ZIGZAG Chapter Five

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*This is a sample chapter from the revised Grand Slam Edition. Cover by IMbeta.

The Circuit Breaker warehouse was by the train depot in the kingdom’s eastern industrial district. The walls of the dark office were hit by softly sparking light, showing three computer terminals and desks, dirty ashtrays, and a motivational poster with a green frog.

Sparks shot from the portable server strapped to a man with many roles. He was an Urban Archivist, a Street Scribe.

The man’s black gloves flew over the metal computer tablet he’d placed on the corner desk. A spray can was Velcro’d under the backpack and a data cable was extending from a hole beside it, its connector tapped into the first terminal storing the warehouse’s reports.

He wore a black soccer jersey with a white stripe across his shoulders and black athletic pants that fastened around the ankles inside his black high-tops. His elbows and knees were cushioned by thick black pads while slim guards protected his forearms.

As far as anyone could possibly know him, he was a hooligan.

The Hooligan dug through the facility’s archived emails. The last one they received was dated a few days earlier, three simple words in the subject line: ‘Close Up Shop’, sent from Vikky Relay. There it was: the next clue in his investigation, now he needed to copy the drive.

He typed a few commands and a green progress bar filled until a large ‘EXECUTE’ button popped on the screen. He smacked it with his thumb.

The square backpack whirred and was soon shooting sparks from the side vents as it transferred the data. When it was all copied, his backpack sent a surge of energy to the terminal and overloaded the drives. They burped smoke. The Hooligan unplugged the jumper from the front port and let it zip back into place under his pack. He was confident this data would accelerate his investigation. His city counted on it.

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ZIGZAG Chapter Four

ZIGZAG COVER (no titles)

*This is a sample chapters from the revised Home Run Edition. Cover by IMbeta.

The song the music app on Alex’s phone was playing gave the royal cemetery a somber tone that fit it perfectly, as electric and vibrant as it was melancholy and remorseful. Alex had come to the sequestered plot off the castle courtyard to sit under the warm sun and read, but the comfort of her father’s headstone and the melody had overcome her, carrying her to sleep.

Like other apps released daily, the music program had linked with all her social media accounts and traded data, its algorithm slowly learning her preferences until it could automatically find a song for her mood. It was so accurate, there were times she questioned if the music suited her feelings or caused them.

Two books sat on a bench beside her. Their titles read ‘The Long Memory of The Electron Gods’ and ‘The North American Motherboard’s Divine Tech’. A third book lay on her lap called ‘A Plug N Play Nation: How the ZetaPort OS Connects Society’ open to a diagram of a fifty-foot cylinder, a line near the top representing the ground it was screwed into. Alex had drifted off studying the schematic.

A bulky shadow moved over the book. Alerted by the presence, Alex’s eyes snapped open, and she pulled her headphones off.

“I know,” she said guardedly to the figure standing above. “It’s time to get back to work.” She marked her page with a baseball card. It had a young man in a red batting helmet featured in its frame, ‘Quentin Diamond’ written along the bottom. The book flipped shut.

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ZIGZAG Chapter Three

ZIGZAG COVER

*This is a sample chapter from the revised Grand Slam Edition. Cover by IMbeta.

The Diamond Kingdom was home to many faces and dozens of different cultures. The resource-rich territory was a fluid flow of streets and concrete bridges spread across its fertile agricultural lands and lumber mills. And in the center of the labyrinth of residential and commercial property was the neon purple beam shooting from the top of the Diamond Castle, its color splashing out across the buildings for miles.

A siren pierced the air as the knight cruiser it was mounted on raced down the empty streets, the spinning blacklight bulbs cutting through the neon purple. Alex sat in the caged back seat, forcing herself to remain stoic with the driver’s glances in his rearview mirror. If she couldn’t handle this, she wouldn’t be able to overcome real pressure when she was needed the most.

Since he took command of the military, new faces had entered Drake’s increasingly tight army, and with them an increased rigidness. She was glad her escorts hadn’t confiscated her headphones or the .357 – it meant they either didn’t respect her or were secretly allies that knew what she was capable of. In a time of murky allegiances, both were an asset. She occupied her mind by focusing on the chatter.

As if a stream of consciousness from many minds, she heard “they have her” and “‘bout time the cops did something right” and “spoiled princess, whatcha gonna do now?” A single calm voice broke through. “She’s not like that. She saved me. If she hadn’t shown up when she did, I don’t know what would have happened.” But that was quickly drowned out. “Hahahaha” and “yeah right, shut up” and “kill yerself.” Alex turned tiredly to the window and the passing streets.

With every second they drove, the purple beam became stronger, splashing the buildings with the warmth of royal light for a mile around. It was the soul of the city, and everything flowed outward from it.

It was the Diamond Kingdom’s ZetaPort.

As massive computer terminals installed directly into the Earth’s crust, the ZetaPorts network together to form The North American Motherboard, the thirty-two nodes spread over the entirety of the continent. By utilizing a port’s natively running Zeta Operating System, lease holders can design custom-built societies, with infinite possibilities. Since The North American Motherboard’s launch, a hundred civilizations have risen, from the barbaric Hammer Valley to the beautiful Blackletter Coast. But a society is only as stable as its leadership, so dozens had fallen into chaos and defaulted on their leases. With the king’s death, the Diamond Kingdom was in danger of a similar fate.

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ZIGZAG Chapter Two

ZIGZAG COVER (no titles)

*This is a sample chapter from the revised Home Run Edition. Cover by IMbeta.

After staring at her Circuit Breaker 9000 phone for a few minutes, Alex reluctantly played the video taking up its screen. The recording started, the first-person view of a person walking down a castle’s ornate hallway. Even if the camera’s view hid the identity of the person whose chest it was mounted on, the height and heavy footsteps betrayed an imposing stature. A Diamond Knight walked briskly just behind. At the pair of large oak doors, a sleek black gauntlet grabbed the thick handle from off-screen and threw it open. Intense purple light inundated the lens, an ethereal humming in the background. The throne room buzzed with activity.

The neon light beamed from the thick glass flooring through the large skylight above, a clear square throne installed proudly in the center. Two computer terminals with monitors were suspended from the ceiling by long steel columns, displaying city maps and livestreams from the chaotic streets. Blue jeans and brown work boots extended from under the monitors’ keyboard.

Two sentries stood on duty beside the throne, wearing white gear and red capes over their right shoulders. They were the king’s Royal Guards. The Diamond Knight took a place beside the closest guard, both men representing the two branches of the military, their different uniforms starkly contrasting.

A lanky man stood beside the throne, wearing a dark brown blazer over a grey shirt, charcoal slacks, and red leather loafers.

“Don’t worry, Sire,” the city’s celebrated educator, Professor Magnus Zwei, said. “We have men heading to the stadium to pick her up.” He looked to the new arrival standing in the threshold, the lenses on his horn-rimmed glasses enlarging his grey eyes under a well-groomed cut of amber hair. “The Dragon has arrived,” Zwei announced.

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ZIGZAG Chapter One

ZIGZAG COVER

*This is the first of five sample chapters from the revised Grand Slam Edition. Cover by IMbeta.

A game as old as humanity was starting in the peaceful Diamond Kingdom, darkness falling over the beautiful agricultural land and sprawling concrete sidewalks. But it was held back by an intense neon purple light radiating from the kingdom’s center, where a massive purple beam shot from the Earth to the sky, connecting the Diamond Castle to the heavens above. Some believed the Electron Gods looked down on the game as it played out, waiting to record the first point on the scoreboard.

And then the all-knowing Chatter, the streaming voice of the millions of people posting across the city’s internal social media system, broadcast its commentary into the purple night sky.

“Feels like there’s a weird spark in the air tonight,” said the first contributor. “Too bad the city’s a powder keg.”

The comment got a quick reply. “No joke. It looks like riots have broken out at the north part of the kingdom, and it appears that every Diamond Knight is on the clock tonight.”

Only one person was completely plugged into this datastream, collecting people’s thoughts from across the Diamond Kingdom, listening to their hopes and fears, day in and day out.

The Diamond stadium was a major part of the kingdom’s south side, but, tonight, the quiet complex’s few lights were focused on the lone batter at home plate.

Continue reading “ZIGZAG Chapter One”