The world of the near future. Dictatorships still exist. One such place is America. The America of the past is not the America of the future.
Fear and uncertainty has led to a leader for life who has taken control of everything. Every business, private organization and even religion is under his control. The common apathy has led to austerity. Control is tenuous at best, but it will be maintained, at any and all costs.
Taylor Scott, scientist desires to turn his experience creating military technology into an ambitious humanitarian project that will alleviate the shortages and improve life for the citizens by creating a semi-intelligent beast of burden capable of performing agricultural tasks. Plentiful food, better quality of life for the citizens and reduced fossil fuel consumption are the benefits.
However, the leader for life has another plan, a sinister purpose for the beasts. His operatives on the inside modify the experiment and steal Taylor’s intellectual property to create a beast that is battle ready and can wield the power of the leader without reservation and with no remorse.
No, cold calculation.
No, total domination of the populace is within grasp.
Taylor continues the experiment with the help of fellow scientist, Christine Summers who shares his interests and their interest in each other grows. Unknown to them, their subject will not be the work beast they intended. No, he will be much more.
The experiment is a success, and their creation is not alone.
Taylor and Christine must now destroy what they have created. Pursued by their experiment and the leader, they join forces with the freedom fighters and help them win their liberty from tyranny and its unfeeling beasts of war.
Playing God has its consequences.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was inspired to write “Asterion” because of the politics of power and control and its use of technology to maintain and grow its influence.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I like characters that are real and have real wants and concerns. Given the circumstances they find themselves in, they must rise to the occasion and do what is right.
The familiar sound of assault rifles being raised caused him to freeze. He saw several barrels out of the corner of his eye. Caldwell called out. “Drop it or we shoot.”
Taylor stood his ground. “Stop him first!”
Caldwell ordered Asterion to cease his attack. Asterion growled as he turned, looked at him and snorted in anger. His breath in the morning air steamed from his nostrils and he backed away. Caldwell approached the entrance of the cave and said, “Ma’am, Army soldiers. Come out with your hands where we can see them.”
From the entrance of the cave she asked, “Where is Asterion?”
Caldwell replied, “He is a safe distance away.”
“Okay.” She came out, hands first, and they cuffed both of them and marched them back to the vehicle.
Caldwell checked the shackles on the three and looked at Barry. “You know, for a country hick, there is an awful lot of interest in you, fella. You’ll have to travel with us and answer some questions back at the base.”
Barry looked up at Caldwell and with a sneer said, “I’ve got nothing to tell you or anyone.”
Caldwell smiled. “Save your breath for the interrogators.”
Caldwell left the back of the covered truck and addressed the squad. “We’ll travel to this guy’s house and see what he might have there. We can hole up there until tomorrow and leave at dawn.”
The squad approached the house cautiously and secured the area. They brought the prisoners into the house.
Asterion cautioned Caldwell, “It might be wise to separate the local from Christine and Taylor. I have to talk to them.”
Caldwell warned Asterion, “Don’t touch them. We won’t allow an illegal act to take place while you are with us, understood?”
Asterion, with his teeth bared in more of a snarl than a smile, replied, “Understood.”
Taylor and Christine were confined in one bedroom and Barry was put in the master bedroom. Guards stood outside the windows and the interior doors.
Asterion approached the guard posted outside of their room. “I have to interrogate the prisoners.”
The guard stepped aside. “I’ll be outside the door in case you decide to disobey sergeant’s orders.” Asterion nodded and, crouching, entered the room. Taylor and Christine stared at him in silence.
Asterion cocked his head and laughed with a guttural bellow that shook the house. “Well, welcome to the family reunion.”
Taylor met Asterion’s gaze squarely. “Nice, but we could have used some more time to plan.”
Asterion’s smile dropped and he angrily responded, “What, so you could set a trap?”
Christine asked, “Why are you so angry with us? We raised you and loved you. We wanted the best for you.”
Asterion seemed touched for a moment, but shot back, “Really? Then why did you plan for me to be a beast that trudges through the muddy fields of your agriculture?”
Taylor replied, “Look, you were supposed to be a work animal. I will not lie to you, but you have to understand that we never thought that a creature that is able to exhibit the intelligence you have could ever be created.”
Asterion thought for a second. “You mean that your religion taught you not to create such a creature or that it could not be created. I almost never came into existence because of your superstitions.”
Christine interrupted, “This is uncharted territory. We did not know what was possible.”
“Nonetheless, I would not be speaking here now if you had your way. I would be either dumb or terminated. I am what I am only because of Trent and Burnsom. Now, who do you think has my allegiance?”
Taylor leaned toward him. “Asterion, when we thought you might be intelligent like a human, we treated you with the love and care we would give to any person. We didn’t know if you would be or not, but we erred on the side of caution and accepted you. We taught you our religious beliefs because we thought there is a possibility that you had a soul and you need to have a chance to know God. I don’t know; maybe we made a mistake.”
Asterion snickered. “Aw, isn’t that sweet. Well, it doesn’t look like your God is coming to rescue you or that He even had power to let you evade me in the first place.”
Christine sternly responded, “That’s not the way it works. Faith is a concept based not upon the immediate actions of God intervening in our lives, but on the belief that He works with eternity in mind. Faith is proven by our belief in what we can’t see and it believes in the future He plans for humankind.”
Taylor added, “Yes, we see God in everything. From the world to the universe and beyond, His signature is on all of it. Many see random actions relying on astronomical odds and believe in that. We see the hands of the Creator.”
Asterion replied, “Where does an aberration like me fit in here? You created me. Are you God?”
Taylor responded, “I may have put you together, but I started with living material. Many have tried to start life from the simple elements and they produced a few basic chemical compounds, but not the living from the nonliving. Even if I took a living cell and dissected it, the cell would die. And if I took all the complex molecules that life is made of and tried to reassemble them, I still would not have a living cell again. Yet, there are so many that believe that life came from those inanimate elements and somehow became alive by some mysterious process. Tell me that does not take faith.”
Asterion thought for a second. “So you are telling me to believe in a God I can’t see and everyone else wants me to believe in a process that can’t be observed or duplicated. I tell you what. I’ll believe in the here and now. I believe in my abilities and me. I’m not waiting for God and primordial soup means nothing today. I know who made me and that wasn’t you two.” Asterion turned around and crouched to clear the door. He hesitated as he stood at the threshold, started to turn his head, but looked forward and closed the door behind him.
Caldwell met Asterion in the kitchen. “Well, did you find out anything?”
“No, not much.”
Caldwell informed him, “We leave at dawn.”
“Good,” Asterion walked into the living room to retire for the night on the floor.
Caldwell’s alarm went off at five-thirty and he got his troopers up to prepare for the trip back to base. The guard knocked on Barry’s door and, hearing no reply, enters, only to find the room empty. He alerted Caldwell who ordered a search of the room and questioned the guard outside the window.
Returning to the room, Caldwell deduced, “He did not leave by the door or window. There has to be some sort of trapdoor with a tunnel.” The men finally located the trap door and followed the tunnel until they came out in the nearby woods.
“Perfect,” Caldwell sarcastically lamented, “The general will have my head for this. Fan out and scour the woods. Find his trail.”
Asterion smiled and knew that this made him look good. He might have more leverage now.
The soldiers reported to Caldwell, “Sir, we can’t find a trace or trail of him.
Caldwell cautioned, “Well, we can’t make a lot of noise in town. No one is supposed to know about this.” He took a deep breath and commanded, “Give me the communicator.” Activating it, he was soon speaking to the General. He could hear the stripes ripping off his uniform. “General, I regretfully report that Barry Thomason managed to escape, and we cannot track him without causing a commotion in this area.” He waited fearfully for the response.
The General said, “You have the primary detainees. Thomason is not that important to the mission. Return them to the base. You don’t have time to reacquire him. This will not count against you due to the need for stealth.”
Yes sir, “Caldwell smartly replied, “We will return before sundown.” He put the communicator down and breathes a sigh of relief. He had thought his career was over. Caldwell stood up and ordered, “Move out!”
Asterion set a timed incendiary charge and left the house. He smiled at the sweet taste of revenge and he desired even more. The truck traveled down the road for a few miles before the charge ignited. All the memories that make a house a home burned in the raging inferno. Family pictures displayed in frames on shelves and tables started to bubble. They turned black and the smiling faces disappeared in the flames.
Barry watched from the woods as they started on their way back to Fort Pershing. His survivalist skills, honed by his experiences in the Cartel Wars, had served him well today. Hearing the collapse of the house caused him to turn in that direction. He saw a plume of smoke and his heart sank. He knew what they had done. His anger caused him to pray for strength and forgiveness. Not just for himself, but for the enemy. He reminded himself that he still had his family and smiled. A single tear slowly rolled down his face, reflecting a flicker from the light of the flames. He walked back to the charred remains of his home. On the ground, he found a photo that blew away from the fire. He turned it over and saw that it was a photo of him, Mary, and Chance smiling in the living room. He thought, “It’s not the living room, it’s the people that live there.” He put it in his pocket and walked slowly through the woods toward his sister’s house.
Taylor and Christine sat shacked in the back of the truck near the cab. Surrounded by soldiers, they stared at Asterion as he stared at them. His fingers tapped impatiently on the hard metal. Each finger individually tapped the bench, then his claws extended and each clicked against the metal. Tap, tap, tap, tap, click, click, click, click over and over again. They wondered what he was plotting. He wondered how he can get them away from the soldiers. Caldwell and his team wondered what they had gotten themselves into with this beast.
The truck entered Fort Pershing and drove straight into a hanger. Everyone got out of the vehicle and General Foxx waited for their arrival. “Get those two into a secure room. Asterion, you come with me.” Asterion followed him with a sneer on his face, showing his contempt for human orders.
In the general’s office, Foxx looked at Asterion. “Burnsom has given you all the latitude you need to do your job, but you are on my base and illegal acts will not be tolerated.”
“If I have all the latitude, then what I do is none of your concern.”
Foxx responded sternly, “Don’t try me. If you can’t observe the rules, then I’ll put you on the next transport to Washington.”
Asterion stared down at Foxx. “Are we done here?”
“Yes, close the door on your way out.”
Asterion went to his room and called Burnsom. “I want those two for myself.”
“The military has rules that we have to abide by while we are there. I’ll be there tonight. We’ll talk then.”
Taylor and Christine sat in the room assigned to them for hours, wondering how they might get away. They heard the click of a key turning and Burnsom strolled in with a smile. “I’m sorry to hear about all the trouble you two have been having. I acted to secure your safety as soon as I heard.”
Taylor looked at Christine with a skeptical expression and turned to Burnsom. “That’s awfully nice of you.”
“Not a problem. Not a problem at all. I think we may have gotten off to a bad start. You two have a lot to contribute to society. However, we will have to keep a close eye on you.”
Christine asked, “What choice do we have?”
Burnsom laughed. “I don’t believe I offered any choice, other than work for me or I turn you over to Asterion.”
Taylor responded, “So it’s prison work or death. I thought we had outlived our usefulness to you.”
Burnsom shot back, “Don’t get smart. We can use you, but you are not irreplaceable by any means. I will control this country no matter what it takes or who has to be convinced to obey me.”
Taylor responded, “Convinced. That’s just a euphemism for coercion.”
Burnsom huffed, “Call it what you want. I have been getting away with it for a long time. I have the power, and with Asterion and the legions of creatures, I will be unstoppable.”
Christine asked, “How long do we have to think about the offer?”
“Twenty-four hours; not a minute longer.” Burnsom spun around and left, slamming the door behind him.”
Asterion waited on the other side of the door. Burnsom looked up. “I doubt that they will agree to help us. Unless you hear from me before the next twenty-four hours are up, facilitate their escape without them knowing you are behind it and track them down in some rural area. Make sure you are away from prying eyes and make sure their bodies are never found.”
Asterion snickered, “If they are of some use, consider this: I make sure they escape and acquire Christine away from the base. Taylor will have no choice but to aid us.”
Burnsom smiled. “Good plan. He will save Trent a few months on development. Trent is having some trouble with the success rate of the new beasts. Several aborted failures for each viable creature is not fast enough.”
“Leave it to me, but I want them when you are finished.”
“Okay, but be careful, don’t let your emotions and desire for revenge cloud your judgment.”
“No problem; I know my time will come. Like many farm animals, they will meet their end when their usefulness is over.”
Burnsom, walking away, stopped and turned slightly. “Make sure that is what happens.” Burnsom continued down the hall, leaving Asterion alone.
Taylor looked at Christine. “Well, we have twenty-three and a half hours to figure this out.”
Christine shook her head. “We can’t help him destroy this country any more than he already has. We may have to die for our faith and our country.”
“Well, faith will always be there, but the country … I just don’t know if it can survive an army of these creatures. However, I’m not quite ready to lie down and die.”
Christine asked, “What do you have in mind?”
“I’m thinking. I’m thinking.” He sat on the end of the cot and took a deep breath.
Kenneth Morvant is a life science professional and science fiction fan that loves to write stories that extend the boundaries of science and challenges the reader to consider the consequences of its use and misuse.
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