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Authors: Stephen B. Pearl

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War of the Worlds 2030 (18 page)

BOOK: War of the Worlds 2030
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Richard closed his eyes. “Ash, do what you have to, but never forget its hearts that make us, not minds. Knowledge is a tool, nothing more.”

* * * *

Upload monitoring/ Ashley Hinkly /Index 13:35/ 21/2/2034

* * * *

Ash interfaced with the computer and examined the latest
Darmuk
symbiont.

“Enough.” The voice intruded through her regular senses.

Reluctantly she slipped her consciousness away from the machine.

“Richard, I'm not tired.” Ashley pulled the jack from the port behind her ear. A wave of dizziness struck her as she tried to sit up. She sank back into the interface couch.

“You never are until you stop. Then you turn into a jelly fish.” Richard moved to her side and increased the feed of sugars and brain chemicals into her IV.

“I feel like someone took my brain out and sandpapered it.” She stared at the white institutional ceiling.

“Joys of modern technology.” Richard brushed his hand against her brow and lovingly caressed the side of her face. He glanced at the EEG that was mounted into one of the wall consoles. The pattern was returning to normal.”

“That symbiont is complex. Tannal said they would present us with it in time. A bio to bio interface.”

“It worries me.”

“Tell me about it. They could program people like machines with something like that.”

“Or use people as machines.”

“You mean utilize humans like ram chips in a mother board?”

“That was my conclusion.”

“Richard, I know you don't like the
Darmuks
but—”

“Ash, did you see the reports of increased pollutants in the ocean during the time the
Darmuks
were putting in their power facility.”

“Not really, I was busy with my research.”

“I think they were dumping soluble minerals. The grit they carted off in trucks all had one thing in common.”

“What?”

“Insoluble in water. I think they put in a lot more tunnels than they owned up to.”

“Why?”

“That's the billion dollar question.”

Chapter Twenty-Three
Traitor

Zane held Janis for what he knew would be the last time. There were no tears.

“I love you.” Janis looked into his face. His one eye stared back at her, telling her more than his words ever could.

“I love you too. I have to believe there's more to life than this. I don't know how, when, or where, but I swear, I'll see you again.”

Janis smiled and kissed him.

“We should go,” said Richard. He stood by the back door, his battle armor hidden under a collaborator's coverall, a battered briefcase in each hand.

“Maybe if we meet again we can have that bubble bath.” Janis's lower lip trembled.

“With champagne and strawberries.” Zane kissed her. “I love you.” he kissed her again then moved to the door.

“I love you too. God, why is it like this?” she asked as the door closed behind him.

* * * *

“Focused?” whispered Richard as they shuffled along the street.

“I'll do the job. At least it won't hurt too long.” Zane shifted uncomfortably in the coverall that hid his armour.

“Odd the things we come to hope for.”

At the corner a
Darmuk
with the face of an ostrich stopped them. Richard showed it the papers he carried and with a snort the beast let them pass.

They were stopped three more times on the way to city hall, but each time the travel papers held out. Finally, Richard shuffled up the front steps of the building, Zane at his side.

A thin woman dressed in a short skirt and halter sat by the entrance. There was a pile of papers on her desk. She worked frantically entering the data into a computer.

“We have an appointment with the mayor,” rasped Zane, making no attempt to soften his voice.

“Papers,” snapped the woman. She swiveled the threadbare office chair so she could look at them.

Richard passed her the forms. She glanced at them.

“Third door on the left for weapons check,” she ordered.

Richard and Zane glanced at each other.

“We're unarmed,” grated Zane.

The woman turned back to her work. “Who cares? Go to weapons check.”

Richard gripped Zane's arm and sank his hand into his pocket. Zane did the same thing and they moved to the third door. They opened it and stepped in. A desk ran across the room.

“Strip and bend.” ordered the man sitting behind the counter. The guard wore a collaborator's coverall and an old, police side-arm.

“Doug, you slimy, little weasel. Should have known you'd be a collaborator,” growled Zane.

“Crap, it's you. What happened to the face?”

“How can you help them?”

“Gotta survive. You though. I thought you got away, became a big shot.”

“Who is this man?” asked Richard.

“Doug, biggest dealer in my high school. Walking pharmacy. Tried to get Betty hooked. Until I pounded the crap out of him and threatened to castrate him with his own switch blade,” explained Zane.

“How come I never knew about this?” demanded Richard.

“You were my next step. Betty thought she was so grown up and just couldn't see where things were going.”

“You owe me for that. I could have had you snuffed,” said Doug.

“With big Joe knowing the whole story. Please. He'd have crippled you and you know it.”

“Maybe. Being so pure didn't do Betty much good though, did it? I seen her when I did a delivery to the bio-mind. Just awful. That Tannal, he don't just use the brains you know.”

“What?” asked Richard.

“Didn't you know? Janis tries to pretend it doesn't happen. Tannal uses the bio-mind's ram units as sex slaves. You can use your imagination for the details,” explained Zane.

“That is sick!”

“Sick is only the start.”

“What are you here for?” said Doug.

“What will it take to skip the weapons check?” demanded Richard.

“Oh wow. Oh wow. You're out for the mayor.”

“For a start,” said Zane. There was something suggestive in the way the material of his pocket dented.

“Oh boy, Oh boy, Oh boy. You want Doug to be silent. Doug needs to get away.”

Richard and Zane shared a glance then nodded.

“37 Hill Crest Drive. In the garage, a jeep. All gassed, camping equipment in the back. Hit the mountains keep driving west, go off road to avoid the checkpoints. There's a map in the glove compartment, the route is marked in lemon-juice ink.”

“Got ya'. Move along.”

Richard and Zane left the room and started towards the mayor's office.

“Can we trust him?” asked Richard.

“Only to steal the Jeep before he reports us.”

“Just as well then.”

* * * *

Edwin sat in his office chair while Rachel fellated him. He closed his eyes and stroked his fingers through her ebony curls.

“There now, my dusky beauty. Isn't this better than working in the factories?” He grunted as his seed shot into her mouth. She tried to pull back but he grabbed her hair and forced her head down.

“Swallow. Don't waste good protein. He felt her gag than a minute later released her head.

The woman stood and stared at him, a mixture of fear and loathing in her eyes.

“Thank you. Now get back to your desk. My four o'clock will be arriving soon. I need to talk to those damned farmers about how inefficient they are.”

“Yes sir.” She moved to her desk in the outer office.

Edwin scanned his office. It was in good repair but beginning to wear around the edges. The trappings of his previous career had been brought around. A small lab occupied the corner. With it he'd concocted several substances that had proved useful for dealing with both humans and
Darmuks
.

The intercom buzzed and he pressed the button.

“Your four o'clock is here, sir.”

She sounds a bit off. Of course she's still adjusting to the demands of her new office. Must thank her husband for training her so well for her oral exams,
he thought and smiled at his own inner quip.

He pressed the intercom button. “Send them in.”

The door opened, a man with a mutilated face rushed in. He held a pistol, equipped with a silencer, pointed at Edwin's head. Another man dragged his secretary into the office with a gun pressed into her side.

“Richard?” gasped Edwin.

“Hello, Edwin. Been a long time.” Richard half threw the secretary into a chair, her short skirt rode up revealing that she wore nothing beneath it.

“Zane, if memory serves. A bit the worse for wear I see.” Edwin took a second look at the scared man.

“Shut up or die!” ordered Zane.

“Really, what are you going to do? Shoot me? Do you think you would get out of this building alive? Besides, I hardly see you coming here to simply eliminate the mayor of one small town.”

“Correct, Edwin. I wouldn't waste my time on you. We need work orders to get us into the embassy.”

“If I choose not to supply them?”

“Zane,” said Richard.

Zane smiled and pulled a set of handcuffs out of his coverall pocket. Moving behind Edwin he secured his wrists so the chain passed under the high-backed, leather swivel chair he sat in. Another set of handcuffs secured his ankles then a third joined the first two, locking him into the chair.

“Oh, so very frightening. Suppose I call for help.”

“Then you die before they can arrive.”

“Of course, how predictable. You are both fools you know. You will never reach the bio-mind and even if you do, you can't kill it. Humanity is finished! The best we can hope for is to keep some small populations alive, under the right leaders of course.”

“With you as one of those leaders,” said Richard.

“Of course. The strong should rule. We can't win this war. I'm humanity's savior.”

“I'd rather be damned.” Zane thrust his silencer against the back of Edwin's head.

“Passes,” ordered Richard.

“Do you think you can possibly be as frightening as Tannal and his minions? Go ahead, kill me. If I oblige you I am dead anyway.”

“I don't need to kill you, Eddy.

“Zane!”

Zane slammed a gag into Edwin's mouth then moved to handcuff the secretary to her chair. Richard picked up a paper weight from the desk and, moving to the mayor's side, slammed it into his nose. The bones crunched and blood spilled out. Edwin screamed against the gag but it came out a gurgle.

“Step one. I'll ask you again for the work orders when I reach step three,” said Richard.

“Are you going to kill him?” asked Rachel.

“Maybe,” growled Zane.

“Please, no matter what you do to me after, let me watch him die?”

“Why?”

“I've dreamed of seeing him dead since the day I came to work for him.” Zane took note of how the woman tried to cover herself, and had little doubt as to why.

“Richard, maybe you should go to step four before asking him again.”

Chapter Twenty-Four
Richard's War

Major Sean Joans lay on the cyber couch. His smile was like a lighthouse beacon cutting through a dark night.

“You're in a good mood,” remarked the nurse as she inserted his IV.

“You know, Grace, I am. I was so put off by Doctor Green's sexual exploits for a while, but now he's with Ashley and it's so different.”

“How so?” she asked.

“He loves her. I never thought it was possible to feel about a person the way he felt about her. I hope I find it someday, but now I at least know what I'm looking for.”

“Men. Oh well, at least you're learning.”

Sean smiled as he jacked in.

* * * *

Upload monitoring/ Richard Green /Index 11:22/ 6/1/2034

* * * *

“There is no reason they would want all that DNA. It's like they're building up a repository of everything that has ever lived on the Earth. Also, where in hell are they storing it?” Richard thumped his fist down on the desk of the conference room.

“Their ship has shifted position again. It's hovering over Washington,” added Admiral MacMillan.

“Y'all are just paranoid. The
Darmuks
are looking for ways to advance our technology, that's all,” said Nancy.

“Doctor Cooper…” began Ashley.

“Nancy, dear.”

Ashley smiled slightly. “Nancy. I probably know the
Darmuks
better than any other human. They don't want us on par with them. They're very threatened by anything we have that in anyway approaches their level of advancement.”

“That's silly. Why would they be afraid of little old us? We can't even reach their planet.”

“Yet,” said Ashley. “On another note, I think the bio-mind is dying of an infection. I also believe it has at least a rudimentary consciousness.”

“You accessed their system?” demanded Malcome.

“Relax, Malcome. Ash and I have been working on expanding the bio-mechanical interface to mate their systems and ours. She doesn't have a symbiont,” soothed Richard.

“Don't scare me like that. Keeping security on the committee is hard enough.”

“No way am I letting anyone put one of those slimy things in my skull.” Ashley shuddered.

“Y'all were saying?” opened Nancy.

“The bio-mind is rejecting the genetic splice that gave it immunity to Earth diseases. When it dies there could be real problems with the geothermic tap. It's still alive and needs supervision to keep it that way until the mineral deposition is complete.”

“That is a worry, but one we can do nothing about,” observed Malcome.

“So what do we do about all those equipment requisitions and the food purchases they've been making?” asked Richard.

“Bugger all we can do. They're paying for them and it's good for the economy.”

“Couldn't we maybe put secret bombs in them or something?” Zane sat uncomfortably beside Ashley at the end of the table.

General Flanders smiled. “Not a bad thought lad, but it's too easy to spot. Heck, a good dog can sniff out most explosives, and that nose thing they engineered is a thousand times more sensitive.”

“Oh bummer!” said Zane.

“Has your daughter said anything about them, Richard?” asked Malcome.

“Why ask me. I'm the evil animal torturer.”

“She told Janis that the
Darmuks
are a bunch of perverts. All the men keep watching her as she works and Kalok tried to pick her up. He tried to grope her too. She put his lights out,” added Ashley.

“That's my girl. The
Darmuks
aren't very good at controlling when their hormonal responses fits with what the escort services are reporting,” said Richard.

“Escort services? Just because the ring comes off at the university it doesn't mean I want you associating with women of loose morals.” Ashley glared at Richard with mock rage.

The committee members chuckled as he pretended to cringe.

“People, I know it has been a long haul, and we all need relief, but this is a serious matter,” interrupted Malcome.

“For the record, my brother is an agent for several exotic dancers and has met a variety of interesting individuals through them. I asked him to keep an ear open.” explained Richard.

“Go on?” said Malcome.

“The escort services have a steady trade with the
Darmuks
. It seems they're not overly adept at dealing with many of the more basic human drives.”

“Pretty inept,” muttered Ashley. Realizing she'd spoken aloud, she blushed.

“Packaging can be deceptive, I'll grant you that,” remarked Nancy.

“Very well people. For the moment we must continue to wait and see. If there is no other business I will adjourn this meeting of the committee,” said Malcome.

* * * *

Upload monitoring/ Richard Green /Index 19:05/ 28/4/2034

* * * *

Richard passed the menu to the waiter and gazed at Ashley across the table. She'd worn her hair up and looked magnificent in a form hugging, black evening-gown.

“I am so proud of you,” he commented.

“I couldn't have done it without you,” she replied and took his hand across the table.

“I want to announce our engagement. Maybe start looking for a house. I don't want to move into either of our apartments. I want a fresh start with you.”

“Me too, I mean, with you.”

Standing he leaned across the table and kissed her. A string quartet played on a small stage in the restaurant's corner and candles flickered.

“I love you.” He prayed that she would understand just how inadequate the words were to express what he felt.

She looked into his eyes. “I love you too.”

He gazed at her and knew she understood.

* * * *

Upload monitoring/ Richard Green /Index 23:35/ 15/6/2034

* * * *

Richard's pain cut deeper than any he had ever known. His body was grey with fatigue but the false alertness of too much coffee kept him from sleep. Candy moved across his field of vision. Her well-shaped body and long, blonde hair failing to elicit even a moment's interest. She turned on the television and took a seat between him and Zane on the bench.

A handsome, grey-haired man appeared on the screen. “What you are about to see is exclusive footage taken at the start of the
Darmuk
attack. Please be advised it is extremely graphic and you may wish to have children leave the room.”

The screen shifted to an outdoors shot. “There are bodies everywhere.” The blonde that had interviewed Zane crouched behind a hedge. The camera lifted up. Bodies littered the streets as genetically adapted chips moved forward in tight formation, shooting everything that moved. Several chimp bodies lay among the corpses.

“The
Darmuk
troops have no fear of death. It's awful. Men, women, and children. When they run out of ammunition they start killing with their bare hands. Their strength is incredible,” continued Tabatha the reporter on screen.

“The police lines that were set up to try and contain the
Darmuk
advance?” asked the male voice of the network anchor.

“They were swept away like paper. Nothing seems to be able to stop them. Oh, God, they're coming this way. I have to go!” The screen turned to fuzz.

“This just in.” interrupted the anchor. The back screen filled with a view of space where missiles streaked towards the
Darmuk
mother ship. “The latest from Washington. A combined assault by the anti-meteor missile array, ground based ICBM's and space fighters, from the international space station, have driven the
Darmuk
vessel out of near Earth orbit. It has ceased firing its particle weapons on Washington and is headed on a trajectory towards the moon. More as it becomes available.”

Candy pushed the off button.

“So that's the situation,” said General Flanders. He leaned against the wall by the door. “Any suggestions how we stop getting our asses whipped?”

* * * *

Upload monitoring/ Richard Green /Index 23:35/ 17/6/2034

* * * *

“Major, your suggestions regarding the battle-apes were dead on. They have almost no capacity for coping with innovative strategies and just loved that fruit with the alcohol injected. Over half of their standing force is plastered out of their minds. We managed to stall them in the mountains, fifty klicks inland. The
Darmuks
are still pushing into Mexico. The Mexican government is refusing to allow our troops access and their forces are being creamed.” General Flanders joined Richard at the conference table in the underground facility.

Richard shifted uncomfortably in his camouflage and sipped at his coffee. He occupied one of several seats around a large, central table in a bare bones conference room. “Wild chimps love fermented fruit. How effective have the air strikes been?”

“They have some kind of shield around the embassy. So far it's deflected everything we've thrown at it. We're looking at a nuclear option.”

“Janis and Ash may still be alive in Goleta,” blurted Zane.

“Son, I'm sorry. From all reports that just isn't very likely. Even if they were, we have to think of the world first,” said the general. He looked tired.

“Nuclear won't work. They're dug in. It would be like hitting one of those old cold war mountain bases.” Richard's voice was ragged with the effort of holding in tears. “The mother ship?”

“Has taken up a lunar orbit. We have nothing that can mount an effective strike that far out.”

“At least it can't microwave our cities from there,” observed Zane.

“Too true,” agreed Richard. He finished off his coffee.

“Let me get you a refill,” said a voice he half recognized. He looked up. Candy smiled at him.

“Candy saw that we were short on support personal and offered to pitch in,” explained the general.

“Thank you,” said Zane, as she passed him a fresh coffee.

“Don't mention it,” she smiled at him.

“Richard, Zane, we have a new problem. The battle-apes seem to be catching onto our tactics. They're becoming more organized, forming a perimeter. Worse, they aren't eating the doctored fruit we've been dropping anymore.”

Richard buried his head in his hands. “Satellite shots?” he asked without looking up.

“The mother ship took out most of our birds before we drove it off, but we got these.” The general lay half a dozen photos on the table.

Richard and Zane scanned them.

“That's why.” Richard pointed to a figure standing behind the lines. It looked like a rhinoceroses, only its head was grossly enlarged and its eyes were huge for the species.

“Might have other types as well,” Zane indicated a turtle-like creature in another photo. The head was enlarged to the point where it had to be supported on a rolling cart that also allowed it to be encased in some kind of armor.

“What?” asked the general.

“Field commanders,” explained Richard. “More intelligent, relatively hard to kill, not much offensive capacity. The battle-apes undoubtedly have an instinctive imperative to obey them.”

“Shit! So what do we do, major?”

Richard lay his head on the table and closed his eyes. “Cut the head off the snake. Take out the commanders and the apes will go back to being drunken rabble. The table fell cool on his forehead and exhaustion tugged at him. In the three days since the war had begun he hadn't slept. Without knowing it he passed into oblivion.

BOOK: War of the Worlds 2030
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