Today, I’m happy to host guest poster Vikki Romano. Vikki is the author of Alpha Core Trilogy (see feature after Vikki’s post) and is also a self-professed geek. When she mentioned that she likes to discuss any number of geeky topics I immediately thought of the recent NASA announcement about the discoveries in the Trappist system. Vikki, just took that subject and ran…..
Who Do We Think We Are?
by Vikki Romano
With the recent discovery of seven possible habitable planets in the Trappists system, a rippling stir is running through the scientific and space communities, and a frenzied string of discussions among armchair enthusiasts has begun. This, on the heels of the recent release of movies and books such as The Martian, The Arrival, The Space Between Us, and others has sent the usual citizens into what some Baby Boomers remember as space consciousness that surrounded a similar event in the 1960s… our first walk in space.
Prior to the space race, the typical vision of “the future” centered around the sleek, bubble-like vehicles and equally bulky robots we viewed in movies like “The Day the Earth Stood Still” or, even worse, The Jetsons. World Fairs, vehicle and appliance expos were rife with elaborate machines to make our lives easier, to relieve the burden of everyday toil, encased in turquoise enamel and chrome. Even Disney got in on the PR to promote the future.
Now, some fifty years later, our cars still don’t fly and although our lives are still burdened, they are definitely made easier by the appliances afforded us. Technology has come a long way since our first manned entrance into space, and now more than ever it raises new, exciting and even frightening questions, but one remains across that timeline: Are we the only ones here?
As a skeptic who has worked in fields that walk arm in arm with space tech, and has similarly like-minded friends to debate with, I often find myself on the other side of the argument. Not “if there are others”, I know there are. My question is always “why do we pattern ourselves so self-important to think they want to meet us?” In my mind, it’s not a matter of when we will find them, but when they will show themselves to us.
Consider that we are one of the youngest inhabited planets in our vast and, frankly, out of reach universe. Couple that with the scientific findings of other planets and stars that share our ecosystems for supporting life, and it’s hard to deny that we are not the only ones here.
When Keplar 452B came into view, there was a singular tremor felt throughout the space community when the real possibility of finding “others” presented itself. And since 1995, with the discovery of the first exoplanet, we have spied other life-sustaining planets orbiting suns that beg another question- where is everyone?
In my mind, the answer is twofold. Firstly, even the simplest readings of oxygen and nitrogen levels on some planets, and the affirmation of land and water is answer enough for me. If the planet is life sustaining, there is life. That might mean amoeba instead of sentient beings, but something is living there. It’s subjective. Secondly, who’s to say that if there are sentient beings that they’re above ground for us to see? Perhaps its inhabitants are diggers, dwelling in caves and tunnels. Or, on a more technically creative theory, perhaps they choose not to be visible. Perhaps their species have evolved the need to be transparent. Technology and science are fairly new (and still debated) concepts to Earthlings. It would be pretentious to think no one could rival or surpass us. It would even be dangerous.
We also have to consider where technology is taking us. Sure, we see ourselves as the benefactors of cutting edge gadgets, but are we really? I will continue to stomp my feet until I see have a full service robot and a three course meal rehydrated from a pill. Still, we barely have a hover board yet, and for goodness sake, can someone please do something about allergies?
In a Sci-Fi timeline, as mentioned above, we Earthlings are new to the game. Star Trek’s “First Contact” didn’t take place until 2063, so we still have forty-six years to build an A series Enterprise, but if you use science fiction as a basis for our progression, we only have two years until we hit a Bladerunner existence, so the choice seems to be ours. Do we clean up our act and try for the hyper smart and clean Starfleet lifestyle with law, order and poly laminate furniture, or do we keep with the status quo, chuck the EPA and head for a dystopian Chiba City? For Sci-Fi writers, it’s oddly easy to imagine both because we’ve seen both in our own lifetimes. Head to the back alleys of Detroit to see the sprawl in all its decaying glory. Burnt out factories that were once the jewel on the crown of the US’s industrial growth are now desolate reminders of what was lost. Yet take a closer look and you’ll see they’re brightly dotted with street tags, giving them an oddly cinematic visage. On the flipside, get inside any number of Silicone Valley Campuses or “Future Home” labs and you’ll feel like you stepped onto a futuristic movie set. Add a little imagination and you’re there, in either world.
The space race of the 21st century will no longer be who will get there first, but who is going to get the invitation to get on board. Missions will be more about finding a new place to conquer, not picking up pretty rocks to put in some middle America museum. As we progress with our corporate funded rockets, it may seem as though only the wealthy will be allowed off this planet, but just as frontiersmen and explorers settled a wild North American continent more than five hundred years ago, we’ll need brave citizens who are willing to take what comes at them in space. Money helps, but it doesn’t buy balls.
As in the early days of American discovery, just getting there was fraught with dangers. Space is no different, and perhaps even worse with that whole lack of oxygen issue. Consider the concept that once we find a life-sustaining planet, we will have absolutely no basis for taxonomy. It’s highly doubtful you’ll wander into a field of apple trees, bursting with ripe fruit. Instead you may find yourself standing perilously among a grove of blue, cactus-shaped bushes that chase you when you try to pluck them.
The “first settlers” will have a lot more to worry about. Not like you can go out, chop down some trees and build a hut. Chances are we’ll have to bring our own hab units and hope that the environment is forgiving enough to let them stand after a few days… or years. Debris-filled high winds are punishing enough, but what if there’s acid rain? Or microscopic insects that find joy in burrowing through foreign matter? We have never stepped foot there before, so there would be no way to know until we are forced to land.
And sure, our current situation affords us trips to the International Space Station with some frequency and there is talk of private companies offering lunar fly-by tours, but then what? We’ve sent plenty of rovers and image-capturing hardware hurtling into the great unknown with spectacular success, but we humans are a tactile bunch and unless we plant a flag in the soil, we feel we haven’t accomplished anything. It’s that hunger for conquest, and with the backing of wealthy corporations leading the new space race of “I’ll get my logo there before you”, the question on our minds should be why. Why are we trying to find more Earth-like planets? Is it to find new resources now that we’ve depleted our own? Is it to spread the human genome far afield and make a better world than the one we left? Knowing what we do of how we are leaving our own planet, what face do we want the universe to see?
In the immortal words of Captain Kirk – “The greatest danger facing us is irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown – only things temporarily not understood.”
Until we actually get there, plant our flag and strive to understand, we are the only real obstacle.
Recently, Vikki Romano released the thrilling conclusive third book in her Alpha Core Trilogy. If you have not read the first two books in the series, today is your lucky day. Today, we take a look at all three books, with an excerpt from book one.
About the Books
In 2065, corporate sponsored governments jockey for supremacy in the biotechnical arena. Bullets and missiles take a back seat to cyber-enhanced soldiers and pulse weapons. In this extreme environment, only the most hardened body and mind can survive.
Calder McKenna was a failed experiment in the military’s push for power. Now a special agent for the metro task force, he lives day by day trying to forget the ones that were lost… the ones that he could have saved.
When technology and humanity collide, Calder is forced to make desperate decisions, but how do you destroy the monster without becoming one yourself?
Sierra Mason has landed the career of a lifetime, becoming a special agent for a firm run by the best in the business. She has proven herself more times than she can count and has given all of herself to her job… and then some.
But everything isn’t always as it seems.
When the truth is uncovered about her firm’s investors and who they are tied to, the team is thrown into turmoil. Her partner, Calder McKenna, becomes embroiled in a conspiracy that is weaving itself through their lives and finds his own life in danger.
Helpless, the team is in need of a hero and they are running out of time. Will Sierra realize what they need lies within her or will the journey send her reeling past her breaking point?
In the thrilling conclusion to the Alpha Core Trilogy, Calder McKenna and Sierra Mason are forced to face the demons that plague them and brought their team to its knees. As GenMed closes in, finding them at every turn, pushing them to run from the places and people they love, they realize once and for all that they must stand and fight or see their lives and those around them forfeit.
How far can a person be pushed before instinct overpowers the one thing that drives them to kill? How long can a person hide before fear is eradicated by sheer will?
For Calder and Sierra, the answer lies within the key and the key lies within them. All they need do now is find it.
Excerpt from Edge of Darkness
He almost crushed the package that leaned against the doorway as he stepped out into the hall, and bent to pick it up as the door shut and locked itself behind him.
It was a small padded envelope and had no return address. No markings whatsoever. He felt the package, squeezed it. Whatever was inside was small.
Poking his thumb into the corner of the envelope, he tore it open and poured the contents into his hand.
A single data stick.
He looked in the envelope, but it was empty. No note or packing slip.
“Open the door,” he said, and the door clicked and opened as he turned toward it.
Going back into his apartment, he tossed the envelope onto a side table and went into the living room. Waving the stick near a grid on the wall, he looked up at the large inset screen. Nothing. He tried to scan it into his home system again, but it wouldn’t upload.
What the hell?
He held the small stick up and looked at it more closely. There were no identification marks, no labels. Nothing. Just a generic black stick shaped like a tiny, blunted pencil.
He sat at the edge of his coffee table, leaned on his elbow, and pondered the small item in his palm.
He didn’t normally do this, but using his own neural uplink to read it was the only other logical option. The processor had been installed while he was in service, a mandatory installation the special ops soldiers needed to covertly share and control documents during missions. It had been wet-wired into his brain, and the small titanium disc that lay beneath his skull behind his right ear added the ability to store and upload information at will from an external wireless source. The security was tight, and viruses had a hard time getting in, so the risk for him was minimal.
Letting out one last breath, he rolled the stick in his hand then tapped a few codes into the illuminated numbers on his wrist.
He felt the data stick pulse in his hand, and suddenly his mind was awash with excruciating color and sound.
He clenched his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut against the intrusion of immediate pain that flashed through his body like molten silver.
His brain felt as if it caught fire.
Roaring, he clutched his head in his hands and dropped the stick, but whatever it had encapsulated had already uploaded into his neural systems.
Moments later he found himself sprawled on the floor, too weak to move. Every muscle in his body tensed, hardened, setting him rigidly against the floor, curling his fingers violently into the carpeting.
Holy fucking Christ!
Calder used every ounce of energy he had to open his eyes and turn himself over. It was as if he had been drugged and beaten repeatedly over his entire body. Every muscle throbbed. Every joint ached. He could not contain the moan that escaped his lips when he finally turned over and lay flat on his back. Convulsions coursed through his muscles and his back arched against the pain until he lay exhausted.
The room became blindingly, painfully bright. He patted himself down awkwardly until he found his shades in a breast pocket. Struggling to steady his hand to put them on, he used one last burst of energy to get them in place before letting his arm fall to the floor just as another convulsion hit him.
Squinting his eyes open once more, he directed his shades to darken to an almost completely black level. The light was still painful, but bearable.
Clenching his teeth against the onslaught of spasms, he breathed heavily until his body finally relaxed and he panted, spit trickling down his chin.
The grid on his wrist blinked relentlessly. Whatever it was that he’d uploaded, it was certainly wreaking havoc with his internal systems.
He tried to uplink to his augment to see what was going on, but the feedback that reverberated through his skull nearly knocked him unconscious.
His thoughts scrambled.
Had someone tried to kill him? Had they found a way past his military security to bug his brain? Dear God, how do you even get something like that back out?
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I know it sounds cliché, but I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, in every capacity that I can manage. From newsletters to yearbooks, journals to hard cover books. It’s not seeing my name on a cover or any kind of admiration that does it to me, it’s getting it out. It’s a strange phenomenon that most writers have, of having stories continually running through your mind and the nearly painful urge to get them all out before you forget them. Not sure what the phenomenon is called, but there are days I hate that I have it. It’s a blessing and a curse. A double edged sword.
My love for sci-fi goes way back to my childhood. I mean, who didn’t love movies like Tron and Terminator when they were a kid? Or great oldies like WarGames. I grew up in the advent of technology and rode the wave of the dot com lifestyle in my 20s. It was a wonderful time to be alive, to see where tech could go. Being involved in the field as a database admin and then later as a hardware tech and web designer, I had my fingers in all of it and I loved what it was all about.
In college, I was a true cyberpunk and gloried over works by Gibson and Dick. I reveled in the hackers manifesto like a warrior and actually prayed for a world like BladeRunner. They were very cool, hyper-energized times we were in and it gave me scores of ideas and hands-on experience to dump into my work.
Now I am putting my thoughts to paper… or to screen, as it were. Dumping my neurons onto the page, letting out the stories that have been hovering there for so many years. My Alpha Core series is just the first of many. I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them!
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