In 1779 Kanadasaga, Sullivan’s Expedition torches a Seneca village and many others, destroying the Iroquois Confederacy. Awakened from sleep, Pilan and Teka flee their blazing longhouse into the woodlands. After a soldier’s bullet thwarts their escape, Pilan vows to meet his beloved Teka again in another life.
Two hundred years later in present-day Geneva, New York, historical relics rise. Twilight Ends, a grand Victorian bed-and-breakfast run by the Newhouse family, sits on the property the Iroquois village used to thrive on.
After Twilight Ends’ long-standing matriarch Tessa Newhouse dies, her daughter and granddaughter, Skylar and Twyla, discover two artifacts under the maple tree in the backyard, and an ancient mystery as old as time begins to unravel.
But will they have the courage to follow the path their ancestors did?
Denise Billups is an author with a rare mixture of southern and northern charm. She was born in Monroeville, Alabama, and raised in New York City, where she has worked in finance and as a freelance columnist and currently resides. A multi-genre author of fiction, she has published four novels—Keepers of the Gate: Twilight Ends (Book 1),Kalorama Road, Chasing Victoria, and By Chance. She has also written several supernatural short stories, including Off the Grid, Ravine Lereux: Unearthing A Family Curse, The Playground, and Rebound. As an avid reader of magical realism, mystery, suspense, and supernatural novels, she was greatly influenced by authors in these genres.
Currently, she is working on book two of her trilogy, Twilight Ends, a paranormal historical fiction, and book two of Simone Doucet Series to be released in 2022.
Starburst Over China takes Detective Jim Sato, a dedicated cop, and Gilda Dobrowski, a small city psychic, back to the StarCenter at Defense Intelligence Agency Headquarters to engage in a Top Secret project to telepathically manipulate a Chinese–a CCP_member–working in intelligence as a section chief in the Ministry of State Security. The duo are hooked up to UB-X-00, a giant AI super computer that enhances their brain waves and bioenergy, in an attempt to stir up trouble–any kind of trouble–which the President of the United States can use in his dealings with China, the No. 2 power, in his bid to maintain U.S. hegemony to stop the progression toward triggering the Thucydides Trap.
About The Author
R. H. Kohno has been writing for a number of years ever since he graduated from English, Advanced Writing Curriculum, at the University of Washington where he also served as editor in chief of the campus literary magazine, Assay. He went through the concentration camp experience during WWII, repatriated to war-torn postwar Japan and grew up there in isolated exile as a lookalike American outsider. He returned to the United States to get married and complete his college education. He has since written a number of works which are described on his website, rhkohno.com. He is the father of two sons living in Oregon and Utah.
Carrying on the tradition of service as exemplified by his Nisei grandfather, a veteran with the 100th/442nd RCT in WWII, Jim Sato, a dedicated cop, serves as the nerve ending of a Top Secret psychotronic brain wave enhancer, a giant AI super computer, deep the bowels of DIA Headquarters in an attempt to stop and eliminate Abdul Ahmad, the arch terrorist, who sets out to destroy America. Sato is teamed up with Gilda Dobrowski, a small city psychic, and together they track down the whereabouts of the terrorist and lay a trap for him in Tokyo in a dangerous scheme to eliminate him once and for all, using the U.S. Embassy, the nerve center of U.S. power in the Far East, as bait. The plan goes awry, Ahmad escapes and the stage is set for a final showdown taking place on American soil, in an elaborate setup involving erecting a psychic shield covering the entire country. Lured into the United States by a sophisticated stratagem devised by Sato, Ahmad is detected and the chase is on.
Introduced first to the Director of DIA, Arthur Donnelly, then summarily dismissed by him with a curt, “Welcome aboard,” Jim and Gilda entered an elevator as the stainless steel doors parted like a mechanical maw with Kosovich in the lead. He ran his finger down a row of buttons and punched “Sub-B 5.” They began the long, slow descent without stopping. “Sub-B 5″ was known as “The StarCenter,” Kosovich informed them. Why? Because it was the lowest level of the entire building housing the headquarters of DIA. In case of nuclear decimation, Kosovich said. Jim couldn’t begin to fathom what that meant. The Cold War was over.
When the elevator jerked to a stop, they stepped out into a shining, polished corridor that reminded Jim of a hospital without the smell of antiseptics. They passed several doors on either side of them with single-digit numbers designating them. At the end of the hallway stood two guards at an entrance, a steel door. They were not Marines. They were special guards wearing blood-red berets and clad in navy-blue uniforms with a gold braid crossing their chests. Over their hearts were sewn an insignia of a mythological creature–an eagle look-alike with ribbed black wings and writhing snakes gripped in its talons. They were armed with automatic rifles that reminded Jim of Heckler & Koch .308’s with 50-round clips. They glanced impassively at Allen Kosovich’s ID and clearance. Jim peeked. Underneath the photo was in bold letters: “UB-X-00-A27.” Kosovich punched in the numbered and lettered code that opened the steel door.
Inside a small antechamber, Kosovich had to submit himself to a further check. He spoke into a meshed microphone, giving his name, ID number and date of birth. “Voice recognition confirmed. Proceed to Step Two,” a voice said out of nowhere. Kosovich placed his face against what looked like penny-arcade peepers. “Retina scan confirmed. Proceed to Step Three.” Kosovich drew his fingertips across his tongue and placed his right hand in a clear, plastic tray with mathematical inscriptions where the palm and fingers fit. A dark purplish ultraviolet light produced a pulsating sound. A few seconds passed. “Fingerprints and DNA confirmed. Cleared to enter.”
The heavy vault-like doors opened inwards, and the three of them quickly stepped through. Jim spun around in surprise, because the thick doors closed as nimbly as the swinging doors of a chef’s lair.
They were standing at the entrance of a large room filled with computer programmers and analysts, dressed in white uniforms, bent over their keyboards. Blue tinged everything. Huge monitors were set into the walls alive with coruscating images of formless shapes and colors that kept shifting in an amorphous mass, each different and distinct and yet the same in their intermingling mixture of hues and tints that resembled a living, phantasmagorical organism. The bluish glow filling the room from the high ceiling was alive with the clicking of the keyboards. At the end of the room sat an enormous machine, its lower panel running a digitalized and variegated painted symphony of flashing numbers, letters and icons. Its upper portion with two rows of tapeless silver disks behind a long window kept the super computer in constant motion. It occupied a greater part of the wall. It produced a hum and a steady whirring and clicking sound as the multi-layered disks whirled in opposing directions, some turning clockwise, others counterclockwise.
Kosovich pointed it out. “The heart of Project StarMind. UB-X-00,” he said proudly. “Doesn’t use old-fashioned tapes that can fade and become demagnetized. Uses a series of countervailing disks in each sprocket to create an electromagnetic field that can be replicated and hooked up to the other apparatus. But I’ll let Wayne Trunnell, Supervisor of Project StarMind, explain it all to you.”
Wayne Trunnell was a tall, slender man in his early seventies. Standing at least 6’4″, he wore a white, loose-fitting smock that hung down to his ankles. His hair, thick and unruly, was white. His eyes were dark blue and twinkled intelligently like glistening opals that were accentuated by his still-black eyebrows. His nose reminded Jim of the beak of the mythological bird on the emblem. Smiling in a casual, friendly fashion, he stuck out his hand.
“You must be Detective Jim Sato, whom I’ve been waiting to meet,” he said in a surprisingly young voice. He shook Jim’s hand and turned immediately to Gilda. “And you are Gilda Dobrowski, the famous psychic from Franklin. I’ve been wanting to meet you ever since I heard about you.” He tilted his head slightly as he took Gilda’s hand.
Jim couldn’t quite place the mannerism. It was almost continental–and foreign. Trunnell regarded them both fondly as if they were visiting brethren and knew each other. From another planet? Jim thought. It was as if they were aliens from outer space just dropping in for a visit to a familiar inner sanctum. The huge room with its inset panels of screens holding the twisting images, the hum and whirr of UB-X-00–whatever it was besides a giant brain box–and the clicking of the array of computer keyboards, along with the faint, soft bluish glow reflected off the walls and polished floors, lent an eerie quality to the intense activity in the room. Particularly so, when Jim understood that it all had to do with the control, manipulation and projection of the human mind. And to think that he and Gilda were to be subjected to discovering the mysteries unlocked in their own minds.
Trunnell took them over to the giant machine called UB-X-00 which was all business with its constant humming whirr and flickering lights. He patted it affectionately–paternalistically. It must have been his own design, thought Jim. He had fathered it.
“This is UB-X-00,” the supervisor of Project StarMind said proudly. “I named it that, because it has to do with the total dimension of all the imponderables of the human personality: soul, spirit, mind and everything else we know about ourselves. Consider it the Library of Congress of what knowledge we have of ourselves as a species. Otherwise, we refer to it by its nickname, ‘Yuubee’. And this huge stable of computer wizards and the room it is housed in is called ‘The Nexus’.”
“What’s it supposed to do?” Jim asked in intimidated awe.
“Everything that has to do with developing the potential of the human mind, much of it going beyond the realm of science as we understand it.”
“Specifically,” Jim pursued.
“Specifically?” Wayne Trunnell pondered the question. “Much of it is in an experimental stage. We are exploring it as it explores itself. But specifically, to boil your question down to a single answer that applies to you and Gilda, it is a psychotronic enhancer of the alpha and theta brain waves that are converted to a kind of bioenergy for the efficient functioning of the brain of a psychic, a person who already has the capabilities of projecting their consciousness.”
“Can you explain how that is going to affect us?” Jim thought it was a legitimate, logical question to ask. He wasn’t prepared for the condescending look of amazement that registered in Trunnell’s sngular features, marked by the drawing of his mouth into a thin line and the raising of his dark eyebrows. “Are the effects going to be permanent?” he continued, concerned.
“Well, not really…not in so many words,” he said, his dark blue eyes fixed on Jim. “It is nearly impossible to define what goes on in the brain, even at any given isolated moment, and–”
“Maybe you can start by telling me how Yuubee works?” Jim said.
Trunnell’s expression turned into one of patient indulgence. “I can try,” he said and ran his hand with long, bony fingers over his hoary hair slowly, as though to collect his thoughts. “It is based on the principle of symbiotic synergism, not only between Yuubee and the other scanning equipment, like the MRI and CAT Scan and others, but also between itself and the reciprocal emanation of the brain waves of the Snoopers…er, psychics. We call them, or they like to refer to themselves as, Snoopers. Otherwise, they’re variously known as seekers, seers, probers, sometimes even worse, depending on who is talking about them.”
“That’s not saying very much, Mr. Trunnell. How is it going to affect me and Gilda?” Jim felt he had to get some kind of handle on what to expect before he could even take or understand the first step in the training.
“I can only summarize what has been programmed into Yuubee,” the tall man said, drawing his brows together in concentration. “It has been fed a series of random mathematical equations from all the fields of science coupled with the principles of philology, morphology and semantics present in the unpredictable sequences of human thought patterns, including the representation of the REMs of dreams and nightmares, and combined with the phenomenological dichotomies present in all forms of human perceptions.”
“And that’s saying a mouthful,” Kosovich commented. With his eyes wide and blank, he gazed at Jim’s face which must have registered total non-comprehension. “I don’t understand what it means, either.”
“Can’t you boil it down, Dr. Trunnell,” Jim pleaded. “It is Dr. Trunnell, isn’t it?”
“Yes, indeed, it is, and I can’t even begin to describe to you my many fields of specialization,” Dr. Trunnell said, rather pompously thought Jim. “But, nevertheless, let me add that woven into the fabric of the ‘understanding’ programmed into UB-X-00…sounds so awfully formal. Yuubee. Programmed into Yuubee is everything that is known about paranormal psychology from ESP, psychokinesis, telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, remote viewing, astral flight, near-death out-of-the-body detachment, the ‘White Light’ syndrome to psychotic and hallucinatory typologies, induced by drugs, electrical charges or electromagnetic emissions.”
Jim glanced at Gilda. She rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. Either she understood what Trunnell was talking about like an ace pitcher or it was over her head, too. Jim wanted to shake his head to rid himself of the confusion.
“What you’re saying, Dr. Trunnell,” Jim said, extrapolating from his previous experience in dealing with the superpsychic, Sergei Verenich, “is that UB-X-00, Yuubee, helps us to transmit and receive brain waves.”
“Essentially, yes,” Trunnell said. “Alpha and theta brain waves, specifically.”
“Then why is it that,” Jim began as the next logical step, “you are located at lowest level of the basement, deep under the headquarters of DIA? How can the brain waves get through all the interference?”
“Ah, that’s the beauty of Yuubee,” Trunnell intoned. “It can cut through anything and open a path for reception and transmission. As for being stuck in The StarCenter, it is for national security reasons.”
“Which are?” Now Jim wanted to know everything. Was UB-X-00 some sort of death-ray machine that focused laser beams through the psychics to knock down incoming missiles or knock off unwanted undesirables? Dictators, tyrants, key government figures? Terrorists? His imagination ran wild.
“I only need to mention one,” Trunnell said importantly. “In case the government and leadership are destroyed in a nuclear war, or by some other means, the psychics of Project StarMind are meant to restart our democracy and restore civilization as we have known it. Such a responsibility for a select few.” The tall, thin scientist ran his hand across his forehead as if to wipe away a heavy concern. “Now let me introduce you to the Snoopers, as they are affectionately known, rather than seekers or seers which have contentious overtones.”
Trunnell led them through the blue-white light that reminded Jim of the ethereal void in which he had done combat mind-to-mind with Sergei Verenich. Stepping past the row of equipment hooked up in tandem with Yuubee, the tall man pushed the button of a double-panel steel door. It hissed open pneumatically and made the same shushing sound as they entered a smaller room and sealed itself behind them.
They were standing in the reflected glow of the same bluish-white light. The walls were painted the same color as the large room–The Nexus–a washed sky-blue that seemed to continue beyond where it ended as though one could stick one’s hand through the solid barrier. On the upper part of the walls were mounted the monitor screens which held a variety of three-dimensional images, more definite in outline and shape than the coruscating and squirming masses of globs in The Nexus that appeared embryonic by comparison. Around a long table in the center of the room gathered lab technicians garbed in white smocks similar to the one Trunnell wore. The table was crowded with lab equipment: beakers, petri dishes, twisted glass tubing, Bunsen burners, measuring tubes, trays, microscopes, ultra-violet lamps, vials and bottles of liquid, just like a well-equipped high school lab, Jim thought, except he was in no high school. Against one wall with the same kind of screens sat six figures–three men and three women–wearing black helmets with extended goggles and a curved mouthpiece they were speaking into. Sitting in front of computers of different designer colors, they moved a mouse on a larger-than-average pad. The movement of their hands and their incessant, chant-like murmuring flowed together as if one guided the other reciprocally.
“Welcome to ‘The Twilight Zone’,” Dr. Trunnell said with a hint of triumph in his voice. “This is the control center, and the six psychics wearing the Gehirnphone helmets are controlling the images fabricated by pure thought energy. They are the creme de la creme saviors of Western Civilization, the ones who will regenerate the leadership in the event our government is destroyed.”
Jim looked over the six figures, their heads all but concealed by the black helmets, talking to themselves or into the tiny mike built into the headgear. They were all dressed casually, one man in a red and black flannel shirt, a lady in a dark, blue satiny blouse, another man in a bright yellow long-sleeved shirt. The three-dimensional forms danced and changed with the movement of the mouses and the intonation of their voices. Some of the images looked like the interior of a building, a bird’s-eye screen-skating landscape full of mountains and valleys, a blurred visage that kept fading in and out of focus.
“Why are they talking to themselves?” Gilda asked. “It sounds like so much psycho-babble all running together.”
“Maybe it’s some sort of chant,” Jim said, wanting to sound half-way knowledgeable, although he was totally mystified. He had read voluminously about matters dealing with psychic phenomena and the training of the mind ever since his ordeal with Sergei Verenich, delving into mythology, religion, psychology, spiritualism, occultism.
“Actually, it’s voice-activated commands to control graphic image-making,” Trunnell said.
“Why can’t they just image what they are thinking or exercise thought-control?” Gilda queried.
“That is precisely what they are doing by ordering their brains to function in a certain, specific way with their own unique voices,” Trunnell explained. “Their brains, in other words, respond more actively and positively when they hear their own voices. It’s like a personal signature endorsing a command to certain brain centers. The brain recognizes its owner as belonging to itself and performs accordingly. I designed the Gehirnphone virtual reality helmets myself.”
“So, in other words,” Gilda mused, “instead of feeding them the sensation of virtual reality, they are actually producing virtual reality in three-dimensional graphics by their own brain power.”
“Just like you see on the screens,” Kosovich broke in.
“And so what powers their brains?” Gilda pursued. “Is the required bioenergy induced?”
“Through UB-X-Double Ought,” Kosovich said proprietarily.
“Let me explain it with a bit more detail, Gilda,” Trunnell said, ignoring Kosovich. He took her arm and led her to stand behind one of the Snoopers. He pointed to different portions of the helmet. “The Gehirnphone houses a microcomputer. It carries its own titanium power pack and is synchronized with the relay of the pschotronically-transferred bioenergy from Yuubee.”
“You make it sound as if there is a clear conduit between the source and the recipient,” Jim observed. “But I’m sure it’s much complex than that.”
“It most certainly is,” averred Trunnell. “The source is the brain of the seer. Its power is enhanced by Yuubee by the informed transfer of bioenergy. But the transfer does not take place as with an open pipeline. The programmers and analysts in The Nexus provide the embryonic stimulus of the initial image-formation through Yuubee, while factoring in all the resistance that the Snoopers will conceivably run into before they can successfully sort out the input through enhanced mind-power. When they grapple with the variables and focus the charged bioenergy in their own educated way, they can and do produce the three-dimensional pictures you see on the screens.”
“I think I got that,” Jim declared, though his comprehension was edged with doubt and many more questions. “Out of a chaotic mess, they wrestle to create the pictures in their minds with the aid of the Gehirnphones before they project in pure form what we see on the screen.”
“Exactly,” said Trunnell delighted.
“How does bioenergy translate into three-dimensional colored images and graphics?” asked Jim, with some inkling as to the answer.
“Through a combination of telepathy and psychokinesis,” concluded Gilda.
“Splendid!” Trunnell cried. “But don’t neglect to add the super-charged ionization of electrical particles. I know you two will make excellent students.” He patted them paternally on their backs.
“I have to borrow your two star recruits for a moment.” Kosovich grabbed hold of Jim’s arm eagerly. “Now I have a surprise for you and I’m not thanking you for it. It’s what you left me and the other agents with in Washington, D.C.”
The thin-faced man pulled Jim over to a large double-door compartment which turned out to be a freezer. Kosovich flung open the doors. Chilled vapors of frozen air spill out in a cloud.
“There he is. Sergei Verenich. Or what’s left of him. And you didn’t leave much,” Kosovich accused, displaying his anger with a finger jabbed at the remains.
Gilda stifled a scream and stepped back. Jim stiffened and expected the pieces to somehow come together as Sergei’s consciousness had in the ether and attack him. The blasted torso emptied of soft organ tissue with the rib cage spread apart was as he remembered it. The legs had been cut off and lay separately on another shelf, bluish-grey and hairy. Several one-gallon plastic ziplocks contained the soft tissue that the agents had to pick off of them and scoop up off the floor at Hotel George and what was left of the lungs, heart, liver and the rest of the organs that had exploded out of Sergei’s body. The severed arms were tied, and the hands were naturally clasped together as if the previous owner had been converted to religion before his demise. What were obviously his genitals were contained in another ziplock bag. But the head with the thick, brown hair, the short nose, the square jaw. It was gone, not a part of the collection.
Jim swallowed hard and held down a wave of nausea that he knew would be the color of greenish-yellow if he threw up. It had happened at one murder scene where the body had flowers stuck into carved holes.
“The head…,” Jim said weakly. Somehow he had to see Sergei’s head to feel convinced that he was indeed dead. “It’s gone. What did you do with it?”
“Didn’t need it. Had to cut it up to get at the brain,” Kosovich said and leered at Jim’s discomfort. “Besides you’ll always have access to the head, another surprise for you, Sato.” He took Jim’s arm and pulled him over to the far wall which had a single screen mounted above a lone figure wearing a Gehirnphone.
About the Author
R. H. Kohno has been writing for a number of years now, putting a capstone on a long-held dream of becoming a writer, and has produced a number of works of fiction, the most recent of which include Eye of the Star, The StarMind Alert and Starburst Over China (soon to be published), a trilogy of psychic thrillers, and Westward Lies The Sun, written under his real name. He majored in English at the University of Washington and was the editor-in-chief of the campus literary magazine, Assay. He taught briefly at the university level before embarking on a career in writing. He is currently working on a novel and putting together a collection of short stories.