The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

With utmost secrecy, the U.S. government has been sending satellites into orbit to scoop up particles from outer space and bring them back to Earth to be studied. This undertaking is known as Project Scoop, and one of its purposes is to see if there are particles in outer space that are unlike anything known on Earth. Retrieval of the satellites poses a problem because no precise method of reentry exists that will bring a satellite to a predetermined landing site. Because landings can occur anywhere in the world, a system has been devised to either recover or destroy satellites, depending on whether they land in friendly or hostile territory.

One night, a satellite is tracked to Piedmont, Arizona, a remote town with a population of forty-eight. The first trackers to get there find dead bodies all over the streets. The trackers hardly have time to react before they, too, are dead. The government has prepared itself for such an emergency by having a Wildfire Alert team on call at all times. This team consists of a group of scientists with credentials in biology, bacteriology, pathology, and surgery. Wearing protective clothing, two members of this team fly to Piedmont, where they find two survivors, a baby and an old man. They also find the satellite and see that it has been pried open.

The satellite and the two survivors are flown to a top secret underground facility in Nevada known as Wildfire. This impregnable complex consists of five levels...

(The entire section is 470 words.)