The Hidden Ones
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by Justin Stanchfield
Category: Science Fiction/Suspense/Thriller
Description: Something is desperately wrong on Darvas, a dying world locked in a perpetual ice age. Twenty years ago an archeological expedition vanished without a trace. Now, two decades later, sixteen year-old James Anson, grandson of the planet's discoverer, has returned to Darvas hoping to clear his family's reputation. Darvas, however, has other plans. Stranded on the frigid surface when an unexpected earthquake disables their shuttle, James and his shipmates fight to survive. While lost in a sandstorm, he stumbles across a portal, a shimmering pool of pure energy connecting the present Darvas with its remote past. Unfortunately, the newly-awakened portal threatens to destroy them all. As the situation worsens, James becomes aware that someone is trying contact him--His great-uncle's ghost!
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, 2007 Double Dragon Publishing Inc.
eBookwise Release Date: June 2007
13 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [235 KB]
Reading time: 145-203 min.
James Anson gasped as he stepped out of the Lander's airlock, frigid wind clawing down his throat and stealing the air from his lungs. He zipped his thick jacket tighter and wished he had put on his insulated boots instead of the light, more comfortable pair he had worn, his footsteps crunching against the dry gravel like he was stepping on bones.
"Better put on your oxygen, kid. The atmosphere here's pretty thin."
"Huh?" James spun around. Mark Tarsis, the pilot who had guided the Lander down from the star cruiser, Altair , tapped the mask that hid most of his craggy face. Thick clouds streamed out his regulator, hissing as he breathed. James fumbled with his own mask. The raw oxygen tasted like metal and machine oil, a sharp contrast to the planet's flinty air. "Yes, sir. Sorry about that."
Tarsis shrugged. "No problem. Just remember, Darvas isn't Earth."
"Yeah, I've noticed." James stared across the empty landscape. Low ridges stretched into the distance, blending into a hazy, washed out horizon. Sparse, thorny bushes rose out of the dunes which stretched down to the long vanished shore. They waved in the wind, the thin branches clattering together. A single, wispy cloud drifted through the sky.
"Is all of Darvas like this?" James asked.
"Don't know. My first trip here, too." Tarsis pointed toward the aft of the jet-black spacecraft. "Better hurry. The camera's waiting."
James sighed. He had been dreading this moment since they broke Earth orbit four months earlier. He walked toward the tail section, his toes cold and stinging, wishing he could turn invisible. Out of habit he pressed his hand against his shoulder, rubbing the medicated patch glued to his skin. He caught the nervous reflex and threw his arm back down, worried someone might have seen. He huddled near the thrust cones, soaking up the last trace of heat, and waited for someone to notice him.
It didn't take long.
"All right, here's our star." The woman seemed taller than she was, blonde hair pushed under a thick felt cap, her breath mask undone, hanging down by her shoulder. Her every movement, every subtle gesture, said this was a woman who knew her business. "We'll be ready for you in a sec, okay?" She turned toward the camera resting on a heavy tripod. "Ready for another take, Juan?"
A stocky, powerful man, thick eyebrows wild as the dark beard peeking out from under his mask, nodded. Juan Vaccarro made a minor adjustment to his equipment, his eye never leaving the viewfinder. "Rolling," he said.
The woman exhaled a deep breath. The vapor-cloud drifted around her as she spoke. "This is Darvas. A frigid, dying world. A world that in a few million years will be as dead as the space around it. A world taking its lonely secrets to the grave." Her blue eyes shone violet in the setting sun's harsh glare. "I'm Rebekah Simone, and you're watching Outposts ."
She paused. "How was that one?"
Juan nodded. "It's a keeper. Want to try one more for the camera?"
She shook her head. "No. We can re-shoot the teaser tomorrow. What I really want is to get some opening statements from our experts." She smiled at James. It caught him off-guard. He glanced away, surprised to see another man standing beside him under the thrust cones. He hadn't even noticed his arrival. "Now, let's do this before we freeze our butts off."
Nervous laughter. Feet scraping against rock. The whine of wind swirling around the landing gear. James scarcely paid attention to any of it, his heart pounding so loudly he couldn't hear. It took major resolve not to reach for his patch, his body shaking with cold. Rebekah took the dot microphone off her collar and held it in front of herself. "Who wants to go first? Dr. Kambich?"
The newcomer smiled. "Hardly. Let Mr. Anson have the first shot."
James blushed. "That's all right. You can go first ... if you'd like."
"Nonsense. You'll do just fine." Kambich was a tall man, broad shouldered and erect. He cut an imposing figure in his bulky blue parka. "After all, it's your grandfather's work that's brought us here." He clapped James on the shoulder.
"All right then." Rebekah Simone clipped the mike to James' collar. "I'm going to ask you a couple questions. Just answer them in your own words. Okay?"
"Yeah." James was sweating despite the cold.
Rebekah stepped out of camera angle. "Great then. Let's start with who you are."
James swallowed. His mouth tasted as dry as the cold sand under his boots. "Uh, my name's James Anson, and..."
Copyright © 2007 Justin Stanchfield.