Authors: Joshua Dalzelle
Omega Force: Return of the Archon
By Joshua Dalzelle
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to real persons, events, or places are purely coincidental; any references to actual places, people, or brands are fictitious. All rights reserved.
Edited by Monique Happy Editorial Services
Jason’s lungs burned and his heart hammered in his chest, but he gritted his teeth and dug a little deeper for that last bit of strength he had left. He was sprinting over a rough dirt path towards a pink and orange tree line nearly a quarter mile ahead of him. Seeing that he was heading for a rise in the path, he quickly checked his speed via his neural implant.
Thirty-eight miles per hour.
Despite the horrific pain of the lactic acid burning through his muscles, he smiled tightly and concentrated on not going airborne when he crested the short hill. Timing his jump carefully, he leapt when he was halfway up and sailed over the crest of the shallow rise to come back down to a relatively soft landing on the downhill side, still at a full run. He could see his objective in front of him and put everything he had into the last two hundred meters. As his speed crept just a hair over forty miles per hour, he thrilled at the air rushing by and the light, fast strikes of his feet on the hard-packed ground. He flashed by two beings standing casually near the path and began to decelerate until he could safely slow to a walk.
Almost immediately after the breeze generated by his speed disappeared, he began to sweat profusely and pant heavily as he walked back to where the two beings were still standing, consulting their data pads. “How fast?” he asked, his words coming out between his gulping breaths.
“That was under five minutes for the entire course,” the taller of the two said. “Simply astonishing.” He had deep bronze-colored skin and was nearly eight feet tall, but two feet of that was all neck. “I’ve never seen numbers like this,” he continued, talking to his colleague. “Have you?”
“I told you it would be impressive,” Doc said, also consulting the data Jason’s neural implant had sent them as he ran the course. “But not without some issues. Jason, your body’s cooling capability is nearly maxed out. In fact, we’re lucky it’s not an especially warm day.”
“You’re telling me,” Jason replied, breathing much slower as his body ramped down from the full-out assault on the obstacle course he’d just run. “But what are the chances I’ll ever push myself that hard under normal circumstances?”
“You can’t be serious,” Doc deadpanned. “Do you want me to give you a list of times from the past year alone?”
“You’re such a mother hen sometimes,” Jason griped as he took a long pull off the water bottle Doc had given him.
“Dr. Ma’Fredich!” the other alien exclaimed. “I was unaware you were a mother!”
“That’s not what he meant, Dalon,” Doc said. “The captain here feels I fuss over them too much about their health. What he fails to realize is that if I don’t, they’ll run themselves into the ground.”
“I’m afraid I still do not understand,” Dalon said, his head bobbing back and forth as he considered the human’s strange idiom. “But it’s of no importance. I’d like to get back to the lab and finish analyzing the data from this run. Excuse me.” The gangly alien strode across the grounds, his reverse-bent knees giving him a peculiar gait.
“In all seriousness, Captain,” Doc began again, “we’re at the very edge of what I can do to enhance your body through genetic manipulation. The only step beyond this is extensive cybernetic upgrades, which means we start chopping limbs off and stuffing your body cavity full of machinery.”
“You paint such lovely images with your words, Doc,” Jason said with a disgusted look on his face. “No … this will be it. I just needed that last little edge you could give me. You did really well. I would have never dreamed of even being able to complete that course before, much less in the time I did.”
“I won’t pretend to understand your motivations, Captain,” Doc said as they began walking back towards the lab complex, “but I hope you’re not putting yourself through this just to try and keep up with the other two.”
Jason didn’t answer as they continued on. The truth was that he did go through the procedure so that he wouldn’t feel like he was the weak link when he was in the middle of an op with Lucky and Crusher, two of the most powerful soldiers and naturally gifted warriors he’d ever seen. He was able to compensate for his human body’s shortcomings in expensive, powered armor, but that wasn’t always a practical solution.
So six months earlier, he had asked Doc to do an extensive analysis and come up with a plan of attack to eliminate some of those weaknesses. Three months later, he and Doc, with the help of Crisstof Dalton, were given permission to set up shop in one of the preeminent genetics research labs on the world of Aracoria. The ConFed stronghold had the staff and facilities needed for Doc to begin modifying Jason’s genetic makeup and perform the needed upgrades to his body. It was three months of unimaginable pain, hooked up to machines while he could literally feel his body morphing into something … else.
The culmination of that suffering had been a blistering time through a nearly impossible obstacle course with no ill effects afterwards. His skeleton had been again reinforced with organic, carbon-based materials. The muscle density and individual strand-strength had been increased by a magnitude of at least four. The gene that controlled his aging had been modified, as well as a host of other upgrades to his various systems, which would ensure that he ran at peak performance for some years to come. If he had felt less than human with the enhancements he had been given before, he felt positively alien now as he walked across the ground with a new spring in his step.
“I’m almost afraid to ask,” Jason said after a moment, “but how is Kage?”
Since Jason was already going to be out of commission for months, Kage had asked if he could get his wetware upgraded to the newest state-of-the-art. What he hadn’t realized was that in addition to integrating with a new neural computer, he also had to have a few genetic tweaks by Doc and the staff at the facility to make sure they bonded seamlessly. There was also the complication of removing the old computer that he’d had been carrying in his head that had a core that was nearly ten years old.
“That depends on who you ask,” Doc said irritably. “As his doctor I can assure you he’s making a phenomenally speedy recovery and is integrating with his new neural suite as we’d hoped he would.”
“And if I ask him?”
Doc shrugged. “You should probably look in on him, Captain.”
Jason sighed heavily. “Very well.”
“How’s it going, buddy?” Jason said with exaggerated cheerfulness as he and Doc walked into Kage’s room in the medical facility. It was not that Jason didn’t feel a certain degree of sympathy for his diminutive friend, but Kage was an incessant whiner and a world-class drama queen and therefore it was difficult to say how much pain he was truly in.
Jason wasn’t quite prepared for the sight in front of him. While his own recovery from his procedures had been arduous, the end results had quickly made him forget about the pain. Kage, however, looked to still be in the early stages of his own recovery. The little Veran was hooked up to a host of machines, some actually inserted into his brain through the cranium itself. Fluid-carrying tubes and electronic cables were also interfaced directly to the neural implant as it integrated with Kage’s unique brain. Due to that brain’s complexity and capabilities, the standard nanotech implants were of no real benefit. Instead, an invasive procedure to install a much more powerful interface was required.
Well, required for Kage’s line of work.
“Captain, is that you?” Kage said. Jason looked around in confusion. As far as he knew, Kage was still able to see and had even looked right at him when he walked in.
“Yeah, it’s me,” Jason said. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m dying, Captain,” Kage whispered. Jason looked up at Doc, who only rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“The people here say you’re going to be okay,” Jason said. “You’re just going to be very uncomfortable for a little bit longer.”
“It’s fine, Captain,” Kage whispered again, ignoring Jason. “I’ve had a good run. If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, could you take my body back to Ver and give it to the Overseers for the funeral rites?”
“Kage,” Jason began before being interrupted.
“I wonder if it will hurt,” the Veran continued. “Dying, I mean.”
“I wish my family knew about all the people I’ve helped out here.”
“Kage, you’re not fucking dying!” Jason snapped, pausing to pull in a deep breath and calm himself after the outburst. “You’re going to be—” He was interrupted again by Kage, who reached out and stroked the side of his face with a clammy hand.
“I’m going to miss all of you,” Kage said in a barely audible whisper. Then, without warning, he coughed a single, violent hack and a glob of yellowish, greenish …
… flew out of his mouth and landed on Jason’s face with a wet
“Sorry,” he whispered again and began to try and wipe it off with his hand. All he succeeded in doing, however, was smearing it all around Jason’s face and over his now-clenched, closed mouth. Jason stood and angrily smacked his hand away. “Ow!” Kage squealed loudly.
Doc, having the good sense and requisite self-control to not even crack a smile, wordlessly handed Jason a soft cloth towel from the counter he was leaning against. Jason grabbed it and scrubbed at his face vigorously. Once he felt he had most of the slimy substance off his face, he went to the basin, still not relaxing the muscles in his mouth, and scrubbed his face with water as hot as he could stand. After drying off with another proffered towel, he turned, without looking at his friend, and walked out of the room.
“He’s not actually dying,” Doc said, following him out into the corridor.
“Oh, let’s not rush to judgment,” Jason said hotly. “There’s still plenty of time for him to die.”
“You may need to stand in line,” Doc answered as they walked. “I think some of the nursing staff is plotting to kill him.
“To be fair, he is in a lot of discomfort. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it actual pain, but the integration process can be quite disconcerting and he did have the previous core in his head for much longer than is recommended for that type of neural interface.”
“If he’s having this much trouble just getting used to the thing in his head, how long will it be until he’s actual able to do his job again?” Jason asked with some concern.
“I’m not qualified to speak to that,” Doc admitted. “I want to say that this is the hardest part, but I’m not fully certain either way.”
“This is somewhat troubling,” Jason mused. “We rely on him a lot more than I’d like to admit. It’s a bit of a glaring weakness in our outfit, to be honest.”