The Borealis Genome
by Thomas P. Wise and Nancy Wise
The Borealis Genome addresses the issue of increased moral ambiguity as scientific technology advances and removes our sense of individuality. The married authors throw engaged characters Tim and Nora into a scientific nightmare where mind-uploading and a weaponized virus allow the minds of the few to control those of the masses. As the population starts turning into mental zombies can Tim and Nora find the source of this mayhem? And can their love persevere through these harrowing times?
Stan woke feeling, “off,” is all that came to mind. He had returned to his high-rise apartment early last night from his lady friend’s home as he liked to refer to her, and had dropped into bed, clothes and all. He rolled to the side of the bed and sat with both feet pressed flat on the floor and slouched forward with his elbows on his knees trying to get his head to clear. Pressing his palms against his forehead, he rocked slowly forward testing his legs.
His eyes were blurry as he straightened, still pressing his palms to his head and turning toward the bathroom. “Shoot,” he cried out as his foot landed on something hard rolling his left ankle and spilling him hard against the wall. He landed on his shoulder against the wall wrenching his spine and twisting the large left muscle running from his shoulder to the lower back into a spasm of searing pain.
Pushing up from the floor with both hands as he moved onto all fours, the pain in his back and ankle was biting into the fog in his mind helping him to focus. Stan crawled to the nightstand muttering and breathless.
“Help me! Up!” he groaned and slapped around for something to grab. and reached out with his right hand to steady himself and gather his wits. He pulled hard to drag himself upright again, and fell with his back pressed flat against the wall to balance against the pain.
Out of breath, Stan rolled left pushing hard on the wall to stabilize his position as he turned and shoved with his left forearm out to hold himself while he tried to walk.
“Focus!” he belched as his ankle rolled. His weight landed hard on the bone at the base of the shin as he stumbled toward the bedroom door. With a staggered, slow gate, his ankle rolled out from under him with each step. The fog in his brain grew more dense, and the pain more distant as he moved toward the door of the apartment.
“Pull,” he burped at the front door.
The momentum of the door led him backward, dropped him hard on his tailbone and jarred his spine and splitting the fog in his brain for a moment. He reached for his mouth, “blood,” he thought as the new taste flooded his senses.
Stan rolled back to his knees and pulled on the doorknob bouncing the left side of his head against the edge of the door as he stood and stumbled forward into the hall, then into the elevator leading to the trolley below the building.
Riders gathered along the trolley platform, checked the time, hoping to beat the rush and have a seat for the trip. The trolley tunnel was musty, dark with 19th century lights and smoke clinging to the tunnel walls. Trash and grease coated the tracks. Men and women dressed in business casual yawned and sipped from steaming paper mugs of dark coffee, waiting impatiently, ignoring one another as well as the rats darting in and out of crevices along the tunnel wall. A woman of about 30 stood quietly trying to keep her with her three year old boy seated in his stroller and entertained, while her tween son hung alongside in anticipation of his first trolley ride into Center City.
“I think it’s coming,” Stephen said excited to be the first to announce the possible arrival. Stephen looked up at his mom to see if she had noticed that he knew the trolley was on the way, “It’s coming mom,” he announced again touching her arm and smiling with his big dark brown eyes. His light brown hair, bleached by long summer days in the sun, hung in his eyes.
“Honey,” he heard his mom’s response, ignoring his excitement, as she pushed the hair from his brow, “Will dropped his cup by the stairs. Back there,” she said pointing to the entrance at the bottom of the staircase. “See it?
A frown formed as he followed Mom’s gesture. “Will,” he groused, had tossed the cup as she had opened the stroller at the bottom of the staircase where they entered the trolley tunnel.
“Please?” she asked again.
“Why does she assume I’m not going to do it?” he grumped, and sulked away. “You get,” he muttered to himself disappointed his announcement was ignored, and at being the errand boy for the little darling sitting in the stroller watching as he fetched the Sippy-cup, and just as the trolley was coming. “That’s what I shoulda said!” he muttered. “Get your own sippy.”
A man sneered, “Stinkin drunk,” as he watched for the trolley.
Stan stumbled along the subway platform as his ankle rolled with each step and his back twisted to the left as his body tried to stabilize against the spasm in the left lattisimus dorsi. A long bruise crossed his left eyebrow where he had landed against the door, and blood trickled down his chin where he had bitten off the tip of his tongue when he landed on his tailbone. Stan could feel the rush of air as the underground trolley approached the bend up ahead. Little else could penetrate the fog in his head. There were shapes in front of him. He could just make out “ … competition … for his favorite seat,” through his blurred vision.
As he tried to pick up the pace to make the trolley, “gonna be late,” kept coming through the fog. Stan shoved past the first person as he approached the man from behind, and pushed hard with his shoulder to get past. The man turned, leading with his elbow as he came around to face the aggressor in the dim light, angry at being shoved. An elbow in the rib caused Stan to trip and fall to his knees as he over compensated to keep his balance. Stan’s eyes never left the grimy platform. It was steady and solid. He could see the dark concrete, stained by a hundred years of dirty feet and smoke, beneath his hands as he shoved himself up to get his right foot underneath him.
Stan’s bladder let go of its contents when his knees were bloodied as they cracked against the concrete. Still on his left knee he shoved hard to get his right foot under him. Stan lurched hard to his left as the foot collapsed under his weight. Falling! He grabbed and hugged the concrete pillar.
His eyes were round, propped open by fear; seeing shadows and shapes. He aimed for a large shape and pushed from the pillar stumbling toward a tall man like a large, grotesque baby on his first solo. Stan, unable to judge distance or trajectory slammed hard with his shoulder, hitting the shape square in the back driving him to the trolley tracks below, rebounded into a woman. She screamed as she pin wheeled frantically with her arms and dropped to her knees to keep from falling from the platform. The man to her left lunged toward the screaming woman in an attempt to grab her flailing left arm before she slipped.
Adrenaline jolts pounded Stan’s unguided reflexes. He retracted from the contact, jammed a shoulder against the man’s back sending them both rolling from the platform in a screaming heap.
Shock stopped the crowd.
Stephen spun at the scream to see the man and women drop off the side of the platform. He watched as the bloody creature lurched toward his mom and Will, and still no one moved.
Motion to his right drew his attention as an officer stepped off the staircase and took in the scene as if trying to get his bearings in the sparse light before moving onto the platform.
“Zombie,” Stephen screamed as he ran toward Will, “Mom.” Stephen’s mother turned when she heard his scream. He could see the panic register on her face as adrenaline hit her heart. She grabbed for Will sitting wide eyed and staring toward the bruised and bloodied face.
Hearing Stephen’s terrified scream the officer pulled his service pistol from his belt. Stephen saw him survey the platform in one quick sweep from behind the steel prison like bars separating the stair case from the platform, and moved to a position to confront Stan as he grabbed at Will’s stroller to steady himself against the rushing air pushed forward by the trolley’s approach, “freeze.”
Several onlookers screamed as they realized there were people on the tracks. “Help them,” he heard an elderly man yell as he rushed across the officer’s view.
“Don’t move,” he heard the officer bellow pushing through the cage like turnstile as he tried to get a clear view while taking in the panic.
“Zombies,” people began to shout as they frantically shoved toward the exits running past Stephen and obstructing the officer’s line of sight.
Stephen watched as the officer hollered again, “Don’t move,” followed with an angry, growled command, “don’t move.”
Stephen could see the zombie now had a grip on Will’s stroller handles as he fought to keep his balance. Stumbling toward the platform edge he lifted the stroller attempting to catch himself and slammed it back to the ground stunning Will and causing Stephen’s mom to belt out a screech of panic.
Stephen lunged toward Stan launching himself into Stan’s chest as the officer fired.
“Stephen,” his mother’s scream echoed in his ears. Terrified?
He landed against Stan’s chest. Weak.
The first bullet struck Stephen between the shoulder blades driving him into Stan as his legs let go. Stan grabbed Stephen dropping his hold on the stroller, and lurched backward toward the edge of the platform. The officer fired again slamming the lead into Stan’s forehead and driving him backward another step.
Can’t let go, Stephen thought. What happened?
Stan’s legs collapsed as he fell backward pulling Stephen along with him and dropped from the platform beneath the trolley rumbling around the corner. The sound of screeching steel upon steel filled the tunnel as the driver applied the brakes attempting to avoid slamming into the injured people scrambling to escape.
About the Authors
Thomas and Nancy come from very different backgrounds. Thomas was raised in a military family and lived through the separations of war and the challenges that a family faces when coming back together. Challenges such as injuries and the frailty of the body and shifts in the personality that war bring to a family can force everyone to redefine how they see the themselves and the world around them. Nancy was raised in a family challenged by severe injuries. Her father was paralyzed and could no longer work causing the family to reform around a new breadwinner when their mother had to take over.
“We chose to write a book shaped around these realities and the challenges that new technologies will force societies all over the world to deal with very soon. Mind uploading, neural networks, and human gene manipulation combined with new medical discoveries may become a new reality that we must all understand and learn what it means to our lives. These are realities today that were only science fiction just a few years ago that will soon have a real and direct effect on our lives.”
Tom earned his Ph.D. in Organization and Management in 2012 and has other books including Trust in Virtual Teams.