The Lost Planet
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The Lost Planet



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The Lost Planet

Cynthia Fridsma

2017


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Copyright © 2017 by Cynthia Fridsma

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.

More information about the writer can be found on

www.cynthiafridsma.com

Background photo: Leo Lintang © 123RF.COM

Cover Design: Cynthia Fridsma

First Printing: 2017

ISBN-13: 978-1977728074

ISBN-10: 1977728073



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Dedication

To the people of Boston, who inspire me to keep writing about your beautiful city.


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Acknowledgments

I worked on a chapter-to-chapter basis with my editor, Lee Ann, starting from July 2, 2017, until September 26, 2017.

During that time, I enjoyed the intensive contact with my editor and I would like to thank her for her hard work and suggestions.

I’d like to thank my husband for his endless support. And I’d like to thank all my readers as well because you are my inspiration to keep writing.

Cynthia Fridsma


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Preface

The Lost Planet is my fourth book and my first Sci-Fi thriller. I sincerely hope that you enjoy the escapades of Major Tony Norman and his friends. Please, let me know what you think of this book on social media, Goodreads, Amazon, etc.

My Facebook page is:

http://www.facebook.com/hotelofdeath/

My website is: http://www.cynthiafridsma.com

Enjoy the read.

Cynthia Fridsma


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Prologue


 


Amanda Banner looked in the fridge and sighed. Besides seven eggs and two cans of Coke, it was empty. She closed the fridge and pressed the call button next to the door of her bedroom that was decorated with torn wallpaper—a silent reminder of her failed attempt to redecorate the walls.


“Mike, haven’t I told you to supply my fridge with fresh vegetables, milk, and meat?”


“You did,” Mike responded. “Look, Amanda, I’m sorry, but we don’t have enough supplies as it is. Besides, we have almost reached our destination. And didn’t you order me to keep our passengers comfort­able with fresh food and drinks? I do have an almost endless supply of instant dried food. You only need to add some water and then—”


“Thanks, but no thanks,” she interrupted. Dried food tasted like rubber and indeed, it was important to keep her two passengers aboard starship Atlanta as happy as possible. Mrs. Underwood had paid a great deal of money for a surprise visit to her husband with her six-year-old son, Dylan. Amanda exhaled. The journey from Earth to Saturn took three weeks, and the thirty-year-old cargo ship wasn’t exactly built for passengers.


“Captain, you should come to the bridge,” a voice sounded behind her. It came through the speakers of the monitor mounted on a steel frame to the ceiling near the ladder. She turned and glanced at Hank’s face on the monitor. “Why, what’s up?”

She picked up her clothes from the chair next to the bed. For a moment, she glanced out the window, watching Saturn. Then she


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gazed at the hole in the ceiling were the ladder was. She knew privacy on a cargo ship is a luxury.


“You’d better see for yourself,” Hank replied. The monitor turned itself off as she quickly buttoned her jacket and climbed the ladder that ended in the hallway. Being used to emergencies, she hurried to the bridge. Her footsteps echoed against the walls due to the metallic plates on the floor.


What’s going on? she wondered. Are we under attack by the Alliance? Are we leaking fresh air into space, or—she almost bumped against Mrs. Underwood, who had just opened the door to her room. It was the only bedroom that wasn’t below decks, next to the kitchen, the cafeteria, and sick bay.


“Morning exercises,” Amanda panted, and looked up at the blonde, blue-eyed woman somewhere in her thirties. Mrs. Underwood smiled weakly and stepped aside.


Amanda continued her way to the bridge to arrive a minute later. She rubbed the sweat from her forehead while she looked around. The bridge was a round tower on top of the starship and was deco­rated with solar panels attached to the outside. From the inside, it looked like an air traffic control tower because it was fully equipped with computers around a breathtaking panoramic view of deep space.


Except for Hank Hazzard, no one else of the crew was present. In big steps, she walked to him and cleared her throat.


He glanced over his shoulder with a pale face. Six monitors in front of him displayed a bunch of data and showed Saturn in all its glory underneath the panoramic window.


“Hank, what’s so urgent?”


P-Peacekeeper. It’s gone,” Hank replied.



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“What do you mean, gone?” Amanda demanded while she stared him in the eye. His brown eyes were bigger than usual, his face un­shaven and his brown hair was a mess. But he’s a damn good pilot.

Amanda leaned forward over the control panel next to Hank and squinted at the six screens. Indeed, there was no sign of space station Peacekeeper.
“Is it relocated to investigate a different area of Saturn?” she won­dered aloud.
“I-I don’t know. We just arrived at the given coordinates,” Hank noted.
“Have you tried to hail them on the secure channel that’s assigned to the station?” Amanda asked.
“Yes. But all I got is white noise. I-I cannot log in to their mainframe! It’s gone!” Hank replied, and scratched his head.
Amanda’s heart rate increased. Not only because of the sudden dis­appearance of Peacekeeper, but also because they needed supplies; food, drinks, air, and fuel for the journey back to Earth. It felt as if her almost empty fridge and her encounter with Mrs. Underwood was a prediction of what was yet to come. Dammit. “OK. Listen up. You need to broadcast a distress call on all channels that we need help. We don’t have enough supplies to make our way back to Earth!” she de­cided, and punched Hank softly on his arm. “Come on, hurry up!”
Then all the blood withdrew from her face when they reached the debris that drifted near Saturn’s rings, as she recognized a blackened metal plate that read: USS Peacekeeper.


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THE LOST PLANET


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1 – First Contact

 

* Boston –July 4, 2094 *

 

Tony woke up after a good night’s rest. Satisfied, he turned over in bed and glanced at the woman lying next to him, studying every detail of her face while she was still deeply asleep. He enjoyed the sight of her somewhat tall forehead, full lips, and long eyelashes. Her shoulder-length, chestnut-brown hair partly covered her cheek as she lay on her side. I’m glad I ran into her last night, he thought. The beeping sound of the alarm clock at seven thirty in the morning roughly interrupted the magic moment he felt for her—drowning in a sea of love. Sleeping beauty softly moaned while he cursed the alarm in silence. Now, Jessica yawned, turned to lay on her back and rubbed her eyes. She smiled when she looked at him. “Good morning, hon,” he said while his hand rested softly on her shoulder, adding, “I hope you slept well.”

“I did,” she replied after a failed attempt to suppress a yawn. “What time is it?”

“Seven-thirty,” he said.
She touched his face gently. “Then I have to hurry. I don’t want to be late for work.” She frowned. “I have to be at Logan Airport at eight-thirty, and rush hour already started. Normally, I get up at six-thirty, is all I’m saying’” she pouted, and drew her eyebrows together.
“Don’t you worry,” he said, and pressed a kiss on her forehead. “I’ll take you to work. I have a flying car, remember?” he said, touching her hair. She looked him in the eye. “That’d be nice. Still, I have to get up now.”


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As she spoke, she gently touched his chest. Her hand felt like the morning sun—warm and cozy. When he’d met Jessica at the bar last night, he was head over heels when he set his eyes on the sexy, brown-eyed security officer. He moved her hand to his mouth and pressed a kiss on her wrist before moving aside. Yes, there’s chemistry at work, he decided after he glanced at her twinkling eyes. Reluc­tantly, he let her go and went into the bathroom, closely followed by Jessica. Smiling, he turned. “I can’t take my eyes off you,” he confessed as they got under the shower.


 

***

 

Five minutes later, Tony stepped under the blow dryer and glanced at his face in the mirror. While a cozy, warm wind dried his body, he grabbed the laser-guided shaver to get rid of his morning beard and then brushed his brown hair and put on some aftershave. With his finger, he touched a small pimple on his cheek. It was hardly noticeable, but for a brief moment, he wondered if he would get it removed by a doctor. When Jessica knocked on the cabin’s door of the blow dryer, he shrugged off the thought.

“You smell nice,” Jessica smiled after he opened the door of the cabin, “and I love your green eyes,” she added.
“Well, thank you, Jess,” he said. She touched his face before she stepped into the cabin. Tony left the bathroom, opened the blinds in the living room, and asked the digital assistant if there was a smog alert. He knew that most days in the summertime, Boston was under a layer of smog except right along the water—there’s often a sea breeze.
“It’s currently 86, almost no wind, and there’s a smog alert since 5:30 a.m.,” his assistant confirmed. He grabbed his oxygen mask from the table to put it on and looked up at Jessica, who had just walked in.


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She looked very robotic with her oxygen mask over her face. “At this time of the year, you can bet your ass there’s a layer of smog in the air,” she explained.


 

***

 

On the street, Tony glanced at the fogged sky as something flew over—he hoped it was a bird, but he knew that birds fly to the South Pole this time of the year, to come back to Boston during the winter when there’s no smog.

Oh, wait, it really is a bird! He smiled, but then his smile faded when he saw it was an unmanned drone, shaped like a bird. A deep sigh escaped him as he looked around. The streetlights were still on be­cause of the smog. Suddenly, a blaring alarm sounded across the street. He exchanged glances with Jessica when a police car drove by with sirens wailing. Both knew what it meant. Someone was walking the streets without wearing a mask. You’d die in thirty minutes.
It could be that someone wanted to commit suicide. Tony wondered who it was this time. Yesterday it was his sixty-year-old neighbor. With a grave expression, he glanced at the gray smog surrounding the blocks. He knew houses were across the street, but the smog blocked a clear view. If you looked closely, you’d be able to see the silhouettes of the houses across the street.
Smog was commonplace in cities all over the globe in summertime. Only a few days in the season the air was breathable without masks.
Plans were made to build a dome of glass around the city to shield Boston from the smog and acid rain. The authorities were already building parts of the dome, starting at the Boston Common, but it was a work in progress and probably would take decades to complete. The Big Dig was a child’s sand castle in comparison.


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He tapped on Jessica’s arm and put the lights on the shoulder pads of his jacket and mask. She nodded and did the same. It cleared the view a bit. Now they could walk safely to the car without bumping against a dead tree or whatever. He opened the car’s door and imme­diately, the built-in filters started to work to clear the air.

“After you, Milady Jessica,” Tony said.
“Well, thank you, Sir Lancelot,” she giggled, and stepped in. After the car’s filters signaled it had cleared the air, they took off their masks.
“Finally, fresh air,” he said, and flopped back in the chair and smiled at her. Then he pressed the car’s start button. Despite its dented looks, the car came smoothly into motion.
“Next stop is Logan Airport, ma’am,” he grinned while the car self-drove one block before it took off.
“You know, not so long ago, men could only dream of a flying car,” he said proudly.
“Most people still do,” Jessica replied as the car climbed higher. “These types of cars are expensive.”
“Indeed,” he agreed. “But they’re worth every penny.”
Tony glanced out the window. The smog seemed to clear up. Appar­ently, the wind had increased. Perhaps it’s safe to walk outside without a mask for a few hours, he thought, and stared down at the traffic jam two hundred feet below. Not so long ago, he’d have been driving down there as well, looking up at the sky and dreaming of flying to work. That was until last month, when he met a used car dealer who made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. His car was a mixture between a drone and an ordinary car, and normally only affordable for the filthy rich—but he’d bought this one for a reasonable price—though it cost him six months of his salary and all of his savings.
“So, um . . . what kind of work do you do?” Jessica asked while she glanced in the makeup mirror.


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“I work for the government,” he said. “At the space agency, down­town Boston.”

“Ah, the military.”
“Yes,” he confirmed. “I’m a communications officer.”
She wanted to say something, but the car announced they’d reached their destination. It started the landing procedures, its ion thrusters turning on for a smooth landing in the visitor’s parking lot.
Tony stopped her when Jessica’s hand reached out to the door handle. She looked him in the eye.
“You know,” he smiled, “it’s like I’ve known you all my life. I know it’s too early for this, but life’s short and—”
She smothered the rest of his sentence with a kiss.
“Will you marry me?” he asked when she softly pulled back.
Her hand touched his cheek. “Let’s see each other later on at the bar, OK?”
“Promise?”
“Promise,” she purred. Then she stepped out and waved a goodbye.
Feeling like the world was his oyster, Tony took off manually by pressing the thrusters button on the dashboard. He smiled as the car climbed higher into the sky.
Then he activated the navigation and the computer took over. While flying above some buildings, Tony put on his HoloLens head­set—the headset had the look of sunglasses. The built-in mini­computer activated automatically when he put the glasses on and showed its holographic display in front of him. It was like he could touch all the projected items. In a way, he could, since twelve high-resolution infrared cameras caught every gesture he made and trans­lated them as if using a touchscreen. If he wore his HoloLens suit, he’d be able to touch, feel, breathe, and smell everything in the VR-World—Virtual Reality is just as real as the world surrounding us since 2079. It fully replaced the smartphone. Only older people were still using those. He


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grinned at the thought—his parents were among the few using their smartphones. His digital assistant, represented by a holographic circle, greeted him, displaying a huge smile for a second be­fore turning back into a circle.

“Cortana, what are today’s headlines?” he asked.
“Here are the top stories today,” Cortana replied. In a sidebar, the headlines appeared. One caught his attention, “Fourth of July protest­ers. Rioters throw full cans of Pepsi at Oregon police.”
Reading the headline struck a raw nerve. As a fourth grader, he’d watched the fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July in 2064. A year later, a civil war ended the very existence of the United States. The rebels formed an alliance with Russia, Canada, Australia, and the UK. The other parts of the former USA formed a federation with Western Europe and China. It was a stalemate when it came to military strength, but in technology, the Federation had the upper hand.
“I wish the war ended,” he said under his breath, and closed his eyes for a moment.
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t get that,” Cortana responded. “Incoming mes­sage,” Cortana suddenly said, sounding urgent.
“Put it on screen,” Tony instructed while the car slowed down when it reached its destination.
“Tony, there’s a meeting scheduled on the second floor,” Eliot said excitedly.
“Why?” Tony squinted at Eliot’s projected face. He’d never been on the second floor. The conference room was exclusively reserved for members of the high council—senators of the 19 states and General Bird to represent the space agency. Not for the likes of him. Tony was in charge of the communication network between the interstellar stations on the moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune. Although his job was a key factor in defending the channels from the Alliance’s


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cyber attacks, he wasn’t important enough to get clearance to the con­ference room on the second floor.

“I’d rather tell you in person,” Eliot said in a whisper. “Where are you?”
“Nearby,” Tony responded. “I’m about to land, or rather, my car is.”
“Shit. I’m still in the lab,” Eliot replied with eyes wide open, and hung up.
After the car landed on the landing pad of the space agency, Tony got out and hurried toward the security gates. The gates opened. A security bot stepped aside.
“Good morning, Major Norman,” it said, after it ID’d Tony.
Tony nodded in greeting while he glanced at the robot—its syn­thetic skin almost made it look human. The only thing that was differ­ent from a real person was its red eyes. All robots had them, so you’d know when you were dealing with a bot.
As Tony passed by Eliot arrived, wearing his white lab coat. His curly hair was all messed up when he came running up to Tony and halted. His face was beaded with sweat.
“You ought to exercise more,” Tony grinned. He knew Eliot was too involved with the VR world to do early morning exercises. “A good walk a day keeps the doctor away,” Tony more or less cited from his mother when she complained he spent too much time behind the computer. That was in his teens. Now, Tony was in his mid-thirties, nearly reaching forty and still not married. But perhaps Jessica would become his wife someday, he daydreamed.
“I do my exercises,” Eliot said, still panting, and wiped the sweat from his forehead.
“Spending time in the VR-world ain’t real,” Tony objected.
“You haven’t seen my workout programs,” Eliot chuckled. Then he got serious. “But about the meeting—”


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“Yeah, I’d like to know what the meeting is all about,” Tony inter­rupted as they stepped into the elevator down the hall.

“I’ll tell you in a bit,” Eliot replied while he opened a hidden control panel in the elevator. Tony frowned at him. No one ever told him any­thing about a hidden control panel. Not even Eliot, who was a low-ranking VR programmer.
“Elevator, please take us to the second floor. The access code is 4-7-10-65-94,” Eliot commanded into the elevator’s transmitter.
“Voice recognized, access granted,” the elevator responded. The door closed and the elevator went into motion.
Eliot glanced at Tony. “Rumors are, we made first contact with an alien species!”
Tony whistled between his teeth.
When the elevator stopped, Eliot glanced at Tony. “I’ll wait for you outside,” he said. “I don’t have clearance to enter the conference room,” Eliot confessed.
“You don’t have clearance? Even though you can access the second floor?”
Eliot’s face turned red. “Well, um. Yes.” He shoved his glasses further up the bridge of his nose. “I have to maintain security.”

 

***

 

When Tony arrived at the conference room, he glanced at the mem­bers of the high council sitting behind the table; faces he’d only seen in the news. Tony saluted in greeting, then he was asked to take a seat across from the high council.

“Welcome, Major Norman. We asked you to this meeting because our long-range radars detected unidentified flying objects near Sat­urn,” General Bird said, dressed in a blue uniform, fully decorated


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with medals. He glanced directly at Tony, narrowing his gray eyes, making him look like an old professor.

“First, we thought it was debris from an impact on Saturn’s moon, Calypso”—he stood and projected a hologram in the center of the room—“but further investigation showed it wasn’t debris.”
On the hologram, Tony counted a dozen objects. From a distance, they looked like rocks. “Is space station Peacekeeper under attack by the Alliance?” Tony asked, eyes wide.
“We don’t know yet, but we’ve lost contact with the space station,” General Bird replied and went on, “I don’t think these objects are hu­man-made.”
General Bird zoomed in on one of the objects. A weird-looking, rocky spaceship with unknown marks and signs floated into the room, getting bigger and bigger. Tony held his breath for a moment and wanted to step back. Then he realized it was a hologram and he relaxed a bit. In silence, he hoped the members of the high council didn’t notice his first reaction. When he stared at their faces, he knew they weren’t paying attention to him.
“Judging by its size, I’d say it’s as big as a football stadium,” Tony said.
“Indeed,” Senator Gilmore, from Massachusetts, said. She glanced directly at Tony. A blue light above her colored her blonde hair blue.
“W-we m-must know why they’re here,” Senator Glover from Dela­ware said. Even under the dimmed blue light that highlighted him as he spoke, Tony noticed his face beaded with sweat.
“We can, and we will, launch our battleships when needed,” Senator Graves from California promised under a halo of blue light. Tony glanced at Senator Graves. The senator’s face was all blue and he looked like he was ready for action. Not afraid at all of an alien inva­sion. Tony knew California had the biggest army. They had to because California and Texas were still, almost daily, at war, fighting for a


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piece of no man’s land out in the desert near their borders. It was the reason why high-tech companies moved out of California to Boston.

“This is all bad,” Tony said—now the blue light shone down on him. For a second, Tony glanced at the blue-colored skin of his hands. “But why am I here?”
“Before we go to war with a yet unknown alien race, we must avoid an armed conflict,” Senator Gilmore said. “And since you’re our best communications officer on the planet, we assign you with the task to make first contact before . . .” she ended with a hand gesture.


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