Thu
Jun 7 2012 10:00am

The Comet’s Curse (Excerpt)

Dom Testa

The Comet’s Curse by Dom TestaStarting today and going until July 6, Dom Testa’s Galahad series is going on sale as one of the Kindle 100! If you’d like to give the series a look, we’ve got the first five chapters of its opening installment: The Comet’s Curse. Check it out!

When the tail of the comet Bhaktul flicks through the Earth’s atmosphere, deadly particles are left in its wake. Suddenly, mankind is confronted with a virus that devastates the adult population. Only those under the age of eighteen seem to be immune. Desperate to save humanity, a renowned scientist proposes a bold plan: to create a ship that will carry a crew of 251 teenagers to a home in a distant solar system. Two years later, the Galahad and its crew—none over the age of sixteen—is launched.

Two years of training have prepared the crew for the challenges of space travel. But soon after departing Earth, they discover that a saboteur is hiding on the Galahad! Faced with escalating acts of vandalism and terrorized by threatening messages, sixteen-year-old Triana Martell and her council soon realize that the stowaway will do anything to ensure that the Galahad never reaches its destination. The teens must find a way to neutralize their enemy. For if their mission fails, it will mean the end of the human race….

What you’re holding right now is kind of like the oldfashioned message in a bottle. Poor souls who found themselves shipwrecked on an island would jot down a message—usually pretty simple: HELP!—seal it inside a bottle and toss it into the ocean. The idea being that someone would scoop it out of the water and come to the rescue. The idea also being that this someone would not be a bloodthirsty pirate looking for possible treasure that might’ve washed up onshore with our poor little castaway.

Except this message in a bottle is different in a couple of ways. First, it’s a story and not just a simple HELP! It’s full of pretty interesting characters, not the least of which is me, thank you very much. They face danger, deal with issues like fear and jealousy and loneliness— things that make me glad I’m not human—and learn as much about themselves as they do one another.

And although there aren’t any true pirates, there are some fairly nasty types.

Second, our heroes aren’t on your typical island. This island is made of steel, the size of a shopping mall, and the sea is a sea of stars. They’re stranded, sure; but they chose to be stranded here because their only other choice was . . . well, their only other choice was a gruesome death.

Okay, easy decision.

Castaways who have been rescued years later often say that—strange but true—in some respects it’s hard to leave the island. It’s become home, a place of security in an ocean of fear. And although deep down they want to be rescued, part of them wants to remain nestled within their cocoon. An observer might think the island a prison; the shipwreck survivor sees it as a haven. It’s all perspective.

This story has its own island, and its own castaways.

I guess I’m the bottle. The message—or story—is sealed inside me.

I like that responsibility. And I don’t think anyone else is better qualified to tell the tale.

So let’s get on with it. Let’s pull the stopper out of the bottle and see what pours out. I’ll try not to interrupt (much), but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

 

 

1

 

There are few sights more beautiful. For all of the spectacular sunsets along a beach, or vivid rainbows arcing over a mist-covered forest, or high mountain pastures exploding with wildflowers, nothing could compare to this. This embraced every breathtaking scene. Mother Earth, in all of her supreme glory, spinning in a showcase of wonder. No picture, no television image, no movie scene could ever do her justice. From two hundred miles up it’s spellbinding, hypnotic.

Which made saying good-bye even more difficult.

The ship sat still and silent in the cold, airless vacuum of space. It was a massive vessel, but against the backdrop of the planet below it appeared small, a child teetering at the feet of a parent, preparing to take its first steps. Soft, twinkling lights at the edges helped to define the shape which could not easily be described. Portions of it were boxy, others rectangular, with several curves and angles that seemed awkward. To an untrained eye it appeared as if it had simply been thrown together from leftover parts. In a way, that was true.

Its dark, grayish blue surface was speckled by hundreds of small windows. Two hundred fifty-one pairs of eyes peered out, eyes mostly wet with tears, getting a final glimpse of home. Two hundred fifty-one colonists sealed inside, and not one over the age of sixteen.

Their thoughts and feelings contained a single thread: each envisioned family members two hundred miles below, grouped together outside, staring up into the sky. Some would be shielding their eyes from the glare of the sun, unable to see the ship but knowing that it was up there, somewhere. Others, on the dark side of the planet, would be sifting through the maze of stars, hoping to pick out the quiet flicker of light, pointing, embracing, crying.

Many were too ill and unable to leave their beds, but were likely gazing out their own windows, not wanting to loosen the emotional grip on their son or daughter so far away.

The day filled with both hope and dread had arrived.

With a slight shudder, the ship came to life. It began to push away from the space station where it had been magnetically tethered for two years. Inside the giant steel shell there was no sensation of movement other than the image of the orbiting station gradually sliding past the windows. That was enough to impress upon the passengers that the voyage had begun.

Galahad had launched.

After a few moments Triana Martell turned away from one of the windows and, with a silent sigh, began to walk away. Unlike her fellow shipmates’ eyes, her eyes remained dry, unable, it seemed, to cry anymore.

“Hey, Tree,” she heard a voice call out behind her. “Don’t you want to watch?”

“You won’t notice anything,” she said over her shoulder. “It might be hours before you can tell any difference in the size. We won’t have enough speed for a while.”

“Yeah,” came another voice, “but you won’t ever see it again. Don’t you want to say good-bye?”

Triana slipped around a corner of the well-lit hallway, and when she answered it was mostly to herself. “I’ve already said my good-byes.”

With the entire crew’s attention focused on the outside view, she had the corridor to herself, and appreciated it.

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