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The Thomas Brent Adventures

The Thomas Brent Adventures by Robert L. Love
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The Thomas Brent Adventures is a trilogy based upon the life and times of Thomas Brent, a lonely, very ordinary man, who witnesses an event that will change his life forever and make him more than he ever dreamed he could be . . . if he can survive. Join Thomas Brent in this Sci-Fi action adventure story that follows his transformation from Technician to an Agent for IWR and more.
SynergEbooks; March 2003
144 pages; ISBN 9780744301373
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: The Thomas Brent Adventures
Author: Robert L. Love
 
Excerpt
EPISODE ONE



The Corpett Project

CHAPTER 1

HERE IT BEGINS


I was tired—there was no doubt about that. It wasn't bad enough that I had been assigned to the Corpett Project, but to be put down in the GS Lab! That topped it all.

As I recalled the day, I could see them, Bill, Sal, and that Edward Marks, Mr. Team Leader himself. He was the cause of it all. "I see from your record, Mr. Brent, that you're an average Tech." He said it, right in front of everyone! And even though they turned their heads and acted busy, I could feel the snickers. Worst of all, he was right. Average skills, intelligence, looks and emotions, which were on boil at this moment from the humiliation of this final straw. Even my co-workers, Bill and Sal, had actually started to call me "BOACEA," a slang term for menials used on the inner planets.

The Pretoria was my only escape lately; a place to put things back in order. A place to be invisible, which is what Thomas Brent was to the rest of society. My entire life amounted to my work these days. Aside from the involvement of the Project, I was alone. Except for those who had to deal with me on a daily basis, I was a non-person.

At least to Bill and Sal I was "BOACEA" (not much, but at least it was some recognition, something short of total rejection).

I longed for change, companionship, someone that cared. As I sat, I played a little game that I always played here, observing each woman who came in. I imagined the development of a relationship. But even as I imagined it they drifted by and on to their lives as though I were no more than the furniture.

As the ultimate proof of my invisibility, a couple sitting in the back-to-back S chair with me began to touch each other intimately, as if I wasn't even there. I sat in amazement as they fondled each other only inches from my face. I could smell them and almost feel the quiet little sounds the man made as he became aroused. From the corner of my eye I watched, wishing that I were in that other seat with those long caressing fingers stimulating me. I could feel the warmth and the softness. It made me long for something to break the loneliness of this place.

Suddenly, the man gasped and went stiff, his head slowly turning toward me. I knew that look, I had seen it once before. The transway station attendant at GS Lab station had that same look when the first Corpett test had exploded, pushing a piece of deck plating through his chest.

By the time it registered in my mind that the man was dead, he had begun to fall to the floor and people were looking. The girl, where was the girl? "Hey you!" I turned just in time to see the feathered fringe of a robe disappear from the out door. Can't get involved! Must get out of here. "Hey! You! Stop!" People were moving toward me now. I lurched past the table and managed my way to the outer door with voices shouting behind me, "Stop that man. Stop him!"

Before I thought about it I had stumbled into the transway tube. As the door slammed shut I looked at the tube display panel on the inner wall, its lights flashing the location as the car moved. FA Level, Tube One, I was headed for Command Central. Those people in the Pretoria seemed to think that I had killed that man. "I'll go straight to security at Com Central and tell them about the girl and that will be that!" I leaned back against the hard wall of the transway car and watched as the indicator lights moved from left to right, flickering from one little box to the next with a quiet little click, click, click, click, click.

It seemed to take an eternity, tube one, two, and three . . . the indicator continued to flash as I passed each station. Finally, the door snapped open at Com Central station. It was busy as hell, people running back and forth, lights flashing and people talking over the hubbub of the crowd.

Two men stood just to my left. "Did you hear? They just flashed it over the COM SYS. Some guy just snuffed the team leader of the Corpett Project!"

The room began to spin. I fell back against the transway tube. The face, oh Jesus. It was Edward Marks! The man in the Pretoria was Edward Marks! Oh great! Security's not gonna buy this. I remembered what I had said to Sal just after Marks had left the room. "I ought to 'average tech' him right out the closest airlock!"

"Hey, you okay, buddy?"

"What?" It was a strange face hovering over me. It appeared to look genuinely concerned.

"Are you all right? You almost fell into the transway."

"Just felt a little weak for a moment, I'm okay now, thanks." I turned and walked a few paces away. I gotta get out of here. It won't take security two shakes to put this together.

As I started down the corridor I tried to picture just one place on this floating platform where I could hide. Having been on the orbiting platform for just over two months I suddenly realized just how isolated I had become in my work. I really knew very little about the geography of the platform. They would look in all the obvious places. Perhaps the best thing would be to give myself up to security. With my luck, the worst that would happen was the penal colony at Rechiovick. I stared at the crowd as it moved like some multicolored behemoth. Multicolored! The feathered robe! There couldn't be two of them. She was tall and slender and the robe, with its multicolored feathers, flowed in the breeze from her quickened stride. It was the woman and she was going straight into Com Central!

With all the nerve I could muster, I followed her. Security guards were posted at every doorway but they ignored both of us. They haven't put my name to it yet, but they will any minute now. A right, then a left, then right again, through the overhead and VIP port and then there were no more guards. We had walked straight through Command central into a part of the ship that was unfamiliar to me. She never stopped or even slowed down. She obviously knew exactly where she was. Straight through Com and into the Executive lift at A-Station, according to the wall panel. The executive lift? This was no ordinary person. Everyone had heard about A-Station but only one in a thousand had ever been there. It was the private residential section of the Command Council. I had to think of something fast; how could I get to A-Station? My wrist chip will not grant me access. There will be guards everywhere. Then it hit me, the airlock right in front of me. It is highly unlikely that anyone will open this soon and it will give me a moment to think.

I slipped in and closed the port. I sat on the floor and my mind began to wonder over what had happened and what I should do. It all rests with her. I must find her and put security onto her to clear myself. But how? I sat thrumming my fingers across my knee as I thought. In front of me hanging on the lock wall were two pressure suits. Gradually, a crazy idea formulated; if I could not get to her from inside, maybe I could get to her from outside.

The brown one looks to be close to my size. I pulled it from the brace and examined it. Its outer chest plate was marked "Maintenance Section." I put it on as quickly as I could manage. It was thick and seemed to restrain my motions, and its owner was obviously smaller than I was. With the final click of the helmet, I looked down. "Now what's this?" I reached down and touched the power switch on the chest plate of the suit. The suit snapped and hissed! My right arm slammed out against the wall and hit the hatch release without depressurization. The power servos of the maintenance suit had caused a simple motion to become exaggerated, and I was now hurtling out of control in open space! I could hear my heart pounding in my ears and everything spun as my body attempted to adjust to the sudden absence of the platform’s artificial gravity.

Through the silence of the vacuum I saw the flashing lights and the bent structure of the airlock door, and knew that all sorts of security alarms were going off in Com Central. But that was the least of my problems just now. It seemed that this is how the end would come for Thomas Brent: one missing suit and one missing non-person. I'll bet they have forgotten already.

It seemed that an eternity had passed. The dark metal skin of the station had been drifting by me for God knows how long. I would soon be out of oxygen and that would be that! I watched as the Executive Lift airlock’s little yellow warning lights flickered and gradually disappeared from sight in the distance.

As I drifted away from the platform, I wondered what my last thoughts would be or what action would be my last. I should open the COM SYS to Central and tell them about the woman. They may not believe me, but it's the right thing to do. How average—the right thing to do. I reached down and flipped the COM SYS to the open position, inhaled deeply and “agghhhhhh!”

The pain reeled through my back and neck! I had struck something with considerable force. "What? Who is this on Com link 1, 9?"

Quickly, I flipped the COM SYS to off. It's the A-Station Extension! I glanced at the life support system panel readout at my temple. Five minutes left. Gotta get inside! Gently, I reached out for the hull ribbing. If I missed it, that would be my last act! "Gotcha!" Now, how do I get in? I surveyed the surface in every direction. I could see nothing but the dark skin of the platform disappearing into the blackness and not an airlock in sight. Must work my way back to the main station connector, there has to be an airlock there.

As I pulled myself along the hull ribbing, I found that I could just see into the star ports as I passed. So far, only private rooms with their luxurious trimmings; soft cushions, deep rugs and all the latest in high-tech fun things. But no way in! No way in, and just minutes to suffocation and the end of it all!

The voice boomed with authority and had that cutting edge on it that demanded obedience. "I want two teams to backup the FA Level investigative team!" He paced across the riser. "Send a team down to the GS Lab and check this Thomas Brent character!" He paced back again. "Put two men on the outside of the Executive lift airlock with a backup at the lock and put out an all stations alert. Got that?"

"Yes Sir!" The junior officer snapped to attention and began barking orders to his subordinates.

Ned Beachum was the Commander—a tall powerful man who was clearly in control.

"Team one reporting, Sir! Where do you want it?"

"Put it on my personal link." A slight pause, then "Come in, team one."

"Team one here, Sir! The dead man is definitely Edward Marks, the Team Leader, Corpett Project. Seems that he was poisoned with some kind of Galmar compound introduced through a small puncture wound at his groin."

"Where?"

"Yes, Sir! At his groin!"

"Continue."

"Well, Sir, no one seemed to notice until the guy keeled over onto the floor. There was a man sitting in the other half of the S chair who ran out, just as he fell. Witnesses confirm our initial report. It was Thomas Brent of GS Lab. He worked for Marks. There was an unidentified woman with Marks. She is gone. No clear description!"

"Thank you team one. Com, out!"

"Come in team two!"

"Team two here, Sir!"

"Report!"

"We have checked on this Brent fellow, he hasn't been seen since the incident at the Pretoria. But - catch this - his co-workers told us that he threatened to throw Marks out the nearest airlock just before the last shift ended. They thought he was just kidding; Marks had been on his back."

"Thank you, team two. Com, out."

"Lieutenant, have the out team do an external scan of the platform."

"Yes, Sir!"

"Com Central to the Executive Lift airlock! This is Security Command. Report!"

"Yes, Sir! The lock has been blown out. Someone opened the exterior hatch without depressurization. The lock is damaged and non-functional. We have put two men out using the emergency escape tube, but there is nothing visible. One maintenance suit is missing. It's my guess that whoever blew the hatch, blew himself out into space along with the suit. Either that or he was wearing the suit and had a pickup."

"Thank you, team three. Com Central out!"

"Lieutenant, scan the area for any possible pickup ships or small objects and get me the results of that exterior scan from the out team. I'm going down to the GS Lab."

The junior officer snapped to attention almost shouting." Yes, Sir!" Each member of the Command Central team was a highly skilled expert and it could be seen from the reaction of the entire room as they set out to resolve this most recent of events. The Commander glanced back as the transway tube to FA Level snapped shut. Seeing his orders being carried out, he sat and waited.

Time’s almost up, only seconds of oxygen left. I have reached the main station connector. The hull ribbing stops here, I will have to push off to the hatch across from the station deck. I concentrated and then gently pushed off. By now the suit had become almost intolerable from the cramped quarters, large volumes of sweat, a fogged lens, and the ever-present oxygen gage that now read zero and flashed this little red light. I was jolted back to reality as I nudged the airlock’s external hatch mechanism. I grabbed it and depressurized the lock, opened the hatch and scrambled in. I began to pressurize the lock. I got dizzy now and my vision blurred as I watched the pressure gauge climb. What was the minimum acceptable pressure? It seemed to be taking forever, or was the gauge even moving at all? My lungs ached; the taste in the suit was bitter.

"Can't breathe." No choice, I cracked the helmet open. "Auuuuuuuu!" There was a rush of air and a tremendous pain in my ears. I grabbed the sides of my head and gulped for air. Pressure, pressure, pressure, the pain began to subside. I fell to the lock floor and rested for a minute. The pain gradually drifted into the background and slowly turned into a toothache in the back of my head with ringing in my ears. I had to keep moving. They would be after me. I removed the suit, dropped it to the lock floor and opened the interior hatch. Which way?

As I slipped down the passageway, I came across a comfort cube containing a station diagram. I never really realized the magnitude of the station's size. Oh sure, I knew the statistics, resident population one million five or one million four now. Gross tonnage four billion solar tons, but never had I seen the view from a comfort cube on the A-Station extension. Even from the outside, the platform’s immense size didn't come through like it did from here. This awe was gradually replaced by the ache I felt in my back and neck where I had first encountered the A-Station, and in my head where the previous pressure pain was replaced by a dull headache.

I stepped into the comfort cube. The computerized attendant lit up. "May I be of service?"

"Yes, I have a terrible headache."

The attendant responded in a pleasant tone. "Here, try this." A small port opened on the service panel and a little puff of gray gas was emitted. I inhaled deeply and within seconds, the pain began to subside.

Just as I turned to exit the comfort cube and review the deck maps, I heard voices.

"He's dead, I tell you!"

"Are you sure?"

I peered around the corner taking care not to be seen. I could see the bottom edges of a robe, a feathered robe, a multicolored feathered robe, and I could hear the voice of someone else that I could not see.

"Yes, I'm sure!” she said.

"Good, then we are no longer in need of your services!" With that, I heard her say rather loudly "No!" and let out a partial scream, which was wrenched to silence by the crackle of a plasma exploder. The force of the impact threw her body against the comfort cube wall and a small pouch fell to the deck at my feet. I snapped up the pouch and slid back into the comfort cube as the smell of burned flesh almost overcame me.
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ISBNs
0744301378
9780744301373
9780744301397
9780744303612