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Synopsis

PROLOGUE


Thursday 8:40 A.M.

G-load is now eight point five. Pilot must acknowledge for power-up sequence to continue.
The cockpit computer was speaking in a simulated female voice, Russian with the Moscow accent heard on the evening TV newscast Vremya. The Soviet technicians all called her Petra, after that program's famous co-anchor.
Yuri Andreevich Androv didn't need to be told the force weighing down on him had reached eight and a half times the earth's gravity. The oxygen mask beneath his massive flight helmet was crushed against his nose and the skin seemed to be sliding off his skull, while sweat from his forehead poured into his eyes and his lungs were plastered against his diaphragm.
Auto termination will commence in five seconds unless you acknowledge. Petra paused for a beat, then spoke again: Four seconds to shutdown . . .
He could sense the blood draining from his cerebral vascular system, his consciousness trying to drift away. He knew that against these forces the human heart could no longer pump enough oxygen to the brain. Already he was seeing the telltale black dots at the edge of his vision.
It's begun, he thought. The "event."  Don't, don't let it happen. Make your brain work. Make it.

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