PRELUDE: EQUATION OF EXTINCTION
The Second Hundred Years’ War had concluded. So had human dominance of the Earth’s surface.
The Earth has orbited the sun 368 times since then, replenishing much of the renewable surface.
Nonrenewable resources, plentiful for most of the Earth’s history, had disappeared prior to the war, prior to the Reassortment Atmospheric Anomaly, which wiped humanity from the surface.
No one truly knows how the Reassortment Strain escaped containment, or what its intended purpose was. A zeropoint attack upon the Western Hegemony’s synbio laboratories and defense network destroyed all records of the strain, while 340 scientists on the team that designed it were stored in stasis at a temperature near absolute zero. Now all but one of those scientists, Dr. Kole Shrader, are dead.
The Reassortment Strain still thrives in the Earth’s atmosphere and bedrock. It’s a synthetic organism that was designed with the four traditional bases of DNA and their mirrored versions; it contains eight nucleotides and thirty-nine amino acids, and functions in ways unpredicted by science. After it escaped containment, it learned to live off sunlight and nitrogen and spread rapidly over the Earth’s atmosphere and in its soil. It recodes portions of its genome every few minutes and does so with many more combinations given its characteristic of chirality. It only kills humans.
Reassortment was born out of the Second Hundred Years’ War. Battles fought throughout the solar system for possession of asteroids and minor planets, which held the last vestiges of nonrenewable resources, had come to their inevitable end—the Reassortment Atmospheric Anomaly and Death Wave. The Reassortment Strain killed more efficiently than any transhuman weapon, silencing more than twenty-five billion people in less than one year.
The survivors, who had lived and worked beneath Antelope Canyon in the self-sustained and contained Livelle Laboratory, had mistakenly believed they survived the plague. But a new war for survival had only just begun.
Early setbacks in the newly founded Livelle city-state, mainly from Reassortment scares in the underground, were followed by unprecedented and unpredicted expansion. Transhumans used mineral crushers to travel deep inside the continent of North America to escape the strain. They formed a country called the Great Commonwealth of Beimeni some two thousand five hundred meters deep, spreading civilization coast to coast, to the arctic, and to Central America.
Scientific discoveries abounded, including rapid evolutionary advances, flexibility to high heat and pressure, growth acceleration, and age reversal, among others; humanity, which had come so close to extinction, used the same synbio technology that created the Reassortment Strain to design gene therapies that gave Homo transition its theoretically infinite life span.
It also birthed a new conflict, with stakes as high as Before Reassortment. The decades-long Evolutionary War between the Masimovian Administration and the Liberation Front has touched all parts of Beimenian society. The diversion of resources from Reassortment research to the conflict and to maintaining an unsustainable standard of living amid a historic population explosion may have dire consequences. For unless the Reassortment enigma is solved, the pressure from the weight of the Earth above, the burn from radioactivity driven outward from the planet’s core, and seepage of the strain throughout the underground—an equation of extinction—threatens to finish what the Death Wave started 368 years ago …
E-BOOK AND AUDIBLE EDITIONS
Books 1-3 Omnibus Edition Amazon
Books 4-5, Omnibus Edition Amazon
LEGACY E-BOOK COVERS
The Song of the Jubilee (Phantom Series, Book 1)
The Gambit with Perfection (Phantom Series, Book 2)
The Synthesis and the Animus (Phantom Series, Book 3)
The Descent into the Maelstrom (Phantom Series, Book 4)
The Restoration of Flaws (Phantom Series, Book 5)
First of all, thank you for taking the time to read The Phantom of the Earth. None of this would be possible without you! Thanks to my friends and family for your support and patience during this process. Thanks to speculative fiction authors David Brin (The Postman, Uplift Saga), who read the first chapter of The Song of the Jubilee and offered writing advice, Jason Gurley (Eleanor, Greatfall), who designed the book covers, and Tammy Salyer (Spectras Arise Trilogy), who copyedited the manuscripts. Thanks to Mike Corley for creating the maps. Thanks to Penn State-University Park astrophysicist Dr. Zachary Prieskorn for reading several drafts, providing scientific and editorial perspective, and forming the space and time travel appendix. Thanks to Harvard University synthetic biologist Dr. George M. Church for searching the manuscripts for opportunities and offering scientific suggestions. Thanks to Columbia University synthetic biologist Dr. Harris Wang for meeting with me to discuss the project. Thanks to iGEM participants Clay Swackhamer (biological engineer), who read the manuscripts and provided scientific and editorial feedback, and Michael Easterbrook (chemical engineer), who read The Song of the Jubilee and The Gambit with Perfection and supplied scientific suggestions with a focus on the Reassortment Strain. Thanks to Matt Harkenreader (nuclear engineer) for helping me flesh out the terraforming appendix. Thanks to Victoria Chen (science engineer) for reading the first three books and providing scientific and editorial perspective on The Song of the Jubilee. Thanks to the Chinese University of Hong Kong iGEM team for sending me their updated research on synbio data storage (E. cryptor). Thanks to my beta readers: Amber Triplett, Bill Sullivan, Carl Nelson, Casey Miller, Cheryl M-M, John Boettcher, Joyce Gravino, Karen Klink, Kathryn Cunningham, Kelsey Mecher, Laura Johnson, Lauren Stoolfire, Michelle Hofacker, Natalie Hughes, Rowena Hoseason, Veronica Sardo, Violet Lauderdale, and Yulande Lindsay. Thanks to my concept artists Daniel Kvasznicza (300, Arkham Origins) and Juan Carlos Barquet (The Origin Mystery). Thanks to Polgarus Studio for formatting the books for publication. Special thanks to my editor, Erin Wilcox, without whom this project would never have been completed.
While synthetic biology and other technologies are treated fictitiously in The Phantom of the Earth, I delved into many excellent nonfiction models for inspiration. The most influential sources included: Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves by George M. Church and Ed Regis, PhD, The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe by Lynne McTaggart, More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement by Ramez Naam, Prehistoric Life: The Definitive Visual History of Life on Earth by DK Publishing, and Algorithmic Puzzles by Anany Levitin and Maria Levitin. Other sources that helped me apply concepts of earth science, theology, martial arts, what could happen to the planet’s surface if humans suddenly disappeared, exoplanets, quantum physics, classical physics, metaphysics, and time include The Earth Machine: The Science of a Dynamic Planet by Edmond A. Mathez and James D. Webster; Time Travel and Warp Drives: A Scientific Guide to Shortcuts through Time and Space by Allen Everett and Thomas Roman; The World Without Us by Alan Weisman; Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner; Exoplanets: Finding, Exploring, and Understanding Alien Worlds by C. R. Kitchin; God’s Universe by Owen Gingerich; The God Theory: Universes, Zero-point Fields, and What’s Behind It All by Bernard Haisch; The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi; “Wormholes, Time Machines, and the Weak Energy Condition” by Michael S. Morris, Kip S. Thorne, and Ulvi Yurtsever, published in Physical Review Letters; and A Question of Time: The Ultimate Paradox and the Secrets of Consciousness, a compilation of articles from Scientific American. Discovery Channel’s Inside Planet Earth and National Geographic’s Down to the Earth’s Core also influenced details inside Vigna and Earth. Note: any egregious errors beyond what would be considered acceptable artistic license in applying the science or technology to The Phantom of the Earth are my own.