Howdy friends. With any luck IMPACT EARTH: SYMBIOSIS will be available by the end of the week. In the meantime, here’s the prologue to whet your appetite. The book will be released for $2.99 for the first few days. After that it will go up by one dollar to $3.99. The book runs about 350 pages and is my longest novel in 3 years. I hope you enjoy this little sample.
International Space Station
10:47 Zulu time
Yuri Novitskiy awoke to pounding.
He tried to roll over, but then he remembered he was stuck in a cocoon that was Velcroed to a wall. Or, as Sheppard liked to call it, being mummified for eight hours. One of the hardest parts about living in zero-g was that it didn’t matter which direction you faced. There was no gravity to tell you which way was up and which way was down.
The familiar machine shop smell of the space station came back to him: a combination of oil, recycled air, and ionization particles. Then there were the constant noises of moving air and machinery humming away as the space station kept its occupants alive.
His thin door threatened to buckle as someone beat on it.
“Go away, zombie. I just closed my eyes,” he muttered, and tried to bury his face in the confines of his sleeping bag.
“Yuri. We need you, man, there’s an emergency.”
“Tell Oleg to take care of it. I am sleeping.”
The pounding ceased, and the door was pushed open. Light flooded into his tiny space, illuminating his laptop, the floating paperback of a Tolstoy classic, and a package that had contained a Snickers–the greatest invention in the known world, as far as Yuri was concerned.
He looked at his watch, which was set to UTC, and shook his head. Why couldn’t the Americans take care of their own problem? It was always Yuri, we need this. Yuri, we need that. Yuri, you’re the only one who knows this system.
“Sheppard, what is so important that you must have Russia’s greatest mind awoken at…” He looked at his watch again. “It’s not even eleven. I’ve had less than an hour of sleep.”
“I’d tell you, bud, but you wouldn’t believe me. Trust me, Yuri, if this weren’t an emergency I’d be sound asleep too. You just gotta see this shit.” Sheppard’s lined face was split by a cocky smile.
“If this is another spore breakthrough, I am going to be very angry. You know what happened last time I got angry?”
“It’s not like that, Yuri. I promise. No prank this time.”
The prank war had begun with Sheppard appearing naked–with the exception of a well-placed cowboy hat over his genitals–riding an imaginary bull through the science pod.
Yuri had come back by playing a female voice that described how to perform a breast inspection for cancer into Sheppard’s radio while the man was on a space walk.
Ever the over-achiever, Sheppard had retaliated by breaking into a call Yuri made to his family back on earth, and had piped in a recording of how to do a proper testicle inspection.
There were the usual pranks after that, like switching the liquid salt with liquid pepper. One thing that wasn’t allowed in space was little particles of spice.
Yuri had ended the escalating war by crafting a little alien head out of PVC and a chunk of freeze-dried steak that hadn’t properly sealed before the trip to the space station. A few minutes with a knife had given it shape.
With liberal use of ketchup, he’d scared Sheppard half to death with his Alien movie imitation. The only downside had been cleaning up the little red drops that had drifted in zero gravity.
Yuri sighed and unzipped his sleeping bag. He caught a glimpse of his unshaven face and the wild, curly hair that rose about his head like a Jewish afro.
He could shave it like Sheppard’s, but he liked how it brought character to the station. Six people living 330 km above the earth on a vessel that orbited the earth every ninety minutes needed to have fun. He considered his clown hair fun, because it did not match his very Slavic and downturned features.
“We have to get to Cupola to see it.”
“It’s shuttered for the night.”
“Not now, it ain’t,” Sheppard said. “Bring a camera. The boys back home might take issue, so snap ‘em while you can.”
“Such a rebel,” Yuri said, but he grabbed his compact anyway, just in case this was actually something interesting.
They zipped through habitation, hit a node, and then slid up toward Cupola. The other astronauts would all be asleep, except for Ryu. He enjoyed his all-night research, but really he just didn’t need as much sleep as the others. As a fisherman’s son, he hadn’t slept more than six hours a night as a kid. Now, nearly thirty years later, he was functional on four, but he could be downright wired on five.
Yuri nearly bashed his head on another laptop, and pushed the computer back on its rotating joint so it wouldn’t catch one of the other astronauts.
“I was working on that,” Ryu said from the corner of the space. He had a white blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and had blended right in with one of the spacesuits they’d had to store temporarily while he pulled out and went over a computer system.
Suzie had reported some anomalies on a spacewalk to secure a loose solar panel two days ago, and Yuri had spent two days going over the systems before realizing it was simply a miscalculation he’d made. Instead of explaining the mix-up, he’d informed the rest of the crew that he had fixed some code.
“Sorry. I almost hit it.”
“My apologies,” Ryu said. “You go to see it?”
“It?” Yuri asked.
“He doesn’t know,” Sheppard interjected.
“Better to sleep. Bad news can wait.”
“What does that mean?” Yuri asked.
“He’s just being melodramatic. Come on,” said Sheppard, tugging at Yuri’s shirt.
Ryu’s eyes held something like sadness. He showed occasional bouts of humor though he was normally very serious, but now was most certainly not one of those times. The Japanese man turned his gaze away and focused on the circuit board he’d pulled out of a spacesuit.
He moved along another corridor and caught a handgrip with the top of his foot, which was well calloused thanks to living on the ISS. Ironically, the harden skin on the bottom of his feet had fallen off.
They floated up the narrow passageway until they were in the nearly three-meter diameter portal that looked into space. Just as Sheppard had said, the shutters were open, which was indeed against protocol. It was important to maintain a standard nighttime environment, so the astronauts were on a regular sleep schedule.
They were over the Sahara, with the sun’s glare shining on their home below. The huge desert extended in every direction, but would soon give way to vegetated land, then ocean as they spun around Earth’s low orbit.
“There,” Sheppard said, and pointed to three o’clock.
Yuri sucked in his breath when he saw… it.
From their viewpoint, space had ceased to exist in the direction of the moon. Something blotted it out as wide as they could see.
“Not on your life. According to Houston it’s not theirs, and we know it’s not yours.”
“Ah, comrade, it’s been many years since the Soviet Union launch secret craft.” Yuri tried to think of an English word equivalent to what he was seeing, but could only come up with one thing. “It’s fucking huge.”
Another shape moved behind the anomaly, this one shimmering in and out like it was caught in a haze. The craft was black, with long, grey, pulsing lines like veins. It was elongated, and had to be at least sixty or seventy kilometers in length. It spun along one axis, but the rotation was slowing.
Then something ejected from its side.
“What in the–” Sheppard didn’t finish his sentence, because the smaller object emitted beams of light that swept over the first craft, the sun’s radiance reflecting off earth’s atmosphere causing a confusion of refracted images.
“It’s above us, but moving. How can it move like this?” Yuri wondered out loud. Remaining in apogee was an art. Sliding in and out was the stuff of science fiction.
An explosion lit their view. Yuri looked away, because the flash had been bright enough to remind him of catching a glimpse of the sun without a spacesuit’s visor down–something that could ruin your vision for good.
“Well, goodnight!” Sheppard exclaimed.
Ryu slid into the Cupola and didn’t utter a word.
Pieces leapt away from each object. Some accelerated the short distance to make impact with explosive effect, while beams leapt out and obliterated others. The ISS was rocked by one shockwave after another.
“This is no good,” Yuri said. He had the overriding desire to rush off and do a full systems inspection. The solar panels maintained a very tenuous grip on the space station due to the nature of zero-g, and shockwaves were not the kind of thing they were built to withstand.
Lights erupted in space behind them, and for the first time they got a look at the larger object.
Sleek: that was the best way to describe it. The object was oblong with rounded ends, like a giant cigar. There were no discernible lines except for the random veins. Ports snapped open to emit jagged objects that raced away, with points of light glowing from their rears.
The other craft was much smaller, but danced circles around the first. Its signature was not as smooth, but rounder, and there were a number of protrusions like blisters along the hull.
“India and Pakistan?” Yuri said, and knew immediately how silly it sounded. If those two nations ever got craft into space, he doubted they’d start a war up there. They were more likely to start nuking each other back on good old Earth. So what did that leave?
“That is some shit right there,” Sheppard said.
Yuri closed his mouth, raised his camera and took pictures as fast as the device could ready itself.
A massive shock raced along the smaller craft’s hull and it fell away suddenly, but not before a pod the size of a sports stadium broke away and became invisible. The larger craft hovered in place for a few seconds before withdrawing over the horizon of the space station until it could be seen no longer.
Another wave hit the ISS, and something snapped. Yuri didn’t hear it, but he felt it. The station thrummed and shook.
“Not good,” Ryu said, and dove through the hatch.
Sheppard was next, and Yuri was right behind him. Alarms echoed up and down the passageways.
Yuri slid out of the lab and went to the Russian side of the space station. He floated in front of his computer and stared at the readout. His radio crackled to life, and a voice from home requested an immediate sitrep.
Yuri paused to collect his thoughts, then said something that they would never believe back home. When he was done he rejoined Sheppard and Ryu.
“Something else is moving. It’s that big round thing,” Yuri observed.
A second explosion occurred half a minute later, in the direction the first ship had departed from.
“What was that?” Sheppard yelled.
“I believe it is called revenge. Now both objects have gone,” Yuri replied. “No, not gone. They are in pieces.”
He stood stock still as he considered the implications. The planet Earth may have just been visited by aliens, but instead of coming in peace or for conquest, the two had eliminated each other from space.
He took a deep breath, and prepared to issue an order to evacuate the space station.