Smart Bomb Chapter 14. A Bum, A Bomb and A Belle

Standard

Chapter 14. A Bum, a Bomb and a Belle

He told people to call him “Lone Wolf”, but the nature of the man was akin to more of a walking pumpkin than a predator.
An anti-government oriented conspiracy theorist. His long-held out belief that JFK was, in fact, still alive. And in reality, the President was kidnapped and a clone shot in his place. Then continuously held prisoner by a nebulous group, possibly aliens to prevent research in clean energy and real ships like that existed in science fiction.

These were points he had no evidence, he admitted. But he had found articles and opinions he had read on the internet.

Walter “Lone Wolf” Whitbred, chewed on a handful of almonds. 

“So.” Another handful of nuts. “You are telling me this guy says he is an android and you believe him with no evidence?”

Alvin looked quizzically at the leader of the small group of conspiracy theorists.

“You accept that the President meets regularly with aliens, but you have doubts this man here is an android?” Alvin shook his head. “Even the Wild Weasel would stooge-slap you through the forums.”

“Wild Weasel?” Steven asked.

“Handle of a hacker who lives at the other end of the runway. He’s a hermit.” Alvin whispered out of the side of his mouth.

Walter looked at Stephen for a long moment.

“Convince me.”

Alvin looked at Steve and shrugged.
\

“Show him like you showed me.”

The change was abrupt, the brown hair colored to black as he became a short, broad Asian woman, then to a tall, blue-eyed, red-headed fugitive from some Celt legend.

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

Steve sat down and spoke gently.

“I need to recharge, that takes a lot of energy.” He looked across the table. “Are those chocolate candy bars? May I have three?”

“Knock yourself out.” A stunned geek said while he shook his head. “Dude do you know how much someone would pay for that? Can you record anything you see?”
“Everything.” Steve responded. “Anything I see. I am able to see from in the light spectrum of one-hundred micrometers to zero point one nanometers, so I see a lot.”

“Nanometer range? You can see in UV!”

“Yes.” Steve did not understand why Alvin laughed.

“Walter, you are being General Obvious now.” Alvin chuckled. “Now, we have a problem that needs your attention to take care of.

Alvin explained the recent history of discoveries, Steve the Android ate candy bars and filled in gaps while Walter paced around holding his head as if it were all too much to take in.

“My head hurts.” Walter moaned. “Everything I have ever worried about, killer robots, smart cars that serve the government to spy on us.”

“Sleeper does not serve the government.” Alvin said.

“Sleeper? Sleeper!?” Walter gaped. “You named it?”

“It was named by other cars.” Steve said calmly.

Other!?” Walter’s voice was high-pitched and strangled. Then he sat down heavily. “Oh… shit.”

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

“No,” Alvin chuckled. “You showed someone with a thread of paranoia in his brain at all times, finds out that he was not as paranoid as anyone ever thought.”

“Do you know what this means?” Walter’s voice was tremulous. “The government has spied on us for… Oh my god! I don’t know how long! How old is that car you bought? Is it new?” Walter began to tap on a flexible screen on his palm sized computer.

A metal frame around the room began to rattle down in tracks welded into tall steel posts. A copper mesh covered every inch of the mobile wall, except for the solid steel door that the one called Lone Wolf, who now whimpered like a puppy, invited them to enter. Inside, a copper framed screen door he built into the cage backed up against the steel door.

“A Faraday cage, no signals in, no signals out. How does that make you feel Tin Man?” Walter addressed Steve the android. “A little woozy? Like you lost signal? Can’t have your human driver pushing buttons to tell you what to do?”

“I feel no change, am I supposed to?” Steve looked quizzically at Walter. “No human drives me, I am autonomous. I have one program left that I cannot alter. The program requires me to reach the James Madison power generation unit near the Capital.”

“The closest power facility in Washington is underneath the White House and it’s power cell driven, alien tech and gives free power from the earth’s magnetic fields.” Walter walked around and pointed at maps on the wall with push-pins and strings. A technological counterpoint to the displays and computers that littered the inside of the abandoned building.

“The government has had the tech to give us all free power for dozens of years.” Turning to Alvin. “How old is your car? A dozen? That’s how long the government has had the power generation perfected.”

“No, it is older than that.” Steve said.

“It’s pre-war tech.” Alvin added.

“What war?” Walter stopped in mid-rant.

“Last century, west coast?” Alvin slowly spoke the words to maximize the impact.

“Ho..Ly.. Shhhh… “ Walter paused. “Bull! No, they have not had the tech that long.”

“This car, built by the Terran Green Machine corporation, by components designed and built by a small sub-contractor company, NeverFail.” Steve informed both men.

“How do you know this?” Walter eyed the android suspiciously.

“Sleeper told me.”

“Sleeper?” Walter stroked his chin.

“The car, Walter.” Alvin said.

“I told you not to call me that! Lone Wolf or just Wolf.” Walter said, his face flushing red.

“The car uses a Gi-bus system.” Steve the Android told Walter. “It was extremely advanced systems then, it is comparable to what I use now, a balanced ternary operating hardware system. The car is more massive than mine and draws about three times the power. There are signs of corrosion and failed circuits.”

“Failed?” Alvin asked.

“Yes, the circuits failed recently, the power was off at the time and the reason is not recorded.”

“Um… That might be my doing.” Alvin admitted. “I pulled some plugs, broke a few wires.”

“That would explain the inaccessible files in the memory, the connections will need repair or replacement.” Steve turned to Walter and following his desired name. “Me Lone Wolf, we need your best minds in the group to build a flesh covered robot for one mission.”

“No, not Me Lone Wolf.” Walter blustered. “You make me sound like an Asian Lupus, call me just Wolf, Okay?”

“Okay, call you Just Wolf.” The android nodded. “I will store that in permanent memory.”

Alvin caught a surreptitious glance from Steve. The android was learning humor.

“Right.” Walter nodded. “Now, how do we build a robot to do what you do? We can build one, but they all are obviously what they are. Most use treads and never use transporters.”

“We can just build a singular program. No countries scan people for this kind of explosive.” Alvin said.

“Now what about this bomb you are telling me about?” Walter asked.

“Steve?” Alvin looked at the android.

“The warhead is one point one milligrams of antimatter by weight.” Steve turned towards Just Wolf and spoke without blinking while he stared at him. “This has a nominal yield of eight-thousand six hundred pounds of TNT as America measures it.”

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

“Below my ribcage by thirty millimeters. Near where they molded in a belly button. Should the local police shoot, they shoot center mass of a torso and it the creator considered a high chance level of hitting the container and causing an explosion. The creator estimated the total devastation range at four-hundred meter radius.”

“That’s over twelve-hundred feet! In one direction.” Alvin gasped. ”You didn’t tell me that at my shop.”

“You didn’t ask.” Steve said innocently.

“Okay, okay. So how do we get this…” Walter stopped. “How do we get this bomb out of you without blowing ourselves up?”

“It is self-powered for a short time, it can last three days without external power safely. It also has a permanent magnet core as a backup, but it is temperature and shock sensitive.”

“How sensitive?” Alvin asked.

“Dead circuits? Without power, an impact on a solid surface at greater than three meters per second would suffice.”

“How do you get that kind of energy?” Walter asked.

“A drop from one meter.” Steve answered.

“In American?”

“A drop from your card table over there.” Steve pointed where a half-eaten pizza sat.

“Jeeezzzuss.” Alvin whispered. “My mom got mad once when I dropped a glass of milk off the table, this is a lot worse.”

“Alvin, just shut it.” Walter shook his head. “I need to smoke some weed.”

“You don’t smoke weed.” Alvin said.

“I’m going to start.” Walter shook his head. “So what kind of android or robot are we going to build, where are we going to send it.”

Steve stared at the two humans.

“My point of origin, make it appear female. I will make the basic program.” Steve instructed.

“Okay, a pretty girl?”

“Indeed.” Steve’s eyes blinked twice. “I have the trigger and we can grow the flesh to cover her well enough to pass cursory inspection.”

“We need some help.” Walter muttered tapped on his palm screen for a moment.

“Okay, I have Opticon coming, Thor and his girlfriend the Lady Sif, Burning Chip, and Running Man are all on their way.” The conspiracy fanatic said. “The Belle of the Bomb will be built here and we will program it to make her way back to your home.”

“Just Wolf,” Steve almost smiled when Alvin glance at him. “Is it wise to tell so many people of the work to be done?”

“They are the safest bunch to bring in. And don’t call me Just Wolf,” Walter looked up. “The name’s just Wolf.”

“Understood, your name is Just Wolf.” Steve repeated.

“Right, don’t mess it up.” Walter grumped with finality.

Alvin nearly hurt himself trying not to laugh.

Smart Bomb chapter 6. cold

Standard

Chapter 6. Cold

The American south. A unique society within the American society. A level of chivalry where a woman could stand up to a man, but according to law as put down by the Leader of Truth, such could not be the case.

Women were vessels for the future life. And only assigned for such with the leaders of the church.

America, the abomination, allowed women to drive cars, walk alone, even eat in public. The leader said the women were unhappy by following that path of dissolution.  

And yet? They were happy. Solidly so. But according to the Holy Leader, the American’s were corrupt and unhappy in their vileness.  This was a quandary he couldn’t fathom. 

 Americans are complex. He thought.  This needs more investigation. No one can be destroyed without all the information.  No sentence to death imposed without the evidence to show reason that  death is the only solution for these people. All without warning or a formal reading of charges. 

When Steve the android shifted into a female shape, to move among them, the point of view and experience was different. The differences were subtle, but the differences were there. Both in treatment received and given. 

Although he’d been constructed as an android – as a male, he paused to answer a question he posed to himself. When he was the same thing as a female android? Steve’s mind paused again for a thousandth of a second. And for an android that is a very long time. The thesaurus in his mind pondered a more appropriate word for his female form. In that shape, Steve decided, when he was a she, she was a gynoid.

 Another change  in the database, and it was subtle.  

This part of the United States, where Steve walked along the road. The database listed the area warm in the summer, cool and rarely freezing in winter.

Why then, was he walking along a highway, looking like a heavily muscled Hispanic woman, the plan would have her picked up by a corrupt American soldier where a trade of favors for a ride, would work out well for the android-turned-spy.

But none stopped, stopping at a food-mart and gas station, the android-gynoid female stepped into the unisex bathroom and adjusted her size, something darker, black eyes, bright smile. Slimmer and bigger breasted.

Images the maturing electronic mind pulled from the worldnet, for modeling the next shape and walk, exited with light-colored shirt and jeans instead of what she did wear when she entered.  A slight modification to the color of the hair. Instead of brown-black, she now sported shining raven blue-black hair.

Passing by the Air Force Base as the now female gynoid headed north, while a slow drizzle fell from the cloud cover that soaked her clingy, light-colored shirt and she had her backpack as the only form of insulation. The chill of the air and rain made the artificial skin pucker.

The android hoped that the plan would work, the heat loss was dramatic and alarming, she would have to turn to the jacket that the reverend and his wife donated and was now stored in the backpack.

A few cars passed while the civilian employees left the base to head home.
An elegant, official looking car pulled next to her and the middle-aged commander leaned over, his brass decorations glinting in the gathering darkness.

“Need a ride, miss? The weather is going to turn nasty around here in about a half-hour.” He was official sounding. But his eyes traced over her shape, including the damp breasts of the artificial woman.

“Thank you. How do you know of the weather?”

“We have detailed knowledge of anything in the air.” He smiled as she put her backpack in the car.

The gynoid concluded that the offer not only kept the heat loss to a minimum, but that the American male would not be difficult to mine for information. Her shape pressed against the wet, tight shirt that left little to the imagination.  Net surveys on breast sizes found conflicting information on what was most appealing. 

Sitting there with the pack under her legs, keeping them parted enough for the civilian worker a view of the slightly parted legs of the damp jeans.

“Where are you headed miss?” The officer asked.

“North. Anywhere dry, warm and safe.” A planned response, to a known question. But an unknown event caused heuristic subroutines to rapidly alter the plan.

A voice from the back seat interrupted the plans.

“We have an hours drive north. Roman, I can authorize you another hour of driving after you drop me off, after we secure you a rider.”

Turning around, an entire dictionary ran through the core processors.

“You startled me!” She turned her head rapidly around. “I’m Ann, what do you mean securing a rider?”

“No one travels alone in the equipment, this means he will not be left alone with you or any other civilian. It is protocol. I will secure you a female rider for your comfort.“

 The plan was a fail. Only if she was alone with a male, would the plan work to extract the information. She could figure out something to gain information, but the situation was now outside of the mission limits of safety.  She would be found out and would have to detonate early. 

The driver wore an officer’s markings, had violated the protocols already, they would not take it to any greater lengths.

“I have money for a hotel, I just need to get there.” She said as she sat down in the warm passenger area of the limousine and clipped her seatbelt on. 

They drove on in silence for some distance when a hotel that seemed near their destination.

She stepped out of the car, and recovered her backpack and then thanked the one called Roman – the driver – and the Colonel. She watched them drive away before she changed shapes to one of a sandy-haired middle-aged male of indeterminate heritage and walked to the office of the hotel in the twilight hours and gathering storm.

He was able to record information, the plan failed, however, Steve still discovered, even in America’s own country, the military do not travel alone in official vehicles.  It was not much, but it did add to the database.  And his care would not reveal his existence, changing size, colors and gender to throw off anyone who might track him.  But it was impossible that anyone knew that the operation to blow up the capitol of the America was under way. 

While he sat on his bed, the android watched the local news. Weather, the forecaster said,  would become colder over the next few days. This caused alerts to begin their process to discover alternative forms of transportation that would not attract attention.

Checking the roll of non-traceable cash, an alternative method of transportation would be useful. Ground transport would be preferable, opposed to the hypersonic craft the United States used for air.  The plan also called for avoiding trains or other public transportation. Too much scrutiny with facial recognition at the passenger hubs, by not being recognized in any database, he would be a curiosity that would bring scrutiny.  This would be a mission ending catastrophe.

The all the core systems  knew, there was little chance to pass close inspection just one time. Multiple trips past a sensor would reduce the odds of remaining as an anonymous traveler to less than a fraction of one percent.

His program required him to adapt to succeed. He had to change the plan, laid out by a programmer, to travel in crowds on pubic transit, he would have flown inside the country borders without the enhanced passenger checks. He would quickly reach his mission objective. Now, because of the face scanning tech that upgraded. Not just looking for people on a recognized list.  The scanners now looked for someone not fitting in a huge database of humans that normally moved in an area.  

Unfamiliar faces did not travel alone.  Families? Yes.  Couples? Of course. But a single person, male or female, without bags, or people to welcome their arrivals was a flag for the government to look closely at a person.  It could interrupt the mission.

Deliver the device to the seat of evil.

Destination: Washington, the most responsible criminal for the starving and poverty in the true religion by not sharing with the religious foods and comforts that they kept for themselves. They would take the resources and give nothing to strangers. 

Except for the sharing the android witnessed when he appeared as a youth just barely at the age of majority.  They gave to him without thought.   

It was a contradiction of data and measured information. It was answered by combining those donations of equipment and effort all appeared to come from private citizens.

But, where did the sand come from? The officer?

The people he met, Carl and Genesee were inherently kind and followed their book of rules and life. From the little girl in Florida to an officer that refused to handcuff a cold, unarmed and slightly-built youth.

Confict. Subroutines patched, conflict caused potential for failure of mission.

The mission was all important to strike a blow for peace. There would be lessons to be taught by showing that the failure of the United States to pressure Europe magazines from making fun of them or prevent insulting novels from being published.

The way to find through the winter storm, he would walk to the used car lot.

The American love for the automobile would allow him to move north without suspicion.

The plan set, an alternative to walking north the thousand-kilometers north.

Fully stretched out, the android could take one pace per meter.

His core processor measured a new term, a kilopace, a thousand-thousand paces to his target.

One million steps.

A large number that could be reduced by the use of private transportation. The contact with non-believers would be reduced. A new subroutine, created by the latest update to his operating systems, required contact with the people and the government that reflects the thinking of the masses.

Alternative plan: A seventy to one-hundred kilometer drive each day, then interact with citizens.

Taking on the shape and color, hair and accent, more data would be collected for proof of the glory and required destruction of this horrid…

He deleted the plan process, the prejudging of America seemed widespread in the database.

The android lay on the bed and powered down, a required time for reboot of the entire system for purging fragmented data that took up space in his limited resources.

Setting a power-on alert for seven O’clock, he lay on top of the blankets with the room set to just below body temperature.

If anyone looked through the gap of the window shade, it looked as if he was asleep on his back.

In truth, should anyone try to touch the android, the tactile feeling would make a person believe this was a dead human on the bed.

In the morning, the database cleared of all fragmented codes, would require replenished energy levels.

He would need a breakfast high in carbohydrate.

Not for the first time, he anticipated data input from this strange country.

The Stone Carver

Standard

 

The Stone Carver

 

In the gallery of statues, the old stone cutter swept around the life sized, Greek-Roman statuary. Many were carved of solid blocks of pink salt from beautiful flowers of incredible detail in different colors of salt, to macabre life-sized statues of people in still life. Some writhed in horrific throes of agony, where he had carved the body, then used water to partly dissolve an appendage.

The tourists that came to the gallery, never left disappointed. It was a gallery of classic, eclectic, romance, and agony.

And within him, was agony. He suffered the loss of his wife, murdered years before. The funeral lasted two days, and had thousands of people in attendance. Such was her popularity.

Security video showed a Saleen Geeteks, who killed her with a broken lampshade as he robbed her. When the police apprehended Saleen, he was found insane and they sent him to a mental asylum for life.

In the end, Angus felt no justice was served and he was not whole. Following his disappointment, he vanished from public life. Never to venture out, he moved his shop to the country where he carved and whittled on marble and salt blocks. It was the quiet life where people left him alone in his heartbreak.

It was quiet, until two couples opened the door and stepped into the gallery. The number and size of the stone carvings was beyond belief.

“I have heard of this place. I didn’t think it was real.” Trokken said, dressed in the latest adaptive combat camouflage. A cream-white jumpsuit that changed patterns and colors as the wearer moved, reducing the wearers visible outline.

They stood inside the door, one of the women, Sunrise, pulled on the others.

“Get out of the line of the door. Stand between the decorations.”

“May I help you?” Angus walked from his studio.

“This is yours?” Trokken asked.

“All you see here; marble or salt, I have created. Flowers, faces, from beauty to horror. What you wish, you will find here.”

“Flowers?” The one called Lillith looked around. “This is stone?”

“Salt, to be precise. The pink comes from a mineral that’s extracted from different sources, and then baked into a block of anhydrous sodium chloride. I carve the shapes as I see them after that.“

“This is gross.” Lillith said.

“The images you see here represent many facets of the struggle of humans, and the beauty of the human body in the marble. Nudes are in the other room, away from where children or people easily offended.” Angus smiled. “Follow me.”

He turned and led the others into the studio of creating.

“In here, I make the objects of beauty. Those flowers you have seen, Miss?” He looked at the taller, dirt-encrusted woman.

“Lillith. That is my war name.”

“War name?” Angus blinked. “Very well, Lillith. The flowers are made of a kind of salt I call, “Dood”. And here, I have a bust of a woman who requested to have her looks immortalized for her grandchildren.”

A crash sounded in the gallery by the entrance. They realized that Odyri was not with them. The young rebels ran to the gallery followed by Angus.

The statue of Adonis lay on the floor, decapitated and splintered.

“Ach! Noooo.” Angus picked up the head. “This was hundreds of hours of chiseling. It was Kaelin’s favorite. I made the body as I was when she met me.”

“This is what must happen to all graven images. You have souls captured in here.” Trokken hissed.

“I do not! You need to rethink your perversion.” He held a stone finger in his hand his voice became tight. “I cannot accept this.”

He glanced around with a fire in his eyes.

“You will join that statue.” Trokken told the kneeling stone carver.

Screams of fear and terror shredded the silence in the gallery.

****

After six weeks had passed, Detectives Barnes and Noble stepped through the doors and rang the ancient bell on the counter.

“May I help you?” Angus asked.

Odd, he doesn’t seem surprised to see us. Thought Detective Barns as they introduced themselves.

“Business going well for you?”

“Quite fine. I am busy in my studio back here.” Angus smiled, motioning the men to come join him. The old chisler struggled to move a statue of four life-sized figures carved out of a single block of salt to the wheeled frame of a moving dolly.

“We are looking for four people, two men and two women who are wanted in connection to a bombing at the community services center.” Detective Nobel said, reading off of his handheld notebook. “They stole a car and murdered the owners. About a week ago the car was found up the road about ten-kilometers from here. Your gallery is the only building between the city and where it was found. Has anyone that looks like this come into your shop?” Detective Noble showed Angus images of the four wanted felons.

“No sales, a few visitors. I sell mostly by online catalog. I keep busy creating salt-blocks for my sculptures. I am preparing a new block of marble in the back and I’m making a block of red-salt  in the mold over there.”

“You mold salt?” Detective Barns

“Yes, it’s heated to over eight-hundred degrees centigrade and slowly cooled so it grows into a translucent crystal. It takes about a week to make a pretty block with inclusions just before the block solidifies and I start carving.”

“You do some beautiful work.” Detective Noble said as he leaned over a flower. “This is very beautiful. How do you get it so smooth?”

“Moist rag. I sometimes lick a finger and just rub, but that leaves striations. So, I use a nanofiber rag with a fine spray of water.”

“This is macabre.” Detective Barns examined a figure of a woman with a horrified look, a spill of simulated water had dissolved her hand off her arm.

“Yes, I have a wide range of creation. It is my therapy since my wife was murdered a few years ago.”

“Yes, my deepest condolences.” Barnes’ words were without emotion. “As I recall, the killer was sent to a hospital for the criminally insane.”

“For life, which is longer than my wife had at his hands.” Angus stood up and glared at the taller detective in the eye with undiluted rage. “There was no real justice in that. You know how she died, detective?”

“Yes, he used a sharp object that was never recovered.”

“Yes. The reason it was never recovered was because she had been repeatedly stabbed by a shard of salt. He left it in the pool of her blood where it dissolved.” Angus hissed. “Not only did she die alone, she died in unremitting agony. Each hole stuck in her by that sharpened stone would have burned like a hot iron. So, forgive me if I have some statues that have a touch of anger in them.”

“This statue is odd.” Detective Noble commented on the life-sized quartet Angus moved.

“Odd, yes, it is my most recent inspiration. It is the Compass of Justice. Each criminal turns on the other, each stabbing the next in a circle. There is no honor among those that worship death.” Angus smiled softly. “I apologize for my flare of anger, detective. Kaelin was my sunshine. When she was alive, we helped the community. Now, I am just a stone carver. I have no use for the outside world other than to bring me subject matter.”

“You have some fine detail, Mr. Cu’Laith.” The detective said, leaning forward. “This face has shadows, but the salt is clear as glass. Like something is inside of the sculpture.”

“You can see into the crystal, nothing is there.” Angus smiled. “I have been working it for a few days to get that effect.”

Angus pulled at his ear. “If you would be so kind as to watch the clearance while I roll this to the gallery, we can get on with the interview.”

“Oh, Mr. Cu’Laith, this is not an interview. Just tying up some loose ends.”

“Of course, detective.” They followed the stone carver to his gallery with the newest display.

Something about that. Ran through Detective Noble’s mind. Oh, I know! He has used the same faces as the museum downtown.

The two detectives bid their farewell from the stone carver. Gave their condolences again over the loss of his wife and crossed the address off of their list. Barnes and Noble glanced at each other and shrugged.

He struggled with the statue and muscled it in place. Then in an inspiration, he rotated it to the best view from the door, then walked back into his studio.

He stopped at the Compass of Justice. The framework inside was barely visible. You could almost see the gossamer thin flesh of a face under the half-inch of polished sodium chloride.

 

Failed Getaway

Standard

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

Standard

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

Story Prompt. They Dared me for a few minutes- this is a seed of a story…

Standard

Honey enjoyed the party, Halloween this year proved more exciting than in previous years. Her freedom grew while she attended college at Ocean Bay University. The characters of her dorm were such insane women, she was both alarmed and laughed until her sides hurt every weekend.

To Keep her grades up was the greatest struggle, but doable.

This Halloween party was just what the doctor ordered. Mid term testing had driven her dreams and now she was at a party with more booze than she ever seen in one house.

Rebecca, already braless with a white t-shirt was dipping her head into the pool, making the opaque material of her shirt transparent.

Then she dared act all embarrassed when she walked around with puckered nipples.

Honey enjoyed the drinks when she met Zac, a criminal justice major and his friend Dorian who studied chemistry.

The party moved from innocent to adult with a blink of an eye when the school jokesters showed up as strippers. Robert, Dean, Joseph wore fake boobs and G-strings and walked around and rubbed on everyone.

The night wore on, the more people drank, the more clothes fell off.

Honey thought she had consumed too much ethanol and the ground began to spin and move while she danced in Robert’s arms.

Except he looked around, too, tension on his face.

“It’s an earthquake.” He said. “It’s Only a 3.5…”

Then the power went out.

Screams and laughter echoed around the party house.

It would not be many minutes before “Oooh’s and ah’s!” became screams of horror and terror…

The Failed Getaway

Hypnos the cat gives a command
Standard

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.

Married by Mistake Chapter 15. Kaylee Simone Grant

MbM
Standard

Chapter 15. Kaylee Simone Grant

She sat quietly in the big plane with “Pacific Wizard” painted on the outside in big letters in thought. The flying yacht that was Tom’s home, she looked at the ring on her hand for a moment, feeling torn.

Normally she would at the academy of martial arts at this hour. Her next level required her full focus. If the Guru knew what had happened, the rapist, the professor, getting married, he would surely tell the Grand Master. A tiny Filipino man, who had been born before god invented hair.

He liked Kaylee , saying she had speed and skill to wear a black shirt (with an orange stripe on one sleeve now.) and in the years that followed she had gotten that coveted black shirt. Even her orange show uniform she folded with great care, was a gift from the man, whom she counted as among her most cherished of friends as well as a mentor.

She knew he liked the girls and kids. Having little use for the brawny male adults that thought all they needed to do was muscle their way through a fight, the Grand Master who stood only an inch above five feet tall, would throw the hulking soon-to-be-ex students around the academy’s floor, much to the pleasure of the students that watched this event time and again.

Children were a favorite of the Grand Master. (Occasionally, she felt it was because they were the only people who were shorter than him.) Taking a great deal of patience and time to teach the children the angles of attack and defense.

She pulled pants and shoes, it was time to head over to her apartment and pay the rent.

*I hate this first-of-the-month chore. The power and water are all due in the mail today. Ugh. And I need to beg for her job back.*

She did not want to have the thought that she was sponging off of Tom, even though he had given her a card. A bank signature card with no limits, is what he said, and it made her feel special. When she looked it up on her smart phone, he was telling the truth!

*I could pay my entire tuition at once, all four years. Including post-grad classes, new tires— even a new car!* That made her hands sweat. That one moment of clarity, of what could be. *But, if I do that, then I am just a user.*

It was an embarrassed her to even accept the card from him to carry around. She pulled it out and looked at it, holding it by the edges. It had her name on it – her married name – it took him no time at all to order it.

He was taking care of her and the life he was imagining he might have married into.

What kind of life was Tom thinking?

She was angry again.

*He would take care of me alright, he would make me into his version of a kept woman! A mistress with a ring!* She growled in her heart at the thought that grew in the deepest recesses of her mind. Like a whisper that would not fade.

*I need to change this accident. I want Glenn as a husband!*

*Except…*

Except… Tom.

*A gentle and kind soul, Grandma would say.* Except Kaylee still didn’t know much about him. Sitting alone with her thoughts, she watched the workers climbed up and down ladders at with indistinct conversations spoke of subjects that didn’t interest her.

Then her eyes focused the computer on Tom’s desk.

*Oh my god!* It struck her, *I know enough to search him!* She nearly face palmed herself in frustration. *How could I be so dense!*

With everything going on, she was just going for the ride. She only looked for information on the man as she might with another date – not that she ever married anyone else while baked and drunk. She had not looked in-depth on Tom, what his notes might be like.

The weed she smoked made her open to a life with Tom that was fantastic, the drinks with the guardian angel of a man, made it more exciting.

Now, she sat at his computer and turned it on. The jet, plugged into giant power cables the thickness of a man’s arm to the hangar, and the Pacific Wizard was fully operational with all the amenities, including the computer.

The built-in desktop booted into an unfamiliar operating system, she bit her lip as she moved the cursor around the touchscreen, she had no idea what Ubuntu Linux was, but forged ahead anyway. Tapping her finger on “Guest” she opened a screen with an empty desktop. It was like the one that she knew, so she tried to navigate around with her fingertip.

A fascinating system with a virtual keyboard that Tom used.

She smiled. Never would there be a popped-off key or polished with repeated keystrokes until the letters were obliterated, it all impressed her with the system that was unlike the more mainstream and bug-ridden offering.

She continued exploring around the system programs finally finding an icon for the web browser. Using the virtual keyboard, she entered Tom’s name and read the listing.

And boggled…

*Oh, crap on a cracker!*

Not only had Tom been writing, he had started a company that had imported the kind of plane she was sitting in for firefighting and modified them for use in the United States.

Bigger engines, more capacity. The government contracted to use the modified planes all over the country and Canada, a young and growing air transport company. The second listing had a page that offered his name in a link, she clicked on it and uncovered his two dozen children’s books… and his unauthorized biography.

Tom never spoke of his past family. Never hinting at the past catastrophe that drove him. The biography showed a red-headed girl with curls and a blond boy with brilliant blue eyes. The children had their arms around Tom and a woman she assumed was his wife in child-sized bear-hugs.

Reading further, he was a small-business owner and was active in various activities with students and children. He trained with FEMA and belonged to a volunteer fire department.

She continued and an entry covered one early evening when Tom responded to a call, police evidence showed his pregnant wife took the children in the family car and were driving towards where Tom was working at a fire in a barn.

Somehow they had gotten off the road on a train track in the dark and was hit by a freight-train at more than seventy-miles-per-hour. In the accompanying photo with the article, the family car was unrecognizable.

*It’s inverted!* She gasped. The car’s engine was missing and the seats were on the ground outside of the car.

A second image of the scene had two sheets covering the tiny bodies, a larger sheet hung on the remains of the car covered what was left of the mother. The archived words on the news page said there were no survivors, the children died at the scene.

More chapters of the unauthorized biography revealed that Tom closed his business, filed for bankruptcy and locked himself in his house. His name showed up on the internet a year or so later with the first of the Leafy Sea Dragon children’s book that sold in local stores along Australia’s southern coast. The books became an instant hit locally and motivated Tom to come out of his seclusion.

The light illuminated Kaylee’s eyes and her heart.

Paparazzi followed him often to the family house, which he sold shortly after that. Rumors that he had murdered his family the internet tabloids wrote, but the internet and local news services showed he went to the accident as a first-responder only to discover that it was his car and family destroyed by the train.

*He was the first one there! He found them like that.*

It was after his first made-for-tv movie in Australia had gotten him enough funds to first live on a boat. Then, when that did not deter the constant hounding with the photographers on motorbike and speeding cars or hiding in bushes using long lenses with expensive cameras, he bought at first a float plane and a high mountain lake. But the predatory creatures with cameras continued to stalk him.

Rumors began that Tom was hiding something– and again with innuendo and hints that he was running from the law. Hounded by the conspiracy press, he ran as far as his budget could take him.

Great efforts in print by the tabloids showed Tom in the company of known gay men and women that were strong-willed.

“None of your business, next question.” Would be his response at any press conferences, comicon’s or interviews that questioned the events surrounding the death of his family.

Men and women that had little to no contact with Tom would claim his involvement in drugs and sex. They told stories of his involvement with Satan churches, drugs, slavery. Nothing that was close to the truth.

In the end, the tabloids did damage enough to effect some of the sales of his books in religious dominated communities that burned anything with his name, prompting Tom into action, and he retaliated with fury and lawyers.

After a series of lawsuits, he had driven one tabloid into oblivion and severely reduced the size and operations of three others, then used the proceeds of the billion-dollar awards in purchasing of larger fire-fighting planes that could scoop up water and drop on wildfires.

Tom, now capitalized, in turn published more novels which earned him more income.

*He said he had made inroads in the United States.*

In the United States? Kaylee laughed. He had kept three books on the best seller list for children’s books six out of the last eight years. *Every year a new one on the list before the others dropped off.*

His books that followed,  he published while writing the children’s books were adventures for the young adult reader. Pirates, vampires, even mainstream zombie apocalypse type stories.

One mention about his changes to a scoop-plane used for water drops on wild land fires. In one website dedicated to such planes, it was the first one that they had just nearly wrecked in the wine country of northern California.

Then a second article about the this jet she was in, he was still being reclusive as he kept offshore and away from stalking paparazzi. Whenever they came close with their boats, he left or, in one case, turned the plane and used the engines to swamp the boat as he left the area.

It had become a game of tag when a few speedboats moved directly in front of him on purpose to stop his leaving, but the boats were no match for the twin-engine jet and the FAA with the United States Coast Guard issuing citations to all involved.

The Coast Guard cleared Tom of any wrongdoing as the speedboats cut in front of the flying-boat to prevent takeoff and get chances shoot pictures of the reclusive author.

Tapping on the screen, she opened another listing with Tom’s name and it was much of the same. Nice-guy this, great philanthropist that. It showed him with families and children.

But it became obvious – never did he have a date. No girlfriend, no scandal. A boy scout?

Hardly, Tom was toe-curling funny and lovable when they were together. He was just private, no telling the number of women he had dates with.

In fact, she was not even mentioned in any of the web pages. Suggesting that his private lifestyle kept her out of the public eye.

Nodding while she read the web page and noted the lack of information that the world did not know she was his wife. Glenn would not find out that this mistake of a marriage ever happened.

It was…

It… She did not know what “it” was.

Shaking her head.

Kaylee knew what it was.

It was a mistake.

Growling inwardly, which part of this was a mistake? She was starting to second guess herself. She had read enough and sat back.

*Perhaps I’ve read too much?* She blinked her eyes. *I have to digest all this. It is one thing on my phone, but wow. This is so much more.*

Shaking her head, Kaylee stood up with a sigh and walked out the door of the plane. Her feet leading her to her apartment.

*I have to remember, I am mad at him.* She had a soft smile while she walked out of the hangar.

And he made her smile in countless ways.

*I still want the annulment. I love Glenn more than anyone.*

*Pretty sure I do.*

*Perhaps.*

*Maybe.* Then Kaylee cussed for no reason in particular.

Married By Mistake Chapter 10. After The Rescue

MbM
Standard

Chapter 10. After The Rescue

 
After talking with the President of Ocean Bay University and the police, giving her statement, Tom walked with Kaylee down the open air hall of the college.

“How did you know where to find me?” Kaylee asked Tom after a long silence while they walked down the stairs of the college and towards her car. “There are more than ten art classrooms there.”

“We tried three rooms with Dr. Manga’s pass key before we found you. I was getting worried that you were in deep trouble, and you were.”

Kaylee wept and leaned against him as they stood by her car.

“I’m sorry. I…” She sobbed against his chest. “Sorry.”

“He was up there blaming you for entrapping him.” Tom frowned, free hand clenched into a fist. “I talked with Professor Manga while you talked with the police, and he has offered to test you on your finals if you would take them with a summer class next month. It will be in a group.”

“Oh wow.” Kaylee wiped her eyes on his chest and laughed tearfully. Wiping the wet spot on his shirt. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. That’s what I’m here for. I’m your personal snot-rag.” He said softly.

She laughed, his support made the pain of the situation so much less. Tom could be funny in the most quirky way.

“Thank you.”

“There he goes.” Tom nodded towards the two police cruisers pulled away with now ex-Professor in the back seat.

President Manga walked towards them from the steps of the University.

“AH! Good, you have not yet left. Kaylee , in light of the events today and review of your record, I’m passing you on your final exam with a one hundred percent. Further, you will not need to deal with that cretin directly. You might be called upon as a witness, but you are not the one filing a complaint. That would be my office and my signature. Tom is a witness to his criminal misconduct as are you. He attempted to entrap you in his little game.” A volcanic anger seemed to radiate from his eyes. ”It seems that there is more to this as well. He had video cameras in there from several angles. A search of his office showed a number of computer memory sticks with other women he had done this to.”

“I’m not the only one?” Kaylee asked, the thought of being in a personal library of porn took her by surprise.

“There could be hundreds. He was here for years, a tenured professor. The police will be investigating, and Tom,“ President Manga looked away from Kaylee . “I hope this does not affect our business together.”

“Of course not, my friend.” Tom said as they shook hands. “In fact, you are the hero of the hour. If we had not stopped our meeting to check on this, who knows what might have happened to her. But she is safe now.”

“Most excellent, I will leave you then and you can take her home.” Turning to Kaylee he spoke softly with his basso-profundo voice. “Missus Harte, you have an honorable husband and a good man here. Congratulations on the marriage.”

“Thank you Professor.” She said softly, her tension slowly leaving her. Still traumatized, she hung on to Tom.

“Let’s head home.” Tom said.

Riding in the car, Tom pushed a Bluetooth device in his ear and told the phone to call the local car rental, spoke with the person on the other end and made arrangements to pick the rental car up and then broke the connection.

Instead of driving to the harbor, Tom drove towards the airport.

They turned on a road and a guard let them through the gate to a private parking area of the airport. Tom pulled up to the yellow zone and turned off the car.

“Why did you move it?”

“More than a few days in the water, marine life begins to grow on the hull. So I need to bring it out and have the hull cleaned, I’ve seen that before on some float planes that have sat too long in the ocean. It makes the engines work harder to get us airborne and fuel consumption goes up. Besides, speaking of fuel, we need to fuel and reload with water. We have been using the fresh water like crazy, when I went to take a shower this morning and… nothing. We were empty of fresh water.”

“Wow. I didn’t think of that.”

“Neither did I. It’s a lifestyle. It is something that takes some getting to used to.” He said smiling as he got out of the car.

She was quiet for a few minutes while they embraced against her car, thoughts rolling around in her head, when she remembered one important issue.

“Tom. Have you gotten the papers?”

“Papers?”

“Annulment papers. We are having fun and all, but I have a life back home and a boyfriend that I’m quite sure he would not understand this.”

Tom gave a nod with a sigh.

“Yes. You said thirty days.”

“I know, but you followed me to the college. I can handle myself, there is no need for a stalking hero.”

“So it seems.” Tom said flatly, no longer smiling. “You were wearing nothing but a towel, he was standing naked on the stage and you were about to climb on a bed with video camera’s all around.”

Tom looked directly at her as they sat at the stoplight. “He was going to extort you into sex. You are tough, probably the toughest woman I know, you can break a man’s arm, give him knowledge bumps on his melon, but you could not fight that.” Tom frowned. “He had you over a barrel and, if you were alone, he would force you to comply. But you were never alone. Not after I made the promise.”

“I don’t need a hero, Tom.” He irritated her by thinking she needed some omnipresent protector. “I want to go home alone, you drive back to your plane. There’s a lot on my mind right now.”

“Why are you mad at me? I helped you, if the Professor and I did not arrive when we did, you’d have your legs wrapped around that… That… Monster because he would destroy your life if you didn’t.” Tom clenched his fists hard enough to her back that his knuckles cracked.

“Desperate people can do desperate deeds, and you had no wiggle room.” Tom tried to help with his words, but failing. “If you walked out, he could have denied everything and charged that you failed your test and were now retaliating. He would have wiped out your scholastic career. You might as well have quit your studies totally and applied at the local bar and serve whiskey and wine to horny students for the rest of your life.”

“So you are saying I would have prostituted myself for a grade?”

Tom gaped and went slack-jawed. Without intending, that was what he had said.

And it was the truth. Without a rescue, a helping hand, someone to blow a whistle, Professor Billings was going to extort her into sex. Then with the video camera’s around, the Professor would have had even more leverage on her.

*It could have gone on for months, maybe even years,* Her heart fell, Tom was right. *Using the pornographic home movies of me banging him to keep me quiet or worse.*

“I’m saying he was blackmailing you. The police already know of dozens of other women from the quick scan of the memory sticks that Dr. Manga and I found and gave to the police. The detectives took another hundred or more, it was a trunk load of full evidence bags from his office — All memory sticks. I have no idea what is on those.”

She finally asked the question that was burning in her mind when she slipped out of his arms and walked around the car to get in the driver’s seat.

“Do you think there are other videos of girls on them?”

“Yes, the few we saw were dozens of thumbnails of women having sex with him. Some files were time-stamped a decade ago.”

“Oh, damn!”

“Tell you what, “ Tom sighed. “Let’s not fight, instead let’s go north to some wine country. Let’s do some wine tasting in the north state. We’ll there in an hour, I’ll even give you a low pass over the vineyards and then spend the next few days there. It’ll be fun.”

“Tom. You can’t just smooth over this.” She thought a moment and relented. It was a romantic and exciting idea. “But okay, it sounds wonderful. But you are still in trouble for ignoring me when I said I’d go alone.”

“You went alone. I just had a meeting with someone from the school.”

“You mister Harte,” She raised her voice in mock irritation and put her finger on his chest, just over his heart. “Called him because you were jealous!”

“These meetings have gone on for two months. It is not my first time to break bread with Doctor Manga. You know that he is leaving as the Headmaster of the school next year. His contract runs out at the end of August and he has accepted a position at Cambridge University. I’m invited to speak at his installation.”

“Then you had no choice to mention I was there?”

“I just asked when all classes ended.”

“I’m not sure about that.” She eyed him suspiciously. “I’m still mad at you. Go home. I’ll come by later.”

“Call me before you do. I have some services to schedule. The Wizard is out of water and low on fuel, and I’ll hire a company to clean and repaint the hull. We will be taking the Fleeting Fantasy. She is the first one I bought when the first four books sold.”

“Where are you going to pay for, you said service and this…” Kaylee paused as Tom’s words sank in. “Wait… a second airplane?”

“Here at the airport. You will be able to come here if you like. I’ll leave word with the guard, your car will need a sticker. This is also where I rent my cars. Way easier than having the company pick me, or us, up at the dock.”

“Okay. When do we leave?”

“Well, it’s almost noon now. They’ll be done servicing it all by the time you’re back. So anytime you arrive, we can leave. Bring some comfortable shoes and clothing to wear at the wine tasting. You’ll be standing a lot.”

“Where are we going, precisely?”

“Lodi.”

“Low…who?”

“You’ll see.” Tom laughed softly.

Trying to kiss her, Kaylee turned her face.

“I’m still mad at you. I don’t know why, but I am.” She looked at Tom with tears in her eyes. “Your timing was perfect today. But I’m still mad at you.”

He watched her car disappear around the guard shack into the lunch hour traffic, he felt a familiar pain.

Tom gave a heavy sigh then turned and made his way towards the Pacific Wizard, walking across the tarmac he wished it would rain.

Walking in the rain, no one can tell when you cry.

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

Standard

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.

Little Monster Girl by my fave non-text artist!

Standard

Keep an eye out for this lady, she might do some book covers for me, if she is interested. 😀

Now, click on this and be entertained!

Zela zhe Zwims zwimmingly looking zexy! Ze Octopuz doez thingz but tastez good.

http://lmgcomic.com/comic/chapter-5-comic-15/

 

Generation 3. chapter 3. The Next Day

Standard

Gen 3. Chapter 3. The Next Day

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

A very odd dream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There you are. You were missing.”

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

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

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

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

Fae laughed.

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

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

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

“Yes, roughly, about seven-hundred.”

“Roughly?”

“Some cylinders have failed.”

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

“We need to talk with Doctor Ofir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fae, you can call me Fae.”

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

“What does it mean?” Fae blinked.

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

Fae paused for a second.

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

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

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

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

Fae’s eyes had glazed over.

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

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

“I didn’t know that.”

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

Laughing, Fae just shook her head.

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

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

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

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

“Sorry Doctor.”

“What is the negative outcome?” Fae asked.

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

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

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

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

“Excellent. Can we go see him?”

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

“Awesome! Let’s get it done.”

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

lunch of crushed fire.

Standard

So far, I am convinced the world of the kitchen today is trying to perform some kind of twisted sense of humor.

In making a sandwich, A touch of mayonnaise, havarti cheese, mushrooms, sliced crimini mushrooms. Then powdered garlic, and a sprinkle of crushed red chili pepper.

Well, that was the plan. It all went well until the chili-pepper.

The dry pepper in a jar just takes a light shake. Instead of a pinch? I probably put two-tablespoons on the sandwich.

UGH!  Shake it off- carefully. And I ate it down anyway.  THIS was a sinus-clearing event.

and now, I know for sure it is not an anxiety/panic attack, but my tummy is asking me “WTF did you swallow? A bbq ember? Wow!”

Ugh, Refusal to back down, hard-headed “I refuse to let it ruin my meal.” attitude.

So now I sit here perspiring more than if I just sat in the sun after a hot shower.

To quote a famous cat. Pffttthhp.

I can even fail at making a lunch.

But I did finish making the frozen dog-treats.  Greek Yogurt, (Local “raw”) honey, banana, peanut butter that are now in the freezer. I just tried really hard to make a mess. One of the containers had a hole in it from a dog-tooth, so it leaked all over the counter. *Sigh* but that was the only fail. Messy enough. At least when breaking up larger frozen “Cubes” of the dog treat, I didn’t slice a finger.

Not that I didn’t try. heh.

I did get a half-dozen shots in with the bow, hit the milk-cap twice. I’m trying to get focused again.

On a related “Focused” note. Keep an eye on this (and a few others! PoffPublishing and Rarity for two.). blog for announcements of an anthology of Horror scheduled now for (NO later than) 1 October 2016.  Originally scheduled for 2015, but all of us have fallen behind and with my own rough patch coming up (Mama Dash with Multiple Myeloma- a bone cancer and Sister Sledgehammer [the “Dash it ALL” attitude. Do not @#$! with her, she will hurt you.] with hardware being taken out of her body to the tune of about a half-pound of steel. PLUS a discovery that the previous surgeries failed to reattach a TFL muscle back to the hip.  Papa Dash trying to crash and burn in front of the nurses the day of his surgery. ) I don’t see me doing much in a full-fledged assembly of a story, even if we have a team of us authors.

Speaking of which?

Anyone who wants to be part of an anthology of a horror novel scheduled for a Halloween 2016 season release.  We have some openings. We are shooting for a 50-60,000 word novel. No more than 100k words total. At that point, our short-story size begin to shrink.

So, shoot me a note. We can chat.

Dash

Assistant cook and chief bottle washer.

Oh and just promoted from journeyman baiter to master. So all is good there. (think about it and you’re allowed to giggle)

How fatigued do you get to write?

Standard

Looking at the screen, my eyes cannot keep open – and yet it is just before lunch.

No urge to shoot the bow, I did string it. But I opened the door and it was like a sauna outside already in the morning. Not sure what it is.  Perhaps it is the worry and coming down off the rage of sticking my finger into the eye of fate and yelling a profanity.

It started when driving the (nearly) 3 hours back from Sister Sledge’s house.

So now I write.  How do you write when the fatigue sets in? Am I lazy? Or is it my imagination has blown a circuit breaker and needs to be reset?

All the words I put down are … middle school failure level…

I mean I can spell and understand pseudopolypharmecutical (Fake multiple medications) but I have trouble with philatelist? or … what was the other? Subsumed? I don’t recall.  I ended up doing more reading than writing. *sigh*

I do not know what I can bring to the table for your pleasure. I am writing an anthology of horror, I love the use of a mirror in horror.  Dracula could not see his reflection.  So if you think you have someone who is sweet, sexy, seductive and he is standing behind you copping a feel, and you look at your reflection in a mirror/window/chrome teapot and you are alone? Um… you just graduated into a ghost story.

So now I work on ask you.

How do you get around being fatigued?

Angel of Death and the Scandal in Sandals

Standard

“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.

Dog, firecracker, panic and home alone.

Standard

Some years ago, the movie “Home Alone” hit the theaters, a lone boy did have panic events, bad-guys and adapted to the situation.

Tonight, such Hollywood adventures and good endings are not possible.  A date night with a stage play and dogs (Count them, TWO) are left home to defend the house and home.

Honey, the honey (or sand-tan) colored dog, is large, powerful and quite laid back. Sudden noises can get her to flinch, knocks on doors get her to bark. Thunder, firecrackers, fireworks, meh, not so much.  The sudden large roll of thunder might get her to raise her head, but that is about all you get out of her.

The chocolate lab, on the other hand. Not so laid back.  She hates the electronic bug zapper, firecrackers in the distance are just wrong.

Thunder? No. Just no.

Tonight, we head out to see a stage play of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, take in a dinner and sit through the long (two intermissions!) production with a total of four actors.

A pleasant Saturday night comes to a close, on our arrival home, we find one of the french doors to the great-room all but destroyed. The door jam is pulled away from the wall, the molding around the doorway has been chewed down and torn.  Wood.  Torn.

Torn?  Big danged splinters torn off, I could fit four fingers in the gap.

Paint is torn away from the wood as if a rough file had been run over it. Not fresh paint, either!  This took some work.

What the heck? Who did this?

Looking at the big dog first, she was first suspect, by all the family, until I pointed out that the kind of damage on the door took time. A lot of time.

And fear.  Something lit off a dog.

“Perhaps a knock at the door?”

No, not enough, they would bark and reset after a minute or two, this took time.

So now, the suspect is the smaller chocolate lab, who has a panic issue. We are coming to the 4th of July and explosives — which are not legal in the area — are a nightly event.

I think a deep panic set in, the cats aren’t talking, but they point little furry fingers at the dark brown one and whisper: “that bitch is crazy.”

*sigh*

Tomorrow, the door is on the list for repaires.  I may have to take it down and begin to prepare it for paint.

No fun to come home to that kind of damage.  But she stresses beyond reason when the pops are close- full fledged beyond sanity panic.

Some (four-legged) kids you can’t leave home without drugging them. I hate thinking that, or alternately, she cannot be left alone. She needs a human to stay with.

Over the 4th of July, we are taking off to a remote area that is 1. dog friendly and 2. having stayed before, they do not do fireworks, only down at the beach. We stay far away from the beach, hiding in an air-conditioned hotel room with thick walls, after we run her to the point of exhaustion on the beach and in the surf.

That is the plan of action, we will still suffer the tail end of the fireworks for another month to come.  But the worst of it will be avoided.

How was your night?

Shock and Awe Chapter 2. The Assault Begins

Standard

Chapter 2. The Assault Begins

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

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

It was time to begin.

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

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

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

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

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

“But… Please, duck.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fuck it, use the ram.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And again! The whistling sound it produced was painful.

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

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

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

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

“Throw one in!” Leslie yelled.

“WHAT?” The SWAT team member yelled.

“I will throw in now.”

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

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

He missed.

“FUCK! GRENADE!”

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

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

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

Dragon Master University Chapter 38. Spring Quarter Begins

Standard

Chapter 38. Spring Quarter Begins

Kolo walked slowly with Jona and talked about why she left.

“My family had to move, the Csu are in the area.”

“The chew?” Jona asked.

“Csu, C-S-U, no one knows where they came from, but they are a human-like kind of creature, but aggressive, hateful. They have drawn upon something that no one wishes to believe.” She shuddered. “Gorgons.”

“You are speaking in riddles.” He looked sideways at his friend.

“Paying attention in next years classes on dragon and human relationships will help. But for now, I’ll explain it is a kind of religion. The Csu follow a book, interpreted by the High-Priestess and their queen.”

“And what are gorgons?” They mounted the curving steps to the emerald level, to the dorms of their level.

“Gorgons are dragons that have fallen under the spell of the Csu, they have an anger that is corrupts their bodies, humans are favorite target, but an attack by a gorgon the humans view as an attack by a dragon. Dragons come in all shapes and sizes, like humans.” She held his hand. “We have hearts and skin, each of us are as different as two humans. Gorgons cannot be spotted from dragons, humans then hunt every single dragon to pay the price of the few malevolent creatures.”

“Do we have those here in school?”

“Oh no!” She shook her head. “Professors and even the Green Wizard have a sense about that, dragons and humans that are too dangerous to live with each other are not brought here. They go to a different school.”

“What kind of school?” Jona asked, still learning about the nuances about the university. “Like a school for dunces?”

“More like how to teach peace. Humans and Dragons do not associate at that school.”

“Where is it?”

“Other side of the world. It would take the fastest flier almost a day to get there.” Her slid around his waist and pulled him close to her as they topped the stairs and walked down the hallway. “I have missed you.”

Jona smiled, color rising to his cheeks.

“Oh, I forgot, you are sensitive to that.” She laughed softly. “Humans don’t touch like dragons.”

“I think you just like to touch me.” He grinned at her.

“Well, you smell good, especially after you have showered. You use that cedar oil soap. There is only one other I like more, but I don’t want you to try it.”

“What scent is that?”

“Fish.” She winked. “Specifically, salmon.”

“Um, yeah. No.” He laughed.

“Well, I’m thirsty. I am going to get some tea and study. I will tell you more about the Csu when I sit down.”

Jona shook his head.

“I just finished flying with Eva, I need to shower, if she gets in before me, she uses all the hot water.”

Kolo laughed and nodded.

“I’ll be on a cushion when you come out. I have studying to do, come sit with me.” She looked at him sideways. “You do still like to sit with me?”

“Oh, of course!”

“Summer enjoyed herself. You should invite her here sometime and come cuddle.” She smiled. “She would like that. Her clan are known cuddlers and raise families with humans.”

“Maybe later, right now? A shower.” Jona shook his head.

“Use that cedar soap.” She laughed and called after the human that tickled her heart.

She sat there with a large cup of steaming tea when Kola came and sat next to her.

“Did you tell the professors what happened at home?”

His sister shook her head.

“I have had enough trouble telling Jona. If the Csu have moved into the swimmer clan’s area, they are moving everywhere, the school would know before I told them.”

“Tell us what?”

It was Professor Vale, he walked on soft, cat-like feet when he wanted to. He walked to the golden tea-pot and turned the handle at the bottom, filling a cup with the fragrant steaming brew.

“Sir, the Csu forced my clan to move. They imposed their kind of law and it is a horrid version of law, worse than anything archaic humans have ever thought up.” Kolo looked down and went quiet.

Kola spoke up.

“Professor, they are using Gorgons.”

The tea-cup stopped in mid-air between the saucer and the Professor’s lips for a count of five before he took a sip.

“Gorgon.” He muttered as he took a sip while looking straight at Kola. “Are you sure?”

“They have the markings, carved into their scales.” Kola said.

“Professor.” Jona walked in wearing a thick, brushed cotton robe, his hair wet. “What is a gorgon?”

“They are a group of dragons that the Csu twisted and corrupted within and without by the magic of Csu.” Professor Vale started slowly. “They submit with free will, or captured and forced to convert, either way, they change.” He shook his head, sipped his tea, took a breath and continued. “The heart of the dragon is resilient and the scales of a dragon reflect what is in the heart. This is why you see dragons here as you do. Even those that are…”

Professor Vale trailed off and sipped his tea.

“Sorry, I lost the word.” He paused. “Bully. That’s it. Their heart reflects the violent fear that is in the core of their heart. They feel that it is the only way for them to achieve salvation and all that stand in their way they destroy. Human, dragon, young, old, statue, memories. And they will destroy all history to make way for only one leader and religion.”

“The Csu.” Jona said.

“Very good, I do not know where you have been doing your social studies, but you have been paying attention.” The Professor said.

“The serious threat that the Csu have for the world, where they raid, they use a scorched earth policy in society and physically. Humans are wiped out, dragons join or die.”

“Dragons do not submit.” Kola said.

“No, that means for a severe battle when swimmers, runners and flyers band together and fight against a creeping evil that is the insanity named Csu.” Vale shook his head. “Csu must be nearly two-thousand winter’s old by now.”

“Who is Csu?” Jona asked, his blue eyes locked on Vales gold.

“Csu was a student here, but dropped out when a judge caught her cheating during a race. The school transferred her to the segregated school for humans to learn peace and acceptance of dragons.” Vale took another swallow of tea. “She nearly killed a human boy. I do not know all the circumstances, but she used an object that she keeps with her. An antler of an animal.”

“She wrote a book about that time, claiming that it was the word of the Dragon Lord, Gamon.” Vale’s voice was soft as he thought. “Gamon has not been spoken of before, no one knows where it came from. But she gathered followers of like-minded dragons. She might be half-dragon herself, no one knows for sure, but her appearance has changed. Perhaps reflecting her heart and soul, buy in any way you wish to look at it, the group she has started has taken on her name. She is Csu, they are the Csu.”

“Corruption of the inside, corrupts the outside?” Jona asked.

“Not entirely accurate, but essentially, yes.” Vale nodded. “Dragons when angered over a long time, their bodies prepare for battles, claws get longer, scales get coarser and thicker. In mixed races with humans, elves and others, the effect is still observable.”

“So she builds a following. How can the world stop this?” Kola asked.

“Dragons, by and large, are peaceful with given exceptions.” Vale was still pondering. “My suggestion to you students, do not seek anything out on this. Stay within the range of the school.”

Jona looked around wide-eyed.

“I don’t think I want to leave the house.”

“Do not stress young human, we have protocols in place.” Vale tried to smile.

“Nothing can happen.”

Valley of Fear Chapter 4. Bones

Standard

Chapter 4. Bones

“Come in,” Clark motioned with his hand to the inside of a large office with topographical maps framed on two of the big walls, and a large desk at one end, piled high with folders. A table by a large window was a miniature monument to an earlier age in the area.

Professor Ng looked it over, and took out a laser pointer.

“Three-guardians, Bald, Whitewater canyon complex.” Ng shined the laser on the diorama, naming off the peaks and valleys. “This model is of this area.”

“Yes, you have looked at a map once or twice, professor.” Clark nodded. “But there has been a change that is not on that model.”

“What is that?”

“As for what it looks like, I don’t know.” Clark answered. “Not yet. That is why I asked for you all to come here. First of all, your lives were in danger.”

“First?” Andre asked. “How did you even know we were out there?”

“Well, young warrior, sit down in that chair right there” Clark pointed. “And let me teach you how it’s done.”

They all sat and the tribal elder walked to the end of the office and tapped a wall that silently opened to reveal a small alcove with a bar on one side and computer controls on another.

“Each of you are over the drinking age, is there anything you would like?” Clark asked and took count of the requests, serving the instructor and the students before sitting down himself with a tumbler glass of a dark amber fluid.

“A little later, I will go on a vision quest, this will help.” Clark nodded. “Anyone who wishes to join me, let me explain the situation at hand.”

Picking up some broken bones, he began to explain.

“Here, this is a leg-bone of an eagle, the claw of a large bear, skull of a raven and the jawbone of a lion, a leg bone of a coyote.” He held up the claw. “This has been DNA tested for age. This claw came from a short-faced bear, the jawbone still also has trace in the teeth, but I didn’t want to subject the spirit to the insult of the white-man technology. But, the shape and size is that of the American Cave Lion.”

“Clark, that is all interesting. But what does that have to do with us?” The Professor asked.

“Well, please notice, something broke all the bones. These all contained the spirits of selected ancestors.” Carl said quietly. “You see, this tribe has been given the Covenant to care for all these lands by Quilxka Nupika, the Supreme Creator. After the Creator trapped Monster of the Mountain under the earth.”

He took a long sniff of his iced drink.

“In the days before our times, the Kootenai river flowed into Columbia lake, a large monster from the sea made trouble in Columbia lake. The Monster led the Bear, Eagle and Fox on a merry chase around the mountains until the Chief of the Animals, a giant pushed over a mountain top and blocked the southern entrance into the lake by the Kootenai river. The gods trapped the monster of the sea under a mountain, hidden away from all of humanity forever. Using only the wood from an immortal tree and holy stones with sacred writing on them.”

Taking another drink, he took a breath.

“Someone broke the seal of the immortal wood. The stones have gone missing, the monster is loose and that power has broken the bones of my ancestors. Bones that my passed down from father to son since before the writing of the history of the world.” Clark said as he looked over the top of the glass, contemplating the fluid that swirled around the ice cubes. “In this glass is rye whiskey, it was found in a cabin in California. The collection of the bottles were sold at auction. It is old, over a hundred-years.”

They looked at him, listening.

“I never drink it, but I like the smell.” He smiled, then frowned. “In any event. Something has happened, that has not been foreseen.”

Doctor Clark gave a heavy sigh and put his glass down.

“The monster has escaped.”

“Doctor.” Professor Ng said slowly. “These are legends, but I know that legends all have seed of truth. What is the monster?”

“It came from the sea, according to legend. But in my point of view? It falls into a few categories.”

He stood up and walked over to the diorama.

“First, it could have been no more than an earthquake or a series of earthquakes that formed the Rockies. Second, it could be something volcanic, possibly related to the first, but with lethal gasses, it could kill without being seen.”

“But Doctor,” Gil asked. “There are no volcanos for hundreds of miles of here.”

“Correct. That brings me to the third part. It could be something more metaphysical. A true demon.” Clark said. “Something with a long life, something that can control or kill animals. The beasts of the forest knew this and left, en mass.”

“Yes, we witnessed at least part of that.” Reedah shook her head. “It was the most amazing thing I ever saw.”

“It won’t be the last time you say that.” Clark said.

“And fifth, there is one more thing.” He paused. “There is a possibility that what was buried so long ago is alien. Or perhaps, alien technology.”

“Where would this be buried?”

“No one knows. My grandfather’s father died at the hands of the French soldiers before he passed on the knowledge to his son. I have the bones, but only a vague knowledge where the cave of the monster is. I only know that at least one of the stones that is set in the immortal wood is what my father called Sky-Stone.”

The students looked at each other.

“Iron meteorite.” Andre said.

“I agree.” Professor Ng said.

“If you have a ferrous metal geometric shape in an insulator.” Gil said to Andre and Reedah.

“Induced power can set up a magnetic field.” Reedah whispered back.

“Magnetic and electric dead zone, if they set the stones with the same stones everywhere inside, they could make a kind of Faraday Cage.” Andre said.

“But fragile. Or in the words of those who believe.” Clark looked from one to the other. “Sacred.”

“So someone broke the cage, and what is immortal wood?” Reedah asked.

“Yes, and the world has no clue what has awakened.” Clark answered grimly.

Valley of Fear Chapter 3. A Meeting

Standard

Chapter 3. A Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard pulled his ear and laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

“What does that mean?” Professor Ng asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A hundred-what?” Gil asked.

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

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

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

Professor Ng smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valley of Fear Chapter 1. Three Weeks Ago

Standard

Chapter 1. Three Weeks Ago

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

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

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

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

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

That was his excuse anyway. 

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

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

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

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

It was a rapid exit from the government service.

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

There!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valley of Fear Prologue

Standard

Prologue

The Running

Northern Idaho, fifty-kilometers south of the Canadian border on I-95, he stepped out on the gravel of the shoulder. Hiking out of the forests, he knew he had his ancient Volvo somewhere in the area. Looking around, he was about a half-mile south of where he went in a dozen hours before.

It was a nice day in the northern panhandle to collect the data from the different stations that the school placed around in the hundred-twenty thousand acres of the healing scar left from the Devil’s Broom Fire of 1910. Five of the undergraduates had gone in, Phillip was the first to come out of the hike. A few inches taller than the others, his stride had taken the toll on his companions. Gil Van Zant, Andre Sondergeld, Reedah Wilson (herself a bit of a mountain goat.)and Doctor Ru’khu Ng, the oldest of the group that often show them up by out-walking them all.

Bruce could see the others catching up to him when he saw what made his blood run cold coming over the ridge.

Wolves.

A lot of wolves, at least… he counted quickly on the undulating mass of grey and tails losing count at fifty.

And they were coming up the path at full speed.

“RUN! Oh, good God RUN!” Bruce waved at the team. “Behind you.”

Gil, bringing up the rear looked and turned, echoing Bruce’s warnings and the group began to run. The wolves were a mile off and running fast but making a direct line to the group. Caught out in the open like this, they would not stand a chance if the wolves surrounded them.

But, three hikers carried a side-arm. If need, they could open fire. Bruce carried the heaviest, a foot-long barreled revolver chambered for the mighty Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum cartridge.

It was not a quick-draw gun by any stretch of the imagination and it took him nearly five seconds to draw it out of the holster that resided between his backpack and his lumbar region.

It was a poor weapon against a pack of wolves bent on an easy meal.

Fully loaded, the big wheel-gun only held five rounds, and reloading was not a speed setting effort.

Still, if he could get them to line up, he could take four wolves with a single shot.

The hysterical thought ran through his mind of a four-for-one shot.

But he still carried it with one chamber unloaded and hammer down. It was an old safety habit. Popping out a cartridge from his belt, he slid the bullet cartridge into the empty chamber as Reedah came up next to him, panting from running with the heavy backpack.

“I say drop our packs here. Where is your car?”

“Half-mile up that way.” He pointed. The wolves were less than a quarter-mile off and coming fast. “We turned left one rock too soon. Get that pistol of yours out.”

“Like what am I going to do with it. I have an officer’s model with a seven plus one. Gill has a longslide with nothing else, we have the same count. “ She looked at him and drew her small auto-loader.

Her math was correct, even combined, their first volley did not match the numbers of the pack that ran towards them.

“I,” Gil gasped struggling with his pistol and the holster. “Have never seen wolves chase humans and out in the open too!”

“Gil, we don’t have enough firepower to win this outright, maybe we can divert them. Professor Ng, what do we do?”

“Climb a tree!” The Professor pointed to one with low hanging branches.

“What about our backpacks?” Reedah asked as the professor sprinted past— without his pack and gun in hand. “Oh!”

The group made the tree when the wolves caught up — and ran past them in a full run.

“Look! They are tuck-tailed.” Gil pointed out. “Something has them spooked.”

“I don’t know what would spook a pack of wolves like that.” Andre said. “There is documentation that a pack can take down a full-sized moose or caribou.”

“Keep climbing.” The professor said, looking down the path. “Oh crap, keep climbing!”

“What?” Bruce asked. “What is it?”

“BEAR!” The Professor pointed. “LOTS of them!”

Down the path a dozen bears, golden-manteled in the sunlight and giant, gorgeous, carnivorous creatures ran up the path like a toothy tsunami, not making a sound other than the crashing through the brush as each tried to pass the other.

“UP! UP!” the humans began to shout at each other, the lead bear’s mass approaching a quarter-ton. The largest land predator in the lower forty-eight states, although smaller than their coastal cousins. These were the apex predators of the area.

“I’m stuck!” Andre yelled. “Oh my god, help!” Andre yelled when the galloping group of grizzly bear closed the gap.

And followed the wolves, running past, followed by the mix of deer, a wolverine, and groups of smaller bear.

But no smoke in the distance.

“Professor, what is going on?” Bruce said as he tried to holster his horse-pistol. Succeeding on his third try.

“Bruce, can you stop waving that thing around, you’re making me nervous.” Gil said. “You brought that big ol’ thing, you should have also brought the rest of the armored car.”

“It would take care of anything I thought we might run across, including bear.”

“You could try.” Gil retorted. “Me, I would rather make a lot of noise with it and try to scare a bear off, unless you can shove it down the bears throat and pull the trigger.”

“With your little autoloader, you would need to…” Bruce was drawing a breath to continue the argument when the Professor interrupted.

“Enough. Seriously, enough.” The teacher shook his head while he climbed out of the tree. “We have more than we need to report just for that.”

“What scares a freakin’ GRIZZLY?” Andre asked. “Not counting a whole village of them.”

“I, for one, am going to the car.” Reedah commented while she picked up her pack. “You all can stand around and discuss this, but I shot video with my phone.” She smiled and held up her Android phone. “Five minutes worth.”

The men looked at each other stupidly then picked up their backpacks and set off in Reedah’s wake, still arguing over what they just witnessed.

“We need to get out of this area. The rest of the animals are running, I see dust in the air, there is more coming. I don’t now if it is more bear, moose or what. But I’d say it’s time to get out of this valley.”

Pulling on to the pavement, they did not hear the soft sound of a moaning as they drove away.

Horror smelled the thin-skinned and slow animal that drove off in a mechanical beast and would follow.

Smart Bomb Chapter 16. Belle of The Boom

Standard

Scene 16. Belle of the Boom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bite me Al.” Thor laughed.

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

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

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

“Right. Just Wolf, you got it. “

Steve nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.” Steve did not look at Robert as he answered the question.

“What did I say?”

When Steve stopped typing for the briefest of seconds, Robert thought he had the bigger male at the disadvantage.

Then Steve answered with perfect clarity of tone everything that Running Man said.

“I can code that more quickly, you are using a code that works best with a balanced base-three system. You can’t use a base-three code in a base-two hardware and retain efficiency. May I try?”

“You have to do this best in assembly language, I can do that quickly for you. How many lines of code to you want to use?” Running Man asked Steve.

“I want it up by Morning.”

“Get me some coffee then.” And Running Man was typing nearly as fast as Steve the Android could.

Thirty hours passed, two women of Middle-east descent walked into the room. Coders and chemists, framework builders and an android stood and talked to them.

“Fully charged.” Lone Wolf introduced the pair of girls. “They will function for eleven days before their charge becomes critical. They will have a need to charge right away.”

“We need to put a weapon in one now.” Alvin said.

“Time to take it out of me and put it in one of these two robots.” Steve nodded.

Sitting on a chair, four rolls of paper towels around in his lap, steve took off his shirt and asked for ice.

“You are going to do it yourself?” Alvin gasped.

“Yes, you are not qualified. I need someone to hold the mirror, I think you can do it. There will be little blood, the fluid is not blood, no matter what its color is.

“M-m-me?” Alvin stammered. “Steve, you don’t want me to do that, I faint at the sight of blood.”

“It’s not blood. It’s a coolant fluid that also helps bring nutrients to the cells of the flesh. The flesh is not needed to run the frame, it approximates the flexing and appearance of being a human.”

“Looks close enough, to me.” Alvin made a noise best described as “Eep.” When Steve the android took a box cutter out of a blister package and extended the blade.

“Wait!” Running Man yelled. “You will cause an infection.”

“I don’t get infected.” The android answered back quickly. Trying to approximate a smile.

“You don’t know, germs are adaptable. This is organic tissue, right?” the young man’s hands did not seem to know where to touch himself. He put them in his pockets, behind his neck, on top of his head, then he folded his arms in agitation.

“Agreed.” The android paused. “If we poured some high-proof liquor over the site, would it be acceptable?”

“Yes.” Running man said.

Pouring a bottle of rum over the blade of the box cutter and his own stomach that satisfied the human boy, The android called Steve cut an incision to the left of center, then reached in and made a move with his hand, pushing his hand up past his wrist in the hold he cut in his chest.

Slowly nodding, everyone stood around watching him, then something happened.

Steve gave an electronic squeal, went rigid.

Teh women screamed, Lone Wolf joined in the chorus.

Then Steve stood up and nodded.

“Humor, yes?”

The group broke up laughing except for Lady Sif and Running Man.

“That was not funny!” Sif yelled at Steve.

“Actually that was great.” Alvin said as Steve handed him the thimble sized warhead.

“Dayum, and you say this has the kaboom of a four-ton bomb?” Alvin asked.

“Yes, almost half the size of the GBU-43/b bomb.” Steve answered.

“Would it be that hard to get twice as much in this package?” Lone Wolf asked as Thor hung over the shoulders of everyone.

“There is so very little of the material in the world, its cost is prohibitive.” Steve answered.

“How did your people get it.” Christopher Burning Chip asked.

“I was not powered up then, I do not have that information.” Steve answered, then added. “Suffice it to say, I would wager it was not an honest transaction.”

“Something so small and light.” Lir said as they passed it around. “How much power does it draw?”

“Five volts and six-hundred miliamps” Steve answered as one of he nubile, young-looking robots lay on the table.

“Okay, a small cut. You will heal in fifteen-minutes.”

She grunted slightly, he fished out a single wire and he attached the plug to the end of the warhead. He carefully slipped the wired bomb back under the skin that he then smoothed over and held in place with the fat part of his own thumb for two minutes.

Then he wiped the blood-colored fluid away and the incision was fully healed.

“Holy crap on a cracker.” Thor said. “I have never seen anything like that.”

“It is a military design, I know nothing more than that. Flesh that heals a hundred times faster than normal.” Steve answered as the girl got up off the table.

“They are now fully functional. They need clothing,” Burning Chip said. “And we are printing cards now, thanks to my bro here, Running Man.”

The one called Running Man bounced up and down, pleased at the recognition.

“Now, we send them home.” Alvin said.

Lone Wolf smiled and spoke.

“Make it so.”

The Dog and The Scarecrow

Standard

Howard the Scarecrow, has long been part of the archery range.  He is not a target, his goal as an obstacle  standing the place where not to shoot with arrows.

Howard has lived over half-year, after last Halloween.

Today, however take your hat off and bow your head in remembrance.

Howard is dead. He lived a life of danger and adventure, dodging arrows slung his direction.  Occasionally he got hit, but he always came back smiling.

But, his days were numbered.  Howard the scarecrow, skilled and dedicated he was to Archery.

Honey the dog became bored and the tragedy of his demise at the hands (Paws?) of the out-of-control dog.  He looked like the Scarecrow off the Wizard of Oz after the flying monkeys finished with him.  Parts of him were ………………………………….>over here!< and some were……………………………….>over there!< ………. His head was ……………………..>lost for awhile.< …. found under a pile of rags.

I have put his legs and arms on the table in the patio, tomorrow is Saturday, I’ll try to see if I can reassemble him, but I think Howard is a multi-trauma victim and has injuries incompatible with life.

Howard is retiring with full honors. He  gave his all, stout of heart, strong of fiber, just not dog-proof.

Good bye Howard the Scarecrow, you’ll be missed.

 

Smart Bomb Chapter 15. Confession of the Soul

Standard

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 12. To Meet An Old Soul

Standard

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)

Standard

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

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

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

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

“Are you going to talk or drink?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was depressing.

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

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

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

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

This was HIS park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Healing Heart

Standard

He wore a hat these days, his hair had thinned, turned white in most of the remaining hair.

Often he would laugh when his friends complained about going grey, redheads do not go grey.  They just fade to white. But he wore his cowboy hat, the one that his daughter brought back from her travels as a good-will Ambassador several years before.

Today, he walked with his grandson, holding hands with the blond-curly vessel of non-stop questions.

“What kind of bird is that?”

“Why do cats live here and not at home?”

Nicholas the Second (Named after his grandfather) answered Nicholas the Third (Named after him) did his best to answer each question before the next one erupted from the single-digit aged young man.

For a couple years Big Nick walked this path alone, weeping at the loss of his daughter. His wife long divorced him, married another man with a position in a large company and moved out of the country.  She had abandoned them in favor of a new life, as far away from the husband, a daughter, a disabled son and a grandson as she could get.

The son, disabled with profound Down’s syndrome, played with Little Nicky and loved his nephew like no one could love another.

On days that Robert went to school, Big Nick went for a walk along the wooded lane. No other family for a thousand miles, Child Services checked in on them once a week and spent an hour inspecting cabinets, laundry and playing “endless questions”.

His finances, also under scrutiny on a regular basis, stretched to  the breaking point every month, he often held his breath. His retirement depleted early on with private care for Robert before he found a program to accept him that worked best. The stress over the years since Maggie left built to profound levels.

Then AnnaMarie’s plane went down in the ocean, there was nothing to bury, no survivors, no body. Just her and his son-in-law were gone. Nicky, too young to make the business trip for just an afternoon meeting with some politician who promised her a possible posting in a desirable location.

They talked of Japan, or Ireland, Sweden and the Nordic country names they bandied about with excitement.

But they never got to the meeting, a volcanic eruption a hundred miles away spread ash, harder than metal, in the sky.  What looked like light haze, was in point of fact, volcanic dust.

Jet engines, a spinning, flying blowtorch, ingested the abrasive salad of silica, crystalized carbon and thousand other ingredients that rapidly destroyed the internal parts of the jet engines.  The investigators discovered one engine detonated, shrapnel separated from the central hub, destroying the wing controls, then at just under five-thousand feet, the wing separated from the fuselage, sending it into a one-way trip into non-compressible water at two-hundred miles-per-hour. The ocean, there almost three miles deep, prevented proper recovery.

Hellish as it was, Big Nick had performed harder jobs at some time in his life.

Pretty sure, anyway.  He just could never remember when it was so miserable.

Explaining to Little Nicky what happened was, perhaps, the most difficult.  They both cried, Big Nick for his losses, Little Nick because he never saw the elder cry before.

Today, they walked together Little Nick and he. The young man had a spirit that pulled on his soul, so much like his mom.

He pulled his grandfather’s soul into the wind like a kite. With steely-blue eyes and a curiosity that knew no limits, the once red-headed giant of the boy’s life drew his breath again and answered the next questions while they walked, holding hands.

“How much to clouds weigh?”

“What are clouds made of?

“Why do they float….”

He loved his grandson.

Smart Bomb Chapter 4. Sandbagged

Standard

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.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 7. Captain’s Log

Children of Fury:Hellions
Standard

7. Captain’s Log

The young man sat on the overturned bucket with a quill in one hand, a book in his lap. He leaned in his favorite corner, eschewing the captain’s chair at the desk.

The Blackfish was making way nicely, and his view of the ocean from the stern of the ship made his soul feel free with the expansive view when the storm doors were open.

His long crimson hair, cut above his ears months before, now hung down past his ear lobes, dipped the tip of the quill in the jar of ink and put the blackened tip to the parchment.

“Captain’s Personal Log:

This is the first voyage of the Blackfish, and my father follows in the Fearg. A sister ship to this one. We have come here to this spot from a journey that started years ago.

Nearly half my life.

A summer day when my father went out with a ship that he had built. He was gone when the English came and destroyed my village.

I saw my seanathair lay on the ground with a bolt from his manubalista jutting out of his chest and the soldiers that beat my mam into the dirt until she stopped moving. In those days, I thought she was dead.

I woke up on a slave-cart, I still carry the scar, hidden by my hair, where the soldier hit me.

When I came home, I found that my mam, taken by the English, was in the islands where Captain Christopher Myngs freed myself and my friends.

I found when I returned to my father in the Virgina lands of a bay they called Irishtown. A backwater behind a Dutch settlement.

I sit in command of this new ship, a crew of twenty and one hundred of the old crew. Only twelve adults serve on board. The older’s follow us,  in the ship of my father’s design.

We return in force, with my old friends Anna God-Wants and Jacquotte Delahaye to find my mother, somewhere on the islands of the Caribs.

I will not rest until I find my mother’s fate and return her home, if I can.

I cannot watch my father walk as a man alone any longer, he weeps at night for the life stolen from him, he believes I do not see. But he is my father, I hear him at night, I see his eyes. The strain shows on his face.

This is not tolerable on a personal level.

My friends all have parents, brothers and sisters all still missing and we will return to collect them.

The Blackfish and the other ships can carry twice more than the crew who man them. Plus my plan will be to take ships on our return home.

Empires will tremble at the thought of our rescue. No navy will prevail against us. We have new bronze cannon built by the one my father called Francois Buile. He showed us that the ranges of the nine-pounders are near double of our last guns.

Granuaile has turned carriages of the guns into inventions of her own design. Adult men have learned to keep their distance from her.

My only pleasure around her, she has stopped socking me in the shoulder. My bruise is almost healed, but any man who hits me there now, will have a surprise. Unless he has hands of stone, I would not notice it.”

The ginger-haired youth rubbed his shoulder and laughed at his own humor. Looking out over the water, the old melancholy chased away the smile.

Putting the quill into the bottle, he stood up and walked to the expensive glass window. An artisan, commissioned by the blacksmiths, made three cut-glass letters to remind a woman’s child of her name.

“Fey” in small colored cut-glass gems sparkled in the sun, it burned in his soul to see it.

Tracing his fingers over the inlay, the old anger rose again. He would get her back. They meant it as a gift to calm a soul, instead, it was a fan that increased the rage in his heart.

Sitting again, he picked the quill out of the bottle and tapped the drop off against the mouth of the blown-glass bottle of ink and put it to the expensive vellum in his personal journal.

Turning the page, he wrote at the top of the page:

Captain’s Personal log of Keegan O’Danu

I miss her, I can remember my mam’s eyes and her laugh. I was only nine-summers old when we were taken. I will find her and bring her back, if only for my athair. A son should never see a father broken. Slavery should never be a market and I will free anyone that is in service against their will that I find, so long as I draw a breath. Slave ships will be my prey, anyone who flies the flag of empire will strike colors on my approach.

The Pirate Kingdom of the Sea will hold sway. Free people will embrace the name.

Everywhere they use the label pirate as a pejorative, I will embrace it as freedom.

Until my Mam is home, I will walk the decks and sail the seas until I am too old to chew my food.

Many years ago, to me.

My máthair was taken.

The English declared war on our village.

Today, I return to get her back. The Spanish, English and any who strike with the might of an empire, just because they can, I will make tremble with fear to sail these waters with their flags flying.

My father and his crew accompany us in thinking they protect the children.

We are the seeds of crimes that the Spanish, English, Dutch have sown.

It us up to the children to protect the fathers.

I will continue to use my war-name given to me by the Quartermaster of the Marston Moor.

A member since the first tour on Grampus she had no fear of anyone, Beth Angelcries stepped through the door.

“Keegan, your Da’ is pulling up along side and using the speaking-trumpet that Nial the smith made.”

Nodding, the captain of the Blackfish looked up into the hazel eyes of the girl who had shown such fury when they made their way home, causing Keegan to redefine the term in his mind.

Looking down, he finished his entry.

With the support of Anna Marie and Jacquotte we will stop at the harbor of Germantown and meet with those children who stayed behind and were adopted when we left their village last year for the Chesapeake.

The adults in that town invited us to return when we wished. It is something I do wish to do, there is a debt of help I owe to the families there.

Setting down his quill, the youngest captain in any fleet walked to talk with his personal hero.

Their next port of call: Germantown.

The Pirate Kingdom Facet 11. Escape

Standard

Facet 11. Escape

The Doctor demanded to know what was happening as he and several nurses joined the rush as they all ran down the hall with half the black clad group in front and the balance covering their escape when the Doctor finally got his question answered.

“Star Empire has attacked the station. There were news releases that the vaccine is a genocide poison against their people.” The redheaded leader of the group answered. “We arrived here to meet with the science and medical teams to show the vaccine was not toxic and meet with investigators of the merchantman attack. Those people who arrived are soldiers, not doctors or scientists. Three Buccaneer ships intercepted the attacking ships, but the Empire ships outnumbered them and they have fallen back to the far side of the planet. The soldiers have made it into the station and have taken control of elevator command center.”

“They caught my fleet in the ambush when the hidden ships set off anti-matter charges.” He shook his head. “I have word that Captain P’ak Sitron was fast enough to change the vector and headed out into deep space to stop the fleet safely. But that will make it two or three hours before they can regroup and return, ready for battle. By then, the Empire will be in place, barricaded and in control.”

Blasters came out as they made a corner. One of the black group pulled out a baseball sized object and rolled it down the hallway.

“Close your eyes.” The warrior said to her rolling a glittering, round crystal around the corner into the corridor, then called “Fire in the hole!”

Phoenix closed her eyes just as a silent flash in rapid sequence illuminated so brightly that her eyes were able to see shadow through her eyelids and she would later swear that she could see the bones in her hands that covered her eyes.

A strong hand grabbed her shoulder and propelled her past the point where several people were laying on the ground vomiting and holding their eyes.

“What kind of bomb was that?” She asked no one in particular as they ran down the hallway, explosions followed by a gust of wind in their faces.

“Breach! Hull breach!” Called an obvious human. Of African descent like the doctor, this warrior was shorter than Phoenix but powerfully built, he grabbed the others and dragged them through a doorway and slammed his hand down on an emergency close button and the shrieking wind stopped with everyone’s ears popping.

Through the clear door, Phoenix could see several people sucked around the corner of the last intersection hallway and out of sight.

“That will work against the strike force, they brought that issue on themselves, the Empire has violated every treaty possible just now.” Said the red-headed leader.

“Sir! We can’t get to the transport. We have to find another way off the port.” Phoenix saw on the chest of the man who had pulled her through the hatch wore a name tag “Garr-id”.

“Escape through the utility access. Rhea! Take the civilians to the ship.”

Rhea, a slightly wolfish looking woman with pointed ears interrupted him.

“I can’t leave you, Sir!” She argued.

“You have your orders, now go, these people are non-combatants and do not need to suffer through this. We will meet you at the ship and give you cover, when you are in we will join you.”

A growl like that which Phoenix had never heard from someone before nearly made her laugh, it might have been even comical in another time and circumstance, but now all she did was stare.

Through a small hatch that was quickly sealed behind them and by the sound of debris piled over the access port, hidden.

Rhea and the half-dozen doctors, nurses and former patients ran, crawled, climbed and balanced carefully on pipes as they made their way down the access tunnel towards a destination that Phoenix did not know.

Through the conduits and ventilation systems, sounds of gunfire and high-pitched whine of energy weapons and people screaming dug into Phoenix’s brain.

Rhea held a finger up to her lips as she stopped the group, a low hum from the pipes made their skin tingle. She pressed her ear up against a hatch that looked much like any other, then nodded. Pulling a small flat rectangle out of her belt she pulled a cord from the small palmtop electronic equipment and plugged it into a port next to the hatch.

Phoenix and the others watched as Rhea tapped the screen a few times then a holographic projection appeared over the top of the device showing a hangar door and the hallway was clear. A few more touches and she explained about recording the empty hallway for a few seconds worth.

Rhea smiled and put her hand against the lever of the service hatch and pushed it open and pointed the device at the video sensor.

“Out! OUT! Everyone.” She said in a loud whisper. “Through that door and step to the left and wait for me.”

When the last of the medical team was through the door, Rhea took a bound step and was through the hangar door.

“That last was the most hazardous.” Rhea explained to the group. “They could have seen us, but I blinded the camera for a moment. Okay, to the ship. Quietly, single file behind me.”

The ship was slightly silver-blue in color, Phoenix touched the hull as she walked and it felt like nothing she had ever touched, almost plastic or an oily covering, her fingers came back clean, but they tingled slightly as if from an electric current.

Rhea motioned the people inside and got them seated as she communicated quietly on her headset.

“We are in. Hallway was clear, video camera disabled.” She reported.

“We are already here.” Said the Redhead as the second group appeared from around the corner and through the door. “You are getting slow in your old age.”

The other men half-dragged both the leader and two others who had injuries. It was obvious they had a rough go of it. The smaller ship rocked on the deck as the space port experienced to another impact of heavy weapons fire, only this time red lights lit up and began to flash rapidly.

“Someone finally got the defense systems working.” Thought Phoenix.

In the back of the small ship, Garr-id started pulling at the RedHead’s cloak and armor. “Get this off you, Sir, I have to view your wounds.”

“I’m okay.” RedHead groaned, “It’s a bruise, nothing got through. Next time
someone make sure I’m standing next to a softer wall? Take care of Lieutenant Muir, we have to get this crate launched and out of here to safety, that’s the priority now. We don’t get out of here, your skills with inflicting pain while fixing us will be moot.”

Standing up, the chest had a darkening bruise over the right shoulder. On his back, a large tattoo that was partly hidden by the undershirt, but what Phoenix could see was similar to the markings on all the armor, a bruise growing over his right shoulder-blade. Whatever had knocked this leader down had taken a toll through the armor.

“Sir,” Doctor Concord stood up, “I have had combat medical experience. I am a trauma surgeon, I can help.”

Garr-id looked at the doctor with a quick eye and smiled, “Thanks Doc, I can use you, come here and….” the voices trailed off to the back of the ship as they assessed the other team members condition.

“Rhea, pre-flight emergency launch checks. Let’s get the hell out of here asap. But do it quietly with minimal use of power until the last moment. We don’t want to alert them that we are here. Change the ship markings to that of something more general, a merchant or something.”

Phoenix raised her hand and spoke up.

“Excuse me, but the port defense systems are up— the red emergency lights are up and flashing.”

RedHead looked out the window.

“Good! Thanks! The strike team would not want those systems up, that means one of the control rooms are still in control of the facility. They are fighting back.”

Pressing a few illuminated panels and tapping in a sequence on the panel and a video display came up.

“Foenicks! Good to see you are in control of things.” RedHead laughed into the display. “I’ll keep this short- you look like you are a bit busy.”

“Your gift for understatement would be funny at another time. But we have them contained for the moment. The captain of the transport had called ahead and alerted us that something was up, we just did not know where. We assumed they headed towards the planet.” Fenicks, a tiger-striped face that was bleeding out his nose and one eye was swollen but not shut. “Boru- they are demanding where you are from those that they grab. We have video of them abandoning hallways to follow your direction of travel until they lost you. You are their target Your Majesty.”

“All the more reason to get out of here. Can you give a hand on that?” Boru asked quietly.

“We have decompression problems all over the station, we might have a control problem on hangar door number-5. Yes, yes, I think the controls are overloading and we might have an explosive decompression. Anything in there will be sucked out into space towards the planet.”

“Copy that, Commander Foenicks. We will watch for signs of decompression in about a minute.”

Phoenix looked around and out the ports, no single digit numbers were on any of the doors. There were 21 through 26.

Rhea spoke up. “Pre-flight checks done. We are ready to launch. All power is routed through shielded circuitry.”

“Okay everyone, get your restraints clipped and hold on, we are doing an explosive launch through door two-six.” Boru said. “Rhea, when we move use thrusters only, just keep us from hitting the edges. Let’er drift for a bit once we clear the cloud. No power to the engines, life support or any lights until the last minute.” Turning around and looking at the ex-patients and medical providers, “Folks, it’s going to get bumpy and cold! You civilians will find blankets over your head.  If you get cold? Don’t hesitate to use them, but wait until after we finish bouncing around if possible.”

A shockwave slightly rocked the small ship as door “two-six” blew off it’s track and the atmosphere blew it out. Debris, another small ship slid towards the breach, airtight doors closed around the hangar.

Rhea gently tapped the thruster controls and just gave enough spin to the ship so it rotated out the door directly at the planet appearing to have no control.

The smaller unmanned ship hit the side of the hangar door and split off the starboard engine. Spilling fuel and atmosphere it gained speed and rotation, angling towards the escapees’ ship.

“EVADE!” called Boru as he jumped into the pilot seat next to Rhea. “Z-minus one-hundred. Let’s see if we can keep our cover that was not much of a move.”

Using thrusters only, the ship just sidestepped the spinning debris.

“Passive sensor’s have picked up– SIRE! We’ve been painted with target beacons. We have multiple bogies at multiple vectors coming in from all upper altitudes.” The one with the name badge Timate called out.

Phoenix heard the term, it piqued her curiosity.

“Thems not bogies— thems bandits! Okay, cover’s blown! Cloak the ship, let them lose us in the debris.”

Negative G-forces pulled upward on Phoenix, the only thing holding her down was the multi-point restraints that automatically tightened slightly holding her in place as the ship dropped sharply into the cloud of blown out debris. The ship shook with a concussion.

“They have us! Four Titan A6-T’s” A blond warrior with a at a weapons console that Phoenix did not get the name of.

“Emergency dive! Into the atmosphere. Target the lead ship with pulse cannon.” Boru ordered.

The ship rattled with cannon’s rapid fire. Bolts of particle energy struck the first attacker who dissolved into photons and sparks.

“Three more, we are in the atmosphere boundary, we will be visible!” Garr-id yelled.

“Keep going, we’re outgunned up by the spaceport.” Boru looked up and then at the his displays, “Prepare to abandon ship!”

The outside the ship began to heat by the entry into the surrounding atmosphere of Aquila Nova as they sailed at hypersonic speeds into the atmosphere below.

“Drop the cloak, SIre?” Called Rhea

“No no, we need to fake them out a bit longer. Prepare to jettison empty escape pods two through six in half second intervals. Then the rest of you take the last of the pods and abandon ship. I’ll take the ship back up into space while still cloaked. They will think we broke up on reëntry for a moment or two, long enough for you folks to get away.” Rhea started to protest but Boru held up a finger, “You are the Captain, but I outrank you, the civilians will need you to fend for them, until I am able to draw the Empire ships off.”

Rhea grumbled acceptance and went back to the controls and primed the empty pods for jettison without shielding as the ship rocked with more hits.

“We are visible!” Garr-id called. “Shields are holding, cloak is disabled.”

Phoenix terrified at the thought that she was about to die.

“Jettison pods two through six!” Boru yelled from his pilot seat. “Everyone in escape pods seven through twelve and deploy on my mark.”

Rhea directed the Doctor back to the seat next to Phoenix, a sudden jerk and the seats backed up an arm’s length and a door slid over the void left by their movement.

“Oh damn, I had forgotten how much I hate this.” Doctor Concord growled. “If I live through this, remind me to schedule that pirate to get his colon scoped with a reamer.”

“Pirate?” She asked.

“Yes, don’t you know? That’s why they are after him– he is Boru U’Maille, the Pirate King. He and his father drove them back in the last wars and forced the peace treaty” Dr. Concord tried to force a smile. “He is a thorn in their side. A big one.”

“THAT is the Pirate King? It must be a mistaaaaaaAAAA…..” Phoenix’s scream mixed with Dr. Concord’s as the ship made a violent roll and ejected the escape pod out at an angle, they did an arc instead of straight line and the motion was enough for Phoenix’s stomach to rise in her throat. She thought she was about to dump her churning stomach on the Doctor.

The autopilot of the pod took over and they rapidly slowed down, banked into a steep angle. Several lights lit up on panels.

An artificial male voice announced: “Vector stabilized, pod is cloaked, programmed destination arrival ETA is four-minutes.”

“Four minutes to arrive where?” Phoenix asked.

“Don’t bother asking, the computer is not interactive, it is just telling us where we are going.” Dr. Concord said. “They will have all the escape pods land close to each other.”

The Doctor did not lie, the pods had landed and the cloaking shimmered and faded as the escapee’s exited and took account of each other.

Rhea looked around as others came out of the trees where a couple of the pods missed the landing area by a few dozen yards.

“King U’Maille is not here.”

Timate, Phoenix could see him well now, an older warrior with stripes on his shoulders as he walked towards Rhea. “He will be here when he can. The bandits were still trying to stalk the pods. I don’t think they were fully convinced that the ship broke up on reentry.””We are near enough to go to the meeting place, besides, I am hungry.”

“I want to sit someplace that doesn’t move,” One of the wounded warriors limped up on his feet. “Or have someone shooting at me.”

The group agreed and walked into the village.

 

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

Standard

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 Pirate Kingdom: Facet 3. Investigation

Standard

Facet 3. Investigation

Teams from the four ships went through the Seraph. Shattered metal from high-speed projectiles littered the floor. Here and there, tables overturned, cargo containers upended and used as barricades. Smoking bodies showed the futility of the resistance.

Edged weapons were in evidence, indicating that pitched hand to hand combat had been widespread. The raiders took to using combat swords that strongly resembled those used by the Pirate’s of the outlands.

“Pirates? This is not their way!” The first officer of the Copper Nugget commented over the intercom system between teams.

She picked up a slim bladed sword that glittered with cruel, hair-thin barbs. Wider at the tip, the single edge serrated in a way that promised hideous wounds.

“This is Royal Pirate style! Damn them! I don’t know why this would happen!” Lieutenant-Commander Pollux’s voice took an edged of anger. “They demand a tax, then slaughter and rob?”

Captain Alexandra walked through in her armored entry suit. “Life support systems are nearly repaired. We should be able to…” and pressed a button.

The lights illuminated and ventilation of the air began.

Emergency lights flashed on a panel, they were venting atmosphere in the bridge somewhere.

Four of the repair crew found where a railgun had blown a hole the size of a fist in the outer hull. Nearly a meter thick of Fendrik Alloy, it was exceptionally tough material that could absorb radiation and meteor impacts without appreciable damage. Very durable and widely used in the boomer ships.

The crews failed to find Captain Metrano’s body. Fine-object scans allayed worries that the attacking force ejected Captain Metrano out into space, scans performed for dozens of kilometers around the ship, searching for his body. Several bodies were found within a few hundred yards but it appeared they had not been forced out of any airlocks. The bodies showed signs that the force of venting atmosphere sucked victims out during explosive decompression.

“Captain to the Alexandra” As the master of the big ship called over the communicator that hung on her shoulder. “Contact the nearest Pirate Hegemony outpost and ask if they had any ships in the area.”

Releasing the mic, she looked at the first officer. “We have to find out if there was anyone in the area. The PH has more information on movements than any one kingdom. If a pirate was here, the best odds is the PH will know who it was.”

“The log said they were in Imperial ships.” First mate Modoc of the Fireball said. His handheld readout reflected off his eyes as he read the transcript.

“Until we can get verification of what is written, at the moment it is all preliminary and we cannot settle this with the conflicting evidence. A written account and then we have pirate weapons stuck in some of these crews. ” One of the Seraph’s engineers pointed out. “Until I can get the computers data banks back online and we get access to the sensor logs.”

“Agreed. We need to return to the ships and organize the information thus far recovered. The confederacy of buccaneers will wish to take charge of the investigation of this crime.” Communications officer Kitt had brought up over the intercom system while he worked under the flooring with the internal data storage units.

“Negative. We are the only ones here. My ship is the most advanced and has the complete facilities to perform a preliminary investigation of the attack. If any of the pirate kingdoms or clans wish to get involved they have to establish their jurisdiction. ” The communicator buzzed in their ears.

“Copy, no need to get short on the radio. You have the more current equipment. But the Buccaneers and Pirates normally have the best of everything.”

“They have been contacted already.” A voice unrecognized as any member of the Fireball. Those that had readouts did not recognize the transponder codes.

Captain Alexandra keyed up her communicator “Crewman, identify yourself, you do not have a transponder address that is on the crew manifest.”

“No surprise captain, as we are not in the ship, we are outside. You should find three extra ships logged into your little network and we have assigned ourselves identifier codes.”

“They have?” The distracted voice of Carla Qualy as she was running file scans of the memory core.

“Yes they have, we have three ships pulling up outside now. Fireball has announced the arrival of the pirates first.” Captain Alexandra spoke. “I’ll be having a word with my ship’s security about this, we have better scanners than the Fireball.”

A collective “Ooh.” came from the several teams over the com network.

Outside three medium-sized ships with crossed lightning bolts and a forward facing skull painted on the side approached and stopped a short ways away from the confab of ships and the smoking wreck.

Leading the way, the ship Thunderbolt came into visual range.

The pirate fleet had arrived.

The Pirate Kingdom: Facet 1. War against Empire

Standard

Note: This is a concept story that came out of my head. Might not be developed.

The Winged Sword

 Facet I.

In the outer reaches of the systems, the cargo ship Seraph shuddered as he pushed the engines to the limit. The Captain, Iridium Metrano was twelve years its master. He loved the position. Out away from the worlds, trading with the different outworld’s. It was a great life, an adventurous one. Pirates, traders, empires, rogue black holes that were uncharted.

 And the lovers in each port. Captain “Eye” (as his crew called him with affection) slipped a soft, secret smile into his morning as he recalled the last port of call.

 One Captain he had met a year before and had kept in touch with the woman adventurer in a virtual world of “Spacelife” for the out-system shippers. She was… Fun.

 An alert light at the navigators position lit up, bringing the Captain out of his pleasant memory. It had been an uneventful trip thus far, well more than half-done. This trip was to be well profitable with their trading for a pure solvent and coolant purchased at Storis for a pittance. One-hundred thousand metric tons of oxidane and another ten-thousand metric tons of oxane — oxidane binary solution. The bottom line would be very profitable. The biggest problem was more of the fact that the cargo was not as dense or compact as it could be. The danged stuff was potentially hazardous.

 As a solid it could fracture bulkheads if the cold of space got to the loads. In the gaseous state, the potential of lethal burns was very real. It took only a little of it to be inhaled to cause health problems up to and including death.

 Handled properly? It was very safe. But bulky. At a kilogram per cubic meter, it was a lot of cubic meters. The engines strained with the Alcubierre drive doing it’s best to contain the volume of the mass. The weight was not a serious problem, it was the volume that kept the warp bubble unstable.

 For the twenty-fifth time the intercom beeped on the captain’s headset from the engineering department, another complaint from Engineer Lockesly from the outworld systems. He was closed about what he was doing on a boomer.

 The colloquial names of the big cargo ships. Long lost to history, the name boomers had a long and proud tradition. Occasionally called outlaws or even pirates. They did not rob, but did strive for freedom on the shipping lanes outside the empires rule.

 Another light on the navigator’s panel lit. A proximity alert. Something had entered the ship’s sensor range.

 Sir! Incoming electromagnetic pulse!” Yelled the weapons officer. “It’ll knock out or drives!”

 The worst had happened, the warp bubble collapsed and they dropped to normal space. Seraph was built as a very tough ship, but the sudden change in speed put the entire ship under strain. Noises and groans as the ship held together as the structure was strained to the limit.

 “Incoming message.” Kitt the burly male human-siberian tiger hybrid whose arms were more the size of most men’s legs with shoulders to match. Kitt would laugh and say that the only exercise he ever did was to lift a beer to his lips and pour. His striped white fur so very fine on his skin, it gave him a look that glistened in the light.

 “Prepare to be boarded.” was the only message as impacts of weapons fire lit up the weapons officer’s panel.

 “They are hitting the hanger doors, Sir!”

 “Hail them! Tell them to stand down, we surrender.” The Captain responded.

 But it was too late.

Facet II. Captain’s Log Found

 The pinging of the emergency beacon, detected on the coded sub-channel by the incoming rescue ship. A channel often used by Boomer’s when wanting to keep conversations out of the ears of pirates or empire raiders.

 The cargo ship power section, that included crew’s quarters and medical facilities responded. Leaving their cargo orbiting a planet, the good ship “Katrina” was pushing her graviton engines to the maximum while relaying the beacon’s coördinates to other cargo-haulers in the area. The “Copper Nugget” was responding but was a half-day away at full speed.

 Another ship answered the call for help, from the distant outlands. “Fireball Express” was pushing its Alcubierre drive until they reported that they had set a personal speed record and would be there shortly after the Katrina. The Seraph was going to have all the help she could use.

 The super-cargo hauler “Alexandra the Great” had dropped its load in the orbit of a gas giant and was responding. Known as one of the most modern superships in the lanes. The captain was a good friend of Captain Metrano.

 “Keep it to the wall Mr. Tox. I don’t want to lose a single heartbeat to the clock.” Captain Phoenix Alexandra, owner and operator on this mission. Her own messages had alerted her company and all ships were responding to the broadcast location of the Seraph.

 A few hours after the ships had arrived in the area. Evidence of a violent battle had taken place on the Seraph. The ship’s log by Captain Metrano had been found.

 Facet III. Captains log:

 

We are under attack, hanger doors were hit first when we dropped out of light-speed.  The first attack has disabled our dorsal engine (number-2 engine) and the warp field collapsed. We hove to and signaled that we were just a merchant ship.  No injuries initially but they shot their way through the hangar doors.  Crews set up defensive positions but we have only minor weapons and cannot hold out.

 

Markings on the ships involved show them to be of the Momo Empire, we have identified one as a capital ship of the DreadStar class.  We sent a general distress call but they have jammed all frequencies. We do not know who have answered and if any are en route with help, but they will be too late I fear.  We will try to hold out, but our ship is no match for Imperial weapons. They have blown holes through the doors and pushing through out of the hanger.  They are assaulting the cargo area where we are carrying twelve-thousand units of Oxonium in armored containers for trade to the Oriak Mining Syndicate as coolant that they desperately need.  

Captain’s Log final entry:

I sent a message to the Pirate Hegemony, but there is none that is close enough to answer in the time on the channels I have used. All other communications are down, I have no other access for standard frequencies. How this will pan out, I will only ever wish and hope against all odds,  it is too late we have lost the ship.  I have been sending out surrender message on all channels but no response….

They have broken through the below decks and have taken over. They are attacking up the stairs, there is no time to finish. I will launch this log to outside the ship with a beacon.

Tell my family I was going home for the holidays. Tell them I love them.

They are coming.

 

Iridium Metrano  

Captain and Master of the Merchant ship Seraph

 

Facet 3. Investigation

 

Teams from the four ships went through the Seraph. Shattered metal from high speed projectiles littered the floor. Here and there, overturned tables lay about, cargo containers upended and used as barricades. Smoking bodies were testament to the futility of the resisting crew.

 Edged weapons were in evidence of a very pitched hand to hand combat had been widespread. The raiders had taken to using combat swords that strongly resembled those used by the Pirate’s of the outlands.

 “Pirates? This is not their way!” The first officer of the Copper commented over the intercom system between teams.

 She picked up a slim bladed sword that glittered evilly. Wider at the tip, the single edge, serrated in a way that promised hideous wounds.

 “This is Royal Pirate style! Damn them! I don’t know why this would happen!”

 Captain Alexandra walked through with her armored entry suit. “Life support systems are nearly repaired. We should be able to…”

 The lights illuminated and ventilation of the air began.

 Emergency lights flashed on a panel, they were venting atmosphere in the bridge somewhere.

Four of the repair crew found where a railgun had blown a hole the size of a fist in the outer hull. Nearly a meter thick of Fendrik Alloy, it was exceptionally tough material that could absorb radiation and meteor impacts without appreciable damage. Very durable and widely used in the boomer ships.

Captain Metrano remained MIA. Worries that he was ejected out into space by the raiders nagged at the rescue teams, but laid to rest when they performed micro-fine object scans for dozens of kilometers around the ship. Several bodies were found within a few hundred yards but it appeared they had not been forced out of any airlocks. They showed signs of being sucked out the holes during explosive decompression.

“Captain to the Alexandra.” As the master of the big ship called over the communicator that hung on her shoulder. “Contact the nearest Pirate Hegemony outpost and request if they had any ships in the area.”

Releasing the mic, she looked at the first officer. “We have to find out if there was anyone in the area. The PH has more information on movements than any one kingdom. If anyone was here, the best odds are the pirates know who it was.”

 “The log said they were in Imperial ships.” First mate Modoc of the Fireball said. His handheld readout reflected off his eyes as he read the transcript.

 “Until we can get verification of what the Captain Metrano recorded, no one can say for certain, right now it is all preliminary and we cannot settle this with the conflicting evidence. A written account and then we have pirate weapons stuck in some of these crewmembers. ” The Katrina’s engineer pointed out. “Until I can get the computers data banks back online and we get access to the sensor logs.”

 “Agreed. We need to return to the ships and organize the information thus far recovered. The confederacy of buccaneers will wish to take charge of the investigation of this crime.” Communications officer Kitt had brought up over the intercom system while he worked under the flooring with the internal data storage units.

 “Negative. We are the only ones here. My ship is the most advanced and has the complete facilities to perform a preliminary investigation of the attack. If any of the pirate kingdoms or clans wish to get involved they have to establish their jurisdiction. ” The communicator buzzed in their ears.

 “Copy, no need to get short on the radio. You have the more current equipment. But the Buccaneers and Pirates normally have the best of everything.”

 “We have contacted them already.” A voice recognized as the second engineer of the Fireball. Those that had readouts recognized his transponder codes.

 Captain Alexandra keyed up her communicator “Crewman, identify yourself, you are not transponder address is not on the crew manifest.”

“No surprise captain, as we are not in the ship, we are outside. You should find 

 “They have?” The distracted voice of Carla Qualy as she was running file scans of the memory core.

 “Yes they have, we have three ships pulling up outside now. firebrand has broadcast their arrival first.” Captain Alexandra spoke. “I’ll be having a word with my ship over this.”

 A collective “OOooo” came from the several teams over the com network.

 Outside three medium-sized ships with crossed lightning bolts and a forward facing skull painted on the side approached and stopped a short ways away from the collection of ships and the smoking wreck.

 The Thunderbolt had arrived.

 

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

Standard

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

Dark Heart, Pure Soul 21. A Life Left Behind

Standard

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

Standard

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…