Empty brown vastness faced the First where he stood. From overhead came the whooshing rumble of jet engines. A trio of needle shaped air cruisers hurtled past and made for the horizon. He had watched them travel out and return from his rooftop vantage point all day.
His top advisor stood to the right. The Secretary of defence and with that eastern European tongue he spoke,
“The Army of Earth frontline has been reduced significantly First.”
His holographic image flickered momentarily.
“We have done more than enough to buy us the required time. Perhaps now we should think about…”
The First held up a solitary finger and interrupted,
“Retreat? There will be no such word used in this campaign Secretary. Everything you have given me has failed, minus the fighters currently pummelling those silly little humans at the other end of this planet.”
The glare he gave almost burned through the flickering image of his cohort.
“I am in agreement with you First, but you must consider the airborne resources for the invasion. Troop numbers will not grant us victory alone. I urge you to follow our plan.”
“And I urge you to do I say! Plans are subject to change in the current circumstances Secretary. Just keep building that unlimited army you promised, and I’ll keep buying you more time. In the next coming days my army will pull back, not retreat, into the rocky ridge. You can then have the cruisers back, in time.”
The First tapped his wrist commy and the Secretary’s image faded away. He spun around and then stopped dead.
“Time?” The concealed voice of Robot-K said. His darkened hood angled down to the First.
“Something which you promised me First, no?”
Robot-K extended his cloaked arm and gripped the First’s shoulder. A huge leather glove began to close.
“And you will have your time Robot-K. That is what I promised you.” He tried to move but Robot-K’s grasp strengthened.
“That is what, you earned,” he added.
“There are more whispers from the battlefield First. That name, Thorn, a Maverick…”
“I will strike down anyone who utters those two words!” The First forcefully broke free.
“They seem to forget what I did to the last Maverick,” he added and looked up to the shadowy hood with two wide eyes, and then turned away.
“John Thorn,” Robot-K said in a long breathless whisper.
“Gone, forever. To be never spoken of again,” the First said.
“Don’t make me ask you the questions Robot-K,” he faced the shrouded hood again.
“I, uh, remember her…” Robot-K’s stance loosened and his superior stepped in.
“Look at me Robot-K!”
In that moment images of the past raced around Robot-K’s vision. Everything centred around him in darkness looking down at one person. More memories seemed to flood in. Sunlight and birds chirping. Gentle and playful laughter. His gloved hand ran through blood red hair. Muffled speaking echoed to him.
“I know you,” the voice of a girl said.
The sunlight immediately shut off with a thud. Laughter and voices clunked to silence along with those birds. A more familiar voice led Robot-K out this trance. He came back to the reality of X43.
“I am, Robot-K.”
“And what will you do?” The First asked, his voice clearer than ever.
There came no reply from the darkened space from inside the robot’s red hood. A firm breeze whistled by in what seemed like an eternity for the First who couldn’t move.
“And what will you do?” This time his words came through gritted teeth.
Another lengthy pause was filled by yet another burst of wind. Just before the First’s words would reveal his panic, the tall and cloaked robot spoke,
“I will fulfil the destiny of our leader the Keeper who ruled before me over the robots and Warriors of old. I am Robot-K, guardian of the sword and have sworn my allegiance to the First.”
Robot-K looked down to see his gloved hand entangled in the First’s dark hair. He sharply stepped back and stood firm.
“As promised, you will have your time Robot-K, but you are not to forget who you are and your place. I chose you for what you did for me no matter what prophecies were laid out. Maverick or no Maverick, Jack Thorn will perish like the rest of the humans out there in that mud. If the battle doesn’t kill him, then I will.” The First charged away leaving Robot-K to stare at the murky horizon.
“There is another, a girl,” he said to himself.
* * *
“I want to wake up now,” Jack Thorn said in what tried to be a shout.
The croaky words that flowed out of his dry mouth brought him back to consciousness. All around the sounds of his surroundings tuned in. People talking and moving around. A bleep and a hiss here. The warmth, nothing like where he last lay cradling a rifle in frozen mud on the inside of a crater. He felt calm now, perhaps even sedate.
“Vital signs nominal,” an electronic voice said.
Jack slightly opened his eyes. The white burned the back of them for just a moment until he adjusted. A shimmering image lay in front of his view. A camera of some kind, it pixelated to almost transparency and then floated away revealing the room. The medical wing or even a hospital.
“Uh, what?” He panicked for a second to realise his two legs and two arms were intact. He felt stubble on a seemingly unharmed face.
“About time you woke up,” a deep voice said from the left. Jack recognised it from somewhere and just when he glanced to the next bed over, he remembered.
“Jones? Brock Jones?”
“In the flesh and horizontal. We took quite a hit out there on the battlefield,” Brock Jones said.
Jack saw the broad and tall man adjust in the less than comfortable sized bed.
“But don’t panic. We’re not off this muddy rock yet. This the HQ hospital,” Brock added.
“Wait a minute, that was you out there. The suicide artist running in to the field alone?” Jack asked.
Brock chuckled and cracked a smile,
“Ha, yeah. That was me. Got bored of talking shit in my alcove. Guess the big freeze got in my head, thought I saw incoming robots.
“What happened to us out there?”
“We got caught up in an enemy airborne offensive. Apparently the both of us were all blood and puke when they brought us in. They flattened most of the front-line base, all those tents and huts, taken down in a few swoops. By the time Army of Earth airborne could mobilise it was too damn late.” Brock made an exploding motion with both of his wide hands.
The others, I left them again.
“But don’t worry, the trench lines are still there and pushing the enemy back. So your trench buddies are probably holding up. For a while I didn’t think it was you, without the hair and all. Good to see you in crewcut, like me. Not in a million years did I think I would be bumping into you on this rock.” Brock chuckled again, his deep voice bellowing throughout the medial wing.
“Likewise. It’s been a while,” Jack said.
“Since the academy I’ll say Too long. Especially for you, man that short time you were there. Pure comedy gold dude.”
“You were the one who had a big future planned after the academy. Me? Not so much,” Jack shrugged.
“I remember when you came strolling in, scholarship kid and all. Big ass chip on your shoulder but you were a decent athlete.”
Jack smiled as Brock took him back. He recalled a youth where mostly rebelled against anything resembling rule and order. Those days were so much simpler.
“And you decide to major in ethics at a sports medical academy. Jack Thorn, the ethics major.”
“Huh, yeah. Ethics. The snooty bastards didn’t know how to take that until I dropped out. I don’t know how you stayed,” Thorn said.
“Me. I looked more like a rich kid than you. Plus, I did that thing where you talk and socialise, what’s it called again? Integrate. Do remember that club you started? Roaming the streets of Cliffeville picking fights. What was it called? Robot fighting something?” Brock asked.
“That was Frank Connors brainchild. The robot fighters. We took it from the academy’s initials on their sports jackets,” Jack explained.
“Yeah they didn’t like that. Then what happened? There was that girl you followed out of that place. Katie?” Brock asked.
“I married her, and we got two kids. I guess the plot thickened after I broke out of there.”
“Sounds like you did something right.”
“Only a couple of things, I guess. What brings Brock Jones to X43?”
“Felt like a career change. My Father lined me up with a job working for him way back when. Something about robot crime. I became a pro wrestler instead, toured the outer planets for a few years but it didn’t come to anything.”
“Wait, you were a pro wrestler?” Jack asked.
“It kinda makes sense. You were the best on the academy team. If only they knew that,” he added.
“You tell my old man that. After turning his job down, we haven’t spoke since, asshole,” Brock said.
“That sounds all too familiar. So when do we get out of here?” Jack asked.
“Today soldiers,” a senior nurse said as she stepped between their beds.
“Your vitals are fine, and we need your beds.” The authoritarian looking nurse momentarily glanced down at a handheld tablet.
“Soldier Thorn, Jack Thorn. Guess you were right Jones,” she said and looked to Brock.
“Damn right I was, I mean, yes mam.”
“Soldier Jones insisted on staying here until he knew you were ok. Guess you are friends after all. The news is somewhat a little better from the front line today. They are saying it will be over in the next three months. You’ll both eat and then I’ll have your uniforms brought to you. Then you will both be discharged this afternoon.”
“Thanks mam, that sounds great mam,” Brock said. They both watched her glide away to the opposite bed.
“So that job your Father lined you up with. Did it have anything to do with something called the World Force?” Jack asked.
He then realised the son of a man he knew as Sarge was looking back at him with a semi-confused expression.
End of Part 10
NEXT WEEK WILL BE THE SEASON FINALE OF JACK THORN
Tune in Next week for another edition of Jack Thorn. Same Jack time, same Jack place… Remember if you enjoyed reading, tell a friend, leave a comment and share it around on social media…
Copyright 2004 – 2019 ‘Jack Thorn’ and ‘The Thorn Legacy’ Written By Lee Hall 2019 All rights reserved.