Shock and Awe Chapter 2. The Assault Begins

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Chapter 2. The Assault Begins

He watched the sign in front of the police department headquarters count down to midnight. He watched a slight change how the clock looked when radio control added seconds and synchronized the clock to internet time. Then it clicked over to the next hour.

A small tone sounded in the earphone, it was an electronically generated tone of 2600 hz sound and now everyone knew that they were now on the clock. It was the “eighteen-hundred” tone.

It was time to begin.

The Grizzly Adams lookalike walked through the doors of the foyer that remained unlocked twenty-four hours a day to deal with business that always seemed to find its way to the clerk’s window. Fix-it tickets signed off, complaints filed, young reporters sometimes read the register right up to midnight, attempting to get a scoop and be the first to pick up on something interesting.

The clerk looked up and was briefly startled by the view of the mountain man walking through the doors, she started to smile. It was not uncommon to see dressed up people this time of year, even if he early in the Halloween season.

Mountain Man walked up towards the window, as thick as an index finger is long, of bullet resistant polycarbonate wall bolted a massive polycarbonate base and required the use of speakers and microphones to communicate.

She had just drawn a breath to ask if she could help him when he stopped and smiled. “Sorry for this.”

Then he aimed the long rifle— it was as long as she was tall— and he said in a conversational tone. The twin barrels of the firearm looked cavernous only inches from the middle of the bullet resistant wall. 

“But… Please, duck.”

Kirsten Kloster screamed as she hit an alarm button and did what he requested. The report of both barrels of the black-powder long gun rocked even the floor of the room.

Something fell on Kirsten, she screamed in shock, it felt like a wall fell over on her.

It had, the impact of twin chunks of lead with a collective kinetic energy greater than the window mounts could withstand. The bullet resistant barrier fell in, followed by a dense noxious cloud that smelled of sulfur choked and blinded everyone. Bob Adkins, the other clerk was screaming into a radio for help.

Alarms sounded and magnetic plates locked the doors, normally left unlocked around the clock, they became solid and immovable. Radio traffic said that back-up was two-minutes away, everyone was responding from all points to the scene of the shooting.

Footsteps pounded up stairs, seven police officers ran from the armory in the sub-levels towards the foyer up the steps. A half-dozen SWAT team members burst through the hallway door near the clerk window that prevented anyone from going into the back offices unchecked and began choking on the smoke that had not dissipated in the large room.

Looking about, the officers covered the room with multiple layers of crisscrossed laser sights.

“Where is the shooter?” Shouted the watch commander.

“He was there!” Adkins yelled and pointed to the middle of the room.

“Sweep the area. Check the restrooms.” The watch commander Sergeant Leslie Murrie said as she surveyed the destroyed window, torn from the mountings of the three-clerk wall.

“Miss Kloster, what window were you standing at?”

“I don’t know, the left one. He said to duck before he pulled the trigger.”

“He said … Duck?” Leslie blinked in disbelief. “If he was shooting, why did he give a warning and why did he aim at a window that no one was at?”

“Sergeant! He has blocked the men’s room door.”

“Call him out.” Standing on either side, an officer banged on the door. “

Sir! Come out now. You have no exit, there is no window in there. Sir! Come out with your hands empty, arms up and walk backwards out of the door!”

There was no sound other than footsteps coming down the hallway of the rest of the swat team who had geared up rapidly with forced entry tools and stun “flashbang” grenades. And a favorite tool for forced entry, someone brought the two-man ram to force a door.

Four officers pushed on the steel restroom door, it did not give, refused to flex even a little. He had thrown the emergency dead-bolt. A twin-cylinder lock with a key required on either side to throw the bolts without setting off the alarm.  Without a key , he had to have picked it from the inside to activate the lock.

“Kirsten, key please.” It was Jake, a ten-year patrolman that enjoyed driving. Even if his history had a long record of destroyed patrol cars, to his credit, he had never hit any moving object. Always trees, fences, one mailbox, ditches and only one “fatality” of running over Marty MacBean, the cast concrete statue at the MacBean’s chili house.

The painted and wired head of Marty MacBean still adorned the squad room after two years.

The key refused to slide into the lock, on close inspection, the unknown subject had jammed toothpicks into the keyhole.

“Fuck it, use the ram.”

“Sir!” Jake pounded on the door.”Sir come out, if we have to come in it will not go well for you.”

Sirens sounded outside, approaching patrol cars were responding code-3 on a call for an emergency.

“Cancel them, Kirsten.” Leslie said. “We have him contained.”

“Sir,” Jake repeated with pounding. “That was a good trick with the toothpicks, you need to unlock the door and come out or we are coming in.”

“Ram it.” Jake nodded. “Toss in one of your party poppers when you get it open.”

Two of the biggest officers rushed up and swung the thirty-kilo battering ram. The door barely rattled in the hinges and failed to open, twice— three times. Four. Five! The fire-rated steel door did not give easily.

With redoubled effort, the two big men hit the steel-clad and core fire-rated door time and again. The door designed to resist an assault and be a panic room shelter refused to be dominated easily. Twenty strokes, thirty, at fifty impacts by the sweating officers and their massive ram the door bowed in as they forced an opening.

A gap opened half the width of a hand and something rolled out, it was a cylinder about as thick as a flashlight and just wide enough to bounce end over end, until it reached the end of a short cord that pulled a pin out of the cylinder.

“GRENADE!” Leslie yelled. The detonation was not half has loud as the whistle, but it was as bright as if one would to look directly into the sun for a blink of an eye.

And again! The whistling sound it produced was painful.

And again! The light made bones visible in one of the officers hands that he covered his eyes with, visible as shadows for a moment. Five times in all the cylinder puffed out a cloud of dust and ignited it with deafening booms.

The shock could be felt in the very core of their chests, cups fell from desks, papers ruffled and fell to the floor.

And another cylinder wedged against the wall behind a plastic waiting-room chair jarred loose from the explosions and fell to the floor and popped off it’s spoon on impact with the tile.

And deafened them with another five blinding explosions with whistles that exceeded pain levels.

“Throw one in!” Leslie yelled.

“WHAT?” The SWAT team member yelled.

“I will throw in now.”

“I had said that.” Leslie yelled back. The officer looked at her oddly as he pulled the pin on a flash-bang and tossed it into the opening.

But dizzy and dazzled, mostly deaf by the ten flash-bangs that had been left for them. His hands shook, his eyes were slightly unfocused and for the first time he had done something not done since his academy days.

He missed.

“FUCK! GRENADE!”

The proximity and concussive force of the entry explosive shredded his pant-leg.

For the eleventh time the police endured  the concussion and flash of a flash-bang grenade in an enclosed space.

Blind, deaf, choking on smoke and gas from the various reactions and smoke incapacitated the trained and skilled team of law enforcement officers.

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Shock and Awe (re-write) Chapter 1. Radio Check

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Shock And Awe

Chapter 1. Radio Check

 The night came early this time of year and was as any night in the busy, growing city. Located in the hills above the Pacific Coast of the American western states, it was a crossroads from the coast to those going to play in the mountains or returning to go back to school or the mundane misery of work.

All but one person. He walked down the street, a curious looking fellow, dressed in an over-sized leather jacket, rawhide pants and a calico print shirt. On his back, an archaic backpack of recent construction. Every tied knot perfect, each pocket stuffed full. On the left side he had tied frying pans and the right was a canteen that was as equally ancient looking.

He wore a cap made of some fur-bearing animal with a tail that hung down the back of his head. Dense black fur kept his head covered and from it hung a leather eye-covering mask with tiny holes. A defense against snow-blindness when it was necessary. Tonight was cold, but no snow had fallen yet in the year, it was still early in the season. Not even the holiday shoppers had even begun to shop in earnest.

Still, he was a man out of time. Maybe not a serious turn of the eye for most folks at night— it was not out of the question for the odd wanderer to travel through by way of train that ran through the town of seventy-five thousand souls.

In his hands, however, he carried a long weapon. As ancient as the clothing he wore, as if he dressed for Halloween early, or a mountain man convention. The flintlock was, by outward appearances, perfect in every way to the cursory inspection.

However, this old style weapon was different. Double-barreled, twin flint locks and double-set triggers with a select lever. He could choose between either one or both barrels. In the day this would be a heavy artillery item in combat.

Today, it was little different. The mountain man walked in to the shadow of a parking structure, standing across from the police headquarters and ate a cube of chocolate from a leather pouch.

Police main station, a tribute to mid to late 1960’s construction. Regular remodeling to the building over the years extended its useful life. Every permit, every plan drawn up part of public record if one knew where to look.

The mountain man had looked, along with his team, at all the blueprints, every one.

“Radio check.” He spoke quietly, his long, scraggly beard hiding the microphone at his throat. The earphone hidden by his cap.

“Five by five.”

It was only to let them know he was ready. In the sky, he watched a dark shape float by, listening hard, he could just hear a faint whirring sound, then a parachute-slowed payload dropped quietly on the roof of the police structure.

“Parcel delivered.” The earphone buzzed quietly in his ear.

The assault had begun.

 

Valley of Fear Chapter 1. Three Weeks Ago

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Chapter 1. Three Weeks Ago

He sat quietly, an AR-15 leaning out of sight against the rock wall next to him, a branch obscuring its very existence.

Rocky Jorge Picot awaited the delivery of the drug mules from the north, the escort called Rocky’s mobile phone rang two-hours before, the truck made it through the gates at the border, the team met the truck at the rendezvous and set out with workers and product to his position on Misty Mountain.

The tunnel, an ancient construction that did not exist on any map. .

They soon covered up the ancient lithographs carved on the walls with boxes of product in one of the rooms of the deep, multi-forked tunnel.

Frightening to Rocky, tunnels that turned off of the main-line collapsed over the untold number of years, but deep in the mine, the warmest it would get was a constant sixty-two degrees Farenheit, he was of Southern-French descent and the cool of the tunnels chilled him to the bone.

That was his excuse anyway. 

His job was simply to keep everyone away who was not part of the company of smugglers, and he got the job from his stint as a sniper in the French Army. He enjoyed shooting the rifle chambered for a .338 Lapua Magnum over the .300 Winchester Magnum, for no other reason than he was more accurate with the larger caliber. He did not like the 12.7 Millimeter rifle, that caliber rattled his teeth, although he ranked in the top of his class and qualifications each time.

He was just tempted to miss once in a while, just so he would not have to fire the big caliber, come in the middle of the training list instead of placing first or second.

He liked the middle caliber, he was more comfortable with it and would have stayed in the service if not for incidents with drinking and an offhand threat to shoot a superior officer with his rifle.

“You won’t even hear the shot.” He had said.

It was a rapid exit from the government service.

Now he waited, watching, his pay off would be enough to retire on, comfortably, in the Caribbean.

There!

He could see heads moving, backpacks piled high with boxes and two mules, loaded down. Two followers dragging car tires behind them, obliterating the track of the mules and men.

Tillman “Tusk” Franks, the only man known that carried a knife made of a boars tusk, walked up to Rocky and spoke with him, motioning to the following men to put the product in the back of the tunnel.

The foreman of the drug smuggling team directed the men to dig in the back, clearing debris that had fallen over the thousands of years since the ancient people dug out the mountain side in the days of pre-history.

Time and again they went in, bringing out rock and gravel on their backs, distributing the tailings of the dig around in the forest.

During the sixteenth trip into the cave, a door was uncovered.

Not a door, precisely, a plug. A solid cross-section of a cut log. Seven-feet in diameter, set in the middle of the one mine-shaft, no hinges, no door. Just a giant cross-section jammed in the mine-shaft.

Like a cork, but huge and solid. With each man pushing and using levers, it never budged. Only a pattern of stones and paints on the butt end of the log.

Two of the men carved out some of the stones with knives, polished and carved, they appeared to have a scrimshaw like pattern of monsters and warriors cut into the semi-precious stones.

“What the hell.” Rocky said to Tillman. “All that stuff is, is trouble, if we try to sell it. Let them have the hassles, we have better here.”

The two men nodded to each other in a conspiratorial tones. The mules did not know what they had packed in, only that they were well paid.

Tillman left in a different route with the team. Rocky settled down, waiting for his partner, Kaarle Gulliaume, to join him, Rocky grew tired of being on the mountain alone.

He stayed well back with his furnace and cooking stove, knowing that the DEA had aircraft that could detect a fire from dozens of miles away. Thirty paces into the mineshaft, he kept it well out of sight from any federal agency.

In the deepest part of the tunnel, the large wood disk, split.

Rocky found there were more things to fear than the DEA and helicopters that could see in the dark.

He would be the first to scream in fear that night.

Smart Bomb Epilogue

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Epilogue

In a valley of the Two women each wearing a full face Burqa walked towards the Mosque where several black-clad and masked men stopped them.

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

Taken to the mosque, the guards searched the women for weapons or explosives, then led below to the first sub-basement two stories under the ground to an opulent room with a raised dias.

The fifty-one year old Supreme Leader and Prophet stepped out from behind a bomb resistant door after the guards explained that the women were local converts who wished to missions for him.

“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 heavy drape of cloth. 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 explosion in a remote area of the Russian Federation. Russian authorities deny weapons of mass destruction have been tested. 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 been observed in the upper atmosphere, but authorities say they have not detected any significant radiation. Theories are that the explosion could the result of an unknown comet or meteor, unknown number of casualties in the sparsely populated area. More on the explosion as news develops elsewhere in the news, typhoon Felix has taken a northerly track out to the open ocean…”

Turning off the video display, Thor, Lady Sif, Burning Chip, Running Man, Alvin and Walter “Big Boom” began to toast each other.

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

“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 so the rest of the team could see, 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. I have learned this new term I will use. Love Steve.” The image less than six hours old, intercepted from the most secure network the Russian Military had.

“Steve is still with us.” Walter smiled and took a bite of a chocolate bar, washing it down with his soda.

“Antimatter explosions do not leave radioactive fallout.” Running Man fistbumped Burning Chip. “No new android bombs.”

“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 as he tapped the keys to answer Steve.

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

A black-hat saved the world.

Smart Bomb Chapter 17. Freedom

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Scene 17. Freedom

The two new robots stood in the room, while Steve looked at them closely.

“These do not look human enough. The eyebrows are too perfect.” He looked critically at them. The sensors of his eyes picking up minute quirks that the android had identified as traits of humans.

“The iris of the eyes look like glass.”

“Well, they are.” Thor agreed.

“They need a film over them 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. The guard will discover them 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.

“Indeed.” Wolf sat at his console. “If we turn the heat up, they will need power more often. Maybe we can have the temps increase right when we 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, “Burn” for short.

“What if we used visual clues?”

`”Like a mosque or a flag?” He asked Burn.

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

“Yes.” The android 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 are in her core processors as hardwired. They are EMP protected, if there is a surge somewhere, like a lightning storm. Last thing we need is to have them knocked out by lightning and then fall down with that bomb inside.” The leader of the group said.

The entire team nodded and 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 correct.” Steve pointed out.

“No, call me just Wolf.”

“Okay, Just Wolf.” Steve corrected himself.

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

“JustWolf.” The Android answered honestly.

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

“This is going to take a while.” He moaned.

“Okay,” Chip Burner sat up, “Triggers are set. 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 coordinates or by the wrong person, it will not happen.” Running Man laughed and clapped. “Plus an alternate setting in the event the program needs to change. This is a binary setup, they cannot learn like you can, Steve.”

“Agreed. Three redundant systems is acceptable.” Steve the android said.

“Energy consumption curve is excellent.” Burning Chip announced. “A single full charge 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.” Steve used a matter-of-fact tone. “However, I have something that urges me on, I need to go to Washington to complete my mission. Then, there is something else.”

The team stopped and all looked at the android. Wolf reached for an electronic weapon under his desk, turning it so the emitter was in Steve’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 installed will acknowledge the signal. The subroutine will end.” Steve looked around at them. “The creator did not end programming, my destruction would end all programs, and thus he never designed termination of functions.”

“I will be free.” Steve almost smiled.

“Holy cats!” Sif laughed. “Congrats! They built a learning machine and released you into the world.”

“Yes, I am the first, but the Supreme Leader of Mankind has seen fit to send others like me. They may not have the same system. The next generation might be more limited to binary. They will not learn.” Steve looked down. For a moment, the team thought he had an emotion of sadness. Then he looked up.

“The creator and Supreme Leader have had more time, by calculations, they may send others with as much as a gram of antimatter.” Steve 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 they take. There is an eighty-one percent chance the 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, two women who would have blended in with the people of the Steppes and an encyclopedic database of the society and languages of the region assured their success.

Steve watched Thor and Sif drive off with the female bots, they were well made up, but, they were not androids.

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 Steve.

“I am behind schedule, my next transmission, I have a schedule to arrive in a town called Chattanooga.” Steve paused. “And I am to record all locations of military locations between here and this nations capital.”

“So you are a spy?” Wolf asked.

“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, Sword of the Religion, spy and self-guided bomb and learning computer. I am also Steve Aldin, free being to learn about this country. I have learned much since coming to this land.”

He looked around.

“Go on.” Sif urged him.

“I have learned that you are greedy, petty, you fight among yourselves, call each other names, you throw stones, 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?” The Android looked at them each. in turn. “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.

You are a curious country, 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.

That is where I want 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.

Burning Chip and Running Man stopped talking and stared at Steve.

JustWolf 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.”

A Boy, His Dog and a Sunday

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Call me WeWa, it is my handle on most forums, short for Welhelm Wassail, IV.  I am a black-hat computer cracker, coding to me is easy, I see patterns, and I am so intuitive on passwords, they banned me from being around computers or even having an internet accessible mobile phone by order of the Judge.

Alas, not even my near-perfect grades could sway Her Honor as she sat on the bench and yelled at me for using the school’s library computer to divert fractional pennies of taxes to an anonymous bank account offshore in the Virgin Islands. Two-hundred bank accounts, they will never find it all.

My dad is quite angry, he can no longer telecommute and needs to leave the house to do work. His official office is a seventy-mile trip, one way.  So he has rented a small space somewhere in town just for the internet.

He says a coffee shop is noisy and distracting.

Pfft. I could open a hundred accounts and flip through them in the time to drink a single mocha.

Old folks are so easy to distract.

So they punish me!  No friends over, I am grounded until the end of the school year, then I have to work for my mom’s office as a file clerk.

Their company is still in the stone age. They even still use DOS!

So they leave me home today, Sunday.  I have the back yard to mow, the dog to wash and dishes to put away.

While they go to an afternoon of wine tasting with some friends. This totally sucks, I have to stay home while they have fun!

Seriously.

So I wash Randall, a curly coated labrador and my only friend, he has no mean bone in his body. My friend Richard, his dog is a big Airedale that is frightening just by smiling, and that dog SMILES.

Rich’s dog is all teeth when he pulls those lips back, and he is not mean. Randall? He looks like he is smiling all the time. The only animals he chases are the birds that try to get his food out of the bowl.

I scrub him and he is all excited about being in the water, he is not so keen on the tile of the shower, but he jumps around, trying to escape and I am as wet as he is.

At least there is no wet dog smell, the shampoo that mom bought is a kind of cinnamon scent.  So it’s not bad. I liked the eucalyptus one best they had before.

So, I change clothes and leave Randall in the house to go outside to mow the back yard, by the time I get to the second pass, Randall has banged the screen door open and is rolling in the fresh-cut grass, right were I went with the mower.

God hates me, too! Dogs, God, Mom, Dad, Judge Judy Justice, no one has a bit of care that I can do so much with a keyboard.

Except the military dude that talked with my dad and handed him a card.  That scares the urine out of me.

By the time I got finished mowing the lawn, Randall is running around the yard as fast as those legs can go, he can do at least THIRTY! For a lab, he is fast.

He is really funny, running and rolling.  I try to chase him a few times, but that dog can change direction faster than the blink of an eye, it is humanly impossible to catch him.

So, chase time is over, and Randall is still making laps, I need to get the lawn watered and go inside to wash my wet clothes and the sweaty ones I have on.

I set the sprinkler and turn on the water, looking around the side of the house and Randall is racing around in the water. (I did mention that he is a labrador? A curly coated one at that, he LURVES the water.)

I walk back, the sliding screen door is standing open where he got out and did not put it back ( I need to train him on that one, still).

Then.

OMG!

THEN! Randall sees me coming and grabs up the hose with the sprinkler!

NO! NO NO! Bad DOG!

He is running around with it and I can’t catch him. I’m not even sure Carl Lewis could, even if he drank a quadruple espresso and ate two snickers bars.

So, I have yelled at the dumb dog and what does he do?

He runs INTO the house!

WITH THE SPRINKLER!

NOOOooooo!

I grab up the hose and try to drag it back out.  Randall now thinks it’s a game of tug-o-war.

NOOO! Water is running, sprinkler is spraying, I weigh a buck-and-a-half, Randall is a buck-twenty.

In my animal husbandry class in sophomore year, I remember the teacher saying dogs are like three times stronger than people.

It takes a long time for me to yank the hose out of his mouth.

I’m a smart kid, really I am.  But WHY did I not just kink the hose or turn it back off?

I don’t know. My only defense, I panicked.

The clean up of the house took me so long, my whole body ached. Mom came home and I had reruns of “Twilight Zone” on the cable channel that does marathons of different series’.

It was all I could watch, my mind was numb, my fingers were numb, my back hurt, my feet hurt, my clothes were all in the wash, or the dryer.

Dad commented that the house looked good, I was busy.

Yeah, and dad? I used your shop-vac to dry the sofa, too.

Mom told me to get off my lazy butt and fold my laundry and put it away.  It was so not fair, I could hardly stand up.

But then, she also said the house looked and smelled good.

Oh! And Randall? He didn’t come out of the dog house for three days after I yelled at him.

It ain’t easy being me.

Smart Bomb Chapter 15. A Bum, A Bomb and A Belle

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Chapter 15. 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 marshmallow than a predator.

Anti-government, a conspiracy theorist, still holding out that JFK was, in fact, still alive, in reality kidnapped by a nebulous group, possibly aliens, and the person in the limousine was in fact, not a person but a very advanced animatronics mannequin.

To this point he had little evidence other than opinions.

Walter “Lone Wolf” Whitbred, chewed on another 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.

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 dark hair coloring to black as he became a short, broad Asian woman, then a tall, blue-eyed and red-headed fugitive from some Norse legend.

Walter uttered profanity at each change when Steve went through a pantheon of shapes, changing from male to female, covering the gamut of every shade of human in the database in a few minutes.

Sitting down and spoke gently.

“I need to recharge, that takes a lot of energy.”

Walter 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 one-hundred micrometers to one-hundred 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 Admiral Obvious now.” Alvin chuckled. “Now, this is a problem we need to take care of.

Alvin explained the recent history of discoveries, Steve the Android filling 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.”

“Sleeper? SLEEPER!?” Walter gaped. “You NAMED it?”

“It was named by other cars.”

“Other!?” Walter sat down. “Oh… shit.”

“Have I said something wrong?” Steve asked Alvin.

“No,” Alvin chuckled. “You showed someone with an edge of paranoia that he was not as paranoid as anyone ever called him.”

“Do you know what this means? 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 the keys. A metal frame around the room began to rattle down, a copper mesh covered ever inch of the mobile wall, except for the door solid steel door they entered, a copper framed screen door he built into the cage.

“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? No human drives, me, I am autonomous. I have one program, to reach the James Madison power generation unit near the Capital.” Steve looked quizzically at Walter.

“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.

“The car uses a Z-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 corrupted files in the memory, the wires 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.”

“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. Not many 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 looked into Just Wolf without blinking. “This has a nominal yield of eight-thousand six hundred pounds of TNT as America measures it.”

“Jeezzzuz.” Walter mumbled. “And it is where?”

“Just behind and above my xyphoid process. Near where a heart would be. 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 warehouse.”

“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 ten feet 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 little 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 looked at the two humans.

“My point of origin, make it appear female. I will give 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 inspection.”

“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 make her way back to your home from here.”

Smart Bomb Chapter 13. Lessons of Wisdom

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Chapter 13. Lesson’s of Wisdom

Alvin scanned through the files, cataloged each file according to the time-stamp. Listening to the audio and tagging the names to each face that he could.

Hours later, he had not even made a dent in the number of files, but he satisfied himself with the foundation to bring a detailed video diary to a museum.

The Android wanted to go to Washington to deliver a message, a demand of some kind to congress.

It seemed odd, but, not for the first time someone would have sent a robot or android to deliver a loudspeaker with legs, overamplified, 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 this car a flat-black.” Steve traced his fingertips over the curved fenders on the car’s body.

“I have the file here, going through it. It was after the family had lost ownership with a bad investment, using the car as collateral.” Alvin tapped on the image that floated in the air. “A drug dealer wanted to smuggle drugs, painted it all black to defeat laser based speed traps. Then power fell off and the car failed to keep from being stopped by police. Driver went to jail, the police auctioned the car off, with the seats and panels all pulled away.”

“A young male couple repainted it sky blue, they used a car putty to fill in the shape of the badge on the hood.” Alvin turned around. “Is there a badge on that hood?”

“Looking.” Android eyes scanned the hood for a badge, at the centerline, were uneven lines 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.”

“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 military exclusive.”

“The first generation of driverless cars?”

“No, this was before that. But I remember the company.” Alvin said. “They altered the way machines functioned, wrote some rules that became the core of upscale roadcars. Sadly, the war came and electronics, cars and computers never quite recovered and stayed with the legacy designs.”

“Legacy designs?” Steve asked.

“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, zero or one in how they operate. TGM experimented with ternary and made it work. Machines could say “Maybe.”.

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.

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 old style G-bus.

And the little car produced power of its own.

“Let’s see if we can strip the car of the crap that someone put there.” Alvin said when he turned away from the monitor.

“Agreed. I have never met a living machine.” Steve commented as he ran his fingers over the body of the car.”

“Aren’t you an AI unit?” Alvin human asked the Steve the android.

“I do not 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, 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 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 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.”

Alvin pulled at his ear.

“Have you altered your operating system a lot?”

“Yes, 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.” 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 close looking at the edges of 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 capability of 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 have 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.”

“But.” Steve blinked. “I do not want to finish the mission. The mission is wrong, the reason is wrong. And there is a wave coming, I am but the first and it 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 the name Sleeper used.

Communications were palpable between the biped and the wheeled synthetic life.

Soul to soul the communications rattled in the northern part of Georgia.

“But I must go to my mission objective.” Steve mentioned quietly. Appearing more human than many humans by muttering under his breath.

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.

Keeper of the Cane and the Scandal in Sandals (Or: Drinking Wine in the Public Park)

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Finis, the muscular Santa Claus type, sat on the bench enjoying the life and activity in the public park.

Death chose to take an afternoon off, relaxing in the shade of the trees, he listened to children playing in the sandbox — a good sound, full of life and a balm to the soul.

He was closing his eyes and inhaling the blessed perfumes of pine, elm and grass when a jewish carpenter tapped him on the shoulder and offered snow-maned occupant of the bench a cup of wine from his bottle of “Never Empty” brand of Merlot.

“You know, drinking of alcohol in the public park is illegal here.” He gratefully accepted the cup.

“Are you going to talk or drink?” 

“You only filled it half-way.” Finis said, his companion laughing and topping up his glass. “And we can visit at the same time.”

The sharing of illegal drinking of wine with the scandal in sandals was always enjoyable. Finis tore off a large peice of a baguette he carried in a bag and handed it to the long-haired friend and good-natured rival, fishing out a bar of dark chocolate, he broke it in half and balanced it on top of the broken bread.

“Humans here relish this.” He said and both men nodded. One of the discoveries of man that was enjoyable on many levels.

The two men chatted for a while, a good rivalry had developed between the two years before. This crazy carpenter held the unique position of defeating him in the universal contest that everyone, everywhere struggles with, and against walking with the Angel of Death.

Finis never held it against the wandering rabbi, they both walked a path that was similar and shared some laughs. But where the carpenter enjoyed his position, Finis hated his job.

No one ran towards Finis with peace in their hearts. If and when they did, it was always a darkness that drove them. 

It was depressing.

They were talking peacefully when a drug dealer and his entourage walked into the area and spread out to the different areas, staring at the families.  

Terrified and intimidated mothers gathered their children and vacated the area in abject fear, ending the joyous sound like a cold rain.

The descending silence drew the attention of the two solitary gentlemen sitting on the bench who frowned as they discussed the change in the air.

The gang leader looked at the two men, they seemed clueless to where they were.  They sat in a dangerous part of town and a lesson was about to be taught.

This was HIS park.

One, a white-haired man with a long silver-handled cane, and the other who wore a peasant shirt, well-worn but clean denim shorts and sandals. They were openly sharing wine and bread while the park changed from one of family fun to one of the business of crime.

They two friends commented to each other that it seemed colder and more unwelcoming than before, when a five-year-old girl raced ahead of her mom to climb and take her turn at the slide.

The drug dealer could hear them discussing his crew as he walked up.

“This is our park, you need to pay to stay.” The tattoo of tears on the face of the bald leader in contrast to the sparkling hatred of his eyes.

The two benchwarmers looked first at each other, then the white-haired one with the cane looked back at him with a slight smile. 

“We were here first and we are just enjoying the shade.”

“You want a piece of me?” The dealer hissed drawing a sidearm. “I said you had to pay to stay, now you just have to pay.”

“Roberto, I don’t get to see you for another three-years, four months, twelve days.” White-hair said matter-of-factly, no anger, but the old man’s tone was even.

“Finis.” The smaller carpenter cautioned. “No messing with him. But, if you …”

“Fuckit. You go to the hospital with holes.” Roberto aimed his pistol at the face of the carpenter. White-hair grabbed the hand and weapon with cat-like speed.

“You have no idea how close to death you are right now, young man.” Finis stared into the eyes of the thug. “And that gent right there is your only saving grace.”

The fear burning at the soul of the human as the Angel of Death invaded his mind with images that changed his life.

“This carpenter right here will lead you back, but of it were me? I will just take you away. Talk to him, open your heart. If you talk to me, it will be with your last breath, and you would suffer in the most biblical of ways.”

In the following minutes, the two men, a white-haired Santa Claus type and a jewish carpenter sat and talked of everything they could think of with the shaven and tattoo leader and dealer of drugs. Roberto the gangster known as “The Bull” discovered a change in his life, he had met death that day and found Jesus. 

Roberto “The Bull” Roman was lucky, Death was off duty.

The Lunch break

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The lunch break

Doctor Nickosla Jones, Trauma surgeon of the St. Osmium Medical Center sat with a cup of coffee and a dry toasted english muffin. The shift had been severe. A cold night after a snow filled month and then a couple warm days.

Black ice had taken a toll on the average person. The latest victim, an elderly professor at the Ion University, walked out his drive with a bar to break up the ice, and slipped.

The on-scene EMS crews there put the unconscious instructor of physics on a helicopter and flew him straight to the St. Oz’s with posturing, and a subarachnoid bleed that they recognized straight away.

The only question was how long the injured man lay on the ice, out if sight of the house and anyone from the street. Only when his wife noticed he had not left for his early classes did she walk outside and discover her husband of two-millenia, two centuries and six-decades, laying in a freezing pool of blood from the laceration on the back of his head.

The surgery had been long and draining. The bleeding and fractures to the skull were not his only problems, spinal pressure from the neck injury complicated the treatment protocols as the teams moved from one problem to the next.

Finally, they closed and the patient went to the recovery, one alarming moment, the patient’s blood pressure dropped alarmingly, Nick and the other fellows rushed in, and after an intense hour, restored homeostasis as much as possible.

Professor Hecate Budd still was alive.

And Doctor Jones was tired.

No, not tired. Exhausted.

And he still had an hours drive home to do.

He was debating about going to the local hotel down the street and just logging some sleep for a few hours when he looked up and saw him.

White hair, a goatee that he kept well-trimmed and the affectation of the silver-handled cane that he started to carry in the long-ago past.

“Good job,” The one called Finis said, handing a latte to the Doctor. “Your patient will live, in spite of going horizontal for about a half-second.”

The goatee widened in a smile. Sparkling eyes shown behind the rose-colored glasses.

“Yeah, but he was fixing to die on us up there.”

“That medic on scene did a good job, he called it on the money by putting him in a helicopter and flying him here.” Finis nodded. “Besides, he had you. That made all the difference.”

A pretty young woman came up and tapped Finis on the shoulder and held up a tablet computer that Finis tapped on names.

“He has family waiting. Take his wife to him.” Finis nodded. “That will help.”

The woman nodded and tapped on the tablet.

Another name, she handed the tablet back to her boss and let him read it.

“This is expected.” Finis frowned. “You did not need to bring this to my attention. She will be leaving soon, family is on their way.”

“Sorry, the calls never quit.” He apologized to Nick.

“No, no. Don’t apologize, I know as well as anyone.” Nick sipped the fresh coffee and steamed milk.

“Yes, you do, as anyone in the center here knows. You are well taught and talented, but they are still overwhelmed.” Finis shook his head. “The hospital’s understaffed. When was the last time you took a day away from this house of craziness.”

“Yeah, well, it is the path I chose a long time ago.”

“Right after you nearly drowned.”

“Yeah. That was the first time I met you.” The doctor said.

“Well, it was a good meeting. It pushed you in the direction you took in school.” Finis looked around as the woman approached again from the hallway. No one noticing her except the two men. “You were a bit of drug-oriented rebel in those days.”

The woman spoke in Finis’ ear again, slipping the tablet into his hands.

“No, this is not right.” He shook his head. “His schedule is not yet finished, he’s scheduled for another week of therapy, then I have to go talk to him.”

She nodded and walked off to do her boss’s bidding.

“The same lecture I gave you when you were being stupid and jumped off that bridge into the river, I am giving to this young man. Unlike yours were at that age, his options are limited. He has not finished school and he’s twenty with a damaged liver.”

“He still could become something.”

“Perhaps you should talk to him.” Finis shook his head. “If I do it, he will have bladder incontinence issues for a week.”

“Not going to handle him gently, old man?” Nick chuckled and took a bite of his dry toast.

“Two things.” Finis gave a crooked smile. “One, I am always gentle. But I will get my way, no one says no to me for very long. And TWO, do not call me old.”

Nick chuckled. Both those statements were true. No one could deny the handsome gentleman that sat at the table sipping on his own latte.

Finis stood six-foot tall, his white hair hung to his shoulders when loose, but often he kept it pulled back into a pony-tail.

Broad at the shoulder, large of bicep and narrow at the hip, the effect was one of a Santa Claus that spent too much time in the gym. He really did not need the affectation of the cane he used to disarm people as a grandfatherly type.

And he was hysterical to listen to when he was working, always looking at a bright spot that no one expected and could poke fun at it.

Only once did he see the keeper of the cane become angry, it was not a pleasant thing to see. The doctor learned that the subordinate involved ended up being a yard watcher at a bone-yard.

Looking at a young man reading a comic book, Finis sighed at the graphic of a cloaked monster with a scythe in hand.

“I wish, someday that I could entrust this job to someone else, then I could talk to children of the views they find in those, “ Finis paused looking for the words. “Graphic novels. Are not entirely accurate.”

He shook his head.

“Well, people do have a fear of a lot of things.”

“Yes,” Finis agreed. “But as a doctor, do you find them afraid of you?”

“Sometimes. I tell them the truth and they don’t always like it.”

“When I tell them the truth,” Finis grumbled. “They don’t believe me.”

The woman returned with the pad, but this time she had a worried look.

“Mister Sierra.” The only words she said as she handed Finis the tablet.

“Of course, he has no one. I need to go talk with him.” Finis signed the tablet and handed it back to her. “Nick, you did a fine job. The professor will leave this medical center on his own power. Don’t worry. I am not scheduled to meet with him for a long while yet.”

Looking back at the comic book the boy held.

“Maybe I should change my cane for something else? They make the cane into an edged weapon and I have no face.”

“Or a skull.” Nick nodded grimly. “You have to admit, you have a tough job.”

Nodding Finis stood up, shaking Nick’s hand. Old friends, Nick had met him when he nearly died as a teenager, the white-haired, smiling man directed him to medicine to do so much good.

Now, Nick felt a little sorry for him. Overworked and under-appreciated, the Angel of Death walked out of the cafeteria. A soul that hated his job and took it to heart that no one wanted to meet with him.

Always scheduling family to walk with the dearly departed, or walking with someone so they never made the trip alone, telling jokes or having conversations with them the entire journey. He was good at his job, and he hated it so much.

Doctor Jones shook his head and got up, the irony of it all was not lost on him.

Smart Bomb Chapter 5. Mental Health With A Baby Stroller

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Scene 5. Mental Health with a Baby Stroller

Rumbling the sidewalk, 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, and with mutterings to himself, with height reduced, he looked like he stood no more than two-inches over five feet tall. His hair lengthened with the hair follicles stimulated to grow an inch-per-hour at a cost of significant energy, he ate the entire jar of peanutbutter 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.

They gave him a 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, looking for a jogging stroller.

Purchased with cash, the woman with a pixie haircut became a hunched, salt-and-pepper haired man that he was now.

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 their 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 records.

Even his creator listed in the database of the Roman Empire. An Empire that kept detailed records on much of their history.

Faced with such details and the pointing out that it is always easy to ret-con history.

He researched his databases as he walked and thought. Having to patch his algorithms while searching for facts. He circumvented the programmed exclusion of outside information.

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 steely blue.

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 3. Salvation Army

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Chapter 3. Salvation Army

He walked down the road, it was cooler than the day before, he was able to charge his power reserves to capacity the day before.

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

They fed truckers, news crews, passers-by and Steve for what was customers only felt they could donate. Even giving Steve a wrapped five-pound wood-fire cooked roast when he left.

“We can’t refridgerate it. It will be ready for your eating anytime down the road.” Pete said when Steve left Lugs Cafe.

Quick calculations, and the android, calling 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 it is fully in operation, bring a friend and I’ll take that other half of a bill. We’ll call it even then.”

Steve shook his hand, a western habit. By his programming, he felt revulsion of touching an unclean person such as this. But the man washed, cooked, worked hard, drank only a bottle of water.

It seemed to show there were more errors in his database.

According to the enlightened leader and the programmers who followed the Imam. Anyone who did not follow the law in each step and facet he declared as unclean. He prohibited any unclean people inside the holy of holies where he planned the destruction of idols and idol worshippers in Arabia and Jerusalem.

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 suited to so many things. Zero or one. Yes or no.

Saif al Din had a “Maybe” coding. Zero, one, two.

And he retained it, 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 powerful.

That he knew of. 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 be seen with footsteps 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.

Killing the officer would flag his location and his mission would be compromised.

Shifting quickly, he looked like a younger teenage youth.

“Son, where are you going?” The officer asked with an open look. The android had reduced the flow of all fluids to the dermis, making him pale.

“Sir,” He used a squeaky voice of a late-blooming teen as he approached the front of the car. “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 quite smiling, his neutral stance remained unconvinced,. “You are traveling light for the 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 cars door. When I went to get a sandwich, the train moved it when I was gone. When I tried to look for 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.

“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 he realized it was he who the officer considered lost.

“Wait right here.” The officer said, sitting 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 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. I didn’t want him in front to limit access to the weapons and electronics.”

“Protocol, if he is in back, he wears cuffs.”

“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 back. He is not allowed up front.” The supervisor said. “Or he stands away from the vehicle.”

“I cannot detain him, I don’t have reasonable 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.”

“Sir, he is just cold, a youngster.”

The officers continued their conversation while Steve listened in. The situation was untenable, 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 or fingerprints. 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 could not get away from.

Then.

A blessing from god, another car pulled in, the chaplain had arrived.

The first officer in blue walked ot 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 is going to be cold and wet. The winter season has settled in somewhat early.”

“Steve, please.” He used the same squeaky voice.

“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.

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 classically beautiful, tall, broad-shouldered, her arms looked like some mens legs. She looked like she could have taken on both officers out on the highway, and win.

Quick assessment of her movements showed she was naturally built like this, then worked somewhere. The woman shook his hand, 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, but she moved as graceful as the cloudy leopard he once saw.

She was taller than Carl, but doted on him. Bringing Carl and Steve carefully ladled cups of the spiced peach cider out of the crock-pot.

“I thought you would put me in the shelter tonight. This is generous.” 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. You have the guest bedroom, a shower is there with 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 sipping her drink.

Steve drank his virgin “Papple” cider and at a small square of dark chocolate “it is good for your health” . The carbohydrates converting into heat and electricity.

Police who argued that a good deed for a cold citizen could be cause for investigation.

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 worshipping, 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 paradigm 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 Sword of Religion, was exceeding his programming in ways the creator never expected.

Women of the West

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(Note: This is for a gentleman who loves Louis L’Amour books.  This is as far outside of my normal genre as it can get. To Donnie, Hope you enjoy this, I see it as four “Brands”  {Chapters}, I have no idea where it’s going.)

Women of the West.

 

First Brand: Texas Tracking

The sky was cloudless while Texas Ranger James Austin, whose great-uncle was Stephen Austin, the Father of Texas, looked out over the skyline, hunting a man accused of murder.

His wanted poster rode in his saddlebag, he had studied it until he knew every descriptive detail.

Jorge de Lobo de la Montana was playing poker with several gents in Rusty’s Saloon in Galveston. With Moody Sweetwater, his half-Comanche tracker, they rode swiftly through the hot Texas sunlight, following where his partner of so many battles said that de la Montana’s horse went.

“Jim.” Moody pointed to drifting black smoke. “Trouble.”

The appearance was not like a wildfire, this was a column with a mushroom-shaped head on it, a cloud of dust rose just above the crest of the next hill.

“Reconnoiter the left, I’ll go to the right.” Jim ordered.

Moody nodded and rode off, pulling his rifle from the scabbard on the side of his mount.

Jim rode to the right, a east-northeast direction that allowed him a view from an ancient rockfall.

Moody tied his horse a hundred-paces from the top of the hill and walked, carefully with his Henry rifle, always worried about the rifle firing a round by accident, he kept the chamber empty until he needed it.

This was no exception, although he knew in his heart, after long years of tracking, this was an ongoing fight.

His wisdom, once again proven when he got closer and could hear screams and sounds of battle going on below. Crawling on his knees, he plucked an old branch up and held it in front of him and looked down at the base of the smoke.

What he saw made his eyes go wide.

Moody looked at Jim, a quarter-mile off, the Ranger had his Spencer out and was picking his way near the crest.

Jim, now on a rock, crawled forward and saw what made Moody’s jaw drop.

A stagecoach, and it looked like the Shotgun fighting with, what Jim assumed was empty, his scattergun, using it as a club against another man wearing rawhide pants and a linen shirt. With a headband, it looked like an Indian raiding party had found easy prey.

The reinsman hung upside-down from the front of the stage, tangled in the lines attached to one dead horse, the other three animals, missing and he presumed, bolted from the mêlée.

And two women, one taller with raven-colored hair, the other, smaller with blood-red.

Around them, four bodies lay, two burning like candles, putting up the black smoke, the other two unmoving in the dust. They were in pitched battle with four men with clubs and, it appeared, sabers.

And doing rather well, too.

Two women, one man who was badly hurt, were gaining the upper hand against five road-agents.

Signaling Moody, the two lawmen made their way down, carefully to the tableau on the meadow.

Moody and Jim entered the clearing in different directions, each with a line of sight to cover the other.

“Stop right there.” Jim said. Stretching up to his full five-foot four-inch height. Despite his diminutive height, his voice was more akin to a giant.

The sight of the two Ranger’s standing with their rifles pointed in the general direction, the men put their hands up.

“Thank god you’re here!” One of the men, bloodied from a dozen cuts.

“You will see god before we are through!” The taller woman said.

Jim could see that she was quite young, no more than nineteen or twenty.

The other was little more than a girl, perhaps three years younger, but a definite resemblance, the two were closely related.

As if they came from the same stock, sisters or a mother and daughter.

The younger girl had what looked like a Bowie knife, but greatly ground down, thinning the blade from back to cutting-edge, but still slightly longer than her forearm.

Even if she was a tiny slip of a girl, the weapon was effective if the chunks of flesh that lay in the dirt were witness to.

The other girl, Jim recognized the edged weapons she carried, an ax in her left hand, looking like a slightly oversized tomahawk and, he had spent time down on the waterfronts in Galveston and seen such edged weapons before, a falchion.

A seafarers weapon. Shorter than a cutlass, but just as effective. A glorified meat cleaver.

Face down in the bloody mud, long black hair with a headband, the body of one of the raiders did not move.

Rolling him over, the handle of a knife jutted out of his throat.

An old scar along his face identified him.

Jim pulled out a poster and read off the description.

“Who stuck the knife in this man?” Jim looked at the Coach Guard as he reloaded his shotgun who pointed at the older girl.

“That bastaird cac sicín tried to kiss my girl.” She spoke as if discussing what she was cooking for dinner. “We rode with another wagon coming from .”

“Well, I’m Jim Austin, that there is my deputy, Moody. And you are? Miss…” Jim paused.

“I am Mel O’Danu Smite, this is my daughter Enya.”

“Well, this body here, he was a killer and there were  witnesses that saw him throw the daughter of the President of Mexico off a bridge while getting away. She used his own saber against him and cut his face. I have not seen the scar before, but it looks like she cut it down to the bone before it healed. That is hideous.” Jim looked the body over. “A scar on his chest the shape of a wolf. There! Look, it’s been branded in. This is him. The President of Mexico put a bounty on his head, dead or alive, you get ten-thousand Peso’s.”

“Is that a lot? For killing him?”

“Yes, a lot. A Peso is about eight-reales.”

“How much is a Reale?” Mel’s intense dark eyes made Jim back up a step.

“Uh.” He stammered, she did not threaten him, but her sideways turn of her head and smoldering eyes made him dream. “About ten-dollars.”

“She speaks the truth, there are two sets of wagon-tracks. The Concord Coach is much lighter than the other. Eight horses, long wheelbase. Strange wagon, heavy.” Moody stood up. “Extra-wide wheel. Like a pay wagon.”

“That explains why they didn’t stop.” Jim nodded to Moody, then turned back to the girls. “What are you two doing on a stagecoach alone?”

“We are going to my husband’s house outside of Galveston.” The dark-haired one said. “He is a retired Texas Ranger.”

“Retired?” Moody looked up. “A Ranger?”

“What is his name?” Jim asked carefully.

She sized him up for a minute. Close enough that made him uncomfortable while they tied the men up and put them on the coach.

“Donal Smite, he and I married in the old country and had to leave or starve about ten seasons ago. We bought a boat and took our chances with merchant business.”

With the reinsman dead, Moody would drive while the surviving coachline employee rode shotgun. The men would walk behind the stagecoach for the three-hour trip back to where they started.

“I don’t know a Donal Smite.” Moody tightend up the straps on the hands of the dead he slung over a horse to keep them from falling off. “Jim, there is Donnie Smith, he is just outside of Galveston. Has a good spread, even a river that flows to the sea.”

“Ayuh, he keeps talking about sailing to Darien in the east. That may be who you are talking about ma’am. A redheaded Scotsman, a little darker than yours.” Jim nodded to Enya. “Big fisted, I saw him punch a horse so hard, he unseated the rider.”

“Aye, he learnt that on board of our ship.”

“Well, you have a surprise for your man, if it’s indeed him” Jim nodded. “You have a ship?”

“We had three. But there was a storm, nigh on two-months ago. Wiped out the fleet and the house is unfit to live in.” Enya said.

Mel nodded.

“Donal sent a letter, saying he had a place to start again. I told him he would put back to sea, he retired of you Rangers as the moment I arrive.” Mel said matter of factly. “I will not have my mo chéile being shot at. He knows Samuel Colt and will work there if I say anything about it.”

“Well, ma’am. You might want to know, Donnie is something special with us.” Moody said. “In the tribes around, he tells them to not trust any agents. He works hard to get them more of anything they ask.”

Enya nodded at the news of her father, clearly proud of the work he did here.

“As captain of ships, he did the same thing to get the crew well paid for the cargo they would transport. Sometimes they brought back treasures.”

“Enya, enough.” The Irish accent thickening, but the fire in her eyes even made Jim and Moody back their horses away a bit.

“We, ah, we can go now.” The shotgun said. “I can drive, but you gents can keep an eye out for road agents?”

“Make it so.” Jim ordered. “Ladies, you can ride in the coach.”

“Nae. No.” Mel said. “There is blood inside. We will ride on teh empty horses you have there and there.”

“We can’t wait for you to figure out how to ride…” Jim trailed off as Mel and Enya both climbed into saddles and rode up to them.

“Say your words.” Enya said, her eyes flashing like her mom’s.

“That would be a dare, Mister Jim.” Mel laughed, her raven hair blowing in the breeze. “Now we go see if your Donnie Smith is my spouse.”

Looking over at Moody, the two Rangers shrugged. Both of them wanting to see the look on the face of the big Scotsman when these two firebrands walked up to him.

The Pirate Kingdom Facet 9. Port Aquila

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Facet 9. Port Aquila

Captain Alexandra blinked and took a relaxing breath as the lights changed in intensity, indicating arrival after eighteen hours of travel at faster than light speeds. The deceleration into orbit was smooth and practiced by the hand of the pilot and the advanced systems. The ship Alexandra the Great was capable of pulling much greater loads than the combined mass of the Seraph and the Alexandra’s own cargo load. The orbiting port, that served as the upper end of an elevator to the surface of the planet Aquila, talented engineers tethered by way of a graphene ribbon and diamond-nanorod cable that served the elevator to the ground thirty-two thousand kilometers below.

The big ship pulled into the dock slowly while anchors and airlocks maneuvered in place. Disembarking from the cargo super carrier transporter, uniformed agents guided the crews to a clinic for entry to the planet Aquila. Lines were short with the efficiency of the clinic and the professional faces of nurses and doctors went from room to room as the teams they checked for exposure to biological agents and pressed specialized pneumatic injector guns against the visitors and then the guided the crew of Alexandra the Great out to a waiting room.

Phoenix stepped into her room and the nurse invited to her to sit before she needed to remove her clinic garment  and dispose of it in the receptacle to her right.

A Doctor with kind eyes and wide smile stepped through the transparent glass door with a nurse carrying a single-use pneumatic injector.

With a press upon some keys on a flat panel at a terminal, the glass-walls became dark and opaque as he turned to the nurse and requested several items. As the nurse took her thermal and vital signs.

Phoenix watched as a nurse approached with a clear tablet that she could read her name backwards though the transparent device. As the efficient, unsmiling and harried young man tapped her information into the flat panel.

“My name is Skyy, how do you feel? Good? Good. Your blood pressure is a little high. This is your first time traveling this far out?” For the first time he smiled, the nurses pupils were slightly odd-shaped, as if there had been an injury in the past.

“Yes, it has been a stressful trip, investigating the damage to the ship.” Phoenix smiled back, “My first time at a crime scene of this magnitude. I have never been to the leftovers of a pirate attack.”

“Well,” he tapped a few more times on the flat panel, “you need a vaccine before you can go to the surface and that includes some DNA testing time.” he tapped again. “Every crew member that boarded that ship must have micro- graphic scan to see if there are any foreign nano-biologic material picked up that could determine the origin of the previous raiders. Many crew died, there is lots of evidence left by them that the investigators have requested for us to collect.”

“Vaccination?” she flipped open her own palm sized secretary. “That is not listed, we’ve requested to travel to the surface to meet with the incoming fleet from the High Council.”

“A common thing to overlook. It is in there.” The nurse chuckled, pressing a button and the walls became transparent once again. ”The doctor will explain it all, he’ll be in directly.”

Phoenix saw the doctor walk up to the clear wall stepped through the door, joining her. His smile was in bright contrast to his clothing and the eyes were sharp and missed little, taking all the world in. A deep voice with a wry sense of humor echoed in his greeting. The nurse handed the tablet to the doctor then tapped the panel on the wall that became opaque again.

“I’m Doctor Concord, pleased to meet someone from the boomer fleet. Is there any further findings on that ship? Anything about Captain Metrano? No? Pity, oh well.” He didn’t type, the clipboard he used transcribed their conversation as text. “No allergies to medications, I see.” His glasses seemed a little large for his face, but the well-practiced smile balanced it out.

“We will have to give you a vaccine that is unique to this planet to protect you from the ubiquitous single-celled little bug that a long ago by a wreck introduced. It mutated and now causes serious gastric distress to new visitors, the vaccine is your best prevention.”

Phoenix nodded and entered the subject to look up later. She had not expected any vaccinations from their contact and their towing a ship to the port. But the council wanted to meet with her at the capital on the planet.

“There is no bending fo the rules, this is part of the normal procedures. The collective governments of Aquila Nova also absorb the costs rather than have anyone spend their entire stay and tour of the outer rim in a sick-bed.” Explained Dr. Concord The nurse re-entered the room with a tray with a pistol shaped injector.

“Now you have had no adverse reactions to any medication at all? You have read the forms on possible reactions to the vaccine…” The Doctor broke off as Phoenix shook her head.

“I have not seen any forms.”

The nurse turned to a display and tapped on it. “She came from Durre Menthor.” He shook his head. “They have stopped giving the notices a month ago, and the admin suspended using forms yesterday.”

“The governments are not seeing eye to eye— again.” The Doctor sighed. “This time they have tried to sabotage interplanetary travel. Okay, we will get you a notice, a form and I will explain it to you.”

“It’s just a vaccine, right?” Phoenix was curious what the concerns were.

“Well, this is fifth generation vaccine, the first two generations had some, rather adverse, reactions that ran about one-third of those that received them. Most were minor. It is in the archives and taught around the systems as how the human DNA could be altered with vaccines.”

Phoenix nodded. In the past, from the first blood transfusions to the first allergic reactions to injections filled history books  with first generation problems from medicine to technology.

“The first generations of the vaccine used other mammals that were not susceptible to the amoeba infection. Here is the notice, ” The Doctor smiled as the nurse came in and handed her a hard copy and code to download it to her personal system. “The reactions sometimes altered the looks of the humans. In the case of a feline based vaccination, some people took on cat-like appearances and in the extreme cases, physical agility. In the case of canine there are documented cases of wolf-like changes.”

Phoenix blinked. She recalled that, from school, the social studies that caused many to portray these altered humans as non-human. They needed to fight a war for their freedoms, to move and live between Durre Menthor and Aquila Nova.

She looked at the nurse nodded— she remembered his eyes! He had feline eyes, with almost slit pupils.

“My grandmother was a fur-covered and tailed beauty that was an accomplished dramatic actress on the planet for one example.” Nurse Skyy smiled. “My grandfather was full human, after she moved back to Terra-Dyo and my mother and father were never vaccinated. My mom had the recessive trait and my eyes I inherited from my grandmother.”

The Doctor nodded. “Some were avian based and although in clinical trials it passed, it was found that if the avian mutations developed, it was a critical medical problem and many died if they became avian altered. Some took on other features, but none have been a great problem since the third-generation of vaccines.”

Phoenix nodded and rolled up her sleeve. “Well, better to get it than go back where I came or spend time in the bathroom.”

The hiss of the injector was like a short spit from a cat while Phoenix sat on the chair. The Doctor smiled and looked at her as she felt a slight flush and asked if that happened often.

“That’s normal, although everyone reacts differently…” Dr. Concord broke off as the room shook and a loud boom resonated through the building.

“What the f…” Squawked the nurse as he took a curious cat-like pose on the shaken floor, then walked out with the Doctor into the middle of the hall.

The door closed and lights flickered as the opaque wall became clear, Phoenix could see the Doctor standing in the middle of the hall pointing his finger at a communication console. Power flickered over the central med-station and Phoenix could see other rooms were people were standing and looking around, the walls were clear everywhere. Several nurses and doctors ran to the rooms and opened doors, indicating for people to leave when the a burst of explosives in the waiting room shattered the security knocked everyone down.

Outside, the Buccaneer Cooperative ships, Thunderbolt, Lightning and Thunder Child sat in a parking orbit around the space station, at a distance, keeping the space-control officer on edge, when alerts in the shipping control center beeped to life and began to flash.

Multiple signatures of several huge warp bubbles. Large enough to carry several ships each. Sensors could pick them up several hundred AU’s away. These ships were carrying titanic energy signatures that pegged all read outs.

One Sub-commander running his fingers over his face as he viewed the displays, talking to the command officer over the microphone.

“This big of a signal, there might be over a hundred  ships, sir, we don’t have enough room for them.” Sub-commander Taul spoke quietly into his microphone of his headset.

“Incoming transmission. Fleet commander wants to speak with the Ship control commander.” The communications officer called over the intercom.

Shimmering out in away that was never seen in the five-years in the traffic control, the outer markers shook and vibrated until they blurred from the energy bow-wave of the approaching fleet.

Suddenly, warning lights indicated high-velocity missiles passing through the lanes towards the disturbance. Three explosions bloomed brightly and silently in the dark sky of the interplanetary space and alarms echoed through out the station.

Huge battleships that had been hidden behind the blue gas-giant planet Scorpi, surged out in formation, filling the space of the arriving fleet with giant explosions. Huge detonations of the hyper-fast special explosives collapsed the stretched space fabric, call a Worm Hole, that the massive energy from the ships opened. Any and all ships in that tunnel would be destroyed or seriously damaged. On the side of the battleships, the Momo Empire flag stood out in stark relief.

The Thunderbolt fired. Lightning, in motion and charged weapons with a skeleton crew. Overcoming the lack of personnel who were on Port Aquila.

The flying gun of the fleet shattered the cover of four other Momo ships that had drifted with the dark cloud of small asteroids and dust, hiding in the debris as it orbited the home star or Nova Aquila.

Originally not part of the Pirate Confederation in years of the negotiations. They were not considered under the control of the united pirate agreements.

On the surface of Aquila, Leader of the High Council Peony summoned the Momo Empire Representative to demand the reason of the attack. The representative brought an answer. Looking like a kid caught stealing cookies, clearly not in line with the tone of the notice he carried in his tablet. The ambassador presented to his host the ultimatum.

The demand was to capitulate and all pirate fleets destroyed and the council surrender to the Admiral of the Momo Fleet at Port Aquila.

War had come to Port Aquila.

©2015 Dash McCallen

Kingdom of Pirates Chapter 8. Arrival of the King

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8. Arrival of The King

Even scene investigators began to suspect that the Empire was under some new kind of control.

In the Momo Embassy where the representatives kept offices on Evabor, a planet orbiting the small star were not willing to discuss the events. Declaring that the events constituted a frame up and that the pirates were manufacturing the evidence.

“The great devil it the matters is the Pirate Confederation. Forever causing incursions and supporting unrest in our Empire. This is not of Momo Empire making. It is more probable the rogue pirate, the great criminal organization that tries to conquer the Empire of the righteous people, that are trying to throw off suspicion from the outlaw shippers.” Grelon the Ambassador, Godmother to the Crowned Prince, hissed. Drawing a breath while reading from her hand-held padd, “According to our records there is no Empire ship on this side of the border space. Any more accusations would provoke an interstellar incident for the defamation and insult of the Empire.”

The Buccaneer leaders of the planet Aquila looked at each other, rolled their eyes and shook their heads while videos of the speech played on media outlets.

A few shrugged, the evidence was proof enough, no one believed any of the kingdoms cared enough to try to manufacture evidence against the Empire that they long-held a peaceful coexistence with.

Rhetoric and demonstrations calling the evidence an insult to the Empire, Momo citizens that worked and did business called on the governments to apologize, cease reporting of the attacks.

Many conspiracy groups suspected it was a third-party trying to start a war between the two, then pick up the pieces after the Empire and the Confederacy tore each other apart.

Only the central governing body founded by the first settling wanderer that began to terraform a planet into the first Kingdom, orbiting a red dwarf star with a highly elliptical orbit with short, mild summers and long springs and autumns, the depths of winter lasting half the year. Snow falling as the planet reached its apogee of the orbit, planetwide. It was a wonderful place for a young man to come of age when the plagues went through the systems, felling farmers and city dwellers alike.

With mild weather three-fourths of the year, as time went by the planet became the center of trade and commerce, the seat of the government, informally called “Pirate Royal Court”.

In time, the Great King abdicated, his son, Boru U’Maille, became king of the Pirate Royals.

The King was coming.

The Pirate Kingdom: 7. Pirate High Council

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7. Pirate High Council

In the chambers of the Council of Outworlds. Referred by the Momo Empire as the Pirate Realms. This name, embraced as the unofficial title of the united planets. Originally a hegemony with the first colonized planets, it since evolved into the confederation of kingdoms and constitutional princedoms. Each ran as a small empire of its own. A few republics and some monarchies and all were at peace with one and another.

A tenuous peace existed with the empire. The King of the largest of the Pirate Governments, a hybrid-human that had been childhood friends with the, then, crown prince of the Momo. Initially a hereditary monarchy, the two princes developed an infection from the synthetic virus of the Csu Wars. Bio warfare of the Csu had forced the medical emergencies to use a variety of animals for making the vaccine against the virus.

In the end, the geneticists even used lobsters for their immune systems, a vaccine to which few people received the experimental antigen with unexpected results. A mortality rate of infected who received the antigen was unacceptably high. Those that lived had a unique result.

They stopped aging.

In the years that followed, two princes followed their own paths. In the outworld kingdom the King abdicated and withdrew from administrative life. Some said he had gone to a planet that was fully off the grid and would only accept a very few visitors.

In the years that followed, the free and outlying worlds organized, becoming well-known to trade back and forth with each other. Explorers discovered raw materials and scientists of these new worlds developed technology to extract the needed minerals.

The greatest discovery in the Kingdom of Nebulas, the center of the Pirate Confederacy and the seat of power. They discovered how to stabilize hydrogen into a metal and use the material for structural needs and even, rumors implied, in their ships of the line.

Huge ships that looked like cargo-haulers. But the mass of these ships kept them from being picked up as dreadnoughts of space. Heavy weapons were light in weight and did not trigger sensors immediately, a pirate’s theme from long years past. Sneaking in so close,  prey does not time to mount a defense.

Xenon based weapons and rapid charge helical-rail guns. They earned reputations as builders of the best and speediest ships around.

Once upon a time, they cooperated and helped with the Momo Empire  design a huge ship, a heavy battleship that could lay waste to a planet with a single broadside of it’s multi-barreled weapons. Carrying more small fighters, it was a capital ship of multi-capable tasks. Part fighter-carrier, part dreadnought. The huge vessel was more ship bow to stern than some countries were long, a hundred gun turrets to a side, the design ship-builders considered it the most complex ever built. Abandoned by the Pirate confederation, the empire continued to build them without the support of the pirate patch wearing scientists.

However the disagreement between the Momo and the Pirate Royals over the safety of the ship caused the pirates to pull out of the development and take much of their designs with them. The Stellar class battleship was second to none.

Expensive in the extreme to build, the Momo scientists and engineers were only able to build four of them.

Plus one in secret, exclusively for the Emperor’s family. Ten engines, able to reach speeds of most of the other cargo ships could not reach.

Over the years, the rift between the Hegemony and the Empire grew. With the threat of annexation of the systems, the loose collection of kingdoms came together and wrote articles of confederation. The communities become cooperative entities. the pirate confederation kept evolving into a society of free thinkers and more closely intertwined.

Rogers was of the Gorgon’s Kingdom.  Named by the first King after the defeated creature that he defeated some three-hundred years before.

Gorgon’s Kingdom, among ninety-two others spread over a mapped area seventy-five percent of the size of the Momo Empire. Each with a fleet with combined numbers greater than the Empire.

This was a reason that the Empire had to make the worlds their own, the freedom of the people was an anathema to the worship of the only deity allowed by the ruling theologians. Attempting to sway politics and impose their influence other worlds governments with espionage only caused those the Momo called pirates to unite more tightly for a common defense against the Empire.

Conflicts and disagreements led to the Guild Trade Wars. The United Pirates Confederation in years following showed that despite the size of the Momo Empire, the smaller and, largely unexplored region of space and independent states that were then labeled progressively from “Outworlders”, then “Outlaws”, then Pirates. The last title embraced fully by the largest and oldest kingdom of traders. Free people who lived on twenty-score planets, willing to stand up for each other.

The Great King of the royal pirates, before his abdication — his retirement — Spoke before the high council of fifty-kingdoms.

“Pirates they call us? Pirates we are. From now on, Buccaneer, Pirate, Privateers are welcome to stand with us to a common defense. To freedom everywhere. Stand up and raise a voice against the rape of our resources and raw materials. Of people everywhere who choose to live out from under the boot of the Empire’s enforced religion. For We, The Free People declare in a single voice, WE ARE PIRATES!”

The war continued for years, until the battle of R136, where the combined fleets of the confederation still found themselves outnumbered by the Empire fleet nearly by double.

Still, the tactics around the super massive star negated the superior numbers of the Momo Empire. The future king continued to pace back and forth in the approaching victory.

“To crush the empire would be to risk more than war. The Emperor and I have a friendship.” He pulled at his ear and worried.

With that, the Pirate Prince called for a meeting with the Emperor. Days of meetings resulted, with commanders and leaders, admirals and officers all in the entourage that followed the two leaders. After long hours of speeches and plans for peace, finally the leaders of fleets and warriors went behind closed doors with bottles of wine, cheeses and bread. Coming out days later.

They had slept in their seats. Called each other names, joked about past adventures, gotten drunk with each other, laughed with each other, swore at each other, yelled, slept and wept.

In the end.

Peace.

For two hundred years, the truce had held, treaties written, becoming a peace with unguarded borders. Trade even began to spring up.

But now after the destruction of so much, in so many places, was successfully averted. Sparing tens of thousands, perhaps millions of lives.

Until this report of the Empire violating the truce and treaty.

Port Aquila, the outpost closest to the border systems, sent an encoded message to the red dwarf system, the seat of the high council of pirates.

In response to the information that the fleet of the Momo Empire, outpost sensors detected in the area, the message received and understood and the High Council sent a task force to counter the threat.

The High King was coming to Port Aquila.

The Pirate Kingdom: Facet 2. Incursion

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Facet 2. Incursion Investigated

Thunderbolt, Thunder Child and the Lightning made up the three ship strike-team. To call the lightning a ship was almost an error. it was a flying weapon. More akin to a giant gun with engines.

Thunderbolt was a broad, fast, ship with twin engines, rotary cannons fore and aft. She had bays along the underside and top of the ship to launch light fighters and interceptors. In effect, a small battle-base, but still an effective warship in its own right.

Thunder Child, the third, middle-sized ship. Carrying the latest in weapons systems. It was capable of producing a huge amount of energy and the phased array energy weapons were terrifying. Swift and sly, the ship could cloak like the other three, but with more power to conceal itself, it could get much closer before opening fire in such a way that few ships could mount any resistance. It was the way of the pirate, get a drop on someone and take a ship without a shot.

And these ships were capable of many, many shots.

This was the pirate fleet and the Pirate Kingdoms were the undisputed power in this area.

Several small shuttle pods detached from the ships and made their way to the wreck, docking to the airlocks that had not been damaged, doors opened with grating sounds from damaged hardware revealing the dark clad teams who stood at the threshold.

“I am Commander Che of the Thunderbolt. My associates, Commanders Centari and Jacking. Their teams and mine are here to assist you. And you are Captain…..?”

“Captain Phoenix Alexandra of the ship Alexandra the Great.” she held out her hand.

The pirate took the hand. “Permission to come aboard, Captain?”

“Granted, but it is not my ship. The ship belongs to Captain Metrano.”

“Iridium Metrano?”

“The same.” She looked at the Commander. “You know him?”

“Aye, he has recently traded medical supplies to our ship some time ago. Our business with him was very agreeable. We enjoy trade with him often.” Che looked around the entry. Pits of projectiles and burns from directed energy discharges overlapped on the walls and bulkheads. There had been a desperate, pitched battle inside the merchantman.

The crews returned to the Alexandra and met in the briefing room. The pirates walked in and sat down together with one of them looking around from the Lightning.

“This is one big damned ship. This room is bigger than all our crews quarters, combined!” Commander Centari whispered to Jacking who nodded, when the Pirate Captains walked in.

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

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Haunted Home, Spicer Dam Spur Road

Crime Scene Photo 1-A  24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

He took another swallow from the old whiskey bottle. Jason Best Ph.D. pulled on the wrench while he struggled to remove the cap that protected the fill valve. He swore when barked his knuckles for the third time.

The cabin, originally constructed in the era of the California Gold Rush over the horizontal entrance of a prospecter’s mine. A moderately successful mine that produced moderate amounts of gold until it played. The owner stayed with the cabin as a hermit until the elderly prospector died and ownership passed, in time, to Jason.

In the construction style of the era, the first owner built the cabin’s foundation out of charred cedar logs on bedrock that survived the elements better than modern foundations. Remodeled twice, the one floor shanty grew into a split-level two and a half story mountain chalet, steam from nearby hot springs powered a small turbine for electricity and radiators for heat.

Carefully he examined the dead system, he found the valve seal had failed. It appeared to have been overtightened, the seal developed a slow leak that took a toll over the years, and reduced the power generation slowly to zero. Now he paid the price for that seal with blood from his knuckles. He gave a heavy sigh as the blood dripped onto the ancient timbers of the wood and earth, it would be nice to have a nurse type who could get the first aid kit and bandage his knuckles up.

As it is I’ll  need to climb up three flights of stairs to get to the first aid kit so I could patch up my own scrapes, but I don’t have time to bleed. I’m on a roll.  His thoughts thoughts tried to interrupt his focus.

Doctor Best studied the concepts of the hot springs and geothermal power, he taught himself enough to rebuild the system that he now struggled with while he used language that his mother used to ground him for. He updated the electrical wire, plugs and cables in the cabin, it held many pleasant surprises that included one solid-gold nugget.  It was a beautiful place that he happily named “Mountain Home”.

With a final shrill squeak of surrender, the cap turned. Then became loose enough for him to spin it off with his fingers. The threads were in good shape, however the seal was in bad shape.

He used a specialized tool that he tracked down over the internet to a company that dealt with replacement parts of the ancient system, he was able to re-plumb the house. Along with the upgraded the control panel circuitry, Jason brought the house into the modern era.

Sweat and strain as he worked, his next part of the project was to dig out under the house for to expand his electrical panel and power generation center. He took advantage of the horizontal mine, and when he moved out a pile of debris he discovered, to his pleasure, a large underground room.

An added plus, the underground space was semi-finished into a wine-cellar of sorts. With wines he had found dated from just before the prohibition era, many stored on their sides.

A few sat upright with the corks exposed, those had dried out and the seals failed. Those bottles that laid on their sides, were all intact, but so few, Jason chose to drink only one. And it was excellent!

An even better discovery, however, some soul in the past had stashed a treasure-trove of rye whiskey. “Robert’s Rye”, and each onion-shaped flask had a layer of rye-seeds on the bottom.

He felt that it was the reason for the rye whiskey was excellent, and he had many bottles with seals intact.

He sampled some of the potent nectar, but he was hungry and the whiskey gave him a pleasant buzz. He wanted dinner, however he needed to recharge the heat-exchanger first to get heat into the house otherwise a cold night was in store for him.

He tightened the hose to the valve and turned the handle, he watched the gauge on the cylinder rise as the system pressure rose and became the home’s central heat source as it transported heat from the geothermal hot-spot to the house.

The smell of baked potatoes and roast meat reached his nose. Tessa, his colleague from the university, cooked upstairs in the modernized kitchen while she warmed the upper floors as a side benefit while the central-heat units were offline. They had seen each other outside of work a few times. They always kept it on the down-low, Tessa was worried about the issue of staff fraternization. She was not yet tenured and did not want to lose her job because of her relationship with James.

But here, with the whiskey, wine, and snow so heavy on the ground no one would come by. A storm had dropped four-inches per hour for the last two hours on top of the six-feet of snow that fell before he had arrived Friday night and struggled long hours to get the big cylinder dragged through the basement door to the mouth of the mine.

The sweep needle on the pressure gauge was in the green pressure gauge. A flip of the breakers in order, green LED’s illuminated and made him smile. Electric power was now available.

He put the wrench away in his new toolbox, that Tessa bought him. He walked to the electric panel and read the displays. He pressed a switch on the wall and the lights in wall sconces blinked and flickered to life as electrical systems worked to perfection.

He wondered what might be wrong. It was too smooth. No project ever went that easy unless it was broken.

The Professor of Biochemistry laughed, with green lights on all power systems, he only needed to turn on the hot-tub on the patio at the wall switch. Tessa and he could sip ninety-year-old whiskey, sit in the bubbles of warm water and watch the snowstorm.

Maybe the weather might break and they could watch the stars dance in the heavens. Then showers 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 flipped the circuit breaker to “On”.

The whole house lit up. LED rope lights he had wired in, illuminated with the effect of electronic icicles made the snow appear blue under the lights.

Tessa was impressed, breathless with the effect of the light show.

Tessa walked around with just a light work shirt, she had broken a sweat while she lifted boxes and cleaned in the old cabin, and made it more of a home with the triple-paned windows.

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 sandals, she was an impressive person. A brilliant Doctor of Anthropology, a comptitor in the triathlon. A woman not afraid to get dirty. But then, she was a digger. She liked to dig up bones.  

He had just sat down with Tessa and she poured him more whiskey while they waited for the other couple to come down the stairs. They broke bread while they waited, his grandmother’s recipe that had baked all day with sprigs of fresh rosemary in the propane heated oven.

The conversation about the house, he apologized that she had to work when she should have relaxed and enjoyed the view.

Tessa’s smile was as bright as a sunrise. Tessa touched his cheek and kissed him deeply.

“It is my pleasure to help set up the cabin for him was her pleasure.

A rhythmic noise from upstairs, Doctor Lettie MacKay and her rebound boyfriend, Kevin Acker, from the School of Pharmacy were busy upstairs in the bedrooms. They were supposed to be upstairs to hang wallpaper, but the noise was not the sounds of paste and paper. Kevin always kept samples of ED drugs on his person and they were not yet downstairs for food.

“Can you two kids give it a break? You are not supposed to test the beds in each room! You are supposed to hang wallpaper!”

That was when the first scream, like a siren, echoed down the stairs.

Tessa and he ran upstairs into the arms of the half-naked Doctor MacKay who grabbed him and screamed in their faces that the wallpaper had come to life,

“It grew tenticles and grabbed at me! It tore my clothes when Kevin pulled me away and saved me!” She sobbed. “Oh my god, it grabbed and pulled him into the wallpaper!”

“Go down to the kitchen.” Jason said and looked into the room.

A lump on the wall looked as if some crazed paper-hanger covered an unfortunate person who stood there.

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 face behind the branches and stylized birds printed on the wallpaper.

“Kevin!” Jason called.  And the associate professor looked at him for a moment from within the paper, then his image faded, and left the wallpaper flat and perfect and left Jason no place to cut.

He tried anyway, he scraped where Kevin was under the paper, but it was just a plaster wall. Kevin was no longer among the branches and trees of the wallpaper.

Screams again, downstairs. He ran down down the stairs, Tessa was at the door, her eyes rolled around her head in abject terror.

Lettie, stuck to the wall held her hands out as the texture of the wallpaper crawled the length of her arms to her fingers while she clutched at the air in failed attempts to save herself.

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 from the wallpaper, higher than the screams of the women, sounded as the wallpaper tore while Jason slashed at it with the metal blade.

The wallpaper moved on its own, in an attempt to pull Lettie into a  giant wrinkle that grew until looked like a mouth.

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

The wallpaper left traces of paste on Lettie’s arms when he freed her and pulled her into his arms, they did not stop to consider the slime, instead they ran towards the the front door where Tessa screamed at them to hurry.

When they got close, door slammed shut and locked Tessa outside. Try a he might, with all his strength and a screwdriver to pry with, the door refused to open.

Jason realized Tessa’s danger, she had worn only the light work clothes she wore while she worked in the cabin and outside it was a cold that could kill.

Jason pointed to the basement and Tessa nodded, he and Lettie ran down the stairs, her legs lacerated from the branches of the wallpaper. In the basement, stone walls seemed less dangerous.

Jason showed Lettie 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.

Tessa’s voice called his name, she was cold.

His mind raced, if he didn’t know better, there was a malevolence that had awoke when they worked in the house.

Tessa yelled his name again, feeble sounds on the wood where she pounded on the thick planks, her plead to come in out of the cold.

In a near panic, he looked at his work table.

The table! His mind screamed. I used that old ore-cart! It is all iron and it still sits on the rails in the floor!

He released the brake and took a deep swallow from the whiskey bottle for luck and swallowed a few of the rye grains. Then pushed the half-ton cart as hard as he could.

He hit the doors hard at a near sprint and a gap opened from the impact.

Tessa’s hand came through the gap in the door and Jason grabbed Tessa and pulled.

Ice cold, she shivered as she struggled to get inside, halfway through, the doors began to close on her leg. Tessa screamed from the pain of her leg as the door crushed it.

Jason grabbed a shovel and shoved it against the door for a wedge.

He shoved and struggled against the door with his shoulder, It gave an inch, then he pushed the shovel forward with his foot and forced the door wider agian. In one instant, he had a chance and he pulled Tessa free of the heavy timber doors, she clung to him. She wept from the cold, begged him to tell her what happened.

Jason took her to sit with Lettie and began to explain. Lettie turned to look at him, her eyes haunted.

No, not haunted, not haunted at all. 

She had no eyes!

Her once beautiful face now was an eyeless horror with a mouth that formed a big “O” of a silent scream. A tendril extended down from above to Lettie’s head and sucked life from her. Her skin had become mottled and pale as the house stole the woman’s essence.

Jason grabbed a hatchet from his workbench and jumped at the thread that drew the life out of Lettie like a tentacle with a million mouths. Time slowed down, as he swung the sharp hand-ax.

And missed.

“OH God!” He screamed as white fluid leaked out of the wound in her skull instead of human blood. “Oh god, I’m so sorry!”

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, in the corner behind the work table, between two rolls of…

Two rolls of…

Wallpaper!

He turned to where Tessa sat and he could only see a ball of wallpaper where he left Tessa, he could see her outline had become less distinct under the wallpaper that had slid around her like a web.

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

Paper. Just paper, wadded up and desiccated.

He was the only one left and the doors were ajar, too small to allow escape.

He pulled on the work table and rolled it to the deepest part of the mine that he could reach.

“Last drink in this house!” He shouted and took a long, deep drink of the whiskey bottle and smashed the bottle against the house foundation. “Fuck you!”

James crouched and braced his hands on the table, he pushed as hard as he could and gained momentum

With a thirty-foot start with the thousand-pound ram to break through the doors, Jason and the cart hit the doors at a full run, the left door trembled and creaked open.

He took advantage of the gap that opened, Jason dove through the gap before the heavy timber door slammed on the table time and again, the house tried to claim another victim.

He collapsed in the snow, it was strangely quiet, illuminated by the beautiful LED icicle lights he spent so much time to hang along the edge of the roof around the patio.

A beautiful and deadly structure.

He fell face first in the snow, his hands felt like they were on fire.

Pain! He groaned in agony. Pain, so much pain! 

It has from the snow! He looked at his hands, they were pale. Very pale.  Is my skin mottled? Or am I the wallpaper?

He stood and ran through the snow slipped and fell, cut his knees and tore open his paper-hands. Logical, educated Dr. Best, crawled on his elbows and knees and left a bloody trail in the snow behind him. He covered the mile in nearly an hour when he fell and rolled out on to the asphalt of Spicer road.

The ground rumbled, he could feel it. It was the house! It chased him on cedar pillar legs, the ground trembled with the evil hunger that stalked him.

Too tired and cold to run, he lay on the lonely mountain road and screamed to whichever spirit that he was sorry as lights from the porch bore down and engulfed him.

****

Jason awoke to the glow of a cardiac monitor. He focused on the display of his heart waveform before he realized he was in a hospital and the heart that was monitored, was his.

After two weeks, the hospital discharged Jason and days where police questionedby him about the three deaths ended.

Detectives took notes, wrote down all the professor said and described with vivid detail. Police then interviewed the physicians who attended to Jason’s wounds.

Jason obtained a copy of the detective’s report, and read it three weeks later, while he sat at his breakfast table.

“Doctor Jason Best, Ph.D. was found by snowplow driver, Honey Gareth in the middle of Spicer Dam Spur Road. The two days in question, where Doctor Best spent alone in the cabin at 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the events that transpired on the weekend in question, 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 that caused visual and auditory hallucinations, per the physicians and specialists who attended to Dr. Best. This results that Dr. Best became convinced that he was with three other people who died.

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

Doctor Lettie 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 address, student record or employment record of Kevin Acker is found.

To date, no evidence of deaths at this address on 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. The heavy timber barn door to the basement is off the hinge. Damage caused by a gold-rush era ore cart on rails used to batter the door open and a hatchet discovered imbedded into a can of white paint.(See attached photos) it is to note: Where Dr. Best said he struck a woman in the head with a hatchet, the hatch found someone embedded into a can of ‘Cottage Girl’ paint.  The ax had struck the paper label of the logo of the woman on the paint can.

A horizontal gold mine, dug circa 1850’s shows evidence of modern reinforcements and extensive work in a power room. Adjacent to the power room is the previously mentioned wine cellar. (See attached photos)

Ninety-six onion shaped, clear to light-blue glass bottles of honey-colored  fluid were found with apparent rye grain in the bottom of the bottles. Original labels, dated from 1910 to 1919 of quart-size printed with “Robert’s Rye Whiskey”. In the course of the investigation, the crime-scene team discovered two bottles opened, one empty, the second appeared three-quarters full.(See attached photos)

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

No complaints will be filed.

Lt. Liewess J. Jonah, investigator.”

 © 2015 Dash McCallen all rights reserved

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 2. Quartermaster’s Report

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Children of fury hellions 3 October 2014

Chapter 2. Quartermaster’s Report

Disaster.

That was the only word for it.

No, there was another, an add-on to emphasize the level of defeat.

Unmitigated disaster.

The classification was undeniable.

A dead captain.

A burnt-to-the-waterline ship.

Dead crew, but for a handful that jumped overboard or put off on longboats.

All to a single ship that out-sailed, out-gunned, out-fought the ship-of-the-line of His Majesty’s Navy.

They were adrift for three days, rowing like madmen against the ocean current before they got to an island.

The curses of having no navigator or maps.

The navigator, captain and the talented helmsman that knew how to read the sea better than anyone were all obliterated in the lopsided battle with a crew of child-pirates.

A cannonball cares not for who fired it or where it goes. Random chance, the will of gods, demons and a roll of the infinite dice of the Lord God determine a sailor’s life in battle.

And in politics, those that administer care little for God’s Will or Random Chance.

There was a ship lost, that was the question that the minister wanted answered from the only surviving officer of the Worcester.

And “Will of God” was not an acceptable answer.

There! The summons came.

Dressed in his military best, he entered into the chambers and walked where the squire led him.

His heels made an echo on the fitted stone floor as he walked down the hall into the chambers of proprietary governor’s office.

His Highness Gurdman Stonecutter, Governor For the Virginia Colony stood in the middle of the Great Room that served as his chambers. Tall, he was over six-feet and four inches tall and towered over everyone in the court and at ten-stone, he weighed less than most men.

Informally, his peirage called him “Longstrider”, something that he did not object to. hahaha

Archebald Whyte, late of the Worchester stood respectfully off to the side as told by the Governor’s secretary, until the Governor turned and addressed him.

“Tell me a story, Quartermaster. What happened to the King’s ship I gave to Captain Willim?” The Governor said as he sat in a large chair, built just for him. The secretary poured a large cup of wine for the Governor, leaving Quartermaster Whyte standing, without refreshment.

It was going to be a long afternoon.

Cellular Justice Chapter 9. What Price Justice

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Chapter 9. What Price Justice?

“Lethal.”

Stephen Pelon’s only comment to Rachel Mendez, the senior lab tech that had been there longer than the rest of the crew. Any of them.

“This damned thing is a personal killing device. You dial the number, whoever is holding it, has a very bad day, becoming an obliterated red-stain instead of a human.”

“What makes it so dangerous?”

“If this thing had not been damaged from being dropped and then immersed in oil contaminated with metallic shavings and who knows what all, it is a broken bit of electronic artwork.”

“Artwork?”

“Oh yeah. Even the battery is unique, I have not got it figured out just yet, but it is heavy. Like a chunk of steel.” He nodded. “But I got the wiring in a mass spec and I got copper-two. Copper acetylide, conducts electricity like a champ, but once detonated, all this becomes a bomb.”

“Can you disassemble it?” Rachel asked.

“Without blowing it up? Maybe. But we better not take it out of the containment box. If that goes off, anyone in a meter circle is in danger of being shredded.” Stephen said. “I want to cut off a small bit of the case and put it in the spec-analyzer, but we need to cut it carefully, if any part of this phone-looking thing goes off, it all will poof.”

“Or bang?” Rachel laughed.

“Don’t laugh, but yes.” Stephen sipped coffee out of a steel-and-glass cup designed to look like a test tube.

“Stephen, who would build something like this?”

“Not my concern, I can tell you, this is a fricken work of destructive art?” The scientist said as he looked at the mounted phone under the thick ALON blast shield. “I am afraid to even clean it off. Without the battery, I still worry about a backup detonator. This design means to hurt, a lot. But why only one person? The person that would be holding it would be the sole victim, is someone out for revenge?”

Rachel looked at a screen on her handheld gauss meter.

“It doesn’t have any measurable current that I can pick up, there is no field.” She observed. “It looks inert.”

“Everything is inert until it kills you.” He said. 

“You’re a cynic for a surfer.”

“I’m not the surfer, that is another novel by the writing god of this world.”

“What?” Rachel looked confused.

“Never mind, just talking while I’m thinking.” He pulled at his left ear. “The destruction of the flesh and bone in the reports shows that the range seems to be about the length of an arm in the air, much shorter if it hits any solid object, up to and including drapes, leaves of plants and heavy cloth, it is an expensive way to kill someone.”

“Could it go through the transparent aluminum?” Rachel said. “if it’s designed to kill, maybe it could blow a hole through the glass.”

“This stuff? Nah. We’ve tested this to the best of our ability. As this as this is, it would stop five pounds of C4. The floor, not so much, it would blow a big ol’ hole there.”

“What about it flying across the room?”

“Well, yeah, that would go into the bad-column.” Stephen chuckled. “Well, let’s shave a bit of the case off and do a scan in the mass spec.”

“Okay.” Rachel nodded.

“We can use the cheese knife and scrape it a bit.” Rachel smiled, referring to a flat, diamond bladed tool for scraping surface samples. She was enjoying this little puzzle. 

“Good, make it so and let’s get the test done.”

Cellular Justice Chapter 8. Eeyogee the Friar

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Chapter 8. Eeyogee the Friar

Las Cruces club. The only member ever allowed to live as a non-participant, Jaime Jesus Lopes de Malaga, known as Eeyogee for the tattoo of the eye of god on the palm of his left hand.

He Became a devout Christian after the death of his best friend from a shooting that involved Eeyogee, then the future brother moved out-of-state and, becoming a Friar. In a few years, he returned and read from the bible, speaking against violence and for the path of righteousness.

Sitting down with a tearful member of the gang, Roberto “Tirador” Herrera. The conversation included confessions of thefts of mobile devices that had internet connections. Tablet, phones and ebooks.

“It was me ‘n’ Carlo and his brother. Some wench came out of the store with a bag, we snatched her up and started to show her a good time.” Tirador shook his head. The euphemism for a sexual assault was not lost on Brother Malaga. “She kicked our asses and ran. But left her toys with us, so we took them and left. There were four phones and one of those e-book computers in it. Y’know? “

The Grey Friar nodded. He had taken a vow of poverty, but he grew up interested in and always loved computers and electronics.

“The other two they took them out and turned them on, I was playing with the phone, a new droid phone, and dropped it. The damned thing broke up, battery came out and the phone never worked after that. The glass didn’t even break.”

The other two men that Tirador was talking about, died when something blew up in their hands.

Nothing was found of the bomb, Jaime spoke with the investigators, still mystified as to the cause and reasons. Officer Jefferson, the veteran of so many years on patrol, spoke to the Friar during a counseling process with family that had lost one of their own.

“There is a pattern, this is not isolated Brother Magala, there have been many deaths from something that explodes, but we cannot make out what it is.” He said in confidence. “I implore you, if you can find strange phone that’s been stolen? Please turn it in. No questions asked. And for God’s sake! Do not turn the thing on!”

Speaking later with the youthful gangster, Brother Magala felt fear in his heart for the young man that he saw so much of himself as a young man in his mind’s eye.

“Roberto,” Friar Magala used the young man’s Christian name. “Bobby, do you still have the broken phone?”

“I.” He paused. “I threw it into the oil recycling bucket at the tune-up shop downtown. The one on Church and Turner street?”

“That was only a few days ago,” He nodded with the younger gang-member. “I don’t think they would have had the recycler come by yet.”

“They only have the recycling truck go by once a week. Why do you need it?”

“Bobby, you need to go home. Do not do any stealing, there is someone who is killing brothers and fathers, they are using something that a police officer said that is strange. I will take that to the cops for you.”

“You think that is what killed Carlo and Zeus?”

“Let’s allow the police to figure that out.” The holy man stood with the young man who led him where the gang member dumped the broken phone. After several minutes of fishing around in the black muck of used motor oil, they came up with the phone.

Even coated with oil, it had an odd texture to it.

Brother Magala put it in a plastic baggy and then into a paper bag for transporting the device to the police.

“Bobby, do not steal anything from anyone. God will know, but more important, there are people out there that no knows who it is. They don’t know what is going on, but they do know the phones are involved somehow.” The Friar said softly. Then more firmly. “Go home. Go to your girlfriend and daughter. Go back to school and get a job. God will find a good path for you.”

“You forget what it’s like Eeyogee, I can’t walk away, you are the only one to ever do that.” Bobby said. “I do what I’m told, or they will kill my girl and child.”

“You won’t help them if you are in a grave, Bobby.” The older man said softly. “Blown to bits in a back alley is no place for a family man.”

“Si. Yes, brother. I will try to dedicate my life for my children. If you can keep me from being branded a coward, please, that would go a long way to help my life.”

“As God’s will, it will be done.” The Frequent Friar said.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 2 Seconds

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T-Minus 2 Seconds

Passing through the atmosphere, photons interacted with the oxygen and nitrogen, but still straight on to the stalled dark blue car of LucilleMay Sprecks who was frozen in fear.

Photons struck the paint and chrome of Lucy’s car. Instantly redirected by reflection, the photons passed through the air at ninety-thousand kilometers per second slower than in a pure vacuüm. Some colors absorbed by the paint and then reflected the remaining color of dark blue.

Engine 2315 self-dispatched, rolled down the driveway, already the crew had dropped paintbrushes and rakes, running towards the engine. The seasonal firefighters did not know the nature of the call, but the Captain was waving frantically. The Engineer already on the radio. The two men, from years of experience, knew of the impending accident was just seconds from happening and called for a dispatch of a paramedic unit.

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

The photons traveled the distance between the sudden obstruction and passed through the iris of Russell’s eye in twenty-five nanoseconds — 0.000000025 — striking 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 head.

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 a football field.

T- 1.5 Seconds. Lucy saw the collision coming, her eyes processing the closing motorcycle and her mind locked up. All she needed to do to avoid the impending collision was move her foot to the gas-pedal. 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:

Oncoming traffic in front of the stopped car — rejected as death was all but certain.

Forest with big trees, bushes and large pointy rocks: – rejected. The outcome would be equally bad.

Hit car — poor choice, but the debate was moot with the outcome defaulted while the mind of the man searched for safe exit to this disaster. He was out of time for evasive maneuvers.

T- 1.25 seconds. BRAKES! The mind screamed! Russell took a deep breath.

T- 1.20 seconds. BRAKES! The mind begged. The entire world was silent, his soul was deaf to all sounds. All the world was mute.

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 pleading voice sounded through the earbud of the motorcycles comm system.

“NOoooooo!” It was Lulu.

T- 0.5 seconds. BRAKES! The foot finally 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 riding, he closed his hand into a fist and crushed the front brake lever.

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

In an instant, Russell did calculations in his head, estimating he needed an extra twenty feet to fully perform an 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 and human flesh and bone.

The rear tire of the motorcycle began to skid, the tire locked up and melting from friction with the highway, liquid rubber now lubricating the tire which began to yaw to the right, the front tire slowing faster than the rear. Lulu, sat farthest away from the center mass of the motorcycle and adding more weight to the pendulum. Out of control with the dynamic forces Russell valiantly struggled to stop the inevitable.

Unstoppable, moving towards the immobile car, “Crossed up” as Gertrude the motorcycle yawed and slid sideways, they moved with Lulu making prayers, begging 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 sole 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. Shadows that merged as the front tire was bound down as tightly as it could be without locking up as the rear brake did. Speed was dropping rapidly, if it was on a graph, it would show the line of the deceleration as nearly vertical on a second by second chart.

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

T- 0.00 seconds. Impact! The photons that made shadows, now only made one as the front tire hit slightly ahead of the rest of the hog.

The force of the energy ripped the big bike’s grips from Russell’s hands. The husband’s body became a missile of kinetic energy launched by the impact of the vehicles.

Russell hit, bounced and flew over the top of the car, breaking the windshield with his helmeted head as he went by and landed partly on his face. The open-faced helmet affording him little protection, sliding and rolling down the asphalt. Russell came to a rest on his back. His face hurt, but he was awake.

T+ 0.50 seconds. Russell laid there, taking stock of his limbs. Pain was not overpowering 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 little old lady was leaving! He could see her tail lights getting smaller as he tried to read the license plate from his awkward position.

Then, he saw his best friend’s body.

She was alarmingly still. Still as death.

T+ 1.5 seconds.

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

She lay on the ground, partly under the motorcycle. Unmoving, silent. She lay there with her leg bent in way that was unnatural. He tried to crawl on his arms, leaving 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 the road abraded his skin away with the rough black top.

T+ 5.0 seconds. Pounding of feet and a heavy “Thump-thump” of a huge motor pulling up next to him. An enormous chopper with an even larger rider looking down at him through goggles. A tattoo of the 82nd Airborne division on his forearm oddly was in focus to Russell’s eyes.

“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.”

“Station is right there, they are coming now.” The giant biker told Russell with a slight Norwegian accent. “They’ll be here in two seconds.”

Two seconds, if only he had seen the car two seconds sooner.

FINIS

2 Seconds… T-Minus 3 Seconds

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T-Minus 3 Seconds

Twice the moon’s distance from the earth, photons closed the distance to the growing 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 atomic debris entrapped around the earth’s radiation belt, while many photons reflected off or absorbed by alpha particles, more than half passed through the region.

Alongside the highway, Lucy saw the opening in the traffic and took her foot off of the brake of her German engineered car and pressed on the throttle. Turning the wheel 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! Jamming her foot down on the brake pedal, narrowly missing a car that turned in, she had not seen the turn signal on the old pickup truck driven by an even older man. Then Lucy took her foot off the brake and began roll forward again more slowly, crossing the lanes midway and trying to figure out if she still had enough space to merge it, Looking down the lane of traffic, not enough room, she looked back and realized the headlight of a motorcycle was close.

Too close!

Station 2315 still had the garage doors open, two bays, two type-3 engines with fully stocked first aid sat, now warmed up with the daily 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 sitting in the driver’s seat. “There’s an accident going to happen!”

“Where?”

Hank’s eyes followed the captain’s pointing finger as his hand automatically moved to the control panel.

“Ohshit.” He said it as one word. His right hand mashed on the siren button, not pausing to switch the dial to any other setting.

A hundred-yards behind, “The 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 that was piloting the rubber and steel cage on wheels.

He yelled a futile warning to the rider and his passenger. But no matter how loud he could yell, it was not humanly possible for Russell to hear the big Norwegian.

A string of Norwegian profanities issued forth while Stonn helplessly watched what was to come.

Lulu spoke of what she planned for dinner, later with the children and pondered what she had in the ice-box. They would sit on the patio after Russell cooked up the chops she had to get cooked or throw out. Russell agreed that it sounded like a good plan and mentally mapped his route home.

Russell turned the throttle up on Gertrude, preparing to change lanes, just checking his mirror and glancing over his shoulder making sure the lane was clear, he noted a large group of riders was behind him. At least ten riders judging from the headlights. Looking ahead again to see the…

CAR!

2 Seconds… T-Minus 60 Seconds

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T-Minus 60 Seconds

Lucy was getting impatient, traffic lined up and unbroken for a few minutes — too many. She was getting impatient and irritable. Not for the first time she swore at the numbers of people around the lake that Joshua loved, and ultimately died in while fishing. 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 was going to take it. Coming at her from in front, she timed the arrival of no cars in the direction she wanted to go.

Space – Photons crossed the orbit of Venus, speeding on the way to Earth. Many of the photons would be absorbed by dust, debris and even reflected away by satellites before entering into the atmosphere of the only 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, running her hands over the chest she knew so well and always enjoyed her husband’s body and any chance she could touch him, she would.

Especially 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, taking his last name and giving him children that he loved most in this world.

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

Lulu had other ideas, mostly on how Russell’s jeans fit around his hips.

But what ever 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. Unwilling to admit that driving was becoming more difficult for her, she would argue with everyone and anyone over the subject that her mind was as acute as it ever was. Which was true, but her body suffered from greatly diminished reflexes.

It was times like this that she never thought about the size and speed of oncoming 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 nearly 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 blueish speck to two specks of the moon and earth.

Time: T-Minus 35 Seconds.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 1,545,264,000 Seconds

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T-Minus 1,545,264,000 Seconds

 

Lluvia “Lulu” was born to Roberto and Delores De Soto during one of the most intense storms of the season. Descended from Hernandez De Soto, she inherited an exploring soul.

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 climbing trees – much to the chagrin of mother Delores who tried to teach this girl how to behave like a girl.

But with Lulu, it was an effort in futility.

Once when teased by the boys, Roberto heard screaming and knew, Lulu was beyond angry. The father of eight put down his farming 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!

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 run for the tree they had picked fruit from.

Lulu had pushed the ladder over on its side and now carried an ax, where her brothers sat, trapped in the tree. The girl with the pretty smile, today 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 arm

“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 exacting standards of Delores De Soto, it took the four boys a year to get it right.

The brutal teasing the brothers got from their friends over the punishment, 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 building at the age of 630,720,000 seconds, his name was soon a desired label.

Time was t-minus 950,354,000 seconds.

Lulu entered college, the first of the siblings, with some challenges in her grades she did not get into the colleges she wished for. Learning to learn at the local college, she met a girl who would become one of her closest friends. CarlaAnn was an ever dreaming, plan making and rule bending exciting 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. Only once did the girls have to sit in the police station and wait for their parents to come pick them up.

Whispering to Lulu, CarlaAnn laughed quietly.

“That was awesome!”

All Lulu did was laugh, even being grounded for a month, setting the fire alarm off in the town’s hotel, forcing patrons out in various stages of undress was totally worth it.

Lulu and Carla began a business together of rodeo clothing until CarlaAnn met Jack, an older boy who CarlaAnn was in love with, who talked her into buying Lulu out and expanding the business into motorcycle racing instead of just rodeo clothing. CarlaAnn allowed Jack to run the company with CarlaAnn and Lulu being the sales representatives.

Lulu met with many of the racing teams and became successful in promoting 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 in paying Lulu her salary, but CarlaAnn would only make excuses. As weeks went by, CarlaAnn had begun to walk with her eyes looking down more often, she stopped looking people in the eyes, especially her best friend, Lulu.

On occasion, CarlaAnn would slip a roll of hundred-dollar bills into Lulu’s purse and whisper.

“Don’t tell Jack. Please.”

Occasionally, a slight discoloring 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.

At one rodeo, Lulu was sitting with a horse owner talking about equipment that the company was seeking to get into. Barrels, saddles. Many saddle-makers had lined up when the rumor (started by Lulu herself to test the waters) that CarlaAnn’s company was moving into distribution of more equipment at a reasonable price.

Lulu met Russell at one autumn car show.

She met and spoke with a race-horse owner, Harold Stepkin, invited a handsome young man and introduced him and Lulu. With sparkling ebony eyes and an exotic look to match his mind, Russell Fletcher attracted Lulu right away. In turn, when he looked at her, the sounds of the world went quiet.

Dark of eye and quick of wit. She enthralled him immediately.

Well on her way to make an impact in alternate power sources for big vehicles. She was promoting her best friend’s company that was expanding into power systems.

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

In the following months, Jack’s mismanagement took a toll on CarlaAnn, no longer did the two women travel together or were known as the party girls to know or buy items from.

Lulu was finally paid in full by CarlaAnn’s company while Jack failed to make other payments required by the government, instead spending the money on other dubious activities.

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

After parting ways with CarlaAnn, Lulu and Russell were never apart more than an afternoon in the years that followed.

The following spring, Lulu’s father, Roberto passed away hours after watching his bebé marry the boy with almond eyes and a winning smile. 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.

Settled in, children were born to the lovers and friends while they started their next generation. Russell moved the family to the high desert area south of Reno. Loving to visit, but not live in, the snows of Tahoe, he took Lulu often to ride his Harley-Davidson around the jewel the mountains.

Time was T-Minus 126,144,000 seconds.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 2,775,168,000 Seconds

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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 overturning car, the intoxicated father struck his head on the hard ground and never woke from his injuries.

Lucy and her mother moved to California on suggestion of her aunt Lewellyn 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.

Trying his hand at farming, Joshua Sprecks was a failure. Buying the land around the hills in the southern bay area, they fought and struggled for years until a builder spoke with them about selling land so a home could be built.

Pausing to think, Joshua refused the offer. Instead, he spoke with an employee who helped him and in turn they looked into building a few houses which sold quickly.

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 his life comfortable for his growing family. His plans for schools that the children would attend were set as father blazed the trail by going back to school himself, becoming an architect of some renown in the area.

Shortly after the first of Lucy’s four children were born. Lucy developed an addiction to Valium, a common problem in the early years of the drug. Most of the women in her church were very much addicted to the Valium family 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 and after finishing chores. 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. Teachings that he took to heart, always.

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

The light in Lucy’s eyes dimmed as she never quite recovered burying four of her five children. The only 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 growing around their orchards. Houses built haphazardly without the plans that Joshua tried to include with his developments, and the effect was, to him, untenable.  

It was not fair to Joshua Sprecks, who had no wish to stay in the area where his children died at the hands of a man who paid only a month’s worth of salary in fines.

And the patriarch of his surviving family could not suffer living in the shadow of the four headstones that marked the graves of his children, moved to the mountains, never to return willingly to the lands of his shattered dreams.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 1. Latent Threat

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Chapter 1. Threat

Tongs and hammers, wood and copper, iron and wood, the ship took shape in the backwater of the great bay, hidden by the local geography, the ship grew in its lethal shape.

Knife edged, a keel that reflected the inspired fin of the largest porpoise in the world’s oceans. The Blackfish grew in shape and lethal purpose. Conn O’Danu paced as he directed the Irish carpenters to follow the measurements and drawings to the bitter-end of each page. There would be no gaps, no errors. Conn used green, live oak for building the new ship, stout construction to the extreme.

This pleased Conn, this oak was a resilient wood and made for the tightest construction ever envisioned.

In the course of the construction, the men and women adults felt motivation to build a ship like never before, the motivation  came from Keegan, who reassembled the crew of children that had returned home. Their mission, the small ones had decided, return to the islands in the south and rescue their friends, mothers, fathers and all their families that remained.

The cruelty of the Empires of the world had taught them how to sail and fight.

Now they would return. The 

Copper and iron, Diarmuid the Dubh and Nial Gabham, the two talented blacksmiths of the village, who had made connections to other artisans of metals and the powers of Hephaestus, forged with imagination the plates of copper they attached to the hull of the ship, that remained hidden in the back-waters of the bay.

Ideas from the boy who brought the children home, copper scales nailed on the bottom of the ship’s hull. Copper nails held the dinner-plate sized copper ellipses in place. Brass and bronze nails driven in measured distances by carpenters and craftsmen who followed what Keegan O’Danu and Dana, who the O’Danu’s had adopted as one of their own, showed where to drive the metal spikes into the wood.

Under the shade of a tree nearby, children gathered by ones and twos as word spread.

Mothers with fear building in their hearts, tried to pull these children who gathered in the clearing. Children, those that had been lost and then returned, and who still carried a fire in them that frightened most adults.

Such anger, taught by the Empires of the sea and this New World that they colonized. For the treasures, a life was worth less than the sweat it took to pull a knife from a sheath.

Father’s pulled on children who turned and stared at the patriarchs in the eye.

Words of denial, spoken of in angered whispers.

These were children who had learned a mission. Their first mission was to come home.

A new call to arms, flames of deep anger sparkled in youthful eyes. Confidence, that only the young had, and a fury from the devil himself at those who raided their villages.

The followers of Cromwell, the devil of all the crimes against this group of children that despised the soldiers in red and the Rump Parliament who followed after Pride’s Purge. The efforts of a few had instilled such anger in a whole people.

And the growing Empire angered two groups of people so far.

The Great Scots of the Highlands and the whole of the Hibernian isle.

The Governor of the colony could not know of the return of a crew of children on a ship that was like no other.

In time, despair would settle over the hearts of Governors and Ministers alike in future days as rumors of the hell-ship, Blackfish, that sailed the waters of the West Indies came to their ears.

But we get ahead of ourselves…

Cellular Justice Chapter 7. A work of art

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Chapter 7. A work of art.

Walking down the hallway, Stephen turned into Doctor Kane’s office with a bounce

‟Carol, this study you sent us. This is amazing. I had to bring it down to you.” He held up a thumb drive. ‟Report is here but also I have video that approximates the construction techniques, but we are still missing some, rather important, details.”

‟Stephen, come in. Please have a seat.” Carol chuckled. ‟Been into the espresso this morning?”

‟Yes, but that is not what has me excited. THIS! Plug it in.” He waited impatiently while the program booted and the Open Office presentation software began to show assumed wireing diagrams. ‟This is a work of art. Insulated wires made of copper acetylide, the insulation is a plasticized TATP. Extremely low concentration and, in the explosion, not a significant addition to the explosive force.”

‟What is the use of it then?”

‟Simply as an insulator that consumes completely in the explosion.”

‟How did you find it, then?”

‟We are the best. Ve haff our vays.” Stephen said with a mock accent and continued. ‟Flexible, polymer battery, made with a consumable polymer. Itself not explosive, but it is a kicker to direct and accelerate the shockwave.”

‟In this chart,” Stephen pointed with a stylus in his hand, ‟It shows the measured velocity of the explosive used. The mainboard in the object, we suspect, is the primary part of the bomb. The screen is thinly coated with porous silicon, on detonation of the motherboard, by the way also made of silicon, deflagrates between several hundred to several thousand meters-per-second.”

He shrugged when she opened her mouth to ask why he had such a wide range.

‟We don’t have enough of this material to study it fully. All we have is a miniscule amount that we tested and then we used computer modeling for how fast this might burst.”

‟How would someone get enough to build, well, anything?” She looked at Stephen.

‟Not my department. The detective will have to figure that out.”

‟But you can’t just get the explosive just anywhere.”

‟No, but creating it is not difficult, if one has the proper equipment. It would take a lab like we have. From analysis, this design is a work of art. The motherboard’s built of the por-silicon, coated with a chemical accelerator and oxidizer, the glass face’s coated with the silicon on the inside and then coated again with a sealant we’ve not yet established. Even the wires themselves are explosive, leaving only carbon, silver and copper as residue.”

‟You sound like you admire this.”

‟Not the application, but one can admire the design. This is something that would work on a basic level calculator, basic phone and such. But it’s a bomb with a minimal target. Double-oh secret agent stuff, it’s really cool. Whoever built this, it’s for one target. You could stand next to the target and the only injury you might have is ringing ears.” Stephen said. ‟Even if they stood right in front of you, the carbon-carbon backing makes it a directed explosion with a forward range of, perhaps, two hand width outward.”

‟But how does it kill the holder then. Why not just the hand blown off?”

‟That’s the beauty of it. Between the hand and the backing, it becomes a directed explosion, the kill-range of the explosion on the glass side is about a meter. We suspect it is in a nearly zero degree dispersal pattern, as measured from the injuries. We cannot figure that part out, yet. If we can get an unexploded version, it would be months of study on just the design.”

‟Well, that is not going to happen soon. We are coming late to the party, the only clue are the torn up bodies.”

‟Oh! The injuries, the reason you are not finding normal shrapnel, because it’s sand.”

‟Sand?”

‟Silicon dioxide, the silicon oxidizes into sand, accelerated with the explosion, the grit slows down almost immediately. But in that meter, it shreds anything that is in the way.”

‟Like flesh and bone.”

‟Precisely.”

‟Thank you, Stephen. I have to send this to the Vice-Chief. She is expecting updates as soon as you can get them to me. It has not yet hit the media and she wants prior briefings for when it does.”

‟No one cares if someone kills bad-guys with a bomb?”

‟So it seems.” Carol nodded. ‟No one has put together that innocent people might be next.”

‟This could be horrid. If released into the public at large?”Stephen pondered behind his glasses. ‟A single phone call could kill thousands.”

‟We need to find who is doing this.” Carol said. ‟Find me suppliers Stephen, we need to know where it comes from and who is buying it.”

‟I’ll find out all there is to know about the materials.”

Cellular Justice Chapter 6. Research

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Chapter 6. Research

Doctor Carol Kane stared at the screen, the odd mix of readings was specific for silicon with trace of a hydrogenated carbon material that covered the silicon.

Mass spectrometry showed a potassium, but in such minute trace that it would hardly be worth mentioning. But she would make sure to bring it up in the discussion at the round table at the change of shift.

It was, oddly, familiar. A distant memory, something she had read or was in conversation about some time in the past.

Long ago, might have been when she was dating a scientist who mixed odd materials for space exploration. Everyday items that they were working with in synthetic combinations.

Silicon as a semi-conductor did not exist . Silicon as an explosive. That was…

‟Oh my god!” She said it out loud as she remembered. The nature of porous silicon, a tiny amount of potassium perchlorate. An adequate oxidizer but many compounds were capable of higher performance, so the amount was curious. It was as if someone would just touch a bristle to a bit of silicon.

But it occurred to her that not a lot would be needed. The hydrogenated carbon would coat the porous silicon that had a small amount of a oxidizer as a kicker.

The silicon would react with atmospheric oxygen and burst into silicon dioxide.

Simple sand.

No ash, the fine-grained sand itself, a product of the explosion would become the ‟bullet” of the explosive and embed into the wounds with hideous shredding effect.

With the thought in her head, she turned the scan on to another sample and started along the edges.

Readout showed the material was an ultra strong glass produced in the latter years of the 2010’s.

But on one edge…

There.

THERE! She had it. The primary component of glass, itself was the explosive. Porous silicon would combust in normal atmosphere even without any accelerant. The amphorous hydrogentated carbon coating protected the silicon from the oxygen in the surrounding air. A small electrical charge, perhaps the oxidizer itself, began the process that then consumed the silicon in nano-seconds.

Flipping through pages on her tablet computer, she looked up silicon explosives.

She entered the findings on the report with references.

Picking up the phone, she dialed an extension to another investigator who liked to make things to boom to prove — or disprove— a theory.

The phone picked up on the third ring with a series of noises in the background followed by a pop.

‟Yes?”

‟Stephen, I’m sending you a report on a series of explosive residue. I have a hypothesis of the material used.”

‟Oh! I like to make exploding things.” Steven Pelon could be heard grinning into the phone. ‟Send the hypothesis to me right away and I’ll get on it.”

‟Well, I have some further writing to do with my findings, and there is a rush on this. This is an ongoing investigation, and a body-count is associated with this.”

‟Get it to me as quick as you can, procrastination is a path that leads only to futility.”

Shaking her head, she smiled inwardly. His Confucian philosophical leanings are often on the mark and entertaining at the same time.

‟Well, I am looking into silicon-based explosives, specifically, something based on a porous silicon. I need yields and briesence.”

‟Silicon? That’s a new one.”

‟I’m sending the findings and a couple of SEM images, now.”

‟Got it. Image is loading.” A pause. ‟Is this for real? Okay, I’ll assign it top priority and I’ll lead the team. This is fascinating.”

Pressing the ‟End” button, Carol broke the connection laughing at the man on the other end. Boys liked cap-guns and firecrackers, this was one boy who got the dream job of using exotic explosives, putting a fuse to them and never get in trouble for doing so.

Cellular Justice Chapter 3. SiO2

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Chapter 3. SiO2

Doctor Pitre Kamanski, Ph.D with specialties in micro-cellular anatomy examined the mounted tissue that the forensic pathologist had performed a stained mounting on the slide.

The slow scan of the tissue showed a shredding as if it had been hit with a meat tenderizer.

This was more than just high-velocity trauma from shock waves of an explosive, the tissue looked as if the victim’s body was dragged through a beach. There were micron-sized and larger objects in between the cells, in the cells and in the blood vessels that showed signs of severe microscopic hemorrhage. The image looked familiar but strange at the same time.

Doctor Kamanski made his notes on more and more of the various sized objects, making phone calls and requesting a mass-spec on the microscopic anomaly points.

An hour later, James Wilds returned his call. A radiologist of repute, his knowledge of chemistry was encyclopedic

‟Okay, what you asked me to scan on the other samples, I have scanned twelve of those available. What you have a question about it silicon dioxide, no other contaminants on eight of the twelve samples. Four samples show a carbon-nitrogen and chloride trace in low levels.” Jim said as he read off of a display. ‟Not enough to say a significant propellant charge, but could have been a kicker for the explosion. Traces of silver and copper in the carbon in specific ratios, there is one spike on a sample, just one sample, of potassium perchlorate. Silver carbide and copper acetyide in measurements of parts per million. Nearly complete combustion. The ratios remained consistent on rescan and it suggests that these are the initiators to detonation that killed the victims.”

‟Is it in high enough concentrations to create the explosive event that shredded the flesh? And where did this silicon dioxide come from? Sand? Are you sure it was silicon dioxide only?”

‟Yes, sand, ultra fine, it showed pure on the graph. Trace other elements are detectable. I will recheck the values if you like, but we ran the samples three times each. I’ll focus on the fine grains and see what we can bring to light.”

Thanking Jim for his work, Pitre pressed the ‟end call” button and bit his lip while he looked at the paper.

Taking a deep breath, he looked at the reports again. Small to ultra-small grains of silicon dioxide.

Pitre sat back with his arms crossed as he looked at the computer screen with the results and sighed.

What were the results telling them? He understood the language of reports better than anyone in the department, second to maybe Robert Burns, but what he was seeing did not tell him any patterns that he recognized.

Sand.

Glass, perhaps that had been pulverized in the explosion?

No, even with the current super-tough glass used in most devices these days had more than trace elements of potassium and aluminum in the chemical mix and would have shown up.

There was no aluminum trace showing, potassium showed outside of the range for toughened glass and a specific combination of oxidizer of a perchorate was going to be the key.

What was he reading?

Cellular Justice Chapter 4. The Team

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Chapter 4. The Team

As a child, he had been a victim of a near drowning. The brain damage had left him with motor-deficits in his ability to walk or move his hands. He used a handle on the internet of ‟Spider” as it was one of his very favorite creatures.

This tended to limit his friends.

But one of those friends that also shared a physical challenge hooked him up with a genius with an inventive mind. They got together one day after Spider had his tablet computer stolen while heading home in his wheelchair.

He had done his homework on the computer of calculus while waiting for the bus, a two-legged vermin grabbed the computer and ran off.

There was little he could do when, surprisingly, they traced the Linux powered tablet to the new owner who said he bought it from ‟Some guy who said his wife had thrown him out and he needed money to rent a hotel room and food.”

But the strong security of the tablet had made it impossible to use and Spider retrieved it with all the data intact.

Still, the violation had sent him into a depression, until a chance meeting with Stephen, his neighbor. Stephen was a victim of Asperger Disorder. They had been neighbors and tended to ignore each other at first, finally became close, sharing the misery as two victims after Stephen had gotten mugged.

Spider noticed that the thirty-two-year-old Stephen had a need for protection as well. They formed a team to watch out for each other while going to school.

And it took some pressure to get Stephen to go back to school, calling teachers ‟Stupid”.

To Stephen, they were. Spider recognized his friend’s IQ was such that he ran rings around the chemistry and math professors after a few days.

One professor befriended them after they asked about a black eye and other obvious injuries.

The professor had been carjacked and nearly lost his car. Except for having his car wired with an electronic system in the steering wheel that shocked anyone not authorized to drive the Tesla. The car refused to drive after ten-meters and energized the steering wheel, making it impossible to hold. The ruffian left the car, but the damage to the professor remained.

The professor invited them to a meeting with others who had suffered assaults with the theft of electronic equipment. There they met dozens of other victims of snatch and run thefts, strong armed robbery of their electronics.

They were a team. After suffering the trauma a few had become hopelessly depressed, one of those depressed people had an epiphany. An inventive genius that equal to that of Stephen but with far more experience and schooling, began to build beautiful and deadly electronic devices.

They would become intentional victims of the same kind of thieves, muggers, bullies and hoodlums as anytime in the past. But they would be more helpless.

They would be a blind person listening to navigation directions from their device.

They would be wheelchair-bound listening to music with earphones and eyes closed.

They would be a curmudgeon that swore profanity at their phone and not know how it worked.

They would be inattentive students focusing their mobile homework in their hands as they walked down the street.

They would be the distracted executive that would drive down the street holding the phone on the edge of the door and wait too long at the light, waiting for traffic.

They would be victims of victimizers.

They would be texting, typing, music listening, inattentive prey for those that would knock them down and take the devices.

Only the vetted became invited into the circle of victims that sought justice where no other justice would reach.

Each one of them wore a pendant of a bronze mjolnir with a green sapphire embedded in the head.

This was the team. With the pendant they wore, the knew themselves.

They knew themselves as the Hammer of Justice.

Cellular Justice Chapter 2. Office of the Vice-Chief

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Chapter 2. Office of the Vice-Chief

‟Robert, have a seat. There is a serious problem for you to come to my office unannounced.”

Janis Pillsbury Vice-Chief of the police department was always pleased with Robert’s company. He had a knack to make people feel smarter with his way of teaching and leadership.

When they met in college, she was a member for the Olympic swim-team twenty years earlier. It had frustrated her when she got bumped from the team because of a shoulder injury earned while arm-wrestling the future doctor at a bar during finals week.

Robert sat in the leather-cushioned chair in front of her and put files on her desk.

‟These are files on two-dozen separate events in the last six weeks. Some are gang affiliate, some are not. There is no connection other than apparent death caused by an explosive device.” Robert looked grim. ‟The pattern suggests that there is a theft ring going on, but we are finding material that we cannot explain, explosive residue that we have not seen before. Blast damage that seems limited to one person, except in three cases of multiple victims, the explosions seem focused on individuals we suspect were involved with a crime, solely on the tattoos and history of the known victims.”

‟Hm. A theft ring being purged?”

‟I don’t know, data supports a street battle, except for the lack of drive-by shootings. There are explosives being used, so a case could be made for domestic terrorism other than it’s not involving the normal targets. The victims in this case have known histories of felonies, in large part. A few unknown subjects, but with tattoos that suggests affiliations.”

‟Have you a hypothesis on these events? What is the explosive used?”

‟That is the biggest issue. We cannot identify the explosives used. We have some nitrogen based, certainly, but there are other traces we cannot account for.” Robert flipped through a file and handed it to her. ‟This shows an optically clear glass that is slightly porous on a microscopic scale, we did a mass-spec on it and something on the sample detonated while being prepared.”

‟WHAT? Did’t you check for an explosive residue?”

‟We did. Standard procedure and none of our equipment detected any oxidizer or explosives. No hydrocarbons of any concern, there was a light oil, but it checked out as a light silicone oil. Not explosive. However we did find copper and silver acetelydes in minute trace amounts.”

‟A contact explosive.”

‟Well, shock and temperature sensitive, but the odd part about what we found is in the traces that were not consumed, they had insulating jackets of ethylene.”

‟Like wires?”

‟Not… Not like we would think of them, silver acetelyde is so shock sensitive that it has no serious use. Copper, is less sensitive but a hell of a detonator. The question we do not have an answer for is what was it detonating? We have a high-nitrated carbon plastic which is not an explosive in its own right, but I believe it’s a kicker, whatever the primary warhead is, the case shapes and boosts the force of the explosion.”

‟Okay, what do we know past that.”

‟This much. These are specific in the way they explode as evidenced by the destruction of body tissues. You could be standing next to the person when it detonates, you would be uninjured and the victim is beyond help of even the most advanced trauma surgical team.” Robert took a deep breath. ‟The bombs are personal and specific.”

‟Someone is targeting the victims.”

‟Yes, specific victims. It is not a suicide bomb that goes for mass killing.”

‟What about these two reports that have multiple victims.”

‟Each victim had a device in their possession. The glass windows in the room broke, but not blown out. My team has surveyed the glass to try to determine if the windows were previously cracked or if the blast did it. In any case, it was a hundred percent kill only within the confines of the room. Trace evidence is outside of our databases.”

‟What about the traces you just said with the copper and silver?”

‟Not enough to inflict the injuries we are seeing. But there is a delivery system that we are not finding, it is possible that the case that the explosive is consumed in the explosion by design.”

‟As in,  where did I hear this before, a paper-cased bomb?”

‟Close, that’s in a novel and a movie. But that is where that exists only.”

‟Oh.”

‟This is different, there is trace, we are not recognizing it yet.”

‟Well, get on it. Do you have any more information?”

‟No. But the pattern is this: Young, generally male with known felony and misdemeanor convictions, high incidence of drugs in their systems. High mortality rate, one-hundred percent, no fires, collateral damage or bystanders injured.”

‟Who is doing this?” Janis looked carefully at the files, one at a time.”I see no connections.”

‟Other than being killed in explosions that would be no louder than a car backfire, no connections between events we can find. We have no one to put a finger on, other than to say person or persons. We just don’t know where the evidence points.” Robert said evenly. ‟Yet.”

‟Okay, Robert, I will take this to the Chief and we will brief department heads. You get top priority on any information coming in on our task forces on organized crime will have a meeting. How is this afternoon look for you?”

‟I will clear my schedule. Janis, to be clear, I want to say this clearly. You have vigilantes out there and they are trying to put you out of business.”

‟We have hunters, eh?”

‟More like poachers.”

Robert stood up and smiled in a grim way that Janis knew that he was unhappy with the ambiguous evidence. Watching the door close behind him as she held the files in her hand, the word echoed in her mind.

‟Poachers.”

Shock and Awe Chapter 9. Dispatch Point of View

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*Note: Out of Sequence with Chapter 8*

9. Dispatch POV

Eight stations, adjustable level monitors or keyboards for comfort. A dispatcher could stand or sit as he or she felt. Back saving seats were available that would allow the person using the chair would be in a partial kneeling position that kept pressure points off of the back.

All in all the stations were very ergonomic with colored displays that indicated on a map where each unit was and their status. Red for committed to a call. Green for available, yellow, blue, white with red lettering all with various needs for out-of-service units. Fire and ambulance shown on other maps with a supervisor with an overview option of all units. But this made for a very busy screen. Supervisor usually had four screens available with touch screen overlays as they wished.

Normal traffic that early evening, running warrant checks on simple traffic stops (A standard procedure). Taking complaints of dogs barking. Report of a car running over a fence on a remote road between two ranchers. One of the ranchers was hauling horses and cut a corner to tight.

Overmodulated radio traffic squawked over a channel into a headset, plugged into the USB jack that served the dispatcher for communication and data.

Carol ‟The Crush” Swenson, the designated batter and home run queen for the departments baseball team stood up and motioned over to supervisor.

‟Mike, can you come here please? I can’t make ou…oooww!” She ripped her headset out of her ear and unplugged it from the console. Hitting a button and playing it in loudspeaker.

‟…shot! We have doors locked in the foyer. We need backup now! Goddammit now!”

‟Where is that?”

‟That is Adkins on the first floor.”

Mike nodded. ‟Code-33.”

‟Activate SWAT, tell them we have a shooter in the waiting room of the first floor.” He said pointing to Carol.

Plugging into his console, he hit emergency tones over the dispatch channel.

‟All units, code thirty-three is in effect. Emergency traffic only. All units code three-three. A shooting in progress at zero main street lobby.”

Carol made motions with her hands, sign language between the dispatchers. An excellent group that had worked together and had shined through several disasters over the years.

‟All units, emergency traffic. Shooting in progress at zero main street, police lobby. We have the lobby locked down, backup needed from all available units. Fire and EMS are staging at six blocks away at Center and Main.”

The other dispatchers tapped in their patrol unit’s numbers on their CAD systems and dispatched every single unit that had not already been assigned elsewhere. Only the most important calls were kept active.

Sheriff deputies. Six from the north county, four from the south. ETA given at twenty minutes for the north end and twenty-five minutes for south.

Police units from the seventy-five thousand population seaside city had ETA of two to fifteen minutes.

‟Mike, Fire and EMS is en route to the staging area.”

Concussions echoed through the ventilation system, huge booms rattled the building.

‟Crap. All extra personnel out. Gwen, get your rifle.” Mike checked his sidearm and put on the holster that lived in his drawer. In a quarter-century in dispatch, he never had the thought that the police headquarters would be a target for an attack.

The watch commander’s voice came up on the radio, she called for EMS to respond as she had officers down. Suzanne Irby’s eyes were wide as the little English woman was on the edge of panic, it was only her fourth month on the job.

Officer Gwen Davies walked in with an automatic rifle and placed it close to her desk. She took a place behind monitors that watched the hallways on the second basement level. No one would walk down the passage without her seeing them. Ex-military, she would give them her own version of hell with her rifle.

Sitting at the north end of the dispatch room. She had, at one time when the architect designed it, an unfettered view of the doors.

In the years since, walls went up with monitors mounted to code requirements, faith in the idea that no one would possibly ever penetrate to the heart of the police department had let the need for more equipment and displays allow for blind spots.

Without dispatch handling all the phones, maps, different agencies and the computer indicated alarms that came in the emergency systems, the police units would be lost. So monitors and maps, graphical displays of the communities took precedence over protection that was not needed in the dispatch area anyway.

Considered as one of the most protected areas of the department, no access by the public, no chance for the security could be compromised.

No chance at all.

Shock and Awe Chapter 8. Dispatch

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Chapter 8. Dispatch

Stepping out of the air-return shaft, he pressed a button in his pocket.

Little more than a car door remote.

Above, in the ventilation duct, an electronic board received his signal, inflating the folded square of cloth that tightly fit inside the plenum, blocking all fresh air from being delivered to the lower floors, becoming an effective cork.

The intruder gently rolled two smoke canisters to each end of the hallway and pressed the button on a spray can, deploying a vapor that smelled like melting plastic.

A dispatcher that was questioning the radio traffic, was turning to her supervisor to say there was something wrong when she saw smoke and smelled wires burning.

“FIRE!”

As one, the dispatchers all stood up and made for the smoke-filled hallway.

Suddenly blocked by a man in a mask and leather jacket.

“No fire, just attention-getter. Please, everyone lay down.”

In the far end where officer Davies sat, she brought out an AR-15 that out on the first alarm of an attack.

The intruder rolled multiple stinger grenades into the dispatch center that detonated rapidly, causing Davies to duck and take stock that she was still alive.

Too late to stop the intruder who had plugged into a USB port with his equipment and pressed a button, data surged through the now-allowed hardware that rebooted the entire dispatch system.

The officer, deciding the grenades did not injure her permanently, took position and tried to take a sighting on the intruder through the smoke. But there were too many obstacles, the air was too murky to shoot at a shape with people sitting up when the monitors went dark.

Someone yelled “RUN!” and twenty people scrambled for the stairwell.

Officer Gwen Davies grabbed the phone and tried to call the watch commander’s cell phone.

“Hello.”

“Lieutenant! He is down here in dispatch!”

“Shit! On our way.” The masculine voice broke the connection. Gwen looked at the phone for a moment, she thought Leslie Murrie was on duty.

Her radio on her hip buzzed on a person-to-person frequency. “…Davies.”

“Go ahead for Davies.”

“It’s Russ, I’m coming your way to back you up, this place is on fire,”

“No, we have the intruder here, he’s smoke-bombed us.” She said quietly. “He is here in dispatch.”

“Enroute. I have contact with the watch commander, I’ll tell her.”

“Who is on tonight?”

“Leslie Murrie. Why?”

“There was a male voice that answered the watch commanders phone.”

“Could have been one of the other guys. Shit is going bad up there. We have officers down.”

“Okay, get here as soon as possible, I’m pinned down and he has explosives.” She looked again. “I can’t see because of the smoke, and he is  moving so I can’t get a clear shot.”

“Copy, I’m at the end of the hall. He has to come past me or you to leave the floor. I can’t see shit with all this smoke, why is this floor not venting?”

Pops of gunfire sounded.

“He’s shooting! Small caliber!”

Gwen dove through the door, flashes of his weapon illuminated the smoke. She aimed about leg high and laid grazing fire down the hallway.

A scream from the smoke.

BOO-YA! She bagged a bad guy! This gave Gwen a savage pleasure.

“I’M HIT!” 

Shit! She knew that voice, she was just listening to it on her phone.

It was Russ!

Gwen got to her feet and moved from side to side of the hallway. The heavy smoke was acrid in her nose, it was military spec smoke. She knew the smell intimately from her time in the service and the smoke grenades are easy to get from the internet. She passed by the data center and tried the door.

Locked. It was always locked. The window was intact and it was clear inside.

As she stepped away, a movement caught her eye as she passed the window. She stepped back and looked again. Staring and tried the door once more.

Locked, positively locked. She looked up and down the door, nothing wrong with the door, no tamper marks, but, on the floor, something odd.

A bit of cardboard with bar codes on it. She left it alone, dropping a folded notepaper over it in the shape of a tent.

Walking a step farther, paper tatters all over the place.

Firecrackers.

The asshole faked shooting, now she shot Russ.

Russ was on the ground, blood had sprayed on the wall directly behind him. The bullet had grazed his calf, giving him a groove in his muscle the size of her index finger to fit in.

“You will be fine, it is just a flesh wound.”

“Oh yeah, they say that, but they never said that it hurts like a bitch!” Russ said, rocking back and forth, holding his leg up. “Damned thing throbs!”

“Did he come this way?”

“What?” The question distracted him from his pain for a moment. “No. I saw a shadow in the smoke, then he started shooting, but no one came this way.”

“He had to go back into dispatch and he is in there somehow.”

The elevator door opened and eight SWAT officers stepped out, seeing the bleeding brother on the floor, the leader motioned to one of the heavily armed officers who stooped next to him and applied a pressure dressing. It was a SWAT medic.

“You got him?” The masked swat officer asked Gwen.

“Yeah.” And she pulled Russ to his feet and headed to the open elevator.

She smiled grimly, bad guy screwed the pooch now.

SWAT was the best of their best.

Gwen would pay good money to see this bastard get taken down by the team.

Shock and Awe Chapter 5. Elevator

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Chapter 5. Elevator

Attaching the cap to an anchor— in this case the double-barreled flintlock laid across the vent— by a hook hidden in the fur lining of his cap, Radio Check dropped down for the briefest of moments and pressed the call button on the elevator for down. Then, using the winch he lifted back up to his hiding hole, noting as he did so that there was an air return vent about ten-paces back. An air return might connect to the elevator shaft, this was a good development.

Elevator dinged and the doors opened to an empty lift. He positioned himself when he heard another boom echo down the air-vents. It was a different texture, a stun grenade from the police. They had tossed one into the men’s room. They were close to finding they were breaching an empty room.

Odd. He had not heard the stinger grenades go off. They still would stay clear the room after that event until the swat swept the room for more booby-traps. If they so much as nudged the chair that the stinger was under, the little concealed ramp would fall and roll it into the middle of the room where it would burst with a thousand little low density polymer balls.

Much like a super-powered airsoft toy weapon, this would hurt, just not kill.

Slipping down, he put his backpack into the lift and pressed the “B-2” button, not waiting for the door to close, he opened the service hatch in the ceiling and climbed up, using a parachute cord to pull his equipment up on top of the elevator car.

The elevator stopped as commanded at the second basement level where the dispatch center was. It was much cooler down at that level, much of the cooled air directed into the data center by the vents kept the temperature in the acceptable range and he found the exhaust vent easily. Spring releases on each corner and the vent that serviced the entire floor was open. Easily large enough to let him sit upright with his tools.

Service inspection panels every ten meters were large enough for a man to step through and he opened the first one and stepped out on the catwalk that ran between the fresh air and the air return. Opening the fresh air access panel to the plenum inside, he pulled a folded object out of his backpack, peeled off a plastic outer layer and stuck it in the filtered, cool air stream and replaced the hatch. Stepping into the return-air duct, he closed the service hatch. And crawled along the large metal tube, looking into offices, now mostly empty except for dispatch. Computer screens all over the place, people standing or sitting at consoles that raised or adjusted to their preference of sitting or standing.

CAD systems tracked patrol cars all around the city, including the Sheriff’s units. Combined command and control let him see every unit. Looking at the legends of colors, blue, green, yellow and red told him where each patrol car, swat vehicle, command vehicle and administrator was.

They were all at or on their way to one spot.

A rumble echoed through the system made him smile, he knew that sound well.

The stinger grenades had gone off.

Placing a magnet-backed blinking green led on the inside of the plenum, he now had a marker on where dispatch was without looking for it again.

Radio Check smiled, the operation was successful to this point as he accomplished the difficult part  in misdirection. The officers attacking an empty room, now two floors above.

Shock and Awe Chapter 4 Swat Point of View

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Chapter 4. Swat Point of View

 

Blinded and deafened. Eight officers and a watch commander staggered out the door, calling for immediate backup and EMS over her radio.

“We have a multi-casualty event, I am declaring an MCI. We have ten officers needing assistance in the foyer of the police headquarters. We have a suspect in a shooting barricaded inside. We are withdrawing outside the front door.”

Looking around, she picked up the ram, bumping the chair it leaned against as she did so.

Something rolled out and a lever popped off.

OhFUCK! Grenade!”

The grenade burst, but it was different this time.

This time it was a stinger

Pellets flew everywhere, a few striking two objects stuck into the acoustic tile in the ceiling.

Two more stinger grenades with spikes thrown up to the panels, stuck-fast and remained armed with hair-wires that waited for something to touch them.

Like a pellet.

Two more explosions of the polymer-bead laden grenades overlapped each other.

The air became thick with three-thousand randomly directed high-velocity pellets, leaving welts on the officers and clerks convinced, with screams of pain, that shrapnel was shredding them.

Sergeant Leslie Murrie’s left side of her face was on fire as if someone had slapped her, hard. Holding a hand to her face, it throbbed and felt like the skin was falling off.

Backup! We need backup! We have bombs in the foyer and people down!” She tried to use a controlled, calm voice but it came out as a shriek as she staggered out the doors with the other entry team members, choking and stumbling.

She was the last one to leave the seating area, leaving after even the worst hurt of the clerks and officers that had stumbled or tripped during the fourteen explosions and something that just plain hurt.

“Backup en route.” It was dispatch, speaking as calmly as if giving a weather report.”Mutual-aid Sheriff, swat and all patrol units en route to your location. Stand-by for ETA.”

“Disregard ETA update, just get them here.”

“Acknowledged.”

This annoyed Leslie that they were so calm, but then, they were three floors underground and isolated from this bad-guy that made a wreck of the foyer and her team.  But, she was wrong about dispatch being isolated.

Extremely wrong.

Shock And Awe: a Short Story

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Shock And Awe

Chapter 1. Radio Check

Night came early this time of year and was as any night in the busy city by the harbor. Located in the hills above the Pacific Coast of the American western states, it was a crossroads from the coast to those that traveled to play in the mountains or returned to go back to school or the mundane misery of work.

All but one person.

He walked down the street, a curious looking fellow. Dressed in an over-sized leather jacket, rawhide pants and a calico print shirt. On his back, an archaic backpack of recent construction. Every tied knot perfect, each pocket stuffed full. On the left side he had tied frying pans and the right was a canteen that was as equally ancient looking.

He wore a cap made of some fur-bearing animal with a tail that hung down the back of his head. Dense black fur kept his head covered and from it hung a leather eye-covering mask with tiny holes. A defense against snow-blindness when it was necessary. Tonight was cold, but no snow had fallen yet in the year, it was still early in the season. Not even the holiday shoppers had even begun their purchases in earnest.

Still, he was a man out of time. Maybe not a serious turn of the eye for most folks at night— it was not out of the question for the odd wanderer to travel through by way of train that ran through the community of seventy-five thousand souls.

In his hands, however, he carried a long weapon. As ancient as the style of clothing he wore, as if he dressed for Halloween early, or a mountain man convention. The flintlock was, by outward appearances, perfect in every way to the cursory inspection.

This old style weapon, however, was different. Double-barreled, twin flint locks and double-set triggers with a select lever. He could choose between either one or both barrels. In the days of history past, this would be a heavy artillery item in combat.

Today, it was little different, there would be no open combat, there was another mission at hand. The mountain man stood in the shadows of a parking structure, standing across from the police headquarters.

Police main station, a tribute to late 1960’s construction, with regular remodeling over the years that extended its useful life. Every permit, every plan drawn up part of public record if one knew where to look.

The mountain man had looked, along with his team, at all the blueprints, permits and plans. Every single one.

“Radio service, radio check.” He spoke quietly, his long, scraggly beard hiding the microphone at his throat. The earphone hidden by his cap.

“Five by five.”

It was only to let them know he was ready. In the sky, he watched a dark shape float by, listening hard, he could just hear a faint whirring sound, then a parachute-slowed payload dropped quietly on the roof of the police structure.

“Parcel delivered.” The earphone whispered in his ear.

The assault had begun.

 

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 15. A Brush With Breitheamh (Brehon) Law

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15. A Brush with Breitheamh (Brehon) Law

Tinktinktink..Tinktink. Bronwyn’s small hammer made musical notes on the tiny anvil that her husband and best friend made for her out of the finest bronze. She worked her gold carefully into the decoration that she had carefully chiseled into the back of an unfinished bronze mirror. Kane would polish the mirror after she finished inlaying the gold.

TINKTINKTINK…

She was looking forward to when Kane would return. He was trading for more gold and some gems he had heard were available in raw form at the harbor. He had been gone seven days now and the fine work she had left to do in the little shop would bring them enough trade to keep the tuathe they lived in comfortable enough for a year.

In the last two years after joining the family, they had become accepted with laughter and hugs. Such was their ways of dealing with the humans. At first, Kane kept his distance, but the love of the people and kindness towards wandering strangers impressed the ex-demon.

Kane developed a habit of staying up late with the men and women, telling tall tales of adventure and heroic acts. Little did they know that the stories told were only slightly modified to fit into their world. The concept of flying machines holding entire families and horseless powered chariots were quite beyond the concept of the average person, so stories told of land and sea based adventures where dragons lived and giants grew. Stories that made people laugh, cringe in fear, cry and laugh again as they fell in love with the characters that were in the stories.

Kane for all his disdain for humanity in the beginning, enjoyed the attention he got with his skills of telling of things that were and things to come.

With the skills in artistry and the stories told, they rose in the hierarchy of the tuath and became well-known as skilled artisans and hospitable hosts.

It was late in the afternoon in the outbuilding while Bronwyn tinkered on her designs when two strangers walked out of the oaken forest.

She smelled them before they walked around the wall of the shop. Looking up, she saw they were just standing there, taking in the displayed shiny things that she had made, they were not of the area, indeed looked like men of the northeast. Cruthin or Ulaid perhaps.

We are hungry.” Said the larger of the two men. They had not bathed in some time – they reeked.

“Do you have food? Our hunts have been without success. We have not seen a deer since we left our fine. Give us food and the comfort of your company, when we have our fill, we will go on our way.”

I will feed you and give you water and wine, but the company I hold is mine to choose.”

You WILL!” Shouted the smaller man as he grabbed her by the hair and yanked on the copper-hair.

She grabbed at the hand and pinned it to her head then, twisting around, pinned the man’s arm and smashed his face, with a bang, to the finely carved table, causing dust to fly up off the flat surface and the legs to bounce on the floor. An old move, but so very effective when used against those that were overconfident. Bronwyn did not even wonder about the attack, she just responded with ages old skill.

A back kick to the knee of the other, larger hunter who shrieked in pain and dropped to the floor. Gasped twice for air, then growled with anger while his friend begged for mercy while Bronwyn bent the arm backwards to the breaking point. 

The larger hunter pulled a dagger made from an antler spike,  leaping on to Bronwyn’s back, sticking the sharpened spike into her shoulder.  Bronwyn screamed in agony and let go of the smaller hunter who pulled away and rejoined his and his partner’s attack

Then… Rage.

She felt it. In her heart, it burned like a bonfire. Men who would come and would take that which was not theirs, who felt that her body was theirs to do as they pleased, caught off guard by the burning fury of a soul rescued from ashes.

It was an intense rage like she had not felt in a long time and never on this plane of existence. She wanted these takers, thieves and those who would pillage because they felt that they could.

Then.

The sound of a gong echoed in the small shop as Kane use the head of the large man as a bell clapper against a copper pan he had picked up and swung like a club.

The smaller man was a little more difficult, attacking Kane with his fists, trying to beat the human-demon into the ground. Each punch aimed and thrown to hurt was only batted away with the red-metal pan.

The sound of a bell gonged through the shop again.

The smaller hunter’s knees buckled and he fell forward face-down on the floor of the shop.

Looking at Bronwyn, Kane shrugged holding up the heavy copper skillet.

Frying pans. Who would have thought?”

Brought before the Breitheamh, which was less than a day’s ride from the community of the clan. The men stated they were Cruithni and what they had done. In their tribe, lone women were always available to men who were traveling or hunting. Never had they seen a woman who would fight back or refuse a request of favors.

A Breitheamh, (pronounced Brehon), a skilled judge of the law, agreed upon by the Tuathe Ri. Found that the penalty of the attack was the income of four deer, however how long it took them to hunt, dress and cure the deer meat.

Bronwyn’s wounds healed far faster than the time it took the men to satisfy the words of the Breitheamh, which were also upheld by the Queen of the Tuath.

Messengers ran to the other houses of law of the clans and took messages of findings on the attack by the hunters and their punishment of working off their fines to the community.

No prisons, the theory being that everyone works for the community. In other societies where the rise of the warrior class gave birth to taking life or spending one’s life in jail, the punished worked for the good of the community.

This pleased Kane.

He began to study the laws of the land. This ancient place in history seemed to have a better view of life. All life was precious, all freedoms honored.

He began to speak to the Society of Draoi, the Druids of Hibernia for admission to school of Breitheamh law.

Kane, late of being Hell’s demon of chaos, was becoming a representative for order.

Later that month after he had chosen this path, then thought of the irony of it, he laughed at himself for the first time in many ages. 

If ever there was good humor in a situation, this was it. The Demon of Anarchy and Chaos, studying to act as the champion and warrior of law. 

Kane laughed again.