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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

A Spectrum of Heroes by Annie Percik - Book Tour + Giveaway



Science-Fiction

Date Published: 09-06-2021

Publisher: Markosia Enterprises



Biochemist Anushka Mahto flees the lab where she works, stealing the mysterious substance she has been experimenting on. She accidentally contaminates herself while disposing of it, in an attempt to protect the world at large from its potentially harmful effects. On the run from her unethical boss, Anushka must learn to control her multiple new powers while being hunted by lab security chief and former lover, Charlotte. She calls on her sister for help, but Jhanvi is reluctant to open old wounds by allowing Anushka back into her life. When an alien named Ergo comes onto the scene, Anushka suddenly finds the fate of humanity resting in her hands. Can she navigate the complex problems in her personal relationships and also prevent an interstellar war?


Excerpt

P1 - May 2019 - North London 

Slick mud oozed between Anushka’s fingers as she dug. Why hadn’t she thought to  bring a spade? She’d rushed to escape the lab, without considering practicalities. Damn  Yardley and his ultimatum! If only she’d had more time, she could have planned her  departure properly. Now she was winging it, and that had never been one of her strong points.  Her back ached from stooping and the darkness made it difficult to see what she was doing.  She leaned further forwards and nearly toppled into the hole. She sat back on her haunches,  her breaths coming short and fast. Injuring herself and ending up stuck here until daylight  would be all she needed. She shivered in the night air. Even after years living in London, she  still missed the heat of Kolkata. A flood of sense memories threatened to overwhelm her and  she felt tears pricking her eyes. But now was not the time to indulge in nostalgia. Taking a  deep breath, Anushka pushed back her feelings and her long dark hair, and turned her  attention back to the task at hand. 

The hole was probably deep enough now. Anushka reached for the thick plastic sack  at her side and slid it into the depression. It was heavy and unwieldy, its liquid contents  shifting as she moved it. It snagged on something part way down. Reaching in, she felt  around and discovered a sharp root protruding from the earth. She managed to free the sack  and it settled at the bottom of the hole with a squelch and a waft of pungent chemicals.  Anushka swept her hair over her shoulder again. Tying it back was another thing she should  have done before starting. She really hadn’t thought this through. Everything had happened  so quickly and panic had overtaken reason in her flight. What was Charlotte going to think  when she arrived at work to find Anushka gone? She couldn’t think about that now, or she  might just give up this reckless plan and run back to the lab, regardless of the consequences.  Her scalp tingled, most likely with apprehension at the possibility of being discovered. Anushka shovelled dirt on top of the sack, making sure it was well covered. She did 

her best to make the ground look as undisturbed as possible, but it was hard to tell how well  she succeeded. Bringing a torch would have made her too visible to any security personnel,  and the lights along the fence were too far away to be much use out here in the field. She  wasn’t worried about her footprints in the dirt. Plenty of people traipsed back and forth along  here on a daily basis and nobody would be looking for her prints in particular, as long as it  wasn’t obvious someone had been digging. 

Deciding her efforts were good enough, Anushka stood up, wincing as her back  twinged again. She felt ridiculous, crawling around a field in the middle of the night, but it  was the only way she could think of to dispose of the XR-20. How long would it take for  someone to notice it was missing from the lab? Much as she might want to, she couldn’t go  back to work the next day and pretend no knowledge of the theft. Even though she hadn’t  been caught leaving the building, she was the only one who had access to the XR-20, and  security was tight enough that there was no way anyone else could have broken in to take it. 

She made her way back to the fence and the gap she had made. She slid through it and  back out onto the road. Jogging across and into the trees, she found where she had parked her  car and got in. She sat in the driver’s seat for a moment, trying to calm her breathing and  slow her heartbeat. What she had just done was hasty and ill-advised but it was too late now.  There was no turning back; she had burned all her bridges. Minutes later, she was speeding  away from the scene of the crime and everything she had built in the last few years of her life. # 

P2 - May 2019 - North London 

It was Charlotte Grant, the head of security at the lab, who first realised something  was wrong. She had been due to meet Anushka for breakfast in the lab canteen, as they did  most days, but Anushka didn’t show. This wasn’t entirely unprecedented, as Anushka often  came in early and got so engrossed in her work that she lost track of time. That was 

something Charlotte, with her military sense of punctuality, had been forced to get used to  when spending time with a research scientist. Charlotte waited another five minutes, then  headed to Anushka’s office with a rueful smile. 

She stepped up to the glass of the outer lab area and tapped on it, startling the nearest  anonymous assistant. He - at least Charlotte thought it was a he, though it was difficult to tell  under his surgical cap and mask - raised his eyebrows in a question. 

Charlotte called through the glass. “Can you go get Dr Mahto, please?” He shrugged and shook his head. When he spoke, his words were muffled by his  mask. “She’s not here.” 

That was odd. At this time of day, Anushka would invariably be in her office or the  lab proper, if she wasn’t having breakfast. Charlotte waved the assistant back to his work and  made her way to the central security hub, the heart of her domain at the lab. Several of her  team were at their stations, monitoring multiple screens that covered nearly every part of the  building. Charlotte walked up behind Perkins, whose screens showed the car park and main  entrance. She noticed that his hair was getting shaggy, tufting out over his ears. She made a  mental note to have a word with him about professional presentation later. Not that it ever did  much good. Perkins was very good at his job, but regulations weren’t his strong point, nor did  he seem to take any pride in his appearance. Charlotte shook her head; she had a different  errant employee to tackle at the moment. 

“Check the logs for when Dr Anushka Mahto last swiped in.” 

Perkins tapped in some commands. “2am.” 

Unusual, but not unheard of. The scientists at the lab were known to keep odd hours. “And has she swiped out since?” 

More tapping. “She left at 3am, and hasn’t come back.” 

Now that was really strange.

“Show me the feeds for both her arrival and her departure.” 

As she waited for Perkins to input the information, Charlotte started running her right  palm over the stumps of the last two fingers on her left hand, then stopped herself when she  realised what she was doing. She clenched both hands into fists, feeling her fingernails  digging into the skin of her palms, then dropped them to her sides. When the recordings came  up, Charlotte’s breath caught in her throat. Anushka had arrived carrying nothing and had left  an hour later with a large, heavy-duty plastic bag. On the screen, she stooped awkwardly to  one side, struggling to heft the bag, which she clutched with one hand grasping it by the top.  What on earth was she playing at, and where was she now? 

Charlotte swore, eliciting a surprised glance from Perkins. 

“What’s going on, boss? What’s Dr Mahto doing taking stuff out of the lab in the  middle of the night?” 

Charlotte glared at him and he blanched, turning back to his keyboard to avoid her  anger. 

“Alert Mr Yardley’s office that I’m on my way up. I think we have a breach.”



About The Author

Annie Percik lives in London, where she writes novels and short stories, whilst working as a freelance editor and proofreader (https://alobear.co.uk/?page_id=778). She writes a blog about writing on her website (https://alobear.co.uk/), which is where all her current publications are listed, including her debut fantasy novel, The Defiant Spark (http://getbook.at/DefiantSpark) and her sci-fi second novel, A Spectrum of Heroes (https://amzn.to/3xnJ9eb). She also makes a media review podcast with her husband, Dave (https://stillloveit.libsyn.com/), and publishes a photo-story blog, recording the adventures of her teddy bear (https://aloysius-bear.dreamwidth.org/). He is much more popular online than she is.

Contact Links

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Twitter @APercik

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Giveaway 

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