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The Edge of Darkness
By Vikki Romano
December 17th, 2015
In 2065, corporate sponsored governments jockey for supremacy in the biotechnical arena. Bullets and missiles take a back seat to cyber-enhanced soldiers and pulse weapons. In this extreme environment, only the most hardened body and mind can survive.
Calder McKenna was a failed experiment in the military's push for power. Now a special agent for the metro task force, he lives day by day trying to forget the ones that were lost... the ones that he could have saved.
When technology and humanity collide, Calder is forced to make desperate decisions, but how do you destroy the monster without becoming one yourself?
He almost crushed the package that leaned against the doorway as he stepped out into the hall, and bent to pick it up as the door shut and locked itself behind him.
It was a small padded envelope and had no return address. No markings whatsoever. He felt the package, squeezed it. Whatever was inside was small.
Poking his thumb into the corner of the envelope, he tore it open and poured the contents into his hand.
A single data stick. Generic.
He looked in the envelope, but it was empty. No note or packing slip.
“Open the door,” he said, and the door clicked and opened as he turned toward it.
Going back into his apartment, he tossed the envelope onto a side table and went into the living room. Waving the stick near a grid on the wall, he looked up at the large inset screen. Nothing. He tried to scan it into his home system again, but it wouldn’t upload.
What the hell?
He held the small stick up and looked at it more closely. There were no identification marks, no labels. Nothing. Just a generic black stick shaped like a tiny, blunted pencil.
He sat at the edge of his coffee table, leaned on his elbow, and pondered the small item in his palm.
He didn’t normally do this, but using his own neural uplink to read it was the only other logical option. The processor had been installed while he was in service, a mandatory installation the special ops soldiers needed to covertly share and control documents during missions. It had been wet-wired into his brain, and the small titanium disc that lay beneath his skull behind his right ear added the ability to store and upload information at will from an external wireless source. The security was tight, and viruses had a hard time getting in, so the risk for him was minimal.
Letting out one last breath, he rolled the stick in his hand then tapped a few codes into the illuminated numbers on his wrist.
He felt the data stick pulse in his hand, and suddenly his mind was awash with excruciating color and sound.
He clenched his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut against the intrusion of immediate pain that flashed through his body like molten silver.
His brain felt as if it caught fire.
Roaring, he clutched his head in his hands and dropped the stick, but whatever it had encapsulated had already uploaded into his neural systems.
Moments later he found himself sprawled on the floor, too weak to move. Every muscle in his body tensed, hardened, setting him rigidly against the floor, curling his fingers violently into the carpeting.
Holy fucking Christ!
Calder used every ounce of energy he had to open his eyes and turn himself over. It was as if he had been drugged and beaten repeatedly over his entire body. Every muscle throbbed. Every joint ached. He could not contain the moan that escaped his lips when he finally turned over and lay flat on his back. Convulsions coursed through his muscles and his back arched against the pain until he lay exhausted.
The room became blindingly, painfully bright. He patted himself down awkwardly until he found his shades in a breast pocket. Struggling to steady his hand to put them on, he used one last burst of energy to get them in place before letting his arm fall to the floor just as another convulsion hit him. Squinting his eyes open once more, he directed his shades to darken to an almost completely black level. The light was still painful, but bearable.
Clenching his teeth against the onslaught of spasms, he breathed heavily until his body finally relaxed and he panted, spit trickling down his chin.
The grid on his wrist blinked relentlessly. Whatever it was that he’d uploaded, it was certainly wreaking havoc with his internal systems.
He tried to uplink to his augment to see what was going on, but the feedback that reverberated through his skull nearly knocked him unconscious.
His thoughts scrambled.
Had someone tried to kill him? Had they found a way past his military security to bug his brain? Dear God, how do you even get something like that back out?
About the Author
I know it sounds cliché, but I've been writing for as long as I can remember, in every capacity that I could manage. From newsletters to yearbooks, journals to hard cover books. It's not seeing my name on a cover or any kind of admiration that does it to me, it's getting it out. It's a strange phenomenon that most writers have, of having stories continually running through your mind and the nearly painful urge to get them all out before you forget them. Not sure what the phenomenon is called, but there are days I hate that I have it. It's a blessing and a curse. A double edged sword.
My love for sci-fi goes way back to my childhood. I mean, who didn't love movies like Tron and Terminator when they were a kid? Or great oldies like War Games. I grew up in the advent of technology and rode the wave of the dot com lifestyle in my 20s. It was a wonderful time to be alive, to see where tech could go. Being involved in the field as a database admin and then later as a hardware tech and web designer, I had my fingers in all of it and I loved what it was all about.