Authors: Ken Pence
Tags: #Science Fiction - Adventure, #Space Opera
Ken R. Pence
© 2014 Ken R. Pence
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, or transmitted in any form, or by any means without written permission of the author.
It is twenty years from the present date, and Richard Patterson is an aging warrior about to check out of this life. Just retired from a large multinational private military, he is chosen to have a different fate, which will change his life, and those of every being on Earth. How could this one man move from a menial social class to challenge the elites? How could one man prepare the Earth to defend itself from a threat that has destroyed advanced, interstellar civilizations for millennia? His lead-time is short, and he faces a corrupt, self-serving society. Just surviving the day is challenging since half of Earth’s population will die.
To say I was surprised was putting it mildly. Wait. Let’s go back a bit. I was dying – should have been dead already. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t depressed about it. I had outlived most of my friends, and most of my family – though I did still have a grandson out there…somewhere. It had been a good life…a long life. I’d been very active, and done a lot. My body was worn out. I had had a couple sets of artificial joints – those are really getting pretty good these days – cheap to install. Both of my hips, shoulders, and knees have been replaced. My heart is in great shape. Guess the plaque dissolving enzymes play a big part ‘cause I love fatty foods. Everybody gets the plaque reducing enzymes these days ‘cause they were a lot cheaper than other treatments. You lived longer if you had money, and could afford the GOOD care. You got some of the GOOD care if you had really helped Sigma Max Corp, and I had done that for sure – I am good at my job – had been anyway.
I’ll be sixty-eight in July, and still fairly mobile, but not frisky enough to be hired, and no one wants advice from someone this old…not from my station in life. My sign is Cancer, and I have it too – ha – made a funny though pancreatic cancer is no joke. I worked for Sigma Max fresh out of secondary school. Showed great promise in technical skills – you know – explosives, and close combat skills. Later found I was good with cyber warfare – especially computers, and hacking. I’d saved a couple of high muckety-muck Sigma Max cyber-gurus who were doing a special reconnaissance mission…got sent to cyber-school as a reward. Better than just cannon fodder. Basic cyber training led to advanced cyber defense training, and then to offensive cyber-warfare training after that. I’ve got a talent for it.
Guess those guys I’d saved from being captured, and tortured wanted a warrior (me) to be with them when they went on future missions. It started as just a favor to a kid who’d saved their bacon, and Sigma found I was a natural geek. I kept up my combat skills with recon units, and special teams that were posted for special study at the cyber schools (usually on how to physically steal high tech materials from other companies that weren’t accessible by hacking). The special commandos appreciated someone to train with, and we both learned a lot – kept up my training regimen.
I got to use the advanced simulators – even was able to add lots of scenarios on my own, and they were damn realistic. Your armor, helmet, and load felt the same as the real thing, but had sensors, and servos that acted in response from the ‘threats, and injuries’ in the simulation. You get hit in the arm, and the arm is shocked, and paralyzed (hurts like hell). You DO NOT want to be killed (simulated) because you are rendered unconscious in a way that makes you not want to do that again – talk about negative reinforcement – big time. Your weapons have recoil, your communications are jammed, or sporadic – fog of war – fuck – the simulations have got that down pat. They critique all the mistakes afterward. I even worked out with those special teams, and showed them something because they started coming to me suggesting situations, and how to get out of them alive – cool…big time.
Those simulations are projected 3D images on a transparent cloud, and react to whatever you do. I saw guys puke their guts out after seeing some of the collateral damage from their own weapons in just the simulation. The sweet smell of burning flesh with the miasma of rot, and insects are all part of it – realistic – hell yeah. Sigma has the best of everything because they are the corporation that protects the Euro barons – the water barons of course.
I worked for Sigma Max Corp for twenty-five years before I got shot up while defending Chinese water rights. The Chinese had been at the forefront of desalination in Shanghai, and the South-North Water Diversion Project – neither had provided enough volume, and the Gobi desert just got larger, and many of the Western farms failed. The pollution of the Yellow River got marginally better through the stringent enforcement of conservation measures by the Chinese military. Their military was diverted from expansion because they were being used internally to enforce directives, and to quell water riots, and thefts. The trillions of gallons diverted from the Yangtze hurt fishing, and commerce there. It was a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Sigma had been hired to protect the ethnic Chinese population in Indonesia where they controlled the water rights. The local population fought to keep the huge tanker ships of water from leaving the Indonesian ports. Even though only 6 per cent of the population was ethnic Chinese, that 6% owned 85% of the freshwater rights in Indonesia. We, Sigma, got hired to protect those rights because the Chinese military was tied up putting down internal unrest. Oops – mind wandering a little. I got shot up pretty bad, and my surprise party was some of the buds from my unit coming to wish me good luck on retiring after saving most of their asses at one time of another.
Fresh water is the new oil…yep…fresh water is worth a crap load. Anyway – as I was saying…I was leading a company of people at the Karawang port in West Java (built by the Chinese) just east of Jakarta. They’d only picked me because I’d done well at Madura Island years before. These tankers had been “seized” by an Australian Special Operations Force due to the decade long drought in Australia, and the Chinese had outbid the Aussies, and disputed the arrangement. We were hired by the Chinese to recover their property – they didn’t want to directly attack Australian troops so Sigma Max had to step up. The Aussies were no little pushover group of poorly led, poorly equipped irregulars. Luckily they had the penchant for lots of US electronics – lots with Chinese aftermarket chipsets in them.
Sigma Max had the latest of everything, and we HAD the Chinese backdoors to all the Aussie electronics. We cut off their communications, and misaligned their GPS aim points…if only a few hundred meters off in random directions – they didn’t give up, and were damned hard to take even with no reliable heavy arms. Their small arms ate us up, but we got the freighters released. I would have been happier about it if I hadn’t had my ass shot up too. My units received bonuses, and I even got a gold card for lifetime water rights – Sigma Max would provide me, and
mine free water for life.
I was supposed to have been getting stock options since I joined, but those never showed up – surprise, surprise. That’s why I’m having my big retirement party. The company suits are giving me the gold card because since I’m not a water baron – no way I’m living much longer (can’t afford the medical treatments the exalted class gets) so a lifetime of water benefits when you have cancer isn’t a big deal. Least I’ll see some of my old buddies.
“Hey lieu,” said the huge man who enveloped me in his arms. “Looks like they got you walkin’ again. No limp. You’ lookin’ pretty good considerin’… So you finally gettin’ out.”
“Hi Word,” I said. “Good to see you too…”, and it was. Word was short for Wordley – Frank Wordley – the big bear of a man got the nickname for talking so much. “I see you’re still with the unit –wearing the same wristcomm.”
“Yep Lieu. Figured you’d wanna’ see more than the admin weenies. Sandy said you had the Big C. Pancreatic? That bites. Guess they won’t pay to fix that…really bites.”
“No big deal. They give me the best generic pain meds though.” Didn’t know where Wordley had found out about my cancer, but he usually had tons of sources. God! There was Sandy. She still looked maybe 30, and she had looked that way when I was hired… Didn’t really expect her here. She was the granddaughter of one of the founders of Sigma Max – a water baron’s granddaughter, and she was coming down to see me. It was a big deal for the exalted class to come amongst the peons.
I looked around, and saw some of the young bucks sticking out their chests, and eyeing her. Bet it would soft boil a few hard ons if they knew she was old enough to be their grandmother – hell – probably not. I could tell she liked the ogling…she always did, and I have always drooled from afar – nowadays I drool a lot after pain medication. I straightened up.
“Hello Lieutenant Patterson. My brother told me to come tell you he appreciated how you came through for him with your teams in Indonesia. This gold water card is from him. Thank you for your service.” She handed him the gold water benefits card.
“Thank you Sandy,” I said, and she stiffened at me using her familiar name. “I appreciate the…” I said, but she had already turned away, and was striding back to the entrance accompanied by three large non-descript clones – her escort. Hadn’t really noticed those guys before – shows how badly I’m slipping I guess.
“Hi Lieu,” said a tall, handsome man who was fully a hundred kilos, but rock hard.
“Hi Prof,” I said. “You’re looking good. Thought you got out a couple of years ago…” I knew this guy for over twenty years, but knew him well enough that I was very surprised to see him at any Sigma Max function. He had been an engineer. Sigma had screwed him over if what I had heard was true, but he thought of himself as god’s gift to the world. He had found several large underground reservoirs for the corporation, and was entitled to a percentage of the asset, but had been fired instead. He now worked for one of Sigma’s competitors.
“Just came by to give you a little something I found in the Al Hajar mountain range,” Prof said.
“…Where I grabbed you away from those locals in Oman…I remember that. Had to leave there in a hurry didn’t we,” I chuckled thinking about the young woman Prof had been drilling when not drilling for water. “They had cut you up pretty badly, and were working their way down your body if I remember correctly.”
“They hadn’t cut off any parts of my anatomy yet, but they were going to do so shortly. I had to go straight to treatment, and didn’t get to thank you properly. Here’s a little something I picked up in a rock formation. Your team told me you like to pick up some little something from every mission you go on – a souvenir so to speak. Here you go,” he said, and handed me a little box with a ribbon on it. “Don’t open it now since I work for the competition, and I don’t want any notice that I’m even here.”
“Thanks Prof. Didn’t get to pick anything up on that mission – lucky we got extracted when we did. Thanks. Will do, “ I said, and shook his hand. His hand was steady, and quite strong. Figured he was pushing ninety, but didn’t look a day over forty… must be making some money somewhere. He was one of those guys that knows everything – or says he does. He tends to lecture others on their inadequacies. I was surprised he would be thankful to any person, but himself.
The party was like all retirement parties. People you don’t remember come up, shake your hand, and tell you they’ll miss you. The bosses come to be seen with the masses – for the photo op, and give you a plaque, or some worthless shit, and then try to divert your pension benefits
if you even have any. It was nice to see
my guys, but even they had quit coming by, and I didn’t want to spend my day networking…why bother? I thought about hacking something, but my chest hurt so I just got a pain pill, and washed it down with a swig of good Tequila. Pills work better that way. I looked over at the little gift box, and my engraved, Richard Patterson, gold card.