Louis P Kicha is a retired dentist, married to Fern and living in Malabar with his dog, Remy and five cats. He received a BA in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Montclair State University in New Jersey in 1976. He earned his DDS from Georgetown University in Washington, DC in 1982 and his Master of Public Health from the University of Alabama-Birmingham in 1988. For years, he worked for the State of Florida as Dental Director of St Johns County in St Augustine. He owned private practices in Indialantic and Melbourne and finished his career as a civilian dentist for the US Army at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington.
He published his first novel, a science fiction story, The Deadly Ocean, in May 2016 and his second novel, a spy thriller, The Baikal Incident was published in March 2019. Both are available on Amazon.com and Kindle. He is currently finishing a science fiction novel entitled Permafrost Erupting, which should be published in 2020. He has completed Mango Blossom Murder, the first part of a compilation of buddy cop/crime series entitled Fatal Flowers and concurrently, he is working on a science fiction fantasy called The Fabulous Mermaid of Fort Lauderdale.
His professional publications include a number of scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and a paper published in the Florida Journal of Public Health about smokeless tobacco and oral cancer.
Three short stories have been published in the Driftwood anthology: Is This the Trip of a Lifetime?, The Flight That Grounded Me and From Launch to Recovery.
His hobbies include writing, scuba diving, underwater photography, traveling and gardening. He is a member of Scribblers of Brevard and the Florida Writers Association.
Links to Lou’s Publications:
Excerpts from Lou’s Work:
- THE FABULOUS MERMAID OF FORT LAUDERDALE
April 6, 2074 – Nine PM
“Nana, tell me the story again,” pleaded five-year-old Gemma Dellamar.
“Gemma, it’s late honey; time for you to go to sleep.”
“Please, Nana! Tell me the mermaid story again! Please?” Her eyes begging her grandmother.
Marena Eau Claire sighed. “Alright, one more time. But only once more. Your mother will be angry with me if you don’t get to sleep soon.”
Little Gemma happily nodded her head and sat against her pillow. Her eyes sparkled as she anticipated her favorite story being retold for the nth time. She drew her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. “I’m ready, Nana.”
Marena sat on the end of the bed, took a deep breath and began. “Once upon a time in the deep, deep ocean there lived a beautiful mermaid named Syrena. She had long flowing black hair with anemones for decorations and the greenest eyes. She lived with fishes and whales; swimming free. Her best friend was a dolphin named Gilly, and together they had many adventures. Gilly and Syrena played on the ocean floor, found many treasures and discovered magical things.” She talked softly for about twenty minutes when she saw Gemma beginning to nod off. “Okay honey, enough for now. Time for sleep now.” She stood and pulled the covers over the girl.
Gemma yawned. “What kinds of magical things, Nana?”
Marena smiled as she heard that question for what seemed like the thousandth time. “Only Syrena and Gilly knew that. Now, go to sleep.” Marena tucked Gemma in and kissed her on the head. “I love you, my beautiful granddaughter,” she said softly. As she left the child, she whispered, “I hope one day you find the magic.” She switched the overhead light off and went downstairs.
New Year’s Eve 2099
The hyper jet from Chicago hovered for a moment, then touched down on the Island of Orlando. The lead flight attendant picked up the intercom phone. “Welcome to Orlando where the local time is thirteen-twenty. Please remain seated until the pilots dock the aircraft at the gate. It’s been our pleasure serving you on this flight from Chicago. Enjoy your stay here on the Island or wherever your destination may be. From all the crew, we wish you all a ‘Happy New Year!’ Again, thank you for flying HyperAir!”
The aircraft moved sideways to the terminal gate and the engines spooled down. It came to a stop and the cabin doors opened. After undoing their seatbelts, Jimmy Simone and Gemma Dellamar grabbed their carryon luggage, exited the craft and took the PeopleMover from the HyperAir Jetway to luggage control. There, they retrieved their travel cases and flagged a hover cab to take them to the port. The robotic driver opened the cab’s doors for them.
“Where to?” asked the robot.
“Take us to the DiveAdventures Port,” said Gemma. They took their seats and buckled up. The doors hissed as they slid closed.
“Coordinates locked,” said the driver and the cab lifted off. It sped to the port and arrived there in about ten minutes. The cab settled in front of the DiveAdventures terminal building and the doors slid opened.
“Two hundred seventeen credits,” the robot said.
Jimmy put his eye to the retinal scanner behind the robotic driver’s head. The transaction lasted a few seconds before the “Paid” light glowed. Jimmy sat back from the scanner and he and Gemma got out of the cab.
“Have a nice day,” droned the robotic voice and, after the pair left the vehicle, sped off back to Orlando’s HyperAir Terminal.
Gemma and Jimmy carried their cases into the terminal, joining a crowd of people.
“Welcome to DiveAdventures,” came a female voice over the speakers, “passengers please follow the green lights on the floor to your departure station.” Pulsing green arrow-shaped lights pointed the way to the dock.
The chattering crowd filed along the walkway to the waiting liveaboard vessel, the Miami Adventurer. At three hundred feet long, she was huge in comparison to other luxurious liveaboard boats. Her jet engine hydrofoils made the Adventurer the premier liveaboard to Miami. She would make the two-hundred-mile trip from the Island of Orlando to Miami Central Reef in five hours. The vessel was custom designed to meet the needs of any level diver and fitted with every luxury for the three-week cruise.
As the passengers entered the vessel, members of the crew and large electronic banners that read, “Happy New Year 2100!” greeted them.
Jimmy and Gemma made their way to their cabin on the fifth deck. It was a spacious two hundred square foot space, complete with a balcony overlooking the port side of the boat. They set their bags on the floor. Gemma waved her hand over the sensor that opened the balcony sliding door and stepped outside.
“Welcome aboard,” came a voice from the ceiling, “I am your room service robot. My name is Paul. Do you require anything?”
Jimmy looked up and grinned. “Sure, how about two rum punches, Paul?”
“Coming right up, Mr. Simone.” There was a humming sound that lasted about fifteen seconds. Then a panel opened near the entrance to the cabin revealing two glasses full of rum punch on napkins.
“Thanks, Paul,” Jimmy said as he retrieved the two drinks. He ran the back of his hand over the sensor. The door opened and he stepped onto the balcony handing a drink and napkin to Gemma.
“Thanks Jimmy,” she said, smiling, “Happy New Year!”
“You too, sweetie,” he replied.
They shared a kiss, clinked their glasses and leaned against the railing of the balcony. From their vantage point, they could see the last few passengers boarding the Adventurer. High cirrus clouds covered the sun like a gauzy veil and the air was oppressive and laden with humidity. It made breathing uncomfortable.
“It’s hotter than I thought it would be on New Year’s Eve,” Jimmy exclaimed, mopping his sweaty face with the napkin.
“Well, before leaving Chicago, the Holoweather Service forecast said it would be hot and sticky for the three weeks,” Gemma replied as she fanned herself with her napkin. “They said we should expect temperatures in the upper nineties and lower one hundreds and humidity in the eighty percent range.”
“I hope the water temps will be cooler once we get in down there. Diving in hot water sucks!”
“Well, we brought those new dive skins that maintain constant preset temperatures. That should keep us comfortable.”
“I guess so,” Jimmy replied.
“Besides,” Gemma said, snuggling up to him, “we’ll be quite comfortable in the cabin on the way down there.”
Jimmy laughed as he wrapped his arm around her. “Why don’t we go inside where it’s cool and try out the bed?”
Gemma stepped back and giggled as she led him by the hand into the cabin. The balcony door slid shut behind them.
Four hours later, the Adventurer throttled its hydrofoils to idle. The big vessel slowed down as the remains of tall buildings of Miami standing stark against the sea appeared on the distant horizon. Closer to the vessel were the remains of the buildings of Fort Lauderdale. Many of the passengers gathered on the forward deck to watch the arrival at the dive site. The vessel used maneuvering thrusters to ease alongside a mooring buoy where she would tie up and act as the base of operations for the next three weeks of diving. One of the crew snagged the mooring line and connected it to the vessel. Once secured, all engines stopped. There was an eerie quiet with only the sound of the waves lapping against the hull. The quiet lasted a few seconds. Then the passengers erupted with cheering and clapping. The three-week party was about to begin.
“May I have your attention please?” came the call from the speaker system. “There will be a general meeting and a briefing tomorrow at nine hundred in the aft lounge. If you decide to dive early, we’ll have a briefing for you at seven hundred hours. But for tonight, we are holding a New Year’s Eve party in the midship lounge with fireworks at midnight. So please come and celebrate, but not too much. Diving and alcohol and other substances don’t mix well! See you!”
Gemma and Jimmy dressed and went to the party. Music was loud and everyone was dancing. As midnight approached, the crowd headed for the outer decks to watch the fireworks display. It was close to one in the morning when the party broke up.
2. The Baikal Incident
Out of the star-spangled sky over Lake Baikal came an unmarked, strange-looking aircraft on a shallow downward path. It crossed the mountains to the east like a silent swooping bird of prey. Barely clearing the evergreen trees lining the lakeside, it pancaked onto the lake’s dark surface, skipping twice like a stone before stopping to rest on the surface. The mysterious craft sank into the lake, hissing, creaking and shuddering as the water pressure compressed its hull. It came to rest on the sandy bottom one hundred fifty feet below. It was late fall 1970.
At two-thirty in the morning in Washington, DC, the reconnaissance satellite, Keyhole 22 (KH-22) in polar orbit, passed over Lake Baikal. It was three-thirty in the afternoon local time in early February 2010. A technician was monitoring the video feed from KH-22 at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) as it scanned the lake from north to south. The tech was sipping a cup of cold coffee, trying to stay awake, when she noticed a strange object in the southern end of the lake. From the image, it looked like some unusual aircraft. She followed the video until the satellite passed to the south of the lake. She transferred the video to a specialized computer system to enhance the images. Within seconds, the processed images played on the screen. The tech’s eyes grew wide. She grabbed the phone and punched in the number.
“This had better be good; it’s three o’clock in the frikkin’ morning!” groused Andrew Johnstone, Director of NRO’s satellite division.
“Director Johnstone, it’s Kayla Conrad. Sir, I processed an interesting find in Lake Baikal in Russia. Appears to be a strange-looking aircraft!”
“You woke me up about some ‘strange-looking aircraft?’”
“Director, this is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. I ran it against our database of known Russian aircraft and nothing fits what we found.”
“When do we overfly the region again?”
“We might have to tweak KH-22, but we can be over Baikal in twenty-four to thirty-six hours, sir.”
“All right, I’ll be in about six-thirty. Meet me at my office so I can see this ‘strange-looking aircraft’ of yours.”
“Yes, sir, see you then.” Kayla hung up the phone and transferred the video segment to a thumb drive.
Kayla Conrad arrived at six-thirty and waited at Director Johnstone’s office door. Five minutes later, he showed up carrying a large mug of coffee.
“Morning, Kayla,” he said, unlocking and opening the door, “come in and have a seat.”
“Good morning, sir,” she replied and entered behind him.
Yawning, Johnstone plopped into his chair and turned on the computer. He sipped his coffee as the system powered up.
“Here’s the drive with the video, sir,” Kayla said and handed him the small drive.
He inserted it into the USB port and opened the drive which contained only one file. He double-clicked the file icon, and the video started. It lasted only thirty seconds, but it showed the mysterious aircraft for twelve seconds as the satellite transited the lake from north to south. Johnstone watched intently while sipping his coffee. He ran it several times before pausing the video at the best view of the craft. The plane was an unusual design, but it was difficult to make out details.
“Sure as hell doesn’t look like any Soviet-era aircraft,” he said, pointing to the image with a pencil, as Kayla stood behind him staring at the screen, “unfortunately, we can’t see much other than the outline.” He turned and looked at her. “When will it pass over this area again?
She looked at her watch, “Weather cooperating, I think we would have KH-22 overhead about sixteen hundred local tomorrow.”
“Call NOAA for a weather update for the region. If we have a clear shot, I want to be in the NRO office to see it live, okay?” He handed her a piece of paper with the contact information at NOAA.
“Yes, sir,” she said, took the paper and left for her office. At eight o’clock in the morning, she called NOAA. A technician made a quick search on his computer and told her there would be thin, high cirrus clouds over Lake Baikal at the time when KH-22 would fly overhead.
Kayla thanked him and called Johnstone, informing him of the report. He told her he’d be there at two in the morning.
Johnstone came to Kayla’s workspace at zero two hundred and pulled up a chair next to hers, so he could see the screens. On the wall in front of the desk was a large, wall-sized monitor with a live orbital projection running. Kayla was making slight changes in the orbit to maximize the coverage and resolution of the onboard cameras.
Johnstone pointed at the large monitor. “Make sure you compensate for the sun’s angle.”
“Taking care of that, sir,” she answered and keyed a few strokes on the keyboard. Onboard KH-22, thrusters gently changed the orientation of the massive city bus-sized satellite, angling the cameras precisely.
It would be another twenty-five minutes before the bird was over the lake. During that interval, both Kayla and Johnstone took bathroom breaks and got coffee. They settled back into the room and watched the live video stream from KH-22. The wide-angle camera showed the lake coming up. Kayla sent the command for the ultrahigh resolution cameras to warm up.
The orbital map showed the bird was over the northern shore of the lake and would overfly the south in two minutes. The cameras were rolling as KH-22 passed over the sunken aircraft. Then, the lake disappeared from view and the satellite moved on.
“Okay, Kayla, run the last segment in slow motion,” Johnstone said.
She rewound the video and moved it forward in slo-mo. KH-22’s resolution was so good; it could see underwater contours of the lake bottom. Then the aircraft came into view.
“Tighten up on the wing, Kayla.”
She brought the wing in as a closeup. It looked unusual, with a serrated leading edge.
He sat forward and squinted. “Can you get closer? This is frustrating. I don’t see any markings, do you?”
“No,” Kayla replied, “nothing there.”
“Let’s back out and see the fuselage.”
She adjusted the feed and scanned the body of the aircraft. Again, there was nothing identifying the type or origin. Strange protrusions along the body that made no sense to the two observers. After a full scan of the aircraft, Kayla closed the feed.
The Director sat back and clasped his hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling in thought. “Damned peculiar,” he muttered. He turned towards Kayla. “I’ll call Jimmy Daniel at the Pentagon in the morning and bring this to his attention.” Colonel James Daniel was Chief of Staff to the Air Force Joint Chief, General Gregory Chimento, and an old friend of Johnstone. Johnstone stood and said, “Get this on a secure flash drive and have it sent to my office later this morning. I’m going home to catch a few hours of shut eye. Good night, Kayla.”
“Good night, sir.”