The Conquest (Saucer Series #2)

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Overview

240 THOUSAND MILES APART...
Someone is using top-secret information about saucer technology, information that comes from the mysterious top-secret region in Nevada known as Area 51. Meanwhile, Charley takes up flying space planes to the moon for the French lunar base project. There she discovers a madman and a world-threatening antigravity beam…

A HEART BEAT AWAY...
When Charley sees how high the stakes are, ...

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Overview

240 THOUSAND MILES APART...
Someone is using top-secret information about saucer technology, information that comes from the mysterious top-secret region in Nevada known as Area 51. Meanwhile, Charley takes up flying space planes to the moon for the French lunar base project. There she discovers a madman and a world-threatening antigravity beam…

A HEART BEAT AWAY...
When Charley sees how high the stakes are, she needs the kind of help that only Rip can bring her--by prying his saucer out of the hands of the U.S. Government and hurtling it toward the moon...

THE CONQUEST HAS BEGUN...
A furious duel is in the offing between a megalomaniac bent on the conquest of Earth and a handful of runaway heroes. As a plot that reaches back 50 years explodes, a horrific weapon is trained on the Earth's cities; humankind is dragged to the brink and offered a fearsome choice: surrender or death...

"Fast-paced...superb flying sequences."--Booklist

"A gripping aerial duel."--Publishers Weekly


Visit Stephen Coonts' website at: www.coonts.com

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
It isn’t a Sahara mirage. The glint that Rip Cantrell sees in the distance in the sand is metallic, but the seismic survey worker has never seen a metal quite like it. What Cantrell has uncovered is a bona fide flying saucer. Before the sand has settled, a cast of characters including a greedy billionaire, a horde of territorial Libyans, and our hero on high alert, Jake Grafton. A five-star military thriller.
Publishers Weekly
In this humorous UFO thriller, the sequel to bestseller Coonts's Saucer (2003), pilot Charlotte "Charley" Pine is hired to fly a French spaceplane to the moon, where millionaire Pierre Artois is building a base. Once there, she discovers that Artois has equipped the base with an antigravity beam projector and plans to make himself and his malevolent wife, Julie, rulers of the world. Charley promptly returns to Earth to warn everybody. Meanwhile, Newton Chadwick, a mad scientist in the pay of the French, kidnaps saucer-expert Egg Cantrell and forces him to fly to the moon in the original Roswell saucer that landed in 1947. Egg's nephew Rip Cantrell and Charley steal another flying saucer from the Smithsonian, and soon saucers and other borrowed alien high-tech are in pitched battle over the moon. Later, French pilot Jean-Paul Lalouette (perhaps the book's most engaging character) is determined to go down fighting and nearly turns the tables in a gripping aerial duel of saucers up and down the East Coast. Cartoonish characters with names like Senator Blohardt and Joe Bob Hooker add to the fun. Agent, Robert Gottlieb. (Sept. 7) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This work, which is hard to pigeonhole, will elicit various reactions. Some researchers find an ancient flying saucer in the Sahara desert, the U.S. air force becomes involved, then an Australian multibillionaire takes the craft. Anyway, there is excitement, romance, some technical details, rather flat characters, and more than a little satire thrown in. Definitely not Coonts's greatest work, it is still rather intriguing. Dick Hill, who is a well-respected narrator, does a superb job; he takes what is at best a mediocre piece of literature and makes it exciting. His voice characterizations for all the cast are consistent and quite expressive. Hill's commendable performance illustrates well the saying that it often is not what one says but how one says it. Public libraries may wish to consider.-Michael T. Fein, Central Virginia Community Coll., Lynchburg Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The premier purveyor of flyboy thrillers (Combat, 2001, etc.) varies his formula with a comic, feel-good SF adventure that reads like a Disney made-for-TV movie. The metallic glint that Rip Cantrell spies on the desert horizon is no mirage. Camped out in the Sahara with geological survey team along the border between Libya and Chad, the resourceful Cantrell finds a chunk of metal appearing in a mass of sandstone, and, after many hours of chipping away, exposes a saucer about 70 feet in diameter with a bubble cockpit on top and a hatch designed to be opened by a human hand. Even more remarkable: the interior contains futuristic technology that isn't so far advanced that Rip and members of the team can't puzzle it out. Though it's been buried in the sands for at least 140,000 years, the ship uses water as a fuel, has computer screens, anti-gravity capability and a headset that provides telepathic links to the ship's memory. Word of the discovery leaks out to greedy Australian billionaire Roger Hedrick, who sends his thugs to steal the craft so Hedrick can profit on the technology; and the US Air Force also hears, and dispatches its UFO team to dismiss the saucer as a hoax. Among those on the team is beautiful, spunky former female test-pilot Charlotte "Charley" Pine, who lets Cantrell talk her into flying the saucer, with him navigating, just as the Libyan army shows up. The two fly back to America, scare and bedazzle some homespun types, and then, with Cantrell's uncles-Arthur "Egg" and lawyer Ollie Cantrell-helping out, avert a series of increasingly comic and violent crises at home and in Australia, while delivering optimistic messages about humanity's ability to meet future challenges.. . . Funny, featherweight frolic reminiscent of the we-found-a-spaceship-in-our-backyard SF juveniles of the 1930s.
The New York Times Book Review

"Coonts knows how to write and build suspense."
USA Today

"Coonts is a natural storyteller."
From the Publisher
"Coonts knows how to write and build suspense." -The New York Times Book Review

"Tough to put down." --Publishers Weekly

"A comic, feel-good sf adventure." -Kirkus Reviews

"Coonts is a natural storyteller." -USA Today

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312994488
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/7/2006
  • Series: Saucer Series , #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 4.16 (w) x 6.73 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Coonts

Author of 13 New York Times Bestsellers, STEPHEN COONTS flew A-6 Intruders from the deck of the USS ENTERPRISE during the Vietnam War. A graduate of West Virginia University and the University of Colorado School of Law, he and his wife Deborah still fly whenever they have the time. They reside in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Biography

One of America's premier authors of action-adventure thrillers, Stephen Coonts broke into publishing in 1986 with his national bestseller Flight of the Intruder, hailed as one of the best novels ever written about flying and the camaraderie of men at war.

A veteran naval aviator who flew the A-6 Intruder during the Vietnam War, Coonts has followed his debut smash with many more novels featuring his protaganist Jake Grafton, each full of the riveting action and page-turning suspense that has gained him a legion of loyal fans.

In addition to his Jake Grafton books, Coonts also has written stand-alone thrillers, a smattering of sci fi and nonfiction, and the Deep Black series, which is co-authored with Jim DeFelice.

Good To Know

Coonts once held jobs as a taxi driver, a police officer, and an attorney.

He was a trustee of West Virginia Wesleyan College from 1990-98 and was inducted into the West Virginia University Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 1992.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      July 19, 1946
    2. Place of Birth:
      Morgantown, West Virginia
    1. Education:
      B.A., West Virginia University, 1968; J.D., University of Colorado, 1979

Read an Excerpt

Saucer: The Conquest

1
OCTOBER 2004, MISSOURI
THE SLEEK LITTLE PLANE ZIPPED IN LOW AND FAST, dropping below the treetops as it flew along the runway just a few feet above the ground; then the nose pointed skyward and the plane rolled swiftly around its horizontal axis once ... twice ... three times.
Rip Cantrell was the pilot. The alternating sunny blue sky and colorful earth were almost a blur as the plane whipped around. He centered the stick and the plane stopped whirling.
Up he went higher and higher into the sky, then gently lowered the nose and let the bird accelerate. The plane was an Extra 300L, a two-place aerobatic plane with two seats arranged in tandem. The pilot sat in the rear seat; today the front one was empty.
With the airspeed rapidly building, Rip brought the stick back smoothly. The increasing Gs mashed him down into the seat. Fighting the increased weight of his helmet and visor, he steadied at four Gs as the nose climbed toward the zenith. Throwing his head back, he could see the ground come into view as the plane became inverted at the top of the loop. He backed off on the G to keep the loop oval. The engine was pulling nicely, the ground beginning to fill the windscreen, so asthe airspeed increased, he eased the G back on. The nose dropped until the Extra was plunging straight down.
Here Rip pushed the stick forward, eased back on the throttle and slammed the stick sideways. The plane rolled vigorously as it accelerated straight down in a wild corkscrew motion. The controls are incredibly sensitive, he thought, marveling at the plane's responsiveness to the slightest displacement of stick or rudder.
A glance at the altimeter, center the stick and pull some more, lifting that nose toward the horizon. The Gs were intense now; he was pulling almost six. He fought to keep his head up and blinked mightily to keep the sweat running down his forehead from blinding him. In seconds the plane was level. Rip eased off on the G and pulled the throttle back to idle.
The piston engine's moan dropped to a burble, and the plane began a gentle, descending turn to line up on the runway. With the power at idle, the plane floated into a perfect three-point landing, kissing the grass.
Rip steered his craft to a stop in front of the large wooden hangar beside the runway and cut the engine. He opened the canopy, snapping the safety line into place so it wouldn't fall off, and unstrapped. Still in the pilot's seat, he took off the helmet and swabbed the sweat from his face.
One of the men sitting on a bench beside the hangar heaved himself erect and strolled over to the Extra.
"Well, whaddaya think?"
"It's okay," Rip said. Lean, tanned by the sun, he was about six feet tall and in his early twenties.
"You sure fly it pretty well," the guy on the groundsaid enthusiastically, cocking his head and squinting against the glare of the brilliant sun.
"Save the flattery. I'll buy it."
The next question was more practical. "You gonna be able to get insurance?"
"I'm going to pay cash," Rip said as he stepped to the ground. "Then I don't have to insure it, do I?"
"Well, no. Guess not. Though I never had anyone buy one of these flying toys that didn't want to insure it. Lot of money, you know."
"I'll walk up to the house and get the checkbook. You figure out precisely what I owe you, taxes and all."
"Sure." The airplane salesman headed back to the bench beside the hangar.
Rip walked past the hangar and began climbing the hill toward his uncle's house. It was one of those rare, perfect Indian summer days, with a blazing sun in a brilliant blue sky, vivid fall foliage, and a warm, gentle breeze decorated with a subtle hint of wood smoke. Rip didn't notice. He climbed the hill lost in his own thoughts.
His uncle Egg Cantrell was holding a conference at his farm, so the house was full to overflowing. He had invited twenty scientists from around the world to sort through the data on the computer from the saucer Rip had found in the Sahara and donated to the National Air and Space Museum the previous September. Egg had removed a computer from the saucer and kept it. Its memory was a storehouse of fabulous information, which Egg used to patent the saucer's technology, and even more fabulous data on the scientific, ethical andphilosophical knowledge of the civilization that constructed it.
The visiting scientists shared Egg's primary interest, which was computer technology. He had spent most of the past year trying to learn how the saucer's computer worked. The Ancient Ones knew that progress lies in true human-computer collaboration. They had promoted computers from dumb tools to full partners capable of combining known information, new data and programs of powerful creativity and logic techniques to generate and test new ideas. In effect, the computer could do original, creative thinking, a thing still beyond the capability of any computer made on earth.
Egg and his guests were having a wonderful time. They spent every waking minute with a dozen PCs containing files Egg had copied from the saucer's computer or talking with colleagues about what they had learned.
Egg was on the porch in an earnest discussion with two academics from California when he saw Rip coming up the hill with his hands in his pockets, eyes on the ground. He had been like this since his girlfriend, Charlotte "Charley" Pine, took a job with the French lunar expedition. She had been gone for six weeks, and a long six weeks it had been.
Egg excused himself from his guests and intercepted Rip before he could get to the porch. Egg was in his fifties, a rotund individual with little hair left. His body was an almost perfect oval--hence his nickname--but he moved surprisingly quickly for a man of his shape and bulk. He had been almost a surrogate father to Rip after his real dad died eleven years ago.
"Good morning," Egg said cheerfully. "Heard the plane. Is it any good?"
"It's okay. The guy is waiting for me to write him a check."
"He can wait a little longer. What say you and I take a walk?"
Rip shrugged and fell in with Egg, who headed across the slope toward the barn. "It's been quite a year, hasn't it?" Egg remarked. Actually more like thirteen months had passed since Rip donated the saucer from the Sahara to the National Air and Space Museum. They had indeed been busy months for Egg as he mined the data on the saucer's computer, filed patent applications with his, Rip's and Charley's names attached and licensed the propulsion technology.
The money from the licenses had been pouring into the bank that handled the accounts. While they were not yet rich enough to buy Connecticut, each of them could probably afford a small county in Mississippi or Arkansas.
Having a lot of money was both a curse and a blessing, as Rip and Charley discovered. They didn't need regular jobs, which meant that they had a lot of free time. Charley taught Rip to fly, and after he got his private license they had flown all over the country, leisurely traveled the world and finally returned to Missouri in midsummer.
After a few more weeks of aimless loafing, Charley jumped at a job offered by Pierre Artois, who was heading the French effort to build a space station on the moon. One morning she shook Egg's hand, hugged him, gave him a kiss and left. Her departure hadn'tcome as a surprise. He had known she was bored, even if Rip hadn't figured it out.
"I sorta miss Charley," Egg said now to Rip, who didn't respond.
Inside the barn Egg seated himself on a hay bale in the sun. Rip stood scuffing dirt with a toe, then finally seated himself on the edge of a feed-way.
"What are you going to do with your life, Rip?"
"I don't know."
"Buying toys won't help."
"The Extra is quite a plane."
"Everybody needs one."
"I reckon."
"Toys won't help what's ailing you."
Rip sighed.
"You could help me with this conference, if you wished," Egg continued, his voice strong and cheerful. "They keep asking questions about the saucer--you know as much about it as I do, maybe more."
"Don't want to answer questions about the saucer," Rip responded. "Talked about it enough. Time to move on to something else."
"What?" Egg asked flatly.
"I don't know," Rip said with heat. "If I knew, I'd be doing it."
"You aren't the first man who ever had woman troubles. Sitting around moping about Charley isn't going to help."
That comment earned a glare from Rip.
"The launch is going to be on television this evening," Egg continued blandly. A French spaceplane had been launched every two weeks for the last sixmonths, shuttling people and equipment to the new French base on the moon. Charley Pine was scheduled to be the copilot on the next flight. Since an American was going to be a crew member, the American networks had decided to air the launch in real time. "Are you going to watch?"
"She's going to the moon and you want me to watch it on television. How should I answer that?"
Egg sat on his bale for another moment, decided he didn't have anything else to say and levered his bulk upright.
"Sorry, Unc," Rip told the older man. "My life is in the pits these days."
"Maybe you ought to work on that," Egg said, then walked on out of the barn.
"Well, it is a mess," Rip told the barn cat, who came over to get her ears scratched. "After you've owned and flown a flying saucer, been everywhere and done everything with the hottest woman alive, where do you go next?"
The galling thing was that he knew the answer to that question. To the moon, of course! And he was sitting here in central Missouri twiddling his thumbs watching television while Charley did it for real.
Terrific! Just flat terrific!
 

CHARLEY PINE HAD JUST LIVED THROUGH THE BUSIEST six weeks of her life. From dawn to midnight seven days a week, the French had trained her to be a copilot in their new spaceships.
Unwilling to bet lives on just one ship, the French had built four of them. Two generations beyond theAmerican space shuttles, the French ships were reusable spaceplanes, launched from a long runway in the south of France. They carried two large fuel tanks, one on either side, which they jettisoned after they had used the fuel. They then flew on into orbit, where they rendezvoused with a fuel tank, refilled their internal tanks and continued on to the moon. After delivering their cargo, the spaceplanes returned to earth orbit and reentered the atmosphere. They landed in France on the runway they had departed from and were readied for another voyage to the moon.
Bored with doing nothing, unable to interest Rip in anything other than sitting around, Charley had instantly accepted Pierre Artois' job offer. She didn't tell Rip until the following morning. Then she broke the news at breakfast and was gone fifteen minutes later.
Sure, leaving Rip had been hard, but she was unwilling to retire at the ripe old age of thirty. Sooner or later, Rip was going to have to figure out life. When he did, then she would see. If he did.
Pierre Artois believed in maximum publicity. The French government was spending billions on the lunar mission, so he didn't miss many chances to get all the good press he could. This evening, six hours before launch, he and his lunar crew stood in front of a bank of television cameras to answer questions.
Before the press zeroed in on Artois and the French space minister, one of the reporters asked a question of Charley, who was wearing a sky blue flight suit that showed off her trim, athletic figure. Her long hair was pulled back in a ponytail. The reporter was an American, who naturally asked his question in English.
In addition to all the technical information she was trying to absorb, Charley was also taking a crash course in French. Her four semesters of French way back when allowed her to buy a glass of wine, find a restroom and ask for a kiss, but that was about it. She gave up trying to learn the names of all the people shoving information at her, and called everyone amigo. That froze a few smiles, but Pierre Artois said she was one of his pilots, so frozen smiles didn't matter. She was actually grateful the first question was in English, until she heard it.
"Ms. Pine, some American pundits have said that hiring you to fly to the moon is just a publicity stunt by Monsieur Artois. Would you care to comment upon that?"
"Not really," she said lightly, trying to be cool. "I've been in space before." Actually her flying credentials were as good as anyone's. A graduate of the Air Force Academy and the air force's test pilot program, a veteran fighter pilot and the pilot of the flying saucer that had made such a splash last year, she believed she deserved this job, so the sneering hurt. It also immunized her against second thoughts about Rip. She was going to do this or die trying.
The chief pilot on the first mission was a man, Jean-Paul Lalouette. He was five or six years older than Charley and seemed to share the condescending opinion of the American newspaper pundits, but he was too wise to let it show--very much. Charley picked up on it, though. She glanced at him now and saw he was wearing the slightest trace of a smile.
Lalouette and his male colleagues thought she should be very impressed with them. The fact that shewasn't didn't help their egos. "T.S.," Charley Pine muttered, which was American for "C'est la guerre."
After a couple of puff questions that allowed Charley to say nice, inane things about the French people and the lunar base project, the press zeroed in on Pierre Artois, to Charley's intense relief. She took several steps backward and tried to hide among the technicians she and Lalouette were flying to the moon.
Pierre obviously enjoyed the glare of television lights. A slight, fit man whose physical resemblance to Napoleon had occurred to so many people that no one remarked on it anymore, he looked happy as a man could be. And well he should, since he was making his first trip to the moon on this flight. His journey to the lunar base after years of promoting, cajoling, managing and partially financing--from his own pocket--the research and industrial effort made this appearance before the press a triumph.
Charley Pine didn't quite know what to make of Pierre, whom she had met on only three occasions. She had watched him in action on television for several years, though. The scion of a clan of Belgian brewers and grandson of the legendary Stella Artois, Pierre struck Charley as a man who desperately wanted to be somebody. An endless supply of beautiful women, a river of money and an exalted social position weren't enough--he had larger ambitions.
Charley had devoted ten seconds of thought to the question of what made Pierre tick, and concluded that the answer was beer. Every French farmer who ever squished a grape had more panache than Pierre did. France was all about wine, and Pierre was beer. Thistragedy fairly cried out for psychoanalysis by a topnotch woman--or even a man--but unfortunately Pierre hadn't bothered; like Napoleon, he had looked for a world to conquer. The French lunar expedition was his, lock, stock and barrel, and he was going to make it a success ... or else.
Despite Artois' love of the spotlight, Charley Pine admired him. Pierre Artois was a man who dreamed large. He dreamed of a French space program, with a base on the moon as a stepping-stone to Mars, which he defined as a challenge worthy of all that France had been and could be in the future. He had fought with all the will and might of Charlemagne to make it happen. His vision, optimism and refusal to take no for an answer had triumphed in the end.
The real reason for the French space program, or indeed any space program, was that the challenge was there. The moon was there; Mars was there; the stars beckoned every night. Charley Pine believed that people needed dreams, the larger the better. Our dreams define us, she once told Rip.
What a contrast the dreamer Pierre Artois was, Charley mused, to the modern Americans. Somewhere along the way they had lost the space dream. Space costs too much, they said. NASA had morphed into a petrified bureaucracy as innovative as the postal service. These days Americans fretted about foreign competition and how to save Medicare--and who was going to foot the bill. Rip once remarked that the current crop of pennypinching, politically correct politicians would have refused to finance Columbus. Watching Artois, Charley knew that Rip was right.
The press conference was a photo op and nothing more. One of the American reporters asked about the fare-paying passenger Artois had agreed to take to the moon, one Joe Bob Hooker, who rumor had it was paying twenty-five million euros for his round-trip ticket. "This is a profit-making venture," Artois responded. "He paid cash." He refused to say more about his passenger.
"Your wife has preceded you to the moon, has she not?"
Ah, yes--true love on the moon. No fool, Pierre knew the media would play this story line like a harp. He glanced longingly at the ceiling, then said simply, "We will soon be together. I have missed her very much." He touched his left breast and added with a straight face, "She is the best part of me." Charley Pine nearly gagged.
After a few more one-liners for television and a pithy comment or two for the newspapers, Pierre led his crew off the stage.
Soon they began the suiting-up process, some of it filmed by a cameraman with a video camera. Then the crew boarded a bus for the two-mile journey to the spaceplane, which sat on the end of a twelve-thousandfoot runway. The bus had to travel a hundred yards or so on a public highway, one lined with the curious and small knots of protesters with signs. Apparently even the Europeans couldn't do anything these days without someone complaining, Charley thought.
She found herself beside the American passenger, a stout man in his fifties. "You the American woman?" he asked.
Hooker's color wasn't so good.
"That's right."
"Glad you're going. Nice to have somebody to speak American to."
"Right."
"'Bout had it up to here with the frogs."
"They kept you busy, have they?"
"Like a hound dog with fleas. You can really fly this thing?"
"No. I'm a Victoria's Secret model that Artois hired when he found he couldn't afford the real Charlotte Pine."
Hooker gave her a sharp look and said nothing more.
After a glance out the window she concentrated on lowering her own anxiety level. This is just another flight, she told herself, just like all those flights in highperformance airplanes she made in the air force. More precisely, like those saucer rides with Rip Cantrell.
She was thinking of Rip when the spaceplane came into view. Jeanne d'Arc. She had explored every inch of the craft during training and spent several weeks in the simulator, yet the sight of the ship sitting on the concrete under the floodlights, ready to fly, caused a sharp intake of breath.
She was really going to do it.
She was going to the moon!
Yee-haa!
I hope Rip is watching on television!
 

HE WAS WATCHING ON TELEVISION, OF COURSE. DUE to the time difference, it was early evening in America when the live coverage began. A dozen scientistscrowded around the television in the living room of the Missouri farmhouse with Egg and Rip.
"It'll be okay," Egg muttered to Rip, who didn't respond. He was intent on the television, listening to the commentator, ignoring everyone around him.
The countdown went smoothly. There were two minor holds, for only a few seconds each, and the commentator didn't give the reasons for either.
The spaceplane looked weird with the two huge external fuel tanks attached to its side. This particular ship, Jeanne d'Arc, was a proven platform, with three round trips to the moon already in her logbook. Rip thought about that now, reassuring himself that everything would go well, that Charley would come back safe and sound.
Still, better than anyone else in the room, he understood the dangers involved in space flight. Not to mention going back and forth to the moon. The French lunar project was mankind's biggest leap yet off the planet, akin to tackling the Atlantic in a rowboat.
His heart was pounding and he was covered with a sheen of perspiration when the first glimmer of fire appeared in the nozzles of the spaceplane's rocket engines. The flame grew steadily until it was as bright as the sun, overpowering the television camera's ability to adjust for light.
The roar came through the television's speakers, a mere shadow of the real thing. Still, it filled the living room and drowned out the last of the conversations.
The spaceplane began moving. Faster and faster, accelerating. The nose wheel stayed firmly on the runway as the ship accelerated past a hundred knots, then twohundred. A small number at the bottom of the screen reported its increasing velocity.
At 264 knots the nose rose a few feet off the pavement. At 275, the ship lifted off. Seconds later the landing gear began retracting.
The nose kept rising, up, up, up. The ship was exceeding four hundred knots when the nose reached fifty degrees above the horizon and the autopilot stopped the rotation.
Soon the fireball from the engines was all that could be seen on the screen.
It gradually became smaller and smaller as the sound faded ... until it was merely a bright point of light in the heavens.
The camera followed the light until it was out of sight, then returned to the tarmac. The cameraman focused on the spot where the spaceplane had begun its roll, a spot now empty.
"She's on her way," Egg said.
Rip Cantrell took a deep breath and exhaled very carefully. He surreptitiously wiped at the tears that were leaking down his cheeks. "Yeah," he whispered. "She's on her way."
 

INSIDE JEANNE D'ARC CHARLEY PINE MONITORED the instruments as the ship roared away from the earth. To her left Jean-Paul Lalouette was similarly engaged. Her duties were to bring any anomaly she noticed to his attention. Her eyes swept the panel again, looking for warning lights, errant pressures, a gauge indication that hinted something, anything was not as it shouldbe. Yet all was precisely as it should be, perfect, as if this were a simulator ride and the operator had yet to push a failure button.
Both pilots wore their space suits, complete with helmets, in the event the plane lost pressurization during launch. They planned to take them off after all the systems checks were completed in orbit.
The acceleration Gs felt good, pushing Charley straight back into her seat. The voices of the French controllers passing information about the trajectory and data-link information sounded clear and pleasant in her ears; the background was the low rumble of the rocket engines.
When the external tanks were empty, they were jettisoned explosively. The engines then began burning fuel from the internal tanks as the spaceplane continued to climb and accelerate.
Charley's eyes flicked to the windscreen, four inches of bulletproof glass. At this nose-up angle the night sky filled the windscreen, full of stars and a sliver of moon. As they climbed through the atmosphere the stars became brighter and ceased their twinkling, and the crescent-moon gleamed more starkly against the background of obsidian black.
She had little time to enjoy the scenery. The next task was rendezvousing with the orbiting fuel tank. She became engrossed in the problem, watching the display that depicted the spaceplane and the orbiting tank and the three-dimensional course to intercept.
When she realized that the join-up was working perfectly and Lalouette had everything under completecontrol, she glanced again at the moon. For some reason it seemed larger than it did standing on the surface of earth. Now it appeared as what it was, another world.
Copyright © 2004 by Stephen Coonts.

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

1

OCTOBER 2004, MISSOURI


The sleek little plane zipped in low and fast, dropping below the treetops as it flew along the runway just a few feet above the ground; then the nose pointed skyward and the plane rolled swiftly around its horizontal axis once...twice...three times.

Rip Cantrell was the pilot. The alternating sunny blue sky and colorful earth were almost a blur as the plane whipped around. He centered the stick and the plane stopped whirling.

Up he went higher and higher into the sky, then gently lowered the nose and let the bird accelerate. The plane was an Extra 300L, a two-place aerobatic plane with two seats arranged in tandem. The pilot sat in the rear seat; today the front one was empty.

With the airspeed rapidly building, Rip brought the stick back smoothly. The increasing Gs mashed him down into the seat. Fighting the increased weight of his helmet and visor, he steadied at four Gs as the nose climbed toward the zenith. Throwing his head back, he could see the ground come into view as the plane became inverted at the top of the loop. He backed off on the G to keep the loop oval. The engine was pulling nicely, the ground beginning to fill the windscreen, so as the airspeed increased, he eased the G back on. The nose dropped until the Extra was plunging straight down.

Here Rip pushed the stick forward, eased back on the throttle and slammed the stick sideways. The plane rolled vigorously as it accelerated straight down in a wild corkscrew motion. The controls are incredibly sensitive, he thought, marveling at the plane's responsiveness to the slightest displacement of stick or rudder.

A glance at thealtimeter, center the stick and pull some more, lifting that nose toward the horizon. The Gs were intense now; he was pulling almost six. He fought to keep his head up and blinked mightily to keep the sweat running down his forehead from blinding him. In seconds the plane was level. Rip eased off on the G and pulled the throttle back to idle.

The piston engine's moan dropped to a burble, and the plane began a gentle, descending turn to line up on the runway. With the power at idle, the plane floated into a perfect three-point landing, kissing the grass.

Rip steered his craft to a stop in front of the large wooden hangar beside the runway and cut the engine. He opened the canopy, snapping the safety line into place so it wouldn't fall off, and unstrapped. Still in the pilot's seat, he took off the helmet and swabbed the sweat from his face.

One of the men sitting on a bench beside the hangar heaved himself erect and strolled over to the Extra.

"Well, whaddaya think?"

"It's okay," Rip said. Lean, tanned by the sun, he was about six feet tall and in his early twenties.

"You sure fly it pretty well," the guy on the ground said enthusiastically, cocking his head and squinting against the glare of the brilliant sun.

"Save the flattery. I'll buy it."

The next question was more practical. "You gonna be able to get insurance?"

"I'm going to pay cash," Rip said as he stepped to the ground. "Then I don't have to insure it, do I?"

"Well, no. Guess not. Though I never had anyone buy one of these flying toys that didn't want to insure it. Lot of money, you know."

"I'll walk up to the house and get the checkbook. You figure out precisely what I owe you, taxes and all."

"Sure." The airplane salesman headed back to the bench beside the hangar.

Rip walked past the hangar and began climbing the hill toward his uncle's house. It was one of those rare, perfect Indian summer days, with a blazing sun in a brilliant blue sky, vivid fall foliage, and a warm, gentle breeze decorated with a subtle hint of wood smoke. Rip didn't notice. He climbed the hill lost in his own thoughts.

His uncle Egg Cantrell was holding a conference at his farm, so the house was full to overflowing. He had invited twenty scientists from around the world to sort through the data on the computer from the saucer Rip had found in the Sahara and donated to the National Air and Space Museum the previous September. Egg had removed the computer first and kept it. Its memory was a storehouse of fabulous information, which Egg used to patent the saucer's technology, and even more fabulous data on the scientific, ethical and philosophical knowledge of the civilization that constructed it.

The visiting scientists shared Egg's primary interest, which was computer technology. He had spent most of the past year trying to learn how the saucer's computer worked. The Ancient Ones knew that progress lies in true human-computer collaboration. They had promoted computers from dumb tools to full partners capable of combining known information, new data and programs of powerful creativity and logic techniques to generate and test new ideas. In effect, the computer could do original, creative thinking, a thing still beyond the capability of any computer made on earth.

Egg and his guests were having a wonderful time. They spent every waking minute with a dozen PCs containing files Egg had copied from the saucer's computer or talking with colleagues about what they had learned.

Egg was on the porch in an earnest discussion with two academics from California when he saw Rip coming up the hill with his hands in his pockets, eyes on the ground. He had been like this since his girlfriend, Charlotte "Charley" Pine, took a job with the French lunar expedition. She had been gone for six weeks, and a long six weeks it had been.

Egg excused himself from his guests and intercepted Rip before he could get to the porch. Egg was in his fifties, a rotund individual with little hair left. His body was an almost perfect oval---hence his nickname---but he moved surprisingly quickly for a man of his shape and bulk. He had been almost a surrogate father to Rip after his real dad died eleven years ago.

"Good morning," Egg said cheerfully. "Heard the plane. Is it any good?"

"It's okay. The guy is waiting for me to write him a check."

"He can wait a little longer. What say you and I take a walk?"

Rip shrugged and fell in with Egg, who headed across the slope toward the barn. "It's been quite a year, hasn't it?" Egg remarked. Actually more like thirteen months had passed since Rip donated the saucer from the Sahara to the National Air and Space Museum. They had indeed been busy months for Egg as he mined the data on the saucer's computer, filed patent applications with his, Rip's and Charley's names attached and licensed the propulsion technology.

The money from the licenses had been pouring into the bank that handled the accounts. While they were not yet rich enough to buy Connecticut, each of them could probably afford a small county in Mississippi or Arkansas.

Having a lot of money was both a curse and a blessing, as Rip and Charley discovered. They didn't need regular jobs, which meant that they had a lot of free time. Charley taught Rip to fly, and after he got his private license they had flown all over the country, leisurely traveled the world and finally returned to Missouri in midsummer.

After a few more weeks of aimless loafing, Charley jumped at a job offered by Pierre Artois, who was heading the French effort to build a space station on the moon. One morning she shook Egg's hand, hugged him, gave him a kiss and left. Her departure hadn't come as a surprise. He had known she was bored, even if Rip hadn't figured it out.

"I sorta miss Charley," Egg said now to Rip, who didn't respond.

Inside the barn Egg seated himself on a hay bale in the sun. Rip stood scuffing dirt with a toe, then finally seated himself on the edge of a feed-way.

"What are you going to do with your life, Rip?"

"I don't know."

"Buying toys won't help."

"The Extra is quite a plane."

"Everybody needs one."

"I reckon."

"Toys won't help what's ailing you."

Rip sighed.

"You could help me with this conference, if you wished," Egg continued, his voice strong and cheerful. "They keep asking questions about the saucer---you know as much about it as I do, maybe more."

"Don't want to answer questions about the saucer," Rip responded. "Talked about it enough. Time to move on to something else."

"What?" Egg asked flatly.

"I don't know," Rip said with heat. "If I knew, I'd be doing it."

"You aren't the first man who ever had woman troubles. Sitting around moping about Charley isn't going to help."

That comment earned a glare from Rip.

"The launch is going to be on television this evening," Egg continued blandly. A French spaceplane had been launched every two weeks for the last six months, shuttling people and equipment to the new French base on the moon. Charley Pine was scheduled to be the copilot on the next flight. Since an American was going to be a crew member, the American networks had decided to air the launch in real time. "Are you going to watch?"

"She's going to the moon and you want me to watch it on television. How should I answer that?"

Egg sat on his bale for another moment, decided he didn't have anything else to say and levered his bulk upright.

"Sorry, Unc," Rip told the older man. "My life is in the pits these days."

"Maybe you ought to work on that," Egg said, then walked on out of the barn.

"Well, it is a mess," Rip told the barn cat, who came over to get her ears scratched. "After you've owned and flown a flying saucer, been everywhere and done everything with the hottest woman alive, where do you go next?"

The galling thing was that he knew the answer to that question. To the moon, of course! And he was sitting here in central Missouri twiddling his thumbs watching television while Charley did it for real.

Terrific! Just flat terrific!

Charley Pine had just lived through the busiest six weeks of her life. From dawn to midnight seven days a week, the French had trained her to be a copilot in their new spaceships.

Unwilling to bet lives on just one ship, the French had built four of them. Two generations beyond the American space shuttle, the survivors of which were now retired, the French ships were reusable spaceplanes, launched from a long runway in the south of France. They carried two large fuel tanks, one on either side, which they jettisoned after they had used the fuel.
They then flew on into orbit, where they rendezvoused with a fuel tank, refueled and continued on to the moon. After delivering their cargo, the spaceplanes returned to earth, orbit and reentered the atmosphere. They landed in France on the runway they had departed from and were readied for another voyage to the moon.

Bored with doing nothing, unable to interest Rip in anything other than sitting around, Charley had instantly accepted Pierre Artois' job offer. She didn't tell Rip until the following morning.
Then she broke the news at breakfast and was gone fifteen minutes later.

Sure, leaving Rip had been hard, but she was unwilling to retire at the ripe old age of thirty.
Sooner or later, Rip was going to have to figure out life. When he did, then she would see. If he did.

Pierre Artois believed in maximum publicity. The French government was spending billions on the lunar mission, so he didn't miss many chances to get all the good press he could. This evening, six hours before launch, he and his lunar crew stood in front of a bank of television cameras to answer questions.

Before the press zeroed in on Artois and the French space minister, one of the reporters asked a question of Charley, who was wearing a sky blue flight suit that showed off her trim, athletic figure. Her long hair was pulled back in a ponytail. The reporter was an American, who naturally asked his question in English.

In addition to all the technical information she was trying to absorb, Charley was also taking a crash course in French. Her four semesters of French way back when allowed her to buy a glass of wine, find a restroom and ask for a kiss, but that was about it. She gave up trying to learn the names of all the people shoving information at her, and called everyone amigo. That froze a few smiles, but Pierre Artois said she was one of his pilots, so frozen smiles didn't matter. She was actually grateful the first question was in English, until she heard it.

"Ms. Pine, some American pundits have said that hiring you to fly to the moon is just a publicity stunt by Monsieur Artois. Would you care to comment upon that?"

"Not really," she said lightly, trying to be cool. "I've been in space before." Actually her flying credentials were as good as anyone's. A graduate of the Air Force Academy and the air force's test pilot program, a veteran fighter pilot and the pilot of the flying saucer that had made such a splash last year, she believed she deserved this job, so the sneering hurt. It also immunized her against second thoughts about Rip. She was going to do this or die trying.

The chief pilot on the first mission was a man, Jean-Paul Lalouette. He was five or six years older than Charley and seemed to share the condescending opinion of the American newspaper pundits, but he was too wise to let it show---very much. Charley picked up on it, though. She glanced at him now and saw he was wearing the slightest trace of a smile.

Lalouette and his male colleagues thought she should be very impressed with them. The fact that she wasn't didn't help their egos. "T. S.," Charley Pine muttered, which was American for
"C'est la guerre."

After a couple of puff questions that allowed Charley to say nice, inane things about the French people and the lunar base project, the press zeroed in on Pierre Artois, to Charley's intense relief. She took several steps backward and tried to hide among the technicians she and Lalouette were flying to the moon.

Pierre obviously enjoyed the glare of television lights. A slight, fit man whose physical resemblance to Napoleon had occurred to so many people that no one remarked on it anymore, he looked happy as a man could be. And well he should, since he was making his first trip to the moon on this flight. His journey to the lunar base after years of promoting, cajoling, managing and partially financing---from his own pocket---the research and industrial effort made this appearance before the press a triumph.

Charley Pine didn't quite know what to make of Pierre, whom she had met on only three occasions. She had watched him in action on television for several years, though. The scion of a clan of Belgian brewers and grandson of the legendary Stella Artois, Pierre struck Charley as a man who desperately wanted to be somebody. An endless supply of beautiful women, a river of money and an exalted social position weren't enough---he had larger ambitions.

Charley had devoted ten seconds of thought to the question of what made Pierre tick, and concluded that the answer was beer. Every French farmer who ever squished a grape had more panache than Pierre did. France was all about wine, and Pierre was beer. This tragedy fairly cried out for psychoanalysis by a top-notch woman---or even a man---but unfortunately Pierre hadn't bothered; like Napoleon, he had looked for a world to conquer. The French lunar expedition was his, lock, stock and barrel, and he was going to make it a success...or else.

Despite Artois' love of the spotlight, Charley Pine admired him. Pierre Artois was a man who dreamed large. He dreamed of a French space program, with a base on the moon as a stepping-stone to Mars, which he defined as a challenge worthy of all that France had been and could be in the future. He had fought with all the will and might of Charlemagne to make it happen. His vision, optimism and refusal to take no for an answer had triumphed in the end.
The real reason for the French space program, or indeed any space program, was that the challenge was there. The moon was there; Mars was there; the stars beckoned every night.
Charley Pine believed that people needed dreams, the larger the better. Our dreams define us, she once told Rip.

What a contrast the dreamer Pierre Artois was, Charley mused, to the modern Americans.
Somewhere along the way they had lost the space dream. Space costs too much, they said.
NASA had morphed into a petrified bureaucracy as innovative as the postal service. These days Americans fretted about foreign competition and how to save Medicare---and who was going to foot the bill. Rip once remarked that the current crop of penny-pinching, politically correct politicians would have refused to finance Columbus. Watching Artois, Charley knew that Rip was right.

The press conference was a photo op and nothing more. One of the American reporters asked about the fare-paying passenger Artois had agreed to take to the moon, one Joe Bob Hooker, who rumor had it was paying twenty-five million euros for his round-trip ticket. "This is a profit-making venture," Artois responded. "He paid cash." He refused to say more about his passenger.

"Your wife has preceded you to the moon, has she not?"

Ah, yes---true love on the moon. No fool, Pierre knew the media would play this story line like a harp. He glanced longingly at the ceiling, then said simply, "We will soon be together. I have missed her very much." He touched his left breast and added with a straight face, "She is the best part of me." Charley Pine nearly gagged.

After a few more one-liners for television and a pithy comment or two for the newspapers, Pierre led his crew off the stage.

Soon they began the suiting-up process, some of it filmed by a cameraman with a video camera. Then the crew boarded a bus for the two-mile journey to the spaceplane, which sat on the end of a twelve-thousand-foot runway. The bus had to travel a hundred yards or so on a public highway, one lined with the curious and small knots of protesters with signs.
Apparently even the Europeans couldn't do anything these days without someone complaining, Charley thought.

She found herself beside the American passenger, a stout man in his fifties. "You the American woman?" he asked.

Hooker's color wasn't so good.

"That's right."

"Glad you're going. Nice to have somebody to speak American to."

"Right."

"'Bout had it up to here with the frogs."

"They kept you busy, have they?"

"Like a hound dog with fleas. You can really fly this thing?"

"No. I'm a Victoria's Secret model that Artois hired when he found he couldn't afford the real Charlotte Pine."

Hooker gave her a sharp look and said nothing more.

After a glance out the window she concentrated on lowering her own anxiety level. This is just another flight, she told herself, just like all those flights in high-performance airplanes she made in the air force. More precisely, like those saucer rides with Rip Cantrell.

She was thinking of Rip when the spaceplane came into view. Jeanne d'Arc. She had explored every inch of the craft during training and spent several weeks in the simulator, yet the sight of the ship sitting on the concrete under the floodlights, ready to fly, caused a sharp intake of breath.

She was really going to do it.

She was going to the moon!


Copyright 2004 by Stephen Coonts
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 26 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Rip roaring space adventure novel

    After the adventures in SAUCER, Rip Cantrell and his girlfriend Charley Pine donated the flying saucer to the Air and Space Museum. A bored Charley accepts Pierce Artois¿ offer to pilot a space plane to the moon to bring supplies to the station being built there. While she is on the space plane, Charley notices inside a locked compartment an object marked with a radioactive warning label; nothing on the manifest indicates that anything radioactive is on the ship......................... On the moon, Artois and his associates are building a mysterious machine that disturbs Charley. She soon learns that they are constructing an antigravity beam that will destroy anything in its path even from the distance to earth. Artois wants to be emperor of the world and he has a good chance of succeeding. Charley hijacks a space plane and returns to earth. She and Rip steal back the donated saucer so that they can try to destroy Artois¿ fleet leaving him stranded on Luna, rescue his abducted uncle, and ultimately obliterate the weapon of mass destruction......................... SAUCER: THE CONQUEST is a rip roaring space adventure novel filled with a dashing hero and a courageous female champion, vile villains ready to commit genocide for power, and numerous space battles that make Star Wars look like a romance. Rip is a modern day Flash Gordon leaping from one adventure into another while Charley is the only person who can out leap Rip yet keep him somewhat on an even keel. Gifted Stephen Coonts provides an innovative yet in some ways old fashioned space tale that will appeal to anyone who enjoys the Star war sagas........................ Harriet Klausner

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    This is a hidden gem... just as good as the original

    There are two books in this series: Saucer and Saucer the Conquest. Steven is currently writing the third and probably final book of the series due out April 2014.
    I have found this book one of the most enjoyable I've ever read... Along with the original "Saucer" book. Make sure you read "Saucer" first before reading "The Conquest"... You'll be able to understand the characters better.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2012

    Fantastic Read!

    Thank you so much for book 2! Now we need a book 3 ... This book is impossible to put down ... just try it!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2011

    Awsome plot and great characters

    This book is very good, it's plot is well rounded with great character.People that love books with spaceships in it will love this book. Also it is a good past time book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2014

    Interesting continuation...

    The continuing story of the saucer enigma. The main characters bond together to eliminate a worldwide threat against humanity. Mr. Coonts was definitely reaching for this one! I purchased this second installment because I was somewhat impressed with the first. However, "Conquest" is a ridiculous story with totally unbelievable characters and events. I think the author was trying to write a James Bond scenario that fell way short of any timeline interpretations. Although it is an interesting read, it's value is subjective and relevant only to the continuation of the lives of the main characters and the ideology of the saucer technology.

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  • Posted April 4, 2014

    A good sequel to the first Saucer book

    I read this immediately after the first book and it was just as entertaining. I recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    What an imagination!

    A fun and exciting series! I can hardly wait for the next book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    Enjoyable read.

    Old yet fun topic on have aliens visited us a long, long time ago; and did they seed earth which is how we originated here, or is there intelligent life out there that looks like us? A fun and easy read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    No Interest in Reading the Third Book in the Series

    The first book in the series was entertaining. This book just became silly. The plot was all over the place and somewhat predictable. The "science" in the fiction was ridiculous from the physics to the biology. It did not leave me with any interest in reading the third book in the series.

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  • Posted April 3, 2014

    Very Entertaining and good science for the most part too.

    Stephen Coonts is a favorite author but this book is a departure from his normal genre. He spins and weaves a good tapestry and his characters are believable. This is a reccommended read, it will not disappoint.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    the author quit trying

    the first book was a light space opera romp, and i had hoped this would continue the story. unfortunately the secondary and tertiary characters in this sequel are as developed as a three year old and shallow as paint. they are cartoonish in their response and actions. i regret not stopping at the first book and will not be buying the third.

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  • Posted March 28, 2014

    By chance, I came across Stephen Coonts' Saucer series and found

    By chance, I came across Stephen Coonts' Saucer series and found Sauce and Saucer: The Conquest to be delightful reading. The story line is quite different from his other novel and yet very enjoyable.
    I would recommend this as a good read.  I am looking forward to reading the third and final book in this series. - Alison Sing, Lynnwood, WA

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2014

    Just asg Just as good as the first

    Keep them comming

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  • Posted December 28, 2012

    Did not read

    I started this book and really was not impressed and did not finish it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2009

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