I’m Back To Work On The Sequel To Falling Star — An Excerpt

This is an excerpt from my WIP or work in progress that I have decided to rename StarHome Bound. The first volume of this series, a very realistic science fiction thriller called Falling Star has received many great reviews and has been downloaded by almost 30,000 readers world-wide.

The story starts with the accidental discovery of mysterious objects buried deep in the ocean by a navy geomagnetic survey crew. During the subsequent investigation into these objects, a highly classified submersible is lost. In this excerpt, the submersible has been found and is being retrieved by the United States Government.


Off-shore, Kairiru Island, Papua New Guinea

“Permission to come aboard.”

“Permission granted, Captain Mannington,” stated the young RAN lieutenant, as he returned the salute.  The RAN lieutenant was the acting officer of the deck aboard the Bentano.

“Commander Hastings is waiting for you on the bridge.  I will escort you, sir,” said the RAN lieutenant as he turned over the Officer of the Deck duties to a sub-lieutenant.

Mannington followed the young officer to the bridge where he was warmly greeted by Commander Hastings.

“That boat yours?” inquired Hastings as he and Mannington stood on the bridge of the Bentano.

“Yes,” replied Mannington as he looked at the Benthic Ranger now grounded on the shoals.

“I guess that it is a research submersible, care to elucidate me?”

“I’m sorry commander; I am not authorized to say anything more than it is a submersible and it is ours.  The United States thanks you for finding our lost vessel.”

“What are you going to do now?”

“We have a special team coming to Papua New Guinea that can safely retrieve the submersible.  Barring any diplomatic snafus, it should be here in a few days.  Once the craft is freed from the reef, an ocean going tug will take it to our base in Guam.”

“But is that necessary?  Guam is almost 1,300 nautical miles from here, we can certainly accommodate you yanks in Australia.  The South Pacific can be unpredictable.”

“Thank you commander, but we have special facilities in Guam.”

As predicted, a small group of U.S. Navy vessels appear on the horizon a few days later.  The USNS Navajo, a Powhatan class ocean-going tug, stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, would take the Benthic Ranger in tow.  She was accompanied by two destroyers.  Having such fire power to retrieve a simple research submersible seemed extremely curious to the RAN officers on the Bentano.

“You certainly don’t want anyone messing with this tow, do you?”

“I guess Washington just doesn’t want anything to go wrong with this vessel,” replied Mannington.  “Can I quarter some of my divers and their gear on the Bentano?  There will be five of them.”

“Sure can, mate,” replied Hastings.  “They can bunk with my clearance divers.”

“Thank you, commander.”

Unbeknownst to the Australians, the small flotilla was also shadowed by the USS Greeneville, (SSN -772) a fleet attack submarine that was recently commissioned in Hawaii.  The Greeneville was specially outfitted to deploy and retrieve U.S. Navy SEAL teams underwater.  As the three surface ships approached the RAN group already in place, the Greeneville deliberately fell back and went silent.  There was no reason to let the Aussies know that an American attack submarine was in the area.

Lieutenant Eoghan Thorson, USN, reported to Mannington along with his four man team on board the Bentano.  All five of the men stood about six feet tall and were lean and muscular.  The distinguishing characteristic of the team was their quiet disposition; none of the men except Thorson spoke anything more than pleasantries during the introductions to the Australian clearance divers.

Eoghan Thorson’s team would take the lead in securing the Benthic Ranger with a flotation collar and would check the vessel for seaworthiness.  According to the protocol shared with the RAN officers, the team would not attempt to enter the vessel.

The Australian clearance divers were somewhat put off by the taciturn Americans, but chalked it up to the fact that the five man team would have to dislodge and float a “hot” vessel.  They could certainly understand that the Americans were probably concerned and extremely focused on this assignment, especially on the potential for radiation poisoning.  What the Australians didn’t know was that Thorson and his men were members of the elite SEAL group and were working undercover.


Lieutenant Thorson secured his craft to the Benthic Ranger and his team dove into the warm Pacific waters to examine the vessel and attach the tow harness and flotation gear that they had carried with them.  After making sure that everything was solidly connected, Thorson backed off the stranded vessel and inflated the flotation bags.  The Benthic Ranger gave a shudder and rose from its bed.  Once afloat, two of Thorson’s men dove underneath to make sure that there no glitches and that the bottom of the vehicle was undamaged.

Mannington and the Australians stood on the bridge of the Bentano and watched the operation using binoculars.  The Australian officers were impressed with the speed and precise orchestration of the operation.

“Your chaps sure have that down pat,” said Hastings.

“They have a lot of experience at this,” replied Mannington.

“Aren’t they concerned about radiation poisoning?  We found some fairly high readings around that craft and that is why we pulled our CDT off the scene.”

“They know the risks; they’ve trained for this many times,” replied Mannington grimly.  “Besides, they were given precautionary doses of iodine before boarding your vessel yesterday.  Anything they get should pass through their systems quickly.”

As Thorson and his team floated the Benthic Ranger into deep water, the Navajo moved in closer to the action.  Eventually, a line was carried to the Navajo and using that line, a tow rope was feed out to the Benthic Ranger.  Once the shackle was secured, the dive team’s work was done and they motored over to one of the destroyers.

As soon as Thorson’s team was on-board the destroyers, they underwent an elaborate decontamination procedure, surrounded by technicians in white haz-mat gear.  All of which was clearly evident to RAN officers peering through binoculars.

Once Mannington noted that the Navajo had taken the Benthic Ranger in tow, he bade farewell to his Australian host.

“Commander Hastings, please accept my personal and my government’s appreciation for assisting us in the recovery of this research vessel.  Now that my dive team has finished their work, I will join them on the destroyer for the journey to Guam.  With your leave, I would like to have my men gather the dive team’s belongings and join me on the launch.”

With that Mannington gave Commander Hastings a smart salute and he retired to the launch that would take him to the American ship.

Hastings watched the American convoy head over the horizon.  Without directing his comments to anyone in particular, he said, “Damn Americans, it would have been a lot quicker taking that thing to Darwin.”

The departure of the Navajo with its package in tow was also observed by the various and sundry commercial vessels in the vicinity.  In particular, a tuna fishing ship had been trolling the sea off of Kairiru Island.  As the Navajo disappeared over the horizon, the tuna fishing vessel also broke free from the other tuna ships in the area and seemingly headed north toward Japan.

“Is that your vessel?” inquired the captain of the tuna vessel to his companion on the deck.

As their equally pale blue eyes met, the other person replied, “Yes.”

Onboard the USNS Navajo, Enroute to Guam

“Captain, we have a problem.”

“I saw the inclinometer reading.”

“I think that the tow is taking on water.”

“What do the deckhands at the towline see?”  Ocean going tugs in the United States Navy are manned by a civilian crew with four naval officers in command.

“It looks like the tow is sinking.”

“Shit,” said Lieutenant Commander Joseph Sinecki as he told the helmsman to hold a steady course and hurried to the stern of the Navajo.

Sinecki was joined by his XO and engineering officer at the towline.  Sure enough, the Benthic Rangers was sitting low in the water.  After connecting the tow, the external floatation had been taken off following an examination of the vessel’s hull integrity.  The external floats would have increased drag on the Navajo and it seemed to be the correct course of action.

Sinecki called the bridge on his intercom, “All stop!  Radio Guam; tell them we have a problem.”

Even before Sinecki could finish his instruction, the Benthic Ranger started to rapidly sink, causing the towline to go taut.  With the sudden sinking of the Benthic Ranger, the Navajo, itself, was in danger of taking on water.

As the blue-green waters of the South Pacific started washing over the deck of the Navajo, Sinecki gave his order.

“Cut the towline — Now!”

The Japanese tuna fishing boat that had been tracking the tow took note.

Royal Australian Naval Base, Darwin, Australia —

“Sir, we just detected an explosion over the Marianas Trench.  Sounds like a vessel sank.”

“Get a cable out to the fleet.”

Onboard the HMAS Betano

“Captain, you might be interested in seeing this.”

Commander Jeremy Hasting took the cable from his sailor and read it.

“Those bloody, bullheaded Yanks.  I told them to take that vessel to Darwin, but they wouldn’t listen.”


Another Chapter from Plain View (WIP)






Kairiru Island, Papua New Guinea



The little boy ran as fast as he could through the thick mangrove trees lining the shore and into the dense rainforest.  There was terror is his dark brown eyes as though he had seen a ghost.  What he had seen was something that his eight year-old eyes had never seen before.  He had been fishing in the shallow beach when he first saw the glint of the object, far off in the breakers.  It was monstrous.

Finally, he reached the small encampment of straw thatch houses.  He made a bee-line for the home of his maternal grandfather.

“Papa, Papa”, he screamed uncontrollably as he ran.  Breathless, he stopped at the doorway to his grandfather’s house.

“That is the matter, child”, his grandfather asked, worried about the timbre in his youngest grandchild’s voice.  His grandfather had been sleeping when he heard the child come rushing into the village.  The ruckus had drawn a small crowd around the grandfather’s home.  He was one of the elders of the small village and its inhabitants looked to the grandfather for guidance on all matters.

“Come quickly”, the child cried.  “There is something in the water and it looks scary.”

A small crowd followed the young child and his grandfather through the rainforest and mangroves to the pristine, white sand beach.  The clear azure waters extended for some distance, but the villagers could see the white object off in the breakers.  It was not any use trying to reach the object without sturdy canoes.  There were some encampments along the shore that had canoes, but tribal disputes were such that even a request to borrow a canoe would often take days of negotiation and often resulted in violence and bloodshed.  Even in this age, the Sepik remain a highly territorial, tribal society.

The grandfather turned to his villagers and said, “Let us go back to the haus tambaran.”

Leaving two teenage boys to stand guard, the men of the village walked back to their village to consider this event.  Once back in the relative security of their village, the men gathered at their sacred meeting lodge, the haus tambaran to discuss their dilemma.

“Elder”, addressed one of the younger men to the Grandfather.  “I have seen many ships on the horizon, but this is unlike anything that I have ever seen.”  This sentiment was uniformly agreed by all the men of the village.

After much discussion about what they should do, the grandfather said, “Two of you will go to Kairiru and seek out the advice of the officers there.  The others will take turns watching this object, whatever it is.  This may be a gift from the gods, but it may also be evil and approaching it without proper precautions would be foolhardy.”

The little boy watched these proceeding with wide open eyes; this was the first time that he had been allowed to sit with the men in haus tambaran.

Two of the strongest young men in the village were appointed to go to Kairiru, the main settlement on the island.  The trip would take several days, mainly because of the perils that awaited them on the journey of both the animal and human kind.  The women of the village packed meals of sacred yam to sustain them on the journey and the grandfather said a special prayer for their safe return.






Casper Whitbey was taking a mid-afternoon nap when he heard a rustling in the forest near his small bodega.  Whitbey was used to how the Papua New Guinea natives would appear mysteriously on you when you were most unaware.  However, he was not worried, because he made it his purpose to treat the natives fairly and with respect, something that other traders living on Kairiru did not necessarily do, some of whose decorated skulls now rested in haus tambarans in remote villages deep in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.  Having studied anthropology at university, Whitbey had stayed on after the war in the Pacific to set up a trade store.

So it was no surprise to Whitbey when two young Sepik men showed up as silently as jungle cats on the prowl.  He got up and faced the young me, who were unknown to him.  Whitbey’s years on Kairiru equipped him with fluency in Nok Pisin, the pidgin language spoken throughout the islands.

“Good afternoon,” said Whitbey.  “Welcome to my home.”

“We have traveled far and we are hungry,” said the older of the two.

“Then we shall eat, and then we shall talk,” responded Whitbey as he went into his shack to find some suitable food.

After eating their fill, the two young men told Whitbey about the mysterious white object grounded on the breakers near their village and that the elders had sent them to him for help.  Whitbey went directly to his short-wave radio and reported the incident to mainland police.  Afterwards, Whitbey provisioned the two messengers and sent them home.




Off-shore, Kairiru Island, Papua New Guinea



The people of northeastern Kairiru Island had never seen such a vast armada of naval vessels and helicopters before in their entire lives.  Australia, responding to the request of the Papua New Guinea Navy had dispatched a small fleet of vessels.  Two of them, the HMAS Betano and the HMAS Brunei were amphibious warfare rated vessels capable of dispatching smaller vessels that also could reach the stranded object.  They were assisted by the HMAS Benalla, a catamaran used principally for hydrographic research.  The Benalla had a relatively shallow draft and could also reach the mysterious craft, but was not as maneuverable as the smaller boats from either the Betano or the Brunei.  Sitting further off the shoreline was the HMAS Darwin, an Adelaide Class, escort frigate.  A Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter had been deployed by the Darwin and now hung motionless in the air above the beached white vehicle.

“What do you make of it?” asked Commander Jeremy Hasting, RAN, as he stood in the deck of the Darwin and looked at the activity around the strange white object.

“It’s a mystery, sir”, replied Timothy Blandings, a lieutenant commander in the Royal Australian Navy and the executive officer on the Darwin.  “I’ve never seen anything like it; I wonder whose it is.”

Blandings stood alongside Hasting and also watched the events unfold through binoculars.

Through their binoculars, the two officers watched members of Clearance Diving Team 4 who had been dispatched from the Betano who were already at the mysterious vessel.

“Do we have a patch?”

“Aye, Sir,” replied Blandings as he signaled to the bridge to direct radio transmission from CDT4 to the two officers.

“Damnedest thing I ever saw, Mate,” quipped one of the clearance divers.  “It looks like a submersible, but there aren’t any markings.”

“Hold on, the thing is hot.”

“Get the radiation detector out,” replied another clearance diver.

“Aye, Sir,” replied the first clearance diver.  “Positive.”

“Get that clearance team out of there” said Hastings.

Blandings replied, “Aye, Sir.  Darwin to CDT4.  You are ordered to pull back.  Do you understand?”

“CDT4 copies.”

The four man clearance team backed away from the mysterious vessel grounded off of Kairiru Island and sped back to the Betano.

“Have the team launch over from the Betano and come to the wardroom when they get back onboard, Jeremy,” said Hastings.  “I want a debrief on what they were able to find.”

“Aye, Sir.” Replied Blandings as he left his commanding officer standing on the deck.  Hastings continued observing the white object through his binoculars.

After CDT4 changed on the Betano and had been brought over to the Darwin, they proceeded to the small wardroom of the oceanographic research vessel.

As Commander Hastings entered the room, all the assembled officers and ranks snapped to attention.

“As you were,” said Hastings as he took the head chair of the conference table.  “O.K. what do we have?”

The first to speak was Sub Lieutenant Jeffery Townsend, who led the four man team to the stranded vessel.  “Sir, we approached the object from the beach side of the location and took photographs of a white vehicle which appears to be intact despite having gone through the breakers and been beached; remarkably without any scratches or other damage.  It looks like a submersible of unknown manufacture.  There were no visible markings on any part of the vehicle.

“As we got nearer to the vessel, we saw that it has portholes and a fairly large front window.  However, all the windows have been darkened and we could not see inside.  There does not appear to be any passengers in the vehicle.  We did not see any hatchways on the upper part of the object.

“I dispatched CPO Waterson to swim under the vessel.  Upon surfacing, Waterson reported that there is a hatch and locking mechanism on the underside.  Again, there were no markings to indicate the country of origin.

“We measured the vessel and the readings came out most logically in English measurement.”

“What do you mean, ‘English’ measurement? asked Hastings.

“Sir, the craft measured out in feet and inches and there is only one country that still maintains that system of measurement.”

“The United States,” uttered Blandings.

“Aye, Sir.  I think we have a United States vessel.  Given the size and lack of markings, I suspect that it is from their Navy.”