Best of Texas Book Award: Future Discovered by Michael J. Farlow
May 1, 2018
Van’s quest to prepare Earth meets with opposition from a powerful human adversary with conflicting goals. Who will win?
Future Discovered by Michael J. Farlow has received the Best in Texas Book Award for Science Fiction Series. The award is presented by the Texas Association of Authors.
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Van Childs’ accidental discovery of an alien cache of advanced technologies thrusts him into the role of reluctant hero. Learning of an extra-terrestrial race, the Host, who visited Earth some 200 years before,
Van is forewarned of an impending invasion by the Arkon, an expansionist race. Van’s quest to prepare Earth meets with opposition from a powerful human adversary with conflicting goals. Who will win?
Earth year 2015. Sol System, Earth
It seemed to Van Childs that he had been climbing this hill for hours. But it had only been thirty minutes. He was hot, and sweat had broken out on his forehead and dripped down from his nose. His heart, he realized, was beating faster than normal. Perhaps it was the backpack that he’d probably overloaded for the trip to this property, which included his old five-shot Ruger SP101 revolver chambered with .38 Special ammunition. But more likely, he realized, he was just plain not in shape for this kind of climbing.
I go to the gym and mostly lift weights. I guess I forgot the aerobics part. Need to start running again, I enjoyed that, he thought, still breathing hard but promising himself to start being more active.
By his estimate he was only halfway up the hill, at the top of which was supposed to be an old cabin site. Or so the real estate person said.Reaching a flat area with a fallen tree, he stopped for a few minutes for a rest and some water.
After years of sailing on Navy ships over the wide blue-gray seas, these surroundings were more appealing. Tall ponderosa pines, the rich smell of the forest, the sights of birds and small animals. It was full of life yet not obtrusive. Just one of the reasons he wanted a place like this to get away from work and the crowds of the city. It was what he wanted, and needed . . . some peace and quiet, a place to relax and be alone. But this climb sucks! he nearly said out loud.
The strange thing, he realized, was that of all the properties he had looked at so far here in Arizona, this one seemed to call to him. He couldn’t explain it to his friends or to himself. It seemed to drive him somehow, even up this mountain—as he now thought of it—which he started climbing again.
The only thing that kept him from complaining the whole way up was the music on his iPhone. He loved the piano. This album, Bach and Beyond, revealed the talents of Gabriela Montero, a truly gifted Brazilian pianist whose improvisations amazed him. As Van climbed, he reflected on the musical giftedness of his whole family; but he’d never had the patience to go through what he thought were the tedious fundamental lessons. Like with so many things, he wanted to play immediately. So, because his patience lacked a certain robustness, he would find some sheet music he enjoyed, then ask his aunt to play it. Through her playing and his acute sense of tone, he learned by ear more than by reading the music himself. As a result, his repertoire was extremely limited, and he admired others who played well. Maybe someday, he thought, stopping the climb for just a minute, I’ll try lessons again. But he knew he probably wouldn’t, and he pushed himself back to the climb, leaning forward up the hill—or was it a mountain?
As he approached the top, the density of the foliage thinned. He could just see what appeared to be a clearing up ahead, flat with mountain grass and what appeared to be the last of the peak with a flat rock face.
The real estate agent had told him there were reports of an old cabin at this level, but he didn’t see one. There was, however, what looked like an old foundation.
He broke through the trees and walked slowly to the foundation and stopped, catching his breath. Standing in the center of the foundation, he looked around and wiped the sweat from his face. But as he turned to see the view, he was surprised at the tall pines surrounding the flat spot and obscuring the horizon and land below. Well, damn. I was hoping for a view. But I guess privacy has a value all its own. It does look like a great building site though . . . if it wasn’t for the damned climb!
His breathing back to normal, he began walking around the clearing. Soon he noticed a small stream of water that seemed to be coming from a spring. He kneeled by the water flow, cupping it with his hands and then splashing some on his face and rubbing more on his neck to cool off. Oh, this feels great! He didn’t particularly care if his shirt got wet. Then he took a taste. It was good! Reminds me of the trips we took to Three Rivers as a kid to visit my cousin Tommy. It had been Tommy who’d taught him how to shoot and given him the SP101 he still cherished.
He stood and walked to a fallen log, sat down, and took out his earbuds. He pulled his pack off and rummaged for something to eat. What he found were two convenience store packages of cellophane-wrapped cheese-and-turkey sandwiches. Even though they were a little dry, he still liked them. They were especially good at this moment with the cool springwater. He would leave the dozen energy bars for later, if he needed them.
Then, as he chewed the dry sandwich, he noticed something strange. The foundation, if that’s what it was, seemed to disappear under the rock face. Now that’s odd.
Putting his food aside, he took out his knife and walked the short distance to the rock face and began probing the apparent seam between the foundation and the rock wall. As unlikely as it seemed, what he thought to be a foundation did seem to run under the rock face.
Food and drink now out of his thoughts, Van started looking around for any clues that might shed light on this mystery.
He lowered himself to his knees to get a closer look and pushed his sunglasses over his forehead. What he’d initially thought was an old foundation wasn’t one at all. There were none of the holes and weathering that you would expect to see in an old, exposed foundation. There had been no indication on the real estate documents that the property had been used for either commercial or government purposes. In fact, there appeared to be only two previous owners over the past hundred years. One had used the area in the early nineteen hundreds as a large ranch and estate, and later the property had been divided and this parcel sold to an investor in New York, who never visited or even used it.
What the hell is this? he thought as he continued to search the seam between the foundation and the wall.
Several hours later, as the sun shone nearly overhead, Van had still not found anything that might be an entrance, if there was one at all. He was about to give up and call the whole thing a trick of an overactive imagination when he noticed something odd to the far right of the foundation near a fallen slab of rock. There was some debris around the slab that seemed to fill the space between the slab and the rock wall . . . and a glint of what looked like metal. Van walked over to the slab, kneeled, and began clearing out the debris by hand.
He saw that it was some sort of metal bar. But there’s no rust.
Working up another sweat, he cleaned out the last of the debris around the bar and then tapped on it with the flat side of his knife. It seemed solid and showed no sign of coming free. He struck it with the knife, harder this time. No sparks. He even passed his pocket compass by it to see if there was any magnetic deflection. None. It didn’t appear to be steel or iron of any sort. It also didn’t seem to be aluminum or any other metal that he had seen in his engineering experience.
Then Van grabbed it with one hand and gave a hard yank, hoping to pull it free.
The bar didn’t move, but he was thrown back from the wall several feet with a bright flash like an electrical spark and a shock. He landed on his butt, feet out toward the wall. Dazed at first, his senses slowly returned, and when he looked at his hand, there was some sort of design burned into it. Faint but visible, it looked for all the world like a set of spread-eagle wings . . . only without the eagle. He felt no pain, and the image faded as the redness in his hand went away.
He next felt, then heard a low rumbling, slight at first, but gradually growing louder and shaking more and more violently.
Alarmed, he thought, Now what? Earthquake?
No, not an earthquake, but something else really loud. This time, it sounded like metal scraping on metal. Standing up as fast as his rubbery legs would allow and looking around, he saw the rock face moving upward.
What the hell? he thought as he stood and grabbed his half-empty pack and started moving as quickly as he could toward the shelter of the tall trees.
Then he stopped. No more noise. He turned and looked back to see that much of the rock wall was gone. In its place was a large, dark opening about forty feet across and over thirty feet high. Still shaken, Van cautiously walked back to the center of the foundation and stared into the new opening.
“Holy shit!” he said out loud. Wondering where the opening led, the engineer in him had the practical thought: This must be a door of some kind, and it activated when I touched that metal bar.
Van picked up his scattered food and tools and placed them in his backpack. He was leery about going into the opening, but his curiosity was too great. His mother always said that his curiosity would get him in trouble. But he wasn’t stupid. For his own safety in case the door were to lower, he rolled a few large rocks to the center of where the wall and foundation had met and then rolled a couple of the fallen tree logs up for good measure. He hoped his efforts would leave him a way out if the door closed while he was inside.
Pulling out his flashlight, he entered what he thought to be a cave, having, for now, forgotten the fading mark on his hand and his sore backside.
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