Tuesday, January 13, 2015

We Are Watching (Book 1 of Mindshare) by M. Stephen Stewart

Release date: December 16, 2014
Subgenre: Dystopian SF, Technothriller

About We Are Watching

America is dead and gone. Standing on its grave is Planetary Link Corporation—last of the big data networks. In one hand, Plink holds the Ring, a massively popular social network used to gather intelligence on everyday people. In the other, the NEX, a life-altering brain implant which allows Plink total control over information, knowledge, and its own citizenry.

Trainee Technician Henry Malone’s job is to ensure that this control continues unchallenged. That is, until Henry repairs the NEX of a stranger. He finds her mind isn't like any other. She's in possession of illegal memories, unauthorized knowledge, and a message: speak to me later, and tell no one.

Upon contacting her, Henry finds himself in the eye of a growing conflict between the domineering Planetary Link Corporation and Sever, a violent organization devoted to Plink’s total destruction.

All the while, he begins to hear the voice of his long-dead father.

We Are Watching is an intelligent, twisting thrill-ride of a novel, stuffed with ideas and questions sure to keep readers thinking long after the story’s end.



“Godspeed TG21. Commencing simulation.”
Video screens at each station flickered, dropping their craft into space. The viewport in front of Henry flashed to life. His controls lit up, glowing and jumping, running through a diagnostic check initiated by Huff. In the left half of Henry’s screen, an azure sliver of Earth cut against the blackness of space. Satellites buzzed around it like moths on a porch light.
Finished with the diagnostic checks, Huff gave the cliff notes, “Okay, looks like we've lost port inertial jets, there's cosmetic damage on the port side, and there's something moving toward us. Something large.” He grabbed onto the armrests of his seat, “Malone, move!”
Trainee Malone gritted his teeth. He slapped the throttle forward, and slammed his right foot on the pedal below. The shuttle jerked in response. His sweaty hand slid up the stick as he pushed it down with everything he had. A jagged hunk of steel cut across the top of his viewport. It nearly sliced the shuttle like a can opener.
“Where'd that come from?” Henry’s heart pounded in his throat.
“There's some kind of asteroid field around us,” Trainee Rice said. Her eyes wandered the screen in front of her, “It’s not on any of my maps.”
Henry wrestled with the stick, juking around the rocks and ice. “Of course it’s not. They can’t make this too easy on us,” he said to himself.
“It’s not an asteroid field,” Huff said. “It’s a debris field!”
Right on cue, half of an electric blue wing swung past Henry’s screen. The words Plink NEXt skidded by. Little pieces of scrap followed in its wake, bouncing off the sides of their imaginary craft like hail.
“I can't tell what collided, or when, but this field is huge,” Huff said.
“I think I have an idea.” Henry nervously scanned the viewport.
Huff looked toward the front of the craft. “Where are we anyhow?”
“We're in the Silverman Peters Group sector,” Trainee Rice said.
“I need a way out of here, Rice” Henry's shoulders twitched as he jerked the controls. “Quick!”
“Okay,” she said, dragging her fingers over her screen, “Okay… got it!”
“Give me a heading.” For what felt like the twelfth time today, Henry wiped at the sweat freely dropping off his face.
Out of the corner of his eye, Henry saw her screen flash off.
“I’ve lost nav!” Rice screamed as the starlight collapsed from her eyes. “I’ve got nothing!”
“Huff!” Henry yelled to the back of the craft.
“There’s damage on the outside of the shuttle. It must’ve cut a wire or something. I couldn’t fix it if I wanted to—not in this debris field, and certainly not in a simulator.”
“How are our external sensors?” Henry said.
“Green,” Huff called back.
“Gimme a path, then.”
“Aye, aye skipper!” Huff rotated through a few screens, until he arrived at one that fed his NEX the proper data. “Okay, heading ten degrees starboard—”
Henry screamed to the back of the shuttle, “We can't turn that way, Huff. Remember? No port jets.”
“Look, I'm giving you a path. You're the pilot. You figure out how to get there!” He took a breath, attempting to calm himself. “Heading: ten degrees starboard. Pitch, forty-five up.”
“Henry, that'll take us straight into the debris field,” Rice said.
“It's a tunnel through—our only way out.” Ben Huff scanned the nervous faces around the cabin. “Trust me, I've looked for another way. If you want, Henry, you can drive us into the field and we can all give this a shot next semester.”
Henry's fingers wrapped so tightly around the shuttle's stick, he could press diamonds out of coal. “You better be sure, Ben.”
“Do you have another choice?”
Henry pounded his right foot down. The craft complied, whipping them around in a spin. Earth streaked over his forward display. Smears of white stars lapped over and over again, as they spun wildly. Electric engines whined around them. Henry rolled the craft, inverting it, stressing the sim chamber to its limits. Tiny space junk pinged off the hull, an illusion brought on by tiny pistons lining the outside of the craft. He whacked the pedal down again, pushing opposing momentum into their spin, halting the furious rotations of craft TG21.
The streaks and smears slowed, coming back into focus after a few turns. Trainee Malone managed to hold Earth steady near the right edge of his viewport.
He tilted the stick away from his body. “How's my heading, Huff?”
“Perfect… it's perfect.” Ben Huff craned his head over his right shoulder, trying to steal a glance at Henry's viewport from the back of the shuttle, “How'd you do that?”
Trainee Malone leaned on the throttle, scooting the craft out of the debris field. His fingers relaxed on the stick. No need to answer. If you’re good at something, you can’t give away all your secrets.


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About M. Stephen Stewart:

M. Stephen Stewart is a graduate of Indiana University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He makes his home in Indianapolis with his wife and two dogs. In his spare time, Matt is an avid sports fan, gamer, and reader, who loves to connect with new people. You can usually find him around town with his wife, exercising, or in front of his computer working on a new project.

Contact Matt at mstephenstewart.com, on Twitter @mstephenstewart, or at Facebook.com/mstephenstewart.

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