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Samuel T Raven

Copyright © 2017 Samuel T. Raven

All rights reserved.






To Dad,

Thanks For Your Help and Encouragement


Many Thanks To

Doug Morrison


Wayne R Pinnow

This is Book 1 In A Series Of 3 Books

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Chapter 1

Ben watched in awe as the crazed zombie bit out a chunk of the woman's neck. Crimson blood fountained from the wound. Her body shuddered from the shock. The zombie lapped at the growing pool of blood. Ben winced slightly upon seeing this.

Alex interrupted Ben's concentration, “It's five-fifty, I think we should go over the plan again.”

Ben stopped the video on his phone and replied, “Half an hour to go then.”

“Dude, you mean twenty minutes?” Alex corrected, with his two extra inches of height over Ben.

Ben looked at his watch, “Five, ten, fifteen, twenty. Yeah twenty, that's what I meant to say.”

“I really don’t know how you’ve made it so far through life,” said Alex sarcastically, understanding why Ben only just got accepted at University.

Ben replied, with an attempt at some wit, “There’s a fine line between stupidity and genius.”, though admittedly he didn't know which side of the line he was on. He reached inside his pocket and pulled out some well-handled sheets of paper, though in the twilight he couldn’t see what was written on them. Looking at it you wouldn’t have thought it was anything important, but was in fact the culmination of a lot of hard work by the duo.

“Do you think we have a chance of doing it in the fastest time?” Ben queried Alex, as he zipped his jacket right up to his chin to try keep out the cold morning air.

“It took us a good two weeks of planning, so I think we’re in with a chance,” replied Alex, “It took the power of the university’s computer network three days to come up with a near perfect route.”

“Two hundred and seventy stations in under fifteen hours and ten minutes will be a push. Let’s hope the planning pays off.” added Ben. Ben and his university room mate, Alex, were taking part in The Challenge, with the aim of visiting all stations on the famous London Underground - The Tube - in the fastest time. There was no official prize for doing this, just the kudos of achieving it. Lots of groups had attempted this challenge and the failure rate was quite high, unable to improve on the fastest time which has stood for over four years. Just missing one train connection was enough to prevent a successful completion. Ben and Alex thought they had this nailed - they had an original route no one had tried before. The pair had spent three months, working in their free time, to write a computer program that would generate a new optimal route. This took a lot of work, and challenged their math and computer skills to the limit.

“I guess you’re also hoping to score points with Charlie from doing this?” asked Alex.

“Totally. I have such an amazing crush on her,” answered Ben.

“I really don’t know what you see in her,” replied Alex.

“Where do I start? She’s smart, mysterious and easy on the eye,” said Ben.

“Good luck with that dude!” commented Alex.

Charlie was in his biology class, one of three classes that Ben and Alex were studying, the others being Computer Science and Math. He could still remember the first time he saw her; as he reached into his bag to retrieve his class books. She walked in - black leggings, black top, black hair, black nails and black makeup. Ben was instantly mesmerized. To this date though he didn’t know if she even knew if he was alive, let alone in the same biology class as her. She was the type that rarely socialized outside her own clan, with their way of dressing in dark clothing and make-up. One day, Ben told himself, she would know he existed - he just didn’t know when this day would be.

They had been up since four am, to ensure that they were at this station as soon as it opened, catching one of the first trains of the morning meant they could cover a lot of ground quickly, before it started to get busy. Both were suffering from a lack of sleep. It was going to be a long day for the pair, lots of standing around on trains and plenty of running between platforms.

Ben jumped slightly as a whirring noise filled the air. It was a motor that started the shutters at the entrance of the station to rise, filling the area where Ben and Alex were standing with a bright light that cut into the darkness where they were standing - casting long shadows of their legs as it did so. They didn’t wait for the shutter to be fully up, scuttling under it when it was about half-way up. They legged it down several flights of stairs, by passing the escalators, as they would have been slower. As they arrived at the station’s platform, Ben glanced at his watch and the notes that were held in his hand, and drew a cross over this first station, located on the outskirts of London. He saw they had just over four minutes until the first train arrived and their attempt at The Challenge would be underway. They were the sole people on the platform, as it was so early in the morning. The commuter rush wouldn’t start for at least another couple of hours. As soon as they heard the train approaching, Alex took a photo of Ben showing his watch with the Morden Station logo in the background - they would need to photograph every station as proof they had visited all of them.

“I so hope we do this,” Ben remarked, “It will be a great title to hold.” He was pretty excited and really looking forward to the challenge that lay ahead.

“I know for sure it’s going to be close man.”

“Either way let’s just make the most of it and try to enjoy it.” replied Ben.

“Dude! Either way, it’s gonna be one awesome day!” said Alex.

How little did they both know.

They rode the train on the Northern Line to the last stop, taking photos of each station’s sign as they traveled through. There was only a very small margin of time to get to the station’s other platform so they could connect to the Circle Line. This was their first platform change.

“Forty stations down, and still on track!” exclaimed Alex.

Ben replied, “If it continues like this, we’re going to breeze it!”

Over the next few hours everything went well: they’d managed just over eighty stations, which included most of the outlying stations. The following stations would be more closely packed, so their rate of visiting stations would increase. As the morning rush hour approached, they had more and more people that needed navigating around. This human element was the one thing that could destroy their plan - meaning the seas of bodies may prevent them getting to a platform on time. Despite this they had yet to miss any of their planned connections. They pushed their way to the edges of the platforms, to be sure of getting on the train - manners and decorum were out the window.

Ben and Alex squeezed onto a packed train on the Circle Line. As the train doors started closing, for a brief second, Ben thought he saw his childhood imaginary friend, Holly, in the corner of the carriage, between all the commuters. He took a second look - she appeared to grab her wrist with her other hand, and was no longer there. He guessed it must have been a trick of the light or something. Why else would he have seen her? The last time he saw her was thirteen years ago when he was just four. Ben shook his head and got back to focusing on the task to hand. He guessed the lack of sleep from the previous night was catching up with him.

Suddenly, a bright green flash, followed by a blast wave traveled the length of the carriage, and filled it with a dense green smoke. Amid the screams and shouts of the resulting confusion, Ben, who was standing in the middle of the carriage, was nearly knocked off his feet. Ben was in shock, he had no real idea what had just happened.

Visibility was probably less than two feet, due to the dense green smoke, making it hard to see anyone in the tightly packed carriage. When he could finally focus on nearby passengers, Ben noticed he bore the brunt of this unknown chemical; his hands and face were mottled in green. The train quickly came to a halt between two stations and the doors opened. In a panicked surge the passengers rushed out of the doors and fell on to the tracks, all luckily avoiding the third rail, stumbling to their feet. Darkness filled the train tunnel in both directions, some went south on the track, whilst others went to the north.

Glancing around, Alex was no longer visible to Ben. Ben didn’t know which exit path Alex had taken. Ben made a hasty exit to the North.

People were clearly shaken by these events and some choose to clamber over those who had fallen over. It took Ben about ten minutes to walk the track to the next station, which was Marble Arch. Somehow first responders were already at the station, all in HAZMAT suits. They were funneling passengers to two locations - dividing them based on whether they had any evidence of the green substance on their exposed skin. Ben was shepherded up a flight of stairs that led to the street above. Ben pulled out his phone so he could call Alex and check if he was alright, however there was no signal: he was unaware that all phones in a five-mile radius were disabled as a security protocol, in case the device that exploded was triggered by a phone signal, so as to prevent any other devices being detonated. Ben followed the directions of the first responder, namely to remove all clothes except his boxer shorts. In exchange he was given piece of paper with “5012” on it. He grimaced as he was sprayed with cold water, until most traces of the green substance was removed from his skin. He was scared, he didn’t know how toxic the substance was and whether he would be OK.

Ben was given some sort of white paper trousers and matching top, and a clear plastic bag for his watch, wallet and phone, then he joined the procession of cleaned people, somewhat unsure where they were being taken. After walking about half a mile, Ben got his bearings - they were being directed to Hyde Park, a large grassed area in central London. He joined a large mass of people who were being held in this park.

“Any idea what’s happened?” Ben queried a random female.

“Not entirely sure,” she replied. ”Apparently, there have been several attacks across the capital.”

They were interrupted by a very loud public-address system announcement. “Please stay in this park. Do not attempt to leave. We will update you when we have more information.”

Ben continued, “Did you get hit by the green stuff?” as he reached into his plastic bag to see if he had a signal for his phone yet.

“A little,” she showed the back of her hand, which had a small green stain on it.

Ben was none the wiser as to what had happened and what the current state of affairs was. He thought that perhaps Alex, had he survived, may also be in Hyde Park.

By this time a cordon had been put around the huge park, allowing those contaminated in, but not allowing anyone to leave.

Ben was listening to the various rumors and theories being passed throughout the crowd, which left Ben feeling rather unsettled - not knowing how toxic the substance was, would he get Ill, or worse?

Ben made it to the park boundary, where officials in HAZMAT suits were positioned at regular intervals, perhaps every fifty meters or so. “Is it possible to get some info on what is happening?” Ben asked one of the individuals, who responded only by shaking his arms, as to indicate no and keep back.

As Alex’s fate was still at the forefront of Ben’s mind, Ben decided to walk around the whole park perimeter, thinking that may be the best way to find him, if of course he had survived. There were individuals and groups of people, some appearing to be unaffected, some huddled in small groups, embracing each other and crying. Whilst walking around looking for Alex, Ben could see for himself the scale of the situation, there were thousands of people milling around, mostly disoriented and looking confused and scared.

After an hour or so of looking, Ben caught sight of Alex. Made eye contact and then embraced in a manly hug. Alex appeared to have gotten off lightly compared to him.

“That was some scary shit going down,” commented Alex.

“Any idea what’s going on?” queried Ben.

Ben discussed with Alex what they both knew, which was very little. An official handed them each a bottle of cold water, which they gratefully accepted, and consumed straight away. They sat down on a free patch of grass, and stayed quiet as they tried to make sense of the situation they had found themselves in.

“Ladies and gentleman,“ said a distinct voice over the public-address system. “We would like to inform you that you have just taken part in a training exercise,” pausing briefly, “you have not been contaminated by any dangerous substance. This was in fact just a benign plant extract. The exercise took place to allow first responders and the whole emergency system to check that the current emergency reaction plan would work in a real-life situation, and to find any deficiencies. Thank you for your help, you are free to go. A full report will be published in two weeks’ time, and will be available online.”

“That’s mental.” Ben heard Alex say, and agreed by nodding. They exchanged their pieces of paper for their clothes, which had been washed and dried, and gratefully left the park area.

Ben and Alex were pretty annoyed, perhaps Ben more so. This so called training exercise had scuppered their attempt at The Challenge. Due to engineering works starting next week, and lasting over a year, there wouldn’t be another chance to attempt it for a very long time. Not only that, there were their costs for transport to London, Underground tickets, and a hotel bill to take care of.

Ben would have to think of something that he could do to make Charlie notice him. He knew he would think of something, but right now he had no idea what that would be.

Chapter 2

I’d like to take some time out to introduce myself. I’m Holly, and Ben thinks I’m his imaginary friend. The thing is though, I’m not imaginary - I’m real flesh and blood. I reside in the future, 2118 to be exact. My official role is a Corrector. The world is a pretty messed up place in my time. My job as a Corrector is to go back in time and make small changes to the timeline, with the aim of improving things in my present.

We use a warp bubble for this. It’s basically an area that is outside of space and time, and just big enough for the corrector to fit into. I use this to travel back and forth through the timeline. When I go back in time, correct things, and return, there are usually some changes to my present - sometimes minor, sometimes major ones - though the time bubble will always be present. When I travel back in time it’s more a projection of me, rather than the real me. My projection can sync to just one person’s brain waves at a time, so only they can see and hear me.

I’m pretty new to this job; I qualified just two weeks ago, after completing a four-year course. Over the past few weeks I’ve just been practicing and getting used to the process of correcting. So far in total I’ve done 8 corrections, all around visiting Ben when he was three or four years old - over a decade ago for him, but recently for me. As there have not been major interactions, I haven’t changed the timeline too much, and no significant changes have been made to the world of my present

I’ve just finished the briefing for my next correction. I need to go and visit Ben on a train to prevent him getting caught up in some terrorist training exercise in London. The technology involved in sending me on a correction is totally mind boggling, well beyond my current skill level and technical comprehension. I have a subdermal implant in my non-dominate left wrist; I just need to squeeze this when on a correction and I’ll return via my warp bubble back to my own time.

As I walked to the staging room where I’ll go on a Correction, I went up to a vending machine and inserted some vintage coins and choose a NutMaster bar, circa 1990. I peeled back the wrapper and sank my teeth into it. Although seriously out of date, it tasted like heaven. Due to global warming, cocoa plants no longer grow - so no more chocolate can be made. Obviously, we no longer use coins for transactions in this day and age - it’s all done using our subdermal payment chip. As everyone who works here is into time travel, having a retro-vending machine in the foyer is pretty cool.

There are of course a lot of rules and regulations as to what I can and can’t do when traveling on corrections. One of the restrictions is I’m only allowed to visit any one time once: for example, if I visit May 6th 2014 at 3PM, I can’t revisit that time again, including a window of about 2 hours either side. This has something to do with a potential for time paradoxes, though I don’t know exactly how this works, other than it will really mess up the whole universe. Also, I’m only ever allowed to interact with a single person, any more than that then things get too intertwined and makes it near impossible to try to work what trip and correction made a changes on the timeline.

I was now ready for this correction. I climbed into the space inside the warp bubble container, and assumed a fetus position. As the container initialized with a churning and whirring, quietly at first, then increasing to something as loud as a jet engine, something you get used to after a while. I went through, in my mind, the aim of this mission - to prevent Ben getting caught up in the event that took place in London. There was a flash of light as the warp bubble formed, and the next thing I knew I was on a train. I watched as the train doors closed and saw Ben catch my eye.

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