Title: The Hidden Reality
Author: Stephen Martino
Publisher: Light Messages
Genre: Science Fiction/Political Thriller
In the year 2084, the brilliant inventor, Alex Pella, finds himself at a precarious crossroad between the pursuit of justice and preservation of his own sanity. While attempting to undermine an international New World Order government created by the financial juggernaut known as The New Reality, he must also face the hidden truths about his own genetic heritage that are slowly destroying him. After receiving an ambiguous message sent from a former New Reality executive who died 2 years prior, Alex learns that the only possible means to confront this New World Order is to defeat a long-forgotten enemy almost 2500 years old.
THE HIDDEN REALITY is the second stand-alone novel in a trilogy starring Alex Pella, created by New Jersey-based neurologist and entrepreneur Stephen Martino. With his fusion of history, politics, and science fiction, Martino joins such masters of the thriller genre as Dan Brown, James Rollins, and Michael Crichton.
Martino’s villain is a corporation run by a cadre of ruthless international bankers known as The New Reality. Directed by the most corrupt and morally unscrupulous of the bunch, Myra Keres, the company has economically seized control of the world’s governments and the population’s personal freedoms in the process. In order to save humanity from this despot ruler and the unwonted atrocities to which she plans to perpetuate on the world, Alex Pella must infiltrate the company and face an enemy that has unknowingly haunted both him and history for almost 2500 years.
Martino says he wrote THE HIDDEN REALITY more than just to entertain the reader. He wanted to create a modern day Orwellian ANIMAL FARM to allegorically forewarn his readers of a possible dystopia future that awaits all of mankind if humanity continues to proceed down its path of self-destruction.
In THE HIDDEN REALITY, Martino has included such hot-button contemporary topics as genetic cloning, unprecedented economic debt, the rise of big government, and the threat of a New World Order run by the economic elite, while bringing the reader back almost 2500 years into the past when the ancient city state nation known as Greece fought the mighty Persian Empire for world domination.
All of these elements, Martino maintains, separate his book from the pack. He calls THE HIDDEN REALITY “issue-oriented fiction. There are real concerns facing society today that threaten both the sovereignty and prosperity of our future generations. Though fictional, my novel addresses some of these issues and predicts the potential consequences we face as a nation and the world if they are not properly addressed today.”
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September 4, 2084 London, England
A YOUNG MAN IN HIS late twenties stood confidently behind a large, circular table made of clear glass. With his well-tanned, stubbled face and wavy, beelined honey-colored hair that reached his shoulders, he appeared more ready to catch the next wave than to speak at this meeting. His tan suit with a large butterfly-like collar and unbuttoned white shirt completed the look.
Most of the other 20 executives at the meeting also appeared less than adequately dressed for such an occasion.
In the center of the table a crisp image was meticulously engraved on the glass. It represented not only the symbol for their company but also that of the New World Order it created—a vibrant triangular diamond with a perfect, golden circle at its center. Above the symbol, a holographic image of a globe with countries coded in different colors rotated slowly.
“As you can see by the green color on about half of the countries,” the speaker from the public relations team went on to say with little enthusiasm, “The New Reality virtual services is actively utilized by at least 50 percent of the population. Though this percentage has increased by almost two-fold since the first quarter in 2083, we are still about 10 percent shy of reaching this year’s expectation.”
He pointed to one of the large canvas painted portraits at the front of the room. “As our former president and CEO of The New Reality, Albert Rosenberg, once said,” he continued in a monotone voice, “failure to meet expectation, no matter how grandiose these expectations may be, is still a failure.”
He attempted to rouse his fellow colleagues around the table with this famous quote, but none seemed interested with the words from the deceased old man or with the presenter’s lack of enthusiasm.
Although the painting depicted Albert as a younger gentleman with large blue eyes, curly, gray hair, high cheekbones and an intense demeanor, most remembered how he looked before his death three years ago—decrepit and skeletal. Some incorrectly assumed he was a casualty of The Disease, which once ravaged the planet and led to the untimely deaths of millions of her inhabitants. The real reason for his demise proved much more dubious in nature.
“Sit down!” a man by the name of Jules Windsor bellowed from across the table in an English accent. “Just sit down. Your total lack of understanding and ignorance of the subject is making me go completely out of my mind.”
Jules stood up from behind the table and pointed at the door behind him. “No, better yet, why don’t you just take yourself and that God-awful ensemble you call a suit and get the hell out of here. Go. Now. Be quick about it.”
The man giving the lackluster presentation then slowly backed away in disbelief. Because of Jules’ worldwide reputation as a great philanthropist and highly esteemed member of The New Reality board, he was taken aback by such a negative reaction.
“But…” he attempted.
Jules once again pointed at the door, curtailing all further discussion.
Unlike most others around the table, he was exquisitely dressed in a designer black pinstripe suit with a red tie and similarly colored handkerchief protruding from his right breast pocket. Just above six feet tall with wavy blond hair and an athletic physique, his physical prowess overpowered all those at the table. His large, black, penetrating eyes only proved to accentuate his ominous presence.
The man whimpered away from the table like a beaten dog. The door dematerialized upon his exit.
Not many noticed his departure as all eyes now squarely focused on Jules Windsor. Once a man of Albert Rosenberg’s inner circle, Jules was now relegated to the London office to oversee advertisement and distribution of The New Reality virtual products across the globe.
Still riling in the fact that Albert did not allow him to run in the general election for the leader of The New Reality, he begrudgingly took the position with plans of greater success in the future.
After The Disease had ravaged the planet for over a year, the world was subsequently left financially bankrupt. Though the illness did not precipitate this financial ruin, it was the final act that led to its collapse. Years of deficit spending, mounting debt, growing unfunded liabilities, poor central financial planning, and complete waste of taxpayer money produced the problem. The inception of The Disease proved to be its tipping point. Led by Albert Rosenberg, The New Reality was there to reap the benefits of the world’s financial ruin. Fueling the economic crisis by providing loans to countries around the globe that had no means to repay them, he took control of the governments when they universally defaulted on their payments. Thus marking the end of all local, territorial sovereignties and the rise of a central, economically controlled New World Order run by The New Reality.
“Look at you all around this table,” Jules admonished, as if scolding wayward children. “You all come here, to my office, dressed like shaggy vagabonds.”
He pointed to a gentleman who wore running pants made from synthetic rayon woven fabric with long slits along the sides to maximize air flow and a baggy black-striped shirt that looked similar to a poncho and said, “Or worse yet, some…” He was at a loss of words. “God knows what even to call that terribly unfortunate outfit.”
The man began to chuckle, somehow thinking that Jules’ reaction was funny.
“You think it’s amusing?” Jules asked as he closed in to where the man was sitting. The closer he approached, the less the man found it humorous. Jules’ broad shoulders, chiseled jaw, and focused expression made further laughter next to impossible.
Those few in the room who actually knew Jules on a personal level, shuddered at what was to happen next. Despite his popular reputation, Jules was actually an intense businessman with relentless determination and an abundance of self-confidence.
Jules placed his rather large and muscular hand around the back of the man’s neck. The pain was so intense that he felt paralyzed and could do nothing in response but wince helplessly in pain. He tried to speak, but only tears came out. The other people around the table were in shock. Instead of helping the man, they sat motionless in fear. Jules finally released his grip. The man slumped to the floor and began to gasp for breath as if he had choked.
“Crawl on out of here hooligan,” Jules reprimanded. “You will disgrace my board room with your insolence no longer.”
The man quickly obliged. Mustering what little energy he had left, he crawled to the doorway and rolled out of the room once the door dematerialized.
He turned to the woman and the rest of the men at the table. Many began tucking in their shirts, adjusting their jackets, or simply attempting to sit up a little straighter. “So,” Jules went on to ask as if nothing had occurred, “do any of you want to finish this dreadful presentation you traveled from far and wide to present to me today?”
No one dared to answer. Though he understood the fear he instilled upon his guests, Jules was certainly disappointed that not a single person was willing to speak. Always looking for a mental challenge or good intellectual argument, he quickly realized by the blank stares from the woman and men around this table that he would receive neither at the moment.
He pointed at the painting of Albert Rosenberg. “Your esteemed colleague left off by mentioning expectation. Would anyone like to further explain what Mr. Rosenberg meant by expectation?”
Though Albert was Jules’ uncle, he seldom acknowledged this familial bond any longer. The people who were chosen to run the enterprise shared little of Jules’ political or even moral beliefs, and he was appalled by Albert’s nominees and even more appalled by the political policies that The New Reality had created. From the time Jules was a teenager, he had worked tirelessly with his uncle and had helped financially to bring this company to its economic prominence—not the pathetic candidates who were nominated. Many of his ideas were those used to consolidate The New Reality’s power and create a financial empire never before seen on the planet.
Though his uncle never showed him any love or affection, Jules did not require it. Instead, he received something far greater: respect and responsibility. A promotion by his uncle meant more than a hug. A raise was more prized than an affectionate pat on the back.
“Well,” Jules went on to say, “despite what was so horribly just taken out of context, what Mr. Rosenberg referred to when speaking of expectation is a concept known as reflexivity.”
He looked around the table at even blanker stares. Knowing that few, if any, understood his reference, he continued, “The theory of reflexivity was first popularized by a great man and professor by the name of Karl Popper. Does anyone know of him or his work, The Open Society and Its Enemies?”
No one answered.
He shook his head, “William Shakespeare once wrote, ‘Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.’” Imploring those around the table, “Please let us all not whither in this ignorance. Listen to what I am about to teach.”
Jules walked over to the painting of Albert Rosenberg and stood in front of it. “Reflexivity is simply a matter of cause and effect. If the cause is expectation then the effect will be its outcome. However, this simple domino effect is bidirectional in many instances whereby cause and effect can become blurred and at times indistinguishable from one another. And that is what we call reflexivity. It can occur not only in economics but also in business or even politics.”
He felt intellectually enthralled by the subject and could speak on it for hours. He continued with a little more baritone to his voice. “Let me give you an example. If the expectation for a product or even service is high, then the cost of its stock will rise accordingly. If the stock begins to rise, the expectation for this product or service will thus rise accordingly, making the cause and effect one in the same—creating a reflexive relationship.”
Jules swung his fist and hit the painting’s wooden frame, sending it crashing to the floor, smashing the glass-covered canvas upon impact. Shards of glass scattered across the tan carpet.
The people around the table shuddered at the sacrilegious action.
Jules smiled at the reaction, realizing he had properly conveyed his point. “You see, some reflexive relationships can build until they are unsustainable and come crashing down like this painting, crumbling under the false pretense of a ballooning cycle.”
He stared at the youth around him. Though they were at most only 10 or 20 years his junior, he felt this new generation being created by The New Reality was already lost. “So what do you believe?” he asked one of his guests wearing a rather conspicuous red sports jacket.
The man just shook his head, not knowing how to respond. Jules walked over to him and again asked, “What do you believe? What are your expectations? What do you want out of life?” “Well,” the man feebly responded, “my wife and I are going on a two week virtual New Reality experience later this year. We’ve been saving for it for some time now.”
Jules scoffed at the response, insulted by both the man’s ignorance and self-absorption. “Where is your drive or aspiration in life? If that is your greatest ambition, then you surely live a petty existence.”
Jules shook his head and began to walk around the table. Glass crunched under his feet. He put his hands behind his back and looked down as he perused the room. “Don’t you see what The New Reality has done not only to all of you but also the world? They are creating a generation of mediocre, mindless sheep. While The New Reality’s New World Order takes away more of your individual freedoms, rights, and even integrity on a daily basis, you are all so self-absorbed in total nonsense that you fail to notice what is so blatantly occurring.”
Jules laughed and continued. “Rome gave its population the Coliseum and spectacular gladiatorial displays to suppress the masses. Now, two thousand years later The New Reality gives you virtual experiences, mind-bending drugs, an inundation of free, highly-censored media, and a myriad other self-indulgent activities. Instead of reading the great Aristotle or the modern day philosopher Winston Burke, you peruse the bantering of the latest pop star. Instead of worshiping great minds like Heisenberg or Einstein, you venerate men who can carry a silly ball quickly or some underage, socially immoral adolescent who can gyrate to an algorithmic computer-produced song. Classical literature has been replaced by the holograms of pop culture. Conformity has supplanted innovation and enlightenment.”
“Don’t you see?” he said as he approached another painting on a different wall. “This is all just a smoke screen created by The New Reality to suppress the people of the world. While you all pursue your materialistic, self-destructive, and selfish behaviors, The New Reality and its economic cronies are becoming wealthier by the day at your expense and your personal freedom.”
Jules gestured to the painting of a smiling, middle aged, hazel-eyed female with short, cropped hair, sharp, yet fair facial features, and a mildly bulbous nose and on the wall. “Sure, there are some who understand what the esteemed President of The New Reality, Myra Keres, is perpetrating, but most say nothing in fear of negative repercussions. Plato wrote, ‘We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.’” He beseeched them all, hoping to inspire some initiative on their part. “Who of you or your pitiful generation will embrace this light?”
Jules attempted not to laugh as he mentioned Myra’s name. The election that brought her to this position was fixed by Albert Rosenberg from its inception. Her opponents were simply political puppets used to create a facade of a genuine election. The votes were never counted and the media coverage of the event was a carefully orchestrated event by the New Reality meant to provide the world’s population with a false sense of importance and power.
All those around the table sat uneasy on their chairs, not daring to utter a single word. Expecting Jules to smash Myra Keres’ painting just as he had Albert Rosenberg’s, an already tense situation grew even more uncomfortable.
The door dematerialized and a beautiful, young woman sauntered through the opening. Dressed in a blue dress, she cleared her throat and politely said, “Excuse me. Mr. Windsor. There’s a package that was delivered to your office that said Urgent—Must Open Immediately. I didn’t want to bother you sir, but…”
Jules’ whole demeanor instantly became at ease. Her blue eyes, long brown hair and pouty lips almost made him lose his train of thought. “No bother Marie,” he politely interjected. “I was just finishing here.”
Jules had a propensity for a beautiful woman and a long list of former acquaintances that grew by the day. He never found his secretary’s interruptions at all intrusive; in fact, he looked forward to them.
The woman and men around the table exhaled with a great sense of relief as Jules exited the room without speaking another word to them. Their reprimand had finally ended, and each could not wait to return home as quickly as possible.
Jules paced in his office, awaiting the package. Usually he would have disregarded such a seemingly unimportant message, but the public relations team the top brass at The New Reality sent to meet him was woefully inadequate and not worth any more of his time. Plus, the mere thought of how Myra Keres became president of The New Reality instantly placed him in an irritable mood. He never understood why Albert Rosenberg would choose such a crooked, unscrupulous, and morally bankrupt person to take over his company. She had a body-bag list too numerous to count lining her way to success. In addition, her policies of a strong-fisted New World Order that corrupted the population would never survive. Eventually, the sense of individualism and intellectual enlightenment would again rise like a great Renaissance and make her control over the masses nearly impossible.
Like the man himself, Jules’ office was immaculate and exuded an air of elegance. The natural flow and curvature of the Greco-Roman furniture with its cream-upholstered cushions, dark wood chairs and master desk, and white, lush draperies were offset with an assortment of modern fluted class sculptures in the shape of different colored exotic plants. Unlike all other rooms throughout the building, there were no New Reality logos or pictures of its current or former leader. Jules believed such visual distractions in his office would only be detrimental.
The door dematerialized and Marie began to walk through the opening with a large pizza-shaped box held out in her hands. Before she could fully enter the room, the box unexpectedly seemed to stand still in the air and slide across her arms until it abutted her chest, halting any further progression. She momentarily stumbled on her heels, both surprised and confused by the interruption.
“Is everything alright?” Jules asked in the most pleasant demeanor. She pushed the box forward with her body, and like a slingshot it flung about 10 feet into the room and hit the mosaic-tiled floor.
“I hope it didn’t say FRAGILE along with URGENT,” Jules jested, trying to diminish some of his secretary’s embarrassment.
Marie stood in the doorway almost in a state of shock, not understanding what had just transpired. “But,” Marie finally said with confused look on her face, “it seemed to just fly on its own. I really didn’t do anything.”
“No worries,” Jules responded while picking up the package. After placing it on his desk, he traced slowly over the box’s white strip that ran diagonally from one corner to the other, releasing the adhesive binding. The box instantly opened and white packing foam protruded.
“Thank you, Marie,” Jules finally said, curious as to what secret the box held. Without a return address on its front and with only a clear sticker continuously blinking URGENT on it, the package had no indication from where or from whom it originated. Jules patted down the packing foam and upon contact it collapsed, forming tiny white beads that fell to the bottom of the box. Captivated by the contents, he barely took note of Marie exiting the room or her again mentioning how the box flew through the air of its own volition.
Neither did he notice all the commotion that started to commence around his office building. Flashing red lights, sirens and even a muffled voice on a bullhorn did little to garner his attention. Two fully armed and internationally sanctioned World Order Guards, or WOGs as they were known colloquially, flew by his office windows, each riding their own silver, chariot-like heliocrafts named after the Greek sun god Helios.
The white beads continued to trickle down to the bottom of the box, revealing a beautifully ornate, circular shield. Jules gazed upon it, perplexed by the urgency of this gift. Though clearly recognizing its historical significance, he was at a loss to understand why he needed to see it right away.
A few more WOGs flew by the windows as other sirens and police began to converge on the building.
The intrinsic beauty of the shield was not lost on him as he looked in awe at the craftsmanship of this ancient artifact. The sun surrounded by the earth, moon and a few constellations were engraved in the center of the silver-plated shield. Then, like layers of an onion, different gloriously sculpted scenes encircled this central point. A city at peace lay above the sun and constellations, while a city at war was depicted below it. Surrounding these scenes were three separate engravings of men reaping bushels of corn from a king’s estate, workers plowing a field, and young girls picking grapes along a bountiful vineyard. The following layer tempered its adjacent, inner scenes of serenity. A bull being ripped apart by two lions was engraved prominently at the top while two more pleasant engravings of sheep grazing and young men and women dancing framed each of its lower sides. At its outmost edge, a flowing ocean encircled the inner scenes while a rusted strip of metal wrapped tightly around the edge secured its perimeter.
As the foam continued to collapse, Jules noted a transparent, rectangular strip of plastic lying inconspicuously to the side of the box. Taking the message card in one hand, he contemplated if it would provide him some clue to its origin or its urgent nature. Jules knew this shield was formerly the prized artifact of Albert Rosenberg’s Greco-Roman collection. But who sent it was a different story. Rumored to be the actual shield of Achilles, written of in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad and usurped by Alexander the Great, Albert prominently exhibited the relic in the center of his massive display.
The card’s perimeter began to blink a bright red. The intensity of its illumination made Jules wince. A succinct message then became apparent on the card. In three large capital letters, the word RUN appeared. Jules looked at both the front and the back of the card, perplexed at the message. Hoping more was to come, he awaited patiently, trying not to be blinded by the flashing light.
The door to his office dematerialized. “Marie,” Jules asked, assuming his secretary had entered. “Would you happen to know from where this package here originated? I’m awfully confused—”
Jules looked up, hoping to receive an answer. Instead of seeing his beautiful secretary at the door, a fully assault-ready WOG began to enter. Dressed in a pure black uniform with a New Reality diamond and gold emblem on each shoulder, gray helmet and crimson visor, this anonymous soldier headed towards Jules. As the WOG began to raise his weapon, only one thought came to Jules’ mind.