Solomon’s Choice – a novel

About This Book

A dying Earth, a desperate choice, and a terrible question: What is human? Solomon’s Choice, by bestseller Ruthanne Reid.

Solomon Iskinder has a plan: Force adaptation so humans no longer need to depend on the Fey for survival…

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Solomon's Choice: a novel by Ruthanne Reid

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Excerpt

Solomon's Choice - a novel by Ruthanne Reid

Book Details

Solomon Iskinder has a plan: Force adaptation so humans survive the climatomagical apocalypse and no longer need to depend on the Fey and the Night-Children for survival.

Today, he’s succeeded in a magical-human DNA graft, the result of which allowed him to see magic for 18 seconds.

He has no idea how big the can of monsters he’s just opened is.

Coming Soon

Excerpt from Chapter One

The Council stare down at me.

I stare up at them.

This does not seem particularly optimal for anyone’s time.

“Doctor Iskinder,” begins Yi, taking a moment to glance back down at the report I made for her, frowning through her bifocals. “Doctor Iskinder,” she says again, and her tone has changed.

Mentally, I flip through the flash cards of human emotion and expression: her brows are drawn; the corners of her lips are turned down. Her tone has changed, adding syllabic emphasis indicative of some manner of turmoil.

Fuck. I might be in trouble. “Yes, ma’am.”

She flaps the pages at me. “This is a waste of our time. Do you understand? This is a waste. Of time, of resources, even of your own distinctly important mind. How can you possibly bring this to us and ask for leniency?”

Leniency? I wasn’t asking for leniency, I was asking for equipment!

I sigh, forgetting for a moment the importance of maintaining a neutral expression and straightforward body-language, shoulders square, without fidgeting. Well, it isn’t terribly bright in this chamber (an effective technique for intimating humans is denying environmental light while providing a blinding spotlight either in the face of the accused, or, as here, only over those who hold the power), so maybe they didn’t see it. “With all due respect, Madam Yi, I am not here for leniency.”

“You should be,” says Masterton, emphatic and low. “This is the fifth time you’ve been brought here on very serious charges.”

Charges?

I stare at them. Then—not moving too quickly, because fast and efficient movements tend to frighten people for some reason—I remove the summons from my pocket, unfold it, and peer close enough to read. “‘Doctor Solomon Orome Iskinder: you are hereby requested to appear before the Council of Humanity on Day Twelve of the week, no later than four o’clock and no sooner than three forty-five.'” I hold it up to them, turned around so they can see (hopefully) how little text is there. “I requested this meeting. There’s nothing here about charges, and as I am the one who initiated our conference, it would be quite strange for me to bring charges against myself.” And I pause. “I believe.”

I mean… I wouldn’t do that. I, however, am broken, and have been all my life. Is this a thing ordinary people do? Bring charges against themselves? I’ll have to ask Tom.

“You have been charged,” says Masterton (lips turned up, eyes narrowed, nose raised, a look my research says is smug or perhaps sadistic) “with endangering the human race by use of inhuman goods to mutate or otherwise harm pure human genes.” And he leans back, looking down his nose at me still, wearing a strange little smirk.

Oh, for the love of hell.

I can’t help sighing again. I’m so bad at this. Tom is better, but he’s late. Damn it. “I have not. That is nonsense,” I finally say, trying to buy time. “If you’d bothered to read my report—”

“Nobody can read your report,” Masterton snaps, which is patently untrue.

“I’ve read it,” says Persia, and I think the gods for small favors. “I understand what you’re trying to do, Doctor Iskinder. I really do. My concern—all our concern,” she adds, looking at her fellow Council members over her glasses, sternly holding their gazes for a moment, “is that you fail to see the dangers in your actions and choices of study.”

I think that look meant she’s overriding something. They, after all, clearly have other concerns.

Tom, where are you? “I have the right to face my accuser,” I say.

She sighs. “And they have the right to anonymity.”

“Well, are they scientifically literate? Do they know the difference between a… a microscope and their own arse?” I say.

“Doctor Iskinder!” snaps Xi.

Rein it in, Sol. “My apologies. But unless this accuser understands magical DNA—even a rudimentary knowledge of genetics would be acceptable—why on earth should I accept their accusation?”

“I’m bringing another accusation,” says Masterton. “Right now.”

Persia closes her eyes tightly; her brow knits over her nose, as if, perhaps, she has a headache. She looks at me again. “Doctor… do you actually understand what’s happening right now?”

What?

I… hate it when people ask questions like that. It’s so broad! It’s dependent on context (which I evidently do not have), and full of innuendo that I do not understand, and there is no safe way to answer it without accidentally giving further offense!

Damn it, Tom. Well. I’ll just have to field it best I can. “Of course I do. Let us begin with the general answer: in order to preserve what remains of humanity post-Flare, the Association has taken it upon itself to—”

“No,” says Persia. “Too broad.”

Yi laughs. I lack a full catalogue of human laughter, but I’m certain that one was unkind.

I push my glasses up my nose. I’m sweating, and they are slipping. “I am here heading up the Evolutionary Science division, which exists for the purpose of—”

“No,” says Masterton. “That’s no excuse.”

“He’s not… hold on,” says Persia (beginning her sentence with a sort of huff, like an accelerated sigh, her tone tight and possibly impatient), and pulls her Council members aside to murmur.

I’m shaking. Damn and blast.

I can’t seem to stop. When I get to this point, to this level of stimulation, I can’t stop. I don’t know what to do. Will it undermine my position? Fuck.

“Doctor Iskinder,” says Persia finally, turning back around. “Where is General Bleu? It was our understanding that he was supposed to accompany you today.”

“As an idiot translator,” Masterton says (under his breath, barely moving his lips, and it is a sick trick of acoustics that I caught it at all).

“He was,” I say. “He still is, as far as I am aware. Some negotiation with the Fey went south, and he’s been handling that. He’ll be here.”

I know, because he’s never failed me.

Masterton grinds his teeth. “Perhaps we should just finish this farce.”

“No,” says Yi. “We do it by the book. Personal feelings are not part of this operation.”

They’re not? They certainly have been as long as everybody’s dealt with me.

“Well,” says Persia. “The Fey… things have been sticky there lately. Perhaps we should reschedule.”

But I’m the one who set up this meeting! And I still need my equipment! “I—”

“I suppose it would be for the best,” says Masterton. “Reason clearly won’t get us anywhere today, anyway.”

Reason! He’s not reasonable! His own body language betrays him. “Sirs, I still need the—”

“Out,” says Yi, gesturing sharply. “We’ll let you know the date.”

Was I accused or not? “So I’m… whatever charges are dropped?”

“Go on, Doctor Iskinder,” says Persia sort of wearily.

They stare at me.

I stare at them.

This was a complete waste of time, and I still don’t have a new aetheric sequencer.

My shoulders slump. Without any other recourse (at least, none they’d deem reasonable), I head for the door.

As the guard opens it, Tom bursts through.

He is short like me. Brown like me. Too thin like me, worn away, suffering from the same damned curse that should have taken us along with all our school and did not.

That is where the similarities end. Tom is in business-mode, serious; his mouth is grim, and he pats me quickly on the back, hard and sharp. “Back to the lab. I’ll handle this.”

“There are accusations,” I whisper.

“There always are. Go.” And he’s past me and gone, smelling as always of sweat and polish, his metals catching the light, his boots loud like gunshots.

I am shoved by the guard out of the room and the door is closed behind me.

Well. Well, I suppose there’s nothing else I can do.

I’m never getting that aetheric sequencer. Tom’s going to have to find it on the black market again. Damn and blast.

And… there I go, spewing contradictions, in the same thought bewailing I’ll never have the machine, while already hoping my friend can acquire one for me.

Humans. We are ridiculous. It’s a miracle we’re alive at all.

I hunch along the cold, black corridor as fast as I can while still walking, shoulders up, face down. Running gets negative attention; walking too slowly gets negative attention. Meeting the eyes of the soldiers who work here is always a bad idea, interpreted as a challenge, or disrespectful, or some stupid thing, none of which was intended by me.

I’m very bad at communication. I know this. They know this. I just want to get out of here and go home. By which, naturally, I mean my lab.

The tunnel seems long today, which I know is only my perception distorted by my physical exhaustion and mental distress. Still, it takes forever to get out. (See, Tom? I can use hyperbole responsibly!)

Finally, I exit the Council’s quarters, march through the Fey’s compound proper (ignoring the line for rations, which I have already visited this week; ignoring the entire roomfuls of Fey looking important and immaculate and imposing), and reach the human locker quarters. Here is my PPE, which I have laid in precise order so as to expedite its re-equipping: top, bottom, boots, helmet, gloves. Perfect. At last, I pick up my sealed bag carrying my few mobile belongings: my communication stone, my rations stone—keyed to my soul, proving whom I am—and my notebook and pen, in which I do my best to keep track of stray thoughts and potential workarounds for the samples currently preserved.

My mood lifts the closer I get to the path out. I can’t wait to go home.

All human domiciles, business or otherwise, reside underground. I am given to understand that this is easier for the Fey to maintain; this, I accept. In fact, though it is illogically, I grasp this, philosophically. Earth, our mother world, embraces us… and so it must, or all will be eternally lost.

Of course, I actually doubt the Fey claim because we have no doors. The ground devoted to us is a long, flat, brown plain of dirt and rectangular openings. Each one leads down, into the earth as if cut with a scalpel—deep, purportedly safe, but without any clear and obvious protection from the outside. Within these squared walls, we live—hidden from the sullied sky, cleansed from the adulterated air, removed from the radiation that would otherwise weaken and destroy our DNA until there is naught of us left.

It was supposedly easier for them to do all of this within the soil. I have no idea if that’s true. My theory is they just don’t want to have to look at us any longer than they have to.

Their presence in this world stands in the distribution center: an enormous structure of shiny black stone, trapezoidal, polished, topped with an oblique, truncated pyramid. It lords over this land, striking, the only sharp color in the entire place. Between our cloud-covered sky and our greige clothes and our gently pale nutrition pastes, that black structure almost hurts to see, leaves afterimages, sits in the backs of our minds when we dream.

We can hardly complain, can we? They’re the reason we’re still alive.

“Doctor Iskinder!” A young servant comes running toward me.

I have seconds to do proper analysis: simple shoes, a dark uniform to match the darkness of this place, no PPE of any kind, so this person must work inside. I see no Association regalia or identification, which means they work for the Fey. Their face is eager, slightly rushed, but I think… it is positive, with an attempt to make the mouth and eyes smile just a pinch, a friendly expression.

I am three feet from the door out, and must clamp my instinctive urge to escape. They couldn’t follow me out, dressed like that.

Ridiculous autonomic response. Neither fight nor flight is necessary here. “Yes?” I say, like one adult to another.

They stop. And now, as they hold out a sealed, folded envelope (black, of course), they smile, and every metric I have tells me that smile is genuine. “Congratulations, sir,” they say.

I must remove my gloves to open the envelope, which feels awkward, seems (in subjective reception) to take forever, but fortunately garners no angry response as they patiently wait.

The paper feel is... oh. Thick, smooth, absolutely soothing. I will be keeping this texture. “What is this?” I say as I break the seal, which is stamped with the Association’s seal: two concentric circles, proclaiming along its circumferences PRO REGULA DE HOMINE IN AETERNUM—for the eternal rule of humanity—I circa 1938.

The envelope is also the letter (which is pragmatic and pleasing, as it means I do get to keep this delightfully textured thing), and it contains three paragraphs of instructions, beginning with, Congratulations! You have been approved.

I read the three paragraphs.

I read them again, analyzing each word, hoping against hope that I have not misunderstood. I look up.

The servant is still smiling.

“Does this mean I can take him home?” I say.

“Yes, Doctor Iskinder, it does,” says the servant, and there is no mocking, and there is no cruelty, and I think this person is genuinely happy for me.

Which is fair, because I am struggling to contain my emotions, which means tears, which are always confusing especially when tied to smiles, and I do not know how to identify the sound I made just now because it was not a laugh and was not a cry, but could not be contained. “Thank you. Thank you!”

“Love this job,” they say, salute me, and trot back off to wherever they came from.

Well, I won’t be going outside just yet! I return to the lockers, remove my PPE in order, and race deeper into the Fey sanctum.

I didn’t think they’d do it. Didn’t think I’d be allowed. I’d hoped, hoped above hope, illogically and irrationally… and it’s come true!

I get to take home my son.

Coming Soon