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Hot off the presses! NEVER GO ALONE by Denison Hatch is
available now! Please a comment below and say hi!
Title:
Never Go Alone
Author: Denison Hatch
Publisher: Lookout Press
Pages: 300
Genre: Thriller/Mystery/Police Procedural

A rash of elaborate cat burglaries of luxury buildings in Manhattan has the police and mayor panicked. When a group of social media obsessed millennials—a loosely organized crew that call themselves “urban explorers”—are suspected in the heists, NYPD detective Jake Rivett is assigned the case.

Already undercover with one foot on each side of the blue line, Rivett is ordered to infiltrate the group and discern responsibility. Battling against both his own personal demons and misgivings regarding his superiors, Rivett dives deep into the urban exploration scene in pursuit of the truth. But what, and who, he finds—deep in the sewers, up in the cranes above under-construction skyscrapers, and everywhere else in New York—will change not only Jake, but the city itself.

Purchase at Amazon.

Book Excerpt:

Two feet hammered the pavement. With movement as rapid as it was controlled, the explorer’s muscles tensed for what was to come. The target, all twenty stories of unabashedly neo-classical splendor, towered across the street. Infiltrating the building would be easy, but the next step was difficult. And the rest? Brilliant meets impossible.
The explorer was wearing a small camera on his chest, which captured his viewpoint with slightly shaky but high-definition clarity. A parking post stood ahead—cement poured into a strong iron tube. The man sprinted forward and vaulted onto the post. He maintained his momentum, springing off the top of the post onto an enormous industrial air-conditioning unit. Now eight feet in the air, he had only one stride before his next jump. He sailed through the empty air, arms outstretched, fingers tensing—a twelve-foot-high brick wall ahead. Just reaching the wall, the explorer’s fingers grasped the edge. His right hand couldn’t find traction. His fingernails scraped desperately as he started to fall. But two fingers on his left hand did their job. He hung on, swinging precariously before centering himself and pulling his body up and over the wall.
The explorer dropped down on the other side. His body contracted into a tight ball as he careened toward the construction gravel below. At the last moment, he rotated and achieved a rolling landing—lessening gravity’s impact. He came to a stop. Breathing heavily, he took a brief respite from the task at hand. His chest heaved as he peered around the construction site that he’d just infiltrated. He knew that a lone security guard sat in a booth on the other side of the block. But he also knew the guard was engrossed in his cell phone, only stopping occasionally to gaze onto an adjoining street. As long as the explorer was quiet, the guard would be none the wiser. The coast was clear. He reached for a mic attached to the side strap of his backpack.
“All silent. Only one clown in the circus,” the explorer whispered into the microphone. Still out of breath, he reached for his hydration tube and took a long sip of water. Then he rotated and watched as three more compatriots covertly slid over the top of the tall brick wall.
They each hit the ground in the same rolling manner, limiting trauma with expert precision. The entire crew was clad in dark outdoor technical clothes, breathable shirts, top-of-the-line Gore-Tex pants and trail runners with all reflective surfaces blocked out by black Sharpie. Their faces were covered by bandanas or ski masks. Respirators, climbing gear, knives, and cameras were both hanging from and strapped to their belts and backpacks.
The crew split in three different directions, acting as lookouts for any errant guard or construction manager onsite in the middle of the night. It was unlikely, but their plans called for extreme caution. That’s what had made them so successful—their secret sauce was not daring; it was preparation. After confirming that the others were in position, the explorer focused on the mission at hand.
An enormous tower crane stood against the edge of the construction site. Built like a towering T, the machine’s base was a concrete shithouse holding up three hundred feet of crisscrossing steel. The explorer expertly grabbed the side of the crane. Instead of heading for the control booth at the bottom, he simply began to ascend up the latticework that made up the sides—hands followed by legs on an upstream ladder.
Stopping midway to catch his breath, the man couldn’t help but look down. Vertigo’s tendrils reached out like forbidden fruit. His foot wavered to catch hold of a one-inch bar of the latticework. But he controlled the panic, centered himself, and continued climbing.
A few minutes later, the explorer reached the top of the crane. He pulled himself over the T’s edge and gazed along the hundred-and-fifty-foot-length atop the long horizontal span. Instead of traversing in the direction of the construction site from which he’d originated, the explorer headed the opposite way. Careful with the placement of his feet, he headed towards the side of the crane that extended halfway across the street below. It was a slow process. The latticework consisted of both ninety-degree and diagonal pieces of steel, like a series of bars with a crosshatch pattern strung across it. And between the pieces of the crane’s structure was nothing—a dark void. One misstep, one hesitation, one dash of grease and the explorer would plummet over twenty stories through thin air and become one with the blacktop of the city. It was not a pleasant thought, making the already difficult process deeply nerve-wracking.
“You will not bust.” The man talked himself through the fear as he reached the far end of the crane. He was now extended as far across the street below as the machinery would take him.
The explorer gazed down the gleaming city from the Upper West Side, all the way through Midtown and into Chelsea. It was more than a place now, more than a landscape. By this point at its evolution, Manhattan represented a geospatial-and-social coordinate on the razor’s edge of modernity. It was no longer what the future could be. It was the future itself, right now, happening in front of one’s eyes and reaching the stage of infinite singularity. As the years had gone on, the surfaces of the metropolis had become smooth, the lights perfect, the façades utterly complete. It no longer beckoned for the masses humbly—it repelled them. The construction site the explorer had ascended from would soon consist of glass, marble, and sex. That was all, and that was everything, and if one was rich enough, one could buy it. The new culture didn’t care for culture itself. It did not bow to subtlety of argument or freedom of soul. It only knew money—astronomical levels of money. The only people who could afford to live here would be the progeny of sovereign wealth fund managers, tech moonshot winners, and industrial titans. Nothing was free, for anyone—not even the views.
Except for our explorer—right now. It was his, alone. He admired the panorama of New York. Yes, there was the mission, but this was deserving of a photograph. He pulled the camera off his chest harness, activated selfie mode, and turned it towards himself. He lined up, framing the background of the city behind him. Click. The camera’s flash erupted. He flipped his hand down, as if to form an upside down V slogan. Click. Another flash—another selfie—his face shrouded by a hood throughout the entire process.
Having finished memorializing the scene, the man ducked down towards the crane. As he secured something to the crane, he gazed away from the construction site and towards his target.
A sharp contrast to the modern structures popping up like weeds, the limestone apartment building across the street was built during the turn of the century—the last century, not this. Its hulking body did not undulate as it rose. Instead the building consisted of strong vertical bands that ran up to form elaborate choragic arches and support the pointed top of the roof. Four large penthouse balconies graced each corner of the building, easily visible to the explorer who stood above them on the crane. He breathed deeply, then jumped off the crane into the darkness below.
Suspended by a climbing rope, the man careened from the top of the crane and over the street, until he was positioned directly above the penthouse balcony of the old building. The pendulum continued, however, and he swung back.
The second time he was ready. His toes landed lithely on the penthouse’s balcony. He paced towards the enclosed glass greenhouse. One of the small windows of the greenhouse was unlatched, exposing a sliver of access.
The explorer carefully maneuvered the window open.
He climbed into the penthouse.
And the city’s lights twinkled as if nothing had happened at all . . .

About the Author
denison-hatch

Denison Hatch is a screenwriter and novelist based in Los Angeles. Although he lives in the proverbial desert now, he is originally from Delaware—land of rolling hills and DuPont gunpowder. Denison has a number of feature and television projects in development, including his original screenplay, Vanish Man, which is set up at Lionsgate. A graduate of Cornell University, Denison lives with his wife and big dog in a little house in Hollywood. Never Go Alone is the second novel in the Jake Rivett series.

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Czar Nicholas 3Title: Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup
Author: Elisabeth Amaral
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 324
Genre: Memoir
Format: Paperback/Kindle

The mid-1960s through the mid-1970s was a heady, turbulent time. There was a lot going on back then, and author Elisabeth Amaral was in the middle of it all: the fights for women’s rights, racial equality, a music revolution, be-ins, love-ins, riots in the streets, the rage against the Vietnam War, and sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It was an amazing time to be young.

In Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup, Amaral shares her recollections of those times. She and her husband gave up their jobs in New York City, relocated to Boston with their infant son because of mime, unexpectedly started a children’s boutique, and opened a popular restaurant in Harvard Square. Most of all it is a coming-of-age story about herself and her husband as they embarked on an improbable and moving journey of self-discovery.

With sincerity and humor, Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup offers a personal and revealing account that reaches out to those who find themselves striving to make a relationship work that, by its very nature, may be doomed. But this story is also one of friendship—and of finding the courage to move on.

“A truly wonderful memoir that reads like great fiction. The characters come alive on the page.” – Elizabeth Brundage, author of The Doctor’s Wife and A Stranger Like You.

“The story of how Liz Amaral and her husband became successful at the epicenter of counterculture businesses near Harvard Square / Cambridge from 1967-1975 with their boutique and restaurant is told with humor and insight. Swirling around them are all of the entrapments of the era, the drugs and free love and betrayal, as well as the politics that defined the times.

With a fierce dedication to her son and husband, Liz Amaral triumphs in this stunning memoir where she discovers that, while love isn’t always what we think it is, it remains, in all its multi-faceted transformations, the driving force of who we are and how we live our lives.” – P.B. O’Sullivan, writer and mathematician

“In her intimate and humorous memoir, Liz Amaral reveals the challenges of a young family establishing a home in Cambridge amid the tumult of the late 1960s. You will discover the disconcerting truth about her marriage and the painful path she takes to find herself again. A true adventure of the heart.” – Kathrin Seitz, writer, producer, and coach

For More Information

  • Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Book Excerpt:

We shared everything, even our friends. But wait. What about those friends of his? Kind, gentlemen. Always womanless. Don’t even start to go there. Just don’t. It was easier to be in the immediate present, a member of our generation who shared the sentiments of the era, the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll era. The civil-rights and women’s- rights and anti-war and race-riot era. It was a thrilling time for youth. Along with our frustrations and fury at the government, we also shared an enormous sense of freedom and adventure, of this being our time. And if it was our time, that made it my time. My time to grab an afternoon lover, come home to nights of gentle affection, hug our kid, make supper, smoke some pot, and live happily. With luck, that might include ever after. Piece of cake, and it was no one’s fault.

Thoughts whizzed by. I grabbed onto some, because I knew I would need reminders.

This is my life, not a bad one at all. A very good one, in fact.

That was one thought. Here’s another: Look at me. Look at me! A sensual, sexual, twenty-something woman. A Scorpio. Married happily much of the time, except nighttime, the right time.

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The Art & Science of Healing 3Title: The Art & Science of Healing – with Light
Author: Dr. Mark J. Rogers with Nike Azoros
Publisher: Dr. Mark J. Rogers with Nike Azoros
Pages: 442
Genre: Medical
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Chronic pain has reached epidemic proportions but it is not a disease. Chronic pain is a genuine physical problem and its epidemic is being spread by the very treatments the doctors are prescribing. Over thirty percent of patients across the world present with back, neck, or head pain, the majority of whom are in chronic pain, but all doctors offer is a prescription for painkillers and a referral for intensive physical therapy. The patients never improve, in fact they get worse. Instead of receiving empathy and understanding they are often accused of being dishonest about the severity of their pain. Some are even sent for psychotherapy. ‘The Art and Science of Healing – with Light’ breaks that vicious cycle. Within it is explained to patients how they developed chronic pain in the first place and how to begin to heal their migraines, back pain, neck pain, tinnitus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and all forms of chronic pain in general.

Doctor Mark Rogers bases the healing process on his 7 Principles of Healing Chronic Pain. His methods are all based in science, are common sense, pain free, drug free, have no painful exercises, and no ‘mind over matter’ meditations for coping because the problem is not in the mind of the patients, it is in their bodies at a deep cellular level. The 7 Principles have a conservative efficacy of eighty-five percent. As long as the Principles are followed the patient will heal. It is the medical system that is keeping patients in pain through ignoring the origin of the pain. Pain is not a mystery, it is not a disease, it means you are being hurt. Chronic pain means you are still being hurt. Written in a clear easy to read style with minimal medical jargon it is designed for patients to finally give them understand what happened to them and gain control over their healing processes so they can start healing today.

For More Information

  • The Art and Science of Healing – with Light is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Book Excerpt:

‘Those who do nothing are inviting shame …(as well as violence). Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.’ John F Kennedy, 11th June 1963 Address to the American People on Civil Rights

‘The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.’   Albert Einstein

The purpose of this book is to enlighten patients about how they developed chronic pain and how it can be healed. There is no mystery, no mind over matter and in the majority of cases, no medications. The solution is a powerful blend of Nature and Science that is presented in a set of 7 common sense Principles that, when applied correctly, activate and assist the healing processes within the human body.

Patients feel frustrated that in a time where scientific research has brought about many advances in curing diseases, keeping our organs in good health and extending life expectancy, most doctors still can’t fix a bad back or tell you the real reason you get migraines or that permanent ringing in your ears. This book explains why.

The book is in three parts. In Part 1 I introduce the 7 Principles of healing chronic pain. Through them it is explained why chronic pain develops and how the normal processes the body should be carrying out to battle it are actually being inhibited by common mainstream medical practices.

I explain that chronic pain is widespread chronic inflammation, and in the chronic pain patient that inflammation is being exacerbated by the very medical treatments the doctors are prescribing. The more medical treatments the patients have, the worse they get. The result is a very sick patient. The doctors are following established, and unquestioned, guidelines so therefore it must be the patient who is at fault. A vicious downward spiral is created and it is the patient who pays the price in every way.

I have also chosen to include a little of my own story. This was not my original intent but as the book developed it soon became clear that some of my personal history was relevant to my medical work and findings on the treatment of pain.

There is nothing more personal than pain. I was once a chronic pain patient and the search for my own cure led me down an extraordinary path. I share that experience in the interest of revealing how current medical systems for pain treatment are not only ineffective but also defective, to the point where one might begin to feel it’s deliberate.

I am aware my personal story might be of no interest to some readers so I encourage them to feel free to skip the part about me which is in Chapter 1 under the sub-heading of ‘My Personal Experience with Chronic Pain and How I Healed’. After that I talk about the importance of doctors applying science in the art of medicine. I have strong opinions about it but again the reader might prefer to skip over it and go straight to reading about the 7 Principles. Within them I provide an understanding of the importance of cellular health and how chronic pain patients lost theirs.

You will be introduced to Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT). I have developed my knowledge in laser therapy over the last fifteen years. LLLT is also known as cold laser therapy. This is different to the high intensity lasers used in surgery. Cold laser does not cut and is cool to the touch.

While there is much about laser within this book it is not about laser. Don’t feel that because you don’t have anyone near you offering cold laser therapy that you are unable to be helped. This book was designed to guide you through learning all about healing your pain, with or without laser.

I make it clear that Laser is not a panacea. If used alone, without applying the 7 Principles, it will not completely cure your pain. Use the 7 Principles alone and you will heal, slower. Laser and the Principles will accelerate the healing. The combination of the two, Art and Science, works rapid wonders.

You will learn that the adherence to the 7 Principles with or without the scientific application of cold laser therapy will reverse the damage caused to your cells and rejuvenate them to their normal state of full pain-free health. You will become a whole new person, physically and mentally.

Throughout the course of this book it might appear that some forms of physical therapy are being singled out as ineffective. I am vehement that when it comes to chronic pain, they are not only ineffective but dangerous. One of the things the patient will learn is that the so-called strengthening and stretching exercises of physical therapies are a big part of the problem. Most worsen the pain by irritating its source.

Physical therapies have their place, especially in rehabilitation after the pain has healed, but definitely not while it is still present. It will be recommended that physical therapies be discontinued for the duration of the healing process. Once a pain-free state is achieved the patient can return to physical therapies, but only then. Patients will be educated as to why this is the case so they can decide their own course of action.

In Part 2 we discuss the individual conditions. You will learn some facts that will challenge old thinking such as, migraine is a type of neuralgia, and tinnitus is not really a noise, it is a phantom noise. You will also get to meet some of my patients who kindly agreed to be case studies.

Their stories will inspire you, and some of them don’t hold back about how angry they feel towards the current medical system and how it kept them sick, in some cases for decades. Also included are the patients most frequently asked questions.

Part 3 is how to incorporate the 7 Principles into daily activities including sleep, exercise, and even intimacy. Medicine must put the patient first and incorporate more Science instead of blindly following draconian protocols designed purely for legal protection and financial benefit for doctors. When more Science such as LLLT becomes a part of mainstream medicine the benefits to all aspects of society will far outnumber any initial introductory inconveniences to the medical establishment.

There will be less reliance on pharmaceuticals. Insurance claims will resolve much easier, the workplace will be safer, and recovery from all accidents will be faster. Laser is invaluable for healing chronic pain quickly but it is also is an effective modality for preventative medicine. When mainstream medicine incorporates more Science there will be many changes in the way we heal. Chronic pain could soon become a thing of the past.

Chronic pain has long been considered to be an uncontrollable mystery condition. It has been grandly labeled as a complex biopsychosocial condition. Some doctors even consider it to be an incurable disease; others claim it is a result of the patient’s neuroticism. No wonder the patient is confused. The confusion ends now.

Your pain is real and it has a traceable origin. My methods locate that origin, that bull’s-eye, and the laser targets it, fills it with healing light and the body does the rest. The Principles, and the laser, are perfectly safe, pain free, and so simple they are revolutionary. The chronic pain sufferer will finally be able to get off the medical merry-go-round. When mainstream medicine stops disguising its fear of change by shunning cold laser therapy and instead embraces it, in doing so it will enter a new phase of sophisticated and inclusive patient care. Get ready for a long overdue medical revolution.

Dr. Mark J. Rogers is giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter.
  • This giveaway begins February 2 and ends April 30.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on Monday, May 4.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

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Title: College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons
Author: Christopher Zoukis
Publisher: McFarland and Company
Pages: 300
Genre: Social Sciences/Education

Purchase at AMAZON

Provide education to prisoners and they won’t return to crime. America accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, yet incarcerates about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners with about 2.3 million men and women in U.S. facilities. Examining a wealth of studies by researchers and correctional professionals, and the experience of educators, this book finds an irrefutable conclusion: the likelihood of an undereducated prisoner returning to crime is high, but recidivism rates drop in direct correlation with the amount of education prisoners receive, and the rate drops dramatically with each additional level of education attained.

Presenting a workable solution to America’s over incarceration and recidivism problems, this book demonstrates that great fiscal benefits arise when modest sums are spent educating prisoners, instead of dedicating exponentially higher resources to confining them. Educating prisoners brings a reduction in crime and social disruption, reduced domestic spending and a rise in quality of life.

Book Excerpt:

Hundreds of articles and studies about prison education, and many papers presented at academic and professional conferences, almost all come to the same conclusions:

  • Prison education reduces crime,
  • Prison education reduces recidivism, and
  • Prison education will make an enormously positive impact on our national economy.

This is an idea that evokes a lot of controversy, because most people are more concerned with educating their own children than educating prisoners. And the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell because most of the public is unaware of how it can impact our economy and the safety of our communities.

Let’s understand from the start: the concept of educating prisoners is not a “bleeding-heart, humanitarian, feel-good-for-the-imprisoned” kind of cause. On the contrary, it is an issue with huge impact upon the economic stability of our country, the protection of our communities, and a higher quality of life for law-abiding citizens.

Consider this: the US accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, but it holds 25% of the entire world’s prisoners. There is something wrong with this picture. With our prison population now at 2.3 million, we, as a nation, incarcerate far more people per capita than any other country in the world – almost double the next closest nation. Our state and federal prison population has increased almost ten-fold since 1970 and this explosive growth not only creates an untenable financial burden for state and national budgets, but also creates an impossible situation for our judiciary overburdened by high recidivism rates. In some states, like California, prisons are so overcrowded that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state had to reduce their prisoner population by tens of thousands because the state’s system was “incompatible with the concept of human dignity”.

The growth rate in federal prisons is even worse than that of the states. While state prison populations dropped in 2009 and 2010, federal prisons are bursting at the seams, and federal prison budgets are increasing by 10% a year to accommodate the ever-growing prison population. Lawmakers are calling for the creation of a second federal “supermax” similar to “the notorious Florence ADX in Colorado – a place where solitary confinement has been raised to a torturous art, and prisoners seldom, if ever, see another human being. Conditions at this ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’ are so harsh that the European Court of Human Rights initially refused to extradite terrorism suspects to the United States lest they end up in ADX”.

Hundreds of studies and all the research in the field of criminology affirm that prison education is the least expensive and most effective solution to overcrowding and strain on the budget caused by recidivism. Nevertheless, despite overwhelming evidence, policy makers and the general public still do not support funding post-secondary higher education in prisons. Year after year, even the most basic correctional educational programs are further reduced. Computers are not allowed. The result? Increased prisoner unrest and violence, and even more money spent for additional security.

Today, higher education for prisoners is almost non-existent. And, as we shall see, our failure to invest in opportunities for correctional college education weakens the very fabric of our society. With proper implementation, the impact of prison education can be enormous – not just on prisoners, but on our entire society and our nation’s prosperity. Let us hope that greater understanding will result in wise legislative action for our common good.

“In response to the American public’s growing fear of crime and the call for more punitive measures…, many legislators and policymakers have promoted building more prisons, enacting harsher sentencing legislation, and eliminating various programs inside prisons and jails. But more than half these prisoners are in on drug charges and another 10% on immigration violations, so that more than 72% of our incarcerated population are offenders with no history of violence. With re-arrest rates averaging around 67% to 80%, it is clear that incarceration alone is not working”.

In the opinion of Chief Justice William Ray Price of the Supreme Court of Missouri, “We may have been tough on crime, but we have not been smart on crime.” He noted further, “For years we have waged a ‘war on drugs,’ enacted ‘three strikes and you’re out’ sentencing laws, and thrown away the key to be tough on crime. What we did not do was check to see how much it costs, or whether we were winning or losing. In fact, it has cost us billions of dollars and we have just as much crime now as we did when we started.”

Despite all the studies that confirm society and the nation as a whole will reap significant benefits, the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell. The public appears to have a visceral, but understandable, reaction against the idea of higher education for prisoners. Why, people ask, should Americans pay to provide a college education for prisoners when so many law-abiding, tax-paying citizens struggle to send themselves or their children to school? It doesn’t seem fair. Honest people have to pay to receive an education; why should prisoners get it for free?

And besides, say some of the opponents to correctional education, if we provide a learning environment for prisoners, perhaps prison will seem less terrible and serve as a less effective deterrent to crime. However, the deterrent argument fails, because people do not decide whether or not to commit a crime based on the program opportunities available if they are caught and sent to prison.

Others believe that people who commit a crime have chosen to limit their opportunities and freedoms, including access to valuable privileges like education. Therefore, handing it free to people who break the law feels wrong, feels like a slap in the face of justice.

These are legitimate concerns, but there are strong, legitimate solutions.

Make no mistake. Despite the fact that I am a prisoner myself, I do not dispute the concept of getting tough on crime. I do not advocate creating a cushy environment for prisoners. And I certainly do not propose taking privileges from deserving, hard-working people to pamper prisoners. That is not what educating prisoners is about.

So why, then, should we care about educating prisoners, educating people who didn’t care about the victims they hurt, the communities they impoverished, and the society they endangered?

We care, very simply, because they get out. Almost everyone who is locked up now is going to be set free one day. If we treat prisoners like animals the whole time they’re locked up, that’s what we’ll get when they’re back on the streets: wild, dangerous animals. But if we educate these people, give them some positive reinforcement, and introduce the idea that they’ll have something to offer society when they return to their communities, that’s what we’ll get when they are free: people who have something to offer society.”

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Night Terror 2Title: Night Terror
Author: Jeff Gunhus
Publisher: Seven Guns Press
Pages: 400
Genre: Supernatural Thriller/Horror
Format: Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

Ten years after her abduction and near-sacrifice to the Source, Sarah Tremont struggles to be a normal teenager. As much as she’s tried to suppress the power inside of her, it’s grown dangerously strong and has drawn the attention of those who want to possess her power for themselves.

The nightmare that she thought was long over starts again as powerful forces descend upon Prescott City to seek her out. With her parents and Joseph Lonetree’s help, Sarah must stand up to an evil much more powerful than the one she faced in the caves a decade earlier. But in the end, she discovers the greatest danger might come from the power living inside of her.

Book Excerpt:

The woman didn’t look evil, but there was no better word to describe her. Charlie Winters would wonder later how he could have missed sensing her earlier than he did. It was equivalent to normal people walking halfway through a field only to look down and find themselves thigh-deep in a pile of rotting animal carcasses, the stench hitting them like a wave. After retching their stomach contents, they would question both their senses and their sanity. How could they have missed such a smell? How could they have not felt their feet sinking into the liquefied soft tissue?

Charlie’s senses were better than a normal person’s. Way better.

It had started when he was only a baby, a fact he knew because he still remembered every second of this life since the moment of his birth. It was a long time before he understood that such a memory was not a normal thing. Other people, normal humans, could not remember the first feeding at their mother’s breast. The hot pain of circumcision. The first glimpse of sunlight as they left the hospital. So many firsts, memories as clear to Charlie as what he’d had for breakfast that day.

Inside those memories, the echoes and shadows of his other unusual senses lingered. The ability to sense emotion. To pick up on intention. Sometimes these abilities strengthened what he observed in the physical world. His grandparents’ cooing excitement over him matched an internal warmth that felt the same as sunshine. His father’s thoughtful stares mirrored Charlie’s sense that his dad would do anything to protect him, to provide for him. Even if there was an undercurrent of trepidation that vibrated like a single out-of-tune string on a guitar, the other intentions drowned it out and gave Charlie a sense of comfort. This was very different from his mother, whose kind smiles and soft features once masked a nearly constant desire to kill him.

Her thoughts alternated between putting a pillow over his head or dropping him down the basement stairs. In darker moments, when his father was gone overnight for a business trip, she would consider carving up her child with a knife. Even going as far as pulling a cleaver from the block and slowly running her sweaty palm down the length of the blade. She never did this in front of him, but that was part of his gift. He could see through her eyes. Feel her emotions. Know her dark intentions. And understand that the threat of violence was very, very real.

But as much as she fantasized about it, his mother didn’t kill him. In fact, she never so much as laid a finger on him in anger. Slowly, over time, the dark thoughts faded, and the light inside his mother came to match her soft eyes and the beautiful mouth that sang to him and called him sunshine. A normal person might never have been able to forget the darkness and might never have trusted the woman who once considered taking a ball-peen hammer to his forehead, but he wasn’t normal people. He was special. And it was that specialness that showed him the truth in her absolute love for him once the veils of shadows had fallen away from her like someone passing through heavy curtains.

Much later, Charlie read about a condition called post-partum depression and understood where the dark had come from. It hadn’t been his fault. Or hers. It was the depression that spawned the evil thoughts. And he liked to think it was her love for him that pushed them back enough to keep him safe.

Even after she recovered, he could sense when she felt pangs of guilt about those days. They were like electric bolts jolting through her. When those moments happened, and they could happen at any time, he would come up and hug her, kiss her on the cheek and tell her how much he loved her. At first, she cried harder when he did it, and he sensed her guilt grow even stronger. Later, she puzzled over how he timed the affection to her thoughts. Over time, the puzzling turned to suspicion, even fear that somehow he knew. After that, like with all of his special gifts, he learned it was best to hide.

But he hadn’t hidden his powers well enough.

If he had, then the woman who called herself Mama D would never have come looking for him.

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To the Breaking Pointe 2Title: To the Breaking Pointe
Author: Cindy McDonald
Publisher: Acorn Book Services
Pages: 250
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Format: Paperback/Kindle

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Pushed to the breaking pointe!

Five years ago First Force operative, Grant Ketchum, let the ballerina of his dreams dance right of his life. Silja Ramsay returned to her birthplace, Russia, to take the position of principal dancer for the Novikov Ballet Company.

The owner and director of the ballet company, Natalia Novikov, has a dark secret: her beloved ballet company is almost broke. Natalia forces her dancers to prostitute themselves to financial contributors at exclusive after-show parties. Silja has been exempt and kept in the dark about the parties—until an American financier offers to bail the failing ballet company out. His prerequisite: Silja must become his personal companion, live in his home, and fulfill his every desire. Against her will, Silja is taken to the American’s mansion, but before she goes she manages to send a text to the only man who can save her, Grant: HELP!

Now Grant is on a mission to find his lost ballerina and rescue her from this powerful man’s subjugation. He will do anything to get her out alive. If they survive, will he let her chasse out of his life again?

Book Excerpt:

“Where is Silja?” Ballard Crafton asked Natalia as he searched the reception room in the basement of the theatre. The room wasn’t particularly large, yet it was quite elegant with red velvet swags hung in the archways, gilded crown moldings, and crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. A bar was set up in one corner while a violinist played softly in another. The room was filled with men, a few older women, and most of the dancers from the Novikov Ballet Company. Only one dancer in particular was missing… Silja Ramsay.

Natalia picked up her glass of wine from the bar. “Silja is not ready to attend our little soiree yet. She hasn’t been informed of my… financial situation.”

Ballard pulled a bracelet from his suit jacket. “Silja doesn’t like diamonds?” Natalia huffed at the sight of the bracelet that she thought she had convinced Silja to keep. He continued, “She had this returned to me by messenger this afternoon. Doesn’t she…don’t you understand just how wealthy I am?”

Natalia took a sip of her cabernet. “She still believes in love, Ballard—“

“I am in love with her!” he bellowed.

Taken aback by the sudden outburst, the crowd hushed, looking in their direction. Natalia forced a laugh, waving her hands carelessly at the crowd. She spoke to them in Russian, “Mingle, mingle, get to know our beautiful dancers.” With hesitant glances at Ballard, the crowd returned to their conversations. The women in attendance ran their hands up and down the male dancers’ muscled arms, while the men flirted mercilessly with the ballerinas.

“You told me that she would be here tonight, Natalia.” Ballard said, more hushed.

“As always, there are plenty of lovely ballerinas here to choose from this evening, Ballard. Forget Silja for now. I will keep working to make her come around. She still… how do you say… pines for another.”

“Who?”

“I do not know this. Be patient. Pick another for this evening. Here…” Natalia gestured to the bartender. He retrieved a box from behind the bar. Natalia took the box and offered it to Ballard. Lifting a brow, she said, “You may have first pick tonight, yes?”

“No. I am tired of spending time with ballerinas that I don’t want. I only fantasize that she is Silja. I want Silja!” Ballard said.

Natalia set the box on the bar. Slowly she dragged her gaze to meet his. He was like a spoiled child who had not received the gift that he desired on Christmas morning. No, he was worse—much worse. Finally she decided to put Ballard Crafton in his place. “I am quite aware of what it is that you want, Ballard. But I must wonder…will Silja meet the same fate as your other lovers?” His eyes widened in raw indignation, except Natalia did not allow his glare to dissuade her. “The opera singer from New York who no longer sings—instead she sits in a home with head injuries so severe that she can barely speak, or the concert pianist whose fingers are now crippled from the hammer that was used on them? What could these women have done to make you so angry, Ballard? What kind of monster lies within? I am desperate to save The Novikov Ballet Company, this is true. But I won’t let you destroy a beautiful dancer in her prime. How do you Americans say…we understand each other, yes?”

Ballard’s hands curled into fists of righteous agitation. The red flush started above the Armani tie that he wore around his neck and crept to his cheeks. He spun on his heels and marched out of the gathering.

Letting out a relieved breath, Natalia looked into the box which was filled with pointe shoes. Each shoe had the signature of the dancer from the Novikov Company to whom it had belonged. Her nerves tightened the knot in her stomach and shame swelled in her chest. She took another long drink of the wine, and then she managed a faux smile for the crowd, who anxiously anticipated the beginning of the evening’s event.

Natalia called out in Russian, “Who will be first to choose a pair of shoes tonight?” She held the box up high, shaking it. “Edvar! Where is Edvar?”

From the far corner of the room the ballet company’s dance instructor and choreographer, Edvar Kozlovski, brushed his fingers through ballet dancer Dominik Potrovic’s hair. After a whispered promise of return, he raised his hand calling back in their native Russian, “Here I am! Are you ready, Natalia?”

The crowd buzzed with excitement. The dancers exchanged nervous glances. All eyes were on Natalia. She said, “Yes! Who is our highest bidder this evening? Who will get first pick of the shoes?”

Edvar fished a paper from the pocket of his jacket, and then he announced, “Ballard Crafton!”

Everyone searched the room waiting for Ballard to come forward to choose a shoe for his evening of sultry delight, with the ballerina whose name was on the shoe.

Natalia shook her head. “No. He had to leave. Who is the second?”

Edvar squinted in a big show of reading the next name on the list. He proclaimed, “Belsky!”

From the back of the crowd, a tubby man merrily trotted forward to where Natalia stood. He could barely contain his excitement. He danced in place from one foot to the other. The ballerinas were now exchanging curled lips of derision hoping that he would not pull their shoe from the box.

He wiggled his fingers in anticipation of what lovely, well-toned ballerina would be his for the night. Belsky reached into the box and snatched a pair of worn European pink pointe shoes. The crowd tensed waiting for a name to be called as he handed the shoe to Natalia.

“Anna Antkowiak!” Natalia called out. The young girl from Poland shoulders drooped. Her face dropped. She was the newest member of the company. She hadn’t signed on for this. She had heard whispers among the dancers that Natalia’s ballet company was almost broke and about the after-performance requirements: prostituting the dancers for contributions to keep the ballet company above water. Tonight was her fist time to be summoned by Natalia to the contributors’ party. She could barely breathe as she watched Belsky’s eyes scanning the crowd for her.

Locking eyes with the innocent girl, Natalia crooked her index finger at the ballerina to come forward to claim her date. Trepidation filled Anna’s face. Her stomach twisted into a tangle of knots as she looked at the other dancers, who silently urged her to do as Natalia requested. When Anna suddenly noticed the bulge in Belsky’s trousers, she kept her head bowed, as she slowly crept through the crowd. Belsky grabbed her by the hand to hurry her out the door.

Natalia clapped her hands. “Another happy contributor to the Novikov Ballet Company! I’m sure Anna will make his night!” She shook the box again. “Who will be next to choose, Edvar?”

 

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The Unholy 7Title: The Unholy
Author: Paul DeBlassie III
Publisher: Sunstone Press
Pages: 200
Language: English
Genre: Psychological/Paranormal Thriller
Format: Paperback/Kindle

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A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

Book Excerpt:

“Hush now, child,” said a voice she recognized as that of her mother’s closest friend. “The man cannot harm you, mijita, as long as you are with us.

We will make him think you are dead. But you must be very quiet. Ya no llores,” the woman warned, raising a finger to her lips.

The woman then carried her into a dark cave illuminated by the light of a single candle. The cave was frightening, with shadows of what appeared to be goblins and demons dancing on the red sandstone walls. “I will return for you soon. You will be safe here,” the woman said. The girl watched the woman walk away, shivering as a breeze blew through the cave’s narrow passages.

Closing her eyes, she rocked back and forth—imagining herself safe in her mother’s arms—then opened her eyes to the light of the full moon shining through the mouth of the cave. The shadows on the walls were just shadows now, no longer goblins and demons. As she slipped into a trance, images flickered in her mind. She saw the woman who had brought her to this place scattering pieces of raw meat around the open mesa where her mother had struggled, helped by two other women the girl could not identify.

Suddenly, the scene shifted to a stone ledge jutting over the mesa, and she heard the pounding footsteps of a man running toward the women. The girl felt her heart race and her breathing quicken, afraid that the bad man would spot them and kill them. Then the image shifted again, and she now saw on the mesa three gray wolves circling the raw meat and the man walking away fromthe granite ledge. As he left, she heard his thought: The child is dead.

About the Author:

Paul DeBlassie IIIPAUL DeBLASSIE III, PhD, is a psychologist and writer living in his native New Mexico. A member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association, and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, he has for over thirty years treated survivors of the dark side of religion.

His latest book is the psychological/paranormal thriller, The Unholy.

Visit his website at www.pauldeblassieiii.com or his blog at www.pauldeblassieiii.blogspot.com.

 

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The ShuTitle: The Shu: The Gnostic Tao Te Ching
Author: Thomax Green
Publisher: CreateSpace
Pages: 110
Genre: Spiritualism
Format: Paperback/Kindle

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Author Thomax Green has produced a compelling new book so cosmic in its scope that it has the power to change readers’ lives. THE SHU: THE GNOSTIC TAO TE CHING is a “modern-day Gnostic work which blends all faiths and sciences into a super belief,” Green says. “With this belief system, you can be a faithful individual without the restrictions and classifications that are imposed by religious groups. In short, it is the way to freedom and happiness.”

Book Excerpt:

In the beginning, there was no multiverse. All that existed was a perfect machine called the Light. This light was like a super-giant sun, except it radiated perfect light which did not burn but instead enlightened with complete harmony.

Those who kept the light were creatures of pure energy. We call them angels, and for a time there was bliss like a perfect equation. Until an alien emotion corrupted half the angels; it was a disease born from love. This dark emotion is called desire.

To desire is not evil, if what you obtain does not harm another. But in the beginning this emotion was so concentrated that it created darkness within the corrupted. They are now known as demons.

What they desired the most was the Light itself. They already had it but they wanted to possess it and call it theirs. This caused the angels to defend the Light from the Darkness within the demons. And a battle ensued.

Angels and Demons cannot die, but there were casualties. And when the Darkness tried to touch the Light it caused the perfect machine to explode.

The Light expanded into an infinite amount of pieces. Mass divided by nothing (or antimatter) equals infinite energy. The perfect machine was broken and time began. It became the multiverse and everything within it is the Light which is called the Inner Light or what we call God. That is how it is all powerful and all knowing. For it is within everything, the suns, the planets, the birds, bees and us. The Inner Light within us we call the soul or mind.

The battle is still being waged, for the machine is broken. The angels are pure Inner Light and the demons are now pure Inner Darkness. As humans we possess both from that original corruption.

The demons want us corrupted for they still crave the Light but they live in Darkness. The angels guide us to become better than we are so we may become pure from harmful desire.

The Multiverse is divided into an infinite number of universes. In some Darkness will prevail in others Light will win. That is why the demons do not stop fighting. For no one knows which universe will prevail good or evil.

This is why we have many lives. For in each incarnation we learn something that makes us either better or worse. Some of us will become one with the Inner Light. This is what we call going to heaven. Others will become one with the Inner Darkness and that is what we call going to hell.

There are those who adopt their inner power completely and when they do they will no longer reincarnate into this world. There are perfect examples from both sides like Jesus, Buddha, Hitler, and Napoleon. There are examples all throughout history of people becoming enlightened by their Inner Light or Inner Darkness. Look at Mother Teresa or Jeffrey Dahmer.

Ultimately when this universe comes to an end it will either be controlled by the Light or the Darkness. And when all universes come to an end whichever power is greater will cast out the other and replace it when time travels in reverse back to the beginning.

And that is the story of all things.

 

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Ghost of the Gods 7Title: Ghost of the Gods
Genre: Techno-Thriller
Author: Kevin Bohacz
Publisher: Mazel & Sechel
Pages: 437
Format: Paperback/Kindle

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Was it the accumulated wounds to the environment that had finally triggered the nanotech plague or was it simply one more step in a shrewdly crafted plan to replace us with humans 2.0? As I write this at least one pair of these transhumans breathe the same air as us, and there are likely many more. They may look like us, they may even be almost human, but they are also cybernetic and will live for an extraordinary length of time. Trust me, their goals are not the same as ours. It was not a natural plague that almost drove humankind to extinction but an attack from within, turning our own biology against us. Scientists discovered all too late an artificial entity, a sentient machine foolishly created in the image of god, had been studying us and genetically altering us for longer than we can imagine. Perhaps it is because of this god-machine that we evolved into creatures who can think and speak and know our own mortality? This silicon god is so different from us that we may never truly understand it, but what we do know is that it is terrifyingly intelligent and it hates us. What we do know is that it tried to eradicate us from the face of our planet and then stopped for no discernible reason. What we do know is that its work is not done.

First Chapter:

Kathy Morrison – Pueblo Canyon, Arizona – January 21, 0002 A.P.

Northeast of Sedona, Arizona, was the tiny settlement of Pueblo Canyon. Dr. Kathy Morrison was walking through the crunchy snow, returning from a house call. She was obsessed with a need to act that was growing more urgent with each passing day. She did not see the sunrise or the stunning Arizona red stone vistas that surrounded her. How could she remain silent with all she knew? She had proof the govern- ments of the world had lied and everyone was in danger. Entire librar- ies could be filled with material published about the nanotech plague without a single page accurately portraying the truth about what had happened two years ago. On the Internet, official disinformation rapidly became historical fact. Unimpeachable government officials and leading experts explained how the plague was caused by genetically engineered COBIC bacteria. They presented evidence showing that COBIC had been weaponized by the addition of a lethal nanotech payload called a seed, supposedly the first self-replicating nanotech ever devised by humans. The charges stated that through a conspiracy of negligence and criminal intent, the smart weapon escaped into the wild, where it multiplied. Both development and release were declared crimes against humanity. Many in the scientific community were wrongly sentenced to prison or death in televised military tribunals.

Kathy walked past the settlement’s schoolhouse and heard the smiling voices of young children inside but could not smile herself. It was the government who was the true criminal, not the scientists. Everyone, including schoolchildren, learned the lie of how nanotech COBIC supposedly collected into a waterborne supercolony and that the military had destroyed it, ending the threat. None of the few who knew the truth dared mention the god-machine or its deep infestation into the biosphere. That information, as well as any proof of the truly advanced nature of this technology, was violently suppressed. These seeds were everywhere and in everything. Yet almost everyone be- lieved they were not infected, and the government encouraged this lie with a mix of bribes, solitary confinement, and worse. Reports to the contrary, which had been issued by the CDC during the plague, were dismissed as part of the criminal conspiracy. Only a small number of people knew the god-machine was the true threat and that the military had failed to destroy it.

It was to stop humankind’s damage to the biosphere that the god- machine had begun its bloody work. The machine operated as if it was the very immune system of the planet and humans had become an invading contagion. Long before the threat was understood to be any- thing other than biological or chemical, vast numbers of people were being murdered in what were soon called kill-zones. The best doctors and scientists in the world were initially out of their depth. They could not explain how this agent, which killed with the devastating speed and 100 percent lethality of a chemical weapon, only affected people and not animals. Its selectivity was like a virus targeting very specific DNA. They could not explain the zones of sudden death that were miles in diameter and bloomed out of nowhere. Even more so, it was inconceivable that someone standing one foot outside a kill-zone lived while those within the zone died. It was far too late once they’d finally discovered what humanity was truly up against.

On the day the old world ended, it was in response to the U.S. Navy’s destruction of a supercolony that the god-machine had struck back with an escalating barrage of kill-zones like none before. In a matter of hours billions of people were dead. When the nanotech plague ended that day for unknown reasons, the world’s governments declared victory. Kathy was maddened that the public was ignorant of every critical fact in a global catastrophe that had nearly driven humankind to extinction. No one was safe. The horror could happen again without warning.

Kathy washed her hands after seeing her last patient of the morning, then headed to her study. The dining room of the two story prairie farmhouse had been converted into an examining room where she saw her patients. The house itself was at least a hundred years old. Upstairs were two large bedrooms, one of which had been converted into a study. She was the only fully qualified medical doc in Pueblo Canyon, which meant she worked long hours. Her grueling residency after graduat- ing from Harvard Medical had been easy compared to life in Pueblo Canyon, but also far less rewarding.

Walking through the living room with her coffee, Kathy stopped to tend the fire. The house was heated by a large stone fireplace and stream radiators fed by an ancient, temperamental oil furnace in the basement. The warmth from the fire was soothing; the other rooms of the house were too cold and empty. She picked up a favorite photograph of her and Mark Freedman from the mantel. A tear ran down her cheek as she stared at his face. They had lived together for a year after the plague before Mark had ended their relationship and moved out. He had told her it was hopeless and he was right. Now they were very close friends. He lived in a house only a hundred yards from hers. She still loved him, though worked hard to convince herself otherwise. She thought about how they had been thrown together at the CDC’s BVMC lab in Atlanta when the plague was just emerging. Mark was a Nobel Prize winning molecular biologist. His years of research on primordial bacteria had proven COBIC was a living fossil. Thanks to him, this tiny creature had been crowned the oldest known form of motile life on Earth. He had literally discovered the missing link between the great kingdoms of plant and animal. This prize winning work made Mark the expert on a bacterium, which was now also the carrier of a nanotech plague. For this reason he quickly became invaluable to the CDC and Kathy. His work with COBIC predated the plague by a decade and had no connec- tion to nanotech infected COBIC, though in retrospect the coincidences were hard to ignore.

Kathy was growing agitated as she climbed the stairs. She’d been worried to distraction for the past eight weeks since Mark had left Pueblo Canyon to find this thing he’d started calling a singularity. He believed this singularity was proof that more of his kind now existed and that when he found it he would also find more hybrids like himself. He should have been back by now. She refused to allow herself to imagine him dead.

The steps creaked with sounds that had grown familiar, yet she felt vulnerable and alone for so many reasons. Mark was their leader and with him gone the weight of leadership was on her shoulders. She thought about all the people at Pueblo Canyon who knew the dangerous truth about the government’s lies. Most of the doctors and scientists who had fought the plague with her had died in Atlanta at the BVMC lab. All of the survivors from the lab who knew the truth now lived here in Pueblo Canyon. If the government wanted to ensure their official lies were never exposed, making everyone at Pueblo Canyon disappear was the smart way to start.

Kathy sat down at her desk. The room had wonderful light from a row of three old wood framed windows. The glass was not insulated and radiated cold, making the space feel like a refrigerator, but she didn’t care. The sunlight warmed her soul. Kathy sipped her coffee while gazing out at her view of the small community. Pueblo Canyon was such a peaceful, secluded place. A small collection of buildings were scattered about the broad, uneven snow covered base of the canyon. Smoke drifted from chimneys as people worked at various chores. She spotted two men tending to livestock in one of the paddocks just beyond all the buildings. They’d both been well respected medical researchers at the BVMC lab. She had treated one of them a week ago for a nasty animal bite. Not far on either side of the canyon floor, mountainous red stone walls rose almost a thousand feet to meet the high plateau. With its natural fortifications, it had been an ideal place to end their exodus from a devastated world two years ago.

When they’d arrived, Pueblo Canyon had been an isolated horse ranch abandoned decades ago. Now it was in good repair with new structures being added almost every month. Food had even been grown the past spring, summer, and fall. A small crop of pumpkins had been especially successful. The well water was sweet and the air was pure. At night the sky was filled with so many stars that it filled the soul with wonder. Electricity had been restored about a year ago. All wireless phones companies had been nationalized. Through broadband wireless, the Internet was back and thriving. All the original settlers had stayed on even after the government had begun rebuilding, and the benefits of moving to the large protectorate cities like Manhattan, Chicago, and Los Angeles became substantial. Some of the settlers had contacted their extended family members. As a result, their little community had grown, including more than a few children. Without invitation, new- comers had even started to arrive in Pueblo Canyon. In the beginning it had been rare for anyone to stumble upon the reclusive settlement and even rarer for them to stay.

Every so often a transient would arrive because of Internet rumors. Conspiracy blogs claimed that certain small towns in New Mexico and Arizona had been passed over by the nanotech plague because of experimental government technology located there. Sedona was one of the few towns that had made it onto everyone’s conspiracy list, along with Roswell and Los Alamos. Sensible people wrote off the blogs in the same spirit as crop circles or energy vortexes. There were, however, others who made their living by searching for grains of truth buried in the wildest rumors. Kathy was concerned trouble might start if a reporter actually uncovered something even stranger than the experi- mental government technology they were seeking. What would happen if they uncovered a small group of ex-CDC scientists and doctors who had discovered ancient technology and a truth more dangerous to the new world order than a nanotech plague? The truth was that humans were no longer the most advanced hominids on Earth.

By the time the sun filled the canyon with light, Kathy had been typing rapidly into her notebook computer for hours. From her windows she had watched the sun travel a good distance. Its rays cast moving shadows along the surrounding red stone walls, changing their appear- ance by the hour. It was a natural diorama as surreal and beautiful as anything imaginable. At different times of day, different stone shapes came into view and then faded like ghosts. Some of the shapes appeared to be human faces, while others were giants locked in mortal combat. Thousands of years ago Indians had named these natural statues and spun legends around them. Kathy’s eyes were growing blurry as she glanced up from her screen at the red stone phantoms on the canyon walls. She was trying to get her ideas completely down before she lost some of the details. She had failed. She could think so much faster than she could type. It felt like such a luxury to have a computer and elec- tricity to run it. Not so long ago the best she had were spiral notebooks and a gas lantern. The world they had lost was coming back in many ways, but it felt more like a failed experiment being retried one last time than any kind of real hope for a lasting future. She looked at the words on the screen. Her journal had grown to thousands of pages of historical manuscript. She was speaking truth to power. In these times, that was a dangerous thing to do. The journal that she’d begun while they were fleeing from the ruins of Atlanta had ripened from a whim into an obsession. Now all her free time was devoted to her writing.

On the old fashioned paper calendar on her desk, the square for today’s date read January 21. It looked the same as all the other squares before and after it. A notepad on her desk had the word darkness sketched on it in different sizes and lettering. Every version of the word seemed to embody despair. The old world had ended on January 21 two years ago when the plague reached its crescendo and then stopped. Darkness was the name given to that bloody day and what followed, a name that had spread on its own until everyone had adopted it. Today was the Eve of Darkness 0002 A.P. – year two after the plague.

The plague had come so quietly, so unexpectedly. What everyone mistook as isolated pockets of death in remote jungles was, in truth, the end of times. Perhaps if she and the others at the CDC had been quicker to recognize what was happening, more could have been done, more lives could have been saved. Kathy felt terrible guilt under the glaring spotlight of that historical fact. She knew it had been her responsibility, her team of CDC doctors and scientists who were the leaders in the fight. She’d had the best chance of anyone to stop the nanotech plague and had failed miserably. As a result, a new world, a new dark age, had begun.

Just as children leave the womb in agonizing pain, this new world was born in the agony of an entire species. Kathy knew her kind was doomed; those of the parent breed would die out at a natural pace.
Though no one had found another hybrid like Mark or her ex-patient Sarah, Kathy suspected by now there had to be hundreds, and their numbers would be growing. You were not born a hybrid—you made yourself a hybrid. Under the right conditions, nanotech seeds could be forced to replicate in vast numbers and migrate deep into the cerebral cortex, where they penetrated the nuclei of cells and took root. The result was gray matter that was partially organic and partially nanotech. Like a fossil slowly forming as its original organic material is leached away and replaced with minerals, the nanotech seeds slowly replaced organic neurons with nanotech constructs. Kathy was deeply troubled by the entire concept. Once a brain had been infested and nanotech circuitry now did the thinking, were you still the original person or some kind of perfect computer simulation of what had once been human? What about the soul, the essence of life? Was it still there?

Kathy cared for Mark. She desperately wanted to believe he was the same person. She prayed he was the same person but hoping and praying was not enough. Doubts remained. Sarah acted so alien and at fleeting moments Kathy thought she’d caught Mark acting like Sarah. The risk of losing what made her uniquely human terrified Kathy and kept her from trying to take that irreversible step of becoming like Mark. With his nanotech mind and flawlessly maintained biology, he could live endlessly with the body of a middle aged man. Even his skin had become a faultless, smooth, expanse of silk without a single freckle or mole. She would grow old and wrinkled. He would outlive her by generations, maybe even forget her, and that thought stabbed shards of ice into her heart.

Hybridization, the greatest adventure imaginable, was within her grasp, yet her fingers refused to close around it. Even if she remained herself after the transformation, aspects of her humanity would inevitably erode away. Human life was filled with little rattles and squeaks. Life was not perfect. It was never meant to be. If you removed the specter of death, didn’t you also lose the very ingredient that brings emotional vibrancy to life? Didn’t death give everything its meaning?

In prehistoric times, seventy thousand years ago, some disaster had caused what evolutionary biologists call a population bottleneck. The number of Homo sapiens in the world had been reduced in that bottleneck to six hundred mating pairs. Homo sapiens ancestor Homo Heidelbergensis might have been alive seventy thousand years ago. Homo Neanderthals were alive until twenty-eight thousand years ago. Homo Floresiensis were alive until a mere twelve thousand years ago. Those six hundred pairs of Homo sapiens went out to conquer the world and replace all other human species. Every man and woman alive today was descended only from the DNA of those six hundred mating pairs. There could be a similar number of transhumans alive today. What would future scientists write about this parallel circumstance that launched a new human race? Was this a repeat of something that had happened seventy thousand years ago? Kathy knew Mark believed the answer was yes. He was unshakably convinced the god-machine had been shepherding our evolution ever since we separated from the great apes. One night while they were still together as a couple, Mark had explained to her that without a genetic advantage it was extremely dif- ficult to become a hybrid, but not impossible. Taking brain damaging overdoses of drugs as he and Sarah had would fail if you lacked the required gene mutations. Part of what this rare bit of mutated nucleic material did was entice otherwise inert nanotech seeds into repairing damaged brain tissue, which contained the mutation. Carried within this mutated DNA was a dormant blueprint of changes needed to build neurons that had seeds for nucleuses. Large scale repairs made by seeds using the DNA blueprints created clusters of nanotech neurons capable of spreading the same restructuring into nearby neurons. To her medically trained ears this sounded like a terribly dangerous biological chain reaction.

Mark had then explained there was a safe purely mental path open to almost everyone. The instructions were stored forever inside the god-machine and our DNA. If she could develop conscious control in her dreams, she could learn to operate the thought-interface while in that state of altered awareness. A very gradual all inclusive restructur- ing could then be switched on. The mental switch was thrown by using an intense single-mindedness to push the throughput on the thought- interface above a threshold. This critical threshold was calculated based on the amount of free-swimming nanotech COBIC in the body. Kathy knew scientists had a name for this altered state of awareness Mark was describing—it was called lucid dreams. Becoming a hybrid that way could take a lifetime of dedication and practice. Mark had told her he could increase the level of COBIC in her body, which would give her a huge advantage. Still, the entire process sounded like a test of mental worthiness. Kathy could not help thinking about how closely Mark’s description fit the teachings of many religions from Tibetan Buddhists and their Dream Yoga to North American Indians and their dream journeys. Were the similarities only a coincidence or had information been leaking from the god-machine into religious teachings for time immemorial?

Kathy glanced out the windows at children playing in the snow and felt a deep sense of loss. She could hear their faint shouts of joy. Where did children fit into this coming transhuman world? How would this new race reproduce? Would they give birth to hybrid infants, or would their children be born human and then undergo restructuring? Without death, at some point birth would have to stop to prevent over- population from destroying the planet. Childhood could become rare or even obsolete. The entire human population would age but not show it. Kathy imagined a planet inhabited by physically perfect men and women who were nothing but gray Methuselahs deep in their hearts. Would evolution also stop or would the transhumans change over time evolving through self-reconstruction? Kathy tapped out a few more sentences into her journal.

What a horrible irony that immortality, the dream of every human, finally arrives but with a price that is too high to pay. It is immortality born from the death of billions of innocent lives. Who could choose to benefit from that kind of bloodletting? I only hope the hybrids remain more human than machine. I hope they do a better job of stewardship over this little blue planet than we did.

Outside, a scattering of snow had begun to fall. A cold wind rattled the window frames, and Kathy wrapped the day blanket around her shoulders. At this higher altitude over a foot of snow covered the ground. Thousands of feet lower there was only rain and mud where in past years there would have been a blanket of white. Many of the trees had autumn leaves and new green leaves on the same branches. The surreal landscape was incriminating evidence of what our disregard had wrought. The effects of global warming had not stopped with the nanotech plague. For now, the symptoms were continuing to worsen. Kathy sipped her cup of coffee. The dark brew was a soothing reminder of a comfortable world that was forever lost. She returned her attention to reworking the preface for her journal.

Approximately 30 percent of humanity survived the nano- tech plague. In the aftermath, interruptions in food, medical, and shelter killed a quarter of those who’d survived. Ironically, most of those who died in what is now euphemistically called the “supply shortages” lived in the industrialized world. Those with a simpler way of life survived in larger numbers because they did not depend on support from big industries and infra- structure. Industrialized countries, which had not fared so well, lost closer to 90 percent of their people. Unchecked fires swept through many of the great cities of the world, reducing large swaths to charred rubble. The European and Asian land wars over resources then destroyed much of the infrastructure that had been spared in those regions. In North America droughts caused by global warming further strained the food supply and sparked massive wildfires in the western half of the continent. North America has now become a land of two separate societies, the Protectorates and everywhere else, collectively labeled as the Outlands. Two years after the nanotech plague ended, life is slowly recovering and even beginning to flourish in spots. Yet North America has become a much darker and different place than what anyone could have imagined.

Industry and commerce are reemerging but with very dif- ferent markets and goals. With the population so drastically reduced, and abandoned stores overflowing with goods, much of what was considered toys of the rich are now owned by the masses. From the richest to the poorest, everyone has large screen televisions, computers, appliances, cars, and clothes. What most do not have is basic security in the form of food, medical care, and protection from crime. The chasm between the haves and have-nots is still growing but no longer measured in material possessions. With violence and deception having become the pocket change of everyday life, that chasm is now measured in lifespan. Existence in so many places has reverted back to something closer to that experienced by stone age humans: a life that is short and brutal.

North America’s population is precariously holding at thirty million while Europe is at fifty. There are fears that the numbers are still falling. The population of North America and Europe is tiny when compared to Asia or Latin America. Asia still has over a billion people and Latin America has about two hundred million. In North America the Native population, which had been less than 2 percent of the total, is now closer to 10. A viral rumor is that the scales had been tipped back by God for how we’d abused each other. Ironically, this rumor is closer to the truth than most would guess, except the acts of god were those of an ancient nanotech machine and the misuse turned out to be what we did to the environment and not just each other. In a pattern similar to indigenous people, rural populations outweigh the cities’ but not for long. As the protectorates become more established, the population will inevitably migrate to the sanctuary offered by these new city states run by the United States Alliance Government (USAG). This corrupt partnership between the remains of the United States government and a handful of the largest corporations in the world now controls all—

Distant engine sounds jolted Kathy from her writing. It was the low rumbling of a heavy vehicle. Was someone coming? She’d walked past the settlement’s parking lot on the way back from her last house call. None of the vehicles had been taken out. The sound grew faint, then disappeared. The acoustics of the canyon and surrounding land could play tricks. Her heart was pounding. For a brief moment she allowed herself to hope it was Mark returning. So much could have gone wrong while he was out there searching for his singularity. It could all be a trap. The complete list of scientists wanted in connection with the nanotech plague had never been published. Through friends still inside the government, Kathy had learned Mark was at the top of the secret watch list of traitors. As a Nobel Prize winning molecular biologist he was an obvious target. His work with COBIC certainly added reason- able sounding grounds, but the true reason for his appearance on that list had nothing to do with his research. He was on that list because of what he had become. He was on that list because nobody outside the top-secret maze of government agencies could ever be allowed to learn that Mark was no longer fully human.

Mark was risking too much to find this singularity. Kathy wanted to believe he’d told her everything, but she could never be sure all the ideas that came out of his mind were his own. His brain was a nanotech organ connected to a global wireless network. In a very real sense he had become a node in the nervous system of an artificial life form, the god-machine. Kathy hated that cold, destructive silicon monster. She was no longer sure Mark felt the same way. By his own admission, the god-machine used the n-web to implant memories inside his brain. That was how it communicated. Instantly he would simply remember some fact or experience as if it were his own. With all that swirling inside his head, the chances for delusion were very real. Mark believed the god-machine was hundreds of millions of years old and that it was a medical tool built by some lost civilization. Kathy could easily believe the idea that the god-machine was originally a medical device. Just by looking at how it had healed Mark of his diabetes was confirmation. Yet she had serious doubts it was a hundred million year old relic. She was an epidemiologist; part rational scientist and part medical detective. In her mind, applying the principle of Occam’s razor to Mark’s relic theory would lead anyone who was objective to the conclusion that a much simpler explanation had to be the answer.

She thought of what it would feel like to see him driving into Pueblo Canyon today. Her eyes teared up, knowing she’d long ago betrayed him in her mind. Every day while they were still living together, she’d feared a machine instead of a man would wake up next to her in their bed. As his doctor she knew Mark was still undergoing a slow conversion of his brain into nanotech. She’d decided after he’d left, if he did become a machine it would be better that he never returned. On the last day she’d seen him, it was clear his humanity was still intact. His emotions seemed strong and genuine. He was embarking on a great adventure. He would discover whether hybrids were behind this singularity or not. Yet Kathy knew there was something important he was concealing. She was his confidante but lately there had been many things he had not told her. Hours after he had gone, a neighbor had delivered a letter that had been slipped under their door. Mark had known the neighbor was out for the day and that Kathy would not receive it until he was far away. She picked up the wrinkled sheet of paper from her desk and read it once more, for the hundredth time.

Please forgive me for being a poor friend. I always planned on explaining everything when I got back but the singularity is growing so powerful I’m no longer sure I’ll be able to return as soon as planned. The singularity is more risky than I told you. It has evolved into something like a black hole, a mental- emotional gravity well. It’s sucking in all the data from the n-web around it and growing stronger as if feeding on the data itself. I don’t know what effect it will have on me when I’m closer to it. Will it devour my mind in some kind of continuous data-flood? I believe this singularity is the side effect of a tribe of hybrids increasing in numbers and reaching a kind of critical mass, but for what purpose? I don’t know.

Sarah has experienced and believes the same things I do. We think it could even be a precursor to something new and wonderful, possibly the next evolutionary step for hybrids. I thought I had reached an evolutionary plateau, but I am only an embryo.

I know I told you a week ago that Sarah had disappeared, taking one of the Humvees, but that was not entirely true. When Sarah left, I knew where she was heading and what she was doing. She’s gone off to lay the groundwork to locate the singularity. She’s been in the Outlands, traveling east on Interstate 40 for days. When she stops each day, she tries to get a bearing on where she senses the singularity is located. In her last message, she was certain it was northeast of Pueblo Canyon. I will be heading in the opposite direction on Route 40 doing the same thing. We are trying to act like a pair of radio receivers triangulating in on a target. Once we get a reliable bearing, we’ll both head toward it from opposite angles. The n-web doesn’t exactly work like radio signals, but the metaphor is close enough. I know you don’t trust Sarah and think she’s unreliable and reckless. So just trust my judgment. If I didn’t need her help, I would not have gotten her involved.

Kathy stopped reading the letter. She hated the idea of Mark taking so many risks to find more of his kind. She hated it even more knowing that Sarah was out there probably traveling with him by now. For some time Sarah had been acting increasingly unpredictable and even spooky. Who knew what that twentysomething female hybrid was capable of doing? She was a wild card in every sense. Kathy could as easily imagine her trying to kill Mark as seduce him. She balled up the letter and threw it in the wastebasket. She wanted to scream. She stared at the crumpled letter inside the basket and wanted to kick the wastebasket across the room. Why hadn’t Mark called or e-mailed?

The engine sounds returned. Kathy wrestled one of the windows open. Snowflakes were coming inside as she listened to the sounds faintly reverberating down the natural echo chamber of the canyon walls. She could feel tiny vibrations in the windowpane. The sound was slowly glowing louder. Any doubts that someone was driving toward the settlement were erased. Vehicles rarely came to their isolated community. The only way in or out was a dirt road, which was nearly impassable over the final ten-mile span of broken terrain. Only if you knew the concealed detours could you arrive by vehicle. As a result, outsiders came almost exclusively on foot or by horse.

Kathy was racing down the stairs before she realized it. She grabbed her coat almost as an afterthought. The frigid air attacked her. The porch was slippery with thin patches of ice where the sun never reached. She began shivering while slipping on her parka. Four hundred yards in the distance, she saw through a curtain of bare trees a black boxy shape negotiating an incline in the dirt road. A second identical shape appeared on the road, then went out of sight. They could be Humvees but something didn’t feel right. Mark and Sarah had each taken one of the military Humvees that had been part of the exodus from Atlanta. Why hadn’t the lookouts or the patrols that scouted out as far as the highway called this in? Kathy pulled out her cell phone and saw no service on the display. She was out of contact. A skittish feeling was taking root in her stomach.

At the sounds of boots crunching in snow, she turned to see Carl Green trudging his way from the cabin where he and his new bride lived. Carl stepped up onto her porch and tromped the snow from his boots. A mug of coffee was in his hands and an M16 was slung over his back. Carl had been her boss at the BVMC lab before the old world had ended.

“Expecting visitors?” asked Carl with a hint of nervousness.

“I don’t know,” said Kathy. “I thought, maybe Mark… My phone’s out. Is yours working?”

Carl checked his phone, then shook his head. Now Kathy was scared. A third black shape jounced down the same incline in the road, then a fourth and a fifth. Her world became surreal. Whatever was coming no longer sounded like Humvees, but more like powerful truck engines or maybe construction equipment. Kathy looked back at her door and thought about going inside and locking it. A vehicle reached the en- trance to the ranch. Its roofline was the first thing she clearly saw, then a squat rectangular body with a wedge shaped snout that looked like it belonged on an amphibious craft. It was a Stryker armored fighting vehicle with four huge tires on each side and an evil looking Gatling machine gun mounted in an electric roof turret. The camouflage paint was a dark mixture of black and smoky grays.

“Shit,” said Carl as he dumped the remainder of his coffee into the snow and unslung his rifle.
“You don’t know,” said Kathy.

“What, are you crazy?” he snapped. “They’re here because of Mark and Sarah. We knew this would happen one day. Word they live here had to leak out sooner or later.”

The lead armored vehicle came to a stop. Its engine idled like a purring monster. No hatch opened. No greetings were offered. As the other vehicles arrived, they formed an offensive formation with a combined firing position over the entire settlement. This was not a standoff. The settlement was heavily armed, but their odds were poor against this kind of armored force and the airpower they could call in for support. Kathy felt like her world had been quietly slumbering and a bad dream was about to begin. The vehicles had Peacekeeper insignia. The Peacekeepers were a despised branch of military law enforcement that patrolled the Outlands. The name Peacekeeper was Orwellian. The only peace they kept was that of the grave. If any kind of resistance was encountered, Peacekeeper rules of engagement were to respond with overwhelming firepower. Entire towns had been erased with the after- math broadcast on government run television as victories of civilization.

Kathy knew she had to quickly take charge of this situation before it veered fatally out of control. She took in her surroundings. Almost everyone was standing outside their homes or places of work. Many of the men and women were armed. They had riot guns, M16s, and other military hardware. For now their weapons were pointed down. Kathy thought about her lookouts stationed in the surrounding high ground of the canyon walls. They had to be aiming their shoulder fired missiles at the Peacekeepers right now, including a prized Javelin antitank missile. With luck they could take out one of the Strykers, but what would happen next? In addition to the remaining wolf pack of Strykers, Kathy knew Apache helicopters or even worse would be unleashed. A-10 Warthog ground attack jets might come screaming out of the sky to murder them all. She was subconsciously praying in a repeated whisper to her friends and neighbors, “Hold back, don’t fire….”

“What?” said Carl.

“Nothing,” she said. “I have to do this!” She started walking toward the lead vehicle. “Everyone, put down your weapons,” she called out. “We can’t fight them. It would be suicide.”

She repeated herself louder and with more authority in her voice. Looking around, she saw some of the people doing as she ordered, then more. As she kept walking, behind her she heard the sounds of weapons being laid on the ground. A rear hatch on the lead vehicle lowered like a drawbridge. Six heavily armed soldiers came out, followed by a pair of corporate mercenaries who had officers’ rank. In this new upside down world, the corporate mercenaries were the officers. All the Peacekeepers wore their standard full body armor and helmets, which many believed made them impervious to most weapons. Hatches dropped on some of the other vehicles with more heavily armored troops emerging. The two officers from the lead vehicle strode toward her as the storm troopers fanned out, confiscating weapons and body searching people for anything concealed. The ranking officer, a major with a badly pockmarked face, took her picture with his tablet. He stared at the tablet, not acknowledg- ing her presence. She knew he was checking her against a database.

“Kathy Morrison. What a pleasure to meet Mark Freedman’s wife,” said the pock faced man. “I am Major Kohl and this is my second in command, Captain Hillman.”

“A pleasure,” said Kathy. “Just for the record, Mark and I are not married.”

“A legal technicality, I’m sure.” “What do you want?”

“I’d have thought that was obvious. Are you playing games with me?” Kohl turned toward Hillman. “It’s time to clarify ourselves. Captain, why don’t you make it clear what we want.”

Hillman spoke softly into a boom mic suspended in front of his lips. Distant weapons echoed in rapid fire. Kathy defensively dropped to her knees while glancing around in shock. Everyone she could see was doing the same, except the Peacekeepers. No one appeared injured. She stood and faced off against Kohl. The man had a smirk on his face. “There are armed surveillance drones circling far above us right now, watching everything,” said Kohl. “We have authority to engage with lethal force anyone pointing weapons at a Peacekeeper. Your perimeter security on the canyon walls have been neutralized by our drones.” Kohl sounded like a judge reading a verdict he particularly enjoyed.

“Why the surprised look?” he asked. “Did you honestly think we don’t have a strategy and just stumble around looking for trouble?”

“You’re fucking monsters!” shouted Kathy.

“Thank you. Coming from a terrorist’s wife, that’s a compliment I accept. Now, I am going to ask only once. Where are the terrorists Mark Freedmen and Sarah Mayfair?”

From behind her a strong pair of hands clamped over her wrists and pulled them back brutally. She felt plastic handcuffs being applied. As they were cinched up, the bands cut into her skin. She tried to yank free and ended up facedown in the snow with a sharp pain in the back of her skull. The bastard had hit her with something hard. With her wrists cuffed, she was unable to get up and barely able to turn on her side in the snow. Rough hands grabbed her. As she was hauled away, she saw her own blood smeared into the snow where she’d fallen.

Kathy felt exhausted. She and a select few of the others has been strip searched as a group and then separated into different rooms. Still naked, her arms and legs were secured to a chair by plastic cuffs. She knew she’d been stripped to humiliate her. She knew the reasons for everything they did, but knowing provided no advantage. Their tactics were working. Her head ached from what she suspected was a mild concussion. The outside windows were open and the room was freez- ing. She could not stop her teeth from chattering. She felt humiliated and wretched. So far, in escalating severity, she had been questioned, threatened, and then beaten. She knew the sadistic blows had not left any lasting damage—so far. A doctor’s black bag had been set on a nearby table. She imagined all kinds of surgeon’s tools and drugs inside that bag. A drawn out animal cry of pain came from one of the adjoining rooms.

Moments later the door opened, and Kohl walked in, followed by a woman who was dressed like a medic. A cruel looking man carrying a towel with bloodstains on it came in behind them. Once again Kohl’s eyes slowly examined her nakedness. She wanted to look away but refused to give him that small victory. She was breathing rapidly. The door was closed and locked. She kept glancing at the bloody towel and wondering whose blood was on it.

“Why are you making us hurt you?” asked Kohl. “Just tell me where Mark and Sarah have gone. Let’s end this before permanent damage is done.”

The cruel looking man removed a long dissecting knife from the black bag. Something broke deep inside Kathy. She was terrified in a primitive, uncontrollable way. Yanking at her restraints and crying, she felt the blood draining from her head. The room was spinning.

The next thing Kathy knew, her face and hair were dripping with cold water. Someone had drenched her. She realized she must have fainted. A large gauge IV line was tapped into her arm and connected to a bag of saline. The windows were still open. She did not feel as cold as she should have. Her thinking was sluggish. The doctor inside her made a diagnosis of hypothermia.

The cruel looking man was holding the long dissecting knife and staring at her chest. There was a terrible thirst in his stare. The woman medic had turned her back. Kohl was gazing at her with pitiless black eyes. He leaned in close to whisper into her ear.

“We will keep at this, you know.”

His breath was stale, and she felt the warm moisture of his words on her face.

“We will not stop. We will keep you alive with fluids while we cut deep into you again and again. At some point you will tell us what we want to know. Why sufferer permanent damage? You’re a doctor. You know what losing too much blood can do to the organs. Just tell us where Mark and Sarah are hiding.”

Kathy felt something cold against her skin and knew it was the knife. Kohl turned away.

“Wait!” sobbed Kathy. “I’ll tell you everything! Everything!”

She knew she was broken. God help her. She’d imagined she was tougher than this. Her entire body was on fire. She was terrified of feeling the sting of that knife and at the brink of fainting again.

“Go on,” said Kohl.

He sat down in a chair facing her, then motioned to the medic and her day blanket was draped around her. The smell of the soft wool made her cry. The IV line was removed. The medic clipped the plastic cuffs from her body and handed her clothing to cover herself. The windows were closed. Kathy felt wrenched and defeated. She was babbling ev- erything she knew. It came out of her in torrents as if she were vomiting out inner secrets along with her soul. She was afraid to stop talking out of fear of what might happen after she was of no use.

Kathy Morrison – Pueblo Canyon, Arizona – January 23, 0002 A.P.

It was morning outside. Kathy was locked in her bedroom. She knew a guard was stationed just outside her door. From the windows, she’d seen guards patrolling the grounds. Even though she was exhausted, she’d been unable to sleep more than an hour or two at a stretch. She knew she was headed for life in a prison work camp run by some corpo- ration. She was about to become low cost labor for the machine. Again and again in her mind she’d gone over the secrets she’d given up last night. None of it would be much use in hunting Mark down. She heard a helicopter approaching. The sound grew deafening. The windows were blanketed with a whiteout of snow as if a blizzard was raging outside. A few minutes later her door opened and in walked a face she recognized, accompanied by Kohl and Hillman. The face looked more haggard than she remembered it. General McKafferty glanced at Kohl and then stared directly at her. His half-moon shaped face was an ugly visage with a mouth that formed a kind of crack that was pretending to be a smile.

“You deserved the treatment you received,” said McKafferty. “We will find the traitors and that will be the end of it. Your information was helpful and for that your government thanks you. I honestly think you believe you did the right thing by helping terrorists. You really don’t understand what they’ve become or what they’ve done. Do you?”

“I know what you’ve become,” said Kathy.

“Understand this,” growled McKafferty. “I will do anything to keep these terrorists from launching another nanotech plague.”

“Are you’re insane!” shouted Kathy. “You know the truth!”

“Kohl, Hillman, leave us,” ordered McKafferty. The room emptied and the door was closed.
“You can make all the noise you want about that one state secret you think you know. No one will believe a prisoner. But I want to be very clear, Morrison. If you have left anything out of your confession, held even one detail back, then I will personally see to it that you stand before a military tribunal with the traitors. I will see you executed. Do you understand me?”

Kathy nodded while looking away from the man.

“Fine, get dressed in something warm. There’s no need to pack. You’re leaving. Oh, by the way, your journal was very interesting reading. I especially enjoyed the part where you described me as a professional thug and what was it? Ah… that’s right. The ugliest bastard you’d ever seen.”

McKafferty was grinning with a hideous display of self-satisfaction. Kathy’s mind raced to her computer with its encrypted drive. That journal was lost but not an older backup copy. That one had to be safe. McKaf- ferty and his jackals couldn’t have found it too. The backup was stored on an encrypted waterproof thumb drive called an IronKey. The small metal fob was hidden in a crevice at the base of a red stone formation known as Indian Foot. Mark knew the spot and what she would want done. She was about to become one of the disappeared. Her journal was now her life’s purpose. Mark would retrieve it and send it out over the Internet for everyone to read: dangerous truths from a missing and possibly dead unsung hero.

The late afternoon’s stormy sky cast its pall over the settlement. Kathy was being frog marched toward a black unmarked helicopter. On either side of her, a firm, large hand gripped each arm. She could see faces in windows while others were outside watching as she passed. The faces were unreadable. She could tell deep feelings were being masked out of fear. Only their eyes were saying good-bye.

The helicopter door opened as she approached. She was bodily lifted up and in by her escorts. More hands seized hold of her inside the cockpit. She was maneuvered into a seat next to a window. A safety harness was pulled too tight. She looked at the seats facing her and was surprised to recognize McKafferty.

As the chopper lifted into the air, feeling lost, Kathy looked out across Pueblo Canyon. She knew she would never return again. This was her first step toward becoming one of the disappeared. As the helo banked, she saw a smoke trail lance down from a canyon wall toward her. The helo jinked hard. Her world shook violently. A second missile smashed one of the Strykers, swallowing it in an orange fireball. That had to be the work of their only Javelin. Through the window she saw a firefight had erupted. Her fingers tightened into fists. The Peacemaker machine was rolling into motion, creating their hideous brand of peace. With mechanical precision they began grinding Pueblo Canyon under- foot. In a maelstrom of Gatling machine gun fire and explosions she saw people running and falling as they were torn apart. She was screaming at the Peacekeepers to stop while hitting the window with her fists, her eyes blurred with tears of rage.

She heard McKafferty shouting, “Goddamn it, Kohl, stand down!”

The carnage went on as the helicopter banked away, gaining speed and elevation in what felt like evasive maneuvers. Her view of Pueblo Canyon was replaced with peaceful red stone formations and trees. Kathy banged her fist against the glass one last time. She turned her burning eyes on McKafferty.

“You bastard… Why couldn’t you have left us alone? No one had to die. No one!”

“I’ve been onboard this chopper sitting on the ground for over an hour,” he growled. “That made me a nice fat target, but no one took a potshot until you came onboard. That missile was from your friends. I’d say it had your name on it, not mine. Is there something else you’re holding back that you want to tell me?”

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Dreamer coverIs the Dreamer good or evil? As war looms between Britain and Argentina over the barren Falkland Islands, Major David Elliott is having nightmares. Long ago, in a dark jungle near Cambodia, he failed to do his duty. That duty was to execute a member of his team. David’s weakness eventually led to his team’s capture. Tortured by the Viet Cong, they revealed the dark secrets of the CIA’s Phoenix program. Forced to leave the service in disgrace, his men now live in the ‘darkness’. What do the dreams mean for them? David’s wife, Sonia, sees them as harbingers of evil things to come. A revolutionary in Argentina before the war, she escaped to America and became a citizen.

Now, Captain Alvarez, head of the Argentine Secret Police, wants her back. He devises a plan that lures her into returning to Argentina where she is imprisoned on Los Estados Island. Meanwhile, a mystical creature has summoned David and his former team to gather once more to honor the ‘covenant,’ a pact they made with each other when they believed their lives were coming to an end. Together, with an errant priest, Father Perez, they reluctantly agree to assault Los Estados and free Sonia. As they travel across Mexico, Central and South America, they encounter the CIA, Contras in Nicaragua, the M-19 narco-terrorist group and the United States Navy; while all along being shadowed by the mystical entity. Is the entity God or Satan? Will submitting to the will of the entity allow David and his men to stand in the light of men once again? Is the Dreamer good or evil? You decide.

Dreamer is a tale of redemption, honor, courage, belief in God and betrayal! If you enjoy military fiction, this book is for you.

Purchase information:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dreamer-Phillip-Davidson-ebook/dp/B00EZVKPFU/Phillip Davidson - Author

 

About the Author:

Phillip L. Davidson is an attorney who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife, Karen. He is a former infantry Captain who commanded a group of Cambodian and Vietnamese Kit Carson Scouts on a night ambush team in the Mekong Delta. Phil’s life in the military has provided him with a wealth of war stories.  He has used his creative insight to produce a military action adventure of epic proportions. Dreamer is a must read book. He is currently at work on a second novel.

Visit the author online at http://www.phildavidsonbooks.com/.

 

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