Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Lights Out" by D. T. Peterson

Lights Out
by D. T. Peterson

An elite squad. An unknown weapon. An unthinkable attack.
The year is 2058. An unknown weapon from an unknown enemy is being shipped toward the United States. An elite squad of marines, led by Marco Valdez, are sent to stop it and to find who is behind it. Answers lead to more questions and the squad's mission takes them to ships, underwater hotels, and highly-secured complexes, always one step behind their elusive enemy.

Ambal Mannav wiped the sweat from her forehead. It was 37 degrees Celsius in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh and Mannav was forced to wait outside for the arrival of her associate. The heat was nothing new. Her hometown in India often experienced similar temperatures. She glanced at her pocket computer, colloquially called a mini-comp. The local time was 12:17 AM. Her associate was late.
Mannav paced along the side of the street and kicked aside a few stray stones. Had it not been for her associate’s paranoia, she could have waited inside her air-conditioned hotel room. He had refused to be told the exact location of their meeting over anything digital. She would have to wait for him to arrive and take him to the room herself. She understood that the illegal nature of their meeting required caution, but certainly the Americans would have no reason to suspect their presence in Phnom Penh.
She looked at her mini-comp again. 12:19. Her frustration was turning into anxiety. Why isn’t he here? she wondered.
Mannav jumped back as a tan sedan pulled up in front of her. The driver’s side window rolled down.
“Get in.”
Mannav did not recognize the voice of the driver, but she saw her associate, Darshan, sitting in the passenger seat. He nodded to her. Without another moment of hesitation, she got into the back of the car.
The wheels spun for a second until they caught traction on the asphalt. Mannav was forced back in her seat as the car sped down the street.
“Dar…” Mannav began to say.
“No names,” Darshan interrupted.
“What’s going on?”
“Somebody talked. The Americans know we are here.”
“Doesn’t matter.”
“Then, where are we going?”
“Outside the city. We’ll talk then.”
Mannav sighed. She wasn’t convinced there was any real threat. Darshan always took the worst case scenario as a certainty. She turned to the window and saw a large dragonfly sitting outside. She tapped on the glass to make it move, but it didn’t react. Probably hanging on for dear life. Mannav turned back and watched the city fly past.
Thirty minutes later, the car came to a sudden halt. Mannav braced herself against the seat in front of her.
“Let’s go,” Darshan ordered. He exited the sedan and Mannav followed. As soon as she closed her door, the car pulled away, spitting back dust from the dirt road. Mannav turned to face the small shack that was in front of them.
“Who’s here?” she asked.
“Don’t know. That’s the point,” Darshan replied. He pulled out a pistol and stepped through the shack’s doorway.
The sole inhabitant inside was an elderly woman. She was repairing a set of torn clothes. She looked up.
Get out,” Darshan demanded in Cambodian. He displayed his weapon to make his order thoroughly understood. The woman screamed and ran outside.
“She’ll bring back others,” Mannav warned.
“We’ll only be here a minute.” Darshan looked up at the metal roof that covered them and nodded.
“What are we doing here?”
“They won’t have surveillance here.” Darshan pointed up. “Or a view from a satellite.”
“Fine. Can you update me now?”
“Give me your mini-comp.” Mannav obeyed. Darshan interacted with the computer’s holographic screen for several seconds. “Okay, you now have access to the tracking software. The shipment will be leaving tomorrow. Make sure the team in New York is ready for pickup. They’ll need verifiable identities in case American customs…”
“Don’t tell me know to do my job. As long as everything is good on your end…”
“It is.”
“Then there should be no problems. Do you have…”
Darshan handed her a small data card held in a plastic container. “Everything’s there. The machine schematics, instructions, potential targets…”
“The target has already been picked.”
“You don’t need to know.”
Darshan scowled. “I deserve to know. After all I’ve done…”
“You know how this works. Besides, you’re the one who can never trust anybody.”
“Do you have anything else, or can we get out of this dump?”
“No. I’ll call the driver.” Darshan pulled out his mini-comp.
Mannav noticed movement on one of the shack walls. It was the dragonfly. She chuckled. Somehow, it had survived the trip and followed them inside. She walked over to smash the bug, but it took off. It flew around the room for a moment, then landed on the back of Darshan’s neck.
“Hey, there’s a bug on you.”
Darshan looked over at her. “What?”
He never got an answer. The dragonfly emitted an electric shock to the back of his neck and he collapsed to the floor, unconscious. Mannav’s eyes widened. She turned to the doorway to run, but felt small legs land on her neck. One shock later, she was face down on the dirt floor.
Halfway across the world, an American engineer said, “Both targets down.” He pressed a command on the computer in front of him and watched through the dragonfly’s synthetic eyes as it flew up into the air and left the Cambodian shack.


By Lynda Dickson
Set in the year 2058, Lights Out is a futuristic story about Marco Valdez, a Special Operative working for Marine Special Operations Team (MSOT), a covert US military group. We follow Marco and his team as they battle evil and try to save their country and, perhaps, the world. Who is the evil genius behind all their troubles?
This novelette (43 pages) gives us an insight into the author's vision of a future world. I especially enjoyed the auto-drying shower (no more damp towels) and the glass underwater hotel (which sounded like a good idea but turned out not to be so great - you'll see why).
Lights Out contains some minor typographical and spelling errors but is otherwise engagingly written. The story does end rather abruptly. Hopefully we will get to find out what happens next in one of the author's other works.
Lights Out is one of three short prequels for the novel Darkness on a Pale Blue Stone, set 14 years later.

About the Author
Derek Peterson is a 21-year-old storyteller and for most of those years he has been living that out through writing. He loves grappling with complex issues, uncovering exotic mysteries, and attempting to understand the darker parts of human psyches, all of which come through in his writing. If something is simple and straightforward, it's probably not something he's all that interested in. He loves challenging, complex stories with equally complex characters and settings. His writing journey has a long way to go and, for him, that's what makes it so enjoyable.
Derek currently lives in Chambersburg, PA. His future plans involve thoroughly earning the title of "Author", learning to cook something more than eggs, and living long enough to own a self-driving car.


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