Read The Whisper of Stars Online

Authors: Nick Jones

The Whisper of Stars

BOOK: The Whisper of Stars
9.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

The Whisper of Stars

Nick Jones

Prologue

GCHQ, Cheltenham, England.

July 2058

Jacob Logan’s hand trembled as he lifted the device from its secure chamber. He admired its smooth, dark surface and felt the familiar pulse of energy passing through him. He had done this many times, but today was different; today he was stealing it. He glanced around nervously before sliding the pebble-like object into his briefcase. It was Sunday afternoon and his laboratory, normally buzzing with activity, was deserted.

Today, David Jameson, Secretary General of the reformed United Nations, would announce his vision for the future, and while the world was distracted, Jacob would slip away. He checked the time: 2.14pm. Jameson would be talking of tipping points and accelerating climate change and asking if mankind could adapt, mobilise and join together. Jacob paused, absorbing the room’s calm ambience one last time, knowing that on Monday morning the men in suits would be shouting and the lab would be in lockdown.

I’ve spent the best years of my life down here
.

He lingered, drifting through the past, wishing it could have been different. The intercom flashed once, interrupting his thoughts.

‘Professor Logan. I’m seeing an alert,’ a voice said. ‘Looks like chamber two has been accessed without clearance.’

Jacob brought his hands to his brow, closed his eyes and concentrated. The voice belonged to a guard stationed on level three. Jacob sent him a thought, pushing it into his mind, deep enough – he hoped – for it to feel like the guard’s own.

< It’s okay. It’s an error. You can disable the alert. >

Jacob watched his screen, the seconds feeling like hours until the warning light disappeared. He exhaled heavily, his pale features accentuated in the glow of the computer console. His lab was sublevel six.

Come on, Jacob. You can do this. You have to.

He grabbed his briefcase, strode to the door and placed his right hand onto a glass panel. His presence on a Sunday was unusual, but not unheard of. He closed his eyes and waited. Lights pulsed and distant machines agreed he was authorised to exit. As he approached the lift, he recognised the guard on duty: Stephen Lowe, a stickler for detail and procedure who seemed happier at work than anywhere else. Jacob suspected he’d volunteered for this shift.

‘You didn’t stay long,’ Lowe noted.

Jacob strained a smile and cleared his throat. ‘Just had to set something running.’ He handed over his briefcase.

Lowe snatched it, returning a brief smile before feeding it into a scanner and comparing its contents against arrival.

‘That’s weird,’ Lowe said, his eyes flicking between two monitors.

Jacob spoke words suitable for such an exchange while simultaneously transferring thoughts into Lowe’s mind, assuring him that the discrepancy he was seeing was nothing to worry about.

Lowe looked up, curled his lip and tutted. ‘Bloody machines. And they reckon they can replace us.’ He gestured towards the lift. ‘Enjoy the rest of your day, Professor Logan.’

Jacob entered the lift, pressed zero and ran a shaking hand through his hair. After a rapid ascent he stepped out into a busy entrance hall. Cameras were everywhere. As he passed through the final stages of security – persuading another three people to ignore various alerts and protocols – he imagined how they would scrutinise every piece of footage in the aftermath.

He felt the cool air, the tantalizing promise of freedom, and paused for a moment, the sun warming his face. He finally allowed himself to think of his wife and daughter and days spent on the farm together. Sunday would usually be family time. He fought back tears that had been threatening an assault all morning.

Please forgive me.

His legs buckled, and he struggled to keep his feet. Collapsing would be a relief, but it might alert security and raise the alarm. He forced himself to walk to his car, climbed in and then pulled away from GCHQ for the last time. He drove through empty streets eerily quiet for this time of day, his hand hovering over the dash.

Does that man deserve to be heard? After all he’s done?

He jabbed the radio dial and the car filled with Jameson’s familiar, authoritative tone.

‘…was time to accept the truth. Accelerating climate change was real. I urged every thinker, every dreamer, every man, woman and child to imagine our future anew. Incremental innovation would not save us. We required genuine breakthroughs in science, engineering and renewable energy. We needed to rethink innovation itself if we were to survive.’

He’s slick,
Jacob thought, shaking his head, his bloodless lips set in a hard line.

Jameson continued, ‘Now, we have our best scientists, our best ecologists, our greatest minds working together. And today I would like to share a vision with you. A long-term vision that will take many years of hard work, of faith and unity, but I know we can achieve greatness. I know –’

Jacob punched the control and the car fell silent.

Fuck Jameson, and fuck his plans.

There were tears of frustration, of broken promises and deception. Jacob was trying to remember how he’d become so involved in all of this. It had been easy to justify in the early days; back then it had been exciting, a challenge, and he believed they could do good. He should have known it wouldn’t last. Power corrupts – it always does – and now the well-oiled political cogs would grind the truth into dust. He glanced at the briefcase and reassured himself he was doing the right thing. The truth would be heard, even if it killed him.

Jacob was right about lots of things.

The men in suits began their shouting early on Monday morning, and by midday on Tuesday he was dead.

The device glowed faintly in the darkness, a gentle pulse like a heartbeat.

Uncaring.

Hidden.

Waiting.

Chapter 1

December 2091

(33 years later)

Jennifer Logan stood on the corner of South Street and waited. It was a typical Monday morning, and the City of London was bustling and alive.

<
Logan in position,
> she said without speaking, her mind augmentation translating her thoughts into text.

From inside London’s MI5 headquarters, surveillance officer Jonathan Cole guided a small, insect-like camera towards a penthouse apartment five storeys above her position. The microcamera attached itself noiselessly to a south-facing window. Cole now had visual on the target: Mrs Victoria Harvey, a successful businesswoman picked up by UK Border Control on a biometrics discrepancy – a suspected body swap.

Cole’s hands flashed over his holographic console, bringing up details of the operation and names of the assigned agents.

{Operation Penthouse: Strike Team}

Logan: South Street, Mayfair, opposite target’s building.

Collins: Entrance to Green Park tube station.

Smith: Henrietta Street, Covent Garden.

Cole attached another camera to the entrance of the building and zoomed in, framing Logan. Her details appeared on-screen. Jennifer Logan, eight years in the Met, three in Duality – a division with a unique remit: Enforce Hibernation and control illegal cloning and mind replication. Her list of arrests made for good reading.

Cole glanced around and then zoomed in even more. She was dressed in civilian clothes, dark jacket, grey jeans and trainers. He moved the camera up her body, mentally listing her attributes. Good legs. He checked if she was enhanced with bionics.
Interesting. All natural.
Her leather jacket was zipped up over her vest. Cole continued moving the camera, feeling a pulse of excitement upon seeing a sliver of flesh between her jacket and belt. He settled on her face: cocoa skin, emerald-green eyes and a shock of red hair. It was the eyes, though, that intrigued him most, a green so intense people often assumed they were enhanced. He checked the time again – 7.04am – and decided he could spare a few more minutes. He imagined running his hands through her hair and –

‘She has her mother’s eyes,’ a voice behind him said softly.

Cole spun around. ‘Jesus, Mac, you scared the shit out of me.’ He turned back to his console, face flushing red. ‘I didn’t hear you come in.’

‘You’re not her type,’ Jim McArthur said, strolling into the room smiling. ‘And also? She’s out of your league.’ He passed Cole a plain white cup and sat down. ‘Are we all set?’

Cole suspected Mac was right. The old man knew Logan better than anyone. He thanked him for the coffee and turned his attention back to the camera feeds. ‘Just waiting for the target to leave. She’s taking her time.’

The internal video feed showed Victoria Harvey standing in front of a large mirror. As if on cue, she let her gown drop to the floor, revealing a slender body adorned in white underwear. Expensive underwear. She turned, faced away from the mirror and bent over, placing her hands delicately on her buttocks, craning her neck for a better look. She admired herself for a while.

Cole glanced sideways, trying to stop the smirk breaking across his face.

McArthur sent him a sharp look. ‘You recording this?’

‘Shit.’ Cole switched the recording function on and took a large gulp of coffee.
All these bloody women
, he thought.
I can’t concentrate.

The split-level penthouse was the epitome of London splendour. Five paned windows stretched its full height, flooding the apartment in natural light. On the walls was an assortment of traditional paintings and modern artwork; in the centre, a contemporary steel staircase that floated up to a spacious mezzanine. Plants and seating had all been carefully placed, everything designed and considered.

Mrs Harvey sat at her ornate vanity table applying light makeup. She squeezed her lips together, pouting at her reflection, tilting her head, exposing her neck. The Harveys had always known money, even during the troubles. Her husband, Phillip, had made a killing on the financing and distribution of renewable energy. She had invested his money in a chain of successful fashion boutiques, selling to people who only trusted one of their own. That was all before the announcement, before Hibernation.

Hibernation. On that, the Government was inflexible. It didn‘t matter who you were or how much you had – in the end, everyone would be drafted. The Harveys had known they couldn’t buy their way out, not this time.

‘We should have left when they made cloning illegal,‘ her husband had protested, and in a rare moment of solidarity she had agreed. That’s when she’d decided on the illegal operation. If she was going to hibernate with the masses, then she would at least be young again. In moments of raw honesty, she had to admit the real reason she had wanted to be young: so Phillip would find her desirable like he used to.

She sighed. All of that was a long time ago, before separate bedrooms and distant lives. Divorce had been discussed, but it was such a degrading business, and anyway she didn’t have to like her husband. Most of her friends didn’t like theirs. Separation suited her just fine.

Her thoughts drifted happily and settled onto the other man in her life, the one who mattered now, the one she couldn’t stop thinking about: Marcus. When had it started? She couldn’t remember exactly, but when she thought of him she felt a rush of heat to her groin and lightness fill her being. Her libido was definitely stronger this time round. She felt alive in a way she hadn’t since she was a teenager, drifting inside her thoughts, sometimes losing hours. Was it love or lust? It didn’t matter. She was young, but this time with the benefits of age, wisdom and confidence, and it was even better than she remembered.

She allowed herself a final look in the mirror, admiring her firm, young flesh. Thirty years younger. It really did make all the difference. She sprayed a little scent onto both wrists, imagining Marcus’s strong arms around her waist, pulling her in, and felt another rush of warmth. She stroked her neck, her red lips parting, chest flushing to match. Only he could do this to her. Her hand drifted down her right breast. She wanted to masturbate but decided to save herself for him.

Love or lust?

As she slipped into a smart oyster-coloured dress and picked jewelry to complement the outfit, she decided: both.

Chapter 2

Jen mounted her bike, a Yamaha EZR electric hybrid and one of the only possessions she cared about. Gloss black, liquid pearl and fast as hell. Standard issue just didn’t bite hard enough. Twisting the throttle brought the reassuring purr of raw electric power beneath her.

Cole broadcast, ‘Target is about to leave the building. Strike team stand by.’

Jen knew that Cole, even with all his technology, could still lose a target, especially during rush hour. One mistake and they might miss the chance to make an arrest. She took a deep breath and rolled her shoulders, aware of the distant hum of automated cars. Police and emergency services had exclusive rights to manually control their vehicles, but weaving through the chaotic solar streets of London required precision, agility and fierce concentration.

Stay relaxed.

Victoria Harvey appeared, and by the time she reached the edge of the pavement a luxury car was waiting, door open. With an easy elegance she slipped inside the vehicle. Logan waited for the car to pull away and began to follow, her active contact lens displaying the vehicle’s speed and location. It was unlikely Mrs Harvey would notice her, but Jen decided to maintain a safe distance between them.

BOOK: The Whisper of Stars
9.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Son of a Preacher Man by Arianna Hart
Soy Sauce for Beginners by Chen, Kirstin
The Husband by Dean Koontz
As Time Goes By by Mary Higgins Clark
Sparks Fly by Lucy Kevin
The Last Mandarin by Stephen Becker
A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley