Authors: David Clarkson
As always, this book is dedicated to
my wife, Katie, who continues to inspire me every day
2015 by David Clarkson
Image/Design by David Clarkson
2015 by David Clarkson
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book
contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and
Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No
part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any
information storage and retrieval system without express written permission
from the author/publisher.
All characters appearing in
this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead,
events or localities, is purely coincidental.
A vast horde lined the platform waiting
for the train to arrive. It was the peak of rush hour and workers of white
collar and blue parried for prime position, impatiently trying to guess where
the carriage doors would settle. All were eager to be carried on to someplace
else; be it a relaxing home or a welcoming bar. Each unaware of the remarkable
young man about to enter into their midst.
Jimmy was on a tight schedule and the
crowds were only going to make it tighter. With no margin for error, every
second lost could easily equate to a life lost later. This was the burden he
carried. It was the price he paid for his unique power - a power sought by all who
knew of its existence.
There was no telling who or even how many
were attempting to track his movements. The only certainty was that they would
never give up. They would not stop until he was in their custody.
Anonymity was his best defence and the
packed locomotive fortified him well. It did a far greater job of shielding him
than any of the alternate modes of transportation could. Flying would have
gotten him to his destination sooner, but the threat posed by airport security
was too great, even for him. Every terminal was essentially a quarantine zone, which
could be locked down at a moment’s notice. The last thing he wanted was to let
them fence him into a corner – for their safety as much as his. When his
instinct took over, it controlled every aspect of his being. The ability to
exercise restraint was not an option.
As the doors opened, he let the more
eager of the commuters, the ones who had stood in the aisle long before the
station had even come into view, get off unimpeded. It was the usual mix of
stressed out workers and expectant tourists. They jerked and jostled their way
from the train onto the lifts and escalators that would take them to the surface.
If his intuition was correct (it always was) they would be safer staying
With the more heavily laden passengers
still struggling out of their seats, he slipped quietly from the carriage and
took an escalator to street level. The sun was only just starting its descent
and the tightly focused light it cast was a nuisance to his eyes. He put on his
sunglasses before stopping at a kiosk beside the exit in order to buy a paper.
The news held little interest to him, but
that was no matter as he had no intention of reading it. Sometimes the warnings
arrived late and sometimes they did not come at all. Whatever happened, he
needed to stay alert and be prepared for any eventuality. When bent in half, a
tightly rolled newspaper had the potential to do a lot of damage; certainly
more than his small, bony fists were capable of inflicting. He was a slight
man, and as such he thought it prudent to seize any advantage offered his way.
Violence did not come naturally to Jimmy.
He despised every aspect of it. The problem was that no matter what he did and
where he went, violence was never far behind.
Take the incident with the biker gang in
Townsville. All he had wanted was to prevent a mugging - to stop an elderly
lady being parted from her purse. Before he knew it, he was surrounded by five
guys. He did not mean to hurt any of them. Usually thugs like these give up once
they realise they cannot win and he had assumed this would be the case.
Then he saw the knife.
Sometimes he sees too much and that is
what happened then. Even now, he wonders if it could have ended differently; if
he actually had the power to change any of it.
Not that past failure had any bearing on
his present. He was not even sure if he should be regarding them as failures.
What was meant to transpire would and who could argue with that? He was simply
a character in the great story of human existence. If there was a God-like
author out there, then fate rested on their conscience not his.
Jesus – was he really thinking like that?
There was a time, not so long ago, when life had been simpler. Much simpler.
Back then he was little more than a laughing stock; the town fool. Yet when he
looks back on those days it is with a fond heart. If he could rewind the clock,
he would. He would give anything to go back to Jackson’s Hill. To take up a bar
stool and chat with Mindy, the landlady of his old local, the Sly Fox. Or to be
reprimanded by Lucas, the town’s solitary enforcer of law and order, on some
minor charge that would always be dropped on an apology or a promise. Even his
old nemeses, the Carlton brothers, would provide welcome company.
Now they were all gone. An entire town
swallowed whole by the desert. He knew there was no going back. He could only
go forward, compelled to follow in the footsteps of his unique intuition.
As he travelled deeper into the city,
skyscrapers shielded him from the worst of the sun’s rays, but he stuck with
the sunglasses. It was always useful to have a disguise however small it may be.
He also liked to keep his eyes covered.
When gripped by his power he would often
focus on things that were invisible to others. If anybody noticed him reacting
to these visions of things to come, it would appear strange. It would draw
unnecessary attention. And attention was the last thing Jimmy needed.
He continued walking until the office blocks
gave way to luxury harbour-side bars and restaurants. The smell of caffeine and
alcohol intermingled, lending a potent, expectant intoxication to the air. The
crowds fed on it. From family vacationers to young couples and carefree
backpackers, everybody wanted to be a part of the action. Day, evening or night
– this place was always busy.
As soon as it came into view, the target
was immediately obvious. It was the most iconic structure in the country and
easily recognisable around the world. Tourists converged on all sides like
ants. Not one of them aware that somewhere inside of Sydney Opera House, there
was a bomb.
Special Agent Esteban Cruz kept a careful
eye on his mark. The crosshairs of his rifle sight remained solidly on the back
of Jimmy’s head – drawn on like a tattoo.
His finger was not on the trigger.
If the boy’s extensive file was to be
believed, there would be little point. It was said the kid could bite down on
the barrel of a gun and still avoid the bullet. Not that Esteban would take a
shot even if he could. The order was clear; under no circumstance should any
harm come to Jimmy Johnson. If not for that stipulation, he never would have
taken the job.
There was a time when he had not been so
noble in his assignments. Born in South America and raised in its northern
counterpart, his ethnicity meant that after dedicating himself to service, he
had been sent back across the border in order to infiltrate the many cartels
that swamped both sides with their poisonous merchandise.
It was a dirty job and some of the things
he was called upon to do tainted not only his conscience, but his very soul.
Eventually, he had been betrayed and abandoned by his masters and vowed never
to go back. Of course, it was a life that was not so easy to escape. After a
time freelancing as a mercenary, helping only those who had nowhere else to
turn, he had found himself back in the fold. This time the enemy was no longer
the Drug Lords, but Terror itself.
From the deserts of Iraq to the mountains
of Afghanistan the war had raged on. Now a more powerful threat was rising.
There was talk of world conflict entering a new phase. Rumours abounded of a
scientist who had devised a weapon so powerful that it targeted not the flesh,
but actual human spirit. Whoever controlled such technology would become the
greatest superpower of all. They would be able to set the course of history to
their own desire; for good or for ill.
Esteban’s mission was simple. Apprehend Jimmy
Johnson, for he was the key to gaining control of this power. Whoever could
conquer the boy would one day conquer the world.
From a distance, the curved walls of the
outer shells appeared smooth, almost organic. Up close, Jimmy could see they were
actually made from an intricate mosaic of small tiles. There was no other
structure on Earth quite like it. It was a triumphant marriage of creativity
and engineering. The elegance was, of course, lost on the young psychic. To
him, it was nothing more than a giant shower cubicle turned inside out.
He patiently walked the outer perimeter,
waiting for his prompt. Occasionally, he would stop to avoid stepping into the
frame of a tourist photograph. There were so many of them around – all
potential casualties and not one of them aware of the danger they were in or of
the one person who had the power to save their lives.
When he had completed his first lap, he
began a second. Time was all it took. It was time that held the solution to all
puzzles. Causality was merely a means of getting from a question to an answer.
If he waited long enough, the answer would always come. Before embarking on a
third circuit, he was given his cue; a translucent phantom taking to the steps
and entering the building.
It had taken some time for him to get
used to this type of vision. When he experienced them he was presented with two
overlaying worlds separated only by time. His future played out before him like
a virtual movie. Sometimes the separation was by minutes and at others, just
seconds. When the future was close, as it was now, he had only to follow the
phantom image of himself from moments hence to be led to where he needed to be.
A performance was about to start and the
main auditoriums were closed to those without a ticket. He watched his ghostly
doppelganger carefully as it mingled with the crowd in duplicate, those who
occupied the here and now, and those ghostly figures from the near future.
As it passed by an elderly couple, he saw
his future self deftly reach into the lady’s bag and take from it two tickets.
Just moments later, he saw the same couple enter the foyer from behind him. He
let them pass him by and then he quickened his pace to overtake them, relieving
them of their tickets as he did so.
The theft did not weigh too heavily on
his conscience. After all, it was not like he had a choice. He was merely
following the script as it was presented to him.
As he handed one of the illicit entry
passes to the ticket inspector, he could see an echo of the same inspector arguing
with the old couple as they searched the lady’s bag in vain for their tickets.
Not for the first time he had committed the perfect crime.
Once inside, he resumed his mission. A
crowd had gathered in a secondary foyer directly outside of the auditorium.
There was a large Aboriginal painting covering the entire side wall, which was
being admired by the concert-goers waiting for an usher to show them to their
seats. Others queued at the bar or stared out of the windows at the harbour
beyond. The translucent form of Jimmy’s ever so slightly older self appeared to
be fixated with a different view entirely.
Three men, possibly of Middle-Eastern
origin, were in front of him. Their features were vague and indistinct (they
were also mere phantoms) and before Jimmy could fully assess what threat, if
any, they may pose, his other self, quite literally, leapt into action.
Jimmy was awestruck as he watched himself
jump head-on into one of the men. The scuffle was controlled and concise. His
future self wrestled the man to the ground with ease, avoiding his foe’s
attempts to strike him with all the fluidity of a ballet dancer. Jimmy then saw
the other version of himself tear open the man’s coat to reveal a bomb vest. He
was unable to make out any detail as he watched his phantom self thrust out a
hand and tear out a wire. Of course, detail at this stage was unimportant as
when the time came, he would know exactly what to do.
Another of the men, who Jimmy now knew
without doubt to be terrorists, grabbed a female bystander and placed a knife
to her throat. The weapon brought back painful memories, but he did not have
time to dwell on the past. All that mattered was the future, which to him was
almost as tangible as the present. He could see it in the man’s eyes that he was
prepared to slit her throat. He could also see it in the woman’s eyes that she
knew this too.
Fear removes all lies, displaying
emotions like the pages of a book. Jimmy watched on and noted that as his other
self slowly rose up to his feet under forceful instruction from the hostage
taker, he reached behind his back to where the newspaper he had bought earlier
was tucked into his pants. In the present, the paper was still in his hand, but
he quickly transferred it to where it needed to be. At this point the vision
ended and it was time for the rerun in real time.
The three men had been at the bar all along
with their backs to him, but once they turned and recognition sparked, he made
his move, following the script from moments earlier.
His higher sense returned, but more
sporadically this time. Flashes of fists where they were about to be warned him
which spaces to avoid. He saw not only the attacks, but what he had to do to
defend against them. His intuition enhanced his reflexes to the point of virtual
infallibility. He was literally untouchable.