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ANOTHER DARKNESS

Another Darkness, Part One of The Catalyst Cycle, is set in the war-torn world of late 2093, a terrifying post-apocalyptic era of enslavement, grotesque genetic engineering, inhumane experiments, highly destructive technology, and ruled by evil Clones whose empire is known as the Dustrial Regime. Non-clones, called Norms, are on the brink of extinction.  

A telekinetic Clone named ‘Catalyst’ escapes from his bondage and, injured and hunted, survives against huge odds to join a rebel group of Clones and Norms who are plotting to overthrow the Regime. Catalyst’s powers develop until he becomes a weapon unlike any the world has ever seen.  

This fantastic story contains action, adventure, moments of terror, paranormal concepts and battles and unique machines and technology. It has many twists and turns, all taking place within a world that has had everything – from its social structure to methods of warfare – designed from the ground up.  

Part Two, Shadows of the Dawn and Part Three, Twice a Martyr – both yet to be published – will complete the story of Catalyst.

In Store Price: $AU31.95 
Online Price:   $AU30.95

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ISBN:   978-1-921240-38-6
Format: Paperback
Number of pages:360
Genre: Fiction/Science Fiction
 

 


Author: Dennis J. Pale  
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2007
Language: English

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Chapter I  

 

Within his dingy concrete cell, Sender/Receiver 381 had been speaking for fifteen constant minutes and his vocal cords now felt like rusted razors, where every extra word was a burning brand on his throat. Without the aid of any machine and against his heartfelt desire to stop, 381 continued to relay the message in synchronisation with its distant source.

A tall, effeminate man in a black lab coat watched on, seemingly enthralled by the display. With a glance at the three identical Soldiers that served as security, he spoke in an arrogant, nasal tone.

‘Incredible, this telepathy. It’s a wonder his mouth hasn’t fallen off.’

‘If you say so, Researcher,’ the Soldiers answered in unison.

Sender/Receiver 381 was utterly focused on the connection with his source, the literal Sender that coupled with his current role as the Receiver to form a circuit of telepathic information. His hazel eyes fluttered as the exhaustion of Sender/Receiver 379 was felt over the distant link.

‘Morons,’ the Researcher muttered at the red-armoured guards. ‘Of course I say so. You are watching two Clones connect their minds with each other with a thousand kilometres and two concrete bunkers between them. What isn’t incredible about that?’

381 clenched his hands against the cheap grey robes he wore while trails of sweat snaked over his forehead tattoo (the JIK381 mark was a unique serial number and the indelible ink tattooed as deep as his skull). Desperate not to moan for fear of what the punishment for failing a test so near to its conclusion would be, he kept going. One word after another was pushed through the agony, each feeling like the last that he could manage, but his long experience as a test subject had equipped him with the knowledge that he could handle an almost unlimited amount.

‘Do you have any idea how rare a phenomenon like this is?’ the Researcher continued, his attention still on the indifferent Soldiers. ‘We could capture any wild human out there to manufacture generic dregs like you, but the man we cloned for these Sender/Receivers – Jonas Ian Kleptman was his name, a genuine stage psychic – actually possessed telepathy, telekinesis and more. Once we get one of these walkie-talkies to show us how it’s done, bingo. No more secrets, no more disobedience, no more problems for our beloved Regime.’

The Soldiers stared down at the grey-robed test subject without interest, then back at their effeminate superior. ‘If you say so, Researcher.’

Sender/Receiver 381 continued to receive the long-sustained message despite being ignored by his audience of four and the terrible mental burn that was ripping his mind apart. The transmitted thoughts of the Sender thudded into 381’s head, but they suddenly became unclear and slurred, as though from some kind of mental static. Noticing that this test had no end in sight, 381 realised the goal of this whole exercise: they wanted to see which Sender/Receiver would drop first.

‘The body from which the Sender/Receivers originated would have been a nightmare to forcefully acquire,’ the Researcher remarked, nodding his large head. ‘After Jonas left his body to science he was found dead in Russia a fortnight later, shot by some underworld figure known as Vogel. The actions of that killer made the existence of these Sender/Receivers possible.’

‘Hey, what’s wrong with this walkie-talkie? Is it meant to turn blue like that during the test?’ 381 heard from the far-distant ears of 379, losing his own sense of identity for a moment. Looks like he’s hurting. This should help.’

The solid concrete room spun around and, watching through Sender/Receiver 379’s eyes as though they were his own, 381 saw an iron-capped boot crunch down. Then, without fanfare, the three hundred and seventy-ninth clone of a man who had died decades before this point in time, died. The link was severed and 381 collapsed sideways in an untidy pile.

‘Disconnected from my Sender,’ 381 ground out, despite the anguished craving to cool his raw throat. The Researcher suddenly decided to look back down at him. ‘It’s due to the retirement of Sender/Receiver 379.’

The Researcher stamped his foot in effeminate frustration before he tapped a tiny electronic thumb-board. ‘379 broke. Document the fault and correct it before the next Series. Stupid Soldiers. Now I can’t do any live tests to find the problem.’ A tin cup filled with water was only inches from his hand, but 381 knew the price to be paid for any unauthorised uses of his body before the official end of a test. The Researcher leaned down to stare into the tired eyes of the telepathic Clone, who made sure not to make eye contact with the cruel torturer. ‘381 appears to be acceptable for now. Keep it inside. Test F9 concluded at 1739 Hours, 18th of October, 2093.’

Walking briskly from the room, a thick slab that served as a door closed behind the Researcher while the Soldiers placed Intox sticks within their mouths in identical motions. The suck-burners ignited as they drew back, the tubes flared to life and Sender/Receiver 381 felt an unusual urge to think in the midst of the coarse smoke.

Still alive at nineteen. How many others exactly like me have died over that time? Fifty? A hundred? Why don’t I just burn out like the rest of them?

Thinking of such a morbid subject caused his memory to produce the elderly face of Sender/Receiver 19, as whenever the thought of death occurred to him this always surfaced. This train of thought continued to its usual station and the death of the elder was remembered in vivid detail.

 

381 was called from his concrete quarters, as less than five minutes remained until the fortieth anniversary of 19’s manufacture. The elder stared at nothing with his glazed hazel eyes, his face deeply wrinkled and the JIK19 forehead tattoo faded from time. This visit was the one and only request 19 had ever been granted and was undoubtedly the last. Besides the two Clones, there was only a cruelly ticking clock, and plastic sheeting all over the walls and floor, which all spelled out one word in huge, grim letters: Retirement.

‘381, you were custom made for a specific …’

A single second passed and, with it, a word did the same between the two minds.

‘Purpose?’ 381 repeated in confusion.

The face of 19 trembled as he attempted an unconvincing smile. ‘Your Receiving is excellent, as always. I taught you well. Listen: if it is too difficult, you have every right to give up. I would never wish a fate such as yours upon you, but such things are … such things are not ours to choose, do you understand?’

‘What do you mean?’

A dull expression formed on the wrinkled face of Sender/Receiver 19 as he watched the nearby clock. ‘Not enough time to fully explain. You know you are not like the others, yes? That you are stronger, better? That you are like a breed apart …’

381 shrugged. Compliments were an alien concept. These were simply facts.

‘Yes. I don’t burn out like the others. Sending and Receiving doesn’t hurt me like it hurts them.’ The young Clone shook his head. ‘Why? Why am I different to them? What was I made for?’

19 now had a sad smile upon his face. ‘I wish I had more than five seconds left so I could tell you. Good luck.’

A whirring thud sounded, followed by the dead body of 19 falling to the ground. 381 knew his Retirement chip, an implant that decided when the life of any Clone should end, had cut down the elder. This knowledge, however, only slightly diminished the horror 381 felt. The young Sender/Receiver looked at a neck fused by a moment of pure heat.

‘All the way to the fortieth year. You did well, old man.’

 

381 blinked and the memory sank back down into his subconscious. He knew that, like all Clones, the maximum lifespan he could reach was forty years, but only with a lot of luck. Even talent such as his meant nothing within this one-world government, this omnipotent Dustrial Regime.

Too late, the young Clone realised he had maintained direct eye contact with one of the Soldiers. His head quickly lowered and his young hands reached for the tin cup; unfortunately, the plastic butt of an autonrifle tapped the vessel of liquid out of reach.

‘You eyeballed me, walkie-talkie. I don’t give a flying bottle if some wuss Researcher finds you brain-sucking mammal radios the most fascinating thing this side of his computer. You keep those watery orbs pointed towards your spineless abdomen, understood?’

The claustrophobia these stained concrete walls produced suddenly intensified for 381. His head nodded in a rapid shake just before an expended Intox stick bounced off his grey robes in a shower of sparks. With a laugh from the Soldiers, the Sender/Receiver threw himself against the wall in an effort to beat the hot embers from his clothes. The rough fabric was gripped by one of the looming guards, who seemed to be in what passed for a playful mood, then the Sender/Receiver realised that they had no intention of letting this matter go.

Oh no.

The Soldier opened 381’s eyelid with his rough fingers and leered. ‘You just disobeyed my order. Now I’ve got a reason to take out my anger on you, walkie-talkie.’

An autonrifle butt flashed from the side to send a sharp burst of pain through the Sender/Receiver’s shoulder, then a thick boot stepped on the thin cloth that he wore as shoes. 381 gasped and kept his eyes averted, trying his best to keep this beating relatively moderate. A second Soldier grasped the young Clone’s hand and used it to repeatedly slap the flinching face, joining in on the thuggery.

‘Stop slapping yourself, walkie-talkie!’

381 kept his eyes tightly closed.

‘Well, looksee here.’ The voice of a Soldier sounded from the darkness. ‘Seems like this brain-sucking mouse don’t want to peep at us no more. I guess you’ve heard that saying that bullies leave you alone if you ignore them, right?’ The young telepathist found himself on the floor and was incapable of breath for almost ten seconds. All the Soldiers laughed as the tin cup was held next to 381’s face. ‘Hate to break this to ya, but that ploy don’t work on sadists like us,’ a Soldier said as some rusty water trickled to the concrete ground. ‘The more you ignore us, the worse it’s gonna get.’

Reality fragmented as an iron-capped boot struck 381’s left temple with a flash of light. His world turned to darkness for an instant while the Sender/Receiver relived a memory that was not his own.

 

He was no longer within a concrete cell in the year 2093. As though merely a spectator, 381 watched through somebody else’s eyes as they walked out to a stage; on the way, a poster in his peripheral vision displayed pictures of a magician called Jonas the Superior, who was hosting a show tonight.

Tonight, however, was in the year 2021.

Now within a circle of bright light, Jonas Ian Kleptman, the genetic origin of every Sender/Receiver, extended his white-gloved hands. He rolled up the sleeves of his black robe and concentrated. Hushed with awe, the audience watched as ten white candles floated across the room to impale themselves on an equal number of silver stands.

‘That’s not all,’ Jonas declared in a tone of true showmanship.

His joints ached with a familiar pressure. There was a tingle through his spine, which he manipulated with a mental push, then the sensation of heat announced a release of energy. The tapers were lit, their metal stands twisted to become an intricate peace symbol and the pale wax was sliced in the shapes of ten miniature statues. This peace symbol was bent and altered itself until it was the shape of a human skeleton, then the candle wax melted over it in a thin, realistic skin. The apparition waved its hands and walked into the middle of the audience.

‘Thank you.’ Jonas acknowledged the muted applause, which only a few of the disbelieving audience members could manage. As usual, he had completely blown them all away. ‘My name is Jonas the Superior and I’ll be in venues around here all week. I welcome any critics to try and prove me as a fake and, if they manage it, I will give them ten thousand dollars on the spot.’

 

381 was welcomed back to the grim reality of 2093 with a boot on his hand. He sharply exhaled as a Soldier dragged him upright.

Where did that memory come from?

‘Don’t.’

The Soldiers found this order from 381 hilarious. Pressure began to spread in a silent wave through the body of the telepathic Clone as a hard slap struck his forehead.

‘You didn’t say please, walkie-talkie.’

Anger throbbed behind his eyes and a tingle travelled along his spine as his grey-robed body was thrown against a concrete wall, then kicked. 381 could hear blood roar in his ears, the scream of something alien crouching behind his consciousness …

‘You ignoring me again, you stupid brain-sucker?’

With a shudder, something awakened. A primal howl echoed through the telepathist’s mind as a form of pure force hovered on the threshold of being released from its prison. Every light globe exploded and glass rained over the three Soldiers as the Sender/Receiver glared at his oppressors with unconfinable rage.

‘I said don’t!’

Thrown by enough force to break bones, the foremost Soldier crashed against the opposite wall with a whimper. A Slitter knife rose from an ankle sheath to drop though his boot, but the blade was so sharp he had no idea of his injury. The other two could only gape stupidly.

A hum of tension filled the air. 381 could taste copper and felt something coiled within him, something trying to tear its way out …

The Sender/Receiver’s shaking hands rose up on instinct, both palms facing towards his enemies, then the walls glowed as 381 felt a searing release of power. Concrete splintered, the young Clone fell to his knees with a yell and all was silent once his wail had ended. Shuddering in the dim light, he watched smoke waft from the palms of his hands. He stared in shock at the three twisted results of his actions.

A Code Yellow alarm erupted, its sequence of thuds and beeps sounding from every direction. The MeshLinks implanted in the trio of dead faces hummed with transmitted orders for the Soldiers to respond, which 381 knew would be impossible.

381 knew he had to act fast.

The closest Soldier gave no resistance while a plastic autonrifle was levitated from his hands as though magnetised. A sheathed Slitter knife joined the ranged weapon with a gesture from the young Clone.

How is this possible? Where did that memory come from?

‘What’s happening to me?’ he demanded, but no answers came.

The autonrifle was placed on full charge with an aggressive twist of the dial and a whine sounded that ascended to ultrasonic. He flinched as the thick door was split in half and a blackened crater formed on the outside wall. 381 finally managed to stand and look down at the advanced weapon.

‘Overkill.’

A Code Orange replaced the former alarm at twice the volume. In horror, the Sender/Receiver could suddenly hear those of his kind telepathically screaming, calling out to him, demanding why he had brought such trouble to them all. Blinking away concrete dust and smoke from within a grey, billowing cloud, he wandered out of the breached bunker in a daze, realising that he had no plan.

A Code Orange alarm and no plan.

Rather than what to do next, he thought about a warning from years ago: Causing a Code Orange will result in every walkie-talkie within Complex 14  getting Retired. Whatever idiot instigates such an alarm will think the penalty everybody else gets is a worthy goal by the time we finish with them.

He was now scared more than ever. ‘They’re gonna kill the lot of us. What have I done?’

Sender/Receiver 381 went blank. He turned in hopeless circles and his vision flitted over five closed doors as he imagined the stampede of Soldiers that would soon arrive from every direction. In the midst of a potential crossfire, his ears sore from the deafening alarm, 381 slumped to his knees. He did not know where to go, what to do, how to do it … all he could think of was the terror his future capture had in store.

The Sender/Receiver almost fell over in surprise as he Received a message. A map formed within his mind’s eye with a red arrow tracing through the visualised corridors to a clear exit. As some other telepathist knew the way and had Sent it, 381 now also knew about it.

A way out!

‘Who Sent that?’

Instead of an answer, five curt words were Sent: melt the locks and move.

The picture decayed as the Sender immediately disconnected. 381 hefted his acquired autonrifle, reduced the charge to a fraction and felt some recoil as the keypad locks were fused to solid masses. Heat travelled up his spine and an unintentional telekinetic discharge changed a massive security door to a melted pit in a flash.

‘Double overkill.’

381 raced through the high-security area, encountering no opposition. The alarm began to fade, only to be replaced by the muffled sounds of enraged Soldiers as they loudly collided with the sealed doors, their anger almost tangible. He raced ahead to blast apart a third portal as the din of numerous other autonrifles replaced the yelling Soldiers with synchronised whines. 381 looked down the maw of the newly opened, immense corridor that stretched in a straight line for fifty metres and instantly knew he would be cut down before he could reach the middle.

‘Bad.’

On instinct, he turned to face a door marked ‘STORES’. The handle was turned and clicked closed in one fluid motion just before dozens of autonrifles sounded near his original location. Red diodes flickered on the dark walls as the only source of light as countless footfalls streamed outside, then, after a few seconds, the Sender/Receiver sighed, realising the Soldiers had been tricked. Their bellowing receded until only a distant murmur remained. He knew that those red-armoured hunters would eventually return, despite their stupidity.

381’s eyesight adjusted to the scant available light and his vision was gradually filled with yellow and black signs. Tall stacks of objects marked as methium nitrate bricks and tubes of dynamite sat beside fist-sized micronukes.

The armoury, he thought. I might as well make this worthwhile.

After spending a few seconds fumbling with technology of which he had no knowledge, a Sending struck again. Extensive information on the exact combination to press on the keypads was hardwired into his brain.

‘Whoever keeps doing that, thanks.’

Hundreds of buttons were depressed with expert grace and the explosives were daisy-chained together to form a single huge time bomb.

381 burst from the armoury and ran, guided by the mental map he had previously Received so that the Sender/Receiver kept to a tight path. Numerous doors served only as a moment of reduced speed while his stolen autonrifle whined in a universal key.

Almost there.

A pain in his lower back jabbed at him as the young Clone entered the foyer, which was a cold, sterile box of plate glass windows and thick concrete pillars. He rested his sore body in the deep shadows of one of the looming supports, trying his best to think about how to get past the Soldiers at the front door and catching his breath at the same time. A telekinetic discharge cracked one of the windows with a single stray thought, which caused 381 to shake from fear and listen intently for any sign that the enemies had heard him. The use of such power, however accidental, caused his backache to worsen.

And he could still not think of a single plan.

‘Array, you putrid sacks of maggot meat!’

381 froze at the voice of a Sanctioner, a deeply indoctrinated variety of Clone that was manufactured to lead three hundred Soldiers.

‘Oh no.’ His heart fluttering in terror, the Sender/Receiver peeped around the pillar with a single eye. The tiny flame of hope he still had dipped towards being extinguished as three hundred red-fatigued Soldiers stomped their left feet in synchronisation. Their heavy boots splintered the frosted ground outside and the windows vibrated.

‘An entire Tricent,’ he whispered in fear. ‘How am I supposed to get through three hundred of them?

A single word was Received: Psychosuggestion.

The Sender/Receiver almost retched as the entire procedure for the modification of his appearance or that of any given object was given to him telepathically. The power flared and 381 watched his autonrifle assume the shape of a broom.

‘Great,’ he muttered. ‘Just what I need. A Drudger tool.’

The pillar at his back shifted its texture until oddly shaped mirrors grew and warped on its rough surface. The telepathist concentrated, despite the constant pain within his spine, then his grey robes turned into a glossed crimson breastplate, his slight limbs bulged like sacks of rocks. The Clone inspected himself in the mirrored concrete: The surprised face of a Soldier literally reflected his expression of horror. 381 inspected his falsely scarred hands as he realised the sabotaged armoury would soon detonate.

‘Now that you chimpanzees seem to understand the concept of a straight line, check your weapons.’

381 flinched at the rough growl that was the Sanctioner’s voice. The Sender/Receiver inhaled deeply as he gently connected with the enemy commander’s mind, taking great care not to be discovered that he was doing so; then a surface thought, which concerned a Soldier who had not yet reported back, was found. With forced confidence, the telepathist got to his feet and walked towards three hundred autonrifles. The Soldiers stared at the young Clone as the Sanctioner flared his nostrils.

All was silent.

Unsurprisingly, this alien situation caused a lapse of all useful thought within the head of 381.

What am I doing? This is suicide, was all he could think.

‘Sir,’ the camouflaged Sender/Receiver barked in what he assumed was a rough way. ‘The cause of the Code Orange has barricaded himself on the other side of the armoury. Sir.’

The Sanctioner looked down at the hands of 381. ‘What is that, Soldier?’

381 almost fell over as he realised the autonrifle still looked like a broom. Bile rose up his throat and he said: ‘I was being creative with the Retirements.’

The Sanctioner’s chipped teeth were bared in a grimace. ‘You Soldiers are, without a doubt, the most sick units I have ever had the displeasure of commanding. You all heard the news. It’s burning time.’

Flamethrowers were ignited as the Sanctioner pointed towards the lobby. Ranks of Soldiers filed through the open foyer as the young Clone experienced a moment of dread under those flinty eyes.

‘Good work, Soldier,’ the enemy leader said. ‘Those walkie-talkies are torment to find once they burrow in. They use those weird powers to hide like psychic cockroaches.’

‘Yeah,’ the Sender/Receiver replied as his mental count continued to descend. ‘Nuke the lot of them, I say. More work than they’re worth. Sir, I’ll just go and … make sure you get all the credit.’

The Sanctioner sneered, his eyes narrow and grey. ‘Smart move. Carry on.’

The walk between Complex 14 and a snow-capped tree line felt like eternity. A twinge in his exposed back was disregarded as paranoia about this vulnerable state, but 381 did not dare turn around in case he was being watched.

Look natural, keep your eyes ahead, pace yourself …

The dense bracken was torn apart as 381 entered the tree line with a burst of telekinesis. His false appearance was reversed and his cloth shoes crunched over the ugly tundra.

The silent count reached twenty seconds.

A hill was crested and any malformed trees in the way were snapped as though by a bull with two red cataracts. A small push of power was used to try and knock a rock from his path, but the roots of the granite monolith stretched far too deep for such a solution. High-pitched static could be heard as the Sender/Receiver found himself on the frosted ground. A mark of blood on the tilted boulder matched an ache in his forehead.

‘Man, that sucked.’

His stunned position allowed a complete view of Complex 14 in an inverted picture. Snow melted against his hot head as the collection of buildings that had been his home for nineteen years were watched through his glazed hazel eyes. This moment of peace ended, however, when two perimeter sentries snapped their heads towards the Complex and ran away, as though warned about something over the MeshLinks implanted in their faces. A flash of light consumed the pair of silhouettes as a mushroom cloud arched towards the pastel sunset, the sound an unmatched note of pure bass.

Tears formed in the Sender/Receiver’s eyes. ‘What have I done?’

An orange and black pillar of fire formed and its base slithered like a nest of serpents. Every metal support was immolated beneath the contents of an entire armoury, the explosive agents all mixing together to form a breath of fervent heat. The fiery winds threw those within Complex 14 outside in dozens of pieces and assorted objects soared under a mighty push. A blackened shoulder with half an upper arm landed on 381, knocking him against a gnarled tree. As he came to a snow-dislodging stop against the ancient, indifferent wood, the blast wave reached his position and he flew up in a breathless ascension. Snapped trees and dislodged boulders joined his suspension like the javelin and shot put of a giant. With his unresponsive limbs devoid of all purpose in such a situation, 381 could do nothing but be seared by a cloud of sparks as his descent began.

‘No!’

Vertigo struck just before a raw snap announced his left wrist had broken on contact with the packed snow. His lower leg on the same side was pinned in place by a rock before the momentum could gain behind a full-body roll. Heat flashed in the afflicted foot as he stopped with a jerk.

Dust swirled within a cloud of black smoke that had formerly been the sky, then hot debris descended in a storm as the destruction continued. 381’s dazed eyes stared up as tonnes of machinery, dismembered Soldiers and concrete slabs performed a macabre impersonation of rain around his still body. A smoking door almost cut the Clone in half as it came to a snowbound stop a metre from his chest. While sparks sizzled viciously against his wounded body, 381’s perception blurred as he crawled towards an inner darkness. A round shape sizzled before his eyes with a tattoo that read JIK365.

‘All for nothing,’ he whispered, believing this was the end. ‘What was the point?’

Merciful oblivion received him with open arms as his skin hissed on the snow.

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