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The Eternity Wall

In the course of doing research for my next Dark Fire novel, I was distracted by the recent, and quite amazing, New Horizon space mission to photograph Pluto.  One thing led to another and before I knew it, I had decided to write a short story inspired by that journey. The result is The Eternity Wall, set forth both in the text below and in the attached Word document.

I hope you enjoy it!

 

 

                                                              THE ETERNITY WALL

                                                                                   By

                                                                      David M. Benson

 

© David Benson 2015

 

The bar was called Another Day in Paradise and had it not been nestled in an agreeable spot at the back of the lobby of Lenowicz’s hotel, the name alone would have made him pass it by. But it was late and he was tired, despite the pampering he had received on Lee Meadows’ Gulfstream jet on the five hour flight from Maryland to Barbados. Despite the name, there was just no upside to searching for another bar that might have a Martini of the quality he had been served on the plane along with his perfect New York strip.

The hotel itself was one of several upscale properties set on the platinum coast of the island, in Saint James parish, where the easternmost edge of the Caribbean Sea lapped against what were said to be the whitest of white sand beaches. But it was an hour after sunset when they landed and darker now, the moon having already set, so he had yet to see ocean touch land. Perhaps in the morning, he thought, before I see Meadows, as a pretty bartender laid an oversize glass sporting two plump green olives down in front of him and proceeded to fill it nearly to the brim from a dimpled steel shaker. It was picture perfect, much like the bar itself once you got past the tacky name, as was his room and as the plane ride had been, his first on such a luxe private craft.

There was little doubt that Meadows would offer him a job and that the job would involve the launch facility that one of Meadows’ many companies had established on the island a few years earlier. But hurling communication satellites and international space station supply capsules into orbit was one thing, hurling people up there was quite another and rumor had it that Meadows was about to get into that business in a big way. It was the only reason that Lenowicz had entertained the billionaire’s invitation and he would be insulted if the offer was for anything less than to run the rumored program.

“It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing,” Lenowicz said softly to no one in particular as he picked up his drink and took a sip.

After all, he was certainly on the market. He had been among a small group of heroes when the New Horizon craft had sped past Pluto and sent back copious amounts of data, including staggering photos of what turned out to be a surprising icy small planet. But within days all communication with New Horizon, which had functioned flawlessly for the duration of its nine-year mission, had been lost and no amount of clever thinking could get it back. It was quite the mystery, if only to the mission team. The rest of the world had merely been fed a suitably vague tale of technical problems and promptly lost interest.

Of course, one the corollary consequence to severing a stream of data that was supposed to continue arriving for another year or more was that the mission team was no longer needed. So much the hoped-for deep space follow up that NASA had hinted at. The younger ones could move on to other things, but at fifty-eight Lenowicz was too old to be seriously considered for another years-long mission to, or past, the outer planets, his only real expertise. The Advanced Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins in Laurel, Maryland had been his home for the life of the mission, which included the three years leading up to the launch of New Horizon, and he had grown fond of living in the Baltimore suburb, as well as its proximity to Washington, DC, and of his colleagues. No, Lee Meadows had made contact at the right time, something that Lenowicz suspected he had done on many previous occasions to get where he had gotten.

Barbados had next to nothing in common with Cape Canaveral or any other space center and was hardly the place you would expect to find some of the world’s leading rocket scientists, at least not until Meadows had come and established it as a place for launching rockets into orbit. And it was an ideal location, better even than Canaveral, being closer to the equator. So there was a good reason to come there now, beyond the beautiful beaches, and although he had yet to see it in daylight Lenowicz suspected that Barbados was not such a bad place to spend the twilight years of one’s career.

Would Meadows ask him about New Horizon, Lenowicz wondered as he took another, larger sip of his Martini. The semi-reclusive billionaire might offer a few words of consolation and perhaps even a congratulatory handshake, Lenowicz suspected, but he doubted there would be anything beyond that, certainly not any kind of probing into what the ostensible technical difficulties might have been. After all, Meadows did not seem the type of man to dwell on failure.

Lenowicz was sitting at the bottom end of what was a large, horseshoe-shaped bar, facing the arched entrance to the room. He had looked up a few times to gaze at the steady stream of generally well-dressed and attractive people coming and going, but as he sipped his drink and let his eyes wander again to the entry, he was rewarded with the sight of Lee Meadows.

“Shit,” was all Lenowicz could manage.

Meadows was of average height, trim and well-groomed, and looked even younger than his reported thirty-six years. He wore tailored blue jeans, an off-white tee-shirt and a dark blue sport coat that Lenowicz guessed was linen. Surprisingly, he was alone, there were no assistants or other minders in sight and, happily, no lawyers. He went largely unnoticed by the crowd, although the hostess at the entryway greeted him as the regular he probably was. After exchanging pleasantries with her, it took him only a few seconds to pick out Lenowicz’s face in the crowd.

“Good evening, Doctor,” Meadows said, loud enough for Lenowicz to hear but not so loud as to distract those around them, and Lenowicz swiveled his barstool enough to take Meadows’ outstretched hand.

His smile seemed real enough and, coupled with a handshake that was sufficiently average, put Lenowicz about as much at ease as possible given Meadows’ wealth and reknown. He managed a weak smile and parroted a good evening, leaving out Meadows’ name lest it cause a fuss.

Lenowicz had not noticed that the hostess had followed Meadows and as she smiled at him and took his Martini glass, said, “Please follow me, gentlemen.”

Lenowicz slid off his stool and followed Meadows and the girl to a booth in a quieter back corner of the room. As the men made themselves comfortable on opposing sides of the table, the bartender came over to them and put a lowball glass with what appeared to be a half-inch of Scotch on the table in front of Meadows and a fresh Martini in front of Lenowicz, whisking away his only half-finished one.

“Will there be anything else, gentlemen?” she asked and Meadows smiled and said, Chips, please.

Before Lenowicz and Meadows had exchanged a word, she re-appeared and placed a glass bowl of hand-cut potato chips down on a napkin on the table between them, leaving without another word.

“To discovery,” Meadows said, holding his glass out to Lenowicz.

“Discovery,” Lenowicz repeated, somewhat tentatively, and sipped his fresh drink.

“I’m sure you realize that I asked you here to talk about taking up a position at the space center,” Meadows said, putting his glass down on the table and eating a chip. “But I doubt you realize the nature of that position.”

Lenowicz began to say something but Meadows held up his hand. Then he ate another chip and leaned in conspiratorially, lowering his voice.

“Tell me, Doctor, was it really a reflection?” he asked.

Lenowicz stared at him for a moment, not moving, his eyes wide. When he had recovered sufficiently to speak, he simply said, “I don’t know what you mean.”

Meadows seemed unsurprised by his answer and greeted it with a slight smile.

“I completely understand your reticence, Doctor,” he said, “but I should tell you that I’ve seen it myself.”

“I find that difficult to believe,” Lenowicz said, “even for you.”

Meadows smiled again, took a pen from his inside jacket pocket and slipped the thick white paper napkin out from under the bowl of chips, unfolded it and began drawing. Lenowicz watched with growing alarm as he did.

Meadows was no artist but what he drew was a clear enough rendering of the New Horizon spacecraft. As Lenowicz looked on, Meadows added slender arrows pointing outward from the precise points on the grand piano sized vehicle where its positioning cameras were located. As he recalled, it was one of Meadows’ many companies that had designed and built the cameras and their related systems. They had been essential to the success of the mission since New Horizon could not collect data unless it was pointed directly at the source of that data. Its so-called star-tracker cameras used sophisticated charge-coupled devices to enable conversion of very small amounts of light into digital images of the stars as New Horizon sped along. These images were fed into the craft’s computer and the positions of the detected stars were compared with a database and used to accurately determine the craft’s orientation in space. If the craft was not oriented in the desired direction, a command could be sent from Laurel that would fire small thrusters and re-align New Horizon’s position so the data could be collected. Ground commands to the thrusters were also used to position the craft so that its high gain antenna dish pointed toward the Earth, allowing it to send the data collected back to Laurel.

It was this antenna that Meadows was putting the finishing touches on as Lenowicz re-focused his gaze on the table, and he kept drawing as Lenowicz watched, sketching out a vertical barrier in front of New Horizon to which he added some minor accents that made it look like a pane of glass or a mirror, before adding his final strokes, a series of lines that hinted at a reflection of the spacecraft on the face of the windowpane.

“I’ve seen the data,” Meadows said, finally looking up, “and this is what I saw immediately before you, ah, lost communication, with New Horizon.” Staring straight into Lenowicz’s eyes, he added, “You saw it, too, of course, Doctor. Tell me, what do you make of it?”

Lenowicz became very pale and for a moment Meadows worried for his health. But he recovered quickly, took a sip of his drink and folded his hands on the table before answering.

“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to discuss any matters relating to the loss of communication with New Horizon,” he said. “I’m sure you saw the press release that APL and NASA…”

Before Lenowicz could finish, though, Meadows again held up his hand. Lenowicz remained silent while Meadows retrieved an iPhone from his coat pocket, touched an icon and held the screen out toward the doctor, who stared at it long and hard.

“How on God’s green Earth did you get that?” Lenowicz finally asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

“I told you I’d seen the reflection, and I can’t un-see it, can I,” Meadows replied, his tone less harsh than his words, “so there’s really no point answering your question, Doctor. I’d actually hoped not to have to show you this. In any case, the relevant inquiry is, what now? And please don’t give me any more of the party line.”

Lenowicz sighed and drank half of his Martini in one large swallow.

“It’s not the party line in the sense that you mean it,” he told Meadows once he put down his glass. “Only three of us saw what you just showed me and we agreed that one of us, and I was elected since I was the project leader, should take it to the head of NASA. She and I met with the President and his chief national security advisor at the White House and everyone agreed that it should stop right there. As far as Johns Hopkins or the NASA team or any of the others know, it was simply an unexplained equipment failure. Oh, for sure some people are spending lots of time trying to find out what might have happened and speculating about what might have caused it. But since the mission was already a success,” Lenowicz said, shrugging, “officially the book’s been closed.”

“So you deleted that last few packets of data?” Meadows asked.

Lenowicz nodded once, his eyes closing as he did, then turned and got a waiter’s attention and pointed at his glass.

“I should add that the President, ah, insisted on that,” Lenowicz said, turning back to Meadows, “and on a few other things and he was, shall we say, uncharacteristically forthright in describing his orders and the consequences of not following them.”

Meadows smiled.

“So you’re taking a big risk having this conversation with me?” Meadows asked.

 

”It appears that you had back-up data,” Lenowicz said, “and I’d guess that very few people know that.”

“I did and only one other person on my side knows about it,” Meadows replied. “Look Doctor, the fact is that neither of us should be having this conversation.”

“Although they know that I know and they don’t know that you know,” Lenowicz said.

“Feel free to call and tell them,” Meadows said, his gaze squarely on Lenowicz, who made no move to get his iPhone out of his pocket.

“Perhaps it’s better that I don’t,” he said.

Both men were silent and continued to size each other up as the waiter came and put a fresh drink down in front of Lenowicz and replaced the napkin that Meadows, who declined the offer of another drink, had made his drawing on.

“So,” he said, once the waiter was gone, “let me ask again. What do you make of it, Doctor?”

Lenowicz picked up his glass, held it out toward Meadows and then took a long swallow.

“I saved the data for myself, of course,” he replied, “despite the President’s order, and I’ve reviewed it several hundred times.”

“I can’t say I’m surprised. And?”

“Well, I can say that the data’s not corrupted and that there doesn’t appear to be any other hardware or software anomaly,” Lenowicz said, “which leaves the fact that what we both saw is, in fact, a reflection of the spacecraft.”

“Immediately before it stopped communicating?”

Lenowicz nodded. “To the millisecond,” he added.

Meadows remained silent, taking a sip of his drink. Lenowicz cleared his throat.

“A straightforward interpretation would suggest that New Horizon ran into a glass-like object of some kind,” he went on, “but I’m confident that there aren’t large sheets of glass floating around out there, which suggests something else entirely, and that something else defies any sort of straightforward interpretation.”

“Which is no doubt why the President wants to make sure this stays under wraps,” Meadows said, “since the only other explanation is that New Horizon ran into the end, or whatever you want to call it, of the solar system. And if that’s the case, what about everything else that appears to be out there, beyond that point?”

He picked up his glass and finished his drink. The waiter noticed and when he came to their table Meadows told him it was Bulleit Rye, neat, and that he would take another.

“And since it defies any sort of reason that our solar system should somehow be ringed off, so to speak, from the rest of the cosmos,” Meadows went on as the waiter walked away, “one could perhaps be forgiven for wondering if the, ah, heavens and the earth that God created consist entirely of our solar system, and everything else that we humans have been clever enough to think we’ve discovered is actually some sort of, some sort of—“

“Mirage?” Lenowicz suggested.

Meadows nodded.

“Good a word for it as anything, I suppose,” he said, as the waiter arrived with his drink. “So, is there anything you’d like to add, Doctor?”

Lenowicz sighed.

“Well,” he replied, “so far I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. I shouldn’t tell you this, but at this point I think it hardly matters. The President and his national security advisor are certain that the, ah, incident, involving New Horizon has done no less than prove God’s existence and they believe that most people would be inclined to reach a similar conclusion, hence, his fear of the information getting out. And there’s more, which is why the President is so convinced, understandably, I suppose.”

“What’s that” Meadows asked, tasting his drink.

“As you know,” Lenowicz replied, “the star-tracker cameras and that whole positioning system on New Horizon relied on the vehicle having current data about the portion of space all around it and comparing it with information in its computer memory about what stars should out be there and where they should be.”

“Of course,” Meadows said excitedly. “Every other star except for our Sun is beyond the barrier, if you will, so apparently the cameras could see beyond the barrier.”

“Apparently,” Lenowicz agreed, “just as we can see them in the night sky or through telescopes. But I’ve studied those last images at great length and I can tell you that no stars, no light at all in fact, is visible beyond that barrier.”

“Jesus,” Meadows said softly. “And if that’s the case—“

“And if we’re right about any of this, God help us,” Lenowicz said, “New Horizon was allowed to pick up the mirage to guide it, just as you and I can walk outside and see what we think are the stars, but if you and I were out there, this all suggests that there would be nothing for us to see.”

“Because there’s nothing out there,” Meadows said softly. “The heavens and the earth that God created are just our solar system. Everything else is merely…embellishment.”

“That’s certainly one view,” Lenowicz said said, picking up his glass. “And there’s one last thing, which seems to support your last statement.”

“Which is?”

“The surface that New Horizon ran into,” Lenowicz replied. “It’s curved.”

Meadows stared at him for a moment.

“You’re sure, you were actually able to figure that out?” he asked.

Lenowicz smiled a short-lived smile.

“It wasn’t easy,” he said, “given the monumental size of the, ah, barrier, but as I told the President, yes, I’m sure.”

“I suppose that makes sense,” Meadows said, “as much as any of this does. Jesus, so there’s a fence, for want of a better term, surrounding the solar system.”

Lenowicz took a sip of his Martini.

“So, this probably isn’t the best time to remind you about what Jesus said about rich men and camels and needles,” he said.

Meadows smiled, shook his head slowly and leaned forward, folding his hands on the table.

“Maybe not,” he said, “but it might be a good time to tell you about the position I have in mind for you, Doctor.”

“I think I can guess,” Lenowicz said. “You want me to get more data.”

“I’m having another version of New Horizon built, with updated systems and somewhat different instrumentation. The final package hasn’t been decided yet. You can be the one to finalize it, to run the entire project. When it’s ready we’ll launch the vehicle from here and send it out to toward the outer planets, toward a different point in the outer solar system, past Pluto’s orbit—“

“To see what happens?” Lenowicz asked.

Meadows smiled.

“To see what happens,” he said.

 

*   *   *

 

THE ETERNITY WALL

Get Your Hot Summer Read! (Free chapter!)

In the unabashed interest of getting even more people to read Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears during the summer reading season, I’ve reproduced below the text of the Prologue and first chapter of the book, followed immediately thereafter by a link you may use to read the rest by purchasing the paperback at Amazon.com.

Please enjoy and feel free to send this to all your friends and acquaintances!

 

 

                                                    DARK FIRE: YESTERDAY’S TEARS

By

David Benson

 

Prologue

The odds suggested that there would be a day like this, but they did not give any hint of what the mortar shell would sound like as it screamed toward you or what would go through your mind as it did.

Their unit had been at it for over a year, since her twenty-third birthday, cleaning up after failed missions or taking on the ones that could not be allowed to fail. The kind of missions you could never talk about afterwards and that, if you died performing them, your loved ones would never have the comfort of knowing how much evil you had prevented.

Most of Jane Garrison’s days were not the sort that a former high school valedictorian, cheerleader and Fulbright scholar typically graduated to. But Garrison was not typical, and even compared with the average American soldier who found herself there, her days in Afghanistan were anything but routine.

Hers was officially a non-combat unit, which would explain why women could be part of the team. But it did not explain the M4 carbine that was slung across her chest, or the Glock 19 holstered at her waist. Or, for that matter, their very specialized computer and communications gear or the MK47 grenade launchers carried by several of their number, let alone their DARPA-developed tools, most still in beta, tools that Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency leadership entrusted only to them.

The insignia on her faded camouflage uniform suggested she was a captain, but then again so did the uniforms of each of her comrades. And instead of their actual names, the name patch on each of their jackets simply read Death, written in the abjad farsi lettering understandable to most Afghanis.

Their very specialized orders were developed in a darkened room deep inside the Pentagon and delivered by encrypted e-mail, and the individual assignments were then fleshed out among themselves. No one could recall the last time they had had received a live briefing and an outsider would be challenged to figure out who among them was the team leader. And while Jane was not the youngest of them, she was not far from the oldest.

They rarely interacted with other units but when they did it was only to request support of one kind or another, requests that were never denied. They were likewise seldom asked to explain their role or at whose behest they were acting. When suppositions were made that they might somehow be aligned with Delta Force or the Rangers or Special Operations Command, perhaps even the CIA or a private defense contractor, they neither confirmed nor denied the possibility.

They were all savants of one kind or another and bringing them together had been a stroke of genius not often demonstrated by our military. They had received highly specialized training and their mission planning was unparalleled. The attention to detail was reflected in the team’s unusually high success and low casualty rates. They kept to themselves when not on a mission and traveled to their target zones in two stealth helicopters, the noise suppression aspects of which were much more highly valued than their radar evading capabilities, and their arrival was always a surprise. They were all patriots, of course, but they were committed less to what they were doing than to the manner in which they were doing it.

But despite how strongly the odds might have been stacked in their favor, how thoroughly they parsed the details, how many satellite images they and their handlers in DC studied, there were an enormous number of variables to be accounted for in each of their missions. Every member of the team knew that variables were just that, and that for any given assignment on any given day there was always one or two that could not be anticipated and accounted for, aberrations of some sort.

Such was the case early one morning as Garrison and five of her colleagues crouched outside a small, once brightly colored stucco house with peeling paint and crumbling walls while six more of their brethren entered the house and quietly took the lives of two Taliban government ministers and their security guards. Garrison should have been piloting one of the helos but it had been too long in her view since she had gotten dirty and this seemed like as good a time as any to correct that. So she had traded places with another of their half dozen pilots.

Their first step on any foray was the deployment of highly sophisticated airborne jamming equipment, capable of shutting down all forms of cell and internet services in a target area, while they were still on their approach. But today their quarry had apparently managed to get off some sort of SOS and scant minutes after their arrival a barrage of mortar fire rained down on the dusty front yard where Garrison and her comrades watched and waited while the assassins were still inside.

It was the usual imprecise, scattershot affair, but the bad guys got lucky that morning. As Garrison raced to reach cover, a round exploded directly in front of her and wreaked outrageous violence on her young, fit body.

Please let me die quickly was the last thought that went through her mind as her brethren hauled what they thought was her corpse to the helo and the pain mercifully shut down the agony.

 

Chapter 1

Edan Duff knew that calamity was a possibility, but there were so many things that could go wrong that it hardly paid to contemplate each of them individually. Nothing at all might happen, at least nothing bad, but it was not outside the realm of possibility that the world would end, or worse.

And all for a single nail.

Not even to remove it, actually, but just to hammer away at its awkwardly protruding point until that tiny dagger was flush with the edge of the bathroom door from which it had protruded since the house was built. It was something he could do right now. He already held the hammer in his hand.

Edan looked down at it now.

After the house had been completed the punch list had been long, though not so long as the size of the house and the complexity of its design might lead you to imagine. In any case, much blue tape had been expended, inch-square bit by inch-square bit, delineating the things that needed further attention. Somehow the protruding nail had eluded all the inspections. And Edan had not felt compelled to call the builder back to make it right, or felt the need to take care of it himself, until now.

Besides, Sim liked that nail. He had no idea why and she had never signaled a desire to explain, so he had accepted it and moved on.

But it was the perfect test, or at least a perfect test, and he had considered a great many, since computer modeling was not an option. Hammering in the nail had the advantage of simplicity and its accomplishment would be immediately apparent upon his return. It also provided an excuse to bring along something inanimate other than his clothing, something that would not fit in his pocket, as his phone did. The hammer he now held in his hand. And because the task was so banal, should the world around him vanish as a result of the manner in which he proposed to complete it, there would at least be irony.

On the other hand, there might be no one around to appreciate it.

He had set up the laptop computer and recording equipment, in this case a high resolution camera mounted on the laptop, the previous afternoon. The computer sat open on the marble counter, next to the sink, positioned so that an image of the edge of the door, the errant nail in the center, filled the screen. Edan leaned over, made a few keystrokes, ending the recording session, named the file, saved it, and started a new recording session. Once he had checked that everything was again functioning as it should, he stood upright and took a deep breath.

“All right then,” he said, as he turned his back on the Southern California sunlight that cascaded through the wall of glass bricks that formed one side of the bathroom and marched out.

The walk from master bathroom threshold to laboratory door consumed three full minutes and Edan willed himself to think only of pointless trivia during the journey. It seemed senseless to expend more energy thinking about the potential ramifications now, so close to the brink. The aggregate of thought he had already expended on the possible fallout from the test had not brought him any closer to something resembling an answer. There was no good reason to think that any more would do so now.

Edan’s house was built into a hillside above the Pacific, not far from Monarch Beach, one side facing the pounding ocean and the other side hard against the alluvial matter and heavier sub-soils of the excavated slope. It was through a narrow tunnel bored deep into the hill that he now strode, and as he did the only sounds were the occasional screeches of his rubber soles against polished linoleum. Fluorescent lighting blinked on in segments as he moved through the long, windowless white hallway toward his goal, which was a wide, gray steel door at the very end. To the right of the door was a keypad and there was a final screech as he stopped before it. He entered a five-digit code, then pressed his left index finger against a biometric fingerprint reader and leaned in to bring his left eye close to an iris scanner. After a moment he backed slightly away and entered yet another five-digit code into the keypad. The sound of bolts unlocking echoed down the hallway and Edan pushed the heavy door open and entered his lab.

More lights blinked on. The facility was impressive by almost any standard, tantamount to something you might find in a major corporation’s R&D facilities. In fact, it was an only slightly scaled down version of the facility that Edan’s company had on its corporate campus. But it was really not overly surprising given the wealth and accomplishments of its owner. And it was not merely the size of the lab that impressed. Equally, it was the amount and quality of very specialized equipment that it contained.

The device sat on the floor to the right of the entry door and not far inside it. That was by design, as it would ultimately have to leave the lab. Edan walked up to it and undid the Velcro fasteners that secured a soft, quilted cotton cover that hid the device from nonexistent prying eyes.

Covered, it could have been a large piece of furniture waiting to be carried away by moving men. Uncovered, it resembled an overgrown glass building block more than anything else. An extremely clean glass block that was actually difficult to see from certain angles. If you walked right up to it and stared for long enough you could just make out the slender tubes that suffused the glass. These ran vertically around the entire periphery of the device and continued horizontally across its top. At its bottom they appeared to vanish into the block’s floor, a translucent slab that gave off a soft pink glow. The underside, out of sight, contained an array of balls and rollers not unlike the cargo handling decks that allow pallets and containers to be easily loaded into and moved around inside the belly of commercial aircraft. Hydraulically actuated titanium rods hidden in the corners of the device allowed it to lift itself as much as three feet off the ground. And clear as the glass appeared, it was somehow impossible to see what, if anything, was inside the block.

The device was made primarily of a substance that could accurately be called glass in the sense that it was hard, brittle, non-crystalline and transparent, as the dictionary said it should be. But there the similarities with other types of glass ended. The block stood six feet high, two inches taller than Edan. Its long sides measured six feet, as well, while its shorter ends were four feet wide. There was no perceptible way to tell what it was for or what made it work, if indeed it could be said to work in any manner.

Roughly half of the thick floor was actually an enormously advanced computer, the most particularized ever built, using technologies of Edan’s conception, some of which would slowly make their way into the vanguard and then the mainstream in the years to come, much as other things of his imagining had. The remainder of the floor housed several hundred lithium polymer battery packs and a dozen more lithium metal-to-air batteries to which the makers of electric automobiles and other consumer products might eventually gain access. The glass floor itself was suffused with tens of thousands of nearly microscopic holes through which the computer and batteries could breathe.

Reality suggested that the twenty-odd square feet of floor space inside the device was barely large enough for six people to comfortably occupy, standing upright. But reality, a fleeting concept at best to Edan, who had been described at various times as something of a cross between Stephen Hawking and Steve Jobs, had little to do with the functionality of the glass cube. He had already carried into it two dozen blow-up dolls and myriad Styrofoam and high-density foam cut-outs, along with suitcases and bunches of balloons and had not found it the least bit cramped. The interior space always appeared brightly lit and seemed to expand as more things, or presumably more people, entered, and thus far he had not discovered its capacity. And there was no sense of being trapped in a tight space, nor was there any other discomfort. Edan expected that if he was ever called upon to explain the phenomenon, the listener would make it through less than two minutes before deciding to forego the rest and simply suspend disbelief.

Getting inside required a comparable mindset. There was a narrow open slat that ran from floor to ceiling at one of the long ends of the cube that, if you got close enough to see it, appeared to be about eight inches wide. But when someone tried to walk through it he simply did and found himself standing inside the glass cube. Objects of any size and shape passed through just as easily. The first time he had entered the device, Edan turned sideways as he approached the slat, but he confirmed soon enough that presenting a narrower profile had no impact on the slat’s function.

Once inside there was still no perceptible way to tell what the device was for or what made it work. There were no obvious buttons, dials or other controls anywhere inside, although a small, unlabeled circle was etched about five feet up one of the narrower vertical surfaces of its interior, not far from the entrance. When it was touched, a holographic QWERTY keyboard appeared on the surface nearby.

Computer modeling had been useful for certain things, though. It had shown the glass block to be as strong as if it was entirely solid, but its weight was considerably lower than you would expect, again for extremely technical reasons that would challenge even Edan’s ability to explain them rationally. And while it had taken two years and the better part of a billion dollars to design and construct, its cost was essentially meaningless. It was arguably the most valuable manmade object ever built.

After a moment’s hesitation, Edan, dressed in beige chinos and a dark blue golf shirt that had his company logo stitched into the left breast, his iPhone and wallet in his pockets and the hammer in his hand, stepped through the slat and into the device. He put the hammer down on the floor and reached out to touch the etched circle. The keyboard appeared, he entered a series of letters and numbers and the device came to life.

As a final thought about the possibility of calamity crossed his mind, Edan took a deep breath and pressed Enter.

 

C – Copyright 2015 Bruised Peach Productions and David Benson

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Amazon.com link to paperback:  http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Fire-Yesterdays-David-Benson/dp/0988581566/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436467754&sr=1-1&keywords=dark+fire%3A+yesterday%27s+tears+benson

 

 

 

EXCITING NEWS!!

Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears is now available in paperback form! Oh, and the cover is amazing!

So, those of you who are e-reader averse no longer have an excuse! You can go out and get yourself print copies of DFYT by going to the following:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=dark+fire%3A+yesterday%27s+tears+benson.

Or just go to amazon.com and search the book title and my name.

And in case you’ve forgotten, DFYT is NOT another in the Carina Quintana Mysteries series.  As the back cover notes say:

A love story for all time, Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears begins with a chance encounter between Jane Garrison, an elite fighter who has been grievously wounded in combat, and Edan Duff, the young entrepreneur and creator of marvelous devices, whose genius will save her but turn her into the mystery woman who calls herself Sim. Although left powerless to quench his yearning, an unbreakable bond forms between them. But Edan knows it is a bond that must be broken if Sim is to be restored to a normal life, and that he must live with the pain their parting will cause him. Yet another chance encounter–is it really chance?–unites them once more, this time against a distrustful US government and a power-hungry President bent on making sure that only he can exploit Edan’s most astounding creation yet. Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears takes Edan and Sim through worlds both familiar and as-yet unknown as they struggle to live out a love transcending time and fate.

 Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears will make great summer reading for you and your friends. So what are you waiting for!

Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears Now in the Apple Store

It always takes longer to get a newly published e-book into the Apple iTunes store than Amazon Kindle but Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears is finally available through iTunes!

It bears repeating that DF:YT begins with a chance encounter between Jane Garrison, an elite fighter who has been grievously wounded in combat, and Edan Duff, the young entrepreneur and creator of marvelous devices, whose genius will save her but turn her into the mystery woman who calls herself Sim. Although left powerless to quench his yearning, an unbreakable bond forms between them. But Edan knows it is a bond that must be broken if Sim is to be restored to a normal life, and that he must live with the pain their parting will cause him. Yet another chance encounter–is it really chance?–unites them once more, this time against a distrustful US government and a power-hungry President bent on making sure that only he can exploit Edan’s most astounding creation yet. Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears takes Edan and Sim through worlds both familiar and as-yet unknown as they struggle to live out a love transcending time and fate.

It’s a terrific book and very different from anything else I’ve done. So, if you don’t have a Kindle but you do have an iPad or other tablet, you can now rush to the iTunes site/app and pick up a copy of DF:YT!

“Dust jacket”

photo (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A love story for all time, Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears begins with a chance encounter between Jane Garrison, an elite fighter who has been grievously wounded in combat, and Edan Duff, the young entrepreneur and creator of marvelous devices, whose genius will save her but turn her into the mystery woman who calls herself Sim. Although left powerless to quench his yearning, an unbreakable bond forms between them. But Edan knows it is a bond that must be broken if Sim is to be restored to a normal life, and that he must live with the pain their parting will cause him. Yet another chance encounter–is it really chance?–unites them once more, this time against a distrustful US government and a power-hungry President bent on making sure that only he can exploit Edan’s most astounding creation yet. Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears takes Edan and Sim through worlds both familiar and as-yet unknown as they struggle to live out a love transcending time and fate.

With any luck, that will get you intrigued enough to buy and read Dark Fire; Yesterday’s Tears.

It’s available NOW in the Amazon Kindle store (for $5.99) and will be available soon in the Apple iBooks store and other e-book retailers. I’ll post again as soon as it is to let the iPad/tablet readers among you know.

For the moment, the Kindlers out there can be the first to read it!

Enjoy!

 

 

Mikey likes it!!

Actually, Laura loved it! Her first word was “Fantastic!”

To put this in perspective, while she likes Carina and others of the core characters of the Carina series and has liked the stories–some more than others–she’s never been what you might call truly excited over any of them. In part, she’s attributed this to the fact that she’s never been crazy about the police procedural genre, preferring true mysteries when she reads that sort of novel. She was also very quick to warn me before she read it that the way I’d described Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears was even further outside of her “genre zone.” So her enthusiastic reaction to DF:YT was even more gratifying.

While “Fantastic!” was her (much appreciated) initial reaction, I was even happier when we got into a deeper discussion over cocktails before making dinner last night. Her bottom line is that publishing DF:YT as I have with the Carina books in okay, but this one NEEDS to be discovered, and ultimately made into a film!

The fact is that I really was shooting for the next Hunger Games. My un-objective feeling was that I had done it, but, hey, it’s my own baby, so my opinion was not to be trusted. Nice to know that my worst (constructive) critic agrees with me, and might be even more enthusiatic.

The question is, now what?

But for now, let’s just say that I slept really well last night!

 

Nervous!

That would be my current state of mind as Laura gets set to read Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears this afternoon.

It will be the first time anyone other than me has laid eyes on it, and having spent a whole lot of time immersed in the story and characters, writing and re-writing, it, I’m waaaay too close to it to even have a decent sense of whether she’ll love it or think it’s crap.

I haven’t been this nervous since she read the first Carina book, and I was actually less nervous then since it was a reasonably straightforward police procedural. And the subsequent five books in the series were simply other stories involving the same core premise and cast. I kind of doubt that Sue Grafton is too uneasy when she completes her latest “alphabet” novel or James Patterson when he wrote yet another Alex Cross book! J.K. Rowling was probably a little antsy when she was waiting to hear what kind of impression the first Harry Potter book had made! Thus, my current state of mind.

As I mentioned in my last post, DF:YT is aimed at a younger readership (although not exclusively so) and has elements of sci-fi. It’s also pretty romantic, or at least I think so. The flow of the story and the natures of the characters are also quite a bit more complex than in the Carina books; it was quite a bit more effort to keep things straight and manage the flow and character development than it was for any of the Carina novels.  In any case, even if she doesn’t think it’s actually crap, I have a feeling that there will be some further re-working of it after Laura finishes.

Did I mention that I’m planning a series based, probably loosely, on DF:YT?? Maybe that accounts for some of the nervousness, too!

So there you have it. To overly dramatize things, we’ve got one nervous author awaiting his fate!

More when Laura speaks!

 

 

 

 

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