The Prometheus Project
Continue reading from the first book in series of young adult novels that's being hailed as science's answer to Harry Potter
__When we linkurl:left the Resnick kids,;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57566/ the tweens who have stumbled upon an abandoned alien city buried deep beneath the Earth, they were staring down the toothy maw of an eight-legged, nine-hundred pound alien predator that they disturbed while exploring an intergalactic zoo located inside the city.
Just as the muscular beast is ready to pounce, Regan Resnick, younger sister to Ryan, has an idea.__
From the Chapter titled "The Swarm" in __The Prometheus Project: Trapped__
Suddenly, Regan had an inspiration. She picked up a large rock by her feet. "Brace yourself, Ryan!" she yelled. And then she did something her brother would never have expected in a million years. She jumped on his back.
Despite her warning he barely managed not to fall over as she climbed up his back and sat on his shoulders. What was she doing?
"Now growl and scream at it!" said Regan, who immediately took her own advice. While they were screaming she threw the rock as hard as she could at the snarling monster, hitting it in the center of its body.
They continued growling and yelling as loudly and fiercely as they could, feeling ridiculous trying to scare this formidable beast with their yells and puny human teeth.
The creature stopped seven feet from them and considered. It studied them carefully for about fifteen seconds while they continued to shout insults at it and then, thinking better of it, hastily retreated back into the woods.
Ryan couldn't believe it! But he wasn't about to wait around to see if the creature was really gone for good. He raced for the safety of the tram, not even stopping to remove Regan from his shoulders until they arrived. They entered the vehicle and quickly began driving back the way they had come.
"Regan, that was __brilliant__. I thought we were goners for sure. Then, when you hit it with that rock, I thought we were __double__ goners." He shook his head. "And I also thought you'd totally lost your mind. How did you know that would work?"
"I didn't," she responded simply. "But I know it works with coyotes and cougars and I thought it might work with this thing."
Coyotes and cougars. Ryan had forgotten about that. When you saw one of these animals you were supposed to look as large and threatening as possible so they wouldn't think you were an easy meal. "Okay, but a coyote or a cougar is like a __bunny rabbit__ compared to that thing. What made you think it would work on __that__ monster?"
"I guessed it had never seen a human before. That thing has to be used to animals running away from it. So when we changed from two small, unknown animals, into a bigger, two-headed animal, and instead of running actually had the nerve to yell at it, it became confused. Just as I hoped, it wasn't very smart and decided not to take the risk that we were tougher than we looked."
Ryan laughed. "Just about anything would be tougher than we __looked__. My guess is that a pair of bunny rabbit __slippers__ are tougher than we __looked__." He paused. "But you can't argue with success. You were absolutely right. Nice going!"
Regan beamed. "Thanks. Who'd have ever thought that Pennsylvania could be this exciting."
"Or this far away from Earth, for that matter," joked Ryan.
They traveled back to the door leading to the alien city in reasonably good spirits. Outsmarting a carnivorous alien creature instead of becoming its meal could cheer anyone up. After searching through several buildings they found a few things that could serve as containers and carried out their experiment, staying closer to the tram this time and keeping more alert for dangerous animals. It worked. The ice floated in the stream. They congratulated each other, took a few sips of water and then returned to the city.
They wandered through the city for several more hours and were surprised to find that the lighting dimmed gradually. The city must have been set to the same cycle of light and dark as the Earth. Finally it was dark and they realized they were exhausted. They found a stretch of soft ground and slept soundly through the night.
When they awoke the next morning, both hunger and thirst gnawed at them painfully. But so far the water hadn't had any ill effects. They would wait a little longer and return to the wooded planet for more.
They traveled for about an hour when they ran across another building with a holographic display at its front. The building was shaped like a perfectly cut diamond and it sparkled just as brilliantly. The hologram showed a large triangle facing a semicircle of tiny triangles. Behind the large triangle was a separate holographic image of a solar system in space.
Ryan guessed the holograms in front of buildings must serve the same purpose as signs in front of public buildings on Earth. The display in front of the zoo building had identified it quite nicely. "What do you think this building is?" he asked Regan.
Regan studied the hologram. "I'll bet it's a school," she said finally. "The big triangle represents the teacher and the little ones the students."
Ryan nodded. "It could be." Why not? After finding the tram he was beginning to respect his sister's instincts. He gestured toward the entrance. "Let's find out."
They entered a room that contained several ordered rows of solid, tan-colored cubes, about three feet high. On a raised platform next to each cube sat a glass sphere about the size of a softball. They picked one up and examined it, but as usual couldn't figure out its function or purpose.
Regan put her hand on the side of one of the large cubes. It was smooth and very hard. She decided to sit on it and rest her feet.
She gasped as the hard surface completely gave way under her weight and engulfed her. It was as if the material had turned to liquid for just an instant, had surrounded her, and then had hardened again.
"Are you okay?" asked Ryan in alarm.
"I...I guess I'm fine," she said in surprise. A smile slowly formed on her face. "You __gotta__ try this. This is the most comfortable chair I've ever been in. Like floating in water -- or maybe Jello -- only better."
"But how will you get out of it?" asked Ryan.
She frowned. "I don't know." She tried to change position -- and the chair __let__ her. As soon as she moved it reliquefied -- not hindering her movement at all -- and then solidified again when she stopped moving for a few seconds. As they had come to expect of things associated with the city, it was quite remarkable.
Ryan sat on the cube next to her and it gently engulfed him as it had his sister. Regan was right. The chair was impossibly comfortable. He wondered if there was a way for it to massage his back while he sat. Probably.
He looked to the front of the room and was surprised to see the same holographic image they had seen outside; a large triangle surrounded by smaller ones. He decided to inspect it more closely.
As he got up he stumbled over his own feet. Instinctively he grabbed for the raised platform beside him as he fell and was able to right himself. That was a relief.
"Are you okay?" asked Regan.
"Fine," he replied. As he answered he noticed that the glass globe that had been sitting on the platform he had just grabbed had slowly rolled to the edge and was teetering there. He lunged for it. Too late. The globe fell to the floor and smashed into dozens of pieces.
Regan winced but then shrugged her shoulders. "Look on the bright side. At least no one is here to miss it, whatever it was. I wouldn't worry about --"
She stopped in mid-sentence, horrified. They had forgotten about the city's immune system. Would the destruction of the globe somehow alert the city's defense force again? From the look on Ryan's face it was clear he had also realized the danger they were in. "Let's get out of here!" he urged.
It was too late. Their worst fears had been realized.
A swarm of the black, piranha-like insects erupted through the floor with astonishing speed, totally surrounding them in seconds. Millions of pairs of tiny insect legs clicked furiously on the ground and millions of pairs of mandibles gnashed together horribly.
The siblings watched in terror and revulsion as the unstoppable wave of death advanced steadily toward them.
Tune into __The Scientist__ next week to see how the Resnick kids will get out of this one.
linkurl:__The Prometheus Project: Trapped__,;http://www.amazon.com/Prometheus-Project-Trapped-Richards-Douglas/dp/0974876542 by Douglas E. Richards, Paragon Press; Second Edition, 2010. 192 pp. ISBN: 978-0-982-61841-7. $7.95.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:__The Prometheus Project__;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57566/
[29th July 2010]
__linkurl:Douglas E. Richards;http://www.douglaserichards.com/author.html earned a master's degree in molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and has written a number of science pieces for __National Geographic KIDS__ magazine. His __Prometheus Project__ series -- fast paced science fiction thrillers for ages nine and up that contain accurate science -- have been listed as "recommended literature" by the California Department of Education, praised by __Asimov's Science Fiction__ magazine, called "perfect for middle grades," by __Teaching Pre K-8 Magazine__, and endorsed by the AAAS and statewide science teacher associations in nine states.__