The Dark Zone: A Galahad Book

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9780765321107: The Dark Zone: A Galahad Book

With the help of the mysterious alien force known as the Cassini, the teenage crew of Galahad has managed to navigate safely through the minefield of the Kuiper Belt. But just as they exit the Belt, they are confronted by their next challenge: a group of incredibly fast and maneuverable organisms waiting in their path―like vultures. With no way of knowing if the organisms are friends or foes, Triana and her Council decide to push forward, setting into motion a chain of events that will lead to the opening of a wormhole (a shortcut across space and time), and the first death aboard Galahad....

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About the Author:

DOM TESTA, of Denver, Colorado, has been a radio show host since 1977, and currently is a co-host of the popular "Dom and Jane Show" on Mix 100 in Denver. A strong advocate of literacy programs for children, he regularly visits Colorado schools. Dom began the Big Brain Club to encourage students to overcome the peer pressure that often prevents them from achieving their true potential. He is the author of the Galahad series of young adult novels, beginning with The Comet's Curse.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

-1-

 

There was no sound in the room other than muted sobs. No laughter, no whispers, no private conversations. More than two hundred teenagers, crammed into a sterile space, yet completely quiet. It was an unnatural silence, which added to the somber mood. Occasionally a cry escaped from one of the teens, which provoked a similar response from another, then another. Then once again the deathly veil dropped, and silence reigned.

The shroud-covered body lay alone on the table, identity disguised. It held the attention of every person in the room, for it represented what none had believed possible.

Galahad’s first death.

A crew member separated from the crowd and trudged up the steps to stand behind a hastily-arranged podium. Choking back tears, they spoke quietly, reciting memories of their late friend, offering words of encouragement in a vain attempt to make it seem that everything would be okay.

Nobody responded. They stood silently, most with hands clasped behind their backs, filling most of the available space in the Spider bay of the ship called Galahad. As the speaker walked slowly back down the stairs, music began to drift across the room. It brought about a fresh wave of tears.

Silence dominated again. Then, slowly, the crew members began to disperse. One by one they approached the body; some reached out and placed a hand upon it, others simply stared. After pausing for a moment, they shuffled past, across the vast hangar, and out the door. It took almost thirty minutes for everyone to pay their respects individually. In the end, five people were left, huddled together, not wanting to believe it could have happened, not wanting to say goodbye. They embraced, then together approached their fallen comrade and placed upon the shroud a bouquet gathered from the ship’s farms; not true flowers, but the closest symbol they could manage.

A minute later they convened in the Spider bay’s control room, sealing it off, and stared sadly through the glass. With a spoken command, a door opened in the hangar, exposing the room to the icy vacuum of deep space. Starlight cascaded through the opening. It was a simple reminder: We are far from home.

There was hesitation, a collected feeling of loss, and a reluctance to let go. The next move would send the body into space, to drift for eternity. No one wanted to move, to take the next step, to banish their friend to the depths of empty, lonely space. But at last the word was given, and the ship’s computer began the final sequence.

The robotic arm, until now concealed below the table which held the body, extended toward the bay’s open door. With a gentle shove it was done; the shroud covering the body fell away, revealing a cocooned human form, layered in specially treated wraps. It cleared the opening and began its endless journey. Within a minute it had receded from view, first a small white object slipping away, becoming a faint pinprick of light, and then gone.

Once again the five companions in the Spider bay’s control room embraced, allowing their grief to mingle, physically holding each other up. They remained that way as the bay’s outer door closed, blocking out the starlight, sealing them once again into the warmth of their metal nest.

And then the scene froze...and faded away.

 

It was a familiar smell, but Alexa Wellington couldn’t place it at first. Still disoriented from the deep sleep, she lay on her bed and kept her eyes closed. The misty line between wakefulness and dreams had dissolved, but once again the vision had been so strong, so intense, so...real...

She was, as usual, reluctant to let it go. In the last six weeks her dreams had become more and more vivid. They didn’t come often, perhaps only two or three that she could remember each week; but they were unlike any dreams she had ever experienced before. For one thing, there was no dream-like quality to them. In one of her quiet conversations with Bon Hartsfield, Alexa had likened them to mini-movies, only with the screen inside her head in full 3-D and high definition. Until she awoke and opened her eyes, her mind would not interpret them as anything except real.

On top of that, they were complete dramas; they had a beginning, middle, and end, unlike the typical dream which generally jumped from place to place as well as backward and forward in time. These were stories that played out as if scripted. Often they were quite pleasant, while others were very unsettling. This particular dream was the most disturbing yet.

Taking a deep breath, Alexa opened her eyes. Other than the soft glow from the computer monitor across the room and the faint emergency light above the door, the room was dark. She could just make out the still form of her roommate, Katarina, sleeping. All was quiet. The scent that had greeted her upon waking was artificial; Katarina had apparently dialed up her favorite sleep aid, a soft fragrance of lavender that seeped through the ventilation ducts.

Alexa resisted the urge to glance at the clock, for she had found that her mind would then only focus on the time, mentally calculating how long it would take to fall back asleep. It might be midnight; it might be 5am. She didn’t want to know.

Of course, concentrating on the time might distract her from the troubling dream that had unfolded minutes ago. The nightmare’s tragic setting was only one concern; the fact that her dreams had lately started to come true was terrifying.

She took another deep breath, held it, and then slowly exhaled. Try as she might, she couldn’t shake the vivid image of the deep-space funeral. Who had been lying beneath the shroud? Who were the friends clustered in the control room, grieving together? Their faces were obscured, their gender a mystery. She had felt that they were somehow close to one another – but that didn’t help; there were 251 teenagers aboard the ship.

Another thought occurred to her: should she tell someone? If indeed her dreams were somehow portals to the future, allowing her to glimpse ahead, was it irresponsible to keep this vision to herself? On the other hand, what purpose could it serve? The dream had given no indication of the cause of death, which meant that realistically no preventive steps could be taken. If word leaked out that Alexa was now predicting death for one of the crew members...

And just who exactly would she tell? Triana Martell? That would be the obvious choice; the ship’s Council Leader would be understanding, and would treat Alexa with respect. But Triana had so many responsibilities, and dealt with more pressure than most teenagers could imagine. Why add to her concerns when there was nothing that could be done about it?

Lita Marques would also be very understanding, and, as Alexa’s immediate supervisor in Galahad’s clinic – lovingly referred to by the crew as Sick House – knew her better than anyone. Lita was a good friend, a good listener, and easily the most compassionate person Alexa had ever met.

And yet was it a good idea to burden her with this information? A mere eight weeks ago Lita had operated on Alexa and removed her appendix. In fact, the surgical procedure had inadvertently brought on the dream visions that now plagued her. Alexa had not awakened immediately after the operation, and instead had briefly lain in a coma. Something had happened to her during this unconscious stretch, something nobody could quite explain.

Although she had done nothing wrong, Lita blamed herself for the frightening turn of events. Alexa couldn’t see troubling her with this new development.

Then there was Bon.

The quiet, somber Swede had few real friends aboard the ship. He kept himself busy with his work, running the agricultural program within the two massive domes that topped the spacecraft. Few people had ever been able to get emotionally close to him. And yet, over the last few weeks, he and Alexa had connected.

It began with a visit he made before she was discharged from Sick House. During their brief conversation she realized that he had sought her out because of something they had in common: both were experiencing bizarre mental flashes that had altered their worlds.

For Bon it was his tenuous connection with the alien entity that the Galahad crew had encountered while zipping past Titan, the mysterious orange moon of Saturn. That connection had eventually saved the ship from certain destruction within the debris-strewn minefield known as the Kuiper Belt. For Alexa it was her sudden prescient abilities.

It was a bond forged of their uniqueness. As Alexa had said to him recently, “We are the ship’s freaks. Nobody else could possibly understand.” Bon had scowled at hearing this, but had offered no argument.

She had shared many of her dream visions with him over the weeks, but not all. How would he take the news that a death aboard the ship might be imminent?

She decided to wait.

With a sigh she gave in and twisted her head to look at the clock, just as the time clicked over to 1:55am. “Go to sleep,” she whispered to herself.

Deep inside she knew it would not come easy.

 

* * *

 

The Dining Hall on Galahad was packed. Triana walked in at 7:15, late for her breakfast meeting with Channy Oakland and Lita. The three girls made it a point to start the day together at least once a week, occasionally to discuss Council business, but mostly for social reasons. She scanned the busy room and spotted Channy waving from the far corner. Channy was easy to pick out of most crowds; all one needed to do was look for the brightest t-shirt in the room. Today’s choice was hot pink.

“Sorry I’m late,” Triana said after loading a tray with some fruit, an energy block, and simulated juice, her usual breakfast combination. “It took me longer to ...

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