Gravitum Book 1: Heaven Will Fall
To survive you have to be the best, Anselm was determined to be the best, whatever the cost.
Heaven Will Fall snippet –
“Get up, maggot!”
His eyes snapped open. Ribs hurt and fingers tingled in the icy cold of the dark room. Nothing made sense until he heard the crackle and whine of the stun baton being held over his head.
He was on his feet in an instant, barely missing the baton strike to his arms. His whole body ached and screamed in protest, but he pushed himself forward. He’d learned the bastards weren’t really as sadistic as they’d seemed at first. They wouldn’t hold back with their strikes, but they were fair in dealing them out.
They were being prepared for the outside world. A tough, unforgiving place. Anything less in their training would be a lie that could get them killed.
The words rang through his skull as two more kids tripped over the obstacle course. Trevor and Carina. He knew them from the sounds they made when the trainers descended on them, batons at the ready.
Anselm had bet that they would flunk out in three months or less, and he felt more and more confident that his credits were safe. Carina managed to push to her feet, but Trevor remained on the ground, panting and trying to drag himself across the sand.
It wouldn’t do him any good. Anselm pushed harder, ignoring the crackle and whine of the stun batons. He jumped clear of the first three rungs of the ladder and scrambled up the knots on the rope. His cold, sweaty fingers almost lost their grip when he came across the other side, but he hung on. The last time he’d missed the vault, he’d landed in the infirmary for two weeks with a broken collarbone. Catching up after two weeks had been close to impossible, but he was back at the top of his class.
He skidded to a halt in front of a small plastic table and collected the weapon waiting for him. There were seven others for eight more students. The last one to the table would receive an automatic fail. He hadn’t been hit with one of those since he learned the hard way that he would go without his lunch.
The bots on the other side of the table stared at him listlessly while Anselm slotted the mag into place and chambered a round. They’d been designed to look as close to humans as possible, but they still haunted his nightmares.
Not only because they hit him with a stun gun if he picked the wrong bot to shoot or if he took too long. There was something unsettling about those pale, unseeing, unfeeling faces that watched him, judged him, and marked him as unworthy.
There were no tricks for dealing with them. No one way to do it. He could hear the drill instructors starting to catch up while the rest of his class worked their way through the obstacle course. He took his time picking his target out, though his gut told him the one he wanted was the middle one to the left, a little farther back than the rest of them. He’d learned to listen to those instincts over his first few years in the Academy.
He couldn’t show the rest of the kids which one was the bad bot, but he could wait for them to watch. He had thirty seconds from the moment he slotted his magazine in before he was tagged with the stun gun, and he patiently counted those seconds out. At five seconds, the rest of his class was catching up. He raised his weapon.
They were close enough. He couldn’t help the one who came last. Trevor, probably. Still, they didn’t have the same instincts he did. He could help them pick the right bot, even if it covered the damage up the moment he opened fire.
The pistol kicked in his hand and flashed green to tell him he’d chosen correctly. He put the weapon back down and started on the second half of the course. Six of the others already knew to watch and follow his lead. Carina missed, and she screamed and dropped to the ground, spasming.
Not much he could do about that. Not if someone didn’t want his help.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Field-stripping and cleaning my weapon, Drill Instructor!” Anselm answered in as loud a voice as he could muster. It wasn’t much more than a squeak since his throat and sinuses were acting up with the cold. He couldn’t afford to lose any more time in the nurse’s office, though.
“You think I’m stupid, Candidate Horst?”
“No, Drill Instructor!”
“You calling me a liar?”
“No, Drill Instructor!”
The DI slammed his fist on the table. Anselm didn’t flinch. That would earn him a baton to the ribs as quickly as presenting a dirty weapon. He continued oiling the round replacement mechanism.
“You think you can help your classmates beat the obstacle course? Are you going to be there when they’re adjudicators, too? Telling them when and where to find murderers?”
He knew better than to look up from his work.
“You know your target. Shoot fast. If the others can’t cut it, don’t make it easy for them.”
“We’re a team, Drill Instructor!” Anselm slapped the replacement mechanism into his pistol and presented the older man with his weapon. “I don’t win until we all win!”
“This isn’t a game, Horst!” The instructor inspected his weapon closely, his visor scanning every nook and cranny. “The adjudicators who graduate this program are the ones who’ll be out there watching your back when shit hits the fan. You think the ones you need to babysit are going to be any good at it? If they can’t do it on their own, they don’t deserve to wear our colors, maggot! Do it again!”
He slammed the weapon down, and Anselm smoothly took it apart. He wasn’t supposed to help his teammates? How the hell did that work?
Anselm snapped out of bed and went through his morning routine almost before he was fully awake. Drill in something enough times, and his brain didn’t even need to interject before he poured his caffeine shake from the blender.
Dreams of his training regimen were regular. He hadn’t thought about the bad bot obstacle course for a long time. He didn’t like thinking about it, but it was where he’d learned to trust his instincts.
It took him longer to understand why he wasn’t supposed to help his classmates. He thought they were on the same team. He’d needed to graduate from the Academy to understand what his drill instructor had talked about.
Adjudicators were a team. It was them against the world. The finest law enforcement agency ever conceived. His classmates weren’t adjudicators. He’d seen more than a few who’d graduated but weren’t cut out for the work.
The best ones dropped out before they caused too much damage. The worst got other adjudicators, their teammates, killed in the line of duty through their negligence. Anselm shook his head, finished his shake, and dressed in his uniform.
Them against the world. He wasn’t sure where the council stood on that. Considering how often they called on him to explain the basics of his work versus how often they let him keep doing it, he had to assume they were against him.
He couldn’t say that outright. People got angry when he pointed out facts to them.
He pulled his coat on over his uniform and slotted his pistol into its holster. His instructions still stood. Act the part that people expected from adjudicators, answer any question put to him directly, and make it back to his desk as quickly as possible.
People also got angry when he acted bored during council proceedings. Maybe that would keep them from calling him away from his work in the future.
What kind of world Anselm must live in for this to be the training needed to survive. Find out more about this dangerous place on March 30th when Gravitum Book 1: Heaven Will Fall is released. Until then head over to Amazon and download it today.