The Jonah Trilogy Book 1
by Anthony Caplan Genre: Science Fiction
A father and son stumble into the secret world of the Santos Muertos, a crime cartel bent on global domination. The son must find his father and keep the secret of the ancient Mayan code underlying the creation of matter in the universe from falling into the wrong hands.
A story of sacrifice and love.
“Set in a dystopian near-future, Savior is genre-breaking reading at its best . . . a fascinating combination of high adventure and interpersonal relationships that keep Savior an exciting, unpredictable read right up to its emotionally charged (and satisfying) conclusion.”
–Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review
“The story opened strong and it kept that level throughout…This is definitely a story of love and sacrifice.” --Highway-YA
“The author did a superb job on creating the characters, going deep into the psycho analysis of their behavior. The plot is very well constructed….The plot is very intense and it is guaranteed that you will be hooked from the first page on this incredible adventure, showing that a love between father and son has no limits. I recommend this book to the permanent library of all readers that enjoy a very well written novel and want to be entertained.”
--Roberto Mattos, Books and Movies Reviews
“The use of language is intelligent, and unexpected in today’s thriller/dystopian genres, with turns of phrase that startle with their elegance without ripping the reader away from the plot or descriptions . . . It is exemplary in its stellar use of language, its complex plot and characterizations, its ability to derive truths and fallacies and the thin veil separating them.”
--Diane Nelson, Sand in My Shoes Reviews
“I enjoyed the characters very much and the development of the plot line kept me interested to the end. The Canadian connection made it even more exciting.”
--J.C., Rockwood, Ontario
The morning that Mary died there were F5 tornado warnings in the mid-Atlantic, a man shot up a hospital in Fort Wayne, Dittohead Larry's car dealership was promising amazing deals in Kissimmee, and a crack opened in the sky that gets bigger every day. Nobody noticed the crack, and nobody noticed that Mary and I had our two hands intertwined, as they had been for better or worse for seventeen years. Her face just held a remnant of the youthful girl I'd once known. The lines of intelligence around her eyes and the compassion that had burned brightly in them were fading before me.
She whispered something that I had to lean down to hear.
I pity you.
They were her final words. She was sure she was moving on to a place beyond our comprehension and ability to touch. I have a hard time writing what I felt for her in the hospital. I wanted to turn off the television. There's something so awful about a television in a hospital room, but now I would welcome the banality of it, the familiar numbing sensation and otherworldliness of it, especially the commercials. When I think about all the time I wasted watching television, I get angry with myself. We spend so much of our lives killing off any opportunity for wonder and grace, and then when it comes we don't recognize it until too late. But Mary, even in her dying she was teaching me a lesson about how to live. I'm sure she's here with me sometimes. I'm not sure about where she is, about that place beyond our comprehension. Maybe it's there for Mary. I can almost hear her voice. It's the train that rips overhead like it would tear the roof off a house. I drop off the bunk and roll in a self-defense reflex. It disappears, leaving not even a Doppler, not even an echo of its passage.
I'm in a hole, on the floor. I put my ear to it and can almost hear the ground water gurgling and working away at the stone. Blackness and the sound of the wind, not any real wind, are all I've got besides the resource of my senses. There's almost nothing to feed on. Slowly the senses will atrophy and without them I will lose my mind. Not my soul. But a soul without a mind must be a tortured thing. Some would say they are the same, but I have the proof of the contrary. His name is Samael Chagnon, and where he walks is a ruined place.
Two, three steps and I come to the wall, the cold, wet, rough-plastered wall. Turn around 180 degrees and six steps back the other way. There is no sound, no light, no smell, nothing. But out of this nothing can come everything. Twice a day a vent opens in the wall. Somebody, I can hear the steps going away, the loud ringing of boot heels fading away as a corner is rounded, has slipped in a tray of cold rice and mush. The smell makes my head shake. Once in awhile there's a piece of grisly chicken in it. It's almost as good as sex. Then sometimes there are the beams of light shooting through the air over my head. It's a grey light, not daylight; some kind of fluorescence, but it hits my eyes like the glory of God's kingdom and lifts me to some other plane of existence. For a second it's enough to keep me sane.
It is a living hell. The devils that have imprisoned me here, the foot soldiers of Samael's army, they call themselves Los Santos Muertos, expect me to roll over and forget who I am and die. But of course I have the resource, my memories to sustain me. I have to dole it out wisely though, because I don't know how long I will be here. No, it's a mistake to think that. That kind of thought lets in doubt, the pain of desiring light, touch, and mercy. The Dead Saints, Los Santos Muertos make it a point not to feel any human emotions. They train themselves to seek out pain in themselves and force it on their prisoners. There is no mercy in this underground. No light. Only my sacred soul, but he will come to try and steal even that.
What are the numbers that he seeks? Pi out to the fifteenth decimal silences him momentarily. It's something I learned in college. A party trick. And then I hear his outrageous screams of anger. There is the momentary joy of hearing his genuine pain, until the minions, his men in black, twisted faces, as if they'd been cannibalized, or burned off, grimacing masks, are strapping me to the board. I can hear the clanking of it into place above the vat. The water's cold snaps me to attention. This is real, and if I breathe I will die.
I can't die. Ricky needs me. Somewhere above ground in the world of light, oxygen, reason -- reality, sweet reality -- in the three holy dimensions of Earth lit through by the sun, there is a boy. His mother is dead. I'm all he has. I hold my breath until I am blue. I say that and laugh because there are no colors in this world, only blackness and his voice ordering the men. Something to my ears like a howling, guttural curse, and they swing the board upright.
Once, in a far away, not-to-distant past there were the three of us, and our struggles were the common lot of American families in those days: how to make the mortgage payment; how to avoid the despair of not bright enough teeth, not green enough grass -- the under-pixilated reality of early 21st century Florida, not Miami, not Jacksonville, somewhere in between, in the palisades of retirement communities and trailer parks of central Florida. The very real beach town where we made our lives, pushing the stone uphill. And we were happy before Mary's death. The cancer cut her down and stole away our life. Could it have been Samael's first assault? He is after all, the leader of the Santos Muertos, the living dead, self-styled thought it may be as a title. I can almost believe, if I let myself slide, that there is a basis to his irreality. His formidable will for evil has taken him to the heights of madness after all, which are just a hair removed from the world of genuine power. He seeks the old Mephistophelian bargain of dominance and immortality, and if I help him he promises I will enjoy the same. But I would have to forget my old life. Everything that I am and ever was. He miscalculates with me, but I can't let on. It is keeping me alive, his unholy thirst for power.
The Victor's Heritage
The Jonah Trilogy Book 2
"Is this the future of America?"
"Excellently uncomfortable and engaging."
"A fast paced read that takes you places.".An intricately woven, futuristic tale, The Victor's Heritage parallels contemporary events. It is 2045. America has been shattered into two countries. Democravia and the Republican Homeland. Peace between the two continental rivals is always fragile.
˃˃˃ Rebellious teens seek to forge their own path, but is that always so terrible?Corrag is one such teen who has been forced into a world that she is ill-prepared for and yet is ready to embrace new ideas and concepts far from the standard "party" lines.
˃˃˃ In this latest installment of Caplan's The Jonah Trilogy, he captures the force of youth, of coming of age, of new awareness that is put together into a tale that never lets up!Drunken Druid Book Awards
Corrag smiled at the idea of Gurgie in her bedroom on Durkiev Drive across town and the shock of recognition when she realized her friend had signed off on MandolinMonkey rather than go in for the remnant. So characteristic of a truly dynamic soul, Gurgie would say, to quit nonchalantly on the verge. But for Corrag the reality was less comforting. She had ten minutes before her parents called for dinner. It was a more complex fear coming over her -- of facing Ricky and Alana, the stalwarts of St. Michael's Close, the exclusive, tree-lined enclave of Edmundstown where she had grown and lived her entire sixteen years. Her parents, the Drs. Lyons as they were titled in the annual consensus, had implied that this talk would be “important to her future.” Whatever that could mean. Something about the boring infinitude of possibilities always just around the corner. Like signing off on the game rather than face the interior of the obelisk, it was easier for Corrag to be present and accounted for -- ride the tide of her parent’s displeasure -- then to make a stand by remaining in her bedroom, the private space she continued to carve out of the increasingly imperiled Democravian Federation life she was about to leave behind.
She observed numbly as the icon came up on the nanowall, the family crest with the towering crane and the stylized image of the transgalactic, so twenty-thirties, and wished again she’d had other siblings, that Ricky and Alana had been more compelled by the recommendations of the Commission on Demography and less concerned with their augmented careers. But so be it. There were also advantages to being the basket in which were placed all the eggs of the Lyons family name. if only the crest design were more compelling. She hit the kill button before the music, theme of HG Wells acclaimed classic The Shape of Things to Come which she had performed during her sixth grade drama season in a stellar role as Hillary Perron, the Council leader responsible for the withering away of the former power of the state of California, the sclerotic, corrupt vestiges of what had once been democratic governance, could end. Now it just reminded her of her parent’s unfulfilled expectations for her development as a young woman about to assume the mantle of augmentation.
She descended the stairs covered in royal blue carpeting and sat at the dining room table of molybdenum, while her father, white beard trimmed neatly and his cardigan in the colors of the University of the Upper West, maroon with cream pockets, beamed at her. Her mother, Alana, continued to talk in that subtle, alluring monotone with hints of New Albion that had entranced many faculty parties on the shores of Mono Lake.
“And I’ve always maintained that tennis induces a better oxygen wash of the skin than yoga, Ricky. Well. Here she is. Corrag? Where is your file?” asked Alana.
“Oh my God. Can I get my food before the interrogation?”
“Of course you can. Don’t be silly,” said her father, trying hard to keep the sound of despair out of his voice. Alana sighed. Corrag hated hurting their feelings, but there was nothing else to be done. This would have to be endured. Not even Alana was going to come out of this smelling of roses. There was probably a word in another language for the moment when a young woman declared her independence from her family without a pre-approved plan in place. But Corrag felt herself destined for a new form of singular existence that depended on taking this risk.
“Have you taken a stab at the essay yet? When is it due?" asked her father, once she had served herself from the tray offered by the housebot of the lasagna and truffles.
“In two days,” said Alana. “It’s getting late.”
“I’m having thoughts about it,” said Corrag. “I’m not sure.”
“Not sure. Thoughts. That’s Corrag for you,” said Alana. “What is sure for you? Nothing is ever sure in your world. You are the classic case of choice overload. We never should have let her have a PlayCube of her own.”
“Let her speak,” said Ricky.
They waited breathlessly, the two anxious parents, while Corrag forked some lasagna and chewed without looking at them.
“Didn’t you always tell me to follow my desires, Dad? Well, that’s what I’m trying to decipher. I don’t really know what my desires are. I don’t know if it’s what I really want. That’s my problem. I want to know. I can’t just plunge ahead into fine-tuning until I do. It wouldn’t be right for me.”
“Right for me.” Alana repeated. She dropped her fork. It clattered on her plate. Ricky grabbed his head helplessly with both hands. The bot, sensing some urgency, circled the table speedily. Corrag waved it away with her hand and looked at it with a hard stare that sent it back into the kitchen through the energy panel.
“This uncertainty of yours is in total defiance of your education and privilege,” said Alana.
“I know,” said Corrag. “But it’s what I want. Until we reach augmentation, we can choose what we want, right?”
“Within reason, Corrag. The parents still have the final say,” said Alana darkly.
“It’s unbelievable, Corrag,” said her father. “There are no more exemptions. Look at the Calder boy. He wanted to take a year and read the books in his grandfather’s library because he said he “valued the experience” of holding the words in his head instead of instant upload. He tried to argue in the consensus - you don’t remember, do you? - that the year of reading was worthwhile. But there were no more exemptions. Do you understand? He was effectively exiled. The only thing left to him was the HumInt Corps. Is that what you want? Hundred mile marches in the swamps where not even the bots can go? Certain premature death? No augmentation means no physical corrections.”
“That’s not true. There are other things,” said Corrag, the color rising in her face.
“Like what?” asked Alana.
“I don’t know.”
“Uugh,” grimaced Alana, her face wrinkling like a prune despite the botulin implants.
“Look,” said Ricky. Corrag could see the glint in his eye that told her he was probably in the cloud. “It’s a common condition of human childhood to seek individuation. We try to condition it away, but the vestiges of the trait are stronger in some and may require remedial conditioning. Or else you can choose the Vocag. There are some interesting possibilities. If you like manual work.”
“Okay,” said Corrag. She’d heard it all before, The path of the conversation had taken a familiar tack that apparently was not remembered by her father. But Alana would not have it.
“Do you know what that is? It’s not exactly gravy, is it. Give them run of the greenhouses. How ... utterly tacky.” said Alana.
“So? Somebody has to grow the food. I thought we were all in this together. Hail the Federation. Smile all the while."
“Corrag,” said Alana sharply.
“Look,” said Ricky. “I can accept that you need time. You’ve always been ... different."
"What are you talking about, Dad? I'm just like you. Have you forgotten? You've told me about refusing to play football. How your dad took it hard. How you had to find your own way."
"I know. You're ... different. Yes, like I was once. That’s why we love you. We’ll continue to support you in your choices no matter what.”
“But she doesn’t know what she wants.”
“Give her a year. What if we send her to New Albion to stay with Geoff and Joan. She can work with them, I don't know, the cows and the vegetable garden and get a real taste of life in the Republic. How does that sound, Corrag? It’s a world away from here. You haven’t seen your cousins since you were oh, two years old.”
“I don’t remember.”
“I agree,” said Alana, with the glint in her eye. “At first I thought it was a bad idea. After all, the Republic’s ideas on education and adulthood are very different than ours. I just don’t know how it will sit with the Council.”
“I’ll run it by Mitchell Culpepper. There is the youth emissary program. It’s usually staffed by graduates of fine-tuning, but they may make an exception for me."
“And I’ll get in touch with Joan. There’s the risk of course …”
“Of course. But … paradoxically there are less opportunities for young people in the Repho. The reliance on market forces will always prove inefficient as a mechanism to harness the singularity.”
“Do call Mitchell.”
“I will dear. Tonight.”
Ricky and Alana finished their dinner with occasional glances Corrag’s way. The matter was closed as far as they were concerned. Corrag watched her parents, wondering at their ability to turn on a dime conversationally once all the options had been thoroughly considered. For her, though, a year abroad loomed mysterious and menacing. She hadn’t heard them talk about the New Albion family in forever, and why that would be the best option for her was not clear. Corrag had, in the back of her mind, figured they would find a way to get her private tutors to prepare for augmentation, with some kind of mental health dispensation. Sure it would have channeled her into the arts, but that was where she felt at home, without the responsibility for determining the way forward for the entire civilization. Just entertain us, that was the mandate for the ArtSmile corps coming out of the Federation system. Most of their recent mindscapes and challenges were pretty bland. The occasional bootleg memes from Sandelsky, the main branding of the Republic that teenaged hackers sometimes spread around the play spheres, far outstripped Democravian productions in technical flair; and they just seemed deeper, somehow more important.
The Saints of David The Jonah Trilogy Book 3
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN IS NOW!
WILL CORRAG AND BEN REACH DAVID'S TOWER?
WILL THE AUGMENT SURVIVE?
FIND OUT IN THIS FAST-PACED, PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER
Corrag and Ben are on the run along with members of their renegade theater group -- the last of the free brained creative folk against the enslaved people of the Augment and their elite Republican Homeland overlords.
It is 2072, and falling creative information flows in the Augment system mean there is little time to reach full power status and launch the planetary cover before the incoming Oort Cloud asteroids destroy civilization. Corrag and Ben make a run for David’s Tower, an alternative society built on the democratic power of individual stories. Corrag's father Ricky sets out to find his father’s book that he is sure will answer the deep-seated root of humanity’s evil. These are just a few of the individuals on a quest, drawn to the utopian world of the Tower, built by the man known to his followers as the Saint. David Shavelson, a former owner of a Brooklyn bookstore, is a charismatic visionary leading a community in resistance against the mental enslavement of the Augment system. The Augment leaders know they must crush the Tower or lose control of their destiny. The battle lines are drawn. All the answers will be found in the thrilling roller-coaster finale that is The Saints of David.
The Saints of David, the final book in the Jonah Trilogy series, is recommended for new and prior fans alike, who will find this wrap-up volume a powerful conclusion to Anthony Caplan's thriller/sci-fi tale.
Old connections are revitalized against the backdrop of disaster in this 2072 story of strange romances, half-humanoids, free thinkers and slaves, and the unAugmented people living outside the new norm who may prove the last bastions of true humanity.
Readers new to this world, as well as those who have imbibed of the previous Jonah Trilogy titles, will all find The Saints of David packed with a flavor of doom and hope that makes it hard to put down and an exquisitely compelling story that leads readers to question many beliefs before they are through."
Diane Donovan -- San Francisco Relocated
The machine’s frothing resembled something organic, mottled and lumpish. This spuming mess was the result of months of work, including these torture sessions. The prisoner had given up some remnants of a fantastic narrative -- a melange of myth and personal redemption tale, but it was obvious they were to see little of any use. It was not what Ludmilla desired. The granddaughter of the great Frans Dimitrievsky paced impatiently and flitted with her hair. Chagnon observed with a wizened ennui. As always, he had the tiresome belief that he had seen it all before. There was the usual hum of anticipation as the chimera, Absalom, took the lees from the agent in the hologram, placed it in the sterilizing medium and read the transcript:
“Long before the World was created there was an island floating in the sky upon which the Sky people lived. No one ever died or was born or experienced sadness. However, one day one of the sky women said she would give birth to twins. She told her husband, who flew into a rage.”
“No, no. No, no,” said Ludmilla, tapping Absalom on his fleshy, naked shoulder to make him stop. He turned, and his pink, half pig, half humanoid face grew crimson with blood rising.
“I can’t believe this is what we get,” she continued. “Is nobody concerned? At this rate we will have to take drastic measures. Samael? Drastic.”
Chagnon lit his pipe and settled back in the bubble chair with greater emphasis, if it were possible, on the absolute lack of muscular tension in his articulations. He looked up from the hologram and over at Ludmilla. The Chilean agent said goodbye, and the three dimensional image faded, but not before they could hear the cries of the tortured prisoner, the last of the Andean indigenous troubadours, through the slightly indigo tints of the connection. It raised their hackles, but it was so far away and so easy to cut off before the cries grew savage in intensity. It was hardly a bother.
“There is rage. That portends a dramatic rise and fall,” said Chagnon, finally, by way of appeasing her.
“Of the husband?” asked Ludmilla, with a dangerous lack of restraint.
“Well, we don’t exactly know,” said Chagnon.
Ludmilla swatted his words away and turned her back. She walked to the window that looked out on the fantastic skyscrapers -- built by the Qatari prince Faisal Asmashan for his extended retinue of Sunni layabouts.
“I don’t want this second rate … puerile … nativist … romantic claptrap, Samael. We don’t have time. We need juice, real juice. Now!”
The process was everything. Ludmilla’s panic was a sign of the low informational reserves the Augment held. They had never made up the lost ground after the great methane feedbacks of the 2050s. Concentrated around the ill-fated coastal fleshpots, the creative elements had been among the first to perish, the first wave of casualties of a distressed planet, along with the monarch butterflies, the polar bears and the United Nations. Now the remnants of domestic art in the surviving Living Water communities were running dry, and there was the beginning of a cannibalistic self-destruction among the elites, as they were the first to feel the pinch of flat growth lines in throughput. In such a scenario there were several dangerous possibilities. The Sunnis and the Mormons, the leading Abrahamic fundamentalists, who still held an absolute disdain for the theoretical need for artistic matter in the Augment library, could eventually go to war for the rights to the INN keys. Outliers, the masses of unaugmented humans Iiving in the southern range of habitable lands, would threaten to destabilize and possibly even topple the world order, as their organic societal organizations drew down the Augment’s capacity for information system evolution. In any of these cases, the process Chagnon had helped build, along with the Dimitrievskys and several of the leading families of the transcontinental alliance, would be over.
There was a simple fix, to find the next reserve of creative plasm that would get the Augment out of its soporific slump. In a sense the neural network, the collective body of the civilized world, had fallen victim to its own success. After the geometric explosion of knowledge had come the slow decline of lowered growth rates and now -- this implosion of stagnant cycling, reversing and doubling in a futile process of garbage production: spasms of creative non-fiction, critical musings along the tired grooves of the neo-modernist school, the revisionist social science productions of French academia, outright folklore. The lack of inspiration was felt most acutely at the points of greatest inflection, in the thought leaders such as Ludmilla, many of them the scions of those same families that Chagnon had mentored as the administrator of the Magnum Berkeley doctorate program in PDA -- Psychographic Dump Analysis.
“Ludmilla. You ought to take a break. A refresher. Go for two weeks with your friends to the Western Light Casino. Swim. Take a star course. Yoga. It will become clarified in time.”
“But we’re running out of options. Hope is not a game plan, Samael. I would rather make the decision now."
“Round up what we have left. Concentrate the Creatives in one geographic location and magnify stress levels.”
“And then what? We can't engineer savagery and mystery. Yes, we have robots with laser vision. They can run fast. So what? Neither the chimeras nor the borgs have been able to replicate the inspiration of human actors. We haven't solved the location of consciousness. Samael, the mass uptake of the Augment, no matter how willing, has had unintended consequences. Let’s admit it. Growth is flat. The algorithms are failing us. We have relied for too long on automated design systems to do the work. We still have loyal and dependable followers in everything from cuisine to gaming programs. But if you look closer you see formula everywhere you look. No real innovation. All we have left are the reservations, the Living Water programs. What was always the fall back has become our only source of high-value information. We can’t end it in one fell swoop.”
“No. But we can take advantage of scale. Absalom!”
The chimera approached, quivering with the need to please, somehow to redeem himself. Absalom was the bioengineered product of porcine and human DNA, with high intelligence ratings in service industry metrics, an appetite for tireless work, but an awkward result in personal hygiene.
“Yes, sir. Mr. Chagnon?”
“We want a report. Reproductive capacities of the unaugmented in key havens. Plus creative outputs. Overlay it in several dimensions, such as mortality rates and carbon soaks. Bring it to me as soon as possible.”
“Would you like me to include some street level reports, anecdotes and the like?” asked Absalom in a braying, servile voice.
“Yes, of course. Excellent idea. The chimera do an excellent job at that non-synoptic level. Only the best. I’ll leave that choice up to you,” said Chagnon, his hands behind his back. He paced around the room, bristling in his old fearsome style. Then he glanced at Ludmilla, and his expression softened. He was getting sentimental. She looked to him so much like Frans Dimitrievsky at that moment. He had to stifle a feeling of sadness. It was time for a momentary dip into the ether. Chagnon reached for his nose clip, attached it, and closed his eyes. He saw the swirling blackbirds forming the whirlwind tunnel that radiated back and forward in time. It reflected the self-correcting complexity of the Augment, always improving. But lately it was exhibiting some wear and tear.
Chagnon lost himself in the tunnel. In the end he could not escape himself or his old, useless limbs. It gave him little hope anymore. Even carbon graphite implants and nanofiber reinforcement ligamentation were no solace. He wanted to pass through the whirlwind tunnel to the beginning. He still believed it was possible some day, despite the delays, despite the setbacks, the inevitable shortcomings. With the right raw material, the finest of human productions, it could happen, he was sure. When the Augment had powered up to its Omega level, there would be such breakthroughs for the best, for the few who had climbed the human ladder and won a place for themselves at the summit of consciousness. In the past there had been real failures. He had known pain and suffering. He had lost friends, felt the pain of betrayal, known firsthand what a wasted effort the accumulation of power and comfort could be. Now he just wanted love and adulation, not from a chimera, but from young people like Ludmilla, like Hannah Jorvatz, and other recent Magnum Berkeley PDA graduates whose names he could not recall. Why was his memory failing him? The nanobots were not doing their job of cleaning the synapses. There was always such a lag between the promise and the performance, or maybe it was just him.
When he came to from his daydream, Ludmilla had gone. Absalom was napping in a large ball by the window, dreaming his unaugmented, natural dreams, and the light outside was growing dim over the city. There was a message on his Sandelsky artifex, buzzing on his wrist. He tapped it, and it rolled out into a scape that filled the room. It was Heather sitting on a bench in Carmel. She had a Chubaskew purse over her arm and large synthetic diamond earrings. She had an air of well-provided comfort. Behind her were the Pacific rollers with the speckle of surfers cutting diagonally and then falling into the break.
“Darling, you look the picture of a California dream. I have to pinch myself,” said Chagnon.
“I am the pinch you need, Samael,” said Heather saucily. “When will you come home?”
“I promise soon. We have a few more days before the yearly conference of the INN keys and then I will be home for the New Year party at the Wellfleet Club. You are, of course, my date.”
“You are such a sweet man, Sammy. I have a present for you when you get here. You remember the book of Mayan hieroglyphs we saw at the British Museum?”
“It’s a Zeiss 3-D reproduction. I think it would be perfect in your bedroom. Look.” She held up her artifex on her wrist with a photo displayed.
“I can’t wait to see it and you,” said Chagnon, stifling a yawn.
“Hurry, Sammy. But I know how important your work there is.”
“I’ll do the best I can. The Augment must be constantly improving or we will not make the target for interstellar travel.”
“I know. I don’t like to talk about it.”
They touched holographic hands.
He got off the scape call and stood creakily. Heather was not big on the details of the Oort cloud sending its chunks of destruction their way. Absalom, awake, accompanied Chagnon, carefully cradling the old man’s elbow in his odd, pygmy-like hands, out the hatch and down through the rest of the laboratory complex. It was the time of day most of the workers had left, except for those involved in comprehensive year-end analysis work in preparation for the annual meeting of the INN keys, which began in three days time.
Uniformed personnel of the CUA, a world-class assembly of human genotypes, greeted Chagnon as he went by. Everything was routine, nothing ever out of the ordinary. Emosensors tracked facial gestures and aligned them with known personality traits to ensure the normal range of emotional response and rate of ideation as per career track and intellectual achievement. Chagnon thought with satisfaction of the work that was being done, the fluid cooperation that spread across the room and beyond, to every corner of the civilized world. After all, he was one of the architects of the Augment, the next wave of human evolution. What had once been the preserve of the very rich was now a routine and universal procedure conducted in infancy. In exchange for their intellectual force, people were now getting lifelong access to all the perks of civilized life, including the mainstream informational data sets that had erased the inequalities of the pre-Augment technological civilization. Instead of economic insecurity, there was a basic income and constant entertainment programming. Instead of private health coverage, there were government subsidized full-scale health and beauty interventions, including the immortality programs for the INN keys and their families. But the greatest achievements, for Chagnon, were the impressive levels of stability and freedom from crime, terrorism and moral deviance in the last decade. But it was a thorn in his side that they had yet to crack interstellar travel or implement the Repho's planetary protection scheme, the widely reviled Spacedome.
The power attached to his name was palpable. The security at the front door, some sleepy bots that usually hardly moved, glowed green and red and creaked into action. Their graphic panels lit up when Chagnon and Absalom reached the door. Chagnon held up his front finger bearing the molybdenum ring with the date of the Treaty of Quarrier, 2-16-66, etched in it. Chagnon never failed to remember that day when he raised his hand for this purpose. The last of the Korazan traitors, the rebel ethno-state command structure, including their propagandist, his arch enemy, old, grizzled Bannon who could barely move, morbidly obese and wracked with diabetes, had been executed in front of his parked rocket. Afterwards, their minions were scattered to the four corners of the wilderness to bear the brunt of the five-year storm.
The bots buzzed and spoke all at once, falling over each other to be the first to wish him a great evening. Chagnon swept through the door behind Absalom, who gave a piggish glare of forbearance at the swiveling, semi-conscious machines.
Outside, a greyish sky dimmed the view over the old city, the remnants of the Greek colony of Aspalathos and the palace of Diocletian, now dwarfed by the Asmashan skyscrapers, the CUA administrative nodes and, beyond them, the waters of the bay that had formed during the great floods. Chagnon took in the view and reckoned with the temporary feelings of emptiness and futility. Sometimes he was his own worst enemy.
“Where is the porter?” he snapped at Absalom. The chimera was far from perfect. But he was faithful, and in his brown, limpid, cringing eyes Chagnon took the satisfaction of seeing tears of pain and fear. Absalom wrung his small hands together as if to extract some precious rare earth.
“Here it comes, sir,” said Absalom, jumping up on his rear legs to see further down the avenue. The cab swung into view, one of the city’s picturesque two seater porterbots, designed originally with the tourist trade in mind. They climbed in the back.
“Marjdan HotelSuite,” said Chagnon. He put his head back on the seat and closed his eyes. Absalom’s nimble fingers attached the nose clip and began to stroke his bald skull.
The wave curled overhead, and the board shot on a perfect diagonal across the crystal swell, always just under the burgeoning arc of water. The music was perfect -- a vintage John Waters piece with ambient noise that seemed like rustling silk or the beating of a butterfly’s wings. He focused on the intersection of water, air and sand that triangulated just out of the frame of his mind’s eye. If he could get out ahead of the wave before the song ended it would be a sign that all was well with his psychological quantum field. It was as if he was holding his breath -- an exhilarating rush -- but then the water broke overhead and the vision went to black. The music continued, but now all sound was discordant and vague, without a collecting theme or gathering of harmonic intensity. The machine had run out of momentum after an initial firing.
Chagnon couldn’t help himself. He clutched at his heart. Absalom was there -- warm and black tongue licking the fingers that tore at his face.
“You fool. You absolute fool, Absalom. The total idiocy of it all.”
“We're here, sir.”
“Nowhere. Nowhere!” cried Chagnon. The bot came to a stop in what looked to him like a cornfield, but it was the lobby of the hotel.
“Tell it to stop,” said Chagnon. He was having a bad reaction. He meant the dream.
“We are here,” said Absalom, jumping hurriedly at the door to open it. An alarm sounded as the defibrillator dropped in his lap. Chagnon held it to his chest himself. The jolt of electricity was just what he needed. He sat up and pulled at his knees to gather himself for the exit.
Nothing boded well. The Augment was losing. There was definitely information load entropy. It happened with greater and greater frequency. Perhaps Ludmilla was right. They needed some juice from somewhere fast.
A former journalist who has worked on three continents, Anthony Caplan lives in New Hampshire with his family, a small flock of sheep and several dozen carefully tended apple trees. He writes books and teaches high school Spanish. He is a graduate of Yale University and has also worked at various times as a taxi driver, shrimp fisherman and telephone salesman.
1. Would you break the law to save a loved one? .. why?
Yes, I would, assuming the person I was intending to save was innocent. I can't think of a law that I would obey in that case. But of course life does not work in neat binary categories of innocence or guilt. It's those grey areas that get us in trouble. In general, my first instinct is to see the law as just a social utility to keep order. It is useful, but love is a much higher law.
2. What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
The difference is a matter of consciousness. An amoeba is alive, but is not, we believe, capable of knowledge of a higher order. Being alive is being conscious of our relationship to others and our mortality and not freezing in fear at the suffering that is also a part of life. To truly live is to be unafraid. Of course, we could be wrong about the amoeba.
3.What motivates you to write?
The mystery is that it keeps me truly living in some strange way although it also cuts me off from much of daily life. Also it probably functions much like any addiction in that I have come to depend on it for pleasure.
4. Why do humans want children?
It's hard-wired. The pleasure we get in the company of our own children is unmatched by any other. The chance to do better than our parents is also a huge motivation. Then when we inevitably fail at raising the perfect offspring, we can spoil our grandchildren and claim any of their successes as our own.
5. What was the biggest challenge in creating your book
The biggest practical challenge for me is always finding the time to write. On this book I also had to spend time before writing, researching and reading specifically on aspects of artificial intelligence, AI, biometrics and other technologies that I wanted to use in my story. Now of course the biggest challenge is getting the word out and finding readers.
6. What is the most important thing you have learned in life so far?
The most important skill we often fail to teach intentionally is adaptability and resilience. Underneath that, of course, is the faith that we are part of a much larger order of things.
7. How do you handle personal criticism?
Very hard. Not very reflective or sane at all. But I'm getting better. Obviously you can't act on your worst impulses. It depends on the context, but my first thought is always to find the flaw in the other person's argument and counter-attack. What I’m learning is that doesn't work and sometimes the best approach is to take a step back and think before responding.
8. Why should people read The Jonah Trilogy?
First of all it's well-written. It's inspirational and entertaining. And it's a story reflecting some of our current concerns with technology and our decaying civilization. But mostly it's a rousing read about a young woman who discovers her innate heroism.
9. Why is there something rather than nothing?
That is a question at the very forefront of theoretical physics. Beyond my own remit as a writer? Maybe not. My own feeling is that it is a question unanswerable by science at the present time and so we turn to the artists and visionaries. Something to do with love is the short answer.
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