to go.”

“Well, what are we waiting for?  Let’s get moving,” Blake was fidgeting from one foot to the other.

“Chief Pilot Channing,” Marshall looked across at this command crew.  All eight members of the flight crew were present, but Kristin Channing was at the helm, “We’ve been orbiting, at least in parts, for over a year; I think it is time to see some new scenery.  You are authorized to launch.”

The departure from orbit was less than dramatic.  The electromagnetic field was engaged and the Arlo made one last swing around the planet, using the gravity well itself to gain some momentum as the ship broke orbit with Earth.  Over the next several hours the Arlo gradually increased its speed to 20,000 kilometers per hour.

Central Park was a popular area for lunch, with garden tables scattered about what the crew decided was the south end of the atrium.  Marshall was having lunch with Pastor Stoeber, Naomi, and Justin.  “Can you imagine what the Apollo astronauts would have thought of this?” Stoeber was smiling.

Marshall was still looking pasty, as Naomi described it.  Leaning back in his chair, he asked, “Thought of what?”

“They were all crammed up in that flying coffin with less than comfortable legroom for starters,” Stoeber reflected.  “And it took them three days to make the trip.”

“It will take us two days before we pass by the Moon,” Marshall replied simply.

“Two days?” Stoeber queried.  “That would mean…. It would take us a couple of years to reach the Asteroid Belt.”

Marshall leaned forward with a quizzical look on his face, and then smiled, “Oh yes, you went through the accelerated training didn’t you.  You obviously missed some of the back story.”

Justin interjected, “We’re increasing speed gradually as we check out systems and look for problems,” moving his head around dramatically he added, “You don’t see Blake anywhere do you?”

“No,” Stoeber looked around the plaza.  “In fact, I haven’t seen him since we launched.  Where is he?”

“Fixing things,” Marshall answered.  “The good news is that the EM drive is working fine.  The bad news is that Blake’s tinker toy design for putting the ship together is….” He hesitated.

Naomi finished Marshall’s sentence, “… is having a few challenges.”

“Falling apart is more like it,” Justin laughed.

Stoeber’s face had shifted from curious, to worried, to panic stricken.  “Are we going to be able to get back to Earth?”

“We’re not going back to Earth,” Marshall replied simply.  “At least not until we’re done.  This is a minor setback, and a great training opportunity for the engineering and mining staff.  They are getting lots of practice putting the puzzle pieces back together.  Quadrant 4, where Ada was complaining about rattling noises was the worst.  A whole section became partially disconnected and was starting to drift away from the ship.  I understand they have the passageway secured now.  But if you want to go for a walk, you may want to avoid some of the side passageways, just in case.”

“Just in case what?” Stoeber’s face reddened as he took the bait.

Justin pounced, “Just in case a hallway becomes totally disconnected and drifts away.  It would probably still get grabbed by Earth’s gravity at this distance, and eventually take you back to Earth.  It would be a pretty exciting reentry if you hadn’t run out of oxygen/nitrogen a few weeks earlier.”

Stoeber began to stand, but Marshall reached over and took his hand gently, pulling him back down.  “Not to worry Pastor.  We were expecting some of these problems.  This happens when you launch six months before you’re done with construction; you miss some things.  Blake knows what he’s doing.  He’ll have it under control in a day or two.  Meanwhile, we’ll enjoy a leisurely cruise past the moon.  Starting on night cycle, we’re darkening the lights in Central Park and using the ceiling display to project the moon and stars as they appear outside the ship.”

Stoeber sat back down.

“Ice cream?” Justin queried.

“I’m not really hungry right now,” Stoeber replied.  “I think I’ll go back to my quarters and start working on my sermon.”

“Done any counseling today?” Marshall asked.

“Nothing serious,” Pastor Stoeber replied.  “just a couple of early cases of homesickness.  The Communications Center is still busy keeping live messaging going.  They’re already starting to notice the delay, although it is more like choppiness when the delay is only a second.  I suspect things will get worse as the delays expand.  When I dealt with freshmen students away from home for the first time, the homesickness issue seemed to exacerbate for a few weeks then dissipate completely for most of the students.  I’m seeing a similar pattern already with a half dozen crew members.”

“We’ll need to find something to keep them too busy to be homesick,” Marshall observed.  “Maybe training on EVAs and then putting them to work holding the ship together would help.”

Pastor Stoeber excused himself and walked briskly toward the living quarters.

Sighing and leaning back precariously Marshall commented, “We probably shouldn’t tease him that way.”

“He’s a bit of a stuffed shirt if you ask me,” Justin grinned as Stoeber passed out of sight.

“Considering that he didn’t want to come, I think we should make allowances,” Naomi rebuked Justin.

“Oh, he wanted to come,” Marshall paused.  “He just needed some arm twisting to convince him that this is really where he wanted to be; helped him overcome the guilt of leaving his congregation behind.”

“Well, you better make sure he has a good showing for his Sunday services then,” Naomi smiled malevolently at Marshall, then bent over in concern, “Are you okay?”

“A little tired,” Marshall admitted.  “Meredith warned me I’d be light headed for a day or two.  Maybe I’ll…..” he hesitated looking across the plaza, “oh-oh”.

Naomi and Justin turned in the direction Marshall was looking.

Blake and Ada Martinez were marching rapidly toward them, clearly arguing as they came.

“We have to go back!” Ada insisted.

“We can’t go back!” Blake argued as they reached the table together.

“Marshall…” Blake began

“Captain Salt…” Ada’s voice rose over Blake’s rising tone.  “We have to circle back.”

“We aren’t going to circle back,” Blake replied loudly.  “We can’t go back.  It would take us three days to make the loop, and for what?  A couple of drills.  You have over 350 more.”

Marshall sat up straight, “What are you two bickering about?”

They both started to talk at once.

“Stop.” Marshall commanded, and they actually did hesitate.

“Ada.  You first,” Marshall offered.

“We’ve lost three drills.  They’re adrift about 3,000 or maybe 4,000 kilometers behind us by now.”

Marshall looked at Justin who shrugged in denial of any knowledge.

“So you want to go back and get them?” Marshall stated more than asked.

“That is exactly what I want to do,” Ada almost yelled.  “And this moron won’t let me.”

“Well actually, if someone won’t let you, it would be me,” Marshall replied.  “Doctor Hilst would recommend, not decide.  So Blake, why not go back for them?”

“Time for starters.  We’d have to make a 360 degree sweeping turn that would probably take the better part of a day to perform.  We’d have to decelerate rather than accelerate.  Coming to a complete stop for pickup, ties up another half day.  I calculate three days for the maneuver?  Blake scowled, “Besides, she has plenty of drills for the operation without three units.”

“What are the long-term fuel costs?” Marshall asked in a tired voice, and added, “and supplies implications?

“Fuel costs are incidental at this point,” Blake admitted.  “Supplies?  That depends on Dr. Graham’s crops.  We should have plenty of surplus with the gardens.  Water is more likely to be an issue.  This will begin to eat into the reserves.”

“Well,” Marshall spoke softly, “three drills cost us a potential of fifty billion dollars, unless we increase our planned operation.  We already know that we will start losing equipment to breakdown to use toward the end of the drilling operation, so you’d probably lose three days on the other end if we don’t go back.  At this point, I’d have to say going back is the best decision.  I think you can cut the return time in half though.”

“How so?” Blake queried.

“Are they drifting together or apart?” Marshall asked.

“They’re in close proximity.  One stop should work to get them if we have to go back.”

“Then don’t stop,” Marshall smiled.  “Go fishing.  Snag them.  Oh, you’ll have to slow down I’m sure, and we still have to make the loop, but I think you folks ought to be able to figure out how to net some salmon.  Just think about the last time we went fishing in Alaska.”

Justin jumped in, “We have riggings we could fit into a net.  I think it could work.”

“You’re not messing with my solar sail riggings,” Blake’s voice rose.

“No, we got backing materials galore from the thousands of boxes shipped up,” Justin started walking to the commissary area.  “I’ll show you.”

Blake and Justin, followed by Ada disappeared discussing how they could create a net.

Naomi stared at Marshall for a moment, “I guess it may be a good thing you did smuggle yourself aboard.  How many more of these arguments do you think you’ll have to resolve over the next few months?”

“Hundreds,” Marshall smiled weakly.

“We’re getting you back to your room for a nap,” Naomi looked hard at Marshall’s face.  “That or back to the clinic.”

“A nap sounds fine,” Marshall surrendered.

Chapter 5 and 6 of Arlo

Aloha – A reminder that the first four chapters are also available and that this is a first draft of Arlo. Tonight you’re starting to catch up.  Yes, I did finish another chapter, but in this case chapter 5 is short so I’ve tossed in the draft for chapter 6 as well.  Enjoy, Doc

Chapter 5  The Red Iguana

The Red Iguana was on the west side of Salt Lake City on north Temple on the way to the Salt Lake International Airport.  It was in a part of the city that most people avoided, and few of the middle class would consider stopping.  The exterior of the building was uninviting with signage that seemed more fitting for a pawn shop than a restaurant.  Yet people lined up wrapping around the exterior of the building during lunch and dinner hours.

Aware of the popularity of the best Mexican restaurant in city, Marshall had arranged to meet with Blake and Justin at 11:00 a.m. shortly after his flight arrived in Utah.  The interior was as uninviting as the exterior, with small, square metal tables crowded together, with the wait staff weaving between the patrons taking and serving orders.  Marshall arrived early, and was sitting at a corner table with his back to the wall so he could see Blake and Justin arrive.  He was nibbling on a second bowl of chips and salsa when they came through the front door at 11:17.  Earlier than usual, he thought, as he motioned them back.

“Well?”  Blake’s eyes gleamed with anticipation.

“I recommend any of the enchiladas.  Their mole’s are excellent.  I’m not a fan of the carne adobada,” Marshall leaned back on his chair.  “I miss this place.  I wish we could do more of our work here.”

Justin pulled out a chair scrapping the floor.  “I think he,” nodding toward Blake, was wondering how things went with your dad.”

“Oh that?” Marshall leaned forward, “About as I expected.  He’s trying to play me, but he countered my sixty percent offer with a ninety percent counter offer before I left.  He never does that unless he’s already made up his mind.”

“Does what?” Blake queried.

“Makes a counter offer.  Oh he’ll try to string us along and improve his position, but he already smells the money rolling into his account.”

“Well, it is a lot of money,” Justin observed.  The added, “Is ten percent enough?”

“For what we want?” Marshall leaned in, “Depends on how the old fox does the math… yes, anything over five percent will be enough.  If we get ten percent of the profits without too many fees for this or that overhead and we’ll have plenty.  So far I don’t think he has any idea of what this is all about and we have to keep it that way.”

Marshall looked around.  He had to be careful not to bump into the person sitting behind him, or bumping the elbow of the young oriental woman sitting on his right side.  Leaning even closer he added, “In fact, I think we better change subjects.”  Leaning back he asked in a normal voice, “So how are you doing in Assassin’s Creed?

“Sequence eleven,” Justin responded immediately.

By the time they left the restaurant the lines had formed past the edge of the building.  “So why are we in Utah?” Justin queried.

“Thriving economy, technology hub, strong work ethic …,” Blake began counting off with his fingers.

“We can talk about that as we drive.  Did you two bring a car?” Marshall asked.

“Five national parks, beautiful mountains, great skiing…. Belay that, too late in the year for skiing,” Blake continued.

“No, you said you’d rent a car at the airport.  So we grabbed the Trax line from downtown,” Justin answered.

“Temple Square, BYU, beautiful girls,” Blake was starting to wind down.

“We’re going to Brigham City,” Marshall confided.  “I understand they have some great raspberry milkshakes up there.”

“Milkshakes?  You flew us all the way out to Utah for milkshakes?” Blake interrupted.

“No,” Marshall smirked, “But if we hurry we may make it in time for some shakes.”  He pulled keys from his pocket and they heard the distinct beep of car doors being unlocked.  Twenty feet away they saw the headlights of a gray Jeep Cherokee.  “Get in,” Marshall snapped.  “We spent too much time eating lunch.”

They drove north on I-15 that was cluttered with new homes and commercial properties lining both sides of the freeway for over an hour.  Passing through Ogden, traffic began thinning out, and they caught occasional glimpses of water to their left, and fruit trees on the hills to the right.

Neither Blake nor Justin could get anything out of Marshall as to their reasons for traveling out into the wilderness of Utah.

“This is not the wilderness of Utah,” Marshall responded.  The wilderness areas are north and east and south of Salt Lake City.  When they finally approached Brigham City, Marshall turned away from the city, rather than toward the eastern mountain.  Continuing down a two lane highway, the ground became rocky, brown and desolate.  “Okay, maybe there is some wilderness up this way,” Marshall laughed.

Eventually the rock and dirt was interrupted by a tall chain linked fence topped with concertina wire.   Eventually they reached the gate for ATK-Thiokol.  Blake immediately perked up, “Is this their test range?”

“Not only their test range, but if we can get through security in less than twenty minutes, we can watch a test firing of their fusion engine.  I got a pass for three scientists.  Are either of you qualified to be called scientists?”

“So we’re here,” Justin complained, “to see the test firing of an engine system, that Blake already discards as inferior to his own design?”

“I’m interested,” Marshall smiled.  “You never know, these sorts of things often give people better ideas just for seeing them.”  Then he scowled, “But actually this is more a distraction.  We have other reasons for being here.”

They made it through security and to the test firing with two minutes to spare.  But technical glitches delayed the test by over two hours.  It was late afternoon before they drove into Brigham City for the promised black raspberry milk shakes.

Sitting outside an ice cream parlor Marshall turned to Blake, “Well?”

“The test was certainly impressive.  Better than most fireworks displays I’ve seen.  But, it is way to energy hungry.  How do they expect that to efficiently deliver the first permanent base to Mars?” Blake started.  “But, it did give me a few ideas relative to my design.  The propulsion system has to help generate speed, but also be much more cost effective.  I believe the solar sails will help give us that added boost.  But I don’t want to use them in the Belt.  Getting from here past Mars, I think we can save dollars and time.”

“You said this was more of a side trip than our actual purpose,” Justin interrupted.  “Why did you bring us all the way out here?”

“Patience,” Marshall paused and bent over in pain.

“Are you okay?” Justin reached over in concern.

“Ice headache,” was all that Marshall got out.

Chapter 6 – Follow the Leader

“Mr. Smith, this isn’t working,” Naomi complained on her check-in call.  “I think Marshall spotted me.  I told you I failed the surveillance course twice.”

Naomi Katsuki had been back in the States less than two weeks when she was reassigned to conduct surveillance on Dr. Marshall Salt.  Reading his profile had been an emotional roller coaster, “PhD in Astrophysics,” Great, I get to follow around some ancient university professor.  “28 years old,” Well, he looks pretty good for a scientist; those intense brown eyes are mesmerizing.  I wonder if he is wearing contacts or just has 20-20 vision.  Then she read the three line title of his dissertation, and the list of publications on spectrographic analysis of asteroids, Oh my god, I can’t understand a word he’s writing.   Then after reading an op-ed piece he had written for Time magazine about next generation space travel, Okay, a really smart nut case.   As she read his family profile, A very rich and very smart nut case.  Probably a spoiled brat.  No wonder he’s so far off the reservation.  She paused, Sister died when she was sixteen of unknown causes.  Mother committed suicide eight months later.  Well certainly not a bed of roses.  In eight years, Marshall had traveled extensively with his longest stint for two and half years at the Dyer Observatory at Vanderbilt University while earning his baccalaureate degree.   After that, he had spent a year at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, a year at the US Naval Academy Observatory on a civilian internship, another internship in the Canary Islands, then back to Arizona, the a short stint in Chili, and now New Mexico.  Well, it least I shouldn’t get bored in one spot too long, she sighed.

“This isn’t rocket science, Naomi,” Mr. Smith chided.

Naomi paused, “Was that supposed to be a joke?  Never mind.  I think he caught me today.”

“How so?”

“He was talking openly with his buddies…” Naomi started.

“Buddies?” John Smith queried sarcastically.  “If you’re reporting, report.”

“The target went to Salt Industries headquarters in Chicago.  He was inside the corporate offices for a little over an hour.  I assume, but do not know, that he met with his father as there is no evidence that he has any other connection with the corporation.  He took the L train to O’Hare Airport.  I did not see him talk to anyone on the train.  He was absorbed into something he was reading.”

“What was he reading,” Mr. Smith perked up.

“I don’t know.  It wasn’t a newspaper or magazine.  Some sort of report I assume,” Naomi responded.

“You need to get closer,” Smith admonished.

“I tried that, and I think I got caught.  Anyway, he boarded a flight for Salt Lake City.  The flight was full, and I had to use my credentials to bump someone from the flight.”

“Hmmmm….” Was all that Mr. Smith said.

“He did not speak to anyone on the flight after I boarded.  There is a five minute lapse between his boarding and my boarding.  In Salt Lake he rented a car at the airport and drove straight to a dump called the Red Iguana.  I was able to follow him there… she paused.  I had to use credentials again, to get to a car in time to follow him out of the airport.  I was able to tag his car before entering the restaurant.  The only seat in that section of the restaurant was right next to him.  So as you would recommend I got a lot closer to him.  And that is when things fell apart.”

“Continue,” Smith advised guardedly.

“Doctors Justin Nelson and Blake Hilst, previously identified entered the restaurant.  They were talking quite openly about the target’s visit to Chicago, and something about distribution of profits when the target leaned up, looked around, then leaned in closer and began whispering.  They changed the topic to video games or something.”

“What makes you think he identified you?” Smith queried.

“Well he brushed against my arm immediately prior to changing the topic,” she admitted.

After a short pause Mr. Smith commented, “It is good to be a bit skittish in your assignment.  Did he see your face?”

“No…. certainly not then.  I had my back to him.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it then.  More likely he was discussing confidential information and realized that he was in a public place,” Mr. Smith concluded.  “Where is he now?”

“The target and two companions went north.  I hung back, but they were easy to track.  They traveled to the ATK-Thiokol engine testing facilities.  They were on premises for three hours, and then went to Brigham City, where they checked into a local hotel.  And, no I have not placed a bug in their room.  Once they entered, they have not exited.”

“Probably won’t get a chance tonight,” Smith agreed.  “Get some sleep, and pick up in the morning.”

“One other thing.  I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one following them,” Naomi added.

There was a long pause on the other end of the line, enough so that Naomi Katsuki wondered if Mr. Smith had disconnected.  Finally, she heard him slowly exhaling, “What makes you think that someone else is following them?”

“Well, it could be a coincidence, but a car that was parked at the Red Iguana is in the parking lot at the same hotel.”

“Are you sure?” John Smith demanded.

“Absolutely.  It is a gray late model Impala, but the license plate caught my eye at the restaurant; obviously a rental with Oregon plates.  The reason it caught my eye is that the numbers are the same as by birthday.”

“Shit,” Mr. Smith invoked, “Not likely a coincidence in a small Utah town.  This was supposed to be a casual surveillance….. I’ll have a team fly in tomorrow.  They should be at the airport by… she could hear rapid typing in the background, then more cursing, then more typing.  Finally, Mr. Smith reported, I will have a team arriving from Mexico City via Los Angeles on Delta.  They’ll be in at two o’clock.  Meet them at the airport.  Meanwhile, keep your distance, but try to ascertain what who else is involved in this.”

“That doesn’t make sense.  How can I do both?”

“Just make it work,” Mr. Smith abruptly ended the call.

Naomi didn’t fall asleep until after three o’clock in the morning.  Every noise in the hallway made her jump.  Twice she left her room, four doors down from Marshalls, checking the stairways and the parking lot for activity.  There was none.

At six o’clock in the morning she jumped out of bed.  The alarm had sounded on her tracker, that the Marshall Salt’s car was moving and had passed out of the two mile range of the local radio signal, and was shifting to satellite tracking.

At first she panicked and raced to the door of her hotel room.  Then she stopped.  Close but not too close, she reminded herself.  And decided to take a quick shower, and get into some fresh clothes.  I stink, she realized as she pulled of her soiled blouse.

Finalizing a cover for Haumeah – New Science Fiction

Aloha – Sometimes developing cover art for a book is as challenging as editing.  I have been working for two months via email with the person who has done the covers for the first three books in the Demeter series, for book 4:  Haumeah.  It helps me better understand the challenges of the whispering game :o)

We’re finally to a satisfactory cover.  It’s not exactly what I had in mind, but we’re up to close enough.  Of course when a graphic artist is trying to visualize a story from perhaps half a chapter of information it makes sense that we would sometimes have challenges; especially when my artistic abilities in art are trying to make a stick figure.

The following was what I sent the artist on the third iteration:

Let’s see.  (1) the domes are grounded inside the asteroid.  (2) there are ways to walk between the domes, but they are buried.  It actually comes up at one point where the locals find it humorous that visitors have to keep suiting up to move between the domes, when they actually have tunnels.  These would not be visible from the surface.

Scale seems to be a challenge here, so let me make some assumptions that might help:
1.  Assume that the interior of the asteroid is pretty much hollowed out although not evenly, so there would be rocky crags and so forth, but basically empty space.  
2.  There is no atmosphere, so the domes are a necessity
3.  Think about the interior of the asteroid as about the size of Idaho, in other words a couple of hundred miles inside the asteroid
4.  the domes themselves within that scale are mostly bunched adjacent to each other.  Most domes would be about a mile or so in diameter.  The Capital dome itself would be three to four times larger than the other domes. 
5.  All told there are a dozen larger domes plus the capital dome.  There would be several others in the general proximity of the capital, but probably no more than two dozen.  
Does that help?

I will say this for the artist, she is diligent and patient with me.  The close enough art work is satisfying if not exactly what I had in mind.

We’re up to the verbiage for the back cover.

 In book 4 of the Demeter series, William Ryder credited with saving Demeter from an alien invasion;  building an alliance with the PerSians and now determined to set the Orion Spur free from the Ten Thousand Years War.  The first step to his plan is to build an alliance with the hostile mining world of Haumeah, that also supports the second of three way-stations between the Perseus and Sagittarius Arms of the galaxy.  But before that he has to face three unexpected challenges.  Returning to Earth he has to learn how to drive a car, meet Cynthia’s father, and make a life altering decision. 

I expect to release Haumeah on Amazon within the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, if you have not had a chance to read any of the Demeter series, the first three volumes are available as e-books on Amazon.  You can read the first couple of chapters for free :o)  Doc

Comic Con is coming to Town – SLC

Aloha – Looks like Dr. Who, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones is converging on what has already become the largest convention in the state of Utah.  This week, January 29th – 31st over a hundred thousand people are expected to attend.  This is the fourth event being held in Salt Lake City, and the first of two in 2015.  Will Demeter be represented?  Maybe.  Might be a good time go get an e-book copy at Amazon and give the participants something to do while they’re waiting in line :o)

Another of Robert Heinlein’s best Juvenile Science Fiction

I’ve previously reviewed Citizen of the Galaxy by Heinlein.  Today I’m going to discuss another early favorite written by Robert Heinlein, Between Planets.  Unfortunately, the reader has to suspend believe regarding Venus.  Venus is Heinlein’s vision is a muggy, swampy world.  Earth colonies survive, and to an extent thrive with toehold colonies on the planet.  They share the world with another sentient group of Dragons who are pacifists and I suspect look at Earthlings and wild adolescent children for justifiable reasons.  Mars also supports an indigenous, intelligent lifeform.

The story line in many ways portrays Earth like the 18th century England… expansionist, colonizing, ruling, without much thought to how they are ruling their subjects in these colonies.  They are not portrayed as evil, just not empathetic.  Nonetheless, Earth’s ruling class are the villains for the novel.

The protagonist is young Don Harvey, who has been studying on Earth, but when things begin to look like war is brewing, his parents summon him home to Mars.  His timing is off, and he is forced to decide whether to return to Earth or go on to Venus. He chooses Venus in hopes that he will eventually be able to return to Mars.  Of course, things don’t always go as planned.

It’s a great adventure story for young readers.  It has interesting lessons relative to how we treat people who aren’t the same as we are.  It also addresses on a grand scale the concept of bullying.  This is not a dystopian novel, but it does address many of the same issues.  As with all Heinlein juvenile science fiction it shows the worlds of the future with great optimism.

Reduce the Christmas Shopping Stress … at least if you have friends who love Science Fiction

Aloha – It is December 24th, and while speaking with a good friend last night, he informed me that he had not yet done ANY of his Christmas shopping.  This morning at 5am my middle son was up because he had run out of propane and his domicile was freezing.  After attempting to help him figure out how to find propane at 5am I was awake, and thought the whole notion of last minute shopping for gifts or propane is very stressful.  So I decided to provide an easy option for my friends and readers.  I’ve reduced the price of all four books I’ve written that are available on Amazon as e-books to 99 cents (the minimum that Amazon allows :o).  This is a Christmas Eve/Christmas Day offer to help you finish up any last minute Christmas shopping you’re stressing over.  The first three titles are the first three books in the Demeter series.  The fourth book is a “how to” book I republished last year on how to avoid getting ripped off at car repair centers (years ago I was the COO of a large automotive repair chain so I speak from experience).  Browse, shop, and avoid the stress for those last minute science fiction junkies, and/or your friend who just got ripped off at a repair shop.  Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa and Oshogatsu Omerito!

Fun Science Fiction Novel available for free this weekend

There is an obnoxious commercial that I often see at science fiction movies (and those rare other movies I see) for a company called PC Laptop.  The pitch man has the most irritating way of saying “Free, Free, Free.”  Meanwhile I cannot help but quote him as I remind our readers that we are promoting the release of Defending Demeter, the third volume in the Demeter series this week with a free copy at Amazon of the first e-book in the series, Demeter.  Just click to buy on the Amazon picture and you can have to first book “Free, Free, Free.”

Coming back to the new release, the following excerpt actually is derived from an actual event (though not quite as dramatic) in the long series of such events from my own children.  Enjoy the teaser…

The caverns that surrounded the lost city of the PerSian League dwarfed what had been their last stronghold in Demeter.  Randy and Joel Porter were not as interested in the ghost city as the archeologists and linguists who were still packing up records.  The two brothers had happened upon their own discovery near the edge of the vast chasm the butted the city on one side.

The young Porter brothers had led the team that finished the mapping of the tunnels near the surface of Demeter, and were taking a breather before returning to Europe and their training in the new K-17 robot units.  After three days, non-stop in the K-15 units, they were delighted to be “out of uniform” and in jeans and sweaters, instead of wearing a ton of metal.

“You can do this,” Randy oozed with confidence.

“Why don’t you do it?” Joel retorted skeptically.

“I need to control the zip line.  If it comes loose I can still keep the thing under control.”

“I think I can control that zip line as well as you can,” Joel shot back.

“Well, we can just skip it I guess.  I thought you wanted to see what’s down there.” Randy shrewdly replied.

Joel looked sidewise down the canyon.  He had spotted a narrow trail at the back of the city that descended fifty feet to a small landing.  There he and his brother had found a running cable, descending at a sharp angle for 500 feet to what looked like a cave entrance.  There were also a number of tired looking buckets about the size of a fifty-five gallon drum sitting on the ground near the cable.  Randy had come up with the idea of rigging a bucket to the cable in order to create a makeshift passenger vehicle for the zip line.

Joel looked at the cable and the bucket, and then looked at the 500 foot drop to the darkened mass.  His mind raced as he descended, Was it a cave?  If it was a cave, what might they find inside the entrance.  It could just be an impression in the rock.  The impression or cave was only a third of the way down the canyon.  The bottom of the canyon was lined with jagged tooth-like rocks nearly 1500 feet below.

“Are you sure this is safe?” Joel looked back at his brother.

“Safe as jumping,” Randy smirked, referring to their frequent weekend trips to the surface where they challenged each other to see how far off the planetoid they could launch and safely return to the surface in K-15 robot units.

Joel stared back at the rock impression.  “Do you think it’s really a cave?”

“I think so.  Why else would there be a cable between here and there?  You know, we could just order up a research team.  They could check it out.” Randy’s lip curled up on one side giving away how he thought Joel would respond to that.

Joel missed Randy’s smile.  “No,” he responded hesitantly staring at the rock face.  Then more strongly, “I want to see what’s down there, and Baron would probably send some of his favored DDF security folks to look at it.  Let’s do this.”

Somewhere in the back of his mind Joel realized he was being played.  For some reason his older brother Randy always seemed to know how to push his buttons.  He looked over the cable again, and pulled hard on a section of the wire-like substance.  It felt strong enough to hold a hundred times his weight.  Would it be that strong all the way down? he wondered.  He was actually more concerned about the bucket.  Randy had fastened the bucket to the cable in a manner that it should slide easily down the wire, and had attached a thin DDF line to the bucket that looked more like a fishing line than a rope, but Joel knew it could support the 2,000 plus pounds of a K-15 unit.  They had actually pulled a disabled unit out of a gully with that line.

Trying to look more confident than he felt, Joel climbed into the bucket, and Randy started pushing the container toward the edge.  Joel looked over the precipice with nothing but a bucket between him and the canyon floor far below.  Suddenly a nauseous feeling of vertigo swept over him.  Clinging to the arms of the bucket, he turned to Randy and started, “I don’t think…”  At that same moment Randy gave a tremendous shove, and the bucket started gliding slowly down the cable.

“What was that?” Randy yelled.

“Nothing,” Joel returned in a loud voice as the bucket started gaining speed.  He now was focused on the squeaks and squeals of the bucket as it shifted back and forth along the cable.  His fears disappeared as he concentrated on keeping the bucket upright on the tenuous link.  As a few seconds passed the squeaks were gone, but the squeal of the connection to the thin strand of support his bucket was riding on grew louder and high pitched.  He was moving too fast and he knew it.

Joel glanced up as the aperture grew in front of him, “Yes it’s a cave entrance,” he whispered out loud.

“Good,” a tiny voice came into Joel’s ear reminding him that he was connected with Randy through his bug. The bug was a miniature communication device that looked suspiciously like a small six legged beetle that was attached inside his left ear.  “What else can you see?” Randy inquired.

Joel again took a quick second to take in the mouth of the cave, and the fear returned, “I can see that I’m moving too fast and going to crash you idiot.  Hit the break!”

The tension on the DDF line strained against the bucket from the top of the ridge.  The canister swayed, and then turned to a ninety degree angle as Randy responded by trying to slow the progress of the now speeding bucket.  Joel was not ready for this and nearly toppled from the container that was trying to pour him out.  “You’re going to kill me!” he shouted.