Due to the difficulty of finding excerpts that don’t give too much away, I’m only going to post one favourite bit from Nabatea, and this is it:
The control room of the Innerscape facility was hushed as all eyes watched the numbers counting down on the wrap-around wall monitors.
“Any second now,” the duty tech said softly.
Standing right behind the tech, Phil Jacobs could see for himself that Alex Tang, murdered two days before by Kenneth Wu, was finally breathing his last.
The AI and specialist medical teams had done their best, but the outcome had never really been in doubt. It had simply been a matter of time. Now, all the monitors focused on Alex Tang’s vital statistics told the same story – he had put up a heroic fight, but the battle was almost over.
Relief and sadness jostled for position in Phil’s mind as he stared at the heart monitor.
“Flatline,” the duty tech said, his voice almost drowned out by the bleep of the alarm.
The heart monitor was joined a moment later by the Brain Interface Monitor.
Patting the tech on the shoulder, Phil signalled for the alarms to be turned off. In the sudden silence, the voice of the AI seemed unnecessarily loud as it confirmed brain death at 1:46 pm, Sunday the 25th of December, 2101.
Merry Christmas, Phil thought as he affixed his biometric signature to the death certificate.
“Inform the police forensic team that death is confirmed.”
Glancing up at the wraparound screen, Phil watched as the yellow-clad technicians waiting in the Catacombs sprang into action. They, too, had been waiting for Alex Tang to die, and now that he was gone, they were free to take possession of his containment unit…with him still in it.
Once the unit was disconnected, the forensic team would put it inside one of their huge Hospice trucks and take it away for examination.
“I don’t get it,” the duty tech said as he watched the frenzied activity on the central monitor. “Why all the portable batteries? It’s not as if they need to keep him alive during transit. And why take his AI as well?”
“They probably don’t want to miss anything,” Phil replied, his tone bleak.
“But we already know how he died.”
“No one’s ever been murdered by the common cold before,” Phil replied, his eyes never leaving the monitor. “So this is all new territory. And they don’t trust our systems.”
In fact, the police had found a great deal not to trust, from Innerscape’s reliance on the AI to Phil’s own handling of security.
“Dr Jacobs, can you explain why you didn’t revoke Dr Wu’s permissions when he left Innerscape?”
Just thinking of that interview made Phil’s ears burn hot. He had been forced to explain that, as Kenneth had not, technically, been fired, he could not, technically, have his permissions revoked. It had even, technically, been true as the AI did assign security permissions automatically, based on the employee’s position in the company.
What Phil had left unsaid was that those permissions could have been changed manually, using the CEO’s executive override, had anyone foreseen the need to do so. But no one had.
Least of all me, he thought as he forced his eyes away from the monitors. If he had, Alex Tang might still be alive. But then again, who could have guessed that Kenneth Wu would turn rogue?
For those who have never read any of Innerscape, each patient’s body is kept in a containment unit, about the size of a large coffin. Each containment unit has its own AI whose job it is to keep the body alive and functioning. Once the patient is in the containment unit, nothing is allowed to enter the sealed internal environment because even a breath of outside air could introduce a virus or bacteria. Nothing deadly. Just the common cold. Opening the door to the containment unit is a death sentence.
Why did I choose this short excerpt from the very start of book 3? Because every time I read it, I’m surprised that I wrote it.
Since publishing Vokhtah in 2013, I’ve become a lot more comfortable calling myself a writer, but there are times when I still feel like a bit of a fraud. Me? A writer? Yeah, right. But when I read this bit I feel as if yes, maybe I do deserve that title after all.
I really like the epilogue as well, but I can’t tell you about that, or about Kenneth’s grandmother, or the scent of lemon, or sensory deprivation, or a host of other things. All I can do is hope that you take a chance and read Nabatea for yourselves on February 16th when it begins its five days of free on Amazon.