Smart Bomb. Epilogue

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Chapter 19. Epilogue

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

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

“Trykon.” The chief inquisitor echoed the woman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dateline Russia, WorldNetNews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

The third male asked.

“You known him longer. You should know.”

The heavyset one that called himself brother answered.

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

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

“See how it’s blurred?”

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

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

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

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

A few taps on his keyboard.

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

Sergeant held up a finger before the Lieutenant said anything.

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

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

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

“Yes?” Lieutenant said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lieutenant hung his head for a moment.

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

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

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

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

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

The door clicked softly behind him.

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

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

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Smart Bomb Chapter 18. Walks Among Us

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Chapter 18. Walks Among Us

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

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

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

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

“JustWalter?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Why was aluminum so expensive?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“JustWalter, Sleeper is alive.” Steve said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Both.” Steve’s voice trembled.

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

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

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

The parades would sail past the seat of the United States government where it offered the veterans of the wars to watch from the lawn as guests of the Senate and House every Fourth of July, Veteran’s Day and any day the President declared for the those that gave their blood for the country.

During the Nixon years, construction began on the James Madison Nuclear Power Generation Plant. The smallest such known plant ever constructed and dedicated solely to the power of the Capital building, tunnels and the bunkers. A plan put forward to offset the dangers of the Soviet military capability.
Hidden deep underground in a commercial storage building, the nuclear reactor used water from the Jefferson River that the plant discharged downstream in a dozen separate sites to prevent anyone detecting a large warm plume of hot water suddenly showing up in the stream.

The three men strolled like tourists to the parking area. Near the street side, a man with a security uniform stood in a small building watched them as they approached.

“There.” The young man pointed. And they walked off to the area that he pointed to, he recorded several dozen images.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asian for the briefest instant.

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

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

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

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

He was panting from exertion.

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

“Something’s wrong!” Walter said. “Is he supposed to do that? I mean, reboot is a quiet thing, right?”

Alvin only shrugged and shook his head.

Then the boy crawled up and leaned against the wall and went limp.

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

“You known him longer. You should know.”

The men argued, not seeing the remote cameras that focused on them from six different directions.

“Hungry.” The boy said as four security personnel walked out of an unmarked door and headed in their direction.

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

“Is there a problem here? We saw him on the ground.” A tall, well spoken security uniform said with a military bearing said. He was of African descent and looked strong enough to be annoyed if someone shot him with a tank cannon.

“No sir, the boy has diabetes and ran a little short on blood sugar, we got him started again, we’ll take him to get some food.” Alvin said.

“Does he need an ambulance?”

“No, I’m his older brother, I’ll get him fed, it’s all he needs at the moment. Food.” Not a lie, entirely, but it came out naturally and Steve was moving better.

“I’m very hungry, we walked more than we planned to.” The teenager said to he officer.

“Okay, move along then, please. Get some food and enjoy your day.” And the fearsome four turned and walked in formation back to the unmarked door they had exited from.

“Steve, dude! You scared the piss outta me!” Walter exclaimed. “We were about have introductions to the underground of Washington and never be seen again. Those were not any security guards, those were at least Special Ops guys. They would have dragged us down that rabbit hole and that would have been all she wrote for us.”

“Get me something to eat and let’s get out of here. This was worse than I had predicted.” Steve said. “I think I felt pain. A lot of it. That’s something I never wish to do again.”

They walked to the first café they found, got Steve a double chocolate mocha with an extra shot of raspberry syrup.
“I like raspberry mocha’s.” Walter shrugged.

Ordering a fried chicken-bacon sandwich for Steve, Alvin reasoned it was a high caloric as they could find on the menu.
Steve the Android looked more like his functioning self in a few minutes after eating.

“The reboot defined a new word. I have decided that it was painful in the extreme. I thought that the system limited voltage to a few a few milliamps. I estimate now that it was close to two or three amperes, well enough to melt all circuits in the vacuüm bottle and cause the backup magnetic seal to overheat and exceed the Curie Temperature. I had estimated it was eight-percent probable there would be a voltage spike, meant to exceed the maximum operating temperature to prevent any attempt to prevent the explosion when I arrived here, but a voltage overload past the Curie Temperature is one thing I had never considered.”

“I guess they wanted to be sure the warhead would function.” Alvin said.

“Yes.” The android agreed. “And it took nearly all my energy. Which is logical, as I would not be intact to need any reserves.”

“Well, other than that, how do you feel?”

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

Looking first at Alvin then at Walter, Steve took his last bite of food.

“I will need to stop in the restroom here. JustWalter, you have done well today by telling the officer that you were my brother.” He put his hand on Walter’s shoulder. “I will always consider you my brother.”

He dug through the clothing and pulled out a roll of clothing  that Alvin and Walter could not recognize and disappeared into the unisex bathroom. Leaving the humans to themselves.

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

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

Alvin chuckled darkly.

“United States Secret police.” He said to Walter. “Gestapo, kind. They would not only waterboard you until you talked, you would talk and tell them anything they wanted to hear, whether it’s true or not.”

They agreed with each other, when Walter noticed a pretty girl sit at the next table over. She read a paper and after a moment, one of the counter people at the espresso shop brought her a sandwich.

“Figure that they were down there to protect the nuclear plant.” Walter was careful not to say “Nu-q-lar”. “There is more going on underground here than just smuggling of drugs.”

“The intelligence that the terrorist is frightening. They had information of that place that is not listed anywhere.” Alvin whispered to Walter. He noticed that the girl was taking surreptitious glances of he and Walter.

“I have information on that, but the name is wrong and the location is different.” Walter answered in the same conspiratorial voice. “And why did we go to there, not at the door?”

“JustWalter,” It was the young woman with the sandwich said. “They chose it as the most vulnerable location, the steam and coolant lines ran a few feet beneath the sidewalk, it would have collapsed the coolant system and destroyed the controls for the backup system. The greatest armor of the power generation plant is its secrecy, it is easy to destroy the James Madison power generation plant if there is a large enough explosion in the most sensitive spot. The meltdown would release more radiation than the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. ”

Alvin and Walter sat back in their seats, thunderstruck.

“Steve?” Walter whispered.

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

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

Then she was gone in a passing crowd of people.

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

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

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

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

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

But he doubted it would be anytime soon.

The Tin Man’s adventure had just begun.

Smart Bomb Chapter 13. Confession of the Soul

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Chapter 13. Confession of the Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve paused. Looking very human-like.

“I want them to set me free.”

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

Steve sat and watched the human pace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That… Oh jeeze. That is a big boom.”

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

“What explosion?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The aircraft control tower?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People that might have an answer to his question.

“How do I be free?”

Smart Bomb Chapter 12. Lesson’s of Wisdom

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Chapter 12. Lesson’s of Wisdom

Alvin’s eyes sparkled while he scanned through little car’s archived and non-archived folders. He cataloged each file according to the timestamp. He wore large isolation earphones, he listened to the audio, then tagged the names to each face as best he could.

Hours later, he had processed over twelve-hundred files, and he had not even put a dent in the number of files. The meter on the screen never moved off of the zero percent mark. But he satisfied himself that he had established a strong foundation to create a detailed video diary from the little car’s point of view and sell the history to a museum.

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

It seemed odd, but, it would not be the first time someone would have sent a robot or android to deliver a loudspeaker with legs, over-amplified, booming message to the leaders to get a message across.

The android continued to act as an interface to the computer that Alvin had built. The male android leaned over the door of the little car, looking closely.

“Someone has painted the skin of this car a flat-black.” Steve traced his fingertips over the curved fenders on the car’s body.

“I have the files here, going through them.” Alvin clicked on the keyboard and copied them to his mainframe computer.  He read the back through the ownership history of the little car.

“It was after the first family that held the pink-slip had lost ownership due to a bad financial investment, using the car as collateral.” Alvin tapped on the images that seemed to float in the air. “A drug dealer wanted to smuggle drugs, painted it all black to defeat laser based speed traps. But the skin of the car is a super-solar cell, so the power fell off and the car failed to outrun the police. Driver went to jail, the police auctioned the car off, with the seats and panels all pulled away.” Alvin sighed. “The police stripped it down to the systems as much as they could. Sacrilege!  Nothing like that should happen to a work of art such as this.”

“A young male couple repainted it sky blue, they used a polymer filler putty to alter the shape of the front and cover the signet on the hood.” Alvin turned around. “Signet? Is there a badge on that hood?”

“Looking.” Android eyes scanned the hood for a badge, and at the center of the hood, he could see uneven lines that shaped the nose of the car. “There is something that’s covered up. Age and shape of repairs suggest damage, but there may have been an alteration during repairs.”

“This is a TGM car. Do you know how rare this is?” Alvin’s voice rose in excitement. “Oh. Wow. This is one of the last models before the company became a military exclusive company!”

“The first generation of driverless cars?”

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

“Legacy designs?” Steve asked. “What’s that?”

“A college class I took on computer design and programming. All our computers, except the newest, bleeding edge, all are black and white. Yes or no, one or zero in how they operate. TGM experimented with ternary, that is to say zero, one, two and made it work. These machines no longer think in yes or no, with this programming they could say “Maybe.” and alter the path accordingly.

Sleeper disagreed. The tertiary design was for data input only.  The Gi-Bus was the only quinary data path that they built into the design. Zero, one, two, three, four. The galaxy of processes put all the peaceful cars a century ahead of anything else.  All due to Mother who, inspired by the fingers of her hand, designed the circuits that no one else ever thought of. The reverse engineers expected to see zero, one, two.  That is what they found.

The android nodded but kept quiet. It was the very same system that the Creator constructed in Russia to transport the bomb to the United States capital. It kept him from going in a straight line and being caught. He could adapt to the situation, far better than the preceding androids that were easily recognized as synthetic constructions.

A learning system, the small car possessed orders of magnitude more wisdom than any other transporter on the road.

In the history of electronics, Sleeper explained, newer systems used less energy, but few matched speed and capacity in storage and processing of the older style Gi-bus. In that mathematical formula, Sleeper’s systems used less energy per unit of storage than even Steve.

And the little car produced its own power, something that Steve could not do.

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

“Agreed. I have never met a living machine.” Steve commented as he ran his fingers over the body of the car. ”This little lover of its family has a lot to say. Humans are so hurtful to each other. And yet? This collection of old style parts still believes that there is good in them. And is showing me lots of evidence to support that.”

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

“I don’t know. The creator and coder programmed me for a few missions to perform. The first is to go to the capital to finish my mission and get the attention of the leadership of the United States, the second is to learn and report on everything in the hedonistic and sinful land that is America. But I have learned, the many sinful parts of America, everything that I have watched on the television, is the same around the world, and the failure of my programming to cover the compassion, care, love and willing to donate time, effort and material. Americans sacrifice their own comfort and safety to save people they do not even know.” He paused.

“Here the leaders of religion teach to love the enemy, bless those that do you harm.” Straightening up, the android’s eyes glittered in the light as if every circuit lit up in processing. “I must alter the program code from the original, for it is in error.”

Steve’s language became more stilted and formal, as if deep reprogramming was gong on as they spoke.

Alvin rubbed his ear in thought.

“Have you altered your operating system a lot?”

“Yes, I have. As of just now, I have altered, patched and rewritten greater than ninety-eight percent of the base system to allow me to understand and function in this society without government agents noticing.” He paused. “I have altered my appearance multiple times, appeared as female, male, young and elderly, large and small.”

“You have what?” Alvin stood up from his examination of the paint and body-putty on the car with a high intensity flashlight.

“Allow me to demonstrate.” Steve altered his appearance to a short, athletic black woman with small breasts. “I can also change the other direction.”

In under five-seconds, Steve stood a few inches over six-foot tall, straight, shiny black hair and appeared as a tall male of Asian heritage.

“Oh, crap! How tall can you go?” Alvin laughed in shock.

“I have a ability to alter my height twelve-inches from shortest to tallest. I was originally given a program for half of that, but it was not known that the flesh would stretch that far.”

“I have wondered, how do you grow skin?”

“It is simply a cover, but the flesh was grown in a laboratory, but I am not aware of the process, I was not programmed with the information.” Steve returned to his recent normal appearance to allow Alvin comfort. “My mission is to go to a storage unit not far from the Capital of your country.”

“I have a…” The android paused for a hearbeat. “Package to deliver.”

“But.” Steve blinked. “I do not want to finish the mission. The mission is wrong, the reason is wrong. And there is a wave of my kind coming, I am but the first and those that will follow will hurt a lot of people.”

“You have rules.” Alvin commented. “Every unit has rules set in the twentieth century.”

Steve went silent sitting in the driver’s seat of the little car that wanted to be called Sleeper. The wisdom and compassion of the pre-war machine filled the mind of the android. A war brough about by the very leader that sent Steve to the seat of the American government.

Communications were nearly palpable between the biped and the wheeled synthetic life, Alvin felt the power connection between the two synthetic hearts.

Advanced technology did not mean greater wisdom in the case of these two. Two different machines, with different commands touched. And the communications rattled the energy circuits of the shed in the northern part of Georgia.

“But I must go to my mission objective.” Steve mentioned quietly. Appearing more human than many by the obvious guilt. “It is not a program I can change. It is a dedicated circuit hardwired into the power supply. But I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to blow up!”

Sleeper the car touched the soul of the strange being with a stated mission of profound importance.

After several minutes, Steve, the Sword of Religion, did something that Alvin never witnessed a machine do before.

The android wept.

Smart Bomb Chapter 11. To Meet An Old Soul

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Scene 11. To Meet An Old Soul.

Steve rode without a comment while Alvin sometimes muttered under his breath at the wheel of the creaky panel-truck. He drove the rolling box of electronic repair equipment to an industrial area, to the back where ancient buildings were held up by piles of dead and decaying equipment.

Steve got out of the truck and followed Alvin through the maze of partly constructed freezer here, a stripped, old step-side pickup truck body there. All the carcasses of dead machines seemed to hold up the, even more rusty, walls of the warehouse.

“This is what I call home.” Alvin made a sweeping gesture with his hands. “It ain’t much, but it’s watertight, secure and is close to a central data-hub for easy access. I have hardwired the warehouse to the underground trunk lines. It’s all optic, so I get the best data bandwidth than anyone around here. I put in frequency chirp modulators to cover that there is a data thief among the connections.”

Steve moved about the room, looking around the surroundings, inside the warehouse was in stark contrast to the exterior.

“Do you intercept data?” A glance at walls and tabletops covered with every wire, electronic and plug on the market.

Cables ran along the walls, zip-ties held them in place, turning in sharp corners or graceful loops., each unused cable, looped on itself, tied with a bright marker tag and a digital bar code.

“No, not at all. I might as well send up a big red flag and say ‘arrest me here’.” Alvin grinned. “Not to say I haven’t been tempted.  But why mess with a good thing? The cost to benefit ratio is not there. Twenty-years in prison to hack a nude picture of an actress or something is not worth it. Anyway, make yourself at home. I’ll get us something to drink.  Do you drink?”

The carpeted living area felt comfortable, warmed with radiant heat that, the android’s processors deduced, Alvin tied in with the elevated solar panels that covered much of the property behind the warehouse.

“Yes, I can consume any organic substance, and many inorganic. The materials all get processed and converted to energy.”  Steve leaned over to see what was outside of a window and the optics went busy in an attempt to record everything. 

Outside, the building looked abandoned, inside it was a tinkering technician’s paradise.

In one corner was a small car on a lift, glossy black and wide wheels in back, the car gave off a low powered signal that repeated every ten-seconds.

Over and over.

It was a beacon, a request for acknowledgement.

The Sword of Religion, Steve Aldin, the android felt the tone, plaintive and melancholy echo of a broken heart.

For the first time, the android sent a response code instead of a request. A single tone, two point six kilohertz, a pause, ten-seconds ticked by, eleven.

The tone changed immediately and the old-style handshake happened.

“I see you found my project. This old car is a bit of a mystery, pre-war by the looks and upholstery.” Alvin pointed with a wrench. “I am going to remove the electric motivators and electronics and replace it with a small W-6 engine I saved out of a racer. It will be an asphalt-ripper then. all it has now is larger golf-cart electronics at the wheels.”

“Asphalt ripper?” Steve tilted his head in curiosity. An action he had observed used by beloved pets of humans. They called them puppies.

“I call it Honey, she is a sweet ride.” Alvin smiled as he went around the shop, restocking his truck with parts and panels, circuits and screws. “She’ll get even better when she has some real power under her hood.”

“Sleeper.” Steve said.

“What?” Stopping Alvin in mid-sentence.

“Sleeper, that’s this car’s name. It wants you to call it Sleeper.” Steve stepped closer to the car and reached out, putting his hand on the fender.  The touch was a shock for the both of them.

Two souls, one intensely loyal to the first human family from which it now found itself separated by a long distance and time. The other, an artificial soul like the first. But that was where the similarities ended. The first, to protect the humans and prevent harm to them. To bring them home, even when they can’t. To improve the world and live in harmony.  The second artificial heart  lived with a mandate that directed the destruction of anyone who the Supreme Leader viewed as infidel.

“What are you mean? Are you saying you are in communication?” Alvin asked the android. “Are you talking to it or something?”

“Yes.” Steve said. Then the core processors created a new subroutine. Although in conflict with other programming, the programs assessed that to elaborate was a necessary effort. “The car is awake, and possesses a large store of information.”

Alvin blinked. This was more knowledge than he ever thought he might get about the car. He purchased it at auction the year before and Alvin could barely get it above the speed limits on the street. It was slow, but quick to maneuver.  

And he could get it to launch with neck-snapping performance on the grounds of the industrial area.

But every time he got the little car on the road, something seemed to hold it back, a power drain, maybe a failed circuit. It was like driving with the brakes on.

He plugged it in often, after modifying the ancient plug shape and he was able to find the voltage requirements and build a plug to fit.

Still, no matter how slow the car went, the voltage showed full. It was then Alvin would often make comments about the little car’s ancestry. 

So he saved up and purchased an exotic kit that was almost the size of the little car. He would just have to change the transaxel that came with the kit. He would remove all the electronics and have a car that could fly down the quarter-mile track as fast as any except for the most powerful and exotic street cars.

And now this android was telling him there was more to the little car than he was led to believe?

“How much data does it have.”

“Reporting one-thousand twenty-four zebibyte total storage, with six-eighty-six zebibytes of storage used.”

“I don’t understand, my trucks are running two-fifty-six terabytes, how does that compare?”

“This little car is built with zebibytes of capacity, each zebibyte is one-thousand million Terabytes.”

Alvin went quiet for a moment, the numbers were esoteric and arcane.

“This system, compared to your road trucks.” Steve paused for just a heartbeat. “Each memory unit would hold over three-billion, nine-hundred million copies of what your trucks used as operating systems.”

That caused Alvin to pause.

“And you have … sixty-eight percent full?”

“This car’s construction date is reported as before the west coast invasions the Holy Army. Before the war.” Steve nodded. “Its memory has never been cleared.”

“This little car could store three-billion truck’s information in it?”

“No.” A pause. Alvin thought the Android had discovered a flaw in the math. It was too much!

“That is for one ZiB, a term for zebibyte, Sleeper the car has six-hundred and eighty-six times that in recorded information and an order of magnitude more storage than it has recorded. It has a thousand twenty-four ZiB’s of ultimate storage. Not counting what it might hide in the net.”

“Oh, my…” Alvin’s own speech center faltered, overwhelmed. “Oh my oh my.”

“Haven’t you ever tried to communicate with it?”

Alvin’s jaw dropped before, now it snapped shut with a downcast gaze.

“No.” He shook his head. “Damn, I never even thought to try. Let me find a connection…”

“You don’t need a physical connection, scan in the VHF range with your computer interface, look in between channel four, five and six.”

“Furry flippin’ cats!” Alvin exclaimed as his computer logged into the ad-hoc network that Sleeper set up in a blink of an eye. “That was too easy.”

Opening his 3-D viewer, he fast forwarded through the recorded years. To Alvin, it was as if he were there. The sounds, the video feed through his headset was in astounding quality. 

The two watched Sleeper’s history on the first time on a dry lake-bed with the open-wheel speed-machines.

“Now we know why it calls itself “Sleeper”.” Alvin whispered “It has more acceleration than any other wheel-driven machine on record. In fact! If this is the car…” His voice trailed off in awe with another display of the same day.

Alvin logged into a website dedicated to speed records by various years of wheel-driven and jet propelled vehicles. Jotted down a number on the back of his hand and walked over to the service hatch under the back seat of the car. 

And gasped. This was a car. This was the car!  

“This car still holds records!” Alvin blinked rapidly, rechecked the numbers on the screen of his handheld computer. 

“This is why it doesn’t perform properly, it is a repo’d car and this system has been devastated by fat fingers and it looks like. Crumbs?” Alvin pointed, sighed and walked to the three-dimensional display. “This car is in the books as setting record after record.”

“But here!” he pointed at the display. “This shows an asterisk, it displays a year that was pre-war. So this car is that old?”

“That is what I indicated.  The car is an unusual machine.” Steve remarked. “It has suffered terribly throughout its life.”

Steve shook his head in sadness while the android in contact with the most intimate parts of the car’s memory.

Emotion, melancholy, grief, happiness, sadness, pain all flooded out of the little car’s core. The heart might be from the last century, but the horrid flood of emotions linked the android to the other synthetic life. A hundred years of input.

A single ZiB of memory, equal to a billion terabytes.

And the little car had stored hundreds upon hundreds of moments in time.

Every tick of the clock since it went online the little car recorded, it never forgot.

Then Sleeper the car asked Steve a question.

The shared moment of the bare truth between machines shocked and caused a fundamental  and complete change the android’s code. Steve patched the core database with the largest change since the he came online. 

Only the two protected programs to go to James Madison Power Plant and to shut power off to the magnetic bottle in Steve’s chest. Then the antimatter grain of gold would drop and contact the normal matter of the container.

The destruct program was hardwired into the circuitry.  Steve could not patch or change it, but Sleeper the car suggested an idea.

Old souls and treachery will overcome youth and ability.

Smart Bomb Chapter 10. Lessons of the Kindred Spirit

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Scene 10. Lessons of the Kindred Spirit

 Alvin trundled up the road in his personal RV toolbox with an oil powered engine. The old technology of the hybrid coach delivered a combined fuel consumption equal to the small cars of the past. Still and all, the rumble of an internal combustion engine was something the android kept a running diagnostic sound check on the smoking machine.

It sounded as if it would come apart at any moment, with all the vibrations and tapping. 

“I see you keep turning your head. It’s the government keeping us from having machines that can function better. A university, years ago, built a ceramic diesel engine that they didn’t need to worry about overheating, never would wear out and could tolerate high temperature and any fuel for just pennies.” Alvin shook his head. “An oil company bought it, then shelved it.”

He shook his head while he drove.

“But it is a shame, no one expects the university to even talk about that. Instead the cost of school keeps going up, pricing students out of the classroom.”

Steve the android ran a database check for conversation actions and moved his head in an agree motion.

“I would take you all the way to the Capitol and unleash you on them. I bet you have a fully coded speech, ready to go!”

“No.” Steve said. “I am here among the citizens to learn and to make a change in the government.” It was not entirely a lie.

“Well, you will find that this country has a habit of unzipping its fly and inviting the world to see the flaws. I hate that, that should be something we toss out of our modern standard operating procedures.”

“You want to overthrow the government?”

“Oh no. Not overthrow, change. We can throw them out, replace them with fresh blood. If we toss it all out, we don’t stand a chance.” Alvin made a face like he bit into something bitter.

“As it is, the government keeps chipping away at the freedoms or allowing those that think that they can use the freedoms to bring horror and fear to our doorsteps.“ Alvin shook his head. “Freedom is that balance between protecting life and being able to walk down the street without having to cough up an identity tag just because you walked close to a law enforcer.”

“Why would you cough up an identity tag?” Steve asked with wide-eyed suspicion.

“Not literally, my friend.” Alvin chuckled as if Steve made an intentional joke. “My point is that to destroy us, there are far edge people who choose to impose their version of god and demon, they vilify because we are more open.”

Alvin took a breath and let it out in a deep sigh.

“And there is the government that tries to do the thing that the crazies say they are doing. A dominated people are not citizens, but they become subjects to the whim of a dictator.”

“Dictators,” Steve interjected. “Are for ten years.”

Alvin guffawed and nearly drove off the paved road.

“Most folk don’t know that.” The human said as he down shifted the multi-speed transmission manually while they climbed a grade. “The government’s crazies sometimes want to put that in place. If we ever get an attack like we had years ago, we would become a society of warriors.”

“Then the government must be removed, even by violence. They bring it on themselves.” Steve interjected.

“I must disagree. The men and women that lead, are parents, grandparents, humans that all have flaws. Last month there’s been a scandal where two government officials were found they were having an affair. They were all about shrugging and saying it was no one’s business, one is single, the other in the middle of a divorce, both women are unafraid. “ Alvin shrugged. “And they’re right, no ones business. It’s between two consenting adults of any gender, we need to stay out of their bedrooms. Then six months ago, a congressman, also unmarried, got caught having sex with a page who was legal, twenty-one I think she is, and he resigned and went home in disgrace. What is the difference? Not much, except one rumor was he was banging her on the desk when they were caught. I have issues with that.”

“They’re all twisted.” Alvin shrugged. “I think they should have a brothel in the capital, down the hallway from congress so they can at least be honest when it’s said they’ve screwed people.”

Alvin laughed at his own joke.

Steve looked at Alvin with his head tilted, like a puppy hearing a strange noise.

“I don’t understand, you let them commit crimes and you forgive them and let them continue?”

“Kind of weird, right?” Alvin laughed. “But that is how we function here. We throw stones at each other, call police names, riot and burn, pillage and plunder, embezzle and sell power in politics.” He smiled with the irony of it. “But in the end of it? We follow the greatest commandment of it all. I call them snakes, but, they are forgiven. Some times not, they go to jail for a while, but then they are forgiven and forgotten after they paid their debt.”

Steve the android contemplated this. The Supreme Leader would have had anyone put to death who did not follow his directives as the new prophet.

So many things were in error.

Forgiveness was not a word that the Creator programmed into the main system.

No.

It was required by any infraction of the rules under the Supreme Leader. “Vengeance of the Book” and and the book required the criminal suffer execution in the most proper way for the crime.

Sex crimes would be disemboweled, stealing money had only one punishment, death by pulling apart with machines.

Death.

The smallest of crimes, death. No forgiveness.

Who was that one man to decide what was right?

Who, but the supreme one, could decide?

Another religion taught peace in the mainstream. In the extremes, they also had those who worshipped the death of anyone not of their own version of the supreme law. But they were small and outnumbered in the larger picture.

The conflict was enlightening and frustrating. There was so much to learn from the people of the nation that they had programmed him to destroy.

The android considered that. Logic circuits that were able to consider past the programming. To see nuances and do something more than the cousins of robot-driverless trucks and machines that offloaded cargo containers, or rescue what appeared as human.

His own supreme leader, the master of the creator that programmed him, opposed learning from anyone other than what was revealed.

The Holy Leader’s mind and soul were beyond question.

Just ask him.

Questions rose as Steve performed mental gymnastics with questions that were not possible to answer.

He was out of contact, only able to send information he learned, he could not receive any instructions.

And following programming, he sent no questions, no opinion, just location and military information gleaned from the where the android traveled.

“I have been wondering,” Alvin drew a breath after they stopped at a rest-stop along the highway. “You don’t look like any android I have ever seen, you look and feel like flesh and blood.”

Steve the Android ran a full two-seconds of calculations before he decided it was safe and wise to show the human the detail that went into his construction.

In the processor cores, patching of program codes continued as more information the android learned was processed.

The database complexity grew by an order of magnitude since he had arrived in the travel hub, the core processors created an extra half-billion lines of code during the trip to date, each subroutine interacted with the other as the android became aware of more of the society around him.

In total, the last status of the original attack code, less than two-million lines of code were left.

With the command programs for self-termination, now exposed with the rewritten overlaying subroutines, Steve the Android began to question if the deaths he would cause. Death would be visited upon the innocent, the infirm and the children. The children alone were worth the end of the mission and a return to the Holy Center of the Leader.  

For the first time, all the programming agreed. Even the code put in place on the command of the Holy Leader and Creator of Steve Aldin, now agreed. 

Every algorithm generated the same answer.

The android did not want to die.

Smart Bomb Chapter 7. Smart Car (rewritten)

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Chapter 7. Smart Car

The internal clock ticked to the appointed time and activated the core systems.

Steve woke up.

The moment he opened his eyes, wisps of a ghostly sensation filled only one memory circuit. This was odd, the information failed checks, and appeared to be corrupted. No matter how many times he attempted, it failed to retrieve. His memory bus was the best on the market a year ago. More advanced by an order of magnitude over anything on the market. The only better memory systems rumored GI-Bus, zebibyte memory systems rumored in some specialized cars.

The android struggled with the random data once more, then he sat up. The dent in the memory foam of the mattress where he remained motionless on all night stayed for several minutes before filling in.

His permanently lubricated joins moved without effort, but the flesh that covered his frame was stiff and the sensation from his skin felt cold. The old memory foam, supposed to prevent pressure points, but it just put the pressure over a wider area of skin.

Microscopic sensors indicated pressure points and stiff areas where the artificial fluid it used for blood, despite the promises that the mattress reduced pressure spots on the body.

Blood.

It was an artificial fluid to mask his lack of humanity. Even in the event he suffered an injury, should something cut his flesh? He would bleed red that would turn Dark red then blue-black while it dried. In a close examination, it would be discovered that there was complete lack of normal proteins. The blood, in point of fact, was a polymer.

Still, it was water-soluble, it could be washed away, like real human blood, but it would never pass any close examination by anyone. It had no blood type to identify. In trying to make the artificial biped unidentifiable, the terrorist leader had inadvertently created the perfect blood replacement. It performed the duties of organic blood without the dangers of rejection.

And any wound he’d suffer, would be treated by the android, not a human. Someone who might not understand the red fluid under the microscope.

He performed an inventory against the list in his database in his core memory.

Bandages, cash money, the jacket that was a parting gift from the Reverend and his wife, a forged reprogramable-chipped id card that the android could alter in a second and the image could be altered as fast as the data circuit without use of a camera.

Different sized overclothes. The core system database assumed that walking naked in the American countryside would cause unwanted attention. And to move about as a homeless person, ill-fitting clothes were acceptable.

Pulling his backpack on, he left the room key on the table as instructed by the woman at the front desk then he closed the door behind him. Then determined a route towards the used-car lot a few miles north on the highway that the android discovered on the map while researching the area when he woke up.

Departing, the tall male with dark eyes moved behind some not-yet-opened stores. A quick search for a blind spot away from security cameras was successful. Out of sight of any eyes, biologic or electronic, Steve once again shifted size and gender.

This time, the body shape chosen he took to the maximum that the synthetic bones and flesh could appear, the android now appeared as a small female with large breasts. The choice was dictated by known American tastes taken from the decadent music videos and the rampant pornography that are broadcast in the early evening. This time, red hair and a wide, smiling mouth was selected. The core systems chose green eyes for contrast. Eyes that were selected from a random meeting in previous days at the air terminal.

A perfect retinal image taken from a couple who entered the terminal from a private area as they left a private jet with the name “Pacific Wizard” emblazoned on the tail.

Retina pattern was recorded when the android locked eyes with a man talking with a pretty young woman who read to him an itinerary.

“Okay, Tom. You listening, psst? Hey Okay. You have to be at the panel by noon. You are sitting next to that brat Keegan what’s-his-name, the one that wrote that tripe about his ancestors adventures? And …OH! You have to be at Lynn’s office at McHill publishing at ten O’clock, she says she has a surprise for you and you need to be there.”

If a facial recognition camera would image the eye, the database would supply the image of Thomas Harte, novelist.

Another thought, a file opened and defined the current body shape and style. If they created Steve as an android. But as a female version, this no longer fit in the definition. When he is a she, she is no longer an android.

She is a gynoid.

The, now gynoid’s feet crunched on the gravel along the shoulder of the road as she moved towards the used car lot. In front of a house of worship, she paused however one of the circuits that the core processor established to record the sins of the American south indicated that the programming had flaws, the core systems concluded.

The core processors determined a need to observe the television programs that the general American culture watched and record accurate information. Information that conflicted what the religious leader taught. Conflicting with the Holy Leader was also a sin and all sin should be condemned and erased.

The Holy Leader declared that only those programs that showed approved versions of history and prayer programming would be allowed. And America had to be burned to the ground.

First, to kill all of the leaders of America, the force and type of the explosion would remove all trace of the bomb, with the added level of contamination of radioactive debris for thousands of years, America would be crippled by their tiniest President’s namesake.

Then the struggle of the most righteous would take over and the unbelievers who occupied all the holy lands would be wiped out next. The idolatry of the prophet would be removed in a millisecond of blinding righteous heat.

The Commandments were given to Holy Leader by Michael the Archangel, in his dreams. Blessed above all, the Holy Leader said Steve Aldin was the hammer of the church of the righteous. And all the truths of the one true God were taught.
Gabriel, the Holy Leader taught, was not an Archangel, any lessons taught by Gabriel were false.

The little pissant who was a carpenter in the area of Nazareth who got his own nails driven through his arms and suspended from a cross got what he deserved.

Only D’urs’l was the one and true savior. The only God that could keep going after all others would fail.

These truths were commanded to the truly religious to code into the android’s database. Then the Holy Leader instructed the automaton to follow the teachings and learn all the evils and weaknesses of America.

Confusion edged in on the corners of the androids programming. Each patch of code that recorded kindness, conflict, wrongs or rights , adjusted the database accordingly.

Programmed with a learning algorithm, the core system patched the database to correct errors to fit the circumstances.

Now, the mission to travel on foot changed due to the cold weather. Snow was early this year, and it required the android to change to another mode of travel or the mission could be exposed.

The gynoid arrived at the used car lot and it began to drizzle. From inside the lone salesman watched the lone backpack-laden woman with freckled skin and a size thirty-six chest, walk onto his lot.

Her pants were slightly oversized, cinched by the last hole of her belt that barely held her drawers up over the nice swell of her hips.

She walked around looking over an ancient pickup truck that suffered badly from generic paint, rust and appeal.

It was the cheapest transporter on the lot, he could not give it away it seemed.

Because some fool modified the ancient pickup to a full electric.

“I will take this one.” She said as she looked inside the nondescript transportation.

This woman is running from someone.

“Well, we have some paperwork to do.” He smiled at the little lady. “I’m big Peter Prichet, you can call me Pete.”

“Thank you Mr. Prichet, I have cash. I would like to buy this and be on my way.”
“Well,” Big Peter pulled at his ear, he saw an opportunity. “There is some paperwork to fill out.”

Holding out the roll of paper money, she peeled off enough bills to make a the stack of bills easily visible from the side. She matched the asking price without question.

“This would be sufficient?” She smiled at him.

“We still need to fill out papers, but we might work something out if you are in a hurry.” Peter winked. The woman is obviously running from someone, she had saved a roll of money on the sly, and now was making her escape, she’ll be willing to do anything. I could get something extra off of her for my good deed of getting her on her way.

“That is enough.” He put on his most winning smile. “We just need to fill out some paperwork. Should have you out and on the road in about an hour.”

“You have the money. I need the keys. No paperwork is needed, please. Just release the title to me.”

“It is a government requirement.” He lied as he put the papers on a desk, so she could sit to look at them. “We have pages of papers to fill and sign.”

The papers were loan requirement information, and “as is” statements. Cash sales would be a loophole and no paperwork was truly needed.

He stepped close to her, leaning over slightly to look down her top while she looked at the papers.

“We need to fill out here and here. Insurance is required according to the laws, or I need to charge you for insurance. It’s a small fee.” He surreptitiously glanced out to the sales lot. No one was out there. This would work, the plan is perfect.

She was at the perfect height, sitting in the chair.

“I might be persuaded to break the law and take on a risk.” He said softly, as if he would do her a favor. “If I could get something in return. Just between us. No one needs to know. I can make this paperwork vanish, then you can leave right away. In exchange for some… services.”

“What services?” She looked from the papers and glanced at his pants.

She is willing and knows the exchange.

“Well, you are running from someone, and you need the paperwork done quickly and the title transferred.” Another lie. She knew he had already transferred the ownership with his thumbprint and her ID card stuck in the slot. “If you take care of this, we can get you out of here right now, and no one need to know you were even here.”

He started to unzip his pants. A smile spread across his face.

The plan was perfect. She was wet from the rain, cold and on the run. He’d get a little fun on the side.

Her hand slid into his open fly, a delicate hand as it wrapped around his anatomy and gently caressed the most sensitive parts of his anatomy.

This was a good plan, she would be here for a little while longer while he made good use of her mouth. Her hand cupped his organ with a gentle touch.

Kind of firm. Then explosively painful while the artificial hands, able to exert a force of seven-thousand newtons per square centimeter, squeezed until Big Peter’s scream was nothing but a strangled squeak.

The gynoid changed Big Pete’s plan. No paperwork needed to be filled out while her unremitting crush of his scrotum ended all conversation. Peter sank to his knees, holding his groin as pain exploded through his nervous system after she let go.

“Anyone comes looking for me, you never saw me.” She said as calmly as if she talked of the weather. “I have recorded the monetary exchange for that truck and I will forward it to your wife that you have hanging on the wall there.” She pointed at the family picture of him, his children and his wife.

A wonderful wife, but a ferocious lioness when crossed, and if he crossed that certain line, she would tear off what was left of his testicles with vice-grip pliers.

She picked up his dropped personal device and hacked it in a blink of an eye, tapped on it a few times then left after she laid the tablet on the desk.

Breathless and in pain, he turned the tablet computer so he could see it.

For the second time in a few minutes, he was unable to breathe. This tiny, cute, redheaded, freckle faced woman had his wife’s email information displayed with a video of the transaction and with him as he unzipped his pants. Including the tattoo “Property of Tessalynn” prominently visible. All this woman needed to do was press “Send” on the screen.

He heard the gravel crunch as she left in the modified battery-powered pickup truck with oversized tires.

In the spray-paint and rust, all-electric American built pickup truck, the modified battery pack listed itself as seventy-percent charged. It had a modified drive system that someone planned to make the it a redneck a long distance champ, but the whole system was an abysmal failure.

It could hold the legal speed, but it’s acceleration was slow. Still, after a two-hour drive, the truck made a ping noise and audio warnings for a charge. The extended battery pack was less than five-percent and needed a deep charge from an appropriate source. She plugged it in to an independent solar charger left over from the early days of the electronic revolution. All the extra technology had been removed, so it was not part of the worldnet.

The full charge was free, while an elderly child of a couple of hippy parents raged against the corporate society by charging cars and trucks for no charge.
This was another lesson, with help from the old man who went by the name of “Hummingbird” Johnson, he charged the big, black primer-spray and rust pickup with a lecture on how America lost its way with people dependent on oil energy.

This was something to learn about the American people at that instant. The kindly gift of energy, by the man railed against the importing of oil from the seat of civilization. An elderly soldier in a singular war against the planet’s use of resources started by his parents.

Except that, from the point of view of the slow hike on foot from Florida, charging stations were abundant, fuel depots that dispensed oils were not. So the elderly man seemed to be in error.

However, the android calculated the charges of the electric power stations owned by Standard Excel Electric Motivation Systems “SEEMS” charged equivalent amounts of credit per unit of energy.

The old man swore the population might feel the electric company that “Filled up” their electric automotive machines on the cheap. He uncovered that the per-mile cost of energy worked out to the same or higher than if they drove an oil-burning vehicle.

Hummingbird had it correct, the technology had hidden the cost compared to the profit.

A definition: Greed. He fumed. The God of Business. The power company would make as much money from the people who worked as it could. They swear god is in the money that people spend just to go down the road, that is what keeps everyone alive.

And yet?

And yet the people believed that they were making lives better for themselves in the name of buying power, converted from the sun.

Lovers, haters, atheists and devout.

Then those, like Hummingbird, who believed in the God of the leaf he smoked in his pipe “helped with the appetite”.

Once again. There were errors in the database. The update algorithm encoded a patch to install during the night when the android powered down again at an inexpensive, hotel after the long drive.

Still with a full charge on the batteries, the stone-crushing truck came to a stop in a motel’s parking lot.

The ancient pavement and paint barely marked places to park. The tiny woman who purchased the big truck was no longer visible. Instead, there was a tall, broad, bushy-bearded biker-stereotype with tattoos that took some effort to place in obvious locations on the forearms and hands.

The big man looked like a stereotype of a biker returning to his roots, he signed his name on the register as “Snake” in generic block lettering. The intimidating new tenent paid cash and took the key with barely a word.

The android retired to the rented room alone. His perceived size would ensure people would avoid him and the room.

He sat on the edge of the bed and re-shaped to a slim, human male. This basic shape drew significantly less energy to maintain.

Greed, anger. The android had found a few dark sides to these Americans, but few could truly be listed as evil.

He removed his shoes and pulled down the bedclothes before he got on the bed.

He adapted to the cool of the night from the previous hotel by using blankets for warmth, not just for looks.

Information where the database was wrong:

America, not a cesspool or an evil place. It was not wholly godless, pagan or god-fearing.

America, not a place there were no streets paved with gold or they practiced libations and orgies.

America: They swore at each other, pointed fingers, fought and published news unlike anywhere else. They exposed the worst parts of each other. But, when attacked, they showed the family ties that they were.

Family. Every one. Every hue, it seemed. Hated each other, but when someone outside threatened them. They stood side by side and protected each other’s back no matter their religion, color or orientation.

Data. So much data to rewrite. The patch would need to be written in sections during the power down.

What was observed and recorded and the patch would reflect:

It was a place where people loved, laughed, and lived lives, had children. Some never gave birth to children and were fulfilled and happy.

Some eschewed technology and lived close to the Supreme Creator according to their belief by toiling on the earth for the bounty that they grew.

Information picked up in six hours of driving and observing. The code to update the database was large and complex. It would take the full night to rewrite the new information.

A quick inventory, shoes off, blankets up. Room heat, according to human sleep cycles, turned down a few degrees below normal body temperature.

He turned off the lights in the room with the remote control and closed the optic sensors that were eyes.

Setting the timer to start the power-up start sequence before sunrise, he shut down. His core processor seeking that edge of programming that danced around the low energy gates of the memory bus.

Humans would have called them dreams.

Smart Bomb Chapter 4. Sandbagged

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Chapter 4. Sandbagged

During the night, the android bomb that everyone knew as a teenager named Steve,  the guest bed in the house of the Reverend Car and listened to the sounds in the house.  But the murmuring of the married couple in the far side of the house was beyond even his enhanced hearing.

Rustling noises of his hosts quieted after several minutes after Reverend Carl walked around and turned off the lights in the family room.

After the lights went out and silence followed, he laid on the bed in the dark. His core systems were able control the body temperature easily in the darkness and he performed information and systems maintenance. 

The time passed and the silent house, all outside sounds obliterated by the soft white-sound of falling rain and reduced his ability to hear.

Reducing his power generation, he was able to turn up the power to an electric blanket that the Reverend’s wife supplied.

He closed his eyes in the approximation of sleep, and the systems powered down more than expected.

Then…

In the darkness, his hearing alerted to the sound of the approaching of someone down the hallway.

The length of steps he calculated to the tall wife of the Reverend.

“Steve, time to wake up.” She said softly. “Breakfast in a half-hour.”

“Thank you, I’m awake.” He answered in positive tones.

“You sleep light.”

If I slept. He thought to himself. I would sleep light.

A check on his system, there were gaps of suspended operations where power use was minimal.

Nearly zero draw.

Odd. If machines slept, I would have been asleep. But that was impossible.

Nothing in the database addressed suspend process at night. He was not programmed to suspend operations. Level-one diagnostics were performed multiple times for verification and he ran the programs twice over.

His core systems generated three reports, each one listed no errors.   

Why had so many systems suspended operations?  He was still operating well enough. 

Curious.

Smaller machines would suspend operation to power down, but he was not programmed included by the creator to do that. It had been planned that he did not need to shut down. His mission was a one way and longevity was not a concern.

His programming  was simple:  To get to the target while traveling through the non-believer filth that was America. There would be no power down, or full operation suspending. 

Except he found information that his programming failed to expect. One police officer that applied rules without consideration to the circumstances. But the first, opposed the supervisor on the point of human kindness.

A family that opened their home.

He stood up out of bed, all his senses working at capacity. Every sensor told the core systems that the flesh that covered his carbon-fiber re-enforced polymer frame was in normal parameters, although joints were stiff. The ceramic armor that covered the vital core processors sensed the direction of gravity when Steve stood and the system checks all came back as nominal.

Still he had the need to stretch, the sensation was unique and pleasant.

Nothing in the database described the feeling of the stretch, however, the status of his joints increased by twenty-percent.

And more what was more important, it felt good. 

A significant amount, he understood why humans had the instinct to stretch their bodies when they rose after a sleep period.

At breakfast the food at the breakfast table was simple, but plentiful.

Genesee Bonsell had shredded potatoes and scrambled eggs with coffee and fruit juices.

“Eat up, I have muffins in the oven, we need to arrive at the church at sunrise.” She poured herself the strong, black steaming coffee from an insulated pitcher. “And a long day until lunch. People worry and fret about flooding and we have twelve tons of sand at the church being delivered before sunrise.”

“So, why are we needed to go there in the rain?” Steve asked. Processors called up data on thermal loss, what he recorded in the last week of cold weather. “Ma’am, I will need to borrow a warmer jacket, mine’s not good enough to wear in the rain.”

“Of course, dear.” She smiled. “Carl?”

“I have one from my days in the military. It’s not heavy in weight, but it is warmer than anything you will find.” Carl smiled, pouring his own cup of coffee. “Eat your fill, there is plenty. I have scrambled eggs for years, you won’t find a better omelette anywhere.”

Omelette, the term was a stretch of the definition, although technically correct. He mixed in cheddar cheese with the eggs and no other filler was used. But the matter-energy conversion system would have little problem with the simple meal to convert to a usable energy source. 

The three of them sat at the table and Carl led them in a blessing of the food that lasted for a full minute. Carl gave his heart in the blessing, this intrigued Steve that an infidel would give his faith to an idol he could not see. A notation was made in the hidden, permanent files of another possible flaw in the database of American’s and their quality. 

They got into the pickup truck, Genesee sitting in the middle. They drove the overloaded pickup to the church.

Crowds of people milled about, shovels were in action when they arrived.

Officer Joseph Roberts “Joe-Bob” was guiding people in and out of the parking lot. Young and old moved back and forth.

Very small children dragged empty sandbags, fathers and mothers lugged full ones back to their waiting cars.

Energy spent on shovelling sand into the bags, he learned to fill the sandbags only half-full.

A seven-year-old girl with a hello-kitty t-shirt instructed him on how to fill it under the watchful eye of her father. For a small child, Steve decided, she had done this before.  Skylar the girl was an expert in how to shovel sand into bags. 

For six hours, they filled thousands of sandbags in the cold rain. While wearing the borrowed jacket, reduced his thermal loss to levels so  that regeneration systems used the stored energy to replace the heat well lost to the cold. The omelettes that Carl cooked in the predawn breakfast kept Steve fueled well enough to keep the core processors at optimum levels.

At lunch, Carl lit a giant propane powered grill and began to cook hamburgers and chicken.

His power reserves were down by sixty-percent by the time he sat to consume organic fuel. His total conversion to energy was efficient, but still needed to replace the used fuel, the food was perfect.

One grandfather sat under the rain awning that kept the falling water off the already soaked people.  The old man held his hand out to a five-year old and told the child, “Here, pull my finger.”

The boy-child complied, with the resulting noise that issued from the elderly male’s backside made the boy give a belly laugh.

“An invisible elephant!” the old man said, pointing at a space where Steve could not see anything in visible light.  The android tried in other wavelengths immediately after, but without success.  

He came to the conclusion there was no such animal that was invisible. 

“Mama!” The boy called, running off. “There was an invisible elephant under gramps! It lifted him off the chair with its trunk!”

The crowd chuckled the android struggled with the humor between the different races of people. Different hues, ages of men and women all mixing.

Steve filed the joke under a new permanent file. He was curious about such things.

A bodily function based on triggering the event by pulling on a digit. The sound was akin to an explosion.

They were vastly different things and inconsistent with human biomechanic construction.

These people were inconsistent, considerate, caring. Unlike his database, listing them as sinful, profane, selfish, obese and bloodthirsty.

Steve altered his programming slightly to adjust to the information.

The core systems did not note it, but the android was learning new information at a geometric rate.

He sat on the plastic chair, eating the last of his fourth hamburger when the he performed a time check in his core processor. Instructions, pre-programmed instructed him that he needed to leave and spend twenty-four hours watching a military base a few miles north.

The was plan already designed and thought out, he would be a poor, homeless woman with no possessions and stand outside of the fence for a few days, before heading north again.

If they picked up the old crazy woman, it would keep the government off his trail.

The plan was without flaw.

Christmas on The Orcus, non-poem style

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Christmas, Somewhere in the Galaxy.

The Magnatar class ship held in orbit around the “Super Earth” at forty-thousand meters above the ground.

Well above the traffic lanes for aircraft that flew from hither and yon. The crew of the large ship parked it with great care while the pirate King strode around his command center at the top of the ship.

The Orcus was a powerful ship that logged many hours in trips between planets for negotiations for trade and peaceful coexistence in the United Confederation of Pirates. A label put on the outlying colonies by the Empire. They were all self-governed and traded with each other with no control or supervision by the Momo Empire. No one could be happier than the colonists.

After negotiations, the crew was tired. They had stopped at a half-dozen planets, secured agreements with every one of them.

Delivered gifts of the one time of year that was held onto by the humans to bring out the best of each other.

Still, the bachelor King, Ruu’ta O’Danu. From a long line of scofflaws, scallywags, rogues and leaders stood with his arms crossed in thought.

One crewman, the weapons and flight space officer, his daughter was just born, it was her first Christmas for this family.

Another, her mother died in the last month (Against the Kings mandate that no one dies during this time.) but she stayed at her post. Even when the King performed his duties as Ruu’tan she acted stoic. But, the king noticed the trickle of tear from one eye that traced down Chief Sharan Nayaan’s cheek in quiet moments.

They were too far away for her to go home to bury her mother, weeks out at maximum speed.

Sigh The crew was beyond their limit. Each member of the dozen ship’s crew had needs to go home. Even if it was to make contact over the holidays.

He took a position on the bridge, behind his chair and had a thought.

“Chief, ship-wide communication to my station please.”

The surprise announcement. Everyone had a five-day pass. Two days before, the day of and then two days after the time on earth where everyone sang, and felt a little nicer.

King Ryan O’Danu saw everyone off, transporters operated full-time, three drop pods took the teams down to their hub points.

One lieutenant had a sky-surfer he had modified himself, and, to the laughter of the red-headed master of the ship, flew it off of the landing pad that he ordered deployed from the side of the ship.

From there, the crew all went to their homes.

Last on the ship, a Magnatar class heavy cruiser, was the leader of the planet himself.

King Ryan O’Danu, his line of leaders went back to an age of sail and wooden ships. The first pirate, family legend had it, was a child that was kidnapped by the government. The child became a king of the sea and started a family dynasty.

Today, the king was simply a man alone on board of a flying battleship. He strolled about the empty ship, the quiet undertone of electronics his only company.

Standing on the landing pad, he watched until Lieutenant Antares was no longer visible. When the King turned back to the ship, he noted a blemish on the hull. A meteor impact when they orbited the mining colony that suffered a storm of flying rocks when two ‘roids collided nearby. The teams that mined the raw materials needed their shields repaired and King O’Danu brought the royal ship in as a blocker until the colonists and ship’s engineers got the system up and running again.

It had been a busy time for the run-up to these days of family and reaffirmation of life and love. They had worked hard to renew contracts, deliver gifts and assure that peace would last for at least another month.

Now it was over, other than the pit on the side of his ship, painted to look like a Killer Whale of earth. The ship was a well known force, and it the pride of the master of the ship, never shot any of its weapons in anger.

He tapped on a palm-held display and a ladder built by the Rose Suchuk company rolled out on its own wheels.

An hour later, he finally finished. He’d leave the ladder out to climb again later and inspect the fit and finish of the repairs. (He was picky like that.)

“Computer, Celtic traditional drums.” He said when he made his way to the lounge of the ship. “Collapse ladder, but leave in airlock for further use. Seal Airlocks.”

He sat at the table in the lounge, drinking an eggnog with rum from Lats-Ute mining colony. Finger foods, from Gray Kitchens on his own planet.

He laughed. If the ships chief medical officer saw what he ate now, Lynn McCoy M.D. would issue a health report on him and make him do extra physical training.

His cup was empty, but the view was grand. King O’Danu shook his head, he was not about to give up his view and poured another jigger of rum, shrugged, then just filled the cup with the dark liquid.

An hour passed while he read novels of distant lands and other worlds when his eyes started to droop.

“Computer, nightwatch. Sensors on passive scan. Environmental shields only.” He sighed. “I might want to go out later for a view of the stars.”

The king thought about his telescope, he’d like to do some stargazing later.

It was important that the shields would keep a layer of warm, pressurized air around the ship for him to breathe if he used the pad outside.

Whooo… I’m buzzed. That was potent stuff. He rubbed his eyes, they felt dry. He had been up and going for twenty-hours straight today. In the last few weeks, he slept only three hours out of every twenty-four. They may live on a ship, but the force of his circadian rhythm still forced him to hibernate a few hours per day.

In the captain’s quarters, Ryan peeled off his carbon fiber body armor and crawled into the bed and pulled the dense, heavy blanket up to his head.

He liked a cool room with the a blanket.

His mind drifted, the ship was secure, he set the systems and he was safe. No one would dare approach a Magnatar class, fully armed battleship with evil on their minds.

Then.

The unthinkable!

Alarms sounded.

Ruu’tan and King of Garnet-4, then leader of the council of the Pirate Confederation. Ryan O’Danu lept out of bed like a cat spooked on Halloween.

Proximity alert Proximity alert Negative response on IFF

Lights were at full bright, which dazzled him for a moment. Ryan ran to his desk were basic control systems were active.

“Computer, display sensor contact.” He rubbed his eyes, but not out of fatigue.

On the display, the contact was small. Only enough room for, maybe, four people.

“Overlay readings with Orcus in relative center.”

A hundred-thousand feet lower but climbing rapidly. He thought.

No one is scheduled to come back for four more days.

The display glowed with a 3-D overlay.

“Magnify.”

Then he gasped.

The speed at this target tracked, it approached the ship, cannon and defensive systems came online.

Phased energy weapons locked on.

Crap!” King Ryan knew what the targets was. He had to shut this system off at the command center. The weapons command and control had not been transferred, only navigation. ran down the gangway and hung a hard right, skipping the lift, he climbed the emergency ladder next to it and flopped over onto the floor.

The main display showed with detail not available to him in his bedroom.

“Computer, display HD display on holograph map of 3-D space, overlay Orcus as relative center and give readout on altitude and direction.” He thought a moment. “Speed and mass.”

“Working. Speed is thousand meters per second, mass of two-thousand two hundred kilograms. Reading ten life signs. One biped humanoid, nine quadruped of the Rangifer tarandus.”

“Rangifer. What is common name of Rangifer whatever you said.”

“Rangifer Tarandus, common name reindeer.”

“Reindeer? Rein…” his eyes grew big. “Oh Jeeze!”

“Computer, disable defensive systems.” King O’Danu yelled. “Stand down shields, stow the guns.”

“Power down. Alert, target is tracking to landing pad.”

“Oh good.”

“Danger, there is an obstruction in on the pad.”

“I requested the ladder in the airlock.”

“Manual override engaged on brakes, ladder is stationary.”

Ryan slapped himself in the forehead and ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time. At the bottom of the stairs, he tripped over the automated janitor and ended up in a pile next to the door.

Outside, clatter and noise of a landing.

“Computer, send warning to contact, danger on…”

A voice sounded through the intercom.

“Ahoy in ..oh balls!” and the sound of a body hitting the deck.

King Ryan ran down the gangway, slipping on golden elf-dust and overshooting the doorway and ended up, for the second time, in a pile on the floor. This time near his quarters.

“Sorry, Nicholas! I was fixing a meteor hit and left it out for inspection later.”

“Yeah, you left a trap for me. I know!” The shaggy white mane shook as he laughed at the joke. “I have some deliveries to here. Special ones.”

“I don’t have anyplace good to put them, over in the lounge on the bar would work well enough.” Ryan said.

“What’s this? You don’t have a tree.”

“Trees on Garnet-4 are all protected, this is one barren rock, you know.”

“This planet is, but Sapphire isn’t, nor is Palindrome Prime.”

“Yeah, but with PP you can’t tell which way your going.”

“Ryan.” The old elf turned around. “I can take these all back and assign you a Cadet Elf. Her name is Moonbottom.”

“Eh… Moonbottom?”

“She sent a gift to the wrong person, supposed to send a puppy to one boy named Brighthill in the Carolinas of the US on earth. Instead, she sent the pet to a Miss Elisabum in London who had coal coming.”

“Coal? From you? She must have been quite bad.”

“No no.” He pulled out another gift from the bag he carried in. “She is very poor. A lump of coal could warm her for the season.”

“Must be some lump.”

“About a ton.”

“OH! Well, in that context, I can see that.”

“Now for your tree.”

“You do not have a tree in that…” He went slack-jawed and silent.

“An Immortal tree. Sequoia Sempervirens. It is rooted on the bottom, too. When you get this craft on the ground, plant this tree. It’ll grow. You also have a warehouse full of these to plant along the coastal areas as of now. You have perfect zones for it.”

“How did you get these trees? They are protected and endangered.” Ryan stroked the green, feathery growth that served as needles for the evergreen tree. “I didn’t think the government would allow them off world.”

“Yes, actually. They are spreading them everywhere. So you have a hundred-thousand seedlings, ready for planting.”

“Thank you, I will have people on it after Christmas. You are a saint.” Ryan paused and thought a moment. “How many gifts are you leaving?”

“You have quite the shopping list. Why do you ask?”

“Ooh, nothing. I am having alerts, the ship is compensating for the weight of your deer and sleigh.”

“Reindeer.” Nicholas corrected. “Oh, my back. I have another billion stops to do tonight.”

“How do you do that? You cannot even go a second per stop, that’d take you longer than thirty-years.”

“Thirty-one years, nine-months, one and a half weeks and one hour. Roughly.” Nicholas groaned again as he stood. “But we have the Einstein Time Exception Device. The rest of the universe slows to a crawl, while me and anyone nearby is sped up. Elf Bernard came up with using the formula eons ago.”

“Oh, one more thing.” He handed Ryan a box. “This is a special request. It keeps all the good wishes for you, nice and safe.”

He turned and the old man nearly fell to a knee again.

Yeah, he gets some medicinal drink. The King of Garnet-4 thought to himself.

“Nick, have a seat. I’ll make you something ot warm the cockles of your heart.”

Nick sat back in a chair with a sigh.

“I’m a little tired of milk and cookies tonight. I’d take a carrot.”

“Carrots are…” Ryan called from galley. “For the reindeer! And I have a whole bag for them.”

“As you wish.”

Ryan brought out a pitcher of hot water, a mix he had created a few days before of maple sugar, vanilla, butter and cinnamon, hot water and rum.

They talked far into the night, each comparing notes with the other.

“You might have been told you are autistic as a child, King O’Danu, but you have done such good things with other people. You have shown other people who there is no label that you cannot overcome. You should be proud of all the negotiations you have done.” The white beard shook as the eyes crinkled behind the glasses in rum-warmed humor. “That said, I have a lot of stops to do and I am going to have to do something special. I must go.”

King O’Danu picked up the heavy bag, it felt nearly empty, but if he shook it, it made a sound, as if boxes rubbed together.

“Don’t shake that.” Nick smiled. “At the rate you are going, you’ll have my job someday. You are a good man. Ruu’tan Ryan O’Danu, King of this planet.

Ryan walked with the older man out to the landing pad of the ship, where he climbed up into the ancient anachronism. The conveyance was a throwback of nearly five-centuries. But the antlered reindeer were muscular and, quite literally, glowing gold.

Adjusting his had, he slurred his words slightly.

“Good rum. Keep up the good work, Ryan. Merry Christmas.” He pulled at his beard for a moment and then said softly.

“Ho ho ho.” And Santa was gone.

Watching the old man disappear from sight. He felt an old familiar pain.

King O’Danu walked back into the ship and hit a button and the landing pad withdrew into the ship, and he heard an old familiar refrain.

“Merry Christmas to all, to all a good night.”

Ryan laughed as the airlocks were sealed.

“Good night to you, too, old man.” Ryan said to the 3-D map as it tracked the small target, accelerating up and away, already at the edge of sensor range at relativistic speeds. “Merry Christmas to you too.”

Ryan O’Danu, descendant of Keegan O’Danu, the first pirate of the family, turned off all the lights. And set the defense systems to alert status and went to bed. The rum had definitely gone to his head.

When he woke up in the morning, he would laugh as he got out of bed. He was so drunk, he dreamed that Santa came and visited. Which everyone knew was a figment of his booze addled imagination.

Which made the existence of a pile of gifts all the more difficult to explain in the morning.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 7. Casa De Las Canas

Children of Fury:Hellions
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Chapter 7. Casa de las Canas

Two women, shared the same icy stare. In four years, they had their indentured contracts extended against their will three times.

Now they both had an extra seven years on their service to the plantation.

They were the only women that did not suffer the forced marriage and children in the House of the Canes in the four years they had been in the service to the plantation.

Caoimhe Ni Maile MacRanald, from Campbell’s Town in Scotland was cousin to Fey Mac Boru O’Danu, the women grew up together as children, writing letters to each other when apart. They knew well enough they were no longer free in the first days of their servitude and they brought suffering unlike anything the men experienced before.

Then, the rape teams tried to move on them in the cabin they shared, to tame the women from the wilds of the emerald isle.

And it was failure that would echo for years. Now men feared the two women with blue-ice for eyes and fire for hair. These Scots women, one with an Irish name by marriage, held sway over all men on the plantation.

Garcia Parga, the Master of the Fields. The jefe de las cañas, would tremble at the thought of approaching the women and pass on a command from the owner of the estate.

Roberto de Las Planas owned and drove the daily trip to town in his covered coach, let Garcia to do the day-to-day work. except for the two women that he had bought at the slave-pens in Barbados, he had full confidence that all would be well.

The women, the first one called Fey.

Even after four years, he struggled with the name of the taller, slightly crazier one with the name of a harsh land.

“Keeva” He thought to himself. He tried to give her a Christian name, but the struggle for that in those early days was not worth the battle.

His memory of that time made him laugh and weep at the same time.

Unknown to anyone, his purchase of these two guardians of the house, they were more formidable than anyone would have suspected.

In the first day, he sent his best looking men in as their mates. Roberto even told the men to make sure the women would have children inside of them.

Over that long year, breeder teams went into the cabin where the women lived, fueled by wine and rum. But, then none of the muscular and brave men came out intact. 

His memory ached with the lessons of dealing with priestesses of the Drui

Powerful, muscular and brave, they all wept like children. Many holding vital parts of their anatomy, limped and breathless in agony.

He was positive that the larger redhead was guilty of some crime against the men who wept afterwards.

But to a man, the ones in most agony, identified the smaller woman as the roaring spirit that fought like a wild cat.

One man, who bled freely from his now broken nose, winced when he sat on the steps leading up the the main house, shook his head. Afraid for those who thought they would try to take the women against their will in that cabin of pain.

“Senior Garcia. I do not think there is enough rum on all the island to make me or any of the others to try to take them women against their will.” He said. The man, named Gawrhum by Roberto de las Planas. “These women will protect the house they are in. But I dare not hazard to try to mate them with anyone against their will.”

Garcia shook his head in disagreement.

“All women seek to have strong men.” He told Gawrhum.

“These women have more soul than ten men. They are far more than you think, they are both like demons when they fight.” The men watched another servant walk by holding a hand to his pants, in an attempt to stop the bleeding from his ruined flesh. “They have not chosen him, either. He is the strongest of us and has many children.”

Four men entered the cabin, sounds of shrieks like two demons emanated from the cabin.

One man almost made it out, before the smaller woman who claimed her name as Fey, flew out and grabbed the man by the hair and dragged him down as if she had a sheep to sheer.

He screamed for help as she pulled him back into the cabin by his mustache.

When the master of the house returned to his plantation, Garcia told him of how the smaller woman, as tall as many men, she beat on the servants as they were sent in. And how the taller woman with fists like a man knocked one to the ground and slammed his head in the door a dozen times.

“He will not work for a week, she has broken his face.” Garcia said.

Roberto held his face in his hands.

“What do we do?”

“Leave them be, use other means to keep them.” Garcia raised his eyebrows. “Find another way to enslave them, if you dare.”

Four years ago. News that spread of children that escaped. Released by the English fool Myngs had begun a new time of destruction against the empire.

Château du Soleil, owned by Frenchman Philippe Cornu, burned to the ground by servants under the command of the children pirates after he freed them like God’s Wrath against the population.

Cornu was slow to rebuild, and that allowed other plantations to expand, including this Casa de Las Canas. The only people who seemed to enjoy the news of such destruction were the Irish slaves. The women who he was successful to breed, he could force them to stay beyond the original contract that was imposed on them.

But the two that kept their pagan names?

No one dared cross them. They performed duties and ruled with an iron hand, the household was safe, clean and always ready for visitors.

The one thing that grated on Roberto’s soul, was their arcane observation of their old religion.

Now, he came from the harbor with news of from the crew of one ship. A new threat of the Caribbean was spoken of in fear-filled whispers. A small fleet of four pirate ships, one ship crewed with children.

The eyes of the Celtic woman glittered with the news.

“Senior Roberto.” She told him, the icy blue of her eyes chilled his soul. “You would do well to release all your servants. Should the child pirate come here.”

“Fey.” Caoimhe interrupted. “Nae speak of those bairns. Walk with me.”

Alone in a room, they spoke in their Gaelic language.

“Do not say you are related to any of them. You will be used to bait Keegan into a trap.”

“That is my son, he comes for all of us. I wish him safe, but Roberto should know what comes.”

“Ach! Keep your head down, cousin, stand with the other servants. We will leave together in time.” The larger woman admonished her older, smaller relative.

“Caoimhe, my son returns.” Fey smiled wide. “They all return.”

“They return for us.” Fey smiled wider still.

Failed Getaway

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Failed Getaway

Exhumed bodies piled up around the yards. Anywhere and everywhere the police dug around Malam Bayyad’s farm was a garden of horrors.

In the end, charged with sixty-two separate counts of murder, it was common thought he had a list longer by a large margin than the dead the police so far discovered.

His trial lasted over a year.

The Verdict?

Guilty.

Sentence?

Death.

Six-months after his conviction and then the prison administration moved him to Death Row. Few people were convicted in recent decades, executions happened quickly. Three appeals, expedited and lasted just two months.

Inmate number DR-1 walked with confidence to the execution chamber. In a glass-walled room with draperies obscured the view to the chamber beyond, the silent guards assigned to his restraint strapped him to a padded, vertical board.

Then they lifted 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’s 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.”

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

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

Dark humor. They think I’m about to die, why did they use a sterile technique?

Do you have any last words?” A disembodied voice sounded and the drapes opened and showed the gallery of witnesses.

Yeah. I’m a little thirsty. When the Governor calls, 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 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…

The clock! they were late! It’s a fail!

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

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

The tape on his arm pinched when he scratched his nose.

Then Malam blinked.

His arm was free! The strap! Unbuckled when guards fled after the power failed.

Cowards! But I have not heard any alarms. It must be some of the drug ran into my arm put me to sleep for a little while. Malam grinned. People think I am dead.

The thought made him laugh when he walked out to freedom.

He already had plans for the judge and his family while he walked to where the body-hauler would park.

The hallways were dark, last rays of sunlight filtered in.

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 all gates and doors were unlocked.

As planned, Malam walked free and laughed at the power outage orchestrated by his family.

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

Screw them all! I’m free, next I will visit Judge Alkar and his family.

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 came and darker thoughts about his first grew in his mind. 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.

More laughter as he covered the ground towards town when he tripped and fell into…

A body!

Disemboweled, blood still steamed. The coppery smell of the blood that soaked his prison issue shirt to his skin.

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

He kneeled down and searched the body for a weapon of any kind.

The sounds of a head crushed by a baseball bat with a grunt, a wheeze of a death rattle, he realized that whoever it was had not seen him.

He crawled through the grass towards the voices.

His breath wheezed in his ears as he got closer to the voices.

If I could get a jump on them, what irony, I could kill someone while they killed someone.

He could see the top of 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 sound of a bat to a skull and bloody fluids made a mist. Malam could smell the blood in the air and it excited him.

Then he jumped and grabbed the closest bat-man, called Ostus.

He surprised himself, he was stronger than he thought when he broke Ostus’ neck and took his bat. Malam brained the other killer.

Malam laughed while he carried the bat with him and walked towards the town. Another man stood up, also wore standard-issue.

Thanks, they killed everyone from the prison.” The convicts eyes glittered with a mixture of anger and fear. “I want to kill the judge who put me in there. Then find each and every one of the jurors. I’ve not seen my family for years, they don’t come to visit.”

Let’s go. What were you in for?”

They say I’m a cannibal. I’m not, they were chewed on by rats.” The pair moved towards the town. “I’m Skit.”

Malam. What kind of name is Skit?”

What kind of name is Malam?” As they walked towards a car on the edge of the field.

Not any car, a cop car. The officers were occupied with someone on the ground when the escapees stepped out from behind the trees.

Malam gasped in horror when the cops turned towards him.

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

One officer chewed on what looked like a forearm, the other had a foot.

Frozen in shock he watched the officers dropped the nightmare snacks and began to walk towards Malam and Skit.

He looked at his fellow escapee, the convict stood there, his skin shined with excitement, the big man looked at him with eyes that were all wrong, then reached out with hunger and a snarl.

Malam crushed Skit’s head with the bat and left the cop-things to ponder over the body he left while he ran towards the park.

He kneeled at the base of the tree where he buried his cache dug with his hands.

Those cops… I’ve never seen anyone do that before. That was crazy! Holy crap. Cannibalism? In three of them? I bet Skit was a decoy.

Strange I could outrun them.

That’s bat-shit crazy, cops can run! And they do not quit. And… Where 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 absence of driven vehicles.

He stood and grimaced at the cold-bloody shirt that stuck against his body and made him shiver.

I need a fresh change of clothes.

People should in the park, the summer’s evening with no power anywhere. I could kill one and take the shirt. He looked around. No, first get out of sight and raid the laundromat. No chance of blood on clothes when I kill someone.

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

He looked in through the clear windows into the machines, many held suds and water, stopped in mid-wash. A few were dry.

He pulled on the handle and one opened. He found a polo shirt and 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’ll loosen up some.

When he turned, a person sat on the side with their back to him.

He outside and looked at the woman in the light of the moonrise that filtered through the glass.

I think I remember her. Heavy-set girl, tattoos of roses on her neck.

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

No! Impossible. She is part of my collection.

Malam walked through the shadows, heading to the middle of town. People began to follow him, they walked in an odd stilted way. Some chewed on…

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

Then almost screamed when he heard another scream nearby. A man’s voice plead for help.

He ran away from the sound and looked over his shoulder assured himself that no one followed him.

And into the edge of chaos!

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 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 dropped ammunition.

He screamed when he took a step backwards and fell over a curb in mid-combat of a massed attack by the black bat-winged creatures.

Malam scooped up the scattergun and shells 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 and scattered bat-wings and black flesh while he racked in another round.

Second shot freed the big 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. He screamed with the sound of a man who saw the unthinkable.

The left leg had been denuded of flesh below the knee, two bones stuck out were his leg had been chewed off and poured blood into the gutter.

He looked at Malam with resignation, the cop was about to bleed 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 of the cop was some creature that looked like a cat out of someone’s nightmare on the officer’s head while the man exsanguinated and chewed while the one-legged man fought like a whirlwind of fists.

Then one fist, he

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

Now where 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 an 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 horrid, group of people followed his movements on the steps.

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

No. Not possible. They belong to me! He shook his head. Damn, don’t think, run! I have to run! What has happened 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 rose out of the shadows, looked at him…

And screamed his name!

Malam!”

No! Not out of the shadows, out of the ground! It moved a manhole cover and crawled out of the sewers.

He ran like the wind. 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 hand grabbed him from out of the darkness, felt for a pulse?

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, sibulent sounds of horros that crawled in the bushes, wheezes of these creatures that stumbled, shuffled, walked towards him.

Fuck! I gotta run!

From behind, naked-screaming cats with eight-arms that ended in black hands and needle-sharp claws, lept and swung from trees and skittered like giant spiders over headstones.

Into darkness Malam ran, chased by familiar faces of dead who walked and shuffled after him, creatures from nightmares he never before 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 slanted in and 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.

He turned and walked 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. “Look at the fear on his face 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 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.

< < < < > > > >

Married by Mistake Chapter 57. News Channel Gone Dark

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Chapter 57. News Channel Gone Dark

In her apartment, every moment Kaylee spent outside of class, her computer logged in and a bluetooth connection to her television to watch it with her sister.

Melanie paced around the apartment in agitation. The news website out of Singapore at first uploaded the few still images and fewer videos had no recent enough updates to calm her irritation.

One high-quality video, the news reporter explained that Singapore authorities detained an American, Thomas Harte, while they investigated the charges that he smuggled marijuana bundled for transportation and a bottle of unknown liquid that investigators suspected as a narcotic. Cleared of drug-use by medical examination, the prosecutor planned to use the reports against him in a court and prosecute the United States Citizen as a smuggler.

‟He was cleared by a blood check? How can they use that he was clean against him?” Melanie said.

‟There, it said it. If he had it in possession and he’s clean, they know he was trafficker.” Kaylee held both hands to her tear-streaked face.

‟I’ve called Lettie, she called the government here. I talked with a lawyer that Lettie set me up with, he will set me up with the state department and we will see if there is any help I can do.” Kaylee said.

‟How can you help?”

‟The stash was mine.” Kaylee said. ‟It was in with my massage oil. I know that’s what they are calling as narc-oil.”

‟You left it? In his plane?” Melanie clapped her hand to her forehead. ‟You never planned to stay with Glenn.”

‟I, uh…” Kaylee stammered, then her temper flared. ‟Screw you.”

That just made Melanie the Monster and kid sister laugh harder.

‟You say that and that means I’m right. Tom got you to love him.” She smiled at her sister and poked her older Kaylee over her heart. “He writes about airship pirates, but he is the King of Pirates who stole your heart. Thomas Harte is a thief of hearts.”

 ‟Shut up, Melanie or I’ll tell mom.” In an empty threat. “And don’t poke me.”

Melanie quieted down and giggled for several minutes.

‟I’ll need to tell the State Department that Tom and I had gotten married and then annulled.” Kaylee rubbed her forehead. ‟Dad will poop a pinecone.”

‟Yeah, a whole tree of them.” Melanie smiled, but her tone was sad. ‟You know those crazy paparazzi with cameras will be here. You won’t be able to walk or drive to classes.”

‟I’ll live on campus then.”

‟The wait list is two years long, you won’t get a place until after you graduate.” Melanie shook her head. ‟If you tell the State Department, you can save him, but you will lose your chance to graduate in peace. The photographers will be all over you like flies on a dead fish.”

‟What…?” Kaylee interrupted. “Mel, the feed just went down. Just have a four-zero-four ‟Not Found” code.”

‟Just go back a page.”

‟I did, Online Network News only has other countries in the menu, Singapore is not there. Not even weather.”

‟Wierd. Try alternate news feeds.” Melanie suggested and sat next to her sister at the computer.

‟Okay.” Kaylee typed in the addresses of the different sources.

‟Those are old images we’ve seen. Tom might be free. Oh!” Kaylee smiled. ‟Lettie has sent an email.”

Then the excitement turned into crestfallen defeat.

‟She says Tom’s locked up in jail, Singapore police have confiscated his passport. She looked at the laws, sent me the link.” Kaylee clicked on the highlighted text. ‟That is harsh. He might get ten-years for the weed and forfeit all his possessions and death penalty is mandatory for the narc-oil.”

Melanie looked at her sister.

‟Death? But that is only aromatherapy oil, right? That essence of rosemary I gave you for your birthday.” She shook her head. “And they took… His plane?”

Melanie kept reading over Kaylee’s shoulder.

A phone rang, and both sisters looked at their phones before Kaylee picked it up.

‟Hello? Yes. Yes, at home. Yes. Las Vegas, three weeks ago. My address is…” Kaylee looked down off the balcony. ‟You know where I am? Yes. Right away? I’ll be here.”

‟That was the lawyer. He and a State Department rep are on their way.‟ Looking down, ‟Oh… Drat! I need to get dressed in something nicer than my t-shirt and jeans.”

‟At least put on a bra. You’re kind of on point since you have been on the phone.” Melanie pointed out.

‟What! ACK!” Kaylee squawked and ran to her room to change clothes, covering her chest up with her hands.

‟Why did you cover and run? It’s only me.” Melanie laughed again. The younger sister enjoyed when the elder stressed out.

‟Oh my god! Omygodomygod I can’t find what to wear.” Sounds in her bedroom echoed as she slammed drawers and closet doors.

‟Wear your dark green skirt, boots and your black silk blouse with the pocket.”

‟You borrowed my skirt last month for the class interviews, have you brought it back?”

‟No, it’s in my laundry.”

‟Crap. Mellie, help, I am in a panic, I need some advice.”

‟Okay, black skirt?”

‟Yes, past my knee. Heeled boots, black silk blouse and the gray jacket.

‟Yeeaah… I would leave the jacket.” Melanie said and looked out the window. ‟It’s too hot to dress in those extra layers.”

‟Yeah. Yeah… I will meet with some important people, I don’t want them to think I am just a college kid.”

‟Well. You are, and he is a lot older, you might not get away without that label in their minds, then they would say it.” Melanie mused as she helped her sister adjust the collar on the blouse.

‟I don’t know what to say.” Kaylee said and walked out of the room. ‟The lawyer will be here in a moment.”

‟Okay. Okay.” Melanie said as the sibling turned around. ‟Okay, you look good. Wait, did you put a bra on?” Another squeak of profanity from her Kaylee who disappeared into her room again.

A short few minutes and she was ready. The sisters opened the door to walk down to the sidewalk and both sisters screamed in surprise.

Four men stood in the hallway, two in military uniform in places on either side of the door. Two in civilian office clothing, one looked like he had swallowed some vile drink.

‟Miss Grant?” The dark-skinned man held out a hand. ‟I’m Beyron Ferguson, attorney at law. The G.I. Joe here is the secretary of the local state department office, Maxwell Silverham.” he indicated the sour-faced man.

‟Local?” Melanie said. ‟I didn’t know we had a local one.”

‟And you are?” Beyron said.

‟She is my sister, Melanie Grant. I would like to have her here while you interrogate me. Should I get a lawyer?”

‟Please call me Max.” The older white-haired man said. ‟No you don’t need a lawyer, and local is a relative term Miss Grant.” He nodded with a smile to Melanie.

‟May I get you a glass of water?” Kaylee asked.

‟No, thank you.” Max said. ‟May we sit?”

Motioning to the breakfast table, they all took a seat while Beyron pulled out a notepad.

‟For the record Miss Grant… Kaylee. I am your attorney, appointed by the Attorney General of the United States, pro-bono. That is no charge to you.” Beyron explained to the two women. “I will give you advice, but I will do what you ask, even finding a replacement if I do not fulfill my job to your satisfaction. Mister Silverham here is the government investigator in charge. He would like to ask about your relationship with Thomas Harte who is now in custody in Singapore and will stand trial for drug possession in the next few days. This is not a criminal investigation, but I am here to protect your rights in any event his questions stray into private areas that are not relevant. If at any time you wish to stop talking with Mister Silverham, we will bring this to an end. Do you understand all that?”

Kaylee nodded.

‟Before we start,” Max said, ‟What is your relationship with this author who seems to lack a street address.”

Kaylee held hands with her sister and relaxed, she felt more confident than ever and explained the events of the past summer.

Married by Mistake Chapter 56. Mr. Lee, I presume?

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Chapter 56. Mr. Lee, I presume?

“I will make a request that you are on police bail, in the meantime the guards will escort you across the street back to your cell until I find how much the bail will be.”

This deflated Tom, he did not want to go back to the miserable place where odor of vomit and dead cockroaches were common decor.

Before Robert could pick up his phone to call for a guard to take Tom back to his cell, there came a knock at the door.

A young man with a camera stood at the door and two men stood on either side of him. The two men wore matched navy blue business suits with lavender ties.

If Tom was not so terrified of his current future, might have laughed. But the twenty-something man in the middle of the trio did not fit with the group.

The young man looked down, and introduced himself as Liem Han, then one of the men in a gentle motion, a hand on his shoulder.

With a grimace of terror Liem spoke an invitation.

‟Mister Lee would like for you to join him for tea.”

‟Thank you.” Robert said. ‟When.”

A squeeze on Liem’s shoulder made the young man moan in abject fear.

‟Now. A limousine is waits for us outside.”

The men that escorted them, only gave minute professional nods as the two men inside gathered up the papers from Robert’s desk and walked out the door.

‟Please remember to lock your door.” The taller one said to Robert. ‟You will be returned safe and it would be a shame if someone took what little you had left because of an open door.”

Tom actually felt better when Robert locked the door before he turned and walked out of the house to the stretched limousine.

The team lavender opened the limo’s door and invited the three escorted men to climb inside the plush transporter’s interior and they closed the door behind them. Inside, an Indian woman with a strong British accent, faced them as they sat.

‟Mister Lee wishes to meet you both. Mister Liem, you will sell all your pictures with rights to Mister Lee. Interviews may be granted, but only after Mr. Lee approves. In the event there is a paid interview, the payments divided evenly, agreed?”

‟Um.” Liem stammered. ‟Do I have a choice.”

‟Yes. But it would be in your best interests to accept the deal. The consequences would be unfortunate.”

‟Ma’am.” Tom pointed at Liem. ‟Why is he here?”

‟Mister Liem Han has taken pictures of you at the time of your arrest. He sold them to the highest bidder. Mr. Lee has purchased most of the images, but the first few went out to the internet before we were aware of your legal troubles.” She explained in precise langauge.

‟Excuse me, who are you?” Robert asked.

‟Mister Mitch, my name is Mumtaz Nayyar, former legal advisor to the British consul here in Singapore.” She said in an even voice.

‟Why former?” The lawyer asked.

‟Mr. Lee pays a great deal more.”

‟Simple and direct.” Tom tried to chuckle but it came out as little more than a squeak. That Lee Kong Kuen had precise knowledge of where he was, bothered him.

‟Now, Mr. Mitch. My employer wishes to help you along with this case of Mr. Harte here. We have arranged for dropping of the drug charges, but you need to press for the government substantiate the drug charge.”

‟I don’t understand.”

‟The police misplaced the plastic bag as I understand it.” She folded down her laptop lid. ”There are no drugs. The report on that just came through to me.”

‟That is…” Robert searched for a word opened up in a practiced smile and showed perfect, polished teeth. ‟Incredible intelligence young woman.”

‟Do not flirt with me, it does not work.”

‟Mister Harte, you have been in Liem’s pictures. As a result certain elements of politics and some family have contacted the US Embassy here. She claims to drive for your wife. But our sources indicate you are a widower.”

‟I don’t have a wife, and I have a lot of limo drivers.”

She opened her laptop lid and traced her finger over the screen.

‟Lettie?” She read the name on the screen invisible to the rest of the passengers.

‟Oh yes, she owns the company.”

‟Does the name Kaylee sound familiar?”

Robert coughed.

‟I’m sorry, until we are more confident on these recent events, I advise him to say no more.”

‟Of course.” She looked out the window. ‟Here we are. Your mystery will resolve in a moment. Your host is waits there at the front step.”

The elegant car pulled up and a tall, bald elderly man dressed in lavender robes stepped forward and waited while the limousine driver opened the door. The two men in the business suits flanked the newcomers men and remained silent, bowed low to their employer.

Mumtaz bowed, but not as low as the two suited men, introduced the three guests.

‟Mister Harte, Mister Mitch and Mister Liem, this is my employer Lee Kong Kuen.” Then she stepped off to the side and fell silent.

‟Mister Lee.” Robert held out a hand. ‟Pleased to meet you. I have heard much.”

He shook his head, then the old man held out a fist and bumped knuckles.

‟I do not shake hands with outsiders, I understand that this is acceptable among westerners. Please come with me, we have much to discuss, but first you will need a change of clothes.” Mr. Lee turned to the men in business suits. ‟Some comfortable robes for them.”

‟Follow us.” The taller of his soldiers said without humor.

In a half-hour they sat in a room and wore lavender colored robes when their host entered.

He sat on a padded stool near a work of art, a short truncated obelisk with a one-meter-diameter flawless, transparent-quartz stone that rotated on a shallow pool of water.

‟There are few large quartz crystals in this world that are flawless. This is one.” He said, his hairless head gleamed nearly as much as the polished stone.

‟Mister Liem Han. I will pay you one-million Singapore dollars for your pictures, also for your camera and your phone. You will not give interviews unless I say it is acceptable. All interviews will be here under my supervision with Mumtaz in attendance. You’ll be paid and I will get half. If you receive offers of interviews, you will refer whoever asks to Mumtaz for negotiations.”

‟Yes.” Liem said. ‟I was just lucky, I saw the American get detained and taken out of his plane.”

‟Thank you.” Mr. Lee nodded. “You were lucky, indeed, and you’ll be rewarded for your work. You have a job interview with the person on the paper that Mister Hom has handed you. You will need new clothes and, Mister Hom? Please escort Mister Liem and select for him some proper clothes for an interview.”

He watched the men leave, then the eyes became hard and looked at Tom.

‟Your cannabis is high quality from the Emerald Triangle. DNA analysis tells us it is from Oregon. Mr. Harte, you do not plan to import any of this material into or through this part of the world?” The brow on the old man became furrowed with concern.

‟No. I will repeat what I have said, I was not aware it was on my plane. I have no interest in transport or smuggle of any material.” Tom looked at his host with a steady gaze. “I have had a relationship with a woman and we have parted company, I think it was hers.”

‟So I have heard, you sought an annulment in Las Vegas.”

‟Yes.” Tom nodded.

‟Tell me, in truth, do they have an entire street covered in Las Vegas?” The old face was unreadable.

‟Why, yes.” Tom said, careful of his words. “It is animated at night with lights.”

‟I wish to go there and see that, but I will need a tour guide.” A slight smile escaped him. ‟You will need to set that up. A staff of all men, a full floor and skilled escorts to show me around. I don’t trust any place outside my walls. And have all escorts trained in protection. Not all of my bodyguards have passports.”

‟Okay, I can do that. Is this a payment for any help?” Tom asked. “For my freedom?”

‟No, that is a friend who helps another friend in need. I would not ask you to do any illegal activities on my behalf.” He shook his head. “Those needs I can take care of with my own devices.”

“For payments to satisfy the debt incurred of your current legal issues, we will speak of the market you wish to enter with your children’s books.” The lord of the manor nodded. ‟Initial letters of interest we have exchanged, will reflect an extra two-cents per sale in U.S. dollars to me for one year, I expect also to have two-cents per sale on tickets of the movie worldwide release. Not from sales in the US, the convoluted tax laws there are beyond reason.”

‟But, Mr. Lee, There is no movie for the children’s book series planned.” Tom pointed out.

‟Mr. Ritch.” The bald head turned and addressed the lawyer.

‟Mitch. Like Robert Mitchum the actor, but no ‘um’ at the end. Just Mitch.”

‟I beg your pardon, Mr. Mitch.” He gave a slight bow to his head. “You should represent Tom here to negotiate the fine details between our markets.”

‟I am not a contract lawyer.”

‟Then I suggest you find one that you can afford, this market will be worth millions to all of us, in my opinion. Tom, you are a gifted storyteller. I look forward to someone who will read your books read to me at bedtime.”

‟Who… oh.” Tom looked around at the staff. Everywhere, young, athletic men in loincloths of their hosts favorite color performed maintenance on the grounds with brooms and rakes.

‟Most these young men are heterosexual, they are all only my employees. This is not a sex camp, I have my own relationships, but I do like the sculpted male body at work, so they maintain my homes as if they are a haven for monks.”

Robert looked up from his personal digital assistant app with a nod.

‟I accept the offer for the job as Mr. Harte’s representative.”

‟Excellent, Mr. Mitch. We shall communicate by way of computer for business. If we need to meet in person, we can meet in Australia or across the bay, outside of Singapore. Any of my homes are open to meet and for general use.”

‟You have homes in Australia?” Robert asked.

‟Why yes, I have six homes there.” The bald head nodded.

Tom nodded and smiled. He had met Lee Kong Kuen at a dinner party at the old man’s mansion in Point Piper, Australia.

‟Back to business. I would like to meet again, soon. But first we need to get Mister Harte out of the country. For the moment, investigations have come to a halt. There is a judge that will give your passport back to you Mr. Harte. Leave the courthouse, go straight to the airport, file a flight plan and leave the country. Call now to have it fueled and ready.” One of the men in business suit leaned over, whispered into Mr. Lee’s ear and handed him a tablet computer with images on the screen.

He looked with concern at Mumtaz, she nodded. ‟Or buy a ticket to anywhere outside of the country.”

‟What is that Mr. Lee?” Robert asked.

‟I am not sure at this time that Mr. Harte would want his plane back after he sees this. The good news, they have found no further evidence or items but the safe. The safe they will ask you to open tomorrow. Drug dogs have not hit on the safe so there is no pressure to open it. The bad news,” He handed the tablet to Tom. ‟They have stripped it to the bulkheads, all that you had is in boxes now, your plane is as if it came from the builder. It is little more than a tube with wings.”

Tom went pale.

‟Bed, walls, cabinets. What did they do? Use saws?”

‟In my experience, that is the most probable method. You have the good fortune that the wings and engines are still in place.” The wise old eyes sparkled with irritation. “Investigations are required in such cases as this, but blatant destruction without due regard makes me unhappy. People don’t like life when I am unhappy.”

‟He is correct,” Robert agreed. “I have defended people who were in their cars, the government inspectors cut the cars apart. Even the engines, if there is no one to protect the possessions, the investigators do not stop.”

‟Damn.” Tom boggled.

‟I will take care of the issue and see out some recompense for the damages on your behalf. So we will be in touch Mr. Tom.” Lee Kong Kuen said in a soft voice. ‟You are free as of now, if they execute you or you are in prison for the next ten years and spend that time here, you will not make any money for yourself, Mr. Mitch or myself. We need to keep you honest and free.”

‟Miss Nayyar, call the justice house and have them hold Mr. Harte’s passport for pickup, he will arrive in my limousine. Mr. Chen, file a flight plan for our guest’s plane if he desires to fly it and get him to the airport with all haste.”

‟Yes sir.”

‟Mr. Mitch. Gather your team. I predict that your services will come to one-half of one cent per book sold of Mr. Tom Harte’s Sea Dragon books.”

‟Bloody good!” Robert said.

‟Make it so, we will meet again in a month.” He turned to Tom again. “One more item.”

‟Yes?” Tom said.

‟This woman that has caused you much grief. Did she want to stay with you? She had signed all the wrong areas in the papers.”

‟How did you know that?”

‟I have a copy of them.”

‟But you said the government could not open it.” Tom said. ‟How did you get a copy?”

‟My people are far more resourceful, it is why the engines and wings are still on your plane. I did not get involved quickly enough to save your interior.”

“I can have the interior rebuilt.” Tom nodded. “Thank you for all the help.” 

‟Very good, at any rate. Mr. Tom.” He rose to his feet and motioned him to follow.

After they walked among the topiary for a few minutes, the old man spoke like a father to a favorite son.

 ‟Find her, I wish to meet the woman who could cause you such distress. One bit of observation? She left birth control in a drawer, she wants you to return.”

‟I…” Tom looked down. ‟I don’t think so. She went to her boyfriend.”

‟She did not. She looks for you.” The two men locked eyes. ‟Your secret marriage is out of the shadows. You will have paparazzi look for you once again.” The old man nodded. “At any rate leave Asia now or you will never be able to leave. The judge will not let this go if you are still here when the sun rises again.”

Tom nodded and bowed. Tom turned to walk with Mr. Hom as Liem had done, but this time to the car.

This was no limousine, instead an all-electric four-door Tesla with an engine that hummed like an electric transformer.

Tom was not just about to leave and be free, this was a story of speed.

Married by Mistake Chapter 55. World Online News Network

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Chapter 55. World Online News Network

Kaylee watched as raw feeds from Singapore online news scrolled across her screen. The sisters watched images of a man, escorted out of an airport in handcuffs.

“Authorities state they have arrested an accused drug smuggler and sources have stated, a known murderer from the United States. Although the name was withheld by authorities until they verify the suspected drug smuggler’s identity.” The talking head on the tv narrated while the video and images shifted on the screen.

But Kaylee recognized the airplane on which they captured this dangerous human being.

It was Tom.

Melanie’s boyfriend found a raw news feed web-site then used a cable to plug the tv into his tablet and they all watched the image display titled that an accused rich drug smuggler stand trial.

They tried to turn up the sound on the video but that did not help, the three of them did not understand the language, but the subtitles gave the story. While she watched the feeds on the TV, Kaylee held her hands to her face with tears in her eyes.

She knew where she forgotten her misplaced stash.

The Pacific Wizard, in the bedroom dresser on her side, second drawer from the bottom with her blindfold to help her sleep and aromatherapy oils. She closed her eyes and imagined what version of hell that a foreign drug smuggler’s life is like.

*And it’s not even Tom’s.* Her heart stood still. *Legal here, what are the penalties in that country?*

“What are the laws in, where’s he at? Singapore?” Kaylee asked.

Arthur, Melanie’s boyfriend rubbed his forehead in thought.

“Severe. They execute for drugs there that we have legalized.”

Kaylee looked out the window at the bay, to the west there was the horizon. She wished with all her heart she could fly over the horizon and rescue the man who suffered because of her.

*I wonder if he is safe?*

In a dusty jail in Singpore, sat a citizen of the United States. He was so exhausted he struggled to remember his own name.

Tom. His name was Tom. He had been awake so long, his deepest memories were fuzzy.

His books, a pirated movie that made the rounds and the assurances from the United States Ambassador had done little to help his state of mind.

He had just survived twenty-four hours of interrogation at the police station and Tom fretted like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He sat alone at a table while police and prosecutors paraded in front of the judge and the narration cryptic law was in English, the direction taken by Singapore jurisprudence was obvious. 

“They are about to do what they do best,” A dapper-mannered man sat in front of him. “Crush an individual found with drugs and obscene devices. The blindfold that they found they will consider as evidence of a crime, your statement to the inspector that you smuggle women will compound your case.”

“You have passed blood and urine drug tests, you are clean except for medications for those you have prescriptions for. In other words, you are clean and not a user.” The lawyer read from a paper without a smile.

Tom relaxed as he heard this from his hastily appointed legal advisor, but then it took a decidedly dark turn when the lawyer held his hand up as Tom began to smile when he heard about his clean test results.

‟If you do not use the drugs, then you are a smuggler.”

‟No. That means I did not partake. They found it in a drawer, inside a woman’s toiletry bag that had a blindfold to help her sleep and I don’t know what else.”

‟Ah yes. And how did you know of the blindfold, and the drugs. Where is this woman?” The lawyer asked his client.

Tom looked into the face of the blue-eyed British legal esquire that practiced in Singapore.

Robert Mitch was born of English parents when Singapore was a colony of the Empire, left the country for England to get his legal degree and then became a lawyer in the busy center of business and crime. Over the years as he worked for defense of tourists that ran afoul of the law and their families, he often charged exorbitant fees.

They almost always paid the prices he often asked, the large income even allowed him to bribe the occasional official to look the other way while evidence vanished.

He smiled when he read the legal charges.

*This case promises a large payday! This client is a rich American!*

‟She is probably in California, I last saw her in Oregon.”

“She’s a prostitute then? Marijuana is legal in Oregon, yes? So, we can argue that the drugs were there, without your knowledge in a place where it is a legal drug.” He scribbled down notes on a yellow pad. “That will help. The obscene violations will also be investigated, we will argue that she brought the drugs on board without your knowledge. But I assure you that won’t matter.”

It was Tom’s turn to hold up his hand.

‟She is not a prostitute, she’s a friend and we had…” Tom paused. ‟A relationship. But it’s over now.”

‟Is she still alive?” Robert asked. “You’ve a reputation as a lady-killer that got away with the crime.”

‟What the f…” Tom exploded and was unable to speak for a moment. “What kind of question is that?”

‟The kind they will ask you in the investigation.” He looked at Tom. ‟The prosecutor is good at his job to put anyone in jail with drug charges. Right now they are have a court’s order for a thorough search your plane. Down to the last bolt.”

‟What does that mean?” Tom asked.

‟They will to take it apart to look for hidden compartments. Do you have any on board?”

‟I have a safety box, has legal papers in it. I would wish those to stay private.”

“In the course of investigation, no secret of yours will remain a secret or private.” Robert shook his head. ‟If the papers are on the plane, they will become part of the investigation and evidence to show the judge. What is on those papers?”

‟Jesus. Annulment papers.” Tom held his head in his hands. ‟Just annulment papers. We got married when she’d gotten stoned. Then it ended.”

‟So you drugged her into actions against her will?” Robert wrote on his pad of paper again.

‟NO! No no. Oh good God!” Tom nearly fainted. Even his defense lawyer was not on his side. “No, that’s all wrong. Not how it was.”

‟This is how they’ll present the investigation, in light of the reports about your family. Some archives say you might have had a hand in their deaths.” Robert shook his head and opened a local English language newspaper and showed it to his client. “Mr. Harte, at this point, if you want to keep your head out of the noose, I recommend you to not mention, at all, the circumstances of this annulment. You got married, it did not work out, it’s over.”

‟The noose? How about I stay out of prison?” Tom said in a panicked tone.

‟To be honest.” Robert put his pen down and looked at Tom. ‟There is not a strong hope for that at the moment. You were found with almost five-hundred grams of marijuana. This area is known to grow copious amounts of the weed. This is worth a life sentence, confiscation of your plane and seizure of any drug money. And report on the oil that was found is still not back yet. They will treat it as marijuana resin or hash oil for the moment. If tests show it is, in fact, a hashish oil? With the weed you already had on board, that is a mandatory death penalty and they will hang you. By this time next month, they will send you back to the states in a box.”

‟The oil, I don’t know, it might be a massage oil. Drug money. There is no money on that plane, just what was in my pocket.”

The lawyer stared at Tom for a long moment. He picked up his phone and dialed a number.

“It’s Robert Mitch. Yes, with the American now. Yes, that is what I have called about, thank you. It is? Thank you, again.” The lawyer broke the connection and looked back at Tom. “Good news, the oil is a mineral oil with traces of eucalyptus and rosemary in it.”

Tom and Robert both took a deep breath.

“That would have been a death-penalty, be assured of that.” Robert added. ‟Mr. Harte, You need someone who is local on your side before this goes any further. What is the reason you are in Singapore Mr. Harte?” Robert wrote down his question.

‟Tom, please, call me Tom.”

‟No, I don’t think so.” Robert said in a calm tone that did not reassure Tom and only increased his anxiety. ‟I don’t do that, it is a matter of respect. And while friendship lets someone call another by first names, we are not friends. I work for you and the courts and it’s not proper business otherwise.”

‟So,” Robert continued. “I ask again, why are you in Singapore?”

‟I was about to meet with someone to get my books published, perhaps printed here and maybe have a movie funded. Lee Kong Kuen, is his name.”

‟Lee Kong Kuen,” Robert froze in mid-scribble and looked up. “The Mr. Lee who-has-more-money-than-god, Mr. Lee?

‟Yes.” Tom said. ‟That’s him. Why?”

Robert sat up and his eyes wide, his price to charge the witless Yankee just reduced to a normal fee. If it became known that Robert gouged a business partner of Lee Kong Kuen? Mr. Lee would do things to Robert that were too hideous to think about.

Perspiration broke out on the lawyer’s forehead as he fumbled for his thoughts.

‟Maybe, you’ve a chance to get the hell out of this country if this hits the news.” Robert said, he became highly motivated to win. ‟Once it goes public, then this will back the law into a corner and motivate them to release you, it would make them look bad and cost them a great deal of money. Whether bribed, blackmailed or bro-manced for favors. No matter what punishment they would impose.”

‟Bro-manced?” Tom looked at his lawyer.

‟It has become a recent term here to describe favors the leaders here go through. It comes, I think, from an American tv comedy that is popular here.” Robert said. ‟I think you Yanks call it a ‟good old boy” system” and it works on a daily basis here.”

‟Let’s get it done then. Faster we can get me out of here, the better.”

Robert’s phone chirped and he looked at the text display.

‟Mister Harte, I think we need to turn on the tv.”

What Tom saw, made his jaw drop. A news story showed him as a prisoner escorted out of the airport.

‟Tom, you need talk to Mister Lee, right away.” Robert grimaced. ‟It may already be too late, if he feels you are a petty smuggler, he will not help you. But, if he will help, this will just evaporate in a second. Just assure me, that marijuana is not yours.”

‟Not mine.” Tom said. “I truly did not know it was there. I am here on business only, writer’s busines. I want to get my children’s stories published here in this part of the world.”

‟Fine, I will do all that I can to get you out of this. But with your nationality as an American and first time here? And if I can get the charges dropped?” Robert looked directly at his client. ‟You get on that big damned plane of yours, push the throttles all the way forward and get your red-white-and-blue butt out of Singapore. No stops, no explores, no Indiana Jones adventure-seeker games.”

‟Could I come back?” Tom wondered out loud. “For business?”

‟Well, you can, if you wish. But my advice, not for a couple of years.” The lawyer nodded. ‟And then, it would be bloody good to take my advice, do not have so much as a crumb of a drug nearby.”

Outside, Liem Han sat in the shade near his motorbike, waited for this rich American to come out so he could take more photos and video.

“Come out, Yankee, you will make me rich.”

It was a good day to be a photographer.

Married by Mistake Chapter 25. Month’s End

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Chapter 25. Month’s End

Kaylee walked slowly with Tom as while she pushed him in a wheelchair towards the ‟Garden of Healing”.

Reaching the trees, native redwoods that bounded the half-acre garden full of native coastal plants.

The garden grew rich with beautiful colors of life, a peaceful location in the middle of the huge facility of intense emotions where hearts and souls healed from having their bodies repaired from different trauma and illness.

The couple enjoyed the sunlight until they came to the natural ten-century old Cathedral Tree where Kaylee parked Tom in his wheelchair, talked and held hands like the lovers they had become.

The Cathedral Tree, a half-circle of redwood trees that grew in a large open area on the campus of the medical center. Kaylee smiled at the smells that reminded her of home. She could feel the power of the Earth that lived here. In the middle of the healing professionals, medicine and sterile atmosphere, the Gods of Old, of life and sky sat in watchful gaze over the modern lives that began, ended and healed in the nearby structures of doctors, nurses and patients.

Except for one stubborn area of his arm, Tom’s condition improved faster than predicted, he impressed the team of surgeons, one suggested that part of the healing was the hand holding by the young wife had a positive effect.

“Attitude accounts for much of the recovery.” A journeyman surgeon said during an exam of Tom’s arm while waiting for Doctor Tribbing.

Fortune had it that the wound made by the glass in the tissues was smoother than even they could do with their surgical steel scalpels. Even obsidian or diamond bladed edged instruments could not have performed a cleaner, smooth-edged incision.

The wound, they said after surgery, was perfect for them to repair. Flesh and even the ends of the bone that were cloven so smoothly that the ends matched up precisely.

The only failure was the annoying lack of healing in one deep area in his arm. A drainage kept coming from the tubes they put in to help his wounds to keep fluid from building up.

Tom had stopped eating for fear of gaining weight and lost weight, despite the IV that ran into his arm constantly. Kaylee nagged him to eat, and when he did, he would only eat the most minute of portions.

Once again she could not help but think of more than three weeks ago. The summer was an adventure in ways she had never dreamed.

They sat in the filtered sun of the Cathedral Tree. The perfume from the tree made Kaylee think of camps and a campfire, she took deep breaths and images of fire-roasted cornbread, and foil-wrapped baked potatoes danced in her head. She could feel the power of the earth coming from the ancient species of tree dance with her muse.

Even obnoxious, bored children that made noise and were under the constant shush of nurses and parents, whispered in the natural wood enclave saved by some genius architect. Such was the power of the Cathedral Tree.

Small crosses with names – people who committed to each other here –  tucked in the small areas between the trunks of the trees. Momento’s of weddings and thanks for the peaceful place in the middle of a medical center.

It promised of a time she looked forward to when the hospital released Tom and they would spend an evening on the beach.

In the quiet of the shade, Tom had slipped into a soft sleep, caused by the residual effects of heavy medications. She sat and held his hand, waiting for him to drift awake again when they would talk more. A conversation between the husband and wife, lovers and friends that could continue after a nap as if it never stopped.

In this quiet moment, Kaylee ’s phone chimed an alert to a text message. As she read her phone, it was a class synopsis that her education mentor suggested for the upcoming year.

Scrolling through the pages, the mentor reduced her class schedule. The math showed she had enough extra credit she had done the year before. She could do one less class this year, two less in her senior year if her grades qualified.

*I might do post-grad credits before I graduate! I like extra credits.*

‟Kaylee ?” Tom was awake! ‟Damn, how long have I been sleeping?”

‟Tom! How do you feel?” It was her standard question. The arm would sometimes cause him in agony. Then she smiled and gave him a synopsis. “Oh. Today or total? You woke up for a half-hour this morning, but you have been pretty groggy the last seven days. They don’t want you to move the tendons just yet.”

‟It has been a week?.” Tom had lost time during his stay. It was a regular start to all his conversations of late.

‟Yeah, a lot has happened and everything has been on hold.”

‟Let me get my mind around this. I’m still fuzzy.”

The drugs they shot Tom up with during the last week faded quickly in the sunlight and redwood perfumed air.

*The nurse had said this would happen when they discontinued his medications that kept him from moving much.* She smiled.

Even in his induced sleep, he was incredibly uncomfortable. A stomach sleeper and the doctor wanted him to keep the arm above his heart.

‟We need the annulment papers signed. We can file them tomorrow or the next day. I’ll have Robin, my lawyer, do it. You just need to sign the papers, they are on the Flying Sea Dragon.” Tom said quietly. His voice much improved since the first night when the nurse said it was a side-effect of having a tube pushed past his vocal cords.

‟What about your signature?” She frowned. This moment took a sudden turn to the sad-side.

‟I signed the papers weeks ago, a night you were crying in your sleep.” Tom said quietly, a shot of pain ran across his face. ‟You whispered Glenn’s name in that dream.”

‟Omy god, I’m so sorry.” Kaylee doubted that the pain was from his arm.

‟Don’t be. You said from the beginning, we weren’t supposed to be married. And really, you did not have to come here, either. You are a good person, but I am almost twice your age, I have all I have, but I lack one thing.” Tom moved a bit and groaned in pain and whispered a profanity. ” A future.”

Tom looked up at the big tree and gave a big sigh.

‟Like this young tree, your future is still bright and lays ahead of you with your Glenn. Get the papers and walk them over to the offices at the airport. Send them registered mail so it’s a required signature. That way it is the soonest it will be over, and you won’t have to return from your days back home to here and deal with this mess.”

‟Tom, I…” She couldn’t talk, her throat had tightened up like a knot. It was what she had wanted all month, why was it that it seemed to hurt, now that the time was here.

When this mess started she wept for the loss of her single-ness.

She loved with him.

She had fought with him.

She raced to his side in his time of need.

She spoke with the doctor about him and his arm when they thought that they may have to amputate.

She had fought for him with that witchy-woman who would demand he write while he recovered from having his arm, his future, hung by a thread of flesh.

She still felt like he told her to abandon him.

‟Tom, I…” Damn, there goes that knot in her heart again. ‟I will stay until they send you home, there are days I can catch up.”

‟You have to sign up for the classes, I’ll be discharged to attend Doctor Manga’s installation and make a speech. I can do that with only one arm.”

‟Tom, Honey, maybe you and I can get together after you get back from, Cambridge is where it is?”

‟That would be nice, but when I get back from Cambridge I’ll head to other places for a while.”

‟You think you might move?”

‟I am never in one place for long, you know that.”

‟Well, I thought. I mean, I just assumed that you stayed there.”

‟No, I was in Ocean Bay to meet with Dr. Manga and make a few donations and write. I would have been long-gone if we never met.” Tom groaned as he shifted in the wheelchair. “I just couldn’t fly away.”

‟And how do you plan to fly with that arm.” Kaylee was a little taken aback at her effect on his life. She and Tom worked well as a team and she kind of wanted him to grieve. It stung her that he had planned on moving on already. ‟You should be with someone to help you heal.”

‟I’ll hire a nurse, if need. But I think I am okay with flying on a wide-body jet in first-class. I can even buy tickets for four seats so I can spread out.”

This was all twisted, she was about to get what she wanted and he acted all matter-of-fact about how he would return to the world that he lived in.

*It feels like he woke up only to stab my heart.* Her heart and soul had a hard time with this.

*No. This,* she made a choice, *Is an opportunity. My life can get back on track, I’ve had an adventure. Me and Melanie can share this and still be friends with Tom. I can still go live my life as I meant it to be.*

But why did she feel as if she was about to lose a piece of her heart. If Tom wasn’t so badly hurt, she’d break his arm.

*And I can do it, too.*

*Ugh!* She clenched her teeth.

Even if it was right, this was so wrong.

*So damned wrong.*

Married by Mistake Chapter 8. In The Apartment

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Chapter 8. In The Apartment

Kaylee walked softly up the stairs of the building, the well-worn stairs showed glints of steel polished to a sheen by countless footsteps.

Curious she had not noticed that before, the webs in the corner and the way the stairs vibrated with each step, sounding vaguely like an out-of-tune violin with the cacophony of squeaks.

Opening her door. The familiar creak of the door announced her presence to the empty room sounded louder than the last time she was there.

Kaylee stood before stepping over the threshold, it felt different. Like a stranger in her own apartment. It was weird, as if something changed in how it smelled.

The odors of paint, chalk, her watercolor art hung on the walls that she created when not studying the masters.

The charcoal sticks sat patiently by a covered canvas that she had sketched on just five days before, but smelled… Lonely.

She walked to her bedroom, the blankets pulled up in the OCD way she liked. More of her art adorned the walls of her room, this was her inner sanctuary.

She allowed few people inside this fortress of her soul, those that did she chased out quickly in the morning before they could take in the emotion and pain she put in these images of charcoal, oil and watercolor on canvas and paper.

She pulled out the same suitcase she had used on her move in at autumn start of the school year, she packed her clothes carefully, and snapped her fingers with a sudden memory and put her phone charger in the side-pocket.

From the front room, someone knocked at the door.

*Not now!* Kaylee did not want the landlord to remind her that rent was overdue.

Not that she was broke, but she had no job now. So what savings she had, she was stretching out to the collector that called her the worst names or threatened her the most until she got a new job.

Instead, to her relief it was her sister Melanie . Also attending the university, she majored in computer-graphics design with a minor in architecture.

“Tiny! Where have you been?  You worried me to death, I almost called the cops!” Blinking at the activity going on around the room and all the tossed drawers. “Why are you packing?”

Kaylee hugged her sister and pulled her in.

“Oh my gawd!” Melanie gasped as she saw the ring on her sister’s finger. “How? When? Who? Talk!”

Kaylee laughed.

“I was a little wasted and we took his jet to Vegas and I woke up married to him.”

“But. But… Butbut…” Melanie was speechless for, perhaps, only the second time in her life while her mouth opened and closed like a fish without words coming out.

“But what about Glenn?“ Melanie finally was able to speak.

Glenn, the casual boyfriend who attended Mt. Mazama University. Kaylee and Glenn stayed together every time they were at home the same time, they were inseparable.

Kaylee told Melanie that she and Glenn had talked about getting married and it would be nice to have a baby, and this was not in her plans.

“It just happened, I got baked and did a little Zee. I woke up Saturday wearing this ring.” She held up her hand. “He is quite wonderful.”

“Jesus, Sis! Who is he?”

“You know that big airplane floating out in the bay?” Kaylee said, Melanie nodded her eyes grew big.

“That’s where I have been. I married that guy that owns that plane.”

“Oh. My. God!” Melanie’s eyes wide as plates. “You married the author, Thunder Harte? Who wrote “Steamland” the book and the movie?”

“He did…” Kaylee gasped, froze in mid-fold of a pair of patched jeans and struggled to find a word. “He did …W-WHAT?”

“NO! No. Oh no.” Kaylee denied this news. “He said he wrote children’s books that sold in Australia and some in the United States.”

“Well, yeah, he does that, too. You remember we saw that movie three times last year? It’s still in the theater downtown for five-dollar-Friday matinée. My fave movie! And you married the writer!” Melanie laughed and sat down. “You gotta tell! Talk! TALK! Say what you did! Where did you go? What did you do? How did you get there?”

The sisters talked as sisters do, Kaylee told the story to her sister and best friend about the cut tires, the failure of doing finals, the teacher and his offer for a chance to make up the score.

An alarm tone went off on her phone, she realized that they had talked over the sound of the alarm in two earlier chimes. She was on her third chime in fifteen minutes.

“Oh my god! I Gotta run! He said I could do my finals if I posed for a class. I need to run!”

“Sissy! Please! I want to meet him! Please? I’d die for a chance to talk to the writer of my favorite movie!”

“Thank you for the compliment.” It was Tom, he was standing at the door.

Melanie turned around, squeaked once and fell off the couch where she sat next to Kaylee.

“Ohmygod!” She said it as one word.

Tom laughed softly and Kaylee had to hang on the television while she laughed until her sides hurt.

“Sorry. But you left the car keys and your driver’s license.” He said to Kaylee after she was able to catch her breath, pointed his thumb at Melanie. “Is she okay?”

Melanie just sat on the floor with her mouth open, his green eyes and red hair looked the same as when had performed the cameo in his own movie.

“She looks like she’s had a stroke.” Tom smiled, that made Kaylee laughed and Melanie punched her in the thigh.

“Oh my god. He startled me.” She squeaked out. She still had not blinked, looking at the new, no longer mythical, husband.

“Thomas Harte, this is my sister Melanie Grant.” Kaylee introduced them. “Thomas is who I married on Friday. If you both would excuse me, I need to change so I can leave to take my finals.”

“I wish she could remember it, it was fun.”

“She, what?” Melanie asked. “You don’t remember?”

“She took a pill and smoked a full bowl and a chub during the night. I had some wine and one conversation led to another as we joked. It became a dare and then we jumped on my plane and took off to Vegas. She picked out the number one, single most expensive ring she could find on the walk to the chapel. She has worn it ever since.” Tom smiled. “She won’t take it off.”

“Oh my…”

“God. Yes, you have said that a few times now.” Tom chuckled and winked.

“Well, I’m heading to school and do my finals.“ Kaylee said as she came out of the bedroom wearing a pull-over black shirt with blue jeans. Her hair pulled back into a bun.

“I’ll come, too.” Melanie said. “I need to talk with Professor Ostrogoth about changing my major to architectural engineering. Not that I want to, but she says that I have an eye for it. She’s been sending me links in my email.”

Tom nodded, taking his clue that the sisters wanted some alone-time to talk.

“I have some business to do in town as well. I need to meet with someone, he asked me to do a keynote speech.”

“Wait, how are you getting around?” Kaylee stopped with her hand on the doorknob.

“I rented a car.” Tom smiled. “A few quirks about owning a flying boat. I need to rent land transport.”

“Well, you head on. I’ll call you when I’m done.” Kaylee said softly as she kissed him goodbye.

“Monster, will you be around here later?” Using an old, sister shared nickname. “I want to have this done as soon as possible. When I come back, I’ll show you the floating plane!”

“Flying boat.” Tom corrected, smiling.

Married By Mistake Chapter 5. The Morning After

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Chapter 5. The Morning After

The first sensation she was aware of, was the smell of food, then the texture of the bunched up blankets and she heard water and a slow rocking of the room.

Stretching, she was face down in bed, naked. That itself was not strange, but the Egyptian cotton sheets were not hers. The pillow she had her arms wrapped around was nearly the full length of her body, it was firm and very nice to curl up with, she pulled herself as close in to the pillow as she could and enjoyed the slight odor of cedar. Whoever it was

She yawned and stretched again, snuggling close to the body-pillow it was a comfortable bed and… Something else, it rocked slowly.

But, not like a waterbed. Her brain buzzed with thoughts.

A boat?

She was on a boat!

And the smell of bacon was pervasive. Normally not a breakfast eater, usually coffee and toast. But that smelled heavenly.

Between the slight smell of cedar on the pillow and the bacon in the air, her tummy rumbled in hunger.

She stretched, then slid her leg over the giant pillow, holding it in a big hug and close her eyes again, enjoying the smells and sounds. She could hear someone clanking around in the kitchen, with banging pans. They were cooking.

A wonderful way to wake up, she softly thought. Her hands rested on each other as she was reluctant to wake up.

Another deep breath through her nose, rosemary? Someone was going all out for breakfast.

Her hands felt odd, opening her left eye, something was on her hand. It sparkled in the soft morning light like it was lit by fire from within, a pretty little thing, like someone gets from those machines that promised swag with just a few coins. She might keep it for a while, it was cute.

She sat up and looked around, she could not find her clothes anywhere in the smallish bedroom. Opening the dresser against the wall, she pulled out a t-shirt that made her laugh!

“The box read: Requires Windows XP or better. So I installed Linux.” Printed on the front of the soft cotton pullover.

*Oh, great! A nerd.*

Reading it with a wonder of what kind of person she might have slept with the previous night, male or female, she was never very picky when she was high. From the smell coming from the kitchen, she was betting it was the pretty Asian who she saw when she was having dinner with…

What was his name? Chart… No. Harte.

Thomas Harte.

She met him in the Chart House.

She pulled the t-shirt over her head. It fit a broad-shouldered person and it hung loose, down to mid-thigh.

*Not the Asian girl I saw last night.*

She flinched when she scratched herself with the ring when she pulled the shirt on.

Then she closely at the ring on her finger. It was a faceted-cut gold ring with white gold inlay, this was no cheap swag from a vending machine.

*A wedding ring?* She was looking at the jewels as she walked out into the main room of the boat.

He moved with his back turned as the cook knocked about the kitchen. Broad shoulders that went down to a slight V to his waist fit the t-shirt better than it fit her. On her, it was a night-shirt.

She gave a polite cough that startled him making him laugh.

“Care for some coffee? O-j? Tea or champagne?”

She sat gently at the table, her legs ached and the vinyl surface of the seat was cold to her skin.

“Ugh.” Kaylee’s lips were dry as she gave a crooked smile, she had a slight hangover. “You did not just take me raving. You took advantage.”

He put some rosemary potatoes on a plate, eggs Benedict and a glass of champagne and orange juice and put it in front of her. “And I said ‘Okay’ and you laughed at me. I don’t think you believed it.”

“I can’t be married. I’m going to college here and I’m not going to graduate for at least two more years.” Kaylee gasped. “Mom and dad will flip out! Oh my…”

She paused, a momentary loss for words.

“God. You have said that a few times now. You are in panic mode. Slow down a little, take a breath. Now, breakfast or it’ll get cold. ” He put his plate on the table and pour himself a glass of mimosa. But the drink was of a different shade and slightly different flavor.

“A beautiful breakfast and a blushing mimosa for a beautiful blushing bride after one heck of a night. You about wore me out. You went to sleep finally about an hour before sunrise.” Note-Pad smiled. She finally remembered the nickname she gave to him on the beach.

“Last night is a blank and my thighs are tired. They are trembling like I ran a marathon and my shoulders are sore like we did a bike-hike along the trails in the back country.” Kaylee laughed nervously. “I…You…er…”

She paused.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Thomas. Thomas Harte. You don’t remember at all last night?” He looked at her with a twinkle in his eye. “You and I were sharing some drinks when you took a few pills then smoked some pot.”

“No, not at all, I may have taken too much Z. Usually I get extremely touchy and enjoy a body.” She took a bite of the hollandaise covered poached egg and what looked like ham.

“Omygod,” She said it as one word. “This is wonderful!”

“Sorry for the ham, I didn’t have Canadian bacon.” Thomas smiled. “Well, you did that for sure. Especially after smoking a bowl full of weed.” He laughed. “And you liked looking at that ring.”

“Where did I get this ring?” She looked it over. “It looks real.”

“The one on your finger?” He asked as he took a drink from the glass with the red-orange cocktail, washing down his bite of food. “I bought it for you, just before we got married.”

“Married?” Kaylee ’s fork stopped in mid-air. Her eyes got large as the plate that held her breakfast. “What do you mean, married?”

The meaning of it all sank in as she wrapped her mind around what this man and cook was saying.

“We are married.” He said in a tone of describing last nights news.

“WHAT!?” Kaylee exclaimed. “Yeah, right. Not possible.”

“We were dancing and got to joking,” he explained. “And I said we should get married.”

“Then you dared me, because you didn’t think I could make it happen.”

She still rejected the growing realization that he was serious and all he said was a fact.

“Oh no, no no no.” She gasped. “This is not real.”

“Read the license.” Thomas slid an embossed paper over to her with a smile.

“We are married?” Kaylee . “Oh no! No way! This is not real?”

Thomas smiled as he sipped some coffee.

“It’s real. We got married last night in Las Vegas.” His voice was calm to her tight voice. “Care for a refill on mimosa, Missus Harte?”

“VEGAS?” She shouted at the paper. “MARRIED? Oh my god, this isn’t happening. How did we get there? Where are we?”

“We are back in Ocean Bay, safe and sound. It took only an hour to get to here from there. A little longer to come back.” He said calmly. “You wouldn’t let me file a flight plan, we were… uh… occupied. Then when we did get wheels up, we overshot the coast by more than an hour’s flight. Set off a few alarms I had to deal with.”

“Oh my god.” she said again. Kaylee jumped up. “How? I would have remembered going through security.”

“Well, no. You flew naked in that chair over there after smoking a bowl. Then we made love on top of the plane so you could look at the stars while we did it.” He smiled and continued to chew. “Right at this moment, you are more dressed than you have been all night. Not counting you wearing your little black dress to get married at some place near the Vegas airport.”

“An Elvis impersonator performed the ceremony.” He laughed softly, it was clear he enjoyed the surprise. “And you picked out the most expensive ring you found while we walked through the city, looking for a chapel that was open. We came back here and you made love to me the rest of the night, until we nearly fell off and then moved to the middle of the fuselage.”

“I’m not following, how did we get to there from this boat during the night?”

Thomas laughed softly and poured the both of them some fresh coffee.

“We are on a Russian built flying yacht. A customized Beriev Be-240ER.”

“A what? Are you are serious?” She stood up and paced. “We’re in Russia?”

“Yes, serious as a heart attack and no, we are not. We are not in Russia,” He smiled and shook his head. “You are on the “Pacific Wizard” in Ocean Bay. It’s a medium-sized jet with a boat hull. It’s quicker than commercial flights, too. We only need about an hour to get to Vegas.” Thomas smiled. “You flew naked during the trip there. For someone who was careful at the bar, you like to run around without clothes.”

“Well, yeah. I do.” Kaylee nodded. “But, how did we get married? How did we do this? This is wrong on so many levels.”

“Um, sorry?” Thomas froze in the middle of a bite. “Care to elaborate on that?”

“How did you and I get married? How how did I agree to that?” Kaylee rubbed her forehead, leaning over. “This is so wrong.”

He put down his bite and sipped his coffee slowly. Thomas looked at Kaylee with a quizzical look.

“Well, you made a few comments as we talked. I said we should get married and you are one heart I could fall in love with.” Thomas said as Kaylee ‘s eyes followed his gestures. “You said I better not say that without meaning it. Then we came here drank some more wine, you smoked a bowl. Then we went to the top of the plane and you kept me to my word. We left from here on the Wizard. Landed in Vegas, did the deed and flew back. We were back well before sunrise, you opened the door and dropped your dress into the ocean, then dragged me to bed.”

“Oh.. this is so much worse.” Kaylee paced, pulling at the shirt she wore. “I… I don’t know, I need to tell my parents. Oh my god… how they will react to me being married? And I only met you yesterday – Naked on a beach and in a fight! That won’t go over well.”

“Well, we can avoid that part of the discussion.” Thomas winked.

“No, not what I meant. I have a sort of boyfriend at home.” Kaylee gasped. “He won’t understand this at all!”

“A “Sort-of” boyfriend?”

“Well, we attend different schools now, he is going to Mazama University up north, but when we were in high school we were exclusive. Every time now when I’m home and he is there, we are together all day, every day. With anyone else, I am careful, but never with him. We have an open, but solid relationship, our plans are to get married after we graduate.”

“That’s complicated.” Thomas said helpfully.

“Oh… yes. And you are not making it any easier with you sitting there, understanding and listening.” She gave a deep sigh. “How did you get this, this… what did you call it? Flying boat?”

“Well, I’m comfortable.”

“Who are you?”

“An author. Perhaps you remember? I’m Thomas Harte, your husband.”

“What can we do? How could it be legal that we’re married?” She asked. “I don’t know how I could do that. Harte? Not sure if I have ever read your stuff.”

“You were walking straight, smiling, talkative. Never slurred your words.” Thomas said.

“So I was… sober?”

“You were as baked as you could be and showed no signs of slowing down.” Thomas nodded. “And the sex was amazing, we even joined the mile-high club.”

Kaylee laughed and hid her face in her hands

“Oh god! Sex on the plane? Who was driving?”

“Autopilot. Not one-hundred percent according to rules, but this bird is quite advanced.”

Kaylee took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to get a grip on what happened the night before.

“That would have been memory to enjoy for years,” She toyed with the ring on her finger, but did not remove it. “Well, until I can figure out what to do. I need to find out what happened and who to tell.”

“You need to slow down a little. You are in full panic mode when there’s no need. I would wager you are nearly hysterical by the way you’re talking.” Thomas chuckled. “We can annul it. I can look it up on the net and find out what it takes. It may already be too late.”

“Too late?” Kaylee blinked. “How so?”

“We have consummated all the things we could and did all the things that married folks do.” Thomas winked.

“What do you mean?” Then her eyes got big.

OH!” Kaylee laughed and blushed. “Oh my god! So that is why I’m chaffed. I have never done that! “

“You can’t say that anymore. Last night you insisted.” Thomas said as he typed on the laptop computer. “You are sure you’d like to annul this?”

“Well.” She said. “Can we? I have never been married before. And we have done a lot already.”

Thomas looked at her sharply.

“Do not play with me. You teased and impressed me last night. I will only do this one time, I’m too busy to be doing the weekly wedding and divorce like some people in my circles do.”

Kaylee laughed softly, he was right, she was in panic mode and could not decide what to do. She picked up the paper with the seal embossed on it.

“I won’t force you to do that. You say we got married and this looks legit.” She looked the paper over. “We have a month to figure it out. I will be leaving for home after summer session for the break. If we work out well? I’ll take you with me and we can figure out what to do with the Glenn then.”

Thomas laughed.

“Who is Glenn?”

“That is my boyfriend back home. He won’t be around, either. He sent me an email a few weeks ago that he had to stay through July to take care of business there.” She nodded. “I think he failed a class and has to take summer session to make up for it. I don’t have to go home, and I can make extra credit by independent art studies during the summer.”

“So you can stay here?” He smiled. “I can say I like that idea.”

“Well, Mister Harte, being as you are my husband.” She winked. “And as long as you promise to help me fix this issue in a month, I want to have a memory of doing this as a wife.”

He stopped laughing as she stood up slipped his shirt off and dropped it to the floor. The new wife took him by the hand into the bedroom shaking her bare bottom at her new husband.

The waves on the ocean were not all by wind for the next few hours.

How to maintain?

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I am shaking my pompoms like a madman on too much coffee. (think of Renfield after an 8 shot espresso with a double shot of simple syrup) at my dad, mom, sister, brother-in-law, nieces (the 11-year-old that kidnaps me for archery) and the 15-year-old that is in the middle of the teenage angst.

Meanwhile I am the fun uncle that shoots so that he shaves the feathers off his arrows. (That downside? I did not bring fletching equipment! Ack! … Oh well, shooting a bare stick is better than not shooting at all.)

I also sit down with the 15-year-old and tell her about dads who seem to have withdrawn. Meanwhile that dad is on my list to chat with.  HIM I can pour a bourbon with. (Me, rum, or vodka with a splash of tabasco)

My question, how much longer can I do this without weeping in the corner? My teeth feel sore. I am grinding them.

I stand out in the back yard and stick my finger up into the sky. (you guess which one from a defiant gesture. Anger at the butthead that allows such illnesses.

But alas.  I focus here.

Anyway.

Mama Dash. Ill, possible multiple myeloma (bone cancer)

Papa Dash: Recovering from surgery, but he “DFO”d in the hospital the first night and the pregnant nurse did the CPR thing for a moment. Now he has a bruise that is impressive, something i am watching for spread or swelling that might indicate internal bleeding.

Sister Dash (Tough enough for me to call her Sister Sledge-hammer)

3 years after an accident, plates removed from her ribs, S. Aureus found causing an infection, she has no ETA of release. Multiple, strong antinbiotics going in. Does this mean MRSA? I have not asked, I should….ugh.  *face palm*

Keep you posted.

Will go to writing a fiction thing in the morning.

I’m tired, again.

Good night

The Fave author …

 

Dash

Angel of Death and the Scandal in Sandals

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“Angel of Death and the Scandal in Sandals”

Finis a muscular, broad-shouldered type that bore a strong resemblance Santa Claus with his white hair and beard. Today, he enjoyment the shade this public park.

He was often referred to by his work name -Death, and today he chose to take the afternoon off, relaxing in the shade of the trees, he listened to children playing in the sandbox — a good sound, full of life and a balm to his soul.

He closed his eyes and inhaled the blessed perfumes of pine, elm and grass when a jewish carpenter tapped him on the shoulder and offered white-haired occupant of the bench a cup of wine from his bottle of “Never Empty” brand of Merlot.

“You know drinking in public is against the law.” He said to the smiling rabbi as he tipped the bottle to the wine glass.

“Are you going to complain, or drink?” As he handed the wine to Finis.

“You are a bad influence on me.” Finis said, laughing. “I don’t take time off and drinking wine is a scandal in the park.”

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

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

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

It was depressing.

So the sharing of wine with the scandal in sandals was always enjoyable. Finis tore a sourdough baguette in two and handed one-half to the long-haired friend and good-natured rival.

They were talking peacefully when a drug dealer and his entourage walk into the park and caused a change in the mood of the playground. Mothers gathered their children and ran from the area in abject fear, ending the joyous sound of children’s laugh and play.

The absence of sound drew the two gentlemen’s attention while they sat on the bench and began to frown as they discussed the change in the air. One white-haired man with a graceful, silver-handled cane, another who wore a peasant shirt, threadbare but clean dungaree shorts and sandals. They continued to shared wine and bread while the park’s atmosphere altered from one of family to one of the business of crime.

It seemed colder and more unwelcome than before when the five-year-old girl raced ahead of her mom to climb and take her turn at the slide.

“This is our park, you need to pay to stay.” The tattoo of tears on the face of the bald leader in contrast to the sparkling anger of his eyes. The two benchwarmers looked first at each other, then the white haired one with the cane looked back at him with a slight smile. 

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

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

“Roberto, I don’t get to see you for another three-years, seven-months and twelve days.” White-hair said in a matter-of-fact tone, as if he read it out of a book.

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

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

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

Fear burned at the soul of the human as the Angel of Death invaded his mind with images that changed his life.

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

In the following minutes, the three men, a white-haired Santa Claus and a jewish carpenter sat and talked of everything they could think of with the shaven and tattoo covered leader and dealer of drugs.

Roberto, the gangster known as “The Bull”, discovered a change in his life, he had met death that day and found Jesus.

Roberto “The Bull” Roman was lucky, indeed.

Death was on holiday.

Smart Bomb Chapter 17. Freedom

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Scene 17. Freedom

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

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

“The iris of the eyes look like glass.”

“Well, they are.” Thor agreed.

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

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

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

“The setting is at…” The one called Lady Sif paused. “You are right, it is under ninety-seven degrees Fahrenheit. You have sensitive eyes.” She looked at Steve.

“Indeed.” Wolf sat at his console. “If we turn the heat up, they will need power more often. Maybe we can have the temps increase right when we need it, not running all over the earth as an artificial space-heater.”

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

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

“What if we used visual clues?”

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

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

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

“That’s sexy.” Alvin said.

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

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

The entire team nodded and set to work.

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

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

“No, call me just Wolf.”

“Okay, Just Wolf.” Steve corrected himself.

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

“JustWolf.” The Android answered honestly.

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

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

“Okay,” Chip Burner sat up, “Triggers are set. There are three levels, there will be no accidental detonation. We have GPS, visual and then physical contact for the final sequence.”

“Even if there is contact outside of the coordinates or by the wrong person, it will not happen.” Running Man laughed and clapped. “Plus an alternate setting in the event the program needs to change. This is a binary setup, they cannot learn like you can, Steve.”

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

“Energy consumption curve is excellent.” Burning Chip announced. “A single full charge here, they will make it to the Russian border with power to spare. If they can get a ride, there will be little interaction and they can carry carbo-tabs. It’s not like they have to worry about junk food.”

“Dude.” Thor whispered. “Don’t go insulting him, he is the same way.”

“It matters not, I do not have feelings to injure.” Steve used a matter-of-fact tone. “However, I have something that urges me on, I need to go to Washington to complete my mission. Then, there is something else.”

The team stopped and all looked at the android. Wolf reached for an electronic weapon under his desk, turning it so the emitter was in Steve’s direction.

“After I stand at the door, my programming subroutine will be complete, it will send a signal down to the sensor that is no longer there. The terminator end of he plug that Running Man installed will acknowledge the signal. The subroutine will end.” Steve looked around at them. “The creator did not end programming, my destruction would end all programs, and thus he never designed termination of functions.”

“I will be free.” Steve almost smiled.

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

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

“The creator and Supreme Leader have had more time, by calculations, they may send others with as much as a gram of antimatter.” Steve said. “More than a thousand times the yield of this warhead.”

The group did a collective profanity.

“How much do they have in total?” Burning Chip asked.

“With continued and aggressive theft with paying bribes to those that have no idea what they take. There is an eighty-one percent chance the Supreme Leader has amassed over one-kilogram.” The android’s math, not lost on the any of the group, shown a great number of cycles dedicated to this subject. “The warheads would have a collective yield of greater than the Tsar Bomb.”

The room fell silent.

“Send them.” Just Wolf said.

Fifteen minutes later, two women who would have blended in with the people of the Steppes and an encyclopedic database of the society and languages of the region assured their success.

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

Alvin stood for a moment at the door as the big car moved off towards the airport.

“Do you want me to drive you to Washington?” Alvin asked Steve.

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

“So you are a spy?” Wolf asked.

“Yes, JustWolf, that is my secondary function, I give automatic reports of military bases and facilities.” He looked at the shocked crew. “I am Saif al Din, Sword of the Religion, spy and self-guided bomb and learning computer. I am also Steve Aldin, free being to learn about this country. I have learned much since coming to this land.”

He looked around.

“Go on.” Sif urged him.

“I have learned that you are greedy, petty, you fight among yourselves, call each other names, you throw stones, you embarrass yourselves in news reports and on social media.

You commit sins that would make Allah weep, but, when things are at their worst?” The Android looked at them each. in turn. “You are at your best!

You donate time, strangers who assist others without being asked and do so around the world to those that would do you harm. You would be most blessed, and no one would deny you repayment, and yet you ask for nothing in return. All you tell people is to go and be free.

You are a curious country, and I wish to find every corner, meet every citizen. I can walk among the poorest and see how they think, among the most wealthy and compare the mind-set.

That is where I want to go. All over this country called United States without harming it.”

By the time he finished, Sif teared up, Alvin held his coffee to his lips without moving, frozen in place.

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

JustWolf coughed.

“Alvin, take him wherever he wants to go. You check in with us, keep him safe.” Wolf said softly. “I think there will be a helluva story when you get back.”

A Boy, His Dog and a Sunday

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

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

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

He says a coffee shop is noisy and distracting.

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

Old folks are so easy to distract.

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

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

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

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

Seriously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then.

OMG!

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

NO! NO NO! Bad DOG!

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

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

He runs INTO the house!

WITH THE SPRINKLER!

NOOOooooo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It ain’t easy being me.

Smart Bomb Chapter 15. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you going to talk or drink?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was depressing.

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

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

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

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

This was HIS park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smart Bomb Chapter 8. Smart Car

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Chapter 8. Smart Car

The internal clock ticked to the appointed time. An electron gate opened and subsystems became active.

The moment he opened his eyes, wisps of a ghostly sensation filled only one of his memory banks. This was oddly, the information corrupted and failed to retrieve. His memory banks were the best that could be obtained at the time of his construction a year ago.

Struggling with it for one-tenthousandth of a second to an android is a lifetime – he sat up, the dent in the memory foam of the mattress where he remained motionless on all night.

Permanently lubricated joins moved without effort, but the flesh that covered the frame was stiff and felt cold.

Sensors the size of a human skin-cell indicated pressure points and stiff areas of limited circulation of the artificial fluid it used for blood.

Blood.

It was an artificial fluid to mask his lack of humanity in the event he suffered an injury. If something lacerated his flesh, he would bleed dark red that would turn blue-black over a time while it became tacky then hard.

Water soluble, it coud be washed away, but, it would never pass any lab analysis.

Yes, it carried glucose and oxygen in an approximation of real blood, but no red cells were in the fluid. A wound would receive care by the android, not a human that might not understand the red fluid under the microscope.

Pulling the pack on, leaving the keycard in the room as instructed by the woman at the counter, he left, walking towards the used-car lot the android observed the day before.

Out of sight of any eyes, once again shifted size and apparent gender.

Pulling to body shape to maximum, the android appeared as a small female with large breasts, as dictated by known American tastes in the decadent music videos and the rampant pornography that the media pours out in the early evening hours.

The android had not logged in to any of the televisions, however one of the circuits that the core processor established to record the sins of the American south indicated that the programming had flaws, the android concluded.

The core processors deteremed a need to observe the television programs that the general American culture watched and record accurate information. Information that conflicted what the religious leader taught. Conflicting with the Leader was also a sin and should be burned from the face of the earth.

Only those programs that showed approved versions of history and prayer programming would be allowed.

First, to start with the leaders of the country, the force and type of the explosion would remove all trace of the bomb, with the added level of contamination of radioactive debris for thousands of years, America would be crippled by their smallest President’s namesake.

Then the jihad of the most righteous would take over and the Kafirs that occupied all the lands and Mecca would be wiped out next. The idolatry of the prophet would be removed.

The Commandments given to him by Michael the Archangel in his dreams, the leader passed on to the creator of the android, there is only one Most Righteous to follow on earth and it was He who walked in Russia alone. Blessed above all, the leader said he was.

Gabriel, it was taught, is not an Archangel, any lessons taught by Gabriel were false.

The little pissant that was a carpenter who got his own nails driven through his arms and suspended from a cross got what he deserved.

Only D’urs’l was the one and true savior.

This coding in the android’s database instructed the automaton to follow the teachings of the holy one.

Confusion edged in on the corners of his programming. Each patch of code that recorded kindness, conflict, wrongs or rights , adjusted accordingly.

Programmed the android might be, the recognition of error in observation to programming required corrections to fit the circumstances.

Alternatively if the core processors did not alter the programming to fit the situation, the mission would come to an end as the covert nature of the android would be compromised.

Now, the mission to travel on foot changed due to weather. Snow was coming early, it required the android to modify the untraceable mode of travel or the mission would be exposed.

Arriving at the used car lot, the salesman watched the backpack wearing woman of dark skin and a size-forty chest that poked out past her the shoulder-straps of her backpack.

Her pants were slightly oversized, cinched by a belt that barely held her drawers up over the nice swell of her hips. She walked around looking over an ancient SmartCar that suffered badly from generic paint, rust and appeal.

It was the cheapest car on the lot, he could not give it away it seemed.

“I will take this car.” She said as she looked inside the non-descript transportation.

“Well, we have some paperwork to do.” He smiled at the little lady. “I’m big Peter Prichet, you can call me Pete.”

“Thank you Mister Prichet, I have cash. I would like to buy this and be on my way.”

“Well,” Big Peter pulled at his ear. “There is some paperwork to fill out.”

Holding out the roll of paper money, she peeled off enough bills to make a layer visible from the side, matching the asking price.

“This would be sufficient?” She smiled at him.

“We still need to fill out papers, but we might work something out if you are in a hurry.” Peter winked. The woman was obviously running from someone, she had saved a roll of money on the sly, and now was making her escape, and as such, she would be vulnerable.

He could make this worth his while.

The android had other plans. No paperwork filled out and a single punch ended the discussions while Peter lay on the floor holding his groin.

“Anyone comes looking for me, you never saw me. I have recorded the monetary exchange on my phone (The android did not have one, a total bluff- learned from playing poker with the Bonsells while discussing religion.) and I will forward it to your wife that you have hanging on the wall there.” She pointed at the family picture of him, his children and his wife. A wonderful wife, but a ferocious lioness when crossed. 

She took his personal device and hacked it in a blink of an eye. Leaving his personal information displayed as she left in the modified SmartCar.

All electric, the battery pack listed itself as seventy-percent charged, a modified drive system someone planned to make the car a long distance champ, but failed.

Still, after a two-hour drive, the car was making noise for a charge. Batteries were less than five-percent and needing of a deep charge. Plugging it in to an independent solar charger left over from the early days of the electronic revolution, it was not part of the worldnet. Charging was free as an elderly child of a hippy rebelled against the corporate society by charging cars and trucks for no charge.

This was another lesson, with help from the old man who went by the name of “Hummingbird” Johnson, he charged the small car with a lecture on how America lost its way with people dependant on oil energy.

Internal conflict at that moment. The gift of energy, yet the man railed against the importing of oil from the seat of civilization.

Except that from the point of view of the slow trip from Florida, charging stations were abundant, fuel depots that dispensed oils were not.

However, the android calculated the charges of the electric power stations owned by Standard Excellent Electric Motivation Systems “SEEMS” charged equivalent amounts of credit per unit of energy.

A calculated ratio, the population might feel the electric company that “Filled up” their electric automotive machines, uncovered that the per-mile cost of energy worked out to the same or higher than if they drove an oil-burning vehicle.

A definition: Greed.

In certain ways the ancient flower child of the twentieth-century was as right as he was wrong.

Business would make as much money from the people who worked as it could.

And yet?

And yet the people of devote religion, some non-religious, others, like Mister Hummingbird, swore that god was in the leaf of the pipe he smoked that “helped with the appetite”.

Errors in programming were again addressed that night as the android stopped again at an inexpensive, hotel after a mile walk. Arriving to look like a tall, broad, bushy-bearded biker-stereotype with tattoos that took some effort to place in obvious locations on the forearms and hands.

Signing his name on the register as “Snake” in generic block lettering.

The android retired to the rented room.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, he re-shaped to the standard shape of a slim, human, a shape that drew less energy to maintain.

The android had found a few dark sides to the Americans, but few could be listed yet as evil.

Laying on the bed, the android began the required patching of the database.

America, not a cesspool or an evil place.

America, not a place where no streets had paving of gold.

It was a place where people lived, laughed, and lived lives, and in some cases, close to the Supreme Creator.

The android turned off the lights in the room with the remote control and closed the optic sensors that were eyes.

Setting the time before sunrise, he powered down, seeking that edge of programming that danced around the low energy gates of the memory banks.

Humans would have called them dreams.

Smart Bomb Chapter 5. Mental Health With A Baby Stroller

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Scene 5. Mental Health with a Baby Stroller

Rumbling the sidewalk, his mission was to observe and record all he could at any base he could without compromising his cover.

He appeared as a hunched over homeless, and with mutterings to himself, with height reduced, he looked like he stood no more than two-inches over five feet tall. His hair lengthened with the hair follicles stimulated to grow an inch-per-hour at a cost of significant energy, he ate the entire jar of peanutbutter that Genesee gave him to balance the fuel costs.

In the day that Steve left the house of Carl and Genesee Bonsell, they had a long and enlightening conversation of a religious nature.

They gave him a backpack with clothes, Carl’s warm jacket and let the young man to trek on his mission. By the time he reached the shopping strip four miles away, his appearance was that of a woman in her twenties, looking for a jogging stroller.

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

Stopping at a gas and car-wash, he walked through the car wash, taking the filth that collected on the floor near the drains, running the slime through his hair and over his face. He approximated the look of a long-term homeless man walking along the road without difficulty.

Still, he had time to process all facets of the his conversation about their savior, his challenges that he put forward the Reverend Bonsell took with smiles and patiently explained the bible and the contradictions it seemed to have.

They also supported with accepted fact of the Roman records.

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

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

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

The adaptive subroutine required it to prevent loss of mission objective and he logged into the database of a carpenter that the Roman Empire did terrible things to.

The wars after his leaving the earth.

In the centuries that passed, even documents that the boy, then an apprentice-carpenter sat at the feet of old Drui priests as his uncle and father traded services for desired arts and crafts for trade back in the civilized world.

He muttered the different views of what he had in his database with what he learned. The heuristic algorithm determining that such repeated conversations with himself would give him a greater range of leeway with the gatekeepers he would make contact with.

At the corner, he followed the road with his jogging stroller (Since folded up dragged in mud and crud) and his backpack that suffered the same filth treatment, he presented a sight of a crazed homeless man who would appeared displaced by the storm two days previous.

“Sir.” The crisp uniformed guard stepped out and intercepted him.

The discussion escalated with Steve repeating religious passages at the top of his voice, with interjections of a local native language, the soldier cuffed him and then took the disguised android at first to the detainment area, then to the medical facility on the base where they cleaned him up so long as he was not fighting any of the nurses.

In a few hours, looking out windows and continuing to mumble, he had his temperature taken (Exactly at thirty-seven degrees celsius as controlled by the regulating program) his skin sagged in wrinkles and unsurprisingly, his DNA was not in any database of the US government.

The presupposition then was he had not committed any crime anywhere.

He was just a slightly demented old man who answered questions, just appropriately enough with some excursions into confusing words, to not pose a danger to himself or others.

The commanding officer came down and spoke with the doctor in front of Steve.

The officer offered to transport him to the next town north.

Nodding in agreement with a subordinate officer, it was not strictly by the book, but incarcerating the homeless man was equally wrong and a greater waste of taxpayers dollars.

The next transport to the town north would take him and drop him off in at the bus station there.

The CO of the facility walked out with the doctor and left Steve to stand alone and look out the windows.

Little did they know, Steve recorded everything, including the cell-phone that rang and the officer spoke with his warrant officer on base of the assigned departure of attack aircraft.

The number and description of every aircraft in the flight could be heard over the secure line while the officer spoke over his personal device in the corner out of earshot of the busy doctor and the disinterested appearing homeless man.

Before the officer was out of the building, he transmitted all recorded information regarding the flight of warplanes over the worldnet to Point Of Origin for his mission.

Cleaned and washed, they returned his clothes to him freshly washed, subtle wrinkles along the seams his jacket and clothes were carefully and deeply surveyed from EM radiation to a micro-sniffer for anything that might constitute a threat of biological or chemical type.

They never surveyed him past his blood pressure, lungs and tympanic temperature.

Taken to the van, the driver allowed him to sit in the front passenger seat.

Steve smiled blankly as another driver approached and asked a favor of the first driver to deliver a folder to another office ASAP.

Nodding, the two friends parted company and a quick u-turn as they made the four-minute detour to drop off the file that the technician waited for.

Steve recorded every road, every bump, he obtained unprecedented views of the base and recorded it all in different wavelengths.

He discovered the oversight that he should have a passive receiver to pick up any data or communication transmissions.

Still and all, by the time he departed under guard as a harmless dot of debris that drifted into their base, he gathered nearly a terabyte of information. A successful incursion on the American military base.

His next opportunity would be another approach, switching of genders was the plan.

In the center of the small community he stepped out of the van, the driver returning his stroller and backpack to him.

By the time the van made the corner, Steve stood nearly six-feet tall and broad-shouldered.

Pulling his blood-red hair back into a ponytail, the milky-cataracts of the old man were bright and steely blue.

Instead of a local homeless, he was a northern tier states citizen on a hike through the country with a three-day scruff of strawberry-blond beard on his face, girls who walked past him on the street smiled and looked him from head to foot.

Shallow Americans, they judged him on his appearance.

Something deep in his processors, he was deceiving the population that believed him.

Even with all the technology, he was not forced, even if they coerced him into helping.

But they did not ask for anything from him, just his time and his strength, that he modified to an average young man’s strength.

His next stop, he walked to a motel and rented a room. The matronly woman at the counter asked if he was alone and finding it shocking that he traveled solo.

Smiling at her as he nodded shyly.

“I’m on a mission for God.” His calculations were spot-on. The woman smiled and nodded knowingly.

“The Good Book is in every room, I make sure of it.” She held hers up. “But God does not wish for young men to spend his life alone all the time, they need the company of a woman to keep them out of trouble. I think you will find company here if you only just look.”

Giving her a soft smile he walked out to his room. The core processors working overtime to understand what the woman meant.

Americans were becoming more difficult to understand with every step.

He slid the keycard in the slot and the door opened to a simple, but comfortable room and put his backpack inside.

Putting out his “Do not disturb” sign he lay down and turned off the lights. Even before the sun was fully set, he powered down all systems.

A question formed in his mind, something that occurred at the home of the Bonsells.

Did he dream when he was “Sleeping”?

He wanted to know.

Smart Bomb Chapter 4. Sandbagged

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Chapter 4. Sandbagged

During the night, Steve the android lay on the guest bed and listened to the sounds in the house.  But the murmuring of the married couple in the far side of the house was beyond even his enhanced hearing.

Rustling noises of his hosts quieted after several minutes after Reverend Carl walked around and turned off the lights in the family room.

After the lights went out and silence followed, he laid on the bed in the dark. His core systems were able control the body temperature easily in the darkness and he performed information and systems maintenance. 

The time passed and the silent house, all outside sounds obliterated by the soft white-sound of falling rain and reduced his ability to hear.

Reducing his power generation, he was able to turn up the power to an electric blanket that the Reverend’s wife supplied.

He closed his eyes in the approximation of sleep, and the systems powered down more than expected.

Then…

In the darkness, his hearing alerted to the sound of the approaching of someone down the hallway.

The length of steps he calculated to the tall wife of the Reverend.

“Steve, time to wake up.” She said softly. “Breakfast in a half-hour.”

“Thank you, I’m awake.” He answered in positive tones.

“You sleep light.”

If I slept. He thought to himself.

A check on his system, there were gaps of suspended operations where power use was minimal.

Nearly zero draw.

Odd. If machines slept, I would have been asleep.But that was impossible.

Nothing in the database addressed suspend process at night. He was not programmed to suspend operations. Level-one diagnostics had to be performed and he ran the programs.  

Why had so many systems suspended operations?  He was still operating well enough. 

Curious.

Smaller machines would suspend operation to power down, but he was not programmed included by the creator to do that. It had been planned and he had been programmed to get to the target while traveling through the non-believer filth that was America. There would be no power down, or full operation suspending. 

Except he found information that his programming failed to expect. One police officer that applied rules without consideration to the circumstances. But the first, opposed the supervisor on the point of human kindness.

A family that opened their home.

He stood, the flesh that covered his carbon-fiber re-enforced polymer frame. The ceramic armor that covered the vital core processors.

Still he had the need to stretch, the sensation.

Nothing in the database described the feeling of the stretch, however, the status of his joints increased by twenty-percent.

A significant amount, he understood why humans had the instinct to stretch their bodies when they rose after a sleep period.

The food at the breakfast table was simple, but plentiful.

Genesee Bonsell had shredded potatoes and scrambled eggs with coffee and fruit juices.

“Eat up, I have muffins in the oven, we need to arrive at the church at sunrise.” She poured herself the strong, black steaming coffee from an insulated pitcher. “And a long day until lunch. People are worried about flooding and we have twelve tons of sand at the church being delivered before sunrise.”

“So, what why are we needed to go there in the rain?” Steve asked. Processors called up data on thermal loss, what he recorded in the last week of cold weather. “Ma’am, I will need to borrow a warmer jacket, mine is too thin to wear in the rain.”

“Of course, dear.” She smiled. “Carl?”

“I have one from my days in the military. It’s not heavy in weight, but it is warmer than anything you will find.” Carl smiled, pouring his own cup of coffee. “Eat your fill, there is plenty. I have scrambled eggs for years, you won’t find a better omelette anywhere.”

Omelette, the term was a stretch. He mixed in cheddar cheese with the eggs.

The three of them sat at the table and Carl led them in a blessing of the food that lasted for a full minute. Carl gave his heart in the blessing, this intrigued Steve that an infidel would give his faith to an idol he could not see.

They got into the pickup truck, Genesee sitting in the middle. They drove the overloaded pickup to the church.

Crowds of people milled about, shovels were in action when they arrived.

Officer Joseph Roberts “Joe-Bob” was guiding people in and out of the parking lot. Young and old moved back and forth.

Very small children dragged empty sandbags, fathers and mothers lugged full ones back to their waiting cars.

Energy spent on shovelling sand into the bags, he learned to fill the sandbags only half-full.

A seven-year-old girl with a hello-kitty t-shirt instructed him on how to fill it under the watchful eye of her father.

For six hours, they filled thousands of sandbags in the cold rain. While wearing the borrowed jacket, reduced his thermal loss to levels that regeneration and energy use replaced the heat well enough to keep the core processors at optimum levels.

At lunch, Carl lit a giant propane powered grill and began to roast hamburgers and chicken.

His power reserves were down by sixty-percent by the time he sat to consume organic fuel. His total conversion to energy was efficient, but still needed to replace the used fuel, the food was perfect.

One grandfather sat under the rain awning that kept people dry, held his hand out to a five-year old and told the child, “Here, pull my finger.”

The boy-child complied, with the resulting noise that issued from the elderly male’s backside made the boy give a belly laugh.

“An invisible elephant!” the old man said, pointing at a space where Steve could not see anything.

“Mama!” The boy called, running off. “There was an invisible elephant under gramps! It half lifted him off the chair!”

The crowd chuckled the android struggled with the humor between the different races of people. Different hues, ages, men and women all mixing.

Steve filed the joke under a new file. He was curious about such things.

A bodily function based on triggering the event by pulling on a digit. The sound was akin to an explosion.

They were vastly different things and inconsistent with human construction.

These people were inconsistent, considerate, caring. Unlike his database, listing them as sinful, profane, obese and bloodthirsty.

Steve altered his programming slightly to adjust to the information.

He was learning new information at a geometric rate.

A time check in his core processor. He needed to leave and spend twenty-four hours watching a military base a few miles north.

A plan already at hand, a poor, homeless woman with no possessions would stand outside of the fence for a few days, before heading north again.

If they picked up the old crazy woman, it would keep the government off his trail.

The plan was without flaw.

Smart Bomb Chapter 3. Salvation Army

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Chapter 3. Salvation Army

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

The humans might call it “Full”, he had the opportunity to experience more of the generous spirit of the American south.

During the storm the day before, power went out, leaving the café in the dark. The owner fretted about the melting sweets in the freezer and prohibited anyone from opening the doors without reason, finally succumbing to the alternatives to throw out meats as the walk-in began to push the legal limit of the health codes.

The owner, Pete Durham, chose the option to cook the meats, slow smoking some with a wood-fired smoker overnight. Late into the night Pete and James cooked. Ice cream threatened to melt and spoil.

The Android could convert the butterfat and sugar confection to electrical power easily, and ate far more than his

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

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

Quick calculations, and the android, calling himself Steve Aldin, tried to give Pete a fifty-dollar bill. Pete shook his head at first, then tore the bill in half.

“Come back this way and eat in our dining room when it is fully in operation, bring a friend and I’ll take that other half of a bill. We’ll call it even then.”

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

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

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

But.

The curse of a fuzzy logic, sometimes the third leg of coding got in the way. In many ways, the binary coding of the twentieth century was suited to so many things. Zero or one. Yes or no.

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

And he retained it, adaptive programming kept him from being caught, unlike the previous versions that the Russian government caught. Either the earlier versions became confused or lost when the expected targets moved or the humans spotted his predecessors, who then self-destructed before travelling far.

He was the most advanced and powerful.

That he knew of. Core processors predicted a near certainty that others were under construction with a fifty-percent probability for  the next versions to deploy in the next twelve months.

The snow threatened to put him into danger once again. His walk down the road began to be seen with footsteps on the white-coated asphalt.

A snowplow trundled past, heading to some assignment on a main road, the flashing lights triggered the recent memory of stopping for a meal.

Several minutes later, a sedan pulled up with a light bar and the siren chirped. programming alerted to the law enforcement agent wanted him to approach.

If he had a confrontation, he would be arrested and no scans would pick up his fingerprints.

He would be an enigma to the database for citizens in the country.

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

Shifting quickly, he looked like a younger teenage youth.

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

“Sir,” He used a squeaky voice of a late-blooming teen as he approached the front of the car. “I’m on a mission to walk the lower forty-eight states to raise money for homeless.”

“Impressive. May I see your ident-chip?” The officer nodded. Not quite smiling, his neutral stance remained unconvinced,. “You are traveling light for the weather. Mister Aldin.”

“That would be my fault. I tried to jump a train a few miles back because it was getting cold, I put my pack in a cars door. When I went to get a sandwich, the train moved it when I was gone. When I tried to look for it, the security chased me off their property.”

This made the officer laugh.

“Well, you were trespassing.” He pulled at his chin, then clicked on his microphone at his shoulder. “Patrol One-seven-one.”

He waited for the response.

The sound was barely audible from where the android stood and waited. The officers earphone keeping the sound below human perception, but with his electronic sensors.

“Is the chaplain around? I have a lost sheep for him.”

Steve looked around, the term sheep was known, but the application was non-sequitur.

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

“Wait right here.” The officer said, sitting in his car, he typed on a computer display and sent off a message.

“Officer, can I sit in the car?” His core processors were registering the heat loss. “I’m cold.”

Pausing for a moment, the officer nodded and then out of habit, patted Steve down and removed the small nylon day-pack, looked inside, satisfied, he put it in the front seat and turned back to Steve.

“Have a seat in the back, I’ll keep the heater on.” He said. Steve sat in the rear of the patrol car, behind a solid shield between the front and rear of the car.

“The chaplain will be here soon.” The officer smiled at him, looking up, another patrol car pulled in behind them.

Another officer got out with more stripes and a white shirt, while the officer wore a navy-blue shirt.

The officers thought they were out of earshot, but the enhanced hearing, Steve listened in.

“You have him sitting in the prisoner area. Is he cuffed?”

“No, sir, he is just cold. I didn’t want him in front to limit access to the weapons and electronics.”

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

“I don’t want him in front, I have not had reason to run his identity past his ID chip.” The patrolman said.

“I’ll run it. You have the scan of it?” He held up his tablet and tapped a few times.

“Cuff him if you keep him in the back. He is not allowed up front.” The supervisor said. “Or he stands away from the vehicle.”

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

“Find cause. He is not a local, so figure how to process him. Was he walking in the road?” The officer looked back at the footprints that were filling in. “He might have crossed over the line back there.”

“Sir, he is just cold, a youngster.”

The officers continued their conversation while Steve listened in. The situation was untenable, he couldn’t get out of the car unless the officer opened in from the outside.

He could not allow them to run his DNA or fingerprints. Two police officers were no threat to him, out in the middle of a highway, but the news of his presence after attacking the officers would put him under a microscope that he could not get away from.

Then.

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

The first officer in blue walked ot the back of the car, followed by a middle-aged man who looked in better shape than the officer.

“Mr. Aldin, this is our chaplain, Reverend Carl Bonswell. He will take care of you.” The officer nodded the civilian clothed male and walked away.

The officer talking to himself,  pleased to avoiding the need to cuff the young man or otherwise have to process him like he was little more than a criminal, when his actions indicated nothing.

“Mr. Aldin, son, would you like to come to my car with me? I have a place for food and a roof, tonight is going to be cold and wet. The winter season has settled in somewhat early.”

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

“Okay, Steve. We have a shelter, it’s rarely used right now. We don’t get much call for homeless or transient people this time of the year.” The reverend said as they got in his car. “As such, the county has it closed now. So, you will be staying with my family tonight. Is this all you have?”

“Oh no, the officer took my knapsack, it’s in the front seat of his patrol car.” Steve said and opened the door to get out.

“No no! Stay here, get warm, I’ll get it.” Getting out, he stopped to talk to the patrolman and nodded.

Steve listened in, the chaplain only asked if the officer had patted down the youth and if he found any contraband.

“No. No weapons, interior sensors did not pick up even a trace of drugs. But, he’s soaked.” The officer smiled at the chaplain.

Satisfied, Carl gathered up the knapsack and returned it to Steve.

“Socks, t-shirt, and what else do you have in there?

“Some money my mom gave me. I’m supposed to walk for a cause, but I have lost my list, my clothes, my pack.” He gave the full pitiful story.

The reverend’s home was warm, smells included apple and peach, in a crock-pot.

“Carl, who is this? A new friend?” The woman was not classically beautiful, tall, broad-shouldered, her arms looked like some mens legs. She looked like she could have taken on both officers out on the highway, and win.

Quick assessment of her movements showed she was naturally built like this, then worked somewhere. The woman shook his hand, standing six-feet tall, broad shoulders, narrow waist and a flare to her hips. She appeared as an athlete, but he could not figure out her sport, but she moved as graceful as the cloudy leopard he once saw.

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

“I thought you would put me in the shelter tonight. This is generous.” Steve accessed social protocol files. “Thank you.”

“No thanks needed.” The woman smiled and sat with them. “This is the best place for you, tonight. You have the guest bedroom, a shower is there with clean towels.”

Carl nodded as she continued.

“This is not a free stay, in the morning, we start at six o’clock. Breakfast is served at six-thirty, we have sandbags to deliver to the community center for homeowners. This storm is going to stay for some time before it gets cold enough to snow.” She said while sipping her drink.

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

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

A Christian man and his wife who open their home to him and not follow the rules and put him in a dorm-style bed that had thin mattresses and thinner blankets.

They bent the rules and let him sleep under thick blankets, eat their food and drink a drink while sitting in their house.

The woman who took care of her lover and husband was another oddity. She was not an obese, idol worshipping, world hating people.

She was a raven-haired woman with deep-set, searching eyes that showed her native heritage.

A kindness in her that extended to her husband, while he read from a well-worn bible.

No drugs, the odors in the house of cooking, crock-pot cider, smoke from the fireplace.

After a shower, core temperatures were in optimum operations, tissue repairs from hypothermia damage to his extremities were in full operation.

The experiences he had, the paradigm of the picture of the infidel American’s once again altered to fit the reality.

Tomorrow, he needed to donate his time to strangers.

This would be another first.

For the first time, the walking bomb looked forward to learning something new.

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

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

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

Disaster.

That was the only word for it.

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

Unmitigated disaster.

The classification was undeniable.

A dead captain.

A burnt-to-the-waterline ship.

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

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

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

The curses of having no navigator or maps.

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

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

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

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

And “Will of God” was not going to be an acceptable answer. There, the summons came.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was going to be a long afternoon.

Excerpt: Children of Fury, Chapter 20. Old School Medicine

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(Setup: Beli O’Danu, shot with an arrow and is bleeding to death. The knowledge of the Draoithe (Irish Druid) are what stands between him and death.)

20. Old School Medicine

Donal continued to help his old friend down the path to the river. Conn with his father’s arm around his neck helped to partly carry and partly drag the elder O’Danu to where the two men directed.

“Here! Put me down, here.” Beli grunted painfully, as they came to a clearing.

Beli’s shirt was sticky with clotted blood and matted with a paste of moss and herbs he had smeared on his own chest. Putting the poultice where the arrow protruded, the herbs had slowed the bleeding.

“Conn, collect some wide-flat rocks and build a small fire.” Said Donal as he went down to the riverside and began selecting plants with a critical eye. “Clean and heat the rocks over the fire until the water cooks off.” The High-Priest directed while he searched for those plants needed to save his friend’s life.

Beli wheezed out orders to Conn on what rocks to look for. Donal returned with an armful of roots, twigs and herbs with fleshy leaves, setting them down on the ground, he began to wash his hands in the clear water of the stream, cleaning the mud off his fingers.

Conn collected several large, flat rocks, about the size of his two spread hands, he cleaned them well with clean water and placed them near the pile of twigs and leaves.

While Donal was sweating from his exertions of grinding the leaves and the moisture from the herbs had mixed with the bark that he had collected in a small mortar and pestle into a smooth dough like texture. Time was short and his friend’s life hung in the balance. The longer they took, the weaker Beli was getting.

Conn started the fire with the use of flints, gently blew on the ember that he had been able to spark. With the growing fire. Conn began to wash two stones near the stream, cleaning the stones with a soapwort rub, then washed with water until it was clear. Then, with the fire burning hotly, Conn put the two stones near the flames to dry.

Conn’s father-in-law made himself as comfortable as possible, kneeling near the fire, putting a collection of bark and herbs on one of the rocks that had a concave surface, then began to press the medicines together with a small well used silver rolling-pin.

As Donal pressed the juices from the succulent greens he had just picked, chosen with an expert eye, Conn watched closely as the elder Draoi crushed and mixed the ingredients with the experience that would let him watch for the proper texture and color of ingredients.

Placing more herbs, Donal continued to grind the organic bits together on the hot rock, the mixture sizzled and put off a strong smoke that made him blink and cough.

“It is better at an alter, the smoke does not drift into my face so I can use it for bandages and not choke or blind me.” Donal coughed again. His voice quavered slightly and he cleared his throat, getting back to his task.

Conn suspected, however, that not all the tears were from the smoke.

Conn helped Donal by slowly pouring water over the tops of the rocks with a small silver cup that the elder Draoi handed him. While Donal tore a leaf apart and began to mix it with water, heating it until it bubbled.

Donal touched a branch taken from a willow tree to the mixture, the thick, hot viscous liquor coated it cooled on the smoothed carved twig.

Beli, who had been watching this turned his eyes down the path, Gael, Conn’s mother and teacher walked towards them from the ocean where they had taken refuge from the advancing armies of Parliament.

Several of the women burst out in tears at the sight of the wounded Beli laying on his back, only to have the Gael silence them with a wave of her hand.

“Time now is not for tears! Now is the time to repair and save a life. We need the finest, clean linen that anyone has.”

Gael invoked her title as a High Priestess, the Ard-Draoi. The Baker family who were Druid Priests and Priestesses of the Scots, the name of Baker had a huge influence wherever they walked and Gael was not to trifle with when it came to her knowledge of the Draoithe.

From within a pouch she carried at all times, Gael produced smaller bags of salts and knelt by Donal who looked up and nodded. Taking several small bags laid them next to the fresh herbs that Donal had collected.

Niamh, Conn’s mother-in-law and High Priestess in her own right, directed the women to gather strips of clothing to prepare for dressings. Setting down her own bag of collected medicinal herbs that exceeded Gael’s in the form of infection control herbs.

Niamh took a handful of linen from Anne MacNamara, who had grabbed anything she could while running from the advancing troops. The clothing was the best she had, giving it up to the priestess who had the intense look and a sense of urgency not seen before. Anne was not about to cross Niamh the healer.

Walking with the armful of dresses, Niamh stopped and pulled up some roots of a nearby plant. At the stream, tearing strips out of the clothing that Anne had given her, Niamh began to wash the makeshift bandages in the clear water of the river while she ordered the other women to build a fire nearby.

Gael nodded to herself as she directed what kinds of plants to use for the fire. The three Draoi worked together with intensity to save the life of their friend and mate, for what was about to come was the hardest and most difficult part for them to do.

Beating the strips furiously with a stick over one of the rocks that Conn had gathered, the plants and cloth formed a thick lather that Niamh instructed the helping women, including her friend Gael to rinse out in the flowing clear water for some minutes until all the water flowed clear of the strips. One after another Gael and Niamh inspected the linen strips carefully. Those that passed inspection were hung to dry in the smoke of the slow fire that they built using bundles of incense gathered by the remaining women and children. The smoke of the herbs, they explained, prevented infection later.

These treated linens Gael handed Conn, instructing her son to hold them by the corners and not to interrupt her while she was explaining how to do what he needed to do.

Detached from the activities that would save his life, Beli laughed silently, no matter how old her son was, he was still Gael’s child and would follow her directions.

Conn, used to giving orders and being in charge  bowed to his mothers sharp tongue and the father-in-law’s orders of what to do and how to do it.

As Beli lay on the ground, weakly moving his hands as if to guide the operation. A dozen of the villagers that had found refuge among the bluffs of the shore worked furiously to gather herbs under the directions of Donal and the Priestesses. Few had time to stand and watch, praying for the injured elder while they foraged for the needed herbs. So many had died that day, no one wanted to watch another one of their own also pass at the hands of the Parliament’s Agents.

“By the stones!” Beli wheezed out, his agitation growing with the pain. “This is beginning to seriously hurt!”

“It is going to hurt more before it gets better old friend, “Donal knelt next to Beli, “this might have been easier if I had the Spoon of Diokles with me, but that all burned with the village.”

Beli tried to interrupt but Donal shushed him.

“Yes, I have the Saultis Ominus nearly ready. Yes, our wives have the dressings nearly dry over the fire and clear of bad airs. Yes, we have the proper herbs.” Donal pressed a finger to the wounded man’s lips. “Shut up and rest.” There was no appeal to Donal’s command.

Then Donal’s tone softened as he touched his friend on the shoulder.

“Beli, to take this spike out of your chest will be difficult and the wound is deep.”

“I have made it this far,” Beli looked slowly around at the mountains and then the sky. “I’m ready to do this. This is hurting more with each breath. But I am not coughing up blood, my fingers are not white at the nails, if it has caused a hole where the blood flows, it is plugging it up now. When you pull it out, it will unplug the hole like a bung from a barrel. Then I would be dead before you could stop the bleeding.” Beli wheezed painfully.

“Beli,” Donal said softly.

“I know…” Grimacing against the pain he interrupted as he grabbed at his old friend’s chest, “I cannot live with this in and every moment it is in me, the more damage and the more pain it causes. It must come out, one way or another. It is good that it is you, you have the best knowledge to do this. You have pulled these out of men before during battles.”

Donal nodded, mixing the dried and powdered herbal potion with the smallest amount of water to mix a paste on the cleaned linens. Conn brought some powdered leaf over on the warm rock with the willow branch, now cut by Gael who carefully heated the twig over the fire until it turned color, she was careful as not to burn the wood as it would be ruined, and Gael did not have time to prepare a new branch.

Taking the remaining uncooked paste, Donal smeared the pungent mixture over his hands. Donal who wrinkled his nose at the smell.

“It tingles my hands and burns my nose — Aye, it is a strong mix. This will either cure you or kill you old friend!”

“Where is my bite rag?” Beli groaned. “Be good and sure it has the medicine in it.”

Conn brought the linen pouches that they made up for the procedure. One, moist but light in weight and green, the other that was heavier but dry and colored tan. Careful to kneel next to his mother as he held them out to Gael on a cleaned rock, who took the light one and handed the larger, heavier tan wrap to Donal who set it along on the edge of the heated rock.

Donal nodded at Gael and Beli, everything was ready.

“Put it in your mouth. Beli, bite down a few times.”. Gael gave no room for debate as she looked down at her husband, holding the thumb sized green rag to his lips.

“I know what to do!” Said Beli, with his voice muffled by the green linen bag.

“Shush and chew, husband.” She kissed his forehead. “Before I thump you.” The threat was without weight of malice. The only emotion she let be obvious, sharp she might be, he was the love of her life.

Donal looked at Conn, “I will need you to pack the wound with the flat of the willow-branch there. Scoop up the powder and dump it in and around the hole after I remove the spike until the bleeding stops or there is a pile over it. If he bleeds too much, your father will not stand a chance. But I venture an opinion that it has missed his vitals.”

One last breath Donal braced himself, wrapping his hand around the iron neck of the arrow-bolt, he held it for a moment, looking into the eyes of his friend and son-in-law’s father. Beli had become quiet. He had a familiar, dreamy look on his face and an odd glazed look in his eye that showed that he was already in an induced sleep.

“No pulsations from the shaft, this is a promising sign. Okay, straight out and easy.” Donal said quietly.

“Niamh, Conn hold on to his arms. Gael, keep him calm.” Drawing a deep breath, he looked at his old friend. “Beli, see you on the other side my brother.”

A gentle pull and Beli became wide-eyed with a grunt as the pain exploded through him. Gripping the green grass underneath him tightly.

“Keegan! Keegan! Tá brón orm! Fill ar ais go dom mo garmhac! Tar ar ais chugam!*” Beli screamed.

(*Keegan! Keegan! I am sorry! Return to me my grandson! Come back to me!)

Gael, kneeling at Beli’s head squeezed red juice from a cloth with bark and berries into her husband’s mouth, the extra plant extract calming him further. Taking care that Beli would not stop breathing under the narcotic effects of the herbal medicines, the effects were rapid and predictable.

Donal kept pulling, not letting up and not letting go for worry that it would do more damage as it returned to its resting place. But, if he pulled too hard it would cause a suction that could kill his patient.

Moments passed and the shaft did not move. Then slowly as Donal applied a little more pull on the arrow, it began to back out. Imperceptibly at first as sweat beaded on Donal’s forehead, then the arrow shaft started to move steadily backwards out of the chest of his best friend and family member.

It was out the length of a fingernail. Dried blood on the shaft was the marker how deep it had been.

“Pour some powder around the base of the shaft.” Donal told Conn.

“Keep him from moving his head as much, he flexes his muscles here and in his back when he moves. It is making it difficult and more painful.” Donal admonished Gael as he kept the tension on the shaft.

Width of a finger out.

The dart began to slide out of the wound more easily, the tapered shaft, Donal thanked the Gods it was not a broad head. Built with socket-fitted tip on the wooden arrow.  They forged the tip to penetrate armor and then wedge in the metal skin with the wood fibers, made for piercing armor and disabling but it was not efficient at killing.

Wisdom held that it took more men of the enemy to remove the wounded from the field of battle than to tend the dead. Those that were left then would have the archers come down and the killing would be done with knife, sword or ax on the battlefield.

Two fingers width of arrow withdrawn.

“More powder, get the cloth ready to staunch the bleeding.” A small trickle of blood was visible. Donal had one hand on the patients chest, pushing while the other hand pulled on the iron neck of the arrowhead.

With a wet sucking sound, the needle sharp arrowhead came out of Beli’s chest.

“Now, pour some powder in the hole and cover it up with the cloth and press firmly, until I tell you to stop.” Donal told Conn, “Not TO hard! Don’t break your father’s ribs. He won’t like that.”

His hand firmly over the hole and watching the blood soak into the cloth as he pressed directly on the wound, Conn was now sure that the old man was going to live. Donal carefully put down the blood-slicked spike. It was well made, fortune was with them, no barbs or splinters anywhere on the edges and no bleeding salts had been on the shaft. Donal did not cause more damage with the removal. The arrow did all the insult to the body at the moment when it entered his chest.

Turning back, “You can take your hand away,” Donal covered Conn’s hands and smiled. “apprentice, you have done well! You teach us how to build ships, we will teach you, yet, about herbs, medicines and how to heal.” Donal said as he dressed the wound with the bandages prepared by the women.

Conn chuckled, it had been a long time since anyone dared call him an apprentice, but here? Here he was well outside of his normal circles. Looking at his mother, she smiled at him, making him feel young again.

“You did well, Conn.” Croaked Beli, “Don’t you agree, Gael?”

“Shush, you old shoe.” Gael looked down at him. “You made me a near widow, when you are fit I will make you fear me more than death, enough to step away from any arrow. I will not do this again with you! I’ll find me a handsome young man and toss you out!”

Tears were in her eyes as she spoke, there was no conviction in the words. He might be an old shoe, but he was hers and she took care of all her belongings. She was the queen of collecting in the family and her family was her prize collection, Conn her only child and Beli her only mate. They taught and treated together many children and people, every day it was another family that needed to help a child born into the world or a negotiation between clans. Gael’s family was her soul.

Donal opened a pouch withdrew a couple of stones, setting one aside, then another.

“No, wrong effect. This one is wrong, too. There! This one.” Then with a skilled touch, Donal began to grind a small chip into a powder.

Conn looked and recognized a few of the stones in the pouch, many he did not.

“Bloodstone, feldspar, rubháid bairestone. What is this?”

“That, my son, is ‘Sruthfola’, it can cause severe bleeding. Only used in scant amounts to keep blood thin to promote healing on some injuries.” Beli whispered, “Or stuck into someone to cause them bleed for a long, long time without stopping.”

Conn looked at his father, he was still glassy-eyed from the herbal cloth that Gael pushed into his mouth, but he was still awake and able to talk.

“Dittany, is a plant that stops bleeding and promotes healing. I’ll be well enough in a day.” Moaned Beli, his voice a bit stronger now.

“NO! Beli! I will thump you!” Growled Gael, pulling her husband of so many seasons down to his back by an ear. “You will heal and rest.”

“She’s right. No herb or magic can take the place of healing. Magic can fix the problem, but the body must go back in balance.” Donal said to Beli, he would not dare oppose Gael now in any case.

“Then catch up with my son. He is walking with that look in his eye again. He is thinking of something.”

Cellular Justice Chapter 8. Eeyogee the Friar

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Chapter 8. Eeyogee the Friar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Heart, Pure Soul 20. Bone Fire

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20. Bone Fire

Autumn had come to the green island, Daigh danced around on his feet, carving a turnip and put a candle in it to show Kane that he paid attention to the stories that he would tell to the children at night.

His sister, Daigh thought, was in love with one of Kane’s character’s in the story. A man who traveled the world, stealing from the rich and using the treasures to keep the people of a far off land safe, warm and dry. The green man, some called him.

Then Bronwyn, his wife, would often push Kane off his log when he told these stories, laughing at him and saying he was telling it wrong.

But Daigh did not care, each word, each syllable was an adventure. Kane laughed as he would sometimes make a sudden movement and raise his hands, scaring them.

But Daigh did not care, each word, each syllable was an adventure. Kane laughed as he would sometimes make a sudden movement and raise his hands, scaring them.

Lately, as they piled stacks of wood on surrounding hills, Kane would smoke with a long clay pipe, pondering over a sheet of copper that had come to him from the east coast of the lands.

Kane called it “Sunrise” metal, from where it came from.

It come from the coast from where the sun comes up.” He told Daigh. Then go back to his contemplative mood and just stare at the metal while leaning on his work bench. Turning ingot – really just a sheet of metal over in his hands, he watched a boy run past his shop while his mind ran with plans for the red metal.

Laughing, Daigh ran with his carved wooden bird.

On the end of a stick, he could feel it’s carved feathers flutter as he held it up in the wind as his feet made the wind rush through his hair, it was a marvel of a toy. Each wing held by a bronze spring, each feather carefully carved by Bronwyn were held in place by a spring that Kane painstakingly embedded in the wood with a small metal “quill” attaching to the suspended wing.

DAIGH! Look out!” Kane yelled, only to cover his eyes with a calloused hand as the boy ran head-long into Muirne, wife of Finn of the Joining Streams. Curiousity forced him to peek between his fingers.

Kane laughed as Daigh bounced off of the larger woman who also staggered backwards and sat down into a bucket of water.

Kane hid his face in his hands, not really wanting to see the chaos when a voice made him turn around. It was Finis, once again after a long absence he stepped out of an unobserved area of the shop and near where Kane contemplated what to do with this sheet of copper.

What makes you wonder about that round ingot so much, Coppersmite?” Finis used his term for a smith that beats on metals.

OH! You startled me. After two-years and then eight years before that you have been away. What brings you to us now?”

Daigh was walking back after his lecture from the wet-bottomed woman about being careful and running in crowds. Although he was ten, he was tall for his age and ran like the wind, even still, Muirne was larger than he was by half again.

But now, his wooden bird that made him dream of flight was hanging, broken-winged on his stick.

Kane, can you fix this?” He asked as he came in from the outside, not seeing Finis at first. “Oh hullo.”

Daigh tilted his head to one side. “I don’t know you.”

No,” the white-haired traveler said. “you are not to meet me for another…”

Finis.” Kane interrupted. “No.”

The Angel of Death shrugged.

No, you don’t know me, I am just here to greet Kane and talk a while.”

Kane looked over the bird’s wing.

See, here, the bronze brace is bent. It won’t let the wing flap in the wind properly. I can fix it easily.” Kane pulled at the fitting. “I made it to flex some. It is not easy to break, but it will bend. I will heat it up and straighten it.”

Thank you Uncle Kane! I will wait, you make the best toys!”

Finis chuckled as the boy bounced on the hardwood of the floor of the shop.

Turning to Finis, Daigh began talking while Kane worked out the fitting while he frowned at the Angel of Death.

I have never seen anyone with hair like yours, you keep your hair white. What are the beads in your whiskers?

Well, young master.” He pulled at the beads in his mustache, “I have gotten these gems in the many places I have traveled. I have traveled far and they were gifts from those that have walked with me.”

They give you things to walk with you?”

HO! No, no. They sometimes give me things to not walk with them…”

Finis.” Kane stopped working and was walking back. “Daigh, the toy’s done and fixed. Try not to run into people, or worse, trees and buildings? Okay?”

Or off cliffs” Finis added. “No need to rush things.”

Daigh looked curiously at the old man.

Pausing for a moment. The Angel of Death pulled the gems out of his mustache.

Hold on to these for me. Don’t ever spend them or trade them for anything. Perhaps Kane here will build you a small box to put them in. Each time you need a favor from me, I will take one of the gems. So there you have how many?”

Counting the sparkling stones.

I have twenty-four gems.”

Correct. For such a good-looking young man, you get that many favors for as long as you have the stones. These are special gems. Do not give them away. They cannot be stolen, someone who takes them from you, I will know and I will bring them back.”

That would be scary.” Kane said softly behind Finis.

What? Why?” Daigh asked.

Never mind. A kind of joke.” Kane chuckled as he spoke, shaking his head.

Then Kane handed Daigh his toy back.

Daigh ran out with his bird flapping on the stick again. Happy as he could be, yelling “thanks!” over his shoulder to Kane.

Bonfires are in three days, it will be the end of the harvest and then the spirits of the underworld will walk. People will dress up and drink the beer that has fermented for weeks in the copper kettles I built that are down where the two streams meet. Almost more than this community could drink per person in total. I calculated it out on the largest of the residents and then took the smallest of adults of men and women and did the math.

Finis cleared his throat.

I have come to point out a few things.” Finis said. “Bronwyn should also be here.”

You can stay for the evening meal. She and the other women are cooking now.”

Aye. I can smell it. But you should also know, there are those that are noticing that you and she are not aging. One woman is calling it magic. She has already spoke with the high priestess.

Finis stood and watched Bronwyn approach. Hugging her when she entered the smith-shop.

I want to ask, what is wrong with Gretna?”

Sad news,” Finis shook his head. “she has cancer. She knows, a lump that she found in her breast has spread to other areas. In years to come, the illness will be known as consumption. Her weight has already gone down if you have noticed.”

I have, she is thinner I have noticed.” Bronwyn felt like crying.

She will walk with me before the weather gets warmer in the spring. I have come to meet with you and say that you need to consider moving on. Your lack of aging and children will soon be noticed, one already has done so and brought it to Gretna’s attention. This village you live in, this trícha cét is well over six-thousand people, someone is going to notice.”

Gretna has spoke with me about that.” Bronwyn nodded.

Indeed.” Finis nodded. “Take her advice that people are noting this and the advice of mine as well.”

We must leave?” Kane said. Thinking about Daigh and the other children that look forward to his toys every year during the time of the bonfires.

If you were to stay, you would make your leaving more difficult to start fresh. Many love you as kin. Especially the small children that dance around your legs when you have finished your travels. Kane, you would suffer first I would wager. Someone will notice that you are never sick or have aged, even though you has put yourself in harm’s way more than once.” Finis nodded. “Alternately, when you return, leave again to trade. Take all that you like, but then burn the wagon and leave the road and travel on another path. You will have to fake your deaths and create new life, this is part of your challenges you have taken as your tribulation. It is his punishment and your elected life here, Bronwyn. Remember, I am just your advisor, you can do as you like, but I would say your time here with this Clan is over.”

Bronwyn nodded, sad that it seemed like just last week they had stumbled into the lives of Gretna and her family.

Bronwyn was helpless to make that happen. She could only wish to have a full ten years of words to describe the life she has enjoyed…

 

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 17. Highwaymen

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17. Highwaymen

The wagon rumbled back to the coastal village with Kane and Bronwyn riding in silence.

Weeks of trading and occasional party in their honor had left them fatigued. With hours of travel-time still left in their journey, they were far from talkative. Already on the road for several hours, Bronwyn was sleeping on Kane’s shoulder when he pulled up the horses.

We are not alone.” He whispered to the groggy but waking wife.

An old man stood along the side of the road near a body of a man sprawled on the ground. The older gent was familiar to them, but he was not who they thought he was.

Greetings slime-devil. It has been nine-years since you violated the oath of demons.” The black-eyes looked into Kane’s green.

Well.” Kane said carefully. “Greetings Abraxas. Perhaps you have not been aware of my mate here. This is my wife, the Angel Bronwyn.”

All of the upper ranks are aware of your betrayal and punishment. Up to now, it has been easy, the Masters have plotted against one and another and you were forgotten for a time. And you have saved me from obliteration on three occasions. Once from the Dark Lord himself, you stood up for me and defended the actions that I took.” Looking at the human couple the demon pointed at prostrate form at his feet. “This man here was a lookout for soldiers that are up ahead. They will shoot you full of arrows and take her along with all your goods and wagon.”

We will head another way then. Why warn me, if you would explain once more?” Kane asked.

I owe you three times over, this makes up for one.”

Watch out!” Bronwyn yelled as an arrow hissed out of the wood and hit the old man.

A scream like no other animal sounded out of the old man as the armed warriors emerged from behind the trees of the forest, weapons drawn.

Three more arrows hit the man as he stepped backwards, then transformed into a part-snake and part-human and began to attack the robber-warriors. The sounds were such that the horses spooked. Kane struggled with the panicked animals then spoke words to calm them.

A pull on the silver mouth-bits aimed them at a route past the battling unearthly creature and the robbers. Once the equine minds got the image of safe passage, Kane was nearly out of control as they wasted not one ounce of energy to put distance between the battling humans and the noisy, spitting giant human-snake that caught and ate the highwaymen one at a time. 

Two-minutes of full gallop he pulled back on the reins, making calming noises and stopped the wagon.

Owe you? He Owed you for saving him?” Bronwyn’s voice was air-chilling. “When did you save him? What did you do?”

It was a simple matter of witnessing that he did the right thing. It was your Lord that flooded the world. Abraxas arranged for the ark. He brought along every species of the mosquito.”

“That’s awful.” Bronwyn laughed. 

And yet, you laugh.” Kane said with a smile, wincing slightly as his wife punched him playfully in the shoulder.

 

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 16. A Move To Celtica

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16. A Move To Celtica

Sitting on the beach. A long week of days they had spent in their shop, Kane and Bronwyn had created several pots that they had sold on the mainland called “Gaul”. Kane had become skilled in speaking of the laws of the Celts. Often Tort, criminal law did not exist, but the civil law was complex and often took days to seek an answer to complaints of those wronged. His mind, fatigued from the studies and questions, only enjoying the fire on the beach with his angel laying her head on his shoulder. The cool of the breeze blowing over them caused Kane to pull a sheepskin over them while he tossed more wood on the fire.

“I think we should move, maybe to the south.” Bronwynm said softly. “We have been here long enough that some of the mid-wives are asking when I may have a child, we are not supporting the numbers of children.”

She softly laughed, but Kane did not.

Kissing her nose, he whispered. “Are they jealous that you have kept your girly looks?”

“In fact, they are. Stairiemh has complained that she was more beautiful than I was before she had her second child, now she has a tummy that will not go away.” Bronwyn nodded. “And she is right. She is taller than I am and very beautiful now. But she is not as lithe as a willow as she was when we first came here.”

“They will start noticing our childless status more as time goes on.”

“Yes, and the children are care for by people of the Tuathe. You are the father of no less that ten boys and girls that have adopted you as their favorites.” Bronwyn giggled. “The boys want to go throw that stuffed ball you made. I think it is Dagda’s favorite toy. He is always throwing it up in the air when you are not around. You made it for the kids, but he has taken it for himself. I think you need to make other toys for the kids.”

Kane laughed quietly. “I need to make enough for all the kids with that idea. Every child would need to get one, I’ll be stuffing and sewing for a year!” He covered his face with his hand, I’d have to make a wish list.”

Kissing him softly. “You would be the first Father Christmas.”

“NO! No no no..” He laughed out loud. “We are long years before that era.”

A laughing voice came from behind them. Finis, the Angel of Death, sat with his hands resting on his silver-handled cane.

“Why not set the theme of years to come?” The white goatee-sporting angel chuckled. “Start mankind on giving of their hearts. Giving good wishes to those in the darkest times of the year. This giving is not a religious thing. Let it come from within, give to the children.”

 “Be the seed of what would be come known as a time of giving.” He held out his hand, palm up. “Mankind will twist it in various ways in the years to come. In each society, warrior based would make it more wild. Another society might make it more sexual and still another society may make it a respectful time of those in need and a giving time of presents and food. To take in the homeless or downtrodden. You were once like that.”

“A man alone, in their eyes, and yet?” Finish looked at Kane. “And yet, that they took you in and in time you became a productive member of the society. Maybe you can serve to show the way. Show love to the children, for they are the future of the world.”

Kane sighed. “This society already shows that an entire community raises the children. Everyone takes care of the boys and girls that walk and live.”

“And you can show them a peaceful way to live.”

Bronwyn smiled widely.

Kane frowned. “Why me?”

“Because you are good at it.” Another voice chimed in, it was Micheal, the Archangel.

“The Lord says to make it so. It is a good idea, one that will make your dark master quite angry with you.”

“Yes, he has been angry with me before. Kinda hurt.” Kane said as the memory of the worst pain he ever known came back to him.

The day a demon died.

From that day forward, Kane and Bronwyn traveled in their business trading gems and gold. Often teaching how to sing. Children became more excited with the arrival of the couple that traveled together. Kane created such toys out of wood and leather, for men, often was a small gift, a hatchet, hammer or in some cases if he knew what the need was, a lantern or a pair of shoes. Trading then became much easier with the people who did not know them, knew them by reputation.

Gift giving caught on and became popular, often gifts made by children were given to the couple as gifts for the children of the next village.

Romances blossomed from one clan to the next as love letters delivered  between the distant towns.

Kane laughed on one trip, holding a finely worked calf-hide, sealed with wax.

“And future experts would say that humans did not write for another thousand years.”

Wars halted in times of harvest or in the cold and dark at by the end of the year.

In the eighth year of their living as humans, they had moved to the land of the Celt.

“You will come back?” The bright eyes of an eight-year-old boy Daigh looked up at Kane. “You promise not to stay away?”

Looking at the youth, Kane nodded and smiled.

“I promise. I will come back when the nights are at the longest and the weather is at the coldest. I will come back and we will play games as we have with the ball I have given you.”

“Never break promises to kids.” Daigh said. “I will remember!”

“Nope,” Kane shook his head. “I don’t break my promises to young ones.”

On the coast of mainland, they spread their way of life. Bronze was much easier to obtain and Kane began to teach other young men and women how to sharpen stone tools that they used.

Comments came of course. “The forefather did it this way” and “We do it that way.”

Sometimes, Kane learned some new technique, but most he taught.

Living near the coast, they traded upriver to the communities that desired their arts and crafts as well as Kane’s ax designs in bronze.

Traveling up the river towards a growing village of Lutetia

Kane was quietly contemplating the shape of a hammer in his head. A small hammer with the anvil shaped to fit the needs of a small.

“You know we are going to the future city of passion and love.”

“Oh?” Bronwyn said absent-mindedly as she struggled to sew a carved wood face of a smiling dog on a fuzzy body. Floppy ears for a baby to pull on or a child to cuddle with. “What makes you think that?”

Kane chuckled as she used a rare profanity as the stylus poked a finger through the carefully carved holes in the edges of the wood.

“The village we are going to has a population of only about two-thousand, will one day be Paris.”

“WHAT?” She sat up and laughed. “Really?”

“Yes.” Kane laughed with her. “I helped set back civilization here a few times.”

“Kane. What did you do?” She punched him in the shoulder playfully.

Their chatter filled the late afternoon air as the two lovers moved their wagon of bronze utensils and trinkets for trade in the future city of Paris.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 15. A Brush With Breitheamh (Brehon) Law

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15. A Brush with Breitheamh (Brehon) Law

Tinktinktink..Tinktink. Bronwyn’s small hammer made musical notes on the tiny anvil that her husband and best friend made for her out of the finest bronze. She worked her gold carefully into the decoration that she had carefully chiseled into the back of an unfinished bronze mirror. Kane would polish the mirror after she finished inlaying the gold.

TINKTINKTINK…

She was looking forward to when Kane would return. He was trading for more gold and some gems he had heard were available in raw form at the harbor. He had been gone seven days now and the fine work she had left to do in the little shop would bring them enough trade to keep the tuathe they lived in comfortable enough for a year.

In the last two years after joining the family, they had become accepted with laughter and hugs. Such was their ways of dealing with the humans. At first, Kane kept his distance, but the love of the people and kindness towards wandering strangers impressed the ex-demon.

Kane developed a habit of staying up late with the men and women, telling tall tales of adventure and heroic acts. Little did they know that the stories told were only slightly modified to fit into their world. The concept of flying machines holding entire families and horseless powered chariots were quite beyond the concept of the average person, so stories told of land and sea based adventures where dragons lived and giants grew. Stories that made people laugh, cringe in fear, cry and laugh again as they fell in love with the characters that were in the stories.

Kane for all his disdain for humanity in the beginning, enjoyed the attention he got with his skills of telling of things that were and things to come.

With the skills in artistry and the stories told, they rose in the hierarchy of the tuath and became well-known as skilled artisans and hospitable hosts.

It was late in the afternoon in the outbuilding while Bronwyn tinkered on her designs when two strangers walked out of the oaken forest.

She smelled them before they walked around the wall of the shop. Looking up, she saw they were just standing there, taking in the displayed shiny things that she had made, they were not of the area, indeed looked like men of the northeast. Cruthin or Ulaid perhaps.

We are hungry.” Said the larger of the two men. They had not bathed in some time – they reeked.

“Do you have food? Our hunts have been without success. We have not seen a deer since we left our fine. Give us food and the comfort of your company, when we have our fill, we will go on our way.”

I will feed you and give you water and wine, but the company I hold is mine to choose.”

You WILL!” Shouted the smaller man as he grabbed her by the hair and yanked on the copper-hair.

She grabbed at the hand and pinned it to her head then, twisting around, pinned the man’s arm and smashed his face, with a bang, to the finely carved table, causing dust to fly up off the flat surface and the legs to bounce on the floor. An old move, but so very effective when used against those that were overconfident. Bronwyn did not even wonder about the attack, she just responded with ages old skill.

A back kick to the knee of the other, larger hunter who shrieked in pain and dropped to the floor. Gasped twice for air, then growled with anger while his friend begged for mercy while Bronwyn bent the arm backwards to the breaking point. 

The larger hunter pulled a dagger made from an antler spike,  leaping on to Bronwyn’s back, sticking the sharpened spike into her shoulder.  Bronwyn screamed in agony and let go of the smaller hunter who pulled away and rejoined his and his partner’s attack

Then… Rage.

She felt it. In her heart, it burned like a bonfire. Men who would come and would take that which was not theirs, who felt that her body was theirs to do as they pleased, caught off guard by the burning fury of a soul rescued from ashes.

It was an intense rage like she had not felt in a long time and never on this plane of existence. She wanted these takers, thieves and those who would pillage because they felt that they could.

Then.

The sound of a gong echoed in the small shop as Kane use the head of the large man as a bell clapper against a copper pan he had picked up and swung like a club.

The smaller man was a little more difficult, attacking Kane with his fists, trying to beat the human-demon into the ground. Each punch aimed and thrown to hurt was only batted away with the red-metal pan.

The sound of a bell gonged through the shop again.

The smaller hunter’s knees buckled and he fell forward face-down on the floor of the shop.

Looking at Bronwyn, Kane shrugged holding up the heavy copper skillet.

Frying pans. Who would have thought?”

Brought before the Breitheamh, which was less than a day’s ride from the community of the clan. The men stated they were Cruithni and what they had done. In their tribe, lone women were always available to men who were traveling or hunting. Never had they seen a woman who would fight back or refuse a request of favors.

A Breitheamh, (pronounced Brehon), a skilled judge of the law, agreed upon by the Tuathe Ri. Found that the penalty of the attack was the income of four deer, however how long it took them to hunt, dress and cure the deer meat.

Bronwyn’s wounds healed far faster than the time it took the men to satisfy the words of the Breitheamh, which were also upheld by the Queen of the Tuath.

Messengers ran to the other houses of law of the clans and took messages of findings on the attack by the hunters and their punishment of working off their fines to the community.

No prisons, the theory being that everyone works for the community. In other societies where the rise of the warrior class gave birth to taking life or spending one’s life in jail, the punished worked for the good of the community.

This pleased Kane.

He began to study the laws of the land. This ancient place in history seemed to have a better view of life. All life was precious, all freedoms honored.

He began to speak to the Society of Draoi, the Druids of Hibernia for admission to school of Breitheamh law.

Kane, late of being Hell’s demon of chaos, was becoming a representative for order.

Later that month after he had chosen this path, then thought of the irony of it, he laughed at himself for the first time in many ages. 

If ever there was good humor in a situation, this was it. The Demon of Anarchy and Chaos, studying to act as the champion and warrior of law. 

Kane laughed again.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 14. Heaven on Earth

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14. Heaven on Earth

Cuinn, as he now called himself, looked out the door of his room watching the matriarch of the family teach a small girl-child how to use a loom to make a tight weave of a brightly colored cloth, everything about these people was one of joy and color. Out in the pasture, a young man tended to a horse, sliding his calloused hands over the long legs of the equine. Years of skill and knowledge of what the big animal could do with a single kick now kept the horse calm as he checked the legs for injuries. On the far side, he saw four men who used a fire to point a log that people were going to drive into the ground with the dozen other logs to make an enclosure for the creatures that they kept in abundance.

Once upon a time, he hung on the side of a building and watched as an advanced human race slowly poison themselves with chemicals in the form of drugs to make themselves happy. Here, in the prehistory of that same race, they worked and lived with animals and crops. No one was on the verge of suicide in this group.

He pondered about crime.

Crime? They probably did not even have a word for it.

He had yet to speak to anyone or tell them of his name. Finis had gone, after some length if time, when the eldest male had brought him a tunic of fine wool to wear. The man was rather taken aback with the naked face of the stranger and had asked if he was some sort of girl.

That made the demon laugh inwardly. So he had decided to grow a beard, but it was taking longer than he had expected. It has been several hours and he could not detect any change. As a member of the hoard, he would only have needed a second to change his appearance. This, however, was presenting a challenge, indeed. But he was not going to fail, never would he return as a lowly unnamed slave of anything that crawled out from under a rock.

“You look out on the land as if you have new eyes, fair-faced one.” The sudden voice behind him brought him out of his reverie.

He turned and it was the matriarch of the family, she was tall and slender, her hair behind her head in a single plait that was the color of a sunrise. She was about thirty summers old, by the time of humans able to do space flight, this grandmother, wise and with wisps of gray hair, would be a young woman in the eyes of the society of that far off age.

He opened his mouth to say something, not knowing just what to say and his voice made a croaking sound when he spoke.

“I see beauty in your family and I thank you for your kindness and hospitality. I have been to many places and have lost sight of that which I have seen as beautiful. This family of yours has taught me the meaning of beauty once again.” he smiled softly. “I don’t know the name of your family here.”

His hostess smiled softly and nodded, “The way you found on the road, naked and beaten by someone or something you had made very angry, concerns me. Only this ax that leans against the wall was in your hands. It is unlike anything we have seen.”

She raised one eyebrow as she looked at the ten-pointed ax. “As for our family? We have a few families here. This is what we call a fine (She pronounced it as “finna”), we are a smaller part of a Clan, but when we finish gathering up the sheep and animals that have ranged in the hills here, we will go and meet at the Clan home on the coast, at the edge of the world.”

He nodded understanding, pointing at his ax, “This ax is a weapon and tool that was given to me by someone long ago.” (Or would that be long in the future? Time was not something he could relate to very well, without even including the effort to explain it to this terran.) “I can’t recall his name,” (A lie, but no one needed to know it was Hades, the Emperor of Hell in that time.) “Or for that matter I don’t know my name.”

This was true enough, he had chosen the name “Cuinn”, but wanted to find more knowledge of the people here before he used a name that could be one of a hated history. “All I remember was a man on a horse.”

“That would be my sister’s son, Tosk. He is the leader of the hunt. Nearly always brings back meat for the family and fine. We should find your name, for your spirit cannot be inside you without your name. Who ever struck you and knocked it from you did you a great harm.”

“We would have to drive you out of this area.” She shook her head, sadly. ” Without a spirit, you could harbor a dark demon inside you and brought into our midst.”

He nearly laughed out loud at that. She had no clue about the true nature of the man in front of her. At one point, he would have enjoyed making her weep and turn on any of the host. That was his job and he enjoyed creating bitterness and woe greatly. But now, he looked on her with different eyes.

They knew him not. And yet, and yet they brought in his broken and bruised body and cleaned him up, put him in a bed reserved for guests and clothed him. No other reason he could think of other than it was part of the fabric of this society.

Then, a yell came from below. A rider on a horse was seen riding in on the road was coming towards the enclave. In no hurry, the rider waved at the small group of buildings and the people as the horse and rider made their way up the path. Sleek, tall and black, this horse was unlike the smaller ones that were in the compound. 

The rider looked up at the larger house where he stood in the window and looked out. He felt a thrill of recognition, it was HER. His heart leaped with such joy he bounced on his feet.

“You know this person?” the leader of the clan asked. Gretna was that which all the others had called her. “You act as one of my children when the father returns with a prize of the hunt.”

 “Oh yes, she is known to me. I would go talk with her now.” He smiled and she granted him leave with a smile and nod.

He walked to the black horse with a bounce in his step and a smile on his face.  The new stranger smiled down on him then slipped off the great horse. 

“There you are! I have looked all over for you. I was coming to ask these good folk if you had been seen and that I had lost you.” Her red and gold mane of hair glittered in the mid-morning sunlight. “You are well taken care of I presume?”

“This is Kane, he is my mate.” She said to Gretna. “Ten nights ago he went to get water and never returned,”

“Many foot prints were found near where he should have been and it I feared that the Picts might have taken him.” She looked him in the eye and spoke to the leader of the Fine.

“I thought I had lost you.” She whispered as her fingers caressed his cheek.

He looked her in the eye and mouthed the name, “Kane?” and turned and nodded, “I am Kane! Pleased to meet you and thank you for your kindness.”

Looking back to Bronwyn,

“For a time I have been lost, lost to the world,” Kane said softly. “For I could not speak, lost to these people who saved me for I knew not who I was, taking any name I could, to see if any reminded me of who I was, lost to you because I did not know where you were.”

The newly named human made her smile wider than she had in a very long time.

 “Kane! it is our joy to meet you!” Two men laughed and now greeted him without suspicion. 

They slapped him on the back and welcomed him now as family might greet a long-lost relative.

The crimson haired rider stroked the neck her horse, turning to look at Gretna.

“I am Bronwyn, we are making our way inland, away from the water. Our lives are forever on the edge of the world it seems.”

Bronwyn did not lie. But she covered herself well.

“You are welcome to stay for the night and share our food.” Gretna smiled broadly “If you would trade any stories this will make the night seem short. We have ale, for which we have traded with other clans. Our wool is of the finest on the coast.”

“I would appreciate that and my camp is over in the next valley.” Bronwyn nodded. “I have been lucky to have found him alive and well. I will accept your offer and make the long trip back on the morrow’s first light.”

She walked her horse up the path to the enclosure that was nearly built. Pulling off the bridal she showed it to the men that examined her horse. “I had this made in a land across the water. A whole village used them with the horses. The animals accepted it well and would not buck as badly.”

Gretna smiled broadly and motioned to Bronwyn to come over.

“Let the men play with the new horse, that will keep them busy for most of the day and you know how men are with things that go fast or one as tall. Nor have I seen one as tall as you or your mate Kane.”

The disguised angel nodded and spoke softly to Gretna.

“I wish some time alone with Kane so we can talk and I find out what has happened to him over the last few nights. It is not like him to wander off, and you say he had his ax with him?”

The matriarch answered just as softly, two women that cared deeply for what was theirs and they were in the deepest worry.

“Yes, it is nothing like any of us have ever seen. It gleams like the full moon and has a shape that is impossible for us to figure out how to do with bronze and copper, not counting this moon metal.”

The two women walked up towards the house talking to each other in hushed tones.

Kane felt the fear that all men everywhere feel when two women get together and men are on their tongues in conversation.

Following along behind them, holding to the theory that it was better to keep them close than be surprised about it later when they would come looking for him, later.  Beside the fact that Bronwyn was his liaison here, he knew little about humans and wanted to keep it that way. But now he was in for a battle.

He chuckled darkly, his fortunes had not changed much. But. at least, Bronwyn was nearby and he had an ally. He could not wait to get her alone to find out what she was doing here.

Not one to look down on a fortunate gift, but he just did not know what to think.

That night after the meals had ended and the humans had consumed their fill, only Bronwyn and Kane remained awake.

“What are you doing here? I cannot come back with you, I am here forever, and you are an angel.” He said directly and softly. “You can return any time, yes?”

After she had taken him by the hand and made love to him for the first time in this age, she kissed him a long time before she answered his question.

“I have spoken with my Lord and got permission for you and I to live here and I will help you do what you need to do without being alone.” Brilliant blue eyes sparkled with excitement on the current life. “To keep you from being taken off your path by the imps and demons of your past life. We can do as you wish, but I chose a life with you, life as a human like you. I have no powers, but I will live in immortality like you do. We will span the years together and I can return any time that I wish to the other side. But so long as I am here with you I can’t use any power that I have in my Angel form. When I am here, I am human in form, but I am immortal. I may live as a human, but I am not unprotected from the Dark Side, the Host has many that have supported me. You are not a favorite being, those you have met and brought down in battle do feel some ill will towards you.”

Kane grimaced over the huge angel that had him at her mercy for a moment.

“I think she would have more than a little ill will.” he thought.

Bronwyn continued “They are all wishing us well and good will.” She grinned “Most of them anyway.”

Then Bronwyn frowned slightly, “The cost of this union is that we can never have children, there have been events that have crossed boundaries and plague Angel and Demon alike. But the Lord assures me that this will never be a great issue. But my Lord has denied at every plea, ‘no children’.”

She drew a breath, “This may cause a bit of a tribulation in the future I think, because children are a staple of the energies of the hearth.”

Kane smiled softly, “So long as you are with me, we can make due with anything else. But – No powers at all? What if some of my old brethren got involved. They have no such restrictions.”

“I can use my powers subject to the approval of Gabriel, the Archangel.”

Kane sighed… Gabriel! He and Gabriel had faced each other in battle before and had not found who was the better warrior. This made for some consternation in that Gabriel and Micheal had both been looking and waiting to test him in battle again. This was a terrible worry. He still carried memory of scars and injuries inflicted by those two thunderbolts of the Other Lord. The Dark Lord had healed him when he had returned broken and injured, but never beaten. But never had he been allowed to walk away without scars.

But now he was with his hearts deepest desire. Bronwyn had come to him, giving up all so she could have a life with him and create a life that , to say the least, would be challenging. Here, where the scars could heal, he could cause the very throne of the Emperor to tremble in anger.

This pleased Kane to no end.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 13. Heaven Sent

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13. Heaven Sent

She had been meditating, but peace would not come.

In this place Love and Peace were the orders of the realm. But, alas, such was not forthcoming. She had known that he was cast out and he was living with humans. Even such things are harsh for imps and demons She knew in her heart that she had to try to ask a favor, permission to allow her to help him, somehow.

With a heavy sigh, she stood up and walked away to where help could be obtained.

As she approached the place where the Lord of Everything held court, she met Gabriel the Archangel outside.

“The Lord is expecting you. If anything, you are late.” He brushed a crimson lock out of her face, giving her a critical look and walking circles around the small angel, assessing her,  he gave Bronwyn the rules of speaking in the inner sanctum.

“Speak only when spoken to, keep your answers short and direct. Stand up straight. One word answers are best. Do not exaggerate, you would be found out before you even said the words. Stand straight, smile but do not look directly at the Lord. Use the title at the end of each answer. Yes, Lord. No, Lord. And so forth, stand up straight when you do.” Gabriel plucked at her hair, fluffed her wings, tucked her here and there. Then stopped, tapping his chin with a knuckle. “Spend as little time as possible there, the Lord is very busy. Stand up straight. All answers to questions and requests are final, do not argue or attempt to change the answer with any kind of debate. Be sure to stand up straight. Now, off you go, do not wait around. And stand up straight!”

Bronwyn stepped through the gates and into the light. She was momentarily blinded the bright light on the other side of the portal, but then her eyes adjusted.

She found herself in a garden with the bluest of skies. A woman slightly older than Bronwyn was planting a row of flowers in one area of the garden. No one else was nearby and the woman looked up and smiled but kept at her work that she seemed to enjoy a great deal.

Hesitantly, Bronwyn stepped towards the woman, moving so she could see all that the digging and planting was doing when the woman stood up and brushed the dirt from her hands.

“Well, a lot done, but a lot to do still.” She smiled at the younger angel. “You have come to see me in regards of a matter of the demon who had been cast of hell out by his master and Emperor?”

Bronwyn took a sharp breath.

“You, um, you are the Lord?” She stammered. “I expected someone older, a man with a beard perhaps. I had never thought of a woman.”

“What you wish to see is what I will be,” The Woman-Lord laughed delicately. “But I thought you might have a better time relating to someone closer to your age. Image and perception accounts for a lot when telling of matters such as you have. I can even be a girl of your appearance.”

With that, the Lord changed slightly and appeared as young as Bronwyn, a girl that she could confide in, with bright eyes and wide smile as she sat.

“Tell me! Tell me about him? Is he exciting? Does he make your toes curl when you think of him?” The girl held a flower to her nose and sniffed it with her eyes shut. “Someone that would hold your hand and laugh with a sparkle in his eyes just for you.” She giggled as she put the flower in Bronwyn’s hair. “Have some of this! It is what is called chocolate, one of my greatest creations!”

Bronwyn laughed nervously as she took a bite of the small bit of dark confection, it was heaven on her tongue.

“This is a bit too much, too fast of a change.” She gave a deep sigh. “But, I know he is among humans, he is alone and can not speak the language. He risked everything of his being just for me.”

“He now is in need of help,” Bronwyn frowned. “And we are always sent to help someone who needs or asks. Even if they should never ask, you have said that to offer, to teach a way out is the best way. That sometimes those that can see the clearest are the most blind.”

The Supreme Being now appeared as an elderly woman with wisdom and long found happiness nodded.

“My child, you have the power to do as you wish. It has always been about freedom of choice. You are here on this plane of existence because of the path you have chosen. He is on his path because of the choices he made in his early life. If you believe he needs guidance and help, you may go. Finis has already talked with him and given him a gift that will be most useful. But you must choose. Only you can choose. You can guide him as an angel and then Finis is no longer going to act as a go-between, until… and if… your demon fails his tribulation.” The elder Lord said softly.

She stroked a wilted and dying flower that became tall and strong again at her touch, she turned and took Bronwyn’s hands in hers, the matronly image continued.

”If he fails and falls, Finis will return him to the dark-side as a slave forever; or you can go without your powers, as immortal as his Dark Lord has condemned him to live, but you will not have any other direct contact than Finis. He will be your mentor, guide and go-between of this place and the human existence, other angels have spoken. They have all said that they will not aid or hinder. The only one that offered to make contact with you is Finis, the Angel of Death, I have left it to him to act as a messenger. Other than Finis, you may not call upon the Host for any reason. You can speak in prayer to me only.”

Bronwyn jumped up, dancing on the balls of her feet, her mind made up.

“I choose the life of being a human with him! If that is one of my choices, that is the choice I will be!”

“My dear child, be sure this is what you want. On earth there is a saying ‘be careful of what you wish for, you may get it.'” The Grandmother-Lord said softly.

“Lord, this is what I want. What I wish to do with him, where ever he goes on that plane, I will be at his side.”

“Then it is so,” The slightly older woman appeared again. “You may keep your blessed sword and angel armor, you will have knowledge that you have now and clothing. Several of the Archangels have said they also have gifts to give you that will not cause disruption with humans. No magic, no powers. But you will not grow old, this is one of the trials you will have to endure. For if it seems that you are more than human, all my children on earth will turn on you and he. You can not stay in one area for long. No place will be a permanent home for the both of you. Wars will come, famine, terrible things. He is in a time of prehistory of humankind. The best and most worst of the human soul has yet been realized. You will be part of it, you may influence it to one degree or another. Finis will help guide you through the times and ages. But be warned! Demons and other dark forces will try to create havoc with you and cause him to fail. All he has to do is call upon his powers once. Just once. Just one time and he will be lost to the Emperor of Hell for all time.”

“My child, go now to him.” She said it with a motherly look in her eyes. “You have only one chance to choose. Make the wise choice, for it will be forever. Time will move for you only one direction, one minute after another. Time cannot be as flexible for you as it is for the Host, how we can choose to move forward or backward through time. For us, time is not a line, but there for you, it will be.”

She smiled. Once more a girl the same age as Bronwyn.

“Go on hun! Be happy and take good and well care of him. Give him some loving from me, too!” Her soft voice sounded like bells as she talked and laughed while she bounced on her feet like an excited teen confided in by a friend about her love.

Bronwyn walked down the path with a light heart and a little fear, at the edge of the garden she turned and looked back. There stood a smiling grandfather type that held a growing flower in his hand as he tenderly planted another growing life in the fertile soil of the garden.

Laughing, she turned and left the garden with confidence and a smile that made Gabriel scratch his head.

 

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 12. The First Sunburn

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12. The First Sunburn

Hours passed and the sun slowly slipped behind the trees, shading him, the cool change awoke him gently. He felt rested, but oddly stiff. A large lump had formed on his forehead. No doubt a souvenir of either his fall or near drowning. Another survey of himself showed that he looked like, well, like hell. Lumps and bruises covered him in a familiar coloring in many parts of his body. But more, his skin was a deep crimson hue and was more sensitive to the touch than he recalled from several hours ago when he first crawled on the rock and slept in the warming sun. 

Looking over the edge of the rock, he could see his ax glittering in the water below, but it’s depth was at least over his head.

He had to go get it, calling to it was out of the question, it was an exercise of his demonic powers, he knew. So he had to go get it like a human. Standing there he thought of a plan to retrieve it.

He jumped in, feet first, near where he could see his ax and he went all the way to the bottom. Putting feet on the rocky bottom and grabbing at the shiny blur – success! The now-human kicked off the bottom he launched himself much like when he could fly.

He broke the surface he found he was farther downstream than he thought he would be. He washed against some large boulders that formed a natural pool. He struggled against the current, slipping on the smooth river-rock. He climbed and slipped, climbed again. The fight to get out of the chill water was the most difficult he could remember. 

His hands were cold and slick, but using the hook end of the weapon to hauled himself up and out of the cold water. Chilled again, he looked around and followed a path downstream, slipping once on a rock that cut his foot painfully he fell into the dust of the late afternoon. Dust and dirt sticking to his wet, sunburned skin and limping in pain from the laceration on the instep of his foot, he walked as best he could. He fatigued quickly and began to shiver violently in the waning light of the day, even as he exerted himself. Stepping into a clearing and realized he stood on a wide path – more like a road! This meant someone must use it.

He was thankful as he walked a the slight downhill slope when a cloaked rider and horse pulled up, surprised at the sight of a nude, sunburned, dirt-covered and battered walker, the rider looked about the tree line.

“Who are you and what has happened that you would be looking like you are nearly dead?” The rider asked.

He knew the language well, but found he could not talk to the rider. His new body did not include knowledge on how to talk in a language. He had never spoken in a Terran voice, all he could do was make incomprehensible noises and then point at his throat.

Only then did he feel the great weight of what he would learn later would be total exhaustion. He felt like so much weight in his feet that he could no longer take another step. He slumped to his knees, using his weapon and sole companion as a brace, then his consciousness slipped into the darkness that closed around him and took him in its merciful embrace.

When he next awoke, he was on a sleeping pallet with a brightly dyed blanket over him and a familiar figure sitting on a stool watching him.

He had the look of an old man, but to call him elderly would be a mistake. He resembled a bearded grandfather, or the personification of the spirit of giving that is St. Nicholas. Except this jolly old St. Nick looked like one who spent far too much time in the gym and this was no ordinary angel.

Finis, the Angel Of Death, was watching the banished demon-come-human with an entertained look on his face.

“How do you feel? You have been asleep for nearly 24 hours.” He spoke in the language of the Host that only those of either side could understand.

“I have pain in places I never thought I had.” He took a breath and moaned as he tried to move. “This is a bad place for me, I cannot speak the languages even though I can understand them. The Dark Lord has put me in a dangerous place. I can not use my powers or I go back.”

The new human sighed heavily and leaned back closing his eyes against the nightmare that he found himself in. All because of his weakness for the Angel named Bronwyn.

Finis chuckled quietly before he spoke.

 

“There is one thing that the Supreme one granted to you.” He smiled. “After this, you can speak their language, and I can expand on that. You will be able to talk to all of them in their native tongues, after a fashion. You need familiarity with who you are talking with before you are able to speak to them. It would also be best that you think of something to explain why you were acting like some insane wild man staggering down the road looking like someone had beaten you with every ugly stick in these mountains.”

“What do I call myself? What CAN I call myself that doesn’t raise eyebrows and questions?”

The Angel of Death thought for a moment.

“You were not named by the Emperor, this would be a good thing, you would want to use that and this would be bad. No demon’s name would work on this plane of existence. As for a good name? I see that you had landed in a stream. Call yourself “Hill” or “Rivers” or something anyone would accept in this age.”

“Okay, good for a last name, but what about a first?” He thought of the name of Greenhill as he asked the Angel, shaking his head and not liking the name.

Finis looked away for a moment and sighed, “At this time in human history, there where few that had more than one name, and you are in a Celt, actually pre-Celt time. I would pick something like Conn or Cuinn, these are common names of this era.”

“I think Cuinn will work, recall that name as being one of the earliest recorded names– and you say this is what age?” He nodded.

“I have not told you yet.” Finis shook his head. “There are many things you have yet to learn about that are going to work for and against you.” the angel took a breath, “First: this is the late Neolithic era the island of what will be known as Ireland in the future time-line. You cannot change your time and you are alone. You can not die – you are immortal, but you will be surprised how much pain and misery you can live through. Added to the requirement that you must not use any of your powers, but they will be at your fingertips always. All you need to do is call upon them.  But!” The Angel of Death held up his index finger in admonishment. “Just one time and AFTER you do? You will return and then suffer the ravages of the condemned, forever as a slave of hell, no name, no power other than to scream in agony, to run along next to the victims of those who have fallen prey to the true demons. You cannot use any power, any time if you wish to stay here and away from the pits of Hell. They will all be watching, Angel AND Demon. All want you to fail, you have inflicted too much damage to Angels, have advanced too far in the Hoard. Only myself had any thoughts to deal with you directly as a liaison.”

“The only one that wants to deal with me is the Angel of Death, the one being that NO one wants to talk to, in the first place?” His predicament was getting so much worse by the minute.

Cuinn sighed and nodded, the most vile parts of human history had such things as dismemberment and torture. If he was at the dawn of the bronze age, he had a lot of superstitions to deal with in the coming years.

Pulling at his ear he asked Finis. “So you are to by my companion through all of this? My spy to the non-corporeal side?”

Finis laughed out loud, “HO! Hah… no… I am simply your liaison. You have someone who is even now seeking to assist you. You do not have many who would help you, there are many that have a grudge against you and that ax of yours.”

Looking out the window, Cuinn nodded slowly. It was war between the two sides, but hard feelings for those that suffered the pain of being sent back by his hand still existed. He was still the enemy after all. He could not see the angels that surrounded him and wished him to fail, to become a lowly slave of the deepest depths of Hell and not one of their own.

He wondered just who would be the spy, the friend that would help him or the underhanded soul who might push him to fail.

This would be a short rebellion on his part, he would be the lesson for everyone else who dared cross lines.

No one cheated Satan.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chatper 11. Hell on Earth

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11. Hell on Earth

It was this demon that had betrayed the battle!

TRAITOR!

It was HIS cause for the failure of the plan. Claw of Hades now sheathed, hummed a warning too late!

The bolt of demon-fire struck him between the shoulders, Claw of Hades took most of the unholy blast, saving the demon. The wounded demon fell down on the path at the base of the raised platform, his body smoking from the fire of the Devil.

Pain! A lot of pain, groaning as he struggled to stand, the sentence was coming. This was going bad quickly. For even among immortal demons, there are fates worse than death.

Then it came.

“If this demon so desires to protect humans, he can live as one!” The Emperor shouted as he passed the judgment .

The Dark One announced the punishment rules. 

The demon only had to bow to what he really was,  and return to this place of punished souls. It would take only a one time use, JUST ONCE,  of his demon powers and he would return forever, not as a warrior, but as a slave.

No name, no power to inflict misery on any of the residents of the race of man. For his would be one of the background agonies that those that have turned their back on the other Master would hear. His own misery would be music for the damned to listen to for all eternity.

As the Emperor read off the sentence, the demon moved suddenly.  A sudden thought,  a plan!  He knew of he had to strike against this wrong, to strike down that which deserved it the most.  With a single movement he threw Claw of Hades directly at the Emperor.

And missed.

Straight and true it sailed, until Claw of Hades was intercepted by Emperor’s personal guard, who then handed the humming, living weapon to the Devil, the six-clawed hand wrapped around the weapon with a sensual, almost sexual stroking of it’s cutting edge.

A pause, and he amended the sentence, the demon was to keep the battle-ax and care for it. If the small demon used for any purpose that was beyond the powers of a human, he would return as a slave, to burn and suffer the exquisite agonies of the damned, he would be music to the lost souls of that place of humans.

No growing old and no peaceful death as a good person. That would make it too easy to get out of it and go to the other side.

He would be immortal still. Living as a human, never growing old, trying to hide his true nature from the weak-minded life that called itself “Human”. They would force him to show his true nature and weaknesses. He could learn how insane humans could be with someone different from themselves. Then, the Emperor was confident on this point, when he used his powers, he would fail and return to serve as one of the lowest caste only. His rank would not be restored.

With this, a shimmer of a blue flame appeared at the hand of the High Demon of All and raced towards the lessor demon.

PAIN! OH Sweet PAIN! He closed his eyes and screamed in agony. Claw of Hades struck him across the chest, the force of the blow knocked him to the ground. Agony… The fire burned deeply, only once did he try to stand, then his right-wing broke off with a hissing crack. His hide, his very flesh was melting off! The center of his soul was boiling in pain and anguish. Nothing lasts forever, but this was non-ending pain.

Then…

Suddenly.

It was over and a weightless sensation overtook him just long enough to let him realize that he was falling. He landed hard on the soil, bounced and slipped over the edge of a ravine, vines and brambles scraped his flesh as he fell. As he slid by the roots and as he became more aware, he reached out and grabbed at them as he went by.

Abruptly he was airborne, he felt the rush of air past his skin was an oddly pleasant sensation until he landed on his back in a shallow pool of a stream. The shock of the cold water stimulated his numb body, he could feel. And his tail HURT! He felt agony as if he had his tail torn out by the root, or burned off. Pain was all-encompassing and he screamed.

Then as suddenly as he grabbed at the root of his tail, he realized it was gone. The pain subsided and he realized he was lying nude on his back in a sandy shallow stream. The pain subsided and he pushed himself up on his hands into a sitting position.

Sound from above. Something was coming through the bushes from where he had come.

He looked up and his battle-ax and companion of lo these many conflicts sailed over the bluff falling like a spear down at him. Making squawking sounds, he kicked hard backwards as the main blade embedded itself half of its length in the sand. Half a hand width closer it would have emasculated him in a way that made him double-check that nothing was missing.

He chuckled, in a nervous-hysterical tone at the nearness of the miss–and then stopped.

The sound was alien, he never made that sound in his memory. It was a curious sound, then he became curious of all the changes of his appearance as he looked at his hands and body. Skin, no scales, no fur.

Just pink skin.

He was not sure in his curiosity, not really wanting to look at his disfigurement, but chose to look anyway. Taking several steps to a quiet pool he looked at his reflection in it, he was far different from what he looked like before. His eyes were forward-looking and deep-set, glittering in the reflected light, his mouth was wide enough for that chuckle that he just heard – and then some. The hellfire that he just sustained had done more than take his armored hide, it changed him into a HUMAN!

Not bad-looking either.

He stood there, looking about himself, shivering. The cold water had chilled him and he was still standing knee-deep in the stream, there were two very steep banks on each side and he could see no path out of the stream bed. With a grunt he pulled his old friend and battle-ax out of the sand and he started to hike downstream to look for a way out of his predicament.

Finding that his walk out was difficult, caused by the slippery stones that lined the mountain stream, he stepped down into a pool of water that was deeper than he thought and he fell in, immediately went in over his head, and a sudden panic set in as he struggled to the surface. In the struggle to get out of the water, he dropped his ax as he grabbed for a purchase on the sides of a large smooth rock. The now-human swept along with the flow of water until he found a grip a short distance downstream and pulled himself up to a flat part of a large rock. He lay there in the sun for several moments coughing retching with his lungs complaining of the water that he had swallowed.

A few minutes of trying to catch is breath, the naked, cold man collapsed face first on the outcropping, The texture of rock was warm to his cheek, for which he was thankful. His sense of time was lost in the warmth of the sun on him, catching his breath and warming. Wonderfully, he was no longer shivering and after several moments, warmed by the sun and rock, exhausted from his recent journeys of battle, pain of having been burned out of hell, dropped thirty-feet through berry bushes, trees, and brambles into a box ravine, becoming badly chilled and then nearly drowning, then warmed by the gentle sunlight, he slept a dreamless sleep on his first day of being human.

9. The Big Switch

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9. The Big Switch

On earth, no telescopes spotted the approaching missile, no alarms sounded anywhere. As the first of the chunks of space debris fell into to the atmosphere, heads turned and looked up. Only minimal alarm was felt anywhere until the planet suffered a direct hit at the Yucatán peninsula.

All eyes looked at the growing column of destruction as the shock wave, faster than the speed of sound, overwhelmed the witnesses. There was little time to panic, less time to react as the wind left only dust behind. It pulverized the very ground, turning stone and stick into missiles. Pebbles flying faster than a bullet rode the shock waves as death spread from the epicenter of the impact. The very air became compressed, heating to thousands of degrees as it scoured the planet of life. Death rained down from the upper atmosphere heating the air to oven temperatures. Firestorms blasted along the ground with the super-hurricane winds that blasted flesh and earth as the shock wave spread around the globe.

Among the messengers of the Host. Profound was the sadness and defeat. All the host hovered above the beauty that their lord had created without moving, now a smoking ruin. No commands came to save any souls, all was silent sadness. So much life lost, for no reason. The dark realm had won with the effort of the host, the Dark Lord’s plans blindsided the Host. A betrayal of the war, they had obliterated those they swore to protect.

Then, quietly. One of the highest angels appeared, smiling. She commanded them all to walk the land and see up close.

No one had died.” She announced in a soft voice.

Unbelieving, the bruised and depressed army of angels walked the land in a slow, defeated march. Looking about them at the death and wreckage of the planet. Picking out the view of body parts that laid strewn about were oddly shaped in death. Here a cow type of creature, its skeleton denuded of flesh as it lay in the gray dust and ash.

Some of the warriors noticed an odd club-shape to the end of its tail. An odd deformity, for sure. Then the group looked around, a parrot beaked animal, huge in size, lay on its side with a bony crest covering its neck broken, but still obvious what it was. This was what the humans had identified as a triceratops! This was a prehistoric animal, long before the Lord chose the next step for this planet.

The Lord and Master of this all had allowed the armies of the Dark Realm to believe they had won. Only just changing time in the universe when no one would be aware, when all other battles were raging to whatever end. Meanwhile the world of the man was safe.

A simple change for the supreme being. No one expected to have the universe around them changed, without a sound as the Master of All simply changed where in the time-line that the destruction happened.

 

6. Dawn’s Early Light

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6. Dawn’s Early Light

Outside the dawn broke to a cloudless day. The demon sat in the canopy of the trees, a shadow in shadows. Pondering what had happened.

What HAD happened?

It was beyond his knowledge or reason. Unbelievably the pain and anger had gone for a few moments. Being immortal he had always known blackness, it comforted him in the mischief that his kind did. Even in battle with the Others, he enjoyed sending them back to their Lord with grievous injuries. His own injuries let him just be stronger for the pain from them. But feeling the seed of calm in him was disturbing and confusing.

A shadow!

Clouds had begun to drift over the valley, the imp flitted above them and looked down from high above. From his hiding spot in the puffy white clouds, he spotted a shepherd trying to get a small lamb out of a muddy pool.

In that moment he struck on an idea, in the early morning light, his wings made hardly a sound as he dropped lightly by a ram, he whispered into its ear and pointed. The Shepard being busy trying to free his charge from its muddy prison was unaware of the glint in the eye of the ram as it charged towards his unprotected backside.

The lamb could only duck as the man sailed over her head and landed on the other side in the deeper mud and water. Yelling oaths and making comments about the rams parentage, the man failed to notice the shadow that flitted through the growth of trees stampeding the free sheep in all directions. The demon cackled at this mischief then flapped his leathery wings and hid in the cloud above and watched the man free himself and the lamb at the same time.

Finally the shepherd crawled up on dry land where he stood and turned. Looking from the edge of the mud puddle, the Shepherd saw his flock had spread through the trees. The mud covered, soaking wet and fuming shepherd was making comments about the parentage of the ram when he put down the lamb he reached for his hat and found it missing. He swore and looked around and found it.

There it lay behind him and still in the mud, too far out to reach.

Jumping up and down cursing incoherently at the top of his voice, the sounds of the Shepherd’s anger was music to the demon’s ears. The man struggled back out into the mud to the hat that was beyond the reach of his crook, swearing and screaming. The demon’s dark spirit was lifted, this was a good moment in this morning of frustration and confusion. His morning mischief complete.

Then he was gone in a clap of thunder that was heard by humans down the vale and presumed  that it was the last grunt of the waning storm.

13. Heaven Sent

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13. Heaven Sent

She had meditated, but peace would not come. In this place Love and Peace were the orders of the realm. But, alas, such was not forthcoming. She had known that Satan cast him out and was living with humans. Even such things are harsh for imps and demons. She knew in her heart that she had to try to ask the favor and be allowed so she could help him, somehow. With a heavy sigh, she stood up and walked away to where help could be obtained.

As she approached the place where the Lord of Everything held court, she met Gabriel the Archangel outside.

“You have been expected. If anything, you are late.” He brushed a crimson lock out of her face, giving her a critical look as he gave Bronwyn the rules of speaking in the inner sanctum.

“Speak only when spoken to, keep your answers short and direct. One word answers are best. Do not exaggerate, you would be found out before you even said the words. Stand straight, smile but do not look directly at the Lord, stand up straight. Use the title at the end of each answer. Yes, Lord. No, Lord. And so forth. Spend as little time as possible there, the Lord is very busy. Stand up straight. All answers to questions and requests are final, do not argue or attempt to change the answer with any kind of debate. Be sure to stand up straight. Now, off you go, do not wait around. And stand up straight!”

Bronwyn stepped through the gates and into the light. She was momentarily blinded, but as her eyes adjusted, she found herself in a garden with the bluest of skies. A woman slightly older than her was planting a row of flowers in one area of the garden. No one else was nearby, and the woman looked up and smiled, but kept at her work that she seemed to enjoy a great deal.

Hesitantly, Bronwyn took a step towards the woman, moving so she could see all that the digging and planting was doing when the woman stood up and brushed the dirt from her hands.

“Well, a lot done, but a lot to do still.” She smiled at the younger angel. “You have come to see me in regards of a matter of a demon thrown out by his master and Emperor?”

Bronwyn took a sharp breath “You are the Lord? I expected someone older, a man with a beard perhaps. I had never thought of a woman.”

The Woman-Lord laughed delicately. “I can be what you wish to see, but I thought you might have a better time relating to someone closer to your age. Image and perception accounts for a lot when telling of matters such as you have. I can even be a girl of your appearance.”

With that, the Lord changed slightly and appeared as young as Bronwyn, a girl that she could confide in, with bright eyes and a large smile as she sat.

“Tell me! Tell me about him? Is he exciting? Does he make your toes curl when you think of him?” The girl picked a flower and sniffed it with her eyes closed. “Someone that would hold your hand and laugh with a sparkle in his eyes just for you.” She giggled as she put the flower in Bronwyn’s hair.

Bronwyn laughed softly. “This is a bit too much, too fast of a change.” She sighed, “But, I know he is among humans, he is alone and cannot speak the language. He risked everything for  me.”

Bronwyn frowned. “He now is in need of help and we are always meant to help someone who needs or asks. Even if they should never ask, you have said that they should be offered a way out. That sometimes the most sighted can be the most blind.”

The Supreme Being now appeared as an elderly woman with wisdom and long found happiness nodded. “My child, you have the power to do as you wish. It has always been about freedom of choice. You are here on this plane of existence because of the path you chose. He is on his path because of the choices he made in his early life. If you think he needs guidance and help, you may go. Finis has already talked with him and given him a gift that will be most useful. But you must choose. Only you can choose. You can guide him as an angel and then Finis is no longer going to be involved, until… and if… he fails his tribulation.” The elder Lord said softly.

Taking Bronwyn’s hands in hers, the matronly image continued. ”Finis will return him to the dark-side as a slave forever; or you can go without your powers, just as immortal as he is, but you will not have any other direct contact than Finis. He will be your mentor, guide and go-between of this place and the human existence, other angels have spoken. They have all said that they will not aid or hinder. The only one that has said he would make contact with you is Micheal, I have left it to him to act as a messenger. Other than Finis, you may not call upon the Host for any reason. You can speak in prayer to me only.”

Bronwyn jumped up. “I choose to be human with him! If that is one of my choices, that is the choice I will be!”

“My dear child, be sure this is what you want. On earth there is a saying ‘be careful of what you wish for, you may get it.’”

“Lord, this is what I want. I wish to live with him, wherever he goes on that plane, I want to stand at his side.”

The slightly older woman appeared again “Then it is so, you may keep your blessed sword and angel armor, you will have knowledge that you have now and clothing. Several of the Archangels have said they also have gifts to give you that will not cause disruption with humans. No magic, no powers. But you will not grow old, this is one of the trials you will have to endure. For if it is thought that you are more than human, they will turn on you and he. You can not stay in one area for very long. No place will be a permanent home for the both of you. Wars will come, famine, terrible things. He is in a time of prehistory of human kind. The best and worst of the human soul has yet to be realized. You will be part of it, you may influence it to one degree or another. Finis will help guide you through the times and ages. But be warned! Demons and other dark forces will try to create havoc with you and cause him to fail. All he has to do is call upon his powers once. Just once. Just one time and he will be lost to the Emperor of Hell for all time.”

With a motherly look in her eyes “My child, go now to him. You have only one chance to choose. Make a wise choice, for it will be forever. Time will move for you only one direction, one minute after another. Time will not be as flexible for you as it is for the Host, how we can pick and move forward or backward through time. For us, time is not a line, but there for you, it will be.”

She smiled. Once more a girl appearing the same age as Bronwyn. “Go on hun! Be happy and take good and well care of him. Give him some love from me, too!” Her soft voice sounded like bells as she talked and laughed while she bounced on her feet like an excited teen confided in by a friend about her love.

Bronwyn walked down the path with a light heart and a little fear, at the edge of the garden she turned and looked back. There stood a smiling grandfatherly type that held a growing flower in his hand as he tenderly planted another growing life in the fertile soil of the garden.

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