Solomon's Arrow: A Novel

Solomon's Arrow: A Novel

by J. Dalton Jennings

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Overview

It’s the mid-twenty-first century. The oceans are rising, the world’s population is growing, terrorist organizations are running rampant, and it has become readily apparent that humanity’s destructive nature is at the heart of the matter.

When all faith in humanity seems lost, a startling proposal is announced: Solomon Chavez, the mysterious son of the world’s first trillionaire, announces that he, backed by a consortium of governments and wealthy donors, will build an interstellar starship—one that will convey a select group of six thousand individuals, all under the age of fifty, with no living relatives, to a recently discovered planet in the Epsilon Eridani star system. His goal is lofty: to build a colony that will ensure the survival of the human race. However, Solomon Chavez has a secret that he doesn’t dare share with the rest of the world.

With the launch date rapidly approaching, great odds must be overcome so that the starship Solomon’s Arrow can fulfill what the human race has dreamed of for millennia: reaching for the stars. The goal is noble, but looming on the horizon are threats nobody could have imagined—ones that may spell the end of all human life and end the universe as we know it.

Filled with action, suspense, and characters that will live on in the imagination, Solomon’s Arrow will leave readers breathless, while at the same time questioning what humanity’s true goals should be: reaching for the stars, or exploring the limits of the human mind?

Skyhorse Publishing, under our Night Shade and Talos imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of titles for readers interested in science fiction (space opera, time travel, hard SF, alien invasion, near-future dystopia), fantasy (grimdark, sword and sorcery, contemporary urban fantasy, steampunk, alternative history), and horror (zombies, vampires, and the occult and supernatural), and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller, a national bestseller, or a Hugo or Nebula award-winner, we are committed to publishing quality books from a diverse group of authors.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781940456225
Publisher: Talos
Publication date: 07/14/2015
Pages: 504
Sales rank: 1,265,518
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

J. Dalton Jennings is a retired graphic artist who served for six years as an Avionics Technician in the Arkansas Air National Guard. Solomon’s Arrow is Jennings’s first published novel, and he currently resides in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Read an Excerpt

Solomon's Arrow

A Novel


By J. Dalton Jennings

Skyhorse Publishing

Copyright © 2015 J. Dalton Jennings
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-940456-22-5



CHAPTER 1

PHOENIX, ARIZONA: 8:25 A.M., APRIL 3, AD 2060


"Hurry and finish your breakfast, young man. We need to be downstairs in ten minutes."

The curly-haired six-year-old tore his eyes from the frenetic cartoon playing on the seventy-two-inch HV set mounted on the hotel suite's wall, responding with a loud whine, "Mom ... The Benzie Badger Show's not over yet."

"Listen to your mother, David. You don't want us to be late, do you? After all, you've been looking forward to this as much as we have."

"Yes, papa," the boy grumbled. "Computer — end program."

The crystal-clear, holographic image of Benzie Badger — who was set to whack Needles the Porcupine over the head with a club — faded to black. Hopping to his feet, David took his cereal bowl into the kitchen.

Adjusting his tie, Richard Allison smiled at Erin, his wife of eight years, thinking how lucky he was to have such a beautiful, devoted partner in his life. She stood five-foot-seven in her stocking feet, had long blonde hair, a button nose, and the bluest eyes he'd ever seen. Her creamy-white, Nordic complexion was in sharp contrast to his own mocha coloration.

Naval Commander Richard Allison stood six-foot-two inches tall and was thirty-five years old. He was in excellent physical condition, was exceedingly handsome — in an Old Hollywood sort of way — and was one of the world's premiere astronauts. He'd just been hired by CIMRAD to oversee the final stages of pilot training for Solomon's Arrow, the interstellar spacecraft at the hub of the Ark Program. With his exemplary service record, he would've been the perfect candidate to pilot the craft; unfortunately, one of the set requirements was that each crew member must be single, with no family members to grieve over during the interstellar journey. This requirement made it more difficult to fill certain technical positions. But with ten months until launch, the crew complement was nearly complete.

Nine years ago he would've scraped and clawed his way into the pilot's seat, but having a family changed his priorities. Still, it was hard not to envy the chosen pilot, Russell Takahashi. They were high school classmates, attended the U.S. Naval Academy together, and were often referred to as "Russ 'n Rich."

Then along came Erin ...

The two men had met the blonde beauty at the Navy's annual ball. Russell had asked her to dance and afterward introduced her to Richard. The two were drawn together like magnets. Over the next few months, Richard and Erin spent every free moment together, which obviously upset Russell. However, their devotion to each other was apparent, and Russell's bruised ego soon gave way to happiness. He even accepted Richard's offer to be best man at their wedding.

Soon after, his and Richard's paths diverged, though their reputations took a parallel course: Both were considered the best in their field, with Russell edging out Richard in his devotion to flying and keeping his piloting skills fresh, but only barely. When Russell was hired as chief pilot for the Ark Project, Richard wasn't surprised. His friend deserved the honor.

Richard hadn't seen Russell in four months, but after his hiring by CIMRAD, the two would be working together on a daily basis and be reunited as "Russ 'n Rich." It was hard to believe that he would soon be sitting with Russell and a number of other dignitaries on the tarmac of Sky Harbor International Airport, ensconced in the luxury of Dr. Solomon Chavez's private Space-plane, taxiing toward a new, better future in the floating city of Pacifica.

Picking up his Personal Interlink Device and slipping the flexible, rectangular gadget — about the size of a playing card and twice as thick — into the breast pocket of his shirt, Richard turned to his wife and son, and said with an excited smile, "Our lives are about to change forever. We've made sacrifices — bidding goodbye to family and friends — but it won't be forever. Erin, you're a freelance writer — your job isn't affected by where you live. And David, you'll have a brand new set of friends before you know it."

Erin smiled and began to scoot her son toward the door. The boy was understandably nervous to start this new phase of life, but also excited. Shortly after learning where they were moving, he began to study everything he could download about oceanography. David's young, inquisitive mind reminded Richard of himself at that age — only his field of interest had centered on the history of aircraft, then later, the anatomy of girls.

These days, the only female anatomy he was interested in was Erin's. After eight years of marriage, their passion had yet to wane. He was sure he couldn't be more in love with another person ... unless that other person was David. When his son was born, a completely different part of Richard's heart opened up as he learned to love in a powerful new way.

As he exited the suite with his family, Richard could barely contain his joy. "This is it," he gushed. "Let's go touch the wild blue yonder."


* * *

When Richard and his family exited the sumptuous lobby of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel and boarded their waiting limousine, the car's automated voice began: "Welcome to Sky Harbor Limousine Service. Our goal is to make your ride a pleasant one. If you prefer to use your PID in place of this vehicle's interlink device, please insert it in the appropriate slot."

Removing the PID from his shirt pocket, Richard slid it into the armrest console slot. The limo's mechanical voice was replaced by a pleasantly sultry, female one, which the three knew by heart.

"Good morning, Richard; good morning, Erin; good morning, David."

"Good morning, Miri," they all said in unison.

"This vehicle's program has informed me that your destination is Sky Harbor International Airport, in Phoenix, Arizona. Are you ready to proceed?"

Erin, having just finished buckling David's seat belt, leaned back into her faux suede seat and quickly buckled herself in. "That we are, Miri, that we are."

The teardrop-shaped electric limousine pulled away from the curb, hummed by the carefully manicured shrubbery that spelled Biltmore, and was soon merging with traffic on the Piestewa Freeway headed south toward the airport.

"Miri, please provide us with a synopsis of the morning news," Erin said.

The device took on a more serious tone. "President Cranston has announced that she will be speaking at the memorial for the slain officers who died protecting her in last week's foiled assassination attempt. ... Congress is still fighting over the budget impasse. ... Climatologists have released their yearly study, which states that the world's oceans have risen another nine inches. ..." David's ears perked up. "The Department of Transportation has determined that last month's automobile accident in Maine, which resulted in two deaths, was the result of mechanical failure and not a breakdown of the vehicle's GPS system. Including those two deaths, that brings the total this year in the United States to seven fatalities. At this rate, the present year will exceed last year's total of fifteen by a significant margin —"

"Thank you, Miri," Richard cut in. "I think that will be enough news for now."

"As you wish, Richard. Please let me know if you need anything else."

Before he could respond, David spoke up. "Papa, I learned that people once drove cars with their hands, not GPS. Ms. Fletcher said that thousands of people died each year. That must have been really scary."

"I'm sure it was, son." Leaning forward, he gave the boy's knee a comforting pat. "You don't need to worry about us ... automobile accidents are rare these days. Miri, open my play list. Start with 'Moonlight Sonata' and then shuffle."

"Yes, Richard."

The soothing strains of Beethoven's classic piano number began to waft through the vehicle's interior. David rolled his eyes, groaned, and reached for his portable game controller. Erin took hold of Richard's hand and squeezed; she knew the significance of the song. It had been playing when they first met, and from that day forward he made a point to play it whenever a special occasion arose. This was just such an occasion.

Lighthearted, Richard gazed out the side window at the gorgeous mountains looming in the distance and felt the music wash through his soul.


* * *

THIRTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER

The terrified, middle-aged woman sat tied to a wooden chair, staring into a pair of cruel, blue eyes framed by a heavy brow. She wanted to scream, but the rag stuffed in her mouth made that impossible. She wanted to struggle against her bindings but knew that would result in a severe beating, as evidenced by her black, puffy eyes and bruised ribs. Her kidnapper loomed over her, daring her to make a sound as he spoke into his PID.

"Are you positive he's on board?" the kidnapper asked, pausing for the answer. "Good, you know what to do ... yes, she's fine. ... You're in no position to make demands, Reverend," he snarled. "Very well ... I'll put her on speaker."

The whip-thin kidnapper looked over toward the woman and pressed the mute button on his PID. "I'm gonna remove your gag so you can speak to your husband. If you let on that you've been mistreated, I'll kill you ... and then, I'll hunt down and do the same thing to your children. Do you understand?"

The woman nodded vigorously.

After removing the soiled gag from the woman's mouth, the kidnapper pressed the talk button on his PID and held the device up to the side of her head. Her eyes were filled with tears.

"You may speak with your wife."

"Winifred ... Winifred ... are you all right?"

"Y–yes, dearest."

"Thank God! How are you? Have they been treating you well?"

She wanted to scream the truth. She wanted to shout through the phone. They've hurt me! Don't give in to their demands! She wanted the courage to defy this man, but the faces of her children floated in her mind, overriding all other concerns.

The kidnapper made a circular motion with his hand, telling her to hurry up and speak.

"What? Oh, yes ... I'm, I'm fine, dear. They've been treating me well. I've had plenty to eat and a soft bed to sleep on. They've assured me that I'll be taken home when this is over. The funny thing is — I believe them. You know how good I am at judging people."

"Hmm ... yes ..." Reverend Thurgood Creswell's voice quavered momentarily. "When you see the kids next, send them my love."

"You can plan on it. God loves you, Goodie."

"I love you, Winnie."

The kidnapper held the PID up to his ear. "Just remember, don't deviate from the plan. When this is over, you'll be the man who destroyed the biggest threat to God's plan the world has ever known. May the Lord bless your sacrifice and welcome you into his loving embrace."

Ending the call, he placed the PID on the nearby nightstand, reached behind his back, and removed a 9mm handgun from his waistband. Leveling the firearm, he pulled the trigger and scattered Winifred Creswell's brains across her bedroom wall.


* * *

"In the next couple of days, we need to go out and show those clowns in Pacifica how real men party," chuckled Russell Takahashi. Standing in the aisle of their employer's private space-plane, he smiled down at Richard Allison, knowing full well his friend's answer: Married men seldom partied with single men. Their wives simply wouldn't allow it.

With a twinkle in his eye, Richard glanced at Erin hoping she would give him the go-ahead. Her expression was neutral, which was not a good sign. She liked Russell well enough, but his reputation as a Lothario had been a bone of contention between them while they were dating and after the wedding. It wasn't that she didn't trust her husband; it was Russell with whom she had the problem. A whiff of infidelity, however false, would place a cloud over Richard's career that could result in lasting consequences. Infidelity was punishable by court-martial and could result in the accused landing in the brig. No ... Erin would have none of the infamous Russ 'n Rich party action during their time in Pacifica.

"I'm not sure I'll have much free time, Russ ... but we'll see," Richard said.

A look of mock disappointment crossed Russell's face. "I guess the only time we'll have to catch up on old times will be during lunch, at the cafeteria, over a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee ... not pretzels and beer at a strip club."

Richard's eyebrows shot up. Pursing his lips in anger, he cut his eyes toward David, who was seated between him and Erin. The youngster was studying Russell closely, a look of confusion on his angelic face. Beside him, Erin looked anything but angelic. She was so infuriated that her face had turned beet red, causing Richard to think the devil himself might make an appearance.

"I'm only kidding, Erin," Russell said, trying to backtrack. "You don't have to worry —"

"Excuse me, sir." A sultry voice, attached to a young, female flight attendant, interrupted Russell's train of thought. With a smile, he turned sideways to let her pass, but she instead leaned forward to address Richard. "Forgive my intrusion, but according to our records, you're Naval Commander Richard Allison, correct?"

"Yes ... how may I help you, miss?"

"The pilot was wondering if you would like to join her in the cockpit. She said to tell you, 'If he's not too busy twiddling his thumbs, he can sit in the jump seat during takeoff.'"

A befuddled expression momentarily crossed Richard's face, quickly followed by a dawning realization. "Is Captain Janice Ball the pilot?"

"Yes, sir."

Richard's face fairly glowed with joy. He turned toward Erin, but before he could voice the question, she was telling him, "Go ahead, we'll be fine. Just remember to give Janice my love while you're there."

As he rose to his feet, a small voice asked, "Can I go too, Papa?"

Richard gazed down into his son's expectant face and felt a pang of guilt. "Not this time, buddy. It'll be cramped during takeoff, and the pilot needs to pay attention to the controls, not to curious little boys. Besides, you don't want your mother to be alone back here, do you?"

"No, Papa."

Richard gave David's curly mop of hair a quick tussle as he turned to leave.

"Hey, Rich. Who's Janice Ball?"

By the keen look on Russell's face, Richard knew his friend was jealous over not being invited to the cockpit. After all, he was the world-famous pilot who'd been interviewed by nearly every talk show host on HV. "She was my wingman from '56 to '58, after you were reassigned."

"Hmm ..." one eyebrow rose. "Is she pretty?"

"I suppose so. But more importantly, she's very married."

Normally that answer would've dissuaded most men, but Richard couldn't tell if Russell's shrug meant he understood Janice to be off-limits or that her being married didn't matter to him.

Richard stepped into the aisle, and the flight attendant motioned him forward, while at the same time telling Russell, "Sir, you need to return to your seat. Takeoff is in two minutes."

"Is it okay if I sit here, instead?"

The attendant looked to Richard, "I don't mind, as long as my wife doesn't."

Erin's only sign of disappointment (if one looked close enough) was the tight smile on her face. "He's more than welcome. In fact, he can educate David in the ways of men ... while you're hanging out with Janice."

His wife's needling reply was offset by the twinkle in her eye. Richard chuckled and shook his head. "I'll see the three of you in thirty minutes ... when we land in Pacifica."

Erin studied Russell as he watched Richard depart. A trace of envy clouded his expression. "Well, are you just going to stand there admiring the view, or are you going to take a seat?"

Her comment elicited a sound from Russell that landed somewhere between a cough and a laugh. "Your tongue is as sharp as ever, Erin," he said, taking the now empty seat. "So, when are you going to come to your senses and see that I'm the better man for you?"

"Not anytime soon. I suppose I still enjoy being crazy ... in love."

Russell chuckled. "From the look of things, crazy suits you." He was about to say something else when he glanced down at David, who was seated between them. The boy's eyes were knit in a fierce glare. "What's up with you, little man?"

With a pout, David crossed his arms, looked away, and sank in his seat.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Solomon's Arrow by J. Dalton Jennings. Copyright © 2015 J. Dalton Jennings. Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
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.

Table of Contents

Contents

Prologue, 1,
Part One: Stringing the Bow, 9,
Part Two: The Arrow of Time, 81,
Part Three: Hitting the Mark, 185,
Part Four: The Bull's Eye Undone, 363,
Epilogue, 489,
Acknowledgments, 493,
About the Author, 495,

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