Picture Gisel Matah, the kick-butt security agent of Deadly Enterprise and The Wildcat's Victory, as a sixteen year old starship brat. Gisel is the youngest aboard the Iskander, at odds with her father, as irreverent and critical of everything as only a teenager can be, but full of wit and promise for the future. Four years earlier than the other adventures, the starship becomes stranded at the wrong planet, and a chain of events unfold that lead to the Iskanders bringing the wrath of several enemies down on themselves. How did this crew of super-smart engineers, doctors, and scientists manage to get into such trouble? It's all in the circumstances.
Gisel is the lowliest member of the crew, only accompanying her father and older brother because engineering chief Dr Henrik Matah pulled strings to have her signed on as the personal trainer and gym manager. At arrival, she looks like becoming her father's charity case - but her courage, knowledge of Greek, and athletic skills push her front and centre into the task of establishing the newcomers in an often hostile society.
Follow her adventures during the first five months of the Iskanders' drive to use their modern knowledge to create a prosperous future on the 17th century alternate earth, Gaia. She crosses swords with knights; becomes the interpreter for arguments and negotiations; takes up residence in a castle; guides an assault party into a fortress; meets a king; and falls in love for the first time - twice. More than a coming of age story, Arrival takes Gisel through a crash course to adulthood that sets the direction of her life for the danger-filled career to come.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Double Dragon Publishing
October 15, 2008
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Arrival by Christopher Hoare
Gisel pushed her way through the doorway as half the crew crowded onto the viewport balcony. The compartment could hold at least fifty while the Iskander was in orbit and everyone floated weightless. After thirty-six hours of official silence, the senior officers had decided to let everyone see the mystery for themselves.
About damned time.
Her father, Dr Henrik Matah, head of the Engineering Department, was beyond her reach at the front, strapping himself into one of the viewing seats overlooking the huge armored glass bubble. She squirmed between two senior engineers to grab one of the ceiling handrails beside her brother Robbie - where she had a view of the green and blue globe below. It helped to be nimble and sixteen sometimes.
When the crowd settled themselves into niches and stared silently down at the planet below, Colonel M'Tov, in command of the Iskander, stood up from the chair beside her father's. He turned. "As you can see, the planet looks very like Earth . . .. Except for one big difference, I'd say it was Earth."
"And what difference is that?" Hans Knecht, an engineer, asked.
M'Tov turned an icy expression toward the questioner, his bullet head swiveling like a gun turret. "We can detect no signs of modernity; no cities, no space stations, no transportation corridors, and no signs of industrial agriculture. The radio spectrum is empty - "
A woman's voice. "What? How can that be?"
Gisel glanced down at this questioner - Dr Maria Hather, the head of their medical department, holding onto Nurse Biggs' arm as usual. Apparently, they'd worked together for years before this journey.
Beside her at the ceiling rail, Robbie caught Gisel's eye and nodded. He murmured, "Nothing - zilch. Just the lightning and the hiss of the Big Bang." He should know. He'd been in on the crew's secret deliberations these past hours - it came from being in demand as a mathematician. First time he'd told her anything - older brothers . . .!
M'Tov resumed speaking. "I have no explanation. I'm merely telling you what we've found. There is no Baikonur Control, there are no satellites in orbit, no communication channels . . . in fact, the only thing we recognize down there is the geography. Except for some small coastline differences, it looks exactly like Earth."
Yvan Korchik, one of the engineering staff who'd been acting as Gisel's academic supervisor on the voyage, pushed forward. "Then what are we doing here, Colonel? We are supposed to be approaching the colony world N-3."
Voices in the crowd increased in volume. Outside in the corridors, those who hadn't been able to squeeze into the viewspace demanded to know what was happening. Gisel grinned - all these super experts - the specialists chosen to build up the fledgling colony on N-3 - were losing it. They were no better than the market wallahs in the old part of Mumbai. What a laugh.
M'Tov raised a hand for silence, but had to shout. "I'll use the speaker at high volume if I have to, but I assure you it will be more comfortable if you settle down and listen."
After loud protests at this, the assembly gradually quieted.
"Thank you," M'Tov said. "We are studying the problem. As a commercial charter, there are no space scientists aboard, but among our earth resource scientists and infrastructure engineers we do have some keen minds. I have assembled them to consider the implications and what we must do, as well as figure out what went wrong with our worm-hole jump. I must assume a problem there caused us to arrive . . . here."
"We don't want to be here," Dirk Scopes' sonorous voice rang out of the throng. Gisel frowned, he was too damned officious as administrator. "We have work to do on N-3. Contracts to take care of. Your job is to get us there - we expect you to do it."
Another voice - a geophysicist - took up the complaints. "Yes. Let's leave . . . get out into deep space . . . and continue our journey to N-3."
"I'm afraid that's out of the question." M'Tov cast his glance about as if sighting on the speakers. "You may recall the fuel tankage of the Iskander is sufficient to get us to N-3, but that the return trip to Earth - when your work contracts are finished - is only possible with new fuel produced in a prefab plant Iskander carries in its hold. Right now, Iskander has insufficient fuel to go anywhere."
The crowd fell into a shocked silence. Gisel looked about at the faces. True, but nobody had considered the implications before. The fledgling ground installations they expected to find on N-3, set up by the first colonist wave, would have stored supplies for them until their infrastructure programs were up and working. If they weren't at N-3, they were in trouble.
A firm voice broke the silence, it was Gisel's friend, Hannan Badry. "And that deuterium separator plant, and the fission reactor to make the conversion to tritium must get down to the surface and begin processing seawater right away. It's our Oceanography Department's priority job."
M'Tov looked toward her. "I agree, Dr Badry - when we are certain of a secure location. But that plant will still take ten years to fill Iskander's tankage."
"Ten years!" By the buzz that went through the crowd, Dirk Scopes' echo of the words reflected everyone's shock. Gisel looked at her brother for his comment, but he was merely frowning at something on his handheld computer screen.
"What do you have?"
He looked up. "Nothing, li'l sister. Just an idea I was checking. Father and M'Tov want me to run some calculation checks on our trip records. Something might show us what went wrong on the wormhole jump."
"If we can't figure out what happened . . . we're never going back."
Gisel took her tray from the dispenser and drifted over to Hannan Badry's table with it. "Can I join you?"
Hannan, looked up with a half smile. Her deep dark middle-eastern eyes and black hair mirrored Gisel's own; only her heavier build and facial lines showed up the difference between a sixteen year old personal trainer and a mid twenties PhD. "I was expecting to meet your father here, but I'm sure we can put up with you."
Gisel hid the frown she felt. Hannan and her father were spending a lot of time together, but what did it matter to her? Her parents had divorced after his serial infidelities. Her mother now somewhere back on Earth, while she and her brother had elected to join their father's project. She lowered her tray until the metal tabs clamped against the magnetic table restraints, belting herself into the spare seat.
She shrugged. "If I can put up with him, you mean. He's pissing me off about schooling again, but I'm damned if I want to be a math wiz like Robbie."
Hannan regarded her with an ironic twist to her lips. "He wants you to learn essential basics. Math will be needed whatever training you decide to go for."
Gisel raised one shoulder dismissively and squirted a spoonful of the thick green soup into her mouth. "Ugh! What the hell is catering calling it this time?"
Hannan offered a momentary grin. "I think they've quit trying to sweeten it with a name. It's just the last of the protein and carbohydrate culture."
Gisel drew in another spoonful and choked it down. "And to think I left south India for this. We had mangos growing in our garden. The best chapattis in the city sold just down the road."
"Don't tell me. You people were bloody lucky - I was raised on UN famine rations in Gaza - and even at grad school in Cairo, we ate more soy protein than couscous. Maybe I won't find this Earth so bad if we can get fresh veggies."
"We're going down, then?"
Hannan shrugged. "What choice do we have? We'll either starve up here or eat stardust until the lights go out."
"I've been helping with the krill cultures - they're getting stretched. Need a few months to build back up before we can harvest regularly again. The Iskander wasn't designed with any fat, everything was pared down to carry essential equipment for the trip."
A movement behind made Gisel follow Hannan's glance; her father glided like a raven toward them, carrying his own tray. He settled into the last seat and regarded them both. "What are you two talking about?'
Gisel shrugged and turned her attention to her meal. Hannan smiled and jerked a finger toward the floor. "That thing down there. What other topic of conversation is there?"
"And the lousy food," Gisel said, wrinkling her nose.
"When are we going down?" Hannan asked.
Father picked up his package of green soup and scowled at it. "There's to be a meeting tomorrow to discuss that. Everybody's to be there."
Hannan raised an eyebrow. "M'Tov wants everybody?"
"Yep. Seems Iskander has become a participatory democracy. Well, there are only a hundred and ten of us. That makes it easier to hear everyone's input."
"We're in deep shit." Hannan leaned back in her seat, looking as relaxed as someone who had always lived amid crisis. "Babes in the wood, who will either starve or freeze to death, but at least we can smile and all pull together."
Father frowned at her as he ripped open the spout of his soup. "I think I'd prefer you to sound more positive, Hannan. The child hasn't had your background - not that she's been completely sheltered."
Gisel had heard Hannan's cool front before, so she only grinned. They ate in silence for several minutes.
He turned to Gisel. "What are you doing this afternoon?"
"I'm preparing some N-3 equipment for Earth level gravity. Thought you might be interested."
"M'Tov is sending me some crewmen for calisthenics and resistance training." She pulled a face. "They've never been for fitness training before, so it'll be a bloody disaster."
He smiled. "Don't be so sure. He's told them they have to be able to work in Earth gravity. These will be the first guys down to take a look around."
"Christ. When? I can't get that flab off them overnight."
"That'll be decided at the meeting tomorrow. We have to figure out how long it'll take us to ready the ground mission. Meanwhile, we'll fly the Intruder down for a low altitude recon and sensor scan."
Hannan squished her empty soup bag onto her tray. "And we need to set up remote sensing equipment on the Iskander to decide where we're going. Norris is preparing the oceanography component right now." Professor Richard Norris was her boss.
"That will require a few days of data collecting - even in this orbit." her father mused.
"Right. Weeks, if we're going to do a thorough reconnaissance," Hannan said. "We'll have to decide where to focus first - and then we'll need ground truthing."
Gisel knew the word from her year at tech school in London, when her mother had been a resident physician at Guy's. A trial separation before the divorce. Space imaging needed to be checked by actual examination on the ground.
Father nodded. "In that case, either you or Norris will have to be on our first ground trip to conduct that."
Gisel looked up quickly. "Hey, that'll be neat. Can I come?"
He frowned at her. "No, you can't. I will likely be going down with the first party, but we hardly need a gymnast or a personal trainer."
"But you'll need the teams to be fit," Gisel said in a rush of words. "And I'm the fittest aboard."
"She's right, there, Henrik," Hannan said.
"Even so . . . she's a child. I'm not going to make myself look a fool in front of M'Tov. He's trying to set this up like some kind of military operation."
"Good point. We don't have the muscle to go down and throw our weight around. He and a few others are reserve officers, and there are those among the crew who've had military experience, but we're a civilian expedition and I'm damned sure I want to see it stay that way."
Gisel finished her green soup and stuffed the bread surrogate into a pocket for later. She unfastened her seat restraint. "I'd better get to the gym and make ready for M'Tov's army, then."
"Right," Hannan grinned. "Put them through it, sergeant major."
Father glanced quickly toward Hannan and then away before Gisel could catch his expression. "How long will you be in the gym?"
There was something in his voice, but she refused to consider the implications. "All afternoon, I guess. Why?"
"Nothing. Just wondered."
Gisel picked up her tray and gave a casual wave with her left hand. As she pushed herself away Hannan and her father were regarding one another steadily across the table.