First Chapter of my new sci-fi novel “Downfall”

Posted: February 17, 2009 in Books, sci-fi, writing
Tags: , , , , , , ,



a novel

By Dan Mumford

Chapter 1. Present (2400 A.D.)

She rolled around the corner just as the security bot brought its lasers to bear for a second volley. This was going to be a little harder than she thought. The bots hadn’t shown up in the surveillance scans her team had worked so hard to procure. She felt reasonably sure that the bots were autonomous but they would still be programmed to report anything unusual. As an infiltrator, she only had a small window of time to take the bot out before it raised the alarm. What would work best? Her plasma coil always proved excellent for fleshy targets, but not metal. The radial-wave acoustic cannon would be perfect, except that it too, would draw attention to her. No, a plain old slug gun would be fine. It was just a bot after all. She whipped around the corner and, using her targeting reticle that she projected temporarily on her retina, blasted three quick shots at the spidery robot that scurried towards her from the other end of the hall. The pistol, having been set to minimum dispersal and yield, should have been silent, so it surprised her to hear the faint pops as the microbullets pierced the shell of the hapless machine, ripping away its silicon brain. She padded down the hall to collect the pieces before another one found her.

Treena slinked along, deep inside the lab complex beneath Titan’s surface. An hour earlier, she had slipped through their orbital defenses in a drop ship that was every bit as small as the tactical webbing that covered her svelte, muscular frame. The organization Treena worked for had bribed a defense grid tech to open a tiny window in the scanning coverage and then look the other way. The tech had two round trip tickets to Europa and a penthouse suite at the most prestigious hotel under the ocean, the Lumos Valenzetia. He thought about how the windows would light up with nature’s own fireworks display as all the creatures from the deep exploded the darkness with bioluminescence.

As the corrupt tech lost himself in a daydream, Treena was hurtling through Titan’s upper atmosphere at just under 2.6 km/s. The outer shell of her drop ship peeled away as the inner layer formed webs between her arms and legs like a flying squirrel. Titan’s atmosphere, being one and a half times as thick as Earth Standard, but the gravity only 0.4 in comparison, meant that humans can fly just by flapping their arms. Even hurtling through the ionosphere, she managed time to check in with her back-up team. She fired up her internal router and used her Mesh to contact Sam.

“It looks like I slipped through without complications. Whoever you guys bribed must really be desperate for a vacation.”

“Yeah, so far so good; but keep your eyes peeled on the way down. Fly by the Grand Valley and Leland’s Bridge, so you look more like a tourist and less like a peregrine falcon.”

“Sam, you know I don’t study ancient Terran fauna. I have a life.”

“Ouch. Don’t get your combat-issued panties in a twist; I was just saying you should take a less direct approach vector.”

This rankled Treena, especially because she knew he was right. But she still didn’t like people telling her how to do her job; least of all desk jockeys. Most of the support team back on Europa had never been out in the field. Never seen action outside of their safe little VR simulations they liked to play. The technology had become so advanced that they truly couldn’t tell it was a simulation. Their senses were hooked up so that they could see, touch and feel everything. Heck, the signal was patched right through their Mesh, so the brain couldn’t tell the difference even if it tried. But it still wasn’t real. Sam could get his kneecaps shot off in VR and feel every bone shattering microsecond as the patella blurted out through the backside of his calf. But deep down, below his screams of agony, he knew it was all a simulation. A training exercise, or a game night out with his friends; sadistic friends, seeing as how they just blasted his kneecaps off, but still friends. No. They didn’t know. Out here, out in the field, they couldn’t just yell, “Pause” and expect salvation. He would draw a sharp intake of breath each time the ragged ends of bone ground against each other and severed a little more of the surrounding tissue. Out here, he was limping home. Unless of course, he had Medichines.

This was some of the last information that they had picked up from Earth before the planet fell strangely silent. It was a tiny step forward in robot nano-facturing but a huge leap forward in emergency medicine. Her blood now coursed with millions of tiny robots poised to do her bidding. Clot an amputation? Sure. Neutralize poison? Why not? Turn off her pain receptors in case she was getting tortured? Well, maybe. They still had some stuff to figure out. She was hoping that Titan hadn’t made use of the same files as advantageously as her side had. What Titan did do much better than anyone else was propulsion. And that was why she was hurtling towards the ground, but trying not to seem like some extinct Terran raptor.

“Copy that Sam, I’ll play the wide eyed tourist from Callisto, but once I’m down, it’s all business.” As Treena logged off, she could hear Sam playing some old fashioned metal-core from the turn of the millennium. Just before the connection closed, Sam’s pc squirted the songs’ info to her Mesh, unbidden. It was “Break the Silence” by Killswitch Engage. She smiled sardonically. “How appropriate.” She thought. “It was about that time. Both for the silence, and for the killing.”

Ideally she wouldn’t have to kill anyone. This was a dark op, supposed to be silent. Clean in, clean out. But when she thought about what they did to Hunter, how they made him suffer, she wanted to make someone bloody and then some. Peering around a corner, she saw what appeared to be a long hallway with the lab entrance at the far end. Just to be safe, she clicked through all the spectrums in her vision: infrared, visible, ultra violet, x-ray, and gamma-ray. It was worse than she feared. A mix of all five light frequencies criss-crossed the hallway like a rave club in Old London. She rummaged into a pouch and brought out the CPU she had salvaged earlier from the unfortunate security bot. Sending out a search agent from her Mesh, she accessed the machine’s security protocol and discovered a chink in the labs’ armor. Because the bots roamed free, they had to have a way to pass through the hallway without setting off the alarms. So every minute and eighteen seconds, the system shut off just long enough for a bot to travel the length of the hall. The problem was that the hall was 100 meters long and the time interval was one second. At first glance, it looked like it would be impossible for a normal human to run that far that fast. The thing was, Treena wasn’t what most people would call normal. Besides having a computer wired directly into her brain, and having chromatophores covering 99% of her body, she also had extensive synapse enhancement; ensuring that when she wanted to, she could heighten all her senses and movements for a brief period of time. The problem with this was that the extra speed came at a terrible cost to her energy reserves. In training, she had turned on her abilities for five seconds and had to spend the next week in a hospital bed recovering. “Oh well,” she thought. “It’s the only way through.”

By the time the lasers shut off, she was already running full speed towards the wall of light. Just before her body hit the beams, they clicked off and her Quickin kicked in. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as she kept moving. She was so quick that she noticed that the lights didn’t shut off all at once but sequentially. They unzippered before her approach like the Red Sea parting for Moses. She made it to the end with a quarter of a second to spare. She clicked off Quickin and instantly succumbed to an overpowering weariness. She had just enough strength to lift herself up into a ventilation shaft and squeeze some Gu into her mouth before sleep took her in its massive arms.

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