Sunday Snippet: Zero Sum Conclusion by Thomas Lopinski

Posted March 10, 2024 by Jen in Sunday Snippet Tags:

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Zero Sum Conclusion

Author: Thomas Lopinski
Publisher: Bunsen Creek Pub
Release Date: March 15, 2024
Series: Stand alone right now. May write a second book.
Genre: Speculative Fiction/Dystopian Fiction


book cover of Zero Sum Conclusion by Thomas LopinskiDouble Down spun around and fired without hesitation striking the man’s arm. “Put your hands up.” The man raised one arm in the air while dangling the other at his side. When he realized blood was gushing out of his injured bicep, he covered the bullet wound with his other hand. “Get over here,” Double Down commanded. The man took two steps forward but then sped off toward a large boulder. With a grimacing sigh, Double Down narrowed his eyes, aimed, and fired. The running target dropped like lightning into the soft sand.

While his back was turned, the driver crept in quietly and tackled Double Down to the ground. They rolled around exchanging grunts and fists until the gun hurled from his hand and landed next to the truck’s tire. Both men wrestled in the dirt, pulling and tearing at each other’s clothes.

Ketchum squeezed the guard rail and froze. He wasn’t sure what to do or how to do it. The driver landed an elbow into Double Down’s jaw, knocking him onto his stomach. His friend moaned and swayed while trying to shake off the blow and get back on his feet. The guard grabbed a large rock and raised it over Double Down’s head. As he was ready to strike, Ketchum jumped off the truck, picked up the pistol, and fired without hesitation.

The blast reverberated across the desert into a desolate canyon and back. The smoke swiftly dissipated into the parched air. Double Down crawled over on the ground to examine the body for a heartbeat. There was none. He rose to his feet and removed the gun from Ketchum’s hands. “Thanks for saving my life.” Without saying another word, he dragged the dead bodies over to the large boulder and hid them both out of sight.

Ketchum stood shellshocked and stoic as he watched the corpses slither away. Any innocence that was left of his youth was forever lost in the moment, seeming to follow in the shadows of the two dead bodies and bury itself in the sand. His eyes trailed Double Down as he returned and got in the vehicle. All the while, he said nothing and ignored the tears that lingered but would not drop. What was there to say? 

“Let’s get out of here before somebody comes,” Double Down said as he started the engine. His voice brought Ketchum out of his trance, triggering him to instinctively move around to the other side, open the door and hop in.

They plugged in the GPS coordinates for the Indian Reservation and drove away. Traveling on the main roads was too risky so they veered off onto dirt paths or abandoned fields whenever possible. A few dilapidated buildings scarred the landscape, clinging to what was left of wrought iron frames and crumbling piles of mortar. A helicopter crossed overhead at one point and hovered above. Double Down picked up a ball cap with the Dunes logo from the seat and waved it out the window until the chopper flew away.

A few minutes into the drive, Ketchum peered out over the endless array of eroding mesas and quietly said, “I suppose our lives will never be the same again.”

Double Down glanced at his compadre before returning his gaze back to the road ahead. He’d already had his chance to make something of himself in this world, but Ketchum’s life had been cut short before it’d even started. There weren’t going to be any pool parties, extravagant gifts, or excursions on a yacht in his future. Nor was he likely to ever find a true love or see his family again. The prospects made him weep inside but he did his best not to show it. “I’d say we’re marked men for sure. I don’t know how you recover from that.” He reached over, rubbed Ketchum’s full head of hair, and added, “But there’s a new self-defense clause in the Constitution that makes it legal to shoot someone in pretty much any situation. It’s our word against theirs, and since there were no video feeds streaming up to the Intranet, and since they’re dead…,” he glanced over and winked before finishing his thought, “…I guess we can say whatever we want. Sooo, anything’s possible.”

Ketchum gingerly nodded and gazed out over the horizon. After a few minutes, he asked, “So, what’s Soylent Green?”

Double Down snickered up a smile with a small grunt thrown in while recalling the memories. “It was an old movie from the twentieth century, probably a hundred years ago, I guess, where food was scarce and the world was overpopulated and dying ― you know, real dystopian shit. Anyway, at the end of the film, the detective figures out that the food they’ve been eating is people. He yells at the top of his lungs, “Soylent Green is people, Soylent Green is people!”

Ketchum rocked his head back and forth while declaring, “Boy, that gives new meaning to the phrase ‘going green.’”

“Where do you think those shamrock shakes come from?” A rosy grin emerged on Double Down’s face as they both laughed.

About the Book:

The Second Civil War of 2033 changed the landscape of American politics forever, forcing citizens to reimagine a society overrun by crime, greed, poverty, and aggression. Turning conventional logic on its head, every eighteen-year-old now receives a million dollars in lieu of traditional healthcare, Social Security, and Medicare. Political divisiveness has been diffused by assigning everybody as a Front-Loader or Back-Ender, depending on how they want to live and when they take their million dollars. Corporations now handle all governmental functions, saving taxpayers money while cleansing the internet of misinformation and immoral values. What could possibly go wrong?  

It’s eighty-four years after 1984, and the story centers around an FBI agent named Edgar Gorman, who has recently lost his soulmate to illness. His life spirals out of control after a computer glitch rewrites his history. Along the way, he meets a young teenage boy named Ketchum, who also finds himself on the wrong side of the law. After being swindled out of his newfound fortune by a beautiful girl, Ketchum enters into “Zero Sum Conclusion.” Edgar’s and Ketchum’s lives collide and, by joining forces, they eventually save each other.

Zero Sum Conclusion is a futuristic, satirical exploration into the political, religious, and social landscapes of today — and what might become of America if we continue on the path we’re currently hurtling down.

Purchase links:

About the Author:

author photo of Thomas LopinskiThomas grew up in a quaint small town in Illinois called Georgetown, which had one stoplight, one high school, one square, one lake, one police car and one hundred ways to get into trouble. It was a wonderful place to be a child. He studied at the University of Illinois and later moved to Southern California with his family to work in the music industry. 

In Southern California, he’s had a successful career in the Film & TV Music Licensing field with Warner Bros., Universal Records and the Walt Disney Company. After the birth of his triplet daughters, Lopinski focused on writing literature and joined a writer’s group made up of his peers in the music industry. 

In 2012, he self-published his first novel, “Document 512,” which won recognition and awards from Reader Views, Foreword Review, National Indie Excellence Awards and Best Indie Books. His second novel “The Art of Raising Hell” was published through Dark Alley Press in 2015 and won Best Young Adult Novel through Best Indie Books and was a semi-finalist for Best Literary Novel through Kindle Book Awards. 

In 2022, Thomas released an album of original songs called “Unfinished Business” under the pseudo name “Pinski Thomas”. The album can be found and purchased on Spotify, iTunes and BandCamp. 

Thomas is also a member of the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) and has been a cancer survivor since 2006.