Authors: Nas Hedron
This is the
Official Pirate Edition
of the novel
Luck and Death at the Edge of the World
, by Nas Hedron. It is provided free of charge by the publisher, Hipper Tiger.
This edition contains the entire novel, but the commercial edition has additional material in a section called
Facts in the Fiction
that explores the factual background of six different elements of the fictional story, including a detailed discussion of each topic, illustrations, and links to relevant web pages, documents, and videos.
Copyright © 2012 Nassau Hedron.
First edition published May 7, 2012. This edition published November 4, 2012.
Kindle ISBN 978-0-9879911-1-9
EPUB ISBN 978-0-9879911-0-2
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Cover illustration by
using elements to which no copyright restrictions attach.
We Brace while we’re still in the Jenny, its twin rotors beating a heavy rhythm in the night air about twenty minutes outside Tijuana, and when the wave of Brace crests inside me I think to myself: so
is what it feels like to be a sociopath.
Each of us has inhaled deeply and abruptly, the way they tell you to do, holding a disposable applicator mask over nose and mouth. The interior of the Jenny is utterly dark in the visual spectrum for stealth, but our visors are tuned to an expanded EM range and the ultraviolet lamps make the inside of the hold gleam a pale whitish purple. We sit facing each other on benches that run down each side of the hold. On the floor in between us there is a small pile of crumpled applicator masks, a California National Forces logo fluorescing on each one.
The Brace has a harsh chemical tang in my nose and throat, reminiscent of burning plastic, but that’s quickly forgotten as the drug rushes up the inside of my face and explodes in my frontal cortex, then lies there sizzling, lighting up my brain from the inside with an intense white light, like the weaponized phosphorus of Angelfire.
I feel several things at once, none of it quite what I imagined.
My entire body is engorged with a carnal joy that I am suddenly too inhuman to express in words.
I am refreshed, reborn, re-energized—I could run, run, run forever and never run down. Despite my energy, I am filled with an ecstatic peace, a sense of being exactly where I belong, free of conscience, worry, or human sympathy.
I am blissfully awash in evil, in a profound lust for violence, unrestrained by anything like love, all empathy junked in a rush of pure kinetic bliss with the sweet taste of sin in the back of my throat.
Or maybe that’s not sin—in the first rush I bit the inside of my cheek and it’s bleeding.
I look across the aisle at Yarborough. Because of the reflection on his visor I can’t make out his eyes, but I can see his mouth. He is grinning uncontrollably, and I feel my face pull into the same rictus—not a smile, but a manic baring of the teeth, something inherited from our predator ancestors who hunted with their teeth, fought with their teeth and killed with their teeth.
He tilts his head slightly and his eyes become visible. He looks back at me and we know each other, the way monsters know each other. Next to me Macchia begins stomping his feet, first one and then the other, in a slow rhythm. I can feel his left leg against my right as he raises it up and stomps it down, over and over. I can feel the vibrations of his footfalls through the metal plating of the floor. After a moment Yarborough falls into step with him, and then I do, and then we all do, as though the entire squad is marching while sitting down. The beat is out of time with the Jenny’s rotors, setting up a jazzy syncopation. Someone down the aisle starts ratcheting their flechette launchers with a sound that is eerily like a güiro.
Wired on Brace, we’re not a very disciplined force, but then we don’t have to be. This isn’t a strategic infiltration like Boulder, or a covert intel op like New York. This is strictly civilian control, a euphemism for stomping on everyone and everything so painfully that for the rest of their lives they will keep their heads down, cause no trouble, and be grateful to simply be left alone. Guiterrez is a hard man and normally keeps his city under control, but lately he’s been distracted by local affairs—ambitious lieutenants, pleasures of the flesh—and the some isolated pockets of resistance have developed. Sacramento wants the place disinfected before isolated resistance comes together into something like insurrection.
The brass may call this civilian control, but we call this kind of mission what it is: deploy and destroy, burn and return. The Jenny’s floor begins to sink perceptibly, signaling our imminent arrival at the drop zone. Almost time.
Whatever we do down there, we won’t even remember it once the Brace wears off. It’s been coupled with a GABA agonist marketed under the trade name Erase, which temporarily prevents the formation of long-term memory. Like a bunch of blind drunks, when our consciences return in the morning we’ll be unaware of the atrocious things we did the night before. Hell, I can’t even remember boarding the Jenny.
Except that’s not right.
The Brace and Erase were administered simultaneously in the mask, which I only used once we were in flight. There’s no reason for me not to remember what happened before that. I check my memory, but I don’t remember boarding, or even being briefed, which is when I realize this has to be a dream. And if it’s a dream it must be based on memories—the very memories that the Erase was supposed to prevent from forming in the first place, buried somewhere deep in my head but excavated during sleep.
I feel panic rising because I know where the dream must be headed and despite being a mental fiction it feels real. I look at my hand, at the elapsed mission time displayed on my chronometer, at the equipment in the Jenny. Everything is detailed, precise,
. I bite the inside of my cheek again where it’s bleeding and it hurts.
Like so many things, I have training to deal with dreams. The Forces prepare us to take counter-measures against things like psychic driving and induced trance states. We know the Texans have used trance techniques on prisoners and we suspect that the Brazilians have too, so we’re prepared.
I force my breathing to slow and check my Alpha and Omega. Alpha: is there consistency between what I see now and what I normally see in the waking world, what the boffins call
consistency of perception with established facts
? And Omega: is there internal logical consistency
what I’m seeing?
At the moment the Omega seems intact. The situation remains consistent from one moment to the next, the people present don’t turn into other people, our actions are consistent with the mission, our behavior is consistent with having taken Brace.
And the Alpha? Only now that I’ve asked myself the question do I remember that Yarborough’s dead. Meeks and Kuzui are here and they went AWOL before the squad was ever deployed. Dreams have a way of obscuring facts like that until you scrutinize the situation detail by detail.
dreaming. The problem is that
I’m dreaming doesn’t help me as long as I’m still trapped in a dream that’s carrying me into the heart of Tijuana. I can moderate my psychological responses a little, though I can’t control them completely—my practice isn’t evolved enough for that. But controlling my
responses is way beyond my grasp. If we actually get to the city my body will overdose on adrenaline no matter how clearly I recognize that the things I’m seeing, the things we’re doing, aren’t real, and
will begin to erode my psychological control. Even a lifetime of meditation probably wouldn’t get me safely through reliving Tijuana.
If I could wake up I could put an end to it, and my Forces training is supposed to let me do exactly that, but it’s not working. I try shouting loudly and abruptly. I try suddenly kicking out at Macchia beside me, but he just grins at me. Abrupt, startling actions like these usually allow a sleeping person to briefly overcome the REM atonia that keeps them paralyzed while they’re dreaming so that they don’t end up running around the bedroom acting out their dreams. Then when their sleeping body kicks or shouts, it wakes them up. The problem is that it’s not working. Nothing is working and Tijuana is getting closer. I’d jump out of the Jenny—that would almost certainly wake me up—but the hold is sealed until we land.