Terran Shift Anthology, Vol 2: The Bio-Tech Era by Jamie Alan Belanger - Read Online
Terran Shift Anthology, Vol 2
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Summary

Terran Shift Anthology, Volume 2: The Bio-Tech Era is the second collection of stories set exclusively in the Terran Shift universe. The collection contains seven science fiction stories from five authors, focusing entirely on stories set in the Bio-Tech Era, a plausible near-future where humanity becomes even more dependent on technology.

Strike Nest by Paul J Belanger
One pilot's dream job may be the human race's last hope to prevent the next world war.

End of the Line by Timothy Lynch
Ben's discovery at a mindless assembly line job could be his end... or a new beginning...

Freezer Burn by Alan Belanger
Casual cryonic freezing means that all the time you spend with your child is quality time. What could possibly go wrong?

Netmare by Jamie Alan Belanger
Direct computer-brain connections enhanced with a new psychedelic narcotic... they called it "The Ultimate Trip."

Upumbavu by Paul J Belanger
James never expected his neighbor's dog to inspire him to cure a plague.

Normal by D.L. Harvey
Technology can give you everything you want, but not everything you need.

The Museum Run by Jamie Alan Belanger
A hacker is requested by name for a routine, well-paying job. But routine jobs rarely are.

Published: Lost Luggage Studios, LLC on
ISBN: 9781936489183
List price: $2.99
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Catalog

Introduction

When we published the Terran Shift Anthology, Vol 1, we were excited to be able to present a collection of short stories all set in our science fiction universe. The stories are great fun to read and do a good job of representing the people who live in this universe. Yet there was one facet of that publication that always felt a little odd. Disjointed, perhaps.

While it was great to have stories set in the same universe, looking back we feel we may have done a bit of a disservice by having stories from every era. Each era of the Terran Shift universe has a certain feel to it. The Bio-Tech Era is a dystopian, urban nightmare of sorts, with advanced yet plausible technology that drives people to disconnect from each other. The Aftershock Era is a time of confusion and recovery, a post-apocalyptic landscape where people are both using and distrustful of technology. The Expansion Era is a time of hope and exploration, a time for humanity to finally spread its wings and get off this planet. The Sol-Bect War Era is a widespread fight for survival against a technologically superior alien race.

We love every era, and constantly dream up interesting characters to live in each. Their stories are what defines the essence and drives the events of their time. But as an anthology, we wanted to take a slightly different direction. Instead of trying to tell stories in every era of the universe, this volume and the next few will focus on individual eras, on the people who live and make a difference in this and other worlds. This volume focuses on the Bio-Tech Era, the next will focus on the Aftershock Era, and so on.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. And now begins a new dawn for humanity:

The Bio-Tech Era

2015 - 2096

The Bio-Tech Era (and the Terran Shift universe) begins on August 28, 2015, when an unknown organization simultaneously detonates nuclear weapons in Los Angeles, New York City, Tampa, Chicago, and Dallas. The resulting blasts shake the resolve of the United States as a whole while also accelerating the effects of global warming. Thirty million Americans die instantly, and another fifty million die over the next few years from the fallout.

During this era of humanity's evolution, a great surge is seen in bio-technology all over the planet Earth. By the middle of this era, many humans have sub-dermal implants to augment their natural abilities. The most popular of these implants is the Turina Jack, a device that consists of installing a computer inside the recipient's brain to allow the person to jack directly into the Internet, brain first.

It's not all fun and games though—the vast majority of implants exist to combat cancer and other diseases, and to reverse the effects of the natural aging process. By the end of the era, more than six billion of the planet's nine billion people have some form of augmentation installed in their bodies.

In 2096, scientists warn of a solar flare and all electronic devices are powered down or shielded to prevent burnout. After bringing everything back online, a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) burst from the sun hits, creating a massive electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) blast that burns all electronic devices on Earth. More than 6 billion people with sub-dermal biotech implants die instantly, almost 70% of the planet's population. After this era comes to a close, very few people ever turn to biotechnology again—it is mostly left to the military, criminals, and extreme medical cases where it is absolutely necessary.

Strike Nest

by Paul J Belanger

Prologue

2035 was a bad year for just about everything. Turkey began introducing the idea of a unified Islamic Empire. The reunited Russian Federation, recently conquering Kazakhstan after three years of bloody battles, was now entrenched while fighting the Chinese. The Russian Federation renewed fighting in Poland; the Russian military leaders now confident that their other wins will translate into success there. The United States continues supplying arms to Poland, who hold their ground against the invading Russian forces. The increased instability of the entire region pointed toward some military action for the United States. Congress, as well as the populace of the United States, found no need for our intervention in somebody else's mess. The President issued mandatory cutbacks in all military branches, and the Senate, as well as the House of Representatives, agreed. Base closures throughout Europe and Japan left other countries to fend for themselves. Many people in the United States praised the cutbacks and were relieved to discover that we were no longer the World Police. Others rejoiced as another Democrat was elected President while the Democrats held the House majority. This, of course, made many more unhappy. But with no halfway-decent Republican or Independent candidate available in a very long time, everyone shrugged and kept looking as they silently hoped that their luck would change.

After many countries filed grievances against NATO for their lack of aid and action, the organization still did not respond. Those affected countries eventually removed themselves from the organization, crippling an already damaged infrastructure, and NATO was dissolved in 2032. With the United States no longer in the role of the World Police, the United Nations Peacekeeper force was expanded to compensate, increasing its army tenfold. Many new countries begged and pleaded for membership in the hopes that the growing might of a joint world military would be able to help them. Slowly, the opposition was becoming better equipped with the leftover hardware from bases no longer needed. Munitions and equipment were sold to the highest bidder. The terrorist world thrived and several unknown countries were put on the map. Anyone with enough money to finance an army quickly became a dictator.

Traveling anywhere was at a greater risk and many opted to stay where they were. Some countries' economies were threatened, and in some cases completely destroyed, by a severally decreased amount of tourism. Even real music was hard to come by anymore after Leslie Darling, the first completely synthetic music superstar, literally rocked the world when her first album was released. Real bacon was no longer available anymore since pork achieved total artificial status, becoming the first meat to be completely grown in a lab. Ironically, pigs were now an endangered species, only to be found in zoos.

1

The world in 2038, his world, was becoming a very dangerous place indeed. The military cutbacks ended his career as a fighter pilot just as it was getting interesting. He was comfortably in the groove and loving his life until a rude awakening shook the pillars of his existence.

Jim Nellow caught the attention of the nearby waitress and raised his empty beer bottle. He shook it briefly and she nodded. The bar was not yet crowded, but would be in an hour or so. They also served food but he was not in the mood for that tonight. The waitress soon returned with a new bottle to replace the empty one. He tossed a few dollars onto her tray and she smiled in response to his gratitude.

The military compensated him quite nicely for his early retirement. He was promoted to captain two weeks before Congress initiated the massive military reduction. That increased his severance pay a few thousand dollars. He silently played with the two silver bars in his left hand. They felt as cold as his heart. Thinking of the saying when it rains, it pours, he shook his head. In his world it was a hurricane. In fact, it had been a hurricane for the past three months. He took another swig of beer and wished that he could just drown in it. If only it were that simple for him.

Since leaving the service, he had had no luck in his post-military job search. The airlines were cutting back or shutting down in response to terrorist threats and paranoia. His only response from several major airlines was the same. Those that were actually hiring wanted nothing to do with an ex-military fighter jock. He had the crew coordination background that they all screamed for since his only experience in the service was in a two-pilot crew. He always had a WSO (Weapons Systems Officer—or wizzo in military slang) riding along. But the fighter mentality was frowned upon. Airlines did not want the risk associated with a hotdog pilot. It did not matter that his situational awareness was at least a half dozen times greater than that of a civilian pilot. His life depended on that. The military left him with little in the way of options in the civilian world.

Then the following month, April, he had another shocking turn of events. His girlfriend, the love of his life and the woman that he would one day marry, left him. Apparently love was as disposable to her as he was. Soon after the rejection letters from the airlines arrived, she slowly drifted away from him. When his future looked bleak, she jumped ship and ran for the high ground. He could not really blame her for something that he may have done exactly the same way. The only thing that really pissed him off was that she disappeared. There was no note, no final confrontation, and no ultimatum. One day he returned to the apartment and everything was gone, including all his stuff. What use could she find for his underwear? The only smart thing he did was in keeping a separate bank account.

You want another one? asked the waitress standing next to him. Jim snapped out of his reverie and quickly glanced around the bar. It was slowly filling up and the noise level had increased. He had no idea how long he had been staring off into oblivion. That must have been why he did not notice her earlier. She was a little older than he was and he could see the tiredness in her eyes. Her demeanor shouted, Don't even think about asking me out.

Yes, please, Jim responded. He looked into her eyes and smiled. She had nice brown eyes. He checked out her rear end as she walked away and found the rest of her appealing as well. It did not matter what he thought though. He had given up on women three weeks earlier when he realized that most were only after money, and he had none. Well, he had some but no job to keep the supply coming in.

The waitress returned and Jim paid for the beer and left a dollar tip. She smiled, said thanks, and left. He finished his second beer and started on the new one. The cold Sam Adams sure hit the spot. His life sucked but at least there was beer.

Three months without a job was starting to wear away at his mind. Being too idle for too long was driving him insane. He was seriously considering a job at the local fast food restaurant. He laughed at that thought as he pondered the interview he would have with some pimple-faced nineteen-year-old manager. You were a fighter pilot? Cool! Then you know how to use a radio, so you can work the drive-up register.

He finished his third beer and left the bar. It was only a ten-minute walk to his apartment and it was a beautiful night. He watched several couples walking down the boardwalk while holding hands. He felt like crying but forgot how to. So much bad shit had happened in the previous three months that his heart had hardened to emotion. He really wanted to cry but laughed instead. There was always ten pounds of shit for a five pound bag.

2

The morning arrived as it usually did, with his alarm going off at oh-five-hundred. Jim crawled out of bed and put on his jogging pants and sneakers. He strapped on his watch and headed for the door. It was still dark out and he welcomed the silence. His daily routine started with a few stretching exercises and then a five-mile jog around town. Just because he was out of the military did not mean he should let his body go to hell. He wanted to be physically fit and ready for action, whatever that may be. If he did end up working at a fast food place he may need to kick some pimply ass. That was a thought he did not care to dwell upon.

About four miles into his jog, a brown sedan pulled up alongside him and matched his pace. The rear passenger window came down and a man in his late thirties leaned his head out the window.

Are you Lieutenant James Nellow? asked the man. He was wearing a blue suit with a red power tie. He was clean-shaven and had a touch of gray in his brown hair. There were a few lines under his eyes that may have meant he was not accustomed to waking so early or he had been up all night long. Either choice was fair game so Jim opted for the latter of the two.

Nope, I'm ex-Captain James Nellow, he responded without breaking his rhythm.

That'll work. I need to talk with you. Do you have a minute?

I'll have as many as you want in about six minutes. I'll finish my run up the road by the library and diner. I like my eggs scrambled and my coffee black, thank you. Jim kept his eyes forward as he continued jogging.

Um, okay, I'll be waiting.

Jim did not acknowledge the statement but kept his mind on the run. The car pulled away from him and headed up the road. At least it would be nice not to have to buy himself coffee for a change. He had no idea who the man was or what he wanted. He did not really care either. He had nothing else to do and his future was looking pretty grim all the way around. This man could be a corporate executive here to do an interview, although that was doubtful.

Minutes later it was time to find out. He slowed to a walk about two hundred feet from the diner. The car was parked next to a beat up light blue pickup truck. It was too early for most people and annoyingly early for those unfortunate enough to be awake. He stopped in front of the diner to do some cool down exercises. He stretched his muscles and let his breathing return to normal. When he was once again comfortable, he entered the diner to see what fate had to throw at him. Maybe it was the IRS! Ha, that would be a good one.

He found the two men seated at a booth at the end of the diner. They sat on the same side, which looked rather odd. Jim chuckled silently as he took the empty bench across from them.

James Nellow, you can call me Jim, he said as he offered his right hand to the two men.

Roger White, said the driver.

Darrel Johnson, said the man appearing to be in charge.

Both were well dressed and looked tired. The waitress stopped by and poured coffee for the three of them.

Morning Jim, how was the run? asked Myra.

It was great, Myra. When are you gonna join me? Jim asked. He took the proffered coffee from her as he stared into her eyes.

When life gives me the chance, said Myra. She winked and walked off.

Guess you come here often, said Darrel. He poured some milk into his coffee and stirred it with his spoon. He took a sip and grunted his approval as he hoped the caffeine would take effect quickly.

Every morning of every day. I don't have anything else to do but exercise. Jim sipped his black coffee and enjoyed the warmth.

Well, we're hoping to change that for you. In fact, we're here to offer you an opportunity we think you won't want to pass up.

Jim stared into Darrel's eyes and wondered if he was part of the Mafia. Stranger things had happened.

Is it legal? asked Jim as he raised an eyebrow. He was not really sure if that mattered in the giant scheme of things. He was just a pawn in a life that was out to get him. He had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Legality depended on perspective. He was sure they would have a monetary way to change his perspective.

It's perfectly legal although not warranted by the United States Government. I'm a recruiter for a fairly new firm with a rather bizarre mission statement. I pursue individuals that my company is interested in and pitch my deal. The final decision is theirs to make.

Okay, then don't fart around, shot Jim. Lay it out on the table.

Myra walked over and passed the breakfast plates to the three of them. It smelled good and Jim was hungry, more so because he did not have to pay for it.

It's a flying job, said Darrel. He took a bite of his omelet, chewed, and nodded.

Flying what?

The F-15E Strike Eagle, of course.

Jim's fork stopped halfway to his mouth. He put it back on his plate and responded, I'm in.

Darrel stared on in shock. Don't you want to know anything more about the job?

I'll find out about it later, I'm sure. Flying the Strike Eagle was the greatest enjoyment of my life and to fly her again is better than anything I can think of on this entire planet. Hell, I'd even do it for free.

Well, you won't have to do that. You'll be paid quite nicely, much more than your salary as a captain would've been. In fact, I think it's about three times as much. We already signed on your wizzo, John Talbort. Actually, if I remember correctly, he said he'd do it for free too. We got your name and address from him.

Jim laughed. John was a blast to fly with and he really knew his shit. The icing on the cake would be to fly with him again.

Darrel must have read his thoughts. We never split up a team. We were hoping you'd join us.

Yes, said Jim, I'm in for sure. What's the deal?

Well, started Darrel as he paused equally for effect and for a sip of coffee. "We're a privately funded corporation that has purchased sixteen Strike Eagles, a very large stock of weaponry, and assorted aircraft