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"Vindicator"

The Knife Maker
A thriller by Jay Fisher

The Knife Maker in full safety gear in his element: steel, dust, abrasives
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One would think that a book named The Knife Maker by a knife maker would be about fine handmade custom knives. It is not. This is a thriller, a work of fiction, with a knife maker as one of the main characters. Please do not get distracted by the context and situation of the knife maker in the novel; he is not me. You will, no doubt, see pieces of me in his character, but the situation, experiences, and characters of the knife maker in the novel do not relate to me except in the sense of pure fiction. Just so we have the official stuff out of the way:

Legal Disclaimer: The characters and events depicted in this work are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Somewhere in the background, I hear the theme of Dragnet playing-

I've always had a profound interest in physics. As a child, I was a frequent participant in school science fairs, simple research, and sometimes wild experiments. My father, being an electrician, technician, and accomplished radio and broadcast engineer as well as active in recording and sound amplification and recording studio equipment and dynamics, instilled in me the curiosity of electricity. This led me to my first, early career as an industrial electrician detailed on my bio page. This interest and experience continued as an internal  and personal development of conceptual possibilities and a lifelong fascination of the basic physical properties of electricity, magnetism, and gravity.

My interests and background working alongside my father started when I was very young, and he began paying me a simple wage for my work when I was eleven. This was the foundation for my intense and dedicated work ethic, something that still drives me to create, build, refine, and develop, every day of my life. One might say I border on the obsessive, but this is how God has built me. I am extremely lucky and intensely grateful for my wife and family that allows me to pursue these driven interests, and honored by my patrons who continue to commission my works and support me in my future endeavors such as these very written works. 

Below are some teasers from The Knife Maker, a current novel I'm writing. I'm currently seeking a literary agent for this and other works I have created and are currently creating: Imaginary Spaces and The Modern Knife Maker, Internet Artist, and Patron. If you are an agent, or know of one who may be interested in my works, please let me know.

Thanks for being here.

Thank you for all of your contributions to blade craft as well as the digital and literary world.

Yours humbly,
Aaron



PROLOGUE

There is a time when invention is crushed by reality.

The computer monitor must have come alive, because it took both his hands to stop it from dancing off the shelf.

"Where’s that vibration coming from?"

"Hell if I know!"

There was some kind of swirling current in the air, Sean’s hair was standing on end and sparking.

Warren looked around his makeshift lab and for the first time got scared. So much of his work, his equipment was at risk. It shouldn’t turn into this, not in his shop. "We gotta take it outside!"

"What? How?" Sean stared at the bench where the device sat. He could barely make out the Star of David shape. There was some kind of undulating disturbance, something bending the light.

"Where is it, dammit? I can’t see-" Warren blinked tears from his eyes.

"We should have tied it down!" Sean accused his partner, both young men remembering the whole chain of events: the old man’s discovery, the theft of the data file, the weeks of tuning, arranging, and spacing. Now the damn thing was vibrating itself into a vomit of pieces. They looked at each other, then turned to grab the contraption. Their hands reached into the swirl, the shaking slowed and they felt very hot.

Sean opened his mouth to express error, but there was a terrible groan.

Outside, Warren’s mother heard enough racket to put down her garden trowel. She sauntered over to the garage, ready to give that kid of hers a word or two. "Damned music." She grabbed the handle and lifted the door.

There were pieces of shoes, that’s all, sitting in the splattered blood around an empty bench. Sunlight flooded the stark red scene from a huge smoking hole in the garage roof.

Not yet ready to accept the image, she looked up through the hole, then called out, "Warren? Sean?"


ONE

$85,000 a minute.

That’s what the Generation Unit made for the company shareholders every minute of every day the turbine was spinning. That was after taxes, after expenses, after the cost of coal, after paying employees, after vacation and workman’s comp. It was pure greedy profit, a thick lard of money that choked sensibility. And though Mitch Chase was paid pretty well, it would take him two decades of saving to match that sixty seconds. Now another sixty had ticked by empty.

"Kick it again!" Mitch screamed into the mike of the radio hugging his shoulder.

"Got it, Chase." The voice originated in the Control Room, from Todd Powell, who had just got his wings. He had made it up through the ranks as a helper, then as Auxiliary Operator to claim a fresh seat in the very throne: Board Operator. He was running the big machine.

Mitch stepped back from the 750 horsepower motor, ready for the inrush, the thrumming sixty cycle surge of hundreds of amps at 6900 volts that would kick it over. The sodium lights would dim, the giant gearbox would shudder, and the four ton wheels of the pulverizer would start churning the coal lumps into dust. He pushed his safety glasses up on his nose and pulled the brim of the hard-hat down tight to his brow. The lights dimmed for a second, then brightened as he heard the big breaker of the 6.9KV switchgear trip with a bang.

"Shit." His finger to the mike key. "What now, Todd?"

"Hold on."

Mitch figured it was a consult. Rudy Saiz was up there, the Operations Supervisor, with another lame idea. It was about time Rudy caved and called in maintenance, but on Sunday, he’d have to justify two and a half hours of double-time for what might turn out to be a fifteen minute job: a jumper in the logic, a tinkering with the lube oil pressure switch, a loose wire in the breaker. Supervisors like Rudy figured the damned electricians inserted the gremlins themselves to pad their earnings.

Todd cleared his throat over the radio. "Rudy wants to try it again."

"Man, we’re pushing it. How many times today?" Mitch asked.

A pause. "Fifteen on my shift, Mitch."

"Shit." Mitch knew the verbal rule, set down by the Electrician’s God himself; that a high voltage motor start shouldn’t be attempted more than twice a shift. Something about high-potential shock, insulation and heat values, breakdown thresholds. But there were no electricians around.

Rudy’s latino accent now on the radio. "Mitch, Mitch Chase?"

Mitch rolled his eyes. Who the hell else does he think is down in this hole? "Come back."

"Mitch, I want you should go up to the mezzanine, and thump on the PA solenoids."

"Thump on?" It must have been some slick technical adjustment attributed only to Op Supers.

"Yeah, they been sticking. I think this is the problem, now."

Mitch moved his hand away from the mike. "Hell yeah, let’s take to beating the piss out of the machine, we tried everything else." He touched the key. "On my way."

He bounded the stairs until he was thirty feet above the Pulverizer Bay, looking down at the row of growling behemoths grinding ancient history away, chewing coal into dust. All except "C."

"I don’t see anything wrong here, Todd." He ignored Rudy. "Air pressure at 120, green light showing control power."

Rudy’s voice again. "Okay Mitch, I’m gonna try an open from here, you hit the solenoid when I do."

Mitch didn’t like it. Rudy wasn’t supposed to touch the controls, only Todd, the designate. But he gritted his teeth and yanked the valve wrench from his belt (the only tool Operators were allowed to carry) and gave the device a sharp rap.

Below him, the pulverizer waited for air. The air was preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, supplied by the huge primary air fans at the back of the Generation Unit. The oxygen rich air was the conveyance medium, lifting the fresh coal dust into the stream, carrying it from the pulverizer to the burner fronts where it ignited in the boiler. The air entered the pulverizer via a massive flexible expansion joint in the five foot by ten foot duct at the dampers controlled by the solenoid that just got thumped.

Somewhere, in the bowels of the pulverizer, there was a spark, a smoldering ember from so many tries at the run, so many missed attempts. When the dampers flew open, the resulting fireball filled the pulverizer body, stirring up even more loose dust mixing with all that hot oxygen.

Mitch heard a thump within the machine and he was just about to say "Uh-oh," when the fireball found the weakest part of the whole affair, the expansion joint below his feet. He looked down through the grating just as he was enveloped in huge balloon of 150 million year old fire. He went rigid in the blistering inferno, so hot it vaporized the aluminum flashing on steam pipes above his head, and he gasped a searing hot breath of hell’s fire.

And it was over. Nearly blind, Mitch took three steps and sat on the stairs, one charred appendage clutching the yellow handrail he knew so well.

An auxiliary Operator ran up to him. "My God!"

"It’s okay," Mitch said. "Doesn’t hurt. Really."

The AO knew Mitch was walking dead.


TWO

Wesley Salinas was ready for a promotion. He was winding up his apprenticeship; fourth-years were always prime meat for the plant. Every crew wanted a fourth-year around. There were a lot of Electrical Journeymen that could cope with disaster, troubleshoot any Operator’s contravention or faux pas. But a fourth-year had been through the whole plant, knew where all the blueprints were hidden, knew about those rare and mysterious junction boxes hidden high in the pipe racks. It was also prestige to have a fourth year at the journeyman’s beck and call, doing his bidding while the journeyman clasped his hands behind his back looking distinguished in his clean denims and hard-hat. And if there was ever a problem, a speck in the logic, a bump in the sequence, the pair could call an intermission, lean over the print table, fingers walking out the schematic, thoughtful sunflower shells spitting into their hands. That was the practice, this sunflower logic, and every good journeyman had at least his left chambray shirt pocket full of those roasted salty kernels. It was clear where most of the discussions took place: on elevators, around the control room, near the coffee pot just after break. Sometimes it looked like a flock of birds had ravaged a few dozen yellow heads down to the stem. In the old days, real men in trades would chew tobacco, spitting jet black streams of juice, staining the concrete. But maintenance workers were gentler than construction hands, sharp edges worn down by wives and softball tourneys, HMOs and political correctness.

Wesley Salinas couldn’t have been a better prize. It was the line crew that courted him, and a despicable sight they were: handing him coffee in front of the foreman, squeezing his shoulder like doting fathers, glowing over his wit.

"So let’s go scope out the gang." Norm Asary was a burly lineman, fearless and drinking.

"Well, you know I’m not certain." Wesley was the shy maiden, teasing her suitor.

"You’ll like it. Everyone does." Norm laughed hard, his coffee-stained teeth baring to the fluorescents in the electrical shop.

He was mostly right. The line crew was prima donna heaven, given all the right strokes with hazard pay to boot. It didn’t make much sense; the electricians in the functional Unit were just as likely (maybe more so) to be blown away by 12,470 volt feeds and 22,000 volt isophase buss coming out of the generator. But line crew was hot stuff on the company profile, saving their hero poses for the ten o’clock news after the west half of Albuquerque had been left in the black for six hours.

"At least it’ll get you out of here a while." Steve Simmons looked up at the flyash-covered trusses while he spoke, thankful he wasn’t a Unit electrician collecting silicon in his thickening alveoli.

It took a while for the boys to cluster into the truck, bumping butts all the way out to the switchyard. Everything was buzzing overhead, thousands of millions of watts pulsing off to San Diego or Tucson, Albuquerque or LA .Wesley hopped out and looked back at the plant, steam billowing from the stacks and cooling towers, seeming so far away. A solid smile wiped across his face.

"Yo, Norm!" A shout from the bird’s nest of a truck-mounted manlift made Wesley press his hard-hat to his head and look up.

Norm nodded, chest swelled, looking at Wesley. "Wanna catch a really nice view of the Units?" He raised a hand and motioned to the lineman on the manlift, who started the engine from his loft and eased the hydraulics, gently landing the working end of the rig on the ground. The lineman opened the cage door, unbuckled his safety belt and handed it to Wesley.

Wesley looked back at Norm who was nodding, a proud dad. "Strap up." There was gravel in his voice. "That's why they call us line men."

It wasn’t anything to the Fourth Year. He’d been in bigger lifts before, even been in the basket of a three hundred foot crane, dangling over the edge of the precipitators. He tried to look impressed anyway.

The old linemen giggled a bit while they switched over the controls from the bucket to the bed of the truck. They raised Wesley on high, so far out that the wind was causing the boom to drift and sway like a limber fishing pole. Wesley snugged up his grip on the handrail of the cage.

The farts were on the ground laughing, thinking it was some big initiation ritual, giving him the ride, a little grabass at his expense. Wesley just sighed and took a look around.

There were some dark clouds rolling in over the badlands, the drifts of the steam from the Units had changed to the west. Wesley took a breath and tasted far-away rain. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad out here, a lot of sky, no ash, no coal dust, no noise . . . And no challenges. It all seemed too simple. Three conductors, three switches, air breakers, transformers, line balancing capacitors, and wire. Miles and miles of cable strung high-tension across the desert, thousands of poles and towers holding it all up. Kind of boring.

The boys were really yucking it up. Like it was some real show, this helpless apprentice in the sky. But the laughter stopped when they heard it. A sizzle, like a speeding boat, high over the ridge where the west phase left for the Four Corners. Wesley heard it only for a second and then the men on the ground were shouting, screaming for Norm to lower the lift. Wesley thought it was part of the game until he saw the look on Steve’s face.

It was terror.


THREE

Tom couldn’t care about what was on the outside anyway, just more buildings without windows, more secretive disasters bumbling into place. It would have been nice though, to see a patch of Nevada blue sky.

The bus was pukey green on the inside, painted to subdue emotions, tame the unruly in all it’s clients. Tom all ready had plenty of the unruly: the wild, the killer, the radical. That’s why they needed him in Nevada. Not that the Armed Services Committee needed a trained mercenary, a hit man or an anarchist. They needed the Antichrist himself, someone so detached from moral limitations that instinct wouldn’t be limited by judgment. At least that’s what they hoped.

But they were way off. Tom Harvey was driven hard by one engine, hell-bent on morality and righteousness. Only he never let on. Now he headed into the frayed tatters of reality, the drooling idiot of the science of destruction: Groom Lake.

Tales told by teenage nerds insisted an alien spacecraft was parked in a hanger at area fifty-one waiting for a licensed driver familiar with intergalactic lane changes. But that was tiny stuff compared to weapons research. Tom knew that man was never so determined as when it came to whacking his fellow man: the "kill everyone but me so I can have this whole planet to myself" syndrome. Amend that with "throw in a few obedient slaves, too, if you would be so kind"

Groom Lake was famous on the inside for one thing: Poison. Radioactive, Chemical, Electrical, if the DOD hadn’t worked on it, they’d been aced by the DOE. Yeah, the DOE. ‘Cause those guys really don’t know what they’re doing. Tom figured it came from too many engineers per acre. He thought there should be a limitation of about a half an engineer per acre, and research should only take place on one acre lots. And he’d prefer the lower half…

Tom looked at the solid steel window, imaginary reflection prompting him to run a few freckled fingers through his red hair.

"Station 83" The intercom on the bus droned. It didn’t make much sense. Nothing was in order. Any number could come up, so he’d better listen. Tom wondered if the driver saw any buildings or even the road from his bulletproof titanium can. Maybe there wasn’t a driver at all, just an automaton spinning the wheel and pressing the pedals. It didn’t matter, Tom’s clearance was so high he could get off at just about anywhere, sure, step right into the middle of an experiment on eyeball eating viruses. What a thing.

"Station 47." Tom stood as the rig stopped. None of the other passengers looked up; they didn’t want to know another soul in Dreamland. They just want to wake up as the plane landed in Vegas and drink Scotch in front of the big screen at home.

The corridor was bright, narrow, and long. The doors were steel, locked, a few with hardened bunker-hinges bristling at the edges. There were no signs: no "Company Secretarial Pool" or "Purchasing Agent" on the doors, just numbers. Tom glanced at the crumpled paper in his paw for the answer.

He arrived. He passed his magnetic card through the reader, the solenoids lifted the latch.

He stepped in.

There was activity beyond a wire-reinforced glass, and several labcoats were writing code on clipboards in front of a wall of electrical racks. They didn’t notice him, so he looked around. A buzzer sounded and he opened another door.

"Good morning, Mr.-"

"Harvey, Tom."

"Brad Brian."

A handshake and plastic smile. Probably an engineer wanting to keep his funding and his torso intact.

"Have you been briefed?"

Tom sighed. "In Washington."

The engineer echoed the sigh, slave to funding. "Well, we have some new data. A standing wave interference phenomenon, kind of an amplifier of the reaction."

"Amplifier?"

"Well that’s what we’re calling it. ‘Amplified Interference Hypersonic Reaction.’ We had our first AIHR two days ago."

Christ, Tom thought, it’s their friend, ‘our pal AIHR, from out THERE.’

A door was pushed open by Brian or Brad or whatever. Tom followed him in. There was a woman, back to the door, long toasty brown hair tied back with pink elastic. Could be a man, Tom thought, but the tiny pink bow is a giveaway. ‘Course, things get pretty strange out here in the desert-

In front of her was water. No container, just a three foot wall of water standing in the middle of the room. There were ripples, slowly undulating, interference patterns like Tom used to see when driving by picket fences and plowed fields when he was a boy. Moving, but not really.

Behind the water wall, to the side, was a little model of a submarine on a track moving horizontally. A red light flashed on it’s conning tower. It went behind the water and disappeared.

Tom stretched his neck and squinted, looking for the model. It had vanished.

Brad Brian or Brian Brad beamed. "Interrupts all radio waves, too. Even subsonic."

"Wonderful." Tom grunted. "Ballistic missile submarine cloaking. Great."

The brunette noticed his tone more than the words and turned to look.

Tom stared back. She can’t be more than sixteen.



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