First there was virtual reality, now there's Hyper Reality! The Cyberwave, an advanced computer that can alter time and space, has fallen into the hands of General Deth. The Cyberwave holds the key to world destruction, and the General plans to use it! Aided by his friends R.J. and Blue, Mark uses the power of Hyper Reality to infiltrate a top secret air base and steal the world's fastest jet fighter. Streaking halfway around the world, they track General Deth to a hidden fortress. But with the Cyberwave activated you never what's real, or who the enemy really is!
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Todd Hester has worked for many years in the aerospace industry with secret clearance. Winning awards for engineering design, he has worked on highly classified missile, space, and aircraft programs. He has also written a number of short stories, screenplays, and magazine articles. Originally from Wasco, California, he graduated Brigham Young University with a degree in engineering and now lives in Southern California.
Best-selling author Curtis Taylor has written with U.S. Senator Jake Garn, and Betty J. Eadie, whose book, Embraced by the Light, spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list. Curtis attended Brigham Young University on a track scholarship and graduated with a degree in English. He lives with his wife Janet, and their six children in Northern California.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"Cowboy to Tower! Cowboy to Tower," the pilot barked into his microphone. "Four fighters are on my tail. Repeat, I've got four bogies after me!" His forehead beaded with sweat as the four Russian Foxbat jet fighters closed in on him and his high-tech plane, the Aurora Interceptor. His radar screen was lit up like a Christmas tree. "I'm bugging out of here!" he yelled.
"Negative," a voice shot back from the radio. "The Aurora Interceptor is classified. Don't let them see what that baby can do."
Four smaller blips appeared on the radar screen.
"The bogies have launched!" The pilot called out. "I've got live missiles on my tail!"
A confused babble of voices poured out of the radio, then one voice yelled over the others. "Get out of there. Put the hammer down!"
The pilot shoved the throttle forward and jerked the stick back. The aircraft climbed sharply. The pilot pressed a button on the stick. "Ten seconds until supercruise engages!" He looked back and saw the smooth, rounded lines of the Aurora Interceptor. White contrails, like wisps of fog, whipped off its sleek wings. The craft looked more like a huge bird of prey than a secret warplane.
Its pulse-detonation engine sucked in air and ignited. A savage jolt of acceleration slammed the pilot back into his seat. His G-suit inflated to keep the blood from pooling in his legs and knocking him unconscious.
The radar screen showed the four missiles still closing. "I can't shake them! They're right on me."
"Impossible!" the voice on the radio shot back. "You're at ninety-thousand feet, doing Mach eight!"
"They're faster than we thought!" the pilot barked. "I'm launching flares and chaff."
"Negative," the voice shot back. "You don't have any. The Aurora Interceptor's too advanced."
"Then do I have permission to go White Glove?"
The babble of voices poured into his headset. Finally the command voice spoke again. "Affirmative! Go to stealth mode and splash those bogies. White Glove is authorized!"
The pilot threw open a small door in the console and flipped three switches. A red button in the ceiling began blinking, and he reached up and pressed it. "Going White Glove in thirty seconds."
The engine shut down, and the Aurora glided through the air without power. All radar systems deactivated as passive sensors began tracking the bogies. The cockpit became eerily quiet even though the craft still shot through the sky at over five thousand miles per hour.
The pilot stared at his instruments in disbelief. "I'm in stealth mode but the missiles are still locked on. I'm going to eject!" He reached down and pulled the ejection harness over his head.
"Stay with the plane!" the radio voice ordered. "There's no way they can track you."
"They're right on me!" the pilot said. "I'm going to die!" He twisted his head and saw four sinister missiles through the back of the canopy. White vapor trails stretched behind them. He swerved left, then right, but couldn't shake them. At the last second, he closed his eyes in preparation for the explosion. But nothing happened. He opened his eyes. The missiles had streaked past him and were now black dots on the horizon. He took a deep breath to steady his trembling hands, then spoke into the radio. "Returning to the bogies."
He banked the plane, and his infrared detectors located the enemy jets still loitering in the sky. Their pilots were undoubtedly trying to figure out why the missiles hadn't detonated and how he had disappeared from their radar screens. He turned on the acoustic targeting array and locked onto all four jets. The planes circled, unaware of his presence. Knowing they couldn't detect him made him feel invincible.
He pressed the launch button on top of the stick, and four Vampire sonically-guided missiles ejected out of the internal weapons bay, locked onto the Foxbat's engine noise, and lit their engines.
"Vampires away!" he reported.
The missiles streaked across the sky, and slammed into the four Russian fighters. Explosions rocked the sky, buffeting the Aurora Interceptor. Smoke clouded the air and metal debris spiraled outward in all directions.
"Targets neutralized," he said. "I'm disengaging and heading for home." The pilot grabbed for the stick to turn the plane, but his hand passed through it. Something was wrong. The instrument console faded to grayness. He looked through the cockpit floor and saw an entire mountain range fade into dark nothingness.
"Mayday! Mayday!" he yelled. "Something strange is happening! Everything is disappearing!" He felt a tug at his head, and searing light scorched his eyes. "Nuclear explosion!" he cried. "Radiation . . . I'm melting! . . . help!"
His eyes gradually refocused, and two people appeared in front of him. Understanding returned. He hadn't been in a plane at all. There had been no dogfight in the sky and no nuclear explosion. He was sitting on the floor of R.J. Rowberry's bedroom, and something was on his head.
"Ha! Look at Heroic!" a thunderous voice bellowed. It was Blue Berzoni, the biggest kid in school, and the toughest. Even through Blue's leather jacket, Mark could see the outline of Blue's huge muscles.
Mark hated it when Blue called him Heroic. In fact, he hated it when anybody called him Heroic. When he was born, his parents had argued about his middle name. His mother wanted to give him her brother's name, Fitzpatrick, but Mark's father had insisted on something more heroic. In all the confusion, the nurse had misunderstood and wrote Heroic on the birth certificate. By the time somebody noticed, the name had been registered. Mark Harrison had his middle name.
"Hey, Heroic," Blue laughed, "Why don't you try 'Fruit of the Loom'? They fit better!"
Mark felt his head. A pair of boxer shorts had somehow gotten on his head during the dogfight. He glanced at the mirror on the door and winced. He looked like a baker with a double stovepipe hat on. He ripped the shorts off and threw them across the room.
"The shorts were Blue's idea," R.J. Rowberry said. "Only a sick person like Blue gets a perverse pleasure from seeing someone wear boxer shorts on their head."
Mark shrugged. Blue had done far worse to him before. "That air combat really had me going," he said. "I forgot it was just a video game."
"This is no video game," R.J. said, gesturing with a pair of strange-looking sunglasses in his hand. The lenses were darker than any Mark had ever seen. A row of lights ran along each earpiece, and a small antenna rose from the left front corner. Mark had been wearing the glasses only moments before. His flight had ended when R.J. removed them, causing Mark to see the blinding flash of light.
R.J. Rowberry was the smartest kid in school, and the fattest. He considered himself a bodybuilder because he only ate health food. The problem was that he ate it twenty-four hours a day. R.J.'s blond hair was cut in a short flat top, and he wore a loud Hawaiian shirt, flowered shorts, and a pair of green thongs. Only a genius could get away with wearing something like that, Mark thought.
R.J. raised the unusual glasses. "You have just demonstrated the power of my father's latest break-through-Advanced Hyper Reality Signal Receivers. They're as far above virtual reality as a rocket is above a skateboard. My father has been on leave from the university developing them for the Air Force's Cybernetic Warfare Command."
"They look like swap-meet sunglasses to me," Blue said, "the kind bag-ladies wear."
R.J. looked at Blue with disgust. "I would hardly call them sunglasses. Their lenses are actually fiber optic arrays. They see what you see and transmit those signals to the sending unit, the Cyberwave." He pointed to a small black box on his bed. "The Cyberwave then mixes the images you are seeing with the software it is running and transmits the combined scenes directly into your brain. The glasses are fitted with these electrodes on each earpiece. The electrodes connect the Cyberwave to your brain's audio, visual, and tactile nerve centers, where it controls what you see, hear, and feel. The Cyberwave creates a new reality. Here, examine it yourself."
R.J. handed the Cyberwave to Mark. It was shaped like a small book, with short antennas and a miniature keyboard on top. A row of lights stretched across it. The Aurora Interceptor cartridge had been plugged into a small opening on top. Another slot in front accepted memory disks.
"Humph," Blue grunted, looking at the black box. "Who came up with the name Cyberwave?"
"I did, of course," R.J. said. "My father has a limited imagination."
"Cyberwave ain't too bad," Blue said. "But what did you call these glasses again?"
"Advanced Hyper Reality Signal Receivers. What do you think?"
"I think limited imagination runs in your family," Blue said. "I'm calling 'em cybershades. Anybody got a problem with that?"
Blue had just finished his second year of high school but already packed two hundred pounds of solid muscle on his six-foot, two-inch frame. R.J. frowned as if to argue but then shrugged.
"Great name, Blue," Mark said, nodding. He turned to R.J. "What's the Cyberwave for?"
R.J. took back the metal box. "The Cyberwave is a flight simulator my father developed to train Air Force pilots. It's a multi-tasking, neural-net processor with artificial-intelligence software driven by fuzzy-logic algorithms."
Mark had no idea what all that meant, but R.J. continued. "You were using a copy of a simulation package for a new, top-secret warplane called the Aurora Interceptor."
"What?" Mark said. "You mean I was actually flying a top-secret aircraft?"
"No, you were actually sitting on my floor with a pair of boxer shorts on your head. But besides that small point, yes, you were flying the plane-and doing remarkably well."
"Yeah," Blue added, "you even shot down four other boxer shorts!"
"Look," R.J. said, ignoring Blue, "the Cyberwave makes the real world look like part of the simulation. When you thought you were grabbing the stick, you really grabbed the desk lamp. When you thought you were putting on the ejection harness, you actually pulled a pair of boxer shorts onto your head. Of course, Blue helped by placing the shorts close to your hand. Fortunately for you, he got the clean ones."
"Thanks, Blue," Mark said.
"I couldn't find the dirty ones," Blue replied.
"This is extraordinary technology," R.J. said. "My father is demonstrating it today, for the first time, to Senator Bailey at Rocky Ridge Air Base. Of course, my father has the real Cyberwave there. I only have this duplicate."
"Duplicate?" Mark asked. "It seemed real to me. Did your father help you make it?"
"No. My father is far too busy to spend time with me. I built it from plans I found in his laboratory downstairs, then modified it to run video games as well. The simulator cartridge also came from his laboratory."
Blue went to the TV stand and picked up a game cartridge. "Can it run Monster Maze?" he asked. "That takes at least two players."
"Of course. The Cyberwave is multi-tasking. Several people can share the same simulation-provided they're all wearing cybershades."
"How about Kung-Fu Master?" Mark asked. "It's my favorite game."
"Yes, that too."
Blue whistled. "Hey, Harrison, throw me that Aurora Interceptor cartridge. I want to check it out." He caught the cartridge and turned to R.J. "Enough talking. We ain't seen you get shot outta the sky yet, Fatberry."
"I wish you would cease calling me Fatberry," R.J. said. "What you mistake for fat is actually highly toned muscle fiber. I may not boast about it, but I am a rather extraordinary athlete."
"Sure, and Heroic here's a genius," Blue said. "Now quit stalling and put on the cybershades."
With a loud crack of splintering wood, R.J.'s door suddenly burst open. Two muscular strangers in dark suits stormed into the room.
"If nobody moves, nobody gets hurt," one of them said. He was short and stocky with thick, red hair.
"What the? . . ." Blue jammed both cartridges into his pants pocket and brought up his fists.
The redhead dropped into a karate stance as Blue lowered his shoulder and charged. The man swept his back foot around in a short arc and sent Blue sprawling to the floor.
Blue sprang back up and cocked his arm back. "Round two, coming up, Carrothead!"
Mark stepped forward to help, but the second man pulled out a chromed automatic pistol. "Hold it!" he ordered. He was tall and thin and had a nervous twitch in his right eye.
They all froze.
The man Blue had called Carrothead backed off. "You're lucky he pulled a gun," he said. "No one calls me names."
"Oh yeah?" Blue shot back. "You must not get out much."
"Who are you?" Mark said. "What are you doing here?"
The man with the twitching eye flashed a badge. "Military Intelligence. Professor Rowberry was arrested today for assassinating a U.S. senator. We think his son was involved. Which one of you is R.J. Rowberry?"
Carrothead scowled. "Let's just grab all three."
The tall gunman shook his head. "No, General Deth only said to get the professor's kid." He looked at Blue. "Are you Rowberry?" His eye twitched nervously.
"All of a sudden my memory ain't so good," Blue said. "How come you're winkin' at me? You got a crush on me?"
The man slapped Blue hard but kept the gun pointed at his chest.
"Sure, Eyeball," Blue said, "you're tough when you gotta gun."
"I repeat," Eyeball said, putting the gun against Blue's shirt, "which one of you is Rowberry?"
"Leave him alone," R.J. said, stepping forward. "I'm the one you want."
Eyeball nodded and swung the gun away from Blue. "That's better." He scanned the room. "The general wants all the hyper reality equipment," he continued, his eye twitching faster. "We need the Cyberwave and all the programs-especially the Aurora simulation."
Carrothead grabbed R.J.'s canvas backpack from the corner and put the equipment into it. Then he motioned R.J. to the door with his gun.
"Wait a minute," Mark said, his heart nearly beating out of control. "This has got to be a mistake. Who's this general you're talking about?""
The man looked back. "General Deth-and he doesn't make mistakes. He erases them."
The men forced R.J. out the bedroom door and down the stairs. Mark went to th
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