Mission 51- The Crash

I would like to share with you a sample of a book I am writing on Inkshares. This is the tagline on my Inkshares project page:

“After a tragic, fifty light-year voyage, sole survivor Mat crash lands on a hostile alien world. Beyond tolerance, beyond acceptance, he must learn to embrace the diversity of his new home planet if he is to ever find peace.”

The excerpt is from a chapter called The Crash, a pivotal part of the story. The book is called Mission 51. I hope you enjoy!

 

(You might want to read the chapter immediately before this one, called Final Approach.)

 

The Crash

Juan stood up and rubbed his aching back. Bending over all day in the hot Nevada sun took its toll, but the onions of the Moapa Valley were ripe and needed to be picked. He didn’t mind the work, really. He and his fellow braceros were grateful to have a job that paid, so they could help their families back home in Mexico. What’s more, Juan was happy to be working alongside his ten year old son.

His son Juanito was working a few rows over, but he was not working. He was standing with his hand on his forehead shielding the midday sun, looking east into the distance. “Mira, Papi!” Juanito pointed to a bright circle of light just over the horizon, becoming brighter by the second. “Qué es eso?”

Juan had no idea what a light like that could be. “No sé,” he replied, now also intrigued by the bright light that seemed to be moving, drawing closer and closer.

Now they could see a dark streak trailing the bright light. It was moving very fast! Unbelievably fast! In a moment it was upon them. They jerked their heads and followed it with their eyes as it flashed by almost directly overhead. A moment later they both startled at the loud sound of a sonic boom, covering their ears in a too-late gesture. A coarse rumbling sound followed for the next several seconds, then faded away. A dark smoky streak was left in the light’s path.

Then they saw the light actually hit the top of a mountain in the Las Vegas Range to the west. The top of one of the peaks suddenly exploded into a cloud of dust. They looked at each other with eyes as wide as their open mouths. “Papá, qué está pasando?” Juanito asked with a fervent anxiety.

“No sé, mijo, no sé!” Juan replied truthfully. He had never seen or heard of any such thing before in his life!

A few seconds later, they heard a distant boom. Then they felt a brief earthquake, like Juan had felt in Mexico many times before.

Juan and Juanito just looked at each other for a few moments, paralyzed by the enormity of what had just happened. Then they simultaneously dropped their harvesting sacks and sprinted to the old pickup truck. They raced down Highway 168 back to their hut on El Patrón’s property. When they got there, Juan stomped on the brakes to bring the truck to a skidding stop. They got out of the truck, slammed the truck doors behind them, and ran to the front door as María, Juanito’s mother, was running out to meet them. “Qué fué eso?” she asked, voicing the anxious question on all their minds about the events that had just unfolded.

Juan ran past her as Juanito relayed to his mother what he had just seen, stumbling over his excited words. Meanwhile, Juan quickly gathered a few items and tossed them into a canvas sack. Some tomatoes, a few onions, left-over tortillas from the morning’s breakfast, a small hunk of cheese from the cooler, and two bottles of Coca Cola. He grabbed the old pair of garage sale binoculars he had purchased earlier that year, the spring of 1954, and threw them in the sack as well. “Vámonos, mijo. Vámos a ver que pasó.”

Juanito was happy to oblige. He followed his father out of the house and dashed back to the pickup. He wasn’t going to miss the chance of getting a close-up look.

As they ran out the door, Juan yelled over his shoulder to María, “Adiós, Mi Cielo, ahora regresamos.”

She had no choice but to let them go. They were obviously determined to see for themselves what this was all about. “Cuídense!”

Juan and his elated son drove west on 168 until it dead-ended on Highway 93. They then zig-zagged along a network of paved and unpaved roads, keeping a generally northwest direction to the mountain, which was still surrounded by a cloud of settling dust.

Two hours later, they finally reached the base of the mountain and drove up as far as the dirt road could take them. They ran up towards the defect on the top of the mountain, until they were too short of  breath. They walked the rest of the way, as fast as their legs and lungs allowed.

Finally they reached the top of a ridge, very close to their destination. Through the binoculars they could see a depression at the top of the next ridge, where the last of the dust continued to fall. There were large rocks to the west of the depression, obviously part of the shattered mountain top. But whatever caused it did not stop there. From their vantage point, they could see down into the lower lands of the valley to the west. Juan pointed out to Juanito a long, dark streak in the land, heading northwest, in the direction of whatever it was they saw flash by overhead. In the far distance, they could see a rising tower of black, billowing smoke. They looked at each other, worried and wildly curious at the same time. Juanito pointed, “Vámos, Papi. Yá!”

With renewed energy, they raced back down to the truck and worked their way to the other side of the mountains, and to the valley below. Now they headed further northwest, toward the smoke. The terrain became rougher. Even the dirt road disappeared, but the old truck managed the dips and bumps of the open desert well enough. They stopped when they encountered what they had thought was the simple dark streak on the land. They were surprised to see it was not just a streak, it was a long gouge. It started somewhere back to the southeast, where it became gradually more shallow and indistinct. Looking to the northwest, the gouge became darker and deeper, until it ended at the place from where the black smoke was emanating. They noticed bits and pieces of deformed metal dotting the area along both sides of the dark gouge. Each of these pieces were also spewing a bit of black smoke, and some of them were still glowing red hot.

The truck bounced along the rough terrain until it could go no further. Juan guessed they were two kilometers from the crash site. He was sure now. It had to be a crash. It had to be a jet, he thought.  They grabbed their sacks and trudged the final distance on foot.

Juanito pointed out more and more of the metalic debris as they approached the crash site. “Mira, Papi,” he said to Juan, who was now hurrying ahead and did not look back. Juanito picked up the object that had grabbed his attention. It was a rectangular slab of metal, still warm, roughly the size of a book. It didn’t weigh much. It had a triangular indentation toward the bottom and the rest had a shiny dark mirrored surface. He liked the look and feel of it, so he threw it into his sack and ran to catch up with his father.

And there it was! They had finally reached the source of the rising black smoke, coming from a large gaping hole in the ground, where the dark linear gouge ended. At the far end of the hole, a fire was still burning. It gave off a tremendous heat that did not allow them to get much closer. Juan used his binoculars to get as good a view as he might. Amidst the smoke, the flames, and the heat distortion, he could see a large hunk of dark metal. That’s where the fire was coming from. And then he stopped cold! On the far side of the hole, he thought he saw glimpses of someone, or something, trying to crawl away.

“Dios mio!” Juan exclaimed, making a hurried sign of the cross.

The dash back to the truck, back over the mountain, and back to the ranch, was fueled by anxiety and panic. It was dark by the time they finally returned. Juan stopped the pickup at the big house, where he desperately pounded on El Patrón’s front door. El Patrón had the only telephone on the ranch. Juan could hardly get his words out. “La policía. Lláme ustéd a la policía!”

By then, the local police had gotten several reports of the flash and the loud noises. Booms. Rumbles. Earthquakes. El Patrón hung up the phone and turned to the anxiously waiting Juan. “Mañana,” he said. “They’ll check it out mañana.”

“Pero el piloto! Para mañana estará muerto!” Juan argued in vain.

The following morning, a local police officer arrived at the scene. The ground was warm, but the smoke had nearly died out. He made note of the large hunk of metal. “Aircraft,” he reported. He made note of the person who had crawled out of the charred hole, now lying motionless at the far edge. “Dead. No one could have survived this,” he thought, reasonably.

The officer walked slowly back to his car, in no apparent hurry. “The show’s over,” he said to the handful of people who had also braved the rough terrain to see for themselves. He knew, though, that this was clearly out of his pay grade, especially with a death. “This show’s not over,” he thought to himself. He radioed the LVPD for help.

Over the next two days, there was escalating activity at the crash site. A large area was blocked off to the curious general public who were collecting bits and pieces of the fallen aircraft. Despite the road blocks, people were finding their way to the crash site. A few days later, armed guards were posted around the vicinity of the crash site, day and night.

After that, the investigation really picked up speed. The mayor was called, who called the governor, who called a senator, who called his contact at the Pentagon, who called the President of the United States. President Eisenhower was told, “This was no jet. And this pilot is no person.”

The National Guard was deployed to the crash site. A very large area was now strictly off limits to all civilians. The U.S Army Corps of Engineers quickly developed an extensive compound, and erected a fence around a wide perimeter, encompassing the old Groom Lake Air Force airfield.  In April of 1955, the U.S. Air Force now claimed the general area to be a test site for military aircraft. For some reason, the C.I.A. became involved, shrouding the entire project in utmost secrecy. Planes did start flying in and out of the area, for reasons unknown.

At some point, an unceremonious  sign appeared on the front gate of the compound, some distance away from the entrance off Highway 375 near Rachel, NV. The sign read simply, Area 51.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

I hope you enjoyed that snippet from the book! If so, please consider a pre-order to help get Mission 51 off the ground! You can get your pre-order at Inkshares here.

Thank you for reading! 🙂

Mission 51 on Inkshares

I am so happy to have discovered a new book publishing house, Inkshares. It came to me through an unlikely source. I dabble in startup company investing. A few weeks ago I received notification that Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran had obtained an allocation of a funding round for a startup company called Inkshares, and had opened it up for investors on AngelList. The bio on this publishing company was right up my writing alley.

Inkshares is a startup publishing house that like most successful startup companies has found a way to deploy new tech into an industry with an older way of doing things. Traditional publishers have their way of identifying potentially successful writers and projects, and then taking a chance on them with publishing contracts and the associated investment that goes into those contracts. They provide services such as editing, proofreading, layout, printing, marketing, and distribution. All of that costs money, and it is basically a risk for them as there is usually no guarantee that the book will be successful.

Inkshares uses newer technologies to mitigate that risk. It works through their elegant online interface, where authors can start their project, upload samples of the project, and promote it to readers and other authors on the system. It also has a built-in interface with Facebook, Twitter and email, making it easy for authors to promote their work via social media.

The heart of the Inkshares system, though, is their pre-order system. When the project is being set up, Inkshares asks several questions. The title and genre is established. The length of the book is estimated, and therefore the cost of the book is estimated. A temporary book cover is assigned to the project. The idea is to then “pitch” and promote the project via Inkshares itself and through one’s social media contacts to obtain enough pre-orders to merit an Inkshares publishing contract. The goal is 250 pre-orders for their “light publishing,” and 750 pre-orders for the full-tilt boogie. That is how Inkshares identifies projects that are more likely to sell, which means more likely for their investment in the author/project to pay off. Also, if a project reaches the 250 pre-order threshold and the publishing contract is made, Inkshares uses the pre-order money to help defray the publishing costs. Crowdfunding for book publishing! Brilliant!

As an author who has self-published, this sounds wonderful! The readership I can reach through self-publishing is limited. There is nothing like a formal contract through a full-fledged publishing house. Yet those contracts are exceedingly rare compared to the number of authors out there. And I’m talking about authors with true dedication and talent, with interesting stories to tell.

So I have started my own project on Inkshares. It is a story I have been developing in my head for years now. It is in the science fiction genre, and specifically in the sub-genre Inkshares calls a “space opera.” The title of the book is Mission 51. I have already uploaded three sections of the book, and will upload more. I have my first few pre-orders and am very excited to push on with my project and hopefully reach the 250 pre-orders required for obtaining Inkshare’s publishing services.

Even if you are not an author, consider visiting Inkshares.com and checking out the amazing talent that is on display. “Follow” projects and “follow” authors. Simply following them is totally free, and you will get updates on the project while it is in “funding.” You can even participate in the project by making comments and critiques.

Better yet, support your favorite Inkshares projects with pre-orders. If you are a reader, you will be a part of the project as it evolves, throughout the development of the project. You will eventually get the book and it’s perks, according to the level of pre-order you have purchased. If the project does not reach 250 pre-orders, you will get your money back.

As you explore Inkshares I hope you look specifically for Mission 51, and that you support it and me with a pre-order. I would truly appreciate your involvement and your support! 🙂

Dona Nobis Pacem 2015

It’s that time of year again, the gathering of kindred spirits from all over the world, promoting the idea that we can all live together in peace.

This year I am grateful for so many people that have taught me and helped me along the way, impossible to name them all. I will name my parents, who are in their mid-eighties, and still lighting the way for the younger generations, now for their great-grandchildren. I will name my four children, who give meaning to my very existence. And I’ll name Princess Gail, who selflessly provides me with joy, a harmonious partnership, order, and a sense of peace I have never felt before she came into my life.

A special thanks today to my friend Dawn, who actually put together my peace globe this year. I procrastinated myself out of time. I gave her my ideas, and she created a globe much nicer than what I could have done. Thank you, Dawn!

Peace to all who visit this lonely blog, and even to those who don’t. Peace on Mimi’s Blogblast4Peace day, and on every other day of the year. Peace to you and to your friends, family, and even to those who aren’t. Peace to you at this very moment, and at as many moments as possible. May you be blessed with many such moments of peace, and more importantly may you be the source and instigator of peace in your corner of the world.

And thank you, Mimi, for this beautiful celebration! You bring us together to focus on this wonderful ideal. Peace!

Peace Globe 2015

Elk Knob State Park

Elk Knob State Park

Gail and I went with our Forsyth County Audubon bird group to Elk Knob State Park in the North Carolina mountains. We went specifically to look for the Golden-winged Warbler. We were in the right spot, hearing our target warbler on several occasions. But we never quite laid eyes on one. We did see or hear several other warblers, too, including Ovenbird, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, and Common Yellowthroat. Other fun mountain birds included Least Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, and Veery. All told, we finished with 24 species, which is not a big day as far as counts go, but it was a FUN day! We had a nice group on a nice day at a beautiful place!

Here is a pic Gail took of the Chestnut-sided Warbler:

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Indigo Buntings are always cool to see:

Indigo Bunting

Then we decided to take a hike all the way to the top of Elk Knob, an elevation of 5,520 feet.

We encountered this deer along the way. She stayed surprisingly close for quite a while. I wonder if she wasn’t protecting a little one somewhere close by.

at Elk Knob

And at the top, we were rewarded with these amazing views!

Princess Gail at Elk Knob State Park

Gail at Elk Knob

Man, did we get a workout, too! According to our FitBits, we finished with over 15,000 steps, or about 7.5 mountain miles, and credit for 111 flights of stairs!

We are so grateful to be able to enjoy things like this. I hope we can keep doing it for a very long time! 🙂

view from Elk Knob

First Backyard Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Despite the blizzard conditions up north this year, we had not had a flake of snow until today. We are having a few flakes now. Cold weather and snow bring the birds out to our feeders. Among our many visitors today, of 21 species, we saw our first backyard Ruby-crowned Kinglet!

Not the sharpest picture, but the one that shows the ruby crown best:

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Eastern Bluebirds:

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A Carolina Chickadee, a Brown-headed Nuthatch, and the Ruby-crowned Kinglet:

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The Nuthatch and the Kinglet:

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A Downy Woodpecker:

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From the top down, an Eastern Bluebird, a Dark-eyed Junco, a Pine Warbler, and a Carolina Wren:

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Great bird-time at our house today! 😀

No resolutions for 2015

For some reason I am not motivated to even think about a New Year’s resolution for 2015. Sure, I could set some easy goals, like to improve my diet and exercise, or to write and draw more, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to feel obligated to any of that. If I have a special goal at all, it is to do a triathlon with my son, Kevin, sometime after my 60th birthday in May. But I can prepare myself for that without any particular resolution.

Usually I like New Year’s resolutions. There’s something about starting things fresh on January first. But I tend to set New Year’s goals that I don’t quite accomplish. I lose interest, or I lose my motivation and energy, or unexpected things get in the way. Then it feels a bit like a failure, even if I tell myself that I had made progress in one way or another.

So this year I will not set specific goals. I do want to eat right, exercise more, etc. But I will do that day in / day out, week in / week out anyway. Instead, I will go with the flow, wherever my energy takes me.

See, the thing is, I have a lot of interests, and there is never enough time in the day to do them all. I tend to go in spurts, too. I’ll focus on this for a while, and then on that. And that’s okay. So I’m just going to accept that.

I have to admit that my looming 60th birthday is working on my mind a bit. Not in a depressing sort of way, but acknowledging that time flies and is running out. I only have so many good, energetic years in me. I don’t want to waste any time at all. I even hate that I have to sleep and eat. I really think that this pressure to live life now, while I can, replaces any need for New Year’s resolutions. I am motivated by the ticking clock, and I am motivated to stay healthy and strong for as long as I can. There are a lot of things I want to do!

So, resolutions or not, here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous, and productive 2015! May all your dreams come true! 🙂