J B Durbin Books
Legacy of Paine
Book Three of the Paine Saga
Published by J. B. Durbin
Copyright 2015 John Brian Durbin
Chapter 31 – Protection Plan
Paine was back in the alley in Atlanta, waiting for the street gang to come into range. He adjusted his body armor, pulled out a micro grenade and threw it onto the stairway above him. He fell to the muck-filled street as the micro grenade slipped between the slats on the landing and fell onto his back, exploding. He screamed as the hot metal fragments of the grenade sliced into his body, shredding the armored vest he was wearing. He was shaking as one of the men he was sent to kill walked up to him and rolled him over. The pitted barrel of the plasma rifle pointed at Paine’s head as the man grinned and said, “One, two, three,” and Paine saw a flash of light.
Paine woke with a start. He was sweating profusely, shaking from the nightmare he just had.
“Oh my god Paine, are you all right?” Elle asked as she held her quaking husband.
“I’m fine, just another damned bad dream,” Paine said as he sat up in bed and went into his breathing exercises, the ones the shrinks told him to use when he suffered flashbacks or had nightmares.
Elle watched her husband try to calm himself down. She knew better than to interrupt him while he was in this state of mind, so she waited until he got his breathing under control before gently pulling him back down on the bed. She held him close as he slowly regained control of himself.
“I have the same problem,” Elle said as she gently rubbed the back of Paine’s neck. “I still dream about the first man I killed, using the pistol Katrina gave me when we went shopping in New York.” She looked down at Paine and asked, “Will it ever end?”
“I don’t know.” Paine sighed as he finally calmed down and his heart rate went back to normal. “But all of my dreams are about the same problem, just at different times of my life. That seems to be a pattern with these nightmares.”
Elle yawned but stayed attentive to her husband’s words. “What do you mean, there is a pattern?’ she asked.
“In every dream, my body armor fails and I get badly hurt. I have been injured using body armor, but nothing like what I experience in these dreams.” Paine shook his head as if to clear it and said, “I think I am OK. I just can’t sleep. I think I will go check on William.” He kissed Elle and got up from the bed.
“If he’s still sleeping, please don’t wake him up.” As Elle turned over and snuggled deeper into the warm sheets, she mumbled, “If he is awake he will be hungry. You know where the bottle is.”
Paine looked down at the sleeping William for a long time. He marveled at the child’s ability to sleep undisturbed. He envied him not having all of the memories of death and destruction constantly running through his mind. Paine realized that this was a good memory and tried hard to hold on to it - to help him push the bad thoughts out of his head. He squeezed his eyes shut, but the images of failing body armor would not leave him.
Unable to go back to sleep, Paine sat down at his computer and began writing a proposal for a new type of personal protection. He worked straight through the night, stopping when Elle got up to feed the baby. He sent the proposal via secure message to Keenan and asked him for some feedback.
A week went by before Keenan called Paine.
“Paine, I looked over your proposal and sent it to my chief engineer right after I finished it,” Keenan said. “It took a little while to set this up, but we would like you to come to a little demonstration today in Neo Luddite territory.”
“But no one there will talk to me or even look at me,” Paine replied. “Ever since the Neo Luddite community shunned me, I have been dead to them.”
“I know, so why don’t you just come and listen?” Keenan said. “Maybe now that Miley has passed on to her next life, whatever that might be, they will change their minds.”
“I doubt it, but it is worth a try. I will bring Marcus along to talk for me. I can tell him what to say using patrol sign if I have to.” Paine thought about whether he should go armed, because he and Brad, the new Neo Luddite leader, didn’t have a history of friendliness. He decided not to carry any weapons, but he did put on his armored vest.
While Marcus and Paine walked to the designated location in Central Park, they passed at least forty Neo Luddites going about their business. Marcus was greeted by all of them; no one acknowledged Paine’s existence. It was as if he were invisible.
Paine smiled as the last one wished Marcus a good morning. “I guess the shun order is still in effect.”
Marcus waved hello to the next person and said, “At least they aren’t trying to kill you!”
“Not yet, anyway. We still have to meet with Brad.” Paine shook his head. “You know how that went the first time.”
“I do,” Marcus replied as he patted the pistol in his leg holster, “and I promise nothing will happen to you as long as I am with you.” They reached the designated test site and saw Keenan and a bewildered-looking Techno standing with him.
“Hello, Paine, Marcus, welcome to a demonstration of your brain child,” Keenan called out. “We just need to wait for the others to show up.”
“Welcome back, Marcus.” Brad called out as he emerged from under the stone bridge that crossed over the pathway. He reached out to shake Marcus’ hand and said, “Good to see you again and glad you don’t have all that Corvis garbage in your system anymore.”
Marcus watched as Brad and several Neo Luddites approached, carrying a wide array of weapons. He counted sixteen soldiers and wondered how many he could stop if they decided to go after Paine. It would be tough to stop them all.
“It has its drawbacks. I used to be able to take a lot of damage and come back within a few minutes. Now, I would have to spend time in the meditube,” He waved at the soldiers standing in a loose formation in front of him and Paine and said, “I hope I don’t have to find out.”
Brad stepped backward and held out his open hands to Marcus. “As long as you didn’t bring any technology here, you are perfectly safe. It is our way.” He purposely did not look at Paine while he looked directly at his friend. “Do you understand me, Marcus?”
“I do, thank you for the welcome.” Marcus turned to Keenan and asked, “So what do you want to show us?”
Keegan began his presentation. “P… a friend of mine sent me an idea he had been working on for a long time. Using his design, my people came up with a new product that I want to test today.”
“Plasteel, as you know, has tremendous strength. We use it to build the globes that orbit our planet, and it has been proven to withstand the heat of re-entry. The globe that contains the United Nations complex came through re-entry just fine and is back up there in space watching over us all.” Keenan waved to the sky. “It is the best building material we have created to date.”
He waved at the Techno standing behind him who moved forward nervously. “Zeeland here,” Keenan patted his shoulder, “using plans drawn up by our friend, came up with an extrusion process to take raw plasteel and draw it into one continuous strand of wire about the thickness of a silk thread. It has extremely high tensile strength, as you can see here.”
Keenan took out a printed picture of a concrete barrier seemingly floating in the air. He flipped the picture over to show a close up, revealing a thin red line wrapped around the block of solid cement. “We painted the plasteel; otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to see it. Three strands of the extruded threads are holding up four tons of concrete.” He turned back to his assistant and continued.
“Zeeland put the design of the suit on the computer and determined just how long the thread needed to be to make a sixteen-layer weave that would cover his body. Then he designed a machine to weave this single strand into a flexible body suit that fits him like a glove. Observe,” Keenan said as he pulled the shirt of his subordinate open with a flourish, “You can see his skin under the clear body suit.” Keenan looked at Zeeland for a moment and muttered, “Very nice body, Zee,” before turning back to Marcus and Brad.
“It is much like the old wetsuits people use when they go diving into cold water. This second skin, as I like to call it, is impervious to any projectile weapon you have in any inventory.” Keenen put his arm around Zeeland and moved him to bridge abutment, “as we will now show you.”
Keenan walked back over to the waiting crowd of soldiers and asked, “Brad, can you have someone shoot Zeeland, please? Make sure it is a body shot. I wouldn’t want him to get hurt.”
Brad waved one of his soldiers up to the spot Keenan had marked on the ground. The soldier strung his bow and pulled it back to full draw. From less than twenty feet, the arrow would have passed completely through a human body. It struck Zeeland with enough force to cause him to grunt, but the arrow bounced off the seemingly bare-chested target and fell to the ground.
“Problem solved if the enemy is using arrows.” Keenan smiled. “Now let’s try some chemical weapons.” He indicated that Marcus should step forward. “If you please?”
Marcus drew his pistol with practiced ease and fired one shot center mass of his target. The fifty-caliber projectile traveling at subsonic speed packed a tremendous amount of kinetic energy. It struck Zeeland just to the left of his sternum, knocking him into the wall behind him and causing him to fall to the ground.
“I think I just killed him,” Marcus said as he started forward.
“Wait a minute,” Keenan said, “just watch him.”
Zeeland stood up on his own, shaking his head and wheezing as he tried to catch his breath. “That hurt!” He glared at Keenan, who walked forward and patted him on the cheek.
“You’re still alive, aren’t you? Thanks for the demonstration. Now go take your pain killer and sit down for a while.” Keenan returned to the group and said, “I think this demonstrates the durability of the suit against antique weapons. The problem comes when we go against hypervelocity rounds.”
Marcus asked, “Do they go through the armor?”
“No, the plasteel is impervious to the round’s impact, but the person inside is not. The energy is partially absorbed by the suit, spreading the effect over a large part of the body, but human flesh can only take so much.” Keenan paused and looked at his printed notes. “The computer model we ran showed that a human body can’t take a direct hit and survive. The suit protects from penetration, but not from the force of the impact.”