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Last Updated on November 1, 2022 by ADMIN-TOM

The Ragged Edge of Time
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Chapter Three: Horizon

Jade Sexton took her seat in the packed auditorium, confident that the process of showing off the latest military hardware would be as boring as it usually was. She was wrong and there was no warning when the lights went out and the room was plunged into pitch darkness. Sexton shifted slightly in her seat, as did some of her journalist colleagues, uneasy at being in a strange environment and in the dark. Her vision in the dark was enhanced, as were those of most people in the 24th Century, but there was still that primeval instinct to fear the dark – the unknown. Jade’s headcam detected the change in timbre before her eyes did and brought its lenses and lights online as the darkness was quickly overshadowed by the sunrise over the Earth.
Jade was impressed. The whole audience had sat down in an auditorium at Area 51 in Nevada and were now on the space station Horizon.
As the buzz of chatter in the auditorium grew louder a lone figure walked onto the centre stage below them and raised his hands for silence.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated and we will begin our demonstration.”
Sexton recognised Jal Besending, former World President Special Advisor on Artificial Intelligence and now, well, now he was a Master of Ceremonies.
“Please, ladies, gentlemen. Please take your seats.”
As the throng began to calm down, Sexton looked around her to see who she knew. It seemed the entire world press corps were attending.
“My friends,” Besending said in a strong, clear voice, “we are here today to witness something quite remarkable. Without further ado, I give you Gideon Prime, the latest recruit to the Earth Defence Force.”
Jal Besending turned to his left and bowed. Another figure, dressed in black like some latter-day Ninja, joined Besending on the stage. As the figure stopped and bowed to Besending. Besending straightened up and turned to the audience.
“Please, pay attention.” Besending smiled, bowed to the audience and walked off the stage.
The figure in black, Gideon Prime, stood, arms akimbo, and waited. In the briefest of instances another figure dressed as Gideon Prime, but in yellow cloth, dropped from the lighting gantries above, no more than three metres from Gideon, pirouetted and turned to attack Gideon with a devastating kick to his head and he swiftly parried before returning to his previous stance. The figure in yellow landed gracefully and was immediately joined by another figure, dressed the same, but this time in green. The two attacked Gideon and both were parried with little effort from the man in black.
Gideon waited while yellow and green gathered their strength and added a new ally, this time in dark blue. All three attacked swiftly and with greater force, but Gideon used his attacker’s own energy to knock yellow and blue to the ground. Blue came back for more at once but yellow groaned, his body inert on the stage.
There was no let up and Gideon was soon being assailed by two new colours, red and grey and these were swiftly followed by purple and orange. Within minutes Prime was being assailed by no fewer than eight brightly coloured Ninja warriors.
Close-up cameras were relaying the action to local graphite monitors on the back of the auditorium chairs. Sexton watched fascinated as one by one Prime’s attackers were incapacitated. Within a few short minutes the stage was littered with brightly coloured bodies. All of them were groaning and Sexton realised that a few had sustained broken limbs, self-evident by the awkward angle the limbs were held. Gideon was neither phased nor breathless. He stood, arms akimbo again, among his attacker’s bodies. Only two remained semi-standing. Yellow had revived and red was still ready for more. As Sexton watched the two-coloured Ninjas attack, she and the audience gasped as Gideon disappeared. However, the two Ninjas hit something solid on the stage and both were sent flying to opposite ends of the stage.
Prime reappeared, in his now familiar stance.
A voice boomed over the PA system. “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Gideon Prime.”
Gideon removed his headgear while stage workers helped off his attackers. Jal Besending strode onto the stage to join him. Gideon finished removing his headgear and Sexton saw that he was a young man, no more than twenty-five and that his tousled blond hair gave him the look of a university student on his way home from a party.
Besending raised Gideon’s left arm and called for a round of applause. The crowd enthusiastically obliged. Gideon smiled a winning smile, not even breathless.
Besending lowered Gideon’s arm and motioned for him to relax.
“I’m sure you are all impressed and yes, there were a few broken limbs. Necessary to give the demonstration a realistic edge. All the Ninja’s involved were trying to completely incapacitate Gideon as quickly as possible. Gideon’s orders were simple, defend yourself but do not inflict unnecessary harm.”
Besending was obviously beside himself with absolute pride and delight at Gideon’s performance, but the audience had questions and Besending knew it.
“Gideon here is our latest weapon in the war against Vastos Hugo and his merciless fleet of pirates that have made all our lives a misery the last few years.”
The audience gasped and more than a few began arguing among themselves. Vastos Hugo had for many years been a thorn in the side of the United Earth government. It had taken World War 3 in 2045 to bring the planet together to enable a world government ideal to flourish. In over three centuries the people of Earth had known a true utopia. Until the arrival of Vastos Hugo. His fleet of black ships had arrived in Earth orbit, a huge armada led by Vastos Hugo, who announced he was head of the Human Fundamentalist Empire, the offspring from a lost colonisation program launched from Earth to Tau-Ceti in the early 23rd century. It seemed the HFE had found an ally in the Pleiades Empire, in the star cluster Messier 45, and this latter-day Armada had set out to conquer Earth.
Hugo pronounced himself a direct descendant to Jermina Hu Yung, main antagonist to what was known as the western world in the late 21st century and instigator of World War 3. Hugo claimed dominion over all peoples of the Earth and began a bombardment of the main population centres, including those in orbit and on Mars and the moons of the outer gas giants. Only by use of technology, in the form of planetary population shields on Earth and other populated enclaves, had the Earth maintained a status quo between its planetary government and the forces of the HFE.
Gideon Prime, it seemed, was to give the people of Earth a chance to take their own destiny back into their own hands and fight back militarily to defeat the HFE.

 

***

Jade Sexton had watched fascinated as Gideon Prime’s full capabilities had been lauded before the gathered journalists. She had slipped away from the throng and positioned herself on the teleport pad for her brief journey home.
Sexton blinked in surprise as she materialised in unfamiliar surroundings.
“Please, do not be alarmed,” a man wearing a familiar uniform said.
Sexton was taken aback. “How the hell…”
“A simple enough device, the transporter,” Vastos Hugo said as he moved forward and took Sexton’s left hand in his right hand, gently ushering her off the teleport pad.
“How did you…” Sexton blurted as she stumbled down the metallic steps.
“As I said, a simple enough device and the technology isn’t hard to divert to one’s own needs.”
“You diverted my beam, to your flagship?”
“Of course, I needed to talk to an accredited Earth Force Journalist and you were the first off the pad. So here your pretty self is and here you will stay until I find out what I need to know about Gideon Prime.”
“But I…”
“Know nothing? Foolish child, of course you know something. All it takes is another simple subversion of an age-old piece of technology and I’ll know everything you know.”
“But…”
“Don’t worry, you won’t feel a thing… at first.”
Hugo led Sexton down a short ramp and a set of doors at the bottom opened to reveal two black sentry-droids followed by a dark red medi-droid, replete with multiple laser scalpels and other, more invasive, instruments.
Sexton screamed as the sentry-droids held her arms and dragged her beyond the teleport pad.
Vastos Hugo sighed as the blast doors closed with a whoosh and clanged together.
“Pity,” he mused, “I could have done with a pretty diversion like her.”
Hugo turned, smiled to himself, then strode back up onto the tele-pad.
“Operations,” he said, still smiling.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2022

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A young Magda Asparov travels alone from her home in Ukraine to America, to marry Matthew Turner, an unscrupulous American businessman. It’s an arranged marriage and part of the dowry is land in America the Asparovs own. But this parcel of land holds a secret only Turner is aware of. It has a huge reservoir of oil beneath it.
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