The International Writers Magazine:
Extract from The Repossession: Book Two - THE HUNTING by Sam Hawksmoor
ONE: Test Subject
Carson Strindberg was in the observation room at the Fortress. The assembled technicians were tense, the atmosphere electric. No one wanted anything to go wrong. Strindberg was the new Boss of Fortransco, with a reputation of being hard to please and ruthless with anyone who screwed up. All their jobs were on the line.
The clock said 23.00 hours. A preliminary countdown had already begun. This would be Strindberg’s first teleport experience and he was secretly very excited. This was where all the billions had been spent. Everything came down to mere nanoseconds of intense concentrated power.
The test subject was a hitchhiker from Newfoundland brought in by Strindberg himself. The kid had no idea of what was to come. Only that he’d get $2000 cash for just standing very still under some hot bright lights. His head had been shaved and he had to wear a white close-fitting t-shirt and shorts. He was broke. This would be the easiest $2000 he’d ever make to his way of thinking. Help him go north to see the Northern Lights maybe.
The technicians in their spacesuits had to maintain a pristine atmosphere. The only DNA in the teleport chamber would be the hitchhiker’s. There could be no short cuts with Strindberg watching.
Strindberg had given him a ride on his way to the airfield. The kid considered it his lucky day when an Aston Martin rag top slowed to a stop beside him. He’d been waiting for a ride for hours and almost given up. He'd always wanted to ride in an Aston and getting picked up by the silver haired short guy had been the luckiest thing that had happened to him since he’d reached B.C.
“Cool car,” he said, putting his knapsack in the small trunk.
“Broke? Need money?” Strindberg had asked as he drove. “We’re looking for young test subjects like you.”
“Observation experiment, new sub-atomic enhancement process. Got anything you always wished you could get rid of? That birth mark on your neck, for example. We could erase that, give you a perfect neck.”
The kid instinctively pulled his collar up. It had been the cause of much strife in his life. Been teased and bullied about it for years.
“We can take care of that, for free,” Strindberg had informed him casually.
“So it’s like plastic surgery?” he’d asked; trying not to sound interested.
“But better, faster, non-invasive. Zero pain and comes with full restoration of an unblemished neck. Cost you $20,000 to get that removed privately, more probably.”
“Really?” It sounded too good to be true.
“Really. We do a complete DNA map of your body. I mean complete and it’s just a blast of sub-atomic particles and you’re practically perfect again.”
“We can take care of blemishes, but we can’t fix psychological problems. Been backpacking long? When did you last let your folks know where you are?”
“Haven’t logged on since I left St Johns. Wanted to take time to think, y’know. I wanted a lot to think about… experiences.”
Strindberg smiled. Perfect. A complete loner. No one to ask questions. He drove to the waiting chopper that would take them to the Fortress.
They bounced across the field towards the waiting helicopter, a Sikorsky S-92. The kid was impressed, it was huge and the Fortransco logo on the side was somehow reassuring that they wouldn’t stiff him the money. Living on the road had taught him a lot about whom to trust. The waiting crew opened the car doors and were all smiles.
“One Newfie volunteer. Make him comfortable,” Strindberg told the crew. “What’s the weather like at the Fortress?”
“Wet, windy. Not ideal.” The pilot told him.
Strindberg shrugged. “Well, we have to go. They’re waiting for me.” He turned to the kid. “Coming?”
The kid seemed impressed. Aston Martin and a chopper ride all in one day. He hesitated a moment and Strindberg smiled, putting an arm around his shoulder to reassure him.
“I think you’re going to be impressed by this outfit,” he told him. “They just had a major breakthrough. I’m going there now to do some reorganisation.”
“Can I get paid up front?” The kid asked. Strindberg grinned and reeled him in.
“Absolutely. I’m afraid you can’t eat until after, but we’ll make sure you go away happy. Guarantee it.” He looked at the kid, knew that he was going to do it. He wanted the ride on the chopper. Desperately needed that $2000. “Name’s Carson Strindberg, by the by. One day soon we’re going to be one of the worlds biggest cosmetic restructuring companies. That’s why we need test subjects. You won’t regret it.”
The kid grinned and practically jumped up onto the chopper.
This really was his lucky day.
And now almost ten hours later, hungry and thirsty, despite the glass of thick orange juice they had just made him swallow, he stood waiting, staring at the men and women in spacesuits as they scanned his body, collating his DNA. Without his hair, the birthmark was huge, from his neck and right across his left shoulder. That too had to be taken into account and mapped so the skin tone that replaced it would be the same as the rest of his body.
The countdown moved to twenty seconds. He briefly thought of the money paid to him, lying in the locker in the anteroom. He’d head north almost immediately. He wanted to go to Alaska before winter set in – maybe get a job. Anything would do, just as long as he didn’t have to go back to St Johns.
He focused on the light.
“We want you to relax. Focus on the blue light ahead of you.”
Strindberg watched keenly from the observation room as a technician adjusted the cameras recording the event. “These are the exact conditions that prevailed when Genie Magee transmitted?”
“Exact sir, except for the fire. Didn’t think we should try to replicate that.”
Strindberg watched the kid and thought how relaxed and trusting he was, totally unsuspecting. Genie Magee had been like this too on her transmission recording. She had looked so relaxed. Or resigned, perhaps.
Five seconds – the overhead speaker announced.
The Chief technician arrived and took the seat next to Strindberg.
“You fond of executions, Chief? Hadn’t expected to see you here.”
The Chief attempted a smile. “This might work this time.”
Strindberg made a note of the Chief’s ‘might’.
“You’re sure this is an exact replication of Genie Magee’s transmission test?” Strindberg asked again. He didn’t take his eyes off the platform or TV screen showing the empty teleport chamber over in Synchro thirty-five kilometres away.
The transmission signal went to green for go. The platforms were in synch.
A warning buzzer sounded signalling a transmission was about to begin.
The kid vanished from the platform. Strindberg was astonished. It worked. The damn thing really worked. All those billions hadn’t been wasted after all.
Almost instantly the boy reappeared on the Synchro teleport platform. His birthmark was gone. He opened his eyes, blinked – then exactly 3.6 seconds later, spectacularly exploded in a hot flash, casting a black shadow on the curved white wall. Some blood traces trickled down from some uncarbonised bit of flesh on the remote camera lens.
Strindberg was momentarily shocked. The Chief held his silence.
‘DNA capture 99.6%,’ the computer announced dispassionately. ‘Subject partially stored on servers 18000 to 19450. Test subject conscious for 3.003 seconds.’
Strindberg recovering pursed his lips. He was annoyed. He didn’t know if they got carbon blowback because the kid was only 99.6% transmitted, or what? He needed answers. Clearly this almost worked, but almost was completely lethal.
“I want a complete analysis on my desk in an hour. Check the stability algorithms. I want to know what that missing 0.4% was and why it hasn’t come through. I want solutions, people. Now.”
Strindberg stomped out of the room, glancing briefly at TV screen showing the carbonised shadow on the Synchro teleport chamber wall. It struck him that it looked a lot like an angel with its wings outstretched.
Even before he left the room the Newfie’s effects were being burned, all evidence that he had ever been there erased. He never even existed.
© Sam Hawksmoor January 2013
The Hunting is available from Hodder Childrens Books (YA) in print and as an ebook on iBooks, Kindle, Nook, Kobo and all other e-platforms
The Repossession won The Wirral 'Paperback of the Year' award
Now read Book Three in the series The Heaviness
A Genie and Rian story - Print & Kindle
'Desperate kidnappers, crazy experiments, the evil Reverend Schneider, a genuine love story,' Sara Troy PLV Radio