Authors: Stephen B. Pearl
Tags: #9781629290492, #Damnation Books, #military, #science fiction, #Stephen B Pearl, #romance, #erotica, #Genetics, #cyborg, #science fiction, #science, #biotech, #aliens, #war, #spies, #espionage, #slaves, #love, #romance, #duty, #dedication, #life, #death, #battle, #armour, #rifles, #guns, #torture, #salvation, #sacrifice, #biology, #space
“George signed up,” said Richard.
“George, my brother, you're kidding? When did he make parole?” Janis looked surprised.
“He didn't. He joined a prisoner company.”
“A what?” asked Janis. They sat around her coffee-table sipping tea heated on a small camp burner.
“A desperate measure. They allow convicts to form special companies in exchange for having their sentences mitigated. After the
s took a few prisons and slaughtered all the inmates most criminals saw the writing on the wall. They are equipped with a surgical implant that will be detonated, if they desert, and sent to the front. There they at least have a fighting chance.
“Frankly, they are a reprehensible bunch, but with things as they are, one does what one must,” explained Richard.
“George signed up for one of these.”
“Yes. He's doing extremely well. He earned a battlefield commission and is now a second lieutenant.”
“At least he finally made something of himself. I know it's extreme, but why haven't they tried using nuclear missiles?”
“They did, hon.” Zane set his chipped mug down on the coffee table. “They nuked Phoenix. Slowed them down for a couple of weeks. Then they brought inâ¦ Richard, what was the name they finally settled on for those damned bugs?”
“Got your way again. Anyway, they don't care about gamma rad. End result, killed all the humans; left the bad guys standing.”
“That is another problem we face. Every time we come up with a bio-agent that turns the tide of battle, the
s engineer a form that is resistant to it and we are forced back,” added Richard.
“So closing the production and research facilities really is the only hope,” said Janis.
“Yes. We must reach the bio-mind and Ashley.” Richard took a sip of his tea, but before he did both Janis and Zane saw pain cross his face.
“A frontal assault is out. We've looked at that possibility. The old embassy is
headquarters. It's guarded like Fort Knox,” said Janis.
“We have no choice, perhaps the sewers?”
“Closed up tight and packed with things I don't even have names for, but they are deadly.”
“Bloody hell!” Richard stood and began pacing the floor. “If a direct assault is out, is infiltration a possibility? That was always my favored plan of attack.”
“The mayor?” said Zane.
“Beloved, he's nothing but a collaborator. He won't help us,” said Janis.
“Mayor?” Richard paused, mentally accessing the reports he'd read about Goleta.
“He's a puppet. Keep the humans in line; report to the
s; see to the day-to-day running of the town. A useless, collaborating coward.”
“Edwin,” growled Richard, his mental review having brought forward the desired information.
“Got her in one, Doc,” said Zane.
A cold smile touched Richard's lips at the use of the old nickname. He knew Zane was defusing him, distracting the cold rage that boiled up inside when he thought of his old boss.
“Does he have access to the bio-mind?” Richard's voice was ice and steel.
“He sends in work crews and protean for the
“Protean? Oh, Gods, you mean?”
“Victims to be ground up and digested by that thing they use to create their troops.” Janis's jaw clenched.
“Gods and goddesses all! Work crews though. That is a possibility. That could get us past the perimeter defenses.”
“Richard, Edwin is a collaborator. He won't do anything without a fight.” Zane picked up the kettle with his left hand and poured hot water into his cup.
“Honey, you have the kettle by the metal part,” warned Janis.
Zane finished pouring and set the kettle back on the burner. A blacked line ran across the palm of his left hand. Small wisps of smoke curled off it.
“Do be more careful, Zane. You may not feel it, but we must keep your cybernetics hidden for this mission,” admonished Richard.
“What he said, be careful. I need you,” added Janis.
Zane stared into her face then kissed her.
“Harrummm.” Richard cleared his throat as the couple on the couch proceeded as if they'd forgotten his presence.
“Sorry, Doc,” said Zane coming up for air.
“Umâ¦Yes. Sorry, Richard.”
“Quite all right. Janis, can you get us in to see the mayor quickly? The assault must be on the night of the eighth. You see the Mother ship's orbit around the moon will line up for it to do a commutations link at oh one hundred hours on the ninth. That will supply the maximum probability of the virus infecting the mother ship before it destroys the Earth bound
“I think that can be arranged. We have an inside man in his office. Bit of a weasel, will do anything for the right price.”
“What do you suspect his price will be?”
“For something like this. Three tins of beans, maybe four.”
“Whatever happened to gold watches?” said Zane.
“Times change.” Janis took his good hand in both of hers.
“Beans we have,” said Richard disparagingly, as he thought of the stock army supplies in their mess kits. “Arrange the appointment for us. Just Zane and I. If this goes badly I want you clear of it.”
“Now wait just a minute,” she objected.
“He's right, honey. I won't be able to think straight with you there. For me, stay clear of this. Please?” asked Zane.
“Ohâ¦All right. For you, but this is my resistance cell, either of you do anything to endanger it, and I'll kill you myself.”
“Understood. Make the arrangements,” agreed Richard.
Janis moved to the front hall, opened the closet door and pulled on a tattered overcoat. She checked a series of pockets sewn into the lining, pulling out a revolver, two semi-automatic pistols, a Bowie knife, a garrote and a hand-grenade. She returned each to its hiding place after it passed inspection. The men looked on in silence. A smile played across Zane's face and Richard wore a mask of disbelief. Inspection passed Janis slipped out the back door.
“She isâ¦impressive,” remarked Richard.
“That's my Janis,” agreed Zane.
“That she is. I cannot regret the past, it led me to Ashley, but I can remember with fondness when Janis was mine. I hope that doesn't bother you. I would never intrude.”
“Bother me? Doc, I've learned you don't stop loving, you just move on. Hell, in a way I still love Betty. There was a lot of Janis in her. I think that was the part of her I loved. Janis is one hell of a woman.”
Zane picked up his tea and sipped it as he tried to decide on how to open an old discussion. Finally the direct approach seemed the only way. “We should tell her.”
“We have been over this, Zane. We need her support, if we tell her she may withdraw it.”
“If the underground knows they can at least evacuate some of the humans before the assault.”
“They could tip our hand. Gods and goddesses man, this mission is next to impossible as it stands. If the
s know something is coming, we have no chance at all.
“She should know. Even if she does nothing.”
“What good would that do? It would only include her in the devil's bargain we face. Let the blood end on our hands, old friend. If you love her, leave her clear of it.”
“I still say she could mitigate the loss of life. Maybe have people prepared to evac at the start of the assault.”
“To what end? If we succeed, a few minutes warning will make no difference.”
“I still sayâ”
“Major. No! I order you not to tell her.”
“You're pulling rank on me?”
“Zane, I owe you that much. Enjoy the days and nights you two have left. Don't ruin them for her with knowledge of what is to be.”
“You would tell, Ashley!”
“I wish I had that decision to make.” Richard hung his head and stared at the floor.
Zane watched him, his anger fading in the face of the man's loneliness and grief.
“You really love her.”
“With all my heart. I have touched her mind on occasion since the war began. My soul is only complete when I am with her. Do you know what that is like? Of course, if none of this had happened, I would have been worried about the faculty making our ages an issue. Silly that. You know the years pass but insideâ”
“Inside you're still the same. At least deep down. Richard, you know I thought you and Ash were a good thing. The way the two of you looked at each other. She was happier those last few months than I'd ever seen her. Ash is my sister; I wanted what was best for her. She found that in you.”
“Thank you. Perhaps there is a small mercy in this madness. At least we didn't have to face the facility.”
“Take it from me, Doc, if they said thing one to piss her off, Ash would have eaten them for breakfast. Colonel, let's end this!”
“For better or worse!”
* * * *
Janis lay in a hollow dug by her basement wall. A piece of heating vent had been shifted so it carried sound from the living room to an old dryer port. She listened to her husbands, current and past, discuss the assault. She had learned through hard experience to trust no one.
She's gonna' blow when they kill the bio-mind,
Oh, Zane, it's a suicide mission. I won't stop you, my love. We have five days. I'll make them last a lifetime.
Crawling to the ditch's edge she checked her surroundings then raced to the street. She dropped her gaze to the ground and shuffled along. Just another weary, down-trodden human, tolerated so long as she made a useful slave then protean for the bio-production facility.
“General, I wish to be transferred,” said Major Joans. He stood by the interface couch. The nurse waited in the corner of the room.”
“What? Why?” General Flanders began pacing the room.
“Sir. I feel like a voyeur. Colonel Green wasâ¦Well sir, I happened on an episode during my monitoring. It involved the Colonel with two young women.”
“Sir, I was raised to wait until after marriage. It wellâ¦Sir, it was difficult enough when it was his wife, but now!”
“Son, we all have pasts. Treat this as a way of seeing a different style of life.”
“No! I need this research to go smoothly. I will not jeopardize that because of your prudishness. Now, learn to enjoy it, and get back to work.”
“Yes sir.” The major settled onto the interface couch and gazed at the calendar. “March, sixth twenty-thirty-seven,” he muttered.
* * * *
Upload monitoring/ Richard Green /Index 12:04/ 16/6/2031
* * * *
Richard hid in the tall grass, his heat signature covered by cool mud. His foe moved closer. He bided his time then fired. Red exploded against the general's camouflage.
“Christ on a crutch!” General Flanders looked at the stain on his shirt. “Very good. You're learning quickly.”
Richard stood. “Thanks. I hope this all proves unnecessary. What did you think of their last transmission?”
“Seemed friendly enough.”
“Yes. It would seem friendlier if they'd share some pictures of their home world, or tell us how to tune into their planet's EM transmissions.”
“I can understand why they might not want to. Let's face it; we humans aren't the gentlest of creatures.”
Richard and the general walked towards a shack on the edge of the field.
“Too true. How go the preparations?” asked Richard.
“That's need-to-know. I'll only say the admiral seems pleased.”
Richard opened the shack's door and the two men stepped into its confines. It was dirty and disused. An old tackle box sat on a bench in the corner. The general opened its lid and placed his palm against a screen at its bottom. There was a beep and a section of floor opened revealing a staircase.
“This always amazes me.”
“You're easily impressed.” The general led the way into the facility.
* * * *
Upload monitoring/ Richard Green /Index 10:04/ 17/6/2031
* * * *
Richard stood at the conference table dressed in a tweed suit, addressing the committee. “The cure works. Senator Williamson has completely recovered.”
“Any side-effects?” demanded the admiral.
“None that I can see.”
“Y'all see. It's a gift. We should thank them right proper for it too,” said Nancy.
“Richard, could this be used as a weapon?” asked Malcome.
“I thinkâ¦Frankly, I don't know. It took me a year to build the thing. If it were reprogrammed, it could produce viruses, but that's not likely with my model.”
“Why?” demanded the admiral.
“I updated the chip design. That part was easy, it was a lot less trouble than building a custom chip. In short, I don't know if it could be used as a weapon. I do know we have a cure for cancer. I'd like to start clinical trials and go for FDA approval.”
“Slow her down there,” said General Flanders.
“I'm forced to agree. This is still top secret,” added Malcome.
“Y'all can't keep this quiet. People are dying,” objected Nancy.
“We cannot announce that the aliens have given us this yet. The information campaign has been preparing the masses, but they simply are not ready to accept the announcement.” Frank's withered face looked like he just ate a lemon.
“I can see both sides of this situation. Richard, I have a suggestion. You will have to do blind trials anyway. We will fund preliminary, clinical trials on a limited number of subjects. Collect your data and when we announce the alien's approach you can present it to the FDA. I will expedite matters at that point,” said Malcome.
* * * *
Upload monitoring/ Richard Green /Index 14:32/ 6/1/2032
* * * *
“Richard, be reasonable,” said Doctor Edwin Robinson. He was a lanky man, late forties, with an angular face. The conservative suit he habitually wore gave him a pinched quality.
“As my students say, âwhatever'.” Richard scowled. “The electron microscope was purchased for my research. I don't mind other projects using it when it's on down time, but I get priority.”
Edwin sat behind a mahogany desk on a leather swivel chair. The room itself was perfectly neat, without a single paper in evidence. Filing cabinets lined one wall and a leather couch sat against the other. “I'm the dean of this department, not you. I will decide who gets priority when it comes to equipment allocation.”
“The grant money is tied to me, not the department. Should I call up MIT?” Richard's eyes flashed.
“Maybe I should drop some names. Rachel Summerfield. Samantha Cooper. Do these ring a bell?”
“They were consenting adults.”
“They were students! You're lucky they refused to testify. Nice bits of fluff I'll grant you. Might almost have been worth a bloody censure. What's your secret?”
“I treat them like people.” Richard scowled at his boss.
“I could have had your ass bumped for that little bit of tail.” Edwin leaned back in his chair and looked smug.
“The microscope is in my lab. I'm telling you right now. The next time some ass-hole pushes ahead of one of my scheduled experiments, I'll pull their samples and microwave them.”
“Are you threatening me? Iâ¦” Edwin sat up and went red faced.
“Watch it Eddy! I'm not a grad student that you can bully anymore. It's my equipment, for my study. If anyone is going to have to come in at midnight to use it, it won't be me. If you want to take this to the university's dean, go ahead. Maybe he'll care a little more about the grant money than what three consenting adults did or did not do.” Richard turned on his heel and strode from the room.
* * * *
Upload monitoring/ Richard Green /Index 15:24/ 28/3/2032
* * * *
“Richard, do you have a moment?” asked Ashley as she stuck her head into his office.
He put down the paper he was grading and focused on her. She was wearing a scoop necked blouse and a short skirt that showed off her slender legs.
Oh, Gods of my fathers. She's little sister; She's little sister, why does her being dressed like this affect me so much?
He thought as he tried to appear nonchalant. “What can I do for you?”
“I'd like to show you something in the lab.”
Richard noticed her smile. It was the first he'd seen since her break up two weeks before. Standing, he followed her down the hall. After the third step he caught himself looking and forced himself to move to her side.
She's little sister, little sister. Gods man, she use to baby-sit Betty.
“I decided that it would be more impressive to actually apply some of my research, so I cobbled this together.” Ashley led him to a worktable where a device that looked like a large, plastic bowl, with wires wound around its inside, was connected to a computer.
“Ashley, you haven't?”
Ashley placed the bowl on her head, closed her eyes and the words âHaven't what, Doc?' appeared on the screen.
“I knew the research was going in this direction, but! Is it a true neuro-mechanical interface?”
âComplete. Kinda' cumbersome with the helmet. I think eventually a surgical implant may be necessary, but it's a first step. What do you think?' appeared on the screen.
“I think you should take that thing off until we can ascertain if it's safe.”
Ashley removed the device. “Isn't it great though? A direct neuro-mechanical interface. The holy grail of cybernetics. What's wrong? You look pale.”
Richard leaned against the worktable. “Ashley, be careful. I can't tell you why, but just be careful. Can you present your thesis without telling anyone else about the helmet?”
“Yes, I just thought it would be gravy. All the input for autonomic control data is there.”
“Good, keep the helmet in reserve. If all goes well, you can use it as your doctoral research.”
“What are you scared of?” She took his hand in both of hers and stared at him.
“Iâ¦I don't want you getting hurt. Until we better understand this technology we should take it one step at a time.”
Ashley squeezed his hand. “Sure thing, Dad.” She smiled at him and his thoughts were anything but paternal.
* * * *
Upload monitoring/ Richard Green /Index 14:00/ 10/6/2032
* * * *
“Hi, Doc,” Zane half dragged himself into the room.
Richard scanned his office, trying to ignore the younger man's dejection and pain. Piles of paper and books filled the room. Ashley sat in a folding, metal chair beside him. He stroked the hand rest of his leather, swivel chair and focused on the flat screen hung on the wall.
“Zane, take a seat,” Richard motioned to another folding chair and stood. “You both deserve explanations. I know the work has been difficult, and you've often wondered where the technology for the bio-mechanical interfaces came from.”
Zane closed the door and sat.
“Richard?” opened Ashley.
“I wanted to tell you both, but I couldn't until now.” Richard checked his watch then picked up a remote from his desk and clicked on the screen. It filled with the image of the president. She was a slender woman of late middle years with her grey-streaked, black hair pulled into a bun. She stood behind a podium and a line of military men and other dignitaries filled the background.
“This was recorded yesterday by the presidential media core,” explained Richard.
“Goddess, that's you!” Ashley pointed to where Richard stood to the president's left.
Richard caught himself noticing the way her sweater clung to her subtle curves, and he turned back towards the screen.
“Good people of the world, for today I do not only address the American people but all the brother hood of man,” opened the president. “We are on the eve of a momentous occasion. Nearly two years ago a radio signal reached our lovely, blue Earth. It came from travelers, explorers, seeking out intelligent species like their own for the purpose of forming friendships.
“Good people of Earth, we your leaders, after much debate, have decided to accept their kind offer of friendship. The benefits to us as a species far outweigh any minor risks.
“As a show of good faith our new friends have already transmitted to us a cure for cancer. This wonderful development will be available across the globe within a year, thanks to the efforts of Doctor Richard Green and his team of researchers from the University of Goleta, who have turned the diagrams and instructions transmitted to us by our friends into a reality.
“These brave explorers from across the void will be landing at the international plaza of the United Nations in a little under three months time. We welcome them as brothers. Without further delay I wish to surrender the floor to the captain of the space vessel
, Captain Tannal.”
The image on Richard's screen shifted to show Tannal standing in a room with green walls; behind him were a beautiful Amerindian woman, a classically handsome Negro man, and a beautiful, delicate, Asian woman.
“Greetings people of Earth. We come in peace for all
s. We greet you as brothers and fellow sentients. My command crew and I are pleased to be the first representatives of our race to form this new bond and look forward to the many things we can learn from one another. Due to the realities of space transmission it will be some time before real time communications between my vessel and your world become possible. Rest assured we very much look forward to lively conversation and enjoyable moments with our new friends, the people of Earth.”
Richard turned off the screen.
“You can't be serious?” said Zane, his face blank.
“Richard, is this for real?” Ashley was wide eyed.
“Yes and yes. I wanted to tell you but until the official announcement it was all top secret.”
“So we didn't invent the cure.” Ashley pouted.
“We made it. We came to understand it, at least partially. Does it matter?” Richard sat down and took her hands in his.
She took a deep breath before speaking. “Aliens. Goddess, I always believed they were out there butâ¦How long have you known?”