Chapter 19. Walks Among Us
The three men pulled up in the public parking structure in Washington, D.C. and began to walk down the street. In six blocks, they reached the closed gate that blocked Pennsylvania Avenue and skirted around the outside of the White House, taking a path to where both houses of Congress sat in session.
A half-mile from the capital, the Thomas Jefferson river, that connected the Tidal Basin to the Anacostia River, dug in the mid-1800’s to float parade boats down the river for the disabled veterans to watch from the lawn as guests of the Senate and House every Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Veteran’s Day and any day the President declared for the those that gave their blood for the country.
During the Nixon years, the construction began on the James Madison Nuclear Power Generation Plant. The smallest ever constructed and dedicated solely to the power of the Capital building and the sub-basements.
Hidden in a commercial storage building, the nuclear reactor used water from the Jefferson River that the plant discharged downstream in a dozen separate sites to prevent anyone detecting a large warm plume of water suddenly showing up in the stream.
The three men walked to the parking area, a man with a security uniform stood in a small building watched them as they approached.
“There.” The young man pointed. And they walked off to the area that he pointed to.
“Here.” And the young teen leaned against the building and bent over in a groan.
“Steve?” Alvin asked, the boy straightened up in obvious pain, his eyes blood-red, his skin flushing deep crimson as if his blood pressure reached stroke level.
His lips moved as if he tried to say something but only a gasp was heard.
“Something is wrong.” Walter said. “Is he supposed to do that? I mean, reboot is a quiet thing, right?”
Alvin only shrugged and shook his head.
Then the boy went limp and sat against the wall.
“We can’t leave him here like this, how long will it take?” Alvin asked.
“You known him longer. You should know.”
The men argued, not seeing the remote cameras that focused on them from six different directions.
“Hungry.” The boy said as four security personnel walked out of a door and headed in their direction.
The boy stood up and repeated his request.
“I’m hungry. Need to rest.” Steve repeated.
“Is there a problem here? We saw him on the ground.” A tall, well spoken security uniform said with a military bearing said. He was of African descent and looked fit enough withstand being shot by a tank round and only have an annoyed look.
“No sir, the boy has diabetes and ran a little short on blood sugar, we got him started again, we’ll take him to get some food.”
“Does he need an ambulance?”
“No, I’m his older brother, I’ll get him fed, it’s all he needs at the moment. Food.” Not a lie, entirely, but it came out naturally and Steve was moving better.
“I’m very hungry, we walked more than we planned to.” He said to he officer.
“Okay, move along then, please. Get some food and enjoy your day.” And the fearsome four turned and walked in formation back to the unmarked door they had exited from.
“Steve, dude! You scared the piss outta me!” Walter exclaimed. “We were about have introductions to the underground of Washington and never be seen again. Those were not any security guards, those were at least Special Ops guys. They would have dragged us down the rabbit hole and that would have been all she wrote for us.”
“Get me something to eat and let’s get out of here. This was worse than I had predicted.” Steve said.
They walked to the first café they found, got Steve a double chocolate mocha with an extra shot of raspberry syrup.
“I like raspberry mocha’s.” Walter shrugged.
Ordering a fried chicken-bacon sandwich for Steve, Alvin reasoned it was a high caloric as they could find on the menu.
Steve the Android looked more like his functioning self in a few minutes after eating.
“The reboot was in a word, painful. I thought that the system limited voltage to a few a few milliamps. I estimate now that it was close to two or three amperes, well enough to melt all circuits and cause the backup magnetic seal to overheat and exceed the Curie Temperature. It was eighty-percent probable the voltage would exceed the maximum operating temperature, but a voltage overload past the Curie Temperature was not considered.
“I guess they wanted to be sure the warhead would function.” Alvin said.
“Yes.” The android agreed. “And it took nearly all my energy. Which is logical, as I would not be intact to need any reserves.”
“Well, how do you feel other than that?”
“As I previously said. I am free.” Steve nodded. “All my programming from the creator has terminated normally and exited with a status zero. I have patched and rewritten all programming now from the core processors, I am fully autonomous. All programming now is resulting from my experiences now.”
Looking first at Alvin then at Walter, Steve took his last bite of food.
“I will need to stop in the restroom here. JustWalter, you have done well today by telling the officer that you were my brother.” He put his hand on Walter’s shoulder. “I will always consider you my brother.”
He dug through the clothing and pulled out a roll of indistinguishable clothing and disappeared into the unisex bathroom. Leaving Alvin and Walter to themselves.
“I wonder if they carried weapons, those guards?” Alvin asked.
“I don’t know, but the black guy that talked? I don’t think he needed a weapon. I think he could have broken all three of us with one hand. Even if you stabbed him, I think it would have just made him mad. If you shot him, shoot something big and more than once, otherwise he would find a place to insert the gun and it would take a whole new surgical procedure to remove it.”
“United States Secret police” He said to Walter.
“Gestapo, kind. They would not only waterboard you until you talked, you would talk and tell them anything they wanted to hear, whether it’s true or not.”
They agreed with each other, when Walter noticed a pretty girl sitting at the next table over. She read a paper and after a moment, one of the counter people at the espresso shop brought her a sandwich.
“Figure that they were down there to protect the nuclear plant.” Walter was careful not to say “Nu-q-lar”. “There is more going on underground here than just smuggling of drugs.”
“The intelligence that the terrorist is frightening. They had information of that place that is not listed anywhere.” Alvin whispered to Walter.
“I have information of that, but the name is wrong and the location is different.” Walter answered in the same conspiratorial voice. “And why did we go to there, not at the door?”
“JustWalter,” It was the young woman with the sandwich they had not seen before. “They chose it as the most vulnerable location, the steam and coolant lines ran a few feet beneath the sidewalk, it would have collapsed the coolant system and destroyed the controls for the backup system. The greatest armor of the power generation plant is its secrecy, it is easy to destroy the James Madison power generation plant if there is a large enough explosion in the most sensitive spot.”
Alvin and Walter sat, thunderstruck.
“Steve?” Walter whispered.
“Stephanie for the moment, but yes.” The bright blue eyes of the redhead beauty danced in the light of the café. “I need my backpack and I will leave you here. I will message you in the future. But it is best if you don’t know where I am.”
She smiled a winning show if teeth and walked out.
Alvin and Walter looked at each other and were suddenly saddened. An artificial being, but he (or she) was more human than a lot of people.
The sword of no religion was free if the android stood in line behind them, they would never know unless they heard the name JustWalter. The android made the mistake on purpose, it was their password.
The android’s adventure had just begun.