Historically, evolution moves at a slow place, with advances made by incremental steps. Occasionally, however, when circumstances permit, a massive leap catapults a species into a different future.
Now, ten thousand years into such a future, humanity has evolved into a barely recognizable form, with the ability to manifest multiple personal entities-each with a distinctly different physical identity. The Exiger hegemony has exploited this evolutionary springboard, giving it virtually irresistible military, political, and even social advantage as it seeks the utter subjugation of the galaxy.
Commander Solon Draco lost his parents at ten, and that experience shaped his entire future. As an adult, he dedicates his life to the military. For his own reasons, he chooses to display only one personality, a single-minded drive that has propelled him through the ranks. When Draco learns that the bearer of the genetic leap that founded his race and the Exiger Empire thousands of years ago has discovered a means to eliminate the change, he is dispatched into the past, leading an interstellar battle fleet from an even more distant future to foil this plan.
He knows that if this crucial change is eliminated, he, his whole race, and the future they populate will vanish in an instant.
As adversaries who are millennia apart race against time on a mission that will carry them to the very end of time, everything hangs in the balance. What path will humanity tread into the unknown future?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.79(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By NICHOLAS P. W. COE
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Nicholas P. W. Coe
All right reserved.
Chapter OneStorm, Charan System, Orion Sector. May 1st, 13, 173, CE-EST Cycle 83 of 278, 9, 015
On the planet Storm, the third of five forlorn children of the star Charan in the Orion Sector, it was a pretty nice day, as days went. Rain and sleet drove with incessant and unerring fury across the quadrangle of the Naval Academy, smashing against the reinforced glass at the western end. Huge thunder clouds towered into the sky, blocking out both Charan the major sun, and Ito, its red dwarf companion. Charan was a young, angry sun and showered its five charges with a blaze of thermal energy and ionizing radiation. In protest, Storm was shrouded in a thick layer of cloud that reacted violently to the incoming solar assault.
No one who lived on Storm actually liked being there. Forked lightning bolts arced to earth constantly, monsoon rains and sweltering heat in summer and sleet and blizzards in winter made any foray outside a life-threatening venture. Weather related injuries and accidents rarely made the evening news, but were tallied as a simple statistic in the daily reports. So, like so many other places that no one else in their right mind would ever want, Storm had been acquired as an ideal place to site a military training camp. There were very few social distractions.
None of this bothered Commander Solon von Esterhaszy Draco one bit as he strode down the corridor towards the front entrance of the Academy, dressed in a simple black coverall without insignia.
The petty officer on duty snapped to attention and saluted smartly as Draco approached. "May I order ground transport for you, Sir? The weather is really...." His words trailed off under Draco's withering glance.
"No, Ensign Ben-Highland," Draco replied returning his salute as his neural link fed him the man's name, "it is really quite a nice day out there."
"Yes. Sir," the rating replied, saluting again, mentally cursing himself for showing weakness.
Draco smiled wryly to himself at the gaffe. The kid meant well but he would never have let himself get caught like that. Draco's gaunt, black-clad figure striding across the courtyard in all sorts of terrible weather, his black hair flying in the breeze, compulsively hooking it behind his ears, was a familiar feature to everyone who lived on or near the Campus. But today felt like a good day for a walk in the rain, so he ignored the slip, nodded to the rating, and stepped out of the Academy into the torrential downpour as if he owned both.
In many ways, as Commander and senior officer of the establishment, he did own the Academy, and he loved the fury of the weather that blasted ceaselessly across his adopted home world. Like him, those clouds held a terrible pent up tension, but unlike him, the storms had no need to mute their feral rage. From the moment the rain drenched him to the skin, Draco began to relax, and just for an instant he let the bottled up tension and conflict that usually festered silently in his mind boil up. But once he'd given way to this momentary temptation, he took even greater pleasure in re-establishing the absolute, unwavering governance of his mind, the total control he'd struggled so hard to learn.
Like all Exigers, Draco had been born with multiple personalities, his Otherselves, each with the ability to completely alter his physical form, appearance and even clothing in the instant of the change, but he had chosen, despite all the touted advantages, to keep the same personality and physical appearance at all times. In the form he had embraced he was tall and gangly and wore his black hair shoulder length, framing his angular face. He had a fearsome aquiline nose with dark, brooding eyes, topped by beetling eyebrows, and thin sardonic lips. He'd always rather relished his saturnine visage, feeling it reflected his selected character and inspired order, if not outright fear, among his junior officers. On formal occasions calling for full military attire he would wear his dress uniform, but otherwise he always wore the same utilitarian black coveralls.
Over the thousands of years since his race had evolved from its human ancestors, this amazing capability to change personalities as well as identities had given them irresistible political, social and military advantage. The unique edge in any negotiation or political wrangling made any such interactions very interesting—in the worst Chinese curse way—for opponents who could never be certain from one moment to the next with whom they were dealing. In the halls of power, the Exigers' ability to marshal the strongest member of the Otherself panoply for the task put their mere single personality adversaries at a significant disadvantage.
It had also been realized eons ago that even with astounding advances in technology, that most wars were still fought on the ground against local militia or guerilla forces. Blowing up planets was an effective way to subdue opponents but did not leave much in the way of useful real estate or potential taxpayers. Enemy warriors could easily hide from high-tech search or surveillance devices by blending in with the rest of the inhabitants, so in the end it came down to ground troops and hand-to-hand combat, and in this respect the Exigers were virtually invincible. To the open mouthed (if they had one) consternation of any adversaries, a wounded Exiger soldier would instantaneously blink to another personality and back, and even the gravest of injuries would be healed in the process. At this point the dumbfounded opponent could easily be subdued, fatally if necessary.
With these phenomenal advantages the Exigers had risen to supremacy in intergalactic society within mere generations of the initial mutation, eclipsing their single-personality, human predecessors in just a few hundred years. Other non-human races were subjugated where necessary to incorporate them into the Empire. Exigers were immensely proud of the genetic changes that made them unique, even deriving their name from their amazing abilities. The genetic modification had become capitalized as The Gift, affording it almost religious sanctity and their motto, "E Unibus Plurum," ("From One, Come Many,") had been modified from that of one of the ancient nation-states on Earth. In contradistinction to an integer which represented a whole number, an Exiger was many individuals combined into one physical entity although the term individual had very different meanings in Exiger society.
Any undesirable personalities that could not be controlled were eliminated with nano-robotic surgery. A personality does not have a neuro-physiologic location, but the neural pathways it travels can be mapped while that personality is active, and then nano-bots can be sent to infiltrate the pathways and those circuits can then be sequentially restricted until the remnant is isolated in a neural limbo and its signal eliminated.
Socially, the Exigers were butterflies, switching and changing personalities at the merest whim. They also loved to spice up interactions of all kinds with the use of living prosthetics which substantially augmented their already exotic socio-political scene. Yet within Exiger society everyone knew at any given instant exactly who everyone else was within a local social radius. True personal privacy had not existed for thousands of years before the Exigers made an appearance. As the early Exiger society grew and matured, it had been realized that a recognition capability within their social system was critical, given both the vast constellation of personalities possible and the widespread use of living human tissue prosthetics. And the increasingly popular use of wildly bizarre, bio-engineered xeno-prosthetics also contributed to the problem. To that end, immediately after birth each infant had its own unique, genome-coded, nano-fibrillar neural matrix pattern imprinted into the skin of its hands, arms, and shoulders, as well as around its eyes and ears, not to mention other tactical places on its body. This pattern then broadcast signals in a variety of frequencies for several meters into the immediate environment to identify that individual. Each person still had the ability to vary their own signal strength from up to fifty kilometers, when it could only be detected by the most sensitive instruments, down to less than a meter. In addition, as individuals achieved distinction, the signal could be modified appropriately. In this way a newly assigned officer would instantly know Draco's rank. Although the Exigers could change an almost infinite number of other variables, they always had the original constant baseline genetic template. Since the more wildly inclined could replace up to ninety five percent of their bodies with prosthetic arrays or devices, all individuals also had the code imprinted over the base of the hind brain, that crucial area of the brain stem that no human or Exiger can live without.
Draco had been born on Earth and had spent a solitary childhood with aloof, distant parents who expected their child to be seen when appropriate and never heard from unless spoken to. His other personalities were poorly developed at best, never having had much opportunity, or frankly any wish, to be a part of his bleak, loveless life.
His parents died in a freak accident when he was ten, so Draco had been sent to live with an uncle and his family who neither wanted nor needed him and made both readily apparent. When he was sixteen he escaped by enrolling in the Exiger Federation Intergalactic Navy as an Ensign. Life in the military had seemed like paradise by comparison to his prior existence. Being ordered around and yelled at for no apparent reason was better by far than the interminable, resentful silence that had permeated his life since his parents had died. Almost instinctively he fell into the rigorous routine of the military life until he received special commendation and a scholarship to officer training.
Unlike the rest of his race, however, Draco hated the ability to become a completely different person at any time. His parents had rarely if ever exhibited any other personalities, and he wondered if his dislike of his birthright Gift was genetic, but others in Exiger society occasionally also mirrored his thoughts. A particularly flamboyant politician who called himself The Cartemouche had built his highly successful career by never using another personality, although ironically his use of grotesque or even freakish prosthetics was far wilder than any pedestrian alternative representations his Otherselves might have possessed.
Yet to Draco no Exiger was ever a truly complete person, the kind of complex, multifaceted individual he had read about in history and seen in other societies, where each person had to deal with his or her own issues and there was no instant opt-out mechanism. The natural human temptation to drop a problem into someone else's lap had been magnified a thousand fold as Exiger society blossomed because of the ready availability of other scapegoats in the form of the Otherselves. Exigers never lived through the crashing agonies of creativity where that incessant, driving force could simply not be delegated to someone else or another personality; no Exiger ever suffered against impossible odds or fought and struggled for greater things; no one ever persisted in the agony of creation despite appalling personal adversity. Instead they ran from conflicts or questions in their personal and creative lives, never stopping long enough to find any real answers. They had no really great artists, musicians, inventers or truly innovative thinkers or inventors. To be sure, there were occasionally those who did persist in perfecting a creative inspiration and their works were recognized and acknowledged by the public in general. But no Exiger ever cut off a body part or died in a garret struggling to find that spark, that genius of thought or creation that eluded everyone else. As a result, they were a race of enormously successful and incredibly powerful entities who ended up scavenging the genius of history and other races to fill the void in the greatness that, in Draco's mind, truly could have been theirs with some concerted self-discipline. The sort of self-control that he had struggled so hard to learn.
Draco had made his decision many years before. As the quality of his life in the Navy improved, his Otherselves had shown renewed interest in participating. In secret, he had mastered mind control techniques to subdue his other personalities and had never allowed one of them to take over control. The internal tensions and turmoil were enormous, but, as far as he was concerned, it was well worth it. His success as he matured had been nothing short of phenomenal. He was the youngest graduate of the Starfleet Academy in its long and honorable history and now, at thirty, its youngest Commander, although even that honor was in his mind only a stepping stone for the future.
Draco had often wondered about his own particular personality. He knew and cared almost nothing about the wishes and desires of his Otherselves, but was puzzled why his particular personality had become the dominant entity. Although he was generally reclusive, he was not depressed, antisocial, surly or withdrawn. He just preferred his own company. He was goal oriented and ambitious but success did not give him pleasure, it was merely the gratifying result of honest effort. Nothing really gave him pleasure and he'd wondered from time to time if his emotions were frozen. He had heard about such cases but in the end dismissed the idea as fanciful, not something that pertained to him or why he was the way he was. He believed he had loved his Mother and Father, but that memory was too painful to visit and whenever the thought crossed his mind he immediately diverted his attention elsewhere. He'd finally decided he was just who he was, and if the rest of the world didn't like it, that was simply too bad. And right now there was a perfectly good rainstorm to enjoy.
Today's storm on its namesake planet was particularly violent, but not unusual for those that occurred around the vernal equinox. Draco relished the sting of the hail and the ozone-laced smell of the rain as he headed across the quadrangle towards his lodgings and ignored the fact that he was instantly soaking wet. He savored the fetid aroma of wet, decaying vegetation from the forest beyond the compound. It was a pleasant change from the hermetic, surgically cleansed, air conditioned environment in which he lived most of the time.
It was not a long walk to his apartment, but it was one that would have been considered foolhardy at best and frankly suicidal by most of the inhabitants of Storm. Quite apart from the rain, this was the sort of storm that the indigenous life forms found most appealing. The planet had never evolved any large animal species, or, if it had, they had probably been drowned, hailed to death or electrocuted. Plants abounded, however. Many were motile and a good number of these were carnivorous. Their usual fare was the abundant insect life, but the larger ones in particular had unfortunately developed quite a taste for the early human settlers, a partiality they naturally extended to the current inhabitants of Storm. When the early settlers, a reclusive human sect fleeing some perceived or real threat the details of which had been lost, arrived on the planet about nine thousand local years ago, they had cataloged all the plants and had noted almost incidentally that those larger motile forms actually had a small focus of what appeared to be human genetic code within their genome. That of course was impossible, but later study confirmed that the same DNA evidence was present in plant fossils hundreds of thousands of years old. The colony ultimately failed and the planet was abandoned and remained uninhabited until the Exiger military took over. The factoid had been found in the settlers' archives and filed for further study.
Excerpted from FRACTURED FUTURE by NICHOLAS P. W. COE Copyright © 2012 by Nicholas P. W. Coe. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Author's writting form is very descriptive, you feel like your are on the planet Storm with the characters. A great read!
Excellent read for sci-fi entusiasts
For a relatively long book, it was a quick read. The author, Dr. Coe, keeps the tension high with chapter endings that make it hard to put the book down. He puts his characters in difficult situations that consistently bring out the best and worst in each of them. Where the author really shines, though, is in the world he has imagined a millennium into the future. He combines old London with new planets and life forms that, while fantastic, make sense given the circumstances and the story fundamentals. From genetic mutations to the way time moves, Dr. Coe has invented a world that continually amazes with clever twists and intricacies. At times the characters and plot become less important than the author's ideas about how the world might work -- or does work.... can we be sure? Even long after finishing the book, I look around and wonder if the mechanisms he describes might be at work, guiding our time, our universe, our lives. Note: this is not a book for those who relish death and destruction, or books that might keep you in a rotten, agonized mood for days after you finish reading. But if you like exploring new worlds and following characters who fundamentally want to do the right thing... a solid read. I put it in league with Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.