Hi Everyone! We have only weeks away until the Geometric Storm…I mean book launch of the fourth and final book of “The Hypothesis of Giants” series, “The Integration!” I am so excited to give you this sneak peek inside this thrilling final installment of my series. Below is the opening Prologue of the novel! It is dated 15 years prior to the setting of the series and this scene gives you an inside look at what happened at the infamous Last Straw Protest. Enjoy, and “The Integration” is scheduled to be released February 1st, 2020 in e-book and paperbook! Stay Tuned and thank you for being a part of this incredible journey! =)
The Last Straw Protest
Fifteen Years Earlier
St. Patrick’s Cathedral was one of the last remaining churches in the United States of the Common Good. It stood tall like a beacon of hope as all other churches, mosques, temples, and places of worship transitioned to meeting houses for the Common Good. Its huge neo-Gothic spires reached upwards toward the heavens, encouraging the people assembled at its threshold to rise up and fight for their rights to freedom of speech and religion.
Fawn Stockington exited a car as a mob of protestors rushed past, holding signs and screaming rehearsed chants: “The IDEAL doesn’t speak for me!” and “Religion doesn’t kill!” Their voices crescendoed as people pushed and shoved to get through, to get a look at the famed protest leader, David Xiomy.
Fawn whirled around, and through the sea of faces, she made out her husband, Henry Stockington. Eight years her senior, Henry looked agitated but still perfect in a straight-pressed indigo suit with his short blond hair gelled to the side. His wire-rimmed glasses held firmly over his pointed nose as his blue eyes stared back at her. For a brief, fanciful moment, Fawn imagined him as the embodiment of the bronze Atlas statue that faced them across Fifth Avenue, a man holding the weight of the world on his shoulders.
He clasped the hand of their two-year-old son, Jonathan, as he approached her, the young toddler dragging his feet behind him. Jonathan’s beautiful face and blond hair flowing whimsically in the wind drew glances from protestors scurrying past. His turquoise eyes stared beseechingly up at his mom as he reached his tiny hand out to her, but his father ordered him to stay still. He did so obediently.
“Fawn, we need to get out of here,” Henry exclaimed, wiping a bead of sweat from his brow on that blustery hot July day. “We shouldn’t be here.”
“I told you not to come,” Fawn said, loud enough to be heard over the clamorous crowd. She had returned to her regular slim pre-pregnancy figure, wearing a white flowing dress as she held their six-month-old baby boy, Boreas, in her arms. Despite the scorching heat and the fatigue caused by midnight feedings, she had convinced herself she needed to be here. Boreas slept angelically in her arms as she carefully moved him into the baby wrap carrier she wore over her chest. Errant strands of jet black hair peeked out of the baby bonnet on his head, worn to protect him from the overbearing sun.
She needed to find David. She didn’t know if she would get another chance. She needed to ask for his forgiveness. And she knew she would have to face Rana as well, and that thought made it even more painful to move forward.
Henry grabbed her arm, protectively. “If Inspector Herald sees us . . .”
She pulled her arm back and glared at him. “Henry, I need to be here. This was my cause before . . .” She took a deep breath. “I can’t explain this to you now.”
As if reading between the lines, he mumbled, “Because you want to be near him? Near David?”
Jonathan was getting fidgety, and Henry picked him up in his arms. The toddler arched his back in protest, swinging his arm, which accidentally knocked his father’s glasses off the bridge of his nose and caused them to hang lopsided over his face. Fawn instinctively fixed them back upright.
“Henry, we’ve been through this. I married you!”
“Are you still in love with him?”
Fawn didn’t answer right away, grateful that someone pushed past them at that moment. Henry went into protective mode, yelling at the protestor to be careful, that Fawn was holding a baby. When he stared back at her, Fawn remembered why she married him. He was so caring and compassionate and was there for her when her best friend Rana had married David. That marriage had prompted Fawn to leave the cause three years earlier. When she married Henry and got pregnant with Jonathan right away, things had been better, even though her heart still ached. She nervously caressed Boreas’s head, holding close her secret that she couldn’t reveal to Henry—not now, not ever.
“Henry, you know I was friends with David before I married you. I just need to tell him something, and then I’ll never speak to him again. Okay?”
Henry nodded reluctantly, holding onto Jonathan a little closer, controlling what he could while the woman he loved was slipping away from him.
“I love you, Fawn,” he said somberly, a frown etched on that pristine face. “But sometimes I think I was just a consolation prize. That I will one day still lose you to him.”
Fawn didn’t know what to say to that, but she knew that she was a mother and a wife first. Nothing would ever change that.
“I’ll be back in five minutes” was all she could say, putting an arm protectively around Boreas who was still strapped to her chest, preparing to push through the crowd.
Henry stared at her in dismay, not wanting that to be her answer. He fixed his glasses on the bridge of his nose. “This isn’t your cause anymore, Fawn!”
“I know!” Fawn shouted back, though a part of her wished she was still on the front lines of this with David by her side and believing in something. Trying to help save this world.
David always made it sound so simple to be a leader, to be strong despite the world falling apart around them. It was safer for Fawn to watch things from the sidelines, especially when Inspector Herald created the new capital for the Common Good government in their hometown of Candlewick. David stayed true to his movement even after being imprisoned and tortured with the soul extractor serum more than a year earlier. Luckily he had been released since there was not enough evidence of wrongdoing to keep him locked up or worse. Fawn was relieved about that, but David was taking a big risk being here today. She knew Inspector Herald would not take this protest lightly. This protest meant that some people, like David, would not succumb to the fear that Herald and the IDEAL had built their campaign on. Stoking the fear of the masses had catapulted them to power, giving them the ability to make radical changes to a country built upon the foundation of freedom. Long ago, the American Revolutionary leader Benjamin Franklin had said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” And that’s just what the followers of the Inspector had done, what she had done by leaving the cause.
Fawn turned back to see Henry give her a disapproving glance as he held onto a squirming Jonathan, the boy’s blond hair blowing from air released through a grate by a New York City train that sailed underneath. If only we could gather underground somewhere, she thought sadly, though nothing was safe from Herald’s clutches anymore.
She searched madly for any sign of David as the cacophonous symphony of protest chants grew louder. There must be a thousand people gathered on Fifth Avenue, as people from all across the country and the world stood together in harmony and peace to protest the establishment. Fawn couldn’t help but notice soldiers from the Common Good Army stationed on the outskirts of the police barricades, clad in the new colors of indigo and orange, their machine guns slung on their sides. She knew Herald was there somewhere, waiting and watching, hoping for David to make a misstep so that he could lock him up or worse, execute him. It was like removing David was the last piece of the puzzle that he needed to have full authority over the people. David was the rock the people needed, and Fawn secretly loved him so much for that.
She put her hand on Boreas’s back, realizing more and more that her timing was the farthest from perfect, but she had no other choice. Henry was already jealous of David. And Fawn’s past relationship with David, even if it was only based on friendship, was still a sore spot for him. Fawn had been just David’s childhood friend and ally in the cause. Though in her heart she had believed there had been something more. And then that one night when everything changed.
At that moment the clouds parted, and a single stream of sunlight illuminated David, singling him out in the rambunctious crowd. He stood strong and sturdy like a rock itself, and his features were a combination of the best of all nationalities and races, an enigma in a world that wanted to separate itself based on color or religion. His dark hair spiraled down the slope of his neck, resting on his broad shoulders, and his honey-gold eyes shone out like a beacon of hope. David dressed stark and unembellished, wearing a plain white shirt and jeans, not looking for the limelight but to be the voice for the people —his appearance in polar contrast to the ostentatious Inspector Herald. David encompassed the best of them all, and his beauty was not just otherworldly but magnified by a sense of inner peace and love that he gave to the world. Only in his early-twenties, David stood majestically in front of the ornately carved bronze double doors of St. Patrick’s Cathedral as cheers rang up from the crowd.
It was complete pandemonium, and Fawn could feel the Common Good soldiers tightening their grips on their weapons as their number one threat appeared before them.
A woman cried out, “Speak, IMAM, speak!”
Chanting of “IMAM, IMAM” rang out as David’s enigmatic eyes scanned the crowd, standing tall on that top step with Rana by his side. A hijab covered Rana’s golden hair, although some loose strands made their way out of their bonds and were blowing in the wind. She dressed in the colors of the United States of America, clad in a red flowing gown spattered with white and blue stars. Her amethyst eyes beamed with love for her husband. Fawn backed up farther into the crowd to try to hide from her former best friend’s gaze. She felt guilt overwhelm her, trying to gather enough courage to do what she had come here to do.
Just then, she felt someone tap her on the shoulder and whirled around to see David’s brother, Sampson, staring at her disapprovingly. He was much taller than David, with a strong, muscular build, scraggly raven black hair and deep chestnut eyes. Sampson was always a mystery to her. He tagged along behind David, but Sampson was always worried, always negative, hanging to the rear on all issues, never taking a stand the way David did. Yet, David trusted him, loved him dearly and needed his older brother in his corner since it was difficult to trust anyone else.
Sampson appeared even more irritated and worried than usual. “What are you doing here, Fawn?” He asked abruptly.
“Hi, Sampson,” she replied, soothing Boreas as he began to fuss. “I just need to talk to David—”
“You need to get out of here, Fawn. How could you bring a baby here? This is too dangerous.”
“Dangerous? It’s a peaceful protest,” she snapped, wishing Sampson would grow a backbone. “Even Inspector Herald wouldn’t be stupid enough to cause a scene here. He cares too much about his image.”
David needed his brother to be strong, and she could tell his courage was failing him. Sampson had confided in Fawn that he was worried David was going too far. They both had worried about that, fearing for his safety, but Fawn left the cause for other reasons. Fawn left it because she couldn’t be with the man she loved and it was too painful to stay.
“Sampson, why are you so nervous? Did something happen?”
“Just a threat, which is nothing new for my brother.”
A horse whinnied on the sidelines, and Sampson instinctively turned. Fawn spotted a glint of a gun handle in Sampson’s back pocket. Her eyes widened, and she held her baby closer to her chest, a part of her realizing how dire the situation was.
“Sampson, I care about him too. What is this threat? Is it from the Inspector?”
“David can’t compete with the Inspector!” Sampson’s eyes emblazoned with fear. “I wish he would listen to me. He only ever listened to you. I wish you never left the cause, Fawn. Or maybe I wish . . .”
Fawn waited for him to finish, but Sampson was preoccupied staring now at his brother prophesizing like the Sermon on the Mount. His gaze darted to the Common Good Army stationed at the perimeter, at Inspector Herald waiting like a hawk to devour his prey.
“Sampson . . . what is it? What do you wish?”
He scowled at Fawn with a look of disgust and snapped, “I wish I left with you when I had the chance. Now, it’s too late. Get out of here, Fawn. Before it’s too late for you too.”
He darted through the crowd before she could stop him, Boreas shifting and cooing in her arms as she held him close while she fought tears in her eyes from Sampson’s confession. She had left David and the cause when they needed her most. She had been such a coward. Her eyes darted over to the Common Good. Those young soldiers expertly scanning the crowd, batons in holsters and rifles slung over their shoulders ready to retaliate at the sign of trouble. What had she been thinking coming here? And with Boreas? The crowd appeared oblivious to the threat of the Common Good surrounding their perimeter, and here were Fawn and Boreas in the nucleus of this ring of fire. Sampson was right. She must be out of her mind. Or desperate to tell David the truth. He deserved to know.
Before she could change her mind and leave, David held up his hand, and the crowd nearly instantly was silenced. His jet black hair was flowing in the wind, though there was hardly a breeze on that brutally hot day. However, it was like the wind obeyed him for that moment, and he looked like a god in that city with a backdrop of aluminum and steel.
He spoke so eloquently, tugging at your heart and mind with each word so that you couldn’t help but lean forward to listen.
“They say this is our last stand. They are calling it, ‘The Last Straw Protest,’ but this is only the beginning of our fight for our rights. Here we stand at one of the magnificent structures built as a place of worship. St. Patrick’s is a cathedral, a place of worship for all Christians, but here we are united: Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and nonbelievers all standing together for the right to practice what we believe in. This is our right! Our freedom!”
People erupted in cheers as the pack of police dogs that accompanied the Common Good Army howled, getting restless. Fawn sunk deeper into the crowd and then her eyes rose up to behold Inspector Herald, his striking face smiling at this spectacle before him. At his six-foot-seven-inch height, he was like a giant amongst men, dressed in a finely pressed black suit, the tie emblazoned with the Common Good colors of indigo and orange. Adorning his shoulders was his signature long trench coat that he wore despite the unbearable heat. He was speaking with one of the media spokespeople—the media he was controlling—and Fawn was surprised he was even allowing coverage of this protest
Fawn draped her black hair over her eyes, to avoid recognition in that crowd. Knowing what it would mean if she and her husband were seen to be protesting with David Xiomy. Her husband and Herald were childhood friends, having grown up in Candlewick, formerly Long Island. The two boys had been inseparable, but Herald had big dreams and ambitions and after graduation moved to Washington, D.C. to study law and prepare for a political career track. He married young and had a son, but that marriage fell apart since Herald’s time was consumed by work. Henry had lost touch with Herald for several years, but everything changed when religious fanatics bombed the Towers of Freedom.
Herald lost his child when those towers fell and didn’t long for affection or love because of that loss—he longed for answers, for vengeance. Herald changed his name to Inspector Herald and left Washington, D.C. to campaign along with the mysterious IDEAL that no one ever saw, to enforce their new agenda for the country. Henry, who was still settled in Candlewick, was recruited by his childhood friend to keep an eye on the uprising starting back home, being led by a young man named David Xiomy. And that was how Fawn and Henry had met, getting close while she was working side by side with David.
When Fawn left the protest movement and married Henry at nineteen years old, it was only then that she really met Inspector Herald. Henry warned her that his childhood friend had grown bitter and angry following the loss of his son. Fawn could never befriend the angry and bitter Herald, despite her countless efforts. They fought too much on issues, to a point where Henry was worried about his young wife’s safety. He stopped inviting Inspector Herald over for dinners and instead met with him at the newly constructed Common Good government building in Candlewick.
Herald preached about a better world through the United States of the Common Good, but Fawn knew secretly he only longed for revenge and justice on his own terms.
David lovingly held out his arms again to the crowd as he stated, “We can’t be afraid.” He daringly pointed to Inspector Herald. David was never afraid, though the rest of the crowd looked tense and shifted uncomfortably as the knowledge spread that the Inspector was in their midst. “Inspector Herald, the IDEAL and all those in the Common Good party want us to be afraid. To live in fear. That’s the world they would want us to live in. What kind of world will that be . . . for our children? For our grandchildren? We must continue to stand against them! United as one people, despite our backgrounds and our differences! We must stand indivisible, with liberty and justice for all!”
It seemed like the whole world erupted in cheers, like NYC itself was cheering from the pinnacles of the highest skyscrapers. It was a bridge of hope he was creating, and the people felt it. They felt it deep down in the depths of their souls. If only everyone could feel this way. If only . . .
David started shaking people’s hands, giving them hope, courage. Fawn took a deep breath, realizing it was now or never and proceeded toward him, people granting her passage once they noticed the baby. When she was just inches from him, Boreas kicked the blanket out of the wrap. As Fawn bent down to retrieve it from the ground, she spotted something strange out of the corner of her eye. It was a man with a dark hood covering his face. She watched him, confused until he removed a gun from his pocket and Fawn gasped, realizing the target.
“DAVID!” Fawn screamed!
David glanced down and met Fawn’s gaze, then quickly shielded Rana with his body as the gunman raised the weapon. Realizing the element of surprise was gone, the masked man cowardly fired up into the air with a bang! People screamed as more gunshots fired, the Common Good soldiers echoing the call of the masked gunman.
A woman wailed hysterically as a man was shot inches from where Fawn stood. Fawn was frozen, fearful she and her baby would be next. Blood pooled on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral as people charged past, trampling over bodies to escape the ongoing bloodbath. A symphony of chaos erupted of dogs barking and screams echoing over the discordant gunshots as people frantically ran down Fifth Avenue only to be caught by the ambush of methodically trained police dogs and soldiers.
Fawn snapped out of her stupor and hastily offered her hand to help a young woman whose leg had been injured. “We can’t go down!” she ordered the woman, realizing their only means for escape were through the cathedral. With the woman’s arm around her shoulder, they hobbled up the stairs as Fawn hastily scrutinized the massacre, salt stinging her throat as her heart was thumping nearly out of her chest as Boreas clung close to her bosom. Just as they reached the top of the marble staircase, a burly man banged into Fawn, the wind knocked out of her as she plummeted toward the concrete steps. Shielding Boreas, she landed on her back, her shoulder bashing against the step and taking the brunt of the fall. With all the strength she could muster, she rose to her feet, not knowing which way to turn when someone grabbed her arm from behind and pulled her into St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Alarmed, she whipped her head around to look over her injured shoulder and saw with relief that it was David who was pulling her out of harm’s way. He was continuing to be the leader the cause needed. He ushered more people behind the great bronze doors and then pulled them shut, locking them, as shots were fired, bullets becoming encased in the doors as well as the marble-clad brick protecting the inhabitants like a fortress. He ushered Fawn toward the Baptistery where iconic statues of Christian saints adorned the walls. Fawn collapsed near one statue depicting St. John the Baptist, candlelight flickering from the red-colored holders – the same color of blood that stained her shoes. Catching her breath, her eyes beheld the rose stained glass window situated gallantly over the bronze doorway. A sharp pain escalated from her injured shoulder and she huddled there with Boreas, her hand secured in David’s grasp. She then noticed blood stains smeared on David’s white dress shirt.
“Where’s Rana?” Fawn immediately feared for David’s wife and her former best friend. “She’s not…is she…?”
David stared at Fawn, a look of shock and fear on his face. “The Common Good apprehended her when she was trying to help me escape. It’s over!” he whispered, his face resting on her shoulder as the shadows drifted over his face, coming to the realization that the battle was lost.
And then his eyes rested on the baby’s. He pointed to Boreas and when Fawn nodded, put a shaking hand on Boreas’s forehead and gently caressed his cheek. David gazed up at Fawn, his soft golden-brown eyes staring at her in understanding.
They heard the priest of St. Patrick’s ushering any survivors through a secret door that led into the crypt beneath the cathedral’s altar. He called for David to follow but David stood up as a rainbow of light streamed down from the rose stained glass window and rested across those beautiful eyes, the window to his soul. “I’ll turn myself in,” his voice resounded, resolute. “It’s me they want. I’ll try to stop Herald from harming anyone else.”
His eyes peered down at Fawn still huddled near the baptistery with Boreas. “Follow the others into the crypt to stay hidden. Don’t be seen!”
“Da-David . . . I!” she stammered, “I’m sorry.”
“Lead, Fawn!” he said, grasping her hand, his eyes stared intensely into her own. “Do what you were born to do! They need you now.” Pointing again at Boreas, he said, “He needs you now!”
He pulled Fawn to her feet and together they raced down the center aisle and toward the cathedral’s main altar covered by a 57-foot bronze canopy. David quickly ushered her to the priest, who helped her through the two copper doors beneath the altar and into the narrow staircase that would lead her and the small group of survivors down to the billowing shadowed crypt.
Fawn held back at the doorway, not yet ready to descend down the staircase. She faced David…wanting to say something. Her heart begging her to stop him, to hold him one more time…to tell him how much she still loved him… when suddenly an explosion blasted from the entrance and the main bronze doors that had guarded this majestic and holy edifice crumbled before their eyes. Through the billowing smoke, an influx of Common Good soldiers charged into the cathedral. David immediately slammed shut the copper doors to hide Fawn and the survivors from the Common Good. Through the air hole of the hidden door, Fawn could see David square his shoulders, holding his hands up in surrender as the soldiers rushed with guns drawn to apprehend him.
Fawn waited fearfully in the hiding spot, afraid to breathe, as Boreas sucked on his fingers. The priest stood beside her in that tight enclosure, unable to move since footsteps could arouse suspicion from the officers, his hand on his cross. Boreas was whimpering and Fawn kissed her baby softly, beseechingly, and praying he wouldn’t cry and reveal their whereabouts. As if in understanding, his hazel eyes stared up into her own. Those eyes were hers, but his face was David’s.
Herald stepped forward, licking his front tooth with a triumphant look on his face, “I’ve waited too long for this day.”
David cried out, “We were here as a peaceful protest! You made it violent! I know you hired someone to try to kill me! Were you too afraid to do it yourself?”
Herald’s deadly laugh echoed in that cathedral, “I won’t make that mistake again. Your execution will be my finest hour.”
Herald suddenly signaled to one of his soldiers who dragged Rana Xiomy, having been apprehended by the Common Good. A large bloody gash was visible on the side of her face, like she had given everything she could to buy David time.
“David!” Rana’s desperate cry for her husband reverberated in that giant gothic edifice.
David cried out as he struggled against the men holding him, “Let her go, Herald. You have me. But let her go!”
“If she cooperates,” Herald said darkly. “Finally I can lead this country the way I was meant to.”
“This country will never truly be yours, Herald. Or the IDEAL’s,” David cried out courageously. “You can force people to follow you, but there will always be resistance, even without me. People will always fight to be free.”
Inspector Herald glared at him. “And they will be free from radicals like you. This country is mine now. They will follow me . . . or die. Take him away! And his traitorous wife and followers.”
Fawn then heard an agonizing wail as Rana was separated from David. The officers stampeded down the long aisle as they led their prisoners outside.
Fawn rocked Boreas softly until he fell asleep in her arms. Her head was spinning. She gazed at the priest and other protestors crammed in that tight space, afraid they would be next. Afraid they, too, would fall victim to the Inspector’s wrath. It felt like hours until there was only silence above them and the priest slowly gave the signal and they maneuvered down the narrow staircase to the deep underground. The doors slid open and Fawn disembarked with the others where they were met by a sea of other protestors, fearful and huddled close together in that dark dungeon-like crypt.
Fawn stood up and slowly made her way around the circle to soothe Boreas and the other protestors by giving them some peace of mind that the Inspector didn’t know they were hiding beneath St. Patrick’s Cathedral. That they were safe here in this sanctuary but that they all needed to band together to find a way out. She also revealed to the others that David had been arrested as well as many other protestors. That their friends’ fates were still unknown but that they would find a way to help them. Along with the priest, whom she discovered was named Father Thomas, Fawn began to search for a way out of the crypt. As they searched down the long narrow passage lit by red candles, Fawn assumed the role of leader as people turned to her for hope. Despite the haunting foreboding of the eerily lit tunnel, the passage illuminated shadows of biblical stories and memorials of past religious leaders. The awe-inspiring biblical stories of love and peace and hope helped replace the images of horror she had just witnessed. It felt like a safe haven from the perils of this world.
The scent of incense wafted in her nose, making her dizzy. As she leaned against the side of a wall to catch her breath, Fawn closed her eyes and pictured an underwater castle. It would be right under Herald’s nose, off the coast of Candlewick, beneath the Atlantic Ocean. There, she could salvage relics like those in the Cathedral as well as people from all religions, keeping those sacred artifacts safe and the people in peace. Safe to start again and pick up where David had left off.
Just then her phone buzzed in her pocket, knocking her back to the crypt and her present crisis. They were higher in elevation now and she had cellular service again. She knew it was Henry making sure she was safe, but she couldn’t go back to the way things were. These moments had revealed to her more than she was willing to realize. Fear had been holding her back, not love. And now it would be love guiding her forward. And the path would be the hardest she would ever face.
Fawn stood tall as her destiny was revealed to her like a candle illuminating her path through that dark abyss. She began walking, and soon saw light up ahead and knew they had found the exit to the tunnel on the south side of the cathedral. She was ready to take on the burden that David had passed on to her. “I’ll lead for you, David. Because I love you. For Boreas’s sake . . . and for the world.”