Pine Gap Teaser 01 – Derailed

Here’s a small snippet from my first novel – Pine Gap. There’s more to come over the next couple of months, but if you can’t wait to find out what happens to our intrepid hero the please feel free to buy my book. It is available in Amazon Australia, the UK and worldwide.

Colonel Gabriel Drax had left the blazing, shattered remains of the Pine Gap Express strewn over the desert far behind him. He was the sole survivor of the catastrophe and needed to get to higher ground in order to call for help. The hot sand scorched his feet through rugged, yet well-worn military boots and he struggled to maintain momentum, sinking to depths as high as his calf muscles with every single strength-sapping step. The centuries-old hole in the ozone layer had super-heated the desert floor so that it was like wading through molten rock and although his footwear could withstand this sort of punishment for a while, they would not last forever.

The rocky outcrop on the horizon looked like an oasis and Gabriel knew it was his only chance to find safety from the Sand Sharks who were beginning to circle. These amazing marsupials had evolved over more than a thousand years to adapt to their hostile environment. With strong legs they are able to ‘swim’ through the loose earth while their round flat tails tune into the vibrations of their prey on the surface. Although the juveniles can only hunt at night, the adult Sharks possess a unique body cooling system that prevents their internal organs from boiling inside them and their tough hides are practically resistant to the baking temperatures of the sunlight. Colonel Drax had encountered these creatures only once since leaving the wreckage and had come off second best.

Time passed slowly as Gabriel trudged forward grasping his laser pistol tightly in his left hand; his right having been torn off at the wrist several hours earlier. He had done his best to close the wound with the remaining strips of cloth left over from his medikit but eventually he had to cauterize the stump with a white-hot blast from his gun. Years of military experience had taught the Colonel how to survive in the worst possible environments however hunger, thirst and fatigue were beginning to take their toll and the pursuing Sharks knew it.

The oasis was looking more like a mirage.

As he extricated his foot from the sucking soil and plopped it down again for the ten thousandth time Gabriel scanned the desert around him for any sign of the inevitable assault. These specialised predators attacked from below at a terrifying pace, with an insatiable hunger and teeth that can pierce metal. A slight rippling in the landscape ahead of him alerted the soldier to the next challenge and he was equal to the task. Gabriel fired his pistol at the erupting mound of sand and managed to shoot an alpha male in the skull as it attempted to exit its burrow. The extirpated animal silently collapsed onto the dirt with dark crimson fluid pouring from the large laceration. Food was scarce in the desert and Sand Sharks were not afraid to cannibalize their own kind, especially when they were injured, dying or dead.  The Colonel had bought himself some time but he knew that once they had the carcass torn up and delivered back to their burrows he would once again be on the menu.

Gabriel was left in peace for what seemed an eternity yet he was well aware that, with his water supply exhausted and his feet beginning to blister, death was not far away. The smell of his own charred flesh and singed hair made him gag, leaving the bitter taste of bile on the back of his tongue, when the rocky outcrop suddenly materialised out of the heat haze and he realised he was almost there. The elation of relief brought with it a painful lapse of concentration as a hungry Shark surfaced between his legs and tore a sizable slice out of his thigh. The femoral artery had been severed and the blood flow was frenetic. Gabriel fell onto the sand and started crawling towards sanctuary. The pain was intense as burned skin flaked from his fingers, but when he hauled himself onto the first piece of hard ground he had felt since boarding the train in Sydney the grim-faced warrior actually smiled.

As Gabriel rolled over onto his back he felt a tugging motion on the leg that had been bitten and looked down to see it was gone. His mortality gushed forth in scarlet spurts as he desperately tried to use his frayed belt as a tourniquet. Three more ripples were moving towards him from different directions so he checked his laser pistol, only to find that the charge was empty. The blissful delirium faded and Colonel Drax was resigned to his fate.

A trio of Sand Sharks surfaced only two meters from where he lay. Gabriel had been found by a pack of hunting females and he knew that it would all be over very soon. The lead Shark walked towards him and stood inches from his face. She was an extraordinary example of creature cunning, strength and intelligence, a being that had survived beyond all odds and, despite her harsh appearance, Colonel Drax thought she was beautiful. He expected her breath to smell of death and decay but instead she radiated an intoxicating mix of perfumed aromas. So incredible was the fragrance that he relaxed and offered her his throat.

Pine Gap © Matthew Green 2004

Pine Gap Synopsis 2018

With my novel ‘Pine Gap’ now being published through Blurb and Amazon Australia, UK and worldwide. I thought I would share a synopsis for you so you can see what all the fuss is about.

Deep in the heart of the Australian desert an impenetrable military prison is being invaded by an insidious aggressor. Time is running out for the small defence force who are no match for rotting corpses, giant spiders, voracious sabellids and the other alien beasts that begin appearing around the facility. As the indiscriminate killings continue only the arrival of Colonel Gabriel Drax gives the fractured team any chance of survival. But will this brilliant tactician lead them to safety, or is he too late?

Pine Gap is a science fiction / action novel set in the thirty first century. I chose to use Pine Gap as the main setting because of its remote presence in the Australian outback and the fact that public knowledge about what is actually at Pine Gap is more conjectural than fact. A quick search on the Internet will provide the reader with many theories both plausible and fanciful as to the true workings of this facility. Pine Gap’s mystique makes for good subject matter.

In my novel, Pine Gap has been converted into an impenetrable prison where the hardest criminals in the Universe are sent. Its construction is entirely underground and so well defended that it has also become a databank for the intellectual property of all the peaceful nations within the galaxy. Bank accounts, patents, military secrets etc are stored here alongside monsters, terrorists and captured enemy Generals. In spite of all its security however, someone is managing to get in.

The main protagonist is Colonel Gabriel Drax. He is a highly decorated officer and a skilled military tactician who was born in Australia and has been brought to the Gap in order to provide security. Gabriel suffered an accident as a child, which required in experimental surgery to be performed on his brain. As a result of his many operations Gabriel often has vague nightmares warning him about the future. All the while that he is trying to build a defensive position he is bombarded by an abstruse extrasensory perception. He knows that he is going to be betrayed but he does not know if it will be his friend, his enemy or his lover.

The other main characters are:

Admiral Dargan – He is the incumbent commander of Pine Gap who places Colonel Drax in charge. Gabriel knows that Dargan is developing something sinister in the bowels of the facility and it doesn’t take long to deduce what that is. Dargan has a long history of incompetent leadership and as a result he is despised by many of his subordinates especially Colonel Drax.

Major Katana May from Military Intelligence who is Admiral Dargan’s niece. Katana has a fiery temper, which lands her in hot water on more than one occasion. Gabriel develops a fondness for her regardless of her relationship to Admiral Dargan and in spite of the fact he knows she has been ordered to spy on him.

Captain Sebastian Botha who is Gabriel’s closest friend. Sebastian is a loyal soldier and confidant who would follow Gabriel into the depths of hell if need be. Their friendship was forged over years of fighting side by side during various campaigns throughout the Universe. Sebastian enjoys telling stories of their battles to the other troopers and sharing bourbon with his friend.

Lilakoi Paige who is the Chief Science Officer and Gabriel’s love interest. Lily is an incredibly intelligent scientist whom Gabriel is always trying to keep up with. She was brought to Pine Gap to assist Admiral Dargan achieve his insidious goals but she is in love with Gabriel and cannot seem to focus properly on her efforts. The more she falls for him the more she becomes conflicted about her actions.

Lieutenant Nick Schiffiletti who manages the Communications. Nick is a young, small-framed boy in his early twenties with a natural flair for computers. He is in charge of ensuring that Admiral Dargan’s communiqués are kept private and that the experiment remains a secret. He is also somewhat of a military historian with a deep respect for the Drax family. The arrival of Gabriel makes Nick think twice about his part in the Admiral’s deception.

Declan Sharkey, a mercenary who is leading the invasion. Declan is an ex soldier who was too violent to remain in the armed forces. He is an evil, smooth talking murderer who leads a group of insurgents with similar tendencies.

The Jones Brothers are three humanoids from the planet Tortia who are financing the mercenaries. Tortians are a race of people who have been genetically enhancing their appearances for generations. As a result their DNA has changed to the point that they all look exactly the same. The downside is they have become genetically perfect geniuses that are also criminally insane.

Garou, a shape-shifter and tribal chieftain from Scarag. He and his family are being used as pawns in the Tortian’s plans.

There are many other minor characters that will engage the reader in their own unique way. There is Fricassee Phil, the ancient chef who dispenses wisdom alongside his bacon and eggs. The grim Master Chief, leader of the last remaining squad of Red Cap soldiers in the Universe. Mo, the gruff Tullimbar Sergeant who befriends the Master Chief in spite of their differences and General Garorky Katarg a high ranking officer of the Magadatch army who are at war with Earth and our allies.

Throughout the novel the characters develop and change. Friends become enemies and enemies become allies. There is love, death and romance intermingled with jealousy, greed and infighting as Gabriel attempts to unite the troops and repel the invaders. Families splinter and murderers are exposed as the troops learn to trust one another and their leader in a desperate bid for survival.

Pine Gap © Matthew Green 2004

Pine Gap Gets Published

Thanks to the most wonderful editor / publisher on the planet, my novel ‘Pine Gap’ is now available through Blurb and Amazon Australia, UK and worldwide. Limited edition first release paperbacks are also available for those that staunch collectors of classic literature. A big thank you to my children, my family and especially my wife, for all their encouragement and support.

Driver William James Roseland – Rest in Peace.

Every year, around ANZAC Day, I share a thought on social media for my Great Grandfather William James Roseland, who perished in France during the ‘Great War’. The greatest sadness for me is the photo below, a loving father with his brand new baby boy who never saw each other again.

Today, August 14 2018, is the 100th anniversary of William’s death. A milestone I nearly missed if it wasn’t for my cousin John Francis Roseland (named after my mother Frances) who compiled the majority of the information that follows.

William James Roseland, born in Brisbane c1893, enlisted on the 7th December 1916 at the ripe old age of 22 and half years old.

He was 5 feet 9 inches tall at the time of his enlistment, weighed 144 pounds with a chest measurement of 31-34 inches and had fair hair and blue eyes.

His distinctive marks include small scars on his knee. I’m not sure how identifiable this would be for a casualty in battle though, but it was noted all the same. Like so many young men of this time it is believed that he was at least 2 years younger. Meaning he was possibly 21 when he died. You can see below the attestation of his enlistment papers – no date of birth is mentioned.

The only son of George and Margaret Roseland, William made his way to Sydney where he married Ruth Winifred Field, or ‘Nanny Field’ as we used to call her.

On April 19th 1917 he fathered his only child, a son, Ronald William Roseland – the baby in the picture at the beginning of this post – our grandfather and a man I loved dearly.

Just over a month later William embarked from Melbourne on board HMAT Suevic. He never saw his wife or son again. The boat traveled via South Africa, and with basic training along the way William soon found himself amongst the horrors of the western front.

As an engineer who had experience handling horses, William was given the rank of Driver. This meant he was in charge of a team of horses that pulled gun carriages in and out of the required locations.

A dangerous mission that left him undefended on many occasions.

Medals Awarded

Medals Awarded

On the 10th of August 1917 Whilst undertaking one of these transports a shell exploded with in his vicinity, which caused some shrapnel to lodge in his leg. A note written by one of his brigade said” I saw Driver Roseland not long after taking the shrapnel to his leg. He was in fine spirits and was not in need of aid to walk to the triage station. “ Adrenalin is amazing, but eventually it wears off.

Unfortunately, there were no antibiotics at this time and within 2 days he was admitted to the 2nd Canadian General Hospital. Things then became critical with the leg turning gangrenous. His leg was removed however it was too late as sepsis had taken over his body. On this day 100 years ago he died in a faraway country with no family by his side.

He is buried in the Mont Huon Military Cemetery (Plot VII, Row A, Grave No. 2A), Le Treport, France.

Photo taken by my cousin Steven Roseland

Photo taken by my cousin Steven Roseland

After his death my great grandmother was devastated. A young mother, with no income other than a war pension, wrote to the AIF desperately seeking her husband’s effects. Her penmanship is perfect, but the date is over nine months since William’s passing.

The reply is a sobering reminder of the futility of war.

A bible, a thimble, a wedding ring…William wasn’t sending much home other than his love.

I’d like to say that I miss William James, but I never had the opportunity to meet him. I did name my youngest son Lachlan James after him, in his honour. I did have the pleasure of knowing my great grandmother’s second husband, who we affectionately called Pop. He was a lovely man who died when I was very young. He was in his nineties and I was less than ten.

War is Hell, or so the saying goes. But Alan Alda said it best in an episode of MASH when his character, Dr Hawkeye Pearce suggested that war was worse. When he was questioned by Father Mulcahy how he arrived at that conclusion he asked who went to hell. Fr Mulcahy said that Hell was for sinners. Hawkeye said that, unlike Hell, innocent people died in war. I agree with Hawkeye, war is worse.

OurPlanet Expansion

Omani Hearts

Building an International School in the Middle East is not without its complications. Local labour laws, Municipality regulations and Ministry rules provide a plethora of hurdles and hoops to jump through. Then there is the challenge of combining the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum with the Omani Arabic program, whilst ensuring that you maintain an even mix of local students and expatriate children. The last two years have been complex, exhausting, and a lot of fun.

Earlier this week we successfully concluded negotiations on the lease of a new villa. Usually this type of announcement would be made with only a small amount of fanfare. It’s just another building after all. However this particular new lease has far reaching effects for our school because it will enable us to establish our IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) with plenty of room for growth.

OurPlanet Expansion

OurPlanet Expansion

You can see from our conceptual drawing how our expanded campus will look as we continue to develop the site here at Madinat Qaboos, in the Sultanate of Oman. We are also committed to providing the IB Diploma Program (DP) and this new expansion will allow us five more years to find a solution. This may include building the program ourselves, or working with the other IB schools to ensure a smooth transition for our children. That’s the trouble with our part of town, there’s not much room left.

Renovations in the New Senior Primary & MYP Villa will be completed by September 2018, in time for the next academic year, and will include a brand new, state-of-the-art science lab. The New MYP Expansion will be opened in September 2019 and further expansion across the back of the school will be occurring over the next eighteen months and will include a swimming centre, gymnasium, and multi-purpose hall.

This certainly is an exciting time to be part of the OurPlanet community I am very proud to be providing ongoing quality education for our children.