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The Solutrean Arc

The Solutrean Arc

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The Solutrean Arc

Lunghezza:
227 pagine
3 ore
Pubblicato:
May 14, 2017
ISBN:
9781483467788
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Denali Coltrane has been supervising construction of the new subterranean micro-habitat research facility for Solutrean Enterprises, but when her crew discovers anomalies in underground scans, the entire operation quickly becomes jeopardized. Finding a network of tunnels with a mysterious chamber, they stumble upon an ancient time capsule hinting at preparations for an impending apocalypse during a long forgotten arc of humanity’s history. Almost immediately a threat emerges, willing to do anything to keep their findings a secret and it’s not long before Denali and her team find themselves chasing shadows that land them on board an orbiting space station in a fight for survival on the edge of outer space.
Pubblicato:
May 14, 2017
ISBN:
9781483467788
Formato:
Libro

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The Solutrean Arc - John Crianza

Author

Solutrean Enterprises

S ummer heat along Maripozen Ridge sweltered with dependability. Sitting just above the coastal foothills, the ridge lay close enough to beaches for a day trip if desired, yet high enough in elevation to guarantee all four seasons and a grand view of nearby islands. Mostly isolated, it turned out to be an ideal location for Solutrean Enterprises to construct their microhabitat research headquarters. Thirteen months into their excavation of the subterranean complexes, they ran into a snag that threatened current plans, leaving operations manager Denali Coltrane on edge.

Not one to be hedged in by the walls of conformity, she took the recent setbacks in stride as she did everything else. Dark eyes with a determined brow, her black, spiral hair typically hung loosely around a caramel complexion. Easy to smile and with a businesslike edge to her demeanor, she had never been one to be intimated easily. This particular day found her with a dozen persistent thoughts on how to best see her boss and mentor’s vision through to completion. Samson Zamora Kennedy had spent years persuading her to join Solutrean Enterprises in this capacity, and twelve years of them working together had proved he’d been prudent with his choice.

On the construction site, which had originally been a ranch, Solutrean Enterprises set up its current operation base in the original house. As she emerged from her small office, Denali found Mr. Kennedy’s assistant transcribing at her desk. Another fascinating letter from Mr. Kennedy?

Billie looked up with a wide smile, fair skin contrasting against her red lips. She pulled off the headset, briefly shaking out her hair. This one is kinda interesting, yeah. She brushed short bangs from her forehead, and the corners of her mouth swooped upward.

Yeah, well, with Samson, everything seems to carry its own little element of intrigue. Denali shrugged casually.

The phone rang, and Billie immediately looked at the display before glancing at Denali. It’s Mr. Kennedy.

Great, I’ve been expecting him. I’ll take the call in my office. Thanks. Relief filled Denali’s voice.

Billie slipped on an earpiece. Gotcha, not a problem. She pulled a notepad and pencil toward her before accepting the call. Solutrean Enterprises.

Inside the office, Denali picked up an earpiece, slipping it over her left ear before instinctively looking to the radio to check for any missed contact attempts. Seeing nothing, she walked over and leaned against the credenza to look out the window. Feeling the day’s radiating heat, she saw a few excavation team members mulling around the construction site. A familiar click came over the earpiece, and she reached for the button to accept the call.

Denali here, she announced formally.

Billie’s voice bubbled with perkiness. Mr. Kennedy coming over. Thank you. Without waiting for a response, she clicked the call over.

Hello, Samson, Denali said coolly, stepping away from the window.

Denali! Samson’s smooth, crisp voice asked. How are things up on the ridge?

It’s hot. Denali laughed lightly as she walked around to the front of the desk, picked up her smartphone, and tapped the screen. How’s the beach weather in Figueroa?

Socked in, Samson replied with a hint of frustration on the edge of his voice. Still contending with June gloom despite July already being here. How’s the excavation?

We’re still progressing. Denali checked an entry on her notepad. Next status update should be within the hour.

How close are we to the anomaly found in the scans? I’m anxious to know if it’s a chamber of some sort. Due to a recent discovery at the site, they were apprehensive about what changes they would need to make.

Reaching up to the map, Denali traced her finger from the where they started that day. Judging from the last check-in this morning, if we continue at the same pace—she paused, comparing it against the morning’s progress and the remaining distance—there’s a chance we can reach it by the end of the day.

Really? Samson’s tone suggested suspicious curiosity. I’ll be heading up there in a bit. I’m in need of a little sun today.

Denali attempted to be accommodating despite the news of an unexpected visit. All right, we look forward to seeing you. The radio beeped sharply, and she turned from the map.

The excavation foreman’s voice crackled through static. Denali, Cavish here. Are you around?

Denali quickly moved to the credenza. Samson, Cavish is hailing on the radio. Should I call you back?

I’ll hold, Samson replied quickly before insisting impatiently. Make it short.

Understood. Denali placed Samson on hold. Sensing something new afoot, she pressed the call button on the radio. Go ahead, Cavish.

Looks like we’ve hit a tunnel. Cavish’s voice came over harshly and mixed with static. There’s a chance it might lead to the chamber, but we need to assess structural soundness before continuing.

Really? Denali’s brows rose together in curiosity as she wondered what other changes might be needed. That’s some unexpected news. I have Mr. Kennedy on the phone.

Cavish’s voice came over laced with an electric squeal. Something isn’t right about it though.

Denali’s gut tightened as she instinctively assumed something unfavorable. How do you mean?

Cavish hesitated a moment before continuing. It’s reinforced.

Reinforced? Denali felt something pulling her toward unfamiliar territory. With what?

Wooden beams mostly, timbers. Cavish’s voice faltered uneasily. He hadn’t expected her to believe him.

Mostly? Denali cocked her head to the side. She’d heard enough to know she needed to see this firsthand as soon as possible. Hold tight. No one goes in. I’m heading out right now.

Understood, Cavish acknowledged.

Uncertainty rising in her chest, Denali tried tempering the edge of her voice before picking up Samson’s call again. They hit a tunnel. Cavish believes it may lead to the chamber.

Samson’s reply came with reserved enthusiasm. I’m headed to the car right now. No one is to enter that tunnel or chamber until I arrive. Understood?

Denali paused in frustrated disappointment before answering. Understood. She hastily gathered her hair into a ponytail, fastening it with a tie from one of her pockets.

I should be there within two hours. The sound of Samson closing his car door followed by the click of the lock came through over the phone. Have Billie make dinner arrangements for eating on site tonight.

Will do. Denali slipped her ponytail through the back of a cap as Samson disconnected the call. Pulling the earpiece off, she tossed it on the desk. She stashed her phone in a pocket before bursting from the office. Billie sat at her desk, still transcribing. I’m headed out to the excavation. Samson is on his way, ETA inside of two hours. He wants you to make arrangements for eating here tonight. Please. Thank you.

On it, Billie called out without pausing as Denali headed for the front door.

Descent

T he Karman Space Station drifted on the outer edge of earth’s gravitational pull. A rectangular ring of interconnected research laboratories sat poised tenaciously on the brink of an endless void stocked with pebbles of existence and hope. Aboard a docked shuttle, Teron checked gauges and scans as she prepared for departure. Bright, violet eyes ever alert, her usually fair complexion paled considerably in this moment beneath dark hair. Looking out to the horizon below, she verified the team’s trajectory paths remained clear.

Uneasiness rippling through her chest, Teron looked to the shuttle docked beside hers, meeting the gaze of Sedir, sitting in the pilot’s seat. Ready for this, Commander? she asked over communications.

His chestnut complexion highlighting lean seasoned features, Sedir replied with reservation, As ready as we can hope for at this point.

Preparing to leave the space station, they had moved it to the highest orbit possible and now faced a considerable trek before reentering earth’s atmosphere. Four shuttles descended with precious cargo, each piloted by a highly skilled crew member who had agreed to undertake an immeasurable responsibility. Station operations shut down completely as the crew vented all atmosphere before abandoning it. Central Command on the earth’s surface no longer operational, they relied on Southern Command for logistics. Depending heavily on Commander Sedir’s leadership, Teron’s tactical skills would be crucial, along with Aveo’s engineering experience and Declan’s navigational talents.

Teron checked in with Southern Command. Madam General, all looks clear from here. Can you confirm that please?

The voice of General Anian clicked over communications. Everything looks good, and Southern Command shows all shuttles online for monitoring of the descent.

Inception Team cleared for descent. Reservation in Teron’s voice began yielding to eagerness, and her shuttle took the lead. Let’s move out.

Inception Two disengaging docking clamps, Aveo acknowledged, her white hair glowing a light blue. Her olive complexion paled with the cockpit monitors as she maneuvered away from the docking hold with precision.

Inception One has initiated maneuvering thrusters and is assuming lead for descent. Teron piloted the shuttle into position as Aveo followed.

Inception Three is following into flank position, Declan announced. He held his quivering insides together best he could.

Can’t wait to touch down back on solid ground, Sedir confessed. His sole admission to how much the past week had shaken his sanity. Inception Four has fired up maneuvering thrusters and is assuming position.

Declan, we have fluctuations on your portside readings. Teron’s voice stiffened with frustrated worry. Auto control might miscalculate your reentry angle. Keep an eye on hull temperature readings.

Will do. Declan masked a nervous groan.

General Anian, Teron continued, Can you please monitor that as well?

Absolutely.

Now, we all understand what is at stake, Sedir reminded everyone, piloting his shuttle into position last. It’ll be a long while before anyone returns to orbit. We all need to make it back to our assigned posts in one piece.

The gods be with all of you, General Anian’s voice said, echoing through communications.

And may the gods be merciful with you, Sedir responded as the rest of the team prayed to the powers that be.

Several hours to their reentry windows, small talk remained sparse. As the Karman Station shrank behind them, oceans and mountains of earth loomed closer. Across the Grand Ocean, ash stretched in a blurred delta, creeping toward the isthmus between the Southern and Northern Continents. Originating in what had been a sprawling metropolis engulfing a league of substantial islands, the plume of ash now stood as an indication of havoc descending upon their ways of living. The center of their civilized world, they had risen to such prominence by harnessing geothermal power. The same source of that geothermal heat had turned suddenly violent, without care or prejudice, and every bit of their achievements stood to be obliterated with an approaching volcanic winter expected to last several years.

Nearing the edge of earth’s atmosphere, pilots confirmed reentry altitudes with Southern Command. Switching to auto control, their formation accelerated, dipping closer to the horizon above the conjoined continents. Harsh sunlight dissipating behind them, they crossed to the dark side of the earth, and gravity crept into the cockpits.

General Anian’s voice crackled over the communications. Inception Three, your descent angle is inconsistent with the others. We’re showing mark thirty-six.

I show mark thirty-eight point five, Declan responded, dread spinning from his gut into his chest.

Calibrations are off, Teron advised quickly, her mind playing out scenarios. Be prepared to account for that in your trajectory when auto controls disengage.

Understood. Declan began pulling up the maps of the great ocean and the Northern Continent.

A dull roar brushed up against the outer hull as soft pink light crept up cockpit windows and vibrations rattled through the shuttle. Inertia shifted as the influence of the earth’s gravitational field increased.

A warning beep issued across Declan’s cockpit, and Southern Command immediately advised, Inception Three, your port side is heating up.

Looking up with a flash of panic, Declan confirmed the situation. Noted. Hull integrity is showing forty percent portside.

We just lost forward portside readings, General Anian followed up with urgency edging her voice, and Declan knew the next few moments would determine the fate of him and his cargo.

Teron knew he didn’t have much time. Declan, you need to jettison now.

No response came from Declan as he scrolled through screens, entering commands quickly as he could, and Southern Command grew impatient. Inception Three? General Anian demanded.

Reaching both hands to the independent jettison dials, Declan grunted as he twisted the locks simultaneously. Uncontrolled reentry initiated. Wings of the shuttle breaking away with the aft section, the cargo hold detached. Payload away. The bulkhead slid over the cockpit, sealing the jettison pod from any outside communications.

Several moments passed before General Anian announced, Confirmed wing detachment along with deployment of Self-Contained Ejectable One and Two.

Acknowledged, Teron responded, silently praying Declan would touch down safely.

For Commander Sedir, worry became all the more real, but he would not allow his team to falter in a moment like this. The remaining shuttles will continue to their designated inception sites. Southern Command, do we have readings on the beacons of Inception Three and corresponding payload?

Trajectory places them on the northeastern edge of the ash fallout zone, General Anian advised. Planning retrieval now.

What are interior readings? Teron followed up, an emergency checklist mentally hardwired.

After a brief pause, the general replied solemnly, We have lost interior readings.

Cargo or cockpit? Teron asked, struggling to keep worry at bay.

We show a sharp spike in temperature in both cargo and cockpit prior to loss of readings, Southern Command responded. But we still have exterior readings on both, showing altitude and velocity.

Are beacons still transmitting? A lump in Sedir’s chest fluctuated between despair and hope. Can we still track them for retrieval?

A rescue vehicle is in motion, General Anian assured. They should have him within the hour.

Excavation

D enali’s mind raced with possibilities of what the tunnel could mean for the excavation. Concerned with how construction plans might need to be altered to account for it, she hoped this new development wouldn’t prove detrimental. Not fond of waiting for Samson before inspecting the tunnel, Denali knew he had his reasons. Air hot and dry, flavors of dry wood and sagebrush crept down her throat as she moved quickly, jeans and T-shirt tugging at her lean, toned build with the beginning of sweat.

Several workers talked among each near the entrance to the excavation, and she nodded a brief acknowledgment as she hurried past. Grabbing a flashlight and a tracking beacon from an equipment rack, she headed inside. The interior had begun opening up recently to resemble a cavern, and floodlights cast several of her shadows in thick, earthy air. As she moved toward the back, the walls narrowed into a low burrow, and she could hear voices emanating from within. There she found Cavish speaking with another worker, and she could make out a worried look on Cavish’s face in the noticeably dimmer light.

What happened? Denali asked quickly while surveying a small crawlspace yielding to pitch darkness.

Cavish answered apologetically, Kyle slipped inside before I could stop him. I’m sorry.

Crouching down, Denali looked into the small opening, frustration surging with the smallest twinge of relief for an excuse to enter immediately. Kyle Ripley? The archeologist?

Cavish nodded quickly. I don’t understand why Mr. Kennedy insisted on having such a brazen thrill seeker for a full-time archaeologist on staff. I’m finding he’s a bit rash and doesn’t have enough experience with commercial field operations—

Denali cut him off with a stern look. Mr. Kennedy finds him adventuresome, and that is apparently what he wants for this excavation. Kyle Ripley, Mr. Grade A Cave Boy himself has been hand-selected. Cavish nodded, reluctantly acknowledging her point. Denali looked back into the opening before flicking on her flashlight. Mr. Kennedy is on his way to Maripozen Ridge and specifically said no one is to enter this tunnel or the chamber. I’ll handle this situation. She gave Cavish a dismissive nod.

Cavish replied apprehensively,Sure thing. He went to the left.

Denali held out her hand, palm up, with an expectant look. We’re done digging for the day. Have the crew clean up the area and head back to the house.

You’re the boss, with an uneasy tone Cavish placed his radio in her hand.

Pausing to consider a thought briefly, Denali instructed, If you don’t hear from us in twenty minutes, contact Mr. Kennedy for further instructions.

Status

G azing out from the window in Station Command, Sedir watched the last edge of the Eastern Continent slip over the horizon. Within the blue edge of thin atmosphere lit against the darkness of space, a monstrous ash plume spread out in a triangular pattern across the Great Ocean. Loss and helplessness stirring within every

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