Who you are means discovering what you have become…
OFFICIAL BOOK SERIES PAGE
This is the place for the latest info on
the BLACK MARIAH Book Series!
The premise of the book series:
what the world does not see…
For the last decade
has been a savior for humankind.
The alien possesses incredible POWERS
The creature appears INVINCIBLE!
At least that is what most of the world believes.
The truth behind the lie --
ELEVEN HUMAN VOLUNTEERS
have been turned into
When the alien creature is killed…
another human volunteer is recruited.
Jeri Asher and Chris Dixon
are the best at what they do…
recruit human volunteers to become…
the next Black Mariah
Jeri has begun to have grave doubts…
about what has been hidden for years --
the truth behind the sacrifice
so the WORLD can be saved.
IN 2013 BLACK MARIAH - A Calling
THE E-BOOK IS AVAILABLE HERE
THE PAPERBACK IS AVAILABLE HERE
READERS LOVE THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SERIES!
BLACK MARIAH MEETS THE NEW RECRUIT!
An Excerpt from
IN 2013 BLACK MARIAH - A Calling
THE E-BOOK IS AVAILABLE HERE
THE PAPERBACK IS AVAILABLE HERE
READERS LOVE THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SERIES!
One of things I love most about the way this author writes, is that the written word plays out in your head as if you were watching a movie. A 3D, in your face, IMAX experience type of movie. Take a smooth as satin plot, add action and suspense, stir in a wide variety of captivating, believable characters and you have “Black Mariah A Calling”
- Terry (Review from amazon.com)
A clean, quick read that holds interest from the beginning, leaves a dusting of questions making you want more when it’s over and done with, but not so much that you’re left feeling frustrated. Recommended for everyone to give a try, whether you’re a strong sci-fi fan or a mild one (like me.)
- Erin (Review from amazon.com)
I was a little sad when the book ended so quickly and I realized it was just the beginning. I knew from the start it was a series, but it's never pleasant for a reader not to be able to finish the story. Now I can't wait to know what happens... but I'll try to be patient!
- Melani (Review from amazon.com)
EXCERPTS from the Book Series
BLACK MARIAH MEETS THE NEW RECRUIT!
“So this is the guy?”
The muted illumination in the containment suite was supposed to have a calming effect on the prime asset after he returned from a mission. But as Black Mariah stood inches away from the Plexiglas barrier, staring ominously at Rick McNeill, it was apparent the lighting design had failed to achieve the desired results.
“This is who you want to bring in to replace me?”
The audio system between the containment suite and the viewing lounge had a way of turning Black Mariah’s voice into something tinny and distant. And rather than the flaw in the acoustics rendering the creature less intimidating, it made the cadence in his speech even more ominous sounding to the four people standing on the other side of the Plexiglas.
“Are you serious? Tell me you aren’t serious…”
Dr. Ann Wolcott, the prime asset’s psych handler, tapped a button on a control panel embedded in the wall, allowing the prime asset to hear their response from the viewing lounge.
“I’m completely shocked to hear your words, Quen. I’ll accept the blame for getting it wrong, but we’re all here because I agreed to the meeting. And I only agreed to this meeting because you agreed. Did I get what we discussed wrong?”
She waited, but the prime asset behaved as if he did not hear a word his handler had spoken. “What about it, Quen, did I get it wrong?”
Black Mariah still didn’t respond as he continued to glare at Rick McNeill.
Wolcott moved away from the control panel and planted herself in front of the candidate to become the next Black Mariah.
“I’m never going to die. Even though no one believes it’s worth saving anymore, I'm going to save this fucking world. "
“I’m afraid we’re going to have to end this right now. I’ll take the blame for getting your intentions wrong. But I believe it would be beneficial for you to examine the possibility that you were equally culpable in allowing this uncomfortable situation to have occurred.”
The prime asset suddenly looked over at Dr. Wolcott.
“We both know you’re capable of far better behavior than you’ve shown thus far.”
“I’m good, Ann.”
“You say that, Quen, but perhaps it’s too late. As you know full well, we’re being monitored. Everything we do is seen by the higher ups. Did you consider that your behavior will most certainly affect our status. Right now, I’m sure anyone who is watching what’s happening upstairs has no other choice but to ground us. What do you think, Quen, am I wrong here?”
“Yes, Ann, I believe you are wrong. You’re over reacting. And anyone upstairs who can’t see the difference between messing around and a mental disorder is perhaps the one who should be facing the 3rd degree.”
Black Mariah’s handler cocked her head, and then sighed.
“Seriously? You’re saying there’s nothing to worry about?”
“Absolutely. I’m perfectly fine.”
The prime asset turned his gaze back toward Rick.
“I was just having some fun with the new recruit. I was just giving the new guy a bit of a hazing. I apologize for the misunderstanding.”
Wolcott kept her eyes fixed on Quen, silently lost in thought until Chris Dixon approached her.
She kept her eyes fixed on the prime asset, while at the same time addressing Chris.
“Are you sure you want to do this…?”
When Chris didn’t answer, Wolcott realized she had asked the wrong question. It didn’t matter that the candidate had requested to meet Black Mariah. The prime asset had behaved like a beast and the candidate saw it all. The question she should have asked was why would you want to go on?
Chris looked over at Jeri, but they didn’t make eye contact because she had her head dropped to her chest, looking down like someone grieving at the gravesite of a loved one. He flashed his eyes over to Rick and saw him focused completely on Black Mariah. The candidate looked like he was staring, not at the creature who had saved thousands of lives in the last few years, but at the actual grim reaper in the flesh.
But despite what he saw, Chris decided not to give up. “Quen, I want to introduce you to Rick McNeil. As you already know, he is indeed a potential candidate to be the next Black Mariah.”
His words, and what they implied, immediately got the attention of the prime asset.
“I didn’t mean to suggest that there will be another, ever… another Black Mariah. That’s not what I meant at all. And I’m so sorry if I gave you that impression.”
Chris discovered that once he had the attention of the creature, it wouldn’t be so easy to shake off the prime asset’s focus with a half-hearted apology. He took a quick breath, knowing his next words would need to draw on everything he had mastered over the years if the creature was to believe what he had to say was authentic.
“If it was up to me, if I were writing the record, I would sing about how you’ve been the most amazing Black Mariah. No one has even been close. Certainly your effort has been the best I’ve witnessed since I joined the program.”
The creature stared at Chris before shaking his head.
“I don’t know who you are, but if you’re one of the handlers, you’ve actually got me to feel sorry for this candidate.”
Chris knew better than to respond in a way that would lead to a tit-for-tat confrontation with the prime asset. But because he didn’t know how else to respond, the room fell silent… until there was the noise of Rick McNeil laughing.
The gaze from the creature once again shifted toward the candidate.
“You found what I said funny?”
“Yes, of course,” Rick quickly answered the creature. “That was your point, right?”
“I’m sorry,” said Black Mariah, “but I’ve already forgotten your name?”
Rick stepped confidently toward the Plexiglas barrier before responding.
“My name is…”
The creature held up his hand and Rick stopped speaking.
“I don’t need to know your name.” The prime asset stepped toward the barrier, his snout was now just an inch away from the Plexiglas. “My remark was meant to be humorous. But it doesn’t mean you and I are on the same page. Look at me… we’re not even in the same universe.”
He stared at the creature without responding, doing his best not to show any fear.
“First of all, you don’t look desperate,” said Quen. “I was desperate when I was standing where you’re standing. That’s why… I’m now standing… over here.”
“You’re right,” said Rick. “I’m not desperate.”
“Then turn down their offer,” said Black Mariah. “Whatever you’re going through… whatever the offer… turn it down.”
“Mind telling me why?”
The creature looked up and stayed silent for a bit before responding.
“If you accept their offer you’ll be bored.”
“That’s right. Bored.” The prime asset looked back down while moving closer to the barrier. Rick was surprised not to see the breath coming from the creature steaming up the glass.
“You’ll be nothing more than a backup to the starting quarterback who has no intention of ever being injured… or retiring. Your job will be to ride the bench. Just sit there, 24/7. You won’t even get to fuck the cheerleaders because what cheerleader wants to fuck the back-up quarterback?”
The prime asset waiting for a reaction, but Rick made a point of not responding, nor looking away.
“I know they showed you those faces on that wall, but what they didn’t tell you was they were all idiots. All of them.”
Chris moved over to Rick with the intention of ending the meeting, but then Black Mariah used his head to slam against the Plexiglas, and everyone’s attention was back on the creature.
“I’m not finished speaking…”
“I’m still listening,” said Rick, as he stepped past Chris toward the barrier.
“I’m never going to die. Even though no one believes it’s worth saving anymore, I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to save this fucking world. Me. Not you. Me. You’re nobody. And you’re going to stay a nobody. I’m the hero. Do you understand?”
As Rick was about to respond, the prime asset’s eyes blinked… and the lights in his containment suite went dark.
And like a magic trick, Black Mariah seemed to vanish.
BLACK MARIAH - A Calling
Rick emerged from the woods.
He tossed the two rifles he had confiscated from the father and son hunters into the back of his truck. When the guns landed on the steel floor of the cargo area, he heard the sound of glass shattering and hoped the three hundred dollar scope on one of the rifles was broken.
As he stepped into the cab of his truck, Rick noticed the sun was now peeking through the early morning clouds and shining in his eyes. He lowered the flap above his head, then tried to start up the engine. After a few turns of the key, he realized something was wrong. Not only was he failing to get a response from the motor, the dashboard was completely dark.
Rick slammed his hand on the steering wheel in anger.
He looked at his watch. When he saw the time, Rick resisted slamming on the steering wheel again. The fundraising breakfast would be starting in forty-five minutes.
Rick pulled his mobile phone from his shirt pocket to call Judy Neumeir, a local animal rights activist who was behind the charity event. He braced himself, knowing she would freak out when he told her there was a good chance he would be late. The fundraiser had been planned for weeks and Rick was the featured speaker.
That’s when he discovered the screen on his mobile phone was completely dark. He removed the battery from the back of the phone for a few seconds, then inserted it back in and tried to power it up.
There was no way the battery could be dead he thought to himself. He was positive he’d charged it overnight. He’d used the same phone to leave a voice message at the station before going out to chase after the hunters he’d caught on the preserve’s hidden security cameras.
A tapping noise on the driver’s side window of the truck startled Rick. He turned to see a woman standing beside his truck.
“Are you all right?”
Forgetting his predicament, Rick tried to lower the driver’s side window, but realized his mistake and grabbed the handle of the door.
As he stepped out of the truck, Rick was immediately struck by how attractive the woman was who had been tapping on his window. She had light brown hair and pale blue eyes. Though she was wearing blue jeans and a vest jacket over a tee shirt, he had no trouble noticing she was in good shape –- thin, but with toned muscles.
“Yeah, I’m all right. I appreciate your concern. My truck won't start. I guess it could be the battery…”
“Why don’t you open up the hood of the car and let me take a look?” said Jeri Asher, before moving toward the front of Rick’s truck.
He started back to the cab of the truck, but suddenly stopped.
“My father was a mechanic. When I was growing up, he tried to teach me everything he knew.” Jeri raised her hand. “Only child. That’s me. I guess I was the son my father never had. At least that was the way he raised me…”
Rick stood at the entrance of his truck staring at her as she went babbling on. He noticed for the first time her t-shirt had the logo of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. As he continued to examine her, Rick saw she not only didn’t have a backpack with her, she wasn’t even carrying a water bottle.
The sun had ducked back behind a cloud, causing early morning shadows to creep from the surrounding woods toward the dirt road. Normally Rick viewed the preserve as his sanctuary, but at that very moment, everything felt wrong.
“Now that I see this truck up close, you can’t be shocked you’re having problems. I mean, please… How old is this thing?”
“It’s old,” he answered as he popped the hood of the truck then hopped back out to approach her.
She raised the hood and ducked her head to look at the engine.
“How did you get here?”
Jeri tried to look surprised by the question, but she was ready with an answer.
“I was hiking. I came from over there. I saw you in your truck looking kind of dazed, confused, then… angry. Wouldn’t it be great if all it took to get a broken-down car to start running again would be to hit the steering wheel, or kick the tires…”
Rick noticed she had running shoes on her feet, not hiking boots. He couldn’t make too much of this observation because many of the visitors to the preserve were idiots, wearing shoes more appropriate for a softball game then a trek through the wilderness.
“I’m a bit confused. If you came from the woods over there like you just said, that would mean you must have taken the Oasis hiking path to the preserve. And that’s a three mile hike…”
“Yes, the Oasis hiking path is the one I took. It certainly felt like three miles,” Jeri answered without sounding at all flustered.
“The thing is I’m looking at you, and I’m wondering why you aren’t sweating after a three mile hike. I mean, I can see you’re in good shape, but still… there’s not even any perspiration underneath your arms.”
Jeri took a couple of steps toward him. They were now standing just a few feet from each other. “First, I want to thank you for making my morning. It’s not every day that someone takes the time to notice my perspiration level. I don’t even mind you inspecting my armpit area because I’m pretty obsessive about making sure that part of my body is worthy of an inspection.”
Rick stared at her in silence, still trying to process in his brain what was happening and figure out what to say next so he wouldn’t end up being on the wrong side of a lawsuit.
“Look, I’m not asking you out. I’m just a bit confused here about how you could hike three miles and look… like the way you do.”
“What you’re saying is that there’s something wrong?” asked Jeri.
“Yeah, that’s right,” said Rick. “Something is wrong. Why don’t we take this all back to the beginning? Let’s start with you showing me your I.D.”
Jeri lowered her head. Like an ancient Greek actor switching masks while on stage, when she looked back up, she had a completely different expression on her face.
“Nice job, Mr. McNeill. You were able to quickly and accurately assess that your immediate environment had changed, and you were able to make this assessment without compromising your emotions. The situation with your truck should have clouded your awareness, but instead it heightened all of your senses. Believe me, this is a rare thing. Most of our test subjects never remain calm enough to accurately assess their situation.”
Rick absorbed everything Jeri had to say, then took a quick look around him. He didn’t watch too much TV, but he saw enough to know that producers of reality shows often used hidden cameras to bushwhack poor unsuspecting people just trying to do their job.
When no camera crew emerged from the woods, Rick turned his attention back on Jeri. He didn’t care what her reasoning was behind messing with his truck. All he was sure of was that her bullshit was going to cause him to be late to a very important fundraiser for the Red Wolf Preserve.
“Look, I don’t know what games you think you’re playing here, but I’m a Red Wolf Preserve Ranger with the authority of the state of South Carolina, and once again, I’m going to ask you for your I.D.”
She reached into her vest pocket and pulled out a plastic cardholder that had a Maryland driver’s license issued out to Dr. Jeri Asher. Jeri held it out for Rick to see, then flipped the plastic card around. On the other side was her picture, part of a security I.D. from the Veteran’s Administration.
“I’m conducting a study related to the field of experimental psychology. I’m working on a grant funded by the Federal Government. Behind you is my associate, Chris Dixon…”
Rick whipped around and was shocked to discover Chris standing just a few feet away.
“Chris Dixon. Glad to meet you.”
Chris tried to extend his hand, but Rick backed away, moving to the back of the truck, where he felt around for a few uncomfortable moments before finally grabbing hold of one of the hunters’ rifles.
“I don’t know what the hell is going on, but if one of you doesn’t start coming up with some answers, this is going to get very ugly.”
“Sorry about all of this, Mr. McNeill, but it’s all a necessary part of the study.”
“Study? What the hell are you talking about? Wait, I never told you my name. How do you know my name?”
She took a step toward him, and when he didn’t say anything, she took a few more.
“Mr. McNeill, we know your name, your age, and some of your background information growing up. It’s the kind of information anyone can get if they run your name through the internet. Though, I’m sure it all sounds pretty creepy…”
“Of course, it sounds creepy,” interrupted Chris. “But, Mr. McNeill, how else shall we prescreen potential candidates for our study if we don’t do some background checks?”
“Screen me for what?” asked Rick.
“For a psychological study paid for by the federal government.”
“And a private grant,” added Chris. “Jeri always forgets the private grant part even though the Regis Foundation is paying for twenty percent of the upfront expenses.”
“I forget to include it for a reason,” said Jeri, looking extremely irritated as she addressed her remarks to Chris. “As you can see by the look on our potential candidate’s face, he really doesn’t give a shit.”
Jeri looked over to Rick, appearing to solicit his validation on her point. “Help me out here, Mr. McNeill, please confirm you don’t give a shit who has funded our study.”
Rick withdrew his hand from the back of the truck. The two people in front of him were either a couple of knuckleheads or a couple of nerds. He had not decided which, but he definitely no longer felt threatened.
“Will one of you please just explain to me what you’re doing here?” said Rick with exasperation. “And make it quick, because I’m supposed to be someplace…”
“Let Chris explain,” said Jeri, “while I look at your truck. Let’s see if I can get you going again because I know the fundraising breakfast is important to you.”
While Rick absorbed the fact that she knew he would be speaking at the charity event, Chris stepped up to explain their encounter.
“Is this a joke?”
“Why do you ask, Mr. McNeill? Is someone laughing?”
“'High-stress occupations in naturalistic environments with credible inducement for success' is the name of the study,” said Chris. “We’re here because we are hoping you will be one of our test subjects. I hope you’re honored, Mr. McNeill, that you’ve been one of our earliest candidates for testing. The head of the Regis Foundation put your name up as a possible test subject because he came across the amazing work you’re doing here at the Red Wolf Preserve. He figured you could use the financial stipend paid to all qualifying participants in our study. How does twenty-five thousand dollars in your bank account by the end of tomorrow make you feel?”
“Twenty-five thousand dollars?”
“Twenty-five thousand is the fee paid to all of the participants in our study,” said Chris.
“Are you guys serious?” asked Rick, in complete shock at hearing the figure. “Twenty five thousand dollars?”
Chris responded by reaching into his hiking jacket, grabbing his smart phone, and quickly tapping at the screen. “Mr. McNeill, can you verify your bank account number is #028-8230-3230.”
“How do you know that?”
"Rick, relax. We already told you that we've been following you for weeks. Bank routing info is not a state secret,” Chris calmly replied.
“Not as long as you're making a deposit!” shouted Jeri on the other side of the truck’s hood.
Chris hit some more buttons on his phone. He smiled before flipping the screen around.
“Lookee here... I believe you are five thousand dollars richer. We'll deposit another twenty thousand dollars when you show up at this address tomorrow.”
He reached into his pocket and withdrew a business card that had the address and time of Rick’s appointment and handed it to him.
“Be prepared for approximately two hours of physical and psychological tests. But when you’re finished, you’ll be driving away twenty thousand dollars richer.”
Rick stared at the card, trying to run through his brain all the ways what was happening could be a total con job.
Jeri slammed the hood of the truck closed.
“Under the circumstances, maybe we should say you’ll be 20k richer by the time a tow truck pulls your vehicle from the parking lot…”
She hopped into the cab of the truck and turned the ignition key.
The truck started up.
She leaped out of the pickup, stepped past a bewildered Rick, and moved to stand next to Chris. “It was the connections to your battery. They were pretty corroded… like the rest of the vehicle. Maybe you should think about using the money you get from participating in the study to buy another truck.”
“Please, Jeri, we’re not here to give the man financial advice. We’re here to ask him to join our study.”
“You’re right,” said Jeri. She turned back to Rick. “Mr. McNeill, I really hope you’ll be part of our study.”
The two of them both smiled before walking away. They managed to get about twenty yards before Rick shouted out to them.
“Is this a joke?”
The two stopped and turned to look at Rick.
“Why do you ask that, Mr. McNeill? Is someone laughing?”
Chris suddenly burst out laughing.
Jeri rolled her eyes and turned to look at Chris as if she were ready to kill him.
When he managed to stop laughing, Chris turned to Jeri and said, “I'm sorry.” He then turned to Chris and said, “I’m sorry, Mr. McNeill. The thing is that the last twenty-two test subjects in a row have asked the very same question when we approached them. And because you just now asked the same question, I won a bet.”
Jeri shook her head and looked over at Rick. “This is not a joke. That’s the answer to your question, Mr. McNeill.”
“Seriously, we hope you show up tomorrow,” said Chris. “I mean, please, Mr. McNeill, why lose out on twenty thousand dollars?”
Jeri had already turned around and Chris needed to catch up. But then the two walked across a grassy embankment before disappearing into the surrounding woods.
Interview with the Author
The Book Series, "BLACK MARIAH," first came to you on a research field trip for a movie you were working on. Correct?
FINNEY: I was hired as a screenwriter to work on a page one rewrite for a theatrical movie by Castle Rock productions. Because of the nature of the project, the producer of the production arranged for me to visit an active nuclear missile silo somewhere in the Midwest. To this day I still don’t know where.
On the day of the field trip, I showed up at the Van Nuys airport in the San Fernando Valley and was quickly ushered into a private plane by a representative from the military. I wasn’t blindfolded or wearing a black hood like some terrorist hostage, but I also didn’t realize there were restrictions.
Apparently I was not allowed to ask any questions or look out the plane’s windows. There was a point during the plane flight when I was walking back from going to the restroom when I leaned toward an open window. The soldier who was tasked to accompany me throughout the entire field trip immediately spoke up, “Mr. Finney, I need you to step away from that window.” The tone of his voice, and the specific words he used, made me realize for the first time that I was not on some joy ride.
A couple of hours after taking off, we landed on a private airstrip. I was quickly escorted off the plane and driven a few miles to the nuclear missile silo. When we arrived, I wasn’t surprised to see two non-descript brick buildings behind a barbed-wire fence with a small guard station manned by a couple of soldiers. I had heard that most of the nuclear silos were purposely designed to be non-descript on the surface.
The elevator ride down went for a long, long time. I felt like I was a character in Dante’s Inferno. I looked at the wall panel in the elevator and said to my minder, “So there’s no button for a penthouse suite?” He cracked a smile and said, “No, everything in this building goes down… and we hope it always stays that way.”
When I emerged from the elevator with my minders, everything was spoken just above a whisper. And I responded in kind. There was no background noise, and the air was so regulated, it felt like we were in a bank vault.
As I was shown around the premises, I came to discover it was like I had arrived in the middle of halftime in a team’s locker room playing for a championship -- everyone I met who worked in the nuclear missile silo seemed to be in lock step. There were shared private looks… laughs… and finished sentences. They all worked in close quarters, under the most intense conditions, and so it probably was inevitable that there would be a… bond.
But because so much was expected from these people, the military also knew that there would be the inevitable slip up, perhaps even a breakdown. During the tour I discovered that every individual working in the silo (most were military, but some were clearly from the private sector) were all required to submit to weekly drug tests and monthly psychological evaluation tests. And I was told that family members connected to those working in the silo were also tested for drugs and went through their own mental evaluations.
Another aspect I found interesting was that each individual who worked in the silo was required to review their other silo mates, passing on their personal evaluations for those in charge to help them see any warning signs that could be detrimental to their job. Despite the Orwellian implications, it all seemed perfectly logical to me -- if anyone’s job involves handling a weapon of mass destruction, you can never be too careful regarding the oversight.
And everyone I spoke with (obviously not for the record, and always in the presence of my military minders) didn’t have a problem with it. In fact, amongst those who worked together the consistent theme running throughout was that everyone in the silo was just like family.
One soldier said it best, “the only people who truly know what we do, the immense responsibility, is my wife, and… everyone down here. So I guess… we’re all just like family.”
On the flight back, I kept thinking about the idea that a “family” was in charge of a weapon of awesome power.
I then thought about the possibility that it wasn’t a nuclear weapon, but something that could keep the world safe from harm. And yet… it would still be under the supervision of a… family of people… humans… with all their flaws, desires, and imperfections.
That’s when I came up with the idea for BLACK MARIAH.