The government lied.
A UFO did, in fact, crash land in the New Mexico desert in the summer of 1947. Quickly intercepted by the US military, the unidentified flying object and its occupants were whisked away to secret installations.
In 1985, after almost forty years of research, a successful splice of alien and human DNA is achieved.
Raised as a lab experiment that the military hoped to be a “super-soldier,” Omega, trained in combat, educated strenuously, becomes the main component in General “Anvil” Hendricks elite military unit assigned to Phantom Base in Adaven, New Mexico. General Hendricks, a three-star general, believes the Omega Project will be the key to his elusive fourth star.
After a perilous first mission, the program is suspended, the plug pulled…
…if it were only that easy
After all, who said heroes had to be human?
Escape, Book 1 of Omega: Earth’s Hero, by Keith Latch, a novella serial based on the 1950’s pulp novels and Saturday afternoon matinees at the cinema of science fiction adventure, is the first in a series of science fiction-superhero adventure.
July 4, 1947
Stars span our universe. In millions of galaxies far beyond our own, trillions of blazing suns exist with planetoid systems capable of supporting life we cannot begin to comprehend. There are those that say we are alone. Some say that we are nothing but a cosmic mistake and life, on any world, in any galaxy, is a fool’s notion. For millennia, humanity has cast its gaze skyward, fascinated, captivated, and enthralled by the stars filling the night sky. If only one percent of all the stars in our little corner of the Milky Way sustained life, space, long believed to be an isolated void, would literally teem with life. “Is there anyone out there?” is one of the most asked questions in the history of our race. Late in the evening of July 4, 1947, Independence Day—a perfect summer night—a handful of people in the New Mexico desert, in a stretch of barren land just outside the city limits of the small, almost unknown town of Roswell, would learn the answer. It was an answer they were not ready for.
From beyond our neighboring planets, from beyond our solar system, across light years of empty, cold nothingness, a spacecraft approached our little blue world.
The craft was tiny, inconsequential in the grand scheme of the cosmos. Chrome, sleek, without right angles, and curves instead of hard corners, it had the smooth curvature of a plump raindrop. Contrary to our own understanding of the laws of physics, the tiny ship moved without engine blast. It looked to be making way under some invisible, impossible force.
It passed the orbits of the outer planets, though the only planet it passed closely during its zooming voyage sunward was the gas-giant Jupiter. Taking no pause to study the swirling storms that raged within the planet, the ship continued on at its incredible speed. Nothing more than a small grain of sand in a vast ocean of cold darkness, the ship began to catch, and then reflect, the increasing brightness of our sun. Once safely through the asteroid belt, onboard telemetry adjusted, the course corrected for the most efficient point of approach for the third planet orbiting this star.
All went well until a few hundred thousand miles from our moon when the ship began to experience a tremor that, while unnoticeable from the exterior, rocked the swooping vessel hard enough to damage navigational systems. The ship’s course became slightly erratic. At the speed it was traveling and the distance yet to traverse, the small veer was akin to a marksman dropping his sights just a hair’s breadth to the low right on a target a mile away: the further it traveled on its angled approach, the greater the deviation became.
The sky erupted in blue flame.
An explosion as massive as it was silent lacerated the velvet night sky, obscuring hundreds of shimmering stars. Then, the massive cloud of brightest blue was gone, simply vanishing. A thin trail sliced through the heavens from the east to the west, spanning hundreds of miles, its vibrant blue, matching, if not surpassing the initial blaze.
The craft arced across the continent, having struck the upper reaches of the exosphere just above Newfoundland. By the time the ship plunged through the troposphere, it was just over Roswell, New Mexico.
Constructed of elements and materials fashioned and originating from the distant reaches of space, when the object finally collided with earth’s surface in a desolate stretch of desert, the resulting damage was simply incredible. Ten miles away, the ground trembled underfoot. Jackrabbits, coyotes, and lizards scurried away from the crash site as if Hades below had opened up to swallow them alive.
The ship did not stop at ground level. Its terminal velocity had been so great that it had punched a hole right into the sediment as if the dry, arid New Mexican landscape were warm butter and it a hot blade. Burrowing through the rocky sediment, the ship finally came to a halt twenty meters down. After a moment, the world was silent again. No animal sounds, no shifting of dirt, no falling of rock. Only a full, bloated quiet. Nothing on the ground stirred and nothing within the ship flinched. The night was suddenly so very dead.
The spacecraft’s approach and descent, while swift and brief, was not missed completely. Almost twenty-five kilometers away, south by southwest, a special detachment of American soldiers and officers of the United States Army’s 509th deployed to meet and greet the alleged threat. The convoy of jeeps and trucks was halfway there before the dust even settled.
Radar control at both the 509th and nearby White Sands Army base initially believed the fallen object to be an enemy aircraft, most likely Russian. Lightning pealed across the sky. Thunder rumbled in the distance. More than one of the soldiers in the convoy wondered just what in the hell they were rushing into.
Those men that rode out that night knew next to nothing about what lay in wait for them. Whisperings, however, began immediately upon departure. Hushed tones spoke of things falling from space, aliens with guns that melted a man before you could blink and other, worse things, things better off not known. While most of the soldiers dismissed the talk as equal parts paranoia and speculation, they all wondered, at least a little, how much of the rumors just might be true.
When the first of the convoy arrived, they found out.
The fallen craft burrowed deep. Floodlights were quickly raised and directed in the fallen craft’s location. Many throats went dry and several of the enlisted and even a few of the officers found it a little hard to swallow for several moments. But, their training had been sound and true and even as the reality of what lay before them sank in, they started to work. Quiet at first, reserved. With the perimeter secured and transport requests radioed in, the usual banter of solider among soldier cranked up. Within an hour and a half of their arrival, the quarter mile around the crash site was swarming with light and life looking not unlike a military base unto itself. For now, the storm granted them reprieve and they worked uninterrupted.
Still, the thunder grew closer.
Captain Garret Fallow was the HOIC, “Head Officer in Charge,” as it were. His orders had been explicit. Ascertain and recover was the first directive. The second, contain and conceal. Unambiguous orders expected to be carried out to the letter. Captain Fallow was not one to take any orders, especially ones from a full-bird colonel, lightly.
Fallow surveyed the scene, both pleased to see his instructions carried out and still a bit shaken from the sight of the mysterious object that he couldn’t bring himself to believe was actually right there in front of him. Fallow had no way of knowing that the local army base was not the only witness to tonight’s crash.
“Enough, Gladys, enough.” Barney was exasperated to say the least.
“I cannot believe you.” Gladys was in the front seat and, up until two minutes ago, snuggling up to her boyfriend. Now, while Barney was irritated, she was livid.
“I forgot. That’s all. Anyone can make a mistake.”
“A mistake, Barney,” Gladys laughed, and not very kindly. “That’s what you call it? I call it stupidity. That’s right. Pure D stupidity.”
Barney just shook his head as he stepped out into the night and walked back to the trunk. He was quite sure there was a gas can in there. He was also sure it was quite empty. Gladys was a knockout that’s for sure. Generally, she was a sweet little thing. When that temper of hers raised its ugly head, though, well, that was a different matter entirely. As Barney raised the trunk, found the metal can and was rewarded with just the barest of a splash, he knew there would be no kiss tonight. He the football captain, and her the head cheerleader, they should have been a match made in heaven. However, he was also of the mind that no matter how easy the girl was on the eyes, he wouldn’t be scolded every time something went wrong. Especially if it wasn’t his fault. The gas gauge hadn’t worked for over a year. He knew it. She knew it. It was her idea to go riding after the fireworks show at the town square. He could have said no, he supposed. But that pouty way she’d suggested it, the seductive leer, well, his mama might have a raised a fool, but if so it was his brother, certainly not him.
“Tell me you’ve got gasoline back there, Barney. Tell me that right now.”
“Well,” he started but gave up. What was the use?
Gladys, even from outside the car still had a voice that made the six-foot tall high school football player’s skin shiver. Something close to fingernails on a blackboard. “Wait until I tell my father about this! I’ll bet he’ll never let you step foot back on my front porch. I’ll bet he—”
“Just be quiet for a minute, will ya, Gladys?” It came out a bit rougher than he wanted and he immediately regretted it. Gladys slung open the passenger side down and was out, half-running at him in the blink of an eye. She was already pointing at him, hateful words spilling out.
All Barney could do was straighten up and take it like a man. Nope, no kiss tonight. Not even a little one. Maybe never again.
“Let me tell you one thing you overgrown farm boy. I’m a lady, whether you know it or not. I will not be stranded out here in the middle of nowhere and let you fool me into thinking we’re out of gas. I tell you, Barney, I will…”
Barney had been looking at the ground, studying his shoes during the rampage. When Gladys fell silent, he thought for a moment she was just catching her breath. Really, how could you yell all that with just two lungs? She didn’t say anything more. Slowly, like a frightened youngster, Barney looked up at her. Her eyes were wide and while her finger was still pointed out, it wasn’t pointing at him anymore. Instead, it pointed towards the heavens. Her eyes were wide as saucers and her mouth stretched out like a big O.
“Gladys, what in the world?”
Barney turned to see just what had shut this girl up. He saw exactly what she did.
Barney swallowed hard. “G-get in the car.” He started to move but noticed his sweetheart was still as a statue. “Get in, Gladys, get in now,” he shouted.
Barney grabbed her, scooped her up under an arm and threw her inside the front of the car, with him crashing down on her just as the Chevrolet rocked on its springs like the invisible hand of God had just slapped a little toy car. The frame creaked in protest and wind beat against the windows like a tornado.
Barney’s eyes clamped tight even as the car stilled. After all that, the last thing on his mind was a goodnight kiss.
With one headlight of the ragged old Ford pickup busted out, the road was hard enough to see. Add to that the rotgut he’d been drinking and Vernon Dodd was having a hard time keeping his truck on the road. Having worn out his welcome down at Freddie’s Oasis, just a small box of a bar just outside the Roswell city limits, he was now taking swigs from the bottle of Seagram’s 7 he kept up under the seat for when he really, really needed a drink.
Tonight, ole’ Vernon need not just a drink but the whole bottle. With every sip, the remaining headlight dimmed more and more. That and the road had doubled and was now tripling as he took another long pull from the bottle. To say Vernon was in a nasty mood was quite an understatement. In his opinion, he had every right to be.
“Earnestine,” he muttered. With the hand holding the neck of the Seagram’s bottle tight, he wiped away a tear. Vernon was one of those poor souls that, at times, could go from a raging maniac drunk to a slobbering, sobbing fool faster than two shakes of a dog’s tail. This happened to be one of those times.
Vernon wasn’t an educated man. Having dropped out of school in his fourth year, after his pa ran off, never to be heard from again, he’d never sought out to further his schooling beyond the skills necessary to eke out a living as a handyman.
Bringing his drunken blobbing under control, he realized he hadn’t even turned on the radio. Sometimes music helped, sometimes it didn’t. Might as well give it a try, he reckoned. The fifteen-year-old truck had seen much better days. Rust already ate through the fenders and the engine had a cough as if it smoked a pack of Lucky Strikes every mile it rolled. It didn’t matter. It was his free and clear. Well, at least ever since his brother died. With not a penny owed on it, with Vernon was the only living relative, he claimed what he felt was rightfully his. Not that anyone really cared. While he spent not one red cent more on it than was absolutely necessary, he kept the engine running well enough and the radio was in tiptop shape.
The bottle was just about empty, but he took a drink. As soon as he switched on the radio, he wished he hadn’t. This far out in the middle of nowhere you didn’t get many stations, but the one Vernon found he wish he didn’t.
He took another swig of the Seagram’s as the twanging opening bars of Tex Ritter’s “Long Time Gone” filled the cab of the truck. Placing the bottle between his legs, he pulled a smoke from the pack in his pocket. These hand-rolled jobs were sure to kill him if the drink didn’t. But the best he could figure, a man had to go sometime.
His was the only vehicle on the road and he didn’t think twice when he let go of the wheel, using his knees to steer. Vernon couldn’t get his match to catch. Finally calling that one a lost cause, he tossed it out the window. Just as he was reaching for another, the whole world burned bright blue. The light was so blaring he thought a lightning bolt had hit him. The hum of rushing air and the chugging rumble of the aging Ford engine drowned Tex Ritter’s crooning drawl. Vernon slammed down on the brakes—which didn’t work right away—and forgot about the steering wheel altogether. The Seagram’s bottle flew from his lap, splashing its remaining liquid all over the floorboard. When the brakes did engage, the tires crunched on the gravel and the whole jalopy swerved and slid off the side of the country road. Plumes of gravel dust billowed up. There was a loud pop as one of the overworked tires finally gave up the ghost and blew out, and one last jarring crash to the whole fiasco. The twang of “Long Time Gone” disappeared. Static on the AM station and then it was as if an invisible hand spun the dial. Static intermittent with indiscernible words, sounds of explosions, even the roar of a tiger, then more static. The static cut out and the strangest words yet filled the cabin of the Ford. The timbre and resonance was much better than the tinny speakers should have been able to produce. Yet, there it was, foreign words booming into Vernon’s excited head.
Doused in liquor, cigarette bit in two but still in his mouth, Vernon threw open the door and jumped out. His legs were rubber as much from almost flipping the pickup as the dangerous mixture of liquor and adrenalin coursing through him. Blue flame bent across the sky westward, like some crazy motion capture of the setting sun, if the sun were ten times larger and a completely different color. Vernon didn’t know anything about motion capture techniques, however, and didn’t particularly care.
What Vernon did care about at this particular time was the spreading wet warmth in the crotch of his pants and the slow trickling trail down his left leg. Even that didn’t distract him from the sight he beheld. He didn’t so much as spit the hand-rolled cigarette from his mouth, as it simply fell. Vernon was stunned and felt his fingertips tingle.
He looked to his left, to his right. Nothing. Nothing at all. He turned in the direction he’d come and then back to the direction he’d been traveling. Not a soul in sight.
“Jesus, Lord in heaven,” he muttered under his breath, his words a little sluggish, his tongue a bit thick. “All you had to do was tell me to stop drinking. I would’ve listened. Honest.” Vernon Dodd almost made it back into his truck before he either fainted or passed out. His head struck the door of the truck and he crumpled. One thing was for sure. Long after the goose egg on his head healed and the hangover was gone, he’d never forget the blazing blue sky.
***End of Sample***
I hope you’ve enjoyed this preview of Escape.
Please visit www.keithlatch.com or your favorite ebook retailer to purchase the complete version on or after 2/16/12.