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Black & White

Black & White

A RESONANCE SAGA ALTERNATE UNIVERSE

Brett P. S.

Copyright © 2015 Brett P. S.

Smashwords Edition

All rights reserved.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Table of Contents

PROLOGUEUSURPING STEEL

CHAPTER 1 – FORGOTTEN RELIC

CHAPTER 2 – WRAITH APPROACHES

CHAPTER 3 – IMMORTAL’S BLESSING

CHAPTER 4 – SHORT CHANGE

CHAPTER 5 – COPPERHEAD

CHAPTER 6 – LOOKING GLASS

CHAPTER 7 – MILLIONS OF VOICES

CHAPTER 8 – DESTINY AWAITS

CHAPTER 9 – CONFLICT OF PASSION

CHAPTER 10 – CAFFEINE CALCULATIONS

CHAPTER 11 – DARK SMOG

CHAPTER 12 – ASSUMING CONTROL

CHAPTER 13 – KEY TO THE CASTLE

CHAPTER 14 – LAST WORD

CHAPTER 15 – I AM MANY

CHAPTER 16 – END OF AN ERA

EPILOGUEHEARTLAND PROJECT

Prologue

Usurping Steel

Paris, France

1993 A.D.

The world is not made of many colors. There is only black and white.” – Gamma

Richard Adamson. CEO and owner of Savage Steel, the largest arms manufacturer in France. He was known by some as the Iron Giant, aptly named for his lethal resonance with the aforementioned element. He wore his usual steel black business suit and trimmed his beard this morning. He nicked the side of his chin with the razor, and the wound continued to bother him through the afternoon.

Richard stood on one of the topmost floors of Savage Tower, in France, a building stretched thirty stories high. The French government insisted against such a tall structure in the heart of Paris, but Richard delivered his arguments well. His skill with oratory surpassed ordinary men, and he had friends in high places as well. At the end of the day, Richard took what he wanted.

He gripped his wrist with his left hand as the door to his conference room swung open. The hinges creaked and made an awful sound, followed by the metal door landing against the wall. He didn’t need to look. The boy had finally made up his mind, it seemed. It was just as well. A few more years and Richard might not be able to handle him. This at least saved him the trouble.

Richard thought about activating the silent alarm embedded in his watch. In fact, he should have, but instead he released his grip. A man has to take care of himself, and this boy had it coming. Richard turned to face a wide-eyed blonde teenager seething a murderous intent. William was about seventeen by now, though Richard hardly knew his exact age. That’s the trouble with undocumented citizens.

“Yes?” Richard said.

William grinned.

“I took care of the doctor for you,” he said. “I’m surprised he survived it.”

Blast it. What did he do this time?

“These are my people,” Richard said. “You can’t just do as you please with them, William.”

William raised a fist and struck the door, carving a hole through with a hard light tipped spear emanating from his hand.

“My name is Spectrum!” he shouted.

Fine. Spectrum it is. Richard surveyed his surroundings. For occasions such as this one, he stockpiled ample reserves of iron inside the walls. Spectrum resonated with light, so he’d never notice. No one could, but Richard felt the iron as clearly as he felt the blood coursing through his veins.

“Don’t forget you are still a human being.”

“Not any more, boss,” Spectrum said. “I’m a whole new person now.”

Richard eyed him sternly with a raised eyebrow.

“What do you mean?”

“Why don’t I show you?”

Spectrum took off like a flash of lightning as he whizzed across the room. A striking beam of white energy ran over Richard’s body and hit him with enough force to knock him prone. Richard kicked up his heels and jumped on the table while dozens of light waves danced around the conference room. Any one of them could be Spectrum. They probably all were. This was his light speed, though Richard never caught more than a glimpse of it before the boy keeled over from the g-force.

Spectrum hit him again, this time driving a hard light stake through his chest. It would have been a fatal blow, if not for his iron armor beneath the suit. The blow nearly shattered the plate though. A few more well-placed hits and Spectrum would have it in for him.

“The architects aren’t real!” Spectrum cried, his voice coming from every direction. “You just made them up to scare us into submission.”

“Is that what this is about?” Richard said.

“No, it’s more than that,” Spectrum said. “I’m tired of being your minion. I’m tired of being weak. I’m tired of being human!”

Richard’s jaw practically dropped at the statement.

“You wouldn’t…”

“I already did,” Spectrum said. “Everything’s hard light now. My arms. My organs. Even my brain.”

Ten hard light spears drove deep into his body, breaking his iron armor and ripping through his flesh. Richard concentrated with the full force of his willpower as he waited for an opportunity to strike. He had one chance to pull off the maneuver. His eyes raced around the room in a vain effort to follow Spectrum’s light speed, so he did the only thing he knew how.

Richard drew on the clusters of iron concentrated in the deepest sections of Savage Tower around the room. Structural stability didn’t matter much if the alternative was death, but this was going to do some damage. He felt out the pieces and with one giant pull, he gathered them together around his body. The hard light spears previously pinning him to the table snapped from the force, and in smiling fortune, Spectrum took the brunt of one chunk of metal to the head.

Richard picked himself up and dusted off the broken shards of hard light while he ripped the spears from his flesh. Iron bits encased his body now, not the extended armor he grew accustomed to in more epic battles, but this would do. Any more and he might fall through the floor.

“You’re a fool,” he said. “You play with resonance like a child with a new toy. You have no regard for the consequences of your actions.”

Spectrum was lying on the ground with his hands cupping the sides of his head. The chunk of iron dented his skull, though no blood came out. Instead, the side of his face looked like a cracked statue. As a self-made construct, the boy was now functionally immortal. He would never grow hungry. He would never tire. He would never age.

The thought drove a knot inside Richard’s stomach. What was the point of conquering god’s divine plan only to become one? He pitied Spectrum for what he had done and what he might live on to do. Richard raised a fist high in the air to deliver the final blow.

“Let us see if you still acknowledge death,” Richard said.

Richard barreled down with an ironclad fist, but he caught a glimpse of a grin before Spectrum veered out of harm’s way, and his whole world turned white. Shades of colors erupted around him without hinting the details of the room. Richard looked around, but he hardly knew left from right in this haze.

“Let me out now!” Richard screamed. “Where are you?”

“I’m right here, Mr. Adamson. Can you find me before your time runs out?”

What was he talking about? Richard took a step forward … or tried to, but his leg inched along the ground. His arms grew heavy, and his shoulders drooped. The air felt thick, and it took harder and harder breaths for him to pump air through his lungs.

“It must be difficult to breathe,” Spectrum said. “I like this one better.”

“You can’t get away with this,” Richard groaned.

“How much pressure does it take to crush the Iron Giant? You’re going to die here, Mr. Adamson.”

Richard raced to move, but the pressure on his body applied itself exponentially. He no longer stood, left to crawl on his stomach like a slithering snake as he clawed his way toward Spectrum’s voice. A few more feet. It always seemed like a few more feet away. Was there an end at all? Richard’s eyes shut closed from the force, and in his dying moments, he overheard Spectrum mumble something.

“A perfect world awaits. Yes, a world of Black and White.”

Chapter 1

Forgotten Relic

Berlin, Germany

2003 A.D.

Marcus Stanley. A relic from Gamma’s wasteland in North America. During Gamma’s overseas project, Marcus’ teammates referred to him as Rhythm, but these days, he went by the name of Theta and for good reason.

Marcus climbed off one of the last means of reliable transportation known to man since North America fell. He headed toward the double door entrance to the Berlin Central Station. Automobiles carried a certain prominent air about them, but vehicles wandering the wastes didn’t last long. Outlaws left the railways unharmed because they relied on supply lines as much as everyone else did.

He did a quick count on his wrappings and luggage by memory. Seemed to have it all in there. He brought a few pairs of clothes for the trip. He suspected that, unlike his previous ventures, he was going to stay in town for a while this time.

Berlin, like most of the major cities, remained functional following Gamma’s takeover and the spread of Savage Steel. The few people left in the world gravitated around the railway centers. They hoped for strength in numbers, but it barely meant anything at all these days.

Nothing and nobody stood against Gamma and his elites. Destiny, Gamma’s eyes and the man who could predict the future, ruled out any kind of offense against the great and powerful lord of green light. Then, there was the hand of Gamma. A frightful resonator if there ever was one.

Marcus strode up the steps, surrounded by a small crowd of pedestrians who wore tattered clothes and torn satchels. He saw more coming on to the train, so it was safe to say not all the passengers were headed for Berlin. It made sense. He was one country away from Gamma and not many people favored living so close.

Upon exit from the building, beams of morning sunlight filled his eyes, and Marcus took a moment to adjust. He’d been napping most of the train ride here, so he hadn’t caught much glimpse of sunlight since Amsterdam back in the Netherlands.

“Where are you,” he said quietly.

Spectacle was hiding somewhere here, and he intended to find the culprit, or his name wasn’t Theta. Marcus raced down the steps and into the cracked lining of a former street while he surveyed his surroundings. Famine-provoked conflict and rogue resonators tore down most of the larger structures and sparse vegetation littered the cityscape. What few scraps of plant life existed did so as overgrowth on piles of broken masonry and outcroppings of iron fences.

Marcus noticed some tears in the pavement, lines thick and deep enough to assume the damage boiled down to rogue resonators with awful powers. Gamma took in the strongest, but he hardly ever gave them orders. Mostly, he wanted to monitor the strong ones. Ordinary people and most resonators didn’t give it much thought, but Marcus knew Gamma was afraid.

“It’s coming soon enough,” Marcus said.

Marcus reached out with his resonance to find anyone concentrating … plotting against Gamma. Marcus knew how to do it instinctually. It was the same as dipping his hand into a jar and pulling something out, like a note. He found he could scan the thoughts of a city if he had to, but it took time and stamina. Marcus slept often, sometimes for days. He woke up with an empty stomach and a dry mouth after passing out from the last time he tried to search a city all at once. One of these days, it was going to catch up with him.

Marcus found a nibble in a nearby seller. He was a young man three and a half blocks south of the station selling bread. He carried a revolver strapped underneath her jacket under his left arm, and each time he thought of Gamma, he would glance down at a reflective trinket he wore around his neck. In the last five minutes he did it twice, more than unusual even this close to the green lord himself.

Marcus broke out of his concentration and proceeded down to one of the alleyways leading toward him. He mapped out the series of pathways by keeping track of pedestrians passing through them. Every point of consciousness was a dot on a map. He couldn’t see the buildings with his resonance, but he could see every point of light, and he spent time connecting the threads in each city he visited.

Marcus slipped through the last walkway and tapped the mud from his boots as his vision settled on a young man holding a basket of stale bread. He wore loose attire and carried a sunny disposition. One city dweller handed the youth a handful of coins and swiped a loaf from the basket. The economy was going down in a basket, but one thing people always needed was food.

“Hello there,” Marcus said as he approached him. The youth caught sight of him and reached under his jacket. “Don’t be alarmed. I only have questions.”

“Are you one of Gamma’s men?” he asked.

The young man already drew up his revolver and cocked the gun.

“What if I am?” Marcus said. “Are you going to shoot me?”

“I might.”

Marcus heaved a sigh. He hoped he didn’t have to use it.

“Tell me this,” Marcus said. “Are you a piece of the looking glass? Do you know Spectacle, by chance?”

“You are working for Gamma!” he shouted.

Good, that told him all he needed to know. Marcus raised a hand and gestured a sign of surrender, but the boy didn’t back down. He watched as his aggressor took a step forward and pressed his finger close to the trigger. Marcus took a life before, but he refused to go down that road again unless he had to. Enough was enough.

“Put your gun down,” Marcus said.

The young man lowered his aim, bewildered Marcus even asked. The revolver fell from his hands, and the barrel planted into the grime laid alleyway as it soaked up water and mud. Marcus stepped forward and placed a hand on his shoulder. He did it instinctually with his voice, but physical contact made it much more effective. The power to dominate will.

“Where can I find Spectacle?” he asked.

The youth answered abruptly.

“Spectacle’s Berlin contact, a resonator called the Immortal. You can find him at the Swanky Pub.”

Chapter 2

Wraith Approaches

Berlin, Germany

2003 A.D.

Marcus slipped through the alleyways and sped through Berlin’s crumbling buildings. He used a combination of eyesight and passive thought detection to weave around incoming pedestrians as he made his way toward the Swanky Pub. He read the young man’s mind a little, even though he didn’t mean to. It gave him the location he needed to finish his journey.

Marcus hardly meant to use his resonance half the time. More often than not, he refused to speak out of fear he might dominate the will of another person. In fact, he barely knew any longer if people followed him for his charisma or if they didn’t choose at all. It was difficult to wrap his head around, and he gave up a few years ago. Nothing mattered besides killing Gamma. He didn’t care how many minds he twisted.

“Oh no,” he whispered silently to himself.

It was Wraith. Marcus expected an easy run, though he also suspected deep down Destiny might have chosen to interfere in his plans. However, this was a blessing in disguise. For Destiny to mark him as a target, it meant he was getting close. This presented a problem though.

Marcus stopped at the edge of an alley that led to a street overgrown with weeds and trampled with mud. Some brick showed through dark patches of ground, a murky memory. On the other side of the street, a hastily restored building stood, propped up with shoddy masonry and nailed boards for support. The sign on top read: Swanky Pub.

Wraith never lost his prey and Marcus was lucky to get away the last time. Passively, he checked to see the exact location. Wraith was following Marcus’ negative trail, weaving through the alleys behind him. He was about thirty seconds away, more or less.

Michael Flagstaff, the Canadian Hound. At least, that was his human name. Wraith’s resonance was tied to negativity, and not the kind like being a bad person, though Wraith was that kind of person. Instead, this resonator could see where an individual was not and where said individual had recently not been. It was hard enough to wrap his head around, but essentially, Wraith’s powers made for an excellent tracking ability few could dismiss. Other than that, his pursuer made use of a few other powers, but Marcus didn’t need to worry about those as long as Wraith never found him.

Marcus knew the key to evading Wraith was to become a different person. No disguise could cover up what was on the inside, so Marcus prepared himself for a risky maneuver, one he only undertook once before in his lifetime.

“In ten seconds,” he said to himself aloud, “I will no longer exist as Theta.” Marcus steadied his hands. “I will walk into the Swanky Pub and remember myself once I find the Immortal. My one goal in this life will be to find him.”

Marcus waited for the effects to apply with shivers running through his fingertips. Technically speaking, dominating the will of another lacked a built in reversal process. Whatever memories or feelings he implanted into an individual became a part of their own mind, as real as any other memory. That was what made it dangerous.

Marcus found through trial and error, he needed to set conditions for effects to clear. Otherwise, he needed to specify each memory and character trait to the letter. It was troublesome in most cases, and he destroyed a good number of minds before the discovery. His ultimate test was his last encounter with Wraith. He hoped the Canadian Hound wouldn’t recognize him, because Rhythm was a much weaker contestant.

Ten seconds were up. Marcus felt no different than before, though he felt compelled to enter the building across the street for some reason. He walked over, treading through the mud in his new boots and read the sign overhead.

“Swanky Pub, eh?” he said. “What’s so Swanky about it?”

Marcus recalled an order from Catherine back at the League in North America. The Immortal. He needed to locate this renegade resonator and bring back proof of his demise to show Gamma. His neck ached from the flight over, and his stomach was about empty. Maybe a sit down wasn’t such a bad idea.

Marcus grabbed the handle and creaked open the door’s frame. The sounds of old timey music and people chatting drifted out, and his nose twitched at the smell of seasoned loafs of bread and sweet soup. This was his kind of restaurant, but the city had gone downhill since his last visit. He thought about bringing the issue to Gamma, but the man had enough to deal with in North America. Best leave the European nations Lady Leblanc. Then again, Gamma could send Wraith over to take care of any other rogue resonators.

He thought about it for a moment or two before the notion singled in on a mind back by the alleyway. Marcus turned to face the hand of Gamma himself. Michael appeared in corporeal form and wore a long gray coat and dark pants. He sat across the street as he inspected the corner of the alley. The violet aura of his resonance pulsed around him.

Each time Marcus laid eyes on the man, he looked different. Normally, Wraith never revealed much more than his eyes, covering his face and hands with wraps. Rumors circulated around the League that something was up with him. Wraith’s powers seemed to degenerate his bodily tissues, so someone must have been fixing him up from time to time. Marcus pegged another resonator in the European League branch. Gamma never said, but Gamma never said much anyway.

Marcus waved, but Michael looked deeply interested in whatever he was inspecting, so he turned and walked inside. First, lunch. Then, he would find this Immortal.

Chapter 3

Immortal’s Blessing

Berlin, Germany

2003 A.D.

Marcus took a seat at a vacant table, one of many in the pub. People talked nearby, words of happenings around Berlin. Marcus tried his best not to pry and shut off his mental perception for the time being. It took all of his mental energy not to effortlessly read the surface thoughts of the countless other denizens in the Swanky Pub. A good number of them were commenting on his arrival. Two suspected he was a resonator by the way he carried himself. It was a lucky guess. At best, he was a foreigner with weird habits.

“Dammit,” he said under his breath. He was doing it again.

Marcus couldn’t seem to keep his powers in check. Ever since he joined the League, his mental abilities continued to grow to the point he hardly recognized himself. Another year or so and who could say? Maybe, he’d surpass Lady Leblanc or Wraith himself. Psychic types were a rarity these days, and no two functioned exactly alike.

“Good afternoon, sir,” a young woman said cheerfully.

Marcus didn’t notice her while he was caught up in his inner monologue. He needed to quit doing that before someone did him in. He glanced up at her and noticed a pencil and notepad in hand.

“I’ll have the house soup,” he said. “And throw in a plate of wings, if you have them.”

The waitress hesitated before replying.

“Wings?” she asked.

“Yes,” Marcus replied. “You mean you don’t have them in stock?”

“Good one, sir,” she said. “Can I get you anything else besides wings?”

Marcus resisted the urge to pry, and he did so for as long as humanly possible. About fifteen and a half seconds, but a tall, slender man in a button up suit and tie sat down at his table uninvited. The waitress didn’t appear to mind, which suggested either he worked here or he was someone of authority, maybe from the local law enforcement. The man sported a toned physique and had a head of short, scattered blonde hair.

“He’ll have a plate of pumpernickel,” the man said. “I’ll have a plate as well.”

“Any drinks?” she said, scribbling down the order so far.

“I’ll have a cola,” Marcus said.

The waitress stared at him again, as if he were crazy.

“We’ll both have waters.”

The waitress scribbled down the last bit and grabbed two wraps of utensils from her apron. She placed one down for Marcus and another for his visitor before walking into the back room on the far end of the pub near the entrance. Marcus eyed the man with a concerning look, though he managed to receive something oddly similar.

“The name’s Martin Quinn,” the man said. “I’m a resident of these parts, and you seemed to have hit your head a while back.”

“How so?” Marcus asked.

“For one, chickens are extinct. They’ve been extinct since North America fell.”

“You have to be kidding me.”

North America? Sure, the economy saw better times, but fallen was a harsh label. That, and chickens were not extinct. He had chicken wings two days ago, so close the memory of the taste made his mouth water. Something was wrong with the situation, however. Marcus resisted the urge to pry.

“And second,” Quinn continued, “Cola’s a damn delicacy.”

That was the end of it! Quinn played a decent poker face, but Marcus was going to find the root of this one way or another. He dove into the deepest reaches of Quinn’s surface thoughts and then deeper as he prodded the man’s identity. Resonators. Berlin. France. North America. Resonators again. He was a resonator! His code name was …

“Stop that,” Quinn said, standing up. “I won’t tolerate it.”

“You’re a resonator,” Marcus said.

“Apparently you are too. This is quite an occasion.”

Marcus stood up from his seat as Quinn pulled off his suit jacket and laid it over the back of his chair. He then proceeded to remove his tie, an act of which he took great care while he stared Marcus down. His eyes never shifted, and his face remained emotionless. Marcus prodded again, but something kept him from reaching any deeper, and it only made Quinn angrier by the time he undid his tie.

“You’ll find your resonance ineffective on my kind of brain,” Quinn said. “Who do you work for? Is it Gamma?”

“I’ve got a feeling you’re the person I’m looking for,” Marcus answered.

“Tell you what,” Quinn said. “You beat me in a bare knuckle fight, and I’ll tell you my alter ego. It’s what you want to hear, isn’t it?”

“Challenge accepted.”

Marcus pooled his concentration energies to make use of his chief ability. With a resonance tied to concentration, he became immediately adept at virtually anything, including every martial art he ever witnessed in action. He could also affect the concentration of others as well, but that wasn’t an option in this scenario. He already tried it three times while Quinn removed his tie, and it had little effect.

He dove in and shot with a right hook, but Quinn ducked, grabbed his arm and threw him on the floor. Marcus caught himself and rolled through it, standing back onto his feet. Quinn sized him up and smirked.

“You have some talent,” he said. “Most devote all their time to developing resonance. They don’t see the point of combat mastery until their powers are ineffective. Then, it’s too late.”

“You haven’t used your resonance,” Marcus said.

***

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Black & White

  • ISBN: 9781311163325
  • Author: Brett P. S.
  • Published: 2015-09-23 15:40:07
  • Words: 16360
Black & White Black & White