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No Higher Ground

by Roman Godzich

No Higher Ground - Roman Godzich
Editions:Kindle: $ 399.00
ISBN: B07748L75K
Pages: 379

Sam Czerny’s career as a xenobiologist was relegated to studying strange life forms deep in the oceans. Then a Chinese mining facility discovers an unusual artifact on the far side of the moon. A device that could change the way humanity sees itself and its place in the galaxy. Sam finds himself on the project of his dreams only to get caught up in a sudden war between the US and China. A war that prevents the two governments from noticing an even more dangerous arrival.

A book that is part political thriller, part science fiction, part speculative fiction, and part dark fiction, it will keep you turning pages until the stunning conclusion.


Chapter One


University of California

San Diego


Death kept falling from above but Sam could not stop grinning.

After disconnecting himself from the control system for the Narwhal Undersea Explorer, Sam Czerny checked to make sure the robotic control had stabilized itself. He kept grinning through the full ten minutes it took to remove the navigation suit that allowed him to control the explorer. It maintained a position one hundred and fifty meters above the Gakkel Ridge deep in the eastern Arctic Ocean. Then, he took a last look at the smoking underwater volcano on the display. The fuzzy yellow bacterial colony he had saved was fine.


He blew into his cupped hands. Despite being in California, Sam still felt as cold as if he had been diving with the robot in frosty Arctic waters, but he didn’t care. After almost an entire day working the display, he was excited about what he found and what it meant for his research. Stepping out of the connection chamber, he squinted in the bright command room.

Anders Kroon was the engineer on duty and he looked up at Sam with a scowl. “Well, you look like shit. How long have you been in there? Let's see,” He scanned his display. “Holy crap! Seventeen hours? Are you trying to break a record or something?”

Sam grinned. “Anders, that was awesome. My first trip to the third volcano and already I've turned up more carpets of microscopic life of a type we've never seen before. I can't wait to show the vids. There's more alien-like life in the Arctic than anywhere else on this planet! This was the most thrilling dive I've ever done.” Sam stretched his arms over his head. Despite his fatigue he was buzzing with excitement.

“Well you look like thrilled shit, then. Oh, and while you were in there, people have been trying to reach you. Some of them seemed urgent but none of them seemed dire enough to interrupt you per the instructions you left.”

Sam raised his eyebrows showing blue eyes that were bloodshot from staring at the display for so long. “Really? Who's trying to reach me?”

Anders swiped his hand in front of the display. “An interesting group. Someone named Trish Stern from DC. Looks like she's with Starshield-Shakelton. A Major Zhang Wei from Dongfeng City in China. A fellow by the name of Pierre Pacquelier in Florida and your better half, Helen. Each sounded urgent but none of them achieved the DIRE protocol that you defined.”

Sam had not wanted any interruptions during the deep dive and left instructions stating anyone who didn't try to reach him at least four times in an hour was not serious enough to disturb him. They could wait. He only had an eight-hour session with the diving robot scheduled, but the researcher following him called and said he couldn’t make it. So Sam had swapped a future dive time for an uninterrupted long session. It had been well worth it.

“Let me get to my office and I'll start by calling Helen.”

“Smart man.” Anders smiled. “Always call the wife and the boss first. I guess it's easier if they're both the same person. When's your next shift?”

“I'll have to check. Next week, I think.”

“OK, I should be on next week, too. Can you send me a copy of your report?”

“An engineer wants to read a xenobiologist's report? Really?”

“I might read it. But I'll certainly add it to my list of things I've helped with. You can never have too many brownie points in academia, you know.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” Sam laughed. “I should pay more attention to that myself. I'll send you a copy. And Anders?”


“Thanks for all your work. You make the hard part easy so I can concentrate on the fun part. I do appreciate that.”

“It's why I make the big bucks, man.”

Sam left the command room and walked the hallway to the beverage station where he got himself a hot chocolate booster. With the first few sips he could feel the caffeine and taurine raise his energy level. It made him feel better than he had a right to feel after so many hours of concentration during a long remote-controlled session and the pressure of a deep-sea dive. Such a dive was hard on the body.

Sam found his office and plopped into the chair behind his desk. He cleared off a few empty cups and brushed a bit of dust from the desktop before logging in and initiating the call to Helen.

“Ah! I see you’re still alive.” Helen was in her home office. Sam recognized the six-foot rendering of the great wave of Kanagawa on the wall behind her bright red hair. She was wearing a bottle-green blouse that matched her eyes and flashing the smile that always made him happy. “Did you find any alien polar bears yet?” This was her standard question to him ever since he first started studying the unusual life forms at the bottom of the eastern Arctic Ocean.

“Still no polar bears. But I did find what I think are at least nine new bacterial colonies. One of them is along a vent that’s spewing a mix of arsenic and sulfur thick enough to kill just about anything on the surface. Some of these will have us rethinking what type of life forms we may find on the Jovian Moons when we get around to exploring them.”

“Honey, I’m glad to see you're having a good time, but I need to put on my boss’s hat for a minute. Your presentation is still not available for the funding meeting and the deadline is tomorrow morning. It makes me look bad when the other participants have sent theirs in and my own dear husband is late.”

Sam brushed his hand through his wavy black hair. “I’m not late. You just said the deadline is tomorrow morning. I have the rest of the day to finish it.”

“So give me a preview. What's the gist of it? Can you send me an outline?”

“Er, not really,” Sam grinned. “I want to include some of what I found today to make it as fresh as possible.”

Helen folded her arms across her chest. “Samuel Czerny, you know I can tell when you're making things up as you go along. This is why I've been trying to reach you. I know that if I'm not on your back, you'll be off on some other fascinating bit of research and never complete the presentation on time. And much as I love that boyish grin of yours, it's not going to get you off the hook.”

Sam looked down at his keyboard like a guilty child.

Helen continued. “Don’t you give me that sad puppy look either. You know I fall for it every time. But this is too important. If we don't get the funding, your projects are the ones that get cut first. Remember, studying alien life forms when none have been found is hard to justify. The people who give us the funds tend to be an unimaginative bunch. Lose the few supporters we have and we'll have to find another line of work for you. I can't defend your work if you won't.”

Sam could see how upset she was. “You can't tell me Rothlesberger's Zombie Preparedness studies are more important or useful.”

“Rothlesberger delivers well-told stories about how a zombie threat could spread. And he does it with charm and even scares the living crap out of the financiers. That gets them to bring out the checkbooks and shower him with money. You need to work harder at getting them to understand astrobiology is worth studying. Maybe even put a little fear into them. Warn them that we need some sort of protocol for when we encounter little green men or little green viruses. And if we don't have one, we may lose precious time needed to defend life on our planet.”

Leaning forward, he shook his head. “Helen, we've gone through that scenario a dozen times. Fear mongering may get us funding but it sets a bad direction for real research. Pretty soon it turns into funding defense projects rather than pure science. Astrobiology is still a young enough field and it shouldn't have that type of thinking corrupt it.

“Sam, that's exactly my point. If you’re not making the effort to get funding for your research as pure science, nobody else will. Do you think it would be better to have them go and fund Ledbetter's work?”

Sam straightened up in his seat. “Ledbetter? That hack! He's still out there saying we should be looking for robotic explorers from other planets! How likely is that? Even if they do exist, the odds of finding them are so tiny that it would be like net fishing for trout in the Sahara.”

He paused and then grinned widely. “You did it again didn't you? You got me to take your side and then cornered me into agreeing I have to finish this presentation tonight. I never should have married the boss.”

“I wasn't your boss when we got married Sam, and I have to say I have no regrets.” Helen's smile made his face light up as well. Every day he remembered why he’d fallen in love with her. She always knew how to get him to do the right thing, the thing that was best for him. Sam knew without Helen looking over his shoulder, he would be doing some type of menial research he hated.

“Okay Helen. I'll spend the rest of the day putting together a fantastic presentation that will have them begging to shower us with money. Promise.”

“When you put your mind to it, you can convince anyone of anything. Remember; you got me to marry you. That was no mean feat. By the way, there have been a few other people trying to reach you. First of all, Trish Stern from Starshield- Shakelton. They're one of the companies that have been steady as far as funding us goes. You should see what she wants. Might be important. And a Major Zhang in China. I looked him up and he’s a bigwig involved with the base they’re building in the Fermi Crater. And some guy with a heavy French accent by the name of Pacquelier. He said he knows you and sounded all hyped up about something. Who is he?”

Sam started to say he wasn't sure. Then he remembered Pierre Pacquelier, a larger than life French scientist. They had been on a panel together at a science fiction convention a few years earlier. Some kind of a rocket propulsion specialist. They hit it off and had a few too many drinks after the panel. Pierre was a funny guy. His English was not just accented but also laced with literal French idioms that sometimes made him hard to understand.

“Okay, I guess I should call Stern from Starshield first since she has funding influence. The rest can wait until I have my presentation wrapped up and on your computer.”

“Good idea. I’ll be waiting for it. Later!” she said.

He gave her a virtual good-bye kiss and disconnected the link, only to have it immediately light up with another call. The display showed the call was coming from Starshield offices in DC. Sam brushed his hand through his hair and wished he’d taken the time to freshen up a bit. Putting a big money-raising smile on his face, he answered the call.

The display turned bright blue and a message indicating a secure encryption was in place. Sam found that surprising, as standard encryption made all calls secure many years earlier. He wondered if Starshield-Shakelton was doing more than space mining.

A few moments later the display resolved itself into a mustachioed face with black eyes squinting beneath a tussle of black hair. Sam always thought Pierre Pacquelier looked like Salvador Dali with the ends of his mustache cut off.

“Sam? This is you?” A thick French accent came from Pierre's image. He broke into a smile. “It is good to see you again, my friend.”

He liked Pacquelier, “Pierre! How are you? I heard you've been trying to reach me. When was the last time we saw each other, the Sci-fi convention about a year and a half ago?”

“Yes, my friend. We were on some panel together, but I don't remember what it was. I do remember drinking and talking afterward. Anyway I am calling to apologize and to receive your thanks.”

"Huh?" Sam grunted. Pierre's habit of translating French word for word into English often confused him. “I don't understand what you mean.”

“Of course you do not because I have not told you. But when I tell you, you will have to forget, or at least pretend it is a surprise when they contact you.”

“What's a surprise?”

“Okay, I am sorry. I am putting the cart before the oxen,” He paused for effect. “Let me begin again.”

“Yes, go on . . . ”

“An alien artifact. Something made by aliens. Do you see what this means?”

Sam sighed. “Pierre, I've heard this a dozen times before. People think they’ve found an object that didn't come from and it always turns out to be some natural or man-made thing.”

Pierre smiled and shook his head. “I do not think this is one of those cases. For one thing, the artifact is much too big and regular to be a natural object. It is as large as a big building Sam, and it appears to be very, very old”

Sam frowned. “How old?'

Pierre took a breath. “First estimates date it to be about sixty-five to seventy million years old.”

“Pierre, what on earth are you saying? Where is this thing?”

“Not on Earth Sam, we found it in the Fermi Crater on the far side of the Moon.”

Pierre suddenly looked to his left and then back at the screen. “O la! I must go now. See you soon.”

The screen went blank as the call ended.


About the Author

Roman Godzich was born at a very early age. The shock of arriving on this planet was such that he didn't speak for almost a year. Eventually, he got over it and now people say it's challenging to get him to shut up. A p0lyglot and a polymath, he is always up to some sort of shenanigans.