Title: Solar Warden
Author: Peter Fuller
Genre: Military Science Fiction
US Air Force combat pilot Colonel Steve Richardson suffers a severe head injury when his F-35 crashes in the mountains of northern Afghanistan. With help too far away, death appears imminent. When an unusual craft appears and rescues him, Richardson is convinced he's hallucinating. It conveys him to a massive spaceship in orbit, where he is treated for his wounds. Once he recovers from his injuries, Richardson is introduced to a covert space force called "Solar Warden." This secret space program utilizes futuristic technology to defend earth against a paranormal alien threat intent on destroying earth's inhabitants. When Richardson joins the program, he learns that his new comrades are losing the conflict. Can he learn to operate technology half a century ahead of what he has been trained for in time to be an asset? Or will he become just another casualty in an interstellar war?
Sprinting away from the burning F-35, Scarecrow began a frantic search for a firebreak or outcropping that could shelter him from a blast. There was none. Dodging brush and rocks, he raced as fast as he could away from the crash site, despite being weighed down with his flight gear.
Just when he thought he might make it to safety, the feared explosion erupted, launching shrapnel-like debris in all directions. A smaller piece hit him in the back of his HMD, cracking it open and pitching him forward to bounce and flop across the hard desert ground like a rag doll in a gale. While his helmet kept him from being killed instantly, Scarecrow still suffered a massive concussion. He managed to stop rolling and lay face-up on the packed earth. Dazed, he fought to remain conscious as flaming debris landed all around him. Unable to move, he was convinced that if he was hit again, it would all be over.
This time providence smiled on him, and he remained unscathed. When the echo of the explosion subsided, Scarecrow’s ears were filled with a loud ringing, augmenting the pain now growing inside his wounded skull.
Struggling to stay conscious, Scarecrow stared up at the sky. As he lay on the cold ground, he knew Bagram Base would be scrambling a quick reaction force (QRF). Unless they arrived soon, he also knew they would find him dead, overwhelmed by the head injury now beckoning him down into a seductive oblivion, or shot by a roving Taliban patrol.
Either way, he could no longer move, even if he wanted to. For the first time in his life, his fate was in the hands of others.
Lying on the ground, Scarecrow drifted in and out of consciousness. He thought of family. His father was already gone – his mother was in an assisted living facility enduring her final days. His sister hated him, but despite her best efforts, her two pre-teen daughters adored their dashing Air Force uncle. He would miss those precocious girls.
His thoughts drifted next to his crew chief and his 18-month old daughter, Brittany. Disappointment filled his fading consciousness because now he would never know what her first word to her father would be.
Scarecrow thought about his life. The “flashing before your eyes” you were supposed to experience just before you died. Only disjointed failures played out in his mind. His whole life had been an ongoing attempt to protect people. That was why he joined the Air Force – to protect his loved ones and his country from their enemies. However, as he relived the key events of his life in his injured mind, he realized he’d failed to achieve his life goal. He thought of Sam. Of Chrissy. Both disasters of his own making. Add to that the loss of a wingman, not to mention the failure of this current mission. Other pilots would have to take up the slack and complete it. The mess he would leave behind was much larger than the burning debris field surrounding him.
Scarecrow rejected the survival instinct screaming at him to fight to stay alive. His body relaxed. It was better this way. Just let go – no more mistakes, no more failures. No more Sam’s, no more Chrissies, no more Retros, no more intact Tallie weapons’ caches. The world would be better off without him. Hopefully, on the other side, there would be no more guilt, no more life, and death responsibilities. He longed to be free from the overwhelming remorse that had haunted him for so long.
The irony wasn’t lost on him. Even though he was a combat pilot, Scarecrow hadn’t thought much about death. At least not about his own death. This was not the way he imagined he would die. He figured he would be shot out of the sky in a blaze of glory, his demise instantaneous. No time to think about anything. Yet here he was, lying flat on his back in northern Afghanistan, unable to move, the pungent odor of hawthorn and burning jet fuel stinging his nostrils as the first rays of the morning rose above the eastern peaks, setting flight to the stars above.
Though Scarecrow was no longer fighting to remain conscious, his ears still rang, and his head felt like it would explode. He took one last look up at the sky that had been his refuge and home for so many years before casting himself into the arms of the angels who would convey him to his eternal reward. But like everything else today, that didn’t go as planned, either. In fact, he was convinced he must be hallucinating.
In the sky above him, a shadowy shape appeared from nowhere. Unlike angels with white wings illuminated by the Shekinah glory of God, this angel, if that’s what it was, was dark. Black. Triangular. Silhouetted against the night’s fading stars, it had a white light at each of its three outer points and a larger red light in the center.
That’s got to be the most unusual angel anyone has ever seen. Perhaps I’m not going up. Maybe I’m headed in the other direction. Fitting, considering the failure that was my life.
It hovered more than 50 feet in the air, spinning ever so slowly. Even though he knew it was too far away, he stretched a hand toward it. Then, as his lids became too heavy and he lost his battle to keep his eyes open, Scarecrow sank into a state of unconscious bliss, his arm collapsing over his chest.
Above him, the dark, triangular angel proceeded to descend.
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What’s your favorite thing about the Fall season:
My favorite season is summer when the sun is high in the sky and you can enjoy warm weather and walk through the grass in your bare feet. But what I love about the Fall is the change in the air, where it cools somewhat, and the turning of the leaves. It’s as if God takes out an incredible pallet and paints nature with these amazing colors.
What inspired you to write this story:
In 2005, I was watching a television program called “Hangar One – the UFO Files.” The episode was called “Space Weapons,” and was about the secret space program. As I watched I thought, this would make an excellent story. I started researching and writing, and over the next few years, I wrote all six books in the series. Then I went back and did several revisions of the first book until I felt it was ready for publication. I’m currently revising book two, and hope to have it ready for publication sometime this fall.
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I worked in the Military History Department of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for eight years. I have studied military history for decades, written numerous articles and lectured at major museums and universities on the subject of military history. I have also been a regular panelist at NORWESCON since 2017. I have studied the UFO phenomenon since grade school. I’m a member of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), and had a few "close encounters" of my own. Most recently, I interviewed the son of a United States military officer about his late father's work on several special access projects for the secret space program.