Dear Reader,

I trust those of you who have read my Jock Boucher thrillers will like this new direction. I would like to hear from you. Please leave your remarks in the Comments section of this blog, or through my website, davidlyonsauthor.com. Following are the first few pages. I hope you enjoy them.

David Lyons

Dedication

This novel is dedicated to all those involved in the NASA program TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. I wish this mission much success, and hope that its discoveries will be steps along the path to converting much of science fiction to science fact.

WAVE

Escape to Aldiron

A Jock Boucher Sci-Fi Thriller

By David Lyons

From whence had they come? One hundred or more galaxies could have been the source of the binary neutron stars—neither larger than a city—but each weighing more than twice as much as the Sun. Around each other they had revolved for hundreds of millions of years, all the while circling each other in deep space ever faster, ever closer, till spinning at the speed of light, reaching one hundred orbits per second. And as they spun, the pair was drawn to separate partners in yet another cosmic dance; two super massive black holes, also approaching one another, drawn inexorably into an immense union. The collapsed stars spun in one direction as the black holes in the cosmos whirled in yet another till they met, their repulsive forces hurling the twin remnants of stars across eons at a speed beyond measure, till finally they came to an inexplicable halt after an eternal trek across the seemingly endless universe.

CHAPTER 1

Straining against muscle spasms accompanying the terror that had roused him from his troubled sleep, he swung his legs over the bed, sat up and listened to the rustling outside. They were here. He must face them. He could not fight. Fight with what?

Stumbling to the staircase, he gripped the wooden banister, and descended, his shoulders hunched like an old man. Reaching his front door, he opened it and was assaulted by a light far brighter than any he had ever seen, could ever describe. It was blinding, all encompassing. Dazed, he entered its brilliance, drawn from his house onto the stoop, enveloped in illumination and warmth. His legs, muscle, bone and flesh, ceased supporting his body.

And Trevor Phelps collapsed unconscious onto his front steps.

*

“Hey, I’m walking my dog in the four hundred block of D Street, Northeast. There’s a man sprawled out in front of his house. I don’t know if he’s dead or alive. My dog is growling at him; a Doberman Pinscher, not afraid of a damned thing, but he won’t move and I can’t check on the guy. I’ll stay here, but I can’t get any closer.”

The pedestrian closed his phone and stood there. It occurred to him how foolish he’d look if the man just sat up and went inside, but his dog continued growling, baring fangs at the motionless body.

An ambulance turned the corner, screeching to a halt in front of the house. Emergency responders leapt out. They knelt over Trevor, placed the unconscious man on a gurney and rolled him into the ambulance.

“Where are you taking him?” the neighbor asked.

“George Washington University Hospital emergency room. Does he live here?”

“I think so. Don’t know him well. The owner drinks.”

“Ahhh,” they said, confirming their initial assessment.

The ambulance was on its way, the patient still unconscious. One aspect of their preliminary examination while racing to the emergency room was surprisingly difficult to accomplish.

“Mike,” said the paramedic, “he’s breathing and I’ve got a pulse, but I need to see the dilation of his pupils. I can’t get the eyelids open.”

CHAPTER 2

LIGO. As with most acronyms representing the name of a governmental facility—especially one with a scientific function—it was an abbreviation essential for verbal communication. ‘I’m going to LIGO.’ ‘Call LIGO.’ ‘Look what LIGO discovered.’ The two syllables rolled off one’s tongue. Not so the cumbersome moniker ‘Laser Interferometry Gravitational-wave Observatory.’

LIGO could have stood for ‘least interesting government office’ until that morning in 2017, when astrophysicists publicly announced their first recording—which had actually been received months earlier—of a gravitational wave. Some scientists said the wave could have come from a merger of super massive black holes, which had created in an instant more force than fifty times the energy of all the stars in the universe.

This, one of the most enigmatic of all cosmological events, had occurred over a billion years before, and more than a billion light-years away. Using an earthly unit of time to measure a celestial unit of distance? Blame it on Einstein, who envisaged the concept of space-time.

Neil Madison had been present at LIGO on that memorable day. The data was cited as further proof of Einstein’s general relativity theory, which took more time to explain than how this research facility had come into being in the woods of this rural locale, Livingston, Louisiana, twenty-five miles east of Baton Rouge, fifty miles northwest of New Orleans.

After a fortune had been invested in this most sophisticated equipment, the first gravitational wave ever discovered had moved the recalibrated detector arm of the observatory less than the diameter of a single proton, a subatomic particle. Yet this infinitesimal measurement was a stunning scientific achievement. Nobel Prizes would follow. The world news media would fawn. But Neil had noted that the experts, what few there were, ignored the temporizing effect of the incalculable length of time and inconceivable distance traveled, minimizing the potential dangers of gravitational waves. Evidence of their destructive powers had long since dissipated throughout the universe.

The readings registered this morning scared the crap out of him. The interferometer graphic was literally off the charts. Something with enormous force had struck, damaging these delicate measuring devices. He picked up the phone and called the LIGO facility in Hanford, Washington, and then the newest member of the trio in Europe. His readings were confirmed. They’d been duplicated in both of the other locations. Before he could put a pencil to paper, the phone rang and he picked up a call from NASA.

“We’ve got damage to the International Space Station,” the caller said. “They said it felt like an earthquake. In space? They’re using emergency power. We’re going to have to bring them down as soon as we can get a recovery vehicle up there. I’ve talked to just about every radio and optical telescopic observatory I know of and…”

“Why call me? One thing it was not was a gravitational wave. They barely move our detectors when we do catch them, and are far too weak to damage a spacecraft.”

“Well, you guys look for stuff no one can see, right?”

“Yeah, we do that alright. Anyway, I’m glad you called. Our link to the Arecibo radio telescope reports a new phenomenon near Jupiter. It can’t be seen either, emits no light or heat. But that observatory can detect pulsars, electro magnetized radiation from neutron stars. But neutron stars in our own solar system? How many astronauts are up there?”

“Six souls. Are we going to get hit by another one of these things?”

“Hell if I know. Something new is in our neighborhood and we just got its calling card. I’d get your astronauts back as soon as possible.”

“Well, there’s always a Soyuz capsule attached to the space station for emergencies. But whatever hit the launch also damaged the capsule. I called Moscow and they said they’d send up another one, a bit vague on the timeframe though, and we’ve got to get those folks back without delay.”

“Why don’t you call that guy who sends up the supply shipments?”

“Jesse Lake? He builds rocket ships. I don’t know if he has any capsules for astronauts.”

“You might ask him.”

“You’re right, I will. Okay. Thanks. Have a nice day.”

*

Neil then made another call, this one to a curious office in the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., its existence known to few.

“Trevor, this is a heads up,” he said. “I’m calling because I don’t want to put this in an email, not yet. There’s damage to the ISS and they’re going to bring everybody home. We’ve got something near Jupiter. There are no visuals, but the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico is reporting pulsars from what could be binary neutron stars. You know what binary neutron stars are, right?”

“Cores of collapsed stars,” Trevor said, “about the size of a city but twice as dense as our Sun. They can’t be seen because they’ve burned up all their hydrogen and helium. Binary means two.”

“Correct. These newcomers are going to collide, and the explosion will send meteors and gravitational waves our way. Coming from as close as Jupiter, the waves could stretch and compress the shape of Earth as if it were Silly-Putty; and cause seismic shifts that will have our oceans running all over us. But that’s just my personal opinion, and few in the scientific world agree with me. No one believes gravitational waves could reach sufficient amplitude to present a physical danger to us.”

“How did the neutron stars get there?”

“Don’t know. They could be hypervelocity stars, catapulted by the same black hole that sent the waves we recently recorded.”

“But nobody’s actually seen them.”

“Not physically seen. They’re dead, but they’re dangerous.”

“Jupiter is more than 500 million miles away.”

“That’s less than half of one light-year. The wave we detected came from the center of the universe, billions of light-years away, but Jupiter is in our solar system, and if that is where these waves begin their journey… Trevor, keep this to yourself for now. These new stars could be evidence of motion beyond the speed of light; but they may also be nothing more than a bit of undigested beef, a blot of mustard, or whatever the hell Scrooge said after seeing Marley’s ghost. We’ve spent fortunes on our LIGO facilities, and all we’ve really received is a minute vibration moving an arm of our detectors, which are almost two and a half miles in length, less than the width of a hair on your head. I study computer graphs. I’m not about to tell you that the single most basic law of physics, that nothing moves faster than the speed of light, is bunk. And I’m losing sleep about announcing that binary neutron stars are so close to us, I can tell you.”

“Ghost.”

“What?”

“You said ghost.”

“A childish metaphor. My daughter’s class is beginning rehearsals for A Christmas Carol. She has the part of Mrs. Cratchet. I practice the play with her in the evenings.”

“You are a good father. Okay. If this information does not reappear, it could have been a ghost, or something like that.”

“No, the binary neutron stars are definitely there. They are each about the size of the meteorite that created our last extermination event, and if they collide, they are going to send debris toward Earth. A teaspoon will weigh millions of tons, and a gravitational wave from that close to us could…”

“Reshape our planet. Got it. Sounds to me like you’ve got some science ahead of you. Please keep me informed.”

“I’ll send you whatever I find immediately. Watch for it.”

“Will do,” Trevor said.

*

Neil lectured fifth graders on Einstein’s theories of relativity, because it made him a hero to his daughter for one thing, and because he conceived one of his main purposes in life to reduce the theories to an explanation which could be understood by all. He had more than enough time to refine his thoughts. Staring at instruments that measured rare forces from great distances gave one the opportunity to think about such things as time and space, light and gravity. Neil knew his time was short. His daughter Melanie was growing, and by the time she reached thirteen, there would be little likelihood of her being impressed by much of anything her father said or did.

One law of relativity he believed in was the one espoused by that other genius Mark Twain, who as a boy thought his father thick and stupid, but by the time he reached the age of twenty-five, was astounded at how much his pop had learned in the interim. Maybe it was different with daughters.

Studying events from outer space was Neil’s job. This new phenomenon had announced its arrival in a most dramatic manner, and would be well worth his examination. Out of nowhere, or out of somewhere, binary neutron stars had just appeared. How had these interstellar beasts suddenly arrived in our planetary neighborhood? One thing he knew, he needed a more precise word to describe the damage their collision would bring to Earth.

Obliteration. That was close enough.

Explain that to a class of fifth graders.

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Hello, Columbus. Hey, New Orleans.

This will be a short blog. Not much new, it’s a beautiful day in Puerto Vallarta, and I’m going for a walk on the beach. But first… a short story, and then, a heartfelt thanks.

First the story. Ran into some neighbors this week. They told me were talking to a close friend of theirs in Columbus, Ohio; mentioned their new neighbor, me, the fact that I was a published author and that they had recently read several of my books. The friend in Columbus asked,

“Would his name be David Lyons?”

Answer, “Yes.”

“Our Book Club just bought his first book, Ice Fire. We love it. I noticed he lives in Puerto Vallarta.”

So, our mutual friend will ensure that we meet when this reader comes to visit. That’s a short story, but a meaningful one to an author struggling for recognition in the competitive and rapidly changing world of publishing. Hello, Columbus.

Now a heartfelt thanks. I know I’m late to the party, but I have recently tried to increase my activity on Facebook. The response from the good people of New Orleans to this effort has been overwhelming and very much appreciated. I love your town and have visited your city enough times over the years to probably qualify for honorary citizenship – except that such a welcoming status is automatically conferred on everyone who comes to the Big Easy, immediately on arrival. In my imagination, I visit N.O. daily, as it is the backdrop of my Jock Boucher thriller series. No wonder I love writing.

That’s it for today. Have a wonderful week.

David

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Desultory, a Writer’s Ramblings

Desultory – it’s my word for the day. I was looking for a synonym for rambling, which I knew in advance this blog would be – for reasons I will get around to sooner or later. But I associate rambling with physical movement more than mental gyrations; i.e. rambling rose, rambling boy, etc. I came across desultory, which has always lurked in the high grass of my vocabulary, vaguely familiar, but a word whose gist I gleaned from context, too lazy to look it up. Because desultory sounds like sultry, I probably ascribed a similar meaning. Boy was I wrong. It’s the synonym I sought; right on target. It means inconsistent, disconnected, digressing. What’s really cool is its Latin origin, pertaining to a circus performer who jumps from one horse to another. I thought of ‘saltar,’ which is the Spanish verb for jump, recalling that the language stems from Arabic, Greek and ta-da, Latin. But I digress. Why did I think this blog would be, ahem, desultory? Because I am at this moment procrastinating, which is in itself well, you know. I should be working on my novel. Instead I am writing this fitful gibberish. You see, I’m frustrated. I’m at a turning point in my plot. I’ve been at this turning point for over a week, making my daily word count, but rounding a corner instead of making a 90 degree turn, and the arc is ever widening. I’ve written about 25% of the book – it always astounds me that I know almost to the page how long my unwritten novel will be (note the desultory observation), even though I don’t know how I will end the current chapter. My protagonist is in peril and I need to let the reader know who the bad guys really are and what world-changing chaos they have planned. I’m getting to all that, but along comes a totally unexpected character who is demanding a role in the story, and I like this guy. I like him well enough to make him a future protagonist in his own mystery or thriller. (To me, the difference between the two is the degree to which you imperil your protagonist. Miss Marple rarely faces life-threatening situations in Ms. Christie’s mysteries, while James Bond risks life and genitals to save the planet in Ian Fleming’s thrillers). Enjoying your characters as you write them is one of the great things about creating fiction, but character development is not on the list of sundry topics I’m flitting over in today’s disjointed rumination. So what am I trying to say? Not much. Writing is fun, even escapist, and this little epistle has certainly been that, but writing is also work, and I need to get back to mine. As always, thank you for reading. I’ll try not to be so desultory next time. P.S. I am pleased to say that my latest novel, Waters of Oblivion, the third in the Jock Boucher thriller series, has been called ‘a must read,’ and ‘a great espionage thriller’ by Suspense Magazine. It is available in ebook format through Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo at a special holiday price. To enter my contest to win a new Kindle ebook reader, go to my website davidlyonsauthor.com. Best to all, David Lyons

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Riding the Bull

I’m allowing myself a brief look back, a moment of reflection. I’ve just finished a novel titled ‘Waters of Oblivion – A Jock Boucher Thriller.’ It will be released in e-book format in two weeks. It’s a strange mixture of emotions I feel, the hesitancy in sending my offspring into the world to face friend or foe on its own, hoping I’ve given my progeny the tools to deal with the vicissitudes of a fickle public, offering faith and prayers for its acceptance. Knowing you’ve done your best doesn’t mean you couldn’t have done it different, and even now nagging thoughts about what I might have changed try to lodge themselves in my consciousness. These thoughts must be ignored. My baby has left home. It is no longer my own.

It seems such a long time ago that I began the novel. I recall the beginning. I had an idea for the theme, the use of light waves to replace radio frequencies for military data transfer, and it was so central to the plot I had planned to use it in the title. But a funny thing happened on the way to the ending, another theme inserted itself and it was a bull. I could have tried to grab it by the horns and wrestle it to the ground, but instead I jumped on its back and rode it to the buzzer. The book I began was not the book I finished. The two themes conjoined. The bull rode the light waves and the book became Waters of Oblivion.

What also goaded me on, my research into this new topic – which I cannot reveal here without giving too much away – included commentaries and dire, one might say apocalyptic, predictions from leading international political scientists. Furthermore, alarming headlines in the daily news reaffirmed how current was this theme I was addressing. The importance and timeliness of the subject definitely influenced my decision to get this thriller out there in e-book format as soon as possible, rather than wait the 12 – 18 months necessary for traditional hard cover or paperback production. Tomorrow’s headlines make for much better political thrillers than yesterday’s news.

Now it’s done, and I’m about to leap into yet another novel. Once again, I know my beginning, a lone skier’s deadly race down a snow-covered mountain. Once again, I have a challenging theme, and once again I have no clue how I’m going to fill 350-400 pages between beginning and end. But remember the story about the optimist, the boy who wades into a room full of manure yelling ‘There’s a pony in here somewhere.’ I waded into that room. I found a bull.

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About This Author

On reaching the final edit of my next novel, (more on that soon) I decided to revise my ‘About the Author’ page, in an attempt to make it more personable. I thought I’d share it. Here goes.

One thing that strikes me as I take a reflective view of my life so far is how much my past has led me to the endeavor in which I am now engaged – an author of action and adventure thriller novels.

I was born in England, raised in the United States and around the world, my childhood travels dictated by my father’s job. My adult globe-trotting was the result of my own career choice, international law. In my profession, I traveled extensively, met and worked with government and business leaders around the planet; with allegedly legal arms dealers, with potentates and poseurs; some of the most colorful, charismatic and occasionally dangerous men on earth. I did not realize I was constructing a reservoir of recollections that would someday provide fodder for my fiction. For whether I take the reader on a walk through New Orleans’ French Quarter, the basements of the US Capitol, the grand hotels of Europe, or a prince’s palace in Arabia, I am dipping into my own well of memories. Most of my reminiscences are pleasant – but not all. Occasionally I recall a certain event in my life and ask, how did I get myself into that mess? Or, more importantly, how did I get myself out?

But they were fascinating years – and I sure did log those frequent flyer miles.

Nowadays, my productive hours are spent at the computer, my beloved cat asleep on my desk, as I sift through my past and apply it to my fictional characters’ present. Not necessarily productive but most fulfilling, I still engage in a life-long hobby of haunting piano and karaoke bars and singing my favorite standards. As long as they let me in the door, I imagine I’ll continue to indulge my passion for the popular song. If you’re ever in town, you should be able to find me close to the nearest piano. And if you’ve read and enjoyed my work, be sure to tell me so I can express my sincere gratitude. I might even sing you a song.

Thank you for reading.

David Lyons

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