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Rated: 13+ · Novella · Sci-fi · #1518254
An ordinary man finds himself thrust into a mysterious and deadly chain of events.
*Author's note: These are the first three chapters of what I intend to be a novella.  It's my first stab at fiction.  Hope you enjoy it!


“A man can do all things if he will” - Leon Battista Alberti


The guard’s hand dropped to his gun.  Moving with a speed he’d never known he had, Liam closed the distance between himself and the man.  As the guard raised his pistol, Liam caught the barrel in the palm of his left hand.  Using the force of his momentum, he dropped his right shoulder into the guard’s sternum, simultaneously spinning left to yank the gun from the man’s grasp.

Caught off guard by his opponent's sudden display of dexterity, the guard grunted as the wind was knocked from his chest.  He flew backwards several feet, landed on his back and was knocked unconscious by the unforgiving tile of the cold, stone floor. 

Liam looked down at the gun in his hand, awestruck by the lethal efficiency he had just demonstrated. The cold metal against his palm left him momentarily paralyzed. 

Then he dropped the gun and ran.

Chapter 1

Liam Rowe removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes with his thumb and middle finger.  Tonight had been yet another long night in his long week as BioTech's on-call informatics technician.  Human beings had spent the last hundred years creating complex technologies to simplify every facet of human life only to have their complex devices inadvertently crash during the wee hours of the night.

He yawned at the irony.

“It beats the bread line,” he muttered to himself, reseating his glasses on the bridge of his nose.  As long as the system was susceptible to human error his services would stay in demand. 

He glanced at his watch in the pale glow of the computer screen. 2:54 A.M.  His on-call duties wouldn’t excuse him from his normal 9 to 5 work hours at BioTech.  Once the system finished reconfiguration he removed his pin drive from the computer and returned it to the slot in his iComm.

He swiveled his seat around to face the two other men in the room.  Clad in matching white lab coats they could have been two snowmen feverishly discussing the impending doom of the coming spring.  But Liam knew that was far from the case.  They were deeply absorbed in some scientific conundrum that he probably couldn’t comprehend if they spent the next six hours explaining it to him in full detail. 

Perhaps that’s for the best, he thought. Ignorance and bliss make excellent bedfellows.

“You’re up and running,” he announced rising from his chair. He gathered his equipment and slung his satchel over his shoulder.  “I left my card on the keyboard should any more issues arise.”

One of the snowmen glanced in his direction and formed an “OK” sign with a latex gloved hand.  Just as abruptly he returned his attention to his partner.

“Don’t worry about a tip,” Liam quipped making his way to the exit.  “And no need to inconvenience yourselves.  I’ll let myself out.”

He made his way through the labyrinth of tunnels that comprised the third sub-level of the BioTech building.  The bottom sub-levels were notoriously restricted.  A lot of government dollars disappeared into the lower halls of BioTech.  Liam had been working informatics at BioTech for nearly 8 years and even his security access stopped at sub-level 4.  That was where the real cloak and dagger activities took place.  Genetic reconfiguration, biomechanical weapons systems. CIA, NSA, 007 stuff. At least that was the speculation being manufactured around the water cooler.

The truth of the matter was anyone who didn’t have access to the area had no idea.  And anyone who did have access found it in their best interest to keep that information to themselves. Liam considered himself lucky.  Unlike many of his colleagues he wasn’t pestered by the desire to know. 

He paused in the yellow-green glow of the corridor.  The hallway was cavernous; totally silent if not for the monotonous hum of the halogen bulbs lining the ceiling.  It always bothered him how dreadfully silently it was this far underground.

Fishing in the pocket of his satchel he retrieved a wireless ear bud. He placed it in his left ear, selected a song on his iComm and resumed the search for the other bud.  His fingers stumbled upon it just as the Beach Boys began to define Good Vibrations. 

As he went to place the second bud in his ear he heard a sound that froze his hand.  It was a familiar sound.  A crackle that brought a flashback to his mind of innocent laughter and childhood summers on the banks of the Potomac …  Fireworks!

Impossible, he thought, plucking the other bud from his ear.  Pyrotechnics had been banned from the city nearly nine years ago in the fiery aftermath of New Years 2012.  And a quarter mile under ground nonetheless?  Despite the improbability of it he stood frozen, focusing his ears for anything other than the droll electric hum radiating from the overhead lights.

After several moments of silence he shrugged it off.  Perhaps sleep deprivation has finally taken its toll on your sanity, he thought to himself.  But as he raised the headphones to his ears he heard it again. Louder this time, coming from behind.


He whirled around just in time to see the fire doors at the end of the hallway burst open.  An old man of roughly seventy came stumbling through, bracing his hand against the wall as he moved.  He wore a snowman lab coat, but the pristine white was spotted with crimson throughout the torso. 


“Oh my God,” Liam said moving towards him. “Are you OK?”

The old man’s knees were weak.  He stumbled and nearly fell, but Liam caught him by the pits of his arms. He stared down at this frail old man on the verger of death. “What happened to you?”

“Dee... yanna,” the man wheezed, looking down at his blood stained body. 

Liam feared the man was losing consciousness. “Who is DeeAna?” 

The old man didn’t answer.  Instead he retrieved a plastic card from his lab coat.  Blood soaked; he placed it in Liam’s hand. 

“Take DeeAna… to…India…” Bright red spittle left his lips as he spoke, striking Liam on the cheek and causing him to turn his face and grimace. When he did this the old man pressed something cold and plastic against the exposed flesh of his neck.  There was a hiss of air and a slight sting to his skin; A vascular injector?

“Son of a…” Liam started, turning again to face the man. “What the Hell was that?  What did you just shoot me with?”

“Take DeeAna… to… India,” the man repeated.  He placed his hands on Liam chest and pushed him back with far too much strength for an old man on the edge of death.  It must have taken whatever energy he had left.  He buckled and fell to the floor on his hands and knees. 

“I can’t go to India,” Liam stammered.  His head was spinning with adrenaline. 

The old man glared up at him with fierce determination. “You must… go now.”

“But I can't leave you here. You need medical attention,”

“Go,” the man persisted.

“But... I…”


The old man’s final word echoed through the corridor as the fire doors burst open again.

Chapter 2

Several men entered the door this time.  Wearing what Liam first perceived to be wetsuits.  All he could make out were their silhouettes. Their bodies were shrouded in a darkness that seemed to bend and absorb the light of the tunnel, making it difficult for him to determine how many of them there were.  Their appearance was two dimensional, like shadows against a wall.

Red beams of light reached out from their collective darkness; cutting perfect lines through the hallway that terminated against the walls in tiny dancing circles; Laser sights.

Liam whirled in place, the old man’s words echoing in his mind.


He took flight down the corridor as the crackle of gunfire erupted behind him.  Fireworks.  How could he have been so naïve?  Now that mistake was going to cost him his life.  He could feel the lasers taking flawless aim against his back. 

He cut left at the first junction in the hallway.  There was an elevator at the end of the passage.  He sprinted towards it without a backward glance, silently praying that the cab would be waiting.

He pressed the up button and the elevator chimed a beautiful response.  Liam slid between the doors before they could fully open and jammed repeatedly on the button for the lobby.  He could hear the voices of the shadow men now, shouting in the corridor.  The doors stood ajar in stubborn procrastination.  One of the shadows rounded the corner, the crimson beam of his weapon searching desperately for a target.

The elevator chimed again as if suddenly remembering its purpose.  Liam pressed himself against the side of the car as the doors slowly converged.  A red circle appeared on the elevator’s back wall and abruptly disappeared as the doors came together.  Bullets pelted the metal causing Liam to cringe in fear.

The elevator began its slow ascent to the main floor.  He opened his eyes, hoping to find himself in the comfort of his bed, awakened from a bad dream.  But looking toward the door he saw it pocked with indentations from the assault.  His heart was pounding against his chest.  This nightmare was real.

The elevator chimed again, and again Liam pressed himself to the wall of the cab as firmly as he could manage.  Once the doors had opened fully he peered cautiously around the corner. The passage to the lobby was clear. 

Clutching his satchel against his side he bolted toward the main entrance.  He had to inform BioTech security. But how could they not already be aware?  And why were there no alarms?  Perhaps they were silent, he thought.  He had never heard any security alarms in the past.  But BioTech had never had a security breech in his 8 year tenure. At least not that he was aware of.

Reaching the door that led into the lobby he paused and peered through the one-way glass.  Seated behind the information desk was a lone security guard.  His feet were propped on the counter as he stared into the nothingness of the early morning.  Liam pressed the release button and the door hissed as it slid open.  The guard glanced back over his shoulder as Liam ran into the room. 

Perhaps sensing the urgency on his visitor’s face the guard swung his seat around and rose to his feet.  “Is everything alright, sir?”

Liam didn’t recognize the man.  But with the tediousness of the job, BioTech security had a turnover rate that could rival a fast food chain.  He stopped a few feet in front of the guard and rested his hands on his knees.  “Sub level…3,” he panted, out of breath.  “There are men with guns…  A man’s been shot.” 

The guard’s silence allowed Liam to catch his breath.  Glancing up he noticed the immaculate gleam of the man’s belt buckle.  It was an old fashioned cowboy buckle; oversized, with two silver revolvers on either side of a golden star.  He rose and looked the man in the eye.  Emotionless, the guard held his gaze for a beat past comfortable. Then his face lit up with a devilish grin.

In one fluid motion he drew his sidearm from its holster and trained it on Liam’s chest.  “Not… exactly,” he whispered in a playful southern drawl.  “Two men have been shot.”

Liam closed his eyes as the gunshot boomed in the open space of the lobby.  He exhaled his final breath and flinched at the expectation of the burning round that would mark the end of his life. He held his eyes closed for what felt like all eternity.  But surprisingly the pain he expected never came.

When he managed the courage to open his eyes he found himself panting, his hands resting on his knees.  His head was throbbing rhythmically. That old bastard must have shot him full of some kind of hallucinogen.  Catching his breath he glanced up at the security guard in front of him. His glance was met by the gleam of a golden star flanked by two silver revolvers. 

Nervously, Liam rose to meet the man’s eye.  The guard gave a stare devoid of emotion.

Then his face lit up with a devilish grin.

Chapter 3

The guard’s hand dropped to his gun.  Moving with a speed he’d never known he had, Liam closed the distance between himself and the man.  As the guard raised his pistol, Liam caught the barrel in the palm of his left hand.  Using the force of his momentum, he dropped his right shoulder into the guard’s sternum, simultaneously spinning left to yank the gun from the man’s grasp.

Caught off guard by his opponent's sudden display of dexterity, the guard grunted as the wind was knocked from his chest.  He flew backwards several feet, landed on his back and was knocked unconscious by the unforgiving tile of the cold, stone floor. 

Liam looked down at the gun in his hand, awestruck by the lethal efficiency he had just demonstrated. The cold metal against his palm left him momentarily paralyzed.

Then he dropped the gun and ran for the exit.

Outside, the bitter December air made him curse himself for forgetting his jacket.  He trotted carefully across the ice laden parking lot toward his car. The wind was howling as it made its way through the landscape.  He weaved between the cars, glancing repeatedly over his shoulder.  Where had he parked?  The parking lot was a blur. 

He removed his glasses and wiped his face with the sleeve of his shirt.  When he looked out again he was surprised at how clear his vision was.  He had worn glasses since childhood, and even with them his eyesight had never been this sharp.  He raised his glasses to his eyes and winced at the nauseating blur they created.  Tucking them into his breast pocket he spotted his car on the far end of the lot.  Never had his ‘019 Cadillac looked so good. 

He swiped his bracelet against the key sensor.  The door responded with a click, popping open as the lock disengaged  Climbing into the driver’s seat he tossed his bag onto the seat beside him.  “On.” he commanded.  The old car sprung to life around him, adjusting the seat and steering wheel to his preset configuration. 

“Good morning, Liam,” announced the onboard computer in its dainty female voice.  “The time is 3:23 AM.  Current temperature is 22 degrees.”  Liam jabbed his foot against the accelerator.  The tires squealed as the car sped out of the lot.

Clutching the steering wheel tightly, his eyes darted back and forth between the road and the rearview display.  Whoever the men were, he appeared to have lost them. His head was still throbbing from excitement.  His neck was afire were the old man had injected him.  He raised his hand to it. The site of the injection was tender and swollen.  He dropped the visor and craned his neck to examine it in the vanity mirror.  There was a magnificent red welt the size of a quarter. 

“What the fuck just happened?”  He asked his reflection.  The man in the mirror was as clueless as himself.  Looking down at his right hand he realized it still held the bloody card the man had given him.  He wiped it clear with his thumb. 

It was a BioTech identification card.  There was a stern faced picture of the old man staring ominously up at him.  He read the inscription. 

Dr. Aramis Csuka. Senior Advanced Neurological Biotechnology Research Engineer.

“That’s quite a title,” Liam said to the little man in the picture.  He pressed the iDrive button on the center console.  There was a mechanical whir as the steering wheel retracted itself against the dash board. 

“Please state your destination,” the computer requested.

“Home,” he replied removing his MacBook from the satchel beside him.

“Estimated time of arrival: four twenty fi-“

“Mute computer,” he interrupted, his hands moving over the keyboard like two spiders across a wall.  The feminine voice halted abruptly.

He googled Aramis Csuka, hoping to get a hit on such an unusual name.  The search engine brought back paydirt.  Over 100,000 hits. Apparently Dr. Csuka had led quite a notable life.

Liam traveled from link to link gathering as much information about the man as he could.  Indian in descent, he had attended Yale School of Medicine as an exchange student before receiving his citizenship in the 1990s.  Renowned for his extraordinary advancements in neurotechnology he was a frequent speaker at universities, fundraisers and general meetings of great minds throughout the world.  His research in Brain-Computer Interfaces had been the catalyst for the cures of both blindness and autism. 

The fact that he had never heard of the man gave Liam a sting of inadequacy.  He sat back in his seat and closed his eyes, adding this new information to the complex series of events unfolding around him.  He massaged his temples in attempt to clear his mind.

He had just witnessed an assassination.  That much he was sure of.  Infiltrating the inner depths of BioTech would require resources Liam couldn’t begin to fathom.  The men he had encountered must have been professional of the highest caliber.  But why would anyone go to such great lengths to kill a man who had contributed so much to society? The burning pain in his neck told him that the answer was more than likely coursing through his veins. 

He had to find DeeAnna, he thought as fatigue pulled him into the soothing vortex of sleep.  He had to find her... and take her to India.
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