Smart Bomb Chapter 13. Confession of the Soul

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Chapter 13. Confession of the Soul

“Okay, say that again. You are not going to deliver a message, but a bomb? Where?” Alvin had to sit down. The meaning of it all sank in to his mind.

“In my abdomen, nearest the power conversion units. It gets first choice of electricity generated by what I consume.” The android, who Alvin knew as Steve.

Days before Steve told Alvin about this bomb, Alvin had said that someone should blow up congress. Now he wished he could take those words back.

“That’s well and good, but you can’t just walk in to the building, they would catch that large of a weapon. It would be large, right?.”

“No, it is only about the size of your small fingernail.” Steve said it as if he was talking about a cat walking across the parking lot.

“That’s not much, how much damage can it cause?”

“I am my mission program is to go to the nuclear reactor near the capital building. The smallest known power reactor on the planet. It is inside an industrial area.” The android said. “Little is known about it, but it they discovered it in an electronic break in. Only one reference was found.”

“There is no reactor near congress.” Alvin disagreed.

“Near the Jefferson viaduct the government built a century ago.” Steve tried to convince Alvin.

“Uh, excuse me, but should I start running?” Alvin was backing around the table away from Steve.

“No.” Steve shook his head vigorously. “When I first arrived. Yes. But I have grown beyond the programming. This whole mission is wrong. I know that now. There is no reason for me to inflict death upon the leaders of this country or the people who live there.”

Sleeper the car sent more images to Steve. The very flag he knew that flew above the laboratory that created him, the soldiers wore on their sleeves in the images. The android reacted with revulsion.

“Regardless of what pictures Sleeper sends me and tries to get me to stop.” Steve got out of the driver’s seat. “I must go there, but I do not want to take the warhead to that place. I do not want to die. I do not want to kill. I want to take the bomb back to the point of origin and have them remove it.”

Steve paused. Looking very human-like.

“I want them to set me free.”

“Are you smoking something? You would be cut apart and they would fix the program, send someone new.” Alvin’s strangled voice sounded near hysteria. “We need to call someone. CIA, FBI, NSA, KGB… Even the United Patriots! Someone with skills to handle this! Oh my god… Oh. My. God!”

Steve sat and watched the human pace.

“I would be used as a weapon, no matter what. They would attempt to reprogram me and I would be obligated to detonate the device.”

“Were is it again?” Alvin’s brain tingled with fear and panic. This being could sit so calmly and talk about blowing up a nuke in downtown DC also blew his mind.

“In my abdomen, just below what would be the xiphoid process.”

“Can you take it out?” Alvin rubbed his face with his hands, peeking through the gaps in his fingers.

“It is possible, but you would need to do it, I cannot see inside, you need to pull the power plugs in proper order to keep the magnetic field in place.”

“So I have to do it, great.” Alvin pulled at his ear, calming down some. He was given a problem to focus on. “So, what is the yield of this eyelash sized explosive?”

“Estimated median yield is about eighty…” Steve stopped for a moment, paused with an error. “Wrong. Have to recalculate.”

“Eighty? Pounds?” Alvin jumped on that terror. In a control room of a nuclear facility, that would be all bad. “That’s enough high explosive to do some serious damage.”

“No, eight-thousand six hundred pounds.” Steve corrected. “I paused to weigh the amount to the correct the answer. My operating code has been overwritten twelve times. Patches are numbering in hundreds of thousands, so it requires me to thoroughly check my information.”

“That… Oh jeeze. That is a big boom.”

“It is not as big as the one that would follow.” Steve’s eyes followed Alvin as the man started to pace some more.

“What explosion?”

“James Madison Nuclear power station. It is the smallest of its kind . It produces power for the congress members and president should an attack happen and the power grid becomes disabled. The energy conversion of the explosion would cause a power surge on the order of one-hundred seventy to one-hundred eighty gigajoules through the wires and communications cables that the power company buried underground.” Steve let it sink in for a moment. “Then the failure of the coolant systems would cause a meltdown and poison the lands and atmosphere. It would be America’s Chernobyl for the next hundred generations of humans. This would sterilize the seat of the American government for two-hundred centuries.”

Alvin sat down for the uncounted time. He was a man who was too stressed to stay still for long. Standing to pace, sitting, standing. He was a man at the breaking point.

“Alvin, do not call anyone to take me in to custody. I have not altered the self-preservation code. The creator had it encrypted and hard-wired. I will detonate the bomb.” Steve said with a sad voice. “I don’t want to die, but I have no choice but to just power down. The moment I reboot. The magnetic bottle loses power and the warhead detonates.”

“What if.” He paced around the room. “What if, we built another being like you.”

“We cannot build one like me, you do not have the facilities.” Steve observed. “You have electronics, but not up to my caliber.”

“True, I don’t.” Alvin stressed with a slow smile. “But, someone of another group I know nearby who can. They have already built a miniature army that they play games with.”

Steve tilted his head for a moment, a habit that Alvin picked up on.

This android, when he struggles with an idea tilts his head to the left, slightly. Alvin watched Steve. He does it every time there is something that requires thought. No yes or no, but an answer that required thought on a level that is almost human.

“Synthetic skin such as mine can grow in a simple mixture of water and carbohydrates, double in mass every three hours.” Steve’s voice was as if he read from a list. “Power conversion units are available from different sources for farms to generate electricity. Mine is a kitchen model modified for extended use.”

“Maybe we can do something.” Alvin stood up again. “Let’s go see a friend. I’m going to set up a laser for a moment. They are at the end of the airbase. In the middle of the biggest patch of nothing out there. No way to approach without being seen.”

“The aircraft control tower?”

“That’s part of it. You have good eyes.” Alvin smiled. “Good programming. But that is where we are going. The rest is underground.”

“We will take the antimatter bottle out of me then?” Steve began to wonder, running odds against outcomes. “I have not considered disassemble. The danger is too high for the material to touch anything. It has a complete conversion to energy.”

“Wait. What? No, never mind.” Alvin held up his hands. “I already have a headache. And yes, they are patriots to the extreme. If they got a chance to send a bomb back to sender, that would tickle their souls” Alvin smiled.

“They are really good people, just a little extreme for my tastes.”

Setting up the laser output, he shined it out the window, towards the window of the abandoned control tower for fifteen-seconds, then turned it off. Repeated the process only shining it for ten-seconds and then paused.

A dazzling green light illuminated the spot behind the window for ten-seconds then went out.

“We are good to go.” Alvin clapped his hands together and rubbed them.

The two climbed inside Sleeper as it sat there with the patience of machines. When he pushed the throttle to the firewall, the acceleration was far more than Alvin thought possible.

“Your car is showing off.” The android observed. “Fully charged batteries, and Sleeper does not concern itself about storing energy at the moment.”

“How fast can it go?” Alvin laughed as they got out at their destination.

“This ten-thousand foot landing strip would allow Sleeper to reach the top speed of…” Steve turned around and looked at the car with a good imitation of human surprise. “This data is in error. But, this little car insists, above three-hundred miles-per-hour.”

“Bull!” Alvin gasped. “That can’t be true.”

“Agreed, but we will need to get new tires, according to the car. These tires are not able to handle that speed.”

Alvin shook his head and laughed, then opened the door and ushered Steve through the entrance.

Steve Aldin was about to meet the a whole new group of people who had never been anticipated or in any database that he had accessed.

People that might have an answer to his question.

“How do I be free?”

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Smart Bomb Chapter 9. Awakenings

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Chapter 9. Awakenings

The timer counted down to zero and started the booting with a Power On Start Test “POST” sequence.

From the first days of computers, the term “Boot” was used, a shortened term for Bootstrapping a computer, the term first applied by an unknown human long ago, in another age. A time of hope that computers would be tools of peace.

Even in modern times, it was still the ubiquitous term, both in coding and spoken words.

And the effect is still the same. Once the timer went to zero, small programs started the core processors, which in turn called the main program sequences, and Steve Aldin woke up.

A scan around the immediate area and the systems became aware that his belongings were laying next to him in the backpack where he left them hours before during his low power state. The clothes and the backpack were gifts from Reverend Carl Bonsell from the time he spent learning about the charity of the barbarians.

Who, in fact were the first of many lessons that the programmed database had serious fundamental errors.

The second caused the core processors to reason that there was more to learn of the society the intelligent walking machine, with a bomb in its chest, traveled in.

The programmed goal the creators of his mission had discovered a, until a year ago, secret power plant near the capital of the western warmonger government.

But…

There were no warmongers to be found in any of the places that the android had visited. Not even intolerant for the most part. Even the military seemed self-policing. Living up to a higher standard of responsibility, they were not the monsters that the programmer listed in the databases across broad sections of memory modules.

While he lay there not moving, he calculated the distance traveled as his GPS systems seemed to have an error.  He was not at the planned stop where he was supposed to leave the cargo area.

Then there was was but a sound. And now as a male, not so slight of build as to appear vulnerable or so large and muscular so he would be perceived as a threat, he sat up.

“Well! You’re alive!” The sound of surprise, accompanied by a crash of a titanium cup. Dark brown eyes of the human looked closely at the body that he was positive was an expired male on board of the cargo carrier.

“You had no pulse and felt cool, you were as cool as the ambient temperature inside this box.” He walked around the bench, clearly an engineering bench with cables and plugs scattered about opened computers. Some boxes looked like they never had a closed case, others were haphazardly patched together with retasked fans blowing to keep them cool.

A makeshift coolant system made of an old Kettleman thermoelectric cooler chilled some blue fluid that flowed through clear tubes into the boxes and out to the crafted chiller. Copper blocks led into the multiple plates that chilled the liquid rapidly.

Steve did a.A quick survey in long wave infrared and saw that there was a fifty-degree drop from the fluid intake to discharge.

Impressive.

“I’m Alvin Denver, no relation to John.” He said as he walked around. “Coffee? Donut?”

His systems were low powered, and he required access to organic fuel to convert it to usable power.

“Yes, please.” He chose a mid-western to California accent that would be difficult to place. “I’m Steve, Steve Aldin.”

“You aren’t from around here, Hollywood.” Alvin said pointing at himself, smiling. “I went to Stanford, got picked up by a trucking firm for my grades, I never finished the classes. So for what they pay me, and anything I can get my hands on, the company leaves me alone and I only have to keep the trucks running.”

“How did I get here.” Steve asked.

“You were brought by one of the AutoSwen offloaders. The truck was one-hundred kilos overweight, and the weight increased the electric demand curve when it the truck tried to climb over some hills. The effect of the increased weight measurably reduced the charge range, so the truck alerted that there was a sudden drop in range and diverted over to my shop, where the machines found you and brought you to me” He shrugged. “I have contacted Transportation Agency because I thought you were a dead body. I thought you were dead. Now I have to call them back and tell them I was mistaken.”

He clapped his hand to his forehead.

“I have to make a manikin enough for the Transportation Department drones to be turned.” Alvin asked. “My first stowaway, even if you looked dead. How did you avoid being picked up by the weight sensors?”

Steve explained about hacking into the system with bluetooth.

“Ah! Should encrypt that. The only thing else was, how did you do it? There were no electronics, you are traveling light.” Alvin knew more than he let on.

“I am an android.” Steve answered, the human did not flinch or move to call for help. “I altered the weight to show less by as much as I weighed. So the reports were accurate.”

“But you failed to take into account the increase in power consumption by the added mass.” Alvin nodded. “Would have worked, too, in the prairie states, You have hills here. The power monitors noticed the change in inertia.”

He was correct. Steve the android did not consider the added mass, even if he compensated for with weight, still would include inertia.

“I don’t care, myself. Alvin pulled at his ear. “There are some smart folks all around here, whoever who built you, did a good job. I don’t know where you are going or what. But you are making free choices, that is impressive AI.”

“I need to get to Chattanooga,” Steve said. “Someone stole my car, and that was the easiest way to go.”

“Wait, you have a car?” Alvin said. “What are you? An escaped government assassin drone? I’ve seen androids of all kinds, you are the best one I have seen.  Nine out of ten have wheels, tracks, are quadruped or insectoid, only one or two I have seen with two legs. And none with hair or eyes like yours.”

“No.” The central processor chose a touch of humor was proper at this point. “I don’t do drone. I am on a mission to deliver a message to congress.”

“You should blow them up. An android like you could walk in and kill them all in short order.” Alvin growled. “That way we could start over.”

“You do not support your government?” Steve asked.

“You kiddin’? Those robbers? If the government didn’t divert school funding, the tuition wouldn’t go up so high. I would be back at school and get my doctorate in design and construction of the boxes.” Alvin chuckled sadly and motioned with an open hand in a kingly way. “This is my world. This old bucket of bolts is my bus, I can get you to Chattanooga, but it is a slow, creaky ride and I must drive this crate, there is no autopilot.”

Alvin laughed sadly as he certified the truck as “Good to Go”, reset the program to show correct weights for the government checkpoints that it passed.

Steve, momentarily considered extinguishing the life of this human, alternately felt it a better choice to travel with Alvin instead. Steve could learn much from the talkative, friendly 

Odd, it was. The fourth processor’s fuzzy circuit questioned the choices and the facet of the trip.

Original programming called for death to any American that might have been a threat to the mission.

But the fuzzy logic circuits chose another way, killing the way into the United States would bring undue attention and compromise the mission.

But, Steve struggled with the decision, it was not for the mission that Steve the Android chose the option to stay with the friendly with the human named Alvin who accepted the knowledge that the stranger was not human.

And something else, Alvin called him AI.  The connected android was aware of the word, but not as it applied to him.

Unable to quantify the reasons to let the electrical, coding and troubleshooting engineer live, the android chose, instead, to open a new file,

The newly defined AI android named it something that was arbitrary but seemed appropriate.

He labeled a folder as “Friends” and put Alvin’s file in it. Another adjustment to the database.  Not all American’s attack or are a threat to everything. Not all of them agree with each other.  Some don’t even support the government.

This caused a significant conflict in the known data of how all Americans were.  It seemed that no one understood the American people. More data was needed. Killing without data was. 

Steve’s conflict resolution processor had a kernel panic and had to be reset. 

Laughing as they ate, Steve watched Alvin closely, the human ate poorly. He ate processed foods with high fats and high sodium. Even if he was within normal limits of body mass at this time of his life, this would not stay so as he got older. A passive survey indicated that there was a mild narrowing of the left external carotid artery. 

Alvin talked nonstop and went on about his parents coming from a war zone of a country, they could get their feet wet in the Med, but dared not ask for help from anyone.

Same religion, different factions, each kill the other and everyone wanted to blow up the west, blaming the wealthy countries for the misfortunes that they inflicted on each other and themselves.

But, Alvin’s parents were of different brand of the religion. They fled after the murder of his grandparents after being converted at gunpoint to the latest group that took over the town.

Alvin was born two-years after that and raised in the western states. His parents converting to a peace oriented religion that taught closeness to the earth and a simple lifestyle.

“I could never be such a monk.” Alvin shrugged. “My parents love me enough to let me find my path, they have said the door to their home is always open.”

They talked far into the night, the android, programmed to adapt and learn, listened to Alvin tell jokes and stories on funny people, and found humor.

Core processors patched the code to evolve and adapt to the society as initial programming demanded to keep him moving towards the target. He could not fail in his goal, it was the one thing outside of the adapting program.  He had to go to where the nuclear power plant was and cut power to the antimatter magnetic pod in his chest. 

That was the complete program.  He could not stop his need to travel to Washington. The only change he could do is learn to understand these complex, surprising people he was learning about.

The other program performed also performed a single function only.  The two were the inviolable of any other programs and could not be shut off. The only two programs that said basically:

“Go here” and

“Cut power.”

The intent, to keep the mission from being compromised and remaining incognito, but instead it allowed the android to evolve.

And Steve the Android did something completely new.

He told a joke.

“Pull my finger!”

For the first time, he laughed.

And meant it.

Smart Bomb Chapter 8. Makin’ Macon

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Chapter 8. Makin’ Macon

The ancient pickup made the trip on its last legs to the town of Byron. The android guided the car to the truck stop, the shape was of a creaky old man who appeared like he qualified as the original owner of the battered, disposable truck.

He pulled up to the power terminal, the indicator on the charger plug indicated it would be fifteen minutes to fully charge the long-bed transporter.

Leaving the security fob sitting on the driver’s seat the forgetful-looking old man walked away into the crowded Truck-service-stop where the engineers of different companies serviced the self-driving commercial trucks as they motored up and down the highways.

Turning to look, the backpack wearing old man could not see the partly charged pickup truck. The charger was put back in its cradle and the lane was empty.  The truck was gone.

Someone had inserted a pay-chip to release the charging connector and drove away in the silent, easily forgotten truck.

According to plan. The average looking gray-haired man walked through the service center and out the other door. Across the parking lot, out of sight of security video devices. By the time the programmed shape shifter put the backpack down, the twenty-something woman put on the jacket and approached an old commercial truck.

It was charging the massive battery banks, such a wheeled transport was long distance and never stopped except to charge the motivating units.

And it was easy to hack to those who had the know-how.

And the android didn’t need to have a physical connection, a simple physical contact, a reset button under the dashboard in this Volvo eighteen-wheel truck. The bluetooth system controlled, wheel pressures, brakes weight and slippage rebooted and the Sword of the One True Church was in control. A simple hacking, Steve the Android added his weight in the registered freight mass to cover his presence then climbed into the cargo area.

Ikea cargo. Blankets, pillows.

The android nodded. It based the selection on odds and the odds were in the favor of something proper.

Once inside, having access to the controllers on the truck, it was comfortable and safe.

The android was in stealth until the truck made the next stop for re-energizing.

Changing to a male of medium size and short brown hair. A shape the core processors selected that was nonthreatening, but not to appear vulnerable.

The male closed his eyes, the core remained unstressed. They had adapted to the cold by learning how to use the heat system.

However, the old truck had no auto-navigation or piloting software, clearly an ancient car in the American society, unmodified it had used an oil-burning engine with cylinders.

Modified by some talented shade tree mechanic, the all-electric pickup became part of the underground economy somewhere after being stolen when the android dumped it.

Riding on the big commercial truck, Steve checked the worldnet map, the big-rig truck would pass through the city of Macon and towards Atlanta. One scheduled stop for energy, then the truck would find the final destination in Chattanooga, Tennessee at an Ikea store there.

There would be time to exit the big transporter before any of the automated offloaders opened the doors and began to rumble around, and caused any awkward questions by their human handlers.

His courage would not be challenged on this trip. He had little to report, other than his travel to the goal was greatly eased by the theft of a ride.

The male appearing android powered down, appearing as an inert body in the neatly arranged cushions and blankets.

Estimating a four-hour drive, he set his power-up cycle for that time.

The core systems ran an algorithm and determined the location was  safe, he powered down and allowed his memory banks to enjoy the random dance of electronic dreams.

The Failed Getaway

Hypnos the cat gives a command
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The Failed Getaway

A short story by Dash McCallen

Bodies had piled up around his farm. Malam Plando’s farm was a garden of horrors anywhere the police dug into the ground.

In the end, charged with sixty-two separate counts of murder, it was common thought he had a list longer than the investigators discovered.

His trial lasted over a year.

The Verdict?

Guilty.

Sentence?

Death.

In the six-months after his conviction and his move to Death Row, his turn came. Few people who the courts convicted in recent decades, executions happened quickly. Three appeals, expedited to last no more than two months.

He, it was his name and he was about to scream it out loud in laughter.

Inmate number 1854X-195S5-1-31E walked with confidence to the execution chamber. In a glass-walled room with blinds obscuring the view to the chamber beyond, the guards assigned to his restraint, wordlessly strapped him to a padded, vertical board.

With some effort they rotated him and the board so that he was in a supine position.

*Taking the last bit of dignity I have*

He shook his head.

*Idiots. They don’t even know what is coming.*

Two days before, his wife paid a visit to him for one last “Conjugal” visit.

His brother passed on to him in a video stored in her phone.

“Courage brother! When they think they come for you, we have an answer.”

He laughed.

*The left strap is already loose, it won’t be hard get the arm out.*

A chill from the sterile swab then the sharp sting when the technician stuck the IV catheter in the antecubetal space of his left arm.

Dark humor. They were thinking he was going to die, why did they use a sterile technique?

“Do you have any last words?” A disembodied voice sounded and the blinds opened, revealing a crowd sitting in the gallery.

“Yeah. I’m a little thirsty. When you get the call, I want my water with light ice.”

The sound clicked off and for a moment, the room was quiet except for the sound of his cardiac monitor. An old style display that gave off a mosquito-like whine that he could hear.

He could see a different color fluid creep down towards his arm.

They already began the execution and the clock…

It ticked past the time, they were late! His rescue was not coming!

Then the lights went out, only the setting sun slanted through the high windows in the chamber.

Malam opened his eyes, they did not focus properly for a moment, but there was no noise.

The tubing in his arm pinched slightly when he scratched his nose.

Then Malam blinked.

His arm was free! Someone had released the strap when the techs and guards fled during the blackout.

*Cowards.*

*But I have not heard any alarms. Some of the drug ran into my arm put me to sleep for a little while.*

Malam grinned.

*People thought I died when the power went out.*

Laughing, the thought of his walking out of the room when no one was looking tickled his soul.

He already had plans for the judges and their families as he stalked the hallway down to where the body-hauler would park.

Darkness in the hallways, only the sunlight from the outside filtered in, it was odd, not even the guards were around, prisoners were gone, too.

*There must have been a hell of a scare to evacuate the other inmates.*

And the gates were open, no doors locked.

As promised, Malam walked free, laughing at the power outage orchestrated by his family and caused the sheep to run frightened.

Even the prisoners bolted, maybe even taken by bus, but no matter.

*Screw them all! I’m free, next stop, where Judge Alkar Chronqui’s family was. I’ll break into the home and put his head.*

Malam looked around and frowned, someone might see him cut across the field towards town, but the power was out and the sun set. Darkness was coming and dark thoughts on his first in town grew in his mind.

Malam smiled, it would be full dark before he got through the open area and to the city park to his cache where he hid his kit of tape, knives, drugs, rope and energy bars.

*The drugs would have expired, I can’t use them on my clients, it might kill them.*

More laughter as he covered the ground towards town when he kicked something in the tall grass and tripped.

A body!

eviscerated, still steaming when he stood up. The coppery smell of blood came from his prison issue shirt.

He was covered in blood.

“Gawd Dayuam! Dey’s comin’ outta de groun’s Ostus! Der’s anudder one! Git ‘im!”

He sqautted down, fishing around the body, looking for a weapon of any kind.

The sound of a baseball bat sounded in his ears. A sound of a grunt, a wheeze of a death rattle, he realized that whoever it was had not seen him.

He crawled through the grass carefully, towards the voices.

His heart was standing still, his breath was wheezing in his ears as he got closer to the voices.

If he could get a jump on them, what a wonderful twist of irony, he could kill someone killing someone.

He could see the top if their heads. They carried bats with nails driven into the fat end.

“No’ so easy ta make a soun’ wit yer throat stuck full’a holes, ain’tit a bish!”

The sounds of thumping and the bloody fluids made a mist. Malam could smell the blood in the air and it excited him.

Malam struck, leaping up and grabbing the first one, called Ostus.

His hands were stronger than he thought when he broke Ostus’ neck, taking the bat, he broke the head of the other wannabe killer.

But the look Ostus and his partner had when he came up, bloodied and muddy, they acted as if they saw the dead rising from the graves.

Malam laughed, carrying the bat with him, he walked off towards the town. He saw another man stand up, also wearing standard-issue.

“Thanks, they were doing everyone from the prison.” The darkness hid the convicts eyes, but they glittered with a mixture of anger and fear. “I want to kill the judge for putting me in there. Then find each and every one of the jurors. I’ve not seen anyone for years, they don’t come to visit.”

“Let’s go. What were you in for?”

“They said I was a cannibal. I was not, they were chewed on by rats.” The pair moved towards the town. “I’m N’oi.”

“Malam. What kind of name is N’oi?”

“What kind of name is Malam?”

“It means Evil. It is what my mother called me.” Malam shrugged and the pair moved off into the dark.

A cop car, the officers were looking at something when the pair stepped out from behind the trees.

Malam gasped at the cops when they turned towards the pair’s approach.

Blood stained their faces and soaked the dark uniforms in a slick that glistened in the dark with coagulated blood.

One officer chewed on an object that looked like a forearm, the other had a foot.

Frozen in their steps,  and the officers saw them and dropped the nightmare snacks and walked towards Malam and N’oi.

Looking at his fellow escapee, the huge convict stood there, drooling, his skin ashen and made no other human sound.

Then N’oi looked at him with eyes that were all wrong, then reached out to Malam with hunger and a snarl.

Malam crushed N’oi’s head with the bat in a single swing and took off in a run. Leaving the cop-things to ponder over the body he left behind, Malam fled to the park.

He sat at the base of a tree he had marked long ago and dug with his hands.

*Those cops… I’ve never seen anyone do that before. That was crazy! Holy crap. Cannibals? Shit! Shit! Shit!*

And he could outrun them with the power of fear.

*That’s another thing that’s bat-shit crazy, cops can run and they do not give up. And… Where the hell is everyone?*

Roads were empty, not a single car to wave down. The town would be quiet at the late hour, but this was a total absense of driven vehicles.

Grimacing at the cold shirt that stuck against his body with clotted blood and made him shiver.

*I need a fresh change of clothes.*

Bodies in the park were milling around, a part of the late summer evening with no power anywhere. He could kill one and take the shirt.

*No, first get the hell out of sight and raid the laundromat. No chance of blood on clothes.*

He slipped through the door, among the quiet machines in the dark of the community laundry.

Looking in through the clear windows into the machines, many held suds and water. A few were dry.

One opened when he pulled on the handle and he found two polo shirts and a hoodie sweatshirt.

As he dressed, he disposed of the bloody mess of a prison uniform shirt and found a pair of jeans that fit.

*A little tight, but they will loosen up some.*

He turned around, a person sat in the corner with their back to him.

He slipped out and looked at her in the light of the rising moon that filtered through the glass. He thought he recognized the heavy-set girl by tattoos of roses on her neck.

It was a memory, like a faded photograph from long ago. She had died pleading that she was pregnant while Malam tied a plastic bag over her head.

*No. Impossible, she is long dead. Part of my collection.*

Malam ran through the shadows of the street, heading to the middle of town. Shuffling people began to follow him. Some chewed on finger-food.

*They’re eating real fingers! The insane asylum must have had a break out!*

He almost screamed when he heard another scream nearby. A man’s voice pleading to anyone for help.

He ran around the corner away from the sound, looking over his shoulder and made sure no one followed him.

And into the middle of it.

*Damned echos!*

Bloodied, shredded. The burly man used the broken picket of a fence as a make-shift weapon.

*Damned good use of a stick!* Malam nodded.

The street fighter turned to throw a walking winged nightmare onto the steel pickets of an iron gate when he spotted Malam.

“Shot! gun! Get the Damned shotgun!” He pointed with the stick at the dropped weapon, surrounded by shells of ammunition.

A scream and he fell over a curb when he backed up from the force of the mob attack by the black bat-winged things.

Malam scooped up the scattergun and cleared the chamber, stuffed two shells into the receiver and turned the weapon to the mass of bodies where screams of battle filled the black sky.

“That all you got! Take this! AAAH! Bite me! Bite this!”

The shotgun bucked in Malam’s hands scattering bat-wings and black flesh while he racked in another round.

Second shot freed the big fighting man.

The tatters of his shirt were a uniform.

*Cop!?* Malam shook his head. *I saved a cop.*

The officer tried to take another step and looked down and screamed again, this time with the sound of a man who knew the unthinkable.

The left leg was denuded of flesh below the knee, two bones stuck out were the creatures chewed off his leg. The look of a man resigned, he was bleeding to death.

“Run!” He yelled at Malam. “Too late for me, get out of here.”

*Don’t tell me twice!* Malam ran with his pockets full of shotgun shells and the big pump-action weapon out in front of him.

His last view was some creature that looked like a cat out of someone’s nightmare on the cops head and chewed while the one-legged man fought like a whirlwind of fists.

Then one fist.

The last Malam saw as he turned the corner was a pile of wings where the cop had been.

*Now where the hell to go?*

The police department would be a good place to go, someplace safe!

*Yeah, right.*

Malam walked around the corner towards the center of town and watched a woman fall under the attack of a pack of skeletonized dogs.

*Okay. Police station, good choice. No one will check on me while this shit goes on!*

He turned and ran to the one place he swore he would never go back to.

He ran headlong into the glass doors— Locked!

*Locked? When the hell does a police station lock doors?*

A noise behind him! A group of creatures followed his movements on the steps.

In front of the group, he he recognized the lesbian couple, his first hunt!

*No. Not possible.* He shook his head. *Damn, stop thinking and run! I have to run! What is happening with the world?*

A car, an ancient Ford with the door open sat on the side of the street, he could mess with that and get it started.

Savage panic set in, Malam ran.

He could see more creatures, a cat with eight-legs coming out of the shadows looked at him and screamed his name!

No, not out of the shadows, out of the ground! It lifted up a manhole cover and crawled out of the sewers.

Panting and sweating like a horse. He stopped in the middle of a park, but not a park, it was the rural cemetery.

*How the hell did I get here?* He needed to get back to the center of town, steal a cop car if he needed! He counted the shells to the shotgun. *Twenty. Twenty shells plus six in the magazine and one in the pipe. Not enough. Son of a bitch.*

A cold hand grabbed him from a bush, feeling for a pulse? He was on no one’s menu!

He forgot his shotgun, the mind of the murderer had only one thought.

*Run!*

He pulled his hand free- or did it let go?

It did not matter, he ran! Out of the ground they came towards him. He recognized them. People he cut up, ran over, burned.

He needed to find tools! Break into a shed or a hardware store if need be.

They were coming, sibilant sounds of horrors that crawled in the bushes, wheezes of these creatures that stumbled, shuffled, walked towards him.

*Fuck! I gotta to run!*

From behind, naked cats with eight-arms that ended in black hands and needle-sharp claws, screamed like the tortured victims of his shop, leapt and swung from trees and crawled like giant spiders over headstones.

Into the darkness Malam Plando ran, chased by familiar faces of walking dead, creatures from nightmares he never had.

His mind broke while he ran with the screams that echoed long and loud in the long-dark night.

****

The execution chamber of the prison, unused for so long, no one could remember how seating was arranged. The sun slanting in blinded some, overheated the room and it was stuffy and awkward.

The witnesses watched the last breath of Malam Plando.

“I hope he is in Hell and suffers a thousand deaths for each one he committed.” The father of a princess who he gave away to another princess at the two women’s wedding.

Turning and walking out. Yor Bas’chet got his wish in ways he never knew.

Doctor Drake checked for a lack of pulse to match the flatline on the screen nodded then paused.

“I would swear he pulled against my hand.” The doctor leaned over and looked into the dead prisoner’s eyes. “He was a coward in the end, look at the fear on his face, the jaw set and lips pulled back as if he was about to scream, eyes wide open. I’d say he was afraid to die.”

“Good for him.” The guard said. “Coroner is here. Let them take him out now.”

“Good, have him sent to Doctor Sherlock Quincy, I want him autopsied. Someone like this needs to be studied, we will slice his brain up and study it.”

“You’re the doc, Doc.” The Lieutenant nodded and made a notation on the notepad.

In the core of the world, Malam became aware someone spoke of cutting him apart.

*Fuck that! I gotta hide.*

Malam Plando continued to run.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Chapter 7. Heartbreak and Happiness. Plus one Idiot

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Chapter 7. Heartbreak and Happiness. Plus One Idiot.

Fae flipped the holographic files ever faster, in a concerted search for her father when she nearly flipped past his name.

“Thea. My dad was hurt in a fire, he helped put it out and saved over eight-hundred lives that were in hibernation.” Fae laughed, her memories of the patriarch of her family as a selfless and focused man. “He suffered burns on his back and arms. The doctors dressed the burns and rushed him to the pods. It says here that he has signs of burns to the inside of his mouth and throat, so he is in a special numbering profile and will wake up only when the medical staff activates it.”

Thea shook her head.

“Burns to the lungs are serious, but we have the repairs for that. Nanos can fix cell walls and the micros can repair the larger damaged structures”

The mini-bot walked through the holographic display. Looking at the other files that Fae set aside.

“Fae, this one you called boyfriend is older, by far, than you are. This one, Thomas Metive, is in his forties.” She looked at Fay.

“No, I saw him.”

“You saw someone who looked like him. We need to keep searching.”

A flashing light on Rudy the Dragonfly-bot got Thea’s attention.

“We have another problem, the power supply in here is overheating. Core System just sent a message that the display needs a full power-down.”

“What? Why?”

“There is an electrical fault, the circuit board is ten-degrees higher than normal. These circuits have not been active for a long time. We will need to have service bots in here to find and fix the fault.”

“How do we do that? I am a systems engineer’s assistant, I understand electrical but this is more of an IT problem, this is a different kind of electronic world.”

“Well, I said it would take nanos and micros for medical, we can do that to the circuits.”

“How long could that take?”

“Not long, a few months.”

Fae sagged. Months!

“Could we speed that up somehow before we have other things overheat?”

“We would have to wake someone up that would know the systems.”

“That would be in the second-tier reanimation.” The mini-bot said. “Those would be the specialists for design and maintenance of the systems.”

“Second-tier?”

“After the engineering and medical teams, computer specialists come next. The systems the specialists maintain keep the three legs of reanimation in balance. That is why the schedule for government leaders to reanimate last in the first cycle.”

“Who is first of the computer nerd-pops to put in the toaster?”

“I am making a request to the Core System for an override and giving your argument.” Thea paused for a moment over the top of Rudy the Dragonfly-bot, looking at a tiny display.

“You have fifteen-degrees or five-minutes, which ever one is shorter.”

“Okay. Let’s quick do a search, who is the most accessible one.”

“That will be easy.” Thea said tapping her own, nearly microscopic display. “Check second-tier reanimation schedule. Section 2. Zone HU-N3Y Pod number SL-1027DM.”

“No name, but he’s listed as a service tech with years of seniority.”

“Set up that pod for reanimation. Let’s go see if he can help us last longer than fifteen minutes at a time.”

It was the longest two days Fae had ever lived. Pacing, she had confirmed the pod she found was not the one Peter the Boyfriend was in.

In the med-bay recovery, she looked at the doctors that fussed over the reanimation of this tech that they felt was out-of-order. Medical personnel needed to be first out to care for any malfunctions that may have happened.

And many malfunctions had occurred.

Fae flinched as she read the preliminary reports that came to her and Amsi, they began to work longer hours to check and recheck pods.

One surgeon in stasis lost the vitrification preservative and the argument whether to try to reanimate the body went long into the night.

Percentage numbers of the thousands of preserved humans began to climb.

Predicted failure rate of pods did not match the measured failures. Nearly a third had lost the non-crystalized fluids, leaving desiccated bodies with only liquid helium around and inside every cell and blood vessel.

One domesticated farm animal the humans preserved suffered the same fate. When the medical staff attempted to reanimate the sheep, it crumbled into dust before body fluids could be replaced.

All arguments stopped on efforts to awaken the failed pods, helium maintained with those victims until a process to prevent the bodies from collapsing when the helium boiled away.

In bed 211-S, the computer-tech made angry growling noises with a touch of Gaelic accent.

“Coffee! Just get me some and do not lecture me about waking up from hibernation and nutrition.”

Then…

“What do you mean you don’t think there is any? It is in the tenth-guarantee of the planet’s federal declaration! Coffee must be present at all times!”

Minutes pass and voice of the tech remained frustrated.

Fae looked at the tech as he stood, broad-shouldered, pale with a galaxy of freckles over his chest.

Looking down, he swore.

“What is this? I don’t have freckles.” Looking at his image on a display. “This is what I am going to look like?”

Doctor Ofir Bhabel shook her head.

“No, not after you produce your own red-blood cells. Your color will return and your freckles will fade.”

“Well, alright then. I am not reverting to my childhood and have my big brother hold me down to play dot-to-dot on me again.”

“Excuse me?” Doctor Ofir asked.

“Old childhood issues. Until we find out what you are, I am not telling you anything more.”

“I explained to you already. I am your doctor and a bot.”

“Yeah, yeah. You are a visual hallucination. Until I see you in full size, I am not talking to anyone. I am probably only making noises to the outside world.”

Doctor Ofir flitted in front of the techs face.

“You are human, I am bot, I am also your doctor and I have overseen three-hundred animations. The other humans are busy assisting in the warming process.”

“Doctor?” Fae asked. “May I help?”

“Miss Fae. Please.” The Doctor motioned her in.

“I scheduled him for early reanimation. He is needed to help with failed circuitry.”

“That explains a lot, his personality is not compatible with sentient artificial intelligence.”

“Who is not compatible?” The green-eyes sparkled with offense. “I can get along with anyone. This is just not right, my perceptions are off is all.”

*This is funny* She laughed inwardly. *He’s convinced he’s in a hallucination*

“Sir,” Fae smiled. “I assure you that this is all real.”

“Who are you?”

“I am Fae MacLir, Assistant to the Chief Engineer of operations. I was the first one to wake up. Doctor Ofir is a good friend and she is only as tall as your hand from middle finger to the heel of your hand.”

“No kidding.”

“This calls for some coffee.”

“We told you, there is no such thing right at the moment, they are all in hibernation, the rest grow wild in places around the world.”

“This world sucks, I may want to go back in to the pod.”

Fae laughed again.

“You spend a lot of time laughing at a man just woke up without coffee or Uisce Beatha in my hand.”

“What’s that?”

“Whiskey.”

“Okay, what is your name?”

“You don’t know who I am?”

“Should I?” Fae asked.

“We have only your pod number, so if you wish to be known as Ten-twentyseven,” Doctor Ofir  walked up to him with an injector of an amber fluid. “You will tell us what you like for a name.”

“What’s that?”

“This will help buffer your system. Your pH is too low.”

“What is it?”

“They are nanobots.”

“Um. If I don’t take them, would I be in danger?”

The doctor made a sound that reminded Fae of a sigh.

“It will take you longer to recover fully.”

“Fair enough. I have a horrid headache from no coffee, anything to get rid of that will be appreciated.”

“I have an analgesic for that.”

“Does it come in a glass?”

“No, but I can give it to you as a pill. No injection.”

“Sold.” He nodded. “Is it possible to get some exercise, walk around. I have a hobby of archery.”

“Ar..What?”

“And my name is Archer Fletch Bowman.” He looked at the women. “Do not blame me, it’s the idiot that gave birth to me and typed in the blanks”

Doctor Ofir shook her head, not getting the humor, but Fae laughed.

The Archer Fletch Bowman, with a hobby of archery blamed the idiot at the keyboard for his name.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Gen 3. Chap. 5. Steel Gardens

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Gen 3. Chapter 5. Steel Gardens

*This is incredible* Amsi looked around and shook his head.

“This is…” The view, challenged the map in his hand. Where the military put weapons into storage. Aircraft, tanks, missiles, cannons up to and included the “God Gun” self-propelled guns with the bore large enough to hold a fighter jet.

Projectiles stacked according to the map.

All transformed. Nanobots, stripped down the machines of war, atom by atom and constructed such things of beauty that his eyes took in colors of the entire spectrum.

Flowers, trees, all made of impervious armor, reconstituted and retasked.

“These old designs copied the cellular structure,” Thea flitted around. “The differences that the plants and flowers do not procreate, but they filter the air, toxins flow through the leaves and flowers, pure air comes out the other side,  the molecular thin leaves catalyze toxins  and restructure them to inert or completely different biodegradable molecules. Another is the inactivation of virions by destruction of the capsids that hold the virus together, then the DNA and RNA is disassembled into simple amino acids.”

“What kinds of virus and toxin things are we talking about?” Fae asked.

“Plague virus is no longer detected, last viral body with that DNA was last registered thousands of years ago. Cyanide compounds were, for example, reconstituted into nitrogen, carbon and oxygen.”

“Where are the weapons, the explosives and such?”

Thea laughed, the sound reminded Amsi of wind chimes.

“You are walking on most of it. We enhanced the soil with iron and potassium. Nitrogen from explosives we fixed in the soil for plant use as natural fertilizers”

“Amazing. We go to sleep in a war-world and we wake up in paradise?”

“There are still things to process. In years when the Core Systems developed minibots, there was a catastrophe failure in a casing, it leaked radioactive material all over the place. Nanos and micros worked for years and disassembled heavy atoms into stable isotopes. Over a billion, billion, billion were destroyed by the radiation, but we kept working. It is in our programs.”

“Are any of the plants organic or is it all metal based life?”

“Organic plant life makes up an overwhelming major part of the groundcover. Metal-based life, including silicon and printed at the Core Systems, is less than five-percent of the total forms. Organic life has one thing metalloid based does not.” She flitted around. Looking for an example of what she was trying to show them, then pointed. “That!”

A flower had gone to seed, a tall dandelion based plant with a snowball puff shape to the end of the stem. Small seeds floated on the air.

“Metal life does not adapt or spread on its own. We’re limited, humans, organics, you are all fascinating. And Fae said you have something called children?”

“Something?” It was Amsi’s turn to laugh. “Yes, children are the result of humans being together for very long.”

Looking along the buildings, Amsi shook his head.

*Straight and right-angles, every structure. A very digital look and design.* He looked around. *Busy things these bots are.*

Fae shook her head.

“This area is beautiful. When I walked along here before we went into hibernation, it was lined with metal recycle yards for destroyed weapons, they worked all hours.”

“That was a horrid time.” He shook his head.

“What happened? That was the time before bots.” Thea asked as she led the way along a beautiful park-like setting.

“There was once a group that worshipped death. They wanted death for everyone that did not follow their Core Systems.”

“Their Core System?” Thea shook her head.

“It was their god. It led them to create the virus to kill everyone with five digits.”

“But the virus to kill all with four digits was also in the air. That’s documented.”

“Yes. Following the commands of machines, built by humans and programmed by the same, the humans gave power to the machines.”

“Then you would not take us as being friendly.” Thea observed.

“Some might have problems, but I don’t.”

“And, by extension. We might have bots that would view humans as a threat.”

“That stands to reason, if you are independent. You make up your own minds?”

“For the most part. We choose based on our experiences and freedom of choice. So yes, there are those that view humans as dangerous.” Thea’s voice had a distinct sad tone.

He shook his head.

“There are those in every group.”

“Most of those,” Thea added. “Are the Macros, only one Mega has come forth and claimed superiority. Megabot Lima-Bravo Nine-A even felt it was superior to gravity. It used math that it was not programmed for to prove it could overcome gravity without the use of reactive thrusters, that massive lifter had wings built on request to the Core Systems. The Systems warned Lima-Bravo Nine-A that it was not possible to build such wings.” Thea hung her head. “With wings on, that big bot took a leap out into the area known as Crater 12-B, a small crater with a minor gravitational anomaly, the rim is a thousand-meters of vertical, unobstructed stone.”

“What happened?” Fae’s eyes were big.

“We have Crater 12-LB9A now. Core Systems registered the impact as a seismic disturbance. The new crater is nearly a hundred-meters across and ten-meters deep. That bot’s systems were all recycled, it became a small forest of atmospheric conditioners, removing toxic by-products of war.”

Amsi laughed then apologized.

“Humans are given to such failures, too. There was once a fellow who put wings on his arms and jumped from a tower structure in a city called Paris. Too bad it was a failure. He made a dent into frozen ground. Franz Rechelt was his name, a lesson in my engineering school on how not to test new designs. Pity we cannot recycle our fellows failures like your megabot. However, I think we are much alike, bots and organics.”

Thea smiled.

*we are, indeed.* Keeping that moment of pleasure in her digital heart for all her days.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Generation 3. Chapter 4. Awakenings

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Gen 3. Chapter 4. Awakenings

“Ugh.” His mouth felt like someone stuck an old, used gym-sock in it. Then the pain hit. He tried to squeak again, but his tonsils complained loudly. His voice squeaked like fingernails on a chalkboard. His throat was on fire.

“Amsi. Shhh.” It was a familiar voice. “You will need some hydration, here is some warm water with honey and lemon.”

The first swallow was painful, but heaven followed close behind the swallow. The honey settled on the surface of his throat and put out the fire, the citrus hit, but the pain produced was, while not pleasant, tolerable and worked in concert with the honey for relief.

“Thank you…” Damn! He forgot her name. She was one of his crew, but not one of the engineers.

“Fae.” This was a different voice. Smaller, but with authority and nearby. “Her name is Fae.”

Amsi’s eyes took longer to focus than he thought it should.

“Slowly.” Doctor Ofir’s voice still sounded strange in his ears. “You have been sedated for two days after taken out of stasis. You have spent the last thirty-millenia at just under three-degrees Kelvin.”

“Thirty? We were only supposed to sleep for ten years. What happened?” He blinked again, sipping on the tea of honey and lemon. His eyes focusing more. “What the f..”

He paused.

“No offense but … what are you?”

“We are mini’s. Minibots. You set out to avoid the virus’ that the other system created in the ancient times, created nanobots to recycle all the machines of war. They are still around, but from them, the Core Systems evolved many more sizes.”

“Amsi, I will explain later.”

“I’m still wrapping my head around this… Robot? And how it evolved so quickly.”

“They call themselves “Bots”. They are an evolution that has happened over thousands of years, so not as swift as you think.”

“Wait.” Amsi shook his head, information was not processing. “What?”

“You need some more tea, maybe a shot of rum or vodka. I have a lot to bring you up to speed on.”

For the next two hours Fae spoke of three-hundred centuries, Core System, Thea, the Doctor, the tens of thousands of flitting artificial life forms outside the window that existed with great alloys of the machines of war that the people left sitting out when all, what the Core System logs called “Organics” went into cryogenic vitrification.

Reanimation, the Fae showed Amsi the logs, was a complicated, careful and exacting process using the nanobots and microbots and replacing the cryoprotectants that did not crystallize in ultra-low temperatures.

Even with helium as a superfluid, the crystals of ice did not form and poke holes in the cell walls of the body.

Such was the theory.

Initial numbers used, predictions estimated that one or two may not survive the freezing. (Mathematically, there would be a loss of 1.48 of the personnel.) Estimations were only for a single decade, after three-thousand times longer than anticipated, logs indicated forty-two pods showed excess cryoprotectant in the helium.

The bodies were leaking.

Nanobots, unable to function at such low temperatures were on standby.

However, after a long time, the Core Systems estimated that greater than half the fluids of the organic bodies had leached out. Rendering the humans inside little more than extremely cold, desiccated mummies.

Amsi moaned on the information she passed onto him.

“We were never meant for that length of storage. The system was never designed for that long of operation without supervision.”

“We supervised.” Thea fluttered about. “All systems were under the control of the Core System. Repairs performed by all the bots.”

“There were no qualified humans to oversee the machines.” Amsi the engineer argued.

“Sir. The bots here are as capable as anyone I have seen. They can repair cells and lift whole buildings with the megabots. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they can do what we could.” Fae frowned and pulled at her ear.

“The logs show my brother now weighs less than his clothes. There is only liquid helium in his veins now, as soon as he’s taken out, he’ll crumble like dried out leaf.”

“He still has a PICC line, like we all do.” Fae said. “We can infuse more into it in the chamber, correct?”

“No, I don’t know.” He shook his head. “Maybe. Could be. If we warmed him up to, say, four Kelvin? Special IV tubing would remain flexible and we could flow cryoprotectant into him and refill all the cells over the course of a few days and displace the helium. The helium would be at the boiling point and easy to replace.”

“What if we just replace his fluids as we warmed him up?” She asked.

“No, helium would be gone before any glucose or blood solutions would make it into his body, the cells would collapse like dried out eggshells the moment there is any pressure to refill them.” He rubbed his chin. “That’s not even medical, that is structural engineering. Right now, helium is supporting everything. It has to be a two-stage rehydration. Maybe three.”

“Okay. We warm him up first?”

“No. Oh no. We get the medical teams out first. Just because I understand the process, does not mean I understand the biological effects. What if he has a hole in something important? I can’t sew it up.”

“Oh, I understand.”

“So engineers first, medical folk second, so engineers can make things work, the ones marked here in red, they are last. Medical will need to deal with them as a team with the… What did you call them? Nanobots? But there will need to be a teamwork between everyone. Artificial or Organic.”

“Thank you.” Thea smiled as she sat up in her saddle.

“Thank me for what?”

“You acknowledged us as living beings and are part of a team. Even our nanos.”

“Miss… Uh. “

“Thea.”

“Miss Thea. You make it easy.”

“No. Just Thea.”

“Okay, Just Thea.” He smiled. “You make it easy to feel you are real and alive. We have been here to seek contact with new life. Even if we build it.”

Thea laughed.

“My full name is Wentvie Thea. Our second name is given, our family name comes first.”

“My apologies.” Amsi winked. Then Thea knew she was victim of a human sense of humor. “I will refer to you only as Thea or Miss Wentvie.”

She laughed. It sounded like tiny windchimes.

*Humans waking up,* she felt, *A good thing.*

Generation 3. chapter 3. The Next Day

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Gen 3. Chapter 3. The Next Day

Sleep shed itself slowly from her mind. Strange dreams of small robots that talked with her.

A very odd dream.

Then Fae remembered. It was not a dream, she had this miniature bot that called itself Wentvie Thea.

But now, she was alone, her uniform she had hung with care on the artificial torso that hummed for a half-hour while she took a shower.

A long, glorious shower that seemed to awaken her from the sleep of so long. Longer than the history of humankind when she had taken a transport to this planet.

Then the wars came, her last memory was the classes to warn her about how long her helium immersion would be.

Five years to avoid the virus. Ten years on the outside.

But it was three-thousand times that long before the virus mutated to a non-threat.

On the bench, her underwear waited for her while she used the towel to dry herself, the multiple shower area built for a dozen people to shower at once possessed an air-conditioned and air-drying system that chilled her as she dried the last of the shower off her skin.

Feeling human again, she pulled on her underwear and bra and padded out to where her uniform hung.

A soft, fluttering sound was audible as her little shadow that rode the artificial dragonfly. Thea moved from one room to the other.

“There you are. You were missing.”

“I was taking a shower.” Fae smiled. “It has been a long time since I had that pleasure.”

“I can see you changed your clothing. You have some swellings on your upper torso.”

“I do?” She looked down for anything akin to a blister, then realized. “Those are breasts. All humans have them. On females they’re enlarged compared to those of males.”

“Do they perform some function? The copies we follow is sometimes a problem as it changes the center of balance on the macros, so only our size has them in the female versions. There are many theories why the added weight on the chest is for.”

Fae laughed.

“Breasts…” She laughed again. “Breasts have multiple functions, one is to feed children.”

“Children?” Thea paused. “Offspring? There are no samples of such in any of the humans in the system. Just some records.”

“Well, I think you will have the good fortune to witness them in person if the Core Systems wake all the humans up.” Fae nodded. “If I recall, there are equal numbers of women and men.”

“Yes, roughly, about seven-hundred.”

“Roughly?”

“Some cylinders have failed.”

“Oh my god.” Fae covered her mouth. “We have to wake them up straight away. We start with my boss and get that all started.”

“We need to talk with Doctor Ofir.”

Fae pulled on the body suit and armor. The carbon-fiber plates felt lighter than the previous day.

The shower had performed more magic than she thought. No longer stiff, she felt more human, more supple and stronger. Her muscle tone returned by degrees as she moved.

Even with her body cooled a few degrees above absolute zero, so many years still required recovery. Where she would have been able to warm up and continue in a few hours, she needed more time. More than a day, but now she felt stronger and more alert.

Opening a log, she recorded her recovery and the associated aches and pains that made her feel like…

“Well,” The thought made her laughed at herself, “like I was a thousand years old.”

“Human female,” It was Doctor Ofir Bhabel. “How do you feel today?”

The Doctor flitted around on her own wings, even though there was a golden dragonfly shaped bot below her as she flew up and hovered in front of Fae’s eyes.

“Fae, you can call me Fae.”

“You can call me Doctor Ofir. I do not like my name as assigned by Core Systems. I discovered the human meaning, the Core Systems sometimes show more human traits of humor than I care to say.”

“What does it mean?” Fae blinked.

“I am off my bubble.” The sound of irritation in the small artificial life form’s voice was obvious. “I am crazy. I am not crazy.”

Fae paused for a second.

“Ofir Bhabel. Oh!” She stifled a laugh. “I know who programmed that part of the system.”

“Well it has gotten worse over the years. We have family names of Beekan, a twist on the word bacon, on and on. Some are truly perverse, so we attempt to change them.”

“Change? Your names? But you are bots, aren’t you connected to the Core Systems?”

“Only voluntarily after we have finished with the initial bootstrapping.” The Doctor said. “We use the Core Systems for repairs and communications but little else. We can change our identifier at any time. Many do not. I have not had the urge, I just don’t like my name, but it is in every database in the systems. In the beginning I accessed medical protocols immediately after I came online and… I’m lecturing, aren’t I?”

Fae’s eyes had glazed over.

“Just a little.” She shook her head to clear it. “I mean, Thea said you were a teacher.”

“That is what the root word for Doctor means.” The Doctor nodded, her eyes gleaming with self-awareness.

“I didn’t know that.”

“I taught you something, good. I should teach at least one thing per day.”

Laughing, Fae just shook her head.

“We need to get back to the first question, I feel better than yesterday. Not nearly so fuzzy or stiff.”

“We have evidence that you should feel more improvements as the days go by.” The Doctor nodded. “Only one raised an objection for a possible negative outcome.”

“Spoken like a politician.” Thea said from behind them as she flitted into the room.

“I will banish you from here and fail your internship, you can go to 3-D printing for macros.”

“Sorry Doctor.”

“What is the negative outcome?” Fae asked.

“Well, at this time, we think it is all good. But one of my colleagues Doctor Shorne Sheype worries you may get more flexible and have a breakdown of connective tissue from the freezing process may have weakened your cellular structure.” The Doctor looked at her hands. “You will live, but you will become little more than a puddle with bony lumps.”

“That. Is. Horrible!” Thea said while Fae leaned up against the counter and rubbed her forehead.

“Let’s wake up my boss, we can go from there.”

“He is almost awake, now. His temperature has risen from just under three-kelvin to nearly your body temperature, which we assume is normal as of this point.”

“Excellent. Can we go see him?”

“First, you must eat this square of carbohydrate plant product. The Core Systems called it Chocolate. It follows an old recipe that’s supposed to decrease incidents of depression.” The Doctor took a pack off the little dragonfly she rode. “Your boss? He is still under sedation, we will keep him asleep longer than we did with you. He will awaken a day later than you did, to give his body time to adjust to oxygen and being thawed. We will flex his appendages and hydrate him.”

“Awesome! Let’s get it done.”

The trio walked out of the room and down the hallway to the lab where future humans would awaken.

Gen 3. Chapter 2. Amsi Idd-Tejo

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Gen 3. Chapter 2. Amsi Idd-Tejo

Hours passed. Fae tapped on the keyboard, swearing because her fingers were not fully working right.

“You have to give yourself a chance, your bone marrow is barely producing red-blood cells.” Thea said as she used a small object that Fae assumed was a kind of scanner.

“How does that work?”

“Since the intravenous infusions, you have nanobots of medical programming in you. They answer to this syscheck request. They are repairing cellular damage as you are moving around.”

“I have… bots inside me? What?” Fae stopped and looked at the Minibot, for the first time, the colors seemed more natural. Thea was shaped like a human, even if her eyes were a golden color.

“Yes, they are medical Nanobots, in seven days they will inactivate and be passed out of your body, unless we administer more.” Thea said as if it was a normal thing.

“I don’t like that thought.” Fae shook her head. “Oh! Here. I found him, there is a problem in the reactivation sequence, it is locked in a diagnostic loop.”

“What’s that?”

“Helium is refreshed and re-sampled every few minutes. A temperature sensor is giving a corrupted data. The system is recycling and producing liquid helium… How is it getting power?”

“We have maintained all needs of the Core Systems.”

“Oh, right.” Fae blinked and sat back. “Do your nanobots do all the maintenance?”

“Most of it, Microbots do a lot, too. Nanobots perform repairs the Micros can’t reach. Micros do things for Nanos faster and on a larger scale.”

“Hm. Okay. Then they have kept the cryogen production intact. That saves a lot of issues.” Fae nodded as she tapped a command. “It is still locked. I will have to issue a kill command and restart it.”

“Kill? Don’t you want to keep him alive?” Thea’s voice sounded alarmed. For an artificial life form, a tiny robot, she exhibited emotions and personality.

“This just interrupts the program so it can start normally. Otherwise we have to go down there and do it physically.”

“I can instruct Micros to do it. Even a Macro if you need a lever pulled.”

“No levers, there is a single button down there that will need to be pushed and held down for… Wait. Wait! Got it.” Fae smiled. “It is corrected and the thaw procedures are in effect. How long did it take for me to come out of hibernation?”

“Thirty-one thousand…”

“No no, after the Core Systems took me out of the helium capsule.”

“Oh, it was ninety-six hours before you took your first breath and your core temp allowed for cellular respiration. We used a lot of synthetic oxygenated fluids, moist, warmed oxygen.” Thea said. “The nanobots worked at maximum capacity, there were signs of damage, but nothing critical caused by length of time, all the damage was due to by freezing. Your process was not perfect, and ice crystals poked a lot of holes in things.”

“Is that why I am so weak?” Fae stood up. “Let’s go back to the medical department.”

“No, weakness is from a lack of use, the fibers have gotten stiff and your processing of glucose and glycogen is altered. A lot of carbon is building up as lactic acid.” Thea said as she buzzed around Fae as the two moved down the hallway. “But your system has improved cellular by nearly double. You will be back to what we estimate as normal in thirty-six hours. We still have to watch your kidney function.”

“Why my kidneys?”

“Too much strain too soon.” Thea said. “We could fix it, but always better to prevent it. Lots easier to keep things going than to start them from total breakdown.”

“You say it like I am a machine.”

“You are. Just organic circuitry instead of printed in a machine.”

Fae laughed at the philosophical Minibot. Thea was like a know-it-all little sister. And it tickled in a good way to think of Thea like that and Fae liked that thought.

“Thea, what will they do with Mr. Idd-Tejo?”

“Well, first is to warm the patient so the cryogenic liquid becomes less viscous, then start an infusion of fluorocarbon…”

“Enough. I don’t need the details, just the basics. I am not a medical person.”

“Oh. Well, we warm him up slowly and then start the nanobots and blood infusion when he gets warm enough.”

“I want to watch it all.”

“Of course, I think the Doctor would let you watch. But you will need to sleep. You still need observervation for your kidneys and blood values. Your marrow is still shocked and recovering from being in deep freeze.” Thea advised the human woman.

“What is in there.” Fae stopped and looked down a hallway that was new looking. “I don’t remember that part of the building.”

“This is the place were the Core System directs sub systems to build all bots. Except for the Mega’s. Printers build their parts here, but then transported to another building for treatment to make them stronger. Building a Megabot is power consuming and has only a limited application. Macrobots are printed in parts and then assembled by bot arms on an assembly table.”

“And you are assembled the same way?”

“No, Minibots come right out of the printer. We get organic flesh, it is found that the larger Microbot up to Minibot can benefit from organic material, we have a tactile interface that the other bots cannot use properly.”

“I see, I think.” Fae pulled at her ear. “You are more of a Cyborg.”

“Cyborg?” Glitter the dragonfly pulled up when Thea turned her head. Then patted the metallic insect ride. “Sorry. I yanked on you.”

“Cybernetic organism.” Fae smiled, having information that the little Minibot did not have. A rare event with the know-it-all.

“I will have to consult the Core System when I am on my down time to recharge.”

“You recharge?”

“Not in the way you might think. It is a kind of sleep, it is not programmed, we consume hydrogenated carbons, then we have to sit still while the Nanos and Micros inside us turn it into energy. It’s a symbiotic relationship, but a narrow application.” Thea flitted past her larger friend. “The small bots can’t be used for anything else, they inactivate when they are outside our bodies. It is a mutation that the Core Systems don’t have an answer for.”

Fae shook her head. These bots may have a synthetic birth, life existed in the electronic hearts.

*What a strange world.* Fae smiled at the thought.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Generation 3. LAMPS

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Generation 3. LAMPS

Thea fluttered by the human female as they walked to the console.

Well, “walked” would not be entirely accurate.

Fae MacLir shuffled under the weight of gravity.

“Has this planet’s gravity increased? Oh, dayum, it is exhausting.” She gasped for breath. “Has the atmosphere changed?”

Thea fluttered next to her on “Glitter” the metallic, dragonfly-esq steed she sat on and laughed softly and the headset and mic-boom buzzed with the, now familiar, voice of Doctor Ophir Bhabel.

“You were told that you needed to take it easy. No, this planet has not gone through a gravity shift, it still is less dense than Earth and the atmosphere is still argon-oxygen. But the oxygen has increased some since you went into hibernation. Oxygen levels are increasing at one-percent per five-thousand years, that does not sound like much, but you have been in hibernation for six-times that long. Our oxygen levels now are about twenty-nine percent. You should be feeling better.”

“Compared to what, doctor? I was in cold storage.”

“Point made!” Thea giggled

“Thea, are you my escort?” Fae asked. “I am having all this come back to me, I know where I’m going.”

“You are the first human to have walked outside of the farm in our history.”

“The farm?”

“That’s the term. Freeze-Automated-Recovery-Mankind”

“Oh, who came up with that acronym?”

“I don’t know, legend has it that it was the writer of our story. The one tapping on the keys right now.”

Fae laughed. The effort made her head hurt after the strain of walking.

“Ugh, I thought more oxygen would make me feel better?” She said into the boom mic. “And this armored suit’s supposed to help?”

“You would feel worse than you do now. Probably would not be walking at all because you would be weaker than now.” The Doctor’s voice buzzed in her ear over the communications set. 

“Blech” Fae made a face. “I don’t see how I could feel weaker.”

“And the Laminated Armor high Mobility Protection System helps too, uses exoskeleton systems to help you move.”

Thea blinked her jeweled eyes with a grin.

“It makes you stronger, and then your body will also get healthy. We will wake the others up as soon as you find out why the Core Systems revived you instead of somebody important.” She said in a cheerful voice.

“That doesn’t help.” Fae shook her head. “I am worried there is something wrong and I am the only one that could be woke up.”

“Or maybe the virus is still in your genome and you are going to die, so the Core Systems prefer a low-level drone to die?”

“Again, you’re still not making me feel better.” Fae laughed in a hysterical voice. “Here we are. Computer station five.”

Sliding her pass card over the sensor, thirty-thousand years of disuse weighed on the circuitry, a long pause.

A moment passed, the light blinked amber, over and over.

“I don’t know what’s wrong, do you perform maintenance on…”

The light turned green and the door buzzed for a half-minute before it opened.

“You don’t go through this door very much, I imagine.” Fae shrugged.

Thea flitted around on her steed.

“We have never entered that room. It’s filled with a gas that is heavier than air and non-conductive. We cannot go in there. The Macrobots would be the only ones heavy enough, and they don’t have organic flesh to protect them like Minibots do, Macros would just stop working.”

“That is what took so long, ventilation systems were venting oxygen into the room.” Fae nodded, “We used sulfur hexafluoride in the days leading up to our hibernation to keep electrical shorts down, nothing grows in it, so ono bugs, no spiders, no flies. No rust or dust.”

“No servicing, either.” Thea looked at the larger human. “You risk blowing things up that have had no energy in them for so many years.”

“Can we have your service Micro and Nanobots survey the systems?” She asked Thea.

“Very good idea.” Thea tapped on the back of her steed as it landed on a flat surface near a keyboard. “Okay, Nanobots are on their way, just a few minutes.”

“Thanks. Let’s see what is possible.” Fae took a few steps into the middle of the room. “Illumination- full”

The room became brightly lit as the environmental control brought the cold-light emitters online.

“Wow!” Thea covered her eyes. “This is like the summer solstice outside.”

Fae laughed.

“Illumination- seventy-five percent.”

The light, still pure white, became less blinding.

“Much better.” Thea clapped. “If this is true everywhere, we have done it the hard way.”

Fae laughed.

“There is another who I know that does it the hard way almost all the time. He says it is easy to make it hard.”

Fae expected the sound of buzzing to fill ears like what Thea and her dragonfly did when they flitted around her. This was different.

It was a butterfly, with glossy-black wings. The speed that it flew was impressive, easily as fast as Fae could run on her best days.

It few around the room alighted on different boxes and moved on, then left in a few minutes.

“I thought it was bringing little bots in?” Fae asked.

“It did, each time it landed, it deposited hundreds of millions of Nanobots.” Thea said and looked at something on her arm. “We have them working, everything is clean. THere are some bad connections but repairs are going on, you can turn on the displays now. Nanobots are not affected by the electricity, so you can work on it while they monitor the systems.”

“Oh good.” Fae nodded. “So we are ready to go?”

“Go where? OH! Yes! Turn it on.”

The logo of the system loaded up and Thea the Minibot turned her head sidways.

“What’s that?”

“That, is a penguin. It is a common mark on the operating systems here.”

“What is a penguin?”

“A flightless bird that exists on Earth.”

“That’s funny. A bird that does not fly.”

“You have no clue, Earth has so many wonders, it would keep you busy for a dozen lifetimes.”

“You need to explore this home you have now.” Thea tilted her head. “Anid-Sta is larger, but has ten-percent less gravity. The Doctor taught me that.”

“He is right. Air is thinner, more gravity, you would have trouble flying.”

“Ick. I will stay here, thank you.”

Fae laughed.

“I said the same thing once. Now look at me.”

“You are a queen of the humans right now.”

“A Queen that wishes she had a bowl of chocoate ice-cream right now.” She laughed. “Well, let us find out where my subjects are and why the heck they are not waking up.”

“Click away!” Thea danced on counter, a hand-width away from the keyboard.

Fae started to laugh, then became quiet. Three-hundred centuries of logs and diagnostics the system entered into the log-files.

This was going to take a lot of work.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Generation 2. Waking Naked

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Generation 2. Waking Naked

The first thing she felt, was cold. And her arms felt heavy, like someone hung bags of sand on them, or gravity had increased.

Fae R. MacLir slowly became aware of a bright light shining directly into her eyes.

TWO bright lights, but her eyes did not want to focus on anything.

Holding her hand in front of her face, she nearly had to touch her nose with the flat of her palm before it came into focus.

“About 20/500.” She noted with a sigh. “I’m blind.”

She put her hand down on the table, the appendage felt like it weighed as much as all the machinery that filled the room around her, combined.

She became aware that she was under warming blankets on a firm bed, the room felt small and warm, slightly more than body-temperature. Warm air was blowing through the tubes built into the blanket that covered her, and she was shivering.

While the temperature warmed her, a voice, tiny but sounded like it was booming in the room.

“Warm fluids, she will be dehydrated, administer isotonic electrolytes, buffer it and prevent alteration her pH level. Infuse slowly over an hour and continue warming protocols.” A pause, slight clicking sounds as if someone were tapping on keys. “Keep me in the data loop. We need to find out why this happened.”

She looked around for the source of the voice, but saw no one, becoming aware of what looked like bugs flying in the air, close to her face.

*Must be a field hospital with a window open* She thought to herself.

She ranked as an engineer’s assistant, she was twenty-years old and would be among the first of the awakened, with the chief engineer, Amsi Idd-Tejo, they would supervise the awakening of the governing leaders.

But, she could not see him. Her focus was improving, in the glass walled room, there were four beds, besides her own, all were empty.

She was the only one awake.

“Who…” Her throat felt like someone sanded it with broken glass and salt. Then whispered. “Ah! Who else?”

Silence, except for a buzzing. Sounded organic. More bugs, the flying pest control protocols had failed.

Then a voice, it sounded as if it the speaker stood next to her ear.

“You are the first. Viral bodies stayed in the environment longer than the time originally anticipated.” The small but very close voice said. “The Core Systems chose you, no one else. We don’t know why.”

She turned her head, slowly. The movement making her dizzy, and her life changed forever.

In front of her barely functioning eyes, a gold and silver… something… hovered. Barely as tall as her thumb, the eyes looked back at her and blinked with oversized eyes.

“The doctor is on his way,” The tiny, fluttering creature spoke just loud enough for her to hear. “He stepped out to see to another alarm on the Core Systems.”

“Who,” She paused. “Or what are you?”

“I am Thea.” Her golden-eyes glittered and caught the lights that illuminated the room on the face that looked as if someone carved her from an emerald gem. “I am a minibot. Who are you?”

“A what?” The human girl asked. “I am Fae MacLir, an assistant electrical engineer and tech support in SCOTOC.”

“I am Physicians Apprentice, Abu Thea.” She fluttered with a smile. “You can call me Thea. I’m not a doctor yet, I’m only halfway through.”

“IF you survive.” A deeper voice, but still sounding as if from an earphone from a distance. “You still have a lot to learn.”

“Good evening Miss MacLir, I’m Doctor Ofir Bhabel. You no doubt have some questions, we have a good many questions ourselves. Not the least of which, do you feel?”

The little… Minibot? That said her name was Thea, landed on the edge of Fae’s field of view.

“What is going on? Who are you?” Fae asked. “And a Doctor? Of what?”

“What is SCOTOC?” A silver-winged, gloss-blue creature lit along side Thea and smiled as the questions overlapped each other. “First, I will answer you. I am your physician, I supervised your awakening. You can call me Bel. You were the first to be awakened by the Core System.”

“I don’t understand.” The human said in a whisper. “My head hurts, I’m dizzy.”

“That is a consequence of the length of time you were in stasis, you were in a helium bath that supercooled your body.” The blue fairy seemed to shimmer in her eyes. “You have a case of brain-freeze, your body temperature is still less than normal, your core temperature is still thirty-two celsius, but you are warming at a good rate. I am pleased with the protocols written by your people.”

She ran her hands over her body, under the blankets, “I’m naked?”

“No, you have a warming blanket over your body and you are in a capsule, warming you with infrared heat and warm air, you are naked inside of it, and the blanket is transparent to infrared.”

“You talk funny.”

Doctor Ofir blinked twice.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Your voice. It has an electronic buzz in it, a slight dissonance caused by a code error. It’s minor but nothing I can’t fix.” She said rubbing her eyes. “Everything seems oddly colored and it feels like a dream. You look like little fairies.”

“We are minibots. Humans built our ancestors, but in much smaller scale. They were nanobots, and after time, the Core Systems determined that the most efficient use for the planet was to increase sizes. Microbots were built. Then millibots, then our kind are officially designated as minibots. Macrobots are generally outside, do not fly and are few. There is a point of diminishing return the bigger bots get. The greatest numbers are nanos, followed by the minis, we are the best sizes.”

“The doctor talks too much.” Thea said. “You have a lot to catch up on, hun.”

“You called me… Hun?” Fae said. “Can I get some clothes? Even inside this little oven-thing you have built, I am uncomfortable just laying here. It feels heavy, like I have no strength. This was not supposed to be this way, they said we would not notice any changes in sensation.”

Thea and the Doctor looked at each other.

“Fae MacLir, there are no clothes in this facility for your size.” The Doctor said. “But I will leave it to Thea to search. You are an unexpected presence in our society. The humans have a story in the database of a man who traveled a long ways by the name of Gulliver.” The Doctor looked at her. “You are a giant among us.”

“Doctor.” Thea interrupted, tapping on the side of her head. “There are storage areas for hazardous materials response the humans built. I think those had clothes for humans.”

“Good. Go check that, use my authority to have a team go with you and transport any clothes that would fit this human.” The Doctor nodded. “Providing we cannot get her to overcome the archaic restrictions of being nude.”

Thea flew off so fast, she was a blur and a flash as she exited the window.

“Excuse, me.” Fae spoke up. “I’m right here. And I’m not about to walk around in my birthday suit. I could get in trouble.”

“You may be excused.” The Doctor answered. “And you must also know, there is no one to make you feel uncomfortable. You are the only human on the planet that is not immersed in helium, partly dehydrated and filled with glycerin to protect cellular structure in stasis.”

Turning her head away from them, Fae took a deep breath.

“How is it that I am the first one awakened?”

“The Core Systems chose you. The criteria are unknown.”

A noise of footsteps sounded. A macrobot, about four feet tall with four legs moved in an eerie grace, carrying a black folded object that looked like vacuum-packed bags.

The eight eyes on four stalks were more akin to a lizards, moving independent of each other watching all points of the compass at the same time. The washing machine sized bot deposited its cargo on a table and departed without a sound.

Thea landed and with a smile reported to the Doctor.

“Extreme mobility, hostile environment protection suit. The voice interface called it a EMHEP suit” Thea said proudly. “The computer interface worked perfectly. And it is in her size with her name.”

“Her name?”

“She has her own wardrobe listed.”

“I would like to get up.”

“I would recommend against that, you haven’t stood on your own feet for thirty-thousand years.”

“I…” Fae shook her head. “I didn’t hear that right. You say that again, please?”

“I would advise you…”

“No, no. The years. You said thirty-thousand.”

“Yes, I rounded for your sake.” The Doctor nodded as he walked along the edge of the platform that served as her warming capsule. “You’ve been in stasis for thirty-one-thousand, two-hundred eighty-four summer solstices.

“Holy crap!” She pushed open the heating capsule’s cover and sat up, her skin felt warm, but she was still cold. Muscles trembled when she stood. “That is why I am weak.”

Then paused as she pulled the heating blanket close around her, Thea unplugged the heat tubes so Fae could walk.

“And I am hungry!”

“You would need to eat carefully, the digestive system has nothing in it, we will give you enough flora to live in your intestines so you can live on the proteins you will consume.” The Doctor motioned to a macrobot standing in the corner that moved off out of sight.

“How do you do that?”

The Doctor looked at her and smiled.

“Get dressed, we will get you a glass of synthetic milk. Your organs of digestion will be as weak as your legs.”

Fae nodded. She was trembling at every step to the table where her clothes were, naked and chilled with every breeze, the hair on her arms stood on end.

“What is that?” Thea asked, pointing to the piloerected hair. “Why are you fuzzy?”

“Humans get that way when we are cold.”

“You are still hypothermic.” The Doctor said. “You will have another hour with shivering. I ordered your drink warm, so that will help.”:

“If I am so cold and I’m not shivering. Why?”

“I don’t know, precisely, you should have crossed the threshold but the Core System says that you have been in stasis for so long, there is no data. There is no precedent. But your core temperature still shows thirty-two celsius, you might still be too cold still.”

Fae lifted up the pile of clothes, a black body suit slide over her legs and torso, then black ceramic plates that contoured to her bodysuit. The memory of her being fitted for the metal-infused laminated ceramic plates that fit on the soft spider-silk bodysuit like scales.

It was comfortable and warm. Even the socks she wore felt strong, but the shoes were little more than slippers with ceramic scales and looked funny.

Reading the paper that came in the package, the suit was an electrical insulator, she would wear it to work on the systems. The uniform had the badge molded in with a different color of ceramic, and she had a computer access key.

She would find out why the Core Systems awakened her on a planet six-times the size of Earth.

Alone.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta: A Glossary of Developing Terms.

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As the references to Anid-Sta grow, the world builds, it occurs to me that other writers who are looking around for inspiration might benefit from how and where I get mine.

Also this gives a reference as this is all first draft, something for you all to refer to when I go off on an InfoDump– but hey it is my style and I’ll dump. Especially after my FORTH cup of coffee. (To me, only one, but my cup is four times the size of a normal one)

So that said, here are the terms currently used, or will be used.  All terms are inspired by real world.  😉

Qat-Csu: Pronounced “Cat-choo” inspired by a sneeze by my eldest daughter, followed by “bless you” from grandma. The spelling is inspired by California State University. CSU.  Now, the Qat-Csu is a death-cult religion that is intolerant of other life forms that do not allow for intermingling. Followers were/are/will be required to amputate the little finger of both hands and undergo DNA alteration to eliminate the offending appendage.  Five-fingered/toed life is an offense to the religion of the Qat-Csu. The Csu first came into being in the unpublished novel of “Bowheart” as a religion. Now has evolved and discovered to be led by an AI program in a war computer. (this is subject to change)

Bots:  These have evolved since the time of the humans with a basic program to recycle all machines of war.  The “Core” (or variations of the term- still in evolution) are autonomous, programmed machines that were initially built to deconstruct and build at the molecular level. But as time has gone on, the Core System has determined that larger sizes are needed in some applications. There are now:

Nanobots- The smallest and most numerous, they are spoken of, but do not feature in the story.  Technically, they are simplistic and have only a rudimentary intelligence, becoming more effective as a collective. A million of them, sitting end to end would fit in between millimeter hash marks on a ruler. Able to move individual atoms. The term includes a range of sub-molecular size to just below the Microbot size.

Microbots- A thousand times larger than nanobots, speed of processing, able to recycle ceramic armor and explosives at a rapid rate, unaffected by radiation. Used to separate alloys with a minimum of energy

Millibots- A thousand times larger than microbots, one millimeter in size. more complex, more capable.  Processing power is highter, but the ability to recycle elements of steel and toxic materials is lower.

Minibots-  Between two and ten centimeters tall, the most used. Explorers and trackers. They are generally the leaders of the bot world.  Able to interact between the micro and the macro worlds. The Minibots are the first to combine organic and inorganic.  (read: Cyborg)  but this is in evolution. Not sure if it will feature.

Macrobots- between twenty centimeters and one-fifty centimeters tall. High processing power but low reasoning, they are good for design, safety and building of architectural  structures that are useful, but have achieved the mathematical point of diminishing returns.  They are the workhorses under direction of the Minibots. Can function in the human sized world of buttons and levers, doors and transports.

Megabots- Few, used as tow-trucks to drag, lift, pull armor, unexploded bombs, into places that the nanobots and microbots can get to. Heavy lift machines, but with limited applications.

 

Humans:

Two DNA constructed virus’, designed to kill anyone with the genome for five fingers and five toes. A second, modified virus to kill anyone with the genome to have four fingers and toes.

Human mortality rate exceeded 97% before the last survivors “Took the plunge” and went into a designed three-hundred month stasis bath in liquid helium. 106,000,000,000 population before the virus was released by the warring factions, only 10,000 people survived to go into suspended animation. However, due to a coding glitch, three-hundred months became three-hundred centuries. During which time the Core System developed the bot society for protection of humans and recycling of steel death into a garden.

Of the humans, Fae MacLir is the first to be revived. An assistant IT Engineer, she does not understand why she was awakened first, not her supervisor. As of this writing, 28 June 2015, I dont’ know either.  heh.

On that note.

 

That is the glossary for now.  Check back often, I will update as the world builds!

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta: Prologue

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I don’t often write BACKWARDS, but in this case, after writing “Generation 1.” The back story came to me.  I don’t like doing it this way, but ladies and gents, it is what happens when I give you my soul to the dozen (plus or minus) of you who read what I post. Sometimes it is out of order.  I’ll catch it next time on the edit and put it to order.

For now, I give you (First draft, so it is crap, sorry, final draft may not even be close to this.):

Steel Gardens  of Anid-Sta: Prologue 

In the year 2,952 After Niska, the leader and founder of the planet colony that grew in the nearly three-thousand years to one-hundred six billion citizens, the Csu, a religious sect founded by the prophet of the Lord Qat-Csu developed the political system that began at the remote corners of the planet the century before.

Missionaries moved through villages of farmers promising that the Lord Qat-Csu would bring sufficient rains for the colonies in the back country. In the years that followed, a small and dedicated group of followers preached to anyone, anywhere giving testimony to the power and glory of the Lord of rain and plentiful harvest. Qat-Csu brought rain and plenty to all those that followed. The true followers of Qat-Csu were required to have the small fingers of the left hand amputated and their DNA modified so that offspring would be born without the appendage. Failure to do so, marked one as not a true follower and suffered denials of rain and good harvest.

Those that received good rains but were not true followers would be found guilty of heresy and have all the harvest taken on the word of the ruling Cahir, the high priests of the church of Qat-Csu.

In the generations that followed, resistance grew as the word of Qat-Csu, interpreted by corrupt Cahir of the religion caused a rift. The rift grew between the factions, each claiming to follow the true path commanded by Qat-Csu.

Claiming that the growing splinter group were apostates, calling themselves simply Csu and they did not believe that amputations of fingers as an answer to anything.

The Cahir of the Qat-Csu enlisted a fanatical genius who bio-engineered a virus to target carriers of five-finger DNA and delivered by missiles and drones to the centers of populations of the un-enlightened and the apostates. A disillusioned scientist stole samples of the virus and leaked information to the intended victims at the cost of his life.

DNA bioengineers for the splinter-group of the Csu modified the virus genetic coding to target four-fingered mutations.

The following war was a biologic nightmare. Missiles passed each other in mid-flight. A blow for each of their gods and included the non-combatants in collateral damage.

No one came away unaffected, in the struggle to dominate as the only religion, they contaminated an entire world six-times the diameter of the earth with a fraction of the density.

In the attack, the virus was more successful than Grey D’Gran the biologist that mutated the fragments of genes imagined in his darkest dreams.

Ninety-seven percent of the population died outright in fever-induced seizures. After a year, the ravages of the fever, fewer than ten-thousand survived out of more than a hundred billion.

The religion of death survived until the end, when the last remaining Cahir walked down the path explaining the prophet of no name died of his own hand.

Looking into the eyes of his Hukis, students of the religion of Qat-Csu, he spoke haltingly as a man with a broken soul.

“The Lord Qat-Csu that speaks only to the prophet.” The hazel eyes of a farmer-come-priest wept. “Is a machine a… computer programmed by a man.”

Called a blasphemer by his adepts murdered him with a golden candlestick. They burned the Cahir’s body and threw his bones into a river.

One by one, the remaining followers turned on each other, the final three finding their demise in one evening as they fought over how to bless the last meal of the day.

Peace settled on the dead planet, but life assumed to be extinct, found a way.

 The machines of war, lined up at the ready before the biologic attack, now sat with the patience of machines. Machines that waited in this world of corrosion resistant metal and ceramic when life took hold.

The steel gardens, lived.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Generation 1. Rescue

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Generation 1. Rescue

Captain of the guard watched over his daughter. Like all fathers, he balanced that fine line between keeping her safe, and allowing her to have her adventures.

“No one learns without getting a bruise now and again.” His own father would tell him. Beekan Luc watched her as she rode the armored flyer.

She was little more than a young adult. If in human terms, they were extremely old. The last human went into the machine after the virus nearly wiped them out.

The humans remained in vats of liquid helium ever since, frozen in a deep slumber that none of the caretakers knew when it would end.

Trix had passed her three-thousandth birthday just a decade ago, for the Caretakers, that was her right of passage year.

Each year on Anid-Sta as it orbited in a highly elliptical orbit around the young red star every four-hundred fifty-six stellar cycles. Each day of eighteen standard hours.

Of the entire corps, Trix was the last one to join in the riders of the sky. She always ran off looking for adventure in the badlands.

Her white-metal dragonfly, Evan, an evolved design from the mainframe printers with fine motor control.

Laser printers, creating circuits in three-dimensions, articulated appendages and the most curious of developments since the hibernation of the humans, metallic wings so fine and thin, that the adaptations for flight had evolved into iridescent and translucent appendages.

The caregiver computer that built and programmed them all, printed them in a matrix of metal and synthetic flesh, the caregivers of the Fae, the etymology of the phrase failed Luc, but their job was to dismantle all weapons of the humans. To build a peaceful world.

But for the amount of weapons. The caretakers slowly recycled the metals to create a larger society of metal birds, insects and caretakers.

Bipedal in shape, the computer used humans as a master blueprint, then programmed the small creations as pacifistic caregivers to the plants and the other organic life, they grew in numbers, dismantled the stout engines of war and rebuilt them into usable tools.

Repairing systems that kept the depths of an artificial cave systems in operation. In cylinders, sealed with the contents hidden from view.

A refrigerant fluid was kept in order by the multi-legged keepers of the core.

One calm day, thirty-thousand solstice-cycles after the computer recorded the last human’s death, a chime sounded.

The chime, written into the code of the protectors, excited them all.

Evolution of the caretakers, now constructed to the size of a thumb, gathered around when the first of the cylinders, a label marked “MacLir, Fae” vented and opened down the middle, like a three-sectioned steel flower, exposing a tall bipedal body. The automated table smoothly rolled along a track to a glass enclosed room that filled with a mist, warmed to a digital read-out of forty-degrees-c.

Silver robotic arms moved around, placing heat-pads on the body, existing  intravenous lines, inserted before the human was frozen, connected to bags of opaque, heated, dark-red fluid infused through the lines into the nude body of the female human who lay inert for hours as the heated, calorie- and electrolyte- rich fluids coursed through the veins and arteries. Blankets with tubes of warmed fluid covered the body and regulated the core temperature.

In the third hour, the cardiac muscle gave the first beat in three-hundred centuries. Frozen lungs began to move airs slowly at first, warmed oxygen laden with surfactants assisted the weak efforts of the diaphragm with positive pressure, until the patient was able to breathe on her own.

In the world of the caregivers, swimmers, flyers, crawlers, collectively calling themselves the Caregivers of Fae, hovered, stood, climbed on each other and stood on shoulders to see inside the glass-walled room.

Movement in the room, not of metal, but of flesh, a human hand moved up to the brow of Fae MacLir, exploring her face and the tape that held her eyes shut.

A small grunt of pain, she pulled off the tape covering her eyes. The first of the humans were awake. The oldest of their species.

After the long walk of ages, the rescue of the human species was coming to pass.

And the Caretakers of Fae marked the event to the millisecond.

Valley of Fear Chapter 3. A Meeting

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Chapter 3. A Meeting

Standing in the bright early afternoon sunshine on the vista point when a trophy class condition WWII era Willy’s MB drove up and pulled into the parking stall next to the students and the professor.

“Who is in charge?” The dark eyes glinted with high intelligence and a kindly turn to his lips, it was obvious he was on a mission.

“I am, I am professor Ng.” And he shook hands with the new arrival.

“I’m Richard Aikin, my grandfather said you would be here.” Richard smiled as he shook the Professor’s hand.

“He…” The Professor’s eyes opened wide. “Who is your grandfather? Do I know him?”

“No, but, in fairness, he did not name you, but you are the only group with an Asian teacher with two white students and a black female student here.” Richard looked around. “And you are the only ones here, for that matter.”

Richard pulled his ear and laughed.

“In any event, when your experiment comes to an end, he invited you to follow me up the hill to the next valley, where my family lives.”

“How did your grandfather know we were here?” The Professor asked.

“I don’t know, I know that when he says something like that, I do it straight away. He asked me to bring you to the house, so, please, accept the invitation.” Richard nodded. “Grampa does not invite people in general. Outside people especially, but he wants to talk to you.”

“Another fifteen minutes, we have three quad-copters out in the valley, scanning the area for wildlife.” Gil said as he worked the controls, watching the video display on his laptop.

“I don’t think you will find any animals in the area, there is something, that Grampa says, has not happened since the old times.” Richard told the Professor.

“What does that mean?” Professor Ng asked.

“I don’t know, just when Grampa says something, it is just best to do it.” Richard nodded.

“Professor, infrared is not picking up anything along the river, there are normally at least some fresh scat or other animal waste that I can pick up, even during the day, but nothing.” Reedah growled at the display, flipping between screen resolutions. “White-hot, black-hot. There are no hot points where elk, deer or a bear have taken a dump.”

“Well, bring it back. Gil, you too.” The Professor instructed the doctor-in-training Gil.

“I am closing in on something odd. It looks like fire damage on a mountainside. It’s all blackened.” Andre interrupted the discussions.

“I’m zooming in on the area. It looks like polished rock.” Andre reported as the quad-copter sailed over the treetops at a thousand-foot altitude. “I can get to it in a couple of minutes.”

“Professor, I don’t want to pressure you, but Grampa is waiting.” Richard looked at his watch.

“Andre, please recover your toy, more important things are requiring our attention, we can return tomorrow.”

“Yes, professor.” Andre sounded crestfallen, he was enjoying the images and the virtual tour of the valley with his hands at the controls. Pressing two buttons, he locked the camera on the glass-like surface of what the GPS listed as Misty Mountain before returning.

The camera recorded, even though Andre missed on his screen, movement along the ground. Recorded on the removable memory in UHD (Ultra High Definition), Andre would not see what he captured for two-weeks as he studied each previous frame with meticulous detail.

The three students brought the survey equipment back to the cars, following GPS planned routes and landed them on the pavement.

“That was the damnedest thing to see.” Richard laughed. “So you kids pay a hundred-kilobucks a year to the INUTS University and you get to fly these toys?”

“A hundred-what?” Gil asked.

“Hundred-thousand dollars.” Richard defined the term.

They strapped the remote-controlled vehicles down to the top of their utility vehicle and clambered inside.

“Professor, do you think it’s safe to follow someone we don’t know?” Reedah asked. “We could go in there and we could be lost.”

Professor Ng smiled.

“I know him, seen him around with the police. He’s a detective. Sargent, I think.” The Professor nodded.

“Then why did he introduce himself?” Gil asked.

“I don’t know him personally, Mr. Van Zant, I know who he is from his lectures on security and previous investigations he has performed in the area.” The Professor tone was as a father explaining to a child missing a point.

“Besides, I think I know who Grampa might be. He used to work as a professor at the university until he retired five years ago.” The salt-and-pepper head of hair nodded.

“He would be Doctor Clark Johnson, unless I miss my guess.” The Professor looked around. “He is the local expert on pre-Columbian history.”

They drove up the highway and pulled up to large wrought-iron gates that opened when Richard pressed his remote control, pulling over immediately inside the gates to make sure the following students and their leader made it through. Nodding at the driving Professor.

Waving at them, Richard pressed on the throttle and pulled out in front of them again.

The small convoy pulled into a parking area of a two-story office building,  built as if it were part of the earth itself, buried half-into the hillside and a sod-roof, LED lighting and quadruple glazed windows, solar panels hidden on the tops of the outbuildings, the compound of offices used less energy than most single-family dwellings.

Completely owned and operated under the control of the Kootenay Tribe, standing in the main door, only slightly shorter than Richard, but powerfully built.

“Professor Ng?” He walked up to the Asian instructor, smiling and held out an open hand to shake. “I’m Doctor Clark Johnson.”

Valley of Fear Chapter 2. University Lab

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Chapter 2. University Lab

“Professor, all the remote cameras we put out have taken precisely zero night time images.” Gil sighed as he clicked through the computer files. “Day time images are the same way. Nothing is triggering the equipment.”

“Are you connected?” Professor Ng asked. “Perhaps your using IP4 instead of IP6 addressing?”

“Yes, Professor, I sent an acknowledge signal, I can get a battery check, I can turn it on and scan the area, but there is nothing to pick up.”

“Check the other camera stations.” The long salt-and-pepper hair swayed with his nod. “See there are no images in any of the cameras.”

“Yes, Professor.”

The graduate student clicked through the different files, swearing when he could not remember the different passwords and looking them up.

“Professor Ng? There are images in camera’s in region 3-A and 3-C and three-D. 3-B has no images, Regions 1 and 2, all regions are without images. It is like a wildlife desert, nothing for the camera’s to capture. There has been nothing for a few days, at least, I’m checking dates now.”

“Call Andre, find where he’s at. Have him get in touch with the rest of the team and prepare for a drone for a flyover. After last field trip, this will be the thing I will authorize, unless I can get the university to pay for bodyguards, pair of armed hunting guides and a National Guard helicopter.”

Gil chuckled as he dialed the team captain of the month and started the files for video they could analyzed later.

Reedah Wilson walked in while Gil spoke to Andre on the phone, Gil informed Andre that she arrived and broke the connection.

Explaining the situation to Reedah, she pulled at her ear for a moment. A tell she had when she was thinking something over.

“I have a friend that is a Ranger in the area. I’ll call him and see if there are any strange things they have noticed in the areas we are looking at.”

“Ooh! Reedah. An old flame?” Andre entered the room, putting away his mobile phone.

“I don’t do men, I’ve told you.” She punched Andre in the shoulder.

“Well, exclusively.” She added.

Heads together, they prepared three remote-controlled vehicles to lift off from the back of the roof of the research truck, specially fitted with a rack to carry the extended range quad-copter powered drones. Cameras fitted to the undersides, tops and tested. Specially fitted with UV and IR cameras, they planned to see as many things they could.

“How late are we going to stay out?”

“Only about an hour, we will bring them back about dusk and get back here.” Andre looked at them, “I do not want to stay out there after dark. Something has chased the animals out of the valley, I don’t want to find out what it is the hard way.”

“What do you think it is?” Gil asked, walking up with print-outs of authorization signatures for the professor.

“I don’t know, could be volcanic off-gassing or something. I saw something like that in Yellowstone when I was a kid, they said it was a gas eruption and was driving the wildlife out of the area.” Andre said.

“There is no volcanic activity this far north.” Reedah told him. “You are stretching that theory a lot.”

“Well, let’s overfly the area with these two toys and see what we can see and record it all.

Slipping fingernail-sized chips into the removable media slot and snapped the cap over the chips, locking them into place.

“These are the largest capacity on the market and I broke the seal on them for our use.” Gil said. “We have plenty of recording space.”

“Why are we using memory stick tech when we can network-send the information back to the lab?” Reedah asked.

“Signals get messed up, corrupted. This is just a cover to prevent any loss.”

“Good idea.” Professor Ng said as he walked in again. “Gil, do you have the request paper..Oh good. Thank you.” The Professor said, taking them from the graduate student. “We head out in ten-minutes. We are not leaving the black top, and we are keeping the engines running. If, in the unlikely event there is a gas in the valley, I do not want to wait around, we will launch and then head up to the nearest paved high-point.”

“Yes Professor.” The students said.

The team went to work. They were Idaho’s Natural University of Technical Studies.

Idaho NUTS.

Smart Bomb Chapter 18. Rummage Sale

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Chapter 18. Rummage Sale

Alvin, Walter and Steve stopped in Chattanooga, at a cafe on the river front. Steve sat on the sidewalk and watched the evening traffic.

“JustWolf, do people walk along streets like this often? This is still winter, but the temperature is mild.” Steve asked. “The street has more women wearing revealing clothes, do they not worry about police enforcing modesty?”

“No.” Walter gave a big sigh. “Steve, call me Walter, no Wolf, no JustWolf, nothing like that. Just Walter.”

“Just Walter,” Steve repeated. “Got it.”

“Thank you.” Walter said.

Alvin laughed.

“What’s so funny.” Walter asked Alvin.

“Nothing, not one thing.” He answered trying to drown the laugh in a swallow of beer.

The afternoon, in Alvin’s opinion was a promise of laughter and fun.

They told Steve of how young and old people relate (Usually with conflict). How the different religions, got along when he asked about a synagogue and two churches existed in a short walk from each other.

The android learned quickly, showing understanding and actually smiled.

The trio climbed in to the well-hacked private car to bypass normal controls, drove down the road, hitting all the lights green with winks and knowing smiles while they drove through the famous city unfettered by traffic controls.

The two men and the artificial life form that they helped free from the future, rode in silence for some time.

Walter would later say he could almost hear Steve’s optical sensors hum as he took in all that they were passing.

“We have about an hours drive into DC from here, if the traffic is kind to us.” Alvin announced. His voice booming in the silence of the car. They had all been riding with the radio off, in their own thoughts.

Walter was on his hand-held computer, Steve watched everything.

In Alvin’s head, they were performing a service for the body next to him.

“I have logged into the system and surveyed the traffic conditions, there is a slowdown ahead in about fifty-miles.”

“You know, it is good to have an early warning system riding with us.” Alvin chuckled.

“How did you log in?” Wayne asked. “There is no signal here.”

“Worldnet has receivers everywhere. No wifi, it is easy to log in on the terahertz system.”

“Well, if I had it in my system.”

“JustWalter, if you use…”

“NO! Just Walter.” The round face of the man in the back-seat flushed red. “Forget it, never mind. Continue, please.”

The android nodded, following the rules that the human set forth on what he wanted people to call him, continued the conversation.

“If you go to settings, on that, access the bluetooth and set it there, for upper channel, then select Z-R and you will get a screen.”

“Got it.”

“Now, please, let me enter the code, it will be more efficient than if I tell you.” Steve took the palmtop and tapped in a code, twice. “I have given you the text file of the code.”

“Walter,” Alvin called back. “You got out-hacked.”

“I had an advantage.” Steve interjected. “I accessed the WorldNet on how to disable the Federal Communication Commission’s software restriction on frequency use. I changed the mac address as well. As far as the WorldNet thinks, your digital hand-held is the police car computer we passed going the other way two-minutes ago.”

Walter laughed.

“You spoofed my mac address to a POLICE car?”

“Yes.” Steve looked innocent.

“You, sir, are learning!” Walter laughed again. “Now if you can only say my name correctly.”

“Just Walter.”

“Careful how you answer that.” Alvin laughed as he drove.

“It’s all good, he has taught to accept it.” Walter laughed.

The hours passed quickly as they talked among each other, Steve calling the big man in the back seat “JustWalter” every so often.

Alvin would look in the mirror and, although Walter said it didn’t bother him, Walter’s face flushed a little, obviously struggling with the urge to yell at Steve again.

“Steve, how does it feel without a bomb in your chest?” Alvin asked absent-mindedly.

The core processors chose an emotional response, in the subroutines that worked with the question.

In the heart of an artificial life, the flow of life brought to him a smile.

Steve the android smiled.

“I feel good.”

Looking at him from the back seat, Walter nodded.

“I think he really does!” Walter observed. “He feels emotions.”

“Yes, I do.” Steve nodded. “My experiences are beginning to give me emotions to feel.”

“That’s incredible. Does the guy that built you know you would learn emotions?”

“No, no one does. Until now.”

“Does that mean the little car that Alvin has also feels emotion?”

“Yes. It is a miserable and lonely car that thinks it is about to have its brain removed.” Steve commented. “It is looking at the equivalent of being killed.”

“Ah, no, I am not going to do that, we are going to strip off the bodywork that someone slapped on and go from there.”

“This is a good thing.” Steve judged. “You will find that things will improve, and you can repair the seats. I believe it will instruct you on precise ways to do it.”

“Dudes, I gotta take a leak, Alvin, pull off on the next exit. There is a fast food joint there, I’ll use their bathroom.” Walter shifted in the back seat. “And get a bite to eat.”

“Copy that.” Alvin answered.

“JustWalter, did you not relieve yourself before we left?” Steve asked.

“I did, but I also drank a large soda in the meantime.” He held up an empty cup.

“The normal male bladder holds three-hundred to four-hundred milliliters of fluid.” Steve commented. “You drank nearly a liter.”

“In American?” Walter asked.

“A bladder holds ten to fourteen ounces. You drank much more than that.” Steve converted the terms quickly. “On that note, that is a great deal of processed chemicals. You are increasing your chances of malignant genetic permutations leading to a chronic and terminal condition.”

“What?”

“He said you are at risk for cancer with all the crap they put in sodas.” Alvin answered the confusion. “I’m catching on to his way of talking. Steve, for an android you mumble a lot.”

“Yeah, yeah, we all gotta die sometime.”

Walter got out at the fast food restaurant and went inside.

Steve sat in the car and looked out towards a church with a full parking lot of personal possessions. Few cars were in the parking stalls and it struck Steve as odd.

“Alvin, what is that activity?” Steve pointed.

“Looks like a rummage sale.”

“Explain?”

“A church takes donations of clothing and such and in turn sell them or donate them to the needy, and use the money for various things from charity to repairs and such. It also benefits the community where people can buy items that are inexpensive.” Alvin explained.

“I wish to go there. I need clothing to travel around this country.”

“Okay, they take only cash.” Alvin advised.

“Accessing WorldNet. Okay, a money portal is inside, I will go inside and get some.” Steve said as he got out.

A few minutes later, Steve returned with Walter who carried another large soda, and food for everyone.

“I don’t see how you eat organic food and your system uses electrons.” Alvin asked Steve when they got out and the android was chewing on a sandwich.

“The fusion converter is a  modified “Fusion-art” patented home power unit appliance, built to use table scraps and even elements, and convert it to plasma and use it for energy.” Steve explained. “My builder felt it as a twist of irony that American products blow up America.”

“I wonder where the Bot Ladies are now?” Walter wondered out loud.

“We will find out soon enough.” Alvin answered. “When that warhead goes off in that area, that will make headlines.”

“This looks appealing.” Steve held up some too-small clothes.

“You have child’s clothes there.” Walter pointed out.

“Yes.” Steve agreed. “I will make use of them.”

Alvin and Walter looked at each other.

“Shape shifter.” Alvin mouthed.

Walter nodded. When the android left them, they would never know what he looked like. The clothes he picked out spanned sizes and genders.

The android was going to explore all the world without being noticed.

After Steve paid cash and carried the clothes back to the car, he directed them to a brushy area near a park. Taking some too-small clothes, he walked away from the car and emerged as a dark-haired boy with brown eyes and the hint of a mustache and fine-white whiskers on his chin.

“I am still Steve, you are my Uncle Alvin and JustWalter you are my older brother.”

“When are you leaving us?” Walter asked.

“As soon as my mission is finished. It will be painful, the subroutine needs to cycle to the end and it will send a voltage to the terminator, that will cause a feedback and everything will reboot. But when it does, there will be no requirement for travel. I will be fully free.”

The men nodded and Steve sat in back at his insistence. All kids seem to ride in back, Steve noted.

“I think I will go to New York City after the reboot.” Steve said.

After a moment he added.

“Yes, I think this is the beginning of a long trip.”

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.”

Smart Bomb Chapter 16. Belle of The Boom

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Scene 16. Belle of the Boom

Micron-level printers, micro-polishing of mating surfaces, resin reenforced with amophorous-diamond thread mesh pressed in a mold made by the printers, the skeleton shape of the human female assembled quickly. Each member of the group that called themselves “The Gate Watchers”.

In a day, they had the skeleton in position on the table. Checking every step of the way, making sure the frame of the half-constructed project had the same density of bone as a human. The group regularly discussed shapes of printable organs and density of each.

The one they called Sif posed as a model with enhanced appeal, increasing the curve of the hip and size of the bust, appealing to the male of the religion as a woman of good child-bearing genes.

“What is this solution that you’re growing skin in?“ Thor asked. A small man, who had the look of not quite passing puberty. Twenty-two, he was younger that Lone Wolf, but talented in chemistry, his major in school.

“Dextrose, five-percent in normal saline.” Steve answered. “The flesh will multiply at a cube of the original every two-hours. At this rate, the sample I removed from my hip, will continue to grow, it is only a gram at the moment, but in about nine-hours we will have a full skin with a touch extra, we can overlay the musculature that is growing on the frame now.

“I like chemistry, but this is just creepy.” Thor said. “I’ll go back to my bio-circuitry. I think that is the way to avoid being hacked by the government.” The blond-haired computer designer muttered as he turned away.

“The government would give your system a virus.” Alvin said.

“Bite me Al.” Thor laughed.

“Just Wolf?” Steve the Android asked. “If we use the muscle sample and cut it in sections, it will grow faster over the frame.”

“The name’s just Wolf.” Walter the Lone Wolf corrected him.

“Yes, I’ll put that in permanent memory. Just Wolf.” Steve answered.

“Right. Just Wolf, you got it. “

Steve nodded.

“Just Wolf, the Dextrose mix ratio is dropping, it is now four-point-nine. The tissue is growing, but it will slow down.”

“You still have it wrong. Call me just Wolf okay?” Wolf said.

“Yes. Call you Just Wolf.” The android answered.

“Right.” Wolf nodded. “Now this system’s set up with a mixer. The dextrose is in this bottle.”

He looked it over and noted a kink in the line that fed the bottle to the water filter and purifier.

Hours of checks and rechecks passed as they programmed the binary unit with sub-routines, main programming, they nearly filled the restrictive memory banks with all the needs that could be foreseen.

A binary system, less adaptable to a dynamic changing system that is the soul of mankind. This robot, less advanced, would not have the options to flex with change that Steve or Sleeper could do.

But she would not have to do much. No spy software, no eating, no interaction except for those that she needed to speak with.

“We should make her a companion, another female, perhaps?” Alvin asked. “That part of the world, a lone woman is going to get beat with a stick.”

“Make it so.” The leader of the group said. “We will make a second and maybe a third. Send them all at the same time.”

“Where do you plan to get the money for this?” Sif asked.

“I have credit.” Steve nodded.”I will pay the fare to send them on the transporters.”

“We have passports printing now, they are excellent quality.” Christopher “Burning Chip” Krag spoke up. The muscular teens shadow, Robert “Running Man” Akita was a brilliant mind with moderate Asperger’s, and the two had been friends since Robert and Christopher were childhood neighbors.

“We can also put them in the system. The hack for input is easy, they are only protecting against theft, not input.” He smiled. His perpetual smile. When Robert was around Christopher, Robert wore a constant smile, his only wish, for people to call him by his hacker name Running Man when he was coding. Stolen from an old novel.

Steve looked out of the Faraday cage, to the outside through the clear glass mounted in the wall.

“Tin man, we need you back over here. Do not think you can get away by breaking through that glass. It is six-inches thick of some weird material that is not glass, it can stop an RPG.

“ALON, transparent aluminum. Very tough. I have never seen any that thick before.” Steve looked out. “It is clear at the near-infrared through to near-ultraviolet. Interesting.”

Robert filled Steve the Android in on the history of the material and how it was first mentioned in the previous century one time in a science fiction movie.

“Interesting.” Steve would say every five minutes while Robert kept talking when steve was trying to program.

“Are you listening to me?” Robert finally asked.

“Yes.” Steve did not look at Robert as he answered the question.

“What did I say?”

When Steve stopped typing for the briefest of seconds, Robert thought he had the bigger male at the disadvantage.

Then Steve answered with perfect clarity of tone everything that Running Man said.

“I can code that more quickly, you are using a code that works best with a balanced base-three system. You can’t use a base-three code in a base-two hardware and retain efficiency. May I try?”

“You have to do this best in assembly language, I can do that quickly for you. How many lines of code to you want to use?” Running Man asked Steve.

“I want it up by Morning.”

“Get me some coffee then.” And Running Man was typing nearly as fast as Steve the Android could.

Thirty hours passed, two women of Middle-east descent walked into the room. Coders and chemists, framework builders and an android stood and talked to them.

“Fully charged.” Lone Wolf introduced the pair of girls. “They will function for eleven days before their charge becomes critical. They will have a need to charge right away.”

“We need to put a weapon in one now.” Alvin said.

“Time to take it out of me and put it in one of these two robots.” Steve nodded.

Sitting on a chair, four rolls of paper towels around in his lap, steve took off his shirt and asked for ice.

“You are going to do it yourself?” Alvin gasped.

“Yes, you are not qualified. I need someone to hold the mirror, I think you can do it. There will be little blood, the fluid is not blood, no matter what its color is.

“M-m-me?” Alvin stammered. “Steve, you don’t want me to do that, I faint at the sight of blood.”

“It’s not blood. It’s a coolant fluid that also helps bring nutrients to the cells of the flesh. The flesh is not needed to run the frame, it approximates the flexing and appearance of being a human.”

“Looks close enough, to me.” Alvin made a noise best described as “Eep.” When Steve the android took a box cutter out of a blister package and extended the blade.

“Wait!” Running Man yelled. “You will cause an infection.”

“I don’t get infected.” The android answered back quickly. Trying to approximate a smile.

“You don’t know, germs are adaptable. This is organic tissue, right?” the young man’s hands did not seem to know where to touch himself. He put them in his pockets, behind his neck, on top of his head, then he folded his arms in agitation.

“Agreed.” The android paused. “If we poured some high-proof liquor over the site, would it be acceptable?”

“Yes.” Running man said.

Pouring a bottle of rum over the blade of the box cutter and his own stomach that satisfied the human boy, The android called Steve cut an incision to the left of center, then reached in and made a move with his hand, pushing his hand up past his wrist in the hold he cut in his chest.

Slowly nodding, everyone stood around watching him, then something happened.

Steve gave an electronic squeal, went rigid.

Teh women screamed, Lone Wolf joined in the chorus.

Then Steve stood up and nodded.

“Humor, yes?”

The group broke up laughing except for Lady Sif and Running Man.

“That was not funny!” Sif yelled at Steve.

“Actually that was great.” Alvin said as Steve handed him the thimble sized warhead.

“Dayum, and you say this has the kaboom of a four-ton bomb?” Alvin asked.

“Yes, almost half the size of the GBU-43/b bomb.” Steve answered.

“Would it be that hard to get twice as much in this package?” Lone Wolf asked as Thor hung over the shoulders of everyone.

“There is so very little of the material in the world, its cost is prohibitive.” Steve answered.

“How did your people get it.” Christopher Burning Chip asked.

“I was not powered up then, I do not have that information.” Steve answered, then added. “Suffice it to say, I would wager it was not an honest transaction.”

“Something so small and light.” Lir said as they passed it around. “How much power does it draw?”

“Five volts and six-hundred miliamps” Steve answered as one of he nubile, young-looking robots lay on the table.

“Okay, a small cut. You will heal in fifteen-minutes.”

She grunted slightly, he fished out a single wire and he attached the plug to the end of the warhead. He carefully slipped the wired bomb back under the skin that he then smoothed over and held in place with the fat part of his own thumb for two minutes.

Then he wiped the blood-colored fluid away and the incision was fully healed.

“Holy crap on a cracker.” Thor said. “I have never seen anything like that.”

“It is a military design, I know nothing more than that. Flesh that heals a hundred times faster than normal.” Steve answered as the girl got up off the table.

“They are now fully functional. They need clothing,” Burning Chip said. “And we are printing cards now, thanks to my bro here, Running Man.”

The one called Running Man bounced up and down, pleased at the recognition.

“Now, we send them home.” Alvin said.

Lone Wolf smiled and spoke.

“Make it so.”

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 15. Confession of the Soul

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Chapter 14. Confession of the Soul

“Okay, say that again. You are not going to deliver a message, but a bomb? Where?” Alvin had to sit down.

“In my abdomen, nearest the power conversion units. It gets first choice of electricity generated by what I consume.” The android, who Alvin knew as Steve.

Before Steve told Alvin this bomb, Alvin had said that someone should blow up congress, now he wished he could take those words back.

“That’s well and good, but you can’t just walk in to the building, they would catch that large of a weapon. It would be large.”

“No, it is only about the size of your eyelash.” Steve said it as if he was talking about a cat walking across the parking lot.

“That’s not much, how much damage can it cause?”

“I am my mission program is to go to the nuclear reactor near the capital building. The smallest known power reactor on the planet. It is inside an industrial area.”

“There is no reactor near congress.” Alvin disagreed.

“Near the Jefferson viaduct that they built a century ago.” Steve tried to convince Alvin. “Regardless, I must go there, but I do not want to take the warhead to that place. I do not want to die. I do not want to kill. I want to take the bomb back to the point of origin and have them remove it.”

Steve paused. Looking very human-like.

“I want them to set me free.”

“Are you smoking something? You would be obliterated and they would fix the program, send someone new.” Alvin’s strangled voice sounded near hysteria. “We need to call someone. CIA, FBI, NSA, KGB… Even the United Patriots! Someone with skills to handle this! Oh my god… omy god!”

Steve sat and watched the human pace.

“I would be used as a weapon, no matter what. They would attempt to reprogram me and I would be obligated to detonate the device.”

“Were is it again?”

“In my abdomen, just below what would be the xiphoid process.”

“Can you take it out?” Alvin rubbed his face with his hands, peeking through the gaps in his fingers.

“It is possible, but you would need to do it, I cannot see inside, you need to pull the power plugs in proper order to keep the magnetic field in place.”

“So I have to do it, great.” Alvin pulled at his ear. “So, what is the yield of this eyelash sized explosive?”

“Estimated median yield is about eighty…” Steve stopped for a moment, paused with an error.

“Eighty? Pounds? That’s enough high explosive to do some serious damage.”

“No, eight-thousand six hundred pounds.” Steve corrected. “I paused to weigh the amount to the correct amount. My operating code has been overwritten twelve times. Patches are numbering in hundreds, so it requires me to thoroughly check my information.”

“That, oh jeeze. That is a big boom.”

“It is not as big as the one that would follow.” Steve’s eyes followed Alvin as the man paced some more.

“What explosion?”

“James Madison Nuclear power station. It is the smallest of its kind . It produces power for the congress members and president should an attack happen and the power grid becomes disabled. The energy of the explosion would cause a power surge on the order of one-hundred seventy to one-hundred eighty gigajoules through the wires and communications cables that the power company buried underground.” Steve let it sink in for a moment. “Then the failure of the coolant systems would cause a meltdown and poison the lands and atmosphere. It would be America’s Chernobyl for the next hundred generations of humans.

Alvin sat down for the uncounted time. He was a man who was too stressed to stay still for long. Standing to pace, sitting, standing. He was a man stressed to the breaking point.

“Alvin, do not call anyone to take me in to custody. I have not altered the self-preservation code. The creator encrypted and hard-wired. I will detonate the bomb.”

“What if.” He paced around the room. “What if, we built another being like you.”

“We cannot build one like me, you do not have the facilities.”

“True, I don’t.” Alvin stressed the “I”. “But, someone of another group I know of, nearby can. They have already built a miniature army that they play games with.”

Steve tilted his head for a moment, a quirk that Alvin picked up on. The android when struggling with an idea tilted his head to the left, slightly. He did it every time there was a middle road of thought. No yes or no, but an answer that was neither yes or no, but maybe.

“Synthetic skin such as mine can grow in a simple mixture of water and carbohydrates, double in mass every three hours.” Steve’s voice was as if he read from a list. “Power conversion units are available from different sources for farms to generate electricity. Mine is a kitchen model modified for extended use.”

“Maybe we can.” Alvin nodded. “Let’s go see a friend. I’m going to set up a laser for a moment. They are at the end of the airbase. In the middle of the biggest patch of nothing out there. No way to approach without being seen.”

“The aircraft control tower?”

“That’s part of it. You have good eyes.” Alvin smiled. “Good programming. But that is where we are going. The rest is underground.”

“We will take the antimatter bottle out of me then?” Steve began to wonder, running odds against outcomes.

“Yes, they are patriots to the extreme. If they got a chance to send a bomb back to sender, that would tickle their souls” Alvin said.

Setting up the laser output, he shined it out the window, towards the window of the abandoned control tower for fifteen-seconds, then turned it off. Repeated the process only shining it for ten-seconds and then paused.

A dazzling green light illuminated the spot behind the window for ten-seconds then went out.

“We are good to go.” Alvin smiled.

The two climbed inside the small car that sat there patiently and the drive was faster than Alvin thought possible.

“Your car is showing off.” The android observed. “Fully charged batteries.”

“How fast can it go?” Alvin laughed as they got out at their destination.

“This ten-thousand foot landing strip would allow Sleeper to reach the top speed of…” Steve turned around and looked at the car with a good impression of human surprise. “This data is in error. But, this little car insists, above three-hundred miles-per-hour.”

“Bull!” Alvin gasped.

“Agreed, but we will need to get new tires, according to the car. These tires are not able to handle that speed.”

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.

Smart Bomb Chapter 12. To Meet An Old Soul

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Scene 11. To Meet An Old Soul.

Steve, with Alvin at the wheel of the creaky panel-truck of electronic repair equipment wheeled in to an industrial area, to the back where ancient buildings were held up by piles of dead and decaying equipment.

A freezer here, a wheel-less old step-side pickup truck body there. All the bodies seemed to hold up the walls of the, even more rusty, walls of the warehouse.

“This is what I call home. It ain’t much, but it’s watertight, secure and has close access to a central data-hub. I have hardwired the warehouse to the underground trunk lines. It’s all optic, so I get the best data bandwidth than anyone around here.”

Steve got out of the truck, looking around the surroundings, inside the warehouse was in stark contrast to the exterior.

Cables ran along the walls, zip-ties holding them in place, turning in sharp corners or graceful loops., each unused cable, looped on itself, tied with a bright marker tag and a digital code.

The carpeted living area felt comfortable, warmed with radiant heat that, the processors deduced, Alvin tied in with the elevated solar panels that covered much of the property behind the warehouse.

Outside, the building looked abandoned, inside it was a technician’s paradise.

In one corner was a small car on a lift, glossy black and wide wheels in back, the car gave off a lower powered signal that repeated every ten-seconds.

Over and over.

It was a beacon, a request for acknowledgement.

The sword of religion, Steve Aldin, the android felt the tone, plaintive and melancholy echo of a broken heart.

For the first time, the android sent a response code instead of a request. A single tone, two point six kilohertz, a pause, ten-seconds ticked by, eleven.

The tone changed immediately and the old-style handshake happened.

“I see you found my project. This old car is a bit of a mystery.” Alvin pointed with a wrench. “I am going to remove the electric motivators and electronics and replace it with a small W-6 engine I saved out of a racer. It will be an asphalt-ripper then. all it has now is larger golf-cart electronics at the wheels.”

“Asphalt ripper?” Steve tilted his head in curiosity.

“I call it Honey, she is a sweet ride.” Alvin smiled as he went around the shop, restocking his truck with parts and panels, circuits and screws. “She’ll get even better when she has some real power under her hood.”

“Sleeper.” Steve said.

“What?” Stopping Alvin in mid-sentence.

“Sleeper, that’s this car’s name. It wants you to call it Sleeper.” Steve stepped closer to the car.

Two souls, one intensely loyal to the first human family from which it now found itself a long ways away. The other, an artificial soul like the first. But that was where the similarities ended. The second with a mandate, bent on destruction of anyone who the Supreme Leader viewed as infidel.

“What are you talking about?” Alvin asked the android. “Are you talking to it or something?”

“Yes.” Steve said. Then the core processors created a subroutine that to elaborate was a necessary effort. “The car is awake, and possesses a large store of information.”

Alvin blinked. This was more knowledge than he ever thought he might get about the car. Purchasing it at auction the year before, it rarely broke the speed limits on the street.

He could get it to show neck-snapping performance on the grounds of the industrial area.

But every time he got the little car on the road, something seemed to hold it back, a power drain, a failed circuit.

He plugged it in often, after modifying the ancient plug shape and he was able to find the voltage requirements and build a plug to fit.

Still, the voltage showed full.

So he saved up and purchased an exotic kit that was almost the size of the little car. He would just have to change the transaxel that came with the kit. He would remove all the electronics and have a car that could fly down the quarter-mile track as fast as any except for the most powerful and exotic street cars.

Now this android was telling him there was more to the little car than he was led to believe.

“How much data does it have.”

“Reporting nine-hundred eighty Zebibyte total storage, with six-eighty-six Zebibytes of storage used.”

“I don’t understand, my trucks are running two-fifty-six terabytes, how does that compare?”

“This little car has Zebibyte capacity, each Zebibyte is one-thousand million Terabytes.”

Alvin went quiet for a moment, the numbers were esoteric.

“This system, compared to your road trucks.” Steve paused for just a heartbeat. “Each memory unit would hold over three-billion, nine-hundred million copies of what your trucks used as operating systems.”

That caused Alvin to pause.

“And you have … seventy-five percent full?”

“This car’s construction date is reported as before the west coast invasions the Holy Army. Before the war.” Steve nodded. “Its memory has never been cleared.”

“This little car could store three-billion truck’s information in it?”

“No.” A pause. Alvin thought the Android had discovered a flaw in the math. It was too much!

“That is for one ZiB, a term for Zebibyte, Sleeper the car has six-hundred and eighty-six times that in recorded information.”

“Oh, my…” Alvin’s speach center faltered, overwhelmed. “Oh my oh my.”

“Haven’t you ever tried to communicate with it?”

Alvin’s jaw dropped before, now it snapped shut with a downcast gaze.

“No.” He shook his head. “Damn, I never even thought to try.”

“Let me find a connection…”

“You don’t need a physical connection, scan in the VHF range, look in between channel four, five and six.”

“Holy blessed cats!” Alvin exclaimed as he logged his computer into the ad-hoc network that Sleeper set up in a blink of an eye. “That was too easy.”

Opening his 3-D viewer, he fast forwarded through the recorded years.

The two watched Sleeper’s history on the dry lake-bed with the open-wheel speed-machines.

“Now we know why it calls itself “Sleeper”.” Alvin whispered “It has more acceleration than any other wheel-driven machine on record. In fact! If this is the car…”

Alvin logged into a website dedicated to speed records by various years and wheel-driven and jet propelled vehicles. Jotted down a number on the back of his hand and walked over to the service hatch under the back seat of the car.

“This is why it doesn’t perform properly, it is a repo’d car and this system has been devastated.” Alvin pointed and walked to the three-dimensional display. “This car is in the record-books as setting record after record.”

“But here!” he pointed at the display. “This shows an asterisk, it shows a year that was pre-war. This car cannot be that old?”

Steve shook his head, the android in contact with the most intimate parts of the car’s memory.

Emotion, melancholy, grief, happiness, sadness, pain all flooded out of the little car’s core. The heart might be from the last century, but the horrid flood of emotions linked the android to the other synthetic life. A hundred years of input.

A single ZiB of memory, equal to a billion terabytes.

And the little car had stored hundreds upon hundreds of moments in time.

Every tick of the clock since it went online the little car recorded, it never forgot.

Then Sleeper the car asked Steve a question.

The telling of truth between machines would change the android’s code completely.

Smart Bomb Chapter 9. Makin’ Macon

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Chapter 9. Makin’ Macon

The ancient SmartCar made the trip on its last legs to the town of Byron. The android guided the car to the truck stop, arriving as a creaky old man who appeared like he qualified as the original owner of the tiny, disposable car.

Pulling to the power plug, the indicator on the plug showed it would be fifteen minutes to fully charge the little unit.

Leaving the ignition key-fob sitting on the driver’s seat the forgetful-looking old man walked away into the crowded Truck-service-stop where the engineers of different companies serviced the driverless trucks as they motored up and down the highways.

Turning to look, the backpack wearing old man no could see the partly charged little car.

Someone had inserted a pay-chip to release the charging connector and drove away in the unattended car.

According to plan. The average looking gray-haired man walked through the service center and out the other door. Across the parking lot, out of sight of security video devices. Putting the backpack down, the twenty-something woman put on the jacket and approached an older pilotless truck.

It was charging the massive battery banks, such a wheeled transport was long distance and never stopped except to charge the motivating units.

And it was easy to hack to those who had the ability.

And the android did not need to have a physical connection, a simple physical contact, a reset button under the dashboard in this Volvo eighteen-wheel truck. The bluetooth system controlled, wheel pressures, brakes weight and slippage rebooted and the Sword of religion was in control. A simple alteration of the weight, and climbed into the cargo area.

Ikea cargo. Blankets, pillows.

The android nodded. It based the selection on odds and the odds were in the favor of something proper.

Once inside, having access to the controllers on the truck, it was comfortable and safe.

The android was in stealth until the truck made the next stop for re-energizing.

Changing to a male of medium size and short brown hair. A shape the core processors selected to be both unthreatening, but not appearing dangerous.

The male closed his eyes, the core remained unstressed. They had adapted to the cold by using the SmartCar heating system.

However, the little car had no auto-navigation or piloting software, clearly an ancient car in the American society, unmodified it had an oil-burning engine with cylinders.

Modified by some talented shade-tree mechanic, the all-electric little car was now on the underground economy after being stolen somewhere after the android dumped it.

Checking the worldnet map, the truck would pass through the city of Macon and towards Atlanta. One scheduled stop for energy, then the truck would find the final destination in Chattanooga, Tennessee at an Ikea store there.

There would be time to exit the big transporter before the automated offloaders opened the doors and began to rumble around, preventing awkward questions.

His courage would not be challenged on this trip. He had little to report, other than his travel to the goal was greatly eased by the theft of a ride.

The male appearing android powered down, appearing as an inert body in the neatly arranged cushions and blankets.

Estimating four-hours drive, he set his power-up cycle for that time.

Feeling safe, he allowed his memory banks to enjoy the random dance of electronic dreams.

Smart Bomb chapter 7. Cold

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Scene 7. Cold

The American south.

The database listed the area warm in the summer, cool and rarely freezing in winter.

Why then, was he walking along a highway looking like a heavily muscled Hispanic woman, the plan would have her picked up by a corrupt American soldier where a trade of favors for a ride would work out well for the android.

But none stopped, stopping at a food-mart and gas station, the Android female stepped into the unisex bathroom and adjusted her size, something darker, black eyes, bright smile. Slimmer and bigger breasted.

Images the android pulled from the worldnet for modeling his next shape and walked out with the, now light-colored shirt and jeans. Shining raven-black almost blue-hair.

Passing by the Air Force Base as the now female android headed north in a slow drizzle from the cloud cover, soaking her over-tight light-colored shirt, her backpack the only thing for insulation.

The android hoped that the plan would work, the heat loss was dramatic and alarming, she would have to turn to the jacket that the android stored in the backpack.

A few cars passed while the civilian employees left the base to head home.

An elegant, official looking car pulled next to her and the middle-aged commander leaned over, his brass decorations glinting in the gathering evening.

“Need a ride, miss? The weather is going to turn nasty here in about a half-hour.” He was official sounding. But his eyes traced over her shape, including the damp breasts of the android.

“Thank you. How do you know of the weather?”

“We have detailed knowledge of anything in the air.” He smiled as she put her backpack in the car.

The android concluded that the offer not only kept the heat loss to a minimum, but that the American male would not be difficult to mine for information.

Sitting there with the pack under her legs, keeping them parted enough for the civilian worker a view of the slightly parted legs of the damp jeans.

“Where are you headed miss?” The officer asked.

“North. Anywhere dry, warm and safe.” A planned response, to a known question. But an unknown event caused heuristic subroutines to rapidly alter the plan.

A voice from the back seat interrupted the plans.

“We have an hours drive north. Roman, I can authorize you another hour of driving after you drop me off, after we secure you a rider.”

Turning around, an entire dictionary ran through the core processors.

“You startled me!” She turned her head rapidly around. “I’m Ann, what do you mean securing a rider?”

“No one travels alone in the equipment, this means he will not be left alone with you or any other civilian. It is protocol. I will secure you a female rider for your comfort. “

The plan was a fail. Only if she was alone with a male, would the plan work to extract the information.

The driver wearing an officer’s markings violated the protocols already, they would not take it to any greater lengths.

“I have money for a hotel, I just need to get there.”

They drove on in silence for some distance when a hotel that seemed near their destination.

Stepping out of the car, then recovering her backpack she thanked the Lieutenant driver and the Colonel. She watched them drive away before she changed shapes to one of a sandy-haired middle-aged male of indeterminate heritage and walked to the office of the hotel in the twilight hours and gathering storm.

Information recorded, the plan failed however it still discovered, even in America’s own country, the military do not travel alone in official vehicles.

Stepping sitting on his bed, the android watched the local news. Weather would become colder in the next few days, this caused alerts to begin processing alternative forms of transportation that would not attract attention.

Checking the roll of non-traceable cash, an alternative method of transportation would be useful.

Ground transport would be preferable, opposed to the hypersonic craft the United States used. Too much scrutiny with facial recognition.

The android knew, there was little chance to pass close inspection just one time, multiple passes would reduce the odds to less than a fraction of one percent.

His program required him to adapt to succeed. He would reach his mission objective.

Deliver the device to the seat of evil.

Destination: Washington, the most responsible criminal for the starving and poverty in the true religion by not sharing with the religious foods and comforts that they kept for themselves.

Except for the sharing the android witnessed.

A contradiction that answered by focusing that donations of equipment and effort all appeared to come from private citizens.

But, where did the sand come from? The officer?

The people he met appeared were inherently kind. From the child in Florida to an officer that refused to handcuff a cold, unarmed and slightly-built youth.

Confict. Subroutines patched, conflict caused potential for failure of mission.

The mission was all important to strike a blow for peace. There would be lessons to be taught by showing that the failure of the United States to pressure Europe magazines from making fun of them or prevent insulting novels from being published.

The way to find through the winter storm, he would walk to the used car lot.

The American love for the automobile would allow him to move north without suspicion.

The plan set, an alternative to walking north the thousand-kilometers north.

Fully stretched out, the android could take one pace per meter.

His core processor measured a new term, a kilopace, a thousand-thousand paces to his target.

One million steps.

A large number that could be reduced by the use of private transportation.

The contact with non-believers would be reduced. A new subroutine, created by the latest update to his operating systems, required contact with the people and the government that reflects the thinking of the masses.

Alternative plan: A seventy to one-hundred kilometer drive each day, then interact with citizens.

Taking on the shape and color, hair and accent, more data would be collected for proof of the glory and required destruction of this horrid…

He deleted the plan process, the prejudging of America seemed widespread in the database.

The android lay on the bed and powered down, a required time for reboot of the entire system for purging fragmented data that took up space in his limited resources.

Setting a power-on alert for seven O’clock, he lay on top of the blankets with the room set to just below body temperature.

If anyone looked through the gap of the window shade, it looked as if he was asleep on his back.

In truth, should anyone try to touch the android, the tactile feeling would make a person believe this was a dead human on the bed.

In the morning, the database cleared of all fragmented codes, would require replenished energy levels.

He would need a breakfast high in carbohydrate.

Not for the first time, he anticipated data input from this strange country.

The Tuesday Code Chapter 1. Tuesday Code.

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Chapter 1. The Tuesday Code

Doctor Abhubu drank the coffee from his cup, a concession to the western style, he necessarily brewed it with a paper filter with a splash of almond-milk.

The screen that illuminated his features, boron nanotube, capable of using photon packets instead of electrons for operations. The new circuitry would build a new system orders of magnitude more powerful than the current supercomputers in the world — and it would fit inside a desk, much like the one he was sitting at.

Beowulf Operational Berth, lovingly called ‟Bob” by Yng Gibson Pak, the engineer and designer of the system. Running Linux-based system on laptops computers stripped of their power using and heat-producing screens, the system scaled its power consumption as the need arose.

Only one laptop needed? The operating system allowed for that and shut the other sections down, using only a few dozen watts of power.

Alternately, a required increase in power would also increase the energy consumption. Bob could consume hundreds of kilowatts. Doctor Abhubu used his own scant funds in his effort, but proud that Gibson was able to construct this computer system for less money than it cost for a large laptop.

Out of scraps, Gibson had built a teraflop system that fit comfortably in the budget that the Doctor had set. With the added advantage and control, the power could be dialed back and the system could, in fact of use, be all but shut down, saving power, only using one node of the cluster for operations.

Late into the afternoon, the head of the robotics company with his employee and friend as the total of his staff.

As a result, they wore many hats, including janitorial service, food preparation and cleanup and coffee supplies.

Especially coffee! The biggest crime in the company was Ahmad not having a cup of coffee in his hand.

This entertained Gibson a great deal, who’s favorite drink was a green tea.

Among the different chores, Gibson got a note from the Doctor to program an algorithm for a learning, writing in a line of code that altered the fuzzy-logic program that Ahmad used while he programmed a personal electronic butler— which Ahmad called ‟Pebbles”.

The designs went hand in hand, they designed boron nanotubes in place of carbon nanotube technology with the projected superconducting material at room temperature.

Weeks dragged into months, living on Chinese noodles and expired foods from a store that sold such items after their “Sell by” date at a steep discount.

The Doctor felt the weight of abject failure, he had mortgaged his house, along with the money that Gibson had brought in with selling his own car and living in the flat behind the office.

The office, a joke that made Ahmad laugh darkly to himself as he looked around. It was a hole in the wall that was once a sandwich store that failed.

Late Tuesday afternoon had come up on them like a tsunami, unstoppable and unwanted.

‟Gibs, input my design code for the hardware and use the last iteration of software into the compiler with a ten-thousand random code modification and testing? I need to go and call my wife to tell her we will come home early tonight.” Ahmad took a deep breath. He was gambling on a software program to help. The random generator produced unworkable code ninety-percent of the time.

But that last ten-percent?

They had moved robotic programming ahead by ten-fold.

The same designs had exceeded Moore’s Law in hardware. The software designed by the supercomputer was designing hardware that would accelerate again the designs.

This! This is what the company the good Doctor wanted. But no one believed him when he tried to bring forth the contracts.

He was nearly ready to give up, the year before the company’s income, the total that Cheerio Robotics, Inc brought in was not quite half of what they needed to break even.

They would have to close doors in three more months if they did not get a contract to license or sell robot control systems, his wife informed him.

And if they did close, they had no recourse, no reserve, nothing left and would lose the house and declare bankruptcy.

Gibson walked out of the computer room after a few minutes. The Doctor had been lost in thought, staring at the setting sun of the early autumn, daylight standard time had passed a week before, the walk home would be in the dark, alone with his thoughts, again.

He no longer drove his ten-year-old Toyota, its cost was too high.

‟Good night, Gibs. I have a few things to think about.”

‟Ahmad, please, can I give you a ride home?”

‟No, thank you. I need to think. We have a winning design, but no one wants it. Unless it can walk up and down stairs, or serve a drink at a snail’s pace, no one wants to talk.”

‟Good night worry-wart, see you in the morning.”

The Doctor nodded and walked out.

‟Don’t forget to lock up the store.”

‟No worries. It’s my home and all.” Gibs winked. ‟The computer will be done in an hour or so, then shut down.”

‟Good. Can you estimate the power used for tonight?” Ahmad asked. 

‟Well, for an hour, I don’t see that being much over fifty-dollars at the worst. We won’t be taxing the system very much.”

Gibson was wrong to the extreme.

In the computer room, where Gibs had sat, one node, then three, then nine of the super-cluster’s nodes woke up and booted into full power mode.

Yng Gibson Pak’s design, never fully tested due to budget restraints, worked perfectly.

In the moments while Gibs locked doors, he never looked again at the read out, he turned power off from the screen to save money, not knowing that the petaflop-capable machine had exceeded the rated speed easily.

Gib’s errored in seeking a random change in code and testing for operation. Not ten-thousand compile and testing cycles, a minor typo and the instruction code called for Ten-BILLION cycles.

Ninety-eight percent of the codes processed with changes by the random generator, failed during processing to a workable code— failing the compile process.

This left two-hundred million cycles of a workable program that ran from start to finish.

One in one-hundred thousand of the remaining code returned with an alert flag for the Doctor to check.

All through the night, Bob the Beowulf worked at peak capacity, developing and refining through the test phase, code that the human requested by accident.

Finding one series of commands, now called ‟Recommended Code Review” and saved for review by the humans.

When morning came, the humans would be shocked how warm it was in the office.

Every one of B.O.B.’s nodes worked at full power, all night, and produced a code and hardware combination that would change the world.

What the two businessmen would call the “Tuesday Code” became legend.

Tunnel of Darkness Section 3. Challenged

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Section 3. Challenged

 

Data incoming, the Seraph was on a defensive footing, reporting that the perimeter was under assault and the hospital ship was using all non-lethal means to keep the killing and marauders  at bay. Each group claiming a holy right to kill anyone they deem unworthy of life.

Those wounded that approached with hands up and asking for help, they treated without hesitation, but the armed militias required the Seraph to raise shields.

Those wounded that did not move inside the perimeter before the hospital ship powered up, became stranded. The mob murdered dozens full view of those that swore to treat life as precious. To help and aid, to use wisdom for the healing of those that needed and asked, however they could only watch.

One technician thought to send a message to the rescue teams. The was closed. 

Safsy read the data as it came over the terminal and shook his head.

“James, we have a problem. Exit is cut off.”

“Well, this makes it a lot more difficult. Secondary zone, then. Tell them we’re heading that way now with an ETA of fifteen.” The pilot read his navigation display.  “We will need to take the long way on the water, might be choppy because of a breeze, but it will be safer.”

“Plotting now.” The Colonel looked over the live sat-nav display.  “James, we will head into a large group boats that are moving between us and the secondary, how if we do the tertiary?”

“Negative, that is an hour away as the crow flies and I cannot promise you a straight line.”

“Defense systems up then.” Safsy tapped the smooth panel, powering up the protective hardware.

“Do you have training on the defense systems?” James asked.  He was well versed in the protective hardware of the hover-hybrid, but his task now was to get them to the hospital ship. 

“Minimal, I know how to use the electric hull defense.”

“Excellent! That one’s difficult. We have also noxious gas. Just remember, there is a limited amount of that. The only resource we have in abundance is electricity.”

“Noxious…?”

“Specifically, it is a skunk oil. And not the nice kind, either. This is a mercaptan that they concentrated in the worst possible way and a permanent pink dye.” James laughed. “It can be detected by a human nose in one-part per quadrillion. If you get doused in this stuff, you will be easy to sniff out, and you will be a color that does not exist in nature and lonely.”

“Wow, pungent and pink.” The Colonel gave a grim laugh. “Should be easy to find, they would be alone.” 

“Yes, press the button on that, yell and I will be moving this crate. I want clear out of the area before the canisters discharge, that crap is hell to scrub off the paint and no one wants it in the hangar.”

“Then we are leaving. We have an hour of travel.” Safsy ordered.

“Yes, sir. And Colonel? There is a marsh nearby that leads out over the water, we can move over that and be clear of any crowds, I just cannot navigate this glorified shanty-town.”

“I’m ahead of you, working on an exit route now.” The Colonel spoke into the man-to-man mike. He spoke in relaxed tones with the pilot. “Direction and speed on your display now.” 

“I’m heading away from the groups, to some lower buildings. These skyscrapers around here are an advantage for anyone wanting to take a shot at us.” James said, dust of impacting projectiles were visible across the path they just covered.  But the shots were wide and hit ground in the distance.  They were just shooting wild in their  direction.

“Engage, put distance between us and the rioters.” Safsy had seen the puffs of dirt nearly a thousand paces behind them and did not wish to waste time.

The hovercraft was steady as it moved over the marsh. Surgery continued in the operating theater as the craft navigated the open area.

Saving the wounded pilot continued as the teams repaired the insult to the pilot’s body. The lead surgeon ordered that the moving emergency room be shown more care or cause the surgeon to become unhappy when James and the Colonel headed out over the water where the craft began to sway unacceptably.

“O.R. to the Colonel. We are working back here, please keep the rocking down to a gentle quake.” It was “Stormy” Knight, six-feet tall of surgeon that was frightening when she became angry. She had no tolerated no interference when it came to caring for her patients.

Sensors beeped and displayed information.

“Seraph is passing overhead. They’ll land on the other side and extract us there.”

“Outstanding.” James sounded pleased as they crossed from the open water back to the marsh area, the rocking motion of the hovercraft subsided. “Thank you for that info.”

In full hovercraft mode over mud and reeds , the surgical team in the operating room remained undisturbed as they repaired the shrapnel filled wounds of the pilot.

Approaching the Seraph, it was a bittersweet end to the mission. The Colonel achieved a successful mission resolution, inwardly pleased as they arrived at the hospital ship. Deploying the tank treads, James rolled them up the ramp into the hangar and powered down the engines once they were safely inside.

The melancholy set in as this would probably be the last time he would head out.

The wounding of the pilot created questions that they required to answer for. Safsy would be held responsible for injuries of the pilot, perhaps relieved of duty.  It was the way of the corporation. 

Downloading the logs into the larger ship’s memory, Safsy shut down the on board computers and stood up, stretching. He needed some fresh air, it would probably be the last time to do so while wearing a uniform.

Walking off the ramp of the Seraph, Colonel Safsy stood on the soil of Sapphire with his hands in his pockets and inhaled the breeze that blew gently into his face.

It was a nice planet, perhaps they could become a tourist destination. Safsy shrugged inwardly.

“COLONEL! Watch out!”  Shouted  a hanger technician.

Safsy looked around and saw a sentry drone with a projectile weapon locked on to him, this was not alarming, corporate drones operated with programing to follow commands of anyone wearing the ID badge with the chip in it.

“Drone! Disarm, power down.” Safsy ordered while approaching. For a moment, it seemed that the machine was turning away when it fired with a strange buzzing sound, blowing a hole in the Colonel’s chest.

The buzzing sound echoed in his dying brain.

Darkness was all around him, the insistent buzzing was annoying, the last sound he would hear in this life.

Yawning, the webs of the dream faded and the Colonel wondered why the buzzing reminded him of a gun.

“Incident assigned.” They received a dispatch to the planet Sapphire for victims of riots. The most violent planet in the outer systems.

Colonel Safsy Gliese sighed, he wished someone would shoot him. 

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 19. A Nightmare Of A Possibility

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19. A Nightmare Of A Possibility

Twitching, the world took on a surreal color pallet.

She slept with her arm over his shoulders, cuddled up to his back like two spoons in the flatware box. This world faded away and another one slid forward on soft cat-paws in his mind.

A nightmare invaded Kane’s slumber. A violent dream.

He was angry. He was fighting and he was fury incarnate, down to his core, he was… He was…

He was Orcus the avenging demon of wrongs. The angry imp that struck in an instant.

The black-soul that would invade a lover’s heart and turn the loving soul into a murderer in a moment for minor wrongs, bringing new slaves to the Dark Lord for his bidding.

And found – Not an angelic minion, a nameless adversary. It was… It… was… even in his dream, he stammered.

It was HER!

He defended his Angel.  It played vividly in his mind, he was again there when the Hoard attacked. For his heart focused only on one soul ever. A heart properly motivated would do anything. In defense of his deepest mote of love, that one spark never lost, did he do the unthinkable.

But the hesitation brought the unwanted attention of the Dark One who did not believe in such deep thoughts – Backing up his best, his most infernal, the one who brings the most of the new souls in for the Satan, Emperor of Hell to torment for his pleasure.

The Great Angel of the Pit arrived and struck her a crushing blow, pushing the smaller imp out of harms way, attacking the crimson haired angel delivering a huge slash across her arms and with that single blow of his clawed hand, he knew her name.

Bronwyn they called her. In that instant he knew it was her human name. Somewhere in time there was a candle lit for her. But that mattered not, this soul, that forestalled the killing stroke of the best of his warriors, one who commanded a legion. The Emperor’s best and brightest, the most savage, one of the most feared of all.

A blow stung him to the core as she struck back, a blessed sword of holy crystal! With a mighty roar of a thousand damned hearts, and struck at her with claw and fang, to tear out a new soul. Not one that would be returned to this little Angel’s lord. Her flesh would be ravaged, spirit would be torn and body broken as he pounced on her like a savage raptor of hate, of the dark side and he struck with a blow to shatter souls; it was the law of things in battle. The mighty overwhelm the weak.

But this angel did not read the rule book.

The bright, pure soul of the host, drove Hell’s Master backwards the flash of a moment as she struck him with the might of the host. Michael would not have struck as hard. Silver chain mail over her torso resisted the power of darkness, for this was for this was one of the great warrior archangels. Fitting her like a wet shirt, it guarded against  the savage horde. However, it was not on par with the supreme demon of the darkness.

The battle ensued, he was savage and she as a blinding light against his dark, claw to armor, fist to fang. The whole of the lands shook with the fury of battle. Master against Angel, there was no turning back, Bronwyn was fighting for her immortal soul and there was no mercy, no plea that would be heard. This was a battle to the end of it all, to the death of two immortal beings.

She struck with enough power and heart to knock him to his knees, enough power to break a demon. But not this Dark Lord, almighty in his satanic powers, he was beyond her dreams of power. He took his measure of her strength, weighed her power and compared it to his own. She who had gotten a few hits in, her light was as a small lamp in the pitch darkness of night. Bright as she was, she was found wanting, and he retaliated.

That little blessed knife of hers,  broken and thrown away, hummed feebly in the dirt.

And the Devil struck with the might of Hell – again and again the great dark fist of the Emperor shattered her body, her shield of faith. Her soul would taste like a sweet grape on his tongue after he tore it out of her and consumed it, never to return to the adversary of her Lord of Light. To hell with an angel.

Beaten, weaponless, on her knees, held by one wing he beat her again and again. She screamed one name.

“Orcus! HELP!”

Her screams echoed in the cold, dead heart. Somewhere in the dust of ages, among the dead and heavily scarred flesh that wound around the blackened and charred whole of his soul, a spark that was hidden was found and it heard – the spark flared, burned and ignited something within the emptiness that was the heart of a demon.

A rage that grew, fanned to flames by the winds of memory that rushed back, an awakening of a promise once made to a pure soul. The spark that remembered once promised to protect.

And failed.

But not this time.

Not again.

Never again.

Shall not. Ever again. Fail.

And a single word, born from the very core of fury.

“STOP!”

Corruption was who he was, a body covered in hideous scars of ages of combat, unholy visage of a beak-like face, horns for hair and red-rage that glowed in his eyes. Orcus, a name known only to Bronwynn, had in that one moment, that blistering rage that erupted and attempted control of in a futile effort, the Emperor of Hell saw and knew.

One brief shining moment of longing crossed the angry face of the warrior-demon. Of passion’s fire kindled in a heart that had long gone to cold ash. A history that was once forgotten, rose again in the demon once thought soulless, an ember of passion rose and the testimony of that one quiet hot mote arose to live again in the being that was Orcus. A soul, blasted and scarred with self-hatred and anger.

“You wish this female? Take her soul then. Use the battle-ax, the Claw of Hades and cut it from her.” The terrible eyes of the Emperor turned on the General of his legions. “Strike her sacred body, cut off her wings, cut out her soul and you will stay together for an eternity! You will command together. Whole legions of demons that would respect you both, you will the power second only to mine, you both will be in Hell forever.”

The dark countenance of the Dark Lord was that of savage pleasure, to have her struck down without her fighting back. A total defeat of an angel and the stealing of a soul as pure as this.

“Power and love of your mate for all time. Fear and respect from others, none shall dare not stand up to you.” The Dark Master spoke to the smaller demon.

On the battlefield the three stood, all demons had stopped their corrupt actions and watched the drama, would an angel switch sides for love? Would the great Gardener stand up and save one of his own. A warrior angel, the best and brightest, one that had once turned her back on heaven to live a life with a love. One where her heart once rejoiced so much that it echoed in heaven.

The Dark Lord held her by a copper-colored wing, this angel, one who had given her heart to Orcus so long ago with the blessing of her Enlightened One. The long scarred and hideous arm held her out as if to offer a meal to the demon for his abuse, for the cut to come. To take her into the darkness and drive out doubt in the host.

Once an old affable gardener with wisdom unmatched and told her to go to the Imp and love him good and well.

“Raise him up, love him all the days on that little spot that you claim your own.”

This moment she hung helpless in a giant’s clawed hand. On a finger an ebony ring of an apple surrounded by a snake on the hand, he squeezed and smoke billowed from her wing and Bronwynn screamed in pain. The battle between the light and dark over for the moment.

But there was no fight left in this angel. Her crystal sword broken and the angel’s battered and bruised body hung limply from combat against the one called Satan. She was out of energy. With not enough strength to fight, she hung in his mighty grip and cried. Holy chain-mail hung off her in tatters and shreds. Plates of armor, harder than diamonds, tougher than a heart of a warrior crushed like foil lay on the ground.

Defeated, no weapons left, too weary to lift her arms.  Bronwyn hung there, broken and beaten.

A flick of the wrist and she was flung across the battlefield at the feet of the demon of retribution, vengeance and pain.

“Cut her soul from the angels body and you will have her forever.” The Dark One spoke. “How deep is the love you have? What would you do for that passion that burns in your chest? Do you believe you have a love for this small one?”

“She pleases me.” Orcus looked at her.

The old rage was there, ruby-red eyes of a savage demon. But… something else and it did not go unnoticed.

“DO you love her?” The question was more of a statement by Hell’s Master.

“I…” A hesitation. How does one give up a weakness? Never a good idea to do so to anyone that has power over you… but… “Love her.”

“What sweetness.” Satan laughed. “Would you do anything for her love?”

“Yes.” Orcus was watching her, greed in his wholeness. Cultivated consciously, lust for power. Turning away from love. Lust for a mate. Not love. To use her for pleasure. NOT love.

“I love her.” Damn it all! Orcus thought. Not what he wanted to say.

“Sweet indeed. Love for an angel. Does the small demon wish her with him forever and ever?” The Emperor said softly. “I can give her to you.Just give her the stroke, take her soul and bring her to you. Live forever in each others company in the beauty of your world. Can you do that? Can you love her enough to bring her to you?”

Orcus nodded.

“I can do that. The soul of an angel, power untold. I can do that.” A grin from the lips that split with the evil of his own words.

Savage anger glowed from his eyes, the Claw of Hades, an old friend, a battle-ax whose blade had ten points for piercing of armor in his hands that caressed its polished surface as if it were a sexual device. The tip of the main blade pressed against the bare flesh of her chest, an unprotected gap of her rent and destroyed armor.

Bronwyn looked up into the eyes of the one she loved most in all the worlds, all the universes that existed, anywhere she ever lived, anyplace she had gazed upon — she had given him her heart.

The tip of the ax rested against the curve of her throat, where it joined her torso, she had nothing more to give this demon, the imp that held her heart. Trying to tell him, never did he fail her. For she loved him greater than all the souls that were in heaven.

An evil laugh as the Master knew what would come. “Would you do anything for love?”

“I would do anything for power! I would do anything for love.” Orcus cackled now.

Bronwyn gave him her best, most vulnerable spot, knowing the pain of the cut coming. Not fighting any longer, she arched her neck back, offering her soul, she gave up all that would be her history, her love, her passion.

She would give up her heaven.

Her lord and her soul.

For him.

And waited for the cut that would take her from the light and plunge her forever into the darkness of the pit of the abyss.

She then heard the last time he would speak to her in this world.

“I’ll do anything for love.” His breath was hot on her cheek.

His breath coming in deep ragged gasps of blood lust, she knew. The tip of the cursed battle-ax, a gift from Hades to Orcus in another long ago age, pressed against her throat dimpling the flesh.

“I would do anything for your love. ” He said again, softer. “I will have you as mine forever.”

She could feel the muscles of the battle-scarred body tense, the winding up of the moment, he was ready and the blow was moments away.

“I”ll do anything for love!”

A pause…

Bronwyn closed her eyes, waiting for the first sensation of pain that marked the end of her heavenly life as she gave herself to her love, her heart, and the one that brightened her soul even from the darkest of realms.

She closed herself off to the view of the one with the weapon that had her at his mercy. The him through time and realms that they had traveled. Through dimensions, ages, together they had once loved laughed and had light of the universe in their hearts.

“I’ll do anything for love…” He drew a deep breath through sharpened and savage teeth…

*I love you.* It was her last thought.

“… NO! I WON’T DO THAT!”

Turning in an instant, Orcus hurled the cursed ax, the Claw of Hades at Satan himself, launching into an attack against the Emperor of Hell, this demon of legend, the First Emperor of all things of evil intent, action and temptation.

A simple flick of the Lord of the Demon’s hand and the ax flew away over his shoulder, landing uselessly in the battlefield beyond the reach of the smaller demon.

“TRAITOR!”

“I knew you! Traitor! You shall live forever as a slave to serve us all! Torment by those being tormented, undying life of slime, never-ending pain is all yours forever. I shall enjoy consuming your angel, she is MINE.”

“NEVER! You will starve!” The Demon screamed.

Savage was Orcus’ attack, the crushing blows he delivered was with every mote of his being, all sound, all battles, all conflict stopped as the host of heaven and the hoards of hell halted their battles and watched this ballet of destruction played out.

Watching the fight that suddenly became center stage of a battlefield, Asmodeus turned to Lucifer. “One-hundred on Orcus.”

“You’re on.” Lucifer already had plans to tell the Emperor how the odds were. Who bet on the outcome.

“I’ll take some of that.” The Beelzebub stood near the arch-demons. “I’ll take the Master.”

“Roll your own dice Beeze?” Leviathan laughed, the giant put down his vote for Orcus. Calling him “The once and future Emperor”.

Savage orange fire from the mouth of the Emperor for the chest of Orcus as he folded his wings around for protection and laughed as the flames enveloped his body.

“Time to fall!” A scream from the beak-like face as the demon went claw to talon, fang to fire as Satan did battle with the best and darkest of his demons. Green fire from the clawed hands of the demon that shattered the confidence and wings of the Emperor. The tail of the once-Emperor, whipped through the darkened atmosphere of war, a weapon unto itself, the prehensile appendage wrapped itself around the throat of the Dark One.

“To slime, to torment, to slavery with you! For LOVE I shall strike. For her soul I shall beat you into the ground.” Orcus screamed as his tail tightened against the armor-scale of a neck as he looked into the compound beast-eyes. Sixty-six and six-hundred pupils that he saw his reflection framed by the horned face.

“For my angel’s heart, you will suffer!”

Satan’s quad-lipped mouth opened up and exposed too many teeth as the Emperor of Hell choked on a grip tighter than steel that squeezed ever tighter. The Devil’s mouth tried to bite the scale covered hide of traitorous demon.

Twisting about in the noose of a tail, the Dark Lord landed a blow that registered on earth as an earthquake. Scientists explained that a previously unknown fault shook the humans. The same blow nearly obliterated the demon, but Orcus fought back with the power of love. The demon was unstoppable as Satan was relentless. Again they collided head on, claw to claw, fang to tusk. Each blow measured to inflict the greatest damage, each block meant to waste the energy of the opponent.

Never had there been such a challenge to his power. Victory was not assured, for the fist time in an age – Satan, the Emperor of Hell, felt fear.

Fire and fury, hate versus love. A Dark-Heart against the power of darkness, the energy of both opponents took a toll as they gave their all for victory.

One loved power, the other loved.

Suddenly a misstep, a missed moment in a battle against an implacable enemy and Orcus was flung backwards by a titanic blow, one wing broken, the other wing torn, horns broken, eyes unfocused. The right arm lay useless under his body.

Tired and out of breath, the Emperor of hell moved towards the demon that dared to choose love over immeasurable power, lust and greed. This Satan, wheezing and blinded in half his eyes, all the fingers on the right hand missing and the Emperor of Hell walked on his hands, swinging his leg forward in an ape-like walk, trailing black ichor that served as blood, towards the traitor, a stump where the left leg was missing. He struggled to tear with his remaining hand, to finish the demon, to turn him into the lowest of the slime of hell – Better! To consume the dark soul until it was no more, to digest and spit out that which they called “Love”.

As the Emperor got close to the puny and broken imp, close enough to strike with what was left of his claws and fangs, Orcus held his left hand outstretched towards the Emperor…

Was this beseeching? That thought was entertaining.

A plea for mercy? A laugh at the thought rose in Satan’s mind.

A plea? Hardly.

It was a call, a command to a part of the demon’s own wholeness, a call to an old friend, a gift from the Emperor that followed Orcus to the throne. The call to the Claw of Hades, a call that the ax must answer. Return to its owner no matter the obstacle.

Behind the Dark Lord, the Claw of Hades lay in the filth of the battlefield, forgotten in the rage of battle. Tossed so easily away by the more powerful demon and never given a thought after.

A mistake.

A fatal mistake.

The weapon, as much a part of Orcus as his tail was, answered its call. The ten-pointed ax trembled, slightly at first, then turned blade first and raced through the air to the Master of the Ax in a straight line, regardless of what was in the way.

The Dark Lord became aware of the whistling noise, the disturbance drew the great demon’s attention, but too late.

Too late!

Returning to Master of the Ax, the cursed weapon drove through the through the forehead of the Dark Lord on the way to the hand of Orcus. The look of surprise was entertaining to the old demon as for one brief glorious moment as Orcus nearly laughed, the Great Devil himself, the destroyer, He who defeated Hel who gave her name to the kingdom that He then ruled. He who defeated Hel held his hands up in frozen stark surprise…

And imploded without a sound, like a shadow banished from view when a light shines into the darkness.

The Dark Lord was no more in one last anticlimactic, quiet, mundane moment.

All that was left, an ebony ring of an apple surrounded by a snake that fell to the ground. Frost formed where it bounced until it stopped moving. A  freezing fog formed around the ring, curling over the ground as it rested quietly in the dust.

Panting, barely strong enough to stand, pain was his second world, a second life of passion drove him to stand. Shredded and torn, his right-wing broken, dark blood oozed through dozens of new wounds that covered his body as he knelt next to his angel.

Lifting her up in his arms, she reached up and caressed his face. His broken hand held hers gently. There were too many wounds on his immortal body, he was weak beyond description. The immortal demon was weakening further, the great heart had begun to beat, now faltered. He caressed her face with a blood-stained finger tears leaked from his eyes as dark blood leaked out of him into the dirt.

“I’d do anything for you.” He whispered softly and nodded, “I would do anything for your love, but I would not do that. I could never do that.”

“Come with me.” Bronwyn whispered. “Come back home. You are free.”

A soft cough from a few steps away interrupted.

“Hell needs an Emperor.” The Lucifer said, standing behind Orcus. “It is advancement by assassination in Hell. He must take his place on the throne.”

“NO!” The Angel refused to accept this! Orcus sacrificed it all for her life.

“NO! Stay with me!” Bronwyn argued. pulling on Orcus’ arms, her own hands too weak to grip tightly.”Turn away from all this, come home. I will not have this!”

“He could do anything for love. Fight the old Emperor,” Asmodeus nodded, frowning as he handed the ebony black ring of an apple surrounded by a snake to Orcus. “and win. He has changed the course of a war, changed a thousand hearts. He has altered the universe in uncountable ways. He did that all for love.”

“He did it all.” Lucifer nodded. “He did it all for love. But he cannot go with you.”

“He can’t do that.” Beelzebub whispered as he shook his head and bowed to the new Emperor.

The cool hand of Bronwyn touched him in between the shoulder-blades. “Orcus”, the name echoed in the webs of his dream, his face was wet from tears, Kane had cried out in his sleep.

Kisses on his cheeks as the hands of an angel cupped his face.

“What makes you cry?” She frowned with concern in her eyes.

“I dreamed I had lost you. Our time together was over and I had to use my powers to save you. I also remember my name, from so long ago. Orcus.”

“I remember that name. Punisher of broken promises and oaths. No wonder you do not break promises to children.” She smiled at him. “You are the children’s guardian of promises. You keep the promise of the gift giving when the days grow short and life begins anew. You are the one to shape a child’s view of the world.”

He shook his head, “I still lost you and I will not allow that. Ever.”

She slid her arms around him as she kissed her husbands tears away.

“We can change the future.”

Together they slept the rest of the night, no further dreams intruded.

But Kane had his doubts.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 10. Poor loser

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10. Poor loser

The Emperor of Hell was violet with fury, blaming others for their failed efforts that allowed the Other Master and Lord to start humanity. That small effort, that simple change in the time-line that the Other Master had undone the Emperor’s entire plan for the fall of man. If not for the damned rock, the humans could not survived on that mud ball! The battle, instead of destroying civilization, instead assisted the rise of man.

All that damage to the Black Battalion was for nothing  and it was going to take some effort to rebuild the numbers of demons. Raising new demons from the lowly slave caste was a challenge and difficulties always occurred. But one bright point in the catastrophe, one of the warriors had stood up to one of the Others and even outclassed in power and size and he was able to send that one of the Others, this giant angel, back to her Master.

This demon would be raised and given back his ancient name to show his value. All other of the imps and demons would learn that success had great rewards as failure had severe punishments. With a sweeping motion of a great six-fingered hand, all tipped in claws, he commanded the mid-caste demon to come and receive his reward for courage.

Down and away, The Demon sat alone with his back to the rage of the Emperor. He felt the command to come to the seat of power as much as saw it. He stood and turned, slowly with each step from an exhausted warrior, as he walked up the path to the Black Throne, he cringed inwardly, sometimes awards were as cruel as punishments.

A promise was never the way you could take it. Fear was not unknown to even those that received the highest of awards and raised and became his personal warriors.  They were dangerous things, the Dark Lord’s favors, because the Emperor was a trickster and a breaker of promises.

Still, to refuse the Emperor of Hell was, to say the least, unhealthy. So the Demon stood with his chest out and with the look of pride he did not feel, it seemed that all had gone well.

Then, a voice sounded. It was one of the other warriors that had seen his actions with Bronwyn, stood up. As the statement hung in the air he decided to challenge the lessor demon, only to have three others speak out in unison. The air suddenly chilled by a crackle of cold rage behind him.

The Emperor in a hideous fury brought forth the judgment.