The Hidden Reality
Author: Stephen Martino
Publisher: Light Messages
Genre: Science Fiction/Political Thriller
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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October 11, 1786 Landsbut, Bavaria
THE HYPNOTIC MELODY of the whistling wind and the patter of raindrops hitting the roof ordinarily proved more comforting to Xavier von Zweck than the most angelic lullaby. On this night, the grandfather clock had just chimed 2:00 a.m., and Xavier could barely close his eyes, let alone fall asleep.
Insomnia was no friend of his but had become an accustomed bedtime partner over the past year. Though the night was unusually warm and muggy for a Bavarian October, Xavier pulled another quilted blanket over his body, covering himself as if he were trying to make a cocoon.
“Xavier?” his wife mumbled, half asleep. “You’d rest better with the lamp off.”
“Mind your own business,” he quipped. Not wanting to start another argument, his wife simply turned away and drifted slowly back to sleep as if nothing had occurred. She had become accustomed to her husband’s quick fits of temper and erratic behavior. The man she married in her late teens was certainly not the man she had grown to know over the past year. His gentle, caring demeanor had been transformed into one of paranoia and fear. Though she cared for him dearly, their relationship dwindled as quickly as Xavier’s sanity.
If she only knew, Xavier thought. She would not be sleeping so soundly.
He double-checked his bedside table drawer for the tenth time that night to ensure that his gun was in the proper place. He had loaded the flintlock pistol and stowed it there in case of any emergency. Assured the gun was where he stored it, Xavier rolled on his back and looked blankly up at the ceiling. It was such a noble and just cause, he lamented. The enlightenment we would have brought to Bavaria, if not the world, would have made the Renaissance pale in comparison. Now they hunt us down like a pack of dogs, wanting to rid their country of any contrary thoughts or points of view. The government and church are nothing more than instruments of suppression that hinder man’s true nature to achieve enlightenment and pursue humanitarianism.
Xavier startled as the front door rattled.
Was it just the wind?
He lifted his head, trying not to make a sound. His breathing became shallow while his pulse raced. He could feel his heart pound and temples throb. He listened intently, hoping it was just the storm. Seconds passed like hours. Every raindrop sounded like raging bulls charging through his home. In his heightened awareness, the wind seemed to grow to hurricane proportions. His head darted to the bedroom window as a windblown tree branch only gently scraped across it.
They found me, he trembled. Just as they did all of the other brothers of the order! Baron Kruigge-Philo, Baron Bassus, Ferdinand Brunswick. All taken. Never seen or heard of again.
He looked at the window, expecting soldiers to come barging through it.
Xavier slowly began to ease himself back down to bed after a few terrifying moments.
Just as he was about to breathe relief, the door rattled once again. This time the sound was unmistakable. This was not the storm or some wayward tree branch. Someone was out outside trying to get in.
Wearing only his white-laced nightshirt, Xavier sprang to his feet. Grabbing the fluted lantern from the night table by the base with his right hand and the pistol with the left, he dashed over to the top of the stairs. From that vantage point he had a clear view of the front door. Illuminated by ornate lanterns on both sides and burning candles in the hallway, the door was clearly visible in this moonless night.
Xavier pointed the pistol down the stairs, waiting for any unwanted visitors to enter his home. Though the ivory and gold festooned weapon was an inaccurate shot, at close quarters it should prove accurate enough to stop an intruder.
The door rattled once again, and the person outside accompanied the rattling with seven distinct knocks. There were two doublets and one triplet all separated by a short interval. Could it be? Xavier hesitantly descended the steps, keeping his pistol pointing at the door. The knock was unmistakable. It was the secret cadence required to gain access to the order’s clandestine meetings.
Was it one of his brothers or was this just some sort of rouse the police were using for him to open the door?
“Cato,” a muffled voice said from behind the door.
Stunned, Xavier stood motionless after he descended the last step on the stairs.
“Cato. Open up,” the muffled voice beckoned once again.
This was no rouse or trick. Only a high-ranking brother in the order would know his code name. After a brief moment of disbelief, Xavier placed the pistol in his nightshirt pocket and scurried over to unlatch the lock on the door.
Which of my brothers could it be? There are so few of us left.
He slowly opened the door, peering around the corner just in case this visitor was accompanied by other unwelcome guests. The man was alone and drenched from head to toe. His large brimmed top hat concealed his face, making him unrecognizable.
“Cato,” the man asked in a raspy voice, “May I come in?”
“Yes. Yes,” Xavier finally answered, still not able to recognize the man’s identity or even his voice. “Where are my manners, good sir? Please come in brother.”
As the man walked into the house, Xavier immediately shut the door and fastened the lock behind him. Though the man was a brother, he needed to secure the house in case he had been followed.
“Let me take your hat,” Xavier quickly offered.
Obliging his request, the man handed the soggy hat to his host. Water trickled down from it onto the hardwood floor as Xavier placed it on a coat hook standing next to the door.
Though the man before him was about twenty pounds lighter, and drenched from his balding head down to his long blue-buttoned overcoat. Xavier immediately recognized the man’s identity—Adam Weishaupt. With a slight double chin, cherub-like cheeks and a dubious smile, he was thought to have been put to death after Duke Karl Theodor outlawed their order. But the former leader of their order was obviously still alive and now standing here in his hallway.
“Cato,” Spartacus immediately responded in a rushed and rasped tone. “There is little time. Do you still have everything?”
“Yes,” Xavier responded, still in disbelief that his brother from the order was still alive. “I kept everything hidden just like you requested.” Before he could say anything else, he grabbed Spartacus’s wet shoulders and asked, “How are you old friend? I was certain Duke Theodor had your head after he disbanded the order.”
Spartacus had little time for pleasantries. “Please, Cato. You must quickly bring me everything from the order. A new wave of reasoning is about to ignite in Europe starting in France, and I must be there to foster the initial spark.”
Xavier patted him on the shoulders and smiled in delight. “There’s no rush. Come and change into something dry. Have a cup of tea. The storm should break soon, and I will ready you fresh supplies for your journey ahead.”
“I may have been followed,” Spartacus quickly responded.
Xavier’s delight quickly soured at the revelation, though he knew the good of the order and its message meant more than his anonymity or even his own life.
“Yes. Follow me,” Xavier responded, quickly escorting his friend over to a wooden chest in an adjacent room. Though he had so many questions to ask, he understood he would have to wait for answers.
The room was dark and lit only by two candles almost completely melted to their base. With his lantern held in front of him, Xavier scurried over to the wooden chest and grabbed one of the brass handles along its side. Spartacus grabbed the other, and with little effort the two moved the chest to the side, revealing a small trap door underneath.
Xavier lifted the door by a small latch attached to it and brought his lantern closer so they could both get a better look. In the dim light provided by the lantern, Spartacus could just make out its contents.
Two large books, each with the order’s distinctive symbol imprinted on their cover, lay atop a beautifully ornate silver shield. Though the details of the shield’s artwork were lost in the darkness, the symbols certainly were not: an all-seeing eye surrounded by a pyramid.
The symbol was none other than that of the Order of the Illuminati.
A loud hammering on the front door caught them both by surprise.
Xavier almost dropped his lantern as he jumped back, nearly stumbling in response.
Clamoring from the back door in the rear of the house now accompanied the noise echoing from the front.
“Adam Weishaupt,” a voice bellowed from outside as the incessant banging on the doors continued. “Open up!”
Xavier quickly put down the lantern and wrapped the shield and two books in the linen on which they were lying. “I must get you out of here.”
Taking the linen package, he opened up the chest and grabbed a large leather satchel especially made for these items. Xavier looked at Spartacus while placing the linen package in the pouch. “You must leave now.”
Before he could say anything further, Spartacus interrupted. “Is this everything?”
“What do you mean?”
“Is this everything?” he reiterated over the clamoring noise.
With each new bang, the doors sounded as if they were going to collapse under the intense battering.
“Adam Weishaupt,” another voice from the rear of the house began to yell.
Time was dwindling. It would only be a few moments now before one of the doors would succumb to the beating.
Complicating the commotion, Xavier’s wife came running down the stairs. Carrying a lantern and wearing her nightshirt and cap, she asked, horrified by the commotion, “Who are these people, Xavier? And what do they want?”
“Go back up upstairs,” Xavier responded pointing back towards their bedroom.
Another strong pound came from the front door as its hinges began to give way.
Xavier’s wife stood in the hallway, motionless, looking at her husband and then the door, not knowing what to do.
“Go upstairs,” Xavier insisted with more emphasis.
“Is this everything?” Spartacus emphatically interrupted, taking the leather pouch.
The hinges on the front door continued to loosen and with each new thump the door opened just a small fraction more. Xavier’s wife began to cry and shiver under the stress. Though her husband cared for her dearly, he understood that the order’s cause meant more than even her safety.
He turned to Spartacus, “I have some other papers hidden in the kitchen. Come with me.”
“Who are these people?” Xavier’s wife cried out.
“We are here under the direct orders of Duke Theodor,” a voice from behind the front door insisted, the clamoring momentarily stopped. “Adam Weishaupt, come out.”
Xavier’s wife quickly went over to the door and began to fumble with the lock. She respected the authorities and certainly wanted no trouble with the Duke. Whoever her husband was harboring at this moment needed to leave.
“No!” shouted Xavier as he turned in disbelief to see his wife begin to unlatch the door.
He attempted to stop her but Spartacus grabbed him by the shoulder. “The other papers,” Spartacus shouted. “I must have the other papers!”
“But—” Xavier was cut off as Spartacus shoved him towards the kitchen.
The door to the rear of the house smashed open, leaving pieces of wooden shards all over the floor. Soldiers in long blue overcoats carrying bayonet rifles in their hands came barging through and into the storage room. The room was cluttered, wet from the storm, and blanketed in total darkness, which proved to be Xavier’s best defense.
One of the soldiers began to shout in agony as his companion accidentally bayoneted his leg upon tripping.
“Move it,” a boisterous voice from the rear urged, grabbing the fallen soldiers and attempting to bring them to their feet on the slippery floor.
“Take this,” Xavier insisted, removing the pistol out from his nightshirt pocket. “It will provide only one shot. Make it count.”
Spartacus took the weapon but again insisted, “What about the other papers?”
“There is no time,” Xavier responded, “Go down…”
“Where is he?” a voice echoed from the hallway. “Where are you hiding Adam Weishaupt?”
A weak voice responded, “Some man just took my husband into the kitchen.”
“I have a horse ready just outside the wine cellar, in a stall I placed there in case of an emergency.” Xavier continued as he began to perspire under the stress. “There are two days’ worth of supplies and some money strapped to the saddle.”
“But the papers,” Spartacus insisted. “They must not fall into anyone else’s hands.”
Two soldiers suddenly appeared next to the kitchen. “We found him!” one of them yelled.
Xavier quickly handed his friend the lantern and rushed over to the soldiers, hoping to use his body as a shield and give his friend an extra second to escape. “Go now!” he insisted.
Spartacus took the lantern and immediately smashed it against the kitchen table covered in fine linen as Xavier ran over to the soldiers with his arms spread, hoping to block their pursuit. Flaming oil from the lamp spewed out upon the table and onto the walls upon impact, catching them on fire.
Xavier looked back in horror as his house was consumed by flames, while his friend, still holding the base of the lantern, slowly backed away towards the wine cellar.
What’s he doing?
Spartacus knew there was no other option. If the remaining Illuminati papers in the house somehow became public, it could compromise the entire movement. France would remain under its tyrannical rule from the king; all of Europe would remain masked in darkness.
The soldiers began to push past Xavier as he stood motionless. He had grown up in this home, and was the fourth generation of Zwecks to live there. All his belongings and generations worth of memories were turning to ash.
The soldiers stopped their pursuit as Spartacus pulled out the pistol Xavier had given him from his pocket. Taking close aim, he fired. A puff of black smoke momentarily obscured his vision. The bullet directly hit its mark, piercing the man’s heart and sending him tumbling backwards.
Mortally wounded, Xavier fell towards the soldiers who did nothing to stop him from falling on the hard wooden floors. Xavier struck the ground as blood poured from his chest. Letting out a single grunt, he lost consciousness before he could understand what had just transpired.
Spartacus ran down into the wine cellar. The reflection from the burning fire in the kitchen gave him just enough light for him to see his way back towards a set of steps in the back of the room. Though he had just murdered a close friend and brother of the order, he had no time to lament or second guess his actions. The importance of the Illuminati movement far outweighed the significance of one man’s life or worldly possessions—Xavier’s death was for the greater good of all mankind.
The soldiers followed Spartacus in quick pursuit. With their bayonets pointed forward, they ran through the fire-lit kitchen and towards the stairs.
Spartacus heard the soldiers in pursuit; they were closing in on him. Pushing up on a door at the top of the steps, he ascended into a covered barn with an already saddled horse seemingly awaiting his arrival.
A few already burning lanterns in the stall provided just enough illumination for him to see. He then quickly unlatched the barn’s only door and mounted the horse. A bluster of wind blew the door open just as Spartacus began to ride towards it.
Seeing their target attempting to ride away, one of the soldier’s took aim with his rifle before he ascended the final step of the wine cellar. With only one shot and his fellow companion still behind him, he knew the bullet needed to count. His orders were to bring back Adam Weishaupt dead or alive. Dead would work just fine.
The rifle went off with a black puff of smoke.
The bullet passed through Spartacus’s dark overcoat, inflicting only a minor flesh wound to his thigh. Barely noticing the pain, Spartacus put his head down and rode out into the night. With the shield and two books safely secured, he knew the course of mankind would be irrevocably changed from this moment forward.
Stephen Martino is neurologist practicing in New Jersey. Though not separating conjoined twins like Dr. Ben Carson, he is part of an active medical practice and is currently participating in concussion research and inventing new medical products. When he is not working, he can be found with his five children doing homework or cheering them on at a soccer field, basketball court, or dance recital. Martino is a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Cub Scout den leader and is an active public speaker, helping to provide stroke education to the local community, EMS squads and healthcare professionals.
His latest book is the science fiction/political thriller, The Hidden Reality.
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