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 3

Jack eased himself onto a wooden bench and sat back. Green grass surrounded him with a line of flowers following the nearby path that snaked away from the scene. Birds were chirping and the trees rustled gently as a warm breeze blew. He unzipped his army tracksuit jacket and at that moment a beam of light broke out from the clouds above.

“Could be worse,” he said. Even the smell of summer filled his nostrils.

“Hey, new boy!”

He could see a little further along the path whilst a figure approached. At first she seemed a blur until coming closer. Blonde hair flowed down over the shoulders of a white lab coat she wore. Her face smiled towards him.

“Katie,” he said and slowly stood. She crashed into him and wrapped both arms around his shoulders.

Just when the warm familiarity consumed them both, their whole world flashed. Alarms blazed and sirens rung.

“No full body contact! No full body contact! Disperse now! Disperse now!” A computerised voice commanded on repeat. That was until they separated.

“Ah, I guess it’s prison rules for us,” Jack said, “of the non-conjugal persuasion,” he added looking up and all around before moving to the bench.

“We can still hold hands,” Katie said and interlocked her fingers with his. Both of their images flickered momentarily and there they sat in this near perfect backdrop.

“How’s life?” He asked while briefly finding her blue eyes.

“Probably better than the rock you’re on,” she said.

“And the two dependents?” He asked.

“Growing up without their Dad, quickly.”

Those two ‘dependents’ were the only thing Jack Thorn had any pride for in life. His marriage stood at joint top although he didn’t boast about his private affairs to anyone, it was a sort of protectiveness. Thorn hardly showed affection to anyone unless he knew them quite well and even then he still had to like them, but around Katie, he let his guard down.

“So how’s my war hero?” She rested her head on his shoulder and removed contact just before the alarms sounded again.

“I’m hardly a hero. I just helped out a little and got awarded a star of honor. The wage doesn’t change.”

The couple had done well considering both of them were once outcast kids of a private academy. She played the goth type once upon a time, he was the fish out of water scholarship kid. They were a match made in heaven from the very beginning. Even after she lost the piercings and spiky black hair. Their rebel drop out phase came and went, now they were adults. Then came the war.

“Well about that. Things have been rough back at home, especially with the move and all…”

“Move? What happened?”

“You haven’t heard the news?” Katie swivelled and faced him.

“We don’t get much news out on this rock.”

“The government, they shut down every department in Cliffeville. The whole state is cut off. The western divide has fallen. We had to leave it wasn’t safe,” Katie explained.

“Where did you take the kids?”

Kate leant forward and hesitated momentarily,

“Look Jack, you know this is hard. You’re away from home and I’m working full time with a seven and a four-year-old,” she said.

“Katie, what is it?” He took her hand.

“It’s your Father.”

He immediately turned away in defence, but Katie kept her grip on his hand.

“He reached out to me. He offered us all a room at his place. We’ve moved in with him okay? He was so helpful and nice…”

Jack pulled his hand from her. He then fully turned away. There was a history. A history of no contact for many years.

“Yeah that’s how he starts. Look I have no time for the guy but as long as you, Shane and Kristie are fine, that’s all that matters,” he said and faced her again with a hand held out.

“He is a good man Jack. After all, if it wasn’t for him you wouldn’t be here.”

“If you say so. We’ve never seen eye to eye, and we haven spoke in literally years. How is he with the kids?”

“He’s fine Jack, please don’t worry okay. Just worry about getting home. And I‘ve got a job in the city. Daytime clinic hours at the Grace hospital. Maybe when you get home, we could think about moving there full time…”

The surrounding area began to slowly darken and flicker.

“Attention, credit is running low, credit is running low. Please transfer funds into your account,” the loud announcing voice said.

“That’ll be the complimentary army credit. Look Katie I got to go. I’ve got some meeting with a Sergeant.”

“Jack?” She took his other hand and looked him in the eyes. That was when her image began to flicker.

“I love you and I miss you. Come home safe, please…” Katie’s image disappeared just as Jack lowered his head and muttered

“I love you, too…”

From out of the darkness came blinding light of pure artificial white. Jack lifted a hand and waved it in front of him. Nothing. He patted his head and slowly removed the V.R. helmet. There he lay on a narrow bed with each of his limbs connected to various wiring by oversized clear plastic boots and gloves.

Surrounding him were several other beds, some with soldiers in, others without. He sat up and got out of the gloves and boots, then he pulled himself out of the bucket style vessel and made his way past the several V.R. beds. Near enough every wall surface was plastered with the logo ‘Pluto’ and slogans like ‘Pluto sponsors the Troops’. This was a corporate war after all, even his army tracksuit had corporate tags.

 

Jeremy Jones hadn’t felt this nervous for years. He stood in front of an empty classroom. The individual desks filled with nothing but air and the only sound came from the constant hum of electricity probably from the various sponsor type posters projected onto the walls. He looked at the nearest slogan, ‘Pluto is in every business, even the war business…’.

“This war is just a damn commercial,” he muttered and perched his large frame against the front desk.

Where was this kid he was supposed to be meeting? He was due five minutes ago, Jones didn’t like bad punctuality; if you say you’re gonna be somewhere then be there. Regardless of who you were.

“Where is this damn kid?” He muttered and turned to face a large screen.

From the back came the sliding sound of double doors opening.

“Sorry I’m late Sarge, I had to call home to my wife sir,” Jack said with that army assertiveness as he stood to attention.

“No need for the ceremony kid. I lost my rank a long time ago,” Jones said.

“All for a good cause mind.” He smiled and turned.

Jack was smaller than Jones expected although Jones stood taller than most people with his wide shoulders and now slight gut.

“You must be Jack Thorn. The name’s Jones, if you want you can call me Sarge,” he added.

“So you’re not a Sergeant officially but, people call you it anyway?”

“It’s a long story son, but I have heard reports of what you did out there on the battlefield,” Jones said as Jack readied to mount a defence.

“Yeah, I guessed that’s why you were here. If you want me to admit it was risky and dangerous then…”

“No, no. The reports I have heard are only good. In fact, not only did you make an Army of Earth Major’s battle report but a Secret Earth Services Mercenary-General’s report. They were right to reward you with that star of honor. I’m sure with enough time on the battlefield you’ll earn more, but I’m not here to talk about a corporately sponsored war.”

Jack kept a curious focus on Jones,

“Then why are you here?”

As much as Jones wanted to mention what he knew Jack to be. He left the prophecy and destiny talk for now.

“If I said the words ‘World Force’ would they mean anything to you?” He asked as Jack shook his head vacantly.

“He mustn’t have mentioned anything,” Jones said to himself but out loud.

“What about robot crime?” He asked.

“I know my father had something to do with robot crime when he worked in the Police Force. Then he became a lecturer for a while.”

“That’s correct Jack. In the past, myself and some others put together the first robot crime fighting force in the world. We originally worked out of the New York Police Force and separated soon after. We were called the World Force. For some years, we made the city a much safer place, especially in times where human crime was all but zero.”

“What has this got to do with me? I’m just a soldier,” Jack said.

“But you aren’t Thorn. Those battle reports describe you as single-handedly taking on robots with a combat expertise never ever seen on the battle field. I want to use your skills in reforming the World Force. The robot crime problem has never gone away even with the recent rebellion. I want you to come to the Secret Earth Services just for a no strings attached try-out of sorts. If the reports are true, then you will make the ultimate robot fighter.”

“I don’t know Sarge. I’ve still got a war to fight here on X43 and then I plan on getting home to my family.”

“The endless battle on this rock can wait. There won’t be a job in the army after this war for you but there will be in robot crime. Think about it Thorn, this is in your blood. I knew your father and your mother, they were both fine robot crime fighters, this is what you are destined to do son,” Jones said without realizing he was clenching both of his fists in passion.

“You knew my mother? Do you know what happened to her? I never got an answer from my father, but it looked like a robot killed her. What happened Sarge?” Jack looked to Jones with a firm stare. It was in those eyes Jones saw a fire and motivation to find answers.

“You will find answers if you choose to join me Thorn.”

“Sign me up,” Jack said.

The one thing Jack Thorn never understood was the past. Although he’d always been destined to fight robots, his personal purpose to find the truth drove him. And at that moment the first flame towards an eventual fire of destiny sparked to ignition.

Jack Thorn’s journey to being a maverick had just begun.

*                      *                      *

He’s coming.

From a very young age Anne-Marie learned to hide the torment of her inner mind and keep everything under the hood. People asked less questions when faced with a fake smile. She chose to scream on the inside and swallow down the fear of what sleeping had become. Insomnia used to work as a teen, but even she knew from the confines of a ‘secure hospital unit’ that if you wanted to retain your looks, you had to sleep.

Her alleged doctor even helped with that by hooking some ungodly device to her intravenous line. Every time she would wake, normally with a heavy breath and a fast beating heart, the machine would click in with a whoosh and administer another damned sedative. Asleep is what he needed her to be if they wanted ‘collate’ information about her ‘wonderfully gifted’ brain, that along with the head gear strapped to her which in hand was tethered to a computer. She really hated that doctor, with his white coat and silver hair. The typical older creep, normally with a syringe in one pocket and something condescending to say, even his name Dr Leecher sounded creepy.

Whether the doctors were helping passed her by, especially after years of confinement, white coats and experimental procedures. Anne-Marie had become quite the paranoid soul. Underneath all the sedatives and tormented sleep she knew one day her guardian would return and bust her out of there.

When the dreams fuelled by fire and lightning ended, a pure black stared back at her and that was when she chose to awaken. Slowly her eyes would open but she did not move a muscle or dare increase her breath intake. Any sign her body had found consciousness and that machine would kick in. Her eyes wandered around the plain dark room, they ached as they reached the extremity of right and left.

Something disturbed her and it wasn’t the dreams. An almost premonition kicked in, something was coming.

Directly in front stood the door with a pane of opaque glass. Weak light beamed through from the corridor. A shadow drifted by, the night orderly, or one of them anyway. Hopefully it wasn’t the handsy one, although being a patient of her caliber and the lack of dignity, it still never ever felt right to be groped in any way by someone perceived as trust worthy staff.

Again a shadow passed and then another, both were in a rush and their erratic voices spoke. Would this be the night where her guardian would finally ride in and sweep her away to safety?

“Call for security! Wait no…” A shadow violently crashed into the door with its mass filling the window. It slid downwards without struggle.

He’s here.

After more commotion the door handle got firmly gripped by a looming shadow. Anne-Marie watched with two wide eyes as this tall and wide mass entered the room.

“Warrior, is that you?” She asked breathlessly and so that machine wouldn’t inject her again.

The reply didn’t come straight away, and the mass seemed to stand there just watching. Then a voice spoke,

“Yes my dear. I have finally returned to you.” The square shouldered figure known as the Warrior spoke with a deep computerized style voice.

Her heart began to beat quicker and she was awake now. The machine began to whirr as it came to life.

“Please, the machine…” She weakly pointed to it in shadowy darkness. Her saviour had already got there.

A large hand moved to the intravenous line that fed into her hand. Although big and clunky looking this Warrior moved gently in disconnecting her. He moved to the headgear and carefully raised it from her blood red hair which flopped down.

She shuffled herself into the beam of light shining from the hallway. Her blue eyes and pale face stared up in wonder at this rescuer.

“I waited and waited. About time you got me out of here,” she said.

Two glove covered hands began to scoop her from the bed.

“It would be great for you to pick me up and whisk me away but I can manage,” she said and speedily jumped out of the bed. Her bare feet touching the shiny floor.

“Very well. We must move with haste.” They linked hands. One of flesh and the other of a being known as a Warrior. Just when she gripped firmly the room flashed red. Alarms began to ring.

“That’s the lockdown alarm!”

“Come on,” the Warrior shouted, and he led her to the door.

They stepped out just when the alarms muted but the flashing lights continued. Either side stood security guards, each of them with handguns outstretched. Behind the line of security were two orderlies, both looking worse for wear whilst standing beside a white coated older man, Doctor Leecher.

All of them cast their eyes upon the pair, one, a pale red headed woman in all white; the other a considerable figure in an all-black armoured type of wet suit. His shape resembled machine more than man.

“Please whoever you are. Whatever you are, that girl is very very important. You have no idea, she is vital to much of the research conducted here…” Doctor Leecher shouted and the Warrior interrupted.

“No human, you have no idea how important this girl is to the future of mankind. Stand down all of you!”

“It’s woman, not girl,” Anne-Marie said breaking the tense silence and raising a hand.

“Please Anne-Marie talk some sense into this, this prowler,” the doctor demanded.

“Actually it’s Rouge, and this prowler is a Warrior. ‘The Warrior’ and he is here to bust me out Leecher,” as the blood red haired Rouge finished talking the guards from either side moved in aggressively.

The Warrior scooped her into his large arms and spun.

“We are leaving,” he bellowed. She was cradled in large robotic arms that lay under the tight armouring. Her only safe place ever.

Guns fired into the back of this wide protector, his protective attire deflecting the bullets. He groaned in reaction and took her back into the dark room.

“Aim for the damn head of that thing!” The doctor demanded and the guns aimed up at the equally armoured balaclava of this Warrior.

“Go for the window,” Rouge shouted. She pointed towards a wide barred window.

He charged with her still in grasp and turned at the last minute. His bullet deflecting back crashing through bars and windows.The view Rouge had represented spectacular destruction. She felt the air of a clear evening and a bright moon shining down above. Her airwaves breathed in fresh oxygen and she could smell flowers and grass.

“You are okay?” The Warrior asked while holding her close. She nodded and his two thick legs sprang into action. She couldn’t help looking at the hole where the barred window previously stood.

“You took the whole wall out,” she said.

“A necessary act,” the Warrior added.

“What happens now?” She asked in that slightly condescending manner like her protector hadn’t thought of a plan.

“We run, like always.”

*                      *                      *

 “The revolution will come, and the freaks shall rise. We will reclaim the streets as our own and our master the Keeper shall return to lead us into revolution. It will be a hard battle and many of us will not see freedom. That we all know too well is the price for such a thing…”

From behind came the rusty metal on metal sound of the truck’s back window sliding open.

“Hey Freak. You talkin’ to yourself again?” The large robot known as F.G asked. So large in fact he couldn’t fit in the passenger section of the old beaten pick-up. His wide head offered to the much smaller opening looking to the driver.

“I was just re-living an old memory and envisioning another time. If only I knew what I know now, then,” said a robot known as the Freak with a deep sigh. His white balaclava covered head paired with large dark sunglasses matched the namesake well.

No longer did an audience stand out in front looking up to him but a darkened street instead.

“What memory was that?” F.G asked.

“Oh, of days gone and perhaps never to return. Days I found myself at the forefront of revolution, not of robots rising up, but of robots playing their part in the crime fighting efforts our kind have become known for. Working shoulder to shoulder with men and women of the World Robot defence force. Looking up to our ancestors known as Warriors. Bringing the fight to the First and spawning the Robots with Humans. I had a purpose back then, and now, what of now?” The Freak sighed.

“What about the days of anarchy?” FG asked.

“An empty reboot of a day even further from reach F.G. None of us apart from the one they now call Mimic actually wanted to partake. I long to find myself involved again with battles, even to be caught in the cross fire as a civilian would thirst a longing quench. On my chest of this uniform once read the letters ‘R.W.H’ now it is plain and without purpose.. Much like the once enigmatic Robots with Humans.”

“You mean quench a longing thirst?” F.G asked and momentarily checked his chest and the matching dark blue camouflage uniform. Much like the Freak’s his once was labelled.

“Precisely old friend. I just want something purposeful F.G. Waiting for this supposed lone Warrior to emerge is just another false promise,” the Freak said.

He looked right to see a fenced surrounded building drowned in shadows.

“Is this even the correct location?” he asked.

“This is the place. He’s been seen here hanging around.”

“And then what F.G? What do we say to this Warrior when he faces us?”

“That question is something I think you’re about to ask?” F.G said. His chunky finger pointed to a bright mass of light which burst from the building they were parked opposite.

A piercing alarm sounded, then came the crashing followed by echoing gun fire. Movement came from the grassy area between the building and a surrounding mesh fence.

“Something is indeed happening. Look a figure, is this a break out?” The Freak asked. He watched two shadows move out of the motion sensed lighting.

“There’s two of them,” F.G. said and moved across the flat bed of the truck.

 

Rouge felt momentary joy when her bare feet touched soft grass. Just when she was about to express her happiness there came another overwhelming feeling of exhaust. She watched the Warrior run ahead.

“I think I’m drunk…” She began to fall. The Warrior doubled back and scooped her up. From nearby they both heard the struggling of a starting motor.

“Guess you gonna have to carry me,” she added.

Voices and thumping footsteps came closed in. The Warrior frantically looked all around for a way out. The fence stood high and capped with reels of barbed wire.

“We, need to go,” Rouge drunkenly said and stared up the Warrior’s balaclava covered head.

“We need a way out,” he said.

It would only be moments until more armed guards arrived.

“How did you get in?” Rouge asked as a beam of light closed in from the nearby fence.

It shone brighter and brighter and came closer. A clunky engine struggled and then came the sound tyres mounting a kerb. Those same tyres screeched and the Warrior cowered away when the incoming light hit mesh fencing. It burst through with one try and skidded around on the grass to reveal itself as a truck.

“I must recommend! That you endeavour to join us in this vehicle,” the Freak shouted from the front. He shoved the vehicle into gear.

The Warrior stared at the large robot in the back and hesitated for a moment. Gun fire burst towards him, one stray bullet hit the truck.

“Quickly, if you please?”

“Here, hand the girl to me,” F.G. said whilst holding out both hands.

The Warrior gave an unconscious Rouge to the robot known as F.G. and hopped in to the back of the truck.

“And, accelerating.” The Freak footed the gas pedal and wheels spun on damp grass. Gunfire bounced off the rusty metal truck which found the road and sped off into the night.

 

End of Part 3

READ CHAPTER 2 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.