The Comet's Curse (Galahad Series #1)by Dom Testa
In the gripping start to this young adult science fiction adventure series by popular Colorado radio host Dom Testa, the teenage crew of the starship Galahad must find a new home for humanity among the stars--if they fail, it will be the end of the human race....
When the tail of the comet Bhaktul flicks through the Earth's atmosphere, deadly/p>/b>
In the gripping start to this young adult science fiction adventure series by popular Colorado radio host Dom Testa, the teenage crew of the starship Galahad must find a new home for humanity among the stars--if they fail, it will be the end of the human race....
When the tail of the comet Bhaktul flicks through the Earth's atmosphere, deadly particles are left in its wake. Suddenly, mankind is confronted with a virus that devastates the adult population. Only those under the age of eighteen seem to be immune. Desperate to save humanity, a renowned scientist proposes a bold plan: to create a ship that will carry a crew of 251 teenagers to a home in a distant solar system. Two years later, the Galahad and its crew—none over the age of sixteen—is launched.
Two years of training have prepared the crew for the challenges of space travel. But soon after departing Earth, they discover that a saboteur is hiding on the Galahad! Faced with escalating acts of vandalism and terrorized by threatening messages, sixteen-year-old Triana Martell and her council soon realize that the stowaway will do anything to ensure that the Galahad never reaches its destination. The teens must find a way to neutralize their enemy. For if their mission fails, it will mean the end of the human race….
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Gr 8 Up
More than 200 years in the future, Comet Bhaktul hurtles past Earth, leaving a deadly contagion in its wake. Bhaktul's disease threatens to annihilate the human race within a decade, but the mysterious illness only affects adults. Scientists worldwide scramble to find a cure, while one scientist proposes a controversial project to preserve humanity, should other efforts fail. Under Project Galahad, 251 teens are sent on a mission to reach a habitable planet free of Bhaktul's contamination. As Galahad enters space, the young people must deal with the intense pressure of saving humankind and the sadness of leaving their families behind. Sixteen-year-old Triana, the ship's commander, must manage daily operations while also dealing with her father's recent death. Matters escalate when, less than a week out, one of the teens spots an adult onboard, a potential Bhaktul carrier. With the help of the Council and the ship's computer brain, Triana does her best to solve the mystery of the uninvited passenger and save their mission. Part space opera, part mystery, the story draws readers in from the beginning with well-placed hooks, plenty of suspense, and a strong premise. The viewpoint alternates between the Galahad crew members and the scientists back at the space station. Solid characterizations keep readers from getting bogged down by the constant shifts in viewpoint, setting, and time. A promising start to a six-part series.-Kim Ventrella, Ralph Ellison Library, Oklahoma City, OK
“Grabs readers' attention with the very first page and never lets go. Both a mystery and an adventure, combining a solid cast of characters with humor, pathos, growing pains and just a hint of romance, this opener bodes well for the remainder of the series.” Kirkus Reviews
“Sci-fi fans will enjoy Testa's spare Asimovian plot, but even those leery of the genre will appreciate how each chapter alternates to the past to further flesh out our protagonists. Stealing the show is the Galahad's mischievous central computer, Roc, who speaks directly to the readers as he acts as a Greek chorus.” Booklist
Read an Excerpt
The Comet's Curse
A Galahad Book
By Dom Testa
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2005 Dom Testa
All rights reserved.
There are few sights more beautiful. For all of the spectacular sunsets along a beach, or vivid rainbows arcing over a mist-covered forest, or high mountain pastures exploding with wildflowers, nothing could compare to this. This embraced every breathtaking scene. Mother Earth, in all of her supreme glory, spinning in a showcase of wonder. No picture, no television image, no movie scene could ever do her justice. From two hundred miles up it's spellbinding, hypnotic.
Which made saying good-bye even more difficult.
The ship sat still and silent in the cold, airless vacuum of space. It was a massive vessel, but against the backdrop of the planet below it appeared small, a child teetering at the feet of a parent, preparing to take its first steps. Soft, twinkling lights at the edges helped to define the shape which could not easily be described. Portions of it were boxy, others rectangular, with several curves and angles that seemed awkward. To an untrained eye it appeared as if it had simply been thrown together from leftover parts. In a way, that was true.
Its dark, grayish blue surface was speckled by hundreds of small windows. Two hundred fifty-one pairs of eyes peered out, eyes mostly wet with tears, getting a final glimpse of home. Two hundred fifty-one colonists sealed inside, and not one over the age of sixteen.
Their thoughts and feelings contained a single thread: each envisioned family members two hundred miles below, grouped together outside, staring up into the sky. Some would be shielding their eyes from the glare of the sun, unable to see the ship but knowing that it was up there, somewhere. Others, on the dark side of the planet, would be sifting through the maze of stars, hoping to pick out the quiet flicker of light, pointing, embracing, crying.
Many were too ill and unable to leave their beds, but were likely gazing out their own windows, not wanting to loosen the emotional grip on their son or daughter so far away.
The day filled with both hope and dread had arrived.
With a slight shudder, the ship came to life. It began to push away from the space station where it had been magnetically tethered for two years. Inside the giant steel shell there was no sensation of movement other than the image of the orbiting station gradually sliding past the windows. That was enough to impress upon the passengers that the voyage had begun.
Galahad had launched.
After a few moments Triana Martell turned away from one of the windows and, with a silent sigh, began to walk away. Unlike her fellow shipmates' eyes, her eyes remained dry, unable, it seemed, to cry anymore.
"Hey, Tree," she heard a voice call out behind her. "Don't you want to watch?"
"You won't notice anything," she said over her shoulder. "It might be hours before you can tell any difference in the size. We won't have enough speed for a while."
"Yeah," came another voice, "but you won't ever see it again. Don't you want to say good-bye?"
Triana slipped around a corner of the well-lit hallway, and when she answered it was mostly to herself. "I've already said my good-byes."
With the entire crew's attention focused on the outside view, she had the corridor to herself, and appreciated it.CHAPTER 2
The discovery of a new comet usually didn't cause much reaction. Astronomers, both professional and amateur, would make a fuss, but the general population was rather immune to the excitement. What was one more in a catalog of hundreds?
Yet this one was different. A rogue, named Comet Bhaktul after the amateur astronomer who had first spotted the fuzzy glow amid the backdrop of stars, was slicing its way towards the sun, and its path would cross just in front of Earth. Several early reports had sparked a brief panic when some astronomers wondered if the comet might actually be on a collision course, possibly impacting in the North Atlantic ocean. But soon it was confirmed that Earth would instead coast through the comet's tail, an event that might cause some glorious nighttime light shows, but nothing more.
Dr. Wallace Zimmer would later recall that for two days the sunsets were indeed brilliant. The horizon appeared to be on fire, with dark shafts of red light streaking upward. Comet Bhaktul's particles at least provided a romantic setting for couples in love.
The truth was that the particles were providing much more than that. They were delivering a death sentence to mankind. No one knew it at the time. Earth swung through the remains of Bhaktul and continued on its path around the sun, and life went on without missing a beat.
Seven months later Dr. Zimmer pulled up a news report on the vidscreen in his office in Northern California. Just a blurb, really, but as a scientist he was immediately interested.
The story called it an outbreak of a new flu strain. Not just a handful of cases, but dozens, and — this was what amazed Zimmer the most — not concentrated in one region. Most flu variations began in one part of the world and spread. Not this time. These reports were scattered across the globe, and yet the symptoms were all the same.
The lungs were being attacked, it seemed. The only difference was how rapidly the illness progressed. According to the news story, some people slowly fell into the clutches of this new disease, with breathing difficulties and intense bouts of coughing that might last weeks or months. Others were hit more quickly, with paralysis of the lungs that brought on death in a matter of days.
Dr. Zimmer looked at the clock and considered the time difference on the East Coast. Then he switched the vidscreen to phone mode and dialed up his friend at the Centers for Disease Control in Georgia.
"Not much else to tell you besides what you've read," Elise Metzer said to him. "Of course, hundreds of people have called claiming that it's some form of germ warfare, and demanding an antidote. The conspiracy nuts are having a field day with this."
"What about other symptoms?" Zimmer said.
"Well, we know that it's attacking the lungs. Most every case begins with coughing, and eventually coughing up blood. But there's also been a few mentions of blotchy skin, some hair loss even. That's probably just each individual body reacting differently."
Elise scowled and added, "I don't think the immune systems have any idea what's going on, and they might each be interpreting the attacking agent in a different way."
"Well," Zimmer said, "with only a few dozen cases I can see why there's no real data yet."
"Uh ..." came the reply from Elise. "That story is a little outdated now."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that this morning I heard there are already over a thousand cases, and growing."
Dr. Zimmer sat stunned. Before he could speak Elise ended the conversation by predicting that the next news report he heard would be front page and screaming.CHAPTER 3
Iused to live in a box. Okay, maybe "live" is a poor choice. I existed in a box. And not a very big box, either. Just a small, metal container with patch bays, microchips and a mother of a motherboard. If you ask me about my first memory, I could tell you, but you'd start to nod off pretty quickly. It's not an exciting tale: a string of ones and zeroes, a few equations, a bazillion lines of code, and a ridiculous sound that signaled when I was "online." The ridiculous sound would have to go. Roy was a genius, but he had no sense of hip at all. Just look at his clothes.
Roy Orzini put me together. He used to say that I was "his baby." If that's true, then I've got a few hundred siblings because Roy put an awful lot of computers together. My oldest brother was born in a cluttered bedroom just after Roy's tenth birthday, and the little genius has been popping them out ever since.
I'll spare you the false modesty, however, and tell you right up front that I'm the masterpiece. The other kids were pretty good; a few of them have worked on the moon, Mars and a couple of research stations around Jupiter and Saturn. But I got the big assignment, the biggest ever. Roy's pretty proud, and that feels good. I'm proud of him, too.
These days I'm not in that cramped metal box anymore. I'm everywhere within the greatest sailing ship ever built, sailing to the stars.
I like the new digs. I like the crew I'm sailing with. I like the challenge.
Roy called me OC-3323. Remember, Roy is a geek.
Everyone else calls me Roc.
Triana sat at the desk in her room and placed a glass of water next to the picture of her dad. She bit her lower lip as images of her home in Colorado flashed through her mind, images of both joy and sadness. Thoughts of her dad came as well, which brought a burst of pain.
She glanced at the few personal items that dotted the room. There was little that an outsider could have learned about the teenage girl from these clues. Essentials, really. One exception was the picture. Her dad, grinning that grin of his, the one that confessed to a bit of troublemaking behind the outer shell of responsibility. In the picture Triana was still twelve, riding piggyback on him, her arms clutched around his muscular chest, the tip of her head peering out from behind. His broad shoulders concealed all but the top of her head and her eyes — those bright green, questioning eyes. Any grin of her own was concealed, but the eyes conveyed infinite happiness.
Picking up the picture, she ran her finger around the outline of her dad's face, looking into his eyes. She wanted to talk with him. All of the fun times they had shared, all of the adventures ... and yet it was simple conversation with him that she missed the most.
Triana finally tore her gaze away from the photo and returned her attention to the open journal on the desk. Most people had given up writing by hand in favor of punching a keyboard, but Triana felt more of a connection the old-fashioned way. There was something about watching the words flow from her hand that gave vent to personal feelings she could never imagine on a computer. With items such as notebooks rationed severely, she allowed herself only a few paragraphs a day. It was enough for her.
She scanned the last few lines she had written, then took up her pen.
It's funny how such a turbulent world can look so peaceful from space. I know there are storms raging, wars being fought (still), fires burning, people dying ... and yet it's as if it's all been sealed inside a bottle, and the stopper keeps all the sound inside. And me out. Earth is subsiding, slowly for now, but will soon become smaller and smaller until it disappears. Forever.
She dated the entry then closed the notebook. After one more glance at her dad's picture she called out to the computer.
"Roc, how are we doing?"
"Are you kidding?" came the reply from the screen. "Did you see that launch? Backed it right out of there without scraping the sides of the space station or anything. I'm sure you meant to congratulate me, but in all the excitement it slipped your mind. Congratulate me later."
Triana had trained with Roc for more than a year, and knew better than to spar with him.
She said, "I'm assuming that means everything is running just fine. And the crew?"
"Well, that's another story. Heart rates are very high, respiration is above normal —"
"Yeah. They're crying, Roc. They're leaving home," Triana said, picking up the water glass. She took a long drink, then added, "By the end of the day things should start to calm down."
Roc was silent for a moment, then answered in a voice so lifelike it was hard to believe it came from a machine. "Although you might not believe it, Tree, I understand what you're feeling. And I'm truly sorry for what had to happen."
Triana couldn't think of anything to say to this. "Thanks" didn't sound right.
Roc waited another minute, then spoke again. "I hate to give you something to worry about already, but ..."
"But what?" Triana said.
"Well, I wear a lot of hats on this trip, right? Keep the air fresh, keep the gravity close to Earth normal, dim the lights, take out the trash, sweep up at the end of the day —"
"What's the problem, Roc?"
"The problem is with the ship's life-energy readings. They don't add up, and to an incredibly efficient being like myself that is ... well, it's just not acceptable. They're screwy, and that will make me crazy, Tree. Crazy, do you hear me?"
Triana sat up. "What do you mean? What's wrong with the readings?"
"They're not balanced. As you know, every person on this spacecraft has been accounted for and cataloged by their energy output. Glad I didn't have that job. Booorrrriiiiinnnngggg."
"Anyway, for a journey of five years it's critical to maintain balanced levels in order to sustain food and life-support systems. You know that."
"Yeah, so what's the problem?"
"Well, there must have been a mistake made before launch. Some of the measurements were either inaccurate or ..."
Roc paused, as if thinking to himself.
"Or else what?" Triana said. "Could they have made a mistake before we left?"
"It's possible, but ... no, I don't think so. I mean, c'mon, it's so vital to the mission, I don't believe Dr. Zimmer or his little elves could have botched that."
Triana smiled at the vidscreen. "I know you're referring to it as 'the mission' for our sake, and I appreciate it, Roc. No sense in us locking ourselves in this can for five years and calling it a 'desperate last chance' or something. But about this imbalance: what else could it be?"
"Hmm. The experts say that stress could do it. Of course, the experts also said that Barry Bonds's home run record would never be broken, and don't they look stupid now. But with all of the stress this crew has been under, I suppose it might knock things out of whack a little bit. I'll check it out again in a day or two."
Triana nodded agreement. She rose from the chair and stretched, her arms crossing over her head. Leaning back, her long dark hair fell almost to her waist. It was unlikely, she thought, that there had been very many ship commanders in history like her. But because this was no ordinary ship — and such a unique moment in history — convention had gone out the window. A sixteen-year-old girl was in charge. She sighed and turned to leave.
"Tree," said the computer voice from the screen.
"Not to get too sappy or anything, but I think it is a mission. I think it's the most spectacular mission of all time."
Triana smiled again and walked out.
"Remember, you're supposed to congratulate me later for that very smooth launch," Roc said to the empty room.CHAPTER 4
It was a university professor in Japan who solved the mystery.
Nine months after Earth's close call with Comet Bhaktul, and two months after the initial reports of illness, he announced the bad news.
Samples collected from the atmosphere during the pass through the comet's tail revealed microscopic particles unlike anything ever seen before. Something in the gaseous exhaust of Bhaktul had contaminated the planet, and its effect on human beings was fast ... and fatal.
In almost no time the spread of the flulike disease had escalated at a frightening pace. Scientists calculated that perhaps 10 percent of the population had already begun to show the physical signs, and tens of thousands more were pouring into hospitals every day. It didn't matter where you were. No place on Earth was spared.
News reports began to include stories of people abandoning their homes, their careers, and setting off for a secluded place in the mountains, or to a remote location in the South Pacific. They assumed that the disease was spread from person to person, and if they left densely populated areas they would decrease their chance of becoming infected. The problem was that you couldn't hide. Bhaktul had saturated the atmosphere, and human contact had nothing whatsoever to do with it. Nobody, it seemed, was excluded: rich, poor, black, white, male, female ... this disease did not discriminate.
That was hard for many people to accept, because now lifestyle wasn't important, there were no risk factors to avoid, and no vaccination was on the horizon. And when the most advanced medical teams on the planet threw up their hands in frustration, it sent a shock wave of fear throughout the civilized world.
Strangely, the illness seemed to spare the children. In fact, there were only a few scattered reports from around the world that mentioned a child suffering from any of the symptoms. Test after test was run on both children and adults, but without any definite answers. All that could be determined was that kids were immune to the disorder ... until they reached the age of eighteen or nineteen.
If you were older than eighteen, Bhaktul was coming for you.
There were many more questions than answers. What were these particles in the comet's wake that triggered the sickness? Why were some people affected sooner than others? Why not young people?
And how much longer did Earth have?
That question, in particular, led to millions of workers walking off their jobs. The attitude was "Why should I bother? We're all going to die anyway." Society began to break down into two groups: those who wanted to fight, and those who preferred to just give up and wither away.
Excerpted from The Comet's Curse by Dom Testa. Copyright © 2005 Dom Testa. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet 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.
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THE COMET'S CURSE is about survival and 251 teens sent to save mankind. When the Bhaktul comet passes through the Earth's atmosphere, many think it is just another beautiful light show. Never would anyone have guessed the devastating outcome this comet would cause. The tail of the comet leaves deadly particles behind it in the atmosphere, creating a killer virus that affects the adult population of the world. Anyone 18 and older is to get sick and eventually die, and the virus is spreading across the world in all countries at a dangerous rate. The scary reality has many wondering where this will leave humanity. Then comes a scientist determined to not give up and to save the human race, who proposes a bold, unstable plan that sounds absolutely unethical and ridiculous to many: to create a ship that will carry a team of 251 teenagers to a new planet in a distant solar system. Everyone is shocked and surprised by this plan. Many don't want to go along with the idea, but it is their only hope. After preparing both the ship and the team of teenage space explorers for the long adventure ahead, the ship, Galahad, finally departs Earth. But soon after this 5-year long trip begins, the crew encounters problems, including the possible hiding of an adult on the ship. An adult who is willing to do anything to ensure that Galahad and everyone aboard never reaches their destination. Now the council in charge on the ship and every teen aboard Galahad must find a way to defeat their enemy. If they fail the mission, it will mean the end of the human race..... This is the perfect read for all bookworms, especially those who love science fiction, thrillers, or suspense. A great start to a new series!
Are you on?
Got me interested in science ficition love it
This book was ok it starts kind of boring but then gets relly interesting towards the end.
Yoou couldve just said that you didnt like the other two as much Btw i lovee tthheessee bbookkss
This series is most defintly one of my favorites. There are a few parts I dislike but over all I like the series.
I liked the first one 'okay' but the next two were really boring. I read them because I wanted to know how it ends but it didn't! There are still going to be more of these! Really? Well, book three left me not caring if they drift forever in space or get wiped out by aliens and never make it to their destination. Lol!! And the computer is annoying! I skipped his yammering narrations. It would not have been so bad if he was just interacting with the kids but the author had him narrating...ugh. I gave the first one three stars because it made me care enough to read the next one but the stars go downhill from there.
This is such a good book, I'm so excited to read #2.
Let me say that Dom Testa has a new fan of his work. This was one of the best books I have read in a while. It is obvious he has done a lot of research on space. I don't know if it is a hobby of his or just research he did for this series, but he is spot on. I try to look up the author whenever I read a book by one I am unfamiliar with. I was very impressed by his site. There is a lot of information about the other books in the series and my favorite part was the science. As a teacher this part was important to me. The more students I can direct there the more knowledge will be passed down to them. Check it out. Now to the review of this fabulous book. You can't help but get into the heads of the main characters in this book. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be one of 251 teens selected from thousands to carry on the human race. How would I feel leaving a younger sibling at home knowing I would never see my family again, and worse yet I would be leaving my younger siblings to eventually die. Couple those feelings with the overwhelming responsibility I would be faced with and knowing the person I am, I don't thing I would do very well. This book hooks you from the beginning. It hints at things to come in following books. Mystery, romance possibly? The coolest thing was the narrator of the story is the ships human like computer named ROC. He gives no hints at the end of the book. He leads you with a question then tells you that you will need to read more. My advice to you is "read more". This is a book for which I eagerly await the sequel, which is due June of 2010. I was so pleased with this book that I started sharing bits and pieces of the story with my students. This in turn lead to a waiting list. I loved hearing them argue about who would get to take it home over Spring Break. Any book that can inspire my reluctant reading students is a great book. Well done Mr. Testa.
Comet Bhaktul did not collide with the Earth, but its tale past through the atmosphere, providing people with a good light show of bright red particles. Months later, adults around the globe come down with a fatal virus. The comet contaminated anyone eighteen and over with the pandemic death rates devastating the adult population. If a vaccine is not found soon, humanity will be extinct as eighteen is a death sentence to the survivors.
To preserve the species, a special ship Galahad is built as dedicated scientists give up what precious little time they have left with their families to build the craft in a timely manner. The best and brightest teens under the age of sixteen, a crew of 251, are selected to colonize a new home in a distant solar system. Two years later, Galahad led by Triana Martell leaves planet earth. They are ready for anything outer space sends their way, but not inner space as number 252 is a stowaway on board sabotaging the quest.
With nods to Wild in the Streets and Lost in Space albeit much more serious in tone, young adult since fiction fans will love this sold space opera whose prime characters are easy to relate to and admire. Although all carry a heavy burden, the teens are strong and independent as each contributes to the common good of the Galahad community. The prime focus is on Triana, who was traumatized by her beloved father¿s death that turned her into a loner unable to make friends, but capable of caring for others while making difficult decisions. Readers will enjoy the opening gamut of this six book saga to save the species.
I love liam payne. I really want to meet him that doesnt cost a fortune. Any ideas?-liamsbiggestfan