By Fernando Crôtte
Genre: Science Fiction
About the Book
Fifty previous Torkiyan missions were lost to time and space, but new technology gives Mission 51 a better chance to reach the legendary planet Cerulea—also known as planet Earth.
Zeemat, a peaceful Torkiyan who’d rather hold a paintbrush than a weapon, has been assigned to his planet’s fifty-first mission against his own will. After suffering a catastrophic journey, Zeemat’s spacecraft crashes in what becomes known as Area 51. Taken captive by a rather brutal cohort of FBI agents, he finds a friend only in his gentle and kind translator, Dr. Linda Deltare. As the FBI torture grows increasingly merciless, Zeemat must find a way to escape his holding cell or perish, never to see the outside world he traveled so far to see.
In his quest for freedom and happiness, Zeemat must learn to survive in a strange new land and fight against militant forces from both his native and adopted planets alike.
He allowed Janusia to make several orbits around the planet, taking careful note of the lay of the land and the blue water. He was specifically looking for a place to land, imagining landing at a much faster speed than he would prefer. He thought about the small positional engines. “I can’t slow down enough for a true landing. I’ll try to land in the water.”
“Large body of land, small body of water. Small body of land, large body of water,” he said. He memorized the pattern with each passing orbit. He targeted a landing in the middle of the largest body of water. Now it was just a matter of doing it. “I’ll execute a perfect landing,” he said, trying to encourage himself and disbelieving his own words at the same time. But despite his doubts, his training and self-education kicked in. He had learned the series of maneuvers he needed to perform and his mind went through the preparatory routines to deorbit, descend and land. “I can do it,” he encouraged. himself.
He took his space suit out of the locker and managed to wriggle into it, finding it easier to do than the last time he used it because he had lost so much weight. He put his helmet on and secured it. Then he got back into his chair and strapped himself in. The effort was exhausting.
Slowly and weakly he worked the damaged controls. Truly, there was no choice. He was almost out of food. The ship was dark and cold, nearly out of fuel. He and the ship were dying. “If I‘m going to die, I want to die down there,” he said, looking down at Cerulea, the beautiful blue alien planet.
He calculated the exact point at which to start the process. He oriented the ship to take maximum advantage of his small positional engines and started a long burn to slow way down. When he could feel the ship descending, he stopped the burn. He now oriented the engines so they could slow down the growing acceleration of descent. And shortly after that, he realized he had made a crucial miscalculation. “ZZzt. Janusia, what is happening? We’re dropping too fast!”
With no way of knowing, other Torkiyans who had come before him made the same mistake many times before. Cerulea’s mass, and the gravitational pull that went along with it, were much greater than Torkiyans estimated from afar, so he was accelerating to the ground much faster than he expected. Zeemat slammed the control lever down to burn the small engines at full throttle, trying his best to slow his rate of descent.
About half-way down, he felt the effect of the planet’s atmosphere. “ZZzt. I’m glad there’s an atmosphere this high up,” he thought, “but we’re heating up!” He could see Janusia’s forward hull glowing red hot.
Zeemat tried a series of long S-shaped curves to shed more speed. He was flying by feel for the first time in his life. He was re-energized now, with the high stress of an extremely dangerous descent and landing. There was no time for fear. He was at full attention, trying his best to survive. Then, as he looked out the windows to check his position, a sudden bright light blinded him. The heating ship burst into flames.
The inside of the ship grew hotter and hotter as his descent speed continued to increase. Between the flames, he could see the rapidly approaching land. He realized with a panic, “I won’t reach the water at all!” He was falling to ground at an alarming rate.
Zeemat tried his best to flatten out the steep trajectory of his descent. Janusia tried to respond, but it was in vain. He was going to crash. Zeemat could now see the shapes and contour of the terrain as he flew by at an incredible speed. “This is it,” he thought. “I’m dead.”
In the final moments of Janusia’s flight, he could see a mountain range in the distance ahead. He hoped he could clear the highest peak, or at least fly between the highest ridges, to the flatter land that lay further ahead.
At the very last moment, Zeemat knew he would not clear the mountain. By instinct, he crossed his arms in front of his face and turned away in a protective gesture, preparing for impact.
The mountaintop and Janusia exploded into a million pieces.
About the Author. . .
Fernando Crôtte came to the United States at the age of six, with his immigrant parents in search of the American Dream. With one foot in his native Mexico and another in his new adopted land, he assimilated into American culture while still honoring his Mexican heritage. Along with wife Gail, he resides in Winston Salem, North Carolina, where he practices medicine. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, birding, and general aviation. Mission 51 is his debut novel.
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