Chapter 1: Benjamin Reilly
Ben looks down what used to be the Las Vegas Strip in what was once Nevada. He looks North, toward downtown, seeing remnants of what used to be the New York New York Hotel. There are still portions of the hotel left standing and he can see the top half over the much smaller version of Lady Liberty, the sands of the desert covering the bottom half of her and the rest of the streets of Las Vegas. Her outstretched arm is gone with the torch, along with some of her upper body. There’s still the tablet representing the Declaration of Independence in her left hand, and some of the structures behind her.
Nonetheless, most of the hotel is gone and what’s left are ruins from another time… from his time. Ben looks behind him to see where the MGM used to stand. Now there are only pieces of its ruins poking up through the sand. He looks directly behind him, surveying that the Tropicana fared better than the MGM. He can see much more of that ancient casino still standing behind the STARU that he had taken out here with Alicia Burke. Burke had been taking him out to train daily to get him better accustomed to his new way of life.
Looking to the South, past Burke staring at him, studying his movements and reactions. He looks back to what used to be the Luxor, with its bright light piercing the night… some 1,400 years ago. Now it was in a similar state of the MGM Hotel.
I wonder how much longer this place lasted. I mean, I was never a huge fan of Vegas… but it was fun to visit… Never mind that, Ben. No time to walk down memory lane. No time for that crap at all. Focus dammit!
He then directs his attention to the task at hand, refocusing his attention to the hotel in front of him, the Excalibur. He raises his left arm, with his MECCU (Mobile Extremity Communications and Control Unit) on it and his IMA (Individual MECCU Artillery) re-emerges from the futuristic mechanical device. It re-emerges with the thought coming from his mind to command it to do so. The cognizance implant placed on his brain stem assists him with better communication with his MECCU, which housed his AE (Armored Enclosure), his IMA, and his IMD (Individual MECCU Dozer)... along with other improvements.
With his mind focusing on his target, which was a remaining tower structure from the Excalibur Casino, a small green orb forms out from the small cannon of his IMA. Through his eyes, he can see his target painted in a green silhouette, with his mind now being able to fully connect to his MECCU… since his recent upgrades.
A single thought crosses his mind as he mentally commands his IMA to fire at the ruins of the now ancient casino, with that single thought being a name… Abraham!
The small green orb leaves his MECCU, blasting him with a small gust of residual wind, and his arm raises upwards from the recoil of the weapon.
Seconds later Ben watches as the ruins of the castle looking tower that he was aiming at is hit with the green orb, shattering what was left of the tower from the ancient ruins of the casino.
Re-steadying his left arm, he takes aim at the remains of another tower from the ruins of the Excalibur Casino. A bright green silhouette forms around the tower as he commands his IMA to fire once again. He braces from the recoil of the MECCU.
The name crosses his mind again, and he sees his face in his mind’s eye. Abraham!
It had been over two months now since the advent of the Blue Hole Radius and his world had changed forever. In truth, everyone's world had changed forever on May 19th, 2023. At 1301 on that Friday afternoon, Alexander Mathis, his newfound friend, and his group of SXS Program scientists, over at CalTech (California Institute of Technology), created a micro black hole that resulted in a new type of hole that humanity didn’t know about... a Blue Hole, and the Blue Hole Radius.
On that day, Ben had been working at his job as an aircraft mechanic at Ontario International Airport, in Southern California. Once the clock, the clock within the Radius, hit 1302, his world would never be the same again. Planes came crashing down around his head and he had lost almost everyone that he had known prior to the Radius. Either they had died in the first few months, or over the next 1,410 years that had passed them by… outside of the Blue Hole Radius.
Ben had found Alexander Mathis after the chaos ensued. Together, they traveled toward Ben’s Uncle’s home, Steven Reilly. Steven Reilly had been a role model and hero to Ben, and the last person that he had known left in this new world of his. The plan was to head for his Uncle’s cabin because it was in the mountains and on higher ground.
Ben had also hoped that his Uncle would have a better idea of how to handle their current situation and Ben had been right about his Uncle. The man had a good idea of where to go from the advent of the Blue Hole Radius and his actions ended up saving many of their lives... if not all of their lives. At least for the time being.
Along his journey, he had met the wonderful and determined Eileen Rivera. She was an Emergency Room nurse in the previous world, and they had grown extremely close over the last three months. Sure, she had tried to kill him when they had first met… but that was a different time and under much different circumstances. Since that time, she had saved his life on more than one occasion, and they grew closer than Ben had ever thought he could with someone.
Currently, she’s resting back aboard the Leviathan, along with Alexander Mathis. A better clarification would be that they were both sedated and recovering from their own surgical procedures to provide them with the same upgrades that Ben had recently acquired a couple weeks back. Which was in thanks to the survivors of the Utopian Union, who appeared to be the good guys from Earth Two.
With the people within the Blue Hole Radius being trapped in a time warp for 1,410 years, the rest of the world moved on. In fact, the rest of humanity ended up leaving Earth One for the stars in 3110. This event was due to a near-extinction event which was the Pandemic of 3020. The Pandemic of 3020 involved a superbug called MRSA-TB that wiped out 96% of the human race that inhabited Earth One and the Colony on the Moon.
Fortunately for Ben and the rest of the survivors of Earth One, their successors had left a dozen satellites in orbit to continue to allow the SuperNet to work for them when time caught up with them. The SuperNet still working, by the way of six satellites still up in orbit by the time they awoke, assisted greatly in their survival for the first couple months after the walls of the Radius came down.
Unfortunately, successors from Earth One, their Earth, returned from Earth Two, several weeks ago… As if Ben, Eileen, Alexander, and the others didn’t have enough to deal with. Prior to their arrival they were already dealing with the chaos that comes along with everything you know collapsing and the rest of humanity being gone. The journey to his Uncle’s cabin, up in Crestline, was dreadfully eventful enough for a lifetime to recover from.
Nonetheless, they also had dealt with sociopaths, psychopaths, a particularly troublesome man that can only be described as a rapist, serial killer, monster of a human being, and even a full-scale battle against the MS13 gang. After overcoming all of this, the Federalists from Earth Two came to Earth One, with the tyrant Abraham Jackson at the helm of the Leviathan.
Life was beginning to reach some sort of normalcy up until the interstellar spacecraft, the Leviathan, landed in the dried-up lakebed of Big Bear Lake. In all honesty, it had gotten worse before that, when the Captain Abraham Jackson of the Leviathan decided it was best to commit an act of genocide at Edwards Air Force base, as well as with the surrounding area within a twenty-five-mile radius. When Captain Abraham Jackson had made contact with the military at Edwards, they must have seen through his lies. Ben wasn’t even sure if he lied to them at all. He may have actually told them his true intentions of genocide, domination, reeducation, and using the women as breeders for his new world. Regardless of what the conversation was between Captain Jackson and the military folks over at Edwards Air Force base… the end result was the mass genocide of every living creature within a twenty-five-mile radius, thanks to a futuristic weapon known as a sleeper.
Sleepers were bombs that sent out a blast wave that killed anything with a heartbeat, within the designed radius of the sleeper weapon. All living creatures would then fall to the ground and look as though they were simply sleeping… when in fact they were all dead and would never wake up again.
Whereas, Captain Abraham Jackson still needed many of the people that had survived within the Radius, it was apparent that he had a short temperament. This was even more evident from his even more enormous act of genocide back on his home planet, Earth Two. As Ben found out from some of the survivors of Earth Two and from downloading some of the history of Earth Two into his memory banks, he learned that Abraham Jackson had killed roughly 800 million souls back on Earth Two.
Abraham Jackson had used most of the sleepers within his arsenal to hit the reset button on Earth Two. He only did so when it became obviously apparent that he was going to lose his favor with his Federalist Legion and the rest of the population of Earth Two. This resulted in the very swift and deadly Grand Global War on Earth Two, and set into the chain of events that led to Ben training out in the ruins of Las Vegas.
Captain Abraham Jackson and what was left of his Federalists traveled over 1,402 light years to bring their tyranny to the survivors of Earth One. In truth, Abraham’s plan would have likely worked, having used the hearts and minds approach. He had promised them their technology and medical advancements. The same advancements that Ben had surgically implanted a couple weeks ago.
As it turns out, the people from Earth two not only had advanced weaponry and defensive capabilities through their MECCUs. They also all underwent a procedure that prolonged their lives, upwards of four times that of their previous lifespans. On Earth Two, humans could live as long as 240 years. Abraham Jackson himself was 74 years old and looked slightly younger than Ben… with Ben being 34 years old.
To make the deal even sweeter for the survivors of the Radius, they were also offering a cognizance implant placed on the brain stem. Which would result in one’s brain turning into something more similar to a computer or smartphone. Your thoughts and memories would be categorized and accessible to you whenever you wanted. The cognizance implant runs on the closed network of one’s brain and the brain in turn powers the implant. Moreover, your thoughts and memories remained secure, and you could only transmit and download information, but never receive unwanted information or misinformation.
Yes, Captain Jackson had swayed many of the survivors in the settlement of Crestline and varying other settlements, with his grand promises. Luckily for all of them… well the ones that survived the battle… Ben’s Uncle had shown Captain Abraham Jackson for what he truly was, a murdering tyrant POS. Steven Reilly had played a deadly gamble, resulting in Abraham giving away his true intentions and showing the rest of the survivors of the Radius what his true plans were. It had cost Ben’s Uncle his life, and the end result was a swift battle between the people of Crestline and the Federalists, in which thousands more died by the hands of Abraham and the Federalists.
Maybe if Commander Yang had shown up sooner with his small band of Utopians, maybe then… his Uncle would still be alive, along with thousands more. Ben had pondered this thought time and time again.
But that wasn’t the case and Commander Yang, with his interstellar spaceship the Galileo, showed up moments after Abraham Jackson had fled. Ben took some satisfaction that he had shot off Abraham’s own MECCU, along with his right hand. However, he would have been much happier if he had finished the job of killing Abraham Jackson… the man that killed his Uncle Steven Reilly, along with 4,356 other souls in Crestline, California. At least what used to be California in the United States of America.
Aiming down his own MECCU while training in the desert ruins of Las Vegas, Ben’s mind wanders to the what ifs. His mind tends to circle back to different events that would result with his Uncle surviving and them still coming out on top.
Yes, he did usually force himself to avoid the what ifs of crap situations, because it usually made matters worse. Actually, in all of Ben’s experiences, it always made matters worse. Nonetheless, his Uncle was gone, and he couldn’t help himself going down different paths of what ifs.
He didn't blame Commander Yang and the other Utopians and felt their same grief and pain. More importantly, he felt their anger and rage for Abraham Jackson. There was also the fact that they provided him, along with Alicia Burke, with the advanced tools and upgrades to be better equipped to kill Abraham and anyone that would get in his way.
He didn’t even blame Burke anymore, with her having been a former Federalist. Up until the point when Abraham tried to kill her, and she began to see the error in their ways. He was sure that Eileen didn’t trust her yet and was certain that Commander Yang and his daughter, Lieutenant Leslie Yang, wanted to end her life for treason. Nonetheless, she was spared due to her role in aiding Ben and the others during their battle. The battle that ended with the Federalists running and hiding, having lost their own Leviathan interstellar spacecraft.
The battle also ended with Ben, Eileen, Alexander, Burke, Yang, and the rest of the survivors and Utopians having to bury their dead, including Uncle Steven. Well, actually, he had run off once the dust had settled and rashly decided to opt in for the regenerative vitality procedures, decelerating the aging process and degeneration of his tissues and muscles, as well as the cognizance implant and that came with memory banks. In his mind, it would be the only way to level the battlefield with Abraham and the Federalists.
Eileen had been extremely cross with him, to say the least, that he had run off to undergo surgeries from a distant planet. He had felt pretty bad that it had taken him so long to recover and he had not helped greatly with the burying of so many souls lost. But that was two weeks ago, and everyone had definitely been busy since the battle with the Federalists, and he had certainly pulled his weight since he had woken up from his procedures. One of his first tasks, once he was up and about, was the proper burial of his Uncle Steven. It had truly been a sad and sobering event, where nearly all of the survivors attended. It was indeed sad and sobering, yet also reaffirmed his resolve to do what must be done, giving him the strength to push forward, day in and day out, determined and with a newfound rage building up within him.
No... There’s only one person to blame for their current situation, for so many dead, for his Uncle being dead… and that one person is Abraham Jackson.
Everyone may have been long gone, after 1,410 years passing in the Radius and the rest of humanity leaving for the stars. But now they have returned and are trying to take away their lives, their freedoms, their way of life. So much had changed since the beginning of this whole mess, known as the Blue Hole Radius. To Ben, one thing would never change… regardless of if he had to go to hell and back to make it a reality. Abraham Jackson was going to pay for what he had done.
What did you call our kind again, Abraham? Cretins and barbarians? Ben thinks to himself as he takes aim.
Ben grins as another green orb takes off from his IMA on his MECCU, hitting his desired target and raising his left arm... not as much as before, since he was getting used to it, day by day.
I’ll show you how barbaric I can actually be...
Ben breathes heavily through his nostrils, trying to recollect his breath from the day’s target practice. He had been at this most of the morning.
“How are you doing Benjamin? Do we need to head back for the day? Eileen and Dr. Mathis may be awake and alert by now.” Alicia Burke asks him.
Ben looks over to Burke, with her brunette hair flowing in the desert breeze. He then looks to the sky, seeing clouds above him with the sun peeking through some of them. He looks off toward the North again, seeing a thunderstorm rage off in the distance. Ben can feel himself empathising with the raging storm in the distance. He feels as though he was a storm, with destruction and chaos building up within him.
“You have been adapting and progressing very well with the new modifications to your MECCU, Benjamin. However, I'm concerned with you overexerting yourself. It still has only been two weeks since you awoke from your procedures.” Burke explains.
Ben checks the calendar in his memory bank.
Yup, It’s Friday, August 2nd, 3433. Two weeks exactly from when I woke up from the week of being doped up on some kind of sedative. She may be right… Eileen, Alexander, and the others may be awake by now. They weren’t when I left early this morning, but today’s the seventh day after their procedures.
“Yeah, they may be awake by now. You sure you don't want to get any target practice in, Burke?” Ben asks her.
“Lieutenant Yang gave me direct orders not to utilize my MECCU other than for defensive measures, Benjamin. You know that.” Burke replies.
“Burke, I’ve told you… it’s fine. And I won’t tell her if you don’t.” Ben answers her.
“Benjamin, I'm lucky they haven’t already executed me. I’m not going to push my luck. Plus, they can always just ask me to download my memory bank to check for recent activity.” Burke responds.
“You can always go tell her to shove it and that your mind is your own privacy.” Ben says with a grin.
“Benjamin, that’s not how things are done back on E2. If the accused refuses to allow their memory bank to be downloaded, it’s perceived as guilt, and they are punished accordingly.” Burke explains.
“Well, that sounds like a whole bunch of bullshit to me. Invading your privacy and everything... To tell you the truth, Burke, it seems downright creepy.” Ben replies.
“I understand your concern, Benjamin. However, they do delete the download after they have found what they needed from one’s memory banks… rest assured.” Burke explains.
“Yeah… I don’t buy that crap. With all of the knowledge that you all store, you’re telling me that they don’t keep any of it?” Ben presses on the topic.
“There’s always the scenario of someone providing their knowledge, willingly. It is likely a hope of Commander Yang and the Utopians for Dr. Alexander Mathis to do so. So that we may learn exactly what happened when the Blue Hole Radius was created.” Burke replies.
“And… what happens if Alexander doesn’t want you going around knowing everything that he has done in this life?” Ben asks, with a tilt of his head.
“Well then… Commander Yang and the others won’t receive his downloaded memory banks for their archives. It’s as simple as that.” Burke answers.
“Uh huh…” Ben says.
He then turns to look back toward the storm that seems to be getting larger and heading their way.
“Maybe we should start heading back. That storm looks pretty big, and I would hate to miss Eileen waking up. I know she wouldn’t let me ever forget it.” Ben states.
“Ah, yes. That storm looks like it originated from the midwestern desert and those tend to get rather significant.” Burke replies.
“Burke, not sure if you noticed, but we are already in a desert.” Ben says, gesturing to the sand all around them.
“This place used to be rather impressive, and people used to come from all over the world to have fun and lose their money here. Now it’s nothing but ruins in the sand. But it still is a pretty big desert.” Ben says to her.
“I understand, Benjamin. We were taught of your time and your Las Vegas, as well as with many other pastimes that your kind found entertaining.” Burke replies.
This gets a sideways glance from Ben. “Our kind, huh? Not that crap again, Burke.” Ben replies with a slight grin.
Burke turns red. “My apologies, Benjamin. I didn’t mean it that way.”
Ben chuckles. “No, I get it, Burke. It’s still kind of crazy to think you all are from 1,410 years in the future… but here we are. You are showing me how to use futuristic weapons, after teaching me how to relearn how to think all over again. Come on, Burke. Let’s start heading back.” Ben replies.
Ben begins to walk back to the STARU (Security Tactical Assault and Recovery Unit) to fly back home to Crestline.
“Sounds good, Benjamin. And thank you… once again, for your understanding and compassion. I know how hard it must be, with where my allegiances laid prior to this.” Burke replies.
Ben looks back to her. “Hey, my Uncle made a really good point, Burke. You saved us back there when Abraham was going to kill us all. That should count for something.” Ben says with a smile and then his face goes serious thinking about his Uncle.
“He was a good man, Benjamin. Better than most I have seen in a long while. Even for how young he was.” Burke replies.
This gets a laugh out of him. “Yeah… young. Sometimes I forget that you are 62 years old yourself, Burke… older than he was. But yet, here you are. Looking like you just graduated college or something.”
Burke smiles back at him as she walks alongside him to the STARU. “That may be so, but you may as well get used to it, Benjamin Reilly. How old are you now, 34?” She asks.
“Yeppum.” Ben replies.
“Well, you’re going to look like you're 34 for probably another forty years. Despite the procedure being done so late in your lifespan, it was a complete success and your body’s adapting well to the new modifications.” Burke explains.
“Well, there’s always that. But really… I just wanted to be able to stand a chance against your old brothers and sisters. The Federalists… and that sack of shit Abraham.” Ben says, gritting his teeth when saying his name.
“Ah, yes. With how well your training has progressed in the last two weeks, I would say you are ready to go on the seeking patrols with Lieutenant Yang and the other Utopians.” Burke adds.
“I sure as hell hope so. I would hate for one of them to find him first… before I do.” Ben says as he can feel his heart rate increasing.
Noticing that his rage is starting to build back up, he tries to calm himself back down.
One foot in front of the other, Ben. If she’s right, that means I’m one step closer to killing that POS.
This thought gives him a smile and he turns to look at Burke as he reaches the STARU.
“I don’t care what anyone says about you, Burke… you’re alright, and thanks for sticking with me over the last two weeks. Showing me how to get used to all of these upgrades, or modifications… as you called them.” Ben says to her and then steps into the STARU.
She follows him into the STARU, turns a couple knobs, and presses a bottom for the opening to close behind them.
“It’s my duty and pleasure, Benjamin. Whatever I must do to make up for following Captain Jackson. I just fear that there may never be enough that I can do to make up for that mistake.” Burke replies.
“Hey, Burke… If I get to kill that tyrant POS because of your training, that’ll be enough in my book. Plus, You did also help our survivors bury our dead after the battle. So, there’s that too…” Ben replies.
Burke steps up to the transparent screen in the STARU, looking at their position and the Leviathan’s position back in Crestline hovering over lake Gregory. With the remaining population having sought refuge within the interstellar spacecraft… for safety in case Abraham returns to finish what he started.
Ben steps up next to her.
“Mind if I drive home, Burke?” Ben asks.
She looks at him and nods. “But of course, Benjamin Reilly.”
“Like I said, Burke… either Ben or Reilly is just fine. The whole name thing just sounds weird.” Ben replies.
“Right… I’m still getting used to the way your people speak.” Burke explains.
“Fair enough. Took me a good minute to get used to your guys’ accents.” Ben says as he starts tapping buttons and twisting dials.
“Hey, Burke, I was thinking about that whole downloading thing… What if a person is falsely accused of a crime, just to get them to download their memory banks for your government to see?” Ben questions.
This gets a pause from her, and Ben looks over his shoulder at her. He waits to take off, curious of her answer, noticing that she’s mulling it over in that head of hers.
After a short pause, she finally answers. “Well… that hasn’t happened on E2, according to my knowledge. But I suppose that the essential function of a government is to protect the people’s natural rights. If that government became corrupt, then the people would have the duty to change the government. If that government is taking away their liberty without their permission or ethical reasons, then… I suppose that the government is corrupt and should no longer govern those people.”
Ben laughs. “Ah, good ol’ John Locke! Yeah, but that whole getting rid of corruption is harder than it sounds.”
“Yes, I suppose it would be. But again, Ben… I don’t know of any time when this scenario has occurred on E2.” Burke replies.
“Uh huh… and I'm sure with all of your advancements in technology and societal ways, that it hasn’t ever happened and will never happen. I forget that your government is perfect, Burke.” Ben says through a laugh and the STARU lifts off, heading back home.
His words get a confused look from Burke. “I don’t understand your humor sometimes, Ben Reilly.”
This just gets another laugh from Ben as he flies the STARU back to Crestline to see how Eileen, Alexander, and the others are recovering from their own modifications.
Thinking about Eileen and Alexander, his mind shifts. I better get there before she wakes up… or she’s not going to be very happy with me. I can see it now… Sorry babe, I was out shooting instead of waiting by your side.
Despite the fact that he had been by her side a lot over the last week of her being sedated, he knew she wouldn’t remember that if he wasn't there when she woke up. With this realization, he turns a dial and presses a button for the STARU to fly faster.