Read a sample : Rewind 717
On this page you can read the first Chapter of my latest book to be released in October 2016 on Amazon's kindle. If you like the chapter, please don't hesitate to share this to your social media networks.
Note: The text is near final but there could be a few changes until release.
Artwork by Tom Edwards
The adventures of Time Traveler Anti-Terrorist Agent Cole Seeker
By Christian Kallias
I kick the doors to the conference room on the two hundred and seventieth floor. The weak lock cracks under the pressure of my foot and thanks to the momentum I’d gathered during my sprint. My ears are still ringing from the flash grenade explosion from seconds ago. Now that I have dispatched the heavily armored guards in the hall, I am nearing the completion of my mission.
Yet, I begin to doubt that when I see the two heavily armored mechs. Their targeting lasers instantly hone upon my position as I walk. Glass shards graze my skin when a nearby window breaks, drawing blood, but I ignore it. My nanites will fix these scratches in a matter of seconds. I barely have time to jump out of the way as a rocket passes over the top of my head. I can feel both the wind and heat from its propulsion engine.
This is going to be a longer day than I expected. I wish I had stayed in bed and played sensual fantasies with Sabrina and Kathy.
But such is my life, such is my purpose. At least that’s the company’s line. I am a rare breed, nearly irreplaceable and right now, no one else can do the job. Days like these I wish it weren’t true.
As I roll on the floor ending my dodging move, I can see another rocket coming my way. The blinking red targeting lasers burn my cornea for a split second as time freezes. TAINHA (Tactical Artificially Intelligent Neuronal & Holographic Augment) doesn’t wait for my mental order, and she activates the artificial shading of my cornea to avoid physical damage as well as improve my vision in the midst of this chaos. She is invaluable, especially during combat. Not only does she know when to act without my consent, but she speeds up my neuro-link with every one of my augments.
She basically streamlines everything and makes me a more effective agent. If I don’t see a punch coming, I know there is a good chance she will block it for me. It does feel strange sometimes though, as I feel she could, if she wanted to, take control of my entire body while I sleep. I shrug at the thought; now is not the time.
I enter bullet-time mode. An expertly complex mix of adrenaline enhanced with short-life nanites targets my nervous system in less time than it takes the rocket to advance a single inch. It also overclocks my augments so I can react faster. What happens next in my body is nothing short of a miracle. And yet I know this feeling very well. I have become dependent on this kind of augmentation. To achieve my goals and to succeed in my missions, these state of the art techs are the difference between life and death on the battlefield. I rely on them every moment of the seven hundred and seventeen minutes of each of my deployments.
I love this moment and feeling though. The bullet-time augment is like a drug when it’s activated. When the nanites seize control of my nervous system and inject adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine in targeted parts of my body, time freezes with diabolical precision.. The result is an instant high; for a split moment in real life that feels like it lasts minutes as it unfolds, I feel like I’m transformed into a time god. The feeling is intoxicating but I know I can’t revel in it. There’s a rocket with my name on it flying towards me at great speed.
In this state, however, time no longer has a grasp on me. My body and mindare augmented to their paroxysm, and it only takes the impulse of a single thought to raise and activate my forearm body shield. Time is slowed down so much from my perspective that I can actually see the blue hexagonal pattern of the shield draw in front of me as the shield comes to life. It takes less than point one second for it to rise to full capacity, yet I feel like I can take the time to watch it deploy. I’m mesmerized by the light show, no matter how many times I have seen this happen before.
Then again I realize this is the first time I activate it a handful of milliseconds after entering bullet-time. Once the oval shield is fully deployed, it flashes a radiant blue light. At this slowed time perception, the flash is almost blinding. I mentally push my cornea shading implant further to avoid ghosting side effect on my next move.
Taking care of a mark VI heavy mech on any given day is a feat of its own. But my target, my mark, has brought two of them along. I should not be surprised though. The mission brief did warn of his exceptional hacking skills and determination to complete his objectives. And I know from experience that this particular terrorist is one of the most dangerous foes I ever had to deal with.
But, by god, I will deal with this scum. Today is the last day he draws breath. I swear it to myself: I won’t let him escape this time.
I’m thrown out of my own thoughts as the shield illuminates when the rocket enters in contact with it and detonates. The effects of bullet-time only last for a few seconds, even though it feels like minutes inside my head. The fact of the matter is, while my reflexes, speed, and cognitive abilities are all upped to eleven, I can easily lose track of normal time in bullet-time. The exhilarating effect of this augment has played tricks on me before. It has one big caveat though: I can only use it once every ten hours, for risk of frying both what’s left of my natural brain and my augmented nervous system. And somehow I am thankful for that fact. I think I would overuse this augment if it wasn’t for this limitation. Who wouldn’t want to feel like they’re so fast, so strong and so smart that everything plays in slow motion while you can recall a lifetime of past memories at the same time as you’re fixing the problem at hand?
Flames erupt in front of my eyes past the shield, its hex pattern now colored orange as a response to the concussive explosion of the rocket. I know I have plenty of time to devise my next move, but I decide now is not a good time to reminisce about how addictive it is to be under the influence of bullet-time.
I check my tactical neuronal HUD, a holographic interface that is superimposed over everything in my field of view. Immediately every threat in the room is highlighted red. Those not in my field of view are arrows in my peripheral view, pointing me towards my targets. There are three arrows on the left and four on the right. Great. Seven more bogies to dispatch on top of the two mechs. I’m sure glad I decided to activate bullet-time;without it, I can take care of seven targets if they are human, perhaps even augmented ones, but not the additional two mechs in the room. They are the ones that need to go first before they get a chance to blow me up to smithereens.
I calculate a trajectory that will put me exactly in the middle of their line of fire as the last flames from the rocket turn to smoke. The path draws on my neuronal HUD, I then activate two more augments. I turn invisible at the exact same moment the second augment kicks in. The holo-ghost. A holographic projection of myself starts running along the target path. I follow quickly in its wake as I don’t want to take the risk that the mechs might see through my deception. I disable heat signature protection from my stealth mode so that my body heat still registers on the mechs’ scans.
Since rockets have failed to inflict me any damage, the mechs switch to plasma laser fire. These are equally deadly and I know well my shield won’t take them for long either. But they should last until I’m ready to act and take down the mechs. Both myself and my holo-ghost are barely a few feet from the mechs when I somersault high into the air thanks to my super strength augment. I activate holo-ghost’s camera so that the top right corner of my neuroHUD shows me what it sees. The mechs are still firing on my decoy. The ghost stops exactly between them and starts aiming holographic blasters at them, both his arms extended towards its targets. They haven’t figured it’s a decoy yet. They keep pounding everything they’ve got to their target, except their fire blazes through my holo-ghost, effectively tricking the mechs into firing at each another. Their shields are very strong, too strong for any of the weapons I still have in my arsenal, but their shields won’t take their own pounding of plasma laser fire for very long. When they realize they hit nothing but air they switch back to rockets.
I feel like smiling from ear to ear. They are doing exactly what I need them to do right now: bring their shields down for me. When each of the mechs has fired a pair of rockets at my holo-ghost it’s too late for them. Their shields are disabled and they stop firing. I’m so pumped up by how precise my mental and augment acuity is right now that I can almost feel them trying to re-acquire me. I grab my nano blade from my waist while finishing my somersault and position myself a few good feet atop the nearest mech. I’m coming at him from above, the last place they will check. Hopefully.
Before I deploy my blade I quickly throw a mirror bomb in front of the second mech. My plan hinges on each mech not detecting me, but the moment I will activate the nano blade, its light blue tinge might be enough visual stimuli to draw fire upon me. Better safe than sorry.
The mirror bomb, contained into a small metallic sphere not bigger than a grape, hits the ground and deploys. As everything still happens in slow motion from my perspective, I have all the time in the world to position myself perfectly for the first kill while keeping an eye on the holographic mirror field jumping upwards from the ground. The holo-mirror projects a mirror image to the second mech, the one I intend to destroy last. Since it is already facing another mech, I’m hoping it will be distracted and think the new image it receives is just a glitch. I only need to slow it down for a few milliseconds anyway while I finish my current move.
My trunk and chest are arched forward while both my flexed legs and arms are arched back as I activate my nano blade. It comes to life a millisecond before I spring into action and slash my way downward at the center of the mech from above. As the nano blade cuts through metal, wiring and silicon, sparks erupt, dark oily fluid sprays, and small metallic debris are ejected on both sides of the ongoing slash. In bullet-time, it’s an incredible show to behold. If I didn’t have to finish off this mech and formulate a plan to rid myself of its counterpart, I would be mesmerized by what I see and just get lost in the moment.
That’s when I hear her in my head. I can’t get enough of her voice. I don’t know who at the company designed her vocal engine, but she feels real, every inflection and subtlety in her voice, every artificial emotion can be felt in her sweet, sensual almost singing voice.
“Don’t worry, Cole, I’m recording everything; you can re-watch it later. Ballsy move by the way, but I approve of this tactic,” says TAIHNA.
Of course you are. I’m glad you agree, but you ain’t seen nothing yet.
“I’m sure I haven’t and I can feel my emotional subroutines tingling with anticipation.”
That’s when I realize that everything must happen to her at slow motion all the time. The rush I feel in bullet-time, she probably feels that way all the time, experiencing time a CPU cycle at a time. What we humans do when not using our augments must feel incredibly slow to her, just like everything feels for me now. Except I can’t probably keep up with her, even in that state. She experiences trillions of cycles every second. While I have no doubt she doesn’t feel a rush while functioning, I wonder how much she does feel nonetheless. Her last comment was unlike any other AI I have worked with or used before. She is one of a kind, that’s for sure. If she wasn’t mostly made of synthetic and organically enhanced silicon and graphite, I might even think about asking her out. But let’s face it, she’s already with me twenty four seven.
“May I suggest you keep concentrated on your task? You’ll have all the time you want to fantasize about how I look in a tight red dress later on.”
I smile ear to ear. Ever since she was grafted into me, I never really felt alone anymore.
I then realize it’s the first time TAIHNA speaks to me in bullet-time. Usually she just gives me visual diagnostics, threat assessments, visual augmentations and buzzing alerts when need be. She must have adapted her speech to my current perception of time. And that is why she is by my side everywhere I go. She’s the most advanced piece of technology ever created on this beautiful blue marble, or what’s left of it anyway. Her neuronal net is more complex than the world’s most renowned scientists’ intellects put together. And that sexy voice to boot. Can’t get enough of it but she is right, I need to get my head back in the game.
The nano blade keeps slashing and cutting the mech as I descend near its waist level. Being a single nanometer thick, the nano blade will cut through pretty much anything like a hot knife cuts through butter. But it’s a very dangerous weapon. One misstep on my part and I could cut valuable appendages of mine. That’s why I usually keep it for moments like these, when I don’t have the time nor the payload necessary to dispatch highly armored and highly dangerous targets.
The nano blade has finished cutting through what would be a scrotum if the 5 meters high mech was human. But it’s not. It’s a hunk of metal, silicon and wiring driven only by AI and electrical impulses, and I’m about to recycle its ass to kingdom come. I land with one knee on the ground as I safely put my nano-blade on my belt after retracting the blade. It attaches itself to it magnetically. As I rise from the floor, the mech is only now starting to feel the effects of gravity on its’ now perfectly cut-in-half titanium body. It’s splitting in two symmetrical parts, neither of which is able to hold any equilibrium. I have most likely slashed the mech’s main CPU in half with my nano blade but decide not to take any chances, should its CPU not be placed at its center.
I raise my now blade-free hand and open my palm towards the still splitting mech. I can feel the nanites inside my hand morph outside of my skin. I feel the nanite-infused liquid metal morph into an upside down triangle shape eroding from my skin. It’s not the most pleasant of feelings but my job requires me to hide most of my weaponry inside of my body for the times I go under cover. I can feel my palm warm up, something I can’t really register outside of bullet-time. I unleash my laser-net shot. Deadly thin lines of laser spin randomly as they advance forward, dicing through hundreds of small mech parts. I know it is overkill but I switch my firing mode to incinerate it nonetheless. The extruded triangle canon morphs into a perfect circle from which flames of hell propel forward, consuming most of the mech’s debris before they reach the floor.
“A little overkill, isn’t it?”
While I can’t disagree with TAIHNA, I am surprised at how vocal she is in this situation. Surprised yet not bothered in the least. In fact I like it, feels more like a team battle this way.
“Can never be sure with the people we fight. Last thing I need is the mech’s secondary systems to kick in and allow it to self-destruct on my face as a goodbye present.”
“That would be unfortunate indeed.”
My HUD flashes red once. I know what that means. I only have three seconds left in the real world before the bullet time augment turns off and time resumes to unfold in its boring, excruciatingly slow pace. But then again one only feels this way once they’ve experienced time altering augments. As incredible as the rush is when it kicks in, there is an almost equal fallout when exiting it. I am most vulnerable when that happens and for only a few seconds until my nervous system and brain adapt to the shift back to real time. These are often tricky times to deal with. I must make sure I am under cover when that happens.
But three seconds right now feel like a long time in the future. So I turn around and jump through the mirror holo-field. I can only imagine how it would feel from my target’s point of view to see me emerge out of thin air. I smile inside. I grab my holo-blade again but this time activate the lasso mode. Even more dangerous to use than the blade itself, one tiny imperfection in my movement and I could slice myself into bits of flesh and silicon. TAIHNA’s systems make sure I don’t do that though; I can already feel her ready to assist me with my task ahead.
I lash at the second mech with diabolical precision. By the time it realizes I’m coming at it, it’s already been turned into pieces. The multiple parts explode into a fiery inferno, but I have more than enough time to bring my shield in front of me. I can see its power level draining; it will contain this explosion but then it will be all but useless for the rest of the fight. My neuronal HUD flashes red. Somehow TAIHNA feels the need to add a vocal warning.
“Watch out, Cole, behind you; 5 o’clock.”
When I turn around the laser blast from one of the ground units is right in front of my face. I barely have time to dodge it and it grazes my cheek, burning my flesh.
“A little close to call, wasn’t it?” I ask TAIHNA.
“You’re still alive, aren’t you?”
I can’t argue with that.. Without her intervention, the blast could have burned a hole through my brain.
I engage the foot solider by grabbing one of my blasters and blow his head clean off with a single super charged shot. I then check the time I have left in bullet- time. Not much. Barely half a second. Enough to gather enough strategical data to dispatch the remaining foot soldiers once time resumes at a normal pace. I also find a place to lay low for the transition back to real time. On my way there I jump into the air to avoid blaster fire coming from all directions and throw a sonic grenade at three soldiers who made the fatal mistake of being tightly packed together. I land rolling and take cover. The grenade explodes a fraction of a second before it starts.
The return to normal time is painful as always. I’m briefly disoriented and my brain struggles in the midst of all the chaos around. Sparks dropping in front of my field of view are blurry and laser blaster noise has a very unpleasant echo, making it difficult for me to rely on my senses to get a good feeling of what’s going on. I close my eyes and activate mute mode. I need to rely solely on TAIHNA’s data in the next few seconds. That is also a very strange feeling but it’s not the first time I do it so I soldier through.
I have locked the nearest couple of targets out of the remaining four still standing. They’re the ones posing the biggest threat. The image my brain receives while my eyes are closed is a CG (Computer Graphics) reconstruction of the floor I’m on. It provides me with everything my sight would, but it is digitally generated. It’s a pretty close match to the details my own eyes would show me, but my brain knows it’s simulated, hence the weird feeling I get when I work this way, like when I’m training in virtual reality.
I leap from cover with a roll right in front of my nearest attacker. He didn’t expect the move and by the time he lowers his blaster I have activated my nano blade and I’ve sliced him in half, starting with his scrotum and slashing upwards. I see the second target aiming at me. I can’t rely on my shields anymore so I improvise. I turn off the blade and re-attach it to my magnetic belt. I grab one of the falling half of my last kill, his eye still frozen with terror. It can’t cover me fully but I make sure my head and torso are protected. I see through him thanks to TAIHNA’s data, though. The first shot was aimed at my head. The half torso of the dead soldier takes the blast but before I can spin to align my own retaliatory shot, a second blaster shot lands and burns through my shoulder, and I drop my blaster to the ground.
“I think it’s time for backup,” says TAIHNA with clear worry behind her words.
I want to say no with every fiber of my being. The stealth drone flying outside, currently invisible to human eyes, is my last ace in the hole. I wanted to keep it in reserve for when I face Ahmed Al’Hasi. But if I use it now, it will no longer be concealed. Sensing my hesitation TAIHNA insists.
“Cole, please let me take over; the farthest soldier is loading an RPG. Without your shield you’re a sitting duck.”
I swear in my head. With a slight mental push I give her my okay and duck back into cover. I reopen my eyes and un-mute my hearing. I’m back to my senses now, still a little woozy but now that the drone will enter the fold, I probably can just sit tight and relax.
Less than a second later I can hear the drone’s plasma fire cut through the seventieth floor with deadly precision. I activate PIP of my drone’s targeting camera and see what it shoots at. Before the soldier can bring his RPG to bare he is cut in half by a plasma shot. Blood sprays everywhere around him. He probably didn’t even understand what happened to him. One second he is alive and kicking, the next he is cut in half, both parts of what’s left of his body falling towards their final resting place. The last remaining soldiers get a similar treatment, a ball of plasma burning a basketball size hole in one of them while the last one explodes when three successive blasts hit him full front.
That’s when blaster fire starts raining from the roof of the skyscraper and what I wanted to avoid happens: the enemy on the roof has started firing on the drone. TAIHNA does everything she can to steer the drone through the barrage of fire ripping holes in its armor. She engages after burners and the droids soars upward. A second later I hear it explode as the ground beneath my feet shakes. Right after that I hear multiple screaming. I turn my attention to the now broken windows just in time to see four bodies, free-falling, two of them engulfed in flames. I shed no tears for this scum, even though they’re probably just brainwashed fanatics following orders. Nevertheless they chose the wrong side. They have a handful of seconds to live and pray to whatever deity they believe in.
Their god can’t help them now. They’ll realize that the moment their bodies splash into the concrete some seven hundred meters below.
I get back to my feet and dust myself off. My power levels are pretty low, and my neuronal HUD illuminates with a faint orange tint. I will lose the use of my augments in a few minutes. I need to race to the roof before Ahmed escapes once more. Now that I’ve diffused his tactical nuke in the basement of his skyscraper in the middle of New Geneva, he will not stay around any longer. The tracker I managed to shoot at him earlier is still showing me his current location.
He is on the roof approaching his ship. I wonder why he hasn’t left yet. I calculate the time it would take me to climb the stairs and reach him. Even in super speed mode it would take thirty five seconds.
I reconfigure my repulsor’s augments from incinerate mode to propelling thrusters. I jump outside the window and activate them.
“You’re insane!” shouts TAIHNA.
“What else is new?” I answer calmly as I soar up through the air, determined to end the life of my nemesis once and for all.
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