The Pegasus Project.
When Jack Randal lands a job with Bells Biological Research Centre, he sets off for the remote South African farm, unaware of the dangers lurking behind the high, electrified fence. It doesn’t take long for him to uncover a top-secret project. When a fellow scientist dies under mysterious circumstances, Jack zeros in on the Pegasus Project. Tension mounts as he probes the dark secret surrounding the genetically modified bio-fuel, and the time comes when he must decide whether to risk his life in order to prevent a global catastrophe.
Bernie Kemp stepped into the greenhouse, closed the door behind him, then leaned back against it and groaned. His head felt about to burst, and the air, heavy with the smell of earth and chemicals, made him gag. The sight of the plants, lined up in their dome-shaped tanks, all waiting for attention, made him feel a thousand times worse.
The hangover was his own fault. He should have listened to Anna. He could hear her voice right now, echoing in his head. “Hey, Bernie, put that bottle away. One more drop and you’ll be blotto. You’ve got to go to work tomorrow. You can’t afford another day off. Not if you want to keep your job.”
Anna was right. Trouble was, the blasted woman was always right. She never tired of telling him how lucky he was to land the job with Bells Biological Research Centre, or of reminding him that he’d never make the kind of money he earned anywhere else.
It was true, all true. But Anna didn’t have to put up with a boss who breathed down the back of her neck, or work with the monstrosities that grew in this greenhouse. Bernie stared at them now—long rows of grey-green weirdoes, each in its own airtight tank, most sprouting pods that looked more like mushrooms than flowers. Or brightly coloured toadstools, some red, some yellow, some purple, some a mottled nondescript shade.
Bernie had no idea why it was necessary to grow the plants in a state-of-the-art greenhouse where water, nutrients and temperature were rigidly controlled. Or why he was supposed to wear goggles, mask and gloves when working with them. Bernie gave a fleeting thought to putting them on, then shrugged. He was damned if he was going to strap that heavy contraption around his head. Not while it ached like hell. Who would know the difference? Not Brandt. The big boss seldom inspected the plants before midday, and the chance of anyone else passing by was next to nil.
Bernie didn’t ask questions. He did what he was told—no more, no less. His job was to measure the height of each plant, count the pods and record the data—a never-ending task because the bloody things grew so fast. It was a backbreaking job at the best of times, but today, with a sledgehammer banging away inside his head, just thinking about what lay ahead made him shudder. What he wanted more than anything was to crawl into bed and stay there until the hangover wore off.
What he wanted and what had to be done were two different things, but it occurred to him that it wouldn’t do any harm to take a nip of the hair-of-the-dog first. In fact, Bernie felt quite sure it would do him a great deal of good.
He reached into his pocket and brought out the half-jack he’d had the foresight to place there before leaving home. He unscrewed the cap and took a quick gulp. The brandy rolled over his tongue and slid down his throat, burning all the way down. The second gulp spread a warm glow through his body. He hesitated, then shrugged and took a third big swallow. This time his vision blurred—not a good sign, but on the plus side his headache seemed a bit better. Yes, definitely. Not altogether gone, but faded to the point where he could almost bear it. That decided him. With a quick look around to make sure no one was near, he lifted the bottle and kept it pressed to his lips till the last drop was gone.
Bernie flung the bottle under one of the many trestles running the length of the greenhouse. No one would see it there, lying among the maze of vats and pipes and pumps that delivered just the right amount of water and nutrients into the tanks above. No one would see it, and the way he felt right then he didn’t give a damn if they did.
He stood swaying and blinking, doing his best to focus on one of the double images that kept swimming into view. Then, with a determined effort, he lurched down the centre aisle toward the bank of taps and dials that lined the far wall. He almost made it. Had it not been for the coil of hose lying on the floor he’d have got there, no trouble at all. But his foot caught in the tangled coils and he went flying, arms spread wide. Down he went with an almighty crash. Two crashes actually, because one of the dome-shaped tanks went down with him.
Stunned, he lay there staring in bewilderment at the splintered glass and the plant with purple and red pods that lay crushed and broken beside him. Then, with a curse, he pushed himself up to his feet.
About Daphne Olivier
I have always wanted to write, but nursing, raising a family and farming got in the way, and it was only when I retired that I was able to follow my dream. From an early age, I read everything I could lay hands on—biography, fantasy, historical fiction, thriller, mythology, science fiction or the classics. My novels reflect this wide interest for I write in several different genre`—thriller, science fiction, YA, memoir and historical fiction. I live in a small town in South Africa with my husband and two dogs.
What inspired you to write your current novel?
I’ve spent most of my life on a farm so when I set out to write a thriller I naturally turned to agriculture as a theme. As GMOs are so much in the news these days, I set out to research the subject. And the more I discovered, the more fascinating the subject became. The Pegasus Project is the result of that research. It’s a story about the search for a bio-fuel that will replace our reliance on oil and what might happen if that research fell into the wrong hands.
Is there a hidden message in your story and if so what is it?
I didn’t set out to include a message, but hope that those who read it will be more aware of the pros and cons of GMOs and the effect they have on our lives.
How do balance writing with all of life’s responsibilities? Which ones do you have to juggle?
I write whenever time permits and often get up in the small hours to catch up on my schedule.
What is your favorite quote?
Writing is easy. All you have to do is sit and stare at a sheet of paper till drops of blood ooze from your forehead.
What is the one thing about a book that will make you close the cover and not finish it?
Too much description and back-story in the opening paragraphs. If the author doesn’t hook me right at the start, I close the book and put it away.
What do you see as your next project and when can we expect it?
My latest novel, Thunder on the Veldt, (a story about the Anglo-Boer War) is due for release by Mélange Books in March 2014.
Keep in touch with Daphne:
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/daphne.f.olivier
Other books by Daphne Olivier:
The Peacock Throne – published by Wild Child Publishers
The Kennaway Woman – published by Mélange Books
The Way it was – published by Mélange Books