Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Direct Contact by Ninette Swann: Character Interview and Excerpt


Character Interview with Malcolm, the hero of the book.

Tell us about your family.

I’m the only child to wealthy enough parents. We never lacked for anything, and I grew up in the idyllic suburbs of the island Terrecina. When it became clear that I had a gift for scientific reasoning and calculus, my parents gave me every opportunity, but they also exploited my capabilities to move themselves up in the world and get on The Emperor’s good side. I don’t hold it against them, but we drifted apart and finally lost touch entirely some years back, which is for the best. They’d be heartbroken to see how I’ve used my talents now.

What was the scariest moment of your life?

Honestly? Crawling on my hands and knees through an incinerator trying to get out of Terrecina. The revolution hadn’t even started yet, but that’s when what we were doing really came clear to me.

What are you passionate about these days?

I’m very busy working on a new set of vaccines and dealing with patients in the clinic. I, of course, now have a lot of political responsibility, but my passion remains in the chemistry…and in making life better for people.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

I do a lot of star-gazing. Having come from an island which we were led to believe was all of life, I really appreciate the vast expanse of our universe. I’ve learned the world is only as big or small as you allow it to be.

If you could apologize to someone in your past, who would it be?

Probably George, my mentor. During his disappearance I doubted his motives severely and really didn’t act as a friend and protégé would. He was risking everything, and I took my sweet time believing in him when it should have been automatic.

What would you consider to be the best book you have ever read? 

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. It gives great insight into the minds of men and how evil can accidentally occur on purpose.

Who should play you in a film? 

Jeff Goldblum.


Julie Gladwell has a secret. Acting as chief attendant for the New Government’s procreation program, she rears girls to carry the emperor’s heir. Only a few are chosen for the program, called “The Special Ones,” and they are given no names, only numbers. They see no one but authorized personnel until their twenty-first birthday. Which is usually when they die. Direct contact is forbidden. As she cares for these girls, no one ever suspects who she actually is.

Scientist Malcolm Odin hated his job and hated himself. Put in charge of the entire human engineering program, the experiments and suffering he witnessed made him sick. Still, it paid the bills and kept him living comfortably in Terrecina. He knew of far too many who’d fallen through the cracks, living on the earth below. The Level People, they were called.

When he confides his unease to Julie, she lets him in on her secret and into her heart. What starts as fancy ends in revolution, but how will they choose between their fellow man and each other?
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“He’ll be there in three minutes.”
The crackling voice over the private intercom system jarred Malcolm Odin from where he was bent over the small window overlooking Number Twenty-seven’s room.
Malcolm pushed the button next to him with his thumb. “Thanks, Jim,” he said, before switching off the system. No need to alert the emperor that his lead scientist had been warned of his upcoming arrival.
“Sleep well, Anna,” he whispered, pressing his fingers to his lips and blowing over them at the stilled body through the glass. He couldn’t help but feel like a father figure to the girl, though they’d never met. He snapped shut the security blinds and turned to the computer panels on the wall of in the Rouble Palace’s science headquarters.
Number Twenty-seven was almost ready. Malcolm’s predecessor, George Hawin, had worked tirelessly on this project, readying girls for the carrying and birth of the emperor’s super-human heir. But after many mistakes, which led to the death of the first twenty-five girls in the program, he had been let go. Of course, in Terrecina, when the emperor fired someone, he killed them or, worse, sent them down into The Levels.
Malcolm swallowed down his fear as he heard the emperor’s footsteps approaching. At thirty-five, he was the youngest ever chief of Terrecina’s reproductive experimental unit. Malcolm was in charge of overseeing the feeding, dressing, socialization and rearing of the Special Ones, a small group of girls the emperor had hand-picked to carry his seed and create the new leader of Terrecina, an island suspended over the earth. Direct contact was strictly forbidden. The girls had female attendants who interacted with them on a daily basis, but they were never to see a man, other than in specific texts picked out for them. The emperor did not want their eyes, minds or bodies sullied.
Malcolm had already breached major policy by naming this one. They were not to have names. But Malcolm couldn’t help himself. Of the five girls in his charge, this small brunette child had called to him even before he’d taken over the program. Though they’d never spoken, Malcolm had come to see a rebellious side of her while he’d tracked her brain patterns. And her dreams. Her dreams were so vibrant and full of life and adventure. He hated to think of her fate. Especially since the serum remained unfinished, the new version to be tested on Twenty-six then her. He swallowed again. She was simply a shell for a royal embryo. He would do well to remember that.
“Odin, when are the girls’ birthdays?” The emperor’s voice boomed through the metal-paneled room as his figure filled the doorway.
“Twenty-six turns twenty-one on January fifth. Twenty-seven on January seventeenth. The others won’t turn until March, June and August respectively.”
Malcolm’s insides roiled, his entire being fighting the project. Malcolm’s former boss, George, had mangled several girls with the new injection techniques. While the emperor was fully human, he insisted on breeding a super child. In order to achieve this—super-strength, super-speed, good looks and health with automatic immunity to most of the world’s diseases, new and old alike—the sperm had to be mixed with a special serum. Several births had been successful in monkeys during the trial periods, but the entry site was smaller in humans. Either George had kept missing or something in the injection was fatal to humans—or both. Though the new tests were not complete, the emperor continued the insemination attempts as each girl turned twenty-one. Malcolm blanched. That meant twenty-five dead girls. He fought back the feelings of guilt and disgust that had been creeping up on him during the past months. He’d signed on for this after all. He’d made his bed.
“Excellent,” the emperor said, nodding his large head in an exaggerated motion. Malcolm looked at the man, took in his sallow skin, his bugged-out eyes. The graying hair that fell in waves around his shoulders was still strong and shiny, but the rest of the man seemed to be ailing.
“Are you okay, Your Majesty?” Malcolm asked, ducking his head in subservience.
“Oh, yeah,” he said, nodding again. “Just tired. It’s about time for my monthly spa treatments.” He chuckled. “Makes me sound like a nancy-boy, but the healing hands of my girls do wonders for me.” His small blue eyes glittered. “I’ll have the health clinic attend to me on the first of January. That way I’ll be spruced up for my meeting with Twenty-six.”
Malcolm nodded. If he got a good shot into Twenty-six, perhaps the emperor would leave Anna alone. Everyone could be happy. Twenty-six would be Queen or, at the very least, mother to the emperor’s son and the others could go on their merry way. Or so Malcolm hoped.
The emperor heaved himself around, turning from the room. His garish purple and red robes heralded from another time, showing the man’s twisted love of ancient history. In 2140, after the collapse of the former civilization, it seemed perverse to wear the royal garb of the ancients from Spain, England and all the other countries that no longer existed.
“We don’t have much time, Malcolm,” the emperor said on a sigh, right before he left. “I’m getting old. This will be the last batch of Special Ones. If you cannot make it work, your death awaits you.” He left the room with heavy steps, the metal flooring creaking and clanking beneath his feet.
“Well, no pressure then,” Malcolm muttered, wondering for the millionth time what he had gotten himself into when he’d signed that contract with the New Government all those years ago.


Ninette Swann is a journalist turned novelist who writes her books from sunny Florida in between parenting, freelancing and editing. She writes all genre of romance, including contemporary, thriller, suspense, and dystopian. Her books include Hit and Stay, Body Combat, Finding Home, Just the Messenger and Direct Combat.

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