By Eternal Nothingness

Chapter 1

Note: Told through Marcus Thorpe's perspective

My childhood friend, Ericka Schwemmer, and I were visiting my father's grave on this sunny afternoon, at the Washington D.C. cemetary, where countless military soldiers were buried after dying to protect America's freedom. Two years ago, my dad, Joshua Thorpe, was a U.S. Marine who died saving Ericka's father, a CIA agent named William Schwemmer, from Afghanistan, where he gathered the al-Qaeda terrorists' plans to sink the Manhattan Island with bombs hidden underneath it. Agent William Schwemmer was captured, forcing the U.S. military to send my dad to save him and the intel he gathered. Dad died a hero, and had he failed Ericka's father wouldn't have delivered the intel to the U.S., so that its military would foil al-Qaeda's plans to sink Manhattan into the ocean before they could enact it.

Since then, because my Mom died at the World Trade Center on 9/11, and my father was away serving the U.S. military in protecting the world until his death, I was sent to Manhattan to live with my father's brother, my Uncle Ben Thorpe, and his wife, my Aunt Raina Thorpe, at age seven. It was there, in a matter of coincidence, that I'd meet up with Ericka, the daughter of the man whom my father met, and we became friends at school ever since. The reason wasn't just because of our fathers' meeting with each other, but also because we needed someone to socialize with when we're not doing school-work, like any other human-being in the world.

At age eighteen, Ericka and I parted ways, with each of us joining one of two U.S. defense organizations. Ericka would join the CIA to follow in her father's footsteps, while I joined the Marines to follow in mine. However, we were doing this for numerous reasons besides for our fathers alone; she and I were friends and therefore wanted to work as a team in some way or another, so that each one of us helped the other. Ericka, a CIA-agent, gathers intel on the bad guys, and then gives it to me, a Marine, so that I could be deployed to strike first. The third reason was to protect America and the world, which is everyone's dream, not only for the sake of battlefield glory alone, but also so that every citizen in the world could live.

It took us three years to succeed and graduate our respective CIA and military training, each austere enough to either kill anyone else, or drive them insane. And, since then, Ericka and I completed multitudes of assignments, fulfilling our dreams as a team of heroes in the process while protecting the world and its population from the world's terrorists and dictators. As for why we were visiting my father's grave at Washington D.C., it was because we weren't given another assignment to perform yet. Another reason was because I missed my father, and I wanted to see his grave so that Ericka and I could celebrate how he died to protect Ericka's father.

"You must feel lonely," Ericka said to me, as I placed flowers on top of Dad's grave. "First, you lost your mother on 9/11, and now your father when he saved mine. And now, all that's left is your Uncle Ben and Aunt Raina."

"Don't forget you," I said, as I faced Ericka, smiling as if nothing happened. "Even if you don't share the same flesh and blood as me, you're still considered a part of my family."

"I'm just your childhood friend," Ericka said to me. "If I were a part of your family, I'd be married to you by now, and we'd have children."

"So what," I asked. "Friendship is a type of family, right? In my opinion, family isn't so much sharing the same flesh-and-blood as other people, as much as it is sharing compassion for the friends and loved-ones in your life. This was one of the reasons why each of us joined one of two U.S. military organizations, one that spies on people, the other that combats them. After all, you said it yourself before you joined the CIA: You don't like it when girls like yourself are portrayed as helpless sex-objects that don't do anything except either get kidnapped or die, especially in fiction."

"I said that," Ericka asked. She then thought to herself, then after a minute, said, "Right, when I learned that you were joining the Marines to follow in your father's footsteps!"

"I had to deal with enough Hell to kill any ordinary human," I said to Ericka, "to get to where I am. The same for you when you joined the CIA, because as I said before, you want all women to be as strong and independent as the men."

"As for the 'family' part," Ericka asked.

"Right," I said. "To me, for a family to be one, regardless of how different their DNA is, the members have to work together to achieve a common goal. And if the two of us can work together to save the world, then I don't see why I'd consider you a part of my family despite the lack of my blood in your veins."

"Right," Ericka replied. "I also used to read plenty of books that preached the same message you preached to me about family. In those books, the hero would leave behind his friends to find his true family, only to realize that his friends are his true family. I should've known until you told me."

"I'm glad you and I are together," I said, "just as the Marines has the CIA to gather intel, while the CIA has the Marines to use that intel to their advantage. Now, if only all those warring countries like Afghanistan and North Korea were to work together as a team with America, rather than threaten America with bombs, nuclear missiles, and other weapons of mass destruction. The two of us can work as a team, so why not America and the countries it's at war with?"

Before we could continue our conversation, though, we heard a loud car-horn coming from outside the cemetary. Ericka and I saw a car parked next to the cemetary, and inside it was a young man the same age as us. He was wearing small glasses, and with them faced us strangely. He then opened the window next to him, as he called us, "Are you Private Marcus Thorpe and Agent Ericka Schwemmer?"

"Yes," Ericka and I asked.

"Come to my car," replied the young man.

The two of us nodded to each other, as we walked toward his car and got into the back seats of his car. He then drove away with us, driving down the streets of Washington D.C., as I asked him, "Why are you driving us down the street?"

"No questions," said the young man, "not until we arrive."

After thirty minutes of driving us down the road, we arrived at what appeared to be his house in the middle of a suburb. The two of us then walked into his house after the young man unlocked it with his key, and then followed him to his basement, where there was a lot of technological equipment surrounding the basement, with a large table in the middle.

"I'm sorry I acted mysterious to you guys," the young man said to us, as he unplugged all of the technological equipment surrounding the basement, "but I had to bring you to my house where it's safe. I placed a short-range electromagnetic barrier around my house, so that none of UltiNet's spy-satellites can find out what I'm about to explain to you. I also disabled all of my equipment and computers, so that UltiNet wouldn't hack into any of them to listen to everything I say as of this moment."

"UltiNet," Ericka asked.

"My name is John Morinski," said the young man, "the son of a military scientist named Kevin Morinski. He built a super-computer called UltiNet, which monitors and powers performance-enhancing mechanical augments within America's troops. UltiNet was supposed to connect each soldier's senses with the other soldiers via the augments within them, so that they could work as more cohesive teams. It also provides intelligence to each soldier via the spy satellites UltiNet sees the world through, downloading the intel within each soldier's brains via the augments to allow them to think and act more quickly and efficiently. It can even go so far as to filter out and control physical, internal, and psychological problems like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder via the augments, to further increase the soldiers' performances!"

"What's so bad about a computer that enhances the performance of soldiers," I asked.

"It's a system of control," John said. "I once argued with my father about how UltiNet robs America's troops of their own free will, turning them from people with thoughts and feelings like us, to nothing more than disposable killing tools. Unlike him, who thinks UltiNet was the ultimate solution to our terrorist-problems, I was anti-war, believing that killing and using others is a weak and unnecessary means to an end."

"We're pro-war, unlike you," Ericka said. "Why bring us along if our opinions of war conflict with each other's?"

"I'm getting to that part," replied John. "It was until one day, when my father was tweaking UltiNet, that it sent several U.S. soldiers to kill my father, so that he wouldn't disable it. Thankfully, my father was good with a gun, so he managed to escape and get himself into hiding. However, that doesn't excuse the fact that UltiNet has developed self-awareness, and is threatening to rebel against America with the U.S. troops as its own disposable thralls."

"Which doesn't explain our differences in opinion," I said to John, "if you're asking us to work together!"

"UltiNet is still in the development stage," John said to us, "meaning that soldiers and agents like the two of you have yet to gain mechanical augments for yourself. However, it's rapidly evolving, and is using America's troops to build and install more augments into more and more troops, so that it could build an army needed to conquer the world. As for me, I secretly snuck into the Pentagon, hacking into the various computers within it, to find anyone that hasn't been given augments yet, and the best I could find were the two of you. I chose you because ever since you've graduated your respective training regimes, you've proven yourselves to be just as capable as any other soldier within the U.S. There were others besides you that I could've allied myself with to stop UltiNet, but I was running low on time and resources, another reason to find you two. I'm sorry if I'm anti-war compared to my father and the two of you, but we need to put our differences aside if we are to work together to stop UltiNet!"

"Then consider it done," I confidently said to John.

"Well that was quick," John replied. "And here, I thought you'd disagree with me."

"Actually," Ericka said, "it was because we were willing to die to protect America's freedom. We're heroes, and we'd do anything to protect the innocent along with each other!"

"Good," said John. He then walked to a metal cabinet and opened it, revealing a series of guns that we need to defend ourselves with.

"Why do you have a cabinet of guns in your lab," I asked John.

"It's so that anytime my family and I have to defend our home from intruders," John said, "that we can pick up and use those guns. Since none of you are armed, how about you utilize them in our quest to destroy UltiNet."

"Right," Ericka and I replied. I'd collect an assault-rifle, shotgun, launcher, and pistol, while Ericka collected a sniper-rifle, pistol, and submachine-gun. As for John, he'd collect several combat-gadgets as well as a pistol and submachine-gun from the cabinet to defend himself with.

"You guys ready," John asked Ericka and I.

"What's the plan," I asked John.

"We find my father," John said to us, "wherever he may be hiding. UltiNet sent several troops to hunt down and kill my father, so that he could prevent him from disabling it. UltiNet runs on its own independent power-source, meaning that pulling the plug just wouldn't cut it. Only my father has the emergency shut-down passcode needed to disable it, but he didn't pass it down to me, but he will soon enough, once we find him."

"Do you and your father have cell phones to call each other with," Ericka asked John. "He might tell you his location via cell phone."

"And then UltiNet will trace our call and send several troops to kill us," replied John. "We need to stay as hidden as possible, so that we'd at least reduce the number of soldiers threatening to kill us. Any more questions?"

"Not really," Ericka and I replied at the same time.

"Then let's kick some ass," replied John.

We'd run up from the basement stairs to the first floor of John's house, but before we could leave, we hid behind the windows, taking a small peak on whoever's there. Remaining hidden, we saw several of UltiNet's enslaved soldiers surrounding the front of his house. "How did UltiNet find us," I asked.

"The electromagnetic barrier and disabled equipment in my basement may have prevented UltiNet from spying on us," said John. "But, it sent several soldiers to my house just to play it safe, because it was suspicious of us."

"We have you three surrounded," said one of the troops outside. "Come out with your hands up and surrender, or we will open fire!"

"Marcus," John said to me, "you head to the back of my house to fight any soldiers that might be in my backyard. Ericka and I will stay here and defend the front."

"Promise me the two of you won't die," I said to Ericka and John.

"Don't worry," Ericka said to me, "I'll defend John with my life."

"Not unless I defend you and your friend, first," John said to Ericka and I.

I ran toward the back of John's house, where behind the door leading to the backyard were several more troops. I was ready to take on any of UltiNet's soldiers that want us dead, just as Ericka and John were ready as well.