Category: Book News

Project Atlas – A Sneak Preview

Project Atlas – A Sneak Preview

Dear readers, given the length of time since I’ve released anything new, I thought it would be appropriate to share a sneak preview of my next novel due out sometime before the end of the year—hopefully. I have yet to settle on a final title, so I’m referring to it as ‘Project Atlas.’

The novel is set a few hundred years into the future, which I know contradicts a little what I said in a previous blog post about focussing on contemporary settings. This is because I started Project Atlas way before this realisation and I still love this story. It’s centered around a detective tasked with bringing an assassin to justice, but when a prominent android is kidnapped the entire Solar Federation faces a race against time to maintain its sovereignty. I’ll release a more detailed description in the near-future (subscribe using the form in the sidebar to receive a notification).


Project Atlas Preview

 

SFSA Shuttle: Rubicon, en route to the Jupiter moon, Europa.

Over a hundred years of colonizing the solar system and humans were still the highest form of biological life. Gianni Mazzari had always wondered what it would mean if we discovered something more advanced.He wondered what the strange signals recorded from the Europa relay would lead to.

The spectrum of hypothesis stretched from an alien uplift to humanity’s doom and a thousand speculations between.

A part of him, the scared boy he was as a child who would look out from Atlas Station and shrink away from the possibilities, wanted to instruct his shuttle’s AI pilot to slingshot around Jupiter and head back to the relative safety of the inner planets.

Another part of him, the part that signed up to the Solar Federation Space Agency, ignored his childhood and instead brought up the image of Europa on the large, wraparound screen in the cockpit.

He’d seen high-resolution imagery of Europa before from the SFSA probes, but to see it in context with Jupiter dominating the space behind it was something else. It was pale, light blue with darker patches resembling veins. A breath caught in his throat as awe threatened to overwhelm him. This would be his view for the next eighteen months, and what a view it was. Although the probes had found no life in its vast oceans, the moon would provide a base for future deep-space exploration missions.

Gianni had thought this moment would never arrive, that all the studying, all the effort to work his way up through the scientific ranks wouldn’t bear fruit.

Then he discovered the signal.

And here he was, approaching the shining pearl in the void that awaited for him to use it as a stepping stone to greater discoveries.

“Sarah,” Gianni said, activating the ship’s AI, “I can’t see the astronomy platform. I thought I’d see it from here.”

“We’re obstructed by the orbits. The ET-AstroLab will be visible within the next fifteen minutes. Do you want me to magnify when we’re in view?”

“Yes, thanks, Sarah. That would be appreciated. Are all other ship functions working normally?”

“Affirmative. All systems are within normal tolerances.”

The AI’s voice was modeled on his sister, Bella. The SFSA said it’d help him to have a familiar voice to accompany him during the two-week journey.

They were right. Mostly.

It freaked him out on occasion, mostly during the interstitial moments of waking and sleeping when he would think he was back home on Atlas station as a child, running through the levels, chasing his older sister, and causing mayhem as kids were wont to do.

He and his sister had taken very different paths since then, and he’d never been so far from her as he was now. But it was a small sacrifice to make for scientific discovery.

“ETA two hours,” Sarah said. “Reducing thrust to half-g.”

Gianni yawned and stretched his arms above his head. He shifted beneath the straps around his shoulders that held him to the crash couch. He was already looking forward to docking with the ET-Astrolab.

Rumor had it that the SFSA had shipped out the best coffee beans in the solar system. He’d been on powdered synthetic garbage since he had left Atlas. He could almost smell the roasting beans.

The image of Europa before him darkened.

“What the…”

A shadow crept across the pale surface, and the image flickered before fragmenting into a billion pixels of static.

Gianni leaned forward and tapped the AV controls to no effect.

The lights within the cockpit cut out, and the rumble of thrust motors ceased.

“Sarah? Do you hear me? What the hell’s happening?”

No response.

His pulse quickened, and his breath became short. He focussed on his disaster protocols.

First step: Activate the backup power.

He eased the straps off his shoulders and floated away in the microgravity now that there was no thrust. Using the foot and hand holds, he pushed himself over to the manual backup switch and pulled down on the red handle.

The generator kicked into life, flicking the navigation screen back on.

And he instantly regretted it.

A high-pitched wail came through the speakers, penetrating his brain. The screen’s image shifted and blurred as though he were drunk. It morphed and eventually resolved into crystal-clear high-definition.

A section of space in front of his shuttle started to twist and pulsate as though it were alive. Words and symbols that he didn’t understand flooded his mind.

The screen shut off, and the ship rocked as the airlock opened.

Warning alarms blared out. Fear coursed through every cell in Gianni’s body, and he dragged himself to the rear of the cockpit and mashed a hand against the emergency transmitter.

It was futile.

The bulkhead opened, and Gianni knew he was no longer alone.

He screamed for Bella, for Sarah, for God.

But the reply came from none of those.