Featured ‚Üí Dystopian

Children of the Miracle

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While readers are taken to the brink of discovery, Weisbeck maintains a sense of medical perspective and credibility to his writing.

Synopsis

A deadly virus returns. One woman may have the cure. But who deserves it?

In a dark future, the Sanctuary of Americas has been running genetic experiments on humans with animal DNA to stop a deadly virus. The result is the Chimera, a hybrid human species who must fight to fit into a new world order still run by the Pure humans. When the FossilFlu virus mutates, any hope of immunity is gone, and everyone and everything must fight to survive. The cure to the virus is the key to power and the future face of humanity. One doctor may hold the answer, but whose side is she on? May the best species win.

Being in a pandemic and seeing the mass hysteria, the pain, the death, can be overbearing for anyone. For scientists, the pressure is ten-fold. With so much reliance on finding a cure or at least a treatment, these individuals become heroes in the eyes of those who survive. If they are successful, they also become highly sought after individuals by companies, states, possibly even countries as a leader in medicine. Weisbeck writes a tale about the race for a cure during a time when populations have secluded themselves against a pandemic called FossilFlu. The reader will find that deception and power hunger are only the tip of the iceberg for this epic science fiction thriller.


Dr. Mercy Perching is a scientist who has just been informed that another sanctuary exists besides their own. More people have survived the FossilFlu and are actively requesting her assistance in finding a cure. With the lure of extending her knowledge by working side by side with other scientists who have far more advanced technologies than her own lab, she is leery to accept anything at face value. Mercy is introduced to the ruler of the American Sanctuary, known as the Prime, who explains how scientists have genetically altered human DNA with mammals in the hopes of finding the cure. Before leaving the European Sanctuary, Mercy had requested live testing with mammal cells, but it seems that scientists here have already beat her to the punch--and failed. Seeing as mammals were thought to have been immune to the virus, Dr. Perching quickly learns that the Prime and her scientists have opened up another avenue for the virus to spread, now causing both humans and mammals to be susceptible. Able to formulate her own opinion about the secrets surrounding this new sanctuary, Mercy finds others who have the same doubts about this new world that the Prime is building. She begins to find a new cause to succeed. Other than saving humanity, these hybrids, are part human and they have every right to survive as much as she does. Can she help protect them or will power and greed find them first?


Weisbeck's story is sensational, offering suspense and wonder. The story is extremely well-written and creative. We have shapeshifters, werewolves, vampires, but have you really ever heard of avian hybrids or scorpion hybrids? While readers are taken to the brink of scientific breakthrough, Weisbeck maintains a sense of medical perspective and credibility to his writing. Science is always evolving, and this author plays on the fear for the possibility of the creation of hybrid humans. The pace is thorough and steady, quickening a bit as the plot escalates to a crescendo and then slowing on the way back down. Readers who enjoy science fiction and dystopian thrillers won't want to miss this one!


An electronic copy of this book was provided to Turning Another Page by Reedsy Discovery and in no way affects the honesty of this review. We provide a five-star rating to Children of the Miracle by Daniel Weisbeck.

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Turning Another Page is a small web-based business, owned and operated out of San Antonio, Texas. Originally created as an official book blog in November 2014, Turning Another Page has successfully grown to encompass services that can be offered to authors worldwide.

Synopsis

A deadly virus returns. One woman may have the cure. But who deserves it?

In a dark future, the Sanctuary of Americas has been running genetic experiments on humans with animal DNA to stop a deadly virus. The result is the Chimera, a hybrid human species who must fight to fit into a new world order still run by the Pure humans. When the FossilFlu virus mutates, any hope of immunity is gone, and everyone and everything must fight to survive. The cure to the virus is the key to power and the future face of humanity. One doctor may hold the answer, but whose side is she on? May the best species win.

Chapter One

The capital lobby hummed with the usual daily business and orderly activities of visitors with appointments. Government workers steadily appeared on the quarter-hour, dressed in the red uniforms of junior staff, and collected the waiting citizens, shuffling them back down the dark hallways from which they arrived. No visitors, however, were being usheredthrough the large metal doors emblazoned with the words HIGH CHAMBER.

Sitting in the lobby, hands knitted tightly together, Mercy Perching anxiously bounced her knee while she waited. Odd, but not unexpected was her conclusion on the urgent meeting from the Leaders of the Sanctuary. They must have read her report on the resistance gene offering immunity to the virus, she told herself. Their request was sooner than she had anticipated, but even the slightest possibility of a cure would explain their insistence.

Mercy twisted her fingers white. She would be succinct in her presentation, she told herself. She would not repeat the things they already knew, like one hundred years after the pandemic, they still did not have a vaccine. Or that synthetic antidotes had failed. No, today was about hope. Her research opened up a new door of possibilities, and Mercy had to convince them to let her continue her work.

A sudden loud mechanical clank quieted the soft conversations in the lobby. All eyes were on the large metal doors to the High Chamber as they slid smoothly sideways; one to the left and one to the right. Two officers flanking the entrance in perfectly cut sapphire blue uniforms decorated with the military insignia of a wheat shaft crossed over by a sword, stood to attention.

‚ÄėDoctor Mercy Perching!‚Äô trumpeted one of the guards.

Mercy rose from the bench to stares and whispers from onlookers and gossip herders who were eager to guess at her importance.

‚ÄėIsn‚Äôt¬†that¬†the¬†Director¬†of¬†the¬†Department¬†of¬†Population¬†Reclamation?‚Äô¬†one asked.

‚ÄėYes.¬†She‚Äôs¬†working¬†on¬†a¬†vaccine,‚Äô¬†answered¬†someone¬†from¬†behind.¬†

‚ÄėShe‚Äôs¬†so young,‚Äô said¬†another.

Fair of skin and hair, able bodied, and taller than most, Mercy already stood out. But her one hazel eye and the other muddy blue set her apart from all others.

‚ÄėAmazing!‚Äô¬†declared¬†her¬†Doctor¬†on¬†nearly¬†every¬†visit.¬†His¬†torch¬†zigzagged from one pupil to the other. ‚ÄėHeterochromia. Completely different coloured eyes. So rare.¬†You‚Äôre¬†a genetic¬†miracle.‚Äô

‚ÄėThere¬†are¬†no¬†miracles,¬†Doctor.¬†Only¬†science,‚Äô¬†Mercy¬†would¬†reply,¬†shaking her¬†head¬†at¬†the¬†old¬†man‚Äôs¬†lack¬†of¬†respect¬†forgenetics.

If she had inherited this unique feature from her parents, she wouldn’t have known. A child of the Population Reclamation Program, her life had started in a lab: fertilised in a test tube, carried by an unknown surrogate, and raised by the government to fulfil the Sanctuary’s aggressive, but not impossible, population growth targets.

Mercy entered the High Chamber. A sudden stillness muted the busy employees and chattering citizens outside. Thescent of old stone and cedar wood permeated the large room. Rows of hanging pendants cast halos of soft light on the marbled floors, illuminating a path down the long hall. At the far end of the room, behind an elevated judges’ bench, fiveofficials of eminence, adorned in red scarlet robes with starched white neckings, sat talking among themselves. If theynoticed her entrance, they gave no sign.

Mercy approached the bench with a wordless reverence commanded by the Leaders’ seniority. The click, click, click of her shoes against the polished floor was the only sound she dared make until sanctioned to speak.

There were no seats for those given an audience in the High Chamber, standing implied a limited expectancy of allowed time. Mercy took her position in front of the waist-high metal piling that rose from the ground at the foot of the altar both a podium for presenting and a holographic display at once.

On the far right of the bench sat a thin-faced man known as the Fifth, the most senior of the Leaders. His pale skin hung loosely over his protruding skull bones like wet paper. His was the job of welcoming and commencing business.

‚ÄėDoctor Perching, thank you for coming in person today.‚Äô

Mercy offered a polite bow. ‚ÄėThank you for granting me the audience. I know your time is valuable.‚Äô

‚ÄėWe,‚Äô¬†he waved his hand to the right, fluidly pointing to the other four leaders¬†flanking¬†him;¬†three¬†women¬†and¬†one¬†man, ‚Äėread¬†your¬†recent¬†report¬†on the¬†FossilFlu¬†immunity¬†project¬†with¬†interest.¬†I¬†understand¬†you‚Äôve¬†made¬†some progress?‚Äô

‚ÄėYes,¬†Leaders,‚Äô Mercy said, privately pleased they had understood the¬†importance of her research. She placed a hand over the round podium in front of her,¬†triggering¬†a¬†shaft¬†of¬†light¬†to¬†jet¬†upward¬†until¬†disappearing¬†into¬†the¬†ether¬†of the room. A translucent image of a¬†DNA¬†strand materialised and hung in the¬†air¬†waiting for¬†an¬†explanation.

‚ÄėI‚Äôve¬†spent the last two years studying the descendants of the host carcass which released FossilFlu during the polar melt. Based on the age of the¬†fossil, I¬†believe¬†our¬†evolutionary¬†ancestors¬†were¬†exposed¬†to¬†the¬†virus¬†for¬†many¬†years, even thousands. In that time, they could have evolved a¬†virus¬†resistance¬†gene,¬†making¬†them immune. If my theory is right, humans could also¬†carry¬†the gene.

‚ÄėAs¬†we are the only species which were infected by the¬†virus¬†outbreak, it could be that the gene is silenced.¬†To¬†prove¬†my theory, we had first to¬†confirm the existence of a¬†viral¬†resistance gene in mammals. And last week we had a breakthrough.‚Äô

The Leaders leaned into the bench, eyebrows raised. Mercy zoomed in on the holographic DNA strand and pulled out a microscopic section until large and easily visible. The isolated string of nodules glowed.

‚ÄėI‚Äôm¬†very pleased to be able to share with the Council that the immunity gene does exist,‚Äô Mercy declared¬†proudly.¬†‚ÄėThis is the virus-induced gene that is responsible for¬†mammalian¬†resistance to the FossilFlu.‚Äô

The Fifth’s eyes widened with interest, but he held back any outspoken en- thusiasm. Mercy was aware that manyscientists before her had tried and failed to find the cure for FossilFlu. The Council’s hesitation was expected.

The Third, her role being security and defence of the Sanctuary, a¬†woman of¬†more¬†flesh¬†but¬†equal¬†in¬†years¬†to¬†the¬†Fifth, leaned¬†back¬†into¬†her¬†chair¬†and crossed her arms. ‚ÄėI would like to congratulate you, Doctor.¬†Your¬†discovery¬†is ground-breaking work. But,¬†I‚Äôm¬†curious about your next steps.¬†How¬†exactly does¬†this¬†help¬†humans¬†if¬†our¬†immunity¬†gene¬†is¬†silenced?‚Äô

Mercy drew a deep breath and squared her shoulders in anticipation of their response. She had rehearsed this moment in her mind many times, and many times they had applauded and thanked her, and many more they had looked down on her in shock and horror and cried for her head.

‚ÄėAs¬†we have yet to find a vaccine to FossilFlu, I propose¬†it‚Äôs¬†time we take a more aggressive approach. With the Leaders permission, I would like to¬†try¬†genetically¬†modifying¬†the human genome with¬†animal¬†DNA. Inserting the active resistance gene sequence to replace our¬†own,‚Äô¬†answered¬†Mercy,¬†hiding her¬†anxiety¬†behind a confident face.

There was a heavy silence. Mercy’s heart leapt into her throat. She wanted to race on, explain more about the procedure or her hypothesis, to explain that her computer simulations showed it was possible. Yet, something held her back. They hadnot jumped out of their chairs in outrage. They had not labelled her a maverick or a mad scientist. No, she told herself, stay calm and let them make the next move.

The Leaders turned away, huddled at the centre of the bench, and spoke in a low private tone among themselves. Mercy strained but failed to make out words or intent.

The¬†Fifth¬†broke¬†the¬†silence.¬†‚ÄėDoctor¬†Perching,¬†what¬†we¬†are¬†about¬†to¬†tell¬†you may come as a surprise, even a shock. This information must remain in the strictest¬†confidence.‚Äô

Mercy squinted her eyes, cautious. ‚ÄėYes.‚Äô

‚ÄėWe have reason to believe others may have already reached this conclusion in their research.‚Äô

‚ÄėOthers?‚Äô¬†she¬†asked¬†in¬†a¬†quiet¬†voice.¬†‚ÄėYes.¬†The¬†Sanctuary¬†of¬†Americas.‚Äô

‚ÄėWho?‚Äô She stared in wild-eyed bewilderment.¬†Up¬†until¬†this¬†moment, like¬†all¬†the citizens of the¬†Sanctuary¬†of Europe, Mercy believed they were the last humans on the¬†planet.

The¬†Fifth¬†went¬†on:¬†‚ÄėThe¬†Sanctuary¬†of¬†Europe¬†was¬†not¬†the¬†only¬†Sanctuary¬†to survive¬†the¬†global¬†pandemic.¬†There¬†were¬†twoothers:¬†the¬†Sanctuary¬†of¬†Americas and¬†the¬†Sanctuary¬†of¬†Asia.¬†Of¬†course,¬†our¬†ancestors¬†didn‚Äôt¬†know¬†this¬†at¬†first.

‚ÄėAfter¬†the pandemic, when the risk of infection was deemed¬†low¬†enough, the Sanctuary‚Äôs Leaders sent out scouts to see if any other humans were¬†alive. They¬†assumed¬†the¬†worse.¬†But¬†they¬†were¬†wrong.¬†Others¬†did¬†survive,¬†living¬†isolated in¬†Sanctuary¬†cities like¬†ours.

‚ÄėIt¬†should have been a time of hope. Unfortunately, the first contact between Sanctuaries resulted in tensions. Scarce resources led to accusations of stealing, spying, and fear of invasions. In the interest of avoiding a possible war,¬†all¬†contact between¬†the¬†Sanctuaries¬†ended.¬†For¬†our¬†protection,¬†each¬†Sanctuary¬†has continued to remain¬†isolated.‚Äô

The Fifth‚Äôs demeanour changed. His face softened, and his shoulders relaxed.¬†‚ÄėThis¬†burden,¬†keeping¬†the¬†lie,¬†issomething¬†every¬†Council¬†of¬†Leaders¬†has had to¬†carry¬†over the last one hundred years. And¬†now,¬†Doctor Perching, I¬†am¬†sorry,but¬†it‚Äôs¬†a¬†burden¬†you¬†will¬†have¬†to¬†carry¬†as¬†well.‚Äô

Mercy stared into the blinding headlights of an alternative reality. She was getting more and more confused the longer she thought about it. If the citizens of the Sanctuary found out there were other survivors; it would change everything. Solidarity was the foundation of their society; to survive together, to repopulate the Earth together, to build a new planet together. Learning that others existed, would seed mistrust in the government and create chaos. No, she told herself, this could not be the truth ‚Äď not the truth they could afford to share.

‚ÄėDoctor¬†Perching,¬†do¬†you¬†understand?‚Äô¬†asked¬†the¬†Fifth,¬†seeking¬†aresponse.

‚ÄėI¬†do,‚Äô¬†she¬†finally¬†answered,¬†even¬†though¬†understanding¬†didn‚Äôt¬†lessen¬†the¬†shock.

The Third Leader continued from the Fifth. 'Last week we received a message from the Sanctuary of Americas. The message was brief. They have encountered a mutation of the FossilFlu. A more deadly strain that infects both animals and humans alike.’

‚ÄėWhat? How?‚Äô Mercy exclaimed. ‚ÄėAre they sure it‚Äôs the same virus? Is it spreading?‚Äô Her questions were rapid, formulated; a doctor‚Äôs response.

‚ÄėThe message didn‚Äôt clarify anything further on the virus other than to reassure us they have it contained, for now.‚Äô

The¬†Fifth¬†interrupted,¬†‚ÄėWe‚Äôve¬†also¬†received¬†a¬†second¬†message,¬†from¬†an¬†un- known source.¬†It¬†claims the¬†Sanctuary¬†of Americas has been¬†running¬†genetic experiments combining human and¬†animal¬†DNA¬†seeking a cure to FossilFlu. Exactly as you requested here¬†today.¬†The unknown source suggests¬†this¬†is the host the¬†virus¬†needed to¬†mutate.‚Äô

Mercy’s lifetime of research into FossilFlu flashed before her. The excitement of her discovery. The hope for a futurecure. All of it put in doubt, possibly gone forever. Her reaction must have been evident to the leaders.

The¬†Fifth¬†counselled,¬†‚ÄėI‚Äôm¬†sure¬†this¬†news¬†is¬†disappointing.¬†But¬†for¬†now,¬†we need to focus on the greater problem ‚Äď the impact¬†this¬†could have if the¬†virus¬†started spreading again. The ability of the mutation to¬†kill¬†both¬†animals¬†and humans would¬†mean¬†the¬†extinction¬†of¬†all¬†life.¬†What¬†little¬†remains.‚Äô

‚ÄėYou said they closed their borders to us years ago out of mistrust. Why contact us now?‚Äô Mercy asked.

The Third continued, ‚ÄėWe‚Äôve known they monitor us‚Ķ‚Äô

The First Leader, his role being information and communication, interrupted, ‚ÄėSpy on us, you mean.‚Äô

The¬†Third¬†glanced¬†at¬†him¬†out¬†of¬†the¬†corner¬†of¬†her¬†eye¬†and¬†pinched¬†her¬†lips, scolding.¬†‚ÄėYes,¬†the¬†video¬†is¬†rather¬†overtregarding¬†their¬†intelligence¬†and¬†how¬†up to¬†date¬†it¬†is.‚Äô¬†She¬†reluctantly¬†agreed¬†with¬†him.¬†‚ÄėIn¬†short,¬†they¬†contacted¬†us¬†to¬†get to you and your¬†research.‚Äô

‚ÄėMe?‚Äô Mercy felt her knees go weak. ‚ÄėI¬†don‚Äôt¬†understand.¬†How¬†can¬†they know about my¬†research?‚Äô

The Third answered humbly, ‚ÄėWe don‚Äôt have answers to that yet. More importantly, having received the two messages from different sources tells us something more is going on. We can‚Äôt assume they are telling the entire truth about the outbreak.‚Äô

‚ÄėI‚Äôm¬†sorry, but I¬†still¬†don‚Äôt¬†understand what I¬†can¬†do?‚Äô questioned¬†Mercy.¬†The¬†Fifth¬†spoke¬†for¬†the¬†bench.¬†‚ÄėTheir¬†offer¬†is¬†anexchange.¬†You¬†travel¬†to¬†the Sanctuary of Americas, share your research, and work with their scientists, and, if collaboration is successful, we all share the cure.‚Äô

Before¬†Mercy¬†could¬†ask¬†any¬†more¬†questions,¬†the¬†mood¬†in¬†the¬†room¬†shifted. The Third leaned in, aggressive, asserting her authority. ‚ÄėDoctor Perching, is it true that you have no partner or plans to surrogate? So, nothing significant holding youback?‚Äô

‚ÄėYes,¬†that‚Äôs¬†right,‚Äô¬†she¬†conceded,¬†a¬†bit¬†bruised.¬†Population¬†regeneration¬†being the responsibility of¬†all¬†citizens.

‚ÄėGood.¬†I¬†hope¬†you¬†understand¬†why¬†we¬†called¬†you¬†here¬†today,¬†and¬†what¬†we are asking of¬†you?‚Äô

There could be no mistaking their request to accept the invitation.

‚ÄėWhen would I go?‚Äô Mercy asked.

‚ÄėYou‚Äôll¬†go¬†into¬†briefing¬†today¬†and¬†leave¬†for¬†the¬†Sanctuary¬†of¬†Americas¬†to-¬†morrow.‚Äô¬†Her answer blunt, not offering negotiations.¬†‚ÄėIt‚Äôs¬†better for¬†all¬†if you disappear quickly to¬†avoid¬†any possible¬†leaks.‚Äô

‚ÄėMy team‚Ķ‚Äô

‚ÄėWe‚Äôll take care of the communication.‚Äô

A man, unseen before, crept from the shadows of the chamber, startling Mercy. He wore the red felt bodysuit of the Council’s cabinet. His jet-black hair, braided and tied back, and his youthful, muscular form were a stark and pleasant contrast to the withered flesh behind the alter. The emblematic Phoenix clasping a wheat shaft and a rod pinned to his chest, the national symbol of the Sanctuary, indicated his status as a direct agent of the Leaders. He approached the bench and stopped, waiting for his introduction.

‚ÄėThis¬†is¬†Agent¬†Basil.¬†He¬†will¬†be¬†your¬†person¬†of¬†contact¬†going¬†forward.¬†He¬†will¬†brief you on the mission details over the next twenty-four hours if you accept,‚Äô outlined the¬†Third.

The¬†Fifth¬†made¬†the¬†final¬†plea.¬†‚ÄėDoctor¬†Perching,¬†I¬†won‚Äôt¬†lie.¬†Once¬†you¬†cross the border into their Sanctuary, there is little protection we¬†can¬†offer.¬†I¬†can¬†only ask that you consider the¬†survival¬†of our Sanctuary, perhaps the¬†survival¬†of humanity. Will you help¬†us?‚Äô

Mercy’s mind swirled with questions and doubts. The Five Leaders peered down at her expectantly, unflinching.

After¬†an¬†extended silence, tolerated more¬†than¬†granted, she nodded,¬†offering¬†the¬†Leaders¬†the¬†only¬†answer¬†she¬†knew they¬†would¬†accept.¬†‚ÄėYes,¬†I¬†will¬†do what I¬†can.‚Äô

About the author

Daniel Weisbeck is an award-winning marketing leader in software and debut author of the new book Children of the Miracle. Drawing on his more than two decades of work in software, Daniel’s insights into a technology-driven future brings an authentic voice to his debut science fiction thriller. view profile

Published on June 29, 2020

Published by

50000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional ūüŹÜ

Genre: Dystopian

Reviewed by

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