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Steven Hamburg

Steven Hamburg

Chicago, Illinois

I chronicled my entire first pregnancy in a journal, which I gave to my first-born child on her 18th birthday. She urged me to share my journal with the world.

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About the author

I was inspired to write a sci-fi novel when I watched the movie "Back to the Future" as a kid in 1985. I identified with the new and improved George McFly, who ended up being a successful sci-fi author. Just two years after seeing this movie, while I was a freshman in college, I came up with the primary concept of "Introspection: Transformation."

After graduating from college, I landed my first job, got married, helped raise my three amazing children, transitioned careers for the fifth time - this time into the field of cyber security - and then started and eventually sold two cyber security consulting companies.

I am extremely thankful for the successes I have been able to achieve, and I am now, more than ever, motivated to help others. This is why I will be donating all profits I personally receive from book sales to various organizations in order to improve the health of our planet, and to help animals and people all over the world. 

Seemingly, at a blink of an eye, it was December 31st 2015; nearly 24 years after I graduated college. My New Year's resolution was very simple: I am going to finally dedicate myself to writing "Introspection: Transformation!" Spending nearly five hours every day beginning New Year's day in 2016, I completed my first draft of the novel in five months.

Between the multiple re-writes I performed during the refinement process, I had family members and friends, ranging in ages from 16 to 76 years old, read my evolving novel. The feedback was invaluable, enabling me to develop a novel I am very confident you will enjoy.

It has been an incredible journey, and I am very excited to share Introspection: Transformation with the world!

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Introspection: Transformation

A Young Adult Sci-Fi Novel

A teenage boy trying to remain unnoticed after surviving a tragic incident inherits superhuman cognitive abilities via an alien encounter and undergoes a transformation while attempting to save the world.

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Science Fiction & Fantasy Young Adult
65,000 words
100% complete
10 publishers interested



After investigating the scene of a seemingly routine crash of a commercial airliner, United States authorities discover a substance later determined to be of extraterrestrial origin. Authorities subsequently confirm that there are aliens on Earth, and their response to this intelligence ensues.

Jake, a gifted sixteen year old high school student defined in his community by a tragic event, inherits superhuman cognitive abilities in result of an alien encounter. Jake embarks upon a journey to use his new abilities to help mankind prepare for an eminent alien invasion.

The seemingly invincible and impenetrable aliens, who roam undetected among earthlings, are methodically plotting their invasion since their home planet is dying and has nearly been depleted of all resources required to sustain life.

It becomes a race against time as Jake tries to save the world.

Introspection: Transformation is the first installment in a trilogy.   


I first conceived the concept of the entire Introspection series nearly 30 years ago when I was a freshman in college. Over the years, I documented notes every time I had a new idea for Introspection: Transformation, the first book in the series. As time continued to pass, I became increasingly excited and motivated to finally dedicate myself towards writing the novel. 

Beginning January 1st, 2016, I dedicated myself to finally writing Introspection: Transformation. My children's and my wife's ongoing encouragement were fundamental in enabling me to remain motivated throughout the writing process.


The chapter outlines below are intentionally concise since I do not want to spoil anything for my readers!

Chapter 1 - Transformation

Jake, the protagonist, has an unexpected encounter with an alien.

Chapter 2 - Discovery

A substance determined to be of extraterrestrial origin is discovered at a commercial airliner crash site.

Chapter 3 - Eminent Exodus

Jarga, the antagonist, who is the ruthless ruler of planet Shangten, is informed all inhabitants must leave the planet.

Chapter 4 - Fear

Dr. Alastair Agon, a revered scientist contracted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to analyze the alien substance retrieved at the commercial airliner crash site, becomes increasingly fearful regarding the potential presence and motives of aliens.

Chapter 5 - Mystery

The FBI is unable to account for two passengers on the crashed airliner.

Chapter 6 - Exploration

Gralp, assigned by Jarga to determine their next host planet, begins preparations of surveys of numerous candidate host planets.

Chapter 7 - Enlightenment

Jake begins acclimating himself with superhuman intellectual abilities inherited through his alien encounter.

Chapter 8 - Perilous Surveys

The aliens encounter unanticipated complications during its surveys of candidate host planets.

Chapter 9 - Investigation

Investigation of the two unaccounted for passengers on the crashed airliner continues.

Chapter 10 - “Civil” War

Insight into Jarga's ruthlessness is provided through an account of his eradication of fellow aliens.

Chapter 11 - Agent Hendrix

Disturbing background of FBI Agent Hendrix's past is provided given the integral role she is fulfilling in the investigation.

Chapter 12 - A Leader Emerging

Gralp becomes compassionate towards humans during his covert survey on Earth.

Chapter 13 - Obsession

Dr. Agon becomes more obsessed with his research of the alien substance, and begins losing touch with reality.

Chapter 14 - Human Suspects

Identities of the two unaccounted for passengers of the crashed airliner are determined and are suspected to have terrorist ties.

Chapter 15 - Breakup

Jake continues self-exploration of his inherited abilities and decides it is best to break up with Julie Loren, his girlfriend.

Chapter 16 - Soul Searching

Jake suffers from the absence of purpose; he does not feel he is effectively applying his inherited abilities for the well-being of society.

Chapter 17 - Return to Shangten

All aliens that engaged in the surveys reconvene on Shangten in order to confirm their next host planet.

Chapter 18 - Worldwide Conflict

The FBI needs to reallocate resources to matters other than their current investigation of the alien substance and the terrorists due to occurrences of national and worldwide conflicts.

Chapter 19 - Revenge

Jake confronts a person that caused him great pain and loss in the past.

Chapter 20 - Earth, the New Home

Gralp and Jarga confirm Earth will be their next host planet, and preparations for their mass exodus begins.

Chapter 21 - Insanely Fearful

Dr. Agon's fear of aliens intensifies.

Chapter 22 - New-Found Purpose

Jake's self-reflection process culminates in determination of his ultimate purpose.

Chapter 23 - Discovery

The FBI confirms the presence of aliens on Earth.

Chapter 24 - Powerlessness

Gralp fears he will be incapable of saving the human race from the impending alien invasion.

Chapter 25 - Deception

Jake deceives his parents so he can embark upon a vital mission.

Chapter 26 - An Unexpected Sacrifice

Enlightening insights into the crashed airliner are provided.

Chapter 27 - More Alien Remains?

Additional alien remains unrelated to those found at the airliner crash site are discovered near Washington, D.C.

Chapter 28 - Cancer Is the Cure?

Dr. Agon speculates that cancer could be humans' defense against the aliens.

Chapter 29 - Foreign Intelligence

Gralp learns of the presence of more intelligence regarding Earth from unexpected sources.

Chapter 30 - Covert Mission

Jake learns the aliens' intentions upon completing his mission.

Chapter 31 - Harmful Intentions

The FBI seemingly concludes that the aliens have harmful intentions towards the human race.

Chapter 32 - Relationship Rekindled

Jake and Julie resume dating.

Chapter 33 - Growing Discontent

The aliens' distaste towards humans intensifies.

Chapter 34 - Suspicion Confirmed

Dr. Agon learns something very troubling about himself.

Chapter 35 - An Alien Among Them

The FBI encounters an alien.

Chapter 36 - Destination Earth Confirmed

Jarga confirms Earth will be their next host planet.

Chapter 37 - Covert Operation Exposed

The FBI reacts to its alien encounter.


While Introspection: Transformation is a young adult sci-fi novel, market trends indicate that interested readers will primarily be between the ages of 12 and 64. This was reinforced by the "focus group" I assembled while I was writing the novel, which consisted of people of the following ages: one 12, one 16, three 18, one 19, one 25, one 30, one 32, one 43, one 51 and one 76.

I understand that anyone between the ages of 12 and 64 is a very broad demographic. To help further focus this demographic, Introspection: Transformation will likely appeal primarily to young adults between the ages of 13 and 18, as well as adults of all ages who are sci-fi enthusiasts. Based upon feedback received from the people who have read my novel, most of which who are avid readers of sci-fi novels, Introspection: Transformation contains unique elements they have not seen in other novels.

Lastly, young adults will identify with Jake, the protagonist. Challenges he faces in the novel are relevant and similar to those many young adults endure in life.


Provided below are notable marketing activities I have been performing:

LinkedIn: I have been actively promoting Introspection: Transformation among my 14,000 followers for the past year. My most recent post was viewed by nearly 9,000 people.


If you liked any of these movies, novels, and small-screen series, I am very confident you will enjoy Introspection: Transformation. While no strong overlap exists between Introspection: Transformation and any of the works identified below, common themes exist.



Small-screen series

10 publishers interested
Black Rose Writing logo Black Rose Writing

500 copies • Partial manuscript • Looking for fiction, non-fiction, and children's book genres, all having one thing in common: an individual's originality and hardship.
Black Rose Writing is an independent publishing house that strongly believes in developing a personal relationship with their authors. The Texas-based publishing company doesn't see authors as clients or just another number on a page, but rather as individual people who deserve an honest review of their material and to be paid traditional royalties without ever paying any fees to be published. We are proud members of IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association), a recognized ITW (International Thriller Writers) publisher, members of Publishers Marketplace, and currently serving on the Ingram Publisher Advisory Board.

Traditional publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Sports & Outdoors

Canada, United Kingdom, United States

Anaphora Literary Press logo Anaphora Literary Press

250 copies • Partial manuscript.
Anaphora Literary Press was started in 2009 and publishes fiction, short stories, creative and non-fiction books. Anaphora has exhibited its titles at SIBA, ALA, SAMLA, and many other international conventions. Services include book trailers, press releases, merchandise design, book review (free in pdf/epub) submissions, proofreading, formatting, design, LCCN/ISBN assignment, international distribution, art creation, ebook (Kindle, EBSCO, ProQuest)/ softcover/ hardcover editions, and dozens of other components included in the basic package.

Hybrid publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Science, Society & Culture, Sports & Outdoors, Technology & the Future, Travel


i2i Publishing logo i2i Publishing

250 copies • Completed manuscript.
i2i Publishing was founded by Lionel Ross and asks for a small financial contribution towards costs.

Hybrid publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Politics & Social Sciences, Society & Culture


Isabella Media Inc logo Isabella Media Inc

250 copies • Completed manuscript.
Isabella Media Inc is a Rhode Island-based, family-owned, mainline publishing organization with a mission to discover unknown stories. We combine unknown or little known authors’ undiscovered potential with Isabella Media Inc’s unique approach to publishing to provide the highest quality books to readers about stories they may not find anywhere else. It’s our desire to find unique stories that drive us.

Hybrid publisher

Children Fiction, Christian Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Business & Money, Career & Success, Communication Skills, Corporate Culture, Education, Entrepreneurship & Small Business, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Illustrated Books, Management & Leadership, Marketing & Sales, Mindfulness & Happiness, Motivation & Inspiration, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Politics & Social Sciences


Koehler Books logo Koehler Books

250 copies • Completed manuscript.
Koehler Books is an Indie publisher based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Our team of dedicated professionals promises you a holistic publishing experience where you'll receive our full attention, collaboration, and coaching every step of the way. We offer two publishing models: a traditional non-fee model for the highest quality work, as well as a co-publishing model that includes creative development fees for emerging authors. Our titles are broad-based and include nearly every major non-fiction and fiction genre.

Hybrid publisher

Commercial Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, LGBT Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Mind & Body, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Women's Fiction, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Communication Skills, Corporate Culture, Management & Leadership, Marketing & Sales, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Sex & Relationships, Sports & Outdoors, Science Fiction & Humour


Mascot Books logo Mascot Books

Mascot Books is a full-service hybrid publisher dedicated to helping authors at all stages of their publishing journey create a high-quality printed or digital book that matches their vision. With comprehensive editorial, design, marketing, production, and distribution services, our authors have the support of an experienced publishing team while still retaining one of the highest royalty percentages in the business.

Hybrid publisher

All categories

WiDo Publishing / E.L. Marker logo WiDo Publishing / E.L. Marker

250 copies • Completed manuscript.
E.L. Marker™, WiDo Publishing’s new imprint, is a hybrid publisher established to meet the needs of authors in a changing publishing climate. Now, more than ever, writers are seeking a blend between self-publishing and traditional publishing. They want an option that offers the higher royalties and greater control associated with self- publishing, while enjoying the prestige and quality provided by a traditional publisher.

Hybrid publisher

Literary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, History, Journalism, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Travel


Bookmobile logo Bookmobile

100 copies • Partial manuscript.
Bookmobile provides book printing, graphic design, and other resources to support book publishers in an ever-changing environment. Superior quality, excellent customer service, flexibility, and timely turnarounds have attracted nearly 1,000 satisfied clients to Bookmobile, including trade houses, university presses, independent publishers, museums, galleries, artists, and more. In addition, we manage eBook conversions and produce galleys, and regularly provide short-run reprints of 750 copies or fewer for major publishers such as Graywolf Press.

Service publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Science, Society & Culture, Sports & Outdoors, Technology & the Future, Travel


Gladiator Publishing Company logo Gladiator Publishing Company

Gladiator Publishing Co. has held a reputation in the Literary Industry for nearly 100 Years as a Writer-Loyal company. Nearly 100-years later, Gladiator Publishing Company still maintains that strong characteristic. We place our Authors publications first and foremost. You may hear many other "Publishing entities" state that they are "the first" to do this or the "originator/pioneer" of that. If everyone is using the same marketing, promotional, and advertising pipelines what makes them so original?

As the proud recipients of six-awards in 2018 for our innovative marketing techniques, media outreach, extremely low budget compared to the Global Industry Standard (72-83% cheaper), and an Author-inclusive style, it is no wonder we are the #1 Requested Publishing Service on the East Coast. We are staffed with industry-specific professionals that are dedicated to market and brand development.

Full Editing Services (substantive, copy, formatting, proofreading, story flow, line) are INCLUDED in the price. No hidden fees, no extra cost for something that Publishing Services should be more than happy to provide to benefit the manuscripts success. The industry has turned toward greed and away from literature. It's sick and inappropriate, it's ok to agree, they know it too.

Maintain 100% of your royalties in all formats.
Maintain 100% of your Copyrights, Intellectual Property, and Creative Control.

You be the Author and we'll be the Publisher.

Happy Writings!!

Service publisher

All categories

United States

Happy Self Publishing logo Happy Self Publishing

100 copies • Completed manuscript.
Happy Self Publishing has helped 500+ authors to get their books self-published, hit the #1 position in the Amazon bestseller charts, and also establish their author website & brand to grow their business. And the best thing is, we do all this without taking away your rights and royalties. Let's schedule a call to discuss the next steps in your book project:

Service publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Science, Society & Culture, Sports & Outdoors, Technology & the Future, Travel


Below, in their entirety, are the first two chapters of Introspection: Transformation.

Chapter 1: Transformation, sometime in the future

On his way to chemistry class, he was greeted with the typical onslaught of fellow students’ and faculty’s trite greetings: “Hey, Jake”, “How’s it going, Jake?”, and “What’s up, Jake?” These greetings did not occur solely while he was navigating to his chemistry class; they occurred whenever anyone saw him on school grounds. However, the walls ridden with campaign posters were a good distraction, especially since Jake found the girl running for Class President to be very attractive. Additionally, Jake had wireless ear buds in his ears. While he rarely ever was actually listening to music, he wanted to give the impression that he was listening to music in order to minimize interaction with other students.

Jake was numb to such greetings and desperately wished things could return to the way things were before the incident, when he was only visible to the people he cared about and who cared about him. While he knew each greeting was acknowledgement of his heroic act, and regret for what he endured, the incident was simply something he tried to forget until each anniversary of the day on which it occurred. He did not feel he was granted an opportunity to continue experiencing new things and new paths in store for himself; he felt the incident had eminently defined him and stagnated his life.

Next he knew, Jake was on the verge of falling asleep with his head on his desk in his seventh period advanced placement chemistry class, and a stream of highly viscous drool hanging down from his lips. Moments before falling asleep, Jake barely heard the words, “Today we’re going to revisit the topic of entropy,,” from Joel Plonsker, his teacher. 

“Jake, what is entropy?” Mr. Plonsker asked as a tactic to awaken Jake, although typically Jake was the only student either capable of, or interested in, answering any of Mr. Plonsker’s questions.

Immediately jolting his head from the top of his desk as if shocked by lightning, Jake answered, “Entropy is the degree of disorder, or randomness, in a system.”

After fixing the part in his scarce and greasy dark hair in a feeble attempt to combat his baldness, Mr. Plonsker continued.

“And what does that mean, Jake?” Mr. Plonsker probed in an effort to transition Jake away from solely relying on his photographic memory to translating complex concepts into terms that others could understand.

“Entropy serves as a measure of how close a system is to equilibrium, as well as a measure of the disorder in the system.”

“Very good, Jake. Very good!” was heard as Jake looked around to see his classmates rolling their eyes in disgust of his not just being Mr. Plonsker’s favorite student, but all teachers’ favorite student. His uneasy feelings were quickly relieved as he felt a spit ball penetrate through the bottom of his light, greasy looking blonde hair and smack against the back of his neck. The spit ball was moistened with the perfect amount of spit to affix itself on his neck until Jake peeled it off of his skin.

As Mr. Plonsker transitioned into his lecture, all Jake could think about was the uncertainty of the future of his relationship with Julie Loren, his high school’s valedictorian and school mate since the second grade. They took the awkward leap from being friends to pursuing a romantic relationship at the beginning of his current junior year of high school.

Seeing that Jake was distracted, Mr. Plonsker asked, “Jake, what is absolute zero?” 

After a moment of silence, Mr. Plonsker repeated in a sarcastic high-pitched tone, “Oh Jake? What is absolute zero?”

Jake snapped out of his trance and responded, “Absolute zero occurs at zero entropy.”

“Meaning…” Mr. Plonsker inquired of Jake, while casting a glare amidst a visual expression of frustration.

“Meaning that no system can exist at absolute zero; I mean, life as we know it cannot exist at absolute zero.”

“Very good, Jake. Very good!” was followed by barely audible moans among Jake’s classmates.

Given that class was nearing its end, and given the angst regarding the current state of his relationship with Julie, Jake blurted, “I need to go to the bathroom!”, stormed out of class, and scrambled to his car parked in the high school student parking lot.  Deciding to skip his eighth period advanced placement biology class, Jake drove his car where he always went when he was troubled, which was Cherokee Park in Louisville, KY, and quickly immersed himself into the nearby deeply wooded area.

"I’m such an idiot! What’s my problem?" Jake said to himself as he skipped a rock in a nearby creek. 

Not knowing what was straining his relationship with Julie, he simply assumed it was his fault. 

"Why did I ask her to be my girlfriend? I should have just kept things as friends! Hell, we’re both going to college in a year and a half, and at that point, our relationship will have no chance at surviving. What was I thinking?!"

Watching the rocks skip in the water and the ripples they created was very soothing to Jake. The sun was unobstructed atop the clouds and trees, creating a gold glittery canvas atop the water. Its reflection was nearly as bright as it was if one were to look directly into the sun itself. Just as Jake was regaining his composure, he was startled by a stirring noise he heard in a nearby bush.

“Who’s there?” Jake shouted after picking up a flimsy stick and rock from the ground.

There was no response, and Jake started to feel inexplicably dizzy.

“Whooze thur?” Jake repeated in a slurred fashion.

Just then, an elderly woman emerged from behind the bush.  She was very pale and appeared to be using all of her faculties to make her way to Jake.  She must have been close to 100 years old; she was nearly completely bald with sparse and very long strands of white hair hanging down from her scalp, which was ridden with brown age spots of various sizes. As she approached Jake while crawling along the grass, trying to avoid exposed tree roots, Jake was drawn to her by a force similar to what drives two droplets of water to reunite after being spilled on an impervious surface.

“Whoo ahh youuu? Whatz wong width youuu?” Jake’s slurred speech continued.

The elderly woman uttered no words and continued crawling closer to Jake, culminating in her grasping his hand.  Immediately following contact, the elderly woman transformed into a light blue gas. Jake felt a jolt of electricity, immediately became unconscious, and then collapsed to the ground.

Chapter 2: Discovery

“I don’t mean to appear insensitive, but why is Luallen convening a closed urgent-action meeting in the Pentagon of all places, regarding the commercial airliner crash last week,” Senior Master Sergeant Kent Jacobsen said while rushing to catch a cab. 

Kent was more concerned for his job security than he was about the purpose behind Chief Master Sergeant Greg Luallen convening the meeting itself. Chief Master Sergeant Luallen was a real hard-ass; he was one of the leading contributors to the attrition of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, and Kent simply did not want to become another addition to Luallen’s growing list of casualties. 

“I have no idea, but I’m sure he has damn good reason to!” Senior Master Sergeant Emily Tyson nervously responded, as she, too, was concerned for her longevity in the FBI.  “He’s not one to coordinate these meetings just to see attendees’ pretty faces!”

“Couldn’t he have picked another day for this meeting? It’s pouring outside and I’m buried in fieldwork!” Kent said, trying to convince himself whatever reason Luallen called for the meeting failed in comparison to his continuously growing inventory of commitments.

Emily did not respond to Kent’s rhetorical question; while she shared in Kent’s concern regarding the meeting that Luallen was organizing, she was uncomfortable discussing it with him. Emily did not want to intensify the stress that Kent was already suffering from.

Luallen was not known for coordinating closed urgent-action meetings, let alone ones that occurred at the Pentagon.  In the ten years he had held this rank within the United States Air Force, as well as in the two years he had been the United States Secretary of Defense, he had convened only three closed urgent-action meetings. Further, none of these three meetings were located at the Pentagon.

“Hey, wake up! What the hell’s wrong with you?” Kent shouted at the driver. 

Kent knew the driver was tired due to the cab slightly swerving, the faltering barrier allowing rain to contact the cab, the interior lights flickering, and the cab slowing down. 

“We’re on a schedule here, and today is not a good day to die!” Kent continued.

As if lightning struck the cab, the driver became alert, and all issues were eliminated. 

“I’m so sorry,” the driver responded. “I’m new to this technology; while these cars have been available for years, I only recently was able to afford one.”

Numerous advances had been achieved in neurotechnology in the past 20 years. This particular cab, while not equipped with the latest technology, was powered and controlled by the driver’s brain and physiology. This, and other alternatives, needed to be formulated due to increasing radiation interfering with satellite-controlled self-driving vehicles.

“Take it easy, Kent. I’m sure he hasn’t slept for days!” Emily interjected, sympathizing with the cab driver.

Not acknowledging Emily, Kent was deep in the process of self-inventorying in his mind all of the facts he could recall from the crash.

"Boeing 777-200 aircraft with two Pratt & Whitney PW4070/4090 turbofan engines, 326 passengers, of which 12 were Tranquility Airlines crew members. No act of terrorism currently suspected due to reliable preliminary findings indicating flawed integrity of the metal comprising one of the wings of the aircraft, causing formation of fatigue cracks leading to wing failure. Review of the audio and video flight recorders did not reveal anything suspicious within the aircraft or related to any communications between the aircraft pilots and air traffic control…"

Emily put her hand on Kent’s hand.

“We’re here,” she uttered in a tone similar to one that would be used when entering a movie currently underway in a theater.

Kent’s entire body quivered as if he had just reacted to a frightening scene in a horror movie.  While Kent’s inventorying process was interrupted, he was convinced there was no foul play involved regarding the crashed airliner. Kent was convinced that the plane crash was unfortunately due to a manufacturing or human error.  This stated, he was very concerned about the reason for Luallen arranging this meeting.

Kent and Emily left the cab and proceeded to get drenched by the rain while entering the Pentagon.

“I hate this place; I always feel like I’m at a cemetery when I’m here!” Kent said as he began shaking the rain off of his clothes.

“You are such high-maintenance, Kent. Sometimes I think you’re the woman in our partnership!” Emily quickly responded.

“This way, please,” A security guard commanded.

“Ok, take it easy. Can’t I dry myself off first?” Kent shouted towards the security guard, more out of embarrassment from Emily’s comment and his inability to quickly formulate and vocalize an effective retort.

After drying himself off, the security guard led them through the main lobby, a security checkpoint, and then into a corridor. The corridor led to a series of elevators requiring very rare security clearance that both Kent and Emily had been granted in order to attend the urgent-action meeting convened by Luallen.  With an expressionless face, the security guard gestured Kent and Emily to enter into the elevator.

“Level 12-C? Levels 12-A through 12-E? I’ve never seen that before!” Emily expressed after focusing her attention on the digital elevator panel. “It’s always just been ‘level 12’ from what I’ve seen,” she continued. “You know…”

She was cut off by the tone that sounded; the elevator indicated the level of interest had been reached. The security guard entered a device into a jack that only became visible to Kent and Emily once the device was in close proximity to the elevator panel. Upon entering the device into the jack, the elevator doors opened; the security guard left the elevator, placing his back to the chamber within which the retractable elevator door receded, and he motioned Kent and Emily forward.

“It’s pitch dark in here,” Kent said immediately after leaving the elevator.

“Forgive me,” the security guard responded. A quick succession of three ringing tones sounded from his mobile device, and lights illuminated throughout the area. Kent’s eyes were met with a long sterile corridor. Several hallways extended on either side of him and Emily as they walked through the corridor.

Kent’s stomach sank once he noticed a heavily guarded door since he assumed that was where Luallen’s urgent-action meeting was located. Sure enough, as they became closer to protected area, two security guards opened the door.

Immediately after entering through the door, Luallen sarcastically greeted Kent and Emily, “Pleased you two could join us!”

Rather than establishing eye contact with Luallen in response to his sarcastic greeting, the first person Kent and Emily saw upon entering the room was the President of the United States; she was sitting at the far end of a multi-purpose table facing them.

“What in the hell is she doing here?” Kent said softly to Emily.

“I’m the President of the United States; I believe that affords me clearance to be wherever the hell I want to be at any time, does it not?” President Elyse Claring responded.

“Please forgive me, Ms. President,” Kent shamefully replied with his head down and him facing the floor.

“Are you going to sit down, or are you going to continue delaying our meeting?” Luallen said in a raised voice.

While making their way to two vacant seats left for them at the table, both Emily and Kent could not help but notice President Claring’s expression. It was reasonable for anyone present to assume that President Claring was upset with Kent’s remark, however, she appeared to be visibly troubled by something else. Seemingly looking directly at Emily and Kent as they made their way to their assigned seats, the President was in a daze, absently looking right through them to some random point along the wall she decided to focus upon.

“This isn’t going to be good,” Kent muttered under his breath to Emily as they both proceeded to the chairs marked with placards bearing of their respective names on top of the dark brown stained mahogany table.  

Both Kent and Emily were not only surprised by President Claring’s presence, but also due to the fact that all five of United States armed service branches were represented in person by their respective senior ranking officials, something Kent himself did not recall ever previously occurring.

“I’m sure all of you have pressing questions,” Luallen said tentatively.  

His voice cracked during this statement while he appeared to be completely numb with an expressionless, yet severely scarred and nearly entirely callused face ridden with gashes, complemented by his chiseled chin and two partial ears. He was tall and muscular, and slender at the waist; Luallen was a very intimidating person who always commanded a dominating presence.

“Luallen demonstrating signs of shock? Weakness? Unprecedented,” Kent whispered to Emily. 

“Is this really happening?” Kent continued.

Anyone who served with Luallen, and all who knew him, were acutely aware of his fearlessness. Statistics would indicate that Luallen should have been killed in action at least sixteen times over.  Tour after tour, when seemingly nearly all fellow pilots and soldiers died around him, Luallen inexplicably found ways to survive. While typically prisoners of war do not live to see the day to once again walk on United States soil, Luallen survived being a prisoner of war on three separate occasions.

None of his subordinates ever questioned his judgement, as they knew second-hand from understanding Luallen’s history that being assigned under his command yielded their best chances for survival. Further, all who served under his command never saw Luallen succumb to, acknowledge, or express any fear whatsoever. While neither Kent nor Emily had ever served under Luallen’s direction, they knew plenty about him since he was a living legend. Possessing this understanding of Luallen’s history, and the respect he garnered from all who knew him, made his visible and audible fear that much more disconcerting.

“I am sure many of you are wondering why I have asked you to attend this closed urgent-action meeting. Rather than try to conjure an explanation, I ask each of you to watch this video carefully,” perspiration accumulated just above Luallen’s brow. 

While he was always known to convey an unwavering pillar of strength, at this moment he was shaken and uncertain of himself. He had an air about him that gave all who were in attendance the impression that he was second-guessing himself regarding why he had coordinated this meeting.

There was dead silence that seemed to linger for days, while only a matter of seconds had elapsed.

“Greg,” President Claring said at a heightened volume in an attempt to break Luallen from a visibly haunting trance.

“Yes, Ms. President,” Luallen barely audibly responded. 

“This video was captured from the audio-video flight recorder located in the front of the aircraft, whose lens was facing the passengers,” Luallen concluded.

Due to the frequency of airline crashes drastically increasing from 2020 through 2035, the Federal Aviation Administration sanctioned the design and manufacturing of flight recorders that could capture video, in addition to audio, throughout the fuselage and cockpits of all commercial airliners.  Prototypes were designed in 2036, and the first audio-video flight recorder was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2037.

The video began approximately 45 seconds before something noticeably went awry with the trajectory of the plane.  For reasons unknown, only audio was being captured by the flight recorder throughout the recording up to the point that was currently being broadcasted.  Based upon the sounds made by the aircraft itself, the plane appeared to experience a series of abrupt and violent jolts.  After analyzing data received from the flight recorder, the aircraft was at an altitude of approximately 37,000 feet at this point in the recording.

Screams among the passengers could be heard.  Luallen then fast-forwarded the recording 21 minutes following the first occurrence of the jolts and passengers’ initial screams. Shortly after resuming, visible images could finally be seen in the recording. Passengers could be seen screaming, bracing themselves in their seats, and crying hysterically while the plane was completely rotating about its length approximately every five seconds.

Many passengers who did not have their seat belts fastened prior to the plane beginning spinning could be seen unconscious with their bloody and distorted limp bodies violently colliding with seats, other passengers, the floor, and the inner ceiling throughout the aircraft.  Sounds of bones and ligaments being crushed and further disintegrated each time a limp passenger’s body impacted a surface nearly outweighed the cries of the remaining living passengers.

The entire interior of the aircraft was engulfed by streaks of blood. In each subsequent instant, the number and volume of cries from the passengers decreased as, one-by-one, they were rendered unconscious. Sensing that everyone watching the video was more focused on the horrifying sounds captured in the recording than on what had been visibly recorded, President Claring addressed the group. 

 “Did every one see what just happened in this video?” President Claring asked, noticing that Luallen was not watching the video. 

Luallen had already watched the video dozens of times and was visibly disturbed by what he had seen.

“I apologize, Ms. President, but I didn’t see anything of particular significance, other than the horrible pain, suffering, and deaths among the passengers,” Kent said with complete mystery on his face, still wondering why the closed urgent-action meeting was convened.

“Rewind the video ten seconds,” President Claring directed to a FBI data analyst operating the controls of the video recording. 

“Pay close attention to these two areas of the screen,” President Claring instructed while pointing to the referenced two areas of interest using her laser pointer.

What happened within those ten seconds was inexplicable. The progression of the video was transitioned to slow motion.  Due to the spinning and violent jolting of the aircraft, the line of sight of the video camera changed and new images appeared in the video at the two areas of interest identified by President Claring.

Something alarming soon became visible; in an instant, what appeared to be some type of gas could be seen in the two noted locations within the aircraft.  The gas was immobile, contained within a rather small area, and bright blue in color.  While the gas was not moving, and understanding the crash was due to wing failure, it was difficult to not assume that the crash was somehow caused by these two concentrations of what appeared to be a toxic gas.

In another one minute and 22 seconds, the chilling sound of the impact of the aircraft into the ground could be heard.  The silence of all remaining signs of human life was deafening as the projected image became still and lifeless.  Within moments, all that could be seen were all of the bodies and other contents of the plane becoming engulfed by flames.

The video was immediately replaced by a still image containing the two areas inhabited by the gas.

“We have confirmed that the crash was indeed due to flawed integrity of the metal comprising one of the wings of the aircraft, causing formation of fatigue cracks, leading to wing failure, as has been reported to the public,” Luallen said with a blank face. 

“We have also confirmed that the gas contained in the aircraft, as may be seen in this image, played no role whatsoever in the failure of the wing.  No terrorist activity is suspected to have occurred. Dr. Agon, please take it from here,” Luallen concluded.

“At the time my team of scientists arrived at the scene of the wreckage, what may be seen in this image as blue gas, we assume had changed into a viscous blue liquid, as you can see here,” Dr. Alastair Agon, Nobel Peace Prize winning Chemist and former Harvard University professor of Science, said with intrigue and insatiable curiosity in his voice, as he transitioned from one image to the other. 

“The recovered liquid consisted of materials that could not be identified,” Dr. Agon said while holding up a transparent glass vial within which the foreign blue liquid was completely enclosed.

“What do you mean the materials cannot be identified?” Kent said dismissingly.

“Um, elements comprising the liquid are not in our periodic table,” Dr. Agon responded after a moment of uncomfortable hesitation and silence.

Nearly everyone at the table looked at each other, absent of understanding what Dr. Agon had just explained.

“We believe this liquid is of extraterrestrial origin,” President Claring uttered faintly, as if she did not want anyone to hear, knowing how preposterous it must have sounded to everyone learning of this assessment for the first time.

  • Amy Shir
    on Jan. 16, 2018, 4:27 p.m.

    Way to go, Steven! I’m so proud of you!

  • James Comer
    on Jan. 16, 2018, 5:18 p.m.

    This is only the beginning my friend!!! I can't wait to get my copy!!!

  • Allie Hamburg
    on Jan. 16, 2018, 9:42 p.m.

    So excited for people to be able to read this!!

  • Stan Shkolnik
    on Jan. 17, 2018, 2:15 a.m.

    Looking forward to the package! Way to go Steve. Very proud of you.

  • Scott Frager
    on Jan. 17, 2018, 3:24 p.m.

    Just ordered my signed copy and can't wait to receive it! It's going to be like X-Mas all over again!

  • Judy Tyson
    on Jan. 17, 2018, 5:26 p.m.

    Can't wait to read the book! We are all very excited!! Congrats!

  • Edward Bertsch
    on Jan. 19, 2018, 8 p.m.

    Can't wait to read your book, Steve. When you roll into Minneapolis for a book tour, let's get together!

  • Gary Tyson
    on Jan. 19, 2018, 10:10 p.m.

    Super excited to read Introspection!!

  • Laura McMinn
    on Jan. 20, 2018, 10:09 p.m.

    Good luck, Steve! Can't wait to read it!

  • Andy Schwartz
    on Jan. 21, 2018, 12:19 a.m.

    Very much looking forward to this!! Congratulations!

  • Jeremy Robinson
    on Jan. 21, 2018, 5:44 p.m.

    So impressed with your accomplishment! I have always thought about writing a novel, but just don't have it in me. I look forward to reading it.

  • Steve Fretzin
    on Jan. 22, 2018, 5:27 p.m.

    Very excited to read this work of art you've written. You're the man!

  • Jacob Furst
    on Jan. 24, 2018, 8:04 p.m.

    You, go! You never let on! The conversations we could have had. ;-)

  • Cathleen Fox
    on Jan. 26, 2018, 2:05 a.m.

    Way to go, Steve! Love what you are doing :)

  • Barbra Stark
    on Jan. 26, 2018, 6:52 p.m.

    Good luck Steve! We're excited for you and wish you much success!

  • Adam Poders
    on Jan. 28, 2018, 12:45 a.m.

    Thanks for the ore-order!! Looking forward to reading the whole book. Have a great weekend!!

  • Judy Noelle
    on Jan. 31, 2018, 4:49 a.m.

    I will look forward to the first of your trilogy. Perhaps our book club will read it and request your attendance for a discussion. Can’t wait to get my copy.