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THE C.O.D.E. CONSPIRACY

Chapter 1

Captain Jon Diaz opened his bedroom wall safe and retrieved his SIG-Sauer P80 laser pistol, then loaded the power cartridge into place. The familiar “click” triggered a rush of adrenaline, a conditioned response from years of stressful police work. He slid the weapon into his holster.

Casually Jon said, “Open blinds.” A moment later, the virtual horizontal blinds morphed into a stunning wide-angle 3D view of the Santa Monica pier set against the glassy Pacific Ocean. He eyed the calming scene that melded its vivid blue with lighter green in patches above the shallows. The coastline boasted glimmering windowless high-rise buildings of curved steel and the reflections of the city’s activities on the polished surfaces.

Jon rested his right hand on his pistol, a reminder of his obligation. “Freeway view.” Santa Monica’s elite population of movie moguls, stockbrokers, and business leaders whizzed onto the 405 expressway in late-model hovercrafts, bypassing the slow-moving electric vehicles stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Same old shit.

Jon leaned over his bed and kissed his wife’s cheek.

Leilani said, “You worried, honey? You didn’t sleep well.”

“Maybe a little,” he said, forcing a smile while gazing into her dark almond eyes. “It’s the President. He’s coming here to deliver a campaign speech. I’m heading the security team.”

“Why is he coming here?” asked Leilani.

Jon sighed. “Stirring up humanoids is guaranteed to get publicity for his reelection campaign.”

Jon faced the mirrored closet door, inspecting his appearance. “He needs votes. The future of the humanoid population is a pivotal issue.”

Leilani rolled over, her sixth-month baby bump giving rise beneath the sheets. “All this trouble over a few nanochip implants and artificial limbs. I wish the technology never happened.”

“You and millions of others.”

“You’ll be home for dinner?”

“Yep. Usual time. Love you.”

Jon kissed his wife once more and then strolled into his son’s room, Jon Jr., or JJ as he liked to call him. Jon sat on the bed, admiring the peaceful bliss of the five-year-old’s slumber, and kissed him gently on the forehead.

Jon closed the front door behind him, walked to the elevator, and descended nine floors. He paced to the police Mach II hovercraft, placed his hand on the biometrics pad, and waited for the domed clamshell hatch to open.

Jon climbed inside, triggering a hologram above the dashboard of a female 3D virtual assistant dressed in an LAPD uniform. “Good morning, Captain Diaz,” she said.

Jon said, “Take me to work.”

The hovercraft sprang to life and sped in autopilot mode to the 405 expressway. “Call Commander Kelly.”

The virtual assistant mimicked tapping a keyboard, and seconds later, a 3D image of Jon’s superior officer appeared.

Commander Kelly looked stressed, more than usual, thought Jon. Kelly’s pale skin, thinning gray hair and the bags under his eyes made him look older than his fifty-five years suggested. His oversized uniform hung loosely from his long, lean frame, a result of recent stress-related weight loss. He hunched over his desk and said, “Captain Diaz, I hope you enjoyed your time off.”

“Yes, sir,” replied Jon with a nod. “Always. What’s going on? You look like hell.”

“We have another bank robbery in process. Units are rolling. ETA four minutes.”

“Geez, not again,” said Jon.

“Looks like the same three jacked-up humanoids. They’re hitting the Bank of America on Wilshire Blvd as we speak. I’m watching live video. It’s a bonafide shit-show.”

Jon said, “I’m less than a minute away. I’m on it.”

“No!” said Commander Kelly. “You don’t have backup. Wait for the patrol units to show up.”

“Any casualties?” asked Jon.

“Two security guards, four civilians. Here’s the surveillance video.”

The hologram changed from a view of Commander Kelly to a live 2D video stream of the robbery where Jon saw splayed bodies on the floor, blood pooling next to them. He watched the choppy gait of three humanoids, wearing long black trench coats and chimpanzee masks. One held huddling patrons hostage at gunpoint while the other two stuffed pillowcases with cash and safe deposit box items. “I’m going in, boss.”

“Jon, don’t do it!”

Jon switched the hovercraft to manual mode and turned onto Wilshire Boulevard, lights flashing, siren screeching and speeding down the center divider past unsuspecting civilian vehicles. “I’m less than a minute away.”

“Jon, I’m ordering you! Follow protocols.”

The police hovercraft’s cockpit lid opened before the vehicle came to a stop. Jon grabbed a laser cannon rifle from the gun mount and jumped from the craft, squatting behind for protection, and activated the commlink earpiece. He scanned the bank’s main entrance. Seconds later, the three criminals emerged, running, each holding a dangling pillowcase and a laser pistol.

Jon raised his laser cannon and followed protocol, shouting, “Halt! Thrown down your weapons and lie face down immediately!”

All three humanoids opened fire simultaneously. The police hovercraft’s domed lid exploded into shards and knocked Jon onto his backside. He rolled over in time to glance the criminals running at inhuman speed and then jump with astounding height and agility into the back of a moving EV pickup truck.

Jon aimed from his prone position and fired two blasts. The lasers landed short of the target as the pickup rounded the near corner. Damn!

Jon rose to his feet and jumped inside the police hovercraft. Shards of safety glass covered the inside, but the vehicle sprang to life. Jon accelerated, and shouted through his earpiece, “Dispatch, this is Captain Jon Diaz, I’m in pursuit of three armed and dangerous humanoid suspects driving a black Ford EV pickup heading south on Highland Avenue. Request backup. Copy?”

Dispatch replied immediately, confirming the request.

“Patch me into Commander Kelly.”

Commander Kelly’s irritated voice rang in Jon’s ear. “You crazy bastard. Where are you?”

“Commander, I’m in pursuit of three humanoid suspects on Highland Avenue driving a black EV Ford pickup. I have a visual.”

“Are you sure it’s them?”

“Positive.”

“Can you get a laser-lock on them?” asked Kelly.

“Negative, sir, my weapons system is disengaged, cockpit damage. I have a laser cannon.”

“Stay on them. I have surveillance drones headed your way.”

“Copy.” Jon’s hovercraft weaved through traffic. The flashing lights and siren were non-operational, as was the protection of the domed lid. He saw the EV truck veering recklessly past stalled vehicles, and then onto the sidewalk, bypassing a clogged intersection. Jon followed the same path, gaining ground.

The three humanoids in chimpanzee masks were poised on one knee in the truck bed and had eyes on him. They raised their guns and fired. Jon swerved, cringing as the laser beams exploded into nearby civilian vehicles.

Jon aimed his cannon at the suspects, but the moving target’s line of sight rapidly changed, placing dozens of civilians in harm’s way. Not worth the risk.

The three humanoids opened fire again, this time hitting Jon’s hovercraft, disabling he fuel cell engine. Jon jumped from his vehicle and ran after the criminals, who had slowed in bumper to bumper traffic. He closed to half a block, using the buildings as cover, when another volley of laser blasts shattered a nearby glass building. Jon fell, rolled over, took a knee, and raised his laser cannon to his shoulder. He pulled the trigger, and the ensuing explosion blew the truck onto its side, ejecting the criminal humanoids from the truck bed, airborne and failing.

Jon rose to his feet and continued pursuit, but panicked civilian bystanders moved chaotically in every direction, blocking his aim. Without a clear shot, he helplessly watched one of the super humanoids break the glass of a civilian vehicle, toss the driver onto the street, and climb inside, followed by the two accomplices. Jon watched helplessly as the criminals accelerated around a corner. Damn! Who are those guys? How do they run so fast and jump that high?

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