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Authors: Dean Crawford

Tags: #adventure, #Thriller, #action


8.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


© 2013 Dean Crawford

Published: 26th July 2013


Publisher: Fictum Ltd

The right of Dean Crawford to be identified as author of this Work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved.

Also by Dean Crawford:

The Atlantia Series



The Ethan Warner Series

Covenant, Immortal,

Apocalypse, The Chimera Secret,

The Eternity Project

Independent novels


Holo Sapiens


Soul Seekers

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“We men are wretched things.”

Homer, the Iliad

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

For all of us a new era had begun, an age for which none of us could have been prepared. Some said that mankind’s fall had been written in our bloodline throughout eternity, nature’s gifted yet volatile child doomed to destroy itself. Scribes wrote of it and film-makers imagined it, of our collapse amid the wrath of our own hellish devices. Yet when it happened there were no explosive impacts, no pandemic diseases turning humanity into flesh-eating monsters, no nuclear disasters or conflicts of nations fought through blood and bullets upon smouldering plains of ash. Instead it fell upon us as gentle as starlight, our only warning the very skies above us. We call it now the Great Darkness.

Once thriving cities awoke to absolute stillness; once vibrant citizens to utter despair. They fled for their lives as others slept or worked or watched television or tended fields across the globe, unaware of the disaster rushing toward them, of horrors not known since our ancient ancestors huddled around meagre flames in lonely caves, fearing the darkness and the beasts of the night as they long awaited the coming of dawn.

The collapse was swifter than any of us could have imagined possible. What we had believed might take months or even years occurred within weeks. Man turned against man, woman against woman, child against child in a world starved of all but the weapons of war. Most were driven by the insatiable lust for food and water, the rest for power in the violently shifting world around them. We became the animals that we had always been, some grovelling on our knees in terror, others rampaging with dark hearts bared. Amid panic and conflict the spectre of disease decimated entire regions. Untended and crumbling power stations imploded and spilled their toxic wastes into the atmosphere to scour the land with a seething hail of acid rain and radiation. Cities burned, and amid their smouldering remains the poisoned, starving survivors haunted the streets in the wake of the four horsemen. No human endeavour prevailed: no hope, no technology and no religion. The time of man had come to an end.

It was the silence that killed us: the silence that followed the calamity which brought our species to its knees in a single night and our own inexcusable silence beforehand. It pains me to admit that we could have defended against it. That we should have defended against it. But long before the Great Darkness we had already abandoned the compassion that generations of our forbearers had laboured so hard to culture, and thus had we lost our humanity in every sense of the word.

Senator Larry Dennis, formerly Boston, USA


National Aeronautics and Space Administration Directive: NPD/3765.11/CR

Study: Psychological stress via sustained social deprivation.

Purpose: Initial terrestrial assessment of human capacity for long-duration mission to Mars.

Your name, age and qualifications:
Jake McDermott, 54, climatologist.


Mission duration:
6 months


Alert, Nunavut, Arctic


Write a brief narrative to justify your funding request from NASA:

I am the leader of a six-strong team of scientists due to spend several months in complete isolation in the northern-most inhabited location in the world, on behalf of the United Nations Global Atmospheric Watch program. Our Air Chemistry Observatory, Alert Five, is located just five hundred nautical miles from the North Pole and is some fifteen hundred nautical miles from the nearest permanent settlement. We will be stationed there for the duration of the Arctic winter, a period during which the sun never rises. I believe that the conditions, terrain and isolation make Alert as hostile an environment as the surface of Mars. Our assignment will closely mirror the kind of experience that astronauts may encounter upon arriving upon another planet.


Please list the names of your team members and a brief description of their role.

Charlotte Dennis, 28, is a solar scientist specialising in atmospheric studies. Robert Leary, 22, is the youngest member of the team and recently majored in meteorology. Bethany Rogers, 26, is a geologist and is responsible for the extraction and preservation of ice-cores. She is also a qualified medic. Reece Cain, 38, is a microbiologist researching bacterial presence in ancient ice-cores. Cody Ryan, 32, is a biologist who has recently joined our expedition.


Please list any further relevant details to your application:

My team represents a microcosm of personalities, some of which may clash in our confined living spaces. How we resolve those disputes, and how we conduct ourselves during our prolonged assignment away from family and loved ones, may provide valuable data for NASA in its proposed missions to other planets.


This study must be conducted without the knowledge of the participants. Please sign below that you understand the reasons for this, and that you will comply with the directive:

I understand the reasons for secrecy regarding this study, and will comply with all stated directives. Dr Jake McDermott.




Alert, Nunavut

North-West Territories

‘Say goodbye to the sun, guys. Once we’ve descended you won’t be seeing it again for six months.’

The voice sounded disembodied to Cody Ryan’s ears as he sat in an uncomfortable seat in the shuddering belly of a giant CC-130 Hercules aircraft, the loadmaster speaking into a microphone that connected to the headphones Cody wore to protect his ears from the tremendous roar of the engines.

Through a small window beside his shoulder, Cody twisted his aching body and peered at the frigid atmosphere outside the aircraft. The wing stretched away above him, huge turboprop engines trailing turbulent vapour that glowed in the light of a sun blazing down into a stream of molten metal searing the distant horizon behind them.

Far below a featureless canvas of ice fields stretched away into infinity, cast into dark and frosty shadows as the sun slowly faded from sight beneath the horizon. Cody found himself transfixed by the scene, unable to tear his gaze away as though the sun were leaving him behind for good. He could have chosen to join any number of expeditions, any number of projects. That he had chosen this one said much about himself that he did not wish to confront right now.

‘We’ll make our final approach to Alert in the next few minutes,’ the loadmaster said as he walked between them and tugged on their harnesses. ‘This is a military field so don’t get up until you’re told to. Understood?’

Cody saw his five companions jab their thumbs in their air in unison. He nodded to the loadmaster, who took a seat opposite and strapped himself in as though he had not a care in the world.

Cody glanced outside as the Hercules dipped its wing and began a gentle turn. The beams of pale sunlight glowing through the windows into the aircraft’s cavernous interior vanished as they were plunged into darkness. The engine roar subsided enough for Cody to hear the flaps and undercarriage deploy to the sound of whining hydraulics, the huge aircraft dipping and bouncing in the wintry gales blustering across the vast ice plains. Cody clenched his harness as a tight knot of anxiety in his guts threatened to eject his breakfast over his boots. He noticed Jake McDermott watching him with an expression of vague amusement. The old man winked once and gave him an encouraging thumbs-up but said nothing as Cody looked away.

Through the open hatchway to the cockpit far to his left, Cody spotted the green glow of cockpit instruments and a glimpse of twinkling runway lights stretching out into the dark void ahead. The Hercules bumped and gyrated as it descended, and then a thump reverberated through the fuselage as the aircraft touched down on the ice and the pilots deployed the spoilers and threw the huge engines into reverse. The aircraft thundered and vibrated as though it were coming apart at the seams, and then finally slowed as it turned off the runway and taxied toward a parking spot.

Cody breathed a sigh of relief and closed his eyes. He heard the engines shut down as he watched the loadmaster get out of his seat and hit a large red button inside the fuselage. The rear of the Hercules yawned slowly open as a ramp dropped down onto the ice. Half a dozen soldiers, wrapped up in thick Arctic camouflage and armed with rifles, strode up the ramp. The loadmaster pointed at Cody’s group and waved them over.

Cody unstrapped himself from his seat and hefted a large holdall onto his back. He then pulled on thick gloves, tightened his thickly padded jacket and pulled the hood tight over his features.

‘Jake McDermott?’ one of the soldiers, an officer, shouted above the buffeting wind blustering in from outside.

‘Yeah, plus five.’

The officer waved them all to follow and moments later they walked down the ramp onto the darkened ice fields. The remaining five soldiers formed a loose guard around them as they walked toward a large tracked vehicle nearby, its exhaust bellowing plumes of hot vapour that glowed in the vehicle’s tail lights. Cody got his first good look at Alert as a frigid blast of Arctic air snatched the breath from his lungs.

A single road ran through the snow away from the runway toward a series of low buildings crouched against the rumbling winds. Beyond, Cody could see the lights of the Canadian Forces Station, a military listening post built during the Cold War to monitor the Soviet Union for any hint of an impending pre-emptive nuclear strike. Beyond lay the endless ice sheets shrouded in darkness, the mountainous skyline illuminated only by a faint glow from the sun somewhere far below the horizon.

‘Get in the BV,’ ordered the officer. ‘My men will load your gear.’

The Bandvagn 206, or BV, was an articulated all-terrain vehicle with four powered tracks capable of carrying up to seventeen people. The bright yellow, fully amphibious machine could move at some five kilometres per hour in water and nearly twice that over rough terrain, and Cody knew from his expedition briefing that there were six of them based at Alert.

Cody and his companions obediently clambered aboard the vehicle, the officer following them up and pulling the main door shut once their equipment had been loaded aboard from the Hercules. The officer pulled his hood back to reveal a surprisingly young face as the vehicle’s diesel engine roared and it pulled away across the bumpy ice. He looked directly at Jake.

‘The rules are simple. You remain a minimum distance of one hundred metres from the military station and under no circumstances do your breach the perimeter without prior permission. My men have orders to shoot unidentified intruders. Is that clear?’

Jake nodded as the officer went on.

‘The station receives supply flights about once per week, weather permitting. Your own supplies will be included in these flights and will be transferred to you directly. Fuel for the weather station comes from our own supply, obviously. Two of my men will be posted alongside you as both protectors and observers. They do not answer to you but can be asked to assist you in your work if required, understood?’

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