Instinct Theory – Annihilate by Ian Bristow, the concluding volume of the Instinct Theory duology, is out today. When the world is running out of options man looks further afield for survival and some are willing to cross any line it takes…
Federation Director of Resources Guthrie Adams had gone over this moment in his head dozens of times, rehearsing ways to make the reality sound less disturbing than it truly was. But now that the time had come and Commander Alexander Christoph’s hologram was staring back at him, he couldn’t deny the truth. There was no way of manipulating what he needed to say into any semblance of tolerable.
“It’s worse than we thought.”
Alexander’s hands balled into fists.
“It seems they never intended for you to come back.” Guthrie paused. The Federation’s cruelty was beyond belief, and it was more difficult than he could have imagined to voice it. “You are the bait they need to get people fired up and willing to support an attack on the natives when the time comes.”
Alexander’s expression flickered, revealing the split second that his hardened captain’s persona failed to bury a reaction to the full blow of what he’d just heard.
“Yeah, I got that impression.”
“Had I known, I never would have opted for you to be at the helm of this debacle. I just thought, being the person I know you are, you could make a difference. Set things right.”
“I can make a difference. And I will.”
Guthrie nodded. “I will do all I can from this end to make sure you know what’s going on. It has been hard to fool Hawkins into thinking I’m taking his side. But so far I have played my part well, and I do believe I remain in his confidence.”
“That’s good news. Any information you can give me along the way will be greatly appreciated.”
“There is … something else. Something I’ve not told you, namely because I’m not a hundred percent sure it’s set in stone. But I can assure you, it is more heinous than you can…”
The floor above Guthrie’s basement saferoom creaked.
“Shit! Hold on. I think someone’s—”
He shut the handheld off to make sure the intruder couldn’t track its signal, then moved over to the computer he’d been using under the Federation’s radar. A system wipe protocol was already in place, should this moment come, so he pulled the data stick from its port—his failsafe—and activated the protocol sequence. Once he was sure the sequence had started, he grabbed the handgun he kept hidden beneath his desk, moved to the far corner of the room and slipped behind the hollowed-out bookcase he’d set up for just this kind of situation.
Through the tiny gaps between fake book spines, he saw two intruders, clearly skilled at their task, enter the room, no doubt hired operatives whose job it was to sweep their dirt under the rug. One did a quick visual sweep while the other, who Guthrie could now see was a man, went straight to the computer.
“I don’t see him.” A woman of average height and build clad in black, joined her partner by the computer.
Guthrie breathed a silent sigh, thankful he hadn’t been found.
A man’s voice replied
“He probably had an escape route in place.”
“No matter. It’s not him we’re after anyway. Can you stop the system wipe sequence?”
“Course I can.”
The intruders fell silent. They were huddled over the computer now, and one was typing and tapping on the screen at such speed it almost looked like he was twitching.
“There’s a defense procedure in place. One I wouldn’t have expected from someone like the Director. Well beyond the standard Federation protocol.”
Guthrie enjoyed a brief moment of self-satisfaction and found himself smiling.
“What does that mean? You can’t access the data?”
“Oh no, I can. I just have to work harder for it.”
The smile fell as quickly as it had come.
“How much time do you have?”
“Not much. As soon as the system has properly deleted everything it’ll shut down and the core will fry.”
“Looks like the Director is definitely their traitor then. No one employs this kind of security without something serious to hide.”
The word hit Guthrie like a blow to the gut.
That’s what he was now.
A Bite of… Ian Bristow
What gave you the initial idea for Instinct Theory and how much did your original notion of how it would go change in the writing?
Great question. The initial idea came to me while I was taking Cultural Anthropology in college. I had already been toying with the idea of a sci-fi story, and then the idea came to me in that class for creating an MC who’s a world-renowned cultural anthropologist during a period when humans discover sentient life on another planet and what how being asked to join the team to study that life could impact the character. A great deal of the details changed from the very first ideas to what it ended up being, but the core themes never did.
What was your favourite and least favourite aspects of writing Annihilate?
My favorite aspect was in the characters’ journey, and creating a world for them to explore, both beautiful and dangerous, familiar and alien. My least favorite aspect was maintaining the level of realism I wanted even when some characters’ professions strayed miles from my wheelhouse. There were some real growing pains involved in bringing my writing of certain aspects up to scratch. Even now I can only hope I mostly achieved.
With this story finished, what plans do you have for your next book?
I’ve had the urge to start a fantasy series brewing for well over a year now, so I’m pleased to finally get my feet wet with that. I’ve already started working out a map of the world and doing some of the macro story dev.
Ian Bristow is a freelance artist (the cover is his own design) and the author of Instinct Theory series, Hunting Darkness and the Conner’s Odyssey trilogy. He is currently working on development for a new fantasy series (title yet unknown). When he isn’t writing or creating works of art, he enjoys playing music or spending time with his family and friends. You can visit him on Facebook and Twitter.