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This is an original piece of fiction, set in my Urionverse scenario. It is in a way, the distillation of ideas from a lot of my fan-fic's and original novels which I have completed and am considering publishing as e-books. I am posting this as a serialised novel on my Facebook Page, where it is and will be the most up-to-date. Bear with me on the first couple of chapters and hopefully you will see where there is a link to previous stories and ideas.
This story is set in a broken future, where modern and ancient weapons exist side by side. The Protectorate, an overly powerful Church society both runs and intends to subjugate all known and yet unexplored space. Domination of humanity is their goal and they will use whatever means possible to achieve their bloody purpose. Constant war has guaranteed that, outside of the Protectorate, a minority has achieved vast wealth and a desire to live on beyond their normal life-span. Euthan Palace was created for that purpose.
With a simple signature, access is granted to the Facility, where miracles apparently occur; near-immortality is said to be offered for the chosen few. As none has ever returned from the Facility, no doubt can be cast on these claims. Irrationally new and willing victims clutch onto this belief and a slow but steady stream of men and women give themselves to the care of the Protectorate, only leaving behind their mortal estates.
Resistance has sprung up in the form of anti-machine sects, whose sole aim is to return humanity to its original condition. They will use whatever means and justifications to carry out their purpose.
Jan Olsen is the proprietor of Euthan Palace; the portal and front office to the Facility. He is their doorman, whose only function is to receive and dispose of their wealth. An easy job, or so it seems...
The chime rang, reverberated, rose to a crescendo and slowly died away. It was loud. Jan Olsen hated that chime. Another customer had entered his private place and that could only mean one thing, work. Grudgingly he rose from his disorganised desk, knocking the half-full glass of brandy over with a twitch of his hand. It was only ever half-full; a magical state which money and perseverance ensured.
He had not meant to be rich. Retirement from the Protectorate had left him with a modest sum, which he had invested in the facilities here. War had carried on; each day the Protectorate expanded its zone of influence and this innocuous rock had turned into a gold mine. A jump point had been found nearby, an unusual confluence of physics and impossibility. It was a nexus; warp space folded strangely here, allowing a myriad of connections and it had become depressingly important overnight.
Little men in grey suits had tried to buy him out, he had refused. Next followed threats, but Jan was not easily cowed. His aggressive demeanour, backed up by a heavy blaster and too many old friends had made them go away. That, of course, and the remains of an overzealous politician which he had nailed to the front entrance.
Eventually he had agreed to lease some of his spare land and the Protectorate had installed their research facility nearby. Things ran smoothly for a couple of years until there was no need, militarily speaking, for the nexus point. Battle fronts change, after all; a circumstance which Jan was comfortable with. He was granted the use of the assets now on his land, with only one condition; he must continue providing the service. This time his truculent nature was of no use, the Protectorate reminding him of exactly what they could do to him if they wished. So, he opened his new business, with his less than silent partner and the money just kept rolling in.
Trade was brisk. It was incredible the amount of people who were willing to pay for what, essentially was a one-way trip. They signed over all of their worldly goods to Jan, and his partner, knowing that there was no guarantee. To arrive here, they at least needed a referral and of course to be rich. All were old, many diseased, but with one thing in common; they did not want to die. The Protectorate’s facility gave them an option; die on paper and wait for the possibility of rebirth. No guarantee was given, no refund ever discussed and once you entered the facilitiy’s double doors there was absolutely no way back.
Jan did not ask what went on behind those doors; the staff was Protectorate recruited, as far as he knew military, and he just did not care. He had an unlimited supply of brandy, his own space, with only occasional interruptions. One of course was too many, but he could endure. The chime had signalled just such a disturbance and with bad grace he entered the reception area.
“Welcome. Please be seated. There are just a few formalities...” he began to slur before his brandy-fogged mind recognized the unusualness of the scene before him.
Something hard, metallic, wavered in his vision. He recognised and did not like it. There were too many people, at least six and all dressed the same. Jan recognised their uniforms and facial features and began to sober quickly. He tried again.
The pain resulting from the harsh blow sharpened his senses. This was not how it was supposed to be.
“Be quiet!” This came from their leader, a harsh-faced woman. She was the one who had slapped him.
“Marti,” she continued, “are you sure that the cameras are off?”
“Good,” she returned to Jan, grasping his brandy-stained shirt and pulling him towards her, “now where is it?”
“Here,” he mumbled, his knee slamming up between her legs, as his right hand curled round her throat, “but you’re not going to be happy...”
Her hair was long, tied in a pony-tail which he used to good effect, tearing hair painfully as he dragged her round. Drunk no longer, reactions took over. Changing his grip, his hand dropped to her belt, drawing her pistol in a fluid movement. His first shot took a startled Marti right between the eyes, his second blew a hole in another’s chest. They had begun to move, but shock had given him an edge. Jan booted his angry captive towards the tight clump of his remaining attackers; part of his brain laughing at the stupidity of huddling up so close together, even whilst he killed them.
As quickly as it had started, it was over, Jan standing over his first aggressor whose pitiful cries did not move him.
“You’ll be sorry,” she gasped.
“I already am,” he said, as he calmly squeezed the trigger.
The report had barely died away when the front door exploded inwards, throwing Jan back towards his office. Armour-clad figures raced in, spraying the area liberally with weapons fire. Half-conscious, Jan heard the snapped, “Take him!” just before a rifle-butt slammed into his head, relieving him of all the troublesome questions running through his mind.
Light, noise and pain hit Jan all at once. He tried to move, but found his hands and feet bound. Blood had dried against his eyelids and so it was a hard struggle to open at least one. When he managed this gargantuan task, he really wished he had not bothered. From what he could see life was about to get even worse.
Vibrations indicated that he was in some form of transport and the rapidly widening crack in the floor suggested that he was airborne, with a distinct possibility of crashing back to earth. A pair of metal-shod boots stomped into view and a rough hand dragged him upright via his hair.
The word was spat with hatred, and as he rose up the uniformed body he saw the sign he had been dreading. Resurrectionists; the day really could not get any worse.
“You killed our team, who were only trying to cleanse that abomination below,” snarled the bristle-haired figure, whose shoulders sported a Colonel’s rank insignia, “so you too will die. Fittingly, we are sending you back attached to our instrument of purification. You can contemplate your sins and pray for forgiveness on your long ride down.”
Jan knew that talking was pointless, religious fanatics were nothing if not single-minded. Closed, bigoted, usually irrationally positive, they were not his kind of people. Instead, he just grinned and let them manhandle him towards the waiting bomb. He would get one chance, when they loosened his bonds in order to strap him to his ride. How much he could make of it, he was unsure, especially the state he was in, but he was determined to take at least one of them with him.
Feigning even more pain than he felt, he scanned his surroundings. There were four of them in the bay, including the Colonel. Two waited by the bomb and another was controlling the opening mechanism; parachutes there were none and jumping out unaided from a perfectly good craft, was not his idea of fun. Then he saw his only chance and relaxed, slumping a little to make himself even more of a dead weight. His captors, in their arrogance, expected nothing less; they were after all superior.
When the first cord was roughly cut, there was no need to pretend; blood rushed back into stiff fingers and he grunted reflexively. His captors smiled and dragged him by one of his free hands to the body of the bomb. They would have to untie his legs too, but were treating him with a healthy respect. He needed to act.
Jan threw his weight forward, his bound legs levering him into the nearest man, who automatically caught him. He let his hands hang slackly by his side, making his opponent take the full impact of his unresponsive body.
“Give me a hand!” the soldier grunted, bending his knees.
“You look like you’re having fun...” laughed his mate, reaching down for Jan’s feet.
Jan jerked his knees towards his chest and used the first soldier as his support, as he slammed the heel of his boots into the second soldier’s stomach. An explosion of air confirmed his accuracy and the reaction of his attack, pushed the first soldier over. Now was his weakest moment. He could not afford to wait for feeling to return to his abused limbs and so he struck, using his swollen hands as clubs. He had half-risen, as best he could, and pounded both hands down into the soldier’s upturned face. It took four blows, and too much time, to render him ineffective. The hand grasping Jan’s hair told him that.
It was the Colonel, whose repertoire seemed particularly limited. Jan did not speak. Instead, he concentrated on finding an advantage, any one.
“Look at me!”
There it was. The Colonel twisted Jan around, allowing him to use the only weapon he had available. Jan bit hard. Skin tore, as he wrenched his mouth from side to side, and ripped a chunk of flesh from the Colonel’s hand. One arm swung over as he fell, smashing into the whimpering Resurrectionist’s face. It only bought him a little time, as feet tied he slammed full-length to the floor.
Colonel Radimir Vladic stopped cursing and smiled. It was over. He had the heretic clearly in his sights. His hand hurt, but that was nothing in the greater scheme of things. Carefully he took aim, fired and missed, as the heretic rolled away from the shot and slid out into the void. He took one of the soldiers with him; a casualty of war.
Grinning, Vladic moved to the controls and punched in the firing sequence. The plan could not be stopped now. His name would be remembered.
Desperation is a funny thing; Jan’s choices were extremely limited. He took his decision quickly, grasping the still groaning soldier by his belt and taking him with him as he fell out of the ship. One of his hands half-worked, and it was the fingers of this hand which activated the contra gravity belt. It struggled with the extra weight but his feet caught over one of the stanchions helped. The upwards motion twisted him round, leaving one of his feet half in the bay and his torso crushed against the underside of the craft.
The wind tore his breath away, the soldier beneath him struggling for air. Jan saw the external hatch controls and clumsily punched the standard entry code. As the door slid open, the belt’s action pushed him chest first into the widening space, stripping skin from his face as he was forced inside. There was little chance of releasing his foot and he screamed in pain as ligaments tore in protest. He was inside, the soldier pushing him further, although incapable of joining him there. One more ridiculous decision to be taken; he entered the code to close the hatch.
A cry of agony was torn from him as his ankle broke, twisting at last free from the stanchion’s hold. He used his knees to effect, pushing up on the body below him, but it was taking too long. The door closure was mechanical, ignorant and uncaring of his predicament. He screamed once as his ankle was crushed between flesh and metal, his frantic movement and distorted bones releasing the bindings. One free foot was used to push himself up on the now terrified soldier, who grabbed onto his ankle. Jan screamed again. There was nothing he could do.
Momentary relief came as the door slid shut, cutting off both the soldier’s pleas and Jan’s right foot.
Colonel Vladic ignored the alarm flashing on the control panel; he was far too interested in the numbers counting down on the display before him. Soon, very soon, all of their wishes would be fulfilled. A beatific smile crossed his normally grim face as the bomb began to move forward, servo-mechanisms positioning it in its optimum launch mode. He laughed as it was elevated hydraulically and cried in salutation as its rockets fired.
The insistent alarm broke his jubilation. From the video feed inside the emergency capsule, he saw Jan Olsen as he lay bleeding out. Life was good. Perhaps the heretic could not physically join the bomb in its righteous journey, but he could at least share in its final deliverance. Grinning savagely, Vladic sent Jan to meet his fate.
Hunter Delta Two-Niner
Stealth mode was a b**ch. Captain Dale Harding swung between emotions as he watched. The Resurrectionist bomber was preparing to dump its load and he had it lit up, ready to fire. Orders were slow in coming though and the whole mini-drama of falling bodies, re-entry and amputation had played out before him. The detail was clear via his HUD, and although monotony breaking, was not his reason for being here.
“Hunter Delta Two-Niner, you have a go, repeat you have a go...”
Harding snorted in disgust; the controller sounded as bored as he was. He flicked off his safety and ran through the humdrum verbalization of his tasks.
Twin Lightning air-to-air missiles spat free from their restraints, arrowing purposefully towards their relatively lumbering target. Now Dale was happy; death and destruction, baby.
One missile speared through the open bomb-bay doors, the other slamming into the main engine housing. The second hit twisted the bomber on its horizontal axis and Dale laughed as pieces of metal exploded outwards; one piece trailing a large contrail of fire behind it. A slight, and it was only slight, delay occurred between the skewing of the bomber’s flight path and the double detonation that followed.
Inside the vessel, Colonel Vladic still wore a smile as he was consumed by the seething ball of energy released by the missile’s impact and the bomb’s gleeful reply. This fusion bomb had been meant to bring a cleansing light to Euthan Palace, to remove all unwanted taint. That it had done, just not in the way its designers had wished.
Captain Dale Harding’s excitement was short-lived; actinic fire caressed his camouflaged craft, melting and volatilizing its constituent parts too quickly for him to react. The bloom of fire scoured the upper atmosphere yet found nothing else to destroy. One large piece of debris continued its tumbling descent, its only occupant unconscious and dying.
Protectorate Tracking Station
Euthan Palace Installation
“We have co-ordinates for impact,” the controller’s tone had not changed, even the awful destructive power of the bomb had failed to pierce his professionalism, “life-signs detected but failing rapidly...”
“Give us the co-ordinates, we will take it from here...”
The Controller rattled off a string of numbers and then leaned back in his chair. It was no longer his problem. Shift change would take place shortly and he could relax in the oblivion of alcohol. This was the arse-end of the Universe, an assignment you got out of two ways; death or invalidity. He was working on the latter, and just hoped it worked before his ashes joined those here on this dirt-ball. One thing for sure though, there would be no way the facility could make use of him when he was gone.
His replacement sidled in, hawked and spat, before sitting at his chair. There was no relationship between anyone here, they all wanted out, the quickest way possible.
A message crackled in his head set.
“We have the survivor. Debris confirmed as an Escape Pod. Transferring the body to the Facility. Over.”
Curiosity piqued for once, the Controller responded, “You said a survivor? Why the Facility? Over.”
“This one the Doc’s been waiting for a long time,” the voice was cruel, gleeful, “let’s just say that ownership of the Palace is about to change hands...”
Jan opened his eyes.
Someone had dropped something. He strained to activate his muscles. No response.
Even his mouth did not work. What had happened?
“Aah, Mr Olsen, I see that you are awake.”
He recognised that voice. Doctor Alberto, the Protectorate’s liaison officer. Now he remembered; the crash, the psychotic Colonel...his goddamn foot! What was he doing here?
“No doubt you are wondering why you are here,” continued the Doctor, “well, it’s really because of me. I’ve had my eye on you for a while. Never forget a slight, my father taught me, and I never have. Your treatment of my men, when they were trying to reach an accommodation with you, was less than civil. So, circumstances have given me another chance to convince you to sell, one which I will use wisely.”
Jan found himself raised upright, he was strapped to some sort of medical gurney, which the Doctor had manipulated.
“I could, I suppose, be gentle,” said the Doctor, “but I really have not the patience...haha...a medical joke.”
He moved to a nearby table, pulling back a covering cloth to reveal a series of horrific implements. A serrated knife appeared to take his fancy.
“You are drugged, neurally blocked, but will remain awake throughout the procedure. By the time I’ve finished, you will sign away your life...”
Jan screamed silently, neck muscles taut with agony, as the knife broke his flesh and began to saw back and forth.
“This,” commented the Doctor, “is but the beginning. The Protectorate has a use for you, don’t worry, just not in the form you are now.”
There was nothing Jan could do, but watch, as the Doctor dropped his bloody implement and reached for another...
“Schedule him for full resurrection...” the Doctor seemed preoccupied.
“Did he sign the papers?” laughed his hulking aide.
“Who cares,” replied the Doctor, “we never needed his signature, I just wanted to break him. Sane, he would have been useless to the programme. Thinking machines are not what we are looking for.”
“Well,” his aide grinned as he looked at the drooling and blood-soaked body which had once been Jan Olsen, “no worries there then.”
Protectorate Disputed Zone
“Power it up,” James Kirby said to the technician by his side, “we have reviewed all of its system constraints and they are functioning perfectly.”
The technician ignored him, engrossed in his favourite task; no-one knew how each awakening would progress, it was a lottery. He had seen machines go berserk, killing and maiming their own side. Granted, those had been the earlier models, not these new ones. Resurrection Prototype Delta; the all new and improved version was to be field-tested here on Walton’s World. It was a momentous occasion.
“All lights are green. Artificial intelligence module fully suppressed. You should have direct feed on your monitor.”
This was what Kirby had been waiting for. Hours on an RPD simulator just did not cut it. Reality faded as he pulled down his visor; neural connections over-rode his normal corneal activity, giving him the live RPD experience. Kirby was held within a mobile frame, which mirrored the myriad responses of the machine’s body. From within this cocoon, Kirby would decimate a world.
He remembered the pain, it was a constant companion, and centred him. There was no other reference point; no more alcohol to hide behind, only memories, which Jan had suppressed for far too long. In the privacy of his own mind, he screamed...
“What was that?” there had been a power spike, unexpected interference causing the feed to flicker. There it was again!
“Kirby, can you stop playing with the merchandise and finish the check routines?” the technician was angry, soldier-boys always regressed to their juvenile natures.
“Not me,” Kirby’s reply was crisp, considered, “everything is in the green here.”
It seemed to be generated from the AI suppression loop, a quick bypass and the screen settled down.
“You should be alright now.”
“Great,” said Kirby, “I’ll move the RPD from the bay. The next part is relatively straightforward; once we breach the atmosphere, we can see how this baby really performs.”
Jan wanted to vomit as the familiar feeling of weightlessness struck him. It was somehow different, not helped by his almost total sensory deprivation. He recalled such a sensation when doing a planetary combat drop. Had Euthan Palace been but a dream?
Light speared his eyeballs; sharp, burning brilliance, which tore at his feeble grasp on reality. A tremendous roaring accompanied the return of vision and now he wished for the peace of his previous isolation.
“Now, what the ****** have you done?”
“Nothing,” Kirby’s reply was resentful, “we’ve just entered the planet’s higher atmosphere and I’m showing interference again. The visual readout is screwed.”
“I think you need to bring the RPD back. Let’s carry out a few more tests here first. These preliminary trials need a rethink.”
“Okay,” said Kirby calmly, “but first things first...you need to re-establish control. I have nothing!”
He could see! There was something wrong though, his vision was restricted to a recognisable display. Data scrolled down the right side of what was a combat screen. No eye movement greeted his frantic attempts, only a smooth transition of view. Status lights flickered on his left; they showed power levels, armament load, speed, height above the gro...******! Jan was thirty-seven thousand feet above the surface of the planet and moving at Mach 2!
Where was he? The right side of the screen changed, superimposing a tactical overview. The planet below was teeming with red unfriendly icons, above him the blue of what must have been his ride here. Now, all he needed to do was talk to whoever was in charge and maybe make some sense out of this.
Alarms blared; missile lock and proximity alerts screaming their strident messages. He was under attack, but not from the planet below...
“I have no choice!” snarled the technician as he entered the seven digit code into his panel, “This technology cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands!”
“Give me a little longer,” pleaded Kirby, “I can regain control of the RPD.”
“Sorry,” returned the technician, “Protocols dictate such actions.”
The automatic sequence enabled by his entry of the code kicked in, launching three air-to-air missiles, as well as an onboard sub-routine; no chances could be taken with the second RPD unit on board. It was only a machine, reprogramming was always an option.
Protectorate Disputed Zone
James Cameron pointed skyward where blue-white flame burst into life. His Sargeant looked once, shrugged and continued cleaning his rifle.
“Concentrate on the task in hand,” snapped the older man, “we know they are here and daydreaming is a luxury we can´t afford.”
Cameron shaded his eyes, but whatever it was had disappeared. He picked up his own rifle and followed his senior´s example. Jersey City was expecting an attack; professional soldiers and conscripted troops busied themselves with final preparations. The Protectorate vessel had been identified as soon as it exited from fold space. This was no diplomatic mission; grey-suited men were no longer thronging the Presidential Palace, the time for discussion was over. War had come to Walton´s World and James Cameron was about to face his first battle.
“There it is again!”
This time there was a blinding flash and the distinctive fireball of an explosive impact. A roar of sound quickly followed.
“Tell me you didn´t hear that!”
The Sargeant stood, lowered his weapon and slapped Cameron harshly.
“I told you what to do, boy,” he snarled, “pick up your frakking weapon!”
Shock made the boy slow in responding, and the veteran swung back his fist to reinforce his command. He never connected with the blow as the world turned upside down. Men screamed in terror, firing their weapons blindly at the rapidly approaching shape. It powered towards them, jinking away from the anti-aircraft batteries which had now opened up and slammed to earth.
Oh, yes! Jan revelled in the power which surged through him. His legs absorbed the impact and he surged upwards, arms raised instinctively towards the incoming missiles. Numbers streamed across his screen; vectors, distance, weapons choice. Now he had what he wanted. He screamed in sheer exhileration as beams lashed out from his arms, which he could see for the first time, silvered metal framework, within which span a triple tube.
Crazed laughter ricocheted around his head as pulses of raw energy speared into the oncoming munitions, turning them into miniature suns. Jan roared his anger to the skies. What had they done to him? Small weapons fire interrupted his thoughts and he span, his display automatically targetting his new enemy.
James struggled back to consciousness, his first vision that of the monstrous shape which towered above him.
“Die you frakker!” he heard the Sargeant shout once, followed by the sound of rifle fire.
“Wait!” James screamed as an enormous foot narrowly missed his head.
Further action was negated by the brilliant light which flashed across his vision. Just before he lost the ability to see, he captured the disintegration of his erstwhile tormentor.
Kirby watched the lights wink green and then one by one turn red.
“It`s done,” he grunted to the Technician, “one less problem to worry about.”
The Technician pointed to the tactical display from which all of their missiles had disappeared. He then tapped one pulsing icon, which expanded to show the first RPD weapons blazing as it cleared its landing zone with cleansing fire.
“It seems that we were mistaken,” mumbled Kirby, “it’s following its programming.”
“I don´t think so,” the Technician disagreed as jets flared and the RPD took to the air, aiming straight for them.