by Marla L. Anderson


Publisher Wolfheart Press

Published in Science Fiction & Fantasy, Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description


Faced with global warming, a man-made plague, and aliens determined to keep humans from expanding beyond the Solar System, two men take opposing paths leaving the future of mankind hanging in the balance

Sample Chapter

Earth Year 2183, Houston, North Americas

The Houston Olympic Dome enclosed four levels of rotating grandstands. Above the stands, giant holoscreens provided three-dimensional close-ups of the on-field action. Built to withstand the worst inclement weather, the stadium kept the 80,000 spectators filling its seats and the playing field below dry even while an immense tropical storm raged outside—a common occurrence in the gulf region these days.

Usually, people came here to watch tech-enhanced football players go head-to-head, but today an austere stage sat in centerfield, with a dozen chairs facing a podium. This was the Annual Commemoration Ceremony; the first Daniel Walker had ever attended. It had taken fifteen years to get him here, a wait that had fueled the public’s hunger to hear from him to a near frantic state. Every time the camera sent a live image of Daniel to the holoscreens, the crowd grew louder. Hundreds, if not thousands, pointed, whistled or waved at him.

Sitting onstage, Daniel stared at his knees, struggling to breathe under the weight of all that attention. He rubbed his damp palms across his slacks, trying to remember his opening line.

In the seat beside him, his uncle, Dr. McCormack, whispered, “Nervous?”

Daniel shrugged, avoiding eye contact.

As usual, his uncle wore a rumpled plaid jacket with mismatched pants. Daniel remembered asking him years ago if the International Medical Research Center appreciated having their chief of surgery look like he pulled his clothes out of a dumpster. The snarky remark earned him a lecture on the perils of judging others by appearance, including quotes by Thomas Paine and other philosophers on the subject of superficiality. Daniel learned to curb his tongue after that.

“You’ve drawn quite a crowd,” McCormack said, looking up and around.

Daniel followed his gaze. The holoscreens zoomed in on spectators in the stands and VIP’s on the stage. When he saw his own face displayed again, he grimaced, then forced himself to smile and wave at the crowd. Nearly everyone wore scarlet and gold, the official ceremonial colors. People tooted golden horns and waved cold-fire flags alive with harmless red flames. Daniel had chosen a dark suit, white shirt, no tie. The only red and gold on him was the commemorative pin on his lapel.

“Must be billions more watching at home—all dying to hear what ‘little Danny’ is finally going to say.”

“It’s not all about me,” Daniel countered. He looked back down at his knees and blew out a breath to unwind the knot in his stomach.

McCormack snorted. “You just keep telling yourself that.”

“Are you trying to rattle me?”

“No, I—course not. I’m just trying to understand why you signed up for this.”

“Maybe it’s time to put an end to all this ‘poor little Danny’ crap.”

“Okay, but why now after all these years? It’s not like anything’s changed, has it?” McCormack raised an eyebrow, waiting.

Daniel squirmed. He needed to give him an answer but wasn’t ready to reveal the whole truth of it just yet. “I wanted to impress someone.”

McCormack choked back a laugh. “So this is about a girl?”

“No,” Daniel snapped. “Don’t be stupid. It’s about finally getting an interstellar ship.”

McCormack’s amusement vanished. “What? How?”

Daniel sighed. “I didn’t want to say anything yet. Nothing’s for certain, but I’m on the short list for ACES’ new director.”

“ACES? The ACES—the Allied Coalition for Exploration of Space? Good Lord, Danny. You really think you’re ready for that?”

“Yes. Absolutely.” Daniel felt his ire rise. “And those therapy sessions you keep ordering for me need to stop.”

McCormack glowered and looked away.

Seeing the worry lines in his uncle’s face, Daniel softened his tone. “Look, I know you just want to help, but try to remember that I spent two years in the military, running through battle simulations.”

“Yes, I know but—”

“And earned four advanced degrees in the sciences after that. Think I’ve proven myself.”

McCormack sighed deeply and nodded. He covered the back of Daniel’s hand with his weathered one. “You’re right. You’re a grown man. A very successful one and you don’t need me meddling in your life.” He paused to smile and look around. “You’re also right that this isn’t all about you. It’s about them.” He pointed to the crowd. “What they need to hear.”

Daniel glanced up, feeling more pressure than ever.

“I may not say it often, but your parents would be proud of you—as proud as I am.”

Daniel’s throat tightened. “Thanks.” His vocal cords constricted further as he noted the deep lines in his uncle’s face—evidence of old age creeping up on the only living person he still thought of as family. Ironic, since they weren’t related. This generous, kind-hearted man had been his father’s best friend. Daniel knew something more needed to be said, but just then a hand landed on his shoulder.

Senator Nelson Bromberg posed for the floating cameras aimed in their direction.

Daniel wanted to punch him.

“Looking forward to your speech, my boy. Remember, keep it short and sweet.”

Daniel watched Bromberg walk away to take a seat between a stately blonde and a severe-looking man in a gray suit.

“Asshole,” Daniel said under his breath.

“Speaking of . . . do you recognize the one he’s sitting with?” McCormack asked, keeping his voice low.

“Holly LaCroix?” The therapy sessions his uncle sent to him usually included her old news report.

“No, not her—him.”

Daniel stared at the profile of the man conversing with Bromberg—long thin nose, pointed chin—no one he recognized. He shook his head.

“The New York Archbishop for the Unified Church of Earth. Word is he’s in line to replace the UCE’s Supreme Father.”

Daniel narrowed his eyes. “What’s he doing here?”

Before McCormack could answer, the holoscreens darkened to black and the crowd hushed. Daniel braced himself for what was coming next—one of the many reasons he avoided these ceremonies. In bright orange letters ‘BREAKING NEWS!’ zipped across the circled screens, then were replaced by a neatly coiffed blonde, news anchor Holly LaCroix. Some questioned the propriety of playing the original broadcast of the attack at these ceremonies, but those in charge insisted on refreshing people’s memories. Stoking continued fear of an alien invasion had proved the most effective tool ever for distracting the masses from the shenanigans of the governing class.

Aloft, Holly’s multiple images spoke in unison. “We interrupt this program to bring you breaking news. We have just learned that the science team on Enyo may have been attacked while broadcasting their dedication ceremony for the installation of Luna University’s new stationary deep-space telescope. We do not know yet who is responsible but are working to obtain a recording of the live broadcast and will share that with you shortly.”

“The Cannon Long View telescope,” she explained during the interim, “was named after Annie Jump Cannon, a pioneering woman astronomer who—we have it?” Holly glanced to the side. “All right, here is that broadcast now. Keep in mind there is a ten-hour delay. These images were recorded by an automated video robot, which I’m told is still transmitting. Along with you, I will be seeing this video for the first time, but I will offer what commentary I can.”

Daniel didn’t need her commentary. His memory was as real and unforgiving as the cold-steel floor under his feet.

The screen image split, the left side showing Holly, the right, Enyo’s black star-filled sky, where a tall man in a spacesuit stood on a dark rocky surface. Behind him, a gigantic mirrored dish tilted on a reticulated robotic platform that seemed to grow from the bare rock. Off in the distance stood their tall egg-shaped vessel.

“You’re looking at the team’s leader, Dr. Benjamin Walker, standing in front of the Cannon telescope. His team consists of nine other scientists including his wife, Charlotte Walker. I’m told their ten-year-old son, Daniel, also accompanied the team.” Holly gestured at the image. “You can see their transport in the background.”

The camera swiveled to show space-suited people gathered together, all of them rendered anonymous by their helmets, and similar height until a much shorter version squeezed to the front. Wearing an oversized spacesuit, the smaller figure moved awkwardly until another reached out to steady him.

“That must be little Danny there.” Holly smiled.

Hearing his boyhood nickname tightened Daniel’s stomach.

The camera refocused on his father, Dr. Walker, who began to deliver a well-rehearsed speech—stirring words about the value of space exploration for mankind’s future—but then a rumbling sound drowned him out and the recorded image shook violently. Dr. Walker turned aside, and the confused voices of those with him rose in the background. He waved for silence. “Everyone wait here, until I find out what it is.” The camera remained focused on the telescope as Walker strode out of view. Moments later, a man screamed, and the murmuring voices cried out in alarm. The camera jostled and went sideways, showing the legs of fleeing scientists. A pair of over-sized, wedge-shaped boots much too large for any human flashed by in pursuit.

Holly gasped. “What was that?”

Amid the screams, Daniel’s young voice called for help.

The automated camera righted itself, then focused on a creature striding away on two backward-bending legs. The thing had a large head, and a pair of overlong arms, one of which carried a suited human less than a third its size. The creature’s head swiveled ninety degrees, revealing a protruding profile that curved out and downward like the beak of a predatory bird.

Holly, shocked into silence now, offered no comment.

The transmission showed more giant beaked creatures moving in the distance, their legs bending in reverse like stalking ostriches.

Wide-eyed Holly turned aside to speak to someone off-camera. “Has—has any of this been verified?” Shaking her head, she looked back and continued her commentary. “It’s hard to see what exactly is going on from this distance, but it appears that these—these creatures are piling things into a net of some sort.”

Not things . . . people! Daniel thought angrily.

In the transmission, a boy’s voice called out, “Mom! Dad!”

“That must be poor little Danny,” Holly said.

The transmission zoomed in on the source of the sound, focusing on a small figure caught in the grip of one of the creatures.

“But we didn’t do anything,” the boy yelled, and took a swing at his captor.

As Daniel watched, hate and fury rose in his chest like bile.

More beaked creatures approached. The one holding the boy lifted him high for inspection. He thrashed wildly, fell loose from the creature’s grip and scrambled away. The creature went after him, but the boy threw himself inside one of the science team’s storage tubes and closed the lid. The creature bent over the long tube, spun and rolled it about in an apparent attempt to find an opening.

Breathe, Daniel reminded himself. He never thought he would need to use his survival training, not back then in that tube, and certainly not here now, fifteen years later.


Excerpted from "NanoMorphosis" by Marla L. Anderson. Copyright © 2018 by Marla L. Anderson. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Marla L. Anderson

Marla L. Anderson

Marla L. Anderson is the author of numerous short and novel length stories. Her specialties are science fiction, fantasy, horror and suspense. Her love of speculative fiction began at an early age and she started writing her own soon after. Readers are invited to contact her through her website:

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