Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chapter 2

A test of Australian Character – A test of time

Chapter 2 by Tobias Nixon

Tim Multzein turned his head and stared across at the screen. A large chart inhabited most of the screen. It floated gently up across a line marking positive territory. The chart was showing the amount energy being emitted by the laser. His laser. A laser he had designed to smash atoms. He had spent two years just designing and building the diagnostic equipment that monitored and controlled the laser. It had taken another year of effort to get the laser working. Now three years later he was finally powering on this awesome beast of subatomic power.

His lab was well lit. White walls and tables evoked a clean room feel. His fellow researcher, Aimee Jackson looked back at the monitor and smiled. Her beautiful smile lit up the already bright room.

“You’ve done it Tim”, her smiled pursed, as she looked at the line.

“Increase the gamma emission range; I think we can get more output if we do.” She said.

“Ok”, said Tim and smiled back.

Over the time they had been working together both had become something more than just good friends. Being highly dedicated scientist types, neither had yet quite decided to act on the nervy loved up feelings that had both rushing whenever they thought the other person wasn’t looking. Suddenly there was a noticeable increase in the energy output, reaching the required level and stabilising. The generator in the background was humming steadily.

“Oh yeah Aimee, we’ve reached output capacity. Let’s put this baby through some hoops.”

Aimee went over to the side panel where several more monitors showed the rate of decay for a small chunk of uranium isotopes. The yellow cake was in the form of a super high density crystal held securely in place by a robotic arm that could position the modular design along a rail that similarly provided the variety and multitude of different laser components to also be reconfigured. Systems were in a constant state of test. Production systems had independent maintenance schedules that required autonomous re-engineering of both onboard as well as chip level components. These could range from a new cybernetic arm or eye, to the latest in silicon injection of digital signal gates and nano-circuit overrides onto existing chipsets.

Lines of inch thick power cables crisscrossed the floor like giant anacondas. Smaller pythonesque yellow and red data cabling rested within its recesses connecting each substation to the server bank. A final set of conduit cabling carried the many network and optic lines that were used by each device for running the server management application. In effect Tim reflected, one team of two people could now achieve more with automation than the entire human race working together could have less than twenty years ago.

Aimee twirled her cute golden locks of hair to her customary right side. She was so cute when she did that. At least that always seemed to be the cue for boys to start fawning over her. Her thoughts though were on another plane entirely. Completely consumed not by the high grade laser design skills that she had supposedly been brought into the project for, but by her assignment.

“Keep Dr Multzein alive. Even at the expense of your own.”, Chief of the armed force, General Clifford had said.

She looked back over at the man standing at the fold out control station for the server core. Steel rack mounted server assets were positioned neatly into every available slot. Upgrades had had to be ordered twice during initial testing. He had been the one both times to identify the bottle neck early before they had got to phase trials. His intelligence on systems integration was almost limitless. Whereas other specialists would become brilliant in one domain, Tim seemed to be the master of whatever he needed that day. From electronic re-engineering, to assembly programming or higher level C++ and C# applications he was an adept. Right now he stood casually, wide shoulders cast in a relaxed and powerful manner. A manner she found rather attractive.

Her own field of specialisation was somewhat different she reflected. She had been trained first as an ASIO undercover operative, but then in access to restricted government technologies. She would never be a mad scientist like Tim, but her skills were enough to understand the hidden databases she had access to. Databases controlled by shadows that didn’t trust civilians. Well she reflected.. Unless you were someone like Tim. Someone that they wanted to catch up to. Someone that needed to be watched and protected from other nations.

Tim strode back to the central control panel for the lasers now. Full of purpose. A giant of a man he stood at over six foot three and worked out regularly on his footballers physique. He turned the knob adjusting the density of laser saturation to full. Her locks shone under the halogen lights.

“You know I never mentioned it to you before Aimee..”, Tim started, keeping his eyes focused on the feedback readouts coming from the central panel.

“but you’re not really a civilian laser specialist are you?”.

It came completely out of the blue, almost innocuously, such that Aimee didn’t really have time to adjust, instead she said,

“Tim I’m not sure what game you’re up to, but the uranium could become unstable if you increase the energy levels too quickly.”

“Aimee, listen to me”, Tim paused and looked up at her. “My best friend taught me a trick, so that I’d know if someone was lying to me. Look into my eyes and tell me your a civilian laser specialist.”

Aimee held his gaze and delivered a cold and impartial response, “Tim, what is this about? We have been working for months and months together. Whats wrong?”

Tim looked down, thinking to himself, an innocent mind answers the question, that was what Davis had taught him.

“Aimee I knew from the first week you started, when you had to consult your computer for the difference between the purple and green diodes we installed in the vacuum tube.”

She knew this moment was coming. It hadn’t been a question in her mind of if but when. However her superiors were not as convinced of Tim’s ability to see the truth. She knew, as she calmly turned to face him chin down staring demurely into his eyes, that she would have to reveal some of the truth, if only to avoid Tim becoming suspicious.

The glare of the iridescent globes seemed to perpetrate the intense mood that had been simmering these last several minutes. Moments of science prevailed upon them both. It seemed in these last months that she had really felt what it was like to reach ones true intellectual potential. Einstein’s ladder to infinity was opening up to her mind and she was loving it. Aussie girls were known for being both archly conservative and carefree. Aimee had an amazing figure. All through school she had been her families primary bread winner. Magazines had lined up, following a national campaign which had left her very well of. Except that it was because of that reason, that she had really never thought her lifelong ambition of being an elite Australia spy, would be realised. It was a hardly a modern phenomenon that spies had to be invisible. Modern times however had given the spy game a much trickier recruiting path. Facebook had ruled out vast swathes of the population. Google ruled out most of the rest.

“Get ready!”, Tim smiled over at her, “1..2..3..”

The room lights were dimmed. The neon glow of the server racks glowed tumescent blue. Red laser suddenly ebbed from the quad head 1200 Megawatt power lasers. Each one had fat power cables flowing greedily out to the power generation facility located in the primary sub basement. Both of them quickly flicked on heavy anti glare goggles designed specifically to reduce the effects by thousands of times. Suddenly her world was made up of darkness and the straight edges of four high intensity beams, each far far more powerful than an industrial cutting laser. Each impacted, or at least appeared to naked eye to do so, on the yellow cake. In reality they each targeted four very specific points in the object’s chemical structure. The phased laser technology that they had designed and built was capable of modifying the molecular structure of the uranium without changing its underlying physical state.

Even Tim had struggled with the math needed to construct the time matrix necessary for implementation of phased tech. Phasing had been just another theory lying in governments secret blackbox before Tim had done this she reflected. She giggled as she had when she was a girl. Then shivered and felt a rush of happiness down her body. He was so sexy right now, a man taking his first steps at titanhood. This discovery once proved would pave the way for the creation of completely theoretical compounds and agents. In turn leading to the development of advanced bio meta organisms and nano powered cyber tech.  

Twenty minutes later the machine powered down, but to Aimee it seemed like no more than a minute had past. Her senses were on high alert now. A mechanical arm extended into the secure irradiated metallic egg shell that extended around the lower two thirds of the uranium diamond. The robot arm’s three elbows (a neat enhancement from Tim) all shifted down in perfect unison. The seven fingers spread in a perfect half circle around the thumb gripper. The “open” hand cupped the diamond, plucking it from its perch. The arm then receded into the chemical analysis unit, a massive twelve foot rectangular box that occupied the entire north wall. It was a complete lab and quickly produced a result. She whistled as she read from the display.

“You’ve done it Tim, come on let’s go celebrate your triumph!” she followed with an unconscious wink that she knew would drive him wild.

“Our triumph Aimee, our triumph..” he looked down at his feet.

“I don’t feel triumphant, not yet. I won’t be happy until this technology is used to bring true peace to this world.” Now his head was fully erect staring with a messianic gaze directly into her eyes.

“I’ll come out with you now. You’ve worked hard for me and I owe you a drink.”

She smiled. “Let’s go. One sec.”

She punched in the code as they left the room that would shut everything down and lock the room.

They walked to the car park of the secure facility. Tim just thought she was a brilliant scientist, like him a contractor brought in to solve a problem that had eluded the governments own scientists for too long. They caught a ride in Tim’s XR8 Ford falcon. The turbo howled, as they cruised the outback roads to the pub. If anything Tim’s eyes had got more set. Great thoughts were in train.

“Do you realise Aimee, with this technology, with the modified nugget of uranium back at the lab, we could power entire cities?...limitless cheap clean energy. It might be the only way we can truly avoid a future war for resources.”

“I think that you really owe me that drink Tim.”, she hid her frustration, why did scientist types need to be so clueless with women. She moved her right hand so that it rested gently on Tim’s braking leg. She felt the muscles momentarily go rigid and then relax. She smiled.

The country pub was nearly empty, and they took a quiet table near the corner closest to a large wooden display featuring the local rugby league and cricketing greats. Both were drinking MB (Melbourne Bitter), the only drink that was on tap other than VB (Victoria Bitter). A true country pub. Red dust, hard work and always the hot burning sun. These were the constants of life in the outback. Such constants required a man to quench his thirst. Generations of Aussies had grown strong on its simple taste. But times were changing, competition had come to the beer industry. Aussies always a discerning bunch, had in their laid back style, quietly shifted their drinking habits to the newer super premium range of beer.

Tim’s head was dropped forward staring into the swirls at the bottom of his glass, contemplating the history of beer in Australia. Such a glorious and proud history. He stopped himself and stared up at Aimee. She was so unbelievable, he still couldn’t believe he was working with someone so gorgeous. So smart at everything she did. Too bad she wasn’t interested in him on that level. She probably thought of him as a friend though, she was always so nice to him. He definitely hoped that that was the case.

There was a strange commotion outside. Like a loud bang but with a ripping noise as well. Many things seemed to happen suddenly. Aimee seemed to blur. The table spilled. She rammed him to the ground with a swinging arm. The perfect arc swung tightly as it made contact with his chest, punching him to the ground. Why was she attacking him? The air filled with the unholy noise of steel rain. The distinctive catch of machine guns loading, punctuated with the shearing force of the steel that pounded every surface. Wood splinters seemed to fill the air. Furniture was confetti. Where the flying fuck was Aimee? What the fuck was going on? He didn’t understand, no, he didn’t want to. He was too shit scared to care what he thought.

“Tim stay where you are, don’t move, and keep your head down” sane words from Aimee cut through the melee.

He looked up briefly at her, crouched behind the upended table. Her slim curved figure was jet black in tight black jeans and a figure hugging black tee. Only her white arms seemed out of place carrying the twin 9mm uzi’s that hung with a gunman’s cold purpose at her side. One pointed down the other half raised toward the ceiling. The metal storm abated momentarily. As if on cue at that exact moment, Aimee rolled end over end in a tiny ball to her right towards the pubs front door. He heard rather than saw what happened next.

“Time to meet your maker you cock sucking bandits”, Aimee roared as she rose from her combat roll.

She held the weapons steady and unleashed a hail of deadly fire through the open door, just as quickly retreating to safety behind the bar.

“Tim, we are trapped this is an ambush. There are six of them outside that I can see. Can you shoot this?”

Her question was accompanied by the sliding of an uzi in his direction. It stopped an inch from his left foot.

“Yeah, pull the trigger right?” His words must have sounded hollow and confused, he was fighting a rising tide of overwhelming fear and panic. Man the fuck up Tim, don’t die like this. His old friend’s words seemed to echo. God dam what he would do to have Davis at side right now.

“When I tell you, and not before mind, point at the door and pull the trigger, keep going till its empty ok?” Aimee was already moving leaving the safety of the bar through the current storm of lead. Moving closer to the nearby window staying out of the enemies line of sight. Staying low.

“Now!!!” Aimee screamed. An ear piercing harpies scream. The storm of lead had seemed to slow again. He raised his right arm and squeezed the uzi. He tried to keep it tight and focused on the door. Aimee was no more than two metres to his left. She didn’t even glance in his direction. She had uncoiled from below the window, smashed it and was hurling grenades from both hands out the window. Then she was running back towards him, jumping the final two metres to slam into him even as the magazine on the uzi was empty. For a second time she forced him hard back to the ground. Finishing on top of him, she looked down and smiled.

“You know I like being in control Tim. If you keep this up... oh, ah” she smiled a wicked sexy smile at him that just as quickly vanished from her face. “Don’t worry these guys are small hit squad. But we have to get out of here before they can call for backup.”

Even as she said it, three ninjas came sauntering through what was left of the door. Each held a straight edged ninja sword in one hand and a smaller dagger in the other. Aimee left him circling back towards the window as they advanced. They all seemed intent on him. Tim shivered with fear. Anyone of these jokers could send him to the afterlife with a single swipe of their blade. He shivered again, the fear was like an ice cold poker that seemed to fill every ounce of his being.

Aimee attacked. Her small daggers whirled into hands that seemed to blur as she moved. Legs constantly sweeping in small quarter arcs making it impossible for her opponents to ever face her front on. The right most ninja’s blade was caught in between her daggers. He stopped and drove his dagger towards her chest. She did the splits dropping quickly to the floor. This had the effect of pulling the ninjas trapped blade arm to the ground and pulled him off balance towards her. She rose out of the splits just as rapidly, pulling the ninja towards her as she did so. In a smooth mini arc her left arm parried the dagger in his left arm while her right disengaged the blade and planted itself in his face. He fell towards her. She released her dagger and pulled his sword away as he fell dead to the ground.

The other two ninjas now realised she was the main opponent.  One continued towards Tim while the other advanced on her.

“I’ve had just about enough of ninjas for one day.” Aimee leered.

From nowhere the gaps between the fingers of each hand were alive with small serrated circles, no Tim corrected himself small shuriken. Aimee expertly launched them at the ninja advancing on Tim. The first one embedded itself two inches into his carotid artery, the second at the base of his neck sent him tumbling harmlessly to the floor.

 While this was happening the third ninja had started swinging in Aimee’s direction. She seemed to effortlessly dance just beyond each swing. Growing frustrated the ninja raised his dagger and hurled it at her. The power of the throw forced her to dodge to the left. The ninja was ready lunging towards her with his blade. She raised her forearms defiantly towards his swing. It was straight down, and she would be cut to pieces by the heavy stroke. Tim screamed, he rose and charged the ninja from behind. Tackling the ninja as he made contact with Aimee’s extended forearms. Only her forearms didn’t cut in two. The blade made dull contact with metal of even greater strength.

As Tim tried to hold the man down, Aimee quickly grabbed his neck and broke it with a swift pull of the ninja’s head. She dropped the motionless body to the floor. Inwardly drooping slightly, then as she recovered her breath, once more exuding a steely resolve and supernatural speed that had been a constant of the battle thus far. Tim looked at her in awe, at last realising he had far more than a colleague by his side. This lady was a pint sized Rambo. She carried enough fire power to take down a section of ninjas hell bent on ambush. The kamikaze nature of the goons amazed him. These people had a look of professional detachment even in some cases up to the point of their death. Although he had seen at least one say something foul in Chinese before being dispatched to the afterlife by pinpoint flying shrapnel from Aimee.

Come to think of it he mused, thoughts still racing, where was she? He turned through three hundred and sixty degrees of total devastation. Every wall was shredded to the insides. The air was so thick with dust that bits of plasterboard were floating lazily down. The detached logical part of Tim’s mind mused on how much better the pub would look now with the open plan afforded by having no internal walls. 

Again he heard her before he saw her. Waves of staccato fire came directly from his left out the front, close by. Crouched now with a low sight through the debris of the second window he could partially see a pale shadow drawing of the side of the car and leaping into the air. Her form gracefully twisted, the lead leg drawing toward a ninjas head even as he fought vainly with the air to make small tiny circles that... Thud! Her foot cracked his chin, music played, another body dropped to the dirt.

The other ninjas were advancing on her from behind the other side of the car. No longer carrying swords, all were armed with heavy AK-47 assault rifles that had been modified for urban warfare. Shorter metal folding stocks, thermal scopes, and larger magazines. Five metres from the car they simply opened up. In seconds Tim saw the car would be ripped apart destroying her cover.

Moments earlier, even as the men had begun to squeeze their triggers, Aimee was lying comfortably in the dirt her right elbow stuffed into a patch of mud. She loved getting dirty, and she hated bad guys. Oh! This was so much fun. Her heart slowed even though she wanted to burst with happiness. Her right eye was pressed closely against the glass. The long black sniper rifle had its barrel hidden beneath the car in front of Aimee pointing back towards the three ninjas.

Like lightening Aimee’s arm’s aimed, fired, cocked the bottle action weapon and repeated. The entire time her body lay in a motionless prone position. Hugging the dirt below the line of fire. More dangerous was the random directions the AK’s could go off from a dead man’s arm. Aimee had been expertly trained. Her first three shots left each man clasping his right arm, or rather what was left of it. One man appeared to be barely holding it on. Suddenly two of them fell backwards, killed from bullseye hits to the forehead. Aimee got up.

She scanned around then looked back at the pub. “Come on Tim, its safe. Please. Come quickly!”

Even as he ran out, a silver helicopter dropped in from the sky. The enormous roar that accompanied it filled his ears. The chopper had official markings, side mounted chain guns on both sides, and a massive bulb that was in fact a state of the art sensor cluster.

Aimee seemed to relax to Tim’s eye. He hugged her protectively with his left arm, looking over at the imposing beast. Casually dressed men with blue eyes stared at him from within it. The chopper was now hovering less than ten feet away, one foot from the ground. Aimee hugged Tim back, shouldered the sniper rifle gingerly with her left arm, racking it back on the strap like a pro. She gave Tim a gentle shove towards the chopper.

“Time to get out of here Tim.” Aimee’s words were like echoes.

Something was happening to his mind. Hands descended from the chopper pulling them bodily into the crew bay. Tim felt someone put a seat belt on him.

“Thanks” he mumbled.

Something wasn’t right here, he could sense his mind drifting away from the present. It had happened before, but never like this. All that death, all those killers... dead. He was their silent witness. His perfect world suddenly felt cracked. Irrefutable intellectual arguments became questionable. Give everyone a second chance... yeah but these guys tried to kill us... yeah but nobody deserves to die... ah huh, so it’s Aimee’s problem? His mind could take on each angle of Confucian logic but in the end it kept coming back to the fact that she had single handedly saved his life.

There was no question that they had wanted him dead.

“Aimee. Who were those guys that tried to kill us?”

Aimee considered him from behind a laptop that she was still typing into. Without pausing she said, “Your assailants were members of a group of Chinese mobsters who call themselves Blue Tiger.”

Tim perked up, “You mean Japanese mobsters? Those guys were ninjas.”

The hulking warrior in the chinos and red flanno next to Aimee sniggered. He stopped when Aimee drove her elbow into his side. But he didn’t seem to recoil at all from the elbow either. The blow seemed to make a dull sound like metal.

“Oh Tim! You’re so cute. No, there not Japanese, they’re Chinese. Blue Tiger hit squads are famous for dressing up as ninjas. They are mercenary thugs with body armour, heavy weapons, blades and Kung fu.”

“But you beat them Aimee! You singlehandedly wiped them out.” Tim knew he was getting slightly hysterical, he could hear the tone in his voice.

“Tim, you have to trust me ok. Now is not the time, but suffice it to say, I had some help.” By way of explanation she removed a clear rounded eye patch that had been covering her left eye and lent over Tim. She cupped over his left eye and pushed firmly until the tiny seals around its edge stuck. Suddenly his vision was filled with tactical data. Streams of information flowed along, but the one he could see related to the people surrounding him.

The stream showed video and text that explained the teams’ current operational status, their designation and mission parameters. It was clear from what he saw that they were an elite espionage squad working for ASIO. Captain Aimee Jackson was there highest ranking field officer. Her latest assignment had been him.

Aimee was to provide him with theoretical knowledge of phased power lasers. She was then to remain on overwatch to protect him from what the military expected was an inevitable backlash. That had come pretty much straight away. Tim didn’t understand it. Security had been super tight since he had started on this project. They had only just generated the first of many possible exotic compounds.

Aimee looked at him, and as if reading his mind said, “Hey look don’t sweat it. They probably had that pub under round the clock satellite coverage. Seeing both of us together may have been enough to trigger a takedown condition. We captured one of the bad guys, maybe he’ll talk...”, her tone suggested she thought that was unlikely.

“We’ll be back at the facility soon Tim.” She smiled up at him, filling him with warmth.

“It’ll be ok, Aimee. This shit happens to me all the time dont’cha know?!?” he looked at her hard, as she started to laugh. A deep belly laugh.

“You make me laugh, Tim, you know your my favourite assignment right?”, he smiled back at her shocked by her sudden admission of interest and the hot glare of the western sun burning his unshaded retinas.

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