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Illustrated by Bill Webb

Here are just a few of over 30 full page illustrations by Bill Webb:


Jack Ryder
The Particle Effect

A Novel by Jim Hurst
Illustrated by Bill Webb


Update: 5/4/07

Jack Ryder - The Particle Effect is now available!

You can now read a free preview of the prologue and first 3 chapters online to get a sneak peek of the 300 page novel.

For those who prefer to order the old fashion way (snail mail), I am setting up a virtual book signing, in which you can order a signed copy directly from the author. Expect the virtual book signing to begin June 2007.

Details coming soon!

Jim


Now Available!
$19.95

Printed: 300 pages, 6" x 9", perfect binding, black and white interior ink

Publisher: Jim Hurst
Copyright: © 2007 by Jim Hurst
Language: English
Country: United States

Click Here to read the free online preview!

Contact:
Reptor7@Yahoo.com

Prologue

The Parallax Incident

      Space. A brilliant nebula far away offsets the stark blackness while a lone space freighter arrived in this particular sector. The ISF Parallax, old that it may be, had many years left in its life as it sliced through the void toward its destination delivering cargo one more time. The outpost station was only a day away, and the freighter’s crew bristled with activity while they prepared their arrival.

      The warehouse was especially busy. Mechanical loaders prepared and aligned containers destined for delivery. The loaders were walkers, large robotic contraptions piloted by operators and designed for the sole purpose of moving large objects. The sounds of metal clanging and the heavy footsteps of metallic feet filled the warehouse while their operators maneuvered them, lifting and moving containers in preparation for tomorrows busy unloading.

      A loader lifted a palette containing medical supplies and stomped across the cargo bay toward a neatly stacked pile of palettes. Inside, Larry Ryder controlled his loader and amongst the radio chatter he could hear the foreman’s voice distinctly in his headset: “…Morgan, I said cargo container B7 goes to docking bay sixteen! I said sixteen, you dimwit! Karl, move D5 to bay four will ya, and quit slacking off! Larry, it’s your wife again. For crying out loud, it’s the third time today!”

      Larry cringed. He could hear the other loader operators laughing, and after tuning them out, he dialed his living quarters. A few seconds later, the small view screen in his loader on a panel in front of him beeped and his wife appeared. He could see his son behind her sulking in a chair, and he suddenly remembered his promise to take him to the simulation chamber for some flying. Yep, he thought. She looked angry. “Uh, hi honey!”

      Mary pointed to her own view screen at her husband. “Jack has been sitting here for the past hour waiting for you to take him flying in the simulation chamber. You promised, you know.”

    “I’m sorry, babe. We’re behind schedule and it’ll be another couple of hours before I can get out of here.” Larry explained. “Tell you what. Tell Jack to head on over and I’ll ask Frank to set him up in the simulator. It’ll be okay. See ya in a few hours.”

      Mary’s view screen went blank. Exhaling, she walked to her son and squatted next to him. “Jack, your dad can’t get away from work right now.”

      Jack sighed, and standing up he said: “I understand. Mom, perhaps I can get Norman to come along?”

      Mary gazed at her son. He is growing fast, she thought. Too fast. It wasn’t long ago when he was just a toddler, and look at him now. Thirteen years old and almost as tall as her. Where has the years gone? She ran her fingers through his thick lock of dark brown hair and smiled. “With all the activity going on, the simulation chamber is most likely available. You head on down, and I’ll give Norman’s mother a call to have him meet you there. Okay? ”

      “Thanks, Mom.” He gave her a hug and headed toward the door.

      “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

     Jack stopped and looked at her, not sure of what she was referring to.

      “Wait a second…” She scurried into her bedroom, and after a moment came out holding one of his father’s blue coveralls. After holding it against him to check it’s size, she handed it to him. “Not quite a flight suit, but close enough.”

      He slid the coveralls over his clothes and zipped it up. It fit slightly baggy, but did give the feeling of wearing a real flight suit. “Thanks, Mom!” He gave her another bear hug and quickly headed out the door into the ship’s passageway.

      The freighter was huge, but he practically grew up here so he knew his way around. He especially knew how to get to the simulation chamber. He’s been there many times before.

     He made his way toward the ships aft, several times almost getting trampled by the many people hurrying about. The walls were color coded, with lines and arrows painted to give aid with navigation within the ship, but he rarely needed to glance at it. Pipes and valves adorned the ceiling, a stark contrast to the smooth walls at his sides.

     Coming to a steel ladder, he descended downward through an open hatch and dropped to the floor. Frank stood there looking down at him.

      Jack looked up, always a bit startled at Frank’s height. He was very tall, much taller than his dad. His orange coveralls designated him as a technician, one who repaired the ship’s many electronic systems aboard.

      “Well, if it isn’t young Jack. Come in, come in!” Frank stepped to the side and allowed Jack to pass him. The simulation chamber was fairly large, with the seven flight simulators lined up in a row waiting to be occupied. Not one was in use.

      “Thank you, Mister Frank.” He stepped to a flight simulator and peered inside the open cockpit. “Dad said I could fly today!”

     “You know the rules, boy. Your dad must be here with you if you want to take one of these puppies out for a spin.” Frank grinned as he watched the young boy’s shoulders sag. “But… it’s slow here today. I’ll give you an hour or so of flight.”

     The young boy’s eyes brightened up and he leaped into the simulator cockpit. “Thanks, Mister Frank!”

     Frank laughed. “No, its just Frank. As often as you and your dad been coming here, it’s just Frank. Here, let me help you strap in.”

     “My friend Norman is supposed to meet me here!”

     “Sorry, Jack. His mom called me a bit ago and said that he wasn’t able to make it. It had something to do about not behaving. You remember that the next time you don’t do what you are told.”

     “Yes sir.” Jack sat back in the pilot seat as Frank strapped him in. The simulator was connected to an antigravity module allowing it to float a few feet above the deck and simulate movement that could produce a bumpy ride. “Frank, have you ever flown the real thing?”

     “No.” Frank mused, thinking of his youth when he did want to do so. “No, I’m more of a fixit guy. No real flying for me, but I do love these simulators. There. All strapped in and ready for action! Any particular scenario you want to do?”

     Gripping the joystick between his knees with anticipation, Jack said: “Random will be fine!”

     “Random it is.” Frank stepped up to the control booth at the far end of the chamber to start the computer. Flipping a few switches, the control panels surrounding him came alive.

     Jack slid the large flight helmet over his head and adjusted its straps. The helmet’s headphones came alive with Franks voice and artificial radio chatter. “Flight leader this is control. You are cleared to start your engines.”

     “Roger that!” He slid the engine lever to idle and flipped the ignition switch. “Ignition on.” The many flight control displays lit up and the simulator vibrated making his already big smile even bigger. “We have ignition! Sealing the canopy!” He pulled the canopy lever at his right side and the canopy slid shut with a thud sealing him inside. The view of the simulation chamber through the canopy was immediately replaced with the realistic simulated image of a launch bay in a star carrier. “Control this is flight leader. All systems are go!”

     “Flight leader, you are cleared to launch.”

     The young pilot moved the throttle a bit past idle and he could feel his star fighter lift a few feet higher above the deck, hovering with a slight swaying motion as the onboard gyros fought to keep the craft stable. Gripping the thruster handle in his left hand, and joystick in his right, he maneuvered his craft carefully to face the exit leading to the dark void of space.

     “Jack, this is Frank.” Jack adjusted his helmet position so he could hear Frank better. “I’ve just got dispatched to repair a broken down loader in the warehouse. I’ll be back in an hour. Have fun!”

     “Thanks again, Frank!” Jack replied. “Here I go!” He slammed the thruster forward and his small star fighter shot out of the launch bay into space…

* * *

     The bridge of the freighter was under normal routine. Captain Jean Mercer sat in her command chair and browsed through log reports as her crew chatted about what they plan to do once they reach the outpost station. The reputation of outpost station Gamma preceded it with its recreation facilities and the many things to do there, compared to the working environment of the freighter.

     Listening to the talk of envirodomes and relaxation amongst her crew, she took her eyes off her logs for a moment and thought of her favorite massage parlor there, a destination she have been planning for a few weeks now. Her thoughts were interrupted by a faint rumbling noise. The loose chatter of the crew stopped as everyone listened.

     “Report.” The captain said to the engineer at her left.

The engineer, an older fellow of some years and quite experienced, shook his head in confusion as he checked the various displays at his console. “I’m not sure, Captain. I think it’s coming from outside.”

     The rumbling intensified, followed by a vibration that shook the very hull itself forcing the bridge personnel to grab someone or something nearby to steady themselves. The sound of a hammering pulse and tearing metal diverted their attention upward, and disbelief turned to horror as they observed the hull buckle and crack.

     “Launch a distress buoy!” That was the captain’s last words. With a flash the hull above them exploded outward. Electronics showering sparks and bodies were sucked out into the darkness of space.

     All through the freighter people screamed as they were knocked off their feet by the blast with flickering lights being replaced by the dim glow of red emergency lights.

     The freighter’s warehouse bay shook as the bay doors itself blew outward with loaders, operators and cargo being pulled into the void, and as the bay cleared of bodies and debris, the intruders entered…

* * *

     Jack pulled back on his joystick and his star fighter responded. He closed in toward the targets that were getting closer with each passing moment. He packed two long-range missiles, and with a press of his thumb sent one flying through space toward its intended target. A moment later, the missile impacted and the enemy ship exploded with a blinding flash. “Yes!” He yelled, with the explosion making his ship shake. He quickly turned his ship to the left to avoid the onrushing burning debris.

     The shaking never stopped. He glanced at the Master Caution lights, but there were no indication of malfunctioning systems or damage. All systems checked good but the shaking grew violent. A sudden jolt slammed his helmeted head against the canopy, and through dazed eyes he could see the simulated scene of space flicker and disappear.

     After a moment the shaking subsided. He opened the canopy and stood up, his hands grabbing and lifting his helmet off his head to relieve the pain, and another jolt caught him off guard and sent him reeling out of the simulator cockpit, the back of his head striking the deck, his body bouncing and sliding as more rumbling jolts followed.

     Once again the shaking subsided and Jack laid there, the back of his head feeling warm with a high pitch ringing between his ears, dazed and confused, and not able to move. Through unfocused eyes he saw the flickering chamber lights go out and be replaced by dim red emergency lights, the dark crimson shadows that were created providing a haven for things unseen. All was quiet. Not even the ship spoke to him. The once familiar hull vibration was gone, replaced with the silence of dead stillness.

     After what seemed like a long time, the silence was broken by a sound far off. With droopy eyes he glanced toward its source beyond the entrance at the top of the ladder and listened to far off screams and blasts of weapons echoing off the metal walls, and an odd clicking noise. The sounds of carnage grew louder as he drifted into a world between dreams and reality and he began his slide into darkness.


     Jack awoke. It wasn’t the slow, gradual awareness type of waking, but the sudden startling type that made him lean up quickly with eyes wide open and darting left and right in confusion, then wincing as his hand reached behind his head to sooth a painful bruise. It was quiet. The simulation chamber was dark, with the dull red emergency lights providing just enough light to see the steel ladder and the darkened exit above.

     Using the simulator to steady himself, he slowly stood up and hobbled to the ladder and stopped. Warily looking up to the dark exit, he tightly grasped a rung and climbed up the ladder until his head passed through the hatch above. With eyes at floor level, he looked down the passage that was darkened and red as the chamber below and saw nothing. Nothing moved. There was no sound.

     He couldn’t decide what to do next. A part of him wanted to climb out and find out what happened, the other part making him want to drop back down into the simulation chamber and hide. He just stood there clinging to the ladder, his head poking up out of the floor, his narrowed eyes looking into the darkness beyond.

A far off yell startled him, making him duck slightly lower, yet with eyes now locked toward its direction in the dark. It was almost a scream, yet deeper with a resigned fear attached that echoed through the silence.

     The sound of rapidly approaching footsteps widened his eyes and a man broke into view, his uniform showing him to be a member of the freighter’s crew, and in a moment he passed Jack by with eyes burning in fear. Another panicked yell bellowed from the man as he ran deeper into the darkened metallic passage and a different noise caught Jacks attention, a distinct metallic clicking sound from whence the man came.

     Out of the shadows it came, a one-meter oval shaped robot floating in the air, its antigravity module whined and fluttered as it fought the freighter’s own still functioning gravity generator. Its front side widened twice the size as its rear to house a large circular eye-like sensor that was rounded at the bottom and flat at the top and an appendage jutted out from each side of its body. The right, a triple-jointed tubular arm with attached pincer-like claws, opening and closing, and clicking. The left, a thicker double-jointed arm that lifted and aimed at the retreating man, a beam of red light erupting from its tube shaped tip striking the man in the back.

     Jack watched the man fall like a rag doll, and turning back toward the robot, it was as though their eyes met, its large eye-like sensor aiming directly toward him. Gasping, he dropped down the ladder and landed in the simulation chamber with a loud thud, and he spun away from the ladder and hit a table. One of Frank’s spare toolboxes tipped and spilt over, its many tools loudly clattering on the deck.

     Panicked, he quickly glanced around for another way out. The room was sealed. Even the air vents provided no escape, as they were high up and out of reach. The sharp, metallic clicking noise arrived at the simulator chamber entrance hatch above and Jack pressed his back against the wall away from the ladder. It’s coming!

     As the robots dark shadow passed him, he spotted a metal bar on the deck, a tool extender that Frank was fond of. Grabbing it, he swung with as much strength he could muster and struck the robot’s left arm as it passed by. The arm separated from its body with a shower of sparks and the blow spun the robot around, its pincers snapping at him just inches away, and Jack swung again nailing the robot on the side sending it crashing against the wall. It landed on the deck in a heap of broken metal.

     After stabbing it a few times with the tool extender to make sure it was dead, he once again climbed up the ladder and poked his head up. A large, black-gloved hand grabbed him by the collar and hoisted him up, slamming and pinning him against the wall. Jack crumpled and went limp as he lost his breath, fighting to breath, and he looked at the imposing figure that gripped him. Attached to the hand was a large figure encased in a dark space suit, its many alloyed plates making it more armor than suit. He saw a peculiar emblem emblazed on its chest plate: a black skull surrounded by red flame, and he looked up at its large helmeted head that was hidden behind a dark visor. As the imposing being held Jack securely in his left hand, it clutched a gun in his right with its barrel pressed against Jacks neck.

     A beeping sound came from a wrist panel on the figures left arm with a corresponding blinking of a small yellow light, and the large armored figure turned and walked down the hall, half lifting and half dragging Jack behind him.

     After a series of turns, the large figure abruptly stopped. Looking up, Jack could see three people surrounding them, rifles raised and pointed at the armored being. They looked not at all like his captor, smaller in stature and dressed in form fitting suits with silver straps securing a pack to their backs and their own heads helmeted with a shiny silver visor. A shiny five-pointed star adorned each of their breastplates. “Drop the boy.” One said while they slowly tried to encircle the captor.

     The dark armored figure held Jack up as a human shield; his own gun aimed at the rescuers as he stepped back and came to a doorway. With a loud hiss he tossed Jack toward them and jumped back with remarkable agility, the door slamming shut between them.

     Landing hard on the deck, Jack lay on his back and looked up. One of the rescuers kneeled over him, and with blurry eyes he saw the rescuer lift its helmet off and a lock of long blond hair dropped to her shoulders. “Don’t worry.” She said as she gently stroked his forehead. “You’re safe now.”

     An angel, he thought, and once again drifted into unconsciousness...