An experimental teleportation device fails, phasing the test pilot into another dimension, into three entities that can see and be seen but appear to be invulnerable to injury. This accident makes possible the Witness Corps--trained observers sent to high crime areas to observe and later testify against criminals. The program is so successful that just the presence of a phaser is enough to deter most crimes. Rob Stone, an operative on phaser assignment, is recalled to the Corps' secure compound to find everyone in an uproar. A fellow phaser, a female, has been murdered--something they all believed impossible. The Corps is further shaken by the revelation that the assailant is a phaser. When all Corps members are accounted for, it appears the unthinkable has happened--someone outside has obtained the phaser technology. Cheryl Brooks, a former martial arts expert, now paraplegic from an accident, learns she is compatible for phasing and demands admittance to the Corps, which is granted when they discover her phased selves aren't paralyzed. Rob and Cheryl are teamed in the ensuing mission to find and apprehend the illegal phaser. In this high-action story the killer, Ralph Ramsey, is a wily adversary who seems to have the edge. Not only doesn't he have to play by Witness Corp rules, he's learned a few tricks about phasing the Corps hasn't even discovered yet...
A Hard Shell Word Factory Release
Atk. Butterfly has worked as a Computer Programmer/Systems Analyst, most often as a contractor, for the past eighteen years. Before that, he served in the US Army, reaching the rank of Staff Sergeant and gaining combat experience as well.
An avid science fiction reader, he has written a number of science fiction stories. Some have been published in Antipodean SF, Aphelion, Dragon Dreaming, Dream Forge, Electronic Writers Group Presents, Eternity Magazine, Gearheads, Jackhammer, Keen Science Fiction!, The Little Read Writer's Hood, The Orphic Chronicle, McCann's Planet, Nuketown, Papyrus, The Sixth Sense Anthology, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, SpaceWays Weekly, and more than a dozen other print and electronic publication. He also wrote a few technical computer articles and other non-fiction articles that were published.
His other science fiction novels include RUST BUCKET (Boson Books), ATTACK BUTTERFLY (Boson), and WASHOUT (HyperBooks)
"If a well-blended tale of stalking, science, courtroom drama, and danger is what you are looking for in a summer (or any other season) read, grab Witness Protection- and let it grab your attention, keep you zipping through pages (like the Phasers zip through walls), and make you very willing to suspend your disbelief. Highly Recommended!"Under the Covers Book Reviews
"Another fresh, unique SF scenario. This one set in a near future where police protection is offered by Phasers, officers who have been trained and can shift into multiple copies of themselves on a different plain" from the rest of humanity. They can witness crimes and report on the criminals while pinpointing the crime locations for other authorities. The plot itself revolves around Phasers being attacked by another, unknown, illegal, Phaser, There is romance between two of the characters and enough action to suit big budget movie fans. I want more books set in the Witness Protection world. C'mon Atk, what do you say? Fun!"Buzz Review News
"The supporting cast are all well done and there is plenty of good writing. Add in a movie sub-plot and a romantic situation. Atk. Butterfly is showing a different side from the other books of his I've read and he is showing that he is versatile and talented."Baryon Magazine Issue #74
"MOMMY, THERE'S a naked man in my bedroom!" Cynthia exclaimed as she ran abruptly from her bedroom instead of getting into her bed for the night. She ran into the living room to clutch her mother for security.
Behind her, the naked man walked through the walls into the living room. As he passed by Cynthia's mother, he shrugged slightly and grinned weakly. Cynthia's mother nodded in acknowledgement.
"It's okay, Cynthia. He's only a Phaser doing his duty."
"A Phaser?" three-year old Cynthia asked.
"Yes, he's probably on his way to his patrol area to watch for criminals so they can be stopped or caught. He can't harm you or anyone, but he's very good to have around."
"Why is he naked?"
"Well, that's because his clothes can't be projected with him."
"How does he walk through walls?" Cynthia asked as she peeked around her mother to see the Phaser walk through the wall to leave the house.
"Well, that's because he's not really here. His body is somewhere else and all we're seeing is a projection. Most likely, someone projected him wrong tonight, so now he'll have to walk to reach his patrol area."
"How can he see us and us see him if he's not here?" Cynthia asked.
"Well, I'm not really sure how it works. All I know is that it was discovered when some scientists were trying to create a teleporter. They still haven't figured that part out yet, but now we have Phasers to protect us, so it wasn't all wasted effort."
* * *
ROB STONE One couldn't hear what was said around him while in phase, but he could see. More than a little experience on the job had made it possible for him and his other phases to read lips with enough understanding that he could testify in court as to what was said in most of his cases. He hadn't missed seeing what Cynthia said upon first seeing him as he materialized inside her bedroom a full two blocks away from his patrol area. Fortunately, it really didn't take much effort to move about while in a phased condition, even though his body in the phase chamber was in charge of three phases of him in three different locations. At the very moment he was in Cynthia's bedroom, he was also in a bar and in an alleyway near a college. Already, Rob Stone Three was in the process of preventing a rape since just his presence was enough to deter a criminal.
Criminals had already learned the hard way that there was no way to harm a Phaser, not that they hadn't tried just about every way imaginable. Some of them had even killed themselves by accident in the process of attempting to harm a Phaser. The only real way to stop a Phaser was to find the body, but that was protected in a high security installation. Consequently, crime statistics were down significantly, but not so much that Phasers weren't needed. After all, there were only a few people whose genetic structure was compatible with phasing. As well, there was always more territory to be patrolled than there were Phasers to go around. Still, Phasers were having an impact, particularly on those areas where crime rates had been embarrassingly high.
The petite young woman paused momentarily at seeing the naked man in the alleyway, then smiled when she realized that she could see through him slightly. He was certainly a real Phaser and not anyone to be feared. She watched him briefly as he gave her hand signals, then walked wide around a dark portion of the alley that the Phaser directed her to avoid. It was hardly necessary since the would-be rapist could also see the Phaser and was quietly leaving before he could be accused of anything.
* * *
ROB STONE Two stood inside the bar and watched the patrons enjoy themselves. Usually, Phase Control sent a woman to watch over bars in rowdy districts since the bar owners felt better about having a naked woman for the men to ogle over, especially if they didn't have any live entertainment on the premises. However, for tonight, Rob Stone Two was on duty to the disappointment of the male patrons. But it didn't matter whether it was him or a woman on duty, the bartender wasn't going to let anyone drink so much that a problem would develop whenever a Phaser was around.
Rob Stone One reached his patrol area in time to see the end of a robbery. The robber stopped in shock at seeing Rob Stone One's opaque naked body casually stroll up to the crime scene. Aware that he'd been seen, the robber weakly sat down on the curb. There the robber waited for the police, who he knew would catch him anyway since he knew that the Phaser would follow him until he was caught. As the robber saw the situation, it made better sense to just save the energy and take a lighter sentence instead of trying to escape.
Unexpectedly, Rob Stone felt his other selves flash from their locations back to his central body. He was about to ask what was going on, but there wasn't an opportunity.
* * *
"IS SHE still in trouble?"
"It's not him! He's clean!"
"What's going on? I was sitting on a robber and preventing a rape! Damn it! Who brought me back?" Rob demanded.
"Later, Rob! Megan's in trouble!"
"What kind of trouble?" Rob demanded.
No one answered. No one even moved to assist him in climbing out of his tank, not that he really needed anyone since he wasn't at all exhausted as he might normally be after a four-hour shift. Rob climbed from his tank by himself. When he reached the floor, he took his robe from a nearby hook and slipped it on, not that he had to. Quite a few of the operatives didn't even bother anymore with modesty since they'd been in the Phaser program long enough to no longer care. After all, they were seen naked by the public nearly every day, so it really didn't matter any longer whether they were dressed while in the compound or not.
"Megan, hold in there! We've almost got all the men recalled!"
Rob strode over to one of the managers who appeared to be doing little more than observing. "Bill, what in blazes is going on? What kind of trouble is Megan in?"
"Megan's being raped. We're trying to find out who's responsible."
"Raped? How? I thought we were immune to contact with the public."
"You are, but apparently not to each other. She's being raped by another Phaser."
"Then recall Megan, damn it! It shouldn't take a genius to figure that out."
Bill said, "We can't. Security policy dictates that we do it this way."
"What?! I don't understand. Doesn't Megan count or are we just..."
"Shut up, Rob. Stay out of the way, too. We know what we're doing."
"It doesn't look like it to me."
Bill closed his eyes for a moment, then stared harshly at Rob before speaking in calmer tones. "Rob, if we pull Megan's projections back, we won't know who's responsible. Then he'll be free to strike again."
"That's if he's one of us. What if he isn't? I know we're supposed to be the only ones on the grid, but..."
"Yes, I know. By now, someone could have figured out how to build one of these themselves. Believe me, we've got someone checking all the power usage in the region just to be sure that no one else has established a grid. So far, results on that have been negative."
"Then you think he's on our grid? He's one of us?"
"That's what we're trying to find out, so just stay out of the way."
"There is another way to find out. Send me back in and direct one of my Phasers to where Megan is located."
"So you can do what? Stand there and watch? We haven't trained any of you in self-defense. From what Megan has told us so far, this guy knows how to fight. Otherwise, he wouldn't be on top of her Megan Two Phaser right now."
Rob suddenly exclaimed, "Oh god! If he's in Phase, he could be after her other Phasers as well!"
"We know that, Rob. Right now, she's got her other Phasers on the move and alert. She knows what he looks like even though all we have right now is her verbal description."
"Then send more than one of us to her. If there's enough of us, then we'll figure out how to kick his ass. At least more than just Megan will know what he looks like."
"You know the rules, Rob. You just came out of the tank. No more phasing for you until tomorrow."
"Screw the rules. I was out for only twenty minutes. You know as well as I that it's still safe to send me out again."
"No. Now leave the control room and let us handle this," Bill replied calmly.
Rob glared at Bill momentarily, then realized it would do no good. Even if Rob climbed back into the tank, there was no way for him to send himself unless several technicians sided with him. From the looks of the control room, there didn't appear to be any technicians around who weren't already busier than one-armed paper hangers.
* * *