Prometheus is the largest spacecraft ever built by man. A joint USA-USSR project, the gigantic ship weighs over 20,000 tons--and may be the ultimate solution to the world's energy needs. Like its mythical namesake, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind, Prometheus will capture the energy of the sun and beam it to Earth--unless something goes terribly wrong. An unforseen accident has stranded Prometheus in a decaying orbit less than a hundred miles above the Earth. Its small, international crew of men and women have a day, maybe less, before they come crashing down with their ship. But there's more at stake than a few astronauts' lives. Prometheus is too immense to burn up in reentry. When it hits, history's greatest endeavor will become the world's biggest bomb. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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September 14, 1990
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Excerpt from Skyfall by Harry Harrison
"Christ ... it's big," Harding said in a hoarse whisper. "I didn't think anything could be that big."
Big was too small a word. A gleaming skyscraper in the flat plain; a windowless tower of metal that dwarfed the buildings round it. Not a building; a spacecraft. 20,000 tons that would soon roar flame from its engines, shudder and rise, at first slowly then faster and faster, and soar arrow-like into space. The largest spacecraft men had ever built or dreamed of.
Large as their four-engined jet was, it was dwarfed to insignificance. It was a fly buzzing round a steeple. Here were the six gleaming boosters, each of them identical, each larger than the largest American spacecraft ever built. In flight the outer five would drop away once their fuel had been expended, leaving the central core booster to hurtle on with the payload. But payload was too trivial a word for this Prometheus; Prometheus the mortal who stole fire from the gods and brought it back to Earth, now Prometheus the machine that would circle the Earth 22,300 miles up, would reach out silver arms and seize the sun's energy and hurtle it down to Earth. The answer to mankind's energy problem, the ultimate solution that would supply unlimited power. Forever.
This was the plan. The enormity of it was driven home to Patrick Winter now by the sheer size of Prometheus. When his aircraft had completed its circle he straightened the wheel and eased it forward, dropping towards the waiting runway. Buthis mind wasn't completely on his task and he was a good enough pilot to know it.
"Bring her in, will you, Colonel?" he asked.
Harding nodded and took control. He knew what the other man was thinking. Like an afterimage the memory of that burnished metal tower hung before him too. He brushed it away and concentrated; the multiple wheels touched down and he reversed thrust on the engines, braked and slowed. Only when they were rumbling along the taxiway towards the buildings did he speak.
"And you're going to fly that son-of-a-bitch?"
It was halfway between a statement and a question, perhaps a suspicion that something as big as that couldn't ever lift off the ground. Patrick heard the tone and understood; he grinned slightly as he unbuckled and stood.
"Yes, I'm going to fly that son-of-a-bitch."
He went back to the main cabin and 1. L. J. Flax signaled him to come over. Flax sat on the couch, lolling back, the telephone handset almost lost in his big hand. Flax normally didn't enjoy flying because he was too cramped. Over six feet tall, he must have been over six feet around the middle as well; with his legs wide apart he filled the couch. He had a tendency to sweat and his shaven, bald skull was dotted with droplets.
"Yes, all right," he said in his clear, ever-so-slightly accented English. "Keep the line to them open. I'll call again as soon as formalities are over." He could have been talking to anywhere in the world. Air Force One had the communications capacity of an aircraft carrier. Flax hung up the phone and pushed it away, scowling unseeingly at the window.
"Still under observation but the medics seem to agree that it's appendicitis," he said. "They'll operate in a couple of hours. Wonderful. You'd think a doctor would take better care of himself. Why the hell should a doctor get appendicitis?" He shook his head in unbelief, his loose jowls flapping.
"Maybe you don't believe it, Flax, but doctors have appendixes too." Patrick stood in front of the full-length mirror and knotted his tie. At thirty-seven he didn't look too bad. An Apollo next to Flax--but then anyone was. His gut was still flat and he exercised enough to stay in shape. Handsome enough so that girls didn't run away screaming, although his jaw was on the large size and his hairline had a tendency tocreep a little higher every year. He pulled the knot tight and reached for his jacket. "And Kennelly does have a backup. We've all worked with Feinberg and he'll do the job all right."