Monday, September 28, 2015

The Methuselah Project by Rick Barry

During World War II, German scientists started many experiments. One never ended.

Shot down over Nazi Germany in 1943, Roger Greene becomes both a prisoner and an unwilling guinea pig in a bizarre experiment. Seventy years later, Roger still appears as youthful as the day he crash-landed—and he’s still a prisoner. Nearly insane from his long captivity, Roger finds his only hope in an old Bible.

Not until our present time does Roger finally escape from the secret society running the Methuselah Project. When he does, the modern world has become a fast-paced, perplexing place. His only option is to accept the help of Katherine Mueller—crack shot, go-getter, and attractive to boot. Can he convince her of the truth of his crazy story? And can he continue to trust her when he finds out she works for the very organization he’s trying to flee?

The Methuselah Project presents a fascinating premise that is simultaneously historical and futuristic, a story that could have happened and may be happening still.” 

—Bob Hostetler, author of The Bone Box


Sitting in his cockpit, Captain Roger Greene scanned the heavens. He searched left to right, overhead, below, and behind. No sign of enemy aircraft. Just formation after formation of B-17s droning along below, plus his own umbrella of Thunderbolts providing escort cover.
Come on, you cowards. Come and defend your precious Fatherland. I dare you.
He glanced into the sun, then jerked his eyes from the blinding glare. When searching for enemy planes, he preferred his naked eyes, but his eyesight would surely suffer if he kept doing that. He probed the pocket of his flight jacket for his green aviators. Instead of sunglasses, his gloved thumb and forefinger fished up a ten-dollar bill.
Ten bucks? How the . . .
Then he noticed the message printed along the edge in blue ink: To my good buddy, Roger Greene. On loan until I bag the next German fighter! Walt.
Roger laughed and glanced to his right, where Walt Crippen piloted his own Thunderbolt in the wingman position. Walt, too, was performing visual sweeps.
Good old Walt. He’d have to do some fancy flying if he hoped to score another kill before Roger. He found his sunglasses, then slid the ten-spot back into the pocket.
A movement below snagged his attention. The forward element of bombers altered direction, banking to the right. Behind them, the others followed the lead planes. The Initial Point already? So far, this mission was a milk run.
One after the other, he and Walt and the rest of the squadron banked their fighters to starboard, maintaining position over the four-engine bombers plodding below.
Roger pitied the poor slobs manning the B-17s. Yeah, somebody had to fly them, but . . . With his gloved hand, he patted the instrument panel and spoke to his fighter. “You’re more my style, baby. You take care of me, and I’ll take good care of you.”
Another peek into the sun. Nothing. How long could the blue yonder remain serene?
As if on cue, Colonel Chesley Peterson’s voice crackled over the radio. “Say, boys, looks like the Huns have decided to come and play. Eleven o’clock level!”
Personal thoughts vanished. Roger cocked his head slightly left. Now he saw the same thing the group commander had spotted: black pinpoints approaching. Within seconds they became unmistakable—roughly fifty bandits.
Roger’s pulse quickened. This was his element: fighter against fighter, pilot against pilot, his aviation skills pitted against the very best Nazi Germany could throw at him. Never did Roger feel more alive than in a cockpit. The risk of instant death only heightened the surge of adrenaline. At moments like this, he flew instinctively, as if the controls extended his own being. The thrill defied description. He’d given up trying to explain it to the British ground pounders in the pubs of North Essex.
Following Colonel Peterson’s example, Roger banked to intercept the incoming horde head-on. The black specks he’d barely detected seconds ago rapidly swelled into distinct shapes with wings and red noses. Focke-Wulf 190s. Harder to shoot down than Messerschmitts, but they’d still go down.
Another fleeting glance to the right and slightly backward revealed Walt sticking where he should be, ready to keep enemies off Roger’s tail.
His gloved finger flicked the guns’ arming switch. He squinted toward the onrushing planes. “I was born to fly. Were you guys?”
Whenever possible, Roger liked to hit the enemy from the high ground, diving out of the sun and pouncing on the Germans before they knew what hit them. The “zoom and boom.” But at nineteen thousand pounds, a fully loaded P-47 Thunderbolt would never win awards for climbing. A Thunderbolt’s redeeming quality was that its massive weight and eight .50-caliber machine guns made it a highly destructive force, especially in a dive. No zoom and boom today, though. The Huns are swarming in from the same altitude.
Like medieval knights on horseback charging each other with lances lowered, American and Luftwaffe fighters closed the gap at a combined air speed near eight hundred miles per hour. Roger focused on the FW 190 directly before him. To its right was another that should give Walt a clean shot. With both sides roaring head-on, split-second timing became critical.
Wait . . . Wait . . . Now.
No sooner had Roger depressed the trigger than he saw flashes from the edge of his opponent’s wings. In the same instant he heard a series of rapid wham-wham-whams.
“I’m hit!” he blurted into his oxygen mask.
To his right, a puff of oil and smoke erupted from an enemy plane. It slumped and careened earthward.
“Blast!” Walt had just won back his ten bucks.
The blue sky became empty as the antagonists flashed past. Some of his rounds had scored, but his target had charged on, evidently intact. His Thunderbolt still operated normally, so Roger banked tightly to the left. No time to lose if he wanted to protect those B-17s. That was the bottom line: to keep the Flying Fortresses intact so they could demolish German industry.
Roger locked onto an FW 190 beginning its dive toward the Flying Fortresses.
“No you don’t, Adolf!” He rammed the stick forward and closed the gap. When the distance closed to eight hundred yards, he chopped the throttle to avoid overshooting. Seconds later, his tracers and .50-caliber rounds bored into the Focke-Wulf.
Roger matched move for move as the enemy plane broke away. Its pilot twisted sharply, first left, then right, trying to shake him. Roger expected the German’s next maneuver. It was one of the enemy’s favorites, but also the least effective—the Focke-Wulf nosed over and sped toward mother earth with all the speed it could muster.
Roger rammed his fighter into a dive. Nice try, but no cigar. No light Hun fighter could out-dive the weighty Thunderbolt.
“Stick like glue to the target until you polish him off,” the colonel had admonished more than once. “Many a Hun has been lost because he wasn’t followed down.”
I’m not losing this guy.
The enemy plane twisted every which way, desperate to stay clear of Roger’s sights. But as Roger continued to trigger the guns, his rounds penetrated the target. Dark smoke billowed from the Focke-Wulf.
Roger yanked back on the stick. Using his momentum, he clawed for altitude while dodging shrapnel. Immediately, remorse sickened his gut, as it did every time. Yes, he exulted in outflying another pilot. But the stark truth was that he’d just snuffed out a human being. That idiot Hitler . . . If not for him, these guys could be his friends, off flying air shows together instead of trying to blow each other to smithereens.
A swift look confirmed that Walt stuck tight, keeping Roger’s six o’clock position clear. As Roger and his partner reclaimed altitude, he saw that, far from leaving the battle behind, they were drawing nearer to the dogfight as Americans and Germans wove circles in efforts to gain the upper hand.
Jumping into the thick of it, Roger stitched rounds along a Focke-Wulf that raced past him.
In the distance he spotted a Messerschmitt 109 smoking and losing altitude, probably limping for home. Should he chase the injured enemy? It would add an easy seventeenth kill to his tally. But no. Forget him. Fight as a unit, not for glory. The injured plane posed no threat. He let it go. Other enemies still prowled for blood.
Roger spotted four more Me 109s ahead, almost cutting across his path, but slightly lower and not quite as fast, in a swept-back, line-abreast formation. Without looking down, he reached for the throttle, turbo, and prop levers in succession, yanking them all the way back to slow down. No good: he was still closing fast—way too fast.
He cut a sharp right turn, then swung around to come in behind the last Messerschmitt, the one in “tail-end Charlie” position.
He swore. Still closing too fast.
Maneuvering by instinct, Roger threw in several skids to avoid over­shooting, then barrel-rolled and popped into position right on his target’s tail. He narrowed the range to about 250 yards and centered the needle and ball of the bank indicator. The moment the pip of his sights aligned on the enemy, he squeezed off a long burst.
Chunks of Messerschmitt flew from the plane. The starboard wing separated, and the corpse of the aircraft crumpled earthward. The vic­tim’s three companions pulled for the sky, a maneuver Roger’s heavy Thunderbolt couldn’t duplicate.
He had just spared a foe’s life. By sighting on the wing root instead of dead center on the cockpit, he’d given his opponent a chance to bail out. Had he been a fool? Would that pilot return to pepper him with lead someday?
“Hoosier, Hoosier!” Walt Crippen broke over the radio. “You just hit the hornets’ nest. I got one on my tail. Two more on yours. Get out of here!”
Tracers flashed over Roger’s left shoulder. Any enemy fighter could out-bank a Thunderbolt from behind. He needed violent evasive action—now.
Roger slammed the stick into one corner and put the rudder in the other. The result proved so instantaneous Roger’s brain couldn’t picture exactly what his plane had done, but for a few seconds at least, the tracers vanished.
Inexplicably, Walt’s Beautiful Betsy roared through his path. How had he and his wingman ended up in these positions? Roger seized one thought: An enemy plane must be on Walt’s tail. Forget evasive action.
Roger responded before he saw his friend’s attacker. A barrage from his .50-caliber guns pierced the air. Then . . . there it was! The Me 109 hurtled straight through his stream of gunfire. The cockpit shattered. The plane tilted over and dropped from the sky.
It was his luckiest shot ever. But now, two truths slammed home. The first was that his guns fell silent before he released the trigger switch. He was out of ammunition. Second, his own attackers were hot on his tail. Already he heard the staccato of jackhammers pummeling the Thunderbolt.
Roger jammed the stick forward, plunging earthward to outrace the two enemies. The altimeter registered only five thousand feet: not enough altitude for a speedy getaway. Worse, the P-47 responded sluggishly. Sure, he was born to fly, but even a top ace could be slaughtered if his aircraft didn’t perform. Rescuing Walt had come with a price tag.
“They’ve shot up my rudder. This can’t get any worse.”
As if to prove him wrong, the fighter’s engine began to cough. Steely claws of dread gripped Roger’s intestines and dug in. Nothing like this had ever happened to him. In past missions, he’d always been able to out­think and outmaneuver the enemy, but with the Thunderbolt’s damaged condition, he didn’t stand a chance of out-flying any experienced pilot.
His frustration erupted in a couple choice words.
Roger pulled back on the stick. If he must die, it wasn’t going to be from burrowing into the Third Reich. Slowly, far more lackadaisically than it should, the fighter managed to level out from the dive, but not before Roger’s prop was chopping though the tips of pine trees. The engine con­tinued coughing. More tracers flashed past. Roger heard deadly rounds stabbing into his plane. As he feared, the dive had been too short to shake his pursuers.
Sweating, Roger slipped his plane up, down, left, right, hoping against hope that the two aggressors would run out of ammo before they could deliver the death blow. If only that would happen, maybe they would forfeit the chase and head home.
The hardy Thunderbolt absorbed more abuse. Roger couldn’t believe he remained airborne. But the clock was ticking. He might have only seconds of life. Just one German bullet through his skull . . .
“Crip!” he shouted over the radio. “I’m out of ammo. Rudder shot to pieces. These guys are clobbering the snot out of me. I’m not coming back. Tell ’em I shot down at least two before they got me!”
Desperate, Roger coaxed his wounded aircraft into foolhardy maneu­vers. He ducked it under a bridge. He brought it up to treetop level. He barely avoided clipping the roof of a farmhouse . . . Still, the mongrels nipped at his tail with their bullets. At this low level, he couldn’t even bail out. At least they weren’t using their 30 mm cannons. Must’ve used ’em up.
Walt’s voice sounded over the radio. “Hoosier, where are you? I’ve lost you.”
“Don’t know. Just passed over a bridge. Railroad tracks. They’re . . .”
The fighter’s engine stopped wheezing and seized up. Whether the ene­mies had severed an oil line or what, he had no time to guess. Will power couldn’t keep this kite aloft. A Thunderbolt’s glide pattern was as efficient as a footlocker’s.
Roger flashed past a road, hurtled over a snow-covered field, and dropped like a cannonball. No time for landing gear. Hydraulics were probably shot up anyway.
“Nose up! Come on, baby, nose up! Up!”
Gloating in their success, the two Me 109s thundered overhead. Roger concentrated on the ground. The field was small, much shorter than a runway.
“God, help!”
The fighter smacked the earth with teeth-rattling force. It bounced off its belly, thudded down again, then skidded across the field horrifyingly fast—straight toward the tree line.
“Come on, come on . . .” Wrestling with stick and rudder, Roger fought for control. If only he could point the nose between two tree trunks instead of straight into one . . . The plane would no longer obey. Colliding with the ground must have finished whatever damage the Messerschmitts had wreaked.
Like the final scene from a nightmare, the line of trees hurtled straight toward him. Into his mind’s eye sprang the image of his bloody carcass being pulled from crumpled metal.

Still wrenching the stick against the inevitable, Roger shut his eyes.

About The Author

Rick Barry has authored three novels (Gunner's Run, Kiriath's Quest, and now The Methuselah Project), plus hundreds of published articles, short stories, and devotional pieces. He speaks Russian and has visited Eastern Europe over 50 times. His experiences have included skydiving, mountain climbing, rappelling, camping in Russia, visiting Chernobyl, white-water rafting, and visiting World War II battlegrounds. He believes that all experiences in life provide fuel for a writer's imagination. Rick and his wife, Pam, live near Indianapolis.

Purchase The Methuselah Project at:

Rick Barry is giving away a copy of The Methuselah Project. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.


Kim Amundsen said...

Sounds like a great read. kamundsen44ATyahooDOTcom.

Anonymous said...

Great interview!Shelia Hall

Connie said...

I am very intrigued after reading the excerpt. Thanks for sharing.
cps1950 at gmail dot com

Terri Tiffany said...

Love the opening line! Would love to win this book. The writing looks fast-paced and intriguing!

Rick Barry said...

Obviously, I don't want to win this book. I've already read it more times than anyone on the planet. ;) Just wanted to thank everyone at The Barn Door Book Loft for featuring my last novel. I look forward to sending a free copy of my suspense/romance story to one of your visitors!

Nathan Birr said...

We met at a writers' conference a few years ago and you told me about this novel you were working on. Congrats on finishing it and getting it published!

Anonymous said...

Oh wow! I would LOVE to win a copy of this book...every time I read a review it makes me anxious to get my hands on a copy. Rick's writing just gets better and better! He really knows how to make a novel take off. ;)Twila

Deanne Patterson said...

This is a new to me author but his book sounds fabulous. I would really enjoy reading it.
Deanne Patterson
Book1lovingmomma at gmail dot com

Mike Bradley said...

Thanks Karen! I stumbled upon your blog searching for new book suggestions. This is great. I really appreciate the suggestion! Your review has swayed me. I’ll have to check out The Methuselah Project.

I wanted to pass along one my pastor recommended to me. It’s the #1 bestseller on religious fiction, so maybe you’ve already heard of it. But I can’t stop thinking about. It’s a fantastic collection of short stories. It’s called Pieces Like Pottery. I really can’t recommend it enough. I would love to see your review of it at some point!

Anonymous said...

Lost my comment so here goes again. Rick is new to me but would love to win his book.
Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

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