- A 24,000 word novella (twelve chapters, plus epilogue)
Hal Garland is the ace pilot of the illustrious Space Academy. Topping class rankings, breaking academy records, and earning the love of a woman whose ambitions match his own, his future is secure. Then one day in his senior year, an accident leaves him crippled, and Hal's days of space exploration are prematurely ended.
Months after the accident, Hal spends his days locked away in his apartment, living off reparation money and drowning himself in alcohol. He's given up hope. But when a strange smell drives him to search his neighbor's apartment, he discovers something extraordinary: a hidden computer, in which lies an entire planet unknown to mankind. And Hal is the only one capable of exploring it.
Final Frontier - Chapter 1 Hal rolled his wheelchair onto the apartment balcony with a cold six-pack of Star Draught on his lap. He tore a can from the plastic webbing, cracked it open, and took a swig. His eyes turned to the sky.Final Frontier - Chapter 1 More Like This
Final Frontier - Chapter 2 Lucky for Hal, Jackson’s kind were few. A week went by and not a single visitor showed up trying to tell him what was wrong with his life. It was just Hal, his wheelchair, and the bottle.Final Frontier - Chapter 2 More Like This
Final Frontier - Chapter 3 The only time Hal had ever seen Morris was when the guy moved in. It was a few months before the Academy balcony accident, and Hal had been in a good mood, so he’d helped Morris carry a few things up. A swivel chair, a desk, a couch, and towards the end, they brought up a series of weighty boxes. As Hal set the last one down, he asked what they were. Morris had looked up from cleaning his glasses; his face was plain, unremarkable, but he'd shaven his head clean to the scalp. He’d said, simply, “Computer stuff.” When they finished, Hal was given a light beer and a curt, “Thanks.”Final Frontier - Chapter 3 More Like This
Final Frontier - Chapter 4 Hal was suspended in darkness. He could see nothing, he could hear nothing. His body felt numb, and he thought with horror, Oh God, the paralysis has spread. He’d had nightmares like this, seemingly lasting for days, where there was no movement, no action; nothing but thought. He’d always awoken from those nightmares thrashing in a tangle of sweaty sheets. He wondered, now, if this nightmare would be the one that never let him go.Final Frontier - Chapter 4 More Like This
Final Frontier - Chapter 5 Over the next two days, when Hal wasn’t scrubbing his skin pink in the bath, trying to get rid of the stench, he sat in his wheelchair, facing the apartment door with a case of Star Draught at his side. The TV stayed off, his dumbbells gathered dust. He’d just sit there, wondering when Kent would find the body, wondering what would happen. The police would come, sure, but what exactly would they find? Would they look for prints? Had Hal touched anything inside? What would he say if they questioned him?Final Frontier - Chapter 5 More Like This
Final Frontier - Chapter 6 Hal was hooked. Any free moment he had was spent in Desidera, and being an unemployed cripple, he had a lot of free moments to spare.Final Frontier - Chapter 6 More Like This
Final Frontier - Chapter 7 During one of Hal’s breaks for lunch, there was a knocking at the door. Setting down his cup of instant ramen, he went to answer it and found Jackson standing on the other side. “We need to talk,” was all he said.Final Frontier - Chapter 7 More Like This
Final Frontier - Chapter 8 Toward the end of Hal’s second month as a controller, a shuttle from McHenry was scheduled to arrive around one o’clock. The control tower had fourteen others at work that day, sitting at desks before radars and computer screens, some standing and looking out over the landing pads with binoculars. Each of the tower’s four walls had inward-slanting windows that overlooked the Academy launch site.Final Frontier - Chapter 8 More Like This
Final Frontier - Chapter 9 When Hal emerged from Desidera, he was exhausted and sore, his shoulders stiff. His throat burned, and his tongue lay dry in his mouth.Final Frontier - Chapter 9 More Like This
Final Frontier - Chapter 10 It wasn’t Jackson.Final Frontier - Chapter 10 More Like This
Final Frontier - Chapter 11 For a long time after Schmidt left, his words filled Hal’s head. They seemed to float separately, his mind too numb to connect them. He wasn’t sure how much time passed like this, but he was vaguely aware that the room had gone dark.Final Frontier - Chapter 11 More Like This
Final Frontier - Chapter 12 Hal had never experienced Desidera as he did now.Final Frontier - Chapter 12 More Like This
Final Frontier - Epilogue Before Hal lost consciousness in the hospital room, he had just enough time to see his brother, reach for his hand, and say, “I’m sorry, Jackson. I really am….” And then he drifted off. It wasn’t until two days later that he was able to stay awake long enough to hold a full conversation. The first thing he did was ask how he’d been found.Final Frontier - Epilogue More Like This