“Revelation is tightly plotted, with twists and page-turners. The characters are unforgettable and the writing is top-notch. Poncy’s story is a modern thriller, the likes of which rivals Michael Crichton at his best. The endgame of the novel will keep you guessing...you won’t be disappointed as you finish the last, entertaining page.”
Kate Burgauer, Crystal Literary
Cassandra Philips, a promising young evolutionary biologist, has developed a unique method of translating the genetic code that surpasses existing approaches in speed and clarity. She applies her technique to demonstrate the legacy of our evolutionary past hidden within the human genome, but what she discovers has profound implications for our future. The path Cassandra must travel is a treacherous one. There are the roadblocks set by the intimidating Senator Franklin Morgan, a creationist whose fundamentalist thinking is threatened by her work. The emotional conflicts that arise when she falls in love with the senator’s son, Michael complicate matters even further. Cassandra finds herself confronting the profound issues that define mankind’s ultimate enigmawhy we are here and what is to become of us As the terrifying truth of her work reveals far more than she ever imagined.
Revelation: The Epiphany of Cassandra Philips turns the lens of science fiction/fantasy upon the deep philosophical issues that have haunted mankind since the birth of imagination.
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REVELATIONThe Epiphany of Cassandra Philips
By Mark Philip Poncy
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Mark Philip Poncy
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDecember 19, 1985
It is a race for survival, one that will be decided before the setting of the sun. She is ready; indeed, preparations have begun for this event, despite its unlikelihood, as a host of internal and external modifications are progressing at a furious pace. Her only hope of avoiding death is the successful arrival of the invading army, an army whose thrust might well have taken place on another field of encounter.
But on this night, the arena chosen would be fortuitous for the tenuously-living link between past and future. Sounds of the successful campaign carry to the site where she lays, though as yet she possesses no sensing apparatus, no way of knowing that her fate has just taken a significant, though certainly not final, turn for the better. She simply waits, life quivering in the balance.
The survival of this living mass of protoplasm is dependent upon the successful delivery of a message, one that has taken a billion years to write. Various versions of the message are transcribed in the language of the secret code, and at the moment some two hundred million emissaries from another kingdom have just penetrated the outer gates, each carrying his sacred copy. The parchments upon which these life-giving instructions are transcribed are carried carefully within sealed envelopes.
The object of these messengers is still a considerable distance away, and their instructions have been written in disappearing ink. They will need to travel the equivalent of a thousand miles 'til journey's end, and there is just one day left to get there. Fortunately, they are built for speed and endurance, having been groomed over countless millennia for the task.
Their numbers bespeak the daunting odds against success: only a few would reach their goal, and just one will penetrate the inner sanctum of the ovum itself. On this day, victory: one soldier out of the vast army has forced his way in, and is already removing the message from the packet in which it had been securely sealed.
Vassals attending the ovum are performing a similar miracle, opening her own identical envelope, where the other half of the message has been carefully preserved, waiting for this moment.
In a flash, it is done: the messages are joined, signaling the successful continuation of a lineage that had begun with the dawn of time. Separate, they signify nothing; together, they spell life.
Cassandra Philips awakened to the repetitive drone of the new alarm, as it announced, "It is now six-o-three, A.M." in a robotic monotone. She hadn't thought the alarm would be necessary, really, but the newness of her surroundings had combined with the importance of this day to persuade her cautious side to invest in one. As obnoxious as the sound was, she was grateful for its insistent perseverance.
I can't believe how crappy I feel, she thought, as she stretched in vain attempt to release her body from the cobwebs of the night. Her rest had been fitful; she had gleaned perhaps three hours of useful sleep out of the six hours consigned to the new mattress, which, claims of the insincere and leering salesman to the contrary, had failed to even attempt to mold itself to the contours of her body. Quite the opposite had occurred, in fact, as the ratty-looking salesman went home some ten dollars richer in commission. Though he would have traded an entire week's worth of commissions to have played the part of Cassandra's mattress, the contours of her body would remain as much an unattainable mystery to him as to the mattress he had sold her.
The classic beauty of Cassandra Philips had not escaped the notice of the ratty mattress salesman, as it would not be missed by anyone who had the occasion to glance upon her. An unusually pretty child, the womanhood to which she had grown enhanced her fairness into a look that was best described as stunning. Willowy of frame, dark of hair and olive-skinned, she presented herself to the world in simple style, her classic looks unfettered by the camouflaging distractions of contemporary fashion. She did not require the art of deception to impress.
Yet it was not Cassandra Philips' wish to impress anyone with her appearance. A rare degree of intelligence, easily overlooked by those distracted by her beauty, was what she would use to make her way in the world; what she would accomplish with her God-given brains would some day provide the measure of her mettle. At least this is what she had suspected, and it was the premise upon which she had constructed her life plan, a plan that would take a giant step toward realization beginning with her first day here. If I ever get my tail out of bed, she thought.
Tossing the bedcovers aside, she placed her feet on the warm wood plank floor of her Georgetown apartment and padded to the kitchenette, where the morning Drano of grapefruit juice waited to work its rejuvenating miracle. She didn't know exactly what it was that gathered in the hallways of her throat each night, undoubtedly to discuss plans for undermining the health of their hostess; she didn't really want to know. It was enough to trust in the paddywagoneering of the grapefruit juice, where another night's collection of loitering bad guys would be rounded up and swept harmless into the confines of her digestive tract.
It was a strange and perhaps unfeminine way to think, but it was how Cassandra Philips looked at the world, from an unusual point of view. This altered perspective would serve her well in her career.
Turning to the paltry pantry, she removed the bag of coffee she had ground at the little gourmet shop last night, and sniffed the aroma from heaven. Despite having had limited time to accomplish much in the way of housekeeping, she had known the first morning cup would provide a requisite jump-start to a long and exciting day. Good move, Cassie, she thought.
Once the machine was loaded and primed for brewing, she went to the bathroom, stripped, and turned on the shower. The insufficient water pressure produced little more than a drool from the old corroded head, as Cassandra noted her first disappointment with her new living quarters. She had long relied on the merciless pounding of a well-heeled shower to convince her body to get started with the business of living. Perhaps the head was blocked with calcified deposits; it reminded her of her old department chief. Smiling at the analogy, she made a mental note to replace it at the first opportunity.
While waiting for the water to build to temperature, Cassandra allowed time for morning inspection. Hers was a body that required little maintenance, as it was free from the excess baggage now beginning to accompany the backsides of many of her twenty-four year-old contemporaries. Her rigorous dedication to tennis, singles only, continued to pay aerobic dividends. As always, she marveled at the engineering of the human form, the epitome of life as she knew it; a fantastic assemblage of systems and subsystems, each in a former era capable of a level of life on its own, now subservient to the greater good of the superior individual species employing it.
Today marked the beginning of the professional life of Cassandra Philips, Ph. D. The post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health would fetch a fraction of the income she had declined from a host of genetic engineering firms, as molecular biologists were in high demand since before the turn of the millennium over a decade ago. Drugs fashioned to improve maladies and defects of human genetic origin were rolling off the bioengineering assembly lines at a dizzying pace, and there was no shortage of investors willing to put their cash behind the next synthesized human growth hormone or regenerative organ catalyst. Yet Cassandra had promised herself this two-year hiatus from the pursuit of the megabuck, indulging in the opportunity for pure genetic research at the foremost laboratory complex in the world of biological inquiry.
It had taken a scant three years to complete her graduate studies at Cal Tech, barnstorming through a program that often took twice as long to master. Her thesis project, once regarded as fanciful by the former department head, had been lauded as a breakthrough in the arsenal of gene pattern recognition. What had taken arduous months of expensive bioassay could now take place in a matter of days, and with equal reliability. That she was offered the fellowship at NIH was hardly surprising; what was unexpected was her enthusiastic acceptance, as scores of bioengineering firms that were prepared to bid seven figures for her services were told, albeit very politely, to wait.
Cassie wanted to utilize her technique to demonstrate the genetic component of an age-old adage of evolutionary biology, and she did not wish the results to become proprietary to any private firm that would have gladly sponsored her research. This fundamental and revealing tenet known as the biogenetic principle had captivated her imagination upon learning it several years ago, in freshman biology, and it was the reason she had chosen genetics as her field of endeavor. Since that revelation, not a day had gone by that she failed to be mesmerized by its implications.
An abrupt change in water temperature interrupted her reverie of reminiscence, and as Cassandra quickly reached out to turn off the shower, she accidentally nicked her thumb on a shard of metal plating that had begun to peel from the ancient knob. Nothing more than a trifle, it nevertheless began to bleed, spewing thousands of cells formerly passing contentedly through the confines of her circulatory system. Each white cell contained the entire set of instructions of how to build and run Cassandra Philips, though most of these details had been suppressed to encourage the expression of their own particular specialty, now made pointless by their existence outside of her body. They were destined to die within seconds, a fact that was briefly noted and mourned by the subconscious mind of their former landlord. Not that Cassandra had an immortality complex: she simply was too aware of the miracle of living complexity that had suffused each of these cells not to express a passing regret over their demise.
Again, an unusual way to think, but then Cassandra Philips was a highly unusual woman, one whose role in the universe was about to grow considerably larger.
Chapter TwoWithin the fertilized embryo's multiplying mass a crude differentiation is beginning to occur. Those cells lining the inside of the ball-shaped clump begin to modify their cellular membranes, as a signal to construct an entirely different protein-based structure emerges from their nuclei by way of miniscule chemical messengers. Instead of a tough protective outer shell, one suited to isolate the inner workings of the cell from a hostile environment, the new structure that is emerging will enable the tiny assemblage of cells to interact with the internal pocket they now surround. This space will now be imprisoned within the confines of the animal itself, and this resultant innermost cellular layer would soon form the digestive and endocrine systems of the future organism.
The medial layer of cells formed by the ever-thickening mass of living materialrespondtotherealitythatthegrowingsizeofthedevelopingorganism would have to be considered. Soon the creature could no longer depend upon passive meanderings through a benign and fluid world to support itself — the requirements of feeding such a large living entity would demand the ability to range throughout its environment. Again, chemical messages are released from the cellular nuclei of this medial group, instructing the mechanical fabricators within the cell to construct protein- and mineral-based structures that will promote the organism's physical support, strength and mobility: thus initiates the development of its musculo-skeletal system.
Finally, those cells remaining on the outer surface of this ever-expanding clump of living material receive instructions from yet another set of chemical messengers. These compounds inform the intracellular assembly fixtures to construct an apparatus that would enable the future organism to sense information contained within its internal and external environments, and, to enable it to react to those environments in a manner advantageous to its survival. Thus is triggered the initiation of its nervous system.
In all, the organism had been created some three days prior to these developments, and while it would endure the passing of an additional two hundred and seventy-one days before making its appearance in the outside world, the evolution of its systems would be essentially complete within five or six weeks. Quite an encapsulation of experiment that had taken a few billion years to accomplish.
Running late, Cassandra reached for the portable telephone as she continued brushing her teeth. "Hmumph?" was all she could manage, until discretion forced her to place the telephone down, spit the toothpaste into the sink, and resume her conversation in English.
"Sorry for that ... hello?"
"Cassandra?" It was the slightly patrician tone of her mother, Susan, whose infrequent calls generally meant trouble, usually with Cassandra's father. "Cassandra, it's your mother." Not mom, not mother, but your mother. For some reason, she thought the use of the objective case gave her more authority, though to Cassie it betrayed a somewhat cold and impersonal approach to a world that had not treated her mother warmly. It was, unfortunately, a reciprocal arrangement.
"Hello, mom. How are you?"
Her mother always took this question literally. "Well, since you asked, not well. Your father...." Your father, not "my husband". Was it her fault that her father was, well, what he was? "Your father is up to his old tricks, and ..."
"Look, mom, it's not that I'm not interested, but I'm running a little late, and today's my first day, remember?"
"Oh, I forgot! Of course, how could I? Are you ... do you have everything you need? Are you excited? Oh, I can't believe it's Monday already and ..."
"Okay, mom ... it's okay. Why don't I give you a call when I get home tonight, and we'll figure it out ... all right?"
"All right, Cassandra. Good luck, and ... talk to you later."
"'Bye, mom." All mothers must work on their timing, Cassie thought. It's uniformly lousy.
From the sound of things, her father's timing wasn't too sweet, either. He had never been there for her, not since the accident, though it was becoming difficult to remember the way he had been prior to that fateful morning when her mother came for her at school, after Mr. Harding, the principal, had fetched her from class. Though at the age of six she was too young to comprehend the ramifications of the term, she still recalled the image that came to her when the words irreversible brain damage tumbled out from underneath the closed door of the doctor's office and into her anxiously alerted ear. Daddy can't go backwards any more, she thought, which is what the car always did whenever he put it in reverse. Daddy wouldn't go forward, either, from that day when he had put the loaded gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
For some reason he didn't just die. Nor did he suffer any substantial loss of cognitive function — he just couldn't feel anymore, which put whatever demons to rest that had driven him to such an improbable act, but didn't make for warm and fuzzies when it came to raising a daughter. His wife's future would now vacillate between the guilt of the enabler and the anger of the victim. His daughter was simply crushed, unable to comprehend how a matter of failing finances could blind a loving father to his role as the center of a little girl's universe.
Oddly enough, that one desperate act had the effect of reversing the finances of Warren Philips, as the path of the bullet had taken enough of his cerebral limbic system to create an emotional eunuch, yet one intelligent enough to write about the experience. His memoirs had caused the family a good deal of pain and embarrassment, but Warren didn't care. After all, he couldn't care. While he felt no more sentiment for his wife and daughter, he could not comprehend why on earth he would be served with divorce papers some twelve months after his recovery; after all, his marriage, indeed, his life, had become so convenient once the advance from the tabloid publisher had come in, and his agent had signed him to a lucrative book deal and television appearance tour. While going along with the judge's decree, he just couldn't get out of the habit of hanging around the house; the idea that his presence could represent a source of pain to either of them was, again, beyond his comprehension. Susan Philips was too confused and ambivalent over the situation to really know how to handle it, so she usually waited until Warren drifted off somewhere before restoring order in her own life. At first, he would stay a few days, then disappear for weeks or months at a time; eventually the visits became less frequent, and could be for as little as a few hours. It was terribly difficult for Cassandra, and even when she became old enough to intellectually understand her father's limitations, she was never able to integrate the emotional consequences of his singular and oh-so-permanent act of rejection.
Excerpted from REVELATION by Mark Philip Poncy Copyright © 2010 by Mark Philip Poncy. 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.
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