Welcome to this week’s Friday Author Spotlight! This week I have M Thomas Apple visiting with his science fiction novella, Adam’s Stepsons. He’ll be sharing an excerpt from the book, but first, let’s learn more about the author!
A native of Upstate New York, M. Thomas Apple gave up his high school dreams of becoming the next Carl Sagan and instead studied languages and literature at Bard College and creative writing at the University of Notre Dame du Lac. Even after somehow getting hired to teach intercultural communication at a university in Kyoto, Japan, he is still trying to apply ideas from quantum mechanics to language teaching and research. He lives in a quasi-traditional Japanese house co-designed with his wife and partially decorated by his two daughters, nestled in the foothills of the mountains and surrounded by lots of cedar and cicada.
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About the Book
Dr. Johann Heimann designed the perfect soldiers: superhuman in strength and intelligence, immune to sickness and disease, programmed to lead the United Americas to a quick victory in the Mars Colony War. But Heimann didn’t anticipate the military’s unrealistic demands, or his own emotional responses to his creations. And now Number Six is calling him “Father”! What exactly is going on during the clones’ personality imprinting cycle?
As Heimann starts his investigation, Number Six grows in confidence and self-awareness…and both discover the project hides a secret even Heimann, himself, doesn’t suspect…
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Keep reading for an excerpt:
Rockets streaked across the deepening blue Martian sunset. The aircraft shuddered as explosions on either side buffeted it. Gritting his teeth, Six swerved to meet the oncoming attack squad. His Mars warplane shuddered again. Behind his head steam suddenly sprayed from a fractured coolant panel. Holding the throttle steady with his left hand, he rapidly flipped the switches on his right. The steam dissipated, but he still felt a burning sensation on his neck.
“Bogey at 5 o’clock,” he heard from his helmet speaker. Without turning to look, Six yanked the throttle upright and to the left, executing a perfect barrel roll. He fired before checking to see whether the laser guidance system had locked properly.
Strange thoughts came unbidden: First you got Hansen, be damned if you…I’m hit! Systems failing. Uncle…
“Target acquired,” the voice announced, five nanoseconds after the shots ripped a jagged strip into the adversary’s fuselage. For some reason, Six had the impression that he had done this before. A vague memory surfaced, a memory of nearly blacking out from the g-forces. He felt disquieted.
The plane on screen burst into flames and began its downward trajectory to the Martian soil.
“Target destroyed,” Six reported emotionlessly.
“Stand down and prepare to return,” the voice ordered.
Tapping the control panel in front of him, Six plotted a course back to Mars Colony One. Without checking his instruments, he knew the ETA was five point four minutes.
He paused, releasing the controls briefly.
Where had he learned that? The educational machine?
He raised a hand to adjust his helmet. Suddenly an image appeared in his head: upside down, careening across the rust-red rocky landscape, desperately struggling to eject…a stuck canopy…dislocated shoulder…pain…
“Pilot, disengage. Computer, end simulation.”
The same female voice as inside his helmet, only this time from a wall speaker in the outside room.
The clone blinked twice in rapid succession. The image disappeared. So did the Martian panorama. In its place stretched a series of connected flat screens with a raised fist holding a multicolored torch, the logo of the United Americas. The door to the simulator opened, and artificial light streamed in.
Removing his helmet, Six paused to stare at the logo.
The image had been so real.
Had he already been to Mars? Had he been shot down? No, it couldn’t be. They said his training was not yet complete. A video, then? No, none of the training videos from the library were first-person perspective.
Six tilted his head, pondering. It made no sense. He didn’t like things that made no sense.
“Six, log out and report to Doctor Heimann in five minutes.”
“Yes, sir,” the clone mechanically answered, withdrawing a thin filament from the panel in front of him. The filament smoothly retracted into the socket behind his right ear, and the logo on the screens disappeared. In its place, blackness, and the clone’s faint reflection; his light brown face marred only by the number 6 in red on his left cheek.