What if we weren't as unique as we thought we were? What if we were just one form of evolution from DNA placed by aliens around the universe? What if we found a way to find others that were like us - but different?
The Damocles sets off on this very mission, following coded coordinates to a planet far away (like so far I can't really comprehend). When they come out of deep sleep as they approach the planet Didet, they are about to come face to face with Earther's ancient cousins (of a sort). As they prepare to drones to scan the planet before they make contact, their ship has a hissy fit (yes, a hissy fit, the crew talks about the propulsion crystal as if it were a person). They are forced to make contact before they are prepared, and they are trusting Meg, their language specialist, to get them through first contact.
I loved first contact. It was stressful and suspenseful, and Loul (the Dideto) and his POV were fantastic. I loved the hurdles of them trying to learn complex concepts such as trust, family, and question mark. I was excited every time they had a breakthrough and the awe and wonder on both sides. Meg does an amazing job of learning to communicate, and her love of discovery shows in each of her pages.
Now, this might sound like a bit of a dull story, but it was far from that. We have the Dideto government trying to make moves, the media trying to find a new scoop, and the workers just trying to figure anything out. Several times things start to fall apart and the struggle to keep things on track (and not give anyone a reason to shoot at anyone else) is clear in so many of the interactions.
And the ending - well, it was pretty intense for a while. But the actual ending - the last few pages (minutes?) were a bit of a letdown. I wanted to see how it all turned out. I wanted to know just a little bit more about how everyone's story ends. Still, a story that I will be listening to again.
The narrator did a fantastic job. Her portrayals of both the Earthers and the Dideto were fantastic. She caught the emotion and did a great job of distinguishing voices and personalities.
Title: Aries 181
Author: Tiana Warner
Genre: LGBTQ+, Science Fiction
A crime spree to steal aerospace technology. An intern with the brains to stop it.
When Jess uncovers evidence that her boss is stealing technology to build his company, her coveted internship at Aries turns from dream job to catastrophe. Worse, her boss cons another young woman into becoming his accomplice, and the duo’s chemically enhanced skills and weapons help them become the most infamous supercriminals to sweep the tech world. Before they pilfer every aerospace lab in North America, Jess must use her ingenuity to stop them—risking her career, her relationships, and maybe even her life.
Excerpt from Aries 181
©2019 Tiana Warner
A dead engineer was an inconvenient way to start the week.
From the passenger’s seat of his Bentley, Tony used his phone to post a new job opening.
“Get her car out of the parking lot. Torch it so it looks like tragedy struck on her way in.”
“Yes, sir,” said Reah, weaving through traffic as she took him to the Aries office.
Accidents were uncommon in the research lab. The work involved too much time behind a computer for that. But when the occasional ‘whoops’ did happen, it was an annoyance. Covering them up was a pain. Finding a willing and qualified replacement was worse.
“Warehouse,” said Scott when Tony entered the lab to check the damage. “She was modifying the propellant.”
Tony stifled a curse. Of course it was the propellant—the substance too stubborn to realize its own potential.
He and Scott crossed the lab with its white lights reflecting off white tiles, white walls, white tables, and white lab coats. The five other engineers kept working, unease leaking from their pores like sweat. With only seven of Tony’s two hundred employees cleared for the lab, the hole left by their dead colleague was more of a chasm.
Tony was unruffled. Their non-disclosure agreements were thorough enough for a situation like this.
“What’s the damage?”
“She, uh—she was completely burnt, Doctor Ries.”
That much was obvious. Scott’s fluorescent-pale skin and lab coat were smudged, leaving a goggle-shaped clear spot around his eyes. Holes split the toes of his shoes, revealing socks with hamburgers printed on them.
“Was anything else destroyed?”
An empire of technology filled the warehouse. These were his top achievements, past and future. No accident, no matter how messy, could quash the pride he felt every time he entered it.
He flung open the double doors. The stench of burnt metal and hair tickled his gag reflex.
“Minor damage to the surrounding area,” said Scott, dabbing his sweaty brow with a singed sleeve. “No property was ruined.”
It took a moment to blink the warehouse into focus. Dim, cold, and vast, the place could have passed for a storage facility. Walkways snaked between mounds of technology.
An early prototype of the Aries satellites—what the world came to know as the Aries 180 fleet—stole Tony’s attention as he entered. The size of a bald eagle and mounted on a podium, it was the one now-useless technology he refused to incinerate. He caressed it as they passed.
Yet, despite all that filled the floor, the place was a cold vacuum, a void. Like the invisible substance called dark matter, every space in the warehouse represented an irksome gap in knowledge. Empty corners, walkways, every molecule of dead air held promise. As creator of the Aries universe, Tony intended to use any means necessary to fill those gaps.
Tony’s watch vibrated. He looked at it to find a text.
Reah: Need your clearance to get her purse. Locker 4.
He replied, 5 mins, and quickened his step.
The temperature rose as he and Scott drew deeper into the warehouse. A drone whirred overhead, taking photos at intervals. More drones hovered beneath the three-story ceiling, LED lights marking their presence. He would have to review the surveillance images later to see what happened. He might enjoy popcorn with it.
They stopped at the explosion site. The concrete floor rippled, like it had melted and hardened again. Every adjacent surface was dented and singed. Five dry chemical fire extinguishers lay nearby. Most intriguingly, a black, body-shaped imprint traced the floor like a shadow, a dusting of ash in its center.
Tony scattered the ash with his toe. “Looks like this place was pretty lit.”
Scott cast him a sideways glance.
The culprit was the twelve-foot vat towering beside the scene of the accident. Smoke wisped from the top, Tony’s hopes and plans disappearing with it into the black ceiling. The heat wrapped around him like a wool blanket.
“So the propellant isn’t going well,” said Tony, like a challenge.
“It just reacted badly,” said Scott. “I’m confident we’ll get it in time.”
“Hm.” Don’t placate me, Scotty. What churned inside that vat represented tens of millions of dollars.
Sure, every aerospace company had rocket propellant, but no one had this. This was his next opportunity for international success—his next Aries 180 fleet, so to speak. If only the damn stuff would stop failing him. The setback choked his sense of control like a vice around his throat.
His father had told him there was no point in going into business unless you were going to be the best. Rather, the advice had been something like, “You wanna run a business, you gotta do whatever it takes to get on top. Might as well quit and be a shit-scraper if you’re gonna be a pussy about it.”
Tony held that wisdom close. Using methods no one else was brave enough to try, he was on his way to upgrading Aries from a humble Canadian startup to the world’s most cutting-edge aerospace company.
His watch vibrated.
Steve: Korean Space Agency wants you to join the call.
Korea would have to wait. He was already late for an appointment with the bank.
“What are you going to do to fix it?” he said to Scott.
“We’re, uh, looking into it.”
“I hired all of you because you’re the smartest engineers in the world. You’re telling me you don’t know?”
Scott hesitated. Tony hated hesitation.
“There are other engineers who might know more about high-energy liquid tetrapropellant, Doctor Ries.”
“I’ve scoured universities. I’ve head-hunted in the Silicon Valley. They’re too—” Tony waved a hand. “They’re not ready for the scope of the job.”
Scott didn’t need to know how many applicants failed the psychological evaluation. A PhD and a 150 IQ meant squat when the candidate couldn’t pass a basic obedience experiment.
Tony’s watch buzzed again. He ignored it.
If he wanted this propellant, he would have to get his engineers something to work from. Sometimes, they needed a push. Call it inspiration, or pieces of the aerospace puzzle.
This was a gap in the matter that made up his universe. It needed to be filled.
“Give me a week. I’ll get you the data.”
Global Nanosats was making headway in liquid propulsion. They could be of use.
He pulled out his phone to check his calendar. An email notification appeared, reminding him of a development meeting in twenty minutes. He swiped it away.
Stress tickled the base of his brain. He would have to make time to get that data between his other appointments, or cancel a few. This was more important.
He’d known for a while that he was overexerting himself. His universe was expanding faster than he could manage. If he wasn’t careful there would be a stellar collision. He couldn’t keep filling these voids alone.
He needed someone to help him get this information—someone smart, fearless, and malleable. He needed a personal assistant.
About Tiana Warner
Tiana Warner is the best selling author of the Mermaids of Eriana Kwai trilogy. Her books have been acclaimed by Writer's Digest, Foreword Reviews, and the Dante Rossetti Awards. She holds a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the University of British Columbia. Tiana enjoys riding her horse, Bailey, and is an active supporter of animal welfare.
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Title: A New World - Contact
Author: M.D. Neu
Genre: Science Fiction
A little blue world, the third planet from the sun. It’s home to 7 billion people with all manner of faiths, beliefs and customs, divided by bigotry and misunderstanding, who will soon be told they are not alone in the universe. Anyone watching from the outside would pass by this fractured and tumultuous world, unless they had no other choice. Todd Landon is one of these people, living and working in a section of the world called the United States of America. His life is similar to those around him: home, family, work, friends and a husband.
On the cusp of the greatest announcement humankind has ever witnessed, Todd’s personal world is thrown into turmoil when his estranged brother shows up on his front porch with news of ships heading for Earth’s orbit. The ships are holding the Nentraee, a humanoid race who have come to Earth in need of help after fleeing the destruction of their homeworld. How will one man bridge the gap for both the Humans and Nentraee, amongst mistrust, terrorist attacks and personal loss? Will this be the start of a new age of man or will bigotry and miscommunication bring this small world to its knees and final end?
A New World - Contact Excerpt
©2019 M.D. NEU
They were busy with cleanup, not paying attention to the television, until they recognized what sounded like a special bulletin. Getting into the living room, they fell silent watching the TV. Reporters jockeyed for attention from the press secretary in the White House briefing room.
“If they’re going to make an announcement, isn’t it usual for the press secretary to tell us what the topic is?” one of the reporters questioned, her voice raised so she could be understood. “Particularly one called without advance notice.”
“The president informed me about the address an hour ago,” Press Secretary Frank Chen said to a visibly annoyed member of the press. “The president will address the nation and Congress tomorrow night at eight eastern time.”
Jumping on the end of his sentence, a female reporter shouted, “Does this have to do with the troop movements in Europe and Asia?”
“Yes, President Zachary will be addressing the troop rotations and provide an update on military movements,” Chen answered. “Next question, please.”
Todd turned to Jerry who was focused on the television. He would have thought he was a statue if it wasn’t for his breathing.
“What about FEMA?” A female reporter yelled at the press secretary to get his attention. “FEMA has been reported outside of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Los Angeles International, and Chicago O’Hare. They report they are conducting practice disaster emergency responses, but reports say they look like they are staging for something.”
Chen’s face brightened with a smile. “FEMA conducts regular joint exercises with city and state officials all the time. Those are the three busiest airports in the country. It only makes sense for FEMA to practice disaster response with them on occasion to ensure we are prepared. Next question.”
“Will the president—” A male reporter leaped out of his seat to be heard over the other reporters shouting for attention. “—address the reports of the UN peacekeepers going in and sealing the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory on the Canary Islands? We’ve been told that the White House made the request. Is that true?”
“I have no information on that,” Chen answered sharply. He nodded to an aide, “Last question.” He pointed to another reporter.
The older reporter stood. “We’ve heard reports that President Zachary has been meeting privately with several leaders in Europe. He’s also met with the Japanese Prime Minister, the Prime Minister of Australia, and the Chinese Premier. Is he going to be announcing a shift in our strategy toward China?”
“As you know, the president meets with world leaders on a regular basis—”
“All in the last week?” the older reporter interrupted.
“As I said, the president meets with world leaders on a regular basis. He is not announcing any shifts in policy toward our friends in China. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have nothing more to share.” With that, Mr. Chen left the podium and headed off stage.
Jerry bit his lower lip and Todd shifted back and forth on his feet.
The camera returned to Tonya Smith. “For those of you joining us, late-breaking news from the White House. President Zachary has announced that he will be addressing the nation tomorrow night at eight eastern. As we get more details, we’ll bring them to you. Now back to The Lineup with Kimberly Guilfoyle.”
Jerry crossed his arms. “Huh. Your brother might not be crazy or lying.” Jerry’s face was pale, and his eyes were wide. “I’m not sure what’s happening, but I’m glad we got stuff for the house.” He reached for Todd’s hand as they continued watching the TV.
About M.D. Neu
M.D. Neu is a LGBTQA Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he's always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alice Walker, Alfred Hitchcock, Harvey Fierstein, Anne Rice, and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.
Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.
When M.D. Neu isn't writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric his husband of eighteen plus years.
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