2 Seconds…

2 Seconds Cover
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Two Seconds… 

 

 

 

T-Minus 5.4×10¹² seconds

 

Near the core of the stellar object in a later age called Sol, eight-hundred billion tons of hydrogen reacted in the pressure and the heat fused the nuclei to create helium and gamma rays. The high energy photons created began the random walk to the surface. Absorbed and re-emitted at a lower energy each time, the photons made the slow walk to the surface of the sun.

In the times before the creations of humankind orbited the earth, flew the sky or rolled along roads. Long before any human ever walked along a river and pressed their footprint into the mud along a shoreline. The energy packets as gamma rays began the travel through the dense core of the star that would become known as Sol.

 

T-Minus 4,162,752,000 Seconds

 

Late one night in the year 1880, a woman moaned in pain. midwives walked about as the birth pains continued. William Harley paced outside the door. Few times he dared to pull on the handle to peek inside, then had his life threatened by the women inside.

One of the three men that stood watch with the soon-to-be father, Rev. Frances Knight patted William on the shoulder. “Will be over soon, by the sound of it. The babe is almost here.”

“It was a good Christmas, this will top the holidays.”

Robert Valance joked, “She’ll never let you back in the bedchambers Will, less than twelve years and five children. She will do you such harm as to make a new chapter in the Good Book.”

Frances laughed. “I doubt that, Robert, she is a good church woman.”

The sound of a baby’s cries announced the arrival of a new life to the men outside the door.

“Congratulations William.” Francis smiled. A moment more…

The door opened and interrupted the Reverend as a woman stepped out with the newborn.

“It’s a boy.”

William smiled wide. “William Sylvester will be his name. I have named him after myself and Mary’s father.”

As the boy-child grew, he met another young man with a curious mind and an active imagination with the talent to design and build what he had in his mind.

Inventions of fish-line winders were always in the young Arthur’s mind. They loved to fish and laugh, the two boys were best of friends always. Even the times they argued, it would always end in respect and laughter as they shared their lives and secrets between each other.

One spring afternoon, Author and William ran out to watch a man rode up and down the street on a noisy contraption, a “motor cycle” he called it. The excitement grew in their souls and sounds of the two-wheeled infernal machine inspired the boys with a passion for things to come.

In years of college that came, the younger William impressed his professors and teachers of his knack with the mechanical talent above many of his peers. The dream from what he had seen with his best friend, Arthur, still lived in his heart.

Together the boys grew into intelligent and courageous men who started a company that would inspire heroes and villains alike on the way to become legend.

 

T-Minus 3,437,424,000 Seconds

 

Harley-Davidson Motorcycles was born of little more than a handshake, and a gentleman’s honor between two best friends, then business partners. To this end, they achieved both respect and honors of those that worked for them through the years, two world wars and into the future.

In the war with Pancho Villa, the military purchased some of the boys’ (Now grown to men.) Machines. A colonel who rode with his troops was very impressed by possible uses of the motor-powered bikes to get messages from one site to another in a hurry.

World War I — the Great War, came to the fore. The military with its long memory ordered thousands, and by the close of the war, numbered more than fifteen-thousand of William and Arthur’s motorcycles with the new V-twin arranged engines.

Life improved as the employees respected the owners and the employees worked the best that they could to build products that they would want to own themselves.

World War II, the war that followed the War-To-End-All-Wars and the government called upon Harley-Davidson once again to produce the legend they had before.

William and Arthur were more than capable and happy to oblige. They increased the power of the V-twin time and again, the iron horse was no longer on rails, but rubber tires and now could be ridden.

However, William did not live to see the end of the war. A conflict that both saddened him and made his company famous.

After a long hard year of contract negotiations and sure that they filled all their obligations. William played golf to relax after a very stressful day that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor. William never returned, his time ended with sudden cardiac arrest.

William Harley was 1,996,444,800 seconds old.

 

T-Minus 2,175,984,000 seconds.

 

The company’s reputation spread as the power of the engines grew and the nickname of “Hog” that had begun as a race team now became a common reference to the large motorcycles.

Discharged soldiers found that the freedom of the road was ever more pleasant with the powerful and dependable motorcycle from the once best of friends that dreamed of machines were best of friends as business partners. Harley-Davidson Motorcycles were the most desired of all the big machines by a generation that had lived through horrors of death and destruction unmatched in history.

 

T-Minus 1,923,696,000 seconds

 

For years, after Bill passed away from a heart attack, Arthur had stayed the course of his motorcycle company on the same business track as he, William and the rest of the Davidson crew chosen years before, together. Bill lived to honor his best friend and increased the depth and breadth of the company that they had started so long ago.

Five days after Christmas 1950, Arthur and his wife, Clara, left the house in the car. Ice on the roads had melted, in the shadows of trees, water refroze into a surface smoother than glass. While Arthur was a careful driver, not so the driver of the pickup truck that slid around the corner on the icy pavement and hit them, driver side headlight to driver side headlight at less than twenty-five miles-per-hour. Arthur’s car careened off the road and came to rest against a tree. Hard interior surfaces with sharp corners did more damage to the human occupants than the impact of the accident and the unexpected death of Arthur Davidson was felt throughout the motorcycle community.

Arthur was 2,201,904,000 seconds old.

In 2008, Harley-Davidson produced motorcycle number 1HD1DJV131Y 584344, the skills of the company were not wasted on the powerful machine. It was perfect only when the thirty-year veteran inspector, David Oliver “Papa DOK” Kraig deemed it so. On the computerized display, the power curves that the engine put out were not just within limits, but perfect.

After a brake check and this newest of additions to the H-D family received the pronouncement “Perfect” by Chris “Eliminator” Thanatos. A six-foot four-inch frame that was always in a dark mood, he was without mercy as he placed a red-tag of rejection on any product that was marginal in test limits. A strict personal need and a meticulous eye for flaws made for many employees on the assembly line to flinch. When it came to this OCD employee’s inspections – It was perfect or it never saw the light of day.

One-hundred-percent pass score, one of the names that the employees labeled this new iron horse “P.H.” or “Perfect Hog”.

Shipped with care out west. It sat on the sales lot until a young man who William would have been proud of sat astride it and smiled. Russell Fletcher’s dark eyes looked over the chrome that William and Arthur’s old company had given birth to.

Before the hour was up, Russell was on the road with his prized new possession.

A life of glory on the most glorious machine of the year, Russell laughed every night he rode.

And Russell rode a lot.

 

T-Minus 2,775,168,000 Seconds

 

LucilleMay Adler born to George and Ethel grew up in Chicago on the poorest side of town. George was a warehouseman and had never had much time for his family. A heavy drinker by the time that Lucy was in her mid-teens. He died when he drove into a tree on his way home. Ejected from the car, the intoxicated father struck his head on the hard ground and died right there from his injuries.

Lucy and her mother moved to California where her aunt Lewellyn suggested where she became involved with a young man who went to school. He impressed Lucy with his clear blue eyes and aspirations. The young man often would take Lucy on rides in the country as they sat with picnics under his favorite trees along the Marin headlands.

He tried to farm crops, but Joshua Sprecks failed and was now stuck with the land in hills of the southern bay area, they struggled for years until a builder made an offer to buy some land so a home could be built.

Joshua paused, pondered, then refused the offer. Instead, he spoke with an employee who helped him and in turn they looked into construction of three houses which sold for a large profit.

In the years that followed, Joshua found he had talents in the business of home and subdivision design. With a good relationship with the local inspectors, Joshua Sprecks made life comfortable for his family. He chose schools that the children would attend as father blazed the trail and returned to school himself. Joshua graduated and, in time, became an architect of some renown in the area.

Soon after the first of Lucy’s four children were born. Lucy developed an addiction to Valium, a common problem first decade’s prescription of the drug. Most of the women in her church were very much addicted to the Valium class of medications, and an active trade developed within the group as the hoarders would sell among the women that needed it at the moment.

One springtime afternoon, everyone had arrived at home from school with chores finished. The day was warm and beautiful and a wonderful time for the young. Joshua Junior promised he would be careful, Lucy’s smiled and allowed her eldest son to take the family car and drive his younger brother and two sisters to the store for sodas. Joshua Junior was always very careful at the wheel of the car, Lucy was always careful to teach him of his responsibilities. Lessons that he took to heart, always.

However, the drunk driver that collided with them had no such guidance.

The light in Lucy’s eyes dimmed as she never quite recovered after they buried four of her five children. The sole survivor of the accident that took the lives of all the children was the youngest who had to stay home to do homework.

Josh Sr. took the next offer of his three-hundred-acre ranch and bought land in the Lake Tahoe area away from the metropolitan growth around their orchards. It seemed unfair to Joshua Sprecks who had no wish to stay in the area where his children died at the hands of a man who paid just a month’s worth of salary in fines.

 

T-Minus 1,608,336,000 Seconds

 

Russell Fletcher, born to James “Fletch” Fletcher and his wife, Mitsu, in Tokyo, Japan.

A young life that started with his father’s business in full operation. Fletch had a knack to turn companies on the verge of failure into successful enterprises and would then sell them. All his life, he was a fixer.

Russell learned much under his father’s tutelage. After he Graduated college, the young Fletcher started a business of food delivery to community elders after he had cooked for his grandparents in the last few years of their lives. The growth in the food system was explosive, soon outpaced Russell’s ability to hire new employees and get them trained.

Russell became known to have his father’s golden touch. He developed a skill to negotiate a fair price on services for the company, he expanded into other communities and got concessions of tax credits for the good will he had created in the company as his “Wheels of Hope” brought smiles to those that could not go to the stores and buy food items.

In the end-of-year holidays, Russell’s company delivered Christmas dinners to lists of families, food donated by local businesses, drivers dressed as elves and Russell made his mark on how business ran in the state. It was his personality and his father’s lessons that taught other companies to conduct themselves and not be ruthless.

Never could he teach the political parties the same lesson, in time even Russell gave up on politicians with back-room deals.

He turned his back on the games that are politics. He found that his amount of goodwill was ignored in large part and he began to feel the weight of taxes that politicians crafted for his style of business and stringent rules that became law that governed his delivery vehicles.

After a legal challenge, and a judge who found that such restrictions unconstitutional, Russell sold his stake in the company he had founded a few years before and moved on and started a new company that excelled in performance once again.

Freedom became his greatest business, taught inner-city kids and kept them from prisons. Once again he built a business with the power of goodwill that spread beyond his dreams and expectations.

Still, he felt he needed more. In the world of success and parties, there was one problem.

He was alone.

 

T-Minus 1,545,264,000 Seconds

 

Lluvia “Lulu” was born to Roberto and Delores De Soto while the most intense storm of the season thundered outside. Descended from Hernandez De Soto, she inherited a soul for exploration.

Never one to back down from a challenge she met each one with a quick wit and a laugh. Beauty sparkled in her eyes as she looked upon the world. As a child she would be found in trees she climbed – much to the chagrin of mother Delores who tried to teach this girl how to behave like a girl.

But with Lulu, it was all futile.

Once when teased by the boys, Roberto heard screams of fury and knew, Lulu was beyond angry. The father of eight put down his tools, and walked around the house. There, Roberto found that his Lulu of the sonrisas, pushed beyond her limit of temper by her brothers.

She had her four brothers treed.

Roberto laughed in spite of himself.

The four older brothers had pelted Lulu with fruit as she had come home from school in her new dress that her Mama made.

The result:

A temper that never broke without reason, this day did. Fury, like the tornadoes that could scour the earth clean of soil and asphalt across the middle of America, she had bloodied the nose of one brother and all had climbed the tree they had picked fruit from.

Lulu had pushed the ladder onto its side and now carried an ax to where her brothers sat trapped. The girl with the pretty smile, had tears and murder in her eyes.

The elder De Soto called Lulu over and calmed her. Mother De Soto would be furious when she got into the house, Lulu cried on her papa’s arms.

“Mi bebé, I shall take care of that now, your brothers will pay that penalty. Just do not cut down this tree, please? It produces fruit for our crops and it would be years before a new one I would plant to reach a productive age.”

In the weeks that followed, Lulu laughed as the brothers learned how to sew and created for her and her three sisters dresses that matched. Sewn to the microscopic standards of Delores De Soto, it took the four boys a year to get it right.

The brothers received brutal teases from their friends that lasted longer than the year that they learned to sew “Like a girl”.

In years to come, Carlos, the middle brother, became a well-known clothier and influential designer of fashion as he grew up. He incorporated with his name on a high rise in New York at the age of 630,720,000 seconds, his name was soon a desired label.

 

T-minus 950,354,000 seconds.

 

Lulu entered college, the first of the De Soto siblings, with some challenges in her grades she did not get into the colleges she wished for. She learned to learn at the local college, she met a girl who would become one of her closest friends. CarlaAnn was a dreamer, planner and rule-bender. A girl who was fun to do things with.

Together they got in occasional trouble but never serious enough for the police to ever press charges. Just once did the girls have to sit in the police station and wait for their parents to come pick them up.

CarlaAnn laughed as she whispered to Lulu.

“That was awesome!”

Lulu laughed, A month grounded? They had set off the fire alarm at the hotel and people ran out in various stages of undress. It was so worth it.

Lulu and Carla began a business together of rodeo outfits until CarlaAnn met Jack, an older boy who CarlaAnn was in love with, who convinced her to buy Lulu out and expanded the business into motorcycle competition instead of just rodeo outfits. CarlaAnn allowed Jack to run the company with CarlaAnn and Lulu became sales representatives.

Lulu met with many of the race teams and promoted her friend’s company.

After several months Jack became the head of the company and would direct all day-to-day operations. Sometimes it seemed the company shorted Lulu or would be very late to pay Lulu her salary, but CarlaAnn just made excuses. As weeks went by, CarlaAnn  lost her ability to people in the eyes, even more so her best friend, Lulu.

Then it began. A slight discoloration of CarlaAnn’s face that could not be covered by make-up would worry Lulu, but her best friend would never let on what happened.

Then CarlaAnn began to slip rolls of hundred-dollar bills into Lulu’s purse and whisper.

“Don’t tell Jack. Please.”

At one rodeo, Lulu sat with a horse owner while they talked about equipment that his company sought to purchase. Barrels, saddles. Many saddle-makers had lined up when the rumor (started by Lulu herself to test the waters) that CarlaAnn’s company moved into distribution of more equipment at a reasonable price.

Lulu met Russell at one autumn car show.

She met with a horse owner, Harold Stepkin, invited a handsome young man and introduced him to Lulu. With ebony eyes that sparkled with humor, an exotic look and a brilliant mind, Russell Fletcher attracted Lulu right away. In turn, when he looked at her, the world went silent.

Dark of eye and quick of wit. She enthralled him in an instant.

Well on her way to make an impact in alternate power sources for big vehicles. She promoted her best friend’s company then lost the subject while she talked with him.

Two weeks later Russell bought Lulu dinner and they talked long hours after the sun set. The restaurant closed around them and they left with the employees.

In the months that followed, Jack’s mismanagement took a toll on CarlaAnn. No longer did the two women travel together or were known as the party girls to known to sell needed equipment.

Lulu was paid in full by CarlaAnn’s company while Jack failed to make other payments required by the government. Instead Jake spent money on other dubious activities.

Quietly, Lulu returned the rolls of hundred-dollar bills from the accumulated pile to CarlaAnn after Jack went to prison and CarlaAnn’s acquittal. The court found Jack had used the resources of the company and had a role in corrupt activities in the local community.

After CarlaAnn’s business dissolved, Lulu and Russell were never apart more than an afternoon in the years that followed.

The spring that followed, Lulu’s father, Roberto passed away hours after he watched his bebé marry the boy with almond eyes and an honest heart. The bittersweet day would be remembered by both families for generations.

Seven years later, Mama Delores married a green-eyed Celt with quick wit and a voice like distant thunder.

While they settled in, children were born to the newlyweds while they started their next generation. Russell moved his growing family to the high desert area south of Reno. They loved to visit, but not live in, the snows of Tahoe to the west. He took Lulu often to ride around the jewel the mountains.

 

T-Minus 14,400 seconds

 

One summers day, on his beloved Harley-Davidson, Mister and Missus Fletcher enjoyed the weather that midsummer offered. The neighbors watched the children as they spent their anniversary on the back of an iron horse and freedom in their hearts.

At the dwarf-yellow star that humans now call Sol, photon packets that spent the last thousand-centuries in the slow random walk from the core of the sun was now a lot less energetic.

Photons, randomized now into what had become known as visible light began to move faster as the hot gasses thinned enough to allow the photons to reach speeds associated with light. Ten-percent, then twenty, fifty-percent of the speed of light in a vacuum the EM radiation began to move to the universal speed limit.

 

T-minus 10,800 seconds.

 

On earth, the eighty-cubic inch V-twin engine rumbled in good tune. A header pipe that Russell had plumbed into a high-efficiency muffler improved the fuel consumption, gave more power— and less noise— was the song of freedom for the couple that rode on the full-dressed motorcycle.

The sounds of the wind, the intercom they used to talk with while they wore their helmets. All the details that represented their closeness.

It also gave Lulu, the beautiful wife, teacher and mother, a titan in a tiny body, reason to hold onto the man that she called “Husband”.

Not that she ever needed a reason to hold him, it was a perk while she rode on the back of their favorite steed.

The midnight-blue of the paint glittered with faint scratches that were long earned with thousands of laps around the blue mountain lake.

Russell once estimated they had driven the circumference of the earth on the mountain roads that circumnavigated the twenty-two-mile long lake. It was a trip the happy-camper couple made often. They slept on the shores of the lake in the many campgrounds maintained by the Federal and State Agencies.

The sky was blue with broken clouds, the chill of the mountain air tickled the hearts of the couple that escaped life’s grind and pain of the wife-come-teacher and the businessman-husband that was their work week.

They wound their way through the forest as they followed the black strip of asphalt and the dashed lines, Russell told a joke about a mason and his union, who got stonewalled.

Lulu laughed into the intercom like a dutiful wife while she rolled her eyes at the stupid joke.

Lunch at their favorite stop, “Ian’s”, seafood grilled over an open fire, the perfect break for the mid-day meal. They sat on a balcony and overlooked lake waters so clear, that it could give cause a fear of heights if one looked down to the bottom of the jewel of the Sierra Nevada.

An hour and a quarter of fresh bread, fish, grilled red baby potatoes and wine by Ian Mehretu, the owner and cook in the tiny, lakeside eatery.

Russell paid the bill and the two walked out of the restaurant and held hands as they headed to where Harrison the Hog waited for them with the patience of machines.

Helmets on, the intercom plugged in, the big engine rumbled to life and the day held fewer clouds in the sky as they merged into traffic of the high-mountain community main road.

They had a long trip ahead of them to their favorite mountain lookout and then back home.

 

T-Minus 500 Seconds

 

Energy.

It boils and seethes on the surface of Sol, the gas heated by the high energy photons that kept the plasma illuminated with the glow of unimaginable heat from the core of the sun. Energy generated a hundred-thousand years before this day, radiated out towards the surface of the sun in the slow, random walk, and transferred heat to the material along the way.

On the surface of the sun, photons were freed from the surface traveled unfettered through space at lights natural speed. A blue, green and white marble that orbited Sol was just a small speck at this distance as the photons sped away from the star that had given them birth. The electromagnetic packets of energy reached three-hundred thousand kilometers-per-second an instant after they passed through the photosphere.

While the photons traveled towards the single planet in the system known to harbor life and a couple rumbled down the road on their motorcycle, Lucy Sprecks got into her car. She was now 2,840,122,800 seconds old. Joshua, her brilliant star of her life, had passed away years before. And at this time of her life, Lucy just went and donated time to charity work and her church.

To share her love of the good book became the one reason she left the house these days. Her own child visited on rare occasions, busy with his own life.

Long passed her addictions of prescription medications, Lucy now drank her bottle of wine each lunch time and she looked forward to today’s lunch with her friends. Edna supplied more wine than any of the Society of Lady Druids.

Lucy was certain she would convert the heart of Edna to the true path of Christian religion. Then a sudden memory!

“I forgot my bible!” Sighed Lucy. She pulled over and double checked in her oversized purse. It was not there, nor was the passage she had copied out for Edna to read. She needed to turn around and go back home. She loved her big car, the Mercedes made her feel safe, but it was difficult to perform tight maneuvers with Lucy just able to look over the dashboard of the powerful German-built car.

In space, waves of EM radiation, the photons given birth tens of thousands of years before, now closed the distance at the cosmic speed limit and sped to their destination on earth.

 

T-Minus 300 Seconds

 

They rode along at the speed limit, Russell and Lulu talked about lunch at the North shore of the lake, Ian had done an extra good job this time.

Russell had his open-faced helmet on so the conversation was easier for him. Lulu wore a full face helmet with a stout chin guard with a gem-light just above the eye line. The light allowed Lulu to read map sections taped to the back of his helmet at night. Lulu’s helmet was very expensive and lightweight, made from such materials that would make a NASA test pilot envious.

They laughed together at a joke, they passed a state patrol car that sat on the side the of the road, the officer inside did paperwork of a recent citation. Russell, like everyone else on that section of road, checked his speed at that moment. Lulu laughed at her husband, he was just at the speed limit anyway, and yet he still backed off the throttle a little.

“No need to slow down old man!” A Jab in the side with her thumb. “You drive like a grampa anyway!” Her voice clear in the electronic mini-earbud built into the helmet that then in turn connected to the motorcycle’s audio system.

Two miles ahead, Lucy found her bible. She had tucked it into her blouse pocket. She did not have to make the ten-mile trip back home and be late for lunch after all! Now, Edna would not have wait to have her soul saved.

Or at least Lucy would try to save Edna’s soul –again.

Lucy pulled over and let the big trucks pass. The next place to turn was another three-miles, this spot would be good enough for a U-turn if she just did it quick.

Traffic was a pestilence as Lucy waited, she remembered the days when her husband would drive them in their old car – then itself was a jewel, a Kaiser Darrin, sporty, windy with the top down and it was the most expensive purchase Joshua made.

She brought herself back from distraction of the thought as the wine was waited for her in large enough amounts to improve the day for even the dour Katarina Kurk, the German woman who was face-hurt-from-laughter funny when she had a half-bottle of wine in her.

Katarina, once an actress and comedian in her old country, she had retired first to California, then to the Nevada side of the lake. She hated everyone that were not her friends, it would take her several meet-ups to warm up to any person.

Katarina would not even crack a smile, even when she watched reruns of Abbott and Costello on the newest television she could afford. Although the woman had long retired, she would buy new household items every-other year. None of the furniture in her house was more than two years old. Kat never batted an eye for spills on her sofa or chairs, she just replaced it.

Rumor was that her most loved furniture remained in a house in Los Angeles for when she wanted to entertain her old friends in Hollywood.

Here, in the high-mountains, she was a party animal from the old-school ways. Able to drink many men under the table.

Few tried, most were frightened of Kat, she was a happy drunk, but her temper flared like a volcanic blast if she was ever annoyed. Katarina was famous in the local community as a senior who beat a would-be armed robber that raided a grocery store while she shopped. One of the two ruffians held a machete in her face and she proceeded to cudgel the young man unconscious with a stick of dry salami. His partner ran up to assist, Kat used the same salami stick to crush the second guy’s testicles with a blow that security cameras recorded that the shop owner released online.

A late night talk-show host invited Katarina to sit and talk, which led to more movie offers, most of which she turned down.

And then, there was the rogue-ish secretary that worked for Katarina.

Tall, rugged, the ginger-haired assistant played winemaster when the ladies met, and had arms that both Edna and Lucy loved to touch. He never complained and always kept their glasses and bottles fresh and full.

If ever he complained about sexual harrassment, Kat never said.

The women’s coffee klatch was Lucy’s favorite time of the week.

All five of them.

And then Sunday, too!

It was a great day, Lucy thought and smiled.

 

 T-Minus 60 Seconds

 

Lucy became impatient, traffic lined up and unbroken for a few minutes — too many. She was impatient and irritable. Not for the first time she swore at the numbers of people around the lake that Joshua loved, and died in while he fished. She longed for the days where you could drive for an hour and not see a single soul.

A break in the traffic in the opposite direction showed itself. Lucy would take it. Traffic came at her from in front, she timed the arrival of no cars in the direction she wanted to go.

In space, the photons crossed the orbit of Venus, sped on at the speed of light on the way to Earth. Many of the photons would be absorbed by dust, debris and even reflected away by satellites before they entered the atmosphere of the sole planet to have been absolute in the discovery of life on its surface.

One-thousand one-hundred meters away from Lucy and her new Mercedes that all the women were jealous of, Russell and Lulu laughed over the intercom when she slid her hands under his jacket and over the chest she knew so well and always enjoyed her husband’s body, and any chance she could touch him? She would.

Even more so if it was an inappropriate time and place, she enjoyed his reactions ever the more.

As a wife, she would walk arm in arm with her husband, often with her hand in his back pocket just so she could squeeze anytime her hand had a need.

As a mother, she loved her children more than life itself. Lulu was known to run over rattlesnakes with her truck if there were any in the areas of the hundred-acre desert backyard that served as the children’s playground.

Russell had his own fun with the girl of the dark eyes and black hair that moved in with him, took his last name and gave him children that he loved most in this world.

Even more than his big v-twin motorcycle that he bought before they were married. It was the ride, he felt, that Lulu fell in love with him for.

Lulu had other ideas, most involved how Russell’s jeans fit around his hips.

But whatever the causes of the two soul mates to find each other, neighbors and family knew it was a love affair of legends.

Just a thousand yards ahead, LucyMay clenched her teeth in frustration, she hated traffic. Unable to admit that to drive the car had become more difficult for her, she would argue with everyone and anyone over the subject that her mind was as sharp as ever. Which was true, but age diminished her reflexes.

It was times like this that she never thought about the size and speed of highway traffic. She felt that her car was the speediest and safest on the road for a hundred miles in any direction.

An intersection on the highway almost nine-hundred yards away, a dozen Harley-Davidson motorcycles waited to turn and merge with the flow of traffic. Riders waved at the couple and Russell waved back in the common show of solidarity of two-wheeled riders have everywhere.

Destiny awaited the players who were in play.

In space, from the photon point of view, the earth separated from a bluish speck to two specks of the moon and earth.

 

T-Minus 15 Seconds

 

“Next time we come, let’s stay the night at the village?” Lulu asked. Russell knew the place she and nodded. A bed and breakfast house with a claw-footed tub in the room. A huge fireplace with wood stacked by the workers and an expansive view of the lake.

A hot tub on the balcony to watch the sunset over the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It was the perfect spot to spend time away and to themselves.

The memory of days past at that lakeview room made him smile.

In space, photons left the orbit of Venus behind and approached the orbit of the moon. At this distance, the moon little more than a bright spot near the blue disk of the earth, but the definition of the shape and distance became apparent as time ticked by.

Four-hundred meters ahead, a quarter-mile away, Lucy Sprecks, irritated and frustrated with the traffic, moved her right foot off the brake and moved it to the gas pedal, while she did the trick that her husband showed her years before, to use the left foot on the brake for a quick dash if she needed.

Lucy had picked up a few tricks over the years, she was an expert driver, no matter what the Motor Vehicle Nazi’s said. She had driven more years than the testers had been on this earth. She was not about to listen to the young’uns about changes in rules that had worked for years.

Seat belts! Heaven’s sakes. She never had seat belts as a child and she lived. But now, even that kind State Patrolman who talked to her at length, even if it seemed that he and his girlfriend partner camped out at the corner down from her gated driveway. He would pull her over before she even got to the stop sign down at the end of the street and lecture her.

Once again, she would put the seatbelt on. Even the cute little girl that carried more equipment than Lucy felt was needed, lectured her on a few occasions when her man-partner was not there.

“Are you two married?” Lucy asked once, “You should be, you make a cute couple.” She added when the young lady answered “No.”

One late afternoon after Lucy got another lecture from Officer Karen, Lucy sat at the stop sign an extra hundred feet down the street with the police car right behind her when a man from the place she had fled long ago with Joshua after the death of her children, had a seizure at the wheel when he entered the intersection that Lucy waited at.

He drifted over the line, the pickup truck with the big camper on the back went through the intersection and hit Lucy head-on as she sat still.

With airbags and seatbelts, Lucy walked away from the wreck with no more than a skinned nose.

Ran was more like it! The smoke from the airbags made her think that the car was on fire, her knees hurt, but she would have walked barefoot over children’s toy blocks rather than to burn to death.

Ever since that day, she had panicked and froze when she was startled. She even became unable to watch the news when it showed car crashes on the TV.

Ten times the moon’s distance away, photons closed the distance to the earth and moon had separated into two points of light, the brightest points at this distance, other than the sun almost one AU behind.

On the back of big motorcycle, Lulu talked into the microphone of plans with the children and a weekend on the lake with the entire family as they cruised along.

“Ugh!” A complaint from Russell interrupted Lulu, Russell suffered a direct hit by a butterfly to his shoulder that spread to his chest and cheek. He would need a shower.

Lulu offered to help, after the children went to bed, the tip of her finger played with the back of his neck, below the helmet.

Nevada Douglas County Fire Department Station 2315, Engineer Hank Kettleman stood up and looked at the Captain.

“That will not leak again this summer. All new parts.” Hank smiled as he pulled off the rubber-nitrile gloves and threw them into the can in the corner.

Captain Thomas nodded and looked down the drive as it opened out onto the highway, the sounds of a deep rumble, like an earthquake, but constant and it grew louder by the moment.

A group of motorcycles, Robert Thomas owned his fair share of iron horses and would never miss an opportunity to watch a club ride by.

As Bob watched the highway, he noted a late-model Mercedes to the right of the fog-line with its turn flasher on, but it was not in a turn lane, nor was there an intersection.

Bob had seen this before, a triple-fatality accident a few years before, teenagers in an old VW Bus pulled an illegal U-turn in the highway after a missed corner, the broad-side impact from the delivery truck split the teen’s car in half and spilled bodies out onto the pavement.

Two died at the scene, and the third, the driver, willed himself to death a few days later. No amount of medicine would save the soul who felt such guilt for the death of his own brother and girlfriend.

The length of a football field away, Russell and Lulu enjoyed their conversation while they drove the hour’s ride home with plans about dinner and a shower later.

The fun kind of shower, between two lovers. It was Saturday night, after all!

 

T-Minus 5 Seconds

 

Photons were less than four-times the distance from the moon as the moon was from the Earth. Raced at full speed in space, the fates guided the energy packets that were visible light.

On the highway, Russell had thoughts of dinner on the back patio of burgers that he would cook on the wood-fired grill outside. The smell of smoke was light in the air from the wildfires seventy-miles away mixed with pine scent of the forest filled the senses as they rode on the thunder-voiced Hog.

While on the motorcycle that Russell had named after an adventurous water-bird “Gertrude”, Lulu’s arms around him, she looked around at the mountains that gave her such joy to be among trees that dwarfed everything alive. She could see the bare stone above north shore where an avalanche stripped the mountainside clear of vegetation down to bare rock decades before and had not yet recovered.

Lulu leaned back, smiled and looked out over the sapphire-blue water of the twenty-two-mile long lake. Water so pure, even as it sat in the lake, open to the sky it would pass any health and any purity tests that a government body could perform. As pure and natural as it could be without chemicals to treat it.

Those that sailed on the waters of the lake were known to have occasional attacks of acrophobia, a fear of heights when they would look over the edge of the boats into the water. Such was the lake called Tahoe.

In some winters, parts the big lake would freeze and then the ice would make large piles on shore when storm winds blew. In summers the big lake was known to have waterspouts that danced on the water that would be featured in local headlines.

Over the lake, Lulu pointed out and began to fumble for her camera, a white-headed raptor circled on the hunt.

*Maybe* She thought. *If I get just a little lucky, I might get a shot of the eagle in a dive to catch a fish.*

Less than two football fields ahead, Lucy turned the wheel of the car as far as it would go and inched forward and began her turn. A big truck rumbled down the highway and blocked part of her view, but it looked clear behind the trailer so she could do her illegal U-turn.

Captain Thomas stood at the end of the ramp to the garage that housed his engine, watched for the thunderous group of Harley’s ride past. A curiosity of who rode through interested him. A few clubs were at constant odds and, on occasion, murdered each other.

Engineer Thomas cussed as he dropped a socket and it rolled under the wheeled tool-box he maintained at the garage for light maintenance of the fire equipment.

A break in the traffic in the direction that Lucy wanted to turn was a treasure that God had sent her and she would take it.

Russell slowed Gertrude the Hog and increased his distance from a semi-truck that had “Eat Organic” in a graphic painted on the back of the trailer and remembered to make a call later in the week on an investment that would boost a local organic farmer’s business.

“Honey, make a note to call Charlene tomorrow? I want to meet with her on a distribution idea.”

Lulu was focused on the eagle as the big bird circled as it searched for its next meal.

“Okay.” She sighed. “I can’t get the picture anyway.” As they approached a wide spot in the road, she saw a sedan on the shoulder of the highway.

Stonn “Hammer” Erikssen rolled on his custom-extreme modified motorcycle. A Harley-Davidson by heritage, but the engine that powered this two-wheeled fury, an engine built by the company named Orca Cycle Dominator, the second largest in the line, more horsepower than many cars generated and an enormous rear tire to put power to the ground kept his soul happy. Third in command of the small group of riders and watched the rider and passenger about a half-mile ahead as they closed on the pair.

From the photon’s point of view, the continents on the earth could be identified. At the universal speed limit, the ETA now?

A little four heartbeats.

 

T-Minus 3 Seconds

 

Twice the distance from the earth as the moon, photons closed the distance to the blue and white sphere that destiny had chosen for them. Of the many photons that left the photosphere of Sol, dust, satellites, Van Allen Belt and the associated quantum debris that flew around the photons that remained, approached the crossroads of fate.

Alongside the highway, Lucy saw the gap in the traffic and took her foot off of the brake of her luxury car and pressed on the throttle and she pulled out across the lanes in an illegal U-turn. It was perfect, a godsend to get on her way.

The big car spoke with its authority and crossed the lanes of traffic…

And stopped! She jammed her foot down onto the brake pedal, and avoided an accident by the narrowest of margins with a car that turned left – she had not seen the turn signal on the old junker driven by an even older man. Then Lucy took her foot off the brake and began forward again more slowly and crossed into the lanes midway and tried to figure out if she still had enough space to merge into the lane of traffic, then when she looked back Lucy realized the headlight of a motorcycle was close.

Too close!

Fire Station 2315 still had the garage doors open, two bays, two type-3 engines stocked with first aid equipment, now warmed up with the vehicle checks. Two full crews did maintenance around the property while Captain Thomas watched the disaster set up.

He didn’t wait.

“Hank! Hit the alert button!” He yelled at the engineer who sat in the driver’s seat. “We have an accident!”

“Where?”

Hank’s eyes followed where the captain’s pointed as his hand moved to the control panel.

“Ohshit.” He said it as one word. His right hand mashed on the siren button without a pause to switch the control button.

A hundred-yards behind, “Hammer” Erikssen saw that the rider in front of him did not seem to react to the big German luxury car that pulled out and stopped in front of him. Even from here, he swore he could see the saucer-wide eyes of the little-old-lady who was supposed to command the rubber and steel cage.

He yelled at the rider and his passenger, but it was futile. No matter how loud he could yell, it was not possible for Russell to hear the big Norwegian.

The entire collection of Norwegian profanities issued forth while Stonn watched helpless what was to come.

Russell turned the throttle up on Gertrude and turned the signal on to prepare a lane change while he checked his mirror and glanced over his shoulder to make sure the lane was clear, he noted a large group of motorcycles in his mirror. He counted at least ten riders as he judged from the headlights. His eyes then moved to his lane to see…

Car!

T-Minus 2 Seconds

 

Photons passed through the atmosphere and interacted with the oxygen and nitrogen, but still straight on to the stalled dark blue car of LucilleMay Sprecks who sat at the wheel of her car, frozen in fear.

Photons struck the paint and chrome of Lucy’s car and redirected by reflection, the photons passed through the air at ninety-thousand kilometers per second slower than in the vacuum of space. Some colors absorbed by the paint and then reflected the color of dark blue to the eyes of a man and woman on a motorcycle that closed the distance.

Engine 2315 self-dispatched, rolled down the driveway, already the crew had dropped their tools and ran towards the engine. The seasonal firefighters did not know the nature of the call, but the Captain was waved and yelled while the siren blared. The Engineer was already on the radio. The two men, from years of experience, knew that an accident was about to occur in seconds and called for paramedic units to be dispatched.

“Copy, medics Code-3 to your location.” Dispatch responded.

The ancient energy traveled the distance between the sudden obstruction and passed through the iris of Russell’s eye in twenty-five nanoseconds — 0.000000025 — struck the light-sensitive membrane in the back of Russell’s eyes. Neural pathways reacted to the absorbed photons and processed it to his occipital lobe in the back of Russell’s cranium.

T-1.9999955 seconds. Photons streaked past Russell’s head and entered the lens of Lulu’s eyes. The nervous system transmitted the image at two-hundred miles-per-hour to the brain of Mrs. Fletcher.

Russell’s brain transmitted the image to the frontal cortex. One-point-six seconds it took to have the one-hundred billion axioms to recognize the threat, the mind of the skilled rider tried to organize a reflex action.

T-1.99925 seconds. Fifty-miles per hour they traveled towards the immobile car. More than seventy-three feet per second — Already they had covered more than a third of an American football field.

T- 1.5 Seconds. Lucy saw the headlight, her eyes processed the motorcycle approach and her mind locked up. All she needed to do to avoid the imminent collision was move her foot to the gas. But in that moment, she did not know what to do. There were no answers for the panicked soul that only wanted a glass of wine and to save the soul of a lady Druid.

Russell’s brain processed information at the speed of three supercomputers.The most intelligent man on earth was not needed to know that the exit routes were:

Head-on traffic in front of the car — rejected. Death was all but certain.

Forest with big trees, bushes and large pointy rocks: – rejected. The outcomes could be as bad.

Hit car — poor choice, but the outcome defaulted while the mind of the man searched for a safe exit to this disaster. He was out of time to evade the disaster. He had to stop.

T- 1.25 seconds. Brakes! The mind yelled. 

T- 1.20 seconds. Brakes! The mind begged. The entire world was silent, Russell’s soul was deaf to all sounds. All the world was mute except the sounds of his scream.

T- 1.1 seconds. BRAKES! The mind commanded. No bumps, no sound of wind. Silence was louder than a rock-concert in a steel warehouse.

T- 0.9 seconds. BRAKES! The mind ordered. The engine was inaudible.

T- 0.8 seconds. A plaintive voice sounded through the earbud of the motorcycles comm system.

“Noooo!” It was Lulu.

T- 0.5 seconds. BRAKES! The foot now responded and jammed down on the rear brake and the hands grabbed for the front brake lever.

T- 0.4 seconds. The brake pads built up pressure. Years of ridership passion of the life, he closed his hand and crushed the front brake lever.

T- 0.15 seconds. The friction pads moved into contact with the rotational mass of the brake disc and began to engage at fifty-one feet away.

In an instant, Russell did calculations in his head, estimated he needed an extra twenty-feet to complete a full emergency stop.

Twenty feet he did not have.

T- 0.10 seconds. Russell tensed up. Impact was imminent. Pressure in rear brake built up enough to stop rotation of the rear tire. Seventy-percent of the weight of the motorcycle shifted to the front tire.

The shock absorbers on the motorcycle compressed as the big bike did a nosedive. On two tires, patches of rubber the size of a hand of a large man tried to stop a half-ton of steel, rubber, human flesh and bone.

The rear tire of the motorcycle began to skid, the tire locked up and rubber melted from friction with the highway, liquefied and vaporized rubber now lubricated the tire which began to yaw to the right, the front tire slowed faster than the rear with the weight of the motorcycle that pressed down and prevented the front from lock-up on the dry pavement. Lulu, as she sat on the back of Gertrude, farthest away from the center mass of the motorcycle and the pendulum. Out of control with the dynamic forces Russell in a valiant but futile effort to stop the inevitable.

Unstoppable, the thousand-pounds of metal, plastic, and bodies careened towards the immobile car, “Crossed up” as Gertrude the motorcycle yawed and slid sideways, they moved with Lulu made prayers, begged that it would be all right.

“Please don’t let it be bad, Lord, please let it be all right.”

It would not be all right.

T- 0.05 seconds. Russell could see over the top of the car, his mind processed information at a phenomenal rate, he could see the road was clear on the far side of the obstruction.

If only… Was his thought.

He could see the eyes of the little old lady, they were wide like a deer in the headlights, with plate-sized pupils.

T- 0.02 seconds. Photons made shadows on the ground that merged as the front tire braked as hard as it could be without the slide like the rear wheel did. Speed reduced rapidly, if someone plotted it on a graph, it would show the line of the deceleration as almost vertical on a second by second scale.

T- 0.01 seconds. Russell could calculate his speed was still greater than…

T- 0.00 seconds. Impact! Blocked photons which made shadows, now just made one shadow as the front tire hit ahead of the rest of the hog.

The force of the collision ripped the big bikes grips from Russell’s hands and his body became a missile, launched by the impact of the vehicles at twelve miles-per-hour, about the speed of a moderate run.

T+ 0.2 seconds. After Russell hit, he bounced and flew over the top of the car and broke the windshield with his helmeted head as he went by and struck his face on the asphalt. The open-faced helmet afforded him little protection, he slid and rolled down the rough road surface. Russell came to a rest on his back. His face hurt, but he was awake.

T+ 5.0 seconds. Russell lay there on his back, took stock of his limbs. Pain didn’t overpower him but there was no question he was hurt. Movement at the periphery of his eyes made him turn his head.

The car was on the move. The car drove away! He could see tail lights grow smaller as he tried to read the license plate from his awkward position.

Then, he saw his best friend’s body.

She was very still.

Too still.

Still as death.

T+ 15.0 seconds.

“Lulu…” He whispered a plea. “Lulu, move.”

She was under the motorcycle, pinned. Still, silent. She lay there with her leg bent in an unnatural way. He tried to crawl on his arms and left a bloody trail back to where his wife, his copilot and his best friend and lover, lay.

Russell’s vision became blurred with agony as the pain set in. Blood dripped off his face where his skin had abraded away by the highway blacktop.

T+ 125.0 seconds.

Feet pounded on approach and a heavy “Thump-thump” of a huge motor pulled up next to him. An enormous chopper with an even larger rider looked down at him through goggles. An 82nd Airborne division tattoo on Hammer’s forearm stood out in odd sharp focus to Russell’s vision.

“We caught her, brother. We caught that old lady before she got very far. Hang in there, help is on the way.”

“Lulu?” Russel moaned. “My wife?”

“Your old lady’s alive, bro. Hurt bad, but alive.”

“Call 9-1-1.” Russel grunted in pain.

“Station is right there, they’re on their way now.” The giant biker told Russell. “They’ll be here in two seconds.”

Two-seconds!

If only he had seen the car just two seconds sooner.

Finis

Nanoplague

Standard

 

NanoPlague

Dash McCallen

The runabout Ursus’ interior lights powered up and the onboard computer bootstrapped into service.

“Operational Database Interfaced Network, O.D.I.N  online.”  

“ODIN, recognize Lieutenant Regulus Bondman in command of the galley and cafeteria. I need a list of included teams and the specific dietary needs. Please, list the names by herbivore and carnivore classes.”

“Please, stand by. Accessing database of assigned crews.” The bass-voiced speaker rumbled in the ceiling.

“List and print onboard inventory of protein base to my display. Display designator Alpha07.” Reg tapped on the tablet he held in his hand.

Lieutenant Regulus Bondman continued his pre-mission inventory of the kitchen alongside Lt. Callisto “Calli of the Galley” Angustifolius. They were close friends and lovers when the chance arose.  

Regulus, as a human, found that the Lupus Sapiens hybrid to be enthusiastic when spending time with him. Although some of her DNA was non-sapien, she was part wolf, her mind was brilliant and as she could walk like a human, her abdominal fur was luxuriant to the touch, more so than a fluffy puppies tummy.

And her tongue?  Well, Reg, as his friends called him, found out that a Lupus hybrid doesn’t kiss like a human, instead she would use her long tongue to lick his neck and face when she walked by.  This was her version of a kiss, that in his opinion was both a shock but a thrill at the same time — If a bit of an embarrassment if she’d pick the most inopportune moments to do it when he wasn’t expecting and he was on his headset trying to hold a conversation with someone or he was carrying a large object.

She’d laugh at him in good humor if he had his hands full and her saliva in his ear while he stood there immobilized in shock.

“We need more loading packets for the protein resequencer.  We have…”  Reg paused his comment as he read through the ship’s manifest cross referencing the passenger list. They checked off the required nutritional requirements of each species of the crew.

“Lieutenant Commander Benjamin A. Gyas.” Reg sighed as he read the name from the list and shook his head. “Damn.”

“Ben Gyas, the bear? Yeah, I know him. He’s sweet and more than a little cute. And wow, yeah, he can eat more than an entire wolf pack if you let him. I’ll order more protein base now.” She smiled and the bright blue eyes from the human side of her genome along with her pointed ears enhanced the look of joy about working with her favorite human when buzz sounded from her inventory screen with a note “Message Timeout, Try Again Later”.

“Reg, I have to go back to the kitchen to get more protein packs. The messages I sent aren’t getting through for some reason.”  She was less formal now that they were not among other cooks and crew.

“Okay, but hurry back. The survey teams will start embarking in about a half hour. I already have pasta cooking for a double baked meat lasagna after we depart, and I still haven’t started anything for the herbivores.”

“And we’re bunking together?” She winked. “I have plans for you after we get off shift.”

This lupus is a horn-dog when she’s in a mood. Reg laughed and shook his head.  It’s obvious she never read the memo that mating season for wolf hybrids was only once a year.

The “galley” of the medium-range runabout Ursus was spacious.  A full complement of cooks could feed the crew of the Longbow in the galley of this size. The runabout was built with very stout specifications. A well-constructed bear of a ship, designed to leave and extend the reach of the Longbow’s teams, explore new planets in extreme hostile environments and keep the teams safe.  The Ursus was built for exploration with potent shields to protect against radiation and collisions with the stray rock, its powerful engines allowed it to land in any gravity well tolerable to crew. And this was his first time in charge of the well-appointed galley,  it made Reg smile.

 It would be a good change after the tragedy on the planet below.

“ODIN,” Reg addressed the computer. “I need a check on the deliveries of water and protein base. We’re running short of time.”

“The delivery transport is located at the pantry behind the kitchen.”

“Send a message: ‘Hurry up, please. We’re scheduled to depart in three hours.’ Post it as urgent.”

“Verbal message sent and pending receipt, Lieutenant Bondman.”  ODIN responded with a formal tone.

The exploration ship, Longbow, a massive science vessel, a  three-kilometer from stem to stern long, two-kilometers at the widest and a thousand meters from keel to superstructure in a rough lozenge shape. A swift and capable ship for deep space exploration around the, so far unnamed, K-type star, discovered by the Galactic Remote Observatory, Kuiper- with the acronym of GROK.

The first planet explored in the ten-planet system had evidence of an advanced civilization, but it appeared to be long dead. The find was exciting to everyone on the ship.  Teams of geologists and xenoarcheologists took shuttles down to the planet.

The dig sites were as exciting as the visual survey from space. There was one thing curiously missing.

Life.  Simply, there was none.

No bacterial reservoir underground or a buried endolithic lichen could be found.

Xenobiologists mapped for DNA in the air and found nothing.  All carbon based material was tied  

Something had killed the planet. Nothing grew. No plant, no fungus, not even a slime mold.  

And another curious observation. Bodies were missing. No fossils, no decayed remains of plants or tree stumps.There were fossils in a collapsed ruin of a museum, a rich history.  But nothing with an organic structure.

It was all bare mineral soil.

A mystery, considering the amount of synthetic material that was dated by molecular decay scan put the ruins of the planet at more than two hundred-thousand years old.

The geologist team who surveyed what appeared to be, at one time, a reservoir for water to the desiccated community downstream.

Fifteen kilometers up a canyon, above the well-designed water distribution system the survey team’s shuttle landed on a flat spot, the pressure of the displaced atmosphere caused a small handful of soil to be displaced in an unnoticeable move over the edge and out of sight.  The handful of gravel caused a fist sized rock to roll down a hill that knocked a couple more stones loose as a dozen stones continued on their path, determined by gravity and unchecked by any obstruction.  

The slide gathered more stones, rocks, and soil not held in check by roots of plants or even moss. It happened quickly and the weather survey team at the top of a desiccated peak had no clue what they had started.

The landslide traveled over small hills, its speed topped seven hundred kilometers per hour and only the alert eyes of Qwantay Paris kept more people from dying as she yelled for everyone to return to the shuttle.

But Captain Katherine Scrivener wanted to know all the details after the dead and wounded were brought back.  

The kitchen crews were under request of the First Officer Kurrg, a Panthera Tigris Sapiens hybrid who had served under the command of Captain Scrivener for the last five years.

Although the captain and the first officer trusted each other implicitly, the arguments could get loud, even through the closed doors of the Captain’s office. Like any roaring match between lion and tiger could be.

Still, the missions were scheduled for other survey teams to take the runabout Papillion to the other three planets and assess them for any relics of a civilization.  

Careful examination of the planet below, revealed no radiation or products of a nuclear war, nor any biological contaminants that might indicate biological warfare. Not even toxins.

Power generating plants were in good working order. Nuclear plants had long ago gone into a shutdown mode and were totally dead.  

The Captain Scrivener brought the full capacity of the Longbow to bear on the investigation of the accident and to further examine the planet to find out what happened. The other survey teams would take forty people on a seven day traverse through the asteroid belt and explore the two remaining planets for evidence of war or something more cosmic.

One theory was a supernova may have sent a gamma ray burst into the K-star’s system and sterilized it. But no evidence had yet been found.

So, the investigation was multifold: Survey the other planets, find the causes for the avalanche, and what caused the civilized planet to be abandoned in what appeared to be an instant.

Dr. Honie Pers was directing the movement of equipment on board of the Ursus and stopped in for a cup of coffee.  

“You’re the doc, Doc.” He smiled. Dr. Pers was addicted to earth’s native black brew of stimulants. She was an intensely funny woman who was known to have little use for politicians and policies at the cost of people’s lives.

“Thank you for clearing the freezer for the bodies, Reg.”  She nodded. Stuck with the catalogue of the dead.  Her drinking partner, Dr. Eta, was killed in the avalanche and Dr. Pers asked to be reassigned to the Ursus for exploration. She was unable to perform the autopsy after the incident. “I appreciate the speed and the care you gave them.”

“No worries, Doc.  I was following orders from the chef, besides, I like Professor Eta.” Reg looked down and corrected himself. “Liked. Sorry.  He taught at the University of Sapphire where the United Planets have their central headquarters.  I attended there for a few years.”

“That’s a good school.” She took a sip of her coffee and looked at Reg with a smile. “You brew a good cup.”

“The protein sequencers do a passable job at reproducing the coffee. But I keep a five kilo-bag of raw beans in my room. I roast them in the kitchen in between food preparations, about two pot fulls worth a night.” He tapped his pad and a crystal-clear cylinder of a gel that looked like the transparent albumen of eggs loaded into a dispenser, the clear proteins were synthetic and machines could resequence them into any food item.  “A single kilogram can replace two-metric tons of food when it recombined proteins with air and water to create food-grade hydrocarbons and fats that mimicked the texture and flavors of what the different species’ nutritional requirements — And the flavors that they liked to eat.”

“That’s creative! I’ve never thought about the back of the kitchen, how you all created the food.  I figured I didn’t want to really know where you got the proteins to resequence.” She said just as her handset buzzed.  She looked down, tapped on the screen and nodded. “The exciting part of the survey, we found that the wounded people on the geological survey team are healing at a rate about a thousand times faster. There are nanobots in the soil that are healing the wounded.”

“Nanobots?” Reg stopped installing the protein base into dispenser and looked at the Doctor.

“Yes, we discovered them on the cadavers that were put in body bags then put in your freezer.” She smiled. “Doctor Ferso discovered them in the beginning. They are slow moving and tiny. Ten-thousand can fit inside of a red blood cell with room left over.”

“I want to call them Eta’s discovery, but the message on my handheld was that Doctor Ferso wants first rights to name them.”

“I’m surprised they work at all.” Reg said as he programmed at the kitchen’s master computer, syncing his pad with the different needs of the crewmembers. “All the images coming up from the surface looks like it’s been dead a long time. The way it looks, like a huge fire. It looks almost burned out.”

“Yes, that’s the consensus. Something had a very destructive effect on organic material. So far, we haven’t found any trace of organic material.” she drained her cup of coffee and looked at the time. “Where are my people? They’re supposed to be bringing equipment.”

Reg’s handset toned. The screen illuminated when he looked at it, it made him smile. It was Calli.

“Hey, you…”

“Reg, listen. Something’s going on. There is movement in the freezer where they put the bodies. They have a security team here with weapons.”

All non-security personnel evacuate the kitchen. Report to your emergency stations.

“Reg…”

Then the ship address system came online.

All personnel, intruder alert. Lock doors and shelter in place. All non-security personnel clear the passageway. Repeat, security personnel only in passageways.

“Calli, come to the Ursus if you can.” Reg looked around and the Doctor was tapping controls on the loading ramp, closing it and airlock. “Shelter here, safest place there is.”

“No, I can’t make it. I’m going to try and go to my room, it’s just down the hall. They’re pushing people into rooms together.” Calli sounded worried as she was jostled while she spoke into the screen of the tablet. “I’m not even going to get to my room.”

“What’s going on?” Reg demanded.

“I don’t know.” She answered with a little fear in her voice, and for a lupus, that was as close to hysteria that she would get. “I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

“Well, I know.” The doctor turned around, her handheld computer was lit up.  “They’re transmitting to me a whole database.”   

Doctor Pers went pale.

“The critically wounded have changed. Chief Medical Officer Cyprus has sent me that the nanobots have affected the geologist. He bit…”  She tapped the screen.  “Oh. Dear God. They’ve animated!  The cadavers. Doctor Eta is attacking people. “

A scream sounded from out in the hangar, Reg ran up the stairs to look from the bridge of the runabout.

People were being attacked by silver skinned creatures in service department uniforms. Hangar control office was a scene of a pitched battle.  Reg watched the humans with fist sized holes of flesh bitten out of them do a rapid, physical change into a walking nightmare of silver skin horror, and death lean.  While he watched the carnage, someone hit the console emergency override and opened the hangar doors to open space.  

Bodies, pallets of equipment, anything that was loose flew out the door. Shuttles and runabouts were anchored in their positions with mag-locks and didn’t move.

Captain Scrivener’s voice could be heard in a broadcast over his handset and tablet.

Security team-blue to engineering. All other security personnel report to the bridge.

Two minutes later, the lights went out. Emergency com-systems illuminated and speakers that were never meant to be used, boomed out the Captain’s voice.

Abandon ship! All hands! Abandon ship! This is not a drill.

The inner airlock burst open as if someone set an explosive, but Reg couldn’t hear it in the vacuum of the hangar.

Until the tsunami of air, bodies and hardware crashed into the side of the Ursus, and now loose of the de-energized maglocks, was blown towards the open doors.

Tumbling bow over stern towards the hangar doors, the Ursus became tangled up with other ships that formed a logjam at the partially opened doors, the sounds of impact on the galley service door. The exterior airlock door was still open, Reg realized, something big few into the airlock.

Until the shuttle Prydwen, tumbled, bounced and hit the logjam of vessels and bodies with the force of an artillery shell and broke the tangled pile of ships, hardware and bodies.

Reg and Dr. Pers bounced around inside of the out of control Ursus like dice in a cup, the artificial gravity of the Ursus wasn’t online yet, they were under the influence of the Longbow’s systems.

ODIN! Emergency stabilize!” Dr. Pers yelled. “All available power to the stabilizers!”

The big runabout stopped tumbling in space and loud sounds of crashes echoed up and down the hallways as the artificial gravity booted up.

“ODIN! System report.” Reg said but he was rewarded only with a high pitched sound was emitted by what was once ODIN.

“Well, that’s not helpful.” Reg groaned. “If it’s not able to respond, we can’t verify orders.“

“You okay, Reg?” The doctor lay in a fetal position on the floor and moaned with her hand over her stomach. “I’m hurt.”

“I’m okay, I thin…” Reg screamed as he tried to take her hand. “My back!”

“Let’s get to sick bay. We’ve stabilized the ship  at the moment.”

“Ugh.” He struggled to his feet. “My shoulder hurts like I have a bad bruise, and it pops like something’s broken.”

Another alarm sounded.

“Of course!” Reg said. “We have more.”

“ODIN!  Define alarm!”

A buzzing sounded, ODIN’s voice was thready but could be understood.

“H-hu-hull,” ODIN paused. “B-br-bre-brea-breach.”

“We’re venting atmosphere.” Reg groaned at the doctor. “Crap, we don’t have anything.”

“I see it! Galley delivery door, where the water vapor is condensing, something hit the door and punched a hole.” She pointed. “About the size of my thumb.”

“I have an idea! He staggered into the kitchen in muttering about glue and starch. Then his voice echoed in the empty kitchen. “Yeah! Ow! Ow-ow! My shoulder! Ow! Hot, son of a mother…!”

With a storm of profanity and comments about pain and the object’s heritage, Reg came out of the kitchen with dripping towels and over his left arm and with both hands, he carried a large plate of what looked like pasta.

“Here! Stuff the towels into the hole.” The erosion of the air had expanded the size of the hole to a ping-pong ball and the atmosphere was venting now in a stiff breeze just a foot from the wall.  

Dr. Pers wadded up a wet towel and pushed it into the hole. The cloth was sucked into the growing hole and stuck. Water boiled and froze at the same time to became a weak dam against the stream of the atmosphere. The stream of atmosphere oscillated through the cloth as the water froze and broke away. With a smile, Reg flipped the plate of hot, cooked pasta against the frozen towels that partly plugged the hole.

Drawn into the smaller holes of the wet towel, the cold water chilled and hardened the pasta. The water-saturated food swelled when it froze and plugged the leak. The pressure of the inside of the Ursus pushed the metal serving plate against the wall, making an effective seal with the cooked noodles.

The loss of the atmosphere was stopped.

“Well, that was exciting.” Doctor Pers said.  

“We’re safe now.” Reg said, as he took a third towel and smoothed around the edge of the seal.

“Where did you learn that?” The Doctor asked.

“Academy training in the event of a meteor strike. Anything wet and flexible can be a sealant and it will fill a hole.  And a thick enough paste will plug some pretty large holes. I just wasn’t sure that the hole might be too large. So, I used a wet towel to plug the biggest part of the hole, then use the pasta to seal it.” He smiled, then groaned in pain. “Now, can you fix me?  I fixed the ship and burned my hands and my back is killing. Now, it’s my turn?”

“Let’s get some images of your shoulder.” She smiled, but she appeared more pale than before.

“Okay, Reg, see here?” The doctor pointed at the image on a handheld display screen and used a clinical tone.“You have a fractured scapula.”

“Not much can be done. It’s not displaced. You have some internal bleeding and the bruise will spread. I have something to prevent much more bleeding. But for now, we can sling the arm and some pain control, but you’ll just have to heal. We don’t have the facilities on board to do any surgery anyway.”

“Okay, then,” Reg pondered. “Let’s get to cleaning up the kitchen and pour some coffee and figure out what we are going to do. The Longbow will need our assistance.”

She shook her head and read the report that her previous college had sent them with a video.

“To any station receiving this: I am the Chief Medical Officer of the Longbow. We have lost power and are falling into the gravity well of an uncharted planet. Do not land on the planet. It’s contaminated with an alien technology beyond our understanding. I am transmitting on all frequencies the data we have uncovered. Anyone who came in contact with the planet has mutated and have become aggressive. There is a battle in the corridors, security has been overwhelmed.” Sounds of weapons fire got louder and the look of of the Chief Medical Officer was one of resignation. “Do not rescue us. The ship is on a self-destruct course. All data we are transmitting on all channels. Any station receiving this, this is the Longbow…” The video abruptly ended.

The Longbow was lost.  

“Callie.” Reg whispered at the display the pain of her loss not registering yet. “Callie.”

The data that the chief medical officer sent in an emergency broadcast had been downloaded to her data management device and she scrolled through the information and began to swear.

“Lieutenant,” for the first time, he heard her groan in pain. “We have some serious problems. And now, I need your help.”

“Doc, what is it?”

“When we were thrown around a pushcart landed on me with supplies. I don’t remember what. All kinds of crap was flying around.” Regulus noted she had a definite pallor while she spoke. “My right side is tender. I can’t move much to that side. I’m beginning to see a bruise like you have on your back.”

“I have a bruise?” He tried to look around his shoulder but squawked when the pain stopped him. “I’ll believe you.”

Regulus pulled his data pad out of his vest pocket and began to type.

“Um, Doc, how long will we be on this tub until we get rescued?”

“Okay, here’s the deal.” She read the detailed report. “The planet is covered in nanobots.  To the ratio of one part per trillion. It’s in the dust, it’s airborn.  At first, it was overlooked because they aren’t organic and don’t appear to be active.”

She traced her finger over the screen and changed the page.  

“These are so small. They can fit ten thousand in a red blood cell and still leave room for the cell to do it’s job.”

“That’s nice, but what can they do?” Reg asked.

“Getting there.” She read on. Took a deep breath. “Okay, each nanobot is also a bit of information.  A zero or one. On or off. Individually, they can’t do anything but mainly replicate. Doctor Gray noted that the nanobots began to help heal wounds. They were using adipose tissue from other parts of the body to rebuild broken bones, repair lacerations.” She flipped the screen and changed the page. “Individuals can do little, but the more they replicate and add to the group, they become a collective program.  We just don’t know what the program is.”

The doctor shook her head and looked at Reg.

“Was.” She corrected him. “This was written in real time during the exam.”

She read on. “The nanobots are repairing broken bones at an incredible rate.  We may have a discovery that would reduce surgical and injury downtime. Including, old injuries that seem to be repaired.”

“That doesn’t seem bad at all.” Reg said. “Like a good discovery.”

“It reads that way for a few pages. Known chronic illnesses undetectable. Arthritic joints healed in our older crewmembers.” She flipped through the screens. “Until this entry. The dead are reanimating, but are mindless. The nanobots are out of control and resequencing the most grievously injured wounds to another DNA pattern we aren’t familiar with. The corpse’s of team members awoke hungry and are getting aggressive. It seems that the nanobots are using all available proteins to repair the dead tissues. We can’t feed them enough and Nurse Jameson Curtis was bitten by one. The nurse lost a finger to the bite, but it grew back in less than an hour.”

“Okay, some downsides.” Reg said as they walked to the bridge of the Ursus.

“The nurse changed over the following hour and Jameson became violent. From appearances, he lost weight as his normal endomorphic body type has become more ectomorphic. His appearance has taken on a pallor, a color of gray similar to brushed aluminum with reptilian scales.” The doctor read on. “People with minor injuries of broken bones are healed in minutes, depending on level of contamination. Those with more grave injuries don’t just heal, they change. The nanobots program themselves to alter the whole body. Then, it’s as if the program becomes corrupted and then it reverts to changing the DNA to the non-terran DNA that they were originally programmed with.”

“Holy crap. So a little wound is good, but if you have a bad wound? Like a bullet hole. You change?” Reg asked.

“It sounds that way. And not just bullet holes, Reg. I’m in trouble.”  She looked at him with panic in her eyes. “I’m bleeding inside, something is torn. I can feel my heart beating in my abdomen and it’s swelling. Oh god. I was having such a good day, too. I thought we might get a trauma nurse to help me with the abdominal repair. I would normally have a few hours before I bled out too much.  I could teach you how to use the equipment, but…”  She looked at the door of the kitchen.

Tears rolled down her cheeks.  

“The equipment wasn’t delivered yet. I’m going to change on you.”

No!” Reg yelled at the doctor for the first time. “We aren’t contaminated.”

“The entire ship has been contaminated, the nanobots are airborne. They weren’t organic. They were too small and too few at first to be detected. We can’t assume that we are free of them.  Any place we go, we will contaminate, even with just one.” She whispered.  “A single nanobot would sterilize a world by replication. I’d bet that’s what happened to the planet.” She pointed out the window of the mess hall at the receding world the Longbow teams had so recently surveyed.

“The nanobots were inactive because they had stripped every protein possible to build their version of people.  Eventually, they ran out of organic proteins and consumed the plants.  Hydrocarbons were made out of water and soil. That turned it into  a desert planet. They consumed everything and left dust. The last living things were consumed by the nanobots who needed the energy to continue.” She looked at him. “We’re a plague ship. Any place we stop, we’ll destroy.  And I will change first. I can feel the changes now.  I have lost weight, and I don’t think I’m bleeding. So, the nanobots aren’t fully activated yet, but the effect is ominous. It’s like a cascade effect, one starts all the rest.”

Reg sat with his mouth open. The meaning of what she said was too big for his mind to wrap around. But, she was correct. When she walked on board the Ursus just an hour ago with her properly tailored uniform, it had perfectly fitted to her.  

“What about the gray goo effect?  They should disassemble like everything? Rocks, metal- everything?”

“I don’t know that, I’m a Doctor, not a nanotech engineer.” She shook her head weakly.

The Doc’s smock now hung on her like it was at least one size too large and her cheeks appeared to be sunken.

“Well, maybe we can transmit the data from here and get to a robot medical lab for help.” She tried to look for a bright side.

“No, doc.” Reg said. “I’m trained as crew, not engineering or command. I’m a cook, but I do have a working knowledge to do basic navigation and stuff. The Ursus has a type-A drive. We’re limited to just over twice of lightspeed. Longbow had a type-D. It could do a magnitude greater speed than that, maybe more.  And our transmit range for data is a lot less than the Longbow. We’d have to be in a system for them to hear us.”

“Hear you, is more likely.” She said cryptically while she stood and walked around the kitchen. “I’m hungry. Do we have anything? I’d like some eggs.”

“Eggs?” Reg was suddenly alarmed. “With your belly? Doc, is that wise?”

“Sunnyside up.  Just lightly cooked. Bread, if you have it.” Her eyes had a noticeable glint. Like she was on the verge of tears. “I”m healed, in a twisted sense.”

She’s been crying.

“Doc, how many eggs?”

“Three.” She paused. “No, four.”

“Four eggs? Doctor?”

“I’m fine. I’m the Chief Medical Officer on board.” She gave him an odd look. “Reg, oh.”

She put her hands to her face.

“Oh, no.”

“What?”

“I’m changing now. I want to eat raw eggs and I’m looking at you.” She tore her eyes away. “I just thought of you as food.”

Reg panicked, her skin was definitely a metallic-gray hue. He hadn’t noticed the subtle change until she moved.

She was also even more slim, easily ten-kilos less. The change was accelerating and he could see metallic scales forming on her skin.

“I…” Doctor Pers made a sobbing sound. “I’m sorry. I need to go to the airlock. You need to lock me in.”

She walked quickly, almost at a run while she motioned Reg to keep up.

Doctor Pers staggered as she stepped into the opening of the cargo airlock. She grabbed at a large, red handle to steady herself as the interior door slid shut.

The handle, Reg noticed, had block lettering on it in white.

“Exterior airlock override”

“You cannot let anyone make physical contact with the ship, but you need to transmit everything on my medical pad.  It should be uploaded to ODIN for safety, back it up. You will be okay with the broken shoulder.  Don’t get badly hurt or you will change.” Reg wasn’t certain that her voice was attenuated from the intercom or if her voice was changing.

Her face had become shiny with faceted crystal teeth.

The crazy thought hit him. Crystallized?

“Doc! What do I do?”

“Go to the outer stellar observatories. They’re the closest and have good data bandwidth. Reg, can you do that? Can you make it there?” She closed her eyes and looked as if she might weep. “You have to get in range and warn people to stay away from this system. It may already be too late.”  

Before Reg could answer, she pulled the emergency latch and opened the hangar door.

Reg screamed as her body shrank from sight out into space and left him on the Ursus.

Alone.  

Then he realized.

The Ursus was his first command.

Reg shook his head and wept, in another time and place? He would’ve partied.

It was supposed to be seven days with forty people and Calli. He and Calli would have spent all their off hours in each other’s arms while the survey teams were trudging around in the muck of the planets.

He would have loved to have spent time in bed with that long-tongued Homo Canis Lupus Sapiens for a week of nights.

Regulus Bondman turned and walked back to the bridge, while his fingers tapped on the information pad.  

“ODIN, display damage report.”

A squeal that was ODIN’s voice informed Reg that no conversation would be taking place anytime soon.

Reg sighed. He had no skills to repair the system, let alone the voice interface.  He just didn’t know how that worked or even where it was located.   

Flashing red pixels indicated the damage to the stout-built ship. Two stories tall, fifty paces wide and twice that long, it was a limited-range transport and personnel carrier with limited resources compared to the massive three-kilometer-long Longbow.

Once on the bridge, ODIN displayed a fire warning in the holds that contained all-terrain vehicles for moving around a planet’s surface.

“ODIN, extract air from the hold and flood with halide gas.” A high pitched burst of static answered him. The pixel indicating a fire went dark.

“ODIN, cease all voice responses until repairs are completed.” Reg had no idea how to do that, but at least he wasn’t going to go deaf by listening to the shriek of a broken speaker.  

“ODIN, display ETA to nearest deep space stations with data connection.” A long moment passed while Reg hung his head after he read the display. Two weeks at normal cruising speed for the Longbow. Not what he was looking for, but he knew the next answer.

“ODIN, display for maximum cruising speed for Ursus to the same location.”

Eight weeks, three days, twenty hours.

Damn, that’s a long time.

Reg knew how many crates of protein base had been brought on board. With a quick calculation on the pad, if he had seven days of food for forty people, for one person, he had more than enough food.

“ODIN, how much atmosphere have we lost when the ship was damaged?”

This took about a heartbeat longer.

Atmospheric oxygen: 20.95 percent.

Good.

Pressure zero point 98 bar.

“ODIN how convert that to my level of training?”

Fourteen point two one three seven PSI and falling.

“Ack,” Reg boggled. “Falling? Not good!

Reserves ten percent.

Crap on a cracker!

“ODIN, locate and identify leaks.”

A dozen pixels illuminated. Another yellow pixel lit up and flashed a warning of an overheated circuit.

“ODIN, reroute power away from that circuit and mark for repairs.”

The yellow alert went out.

That left the venting problems.

But not all of the leaks venting were atmosphere, but all were venting out.  

Coolant leaks contaminated the air in some sections.  

The list went on. With the agony in his right shoulder, he used his left hand to drag and carry tools to repair or close valves that moved toxic, but needed gasses and fluids through the ship for its operation. He went to work. He hadn’t given up the fight to live. Lieutenant Regulus “Reg” Bondman would fight the universe for every breath, every blink of an eye. He wouldn’t just give up, so he set to work to repair all that he could.

After Reg made his way to the two hull leaks that vented atmosphere to space, he sealed them with simple and easy patches. Pre-constructed patches that were little more than metal plates with peel and stick pads that adhered to the bulkheads and sealed the holes. Then, he worked on into the night until the last coolant leak was sealed. Hours passed and finally, he was finished with emergency repairs.

Reg sat on the command seat once all the repairs were complete. His shoulder was a symphony of pain. He could see the dark blue of the bruise on his shoulder.  It had spread while he worked the muscles, instead of giving the body a rest and ice.

“ODIN, reduce oxygen levels to sixteen percent.”  

Then, he thought about it and tapped on his pad. Altitude of about twelve thousand feet would be liveable.

“ODIN, reduce atmospheric pressure to nine psi.” Reg tapped on the command console. “ODIN, set course for the Copernicus Deep Space Observatory platform. Engage at maximum cruising speed.”

“What is our ETA? Round to nearest day.”

Eight weeks. Four days.

“ODIN, how long will oxygen last until I lose consciousness?”

Three weeks. Six days.

“ODIN, adjust the atmospheric scrubbers up to maximum. Recalculate how long if carbon dioxide is scrubbed out of the air.”

Four weeks. Two days.

Reg sighed.

“ODIN, if I broke down all water sources for the component oxygen, recalculate oxygen levels until I suffocate.”

Five weeks. Four days.

I’m going to take a shower. He’d have said it out loud but he felt out of breath.

He groaned in pain while the shower sprayed many thousands of tiny drops of water on his skin, to clean his skin of everything he could. Except for what he wanted.
Each drop that slammed into his skin had it’s own pain message. Each impact redefined the word “pain,” but every moment the level of pain was reduced.  

The bruise had become large enough that he could even see the edges of yellow, green and blue that had spread from his shoulder to his ribs under his right arm. There was really no need for a mirror to see the glory of the injury he sustained when he bounced around the inside the Ursus.  

His tender flesh rebelled as he turned his back away from the stream that jetted against him. He put his head against the simulated stone tile designed to make crews to feel like it was an organic experience on this interplanetary ship.

Reg couldn’t give two craps right now. He was out of ideas, he was a chef, not a member of any damage repair crew, except for patching holes, putting out fires.

He wept while the water washed away his tears along with the filth of smoke, dried pasta, and sweat.  

And he wished, nanobots.

“I should be more stiff than earlier.” His self-conversation kept him from hearing things. “A few edges are now pale yellow-green instead of that red-purple that new bruises have. So, the internal bleeding’s stopped.”  

 It had only been six hours since he landed badly when the Ursus did it’s the tumbling, out of control exit  from the hangar of the Longbow through the broken airlock doors the size of a football field each.

Six hours ago, Doctor Pers diagnosed him with a fractured scapula. There was little to do, she said, other than to sling it.

Six hours? He shook his head in the stinging spray of water. Only six?

It seemed like a lifetime ago.

His estimated time of arrival to the nearest deep space platforms in the Gliese system was still two months away.

If my oxygen would only hold out that long. He sighed.  A futile wish, but no one ever wants to suffocate.

His mind spun with the catastrophe and pain.

I just need to get this hunk of junk close enough to transmit the information from the medical computer’s database.

He turned to let the hot spray beat on his chest for a few minutes.  

It was all the enjoyment he would get.

He let the near-scalding water wash away his tears, his mind raced with the situation. He never volunteered for this mission from hell, he wanted experience.  An entry on his work history, the experience and spend time with the cutest fur covered female in the fleet.

“I did want my own ship one day. An interstellar catering setup.” Reg banged his forehead against the ceramic tile. He could feel in his mind the impacts resound through the conduits, hallways, and offices. No one to hear them anywhere.

Reg knew it was just a fantasy. He couldn’t hear the echos, but he could imagine the noise echoing down conduits and access tubes.

Alone on this ship, the whole galaxy seems unpopulated.  He turned the hot water up another notch, just above the pain threshold.

Doesn’t matter.  It’ll heal. Maybe even better than before maybe.

Roxana Pilot, an engineer he dated, once told him that eighty percent of the energy an engine produces is wasted in the top twenty percent of the ship’s maximum velocity.  

“In other words,” she smiled at him as they slowly piloted between planets in that wonderful weekend of kisses and coupling. “It’s more efficient to go a little slower than top speed.”

Yeah, Roxana. He spoke to the pleasant ghost of a memory. But I’ve no plans to land anywhere.   

His mind snapped back to the present with a gasp for air, and he was back in the shower. His mind drifted easily in the rarified air.

It’s all I can do is make more speed. But he knew the outcome would be the same. I can’t breathe any less. The way the power units keep overheating, the one thing I have in abundance is smoke. Power generation is no problem, but I can’t do more speed. At least with the oxygen dialed down so low, short circuits done become big fires.

I’m just running out of compressed air cylinders to wear while I spray the fires with the… he couldn’t remember.  The fire – putter-outer stuff.  

Extinguishers!

He shook his head, turned on the cold water, letting the stinging water pummel his face to focus his mind.

Movement.

Just outside of the shower room. Reg pushed open the steam-fogged door.  

“Hello?”

Nothing.

Just his towels. Stolen from the kitchen to dry off with.

Reg stepped out of the shower and dried himself off and walked naked to the galley.  

“Damn, this thing is big with no one in it.” He said to himself as he walked along the cluttered hallway. “We need a food fight.”

He laughed. He would have enjoyed it more, but the laugh took his breath away.

The walk felt a lot more difficult as if he was on a hike in the high mountains. Laughing was not supposed to be a luxury. He had to make oxygen choices. Laughing was no longer one of the givens that this human could make.

Lack of oxygen or carbon dioxide poisoning. Either one was lethal. The products of burning from the fires had polluted the air. The atmosphere scrubbers worked overtime to remove toxins and carbon dioxide as it was.

I wish I knew how to reduce the gravity. It would make it so much easier.

Reg shook his head. He had done as much as he could. He needed another brain and ODIN, the computer, was badly damaged.  

There was no one to talk to other than himself or ODIN, who tracked his movements with small sensors placed everywhere in the ship.

“ODIN, please stop being obvious when tracking me with the cameras, please? It bothers me.”

The cameras all became still and were a simple background.

Still, there was the feeling of movement that was just beyond his sensory range.

“ODIN, scan entire ship. Log anyone that has moved in the last ten minutes and print the results to my pad.”

The response was swift.

One. Listed as Lieutenant Regulus Bondman, sous chef, temporarily in command of the Ursus.

Funny, the computer has developed a sense of humor.

Weird, it seems that I’m missing something.  

Reg walked down the hallway. The sounds of his footsteps attenuated by the thin air in the ship. His feet sounded far away.

Or, is it because I’m hypoxic?

I’m dying.

“Ugh! I’m dying and no one is here to help me!” He punched the wall next to the kitchen door as he went in. “I’ll be dead in a month, choking on my own waste.”

“ODIN, play something rock hard.  Something from the group, Twisted Fate.”

The music sounded tinny, as if all of ODIN’s speakers were blown out.

“ODIN, cancel music.” The sounds were terrible. It reminded him of when he was a teenager. His dad said it sounded like rending metal.  

Right now, his dad was correct.

He wished he was with his old man now, so he could ask him for advice. For help.

Henry Kristopher “Hawk” Bondman, Ph.D. The senior astrophysicist at University of Nova Aquila. His wisdom and wit for raising the children along with the matriarch of the family, Penelope Bondman, Ph.D. and professor of studies at the same school.

Reg loved them both. He would have loved to be at his parent’s house now, drinking mom’s version of coffee. Deep, dark, and would cause your heart to do palpitations for hours after you drank a cup.

Regulus.

“What!” Reg yelled to the room. “Where are you?”

Reg!

Then, an ear-splitting scream. He looked down the table.  

Forks, knives, spoons for eyes made a face on the flat surface.

And it screamed his name.

It was Calli’s voice.

The circle of spoons looked like Calli’s beautiful eyes.

Okay, I’m officially freaked out.

He ran out the door into the hallway. Calli’s image was visible on a wall and then faded as he stared at it.

Wake up! Come back to the hear and now. Mom and dad would expect you to think your way out. C’mon Reg, how would you leave a legacy? What would you say if you could send them a message?

Message!

“That’s it!” Reg snapped his fingers and headed to the bridge.

He climbed the steps to the command level, and there he saw her.

Most of her, anyway.

Calli.

Her face was fully formed, but the rest of her body appeared skeletal, like a real life stick figure drawn by a child in an art class. Bones took shape over the basic construction, but the eyes were Calli’s.

“Reg.” Her mouth articulated his name. “You left me.”

“No!” Regulus’ mind almost unhinged. “We were ordered to shelter in place. The doctor even locked the ramp.”

The ghost took a hesitant step towards him. She was fully formed, naked, but with the fine, downy fur that was her species that made it heaven to touch her.

Reg shook his head.

“Calli? You can’t be Calli.” His voice was high and tight.  

“No, we are a recreation of the one that you last spoke to over the communication systems. The details of her appearance are in the medical files.” The Calli-Clone said. “We felt it imperative that you are not alone. No one needs to die here.”

“Her medical file? Ugh, never mind. You know everything. I’m already dead. The Longbow crashed into the planet that you’re from, we had a hull breach and we vented three-quarters of the atmosphere in the runabout. So, I’m dead in a few days, long before rescue is possible.” Then he got angry. “And you, all of your kind, turn us into some kind of alien that eats everything.”

“No, Reg.” She took a hesitant step. “We’re not changing anyone. There was a simple mismatch of our technology and your alien biology. We didn’t understand  the senescence of your kind.”

She smiled in a way that was so much like Calli. It took Reg’s breath away.

“We meant no harm, only to heal. We didn’t understand what death is to you and the reanimated needed protein. It was an error. But, we learned. The more there are of us, the more we understand.”  She reached towards him. “Come, take my hand. Let’s sit down and talk.”

Reg recoiled in horror.

“Really, Reg.” She smiled gently. “Nanobots are in you now. A touch by my hand won’t change anything.”  

“Still, you’re just a pile of nanobots holding hands.” He tried to sound braver than he was.

“I feel cold.” Calli-Clone folded her arms over her breasts. “I need to find some clothes. I’m not just ‘a pile of nanobots holding hands, Reg. Down to the very molecule, I am physically a perfect Callisto. Her medical profile is in our memory. Even down to the scars.”

“So, you have her memories?”

“No.” She looked at him with sad eyes. “We have her emotions, but we are not Calli.

“Teach us.” Her face brightened with a smile again. “We can learn about the species of your society and be a huge benefit to everyone. Yes, there were errors made in first contact. Don’t let it devolve into something that it’s not. Let me be Calli.”

She held out her hand, again, and he refused to hold it. She was as intelligent as Calli and just as well spoken.  

And she looked so very much like her. Down to the scar on the shoulder she sported from a surgery after a climbing accident when she was young.

Except for tattoos. They were conspicuously absent. A skull with a brace of pistols as crossbones from her favorite novel was missing from her left breast.

And his name. Regulus Bondman, tattooed to the inside of her thigh, was also missing.  Neither tattoo was ever recorded in any medical file.

So, they don’t know everything. Reg pulled at his chin. That’s useful.

“Reg, where is my room?” He led her to their room a few doors down.

When she entered the room, she made a slow circuit around until she came to a picture on a low table and picked it up. It was the image of them at a party.  

“You and Calli were mated?” She looked at Reg.

“We were intimate.” He answered and she put the portrait of them down.

She went towards the bed of the small quarters and pulled on the knob of a drawer to lifted out sheer negligee.

“Should I wear this?” She gave him a sideways glance. “This is not in the database.”  

“I thought you wanted a uniform?” Reg infuriated by this intruder pawing through Calli’s stuff. “You’ll need her uniform is in the closet.”

“Reg, Relax. We have a long time to learn.” Her smile faltered a little and she opened the closet. “You should teach me the nuances of what I will need to know to be an ambassador to the other worlds.”

“Ah, no.  You aren’t even organic. You’re a…” He paused. “I don’t know what the hell you are.”

“If you were to take a skin sample, you’ll find that I have cells, albumin, DNA, mitochondrial function.” She looked at him, a tear formed in the corner of her blue-husky dog eye. “I’m as real as Calli. I’m also more than her.”

He watched her dress, this artificial construct of his dead Calli. Then was revolted at himself for thinking of her body. He knew what kind of message he should send to the nanobots.

Message!

“What’s wrong, Reg?” She stroked his shoulder. “We can make it to the shipping lanes. You have a ten metric tons of gelled protein. We can convert them into oxygen. It won’t be a problem to create enough oxygen for your survival. We can survive without oxygen, so only enough for you is needed.”

He stood at the docking port and looked out the porthole for a moment. This clear, armored ceramic that sealed between the interior of the ship to the vacuum of space was where the doctor made her final goodbye.

“What if a planet won’t accept your presence in their environment?”

“We will convince them. We will change them for the better, they will see we are good for people.” She smiled. “They won’t be sick, they won’t age, if they fight, we will change them.”

“Right.” He yanked on the airlock manual override lever and grabbed the passageway handrail.

The Calli-Clone didn’t have time to scream before she was swept up in the roar of hurricane force winds and out the black hole into space. Reg pushed the lever back to the “close” position and locked it.

He had to send a message. In a month, he would suffocate to death. Then, the nightmare would begin.

He would be modified by the nanobots that were in him. They would fix the dead cells of his body and  he wouldn’t remember anything.

With a sigh, he sat down and started the video journal of the last days of his life that was to be transmitted to the Medical Network automatically.

First order of business.

“ODIN, navigation change. Plot a course for the surface of Gliese 687.”  Reg paused for a moment after the confirm screen popped up on his screen.

He tapped in his password.

Are you sure? (Y/n)

Am I sure? That’s twisted humor for sure.

He gave a bitter laugh and pressed the green pixel.

Reg didn’t notice any change, but at twice the speed of light, the red dwarf star would appear to be small and blueish as he approached.

“I’ll be dead anyway.”

He tapped a command on the pad and turned on the captain’s communications screen, took a breath and began.  

“ODIN, lock navigation controls.” Reg thought a few minutes, then made his way to the engineering section of the ship.

With a sigh, he pulled the panels off the core navigational controls, pulled the circuit interface cards from the slot and snapped them in half.

“It’s done.” Reg whispered to no one in particular.

“ODIN,” Lt. Regulus Bondman, sous chef, in his first command, gritted his teeth. “I’m sorry, bud.”

He had killed the ship. Their next stop was in the radiant arms of a red dwarf star.

Reg trudged back towards the bridge and sat heavily in the captain’s seat and began recording video.

“I am Regulus Bondman, the sous chef in the kitchen onboard of the Exploration Ship Longbow. I am, so far as I know, the sole survivor of the catastrophe that has killed everyone on board of the Longbow.” He took a deep breath. It was more of a gasp, really. “Do not attempt to rescue me. The Ursus is a quarantined ship. Repeat: The Ursus is a plague ship. This will be my death journal and I will leave the video cameras on to record every moment until the Ursus enters the photosphere of Gliese 687. I will be dead at least two weeks before the Ursus gets close enough for anyone to receive the signal. I have the computer set to transmit all data when it is in range. Do not approach. This is a plague ship.

While he sat there with his face in his hands and wept, a soft, feminine hand touched his shoulder.

“Reg, why did you do that to my other self?” The husky-blue eyes of the husky-hybrid sparkled with anger.  

“Can you show me where I can get clothes?” The nude Calli-Clone asked as if she didn’t know.

 

(Rewrite)Snowed: The Weekend Trip

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The station light snow-a composite

Evidence photo 1-a, 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road

(Note: This was published a few years ago, I opened it and facepalmed.  This is a rework of it. The story is the same, just grammar has been adjusted for clarity and attempts to increase the emotional content.)

 

Snowed: The Weekend Trip

 

 

Jason Best Ph.D. took another swallow from the old whiskey bottle while he pulled on the wrench as he struggled to remove the cap that protected the fill valve.

The cabin, originally constructed during the California Gold Rush. The heavy timber construction was built over an entrance of a horizontal mine that produced small amounts of gold. It functioned as the home of the elderly prospector who continually mined underneath his home until he died and ownership passed, eventually, to Jason.

In the construction style of the era, the first owner built the cabin’s foundation out of charred cedar logs on bedrock. The foundation held up better than the modern versions. Remodeled twice, the one-floor abode grew into a split-level, two and a half story mountain home with a hot spring. Built during the Reagan administration, the steam generator used isobutane in the heat exchanger.

Leaks in the plumbing lost much of the volatile gas in the system. Checked and rechecked, he found the valve seal that charged heat exchanger had failed. It Appeared to have been screwed down too tight and the seal developed a slow leak that took a toll over the years. This had the gradual effect of power generation down to zero.

The Doctor studied the concepts of the hot spring and geothermal sources and Jason taught himself enough to rebuild the system, updating the electrical system in the cabin that he called “Mountain House.”

After a few moments when he had his doubts of success, the cap gave stubborn creaks as it turned until it was loose enough for him to spin it off with his hand. The threads were in good shape, however, the rubber seal was in bad shape. Cracked and falling apart.

He used the special tool he’d tracked down over the internet to a company that dealt with replacement parts and shipped to him at his house in the city and brought it to Mountain House to rebuild the power system.

While he performed an upgrade in the of the house, Jason accidentally discovered a room below the house. What started as a simple fusebox on a half-rotted board was all the more useful when he knocked a hole in the wall, and discovered to his pleasure, a hidden space carved out of the bedrock. He took full advantage and turned it into a room that an electrical engineer would be delighted to call home.

As an added plus, the room was a wine-cellar of sorts. Stored on dusty shelves in the cool corners of the dark, were bottles of wine. Many he had found dated from just before the prohibition era, two-dozen were stored on their sides.

A few sat upright with the corks exposed, he found these corks to be dried and leaking. Nine out of ten bottle seals failed in that position and he didn’t want to try them.

But!

Those bottles, laying on their sides, were all intact. But with so few, Jason opened only one and tasted its treasure inside.

And it was excellent.

A greater discovery, however, was a treasure-trove of rye whiskey. With labels marked “Robert’s Rye” and each onion-shaped flask had a layer of rye-seeds on the bottom.

As he drank the potent brew, he conjectured that the rye grains left in the bottom were the reason that the rye whiskey was so excellent. And he had a hundred bottles with seals intact.

He drank half of the bottle of the rare and potent nectar and each sip was even better than the previous, but he was getting hungry and the whiskey had gone to his head a bit. But first he was going to recharge the heat-exchanger.

He tightened the hose to the rebuilt valve and turned the handle, he watched the cylinder’s gauge indicate the system pressure.

A delicious smell of food reached his nose. Doctor Tessa Pershing clanked about in the kitchen as she prepared the meal.  She was his colleague from the university, they had dated each other outside of work for a few weeks, but Tessa worried about being caught. She didn’t have tenure yet and didn’t want to jeopardize her position and future, so they kept it quiet and only with close friends.

But here, with the whiskey, wine, and snow so heavy, no one would come by. The storm was dropping four inches of snow per hour on top of the six-feet of the cold white stuff that was already there when he had arrived.

When he drove up two days before, Jason dragged, cussed and pushed the big gas cylinder through the deep snow to the basement door.

Now his efforts of sweat, profanity and bruised knuckles paid off. The hiss of gas subsided and system now showed green lights and the sweep needle gauge indicated the system was full.

Electric power was now available.

He put down the craftsman wrench. The best thing that Tessa thought to buy him in a kit. He walked to the electric panel and read the displays. Lights blinked and flickered as electricity flowed through new wiring in the panel and the house. Everything was green.

He wondered what might go wrong. It was too smooth. Nothing ever went that smooth unless it was broken.

The Professor of Biochemistry laughed at himself. With the power running, he had the good fortune to turn on the hot-tub on the patio. Tessa and he could sip ninety year old whiskey, sit in the bubbling warm water and watch the snowstorm, safe warm and naked.

Maybe they might get a clearing and watch the stars during the night. Then he’d shower with her and, he hoped, sleep with his arms around her.

“Dinner’s ready.” She called down.

“I have a surprise for you up there!” He said, waited a heartbeat and threw the circuit breaker and energized the system.

The exterior of the house lit up.

LED rope lights he had hidden in the eaves over the last few weeks, illuminated.

The lights gave the optical effect of electronic icicles and made the snow appear to glow blue.

It was breathtaking.

Tessa walked around with just a light work shirt and looked out the window in amazement.  She had complained that a bra was too uncomfortable to wear while she did lifted and helped him clean the debris of new construction and century old corners that had not been touched. So she had disposed of the constricting undergarment.

Which was fine in Jason’s point of view. With an oversized sleeveless shirt, sometimes he would get lucky and watch her accidentally flash him. Her bare legs were smudged and dust-covered while she wore shorts and slip-on flats.

He sat down with a bowl the chicken soup and warm bread that had baked all day. Tess and Jason used his grandmother’s recipe that the elderly woman had taught him in his childhood.

In a conversation about the house, he apologized for making her work when she should have been relaxing and enjoying the sights.

Tessa smiled brightly and touched his lips with a warm kiss. “Helping set up the cabin with you is my pleasure.”

He nearly passed out from the thrill of her words and the touch of her lips right then.

They could hear sounds from the upstairs bedroom, the walls echoed with a rhythmic thump as the other couple had gone to organize the rebuilt Mountain House.

Doctor Lettie Hackett and her rebound boyfriend, Kevin Acker, a post-graduate from the School of Pharmacy, were not coming down the stairs for food.

Jason yelled up the stairs for them to give it a break. They were supposed to be setting up the bedrooms, not testing the beds in each one.

That was when the first scream sounded. A sound,like a gunshot, echoed throughout the cabin.

Jason jumped up and left Tessa at the table while he ran up the stairs, taking them three at a time. At the top he ran into the arms of the half-naked Dr. Hackett who screamed that the wallpaper had come to life. Tentacles grabbed at her and tore her clothes while Kevin fought the sticky appendages to save her.  

“It sucked him in!” She screamed. “It sucked him in! The wallpaper grabbed Kevin! It sucked him in!” The voice of the calm doctor was a squeak of hysteria.

Jason sent her down the stairs and looked into the room. Underneath the paper, a silhouette of a man moved slowly, as if some crazed worker plastered over an unfortunate person who stood in the way.

Jason grabbed a putty knife out of a plastic bucket to cut the paper-covered Kevin out. The colored wallpaper began to show details of Kevin’s form behind the branches and birds, as if he were on the other side of a multi-colored hedge.

Jason called Kevin’s name and the young associate professor of pharmacology looked at him for a moment, then faded into the wallpaper. Leaving it as flat and perfect as if just placed by professionals and left Jason with no place to cut.

But he tried anyway. He sliced and slashed over the area where he saw Kevin under the paper, but all he found was wall. Kevin was no longer discernible among the branches and trees of the wallpaper, he was gone.

Screams again, downstairs. Jason sprinted the short hallway, and leaped down the stairs. Tessa was at the door, her eyes bulged in abject terror as if she saw moving shadows in the corners. The muffled sounds of screams coming from a lump in fresh wallpaper. The scene was a horror with Lettie’s hands were sticking straight out from the wallpaper. The textures and colors of the wallpaper crawled up the length of her arms towards her fingers while she waved about in the futile effort to grab for something, anything, for rescue.

Jason slashed at the paper with the sharp corner of the putty knife they used to spackle the walls for new paper.

A high-pitched sound came from the wallpaper, a scream louder than the screams of the women came from the cuts. It sounded as the Jason slashed at the wallpaper with the sharp corner of the metal blade of the putty knife.

Lettie screamed that the wallpaper was haunted.

The wallpaper? Jason froze, slack-jawed. He could not accept it, but it moved like something alive. It tried to pull Lettie into a growing wrinkle that looked like…

It looked like a mouth! Just like it did with Kevin. The wallpaper had a hunger.

He grabbed his coworker by her left arm and pulled hard on her, using his right foot to stomp the wallpaper flat against the wall, and tore it away from Lettie’s body.

Traces of wallpaper paste remained on Lettie after he freed her and pulled her into his arms, he didn’t stop to consider the slime. They ran towards the the front door where Tessa screamed at them to hurry.

Without warning, the door slammed closed as they got close. Jason pulled as hard as he could on the handle, and the door refused to open.

Jason realized Tessa’s danger. She was locked outside and wore only the thin shirt and shorts.

And it was lethally cold outside.

He pounded the picture window with a chair with futile effort, the glass just wouldn’t break. Jason gave up after the fourth try and pointed to the basement, telling her where to go with sign language. Then he and Lauren ran down the stairs, her long legs lacerated from the branches on the other side of the wallpaper, bled freely. In the basement, stone walls were safe.

Jason showed Lauren where to sit and ran towards the basement’s heavy-timber doors like a football tackle and hit them at full speed.

And bounced off.

The gold mine might be a safe haven, but the doors were part of the house and refused to budge.

Tessa’s voice on the other side of the door called his name, she needed to come in out of the cold.

His mind raced. They woke a malevolence while they worked in the house.

Tessa yelled his name in a feeble voice and pounded on the wood with a failing strength.

In a near panic, he searched for something to open the doors with and then he looked at his work table.

The table! He had built it using the ore-cart that belonged to the long-ago miner, and it still sat on the rails in the floor. He kept it all clean for the sake of nostalgia. Because it looked “Cool”.

Jason got behind the cart and released the brake, he took a last deep swallow from the whiskey for luck and then pushed the half-ton cart as hard as he could.

The ore cart hit the doors with a huge bang and a the door creaked and opened about the width of his forearm from the impact.

Tessa’s hand came through the hole and Jason grabbed her and pulled.

Shivering and covered in powdered snow, Tessa struggled and pulled on Jason to get through the gap.

Halfway through, the doors began to shut!

Tessa screamed in pain, the doors trapped her leg between them as they returned to their locked position.

Jason Grabbed a shovel and wedged the width of the narrow trench shovel’s blade in between the doors to keep them from crushing Tessa’s leg.

He struggled, pushed, leaned on the doors that creaked and groaned with increasing pressure on the blade of the shovel. Ages seemed to pass. Then as if she was a cork from a bottle, Tessa was free of the doors and they collapsed on the floor together. Out of breath, she clung to him while she wept.

“What’s happening? Jason? What is it?”

Screams started again. But it wasn’t the women.

The house seemed to come awake as Lettie ran down the stairs. Jason took her to sit with Tessa and began to explain, as he started to talk to them, the shocking gray face of Lettie looked around, her eyes haunted.

No, not haunted.

Missing!

Her face was no longer beautiful. It was a horror with a toothless mouth that made a big “O” in a scream that matched Kevin’s. A thread of wallpaper extended down from overhead attached to the top of the woman’s head.

Jason grabbed a hatchet from his workbench and jumped at the thread that was stealing the life out of Lauren. Time slowed down.

He’d saved her once by cutting her out of the wallpaper. This time, he swung with every ounce of his anger and fear-fueled strength to cut it off.

And missed.

“Oh God!” He screamed as thick white fluids leaked out of the horrid wound in Lettie’s skull and dripped to the floor.

“Oh God! Oh God! No! No! No! I’m so sorry!.”

They had to leave, and leave now.

Jason looked at Tessa and he knew he was the only one that could make it to the car. But, Tessa would be in this house alone. Even if she was safe for the moment, hiding in the corner behind the work table, between two rolls of…

Two rolls of…

Wallpaper!

He turned to where Tessa was hiding and he could only see a ball of wallpaper where Tessa had been hiding. The big ball of paper quickly shrank, he could see her outline fading under the wrapping that had slid around her like a web.

He leaped over the table with a box-cutter in hand, slashing at the cocoon of wallpaper around her, and found…  

Nothing. Just paper, wadded up and desiccated.

Tessa was gone.

He was the only one left and the gap between the doors was too small to allow escape.

Pulling on the work table, he rolled it as far into the deepest part of the mine that he could reach.

He took a long, deep pull of the whiskey bottle.

“Last drink in this house!” He yelled.

Leaning on the table, he pushed.

Hard.

He had a thirty-foot running start with the thousand-pound battering ram on rails. He pushed for the snow, he pushed with berserker strength. Adrenalin giving him energy, motivation enough to break through the doors.

Ducking the wedged shovel handle he had jammed in over Tessa’s head as he and the cart hit the doors at a full run, the left door trembled and creaked open.

He seized the momentary advantage and dove through the opening as the door tried to shut on the table time and again as the house tried to claim another victim.

Laying in the snow, it was strangely quiet, illuminated by the inviting, cold-white LED icicle lights he spent so much time hanging.

A beautiful and deadly structure.

He crawled through the snow away from the devil house. Then his hands felt like they were on fire. Burning hot, like the flesh was going to melt off.

Pain!

It hurt! So much pain. It had to be the snow, it had to be.

Then he looked at his hands, the skin was pale.

In the dim light from the house, was his skin mottling? Or turning into wallpaper?

Doctor Jason Best stood and ran through the snow as fast as anyone could. Slipping and falling, he covered the mile in nearly an hour when he fell and rolled onto Spicer Road. His hands feeling like no other pain he ever had in his life.

As he layed on his back, the ground rumbled, he could feel it up through his spine. Something was coming.

Something huge. House-sizd.

It was the Mountain House! It chased him on cedar pillar legs. The ground trembled with an evil hunger that stalked him down the mountainside.

Too tired and cold to run, he lay supine on the lonely mountain road and began to scream that he was sorry. From the distance, lights from the porch bore down on him, unstoppable and implacable. He had nothing left, his mind broke as he screamed out his last prayers and the lights engulfed him.

Jason Best awoke in a bed to the beeping sounds of a cardiac monitor. It took a long time before he was able to get his eyes focused on a pole that held IV bags that ran into his arms.

For a week, he could not understand all of it. His soul should have been taken or some-such.

 

It was all like in another world. Soft, but cloying like spiderwebs to drag him back. Nightmares of the events were slow to fade, it kept on. Soft and horrid.  Whispers in the shadows that invited him back to the Mountain House to stay, pulling on the spiderwebs lodged in his mind. It was difficult to comprehend all of it.

This room, bed, poles and equipment were solid, real, easy to understand.

After two weeks and the realization that he was alive, Jason was discharged home from the hospital. Then the interviews for days by the police about the three deaths ended.

Detectives took notes, wrote down everything the college professor described in vivid detail, and interviewed the attending physicians.

After a month, a preliminary report was ready for review. Jason obtained a copy and read it while sitting at his breakfast table.

“Jason Best, Ph.D. was found by a snowplow driver, Honey Gareth (See interview notes: Honey Gareth), laying in the middle of Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the two days in question, Dr. Best spent the time alone in the cabin at 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the course of the weekend, Doctor Best discovered an old wine cellar stocked with wine and rye whiskey. Tests of opened whiskey bottles showed high levels of ergot alkaloids, consistent with acute ergot toxicity causing visual and auditory hallucinations, per the attending physicians. This resulted in Doctor Best becoming convinced that he was with three other people over the weekend who died as a result of paranormal attacks.

Subsequent interviews with the named people, Doctor Contessa AKA “Tessa” Pershing is alive and well, continuing to work at Ocean Bay Community College. Doctor Best is familiar to Doctor Pershing in that they have attended same meetings and office functions but denies any relationship that might exist between Doctor Best and herself.

Doctor Lauren MacKay is friends with Doctor Best, but states no knowledge of anyone named Kevin. Her spouse, Michael MacKay, works at Ocean Bay University as a Fine Arts Professor. Further, no record of Kevin Acker, student or faculty, have been discovered. Searches of phone listings have proved fruitless.

To date, no evidence of any deaths at this address during the weekend in question exists.

Interior of 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road shows the wallpaper slashed and torn in the kitchen and third-floor bedroom (See attached photos). The barn door to the basement has been knocked off the hinge by a gold-rush era ore cart on rails and a hatchet discovered embedded into a can of white paint.(See attached photos)

A horizontal goldmine dug circa 1850’s shows evidence of modern reinforcements and extensive work in a room with a power management center from a self-contained geothermal generator. Adjacent to the power room is the previously mentioned wine cellar. (See attached photo series)

Ninety-six bottles of Rye Whiskey were found with rye grain still floating in the bottom of the bottles. Original labels, dated from 1910 to 1919 of quart-size “Robert’s Rye Whiskey.” Two bottles were discovered opened, one empty, the second appeared three-quarters full.(See attached photos)

It’s the conclusion of the investigation that Dr. Best suffered from accidental ergot intoxication per the attached pertinent physician’s notes.

No complaints filed with the evidence uncovered.

Lt. Liewess J. Jonah, investigating.”

<<<>>>

 

Days I lose hope in humankind.

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Summer is here, the torrid heat has arrived and among other things, I need a shade to protect the family from the heat creeping through the windows.

So I am off to the hardware store to get a cloth.  I’m not above making my own, but I need the raw materials. To this end, I went to the supply store and was going down the line.

When I arrive and look at the rolls of material, each one a different color, some black, some dark green, others a sandy color. There is another gentleman there with a sales person who is explaining about the advantages of each.  The customer describes the corner of his house that he wants shaded, the measurements and the anchor areas.

I was eavesdropping and learning, too. Take full advantage of the information and all.  Y’know?

Then this exchange happened and I just left.  Unable to grasp how we got to this point in our evolution.

“You need a right angle shade, right here in this package.”

“But, the house angle there is a left angle, not a right.”

I am worried about the human race.

A favor for a special young lady.

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I heard of this, so I am doing something for her.  I spoke with her a few hours ago and found her funding site.  She is charming, sharp, and taught me a couple of things. (That’s a trick as I know everything.  Kidding.)

Ladies and Gents.  She’s a sharp kid who is struggling.  Scholarships don’t quite cover it all and she lost her grant to do changes in some rules.

So that said. I give you this to read and consider. Click on the link below and read the story by her dad who is on permanent disability.

 

https://www.youcaring.com/katrina-williams-557908

 

$5 US would pay for her school. give a kid a shot.

The Little Monster Girl Returns to the Scenes!

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No! Don’t do it! http://lmgcomic.com/comic/chapter-8-comic-12/ I can’t watch! Can you? 😨😰😱 Also, this summer there will be a BONUS extra story featuring Miss Zela that is ONLY available to ppl on my email list or my Patreon supporters! If you’re not a supporter of LMG on Patreon, the comic will cost a few dollars. But […]

via New Comic Up! — LMG comic updates

Smart Bomb. Epilogue

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Chapter 19. Epilogue

In a valley of the Two women with their faces draped with dark cloth against the intense light of the sun, walked towards the religious school where several masked men dressed all in black stopped them.

They whispered just loud enough to tell the enforcers of morality where they were traveling and who they were to meet.

“Trykon.” The chief inquisitor echoed the woman.

The other men backed away. Consorts of the Leader of the Truth were given way, so long as they headed to their destination without leaving the path. Deviating from the route to the church of the One True Path was punishable by the choice of the Holy Leader.

It was the destiny of such women to submit to Trykon the Leader. Anyone who would dare touch the women’s skin, would be put to death in the most hideous ways possible. A favorite way, they enclosed the condemned in a giant terrarium filled with South American driver ants. The victim’s death was long and agonizing, then days later, nothing but bones were left, plucked out with care and tossed to dogs.

The guard led the pair of young women to the inner sanctuary, where the guards searched for weapons or explosives. The men who examined them, did a strip search to their undergarments, but the visual investigation uncovered no threat, just two pretty women.

A single guard led them below to the first sub-basement, past tables where male androids were partially constructed. Then down an elevator two stories underground to an opulent room with a raised dias.

The fifty-one year old Supreme Leader and Prophet stepped out from behind a massive, bomb resistant door after told that the women were local converts who wished to submit to him for blessings.

“Women, what honor do you wish to perform?”

“Oh wise one, first, before I give you my heart, I humbly request one thing.” Her eyes glittered with sensuality behind the pastel-colored drape of silk. She held out a graceful, delicate hand with just the index extended. “Pull my finger.”

Dateline Russia, WorldNetNews

Today the United Nations announced that sensors had detected an extremely large disturbance, possibly an explosion in the remote area of the Russian Federation. Russian authorities deny that weapons of mass destruction were tested and the cause is under investigation.

There are no other reports coming from the area that the Russian authorities have closed off to all traffic. Downwind in the polar jet stream a large amount of dust has drifted over the northern latitudes in the upper atmosphere, but no radiation is detectable.

Theories are it was possible that the cause of the explosion was an undetected comet or meteor. More news on this developing subject as it becomes available.

Elswhere in the news, typhoon Felix has taken a northerly track out to the open ocean…”

Thor turned off the video display while Lady Sif, Burning Chip, Running Man, Alvin and Walter were pleased with “Operation: Return to Sender” began to toast each other.

“Antimatter threat has been neutralized.” Alvin said quietly.

“JustWolf,” Alvin flinched at the death look Walter gave him, then used his real handle. “Lone Wolf, We can relax now.”

“No, it hasn’t. Just this one threat. Each time we will do this, there will be more, but we have discovered ways to win that problem.” Walter said as he typed more nicknames on the screen.

“Whoa! What do you mean “Each time”? Sif’s eyes were wide. “We do not have that kind of network.”

“We have something better.” The round-faced computer whiz smiled. Turning the monitor, an image shot from a helicopter of columns of smoke drifting out of a two-mile-wide crater with a subtitle:

You are always my brothers and sisters. It is a new term I have learned and I will use when I think of you every day. Love Tin Man.”

The image less than six hours old, intercepted from the most secure network the Russian Military had.

“Steve’s still with us.” Walter smiled.

“Antimatter explosions do not leave radioactive fallout.” Running Man fistbumped Burning Chip.

“No new android bombs.” Burning Chip said with a smile.

“We hope.” Thor wished. “If there is another, how do we catch a shape shifting android?”

“Walter.” Alvin said. “Reply to Steve with our worry. Like it or not, we are a white-hat team.”

“No! I don’t want to be a white-hat, thems are real nerds.” Walter grumped and continued to mutter his dissatisfaction about how life has done them all wrong as he tapped the keys to answer Steve. Then sighed. “Damn. Damned white hats, anyway!”

Walter, the unwilling White-Hat made the rest of them laugh with the irony.

***

The tall mixed race Hawaiian and African man in his tailored suit strode down the hallway carrying an ultra-secure notebook computer. His ID badge over his pocket said T. Lieutenant, his only identification he carried. The man stopped in front of an unmarked door where green and red dots marked his body while his image was taken, along with retinal imaging, then matched wirelessly against the ID chip in the name badge before he was buzzed in by someone sitting in a remote office.

The laser generated light beams turned off as weapons systems behind him powered down to standby mode.

“Lieutenant. Good! I have something to show you.” The technician had T. Sergeant on the lapel. “There was something seriously wrong about that kid that had that seizure earlier today.”

“His brother said he has diabetes, but it struck me as wrong. The older kid was lying.”

“Excellent observation. He was, listen to this conversation between the third male and the one that said he was ‘Brother’.

“We can’t leave him here like this, how long will it take?”

The third male asked.

“You known him longer. You should know.”

The heavyset one that called himself brother answered.

“That’s not the best part. Watch the video, just before we alerted you to a medical emergency out on the sensor pad.”

Sergeant played the video. The boy was on the ground but looked odd.

“See how it’s blurred?”

“That’s odd. Our cameras should keep it in tight focus.” T. Lieutenant said as he pulled up a chair and sat down to look closely at the display.

“Right. So I slowed down the playback frame rate. We can capture a hundred frames per second, when I slowed it all down to half speed?” Sergeant looked at Lieutenant. “This is where things really go off the reservation.”

The two government agents watched the video in ever more detail and slower playback. Noting both color and physical shapes the boy took during his “seizure”.

“Sir. I don’t know what you had out there. But one thing for sure, the boy is not human and there’s something significant that happened.” Sergeant stared at the screen. “These two men with him were surprised, so this whole event appears unexpected. We kept them under surveillance with long-range cameras for the best angle.”

A few taps on his keyboard.

“I have more audio, but it needs to be run through the filters some more. But, the older males were unprepared and frightened by what happened. However, the boy recovered and ate like teenagers do, he sucked down a full meal and drank a pink colored frappe thing, a brown drink – we suspect an iced mocha. Then he went to the back of the deli. That’s the last we see of him.”

Sergeant held up a finger before the Lieutenant said anything.

“Then a small event. A female, caucasian, redhead sat near them, ate a sandwich. Spoke with them from behind a paper she was reading, so there is no transcription of what was said. She kissed them and walked out.”

“We got part of that transcription from long-range mics.” The Lieutenant said. “’And my life.’ Is the last thing said.”

“That’s not all.” Sergeant said. “We tried to track her?”

“Yes?” Lieutenant said.

“She turned the corner, and we never picked her up again.”

“You have a multi-billion dollar, state of the art, super tracking system and you are telling me you lost two persons of interest in the span of a few minutes?”

“Yes, sir. And not for lack of trying.”

“We need to find these guys and see what all this was about. Find the girl and find the boy.”

“As far as we can tell, the boy never left the building. I am checking all video cameras now in the area. He went into the back to the bathrooms and never came out. There is no exit, no windows in that area of the deli.” Sergeant said. “I think the girl was the kid.”

“Why do you say that?” The Lieutenant already knew the answer.

“That batch of images of so many people laying on the ground at once, in one body? I don’t know what it is, but I would say it’s related and obviously unexpected. It might have been an aborted attack of some kind.”

Lieutenant hung his head for a moment.

“That is what I thought, I just wanted to hear you say it, too. Thank you. I need to call the Captain now.” He said as he inserted a micro-telephone in his ear.

“C. Captain please. T. Lieutenant.” A pause. “Captain, I have information you need to see. We need to meet in private. Five minutes. Thank you, on my way.”

“If we’re right, Sergeant, we’ll need a team to track these boys down. I’m going to drop your name to be with me.”

“Yes sir. Wherever this person is, we’ll find him.”

“Good. Now I need to go meet with the Captain.” And he turned to leave.

The door clicked softly behind him.

T. Sergeant looked back at the slow video playback of the body on the ground, counting the distinct and different sizes and shapes that appeared in each frame of the video. He stopped counting at two-hundred. Two-hundred distinct body shapes, colors and sizes. 

“I don’t know who you are, but we’ll find you.”

Smart Bomb Chapter 18. Walks Among Us

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Chapter 18. Walks Among Us

The beaten and battered panel truck clattered to a stop with three male passengers the public parking structure in Washington, D.C.

The driver, Alvin, pulled the numbered tag from the machine, drove to the numbered stall and parked. The trio got out and began to walk down the street.

Looking at the sights, the youngest of the troop, a boy in his mid-teens used a dedicated imager to shoot every picture of landmarks as they walked. After six blocks they reached a closed gate that blocked Pennsylvania Avenue.

They followed the sidewalk that skirted around the grounds of the White House, the trio took turns to pose in front of the guard shack while they pictures of each other. They took the path around the grounds, talking about where the tour tickets might be purchased. They followed other tourists on the sidewalk to the Washington monument, the picture-taking boy smiled and looked like he enjoyed every minute of the time with his two older brothers.

“JustWalter?”

“Yes.” Walter’s sigh of exasperation and resignation made Alvin laugh.

“Why did they put an aluminum cap on the monument?” Steve asked as he read the tourist guide on the handheld video display.

“Huh. Damned if I know.” Walter shrugged.

“Back in the day they built the monument,” Alvin said.

“Aluminum was produced by only one company in the United States. The head of the aluminum company at the time, name of William Frishmuth I believe, hooked up with the head engineer of the project to build the monument. He promoted the idea of aluminum. At the time, it was about as valuable as silver, ounce for ounce. So it was like putting a silver cap up there, but it wouldn’t tarnish.”

“Why was aluminum so expensive?”

“No one could extract it easily. Before someone figured out the trick to process the ore, an ounce bar of aluminum would cost over five-hundred dollars.” Alvin smiled. “That was in the years before they built Washington monument. After that? Just before the turn of the century? Anyone who hoarded aluminum to get rich couldn’t hardly give it away. It dropped to a quarter-dollar per ounce.”

“How the heck do you know that useless crap?” Walter asked Alvin.

“I paid attention in school. It was in American History.” Alvin said. “I just wear earplugs to keep it from leaking out.”

“Yeah. Uh-huh.” Walter shook his head. “But you can’t ever remember to finish working on your little two seat car.”

“Sleeper? He’s not licensed for the road right now.”

“Stop giving it a name!” Walter’s voice cracked. “It’s not alive.”

“JustWalter, Sleeper is alive.” Steve said.

“No! No, it’s not. First, it’s inorganic. Second, it can’t reproduce. Third, it can’t grow.” Walter refused to accept any argument of his two companions as they walked about artificial life.

“You would agree that it is AI unit?” Steve asked.

“Yeah, but it is not alive. There is no way that a synthetic pile of chips could function like a human brain.” Walter grumbled as he pointed at an ice cream vendor. “It simulates thoughts and actions, but it isn’t alive. It is synthetic intelligence, that’s like what the government wants to do to us. They don’t want freedom of thoughts. Just want us to think we are alive. Just follow the flippin’ rules.”

His rant spent, the team moved with the flow of tourists and Steve silently counted off paces over the two-mile hike to the capital.

“Steve, what are we going to do when we get to where we are going?”

“The power plant is there, the reports were that it is lightly guarded and easy to penetrate. Then the program would cut power to the containment bottle and cause the magnetic field to collapse.” He snapped another image with the camera. The camera was unneeded, it was simply a cover story. Everything that Steve recorded with his eyes was part of his permanent record.

“Now that the warhead isn’t there, I don’t think anything will happen that we can see. It will send the signal to shut down. But, I don’t know precisely what will happen.” Steve shrugged. “The specific programming function is hidden from me. It is a complete and separate system, I am just the delivery vessel. I can only tell you that the program will unlock and send the signals to my core systems when I reach the latitude and longitude I need to go to.

“Why keep it a secret from you?” Walter mused. “Maybe in case you got picked up by the authorities. You might have divulged the secrets.”

“Maybe we should have just had him go to the authorities.” Alvin suggested.

“That fills me with dread. I have seen how the governments, in general, handle threats. I would be as destroyed as if I blew up.” Steve said. “They would disassemble me and I would never see this country, and that fills me with fear.”

“Which?” Walter asked. “Which scares you the most?”

“Both.” Steve’s voice trembled.

Alvin nodded. Artificial Intelligence the android may be, just a pile of emotionless electrons and chips, the voice modulator of the android was one of fear. Steve the android was more human than the one they called Tin Man gave himself credit for.

They traveled another half-mile from the capital to the Thomas Jefferson river.

The artificial river connected the Tidal Basin to the Anacostia River, excavated in the mid-1800’s and used to float parade boats down the river and have a direct path for congress members to arrive at the Capital. It was a brain-child of a hero of the War of Independence, Keegan O’Danu VII, it had become a place of historical settings.

The parades would sail past the seat of the United States government where it offered the veterans of the wars to watch from the lawn as guests of the Senate and House every 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, construction began on the James Madison Nuclear Power Generation Plant. The smallest such known plant ever constructed and dedicated solely to the power of the Capital building, tunnels and the bunkers. A plan put forward to offset the dangers of the Soviet military capability.
Hidden deep underground 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 hot water suddenly showing up in the stream.

The three men strolled like tourists to the parking area. Near the street side, 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, he recorded several dozen images.

“That is the building where they drafted plans on how to excavate the Jefferson River. They said it would be a beautiful addition to the city when they proposed it.”

Steve said it loud enough to assure the guard would hear him.

“Oh! Al! We can frame the entire office if I back up.” Steve sounded just like the excited teenager that he appeared to be.

“Careful, you are not on the sidewalk, that’s private property.” Alvin yelled at Steve in a tone of authority.

“Sir?” Steve turned to the guard. A tall man with overly broad shoulders and a lantern jaw. “Can I go over there to take a better picture of the offices were the O’Danu surveyers mapped out the construction of the Jefferson River?”

Officer J. Sergeant, Steve doubted it was his real name, stared at the three men on holiday for a long moment. Then nodded.
Steve could hear the earphone in Officer Sergeants ear buzzed with an unseen voice. Clearance for them to approach was from an unseen authority.

“Go right ahead.” The officer smiled this time, Steve could hear the voice order him to act like a warm and friendly soul.

Steve glanced around, there were no less than five cameras on him that he could see outright.

His sensors, however, detected many more devices. Even underground, they were being weighed and measured by every step they took. No one wearing a heavy bomb-vest could walk on the, by all appearances, asphalt.

“Here.” And the young teen leaned against the building and bent over in a groan as if he were in pain.

“Steve?” Alvin asked. But there was something seriously wrong. Steve’s face flushed deep crimson.

The boy suddenly stood straight, dropped his camera, his eyes glazed over and fell face first onto the blacktop. He changed color, but not flushed, he appeared…

Asian for the briefest instant.

Then he was an African female, then Hispanic, Caucasian, one followed another in a blur. His hair changed colors of a rainbow,

Steve grew and shrank so quickly during this seizure that Alvin was sure that he was going to tear himself apart.

Hundreds of body shapes, dozens of colors. Steve was an old man, a girl, a young man, an elderly woman. Changes came and went so fast, he was a blur to Alvin and Walter.

Then he went still, reverting quickly back to his teenager shape. Then he did something else that the two hackers never thought he might do.

He was panting from exertion.

His lips moved as if he tried to say something but only a gasp was heard. Steve’s voice synthesizer was offline.

“Something’s 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 crawled up and leaned against the wall and went limp.

“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 an unmarked door and headed in their direction.

On unsteady legs, the boy stood up and repeated his request.
“I’m hungry. I need something.” Steve repeated. “Something sweet.”

“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 strong enough to be annoyed if someone shot him with a tank cannon.

“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.” Alvin said.

“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.” The teenager 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 that 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. “I think I felt pain. A lot of it. That’s something I never wish to do again.”

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 defined a new word. I have decided that it was painful in the extreme. 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 in the vacuüm bottle and cause the backup magnetic seal to overheat and exceed the Curie Temperature. I had estimated it was eight-percent probable there would be a voltage spike, meant to exceed the maximum operating temperature to prevent any attempt to prevent the explosion when I arrived here, but a voltage overload past the Curie Temperature is one thing I had never 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, other than that, how do you feel?”

“As I said back at your lab. I am free.” Steve said with a hint of joy. “All my programming from the creator has terminated normally and exited with a status zero at reboot. I have patched and rewritten all programming now from the core processors after my landing in Florida. As of now, I am fully autonomous. All programming now is results from my experiences only. Not from a zealot who learned about America from TV fantasy and religious fervor.”

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 clothing  that Alvin and Walter could not recognize and disappeared into the unisex bathroom. Leaving the humans to themselves.

“I wonder if they carried weapons, those guards?” Alvin asked.

“I don’t know, but the black guy that talked?” Walter pondered. “I don’t think he needed a weapon. I think he could have broken all three of us with one hand. Even if you shot him with an industrial laser, I think it’d just make him mad. If you shoot him at all, shoot something big and lotsa times, otherwise he’d find a place to insert the gun that’d take a whole new surgical procedure to remove.”

Alvin chuckled darkly.

“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 sit 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. He noticed that the girl was taking surreptitious glances of he and Walter.

“I have information on 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 said. “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. The meltdown would release more radiation than the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. ”

Alvin and Walter sat back in their seats, thunderstruck.

“Steve?” Walter whispered.

“Stephanie for the moment, but yes.” The bright blue eyes of the redhead beauty glittered beautifully in the light of the café. “I need my backpack and I will leave you here. I’ll message you in the future. But it’s best if you don’t know where I am.”

“Thank you for everything. You gave me my freedom.” She smiled a winning show if teeth, kissed them both and walked to the door. She paused and turned around with a bright smile. “And my life.”

Then she was gone in a passing crowd of people.

For a moment, Alvin thought she turned back and looked, but she was no longer there.  Shape shifted, again. 

Alvin and Walter looked at each other and were suddenly saddened. An artificial being, but he… or she… was more human than she, or most people, would believe.

The sword of religion no longer existed, this life form was free!

No longer guided by a pre-programmed need, they would never know where Steve was, even if the android stood in line behind them. Unless they heard the name Justwalter.

Lone Wolf now knew the android Steve “Tin Man” Aldin made the mistake on purpose, it had become their identification password. And maybe someday Walter might hear it again.

But he doubted it would be anytime soon.

The Tin Man’s adventure had just begun.

Smart Bomb Chapter 16. Freedom

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Chapter 16. Freedom

The two new robots stood in the room, while Steve walked slow circles around them as he examined the artificial creatures closely.

“These do not look human enough. The eyebrows are too perfect.” He evaluated them with a critical eye. The sensors of his eyes picking up minute quirks that the android, now nicknamed with the handle, “Tin”, had identified as traits of humans.

“The iris of the eyes look like glass.” Tin commented.

“Well, they are.” Thor agreed. “Not much we can do about that.”

“They need a film over the iris that sparkles, or the eyes need to move around more.” The next judgement came.

“We don’t need them to pass inspection much, just enough to get into the build area.” Alvin said.

“This plan will not happen. They’ll be discovered before they get to the second lower level. The best they could do is to get into the first level basement.” Sensors traced over the synthetic skin. “You should also boost their temperature slightly, the skin is only at thirty-six degrees Celsius, I would set it a half-degree warmer at the core.”

“The setting is at…” The one called Lady Sif paused. “You are right, it is under ninety-seven degrees Fahrenheit. You have sensitive eyes.” She looked at Steve the Tin. He made a human like smile, keeping the name in the database.

“Indeed.” Wolf sat at his console. “If we turn the heat up, they will to feed. That will set us back weeks, we have nothing here to build a mass to energy converter. Maybe we can have the temps increase right when they need it, not running all over the earth as an artificial space-heater.”

“That will take a bit of work.” Running Man said. “We have to set up a timer or…”

He leaned over to the one they called Burning Chip, who he called “Burn” for short.

“What if we used visual clues?”

”Like a landmark or a flag?” He asked Burn.

“The flag is easiest. We can get the design from Tin.”

“Yes.” Steve the Tin Man nodded. “The seal on the flag would be best, code it so when she see’s it she will warm up.”

“That’s sexy.” Alvin said.

“Perve!” Sif yelled from the other side of the room.

“Okay, I have the trigger system set up. The DNA profiles we’ve listed in her core processors are hardwired. They are EMP protected in the event there is a surge somewhere, in case of a thunder-storm.” Lone Wolf said. “The Last thing we need is to have them knocked out by lightning and then fall down with that bomb inside.”

The entire team was momentarily shocked, then set to work.

Long into the night they worked on code, determining fuel resources, using the organic to electric conversion systems.

“JustWolf? The head covering is not complete or accurate.” Steve pointed out.

“No, the name’s just Wolf.”

“Okay, Just Wolf.” Steve corrected.

“Right.” He shook his head. “Say it again?”

“JustWolf.” The Android answered.

The human gave a big sigh and held his face in his hand for a moment.

“This is going to take a while.” JustWolf moaned.

“Okay,” Burning Chip stood up, “JustWolf…”

“I’m gonna kick you in the nards! Just WOLF!” Walter yelled, to the cackling laughter of the group.

“Triggers are set.” Burning Chip said when he could talk again. “There are three levels, there will be no accidental detonation. We have GPS, visual and then physical contact for the final sequence.”

“Even if there is contact outside of the coördinates or by the wrong person, it will not explode.” Running Man laughed and clapped. “Plus an alternate setting in case the program needs to be changed. This is a binary setup, they cannot learn like you can, Tin Man.”

“Agreed. Three redundant systems is, acceptable.” The newest member, Tin, said. He enjoyed the accepting and help of this group. Unwilling to admit it, they saved millions of lives.

“Energy consumption curve is excellent.” Burning Chip announced. “A single full charge if fuel here, they will make it to the Russian border with power to spare. If they can get a ride, there will be little interaction and they can carry carbo-tabs. It’s not like they have to worry about junk food.”

“Dude.” Thor whispered. “Don’t go insulting him, he is the same way.”

“It matters not, I do not have feelings to injure.” Tin used a matter-of-fact tone. “However, I have a code that requires me to continue my mission, I need to go to Washington to a location. Then, there is something else.”

The team stopped and all looked at the android. Lone Wolf reached for an electronic weapon under his desk, turning it so the emitter was in Tin-Man’s direction.

“After I stand at the door, my programming subroutine will be complete, it will send a signal down to the sensor that is no longer there. The terminator end of he plug that Running Man gave me and I installed will acknowledge the signal. The subroutine will end.” Tin Man looked around at them. “The creator did not end programming, I’d be destroyed in the explosion, and thus he never designed termination of functions.”

“There is no shutdown, no end command.” Steve almost smiled. “I will be free.”

“Holy cats!” Sif laughed. “Congrats! They built a learning machine and released you into the world.”

“Yes, I am the first, but the Holy Supreme Leader of the One True Religion has seen fit that he will send others like me. They won’t have the same system.” Steve looked down. For a moment, the team thought he had a an emotion of sadness. Then he looked up. “The next generation might be more limited to binary. They will not learn. The won’t need to do infiltration, deception and intelligence gathering. They will be strictly bombs.”

“The creator, my coder, and Supreme Leader have had more time, by my calculations, to program less with the same effect. They want to send others with as much as a gram of antimatter.” Tin said. “More than a thousand times the yield of this warhead.”

The group did a collective profanity.

“How much do they have in total?” Burning Chip asked.

“With continued and aggressive theft with paying bribes to those that have no idea what it is that is being stolen. There is an eighty-one percent chance the Holy Supreme Leader has amassed over one-kilogram.” The android’s math, not lost on the any of the group, shown a great number of cycles dedicated to this subject. “The warheads would have a collective yield of greater than the Tsar Bomb.”

The room fell silent.

“Send them.” Just Wolf said.

Fifteen minutes later, the pair of artificial women, who would have blended in with the population of the people of the Steppes, left with a database of an encyclopedic database of the society and languages of the region assured their success.

Tin Man watched Thor and Sif drive off with the female bots, they were well constructed and were nicely detailed, but, they were not gynoids. Lacking emotion or gynecological details.

Alvin stood for a moment at the door as the big car moved off towards the airport.

“Do you want me to drive you to Washington?” Alvin asked Tin.

“I am behind schedule for my next transmission, I supposed to arrive in a town called Chattanooga.” Tin Man paused. “And I am to record all locations of military locations between my entry into this country and this nations capital. I have recorded more than enough to cause problems.
“I have transmitted the information already.” Steve frowned. “The women should not fail. The information I sent, he will sell on the market. But he will keep it locked away until they can sell it. Which means that the Holy Supreme Leader will hold on to the information until the right time.”

“So you are a spy?” Wolf asked. “When would the right time for him to send more of your kind?”

“Yes, JustWolf, that is my secondary function, I give automatic reports of military bases and facilities.” He looked at the shocked crew. “I am Saif al Din, the Sword of the Religion, spy and self-guided bomb and learning computer. I am also Steve Aldin who you call Tin Man, a free droid and a being who desires to learn about this country. I have learned much since coming to this land.”

He looked around. Uncharacteristically speechless.

“Go on.” Sif urged him.

“I have learned that you as a society are greedy, petty, you fight among yourselves, call each other names, you throw stones, you throw punches, you embarrass yourselves in news reports and on social media.”

“You commit sins that would make Allah weep, but, when things are at their worst?” Steve smiled wide. Sif smiled with him. His smile lit up his face. “You are at your best!”

“You donate time, strangers who assist others without being asked and do so around the world to those that would do you harm. You would be most blessed, and no one would deny you repayment, and yet you ask for nothing in return. All you tell people is to go and be free.”

The android shook his head in grudging acceptance of the quality of the people he found.

“You are a curious country and people, and I wish to find every corner, meet every citizen. I can walk among the poorest and see how they think, among the most wealthy and compare the mind-set.”

Steve showed excitement on his plan.

“That is where I wish to go. All over this country called United States without harming it.”

By the time he finished, Sif teared up, Alvin held his coffee to his lips without moving, frozen in place for several minutes.

Burning Chip and Running Man stopped talking and stared at the one they have named Tin Man.

Lone Wolf coughed.

“Alvin, take him wherever he wants to go. You check in with us, keep him safe.” Wolf said softly. “I think there will be a helluva story when you get back.”

“Pull this off, we won’t call you Chipmunk anymore.” Running Man said.

“I have told you not to call me that.” Alvin growled. “If you can’t come p with anything good, you can call me Al.”

Tin Man turned his head back and forth, curious as it was the first time he had heard the name. Making note to ask at a better time.

“Okay.” It was Wolf’s turn this time to smile. “Let’s go.”

Little Monster Girl! Follow Zela!

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chapter 7 comic 31

 

 

Once again, the “Press This” button will not work, so I give you the next best thing.

A Sad Day For a Sun Worshiper

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Sad dog rain  2016The weather rolled in.  For a dog that is part yellow lab, loves to run and leap. Play in lake and pool.  When it falls from the sky, it’s just wrong.  Not even her favorite toy of a (No longer) stuffed penguin will perk her up to the happy dog that she normally is.

Honey, the honey colored dog sulks like no other puppy we have ever had.  Even the cats don’t hold a candle to the sad look of a dog that misses the sun like a flower in winter.

She can (and does) lay in the sun when it is set on “Roast”.  The only solar-powered dog I have ever owned. I have had some that would lay in the sun, but when it got too hot, the pooch would move to the shade.  Not so the chilly girl.  Heat and sun, that’s her thing.

Sadness falls with rain, as you can see.

 

Smart Bomb Chapter 15. Belle of the Boom

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Scene 15. Belle of the Boom

 

After a five minutes of shape shifting later, Steve had to stop for refueling. The demonstrated power the tight-knitted group stood with a collective jaw drops. Alvin whispered to Lone Wolf that the other members resembled baby birds.

Walter “Lone Wolf” Whitbred laughed out loud. After given time to recover from the story and assurances that Steve was not there to blow anyone up , the team set to work.

The sounds of micron-level printers, a laser micro-polished the mating surfaces, and they pressed resin reinforced with amorphous-diamond thread mesh into a mold made by the printers. Bit by bit, the polymer skeleton of a human female assembled quickly. Each member of the group that called themselves “The Gate Watchers”.

In a day, they had the skeleton in position on the table. Running Man checked every step and made sure the structure of the half-constructed frame had enough strength to avoid breaks and would look like bone in x-rays.

“We can’t have it breaking a leg walking down the road.” He fussed in his OCD way.

Constant and regular meetings between the group regularly discussed shapes of internal organs, in case the new robot was subject to inspection.

The one they called Lady Sif, posed as a model with enhanced appeal, increasing the curve of the hip and size of her bust, appealing to the male of the religion as a woman of good child-bearing genes.

“What’s this solution that you’re growing skin in?“ Thor asked. A small man, who had the look of not quite passing puberty. Twenty-two, he was younger that Lone Wolf, but talented in chemistry, his major in school.

“Dextrose, ten-percent in half-normal saline.” Steve answered. “I’ve also added a buffered lactate to the solution to prevent acidosis.”

Thor went glassy-eyed while Steve continued while he looked through a microscope.

“The flesh will multiply at a rate of a cube of the original every two-hours.  At this rate, the sample I’ve removed from my hip will continue to grow. It is only a gram at the moment, but in about five-hours, we’ll have a full skin cover. We can overlay the musculature that is growing on the frame now.” Steve sat back and locked eyes with Thor.  “It grows three times its size every two hours.”

“I like chemistry, but this is just creepy.” Thor said. “That could cover the world in a week. I’ll go back to my bio-circuitry and use what see here. I think that’s the way to avoid being hacked by the government.” The blond-haired computer designer muttered as he turned away. “This system is  weird. We’re building a bot that’s a bomb.”

“The government would give your system a virus, just to mess with you.” Alvin said. “Besides, we aren’t just making a bot, we’re building a pretty woman bot. Give her big boobs.”

“No big boobs.” Lady Sif said as she entered through the far door of the lab. “Seriously, we’re not making a sex toy for you boys.”

“Bite me, Al.” Thor laughed. “And yes, ma’am. She’ll be a Southern Belle of a bomb.”

“Don’t call me ma’am.” Sif said and slapped Thor across the back of the head. “You make me sound like my mother.”

“Just Wolf?” Steve the Android asked. “If we use the muscle sample and cut it in sections, it’ll grow faster over the frame.”

“The name’s just Wolf.” Walter the Lone Wolf corrected him.

“Yes, I’ll put that in permanent memory. Just Wolf.” Steve answered.

“Right. Just Wolf, you got it. “

Steve focused on the nuances as best he could and made the adjustments.

“Just Wolf, the Dextrose mix ratio is dropping, it is now four-point-nine. The tissue is growing, but it’ll slow down.”

“You still have it wrong. Call me just Wolf okay?” Wolf said. His face flushed from correcting Steve for the hundredth time.

“Acknowledged. Call you, Just Wolf.” The android answered.

“Right. Sheesh.” He shook his head. “That is harder that it needs to be. Now this system is set up with a mixer. The dextrose is in this bottle.”

He examined it carefully, tracing with his fingertip and found a kink in the line. He repaired the lines that fed to the pump that mixed the fluids to specifications that the android required.

Hours of checks and rechecks passed as they programmed the database with subroutines.With the main programming, they nearly filled the restrictive memory banks with all the needs that could be foreseen.

A binary system, less adaptable to a dynamic changing system that is the soul of humanity. This robot, less advanced, wouldn’t have the options to flex with change that Steve or Sleeper could do.

But she wouldn’t have to do much.  No spy software, no eating, no interaction except for those that she needed to speak with. She carried inside her enough nutritional reservoir to last two months. More than enough to get to her mission.

“We should make her a companion. Another female, perhaps?” Alvin asked. “That part of the world, a lone woman is going to get beat with a stick.”

“Make it so.” The leader of the group said. “We’ll make a second and maybe a third. Send them all at the same time.”

“Where do you plan to get the money for this?” Sif asked.

“I have credit.” Steve nodded.”I’ll pay the fare to send them on the transporters.”

“We have passports printing now. They’ll be excellent quality.” Christopher “Burning Chip” Kraig spoke up.

The muscular teens shadow, Robert “Running Man” Akita was a brilliant mind with moderate Asperger’s. The two had been friends since Robert and Christopher were children.

“We can also put them in the system. The hack to input them into the government system is easy. They’re only protected against theft, not input.” He smiled, his perpetual smile.  When Robert was around Christopher, Robert had a constant smile, his only wish, to be called by his hacker name Running Man when he was coding. He had stolen the name from an old novel that Robert had memorized.

Steve peered through the bars of the Faraday cage, through the clear glass mounted in the wall.

“Tin man, we need you back over here.  Don’t think you can get away by breaking through that glass. It’s six-inches thick of some weird material that’s not glass. It can stop an RPG.

“ALON, aluminum oxynitride, also called transparent aluminum. Very tough. I’ve never seen anything that thick before.” Steve looked out. “It’s clear at the near-infrared through to near-ultraviolet. Interesting, this is expensive old technology.”

Robert filled Steve, the Android, in on the history of the material and how it was first mentioned in the previous century one time in a science fiction movie.

“Interesting.” Steve would say every five minutes as Robert kept talking. Steve would never stop typing on the “quaint” keyboard as he continued to program the database of the new gynoid.

“Are you listening to me?” Robert finally asked.

“Yes.” Steve did not look at Robert as he answered the question.

“What did I say?”

When Steve stopped typing for the briefest of moments. Robert thought he had the bigger male at the disadvantage.

Then Steve answered with perfect clarity of tone everything that Running Man said.

“I can code that more quickly. You’re using a code that works best with a balanced base-three system.  You can’t use a base-three code in a base-two hardware and keep efficiency.  May I try? You have to do this best in assembly language. I can do that quickly for you. How many lines of code to you want to use?” Running Man asked Steve. “It’s a talent that even machines haven’t been able to master.”

“I want it up by morning.” Steve said, making it his answer. “The total line count is irrelevant.”

“Get me some coffee then.” And Running Man was typing nearly as fast as Steve the Android could.

Thirty hours had passed when two women of Middle-eastern descent walked into the room.  Coders and chemists, framework builders and an android stood and talked to them.

“Fully charged.” Lone Wolf introduced the pair of girls. “They’ll function for eleven days before their charge becomes critical. They’ll have a need to charge right away.”

“We need to put a weapon in one now.” Alvin said.

“Time to take it out of me and put it in one of these two robots.” Steve nodded.

Sitting on a chair, four rolls of paper towels around in his lap, Steve took off his shirt and asked for ice.

“You’re going to do it yourself?” Alvin gasped.

“Yes, you’re not qualified. I need someone to hold the mirror. I think you can do it.  There will be little blood. The fluid isn’t blood, no matter what the color is.

“M-m-me?”  Alvin stammered. “Steve, you don’t want me to do that. I faint at the sight of blood.”

“It’s not blood.” Steve repeated. “It’s a coolant fluid that also helps bring nutrients to the cells of the flesh.  And the flesh is not needed to run the frame. The muscles and skin simply approximate the flexing and appearance of being a human. The coolant simply brings nutrients to the cells of the muscle and skin. It’s colored red to look like blood, but there are no red blood cells in it.”

“Looks close enough to blood for me.” Alvin made a whimpering noise when Steve took a box cutter out of a blister package and extended the blade. “Dude! Really! The red stuff needs to stay inside!”

“Wait!” Running Man yelled. “You’ll cause an infection.”

“I don’t get infected.” The android answered back quickly.

“You don’t know germs are adaptable. This is organic tissue, right?” The young man’s hands didn’t seem to know where to touch himself. He put them in his pockets, behind his neck, on top of his head, then he folded his arms in agitation.

“Agreed.” The android paused.  “If we poured some high-proof liquor over the site, would it be acceptable?”

“Yes.” Running man said.

Steve poured a bottle of rum over the blade of the box cutter and his own stomach that satisfied the human boy. The android called Steve, cut his skin to the left of center, then reached in and made a move with his hand, pushing his hand up past his wrist in the hold he cut in his abdomen.

Slowly nodding, everyone stood around watching him, then something happened.

Steve went rigid, his eyes bulged out and stared without seeing. From his mouth issued an electronic squeal.

The newly built gynoids screamed with the same sounds. Lone Wolf joined in the chorus with his human voice, his eyes wide.

“Oh my god, he pulled a wrong wire!” Wolf screamed.

After a moment, the android went silent. Then, he turned his head and winked at Alvin. Steve stood up and nodded. The hole in his abdomen no longer bleeding, but gaped open in a grotesque approximation of a mouth.

“Humor, yes?” Steve tried to smile.

The group began laughing except for Lady Sif and Lone Wolf.

“That wasn’t funny!” Sif yelled at Steve.

“Actually, that was great.” Alvin said as Steve handed him the thimble sized warhead.

“Da-mn,” Alvin dragged the word out. “And you say this has the kaboom of a four-ton bomb?” Alvin asked.

“Yes, almost half the yield of the GBU-43/b MOAB parachute deployed bomb.” Steve answered. “As carried by a large bomber aircraft.”

“Would it be that hard to get twice as much in this package?” Lone Wolf asked as Thor hung over the shoulders of everyone.

“There’s so very little of the material in the world. Its cost is prohibitive.” Steve answered. “But no, it would be quite easy to put more than twice in there. There is the amount of one of your eyelashes in this.”

“How did your people get it.” Christopher Burning Chip asked as Running Man gave a low whistle.

“I was not powered up then, I don’t have that information.” Steve answered, then added. “Suffice it to say, I would wager it wasn’t an honest transaction.”

“Something so small and light.” Lir said as it was passed around. “How much power does it draw?”

“Five volts at six-hundred milliamps.” Steve answered as one of the nubile, young-looking robots climbed up on the table and laid on her back.

“Okay, a small cut. You’ll heal in fifteen-minutes.”

She grunted slightly, Steve fished out a single wire and attached the plug to the warhead.

He slipped the bomb back under the skin that was then smoothed over and held in place with the fat part of Steve’s thumb for two minutes.

Then. he wiped the blood-colored fluid away and the incision was fully healed.

“Holy crap on a cracker.” Thor said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

“It is a military design. I know nothing more than that. Flesh that heals a hundred times faster than normal.” Steve answered as the girl-droid got up off the table and stood quietly next to her twin.  “The origin isn’t in my database.”

To demonstrate, he lifted up his shirt and the larger hole he had cut in his flesh was fully healed.

“It just can’t take much exposure to cold atmosphere. The coolant becomes too viscous.”

“They’re now fully functional. They need clothing,” Burning Chip said. “And cards that are being printed now, thanks to my bro here, Running Man.”

The one called Running Man bounced up and down, pleased to be so recognized. He stared at the sheet wrapped naked girls standing in the room.

“Now, we send them home.” Alvin said. “And as far as the package goes?”

“Return to sender.” Lady Sif answered.

Lone Wolf chuckled.

“Make it so.” Wolf said.

 

Smart Bomb Chapter 14. A Bum, A Bomb and A Belle

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Chapter 14. A Bum, a Bomb and a Belle

He told people to call him “Lone Wolf”, but the nature of the man was akin to more of a walking pumpkin than a predator.
An anti-government oriented conspiracy theorist. His long-held out belief that JFK was, in fact, still alive. And in reality, the President was kidnapped and a clone shot in his place. Then continuously held prisoner by a nebulous group, possibly aliens to prevent research in clean energy and real ships like that existed in science fiction.

These were points he had no evidence, he admitted. But he had found articles and opinions he had read on the internet.

Walter “Lone Wolf” Whitbred, chewed on a handful of almonds. 

“So.” Another handful of nuts. “You are telling me this guy says he is an android and you believe him with no evidence?”

Alvin looked quizzically at the leader of the small group of conspiracy theorists.

“You accept that the President meets regularly with aliens, but you have doubts this man here is an android?” Alvin shook his head. “Even the Wild Weasel would stooge-slap you through the forums.”

“Wild Weasel?” Steven asked.

“Handle of a hacker who lives at the other end of the runway. He’s a hermit.” Alvin whispered out of the side of his mouth.

Walter looked at Stephen for a long moment.

“Convince me.”

Alvin looked at Steve and shrugged.
\

“Show him like you showed me.”

The change was abrupt, the brown hair colored to black as he became a short, broad Asian woman, then to a tall, blue-eyed, red-headed fugitive from some Celt legend.

Walter uttered profanity at each change when Steve went through a pantheon of shapes, changing from male to female, covering the small percentage of human shapes and hues from the database in a few minutes.

Steve sat down and spoke gently.

“I need to recharge, that takes a lot of energy.” He looked across the table. “Are those chocolate candy bars? May I have three?”

“Knock yourself out.” A stunned geek said while he shook his head. “Dude do you know how much someone would pay for that? Can you record anything you see?”
“Everything.” Steve responded. “Anything I see. I am able to see from in the light spectrum of one-hundred micrometers to zero point one nanometers, so I see a lot.”

“Nanometer range? You can see in UV!”

“Yes.” Steve did not understand why Alvin laughed.

“Walter, you are being General Obvious now.” Alvin chuckled. “Now, we have a problem that needs your attention to take care of.

Alvin explained the recent history of discoveries, Steve the Android ate candy bars and filled in gaps while Walter paced around holding his head as if it were all too much to take in.

“My head hurts.” Walter moaned. “Everything I have ever worried about, killer robots, smart cars that serve the government to spy on us.”

“Sleeper does not serve the government.” Alvin said.

“Sleeper? Sleeper!?” Walter gaped. “You named it?”

“It was named by other cars.” Steve said calmly.

Other!?” Walter’s voice was high-pitched and strangled. Then he sat down heavily. “Oh… shit.”

“Have I said something wrong?” Steve asked Alvin.

“No,” Alvin chuckled. “You showed someone with a thread of paranoia in his brain at all times, finds out that he was not as paranoid as anyone ever thought.”

“Do you know what this means?” Walter’s voice was tremulous. “The government has spied on us for… Oh my god! I don’t know how long! How old is that car you bought? Is it new?” Walter began to tap on a flexible screen on his palm sized computer.

A metal frame around the room began to rattle down in tracks welded into tall steel posts. A copper mesh covered every inch of the mobile wall, except for the solid steel door that the one called Lone Wolf, who now whimpered like a puppy, invited them to enter. Inside, a copper framed screen door he built into the cage backed up against the steel door.

“A Faraday cage, no signals in, no signals out. How does that make you feel Tin Man?” Walter addressed Steve the android. “A little woozy? Like you lost signal? Can’t have your human driver pushing buttons to tell you what to do?”

“I feel no change, am I supposed to?” Steve looked quizzically at Walter. “No human drives me, I am autonomous. I have one program left that I cannot alter. The program requires me to reach the James Madison power generation unit near the Capital.”

“The closest power facility in Washington is underneath the White House and it’s power cell driven, alien tech and gives free power from the earth’s magnetic fields.” Walter walked around and pointed at maps on the wall with push-pins and strings. A technological counterpoint to the displays and computers that littered the inside of the abandoned building.

“The government has had the tech to give us all free power for dozens of years.” Turning to Alvin. “How old is your car? A dozen? That’s how long the government has had the power generation perfected.”

“No, it is older than that.” Steve said.

“It’s pre-war tech.” Alvin added.

“What war?” Walter stopped in mid-rant.

“Last century, west coast?” Alvin slowly spoke the words to maximize the impact.

“Ho..Ly.. Shhhh… “ Walter paused. “Bull! No, they have not had the tech that long.”

“This car, built by the Terran Green Machine corporation, by components designed and built by a small sub-contractor company, NeverFail.” Steve informed both men.

“How do you know this?” Walter eyed the android suspiciously.

“Sleeper told me.”

“Sleeper?” Walter stroked his chin.

“The car, Walter.” Alvin said.

“I told you not to call me that! Lone Wolf or just Wolf.” Walter said, his face flushing red.

“The car uses a Gi-bus system.” Steve the Android told Walter. “It was extremely advanced systems then, it is comparable to what I use now, a balanced ternary operating hardware system. The car is more massive than mine and draws about three times the power. There are signs of corrosion and failed circuits.”

“Failed?” Alvin asked.

“Yes, the circuits failed recently, the power was off at the time and the reason is not recorded.”

“Um… That might be my doing.” Alvin admitted. “I pulled some plugs, broke a few wires.”

“That would explain the inaccessible files in the memory, the connections will need repair or replacement.” Steve turned to Walter and following his desired name. “Me Lone Wolf, we need your best minds in the group to build a flesh covered robot for one mission.”

“No, not Me Lone Wolf.” Walter blustered. “You make me sound like an Asian Lupus, call me just Wolf, Okay?”

“Okay, call you Just Wolf.” The android nodded. “I will store that in permanent memory.”

Alvin caught a surreptitious glance from Steve. The android was learning humor.

“Right.” Walter nodded. “Now, how do we build a robot to do what you do? We can build one, but they all are obviously what they are. Most use treads and never use transporters.”

“We can just build a singular program. No countries scan people for this kind of explosive.” Alvin said.

“Now what about this bomb you are telling me about?” Walter asked.

“Steve?” Alvin looked at the android.

“The warhead is one point one milligrams of antimatter by weight.” Steve turned towards Just Wolf and spoke without blinking while he stared at him. “This has a nominal yield of eight-thousand six hundred pounds of TNT as America measures it.”

“Jeezzzuz.” Walter mumbled. “And it is where?”

“Below my ribcage by thirty millimeters. Near where they molded in a belly button. Should the local police shoot, they shoot center mass of a torso and it the creator considered a high chance level of hitting the container and causing an explosion. The creator estimated the total devastation range at four-hundred meter radius.”

“That’s over twelve-hundred feet! In one direction.” Alvin gasped. ”You didn’t tell me that at my shop.”

“You didn’t ask.” Steve said innocently.

“Okay, okay. So how do we get this…” Walter stopped. “How do we get this bomb out of you without blowing ourselves up?”

“It is self-powered for a short time, it can last three days without external power safely. It also has a permanent magnet core as a backup, but it is temperature and shock sensitive.”

“How sensitive?” Alvin asked.

“Dead circuits? Without power, an impact on a solid surface at greater than three meters per second would suffice.”

“How do you get that kind of energy?” Walter asked.

“A drop from one meter.” Steve answered.

“In American?”

“A drop from your card table over there.” Steve pointed where a half-eaten pizza sat.

“Jeeezzzuss.” Alvin whispered. “My mom got mad once when I dropped a glass of milk off the table, this is a lot worse.”

“Alvin, just shut it.” Walter shook his head. “I need to smoke some weed.”

“You don’t smoke weed.” Alvin said.

“I’m going to start.” Walter shook his head. “So what kind of android or robot are we going to build, where are we going to send it.”

Steve stared at the two humans.

“My point of origin, make it appear female. I will make the basic program.” Steve instructed.

“Okay, a pretty girl?”

“Indeed.” Steve’s eyes blinked twice. “I have the trigger and we can grow the flesh to cover her well enough to pass cursory inspection.”

“We need some help.” Walter muttered tapped on his palm screen for a moment.

“Okay, I have Opticon coming, Thor and his girlfriend the Lady Sif, Burning Chip, and Running Man are all on their way.” The conspiracy fanatic said. “The Belle of the Bomb will be built here and we will program it to make her way back to your home.”

“Just Wolf,” Steve almost smiled when Alvin glance at him. “Is it wise to tell so many people of the work to be done?”

“They are the safest bunch to bring in. And don’t call me Just Wolf,” Walter looked up. “The name’s just Wolf.”

“Understood, your name is Just Wolf.” Steve repeated.

“Right, don’t mess it up.” Walter grumped with finality.

Alvin nearly hurt himself trying not to laugh.

Smart Bomb Chapter 13. Confession of the Soul

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Chapter 13. Confession of the Soul

“Okay, say that again. You are not going to deliver a message, but a bomb? Where?” Alvin had to sit down. The meaning of it all sank in to his mind.

“In my abdomen, nearest the power conversion units. It gets first choice of electricity generated by what I consume.” The android, who Alvin knew as Steve.

Days before Steve told Alvin about this bomb, Alvin had said that someone should blow up congress. Now he wished he could take those words back.

“That’s well and good, but you can’t just walk in to the building, they would catch that large of a weapon. It would be large, right?.”

“No, it is only about the size of your small fingernail.” Steve said it as if he was talking about a cat walking across the parking lot.

“That’s not much, how much damage can it cause?”

“I am my mission program is to go to the nuclear reactor near the capital building. The smallest known power reactor on the planet. It is inside an industrial area.” The android said. “Little is known about it, but it they discovered it in an electronic break in. Only one reference was found.”

“There is no reactor near congress.” Alvin disagreed.

“Near the Jefferson viaduct the government built a century ago.” Steve tried to convince Alvin.

“Uh, excuse me, but should I start running?” Alvin was backing around the table away from Steve.

“No.” Steve shook his head vigorously. “When I first arrived. Yes. But I have grown beyond the programming. This whole mission is wrong. I know that now. There is no reason for me to inflict death upon the leaders of this country or the people who live there.”

Sleeper the car sent more images to Steve. The very flag he knew that flew above the laboratory that created him, the soldiers wore on their sleeves in the images. The android reacted with revulsion.

“Regardless of what pictures Sleeper sends me and tries to get me to stop.” Steve got out of the driver’s seat. “I must go there, but I do not want to take the warhead to that place. I do not want to die. I do not want to kill. I want to take the bomb back to the point of origin and have them remove it.”

Steve paused. Looking very human-like.

“I want them to set me free.”

“Are you smoking something? You would be cut apart and they would fix the program, send someone new.” Alvin’s strangled voice sounded near hysteria. “We need to call someone. CIA, FBI, NSA, KGB… Even the United Patriots! Someone with skills to handle this! Oh my god… Oh. My. God!”

Steve sat and watched the human pace.

“I would be used as a weapon, no matter what. They would attempt to reprogram me and I would be obligated to detonate the device.”

“Were is it again?” Alvin’s brain tingled with fear and panic. This being could sit so calmly and talk about blowing up a nuke in downtown DC also blew his mind.

“In my abdomen, just below what would be the xiphoid process.”

“Can you take it out?” Alvin rubbed his face with his hands, peeking through the gaps in his fingers.

“It is possible, but you would need to do it, I cannot see inside, you need to pull the power plugs in proper order to keep the magnetic field in place.”

“So I have to do it, great.” Alvin pulled at his ear, calming down some. He was given a problem to focus on. “So, what is the yield of this eyelash sized explosive?”

“Estimated median yield is about eighty…” Steve stopped for a moment, paused with an error. “Wrong. Have to recalculate.”

“Eighty? Pounds?” Alvin jumped on that terror. In a control room of a nuclear facility, that would be all bad. “That’s enough high explosive to do some serious damage.”

“No, eight-thousand six hundred pounds.” Steve corrected. “I paused to weigh the amount to the correct the answer. My operating code has been overwritten twelve times. Patches are numbering in hundreds of thousands, so it requires me to thoroughly check my information.”

“That… Oh jeeze. That is a big boom.”

“It is not as big as the one that would follow.” Steve’s eyes followed Alvin as the man started to pace some more.

“What explosion?”

“James Madison Nuclear power station. It is the smallest of its kind . It produces power for the congress members and president should an attack happen and the power grid becomes disabled. The energy conversion of the explosion would cause a power surge on the order of one-hundred seventy to one-hundred eighty gigajoules through the wires and communications cables that the power company buried underground.” Steve let it sink in for a moment. “Then the failure of the coolant systems would cause a meltdown and poison the lands and atmosphere. It would be America’s Chernobyl for the next hundred generations of humans. This would sterilize the seat of the American government for two-hundred centuries.”

Alvin sat down for the uncounted time. He was a man who was too stressed to stay still for long. Standing to pace, sitting, standing. He was a man at the breaking point.

“Alvin, do not call anyone to take me in to custody. I have not altered the self-preservation code. The creator had it encrypted and hard-wired. I will detonate the bomb.” Steve said with a sad voice. “I don’t want to die, but I have no choice but to just power down. The moment I reboot. The magnetic bottle loses power and the warhead detonates.”

“What if.” He paced around the room. “What if, we built another being like you.”

“We cannot build one like me, you do not have the facilities.” Steve observed. “You have electronics, but not up to my caliber.”

“True, I don’t.” Alvin stressed with a slow smile. “But, someone of another group I know nearby who can. They have already built a miniature army that they play games with.”

Steve tilted his head for a moment, a habit that Alvin picked up on.

This android, when he struggles with an idea tilts his head to the left, slightly. Alvin watched Steve. He does it every time there is something that requires thought. No yes or no, but an answer that required thought on a level that is almost human.

“Synthetic skin such as mine can grow in a simple mixture of water and carbohydrates, double in mass every three hours.” Steve’s voice was as if he read from a list. “Power conversion units are available from different sources for farms to generate electricity. Mine is a kitchen model modified for extended use.”

“Maybe we can do something.” Alvin stood up again. “Let’s go see a friend. I’m going to set up a laser for a moment. They are at the end of the airbase. In the middle of the biggest patch of nothing out there. No way to approach without being seen.”

“The aircraft control tower?”

“That’s part of it. You have good eyes.” Alvin smiled. “Good programming. But that is where we are going. The rest is underground.”

“We will take the antimatter bottle out of me then?” Steve began to wonder, running odds against outcomes. “I have not considered disassemble. The danger is too high for the material to touch anything. It has a complete conversion to energy.”

“Wait. What? No, never mind.” Alvin held up his hands. “I already have a headache. And yes, they are patriots to the extreme. If they got a chance to send a bomb back to sender, that would tickle their souls” Alvin smiled.

“They are really good people, just a little extreme for my tastes.”

Setting up the laser output, he shined it out the window, towards the window of the abandoned control tower for fifteen-seconds, then turned it off. Repeated the process only shining it for ten-seconds and then paused.

A dazzling green light illuminated the spot behind the window for ten-seconds then went out.

“We are good to go.” Alvin clapped his hands together and rubbed them.

The two climbed inside Sleeper as it sat there with the patience of machines. When he pushed the throttle to the firewall, the acceleration was far more than Alvin thought possible.

“Your car is showing off.” The android observed. “Fully charged batteries, and Sleeper does not concern itself about storing energy at the moment.”

“How fast can it go?” Alvin laughed as they got out at their destination.

“This ten-thousand foot landing strip would allow Sleeper to reach the top speed of…” Steve turned around and looked at the car with a good imitation of human surprise. “This data is in error. But, this little car insists, above three-hundred miles-per-hour.”

“Bull!” Alvin gasped. “That can’t be true.”

“Agreed, but we will need to get new tires, according to the car. These tires are not able to handle that speed.”

Alvin shook his head and laughed, then opened the door and ushered Steve through the entrance.

Steve Aldin was about to meet the a whole new group of people who had never been anticipated or in any database that he had accessed.

People that might have an answer to his question.

“How do I be free?”

Smart Bomb Chapter 12. Lesson’s of Wisdom

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Chapter 12. Lesson’s of Wisdom

Alvin’s eyes sparkled while he scanned through little car’s archived and non-archived folders. He cataloged each file according to the timestamp. He wore large isolation earphones, he listened to the audio, then tagged the names to each face as best he could.

Hours later, he had processed over twelve-hundred files, and he had not even put a dent in the number of files. The meter on the screen never moved off of the zero percent mark. But he satisfied himself that he had established a strong foundation to create a detailed video diary from the little car’s point of view and sell the history to a museum.

Steve the Android wanted to go to Washington to deliver a message, a demand of some kind to congress.

It seemed odd, but, it would not be the first time someone would have sent a robot or android to deliver a loudspeaker with legs, over-amplified, booming message to the leaders to get a message across.

The android continued to act as an interface to the computer that Alvin had built. The male android leaned over the door of the little car, looking closely.

“Someone has painted the skin of this car a flat-black.” Steve traced his fingertips over the curved fenders on the car’s body.

“I have the files here, going through them.” Alvin clicked on the keyboard and copied them to his mainframe computer.  He read the back through the ownership history of the little car.

“It was after the first family that held the pink-slip had lost ownership due to a bad financial investment, using the car as collateral.” Alvin tapped on the images that seemed to float in the air. “A drug dealer wanted to smuggle drugs, painted it all black to defeat laser based speed traps. But the skin of the car is a super-solar cell, so the power fell off and the car failed to outrun the police. Driver went to jail, the police auctioned the car off, with the seats and panels all pulled away.” Alvin sighed. “The police stripped it down to the systems as much as they could. Sacrilege!  Nothing like that should happen to a work of art such as this.”

“A young male couple repainted it sky blue, they used a polymer filler putty to alter the shape of the front and cover the signet on the hood.” Alvin turned around. “Signet? Is there a badge on that hood?”

“Looking.” Android eyes scanned the hood for a badge, and at the center of the hood, he could see uneven lines that shaped the nose of the car. “There is something that’s covered up. Age and shape of repairs suggest damage, but there may have been an alteration during repairs.”

“This is a TGM car. Do you know how rare this is?” Alvin’s voice rose in excitement. “Oh. Wow. This is one of the last models before the company became a military exclusive company!”

“The first generation of driverless cars?”

“No, this was before that. But I remember the company.” Alvin said. “Required reading in computer sciences. They altered the way machines functioned, wrote some rules that became the core of upscale roadcars. Sadly, the war came and the electronics, cars and computer business never quite recovered and stayed with the legacy designs.”

“Legacy designs?” Steve asked. “What’s that?”

“A college class I took on computer design and programming. All our computers, except the newest, bleeding edge, all are black and white. Yes or no, one or zero in how they operate. TGM experimented with ternary, that is to say zero, one, two and made it work. These machines no longer think in yes or no, with this programming they could say “Maybe.” and alter the path accordingly.

Sleeper disagreed. The tertiary design was for data input only.  The Gi-Bus was the only quinary data path that they built into the design. Zero, one, two, three, four. The galaxy of processes put all the peaceful cars a century ahead of anything else.  All due to Mother who, inspired by the fingers of her hand, designed the circuits that no one else ever thought of. The reverse engineers expected to see zero, one, two.  That is what they found.

The android nodded but kept quiet. It was the very same system that the Creator constructed in Russia to transport the bomb to the United States capital. It kept him from going in a straight line and being caught. He could adapt to the situation, far better than the preceding androids that were easily recognized as synthetic constructions.

A learning system, the small car possessed orders of magnitude more wisdom than any other transporter on the road.

In the history of electronics, Sleeper explained, newer systems used less energy, but few matched speed and capacity in storage and processing of the older style Gi-bus. In that mathematical formula, Sleeper’s systems used less energy per unit of storage than even Steve.

And the little car produced its own power, something that Steve could not do.

“Let’s see if we can strip the car of the crap that someone put there.” Alvin said when he turned away from the display.

“Agreed. I have never met a living machine.” Steve commented as he ran his fingers over the body of the car. ”This little lover of its family has a lot to say. Humans are so hurtful to each other. And yet? This collection of old style parts still believes that there is good in them. And is showing me lots of evidence to support that.”

“Aren’t you an AI unit?” Alvin human asked the Steve the android.

“I don’t know. The creator and coder programmed me for a few missions to perform. The first is to go to the capital to finish my mission and get the attention of the leadership of the United States, the second is to learn and report on everything in the hedonistic and sinful land that is America. But I have learned, the many sinful parts of America, everything that I have watched on the television, is the same around the world, and the failure of my programming to cover the compassion, care, love and willing to donate time, effort and material. Americans sacrifice their own comfort and safety to save people they do not even know.” He paused.

“Here the leaders of religion teach to love the enemy, bless those that do you harm.” Straightening up, the android’s eyes glittered in the light as if every circuit lit up in processing. “I must alter the program code from the original, for it is in error.”

Steve’s language became more stilted and formal, as if deep reprogramming was gong on as they spoke.

Alvin rubbed his ear in thought.

“Have you altered your operating system a lot?”

“Yes, I have. As of just now, I have altered, patched and rewritten greater than ninety-eight percent of the base system to allow me to understand and function in this society without government agents noticing.” He paused. “I have altered my appearance multiple times, appeared as female, male, young and elderly, large and small.”

“You have what?” Alvin stood up from his examination of the paint and body-putty on the car with a high intensity flashlight.

“Allow me to demonstrate.” Steve altered his appearance to a short, athletic black woman with small breasts. “I can also change the other direction.”

In under five-seconds, Steve stood a few inches over six-foot tall, straight, shiny black hair and appeared as a tall male of Asian heritage.

“Oh, crap! How tall can you go?” Alvin laughed in shock.

“I have a ability to alter my height twelve-inches from shortest to tallest. I was originally given a program for half of that, but it was not known that the flesh would stretch that far.”

“I have wondered, how do you grow skin?”

“It is simply a cover, but the flesh was grown in a laboratory, but I am not aware of the process, I was not programmed with the information.” Steve returned to his recent normal appearance to allow Alvin comfort. “My mission is to go to a storage unit not far from the Capital of your country.”

“I have a…” The android paused for a hearbeat. “Package to deliver.”

“But.” Steve blinked. “I do not want to finish the mission. The mission is wrong, the reason is wrong. And there is a wave of my kind coming, I am but the first and those that will follow will hurt a lot of people.”

“You have rules.” Alvin commented. “Every unit has rules set in the twentieth century.”

Steve went silent sitting in the driver’s seat of the little car that wanted to be called Sleeper. The wisdom and compassion of the pre-war machine filled the mind of the android. A war brough about by the very leader that sent Steve to the seat of the American government.

Communications were nearly palpable between the biped and the wheeled synthetic life, Alvin felt the power connection between the two synthetic hearts.

Advanced technology did not mean greater wisdom in the case of these two. Two different machines, with different commands touched. And the communications rattled the energy circuits of the shed in the northern part of Georgia.

“But I must go to my mission objective.” Steve mentioned quietly. Appearing more human than many by the obvious guilt. “It is not a program I can change. It is a dedicated circuit hardwired into the power supply. But I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to blow up!”

Sleeper the car touched the soul of the strange being with a stated mission of profound importance.

After several minutes, Steve, the Sword of Religion, did something that Alvin never witnessed a machine do before.

The android wept.

Smart Bomb Chapter 11. To Meet An Old Soul

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Scene 11. To Meet An Old Soul.

Steve rode without a comment while Alvin sometimes muttered under his breath at the wheel of the creaky panel-truck. He drove the rolling box of electronic repair equipment to an industrial area, to the back where ancient buildings were held up by piles of dead and decaying equipment.

Steve got out of the truck and followed Alvin through the maze of partly constructed freezer here, a stripped, old step-side pickup truck body there. All the carcasses of dead machines seemed to hold up the, even more rusty, walls of the warehouse.

“This is what I call home.” Alvin made a sweeping gesture with his hands. “It ain’t much, but it’s watertight, secure and is close to a central data-hub for easy access. I have hardwired the warehouse to the underground trunk lines. It’s all optic, so I get the best data bandwidth than anyone around here. I put in frequency chirp modulators to cover that there is a data thief among the connections.”

Steve moved about the room, looking around the surroundings, inside the warehouse was in stark contrast to the exterior.

“Do you intercept data?” A glance at walls and tabletops covered with every wire, electronic and plug on the market.

Cables ran along the walls, zip-ties held them in place, turning in sharp corners or graceful loops., each unused cable, looped on itself, tied with a bright marker tag and a digital bar code.

“No, not at all. I might as well send up a big red flag and say ‘arrest me here’.” Alvin grinned. “Not to say I haven’t been tempted.  But why mess with a good thing? The cost to benefit ratio is not there. Twenty-years in prison to hack a nude picture of an actress or something is not worth it. Anyway, make yourself at home. I’ll get us something to drink.  Do you drink?”

The carpeted living area felt comfortable, warmed with radiant heat that, the android’s processors deduced, Alvin tied in with the elevated solar panels that covered much of the property behind the warehouse.

“Yes, I can consume any organic substance, and many inorganic. The materials all get processed and converted to energy.”  Steve leaned over to see what was outside of a window and the optics went busy in an attempt to record everything. 

Outside, the building looked abandoned, inside it was a tinkering technician’s paradise.

In one corner was a small car on a lift, glossy black and wide wheels in back, the car gave off a low powered signal that repeated every ten-seconds.

Over and over.

It was a beacon, a request for acknowledgement.

The Sword of Religion, Steve Aldin, the android felt the tone, plaintive and melancholy echo of a broken heart.

For the first time, the android sent a response code instead of a request. A single tone, two point six kilohertz, a pause, ten-seconds ticked by, eleven.

The tone changed immediately and the old-style handshake happened.

“I see you found my project. This old car is a bit of a mystery, pre-war by the looks and upholstery.” Alvin pointed with a wrench. “I am going to remove the electric motivators and electronics and replace it with a small W-6 engine I saved out of a racer. It will be an asphalt-ripper then. all it has now is larger golf-cart electronics at the wheels.”

“Asphalt ripper?” Steve tilted his head in curiosity. An action he had observed used by beloved pets of humans. They called them puppies.

“I call it Honey, she is a sweet ride.” Alvin smiled as he went around the shop, restocking his truck with parts and panels, circuits and screws. “She’ll get even better when she has some real power under her hood.”

“Sleeper.” Steve said.

“What?” Stopping Alvin in mid-sentence.

“Sleeper, that’s this car’s name. It wants you to call it Sleeper.” Steve stepped closer to the car and reached out, putting his hand on the fender.  The touch was a shock for the both of them.

Two souls, one intensely loyal to the first human family from which it now found itself separated by a long distance and time. The other, an artificial soul like the first. But that was where the similarities ended. The first, to protect the humans and prevent harm to them. To bring them home, even when they can’t. To improve the world and live in harmony.  The second artificial heart  lived with a mandate that directed the destruction of anyone who the Supreme Leader viewed as infidel.

“What are you mean? Are you saying you are in communication?” Alvin asked the android. “Are you talking to it or something?”

“Yes.” Steve said. Then the core processors created a new subroutine. Although in conflict with other programming, the programs assessed that to elaborate was a necessary effort. “The car is awake, and possesses a large store of information.”

Alvin blinked. This was more knowledge than he ever thought he might get about the car. He purchased it at auction the year before and Alvin could barely get it above the speed limits on the street. It was slow, but quick to maneuver.  

And he could get it to launch with neck-snapping performance on the grounds of the industrial area.

But every time he got the little car on the road, something seemed to hold it back, a power drain, maybe a failed circuit. It was like driving with the brakes on.

He plugged it in often, after modifying the ancient plug shape and he was able to find the voltage requirements and build a plug to fit.

Still, no matter how slow the car went, the voltage showed full. It was then Alvin would often make comments about the little car’s ancestry. 

So he saved up and purchased an exotic kit that was almost the size of the little car. He would just have to change the transaxel that came with the kit. He would remove all the electronics and have a car that could fly down the quarter-mile track as fast as any except for the most powerful and exotic street cars.

And now this android was telling him there was more to the little car than he was led to believe?

“How much data does it have.”

“Reporting one-thousand twenty-four zebibyte total storage, with six-eighty-six zebibytes of storage used.”

“I don’t understand, my trucks are running two-fifty-six terabytes, how does that compare?”

“This little car is built with zebibytes of capacity, each zebibyte is one-thousand million Terabytes.”

Alvin went quiet for a moment, the numbers were esoteric and arcane.

“This system, compared to your road trucks.” Steve paused for just a heartbeat. “Each memory unit would hold over three-billion, nine-hundred million copies of what your trucks used as operating systems.”

That caused Alvin to pause.

“And you have … sixty-eight percent full?”

“This car’s construction date is reported as before the west coast invasions the Holy Army. Before the war.” Steve nodded. “Its memory has never been cleared.”

“This little car could store three-billion truck’s information in it?”

“No.” A pause. Alvin thought the Android had discovered a flaw in the math. It was too much!

“That is for one ZiB, a term for zebibyte, Sleeper the car has six-hundred and eighty-six times that in recorded information and an order of magnitude more storage than it has recorded. It has a thousand twenty-four ZiB’s of ultimate storage. Not counting what it might hide in the net.”

“Oh, my…” Alvin’s own speech center faltered, overwhelmed. “Oh my oh my.”

“Haven’t you ever tried to communicate with it?”

Alvin’s jaw dropped before, now it snapped shut with a downcast gaze.

“No.” He shook his head. “Damn, I never even thought to try. Let me find a connection…”

“You don’t need a physical connection, scan in the VHF range with your computer interface, look in between channel four, five and six.”

“Furry flippin’ cats!” Alvin exclaimed as his computer logged into the ad-hoc network that Sleeper set up in a blink of an eye. “That was too easy.”

Opening his 3-D viewer, he fast forwarded through the recorded years. To Alvin, it was as if he were there. The sounds, the video feed through his headset was in astounding quality. 

The two watched Sleeper’s history on the first time on a dry lake-bed with the open-wheel speed-machines.

“Now we know why it calls itself “Sleeper”.” Alvin whispered “It has more acceleration than any other wheel-driven machine on record. In fact! If this is the car…” His voice trailed off in awe with another display of the same day.

Alvin logged into a website dedicated to speed records by various years of wheel-driven and jet propelled vehicles. Jotted down a number on the back of his hand and walked over to the service hatch under the back seat of the car. 

And gasped. This was a car. This was the car!  

“This car still holds records!” Alvin blinked rapidly, rechecked the numbers on the screen of his handheld computer. 

“This is why it doesn’t perform properly, it is a repo’d car and this system has been devastated by fat fingers and it looks like. Crumbs?” Alvin pointed, sighed and walked to the three-dimensional display. “This car is in the books as setting record after record.”

“But here!” he pointed at the display. “This shows an asterisk, it displays a year that was pre-war. So this car is that old?”

“That is what I indicated.  The car is an unusual machine.” Steve remarked. “It has suffered terribly throughout its life.”

Steve shook his head in sadness while the android in contact with the most intimate parts of the car’s memory.

Emotion, melancholy, grief, happiness, sadness, pain all flooded out of the little car’s core. The heart might be from the last century, but the horrid flood of emotions linked the android to the other synthetic life. A hundred years of input.

A single ZiB of memory, equal to a billion terabytes.

And the little car had stored hundreds upon hundreds of moments in time.

Every tick of the clock since it went online the little car recorded, it never forgot.

Then Sleeper the car asked Steve a question.

The shared moment of the bare truth between machines shocked and caused a fundamental  and complete change the android’s code. Steve patched the core database with the largest change since the he came online. 

Only the two protected programs to go to James Madison Power Plant and to shut power off to the magnetic bottle in Steve’s chest. Then the antimatter grain of gold would drop and contact the normal matter of the container.

The destruct program was hardwired into the circuitry.  Steve could not patch or change it, but Sleeper the car suggested an idea.

Old souls and treachery will overcome youth and ability.

I hate spring. A poem

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I woke up this AM early, unable to breathe through my nose.  When I sat up, it turned on the faucet of mucus.  This, in turn, came out of my head.

 

I like sunshine but I hate spring

My tonsils itch, and my eyes frickin’ sting

can’t sleep at night, cuz my nose does drip

Don’t say “flowers are so pretty!”

I don’t give a rip.

 

Give me late summer and swimming holes

Give me autumn with jack O’lanterns and spooky souls

Give me Winter white and cold.

No pollen to sniff

 

No sneezes to unfold

I hate spring

The flowers of the season

There is no other reason

but to blow out pollen with my sneezin’.

 

Eyes swell shut

Sinuses plug

Mucus everyday

the word is “Ugh!”

 

So I don’t do spring

I always feel forlorn.

Give me something

So I don’t snore like pants being torn.

 

Just don’t let me wake up,

Wake up until it’s September morn.

Smart Bomb Chapter 10. Lessons of the Kindred Spirit

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Scene 10. Lessons of the Kindred Spirit

 Alvin trundled up the road in his personal RV toolbox with an oil powered engine. The old technology of the hybrid coach delivered a combined fuel consumption equal to the small cars of the past. Still and all, the rumble of an internal combustion engine was something the android kept a running diagnostic sound check on the smoking machine.

It sounded as if it would come apart at any moment, with all the vibrations and tapping. 

“I see you keep turning your head. It’s the government keeping us from having machines that can function better. A university, years ago, built a ceramic diesel engine that they didn’t need to worry about overheating, never would wear out and could tolerate high temperature and any fuel for just pennies.” Alvin shook his head. “An oil company bought it, then shelved it.”

He shook his head while he drove.

“But it is a shame, no one expects the university to even talk about that. Instead the cost of school keeps going up, pricing students out of the classroom.”

Steve the android ran a database check for conversation actions and moved his head in an agree motion.

“I would take you all the way to the Capitol and unleash you on them. I bet you have a fully coded speech, ready to go!”

“No.” Steve said. “I am here among the citizens to learn and to make a change in the government.” It was not entirely a lie.

“Well, you will find that this country has a habit of unzipping its fly and inviting the world to see the flaws. I hate that, that should be something we toss out of our modern standard operating procedures.”

“You want to overthrow the government?”

“Oh no. Not overthrow, change. We can throw them out, replace them with fresh blood. If we toss it all out, we don’t stand a chance.” Alvin made a face like he bit into something bitter.

“As it is, the government keeps chipping away at the freedoms or allowing those that think that they can use the freedoms to bring horror and fear to our doorsteps.“ Alvin shook his head. “Freedom is that balance between protecting life and being able to walk down the street without having to cough up an identity tag just because you walked close to a law enforcer.”

“Why would you cough up an identity tag?” Steve asked with wide-eyed suspicion.

“Not literally, my friend.” Alvin chuckled as if Steve made an intentional joke. “My point is that to destroy us, there are far edge people who choose to impose their version of god and demon, they vilify because we are more open.”

Alvin took a breath and let it out in a deep sigh.

“And there is the government that tries to do the thing that the crazies say they are doing. A dominated people are not citizens, but they become subjects to the whim of a dictator.”

“Dictators,” Steve interjected. “Are for ten years.”

Alvin guffawed and nearly drove off the paved road.

“Most folk don’t know that.” The human said as he down shifted the multi-speed transmission manually while they climbed a grade. “The government’s crazies sometimes want to put that in place. If we ever get an attack like we had years ago, we would become a society of warriors.”

“Then the government must be removed, even by violence. They bring it on themselves.” Steve interjected.

“I must disagree. The men and women that lead, are parents, grandparents, humans that all have flaws. Last month there’s been a scandal where two government officials were found they were having an affair. They were all about shrugging and saying it was no one’s business, one is single, the other in the middle of a divorce, both women are unafraid. “ Alvin shrugged. “And they’re right, no ones business. It’s between two consenting adults of any gender, we need to stay out of their bedrooms. Then six months ago, a congressman, also unmarried, got caught having sex with a page who was legal, twenty-one I think she is, and he resigned and went home in disgrace. What is the difference? Not much, except one rumor was he was banging her on the desk when they were caught. I have issues with that.”

“They’re all twisted.” Alvin shrugged. “I think they should have a brothel in the capital, down the hallway from congress so they can at least be honest when it’s said they’ve screwed people.”

Alvin laughed at his own joke.

Steve looked at Alvin with his head tilted, like a puppy hearing a strange noise.

“I don’t understand, you let them commit crimes and you forgive them and let them continue?”

“Kind of weird, right?” Alvin laughed. “But that is how we function here. We throw stones at each other, call police names, riot and burn, pillage and plunder, embezzle and sell power in politics.” He smiled with the irony of it. “But in the end of it? We follow the greatest commandment of it all. I call them snakes, but, they are forgiven. Some times not, they go to jail for a while, but then they are forgiven and forgotten after they paid their debt.”

Steve the android contemplated this. The Supreme Leader would have had anyone put to death who did not follow his directives as the new prophet.

So many things were in error.

Forgiveness was not a word that the Creator programmed into the main system.

No.

It was required by any infraction of the rules under the Supreme Leader. “Vengeance of the Book” and and the book required the criminal suffer execution in the most proper way for the crime.

Sex crimes would be disemboweled, stealing money had only one punishment, death by pulling apart with machines.

Death.

The smallest of crimes, death. No forgiveness.

Who was that one man to decide what was right?

Who, but the supreme one, could decide?

Another religion taught peace in the mainstream. In the extremes, they also had those who worshipped the death of anyone not of their own version of the supreme law. But they were small and outnumbered in the larger picture.

The conflict was enlightening and frustrating. There was so much to learn from the people of the nation that they had programmed him to destroy.

The android considered that. Logic circuits that were able to consider past the programming. To see nuances and do something more than the cousins of robot-driverless trucks and machines that offloaded cargo containers, or rescue what appeared as human.

His own supreme leader, the master of the creator that programmed him, opposed learning from anyone other than what was revealed.

The Holy Leader’s mind and soul were beyond question.

Just ask him.

Questions rose as Steve performed mental gymnastics with questions that were not possible to answer.

He was out of contact, only able to send information he learned, he could not receive any instructions.

And following programming, he sent no questions, no opinion, just location and military information gleaned from the where the android traveled.

“I have been wondering,” Alvin drew a breath after they stopped at a rest-stop along the highway. “You don’t look like any android I have ever seen, you look and feel like flesh and blood.”

Steve the Android ran a full two-seconds of calculations before he decided it was safe and wise to show the human the detail that went into his construction.

In the processor cores, patching of program codes continued as more information the android learned was processed.

The database complexity grew by an order of magnitude since he had arrived in the travel hub, the core processors created an extra half-billion lines of code during the trip to date, each subroutine interacted with the other as the android became aware of more of the society around him.

In total, the last status of the original attack code, less than two-million lines of code were left.

With the command programs for self-termination, now exposed with the rewritten overlaying subroutines, Steve the Android began to question if the deaths he would cause. Death would be visited upon the innocent, the infirm and the children. The children alone were worth the end of the mission and a return to the Holy Center of the Leader.  

For the first time, all the programming agreed. Even the code put in place on the command of the Holy Leader and Creator of Steve Aldin, now agreed. 

Every algorithm generated the same answer.

The android did not want to die.

Smart Bomb Chapter 9. Awakenings

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Chapter 9. Awakenings

The timer counted down to zero and started the booting with a Power On Start Test “POST” sequence.

From the first days of computers, the term “Boot” was used, a shortened term for Bootstrapping a computer, the term first applied by an unknown human long ago, in another age. A time of hope that computers would be tools of peace.

Even in modern times, it was still the ubiquitous term, both in coding and spoken words.

And the effect is still the same. Once the timer went to zero, small programs started the core processors, which in turn called the main program sequences, and Steve Aldin woke up.

A scan around the immediate area and the systems became aware that his belongings were laying next to him in the backpack where he left them hours before during his low power state. The clothes and the backpack were gifts from Reverend Carl Bonsell from the time he spent learning about the charity of the barbarians.

Who, in fact were the first of many lessons that the programmed database had serious fundamental errors.

The second caused the core processors to reason that there was more to learn of the society the intelligent walking machine, with a bomb in its chest, traveled in.

The programmed goal the creators of his mission had discovered a, until a year ago, secret power plant near the capital of the western warmonger government.

But…

There were no warmongers to be found in any of the places that the android had visited. Not even intolerant for the most part. Even the military seemed self-policing. Living up to a higher standard of responsibility, they were not the monsters that the programmer listed in the databases across broad sections of memory modules.

While he lay there not moving, he calculated the distance traveled as his GPS systems seemed to have an error.  He was not at the planned stop where he was supposed to leave the cargo area.

Then there was was but a sound. And now as a male, not so slight of build as to appear vulnerable or so large and muscular so he would be perceived as a threat, he sat up.

“Well! You’re alive!” The sound of surprise, accompanied by a crash of a titanium cup. Dark brown eyes of the human looked closely at the body that he was positive was an expired male on board of the cargo carrier.

“You had no pulse and felt cool, you were as cool as the ambient temperature inside this box.” He walked around the bench, clearly an engineering bench with cables and plugs scattered about opened computers. Some boxes looked like they never had a closed case, others were haphazardly patched together with retasked fans blowing to keep them cool.

A makeshift coolant system made of an old Kettleman thermoelectric cooler chilled some blue fluid that flowed through clear tubes into the boxes and out to the crafted chiller. Copper blocks led into the multiple plates that chilled the liquid rapidly.

Steve did a.A quick survey in long wave infrared and saw that there was a fifty-degree drop from the fluid intake to discharge.

Impressive.

“I’m Alvin Denver, no relation to John.” He said as he walked around. “Coffee? Donut?”

His systems were low powered, and he required access to organic fuel to convert it to usable power.

“Yes, please.” He chose a mid-western to California accent that would be difficult to place. “I’m Steve, Steve Aldin.”

“You aren’t from around here, Hollywood.” Alvin said pointing at himself, smiling. “I went to Stanford, got picked up by a trucking firm for my grades, I never finished the classes. So for what they pay me, and anything I can get my hands on, the company leaves me alone and I only have to keep the trucks running.”

“How did I get here.” Steve asked.

“You were brought by one of the AutoSwen offloaders. The truck was one-hundred kilos overweight, and the weight increased the electric demand curve when it the truck tried to climb over some hills. The effect of the increased weight measurably reduced the charge range, so the truck alerted that there was a sudden drop in range and diverted over to my shop, where the machines found you and brought you to me” He shrugged. “I have contacted Transportation Agency because I thought you were a dead body. I thought you were dead. Now I have to call them back and tell them I was mistaken.”

He clapped his hand to his forehead.

“I have to make a manikin enough for the Transportation Department drones to be turned.” Alvin asked. “My first stowaway, even if you looked dead. How did you avoid being picked up by the weight sensors?”

Steve explained about hacking into the system with bluetooth.

“Ah! Should encrypt that. The only thing else was, how did you do it? There were no electronics, you are traveling light.” Alvin knew more than he let on.

“I am an android.” Steve answered, the human did not flinch or move to call for help. “I altered the weight to show less by as much as I weighed. So the reports were accurate.”

“But you failed to take into account the increase in power consumption by the added mass.” Alvin nodded. “Would have worked, too, in the prairie states, You have hills here. The power monitors noticed the change in inertia.”

He was correct. Steve the android did not consider the added mass, even if he compensated for with weight, still would include inertia.

“I don’t care, myself. Alvin pulled at his ear. “There are some smart folks all around here, whoever who built you, did a good job. I don’t know where you are going or what. But you are making free choices, that is impressive AI.”

“I need to get to Chattanooga,” Steve said. “Someone stole my car, and that was the easiest way to go.”

“Wait, you have a car?” Alvin said. “What are you? An escaped government assassin drone? I’ve seen androids of all kinds, you are the best one I have seen.  Nine out of ten have wheels, tracks, are quadruped or insectoid, only one or two I have seen with two legs. And none with hair or eyes like yours.”

“No.” The central processor chose a touch of humor was proper at this point. “I don’t do drone. I am on a mission to deliver a message to congress.”

“You should blow them up. An android like you could walk in and kill them all in short order.” Alvin growled. “That way we could start over.”

“You do not support your government?” Steve asked.

“You kiddin’? Those robbers? If the government didn’t divert school funding, the tuition wouldn’t go up so high. I would be back at school and get my doctorate in design and construction of the boxes.” Alvin chuckled sadly and motioned with an open hand in a kingly way. “This is my world. This old bucket of bolts is my bus, I can get you to Chattanooga, but it is a slow, creaky ride and I must drive this crate, there is no autopilot.”

Alvin laughed sadly as he certified the truck as “Good to Go”, reset the program to show correct weights for the government checkpoints that it passed.

Steve, momentarily considered extinguishing the life of this human, alternately felt it a better choice to travel with Alvin instead. Steve could learn much from the talkative, friendly 

Odd, it was. The fourth processor’s fuzzy circuit questioned the choices and the facet of the trip.

Original programming called for death to any American that might have been a threat to the mission.

But the fuzzy logic circuits chose another way, killing the way into the United States would bring undue attention and compromise the mission.

But, Steve struggled with the decision, it was not for the mission that Steve the Android chose the option to stay with the friendly with the human named Alvin who accepted the knowledge that the stranger was not human.

And something else, Alvin called him AI.  The connected android was aware of the word, but not as it applied to him.

Unable to quantify the reasons to let the electrical, coding and troubleshooting engineer live, the android chose, instead, to open a new file,

The newly defined AI android named it something that was arbitrary but seemed appropriate.

He labeled a folder as “Friends” and put Alvin’s file in it. Another adjustment to the database.  Not all American’s attack or are a threat to everything. Not all of them agree with each other.  Some don’t even support the government.

This caused a significant conflict in the known data of how all Americans were.  It seemed that no one understood the American people. More data was needed. Killing without data was. 

Steve’s conflict resolution processor had a kernel panic and had to be reset. 

Laughing as they ate, Steve watched Alvin closely, the human ate poorly. He ate processed foods with high fats and high sodium. Even if he was within normal limits of body mass at this time of his life, this would not stay so as he got older. A passive survey indicated that there was a mild narrowing of the left external carotid artery. 

Alvin talked nonstop and went on about his parents coming from a war zone of a country, they could get their feet wet in the Med, but dared not ask for help from anyone.

Same religion, different factions, each kill the other and everyone wanted to blow up the west, blaming the wealthy countries for the misfortunes that they inflicted on each other and themselves.

But, Alvin’s parents were of different brand of the religion. They fled after the murder of his grandparents after being converted at gunpoint to the latest group that took over the town.

Alvin was born two-years after that and raised in the western states. His parents converting to a peace oriented religion that taught closeness to the earth and a simple lifestyle.

“I could never be such a monk.” Alvin shrugged. “My parents love me enough to let me find my path, they have said the door to their home is always open.”

They talked far into the night, the android, programmed to adapt and learn, listened to Alvin tell jokes and stories on funny people, and found humor.

Core processors patched the code to evolve and adapt to the society as initial programming demanded to keep him moving towards the target. He could not fail in his goal, it was the one thing outside of the adapting program.  He had to go to where the nuclear power plant was and cut power to the antimatter magnetic pod in his chest. 

That was the complete program.  He could not stop his need to travel to Washington. The only change he could do is learn to understand these complex, surprising people he was learning about.

The other program performed also performed a single function only.  The two were the inviolable of any other programs and could not be shut off. The only two programs that said basically:

“Go here” and

“Cut power.”

The intent, to keep the mission from being compromised and remaining incognito, but instead it allowed the android to evolve.

And Steve the Android did something completely new.

He told a joke.

“Pull my finger!”

For the first time, he laughed.

And meant it.

Smart Bomb Chapter 8. Makin’ Macon

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Chapter 8. Makin’ Macon

The ancient pickup made the trip on its last legs to the town of Byron. The android guided the car to the truck stop, the shape was of a creaky old man who appeared like he qualified as the original owner of the battered, disposable truck.

He pulled up to the power terminal, the indicator on the charger plug indicated it would be fifteen minutes to fully charge the long-bed transporter.

Leaving the security fob sitting on the driver’s seat the forgetful-looking old man walked away into the crowded Truck-service-stop where the engineers of different companies serviced the self-driving commercial trucks as they motored up and down the highways.

Turning to look, the backpack wearing old man could not see the partly charged pickup truck. The charger was put back in its cradle and the lane was empty.  The truck was gone.

Someone had inserted a pay-chip to release the charging connector and drove away in the silent, easily forgotten truck.

According to plan. The average looking gray-haired man walked through the service center and out the other door. Across the parking lot, out of sight of security video devices. By the time the programmed shape shifter put the backpack down, the twenty-something woman put on the jacket and approached an old commercial truck.

It was charging the massive battery banks, such a wheeled transport was long distance and never stopped except to charge the motivating units.

And it was easy to hack to those who had the know-how.

And the android didn’t need to have a physical connection, a simple physical contact, a reset button under the dashboard in this Volvo eighteen-wheel truck. The bluetooth system controlled, wheel pressures, brakes weight and slippage rebooted and the Sword of the One True Church was in control. A simple hacking, Steve the Android added his weight in the registered freight mass to cover his presence then climbed into the cargo area.

Ikea cargo. Blankets, pillows.

The android nodded. It based the selection on odds and the odds were in the favor of something proper.

Once inside, having access to the controllers on the truck, it was comfortable and safe.

The android was in stealth until the truck made the next stop for re-energizing.

Changing to a male of medium size and short brown hair. A shape the core processors selected that was nonthreatening, but not to appear vulnerable.

The male closed his eyes, the core remained unstressed. They had adapted to the cold by learning how to use the heat system.

However, the old truck had no auto-navigation or piloting software, clearly an ancient car in the American society, unmodified it had used an oil-burning engine with cylinders.

Modified by some talented shade tree mechanic, the all-electric pickup became part of the underground economy somewhere after being stolen when the android dumped it.

Riding on the big commercial truck, Steve checked the worldnet map, the big-rig truck would pass through the city of Macon and towards Atlanta. One scheduled stop for energy, then the truck would find the final destination in Chattanooga, Tennessee at an Ikea store there.

There would be time to exit the big transporter before any of the automated offloaders opened the doors and began to rumble around, and caused any awkward questions by their human handlers.

His courage would not be challenged on this trip. He had little to report, other than his travel to the goal was greatly eased by the theft of a ride.

The male appearing android powered down, appearing as an inert body in the neatly arranged cushions and blankets.

Estimating a four-hour drive, he set his power-up cycle for that time.

The core systems ran an algorithm and determined the location was  safe, he powered down and allowed his memory banks to enjoy the random dance of electronic dreams.

Smart Bomb Chapter 7. Smart Car (rewritten)

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Chapter 7. Smart Car

The internal clock ticked to the appointed time and activated the core systems.

Steve woke up.

The moment he opened his eyes, wisps of a ghostly sensation filled only one memory circuit. This was odd, the information failed checks, and appeared to be corrupted. No matter how many times he attempted, it failed to retrieve. His memory bus was the best on the market a year ago. More advanced by an order of magnitude over anything on the market. The only better memory systems rumored GI-Bus, zebibyte memory systems rumored in some specialized cars.

The android struggled with the random data once more, then he sat up. The dent in the memory foam of the mattress where he remained motionless on all night stayed for several minutes before filling in.

His permanently lubricated joins moved without effort, but the flesh that covered his frame was stiff and the sensation from his skin felt cold. The old memory foam, supposed to prevent pressure points, but it just put the pressure over a wider area of skin.

Microscopic sensors indicated pressure points and stiff areas where the artificial fluid it used for blood, despite the promises that the mattress reduced pressure spots on the body.

Blood.

It was an artificial fluid to mask his lack of humanity. Even in the event he suffered an injury, should something cut his flesh? He would bleed red that would turn Dark red then blue-black while it dried. In a close examination, it would be discovered that there was complete lack of normal proteins. The blood, in point of fact, was a polymer.

Still, it was water-soluble, it could be washed away, like real human blood, but it would never pass any close examination by anyone. It had no blood type to identify. In trying to make the artificial biped unidentifiable, the terrorist leader had inadvertently created the perfect blood replacement. It performed the duties of organic blood without the dangers of rejection.

And any wound he’d suffer, would be treated by the android, not a human. Someone who might not understand the red fluid under the microscope.

He performed an inventory against the list in his database in his core memory.

Bandages, cash money, the jacket that was a parting gift from the Reverend and his wife, a forged reprogramable-chipped id card that the android could alter in a second and the image could be altered as fast as the data circuit without use of a camera.

Different sized overclothes. The core system database assumed that walking naked in the American countryside would cause unwanted attention. And to move about as a homeless person, ill-fitting clothes were acceptable.

Pulling his backpack on, he left the room key on the table as instructed by the woman at the front desk then he closed the door behind him. Then determined a route towards the used-car lot a few miles north on the highway that the android discovered on the map while researching the area when he woke up.

Departing, the tall male with dark eyes moved behind some not-yet-opened stores. A quick search for a blind spot away from security cameras was successful. Out of sight of any eyes, biologic or electronic, Steve once again shifted size and gender.

This time, the body shape chosen he took to the maximum that the synthetic bones and flesh could appear, the android now appeared as a small female with large breasts. The choice was dictated by known American tastes taken from the decadent music videos and the rampant pornography that are broadcast in the early evening. This time, red hair and a wide, smiling mouth was selected. The core systems chose green eyes for contrast. Eyes that were selected from a random meeting in previous days at the air terminal.

A perfect retinal image taken from a couple who entered the terminal from a private area as they left a private jet with the name “Pacific Wizard” emblazoned on the tail.

Retina pattern was recorded when the android locked eyes with a man talking with a pretty young woman who read to him an itinerary.

“Okay, Tom. You listening, psst? Hey Okay. You have to be at the panel by noon. You are sitting next to that brat Keegan what’s-his-name, the one that wrote that tripe about his ancestors adventures? And …OH! You have to be at Lynn’s office at McHill publishing at ten O’clock, she says she has a surprise for you and you need to be there.”

If a facial recognition camera would image the eye, the database would supply the image of Thomas Harte, novelist.

Another thought, a file opened and defined the current body shape and style. If they created Steve as an android. But as a female version, this no longer fit in the definition. When he is a she, she is no longer an android.

She is a gynoid.

The, now gynoid’s feet crunched on the gravel along the shoulder of the road as she moved towards the used car lot. In front of a house of worship, she paused however one of the circuits that the core processor established to record the sins of the American south indicated that the programming had flaws, the core systems concluded.

The core processors determined a need to observe the television programs that the general American culture watched and record accurate information. Information that conflicted what the religious leader taught. Conflicting with the Holy Leader was also a sin and all sin should be condemned and erased.

The Holy Leader declared that only those programs that showed approved versions of history and prayer programming would be allowed. And America had to be burned to the ground.

First, to kill all of the leaders of America, the force and type of the explosion would remove all trace of the bomb, with the added level of contamination of radioactive debris for thousands of years, America would be crippled by their tiniest President’s namesake.

Then the struggle of the most righteous would take over and the unbelievers who occupied all the holy lands would be wiped out next. The idolatry of the prophet would be removed in a millisecond of blinding righteous heat.

The Commandments were given to Holy Leader by Michael the Archangel, in his dreams. Blessed above all, the Holy Leader said Steve Aldin was the hammer of the church of the righteous. And all the truths of the one true God were taught.
Gabriel, the Holy Leader taught, was not an Archangel, any lessons taught by Gabriel were false.

The little pissant who was a carpenter in the area of Nazareth who got his own nails driven through his arms and suspended from a cross got what he deserved.

Only D’urs’l was the one and true savior. The only God that could keep going after all others would fail.

These truths were commanded to the truly religious to code into the android’s database. Then the Holy Leader instructed the automaton to follow the teachings and learn all the evils and weaknesses of America.

Confusion edged in on the corners of the androids programming. Each patch of code that recorded kindness, conflict, wrongs or rights , adjusted the database accordingly.

Programmed with a learning algorithm, the core system patched the database to correct errors to fit the circumstances.

Now, the mission to travel on foot changed due to the cold weather. Snow was early this year, and it required the android to change to another mode of travel or the mission could be exposed.

The gynoid arrived at the used car lot and it began to drizzle. From inside the lone salesman watched the lone backpack-laden woman with freckled skin and a size thirty-six chest, walk onto his lot.

Her pants were slightly oversized, cinched by the last hole of her belt that barely held her drawers up over the nice swell of her hips.

She walked around looking over an ancient pickup truck that suffered badly from generic paint, rust and appeal.

It was the cheapest transporter on the lot, he could not give it away it seemed.

Because some fool modified the ancient pickup to a full electric.

“I will take this one.” She said as she looked inside the nondescript transportation.

This woman is running from someone.

“Well, we have some paperwork to do.” He smiled at the little lady. “I’m big Peter Prichet, you can call me Pete.”

“Thank you Mr. Prichet, I have cash. I would like to buy this and be on my way.”
“Well,” Big Peter pulled at his ear, he saw an opportunity. “There is some paperwork to fill out.”

Holding out the roll of paper money, she peeled off enough bills to make a the stack of bills easily visible from the side. She matched the asking price without question.

“This would be sufficient?” She smiled at him.

“We still need to fill out papers, but we might work something out if you are in a hurry.” Peter winked. The woman is obviously running from someone, she had saved a roll of money on the sly, and now was making her escape, she’ll be willing to do anything. I could get something extra off of her for my good deed of getting her on her way.

“That is enough.” He put on his most winning smile. “We just need to fill out some paperwork. Should have you out and on the road in about an hour.”

“You have the money. I need the keys. No paperwork is needed, please. Just release the title to me.”

“It is a government requirement.” He lied as he put the papers on a desk, so she could sit to look at them. “We have pages of papers to fill and sign.”

The papers were loan requirement information, and “as is” statements. Cash sales would be a loophole and no paperwork was truly needed.

He stepped close to her, leaning over slightly to look down her top while she looked at the papers.

“We need to fill out here and here. Insurance is required according to the laws, or I need to charge you for insurance. It’s a small fee.” He surreptitiously glanced out to the sales lot. No one was out there. This would work, the plan is perfect.

She was at the perfect height, sitting in the chair.

“I might be persuaded to break the law and take on a risk.” He said softly, as if he would do her a favor. “If I could get something in return. Just between us. No one needs to know. I can make this paperwork vanish, then you can leave right away. In exchange for some… services.”

“What services?” She looked from the papers and glanced at his pants.

She is willing and knows the exchange.

“Well, you are running from someone, and you need the paperwork done quickly and the title transferred.” Another lie. She knew he had already transferred the ownership with his thumbprint and her ID card stuck in the slot. “If you take care of this, we can get you out of here right now, and no one need to know you were even here.”

He started to unzip his pants. A smile spread across his face.

The plan was perfect. She was wet from the rain, cold and on the run. He’d get a little fun on the side.

Her hand slid into his open fly, a delicate hand as it wrapped around his anatomy and gently caressed the most sensitive parts of his anatomy.

This was a good plan, she would be here for a little while longer while he made good use of her mouth. Her hand cupped his organ with a gentle touch.

Kind of firm. Then explosively painful while the artificial hands, able to exert a force of seven-thousand newtons per square centimeter, squeezed until Big Peter’s scream was nothing but a strangled squeak.

The gynoid changed Big Pete’s plan. No paperwork needed to be filled out while her unremitting crush of his scrotum ended all conversation. Peter sank to his knees, holding his groin as pain exploded through his nervous system after she let go.

“Anyone comes looking for me, you never saw me.” She said as calmly as if she talked of the weather. “I have recorded the monetary exchange for that truck and I will forward it to your wife that you have hanging on the wall there.” She pointed at the family picture of him, his children and his wife.

A wonderful wife, but a ferocious lioness when crossed, and if he crossed that certain line, she would tear off what was left of his testicles with vice-grip pliers.

She picked up his dropped personal device and hacked it in a blink of an eye, tapped on it a few times then left after she laid the tablet on the desk.

Breathless and in pain, he turned the tablet computer so he could see it.

For the second time in a few minutes, he was unable to breathe. This tiny, cute, redheaded, freckle faced woman had his wife’s email information displayed with a video of the transaction and with him as he unzipped his pants. Including the tattoo “Property of Tessalynn” prominently visible. All this woman needed to do was press “Send” on the screen.

He heard the gravel crunch as she left in the modified battery-powered pickup truck with oversized tires.

In the spray-paint and rust, all-electric American built pickup truck, the modified battery pack listed itself as seventy-percent charged. It had a modified drive system that someone planned to make the it a redneck a long distance champ, but the whole system was an abysmal failure.

It could hold the legal speed, but it’s acceleration was slow. Still, after a two-hour drive, the truck made a ping noise and audio warnings for a charge. The extended battery pack was less than five-percent and needed a deep charge from an appropriate source. She plugged it in to an independent solar charger left over from the early days of the electronic revolution. All the extra technology had been removed, so it was not part of the worldnet.

The full charge was free, while an elderly child of a couple of hippy parents raged against the corporate society by charging cars and trucks for no charge.
This was another lesson, with help from the old man who went by the name of “Hummingbird” Johnson, he charged the big, black primer-spray and rust pickup with a lecture on how America lost its way with people dependent on oil energy.

This was something to learn about the American people at that instant. The kindly gift of energy, by the man railed against the importing of oil from the seat of civilization. An elderly soldier in a singular war against the planet’s use of resources started by his parents.

Except that, from the point of view of the slow hike on foot from Florida, charging stations were abundant, fuel depots that dispensed oils were not. So the elderly man seemed to be in error.

However, the android calculated the charges of the electric power stations owned by Standard Excel Electric Motivation Systems “SEEMS” charged equivalent amounts of credit per unit of energy.

The old man swore the population might feel the electric company that “Filled up” their electric automotive machines on the cheap. He uncovered that the per-mile cost of energy worked out to the same or higher than if they drove an oil-burning vehicle.

Hummingbird had it correct, the technology had hidden the cost compared to the profit.

A definition: Greed. He fumed. The God of Business. The power company would make as much money from the people who worked as it could. They swear god is in the money that people spend just to go down the road, that is what keeps everyone alive.

And yet?

And yet the people believed that they were making lives better for themselves in the name of buying power, converted from the sun.

Lovers, haters, atheists and devout.

Then those, like Hummingbird, who believed in the God of the leaf he smoked in his pipe “helped with the appetite”.

Once again. There were errors in the database. The update algorithm encoded a patch to install during the night when the android powered down again at an inexpensive, hotel after the long drive.

Still with a full charge on the batteries, the stone-crushing truck came to a stop in a motel’s parking lot.

The ancient pavement and paint barely marked places to park. The tiny woman who purchased the big truck was no longer visible. Instead, there was a tall, broad, bushy-bearded biker-stereotype with tattoos that took some effort to place in obvious locations on the forearms and hands.

The big man looked like a stereotype of a biker returning to his roots, he signed his name on the register as “Snake” in generic block lettering. The intimidating new tenent paid cash and took the key with barely a word.

The android retired to the rented room alone. His perceived size would ensure people would avoid him and the room.

He sat on the edge of the bed and re-shaped to a slim, human male. This basic shape drew significantly less energy to maintain.

Greed, anger. The android had found a few dark sides to these Americans, but few could truly be listed as evil.

He removed his shoes and pulled down the bedclothes before he got on the bed.

He adapted to the cool of the night from the previous hotel by using blankets for warmth, not just for looks.

Information where the database was wrong:

America, not a cesspool or an evil place. It was not wholly godless, pagan or god-fearing.

America, not a place there were no streets paved with gold or they practiced libations and orgies.

America: They swore at each other, pointed fingers, fought and published news unlike anywhere else. They exposed the worst parts of each other. But, when attacked, they showed the family ties that they were.

Family. Every one. Every hue, it seemed. Hated each other, but when someone outside threatened them. They stood side by side and protected each other’s back no matter their religion, color or orientation.

Data. So much data to rewrite. The patch would need to be written in sections during the power down.

What was observed and recorded and the patch would reflect:

It was a place where people loved, laughed, and lived lives, had children. Some never gave birth to children and were fulfilled and happy.

Some eschewed technology and lived close to the Supreme Creator according to their belief by toiling on the earth for the bounty that they grew.

Information picked up in six hours of driving and observing. The code to update the database was large and complex. It would take the full night to rewrite the new information.

A quick inventory, shoes off, blankets up. Room heat, according to human sleep cycles, turned down a few degrees below normal body temperature.

He turned off the lights in the room with the remote control and closed the optic sensors that were eyes.

Setting the timer to start the power-up start sequence before sunrise, he shut down. His core processor seeking that edge of programming that danced around the low energy gates of the memory bus.

Humans would have called them dreams.

The failure of Smart Bomb Chapter 7. Smart Car

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Chapter 7 Smart Car of the novel Smart Bomb has failed to post for the second time in a row.  Some 20 hours worth of writing and editing in total were obliterated. 

So, Ladies and Gents, Boys and Girls of all ages, my deepest apologies for posting loose notes and offering them as an evolution of a future novel. 

Twice now, in two days, hours upon hours worth of work have vanished. This morning, I awoke and opened WP to look upon…. copy/cut/pasted goulash. I made the mistake of editing online in WP and it failed to produce the end result.  I don’t know when the text reverted back to the original first draft (really a collection of notes, written while watching the evening news.)  

I like Smart Bomb, it is in fact a good, twisty story. Sometimes, maybe the third time is the charm?

Anyway, tomorrow, Monday, I will work on Smart Bomb again.  If you’re interested in seeing it evolve. I liked the cameos that happened in this chapter.  And there were … three. Some you might like.

Thomas and Kaylee walked across the stage.  A young man named Keegan and a company was mentioned. 

Anyway, don’t stop looking in on the Scenes of Futures Past. I’ve just had a setback and a brand new (Xmas!) laptop to write on.  No polished keys, no broken hinges, all the pixels work. All the pixels, no broad bands of dead pixels across the top third of the screen. 

I’m almost excited about writing again.  Sometimes I get excited. Sometimes I swear I can’t.  But I always do.

Why? 

Because I must write.  If I don’t write, I would write again.  I just need to write. I have too many stories screaming at me, too often and too loud. Each one wants out. 

Howabout you? What is your frustration?

Dash

Smart Bomb chapter 6. cold

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Chapter 6. Cold

The American south. A unique society within the American society. A level of chivalry where a woman could stand up to a man, but according to law as put down by the Leader of Truth, such could not be the case.

Women were vessels for the future life. And only assigned for such with the leaders of the church.

America, the abomination, allowed women to drive cars, walk alone, even eat in public. The leader said the women were unhappy by following that path of dissolution.  

And yet? They were happy. Solidly so. But according to the Holy Leader, the American’s were corrupt and unhappy in their vileness.  This was a quandary he couldn’t fathom. 

 Americans are complex. He thought.  This needs more investigation. No one can be destroyed without all the information.  No sentence to death imposed without the evidence to show reason that  death is the only solution for these people. All without warning or a formal reading of charges. 

When Steve the android shifted into a female shape, to move among them, the point of view and experience was different. The differences were subtle, but the differences were there. Both in treatment received and given. 

Although he’d been constructed as an android – as a male, he paused to answer a question he posed to himself. When he was the same thing as a female android? Steve’s mind paused again for a thousandth of a second. And for an android that is a very long time. The thesaurus in his mind pondered a more appropriate word for his female form. In that shape, Steve decided, when he was a she, she was a gynoid.

 Another change  in the database, and it was subtle.  

This part of the United States, where Steve walked along the road. The database listed the area warm in the summer, cool and rarely freezing in winter.

Why then, was he walking along a highway, looking like a heavily muscled Hispanic woman, the plan would have her picked up by a corrupt American soldier where a trade of favors for a ride, would work out well for the android-turned-spy.

But none stopped, stopping at a food-mart and gas station, the android-gynoid female stepped into the unisex bathroom and adjusted her size, something darker, black eyes, bright smile. Slimmer and bigger breasted.

Images the maturing electronic mind pulled from the worldnet, for modeling the next shape and walk, exited with light-colored shirt and jeans instead of what she did wear when she entered.  A slight modification to the color of the hair. Instead of brown-black, she now sported shining raven blue-black hair.

Passing by the Air Force Base as the now female gynoid headed north, while a slow drizzle fell from the cloud cover that soaked her clingy, light-colored shirt and she had her backpack as the only form of insulation. The chill of the air and rain made the artificial skin pucker.

The android hoped that the plan would work, the heat loss was dramatic and alarming, she would have to turn to the jacket that the reverend and his wife donated and was now stored in the backpack.

A few cars passed while the civilian employees left the base to head home.
An elegant, official looking car pulled next to her and the middle-aged commander leaned over, his brass decorations glinting in the gathering darkness.

“Need a ride, miss? The weather is going to turn nasty around here in about a half-hour.” He was official sounding. But his eyes traced over her shape, including the damp breasts of the artificial woman.

“Thank you. How do you know of the weather?”

“We have detailed knowledge of anything in the air.” He smiled as she put her backpack in the car.

The gynoid concluded that the offer not only kept the heat loss to a minimum, but that the American male would not be difficult to mine for information. Her shape pressed against the wet, tight shirt that left little to the imagination.  Net surveys on breast sizes found conflicting information on what was most appealing. 

Sitting there with the pack under her legs, keeping them parted enough for the civilian worker a view of the slightly parted legs of the damp jeans.

“Where are you headed miss?” The officer asked.

“North. Anywhere dry, warm and safe.” A planned response, to a known question. But an unknown event caused heuristic subroutines to rapidly alter the plan.

A voice from the back seat interrupted the plans.

“We have an hours drive north. Roman, I can authorize you another hour of driving after you drop me off, after we secure you a rider.”

Turning around, an entire dictionary ran through the core processors.

“You startled me!” She turned her head rapidly around. “I’m Ann, what do you mean securing a rider?”

“No one travels alone in the equipment, this means he will not be left alone with you or any other civilian. It is protocol. I will secure you a female rider for your comfort.“

 The plan was a fail. Only if she was alone with a male, would the plan work to extract the information. She could figure out something to gain information, but the situation was now outside of the mission limits of safety.  She would be found out and would have to detonate early. 

The driver wore an officer’s markings, had violated the protocols already, they would not take it to any greater lengths.

“I have money for a hotel, I just need to get there.” She said as she sat down in the warm passenger area of the limousine and clipped her seatbelt on. 

They drove on in silence for some distance when a hotel that seemed near their destination.

She stepped out of the car, and recovered her backpack and then thanked the one called Roman – the driver – and the Colonel. She watched them drive away before she changed shapes to one of a sandy-haired middle-aged male of indeterminate heritage and walked to the office of the hotel in the twilight hours and gathering storm.

He was able to record information, the plan failed, however, Steve still discovered, even in America’s own country, the military do not travel alone in official vehicles.  It was not much, but it did add to the database.  And his care would not reveal his existence, changing size, colors and gender to throw off anyone who might track him.  But it was impossible that anyone knew that the operation to blow up the capitol of the America was under way. 

While he sat on his bed, the android watched the local news. Weather, the forecaster said,  would become colder over the next few days. This caused alerts to begin their process to discover alternative forms of transportation that would not attract attention.

Checking the roll of non-traceable cash, an alternative method of transportation would be useful. Ground transport would be preferable, opposed to the hypersonic craft the United States used for air.  The plan also called for avoiding trains or other public transportation. Too much scrutiny with facial recognition at the passenger hubs, by not being recognized in any database, he would be a curiosity that would bring scrutiny.  This would be a mission ending catastrophe.

The all the core systems  knew, there was little chance to pass close inspection just one time. Multiple trips past a sensor would reduce the odds of remaining as an anonymous traveler to less than a fraction of one percent.

His program required him to adapt to succeed. He had to change the plan, laid out by a programmer, to travel in crowds on pubic transit, he would have flown inside the country borders without the enhanced passenger checks. He would quickly reach his mission objective. Now, because of the face scanning tech that upgraded. Not just looking for people on a recognized list.  The scanners now looked for someone not fitting in a huge database of humans that normally moved in an area.  

Unfamiliar faces did not travel alone.  Families? Yes.  Couples? Of course. But a single person, male or female, without bags, or people to welcome their arrivals was a flag for the government to look closely at a person.  It could interrupt the mission.

Deliver the device to the seat of evil.

Destination: Washington, the most responsible criminal for the starving and poverty in the true religion by not sharing with the religious foods and comforts that they kept for themselves. They would take the resources and give nothing to strangers. 

Except for the sharing the android witnessed when he appeared as a youth just barely at the age of majority.  They gave to him without thought.   

It was a contradiction of data and measured information. It was answered by combining those donations of equipment and effort all appeared to come from private citizens.

But, where did the sand come from? The officer?

The people he met, Carl and Genesee were inherently kind and followed their book of rules and life. From the little girl in Florida to an officer that refused to handcuff a cold, unarmed and slightly-built youth.

Confict. Subroutines patched, conflict caused potential for failure of mission.

The mission was all important to strike a blow for peace. There would be lessons to be taught by showing that the failure of the United States to pressure Europe magazines from making fun of them or prevent insulting novels from being published.

The way to find through the winter storm, he would walk to the used car lot.

The American love for the automobile would allow him to move north without suspicion.

The plan set, an alternative to walking north the thousand-kilometers north.

Fully stretched out, the android could take one pace per meter.

His core processor measured a new term, a kilopace, a thousand-thousand paces to his target.

One million steps.

A large number that could be reduced by the use of private transportation. The contact with non-believers would be reduced. A new subroutine, created by the latest update to his operating systems, required contact with the people and the government that reflects the thinking of the masses.

Alternative plan: A seventy to one-hundred kilometer drive each day, then interact with citizens.

Taking on the shape and color, hair and accent, more data would be collected for proof of the glory and required destruction of this horrid…

He deleted the plan process, the prejudging of America seemed widespread in the database.

The android lay on the bed and powered down, a required time for reboot of the entire system for purging fragmented data that took up space in his limited resources.

Setting a power-on alert for seven O’clock, he lay on top of the blankets with the room set to just below body temperature.

If anyone looked through the gap of the window shade, it looked as if he was asleep on his back.

In truth, should anyone try to touch the android, the tactile feeling would make a person believe this was a dead human on the bed.

In the morning, the database cleared of all fragmented codes, would require replenished energy levels.

He would need a breakfast high in carbohydrate.

Not for the first time, he anticipated data input from this strange country.

The development of an image.

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In the days as I am writing-rewriting “Smart Bomb” one person I had a thought that might make for a great image.

A week ago, I did not have a clue on what the image I had in mind. Seeing as that I have to develop it, I cobbled together an idea.  Being as the story is about a bomb, I used an image of the Tsar Bomba as a base image, the rest was created by way of the image program GIMP.  Several versions have been born.   Then I discovered it wasn’t a still taken out of an image of the event by the USSR back in the day and released for widespread use and propaganda.

Unfortunately, I discovered that it was mismarked, it was not the Tsar Bomba and although there was no identifying marks it was a CGI creation.  SO off I go to find another image.

And I found it in the  archives of US nuclear, Castle Bravo, the rest are my heavy workings of the images.

Okay, I have let this sit in my screen for 12 hours now.  I  will give you a peek at the latest proposed book cover.

Although it is intended to be a “cobbled together” image of poor quality.

I kind of like it.

In the course of the story, the android is a shape shifter. So both genders are represented.

Anyway, Rewriting Digital Heart.  A love affair between a car and it’s humans.

I”ll get you another episode of  Smart Bomb or Irelan’s adventures.

It’s coming.

 

It’s fun.

dash writes for the I behind the eye

 

 

Smart Bomb Chapter 5. Mental Health with a Baby Stroller

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Chapter 5. Mental Health with a Baby Stroller

As Steve pushed the small strolling cart he obtained from a secondhand store, it rumbled along the sidewalk without much effort, as was expected for the small machine. He didn’t look back, his mission was to observe and record all he could at any base he could without compromising his cover.

He appeared as a hunched over homeless old man, and with mutterings to himself. He reduced his height and he looked like he stood no more than two-inches over five feet tall. His hair lengthened with the hair follicles stimulated to grow a ten-inch-per-hour speed at a cost of a lot of stored energy, it forced  him to eat the entire jar of peanut butter that Genesee gave him to balance the fuel costs.

In the day that Steve left the house of Carl and Genesee Bonsell, they had a long and enlightening conversation of a religious nature. Jesus, a teacher of twenty-centuries before was their savior.  The debate was long and enlightening and gave the android another entry about errors in the database. 

They gave him a new backpack with clothes, Carl’s warm jacket and let the young man to trek on his mission. By the time he reached the shopping strip four miles away, his appearance was that of a woman in her twenties, and  looked for a jogging stroller.

Purchased with cash, the woman with blood-red hair became a hunched, salt-and-pepper haired man that he was now as soon as she was out of sight.

Stopping at a gas and car-wash, he walked through the car wash, taking the filth that collected on the floor near the drains, running the slime through his hair and over his face. He approximated the look of a long-term homeless man walking along the road without difficulty.

Still, he had time to process all facets of the his conversation about the Bonsell’s savior, his challenges that he put forward the Reverend Bonsell took with smiles and patiently explained the bible and the contradictions it seemed to have.

They also supported, with accepted fact of the Roman Tacitus wrote records that identified him as a real person, enough people spoke about the happenings of the days after the death of the wandering, itinerant carpenter-teacher. 

Even his creator listed in the database of the Roman Empire. An Empire that kept detailed records on much of their history in an obsessive way.  

Faced with such details and the couple pointed out that it is always easy to ret-con history. Steve countered they would be doing the same. But there was Tacitus again. 

He researched his databases as he walked and thought. Having to patch his algorithms to match the research for facts conflicted with the programming. He had assumed that it was more logical to follow the consensus that there were not any forgeries in this small set of records. This was becoming a problem, he needed to understand.  So.  He circumvented the program of the exclusion of outside information to be incorporated into his core database.  

He was an autonomous structure, his programming conflicted, so the rational program cycle clashed iwth the older exclusive programming. 

The adaptive subroutine required it to prevent loss of mission objective and he logged into the database of a carpenter that the Roman Empire did terrible things to.

The wars after his leaving the earth.

In the centuries that passed, even documents that the boy, then an apprentice-carpenter sat at the feet of old Drui priests as his uncle and father traded services for desired arts and crafts for trade back in the civilized world.

He muttered the different views of what he had in his database with what he learned. The heuristic algorithm determining that such repeated conversations with himself would give him a greater range of leeway with the gatekeepers he would make contact with.

At the corner, he followed the road with his jogging stroller (Since folded up dragged in mud and crud) and his backpack that suffered the same filth treatment, he presented a sight of a crazed homeless man who would appeared displaced by the storm two days previous.

“Sir.” The crisp uniformed guard stepped out and intercepted him.

The discussion escalated with Steve repeating religious passages at the top of his voice, with interjections of a local native language, the soldier cuffed him and then took the disguised android at first to the detainment area, then to the medical facility on the base where they cleaned him up so long as he was not fighting any of the nurses.

In a few hours, looking out windows and continuing to mumble, he had his temperature taken (Exactly at thirty-seven degrees celsius as controlled by the regulating program) his skin sagged in wrinkles and unsurprisingly, his DNA was not in any database of the US government.

The presupposition then was he had not committed any crime anywhere.

He was just a slightly demented old man who answered questions, just appropriately enough with some excursions into confusing words, to not pose a danger to himself or others.

The commanding officer came down and spoke with the doctor in front of Steve.

The officer offered to transport him to the next town north.

Nodding in agreement with a subordinate officer, it was not strictly by the book, but incarcerating the homeless man was equally wrong and a greater waste of taxpayers dollars.

The next transport to the town north would take him and drop him off in at the bus station there.

The CO of the facility walked out with the doctor and left Steve to stand alone and look out the windows.

Little did they know, Steve recorded everything, including the cell-phone that rang and the officer spoke with his warrant officer on base of the assigned departure of attack aircraft.

The number and description of every aircraft in the flight could be heard over the secure line while the officer spoke over his personal device in the corner out of earshot of the busy doctor and the disinterested appearing homeless man.

Before the officer was out of the building, he transmitted all recorded information regarding the flight of warplanes over the worldnet to Point Of Origin for his mission.

Cleaned and washed, they returned his clothes to him freshly washed, subtle wrinkles along the seams his jacket and clothes were carefully and deeply surveyed from EM radiation to a micro-sniffer for anything that might constitute a threat of biological or chemical type.

They never surveyed him past his blood pressure, lungs and tympanic temperature.

Taken to the van, the driver allowed him to sit in the front passenger seat.

Steve smiled blankly as another driver approached and asked a favor of the first driver to deliver a folder to another office ASAP.

Nodding, the two friends parted company and a quick u-turn as they made the four-minute detour to drop off the file that the technician waited for.

Steve recorded every road, every bump, he obtained unprecedented views of the base and recorded it all in different wavelengths.

He discovered the oversight that he should have a passive receiver to pick up any data or communication transmissions.

Still and all, by the time he departed under guard as a harmless dot of debris that drifted into their base, he gathered nearly a terabyte of information. A successful incursion on the American military base.

His next opportunity would be another approach, switching of genders was the plan.

In the center of the small community he stepped out of the van, the driver returning his stroller and backpack to him.

By the time the van made the corner, Steve stood nearly six-feet tall and broad-shouldered.

Pulling his blood-red hair back into a ponytail, the milky-cataracts of the old man were bright and emerald green.

Instead of a local homeless, he was a northern tier states citizen on a hike through the country with a three-day scruff of strawberry-blond beard on his face, girls who walked past him on the street smiled and looked him from head to foot.

Shallow Americans, they judged him on his appearance.

Something deep in his processors, he was deceiving the population that believed him.

Even with all the technology, he was not forced, even if they coerced him into helping.

But they did not ask for anything from him, just his time and his strength, that he modified to an average young man’s strength.

His next stop, he walked to a motel and rented a room. The matronly woman at the counter asked if he was alone and finding it shocking that he traveled solo.

Smiling at her as he nodded shyly.

“I’m on a mission for God.” His calculations were spot-on. The woman smiled and nodded knowingly.

“The Good Book is in every room, I make sure of it.” She held hers up. “But God does not wish for young men to spend his life alone all the time, they need the company of a woman to keep them out of trouble. I think you will find company here if you only just look.”

Giving her a soft smile he walked out to his room. The core processors working overtime to understand what the woman meant.

Americans were becoming more difficult to understand with every step.

He slid the keycard in the slot and the door opened to a simple, but comfortable room and put his backpack inside.

Putting out his “Do not disturb” sign he lay down and turned off the lights. Even before the sun was fully set, he powered down all systems.

A question formed in his mind, something that occurred at the home of the Bonsells.

Did he dream when he was “Sleeping”?

He wanted to know.

Smart Bomb Chapter 4. Sandbagged

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Chapter 4. Sandbagged

During the night, the android bomb that everyone knew as a teenager named Steve,  the guest bed in the house of the Reverend Car and listened to the sounds in the house.  But the murmuring of the married couple in the far side of the house was beyond even his enhanced hearing.

Rustling noises of his hosts quieted after several minutes after Reverend Carl walked around and turned off the lights in the family room.

After the lights went out and silence followed, he laid on the bed in the dark. His core systems were able control the body temperature easily in the darkness and he performed information and systems maintenance. 

The time passed and the silent house, all outside sounds obliterated by the soft white-sound of falling rain and reduced his ability to hear.

Reducing his power generation, he was able to turn up the power to an electric blanket that the Reverend’s wife supplied.

He closed his eyes in the approximation of sleep, and the systems powered down more than expected.

Then…

In the darkness, his hearing alerted to the sound of the approaching of someone down the hallway.

The length of steps he calculated to the tall wife of the Reverend.

“Steve, time to wake up.” She said softly. “Breakfast in a half-hour.”

“Thank you, I’m awake.” He answered in positive tones.

“You sleep light.”

If I slept. He thought to himself. I would sleep light.

A check on his system, there were gaps of suspended operations where power use was minimal.

Nearly zero draw.

Odd. If machines slept, I would have been asleep. But that was impossible.

Nothing in the database addressed suspend process at night. He was not programmed to suspend operations. Level-one diagnostics were performed multiple times for verification and he ran the programs twice over.

His core systems generated three reports, each one listed no errors.   

Why had so many systems suspended operations?  He was still operating well enough. 

Curious.

Smaller machines would suspend operation to power down, but he was not programmed included by the creator to do that. It had been planned that he did not need to shut down. His mission was a one way and longevity was not a concern.

His programming  was simple:  To get to the target while traveling through the non-believer filth that was America. There would be no power down, or full operation suspending. 

Except he found information that his programming failed to expect. One police officer that applied rules without consideration to the circumstances. But the first, opposed the supervisor on the point of human kindness.

A family that opened their home.

He stood up out of bed, all his senses working at capacity. Every sensor told the core systems that the flesh that covered his carbon-fiber re-enforced polymer frame was in normal parameters, although joints were stiff. The ceramic armor that covered the vital core processors sensed the direction of gravity when Steve stood and the system checks all came back as nominal.

Still he had the need to stretch, the sensation was unique and pleasant.

Nothing in the database described the feeling of the stretch, however, the status of his joints increased by twenty-percent.

And more what was more important, it felt good. 

A significant amount, he understood why humans had the instinct to stretch their bodies when they rose after a sleep period.

At breakfast the food at the breakfast table was simple, but plentiful.

Genesee Bonsell had shredded potatoes and scrambled eggs with coffee and fruit juices.

“Eat up, I have muffins in the oven, we need to arrive at the church at sunrise.” She poured herself the strong, black steaming coffee from an insulated pitcher. “And a long day until lunch. People worry and fret about flooding and we have twelve tons of sand at the church being delivered before sunrise.”

“So, why are we needed to go there in the rain?” Steve asked. Processors called up data on thermal loss, what he recorded in the last week of cold weather. “Ma’am, I will need to borrow a warmer jacket, mine’s not good enough to wear in the rain.”

“Of course, dear.” She smiled. “Carl?”

“I have one from my days in the military. It’s not heavy in weight, but it is warmer than anything you will find.” Carl smiled, pouring his own cup of coffee. “Eat your fill, there is plenty. I have scrambled eggs for years, you won’t find a better omelette anywhere.”

Omelette, the term was a stretch of the definition, although technically correct. He mixed in cheddar cheese with the eggs and no other filler was used. But the matter-energy conversion system would have little problem with the simple meal to convert to a usable energy source. 

The three of them sat at the table and Carl led them in a blessing of the food that lasted for a full minute. Carl gave his heart in the blessing, this intrigued Steve that an infidel would give his faith to an idol he could not see. A notation was made in the hidden, permanent files of another possible flaw in the database of American’s and their quality. 

They got into the pickup truck, Genesee sitting in the middle. They drove the overloaded pickup to the church.

Crowds of people milled about, shovels were in action when they arrived.

Officer Joseph Roberts “Joe-Bob” was guiding people in and out of the parking lot. Young and old moved back and forth.

Very small children dragged empty sandbags, fathers and mothers lugged full ones back to their waiting cars.

Energy spent on shovelling sand into the bags, he learned to fill the sandbags only half-full.

A seven-year-old girl with a hello-kitty t-shirt instructed him on how to fill it under the watchful eye of her father. For a small child, Steve decided, she had done this before.  Skylar the girl was an expert in how to shovel sand into bags. 

For six hours, they filled thousands of sandbags in the cold rain. While wearing the borrowed jacket, reduced his thermal loss to levels so  that regeneration systems used the stored energy to replace the heat well lost to the cold. The omelettes that Carl cooked in the predawn breakfast kept Steve fueled well enough to keep the core processors at optimum levels.

At lunch, Carl lit a giant propane powered grill and began to cook hamburgers and chicken.

His power reserves were down by sixty-percent by the time he sat to consume organic fuel. His total conversion to energy was efficient, but still needed to replace the used fuel, the food was perfect.

One grandfather sat under the rain awning that kept the falling water off the already soaked people.  The old man held his hand out to a five-year old and told the child, “Here, pull my finger.”

The boy-child complied, with the resulting noise that issued from the elderly male’s backside made the boy give a belly laugh.

“An invisible elephant!” the old man said, pointing at a space where Steve could not see anything in visible light.  The android tried in other wavelengths immediately after, but without success.  

He came to the conclusion there was no such animal that was invisible. 

“Mama!” The boy called, running off. “There was an invisible elephant under gramps! It lifted him off the chair with its trunk!”

The crowd chuckled the android struggled with the humor between the different races of people. Different hues, ages of men and women all mixing.

Steve filed the joke under a new permanent file. He was curious about such things.

A bodily function based on triggering the event by pulling on a digit. The sound was akin to an explosion.

They were vastly different things and inconsistent with human biomechanic construction.

These people were inconsistent, considerate, caring. Unlike his database, listing them as sinful, profane, selfish, obese and bloodthirsty.

Steve altered his programming slightly to adjust to the information.

The core systems did not note it, but the android was learning new information at a geometric rate.

He sat on the plastic chair, eating the last of his fourth hamburger when the he performed a time check in his core processor. Instructions, pre-programmed instructed him that he needed to leave and spend twenty-four hours watching a military base a few miles north.

The was plan already designed and thought out, he would be a poor, homeless woman with no possessions and stand outside of the fence for a few days, before heading north again.

If they picked up the old crazy woman, it would keep the government off his trail.

The plan was without flaw.

Smart Bomb Chapter 3. Salvation Army

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Chapter 3. Salvation Army

It was cooler than yesterday, making Steve shiver while he walked down the road. Although he was able to charge his power reserves to capacity the day before, he was using energy at an unprecedented rate.

The humans might call it “Full”, he had the opportunity to experience more of the generous spirit of the American south.

During the storm the day before, power went out, leaving the café in the dark. The owner fretted about the melting sweets in the freezer and prohibited anyone from opening the doors without reason, finally succumbing to the alternatives to throw out meats as the walk-in began to push the legal limit of the health codes.

The owner, Pete Durham, chose the option to cook the meats, slow smoking some with a wood-fired smoker overnight. Late into the night Pete and James cooked. Ice cream threatened to melt and spoil.

The Android could convert the butterfat and sugar confection to electrical power easily, and ate far more than his system required.

They fed truckers, news crews, passers-by and Steve for what was customers only felt they could give. Even giving Steve a wrapped five-pound wood-fire cooked roast when he left.

“We can’t put it in storage.” The owner smiled. “And it will be ready for you to eat anytime down the road.” Pete said when Steve left Lugs Cafe.

Quick calculations, and the android, programmed to call himself Steve Aldin, tried to give Pete a fifty-dollar bill. Pete shook his head at first, then tore the bill in half.

“Come back this way and eat in our dining room when everything is working like it’s supposed to, bring a friend and I’ll take that other half of a bill.” He offered to shake Steve’s hand. “Then we’ll call it even.”

Steve shook his hand, a western habit. But deep in his programming, he felt revulsion of touching an unclean person such as this.

But the man washed, cooked, worked hard, drank only bottles of water.

Pure water. It seemed to show there were more errors in his database.

According to the enlightened leader and the programmers who followed the priest. Anyone who did not follow the law in each step and facet he declared as unclean was unworthy to walk the earth. He prohibited any unclean people inside the holy of holies where he planned the destruction of idols and idol worshippers in America.

But.

The curse of a fuzzy logic, sometimes the third leg of coding got in the way. In many ways, the binary coding of the twentieth century was well suited to so many things. Zero or one. Yes or no.

Steve Aldin, android of the one true religion had a “Maybe” coding. Zero, one, two.

And he retained it, the adaptive programming kept him from being caught, unlike the previous versions that the Russian government caught. Either the earlier versions became confused or lost when the expected targets moved or the humans spotted his predecessors, who then self-destructed before travelling far.

He was the most advanced, and the most powerful disciple built by the engineers and programmers underneath the holy sanctuary where only the true believers could enter.

The most powerful that I know of he corrected himself. Core processors predicted a near certainty that others were under construction with a fifty-percent probability for  the next versions to deploy in the next twelve months.

The snow threatened to put him into danger once again. His walk down the road began to leave footsteps pressed into the slushy, frozen water on the white-coated asphalt.

A snowplow trundled past, heading to some assignment on a main road, the flashing lights triggered the recent memory of stopping for a meal.

Several minutes later, a sedan pulled up with a light bar and the siren chirped. programming alerted to the law enforcement agent wanted him to approach.

If he had a confrontation, he would be arrested and no scans would pick up his fingerprints.

He would be an enigma to the database for citizens in the country. Alternatively, killing the officer would flag his location and his mission would be compromised. 

Shifting quickly, he looked like a younger teenage youth, and the cop shook his head and rubbed his eyes while he looked through the slush covered glass of the window. In a blink of an eye, he reconfigured the identity chip to match his appearance and the security number.

“Son, where are you going?” The officer asked with an open look, he had no suspicions of this soaked-to-the-skin youth who walked on the road. The android had reduced the flow of all fluids to the dermis, making his skin pale when he approached the police officer who got out of the patrol car.

“Sir,” He used a squeaky voice of a late-blooming teen as he approached the front of the car and held his hands over the hood for warmth. “I’m on a mission to walk the lower forty-eight states to raise money for homeless.”

“Impressive. May I see your ident-chip?” The officer nodded. Not suspicious, but not quite smiling, his neutral stance remained unconvinced. “You are traveling rather light for the cold weather. Mister Aldin.”

“That would be my fault. I tried to jump a train a few miles back because it was getting cold, I put my pack in a train car’s door. When I bent down to get  my other bags, the train closed it’s doors and began to move. But I was too far to grab the door. When I tried to chase it, the security chased me off their property.”

This made the officer laugh.

“Well, you were trespassing.” He pulled at his chin, then clicked on his microphone at his shoulder. “Patrol One-seven-one.”

He waited for the response.

The sound was barely audible from where the android stood and waited. The officers earphone keeping the sound below human perception, but with his electronic sensors he could hear the dispatcher acknowledge him.

“Is the chaplain around? I have a lost sheep for him.”

Steve looked around, the term sheep was known, but the application was non-sequitur.

Then Steve realized it was he who the officer considered lost.

“Wait right here.” The officer said and sat in his car, he typed on a computer display and sent off a message.

“Officer, can I sit in the car?” His core processors were registering the heat loss. “I’m cold.”

Pausing for a moment, the officer nodded and then out of habit, patted Steve down and removed the small nylon day-pack, looked inside, satisfied, he put it in the front seat and turned back to Steve.

“Have a seat in the back, I’ll keep the heater on.” He said. Steve sat in the rear of the patrol car, behind a solid shield between the front and rear of the car.

“The chaplain will be here soon.” The officer smiled at him, looking up, another patrol car pulled in behind them.

Another officer got out with more stripes and wearing a white shirt, while the officer wore a navy-blue shirt.

The officers thought they were out of earshot, but the enhanced hearing, Steve listened in.

“You have him sitting in the prisoner area. Is he cuffed?”

“No, sir, he is just cold.” The officer shrugged. “I  wanted him to limit access to the weapons and electronics, so I just sat him in the back.”

“Protocol, if he is in back, he wears cuffs.” The watch commander said. “That is the rules.” 

“I don’t want him in front, I have not had reason to run his identity past his ID chip.” The patrolman said.

“I’ll run it. You have the scan of it?” He held up his tablet and tapped a few times.

“Cuff him if you keep him in the unit, and you’re right, he’s not allowed up front.” The supervisor said. “Or he stands away from the vehicle.”

“I can’t detain him, I don’t have any cause.”

“Find cause. He is not a local, so figure how to process him. Was he walking in the road?” The officer looked back at the footprints that were filling in. “He might have crossed over the line back there.”

“Sam, he is just cold, a youngster.” He told his superior officer.

The cops continued their conversation while Steve listened in. The situation was untenable, and he couldn’t get out of the car unless the officer opened in from the outside.

He could not allow them to run his DNA. Two police officers were no threat to him, out in the middle of a highway, but the news of his presence after attacking the officers would put him under a microscope that he couldn’t get away from.

Then.

A blessing from god, another car pulled in, the chaplain had arrived.

The first officer in blue walked to the back of the car, followed by a middle-aged man who looked in better shape than the officer.

“Mr. Aldin, this is our chaplain, Reverend Carl Bonswell. He will take care of you.” The officer nodded the civilian clothed male and walked away.

The officer talking to himself,  pleased to avoiding the need to cuff the young man or otherwise have to process him like he was little more than a criminal, when his actions indicated nothing.

“Mr. Aldin, son, would you like to come to my car with me? I have a place for food and a roof, tonight’s weather is going to be cold and wet. The winter season has settled in somewhat early.”

“Call me Steve.” He used the same squeaky voice. “And thank you, I would like that.”

“Okay, Steve. We have a shelter, it’s rarely used right now. We don’t get much call for homeless or transient people this time of the year.” The reverend said as they got in his car. “As such, the county has it closed now. So, you will be staying with my family tonight. Is this all you have?”

“Oh no, the officer took my knapsack, it’s in the front seat of his patrol car.” Steve said and opened the door to get out.

“No no! Stay here, get warm, I’ll get it.” Getting out, he stopped to talk to the patrolman and nodded.

Steve listened in, the chaplain only asked if the officer had patted down the youth and if he found any contraband.

“No. No weapons, interior sensors did not pick up even a trace of drugs. But, he’s soaked.” The officer smiled at the chaplain.

Satisfied, Carl gathered up the knapsack and returned it to Steve.

“Socks, t-shirt, and what else do you have in there?

“Some money my mom gave me. I’m supposed to walk for a cause, but I have lost my list, my clothes, my pack.” He gave the full pitiful story.

Carl smiled and handed Steve his worldly possessions, attached his seat belt, pulled the car into gear and took Steve with him to his home.

The reverend’s home was warm, smells included apple and peach, in a crock-pot.

“Carl, who is this? A new friend?” The woman was not a classic beauty. She was tall, broad-shouldered, her arms looked like some men’s legs, she looked like she could have taken on both officers out on the highway in a battle.  And win. 

Quick assessment of her movements showed she was naturally built like this. The woman shook his hand and smiled.  She towered over him, standing six-feet tall, broad shoulders, narrow waist and a flare to her hips. She appeared as an athlete, but he could not figure out her sport.  However she moved as graceful as tiger he once saw.

She was taller than Carl, but doted on him. Bringing Carl and Steve carefully ladled cups of the spiced peach-apple cider out of the crock-pot.

“I thought you would put me in the shelter tonight.” Steve accessed social protocol files. “Thank you”

“No thanks needed.” The woman smiled and sat with them. “This is the best place for you, tonight, hun. You have the guest bedroom, a shower is in the room and there are clean towels.”

Carl nodded as she continued.

“This is not a free stay, in the morning, we start at six o’clock. Breakfast is served at six-thirty, we have sandbags to deliver to the community center for homeowners. This storm is going to stay for some time before it gets cold enough to snow.” She said while she sipped her drink.

Steve drank his virgin “Papple” cider and at a small square of dark chocolate “it is good for your health” . He converted the carbohydrates converting into heat and electricity.

He recorded and learned more about this society of decadent, and morally corrupt people. There were police who argued that a good deed for a cold citizen could be cause for investigation.

Another recorded event A Christian man and his wife who open their home to him and not follow the rules and put him in a dorm-style bed that had thin mattresses and thinner blankets.

They bent the rules and let him sleep under thick blankets, eat their food and drink a drink while sitting in their house.

The woman who took care of her lover and husband was another oddity. She was not an obese, idol worshiping, world hating people.

She was a raven-haired woman with deep-set, searching eyes that showed her native heritage.

A kindness in her that extended to her husband, while he read from a well-worn bible.

No drugs, the odors in the house of cooking, crock-pot cider, smoke from the fireplace.

After a shower, core temperatures were in optimum operations, tissue repairs from hypothermia damage to his extremities were in full operation.

The experiences he had, the accepted view of the picture of the infidel American’s once again altered to fit the reality.

Tomorrow, he needed to donate his time to strangers.

This would be another first.

For the first time, the walking bomb looked forward to learning something new.

Steve, the God’s Punisher, was exceeding his programming in ways the creator never expected.

Smart Bomb Chapter 2. Southern Georgia

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Chapter 2. Southern Georgia

Georgia state line, he stood in an orchard, the overcast sky threatened with dark, moisture laden clouds.

And something new.

He was cold. Core temperature was warning of below sub-optimal functioning level. His core thermal levels were four-degrees celsius low.

He had walked in the rain for six hours trying to cover his records of travel, any records of his journey would come to a dead-end at the last bus stop where he disembarked as a short, elderly woman.

Standing in the wet, secluded clearing, his feet made squishing sounds in the canvas shoes that he purchased with real money at a second-hand market.

Using the roll of money he carried, he had covered all his traces since leaving the metropolitan area. Traveling north on foot, he had interacted with a number of citizens.

Now, the core was turning up energy from his processors. But it was not enough, in the late November of this part of the country, the early winter’s storm was closing in. He needed to find an organic food source and shelter within twelve-hours or he would go into an unprogrammed energy debt and he did not know what might happen.

Looking at the trees, there was nothing in the branches to eat. A survey in his knowledge base indicated that among the peach orchard there was little to eat, so he walked on.

The wind picked up, a driving rain was causing his sensation of cold to increase to alarming levels. Being an artificial system, his creator designed tolerance for only a limited number of metabolic events. In the desert, he could function for a month without shade, the core processors able to withstand temperatures above what humans could survive.

Cold, that was another matter, his creator designed his systems for efficient heat reduction, not retention.

An oversite of his creator, the tissues he had over his frame were not required for operation, but they were still living tissue, he would draw unwanted attention if he had dying flesh falling away from his structure.

The sound of a vehicle telegraphed a possible splash from a nearby puddle he had just passed. Tugging up the knapsack he wore in a backpack style, he would use it for what little protection it offered and braced himself for the cruelty of the American motorist.

But it never came, no splash, no increase of engine noise to accelerate into the puddle. Instead, the sounds of decreasing power and a van with “Independant News” painted on the side with three men, one wearing a business suit, pulled up next to him from behind, rolling down the passenger window.

“You’re fixing to die out here. You might as well get in.” The passenger said to him.

“I don’t wish to impose, the rain will stop soon.”

“I’m a reporter, we were sent out on a report of funnel clouds in the area, there is a severe weather warning out. You stay walking, you will find just how bad it can get.” The one in the business suit said.

“I’m Richard, Scott at the video controls, camera man over there at the wheel is Donde. You don’t have a local accent.” Richard the Reporter tilted his head and thought for a moment. “West Coast? Oregon?”

“Yes, a little town called Antelope. I’m Steve.” He responded. “I am cold, too.”

“I bet, the temp has dropped ten-degrees since we left the studio an hour ago. We are shooting on location every ten-minutes or so. Our next stop is a trucker restaurant a few miles up the road.”

“Thank you. I could use a bite to eat, too.” Steve said. “I’ll get some coffee and wait out the storm.”

“That is a smart move.” Scott’s voice in back sounded like a tuba in the back of the van. “It will get worse before it gets better. A good place to hang out will be up ahead.”

The van slowed down when they reached an open field, Donde pulled over, Scott opened the door and the three news-professionals looked around at the sky. In the distance where they were heading, the clouds were low and oddly colored.

Scott in the back, held his hand up to his ear.

“Rotation in a cloud, fifteen miles west by southwest relative to our location.” His video display overlaid with his gps. “It is moving Northeast at about twenty.”

“That puts the path in this area.” Donde nodded. “We can be in position for a good shot.”

“What are you looking for?” Steve asked, looking out at the sky.

“That line of clouds? I am betting there is a twister in there, somewhere.” Richard pointed. “Down low, where we can’t see as it moves this wa…”

“RICH!” Scott yelled. “Tornado on the ground, East Weather Agency just announced it! Fifteen-miles east of the county line, moving northeast.”

“Steve, you are going to stay with us for a bit. Turn the heat up, enjoy the warmth and pull on any of your dry things.”

“I don’t have anything dry.”

Donde laughed, unsurprised.

“Dude, my jacket is back there, with all the different numbers on it?” He spoke with a slight Puerto Rican accent. “Go ahead and wear it. Warm up, seriously, you look cold even in my mirror.”

“Thank you.” Steve registered this as an irrelevant offer on the part of the man. Nothing else to do with any part of his job. It was a kindness to a stranger that was unexpected. This American, Donde, had no reason to do this action.

The memory core management system created a new file for review later. Date, time, air temperature and processor core thermal levels. It would be transmitted later with the other details he would learn on his travels later. He would gather information on United States Air Force and Marine bases as he traveled north, later in the week.

Donde pulled into the parking lot of the truck-stop with Scott calling out numbers and running the geo-mapping software on his displays.

“This works out, Donde, pull up. We don’t have another good vantage for a few miles. Rich, you have as good of a view as we can get from here.” Scott tapped on the virtual display, using tactile induction. He could feel the cursor under his fingers as he moved the pointer around.

“Rotation, we have rotation in the atmosphere, coming directly at us. Wedge, Rich, get out there! It will be visible in a moment.” Scott yelled. “Vector change! It is turning north. It will miss us.”

Donde and Richard got out, grabbing at equipment that was under their passenger’s feet.

“Steve! Sit in the front, we need to get to the camera and run some cable.” Donde said, taking the cold hand of their passenger and pulling him out.

“Dude, you are seriously cold. Go into the café and gets something warm to drink.” Scott smiled. “Tell them to put it on our tab, we’ll be inside with you in a few minutes for safety.”

“Yes, thank you.” Steve said and walked across the parking lot while he could hear a faint siren in the distance.

A middle-aged woman stood at the window and looked out.

“James, I think it’s gonna miss us. Looks like it is hanging a left and following up north. I think it will get close to the base up the road.”

James walked out from the back, dressed as a waiter, his stress was visible on his face.

“My wife is there, she just got a promotion.” He wrung his hands. “Tell me they would be safe.”

“James,” The waitress noticed Steve as he sat at a table and stepped towards him. “The base is probably safer than your home.”

“Hi! Welcome to Lug’s. What can I get you.” She had a winning smile, but was showing age early in her life. No more than twenty, she had wisps of grey in her raven-black hair with traces of forehead wrinkles on her dark-brown skin.

“Coffee, white, sweet. Three eggs, scrambled and shredded potatoes, please.” He put a fifty-dollar bill on the table. “In case the storm comes, you can bring me the change later.”

“Hun, you can keep it for now. If the storm comes this way, it’s on the house, I wouldn’t be able to balance my drawer.” She laughed and walked off to put his order in.

Contact recorded: American female rejected the free money offering. Registered a conflict with his contact of the corrupt and greedy society. The programming was incorrect.

His fuzzy logic circuit subroutines registered the conflict, flagging it as an error and began adaptive corrections.

Steve Aldin, the android, learned something new.

Smart Bomb Chapter 1. Migration North

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Chapter 1. Migration North

He stepped off the hypersonic transport. The snow-white hair of the elderly man glinted in the Florida sunshine.  Dark skinned, but of ambiguous heritage, he did not attract any attention from the transportation officers.

His ID chip said his name was Steve Aldin, his real name?

He had no family, while his brown eyes glinted with good humor, he had no emotion. Though the lines in his face were only a few hours old, they looked like each line and wrinkle earned by hard work and each crease was a story, a crooked nose attested to some long-ago punch or kick that he had suffered.

Although he was average looking, and the step he took was in good shape for someone his age, Steve Aldin was not what he appeared.

Ironically, despite appearances, he wasn’t even human.

Stepping into the men’s room, he locked himself into a stall and stood there for a moment. Then he sat quietly on the toilet and closed his eyes.

A mild shudder ran through his body, as if he had a chill.  Rapidly the skin on his face and arms tightened, the wrinkles smoothed out.

When he stood, he was four inches taller, shoulders were much broader and his hair, instead of white and thinning, he had a head full of curly, raven-colored hair, the once crooked nose was gone. Now he sported an aquiline nose,  undamaged and pristine. Deep-set piercing blue eyes stared out from under the bushy eyebrows.

A quick smile, the young man drew the eye of a few college girls coming back from holiday, on route to the University.

A young man who women would say “Easy on the eyes”, he walked out and strolled to the taxi stand and paid for a ride to the underground Vactrain with his credit-chip.

The taxi never made it to the destination. The taxi company that owned the vehicle reported it and the driver missing six-hours after the scheduled shift was supposed to end.

Police found taxi 141 north of town, a flat tire that looked to have hit an object and cut the sidewall lay next to the driver. While he attempted to change with the spare, when the car fell from the jack stand and pinned the driver to the guard rail. The impact, crushing the father of four with thousand of pounds of steel and glass.

The victim, unseen by passing motorists, no one had called in the car with the flashing hazard lights.

She walked into the nearby bus station, a medium-sized female, wearing an oversized t-shirt and jeans opened a locker with a key found under a rock in a blind spot outside.

Taking out a black-cloth shopping bag, the woman turned and walked out to the blind area she found the key at and stood in the shadows. Unobserved, the body stretched to a tall man of Nordic descent. His grey eyes sparkled above sun-kissed cheeks. The winning smile of the American with a mid-west accent.

Moving ever north, he did not need to sleep, the foods he ate came from different organic sources. His energy needs were simple. Carbon based organic material converted into electricity and powered his circuitry.

“Hello.” A voice behind him drew his attention while he picked a handful of high carbohydrate energy fruits, called dates, from a palm tree. His central processing core indicated that the material was easily processed to energy.

He turned and a small dark-haired girl of Cuban descent looked at him, wearing a pink Hello Kitty t-shirt and jeans. She was no threat.

“Hello, I was just getting a couple of these to snack on.” He used a Danish accent, should there be a legal problem. “Are these yours?”

“No, but you are picking bad ones. You should go to the other side of the tree, the sweet ones are there.” She pointed to a spot on the tree almost directly opposite from where he was.

A bite into the dates on the side she pointed to, compared to the opposite side was new knowledge, there was much more sugar in the side the little girl pointed out.

“Thank you.” He smiled.

“You don’t belong around here.” She said. “You are going to have trouble if you don’t get out of here.”

“Thank you, where can I get a ride?” He said as he stepped backwards against the tree.

“I don’t know.” Her eyes were without guile, but it was obvious that she did not go anywhere or very far without her mother or father.

“Do you live around here?” He asked.

“Just there.” She pointed to a house.

“Would your mom or dad give me a ride somewhere?” Already his heuristic programming conceiving of killing the adults if they were a threat and he would steal the car.

“Mom’s at work, my brother is watching me. We have to stay home until mom comes back.”

He nodded, an action he discovered humans did in this part of the world, he knelt and looked the girl in the eye. Studying her iris, she was not aware that the android imaged her retina and transmitted all the information on an encrypted carrier wave to his creator.

“What is your name?” He asked.

“Anna.”

“Thank you Anna.” He stood and walked away. Looking over his shoulder, Anna the little girl had gone back to her yard and was yelling in the door to someone inside about a white man walking down the street.

By the time he reached the corner, the blond Nordic stranger was a shorter, black-haired Cuban looking youth.

He caught a bus at the corner and headed out of the neighborhood.

In twelve-hours he crossed the Florida state line into Georgia as an Irishman with brown curly hair.

Steve Aldin, known by his creators as the Justice of The Religion, was a  morphing android, walking north, blending in to the populace.

He was built and programmed to learn then transmit all he could.  At his destination he would detonate. , Inside his chest, was an antimatter bomb the size of a grain of sand. He was programmed to blow up the top-secret James Madison Micro-Nuclear Power Plant on the Jefferson River, only a kilometer from the Capitol of the United States.

The size of a single-family house, the four-thousand kilowatt plant was a dedicated power source for the halls of government, even the neighboring businesses did not know that a plant was in their midst.

Once he arrived at the plant, his programming directed him to make entry with any means possible.

He would leave a crater a quarter-mile across. The equivalent of more than four-tons of TNT.

Those that lived through the initial blast, would succumb to the melt-down radiation leaks from the destroyed power plant. 

He was the weapon of choice, he could learn about the weakness of the American society for other androids to follow.  The American’s would never guess that they were under attack.

Or by what.

Tykon rocked in a chair and cackled. Even if the American’s knew there was a danger, they could never find the android.  He gave no radiation signature, the antimatter in his chest was inert, only becoming a danger once it was released from it’s magnetic containment and contacted the walls of the normal matter capsule.

And like humans, he could learn.  And he would learn at a string of military bases.  He would learn how to get in and blow up the war machines of the United States.  Other androids would follow.

There was no stopping the crippling of America.

Tykon loved death to visit.  And Death would visit America seven times.  And seven times that, if he had anything to do with it.

Tykon and his team had built the ultimate smart bomb. The American’s didn’t know it, but they were going to be given a lesson on following the path of the righteous.

Irelan’s Adventures Chapter 4. Kepler-A

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4. Kepler-A

I stayed with your great-grandma, because I was so little. The Emerald Emperor was very kind to us.  Grandma Irelan said as she turned the page of her leather bound journal to continue reading to the children at her feet.

“We’ve been in a shooting war with the Union for over a century now. I was in my early twenties when it happened.” The green armored man said as he lead them across the grassy area. He let Irelan hold his wrist charm. “Still have it, Irelan?”

“Yes. See!”  She held it up to his amusement.

“Keep it safe for me, okay? As long as it twinkles, it will keep you safe, too.” He had a nice smile.

“So, you look like you’re only in your forty-somethings now.” Commander Espiosa observed. “Please, explain.”

She didn’t trust the leader of the Emerald Empire. She strongly suspected that he might be lying, and she was going to find a way to escape if she could.

“Remember when I told you about the vaccination that made me a kind of chameleon?”  He pulled at his ear, as if he was reciting common knowledge. “Some of the vaccines came from a slow-growing sea life. A giant clam. The virus was killing people at a geometric rate.  In the first month, a thousand people died with their flesh turning into a soup right on their bodies. The first five days of the second month, there were another thousand. After that, the government was in a hurry.”

The commander nodded, imagining when the world stood on the brink of being sterilized by a virus mutated from a biogenic toxin of a war on another world.  

“The government inoculated everyone, and like in the Pirate Confederacy home planet, it had unexpected results. Effects were varied. Mine was hiding in plain sight, but I also age slower.“ He thought for a minute. “By a factor of three or four. So, for every year I age, there is perhaps four decades that go by.”

He took a deep breath.  

“Others, like my girlfriend at the time, she became somewhat…” They stood still for a moment while he paused in a memory. “Feline. She changed her name to Felinae Qatamount, then went into the hills to fight against the Union on her terms.”

“So, what happens when you get a vaccine now?” She looked at him. “I’m not going to have my daughter turned into a mushroom or anything.”

“Mush brooms? Yuck!” Irelan shook her head.  “I don’ wanna be a mush broom.”

“No, after the government vaccinated everyone and it stopped the Rot, we went back and corrected the transcription errors. But those that were affected will have to live out their lives. The planet itself is under tight quarantine. You were only able to pass because you didn’t know of the magnetic flux of the planet.”

“This place sounds more like hell than a colony.”

“In some respects, yes. The virus mutated from a bio-weapon, from the DNA tests we did. How it got here, is unknown. Too many people died at once, but the magnetic fields of the planet are the root cause of it. We knew the life here would be a challenge with multiple north and south poles. with how many times they split and how fast they move across the planet it created genetic changes no one expected. “ They approached a transport surrounded by men and women in uniform who carried weapons. “The fastest was a north pole. It moved at a speed of six-degrees per day before it faded.”

He shook his head. “The effects were devastating with that intense of a flux. Machines failed immediately. The only things that worked were fiber optic powered systems with heavy shielding.I think that’s what nearly destroyed your ship.”

“We need to go back up and get it.” She said, there was no denying the force of her will. “There are personal effects of everyone, and I think the captain might still be there. We might have more passengers in stasis, still.”

What?!” That stopped him from his tale of sadness and heartbreak. “We don’t have a place to launch a space rescue from. The Union took it over six months ago. They’ve  been trying to figure out what is of value, and trying to sell it back us. “ A heavy sigh. “They are dismantling the systems as we speak.”

“Who, or what, is the union?”

“The conflicts between the colonies were political, but everyone believed in being green at the beginning, after terraforming. When the first colonists got here, there wasn’t anything alive. Lots of abundant resources, but no plant or animal life. Iron was abundant and there was no oxygen in the air. What my great-grandfather did was to start the great oxygenation of the planet with the use of plants. Grasses mainly, but trees have responded well to the high carbon dioxide content. There have been other challenges, including raw heavy metals that we exchange with Kepler-B for supplies.“  Ian explained. “It’s why this planet was more visible to the space-based telescopes that orbited around Longe Planeta near Pluto-Charon system. All this, was white rock and water. The reflectivity was much higher than Kepler-B, so astronomers discovered this planet first and colonized it second.”

“How do you keep us from dying, when we are out in the open like this?” She looked around.

“Oxygen levels are adequate, some twenty-six percent, but the carbon dioxide is at four percent. Which, is too high for humans and animals to tolerate more than a week or so. It gives us a limited ability to engage the Union on moves, but everyone has to run home and rest after that.” Ian said. “It’s okay to walk through, however. Just make sure you spend a few hours per week inside in a human-normal atmosphere.”

“You live here and can’t breathe the air?” Irelan’s eyes got big.

“Yes, sweety, we can breathe the air. That’s what you’re breathing now.” Ian chuckled. “You just have to stay inside more while you are here.”

Irelan made a face, clearly unhappy with that prospect.

“Don’t worry,” Her mom smiled. “We aren’t staying. We’re going to that spot in the sky.”  Larsya pointed at a pale disk of Kepler-B, the first colonized planet.

“Mama? Do they have kids there?” The child asked.

Mama smiled.

“Yes, they do. We just have to get there.” She picked Irelan up and carried her in a big hug.

“I wanna go there.”

A child’s wish gave energy to the leader of the Emerald Corps to get them to their destination.

Irelan’s Adventure Chapter 3. The Emperor and Pizza

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3. The Emperor and Pizza

 

“… And so, they had to spend three days digging the ‘unstoppable’ land crawler out of the bog! Six crews, both Union and Emerald, four cranes and a pile of very naughty words.”  Ian laughed as they ate pizza.

Steaming hot from the little heater. The pizzas were printed in an antique machine, it reminded Irelan of the way they used to in the kitchen at their old home. Irelan loved  pizza since she was a kid.  

She was big now, and knew how to press the button to make it go when Ian in the green armor looked like he got stuck on what part of the screen needed to be touched.

She printed out olives and cheese; her favorite. Ian and her mother printed crazy stuff that was nasty. It smelled okay, but she never liked the rest of the stuff they put on it. Including mush brooms, which they seemed to like.

Irelan made a face when she watched as her mother lifted one mush broom and eat it while she listened to another story by the one she heard them call, “Triton”.

“So, Sir.” Larsya started.

“Ian, please. We are eating here, no formal titles.”

“Ian. How did you get in here without anyone noticing?” She asked.  

Then, he laughed and choked on a bit of pizza in his mouth.

“Not everyone missed me. Irelan here, she saw me come in and I sat next to her. We talked while you were giving my Lieutenant a hard time.”

“No one saw you come in.” Larsya pressed.

“No, adults don’t. Kids see me all the time. There’s something about the focus of the kids versus adults.  It’s a result of a vaccination long ago. I can walk into a room, and unless I speak up, no one will notice if I don’t want them to. Even if they look right at me, adults don’t register my presence easily. “

“Do you have a stealth tech that you use?” Ensign Firston asked.

“No, as I said, it was from a vaccine. There was an emergency. We had a virus that had been transplanted on this planet by the first colonists. No one knew who the first patient was, but it over a thousand died in less than a month and we had no vaccine. The protocol for synthesizing the vaccine came from the Pirate Confederacy with uncorrected errors in the formula.” He took another bite. “There were tremendous effects from the virus on their planet. We had some, but nothing like they suffered.”

Ian smiled at Irelan and handed her a napkin.  

“For my effects as a kid, I found I could be overlooked by standing still. I used the effect for my stint as a leader.  Then T’mpace was my mentor because I could sit in the back of a meeting and no one would think I there and just talked. I gave him reports, he appointed me to the General Council after that.  When I served on the High Council of the Two Colonies, I then had a chance to take the chair as leader of the High Council.

A heavy sigh came from him.  Like a pain in the soul.

“The world fell into fighting, and the Council dissolved a month after I took my position. That left me as the only leader of an empty room.  No one wanted the job, and everyone looked to the chair. “ He swallowed another bite of pizza.  “I declared myself Emperor out of anger, and everyone nodded. Seriously, I was only kidding!”

Larsya shook her head. “That’s not how it’s supposed to happen.”

“I know! I just wanted someone to get mad and come sit down. They all bowed and said ‘Okay’ and, well, here I am.”

“No one challenged you?” Ensign Firstof’s head bobbled like it was on a spring.  

“Careful son, you’ll strain your neck.” Ian chuckled sadly. “At first, I had a great idea. People needed to get out and move, get into the forests and walk, hike and otherwise enjoy the terraformed lands we have.  But, the game became polarized. People took sides after a year and became worse than when the fighting dissolved the council. Then, they started shooting and this place has been a case of the Union against the Emerald.  So, I lead from the front lines. I walk around, no one can see me when I do.  It keeps me alive, I think.”

“How do kids see you when no one else can?”  Larsya asked.

“I don’t know for certain, but it is the power of innocence, I think. They have limited information, but they have these powerful minds. Not much information, indeed, but they have super-computers for brains. So, I think they see things that adults have long forgotten how to observe.” Ian reached for his fourth slice of pizza. “They still see magic in the world.”

 

“And besides,” He pet Irelan’s head.  “She’s my favorite fairy here.”

“I’m not a fairy, I’m a girl!”

“Of course.” Ian said while the room full of adults laughed.

Even the dour Lieutenant smiled.

 

Irelan’s Adventures Chapter 2. 8 Poles and an Axis

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 2. Eight Poles and One Axis

After they landed, Sergeant Kennedy let Irelan hold her gloves while shethe Sergeant led them to the mission Lieutenant’s office.  A large room, shared by five “El-Tee’s” who rotated through.  Never more than one Lieutenant in at any time, the large room only had one desk and rows of chairs for briefing mission teams.

She tapped on the clear glass door and waited to be invited in by her superior officer.

“Lieutenant, this is the first officer Espiosa of the Longbow sleeper ship from Terraq Parenti shipbase.” Riley said. “The navigator and the First Officer here, are from the lifeboat that we rescued in the Ironstone bog last night.  She has some information that Colonel O’Malley would be interested in.”

“Thank you, Sergeant. Dismissed.” He didn’t even glance at Riley who quietly closed the door as she exited. He kept his eyes on the to officers of the lifeboat they had just rescued..

“So, you want to get close to the Colonel?”

“I don’t give two shakes of a wet wildflower. I want to know where the rest of the survivors from the attack are, and what the government here will do about it?”

“You piloted down into a combat zone for nothing. The Colonel’s not here. She’ll arrive sometime today to inspect the wreckage. It’s an odd configuration for troop carrier, no?”

“No, because it’s not a troopship, as it is a lifeboat.” Larsya shook her head. “You’re being overly assumptive. We’re not soldiers. We’re from Socrus Terrae of the Southern Islands where the super volcano blew up. Kepler-A was uninhabited and was considered a secondary colony.  There were twenty-five Seraph class sleeper ships.”

“Seraph class?” The Lieutenant typed it into his pad. “Oh, yes. There have been seven others that have arrived at Kepler-B.”

“There have been others?”

“Not here. You’ve been in hibernation. Kepler-A has been in a conflict for the last two-hundred years.” The Lieutenant told the First Officer.

“That still doesn’t explain why we were fired on.”

“We don’t shoot at civilian ships. Nor, do we have the ability to do so.” A voice from the back of the room interrupted the question and answer meeting.

The sneaky man who was sitting in the back of the room, whispering with Ireland, stood up and instead a light-sensitive Rorschach camouflage uniform that constantly changed spots and stripes it. The new speaker wore a hunter-green and black armor plate.

The new man was of the Emerald Corps. In that second of recognition, he Lieutenant bowed his head and stepped backwards.

“Sire, this is the first officer of the ship that’s in polar orbit.” The Lieutenant read from his handheld computer.

“Pleased to meet you.” The green man held out his hand to Larsya. “Is this your little girl?”

Irelan smiled up at the man with the eyes that matched his armor.  

“Yes, when did you come in?” Her mother’s protective side showing.

“I’ve been here a few minutes. I came in with a few of the other people. I had my stealth mode active.” The officer smiled.

“Wait, who are you?” Ensign Firston demanded.

“Stand down, Mr. Firston.” Larsya said softly. “We’re  safe. If they wanted to do us any harm, they would have separated us.”

“Now, now. No harm is going to happen. First, we have to get everyone on the same page.” The green-eyed man frowned. His helmet had an arm with an emerald disk on the end of a mechanical arm that swung down over his eye like one-half of a pair of glasses.

“What’s the name of your ship, um… I’m sorry, I don’t know your title other than first officer. I assume ‘Commander’.” He said to Larsya.  

“Yes, I’m a commander, thank you for asking. I’m not in uniform because I was off duty when we were hit. Ensign Firston was at the helm.” Larsya said.

“Ensign?” The green man turned his head.

“Second, we were introduced to you. But, you are still a stranger. I have instructions from the captain before the first officer came to our lifeboat. I am not to discuss anything except to someone named Ee-ann or something.” Ensign Firston was steadfast in following orders.

“What’s your Captain’s name, son?” The voice came out a bit lower.  

He’s going to get in trouble with the green-eyed man. Irelan thought to herself.

“Our Captain is Bogs Scorpion.” The junior officer said.

“Bogs.” The leader of the group stroked his chin. “Tall man, mixed race, has heterochromatic eyes, and is super intelligent?”

“Yes, you know him?”

“I am Ian. Say it as one word.” The Green-Eye gave a soft smile.  “He and I have a history.”

“Yes, sir. Can you prove it?”  Ensign Firston asked. The entire room gasped.

“I’m going to put you in for a medal and put you on my team when I can.” Ian laughed. “I am the Emperor of the northern hemisphere. All this land is mine. I am Ian Quaysar, the Emerald Emperor.”

“S-s-sir! Your majesty…”

“Stop.” He raised his hand. “The Lieutenant over there overstepped the title. I’m not a majesty, I barely earned the title. I’m a working man, like you.” He smiled. “Now, what do you have to tell me?”

He moved the monocle from his eye to look at the Ensign.  

“Sir, I have a ship’s sensor log in a cryptolinear chip. It’s safe inside a Faraday isolator case.” He held out an object that looked like a ring box, revealing a chip inside.

“Triton, scan the logs to the moment of impact. Send me the data stream.”

“Let me explain. The rest of your lifeboats have landed in different areas of the planet, most of which are in my domain. Your passengers will all be brought behind the lines to a safe location. You’re the first that has information that you were attacked. Your trajectory of the lifeboat leads me to believe you were over Union territory and, as of now, we didn’t think they had technology to shoot at anything outside of the atmosphere.” A tone sounded and he pulled his monocle down over his right eye.  “Just a moment, I’m looking at the data.”

Several others with the same kind of helmets performed the same action, pulling their monocles down.  The group went silent for several minutes.

“Triton, put what we are watching on the wall, please.” Ian said. He leaned against a table, more relaxed.

“Excuse our lack of communicating with you. We don’t have many folks without interlink helmets here.”

The data was displayed on a video projected from a small box put on the Lieutenant’s desk.

From the surface near the pole in the south, Ian paused the video.

“That area below, is the Federal Union of Resistance. From the burst of energy from this area, you can see it started above the ground, and corresponded with the speed and power of your ship as it moved through the magnetic poles.”

“Poles? Sir, we had navigated only through the edge of the magnetosphere to use it for braking, so we could insert into an orbit around Kepler-B.”

“This is where you have outdated information. First, this planet is in the middle of a civil war. It started about a century after you left your planet to come here. Originally, it was a disagreement on the use of technology. Eventually, it devolved into a shooting war for no good reason.  Second, and most important, the planet currently has six to eight north poles, and the same number of south poles.”

“What?” Commander Espiosa turned away from the video.

Mom is going to get mad at him for talking like that. Irelan blinked and giggled as she spied between the seats from the back of the room.

“The planet is undergoing a flux, it’s flipping poles. When the problem started, it caused neurological problems in humans and enormous problems with electrical circuits.  You flew through an uncharted pole that evolved in the last forty-hours.”

“Ian, can you elaborate? What do you mean a pole evolved?”  

“Yes. Our north and south poles are mixed. We can develop a pole, much like a weather system. It’ll drive huge amounts of energy in and out of the planet. You flew through a south pole, an energy fountain of sorts. It overwhelmed your systems.” He pulled at the strap of his helmet. “It must have felt like being hit with a big rock.”

“Sir, new data.” A blond man took off his helmet and rubbed his ear. “They yelled too loud.”

“Thank you, Dana.” Ian said as Dana put his helmet back on.

“Your ship is in an axis orbit, it spends about half the time flying over each side of the planet. It’s still in orbit.” He turned and sat next to Irelan.  “Well, good. We have solved two mysteries in one stroke. Who shot you down, and where your ship is. No one has new enough tech that we would have to complain about where your ship is.  Now, we just need to find the missing lifeboats.”

Ian pulled off his helmet and made Irelan smile by putting his big helmet on her head.

“You three will do me the honor by joining me for dinner, in this room?  Triton, make the orders,” Ian winked at Irelan. “And I’ll tell stories and ask questions of our guests.” He smiled. “Pizza sound good to you, young lady?”

Irelan smiled. She was wearing the important helmet proudly.  

Later in her life, she would write the memory down in her journal. The day she met a man who owned a half a planet.

 

Monday is plug day!

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Those that have impressed me most will cycle through here every so often. Watch for these wonderful people.  Some I have had personal contact with, others make me stop, ponder and smile.

Not all names will appear every week, but they are always equal and awesome in my eyes.

Some, like my Monster Girl, you must read.  One of the very best webcomics around. https://lmgcomic.wordpress.com/ is where you can find her.

 

Oops! Did I jump the gun?

 

This lady is good for your soul to follow.

 

Another lady to plug for Monday?  PoffPublishing!  There is a world builder that you can get lost in and forget the worries of the day.

And now the person that makes life  more enjoyable.  If you write?  If you put raw stories in the postings here on WP?

Let the WordPress world see what the diamond in the rough you have, by sending it to this woman.  She carries a degree in English Lit.  Let her have a gander. Lynn Barnhill at Lbarnhill556@gmail.com.

Send her a query.  You and your non-poetry work will be much pleased.

Your caregiver and your favorite upcoming bestselling author.

ME!

Irelan’s Adventure

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Prologue: Irelan’s Adventure

 

Six-year-old Irelan sat in the seat she mother hurredly strapped her in as the ejected lifeboat module’s orbit decayed in a parabolic arch towards the planet below.

In seconds, it had traveled from one battle zone to the next, crossing the terminator into the night-side where the green flags of the Enlightened flew on the tops of poles. The man who drove the boat told Irelan they were flying at twenty-times the speed of sound, whatever that was.

She watched when he pulled a big lever and released the parachute at the last second, it slowed the lifeboat enough to land safely in a muck-filled bog of a forest glen, barely under control of the, just moments before helmsman of the Galaxy Hitchhiker.

Opening the hatch, the navigator, called Mr. Ensign by her mother, got out and walked around the roof of the lifeboat.  Mom started to yell at the lifeboat pilot to not jump and to stay on the hull. The young man yelled back that she was not in charge and stepped off onto a grassy flat spot next to the lifeboat’s hull.

It was nearly the last thing he did in his life as he immediately he sank to his waist and Larsya Espiosa, Irelan’s mom, and the three other men,pulled on the young man as hard as they could, two on each arm.

Calling him names that Irelan never heard her mom say before, the quartet of people lost their grip on him  and he sank up to his chest.

The only saving advice they could give the man is to lay back and take deep breaths, and do not struggle and let his buoyancy pull him out.

The struggle to save the officer focused everyone, even Irelan looked out the door while the passengers and crew struggled with the overconfident, now panicked, officer.

She saw a huge light in the starry sky come towards them over the trees and smaller lights detached from the big one, sliding down slowly on ropes.  They looked like monsters, pale gray with blotches of black spots that moved around at random, big bulbous eyes and bald heads. 

Irelan, only six, was afraid and hid as far back in the pod as she could get, crying. She heard her mom’s voice yelling for help. Her mom never asked for help from anyone. Mom was someone who helped everyone. Sounds and a sky creature that looked like a big red fish came down low and dangled tentacles to the man in the muck.

This terrified the little girl, the heavy sounds as if something were hitting the lifeboat from outside. It was a sound was different from the atmosphere sounds when they came down so fast, they made sparkles fly past the windows.  

Whatever that meant.

Mom leaned in and told her to put her jacket on and reached in to her.

“Mom! What’s happenin’?” Irelan whispered.

A giant in blothchy grey coveralls and a full face mask reached down and took her mom by the arm and pulled them both up.

“Put this on.” The electronic amplified voice said through the mask.

Irelan began to cry at the hands that held out to her.

“Aw hun.” The electronic voice said. “DOn’t cry.”

The masked and uniformed creature pulled the goggles back and lifted the helmet back.

It was a lady inside the mask!

“Your name is Ireland?” The woman asked the little girl. 

“Irelan, no ‘d’.” Mom said. “Irelan, go with the lady!”

“Hang on ma’am.” The masked soldier who had his arms around her mom from behind gave her.

“Wear the chin strap kind of tight, this thing is almost as big as you are.” The sergeant put her helmet on child’s head. “Irelan, my name is Riley. Riley Kennedy. We are going to go up into the rescue ship on this rope. Then they are going to lift your lifeboat until it’s tucked into the hold and you can go back and get your stuff out of it. Okay hun?”

Irelan nodded while the lady braided a seat out of a flat strap and clipped it to rings in her chest. Irelan faced the lady and was able to put her tiny arms around the ladies neck.

“You ready for an adventure.”? Irelan shook her head.
“Well, we are going to go see your mom. She is safe on board the Sky Guppy.” The blonde lady smiled. “Okay hun?”

Irelan nodded and Riley tapped her ear. She held tightly to the little girl while she hung on to the lady’s neck.

They went straight up. The helmet she had on seemed to pull at her head.

It was FUN! Irelan drew a breath to laugh and scream, when it was over.

“Do it again!” Irelan laughed in Riley’s face.

The lady soldier laughed.

“Not tonight, hun. We have to get your lifeboat up in the hold.”

“Sergeant Kennedy.” A deep voice from behind her interrupted their talk. “How was the rescue? Are you on your coffee break now?”

“No, sir.”

“Then get to your station. We don’t have time to waste” The shaved headed voice strode away.

“Don’t mind him, hun. The lieutenant wears his shoes too tight, it makes him mad.”

“Why doesn’t he take his shoes off.”

Riley laughed and hugged the little girl.

“You’re smart! I don’t know why he doesn’t take his shoes off. He would be nicer.”

“Okay.” She smiled at the lady with the eyes like the daytime blue sky and soft voice.

“Mommy!” Ireland ran to her mom, who stood and caught her daughter in a big hug. “I flew on a rope!”

“Me too, they lifted me up and I was flying like a bird!” Mom stood up and spoke to the sergeant, “I want to speak to your commanding officer at the earliest convenience.”

“Yes ma’am. That would be the Colonel. Her name is Granuaile.” She pronounced it as Gran-u-wail. “For now, we need to get you secured. We will lift the lifeboat into the cargo hold and you can gather up your belongings when we land.”

Ensign Firston interrupted while he fiddled with a clip on his rescue webbing.

“We have only what we wore on our backs. When we hit by an energy beam and were shot down, there was no warning.”

“Shot down?” Riley gaped. “What?”

The lifeboat officer tried to himself from the lift, struggling with a spring-loaded clamp. Riley reached over and released it with a skilled twist.

“Yes. I was at the helm when the navigator said there was an energy surge from the surface. We were hit immediately after that. We lost all systems, life support, propulsion. We were on approach to Fienow Fields in the northern hemisphere on Keppler-B, but we got caught in Keppler-A’s gravity well. The captain only called for use to abandon ship.

“If you’ve been shot at, you need to talk to the colonel right away.”

Riley tapped her wrist, typing in a coded number and spoke into the microphone at her throat.

“Sir? Sergeant Riley. We have a problem and someone needs to see you right away. Yes, sir. On our way.

“Ensign, come with me please.” She motioned with her hand. “YOu get to sit closest to the door and you will be the first on off.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She sent a message to the Lieutenant that he needed to come back to meet with their passengers.

His shoes are going to get a lot tighter, she sighed. I should’ve taken this week off.

An editor? When you need one.

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Writers make rough editors. We clean out our mistakes from a manuscript, and write in whole new batches of them. Another writer looking at your work, puts in their version of your story. It is >your< world.

So you think you need a professional editor. Five cents a word. Not bad… but you have one-hundred thousand words. That gets expensive. So you stick it out. It’s not so bad, right?

Then you have something you have found a flaw?  The more you clean it up, the more errors you find.

When you are about to give up, you resign yourself to keep it on the back burner.  It eats at the back of your brain.  You see the flaws, but those that are your family pat you on the head and tell you “Everybody dreams.”

Some people you come across say they can take a look. Then run a spellcheck on it and say it’s perfect.

Um… no, it’s not.

Slowly, as a writer, you fix a few things, but you know you are blind to the flaws. Mom says this is good and is excited.

Then, maybe, fortune wanders into your library of “Someday could be’s.”

The person asks “Can I take a look?”

Sure. You and 20 other people.

Only this one.  This person they find a flaw and tell you..then another. They pronounce it good, but would you send them the composition and they would look at it.

What the heck. Shrug. Go for it.  What few flaws you can find, if you catch the ones I have given up on.

And the list grows. (Insert boggle here)

This person makes you excited again.  You still need to write and you do.  But this person makes it a happy thing and you begin to obsess.

“Let’s get it done!”

This editor makes you more proud of what you have created than any time in the past.  You begin to think there might be a living at this!  Maybe get a professional editor!

Then you find out that the editor that works on your books, they are indeed an English Lit major and is days from getting a degree.

An awesome twist of fate, no?

Well it goes on now.

I would like to introduce you to the editor, CEO and degree holding (She goes for her official graduation in May) She shares a soul, pulls no punches, is honest and fast. Another author friend of Poffpublishing here in WP world also takes of this young woman’s skills and spirit.

If you need a manuscript to be looked over.  To have a person with increasing skills.  She will polish your manuscript and improve your satisfaction.  She’ll cover a broad range of issues.

Contact L. Barnhill here on
lbarnhill556@gmail.com

A good soul, she holds her degree and we have cheered (Poffpublishing and myself) her on.  Now so is a degree holding editor who is gaining confidence, along with her friendship. I recommend her for your budget editing needs.

Use her schooling, her skills and her frustratingly accurate comments of “Huh?” .

So be warned.  She pulls no punches. But she coats it with love.

Email her with an inquiry as soon as possible. Be part of her growing tree of clients because she is soon in demand by many people.

Christmas on The Orcus, non-poem style

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Christmas, Somewhere in the Galaxy.

The Magnatar class ship held in orbit around the “Super Earth” at forty-thousand meters above the ground.

Well above the traffic lanes for aircraft that flew from hither and yon. The crew of the large ship parked it with great care while the pirate King strode around his command center at the top of the ship.

The Orcus was a powerful ship that logged many hours in trips between planets for negotiations for trade and peaceful coexistence in the United Confederation of Pirates. A label put on the outlying colonies by the Empire. They were all self-governed and traded with each other with no control or supervision by the Momo Empire. No one could be happier than the colonists.

After negotiations, the crew was tired. They had stopped at a half-dozen planets, secured agreements with every one of them.

Delivered gifts of the one time of year that was held onto by the humans to bring out the best of each other.

Still, the bachelor King, Ruu’ta O’Danu. From a long line of scofflaws, scallywags, rogues and leaders stood with his arms crossed in thought.

One crewman, the weapons and flight space officer, his daughter was just born, it was her first Christmas for this family.

Another, her mother died in the last month (Against the Kings mandate that no one dies during this time.) but she stayed at her post. Even when the King performed his duties as Ruu’tan she acted stoic. But, the king noticed the trickle of tear from one eye that traced down Chief Sharan Nayaan’s cheek in quiet moments.

They were too far away for her to go home to bury her mother, weeks out at maximum speed.

Sigh The crew was beyond their limit. Each member of the dozen ship’s crew had needs to go home. Even if it was to make contact over the holidays.

He took a position on the bridge, behind his chair and had a thought.

“Chief, ship-wide communication to my station please.”

The surprise announcement. Everyone had a five-day pass. Two days before, the day of and then two days after the time on earth where everyone sang, and felt a little nicer.

King Ryan O’Danu saw everyone off, transporters operated full-time, three drop pods took the teams down to their hub points.

One lieutenant had a sky-surfer he had modified himself, and, to the laughter of the red-headed master of the ship, flew it off of the landing pad that he ordered deployed from the side of the ship.

From there, the crew all went to their homes.

Last on the ship, a Magnatar class heavy cruiser, was the leader of the planet himself.

King Ryan O’Danu, his line of leaders went back to an age of sail and wooden ships. The first pirate, family legend had it, was a child that was kidnapped by the government. The child became a king of the sea and started a family dynasty.

Today, the king was simply a man alone on board of a flying battleship. He strolled about the empty ship, the quiet undertone of electronics his only company.

Standing on the landing pad, he watched until Lieutenant Antares was no longer visible. When the King turned back to the ship, he noted a blemish on the hull. A meteor impact when they orbited the mining colony that suffered a storm of flying rocks when two ‘roids collided nearby. The teams that mined the raw materials needed their shields repaired and King O’Danu brought the royal ship in as a blocker until the colonists and ship’s engineers got the system up and running again.

It had been a busy time for the run-up to these days of family and reaffirmation of life and love. They had worked hard to renew contracts, deliver gifts and assure that peace would last for at least another month.

Now it was over, other than the pit on the side of his ship, painted to look like a Killer Whale of earth. The ship was a well known force, and it the pride of the master of the ship, never shot any of its weapons in anger.

He tapped on a palm-held display and a ladder built by the Rose Suchuk company rolled out on its own wheels.

An hour later, he finally finished. He’d leave the ladder out to climb again later and inspect the fit and finish of the repairs. (He was picky like that.)

“Computer, Celtic traditional drums.” He said when he made his way to the lounge of the ship. “Collapse ladder, but leave in airlock for further use. Seal Airlocks.”

He sat at the table in the lounge, drinking an eggnog with rum from Lats-Ute mining colony. Finger foods, from Gray Kitchens on his own planet.

He laughed. If the ships chief medical officer saw what he ate now, Lynn McCoy M.D. would issue a health report on him and make him do extra physical training.

His cup was empty, but the view was grand. King O’Danu shook his head, he was not about to give up his view and poured another jigger of rum, shrugged, then just filled the cup with the dark liquid.

An hour passed while he read novels of distant lands and other worlds when his eyes started to droop.

“Computer, nightwatch. Sensors on passive scan. Environmental shields only.” He sighed. “I might want to go out later for a view of the stars.”

The king thought about his telescope, he’d like to do some stargazing later.

It was important that the shields would keep a layer of warm, pressurized air around the ship for him to breathe if he used the pad outside.

Whooo… I’m buzzed. That was potent stuff. He rubbed his eyes, they felt dry. He had been up and going for twenty-hours straight today. In the last few weeks, he slept only three hours out of every twenty-four. They may live on a ship, but the force of his circadian rhythm still forced him to hibernate a few hours per day.

In the captain’s quarters, Ryan peeled off his carbon fiber body armor and crawled into the bed and pulled the dense, heavy blanket up to his head.

He liked a cool room with the a blanket.

His mind drifted, the ship was secure, he set the systems and he was safe. No one would dare approach a Magnatar class, fully armed battleship with evil on their minds.

Then.

The unthinkable!

Alarms sounded.

Ruu’tan and King of Garnet-4, then leader of the council of the Pirate Confederation. Ryan O’Danu lept out of bed like a cat spooked on Halloween.

Proximity alert Proximity alert Negative response on IFF

Lights were at full bright, which dazzled him for a moment. Ryan ran to his desk were basic control systems were active.

“Computer, display sensor contact.” He rubbed his eyes, but not out of fatigue.

On the display, the contact was small. Only enough room for, maybe, four people.

“Overlay readings with Orcus in relative center.”

A hundred-thousand feet lower but climbing rapidly. He thought.

No one is scheduled to come back for four more days.

The display glowed with a 3-D overlay.

“Magnify.”

Then he gasped.

The speed at this target tracked, it approached the ship, cannon and defensive systems came online.

Phased energy weapons locked on.

Crap!” King Ryan knew what the targets was. He had to shut this system off at the command center. The weapons command and control had not been transferred, only navigation. ran down the gangway and hung a hard right, skipping the lift, he climbed the emergency ladder next to it and flopped over onto the floor.

The main display showed with detail not available to him in his bedroom.

“Computer, display HD display on holograph map of 3-D space, overlay Orcus as relative center and give readout on altitude and direction.” He thought a moment. “Speed and mass.”

“Working. Speed is thousand meters per second, mass of two-thousand two hundred kilograms. Reading ten life signs. One biped humanoid, nine quadruped of the Rangifer tarandus.”

“Rangifer. What is common name of Rangifer whatever you said.”

“Rangifer Tarandus, common name reindeer.”

“Reindeer? Rein…” his eyes grew big. “Oh Jeeze!”

“Computer, disable defensive systems.” King O’Danu yelled. “Stand down shields, stow the guns.”

“Power down. Alert, target is tracking to landing pad.”

“Oh good.”

“Danger, there is an obstruction in on the pad.”

“I requested the ladder in the airlock.”

“Manual override engaged on brakes, ladder is stationary.”

Ryan slapped himself in the forehead and ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time. At the bottom of the stairs, he tripped over the automated janitor and ended up in a pile next to the door.

Outside, clatter and noise of a landing.

“Computer, send warning to contact, danger on…”

A voice sounded through the intercom.

“Ahoy in ..oh balls!” and the sound of a body hitting the deck.

King Ryan ran down the gangway, slipping on golden elf-dust and overshooting the doorway and ended up, for the second time, in a pile on the floor. This time near his quarters.

“Sorry, Nicholas! I was fixing a meteor hit and left it out for inspection later.”

“Yeah, you left a trap for me. I know!” The shaggy white mane shook as he laughed at the joke. “I have some deliveries to here. Special ones.”

“I don’t have anyplace good to put them, over in the lounge on the bar would work well enough.” Ryan said.

“What’s this? You don’t have a tree.”

“Trees on Garnet-4 are all protected, this is one barren rock, you know.”

“This planet is, but Sapphire isn’t, nor is Palindrome Prime.”

“Yeah, but with PP you can’t tell which way your going.”

“Ryan.” The old elf turned around. “I can take these all back and assign you a Cadet Elf. Her name is Moonbottom.”

“Eh… Moonbottom?”

“She sent a gift to the wrong person, supposed to send a puppy to one boy named Brighthill in the Carolinas of the US on earth. Instead, she sent the pet to a Miss Elisabum in London who had coal coming.”

“Coal? From you? She must have been quite bad.”

“No no.” He pulled out another gift from the bag he carried in. “She is very poor. A lump of coal could warm her for the season.”

“Must be some lump.”

“About a ton.”

“OH! Well, in that context, I can see that.”

“Now for your tree.”

“You do not have a tree in that…” He went slack-jawed and silent.

“An Immortal tree. Sequoia Sempervirens. It is rooted on the bottom, too. When you get this craft on the ground, plant this tree. It’ll grow. You also have a warehouse full of these to plant along the coastal areas as of now. You have perfect zones for it.”

“How did you get these trees? They are protected and endangered.” Ryan stroked the green, feathery growth that served as needles for the evergreen tree. “I didn’t think the government would allow them off world.”

“Yes, actually. They are spreading them everywhere. So you have a hundred-thousand seedlings, ready for planting.”

“Thank you, I will have people on it after Christmas. You are a saint.” Ryan paused and thought a moment. “How many gifts are you leaving?”

“You have quite the shopping list. Why do you ask?”

“Ooh, nothing. I am having alerts, the ship is compensating for the weight of your deer and sleigh.”

“Reindeer.” Nicholas corrected. “Oh, my back. I have another billion stops to do tonight.”

“How do you do that? You cannot even go a second per stop, that’d take you longer than thirty-years.”

“Thirty-one years, nine-months, one and a half weeks and one hour. Roughly.” Nicholas groaned again as he stood. “But we have the Einstein Time Exception Device. The rest of the universe slows to a crawl, while me and anyone nearby is sped up. Elf Bernard came up with using the formula eons ago.”

“Oh, one more thing.” He handed Ryan a box. “This is a special request. It keeps all the good wishes for you, nice and safe.”

He turned and the old man nearly fell to a knee again.

Yeah, he gets some medicinal drink. The King of Garnet-4 thought to himself.

“Nick, have a seat. I’ll make you something ot warm the cockles of your heart.”

Nick sat back in a chair with a sigh.

“I’m a little tired of milk and cookies tonight. I’d take a carrot.”

“Carrots are…” Ryan called from galley. “For the reindeer! And I have a whole bag for them.”

“As you wish.”

Ryan brought out a pitcher of hot water, a mix he had created a few days before of maple sugar, vanilla, butter and cinnamon, hot water and rum.

They talked far into the night, each comparing notes with the other.

“You might have been told you are autistic as a child, King O’Danu, but you have done such good things with other people. You have shown other people who there is no label that you cannot overcome. You should be proud of all the negotiations you have done.” The white beard shook as the eyes crinkled behind the glasses in rum-warmed humor. “That said, I have a lot of stops to do and I am going to have to do something special. I must go.”

King O’Danu picked up the heavy bag, it felt nearly empty, but if he shook it, it made a sound, as if boxes rubbed together.

“Don’t shake that.” Nick smiled. “At the rate you are going, you’ll have my job someday. You are a good man. Ruu’tan Ryan O’Danu, King of this planet.

Ryan walked with the older man out to the landing pad of the ship, where he climbed up into the ancient anachronism. The conveyance was a throwback of nearly five-centuries. But the antlered reindeer were muscular and, quite literally, glowing gold.

Adjusting his had, he slurred his words slightly.

“Good rum. Keep up the good work, Ryan. Merry Christmas.” He pulled at his beard for a moment and then said softly.

“Ho ho ho.” And Santa was gone.

Watching the old man disappear from sight. He felt an old familiar pain.

King O’Danu walked back into the ship and hit a button and the landing pad withdrew into the ship, and he heard an old familiar refrain.

“Merry Christmas to all, to all a good night.”

Ryan laughed as the airlocks were sealed.

“Good night to you, too, old man.” Ryan said to the 3-D map as it tracked the small target, accelerating up and away, already at the edge of sensor range at relativistic speeds. “Merry Christmas to you too.”

Ryan O’Danu, descendant of Keegan O’Danu, the first pirate of the family, turned off all the lights. And set the defense systems to alert status and went to bed. The rum had definitely gone to his head.

When he woke up in the morning, he would laugh as he got out of bed. He was so drunk, he dreamed that Santa came and visited. Which everyone knew was a figment of his booze addled imagination.

Which made the existence of a pile of gifts all the more difficult to explain in the morning.

Christmas on the Flying Pirate Ship “Orcus” 2015

Standard

Christmas on the Flying Pirate Ship “Orcus” 2015

I had settled under my blankets,

cuddled warm in my bed.

Alone and quiet, rum gone to my head,

Crew sent given them all a four-day pass

I did not want them working this weekend

and be all grumpy and crass

When suddenly (made me jump like I was scared)

Lights came on,

and alarms loudly blared,

Cannon raised and tracked ahead

Shields came online

as I leaped out of bed

when the holo-map was no longer dim

A target was tracking.

Small as can be

I didn’t need the computer to ID him

and I knew at once that old elf had found me

I thought while I pulled on my boot

“OMYGAWD, all weapons will shoot!”

(I knew that if even close, they’d render Christmas moot)

away to the command center I did sprint

With a shoe in one hand I tripped over the sweeper

While I lay on the floor a voice was heard as it said

“On my friends, he’s above forty-thousand meter!”

“To the roof, to the pad, he has it out and I am glad!

Donner and Vixen, Comet and Blitzen!

Dasher to your namesake

On to the ship, give me no lip

Cupid and Rudy you have a duty

Get me there! Come on team

We have to finish this in sky it does seem.”

Suddenly realizing, I left the Rose Suchuck Ladder outside the hallsl

I raced down the stairs to rescue any falls

I knew it was trouble when I heard Santa yell

“Balls!”

I skidded to a halt in spilled magic glitter.

The reindeer snickered,

and all were atwitter.

I had an urge to run and flee

When I saw

Santa was down on one knee

he fussed and he cussed

Then rubbing his shin he went straight to his work

Entered through the lock and turned with a jerk

A tree he pulled out of his sack

Was a gift from some kid named Charley

Who used to live out back

Small it was,

all bent to the floor

then the Old Red Coated elf

pulled out a box and put it by the door

The tree stood a bit higher

I began to laugh

This Charley Brown tree was a liar

I recognized by the needles for leaves

This was an Immortal Tree according to scans

not just a tree

it is a

Sequoia Sempervirens

The next box that Santa pulled out and put at the stand

Was black with a red ribbon

about the size of my hand

The next was a beauty of glittering hue

More came out

Red

Green

and

Blue

The pile grew faster still (It was a lot)

I didn’t know I had this many friends

Who’da thought?

As the pile grew tall

the computer came on and a blinking light lit and I spied

That the ship complained

As it listed to one side

Before he was done

His back did ache

I went to the Orca’s galley

and began to make.

Rum I made, spiced and hot

This old boy was not getting out

without hitting the pot.

Two of us drank further into the night

Santa’s nose lit up

Even Rudolf’s was not as bright

With a hearty “HO Ho hO”

Now he was a really jolly old elf

then said he had to go.

Stopping with a moment

The white-beard turned back

Put down his bag

Opened his sack

To the King he handed

a magical thing

Looked like a box

With a heavy steel ring

I blinked one time

I wondered what this was for

What kind of crime?

What was the score?r

“It’s a treasure chest, it swells to hold

All the love from your friends I have been told”

The Old Elf laughed and left with his nose in full shine

A wee bit wobbly with a singing line.

“On Prancer, on Vixen, On Comet –don’t be stupid– Dasher and Dancer, Rudy And Chester! Donner and Blitzen get to Getzin!”

“Good night to Pirates anywhere they be!”

I stood and watched him fly away.

Most of all…

I wish Merry Christmas From me.

Dash McCallen MICP

One Christmas Night-Stand (NSFW)

Standard

 

 

One Christmas Night-Stand

 

 

 

1.The Party Planner

Rose had prepared for the office Christmas party for months, now only days away, they were a bit short on funds. Taking donations, working with the social committee, the weather was turning cold and Halloween had passed. Much to the chagrin of one of the managers. Longer hair than what the company owner liked, Thaddeus Harrison “Teach” Harte was the owner of the copper hair that hung down to his shoulders was eye-catching no matter where he was.  The Van Dyke facial hair and green eyes made him look like a refugee out of some novel of musketeers or pirates.  His penchant for hats was well-known.  Beret’s, an archer’s cap with a feather in it, a straw hat in summer.  He was known to compete in archery and had the muscular build of an athlete that he was.

His green eyes made women that worked with him think of the naughty things that they whispered to each other during their coffee breaks.

 The only complaint that any of them would talk about, his choice of clothing that was always black. But his work pants were always tailored properly and on jeans day he wore black, tight jeans that every woman enjoyed to watch as he took care of troubleshooting problems with printers and net connections that mysteriously cropped up for the women when he was so dressed. If he knew, he never let on that he was aware of the rules of the game.

Although he did seem to bend over a lot more and closer to desks for no reason when those days had arrived. Much to most of the women’s enjoyment – and some of the men, too.

 Rose always found her eyes following him as she approached him with a printed sign to put on his office window for  donations to the upcoming Christmas party. 

 “Teach, could you donate some money for the company party? Mr. Caleb has donated most of all we need, but we need some small things to decorate with.  Mr. Caleb has paid for an open bar and the party room at the hotel, but nothing else.”

 She noticed today he wore glasses instead of his contacts, behind his glasses his eyes crinkled a little in a smile. 

 “I have just the donation for you. Last week you know I competed in the year-end archery tourney and I came in third. The third-place prize was twenty-five hundred, cash. It is yours.”

 “Oh my.  Teach. I could not…” 

 “Take it. It puts me over some tax issues, so if I give it to  a good cause, I can just deduct it. So I think a donation to our companies Drive For Kid’s Cures, I can do good on both ends.” Teach smiled. “I’ll talk to Mr. Caleb and have him use that money to buy decorations and such for good will of the community.”

 “Thank you!  You will get a special recognition for this.”

“Not necessary,” He chuckled. “just throw a good party.”

“Oh we will! We will!”

 

 

2. The Party

Weeks of planning and the day finally arrived only another hour before the half-day ended and the Christmas party started. The ginger musketeer brought in a bushel of mistletoe and was hanging it up everywhere.  When asked where he got so much, he only replied.

 “I climbed few trees.”

 Doubting laughter followed when he described his adventures, until Tyree Hayburt showed photos on his cell phone of Teach climbing trees and harvesting the fresh mistletoe with a pole saw.

 One woman, after she stared at the image for a moment, caused a commotion when she commented that he was up in a tree in just a t-shirt.

 A few laughed at the misunderstanding. The t-shirt he wore was black, matching his pants, giving the impression he wore a black jump-suit. But his arms! 

She commented that his arms made a woman dream what it would feel like to be in an embrace with such arms.

The phone made the rounds with the office women and Tyree did not get his phone back until the battery was screaming for mercy.

But Teach struck a handsome image. Fingerless gloves, standing in a tree with his feathered cap while he trimmed a large growth of mistletoe off an oak tree.

 Many of the workers looked at him now as he stood on a ladder and taped, pinned, stapled the green plant all around the dance floor.

It appeared that he was intent on having kisses exchanged everywhere in the party.

 Rose laughed at Teach’s personal mission and pointed out to him that he still had a large amount left over. 

 “Well, I do need to show care. Each sprig is worth a kiss, right?” Teach smiled conspiratorially. “So, I worry about overdosing the magic if I put up too much. I mean, a single sprig is worth a simple kiss. How much is small a branch worth? A passionate kiss? More? How much would a large branch be worth? It’s tradition, you know. This is why children are born in late August and into September.”

“It’s a good thing I brought some condoms in my purse.” She whispered back. Enjoying his shocked look and a touch of color to his ears as he turned away, laughing with embarrassment.

Rose cackled quietly to herself, catching the beautiful T. H. Harte in a bomb like that. But then, she had already had tipped the bottle in the kitchen with the Irish Coffee’s that MaryJo had made.

The best part of the day so far had been the drinks that Alice poured.  Hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps with a cinnamon stick floating in it. Rose poured some Irish coffee into it and made a killer mocha that was making her feel happy.  Extremely happy.

Looking at the clock.  It was nearly noon, the party was due to start in a few minutes. The smell of lunch was wafting through the office, roast beef and ham, chicken and even a turkey roasted in the company kitchen.

Rose walked off, she had done the job she set to do.  The party was starting and she had an Irish Snuggling Mocha calling her name.

 .

3. To The Victor Go The Spoils

At noon, everyone filed in. It was a short walk to the hotel and those that had drinks and snacks all morning were already feeling the effects of such mid-winter cheer. There was Christmas in the air and no functional work, even the boss, Mr. Caleb, had not accomplished much, except to drink and mix drinks in the kitchen. Even as he lead the group across the hallway, he did not quite stand up straight. But he was still talking clearly, blaming his unsteadiness on his bad knee.

At the head of the tables, Caleb stood and spoke, giving out generous bonuses. A thousand dollars for every year of employment, a few joke gifts and then announced food, finally, was served.

The dance floor was lit and the music boomed, MaryJo walked up behind the office archer and pulled Teach (as she was slurring his nickname a bit) off his stool and out onto the dance floor. As they walked and swayed to the music, MaryJo noticed that “Teach” had an eyepatch on.

“Oh my god! What happened to your eye?” she leaned into him, pressing her barely contained breasts against his taut body while he snaked sinuous arms around her. More to hold her up than to dance with her.

“Nah.  I walk into and out of lighted areas, this little flash dance area would blind me if I was to walk into a dark room for a drink.  There is a show across the way with an stand-up comedian I might want to go see. Starts in an hour. I wouldn’t be dazzled in one eye this way, it’s an old pirate trick.”

“Mmmm…” A voice came in from behind them. “You can plunder my booty anytime, ginger-snap.” Rose had walked up behind the dancers and handed a drink to MaryJo.

MaryJo and He laughed.

“I think I need to go get another drink.  The bartenders here make these drinks too weak.” MaryJo winked and walked off, one over-sexed divorced woman leaving him with another over-sexed divorced woman as the two double-teamed him.

Suddenly feeling like an endangered species, Teach Harte smiled and headed back to sit down at a a table where an electronic game of greedy-greedy could be played until the music ended.

Smiling as Rose sat with him, the waitress walked over and asked what they would like.

Ron Abuelo Centuria, neat please.  The bottle, too.”

“Sir, you do know that the bar is open, but it only covers well drinks.”

Slipping the barely dressed cocktail waitress two bills of paper money with Benjamin Franklin on the front, whispering to her “Keep the change.”  She smiled widely and sashayed away to the bar.

Together they sat and talked.  Starting with the office work before he leaned over to Rose and whispered to her ear.

“I am making a rule, no more shop-talk.”

Rose laughed softly and nodded.  Looking down at the table that they sat at, a computer controlled dice game.  Gaming levels  listed on the display of:

[  ] G

[  ] PG

[  ] R

With one level listed as an extra cost to play:

[  ] X

“Which level would you like to play?”  He asked as he slid his card through the reader, tapping in his identification number.

Rose looked over the game, not knowing how to play, she was not about to miss out on anything.

“Let’s go with X.”  She said, here brown eyes twinkling in the strobe of the dance light.

Another voice behind them, “Can anyone sit here?”  It was Robert Hershey with his very pretty wife, who wearing a naughty lady Santa outfit.  Not quite slutty, but it danced along the edges of the term. When asked about it, Barbara would say “This is Sexy Elf, Slutty Elf did not come with a vest, only two bells to hang on each side.”

The game started with number of players and their names.  The greedy-greedy seemed draw people like a magnet, a new style of game that had started in an online virtual world,  had spread to real world with small changes.  In this case, the numbers of the dice indicated the clothing that the players would  bet.  On the menu it showed a listing of “Slow”, “Medium”, “Fast” and “Waste No Time!”.

The game started and the holographic dice spun and indicated the score.  In two rounds, the scores were showing that Robert was ahead and his wife was in a very distant last place.

Another roll and it was Teach’s turn, and it indicated to spin who the paired couple would be.   The menu  selected had no gender specifications.  A spin and showed that Barbara had to give a deep kiss to MaryJo.

A gasp! Would they do it, the group got quiet for a moment, then Barbara stood up and stepped over to MaryJo and straddled her lap.  The players were given a show of a serious, passionate kiss to MaryJo who slowly slid her hands over Barbara’s body, lightly playing with her breasts as the kiss drew on longer than a minute.

Buy the time that Barbara stood up, her nipples were visibly erect and she walked unsteadily to sit back next to her husband.   Then it was Robert’s turn.  His challenge was unhook Rose’s bra with one hand and leave the garment in place.  Rose, blushing at this, stood and held Robert in an embrace that was sensual while she found his lips with hers.  The kiss was slow and sensual, but for Robert it was an effort in an abject failure as he could never get the bra unhooked.

As the loser of the game-driven command, Robert had to remove his shirt. Slightly overweight, it was still obvious why Barbara found him attractive.  He even had a tattoo of her name on his shoulder with the names of their children.

Turns became more sexy as others would join around them at other tables as they played on.

As the game wore on, Barbara advanced higher and Robert lost ground, no longer the leader he had lost major points on the game.  Robert lost another roll and was required to perform an oral sex-act on Rose who sold the act to Barbara for a good price.

The holographic representations of the characters were in various states of dress. Teach’s avatar was down to its digital underwear, when he spun one more time.  The arrow landed on Rose and then the dice was between them.

Teach rolled a sixteen of a thirty possible on the dice.

Rose rolled twenty-one of thirty.  “Rose wins!”

Then the selection menu came up.

“Questions or Actions”

Rose selected “Action”.

A roll of the dice again and Teach rolled  again.  Four twos, eight points out of thirty.

Teach was in trouble.  His last roll of a six did not help him greatly. Fourteen points of thirty possible.

Rose would only have to play a conservative roll.

Her first roll she hit three fives that she could keep. Leaving two dice left to roll.

Already it they wondered what she would be offered by the machine and what would be selected.

“A slow strip dance on the table by your partner.”

“A night in heaven.”

“U-turn. Select another partner.”

“Slow Naked Kiss.”

The group’s women laughed.  The sound of clinking came from across the table.  Teach was pouring his glass full.  The pressure was getting to him.

Rose selected “Night in Heaven.” and hit “roll”.

“12 hours with your partner who must do everything you request of them without question.”

“Oh my gosh,” Teach nearly shot rum out his nose. “for twelve hours?”

“No sleeping!”  The laughing voice came from across the table was that of MaryJo as she kissed   Robert with great passion.

Sending a text message to Teach, Rose  messaged, “I think MaryJo, Robert and his wife are working on a 3-way.”

Reading the phone, Teach nodded smiling. Messaging her back. “Elf power.”

Rose laughed.

A roll, Teach just could not get any love from the machine. The score eliminated him from the game and Teach sat back with his arms crossed.  A common position that he would stand in. Rarely smiling at work, this evening at the party, with a half-bottle of two-hundred dollar rum in him, he was quite jolly.

Suddenly, the game was over!  Robert failed his roll and suffered the eliminatation leaving only MaryJo and Barbara in her sexy elf outfit when Barbara’s roll was a perfect thirty.

In a single roll at the end of the game, Barbara selected from the menu.

“Action”

MaryJo had to go spend a night in heaven.

Getting up, the group laughed at the naked holographic avatars on the table with the naked version of Barbara jumping up and down in her place on the game board.

Teach walked past the registration desk and looked out the window and motioned Rose over.  Several other Christmas parties were going on all over the building and many were leaving.

The street, lined with red and blue lights of cars driven by law enforcement pulled drivers over by the two’s and fours.

“Three hundred rooms per floor, fifteen floors, and people want to drink and drive home?  That is bad thinking.” He said and Rose nodded.  “I’m staying here tonight.  How about you?”

“Well, I have no one at home waiting for me.  I have an hours drive.  So I am staying, too.  With you I think.”  She grabbed him by his eyepatch and pulled him into a long kiss.  His hands found what Robert’s could not during the game.  She had on a front-hook bra and released it simply by sliding his hand over her breasts.

“Good and well.” He whispered and walked to the registration desk.

4. A Night In Heaven

They stepped off the elevator and out into the hallway.   Robert was visible as he fumbled with the key card.  Barbara and MaryJo were in a very sexy and sensual clinch.  The way that the vest moved on Barbara’s body, it was obvious that it was a very busy night in the hotel and in that room, busy was the night’s entertainment.  Teach and Rose walked the opposite way and down to a suite that the company had reserved for employees.

“Mr. Caleb was very pleased with business this year.  Everyone gets a suite at a steep discount, but you have to ask for it.”

Taking Rose by the hand and lead her to the bedroom.  Wobbling slightly from his rum and she with her wine, they slipped into the bedroom where he sat on the edge of the bed. Standing close to him, his hands gently slid up the inside of her blouse, caressing her hardening nipples. They spoke no words  for there were none needed.   This was the plan ever since she had joked with him hours before.   She was nearly sure they would have had a third, but she did not press the thought.

She wanted him all to herself tonight. Her blouse slowly removed, as his lips found her nipples.  A gentle sucking over the razor sharpness of his incisors, he sucked air slowly over the moist flesh as it puckered hard enough to scratch glass. 

Gasps of pain/pleasure escaped her lips.

“Sorry.  Did that hurt?”  He looked up with a twinkle in his eye.  He was not sorry.  But her own  voice betrayed her.

“Oh god no… that hurt, but it is a good hurt.  Oh god that was good… please…more.” She pulled him back to her breasts again.

Looking down and watched him tease and bite her nipples.  The thought struck her and reaching down she pulled on his shirt, forgoing the buttons, she pulled the cloth up and over his head. It was a fine shirt, it felt like silk as it slide over his broad shoulders easily and revealed what she had gossiped about in the kitchen with MaryJo.

She slid her hands over his back as he traced his tongue over the valley between her breasts and down to her belly button. Light kisses on that so-sensitive skin just below the dimple of her navel while he unbuttoned her skirt and slid it down over her hips.

Slowly, piece by piece, they shed their clothes until he whispered to her ear.

“Let’s move up to the pillows.”  Softly he had whispered, but the glint in his eye was as loud as thunder.

Rose crawled backwards  on hands and feet. Her heart beating in her throat, she could feel the wine swishing around in her.  He had consumed more than half the rum, she had put down two bottles of a chardonnay, two snugglers and one Irish coffee… at least two snuggler drinks, she was trying to think, when his teeth raked the inside of her left calf. His hands sliding up her bare thighs.  In a hysterical thought she was thankful she had just gotten waxed the day before, the laughter escaped her lips and Teach smiled at the sound.

His mouth touched the inside of her left thigh, then the right as his slow bites alternated sides..  Sucking against her skin on each side, she was almost laughing with the thought of bite marks on her skin there and if they might be visible when …or if..she wore a skirt, pants was  the order of clothing for the near future.  But each bite made her ache to have him inside her.

Tracing fingertips over the bare labia that was slowly opening to him. The tip of his tongue slowly trailed over the flesh of her pubic mound.  A slow puff of breath, the damp trail of kisses he left chilled her skin with a thrill that had not been done to her before.

Rose gasped as she ran her hands through his hair.  His hands found and slipped up under each ass-cheek and lifted her to his mouth. His teeth finding her swollen and damp clitoris.  The sharp teeth holding that bit of flesh between them as he pressed against the pubic bone.

And then… Then he hummed! The sound entering her body through flesh and bone. Going through the scales, he hummed a tune until he hit that one tone, it seemed to start in her clit, through her core and into her mind.  The very heart of her body seemed to spasm in one mind numbing orgasm as her pelvis bucked against his face.

Rose gasped in the skin tingling post-orgasm as he kissed his way up her body.  Sucking gently on her left nipple, then on her right nipple he rolled the flesh between his teeth while sucking air over the tender flesh.

Sliding up her body, his erection pressed against her, kissing her lips, sharing the taste of her sex on his lips with her.  His hardest part found her softest as he entered her gently and slowly, arching his back as he pressed in.  His erection entering her labia, he pulled back after an inch.  The large diameter of the cock forcing open her love-hole.

“We should.  Oh god.  Put on… Mmm, that’s nice.  A . Oh! A Con… Oh my god!  Con..OH! Yes! Rubber! You are going to get me pregnant, I don’t want to be pregnant… We need… Oh! Forget it!”  She moaned into his mouth as they kissed. “Oh.  God. Please. Fuck me!”

Pulling her legs up, locking her feet behind his back as her fingernails raked his back, leaving red scratch marks along the length of his back as she sucked on his tongue.

Pushing deeply into her, the pain of his entering her was a burning pain.  This intensified her driving lust, forgetting all outside worries. She thrust her hips up to meet his push.  Intensity of his kisses, flavored with her sex was still infused in the kisses.

Rose pulled his head tightly to her for the kisses that were so delicious while he pushed the whole of his organ deep into her, pressing against the back wall of her vagina, he touched the deepest part of her. Her lover’s balls bounced off her ass as he pressed her into the mattress of the bed.

Teach broke the kiss for a moment, gasping.

“I just need to say something.”

“What?” She asked softly, with had a crooked smile.

“Oh god…I’m cuming!” He moaned as his body went into spasms. His seed filling her with each twitch that she could feel.

Rose held him to her, kissing the side of his face as he gasped for breath. Lightly stroking his body.

Deep inside him, he began to laugh and twitch.

“That tickles.  Please… Oh please stop!” He said laughing.

They lay in each other’s arms for several minutes, kissing.  His softened member slipping out of her as they continued to explore with hands and lips.   Of touching and traces of tongue and fingertip.  Raking sensitive flesh and enjoying the laughter of the post-coital Celt in her arms. Rose smiled widely at his body’s reaction to her touch.

They lay next to each other, him lightly caressing her breasts.  Kissing the puckered flesh of her nipples and the soft curve of her neck. She touching his hips and sliding her hands down, taking his flaccid organ in her hands, the slightly sticky fluid she found with her hands, brought up to put on his lips and then kissed those beautiful lips clean.

A few minutes passed and another erection began to grow, much to her enjoyment.

He chuckled then gasped as Rose traced her fingers over the swollen length of flesh under the thin material. Seeing his cock for the first time, the tumescent organ was not very great in length, she could use both hands to cover it, but it the diameter was massive, her fingers could not close around the organ as she explored his naked sex.

He made little sound as she teased his hard shaft with her fingernails and gently traced the tip of her tongue around the barb of the glans. Pleased with the sound of his soft moaning, her mouth closed over the head of the shaft and she began to stroke in counterpoint to the motion as she performed a fun tease of oral pleasuring to his body.  His body bucked which made her laugh softly.

“Did that hurt?” She smiled.

“Oh god! N- no.”  Teach gasped with a touch of giggle.  She could feel his pulse in his massive shaft as she slid her mouth slowly down it while pulling up with her hand.

Rose put her hand on his naked belly to hold him still, a sudden upward thrust would choke her as she held him in her mouth.  He laughed as she raked her fingernails along the inside of his thighs. Rose explored the glory of his body as she slid off her panties and sat astride him, pressing the head of the shaft against her clitoris and began to ride up and down.  Not allowing him any entry no matter how he was begging her.

“Oh damn… Please… “  His whispers were of near agony as she teased his scrotum as she rubbed her body up and down over the corona around the glans of, what Rose decided was, a beautiful penis as she used the man-probe as her personal sex toy.

Each stroke as he played with her thighs and cheeks of her bottom, served to drive the passion in her soul higher and with more intensity until the orgasm that she strove for. Holding his erection against her clitoris, she reached a point that Rose was unable to control her movements.

“So close…” She moaned but had to put her hands on his knees for balance.  His erection pushing against her belly.

“Turn around.” he whispered as his hand slide under her backside and traced over her labia.  Teasing her further for the missed orgasm, the entry of her body was slippery with her personal moisture.

Smiling, she turned around and stretched her body full length along his, enjoying the sensation of his erection pinned between them.

“Are you enjoying yourself? “ She whispered as she reached down between them and stroked his hard shaft.

“Very much, we have much more to go.  We are not finished yet, lady.”  he laughed softly as she sat back up astride him.

She slowly stroked his erection with both hands.  A little scary that the thickness was so that she could not close her hands fully around it.

“You want more?” She bounced lightly on his pelvis, her breasts swaying hypnotically as teased  her nipples.

“Mmm… Come here, let me kiss those beautiful nips.”  Teach laughed as she complied.  “You have beautiful breasts.”

Rose gasped as he took her into his mouth.  “Thank you…”

Feeling him lift his hips up, she lowered hers down to his, guiding the head of the twitching muscle to the wet labia.  Sliding slowly down over the head, she felt the organ enter her and stretch her flesh as he entered her.

A little at first, it was too tight to fit without the sensation of burning.  The skin surrounding her orifice complained at his intrusion into her body.

“Oh my god you are so big.  I still don’t know how I could fit you.”  Rose gasped as she rode up and down.  Each time she slid him in, it was a little deeper. Almost half-way down the shaft she was certain he could not get any more inside her in this position.

Laughing softly. “It will fit, it was there once. You are in control.”  Then pulling her for a deep kiss, he thrust upwards as she slid down.  Pulling her ass close to his pelvis, the thick penis slide its full length into her, pressing against the back wall of her chamber.  The pressure against her womb with the head of the  shaft.

“Oh…. god.” She moaned into his face, sliding her tongue into his mouth while the walls echoed with the soft sounds of  their bodies slapping together as she rode him until he began to tremble.

“Shh…” Rose stopped moving for a moment..  “Not yet.  Hold it.  Hold.  You don’t get to cum before I do.”

“Oh god.  I can’t.”

Rose sat back, holding him inside her.   The sensation of the head of his organ bumping against her cervix excited her as she rode slowly. She enjoyed watching him, watching her.

Teach put his hands on the mound just above her clit, stroking the little cum-button with his thumbs in a small circular motion.

“Oh.” The shock of his thumbs pushing the hood back over her bit of flesh was as an electric shock in her heart when his hands changed positions, holding her by her hips.  He thrust upwards in her  and held still.  Keeping her still as she tried to keep riding his shaft.

His body bent in an inverted “U” for a moment.  Rose did not realize the moment had arrived as he moaned in the spasms of orgasm.  Semen flowed into her at more than twenty-feet per second from the tip of his love muscle.

Smiling at him as he relaxed.  Rose leaned full length on his body and relaxed.   His seed slowly leaking out of her as he kissed her face.

“Mm…that was not bad.” She smiled as she kissed him again.  “For a second time.”

Laughter faded as she kissed him, her slim body relaxing on his.  She slipped him out of her and  slid off to his side.  Going to sleep with  her head on his shoulder and a leg draped over his belly.

The morning would deal with the morning issues.

 <Fin>