The Captured (free download!)


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Part One: Past Deceptions

‘More and more each day it feels like I don’t belong here, in this life. That there’s somewhere else, a reality – a real reality.’

‘How long have you been feeling like this?’ Her voice did seem familiar: gentle, reassuring.

‘I don’t know,’ Torbin replied after a few long seconds. ‘A week, maybe. Ever since the repetitions happened. It’s not just deja vu.’

‘When was the last time?’

‘About ten minutes ago, as I walked into your consulting room. I am sure I’ve been here before. And doctor. You may say we have never met before, but I feel I know you.’

She looked at him quizzically, but only for a second until her professional composure returned. ‘What you describe does have a medical explanation,’ she said.

‘Some professional term for the beginnings of insanity? I actually wish it was only that.’

‘Then, what do you think it is?’

‘I wish I knew. But it’s like there’s a … a veil between me and something bigger, and every time I try to pass through it it recedes away.’

‘Do you mean an invisible veil?’

‘Invisible, yes.’ Now he felt faintly ridiculous for using a less than adequate analogy. Yet none better came to mind.

‘Interesting.’ She nodded. ‘I’d suggest you keep a record of anything strange.’


Torbin walked through the lush grounds of the institute. His mind somehow captivated by what was before him. He noticed the flowers, pinks and mauves vibrant in unbroken sun, let their soothing scent wash over him. Gentle sound of birds the perfect accompanying soundtrack. And wondered: why? Why question any of his life when it seemed so good?

When had it all fallen into place? The research grant for his work into applied negative energy for wormholes; the marriage of eight years to someone who could still make the day a joy to live, along with a son and daughter. Torbin the family man, more than just about able to cope. Who would have ever imagined?

It wasn’t that things had always been so good – he’d had failed relationships, and the post of chief researcher was not simply handed to him on a plate, others had gotten the promotion that he felt he was due. But at forty-two he could hardly consider himself a failure.

When was it he started to have doubts?

For a long time he had taken his life for granted. Then he focused on others’ lives, and, wow, his was good. Did he deserve it all? Of course. He worked hard for it. And still he had doubts. He’d learned of a condition – a state of mind, really – known as Paradise Neurosis, where the subject believes everything they have to be tenuous, dependent on something fragile and impermanent. Yes, he’d become obsessed with it; studied the accounts.

It made him question: was contentment the natural state of the human? He suspected not. Real lasting happiness, in millennia past, was the reward for the few at the expense of the many. And for those many only ever transitory, an interlude from the vigilance of whatever next threat emerged on the horizon. That, he understood, was the perennial human condition. Moreover it was by design. Design without a designer. The vigilant survives.

He stopped. Eyes closed now. A dream had come back to him. A dream so familiar it could have repeated a thousand times. A house near the edge of a cliff. A garden, scent of bluebells. First it was the sound, before he looked and saw the ground crumble away. He ran back into the house, as if by some instinctive act. Maybe the foundations were stronger. But even they gave way with the collapsing walls. He could have escaped to safer ground so easily. But he had frozen with terror. The last moments of life before awakening. As always. The dream reality.

He opened his eyes. The birds tweeting. The flowers. It was … lovely.

It will all be fine, in the end. What is there to fear? Just keep it hidden.

Only he hadn’t, he’d told her enough to make her believe he was… What? In need of medical adjustment? Insane?




The Captured

Life is going well for Torbin. A successful career, a happy marriage. Then something strange happens … and again. So he begins to wonder: has it all been a lie? There is someone who claims to have the answers, a man returned from the past – from the dead. Only it seems someone else wants the truth to remain hidden.

An alien visits Earth to study its people. Disguised as a human, her involvement goes far beyond mere observation. She becomes embroiled in a struggle to save what remains of humanity. But already a machine intelligence has transformed Earth into an unrecognizable world, and continues to spread ceaselessly across the galaxy. Yet there is one way to stop them, a weapon held by an old enemy that could itself wipe out all sentient life.

There are those who believe they can survive the ultimate destruction. But at what cost?

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The Captured (free for a limited time)

Life is going well for Torbin. A successful career, a happy marriage. Then something strange happens … and again. So he begins to wonder: has it all been a lie? There is someone who claims to have the answers, a man returned from the past – from the dead. Only it seems someone else wants the truth to remain hidden.

An alien visits Earth to study its people. Disguised as a human, her involvement goes far beyond mere observation. She becomes embroiled in a struggle to save what remains of humanity. But already a machine intelligence has transformed Earth into an unrecognizable world, and continues to spread ceaselessly across the galaxy. Yet there is one way to stop them, a weapon held by an old enemy that could itself wipe out all sentient life.

There are those who believe they can survive the ultimate destruction. But at what cost?


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Taken from my WIP:

Worlds Apart

Her security system confirmed his arrival; it scanned not only every molecule in his body but also analyzed his DNA down to the base-pair level. Zerrana had read an account of how Roidon had once been cloned – or perhaps replicated was the correct word – by the Elusivers, just in the same way as had Toramin.

Roidon looked young, possibly no older than naturally thirty. No one needed to look over twenty-one, but many who wanted to convey a sense of authority or were chronologically older than fifty chose the compromise of about thirty-five. It was funny how throughout previous millennia the appearance of age had such a huge influence on how one was treated. Sometimes humans and B’tari alike preferred to look younger simply because they did not want to bear the responsibility of maturity – what society expected of them, standards to be maintained. While the embarrassments of youth faded with much less in jeopardy, it seemed that middle-age was the most difficult time: the expectations of achievement, so commonly felt to have fallen short. At least this had always been typical of the human male.

So what was Roidon trying to convey now: a sense of not wanting to be loaded by such responsibility? No, it had to be because he felt it maximized his chance with the opposite sex – having the edge on his rivals. But maybe, she reflected, that was too simplistic an analysis. After all, he no longer had any human rivals on this planet.

The door to her suite would have opened automatically but she chose to let him in personally. Have to remember, she reminded herself, this is about business, a colleague – helping a colleague.

He presented to her a bottle. A bottle of wine, with a somewhat mischievous smile, knowing the symbolism in this. Was he playing with her?

“Roidon I,” she began. “A bottle of white—“

“Yes it was, you remember, one of my stipulations for returning to this earth. One of my indulgences. But it would seem sad to drink it alone.”

And so it begins, she thought. “You’d better come in,” she said, in a flat tone, hoping not to sound too inviting. “I’m not one for alcohol,” she added. “It may not agree with my constitution.”

“Most B’tari can process alcohol as well as we human types,” Roidon reminded her.

“You been doing your research, have you?”

“Oh, I know this from personal experience.”

“I bet you do!”

“Zerrana. I am most grateful for your offer to allow me to stay. This bottle of wine is simply a gesture of gratitude,” he said as he followed her into the dining room.

“And gratefully accepted, Roidon.” She did a sweeping gesture at the dining table, a very basic layout of cutlery. She was very conscious not to make it seem like she had gone to any special effort. “I was about to have my supper. I think I can spare some for you. I can put the wine in cold storage for now.”

Roidon nodded reluctantly. Zerrana indicated towards an old-style door. “Make yourself at home,” she suggested. “It will be a while yet.”

“That’s fine,” he said. “But if you need any help with anything.”

“No. Unless you want something more than scrambled egg on toast.” Suitably basic human food, she thought. That wouldn’t really go with the wine, would it?

“My favourite,” he said brightly, which may have been a false cheeriness.

In the kitchen Zerrana assembled the various cooking items: saucepan, spatula, eggs, butter – for a start. Even something as basic as scrambled egg still seemed a bit daunting to cook. Human food still took some getting used to, certainly anything that qualified for cuisine. The standard B’tari process would be to simply replicate it from a preprogrammed memory. But for some reason humans had stuck to the old process of cooking even when the automated process had been available to them for many decades. The process of preparation could be done optimally if automated; so it had seemed curious that any advanced species had elevated the old method to some kind of exalted status. It was as if they enjoyed the labour of it, but she suspected it was something more: a demonstration of skill, a statement of … well, love – or maybe respect. Cooking to some was an art-form, it was competitive. It wasn’t that food was something the B’tari had merely regarded as a means to survival (which, she mused, was probably how the now currently most advanced human lifeforms did regard it). No, eating for her people had had a recreational component for millennia. But why have it less than optimally prepared?

She imagined Roidon imagining her struggling right now, becoming stressed right now. And he’d be feeling a sense of amusement at that thought. Because of course he would know how to cook, he’d know it well. At some point it would have been used as a strategy for seducing a female, just another skill set in his armory. But Zerrana was determined she was not going to give him the satisfaction of intervening. Of being helped. Of succumbing of to whatever trick he had used on all those others. (Perhaps those felt too ashamed to include such accounts for his psyche report. There were only the rumours.)

So, it may be basic. But it would be just right.

“Computer,” she whispered. “Inform me when I have cooked this scrambled egg to optimum taste level … for a human.”…….

The Captured: Roidon

Here was somewhere different. A dimly lit room – just a blue background light. Wires connected to his metal body. But he still felt like a human. Or was it just the memory of it carrying through like a phantom limb?

Memory: both a curse and a blessing. He’d been dreaming; dreaming of a life he once had when he’d first tasted humanity – his own and others. The wonder of nature. The intoxication of a summer’s garden, where he felt as carefree the wildlife appeared to be. Holding a woman whose body was receptive to his every touch but whose mind was still enough of a mystery that he yearned only for more intimacy.

There was no going back once you got a taste for it. Life. Forget the hyper intellect and the flawlessly logical thinking; that was all willingly sacrificed for the visceral emotional fuzziness of being alive. The flood of the senses. Maybe the contrast had made it feel special.

Now the muted in-between, just the fading dreams.

If this was the Kintra compound, why had they kept him alive when there was a near perfect copy running around, infiltrating and undermining the best efforts of the B’tari?

Yet this could be the worst of both worlds. Paralysed but with a mind intact. Trapped in reality.

Something stirred in the corner, a figure. No … not him? Roidon turned his gaze back to the dimly lit blue ceiling.

“Roidon,” came his own voice. “Don’t ignore me now. That won’t help matters at all.” The figure, his own previous human form, loomed over him.

“Why shouldn’t I?” he thought he replied. “You are are clearly but a figment of my imagination brought on by sensory deprivation.”

“Or I could be another clone, courtesy of the Elusivers.”  That version grinned, somewhat menacingly: a contortion of him.

“This is a waste of time. Get out of my mind.”

“First you must leave this room.”

“How do you suggest I do that?”

“Err. By getting up and walking.”

“This body does not function.”

“Yes it does.”

He tried lifting his head. Nothing. Proprioception almost non-existent.

“Try a bit harder now.”

The room tilted. Yes, he was moving. His tritanium-alloy torso rising from the couch, willed to life. An image of himself – the metal monster. The thing exists. I am the thing!

His clone had vanished, at which point he felt once more to be in control. But had no idea where this is or how he got here.

Yet he’d also dreamt of being taken somewhere far away, not by something malign. They had saved him; his benefactors. For what? More tests?

He got off the bed. And it was only then he discovered the restraining field. A pale blue aura roughly the shape of his body now flickered. He had overloaded it just with his strength! They didn’t trust him. Shall I be the monster – the imposter?

He took a few staggering paces towards the door. He even thought he could hear the sound of servos whirring. Absurd; he was supposed to be mechanical perfection. The thing he most detested. But it may well serve him now.

The exit – judging by the door’s recessed bulk – seemed to have a simple slide mechanism. The side panel: a hand-print and vascular topology reader. Apparently unhackable, they must have considered adequate security from inside.

Roidon gave the door the hardest kick he could muster. It sent him flying back, slamming on the ground. He got up, seemingly unharmed. The door had a crack in it. This time he hit it with his palm. The crack increased. Repeated the action until a section broke clean away. He took a few seconds to dwell on the extreme force he must have used. The restraining field a gesture only to elicit anger; a gamble that they’d keep him contained.

He emerged into a dimly lit corridor. As far as he could see, only a dull amber glow pervaded the long curving section. This area seemed to be isolated. Abandoned. Roidon still had a moment of dread that he’d been captured by the Kintra insectoid machines, and that they had his every move under close surveillance, just standing by to clamp down on his little transgression, as if a toddler had escaped its pen.

But he kept walking. The corridor went on and on. Occasionally he would pass a door, with an unidentifiable security panel, knowing he would have to exert every effort to break through.

Eventually he reached an end. A door presented before him, bringing to mind the Kintra base where he had been forced to make a choice about his existence and that of his other self. It certainly gave the lie to any notion of individuality. As if he could ever really be fooled. But like everyone, every sane sentient being, he wanted to hold to that very notion, to be convinced. Only, even now, he could hear in his mind the stilted tones of the Btari Temporal Directive being quoted: ‘What defined you were your actions, not the fact of your being.’

On this door there was not even a security panel, at least not one that was visible. Really it was just a rectangular recess. So again he kicked, one foot then the next. Alternating between them. This exit was not going to give so easily; not even a crack. Hadn’t anyone detected his presence here?

After about five minutes Roidon felt himself tire. It was type of fugue state. Everything seemed to recede. He sat on the hard shiny floor.

How do I recover? Upon that thought a display came into his mind: a series of bars and graphs that for a few seconds didn’t make any sense, then he noticed one bar beginning to rise from a red to an amber. Just rest now, he thought.

Another minute passed. And then the door slid open. The figure in padded military-style garb was clearly Btari, holding some kind of weapon….


Previous work:



Time Over (the missing text)


Some missing text from the Lost in Spacetime section of Time Over, removed by my over-zealous editing. Sorry for anyone who read it and found it disjointed. This part is Hard SF, and some readers may struggle.

This was like nothing he had ever before experienced. He was spinning, his suit quiescent after dropping into the wormhole, not knowing if reactivating it would lead him to his death. At one end – his destination – he saw stars bowing towards him as if seeing through a lens, the other: a timer, clearly visible above the wormhole generator. Maybe this had been installed for his benefit, and that this effect had been anticipated. All the numbers were changing wildly. He could just make out the hours, the minutes were a blur….

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Time Over

Physicist Torbin Lyndau warns of a mysterious threat — the erasure. But dismissed as insane, no one has taken him seriously. Until now.

While the people of Earth continue to advance, exploring new worlds, something invisible approaches from the depths of space. Spreading throughout the galaxy faster than light, it is set to erase everyone’s existence.

Why would anyone want to eradicate all sentient life? And can the threat be countered?

A revised version of Time Over is now available on Amazon Kindle – at a low price.

To anyone who found the previous version disappointing or confusing (see reviews), my apologies. If you are a fan of space opera, YA fic or like an easy-to-digest yarn then this is probably NOT the book for you. If, OTOH, you like good writing… well, maybe I’m asking for trouble with that sentence!

Anyway, reviews are welcome.