I’m excited to share with you the first chapter of my latest story. Pain & Gain is a futuristic thriller, set in 2040’s London. Eddie Walker specialises in finding people. But when he’s hired by the Salve corporation, it’ll be his toughest case. Salve want Eddie to find who’s been stealing their industry secrets. The only problem is that the man Eddie’s looking for is an old army colleague, David Stone. And David died five years ago.
I’m still working on polishing the story, but I wanted to let you have a look. Please let me know what you think in the comments below. I’m also looking for beta readers to help me get the book in the best shape possible before it’s released. If you’d like to see the full book before anyone else and help improve it, just sign up to my email list, using the signup form in the sidebar. Either way, I hope you enjoy chapter one.
David took a step out of the darkness, into the dull fluorescent light. Emerging from the tunnel, he blinked and took a cautious look around, leaning against the wall as he caught his breath. After making sure the world hadn’t ended, he stepped forward and walked along the rails, heading toward the station platform.
It was a quiet night on the London Underground, relatively speaking. There were still plenty of people about, but few enough that they were spared the indignity of being squashed together like sardines. David reached the edge of the platform, set the silver pilots case down and pulled himself up. He looked around again, but he needn’t have worried as nobody seemed to be paying him the slightest bit of attention. Everyone had their heads down, eyes glued to their phones. David picked up the case and was about to carry on when he noticed that there was one pair of eyes trained on him. A child of about four was staring at him, eyes wide. David looked down at himself, and conceded that he would stand out to anyone who looked. He was a big guy, over 6ft 5” and about 250lbs, and would stand out in most crowds on an ordinary day. This wasn’t an ordinary day though, and David looked like he’d got dressed in the dark. He was stuck wearing a lab coat made for a man about half his size, and trousers that struggled to cover his calves. He’d have to do something about that. He tried smiling back at the kid, but the kid just looked scared. He looked like he was on the verge of crying, so David moved on, walking along the platform toward the stairs. No-one but the kid saw the bloody hand print David had left behind where he had climbed up.
David moved as fast as he dared, not wanting to draw any more attention than necessary. He noticed a brown leather jacket that looked more his size, draped over the back of a bench. He snatched it and threw it over his shoulders, not losing a step and keeping his eyes straight ahead. He thought he had gotten away with it, until he heard the shout behind him. He kept walking, but the shout came again. Louder. Closer. David turned to see a large, angry looking man striding toward him, demanding to know who he thought he was. David held his ground, dropping his case to the ground as the man approached. He was just a few feet away when the man recoiled, falling back as though he had been hit by a car. He looked up at David with a mixture of pain and horror. “What the hell did you just do?”
David took a step toward the man, forcing him to shuffle backward, racked in pain. The man clutched his head, rolling on the floor. The other people on the station veered around the scene, hurrying on their way and determined not to get involved]. David stood there for a moment, head cocked to the side, watching the man shake on the floor. Convinced that the man wasn’t going to any more trouble, he picked up his case and walked away, leaving the man gasping for breath on the floor.
The corridors were narrow as the tunnels wound their way up from the tracks to the surface, and David strode up the centre of the path. As he walked people spread out in front of him, waves parting before a boat. David barely noticed, and neither did the people as they moved out of his way. It was as though someone was nudging them out of the way, so they stepped aside and carried on, their heads bowed. When an individual ended up getting too close to David they would grimace then ricochet off to the side, their lesson learnt. David ignored them all, keeping his head down but always listening, ears open for the sound of pursuit. There had been a moment there, when that man had been shouting at him, that David was scared. He’d thought that it was all over before it had even begun, that the game was up and they had him cornered, again. But with each step he took he dared to hope that he would live to take another, and his confidence grew.
It had been a while since he had seen the Underground, and it hadn’t seemed to have changed much. The tiles that lined the walls were yellow and faded, cracked and broken. The place looked as if it hadn’t had a lick of paint since it had been built almost two hundred years ago. David thought it was a shame, as when you took a close look, the original buildings and network were impressive. As a child he’d always enjoyed those weekend trips, travelling around the city through the tunnels. That was a lifetime ago. Like so much, the network was there to serve a purpose, and as long as it did its job that then it was left to languish. David shook his head, as though he was trying to dislodge the thought. He reached the escalator and stood still, his invisible perimeter secure as people bunched up a few feet either side of him. The air was cooler as the escalator climbed up, and David closed his eyes for a moment as he felt the breeze. As he reached the top of the stairs he realised that there was still going to be a few obstacles to overcome before he saw the sky.
A barrier stood in the corridor ahead of him, a chrome turnstile funnelling all the people through like sheep. He watched as one person after another queued up and presented their phones, running them over the scanner. They would then shuffle forward as they the green light lit up and the barriers parted. David walked slower, analysing the situation, formulating a plan. His hands rummaged through the stolen jacket’s pocket, searching for anything that might help. He pulled out a Flexphone, with an active credstick attachment. David opened it up and checked the display, raising an eyebrow when he saw the total credit. No wonder the man was angry, there was over £800 live on there. Next to the credit line though was what David was looking for. An active ticket, with today’s date on it. His ticket out of here. He held onto the phone and carried on toward the barriers. Even with the parting effect that David carried with him, there was no way to rush this next part. The barriers acted as a choke point, and the people were slowed down to single file. David joined the queue and edged forward with the rest of them. The people bunched up on either side of him flinched as the unseen force attacked them, gripping their heads and sides. David wasn’t concerned about their pain, but the guard stationed by the turnstile was a different story. He had looked bored and tired leaning against the wall when David first saw him. This sudden wave of illness inflicting everyone had grabbed his attention however, and he was beginning to look suspicious. David took another step forward, praying to any nearby deities that the queue would move a little bit faster. Instead, the queue ground to a halt. The guard started walking over toward David, eyeballing him. David was almost at the barrier when the shout rang out, but from behind him rather than from the guard. David glanced over his shoulder to see the former owner of the jacket behind him, pointing at David and yelling his lungs out about about criminal charge for theft and assault. David hadn’t physically laid a finger on the man, but he didn’t figure that was going to make much of a difference, especially when his friends from the tunnels caught up with him.
The guard shouted for everyone to stop moving, then looked between David and the other man, who was still yelling. “Is this the man you’re talking about, sir?”
“Yes, that’s him, the big guy wearing my damn jacket. Arrest him!”
The guard waved the people on who were already through the barrier and motioned for everyone else to back off. He looked David up and down, taking in his bizarre clothing and sizing up the man in front of him. “Is that true sir? Did you take that man’s jacket?”
David shook his head, not having time to deal with this but forcing himself to speak calmly. “The guy’s lying, I’ve had this jacket for years.”
The guard nodded, while the jacket owner shouted and swore in the background. “I see. And that phone, that credstick, they’re both yours too sir?”
“Yes,” said David, getting impatient, “and the case. Now, can we move this along?”
“In a hurry sir?”
“Yes, I am. I’ve got an appointment and I don’t have time for this messing about.”
The guard took another look at David’s ill-fitting wardrobe. “Of course sir, this won’t take a moment. If I could see some ID?”
“It’s my ID,” shouted the man “That’s my phone, my credstick, it’s all mine. I demand you arrest him immediately!”
The guard waved for the man to be quiet. “Easy now. I just need to see some ID from both of you then we can get this sorted out, okay gentlemen?”
No, thought David, it wasn’t okay.
The guard had been moving closer in his unhurried fashion and was now studying David. “Is that blood on your shirt?”
He stepped forward, reaching for his radio. As he came within arm’s reach, he closed his eyes and winced. “What the hell? What’s going on here?” he asked, gritting his teeth.
David seized the opportunity, swinging his case around and smacking the guard across the face with it, giving him a bruise to go with his headache. The guard fell back, surprised and unprepared for the violence. The shouting man stopped shouting as David span around to face him. He was still hopping with anger, but now it was restrained by fear. He didn’t look like he was willing to go up against David without anyone backing him up, so he made do with giving him an accusing look whilst keeping a safe distance.
David strode over to the barrier and passed the phone under the scanner, the green light flashing as the doors opened. He had stepped through into the lobby when he heard the crackle of a radio behind him.
“There’s an assault in progress, I need security down here right now.”
David turned to see the guard back on his feet, the radio in his hand. “I need you to stop there and drop the case sir!”
David looked the guard over. The man was overweight, his hair was starting to grey, and he didn’t seem to be armed. He was more like a ticket collector than serious security. David was knew he could kill him within a few seconds if necessary, but he’d already wasted enough time. He turned his back on him and began running toward the exit signs. He heard the guard yelling into the radio again, demanding backup.
David was almost at the end of the lobby when the backup appeared, two armed guards rounding the corner and placing themselves between David and the exit. David snarled as they raised their weapons and ordered him to drop to the ground. He looked around. The first guard, the ticket collector, was keeping a safe distance. He was holding his hand to his head where David had hit him, but his eyes didn’t leave David. Most of the other people had fled the scene, save for the curious who had put what they thought was a safe distance between them and what was unfolding. They were peering from behind pillars and vending machines, filming on their smart-glasses and ready to upload their own masterpieces of photojournalism the moment they had signal.
David returned his full attention to the two armed guards, who were getting closer. They were a world apart form the ticket collector and looked much more like a threat, especially with the guns they held. Compact sonic rifles, SW23’s by the look of them. David had fired a few in his time, and even though they were non-lethal he knew they would still pack a punch. The effects ranged from disorientation and nausea right up to exploded eardrums, permanent blindness and tissue damage. And they were pointing at him. The nearest guard, a mean looking man with a goatee shouted at him. “Put your hands behind your head and get down on the ground. Do it now!”
David took a deep breath and dropped the case to the floor. He raised his hands and placed them behind his head as ordered, knitting his fingers together behind his head as ordered, but remained standing. Every fibre screamed at him to lash out, to rip them apart, anything that might make the pain stop. However, if there was one thing he had learnt over the past few years, it was patience. If you waited long enough, the opportunities would reveal themselves. So he closed his eyes, taking slow, deep breaths as he listened to the footsteps drawing closer. He waited until it sounded like they were almost within arms reach, then he heard the steps falter. David’s eyes flashed open. The guards still had their guns trained on him, but their eyes betrayed something else. Pain, and along with it panic. David could see that they weren’t as certain as they were a few seconds before. Something was wrong here, something that their training hadn’t equipped them to deal with. “What the hell is that?” asked the first one to his comrade.
“You too?” replied the second. “Feels like my heads, no, my whole body’s in a vice. What’s going on?”
David snapped into motion, seizing on their hesitation. His arms lashed out as he grabbed the barrel of the gun nearest to him, ripping it from the shocked soldiers hands and throwing it behind him. As the guard stumbled toward him, David dug his feet into the ground and turned his shoulder in. Exploding forward, he launched the hapless man into the air. The guard flew through the air before colliding with a pillar, the air forced from his lungs.
As the first guard crumpled up on the floor, the second brought the rifle up to his shoulder and squeezed the trigger.
David leapt for cover from the shots, heading left and sliding for cover behind a row of vending machines. Sonic waves bombarded the machine and ground around him, kicking concrete and plaster into the air. David tried to slow his heart beat but it felt like it was ready to burst out of his chest, adrenaline flowing through his veins. It felt like for the first time David was truly moving, and the power felt incredible.
He risked a peek around the corner. Now that he was further away, the guard was able to focus, the pain that had threatened to cripple them now nothing more than a memory. The first guard was picking himself up off the ground, searching for his weapon. David spotted it no more than a few feet away, but the other cop had him pinned down. There was no way he could reach the gun without being cut down.
“Keep an eye on him,” yelled the second man, “I’ll go round and flank him.”
Time was running out for David, and he was backed into a corner with only a few seconds before the guard would be rearmed and have a clear view of him. Then it would be game over. David looked around, searching for something, anything that would be able to help him out. There was nothing in arms reach, nothing that he could reach without leaving the relative safety and cover the vending machine provided. David looked at the machine, sizing it up, and gave it a shove. The thing felt like it weighed about a few hundred kilos.
“Show your hands now, step out where we can see you.” The steps were drawing closer, and David knew that any moment now they would have a clear shot at him. There was no time left.
David wrapped his arms around the edges of the machine, gripping it tight, then pulled back on it with all his might. The machine groaned as it shifted, before returning to where it has started from.
“What’s going on? Stop that!” yelled the guard.
David pulled again, his face red as he strained to move the machine. He felt it leave the ground for a second, before thudding back to the ground.
“Get out here now or I will open fire.”
With an inhuman howl, David poured all his strength and energy into one more attempt, knowing it would be the last chance he had. For a short moment, the station fell silent as David lifted the vending machine clean off the floor and above his head.
Then David breathed out, and as he did he threw the machine forward with every muscle in his body. Straight toward the guard. He managed to raise his hands before the machine slammed into him. For a moment it carried him, and they moved as one across the lobby floor. The vending machine fell to the floor but the momentum carried the man through the air and into a wall. He dropped to the floor and out of the fight, several tiles falling from the wall on top of him.
The other guard stood there, staring at what had just happened, before his eyes met Davids. He was still without his gun, but his hand fell to the baton kept at his side. He unholstered it and advanced on David with quick, short steps, his stance ready for conflict.
David had lost all sense of patience, his calm persona now less than a memory. He launched himself at the guard, bellowing as he swung his fist for the man’s face. The man ducked in time, and David’s fist buried into the wall behind him. As he ducked he brought the baton around hard and struck David in the back of the knees. Coupled with David’s forward momentum it was enough to send him sprawling to the ground, landing face first on the cold floor. The guard wasted no time and took advantage, leaping onto David and swinging the baton into David’s head, his sides, knocking the breath out of him. David tried curling up to avoid the blows but they kept coming, and it was with curious detachment that he felt one of his ribs crack under the assault. That could be a problem.
After what felt like hours, the guard dropped the baton to the ground and stood up. David lay in an awkward heap at his feet. Blood seeped from open wounds, and bruises covered every visible inch of skin. The guard stepped back, fighting for breath now that the adrenaline was on the way out of his system. He leaned on his knees and was reaching for his radio when he heard David’s voice, croaking.
The guard leaned closer, trying to hear what David was saying. He coughed, clearing his voice. “You’re going to regret that.”
David brought his foot up and kicked out, connecting with the policeman’s shins and knocking him back. The policeman fell to the floor whilst David stood up. He dusted himself off, as though he’d stumbled rather than received a beating that would render any other person unconscious. The policeman looked up in horror as David walked forward. He paused when he noticed one of his ribs was sticking out through his shirt. David shook his head, before reaching down and pushing the rib back in, resetting it. “That’s going to be a real nuisance to sort,” he said, exasperated.
The guard’s voice was high pitched as he asked “What on earth are you?”
David didn’t answer. Instead he stepped forward and, leaning over, brought his fist down hard into the man’s face, knocking him out. He looked over to where the other guard lay, crumpled under the tiles and plaster. He looked up at all the other people in the station, all the smart-glasses, phones and a hundred other devices pointed in his direction. They all looked so scared, he thought, yet still they wanted to hang around to see the show. If only they knew what real fear was like. If they knew what it was to suffer. That’s not the kind of thing that anyone wants to see on Netvidz though. Nobody would stick around for what came next.
He stepped over to where his case lay and picked it up. He’d already been held up much longer than he wanted, and drawn far more attention than he needed. He left the lobby behind him and was in view of the escalators that led to the surface when the police turned up. Eight men, wearing body armour and carrying assault rifles, filed down the stairs. They stopped when they saw him, taking their positions, and brought their guns to aim. Eight red lasers lit up David’s chest. He could see their lips moving, and he guessed they were telling him to surrender, but he couldn’t be sure. All he could hear was the blood pumping through his head, a rhythmic drumming in his skull. He didn’t bother to look back, there was nothing for him there. He’d die before he went back.
Before he could make a move, the lights grew brighter, to the point they were almost blinding. Everyone in the station, including David, including the cops, covered their eyes. Just when they couldn’t get any brighter, the lights exploded, and the station was plunged into darkness. As the screams and panic started, David felt a knot of fear in his stomach. The power cut wasn’t the work of the police, nor was it a coincidence. They were here. They always preferred to work under the cover of darkness, and now they were here to clean up their mess. People around him started stampeding, fighting their way to the exit, ignoring the orders to stay calm. David joined in, charging forward, running for his life.