Here’s the second snippet from my novel – Pine Gap. I hope you find it entertaining. Pencil drawings are provided by my son Daniel, a budding artist who (much to his mother’s despair) seems to prefer gruesome illustrations. I have added his interpretation of a Sand Shark to the previous article – Derailed. Please feel free to comment on my work and if you know anyone who might like it I would be grateful if you would let them know. Cheers.
Two tired Tullimbar soldiers trudged wearily through the open elevator doors. It was a long and tedious journey from the basement to the apex of Pine Gap and they would have to do it all over again after they visited the CSO. As their transport crossed from level fifty-five to level fifty-four the lift shuddered, then struggled to move as if it were being pulled back by a colossal weight. The motor strained and cried out with a high-pitched whine that steadily increased in tone and volume, whilst the cables groaned in mechanical pain. Suddenly, as it extricated itself from its entrapment, the elevator launched skyward with a mighty jolt that sent the men smashing into the ceiling before dumping them onto the floor.
“What the hell was that?”
“I’ve no idea, but it felt like something was blocking the shaft. We should check it out.”
The bruised soldiers hastily reversed direction of the elevator and began their descent. Once again the car seemed to grind its way through the unknown obstruction, although this time the progress was a little easier. Finally it stopped and the doors opened. The sight that befell them was incredible. Thin strands of gossamer floated in the gentle stillness whilst glistening angels hair extended between the prison cells on both sides and up into the elevator shaft. So captivated were they by the beauty that both men stepped out of the car simultaneously and sealed their fate.
The lights in the ceiling reflected a dazzling brilliance from the delicate, silky threads as the spectrum exploded into tiny rainbows that shifted position depending on the viewer’s perspective. Neither man had seen anything like this before. The awestruck visitors walked along the soft, cottony surface until they noticed that their impetus was gradually being impeded by an invisible force field. The lead soldier knelt down to touch the floor and was instantly puzzled to find his hand had become adhered to the substance they were standing on. He turned to look up at his partner in time to see the blue and yellow abdomen of a Catonque spider drop from the ceiling above his friend’s head. He watched in horror as the beast sunk its humongous fangs into the unfortunate man’s neck.
The crouching soldier wrenched his hand from the glued glove and attempted to extract the pistol from its holster. The floating threads that had been tickling his neck would not yield however and his entire torso was immobilised, held fast by invisible fingers of immense strength. He tried to kick his feet free from his boots and found that this was an impossible task. The more he struggled the more he stuck.
Long spindly legs began to emerge from the cell on the left. A second Catonque spider was slowly creeping towards him with a visage that betrayed its malicious intent. He realised now what had happened, he and his friend had blundered into their nest.
He frantically tugged once more at his shoes, but his feet were cemented to the floor.
The creature crept closer.
With his strength waning the Tullimbar veteran fought in vain to free himself from the sticky filaments.
The spider crawled onto his foot.
He unloaded a stream of vociferous obscenities upon the arachnid and it reacted as only a soulless arthropod would, by biting him.
The doomed man screamed in agony as dual five centimetre long chelicerae punctured his leg and injected their venom. The thick, sticky poison began coursing through his bloodstream, melting his internal organs and reducing his insides into a gooey humanoid soup.
Eight lidless, emotionless eyes looked at him and then everything went black.
Pine Gap © Matthew Green 2004
Here’s a small snippet from my first novel – Pine Gap. From time to time I will place ‘teasers’ on here for people to read, enjoy and comment on. If you have any criticisms or suggestions please post them as my novel has not yet found a publisher so there is still time to get on the acknowledgments list 🙂
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 superheated 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
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 character 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