The Athabasca Project: A Dawnfall Saga Prequel

Extinction is no longer forever.

Genetic scientist Zahra Mir has never even kept a cat. In the fast-paced genetic engineering industry, pets aren’t compatible with her career ambitions. Especially when the US military offers her the chance of a lifetime: a project to resurrect an extinct raptor species – the deinonychus  – for use in special forces units.  

Despite her misgivings about the military’s plan, Zahra can’t resist the challenge of recreating the dinosaurs. But as the raptors mature, they become more than a project to her. One raptor in particular, Singer, impresses Zahra with her curiosity and intelligence. 

Aided by the animal handler in charge of the raptors’ care, Zahra does her best to teach them about the world they’ve been brought into. 

But a brutal training exercise reveals the military wants to turn them into weapons and use her research to make monsters. If Singer and the other raptors are going to have a future, Zahra must find a way to free them from the army’s control. 

The price of success might be her own freedom. 

The Athabasca Project is a thrilling tale of genetic engineering science fiction perfect for fans of David Brin and Michael Crichton.

Read an excerpt below!

“Imagine an animal as loyal as a dog, but smarter. With trainable pack-bonding behavior, and at least as capable of learning as a raven or crow. Imagine all that, and then imagine it has hands.”

Zahra tried to indulge the thought experiment, but Nohelty’s hints weren’t enough. “Are we talking about some kind of chimera?”

Nohelty shook his head. “No. It may not exist yet, but I guarantee you and millions of other Americans have heard of it. You might’ve even gone through a phase as a kid.”

Davies let out an exaggerated groan. “Come on Abe, quit burying the lede.” Davies the paleontologist, she recalled: Davies, who’d come out of retirement for this. They didn’t seriously mean—

Nohelty put up his hands. “Okay, okay.” He clicked his remote again. As the slide changed behind him, he stepped aside. “Meet the animal that has all that.”

Zahra stared. Then she blurted, “It’s a dinosaur.”

Davies cleared his throat and sat forward. “If you want to get specific, it’s a Deinonychus antirrhopus. A kind of raptor.” He looked over at Nohelty. “I know it’s just an artist’s rendition, but it really should have a lot more feathers.”

The other man shrugged. “It’s just a concept. That’s why we need your expertise when it comes to the actual phenotype.”

Part of Zahra was listening, but the voices were background chatter. Most of her attention was focused on the sleek, bipedal body displayed on the slide.

The artist had painted the deinonychus in the same position she’d seen in dozens of pieces of paleoart: standing upright and alert, its long spine—almost eleven feet long, according to the scale in one corner—canted parallel to the ground except for its bullet-shaped head, which was raised as the raptor gazed beyond the frame. One foot was lifted off the ground as though the animal was about to take off running, the better to showcase the deadly hooked claw on its largest toe. The small arms tucked to its narrow rib cage were indeed surprisingly human in shape, as far as the position of the shoulders and elbows went, though the claws on the three fingers were almost as intimidating as those on its feet. A reddish crest of feathers adorned the deinonychus’ skull and dripped off its arms like a shawl, but most of the animal was covered in pebbly brown skin slashed with black stripes.

Nohelty was quiet as he let Zahra take it in. After a few seconds, he spoke again. “I believe that with the expertise gathered in this room, we can make this idea a reality. This is what the Athabasca Project is meant to accomplish, Dr. Mir: the creation of the first cohort of gengineered raptors to support US military units in conflict zones around the world.”

He put his hands in his pockets and looked around the table. “So, do you want a tour of the facility?”

Coming Summer 2024!