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The Skyfire Puzzle

Plot summary

Frank and Joe Hardy are on a stakeout in Okefenokee Swamp with their father Fenton, using their new van full of highly sophisticated computer and surveillance equipment. Fenton Hardy is chasing a group of industrial saboteurs who nearly kill Fenton and the Hardys' friend Chet Morton in the swamp. The head of security at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Harry Stone, an old friend of Mr. Hardy, is baffled by a series of accidents involving a space shuttle called Skyfire. Stone is notified of an explosion in a research building at the space center. Frank, Joe, Chet, Stone and his daughter Suzanne head to Cape Canaveral, where the young people meet Nat Cramer, project specialist for the Starglass Corporation, and his security man, Pete McConnel. Starglass developed the Longeye radio telescope, which is due to be placed in orbit by Skyfire. Maxwell Grant, deputy director of operations, offers Frank, Joe, Chet and Suzanne the opportunity to fly on Skyfire as passengers.

While Frank, Joe and Chet train for the shuttle mission, they help Stone and his aide, Lew Gorman, investigate the mysterious accidents. A series of occurrences make clear that someone wants the Hardys off the case: Fenton Hardy is attacked by gunmen; a masked man makes a centrifuge run wild with Joe aboard; a mysterious caller summons the young people and Gorman to a meeting on the beach that proves to be a trap; and hallucinogenic crystals are placed in Chet's air hose during neutral buoyancy training, causing him to attack Frank underwater. McConnel is apparently shot by Franz Schacht, a notorious international terrorist linked to the case by a fingerprint found after one of the attacks.

The day before the shuttle launch, the Hardys' van is shot at by a man whom Fenton recognizes as Stone. Evidence found in Stone's house seemingly proves that he and Gorman are foreign agents; they are arrested, and Suzanne is removed from the shuttle crew. During the shuttle mission, Frank links the spacelab computer with the computer in the Hardys' van and discovers that the body profile of one of the criminals from the beach matches that of a man present during the Okefenokee attack, linking the two cases. The Hardys deduce that Cramer and McConnel must be involved with the industrial espionage ring. Frank also discovers that McConnel never visited an emergency room after supposedly being shot. The Hardys and Chet convince the shuttle commander to fake a power failure that would strand them in orbit, tricking Cramer into panicking and making a spacewalk to send Longeye, which is set to explode, into space. Frank follows Cramer outside and frightens him into a confession. The Longeye on the shuttle is a mockup; Cramer and McConnel planned to sell the real Longeye to the spy ring. McConnel and Cramer faked Schacht's involvement, McConnel's shooting and Stone's apparent guilt using masks of Schacht and Stone and a planted fingerprint.

  • Publication date: 1985

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