The Prometheus Project

Read an excerpt from the first book in series of young adult novels that's being hailed as science's answer to Harry Potter

Douglas E. Richards
Jul 28, 2010
__Ryan and Regan Resnick, the tween children of successful scientists, have just been forced to move from their home in San Diego to the backwoods of Pennsylvania, where their parents took research positions at a company called Proact. Suffering the boredom of a small-town summer, their curiosity aroused by a surreptitious parental conversation they overhear, the Resnick kids decide to poke around their mom and dad's new jobsite one afternoon.They stumble on a secret of international importance -- an abandoned alien city buried deep beneath the Earth and filled with advanced technologies that haven't yet occurred to humankind. After cleverly making their ways past the security perimeter surrounding the secret city, Ryan and Regan are discovered by their parents and a small team of scientists tasked with exploring the city. A freak accident then gravely injures their mother, and the rest of the research crew mysteriously disappears, leaving the kids...
Pennsylvania, where their parents took research positions at a company called Proact. Suffering the boredom of a small-town summer, their curiosity aroused by a surreptitious parental conversation they overhear, the Resnick kids decide to poke around their mom and dad's new jobsite one afternoon.They stumble on a secret of international importance -- an abandoned alien city buried deep beneath the Earth and filled with advanced technologies that haven't yet occurred to humankind. After cleverly making their ways past the security perimeter surrounding the secret city, Ryan and Regan are discovered by their parents and a small team of scientists tasked with exploring the city. A freak accident then gravely injures their mother, and the rest of the research crew mysteriously disappears, leaving the kids to navigate the city and save the day alone.We join the Resnick kids, exhausted and thirsty, as they explore an intergalactic zoo located inside the city, having just walked through a portal that seemingly transported them to another planet.__
From the Chapter titled "Predator" in __The Prometheus Project: Trapped__, by Douglas E. Richards.A terrifying thought occurred to them both at the same time -- was the doorway still there? They turned slowly, fearfully, to look behind them. It was! What a relief. Just to be sure they weren't stranded they stepped through it once more. Sure enough, they were back in the zoo. They stepped through to the forest again and considered the vast landscape carefully. "I have to admit, the cages are slightly bigger than I thought they would be," said Ryan impishly. Regan laughed. "This could be the break we've been looking for," said Ryan. "There must be some sort of food and water here. I think we should stay fairly close to this entrance and explore. Each doorway in the zoo must go to a different world, so if we can't find water right away we can try one of the other worlds."They decided to climb a nearby tree to scout the area, but after walking only thirty yards a wall of force, just like the one around the city, appeared magically in front of them, completely blocking out the woods. They jumped back, startled. And the wall disappeared again. After just a little experimentation it became clear that an invisible dome completely encircled them, with the door back to the city at its center. Whenever they got to within five feet of the barrier it instantly became visible, probably so no one would slam into it without realizing it. "I suppose this is here so the zoo animals won't eat the zoo visitors," said Ryan. Regan nodded. "Yeah -- probably. Zookeepers must hate it when the animals spoil their appetite that way." "Well, I guess this is a great setup if you want to safely watch the local animals, but if you want to find food and water -- it's not so great.""I'm not so sure it's so great for watching animals," said Regan. "Do you see any? They could be anywhere on this planet." She shook her head. "What they need is a car or tram of some sort to carry visitors around, like they had in the first __Jurassic Park__ movie." She paused. "In fact, I'll bet you they __do__ have one somewhere. They would almost have to." Ryan shook his head. "Just because they had a tram in a science fiction movie doesn't mean they'll have one in an alien zoo on an alien planet," he said skeptically. He thought the chances of them finding a tram simply because his sister thought there __should__ be one were less than zero. But after looking at his sister's eager face he added, "I guess there isn't harm in looking." Less than two minutes later they found a tram, right where Regan had guessed it would be. Ryan stared at it in disbelief and whispered, "You were right. Nice going. Let's just hope we don't find the __dinosaurs__ from that movie here also," he joked. They entered the small tram carefully. Inside several small holograms showed the tram performing different maneuvers. Ryan reached forward and touched one that showed the tram going forward. As he had hoped, it served as a control, and the actual tram began to glide slowly forward into the unknown woods. It passed beyond the location of the force-field without activating it. Minutes later they exited the tram and climbed one of the orange trees. They were in luck! A stream was only a few hundred yards away, winding its way through the woods. Using the holographic controls they drove toward the stream. The tram slid forward as though on a sheet of ice, even over rough and uneven terrain. They passed several small alien animals but nothing that looked threatening. They parked the tram and walked eagerly to the stream. Ryan bent over and put a hand in. The water was cool and nothing had ever looked more refreshing. He smelled it carefully. It had no odor of any kind. This was a good sign. Ryan cupped his hands and prepared to take a sip. "Shouldn't we test it first?" said Regan. "To be sure it really __is__ water. We're not on Earth, after all." "I already tested it the only way I know how. It feels and smells exactly like water," said Ryan. "And it probably is. But what if it turns out to be some strange liquid that doesn't exist on Earth? For all we know, a single drop might kill us." Ryan looked at his hands nervously and then quickly wiped them dry on his pants. "Okay. That's a good point," he acknowledged. His forehead creased in thought. "So how else do you test for water?" "I have no idea." "But you were the one who just said we should test it." "I know," she said. "Since I came up with the idea, I thought you could come up with the test," she added, smiling. Ryan laughed. "Okay," he said. "I accept the challenge." He thought for a moment. "I guess the key is to think of properties of water that are unique." "Are there any?" "Yeah. I know I learned that water is pretty remarkable, either from Mom or at school. Give me a minute to remember." He strained as hard as he could until some of the information finally began to come back to him. "Okay," he began. "Here's a unique property. Things expand when they get warmer and contract when they get colder. Like the liquid in a thermometer. So if you freeze a liquid solid, it contracts: it takes up less space. But water does the __opposite__," he added triumphantly. "Water actually __expands__ when it's frozen." Very interesting, thought Regan. She remembered leaving a bottle of water in the freezer a few months earlier. Sure enough, when it had turned to ice it had expanded and broken the bottle. She hadn't really thought about it before, but he was right. "And because water expands when it freezes," continued her brother, "ice is less dense than water, so it's able to __float__ on water. This floating thing is very unique to water also." "So what are you saying, that if you made ice-cubes out of gasoline and put them in a __glass__ of gasoline, the cubes would sink to the bottom?" "Exactly," he said. He smiled as an image popped into his head of a woman in a fancy dress, sipping a glass of cold gasoline like it was lemonade. "I remember Mom telling me that this was a very important property of water. Because ice floats, in the winter a lake or river becomes frozen on top, protecting the water beneath from freezing also. If ice didn't float, the surface would keep freezing and sinking to the bottom until the entire lake or river ended up as a gigantic cube of ice, killing all the fish." Regan listened in fascination. There had to be a way to use this information. And then it hit her! __Of course__. "You did it Ryan. We have our test. All we have to do is turn some of this stream 'water' into ice and see if it floats in the stream." "Good plan, Regan, but unless you happen to have a freezer with you it doesn't help us." Regan grinned broadly. "You've been in California too long, Ryan," she teased. "It's true that in San Diego the only way to freeze water is with a freezer. But in other parts of the country there is another way -- __leave it outside during the winter__." Ryan laughed. Maybe he __had__ lived in California too long. He still couldn't see how this helped them. The answer suddenly dawned on him as it had on his sister and his mouth dropped open. He hadn't adjusted his thinking to the possibilities of the alien city. In the zoo they had instant access to dozens of worlds, several of which would be cold enough to freeze water. Using an entire world as a freezer seemed a bit excessive, but a good scientist had to be able to use whatever tools were available. Regan could see that he had caught on. "We'll need to go back to the city and find a small container that will hold liquid. Then we can drop it off on an ice-planet and come back after it's frozen." Ryan nodded. "If it floats in the stream, we'll drink some. It still might not be pure water, but it's the best we can do." "I agree," said Regan. "What about possible diseases?" "We'll just have to be careful," her brother replied. "Provided the ice floats, we can drink a very small amount. If that doesn't kill us by tomorrow then we'll know it's okay." "And if it __does__ kill us by tomorrow?" said Regan. "Then we won't be __thirsty__, will we," responded Ryan with a straight face. "Very comforting," said Regan. They turned away from the stream and headed back for the tram. They were halfway there when they spotted their first large animal. And it spotted them. It was about five feet tall and probably weighed nine-hundred pounds -- with most of this weight in the form of dense, rippling muscle. Its mouth was packed with dagger-like teeth. It was orange and black and looked somewhat reptilian. It had eight powerful legs, four on each side, and each foot ended in a claw that a raptor would envy. It was a vicious predator; an unstoppable killing machine. And it was between them and the tram. They froze in place, their breath stuck in their throats. If this beast attacked, it would cut them both to ribbons before they could even blink. Regan's mind worked furiously. Was there any way out of this? They couldn't possibly outrun it. Besides, running was a very bad idea. Kids who hiked in California were taught that if they encountered a cougar, also known as a mountain lion, the last thing they should do is run, because running only made them look like prey. What else could they do? They were no match for this alien monster physically. But then, humans had __never__ been a match, physically, for any of the predators they had conquered. Only their superior brainpower had allowed them to become the top predator on Earth. The creature stared at them for several long seconds, trying to figure out what to make of them. Finally, satisfied that they would make easy prey, it snarled fiercely and started toward them with a killer's gleam in its eye, preparing to attack. And with the immense strength and physical weapons available to the creature one thing was certain; at this moment, all the human brainpower in the universe wasn't going to stop it for even a second.Tune into __The Scientist__ next week to see what becomes of the Resnick kids.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.__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.__

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