Children of the Fifth Sun: Echelon
By Gareth Worthington
Genre: SciFi, Adventure, Action
***SEQUEL TO THE AWARD-WINNING CHILDREN OF THE FIFTH SUN***
SHE THOUGHT THERE WAS NOTHING STRONGER THAN A MOTHER’S BOND. SHE WAS WRONG.
Fifteen thousand years ago, the knowledge bringers—an amphibious, non-humanoid species known as the Huahuqui—came after a great global flood, gifting humans with math, science, and civility.
We killed them all.
Seventy years ago, we found one of their corpses preserved in ice and eventually created a clone named K’in. Our governments fought over the creature, and we killed it, too. Now, a sinkhole in Siberia has opened, revealing new secrets.
Freya Nilsson spent the last five years trying to forget her role in the Huahuqui cloning program. She hid her son, KJ, from the regimes and agencies she believed would exploit him for the powers he acquired through his father’s bond with K’in.
An innocent trip to help KJ understand his abilities results in the conspiracy she fought to bury exploding back to life. Chased by new foes and hounded to put the world first, all Freya can think of is protecting KJ—at all costs.
About the Author
Gareth Worthington BSc PhD is a trained marine biologist and also holds a doctorate in comparative endocrinology. Currently, Gareth works full time for the pharmaceutical industry helping to educate the world’s doctors on new cancer therapies. His debut novel, Children of the Fifth Sun, won in the Science Fiction category at the London Book Festival 2017. He has a number of passions, including: martial arts (he trained in Muay Thai at the prestigious EVOLVE MMA gym in Singapore), studying ancient history, and most of all writing fiction. Born in England, Gareth resides in Switzerland.
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/garethworthingtonauthor
On Twitter: @drgworthington
On Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ylfQgw
Location: Somewhere on the Southern Indian Ocean
No one saw the attack coming.
The first blast tore a hole in the hull at 1:37 in the morning. By 2:15 the aft portion of the supply vessel, Marion Dufresne II, was pointing to the starless sky, while its nose was dipped below the frigid black ocean. A cutting wind battered the exposed keel and the remaining crew who managed to hold on to the outer railings.
Freya Nilsson clung to the thick frame of the eighteen-ton oceanographic crane, though it too was already slipping beneath the waves. She cried out, but her voice was drowned by the howling Antarctic maelstrom and the ship’s three, huge, Wartsila diesel engines, now churning nothing but air. Freya shivered uncontrollably, her hair and clothes frozen to her skin. “KJ!” she
cried out, again.
Her son didn’t answer.
Freya sobbed, tears freezing halfway down her cheeks. “KJ, where are you?”
A flash of lightning illuminated the angry ocean and a thick layer of clouds covering the heavens, but the attacking vessel was nowhere in sight. A deafening clap of thunder filled the air
followed by a wave of needle-like raindrops that shattered across her face. The vessel reared up and the engines roared. A muffled explosion beneath the water cleaved the ship in two and the nose began to sink.
Have to jump, Freya thought. Can’t let them take KJ! She pushed off the crane and dropped into the icy ocean below. Despite already being frozen, the shock of the glacial water
stole the breath from her lungs. Before she could swim to the surface, Freya was sucked under. Tumbling down, down, down, she struggled to find her bearing. Her lungs burned, poisoned with
carbon-dioxide. Instinctively, she kicked and fought and pulled until somehow, as if pushed upward, she eventually broke the surface.
Freya took a massive gulp of life-giving salty air, only to be pulled beneath again as a piece of the ship crashed into the ocean beside her. The falling debris dragged her farther and farther into the deep. She jerked and thrashed, but it only served to steal the energy from her stiffened limbs. Blackness enveloped Freya’s mind, the cold claiming her will to fight. Yet, even as death stalked her, she couldn’t let go. KJ needed her. She couldn’t die. Refused to die. Freya summoned her last drop of power and kicked. Once. Twice. Three times. And then, she could breathe again. The wind whipped her jet-black hair about her face, and the rain stung her eyes. But she was alive.
The silhouette of the supply vessel bobbed in the distance, ass up, before gurgling down into its watery grave. Gone. Still the attackers were invisible. With only the lasting image of where the Marion Dufresne II had just sunk as a destination, Freya paddled forward. Fighting against the chop of the ocean, she inched along. The spray blinded her and the salt burned, but she had to find him.
“KJ where are you?” she called. “Answer me, baby. Please.”
Writing a woman, as a man
Trigger warning: I’m probably going to say things some won’t like.
It seems we can’t turn on the TV these days without hearing about the latest celebrity who has been castigated for taking, or even bullied out of playing, a role as they ‘are unable to relate to the character’. For instance, Scarlett Johannsen recently pulled out of playing a transgender character as it was felt by some people such a role should really only be played by a transgender person.
Now, I would argue that acting is just that – acting. We do not expect real aliens to be available to play such a character, do we? If you feel that is a little facetious, then perhaps consider this: a transgender person may very well want to play a character with the gender they are (not biologically, but personally) and not be limited to roles of transgender characters. Acting is acting. People act like they are someone else.
When I was about 4 to 5 years old, I used to play the ‘A-Team’; re-enacting a TV show from the 80s. I was invariably Hannibal – a white-haired man of at least 40 years who smoked cigars and said every week: I love it when a plan comes together. My female friend, Kayleigh, played B.A. Baracus; a huge black man with a mohawk. We were acting.
This may seem like a strange topic with which to start, but it leads me to my next point: can a man write a female character and vice versa? Given the actor-based example above, it might seem that authors too should be subject to such scrutiny. Indeed, the recent spate of ‘strong female driven stories’ (there is even a category on Netflix now), male writers have had to step up to the plate. Or at least try.
Happily, I have to say that I have not seen, or at least it has not had as much social media attention, the issue of authors writing characters of all genders. This is a good thing. However, digging a little deeper there are discussions on the topic; and those discussions are a little skewed. It seems there are more ponderings on why men are unable to write convincing female characters than vice versa.
This blog post is not an in-depth analysis, but a casual skim of the internet that might be conducted by your average net surfer.
My observation on the discrepancy is thus: many women write male characters very well. Mary Shelley, Agatha Christie, JK Rowling. This list goes on. In fact, lists like this exist on the net. Then there are women who write for the romance genre. These men are often stereotypical, butch, and sexually aggressive. There has been no public uproar from men across the globe complaining that these men do not represent the majority of our gender. For the record, they don’t. Perhaps it’s because men don’t read this genre. Perhaps we understand it’s a genre thing. Perhaps we just don’t care. Anything is possible, I can’t speak for my whole gender.
So, I then did a bit of research around public feeling on men writing female characters. While there is no slew of vitriol on the subject – which pleases me no end – there are more threads on why men are perhaps slightly worse at it. One believable reason is that our predominantly patriarchal society means readers are inundated with male protagonists and thus it may just be harder to be exposed to good female ones on which to base new characters. Perhaps. Perhaps men really don’t understand the complexity of women to do a female character justice. Also plausible.
However, I would argue (you can see I like to argue) that characters are people first, then they are a gender. My last two books, Children of the Fifth Sun: Echelon and It Takes Death to Reach a Star both have lead female characters. Echelon is written by me alone, and the lead, Freya Nilsson, is an ex-military officer who gave up her career to protect her son from the government. Men would also do this. Star is written with my co-author Stu Jones (a SWAT sniper), told through the eyes of two people: one a man, the other a woman. Stu wrote Mila, a hardened survivor of the slums who clings to her faith in God to keep her from descending into darkness like everyone else. This character could also easily be a man.
We chose to use female characters because we felt that the additional layer of being a woman added to the complexity and struggle in the story. In both instances, Freya and Mila have received praise for their portrayal of strong yet still soft female characters. Freya is wolverine-like when it comes to protecting her son yet feels great pain as her son grows away from her and becomes closer to another – based partly on my mother, partly on my own experience as a parent. Mila kicks ass, literally, in order to avoid mugging, rape and the like yet goes out of her way to help people in need in a world where no good deed goes unpunished. Stu based his character on a female Israeli Army Officer and went to great lengths to research and consult strong women, such as his fellow police officers. We like to think we did a good job.
Now, I realise that I am inviting excruciating dissection of my female leads, and I fully expect to receive less than favourable reviews following this article. However, on a final note I guess I would like to say one thing:
Gender or no gender, we are writing fiction. The character can be however we want them to be. That’s the joy of fiction. So, before we pull out the dissection tools and go straight for the gender jugular, remember that it’s a story. And the characters are make believe. Thus, women can write men, and men can write women.
In a world that seems to be tearing itself apart, we could all do with a little make believe.