Weekly Ramble #43

And so the final words of Jack Thorn appear on the horizon. What stands before me is still a mountain of a task but behind me is 100,000 plus words drafted of a story that I originally created fifteen years ago; the first attempt came out with 40,000 words, I guess that’s the true reflection of how much I’ve grown over the years much like this book which will change science fiction – I suppose one can dream… 

This book and it’s contents I carry with me, everywhere I go, I have done since I was a teen so why did I decide to write this now?

Jack Thorn is and always will be home to me, it’s my dream book, the one I have always wanted to read. This year has been hard, I knew that from the onset, and so because I moved into my own place I needed something to make me feel at home, and I’ve decided now to that this attempt is justifiable by the fact I’ve learned how to write and tell stories by simply doing that.

I care so much about this story that I was willing to put it to one side and delve into other worlds so I can hone this craft I now have before me. I wanted to be my very best for this tale and it’s been a long journey and even now I have battled to carve a path I mostly already knew, it just needed to be updated, polished and adapted to today’s standards.

The full title I have now chosen and will reveal in time. Hopefully by the end of the month ‘Jack Thorn’ would have been drafted. I said next year’s plan I would be querying, but I will probably be editing for a long while.

The ultimate question you probably have is what’s the premise of Jack Thorn? Like all of my stuff it appears as one thing but is actually a stack of different things – right?

Jack Thorn is a science fiction epic about robots in the future. But it’s really about; friendship, family, war, prophecy and above all humanity. From what started as quite simple story has spider webbed into a epic mess of a story and journey of darkness, action, fun, emotion and destiny.

After all these years this dream stands strong, every single word of it…

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Jack Thorn: A story of the Future: Chapter 4, Part 2

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

READ THE FINALE HERE

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.  

 

Jack Thorn: A story of the Future: Chapter 3, Part 2

“Over the top soldiers! What do you think this is a mothers meeting!” The voice of a commanding solider barked pulling Jack out of his trance. He faced the glare of Major Garcia.

“Major. Can’t you see fighting these things with just rifles is suicide?” He asked.

“Tell that to the second gunnery when you see them all in hell. Every day is an opportunity to earn victory soldier. Didn’t I teach you that last time…”

From behind the front lime came a piercing fire of auto rifle. Jack cowered back to see a much more senior soldier look down at them all.

“All of you move in to battle now. You heard the order, go! Or face my bullets. That is an order!”

Major Garcia gave Jack a defeated look and then began to climb the trench.

“This is damn suicide,” Jack said.

“Sometimes that’s all war is,” Garcia added and moved out onto the battle field. Jack gripped the nearest ladder and hauled himself up.

“On your six Jack…” Franco followed his best friend into damnation.

“Come on, we’ve gotta to draw those things away from the front line…” Jack commanded alongside Franco.

“And then what?”

“We’ll think about that when we get there.” Thorn added.

He and Franco charged into battle and caught up with the Major. She stumbled back at the moment a barrage of bright bullets lit up her path. The soldiers in front were blown into vapour. Jack tackled her into a nearby crater and down they went. He didn’t look back to see if his comrade had followed.

“What are you doing Thorn?” She asked giddily.

“Saving your ass Major. We can’t fight these things one on one. They are too damn big, and their guns are two damn lethal,” he said and pushed the Major down.

Just over their covering crater the Shiftmaster stood. The red neon strip panned horizontally toward movement. Then it began to raise a forked arm toward Thorn.

“Take cover,” he shouted.

THUD. THUD. THUD.

Everything drowned away to white noise. Smoke filled the crater and the next thing Jack saw was the face of his best friend along with Connolly and Nicks.

“…either die from friendly fire or in battle,” Connolly shouted with Jack’s hearing coming back.

“Now take this you walking stack of tin!” Connolly angled up and fired his auto rifle.

“What are we aiming at. The whole thing is just metal,” Franco joined him and they both dropped down when more fire came over head.

“The only weakness of that thing seems to be the computer in it’s head,” Nicks said. She unstrapped her ruck sack and offered Major Garcia a bandage for her cut arm.

“The head is wrapped up tight in armour,” Connolly shouted over more fire. He peered up toward the nearby threat. From across the battlefield came a roar of screams.

“Damn that’s brutal.” Connolly and Franco watched the other Shiftmaster step down into a crater presumably full of soldiers.

In all the time this happened Jack sat there working things out. They needed to draw the Shiftmaster away without getting killed. The computer sitting in its thirty-foot-high head had been lashed in armour.

“Blunt force. What about an explosion?” Jack asked. He looked to Nicks.

“How do we get an explosion up there?” She asked.

“You got any gren…”

“Great minds huh?” From her rucksack she offered him two ball shaped grenades.

“Pull the ring and wait til the right time? Then throw but maybe lose an arm?” Franco said taking a grenade.

It wouldn’t be that simple. Too many maybes, if’s and buts. They would need to guarantee the explosion happened at Shiftmaster head height.

“That’s great thinking of a plan and all but the threat is very much knocking on the door,” Connolly said.

“I got it,” Jack said. He took the two grenades.

“You got any string or rope?” He asked to Nicks. She rifled through the rucksack and pulled a reel of fuse wire.

“Fuse wire?”

“It will have to do,” Jack said. He reeled off a length and Nicks moved in to cut it with a knife. Then he got to work looping the wire around a grenade and then through the pull ring.

THUMP.

“It’s here!” Franco shouted and they all looked up to see the large metal foot.

“Get it to turn away,” Jack ordered and already Connolly was moving.

“Come on Franco. We’re bullet fodder,” he dragged Franco up and they fired whilst clambering out of their crater.

Pneumatic whining droned down to Thorn. He briefly looked up to see the Shiftmaster turn to follow Connolly and Franco. Then the huge gun-mounted arm did the same.

“Get down!” Nicks shouted. She then took the first wired grenade whilst Jack used the same length of wire to loop in the second grenade.

“Over here bitch face!” Franco shouted with a whining fear in his voice. He erratically turned and fired.

The booming response replied instantly. Connolly had already dived into another crater and Franco somehow evaded the threat.

“Woo!” He shouted.

“Okay it’s done,” Jack said perhaps a little too loudly.

The Shiftmaster began to turn back their way.

“Shit,” Nicks said taking a step back. They had nowhere to go. The huge arm began to swing their way.

“Hey. Over here!”

Jack and Nicks looked to Major Garcia. She had slipped away and stood in the complete opposite direction. The neon strip had already turned to her.

“Do it Thorn! Take it down!” Garcia barked.

Jack stumbled out onto the muddy battlefield armed only with two grenades tethered to each other by fuse wire. He took one deep breath and swung them once around his head. Then he released. In slow motion his make shift slingshot grenade mock up careened forward. Almost instantly it darted to head height of the metal giant and clanged around it’s wide head.

“Get down Garcia. No!” Franco shouted from his crater.

In slow motion Jack watched the grenades wrap around the wide head before pulling the fuse wire tight. The looped rings popped out.

THUD. THUD.THUD.

Bright large calibre bullets lit up the battlefield and coursed to Major Garcia. There were no craters for cover, and she stood in the line of fire.

“No!” Jack shouted and looked away. He closed both eyes for a moment and missed the booming roar from above.

A cheer of approval echoed from behind. The Shiftmasters head now resembled a smoking heap of metal and wires.

Jack had already broke into a sprint along with Nicks. They burst through bullet smoke and got to the Major. In the background came the sound of metal clanging to the ground. The Shiftmaster sunk along with Thorn’s heart as he dropped to Garcia.

“I guess, this is, how I would have, wanted it…” she said. Jack pulled her in close.

“Ah man. This is a mess,” Nicks said and had already got to work with trying to patch up the huge gaping holes flowing with red.

“Leave it, medic, you know, what comes next,” Garcia added with a deathly gurgle.

“Let her work Major,” Jack said. He saw her red stained teeth as she smiled.

“Stubborn, even in, the face of, death. Just like, Clark… yeah, I knew, your old man. I put in, that good work for ya, to the Sarge, also.”

“I know you did Major and thank you.” He knew this was it. She was going any second now and so he did the only thing he could, he took her hand.

“Don’t, you thank, me kid. This, deal, it’s your destiny. My advice…” The Major began to shake.

“Trust, your damn destiny kid.” And she took her final breath before both of her now watery eyes glazed over.

Another booming explosion roared from across the battlefield. Jack and Nicks looked to see the other Shiftmaster looming.

“We need to find cover,” Nicks said.

Jack gripped the body of Major Garcia and began to drag her back.

“What are you doing?” Nicks asked. Franco and Connolly passed her and helped Jack.

“I’m honouring the dead,” Jack barked.

The three of them hauled Major Garcia to their previous crater hiding spot.

“There are too many that will never get home. Even if they aren’t for this life anymore,” Jack said. They lowered her into cover.

“He’s right man,” Franco said and handed Jack his auto rifle.

“Take cover!” An incoming soldier roared. She led a small group to the crater just as the second Shiftmaster opened fire.

“How did you take the first one down?” She asked revealing a blood-soaked stomach.

“Let me take a look at that,” Nicks said and got to work.

“We need grenades,” Jack said to her.

“Thompson. You got any bangers left?” This commanding woman asked and winced as Nicks patched her up.

“Down to my last two,” a soldier called Thompson unclipped two grenades from his armour.

He handed them to Jack who already got to work with fuse wire.

“You want me to throw this time?” Franco asked.

“No. Just hold that thing back,” Jack said.

THUMP.

THUMP.

The second Shiftmaster stepped closer. They could all hear the hydraulic whine as it’s gun mounted forked arm began to move.

“Get down soldiers. Jesus we would have more room if this stiff wasn’t in the way,” the commanding woman said.

“This stiff was one of ours, so she stays,” Thorn said through gritted teeth. He finished looping the grenades and got ready.

“I’m gonna need some covering fire,” he ordered and shuffled back.

“That’s us Connolly.” This time Franco pulled Connolly out of the crater and soldier Thompson followed.

They side stepped whilst firing. Nicks dropped down and grabbed Jack’s rifle. With the woman she just patched up they began to fire

The Shiftmaster followed Franco’s group but the gun pointed towards the crater. Jack swung the grenades twice and released.

“This if for the Major!”

THUD.THUD. THUD.THUD. THUD

Mud and smoke kicked up all around them. Jack cowered back and went down with Nicks following. Everyone else in the crater laid low.

“Keep firing!” Connolly commanded from nearby, but it was too smoky to see.

Then came the popping explosion. Through smoke clouds Jack looked up to a brightness. Next, they all heard the clanging of metal falling to the mud. The huge arm mounted gun flopped beside the crater with a breeze that cleared the view.

Another cheering roar sounded all around. Jack stood in the midst of action, his mind shaken and body out of breath. They had downed the second Shiftmaster.

“Return to the line soldiers. Wounded are a priority!” The trench speaker system announced echoing out to them.

“Good work soldiers!” The commanding woman said and climbed out with others.

Jack stood reactionless looking at Major Garcia’s body.

“Come on. We can’t leave her here,” he said and with Nicks began to lift the body when both Connolly and Franco joined them.

Together they hoisted and carried the Major’s body out of the crater. Nearby soldiers looked on, some with puzzlement while others stood with defiance. That day they had all felt the true meaning of loss in conflict. Something which would unite them and create a bond only man and woman could find in fighting together. Major Garcia meant something to Thorn’s past and he would make sure her name was honoured.

End of Part 9

READ PART 10 HERE

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.