In a city buried deep beneath the surface of a frozen, lifeless, earth, teenager Josh deciphers an encrypted journal hidden for centuries, and learns that a computer complex sealed off after an ancient asteroid strike may be all that can save them from certain annihilation. When the deranged head of the city’s Council is determined to demolish the complex and doom them all, Josh leads a desperate battle to stop him.
Targeted Age Group:: Young Adult/Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was inspired by the idea that actual historical information can be found in ancient religious texts.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The protagonist is a teenager searching for the truth, and trying to find his place in the world.
Josh Driscoll staggered through the door of the staging room into the airlock, barely able to walk in the ESA suit three sizes too big for his sixteen-year-old frame.
It was after hours – the mining robots would be down till morning, and the place was deserted. The airlock door thudded shut behind him. He was suddenly aware of his own breath. He was hyperventilating. He focused on his breathing and tried to relax.
“You okay?” Matt’s voice said inside Josh’s helmet.
Josh looked up at the camera high on the wall in front of him and waved. “I’m fine.”
“We’ve got a seal,” Matt said. “You ready?”
Josh nodded to the camera.
“Depressurizing. Opening doors,” Matt said.
Josh heard a faint whoosh of escaping air, and the massive steel doors in front of him slowly ground open.
He stepped outside, to the planet’s surface, for the first time in his life.
Triggered by his movement, a dozen floodlamps placed at intervals around him flicked on. He was standing on a metal platform about twenty meters square. To his left and right were the black blotches of a few out-buildings. Ahead, beyond the platform, lay an expanse of icy ground crisscrossed by tread-marks from the mining machines.
Beyond that loomed a translucent blue-green wall of frozen oxygen twenty meters high. Josh’s throat tightened, as he imagined a giant slab of that wall shearing off and smashing to earth, like the one that had devastated his life so many years ago. A couple of mining robots crouched like giant insects beside a large cavity from which they’d been carving out chunks of oxygen for transfer inside the Station.
A metal roof above blocked Josh’s view of the sky, and the ice-blue wall blocked his view ahead. He shuffled around to face the outside camera and gave Matt a thumbs-up. For several anxious minutes Josh maneuvered the unwieldy suit toward an elevator that ran to the viewing platform above the building.
He was petrified, knowing that if he were to fall, he’d never be able to get back up. Worse still, he could damage the suit and expose his body to the freezing temperatures and vacuum of space. The restricted view from the helmet visor was like peering down a narrow tunnel. He had to sweep his head from side to side to see around him.
Finally, he stood at the elevator door.
“You sure you want to do this?” Matt asked.
“I’ve gone this far. I’m going for it.”
“How’s your oxygen?”
Josh glanced at the heads-up display in his visor.
“Half an hour,” he said. “Lots of time.”
He’d taken a single step when an alarm screeched inside his helmet.
“Shit!” Matt said.
More alarms chimed in over the sound system.
“We’re screwed,” Matt said. “Get back here.”
Josh hesitated. He stared up at the elevator framework disappearing into the darkness above, then turned and shook his head at the camera.
“What?” Matt shouted. “They’re coming! They’ll be here in a few minutes.”
Josh pushed the button and the elevator light blinked on.
“Are you crazy, man?” Matt’s voice yelled as the door slid open and Josh stepped inside.
The alarm continued to blare as Josh pressed the ‘up’ button. The door slid shut and the elevator began to move. He felt the increase in his weight as it sped upwards.
A new voice filled his helmet. “You are in violation of code three-eight-seven-one of Station law. Return to the control room immediately.” Shouts and the pounding of feet echoed in the background.
He ignored the command. The elevator slowed as it approached the viewing platform. Josh swallowed hard. He wasn’t afraid, but he wasn’t sure he was prepared for what he was about to see.
The elevator jerked to a stop, the door slid open, and he stepped outside and onto the platform. Again, floodlights on the periphery flicked to life. The screech of the alarm seemed to fade into silence as he absorbed the images around him.
He was surrounded by a wasteland of ice and snow. Far away, on the impossibly distant horizon, a jumble of giant rectangular shapes cut into the blue-violet sky. Nausea swept over him, like the time he’d climbed one of the giant lighting towers on Level Three. He reached out and grabbed a nearby post for support as he fought to grasp the concept of such mind-boggling vastness.
Above it all was the black of perpetual night, strewn with a billion stars. Far in the deepness of space, one star stood out more brightly than the others, twinkling in the mist of the ice field. The alarm was finally cut and for a few seconds there was absolute silence. Josh realized he’d forgotten to breathe.
Matt’s voice returned. “Josh, they’re here—”
“Return to the control room immediately,” the voice from before repeated, shouting in his ear.
He was so engrossed in the scene that he was surprised when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to find two space-suited figures beside him. The closest one gripped his elbow and dragged him toward the elevator door. He didn’t resist. They took the elevator back down and he was escorted back through the airlock.
Inside, his escorts helped him strip out of the bulky Extra Station Activity suit and removed their own. They passed back through the mine control room to a meeting room next door. Two guards stood holding Matt. Two of Josh’s escorts stood watch at the door, while several others held Josh and Matt in silence. They were waiting for someone. Josh’s gut churned as he imagined who that someone was.
Fifteen minutes later, the meeting room door was flung open and several officials, including Josh’s father, crowded in. His father rushed over, his face a contorted blend of confusion, anger, and fear.
He gripped Josh’s shoulder and scowled down at him. “What do you think you’re doing! You could have been killed out there!”
Josh looked at the floor.
The door opened again. The group parted deferentially as a gray, rail-thin man with a hawk-like face marched in, glaring at the boys. It was Ethan Brock, head of the Council of the Brotherhood, and Master Foreman for all the Station. Brock strode up to Josh, glancing at Josh’s father, who stepped back, his face red with embarrassment.
“You’re in big trouble, boy,” Brock snapped. He took a step forward, and raised his hand as if he was about to slap Josh, but finally lowered it again. “You’ve stolen, and possibly damaged, equipment crucial to our mining operations, and therefore the safety of this entire Station.”
Josh’s mind was still on the surface, hypnotized by the endless white wasteland and the star-laden night sky.
“Josh!” Josh recognized his father’s voice. He shook his head to clear it. With a sense of dread, he allowed his gaze to drift in the direction of the voice. His father’s expression confirmed there would be no help from him.
“How do you feel about that?” Brock said.
“What?” Josh said.
“Haven’t you been listening? You’ve endangered every person in this Station. Our lives depend on that equipment. If you’ve damaged it—”
Josh hung his head. “I had to see what was out there,” he said to the floor.
“We’ve got a lot of questions,” Foreman Brock said. “We need to understand how you got access. And we can’t take the chance that you’ll try something like this again. You two will be taken into custody until we can figure out what to do with you.”
The escorts led Josh and Matt away. Josh didn’t try to make further eye contact with his father. It would be a waste of time.
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