Smart Bomb Chapter 3. Salvation Army

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Chapter 3. Salvation Army

It was cooler than yesterday, making Steve shiver while he walked down the road. Although he was able to charge his power reserves to capacity the day before, he was using energy at an unprecedented rate.

The humans might call it “Full”, he had the opportunity to experience more of the generous spirit of the American south.

During the storm the day before, power went out, leaving the café in the dark. The owner fretted about the melting sweets in the freezer and prohibited anyone from opening the doors without reason, finally succumbing to the alternatives to throw out meats as the walk-in began to push the legal limit of the health codes.

The owner, Pete Durham, chose the option to cook the meats, slow smoking some with a wood-fired smoker overnight. Late into the night Pete and James cooked. Ice cream threatened to melt and spoil.

The Android could convert the butterfat and sugar confection to electrical power easily, and ate far more than his system required.

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

“We can’t put it in storage.” The owner smiled. “And it will be ready for you to eat anytime down the road.” Pete said when Steve left Lugs Cafe.

Quick calculations, and the android, programmed to call himself Steve Aldin, tried to give Pete a fifty-dollar bill. Pete shook his head at first, then tore the bill in half.

“Come back this way and eat in our dining room when everything is working like it’s supposed to, bring a friend and I’ll take that other half of a bill.” He offered to shake Steve’s hand. “Then we’ll call it even.”

Steve shook his hand, a western habit. But deep in his programming, he felt revulsion of touching an unclean person such as this.

But the man washed, cooked, worked hard, drank only bottles of water.

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

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

But.

The curse of a fuzzy logic, sometimes the third leg of coding got in the way. In many ways, the binary coding of the twentieth century was well suited to so many things. Zero or one. Yes or no.

Steve Aldin, android of the one true religion had a “Maybe” coding. Zero, one, two.

And he retained it, the adaptive programming kept him from being caught, unlike the previous versions that the Russian government caught. Either the earlier versions became confused or lost when the expected targets moved or the humans spotted his predecessors, who then self-destructed before travelling far.

He was the most advanced, and the most powerful disciple built by the engineers and programmers underneath the holy sanctuary where only the true believers could enter.

The most powerful that I know of he corrected himself. Core processors predicted a near certainty that others were under construction with a fifty-percent probability for  the next versions to deploy in the next twelve months.

The snow threatened to put him into danger once again. His walk down the road began to leave footsteps pressed into the slushy, frozen water on the white-coated asphalt.

A snowplow trundled past, heading to some assignment on a main road, the flashing lights triggered the recent memory of stopping for a meal.

Several minutes later, a sedan pulled up with a light bar and the siren chirped. programming alerted to the law enforcement agent wanted him to approach.

If he had a confrontation, he would be arrested and no scans would pick up his fingerprints.

He would be an enigma to the database for citizens in the country. Alternatively, killing the officer would flag his location and his mission would be compromised. 

Shifting quickly, he looked like a younger teenage youth, and the cop shook his head and rubbed his eyes while he looked through the slush covered glass of the window. In a blink of an eye, he reconfigured the identity chip to match his appearance and the security number.

“Son, where are you going?” The officer asked with an open look, he had no suspicions of this soaked-to-the-skin youth who walked on the road. The android had reduced the flow of all fluids to the dermis, making his skin pale when he approached the police officer who got out of the patrol car.

“Sir,” He used a squeaky voice of a late-blooming teen as he approached the front of the car and held his hands over the hood for warmth. “I’m on a mission to walk the lower forty-eight states to raise money for homeless.”

“Impressive. May I see your ident-chip?” The officer nodded. Not suspicious, but not quite smiling, his neutral stance remained unconvinced. “You are traveling rather light for the cold weather. Mister Aldin.”

“That would be my fault. I tried to jump a train a few miles back because it was getting cold, I put my pack in a train car’s door. When I bent down to get  my other bags, the train closed it’s doors and began to move. But I was too far to grab the door. When I tried to chase it, the security chased me off their property.”

This made the officer laugh.

“Well, you were trespassing.” He pulled at his chin, then clicked on his microphone at his shoulder. “Patrol One-seven-one.”

He waited for the response.

The sound was barely audible from where the android stood and waited. The officers earphone keeping the sound below human perception, but with his electronic sensors he could hear the dispatcher acknowledge him.

“Is the chaplain around? I have a lost sheep for him.”

Steve looked around, the term sheep was known, but the application was non-sequitur.

Then Steve realized it was he who the officer considered lost.

“Wait right here.” The officer said and sat in his car, he typed on a computer display and sent off a message.

“Officer, can I sit in the car?” His core processors were registering the heat loss. “I’m cold.”

Pausing for a moment, the officer nodded and then out of habit, patted Steve down and removed the small nylon day-pack, looked inside, satisfied, he put it in the front seat and turned back to Steve.

“Have a seat in the back, I’ll keep the heater on.” He said. Steve sat in the rear of the patrol car, behind a solid shield between the front and rear of the car.

“The chaplain will be here soon.” The officer smiled at him, looking up, another patrol car pulled in behind them.

Another officer got out with more stripes and wearing a white shirt, while the officer wore a navy-blue shirt.

The officers thought they were out of earshot, but the enhanced hearing, Steve listened in.

“You have him sitting in the prisoner area. Is he cuffed?”

“No, sir, he is just cold.” The officer shrugged. “I  wanted him to limit access to the weapons and electronics, so I just sat him in the back.”

“Protocol, if he is in back, he wears cuffs.” The watch commander said. “That is the rules.” 

“I don’t want him in front, I have not had reason to run his identity past his ID chip.” The patrolman said.

“I’ll run it. You have the scan of it?” He held up his tablet and tapped a few times.

“Cuff him if you keep him in the unit, and you’re right, he’s not allowed up front.” The supervisor said. “Or he stands away from the vehicle.”

“I can’t detain him, I don’t have any cause.”

“Find cause. He is not a local, so figure how to process him. Was he walking in the road?” The officer looked back at the footprints that were filling in. “He might have crossed over the line back there.”

“Sam, he is just cold, a youngster.” He told his superior officer.

The cops continued their conversation while Steve listened in. The situation was untenable, and he couldn’t get out of the car unless the officer opened in from the outside.

He could not allow them to run his DNA. Two police officers were no threat to him, out in the middle of a highway, but the news of his presence after attacking the officers would put him under a microscope that he couldn’t get away from.

Then.

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

The first officer in blue walked to the back of the car, followed by a middle-aged man who looked in better shape than the officer.

“Mr. Aldin, this is our chaplain, Reverend Carl Bonswell. He will take care of you.” The officer nodded the civilian clothed male and walked away.

The officer talking to himself,  pleased to avoiding the need to cuff the young man or otherwise have to process him like he was little more than a criminal, when his actions indicated nothing.

“Mr. Aldin, son, would you like to come to my car with me? I have a place for food and a roof, tonight’s weather is going to be cold and wet. The winter season has settled in somewhat early.”

“Call me Steve.” He used the same squeaky voice. “And thank you, I would like that.”

“Okay, Steve. We have a shelter, it’s rarely used right now. We don’t get much call for homeless or transient people this time of the year.” The reverend said as they got in his car. “As such, the county has it closed now. So, you will be staying with my family tonight. Is this all you have?”

“Oh no, the officer took my knapsack, it’s in the front seat of his patrol car.” Steve said and opened the door to get out.

“No no! Stay here, get warm, I’ll get it.” Getting out, he stopped to talk to the patrolman and nodded.

Steve listened in, the chaplain only asked if the officer had patted down the youth and if he found any contraband.

“No. No weapons, interior sensors did not pick up even a trace of drugs. But, he’s soaked.” The officer smiled at the chaplain.

Satisfied, Carl gathered up the knapsack and returned it to Steve.

“Socks, t-shirt, and what else do you have in there?

“Some money my mom gave me. I’m supposed to walk for a cause, but I have lost my list, my clothes, my pack.” He gave the full pitiful story.

Carl smiled and handed Steve his worldly possessions, attached his seat belt, pulled the car into gear and took Steve with him to his home.

The reverend’s home was warm, smells included apple and peach, in a crock-pot.

“Carl, who is this? A new friend?” The woman was not a classic beauty. She was tall, broad-shouldered, her arms looked like some men’s legs, she looked like she could have taken on both officers out on the highway in a battle.  And win. 

Quick assessment of her movements showed she was naturally built like this. The woman shook his hand and smiled.  She towered over him, standing six-feet tall, broad shoulders, narrow waist and a flare to her hips. She appeared as an athlete, but he could not figure out her sport.  However she moved as graceful as tiger he once saw.

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

“I thought you would put me in the shelter tonight.” Steve accessed social protocol files. “Thank you”

“No thanks needed.” The woman smiled and sat with them. “This is the best place for you, tonight, hun. You have the guest bedroom, a shower is in the room and there are clean towels.”

Carl nodded as she continued.

“This is not a free stay, in the morning, we start at six o’clock. Breakfast is served at six-thirty, we have sandbags to deliver to the community center for homeowners. This storm is going to stay for some time before it gets cold enough to snow.” She said while she sipped her drink.

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

He recorded and learned more about this society of decadent, and morally corrupt people. There were police who argued that a good deed for a cold citizen could be cause for investigation.

Another recorded event A Christian man and his wife who open their home to him and not follow the rules and put him in a dorm-style bed that had thin mattresses and thinner blankets.

They bent the rules and let him sleep under thick blankets, eat their food and drink a drink while sitting in their house.

The woman who took care of her lover and husband was another oddity. She was not an obese, idol worshiping, world hating people.

She was a raven-haired woman with deep-set, searching eyes that showed her native heritage.

A kindness in her that extended to her husband, while he read from a well-worn bible.

No drugs, the odors in the house of cooking, crock-pot cider, smoke from the fireplace.

After a shower, core temperatures were in optimum operations, tissue repairs from hypothermia damage to his extremities were in full operation.

The experiences he had, the accepted view of the picture of the infidel American’s once again altered to fit the reality.

Tomorrow, he needed to donate his time to strangers.

This would be another first.

For the first time, the walking bomb looked forward to learning something new.

Steve, the God’s Punisher, was exceeding his programming in ways the creator never expected.

Musings from the WordForge.

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With the hammer of imagination, the fires of language skills (Sometimes I think I lack, or at least have low quality fuel) writers often come up with new words.

Sometimes they create a portmanteau of words.  Motel (Motor Hotel) for example.  The person that thought that up probably did not realize a whole new word that would be entered in the dictionary after that.

The accepted shortest words “I” “a” that are used as the words.  “A bird” for example.

Then out of the length of accepted word list. The longest word “Antidisestablishmentarianism” is the longest non-coined word that is generally accepted.

But, we are at the forge. To coin a term for use in our novels is as important sometimes as the creation of the world itself.  Tolkien was good for that, but he was a language creator and professor of language and literature.  (But y’all knew that.) so maybe not a good example.

OH! There is a current creator of fantasy and loved by many. Ms. J. K. Rowling and Harry’s world.  But..she is also educated in Classics… Hm..do we see a pattern here?

Still, both these well-educated people stood at the forge and with the hammer of imagination on the anvil of the soul, we create story, novel and whimsy.

So, what could be a need to create a word?

A person who infiltrates the society of  Antidisestablishmentarianism, they do not really support the society, so are they a “Pseudoantidisestablismentarinism” spy? or do is there a counter-spy?

So a “Counterpseudoantidisestablishmentarinism” agent? (this was difficult to type, not counting how to read it).  The point is, when you write, WHY you write, HOW you write. Nothing is out-of-bounds.

Creation of worlds, creation of words this is your canvas, you soul that lives, loves and stands in the WordSmith shop at the wordforge.

Pound out your stories, when someone reads it and says “Huh?” you can establish the meaning of it.  If your person wears a bandolier (bandoller, bandoleer) look up the pictures of the ammo-belt and write it in! It is your hammer, your skills grow with each stroke of the key and research for your story–you do research, right?– each paragraph you build.

The story evolves.  Perhaps you had a dream of a tsunami of walnuts in your house? When you finish the story, maybe it was a medical thriller of mass poisoning of bad food by a corrupt corporation. (Okay, been done, but I am just using it as an example) Evolution of the story, the building of the world is yours and yours alone.  Many people may not understand it in the beginning.

The term Orc brings up an image.  Professor Tolkien based the word on Orcus (orkus) the god retribution of broken promises and oaths.  They were corrupt.

In another story I know of, an Orc was a judge and law-keeper. you have a complaint or conflict, the Orc-Judge had his or her law-book and followed the law. Rulings were binding. Wars avoided. It was a good story. But no one knew that an Orc could be a “good-guy” prior to this. Many still don’t.

So when someone looks at your work and is confused, do not be crushed, do not hit delete. Let it evolve!  Explain, establish, and tell your story.  JK Rowling created Avada Kedavra as a killing spell. Well..where could this have evolved from? Abracadabra? No..really. Could be? She took a known word and at the forge in her mind came up with a term I hear children at Halloween waving sticks at each other in tiny wizard duels. (I am Merlin, I catch and I eat the spells when they head my direction)

The world you build is always fun. Use the Technicolor of your mind to paint the glory of your story.

Be awesome! Be creative!

Be a writer.

~ your favorite cheerleader and future best-selling author,

Dash

Snowed: The Weekend Trip

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Haunted Home, Spicer Dam Spur Road

Crime Scene Photo 1-A  24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dinner’s ready.” She called down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And bounced off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, not haunted, not haunted at all. 

She had no eyes!

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

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

And missed.

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

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

Two rolls of…

Wallpaper!

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

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

Paper. Just paper, wadded up and desiccated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A beautiful and deadly structure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No complaints will be filed.

Lt. Liewess J. Jonah, investigator.”

 © 2015 Dash McCallen all rights reserved

Married by Mistake Chapter 37. Las Vegas, Declaring A Medical Emergency

MbM
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Chapter 37. Las Vegas, Declaring A Medical Emergency

The jet punched a hole in the air as it sped over the horizon, taking a direct line to the desert city, shining like a jewel in the barren land.

They had to get down, Tom’s arm was showing signs of decompression illness, a kind of compartment syndrome that blocked blood from circulating in his arm. If it was up to Captain Watson, she’d have an ambulance waiting for him to get him to the medical center emergency room.

Pushing the limits of the rated engine’s power until they could not go any faster, Captain Watson managed to shave a measurable amount of time off the trip. A planned orbit of the city that would give the passengers a view of the beauty of it, even during the daylight the view was glorious. The Captain skipped the flyover and they saved a half-hour to get him on the ground.

Captain Watson would never say it outside of the conversation with her first officer sitting to her right.

“The fool flew too soon.”

“Did he have medical clearance?”

“No, I would bet not.” Regina said as she got cleared for her approach, declaring a medical emergency and ordering a paramedic unit.

The wheels touched with a feather like control that Watson used. A fine pilot, she never bounced the passengers or her planes if it was humanly avoidable.

As they taxied to the private terminal, she heard Tom moan loudly with a profanity.

“We need to expedite this. That medical problem is growing worse back there, Captain.” Kevin spoke quietly.

“Check on EMS, be sure they’re cleared to meet us when we stop.” There was no room for questions. “I will speak with Thomas Harte and see what is going on with his arm.”

“Affirmative that.” Kevin nodded, patting his shirt, confirming the mobile phone that resided there was still in place.

Coming to a stop, Captain Watson stood and walked to the rear of the cabin where Kaylee and Tom sat.

“Everything alright?” The Captain could see it was not, Tom was pale, perspiration shined on his forehead.

“Just a bit of an ache.” He hissed through gritted teeth.

“His fingers have gotten darker red, but they are still warm.” Kaylee said.

“Would you let me call you an ambulance?”

“You can.” Tom moaned when he moved his arm. “But I will always be human. Just don’t call me late for dinner.”

Kaylee looked at Regina and sighed.

“I already ordered an ambulance before we stopped. It is coming now.” Captain Watson said.

“I should have let Kaylee carry the bag.” Tom winced.

“Is that is what is going on?” Regina raised an eyebrow. She observed a light pink stain on the bandages that covered surgical wound. “You have saturated the bandages. Look, I can have you back in San Francisco in under an hour.”

“No.” Tom grimaced. “We just need to change the dressings and take a look. I strained it when we packed and I moved the bag.”

“What did they do for you, Tom?”

“They had to graft a vein they took out of his butt.” Kaylee said.

Regina almost laughed, but no one in the world knew.

“I might have over-stressed it.” Tom admitted. “Maybe you can hold over the next few hours, I’ll pay extra.”

“We have another assignment, Tom. But I’ll see what I can do.” Captain Watson said.

“Okay, we can wait until the morning after we get clear of the courts.” Tom looked like he was feeling better.

“But your arm?” The Captain asked.

“We will change the dressing and see what it looks like…”

“It’s gross.” Kaylee nodded.

“But I have finger movement.” Tom said as he wiggled his fingers with obvious discomfort.

“Well, let’s get you somewhere to get the dressing changed.” Kaylee growled. “We have to get to a doctor where we can check that arm right away.”

“Do you know where you are going?” Captain Watson asked.

“I don’t. But we have a rental car here, somewhere.” Tom moaned slightly. Turning his head to look out the window, the paramedic ambulance was coming down the taxi-way.

“Let me give you a directive. You will go by ambulance to the ER straight away.” The Captain said and turned to the Co-Captain who nodded and dialed the tower.

“Thomas, you do not allow yourself to become a wreck. I have a seven-year-old nephew that loves your books. He even has a model of the flying yacht you have. It’s painted in the colors of the Pacific Wizard.” Her tone betrayed her normal professional façade.

“Seriously. I will come fly your jet for you if you need.” Kevin Nunez said. “I hear you have a twin-engine yacht.”

“With wings. And I’ll refuse service.” Tom added, trying to laugh, failing and moaned out a profanity instead.

“That does it, I’m taking him to the emergency room to get that checked out.” Kaylee said and stood up. “Come on, trouble. The ambulance is here.”

“I’m not trouble.” Tom with a strained grin, got up. “I just write it.”

“Yeah. Trying to lift stuff, you refuse to listen, over exert that wound that we spent a million dollars to put back together.” Kaylee growled.

“It wasn’t a million dollars.” Tom said.

“The final bill has not come in, they were charging forty-five bucks a pill for over-the-counter acetaminophen.” Kaylee grumbled. “And you took a lot of pills. It might be a million dollars in the end.”

Two uniformed people stepped on board, a man and woman, both with patches that said “Paramedic” on their chests and back, kneeled next to Tom and took report.

“Maybe. But that is what I have health insurance for.” Tom said in between questions as they escorted Tom from the chartered jet and he bid farewell to the pilots as they went about securing their race-car of the sky.

Tom sat on the ambulance gurney and Kaylee walked next to him while the medics wheeled their patient to the waiting EMS unit. The medic in charge motioned to the second with three fingers.

The EMT nodded without a word, got out of the ambulance before he finished his procedure and got into the driver’s seat.

It took a moment while he sat Kaylee in the front passenger’s seat and made sure she wore the seatbelt, then got in behind the wheel and made a radio report.

“Medic-27 enroute Med-center code 3, one passenger, one patient.”

The radio echoed his report and confirmed the destination.

“Okay, ma’am. Do not ever drive like I am about to do.” He winked and flipped an overhead switch, she could hear clicks of relays as navigated the ambulance around in a careful turn back the way they came. The EMT never used the siren until they got to the gate and out into traffic.

In the back, she could hear the medic describe the serious medical problem.

“ETA 4 minutes.” The medic in the back could have just told someone when lunch would arrive.

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

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Failed Getaway

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

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

This was his story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other than the blood-lust.

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

Not that the government needed to use the other crimes.

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

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

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

Guilty.

The sentence:

Death.

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

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

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

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

Cu’Feur I’ous, to I’bin.

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

They were brothers.

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

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

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

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

Then I’bin blinked.

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

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

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

He already had plans for the judges and their families.

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

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

But the gates were open, no doors locked.

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

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

Screw them all! He was free.

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

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

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

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

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

A body!

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

He had blood soaking his shirt.

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

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

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

He crawled through the grass carefully, towards the voices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let’s go. What were you in for?”

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

“I’bin. What kind of name is N’oi?”

“What kind of name is I’bin?”

Shrugging, the pair moved off into the dark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canabalism? In a pair of them?

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

He’d need a fresh shirt.

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

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

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

She was dead! He knew she was.

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

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

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

He ran headlong into the glass doors— Locked!

Locked?

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

Run! He had to run!

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

What was happening with the world?

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUN!

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

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

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

He needed to run.

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re the doc, doc.” The guard nodded.

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

But only if they could catch him.

He continued to run.

Never set plans in stone, especially in a hospital.

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Checkout time, a shower taken,  packed up the car, got Papa Dash’s clothes in the bag, checked out and headed to his room.

On my arrival I find him awake, sitting up and giving commands. Good!

Well, not so good, seems that after I was booted out (visiting hours over) the nurses tried to get him to stand, at which point, he became pale, rolled his eyes up into his head and did his version of a marionette with cut strings. At least one report that they did chest compressions on him. (CPR) but he woke up right away.

But he had no complaint of chest pain this morning or any indications of bruising as the day has worn on.  So I am not quite willing to swallow that one.  However, the report of “Passing out” (Syncope), has earned him another night’s stay in the hospital.

He complains of dry mouth, and this afternoon after eating some potato soup (“Surprisingly spicy”) he has spent the last couple hours throwing up.  *sigh*

One time after I have helped him, I help him get back into bed, I notice blood on the bedcovers. o.0 “What’s this?” I pull back and it looks like he’s been cut. (Well, technically, he has.) with blood everywhere.

So, a dressing later, kind of distracted, he has woke up enough to begin to complain about government, politicians (In general, he has no love for any side of the aisle- theys all be crooked) So he FEELS better, except for the leak that doesn’t want to stop leaking and the tummy that is yelling “out Out OUT!” to the soup he ate.  I don’t think he got to the chocolate pudding.  He did drink the apple juice however.

Sister is coming with some food, but I won’t leave. Not that I’m needed. I just don’t know anyone around here and it’s an hour away to my sister’s house.

Anyway, I have a few things I can reblog for you all that I find as good both good for the soul and entertaining for the mind.

I might even send you a hospital fiction. Hmm.. Should I make it horror? (That would be unfair for the kind care that Papa Dash is getting) or more of conspiracy? (Organ theft?– Again. Besides, I think it’s been done)

Perhaps something more insidious? Hmm…

Or heroics.  That would be easy.

“Team Trauma-nators” ?

We’ll see. I am working on a horror anthology, but not going so fast today.

Catch ya soon. (Whut..am I blogging instead of writing? Nuu… I’m not a blogger, not good at it. )

Gen 3. Chapter 2. Amsi Idd-Tejo

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Gen 3. Chapter 2. Amsi Idd-Tejo

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

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

“How does that work?”

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

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

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

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

“What’s that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thirty-one thousand…”

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

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

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

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

“Why my kidneys?”

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

“You say it like I am a machine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I want to watch it all.”

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

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

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

“And you are assembled the same way?”

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

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

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

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

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

“You recharge?”

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

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

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

The Golden Hour

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The Golden Hour

The water was cold in the early morning, washing the rescue-ship in the shadow of trees in the hours after sunrise, such is the beginning of any shift in the high mountains with the remote station.

A three-day shift began on Rescue-Medic-10. For two-hundred Terran years it had been the base for rescues in the wilderness of the planet’s northern hemisphere. It was a planet just coming out of an ice-age, giant glaciers still were visible in the distance, miles thick, they still retreated up to one-hundred meters per planetary year. A few faster, many slower, still the settlers from the home world would forge a living in the spreading alpine-forested world.

Once rocky and barren, not so much as a microbe had been found with probes, introducing cyanobacterium and land-plants four-centuries before had caused a spike in oxygen that surpassed that of the normal twenty-one percent Terran air quickly, becoming an energetic twenty-eight percent in the four centuries since humans planted in the carbon rich atmosphere.

The planet, chosen for atmospheric manipulation as the stellar system that surrounded the orange-dwarf star was emerging from a dense cloud of space-debris that had blocked the radiation and heat from the planets sun.

‟Incident assigned.” Came the sound from the station-wide speakers.

‟Long fall, male fell from roof of structure, approximately five meters.”

The crew of three moved to their vehicle, a ducted-fan vertical-lift airship warmed up and lifted off.

‟Rescue-Medic-Ten responding.” Justin Timeagain spoke into the mic-boom of his helmet. Long a medic in the wilderness, once he had gone to earth and had spent a few years in the black-paved forests that were the cities before returning to the planet of Sunkissed-two with stories of horrors on man versus man over the price of stale beer.

‟ETA five minutes.” Rajish Coriolis said.

‟Copy Rescue-Medic-Ten.” The disembodied voice came over the earphones. ‟Incident update, victim is on the ground but sitting up, reporting party states that victim has an altered level of consciousness and is not speaking clearly.”

Justin and Rajish looked at each other. Rajish, the best pilot in the out-lands had worked with Justin for nearly three decades, attending each other’s weddings and birth of children.

Good friends that had been together often over the years.

Honoria ‟Honey” Stathatos, a field nurse-in-training assigned to Justin for her orientation to flight rescue. Engineer and communications officer, a polyglot from earth Jose ‟Yak” Herrera, the only one of the crew that spoke as many languages as could be known. His talent for learning a langauge fluently in a week was legendary in the company, but he was dangerous with anything heavy or sharp.

Lifting off, they rose above the rapidly growing forest, trees already taller than the tallest living things on earth sprouted and grew in the high carbon atmosphere and iron rich soils that oxidized, releasing ever more nutrients for the planets new life to live on.

Evolutionary effects changed life forms rapidly. Bees became larger in the dense atmosphere and low gravity of the super-earth.

‟Rescue-Medic-Ten, be advised, reporting parties on scene say the victim is impaled in the thorax.”

‟Well, that makes things a whole lot harder.” Justin observed quietly.

Raj just smiled, not wanting to make any inappropriate humor comments that might be picked up by the flight-deck recorders. Where they headed was under a storm-cloud. The small VTOL craft was over-engineered, over-engined and powerful with contra-rotating impellers of the ducted fans, just the machine needed for dependable operations in the overgrown forests that orbited as an emerald jewel around the gem of the orange-dwarf star.

‟Rescue-Medic-Ten, this is Bald Mountain Fire Protection Engine-4, Captain Yehn. We have a landing zone for you cleared. Lat and long transmitting to you from my location.

‟Copy Captain Yehn. Our ETA is short, we are vectoring with you in sight.” Raj reported without emotion.

Yak came on the intercom, his voice more baritone since he arrived from earth.

‟Justin, we have a super-cell developing to our south and east, just the direction we will want to go. Weather forecast shows it might go over the top of the incident.”

‟Thank you, Yak. I wonder if the winds there have something to do with that.”

‟Could be.” Raj agreed. ‟I’m showing gusts of greater than thirty-knots around the LZ.”

‟Copy that,” Justin said. ‟Yak, monitor any rotation that develops on doppler and keep us updated, we are going to hot-load, if we take time for tea, we may not get out for a while if there is a rotation.”

‟Justin, what are you worried about.” The female voice of Honey sounded in his ear.

‟Rotating storms in these mountains get a boost from the shapes made by the glaciers, downslope winds compress,  pick up moisture and then sucked up. If it rotates, we could have the makings of a tornado. In this area, they are more-or-less stationary and last for long minutes and some as long as hours. We find bare areas in the forest, trees are not native here and have not adapted to these kinds of storms.”

‟What— how do you adapt to that kind of wind?” She asked. A native Terran, she had arrived on the S-2 planet six months ago.

Justin and the others chuckled.

‟There is no defense other than to go to ground as far as we know. We can build to withstand the wind, but that takes time and money the company does not like spending, and going into a hole is faster.” Yak said over the sounds of the engines.

‟We are on final approach, lady and germs, strap in for a bumpy landing.” Raj said matter-of-factly. ‟We have cross winds that are just at the redline, but we have a wide area to put down in.

‟That… That is a wide area?” Honey said, looking at the thumb-nail sized patch of rock they were approaching.

‟It looks bigger when you are on it.”

‟It better, it is nearly microscopic from here.”

‟Don’t look out the window, focus on the descent speed and altitude readouts. You’ll feel less panic then.” Raj sounded as if he had done this a hundred times.

And he had, more than a dozen times over.

‟Quiet please, emergency traffic only while I put the bird down.”

The group fell into silence, as the contra-rotating blades changed speed and pitch, the HummingBird class rescue airship, agile and fast when need called, set down on the landing wheels.

‟Yak, keep an eye on the doppler and the boilers stoked, old friend, we will be back asap.” Raj said, second in command on the ground, he followed Justin out the back ramp with his backpack and calculators. ‟This is all kinds of farked up to operate in these conditions!” Raj yelled at Justin as they made their way to the linked-treaded construction tank. Brutally spartan in the interior, it was only good for short-range transports of people, in this case, it was a make-shift ambulance.

Technically against any written protocol in civilized areas, here in the wilderness, they did what worked and wrote their own rules without a leader that had any important title. They were Medical Emergency and Trauma Helilift.

‟Justin! Raj! There are some teams we are plain glad to see land.” Lieutenant Robin Wise smiled as the trio of Honey, Justin and Raj walked up with their hardware.

‟Where is our patient?” Justin asked as they entered the tank. ‟And the appreciation feels nice, thank you.”

‟On his way. Justin, he is hurt bad, he fell on a fence post and it has impaled him, they are having to cut the post off for transport.” She said sadly. ‟Justin, it’s the new sheriff. Do every trick you know.”

‟Oh, damn.” The Paramedic in Justin kicked in, the new Sheriff had moved from the southern hemisphere and gotten control of the corruption that had crept in, the area had become a seed of crime that the leaders had decided that the current sheriff that had a drug problem and needed replacing. A decision that backfired, multiple arrests of community leaders, police officers, a minister later, the miniature crime wave came to an end.

The heavy link-treaded tank clanked along the path that served as a road to the sub-rural area, it stopped and lowered the ramp, allowing the flight-crew to enter.

Tomatsu Kia was well liked, an encyclopedic knowledge of the law made him respected by politicians and criminals, and his good looks made him popular with the women when he was on patrol, his manner would have made a doctor jealous.

Today, after falling off the roof of his own house, the pointed post of the gate entered just below his left ribcage and out just on the opposite of his sternum, piercing his left lung in two places and as Justin assessed the Sheriff, he found that Tom’s right lung also sounded diminished.

‟We have an eighty-kilo male, blood pressure has been steadily de-compensating.” The EMT told Justin. ‟We have him splinted as well as possible with vacuum braces, one-hundred percent oxygen by non-rebreather mask, his nail beds blanch and take a long time to come back to color. More than five seconds.”

Justin nodded, more than just lungs were an issue, then remembered the nurse, Honey.

‟Raj, put a cuff on him so we can get an auto-bp on him asap when we get to the bird. Honey, start an IV, I’ll spike the bags. Please reassess the lungs, give me a report”

Honey nodded and as Justin held out to packages of IV tubing he asked which one.

Laughing inwardly, he was making her give orders and she chose the tubing most used in surgery that this patient would need.

‟Let’s get him to our gurney, we do everything on the way after I get the first IV in, Justin, you do the second one at the same time.

Smiling and nodding. Justin knew she had it handled. Her orange-red hair was nearly white in the starlight of the orange-dwarf star, jokingly refered to as Sunkist in stellar traveler circles.

‟Oxygen saturation is down below ninety percent.” Raj said.

Tom was grunting with every breath.

‟Honey, we need to do something. What would you like me or Raj to do?”

‟We need a chest tube placed.”

‟Sorry, fresh out. How about something in protocol that won’t get us put in jail and our license shredded.” Justin pulled out a package and broke open the seal.

‟Thoractic decompression! Yes. Let’s do that.” Honey jolted from her stuck moment.

‟Copy that.” Justin said as he applied a silicon flap-valve to the end of the large catheter he punctured into the side of the Sheriff.

‟I have mine leaking blood.” Honey’s voice was tight and high.

‟Afirmative, Yak, toss us some towels, would you please? Honey, what do you think to begin transport to a definitive care center for Top-Gun Tom here? He is one of my fave souls in this part of the planet, hate to have him bleed out with this fence stuck in him.”

‟Yes, Raj, get us off the ground and to Challenge Medical Center. What is our ETA?”

‟Forty-minutes at conservative speed.”

‟We were en route here for ten-minutes from time of call,” Justin gave a time report of their current call. ‟It was another five to seven minutes for someone to call and another two minutes to get the call to us. We have been on the ground six minutes, twenty seconds. Of our golden hour before irreversible shock sets in, we have now have used twenty-five plus a half-minute of the sixty we need to get him to a surgeon.” Justin nodded to Honey.

Taking his math into account, Honey looked at Raj.

‟What is our ETA on emergency speed?”

‟Twenty-five minutes, but we will be on vapors when we get there and the engines will be too hot to shut down straight away.”

‟Let’s do it.”

‟Yes, ma’am, code-3 it is.”

The jet engines turned up the contra-rotating blades, Raj adjusted the pitch and they lifted off the ground as if the airship was anxious to leave, the machine knowing that a life was in the balance and time was short.

‟Lady and gents, sit down, shut up, strap in and hold on.” As he buried the throttle to the edge of the top if its scale, after a minute of acceleration, Raj pulled the throttle sideways until it clicked and pushed it forward slowly, the sounds of the airship changed from one of ducted fan to one of jets as the fans disconnected and feathered into ring-shaped wings.

Justin directed Honey to call through the recorded communications system to the emergency department at the medical center. Several stuttering starts, Honey hit her stride on painting a picture of the patient’s condition and communicating with the surgical team at the trauma center.

The gentle increase in felt gravity, kept at a perceived vertical by the gimballed treatment area that the team and patient was in. A new feature to the Hummingbird class vessel, during acceleration or deceleration, the treatment area’s perceived vertical did not change. The emergency team would sit, strapped, in moving seats that prevented falling during treatment procedures.

****

A tone sounded after the automatic blood pressure cuff cycled, Tom’s vital signs were diminishing. His blood pressure had fallen below the normal values and he was hypotensive— low blood pressure— and his heart was beating faster at over one-hundred twenty beats per minute. His body was losing the fight to stay alive, even with the fluids that where initially used.

‟Honey, he is leaking faster than we can put in, progressive shock, if we do not increase his body’s ability to transport oxygen to the tissues, he will go into refractory shock.” Justin said calmly. ‟What is your plan of treatment now?”

‟He needs to have vasopressers.”

‟Hm.” Justin pulled at his ear. ‟Something more immediate that we don’t have to measure. Perhaps Syntheglobin? It has balanced electrolytes and a variety of other needed components that he is losing.”

‟And coagulants?”

‟We have that partially covered with the application of Quickclot bandages, we do not administer that intravenously, don’t even carry it. That is a hospital med only.”

‟Okay.” Honey nodded. ‟Hang two bags of Syntheglobin and infuse it wide open.”

‟Bags already spiked, wide open for infusion.”

‟Justin.” It was Yak on the intercom.

‟Yakkity-Yak, please talk back.” Justing gave a wink to Honey.

‟Information only, a wedge tornado touched down right after we left. There are casualties, they are declaring a multi-casualty incident.” Yak’s voice was grim, but professional.

‟Pilot copies.” Raj said. ‟We are unable to go any faster, as it is we have a required cool-down time on the engines of twenty minutes after landing, then we have to refuel.”

‟Ugh, copy that, Raj.” Justin said. ‟Yak, please keep us posted on the incident and weather.”

‟Affermative.”

‟ETA to the Trauma center, ten minutes.” Raj informed the crew. ‟Clear air between us and them.”

‟Copy, Raj.” Justin said. ‟Honey, what is his oxygen saturation reading?”

‟It’s showing only eighty percent!”

‟Correct. Using the artificial blood it has difficulty in picking up the new blood’s oxygen capacity. It is clear and the translumination of the red light on the probe will not pick it up, we have to change probes that are compatible. On the shelf marked ‟Synthe” pick out a probe and let’s place it on his ear, there is a special clamp for that.” Justin nodded.”That will give us a true reading now that he has had…” He looked at the bags. ‟Two and a half liters of Syntheglobin, and this flavor of Synthe is four-times the oxygen capacity, there is another kind of Synthe out now that has double that, so we can use less of the blood replacement for each victim and use the normal saline for the balance. Hospitals are liking it as they can then use different electrolytes without overloading the patient or having some other challenges.”

Honey nodded, getting a little glassy-eyed.

‟How, I mean, where. That is, how do you keep all that in your head?”

‟I wear earplugs to keep it from leaking out.” Justin laughed.

‟He knows all that useless crap.” It was Raj’s voice. ‟We just need to plug holes and run. Only the doctors need to know it by memory, the rest of us have our data pads. But Justin, he is annoying.”

‟Well, keeps us where we are.”

‟ETA 5 minutes.” Raj’s voice changed instantly to all business.”

‟Assess his lungs again.” Honey told Justin. ‟Monitor shows his heart-rate dropping, below one-twenty.”

‟Good, three liters of Syntheglobin in. Sensors on the I.V. catheters show a blood ph of seven-point-four-two, we have slight alkalosis, but in good shape.” Justin said. ‟Tom, are you still with us?

‟Yeah, I keep going to sleep, though. I don’t feel so good.”

‟Well, according to my rule-book, you are not supposed to. You have a hunk of bronze stuck through you, best I can tell, you have missed your heart, spleen and other organs.”

‟But you said it punctured my lungs?”

‟Ah, you weren’t supposed to pay attention to that. Yeah, but you’re in good shape, we are putting down on the tarmac now. You’ll be in and out in no time.”

Justin looked at Honey. ‟Time?”

‟What do you mean?”

‟Of our golden hour, how much is left?”

‟We have, if our time is correct, eighteen minutes.”

‟Awesome, let’s get him out, swap things over to the portable and let us get this show on the road to the Emergency Department.”

Rolling the stretcher to the edge of the Hummingbird, it fit the waiting emergency room gurney tightly with clips that fit into the frame of the wheeled table and they walked quickly through the doors where the surgical team waited them.

Tom lived long enough to make the golden hour and would live to come home.

Reports made, the crew of the hummingbird headed for home, lifting above the clouds of the storm, Yak said it was overcast with showers, but no major storms in the area when the computers on board illuminated with information and a computer generated voice chimed in on the pleasant converstions…

‟Incident assigned.”

The Lunch break

Standard

The lunch break

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

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Hecate Budd still was alive.

And Doctor Jones was tired.

No, not tired. Exhausted.

And he still had an hours drive home to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The woman nodded and tapped on the tablet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Right after you nearly drowned.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He still could become something.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He shook his head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back at the comic book the boy held.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta. (Generation 1. Rescue)

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Generation 1. Rescue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her white-metal dragonfly, Evan, the product of evolving design from the mainframe printers.

Replicating printers, creating circuits in three-dimensions, articulated appendages and the most astounding of all the developments since the time humans began the long hibernation, metallic wings, so fine and thin, that light passed through the metallic wings.

The caregiver computer that built and programmed them all, printing them in organic and metal, the Caregivers of the Fae, the origins of their titles made Luc smile, but their job was to dismantle all weapons of the humans. To build a peaceful world while those that set it all in motion slept a sleep that the caregivers kept from becoming permenant.

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

Bipedal in shape, the core program copied their shape after humans, evolved the programs and constructs as peace-loving  caregivers to the plants and the extant organic life, they grew in numbers, taking the stout engines of war and rebuilding them into usable tools.

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

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

One calm day, thirty-thousand solstice-cycles after the last human, recorded by the computer, died.

A chime sounded.

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

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

Silver robotic arms moved around, placing heat-pads on the body, previously inserted intravenous lines connected to bags of opaque, heated, dark-red fluid infused through the lines into the nude body of the female human lay inert for hours as the heated, calorie- and electrolyte rich fluids coursed through the veins and arteries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Hour

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The Golden Hour

The water was cold in the early morning, washing the rescue-ship in the shadow of trees in the hours after sunrise, such is the beginning of any shift in the high mountains with the remote station.

A three-day shift began on Rescue-Medic-10. For two-hundred Terran years it had been the base for rescues in the wilderness of the planet’s northern hemisphere. It was a planet just coming out of an ice-age, giant glaciers still were visible in the distance, miles thick, they still retreated up to one-hundred meters per planetary year. A few faster, many slower, still the settlers from the homeworld would forge a living in the spreading alpine-forested world.

Once rocky and barren, they discovered not so much as a microbe with the wheeled probes that crawled over the surface. After introducing cyanobacterium and land-plants, the following years oxygen levels rose rapidly and surpassed that of the normal twenty-one percent Terran air quickly, becoming an energetic twenty-eight percent since the land plants they introduced in the carbon rich atmosphere grew at record rates.

The planet, chosen for atmospheric manipulation as the stellar system that surrounded the orange-dwarf star was emerging from a dense cloud of space-debris that had blocked the radiation and heat from the planets sun.

“Incident assigned.” Came the sound from the station-wide speakers.

“Long fall, male fell from roof of structure, approximately five meters.”

The crew of three moved to their vehicle, a ducted-fan vertical-lift airship warmed up and lifted off.

“Rescue-Medic-Ten responding.” Justin Timeagain spoke into the mic-boom of his helmet. Long a medic in the wilderness, once he had gone to earth and had spent a few years in the blacktopped forests that were the cities before returning to the planet of Sunkissed-B with stories of horrors on man versus man over the price of stale beer.

“ETA five minutes.” Rajish Coriolis said.

“Copy Rescue-Medic-Ten.” The disembodied voice came over the earphones. “Incident update, victim is on the ground but sitting up, reporting party states that victim has an altered level of consciousness and is not speaking clearly.”

Justin and Rajish looked at each other. Rajish, the best pilot in the outlands had worked with Justin for nearly three decades, attending each other’s weddings and birth of children.

Good friends that had been together frequently over the years.

Honoria “Honey” Stathatos, a field nurse-in-training, assigned to Justin for her orientation to flight rescue. Engineer and communications officer, a polyglot from earth Jose “Yak” Herrera, the only one of the crew that spoke as many languages as could be known. His talent for learning a langauge fluently in a week was legendary in the company, but he was dangerous to himself or others with anything heavy or sharp. Yak defined the image of a walking accident with tools.

Lifting off, they rose above the rapidly growing forest, trees already taller than the tallest living things on earth sprouted and grew in the high carbon atmosphere and iron rich soils that oxidized, releasing ever more nutrients for the planets new life to live on.

Evolutionary effects changed life forms rapidly. Bees became larger in the dense atmosphere and low gravity of the super-earth.

“Rescue-Medic-Ten, be advised, reporting parties on scene say the victim has a penetrating injury to the thorax. Victim landed on fencing.”

“Well, that makes things a whole lot harder.” Justin observed quietly.

Raj just smiled, not wanting to make any inappropriate humor comments that might be picked up by the flight-deck recorders. Where they headed was under a storm-cloud. The small VTOL craft was overengineered, over-engined and powerful with contra-rotating impellers of the ducted fans, just the machine needed for dependable operations in the overgrown forests that orbited as an emerald jewel around the gem of the orange-dwarf star.

“Rescue-Medic-Ten, this is Bald Mountain Fire Protection Engine-4, Captain Yehn.” The voice crackled as he took a breath. “We have a landing zone for you cleared. Lat and long transmitting to you from my location.

“Copy Captain Yehn. Our ETA is short, we are vectoring with you in sight.” Raj reported without emotion.

Yak came on the intercom, his voice more baritone in the professional voice.

“Justin, we have a super-cell developing five-clicks to our south and east, just the direction we will want to go. Weather forecast shows it might go right over the top of the incident.”

“Thank you, Yak. I wonder if the winds there have something to do with that.”

“Could be.” Raj agreed. “I’m showing gusts of greater than thirty-knots around the LZ.”

“Copy that,” Justin said. “Yak, monitor any rotation that develops on doppler and keep us updated, we are going to hot-load, if we take time for tea, we may not get out for a while if it starts a rotation.”

“Justin, what are you worried about.” The female voice of Honey sounded in his ear.

“Rotating storms in these mountains get a boost from the shapes and funnels made by the glaciers, downslope winds compress, warm up and pick up moisture then up into the cloud. If it rotates while this occurs, we could have the makings of a tornado. In this area, they tend to be more-or-less stationary and last for long minutes and some as long as hours. We find the clearings where trees were scoured clean off the ground. Trees are not native here and have not adapted to these kinds of storms.”

“What— how do you adapt to that kind of wind?” She asked. A native Terran, she had arrived on the S-2 planet six months ago.

Justin and the others chuckled.

“There is no defense other than to go to ground as far as we know. We can build to withstand the wind, but that takes time and money the company does not like spending, and going into a hole is faster.” Yak said over the sounds of the engines.

“We are on final approach, ladies and germs, strap in for a bumpy landing.” Raj said matter-of-factly. “We have crosswinds that are just at the redline, but we have a wide area to put down in.

“That… That is a wide area?” Honey said, looking at the thumb-nail sized patch of rock they were approaching.

“It looks bigger when you are on it.”

“It better, it is nearly microscopic from here.”

“Don’t look out the window, focus on the descent speed and altitude readouts. You’ll feel less panic then.” Raj sounded as if he had done this a hundred times.

And he had, more than a dozen times over.

“Quiet please, emergency traffic only while I put the bird down.”

The group fell into silence, as the contra-rotating blades changed speed and pitch, the HummingBird class rescue airship, agile and fast when need called, set down on the landing wheels.

“Yak, keep an eye on the doppler and the boilers stoked, old friend, we will be back asap.” Raj said, second in command on the ground, he followed Justin out the back ramp with his backpack and calculators. “This is all kinds of farked up to operate in these conditions!” Raj yelled at Justin through the howling winds while they made their way to the linked-treaded construction tank. Brutally spartan in the interior, it was only good for short-range transports of people, in this case, it was a make-shift ambulance.

Technically against any written protocol in civilized areas, here in the wilderness, they did what worked and wrote their own rules without a leader that had any important title. They were Medical Emergency and Trauma Helilift.

“Justin! Raj! There are some teams we are plain glad to see land.” Lieutenant Robin Wise smiled as the trio of Honey, Justin and Raj walked up with their hardware.

“Where is our patient?” Justin asked as they entered the tank. “And nice to be appreciated.”

“On his way. Justin, he is hurt bad, he fell on a fence post and it has impaled him, they are having to cut the post off for transport.” She said sadly. “Justin, it’s the new sheriff. Do every trick you know.”

“Oh, damn.” The Paramedic in Justin kicked in, the new Sheriff had moved from the southern hemisphere and gotten control of the corruption that had been creeping in, the area had become a seed of crime that the leaders had made the decision that the current sheriff that had a drug problem and needed to be replaced. A decision that backfired, multiple arrests of community leaders, police officers, a minister later, the miniature crime wave came to an end.

The heavy link-treaded tank clanked along the path that served as a road to the sub-rural area, it stopped and lowered the ramp, allowing the flight-crew to enter.

Tomatsu Kia was well liked, an encyclopedic knowledge of the law made him respected by politicians and criminals, and his good looks made him popular with the women when he was on patrol, his “Bedside” manner would have made a doctor jealous.

Today, after falling off the roof of his own house, the pointed post of the gate entered just below his left ribcage and out just on the opposite of his sternum, piercing his left lung in two places and as Justin assessed the Sheriff, he found that Tom’s right lung also sounded compromised.

“We have an eighty-kilo male, vital signs are steadily decompensating.” The EMT told Justin. “We have him immobilized with vacuum-splints, one-hundred percent oxygen by non-rebreather mask, his nail beds blanch and take a long time to come back to color. More than five seconds.”

Justin nodded, more than just lungs were an issue, then remembered the nurse, Honey.

“Raj, put a cuff on him so we can get an auto-bp on him asap when we get to the bird. Honey, start an IV, I’ll spike the bags. Please reassess the lungs, give me a report”

Honey nodded and as Justin held out to packages of IV tubing he asked which one.

Laughing inwardly, he was making her give orders and she chose the tubing most used in surgery that this patient would need.

“Let’s get him to our gurney, we do everything on the way after I get the first IV in, Justin, you do the second one at the same time.

Smiling and nodding. Justin knew she had it handled. Her orange-red hair was nearly white in the starlight of the orange-dwarf star, jokingly refered to as Sunkist star.

“Oxygen saturation is below ninety percent.” Raj said.

Tom was grunting with every breath.

“Honey, we need to do something. What would you like me or Raj to do?”

“We need a chest tube placed.”

“Sorry, fresh out. Maybe something in protocol that won’t get our licenses shredded?” Justin broke open the seal of a package.

“Thoractic decompression! Yes. Let’s do that.” Honey jolted from her stuck moment.

“Copy that.” Justin said as he applied a silicon flap-valve to the end of the large needle he’d inserted into Tom’s side.

“I have mine leaking blood.” Honey’s voice was tight and high.

“Afirmative, Yak, toss us some towels, would you please? Honey, what do you think to begin transport to a definitive care center for Topgun Tom? He is one of my fave souls in this part of the planet, hate to have him bleed out with this fence stuck in him.”

“Yes, Raj, get us off the ground and to Challenge Medical Center. What is our ETA?”

“Forty-minutes at conservative speed.”

“We were en route here for ten-minutes from time of call,” Justin gave a time report of their current call. “It was another five to seven minutes for the call and another two minutes to get the call to us. We have been on the ground six minutes. Our golden hour, before irreversible shock sets in, we have now have used twenty-five of the sixty we need to get him to a surgeon.” Justin said.

Taking his math into account, Honey looked at Raj.

“What is our ETA on emergency speed?”

“Twenty-five minutes, but we will be on vapors when we get there and the engines will be too hot to shut-down straight away.”

“Let’s do it.”

“Yes, ma’am, code-3 it is.”

Raj adjusted the pitch and they lifted off the ground as if the airship was anxious to leave, the machine knowing that a life was in the balance and time was short.

“Lady and gents, sit down, strap in, shut up and hold on.” As he buried the throttle to the top edge of its scale.

Justin directed Honey to call through the recorded communications system to the emergency department at the medical center. Several stuttering starts, Honey hit her stride on painting a picture of the patient’s condition and communicating with the surgical team at the trauma center.

The gentle increase in felt gravity, kept at a perceived vertical by the gimballed treatment area that the team and patient was in. A new feature to Hummingbird class vessels, during acceleration or deceleration, the perceived vertical did not change. The emergency team would sit in seats that prevented falling during treatment procedures.

****

A tone sounded after the automatic blood pressure cuff cycled, Tom’s vital signs were diminishing. His blood pressure had fallen below the normal values and he was hypotensive— low blood pressure— and his heart was beating faster at over one-hundred twenty beats per minute. His body was losing the fight to stay alive, even with the fluids they were infusing.

“Honey, he is leaking faster than we can pour in, if we do not increase his body’s ability to transport oxygen to the tissues, he will go into refractory shock.” Justin said calmly. “What is your plan of treatment now?”

“He needs to have vasopressers.”

“Hm.” Justin pulled at his ear. “Something more immediate that we don’t have to measure. Perhaps Syntheglobin? It has balanced electrolytes and a variety of other needed components that he is losing.”

“And coagulants?”

“We have that partly covered with the Quickclot bandages, we do not administer that Quickclot enzyme intravenously, don’t even carry it. That is a hospital med only.”

“Okay.” Honey nodded. “Hang two bags of Syntheglobin and infuse it wide open.”

“Bags already spiked, wide open for infusion.”

“Justin.” It was Yak on the intercom.

“Yakkity-Yak, please talk back.” Justing gave a wink to Honey.

“Information only, a tornado hit right after we left. There are casualties.” Yak’s voice was grim, but professional.

“Pilot copies.” Raj said. “We have a required cool-down time on the engines of ten-minutes after landing, then we need fuel.”

“Ugh, copy that, Raj.” Justin said. “Yak, please keep us posted on the incident and weather.”

“Affirmative.”

“ETA to the Trauma center, ten minutes.” Raj announced.

“Copy, Raj.” Justin said. “Honey, what is his oxygen saturation reading?”

“It’s showing only eighty percent!”

“Correct. The artificial blood is transparent and the standard probe  fails, we need probes that are compatible. On the shelf marked “Synthe” pick out a probe and let’s place it on his ear, there is a special clamp for that.” Justin nodded.”That will give us a true reading now that he has had…” He looked at the bags. “Two and a half liters of Syntheglobin, and this flavor of Synthe is four-times the oxygen capacity, there is another Synthe out now that has double that, so we can use less for each victim and use the normal saline for the balance. Hospitals like it as they can use different electrolytes without having other challenges.”

Honey nodded, getting a little glassy-eyed.

“How, I mean, where. That is, how do you keep all that in your head?”

“I wear earplugs to keep it from leaking out.” Justin laughed.

“He knows all that useless information.” It was Raj’s voice. “We just need to plug holes and run. Only the doctors need to know it by memory, the rest of us have our data pads. But Justin, he is annoying.”

“Well, keeps us honest.”

“ETA 5 minutes.” Raj’s voice changed instantly to all business. “Weather is partly cloudy, winds at ten-knots.”

“Assess his lungs again.” Honey told Justin. “Monitor shows his heart-rate dropping, below one-twenty.”

“Good, three liters of Syntheglobin in. Sensors on the I.V. catheters show a blood ph of seven-point-four-two, we have slight alkalosis, but in good shape.” Justin said. “Tom, are you still with us?

“Yeah, I keep going to sleep, though. I don’t feel so good.”

“Well, according to my rule-book, you are not supposed to. You have a hunk of bronze stuck through you, best I can tell, it missed your heart, spleen and other organs.”

“But you said my lungs are cut?”

“Ah, you weren’t supposed to pay attention to that. Yeah, a couple of holes. But you’re in good shape, we are putting down on the tarmac now. You’ll be in and out in no time.”

Justin looked at Honey. “Time?”

“What do you mean?” Honey blinked, not following Justin’s reference.

“Of our golden hour, how much is left?”

“We have, if our time is correct, eighteen minutes.”

“Awesome! Let’s get him out, swap things over to the portable and let’s get this show on the road to the Emergency Department.”

Rolling the stretcher to the edge of the Hummingbird, it fit the waiting emergency room gurney tightly with clips that fit into the frame of the wheeled table and they walked quickly through the doors where the surgical team awaited them.

Tom lived long enough to make the golden hour and would live to come home.

After reports were given, the crew of the Hummingbird headed for home, lifting above the clouds of the storm, Yak said it was overcast with showers, but no major storms in the area when the computers on board illuminated with information and a computer generated female voice chimed in on the pleasant converstions…

“Incident assigned.”

“I hate that voice.” Yak sighed.

©2015 dash mccallen

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

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Haunted Home, Spicer Dam Spur Road

Crime Scene Photo 1-A  24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dinner’s ready.” She called down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And bounced off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, not haunted, not haunted at all. 

She had no eyes!

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

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

And missed.

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

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

Two rolls of…

Wallpaper!

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

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

Paper. Just paper, wadded up and desiccated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A beautiful and deadly structure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No complaints will be filed.

Lt. Liewess J. Jonah, investigator.”

 © 2015 Dash McCallen all rights reserved

“Extinction”

Standard

Urgency

He had long named his car “Red” which was a touch of humor, being as it was black. The pair sped along the highway, sensors on the self-aware car kept them from losing control around the dumb modes of transportation. They moved along faster than the flow of traffic.

He was late. He ordered the emergency call to the leaders of geneticists, physicians and associated scientists the night before. But on his exit of his gated community, Anti-Vaxxers blocked the road, protesting his teams newest vaccine that suppressed genital warts in those that had it and prevented infection to those that were not previously exposed.

And now he was late, having to wait for the police to respond and clear the road of the two-dozen people who based their objections on the preachings of a holy man who declared that the vaccine interfered with the wrath of god on women having out-of-wedlock sex.

Doctor Camane Minouche raced in his small car. The picnic blanket sliding back and forth on the small shelf behind him as he took corners that challenged gravity. He was held in his seat only by belts and the intelligent post-war car that used the some fifty-thousand sensors around and inside the machine to keep the Doctor safe and secure.

Into the parking lot they flew, dust and cats ran from the speeding, wheeled missile. The team of machine and human. The Doctor spoke to the car, but it was a one-way conversation only. Long ago, the car chose to keep the self-awareness and abilities to it’s own heart.

“Faster, faster.” The Doctor whispered out loud while he typed the finishing touches on his presentation and saved the graphics to the fingernail drive. “Flippin’ late!”

The car calculated he would be five-minutes behind the clock no matter what it could do, they had made up twenty-minutes on the highway, blowing through a speed-trap and a drone traffic enforcement attempted to pull them over, but was left far behind as the small car jammed radio frequencies and applied greater power to the wheels while the Doctor read and re-read his report and talked on the phone.

Only once did Camane look up and give the command to throttle back, he became alarmed at the speed that the stripes in the road were passing by.

They were traveling over two-hundred kilometers-per-hour at that time. So Red-the-black-car dialed the speed back.

Never would the Doctor know that their speed was nearly fifty-percent faster before he looked up.

Tires smoked slightly when Red wheeled into the parking lot, Camane jumped out of the small car and ran up the steps to the door, nearly forgetting his briefcase in the process.

The picnic blanket slid to the edge of the seat, filling the interior of the car with its piquant odor of grass, sun and laughing memories that were lost to the Doctor as he headed to the meeting with the panel of public health care leaders.

Still straightening his tie, Doctor Minouche set his papers on the podium and cleared his throat and put on some reading glasses.

He did not need the glasses, he had read the reports so many times, he had it memorized.

Pulling out a fingernail sized USB memory stick, he pushed it almost flush into the display and picked up the remote control, advancing forward to the infographics.

“Thank you for your patience, there are some folks in this world that don’t seem to appreciate my appointment schedule.” The audience chuckled as he drew a breath. “Ladies and gentlemen. Due to an undisclosed cold-war era disaster, the human race has approximately two-hundred years of viability left.”

He looked up and moved the informational graphic forward one frame.

“In the latter-half of the twentieth century, countries that had ruled with racist laws to keep people separate, developed a short-lived virus based on a s-oi virus, they then released this virus in general population of a prison in a country on the African continent to reduce the numbers of “Undesirable elements” in their society. During this time, one United States Warrant Officer stationed at the Embassy there, returned home on leave in a three-to-twenty-one day window after the government inoculated prisoners with this virus with aerosol dispersion.” He flipped the page and changed to the next infographic. “Sometime during this period, one or more of the prison population escaped or released. The airborne infection at the time was mild-to-moderate and considered a failure by the government.”

The infographic leading up to a negative response.

“This resulted in a failure of followup on infected and released prisoners.” He pressed the button on the remote again and changed to the US. “In the meantime, Warrant Officer Pers Hershey was exposed, left without feeling any symptoms and returned to the United States. Records indicate that he passed through the system at Fort Dix, but portions are missing. We only know he was  seen for a low-grade fever and mild vertigo. At some point he came in contact with other recruits and became Patient-Zero for the swine-flu outbreak in and around Fort Dix.”

The Doctor clicked forward to the next frame, showing infection rates among recruits.

“At this point, one death and a number of people infected with this virus that could be described as a collection of poorly assembled DNA moving about in loose formation.” He pointed to the Capitol of the United States. “At this time, alerted to the outbreak, the government issued vaccines against the H1N1 Swine flu. The debacle that followed was poorly understood as why it occurred. Theories focused of the vaccine’s adverse reactions.”

A click again, changing the screen of his infographic presentation.

“This was, in fact, a reaction to the existing infection that was ongoing but alerted no one due to the mild nature of the infection. While they intended the vaccine to prevent infection, due to the influenza that the laboratory overseas constructed with, considered even by mid-seventies standards as archaic, no one realized they dealt with an ongoing infection.”

Another infograpic of two virus’ interacting.

“The unintended response of the existing virus to the vaccine that the government distributed nationwide, the virus was altered and increased the transmission rate and capability while mitigating the physical symptoms of fever and muscular aches.”

A hand raised.

“Doctor…” The woman spoke up. “I’m Doctor Sheena Westlake, Director of Emergency Services at Metro-Memorial Medical Center. This is not an emergency, you are giving us ancient history, both our vaccines and detection are generations past those days.”

“Hi Doctor Westlake, we met a few years ago at a coffee Klatch conference.” He nodded. “Yes, this is history, but please bear with me, I am nearly finished.” He smiled. The dark-skinned woman was beautiful, if built like a door with square shoulders and the look of a warrior when roused . “The combined DNA of the first generation technology influenza and the vaccine combined and created a world-wide pandemic that was so mild in symptomatology, no one pursued the effects.”

He pressed the forward button again, displaying a slide of twenty-three chromosomes overhead.

“Y-mediated infertility has been the problem since the seventies. It is progressive and becoming widespread. The mild nature of the influenza, no one followed up on the effects of the virus. The damage is irreversible and the results are no male children are born. Since ten-years after the initial pandemic that the rare person ever saw their doctor and fewer still had bloods drawn. “

“So Doctor what are you saying?” Doctor Westlake asked again. “Boys are going to be born brain-damaged?”

A chuckle from one side of the room.

“Aren’t they all? At least until they are eighteen.”

Doctor Minnouche laughed.

“In this case, you are correct. Male versus female births have fallen out of balance in recent years.” He continued. “In short, at the rate of damage and the skewed birth ratios between genders with female births dominating at this time in history, in the next few generations, the male of the human race will become an endangered species, pushed towards extinction in about one hundred-fifty years, and the human race will become non-viable in about two-hundred years.”

“I’ll take questions now.”

Another hand raised.

“Professor Fenix Stone, Atlantic Bay University of Biological Sciences, Bar Harbor.” An older man, with intense black eyes, seemingly born before there was hair. “How can you estimate the damage to the y-Chromosome from that one event?”

“Thank you professor.” The Doctor frowned. “We have had samples from a broad spectrum of people for hundreds of years. My team, consisting of over two-hundred professionals as of last month, have collected said samples from every source that could be dated. The y-chromosome has been steadily decreasing in size over millions of years, but since the swine flu of the mid-seventies, the gene that was part of the genetically modified virus has spread, and destroyed parts of the male gene. We have the good fortune, if you would like to call it that, to have obtained a sample that has remained frozen and forgotten in the biological research facility where they kept this virus in deep-freeze storage, along with the notations of one Doctor Van Skeet, who, as best we can ascertain, died in an accident relating to his research.”

The Doctor paused.

“He became infected with his own monster with a lack of sufficient protective protocols.”

“This is wrong. There is no way to target just the y-chromosome.” A voice from the back called out.

“Actually, yes, just because it is not in our history of doing so does not mean we cannot. We have identified genes on bacillus and virus for years and creating vaccines against them.”

“Can we stop this damage to our genome?” Another voice asked.

“No, the damage is done. It was a biological weapon designed to do what it did, but the government then assumed the illness was self-limiting, which was a fail, and affect only a specific group. Another fail.” The Doctor gave a big sigh. “As of today, the current birth rate of viable human males has dropped below twenty percent. The reports based on this information on records dated thirty-months ago. The birth rate has certainly dropped since then by a few tenths of a percent.”

“You are incorrect.” A tall, dark-skinned man with an Australian Accent stood up. “Doctor Syd Gayiri, Headmaster of the School of Biotech Sciences at Toowoomba University. There are boys born in my community every month. My sister just had a healthy baby boy.”

“Correct, he is healthy for now. The odds, however, that his children will be girls, or there will be a child born to him with special needs. The degradation, by limiting the scope of DNA mixing is much worse. Thus we propose to keep communities robust is to promote outside family marriage and children in close-blood relations minimized, this improves the length of time the human male genome will become non-viable.” Doctor Minouche. “We will need to evolve into a mono-parous species to survive.”

The Doctor pointed at a severe looking woman sitting in the front row.

“Sonja Gutierrez has two sons, oh, sorry.“ Sonja is from the University of Spain, Madrid. But you all have read her paper of the stresses of caring for two special needs children. I would venture that it is both the boys?” Camane asked.

“Yes. Is this to do with the damage to the gene?” She asked.

“It would take some testing, do you remember getting ill with the flu during that time?”

“Doctor, I am not that old.” Doctor Gutierrez laughed. “That was before my time.”

“My apologies. Do you have any brothers?”

“Um. No. No brothers, I had one, but he was sickly and died very young…” She trailed off. A cold feeling crept over the room.

“Anyone else here have patients, family members, co-workers, classmates that have had problems with children— and were the health problems with boys?” Doctor Minouche traced a line on the projected infographic with a laser pointer. “Damage to the y-chrome is a pattern that we can follow. Initially it looks random, but if you watch as the gaps fill in on a chart, there are patterns. Closed communities that have had contact with the virus, the interbreeding magnifies the damage. A given group that mixes with others mitigates the damage.”

Taking a deep breath, he continued.

“Segregation, isolation, and staying with a small community will accelerate and magnify the damage. It’s proposed that the y-chrome could be extinct in more than one-hundred thousand years, however, at the current rate of change, computer models show between one-hundred and three-hundred years, with two-hundred being the mid-point.”

“So, Doctor, you are saying that we could see the end of male births in our children’s lifetime?”

“Yes. Perhaps, in a worst-case scenario, our own lifetimes.”

Tapping on tablets sounded, pens on paper, disbelief evaporating like a coastal fog on a summer’s day as the scientists and physicians crunched numbers. Writing notes on personal digital assistants, notepads and tablets.

“We have a century and counting. If  two-centuries pass, and if we do nothing, there will be no naturally born males and the human species will be dependant on engendering fertile males with an XX karyotype or en vitro fertilization.” The statement hung in the air.

“Each of you has submitted an email to attend here, the transcript and graphics are being sent to you as we speak.” He nodded to an off-stage assistant. “Every page that we displayed here we researched and signed off, including the Surgeon General’s office of the United States is on board with this. I must remind you, this is not for public dissemination, yet. We are looking for this panel to bring forth something larger than my team can, we are reporting only what we find. The effort to repair the human genome before it is beyond fixing is up to us. If this information is released for wide-spread publication, it is possible we will set off a world-wide self-destruct in all religions, this requires the opposite of what religions demand. Secularism is the only way to go, no borders, no religious prohibitions. It is time that we look at ourselves as one race or dwindle into extinction.”

“Doctor, do you have the fix in your proposal? Are there repairs of the y-chrome that we can  act upon?” A man in a black business suit with long gray hair pulled back into a ponytail, flanked by two young men with shaven heads and sharp eyes that constantly scanned the room. “Doctor Simon Connery MD MPH PhD, Director United States Centers for Disease Control.”

The secondary introduction made Camane nod.

“Simon, you have spent too much time in school, and welcome.” A chuckle from the audience. “At this point, we do not have any genetic repairs to speak of. We do need the resources of the CDC and everywhere around the world to focus on saving the human race.”

He looked around the room.

“Or we may as well have never met and make plans to fill a time capsule for the next rise of intelligent species.” The grim tone of his voice hung in the air. “Without cooperation, we are soon to be endangered.”

“Doctor,” A younger man approached him. “I’m Steven Rivers, senior reasearch geneticist at Southern California University at Dinuba. Although I may not have a cure for the birth rate of males, I may have a longevity plan and increase the number of years for research.”

“How much of an increase?” Another voice sounded.

“I will have to share my work, but it depends on the gene we work on.”

“Telomere work is ongoing, nothing new.” A male voice sounded.

“Not telomeres, something new…”

“Ladies, gentlemen. Please.” The Doctor brought them back to focus on the issue he was speaking on. “Let us read and discuss what my team has worked on and schedule a meeting, not an information release to this esteemed board

“Speak for yourself,” A woman’s voice sounded from the back. “Women will rule.”

It would be funny if not for the serious tone of the presentation.

Gathering up their notes and tablets, the group filed out.

Walking to Red, the car. He held his one-way conversation to the best friend a person could have in a non-organic entity.

“No one believed me. Except the boy-genius from California.” He told the little car built at the old car building company, Terran Green Machines, before the military absorbed the company by decree. “Red, we are screwed.”

Excerpt: Children of Fury, Chapter 20. Old School Medicine

Standard

(Setup: Beli O’Danu, shot with an arrow and is bleeding to death. The knowledge of the Draoithe (Irish Druid) are what stands between him and death.)

20. Old School Medicine

Donal continued to help his old friend down the path to the river. Conn with his father’s arm around his neck helped to partly carry and partly drag the elder O’Danu to where the two men directed.

“Here! Put me down, here.” Beli grunted painfully, as they came to a clearing.

Beli’s shirt was sticky with clotted blood and matted with a paste of moss and herbs he had smeared on his own chest. Putting the poultice where the arrow protruded, the herbs had slowed the bleeding.

“Conn, collect some wide-flat rocks and build a small fire.” Said Donal as he went down to the riverside and began selecting plants with a critical eye. “Clean and heat the rocks over the fire until the water cooks off.” The High-Priest directed while he searched for those plants needed to save his friend’s life.

Beli wheezed out orders to Conn on what rocks to look for. Donal returned with an armful of roots, twigs and herbs with fleshy leaves, setting them down on the ground, he began to wash his hands in the clear water of the stream, cleaning the mud off his fingers.

Conn collected several large, flat rocks, about the size of his two spread hands, he cleaned them well with clean water and placed them near the pile of twigs and leaves.

While Donal was sweating from his exertions of grinding the leaves and the moisture from the herbs had mixed with the bark that he had collected in a small mortar and pestle into a smooth dough like texture. Time was short and his friend’s life hung in the balance. The longer they took, the weaker Beli was getting.

Conn started the fire with the use of flints, gently blew on the ember that he had been able to spark. With the growing fire. Conn began to wash two stones near the stream, cleaning the stones with a soapwort rub, then washed with water until it was clear. Then, with the fire burning hotly, Conn put the two stones near the flames to dry.

Conn’s father-in-law made himself as comfortable as possible, kneeling near the fire, putting a collection of bark and herbs on one of the rocks that had a concave surface, then began to press the medicines together with a small well used silver rolling-pin.

As Donal pressed the juices from the succulent greens he had just picked, chosen with an expert eye, Conn watched closely as the elder Draoi crushed and mixed the ingredients with the experience that would let him watch for the proper texture and color of ingredients.

Placing more herbs, Donal continued to grind the organic bits together on the hot rock, the mixture sizzled and put off a strong smoke that made him blink and cough.

“It is better at an alter, the smoke does not drift into my face so I can use it for bandages and not choke or blind me.” Donal coughed again. His voice quavered slightly and he cleared his throat, getting back to his task.

Conn suspected, however, that not all the tears were from the smoke.

Conn helped Donal by slowly pouring water over the tops of the rocks with a small silver cup that the elder Draoi handed him. While Donal tore a leaf apart and began to mix it with water, heating it until it bubbled.

Donal touched a branch taken from a willow tree to the mixture, the thick, hot viscous liquor coated it cooled on the smoothed carved twig.

Beli, who had been watching this turned his eyes down the path, Gael, Conn’s mother and teacher walked towards them from the ocean where they had taken refuge from the advancing armies of Parliament.

Several of the women burst out in tears at the sight of the wounded Beli laying on his back, only to have the Gael silence them with a wave of her hand.

“Time now is not for tears! Now is the time to repair and save a life. We need the finest, clean linen that anyone has.”

Gael invoked her title as a High Priestess, the Ard-Draoi. The Baker family who were Druid Priests and Priestesses of the Scots, the name of Baker had a huge influence wherever they walked and Gael was not to trifle with when it came to her knowledge of the Draoithe.

From within a pouch she carried at all times, Gael produced smaller bags of salts and knelt by Donal who looked up and nodded. Taking several small bags laid them next to the fresh herbs that Donal had collected.

Niamh, Conn’s mother-in-law and High Priestess in her own right, directed the women to gather strips of clothing to prepare for dressings. Setting down her own bag of collected medicinal herbs that exceeded Gael’s in the form of infection control herbs.

Niamh took a handful of linen from Anne MacNamara, who had grabbed anything she could while running from the advancing troops. The clothing was the best she had, giving it up to the priestess who had the intense look and a sense of urgency not seen before. Anne was not about to cross Niamh the healer.

Walking with the armful of dresses, Niamh stopped and pulled up some roots of a nearby plant. At the stream, tearing strips out of the clothing that Anne had given her, Niamh began to wash the makeshift bandages in the clear water of the river while she ordered the other women to build a fire nearby.

Gael nodded to herself as she directed what kinds of plants to use for the fire. The three Draoi worked together with intensity to save the life of their friend and mate, for what was about to come was the hardest and most difficult part for them to do.

Beating the strips furiously with a stick over one of the rocks that Conn had gathered, the plants and cloth formed a thick lather that Niamh instructed the helping women, including her friend Gael to rinse out in the flowing clear water for some minutes until all the water flowed clear of the strips. One after another Gael and Niamh inspected the linen strips carefully. Those that passed inspection were hung to dry in the smoke of the slow fire that they built using bundles of incense gathered by the remaining women and children. The smoke of the herbs, they explained, prevented infection later.

These treated linens Gael handed Conn, instructing her son to hold them by the corners and not to interrupt her while she was explaining how to do what he needed to do.

Detached from the activities that would save his life, Beli laughed silently, no matter how old her son was, he was still Gael’s child and would follow her directions.

Conn, used to giving orders and being in charge  bowed to his mothers sharp tongue and the father-in-law’s orders of what to do and how to do it.

As Beli lay on the ground, weakly moving his hands as if to guide the operation. A dozen of the villagers that had found refuge among the bluffs of the shore worked furiously to gather herbs under the directions of Donal and the Priestesses. Few had time to stand and watch, praying for the injured elder while they foraged for the needed herbs. So many had died that day, no one wanted to watch another one of their own also pass at the hands of the Parliament’s Agents.

“By the stones!” Beli wheezed out, his agitation growing with the pain. “This is beginning to seriously hurt!”

“It is going to hurt more before it gets better old friend, “Donal knelt next to Beli, “this might have been easier if I had the Spoon of Diokles with me, but that all burned with the village.”

Beli tried to interrupt but Donal shushed him.

“Yes, I have the Saultis Ominus nearly ready. Yes, our wives have the dressings nearly dry over the fire and clear of bad airs. Yes, we have the proper herbs.” Donal pressed a finger to the wounded man’s lips. “Shut up and rest.” There was no appeal to Donal’s command.

Then Donal’s tone softened as he touched his friend on the shoulder.

“Beli, to take this spike out of your chest will be difficult and the wound is deep.”

“I have made it this far,” Beli looked slowly around at the mountains and then the sky. “I’m ready to do this. This is hurting more with each breath. But I am not coughing up blood, my fingers are not white at the nails, if it has caused a hole where the blood flows, it is plugging it up now. When you pull it out, it will unplug the hole like a bung from a barrel. Then I would be dead before you could stop the bleeding.” Beli wheezed painfully.

“Beli,” Donal said softly.

“I know…” Grimacing against the pain he interrupted as he grabbed at his old friend’s chest, “I cannot live with this in and every moment it is in me, the more damage and the more pain it causes. It must come out, one way or another. It is good that it is you, you have the best knowledge to do this. You have pulled these out of men before during battles.”

Donal nodded, mixing the dried and powdered herbal potion with the smallest amount of water to mix a paste on the cleaned linens. Conn brought some powdered leaf over on the warm rock with the willow branch, now cut by Gael who carefully heated the twig over the fire until it turned color, she was careful as not to burn the wood as it would be ruined, and Gael did not have time to prepare a new branch.

Taking the remaining uncooked paste, Donal smeared the pungent mixture over his hands. Donal who wrinkled his nose at the smell.

“It tingles my hands and burns my nose — Aye, it is a strong mix. This will either cure you or kill you old friend!”

“Where is my bite rag?” Beli groaned. “Be good and sure it has the medicine in it.”

Conn brought the linen pouches that they made up for the procedure. One, moist but light in weight and green, the other that was heavier but dry and colored tan. Careful to kneel next to his mother as he held them out to Gael on a cleaned rock, who took the light one and handed the larger, heavier tan wrap to Donal who set it along on the edge of the heated rock.

Donal nodded at Gael and Beli, everything was ready.

“Put it in your mouth. Beli, bite down a few times.”. Gael gave no room for debate as she looked down at her husband, holding the thumb sized green rag to his lips.

“I know what to do!” Said Beli, with his voice muffled by the green linen bag.

“Shush and chew, husband.” She kissed his forehead. “Before I thump you.” The threat was without weight of malice. The only emotion she let be obvious, sharp she might be, he was the love of her life.

Donal looked at Conn, “I will need you to pack the wound with the flat of the willow-branch there. Scoop up the powder and dump it in and around the hole after I remove the spike until the bleeding stops or there is a pile over it. If he bleeds too much, your father will not stand a chance. But I venture an opinion that it has missed his vitals.”

One last breath Donal braced himself, wrapping his hand around the iron neck of the arrow-bolt, he held it for a moment, looking into the eyes of his friend and son-in-law’s father. Beli had become quiet. He had a familiar, dreamy look on his face and an odd glazed look in his eye that showed that he was already in an induced sleep.

“No pulsations from the shaft, this is a promising sign. Okay, straight out and easy.” Donal said quietly.

“Niamh, Conn hold on to his arms. Gael, keep him calm.” Drawing a deep breath, he looked at his old friend. “Beli, see you on the other side my brother.”

A gentle pull and Beli became wide-eyed with a grunt as the pain exploded through him. Gripping the green grass underneath him tightly.

“Keegan! Keegan! Tá brón orm! Fill ar ais go dom mo garmhac! Tar ar ais chugam!*” Beli screamed.

(*Keegan! Keegan! I am sorry! Return to me my grandson! Come back to me!)

Gael, kneeling at Beli’s head squeezed red juice from a cloth with bark and berries into her husband’s mouth, the extra plant extract calming him further. Taking care that Beli would not stop breathing under the narcotic effects of the herbal medicines, the effects were rapid and predictable.

Donal kept pulling, not letting up and not letting go for worry that it would do more damage as it returned to its resting place. But, if he pulled too hard it would cause a suction that could kill his patient.

Moments passed and the shaft did not move. Then slowly as Donal applied a little more pull on the arrow, it began to back out. Imperceptibly at first as sweat beaded on Donal’s forehead, then the arrow shaft started to move steadily backwards out of the chest of his best friend and family member.

It was out the length of a fingernail. Dried blood on the shaft was the marker how deep it had been.

“Pour some powder around the base of the shaft.” Donal told Conn.

“Keep him from moving his head as much, he flexes his muscles here and in his back when he moves. It is making it difficult and more painful.” Donal admonished Gael as he kept the tension on the shaft.

Width of a finger out.

The dart began to slide out of the wound more easily, the tapered shaft, Donal thanked the Gods it was not a broad head. Built with socket-fitted tip on the wooden arrow.  They forged the tip to penetrate armor and then wedge in the metal skin with the wood fibers, made for piercing armor and disabling but it was not efficient at killing.

Wisdom held that it took more men of the enemy to remove the wounded from the field of battle than to tend the dead. Those that were left then would have the archers come down and the killing would be done with knife, sword or ax on the battlefield.

Two fingers width of arrow withdrawn.

“More powder, get the cloth ready to staunch the bleeding.” A small trickle of blood was visible. Donal had one hand on the patients chest, pushing while the other hand pulled on the iron neck of the arrowhead.

With a wet sucking sound, the needle sharp arrowhead came out of Beli’s chest.

“Now, pour some powder in the hole and cover it up with the cloth and press firmly, until I tell you to stop.” Donal told Conn, “Not TO hard! Don’t break your father’s ribs. He won’t like that.”

His hand firmly over the hole and watching the blood soak into the cloth as he pressed directly on the wound, Conn was now sure that the old man was going to live. Donal carefully put down the blood-slicked spike. It was well made, fortune was with them, no barbs or splinters anywhere on the edges and no bleeding salts had been on the shaft. Donal did not cause more damage with the removal. The arrow did all the insult to the body at the moment when it entered his chest.

Turning back, “You can take your hand away,” Donal covered Conn’s hands and smiled. “apprentice, you have done well! You teach us how to build ships, we will teach you, yet, about herbs, medicines and how to heal.” Donal said as he dressed the wound with the bandages prepared by the women.

Conn chuckled, it had been a long time since anyone dared call him an apprentice, but here? Here he was well outside of his normal circles. Looking at his mother, she smiled at him, making him feel young again.

“You did well, Conn.” Croaked Beli, “Don’t you agree, Gael?”

“Shush, you old shoe.” Gael looked down at him. “You made me a near widow, when you are fit I will make you fear me more than death, enough to step away from any arrow. I will not do this again with you! I’ll find me a handsome young man and toss you out!”

Tears were in her eyes as she spoke, there was no conviction in the words. He might be an old shoe, but he was hers and she took care of all her belongings. She was the queen of collecting in the family and her family was her prize collection, Conn her only child and Beli her only mate. They taught and treated together many children and people, every day it was another family that needed to help a child born into the world or a negotiation between clans. Gael’s family was her soul.

Donal opened a pouch withdrew a couple of stones, setting one aside, then another.

“No, wrong effect. This one is wrong, too. There! This one.” Then with a skilled touch, Donal began to grind a small chip into a powder.

Conn looked and recognized a few of the stones in the pouch, many he did not.

“Bloodstone, feldspar, rubháid bairestone. What is this?”

“That, my son, is ‘Sruthfola’, it can cause severe bleeding. Only used in scant amounts to keep blood thin to promote healing on some injuries.” Beli whispered, “Or stuck into someone to cause them bleed for a long, long time without stopping.”

Conn looked at his father, he was still glassy-eyed from the herbal cloth that Gael pushed into his mouth, but he was still awake and able to talk.

“Dittany, is a plant that stops bleeding and promotes healing. I’ll be well enough in a day.” Moaned Beli, his voice a bit stronger now.

“NO! Beli! I will thump you!” Growled Gael, pulling her husband of so many seasons down to his back by an ear. “You will heal and rest.”

“She’s right. No herb or magic can take the place of healing. Magic can fix the problem, but the body must go back in balance.” Donal said to Beli, he would not dare oppose Gael now in any case.

“Then catch up with my son. He is walking with that look in his eye again. He is thinking of something.”

MELANCHOLY: TUNNEL OF DARKNESS Section 1. The Seraph

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Section 1. Darkness.

 

 

Blackness.

Darkness. 

A weed of melancholy that destroyed everything.

It invaded him, all around. One could say he had a cold soul, but he was numb beyond his ability to describe the feeling of sadness.

Outwardly he feared nothing, riding in the mobile emergency room towards, arguably, the capital of violence in the industrialized planet systems. This planet orbited a dwarf red star only a few dozen light-years from the home planet from where the first humans moved out into space.

His name, you might wonder?  Colonel Safsy Gliese.

His father named him after the great explorer Safsy Riggs from earth that used the, then new, type-d Alcubierre drive. His father used a common last name when they left the planet for another brown proto-star for a mining colony.

Since then, Safsy had moved to the copper world of the orange-dwarf star called the planet Sapphire, in the constellation Sappho as seen from the planet in the stellar nursery fifty-light years distant.

A planet composed of high concentrations of copper, so much so that some mountain ranges had outcroppings of the metallic element. Beryllium rich outer planets in the system made for a natural industry and trade hub for the farmers of the other planets in the region.

Then the discovery of energy to mass conversion on the Gliese systems all but collapsed the economy of the Sapphire.

Right in the back yard of the Colonel’s work as Search and Rescue.

He looked out the window of the ship Seraph, captained by his friend and companion through frequent adventures over the years. Wings on the nose of the ship were against the protocols of the company, but the regional directors looked the other way as it was a gift of peace between two warring parties.

On the hull of the ship, solid gold wings, welded in place and then sparkled without diminishing over time was no easy feat, as the hull of the Seraph was of metastable metallic hydrogen. Tough and superconducting, the simple element as a gas in space, came from the ship yards ready for any kind of action. Ship rescues near stars, high energy waves just slid over the hull, protecting everything within its walls. But such energies were wearing on even a noble metal as gold.

Today, they were putting down on Sapphire. Riots had broken out over austerity programs imposed by the government to survive had forced miners out of work as the new technology had turned to converting hydrogen — the most common element in the known universe — into copper.

The once prestigious university of New Antarctica at the pole of the planet now sat in decay. Only the sciences seemed to stick it out for the duration, trying to create some alloy that would be a Sapphire Only creation.

Traversing the side of the green soiled hill, the team used a high-speed land-crawler to travel into the downtown area of Solstice, a large metropolitan area on the polar sea. A body of water ten-percent larger than the Terran Pacific Ocean and growing with the planetary tectonics.

“Medic-One, your victims are at school street and Twelfth Boulevard. Reporting two people stabbed. We have other units en route, law enforcement is also dispatched but have an ETA of half-hour. You will be first on scene, unknown location of suspects involved. Stage before arriving on scene at least five-hundred meters.”

“Copy, thank you for the information.” The Colonel specialized in off-ship rescues. The land crawler was capable of handling up to a dozen patients and have a surgical suite in the core with a team operating on victims.

“Medic-One, fire departments on scene report a riot on scene, stage at the one kilometer mark until law enforcement arrive.”

“Are they able to handle a riot?” Kimberly Suthlinder asked. “Maybe they should send out the peace force to stop this?”

Kimberly was a great surgeon, but this was her first tour and was fresh out of the University of the Sciences on Threshold, so named as it the planet that bordered deep space settlements.

“No, likely it is those peacekeepers that are fighting. They haven’t been paid for months.”

“Oh, no.”

“Oh yes. It’s all about food now. These people would hunt the indigenous life, except the only life native here,  is lichen. The economy fell to the technology replacing their primary export. The two planets have teamed up, one processes beryllium, Sapphire process produces an uncommonly pure copper with a minimum of energy input. There’s abundant hydrogen, but they don’t have the process technology to do anything with it. Not difficult to obtain, this system is in the middle of a dark-matter cloud of nearly pure hydrogen, it has agglomerated into non-reactive particles, but is easy to collect. The government here just has no way to process it.”

“Oh, crap on a cracker. This will leave the area as a ghost town.”

“It will, for all intents and definitions, be a ghost town. We are witnessing the death of a society if they cannot beg, borrow or steal tech to improve their position.”

“What about the University here?”

“They are working around the clock to come up with something. But so far, the Gleise consortiums are keeping tight wraps on technology, they can produce copper that is five-nines pure with less energy that they use here— and they produced copper here cheaply, but not cheap enough.”

“Arrival.” The pilot’s voice came over the speakers in their chairs.”

“Arrival?” The Colonel blinked. “Colonel to bridge, we were to post away from the event.”

“Negative, my display shows green for entry.”

Taptaptap echoed in the hull of the crawler, punctuating the pilots comments — someone had taken shots at the moving emergency department.

“Pilot, move us out of here.”

Silence for a heartbeat.

“I’m hit! Help me, ohmygod!”

Tapping on his smooth panel control module, the Colonel alerted the surgical and rescue teams.

“Trauma teams to the bridge, pilot has been hit. Trauma teams to the bridge.”

The Colonel wished they had shot him, six surgeons on board, with two gas-passers and trauma medics that can operate in the field to bring the victims in. But they only had two pilots, now one. If the second pilot was hit, Safsy had only a passing knowledge of this transporter, he could drive them back to the Seraphim, but not as smoothly as with a trained pilot of this tank-treaded/hovercraft hybrid craft.

He did not want any harm to come to his team and would challenge anyone to shoot him if it drew the danger away from anyone or anything.

Nodding to himself, the Colonel was looking for a chance to commit suicide by proxy. He did not always recognize it, but he knew he was coming to the end of his career.

Anyone that was looking to die in the line of duty did not belong on duty. He knew it was only time before he would stumble and begin to have serious, self-destructive personal and professional effects.

He did not know if it would be ethanol or perhaps beating someone who would then need treatment  in the Seraph.

Such was the melancholy soul that deeply worried about his position in the grand scheme of things. 

The Overconfidence Effect

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The Confidence of Committee

Remember, they were confident the Titanic was unsinkable.

‟The virus is simply that: A virus. We know it is not airborne and can live outside the body for some time. This virus hazard time is in days, before it becomes inactive. But it is not airborne or dust-borne. We can handle this.”

Doctor Azrae Calnau, head of the Biosafety labs in the government. A dark agency within the CDC, not only charged with finding treatments, preventions and cures of a particular pathogen, but to find a way to treat such illnesses for soldiers. Whether enemy or ally, Dr. Calnau cared not. It was information that the ,government would choose to share.

But he was confident that the reports of this new pathogen that was moving through the communities of the poor, but highly populated planets were accurate. The crushing poverty since the collapse of the economy of the Gliese had come suddenly and left those that were heavily invested in the worlds with no funds to leave for new lives.

The result of crowding of families with poor ventilation and non-existent medical care.

****

The planet Sapphire, once the most violent planet in the outer systems enjoyed a resurgence in prosperity and peace. The government’s need to find an effective vaccinations against such a lethal illness quickly before it spread to Sapphire was a serious and growing threat .

Laymen called it red-sweat. Infected victims began to perspire heavily, the sweat turning crimson as the red blood cells broke down and hemoglobin leaked from the smallest of blood vessels— the capillaries— and flowed out of the sweat glands. The sheets of the bed turned red, while the patient turned the color of a sheet. Death followed quickly with organ failure on a catastrophic level.

After the patient began to perspire, even clear sweat, contaminated everything by contact or touch. Clammy hands typing spread the disease from a keyboard or mouse being touched by someone else,  from touch screen menus at restaurants to the handles on doors of transport systems to call buttons on elevators.

Even the air could be contaminated with aerosols of an innocuous sneeze or cough. Even the filters of the ventilation systems of Gliese were inadequate for the task since the failure of the economy.

Teams of scientists volunteered, fully aware of Gliese’s limitations with sanitation and ventilation filter systems that dated back hundreds of years.

They were talking of two MD’s. Now infected, the illness was far more virulent than they ever expected.

A meeting, the best minds of the commitee of infection control.

‟We have the technology, we know how to control this. We can bring the two doctors here, under our controls in a class 3-I underground facility. There is no exposure to our open atmosphere, they would live or die on their home soil.” Paige Brach MD, Ph.D, D.Sc., president of the southern hemisphere research station. Located in a desert, the one area of the water planet where the perpetual high pressure system remained stationary in the last four-centuries. The desiccated land where the facility sat was billiard-table flat and no measurable water content in the soil until they drilled through bedrock more than a thousand meters deep, it was the only source of water for the facility.

‟We can treat them here.”

Raffe T’mbua, MD, Ph.D spoke up.

‟And if either one of them does not live? The bodies remain a vector, even if you mummify them. Do you have a plan?” He spoke softly.

‟We have two proposals, one is absolutely safe for the planet, even if the family may object.” Doctor Brach said.

‟Care to elaborate?”

‟Incineration, on the lab floor of three-eye, the ‟I” stands for incinerate. The body would be cremated in a fire so hot that the remaining ash would be melted into a glass.”

‟You would do this to the body of one of our own?”

‟It is an option, it would be sterile, to say the least. The plasma torch used, reaches temperatures in excess of twenty-thousand Celsius at its center to reduce the body to ash and then to a glass slag approximately five to ten-percent of the original mass, perhaps less.”

‟That’s…” Tsing Mao-Smith shook her head. ‟Wrong. That is no way to treat a human body. What is the other option?”

‟High-energy ionizing radiation, we would irradiate the body for a period of time to sterilize it.” Paige described the procedure. ‟We are fairly certain that this would prevent spread of the virus to the population at large.”

Fletcher Steel Ph.D. coughed and spoke up. Professor emeritus at the Northern University of the biological studies and research school.

‟That is not a zero-percent chance. It is impossible to irradiate and say with absolute conviction that nothing will live.”

‟No, the math is not absolutely zero. There is always a small chance.”

‟Even if the chance is vanishingly small, I am not willing to introduce a virulent life form into this planet that is already an artificial biosphere, we have not addressed everything yet. Our oxygen event is still happening. The planetary systems are showing signs of cooling down, this in turn will tend to cluster our people closely— a prime setting for a plague to wipe us out.” Professor Steel said softly. ‟We would not have time to develop a defense to fight back.”

‟So you support incineration?” Doctor Mao-Smith said, incredibly. ‟Fletch, I would have never thought you would support that.”

‟I’m not, I oppose either of these people brought back to our planet. One mistake, one leak, a single aerosolized droplet on a worker that goes home, it will spread in this world like wildfire.” The Professor said. ‟It is safer to send our equipment there.”

‟And expose more of our people to the illness?” Paige shook her head. ‟How do you justify that? We have the technology here, ready. There is nothing we cannot handle.”

‟They stay underground until they are clear of the viral bodies.” Tsing said. ‟We will not use any of the equipment again. Everything is incinerated in the plasma furnace, gurneys, bedding. Anything that has direct contact with the patient.”

‟That would be a challenge, Doctor Mao-Smith.” Paige said formally. ‟We can irradiate with UV-c and gas with Cyto-tox. And non of the equipment would ever be brought to the surface.”

‟You are confident in your assessment of containment, then.” Mariko Wong, Ph.D looked directly at Paige.

‟Yes, there is nothing that can go wrong. We have quadruple redundancies.” Paige smiled softly. ‟Nothing can go wrong.”

Quietly watching the circle of highly educated minds grapple with the issue, Doctor Calnau tapped on his PDA, spoke to Paige.

‟Explain this to me as if I were a child, I have confidence in you— but convince me anyway.”

Tunnel of Darkness

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Darkness.

It invaded him, all around. Some would say he was a cold soul, hardened from so many times responding to emergencies, seeing things that would make a Marine cry,  but he was numb beyond his ability to describe the feeling of sadness. It had been this way for as  long as he worked the out lying societies of the colonies. 

Outwardly he feared nothing, riding in the mobile emergency room towards, arguably, the capital of violence in the industrialized planet systems. This planet orbited a dwarf red star only a few dozen light-years from the home planet from where the first humans moved out into space.

He was Colonel Safsy Gliese. His father named him after the great explorer Safsy Riggs from earth that used the, then new, Type-D Alcubierre drive. His father- widowed by the war of religion when the religion of feared death-dealing terrorists triggered a supervolcano in the middle of a continent. After leaving Earth, Dad used a common last name when they left the planet for another brown proto-star for a mining colony, where his father struggled to make an import business succeed. 

Instead, it succeeded into sending the best father that could have walked into an early grave, crushed by a product transporter with a lift that was long overdue for servicing, the old man pushed it past the limits and paid with his life.  He left an eighteen-year-old son who had neither the knowledge or the desire to try and run an import business.  Safsy desired to study medicine, even keeping grades up for scholarships.  

But alas, scholarships were not enough.  His grades did not earn him a full ride, without his father, he could only go part way before the money ran out.  Leaving him frustrated and depressed.  All he wanted to do was make his father proud.

And he failed on all counts, even losing the business that was his dad’s dream for success for the family of father and son.  

Since then, Safsy had moved to the copper world of the orange-dwarf star called the planet Sapphire, in the constellation Sappho as seen from the planet in the stellar nursery fifty-light years distant.

A planet composed of high concentrations of copper, so much so that some mountain ranges had outcroppings of the metallic element. Beryllium rich outer planets in the system made for a natural industry and trade hub for the farmers of the other planets in the region.

Then the discovery of energy to mass conversion on the Gliese systems all but collapsed the economy of the Sapphire.

Right in the back yard of the Colonel’s work as Search and Rescue.

He looked out the window of the ship Seraph, captained by his friend and companion through frequent adventures over the years. Wings on the bow of the ship were against the protocols of the company, but the regional directors looked the other way as it was a gift of peace between two warring parties.

The pure gold welded to the hull of the ship made the wings sparkle without diminishing over time was no easy feat, as the hull of the Seraph was of metastable metallic hydrogen. Tough and superconducting, the simple element as a gas in space, came from the ship yards ready for any kind of action. Ship rescues near stars, high energy waves just slid over the hull, protecting everything within its walls.

Today, they were putting down on Sapphire, riots had broken out over the austerity programs, miners were out of work as the new technology had turned to converting hydrogen — the most common element in the known universe — into copper.

The once prestigious university of New Antarctica at the pole of the planet now sat in decay. Only the sciences seemed to stick it out for the duration, trying to create some alloy that would be a Sapphire Only creation.

Traversing the side of the green soiled hill, the team used a high-speed land-crawler to travel into the downtown area of Solstice, a large metropolitan area on the polar sea. A body of water ten-percent larger than the Terran Pacific Ocean and growing with the planetary tectonics.

“Medic-One, your victims are at school street and Twelfth Boulevard. Reporting two people stabbed. We have other units en route, law enforcement is also dispatched but have an ETA of half-hour. You will be first on scene, unknown location of suspects involved. Stage before arriving on scene at least five-hundred meters.”

“Copy, thank you for the information.” The Colonel specialized in off-ship rescues. The land crawler was capable of handling up to a dozen patients and have a surgical suite in the core with a team operating on victims.

“Medic-One, fire departments on scene report a riot on scene, stage at the one kilometer mark until law enforcement arrive.”

“Are they able to handle a riot?” Kimberly Suthlinder asked. “Maybe they should send out the peace force to stop this?”

Kimberly was a great surgeon, but this was her first tour and was fresh out of the University of the Sciences on Threshold, so named as it the planet that bordered deep space settlements.

“No, likely it is those peacekeepers that are fighting. They haven’t been paid for months.” The frowning Colonel said.

“Oh, no.”

“Oh yes. It’s all about food now. These people would hunt the indigenous life, except the only life native here,  is lichen. The economy fell to the technology that replaced their primary export. The two planets have teamed up, one processes beryllium,” He pointed to a spot in the sky.  “Sapphire process produces an uncommonly pure copper with a minimum of energy input. There’s abundant hydrogen, but they don’t have the process technology to do anything with it. Not difficult to obtain, this system is in the middle of a dark-matter cloud that has pockets loaded with nearly pure hydrogen that has agglomerated into non-reactive particles, it is easy to collect. The government here just has no way to process it.”

“Oh, crap on a cracker. This will leave the area as a ghost town.”

“It will, for all intents and definitions, be a ghost town. We are witnessing the death of a society if they cannot beg, borrow or steal tech to improve their position.”

“What about the University here?”

“They are working around the clock to come up with something. But so far, the Gleise consortiums are keeping tight wraps on technology, they can produce copper that is five-nines pure with less energy that they use here— and they produced copper here cheaply, but not cheap enough.”

“Arrival.” The pilot’s voice came over the speakers in their chairs.”

“Arrival?” The Colonel blinked, tapping the touch-screen opening the intercom graphic on the control panel. “Colonel to bridge, we were to post away from the event.”

“Negative, my display shows green for entry.”

Taptaptap echoed in the hull of the crawler, punctuating the pilots comments — someone had taken shots at the moving emergency department.

“Pilot, move us out of here.”

Silence for a heartbeat.

“I’m hit! Help me, ohmygod!” The scream could be heard from the pilot’s position without the intercom.

Tapping on his smooth panel control module, the Colonel alerted the surgical and rescue teams.

“Trauma teams to the bridge, medical emergency, pilot has been hit. Trauma teams to the bridge.”

The Colonel wished they had shot him, six surgeons on board, with two gas-passers and trauma medics that can operate in the field to bring the victims in. But they only had two pilots, now one.

If the second pilot was hit, Safsy had only a passing knowledge of this transporter, he could drive them back to the Seraphim, but not as smoothly as with a trained pilot of this tank-treaded/hovercraft hybrid craft.

He did not want any harm to come to his team and would challenge anyone to shoot him if it drew the danger away from anyone or anything else.

Nodding to himself, the Colonel was looking for a chance to commit suicide by proxy. He did not always recognize it, but he knew he was coming to the end of his career.

Anyone that was looking to die in the line of duty did not belong on duty. He knew it was only time before he would stumble and begin to have serious, self-destructive personal and professional effects.

He did not know if it would be ethanol that might force him to resign or perhaps striking someone who would then need treatment  in the Seraph.

 Violence had no place in the medical ship, but the Colonel could feel it building by increments every day.