Chapter 1:

Tunnelling to the New World (1)

Into the New World... With a Gun

"Agent Gatix.'' The voice blasted through the speakers, but could barely command my full attention. The curse of going through this so many times, I could practically put a timer to it.

One, two, wait for your cue. Three, four, step onto the floor. Five, six-


"Yeah, Boss?'' I tilted my left ear towards the ceiling, but didn't open my eyes.

"I'm guessing it's useless to ask whether I have your attention.''

"You know it, Boss.'' The clink of metallic latches filled my ears as the wireframe snapped into place. I still remember the first time the weight of the glorified girders caught me off guard, but several missions, and a dozen pounds of muscle later...

Seven, eight, put on some weight.

"At least you're honest.'' Long gone were the days when Boss tried to sound as professional as possible. I liked that. Be honest with me, and I'll be honest with you. It makes life a lot simpler.

"Always am, Boss.'' More clicks entered my ear as the wireframe around my extremities finished construction. Raising my ear slightly higher and opening my left eye, I examined the six openings in the roof. It wouldn't be long before a bluish robotic arm reached out from each of them.

Nine, ten, bring out the handymen.

"I'll bet.'' I lowered my head as the six arms came down, two of them locking onto my shoulders as two others started picking up the metallic plates from the cupboards against the wall. "Look Gatix, you know the routine by now, so I don't have to bother reading you the liability waiver and whatnot.''

"Always good to save time, Boss.'' With the plates picked up, the arms pressed them against the wireframe as the last two welded the pieces into place. So glad the suit had a sanitation system. I wouldn't want to run around in one of these with a full bladder.

Eleven, twelve, turn the valves.

"Yet you always accept the suicide missions, and curiously, come back alive. Think you did something to make the Reaper scared of you.''

The grin was automatic. "Beat him in a poker game once, guess he doesn't want a rematch.'' More than half my body was now covered by metallic plates either welded, bolted or screwed into position. "Besides, gotta hold the company's name high, second biggest PMC and all that.''

Thirteen, fourteen, rises the machine.

"Might not be much longer, if we can pull this mission off.''


"Dax has committed the act of science and created what may be a game changer. Come up to the lab and you'll see. You'll have the honour of being the first to use it on assignment.''

"Be there as soon as I'm done getting dressed.''

"See you in five.'' The speaker clicked off. One of the arms tapped me against the shoulder as it always did when all the plates were locked into place. Nodding back to the machine gave the arms the signal to retract back into the roof, the holes closing behind them with a hiss and a click.

Fifteen, sixteen, no longer sapien.

With the procedure now completed, I stepped off the platform, immediately turning my attention to the two steps required to do so. Legs moved perfectly, and the armour's hum sounded normal. No anomalies there - good. Time for the last test: swung my arms three times. Still no anomalies - good. Never go on a mission if something moves or sounds off. I ignored a soft click in my thirtieth mission, and paid for it by having my armour die in the middle of the firefight. Took two weeks in an incubation tank to fix my spine.

Seventeen, eighteen, all fear the marine.

With the satisfaction that everything worked optimally, I turned my attention to the rest of the room, but its contents were somewhat lacking. For one, my helmet wasn't there, and neither was Scythe. Disappointing, but nothing to worry about. Dax was probably tinkering with them, and that meant new toys to play with. Time to see what you have in store for me... I thought as I stepped into the elevator.

Nineteen, twenty, feeling ready.

"Welcome, Gatix.'' Boss greeted me as the doors pinged open and I stepped out.

Huh, why was he armoured as well? Normally he would be dressed in his uniform, but today he greeted me in gunmetal grey armour, visor included. "Thanks.'' The sight kept my attention longer than it should have, but I did manage to tear it away to scan my surroundings, as any good agent should. The sight of my weapon and helmet lying on a nearby table did please me a bit, but Dax in a radioactive suit was worrying. Been at the company for fourteen years by this point, never seen that before. The glowing X-shaped device on the floor in the middle of the room was new as well. "Uh, should I be worried here, Boss?''

"Just a slight precaution.''

"Yet I'm standing here flashing my mug to all. That suit ain't going to save his nose if he messed up my moneymaker.''

"Ease up, Gatix, you're safe for now.'' Boss held a hand in front of him. "He won't turn on his toy until you're fully armoured.''

"Good to know.'' I nodded at the waddling suit coming closer. "Dax.''

"Agent.'' The suit gave a small bow. Guess it's more visible than nodding. "Commander, the bridge is ready for activation, just waiting for your command.''

"Bridge?'' I cast a glance at the device. "What's the mission?''

"Mineral retrieval.'' Boss answered, holding his palm upward to let a display flicker into existence above it. Once the hologram finished forming, it showed a detailed diagram of some mineral I couldn't begin to recognize. "We've been contacted by a client, one wishing to remain anonymous. He wishes to acquire a kilogram of trisortium.''

"Trisortium?'' I twisted an eye to look Boss in the visor. "I thought the agency didn't take on impossible jobs.''

"We don't.''

"Any idea what they're going to use it for?''

"Not our business. Client wants the mineral, we aim to please.''

"Then I assume Dax's toy is going to make a ton of trisortium for us? Last I heard, scans showed there's only one gram of the stuff on Earth, and that's somewhere close to the core. So unless we're planning on visiting Titan, shit out of luck.''

"We debated it, but we don't have enough energy to make a tunnel there, and too much methane in the atmosphere. Wouldn't look good on our profile if we set fire to a moon.''

"Figure you got something else in mind then.''

"Agent Gatix.'' He pointed at the weirdly shaped device. "I'm sure your powers of observation have not failed to detect this new construct.''

"Looks like a regular quantum tunnel generator.''

"Except this one doesn't point to our realm.''

"Please don't tell me you're sending me to hell...''

"Parallel world, not hell.'' Boss chuckled.

"Still not liking the idea.'' I turned back to Dax. "How's this one differ? I thought the multiverse was still theoretical?''

"So my peers would lead to you believe.'' Dax spat. "Fools have only focussed on extending the reach of the tunnels, not wondering where else the tunnels can point to.''

"And you of all people have cracked the science...''

"Amazing what a decent budget and seven years of research can do.'' Even I could sense the pride in his accomplishment.

"Wait, please tell me you haven't figured this tech out just in time for this mission.''

"Fear not, I've been prototyping this for more than six months. You will be the first to use it on a mission, but not the first to cross it.''

"Real comforting. So I'm guessing you found a place where we can get the stuff?''

"Two, in fact,'' said Boss. "Plenty of other dimensions where we can find it, but none that can be traversed by anything our technology can survive. It was only yesterday Dax managed to find a suitable world with enough trisortium, three kilograms to be exact, and the computer detected the second one only an hour ago, one point nine kilograms. More than enough to satisfy the client's needs.''

"Gotcha. But what happens if it's unreachable? Still can't drill to the core of a planet.''

"Hence your mission.'' Boss straightened himself a little bit as he always did before announcing the suicide mission. "Agent Gatix, your mission is to pass through Dax's cross-world bridge and locate, at minimum, one kilogram of trisortium. You are to bring the target mineral, no matter the state, back to headquarters.''

"Mission accepted, Boss.''

Fruit Boy