This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
By: J.A. Carlton
All rights reserved. © Copyright 2004 by Jill A. Carlton No part of this book may be reproduced in whole or in part, or stored in a electrical system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without written permission.
Prologue Pinpoints of shimmering silver speckled the deep, velvet night sky. Summer breezes kissed the faces of passers-by on the street. Of the multitudes wandering through the heaven-sent evening, only the one in the cross hairs mattered. If he‟d been asked, Darien Rivers would have no idea why there was a man on a rooftop across the street with a sniper rifle trained on him. As the bullet tore through his body, piercing and shredding his heart and shattering bone on both sides of his ribcage, Darien Rivers knew that he was dead, even before he hit the ground. If he‟d been asked, Darien Rivers could never have guessed why he was killed on that perfect night in 1997.
1 DAYBREAK, 2055 A.D. Even through the flak vest, she could feel her skin reddening. Sweat beaded and stung her eyes, but the three grunts thirty feet below loading 120 kilos of dust onto the stealth chopper were almost done. Five more minutes. She glanced around, her mind examining angles and implements, subconsciously running the mathematics of the room while time ticked by. Or less, she corrected, recalculating the timing required to adjust for the speed at which the Lord Thugs were moving. Something’s going to happen today. I swear I’ll kill him if he keeps pushing. The sense rushed through her veins, carried in every cell of her blood to every nerve fiber, axon and dendrite. As sure as she was breathing, something huge lay in the shadows of this little corner of the universe. I wonder if anyone else feels it. Whatever it is, I’m not gonna like it. Once again, she inspected the contents of the warehouse. There were half a dozen hummers, two semis with full trailers and four separate free-standing tanks they used to re-fuel their vehicles. If everything went as planned, it would be like the Fourth of July on this block. She balanced precariously on the steam pipes, wiping the sweat from her brow before it could fall. If they saw her, despite the standing order for her „live capture‟, she‟d be dead before she hit the ground. Minutes are forever when you’re waiting. Or being tortured. But finally, they closed the hold and headed out of the modified building, locking her in with the drug-heavy vehicle. With her jaw clenched, she hooked her cable around the pipes, snapped a loop into her harness and rolled off the pipes, heading for the chopper‟s rotor. When the slack ran out, she lay back, head down toward the floor, and began working quietly. In seconds, the rotor housing was open and the axis for the blade seats was exposed. She slid a small pouch from a pocket in her vest and carefully emptied the metal filings into the greased inner workings. When the pouch was empty, she pulled a quarter-pound stick of gray plastique, circa 1985 military surplus, and molded that into the works as well. Another pocket was opened, this one dropping an airline liquor bottle of clear liquid into her opened hand. A slow smile stretched the corners of her mouth as she laid the nitroglycerine over the explosive and carefully re-seated the housing cap. I love the smell of U.C. destruction in the morning. God, I gotta stop watching those
old movies, seriously, and my not so witty retorts need a lot of help! Good thing I work alone. She shook her head, flexed her legs and began hoisting herself back up to the steam pipes on the ceiling. She was just pulling up the slack when the three grunts, plus one, returned, yapping and oblivious to the fact that they were minutes from death. She slinked over, around and through the various ceiling hung hardware, toward a rooftop access panel as the front door rolled upward, opening the entire front half of the building‟s roof. The men were secured inside the chopper by the time she had a chance to look down from the panel. Four down, too many to go, she thought, closing the panel and starting her race across the gravel-covered roof as the chopper‟s engine whined to life below. I’m not gonna make it. On the far side of the roof was a ladder to the street. She grabbed the high, rounded rail, her body swinging into mid-air, held only by a few fingers, until her feet caught the side rails. They won’t leave; they’ll wait, she hoped as she clapped her feet tight to the sides, her palms pressed also to the sides, giving herself just enough drag to control her descent as she bullet-shot down the ladder. She leapt off the ladder and began running toward the waiting primer-gray van while she was still in mid-air. The pops, pings and the growing number and volume of explosions from inside the warehouse were like bullets in her head as she leapt toward the open loading door. “Get her!” “Got her!” “Go, Joey, go!” the voices cut through the pain that came with the noise of sabotage. They were the buoy in the dark that kept her on course. They were family. Smoke billowed and folded its way down the alley, glass shattered and the ground rumbled as the van hurdled down the pock-marked alley, leaping like projectile vomit onto what was left of the nearby street. Inside the vehicle, a large man and a petite, but powerful young woman wrapped her into their arms. “Floor it Joey! Bring us home big boy!” then he laughed and „whooped‟, wrapping his arms around each of the women, planting a kiss on Jade‟s cheek and one on his sister Laura‟s. “Does NUMA have any idea what they got when they got you?” he asked the enigmatic saboteur. “I just bridge the gap Luiz, nothing more,” Jade smirked and looked at her watch. “Better drop me off at my house Joey, I gotta report for duty in a few hours.” “Your wish is my command. So, you know what they say bout pyro‟s right?”
“They‟re sexually frustrated,” Luiz piped in, grinning even as Laura thrust her elbow into his ribs. “You do know you can always take your frustrations out on me, right, Jade?” She smiled, warmed by the familiar banter and the obsession with truly human concerns. “I think my fingers would get jealous, but I‟ll keep it in mind.” The super-sized driver laughed, gunning them down the deserted highway with the needle of the speedometer buried as high as it could go. Behind the laughter, inside her mind Jade could see the road as it once had been, well kept with the rebar paved over. Even in times past, when hundreds of thousands of people would be heading to their respective jobs, they would have been smooth with blacktop, but those were times that didn‟t count for anything anymore. They brought us here. And I’d still give anything to bring it back. One more chance, that’s all, just one. -Alone in her quiet apartment, the only sound the crisp ticking of the batteryoperated clock on the wall, Jade sat in the corner of the couch, her eyes resting on a scarred, dark wooden chest of Gaelic origin. The contents lived in her mind. She no longer needed to open it to see what was within. Sheaves of paper sat atop relics of her ancestry- all of the contents were from her past, but of natures so diverse, only the data would make sense. Soon. She knew there may come a day when the documentation would have to be shared, but that was no less than expected when she‟d stolen it. How’s Harry gonna use it when it comes out? She shook her head, knowing he‟d find a way. Grabbing her jacket from the arm of the couch, she cast another glance at the chest that doubled as an end table. “Jeez man, could we start again... please?” she asked with an Andrew Lloyd Webber melody in her head, then headed out, determined not to dwell on how they‟d gotten to where they were.
2 NUMA H.Q. Central Midwest, North In the stark, white cinderblock-walled room, seven men sat around a long table, tension screaming silently through each of them, filling the room with dread, a common denominator. As far as any of them knew, the worst had finally come true. Only one, a squat, muscular Mexican, wore battle gear. This was General Ethan Delgado. He‟d spent more time in the field than any of the others assembled ever would, and he wasn‟t afraid of what was coming. In fact, he welcomed it. The others were the six heads of NUMA, the New United Military Alliance. Five of them were of command rank, and the sixth, Harold Mitchell, was a Unit Commander, and he wouldn‟t have it any other way. At the head of the table sat the man who called them all together, Admiral Todd Petersen, who, though in his sixties, appeared a decade younger. His dark hair was salted with gray, and his physique, which had always been bold and well-defined, remained so. He sported a dark tan from many hours on the training course that added to his youthful appearance. Admiral Petersen was flanked on either side by „his‟ men. On his right sat Commander Harold Mitchell, and on his left General Delgado, known as Hawk to the underground. “Everyone settled?” Admiral Petersen asked watching the other heads nod curtly. “Good, I‟ll get right to the point. Harry‟s turned up some information from the U.C. headquarters. It seems our Jade isn‟t the only one to survive implantation,” he stalled, waiting for the grunts and groans to die down before continuing. “During her last scan, I caught a glimpse of Tyrell in the background. Thanks to what Harry‟s managed to dig up, we know they‟re using him the same way we‟re using her.” At this point, Harold Mitchell ran his hand through his shaggy brown hair and took over the explanations. “I was able to access his mission log in the U.C. computer. They sent him back to make sure we didn‟t get the portal information. Obviously, I was lucky enough to get to him in time since we‟re all here, but they‟re getting desperate. I‟ve heard rumors that they want to send him back even further, stop us from forming, or at least delay it long enough to give the Lords and their cronies,” “Thugs.” Hawk interjected.
“Thugs,” Harry nodded, “a firmer hold on society.” He paused for a moment to let them digest that before dropping another bomb. “But there‟s something else. Something they‟re not telling the higher ups just yet.” “What is it?” Admiral Jason Tedmore asked eager for any bit of information that could help them put an end to this genocide. “His chip has crashed. The programming‟s gone. No one can say how it‟ll affect him in the long run, but his behavior is becoming increasingly erratic. Bordering on sociopathy, he‟s fragmenting. He‟s losing moments, confusing orders; it‟s almost as if there are different personalities being created to handle whatever‟s coming up. This could be what we need to topple them.” “How so?” “If he‟s unstable, we can play on his paranoia, get him to see what the U.C. is doing, make him think they‟re doing it to him. I mean hell, the guy‟s sitting up in his room half of his down time trying to figure out ways to kill us! Why not turn it on them?” “Kill us? How? Some kind of mass execution?” Admiral Olzewkiewicz, a fiftysomething, balding man with a potbelly and frighteningly sharp mind asked. Mitchell nodded grimly, “That‟s one of his plans. He‟s got about a dozen based on the vid I could get off him. Unfortunately, he found the bug about a week ago, and he doesn‟t babble his plans out loud or I‟d be able to tap into the wiring in his barracks. All I know is, the last plan it looked like he was actively pursuing was a series of assassinations, but whether it‟s here or in the past, I don‟t know.” Harry ran his hand through his hair, “Look, I really believe the guy‟s losing his mind and their seniors are using it to the best advantage they have. We have to give him at least an equal push in the opposite direction.” “Won‟t that be dangerous?” Tedmore asked. “Shit yeah. But wouldn‟t you rather have him go Fort Hood at his own base than out on the street? The Topsiders don‟t trust us as far as they can throw us, and the Unders are spread thin enough. If he goes jihad, better it be on his own team than ours.” He shook his head, “Look, they know they‟re losing slowly but surely. The Unders are working with us, the Topsiders support the Unders. We need to start supporting them too, they don‟t have what we do,” he added, clenching his jaw. “So send her to assassinate him. Or is she losing it, too?” General Moreland, a quick-thinking, bull-headed man of Irish descent jibed, but waved his hand dismissively. “Sure,” Harry mocked, “Let‟s just send her in with some flowers and a nice Chianti while we‟re at it. Hello! The only time he leaves the compound is when he‟s on assignment! Are you deaf or just dumb? You do remember they have a standing
order for „live capture‟ on her, don‟t you? If they had a clue where she is, they‟d nuke the whole fucking area instead of just dropping their dust on us! I‟m not about to jeopardize a thousand lives over bureaucratic posturing.” “So find someone else to do it. We all know how much she means to you, but you said it yourself, she is the best operative for the job, even if she isn‟t really ours,” Moreland argued, then cocked an eyebrow at the Unit Commander before smirking. “Unless we can‟t trust her, and if that‟s the case, she ought to be scrapped.” Harry‟s face turned to stone as he answered flatly, “No.” “Then what do you suggest?” Admiral Tedmore asked, his voice high with agitation. “You guys helped create her, you completed her training yourself Harry, and that makes you responsible for finding a way to stop the U.C. from escalating its power. Maybe, if you hadn‟t brought her here in the first place, they wouldn‟t have taken it this far,” he mused. “That‟s bullshit Jason and you know it! If she was still with them we wouldn‟t be here. She‟d‟ve taken us all out. Genetic engineering or not, people do what they believe is right. Look, the Topsiders are behind the Unders, the Unders ranks are growing every day, but they don‟t trust us. McKay‟s the connection. When we lost Darien, we lost a lot of momentum with them; Jade‟s taken that on herself. The Civvies trust her, the Unders trust her; hell, she‟s the best thing to happen to them since Darien got too old to go on raids,” Commander Mitchell asserted. “Between her and Hawk,” he flipped his thumb at the Underground representative, “the Civvies are starting to trust us more and more. They‟re actually beginning to believe in us again, we can‟t betray that.” “Harry‟s right,” Hawk spoke, his Mexican accent barely discernable for the tightness in his throat, “the public loves her, and they know Darien did, too. However dark, she‟s a hero to them. She uses her popularity to demonstrate her willingness to join with us, to unite us all against a common enemy. It‟s what Darien did, and what he wanted her to do.” Admiral Petersen nodded, “Not only is she one of the best raiders the unders have, but she‟s got all the qualities we need the people to see. She‟s loyal, intelligent and never once tried to use the portal to change the McKay family history. She knows if she saved her family, she may not be what she is today. That sacrifice alone is more evidence of her loyalty to humanity than individualism.” “Anyone else here think they could do the same thing?” Harry asked. “I didn‟t think so.” “Commander, we know you hold her in pretty high regard.”
“I do.” Harry nodded knowing what was coming next. General Thomas Cutter was no stranger to the song and dance to come. Aside from Hawk, Todd and Harry, he was Jade‟s biggest fan, and her most vocal advocate. Harry was glad Thomas Cutter was among them. No matter what else might happen, at least Jade would always have one underestimated ally at her back. “Then please explain again why you feel the need to continually harangue and harass the woman? If she‟s really that good, she should be able to keep…” General Thomas Cutter started, but stopped at a single look from the Unit Commander before adding, “to do the job without the harassment.” He liked Jade, always had. Commander Mitchell‟s behavior toward her wore her down, it had to. “Tom, if anyone knew what she knows, Jade included, her life wouldn‟t be worth a plug nickel. There‟d be nothing they wouldn‟t do to kill her. We‟d lose everything,” Admiral Petersen explained. “Everything.” Glancing between Todd and Harry, Tom understood just how close the Admiral had come to exposing everything they‟d been trying to keep hidden for years. “I didn‟t think she‟d hold a grudge this long though.” Todd continued, musing aloud as the call light on the control panel to his left lit up. The room fell silent as he pressed the talk button. “Go ahead.” “Uh, Admiral Petersen? Jim Bayer here. The database just picked up an incongruity. Darien Rivers has been killed in 1997. The baseline says we‟ve got about three hours before the ripple catches up and wipes him from our history. Oh, and truck 317 got hit by raiders last night, we think they were Unders.” “Anyone hurt?” the Admiral asked. “No, sir, they were found by outpost 6, alive, that‟s why we think it was Unders, sir.” “Okay, get McKay to the broom closet. Commander Mitchell and I will be right there,” he ordered, severing the connection. “Alright, gentlemen, consider yourselves briefed. If anything else comes up, we‟ll notify you.” “Did she hit the truck?” Moreland asked expectantly. Todd chuckled, “Ya think?” and left for the portal room with Harold Mitchell at his side. -Jade tore the picture of the U.C. supply house she‟d just blown up in half, and was trying to decide which one to hit next. She hadn‟t been in her office for more
than an hour studying new photographs when a summons directed her to the „broom closet‟. Second guessing Harry would have to wait. She grabbed her go-bag and headed for the inevitable, if tiresome, confrontation with her Commander.
3 “Jade, we‟ve got a problem.” Admiral Petersen‟s voice barely registered as she stared at the rotating hologram of a biker from the late 20th. Six foot even, 195 lbs. Judging by the length of his hair, he’s about 26 here, about two years after Biggs framed him for killing the agent. He’s tan. Kyle’s moved the main office to L.A., left him here. She smiled immediately at the warmth in her heart. “What happened? Something go wrong with the last assignment?” she asked, her ice green eyes meeting with Todd‟s liquid brown ones. The Admiral shook his head, “No, not then. This one‟s in Chicago about a year later. Seems someone got off a lucky shot that didn‟t land the first time.” She nodded, “Got it. Get him out of the way and get out. Can I kill the shooter?” she asked, ignoring Harry who stood glaring at her from the corner of the room. She could feel his hatred like a vise against the back of her neck. He was always waiting for her to do or say something that he could write her up with. Over the years the hatred had become reciprocal. Todd cocked his head to the side scowling faintly. “I know, I know. It could jeopardize history,” she sighed. “I never get to have any fun.” She grasped her duffel bag and slung it over her shoulder, turning away from her C.O. so she wouldn‟t have to look at him. It didn‟t matter, she knew the touch of his hand on her shoulder, his fingers pinching the muscles as though the Admiral wasn‟t even there. They were the only three in the room, but it didn‟t matter to Commander Mitchell. “You fuck this up, McKay, and I‟ll see you in the stockade,” he growled into her ear. “Fuck you very much, sir,” she retorted. Todd stepped between them, turning first to Mitchell. “I‟ll see you in my office in three minutes.” Reluctantly, the Commander turned, his uniform creasing about his bunching muscles. “Aye, sir.” It looked like he was debating whether to risk decking her or not. Jade hoped he would. “McKay, you‟ve got a week in the 20th. Make it count.” “Aye, sir,” she turned smartly on her heel and stepped through a faint shimmer in the air that was their portal to the past. --
Harry wheeled when the Admiral closed the door. “We‟ve got to keep her there for the whole week. Give me some time to work something out about Tyrell.” He paced agitatedly, swiping his hair with his hands, “How long do you think it‟ll be before she finds out?” he asked. Todd shrugged, “I don‟t know, man. But we‟ve had this conversation before, and I don‟t think it‟ll affect her as badly as you think. I think she‟ll use it to her advantage.” “But she wasn‟t raised like they had planned; she was raised as if there‟s nothing different about her.” Todd smiled, “Thank God. If things‟d gone differently, like you pointed out this morning, she‟d most likely be working against us.” Harold stopped his pacing and slammed his fist against the heavy, oak-paneled door of Todd‟s office. “I want them dead.” Admiral Petersen placed his hand on his friend‟s shoulder, “I know.” Harry looked up and nodded, “We‟ve done well so far, haven‟t we, Todd?” The Admiral nodded, “So far. And Katherine and Liam would be grateful.” Harry nodded again, “Yeah, hell, we managed to keep two of their kids alive, right?” “Right. Now go take out Tyrell before he goes over the edge, and do what you have to do to make sure she stay‟s in the 20th for the whole week.” Harry nodded, “Don‟t worry. I know how to keep her busy.” “Harry,” Todd looked at him tightly, a dark foreboding crossing his normally docile features, “any way you want, except like Colorado.” Harry winced, “I didn‟t have a choice in Colorado.” “There‟s always a choice.” Harry shook his head and Todd saw something pass through his features that he couldn‟t identify. “Not always. I won‟t hurt her this time.”
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