Science Fiction Books
--the first novel in the Certainty Principle Universe
A geology grad student with a spiritual bent and a mystic from the Pleistocene find a modern skeleton in ancient rock and must risk their growing affection to save the world from an unexpected danger lurking within the laws of physics.
Jen Hewitt, a quiet geology graduate student, doesn't actually believe in time travel. Were it possible, rocks from the age of dinosaurs should already be cluttered with artifacts from future time-tourists. Nevertheless, she proves with fellow geologist Jonathan Renner that a human skeleton encased in Pleistocene rock came from their own time. Their work, coupled with fundamental research by physicist Susan Arasmith, reveals an unexpected character to the universe that carries them from the safe world of science into a struggle with powers and possibilities they hadn't imagined. The three friends, along with Kar-Tur, a frightening mystic from the ancient past, learn that discovery is sometimes as much about faith as knowledge, and that friendship and love are often found where least expected.
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Sample Chapter, Chapter 1
I fussed at my
hair instead of working with it, turning this way and that in the mirror and finally
choosing to believe it was fine. Brown could only be brown and straight was
only straight. I pulled my peach sweater over my shoulders. It was a nice complement
to my hair and skin, and I chose to wear it even in the warm southern
California air. It might, after all, get cool tonight at the open-air
restaurant Jonathan had invited me to. In any case, I wasn't entirely at ease
in the shoulder-baring evening gown I'd summoned the courage to wear.
A date, for crying
out loud. Why a date? If we just went out together like graduate school buddies
it would be fine. His quaint insistence on paying my way tonight completely
transformed the experience.
I liked Jonathan
and felt excited to see him for the first time since he took the faculty
position at Burns College. But he was a friend, nothing more. I considered whether
I should tell him as much tonight but was afraid he might be hurt. Even more
afraid our date really was just buddies reuniting after a time apart, and I'd
Probing my feeling
a bit deeper, I wondered if I resisted telling him because he was an important
professional contact for me, having already taken a first job, while I still
had a year--hopefully no more--to go on my Ph.D.
I hoped I wasn’t
that cynical yet.
But I really
didn’t want a date. I was uncomfortable mixing friendship and romance. One
was sure to end up losing both.
I heard his knock
at the door and bounded from my chair, hoping to jump-start my inner enthusiasm
with outward buoyancy. A flash drive containing my day’s calculations lay on
the table, and I grabbed it to drop off at my lab in the geology building on
the way to the restaurant. I always kept a non-cloud backup separate from my
computer, but I wondered briefly if I really needed to make that extra stop at
the geology building or if I used my work as a way to polish the sharp edges
off my nervousness.
“Humph” I said
aloud to no one but me. “You’re nervous and should just quit obsessing about
it.” And, listening to myself almost none at all, I met Jonathan at the door.
The restaurant he
picked truly was delightful and the night lovely. I found myself seduced to an
inner quiet by the bright stars and the susurration of the waves about fifty
yards from our table. Jonathan didn't seem hurried to talk. I imagined that
perhaps the evening would pass in good company and few words. I relaxed a bit
more at the prospect.
His eyes drifted
away from the shoreline, which was just making its final disappearance into the
gathering gloom of night, and toward a loud and slightly intoxicated group of
people at a nearby table.
“Do you ever
wonder what other people, ones you don’t know, are happy about?” he asked.
I looked at my
friend of four years with new interest. I did think about such things. It
surprised me that he did.
I smiled and
nodded, feeling no need to speak, perhaps a bit afraid that if I encouraged intimate
conversation it might stir whatever motives he had for asking me on a date. I
wondered for a moment if I should be interested in him as more than friend.
With his fit 5’10” frame, dark hair and eyes, he wasn't unhandsome, although
that seemed rather feeble praise for a friend to grant. He looked sufficiently
distinguished when not wearing his quaint and goofy field hat—the one I teased
him about when we did field work together. And he was certainly intelligent.
But I felt no
overwhelming romantic urges. I wondered if you were supposed to feel some
irresistible impulse toward the person you were meant for.
“What do you think
about alien visitors?” He turned his fierce gaze on me, catching my eyes into
I smiled at his
effort to start a conversation. He always spoke forthrightly and often
abruptly of what he thought, which always made me believe he had no hidden
agendas, no secret plots for how to use people.
“Do you mean,
aliens, like from outer space?” I raised my brows.
“Sure,” he said
noncommittally, inviting me to choose my own interpretation.
“Aha.” I paused a
bit, sipping from the tea I had ordered as we awaited our dinner.
“As a geology
professional, I think there must be no other intelligent beings in the
universe.” I grinned, letting him know I was being silly with the geology
professional bit. “Or perhaps it's simply impossible for intelligent beings to
travel the stars. Either way, there are no aliens visiting us here on Earth.
If there were other beings, intelligent beings able to traverse space, the
Earth’s rocks would be filled with evidence of their presence here. A million
years is only a moment to the universe, but an eternity to the expansion and
advance of a technologically intelligent race. All the universe should have long
since filled up with them. The Earth would not only bear the mark of their
exploration, but of their colonization. They would be here, and not us.
continued, “By the same measure, there will never be time travel. Otherwise
the rocks of the age of dinosaurs would be filled with the petrified refuse
from an eternity of time-tourists."
I paused for his
response. This was one of the more enjoyable aspects of graduate school, the
expansion of ideas and testing of reasoning that took place in half jesting,
half serious intellectual sparring over supper, or in a stairwell, or in a lab
late at night. I wondered if Jonathan missed it.
answer immediately. He seemed rather more sober than he had as grad student
when he had been quick to leap into the verbal fray. He started to speak, but
stopped as though unsure what to say or, perhaps, whether he really wanted to
say it. I wondered if my somewhat silly intellectualism had turned him off.
Our meal arrived,
and Jonathan turned to it with such delight that I thought he must be relieved
at the interruption.
with the meal. We reminisced about our grad school days. They were still very
present for me, but Jonathan seemed to have already developed a melancholy
attachment to their memory, although he'd only finished last spring. When
conversation lapsed, we watched the stars, enjoying each other’s company and
the universe we'd chosen to study.
We took a walk
along the beach behind the restaurant, finding a few shells tossed up by the
recent windstorms, shells that the endless swarms of beach-goers had somehow
left untouched for a day or two. A grove of palms stood near where the
restaurant property went down to the sea, and we lingered there for a while.
conversation lapsed occasionally as we listened to the waves. Several times,
Jonathan became sober again, as he'd been before our meal was served, and he
seemed about to share something that was weighing heavily on his thoughts. Each
time, something else came out, or he turned his eyes back to the sea and fell
quiet, allowing both his sudden intake of air and intense look at me to simply
breathe away. By evening’s end I was quite curious about his behavior.
I felt somewhat
awkward, fearing that I knew what he wanted to talk about. I thought seriously
of preempting it, by commenting, perhaps, how glad I was that we were friends
with no romantic entanglements with each other. But I didn’t, hoping that the
problem would just go away.
“Jen,” he began as
we leaned on a palm tree watching the waves sparkle in the light of the
just-risen Moon, “I didn’t bring you here just to socialize or to maintain our
friendship, which is certainly valuable to me. I have an ulterior motive. I
think I need your help, as both a friend and geologist. Your advice at least,
and maybe your collaboration.”
My heart crossed
from a mysterious combination of hope and fear to relief as Jonathan spoke. I
especially breathed a sigh of relief that I had not presumed too much and
announced uninvited that I was only interested in him as a friend. I realized
with chagrin that I was unsure whether I felt happy or disappointed that my
fears of his romantic interest in me proved unfounded.
“What kind of
help?” I asked.
earlier about aliens wasn't a casual one.” He paused for a long moment
searching out into the sea for his words. “I’ve found something.”
“At your field
area in Wyoming?” I knew he was working in Quaternary rock, much too young for
He nodded. “Suppose
I were to tell you that I’ve found evidence of ancient alien visitation. Or
found something unusual anyway. Something not ordinary in the rock.
“I haven’t told
anyone else yet. I’m not sure if I’m afraid the CalTech folks will steal my
thunder, or if I’m just afraid everyone will think I’m a nut. But I don’t know
what to do with it. I think I’m even a little scared of it. Does that make
sense? It’s really not even in my field. I’m no anthropologist.”
“What have you found?”
I prompted when he said no more.
something...odd. A human skeleton in partially lithified shale, in the Atosoka
Formation. I, well, I measured several bones in the skull and found that the
dimensions are almost modern. It’s a woman, apparently quite old when she
“Why is that odd?”
I brushed a wayward lock of hair from my eyes. “Late Pleistocene, I'd expect
the skeleton to be of modern appearance, at least within the variability common
to our species.”
“I found it in
the Atosoka Formation.” he repeated. “And the skeleton seems to be buried
there, not deposited naturally. There are—” he paused again, “belongings with
I remembered that
the Atosoka Formation was a lake deposit, not a typical place for a burial. And
with an age of nearly forty thousand years, it was also a bit early for humans
in North America, especially ones who buried their dead. My eyes were just
beginning to widen with comprehension when he added, clearly delighted with
himself, or on the border of hysteria.
“And, the old-timey
radio I found buried with the skeleton was a bit odd too.”