The Pleistocene Redemption is Dan Gallagher's prehistoric science fiction / spiritual thriller about ancient mysteries and extinct species regeneration (megafauna, Cro-Magnon & Neanderthal). Can genetic engineering fulfill the prophecy of the resurrection of humankind by creating genetic weapons? What do scientists and spiritual thinkers say? See book reviews, art & excerpts!

Critics', Authors' & Experts' Opinions (Curious?)    Author Bio

Reading Group Discussion Questions ........Description (more detail)

Excerpts: Yeti (Gigantopithecus), Abrih meets Meiolania, Military Scene  Illustrations

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Reading Group Discussion Questions:

1. Given the narrator’s point of view throughout – and the story’s last sentence – who do you believe the narrator to be?

2. The quotes at the start of each chapter, and/or the near-end-first structure of the novel, might give you a sense of destiny unfolding. If so, how does this vision compare with major religions’ prophecies? What would a convergence of these prophecies look like?

3. Within the story, you’ll find allegorical elements, symbolism, metaphor, even anagrams. To what extent do they force self-examination, and examination of social issues?

4. How and why does Harrigan change over the twenty years of this story? How have spiritual experiences or dreams influenced your choices in life?

5. Why does Harrigan’s middle name – Gamaliel – bother him? Would it bother you?

6. What positions do the major characters and the narrator take on fetal research, abortion (by pill or otherwise) and surrogate parenthood? Are their positions justified?

7. What insight can we draw from Harrigan’s team’s discovery about Hebrew genes? Do you feel that humankind would be better off if people focused on their commonalties or on their pride in racial distinctiveness?

8. What insights does the narrator offer on faith, science, death, mercy and whether those who suffer are forsaken? Which do you embrace or reject?

9. Of the two climaxes, which is most important for you? Why?

10. What frightening choice becomes Harrigan’s own on behalf of all humankind? Is there anything for which you would sacrifice your own will? Can evil serve to implement good?

11. Have your views on life or spirituality been challenged, vindicated or renewed by experiencing this tale?

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Comments on The Pleistocene Redemption (by category: Literary, Scientific, Spiritual)

Literary

"...Few science fiction writers also possess sufficient expertise in the religious and ethical fields to provide the balance necessary for a thoroughly compelling narrative. Dan Gallagher is an exception. ...The Pleistocene Redemption’s climax, containing one of the finest action sequences in recent fiction, approaches apocalyptic dimensions.... While Michael Crichton’s Jurassic stories were interesting..., Gallagher ups the ante dramatically and intellectually. His spiritual and ethical probing of characters and situations is also relentless as the escalating peril... reaches catastrophic dimensions. ...An extraordinary work...."

 

“… Intense … harrowing … will grip the reader from the first page to the last. … Another of those science fiction masterpieces … so hard to put down.”

 

“Gallagher goes into intense detail of every aspect of this world he has created. So much so that not only does the reader feel like a nightmare that won't stop has been recreated ... so vivid that reading becomes a scary, yet thrilling adventure in exploring our own roots ... profound … a wonderful job of connecting philosophy and the humanities with science … surprising … intense … sobering … .”

 

The Pleistocene Redemption is a fast-paced new thriller and a great read.”

 

“... Exciting ... intellectual ... . This novel offers something for almost everyone. Whether readers are primarily interested in Science Fiction, adventure, prehistoric speculations or ethics, The Pleistocene Redemption promises to interest an extremely wide audiance. It will upset many readers, but will undoubtedly cause many others to examine their own beliefs. ... Move over, Michael Crichton, a powerful new force has arrived!”

 

The Pleistocene Redemption is a fabulous, wild, fast-paced story that combines an extraordinary amount of research with a real narrative gift. The ending will leave you overwhelmed with its profound philosophical and spiritual implications. I highly recommend it.”

 

“… An important addition to science fiction … . Others have tried … . Now Gallagher … keeps the reader off balance with action: a plethora of very hungry Pleistocene megafauna, political tension and realistic military conflicts … a novel that is hard to put down.”

 

“I truly enjoyed it. The Pleistocene Redemption is a mind-opener, challenging religion and mysticism with 'new science.' It may make you angry but it will definitely make you think. A compelling read.”

 

“... A fascinating concept ... the Preserve ... the Neanderthals ... all the perils. More authentic than Jurassic Park.”

 

“… Extraordinary vision … well researched … intriguing … .”

 

“An engrossing confluence of cutting-edge science, thought-provoking ethics, and storytelling that moves at the pace of a Gatling gun.”

 

“The whole family is fighting over it -- great stuff!”

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Scientific (Other Categories: Literary and Spiritual)

“… Hard to put down … . Hauntingly close to real possibilities … terrifying. I truly enjoyed the action, excitement, politics, human drama, all mixed with enough science to make me think that perhaps this could really happen.”

 

The Pleistocene Redemption takes a giant leap beyond Jurassic Park! Its foundation in real technology and biology enables the reader to hurtle into this very enjoyable and intriguing fiction.”

 

"...A crackerjack adventure chock full of derring-do, with a grand bonus for the paleontologist. ... Vast ... innovative ... far more ambitious [than] the Jurassic Park novels ... global in complexity ... - and what a cast! ... A work of great philosophic complexity ... quite readable ... first class science fiction ... ingenious ... compelling ...."

 

“This is not a story to put down, but you may wish it to last forever. A thrilling tale with a fine blend of adventure, politics, religion, and science. More scientifically plausible and better written than any other book I have read on regenerating extinct species.”

 

The Pleistocene Redemption is a thrilling, wild adventure. It uses just-beyond-current science to plausibly, forcefully and vividly place the reader amongst astounding extinct animals. As your muscles tense and your heart pounds, wipe the sweat off your brow and try to tell yourself that it's only a story!”

 

“… A gripping and highly entertaining yarn, matching Jurassic Park in accuracy and plausibility.”

 

“… A high spirited, adventurous book worthy of the time and considerable thought readers will happily invest. … readers will definitely have something to think about as they turn the last pages.”

 

“A fast-paced and imaginative story, based on wide-ranging background research, that prompts one to wonder what it really means to be human.”

 

“Thoughtfully addressing critical issues confronting humanity, this science fiction/geopolitical thriller leaves Jurassic Park way behind. It's an intellectual adventure in … molecular biology, species regeneration, paleozoology, biomedical ethics, and spirituality. An assured classic and a ‘must’ read.”

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Spiritual (Other Categories: Literary and Scientific)

“With skill, wit and humor, Gallagher deftly propels readers. This fun and pleasurable tale is hauntingly profound. Accelerating powerfully within natural and supernatural realms, it enthralls, consoles and terrifies. This important thriller melds biotechnology, espionage, spiritual challenge, prehistoric adventure and more. A compelling and meaningful experience, The Pleistocene Redemption joins the ranks of Shelley's Frankenstein, Huxley's Brave New World and Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz.”

 

“… Intellectual … timely … wonderful humor, and a most entertaining story … . A gripping science fiction … . Research, plot & character development, and intrigue are extraordinary … . In refreshing opposition to the chaos-deterministic theme of Jurassic Park and the neopaganism of The Celestine Prophecy; … I had a difficult time setting this fine work down and heartily commend it to the thoughtful reader.”

 

The Pleistocene Redemption is science fiction with a soul. ... Intriguing and insightful .... Controversial? Perhaps. Riveting? Definitely!”

 

“In The Pleistocene Redemption, author Dan Gallagher has given us ... this visionary ... spine-chilling and compelling work [and has] also given it the ingredient that separates the good books from the great books. The Pleistocene Redemption gets you to think! ... If you've been looking for a book that is provocative and controversial, look no further.”

 

“Science fiction, anthropology, religion and thriller for fans of Jurassic Park and the human spirit.”

 

“… Thrilling new insight … . Not only is the style of writing riveting, but the scientific and ethical infrastructure of this remarkable work is faultless. A brave new voice is heard … .”

(Comment Categories: Literary, Scientific, Spiritual)

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Cover and Description

Cloning sheep, cattle, and chimps is only the beginning.

Using Fossil Gene Redemption (FGR), geneticist Kevin G. Harrigan experiments with genes from a frozen "Ice Man." His work prompts Iraqi leader Ismail Mon to provide resources for exciting new research that enables Harrigan’s team to regenerate extinct animals and human sub-species from the Ice Ages. But when it is discovered that FGR is also the basis for genetic weapons of mass destruction, United States intelligence and defense leaders must act.

The Pleistocene Redemption, radically different from Jurassic Park, deals with two new methods of species regeneration. Will FGR trigger the Resurrection of the Dead? The major religions’ prophecies portend the regeneration of humankind as both physical and spiritual. What physical mechanisms could manifest this new dawn? Might they instead herald the terrifying sunset of humanity?

"... Thoroughly compelling. ...The climax, containing one of the finest action sequences in recent fiction, approaches apocalyptic dimensions… . While Michael Crichton’s Jurassic stories were interesting, Gallagher ups the ante dramatically and intellectually."-- Richard C. Woods, OP, author of Mysticism and Prophecy and fiction works.

"… Hard to put down… hauntingly close to real possibilities… terrifying. I truly enjoyed the action, excitement, politics, human drama, all mixed with enough science to make me think that perhaps this could really happen." -- Scott R. Woodward, Ph.D., geneticist, Brigham Young University

Click here to read the Prologue & Chapter One

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Excerpts

The capture of the yeti /// A military situation builds /// Abrih and the Meiolania

Background: The genetics in The Pleistocene Redemption are based on the real existence of non-mineralized meiotic fossil material, not on fossil DNA in amber. This material can be preserved in anaerobic media, such as bogs and sink holes. It's also based on archival DNA from ancient lineages, found suppressed or dormant in modern genes. The latter source of genetic coding, along with using virus carriers to implant desired gene codes into live hosts, gives rise to a truly apocalyptic genetic warfare potential -- in real life as well as this fiction. Twenty-three Pleistocene species are redeemed from extinction in The Pleistocene Redemption, along with two human subspecies. Two other Pleistocene survivors, the yeti and Thylacoleo, are captured in remote areas of the early 21st century.

Redemption in the Himalayas (The Yeti/Sasquatch).

(This excerpt, which concludes with a bit of humor, has been adapted as a short story.)

Gigantopithecus LloydiBritish explorer, Dr. Bart Lloyd, awoke to his Sherpa guidemaster, Lonzing, telling him they had to go back.

Lloyd, an unsponsored paleozoologist, had intended to get results and be taken seriously this time. Temptation to bitterness clawed at his sinking heart.

Nobody believed in gorillas, snow leopards or warm-blooded fishes until some laughed-at researcher found them, he had often thought, smoldering. So finally the adventurer had spent his last shilling to ascend the Himalayas in June of 2003.

Lloyd walked back to the edge of the ridge. He peered over the icy side, west toward still-dark Tibet. Nausea took him but he forced himself to view the eastern side as well. The menacing gray slopes dived down steeply. Lloyd knew that the dangerously gusting wind could easily send even his six-foot frame over the ledge and scraping down the abrasive cliff like a carrot against a grater. He carefully backed away and returned to camp, which was already packed.

"Yes, you were right," Lloyd yelled to be heard over the rising moan of the wind. "Storm coming. Let’s leave. Now."

With one hand signal from Lonzing, the line of five men linked by a nylon life-line moved out. The expedition slowly descended the ridge to a broader point they felt they could trust. As a safer route presented itself to the southeast, a sense of confidence returned to the men.

Lloyd was jolted by a loud beep from the small computer strapped in its case on his left hip. The ray-gun-looking sensor to which it was attached hung exposed from his other hip. Signaling for a stop, Lloyd pulled the sensor from his belt and held it level to the ground.

"BEEEEEEP!" the computer blasted at him.

He unclipped the rope that kept him from ranging from the Sherpas and trudged away toward the bare side of the chasm. The noise stopped. Curiosity pestered him but his straying plainly irritated the Sherpas. He stepped back toward the snow’s edge and up onto a small boulder.

"BEEEEEEP!"

A quick disapproving hand gesture from Lonzing made it clear that no crevasse or cave would be excavated on this climb.

"Okay. Okay!"

Hanging the sensor back on his hip, Lloyd gave in to his guide and jumped off the rock.

Collapse of the snow-dusted ice under his boots was instantaneous. Lonzing’s red face-mask disappeared upward out of Lloyd’s sight in a cloud of shimmering snow as Lloyd’s knees buckled at the impact. The spiked crampon broke from his boot and he fell backward onto his huge backpack. The rain of glittering snow cleared a bit and he could see that the Sherpas now lay on their stomachs above him, tossing down a line.

Lloyd rose carefully and reached for the rope, only to feel himself slipping backward and downward. In a brief few seconds he slid twenty feet down the icy tunnel and came to a rest in near-pitch blackness. He could barely tell that the rock and ice surfaces formed a widening tunnel around him.

Suddenly, an almost birdlike resonance with a distinctive growling undertone paralyzed Lloyd with fear. He swallowed hard and reached for the flashlight attached to his right shoulder, rolling over to sit upright and face the sound. It stopped. Lloyd perceived a very pale glow of light in the craggy tunnel ahead of him. He turned on the flashlight as much to satisfy his frayed nerves as to see his way out. From behind him in the tunnel, snow and ice particles slid toward him as Lonzing crawled in and crouched beside him.

"You are all-okay, Sahib?"

Lonzing clamped a five yard safety line onto the back of his novice client’s belt so that it could not easily be removed.

"Yes. Just bruised. I heard a sound farther in."

"It is the wind. We are under a very thin ridge and this cave must open eastward to the big valley."

"What if it’s the yeti?" Lloyd protested. "That’s what we’re here for. We must get some video before we leave; at least record the sound for analysis."

Lloyd detached the small camera from his computer and mounted it on a bracket that he extended from a harness on his hood. He attached a seven-inch dish microphone to another harness on his left shoulder. Switching the apparatus on, he hoped the transmitter in his pack would reach the British Broadcasting satellite through the rock.

The shriek came again.

"No, Sahib. We must go now! That is yeti."

Lloyd’s elbows and knees quivered as he forced himself to crawl several yards toward the sound; around a jagged corner and ...

The icy floor gave way, dropping Lloyd face-first into a gray abyss. With a gut-crushing yank, the safety line snapped tight. Lloyd dangled twenty feet above the floor of a house-sized cavern. Faint light penetrated a huge wall of ice shards, apparently intentionally packed snow, dimly illuminating the cave. Most of the chamber’s rock was covered with dense moss. But what literally kept Lloyd’s breath from returning was his utter shock at the scene below.

A massive red-and-black-furred figure gaped up at him and let out a growling scream. It stood over seven feet tall with arms longer than half that. Lloyd saw a bloody gash in the long fur on top of its wide, cone-shaped head.

Too winded to even call for Lonzing, Lloyd uncurled his body to attempt to scramble back up the rope. Lloyd could neither right himself nor ascend. He slipped back to face the screeching, man-like creature brandishing its prominent fangs and brownish molars almost directly below.

The yeti arched back and glared menacingly at Lloyd. Its eyes flashed white in the swaying lamp-light. It gripped something shiny, jet-black, and squirming in one of its claw-like hands. It held something limp and bloody in the other. Another yeti, just over five feet long, lay crouching in fear against the near rock wall. Like the one threatening, screaming and jumping at Lloyd, it had almost no neck and a large, cone-shaped head.

"Oh my God! Lonzing. Lonzing!" Lloyd’s mind flashed to interpret what he was witnessing. "It’s bitten the head off a baby!"

Lloyd was already rising in short jerks. "Lonzing, pull!"

The yeti was fiercely angered by the head wound that Lloyd had unwittingly inflicted. It hurled the bloodied and headless body at Lloyd and missed. Lloyd heard a ‘splat’ on the cavern wall behind him followed by another as the tiny body struck the cavern floor. Then, as Lloyd rose within a yard of the opening and escape, the massive primate threw the other baby at him. The baby slapped back-first into Lloyd’s chest, it blurted out a single high-pitched sigh. Lloyd’s arms instinctively closed around the shocked but squirming newborn yeti.

Lloyd realized in an instant what this could mean if he could possibly get it to civilization alive. The smallness and weakness of it tore at his emotions; he knew it needed close contact. He held it under its shoulder with his right hand and opened his parka, then his jacket with the other. He stuffed the baby head-first beneath his thermal-regulator undershirt and sealed the slimy primate up within.

Lloyd felt confident that the huge ape would not scale the cavern walls or even want to pursue him. Just to be sure, he turned to look as he scrambled back up into the tunnel. The furious yeti was only two yards behind him. It let out an alarming howl, sending Lloyd’s feet scurrying frantically.

"It’s ... Lonzing: Go, Go, Go! ... It’s attacking! Pull! Get out!"

The walls of the narrow passage now seemed maliciously constricting.

Lonzing did not speak but scurried and tugged with everything he had to get himself and Lloyd away. Approaching the opening where he first found Lloyd, Lonzing screamed in Nepali at the three men above. "Yeti attacking! Pull, quick!"

Lloyd’s own fear heightened to panic as he realized that even Lonzing was now frantic. The other Sherpas yanked the pair through the fissure. The force of the tug was so great that they almost lost their grip on the rope. The surface appeared just ahead. With uncontrollable panic rising in their throats, the two heard clawing and screeching as the yeti followed them up through the ice-floored crevasse.

Once atop, Lloyd and Lonzing thrust their fellows forward along the only ground they could run on without being mired by snow. Limping in their running strides along the angled rock, they paralleled the snow line. They were running, it seemed, right into the blinding sun.

One of the Sherpas turned to see whether his leader’s reckless fear was justified. He glimpsed the monster running almost silently but in great leaps. It was almost upon Lloyd and reached out its huge hand at his pack. The Sherpa sensed that he had missed a step and was tripping. But as he turned forward to guide a recovering step, his mind boggled. He shuddered with the sight that met his and his companions’ eyes. There, below his feet, lay two miles of air. Terror kept him from gasping.

Several yards down along the fluttering safety line, Lloyd’s plummeting form turned pack-down, face up, in the freezing wind. The yeti came briefly into Lloyd’s view, standing atop the cliff and shaking its fists wildly. Lloyd’s tearing, quivering eyes beheld the beast recede rapidly above him.

Lloyd fought the oppressive panic and screamed at his plummeting comrades: "Unbuckle the safety line first. Undo the line first."

Only Lonzing comprehended the English shout. He fought his panic just well enough to relay the critical message in Nepali to his frenzied companions as they accelerated and twirled down through the frigid air.

Lloyd pulled his belt around, hard, and managed to unclip the safety line. Lonzing followed. The other three also forced themselves to do the same.

"Now -- lose -- the -- pack!" Lloyd shouted as clearly as he could.

Lloyd pulled a metal clip on his side and wriggled. The back pack sailed off and began to spin as Lonzing translated the commands.

"Wait! Fall away from each other. Away!"

Lonzing repeated the shouts in Nepali as four more packs fled their owners.

"Now!" Lloyd shut his eyes and pulled his rip cord. The tiny nylon box behind his shoulders exploded with color. He felt the painful tug as the multicolored, squarish canopy slowed his headlong descent from a hundred-twenty miles per hour to about fifty.

He tried to control the risers with his mitten-clad hand but it was ineffectual. Lack of precise manipulation of the risers resulted in an uncontrolled landing; often in death. The same would occur if his bare hands became frostbitten, which would happen in half a minute in this cold wind.

The team members scattered widely enough to avoid entangling, which would have collapsed their canopies. The gray and white terrain -- now two hundred yards below -- rose swiftly and came into clearer view.

Looking down, Lloyd gasped and squirmed. The ground lay carpeted with closely spaced, man-sized, razor-sharp ice formations. These structures rose ominously each night as the ground froze and compressed water upward and out of cracks. They usually melted by noon. It was not even close to noon.

The razors loomed up at them faster and faster. It would take expert skill and dexterity -- something impossible now -- to land on the tiny patches of flat rock between the scissor-edged ice spires. Mittens were shed, tangling as feared in each man’s risers and all but preventing control of the direction of the parachutes. Lloyd gauged the ice razors to be but twenty-five feet away.

Lonzing landed first, maneuvering by swinging himself and pulling as best he could on his right riser. The circular pattern enabled him to crash sideways through the blade-shaped icicles, so he sustained only a broken arm. Two of the other Sherpas intentionally hit a vertical rock outcropping, rather than be sliced by the waiting crystal blades. Their bodies withstood the impact but their faces were smashed and bloodied.

Lloyd looked down, completely unable to manipulate the chute. He was skimming -- backward and much too fast -- about five feet above alternating flat surfaces and areas studded with ice daggers. He felt sure that he would be decapitated or sliced open and die watching his exposed entrails freeze. Lloyd closed his eyes -- and his legs -- tightly.

"Uuuh!" Two sets of lungs lost their air as the Englishman and the Sherpa collided four feet up; abruptly ceasing lateral motion. They crashed through the surrounding ice formations, toppling, dazed and sprawling upon a boulder.

The Sherpa managed to rise and helped Lloyd to stand. Nursing their bruises and cuts, the team gathered, limping, moaning, and bleeding. But they were alive.

Lloyd started to keel over when Lonzing held him upright with one hand and had the other Sherpas strip off his wire-laced equipment harness. They set it on a boulder, not realizing that the camera was still transmitting and that it was facing the group. Lloyd suddenly regained his senses with a pained and surprised expression. Ripping his clothes open he grabbed the ravenous primate, now right-side-up beneath his undershirt, but it was to no avail. The baby yeti was enjoying a fruitless but vacuum-tight suck on Lloyd’s left nipple and a tight contingent grip on the other. Lloyd, hopping and hooting, quickly fumbled through a sealed, interior jacket pocket and extracted a fortified milk pouch to protect both the newborn yeti’s life and his own smarting chest.

The video, which included footage of the baby yeti latched onto Lloyd’s chest, was broadcast worldwide the next morning. A week later, while meeting dignitaries and recovering his strength in London, Lloyd found that even the King of England could not avoid smirking.

End

The capture of the yeti /// A military situation builds /// Abrih and the Meiolania

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[Denied staging areas from which to easily strike at such a genetic warfare threat in Iraq, U.S. forces must use an improved version of the space shuttle, the Quest, to raid suspect facilities where Harrigan's Fossil Gene Redemption (FGR) methodology has been perverted. This scene is from inside the Quest, at the start of that raid in May, 2018. For a marvelous musical accompaniment to this excerpt, click here. It's "Mars, Bringer of War."]

At T minus fifty seconds, Army Lieutenant Colonel Bryce Fulton surveyed the seventy-four highly trained soldiers and technicians under his command.

Fulton was forty-four and older than his three fellow Battalion Commanders in the Seventy-fifth Rangers. This was because he had taken time off to complete studies as a Rhodes scholar. Fulton was a no-nonsense African American of six feet, five inches in height. He was composed of three hundred ten pounds of cool but dangerous muscle and brain. As a West Point student, Fulton had been Harrigan’s Cadet Battalion Commander. It bothered him to know that a fellow graduate had, knowingly or otherwise, put the world in danger. As the countdown sounded T minus thirty seconds, fear at being launched into space gnawed at Fulton – though he hid it behind his square-jawed, self-disciplined expression.

Fulton’s Executive Officer was no slouch, for his part. Major Ronald Jasper was every bit as tough and ready. However, his function on this mission was to remain at the Quest. Jasper was in command of the reserve team, Team Foxtrot, and its communications and other equipment.

Fulton activated the microphone under his camouflaged helmet and gave his trusted NCO In-Charge, Command Sergeant Major Joe Di Nucci, a private call. "So, ‘Airborne Joe,’ are you ready to get ‘space-borne?’"

Di Nucci’s tan face showed his nervousness. "All the Way, Colonel! And then some!"

Di Nucci’s physical build and educational background bore similarities to those of his commander. Di Nucci enlisted in 1996 to move beyond poor Italian-American roots and was quickly recognized as a bright leader. He turned down Officer Candidate School but rose through the NCO ranks, eventually completing both Bachelor and Master of Science in Engineering degrees under Army educational programs. He transferred from his combat engineer specialty to the Rangers for the challenge and became Fulton’s Company First Sergeant in 2013. Di Nucci and Fulton were badly wounded together two years later in the bloody Cuban Re-liberation Action.

The main difference between the two men was personal. Di Nucci was a vicious fighter because his sense of duty led him to eschew safer assignments. Fulton had become a consummate soldier because he thrilled in crushing an enemy.

The passenger bay had no windows. But for this mission, Fulton had requested and received a luxury for himself and his men: a large television monitor at the front of the passenger hold had been installed for morale purposes. Its audio output channels, controlled by Fulton, were tuned to each man’s helmet-mounted communicators. The monitor displayed most of what the pilot, Colonel Ed Richmond, could see. For now, the audio was limited to the countdown sequence. The screen showed a tiny sliver of moon in the east of the partly cloudy sky, and lights on the vehicle tower’s retracting gondola.

Pre-ignition at T minus twenty seconds brought the thrusters to deafening power, rocking the vehicle and making everyone on board except the Navy and Air Force crew jump in their seats.

Four. Three. The noise and vibration increased, further shuddering passengers. Two. One. The Quest thundered off its pad.

Nothing could be heard above the din of the engines. The whole cabin vibrated as most of the men, pinned forcefully back in their seats, were so shaken that they lost track of the words in their thoughts. These men were tough but they had never dreamed that any soldiers, let alone themselves, would be launched into space. The anti-nausea pills worked perfectly but some soldiers felt, nonetheless, as if they were on a roller coaster as the soaring shuttle began its normal slow roll to topside-down.

After about five minutes, the vibration and roar began to abate.

Di Nucci looked at his men from his vantage point at the rear. "Anybody who’s sick or got a problem, sing out – and don’t be shy!"

The tense troopers began to stir but there were no voice responses.

As gravity lessened, the feeling of being upside-down diminished. Pulses began to decrease to almost normal and tense muscles relaxed significantly. They were moving at eighteen thousand miles per hour. The screen showed the dark black of the Atlantic Ocean and the sparkling hint of a light source behind the earth’s curvature ahead. The image was inverted because the camera was also upside down so that the men began to get the impression that earth was above them. Five minutes more and the only sound was their own breathing. In twenty minutes, they began to recognize the dim, glinting lights of cities in Europe and Africa. The thin corona of earth’s atmosphere became visible and the horizon increasingly brightened.

Soon they could see that they were directly over the eastern Mediterranean coast, where it was already dawn. The shuttle rolled slowly over, replacing their view of the planet with star-studded black. The roller-coaster feeling returned.

Fulton encouraged his troops. "Men, we’re now approaching Iraq. Reentry is imminent. No enemy aircraft have been scrambled. We’re gonna hit ‘em too fast for the slow fighters they’ve got in this northern sector to catch us. We’re gonna hit ‘em hard and get out double-quick!"

Sequined black space on the monitor gave way to wispy blue caused by reentry – of necessity a steep descent. Fulton looked at the local time readout on his watch: 6:52 a.m. He realized that, in pieces or intact, they would all be on the ground in about eight minutes.

He touched a control button on his wrist band. Menacing, ominous classical music built inside every helmet. One by one, the men began to grin, clench fists and make threatening grunts.

The civilian computer team leader next to Fulton leaned over at the officer, puzzled. "What the heck is that, some kind of ‘attack’ music?"

Fulton smiled, noticing with pride a look of confidence, even ferocity, on every face. "It’s by Holst. It’s called ‘Mars, the God of War’. Very effective. Watch the troops as we begin to land!"

"Yes. Those are about the most intimidating expressions I’ve ever seen," the technician said. "Wait, I remember that piece now. Colonel, that’s ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’."

"To each his own, Civilian!" Fulton snapped, frowning at being corrected.

As the shuttle banked right to approach from the less-guarded north, the music’s volume increased to thunderous levels. The mountains of northern Iraq jutted up onto the screen. Music combined with the video image of their steep approach to the plateau to give the men a powerful impression that they were swooping like eagles upon unsuspecting prey.

Indeed, they were on no radar screens and had no vapor trail. But the prey was not unsuspecting for long. The Quest had been tracked by infrared optics and heat-seeking SA-23 missiles were now being trained directly on it. Twelve missiles lifted off simultaneously from their box-like mounting a half mile south of the research complex. One giant exhaust billow could be seen on the troops’ screen.

A red light and alarm signaled in the cockpit and the passenger bay. Richmond shouted over the music. "Missile in route! Brace for evasive flight!"

The Quest’s nose lurched upward, pinning everyone weightily in their seats. The plateau on the screen dropped suddenly from view, replaced by clear, blue sky.

The technician grabbed Fulton’s arm, screaming. "We have no countermeasures! We were supposed to have total surprise! We can’t take a hit!"

Fulton was far from unruffled but he extracted his arm and tried to calm the civilian. "Relax! The best they’ve got here are SA-23s. One of those can’t penetrate the belly armor. They’d have to hit us with at least ten simultaneously. And the Iraqis aren’t that smart!"

[End of Excerpt. Scene switches to Harrigan and Freund walking into a trap in Baghdad, then back to the Quest!]

The capture of the yeti /// A military situation builds /// Abrih and the Meiolania

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[This scene occurs on the Plateau of the Al-Rajda, Iraq, prehistoric Zoological Research Preserve at about 10:00 am 7 July 2013. Iraqi Privates Jehmut and Farhim are planting trees just inside a mixed deciduous and coniferous forest. Their tractor is disguised as a giant ground sloth. Corporal Abrih is about to fill canteens. The three are working just within sight of numerous fantastic megafauna regenerated from the Pleistocene & Holocene epochs (about 2 million years ago to present). By the way, this passage has one of three minor expletives in the book.]

 

The reddish pond was little more than a widening in a small, slow-moving creek just off their work area. Abrih hung the purification kit and three canteens over his head and across his chest. He walked sixty feet south through the tall grass, regretting his offer as the ground became mushy and sucked at his boots. He hoped there were no ticks but knew otherwise, so he trudged out of the grass directly into the cool water. As he turned to look back, his foot slipped off what he supposed was a submerged ledge. Abrih fell into the water and sank. He immediately imagined numerous tentacles, snakes and monsters reaching for him. He thrashed and struggled to reach the ledge. Gasping desperately and on the verge of panic, he hauled himself back up onto the ledge and glared at the two privates, who were almost falling off the tractor-sloth’s neck with laughter.

"Assholes!" Abrih shouted as he tried to look dignified and composed. He decided not to disinfect their water. I hope they puke their guts dry!

He turned and impatiently contorted in an attempt to untangle the canteens from each other, from around his neck and from under his epaulets. Finally he gave up the frustrating endeavor, knelt nervously down in the water at the ledge and submerged all three canteens. He positioned himself so that he could watch the shore to his right and the water to his left simultaneously. The bubbles coming up from the fill-necks chirped like birds and glinted sparkling sunlight in his eyes. Their popping spit droplets up into the air just short of his pointy chin.

Abrih saw the fast-approaching, drab orange and green image slightly to his left in the rippling water. He shuddered with the thought of something looming over him from behind. Instantly, he dropped himself into the water to escape whatever might be sneaking up on him. But the image was not a reflection. Submerged and at zero distance, the Meiolania’s face and horns now became discernible. The monstrous turtle’s triangular jaws opened a full twelve inches. It sliced off Abrih’s entire jaw from ear to ear, just missing the carotid artery and jugular vein. Abrih’s upper larynx, ripped completely out of his neck, formed a lump of bloody sinew and cartilage floating from the right side of the hungry reptile’s hideous head.

The slice was lightning-fast, almost clean, and Abrih initially sensed more of a crunching, ripping pull than pain. Water rushed immediately through his abbreviated trachea into his lungs. Coughing into the water, he pushed himself back up and away from the denizen and jumped to a standing position. Spouting bloody water up onto the exposed back of his palate, Abrih groped for his now excruciating lower skull. His hands shook as he frantically grabbed at the dripping void that had been the bottom third of his head. He back-pedaled and fell on his right side in the grass hoping for safety and able to make only a splattering, gurgling sound to summon his men.

But the attack was relentless. The eight-foot-long horror hesitated a moment, twitching its spiked tail just below the surface of the water. Then it thrust itself upon the ledge and tossed the regurgitated and gangly jaw past Abrih’s own eyes and up onto the grass. As Abrih scrambled to escape, it caught a hunk of his left calf. Again the slice was swift and nearly clean. Abrih was able to tear himself away from the vice-gripped remnants of his sacrificed calf muscle.

Farhim fired at the vicious animal but the dart stuck Abrih in the chest. The dart injected its contents into the bronchial tube of his left lung, missing all veins and tissue so that almost no tranquilizer entered his bloodstream. Abrih’s breathing immediately became painful, labored, barely adequate wisps. Still gushing blood and gurgling from the remains of his throat, Abrih desperately hopped and stumbled toward his comrades, who were rushing to his aid.

The soldiers, paralyzed with awe and horror, halted barely twenty feet from their corporal. Hooked claws on the turtle’s massive, scaly paw sliced down through Abrih’s right heel, nailing him to the ground. Abrih fell, hinged at his skewered foot. He tried again to scream, but the gaping wound which had been his jaw and throat continued to emit only bubbling noises and whisper-like puffs of air. The privates gasped, petrified; riveted by the sight: In a second, the Meiolania lurched forward upon Abrih’s impaled leg, tore off half his right buttocks and gulped the meat unchewed. Relentlessly and continuously, it thrust its beak into Abrih’s thigh, raised its head up to swallow; then reiterated the greedy bites. While Abrih contorted almost silently and pounded the ground, the beast tore off the remaining muscle with its claw and finished most of the leg, leaving the bone and femoral artery untouched. The privates simply could watch no more. They both vomited violently on themselves as they dashed back to the tractor.

They started the machine and did not even bother to close the top. Slamming the treads into opposite spins to pivot the vehicle around, Farhim popped the gears too hard. They spun once but the gears cracked with a minor explosion, yielding no more power but only a gut-wrenching, grinding whir. The men forced themselves to look back at the carnage, expecting to see Abrih dead and the monster coming at them. Instead, the thorny head was still gashing and snapping, now into Abrih’s gut, while the tormented corporal’s arms still thrashed the ground. In a moment, his arms only twitched, then lay still, then were devoured.

The men jumped up inside the tractor to feverishly yank the stubborn protective cover closed. The Meiolania stared at them for a brief moment... then charged at them. The cover was ten inches from closing when the grotesque turtle abruptly halted only twelve feet away. Through the gap, Jehmut and Farhim eyed the gigantic turtle as it hesitated and stared beyond the vehicle. The terror suddenly turned and bounded back toward the pond. The quivering soldiers sighed loudly and collapsed their tense shoulders, concluding that the Meiolania had been intimidated by the nearly closed sloth form.

[Scene switches to Neuro Lab, where frightening results of an examination of a young Neanderthal female are debated by Drs. Harrigan & Freund ... then back to Farhim & Jehmut!]

The capture of the yeti /// A military situation builds /// Abrih and the Meiolania

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Interior Illustrations:

 

About the Author:  Dan Gallagher was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1959. He completed requirements for Bachelor Degrees in Economics and Modern Languages at Virginia Military Institute, and received his Masters Degree in Business Administration from The College of William and Mary. Dan is an award-winning Registered Securities Principal. A former Army Ranger with mechanized, Airborne, and classified Special Forces experience, and trained in hazardous cargo transportation and biological warfare defense, Dan was noted for his force deployment and training organization skills. His other serious pursuits, all of which contributed to this novel, include biology, comparative religion and paleontology. Dan resides with his wife Laura and their three children in Virginia.

 


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