Prologue

Somewhere above the United States

July 7, 1947

“Status report?”

“Approaching the earth’s atmosphere now, Captain.”

The captain nodded, turning his eyes back to the screen. He slid his long blue fingers forward across the panel in front of him, then looked over at the engineer. “Keep it steady,” he ordered. “I’m bringing it down.”

The engineer nodded and swiveled her chair to the far side of her desk. Her fingers moved with ease across the touchscreen. “Ready, Captain.”

“Perfect.”

The spacecraft dipped, barely nudging the invisible ozone layer around the vibrant blue and green planet below. All seemed to be going as planned. Until it didn’t.

Suddenly, alarms wailed. Red lights flashed. The captain’s body seized. “Computer, give me virtual controls.” He held his palms out flat and felt his shirt sleeves extend over his hands like gloves. Bringing his hands up, he began maneuvering the ship with precise twitches of his fingers. The turbulence rumbled through him. Clear glasses appeared over his eyes, and he pulled up the ship’s status. Numbers flew across his vision. With a sharp gasp, his skin flashed white like the depths of a dying star.

“The ship’s losing power!” the engineer called from her desk. “The engine is down!” She ran her fingers over the illuminated metal. “Thrusters are losing power as well! Deflectors are down.”

“And the hull?” the captain asked.

“The hull is holding, sir,” she replied. “Should we deploy the parachute?”

“Not yet.” The captain kept his hands steady. He was waiting, waiting for his moment. The limited thrusters stuttered and choked on their last few breaths of life, sending the ship shaking and trembling, but he held firm. “Not yet…”

The spacecraft blazed as it fell. Flames licked up all around the sides and clouds of smoke formed its tail.

“Now?”

“Not yet!”

The third passenger’s trembling fingers tightly gripped the edges of his seat. He gulped. “Captain, I think it would be wise to deploy the parachute now.”

“The ship is still blazing. The parachute will fail. It will crash.”

“It will crash anyway,” the engineer pointed out. She shook her head. “Deploying parachute in three, two…”

The captain brought his hands back sharply and spread his fingers. “Now!” he cried.

The parachute deployed and the ship lurched. Its speed cut in half, the fires died slightly, and it drifted down. They let out sighs of relief.

“Is it safe?” With the gloves and glasses gone, the captain inspected the monitor in front of him. Every readout was bright green. All except one. “What is wrong with this?” he asked, pointing to the screen. Another alarm blared, and the parachute ripped. The spacecraft dropped like a stone, and the earth rushed up to meet it.

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Published by Tony B. Richard

Author of the Earth's Secret Alliance Series.

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