TheStrandedOnes
The Stranded Ones
Jay B. Gaskill

Hugh McCahan is in the “information business” a technology spy, a thief of secrets. After the collapse of world patent laws sparked a black market in high-tech secrets, intellectual property became worth killing for. Among the urban legends of Hugh’s business: Tiny colonies of stranded aliens are brokering a technological goldmine.

One day Hugh feeds a homeless man at a nearby diner, and is told about an explosion in Antarctica, an international cover-up and a well-guarded government warehouse in New Jersey. When Hugh finds out that the rumors of aliens are true, he is reunited with the charismatic Australian Jack Falstaff, who has been keeping the most deadly secret...



ISBN ebook: 978-1-926760-15-5
FICTION | Science Fiction
Word Count: 80,000
List Price: $4.99
November 2009



Excerpt

PROLOGUE: THE AUSTRAL-SUMMER ANOMALY
Early February - Near the Ross Ice Shelf

It was high noon on a late summer day in Antarctica, minus 20 degrees Celsius, partly cloudy, winds at 20 kph. The twin engine Dernier, a ski equipped spotter plane, was carrying an extra passenger, Phil O’Neal of the National Geographic, as it tracked the path of the special New Zealand-American team. The hastily assembled group had traveled ten hours across the Ross Ice Shelf on snow machines to reach a spot 296 kilometers from base. Gasoline and supplies had been airdropped a half-click in front of them. From Dernier’s windows, the bright orange containers were scattered below like candy against the monochrome icescape.

A vast steam plume was gouting from a fresh crater in the ice ahead where a very large object had crashed into the Ross Ice Shelf close to the 80th parallel near the border of the Australian and New Zealand claim areas.

As the Dernier banked to the right, O’Neal reached for his camera. The steam plume towered against the chilly blue of the Antarctic sky. Thirty six hours earlier, satellite imagery had captured a huge impact reminiscent of the 1908 Tunguska event in Siberia.

This was the spot.

After O’Neal had acquired his first four minutes of high quality images, the Dernier began banking away from the crater, preparing for another pass. Both O’Neal and the pilot were looking out when a sudden white flash engulfed the entire scene below. The searing pulse of light destroyed O’Neal’s retinas, fried the plane’s electronics and blinded the pilot as well. The brilliant flash and telltale mushroom cloud were captured from space at a very low angle by the nearest imaging satellite. Those images would be classified. The next morning a follow up team was sent from McMurdo by helicopter. They found the ice crater, still steaming, the wrecked Dernier and the remains of the ground team not far from the edge. The rescue team conducted a brief inspection and took several radiation readings, all negative. After a flurry of international calls, the incident was officially written off by the US, Australia and New Zealand as two “anomalous meteor impacts”. The suspicious nature of the post-impact explosion was ignored by mutual agreement.

The Antarctic winter soon arrived and a cloak of media silence followed. Public attention was soon diverted by the usual scandals, and the unsatisfactory official explanation stood. The pilot and the members of the New Zealand-American team were quietly written off as dead...as was the National Geographic photographer, Phillip O’Neal.


THE AOTEAROA VISITORS
South Island, New Zealand - A few months later

Professor Harry Tamati first discovered the “Little Ones” on a predawn morning as they were scurrying away from the porch of his summer home in the Alpine foothills on South Island, New Zealand. They clicked when they scurried, looking in the starlight like large, complicated crustaceans; and they carried satchels. He vowed not to tell anyone, of course.

Harry was on sabbatical from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch. He was also a Maori Shaman, a fact he’d omitted from his resume and his on-line curriculum vitae for the same reason the he would never go public with his discovery.

This was to be the first of many encounters.

The creatures had “borrowed” a broken pocket watch from the porch a few nights earlier. It had been a gift from a British Colonel to Harry’s great-grandfather, a Maori chief. The watch was 200 years old and Harry had left it on a table, unattended. After all, who ever visits? When the missing timepiece reappeared on the porch two nights ago, in perfect repair, it was accompanied by a note in precise block letters:

PLEASE.
ONE POUND SUGAR.
ONE POUND SALT.
ONE PINT BEER.

Naturally Harry was intrigued. He had put the requested lager, sugar and salt where the returned watch had been deposited. He made it to the porch that pre-dawn morning just in time to see the strange creatures as they scurried into the shadows.

Harry immediately realized the importance of his find, as well as the possible peril to his reputation. He vowed to investigate further, but he would need funding. After making a few discreet inquiries, he was referred to an Australian businessman named Jack Falstaff who came to the scene within the week.

Falstaff was a tall, lean man with a reputation for intrigue, and a gift for the succinct. He seemed unsurprised at Tamati’s account. “Mark my words, Harry. The little buggers will be a gold mine. You take good care of them for me. And, yes, by all means, study them all you want.” Falstaff then swore Harry to absolute secrecy, and put the entire “research project” on a stipend. Harry was to file secret reports monthly and was given an emergency number. Months would go by without any other contact from Mr. Falstaff.



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