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 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 5. Mental Health with a Baby Stroller

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Chapter 5. Mental Health with a Baby Stroller

As Steve pushed the small strolling cart he obtained from a secondhand store, it rumbled along the sidewalk without much effort, as was expected for the small machine. He didn’t look back, his mission was to observe and record all he could at any base he could without compromising his cover.

He appeared as a hunched over homeless old man, and with mutterings to himself. He reduced his height and he looked like he stood no more than two-inches over five feet tall. His hair lengthened with the hair follicles stimulated to grow a ten-inch-per-hour speed at a cost of a lot of stored energy, it forced  him to eat the entire jar of peanut butter that Genesee gave him to balance the fuel costs.

In the day that Steve left the house of Carl and Genesee Bonsell, they had a long and enlightening conversation of a religious nature. Jesus, a teacher of twenty-centuries before was their savior.  The debate was long and enlightening and gave the android another entry about errors in the database. 

They gave him a new backpack with clothes, Carl’s warm jacket and let the young man to trek on his mission. By the time he reached the shopping strip four miles away, his appearance was that of a woman in her twenties, and  looked for a jogging stroller.

Purchased with cash, the woman with blood-red hair became a hunched, salt-and-pepper haired man that he was now as soon as she was out of sight.

Stopping at a gas and car-wash, he walked through the car wash, taking the filth that collected on the floor near the drains, running the slime through his hair and over his face. He approximated the look of a long-term homeless man walking along the road without difficulty.

Still, he had time to process all facets of the his conversation about the Bonsell’s savior, his challenges that he put forward the Reverend Bonsell took with smiles and patiently explained the bible and the contradictions it seemed to have.

They also supported, with accepted fact of the Roman Tacitus wrote records that identified him as a real person, enough people spoke about the happenings of the days after the death of the wandering, itinerant carpenter-teacher. 

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

Faced with such details and the couple pointed out that it is always easy to ret-con history. Steve countered they would be doing the same. But there was Tacitus again. 

He researched his databases as he walked and thought. Having to patch his algorithms to match the research for facts conflicted with the programming. He had assumed that it was more logical to follow the consensus that there were not any forgeries in this small set of records. This was becoming a problem, he needed to understand.  So.  He circumvented the program of the exclusion of outside information to be incorporated into his core database.  

He was an autonomous structure, his programming conflicted, so the rational program cycle clashed iwth the older exclusive programming. 

The adaptive subroutine required it to prevent loss of mission objective and he logged into the database of a carpenter that the Roman Empire did terrible things to.

The wars after his leaving the earth.

In the centuries that passed, even documents that the boy, then an apprentice-carpenter sat at the feet of old Drui priests as his uncle and father traded services for desired arts and crafts for trade back in the civilized world.

He muttered the different views of what he had in his database with what he learned. The heuristic algorithm determining that such repeated conversations with himself would give him a greater range of leeway with the gatekeepers he would make contact with.

At the corner, he followed the road with his jogging stroller (Since folded up dragged in mud and crud) and his backpack that suffered the same filth treatment, he presented a sight of a crazed homeless man who would appeared displaced by the storm two days previous.

“Sir.” The crisp uniformed guard stepped out and intercepted him.

The discussion escalated with Steve repeating religious passages at the top of his voice, with interjections of a local native language, the soldier cuffed him and then took the disguised android at first to the detainment area, then to the medical facility on the base where they cleaned him up so long as he was not fighting any of the nurses.

In a few hours, looking out windows and continuing to mumble, he had his temperature taken (Exactly at thirty-seven degrees celsius as controlled by the regulating program) his skin sagged in wrinkles and unsurprisingly, his DNA was not in any database of the US government.

The presupposition then was he had not committed any crime anywhere.

He was just a slightly demented old man who answered questions, just appropriately enough with some excursions into confusing words, to not pose a danger to himself or others.

The commanding officer came down and spoke with the doctor in front of Steve.

The officer offered to transport him to the next town north.

Nodding in agreement with a subordinate officer, it was not strictly by the book, but incarcerating the homeless man was equally wrong and a greater waste of taxpayers dollars.

The next transport to the town north would take him and drop him off in at the bus station there.

The CO of the facility walked out with the doctor and left Steve to stand alone and look out the windows.

Little did they know, Steve recorded everything, including the cell-phone that rang and the officer spoke with his warrant officer on base of the assigned departure of attack aircraft.

The number and description of every aircraft in the flight could be heard over the secure line while the officer spoke over his personal device in the corner out of earshot of the busy doctor and the disinterested appearing homeless man.

Before the officer was out of the building, he transmitted all recorded information regarding the flight of warplanes over the worldnet to Point Of Origin for his mission.

Cleaned and washed, they returned his clothes to him freshly washed, subtle wrinkles along the seams his jacket and clothes were carefully and deeply surveyed from EM radiation to a micro-sniffer for anything that might constitute a threat of biological or chemical type.

They never surveyed him past his blood pressure, lungs and tympanic temperature.

Taken to the van, the driver allowed him to sit in the front passenger seat.

Steve smiled blankly as another driver approached and asked a favor of the first driver to deliver a folder to another office ASAP.

Nodding, the two friends parted company and a quick u-turn as they made the four-minute detour to drop off the file that the technician waited for.

Steve recorded every road, every bump, he obtained unprecedented views of the base and recorded it all in different wavelengths.

He discovered the oversight that he should have a passive receiver to pick up any data or communication transmissions.

Still and all, by the time he departed under guard as a harmless dot of debris that drifted into their base, he gathered nearly a terabyte of information. A successful incursion on the American military base.

His next opportunity would be another approach, switching of genders was the plan.

In the center of the small community he stepped out of the van, the driver returning his stroller and backpack to him.

By the time the van made the corner, Steve stood nearly six-feet tall and broad-shouldered.

Pulling his blood-red hair back into a ponytail, the milky-cataracts of the old man were bright and emerald green.

Instead of a local homeless, he was a northern tier states citizen on a hike through the country with a three-day scruff of strawberry-blond beard on his face, girls who walked past him on the street smiled and looked him from head to foot.

Shallow Americans, they judged him on his appearance.

Something deep in his processors, he was deceiving the population that believed him.

Even with all the technology, he was not forced, even if they coerced him into helping.

But they did not ask for anything from him, just his time and his strength, that he modified to an average young man’s strength.

His next stop, he walked to a motel and rented a room. The matronly woman at the counter asked if he was alone and finding it shocking that he traveled solo.

Smiling at her as he nodded shyly.

“I’m on a mission for God.” His calculations were spot-on. The woman smiled and nodded knowingly.

“The Good Book is in every room, I make sure of it.” She held hers up. “But God does not wish for young men to spend his life alone all the time, they need the company of a woman to keep them out of trouble. I think you will find company here if you only just look.”

Giving her a soft smile he walked out to his room. The core processors working overtime to understand what the woman meant.

Americans were becoming more difficult to understand with every step.

He slid the keycard in the slot and the door opened to a simple, but comfortable room and put his backpack inside.

Putting out his “Do not disturb” sign he lay down and turned off the lights. Even before the sun was fully set, he powered down all systems.

A question formed in his mind, something that occurred at the home of the Bonsells.

Did he dream when he was “Sleeping”?

He wanted to know.

Irelan’s Adventures Chapter 4. Kepler-A

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4. Kepler-A

I stayed with your great-grandma, because I was so little. The Emerald Emperor was very kind to us.  Grandma Irelan said as she turned the page of her leather bound journal to continue reading to the children at her feet.

“We’ve been in a shooting war with the Union for over a century now. I was in my early twenties when it happened.” The green armored man said as he lead them across the grassy area. He let Irelan hold his wrist charm. “Still have it, Irelan?”

“Yes. See!”  She held it up to his amusement.

“Keep it safe for me, okay? As long as it twinkles, it will keep you safe, too.” He had a nice smile.

“So, you look like you’re only in your forty-somethings now.” Commander Espiosa observed. “Please, explain.”

She didn’t trust the leader of the Emerald Empire. She strongly suspected that he might be lying, and she was going to find a way to escape if she could.

“Remember when I told you about the vaccination that made me a kind of chameleon?”  He pulled at his ear, as if he was reciting common knowledge. “Some of the vaccines came from a slow-growing sea life. A giant clam. The virus was killing people at a geometric rate.  In the first month, a thousand people died with their flesh turning into a soup right on their bodies. The first five days of the second month, there were another thousand. After that, the government was in a hurry.”

The commander nodded, imagining when the world stood on the brink of being sterilized by a virus mutated from a biogenic toxin of a war on another world.  

“The government inoculated everyone, and like in the Pirate Confederacy home planet, it had unexpected results. Effects were varied. Mine was hiding in plain sight, but I also age slower.“ He thought for a minute. “By a factor of three or four. So, for every year I age, there is perhaps four decades that go by.”

He took a deep breath.  

“Others, like my girlfriend at the time, she became somewhat…” They stood still for a moment while he paused in a memory. “Feline. She changed her name to Felinae Qatamount, then went into the hills to fight against the Union on her terms.”

“So, what happens when you get a vaccine now?” She looked at him. “I’m not going to have my daughter turned into a mushroom or anything.”

“Mush brooms? Yuck!” Irelan shook her head.  “I don’ wanna be a mush broom.”

“No, after the government vaccinated everyone and it stopped the Rot, we went back and corrected the transcription errors. But those that were affected will have to live out their lives. The planet itself is under tight quarantine. You were only able to pass because you didn’t know of the magnetic flux of the planet.”

“This place sounds more like hell than a colony.”

“In some respects, yes. The virus mutated from a bio-weapon, from the DNA tests we did. How it got here, is unknown. Too many people died at once, but the magnetic fields of the planet are the root cause of it. We knew the life here would be a challenge with multiple north and south poles. with how many times they split and how fast they move across the planet it created genetic changes no one expected. “ They approached a transport surrounded by men and women in uniform who carried weapons. “The fastest was a north pole. It moved at a speed of six-degrees per day before it faded.”

He shook his head. “The effects were devastating with that intense of a flux. Machines failed immediately. The only things that worked were fiber optic powered systems with heavy shielding.I think that’s what nearly destroyed your ship.”

“We need to go back up and get it.” She said, there was no denying the force of her will. “There are personal effects of everyone, and I think the captain might still be there. We might have more passengers in stasis, still.”

What?!” That stopped him from his tale of sadness and heartbreak. “We don’t have a place to launch a space rescue from. The Union took it over six months ago. They’ve  been trying to figure out what is of value, and trying to sell it back us. “ A heavy sigh. “They are dismantling the systems as we speak.”

“Who, or what, is the union?”

“The conflicts between the colonies were political, but everyone believed in being green at the beginning, after terraforming. When the first colonists got here, there wasn’t anything alive. Lots of abundant resources, but no plant or animal life. Iron was abundant and there was no oxygen in the air. What my great-grandfather did was to start the great oxygenation of the planet with the use of plants. Grasses mainly, but trees have responded well to the high carbon dioxide content. There have been other challenges, including raw heavy metals that we exchange with Kepler-B for supplies.“  Ian explained. “It’s why this planet was more visible to the space-based telescopes that orbited around Longe Planeta near Pluto-Charon system. All this, was white rock and water. The reflectivity was much higher than Kepler-B, so astronomers discovered this planet first and colonized it second.”

“How do you keep us from dying, when we are out in the open like this?” She looked around.

“Oxygen levels are adequate, some twenty-six percent, but the carbon dioxide is at four percent. Which, is too high for humans and animals to tolerate more than a week or so. It gives us a limited ability to engage the Union on moves, but everyone has to run home and rest after that.” Ian said. “It’s okay to walk through, however. Just make sure you spend a few hours per week inside in a human-normal atmosphere.”

“You live here and can’t breathe the air?” Irelan’s eyes got big.

“Yes, sweety, we can breathe the air. That’s what you’re breathing now.” Ian chuckled. “You just have to stay inside more while you are here.”

Irelan made a face, clearly unhappy with that prospect.

“Don’t worry,” Her mom smiled. “We aren’t staying. We’re going to that spot in the sky.”  Larsya pointed at a pale disk of Kepler-B, the first colonized planet.

“Mama? Do they have kids there?” The child asked.

Mama smiled.

“Yes, they do. We just have to get there.” She picked Irelan up and carried her in a big hug.

“I wanna go there.”

A child’s wish gave energy to the leader of the Emerald Corps to get them to their destination.

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.

< < < < > > > >

Snowed: The Weekend Trip

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Haunted Home, Spicer Dam Spur Road

Crime Scene Photo 1-A  24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe the weather might break and they could watch the stars dance in the heavens. Then showers and, he hoped, sleep with his arms around her.

“Dinner’s ready.” She called down.

“I have a surprise for you, up there!” He said, waited a heartbeat and flipped the circuit breaker to “On”.

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

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

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

Which was fine in Jason’s point of view. With an oversized sleeveless shirt, sometimes he would get lucky and watch her accidentally flash him, her bare legs, smudged and dust-covered while she wore shorts and sandals, she was an impressive person. A brilliant Doctor of Anthropology, a competitor in the triathlon. A woman not afraid to get dirty. But then, she was a digger. She liked to dig up bones.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason grabbed a putty knife out of a plastic bucket to cut the paper-covered Kevin out, the colored wallpaper began to show details of Kevin’s face behind the branches and stylized birds printed on the wallpaper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And bounced off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, not haunted, not haunted at all. 

She had no eyes!

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

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

And missed.

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

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

Two rolls of…

Wallpaper!

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

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

Paper. Just paper, wadded up and desiccated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A beautiful and deadly structure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

“Doctor Jason Best, Ph.D. was found by snowplow driver, Honey Gareth in the middle of Spicer Dam Spur Road. The two days in question, where Doctor Best spent alone in the cabin at 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the events that transpired on the weekend in question, Doctor Best discovered an old wine cellar stocked with wine and rye whiskey. Tests of opened whiskey bottles showed high levels of ergot alkaloids, consistent with acute ergot toxicity that caused visual and auditory hallucinations, per the physicians and specialists who attended to Dr. Best. This results that Dr. Best became convinced that he was with three other people who died.

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

Doctor Lettie MacKay is friends with Doctor Best, but states no knowledge of anyone named Kevin. Her spouse, Michael MacKay, works at Ocean Bay University as a Fine Arts Professor. Further, no address, student record or employment record of Kevin Acker is found.

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

Interior of 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road shows the wallpaper slashed and torn in the kitchen and third floor bedroom. The heavy timber barn door to the basement is off the hinge. Damage caused by a gold-rush era ore cart on rails used to batter the door open and a hatchet discovered imbedded into a can of white paint.(See attached photos) it is to note: Where Dr. Best said he struck a woman in the head with a hatchet, the hatch found someone embedded into a can of ‘Cottage Girl’ paint.  The ax had struck the paper label of the logo of the woman on the paint can.

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

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

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

No complaints will be filed.

Lt. Liewess J. Jonah, investigator.”

 © 2015 Dash McCallen all rights reserved

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 54. Big Trouble In Little Singapore

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Chapter 54. Big Trouble In Little Singapore

The black-irised eyes of the customs officer looked into the emerald-green eyes of the author.

‟You fly alone? This is unusual.” The official was not impressed by the Pacific Wizard, nor did he show any signs of good humor.

‟I don’t need anyone to fly. I have no children or wife.” Tom said with a smile. “The computers and I can do it all with no one else. So I travel by myself.”

‟Why come by yourself? This is quite unusual.” His accent was decidedly British, stern as he was, he was not uneducated. “This is a place for families and tourists. You are no tourist?”

‟Business.” Tom struggled to suppress his knack for inappropriate humor in stressful situations. “I am here to make a contract with a publisher for children’s stories.”

‟In such a big plane?”

‟It is mine and it’s the only one I have that can cross the ocean, Officer. Sir.” Tom was a bit nervous. He disliked confrontations as a habit. The last time he had dealt with the law, the press got involved for years after. “It is my home.”

‟We will check your aircraft.” The officer motioned to some of his team to enter the jet.

‟I will live on my plane, except to meet with Mister Hikaru Ngyen?” Tom dropped the name. ‟I’m sorry, I did not get your name Officer…?”

‟Lieutenant Lai.”

‟I’m sorry. Lieutenant Lai, I’ll stay on my plane, here. I only go to town to meet for business and leave.”

‟We will search the plane.” The lieutenant repeated himself in flat tones.

‟You search for what?” This had to be a bad joke. Somewhere someone had a big laugh.

‟For drugs. You can easily smuggle drugs in such an airship as this, yes?” The Lieutenant’s gaze was steady and he did not blink.

‟Only to smuggle women.” Tom winked, and tried to smile then realized that was a poor move.

‟What? You smuggle women?” He looked at Tom with irritation. ‟Where do you go after you leave?”

‟Australia.” Tom answered. “I have a book launch to do autographs and a convention scheduled to attend.”

‟Where are you from?” He said as he took a close look at Tom’s passport.”You are long ways from home.”

‟All over the United States. But home would be, I would say…” Tom paused. He had no home base, really. He used his agent’s office address in the past, now he could not remember the new address. ‟San Francisco, California.”

‟Expensive place to live.” He looked Tom in the eye.

‟Yes, but I have a comfortable income.” Tom countered. “I am self-employed.”

‟Smuggler?”

‟Smuggler? Me?!” Tom blink and shook his head, this conversation took a decidedly bad turn into the most twisted nightmare he could ever dream up. ‟No! I am an author, a writer of children’s books and adventures. One of my adult novels is a movie, maybe you have seen it?”

‟What movie?” Lieutenant Lai asked dangerously. ‟You write children’s books and adult books?”

‟The movie is Steamland about the book of the same name.”

‟Dogs.” The Lieutenant spoke into a radio microphone attached to his collar. Then to Tom. ‟Do you have any drugs to declare?”

‟What? No. There are no drugs to declare, other than aspirin and prescription medications for depression and panic that I don’t take all the time.” Tom decided he would take some of those drugs as soon as he finished with this conversation.

‟Do you feel panic now?” The eyes tried to pierce Tom’s claims of innocence, the man was on a mission. He took his job with a serious attitude. Or was perhaps he waited for a bribe.

Tom shook his head.

*Good god, I don’t want to open that can of worms, if the officer was an honest man, it would make matters so much worse. It would be better to let the officer ask if he wants some payment.*

‟I’m about to.” Tom admitted.

A small dog, brought up by a woman who did not even look at Tom. She unleashed the hound at the steps of the plane and picked it up the wagging-tailed officer. It reminded Tom of Snoopy the dog.

A beagle. Good noses, no-threat, a good choice of a dog to clear the jet.

Tom sat on the steps while the woman and the dog when through the plane, he could see when they started from the front, where he stowed equipment for water operations.

*The inflatable boat, electric motor, anchors, chains, ropes.*  He ticked off the inventory of the closet.

All of a sudden the dog barked its fool head off and Tom stood up and looked in. The Snoopy lookalike pawed at his refrigerator and Tom relaxed when they opened the door and the summer sausage he had bought in Germany was there, open.

The woman spoke in a harsh voice at the dog when it lunged forward to get the meat of the knee-high storage unit, then continued on its job and sniffed around the inside of the Pacific Wizard.

The lieutenant looked at Tom and then looked away, clearly embarrassed and hung his head.

Tom’s stress level dropped. Then the dog sounded off again.

Tom looked towards the bedroom of the big plane when the woman officer stood up. In her hand she held a heavy plastic pouch, rolled up like a giant burrito of a green leafy… Tom’s heart fell. 

The officers spoke in rapid Malay, then Lieutenant Lai turned to Tom.

‟It is illegal to use marijuana here.” The Lieutenant said and nodded to his officers who took Tom by both arms and pulled him out of the plane.

‟I don’t smoke, I don’t know where that came from.” Tom regretted the words the moment he said it. He sounded like every arrested drug smuggler in history as alarms went off in his head. “Wait!”

‟You are under investigation for possession of restricted drug.” Lieutenant Lai said.

Tom closed his mouth and did not protest loudly.

*I know better than to argue, all research and subjects I have written have taught me that a street fight with the police is just a “no”. Better to wait for a lawyer to find just how bad things are.*

Tom walked upright with the officers, not overly tall at an inch below six-feet tall. But he towered over the police officers and, in an ironic twist, it entertained him in a hysterical, panic driven way.

At the entrance to the air terminal, a freelance photographer that shot pictures of places and people to sell on the open market shot several pictures of Tom as they led him into then out the front doors of the airport.

He switched to the HD video of his camera, Liem Han, future news reporter for a big city news source (Maybe even tv!) recorded the arrest of a pilot of an oddly painted jet that had landed.

The pilot was a caucasian that looked familiar, but he couldn’t put a finger on it. He made a mental note to ask his girlfriend when he got home, Liem walked quickly to his second-most expensive possession he had ever purchased and hit the ignition button on the motorcycle.

He pulled up next to the car that the dog officer poured water in a bowl for her dog on the sidewalk, he asked her what the arrest was for.

‟Drugs. That American is a smuggler.” She said. “He had three-hundred grams of marijuana and a bottle of oil, fifteen millilitres.”

‟American! Thanks.” He slipped her a fifty-dollar bill he sped away and caught up the police car with the tall, redheaded prisoner and followed it at a respectful distance. This was a possible death penalty case with an American.

He kept his distance, Liem watched as the car pulled up at the police center and sat there for several minutes.

Liem linked his phone to his camera with the bluetooth connection and sent still photos that he had just taken to his girlfriend and willed it to upload faster. He hoped she would see the photos right away and text him back if she recognized the red-headed foreigner.

The phone toned with her favorite love song and Cho looked to see what Liem had to say. A single line, “Who is this?” accompanied three photos.

It took her a minute to recognize the images, and instead of a text, she called Liem.

‟You don’t know who that is? That is the guy that wrote the movie you bought me. He is famous in Australia. They say he is dangerous and killed his wife and kids in the USA, he has tried to sink boats of… ”

‟Thanks! More pictures on the way! He hung up on her without a chance for her even finish her sentence.” He turned on the camera again, double checked that the battery pack was at full charge and connected and turned on.

A mistake he had committed once before and lost a chance for photos that would have made a name for him.

He had a famous person in his sights, and the first photos in the world of him under arrest, and Liem smiled.

*It happened right in front of me!*

The American who had beaten the system and got away with murder was now arrested in Singapore, Liem knew he had a gold mine of photos in his camera.

Four officers came out and pulled the American out of the police car and escorted him inside. Everyone had a hand on the tall redhead, they did not take any chances he might put up a struggle.

And Liem recorded it all with his camera, and he smiled widely. More expensive than his motorcycle, the camera and the long lens just paid for themselves, and two phone calls later, he uploaded video to the network to a buyer for a handsome price.

In the days that followed, Liem’s life and career became a roller-coaster ride beyond his dreams.

Tom’s life, however, was a vertical epic descent into hell.

The Failed Getaway

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The Failed Getaway

A short story by Dash McCallen

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

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

His trial lasted over a year.

The Verdict?

Guilty.

Sentence?

Death.

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

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

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

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

*Taking the last bit of dignity I have*

He shook his head.

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

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

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

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

He laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They already began the execution and the clock…

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

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

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

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

Then Malam blinked.

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

*Cowards.*

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

Malam grinned.

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

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

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

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

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

And the gates were open, no doors locked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A body!

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

He was covered in blood.

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

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

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

He crawled through the grass carefully, towards the voices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let’s go. What were you in for?”

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

“Malam. What kind of name is N’oi?”

“What kind of name is Malam?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he could outrun them with the power of fear.

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

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

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

*I need a fresh change of clothes.*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And into the middle of it.

*Damned echos!*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second shot freed the big fighting man.

The tatters of his shirt were a uniform.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then one fist.

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

*Now where the hell to go?*

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

*Yeah, right.*

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

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

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

He ran headlong into the glass doors— Locked!

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

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

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

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

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

Savage panic set in, Malam ran.

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Run!*

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

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

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

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

*Fuck! I gotta to run!*

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

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

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

****

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

The witnesses watched the last breath of Malam Plando.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Fuck that! I gotta hide.*

Malam Plando continued to run.

Failed Getaway, the escape of I’bin Ba’ad

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Failed Getaway

He had not been born on Terra, although he had returned to the planet of his parent’s birth to bury his mother.

I’bin Ba’ad, drop out student of the College at Velar Naqal returned to bury his mother after an unknown assailant stabbed her.

This was his story.

The police did not originally suspect the son in the murder, his alibi was solid. Video of his office showed him working at the terminal and his time stamp on files fit where he said he was.

What investigators failed to realize, that his skills at spoofing both time and location on files covered his tracks well.

An arrow made of gallium, the cutting head sharpened with percussive taps while it was deeply frozen creating fracture patterns like glass made the edge nearly as sharp as obsidian.

Once the arrow left at high-speed from a compressed air pipe, it passed through the wealthy socialite with devastating results, leaving undetectable traces. 

Once warmed to room temperature, the tool of parricide melted away into the ground.

Unable to find a projectile, the weapon used remained unknown.

Unable to recognize the disturbed soil, the police investigator missed the clue of gallium soaked earth with no explainable reason.

Only until the trail of bodies that seemed to pile up around I’bin that suspicion of his involvement were suspicions aroused about his mother’s death, by then, all evidence was lost.

Eventually, the serial killer I’bin was charged with a young couples disappearance, two women who had recently married.

The misogynistic human-canid hybrid did not show his animalistic DNA.

Other than the blood-lust.

By the time they captured him, the insanity that was I’bin, the killer-wolf charges mounted to over thirty-eight deaths. Another seventy attributed to him, but lack of evidence kept them from being brought to the trials.

Not that the government needed to use the other crimes.

The trial, I’bin Ba’ad, the press dubbed him “The Wolf” was declared sane enough to stand trial and for the first time in two-centuries, the inter-planetery courts, five judges sitting on the bench, listened to the evidence put to the jury.

Never before had the murders of so many involved more than one planet.

The jury of twenty-one retired to study the evidence and returned in three-hours.

Guilty.

The sentence:

Death.

Then an attempt for suicide by cop by attacking the bench of judges.

To his surprise, three of the judges were more than capable of defending themselves.

Taken by the officers to his place of holding, the execution proceeded quickly.

For two-weeks he met with his representative and the one person that stood by him.

Cu’Feur I’ous, to I’bin.

“Worry not, you will get your freedom.” Wolf-eyes looked into wolf-eyes. The two men shared DNA.

They were brothers.

When the date came, I’bin was strapped to the table, he had faith in his brother. He would walk out.

When the witnesses sat, he could see the first plunger start its deadly travel in the tube, pushing a pink drug into the IV line, then at that moment the lights went out.

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

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

Then I’bin blinked.

His arm was free! Someone had released the straps when they abandoned the area when the power went out.

Although, he had not heard any alarms. He decided that it was due to the medication that ran into his arm put him to sleep, people assumed he was dead when the power went out.

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

He already had plans for the judges and their families.

Darkness in the hallways, only the sunlight from the outside filtered in.

It was odd, not even the guards were around, prisoners were gone, too.

But the gates were open, no doors locked.

As promised, I’bin walked free, laughing at the power outage that caused the sheep to run frightened.

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

Screw them all! He was free.

His next stop, where Judge Alkar Chronqui’s family was. He would break into the home and take a head to put on the hood of the Judge Davie Bleu’s car.

Laughing, I’bin looked around, no one could see him cut across the field towards town, dark thoughts for his arrival in town, it would be dark when he got to the park.

The main park where he hid his kit of tape, knives, drugs, rope.

The drugs would have gone bad, he dare not use them on victims, it might kill them.

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

A body!

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

He had blood soaking his shirt.

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

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

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

He crawled through the grass carefully, towards the voices.

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

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

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

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

The sounds of thumping and the bloody fluids made for a mist that I’bin could smell the blood in the air.

I’bin struck, leaping up and grabbing the first one, called Oestus.

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

But the look they gave as he came up, bloodied and muddy, they acted as if they saw the dead rising from the graves.

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

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

“Let’s go. What were you in for?”

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

“I’bin. What kind of name is N’oi?”

“What kind of name is I’bin?”

Shrugging, the pair moved off into the dark.

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

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

Bloodied, one chewed on an object that looked like a forearm, the other had a foot.

On cue, the officers dropped the appendages and began to walk towards I’bin.

Looking at his fellow escapee, the convict stood there, drooling, his skin ashen, the big man made no other sound like conversation.

He took off in a run and dashed to the park.

The cops… he had never seen anyone do that before.

Canabalism? In a pair of them?

He could easily outrun them, there was something odd. No cars to wave down, the shirt stuck against his body with clotted blood and made him cold.

He’d need a fresh shirt.

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

He recognized the first person he came across, a heavy-set girl. She had died pleading that she was pregnant while I’bin tied a plastic bag over her head.

And she saw him, making a noise. A cross between a siren and a scream, while pointing with both hands.

She was dead! He knew she was.

He had abused her body in death and knew every pore, every mole.

He took pictures and stared at them for months before he was caught.

I’bin ran down the street, heading to the middle of town, the police department would be a good place to go, someplace safe!

He ran headlong into the glass doors— Locked!

Locked?

More people were following him! He recognized the lesbian couple, his first hunt!

Run! He had to run!

He had to find a cop, someone who could put him behind bars for protection!

What was happening with the world?

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

Savage panic set in, I’bin ran. More people, they were coming out of the shadows.

No, not out of the shadows, out of the GROUND!

He was standing in the middle of a park, but not a park, it was the rural cemetery.

How did he get here? He needed to get back to the center of town, steal a cop car if he needed!

A cold hand grabbed him from a bush, feeling for a pulse?

RUN!

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

It did not matter, he ran! Out of the ground they came in the failing light of day.

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

He needed to run.

Into the darkness I’bin Ba’ad ran, chased by familiar faces of walking dead. His screams echoed long and loud in the gathering night.

****

The execution chamber of Terra Top Prison, they had not used it in anyone’s memory so the seating was awkward, the witnesses watched the last breath of I’bin Ba’ad.

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

Turning and walking out. Pha’rem T’ru got his wish in ways he never knew.

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

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

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

“Good, have him sent to Doctor Sherman 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 guard nodded.

In the core of the world of the prisoner, I’bin became aware someone spoke of cutting him apart.

But only if they could catch him.

He continued to run.

Differential diagnosis. Or, how do you wish infection on anyone?

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On Weds. it started out with some fun.  the teenager and the nearly teenager went out and we shot the zombie snowman.

Archery Burst01-ANIMATION

 

Lots of fun, this is the “animated’ version.  No video can be uploaded, but you can see the 11-year-old is having a good time.

We had 15-year-old sister with her compound, also having wonderful laughter.  They both would boggle, as i’d shoot and call where the arrows would hit. And hit where I said.

(Psst, I just got lucky a couple of times)

Their ride arrived to take them to martial arts, and away they went. With their mom (My sister) in the hospital after getting plates removed from her previously broken ribs (A total body crunch a few years ago, fictionalized in the story “2 seconds…”) has an infection that now appears to be staph aureus infection and she is on two antibiotics every four hours. I have asked her if it is MRSA, but as of last night she didn’t know. But it is being stubborn.

This leads me to believe I am in Nevada for a longer period of time.

Mama Dash, she twisted her back yesterday (Thus the lack of posting) and something “popped” I palpated her back and found a lump that she and my father said was new.

“Okay, give me a pen.” and I circled it. “Now we go to the ER, if you tore something, it needs to be evaluated and I do not have the tools here. PLUS an Rx for pain.”

Well, she broke a vertebra.  0.o … Otherwise healthy people do not beak bones by twisting while getting ready for a shower.

*sigh* You ever see storm clouds on the horizon and know they’re headed your way?

Yup.

A quick trip to the emergency room and some five hours later, the doctor pulls Papa Dash and myself side.

“Could be an infection but the worse case scenario, multiple myeloma.  It is a kind of bone cancer. So we need to send her to a medical center that has comprehensive testing and personnel abilities.”

So an hour’s drive to Reno to the medical center there for testing.  We were there a long time. Papa Dash and I got home about 2:00 AM.

The up side, sister sledgehammer is about 5 doors down from mom.  Even if sister is under the antibiotic infusion, she can still trundle it alongside her like a nightmarish version of a high-tech pet.

I am going to have to leave you now, and finish this update later.  There is an 11-year-old future Robin Hood in training that is pacing back and forth with a bow in hand. She needs to go out .

Remember my authoring friends.  WRITE ON!  Woot!

And my readers?  Read all you can, laugh live love  and send some my way. 😉 Buy a book? Give me an opinion? Like it? I am pleased. 😀

I need some good news. I have never wished an infection on anyone, but I prefer mom has an infection over the alternative.

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.

Mosquito at Midnight (A moment of mid-spring night rage)

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EEEEeeeeeeeEEEEEeeeee.

The sounds of the stalking insect that wants a meal of blood.

A quick grab of the mobile phone and the LED light on.

EEEeeeEe… Silence.

Irritation. It was close. But with that illumination, it went to the shadows. Sighing, I should get my eyes shut, allergies had driven the course of the day, I was careful not to get overloaded on Benadryl (Diphenhydramine hydrochloride, for those of you who are more generic oriented).  My eyes ache from writing through the block I have had recently.

Light off, back to reading about various subjects.

EEeeeeEEEeeeeEEEee… getting closer. She’s baa’aaack…

I know who is going to die in the next novel.

Light back on, I’m going to catch that tiny vampire!

EeeeeEe… Silence.

Frustration…

Okay, I am smart? (Debatable.) Talented? (Ehh… Maybe. Anyone who wants to chat me up on G+ is welcome to do so and give me opinions on that.)

BUT clever I can be.

The average mosquito cannot fly faster than the gentlest breezes. 1-2 miles per hour. Flutterbys do better than that.

A ceiling fan produces a column of air  that disrupts the flight path of such a small, lightweight parasite.  So setting the fan on medium to assure the speed of airflow.

Light off, reading for another half-hour with ears open for the high-pitched whine of the stalker.

Negative contact: Air traffic all clear. HAH!

Now I sleep under more layers of blankets, secure that for once this spring, I have a plan that was successful.

Downside? Flippin’ cold in the morning, but all my blood is still mine, not some meal somewhere.

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

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Haunted Home, Spicer Dam Spur Road

Crime Scene Photo 1-A  24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe the weather might break and they could watch the stars dance in the heavens. Then showers and, he hoped, sleep with his arms around her.

“Dinner’s ready.” She called down.

“I have a surprise for you, up there!” He said, waited a heartbeat and flipped the circuit breaker to “On”.

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

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

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

Which was fine in Jason’s point of view. With an oversized sleeveless shirt, sometimes he would get lucky and watch her accidentally flash him, her bare legs were smudged and dust covered while she wore shorts and sandals, she was an impressive person. A brilliant Doctor of Anthropology, a comptitor in the triathlon. A woman not afraid to get dirty. But then, she was a digger. She liked to dig up bones.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason grabbed a putty knife out of a plastic bucket to cut the paper-covered Kevin out, the colored wallpaper began to show details of Kevin’s face behind the branches and stylized birds printed on the wallpaper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And bounced off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, not haunted, not haunted at all. 

She had no eyes!

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

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

And missed.

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

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

Two rolls of…

Wallpaper!

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

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

Paper. Just paper, wadded up and desiccated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A beautiful and deadly structure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

“Doctor Jason Best, Ph.D. was found by snowplow driver, Honey Gareth in the middle of Spicer Dam Spur Road. The two days in question, where Doctor Best spent alone in the cabin at 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the events that transpired on the weekend in question, Doctor Best discovered an old wine cellar stocked with wine and rye whiskey. Tests of opened whiskey bottles showed high levels of ergot alkaloids, consistent with acute ergot toxicity that caused visual and auditory hallucinations, per the physicians and specialists who attended to Dr. Best. This results that Dr. Best became convinced that he was with three other people who died.

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

Doctor Lettie MacKay is friends with Doctor Best, but states no knowledge of anyone named Kevin. Her spouse, Michael MacKay, works at Ocean Bay University as a Fine Arts Professor. Further, no address, student record or employment record of Kevin Acker is found.

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

Interior of 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road shows the wallpaper slashed and torn in the kitchen and third floor bedroom. The heavy timber barn door to the basement is off the hinge. Damage caused by a gold-rush era ore cart on rails used to batter the door open and a hatchet discovered imbedded into a can of white paint.(See attached photos) it is to note: Where Dr. Best said he struck a woman in the head with a hatchet, the hatch found someone embedded into a can of ‘Cottage Girl’ paint.  The ax had struck the paper label of the logo of the woman on the paint can.

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

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

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

No complaints will be filed.

Lt. Liewess J. Jonah, investigator.”

 © 2015 Dash McCallen all rights reserved

The Paramedic’s Last Christmas

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The Last Christmas

 

 

He sat on the balcony, a fingerling red potato in his hand, feeling the weight and shape of the hard tuber.

In the previous weeks, after he had completed training for his next level of 3rd Dan black-belt in his martial art and began to feel peaked.

He had tinkered on the potato gun for weeks, the competition leading up to the finals showed a very intense group of people who dedicated their lives and teamwork to launch a tuber the farthest.

One potato, like the one in his hand, flew for nearly two-kilometers, until the controversy erupted that the team had rifled the inside of the PVC tubing that gave a spin to the torpedo-shaped tuber and stabilized it in flight.

He softly laughed at the thought, the most you could get out of him these days, the contest also included contests on how far a pumpkin could be thrown with mechanical means.

Teams built such things as trebuchet, mega-sized elastic slingshots with hundreds of bungee cords attached to the sling, drawn back with an electric winch. One creative team came up with a crossbow monstrosity with a complex, compound shape that exploded when drawn back to full cock.

Investigation into the incident showed the structure was basically sound, but three bolts put in place team members forgot to tighten before drawing tension on the frame of the giant crossbow. The oversight worked for one launch, the next time they cranked the infernal contraption back, the limbs of the bow snapped forward in a dry fire, sending spring powered shrapnel flying for hundreds of feet, hitting people not even watching the giant bow being used.

The following year, the administration added new inspector teams to check everyone’s submission for the contest.

Such was the “Tater Gun and Punkin’ Chuckin’” contests. Two days of laughter, friends, shade-tree engineers and NASA types that got involved.

Including those of his own teams from the local company.

Those were good days, he mused. Since then, two of those friends had killed themselves. One stepped in front of an oncoming truck during a call. There was no proof of intent, other than she spoke of it with one person a year before.

Another, suntanned, handsome, he was out on the ocean beach one summer’s night and went for a swim, never to return.

The Employee Assistance Program, designed to prevent such events, but it was an uphill struggle. Those that sought help for the depression, the chronic pain from sitting in positions that they constantly found themselves in, for depression and insomnia, often were quietly categorised by other EMS teams as lesser value resources. 

“Weak mind.” Some whispered.

For this reason, few if any that activated the EAP or even spoke of it. When they did, it was a deep secret.

He scratched his nose, a medic of decades, the thing he missed most, was laughing.

Sleeping was difficult, too. The paramedic rarely remembered his dreams. But, those dreams he did remember, he wished he forgot before he awoke. As it was, he would wake with the feeling of dread, of darkness and sadness that cast a pall over everything. 

So he increased his caffeine intake and stayed up until the last moment he could. Where things such as turning off a light switch was an effort in decision-making, and then collapse into bed to go straight to sleep.

Maybe.

It was telling on his ability for critical-judgement calls. He began to feel afraid to leave the house and even got to a point of misanthropic frame of mind.

He disliked walking through crowds, a thousand faces he could look into in a single “Arts-&-Crafts” show, knowing that a certain percentage would be on medication for one ailment or another. Many were diabetic, under control and lived lives that no one would be aware that they had any trouble with their blood-glucose levels.

Other people, did not follow their schedule properly and would have a crisis building.

He could see those.

The perspiration, pallor. A lack of focus as they tried to keep up their composure, but failing.

He could see that, to him, it was obvious.

Once, German physicians had ridden with him and his junior partner on the Mobile Intensive Care Paramedic unit, in Germany, doctors rode on the rescue units to do the treatments needed. After witnessing the American version, they declared them slightly insane, in a humorous German way, and went back to their country to change how their system ran.

It mattered not, these days.

His last shift he had the privilege to have a twenty-one-day-old patient that an adult shook to death, a month after a fellow paramedic shot himself.

A darkness grew inside his soul in the weeks afterward until the infanticide call.

The days had come where he would think that his dark side was in control.

A paramedic that wept in the quiet hours when no one was around, driving his massive four-wheel-drive Ford F-450 that was his toy, he often pulled into a farmer’s field that lay fallow for the last four years, and wept. Unstoppably, deeply, until he could not breathe.

A bottle of Polish Rectified spirits sat in the armored lunch box behind the seat, its seal intact. He knew that the one-liter bottle of the fluid that had many uses.

Cleaner, fuel, sanitizer (in a pinch), antifreeze and even drink.

However, a dangerous drink. Ethanol is a poison at those concentrations of more than ninety-five percent pure.

Technically, for sale only in New York, but with connections he had long made, a six-pack of the ethanol laden bottles arrived at his door in a hard-sided case.

Five bottles sat in his house for people to gaze at. One he had opened. The sixth, sat in the truck in the fishing gear.

Not that he ever went fishing anymore, since his wife of a decade left and filed for divorce, saying that he was not home when she needed him. A curse of Fire, Police and EMS. Divorce rates seven-times the rate of civilians, locally.

He shot archery more often, it was less of a problem to get bait and being sure that the fishing license was in reach.

And it was quieter. He also did not trust himself anymore with a firearm in the empty house, it was a dark and empty place.

Still and all, he took steps. He ceased all drinking when on his own, which was frequent of late, focusing with a bow on a small target, he found more peace as he watched the shaft go on target more often than not.

Small targets he found, paper-plates held in place with toothpicks, colored in with sharpies he had around the house, they were the cheapest target he could find.

Today, he finished the potato gun. He wondered about the quarter-pound spud moving at more than two-football fields per second speed that might be a new distance champion shooter.

The other thought that he kept at bay, usually, with his archery and driving in the back-country, if he stood in front of the gun by accident while testing it, if it would hurt.

Shaking his head, he stood up and walked back in the house to get ready for the next shift.

Maybe he might have a traffic accident to help at, then grab at the opportunity to step in front of a semi-truck on the highway like the cute and flirty medic that got waffled by a semi.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

No. He would not do that. The driver would be an innocent in the on-duty suicide and totally unfair.

First rule: Above all, do no harm. It would harm the trucker in countless ways.

Pulling on the jumpsuit with all the patches that indicated his level of training and position as a paramedic team leader.

No, not tonight, he said to himself, finding once again the reason to choose to see it through to the end of the twenty-four hour shift.

A tenuous choice, but it was be another day. Regardless of how it worked out.

This was his last year.

Flee Chapter 10. Ocean and Freedom

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10. Ocean and Freedom

 

The Calliope gathered speed, passing ten-knots and they turned south. Following the shore with the land on the right, they sailed into the gathering darkness.

Captain Roberts sat back and sighed contentedly.

“We are clear. Radar shows us with no traffic near and sonar shows that the water depth is increasing nicely. We are in the channel.” The Captain nodded. “Now… I have something to celebrate our escape.”

Hopping off his seat Captain A. J. Roberts opened up a trunk he had lugged from Maribella without a word on what he had inside.

Bottles and bottles of exotic liquors. The largest of which he pulled up.

“RHUM!” He laughed. “All the way from the Caribbean! I bet you have not seen the likes.”

The Archer laughed.

“Actually,” Archer said softly to Rachel, “I have drunk that brand for years.”

Rachel laughed. “I have a bottle of that in my house now.”

The drinking went on for some minutes, The Archer was working on his second cup over ice to the Captains third. The two were seemingly getting into a race.

Suddenly the radio crackled and the Captain choked on his fourth cup of the dark liquor.

“Emergency channel is working! Huzzah!” He grabbed the microphone and called.

“Emergency caller, this is the Calliope out of Brisbane bound for Sydney. Go ahead with your traffic.”

“This is Royal Australian Navy Destroyer Guardsman. Reverse your direction and return the way you came.”

“Negative, Guardsman, we are out of Brisbane, all on board are healthy and are seeking asylum from the chaos of the area.”

“Calliope, this is your last warning, the quarantine now extends to Brisbane, come about now and return to your point of departure.”

“Guardsman, we have women and children on board, we cannot return. Do you wish to condemn them to deal with the collapse of government there?”

“This is Captain Monroe of the RAS Guardsman. Calliope, please reverse your course, I do not wish to fire upon you. Heave to and prepare to be boarded.”

“We are making our way to Sydney. Board us there.” The Captain Roberts replied to Captain Monroe.

“Heave to, or we will fire.”

“Captain.” The Archer was looking out a window. “We have a problem.”

In the air, a heavily armed helicopter suddenly lit up with navigation lights in the failing twilight of the coming evening. Already airborne, missile pods were visible on the sides of the rotary-winged gunship.

Captain Roberts looked out.

“Oh f’kn’ bloody brass nuts.” The Captain said loudly. “If you folks believe in a hell, you might wish to call ‘em an’ ask if they have exchange programs, it is about to become worse than that here. Guardsman is a Hobart Class ship, that there bird be one o’ its hammers.”

“What are those?” Stormy asked as two, then four pinpoint lights seem to move towards them from a mile out.

“Archer?” Andrea asked, pointing out at what Stormy saw.

“Incoming! They’ve opened fire!” The Archer yelled. He reached down to his quiver and pulled out a rolled up plastic bag. Holding two locks of hair close to his heart, he watched the missiles track towards them at unimaginable speed.

“I”m sorry.” He whispered to the last remains of his family as he dropped the baggie over the rail of the yacht. “I’m so sorry I failed.”

“OUT! Abandon ship!” Al was like a bull shoving everyone he could reach towards the railing. The only time in his life he used his hand to hand training to shove a group.

“Abort! ABORT! Do not fire! ABORT! ABORTABORT! We are…” The Captain screamed into the microphone.

It was his last conscious thought as the missiles impacted into the bridge of the Calliope. High explosive warheads sent shockwaves through the vessel. Compressed air heated to thousands of degrees shattered doors and bulkheads as the yacht disappeared in a fireball of continuing weapons fire as the helicopter crew their weapons repeatedly into the remains of the Calliope.

Only after the shattered, burning hull slipped beneath the surface of the water did the gunship return to the Guardsman while the haze and smoke slowly dissipated.

There would be no rescue boats launched as the Guardsman followed orders to set course back to its assigned patrol.

 

Dark Heart, Pure Soul 21. A Life Left Behind

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21. A Life Left Behind

Over the next few months, Kane met with other clan leaders who said that the other island across the channel had more raw materials that could be traded for and they needed a metal worker to replace one that had moved south with a daughter of a king. Kane thought it a good move, they could go across the water and then be lost in the mill of people of the age.

Bronwyn wept as she packed. This time was leaving for good. They had tried it once on the mainland, but the violence was testing both their tempers, highwaymen appeared time and again, attempting to take what they had traded for.

Kane carefully bundled his tools together in fine, waxed linen and placed them on the chariot that he had built to transport when he heard a small, familiar voice behind him.

Uncle Kane, are you leaving?” It was Daigh, still carrying his favorite sculpted toy bird.

Yes. Bronwyn and I are moving closer to where they mine for metals. We can trade much more cheaply there and make our useful wares and pretty things to sell.”

Will you come back?” the eleven-year-old asked. His curly brown hair framing his sapphire-blue eyes.

Only if you be good. You will know I have been here on that one night, when you have waited all year for new toys. I’ll sneak in and leave you and your friends something.” Kane winked.

You ever break a promise.” The bright eyes of the young man who believed in the demon-in-hiding.

Have I yet failed you?” Kane kneeled to look in the boy’s eye on his level.

Daigh softly laughed and shook his head, cheeks blushing as Kane found him out in doubting the hero of the village. Kane was one to keep promises. If Kane said it, gave his word. It would be so. If he did not give his word, he would do his best, but in the words of Kane “No promises.” which meant that there was a chance that he would not be able to do what he had hoped to do.

Kane stood up, checked and tightened down a braided leather rope, immensely strong, Daigh once saw Kane use what he called a pulley to lift a log on to a chariot to move it into the village where he made a huge dugout canoe, for the bonfire that year, with the death of a nearby King, they placed the body into the hollowed out log and then floated out on the sea. An arrow was lit and shot into the oil-soaked pile of branches upon which the King’s body lay. A funeral to which there was no equal that day.

But now, Kane and Bronwyn, the creator of such tasty treats in the kitchens and on holidays would go with Kane and live a life in another part of the world.

One woman who had whispered to Daigh’s mother one evening when they thought that there was something wrong with Kane and Bronwyn.

They are not with children and are not getting old. It is strange I say.” She whispered one night.

They could be tricksters among us.” She was one that was always having babies, so Daigh did not understand how they had tricked her into having another one. But Daigh told Kane who had pulled on his ear with an amused look.

Well, the best trick is to teach you to keep your word. Never make a promise that you cannot keep or do not want to keep. If you give your word, you keep it even if you do not want to.”

Daigh and the other kids, Aed, Muirne, Cuinn all nodded. Always they kept their words to each other and told their parents the truth. Even if it would cost them some trouble, they knew that Kane would know, and then he would be mad at them.

THEN, he would be too busy to make new toys or mend old ones.

But today, he was leaving, many people would leave and some would return, others would move from other villages or change where they lived after gathering cattle at the end of the summer to bring the livestock in for protection of the cold and feed them. Calves were often born during these months and would often need feeding by hand. Older kids milked cows and goats, next year, it would be Daigh’s start to care for some of the beasts.

Okay,” Kane said as he finished the knot and all the items were tight in the covered wagon. “We are good if it rains, we will have a sleeping area if we get stuck and we can get to the trade goods easily.”

Daigh stood there for a long moment as Kane tied the ponies to the draw bar of the wagons. The leather harnesses were something that Kane had put together with Daigh’s help and suggestions.

Kane again knelt, closer to the level with the pre-teen boy.

This is what we have to do, Bronwyn and I. We came here the year after you were born. I have helped you learn things and you have learned well. You have a great mind, be a poet, tell the history of your people. Sing of the great things that will be. Kings will come, brave heroes. Even creatures that have come before people and now live in the forests and underground. I will be around,I will sneak in at harvest time.” Kane winked. “Think of me as a gnome or some other small spirit that will sneak around one night of the year and leave you something nice.”

Then Kane held up his index finger in admonishment.

“BUT! If you do not do your chores or do wrong to someone? I will leave you nothing, or worse, you will find a gift of twigs and rocks.”

With that, Daigh’s eyes got big.

I will not forget! You will see Uncle Kane! I will be the best poet that history will ever know. I will sing songs about you that the world will think you were a great Brehon.”

Thought I already was.” Kane said with a wink.

Bronwyn’s voice echoed slightly in the now-empty shop. She was ready to leave. All things that families were to take were so placed in order. Things remaining she had marked with strips of cloth in different colors that indicated different families.

Hello Daigh. Come to see us off?” Bronwyn’s copper-colored hair hung down around her shoulders like a waterfall. She bent down so she was as tall as the eleven year old. “Kane has favored you. You do make him proud when you grow up?”

Yes ma’am! He will hear about my stories and songs all over the world.” Daigh smiled. “I promise I will never stop telling stories about you and him.”

Daigh, you are a wonderful young man.” Bronwyn kissed him on the cheek.

A gasp, Daigh was without words as, first his ears, then his entire face turned red.

Bronwyn laughed softly and hugged him.

That is our little secret. You make me feel pretty.”

Time to go, Bronwyn, climb up.” Kane said.

Daigh was still blushing as their wagon trundled out the gates and disappeared. Feeling a little sad as he turned to walk away. His heart was hurting and, in a small way, lonely, until he remembered, they would be back in a few months at harvest time!

Daigh skipped back to the center of the village where the other kids were. His embarrassment forgotten as his attention span was that of any child.

End Of Book One? (who wants more?)

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.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 10. Poor loser

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10. Poor loser

The Emperor of Hell was violet with fury, blaming others for their failed efforts that allowed the Other Master and Lord to start humanity. That small effort, that simple change in the time-line that the Other Master had undone the Emperor’s entire plan for the fall of man. If not for the damned rock, the humans could not survived on that mud ball! The battle, instead of destroying civilization, instead assisted the rise of man.

All that damage to the Black Battalion was for nothing  and it was going to take some effort to rebuild the numbers of demons. Raising new demons from the lowly slave caste was a challenge and difficulties always occurred. But one bright point in the catastrophe, one of the warriors had stood up to one of the Others and even outclassed in power and size and he was able to send that one of the Others, this giant angel, back to her Master.

This demon would be raised and given back his ancient name to show his value. All other of the imps and demons would learn that success had great rewards as failure had severe punishments. With a sweeping motion of a great six-fingered hand, all tipped in claws, he commanded the mid-caste demon to come and receive his reward for courage.

Down and away, The Demon sat alone with his back to the rage of the Emperor. He felt the command to come to the seat of power as much as saw it. He stood and turned, slowly with each step from an exhausted warrior, as he walked up the path to the Black Throne, he cringed inwardly, sometimes awards were as cruel as punishments.

A promise was never the way you could take it. Fear was not unknown to even those that received the highest of awards and raised and became his personal warriors.  They were dangerous things, the Dark Lord’s favors, because the Emperor was a trickster and a breaker of promises.

Still, to refuse the Emperor of Hell was, to say the least, unhealthy. So the Demon stood with his chest out and with the look of pride he did not feel, it seemed that all had gone well.

Then, a voice sounded. It was one of the other warriors that had seen his actions with Bronwyn, stood up. As the statement hung in the air he decided to challenge the lessor demon, only to have three others speak out in unison. The air suddenly chilled by a crackle of cold rage behind him.

The Emperor in a hideous fury brought forth the judgment.

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.

 

7. Battle Plans

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7. Battle Plans

Bronwyn, the angel, now with her group of armed and muscular angels of all shapes and sizes. Each carried weapons that glittered with the eternal light. some of the angels welcomed her, while others left for other places. Being a guardian angel is no easy task. Rumors of the latest confrontation that was to come had been spoke of.

Two of the Seraph were to call the angels together and break the details of the news.Michael, who had defeated Lucifer during the first rebellion was always at Gabriel’s side, the two were friends and it was Gabriel that brought messages from the Lord. Michael was Gabriel’s assurance that the message was not lost or corrupted.

Gabriel sat and placed his hands on his hips. It took a moment, but then drew his breath and announced that a battle was in the offing. The Dark Realm had begun an event that threatened the very existence of the earth. Those all who were not assigned to other duties were to change the outcome. It would not be easy, the numbers of demons and imps were large and the fighting would be intense according to what the Lord had said, but victory would happen with no doubts. The Lord of the Host said it was so.

In a rage(his usual state of being), the demon entered the arena and other imps and slaves bowed to the dark warrior’s passing. He was one of the higher demons and though he still did not have his name returned to him, he was one of the most feared. Even so, one of the mid-ranking demons stood up as he passed, refusing to bow to the warrior that approached.

A challenge for position.

The challenging demon drew a weapon, a flaming sword, only to have it and its arm drop to the ground. In a blur, the high caste demon struck the middle demon down cruelly and then with a furious blow, the ax of the higher ranked demon split the lower ranked one down to his pelvis. Among these immortals there are fates worse than death. This mid-demon was no longer one of the mischief makers, but now only a lowly slave. A gamble and a loss of status, the low demon had put his all on the line and lost it. It was over in thoughtless accusation – But the Claw of Hades was faster than thought, even though a sheath was a place for it, the battle-ax almost never put away when He walked the Outside. Little did this demon care for any creature here, he hated them all. The smell, worse than humans and the constant efforts of making the Dark Lord notice them. He had been there before, in one time. He had given it up for a treasure. If they only knew what he knew, they would not wish for attention of the Dark One, whose attentions could be a nightmare from that they would never wake.

The stony path wound through the blasted thicket of death and suffering. Those who earned all the pain, it turned now on them. In the clearing of the cavern as he looked about. That could be the only word he ever called this place. The urge to come here was rare. Only caused when the Dark Master had a special task. When the call came, it was irresistible. Each one was always a little different. Twice it had passed to cause the death of all humankind.

Terrans he liked to call them, for this demon hated almost all the life on that little blue planet. To call them “human” was an insult to the word. So they were of that place where the planet Terra was. The dirt that they called Terra Firma would be, hence the name he called them – “Terrans”.

As he stood in the middle of his only sanctuary with the other winged warriors of this realm, he looked about. Many of the hoard were there that were not usually in attendance. The plan was laid out by Pythos, the demon of lies. It was he who explained that the lower caste would do the work while the winged higher caste were to defend against the Others who would attempt to cause them to fail. Most of the events were already in place and only now was the despised High Throne becoming aware of the impending doom of the planet. A rock, the size of a small moon, was now racing towards the intercept point of the planet. Falling to the yellow star it was gaining speed with the help of the hoard of the weaker demons. The higher ranks were to keep the rock on course to its destination.

The destination?

Earth.

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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