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The Hidden Ones
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-456-1
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Science Fiction/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Length: 158 Pages
Published: June 2007



From inside the flap

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 planetís discoverer, has returned to Darvas hoping to clear his familyís 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-uncleís ghost!


The Hidden Ones (Excerpt)


Chapter One

James Anson gasped as he stepped out of the Landerís 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 hereís 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 planetís flinty air. "Yes, sir. Sorry about that."

Tarsis shrugged. "No problem. Just remember, Darvas isnít Earth."

"Yeah, Iíve 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.

"Donít know. My first trip here, too." Tarsis pointed toward the aft of the jet-black spacecraft. "Better hurry. The cameraís 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 didnít take long.

"All right, hereís 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. "Weíll 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 sunís harsh glare. "Iím Rebekah Simone, and youíre watching Outposts."

She paused. "How was that one?"

Juan nodded. "Itís 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 hadnít even noticed his arrival. "Now, letís 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 couldnít 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. "Thatís all right. You can go first ... if youíd like."

"Nonsense. Youíll do just fine." Kambich was a tall man, broad shouldered and erect. He cut an imposing figure in his bulky blue parka. "After all, itís your grandfatherís work thatís brought us here." He clapped James on the shoulder.

"All right then." Rebekah Simone clipped the mike to Jamesí collar. "Iím 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. Letís start with who you are."

James swallowed. His mouth tasted as dry as the cold sand under his boots. "Uh, my nameís James Anson, and..."

The cameraman waved his hand in the air. "Can he lose the mask? I canít pick up his voice. And have him look into the camera."

"Check." Rebekah slipped the mask off his face before he could even lift a hand.

She re-adjusted his collar and smoothed down a cowlick. "Say something, Jim."

"Uh, itís James," he muttered, more self-conscious than ever. "Howís that?"

Vaccarro nodded. Rebekah smiled. "Okay, go ahead. Take your time."

"My name..." James forced himself to breathe slowly. The temperature was dropping, and every gulp of the thin, icy air burned his lungs. The pain was a welcome distraction. "My name is James Anson. James Anson the second, actually. I was named after my grandfather."

"And he discovered this planet?" the reporter prompted.

"Thatís right." The words were coming easier. "He and his brother Louis were the first humans to explore Darvas. They were the ones who found the ruins." James glanced briefly at Kambich. The tall man nodded reassuringly. James plowed on. "They spent thirty years here, off and on, excavating the buried city out there."

"And what happened to them?"

James stared directly into the lens. "No one knows for certain. They came back for one last season of digging, and contact was lost." He paused a moment. "When the rescue ship arrived, it was already too late. They never even found the bodies."

"Perfect." Rebekah smiled warmly. "Nice job, Jim. Weíll shoot some more in the morning, okay?"

He nodded, happy to be done. His legs were shaking harder now, his knees stiff and not all of it was from the biting cold. Rebekah Simone snipped the dot mike from his coat and stepped toward Kambich.

"Doctor?"

"Ready when you are." Kambich seemed as confident as a politician.

Rebekah Simone smiled warmly. James had the distinct impression the pair was talking about more than simply shooting an interview. Neither Kambich nor Rebekah had paid a lot of attention to him during the long voyage. Altair was too large a ship for a skinny fifteen-year-old boy to command much interest aboard. From anybody. Juan Vaccarro adjusted the camera angle to accommodate Kambichís taller frame. Motors whirred as the lens moved in and out.

"Now," Rebekah said. "Why donít you tell us your name and background?"

"Certainly. My name is Dr. Arthur Kambich, and Iím currently Assistant Curator of the Museum of Extra-Terrestrial Archeology at Lowell, Mars. I have a PhD in anthropology, and was, for four seasons, project coordinator of the níEardon excavations on Pegasi III. Is this picking up all right?"

"Just fine, Doctor," Rebekah said. "Now then, what can you tell us about the ruins here on Darvas?"

"Well," Kambich began.

A cloud of thick brown dust erupted around them, driven by the icy wind. Tarsis swung around the thick landing gear, his feet kicking up even more grit. "Are you about done? The tempís dropping off fast and I want everyone inside before dark."

If the reporter was annoyed, she didnít let it show. "Fine. Weíll wrap in a second."

"Good. And donít overdo things, at least until youíve acclimated a while." Tarsis looked pointedly at James, tapping on his own breather with his index finger. "Remember, the air pressure here is about the same as the top of the Andes back on Earth. People have been known to collapse at that altitude."

James pulled his mask back into place. The thicker air was a relief. Immediately, the headache he had been fighting vanished. Now, if only his toes would warm up. He looked back toward Kambich.

"As I was saying," the archeologist continued. "Iíve spent years studying Captain Ansonís diaries, and while they make wonderful reading, they are, unfortunately, utter fantasy."

Jamesí heart crashed into his stomach. Of all the things he had expected Kambich to say, that wasnít one of them. He stared in disbelief as Kambich plowed on, growing madder by the second at the bombastic archeologist. Instinctively, his fingers curled into fists.

"Anson believed that not only did life evolve here on Darvas." Kambichís mouth twisted into a self-satisfied smile. "But that intelligent life arose, and then died out with hardly a trace. That theory is, without a doubt, erroneous."

Another blast of wind rocked the Lander. Tiny particles of grit and sand pounded against the hull, skittering off the sides like hail. Juan slipped a transparent lens cover over the expensive camera. In the distance, a wall of dun-colored sand raced across the foothills.

Rebekah shivered, wrapping her arms around her body. "Okay, one last question. What about the ruins Anson and his brother found?"

"Oh, theyíre real," Kambich said. He glanced at James. "But, they are almost certainly the ruins of an níEardon colony that failed sometime during the Great Expansion three or four thousand years ago." He paused. "In the four centuries mankind has been exploring space, weíve encountered only two intelligent species. The níEardon, and ourselves." His thick arm swung theatrically around the bleak landscape. "To think a third could have arisen here on Darvas is laughable."

Rebekah helped Juan gather his gear, shaking Kambichís hand as she unclipped the microphone. Together, the trio retreated toward the airlock, leaving James alone and unsure on the cold, barren sand. He still couldnít believe what he had heard.

Tarsis waved at him. "Come on, kid. Letís get inside. Donít know about you, but Iím freezing."

"Yeah, Iím coming." James kicked a fist-sized pebble beside his feet. Too late, he realized it was frozen solid to the ground. His toes exploded in pain.

"Donít take it so hard," Tarsis said, waiting at the airlock ramp. "Thatís what these academic types do for fun. Cut each other down, I mean."

"Did you hear what he said about my grandfather?"

Tarsis shrugged. The heavy hatch slid shut behind them, hissing as it sealed. "So itís up to you to set the record straight. Thatís why you came here, isnít it? To tell your granddadís story?"

James let his eyes adjust to the dim red light inside the lock. Ahead of him, in the warm glow of the locker room, Kambich and Rebekah were chatting as they stripped off their outer-gear. Dejected, James stared at the floor. "Like Iím going to have any chance to set the record straight against someone like him."

"Donít worry, kid." Tarsis grinned. "Weíve only been on planet a few hours. Letís see how things shape up after a couple weeks. Something tells me there are questions she hasnít even thought of yet."

"Yeah?" James unzipped his jacket, fingers burning against the icy metal. "Hope youíre right."