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Mind & Machine: Chapter 1

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Mind & Machine: Chapter 1

Postby Nightender » Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:54 am

Here is the first full chapter of Mind & Machine. The cover text and Prologue can be found Mind & Machine: Cover Text and Prologue.

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Chapter 1

P. Johnson Dalton looked down upon the skyline of New York City, smiling at the true arrival of the new millennium. He looked at his reflection above the city and knew his own worth. Fit and trim, Dalton had a preference toward dark gray suits, something to make him stand out with his typical brown hair and brown eyes. He wore a dark red tie, a subtle sign of his public affiliation.
The executives of MetroCorp sat quietly, a perfect audience for Dalton's ambitions. “My friends,” Dalton said, standing at the head of the table, watching the nine faces in attendance. “Now that PsiGrow has passed FDA tests, we can begin developing it for mass production. Those wanting to be smarter will have a place to turn for immediate results. PsiGrow will become the premier performance enhancer for the intellectual elite.”
He watched as a few of them nodded. They were falling in line, just as good children should. “Estimates show that it would take an independent firm four years to halt the production and sale of PsiGrow; within three years, we’ll be ready for the next stage.”
The board as a whole applauded their progress, some more than others. Once the sound died, Dalton sat, motioning to the opposite end of the table. “Mr. Saint, what's the current distribution status?”
A small man adjusted the glasses in front of his bloodshot eyes and opened the leather folder in front of him. “Our Olympia branch is ready to move full shipments, as is our Tampa branch and home office.” Saint glanced to his right, looking out the large window. “Demographic testing in Phoenix should begin shortly, followed by extended application trials in Las Vegas. Receipt of PsiGrow is all they require at this point.” Again Saint looked out the window, looking at a small bit of movement.
“Mr. Saint,” Dalton said. “How can Phoenix or Las Vegas be ready if Olympia hasn’t moved their shipments?”
Saint took off his glasses. “Sorry, I misspoke.” Saint started rubbing his eyes. “What I meant to say was that our Olympia branch is ready…”
A loud thud struck the window, leaving a burst of small cracks in the center of the large pane. Once everyone’s attention started to turn, another blow hit, as well as a third. Small cracks started to converge, making the entire window creak. As the cracks touched and merged, they grew, building a fractured web over the New York skyline.
A shadow swooped down, curving in from above to strike the window. A man dressed in black broke through the window, landing on the long table, breaking it in two. Bits of glass and wood settled all around the room, pushing the board members to scatter from the impact.
The man in black stood, unscathed and determined. His gaze was blocked by a sleek flight helmet covering his face. He wore a black flight suit with wooden splinters and flakes of glass lightly dusted along the surface. A large pistol was fastened to his right hip, the one bright thing worn by the giant standing in the remains of the table. He tore his helmet off, whipping it across the room with his left hand with such overwhelming force, that the closest executive crumpled to the floor.
Without a helmet, Dalton could see that the man in black was a Caucasian man with short brown hair. His kind face wore a stern expression as he looked around the room. “You,” the man said, pointing at Saint with two fingers. “Hurt the man you hate most.”
Saint grabbed his temples, almost cowering over. His eyes dilated and his face went blank. Saint closed his fingers into white-knuckled fists and ran around the table. He jumped at Dalton, flailing as he pinned his employer against the wall. Saint screamed while throwing wild punches.
Dalton blocked his face from the wild blows. “What the hell?”
The man in black walked around the ruins of the large table, commanding each person to “Sleep.” Some of the board members became drowsy and slow, while others fainted.
Saint wildly punched Dalton in the face and shoulders. There was little chance of Dalton being hurt—Saint’s attack was the definition of frantic.
The man in black hit Saint in the back of the head and said, “Stop.” The small man fell on top of Dalton, only to slide onto the floor under the force of his own weight.
“Who the hell are you?” Dalton asked as he stood.
The man in black punched Dalton in the gut. “Give me your cellphone.”
“No.”
Using his left foot, the man kicked Dalton’s legs out from underneath him. “You’ve got one minute,” Commander said. He went back to the window and pulled on the rope still dangling from the window frame. A backpack on a hook slid down the rope. He unfastened the backpack to free it, latching the straps again before throwing the bag over his left shoulder.
Two muscular men in suits burst through the doors of the boardroom. The man in black ripped the pistol from his hip, putting two shots into each man. Both men fell, reaching for their radios when they weren’t cradling their wounds.
“You have that cellphone for me?”
Dalton stared at the pistol, sure it would come for him soon. “I don’t have one.”
“*beep*.” The man in black grabbed Dalton by the collar and tossed him into the closest chair. He tore Dalton’s jacket open, reaching into the inner pocket, and removing a cellphone.
With his mouth half open, Dalton tried to say something, generate a defense for his lie. His argument was one of the most detailed and rational of his life. “Don’t—please don’t kill me.”
“You’re too useful to kill.” The man in black scrolled through the cell phone’s contact list. After Maxwell appeared on the small screen, the man in black said, “Hold out the arm you use less.”
Dalton hesitantly offered a trembling left arm. The man in black scowled and shot Dalton’s right arm once through the elbow joint. Dalton screamed and grabbed his elbow.
“You shot me.”
“Yeah. Don’t lie to me next time.” The man in black punched in a sequence of numbers and spoke into the phone. “Mark down this number. We’ll use it.” After hanging up, he said, “I’ve got business to take care of. Make sure you keep pressure over that wound. It might even clot if you do.”
The man in black walked to the door, picking up one of the fallen guards’ security cards. He started scrolling through Dalton’s phone again, picking someone to call. As the ringing started, he used the security card to access the elevators down the hall.
***
Malcolm Maxwell, the virile, black-haired Senator from Iowa, walked toward Capitol Hill, not worried about the footsteps behind him. Always two steps behind, Maxwell's aide, Morrison, kept one ear free and the other on a trio of cellphones. Only one of Maxwell’s phones stayed with him but it never rang.
When that phone rang, both men stopped. Maxwell took out the cellphone and checked it. He rolled his eyes and answered. “John, what’s wrong?”
“Dalton and his coworkers were just attacked by a madman.”
Maxwell covered his mouth and quietly asked, “Who is this?”
“The madman.”
A colder tone came over Maxwell’s voice. “Who are you?”
“Every senior member of Congress is allowed one personal assassination. You wasted yours.”
Maxwell stopped. His body locked, unsure of what happened. He recalled the voice speaking to him, thinking of a meek young man. “What do you want?”
“I’m about to destroy your East Coast operation. You may want to call your investment broker.”
The line went dead.
***
Commander couldn’t risk Maxwell calling back yet, so he turned off the phone and put it in his pocket. It was a long walk to the storage bay where the shipment was being kept. Inside, Commander watched as a synchronous chain of workers unload pallets of cardboard boxes. He waited for the workers to finish, stripping off the black flight suit to pass the time. The clothes he wore underneath were black too; a t-shirt, shorts, and a pair of black Nikes.
When the last worker left, sealing the loading door, Commander jumped to his feet and tore into a set of boxes. He pulled one box free and opened it, finding four smaller cardboard boxes. One box slipped out, and Commander found thousands of pills inside. From his backpack, he found a replacement box, trading it for a box of pills. The box slipped into its place properly, completing the exchange.
He took a few steps over to another pallet and tore into another box. Commander could see PsiGrow 837 printed on the side. He growled. He ripped the new box open, spilling pills everywhere. He kicked the boxes under those he tore into, smashing them.
Collecting his gear, Commander crept back into the hallway, heading for the stairs. He looked forward and back, finding no one. When he opened the stairwell, he heard an echoing clatter—footsteps from multiple people, all running.
Commander let the door shut without going inside. He paced back down the hallway, looking for a place to retreat. After a few steps, he found himself close to the elevator. Noting the elevator’s numerical descent, Commander checked around and found restrooms flanking both sides.
He braced open the men’s room door and placed the wet floor sign sitting behind it in the middle of the doorway. Instead of going further inside, Commander went into the opposite door and hid in one of the stalls. He mounted his backpack on the inside of the door, sat, and waited. He watched the pale beige door, barely latched in front of him. It stood blank, quiet.
Inside Commander's thoughts was a single form, a guide for his fears. The focus of his thoughts was to go back in his mind, to reflect on the moment when he first touched a woman’s hair. There was a simple line of cool sensation running through his hands and fingers, a long reminder of wanting her.
Footsteps flowed into the restroom, casual steps that signaled a doubt of finding their prey. Commander watched the pair of feet step into view, about to stop.
Commander kicked the door into his pursuer and rose. His fists went forward, colliding with the guard’s bleeding nose. As the guard tried to cover his face, Commander grabbed his opponent's collar and hurled him forward. A long blood smear was left on the toilet bowl as Commander readied his next assault. The stall door bounced and Commander collected his backpack.
When Commander was halfway across the room, a middle-aged man ran in, pointing the way with a Beretta. Commander hurled his backpack forward, sending the shoulder straps over the man’s hands, causing him to drop the gun. Commander twisted to the right and slammed his new enemy’s head against a tampon dispenser, knocking the middle-aged man out and sending tiny sticks all over the floor.
In the hallway, Commander saw another guard looking into the men's restroom. Commander pulled his Desert Eagle and marched forward. “Not a word or a move,” he said. “How many of you came down here?” The guard raised a hand and held up four fingers. Commander holstered his gun and tensed his right fist. In his mind, Commander tensed it again, creating a psychic blade. He took a deep breath before punching the guard in the back of the head.
Commander visualized the guard's mind as a vibrant orange with its outer husk peeled away. Commander's attack ripped into the guard, tearing away surface information as easily as a sliver of orange could be separated from the whole. When Commander had what he was after, he dropped the knowledge back into its original place. The guard in the doorway fell to the floor, wide-eyed and foaming at the mouth.
Commander stepped into the restroom and saw the last guard looking in a stall. “Jimmy.”
Jimmy turned, aiming a Beretta at Commander.
“I know about you,” Commander said. “I know about your performance enhancers—”
“I’m not on steroids,” Jimmy said. “Now, put your hands on your head.”
“I was talking about keeping it up with your wife. And with your girlfriend.”
Jimmy shook his head. “I don’t have a girlfriend.”
Even from several feet away, Commander could see the details running through Jimmy's mind. “It’s right there in your head. She looks a lot like your wife did ten years ago.”
The Beretta started shaking. “Drop your gun,” Jimmy said.
“Sure,” Commander said as he dropped it to the floor. “I don’t need it to see inside your head and take you apart, piece by piece.” Commander searched Jimmy’s thoughts, choosing his next words carefully. “You are nothing.”
Jimmy fell into a daze.
In the blink of an eye, Commander ran forward. His psychic blade formed again, ready to smash into Jimmy's face.
***
The walk to the lobby was uneventful. So many people flooded in and out of the MetroCorp Tower, no one noticed a tall man in black and carrying a backpack. Commander met the eyes of a pretty receptionist with dirty blonde hair.
“Hello, sir. How can I help you?”
Commander smiled and put a cellphone on the counter. “I think this belongs to Mr. Dalton. Could you see to it he gets it back?”
The young woman looked at the phone, unsure of what to do. “I’m not sure how I could get this back to him.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Commander said. He put an envelope on the counter. “I’m sure you’ll think of something.”
The young woman swept the hair out of her eyes and opened the envelope. By the time she saw the stack of twenty dollar bills, Commander had walked out the door.
He looked inside and waved at her. Commander walked slowly and kept watching until he was sure that the young woman had picked up the phone and turned it on.
***
Maxwell sat in his car, having redialed the same number for half an hour. He knew exactly who’d called him, since the assassins he’d sent had been killed. For some reason, his latest call, actually got through. A young woman’s voice answered, saying, “Hello?”
“Who is this?” Maxwell asked. “What happened to the man who had this phone?”
“A tall guy in black?”
The description solidified Maxwell’s fears. “Yes, where is he?”
“He left after he gave me this.”
“What did he say?”
“He just wanted Mr. Dalton to get his phone back.”
She was cut off by a boom. Maxwell heard the explosions and the sound of sprinklers, followed by a mass of frightened screams.
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Re: Mind & Machine: Chapter 1

Postby Xyster » Fri Mar 25, 2011 1:46 pm

Very interesting, very chaotic. It definitely drops you right into the action and gives some nice hints as to what's going on in the rest of the book. I would have liked a more detailed description of Commander, but I'm guilty of not filling in details on entire appearance until later as well. I'm sure his full appearance his filled in later. I liked the action, found certain parts hard to follow though due to the fact that I don't know half of the types of guns and weapons used. I would have to look them up to know. This is on my end though, someone more interested in guns would easily know the types I'm sure.

I might invest in a little more flow, some of the story seems rushed and choppy. I do like the voice and righting style though. Overall I'd rate it a great introduction to a very action packed story that I'd like to read.
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Re: Mind & Machine: Chapter 1

Postby The Master » Sat Mar 26, 2011 3:18 am

I really liked Commander's entrance. I agree that he could have a more complete description over the course of so many events. Given what was said in your prologue I'm a little taken aback by Commander's actions. I expected something more heroic, but heroic figures don't typically drop bomb off to lobby receptionists. Maybe this behavior is addressed later?

A minor thing about choice of words: virile is a very odd description for a senator in this context.
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Re: Mind & Machine: Chapter 1

Postby EmperorGothon » Sat Mar 26, 2011 7:33 am

Very good start, puts you right in the action straight away which is a good thing. Whilst I also think that it could do with maybe just a little more description, I think what you have here does a good job, especially since the character's actions explain what they are doing. I have to say that I found some of Commanders actions a little unnecessary, mainly because I think he actually seemed to enjoy hurting and killing the people he came across and being the hero this is really not he kind of thing you woudl expect. Although, I'm guessing (after reading the prologue) that you were aiming for a more "Anti-hero" type so in that respect I can overlook that.

Overall, this is a good start, it's short and throws you into the action straight away. This would probably work well as an anime. I look forward to reading more.
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