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First Chapter Reveal: Alan 2 by Bruce Forciea #cyberthriller #firstchapters

Alan 2

Title: ALAN 2
Author: Bruce Forciea
Publisher: Open Books
Pages: 278
Genre: Cyber-Thriller

A brilliant artificial intelligence (AI) scientist, Dr. Alan Boyd, develops a new program that integrates part of his brain with a computer’s operating system. The program, Alan 2, can anticipate a user’s needs and automatically perform many tasks. A large software company, International Microsystems (IM) desperately wants the program and tempts Dr. Boyd with huge sums of money, but when Dr. Boyd refuses their offer, IM sabotages his job, leaving him in a difficult financial situation.

Dr. Boyd turns to Alan 2 for an answer to his financial problems, and Alan 2 develops plan Alpha, which is a cyber robin hood scheme to rob from rich corporations via a credit card scam.

Alan and his girlfriend Kaitlin travel to Mexico where they live the good life funded by plan Alpha, but the FBI cybercrime division has discovered part of Alan 2’s cyber escapades, and two agents, Rachel and Stu, trace the crime through the TOR network and Bitcoin.

Alan 2 discovers the FBI is on to them and advises Alan and Kaitlin to change locations. A dramatic chase ensues taking them to St. Thomas, a cruise ship bound for Spain, and finally to Morocco.

Will they escape detection? They will if Alan 2’s Plan Beta can be implemented in time. Or is ‘Plan B’ something altogether different than it appears to be, something wholly sinister that will affect the entire population of the world?

Watch the trailer at YouTube!

Purchase Information:

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First Chapter:

Bang! Bang! Bang! The flimsy apartment door rattled on its frame with every blow.

“Kaitlin, don’t even think of answering that!” Alan growled through his teeth.

Kaitlin shrugged her shoulders and moved away from the door toward the living room where Alan sat at a table full of electronics gear.

“Dr. Boyd, are you home?” shouted the voice on the other side of the door in an Indian accent. “I want to talk to you. I have a very good offer. Please, Dr. Boyd, it will only take a minute, and I think you will be quite pleased with what we have for you.”

“Go away; leave us alone,” Alan shouted. “I don’t want your offer.”

“But Dr. Boyd, we do pay very well. We are great admirers of your work.”

“I don’t care and I don’t want your money,” said Alan. “Now go away before I call the police.”

“Think about it, Dr. Boyd; I will be in touch.”

“Incessant bastards,” said Alan as his attention turned back to his work. “I’ll cherish the day they leave us alone. Kaitlin, come over here and help me with this injection.”

Alan rolled up the sleeve of his t-shirt while Kaitlin picked up the syringe containing the gadolinium contrast. She pinched an ample section of skin and plunged the syringe into his arm. The needle stung like an angry wasp, causing Alan to grimace.

“Can’t you be gentle? You’ve done enough of these by now to get the hang of it. You shouldn’t jam it in like that!”

Kaitlin rolled her eyes and shook her head. “I think I do pretty well considering I don’t have any medical training,” she said while jerking the syringe out of his arm.

“Okay, okay. Just take your position at the console.”

She sighed, plopped onto a small task chair and rolled over to a makeshift wooden table holding a desktop PC and a large high-definition monitor. She had been through this process countless times before.

Alan entered a large metallic structure in the center of the living room. The box-like structure, made of aluminum, dominated the rectangular room which was devoid of furniture. Its dull silver hue contrasted the blank walls. He closed the door and climbed into a chair that looked like it came from an early Gemini spacecraft. The stiff plastic chair, sandwiched between two large metal discs, afforded a good deal of postural support but little comfort. He sat down and slowly slid his head between the thick metal and plastic arms of a large U-shaped device. There was just enough clearance as he wriggled his head to achieve the perfect position. He pulled down on a large metallic tube suspended above him so that it surrounded his entire head. He positioned the tube so that the rectangular slit lined up with his visual axis, allowing for a line of sight to the monitor located outside of the tube. The small fMRI scanner had taken a good deal of time and money to cobble together, but it was the only way to capture the needed information from his brain.

Alan viewed Kaitlin through a small round Plexiglas window in the door and signaled with a thumbs-up to begin the scan. She waved and entered the start sequence into the keyboard, sat back, slid an unlit cigarette between her lips and picked up a copy of People Magazine. He pushed his head back against the headrest and adjusted the monitor suspended on a boom so he could see the screen. The machine first hummed as it powered up and then made periodic knocking sounds.

Alan focused his attention on the monitor while the scanner began its first sequence. The monitor displayed a series of images designed to evoke emotions. Each image popped onto the screen and persisted for ten seconds before another replaced it. There was a small child holding hands with his father, a mother holding a baby, a couple admiring their child in a crib, and many more. All the images had been chosen to trigger emotional responses, causing changes in blood flow to certain areas of Alan’s brain. An image would appear for a few seconds and then the machine would complete a scan. The process repeated until all one hundred twenty-seven images had been displayed. The entire cycle then repeated two more times with random sequences of the same set of images.

This would be the final scan involving diffusion tensor imaging of Alan’s frontal lobes. Previous scans had involved the study of responses to a variety of topics. In addition to emotions such as sadness, joy, anxiety, and fear, there were cognitive studies that examined Alan’s problem solving techniques as well as his reaction to global events. In all, there were over one hundred fifty scans taken over the past two years.

About the Author

Bruce Forciea

Bruce Forciea is known for taking complex scientific concepts and making them easy to understand through engaging stories and simple explanations. He is an Amazon Best Selling Author and author of several books on healing and biology, along with science fiction thriller novels. His fiction writing draws on a diverse and eclectic background that includes touring and performing with a professional show, designing digital circuits, treating thousands of patients, and teaching. His stories include complex plots with unexpected twists and turns, quirky characters, and a reality very similar to our own. Dr. Forciea lives in Wisconsin and loves writing during the solitude of the long Northern winters.

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Author Interview: Historical Fantasy Author Shelley Schanfield

Shelley Schanfield’s passion for Buddhism and yoga arose sixteen years ago, when she and her son earned black belts in Tae Kwon Do. The links between the martial arts and Buddhist techniques to calm and focus the mind fascinated her. By profession a librarian, Shelley plunged into research about the time, place, and spiritual traditions that 2500 years ago produced Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. Yoga, in some form, has a role in all of these traditions. Its transformational teachings soon prompted Shelley to hang up her black belt and begin a yoga practice that she follows to this day.

Because she loves historical fiction, Shelley looked for a good novel about the Buddha. When she didn’t find one that satisfied her, she decided to write her own novels based on the spiritual struggles of women in the Buddha’s time. She published the first book in the Sadhana Trilogy, The Tigress and the Yogi, in 2016 and will publish the second, The Mountain Goddess in early 2017.

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Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Shelley.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I have published two books: The Tigress and the Yogi and The Mountain Goddess. They are the first and second books in The Sadhana Trilogy, which tells the stories of remarkable women of the Buddha’s time.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

I started my own imprint, Lake House Books, and I am its president, CFO, marketing and sales force, senior editor, and best-selling author!

In all seriousness, I started by finding an agent and hoping to find a traditional publisher. After a year, my agent had not succeeded in selling my manuscript and we parted ways amicably. At that time, self- and indie-publishing had really surged as viable paths to publication. My work crosses genres—historical fiction, fantasy, women’s fiction, a dash of romance—and I felt my best chance to keep it mine, that is, to write what I wanted, was to self-publish.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

If you self-publish, you can do it anytime, which is the beauty and danger of it. You should spend the money for good, solid editing and you should read the contract of the distributors and publishers you use. That said, I did a lot of research.

I compared Kindle exclusivity (KDP Select has certain advantages but serious limitations) vs. multiple e-book platforms and went with the latter. I upload to Draft2Digital which distributes to various platforms (iBooks, Nook, Kobo, many others) for you.

For the print book, I researched Amazon’s Create Space vs. vendors like Epigraph or Mill City Press or Ingram Spark and ultimately found a third way, which was to sign a contract with a local book manufacturer, Thomson-Shore, whose printed product was much higher quality than what I’d seen from the other POD vendors.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It took me sixteen years to write my first two books. I published the first one in January 2016. Holding it in my hands was one of the most satisfying moments of my life, almost as overwhelming as to give birth to my two kids!

How did I celebrate? By getting back to work to get the second book published—getting ISBNs, Library of Congress cataloging and control numbers; arranging for copyediting and proofreading; working with my wonderful book designer Streetlight Graphics (creator of my first book’s award-winning cover); and finally, working on marketing. Thanks to PumpUpYouBook, this is already going better for the second book! Book Two, published February 2017, is now available!

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I held a book launch at local bookstore Bookbound. I read and took questions and had a great time! I sold a lot of books that day, which was a huge shot in the arm for doing additional publicity.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

My belief in my own artistic process has grown deeper. I passionately wanted to tell the stories that came to me about women of the Buddha’s time and their spiritual journeys. To do that, I needed to master craft and technique and language and make it serve a thrilling story. Ultimately, this required more time spent alone than with critique groups and editors, though they are essential for support, constructive input, and wisdom. So what I’ve learned is that you must close the door and without anyone watching you must put your heart on the page. Then no matter what happens, you will have written something authentically yours.

“Publishing is the punishment for writing.” I’m not sure who said that, but it rings true! Some authors revel in the marketing you must do to find an audience, but I’m one of the many who would rather be at my desk creating characters and worlds. However, I’m learning!

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

I’m absolutely amazed at how many people have the stamina to write novels. How many novels are published every year? Several hundred thousand! It’s no easy task to stay with it when friends and family look at you like you’re crazy, when sometimes the blank page stares at you defiantly, just about daring you to write even a single word, when you’re late for work, your kid just spilled milk and cereal over today’s homework, and the cat just puked all over the carpet, and all of this with no guarantee of ever making a nickel. And writers still do it. Creating art is its own reward.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

When you hear from a reader that your book moved them or helped them or took them somewhere they’d never been before.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Just two:  Keep writing!

 

 

First Chapter Reveal: Sealed Up by Steve Dunn Hanson

sealed-up

Title: Sealed Up
Author: Steve Dunn Hanson
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 402
Genre: Action/Adventure/Suspense

The Da Vinci Code unsettles. SEALED UP shakes to the core!

UCLA anthropologist Nathan Hill, in a funk since his young wife’s death, learns of staggering millennia-old chronicles sealed up somewhere in a Mesoamerica cliff. This bombshell rocks him out of his gloom, and he leads a clandestine expedition to uncover them. What are they? Who put them there? No one knows. But, self-absorbed televangelist Brother Luke, who funds the expedition, thinks he does. If he’s right, his power-hunger will have off-the-charts gratification.

Striking Audra Chang joins Nathan in his pursuit and brings her own shocking secret. As they struggle through a literal jungle of puzzles and dead ends, she finds herself falling in love with Nathan. Her secret, though, may make that a non-starter.

When a shaman with a thirst for human sacrifice, and a murderous Mexican drug lord with a mysterious connection to Brother Luke emerge, the expedition appears doomed. Yet Nathan is convinced that fate—or something—demands these inscrutable chronicles be unearthed.

And if they are . . . what shattering disruption will they unleash?

Intricately layered and remarkably researched, this enthralling suspense-driven and thought provoking tour de force begs a startling question: Could it happen?

Pick up your copy at:

Amazon

First Chapter:

Thursday, December 21, 2000

NAJA, CHIAPAS, MEXICO

Nacom was dying.

Guanacaste trees filtered the twilight into gold slivers that shimmered across Laguna Naja. The lake bore the name of the Lacandón Maya village nestled against it. Kish squatted on the ribbon of beach that framed the giant pond and stared at the darkening blue water. His black hair hung like string around his face, and his white tunic draped him like a sack. Koh Maria told him to wait there. She said her grandfather wanted to speak with him.

Kish knew what Nacom wanted.

“Who will follow a nineteen-year-old shaman,” he groused. Guttural growls of howler monkeys sounded like mocking laughter, and his shoulders slumped. A sharp tug on his tunic pulled him from his petulance.

“Now,” Koh Maria said.

Kish followed her to Nacom’s hut where she pushed open two square-ish boards hinged to weathered posts. Inside, roughhewn mahogany planks of random widths formed the walls. The shaman’s shriveled body lay in a hand-loomed hammock of faded palm-green and corn-yellow stripes. He cracked open his eyes as Kish stood beside him. With the back of his hand, he dismissed Koh Maria.

“You. Chilam.” Nacom whispered. “Itzamná speaks.”

“Priest? Me?” Kish stuttered as he shook his head.

“Obey!” Nacom responded, and his finger pointed to the arcane mahogany box beneath his hammock. Kish did not know what was inside, but something about the box unsettled him. The old man moved his fingers back and forth. Once. Twice. Kish was to pick it up. His hands quivered as he set the box on the simple table by the hammock’s side.

Nacom mumbled something. Kish bent closer. Nacom spoke again. “What day?”

Kish replied in Hach T’ana, the pure Mayan tongue: “Lahca baktun. Bolonlahun katun. Uuc tun. Canlahun uinal. Uuclahun kin.” December 21, 2000—winter solstice.

“Yes,” Nacom slurred. “You prepare. Lahca baktun. Bolonlahun katun. Bolonlahun tun. Uaxac uinal. Hun kin.” In four-thousand-one-hundred-eighty-four days. His hand moved to a thin cord around his neck. He labored as he pulled it from under his white tunic revealing a small key. Kish was to remove it.

With care he raised the old man’s head and slipped the cord over it. For a long moment Nacom lay still; his breath hardly there at all. Then the index finger of his right hand pushed toward the box and wiggled. Kish fought his anxiety as he inserted the key.

“Should I open it?” His voice was high, tense. Nacom’s head bobbed a little. Kish turned the key and raised the lid. A rectangular-shaped object on top was enfolded in white cotton cloth. The one on the bottom, shaped the same but thicker, was wrapped tight in the black pelt of a jaguar and bound with four cords. Kish reached to pick up the white one.

“No!” Nacom’s fingers lifted an inch as he forced out the word with startling firmness. “You. Prepare. Listen Itzamná.” His breath was heavy. “You. Keep box. Sacwa’an (white). Study. Follow. I’ic’ (black). No you. Give. Lahca baktun. Bolonlahun katun. Bolonlahun tun. Uaxac uinal. Hun kin.” In four-thousand-one-hundred-eighty-four days. His breath was a gasp and almost ceased. For a long moment there was no movement; no sound, except for Kish’s own nervous panting. Then Nacom whispered, “Not fail. Lock box. Koh Maria.”

Kish closed the lid and fastened it. His hands shook as he put the cord with the key around his own neck. He scrambled to the doorway and motioned to Koh Maria. She entered, opened her eyes wide at Kish’s ashen face, then went to her grandfather and held his hand. His face puckered into a tiny wrinkled smile. With effort he lifted his eyes to reveal red-veined film, and words like a ghost-rustle parted his lips. “The box. Kish.” Koh Maria nodded.

With a gurgle, Nacom breathed in.

Breathed out.

Then no more.

About the Author

steve-dunn-hanson

I’ve lived in places that grew me . . . from a small Idaho farm town, a run-down neighborhood in St. Louis, and a middle-class southern California community, to Sydney, Australia, and Bucharest, Romania. My experiences are as varied as the places I’ve lived. I have a hopper full of “reality” including being a volunteer jail chaplain and flying with a U.S. presidential candidate in his small plane when an engine conked out. And all of this is fodder for my writing.

My latest book is the action/adventure/suspense novel, Sealed Up.

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First Chapter Reveal: Beethoven in Love; Opus 139 by Howard Jay Smith

beethoven-in-love

Title: BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139
Author: Howard Jay Smith
Publisher: SYQ
Pages: 385
Genre: Literary Fiction/Biographical Fiction

At the moment of his death, Ludwig van Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him a final wish—one day, just a single day of pure joy. But first he must confront the many failings in his life, so the great composer and exceedingly complex man begins an odyssey into the netherworld of his past life led by a spirit guide who certainly seems to be Napoleon, who died six years before. This ghost of the former emperor, whom the historical Beethoven both revered and despised, struggles to compel the composer to confront the ugliness as well as the beauty and accomplishments of his past.

As Beethoven ultimately faces the realities of his just-ended life, we encounter the women who loved and inspired him. In their own voices, we discover their Beethoven—a lover with whom they savor the profound beauty and passion of his creations. And it’s in the arms of his beloveds that he comes to terms with the meaning of his life and experiences the moment of true joy he has always sought.

Purchase Information:

Amazon

First Chapter

Prologue:

The Death of Beethoven

Vienna, 5:00 pm, March 26, 1827

Outside Beethoven’s rooms at the Schwarzspanierhaus, a fresh measure of snow from a late season thunderstorm muffles the chimes of St. Stephens Cathedral as they ring out the hours for the old city.

Ein, Zwei, Drei, Vier… Funf Uhr. Five O’clock.

Beethoven, three months past his fifty-sixth birthday, lies in a coma, as he has now for two nights, his body bound by the betrayal of an illness whose only virtue was that it proved incurable and would, thankfully, be his last. Though his chest muscles and his lungs wrestle like giants against the approaching blackness, his breathing is so labored that the death rattle can be heard over the grumblings of the heavens throughout his apartment.

Muss es sein? Must it be? Ja, es muss sein. Beethoven is dying. From on high, the Gods vent their grief at his imminent passing and hurl a spear of lightening at Vienna.

Their jagged bolt of electricity explodes outside the frost covered windows of the Schwarzspanierhaus with a clap of thunder so violent it startles the composer to consciousness.

Beethoven’s eyes open, glassy, unfocused. He looks upward – only the Gods know what he sees, if anything. He raises his right hand, a hand that has graced a thousand sonatas, and clenches his fist for perhaps the last time. His arm trembles as if railing against the heavens. Tears flood his eyes.

His arm falls back to the bed… His eyelids close… And then he is gone…

Chapter One:

Plaudite, Amici, Comoedia Finite Est

Applaud My Friends, the Comedy is Over

By all accounts my funeral was a grand success.

Despite the snow and slush soaking through their shoes, all Vienna turns out. Twenty thousand mourners or more, accompanied by the Imperial Guards, guide the grieving to my grave. Streets crowded, impassable. My coffin, lined with silk, covered in flowers, rolls through the chaos on a horse drawn bier. Paupers and princes; merchants and mendicants; menials and musicians; clerics and commoners; they all come for this, their Beethoven’s final concerto.

As if they ever owned me or my music…

Plaudite, Amici, Comoedia Finite Est. Applaud my friends, the comedy are over. Inscribed herein rests my final opus.

Ja. Yes, they are all patrons and lovers… Lovers of my music, the very music the gods have forbidden me to hear. How cruel. To suffer my last decade without sound – any sound except the incessant surge of blood pounding through my veins – an eternity inscribed on the calendar pages of my life.

And so it is, these celebrants, anxious for one last encore, crowd the alleys and streets of the Hapsburgs capital in throngs not seen since the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte and the French Grande Armee oh so many years ago.

The cortege rolls on past the taverns and cafés of this fair city where dark beer, schnitzel and sausages reward the day. Ah, the saints and sinners of Vienna have always loved a good party, never mind the excuse.

Are they singing? Alle Menschen werden Brüder. All men will become brothers. They must be, yet I hear nothing.

I wonder if she is among them. My muse; my love; my passion; my sacred fire; will she be there to safeguard my voyage through Elysium?

Or is she too denied me as was the sweet sighs of love and the embrace of family stolen by gods capricious and uncaring? Are they so vengeful? So embittered by spite? Like Prometheus, have I dared too close to revelations reserved for them alone?

The clouds grow ever darker, ominous.

Must I embrace death silently ere my last symphony suffuses the stage? Is this my end? To be cast out as by our Creator as history’s cruel joke, a deaf musician? A composer unable to know the vibrancy of his own scores?

Tell me why your Beethoven, your servant whose hearing once surpassed all others in sensitivity and degree, must suffer such humiliation and torment?

Are the crowds laughing? Ja oder nein? Yes or no. I know not. Am I such a failure, such a disgrace to be shoved off the stage without your mercy or compassion?

As surely as the warmth of summer vanishes and the leaves of autumn crumble beneath the crush of winter, has all hope been stolen? Can I escape this fate? What path must I travel? What tasks of redemption are to be mine and mine alone?

Come death; am I to meet your shadow with courage? Must I depart in this winter of anguish before the renewal of spring?

Can I not find release from this cycle of sufferings like a saint or a Hindoo holy man following the dance of Shiva or a Bodhisattva, back bent upon the path of the great Buddha?

The last echoes of joy inside my heart are already fading. Will I never hear or feel those vibrations again? Never? Nein. Forever. Lost for eternity in the fog on the road to Elysium; that is too hard, too harsh.

But surely a loving father must dwell in the starry canopy above. Are you there, oh sweet Isis, my goddess of compassion? Help me, help guide me.

Please Providence; grant me this, my final wish… Grant but one day, just one day, one day of pure joy to your poor Beethoven.

Is this too much to ask before I embrace darkness forever? Oh, to be in her arms once again.

About the Author

howard-j-smith-2

Howard Jay Smith is an award-winning writer from Santa Barbara, California. BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139 is his third book. A former Washington, D.C. Commission for the Arts Fellow, & Bread Loaf Writers Conference Scholar, he taught for many years in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and has lectured nationally. His short stories, articles and photographs have appeared in the Washington Post, Horizon Magazine, the Journal of the Writers Guild of America, the Ojai Quarterly, and numerous literary and trade publications. While an executive at ABC Television, Embassy TV, and Academy Home Entertainment, he worked on numerous film, television, radio, and commercial projects. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Symphony – “The Best Small City Symphony in America” – and is a member of the American Beethoven Society.

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First Chapter Reveal: The Heatstroke Line by Edward L. Rubin

the-heatstroke-lineTitle: THE HEATSTROKE LINE
Author: Edward L. Rubin
Publisher: Sunbury Press
Pages: 223
Genre: Scifi/Cli-Fi (Climate Change Science Fiction)

Nothing has been done to prevent climate change, and the United States has spun into decline.   Storm surges have made coastal cities uninhabitable, blistering heat waves afflict the interior and, in the South (below the Heatstroke Line), life is barely possible.  Under the stress of these events and an ensuing civil war, the nation has broken up into three smaller successor states and tens of tiny principalities.  When the flesh-eating bugs that inhabit the South show up in one of the successor states, Daniel Danten is assigned to venture below the Heatstroke Line and investigate the source of the invasion.  The bizarre and brutal people he encounters, and the disasters that they trigger, reveal the real horror climate change has inflicted on America.

BUYING INFORMATION:

Amazon | Sunbury Press  | Walmart | B&N

 

Chapter One:

 

Daniel Danten didn’t really want to have a family.  What he wanted was to be a scientist, to teach at a university and produce original research.  But this seemed so unlikely, given the state of things in Mountain America, that he decided to hedge his bets or he’d have nothing to show for his life.  So he married a woman he convinced himself he was in love with and had three children.   As it turned out, somewhat to his own surprise, he achieved his original goal, probably because he switched fields from astronomy to entomology, a subject of enormous practical concern these days.  And now, with a secure position at one of Mountain America’s leading universities, his own lab, and a substantial list of publications to his credit, he spent most of his time worrying about his family.  His wife, Garenika, was depressed, his ten year old son Michael was suffering from one of the many mysterious ailments that were appearing without warning or explanation, and his fourteen year old daughter Senly was hooked on Phantasie and running wild.  Worst of all, his sixteen year old, Joshua, who had always been such a reliable, level-headed and generally gratifying son, had become an American Patriot.

On a blazing, early September afternoon, with the outdoor temperature spiking at 130 degrees Fahrenheit, he was sitting with Garenika in the waiting room at Denver Diagnostic Clinic while Michael was being examined by still one more doctor.  Garenika thought they would get some sort of answer this time, but Dan was convinced that the doctor would come out of the examining room and say that she really couldn’t tell them what the problem is.  Senly was spending a rare evening at home and Joshua was on his way back from his field trip to the Enamel, an expedition that, Dan felt sure, was designed to make the participants angry, rather than providing them with information.    The doctor appeared and Garenika jumped to her feet.

“Well,” the doctor said,” I really can’t tell you what the problem is.”

“Why not?” Garenika asked, her voice tinged with its increasingly frequent sense of panic.  “Why can’t you find an answer for us?  Look at him –he’s losing weight, his skin keeps getting blotchier, and he’s exhausted all the time.”

“I’m sorry.  As you probably know, we’re pretty sure that we’re seeing all these new diseases because the climate change has wiped out a lot of the beneficial bacteria that we used to have in our bodies.   Commensals, they’re called.  But we’ve never really figured out how they work, so it’s hard to compensate for their disappearance.”

“Okay,” said Dan.  “So what can we do for Michael?”

“Keep him comfortable and give it time.  Put cold compresses on any area where there’s a rash.  Try to get him to eat, lots of small meals if he can’t tolerate a large one.  We’re expecting some new medicines from Canada that may relieve the symptoms.  Michael’s getting dressed; he’ll be out a few minutes.”

When Michael came out, they went back down to the clinic carport.   Dan set the car for Return and sat in the rear with Michael, letting Garenika sit alone up front.  They were quiet on the drive back home.  Dan kept watching his discolored, fragile little boy, trying to think of something reassuring to say, but nothing came to mind.  So when they arrived at the house, where Senly was waiting for them, he just gave Michael a long hug and told him to take a nap.

“Be quiet when you go into the room” Senly said to Michael.  “Josh is sleeping.”  She turned to Dan and Garenika.  “He was really tired out from the trip, so he decided to rest up.  But he’s looking forward to having dinner with you.”

“Wonderful,” said Dan, “we’ll all be together.”

“Well, actually,” Senly answered, “I figured you’d be occupied with all the news from Josh, so I made plans to go out.  Anyway, the kitchen might break if it we have to program another meal for tonight.  It hasn’t been working very well.”

“That was our decision to make, Senly, not yours,” said Garenika.

“I was just trying to be considerate. Remember, you told me that you wanted me to take other people’s feelings into account without being asked.  So that’s what I did.  I even took the kitchen’s feelings into account.”

Dan couldn’t suppress a grin.  Senly got up to leave.  “You can reach me on my wristlink.  I’ll just be having a quiet dinner with Ranity and  Sharana.”

As soon as she was out of the room, Garenika turned on Dan. “You did it again.  You smiled at her for her smart-ass comeback.  You seem to think that anything she does is okay, as long as she acts clever.”

Garenika was right.  Dan knew that he valued intelligence too much.  Somehow, he thought Senly’s good mind and quick wits would make up for her surly irresponsibility, and that she would turn out well in the end.  But it was his job as a parent to exercise more control over her, to keep her from getting into some kind of trouble she couldn’t get out of, and maybe even to teach her some sense of morality.

“You need to be more careful, Dan.  You have a career, but these three children are all I’ve got.”

In fact, Garenika was a food inspector for the government, but she hated her job.

Josh appeared in the multi-purpose room promptly at 7:15, just as the servo-robot was putting out the plates for dinner.  He looked completely refreshed and as handsome as ever.  After announcing that he was glad to be home, asking where Senly was, and telling Michael that he was looking better, he launched into his account of the trip by using his wristlink to project images onto the wall.

“I couldn’t send anything from the Enamel, of course, but that’s what it looks like.   I know you’ve seen it Dad, but Mom and Michael haven’t.  Isn’t it awful?”

A scene appeared of wide, flat land, part brown rock and part dark clay, with scattered pools of water, jumbled piles of brick and stone, and a few stunted, scrawny bushes.  Josh had taken the footage on an overcast day to heighten the effect.

“This used to be the richest farmland on Earth,” he continued.  “Until the Canadians raped it.  You know where the term Enamel comes from, don’t you?”

“Yes,” said Dan.  “NML — No Man’s Land.”

“I didn’t know that,” said Michael.

“They called it that because it’s supposed to be a buffer between us and the UFA, didn’t they?” Garenika asked.

“That what I thought, particularly because of the Canadian communications blackout there,” said Josh, “but Stuart told us that the Canadians would actually have been glad if we kept fighting with the UFA.  American netnews writers named it No Man’s Land because no one could live there after the Canadians got through with it.  Stuart really knows a lot about it.”

“I should hope so,” said Dan, “he’s probably the leading American history professor at the University of Mountain America.”

“He’s really nice.  And he ran a great trip.”

“If he hadn’t been running it, dear, we wouldn’t have let you go,” said Garenika.

“There are the train tracks,” said Joshua, switching scenes.  “You can’t really get a good sense of them from a picture, but it’s horrible to see them in real life.  There are three sets, each twenty feet wide and running straight into Canada.  Did you see them Dad?”

“No, I went to the Enamel to find insects. I never got that far east.”

“Maybe if you’d seen the tracks you would feel different about the whole thing.   Stuart said it took three years for them to transport all that topsoil up to Canada, even with those giant trains.  Just think, three years ripping the surface off seven states.”

“Well, we did drop nuclear bombs on their two largest cities,” Dan replied.

“We were justified.  They were supposed to let our citizens move into the Arctic, instead of taking in all those Aussies, Brits and Frenchies.  They just let us die from the heat.  What were we supposed to do?”

“Not that.  Even the Russians didn’t do that when China conquered East Siberia.”

“But both sides used nuclear weapons.”

“Just tactical ones, on the battlefield.  The United States was the only country that ever used them against civilian targets.”

“Are you two going to start arguing again?” said Garenika. “I thought we were just hearing about Josh’s trip.”

“Well, the purpose of Josh’s trip was to get him revved up so he’d argue with me.”

“The purpose of my trip was to provide me with information so I can explain to you why it’s so important to be a Patriot.  We were the most powerful nation on Earth before the Second Civil War.  And we could be powerful again if the three Successor States united.  Just think, we’d have almost as many people as Canada.”

“How do you figure that?” said Dan.

Josh was obviously waiting for that question.  “Mountain America has 24 million people, the UFA has 25 or 26 million, and Pacifica has 12 or 13.

“Well, that’s a little over 60 million by my math.  Canada has 150 million.”

“Yeah, but five million of them are in New England, and another 20 are in Alaska.  Those used to be part of the United States.  If you subtract 25 million people from Canada and add them to us, the difference gets a lot smaller.”

“But why would all those people want to leave a richer, stronger country with a decent climate to join three smaller, overheated  ones?”

“Because they used to be part of the greatest nation on Earth.”

“Not the people in Alaska. They came from Australia, Britain and France, as you just mentioned.”

“Only some of them.  There are plenty of Patriots in Alaska.   Plus another five million people in the Confederacies, and almost all of them are Patriots.”

“They may be Patriots,” said Dan, “but according to the last count, there’s only about three million of them.”

“That information comes from a Canadian satellite survey, and they falsify the data to make the Patriots look weak.”

“Did Stuart tell you that?”

Josh was getting rattled, but he held his ground.  “No, Noah told us that.”

“Noah!” Dan exclaimed, with a snort.

“Noah knows a lot.”

“Noah’s a nut case,” said Dan. “A Revivalist nut case.”  He was about to add that Josh would be a nut case too if he kept listening to people like that, but he caught Garenika’s eye and restrained himself.

“I’m tired,” said Michael.  Can I go back to bed?”  Dan noticed that he had barely touched his food.

“Of course, darling,” said Garenika.  “I’ll come in to say goodnight in a few minutes.”

“Actually,” Dan continued, trying to be slightly less contentious, “even three million people is impressive.  Most of the areas below the Heatstroke Line are completely uninhabited these days.”

“That’s American ingenuity for you,” Joshua said.

“And that’s just a Patriot slogan.”

“Dad, if all the Successor States were unified, we could repopulate the South.  Crops grow there, so there’s no reason it couldn’t hold more people.”

“That’s impossible, Josh.  I’d be surprised if they can even sustain the present population very long.”

“Why exactly is that?” Garenika asked.  “You can live below the Heatstroke Line if you have air conditioning.  I mean, I’m a nutritionist, not an h-vac engineer, but the Halcyon units are really good.  Ours can handle 150 degree weather easily.”

“So it would seem,” said Dan, “but it never works.  It’s a matter of social organization, not engineering.  You’ve got to keep a power plant going all the time.  As soon as it breaks down, or the fuel supply is interrupted, or one of your enemies blows it up, you die.  Then there are the biter bugs.  And you’ve got to give everyone a stun gun or life is just intolerable.  Even with the guns, it’s pretty damn unpleasant. You’re always on edge.”

“But everyone in the Confederacies does have a stun gun” Josh responded.  “And the power plant situation isn’t as bad as you say, because they’re not so far south.  You can survive in winter without air conditioning, so it’s only a little more than half the year that a power failure actually kills you.”

“Well, that was the idea behind President Garcia’s program of repopulating West Oklahoma, Central Texas and New Mexico,” said Dan, “but the problem in that case is that there’s no water.  It’s a lost cause.”

“The problem,” said Josh, “is that it created an unnecessary conflict with the Confederacies in Arkansas, East Oklahoma and East Texas.  We need to start working together, not competing for little bits of extra territory.  The Canadians never could have invaded us if it hadn’t been for the Second Civil War.”

“Well then,” said Dan.  You should be an enthusiastic supporter of President Simonson.”

“Simonson’s a lot better than Carletta Garcia.  At least he’s trying to establish better relations with the Confederacies.  But he’s not a Patriot.  He has no vision.  One day we’ll elect a real Patriot as President and start putting this country back together.”

“One day,” said Dan, “you’ll go back to fantasizing about being a medieval knight, or hunting dinosaurs, or something else that’s more realistic than the lost cause you’ve got for yourself now.”

When Dan and Garenika were in bed that night, she told him that he was being much too hard on Josh. Dan   was tempted to respond that he was just following the advice she had given him about Senly, but he realized that would be a smart-ass, Senly-type remark and stopped himself.

“You know,” he said instead, “what Josh is doing can be dangerous, maybe more dangerous than Senly’s Phantasie parties with those so-called friends of hers.   I trust Stuart, but when they were looking at the train tracks, they were pretty close to territory claimed by the UFA.  And American Patriotism is a criminal offense there; they could all have been arrested.”

“But it’s legal here.  And at least he’s using his mind and doing something constructive.”  She paused.   “Oh hell, you’re right.  I’m worried about him too.  I’m worried about all of them.”

About the Author

edward-l-rubinEdward Rubin is University Professor of Law and Political Science at Vanderbilt University.  He specializes in administrative law, constitutional law and legal theory. He is the author of Soul, Self and Society:  The New Morality and the Modern State (Oxford, 2015); Beyond Camelot:  Rethinking Politics and Law for the Modern State (Princeton, 2005) and two books with Malcolm Feeley, Federalism:  Political Identity and Tragic Compromise (Michigan, 2011) and Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State:  How the Courts Reformed America’s Prisons (Cambridge, 1998).  In addition, he is the author of two casebooks, The Regulatory State (with Lisa Bressman and Kevin Stack) (2nd ed., 2013); The Payments System (with Robert Cooter) (West, 1990), three edited volumes (one forthcoming) and The Heatstroke Line (Sunbury, 2015) a science fiction novel about the fate of the United States if climate change is not brought under control. Professor Rubin joined Vanderbilt Law School as Dean and the first John Wade–Kent Syverud Professor of Law in July 2005, serving a four-year term that ended in June 2009. Previously, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School from 1998 to 2005, and at the Berkeley School of Law from 1982 to 1998, where he served as an associate dean. Professor Rubin has been chair of the Association of American Law Schools’ sections on Administrative Law and Socioeconomics and of its Committee on the Curriculum. He has served as a consultant to the People’s Republic of China on administrative law and to the Russian Federation on payments law. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale.

He has published four books, three edited volumes, two casebooks, and more than one hundred articles about various aspects of law and political theory. The Heatstroke Line is his first novel.

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First Chapter Reveal: Your Body, Your Style: Simple Tips On Dressing to Flatter by Rani St. Pucchi

your-body-your-style-2

Title: Your Body, Your Style
Author: Rani St. Pucchi
Publisher: Koehler Books
Pages: 150
Genre: Nonfiction

Rani St. Pucchi, a trend-setting designer whose designs have been recognized in Entertainment Tonight, Harper’s Bazaar, WWD, Town and Country, Bride’s, Cosmopolitan Bride, Martha Stewart Weddings and The Knot, can help define the style that flatters you most — no matter what age or stage of life you are in or what your body type is.

Women from all over the world have clamored to have a private consultation with Rani so they may benefit from her expertise and regain their self-confidence and shine.

In Your Body, Your Style, Rani shares with you her knowledge of the female form and guides you to find simple solutions to your most pressing body concerns. The focus is on you — and how you can make yourself more confident and appealing in almost every situation — simply by making a few changes and different choices in planning your wardrobe.

Once you embrace your unique attributes and dissolve your bad relationship with your body, you’ll be amazed to find how irresistible you are to others!

This simple and friendly guide reveals:

* What clothes and silhouettes are best for your specific body type

* Simple techniques to determine which colors flatter you most

* Solutions to common lingerie issues and the importance of fit

* The one dress that is a chameleon, and how to transform it into different looks

* How to travel stress free by planning your wardrobe well

* 101 styling secrets, professional tricks and fashion tips

RANI ST. PUCCHI is an award-winning fashion designer, an author and relationship expert. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

PURCHASING LINKS:

AMAZON * B&N

Chapter One

If there is a seminal moment in my relationship to fashion and designing, the occasion that springs to mind is a summer in Bangkok, Thailand. I must have been about four or five years old. My cousin and I were running feverishly from the ground floor of our townhome to my mother’s bedroom on the fourth floor to get dressed for the movies and we were very late.

I looked at the choices I had and was very disappointed. Even though there were so many options I kept trying and tossing the frocks one by one on the floor. The cupboard now bare, I hit a wall: I’d run out of clothes. I remember so well the frustration and at the same time an ah-ha moment. I decided from henceforth I would choose my own fabrics and design my own clothes. After all who knew better than I what looks good on me?

I thank my parents for drawing me into the magical world of luxury fabrics and laces. As the largest purveyor of fine laces in Thailand their ateliers and showrooms became my playground where I would spend all my spare time. I had the opportunity to be around fine fabrics and get to touch and feel and know them well. I actively participated with my tailors in transforming these fabrics into unique designs for myself.

Fast forward to 1984. I was still living in Bangkok, Thailand and running my small tailoring shop in a prominent hotel, specializing in ready to wear and evening gowns, along with men’s tailored suits. A rare opportunity came my way when a client asked if I would be wiling to bring my collection to showcase at her charity event in San Antonio, Texas.

I was an avid fan of the TV sitcom “Dallas” and always fantasized living the life of such opulence and outrage as the characters depicted in the series! My wish to travel to the United States was a dream come true.

With great enthusiasm I prepared a collection of 54 pieces, comprising of jackets, skirts, blouses and dresses and some evening sheaths. I also thought it would be nice to have a finale piece, and so I designed my very first bridal gown for this purpose.

It was a blush colored wedding gown made of pure Thai Silk, entirely hand embroidered and hand beaded. Little did I know that the one wedding gown would receive so much attention as to catapult my whole life!

Next thing I knew I had already committed to showing a Bridal Collection in Dallas at the Dallas Apparel Mart, which was the ‘go to’ fashion platform where buyers from all over the world congregated. I registered my company on a wing and a prayer, and St. Pucchi was born.

When I launched my first bridal couture collection at the Dallas Apparel Mart in April of 1985 I was unsure if what I had so lovingly put together was of any value to the US bridal market. I was also clueless to the fact that white was the only color worn and accepted by the American bride at the time.

They say ignorance is bliss! By the time I learnt it was too late. My collection had already shipped from Bangkok to Dallas and there was not a single white dress among the sixteen styles I had designed. The colors ranged from ecru, blush, butterscotch and even pale blue.

I comforted myself into believing that perhaps the US bridal industry as it was could use a fresh perspective and hopefully my collection would, at the very least, bring some excitement.

It was pure pleasure to be totally immersed in an unfolding story, on a journey that is never forgotten. My first collection produced in me an intensely emotional and cathartic experience. After all I had invested all my resources and had used up my credit cards to the max. There was so much riding on my success that I could not fathom what the future would look like if…

The Dallas Apparel News ran a front-page story about my premier bridal collection and how it was a harkening of things to come. I was applauded for being a pioneer not only for using pure silks in bridal, which was unheard of at the time, but also for being so bold and daring as to introduce color to bridal wear.

The US bridal industry as we had known it would change forever.

Today, 30 plus years later, with more than 10,000 designs under my belt, I find myself very fortunate and humbled to write this book. The amazing women I’ve had the pleasure to work with during trunk shows, fashion shows, and on my travels across the globe have taught me much.

I have witnessed again and again how looking good can change a woman’s life. I have worked with numerous women, young and old, women getting married, mothers with teenage daughters, women going thru midlife crisis and those going thru menopause. The story they tell themselves is the same. Most are not happy with their bodies and wish they could change something or the other so they can feel confident in themselves.

A woman’s form is the most beautiful, most complex and the most intriguing. Yet we don’t appreciate it enough. We tend to hide parts that we feel are not attractive and we berate ourselves for being too much of this, and not enough of that. Rather than being in awe and working with the form we are blessed with, we spend more time and resources than most of us can afford, on diets and procedures that are rarely long lasting.

We’re on this constant merry-go-round and obsess about our body during every waking moment. Not only that, but the way we talk to ourselves we would not allow anyone to say those words to either our best friends or even our worst enemies!

This book does not pretend to be your road to perfection. The purpose of writing it is to guide you thru simple techniques and suggestions on how to look at your body and see what you can make better.

You are asked to assess and appraise your body type so that you can learn about the most flattering silhouettes to dress in.

You will learn how to dress your body in a way that will enhance your best assets and camouflage areas that you feel uncomfortable about or find lacking in any way.

You realize why it is so important to invest in the right lingerie. You learn the importance of fit and simple solutions to your common bra issues.

You are invited to learn a simple process to determine what colors flatter you most and which ones to part with. Color being one of the key elements that makes a woman look more interesting, more self-confident, more self-assured and in control.

You will learn about the one color that is a must staple in every woman’s wardrobe. The one piece of clothing that is a chameleon and that can be transformed into any myriad number of looks.

You are taken on a journey on how your style and taste evolves as you transition from your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, to your 60s and beyond. And you learn that sexy is never out of fashion, nor is it outdated. That in fact the older you get the more confident you become. And you realize that ultimately confidence is really what makes a woman sexy.

You become savvy on how and what to pack for your travels, whether you’re going on a month long vacation, a weekend romantic getaway to an exotic tropical island, or a short business trip.

You learn the simple four step process to sort-and-purge and organize your wardrobe so that no time is wasted in choosing what to wear each day allowing you time to become more productive in life.

You will be able to define your personal style, and become clear on how you wish to be seen in the world. This knowledge will help you embrace your own unique personality and shine.

In this book I share 101 tips and tricks on fashion fixes that help you gain self-confidence, on how to accentuate your strongest features, on dressing sexy. You will receive smart shopping hints and simple style advice for your body type and more…

In these pages I share with you the knowledge that I have garnered and reveal those secrets you will now learn so you too can look like a million regardless of the body you have, or the resources, to access trends that are so fleeting as to make our heads spin!

Thank you for the opportunity to share my knowledge. I hope it serves you.

About the Author

rani-st-pucchi

Thirty years ago, Rani St. Pucchi took the bridal world by storm, despite having no formal training in fashion. She is an award winning couture fashion designer and founder of the world-renowned bridal house St. Pucchi. A passionate and dynamic entrepreneur who launched her global empire in the United States in 1985, Rani’s vision was to create an avant-garde bridal and evening couture line with modern styling and classic details. That vision has been realized today.

Renowned for infusing her creations with touches of magnificently colored jewels, exquisite hand embroidery, delicate beading and sparkling crystals on the finest silks and laces, these inspired designs with innovative draping evoke the timeless elegance every woman desires. As one of the foremost designers to introduce exotic silk fabrics and hand embroidery, Rani is applauded for being a pioneer in bringing color to the United States bridal scene, having learned that white does not flatter everyone.

Rani has been recognized and nominated on multiple occasions for her design talent and won numerous awards as a Style Innovator. In addition, she has been honored with the Best Bridal Designer Award at the prestigious Chicago Apparel Center’s DEBI Awards (Distinctive Excellence in Bridal Industry).

Rani is famous for designing the wedding dress worn by “Phoebe” as she captured the hearts of millions when she said “I Do” in a unique St. Pucchi Lilac corset bodice A-line gown on the finale of the hit television show Friends.

Her range of avant-garde designs are worn by the world’s most discerning brides, including celebrities and style icons such as New York Giants’ player Aaron Ross’ wife, Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards; Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo’s wife Candice Crawford; Actress Tara Reid; Jason Priestley’s wife Naomi Lowde; actress Candice Cameron and Grammy Award winning country music singer Alison Krauss, who donned a specially designed Chantilly lace and silk gown at the Country Music Awards.

Rani has enjoyed much media attention. Her signature designs have been recognized in high profile media such as Entertainment Tonight, Harper’s Bazaar, WWD, Town and Country, Bride’s, Cosmopolitan Brides, Inside Weddings, Martha Stewart Weddings and The Knot.

Rani’s real passion other than the world of design is to help women who have suffered abuse and those who are struggling to find themselves. On her quest to empower women to be their best selves, she is passionate about helping them find their voice through building their self-confidence. She believes that confidence must start with a woman’s love and acceptance of her body.

Renowned for her savvy knowledge of a woman’s form and fit, Rani is eager to share her knowledge of more than three decades with all women so they can make better styling choices. In addition to the book you are reading now, Rani is the author of four upcoming books: The SoulMate Checklist: Key Questions To help You Choose Your Perfect Partner; Seven Types of Men To Avoid: Recognizing Relationship Red Flags; Designing with Heart: A to Z Guide to Bridal Designing; and Unveiling: A Celebrity Fashion Designer’s Story, a Memoir of her Life Journey.

Born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, Rani now happily lives in Los Angeles, California.

Her latest book is Your Body, Your Style: Simple Tips on Dressing to Flatter.

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Never Go Alone by Denison Hatch

 

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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