How do you react when you discover that the next Shuttle disaster has happened...
...right on schedule?
Burnout is a science fiction mystery about a Space Shuttle disaster that turns out to be no accident. As the true scope of the disaster is gradually uncovered by the principal investigators, "Crash" Murphy and Dr. Mike Anders, they find themselves running for their lives, as lovers, friends and coworkers involved in the investigation perish around them. What happened to the Shuttle? Who is responsible and why? Why is the government calling it an accident? Why is someone willing to kill to keep it a secret? And how big is the conspiracy?
They say, "Write what you know," and I did. I finished the first draft and gave it to my writing mentor, Travis S. Taylor...and then Columbia went down. And I found that I pretty much nailed it in my fictional disaster scenario: orbital inclination, incoming trajectory, overflown states, intended approach to the Cape, region of breakup, debris field, I nailed it all. The only difference was a slight extension of the debris field into the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast, and this was due to the fact that my fictional scenario was no accident.
And right now, Burnout is on sale in all ebook formats! More, if you buy the print book at Amazon, for a limited time you can get the ebook too, for only $0.99!
Why is this happening, you may ask? Simple. The December issue of Analog magazine, on store shelves right now, carries an article I co-authored with my partners, detailing our SPEARED concept and materials research -- a concept that was inspired by the Columbia disaster, killing a friend of mine aboard her, and my having just completed the Burnout rough draft when the disaster occurred.
So in honor of my friend Kalpana Chawla, and SPEARED, which I hope will prevent anyone else from dying like she did, Burnout is on sale until the end of November.
Here. Have a "taste."
...Overhead, the sky was a deep, rich, star-spangled Prussian blue; along the western horizon could be seen the faintest hint of deep teal. “Lessee…” he glanced at the TV, to the ground track Mission Control was displaying on the big front screen, then looked at the night sky, trying to correlate the two. “She oughta show up… somewhere over in there.” He waved a hand heavenward, in a vaguely northwestern direction.
Conversation in the back yard of the ranch house ceased as everyone clustered together in the darkness, searching the west-northwestern sky. The only artificial illumination came from the TV screen, and the NASA Public Affairs Office Commentator could be heard in the background as he delivered general remarks about the landing.
“…and this is a somewhat unusual re-entry pattern over North America, due to the successful efforts to retrieve the multi-million-dollar Next Generation Tethered Satellite, dubbed NexGen or NTS, which was co-manifested on STS-281 with the Mission to Planet Earth payload, Gaia-1. This nighttime landing will make for spectacular observations by residents of California, Nevada, southern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Coastal residents of the Gulf States may also be able to observe…”
“Hey, big brother,” Jimmy remarked curiously, “isn’t the commander of this flight an old friend of yours?”
“Yup,” Crash replied, still scanning the star-strewn, blue-black sky. “Lawrence Jackson. Jet. He and I flew in the same squadron in ‘Nam. Been buddies ever since. There’s almost nothing we wouldn’t do for each other—except give up a slot in the astronaut corps.” Crash pulled a wry face.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Ham Carter remembered. “He beat you out for the slot, didn’t he?”
“Uh-huh, he did—only because Jackson comes before Murphy in the alphabet.”
“Look! There it is!” Sally exclaimed, pointing into the western sky, and all but jumping up and down. “Crash! Isn’t that it?” she urged her brother-in-law.
“Yeah, Sally, I—” Crash did a double take and surveyed the blazing spark as it shot through the black velvet sky, then gave a swift glance at Hamilton Carter. “Ham, have they got a re-entry DTO on this flight?”
“No, Crash—I see it, too,” Ham acknowledged, forehead creasing with worry. “Listen… can I use—”
“Cell phone right here,” Crash scooped the instrument off the corner of the picnic table and shoved it into Carter’s hands as he looked back up. “Damn, Jet, get it in gear, old buddy!” he exclaimed with increasing concern.
“What’s wrong, Crash? What’s happening?” Jimmy asked his suddenly worried brother, as the flaming speck, growing larger and larger, flew almost straight overhead. Smaller sparks could now be seen peeling off the main object.
“Dammit! Jet, flare out, man! Shit! Break it out! NOW!!” Crash began shouting into the sky. Tracy, the “fourth team” relief FAO, was frozen, staring upward in shock, and Ham stood stiffly, head tilted back, listening to the cell phone he held to his ear. They all watched dumbly as the white-hot streak shot by overhead and disappeared behind the house, trailing flaming sparks in its wake.
Crash ran around the house to the front, trying to keep the airborne conflagration in view, and the others followed. “Damn, Jimmy, she’s comin’ in hot,” he belatedly answered his little brother. “Jet’s not bleeding off velocity in the roll reversals like he’s supposed to…” Crash paused, horrified. “Not that it looks like it would do much good, anyway…”
The gathered celebrants watched in stunned disbelief as the fireball plunged toward the southeastern horizon, flickered, and burned out.
Interested? Have a go at it on Amazon, then! (Here's Barnes-Noble and Books-A-Million too, if you'd rather.) Remember, I spent over two decades working in the civilian (NASA) and military (DoD) space programs, and put my knowledge to good use in this book.