Sight and Sound

 

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Chapter 1

‘Hear this now, O foolish people, without understanding, who have eyes and see not, and who have ears and hear not.'

Chapter 1

The sound of the bullet was heard as it whizzed by Jacob O’Brien’s ear, barely missing his head.

"That was close." He told no-one in particular. His breath came out hard, as he was exerting himself.

The twang of bullets was heard as they pinged against the metal door while Jacob dove through, with fear of being hit. His body hit the floor hard, but he managed to scramble up on all fours quickly. Turning his head, he forcefully kicked the door closed from the inside of the room.

Sweat ran down his face as he regained his calmness and composure. Only two opponents remained in this war. The building he found himself in was much smaller than most of the others in town. He lost his whole company and was now backed into this room with no exits. The door shook as more bullets dug into it from the outside hallway.

‘Think. Think. Think.’ His mind was currently paralyzed, as he forced it to retrigger. His two remaining enemies knew he was trapped inside this room with no escape. He probably only had a short amount of time, before they forced their way in.

Jacob looked on his person and found one remaining grenade. He groaned as he checked his ammo supply and realized he only had a few bullets remaining in the magazine of the gun.

 

 

"OK. Low on ammo, and one grenade." Glancing around the room once more, the room itself seemed to laugh as it reminded Jacob the only means of escape was the door. The same door currently being riddled with another barrage of bullets from the other side. They obviously had plenty of lead to shower him.

Jacob got up and pushed the table against the door to help keep it closed as he began searching the room more diligently in hopes to find something, anything, to assist him further. Sighing, he only found a rope and a can of beans.

Holding the can of beans in his hand, he commented out loud, "Maybe I can fart my way out of this." Somewhere, he knew someone would be laughing at his joke.

An idea came to him as he looked again at the rope and beans. He quickly stripped the one rope down to many strings. With some ingenuity, he was able to construct a booby trap halfway with the door handle and grenade. He carefully positioned the grenade between the table and door. He hoped the table would lessen the impact of the grenade on his side, not killing him.

Moving into the far corner, he waited. He figured one would eventually push his way and attempt to jump through, while the other would hang back in the hallway. Then one or both would fill him and the room with bullets. He hoped the grenade would take care of one, while his few remaining bullets would take care of the second. Yeah. He really hoped.

Waiting in anticipation, while sweat crept into his eyes, the next 45 seconds felt like an eternity. The world held its breath, watching this final scene unfold through hidden cameras.

 

The bullets stopped on the other side. ‘This is it.’ Thought Jacob. ‘They are about to make their move.’

The door was kicked in, hitting the table hard, while triggering the pin in the grenade. Because he was not greeted with Jacob's return fire, the opponent hesitated. He began to repeatedly kick the door, as it slowly moved the table forward, increasing the widening entrance of the doorway. The grenade went off, blowing the table back five feet into Jacob’s room, while also tearing the door off, shredding the opponent, and effectively killing him.

Soon Jacob could see the final opponent on the other side of the torn door, in the hallway. In a desperate panic, Jacob threw the can of beans at the remaining opponent screaming, "Grenade!"

The guy, seeing an object flying toward him, with the word grenade from Jacob’s voice automatically jumped to the ground and rolled right hitting the wall in the hallway hard with his body. His body reacted by instinct, overpowering his mind, went into automation. Years of training did that to him. Not hearing the explosion of the flying can of beans, knowing he made a horrible mistake he began to jump back up, but it was too late. That moment was all Jacob needed, as he already had his sights on the prone figure. Jacob fired his last round of ammo into the body.

The bell rang loudly, conveying the game was over. Jacob pulled off his Virtual Dimension glasses and gave a sighed relief. He won! He actually won the final world Virtual Tournament.

As the glasses came off, the room he was in returned to normal. Glass walls and floors came into view as his eyes readjusted. He stood in the glass maze, while the lights grew

brighter overhead. Camera drones left the area, returning to their docking stations in need of recharging.

The world witnessed, in detail, the last battle played out. Glass walls began to move, realigning to their proper positions. Waiting for the all clear, Jacob O’Brien just became champion in the Virtual-Dimension (VRD) gaming world.

After a final week of tournaments, he showed the world he was the best in VRD. A sigh of relief escaped him the second time, as his body began to relax. His mind was slowly accepting the battle had come to an end, as he suddenly became very tired.

As he removed his glasses, the last remaining opponent got up from the floor. He walked over and shook Jacob's hand.

"What did you actually throw at me? I didn't hear it go off." He asked.

"A can of beans," Jacob said with a laugh.

"Great. I'll probably hear about that from now on." The kid shook his hand again. It would probably be his last time to shake the Champion of VRD, now that the tournaments were over.

The winner of the VRD tournaments was guaranteed full scholarships and a life of fame. It also provided a guaranteed monthly income. Jacob would have the easy life now. All his hard work and talent finally paid off. It wasn't easy to be the best, but for Jacob, it was always the game, not the prizes. The provided amenities were icing on the cake. Millions of gamers would envy him, from now on.

Leaving the dome, Jacob found himself outside of the building, in the light of the shining sun. Feeling the breeze on his face, he was quickly approached by the dedicated newsperson for VRD gaming tournament. The pretty blonde was ready with her mic attached to her ear. She immediately applied the small round sticker on Jacob's shirt. The sticker mic allowed for the gaming world to hear Jacob, and assisted the camera drones program to capture the best view.

The flying drone camera hovered in mid-air waiting for its command. Electronic newsletters and flash news were already reporting him as winning by a can of beans.

"Activate camera.” The news lady paused before proceeding.  “I am here today with Jacob O’Brien, who just became the champion of VRD gaming." The pretty blonde looked from the camera drone back to Jacob. "Mr. O’Brien, how does it feel to be the last man standing?"

The camera drone used its polygon algorithms to enhance each of them, removing any blemishes of their skin, while providing the gaming world audience the best possible visual and audio on the scene.

"Tired." Jacob took another breath before continuing. "I was hoping my strategy would work." He managed to smile at the camera drone.

"Well, you can get some rest now. You have performed with great skill all week, excelling all the challenges, outmatching your opponents." The blonde girl slightly moved while the camera drone shifted position keeping the best angle of view.

"What do you plan on doing during your two-week vacation?" The pretty news lady smiled at Jacob, waiting for his answer.

Jacob hadn't given any thought on what he wanted to do for the required two-week reprieve. His focus had always been on the next immediate challenge. He paused and tried to think what the world wanted to hear. "I think I may have some beans."

“We can provide those to you.” An unknown voice came from behind Jacob.

Jacob turned around, and a slightly overweight man stood there in a black suit, and a smile. Sweat was on his forehead, as he grinned.

“Mr. Smith!” exclaimed the news lady.

Jacob didn’t know who Mr. Smith was, but he must have been someone important. Why was he here at this time, when it was Jacob who had just won the gaming championship? Most likely a PR move for his business.

Mr. Smith held his hand out toward Jacob, shaking his hand, as the camera caught the whole thing. “Well done Mr. O’Brien.”

Jacob could feel the man’s moist hand, as he pumped it. He held his hand a funny way as he shook it. “Uh…Thank you, sir?” He wasn’t sure what this was about.

“David Smith, from Tenth Dimension.” David smiled. “We have been watching you since your first win, Mr. O’Brien, and quite frankly we were glad to see you win.” David paused for the camera to readjust positions for a better aim. The news lady quickly placed a sticker mic on his suit. The camera adjusted, and David continued, finally releasing Jacob’s hand when the camera had enough time to capture it. “We at Tenth Dimension will provide you a grant for your continued education and a minimum salary for the extra cost of living.”

The news lady made an audible gasp.

 

So, he is here for a show, thought Jacob. “Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. But I do not believe we have a contract.”

David cut him off with a wave of his hand. ”Tenth Dimension is a subsidiary, who sponsored the gaming tournament. That doesn’t matter. What matters, Mr. O’Brien, is your part of the family now.”

******

Jacob O’Brien stood in front of the mirror. Tired eyes from the 17-year-old 5 foot 11 blonde, looked back, as he dried from his shower. His first day of reprieve was finally here. The virtual gaming media loved his remark on the can of beans. He smiled to himself, then got dressed.

Coming downstairs, he was met by his baby sister, Rachel, at the kitchen table. "Hey, Sis."

Rachel looked up from her plate. "Hey, hero. Got something for you." She pushed the item toward his direction on the table.

A can of beans stopped on the table where he normally sat. This was going to get old real quick.

Smiling, Jacob walked over to the smart fridge. He grabbed some eggs and bacon for his breakfast. The virtual computer within the fridge silently kept an inventory of items used.

"So what are you going to do today?" Rachel asked as she finished her oatmeal. "You already slept in."

While Jacob had two weeks to rest, the only thing he could think of was the next time he was using VRD. Some would call it an addiction. However, he kept pushing the boundaries of the virtual reality device. He desired to see its full potential.

"I think I’ll work on my personal project," Jacob answered while eating his eggs.

"You're such a nerd." Teased Rachel. "Most would be out in the mall meeting their fans, picking up sweethearts." She winked at him while putting her dishes away in the self-cleaning retainer.

Jacob only grinned. He never cared too much for the limelight. Preferred technology over people. It was an accident that he found his talent in gaming. He knew those in the gaming world would try to use him to an extent. They would attempt to harness his newfound fame to make millions, simply by associating themselves with him. As his fame rose within the league, his sponsor's revenue had also soared. It would only get worse, in regards of more sponsors wishing to tap into his title.

For now, Jacob could relax and reap those benefits. He was guaranteed a full scholarship, which he planned to use to use to pursue his love of technology in Research and Development. The monthly income would cover his other necessities of living, along with the sponsorship revenue. For now, he could just enjoy the quietness of home, while being with his sister.

Their parents were never around. While it sucked not to know their parents on a personal level, it allowed the siblings to share a closer bond than most families. Fixing his breakfast, he glanced over to his 15-year-old sister and had to admit she was growing up.

Recently she had put red streaks in her blonde hair. Must be a new style. She stood 5 foot 7, just small enough for her to look up to him when they stood toe to toe. Jacob may be a nerd, but he also had to recognize that, most girls would kill to have his sister’s natural sapphire eyes.  Grimacing, he also had to acknowledge, most guys would kill to know her.

"Yeah, well I am nearly done with..." Jacob began but was quickly cutoff.

"Blah. Blah. Blah." Rachel interrupted as she approached the table. "I know you will be in your room all day, hunched over your desk." She merely grinned at her brother shaking her head. "While you do boring stuff, I'm off to the mall."

Jacob watched her leave and shrugged his shoulders. He remained at the table, eating the rest of his breakfast in peace.

Finishing up breakfast, Jacob went out for his morning jog. Music blasting in his ears, his mind wandered from all the interviews he had after the game. Eventually, his mind always returned to his personal project. Normally, he only focused on the next step. This type of focus helped him become the best in the gaming world. However, finding nothing to focus on for two weeks would be unnerving. He hated the idea of sitting around, with nothing to do.

He could program a new gaming module or perhaps read up on the newer releases of the VRD coming out soon. It was his pet project that had been gnawing at him. Something kept hinting or whispering to him on some modifications he could attempt with the VRD goggles.

It came to him in a dream, but the more he thought about it, he believed he could actually do it.  One thing for sure, he wouldn't be simply lying in bed for the next two weeks.

*********

The morning turned to evening and Rachel returned from her mall shopping. Knowing where to find her brother, she headed upstairs to his bedroom.

"Whatcha doing?" Rachel asked as Jacob worked on his head gear.

"I modified the module, and plan to test it," Jacob said as he carefully slipped the enhanced microchip back into the VRD headgear.

“Did you eat anything today?” Rachel doubted it. Her brother tended to forget such things when he was in the zone.

“Uhm. Yeah.” Jacob did have some food after his jog. Didn’t he also snack throughout the day? He couldn’t remember exactly. “With this new module, I should be able to enhance the visuals beyond the normal specs.”

"Boring. Why don't you take a break from that? You already have a full ride, and will be back into it soon at college." Rachel rolled her eyes, as she watched her brother hunched over his personal lab desk oblivious to her.

Halfway ignoring his sister, Jacob heard the final click of his enhanced gear going into place. "There." Pushing the power button, he half-prayed it wouldn't fry the chip this third time. A low hum answered his prayer. "I think I have it, Rachel."

"Uh huh." Rachel was already walking away from him, leaving him to his devices.

Taking a hopeful breath, he slipped on the gear. It took a bit before his eyes grew adjusted to the screen covering them. The VRD hummed a bit louder than usual in his ears. The increased vent kept the internals cooled down. He would have to add some additional padding to bring the noise level down.

A feeling of dizziness came over him then slowly went away, as he grew accustomed to the enhanced VRD.

Slowly turning his head, he viewed his room. The module within VRD provided the physical reality with an enhanced view. The virtual dimensions viewer gave an overlay incorporating all the information the internet provided. Each physical object could easily be identified, while the enhanced augmentation provided all known information captured and attained for each object.

This system was far more advanced than the older Virtual Reality goggles. Most of those had limited information. Now with Jacob’s enhanced virtual dimension headgear module, one could even peer through physical objects.

There were some individuals and groups already creating modules to be used during trauma cases to find bullets and shrapnel easily, without the old X-ray standards. It was a similar method using MRI or magnetic resonance imaging. It used the magnetic field and radio waves to create a detailed picture. Jacob took his modular enhancement to a different approach.

Grinning, Jacob knew his new goggles surpassed their research. He had been acquiring everything he could and been reading their current published research regarding the technology. Fortunately, his dream and drive took him to a different method.

Each item in the room was recognized and cataloged in the background processes. Standing, the dizziness returned. Guess I will need to make some adjustments for that too.

 

 

Fortunately, as he moved through the house, turning his head sharply, no pixelation occurred. The visuals were sharp. Much better than he had hoped.

He saw movement in the corner of his sight. Turning his head toward the shape, he could only see a wall.

Adjusting a bit, he could peer through the wall allowing him to see in the other room. No-one was there. Weird. Maybe another small glitch to work on with the peripheral view.

Smiling, Jacob headed downstairs, and outside to view the neighborhood. As individuals drove by, the module within the head gear easily identified everyone, providing their information. Name, address, social media, interest, could all be pulled into view. He merely needed to concentrate on the visual display and the goggles would recognize his eye concentration and easily pull up the desired data. The possibilities would be phenomenal for amputees.

The module could also be able to provide alerts for any dangerous individuals. Jacob couldn’t help but scream out “Yes!” as he realized the many uses that his enhanced module could bring to the world.

Since the issue of terrorism and social gangs nearly tore America apart, it was required for everyone’s Identity immediately entered into the NET upon birth. Everything from hand and footprints, eye scans and DNA sample was included. While it was little known newborn babies were routinely screened for a panel of genetic diseases, the new standard incorporated eye scans as well. Now with his new module, Jacob had access to identify everyone immediately.

The XPS (Xceptional Positioning System) provided his immediate location. XPS is an advancement from the older GPS. He tested out the mapping and was able to find accessible routes to any location.

Grinning again, he mentally gave himself a pat on the back. Working all day on it, he was glad he could get this far on the pet project that had been haunting him. The project would be great on his resume. Perhaps he could also copyright it, increasing his revenue. Hell, with this, he may acquire a company of his own, before he even completed college.

His thoughts were interrupted, when he noticed a small figure half a block away looking at him. The VRD didn't pull any data off the figure. Odd. Glancing around, everyone in view was identified by his device.

As he walked closer, the figure continued to stand motionless. It looked fuzzy, not sharp as expected. He couldn’t quite make out the detail of the face, or what the figure was wearing.

Maybe an interference with the surroundings? Jacob attempted to adjust his gear, and refocus. When he looked back toward the figure, he or she was gone. Peering around, the figure was nowhere to be seen.

Maybe another glitch. Jacob would need to add the ability to record. Perhaps then he could review these small nuances later when they occurred.

Moving down the street, the XPS was called up again tracking his movement. As he looked up, he realized the sky didn't appear blue with white clouds. Rather it had different shades of color. It was very pretty with the unique colors, unseen before.

Streaks were seen crisscrossing, not leaving any trail behind. Was this due to the enhanced visual of the machine? The sky appeared more of a prism, with multi-colors, almost like a landscape in and of itself. Trying to focus on the streaks, they appeared more like fast moving objects, than actual trails. They were too large to be bugs. Besides, they had an illumination about them, almost shiny.

Was this always occurring, but unnoticeable with the human eye?

A red bolt flew down and hit the ground 30 feet from where he was standing. Jumping back, he nearly fell on his butt. "What the hell?" No one answered his loud question.

Looking around, he noticed everyone kept moving, uncaring, with the red bolt he just witnessed. It was as if no-one even saw this occur.

Breathing slower, trying to calm himself, he realized others must not have witnessed it, or they would have also reacted. They didn’t appear startled. He pulled his head gear off for a moment.

            A wave of nausea hit him. Whoa. Definitely has a reaction to the physical body when wearing it. He took slow deep breaths as it passed.

Thunder rolled above, as his eyes readjusted with his surroundings. He didn't notice the thundering before. He must have missed it due to the loudness of his headgear cooling system.

As he peered up at the sky without the goggles, he couldn’t help notice that it didn't appear like it was going to rain. White clouds lazily moved across the blue sky.

Checking for the location where the red bolt hit, a small black spot appeared on the sidewalk. It looked charred. Walking toward the mark, Jacob peered at it more closely. He wouldn’t have even bothered inspecting this mark if he hadn’t seen the odd red bolt strike there through his goggles. Inspecting it more closely, it appeared to be a mere smudge or black mark.

It couldn’t have been a lightning strike. Everyone would have reacted to that. So what was the red streak that was only visible through the enhanced modular VRD? Looking around once more, Jacob put his VRD gear back on.

Peering at the same demarcation in the sidewalk, he could see the black char glittered with red through his VRD gear. Definitely where the lightning, eh red bolt, hit. The dazzle of red appeared to be slowly fading. As he focused closer with his headgear, nothing informative came up through the NET on the glitter.

Glancing around, he again caught site of another fuzzy figure he had seen before. This one appeared smaller than the one before. He appeared nearly a block away. This time the figure was wildly waving at him with his arms up as if to gain his attention. The figure began running toward him. The VRD still didn't register any identification on the figure. Regardless of how close it came, the figure remained fuzzy in the console.

Panic and a feeling of fear swelled up in Jacob as he began backing away from the quickly approaching figure. Sweat began to roll down his back. Jacob’s back hit a street light, stopping him.

The figure began to wave his arms even more frantic, then pointed up at the sky. Behind the figure flashes of red could now be seen in the sky, arcing across the backdrop.

Breathing faster, Jacob looked left and right, noticing no-one else saw this occurring. The figure came into better view, as he drew closer, but details still alluded Jacob’s vision.

 

 

His mouth appeared to be moving, but nothing could be heard. A high red arc crossed the sky toward Jacob coming down, hitting the street light he was leaning against with his sweaty back. Sparks flew, and everything went black.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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