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The Simulan Game
This Novel is written as a blockbuster movie in the vein of “The Matrix” or “Terminator 2”. It is an action-packed thriller set in the future, so you could call it Science Fiction, although it is much more than that. To date it is 33,300 words and it will be around 100,000 words when finished.
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Las Vegas 2139
Pedro Ellih was being hunted by six of the most deadly killers on earth. But he had no idea.
In downtown Las Vegas a cool wind whispered along the dark streets, slowing occasionally to suck curling fingers of steam through steel drains on the roadside.
The streets were wet with new rain that mingled with the smells of hot pizza and beer. A few people sauntered along the footpaths, hands in pockets, collars up. The sound of a distant jukebox moved up the street, distorted by the breeze.
A black sportster turned into Paradise Road from Flamingo Avenue and slid into a vacant park with a hiss of tyres on the wet surface. The headlights retracted into the
hood as the car stopped. The driver's door opened and Pedro stepped out. He was tall with clear olive skin
and dark, shoulder-length hair. He moved gracefully with a hint of strength and power. A Winchester crowd-pleaser was tucked into a holster under his jacket. The jacket was genuine leather and worth more than the car. Pedro walked a few paces from the car and activated the alarm. He sniffed the air and looked around, casually ignoring the looks cast in his direction. He crossed the
street and disappeared down an alley between two buildings.
In the safe inside the car was a UN passport. He had many names, and as many passports, but to friends and family he was Pedro. The UN passport allowed him unrestricted international and lunar travel and did not indicate a particular nationality, which was useful at times. He was not in Las Vegas on business. The ongoing technology supernova had not
changed the fact that Las Vegas was still the best place in the known world for games.
A pale red neon sign - ZEB'S - shone above a dimly lit doorway. Pedro entered, bought some game-credits and two stimu-caps from Zeb who sat behind the wooden bar. Pedro crunched down on the caps, swallowed them and walked to the changing rooms. He put his gear in a locker and put on a loose-fitting white jumpsuit, stretched and walked back to the bar. Zeb activated a door release and Pedro walked through a metal detector into a waiting room with a security locked door.
The security door opened into a lobby with two elevators. Pedro got into the one that was open and pressed for the fourth floor. He stepped out into a large, well-lit arcade with games lining the walls. At the far end was a gym where Pedro warmed up while the neuro- and muscle-stimulants were absorbed into his bloodstream. After a few minutes he felt his energy level surge and his muscles began to twitch. He tightened and relaxed each muscle group in turn and then walked down an aisle of games to his favourite.
Run Time was a large machine – grey, metallic and made to look menacing. Pedro put eight credits in and typed his game name into the keypad.
‘So Burt Munro, you have come to challenge me again. Ha, ha, ha’, a computerised voice said.
‘Kiss my arse, loser,’ Pedro replied and got inside.
The door slid quietly closed and Pedro took off his jumpsuit while his eyes adjusted to the darkness. A silicon vir suit hung from a hook to one side. He took it down and put it on and did the same with the vir-helmet. Instantly, the silicon suit moulded itself to his body, creating a second skin. The vir-helmet welded itself to his face—eyes, ears, nose and mouth. Run Time was the latest Virtual Reality game; whatever Pedro did inside the vir-suit happened in the game. ‘Start,’ he said. And in the instant that the darkness faded into an afternoon street scene, Pedro became Munro.
The game was never the same, although Munro recognised the part of the city he was in. He stood on the corner of an intersection in the seemingly deserted city. Slowly he looked left and right and up. He was safe at the moment. He recognised Sutton Road and started walking west. The motorbike he found last time was in that direction. While he walked he took out his map and worked out a route. It was about twenty minutes to the bike. It didn't pay to run; it was a sure way to attract attention.
The afternoon sun felt hot on his face and clouds of swirling dust made him grimy. He blew his nose and continued on. Just over halfway to his destination on Young Crescent Munro faintly heard tyres squealing. A warning sign at the best of times, he turned and sprinted towards an alley he had passed. He was twenty metres away when he heard the terrifying whine of a sonic tracer. Jolted with fear, he threw himself into the alley just as the tracer passed by. The whining decreased in volume as it moved away, leaving a bruised and panting Munro unseen.
Heart racing and lungs gasping, Munro held his bruised and bleeding shoulder and looked around for some cover. His best chance was a fire escape which he had to jump to reach. Grimacing with pain, he pulled himself up onto the bottom rung of the ladder and climbed up to the first landing. He lay down facing the street and listened until he heard the sound of a motor as the vehicle followed the path of its trace. No squealing tyres now, it was moving slowly, looking and probably listening. Was it searching for him, or any quarry it could find? He didn't know.
The sound grew louder until its source passed into view. It was a dark green armoured transporter, patched and dirty with the tracer dish mounted on the roof. He felt like taking a shot at the dish but decided anonymity was the best policy. It continued on. Munro waited until he could no longer hear it and then sat up. He was hot, dirty, sweaty and bruised but had sustained no serious damage.
He waited a while longer and climbed down from the landing as quietly as he could, favouring his right shoulder. The alley was quiet; nothing moved. The smell of rotting garbage and the oppressive heat encouraged him to keep moving. He stopped and listened again. When he was satisfied that the transporter had gone he peered cautiously around the corner. The street was deserted as before. After consulting his map, Munro continued in the same direction as before - but this time running. If the transporter came back he would be long gone.
A few minutes and some distance later, the risk of being traced equalled the risk of attracting unwanted attention. Munro slowed to a walk. The motorbike was less than two kilometres away. He continued down Norrie Road, seeing and hearing nothing unusual. At Creek Street he took a right and saw the bike 300 metres ahead. He went more cautiously now, looking over his shoulder more often and listening to every sound. He arrived to find the bike just as before, a scruffy black Ducati. It was a fast bike, but poorly maintained. Munro remembered back to last time he played. At least he knew what to expect this time.
As before, he hot-wired the bike and kick-started it into life. Taking his gun from his shoulder holster, he crouched behind the bike and waited. Sure enough, an enraged figure with a huge red beard stumbled up from a basement apartment and advanced toward him. He took a couple more steps before Munro shot him three times in the chest. He collapsed heavily on the footpath.
Unlike in the previous game, Munro waited until another man emerged. This time Munro laid him neatly next to his friend. Failing to wait in the previous game had cost Munro his life; he’d taken a shotgun blast in the back as he rode off. This time he waited a little longer and when no one else appeared he got on the bike and took off fast. His back tingled in anticipation but his rear view mirror showed no sign of life as he accelerated up Creek Street.
He was now in uncharted territory and forced himself to slow down. Pursuit seemed unlikely but his movements were critical from here on. He had to get to the other side of the city, across the Harbour Bridge, to deliver the package he carried. If he lost or crashed the bike it would not be waiting for him next time. Needing to make the most of this opportunity, he cruised at eighty kilometres per hour and took out the map. He worked out a route which could get him to the Bridge. It was not far to the motorway. He stuffed the map into his pocket and sped up.
The battered sign said ‘Great South Road - Auckland City 37 km’. Munro slowed to turn onto the on ramp. The motorway was worse than he had expected. The road was buckled and cracked and potholes were plentiful. By carefully navigating between the four lanes he was able to maintain sixty kilometres per hour. The motorway was completely deserted, with the exception of a few rats which scurried away. Closer to the city the condition of the motorway improved. Munro increased his speed but still zigzagged to avoid the worst fractures. The Harbour Bridge was still half an hour away.
Looking in the rear view mirror, checking the on- and off-ramps and dodging holes and debris took most of Munro's attention. But he did see the spray-painted sign ‘keep outa my lane asshole’ scrawled on an overpass as he went under it. He ignored it, as he had all other graffiti. Soon after, the motorway - except for one lane - was blocked by three rusting cars, As Munro swept through he heard a maniacal scream from above him. Standing on an overpass on ramp was a figure in a dirty denim jacket. A bike engine started as he continued underneath. ‘Just my luck’, thought Munro, ‘a psychotic biker with a road ownership complex’.
Munro looked back and saw the bike shoot off the ramp onto the motorway in pursuit. He thought fast. The main advantage the biker had was local knowledge but in Munro's favour was his ability to obscure the biker’s vision with his body and the exhaust smoke from his bike. Firearms would be useless at high speed so losing the biker was his only option. Munro wound the bike up to 130 and tried to pick the best line he could on the broken motorway. On a clear stretch he looked back to see the distance between them halved. He had to change tactics; it was too easy for the following bike to take his exact line at high speed.
Swerving past debris and being shaken by potholes Munro watched for an exit. He glimpsed a sign which said ‘Caution Merging Traffic 400 Metres’ and had an idea. Taking his eyes from the road for a split second he glanced at his trip meter. It read 59.5. Four hundred metres would take it to 59.9. He knew the on ramp would be on his right and would require a complete change in direction. Dodging a series of discarded oil drums, he changed into the far right lane from which the on ramp would be hidden by sight. Watching the road and his trip meter, Munro maintained his speed until the trip meter flicked to 59.9. Without looking back, he stood up a little on the bike and put all his weight on the rear brake. The back tyre squealed and the back of the bike slewed from side to side as he tried to control the skid.
The concrete wall to the right ended abruptly to allow the new lane to merge. Munro stepped off the brake. He changed down the gears and all in one movement leaned the bike hard to the right to complete the turn. His pursuer heard the squeal of rubber and saw the smoke but took a second to register and follow suit. He braked hard but not as hard as Munro and went skidding past as Munro accelerated in the opposite direction. With every nerve on edge, Munro moved through the gears as fast as he could. The on ramp came from a road as rough as the others and Munro swept onto it at full speed. His glands injected adrenaline into his bloodstream, and his racing heart pumped it through his body as he scanned the road ahead for debris and holes. Munro took every exit and on-ramp he could, twisting and turning on and off the motorway, knowing he had to lose his pursuer.
The psycho came to a stop at the exit and turned his bike to follow his game. He was wild-eyed with anger and he screamed and spat. He revved his bike up to the red line and dropped the clutch and the highly tuned Laverda 12 jerked away in pursuit. The engine shrieked and the back wheel spun at every gear change until the motorway became a blur at 170. Through a mixture of luck and practice the psycho avoided the litter and broken roadway and began gaining on Munro. The lingering smoke from Munro's exhaust was a blazed trail as the psycho followed him through the twists and turns.
When he realised his pursuer was gaining again and not giving up, the hairs on the back of Munro's neck stood up The dot in his rear view mirror was still a long way back but his bike was outclassed and he was getting tired and sore. He knew he could not keep going at this pace; it was only a matter of time before a lapse of concentration meant an unpleasant end to the chase. He had one more idea that might work - but if that failed he would have to engage in a shooting match.
Navigation was more difficult now, however. There were no signs to advise entry back onto the motorway. Munro saw an entry ramp coming up and braked hard to make the left turn. He lost valuable time in slowing down and speeding up. His pursuer had time to react and use the advantage of his better bike to cut down the distance between them.
Back on the motorway, Munro finally saw what he was looking for. A sign that said ‘SH16 Kumea Left Two Lanes, SH1 North Right Three Lanes, 3.5 Kilometres’. Munro kept up a good speed for the first two kilometres and then changed down two gears and let out the clutch. The motor howled but Munro kept the revs high whispering to the Ducati, ‘Hang in there, baby’. Thick blue smoke poured out of the bike, partly obscuring him but the psycho was catching up fast. Munro watched until the distance between them was about 100 metres and sped up again. His heart raced in his chest and his blood pounded in his ears. This was his last chance.
The motorway separated about 500 metres ahead, two lanes to the right and three to the left. Munro could see the psycho clearly now, even through the smoke. As the bikes ate up the last 200 metres before the split, Munro sat in the middle of the centre lane. Thankfully, it was relatively free of obstruction. In the last seventy-five metres the psycho had nearly caught Munro and his crazed eyes burned in anticipation. With just forty metres left Munro faked left and cut back right at the last instant. The psycho followed his movements a split second behind and met the splice of the concrete wall at 150. His body was torn apart; two fifths went down SH16 and three fifths down SH1. The bike became shrapnel.
Eight hundred metres past the junction Munro brought the bike to a stop. He had heard the impact behind him and knowing he was safe, hung his head with exhaustion. His mouth felt dry and his eyes ached. He lifted his head and spat a dirty wad of saliva. Although he was sore all over and feeling dazed he knew he had to keep moving; scavengers and road dwellers would arrive quickly. He resisted the desire to go back and search the remains, and accelerated again up SH1. Once he was well away from the crash site Munro stopped at the side of the motorway where he could watch the road in front and behind. He turned off the bike and listened.
Satisfied that he was safe for the moment, he walked to the roadside and urinated on a discarded lemonade can. He zipped up his pants, walked a short way and sat down against the wall. He pulled the creased, sweat-sodden map out of his pocket and studied it. His mission objective was to get the package he was carrying across the Auckland Harbour Bridge and into friendly hands. His contact would be waiting on the north side. All going well he should get to the Bridge, make the routine delivery and pick up his fee. He quickly worked out the distance, noted the vulnerable points. He folded the map away and got back on the bike.
Munro followed the motorway slowly until he could see the Harbour Bridge. Still cautious, but at a good speed, he negotiated his way over the cracking surface and through the debris. What he did not notice was the electronic trip wire which he sprang just before St Mary’s Bay. He figured that it was about three kilometres to the far end of the Bridge and his spirits lifted at the thought of being safely on the other side. He cruised at fifty, moving left and right to maintain a clear run.
A few seconds later Munro's leisurely ride came to an abrupt end. A high-pitched whistle was the only warning he got as a shell flew past and exploded twenty metres ahead. The shock waves shook the bike and Munro nearly lost control, jumping with fright. Without hesitating, he accelerated around the smoke and flames. His eyes strained to see a clear path through the smoking rubble. He stood up on the foot pegs of the bike and looked ahead, then behind. A tank lumbered through the smoke behind him. His nerves became taut once more and his body pumped a fresh load of adrenaline into his exhausted muscles. Fortunately the tank was old and probably did not have laser sights. The twenty-metre miss gave support to this theory. Nevertheless the tank was armed and behind him. Munro only had his speed and that was barely above the tank's capability.
Munro swerved into the far left lane and apportioned his vision equally between the road and the rear view mirror. He sighted the smoke from the turret soon after the second shell had been fired and swerved to pick a line to the far right lane. He saw the shell explode to his left. They had got the distance right but they would be lucky to pin him if he kept moving from side to side. His stomach tightened when he saw the tracer bullets arc out from the machine gun turret. He swerved to the left again and then ducked back behind an upturned car, hoping for some protection. Leaning right over the bike, head forward, he heard the bullets whiz by and strike debris left and right. He swallowed down the bile which threatened to gag him and continued to watch in front and behind. The machine gun fire came in spurts and Munro only had time to watch his line and make the most of the scanty cover.
He sped up to gain some time advantage and swept around the final curve which led onto the Bridge itself. It was straight and remarkably clear of debris but to Munro's distress he saw that it came to an abrupt end at its apex. There was no escape - and no turning around. He looked back and saw the tank lumber into view behind him.
The Bridge had been blown by explosives. The edges were gnarled with rusting girders exposed. A fifty-metre gap separated the two lengths of what remained of the Bridge, a state that Munro's map had not noted. As Munro closed on the gap he noticed something. On the edge was a green car door, lying on the road and angled upwards, resting on a torn steel girder. He turned the throttle to full and crouched down. He swept from side to side, avoiding the worst of the cracked motorway, accelerating up past 100 and into top gear. He lay down on top of the fuel tank, and looked through the gap between the handle bars. The speedo went to 140 then 150. Munro could hardly see with the juddering of the bike. The tank started shelling again but the shells fell behind him. As he got closer to the top of the Bridge the speedo read 170 and the bike began to shake. Munro lined up the car door as best he could. In the final few metres he closed his eyes and waited for the jolt. When it came he was almost unconscious with fear, gripping the handle bars with such force that his knuckles were white.
The scream of the unhindered engine snapped him back to reality and he opened his eyes. Everything happened in slow motion. He was flying in mid air above the broken motorway as the far edge of the Bridge came towards him. His heart missed a beat as he realised that he would not make the gap. With his last surge of energy he pulled his legs up, crouched on the seat and launched himself up and away from the stalling bike.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
Munro’s contractors had prepared for his arrival. They had laid a crash pad the width of the motorway and 100 metres long on the Bridge behind the gap. Munro ungraciously cart-wheeled into the padded mats and was pulled up by a soft net after thirty metres. He lay stunned and dizzy in a heap on his stomach, shaking and staring into the netting.
‘Nice landing,’ said a voice, ‘Have you got the package?’
Munro lifted his head a little and vomited. He wiped the sick away from his mouth with the back of his hand and struggled into a sitting position. He reached into his jacket and unzipped the inside pocket. He drew out the parcel and gave it to the man who had walked up beside him.
The man wore a black suit and dark glasses. ‘Thank you,’ he said, and walked to the edge of the crash pad. The door of a black Mercedes opened and he got inside. The car moved off silently. Munro watched it disappear from view. A black laptop was left where the car had been and Munro hobbled over and opened it. The screen read: ‘You have accomplished your mission. Your fee has been paid into your Swiss account. The people of the free world thank you.’
Munro smiled weakly. ‘Next.’
The screen blanked and then wrote: ‘Do you want another assignment? We can have you in a six-star hotel in ten minutes and your briefing can wait for five days’.
‘No. End Session.’ Munro collapsed onto his back, exhausted.
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Las Vegas 2139
Pedro Ellih was being hunted by six of the most deadly killers on earth. But he had no idea.