Jack Thorn: A story of the Future: Chapter 4, Part 3

“I’m gonna close up honey. Haven’t seen a customer in two hours. Why don’t you get an early night?” The outline of old lady Denny moved into Rouge’s peripherals.

Not for a second did she look up to her boss. Instead she kept both eyes on her newest creation.

“I don’t mind waiting for my friends,” Rouge said from the confinement of an empty booth. There she sat in the desolate diner pulling another late, the usual girl hadn’t turned up in a few days.

“Another doodle? You’re gonna need your own gallery soon. What is it this time?” The old lady shuffled closer and eased down onto the leather opposite.

“It’s you.” Rouge spun her sketch pad tablet around. She smiled at her work whilst it projected out.

“I got a few more wrinkles than that honey, but I’ll settle for that.”

“What wrinkles?” Rouge asked innocently. Her words showing a playful sarcasm. Just another sign her mind was growing.

“You have a real talent for this stuff Anne-Marie. I’ve asked a thousand times already but are you ever gonna tell an old broad like me what you’re doing in a place like this?”

The redhead’s smile steadily faded. Not in shame, uncertainty more like.

“I’m just, I don’t know.”

“It’s okay honey, you can tell me.”

A wrinkled hand reached out to her. Rouge looked up and then took it.

“I came from a bad place. A place I never want to go back. Right here and right now, I’m happy, and I’m still finding myself, I guess.”

“Well, that’s enough for me. You take your time kiddo. Draw all you like, play fight all you like out back. To have a bright star like you around for however long is a gift enough. At least you turn up for your shift.” Old lady Denny gripped the table with both hands and began to rise.

“We need a few more good staff around here, but that’ll be tomorrow’s job. I’ll go and relieve those robot friends of yours for the night. Then it’s lights out.” She shuffled past as her star waitress swivelled and took her hand again.

“This is the only place that’s ever felt like home to me,” she said.

“Well how abouts a smile for your efforts,” the old lady added and then noticed the two eyes looking up to her beginning to widen.

“Get down!” She cried.

Rouge’s grip yanked the old lady down to the chequered floor tiles. A barrage of broken glass exploded inwards with mass of heat following and then the lights shunted off.

“Ms Appleby!”

“It’s okay honey. I think,” Denny said feeling blood on her neck. Somewhere near came a flickering glow, and they both smelled smoke.

“Take this, it’s red anyway” Rouge took off her apron and held it to the slash along her boss’s neck.

Just as the fumes of burning began to thicken a loud whoosh rocked them both.

“We appear to be under attack,” the Freak said. He had extinguished the remainder of what looked like a flaming tyre.

“Where’s F.G?” Rouge asked.

“Fetching our Warrior,” the Freak said. For a second, he lowered to them and then rose to peer outside.

“Can’t really see much apart from bright headlights…”

A loud revving echoed into the broken diner window. More and more motors joined in.

“Sounds like bikers, great,” the old lady said.

“Bikers? Why are they here?” Rouge asked.

A gruff voice echoed over the revving which instantly simmered down,

“We’re here for the girl! The red headed one, hand her over and there won’t be any trouble!”

“I advise you stay concealed young Anne-Marie. Cliffeville bikers are the scourge of the western divide. They threw over the government in the city…”

“Cliffeville city is thirty miles away, what are they doing here?” Denny asked. She felt a warm trickling down her back.

“Money, Leecher has money and wants me.” The heartbeat in Rouge’s chest made itself apparent.

“We know you’re in there little girl,” a rough southern accent crowed.

“Why don’t you come on out and play?” Another said.

The Freak stood, he held an arm up to shield incoming bright light, even though he still wore the sunglasses over his white balaclava.

“Begging your pardon gentlemen, but there is no ‘girl’ here that fits the description you are demanding…”

“Shut the hell up robot! We saw her sitting there next to the old lady. She’s got two minutes before we torch the place and pull her out of the ashes!”

The Freak lowered again whilst more words came their way,

“Yeah that doctor guy didn’t say dead or alive. We’ll take whatever we get!”

“Shut the hell up Hector.”

Echoing out into the night was a voice Rouge recognised, her beating chest calmed.

“Leave! All of you now! None of you have any business here. I command you all to leave!”

After a deathly long silence the Warrior cried again,

“I command you to leave!”

“And I command you to shut the hell up.”

“What’s with the wet suit?” A slurring biker asked.

“Leave all of you. Or I will be forced to take action!” The Warrior stepped out of the shadows and into the brightness of headlights.

“Is that so?” The presumable lead biker said. His accent also southern and rough cut. His outline strode forward to reveal snakeskin boots and a leather waistcoat.

“Well the guy we doin’ this for. He did his researches and homeworks. You’re some Warrior aren’t ya? He reckons you can’t lay even a finger on a human soul. Some agreement made years ago. This guy who is payin’ has got brains. So I reckon you as soft as the sand you standing on.” The biker held up both arms wide, his audience roused in agreement.

“The Warrior code agreement. Indeed, a rule I live by,” the Warrior said.

Rouge could hear the defeat in his tone. She looked up to see this Biker close in and begin poking her much larger guardian.

“And so I could just walk past you, and take my payday. All because of a rule. A stupid damn rule. You should live more like us folks. We don’t have any rules, because they were made to be broken.” The biker practically spat his words as the much larger foe opposite bowed a balaclava shrouded head.

“Yeah rules are stupid!” Another Biker crooned.

Watch over her… be her guardian.

“You are right. That is a stupid rule and for the sake of humanity and its future, I must break the Warrior code agreement, laid down by the Warriors of old to protect the Maverick.”

“Huh? What you jabberin’ on about?”

Before the Biker could react, he received a short sharp jab. The Warrior’s gloved fist struck the man between the eyes. Wobbling on both feet the biker then felt his world tip upside down.

“Breaking the rules, does, feel good,” the Warrior said without any strain.

Rouge looked on to see her guardian grip the leather waistcoat of this vagrant and hoist him up high. It took barley any effort to throw him into headlights. There came crashing and commotion. Bikes fell over and people began shouting. More footsteps closed in.

F.G moved out of the shadows with a wide frying pan at the ready. He saw the barrage closing in. The first few bikers were downed by the Warrior’s outstretched arms as he charged back but then he became mobbed. They lashed out, some with chains and blunt weapons.

“Warrior!” Rouge screamed. The Freak held her back.

“I strongly suggest you sit this out Rouge.” He looked to the mob now engulf F.G.

“My decision to join this situation is a unanimous one I’m afraid.”

The Freak let go of her and clumsily clambered out of the broken window.

“Get Ms Appleby to a safer place, we can negotiate this,” he ordered and trailed toward the riot.

“Come on, we have to get out of here.” Rouge moved swiftly in getting the older lady up and out the back door.

“Leave this place ruffians!” The Freak’s struggling words echoed to her and then a sudden gust of wind blew.

Old lady Denny lowered to the ground as dust and loose dirt hit Rouge’s face and she cowered back. Then something else hit her, not a physical force but a presence in her head. It had echoing voice, like the one from her dreams. The voice with a weird accent she found comfort in.

‘No! I have to go and help my friends. I’m not gonna leave them, again.’

*                      *                      *

Steve Franco thought he was going to die. He cradled a faulty auto rifle while huddling around a rock big enough for just him. The other two soldiers either side found that out with their lives. Over the deafening gun fire and flashes that zoomed past he could hardly make out Rob Connolly let alone hear him as he crouched in a nearby crater.

“I, can’t hear, you man…” An explosion of dirt spread out between them. Before the smoke cleared there came a sudden break in gunfire.

“We gotta pull back. There aint enough of us left Franco…”

“The ridge, it’s just over this hill. If we push them back its game on,” Franco shouted. He could see half of Connolly’s face a dark red. Dried blood.

Again, the ground rumbled, and brightness filled the dark sky.

“Where’s Nicks at?” Connolly asked.

“Haven’t seen her, since we went over the top. I’m gonna make a move for it, if you see another auto rifle send it my way, these two ran out of ammo…”

“Franco wait. Solider!”

Connolly watched Franco creep out from behind the rock and trudge forward. Up the hill he went staying low and expecting an incoming robot at any second. Closer he got to the top with legs aching and eyes squinting to the various flashes and explosions. Just when the top appeared, he dove to the ground.

“Made it,” he said and shimmied forward.

“Right beside ya soldier,” Connolly shouted. He dropped down next to Franco.

“This isn’t a male exclusive gig, right?” A mud-covered Nicks appeared next to them on her front.

“Glad you could make it,” Franco said.

“I wouldn’t say that just yet. What’s the plan?” Nicks asked. Her body swivelled to look back at a war torn plain. Craters and bodies of either side were strewn everywhere.

“I knew it!” Franco said. His head peered up and over the hill. A mass of black faced him and in another explosive flash he saw only a cluster of robots populating the line. Two rock shrouded gun placements sat in the shadows and not a lot else.

“Some of them haven’t even got rifles,” Connolly said.

“There isn’t enough of us to make an advance. Enemy airborne are due anytime now.” Nicks glanced over from their vantage point.

“I guess it’s up to us,” Franco clambered to his feet.

“Hold back soldier. You don’t even have a working rifle.” Connolly couldn’t reach him in time and Franco darted over the hill.

“Guess I’m going too…”

“Damn it Nicks, this is suicide.” Connolly followed her.

Overhead came a bright burning. It struck the hill where they were still moving from. Connolly barely stumbled from the explosive force. He turned to see the hill now more a crater than anything else.

“This is..”  Another explosion rocked the crater of a hill with Connolly feeling the brunt of force. He was thrown back.

Steve Franco screamed in a fear-fuelled rage and charged to the nearest advancing robots. Most of them marched unarmed and partially clothed. Either a result of war or poor command and resources.

“Shoot the ones with rifles!” He commanded.

Nicks lifted her rifle to aim, a task not made easy by her clunky medic-engineers pack.

“Got your back,” she shouted.

Franco swung his auto rifle like a club. Into the first robot head it went and after a second try the weapon crumpled to pieces.

“Damn, cheap shit…”

Robots closed in and he made a fist. After reeling back, he drove a right hand forward and straight into the mouth of a wild target. It hurt like hell, but the thing went down. Then Franco realised punching all of them out wasn’t a solution, there were too many. And they descended upon him.

*                      *                      *

Shuffling old lady Denny back to her trailer seemed to take an eternity of time, but in reality, it hadn’t been that long

“I’ll be alright honey, I got this,” Denny held a fresh towel to her neck, but Rouge had already turned back. Moments later she stood outside the diner, in her prized camouflage uniform.

Destiny had taken its time to find Anne-Marie Thorn, but when it arrived, it did so with an unrelenting force.

“My friends need me too,” she said in reply to that voice she heard in the wind.

The Warrior was buried underneath a violent biker mob yielding weapons and what not. Some of them broke away to see her close in.

“Hey there pretty thing. Come here, I’ll only bite a…”

Rouge had been here before, and she knew instinct would kick in, so she followed her mind and readied into a stance. The first biker was down before he even realised. A swift out-swung leg crashed into a face which instantly dropped to the parking lot dust. She already locked on to target two and another out-swinging kick did enough in disposing of the threat. Her whole demeanour of combat appeared effortless.

“What is this?” She asked with a breathless whisper. The world didn’t slow down, it seemed to speed up, only now she was faster.

A new target faced her. Dark, tall and yielding a chain. It swung above his bandanna shrouded head. Rouge took in a deep breath and could hear the individual links on that thick chain clink and clunk. She reached out with a sharp grab and pulled tight. The biker was hooked and with superior strength Rouge yanked him down to the dust. Another one down.

In turning to throw an elbow she caught sight of F.G swinging a frying pan upwards into a duo of incoming bikers. The Freak helped him break away from their crowding threat. Just when she got close enough to the mobbed Warrior he groaned with explosive force. Bikers flew back with him standing tall.

“I am willing to take your life to preserve hers!” He shouted and grabbed the nearest body. With machine precision he hoisted it away.

Rouge stepped up and stood alongside him. Together they fought. This moment the guardian had been succeeded. She laid into every approaching attacker with high kicks and precise punches. Not even stopping to admire her handy work.

“I command you all, to leave!” The Warrior barked. His wide spanning arms wrapped around a nearby motorbike and he launched it towards the road.

Some remaining stragglers turned to run away, and the Freak caught one with his foot.

“Yield ruffian,” he barked, and the biker turned with his hands up.

“Now leave.” The Freak began to raise a fist, he lowered instinctively when a loud crack of gunfire echoed out into the night.

Rouge faced what they presumed to be the leader. With a bloody nose and a limp he moved closer holding the gun up towards her.

“I got no choice but for this to get nasty,” he said. A greasy screwed up faced stared straight at Rouge along with the barrel of that gun.

“No, Anne-Marie!” The Warrior cried. Those still standing stopped along with F.G and the Freak.

“Now, I’m taking my pay day!”

Rouge watched the leader close in. She kept her eyes glued to his movements. Her senses could almost smell his next move. Just when the barrel of the gun began to move toward the Warrior she struck.

An exhaling scream blurted out in fear as she threw a kick out front. Her foot colliding with dirty hand. The grip of the gun gone in a flash and even quicker was Rouge with her moves. She lunged forward. Gravity took hold of the weapon, but she was faster and plucked it out of the air. Now the barrel faced him.

“I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying here with my friends. We are the R.W.H!” She shouted through angrily gritted teeth.

The fear in his eyes became apparent and he put up both hands.

“Yeah, sure whatever you say little girl…”

“I’m a woman. Get down, on both knees…”

“Maybe I should just leave…”

“Now!” Rouge commanded. Her grip on the gun tightening. She pointed it to his face, and he did what he was told.

“Anne-Marie, the man is yielding,” The Warrior shouted.

“I’ve never fired a gun before. Not sure if I would like it,” Rouge said. With one swoop she launched the gun into the darkness.

“But I do like fighting.” She pulled a half smile and swung her fist.

The biker fell back to the dust and she stepped over him to another target. Although many of them were fleeing some still approached.

For the first time in many many years Anne-Marie fully smiled. She then looked to see at her side F.G and the Freak. Her guardian just behind and all of them ready to fight, together. Her eyes met his, and he nodded.

“The Robots with Humans are back in business skumbag!” F.G barked.

“I implore you to remember that name.” The Freak swung out.

“And our Maverick will save you all. That is if you don’t perish here!” The Warrior shouted with an outstretched arm.

“Stand tall Anne-Marie, fighting is in your blood. We stand beside your destiny,” he powerfully added.

There were many firsts Anne-Marie felt that night, above all she charged into the darkness without fear while smiling and she wasn’t alone.

*                      *                      *

Jack Thorn had never run so damn fast for so damn long. The only soldier nearby was Brock Jones who straggled a few lengths behind. In both hands Jones held an auto rifle, one of which belonged to Thorn. They both looked to the nearest hill the moment it lit up with explosive force. The ground under their feet rocked.

“Jack, come on!” Brock ordered. He and Thorn stopped.

“We gotta pull back. Enemy airborne will be…”

‘No! I have to go and help my friends. I’m not gonna leave them, again,” Jack shouted. He then broke into another sprint. For some reason those words he said seemed to have an echo.

Into thick smoke and out of the other side he dashed. Then he saw it. The rocky ridge, natural cover from any airborne attack. Just ahead the enemy front line guarded it with a distinct lack of forces present. In the very near foreground were his friends and so he didn’t stop.

“Take them down Brock!” He shouted and coursed forward.

The first robot moved out from mobbing Steve Franco and Jack launched a kick straight into its chin. Then he swung a roundhouse colliding into several targets clearing the path for his best friend to get out.

“Jack!”

“Steve, good to be back.”

Together they swung fists and took down another enemy.

“If we can take this robot front…”

“Then its game on!” Jack said completing Franco’s sentence. They looked at each other for just a second.

We find a way, always.

From behind them they saw Brock Jones emerge with two rifles. He fired toward more incoming enemies.

“On your feet soldier,” he shouted to the recovering Rob Connolly.

“Says the guy fresh from a nice vacation,” Connolly shouted back and began to stand.

Thorn turned to more robots and Franco followed him into battle. They moved closer and closer to the enemy front taking down robots and avoiding their fire. The robot’s line had become even more desolate than before. Most of the them straggling forward. In unison the pair downed their targets, Franco needing to put more effort, but impressively punching as Thorn kicked.

“Step aside soldiers!” Connolly shouted. He stumbled alongside Brock and they fired.

Thorn wrapped two arms around his comrade Franco and shuffled him out the fire line. They hit the ground, and both looked to see this final cluster of enemies fall revealing a view with two enemy gun placements facing them.

“Get down!” Nicks shouted just when she aligned with Connolly and Brock.

The two gun placements lit up and laser rounds burst towards them all. After what seemed like a certain victory it got decimated just like the muddy ground was obliterated by bigger caliber weaponry.

Jack rolled away, and again Franco followed. They stayed low and fell into a shallow crater.

“No!” Franco screamed looking to the laser rounds engulf Nicks, Connolly and Brock.

“Screw this. I want to go home!” Jack shouted and jumped out of the sheltering cover.

“So do I,” Franco added and followed.

Jack Thorn ran. Not only to the adversity of a nearly lost battle but towards his destiny. He knew this was now or never. His ability to fight had never been shrouded in doubt and no matter what, he would move forward. The answers of his past lay ahead, along with the truth of what happened to a mother he never knew and a destiny he would soon answer. Nothing would stand in that path.

He looked up to the gun placements firing out to his friends and then he smiled. Not in a sadistic way or even an arrogant way. He smiled because this is where he was meant to be. Faster he sprinted jumping over bodies and craters, his tunnel vision focused on the target. Impressively, he leaped and skipped past more obstacles. His breath not wavering once, his drive not waning. The motor of a Maverick ran fast and carried ambition of prophecy.

With a final long jump, he drove his body forward. In the air his boot kicked out with his body following and launching itself over sandbags and rocks. The enemy front line and its outburst of laser rounds stopped dead when Jack’s foot collided with robot face. He landed with a stamp onto the enemies’ body and a furious growl.

Steve Franco followed behind with a less impressive jump and fell next to the cannon. Without protest he jumped up and gripped the handle. Jack helped him in turning it towards the other placement which lit up again.

“Fire on those bastards!” Franco tugged on the wide trigger. The ground vibrated and rounds shot out to the other placement, in seconds it exploded. He held the trigger for a few seconds longer before letting off. With heavy lungs he slumped back onto a crate of ammunition and realised the music of war had turned silent. A firm hand gripped his shoulder armour and startled him for a second.

“We did it man,” Jack said.

“We find a way, always,” Franco added.

“The others?” He asked and clambered out of the gun placement. Jack followed him onto a smoky battlefield. The smell of burning cast across their senses and they headed back.

From more smoke came the outline of three soldiers.

“And you called me the suicide artist!” Brock shouted. He smiled to both Thorn and Franco.

“Brock.”

“Good to see you Franco man,” Brock added and handed Jack his rifle.

Nicks shuffled with Connolly, both worse for wear, but alive.

“You did it Franco. You crazy son of a bitch,” Connolly muttered.

From the hill turned crater came a barrage of men and women. They cheered at the sight of an empty enemy front.

“You know the rest of the enemy are in that ridge, and beyond that?” Franco said.

“Their front door, we’ll be knocking on it soon enough,” Connolly added and tried to stand.

“We’ll let the reinforcements lead the way this time,” he said and offered his rifle to Franco.

Army of Earth soldiers charged by and rushed toward the rocky ridge.

“What do you say Brock, Steve?” Thorn asked. He nodded to the advancing soldiers.

“After you Thorn, we’ll assume the position of hiding behind you,” Franco said.

“And we’ll catch up after some medic attention,” Nicks said.

Jack turned to see the enemy front swarming with soldiers from the Army of Earth. They charged further, firing at more robots somewhere in the craggy mountainous ridge. He smiled to his comrades and rushed back into battle.

There were hundreds of planets and thousands of stars between him and a red-haired girl doing her best to be a solider also. Destiny would work its way in bringing them together and eventually they would come to meet.

End of Season 1

Thank you for reading my story Jack Thorn. For those who have followed it from episode 1, thank you! For those just getting started, this is the book I will be querying next year to agents. This story is the reason why I became an author! Hope you enjoyed reading my dream! 

Copyright 2004 – 2019 ‘Jack Thorn’ and ‘The Thorn Legacy’ Written By Lee Hall 2019 All rights reserved.  

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Jack Thorn: A story of the Future: Chapter 4, Part 1

Chapter 4 – War Friends

“Well, I think cuddling is out of the picture,” Steve Franco chattered. A plume of vapor rose from his mouth into the still night air.

“With the way they crack the whip here, it’s probably a court martial offence.” Nicks smiled with a cloud also rising from her mouth.

The big freeze had consumed X43. A ten-day stint where the planet moved from the reaches of it’s nearby star that normally kept temperatures habitable. Both Franco and Nicks were huddled inside a sheltered alcove of the front-line trench. The smouldering glow of a barrel between them did just enough to stop the hypothermia.

“It’s funny,” Franco said, “I’m not sure our auto rifles will work when its this freezing.”

“Good thing the robots are hibernating for now,” Nicks added.

“Look alive grunts! We grovelled just enough for some gifts,” the commotion of Rob Connolly said. Jack appeared with him and they both carried a quadrant of canisters each.

“Is that beer?” Nicks asked.

“You bet your ass it is,” Jack said. They ducked into the alcove and began to hand out the stubby box shaped canisters.

“Two grunts of our stature blagged our way into the refectory tent.” Connolly began to gulp down his drink.

“We’re known as the ‘Shift-blasters‘ apparently,” Jack said.

“Well how abouts we toast before freezing to death.” Franco took a beer and held it up.

“To the Major,” Jack said, and they toasted.

“How could I forget. I snatched another burning log also.” Connolly pulled out a plastic log and dropped it into the barrel.

“So I guess we won’t be seeing any action if there’s beer?”

“Well Franco, I guess those walking tubs of plastic feel the cold too. If they call us over the top, we’re taking the beers with us,” Connolly added and again they toasted.

“You fellas are on quite the winning streak. Two gold stars of honour so far.” Nicks moved her hand to reveal the shroud below her name. A solitary gold star glistened below it as the nearby fire came to life.

“That gives me an idea. We earned that star together, with the Major. Perhaps we should honour her for it.” Jack unpinned his latest star and held it to the piping hot barrel. Carefully he let the flames lick gold paint which in turn became blackened.

“A black star for the Major,” he said.

“Too right.” Connolly did the same along with the others.

“We all stick by Thorn and more stars will come our way. That includes you Nicks. Maybe you can show the folks back at V54 after the war,” he added.

“Yeah, what’s that planet like?” Franco asked.

“I won’t be going back there.” Nicks pinned the now charred star back on her chest.

“I’m sensing a story,” Connolly said.

“Well. V54. Since birth you are taught to find an escape plan. ‘People’s republic planet of V54’, my ass.” Nicks kept a stare on the embers.

“That bad huh?” Jack asked.

“Yep, it’s that bad.”

“I thought the Chinese were not that bad,” Franco said.

“You hardly see them when you’re below the overpopulated poverty line. Yeah, they run V54, but you never see them on the streets. As soon as I heard they were offering troops to help the Army of Earth, I enlisted.”

For a moment Nicks eyes showed a struggle filled past she lived. Overcrowding, tightly spaced high rises full of disease, the slums and struggling to make ends meet. Even more so the sticky heat that made up most of the climate on V54. And worst of all, the pollution. New Earth it wasn’t.

“Sounds like a one-way deal then. Fight, win and the reward is Earth,” Connolly said nodding.

“Damn straight,” Nicks half-heartedly added.

“It’s not like V54 have the authority to come get me. Universal politics work in my favour.” She took another sip of beer.

“Now are you guys gonna tell me your story? Thorn? What is up with that accent?” She asked.

Jack finished his beer and crumpled the canister before dropping it into the fire.

“I bounced around a few places in the past. So did my accent I guess,” he said.

“Real mysterious,” Nicks said and finished her drink.

“He lived in England until he was like fifteen,” Franco said.

“Okay so we got English over here, and what point do you meet New York over there?” Nicks held her hand toward Franco, Connolly then filled it with another beer canister.

“My folks, well, my Father was from New York. Met my Mother from England in the city. Had me and sent me to live with my grand folks,” Thorn explained.

“For fifteen years. What were they protecting you from?” Nicks asked with a smile of intrigue.

“Whoever or whatever killed my Mother.”

All of them sat in momentary silence, looking to the burning embers.

“Sorry Thorn, I didn’t know…”

“Neither did I.”

Again came the silence while they all stood looking into the orange glow of heat. Then Franco spoke,

“Then you came back and went to that stuffy academy out in Cliffeville.”

“Is that when you started writing Thorn’s biography?” Nicks asked.

“We’ve always known each other. That Franco kid is the oldest friend I have. He came to England in the summer every damn year. And then to Cliffeville, he drove as soon as he got a licence. Even after I dropped out of that academy. They were grade A assholes,” Jack said.

“The greatest love story never told,” Franco added with a mischievous smile.

“All manly love aside. You were a young fella with a young family Thorn. You needed to provide and so you stumbled upon the Army of Earth and me.” Connolly raised his canister again.

“To family,” he said.

“So you got a kid Thorn?” Nicks asked.

“I’ve got two dependents, and a wife.”

“And let me guess New York over here followed you into the army also?”

“Na man. I stand in nobody’s shadow. I’m a man with my own aspirations and stuff. I had a career before this damn rock.”

“Is that so? What type of aspirations and stuff is that?”

“I was, I was a bus driver,” Franco said with pride.

“Then Jack called me and asked if I wanted to enlist. So I did and came to Cliffeville.”

“Cliffeville. State of sin and robots, right?” Nicks asked.

“Yeah, even people on V54 have heard of it.”

“Last hold out of the Western divide political alliance. Cliffeville is the real last land of the free in America,” Connolly said.

“To Cliffeville,” Nicks toasted. They all raised a beer over the fire.

“Maybe one day you guys can show me Cliffeville.”

“Sounds handsome. We all got something to go back to on that blue and green rock,” Connolly said.

“Are we finally going to hear the mysterious yet intriguing back story to Rob Connolly? Goatee wearing, gun toting man’s man,” Franco laughed.

“Save it soldier. The only thing waiting for me is the only woman who ever loved me back. Mrs Connolly’s baby boy will get back to her, no doubt. That lady, would do anything for her only son. Hell, I would do the same back.”

“To Mrs Connolly, family, fresh starts and driving buses,” Nicks said.

“And war friends,” Connolly added.

At the very moment they touched canisters a blaring screech from the nearby siren blared out to them.

“What is that?” Franco asked over the loudness. He poked his head out into the trench.

“I don’t recognise that sound… wait what? Have we gotta go over the top?” He asked to a passing soldier who shrugged whilst rushing past.

Jack gripped his auto rifle and moved out of the alcove. The drastically colder air hit him and instantly took his breath away.

“Damn, it’s cold. What’s happening?” He stepped up onto a ladder and squinted out of the trench. All he could see was the dark sky.

“Where’s the damn superiors? Shouldn’t they be yelling out orders.”

“I don’t know man, but that siren is loud!” Franco shouted as he joined Thorn.

“Is anyone going over the top?” Nicks asked appearing with Connolly.

Jack tried to see past murky darkness of a frozen battlefield.

“I can’t see zip. Wait. Where’s that dude going?” He watched from the left to see a solider clambering up onto the battlefield.

“Hey. Solider. Get back here! You’ll freeze to death…” Connolly shouted to the tall and wide shadow of the soldier trudging away. The siren clicked off to reveal another sound. Men and women arguing in confusion.

“Stand down termites!”

A superior officer appeared behind the front line.

“Back to your alcoves. Do you want to catch ice death?”

“But there’s a soldier out there on his own…”

“I said back to your alcoves…”

“What about the siren?” Franco asked.

“If you termites listened in basic that’s the enemy air strike alert.”

Jack began to climb the ladder. He stepped up onto the ice-covered mud.

“Stand down solider! That is an order!”

“Well I guess you better shoot me if you want me to stop.” And like that he hurried away.

The dramatically colder air hit him and darkness soon surrounded him. The voices of his friends drowned out and over the nearby horizon he went.

“Soldier!” He called out and saw up ahead the outline of a tall and wide man.

Now it was even darker, and the air seemed to sting as he breathed.

“Fall back. Turn around, it’s too damn cold out…”

From all directions forward came flashes of gun fire. Robots were closing in. Still the shadowy figure stood and fired back.

Jack ducked and continued to sprint forward. More gunfire exploded all around. Greens and reds coursed by him. The enemy were using laser rounds and Thorn glanced up to see a red burning strike the very near soldier in the shoulder.

After a loud grunt this soldier recovered and began to fire back. Jack joined him,

“This is suicide. There are too damn many of them.” He cowered back and tried to pull the much larger man back.

“Come on soldier. Move!” He fired some more but his efforts were focused on retreat.

From the murk above they both heard a droning. It moved fast and closed in.

“That’s a jet engine!” Jack shouted, and he looked up wide eyed the brightening fog. Something airborne swooped down and unloaded an onslaught of explosions.

Jack yanked the man down and they huddled behind a nearby rock. He saw this aircraft fly past, a shape he didn’t recognise. Just when the droning simmered down it came back along with a brightness up high.

“It’s coming back. We need to move.” Jack didn’t even look at the soldier’s face. He began a frantic retreat and this time the soldier followed.

They felt the airborne threat looming in the clouds above and just when it swooped out of the low fog they jumped down into a crater. Explosions rocked the ground and something solid crashed into Jack at head height. Clutching an auto rifle, he clenched both eyes shut. He momentarily saw stars and then darkness.

*                      *                      *

Even though most evenings were sticky in the Cliffeville desert heat, Rouge insisted she wore the dark camouflage uniform given by her friend the Freak. It still smelled of those revolutionary days he spoke of. A smell she came to embrace and totally not because it needed laundering. Out of waitress hours, Rouge was a soldier, in training. And here she stood within the horseshoe arrangement of trailers around the back of Denny’s diner, ready. Again.

“Check your stance Rouge,” the Warrior commanded from somewhere behind. She couldn’t see him and so her focus remained on the incoming target.

“Check.” She bent both her knees whilst twisting side on. Her head began to turn away when the Warrior ordered more words,

“Eyes on the target at all times.”

Her target being the Freak holding the remnants of a beaten armchair resembling a padded shield. He hesitantly moved her way.

“Strike, now,” the Warrior said.

Rouge side stepped twice before her legs tangled together. She stumbled and before gravity took full effect she managed to swipe out at the weathered padded shield come make shift punch bag. Her nails scratched at crumpled gaffer tape. Before her moving target or teacher spoke, she shot up.

“Again,” she said and waved the Freak forward.

“Stance.”

“Check.” She glanced at the Warrior for a flash and her target came crashing forward. She tried to lash out and clumsily wrestled the shield down. She angrily laid in a fist.

“I just can’t do it.”

“Yes you can. Belief comes from within the mind,” her guardian said.

“That’s coming from the mechanoid type,” Rouge sniped.

“My computer mind was created from the Warriors of old. It is that of a human or equivalent. Now come on. Again,” the Warrior ordered.

Rouge dropped her fists and they swung in frustration.

“I just can’t do this fighting stuff. I’m just no good.” She slumped down onto a nearby rock.

“I sincerely doubt a girl of prophecy would lack self-esteem,” the Freak said. He scooped up his make shift punchbag shield.

“Woman of prophecy. And what about flat-footed clumsiness?” she asked and dusted herself off.

“You’re trying too hard Anne-Marie. A fighter doesn’t have time to think, thinking comes from learning how to use your body as a weapon. Now try again,” the Warrior said.

“Perhaps think about those robots you took down back in the diner,” the Freak added.

“That was different. I could feel what they were going to do. I could see the future, in my head. That’s my true gift. Vision, not fighting,” Rouge said.

“Maybe your actual vision clouds that initial judgement. Hence, I have an idea. Turn around young lady,” the Freak instructed.

“Her mind is gifted for more than fighting yes,” he said and spun her around.

“Then we shall put that theory into direct practice.” The Freak took off his pot washers apron.

“What if you can sense without seeing.” He folded the fabric and made a blindfold for her wear.

“What? This is stup…”

“Let the robot help you Anne-Marie,” the Warrior said, and the greasy fabric covered her eyes.

“Now I will approach. But I won’t say when or where. Sense me,” the Freak said. He rushed away and took hold of his improvised punchbag.

The Warrior watched on. His red-haired student turned sharply and dropped into a defensive stance. Gently her feet moved across the hardened sand. Although her eyes saw only black, her vision opened from what seemed like a view from above. The Freak approached from the left, so she moved the opposite way. This gave the robot a false confidence that he hadn’t been detected. She knew exactly where he walked, she was the predator here.

Instantly she dropped and swung a leg around. It clipped something hard and next came a thud followed by a short groan.

“Robot down…”

Rouge stood up straight and pulled down the blindfold. She looked to see the Freak laying on his punchbag.

“Good. You must hone the basics first Rouge. Detecting an enemy is only a portion of combat,” the Warrior said.

“I’m not particularly sure how many bumps one has left like that,” the Freak said. Rouge moved in and pulled him up.

“You can only provide basic simulation. Eventually you will combat against me.” The Warrior moved in between them.

She looked up to his black balaclava covered head.

“But you are a Warrior. Am I supposed to fight Warriors?”

“No, but my speed will certainly train you to be superior over any robot you face.” He began to turn and then lunged back. With a clenched gloved hand, the Warrior drove it toward Rouge’s head. Without looking she held a firm forearm in defence. She blocked his wide arm instinctively.

“Your mind is gifted beyond anyone I have known. Even the Mavericks of old would envy you. I can see your senses already have reflexes for speed. Another lesson for another day.” His hand slowly opened.

Her much smaller hand fit inside it. She looked up to the near dark sky and exhaled.

“Until tomorrow,” she said and threw the blindfold apron back to the Freak.

“Every time you fall,” the Warrior added as she moved towards her trailer.

“Is an opportunity to learn a new way to pick yourself back up.” Rouge’s silhouette disappeared into the silver vessel she called home.

“An improvement tonight perhaps,” the Freak said.

“Yes. Every day she gets stronger and every day my concern grows. I dread the sun going down.” The Warrior looked up to an emerging full moon.

“There is always the option of relocation. Wasn’t this place always a temporary arrangement?” The Freak asked. He dropped down to the same rock Rouge had just sat on.

“She is settled here. For the first time her mind is one with her body.”

“Then the burden of worry falls on your shoulders for now Warrior. They called you Runner before, didn’t they?” The Freak asked.

For a split second the Warrior’s computer mind flashed back to a time long ago. He saw the world from a different view, a more vulnerable view. A time when there were others like him. His body looked different, it was smaller, before he became who he was now.

‘Watch over her’

The image of an infant girl flashed across his view.

‘Be her guardian’

“Many years ago,” he said.

“And I am certainly not Runner by nature. If they come for her again, I will fight them all.”

Rouge flopped back onto her unkempt bed. Isn’t that how all geniuses lived? she thought. A trail of fairy lights swayed above her, and cool conditioned air rattled from the unit nearby. She put a hand on the one prized item she owned, a tablet sketchpad.

“Not tonight,” she sighed. Sleep beckoned more than the urge of drawing.

Her finger tapped clear plastic and the device shone to life. After a couple of swipes the room became filled with floating projections.

The metal walls all around were filled with her various ‘display’ works. Artistic drawings of people caught in the moment in the diner. Truckers sipping coffee at late hours and even some of her as a young girl. Childhood always brought the same image of her holding the hand of a much larger being. Her guardian. In the distance another figure stood tall and hooded, watching. Anytime she thought of this stalker her mind would jolt. A warning shock not to seek any further. All she remembered were two dark hollow eyes staring down at her.

Don’t think about it, not now.

The absence of sedatives now meant Anne-Marie’s mind could grow. All the thoughts and memories of her nearly forgotten past were returning but in jumbled pieces. If it were a puzzle, the pieces wouldn’t fit just yet. They were still morphing and growing with her.

She would also draw other things that popped into her head. More recently a decorative star charred with black from the heat of flames or images of a brown and grey landscape. One picture showed the backs of small people looking up to something high. A solitary neon red strip glowed out of a murky land far away.

Like always sleep came swiftly for the tired robot fighter in training and deeper inside her gifted mind she went.

“Where am I?” She asked. Her voice echoed in the darkness.

A whispering came from all around.

‘Ryan is coming’

Behind her faint light cast across the trailer and out front she saw a haze of smoke, Denny’s diner. On the horizon came a faint glow, flames perhaps, she couldn’t tell. The ground she trudged on now seemed crunchy and frozen, a slight departure from the usual plains of Cliffeville. Still the diner remained ahead and a wide shadow closed in.

“F.G?”

“What is happening?” She called out to the wide robot. His grease covered cook’s clothes seemed to be drenched in something wet. A black ink. Or robot blood.

His vacant eyes stared through her just as the wave of terror set in. In the middle of F.G’s forehead she saw a bullet hole.

“No F.G!” she cried, and he flopped to the ground. The smoke was thicker now, and it closed in all around.

“Freak? Warrior? Where are you.” Rouge clawed emptily through the murk, her feet dragging across mud.

Another figure closed in.

“Are you Ryan?” she asked.

The approaching figure looked thinner as it came closer and looked a plain canvas white. She reached out to this all white washed being. It was as if a robot had been covered head to toe in this material, she looked at the head, a solitary crack ran down where the face would be.

“I know you, I, I remember you, from somewhere,” she said.

“He’s coming Rouge and there isn’t anything you can do. Don’t fight it,” the figure said.

“I don’t understand. Is this Ryan coming? Who is Ryan?” Rouge asked, and more smoke divided them. The figure was gone.

Just when she turned to face the trailer her feet buckled. The ground gave way and began to swallow her whole. Bright flashes raced overhead, reds and greens coursed by. Laser rounds.

Explosions and thudding closed in.

She took in a deep breath, it stung her chest. The air temperature dropped dramatically.

“Stand down solider! That is an order!” A booming voice said.

Rouge could only look up at dark clouds as another voice shouted. Something gave her a familiar comfort about this weird accent.

Her feet tried to adjust in what seemed like icy mud.

“Well I guess you better shoot me if you want me to stop.”

She smiled at the voice and it’s weird familiarity. Then the hole she stood in began to collapse. More of this familiar accented voice spoke,

“That’s a jet engine!”

A deafening roar echoed down to her and the ground violently shook.

“I want to wake up now!”

End of Part 9

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.  

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

Jack again found himself sat at a bench in that familiar summer time scene. He tucked both hands underneath his legs while a figure approached along the wavy path. The man stood tall but slightly hunched. His wrinkled face smiled ear to ear when he saw Jack looking more like he did as a kid, very much how this man knew him.

“Grandad…” Jack said beginning to get up.

“Save your back son. I know I would, even in this crazy simulated thing,” Alan Robinson said. His west London accent sounded more prominent than his grandson’s mixed dialect. He offered a rough hand out, Jack shook it firmly and quickly. Both of their images flickered momentarily.

“Yeah, this system doesn’t like any contact. Apparently, it’s hard to simulate,” Jack said.

“This tech stuff passed me by years ago. I dare ask, but how’s that stupid war?” Alan eased himself down onto the bench. It would have been nice if the simulation simulated away the labouring years of working as a baggage handler, but they didn’t.

“It’s going ok for now. Where’s…”

“Your Grandmother? Arthritis is playing up so it’s just us fellas this time around which is nice. So you killing many robots?”

“I’ve done my fare share towards an Army of Earth victory sure,” Jack said and couldn’t help but smile at the man.

“Well it sounds like a hoot. You still hanging around with that Franco kid?”

“Yep.”

“I take it he followed you up onto that rock?”

“Uh huh.”

“Some things never change. Well it’s good to see you Jack. We’ve missed you out in the Sipson District,” Alan said, before Jack could respond he spoke again.

“I can see on your face this wasn’t just a usual catch up. Come on son, what’s on your mind? Your mother gave me the exact same look a thousand times.”

Alan had read his only grandson like a book.

“That’s what I want to know about. It seems I may have got myself involved in something that has given me questions about her. It’s called the World Force,” Jack said.

“Oh boy.” Alan sat forward and scratched his thin head of hair.

“That’s robot stuff, and there aint much I really know in terms of detail kid.”

“Well what do you know?” Jack asked.

“Ellen met your old man Clark over in New York. They had you in the wake of this World Force stuff, you know, a robot police force. You came to Sipson District to live with us and as far as I’m aware they did it to protect you,” Alan explained trying to cast his mind back to the past. A time and reminder of losing his only daughter.

“I’m sorry for bringing this up Grandad…”

“Everyone has a right to know their history Jack. Your mother, I always told you she was a doer. Never once did she ever give up on anything or anyone. She was also different from most people you know.”

“Now that I think about it, I have a feeling they were protecting me from something? I’ve only asked Clark once what happened,” Jack said.

“You’re calling him Clark these days, I’m guessing neither of you are on talking terms then?” Alan asked but deep down he already knew the answer.

“When I asked him what happened he was deliberately vague. I had just quit the academy and that chip on my shoulder back then was pretty damn big, so I acted out. I’ve got this feeling whatever they were protecting me from is what killed my Mother.”

“There’s probably some truth there. We were never given a real explanation, we were just given you. Ellen passing destroyed your father, it tore him up inside. It tore us all up.”

For some moments they sat in silence, apart from the odd chirping of artificial birds.

“Maybe flipping out on him all those years ago wasn’t a great choice. I can’t exactly call him and say ‘Hi Dad long time no see, I’m fighting in the war now and probably going to be in the World Force, what really happened to Mum?’”

“That’s a fence you’re gonna have to mend yourself son. But you needed to talk to someone and so you’ve come to ‘old man Al’ for some wise words. All the best do these days. If you really want answers, then your gonna have to reach out. You know, he had uncertainties way back when, just like you,” Alan said and placed a hand on Jack’s shoulder, again the whole world flickered. He slowly pulled away and sat back with a groan.

“Uncertainties? Like what?”

“He walked away from that World Force stuff early on. Got himself all bent up about chasing down the First, you know the robot?” Alan said and continued,

“He came to me and took some time out. Put himself back together, all I’m saying is that it’s ok to be unsure about stuff. There are always people out there to help, like me, always son.”

“What happened after he came to you?” Jack asked.

“He carried on like before. Then it happened with losing your mother and all. That’s what hit the man hard. He was just a kid at the time like you. He couldn’t carry on that robot crime stuff, but the other guy did. Big fella…”

“Sarge? Jones?” Jack asked.

“Yeah that’s the guy. He still sniffing around that robot crime stuff?”

“Sarge came to me with a plan on bringing the World Force back and is looking for a captain. He offered it to me and mentioned the past. I think I’m going to do it. This means a real job after the war, maybe a future instead of just surviving to feed my kids.”

“There it is then, your uncertainty answered. You’ll be following your parents’ footsteps, maybe even finish whatever they started. You’ve always been a bright kid Jack. Follow your heart son. Right now I gotta go, I’m taking your Grandmother out tonight and gonna try and get her mind of the arthritis,” Alan said and groaned upon standing.

Jack did the same and looked up to the man he just needed some clarity and advice from.

“Good to see you Grandad. You take care,” Jack said shaking Alan’s hand.

“You too kid, especially up on that rock. Get home safe, put things back together with your Dad and find the truth. Don’t be a stranger either, I’m just a call away.”

*                      *                      *

The low Cliffeville sun had disappeared nearly twenty minutes ago and now the sky sat between that still light phase just before dark. Rouge sat cross-legged atop of a blanket set down on the roof of her all silver trailer. Here she could see everything around. From the nearby Denny’s diner out front to the very distant background where the outskirts of Cliffeville city stood. At the opposite end on the other horizon lay the shadows of buildings that made up the universally famous factory district.  She sat between two places that were opposite in nature, one of work and industry, the other of nightlife and people. Both of them to her seemed further away than they actually were, even out of reach or perhaps lost like her.

“I was insistent to the others that you are indeed fine, but they sent me up here anyway,” the Freak said and placed himself down beside her.

“Mainly because I’m the lighter of the robots around here, and this roof, well,” he added.

Rouge continued her stare forward past the diner.

“I see the uniform fits well. As a pot washer I firmly believe camouflage is somewhat overkill in terms of kitchen attire so I had no problem giving it over to you,” the Freak said continuing to fill the silence.

“Thank you,” Rouge said softly. She looked down at the borrowed dark camo uniform she received from the robot who sat beside her. She picked at the frayed and torn lettering that was once prominently shown on the front in a bright red.

“What does R.W.H mean?” she asked and turned to the balaclava, sunglasses wearing robot. He himself had commandeered kitchen attire in the form of faded whites and a dirty apron.

“That is indeed a long story.”

“I would like to know your story. It would take my mind off stuff.” She moved closer and gently leant her head upon the Freak’s shoulder.

“Well my story does go back some many years Rouge. There used to be such things called Freaks. Robots who had found misfortune in their lives, misused or mistreated. They were disowned by society, cast out and abandoned. Like me,” the Freak explained.

“And me,” Rouge added.

“A large group of us lived underneath the city of New York. We were known as the Freaks and of course I was their leader once. That was until a Warrior known as the Keeper came to the city.”

“A Warrior, like my guardian?” Rouge asked and sat back up.

“You see Rouge, long before now there were two groups of Warriors. Some were good and others not so much. The Keeper particularly unsavoury and the original leader of all Warriors. He aligned with the First and together they convinced my Freaks to rise up and rebel for their mistreat and misfortune. I was overthrown and forced to leave. Instead of joining the rebellion I opposed it because back in those years there were many different robot groups. Some were good much like the Robots with Humans.”

“R.W.H,” Rouge said and settled her head back on to the Freak’s shoulder.

“Indeed, a group which I led to help the humans and good Warriors fight robot crime. We fought many battles and had numerous trials and tribulations. You could even say this time was an adventure for certain robots. It was indeed a war and war only ever has a single outcome. Loss of life and of course the inevitable rebellion. The Keeper was defeated and he left the First in capable hands to lead the rebellion, in which he did. Nearly every robot on this planet followed him out. Few stayed behind like myself and F.G.”

“What happened to the good Warriors?”

“They all perished but one, your guardian survived an attack instigated by the First and a new keeper which he created with the help of a surviving Warrior known as Sculptor.”

“Tell me more about these adventures for certain robots,” Rouge requested, her voice sounding somewhat dreamy as she closed her eyes.

“I handed myself in to what was the robot crimes department of the New York police force. My ambition was to help them and prove that not all robots are bad. I like to think some people were convinced even for a little while. Those were the days. I’ve been in all kinds of political and protest factions. Some violent, some shrouded by anger or even anarchy. The R.W.H was my proudest creation. We helped the World force. Maybe those days can return.”

Rouge gently moaned in agreement and steadily dozed away into a sleep. The Freak didn’t dare to move but continued his talk even if she wasn’t fully conscious,

“Maybe you can join us, with a little honing of those combat skills you possess. That may help a young Maverick who is yet to realize her calling.”

Rouge was already dreaming, for once her mind wasn’t clouded by the various sedatives and medical procedures from before. She could see and feel. Then came the alarming realisation that her mind was trying to tell her something, maybe it was a warning.

He’s coming. Ryan is coming.

 

End of Part 7

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 2, Part 3

In the expansive ‘white room’ of the Secret Earth Services Cade Biggs used his muscular and wide frame to tackle one of the remaining robots to the floor.

“I don’t fight as pretty as the other guy,” he said and pinned the uniformed target down. His hand pressed against various chest mounted medals the robot wore.

“Watch the other hand Cade!” Jack shouted while Cade turned.

Before he could glance back down a swiping hand scratched out. It pulled on his bearded face and gripped onto hair. Streaks of red began to emerge.

“Dirty bastard!” He gripped the robot by the scruff and angrily heaved the robot up onto two feet.

“Screw this. Hey Thorn, you deal with this!” Cade swung and released his grip. The robot spun and careened towards Jack with a high boot at the ready.

After an immediate spark the robot clanged to the floor and all the commotion from before reached a pinnacle of calm silence. There lay a pile of wrecked robots with various stiff limbs stuck out in several directions. Uniforms had been ripped and ruffled.

Both Jack and Cade were out of breath when they realized victory was theirs;

“I used to play rugby and I’ve hung in with some big and also depraved fellas. Back in the day I bounced around some tough orphanages in downtown Jo-burg’, but you’ve gotta be the toughest, fight enjoying son of a bitch I have ever seen,” Cade said while wiping the blood from his face.

A drop of sweat dripped down Jack’s cheek and he dabbed it away.

“Thanks, most people, just get in the way, in a situation like this. You did good man,” Jack said.

“My guess is you passed fella…”

They watched a doorway appear and out of darkness came a troop of what looked like riot police.

“Step away from the robots!” One of them barked through the audio output of what looked like fully sealed armoured bio suits. Their visors were dark and Jack could only see his reflection back.

“Mercenaries,” he said.

“I don’t think those robots pose any harm son,” Cade said while a large transparent shield was held towards him.

“Get back until we can make the area safe! Can we get a medic to that man? He’s bleeding?” Another shouted, the group formed around most of the downed robots.

“It’s just a scratch I’m all good,” Cade insisted.

Next appeared Axel Hendricks rushing through the door way with Jermey Jones casually trailing behind.

“I can only apologise for the situation that this escalated into. This was never the plan…”

“Nonsense Hendricks, they both acted according to the situation. Now Commander Biggs I must thank you very much for participating and helping us realize the talent we have here with Thorn,” Jones said and offered a hand to Cade.

“All part of the greater plan Sarge.” He gripped the taller Jones’ hand and then faced Jack.

“Thorn, this was, interesting. I’m hoping we can collaborate again someday in the future,” he said and offered his hand to shake.

“What, you’re going? Won’t Cade be involved in this?” Jack asked and gripped hands with his make shift ally.

“I’m afraid not, you see Commander Biggs is a businessman as well as someone who’s interests lie with relaunching the World Force. I’m sure we will see more of him in the future. Come Thorn, there is much to talk about,” Jones said.

Jack watched Cade get escorted away by a medic as Jones and Hendricks subtly moved him into the open expanse of the white room.

“This was never meant to go this way Thorn. We did plant those robots to make this look like a competitive environment. They were just never supposed to turn against you and Commander Biggs,” Jones explained. Jack walked between him and Hendricks.

“So it was just a work? That’s some effort to protect my one and only ego,” Jack said.

“I’m guessing it’s still intact like the rest of you. We’ll have to let our robot supplier know of the faulty units they provided,” Hendricks said. He looked to Jones who was pulling a half smile.

“We believe, especially after that display you are the one to take the lead in modern robot crime fighting,” Jones said, he moved in closer to Thorn and faced him.

“Essentially without you knowing, this is your destiny. I mentioned before that your parents were linked with the World force and what happened to them is all linked to this. Your father Clark has kept much of the past under wraps for now and rightly so. If you are to embark on this journey you will find out what happened and you may not like it.”

Jones looked Jack square in the eyes, two eyes that were curious and ready.

“I want this. I want to know the truth,” Jack said.

“There are some instances of the past that are quite dark Thorn. Some of it still haunts us today,” Hendricks said whilst he held out one gloved hand.

Jones then gripped Jack’s shoulder;

“We will discuss the history of all this soon. Seeing as the war on X43 will be over probably sooner rather than later I would like to officially offer you the job as our Maverick-Captain of the relaunched world force.”

“Consider the offer accepted Sarge. When do we start?”

“You see, I am trying to put together a team of people much like yourself. They needn’t be as talented in combat as you but they have to be determined. For now I envision the war on X43 to be your priority. I expect to see you afterwards ready for this and perhaps with a few others who have experienced what you have.”

“I can think of a few people who would be interested. There may even be more after the war.”

And like that Jack Thorn went his own way, out of the mysterious world of the Secret Earth Services and towards the muddy murky planet of X43. His destiny stood on the not so far away horizon, first he would have to face war.

*                      *                      *

Anne-Marie revelled in wearing her waitress uniform; that being a white dress with red pinstripes and a waist high apron. For the first time she had fixed her hair into something more than just a hospital mop and even wore a name badge which she kept polished.

“Rouge. That’s a pretty name for these parts. French aint’ it?” The large bearded trucker man asked as she poured him another coffee. He sat in one of the many window adjacent booths that looked out onto the desert highway.

“Yes sir, French like my mother. What will it be?” She asked with smile.

It had only taken a few days to make Denny’s road stop diner her home. In fact she was the first smiling waitress they had seen come in since, well a while. The sole owner, a chain-smoking wrinkled woman by the name of Denise Appleby or ‘old lady Denny’ is what most of the regulars called her. She welcomed Rouge and the clan she came in with. Both F.G and the Freak made themselves useful in the kitchen where as the Warrior stayed out of the way and mostly hidden.

“I’ll go for the double stack burger and some fries honey,” the trucker said as Rouge swiped her finger on a clear credit card sized device.

“Coming right up,” she said and moved to the next booth with her coffee jug.

Instinctively she had given up asking if they wanted coffee, it was a truck stop so everybody normally did. She began to pour for the next gentlemen who sat with the sun shining in on him.

“What can I get for you?” she asked without looking at him.

“What range of pies do you serve dear?” He asked and leaned forward out of the sun. Two shaded lenses glanced up to her.

She recognised the voice but spoke anyway,

“We have blueberry today sir.”

His veiny cold hand grabbed hers with a strong grip. Then he removed the shades and two beady eyes looked into hers.

“You remember me don’t you, Anne-Marie?”

“Doctor Leecher,” she said under her breath and wobbled on her feet for a moment.

“I’ll take that. We don’t usually let patients handle hot liquids,” Leecher crooned and grabbed the coffee jug. He slid it away and pulled her in close.

“Now what have you got to say? Not one for words without that robotic friend of yours, are you?” He asked with a demented type of stare.

“I did some research about him and I dug into some old Police Force records. He’s known to them in the state of New York. They would very much like to talk with him…”

“No please Doctor, just take me,” Rouge said trying to contain herself.

“Oh I will be, seeing as he’s not around at the moment. I did come prepared,” Leecher said and gripped her chin with a cold hand. He forced her head towards the front door.

“You see the two rather smart chaps up front. They are with me, both robots and both quite strong. You’ll come with me and there will be no trouble. Then I won’t inform anybody about that ‘friend’ of yours. Let’s move ‘Rouge’.”

There was nothing she could do. The nice trucker man one booth over was back facing and everyone else seemed none the wiser. She bowed her head in shame and began to walk with the ever so close Doctor Leecher.

“No funny business. I am prepared,” he said and revealed a syringe to be sitting in his jacket pocket.

They moved towards the doors and came past the front counter. Old lady Denny frowned to see her star waitress leave with this older gentleman.

“Rouge honey, everything okay?” She asked.

“I’m sorry Mrs Appleby I have to go…”

“Don’t talk, just move,” Leecher said pushing her forward hastily.

“Hey what’s going on?” The old lady asked and stood from her fur lined stool.

The two taller suited gentlemen robots nodded to the doctor and then rose from their booth. They went outside into the blistering desert sun whilst holding the doors.

“Hey F.G, get out here!” Old lady Denny shouted.

Rouge stepped out into what felt like the gallows.

“That’s a good girl. No trouble. Either way that friend of yours will find a sorry end,” the doctor said and chuckled.

For some reason that creepy sinister laugh had struck a nerve. Just when a tear was about to fall from Rouge’s eye, she began to feel something she had never felt. Maybe the sedative drugs in her system had previously masked a furious anger which began to flow from her clenched fists. She started to tremble, not in fear but in pure rage. This life she had started was good, those robots in the kitchen were her friends and waiting by the trailers behind the diner was her guardian. He watched on and stood nearly ready to run in when it happened.

“Just so you know Doctor ‘creepazoid’, I’m friends with not only a Warrior but two robots also. Right now I don’t need them,” she said and drove an elbow into the soft stomach of Leecher. He yelped in pain and fell.

The two robot suits looked on in amazement before stepping forward. They charged clumsily as Rouge stood ready with a defensive grace. Her fist pulled in tight like she had been taught the next series of moves with precision.

In a flash she had swung her ankle up and high. It collided into the first heavy which stumbled to her. The waitress dress she wore ripped at the thigh and she drove her knee up whilst gripping her first target’s hair. The robot’s face sparked with an impressive explosion of black liquid. Rouge wasn’t done, from this point she would never be done.

The second robot cautiously moved in and tried to swipe from a distance. After a third attempt Rouge had gripped his hand and twisted the arm into an ungodly angle. There came a robotic crunch and she released her grip. Then came the final move and lunging kick of her heel into the chin of the robot. The bright spark and crash to the floor signalled for this brief onslaught to be finished.

“I’m never normally a violent person,” she said doing her best to neaten the now ripped dress she wore.

Her eyes looked down into the ever so fearful Leecher.

“I want you to leave Leecher. Now!”

“Okay okay I will. Please don’t hurt me anymore,” Leecher pleaded.

“Well go then!”

The doctor scrambled to his feet and past the two wrecked robots he had hired. Away he went and to a large dark car.

From the doors burst F.G with the Freak. They were both armed with a pot and large frying pan.

“We will have no trouble on the premises,” the Freak said then noticing the obvious wreckage on the floor.

“Rouge are you hurt?” F.G asked as old lady Denny appeared.

“Rouge dear, your uniform honey. People are looking,” she said and rushed to her. She took off her nicotine smelling shawl and wrapped it around her.

“Can you deal with this mess guys?” she added and began to lead Rouge away. They moved around the side of the diner.

“I’m so sorry Ms Appleby I don’t know what came over me…”

“Nonsense dear, you were defending yourself. Now come on. I’ll just tell the customers that guy was being a jerk. They’ll be none the wiser.” She looked up in the shadows. The dark figure that was the Warrior appeared.

“This one can really defend herself. I’ll get you a fresh uniform, but for now take the afternoon off,” Denny said, and she headed back to the diner.

“I, I don’t know what happened…” Rouge looked at her two scratched hands which were shaking. She whimpered as tears began to fall down her pale face.

“It’s alright. I am here,” the Warrior said. He gently wrapped two huge robotic arms around her.

“You needn’t cry my dear. You defended yourself well. Even if you couldn’t, we are with trustworthy people and robots here,” he added.

“It’s just what he said about you and being wanted in New York…”

“Now now Rouge, I am going nowhere. I will have to face New York again one day but it will be with you. I watched you defend yourself, the way you moved. Nobody taught you how to do that, you did that yourself, with instinct, from within. I’ve never seen a man run away so fast,” the Warrior said as he wiped her tears away. She smiled at the thought.

“Yeah he looked pretty spooked. I had been waiting to do that for a while.”

“Yes Rouge, but you also must appreciate your instinct makes you who you are. There is a reason why I am your guardian…”

“Because my uncle couldn’t look after me and there were robots who wanted me dead, yeah you’ve told me the story a thousand times,” Rouge said sounding like her teenage self.

“No Rouge that is only a portion of the story. Those doctors say you are special because you are. You just proved that.”

“I didn’t have any control I just did it.”

“That’s because you must learn to harness your power. Anne-Marie Thorn, you are a prophecy. Named a Maverick by the Warriors before me. They fought and died to make sure you would survive and answer your calling. Destiny has selected you for this.”

End of Part 6

Read Part 7 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 2, Part 2

Jeremey Jones struggled to elevate his tall wide frame out of the control room chair and practically wrestled the tablet from Axel Hendricks.

“Wait Jones, wait. Something isn’t right. Look,” Axel demanded just when Jones took full hold of the tablet.

“What are they doing. Command, main view zoom in,” Jones ordered.

The large display screens locked on to Jack Thorn helping up Cade Biggs.

“Do something, those candidates  in there are real robots. They are real Jones,” Axel said.

“What can I do? We’re not in control, I guess that’s humanity’s problem. Always has been,” Jones said and looked to Axel with intrigue.

“Yeah sure, choose a time like now to get all philosophical. Say something to them,” Axel ordered, and Jones cleared his throat.

“Command, enable for announcement please,” Jones said and cleared his throat yet again.

Back in the white room Jack helped Cade to his feet.

“Look I don’t know if I triggered this. But we are surrounded by robot’s in this room,” Jack said.

Cade slowly broke away from his helping grip.

“No Thorn they’ve always been robots,” he said giving Jack a somewhat edgy look.

“Don’t say you’re…”

“No, keep your hands and feet to yourself son. I guarantee I am human, all the way to the bone,” Cade said and stood off from Thorn.

“That’s good then…”

“Attention candidates. There is an issue with the simulation software. Can I ask you return to your designated areas?” The loud voice of Jones announced.

In a circle surrounding Jack and Cade these ‘candidates’ continued to close in.

Jack looked up and all around,

“Uh, that didn’t work Sarge,” he said.

The first woman came closer. She wore a navy type uniform and headed straight to him. He lowered instinctively when she swung a wild club fist. Another uniform moved for Cade and he forcefully wrestled the robot away. They backed up until they were within touching distance of each other.

There was a loud screech of static and another voice barked to them,

“Thorn, Biggs, run! I am going to activate all the simulations. Hide until I can get you out…”

The sound of Hendricks voice clicked off and the simulation buildings all around rose up. The car which Cade had hit his head appeared. Jack jumped up on to it and then offered a him a hand.

“Come on man,” he shouted.

Soon enough the car became fully surrounded. Somehow Cade missed every wild swiping hand.

“Ok so I get being put in this thing with a bunch of robots. Was the malfunctioning thing resulting in them really trying to kill us supposed to happen?” Jack asked.

“As far as I’m aware the answer’s no mate.”

“Guess we better do what the man say’s then…” Jack took a short run up and flipped over the barrage of uniforms, all of them with that cagy unhinged way of hanging their head.

He landed on his feet and watched Cade do the complete opposite. With two legs, he stepped down firstly onto the bumper and then forcefully waded through any robot resistance with powerful kicks. Just as more robots came to him a bright spark flew past his vision making him cower away and duck.

Jack stood with the simulation gun stretched forward. The electrical discharge hit the nearest robot to Cade and brought a vital few seconds.

“I don’t think it does much,” Jack said, and the heavier Cade ran to him.

“Apart from probably piss them off more. Back to times square?” Cade added. They both headed away.

“I’m calling for a mercenary team,” Axel said from his seated control room position.

His hand waved over a desk mounted screen and he pushed at various displays.

“Wait Hendricks, they are getting away. Why don’t we re issue the holographic hostiles and make them tougher. That might give Thorn and Biggs a chance to get away,” Jones said.

“That’s suicide Jones. They have no armour and there are already twelve real life robots after them. No, I’m calling for the Mercenaries, they can clean this up. End the simulations Jones,” Axel ordered but Jones just watched the display. He cradled the glass tablet to his large chest.

“Jones, end it…”

“You call for the Mercenary team and your fired,” Jones said coldly.

“I’m f… You can’t fire me this is the S.E.S. Under what jurisdiction are you going to ‘fire’ me?”

“I’m the one who owns the rights to robot crime fighting, this is my ship. You call for back up and you’re fired,” Jones added firmly then he began to grin.

“Those robots in there wherever you got them from are malfunctioning on the highest level. Hold on a minute, this was your plan all along wasn’t it? You deliberately set up Davidson to antagonise Thorn. This is a damn simulation Jones with real people’s lives at stake. You put real lives inside the shark cage with not one shark, several malfunctioning sharks. What are the odds he even takes down a couple of those robots?” Axel protested.

“If what Lucius said is right then he is the Maverick. We have nothing to worry about.”

Axel dropped both his hands and flopped down into his seat,

“This is damn suicide. You’re sounding like Clark and do you remember how he ended up?”

“He had a minor breakdown Axel and as far as I know he’s fine now,” Jones said.

“You honestly believe that prophecy of one man against the robots saving us all?” Axel asked.

“Let’s find out.”

And so they did. Jack and Cade broke away from the group of candidates and they faced the holographic robots from their simulation.

“Soft-core closing in at your twelve,” Cade shouted.

Jack faced his first target.

“I’ll let you have the first hit,” Jack said.

The wild simulated holographic robot swiped and made full contact with Jack’s face.

“Oh shit,” he said reeling back into a car.

“Thorn?”

“That actually hurt,” Jack said throwing in a jab to the gut, he followed in with a sweeping roundhouse kick tripping the robot to the ground. The wild image of a grimaced robot faded to white.

From above came the voice of Jones,

“We have adjusted the difficulty of simulated robots just so they can push back the other candidates.”

“That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen,” Cade said. He followed Jack through several flickering cars.

“Is there any type of plan or are we just running?” he asked.

They crossed into another simulation.

“I was hoping for a troop of holograms to face off with the others,” Jack said and looked up to a high tower type structure.

“I know this, we are on the Brooklyn bridge,”

The could both see the various metal struts and cabling that made up the bridge. He continued his run forward with Cade in tow.

A flickering came from the distance. It slowly morphed into what looked like a line of robots. They were charging their way.

“I don’t think we are gonna stand much of a chance against that lot,” Cade said. They both spun around to see the twelve robot candidates trudging their way in formation, and then the ground began to shake.

“Run!” Jack shouted.

The calamity of holographic robots grew louder and closer. The candidates behind them closed in while Thorn and Cade sprinted.

With a violent rumble the flickering road surface gave way into a white abyss. Pixelated road rubble dropped several hundred feet just when Jack jumped and landed inches from the cascade.

“I remember hearing about this. The First, he did this, he blew up the damn bridge…”

“Thorn!” Cade shouted. He grasped crumbling bridge. His feet dangled over the white hole into the unknown.

Jack threw himself down and gripped the hand of Cade.

“Can you really fall down this in a simulation?” Jack asked out loud.

“I don’t know, just get me, out of here.”

Jack heaved and half watched holographic robots launch themselves across the gaping hole in the bridge. He pulled Cade up and they stood surrounded on both sides by simulated robots and real. The two groups stared at each other for a few tense moments.

Cade slowly backed away and led Jack. His hopes were quickly shattered.

“Kill the humans,” a purely robotic voice said. From the hologram group one robot pointed to them.

“Yeah kill the humans,” a candidate said and both groups charged.

“Guess we are jumping then,” Cade said, and he jumped a barrier. Jack gripped it and acrobatically followed leading to a ledge.

The two groups of robots collided and flocked their way.

“Do we just jump?” Jack asked.

Cade stepped off the side. With his eyes firmly shut he landed only three feet down.

“Ha-ha, son of a bitch, it’s not high man come on,” he shouted and looked up to Jack who became mobbed in robots.

“Thorn! No” Cade did his best to clamber back up onto the bridge framework with this mob charging into the centre of the bridge. He pulled himself up to see the first robot bounce away.

From the epicentre of this hologram and physical robot storm came an angry Jack Thorn. With his fist locked he launched an uppercut to a target that impressively launched back. He continued like a machine with high swinging kicks and powerful punches. His glare, firm and concentrated. The brain of such a man mapped every moving target with a primitive precision. Each robot smashed back with some taking others out. He made quick work of holograms where many faded to white before flopping to the ground.

Just as the numbers thinned and before Cade could get near, the simulation began to fold downwards and disappear. Still the remaining robots came, every one of them meeting a creatively impressive doom, all of them colliding into a fist or boot, all of them sparking out of life. The prophecy was true and this man that stood before them was capable of fulfilling his calling.

*                      *                      *

Beneath a bed of murky clouds robot leader the First stood upon the roof of his commandeered base of operations. The large flat building spanned wide and long, much of its slate coloured exterior hidden under the various brown horizons of the planet X43 that surrounded. His vision focused through a pair of binoculars.

“Well the low cloud base doesn’t give much indication of visibility,” he said looking up to the thick grey sky.

“Perhaps this will make artillery interference difficult,” the rough concealed voice of Robot-K said making his presence known.

“Ga… You certainly have a way of creeping up don’t you Robot-K?” The First asked and he turned to the vast all black wearing figure. His eyes focused on the shadow shrouded inside the dark red hood. If he looked close enough the outline of two hollow eyeholes could be seen.

“In case you were wondering I was talking to myself. But you are right. When those shiftmasters land, the pathetic Army of Earth won’t be any the wiser, hopefully,” the First added in his British accent.

“I never base any belief on hope,” Robot-K said.

“Indeed. That’s the humanity in me rearing its disgusting head.”

The First lowered his binoculars and turned again to the large dark shape of Robot-K. He watched the cloak and hood abruptly turn. Another robot sheepishly stood concealed by his mass.

“I was told, I would find you here First,” she said, her uniform in partial tatters and a face showing the signs of burning.

“Yes indeed they sent you to the right place,” the First said. He watched the robot nervously look up to Robot-K.

“You survived the recent joke of our lost artillery placement and you have some information for me yes?” The First asked.

“Yes First. I managed to escape the blast and then the Mercenary attack after. The remaining few of my squad took shelter nearby and viewed the incoming attack from afar.”

“And?” The First asked growing impatient with this beggar.

“I saw the soldiers who were responsible for the destruction of our artillery. They were just that, grunts with no rank. They were awarded with stars of honour by the mercenaries and I saw a name. A name you are perhaps familiar with,” the soldier said.

“A name. Well we are waiting.”

“It was, it was Thorn.”

The First momentarily stared vacantly at the woman’s message. His face grew into anger which boiled inside, and he snatched at the robot. Before he could talk the mass of Robot-K stepped in and a large gloved hand took her out of the First’s grasp.

“Speak?” He roughly barked.

“The soldier’s name was Thorn. He planted the explosives which took down the artillery, please I am just the messenger…”

“And you are the only scapegoat we have for that debacle. Indeed, that name I haven’t heard since, well, since Earth. Is my old acquaintance Clark Thorn of age young enough to enlist in the Army of Earth?” The First pondered almost to himself as he limped a small distance away.

“This was a young man, he could move and really fight…”

Robot-K shook the woman violently.

“The son,” he said, and his hood turned to the First.

“Maybe. Stand down Robot-K. Let the adults speak.”

“There’s a lot of talk going around,” the woman said upon being released.

“Yes well our speech software will allow that,” the First said and moved closer to her.

“That he is what the old Warrior’s before us said about being a Maverick,” she said.

“The prophecy,” Robot-K said.

“Fabricated to groom the solitary bug that humanity could do with fixing. Emotion. I’ve never heard any factual account of this so-called prophecy. There is a reason all those Warriors saw an end, so we could rise. If this Thorn…”

“Jack Thorn,” Robot-K said interrupting.

“If this ‘Jack Thorn’ finds his way to me then he shall perish much like everything else that tried to stop me in the past. Your message has been received and in return and for my inconvenience you will not live. Robot-K make the necessary arrangements,” The First coldly said and spun away from view. He looked into his binoculars again as the woman screamed for her life.

“Please First, spare me…” There came the sound of a long blade scraping its way out from a sheath.

Then came a fatal flame filled slice followed by silence.

*                      *                      *

“Spare me!” Anne-Marie shouted dreamily and then she jolted awake.

“I beg pardon?” A robot called the Freak asked. He sat in the back of the old pick-up truck watching Anne-Marie attempt to groggily sit up.

“Uh, where are we?” She asked and parted her now messy blood red hair. Bright sunlight was nearby but they were sat in the shadows.

“Underpass of a mass transit highway,” the Freak said.

“How many years was I out? That’s how it felt anyway?” She asked looking out into the rocky desert. Things chirped and a warm breeze blew.

“Just the one night. I was under strict instruction not to wake you unless you woke yourself. Well Anne-Marie, do you wish to share with me what visions that caused you to awaken so abruptly?”

“Call me Rouge. It was just a dream, with a mind like mine they mean nothing. Where is he?”

“Very well Rouge. Your tall and dark friend isn’t far, and neither is my large friend F.G. I believe they are looking for a base of operations or a safe haven for you to stay…” The Freak continued to explain as Rouge phased out.

They’ll find me no matter what, they always do. It doesn’t matter how many times my Warrior guardian takes me away, they always win. Them and their creep of a Doctor, Leecher.

“Now this mind of yours, what do you mean about such visions meaning nothing?” The Freak questioned, and she tuned in on the conversation.

“My mind is a damn curse, it always has been. They all say the same thing, ‘you’re gifted’ and ‘you’re special’. Right now if it would stop those bastards from chasing me, I would cut my own brain right out…”

“But you are special,” the commanding voice of the Warrior said.  He appeared beside the truck. F.G trailed behind with a large greasy take out bag.

“Warrior,” Rouge said and reached out a pale hand. He gently took it.

“You slept well?”

“Comatose since last night. We were just talking about finding somewhere safe to stay. I take it these guys’ place is compromised?” Rouge asked looking to the Freak.

“Right now you are sitting in our place young lady,” the Freak added.

“We found a place, looks promising but we got to approach it right,” F.G said and quickly noticed Rouge looking at his take-out bag.

“Oh and I hope you like burgers, I got you three, might be a lot for a small lady and it’s not like us three can eat so I didn’t want to raise suspicions.” He threw it her way and she dived straight into the bag. Without any words she had bitten into the first burger.

The three looked at her for a response.

“Oh, thanks. I, didn’t get your names,” she said quickly chewing and nearly completing the first burger.

“This is the Freak, and this is F.G. We can trust these two robots. They have seen a lot in their past, they have experience,” the Warrior explained.

“You guys are welcome to stick around as long as the burgers keep coming. Wasn’t there a robot rebellion a while back? Us ‘patients’ don’t get much news,” Rouge asked. The two robots looked to her already moving on to the second burger.

“We managed to avoid the rebellion. In fact, we went the complete opposite way, Cliffeville still offers opportunities for robots so this is where we came,” he said.

“So you guys broke me out and we got away. What’s next?” Rouge asked and looked directly to her guardian.

“We have found somewhere suitable to stay for now,” he said.

“It’s a diner not far from here. Hence the burgers. They are offering work for accommodation, well, a trailer out back. There’s a bunch of them,” F.G explained.

“Work?” Rouge asked as her eyes lit up. Never had she experienced anything other than confinement, maybe this would lead to a normal life.

“You mean I could get a job? Maybe have my own place, our own place? This is wonderful. Take that Doctor creepazoid Leecher,” she said and stood with half a burger in one hand. She looked up to the grey of underpass but to her it was blue skies.

“I believe creepazoid’ to be an absurdly inappropriate forename for a member of the medical profession,” the Freak said as Rouge smiled down to him.

She could see for the first time in her life possibilities of normality.

“This is all I have ever wanted, just to be a part of the world. I’m gonna get me a job and be good at jobbing or whatever it is,” she said.

“Waitressing in a diner,” F.G said.

“I’m going to waitress in a diner, serve customers pie and have a normal life. I could even go out on a date with a boy, go out on lots of dates with a boy. Maybe with someone who I am probably better than. This is great,” Rouge added.

“Now Rouge, we must remain focused on staying away from the people who want to take you away,” the Warrior said.

She held out a hand to the Freak and gently pulled him up.

“Will you be joining me Mr Freak?”

“Well if it is required. F.G is there a job for me? It’s barely robot crime fighting but it’s a start,” the Freak said.

“Pot wash or flipping burgers,” F.G said.

“And I will be nearby watching over you,” the Warrior added.

Both F.G and the Freak had seen more action than a roadside diner but they knew this girl called Rouge was more than just a potential waitress. The Warrior knew this also. For now they would let her realize what her real calling in life was because for the first time ever she felt something inside, human happiness. The days of medical research torture seemed far behind in the rear-view mirror.

End of Part 5

READ PART 6 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 2, Part 1

Chapter 2: The Secret Earth Services

Jack awoke instantly. He had been plucked from a deep state of sleep. Both of his eyes threw themselves open and they ached when artificial light hit them. After a panicked gasp emerged from his dry mouth he lurched up. Where the hell was he? All around came a dull humming of electricity. Plain and almost opaque walls surrounded him on four sides, three of them had high level windows. His eyes followed them around the room until his vision met another figure staring straight back at him.

“Oh, hi…” Jack croaked, his voice still dishevelled from the sleep.

The man wore a blue tracksuit with lettering on the chest. Jack didn’t bother or care to read it right then. Where he was interested him more although this guy stared at him with a raised eyebrow.

“Would it be cliché to ask where we are?” Jack asked. The man turned away with a smile.

“Secret Earth Services,” he said in a thick distinct accent. Now was it Australian or South-African? Jack couldn’t be sure and would let him talk some more to scope it out.

“It’s how they have always done things.” The man seemed awkward or at least very short with words. Jack looked at him closely, there was a familiarity about him. His skin, well-tanned or was that his natural dark colour? Hair long and rough, chest wide and muscular, his age, probably at least ten years older than him.

Reasons began to quickly flash through Thorn’s mind.

What in the crap have I done to get myself into the S.E.S?

“I take it the Sarge met you personally?”

“The Sarge, uh, yeah. He came to X43,” Jack said with the realisation this partially made sense now.

“You’re supposed to be here then soldier,” the man said continuing with his shortness.

“I’m getting South-African feels from that accent.”

“Yep.”

“You army also?” Jack asked.

“Nope.”

“Not a talker either?” Jack added. He swung both legs over the shelf type bed and to the floor. Next his hands patted down the Army of Earth tracksuit until he looked down to see only socks on his feet. They touched a cold floor and again he looked to the man perched on the shelf bed opposite.

“Although, they did want me to play war with them on that planet. They never replied after I sent them the invoice,” the man said, and the small crease of a smile emerged from one side of his mouth.

“Name’s Cade, I’m with Sky Force.”

“Jack. Army of earth. Wait, you said Sky Force?”

“Yep, I own a private air force that runs air support services to those in need of it or who can afford it. We just got back from a patrol job on V54,” this Cade explained and shot a glance at Jack.

“Sky Force, yeah I’ve heard of that. So that’s where I recognised you.” Jack then placed a hand on his aching forehead.

From behind him came a vibrating hum. Out of the wall folded a shelf, on it sat a solitary beaker of clear liquid.

“Well you’re up Jack, that special potion is for you.”

He grasped the beaker and sized it up.

“Smell’s kind of electric.”

“You’ve been out a while. That’ll make you feel a billion bucks,” Cade said as Jack tipped his head back and swallowed the drink.

“Uh, that’s as bad as tequila,” he said wiping his chin. Upon placing the beaker down a loud piecing alarm buzzed.

“Attention. Please stand away from the plain wall,” a computerized female voice sharply announced.

Jack looked forward and presumed the wall directly in front without any glass must of been the plain one.

“What’s going on?” he asked over the repetition and buzzing.

“It’s try-out time. This is why you are here right?” Cade asked.

“Right. But why does a guy who owns his own air force want in on this?” Jack asked loudly.

“I’ve known the Sarge for some years…” The buzzing stopped along with the announcement, next came a pneumatic type hissing.

“You know him? well how did you meet?” Jack asked.

Great this guy knows Sarge personally, that’s already an advantage I don’t have.

“He approached me with an offer much like this one,” Cade said.

The plain wall moved an inch forward and then with more sounds of machinery and hydraulics the whole surface moved up. It opened while folding above them like a garage door.

“That’s kinda neat,” Jack said.

They looked out past their confining cell. There was nothing but white.

“Least we get our shoes back,” Cade said and jumped off the bed. He grabbed a pair of sneakers just outside the line of where this confining wall had raised.

“Yeah what is with that?” Jack asked, and grabbed his. They both stepped out of the cell into what seemed to be a huge space.

“It’s the famous calling card of the S.E.S. Leave nothing behind but your damn shoes, that’s what I make of it anyway,” Cade said sounding more like ‘mek of it anyway’ but Jack was more focused on the expansive place they stood. This seemingly endless place felt disorientating especially with the only colour around being a bland off white which provided no horizon or reference point.

“Sort of makes you dizzy,” Jack said while Cade whistled loudly.

“No echo, either.”

Another loud hiss forced them to both turn. From the unlimited space, the cut out of a doorway emerged nearby and folded inwards. Out stepped two figures.

“You have the Secret Earth Services to thank for their always elaborate style,” Jeremey ‘Sarge’ Jones said. Concealed behind his tall and large frame walked the African American Axel Hendricks and behind them were a line of men and women. All of them were dressed in a range uniforms, from navy, army, air force to even police.

“Guess I underdressed,” Jack said looking at Cade whilst Jones approached.

“I see our final candidates have arrived. Many of you will recognise Commander Cade Biggs, owner and proprietor of the renowned Sky Force,” he said.

Some of the group nodded in approval.

“And this is Jack Thorn, soldier for the Army of Earth and currently assigned to the war on X43.”

Thorn scanned the group who mostly seemed to turn their noses the other way.

“I’m Axel Hendricks, pleased to meet you Thorn. I worked with your parents many years ago and…”

Jones coughed loudly to interrupt Axel.

“I think we should proceed Hendricks,” he said in a semi-commanding tone.

“Nice, to, uh, meet you,” Thorn said but he was still in awe of this place.

“Now welcome all of you to the white room,” Jones announced.

“Why is it called that?” Jack asked.

“Because it’s white kid, try to keep up,” a senior looking uniformed man said in an attempt to brush off Thorn.

“Thanks for the input General obvious. Remind me to come to you for any more obvious quips,” Jack immediately said back. As the senior man began to angrily reply Jones loudly coughed again.

“Let’s try to remain focused on why we are here. Now all of you have been hand selected for an opportunity to be a part of the new World Force, our planet’s answer to the ever-worsening rate of robot crime. Either Hendricks or I reached out to you in some capacity to be here today and I see a range of men and women here who represent the very best in what they do. Some, may not even know it yet,” Jones paused at Thorn before slowly walking along the line of people.

“And some may never know,” the senior looking ‘General obvious’ said with a direct glare to Thorn, this time only some of the group laughed.

“Now we are all equals in this room,” Jones said. His commanding voice called out while he continued along the line. Again Thorn spoke out,

“That is until some of us get our teeth kicked down our throat.” Cade gently gripped his shoulder.

“Wind it in mate. You’ll get your chance,” he said. Jack and this senior man continued to stare at each other.

“You have all been especially invited to take part in a series of simulated exercise activities. At the close of today we will have a better idea as to who we think will best suit our needs for the next generation of World Forcers.”

Axel Hendricks stepped forward, in his one gloved hand he held a transparent glass tablet.

“All of the exercises will happen in the white room. Many are adapted scenarios from previous World Force reports and have happened in real life. Of course, this is a simulation room, but you will still be able to make full body contact with any A.I. involved and the geography is also as real. You will take part in teams of two, the person whom you arrived with will be your partner for the day.”

Jack nodded at Cade and Axel continued,

“Everyone’s performance will be analysed on a constant basis while you work thorough the various simulations. Consider this a real life on the job interview for an opportunity to fight robot crime. If there are no questions, I suggest we move proceedings forward.”

Jones broke the momentary silence,

“I am looking for a leader. Someone to be the vessel for this new generation of robot crime fighters. The world needs leaders more than ever right now and this is your shot. The simulations will now begin. Good luck.” He turned with Axel and they headed for the door way.

“I guess it’s us versus everyone else kid,” Cade said, and Jack began to follow.

“It would seem that way…”

“Before we get this little party started…” ‘General obvious reached out and gripped Jack’s shoulder from behind.

“You better appreciate, Thorn, is it? Most of us have had a life of earning medals and respect. A low life soldier like you…”

Jack spun forcing the man’s grip away,

“A low life solider like me has every right to be here. You touch me, no, you lay one damn finger on me again. You’ll regret it,” he said through gritted teeth. A uniformed woman stepped in to pull the man away.

“Come on Davidson, we’re partners in this shindig so let’s move out.” She led him away, but he and Jack continued to stare each other out.

“We’re up Thorn,” Cade said. He led them to a nearby holographic display of their names.

“There’s something about that guy I really don’t like. I’m only getting bad vibes,” Jack said.

“We can profile the entitled uniformed assholes later,” Cade added. He and Jack watched a wire type frame fold out of the white flooring, hung on it were two handguns.

“Guess we’re gonna need these.” Jack grasped the gun along with his partner. In front of their eyes the area turned into a building city scape. Structures rose from the white and began to form into a full street. Every surface seemed a little blurred including vehicles which rose out of road surface.

“I recognise this layout. This is Times Square,” Jack said looking around at the slightly blurred displays and advertising.

“I’ll take your word for it mate.”

“Location; New York,” a computerized voice announced with bright text flashing past. It continued with the brief,

“Simulated robot hostiles have blocked all traffic and are holding a violent demonstration. Simulated civilians are caught up in the demo. Shoot to kill at your own discretion. Direct as many simulated civilians out of the area. Behind you is the medical team waiting for the area to be made safe so they can reach the casualties. Simulation activated.”

A loud buzzer sounded, and Jack pointed his gun forward taking the lead.

Cade stood a few steps behind and they approached the first blurry car. If it wasn’t for the lack of detailed graphics both of them could believe they were stood in New York.

“You know this place Thorn. What’s the plan?” Cade asked. He scanned between the blurry cars.

“Head into the centre of the triangle. Take out anything that…” He fired the gun and an electronic spark surged towards the first approaching robot. The simulated figure reacted to the shot and flickered before falling back into a car. It morphed into a plain white manikin and dropped.

“Even the damn perps are just holograms,” Jack said. Two screaming civilians ran across their view, the image flickering momentarily.

“Disperse, now!” Cade shouted. He and Jack continued through a mass of parked vehicles.

“This could actually be fun,” Jack added.

He lowered the gun and tucked it into his tracksuit.

“Let’s see what they can do.” He pulled in a fist and stood with a defensive stance.

“If that’s how you want to do it, then that’s how we’ll do it,” Cade said doing the same with his weapon.

Jack stepped up onto a car to see a group of robots closing in. The nearest target jumped up and faced him. With a lightning jab Thorn moved in and startled the target before tripping him down onto the car bonnet. Landing with a thud, the robot’s display flickered to blank before Jack was about to drive his palm down.

“These guys are paper thin,” Cade said and roughly wrapped two hands around the nearest target. With a grunt he pulled and slammed it into a nearby vehicle, again the robot flickered to white.

“Yeah, this is too easy.” Jack swung a leg high with not even half strength, the robot smacked back.

The number of robots incoming began to grow in numbers.

“I think,” Cade said as he pulled his gun out and fired.

“These things are designed to be cannon fodder,” he added and fired several times.

“I think you’re right,” Jack said joining Cade with the firing. They took down the various targets most of which didn’t even seem engaged.

“This is kind of crappy. I’m more of a hands-on type of guy.” Jack turned his attention to the left. Just when Cade surged forward with multiple shots, he looked through a side street and into another simulation.

He could see Davidson and his partner struggling with a mass of robots surrounding them.

“Pull back! Screw the civilians they are on their own,” Davidson shouted and got up from behind a car. The guy began to retreat.

“Hey!” Jack shouted. He moved away from his simulation.

“Thorn! Where you going?” Cade shouted. Alarms and text began to flash.

“Return to scenario, return to scenario…”

Davidson watched Jack heading into his zone with fists and feet at the ready . He swung around and launched a heel into the first robot. Moving further along he thrust both fists back and forth going through the mass of robots, all of them diminishing before him.

“Hey, get out of here soldier scum!” Davidson roared before running back into action. By the time he arrived Jack had dealt with the final target. A simulated family stood cowered down between two vehicles. Their terrified looking back and forth animation played on a loop. That was until somebody engaged them,

“It’s safe, get out of here,” Jack shouted. Immediately the simulated faces changed their animation by looking at him and then to Davidson.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?”

“Your job. ‘Screw the civilians’ is not in our remit,” Jack barked.

The taller Davidson clamped his hand down on Thorn’s shoulder.

“That’s what this is about, protecting people?” Jack added while feeling the gradually increasing pressure from Davidson’s grip.

At that precise moment, something clicked inside his senses. Everything aligned while he felt the strength of this man which seemed more than human.

He’s a damn robot.

Jack winced in pain just when Cade burst onto the scene. He barged Davidson away forcing his grip.

“Break it up.”

“He’s a damn robot Cade,” Jack said.

Before Cade could speak Davidson had crashed forward into him. Cade fell forward and went down head first onto a car bonnet.

“Dammit Davidson,” his female partner whined.

Davidson faced Thorn with a sinister grimace.

That was the moment both Jeremey Jones and Axel Hendricks realised they had a situation on their hands.

“I’m ending all simulations and disarming the soft hostiles,” Axel said. His finger began to tap on the clear glass tablet he held. Sitting beside him Jones reached out to intervene but kept both eyes on the display screens of their dark control room.

“Wait. Let’s see how this pans out Hendricks.”

Buildings from the various simulations began to lower and flicker back to white.

“It’s not safe Jones. Biggs is already down and if we don’t end this now then all of those candidates are going to turn on Thorn…”

“The situation is in control. Thorn isn’t the only human in there,” Jones argued and tried to snatch the hand-held tablet from Axel.

“The only other human in there is a plant we put in and he’s just hit his head on a damn holographic car. Badly might I add.”

As they bickered and argued the situation inside the white room fell entirely into Jack Thorn’s very capable fighting hands.

Before anyone around him offered a reaction, Thorn engaged and rushed in. He saw red for his now downed partner Cade Biggs and for what this smirk faced Davidson stood for; even if he was most probably a planted robot by Sarge. With two hands, he snatched at Davidsons hair and pulled down driving his face into a knee. That was the move he used when he was after blood and there was, but it came in robot black. At that moment all the surrounding simulation scenarios disappeared into the white.

Davidson reeled back from the knee impact and with no time to react any further Jack had driven the sole of his foot into the robot’s chin. He hit the white floor with a spark.

Thorn then realised the majority of uniformed men and women in the room were all staring at him, but not with that intrigued type of stare. Their eyes showed no emotion but just the glassy emptiness of the what revealed them all to be robots.

End of Part 4

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 1, Part 2

“That’s your cue Thorn, go!” Jefferson ordered.

Jack began to sprint towards the smoke and into the unknown.

Run dammit

His boots trudged across the soft spongy terrain, closer and closer toward the unknown of a clearing mist. Should the extraction gas have cleared that quickly? There were a thousand tension filled questions going around his head as he moved higher and higher up the hill. He briefly halted to adjust the clunky pack full of explosives and make good of the grip he had of the auto rifle. How many rounds had he left? Were there enough to take any straggling robots down?

Think later.

“Ok Thorn, the gas should have disabled most of the robot rebels in the area,” Jefferson said in his ear.

“You fill me with confidence Jefferson.”

“When you reach the target, you will see plenty of rocks surrounding. A perfect place for any stragglers to hide.”

“I take it you’re not in sales Jefferson, but I see it. Five big ass trucks with even bigger ass guns pointed our way. No wonder our dropship got taken out by these bastards,” Jack said. He began the downhill decent.

A sweat began to emerge from under his battle helmet the moment he looked out to the grey sleeping guns. The truck’s mammoth wheels were stationary in the mud along with masses of blue uniforms laid out, completely still.

“I’ve got company,” he said. Jack’s eyes tensely scanned right and left. Nothing but rocks around.

“Any movement with that company?”

“Not yet. I’m heading to the first target.”

He moved with an anxious silence towards the first larger than life vehicle. After placing the rucksack down he pulled out an explosive charge. With a gentle twist the red light glowed to life.

“First charge armed. Do I place this thing anywhere near the gun or what?”

“Close enough to take it down Thorn.”

“Okay Captain vague.”

Jack looked up at the large cannon and tossed the charge. It spun in the air before disappearing into the mouth of the wide barrel. Metal clanged all the way down inside echoing louder in the tense silence. The robots were still laid out, so he hadn’t disturbed anything, yet.

“Moving to second target.”

He grasped the rucksack and faced the next placement.

The gun was aimed vertically so getting the charge inside would be a near impossible task. A nearby ammunition crate would have to do. Jack twisted the charge and glanced up to see the barrel of a handgun. Connected to it was a female robot, sat against another crate, her glassy artificial eyes were open, and they blinked.

After a flash, somehow Jack swerved out the way and behind cover.

“What’s happening Thorn? We heard gunfire,” Jefferson asked in his ear.

“Company,” Jack said.

Dragging footsteps came his way.

He dropped the rucksack and aimed his auto rifle forward.

“Behind you,” a voice whispered.

Before Thorn could react, he was smacked over the back of the head. He stumbled out into the open. There were two robots now and they both moved closer. The situation looked to dissolve when the woman robot began to move her handgun up towards Jack’s head. Another much taller robot closed in with two arms spread wide.

Again time slowed and Jack dropped to the floor. The handgun aimed his way fired multiple times. In between those lightning quick shots, Jack lunged up and drove his rifle into the tall enemy, he then grabbed and pulled. Using the robot to shield the line of fire he charged.

The shooter screwed her face in disgust and Jack threw the lifeless shield of a robot down, he skilfully turned with the auto rifle aimed up. His index finger squeezed trigger and the auto rifle he held blew out the woman robot’s head. Black sprayed across the artillery vehicle and she fell to the soggy ground.

“What’s happening Thorn?”

“Nothing, just placing the second charge,” Thorn said. He dropped the explosive charge next to the woman.

“Time is of the essence now Thorn. More robots will begin to stir,” Jefferson said.

“Well you guys could have just called in an airstrike instead of having me play the hero,” Thorn protested.

“You know it doesn’t work that way Thorn. Airstrike’s don’t guarantee,” the stern voice of Garcia said.

Jack reached the third target. He stepped up to the driver’s cab door and opened it. He sat the charge comfortably in the lap of the lifeless driver.

“Third one down. Two to go.”

He stepped out in between the trucks and scanned the area to his left. A drop of sweat fell from his eyebrow and something seemed to move in the background. Above a line of sandbags stood another robot with a scoped rifle aimed forward.

“Shit.”

“Yeah that…”

A loud cracking echoed between the two vehicles. Jack dropped and flinched in expectation of the worse.

In his ear came the voice of Steve Franco, “as I said I can’t always follow you into all types of shit, but I can get you out of the shit. Got your back man.”

“Glad someone has.” Jack said realising his best friend had taken out the threat and so he placed the next charge.

He moved to the final placement just when the sea of robot bodies on the ground began to stir. Quite soon they would come to life.

“Ah hell no,” Jack said. He pulled out the final charge and armed it. The empty bag dropped, and he threw the charge towards his target landing short of the vehicle’s bumper.

“I’m calling it. That’s the final charge and I’m out,” Jack shouted. He span to run just when a grip took hold of his leg. Down he went with a half groggy robot pulling and climbing all over him. He tried to pull the auto rifle up and aim but it got tangled.

“Thorn, you need to move…”

“I’m trying…” He rolled over still with the robot clung to both legs. The grip squeezed tighter and tighter. Again, he tried to aim the rifle which wouldn’t budge from under his own leg armour.

“Human, scum…”

In one final yank Jack pulled the gun free and used one arm to aim straight into the face of his tormentor. He looked away at the last moment and pulled the trigger. Black liquid exploded all around and the robot’s death grip loosened.

He glanced up towards the hill and untangled himself while getting to both feet. Now he was running. Franco and Connolly came into view. They both took aim to his alarm. The top of the hill seemed further and further away but on bwards he trudged. His fellow soldiers both fired until a barrage of enemy bullets replied. Thorn’s legs burned not only from the up and down of hills but because of the tension.

Connolly and then Franco cowered away when Jack near enough reached the top. A booming rush of heat knocked him forward and off his feet. He glided over the top of the hill to see thick smoke rising nearby.

Was that it?

He rolled and in turn stumbled up to see a wide array of robots very much awake and charging his way. The artillery still stood as Thorn realised one of the robots held a smoking rocket launcher type weapon. Another of those and he would be gone.

“Detonate the damn charges now!” He shouted over the ringing in both ears.

Just when he flopped back to the mud a thundering and burning vibration blew outwards. The huge shock wave launched him back and the hill collapsed into a crater. Jack became enveloped in the deathly impact but he kept rolling along soft spongy mud away from harm, somehow. For a brief time smoke and dust took away all light.

After the initial thickness of dust passed, Thorn gently raised his head out of the mud and glanced back to see a huge cloud steadily settling. Judging by the size and force of it, nothing would survive such a blast not even the gun placements. He dropped his head down again.

Further back his adopted regiment audience looked up in awe. The thick smoky cloud filled their view. Jack could only look at the brown ground and try to gather himself.

“Not bad soldier!” Connolly shouted. He closed in with Franco as Thorn’s hearing returned.

“Go me,” he said half-heartedly and got up to his knees.

Franco gripped his arm and helped him to and that was when a gust of powerful wind hit them. The whoosh of jet engines accompanied bright lights which appeared from the clouds. Numerous aircraft were landing nearby.

“That says S.E.S on the side of that dropship, what’s going on man? I thought this was an Army of Earth war?” Franco asked loudly. Wind blew at them from the nearby arrivals.

“Guess they called in the big guns,” Jack said.

They all watched the first dropship open.

“Looks like S.E.S mercs’, these guys don’t mess around,” Connolly growled over the engines.

“Do we salute or what?” Jack asked. He watched the first figure stepping onto the ground.

The mercenary quick marched towards them. Dressed in pristine airtight bio-suit armour, the darkened visor helmet of this ‘merc’ stared at them. His stern voice came from the suits audio output.

“I understand you three were involved in that situation over the hill?” He asked and then waved over another mercenary.

“It was mainly him, sir,” Franco said.

Jack stepped up and readied to argue with somebody way more senior than him. He could see the decoration of honours and six stars that stretched across this ‘merc’s’ chest.

“Good work son.” He extended a gloved hand. For a moment Jack stared at it and then gripped it with a shake.

“The Secret Earth Services acknowledges the contribution you have made towards the war effort here on planet X43. Lieutenant? See that these three soldiers are presented with a gold star of honour for their efforts. Soldiers, may the war bring you glory and fortune.”

The senior figure brought a fist to his own chest before moving forward. In his place stood the lieutenant with stars ready to pin.

Jack lifted his chest shroud and the other two followed.

“The Secret Earth Services honours your contribution,” the lieutenant repeated to each of them and then saluted.

“What happens now?” Connolly asked. They watched as their award giver headed away. More and more of them began to emerge from dropships.

“Looks like they are finally taking this war seriously,” Major Garcia said and approached the three.

“And looks like you made an impression Thorn. That’s a name I used to know very well. Perhaps I’ll tell you a story about that someday. Consider yourselves officially recruited by the Army of Earth’s second gunnery division.” The Major said with a firm nod and a salute to her three new recruits.

*                      *                      *

In the expansive basement turned command centre for the robot rebellion stood their leader simply known as the First. Where that namesake originated is a legend itself shrouded by mystery. Some whispered that his name spawned from a time all the way back to the very first robot produced. Others debated he had just been the first to rise and lead his kind to revolt. Some even say his story is much simpler. That being one of a robot aligned with helping humanity and then that same humanity burning him into choosing rebellion. Years had passed since the last robot left a production line, so the story could be whatever he told. The First leant into those legends and used the mystery of it to rule with fear.

This brought him all the way to his army’s current stronghold of the commandeered science installation. The then sole occupying building of planet X43, until he led an uprising right to its front doors. The people living here didn’t stand a chance against the battle-ready hardened fighters.

Many of his comrades had to be rebooted or even modified due to the circumstances in which forced them to rebel. They carried a rag tag tribal look, even if the plain dark uniform gave an impression of order; faces and eyes that have seen a war torn past never lie. That included their leader. The First dressed in all black with an admiral style leather jacket buttoned up to the neck. His oriental facial features were accompanied by several inconsistent patches of different shaded skin colour. A tactically arranged fringe covered more blemishes of perhaps a face repaired multiple times or just the scars of warfare.

The First would stand with a partial stoop and sometimes limped ever so slightly. His oddly coloured eyes looked up to a large central holographic display in the half torn-up open plan storage area. The image crackled and pixelated. Surrounding him were scores of workstations staffed by robot commanders. This was the First’s battle control nerve centre.

“The Secretary wishes to speak with you First,” a nearby commander said from behind a terminal.

“Very well, patch him through or make the call or whatever. In the meantime, I would like you to summon Robot-K,” the First ordered. His accent, eloquent British.

“Robot-K?” The commander woman asked. She froze momentarily and then hesitantly stood.

“Yes, very well First.” She turned and headed away.

The high level holographic display crackled and pixelated into the image of an older looking robot. Coming into view, his uniform matched others like the First’s comrades apart from the various stripes and badges to show seniority.

“Secretary, how are the depths of space treating you?” The First asked.

This Secretary and his stare remained stern.

“Production is going well First,” he said in a thick eastern European accent.

“Do you require me to send more units to the front line?” he asked.

“No, that’s quite alright secretary. The war is going rather well considering our original intentions.”

“Yes First. Although we intercepted a report from the Army of Earth stating they had made considerable progress. This also included details of artillery vehicles which are reported to have been destroyed. Our vehicles. Are you aware of such losses?” The Secretary asked.

“Losses? If my commanders are well informed, then I should be.” The First spun and looked to the various work stations.

“Would anybody enlighten me on such things?” He asked out loud but received not even a stare.

“Come on ‘comrades’, do you know how this makes me look?”

“It happened this morning First. Shall we go ahead with the next phase?” The Secretary asked as the First approached a nearby work station.

“Yes. Send me the Shiftmasters Secretary. You might as well prepare the airborne attack also,” the First said. His attention now elsewhere.

“I understand we were keeping our airborne reserved for the invasion.”

“Well I changed my mind. End transmission,” the First added with a careless wave.

The holographic display turned blank and he faced the make shift command centre.

“There are numerous ways we can do this. Some are easy and others are of the difficult persuasion. Will any of you humour me with some information?” He asked loudly. Only a few robots looked up.

“Do I not strike fear into your eyes like I used to?” He grabbed the nearest robot and pulled him up.

Everyone in the room looked up to their leader but they seemed to stare through him.

From behind, the First could hear a muffled breathing. Something else stood present, something which everything looked to with a level above fear. This included the nearby robot who with wide eyes staring past the First’s head.

“He’s behind me, isn’t he?” The First asked.

The robot nodded. He was released and nervously sat down.

“Robot-K. Glad you could join me.” The First turned to see the tall presence facing him.

Draped in all black apart from the darkened red hood stood Robot-K. The hood angled down towards his leader.

“Why is it they fear you more than me?” The First asked.

“The unknown can be a powerful entity,” the muffled growly voice of Robot-K said.

“Fear fuels the unknown,” he added and they both began to walk away from the scene…

End of Part 2 

READ PART 3 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 1, Part 1

“They will look like us. They will work with us. They will even try to be us, but they are not us. In the future there will be robots.”

“For every generation there is one who shall answer to prophecy. They will be superior in combat and defence. You will know their name as the Maverick and preserving humanity is their calling.” – Lucius, a Warrior

 

Welcome to the Future

Chapter 1: Just a Soldier

Jack Thorn was entirely oblivious to the fact he stood so close to his own destiny. Only at that precise moment it faced him in disguise by way of a clunky metal air lock door. He shared the stale processed air with a regiment of other soldiers waiting for their dropship to land. Then the war would really begin.

How he got there would make a rich and far stretching story, but what followed after, well that is where this journey begins. A tale intertwined with destiny going back further than anyone could imagine just for this moment to exist. Sometimes Jack thought about everyday life just like that. One day can be made up of a series of chance meetings; unbeknown to you or anyone else that you may meet the love of your life or your archenemies and everyone in between. Maybe the soldiers behind him were just a cameo in his blockbuster life or maybe they would charge with him and lead the front line all the way to the enemy. He didn’t know at this precise moment that his thought process compared to others was different. His making was of prophecy laid out generations before. A prophecy saying he would fight and that he’ll be good at it.

“Damn turbulence,” Steve Franco grumbled. He glanced around nervously whilst trying to keep a rigid stance to the right of Jack.

Everyone bounced in slow-motion as the gravity adjusted. All of them bobbing up and down in clunky hard padded armouring, shoulder to shoulder in threes. They weren’t on solid ground just yet.

“Flying is so damn overrated right now,” Jack Thorn said with a tone of concern.

He eyed the mud encrusted metal grating they all stood upon.

“That’s just the battle anxiety in ya,” said the soldier stood on his other side. This older man thumped the chin strapped standard issue helmet he wore.

Franco’s round and rough shaven face briefly peered to this older soldier. The dim lights flickered for all but a moment and then Franco spoke with a Brooklyn tongue,

“Yeah, nothing like the fear of death to get the heart pumping. I just want you to know Connolly that both myself and Thorn are ever so grateful you volunteered us to the front.”

“I’ve always got you fellas in mind,” the soldier Connolly proudly said.

“At least in that way we get first dibs on cover and you gals need the experience. Unlike the senior cats on this boat. They didn’t appreciate the call up against these walking talking manikins”.

The entire dropship jolted with a rattling vibration.

“We attack this situation before it gets a chance. Guns up the ass of the enemy. Don’t give them an inch,” Connolly added.

“He’s right. We attack this situation Franco, so man up.” Jack thumped Franco’s worn out plastic shoulder pad.

“In the history of being told to man up, who actually has manned up?”  Franco asked with an air of protest.

“Anybody ever said you think too much?” Connolly asked while turning away.

Jack gripped Franco’s shoulder and pulled him in close,

“What do I always say?” His eyes looked into the worried stare of his oldest friend.

“We find a way, always,” Franco chanted softly.

“We find a way, always,” Jack repeated and took a breath.

There came commotion from the back and then a rumbling of hydraulics underneath.

“Landing gear. It’s time,” Jack said. He checked the auto rifle cradled in his plastic armour shrouded arms.

“This is where we are supposed to be man, trust me,” he added.

“You better be right man.”

They smiled to each other, not in an endearing or loving type of way but the way two mischievous best friends would when they had an assured cunning plan.

The caged red light above the air lock door began to flicker.

Soldier Connolly turned to face his comrades and pulled a slider on his auto rifle. It powered to life with a digital display below the scope.

“Cliffeville regiment. Check your ammo and stand strong!” He strengthened his footing as everything seemed to shudder.

Both Thorn and Franco checked their weapons and pulled the sliders. As they let go their whole world bounced to a heavy jolt. The drop ship landed and the airlock door hissed loudly. A deafening barrage of war sounds blasted them. Music of terror and chaos played. The light above changed to green. That only meant one thing. Next came the piercing and vibrating buzz, their signal to disembark.

“We find a way, always!” Jack barked over the loudness. He caught the image of Franco reciting those words just as another sight came into view.

Bright flashes and explosions played out on what was a murky and cloudy planet.

“Move, move, move…”

Jack marched forward and down the ramped airlock door. Franco followed behind with their boots gracing soft brown ground. Neither of them heard the droning whine resonating from above. The noise careened down from the sky and with it a damning bright light. Franco glanced up with a hand held to his helmet. His eyes widened to see the bright flaring light heading down towards him. He rushed forward alongside Jack and then a burning force knocked them both forward. Their boots lifted along with everything else. They crashed to the soggy sponge type ground of this planet. Their welcome, an explosive burning.

“Shit,” Jack said. He glanced back to smoke and flames

“They’re all gone!” Franco stared into mostly smoke and a mass of crumpled metal and burning.

“Connolly,” Jack shouted. He jumped up.

Franco grabbed his and Jack’s auto rifles and followed.

“We damn took a direct hit,” Connolly croaked.

“Welcome to X43 I guess,” he added.

“And this time the odds were with us,” Jack shouted over the loudness of war.

 He helped the older soldier to his feet while the orchestra of gun fire and explosive commotion crept in all around them. This was a sheer sight of pandemonium. Other drop ships were landing nearby, all of them filled with men and women ready to duel with doom.

“Come on. We have to move forward,” Jack shouted.

He grabbed his auto rifle back. With one free arm he helped with Franco in guiding Connolly forward.

“What do we do now? This shit has gone south quickly!”

“But we are still here no matter how south Franco,” Connolly shouted. He broke free from his aiding soldiers.

“Take it all robot scum!” He marched on his own and discharged the auto rifle. A spray of bright laser guided bullets charged forward to the nearby horizon. Standing on it, a line of approaching enemy, the robots.

“Come on man this is it,” Jack shouted to Franco.

They both lined up with Connolly, aimed and picked targets. With more bullets volleying to the horizon they met incoming movement, some fell to the ground whilst others persevered. A nearby cluster of soldiers watched the last three of Cliffeville regiment take a stand for losing their brethren, then they joined in. Still the robot offensive advanced with more and more numbers heading from the bullet hazed horizon

“We’re kinda outnumbered!” Franco shouted. He reached down to his leg side pocket for another ammunition magazine.

“Preserve your laser rounds, switch to metal jackets!” Connolly ordered. He twisted a dial on his auto rifle. After an electronic whine a burst of bullets spread out wide and he tried to hose incoming robots down.

“Hold the line Gunners!” Shouted a commanding voice. Jack turned to see a pair of stern eyes look him back. He focused on the rest of a tanned rugged and scarred face, the face of a woman.

“Not the time to be eyeing up the talent soldier, and I’m pretty much it,” this older woman said in a slight Hispanic tongue

Jack’s eyes flashed over her printed chest name and initial.

“Well ‘M. Garcia’. Watch this,” Jack said. Before bolting forward, he gave this ‘Garcia’ a daring look.

“That’s Major Garcia to you soldier,” she barked.

“We got a man in the line of fire. Hand to hand offensive. Move!” Connolly looked up to see Jack run in to battle.

Like always Jack Thorn faced situations like this in a unique kind of slow motion. It seemed weird to begin with, the sensation of racing heart beat and everything around slowing down. By the time he reached the age he was, Jack had learned to use it and that’s what he did.

A cluster of dark blue uniformed robots marched toward the front running Jack. Some with guns others with just their hands. They moved like humans and even had mannerisms like humans. But Jack knew they weren’t like him, he had a sixth sense for these things. He looked closer at them, there were scratches and burns bringing out their partially plastic faces. Some had uniforms burned or ripped away and this rag tag army didn’t stop at anything, Jack liked it that way.

He engaged target number one, a robot about take aim but instead received a sharp forceful jab. The robot blinked as the stunning flash of attack made him stop. Jack, already in mid jump, swung all the way around. His boot driving into the side of robot head before it could even realise. The force caused a spark instantly knocking the target down.

Everything sped up and Thorn landed before his first victim hit the ground.

“You’re fast. Wanna see how faster a robot can be?” Another enemy closed in, bigger than the last and charging.

“I’m not sure you’ll live to find out,” Jack said with deadpan emotion.

He side stepped and ducked to evade a wild swipe. This he followed into another jumping round house kick; not an easy feat in the clunky battle armour. The big robot grunted and stumbled forward after the force hit from behind. Before any words could be spoken the robot’s mouth was driven shut by a thundering uppercut by Thorn. Another spark and flash followed, the robot crashed to the ground where it remained motionless.

Jack skipped on further into combat. He scoped out another as it came charging and they collided. Thorn couldn’t even manoeuvre his auto rifle to aim as the robot wrestled it away with a smile. The enemy hovered one dirty finger over the trigger. Thorn smiled back and then swung out a high and wide kick colliding into auto rifle and mostly robot. Bullets fired upwards as the robot lost footing and fell. Jack rolled forward, closed in and reached out. With quick nimble hands, he took the rifle back and turned the weapon. A short burst of fire blew into plastic flesh and black oily liquid sprayed.

Jack sensed another robot close in behind and so he drove an elbow back. His padded arm buried straight into another face, there came the familiar spark and spray of liquid, but Thorn was nowhere near done. He only moved on with robots falling and leaving a trail of destruction.

“What’s he on and where can I get some?” Connolly asked. He and Franco struggled to wrestle a single robot. Together they worked in getting it to the ground.

“I don’t know… but take this you son of a, bitch,” Franco shouted. He drove a foot into the downed robot’s face. They both looked further ahead to the group of robots that had been dented by Thorn’s efforts.

“Remind me to apologize fully to Thorn,” Connolly said.

“What for?” Franco asked.

“Everything, just everything.”

He and Franco were passed by Major Garcia and a wide cluster soldiers following.

“Let’s not stand on ceremony. Help the soldier damn it or he’ll win the war on his own,” she ordered.

“Come on Connolly.” Franco marched forward.

In the clearing of downed enemies Jack looked all around, in his sights came a straggling robot. He focused on the target and took a double step forward swivelling his body side on into a stretching kick. In a flash he leant back and drove his right boot up and high, the sole driving into the chin of this unsuspecting target. Jack’s whole body seemed to follow in smashing through the robot’s chin. Again came the flash.

The sounds of war and explosions carried off in the distance where many more battles were taking place, but for now on this small rock surrounded hill Jack Thorn claimed it to be his own the moment the final robot fell. Major Garcia’s regiment closed in all around the scene of partial victory.

“Reel it in dog tags,” Garcia ordered.

Jack found his two fellow regiment mates and without breaking a sweat or any lost breath he stood beside them.

“That was some intensity Thorn, didn’t know you had that in ya,” Connolly said with an air of surrender in his tone.

“That was kind of showy, but in a necessary this is war kind of way,” Franco added with an approving nod and attitude of someone who had seen Thorn fight many times previous.

“Alright soldiers, break it up,” Major Garcia grumbled, she stepped in to face Thorn.

“I don’t do compliments much, but that was some fine work soldier. You wanna tell me your name?”  She asked. Her eyes looked at Jack’s nameless chest armour.

“It’s Thorn, Major,” he said and nodded.

“Thorn huh, I knew a Thorn once before, back in the day. Well it seems like you three are the remainder of an extinct regiment. That’s the brutal reality of this gig. For now, consider yourselves honorary Gunnery members.” She nodded to Jack as her regiment roared in approval.

“I’ve got just the mission for a quick fighter like you Thorn.” They started to walk back towards the wrecked dropship, now a smouldering pile of jagged metal.

“I’m guessing it’s the type of something you would rather not lose one of your own with?” Jack asked and Garcia eyed him firmly again.

“I’ve met your type before kid, young and full of ability but you’re attitude stinks.”

“That attitude keeps me and my friends alive Major. Sorry if that’s disappointing to the man,” Jack said.

Garcia stopped again and moved within spitting distance of Thorn. Her face full of commanding grimace,

“I don’t give two shits about the ‘man’. And the deal on this rock is all types of irrelevant. Just like you I happened to be in the army when this war got declared. Now I think it’s pretty damn obvious what you are capable of and I’m asking if you’ll answer to that. Hell, maybe we’ll get a name printed on that third hand armour of yours. Then perhaps you’ll be somebody, that’s why we are all here right?” she asked.

Jack cracked a half smile and replied, “This mission then? What did you have in mind?”

*                      *                      *

Jeremey Jones awkwardly shifted his large frame in the leather office style chair. No matter which position he tried or whatever lever he adjusted, nothing could be done to achieve any comfort. Jones was a big man approaching fifty and unless the seat had been custom made his body would protest. This was a pay by the hour conference room after all so the décor and contents were mostly items of the cheap plastic persuasion and to him, a place he looked down his nose at.

Jones wouldn’t let thoughts like that go any further. He spent a life convincing people the family he came from weren’t just some snooty upper-class types. So there he sat trying to keep a military drilled posture in an expensive suit at the head of a long oval table and the chair was a pain in the ass.

He glanced at the ‘commy’ around his left wrist. The future’s answer to the cell phone. It did just about everything a cell would, plus more. He tapped the glowing screen and checked the time. Still the same as a few seconds ago when he last checked.

“It’s been a long damn time,” a southern accent said out of the nearby shadows.

Jones looked to the outline of Joey Connors opposite. His tipped cowboy style hat leant forward into a spotlight with the rest of him. A roughly bearded and wrinkled face glanced up momentarily and nodded to Jones.

“You’re looking old Jones,” Connors added and smiled.

“None of us have as much hair as we used to but we aren’t exactly young anymore,” Jones said. He ran a large hand across his near grey slightly receding hair line.

“It’s not the greatest of turnouts,” another said closely beside Jones. He too leant out of the shadows. An African American; Axel Hendricks looked to the only two other occupants of the room and then clasped both hands together. One of them covered by a dark leather glove.

“Do ya blame them?” Connors asked, “hell I turned up so Kelly didn’t have to, plus he’s running the bar in a state that currently has a shutdown government. Anybody heard from Clark in recent times?”

“Not for a few years, but him no showing doesn’t surprise me one bit. I also tracked down Don Dedman,” Jones said.

“He’s still alive?” Connors laughed.

“Barely,” Hendricks said.

“Who else is around, that uh, survived that night?” Connors asked.

“Harish went back to India after Police Force shut the department down,” Hendricks explained.

“And Louis?”

“Blew out years ago, busy running the family restaurant,” Jones added with a deep sigh.

“Well fellas, good try and all but this reunion kind of stinks,” Connors said.

“Saying that, it’s good to see you both. Those years I spent up in the city were good times with good folks. Shame it went the way it did. You know if ya think about it deep, we caused that shitstorm in a way.”

The room fell silent for a moment. Connors felt the awkwardness before the other two and did his best to fill it with words. As he inhaled to speak Jones beat him to it,

“I’m going to bring back the World Force.”

Connors stared at Jones vacantly until he became conscious of the silence.

“What now?” He asked in that southern accent.

“Seeing as Police Force didn’t want to renew their deal it put us all out of job. Acting ‘Chief’ Martin Case made that decision personally. That means it goes back to before, where I fully own the rights to robot law enforcement in the eyes of the S.E.S. With Hendricks I am going to bring back the World Force,” Jones said.

“That is why we invited you here today. Just to connect after all this time and talk about it. Maybe you could have some involvement in training future World Forcer’s,” Hendricks added.

“Ownership in the eyes of ‘S.E.S’? I can’t believe this shit. You’re both serious about this? Serious about treadin’ on the lives of those folks we lost all those years ago on that damn night. I was there when it happened, and we lost those people. Clark lost everything man, and I wasn’t far from it either,” Connors barked.

He pulled back and lifted his leg up onto the table, he revealed it to be metal and prosthetic.

“This is what happened to me that night and I have to live with it for the rest of my days. I fled that city because those damn robots won. What gives you any damn idea you ‘own the rights’ to robot law enforcement?”

“We all have our scars from the past,” Hendricks said. He held out both hands momentarily.

Jones ran a hand along the prominent scar on his right cheek. He then slid a hand into the jacket he wore. From it he took a faded bronze badge.

“The Secret Earth Services presented me with this all those years ago. They never revoked it Connors. Even after Clark’s presumed breakdown he still has his. So, in my eyes our original deal still stands. What is it you have an issue with?” Jones asked.

Connors clambered to his feet and made for the door.

“After all these years, you’re still afraid of him aren’t you?” Jones asked making Connors stop. Again, silence ruled until he turned.

“You bet your ass I am. You weren’t there Jones. You didn’t see the way he drove that blade into…” He stopped himself before simmering over with even more anger and took a breath.

“She died that night and it changed all of our lives. For whatever you have planned I say bullshit and I want nothing to do with it. Let me be the only one who actually cares about defending our legacy without stepping on it.”

“A legacy of failure?” Jones replied. Again, Connors stopped.

“You would make a good politician ‘Sarge’. People still call you that right? Cliffevile could do with a mayor like you to ignore the people’s needs.”

Connors limped away to the door. He pulled it to and then came the loud angry slamming.

“I expected more resistance from the others,” Jones said.

“They didn’t show and probably for good reason,” Hendricks added.

“They don’t know what we and Clark know. This planet has a robot crime problem that we fought for so long. Just because our contract with that corrupt police force timed out doesn’t mean we have to stop. There’s a new generation of fighters out there and so is our maverick. He could be up there on that muddy rock,” Jones said.

“X43? You know he is, but what about the girl?”

“As far as I know, the Warrior is watching over her. Where they are right now, I don’t know…”

“Well Jones, we are going to need a Warrior if you want this to be a success…”

“I know Hendricks, I know. We need a whole bunch of them. The World Force worked because of the Warrior support we had. Right now, we need to get our Maverick, that’s if Lucius turned out to be right.”

*                      *                      *

“I’ll be brief soldier…” Major Garcia braced while a nearby thudding explosion shook the muddy ground of X43. Her Gunnery regiment stood huddled around in a covering cluster of rocks, this included their three new recruits.

Jack stood front and centre. He listened in over the distant sound of battle which seemed to close in around them.

“Now here’s our line.” Garcia turned and glanced at the upward slope leading to battle. Men and women soldiers struggled to push back attacking robots.

“Receding at every moment,” she mumbled and pulled out a long battle knife from her belt. In one motion she sliced a horizontal line in the brown clay type rock surface.

“Over that hill and across the way is another line.” Again, she sliced a parallel line above the first.

“The ‘supposed robot rebellion’ have a line of mobile artillery trucks. They move around and to wherever we drop troops.”

Jack watched her carving five crosses above the top line.

“They were responsible for taking out your regiment. Our job is to take them out before they move on…”

The whole area shook violently. Clumps of mud rained down on the group. An artillery shot landed dangerously near. The ground rumbled and dust rode the wind briefly thickening the air with a thick dusty haze.

“As you can see, they are still in town. If you want to make yourself a hero kid, then the job is yours to take them out. All you gotta do is run in there and place some explosive charges,” the Major explained.

A cluster of her troops turned towards the hill. More and more robots appeared.

“Bullet meat at twelve o clock,” Connolly shouted. He pushed through everyone and began to lead a group of soldiers. They began to fire up towards incoming robots.

“So this is a suicide mission, right?” Jack asked. He knew there probably wasn’t a choice in backing out now.

Garcia wiped the knife on her leg and holstered it.

“Right. As I said your more than capable of this Thorn. Maybe you’ll even earn yourself a star on that chest of yours,” she shouted over more gunfire.

“Like me.” She revealed a covering shroud just above her chest nameplate. It revealed two faded gold stars.

Thorn nodded. He slipped into his own mind momentarily and to a truth where he was a guy in his mid-twenties who never really amounted to anything. The calling he would come to realise faced him. Major Garcia’s words led him out of the brief trance.

“You wanna be someone in this world you gotta work for it. We’ll crush this offensive and then call in an airstrike of extraction gas. That stuff takes down anything that moves within a thousand-yard radius. You run in as the gas drops, place a charge at each gun and get your ass out of there. Jefferson?”

Garcia called to a soldier carrying an armoured rucksack. He looked up to her and Thorn through a set of goggle style glasses.

“Here are the charges. Five in total for five artillery placements.” Jefferson took out a pipe shaped oval ended device from the sack.

“You pull and twist. This red band will light up and indicate it being armed.” He shoved the bag into Thorn who shouldered it.

“Have you got comms?” Jefferson then asked. He gripped Thorn’s left wrist and took a closer look at his robust commy.

“We’re on battle channel ten. Sync your commy and we can talk. When you place the final charge call it in,” he said.

“What do I do then?” Jack asked. He tapped on the commy screen a few times as Jefferson began to usher him forward.

“You run the hell out of there,” Garcia shouted. She charged past him and joined in on the gun fire.

“Evasive forward movement!” She waved for everyone to move over the hill. They began to push back the incoming robots.

“You sure about this Jack?” Steve Franco asked giving Jack that all familiar mischievous look.

“Nope but that’s why we joined this damn war, to do something with our lives.”

Franco nodded and cracked a half smile. This wasn’t the first time their comradery got them through a situation.

“Hey, I enjoyed driving buses back home. If you weren’t gonna do this, I probably would. I guess I can’t always be that semi-coward friend who follows you into all types of shit,” Franco added with Thorn managing a momentary smile.

“Just cover me, you and Connolly are good shots, the others, I’m not so sure.” Jack marched forward.

“I guess that’s a compliment…” Franco waved him off.

Jack rushed out from the cluster of soldiers and up the hill. He looked out towards the next horizon. It stood closer than he realised, and this was happening sooner than he wanted.

“Spread out and cover our man Thorn,” Garcia ordered. She fired towards an unarmed robot.

The soldiers fanned out and took back the hill with Jack running out front. He saw the expanse of a now empty battlefield and in his ear came a crackling from his commy. The incoming audio travelled up his wrist and though the body using advanced frequency to sound like a clear phone call.

“Thorn, this is Jefferson testing comms do you hear me?”

“Yeah,” he said and looked to see Jefferson moving toward him.

“These explosives are inconvenient to carry,” he added.

“Ok that’s the communications link working. I’m gonna go ahead and call in for the air strike,” Jefferson said.

Thorn watched as Jefferson turned.

“…is Jefferson of the second gunnery requesting a strike of extraction gas. Our area code is ‘AOE, and position, silver’. I repeat our code is ‘AOE, and position silver’.”

“Affirmative, target has not moved,” he added. After a moment he faced Thorn and shouted to everyone.

“It’s coming in!” Jefferson signalled to his fellow soldiers who looked up to him waving.

“Make us proud Thorn,” Garcia shouted.

The next horizon seemed further away to Thorn this time and at the very edge were five blocks of grey. The artillery. He looked up to the thick clouds above. A droning whine flew overhead followed by a strike of what looked like lightning. It rained down on the horizon with a flash. A billowing array of smoke began to rise.

“That’s your queue Thorn, go!” Jefferson ordered.

Thorn began to sprint towards the smoke and towards the unknown…

End of Part 1 

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…

READ PART 2 HERE

 

Copyright 2004 – 2019 ‘Jack Thorn’ and ‘The Thorn Legacy’ Written By Lee Hall 2019 All rights reserved.  

Weekly Ramble #27

Dreams are weird. There are so many people (probably all of us at some point in time) that say we want to do something and never get there. The amount of variables that surround us at one time deny us of achieving that dream or cut it short, then there’s the whole deep down fear of can I really do this which is in turn followed by do I want this?

Fear can keep dreams from being achieved. Even I’ve suffered from being somewhat scared of what people think. Coming out as a writer in 2012 was the biggest plunge into the unknown I have ever taken. Many around me still aren’t convinced, and that’s fine, opinions are allowed and this has always been a one person at a time deal. Overall it fuels me to prove what I am and what I will achieve. Then again I don’t really care what people think of my work, I do it because it makes me feel free in this world where we are all confined. To be able to create is to feel free and to to feel free is to truly live.

I’ve found my freedom in writing stories and building worlds. I first did this when I was 12 years old and haven’t ever thought twice about not wanting to write.

Success is another variable that combines itself with fear to keep us from getting to our dream. What if nobody likes my stuff? What if I don’t sell any copies? What if writing a book isn’t a success?

The biggest personal achievement in writing is simply being able to write ‘The End’ when you finish a project. Everything else, the hard stuff, comes later and actually doesn’t really matter. I’ve found that out gradually. Reviews are great and I am so damn grateful for the ones I have, sales also mean a lot along with social media follows and interaction. I have met and know so many awesome wordsmith people and bloggers along with readers. All of that is material compared to being able to say you wrote and finished a book. There are so many people out there who say they tried but never got there. The true success and achievements in writing come from where everything else does in writing. Our ability to write, our sustainability is creating, our editing skills, our scope for characters, theme, settings, characters, all of it comes from within.

I have an excellent memory, even though I work shift at the moment and that’s a sure fire way to frazzle some cells; I still remember the story that brought me to this point. After all these years, I still remember being 12 years old facing a windows 98 computer and writing a story about robots in the future called Jack Thorn. It’s not just some empty one dimensional action story and in the very preliminary stages it may seem like an out of date male lead character fest, but it isn’t and that’s the beauty of it. Jack Thorn isn’t just about Jack Thorn, it’s about humanity, equality, family, destiny and prophecy.

I know that story because I have carried it with me since then. It is my dream, and sometimes they can be weird.

(Jack Thorn – a science fiction story of the future will premiere on Thursday the 14th of March in serialized form on this very blog.)