Welcome to the book tour for Pelagia: Between the Stars and the Abyss a science-fiction by Steve Holloway! As usual, I have an excerpt for you to enjoy. But today, the author has given us an exclusive bonus excerpt! Enjoy and then download your own copy before embarking on the rest of the tour. Best of luck entering the giveaway!
Former special forces agent turned particle physicist Ben Holden is on the run.
The New Caliphate will stop at nothing to get their hands on his wife’s scientific research, which is believed to hold the key to unleashing chaos in the West and advancing their cause.
But in reality it’s Ben’s biometrics that have the potential to unlock the information they so desperately need. Within the oceanic world of Pelagia, in the year 2066, Ben finds sanctuary among the sea settlers of the South Pacific Pelagic Territory, but his respite is short-lived.
He lifted the hatch and placed it onto the deck, then pulled himself up and lay flat near the bow. The coolness of the storm awakened his senses. Rolling onto his back, he paused under the deluge and allowed the rain to stream into his mouth, gulping down the water.
Thirst barely slaked, he slithered to the edge of the boat. The wind now lashed his wet body. He shivered, staring into the night, allowing his eyes to adjust. He spotted the island, a dark fleeting promise glimpsed through a break in the squall.
Looking back, he saw a silhouette climb out onto the side of the boat. Adrenaline shot through him. The man was just a few metres away, clinging to a rail as the boat rolled under them, but still looking towards the stern. Ben inched closer to the edge of the bow, willing himself to be a shadow.
Holding the safety rail, Ben swung himself over the side with the roll of the boat. He hung for a moment, suspended above the sea. Large, deep breaths. Each time the boat tipped his feet dipped beneath the waves. On the third tip, he released his grip, slipping below the surface noiselessly.
As he surfaced, he heard the man on deck shouting into the water in Arabic, “Cut the rope!” There was an answering shout from the water that was lost in the roar of rain.
Ben kept to the shadow of the bow rocking above him. After a minute, that seemed like an eternity, the man climbed back into the stern cockpit. Ben slipped below the water.
An excerpt from Pelagia – Lorenzo and the dolphins:
Lorenzo unfastened his mask from his harness, snapped it onto the communication helmet and took a few test breaths. A glowing blue display appeared again on his wrist. Ready to go. The dolphins circled the boat, anxious and impatient.
Lorenzo pulled fins from a locker in the cockpit. He slipped them on. In one fluid move, he tucked and rolled backward into the coolness. He uncurled underwater and established a neutral buoyancy position a meter down. Slow, calm breaths. Lights on each side of his mask came on. He surveyed the scene below him in the depths.
The dolphins swirled around him. He spotted Tazia, the leader of the pod.
Love my work, Lorenzo thought as Tazia brushed against him.
“This way,” came through his headphones, as the grey forms moved off into the depths. Lorenzo followed into the darkness. The water was clear. Motes of plankton floated through the beams. Even kicking energetically, he could barely keep up with the dolphins. I’ve never seen them this excited.
Some forms became visible in the darkness ahead: a struggling calf. Two adult dolphins supported the calf between them and were bringing him up to the surface, so the young dolphin could breathe. The rest of the dolphin pod circled around them.
Lorenzo could feel the calf’s panic. He slowed and allowed himself to drift towards the calf.
Tazia was chattering, which seemed to calm the young dolphin. The rapid dolphin speech was too complex for the helmet to interpret.
Scanning the calf’s body, Lorenzo spotted the problem. Monofilament fishing line. Probably drifting in these waters for the past half century.
Such fishing line had been banned from the Pelagic Territories twenty years ago. The line was tangled around the calf’s flippers and tail. Probably, in his struggle to get free, the filament had tightened and cut into the flesh. Tendrils of blood drifted from the wound.
“Lorenzo, the Pelagic Array warns me that about six silky sharks are moving towards your position. I believe they detect the blood from the calf.” Gabriella, his family’s artificial intelligence agent, cut into his thoughts.
“Thank you. Gabriella, please release a guardian drone from the boat.” Silky sharks. They can be aggressive.
“Sharks coming.” His words were translated by the helmet for the dolphins and they began circling, watching for them.
“We prepare.” Came through the headset.
“A guardian droid is heading for you.” Gabriella informed. A barracuda-shaped drone was released from a special tube under his boat Windrider. “I have set it to defend your position.”
“Keep calf near surface.” He spoke into his microphone while he filled the buoyancy bladders in his suit to hold him near the surface by the calf, adjusting them until he gained neutral buoyancy without effort. The pair of dolphins patiently held the calf at the surface and made room for Lorenzo.
One guardian won't help much if there are six sharks, Lorenzo thought. He studied the tangle of fishing line. Better bind up the calf before the sharks arrive, stop the flow of blood.
He inspected the calf’s injuries. Taking the multi-purpose tool, he carefully snipped the strands of monofilament in several places with the wire cutters on the tool. The tension eased. Lorenzo carefully teased out bits of line from within the wounds. The calf stilled, trusting his touch and being reassured by the clicks from the pod around them.
Tazia, Lucca and others from the pod were swimming back and forth, trying to locate the sharks. As he focused on the calf, Lorenzo could feel the dolphin pod around him tensing for a battle. Other nearby dolphins, related pods, streamed in and added to the shield of dolphins circling the calf.
Gingerly, he pulled the last of the line from deep within the dolphin’s flesh. The calf flinched, making small clicks, but remained calm. Blood streamed more freely from the wound. Gotta stop that blood right away!
He became aware of a spike of anger around him and thrashing behind him. He whirled, all muscles tense. “Sharks are near you, Lorenzo.” Gabriella said.
He looked above the surface again, the characteristically small dorsal fin of this species shark was visible, nearing, just outside the pod. And another. And another. They circled patiently, looking for an opportunity.
Steve and his wife have lived and travelled in many countries over their forty years of marriage, successfully raising three kids in exotic locations in the process. They have always engaged with the people and cultures they live among.
Currently Steve lives in England and consults for a Christian charity in areas of research, leadership development, adapting to new cultures, social enterprises, and mariculture projects. Currently he is consulting for a Indo-Pacific mariculture project – a social enterprise – growing sea cucumbers, a delicacy for the Chinese market.
Steve has always loved books and writing. The story of Pelagia reflects three of his passions: science, the sea and the narratives of faith. The background, in his words:
“I have for many years believed that settling the open sea was within our grasp, and even more accessible than space as our ‘next frontier’. So through the last ten years or so I have been thinking just how this might happen, what would be needed, where people would settle, what kind of livelihoods they might have on the open sea, beyond the EEZs of terrestrial countries. My son Adam told me about what would become a key component of Pelagia, Biorock or seacrete, because of his experiments with it. Many discussions with other scientists, engineers and others helped to begin to fill in the gaps and the concept of the Pelagic Territories, similar to the unincorporated territories of the early US, and what geopolitical contexts they would find themselves in.”
Steve finds any excuse to get into the ocean: sailing, diving, swimming, or just poking around tide pools.
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