Deeps

​Pacific Deeps.

A killer is loose aboard a Virginia class submarine and it’s a race against time for Captain Russell Grant to find him. With the USS Obama on a war footing, Captain Russell Grant takes extraordinary measures to pin down the murderer before morale plummets aboard and his mission is scuppered beyond repair. He promotes a female member of the crew to Chief Warrant Officer, and she’s soon joined in her investigation by two federal agents specially flown out to examine the circumstances. Things take a turn for the worse when one of the agents is also killed, and razor sharp tension surfaces between Captain Grant and Agent Frank Waters. Tensions also arise as the submarine is placed on a war footing with the Chinese and the Koreans, and it’s all Grant can do to keep a lid on things, before matters implode beyond repair.

Prologue – Atlantic Deeps.

The USS Frontier stood poised for takeoff. T-minus 31 seconds.

There were two countdown clocks. The L or launch clock represented the time in real terms before the shuttle launched; and the T clock also represented time, but had several built in holds where additional verifications could be made. If mission parameters allowed, built in holds could be extended, but launches to the International Space Station (ISS) can’t be extended because of the tight launch window. The launch window is limited to 10 minutes because of the 90 minute orbit of the ISS and the speed of the earth’s rotation at 1,470.3 km at the Kennedy Space Station in Florida, which puts the launch pads 1,000km east of the launch pads during the next orbit.

In 2011, NASA had suspended the shuttle space program following 135 missions from 1981, the last being STS-135 flown by Atlantis.

Now they stood poised to launch a new generation of shuttles and the USS Frontier was the pinnacle of that new craft. Like previous shuttle missions, it had been designed as a low orbital craft, but the new version could carry up to twelve astronauts as compared to eight on previous missions. 

At 72 hours before launch there was a call to stations. At T-43 hours and counting a sequence of events kicked off. Space technicians began the final and facility closeouts for launch. Next up was a check of the backup flight systems. Flight software was then checked on the display systems, and backup flight system software was loaded into the orbiter’s general purpose computers. Next was the removal of the middeck and flightdeck platforms. Engineers then activated and tested the navigational systems, and completed preparations to load the power reactant storage and distribution systems, and they also completed the preliminary flight deck inspections.

At T-27 hours and holding, non-essential personnel were cleared from the area. It was the first built in hold and could last for four hours. Technicians began loading cryogenic propellants into the orbiter’s power reactant storage and distribution systems. At T-27 hours and counting, the fuel cell storage tanks continued to be pumped with cryogenic propellants.

At T-19 hours and holding, the hold could again last for four hours but could be extended and included procedures that included demating the orbiter’s midbody umbilical unit, cleaning and vacuuming the crew module and purging the external tank nosecone. At T-19 hours and counting final preparations were begun for the three main engines for main propellant intake and flight, filling of the launch pad sound suppression water tank, resumption of the orbiter and ground support equipment close-outs, and closing out the tail service masts on the mobile launcher platform.

At T-11 hours and holding, the hold could last from thirteen to fourteen hours and included weather briefings, engineering briefings, pad debris inspection and closeout, late stow of flight crew equipment, moving the rotating service structure to its ‘park’ position, activating the orbiter’s inertial measurement and communication systems, and performing the ascent switch list. At T-11 hours and counting there was an activation of the fuel cells, the blast danger area was cleared of non-essential personnel, and the orbiter’s purge air was switched to gaseous nitrogen.

At T-6 hours and holding, the hold could last up to two hours. Procedures at this point included a scrub that could last twenty four hours, a weather update for the launch director and mission management team, and once the launch team confirmed that there were no violations of launch criteria the orders were given to begin loading the external tank with propellants – 500,000 gallons of cryogenic propellants – and a chill-down of the propellant transfer lines. At T-6 and counting, the external tank is checked for frost and debris, then further checked for the presence of H2 at the orbiter, and a final filling of the external tank with its flight load of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants.

At T-3 hours and holding, the hold lasting two and a half hours, the external tank loading enters stable replenishing, the performance of the inertial measurement unit preflight calibration, the alignment of the Merritt Island launch area tracking antennas, the flight inspection team walked up and down the launch tower inspecting the shuttle, followed by the closeout crew who configured the crew module for countdown and launch and assisted the crew in entering the orbiter, a televised weather briefing and a flight crew weather brief, and the astronaut support person enters the crew module to complete a comms check.

At T-3 hours and counting, the crew departs for the launch pad and as soon as they arrive they begin their entry into the orbiter via the White Room, closeout procedures in the White Room, a check of cockpit switch configurations, astronauts conduct air-to-ground voice checks with Launch and Mission controls, the orbiter’s crew hatch is closed and checked for leaks, the White Room closeout is completed, and the closeout crew retreats to the fallback area.

At T-20 minutes and holding, the hold lasting ten minutes, the NASA Test Director conducts final launch team briefings and completes inertial measurement unit preflight alignments. At T-20 minutes and counting, as the countdown resumes the orbiter’s onboard computers transition to launch configuration, commencement of the fuel cell thermal conditioning, the closure of the orbiter’s cabin vent valves, and the transition of the backup flight system to launch configuration.

At T-9 minutes and holding, the hold varying in terms of length and the final hold, a determination on the launch window, the flight recorders are activated, and final “go/no go” launch polls conducted by NASA Test Director, mission management and Launch Director. At T-9 minutes and counting, things begin to heat up. The automatic ground launch sequencer is started; at T-7 minutes 30 seconds, the retraction of the orbiter access arm; at T-5 minutes 0 seconds, the auxiliary power units start, and the arming of the solid rocket booster range safety safe and devices; at T-3 minutes 55 seconds the commencement of the orbiter’s aerosurface profile test and the main engine gimbal profile test; at T-2 minutes 55 seconds the retraction of the gaseous oxygen vent arm or ‘beanie cap’; at T-2 minutes 0 seconds the crew close and lock their visors; at T-50 seconds the orbiter transferred from ground to internal power; at T-31 seconds the ground launch sequencer is go for auto sequence start; at T-16 seconds activation of the launch pad sound suppression system; at T-10 seconds activation of the main engine hydrogen burnoff system; and at T-6.6 seconds the ground launch sequencer is go for main engine start.

Finally, at T-0 the ignition of the solid rocket boosters, explosive bolts releasing the boosters, and the shuttle launches from the launch pad. The USS Frontier climbed upward, soaring towards the heavens.

The three main engines were operating at 100 per cent thrust, the engines providing 1.2 million pounds of thrust and the boosters providing 6,600,000 pounds of thrust. Total thrust at liftoff was about 7.8 million pounds of thrust and to achieve orbit the shuttle had to go from 0 to a speed of 28,968 km an hour. At T plus 20 seconds, the Frontier rolled at 180 degrees at a 78-degree pitch, and at T plus 26 seconds the main engines were throttled down due to the maximum dynamic pressure. Shuttle Commander, Benjamin Stokes, spoke to Mission Control. “Go, for throttle up?”

Mission Control replied: “You are go for throttle up. Good luck, Ben.”

Seconds later, Stokes throttled the engines to 104 per cent power, and then disaster struck. Catastrophe!

In Mission Control there was shock and disbelief as technicians scrambled to check their systems. Memories of the Challenger disaster resurfaced because instead of the beautiful image of the Frontier rising upwards towards the heavens, all that hung in the still air and against the cold blue sky were long entrails of white smoke, and strangely enough the largest column of smoke formed a huge question mark against the sky.

It was eerie.

Strange.

Diabolical.

Apocalyptic.

Orphans

​Orphans – a Larry Lir mystery. An Irish boy with dark, magical powers.
Who couldn’t help but be inspired by the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter series? I got the idea for Orphans from this, but I wanted an Irish character, and I wanted a story rooted in Celtic mythology, legend and myth; and I wanted to combine all these elements into a modern setting that children could enjoy. I wanted to incorporate modern technology, modern forensics, and modern thinking into a spellbinding tale for children and in Larry Lir, I think I found that character. Larry is a twelve year old who fends mostly for himself in a rambling mansion on the Hill of Howth, in Dublin.
Orphans due out next year is, I believe, aptly titled. The main character, Larry is left an orphan following the brutal murder of his parents. When three Cuban children, recently orphaned themselves, appeal to Larry for help, he has to take up their case. The shadow of Charles Dickens and the splendid Oliver Twist looms a bit here. Even his archenemy is an orphan.
There is an important underlying message in the book that relates to basic press freedom and democratic values. The Book is set for the most part in Ireland, both in Dublin and Wexford. Other locations used are the USA and Cuba.
There are strong hints of mythology like the famous fable of Oisin, warned not to dismount from his horse when he returned to Irish soil lest the years catch up with him. 
The Children of Lir, of whom Larry is a direct descendent, also play a role in this tale. A curse from their time hangs over Larry. A short extract from Orphans is given here:
Lir knew how to play on their fears.

He knew Quique was terrified of snakes, that Da Silva had nightmares about the man he had killed when he was twelve, and that certain things could unsettle Julio too. It was the power of the black magic within him that enabled him to play on these fears, but it was a power he preferred not to utilise because it could leave him feeling drained and powerless.
The Book shows I hope the independent spirit that dwells within children and the battle of triumph over evil. It is available as a pre-order from Barnes and Nobles, Smashwords and other select outlets.

Orphans. A children’s tale.

​Orphans 1
“So, Janic,” said Lir. “Do you remember anything about the hit and run?”

“Car came out of nowhere. Fast…very fast. Lunatic at the wheel.”

He paused, before continuing. “Strange thing,” he reflected.

“What?”

“It struck me that he wasn’t Irish.”

“You caught a glimpse of the driver?” Larry asked, taking another grape.

“Looked like a foreign guy. Heavy guy. Swarthy face. Tanned. Lunatic eyes. Spanish, maybe?”

Swallowing another grape, Lir’s mind raced. Strange how foreigners seemed to be coming out of the woodwork on this, his latest case. For a moment, the Cubans crossed his mind, but they couldn’t be responsible here…could they? It was just a fleeting thought.  

“Don’t worry about anything, Janic. Get yourself well. I’ve given Maria time off to be with you.”

Janic stammered his thanks. “No need of that, Larry.”

“Nonsense,” said Lir. “You’re valued employees. “Least I can do.”

He got out of there before it got maudlin.

Orphans. An extract.

​Lir consoled the big man by putting his arm around the big man’s shoulders. The big man was nearly in tears.
His use of language was so uncharacteristic. “What’s so damned important about those disks anyway.
Lir shook his head. “Ever hear of the Black Spring?”

The big man shook his head.

“It was an operation mounted in 2003 by the Cuban government to round up people they regarded as dissidents – journalists, human rights activists, bloggers.

“And this is an extension of that operation?” Mac observed shrewdly.

“That’s my read on it,” Lir confirmed.

The Scribe. An extract.

​Insert

“Prochorus is here on Kos,” he commented.

The Seer brightened.

“Does he still sing beautifully?”

“As always.”

Ioanna put another question to the mystic. “Do you think the gospels will stand the test of time?”

The Seer didn’t answer immediately. His eyes clouded over as though he were trying to see far into the future. “I think they will,” he confirmed. “At least certain ones. There will be four main ones – Matthew, Mark and Luke.”

“And the fourth?”

“Yours.”

“What’s your favourite one?”

“Luke. Without a shadow of doubt.”

“How come?”

“There’s an immediacy to his writings…perhaps, I’m prejudiced…I knew him when he was growing up…I remember when he was born…he always knew he wanted to write and paint…then as he got older, and especially after his family moved to Greece, he decided to pursue formal training and become a physician. You knew him, didn’t you?”

Ioanna nodded. “Yes, he stayed in our community in Ephesus for several months, before accompanying the mother of Jesus back to Jerusalem.”

“And then he followed Paul?”

“Yes.”
 

Pacific Deeps extract

​There was a strange, palpable fear on board the Obama, and suspicion and mistrust were rife. Waters spoke at length with Hobbs about the unique situation they found themselves up against. Of all the personnel aboard, he found her the easiest to get along with, probably because of her investigator background. The fact that she used to be a cop helped. He trusted the captain too, but his earlier row with the man hadn’t helped matters. It wasn’t by an means an ideal state of affairs.

Hobbs was as perplexed as he was by the state of affairs aboard the Obama. Waters knew by this stage that she also had a good rapport with the captain, and knew he could use this as a conduit to the man and hopefully avoid any further misunderstandings and antagonism. He knew too he could probably trust her to discuss his newfound feelings of claustrophobia. He had learned that it was also Hobb’s maiden voyage aboard a submarine. He put the question to her.

“Claustrophobia?” she queried, surprise in her eyes. It was an unexpected question from the NCIS man. She