(Rewrite)Snowed: The Weekend Trip

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The station light snow-a composite

Evidence photo 1-a, 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road

(Note: This was published a few years ago, I opened it and facepalmed.  This is a rework of it. The story is the same, just grammar has been adjusted for clarity and attempts to increase the emotional content.)

 

Snowed: The Weekend Trip

 

 

Jason Best Ph.D. took another swallow from the old whiskey bottle while he pulled on the wrench as he struggled to remove the cap that protected the fill valve.

The cabin, originally constructed during the California Gold Rush. The heavy timber construction was built over an entrance of a horizontal mine that produced small amounts of gold. It functioned as the home of the elderly prospector who continually mined underneath his home until he died and ownership passed, eventually, to Jason.

In the construction style of the era, the first owner built the cabin’s foundation out of charred cedar logs on bedrock. The foundation held up better than the modern versions. Remodeled twice, the one-floor abode grew into a split-level, two and a half story mountain home with a hot spring. Built during the Reagan administration, the steam generator used isobutane in the heat exchanger.

Leaks in the plumbing lost much of the volatile gas in the system. Checked and rechecked, he found the valve seal that charged heat exchanger had failed. It Appeared to have been screwed down too tight and the seal developed a slow leak that took a toll over the years. This had the gradual effect of power generation down to zero.

The Doctor studied the concepts of the hot spring and geothermal sources and Jason taught himself enough to rebuild the system, updating the electrical system in the cabin that he called “Mountain House.”

After a few moments when he had his doubts of success, the cap gave stubborn creaks as it turned until it was loose enough for him to spin it off with his hand. The threads were in good shape, however, the rubber seal was in bad shape. Cracked and falling apart.

He used the special tool he’d tracked down over the internet to a company that dealt with replacement parts and shipped to him at his house in the city and brought it to Mountain House to rebuild the power system.

While he performed an upgrade in the of the house, Jason accidentally discovered a room below the house. What started as a simple fusebox on a half-rotted board was all the more useful when he knocked a hole in the wall, and discovered to his pleasure, a hidden space carved out of the bedrock. He took full advantage and turned it into a room that an electrical engineer would be delighted to call home.

As an added plus, the room was a wine-cellar of sorts. Stored on dusty shelves in the cool corners of the dark, were bottles of wine. Many he had found dated from just before the prohibition era, two-dozen were stored on their sides.

A few sat upright with the corks exposed, he found these corks to be dried and leaking. Nine out of ten bottle seals failed in that position and he didn’t want to try them.

But!

Those bottles, laying on their sides, were all intact. But with so few, Jason opened only one and tasted its treasure inside.

And it was excellent.

A greater discovery, however, was a treasure-trove of rye whiskey. With labels marked “Robert’s Rye” and each onion-shaped flask had a layer of rye-seeds on the bottom.

As he drank the potent brew, he conjectured that the rye grains left in the bottom were the reason that the rye whiskey was so excellent. And he had a hundred bottles with seals intact.

He drank half of the bottle of the rare and potent nectar and each sip was even better than the previous, but he was getting hungry and the whiskey had gone to his head a bit. But first he was going to recharge the heat-exchanger.

He tightened the hose to the rebuilt valve and turned the handle, he watched the cylinder’s gauge indicate the system pressure.

A delicious smell of food reached his nose. Doctor Tessa Pershing clanked about in the kitchen as she prepared the meal.  She was his colleague from the university, they had dated each other outside of work for a few weeks, but Tessa worried about being caught. She didn’t have tenure yet and didn’t want to jeopardize her position and future, so they kept it quiet and only with close friends.

But here, with the whiskey, wine, and snow so heavy, no one would come by. The storm was dropping four inches of snow per hour on top of the six-feet of the cold white stuff that was already there when he had arrived.

When he drove up two days before, Jason dragged, cussed and pushed the big gas cylinder through the deep snow to the basement door.

Now his efforts of sweat, profanity and bruised knuckles paid off. The hiss of gas subsided and system now showed green lights and the sweep needle gauge indicated the system was full.

Electric power was now available.

He put down the craftsman wrench. The best thing that Tessa thought to buy him in a kit. He walked to the electric panel and read the displays. Lights blinked and flickered as electricity flowed through new wiring in the panel and the house. Everything was green.

He wondered what might go wrong. It was too smooth. Nothing ever went that smooth unless it was broken.

The Professor of Biochemistry laughed at himself. With the power running, he had the good fortune to turn on the hot-tub on the patio. Tessa and he could sip ninety year old whiskey, sit in the bubbling warm water and watch the snowstorm, safe warm and naked.

Maybe they might get a clearing and watch the stars during the night. Then he’d shower with her 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 threw the circuit breaker and energized the system.

The exterior of the house lit up.

LED rope lights he had hidden in the eaves over the last few weeks, illuminated.

The lights gave the optical effect of electronic icicles and made the snow appear to glow blue.

It was breathtaking.

Tessa walked around with just a light work shirt and looked out the window in amazement.  She had complained that a bra was too uncomfortable to wear while she did lifted and helped him clean the debris of new construction and century old corners that had not been touched. So she had disposed of the constricting undergarment.

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 slip-on flats.

He sat down with a bowl the chicken soup and warm bread that had baked all day. Tess and Jason used his grandmother’s recipe that the elderly woman had taught him in his childhood.

In a conversation about the house, he apologized for making her work when she should have been relaxing and enjoying the sights.

Tessa smiled brightly and touched his lips with a warm kiss. “Helping set up the cabin with you is my pleasure.”

He nearly passed out from the thrill of her words and the touch of her lips right then.

They could hear sounds from the upstairs bedroom, the walls echoed with a rhythmic thump as the other couple had gone to organize the rebuilt Mountain House.

Doctor Lettie Hackett and her rebound boyfriend, Kevin Acker, a post-graduate from the School of Pharmacy, were not coming down the stairs for food.

Jason yelled up the stairs for them to give it a break. They were supposed to be setting up the bedrooms, not testing the beds in each one.

That was when the first scream sounded. A sound,like a gunshot, echoed throughout the cabin.

Jason jumped up and left Tessa at the table while he ran up the stairs, taking them three at a time. At the top he ran into the arms of the half-naked Dr. Hackett who screamed that the wallpaper had come to life. Tentacles grabbed at her and tore her clothes while Kevin fought the sticky appendages to save her.  

“It sucked him in!” She screamed. “It sucked him in! The wallpaper grabbed Kevin! It sucked him in!” The voice of the calm doctor was a squeak of hysteria.

Jason sent her down the stairs and looked into the room. Underneath the paper, a silhouette of a man moved slowly, as if some crazed worker plastered over an unfortunate person who stood in the way.

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 form behind the branches and birds, as if he were on the other side of a multi-colored hedge.

Jason called Kevin’s name and the young associate professor of pharmacology looked at him for a moment, then faded into the wallpaper. Leaving it as flat and perfect as if just placed by professionals and left Jason with no place to cut.

But he tried anyway. He sliced and slashed over the area where he saw Kevin under the paper, but all he found was wall. Kevin was no longer discernible among the branches and trees of the wallpaper, he was gone.

Screams again, downstairs. Jason sprinted the short hallway, and leaped down the stairs. Tessa was at the door, her eyes bulged in abject terror as if she saw moving shadows in the corners. The muffled sounds of screams coming from a lump in fresh wallpaper. The scene was a horror with Lettie’s hands were sticking straight out from the wallpaper. The textures and colors of the wallpaper crawled up the length of her arms towards her fingers while she waved about in the futile effort to grab for something, anything, for rescue.

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 came from the wallpaper, a scream louder than the screams of the women came from the cuts. It sounded as the Jason slashed at the wallpaper with the sharp corner of the metal blade of the putty knife.

Lettie screamed that the wallpaper was haunted.

The wallpaper? Jason froze, slack-jawed. He could not accept it, but it moved like something alive. It tried to pull Lettie into a growing wrinkle that looked like…

It looked like a mouth! Just like it did with Kevin. The wallpaper had a hunger.

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

Traces of wallpaper paste remained on Lettie after he freed her and pulled her into his arms, he didn’t stop to consider the slime. They ran towards the the front door where Tessa screamed at them to hurry.

Without warning, the door slammed closed as they got close. Jason pulled as hard as he could on the handle, and the door refused to open.

Jason realized Tessa’s danger. She was locked outside and wore only the thin shirt and shorts.

And it was lethally cold outside.

He pounded the picture window with a chair with futile effort, the glass just wouldn’t break. Jason gave up after the fourth try and pointed to the basement, telling her where to go with sign language. Then he and Lauren ran down the stairs, her long legs lacerated from the branches on the other side of the wallpaper, bled freely. In the basement, stone walls were safe.

Jason showed Lauren 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 and refused to budge.

Tessa’s voice on the other side of the door called his name, she needed to come in out of the cold.

His mind raced. They woke a malevolence while they worked in the house.

Tessa yelled his name in a feeble voice and pounded on the wood with a failing strength.

In a near panic, he searched for something to open the doors with and then he looked at his work table.

The table! He had built it using the ore-cart that belonged to the long-ago miner, and it still sat on the rails in the floor. He kept it all clean for the sake of nostalgia. Because it looked “Cool”.

Jason got behind the cart and released the brake, he took a last deep swallow from the whiskey for luck and then pushed the half-ton cart as hard as he could.

The ore cart hit the doors with a huge bang and a the door creaked and opened about the width of his forearm from the impact.

Tessa’s hand came through the hole and Jason grabbed her and pulled.

Shivering and covered in powdered snow, Tessa struggled and pulled on Jason to get through the gap.

Halfway through, the doors began to shut!

Tessa screamed in pain, the doors trapped her leg between them as they returned to their locked position.

Jason Grabbed a shovel and wedged the width of the narrow trench shovel’s blade in between the doors to keep them from crushing Tessa’s leg.

He struggled, pushed, leaned on the doors that creaked and groaned with increasing pressure on the blade of the shovel. Ages seemed to pass. Then as if she was a cork from a bottle, Tessa was free of the doors and they collapsed on the floor together. Out of breath, she clung to him while she wept.

“What’s happening? Jason? What is it?”

Screams started again. But it wasn’t the women.

The house seemed to come awake as Lettie ran down the stairs. Jason took her to sit with Tessa and began to explain, as he started to talk to them, the shocking gray face of Lettie looked around, her eyes haunted.

No, not haunted.

Missing!

Her face was no longer beautiful. It was a horror with a toothless mouth that made a big “O” in a scream that matched Kevin’s. A thread of wallpaper extended down from overhead attached to the top of the woman’s head.

Jason grabbed a hatchet from his workbench and jumped at the thread that was stealing the life out of Lauren. Time slowed down.

He’d saved her once by cutting her out of the wallpaper. This time, he swung with every ounce of his anger and fear-fueled strength to cut it off.

And missed.

“Oh God!” He screamed as thick white fluids leaked out of the horrid wound in Lettie’s skull and dripped to the floor.

“Oh God! Oh God! No! No! No! I’m so sorry!.”

They had to leave, and leave now.

Jason looked at Tessa and he knew 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, hiding in the corner behind the work table, between two rolls of…

Two rolls of…

Wallpaper!

He turned to where Tessa was hiding and he could only see a ball of wallpaper where Tessa had been hiding. The big ball of paper quickly shrank, he could see her outline fading under the wrapping that had slid around her like a web.

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

Nothing. Just paper, wadded up and desiccated.

Tessa was gone.

He was the only one left and the gap between the doors was too small to allow escape.

Pulling on the work table, he rolled it as far into the deepest part of the mine that he could reach.

He took a long, deep pull of the whiskey bottle.

“Last drink in this house!” He yelled.

Leaning on the table, he pushed.

Hard.

He had a thirty-foot running start with the thousand-pound battering ram on rails. He pushed for the snow, he pushed with berserker strength. Adrenalin giving him energy, motivation enough to break through the doors.

Ducking the wedged shovel handle he had jammed in over Tessa’s head as he and the cart hit the doors at a full run, the left door trembled and creaked open.

He seized the momentary advantage and dove through the opening as the door tried to shut on the table time and again as the house tried to claim another victim.

Laying in the snow, it was strangely quiet, illuminated by the inviting, cold-white LED icicle lights he spent so much time hanging.

A beautiful and deadly structure.

He crawled through the snow away from the devil house. Then his hands felt like they were on fire. Burning hot, like the flesh was going to melt off.

Pain!

It hurt! So much pain. It had to be the snow, it had to be.

Then he looked at his hands, the skin was pale.

In the dim light from the house, was his skin mottling? Or turning into wallpaper?

Doctor Jason Best stood and ran through the snow as fast as anyone could. Slipping and falling, he covered the mile in nearly an hour when he fell and rolled onto Spicer Road. His hands feeling like no other pain he ever had in his life.

As he layed on his back, the ground rumbled, he could feel it up through his spine. Something was coming.

Something huge. House-sizd.

It was the Mountain House! It chased him on cedar pillar legs. The ground trembled with an evil hunger that stalked him down the mountainside.

Too tired and cold to run, he lay supine on the lonely mountain road and began to scream that he was sorry. From the distance, lights from the porch bore down on him, unstoppable and implacable. He had nothing left, his mind broke as he screamed out his last prayers and the lights engulfed him.

Jason Best awoke in a bed to the beeping sounds of a cardiac monitor. It took a long time before he was able to get his eyes focused on a pole that held IV bags that ran into his arms.

For a week, he could not understand all of it. His soul should have been taken or some-such.

 

It was all like in another world. Soft, but cloying like spiderwebs to drag him back. Nightmares of the events were slow to fade, it kept on. Soft and horrid.  Whispers in the shadows that invited him back to the Mountain House to stay, pulling on the spiderwebs lodged in his mind. It was difficult to comprehend all of it.

This room, bed, poles and equipment were solid, real, easy to understand.

After two weeks and the realization that he was alive, Jason was discharged home from the hospital. Then the interviews for days by the police about the three deaths ended.

Detectives took notes, wrote down everything the college professor described in vivid detail, and interviewed the attending physicians.

After a month, a preliminary report was ready for review. Jason obtained a copy and read it while sitting at his breakfast table.

“Jason Best, Ph.D. was found by a snowplow driver, Honey Gareth (See interview notes: Honey Gareth), laying in the middle of Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the two days in question, Dr. Best spent the time alone in the cabin at 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the course of the weekend, 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 causing visual and auditory hallucinations, per the attending physicians. This resulted in Doctor Best becoming convinced that he was with three other people over the weekend who died as a result of paranormal attacks.

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

Doctor Lauren 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 record of Kevin Acker, student or faculty, have been discovered. Searches of phone listings have proved fruitless.

To date, no evidence of any deaths at this address during 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 (See attached photos). The barn door to the basement has been knocked off the hinge by a gold-rush era ore cart on rails and a hatchet discovered embedded into a can of white paint.(See attached photos)

A horizontal goldmine dug circa 1850’s shows evidence of modern reinforcements and extensive work in a room with a power management center from a self-contained geothermal generator. Adjacent to the power room is the previously mentioned wine cellar. (See attached photo series)

Ninety-six bottles of Rye Whiskey were found with rye grain still floating in the bottom of the bottles. Original labels, dated from 1910 to 1919 of quart-size “Robert’s Rye Whiskey.” Two bottles were discovered opened, one empty, the second appeared three-quarters full.(See attached photos)

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

No complaints filed with the evidence uncovered.

Lt. Liewess J. Jonah, investigating.”

<<<>>>

 

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Smart Bomb Chapter 18. Walks Among Us

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Chapter 18. Walks Among Us

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

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

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

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

“JustWalter?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Why was aluminum so expensive?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“JustWalter, Sleeper is alive.” Steve said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Both.” Steve’s voice trembled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asian for the briefest instant.

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

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

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

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

He was panting from exertion.

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

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

Alvin only shrugged and shook his head.

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

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

“You known him longer. You should know.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Does he need an ambulance?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alvin chuckled darkly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alvin and Walter sat back in their seats, thunderstruck.

“Steve?” Walter whispered.

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

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

Then she was gone in a passing crowd of people.

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

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

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

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

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

But he doubted it would be anytime soon.

The Tin Man’s adventure had just begun.

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

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Chapter 14. A Bum, a Bomb and a Belle

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wild Weasel?” Steven asked.

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

Walter looked at Stephen for a long moment.

“Convince me.”

Alvin looked at Steve and shrugged.
\

“Show him like you showed me.”

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

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

Steve sat down and spoke gently.

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

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

“Nanometer range? You can see in UV!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s pre-war tech.” Alvin added.

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

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

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

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

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

“Sleeper told me.”

“Sleeper?” Walter stroked his chin.

“The car, Walter.” Alvin said.

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

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

“Failed?” Alvin asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Steve?” Alvin looked at the android.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How sensitive?” Alvin asked.

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

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

“A drop from one meter.” Steve answered.

“In American?”

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

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

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

“You don’t smoke weed.” Alvin said.

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

Steve stared at the two humans.

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

“Okay, a pretty girl?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alvin nearly hurt himself trying not to laugh.

Smart Bomb Chapter 12. Lesson’s of Wisdom

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Chapter 12. Lesson’s of Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The first generation of driverless cars?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alvin rubbed his ear in thought.

“Have you altered your operating system a lot?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The android wept.

Smart Bomb chapter 6. cold

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Chapter 6. Cold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Another change  in the database, and it was subtle.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A voice from the back seat interrupted the plans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deliver the device to the seat of evil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One million steps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He would need a breakfast high in carbohydrate.

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

Smart Bomb Chapter 4. Sandbagged

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Chapter 4. Sandbagged

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then…

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

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

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

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

“You sleep light.”

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

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

Nearly zero draw.

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

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

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

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

Curious.

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

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

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

A family that opened their home.

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

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

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

And more what was more important, it felt good. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve altered his programming slightly to adjust to the information.

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

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

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

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

The plan was without flaw.

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 57. News Channel Gone Dark

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Chapter 57. News Channel Gone Dark

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟How can you help?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melanie quieted down and giggled for several minutes.

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

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

‟I’ll live on campus then.”

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

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

‟Just go back a page.”

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

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

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

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

Then the excitement turned into crestfallen defeat.

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

Melanie looked at her sister.

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

Melanie kept reading over Kaylee’s shoulder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟No, it’s in my laundry.”

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

‟Okay, black skirt?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟And you are?” Beyron said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kaylee nodded.

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

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

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

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Chapter 56. Mr. Lee, I presume?

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

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

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

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

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

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

With a grimace of terror Liem spoke an invitation.

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

‟Thank you.” Robert said. ‟When.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟Why former?” The lawyer asked.

‟Mr. Lee pays a great deal more.”

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

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

‟I don’t understand.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟Oh yes, she owns the company.”

‟Does the name Kaylee sound familiar?”

Robert coughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟Yes.” Tom nodded.

‟Tell me, in truth, do they have an entire street covered in Las Vegas?” The old face was unreadable.

‟Why, yes.” Tom said, careful of his words. “It is animated at night with lights.”

‟I wish to go there and see that, but I will need a tour guide.” A slight smile escaped him. ‟You will need to set that up. A staff of all men, a full floor and skilled escorts to show me around. I don’t trust any place outside my walls. And have all escorts trained in protection. Not all of my bodyguards have passports.”

‟Okay, I can do that. Is this a payment for any help?” Tom asked. “For my freedom?”

‟No, that is a friend who helps another friend in need. I would not ask you to do any illegal activities on my behalf.” He shook his head. “Those needs I can take care of with my own devices.”

“For payments to satisfy the debt incurred of your current legal issues, we will speak of the market you wish to enter with your children’s books.” The lord of the manor nodded. ‟Initial letters of interest we have exchanged, will reflect an extra two-cents per sale in U.S. dollars to me for one year, I expect also to have two-cents per sale on tickets of the movie worldwide release. Not from sales in the US, the convoluted tax laws there are beyond reason.”

‟But, Mr. Lee, There is no movie for the children’s book series planned.” Tom pointed out.

‟Mr. Ritch.” The bald head turned and addressed the lawyer.

‟Mitch. Like Robert Mitchum the actor, but no ‘um’ at the end. Just Mitch.”

‟I beg your pardon, Mr. Mitch.” He gave a slight bow to his head. “You should represent Tom here to negotiate the fine details between our markets.”

‟I am not a contract lawyer.”

‟Then I suggest you find one that you can afford, this market will be worth millions to all of us, in my opinion. Tom, you are a gifted storyteller. I look forward to someone who will read your books read to me at bedtime.”

‟Who… oh.” Tom looked around at the staff. Everywhere, young, athletic men in loincloths of their hosts favorite color performed maintenance on the grounds with brooms and rakes.

‟Most these young men are heterosexual, they are all only my employees. This is not a sex camp, I have my own relationships, but I do like the sculpted male body at work, so they maintain my homes as if they are a haven for monks.”

Robert looked up from his personal digital assistant app with a nod.

‟I accept the offer for the job as Mr. Harte’s representative.”

‟Excellent, Mr. Mitch. We shall communicate by way of computer for business. If we need to meet in person, we can meet in Australia or across the bay, outside of Singapore. Any of my homes are open to meet and for general use.”

‟You have homes in Australia?” Robert asked.

‟Why yes, I have six homes there.” The bald head nodded.

Tom nodded and smiled. He had met Lee Kong Kuen at a dinner party at the old man’s mansion in Point Piper, Australia.

‟Back to business. I would like to meet again, soon. But first we need to get Mister Harte out of the country. For the moment, investigations have come to a halt. There is a judge that will give your passport back to you Mr. Harte. Leave the courthouse, go straight to the airport, file a flight plan and leave the country. Call now to have it fueled and ready.” One of the men in business suit leaned over, whispered into Mr. Lee’s ear and handed him a tablet computer with images on the screen.

He looked with concern at Mumtaz, she nodded. ‟Or buy a ticket to anywhere outside of the country.”

‟What is that Mr. Lee?” Robert asked.

‟I am not sure at this time that Mr. Harte would want his plane back after he sees this. The good news, they have found no further evidence or items but the safe. The safe they will ask you to open tomorrow. Drug dogs have not hit on the safe so there is no pressure to open it. The bad news,” He handed the tablet to Tom. ‟They have stripped it to the bulkheads, all that you had is in boxes now, your plane is as if it came from the builder. It is little more than a tube with wings.”

Tom went pale.

‟Bed, walls, cabinets. What did they do? Use saws?”

‟In my experience, that is the most probable method. You have the good fortune that the wings and engines are still in place.” The wise old eyes sparkled with irritation. “Investigations are required in such cases as this, but blatant destruction without due regard makes me unhappy. People don’t like life when I am unhappy.”

‟He is correct,” Robert agreed. “I have defended people who were in their cars, the government inspectors cut the cars apart. Even the engines, if there is no one to protect the possessions, the investigators do not stop.”

‟Damn.” Tom boggled.

‟I will take care of the issue and see out some recompense for the damages on your behalf. So we will be in touch Mr. Tom.” Lee Kong Kuen said in a soft voice. ‟You are free as of now, if they execute you or you are in prison for the next ten years and spend that time here, you will not make any money for yourself, Mr. Mitch or myself. We need to keep you honest and free.”

‟Miss Nayyar, call the justice house and have them hold Mr. Harte’s passport for pickup, he will arrive in my limousine. Mr. Chen, file a flight plan for our guest’s plane if he desires to fly it and get him to the airport with all haste.”

‟Yes sir.”

‟Mr. Mitch. Gather your team. I predict that your services will come to one-half of one cent per book sold of Mr. Tom Harte’s Sea Dragon books.”

‟Bloody good!” Robert said.

‟Make it so, we will meet again in a month.” He turned to Tom again. “One more item.”

‟Yes?” Tom said.

‟This woman that has caused you much grief. Did she want to stay with you? She had signed all the wrong areas in the papers.”

‟How did you know that?”

‟I have a copy of them.”

‟But you said the government could not open it.” Tom said. ‟How did you get a copy?”

‟My people are far more resourceful, it is why the engines and wings are still on your plane. I did not get involved quickly enough to save your interior.”

“I can have the interior rebuilt.” Tom nodded. “Thank you for all the help.” 

‟Very good, at any rate. Mr. Tom.” He rose to his feet and motioned him to follow.

After they walked among the topiary for a few minutes, the old man spoke like a father to a favorite son.

 ‟Find her, I wish to meet the woman who could cause you such distress. One bit of observation? She left birth control in a drawer, she wants you to return.”

‟I…” Tom looked down. ‟I don’t think so. She went to her boyfriend.”

‟She did not. She looks for you.” The two men locked eyes. ‟Your secret marriage is out of the shadows. You will have paparazzi look for you once again.” The old man nodded. “At any rate leave Asia now or you will never be able to leave. The judge will not let this go if you are still here when the sun rises again.”

Tom nodded and bowed. Tom turned to walk with Mr. Hom as Liem had done, but this time to the car.

This was no limousine, instead an all-electric four-door Tesla with an engine that hummed like an electric transformer.

Tom was not just about to leave and be free, this was a story of speed.

Married by Mistake Chapter 55. World Online News Network

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Chapter 55. World Online News Network

Kaylee watched as raw feeds from Singapore online news scrolled across her screen. The sisters watched images of a man, escorted out of an airport in handcuffs.

“Authorities state they have arrested an accused drug smuggler and sources have stated, a known murderer from the United States. Although the name was withheld by authorities until they verify the suspected drug smuggler’s identity.” The talking head on the tv narrated while the video and images shifted on the screen.

But Kaylee recognized the airplane on which they captured this dangerous human being.

It was Tom.

Melanie’s boyfriend found a raw news feed web-site then used a cable to plug the tv into his tablet and they all watched the image display titled that an accused rich drug smuggler stand trial.

They tried to turn up the sound on the video but that did not help, the three of them did not understand the language, but the subtitles gave the story. While she watched the feeds on the TV, Kaylee held her hands to her face with tears in her eyes.

She knew where she forgotten her misplaced stash.

The Pacific Wizard, in the bedroom dresser on her side, second drawer from the bottom with her blindfold to help her sleep and aromatherapy oils. She closed her eyes and imagined what version of hell that a foreign drug smuggler’s life is like.

*And it’s not even Tom’s.* Her heart stood still. *Legal here, what are the penalties in that country?*

“What are the laws in, where’s he at? Singapore?” Kaylee asked.

Arthur, Melanie’s boyfriend rubbed his forehead in thought.

“Severe. They execute for drugs there that we have legalized.”

Kaylee looked out the window at the bay, to the west there was the horizon. She wished with all her heart she could fly over the horizon and rescue the man who suffered because of her.

*I wonder if he is safe?*

In a dusty jail in Singpore, sat a citizen of the United States. He was so exhausted he struggled to remember his own name.

Tom. His name was Tom. He had been awake so long, his deepest memories were fuzzy.

His books, a pirated movie that made the rounds and the assurances from the United States Ambassador had done little to help his state of mind.

He had just survived twenty-four hours of interrogation at the police station and Tom fretted like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He sat alone at a table while police and prosecutors paraded in front of the judge and the narration cryptic law was in English, the direction taken by Singapore jurisprudence was obvious. 

“They are about to do what they do best,” A dapper-mannered man sat in front of him. “Crush an individual found with drugs and obscene devices. The blindfold that they found they will consider as evidence of a crime, your statement to the inspector that you smuggle women will compound your case.”

“You have passed blood and urine drug tests, you are clean except for medications for those you have prescriptions for. In other words, you are clean and not a user.” The lawyer read from a paper without a smile.

Tom relaxed as he heard this from his hastily appointed legal advisor, but then it took a decidedly dark turn when the lawyer held his hand up as Tom began to smile when he heard about his clean test results.

‟If you do not use the drugs, then you are a smuggler.”

‟No. That means I did not partake. They found it in a drawer, inside a woman’s toiletry bag that had a blindfold to help her sleep and I don’t know what else.”

‟Ah yes. And how did you know of the blindfold, and the drugs. Where is this woman?” The lawyer asked his client.

Tom looked into the face of the blue-eyed British legal esquire that practiced in Singapore.

Robert Mitch was born of English parents when Singapore was a colony of the Empire, left the country for England to get his legal degree and then became a lawyer in the busy center of business and crime. Over the years as he worked for defense of tourists that ran afoul of the law and their families, he often charged exorbitant fees.

They almost always paid the prices he often asked, the large income even allowed him to bribe the occasional official to look the other way while evidence vanished.

He smiled when he read the legal charges.

*This case promises a large payday! This client is a rich American!*

‟She is probably in California, I last saw her in Oregon.”

“She’s a prostitute then? Marijuana is legal in Oregon, yes? So, we can argue that the drugs were there, without your knowledge in a place where it is a legal drug.” He scribbled down notes on a yellow pad. “That will help. The obscene violations will also be investigated, we will argue that she brought the drugs on board without your knowledge. But I assure you that won’t matter.”

It was Tom’s turn to hold up his hand.

‟She is not a prostitute, she’s a friend and we had…” Tom paused. ‟A relationship. But it’s over now.”

‟Is she still alive?” Robert asked. “You’ve a reputation as a lady-killer that got away with the crime.”

‟What the f…” Tom exploded and was unable to speak for a moment. “What kind of question is that?”

‟The kind they will ask you in the investigation.” He looked at Tom. ‟The prosecutor is good at his job to put anyone in jail with drug charges. Right now they are have a court’s order for a thorough search your plane. Down to the last bolt.”

‟What does that mean?” Tom asked.

‟They will to take it apart to look for hidden compartments. Do you have any on board?”

‟I have a safety box, has legal papers in it. I would wish those to stay private.”

“In the course of investigation, no secret of yours will remain a secret or private.” Robert shook his head. ‟If the papers are on the plane, they will become part of the investigation and evidence to show the judge. What is on those papers?”

‟Jesus. Annulment papers.” Tom held his head in his hands. ‟Just annulment papers. We got married when she’d gotten stoned. Then it ended.”

‟So you drugged her into actions against her will?” Robert wrote on his pad of paper again.

‟NO! No no. Oh good God!” Tom nearly fainted. Even his defense lawyer was not on his side. “No, that’s all wrong. Not how it was.”

‟This is how they’ll present the investigation, in light of the reports about your family. Some archives say you might have had a hand in their deaths.” Robert shook his head and opened a local English language newspaper and showed it to his client. “Mr. Harte, at this point, if you want to keep your head out of the noose, I recommend you to not mention, at all, the circumstances of this annulment. You got married, it did not work out, it’s over.”

‟The noose? How about I stay out of prison?” Tom said in a panicked tone.

‟To be honest.” Robert put his pen down and looked at Tom. ‟There is not a strong hope for that at the moment. You were found with almost five-hundred grams of marijuana. This area is known to grow copious amounts of the weed. This is worth a life sentence, confiscation of your plane and seizure of any drug money. And report on the oil that was found is still not back yet. They will treat it as marijuana resin or hash oil for the moment. If tests show it is, in fact, a hashish oil? With the weed you already had on board, that is a mandatory death penalty and they will hang you. By this time next month, they will send you back to the states in a box.”

‟The oil, I don’t know, it might be a massage oil. Drug money. There is no money on that plane, just what was in my pocket.”

The lawyer stared at Tom for a long moment. He picked up his phone and dialed a number.

“It’s Robert Mitch. Yes, with the American now. Yes, that is what I have called about, thank you. It is? Thank you, again.” The lawyer broke the connection and looked back at Tom. “Good news, the oil is a mineral oil with traces of eucalyptus and rosemary in it.”

Tom and Robert both took a deep breath.

“That would have been a death-penalty, be assured of that.” Robert added. ‟Mr. Harte, You need someone who is local on your side before this goes any further. What is the reason you are in Singapore Mr. Harte?” Robert wrote down his question.

‟Tom, please, call me Tom.”

‟No, I don’t think so.” Robert said in a calm tone that did not reassure Tom and only increased his anxiety. ‟I don’t do that, it is a matter of respect. And while friendship lets someone call another by first names, we are not friends. I work for you and the courts and it’s not proper business otherwise.”

‟So,” Robert continued. “I ask again, why are you in Singapore?”

‟I was about to meet with someone to get my books published, perhaps printed here and maybe have a movie funded. Lee Kong Kuen, is his name.”

‟Lee Kong Kuen,” Robert froze in mid-scribble and looked up. “The Mr. Lee who-has-more-money-than-god, Mr. Lee?

‟Yes.” Tom said. ‟That’s him. Why?”

Robert sat up and his eyes wide, his price to charge the witless Yankee just reduced to a normal fee. If it became known that Robert gouged a business partner of Lee Kong Kuen? Mr. Lee would do things to Robert that were too hideous to think about.

Perspiration broke out on the lawyer’s forehead as he fumbled for his thoughts.

‟Maybe, you’ve a chance to get the hell out of this country if this hits the news.” Robert said, he became highly motivated to win. ‟Once it goes public, then this will back the law into a corner and motivate them to release you, it would make them look bad and cost them a great deal of money. Whether bribed, blackmailed or bro-manced for favors. No matter what punishment they would impose.”

‟Bro-manced?” Tom looked at his lawyer.

‟It has become a recent term here to describe favors the leaders here go through. It comes, I think, from an American tv comedy that is popular here.” Robert said. ‟I think you Yanks call it a ‟good old boy” system” and it works on a daily basis here.”

‟Let’s get it done then. Faster we can get me out of here, the better.”

Robert’s phone chirped and he looked at the text display.

‟Mister Harte, I think we need to turn on the tv.”

What Tom saw, made his jaw drop. A news story showed him as a prisoner escorted out of the airport.

‟Tom, you need talk to Mister Lee, right away.” Robert grimaced. ‟It may already be too late, if he feels you are a petty smuggler, he will not help you. But, if he will help, this will just evaporate in a second. Just assure me, that marijuana is not yours.”

‟Not mine.” Tom said. “I truly did not know it was there. I am here on business only, writer’s busines. I want to get my children’s stories published here in this part of the world.”

‟Fine, I will do all that I can to get you out of this. But with your nationality as an American and first time here? And if I can get the charges dropped?” Robert looked directly at his client. ‟You get on that big damned plane of yours, push the throttles all the way forward and get your red-white-and-blue butt out of Singapore. No stops, no explores, no Indiana Jones adventure-seeker games.”

‟Could I come back?” Tom wondered out loud. “For business?”

‟Well, you can, if you wish. But my advice, not for a couple of years.” The lawyer nodded. ‟And then, it would be bloody good to take my advice, do not have so much as a crumb of a drug nearby.”

Outside, Liem Han sat in the shade near his motorbike, waited for this rich American to come out so he could take more photos and video.

“Come out, Yankee, you will make me rich.”

It was a good day to be a photographer.

Married by Mistake Chapter 54. Big Trouble In Little Singapore

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Chapter 54. Big Trouble In Little Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

‟In such a big plane?”

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

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

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

‟Lieutenant Lai.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟Smuggler?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom shook his head.

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

‟I’m about to.” Tom admitted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom closed his mouth and did not protest loudly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*It happened right in front of me!*

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

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

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

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

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

Married by Mistake Chapter 52. Kaylee! Turn On The News!

MbM
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Chapter 52. Kaylee! Turn on the News!

In the week that followed the crazy phone call from Melanie , Kaylee’s thoughts spun like a tornado in her head and the idea to stop at the airport to check on when Tom might return seemed more like a good idea every day.

After two weeks of nag texts by her sister, Kaylee took Melanie to the airport to find when Tom would be scheduled to return.

Melanie’s eyes reflected bright surprise when her older sister drove past the commercial airline terminals and followed around Earhart Street to a gate marked ‟Restricted Access”.

‟Now where?” Melanie asked as they rolled up to the gate.

Kaylee just smiled and punched in a code on a keypad mounted on a steel post.

The gate opened slowly with no more drama than if they had pressed the remote for the garage door at home.

‟Oh my god!” Melanie laughed. “You have access!”

‟You know, you say that a lot?” Kaylee chuckled. Sister’s, were the best friends.

‟Well, when did you get Secret Squirrel access?”

‟Tom gave it to me when had the Wizard’s hull cleaned and serviced here.”

‟Cleaned and serviced?”

‟Yeah, things grow on the hull if he leaves it in the water too long and he had to have it cleaned for travel to different places.” Kaylee blinked then covered her face with a hand. ‟Oh crap, I sound like a snob plane owner.”

Melanie laughed harder as they drove around the parking area to the big hanger and parked next to other private cars.

Their car was decidedly out-of-place, even the pickup trucks that were there, were new and expensive looking. Kaylee’s beat-up, creaky import car, in comparison, appeared rather sad among the upscale cars from the ‟Big-3” American builders and one European exotic car that the girls suspected as a compensation for someone’s ego.

Kaylee led her sister to the human sized door in the moving wall and tried the knob and found it unlocked.

They opened the door and walked inside the fluorescent-lighted interior. Several planes sat around while technicians turned wrenches and climbed on ladders as the doctors-with-wrenches went about and serviced their winged patients.

‟This way to the office.” She told Melanie. ‟We’ll ask about the Pacific Wizard.”

Ten-minutes later, they walked out of the office, disappointed.

‟That was a lost cause.” Melanie ground her teeth in frustration.

‟What gets me is that they didn’t even know who he was.” Kaylee answered quietly.

‟Ask the guy with the clipboard?” Her sister pointed to a stationary man in a white coat.

‟It might get us kicked out, but yeah.”

Walking up to the man with the board he was tapping on. It was a tablet computer and he was calling it every vile name in the book.

“You useless piece of electronic equipment, your mom was a pocket calculator and rode in everyone’s pocket…”

‟Excuse me.” Kaylee said, she recognized the man as one of the techs that worked on the Wizard.

“May I help you?” The tech seemed both irritated and relieved at the interruption.

‟The Pacific Wizard, you worked on it last month?”

‟You’ll have to be more specific than that.” Without looking up from his infuriating tablet. ‟Check in the office for the status of the plane.”

‟No, I mean the flying boat that you steam-cleaned and painted the hull last month and did some checks?”

‟Oh yes. Tom’s plane.” Tablet man looked up. ‟Say, aren’t you the woman that lived on it, too?”

‟Yeah, I’m back at school now.” Kaylee blushed. ‟Do you know when Tom will be back?”

‟No sorry, I don’t expect him back. It was the first time he had ever been here for service.” He pulled off his hard-hat and rubbed his bald head. ‟I heard his plans were to go to England, but he was hurt in an accident. So I don’t know if he went but I know he picked up his plane here and left with a full load of fuel a few weeks ago. I was in the office when he paid up. First time I have ever seen a black signature card.”

Kaylee thanked him and began to walk back to the car with Melanie when he called after them.

‟Miss?” He pulled at his salt and pepper goatee. “He mentioned plans about business in Japan and Singapore then to Australia, or the other way around, I don’t remember.”

‟Thank you.” Kaylee smiled sadly.

In the car on the way out, Melanie watched her sister.

“He will never be back.” Kaylee said with a sob after they got on the highway.

‟Maybe you can find him in the email?”

‟I never emailed him, I was always with him. I don’t know how to get ahold of…” Then her eyes got big and said one name. “Lettie.”

‟Who?”

‟Limo company owner in Northern California, Tom’s supported her in the past. They’re friends.” Kaylee sounded pleased remembering Lettie’s name.

Back at the apartment, Kaylee called Lettie’s number and she picked up on the first ring.

‟Kaylee ! I had a thought about you the other day.” Her smile could be felt through the phone. ‟I didn’t want to have you as a lost friend. How are things?”

Kaylee updated Lettie while Melanie made some tea.

‟Tom has an itinerary to go from Japan down to Australia in his new jet.”

‟New jet?”

‟The Pacific Wizard.”

‟Oh, I didn’t know it was new.”

‟Oh yeah, less than a year old, he got it to replace the Sea Dragon when his novel got picked up for a movie.” Kaylee could hear Lettie coördinate her business operations and tell her cousin ‟Limo-3 got requested for this.” A sigh and the sound of papers and the tap of keys. ‟Sorry, Kaylee .”

‟No problem.” Kaylee smiled. Lettie was an awesome person. ‟I just want to find out how to get ahold of Tom again.”

‟You did the deed and now want it back. The normal answer is ‟no”. A pause as she typed again on the keyboard of her business. “But I like you and I think Tom would like me to help. The only contact information I have is through his agent.”

‟Yeah, that is not a good email anymore. He fired her.”

‟I recall. Sorry Kay… Uh, Kaylee ? Do you have cable tv? You might want to turn on a headline channel. Tom’s in the news.” Lettie sounded alarmed. “It looks like he’s been arrested!”

“What!” Kaylee stood up from the chair she had settled in.

She pointed and waved at Melanie to get her to turn on the TV they flipped around the channels until they found a headline news station and there, in an Asian airport surrounded by armed guards, was the Pacific Wizard.

‟Lettie, I gotta go!” Kaylee gasped out. “Thank you for all that you have done for me!”

Kaylee hung up the phone and both sisters stood in front of a television transfixed by a news reporter who spoke in even tones of a news story about a reclusive man who insisted that people call him by his first name where ever he went.

They had found Tom.

The Failed Getaway

Hypnos the cat gives a command
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The Failed Getaway

A short story by Dash McCallen

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

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

His trial lasted over a year.

The Verdict?

Guilty.

Sentence?

Death.

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

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

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

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

*Taking the last bit of dignity I have*

He shook his head.

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

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

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

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

He laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They already began the execution and the clock…

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

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

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

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

Then Malam blinked.

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

*Cowards.*

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

Malam grinned.

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

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

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

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

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

And the gates were open, no doors locked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A body!

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

He was covered in blood.

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

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

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

He crawled through the grass carefully, towards the voices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let’s go. What were you in for?”

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

“Malam. What kind of name is N’oi?”

“What kind of name is Malam?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he could outrun them with the power of fear.

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

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

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

*I need a fresh change of clothes.*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And into the middle of it.

*Damned echos!*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second shot freed the big fighting man.

The tatters of his shirt were a uniform.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then one fist.

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

*Now where the hell to go?*

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

*Yeah, right.*

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

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

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

He ran headlong into the glass doors— Locked!

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

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

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

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

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

Savage panic set in, Malam ran.

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Run!*

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

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

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

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

*Fuck! I gotta to run!*

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

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

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

****

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

The witnesses watched the last breath of Malam Plando.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Fuck that! I gotta hide.*

Malam Plando continued to run.

Married by Mistake Chapter 19. At The Hospital

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Chapter 19. At the Hospital

The trip by air to the north state was the fastest she had ever traveled, they were there in less than an hour when the Captain announced they were descending.

A quick touchdown in the sports car of the heavens and they taxied to the private area, coming to a complete stop in less time than Tom could get the Flying Sea Dragon out of the sky. The little business jet was faster in all categories, compared to the yacht that she had been on. But nowhere near as comfortable.

After the jets engines wound down, Kaylee stepped forward to the door when Captain Watson opened the door.

“There is a limo waiting for you Mrs. Harte.”

“Where are we?”

“Hayward Airport. This is the closest I can get you with the traffic tonight. The limo will take you directly to the hospital. Tom is in room 3418, it’s here on this paper. He might still be in surgery, I don’t know.”

“Thank you.” Kaylee answered taking the yellow notepad paper from Captain Watson.

The limo rocketed along at a fast walk as the chauffeur navigated through stop and go traffic in the Maze to cross the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

“Oh crap, someone’s grandma just past us with her walker! What is the hold up?” Kaylee called up through the open window.

The driver, Kaikane, laughed, then spoke with a pronounced Hawaiian accent.

“It is another one of those things about the local traffic in the Maze. You would do well by opening one of the bottles in the back, the green ones are good. They don’t taste like much to me, but they would put you in a mood. The one that says Absinthe.”

“Oh, hell no.” Kaylee laughed. “I have been on that stuff before, then I woke up two towns away with people who still think my name is Stacy. Absinthe is wicked magic in a bottle.”

“You should move to my home.” Kaikane laughed. “We have a drink, okolehao, that can do that, but you cannot be that far from where you live.”

Kaylee laughed at the tall Hawaiian, built like a giant “V”, she wondered if he tailored his driver’s uniform to show his build off or if it was a trick of how the jacket was cut.

They drove through the toll booths without stopping, the lane was a cash free lane, no fee collector occupied the booth. Kaikane lifted his foot off the pedal a little and rolled past the sensors at the perfect speed.

“Just like surfing.” Kaikane said, looking over his shoulder. “You do it right, it is easy.”

“Eyes on the road!” Kaylee gave a squeaky nervous laughed. The dark hair of the islander barely hung to his collar, except for islanders with shaved heads, his hair was shorter than of any Hawaiian she had ever met.

The white limousine was not stretched as she had seen others, and it was a solid ride, unlike her own rattle-trap of a car. She named her old girl, “Spot”, a car that would continue making spooky noises after hitting a bump for several dozen yards down a street. Her friends would say that the only reason it held together was habit.  

The expert hands of the college age chauffeur guided them to the main entrance of the medical center.

“Here we are Missus Harte.” Kaikane opened the door for Kaylee and handed her a business card. “Take this, I have his room number written on the back of my card. Good luck, Missus! I hope Tom is doing well.”

“Doesn’t anyone call him “Mister”?” She asked. “And when did you find out about what room he was in?”

“Oh no! He won’t allow it. If you are formal to him, he won’t consider you worthy of his business, Tom is quite insistent on that.” Kaikane smiled. “And I have an earphone, I wrote it down while sitting in traffic.”

“Oh my.” Kaylee pulled at her ear. She had learned more about Tom in the last few days than she had in the last three weeks sitting in his lap.

“Call the number anytime you need me back Missus…”

“Kaylee , please. If you call him Tom, you call me Kaylee .”

“Yes, ma’am. Kaylee .” His eyes sparkled with that calm soul that some people have. Kaylee wondered if it had to do something with the beauty of his home that gave him that ineffable contentment that showed in his actions.

Bidding him farewell, Kaylee walked through the sliding glass doors and to the information desk.

She had to be with Tom, even if she was not positive why this was important.

*I am his wife, it is in the rules somewhere. I am a good person too.* Kaylee laughed to herself.

And that made all the difference. Except it felt more than a duty, she was fond of him in different ways, with each passing day, she found another facet she adored of this man who she called “husband”.

The man who loved his solitude, but touched lives everywhere he went. Everyone called him by his first name, and for a man who even described himself in misanthropic terms and, except for tabloids, everyone liked him.

A lot.

The doors of the huge hospital opened to a small foyer that led to a security desk and a locked door.

“I’m here to see Tom Harte?” She asked the buzz-cut middle-aged man behind the thick glass who eyed her up and down.

“Open your purse please?” He had not even looked at the screen when he typed the name she gave him- he kept his eyes locked on her while he typed out everything.

Satisfied for whatever inspection that he performed when he shined an intense palm-sized light into her purse through the glass.

“Through the door, third elevator doors to the right side of the hallway, thirty-forth floor.” The directions were well rehearsed and spoken with a too-bored voice.

The door buzzed open and she walked down the hallway. The hallway at this time of day reminded her of the… What did the driver call it? What was the driver’s name? Kai, something, Kaikane. He called it “the Maze” on the approach to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The Maze had a little brother and she was in the middle of it.

Nearly losing count of elevators, Kaylee stopped, recounted behind her and found she was spot on at the correct elevator doors.

“First floor.” An electronic generated voice of a woman intoned.

Kaylee stepped into the elevator car with five other people.

“… Finally after all that, surgery went well, we re-established circulation with a Gore-Tex graft with good return of…” A young woman with an intense gaze told her fellow surgeon. She sounded exhausted as if she had been in surgery for a long time.

The male companion, touched her on the shoulder and the speaking woman looked at Kaylee and smiled, but spoke no more. The conversation continued as soon as the elevator doors opened on the tenth floor and they stepped out.

Finally with people getting on, and exiting, Kaylee arrived at the thirty-forth floor.

She immediately saw the sign she needed to direct her to her destination.

ICU.

Holding her breath, she picked up the phone next to the door.

“Here for Thomas Harte.” Her voice squeaked.

The door lock buzzed and she walked in to a new world.

Married by Mistake Chapter 15. Kaylee Simone Grant

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Chapter 15. Kaylee Simone Grant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of life was Tom thinking?

She was angry again.

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

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

*Except…*

Except… Tom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A fascinating system with a virtual keyboard that Tom used.

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

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

And boggled…

*Oh, crap on a cracker!*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The light illuminated Kaylee’s eyes and her heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was…

It… She did not know what “it” was.

Shaking her head.

Kaylee knew what it was.

It was a mistake.

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

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

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

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

And he made her smile in countless ways.

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

*Pretty sure I do.*

*Perhaps.*

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

Married by Mistake Chapter 13. Alone on a Jet Plane

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Chapter 13. Alone On A Jet Plane

Just as he promised, a limousine drove up the dirt road next to the canal, driven by a woman in her mid-twenty’s wearing a tuxedo and a chauffeur’s hat opened the rear door for her with a professional smile.

“Thank you, but I want to sit in front. I need some girl time.” Kaylee smiled. “You don’t mind?”

“Not at all ma’am. It’s not regular, but the insurance does not prohibit it.”

The ride was talkative with both women lamenting about men being overgrown boys and their wishing to show off.

Lettie, the driver, smiled softly after a long-winded complaint that they flew low over the wine country and hit a flock of birds. Kaylee shook her head and wept over one bird whose life ended smooshed all over the windscreen of the big jet.

“Well, it would have been a pretty view up until then.” Lettie smiled as she drove. “He didn’t do it on purpose. I would love to have a guy to show me the wine country from above. Plus, he put it down safely. Does he ever say he loves you?”

“Naw…” She answered, looking out the window. “It’s a long story. But I’m going home and smoke until I’m stoned out of my mind and wake up by the weekend. It’s been a crazy month.”

“Once in awhile,” Lettie softly laughed. “Crazy is what you need. It has been crazy in this limo from time to time. Occasionally, the crazier nights have been the most rewarding.”

“How crazy?“

“I have been paid to drive naked and pick up girls.”

“Oh my god! Did you do it?”

“No.” Lettie laughed loudly. “He tipped me anyway, we did pick up some girls at a club and they partied in the back.”

“And they partied hard, I found clothing for days after that.”

“Um, ew.” Kaylee laughed. “I’ll sit up front from now on.”

Lettie laughed louder as she wheeled the limo towards the Stockton Airport.

“You have not asked, but my suggestion Mrs. Tom, is to take a few breaths while you are back home without him. He’s slightly old world, but a great guy.” She smiled.

“You know him?”

“Yes, he has hired our company more than once.” Lettie said with a wide smile. “He is a regular customer. Pays in advance, I think he has a thousand hours paid for this year.”

“Does he ask for you?”

Lettie shook her head. “No, but there are only five drivers. Me, my sister and two cousins and a psych-major that goes to UCSF.”

“An all woman limo business?” Kaylee’s curiosity piqued for the moment.

“Yeah. We were all going to school in Sacramento and started driving friends around as designated drivers. We studied in the car while everyone else drank. One thing led to another, now we own a limo service.”

“How well do you do?”

“Pretty good. I own two Molinaxil Harley’s and an Indian now.”

“Two… what?”

“Motorcycles. I have one custom fitted to me, built by a custom shop in Ohio. Molinaxil Metal. He makes custom bikes and cars. His sheet metal work is something out of the movies. THEN! Oh my god, then! The guy who does the work? He used to be a dancer, he looks as hot as the machines he builds.” Lettie laughed like a kid at Christmas. “And oh, he is jaw-drop gorgeous.”

“A dancer?” Kaylee asked while looking out the window. She was a thousand-miles away.

Lettie pressed on, she promised herself to improve the mood of the young woman next to her.

“Yup, like Chippendale’s? Same kind of thing. A rocking body and eyes that you would dream of doing naughty things with.” Lettie smiled at that. “Like Mr. Harte. He’s handsome enough for a church girl think of things. Naughty things. Over and over.” She gave a lusty laughed.

“He’s an ass.” Kaylee said in a wistful voice.

“The plane was in the water in one piece. Lettie frowned. “What happened?”

“He was flying low and ran into a flock of birds.”

“Bird strikes are common around here. We are in a migratory path of so many types. I even hit one with a limo last year.” She shuddered with the memory of it. “It nearly came all the way through the windshield, blew in a hole like it was an artillery shell. Tom saved you both by setting the jet down in the deep water channel.”

“Maybe. But I’m still mad at him.” She shook her head. “He keeps making me mad at him.”

“You can upset about almost dying, that’s your right. I would be, too! Ah, here we are.”

Pulling up in front of the airport. It’s architecture from the mid-seventies was obvious, but it was well maintained and spacious. One professionally dressed security in plain clothes held a sign with her name on it.

Lettie opened the door for her and handed her a business card with a penned in phone number.

“If you need me for anything again, call. That is my private number on the back.” Lettie smiled. “Kaylee, you have a lot going now. Don’t let this change you mind about Tom. He is a treasure, he is a keeper.”

Kaylee hugged Lettie. It had only been a half-hour’s worth of talking but she felt as if she was old friends with the limo company owner.

Walking up to the man with the sign, she smiled.

“I’m Kaylee.”

“Excellent. Come with me, please.”

Passing through TSA Checkpoints, she had no luggage to speak of. Robert, as his name badge stated in gold lettering, was polite but non-talkative.

“Your flight is waiting for you, this way.” Robert said with a slight smile, but showed no other emotion. All business.

The next officer uniform was a dark-skinned woman who had even more of a ramrod straight spine.

“You are Kaylee Harte?” It was almost a statement and not a question. “I’m Captain Adanna Ogechi. I will be your pilot on the plane. We will be setting down in Harbor Bay Airport within an hour of departure.” Captain Ogechi motioned with her hand. “This way.”

All business like Robert and made no comment as they walked to the small business jet that was claustrophobic compared to Tom’s flying yacht. But then, she remembered, it was his home.

*Since after the second day, Tom has hardly written on his notepad.* She realized, *Since I’ve been with him.*

He was always in her business. His “rescue” of her being blackmailed into a compromising position and possibly sex with the professor who the police arrested later.

*I had it handled,* she fumed. *I would not have wrapped my legs around the art instructor, I would have gotten the upper hand on that situation, somehow.*

Still, she had no idea what she was going to do to extract herself from that mess. Between an epic-awful morning on that Friday, getting fired from the restaurant and pub where she slaved as a waitress and tended bar. The day just kept going from bad to worse until she met Tom.

Kaylee laughed at herself. Then life just took a left turn into a surreal universe as she reflected on the last week. The adventures in how his body and hers could merge.

*His hugs are like having a heart hold mine*

How they fit together and things she had never tried in a plane before. Hands on the controls, sleeping on top, diving off the wing.

AND!

Sleep on a boat was wonderful beyond words, even if the boat had wings. She did not even need to smoke any weed to get into a zen mood!

She had an eighth of a kilo of Killer Kai weed at the Wizard that she had not even touched. It was all that good.

Her thoughts drifted back to Glenn, who went to Mt. Mazama University.

*Not as far from home but it’s still an eighteen-hour drive from Ocean Bay, too much of a long-distance relationship. It is so far apart, even with current technology, and not date other people.* She remembered the conversation. *To expect either of us to not go out with other people is a setup for failure.*

A Poli-Sci major, he was honest in they both would make contacts.

*”It is unreasonable to assume we could be faithful to a promise, being so far apart.”* She remembered him saying. *If Glenn only knew how unreasonable I could take it.*

They were “steady” when they were home together, but not when at the remote colleges.

A sigh. *I hope that the papers and annulment will be final before I go home, because Glenn sent that email that he had something important to talk about.*

*Glenn might propose this year. He has been acting strange, like he has something to say and has a shy-bone stuck in his head.* She gave a big sigh, holding her face in her hands in the solitude in the back of the tiny jet. *This is so messed up! This should excite me, but it would only complicate our schoolastic careers. UGH! It will be more complicated if I am still married to Tom when I go home.*

This made her laugh again as the small jet shrieked down the runway then pulled in to a steep climb.

*Tom is a good man.* She was growing fond of him in many ways. *But he has achieved success while I am at the beginning of my art career. I’ll have a gallery in a couple of years.*

Still, his kisses. He was attentive and made her toes curl just to think about it. Her heart skipped and jumped in pleasant ways from his smiles to when he looked in her eyes.

*I wonder what children would be like with him.* She smiled for a moment. *He writes children stories and… OH!*

She surreptitiously had looked them up in her phone, even though the signs at the airport said to turn off all phones.

Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon had many adventures, most of the stories had an ecological slant to them, some dealt with right and wrong. Leonard’s friend Wendel “Weeds” The Weedy Sea Dragon was a constant companion and sometime hero as Leonard would get into predicaments that needed help.

Tom addressed things that kids would be worried about, bully issues were dealt with in one arc in the series of the little novellas. Scary things that shake the bushes in the night in another arc. Tom was a talented writer and made a living off of his books.

*He did say he was “comfortable”.* She smiled herself at the memory.

Then, she saw a reference online with her smart phone and clicked on the link.

She looked forward to the cockpit of the jet, the pilots had not looked back. No one to check on. She was the only one on board of the chartered flight.

She read the title about the tragedy of Tom’s life. His pregnant wife failed to beat a train at a crossing and died in the accident, there were no other children in the family. After that, he began to write prolifically.

Other searches turned up tabloid comments about that Tom was gay and had his wife murdered.

Another read that she killed herself on purpose since she was gay and was going to leave him, then found she was pregnant.

Many speculations that he no longer dated women. Paparazzi had a difficult time keeping up with him and his flying boat that they had come to call the “Flying Wicked Wizard of Solitude” out of spite.

Images of his plane leaving when they would try to chase him after the accident in speedboats. Super long-range lenses used to image the Pacific Wizard as it floated in lakes or the ocean were all in the trash websites.

Then another picture, taken from shore of two people on top of the Pacific Wizard, one was obviously him and another of a raven haired woman who was impossible to recognize. They were between the engines and, with no obvious clothing.

But Kaylee recognized the mystery woman! It was her! Kaylee knew it by the large sunglasses she wore. It was their first day after getting married by accident in Las Vegas.

The image was grainy and blurred from such a long distance and the rocking motion of the plane.

Another website claimed the unknown woman was a victim “Kidnapped by Alien Author” as the trash tabloid alluded that Tom was now a non-human from space. Possibly a vampire.

She laughed at that. *Well, he does have sharp teeth that he uses in nice ways when he presses his teeth against my neck and hums the song “Star Spangled Banner”.*

She rarely held out past the first stanza before laughing and then the spasms that went through her and she loved that. It still made her toes curl to think of it.

Still the picture of them on top of the plane was obvious they were together, the image taken more than a mile away. Shot from shore and they were not on the top of the plane for any length of time, so she felt that her identity was safe for the moment. No one bothered to chase them with any speedboats. They were old news and boring.

*Except for the bird strike. This is sure to make the papers.* Again she face-palmed.

*I need to call Tom and tell him to keep my face and name out of the news. Damn him! Mom ‘n’ Dad will be sure to find out. Gramma G is a big reader of all those tabloids.*

She flipped through the listings of the conspiracy web-sites.

*Ever since Grampa Grant died, Gramma’s talked about aliens, time travel and immortal beings. She is sure that Grampa was with the aliens instead of the airliner that he was in that went down over the ocean.*

A memory, it did not seem that long ago, but it was over a decade. Not a single distress call from the airliner, it just went off the radar and wreckage was found floating in the water.

There were no survivors. Not even bodies in water that was more than ten-thousand feet deep.

Without a body to say good-bye to was the hardest thing for Gramma to bear as she descended into a fantasy that Grampa was still alive, somewhere.

“Missus Harte, we are landing now.” The Captain called back. “Seat belt on, please put away your phone.” This caused Kaylee to blush like a kid caught with a cookie. She had not asked if she could use it and on commercial airlines, the rules prohibited the use of laptops and phones.

The descent from luxury private jet to the mundane real world had begun and Kaylee was not entirely prepared for what was to come.

*I’m not prepared for anything.* She reminded herself with a heavy sigh.

Married by Mistake Chapter 12. Snarge: Blended Bird

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Chapter 12. Snarge: Blended Bird

Sitting in the right hand seat, Tom showed Kaylee how to take the controls.

Tapping a few displays, a chime sounded while Kaylee held on to the stick that guided the large aircraft towards their destination under Tom’s watchful eye.

“Now you are flying it.” Tom smiled. “Just hold the stick gently.”

“There is so much power in this stick.” She laughed slowly pulling to the right to bank the plane when Tom showed her when for a course correction. “This reminds me of a poem. To touch the face of God. ”

“The passionate artist in you is coming out.” Tom chuckled.

“We will be landing soon.” He said, after looking at the displays. “I want to take you on a low tour of this area to show you where we will be wine tasting at.”

Tom pushed forward on the stick and banked the Flying Sea Dragon slowly while talking into his earphones. She listened to him become all professional, deciding that he was talking to San Francisco by the sound of it.

“There, we have permission to fly low.” Tom looked at the displays. “Passing through four-thousand feet.”

“Low?”

“Yeah, about a thousand feet. Maybe less. As slow as possible and still fly.” He smiled. “I’ll fly it by hand and make a big figure-8 over the area.”

“Sounds fun.” She smiled. “Maybe I can flash someone down there.”

“Yeah… No.” Tom laughed. “You would cause us to crash.”

“How?”

“Who do you think would be staring?”

Kaylee laughed as she bumped him with her hip as she walked back to change her clothes and began to pull on her walking shoes when a chime sounded that drew Tom’s attention.

“What?” Tom said in an irritated voice to the display. What he looked at was not visible to Kaylee .

“Kaylee , sit down, put on a seat belt.” Tom ordered. “Now! We have a flock of birds…”

Alarms sounded and Tom yelled a profanity.

“Fire in engine one!” Just as something large hit windscreen with a loud “THUMP” and obliterated the view outside with reds and browns.

“OhHellNo.” He said it as one word. “Bird strike! BIRDSTRIKE.”

Alarms sounded and lights flashed on the display panels as the plane took a decided change in direction. Tom struggled to straighten out the plane and called an emergency into his headset.

“Affirmative, cleared for Stockton.” Tom was all business as Kaylee struggled with the seatbelt.

Another alarm sounded. A loud bang from the rear of the plane, more profanity from her husband.

“Uhh… Negative, not going to make Stockton, we are losing power in engine number two, going to set it down on the highway.” Tom swore a stream of words that surprised her. He did not talk that way since she had met him.

“Dammit! Too much traffic. OH YAY! Look! Water!” Tom yelled at no one in particular. “Come on you Flying freakin’ Sea Dragon, Kaylee is too cute to die.”

A long straight canal was on the far side of the highway, pushing the number-two throttle forward he was able to coax more thrust out of the remaining engine.

“Engine two is spinning up again. We have some extra power.” Tom said into the microphone. “We have a canal to set down in just west of the freeway.”

More lights flashed information in the pilot’s console. Amber and red display flashed as Tom pulled on the stick, commanding the wounded metal bird to do his bidding.

“Flaps full.” Putting his hand on a knob that was already at it’s maximum. “We want to come in as slow as possible here.”

“Landing gear up. Check. That would be unfortunate to put down in water with wheels down.” Tom gave a smile to Kaylee .

“Now it is like always. Easy into the water.”

The plane passed so low over the lanes of cars, she could see the people’s faces as they looked up. In one red mini-van, she could see the face of a small child staring while she rode in the car seat as the big jet rocketed the divided lanes of the interstate and over the water.

Lined up, Tom put the flying boat down with room to spare on both sides.

“Hang on to something.” Tom warned through gritted teeth when he brought the plane down to a rough but safe water landing.

Talking into the microphone on his headset, Tom told the flight control where they were. “Lat.” Tom said with a series of numbers and then softly spoke the word “Long.” with another sequence that Kaylee did not understand.

“Made it!” Tom smiled wryly as he put down the headset and shutting down the engines. “That was fun in a twisted way.”

“Tom?” Her jaw dropped at his cavalier tone. “TOM! How do you think this was…”

“Sorry,” He interrupted. “I need to check the engines to make sure we don’t need to abandon ship.”

“What do you mean, “Abandon Ship”?”

“If we have a fire, I want you safe. This place could burn to the waterline and I need to drop an anchor to keep us from going aground.”

He walked to the main hatch that opened left side of the plane, opened a door of a closet next to the entrance and pulled out an anchor attached to a heavy chain. A rope as thick as her thumb, he threw the anchor out then waited for a count of three, then tied the rope to a ring in the door frame.

Then he walked past his wife who was changing colors from pale to livid.

“My god.” Kaylee gasped. “We are still in danger?”

Tom climbed up a ladder to a hatch and opened it then disappeared up through the hole. It was the same kind of hatch that they had used more than once to sunbathe between the engines of the Pacific Wizard.

“Tom?” Kaylee looked up from the foot of the ladder to the hatch.

“Come on up! We are safe, you might be interested in what happened.” He called down and she climbed the ladder, like she had done many times before, then she was giggling and happy, now she was beginning to shake.

Tom stood by the engine, there were several dents in the leading edge with traces of a brownish goo and feathers in the fan blades of the turbine.

“What’s this?” She asked. “Blood?”

“Well, the official term is “snarge”, it is what is left of a bird when it gets sucked into an engine it at speed.”

“Snarge?”

“A combination of the words, snot and garbage.” Tom nodded while looking in the engine as Kaylee made a face, she felt she might get sick and walked over to the edge of the wing to vomit into the water below. But she held on to her insides.

“Damn, this did a number on the engine. There are vanes missing everywhere.” Tom gave a heavy sigh. “We were lucky to not have it happen to the other engine.”

He walked over to the opposite side, running his hands over nacelle’s leading edge, tracing his fingers over dents that were there, but the engine appeared undamaged.

“Oh poop.  Another problem.” Tom spoke as he turned and watched the Fire Department tried try to back off the road to the edge of the water. An ambulance followed by a sheriff unit trundled down the dirt road with lights flashing. “We are anchored farther out than they can reach. We’ll need to use the rubber boat to pull it closer to shore.”

“How do you do that?”

“Well, not much of a motor, but it will work after a fashion. Even if I need to drop two anchors and pull us by a winch.”

“Wait… anchors? Boat anchors?”

“Yes, four. In case I need to stay in a harbor with foul weather and unable find a hanger or fly to safety out of the path of a storm.”

“Why is it so bad?” She shook her head. “This is the worst thing to happen.”

“Worst?” Tom shook his head. “Naw. We’re alive.”

“I want to go home.” She looked at him. “Now!”

“Okay, once the Fantasy secured, there will be a limo pick you up and you will catch the flight to Ocean Bay.”

Tom sighed heavily as he pulled his phone from its holster and tapped on the screen a few times, and nodded. Then he swiped a finger over the screen.

“Mo? It’s Tom Harte. Say, I need a ride for someone and I’m not at a normal location.” Tom looked at Kaylee sadly as she climbed down the ladder back into the cabin of the jet.

Long minutes passed before he climbed back down into the cabin and found Kaylee curled up on a couch. Her legs pulled up and she was hugging herself in a fetal position.

“A limo will pick you up on shore and I have chartered a plane to take you back home. I will stay here to meet with the FAA, there will be questions.” Tom said softly.

Kaylee nodded and quietly wept into her knees.

Tom walked without a word to the front of the flying boat. At the door, he opened the shoulder-wide closet, and lifted out a bundle and put it in the water. Carefully finding a handle, he pulled firmly, causing a rubber boat to inflate at the door. An electric motor he quietly released from a recess in the closet then attached it to the mount on the back of the boat. With waterproof cables and a practiced touch, Tom had the rubber skiff ready in moments, then went to work.

He sat in the boat and the electric motor seemed that the twenty-foot boat would be woefully underpowered to move the jet, but after a minute, the machines began to move. Painfully slow in the beginning, then with gathering speed, against the flow of the rising tide, Tom was able to bring it within range of the fire department to reach across to the wing with ladders and anchored it with three anchor lines strung from the shore to keep it secure.

Inside the plane, delayed panic turned into anger at her brush with disaster, she blamed him for putting them in jeopardy.

Showing off nearly killed them, and she was not sure she wanted on the plane, any plane, ever again.

She had never been so frightened in her life and it made her angry, and he had promised! He was a supposed protector and her personal hero.

Her personal hero? Hero’s did not put their people in danger.

He was no hero. He was a… Loser.

It was the only insult she could think of just then.

*I don’t care if he is an author and has money.* She wept. *He almost killed us just to show off. Like a boy with his dad’s car.*

It was the most angry she had ever been at anyone in her life, she could not even look at him.

She wanted to go home, as far away from the plane, the man and this wine country, as he called it, as she could.

Married By Mistake Chapter 10. After The Rescue

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Chapter 10. After The Rescue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let’s head home.” Tom said.

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

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

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

“Why did you move it?”

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

“Wow. I didn’t think of that.”

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

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

“Tom. Have you gotten the papers?”

“Papers?”

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

Tom gave a nod with a sigh.

“Yes. You said thirty days.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, damn!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I just asked when all classes ended.”

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

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

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

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

“Okay. When do we leave?”

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

“Where are we going, precisely?”

“Lodi.”

“Low…who?”

“You’ll see.” Tom laughed softly.

Trying to kiss her, Kaylee turned her face.

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

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

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

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

Married by Mistake Chapter 9. Posing

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Chapter 9. Posing

 
The University of Ocean Bay.

A well-known center of learning, early in the history, endowments and grants that committees created to keep the costs low enough for the talented, but struggling students to afford to attend.

First established in the early 1800’s, it began as a private school for sailors who would be hired by the ocean-going vessels straight away as officers. Later in the nineteenth century, other schools of discipline evolved and the College of Ocean Bay became the University in the same year as President Abraham Lincoln died, leaving the country mired in hatred and anger.

In the chaos of the country, the west coast school built up with donations and funding from the state. Buildings evolved with a function followed form design. The first to use natural processes to warm and cool the buildings. 

It became an artist’s school in the end, starting in the years after the War to End All Wars, then war that followed after that.

By the time Korean Police Action slowed into a cease-fire, the University at Ocean Bay became renowned for the artists that it produced.

Other schools expanded on campus that now covered nearly five-hundred acres of rammed-earth construction for buildings, pioneered from nearly the beginning, the three-foot thick walls kept the buildings cool in summer heat waves and warmer in the chill winter storms coming off the ocean with winds coming out of the Gulf of Alaska.

A labyrinth of stars and vista points, balconies of open hallways, long corridors that felt like one would be walking through solid rock.

Standing even after several earthquakes, maintanence crews repaired cracks in the walls by using a high-strength epoxy under great pressure to force into the smallest of voids. It was an on going perpetual nightmare, always using the latest of technologies.

Kaylee walked up the stairs, eschewing the elevators and walked along an open air hall, alone. It was slightly eerie. There were no students around in the normally busy walk-zone, and now her steps of her beach shoes echoed off the walls like a sandpaper as she headed to the studio-classroom on the third floor.

Trying the door and finding it locked. Sighing, Professor Billings was not in. She was going to lose the opportunity to take her final art test of the study of human form. She was about to turn away when the door rattled and opened.

Professor Billings stood in the doorway.

“Come in! You are on time, excellent.” He nodded and made a sweeping motion with his hand. “I’ve been setting up.”

“Setting up?” She asked. “This is a class?”

“Oh no. I am painting. You can do your final while I work.”

“I’m…” Kaylee put it together. “I’m posing for you alone?”

“Yes, that was what we agreed.” He nodded, leading her in. “I needed a subject, you need a grade.”

“This is not proper, Professor. You can’t do this.” She had that creepy feeling in the studio alone with the professor. Alarms were going off in her soul. The kind one gets when there is danger and no escape. But she needed that grade.

“I can and you will pose naked laying on that stage while doing… things.” He said as he closed the inner door of the studio.

“What things? I believed we were having a class.”

“Well, it is your final, you missed it last week and you agreed to do a little extra credit instead of taking the supervised exam and this is it.” He stood there with his arms crossed. “If you don’t care about failing the class, you are welcome to leave. But you can’t readmitted into this class for the upcoming semester, it is already full.”

Her heart fell. Kaylee looked around, she was alone, no one expected her for hours still. A quick prayer in her heart for anything, anyone to come and help.

She would take an earthquake, even.

“Go big, or go home. I understand you lost your job last Friday, too. It would make life difficult if you had to do night class to catch up and work for a living at the same time.” The Professor shrugged. “Your studies might suffer, this is only for an hour, it would save you a great deal agony in the coming year, perhaps keep you on track for graduating on time.”

“I need a room to change.” She said in a small, resigned voice. “Is there a robe?”

“You may use the changing room the other models have used.” The Professor pointed to a door. “I will set up the stage out here.”

He began to set up an easel and his brushes.

She closed the door behind her and began to weep. If she walked out, two semesters would be wasted. Pulling off her top, she proceeded to undress. Pausing for a moment and looked at her hands, she pondered and then left her wedding ring on.

*I wonder if he notices or if it will change anything.* The concept bounced around in her head and made her feel cold.

She got fully undressed and wrapped a towel tightly around her, really it was too small, barely larger than a hand-towel. It might be better for her to just walk around naked, that is what he seemed to want.

Timidly, she stepped out of the changing room and on to the stage that had set up a couch, chair and desk…

And a bed.

“You want me to use the couch or the desk?”

“Lay on the bed with your exam paper please. Like you would at home.” The professor said. His eyes twinkling with obscene pleasure.

“Professor, I’m not comfortable with this stage and furnishing.“ She was trembling as if it were cold.

In fact, he had the temperature cold. Her skin puckered and the hair on her arms stood out.

“It’s up to you. You need the final done, this is your last chance. I need a subject to pose.”

“Okay.” She let out a long breath and turned her back, there would be no rescue, she was alone. Pausing for a moment, she began to unwrap the glorified hand-towel when she heard him move behind her.

“Professor?” A baritone voice came from the far side of the room.

Kaylee turned around in surprise and saw the Professor was standing behind her, within arms reach.

And he was naked.

Across the room at the door stood Tom and another man. A man taller than Tom, and by the accent, he was British, but of African descent.

“What is going on, Professor? Why are you nude?” The voice was like a small earthquake, and it was full of shock and growing rage.

Gathering up his clothes quickly. The Professor paused for the briefest of moments.

“Thank you for your assistance Miss Grant. This will be a beautiful work of art.”

“You were working on an art project?” Tom said. “I thought you said it was a class. Kaylee? What is going on?”

“She is a student and we are working on a… on… Wait. You know each other?” The Professor asked.

“Yes, she’s my wife.” Tom slightly puffed his chest up while looked the Professor in the eye.

“What? You’re married? When? She started this! She enticed… It was her idea!” The Professor’s voice was high and tight.

“Professor, dress yourself and please come to my office in ten minutes. I would suggest you also use that time to contact legal counsel.” The President of the University said without humor.

“You son-of-a-b…” Kaylee felt a rage creep up her spine. She was going to break something, preferably the art professor’s testicles.

“Kaylee, shh…” It was Tom, guiding her to the open dressing room so she could put on her clothes. “You should not say anything just now.”

“Tom! You don’t think?” Kaylee had a panic on how this might affect her scholastic career or her future relationship with this man who had treated her with such kindness. “I mean I did not do what it looks like. I did nothing, you don’t think I did anything?”

“No. I think that twit that put you in this position and has a lot of issues to work out.” He kissed her and whispered. “I know you are telling the truth, no one doubts you. Get dressed.”

For the first time, she did not believe him. This man, funny, smart. He who was her accidental husband, told her that he believed her.

She could see it in his eyes, something she did not want to see again.

Hurt.

*I hurt him.* And she was hurt that he denied it.

Married by Mistake Chapter 4. After The Report, The Charthouse

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Chapter 4. After the Report,  The Charthouse

The uniformed police officers looked uncomfortable standing on the beach, surrounded by nude sunbathers that stood to watch at what the activity.

Professionalism had been given a major test as the officers called for an ambulance to transport the abused and arrested would-be rapist to the hospital. Pictures taken of Kaylee ‘s hands and her shin, where a bruise showed where she had smashed the culprit’s nose and cheekbone.

Wearing just her pants and shirt, no other injuries that she had claimed from the fight that she had taken to the assailant. She had almost killed him and her mood was nearly enough to carry it through. She would have beat on him more if he had arrived just a half-hour before he did, she would have given the detectives much more evidence to discover.

Evidence technicians took photographs of her and the sand, then left while the police interviewed her and her wingman, the man she had mentally named Note-Pad, who had come to her aid.

Detective Lynda Nesbitt, a twenty-year veteran of the force handed a business card to the victim-cum-victor in the crime while her male counterpart discovered a knife. The detective motioned to an Evidence Technician who photographed the discovered weapon, then picked up the knife in his gloved hands.

Detective Charley Galt placed the butcher knife in a manilla bag and tagged it with a sticker. To this, he wrote his name across the seal, then handed it to the evidence technician he called over.

“You may have stopped him from escalating to worse things. I suspect he’s involved with many of the attacks,” She said softly to Kaylee. “But we will let the evidence speak for itself.”

Detective Nesbitt, while she interviewed Kaylee, mentioned that there had been a rash of sexual assaults and the male being transported to the hospital had matched the description, down to the butcher knife used and that DNA would be collected and tested against the previous crimes.

Nearby, having pulled on swim trunks of his own, his interviews over and the sun red and low in the sky. The writer walked up to her, nodded and asked how she felt.

“This was an unusual day. I’m pleased you are unhurt.” He said with a chuckle. “That was a hell of a beating you gave him. Sitting naked on his chest and thumping on his melon is an image I won’t soon forget. There is a real story in that somewhere.”

He laughed softly.

“You are impressive.”

Note-Pad man chuckled, again.

“Would you let me buy you a drink?”

“No.” Kaylee laughed softly. “I don’t even know your name, you have seen me naked and now you ask me out for drinks? This is a bit awkward, don’t you think?”

“Uh, yeah. I suppose it is. Well. My name is Tom Harte.” His smiling green eyes sparkled like emeralds in the fading light of the day. “Well, anyway, I will head into town and I’ll have a few drinks the Chart House restaurant and bar for a while. When you’re finished here, I’ll buy you dinner if you like and you don’t need to sit with me.”

She laughed at this.

“I’m Kaylee Grant, nice recovery.” She nodded. “Still don’t hold your breath. But thank you.”

Watching him talk to the police detective briefly while she gathered up her possessions, putting them into the bag she had brought with her. His broad shoulders were more obvious from behind, his mild middle age spread had masked his nice build.

“Miss, may I take you anywhere?” The female detective was less influenced by standing around naked frisbee players on the beach than some of her male counterparts. “Do you have someone you can call?”

“No, I don’t need a ride. And I can call my sister, but I have no service here, I’ll need to walk to the showers.” Kaylee glanced at the phone display.

“You can borrow my phone, I have service here.” Detective Nesbitt said. She pulled an armored Android phone out of her pocket and handed it to the younger woman who impressed her with her focus and poise.

Kaylee thanked Detective Nesbitt then dialed her sister’s phone.

“Hi Melanie ?” At the sound of her sister’s voice Kaylee broke down in tears while she tried to explain what happened.

****

The Chart House, a four-star restaurant two-hundred paces from the high water mark from the beach. The bar was known for celebrity stop-ins and excellent food and drinks, both strong and virgin.

At the corner of the bar, where he took up more than his fair-share of room. He sat scribbling on an electronic notepad with a stylus.

Tom Harte, they called him Thunder Harte and the job he did often was writing. Fiction, a lot of fiction. Under the pen name of Sanne Footman, his stories were those of heart and love. He had gotten his start in romance novels with a touch of bodice-ripper styles and enjoyed that his stories were in demand.

The demographics taught that women were the largest group of readers and he flew in the face of tradition that men could not write romance novels.

But Tom was not one to follow convention, he never believed in the word, “Can’t”.

His passion now, was to manage to write stories for children and young adults. Often he also wrote about Steampunk stories under the name of Keegan O’Danu.

Now, there he had sat with his notepad out, writing down ideas that would be the next book.

His muse had gone silent for a few hours. Writing about sea shells, birds, on the beach earlier in the day. But none came to him in a coherent thoughts.

But this afternoon’s excitement where some beach patron, it had turned out, was a rapist. The attacker had picked on the single worst person, in the extreme, that he could have ever have chosen on the beach.

Unclothed, unarmed and cornered, she had pounded the knife wielding man into bloody submission. It was an impressive sight as he ran towards the sounds of the screaming of a girl to come to the woman’s aid.

Not that she needed it as it turned out. The screams he had heard were coming from the young man. The attacker was double her size, she was a petite woman, only a few inches over five-feet in height.

And still the assailant earned the pain of having his face broken along with his arm, breastbone and testicles.

And it was inspiring!

Tom Harte wrote, and wrote, and wrote. The woman had shocked him into writing swiftly. Between his satellite phone and the electronic notepad that he tapped on, he had filled in pages of notes from the words in his head.

Then a familiar voice sounded next to him.

“Is that drink still available?” Kaylee asked.

Startled, Harte turned around in his seat and there she was. Wearing a black dress and she had brushed her dark hair until it glistened in the light of the bar.

“Why, yes. What is your poison? “ He motioned to the bartender. “I believe you had said this was awkward? After the beach and all.”

“It is, but it has been that kind of day. I beat a bad guy into the sand, I vented out some frustrations.”

“You did that for sure!” he laughed.

“Now, I have you here. You know what I can do to you if I become angry. You haven’t seen angry until I’m angry.”

“What would you like to drink, hun?” The bartender, a thirtysomething woman who had a bright smile.

“Death in the Afternoon.” Kaylee answered. “Champagne and Absinthe, very cold.”

“Hemmingway’s drink.” Thomas laughed. “You are impressive.”

“Well, anyone who can tickle my soul after what I had just gone through, I figure I can impress even more and find a little about him.” She nodded. “Besides, after a day like this, I need to get a little high too.”

“Put your right thumb over the camera so I can image it and let me take your picture.” She said. “Not that there is no faith in your intentions, but you will be number one on the most wanted list if something happens.”

Thomas nodded and scanned his right thumb and sat still while Kaylee took his picture.

“You do look nice. You went home to change?” Thomas asked.

“Sort of. This was in my car. It’s all I have on, my underwear didn’t match, so when I changed in the women’s room, I just stuffed them in my purse.” Kaylee pointed to the other side of the bar.

Thomas nearly shot his drink out his nose at this.

“Speaking of awkward! You have a… Um… Thanks for being blunt.” He chuckled.

“It’s just this day. It has been rough day and I am in need of getting very drunk or stoned – or both.”

Kaylee opened her purse and pulled out a pill bottle and dropped two pills in her drink.

“Cheers. You are in charge now, when tomorrow comes and I wake up not liking what has happened, you will join the guy from the beach in the ER.” She swallowed down the intoxicating drink.

“What was that?” Thomas lifted an eyebrow in curiousity.

“Hypnotic, muscle relaxant. If you want to do something tonight, I won’t object too much. But let’s make it fun.”

Fun.

That would not be the word Kaylee would use in the morning.

Married by Mistake Chapter 3. Unwanted Visitor

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Chapter 3. Unwanted Visitor

Her drifted shut when the book hit her in the face for the third time.

Kaylee laughed at herself and remembered she needed to re-apply sunscreen, it had been nearly an hour since she had lain on the towel between the logs.

She was warm and sleep crept around the edges of her soul when the timer on her phone buzzed. She reached over to her bag and pulled out the bottle of spray sunscreen out to spray herself with another dose of sunblock when a man with his back to her, bumped into the end of the driftwood that served as her privacy screen.

“Oh! Excuse me.” He looked around. “Don’t mind me. I…”

He looked at her oddly, then pulled a long butcher knife from his towel.

“Shut up and be quiet.” He growled in a low voice. “Stay quiet and you won’t get hurt.”

Deep inside her, an ember of frustration sparked into a firestorm of rage. I’m in no mood for this!

She stood with uncontrolled fury in her eyes, a short-time before, she wanted to hurt someone. Now this pervert just volunteered and she was about to oblige the man who dared threaten her in blind overconfidence that was going to end in disaster for him.

“Go away!” Kaylee Simone Grant said loudly as she could, the note-writer turned his head and looked in their direction, stood and walked in their direction.

“Bitch! You will get on your…” Then interrupted by assault of the naked woman and screamed when she broke his wrist and took his knife away.

The force of her attack knocked the stout rapist backwards and grabbed the man’s wounded arm.

Her mass, perhaps half the attacker’s, pulled him down and off-balance, she swung her right leg over his arm. The pressure of her weight forced him to his knees face-down and he used his left hand t support himself.

“Bitch!” He had lost the fight and knew it. “Let go!”

“Do not call me…” A snap kick, Kaylee slammed her shin across assailant’s face, broke his nose and exploded the bone in his cheek. The lever that was his arm, bent backwards beyond it’s limits when she snapped it backwards over her thigh and screamed back at him. “A bitch!”

His screams of anguish was music to her ears as she continued to pummel the would-be rapist against the driftwood. His size might have been an advantage in the start of the battle – in his own eyes.  

Now broken man knelt in the sand, frightened and blood flowed from his mouth and nose into the sand. Slowly, with a heroic effort, the rapist got to his feet. And she rewarded him with a fractured breastbone from a kick to the chest. As a threat, she neutralized him one last time when he fell backwards over a low part of the log for the last time. 

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the notebook man was ran towards the sounds of bloody screams. (Kaylee was not known as a quiet student when she worked out, this real-life combat was no different.)

A final stomp into the groin of the monster left the him in breathless pain as he writhed against the large, weather-smoothed driftwood that served as her privacy screen when she relaxed alone in the sun.

“Do you need help?” The slightly overweight note-taker was two-hundred pounds with muscular arms. He looked like he could take care of the rather broken assailant that lay in agony on the sand, if she had not gotten there first.

“Um, no thanks. I’d say this is over, but I need a phone that works to call the police. I have no service here.” She looked at her would-be knight. 

“I have a sat-phone. You can use it, there’s also a c-phone in my bag but I don’t know the reception. I have used my satellite phone all day.” He said and walked back to his beach blanket.

Kaylee watched him walk away, his backside was like two halves of a tightly inflated volleyball and they were about the size of the palm of her hand, a nice view.

That’s cute. Thoughts danced in her head while her eyes bounced with each cheek as he walked away from her.

There are advantages for nude beaches. The thought made her smile. It satisfied her with the beat-down she gave the attacker who now lay on the sand holding his arm while his nose bleed freely. She kicked the predator once more for her own pleasure and turned away.

Note-pad walked the phone to her hand, the delivery was not as scenic as it was when he walked back with the phone, and disappointed her that he had wrapped up in a towel. 

And she still stood there naked while she dialed the emergency number, and was suddenly cold.

While she spoke with the emergency operator, Note-Pad gave her an oversized beach towel from his bag to wrap up in and handed her a t-shirt to wear from her pile of clothes, then turned on the would-be rapist and threatened him to stay still or his next experience would be a painful experience that he would never forget. Then laughed at his own joke he did not intend to make.

It was an extremely twisted day, but she felt pleased with the outcome with the end results of it all. 

I should beat someone once a day She laughed inwardly.

“Yood b’ke m’ fook’n node a’d arb!” The assailant said in a sticky voice, full of blood on his lips and hands. “Fook’n bid”

“You are lucky,” Note-Pad nodded. “I’d have buried you here.”

“Fug du’.” The broken knife weilder’s said as he retched from the blood that poured down his throat.

Kaylee had her back to Note-Pad and pulled on her pants. She draped the towel around her neck and let it hang it down to cover her breasts, embarrassed by the tent under her thin shirt.

“Thank you for your help,” She told Note-Pad. “I think, you need to stay here as a witness for the police.”

“No problem, he will need an ambulance trip I would wager. That nose is pretty mashed.”

They both looked at the broken man for a moment, then the sounds of beach patrol’s sirens drove to where they stood with the disabled and broken stalker. 

Note-Pad ran out to the pickup truck with an illuminated light-bar and waved an orange and black towel.

Kaylee felt lighter. Her mood improved to one of satisfaction after that. It was Friday and she had an entire weekend to look forward to.

She was over her adrenaline rush when the men with badges walked up and all the stress of the day hit her at once.

Kaylee, the warrior-woman of justice and retribution of the beach began to cry.

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.

The survival of fireworks

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We survived.

Rather: Hershey the dog did.  Of all her stress did not come to pass, the neighbor had it correct that the distance to the beach (two, almost three miles away.  maybe 4 km) alleviated a lot of agony and anxiety, Hershey the dog walked around and checked on people, but conversations kept going, TV was on, no one reacted, so checking in with humans, poking her nose into the face of Princess #2 and being petted by Princess #1. All was good in the world.

A long walk on the beach, ocean, thousands of people and dogs to sniff, see and taste (She licked one dog in the face, one baby had his (or her?) face cleaned.) Hershey was tired. So in all, distant fireworks did not draw undue anxiety out of her heart.

The only anxiety reaction we suffered all weekend was the Princess #2’s boyfriend. (More on him later).  Hershey walked around, getting pets and a home-made version of doggy ice-cream.  (Gelato, really I suppose.)

If you need a recipe on that, it is easy. a cup of peanut butter, 32 ounces of plain Greek yogurt (slightly less than 1-liter, or litre if you prefer.) tablespoon of local honey and a large banana. Blend for a minute (You may have to take a scraper to the inside of the blender to get the peanut butter to mix properly. I do. but I don’t have the best blender in the world by any stretch of the imagination and peanut butter (or peanut paste, if you prefer, I like mine chunky) then pour into small containers with a lid, freeze and then when you like, pop the top, hand the whole container to the dog and it will be a wonderful frozen treat for a few minutes.

Mind you, if you have any children wandering about and they discover this concoction? Dogs will be out of luck! This stuff is tasty! It is healthy, quick, and it is human quality food. Good for everyone and a great treat. No chemicals, no artificial this or that.  Good stuff.  I’ll consider that a rave, heh.

So now we have had a good weekend, but like all good — or bad– things. It comes to an end in about 2 hours. Back to the heat, misery and daily dust of life.

To idiots that shoot off large bottle rockets over the house (and terrify the chocolab who tries to be anywhere but there, top of my head is one spot that seems to be a favored place). I am tempted to go out with a blunt arrow and stand in the dark. Wait until the said idiots to  the fuse to the bottle rocket and then I shoot the rocket and tip it over.  No one will see the black arrow and life would get REAL exciting for a moment. or three.  But as Princess #1 did say, there is no telling where it might go, including into someone’s open window of their house – or car. And a live firework bursting inside a car as it drives down the road is ALL bad.  So I won’t.

Nice to dream of though.

Princess #2’s boyfriend.

Nice fellow, tries constantly to impress me, but it’s not working all the time. I do give him points for trying.  I put him on BBQ duty the other night and he did a good job.

His only malfunction on this trip – He is a desert cat.  From Oklahoma, his idea of a body of water is he can see all sides to it. The Pacific ocean is unnerving.  He is desert, we are beach and ocean oriented family.

Waves bother him. We went to lunch on a wharf, the waves hitting the pilings underneath were bad.  The cars driving over the wood of the wharf was bad, Seafood everywhere – well he likes shrimp, but is allergic to the food.

So he asked to go home. Princess #2 is not an overly warm-blooded person, but loves the beach, rolled her eyes some. But, he is her boyfriend and she took him on the 300 mile journey back.  She thinks the Great Barrier Reef is cold water diving and did not swim much. She hung out on the boat. But..she was only ten years old at the time. (Princess #1? Pfft.. she would swim in the ocean if there was ice in close proximity, she goes in, never comes out.)

So now, we sit on the sofa, the clock ticking down to the end of this cool morning. Slightly overcast with the marine layer in (Another unnerving thing the boyfriend experienced. I likened it to the tides of the ocean, which was a mistake. :/  another reason he headed back to the dry and heat)

Ah well.

The home journey awaits. Back to a noisy, dusty, miserable place where sirens sound hourly – or more often – and is generally just a stressful place to be living.  I have two plants I need to replace, I forgot to bring them in out of the heat and they have been sitting without water for the last 96 hours. Rosemary is hardy, but not sure it can tolerate that. Basil? Well, dried basil is useful. As is rosemary.

And I promise, no black arrows into bottle rockets doing the final countdown.

A note from your writer. An Author’s Moment.

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Greetings and salivations:

 

Yeah, that’s no typo, but it got you to smile, I hope.  As of yesterday, the first edit of “Shock and Awe” came to a close. There is a third in the offing but it will be a couple months before I revisit it. The good police need to have their points of view told.

Plus, I started a romance in it, if anyone noticed.

Radio Check and his team will return in an expanded story, cleaned up and more intense. No technology was used in the story that does not exist. … Well… mostly.  I expanded on some things. heh.

In the next few days we pick up on another story. Perhaps dragons, perhaps cell phones.

A few other threads of stories.

I sit now and ponder my next moments. A French Pressed coffee and a new coffee cup that was a gift of father’s day.  A small model of “Red Jacket”, a clipper ship of the 19th century.

In a steampunk kind of twist, features of the ship will appear in the next story of the stolen children who returned home in the first book.  “Hellions” is in evolution.

In the last few days, we have had a minor heat wave, so in temperatures hot enough to make tar on the street soft? Honey the honey-colored dog goes out into the middle of the yard and naps in full sunlight.

“Recharging her solar power.” I laugh at her.

It makes for a desire to write her into the story. So keep an eye for the broad-headed dog that loves her humans, but with jaws strong enough to crack a coconut. (it took a few hours, but she got it. I lost that bet, after all, coconuts are HARD.)

Looking for some beta readers, we have multiple authors with some very awesome story types looking for an honest reveiw so that the story may achieve its grace and beauty that the author intends for it to be.

If you are interested in being a beta reader/critique officer, send me a private message on Google Plus and we’ll get you squared away and you too can be a part of something larger than large. 😀 Imagine being the JK Rowlings beta reader for the first book in her wizarding fantasy book. Kinda dorky, different from anything that came before, but interesting and constantly busy. How much would that raw, unpublished work be worth to your grandchildren and their grandchildren (assuming she let you keep it) as the beta manuscript before publishing?

I have a couple, over the years. As fate would have it? The unpublished words in a beta reader book are unsearchable in all of the internet. But I will keep the 1980’s version of the manuscript books for the sake of interest.

But I have drifted off point.  Giving ice-cubes to the overheated dogs after they ran in the back yard and barked, protecting their home from someone, so they now have ice-cube treats.  They love their ice cubes. (AND those treats are cheap.)

So questions for you writers:

When you are stuck, as someone has said “Blocked” what do you do when this happens? What do you do to break through?

In my case, walk away, roll around on the floor with a “Who pins who” match between Honey the Dog and myself, shoot some archery.

So far, a note to you, my followers and readers. Keep reading! I’ll keep writing.

For now, Live, laugh, love, let the adventures begin- again.

 

Dash

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 14. Soldier Park

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Chapter 14. Soldier Park

Soldier Park, renamed several times through the years, finally evolved into a large park for cities of this size. It was, in fact, the largest park in the city.

One mile in circumference, standing on one end, the community museum operated by the council of tribes that lived in the area. Three stories above ground and two stories underground the old museum remained the pride of the arts community since the previous century.

The crowning jewel was the central area of four ball diamonds they built with care and an eye for beauty and nature.

It was a beautiful park, great conifers that towered at the edges of the park mixed with ancient oak trees that seemed to tell stories by their very presence. The evenings were always peaceful with the ancient guardians of the park.

This evening was no different in the early autumn. In the beauty and space that families would come and play volleyball, touch-football and softball, a wide open area that begged for activity during the summer and weekends, a shadow floated down from above.

A barely audible whirring sound could be heard by anyone standing among the branches and trunks of the man-made forest just before Radio Check touched down with the dark parasail.

His landed with such gentle control, he did not even take a walking step.

From the trees, shadows emerged and moved quickly to new arrival and relieved him of his heavy burden. Four shadows on each corner of the package that held his equipment ran back to the road where a van waited and put the bag inside.

Another four shadows collected the wing and electric fan while Radio Check unhooked the harness.

In under a minute, they had packed up and vacated the area.

He opened the passenger door of the transporter and paused, Radio Check was the last person to take his foot off the ground. Looking around, he smiled. It was all according to plan.

Excellent.

Mission successful.  No deaths, a number of casualties and they would be cleaning polymer beads up for months. But the whole of the mission was perfect.  Hunting an assailant, they would think he ran from one end to the other, vandalizing things.

If in the event the IT department figured out that the computer system had been hacked, the controls and Trojan Horse programs the Radio Service would dynamically install back-doors into the network. The sub-system would record normal operations and display proper data if someone ran a check. Even the antenna on the roof allowed the remote users access through multiple layers of security with a sub-carrier frequency built.

Radio Service saw all that went on and with ultimate control, the next assault would be less noisy and destructive, but far more effective.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 13. Waiting Room

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Chapter 13. Waiting Room

Choking, face stinging, Leslie Murrie was still trying to catch her breath when the captain of the division walked up.

“Report.” Jevv Smith said in a no-nonsense tone. The eyes of the man glittered in the dark, reflecting the flashing lights of ambulance, fire and law enforcement light-bars.

“The unknown male just kicked our asses. The unsub has booby-trapped the waiting room. There were two grenades on the ceiling we didn’t know about. They are visible through the window now.”

“Why didn’t you see them before?” Captain Smith shook his head. “Do you need glasses?”

“Smoke, sir. The room was full of it.” She felt like a child called to the principal’s office. “Military grade and stun grenades like I have never seen. They kept going off.”

“Seriously? Maybe he tossed more in?”

No sir, definite multiple discharge from a single grenade.”

“Never heard of such a that.”

“Same here, until tonight.” She nodded. “But the casings are in there. There were two kinds of flashes I think, but all were effective.”

“Okay, Sergeant. Head over to the EMS stations and have them check you out, you look like you have chicken pox.” Captain Smith looked her  face over.

“Yes, sir.” She touched her face and winced.

“Officer Holmes.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Find him, I want his ass. Use your dogs.”

“Yes, sir.” Stephanie Holmes said and walked off to her team.

“Cry havoc!” She whispered as she walked with purpose to her mission, then into the microphone of her radio. “Let loose the dogs on this son of a…”  

Listening to the radio, Officers Archer, Easton and Martin brought the dogs to the front door of the lobby and made a quiet entry, the dogs noses sniffing out in every corner of the room for a scent that might help in tracking the unsub.

Bomb specialist Oscar “Os” Greene moved through the K-9 units, declaring  the room clear of explosives. His hand-sized remote-controlled camera, his spy on mini-wheels had discovered one more grenade set to roll out into the middle of the mens room when they made entry.  The unsub did not leave lethal weapons behind, but it was all a delay tactic.

Captain Smith got the report that the waiting room was clear, the teams were making entry into hallways and both directions in the stairwell.

“Report.” The voice of the Chief echoed in the mobile command center. “Where is Captain Smith?” 

“Sir, he will be right here, we called him to the command post.” The blond woman said. Chief Whiting recognized her from the department baseball team. “Crush” If he remembered, for how hard she hit the ball with a bat. 

Captain Smith walked up to the Chief and the two men exited the command post to sit inside the Chief’s car where Captain Smith apprised him of the situation.  Chief Whiting sat and nodded while Jevv described the three layers of protection, the distance they had pushed public and press back. 

“No one that we do not know can cross anywhere without being spotted. He is inside, even if he is hiding on the roof, we will have a helicopter with a mini-sun in a few minutes. There is no way out.”

“Good job, Jevv.” The Chief nodded. “Do we have it narrowed down where he is?”

“Reports of shooting in dispatch, we have three teams, one team each heading down the two elevators, one team making entry from the stairwell. He has nowhere to go. We will get him.”

But despite the best efforts and the arrival of the helicopter overhead, the mountain man with the flintlock was never found. The only evidence he left of his entry was a bar code from a cereal box and tatters of paper from a string of firecrackers he dropped as a diversion during the smoke screen.

No other damage was obvious. The only damage to the building was the massive twin lead slugs that broke the bulletproof barrier and the officer shot by one of their own.

In the days that followed during the investigation, they discovered the hardcopy records destroyed in the most secure area of the department. 

The man was a ghost. The HR Department reproduced new records from the mainframe, no other damage could be discovered.  It was curious way the paper products in the cabinet of Human Resources had become dust over a weekend. 

Lucky they had a computer system to fall back on. 

Lucky, indeed.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 11. Double Padlock Security

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Chapter 11. Double Padlock Security

In the ceiling over Human Resources, Radio Check opened the vent slowly, the old hardware that held it in place had long broken by some service before he arrived. Once he had it opened, it stayed in place, then he used his cap once again for its lifting power.

He looked around before he stepped on the floor of the office of Human Resources, police personnel files were kept in a cabinet in hard copy format. Fingerprints, backgrounds, ID photos.

Everything.

Everything about a man or woman who worked in the county the HR Department backed up the computer files old-school style.

Under lock and key they existed, with the watchful organization of the obsessive compulsive director of personnel, she was confident in the system she ran. She never trusted the computer system.

Two hasps on a fireproof file cabinet. Each padlock secured with a combination padlock. Different combinations. No one person had access to the sensitive files, she had full confidence in that locked system.

Never slowed down by such things. In the back of each lock was a key access in the event someone forgot the combination.

He had both sides open faster than it would have taken the secretary to dial in the combination on one lock.

Rolling the top drawer open, he flipped through the folders, pulling back on the tabs to read names and ranks.

Each and every paper file on acid free paper, he flipped through them all. Secretary, detective, chief of police, patrol officer.

The files were all here. Two-hundred separate paper documents of combined sheriff, EMS, Fire Department and police. This office served them all, being the county seat and offices that they consolidated several years before.  The government centralized and condensed files, every officer, firefighter, paramedic and EMT, undercover, vice, homicide, mayor, secretaries, all from the lowliest janitor to the leaders on the top floor.

Right to this room.

From his backpack, Radio Check pulled out a thermos sized container with a “D” shaped handle on top. With measured movements, he twisted the handle and pumped it four times. Flipping the front of the sprayer down to expose the tip, adjusted it for a medium spray and dampened all the paper in the top drawer.

He repeated the same procedure in each drawer, he moved to the dozen cabinets in turn, in twelve hours, all the paper would crumble into dust. Closing and locking the files as he finished with each drawer. The entire time he checked his timer –  Only five minutes passed.

It had been thirty-five minutes since he pulled the triggers on his rifle and, by now, they had discovered he was not in the basement levels. That the officers would think they had driven him out and he somehow got up the stairs without being noticed. They would be looking to alternative exits.

It may have occurred to one of them that the elevator car had a service hatch. The police investigate that thought and if they did so on the basement floor, they would notice that the air return vent would be curiously clean.

It was time to move.

He hooked the toe of his shoe into cap that hung from the cable, he pressed the button for the winch to lift him. The sound was lower pitch, the powerful electric motor was slowing down. The batteries were nearly depleted, but this was its last time it would be needed.

Pulling up into the round vent, he reached down and pulled the ancient vent cover back into place.

And it would not stay! Radio Check swore for the first time in the mission. It kept swinging down, until he figured out that the trick to twist slightly and wedge it in place with a folded bit of newspaper from 1974 of an editorial giving opinions of Nixon’s resignation. 

Shaking his head, the irony of it all. An editorial about a crook in the government covering the traces of an intruder on a mission to expose crooks in the government.

It struck him as funny in one of those odd, ironic ways.

Shock and Awe Chapter 10. Uplifting Experience

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Chapter 10. Uplifting Experience

Radio Check nearly dropped the vent in the room of the mainframe, stopping the swing of the metal by the tips of his fingers and pulled it shut just as he saw the officer walk by the window. Her shadow stopped and he knew she was coming back to look.

She saw it.

*Damn. Maybe she didn’t know what she saw.*  It was more of a prayer than plan. This annoyed him, so far, everything went to plan, except for a loose hinge.

He crawled back to the service hatch at the elevator shaft, as he opened the man-sized grate, he could hear the verbal commands that squad leaders were given to the men while they were holding the elevator door. They still did not know where he was, this was in the plus column for the mission. One officer, wounded in the crossfire when he dropped the firecrackers as a distraction, this went in the minus column. Getting officers hurt was not according to plan, most uniforms were honest and honorable. They were not his targets.

*Stinger grenades not counting.* The thought moved through his mind as he moved over to the positive pressure side of the system and opened the hatch. The inflated fabric balloon had done its job and now was time to retire it.

Pulling a boot-knife, he sliced the material and stuffed it in his backpack, restoring the airflow to the lower levels and data center to prevent overheated electronics, possibly causing a reloading of the operating system.

Closing the service hatch, he slipped back into the air return and made his way to the elevator shaft, fully opening the service entrance, he listened again.  The elevator was empty, someone held the door open, talking with another. Stepping gingerly on the steel supports that anchored the box of the elevator car. He squatted down and became part of the machine.

“C’mon, Russ. You are doing okay, just in the car.”

He could hear the woman’s voice clearly.

“I’m so sorry I shot you. Really.”

Friends? Partners? It made him smile. Either way, if the shot officer was a good enough man, they would become closer friends.

Radio Service laughed inwardly, the only outside appearance of his humor was a smile nearly hidden under his long beard. He was a cupid in a twisted sense of the phrase.

The difficult part now accomplished. The mission plan held an option if he chose and had the time, he could stop at basement level-1 and create even greater havoc for the police, but he had nothing against the good officers of the SWAT team. The elevator slowed and came to a stop on the main floor. More swat team stepped into the lift. Listening to them talk, they knew he was no longer in the bathroom.

Yeah, time to leave. Operating in the heart of their operation now was a game of chance. Thus far, there was nothing left to chance. Other than the officer shot by his partner, all went according to plan. The Swat level was only an option if time and events looked positive. He was disinclined to damage anything there anyway.  The special loads for the firearms will wait for another day.

Stepping off the elevator car as it began its descent to the dispatch level, he hung on to the service ladder in the shaft.

Four floors of a ladder climb ahead of him.

Well, three and a half, he would enter into the return vent on the top floor and access the human resources office.

Second floor, detectives level. He should try to figure out something to do there. But— it was not in the plans, the team already had control of computer files, so he kept climbing.

Third floor. An option to enter, Commanders, Vice-chief’s office general admin. Nearly all of it on computer. Access was already granted. He would spend far more time looking for tiny bits of information that did not pay them back in benefits.

Cost versus benefit at this point. The cost was too much time versus the risk of capture.

Fourth floor. Chief of Police, Fire Chief, Doctor General of EMS.  Files that were still on paper. Physical access to the stand-alone system that belonged only to the administration and the round table of officers of their particular departments.

White lithium grease on hinges, a careful opening of the vent covering, he stepped back into the world of steel tunnels. This one was smaller by about a third. He could not sit straight up, but he could recline comfortably if he chose to.

A first look. A secretary type office. File cabinets, locked with a simple combination padlock, the type that had a keyhole in back.

Worth a look. He tagged the inside of the plenum with a yellow flashing LED light and moved on.

Sliding his thin camera down the vent, he looked at another office. The Chief of Police worked here. A massive desk, sumptuous decor. Pictures on the wall. Books everywhere. A long table on the far side of the room. But a dead-end.

He looked another few meters down. There was another corner. He looked at the Chief’s office again. Nope. There was no room or vestibule to call for a vent.

He army-crawled to the corner and then to the downward bend, he slipped his snake-eye through the vent. There, a computer. He could see network cables leading along the floor under the desk. But it was not a city issued piece of hardware.

He pondered a moment, this was a top-of-the-line recent computer. This was the Chief’s personal computer.

Excellent!

Twisting the camera around, there were small fabric-covered speaker cabinets at four points at the ceiling where the wall met the ceiling.

No, not speakers.

Video cameras.

*Oh, quite sly, Chief, quite sly.* Radio Check smiled without humor.

Pulling out his tablet, he opened up a sniffer program and let it run for a few minutes. He was ahead on the timetable so he could spare the minutes.

Before the uniforms began a floor by floor sweep, he would still be gone and they would have layers of cordons around the block to look for him.

This group never just sealed a block. They sealed a block three times normally. One might slip through a single line of cops, but the Croix Bay police? It was a minimum of three levels. They had their fair share of fugitives running from other law enforcement. No-one slipped past them, they always got their man. CBPD officers were well-trained, motivated and intelligent, bordering on brilliant.

Well, except for tonight. Around the building they would have all the available patrols. This is right where he wanted them. Running around in the basement, playing war with shadows while he was in the Chief’s personal entertainment system.

Maybe. He was watching the sniffer.

There! A spike in broadcast. A handshake. Data transmitted back and forth.

He sent a corrupted packet, knocking the wifi connection off. The item logging into the computer would fail and need to retry.

And it did. Two times, three times. He used a machines patience against itself.

Then he had a break. The complete log in sequence from the cameras. While the camera cycled for yet another attempt to log into the computer, he logged in using the camera’s MAC and identifier.

Although he was in the air duct, he now had control of the computer as if he was sitting at the keyboard.

Intercepting the camera signal, he successfully logged it into his tablet and download the images it had stored. One picture per minute. High resolution. Radio Check nodded, not an unreasonable setup, except for the outdated operating system. A bit of poking around, he found the password file.

The password file was not even encrypted. He downloaded it and sent it on to the radio service, packed up and crawled back to the HR office. Scanning around, a motion sensor was on the wall covering the room.

“Radio service radio check, hardware check.”

“Go ahead. You are on Vee-Oh-Eye-Pee with an IP address.”

“Sending you images. Do you have this under control?”

“Radio check. Copy sensor, it routes through to dispatch. Outer Limits. You are clear.”

It was the most talkative that radio service had been in a long time. Radio Service often said he hated the sound of his own voice, proving it often being terse over the open air, but this was downright talkative for the remote operator.

He would have to tell Radio Service that he nearly talked Radio Check’s ear off in these few seconds.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 9. Dispatch’s Point of View

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9. Dispatch’s Point of View

The entire communications center for police, fire and Emergency Medical Services, hidden in the second sub-basement with the consideration that the data center and dispatch were the eyes and ears of all units in the county. 

A modern, if overcrowded, electronic base of operations, eight stations, adjustable level monitors or keyboards for comfort. A dispatcher could stand or sit as he or she wish and use back saver seats that kept pressure points off of the back.

All in all the stations were ergonomic with colored displays that indicated on a map where each unit was and their status.

Red for committed to a call. Green for available, yellow, blue, white with red lettering all with various needs for out-of-service units.

Fire and ambulance shown on other maps with a supervisor with an overview option of all units. This made for busy screens, the supervisor alone had four screens available with touch screen overlays as needed.

For that early evening, it was a normal day, running warrant checks on simple traffic stops (A standard procedure). Taking complaints of dogs barking. One rancher in the midst of transporting his horses and cut a corner too tight and damaged a fence that separated the two lands.

Distorted radio traffic squawked over a channel into a headset plugged into a USB port caused pain the dispatcher, making he wince.

Carol ‟The Crush” Swenson, the designated batter and home run queen for the departments baseball team stood up and motioned over to supervisor.

‟Mike, can you come here please? I can’t make ou…oooww!” She ripped her headset out of her ear and unplugged it from the console. Hitting a button and playing it in loudspeaker.

‟…shot! We have doors locked in the foyer. We need backup now! Goddammit now!”

‟Where is that?”

‟That is Adkins on the first floor.”

‟Code-33.” Mike nodded.

‟Activate SWAT, tell them we have a shooter in the waiting room of the first floor.” He said pointing to Carol.

Plugging his headset into the USB port at his station, he hit emergency tones over the dispatch channel.

‟All units, code thirty-three is in effect. Emergency traffic only. All units code three-three. Active shooting in progress at zero main street lobby.”

Carol made motions with her hands, sign language between the dispatchers, an excellent group that had worked together and had their own  through several disasters over the years.

‟All units, emergency traffic. Shooting in progress at zero main street, police lobby. The lobby is locked down, backup needed from all available units. Fire and EMS are staging at six blocks away at Center and Main. All units respond on channel-two, channel one is emergency traffic only.”

The other dispatchers tapped in their patrol unit’s numbers on their CAD systems and dispatched every single unit were not already priority-assigned elsewhere. Only the priority calls were kept active.

Sheriff deputies. Six from the north county, four from the south. ETA given at twenty minutes and twenty-five minutes respectively, the units pushed the limits of safety at such speeds.

Police units from the seventy-five thousand population seaside city had ETA of two to fifteen minutes.

‟Mike, Fire and EMS is en route to the staging area.”

Concussions echoed through the ventilation system, huge booms rattled the building.

‟Crap. All extra staff out. Gwen, get your rifle.” Mike checked his sidearm and put on the holster that he kept in his drawer and shook his head, a quarter-century in dispatch, he never had the thought that the police headquarters would be a target for an attack.

The watch commander’s voice came up on the radio, she called for EMS to respond as she had officers down. Suzanne Irby’s eyes were wide, the little English woman was on the edge of panic. Only her fourth month on the job, she had not unprepared for this.  None of them were.

Officer Gwen Davies walked in with an automatic rifle and placed it next to her desk. She took a place behind monitors that watched the hallways. No one could walk down the passage without her seeing them. Ex-military, she would give them her own version of hell with her rifle.

Sitting at the north end of the dispatch room. She had, at one time when the architect designed it, an unfettered view of the doors.

In the years since, walls went up with monitors mounted to code requirements, the idea that no one would possibly ever penetrate to the heart of the police department had let the need for more equipment and displays create blind spots.

Without dispatchers handling all the phones, maps, different agencies and the computer indicated alarms that came in the emergency systems, the police units would be lost. Over the years, big screen monitors and maps, needed graphical displays installed in strategic areas so they could be seen, also created blind areas in the large room.

Considered as one of the most protected areas of the department, no access by the public, no chance for the security could be compromised.

Nobody could penetrate this far.

Angel of Death and the Scandal in Sandals

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“Angel of Death and the Scandal in Sandals”

Finis a muscular, broad-shouldered type that bore a strong resemblance Santa Claus with his white hair and beard. Today, he enjoyment the shade this public park.

He was often referred to by his work name -Death, and today he chose to take the afternoon off, relaxing in the shade of the trees, he listened to children playing in the sandbox — a good sound, full of life and a balm to his soul.

He closed his eyes and inhaled the blessed perfumes of pine, elm and grass when a jewish carpenter tapped him on the shoulder and offered white-haired occupant of the bench a cup of wine from his bottle of “Never Empty” brand of Merlot.

“You know drinking in public is against the law.” He said to the smiling rabbi as he tipped the bottle to the wine glass.

“Are you going to complain, or drink?” As he handed the wine to Finis.

“You are a bad influence on me.” Finis said, laughing. “I don’t take time off and drinking wine is a scandal in the park.”

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

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

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

It was depressing.

So the sharing of wine with the scandal in sandals was always enjoyable. Finis tore a sourdough baguette in two and handed one-half to the long-haired friend and good-natured rival.

They were talking peacefully when a drug dealer and his entourage walk into the park and caused a change in the mood of the playground. Mothers gathered their children and ran from the area in abject fear, ending the joyous sound of children’s laugh and play.

The absence of sound drew the two gentlemen’s attention while they sat on the bench and began to frown as they discussed the change in the air. One white-haired man with a graceful, silver-handled cane, another who wore a peasant shirt, threadbare but clean dungaree shorts and sandals. They continued to shared wine and bread while the park’s atmosphere altered from one of family to one of the business of crime.

It seemed colder and more unwelcome than before when the five-year-old girl raced ahead of her mom to climb and take her turn at the slide.

“This is our park, you need to pay to stay.” The tattoo of tears on the face of the bald leader in contrast to the sparkling anger of his eyes. The two benchwarmers looked first at each other, then the white haired one with the cane looked back at him with a slight smile. 

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

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

“Roberto, I don’t get to see you for another three-years, seven-months and twelve days.” White-hair said in a matter-of-fact tone, as if he read it out of a book.

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

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

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

Fear burned at the soul of the human as the Angel of Death invaded his mind with images that changed his life.

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

In the following minutes, the three men, a white-haired Santa Claus and a jewish carpenter sat and talked of everything they could think of with the shaven and tattoo covered leader and dealer of drugs.

Roberto, the gangster known as “The Bull”, discovered a change in his life, he had met death that day and found Jesus.

Roberto “The Bull” Roman was lucky, indeed.

Death was on holiday.

Shock and Awe Chapter 8. Nerve Center

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Chapter 8. Nerve Center

Stepping out of the air-return shaft, he pressed a button in his pocket, the remote control was little more than a car door remote that sent a signal to the receiver in the fresh air duct above the ceiling.

With the patience of electronics, the signal activated a circuit that inflated the folded balloon, that obstructed the duct and blocked all fresh air from being delivered to the lower floors, becoming an effective cork.

Radio Check gently rolled two smoke canisters to each end of the hallway and pressed the button on a spray can, deploying a vapor that smelled like melting plastic and stood in the expanding cloud of thick smoke, pressing his back to a wall.

A dispatcher that was questioning the radio traffic, was turning to her supervisor to say there was something wrong when she saw smoke and smelled wires burning.

“Fire!”

As one, the dispatchers all stood up and made for the smoke-filled hallway.

Suddenly blocked by a man in a mask and leather jacket.

“No fire, just attention-getter. Please, everyone lay down.”

In the far end where Officer Davies sat, she brought out an AR-15 that out on the first alarm of an attack.

The intruder lobbed three stinger grenades into the dispatch center, one detonated  in mid-air, causing Officer Davies to duck and take stock that she was in pain, but still alive.

She could not see, and was too late to stop Radio Check who had plugged into a USB port with his equipment and pressed a button, recognized and allowed the tablet computer administrative access. Data transferred through the now-allowed hardware and rebooted the entire dispatch system.

Officer Davies, decided the grenades did not injure her permanently, picked up her rifle and took up a position behind her desk and attempted get an aim on the intruder through the smoke. But there were too many obstacles, the air was too murky to shoot at a shape with people sitting up when the monitors went dark.

Someone yelled “RUN!” and twenty people scrambled for the stairwell.

Officer Gwen Davies grabbed the phone and tried to call the watch commander’s cell phone.

“Hello.”

“Lieutenant! He is down here in dispatch!”

“Shit! On our way.” The masculine voice broke the connection. Gwen looked at the phone for a moment, she thought Leslie Murrie was on duty.

Her radio on her hip buzzed on a person-to-person frequency. “…Davies.”

“Go ahead for Davies.”

“It’s Russ, I’m coming your way to back you up, this place is on fire,”

“No, we the subject is here! He’s smoke-bombed us.” She said quietly. “He is here in dispatch.”

“Enroute. I have contact with the watch commander, I’ll tell her.”

“Who is on tonight?”

“Leslie Murrie. Why?”

“There was a male voice that answered the watch commanders phone.”

“Could have been one of the other guys. Shit is going bad up there. We have officers down.”

“Okay, get here as soon as possible, I’m pinned down and he has explosives.” She looked again. “I can’t see because of the smoke, and I think he is moving so I can’t get a clear shot.”

“Copy, I’m at the end of the hall. He has to come past me or you to leave the floor. I can’t see shit with all this smoke, why is this floor not venting?”

Pops of gunfire sounded.

“He’s shooting! Small caliber!”

Gwen dove through the door, flashes of his weapon illuminated the smoke. She aimed about leg high and laid grazing fire down the hallway.

A scream from the smoke.
Boo-Ya! She bagged a bad guy! This gave Gwen a savage pleasure.

I’m hit!”

Shit! She knew that voice, she was just listening to it on her phone.

It was Russ!

Gwen got to her feet and moved from side to side of the hallway. The heavy smoke was acrid in her nose, it was military spec smoke. She knew the smell intimately from her time in the service and the smoke grenades are easy to get from the internet. She passed by the data center and tried the door.

Locked. It was always locked. The window was intact and it was clear inside.

As she stepped away, a movement caught her eye as she passed the window. She stepped back and looked again. Staring and tried the door once more.

Locked, positively locked. She looked up and down the door, nothing wrong with the door, no tamper marks, but, on the floor, something odd.

A bit of cardboard with bar codes on it. She left it alone, dropping a folded notepaper over it in the shape of a tent.

A few more steps in the smoke, the smell of burning plastic still faint in the thick haze, she saw paper bits on the floor with a few small paper cylinders that had not burst.

Firecrackers.

The asshole faked shooting and she shot Russ in the confusion and .

Russ was on the ground, blood had sprayed on the wall directly behind him. The bullet had grazed his calf, giving him a groove in his muscle the size of her index finger to fit in.

“You will be fine, it is just a flesh wound.”

“Oh yeah, they say that, but they never said that it hurts like a bitch!” Russ said, rocking back and forth, holding his leg up. “Damned thing throbs!”

“Russ!” She yelled at him by accident, surprising herself. “Did he come this way?”

“What?” The question distracted him from his pain for a moment. “No. I saw a shadow in the smoke, then he started shooting, but no one came this way.”

“He had to go back into dispatch and he is in there somehow.”

The elevator door opened and eight black-clad SWAT officers stepped out, seeing the bleeding brother on the floor, the leader motioned to one of the heavily armed officers who stooped next to him and applied a pressure dressing. It was a SWAT medic.

“You got him?” The masked swat officer asked Gwen, then pointed to the elevator. “Take him out of here.”

“Yeah.” And she pulled Russ towards the open elevator.

She smiled grimly, bad guy screwed the pooch now. His life was about to become harsh beyond any nightmare he may have ever had.

SWAT – the best of their best, pissed off and heavily armed.

Gwen would pay good money to see this bastard get taken down by the team of extreme trained professionals. She would have to fight the urge to kick the unsub in the testes when they led him out in cuffs.

If they let him live.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 7. FSCK

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(Note: FSCK= File System ChecK)

Chapter 7. FSCK

He crawled through the large-diameter air shaft to find the data center, the mainframe computer needed tons of chilled air, ventilation for such a system was large and fed the massive amount of air into the heat-producing rows of circuits and drives to the isolated room.

It was easier to find in real-life than on the blueprints.

Turning his back to the blinking light that indicated the vent for dispatch, Radio Check nodded at the position of the computer center. The information tech department chose to place the data and internet nerve center directly across from the demands of its internet access, the computer-aided dispatch and radio systems. Residing behind two-sets of locked doors,  blueprints failed to show the contents of the room.

Using the small fiber-optic camera, he could only see a series of rate of rise heat detectors, two smoke detectors but no video camera. Nodding, he backed the fiber-optic cable out, placing a yellow flashing light on the inside of the air-return chamber. Unseen from the outside, they served only show the correct vent for him.

Pushing on the spring-loaded vent cover, it swung down and stopped on friction-braked hinges without a noise. Carefully, he positioned the big musket across the hole and pulled a hook from the winch disguised as a cap made from a furry animal and hooked it to the trigger-guard of the firearm.

He double checked the tablet computer he pulled from in his pocket and checked the universal USB-cable adapter. He lowered himself with his foot in the cap to control his descent to the floor, and looked around before flipping his leather mask up for better vision and, as observed by the little flex-camera he used, no video cameras were in the small room.

With a skilled eye, he followed a cable that fed from the ceiling to the back of a cabinet where he pressed an old style, round RCA adapter into a port in the back of the console and pressed a button on his headset, he smiled at the sound of a radio working perfectly.

“Radio service, radio check.”

“Five by five, outer limits.”

This tickled his sense of humor, ”Outer Limits” referred to an old tv show that started with a famous line to those who were fans.

“We are controlling transmission.”

The smiling fan of Outer Limits knelt down and plugged in his small data cable to a USB port on the tablet and the opposite end into the console. After a moment an icon turned green in the upper right corner of his display and indicated that he had gained access to a low-level, unprotected file and with a single command “FSCK” caused a reboot of the core system.

Thirty seconds later, the system reboot was complete, with him in control. Using VOIP he connected to another computer that was now logged into a wi-fi signal identified as “Sheriff Backbone WIFI”. The tablet spoofed the MAC address of a local squad car that the team sniffed out when it drove by a city park one evening on mundane duties.

“Voice check main core.”

“Copy five by five. Outer limits. We are in control of your set.”

“Dispatch please.”

“Engaged, system logs will self-destruct in five-minutes.” The clipped, professional voice answered. “All conversation now will be over intranet in-house. We have control of all video and radio transmission. Radio Check, you are the invisible man.”

Radio Check unplugged from the mainframe, he calmly walked over to the door and slowly opened it, blocking the lock with a UPC bar code from a box of Cap’n Crunch cereal purchased at a mom and pop shop that never installed video cameras, with cash, the year before. Then with care, he looked out.

Doors were open and the sounds were of emergency traffic. They were all focused on the barricaded person in the main floor men’s room.

Excellent.

Shock and Awe Chapter 6. Chief Whiting

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Chapter 6. Chief Whiting

The first of the units closest to the police department came down the main street with lights and sirens on, blowing through the red light in a large intersection, traveling over eighty miles-per-hour.

The patrol car broadside hit the back-end of a delivery truck as it crossed with its green light and spun the panel truck off the street where it crashed backwards into the oldest eatery in downtown, the “Mongolian BBQ” restaurant, overturning as it came to a rest and spilled the delivery destined for “Shannon’s Vip Lounge and Bar”— fifty-cases of scotch, vodka, rum and tequila.

Employees of the restaurant used every one of the  fire extinguisher they could to prevent the spread of fire on the ethanol that spread over the floor and filled the old building with flammable vapor, even with the fixed extinguishers over the deep fryers in the kitchens that a panicked busboy triggered.

In the street, the patrol car careened across the sidewalk and into a glass wall of a Lawman’s Bank. Lawman’s was the first bank in town, founded by the first town sheriff for his deputies.

Chief of police Steven Whiting, heard the dispatch report that an accident involving a police unit occurred.

Swearing and beating on the steering wheel, he mashed down on the throttle redoubled his efforts to force his way through traffic. The lanes, packed with people heading to the coast for pleasure and the family breadwinners as they headed home from their jobs.

He pressed harder on the throttle of the hemi-engined SUV that served as his command vehicle. The powerful engine responded and surged forward while he guided the emergency command vehicle down the middle of the highway in the turning lane.

*THUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMP*

“Dammit!” The vibration came through his steering wheel as he pulled over to the right of the road, forcing people to move around him. He found the shoulder of the highway and cut his lights. Not sure what the problem could be, he took his hand-held mini-sun (”At full power guaranteed second only to a laser”) and looked at his tires.

There! On the left rear tire in the middle of the tread, a metallic hex-head of a bolt. Debris in the turning lane punctured through the tire and took him out of the race to headquarters.

Returning to the driver door, he opened it and grabbed the radio, cursing the earth, the miners of iron, smelters of steel and bolt-makers in general, he called to get roadside assistance and get any close units to pick him up.

Spinning the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) laptop around so he could see it, X-Adam-2 was behind him and headed the same route to the scene. A swat prepped car, it carried basic swat equipment in it with two trained officers. Designed to prevent the spread of a situation or back up Baker units until the arrival of more — if needed — equipment and personnel.

Swearing again. At least he would have someone left with the chief’s car until the road service came and replaced the tire.

More reports of multiple explosions inside the headquarters, a responding unit has been in a TC with a fire. The emergency beep on the radio sounded again. Once every twenty-seconds, a small tone beeped to let everyone know to keep the channel clear except for emergency traffic.

He read down the incident notes in the CAD display.

Administration channel was quiet and he asked for an update. The voice answered as if it could be quoting scores of a local ball game. 

“We have fire and EMS en route to the accident scene, fire and EMS going to the incident at the station. Captain Sams has taken over from Sargeant Murrie and has established a triple perimeter and a remote area for the media. Air cover is not available for at least a half-hour. They are en route, from an inland response and will need to refuel before they can lift-off en route to the incident at the foyer.”

“Copy. Have Xray-Adam-2 to stop and pick me up. My unit has a flat tire.”

“Affirmative.” A pause. “ETA two-minutes.”

The Adam unit was closer than it showed on the computer display.

“Copy, thank you.”

All he could do is stand and grind his teeth in fury.

Shock and Awe Chapter 5. Devil’s Descent

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Chapter 5. Devil’s Descent

Attaching his cap to an anchor— in this case the double-barreled flintlock laid across the vent— with the titanium hook hidden in the lining, Radio Check used cap as a foothold and lowered himself down on a thin cable and pressed the call button for the elevator.

Looking along the hallway while the built-in winch lifted him back up to the duct above the ceiling, he noted there was an air return vent about ten-paces back.

He smiled with humor this time. An air return might connect to the elevator shaft, this was a good development.

Elevator dinged and the doors opened to an empty lift. He positioned himself when he heard another boom echo down the air-vents. The concussion felt different, the shockwave he knew came from a police issue flash bang. They had tossed one of their grenades into the men’s toilet. They were close to finding they were breaching an empty room.

Odd.

He had not heard his stinger grenades go off. The police would evacuate then and stay clear the room after that event, until the swat swept the room for more booby-traps.

If they so much as nudged the chair that the stinger was hidden under with the little concealed ramp. It would fall and roll it into the middle of the room where it would burst with a thousand little low density polymer balls. Built like a super-powered airsoft toy weapon, this would hurt —  a lot — but it would not kill.

Lowering his backpack to the floor with the cord, Radio Check dropped down with the rifle in his hand. He never took his eyes off the doors at the end of the hallway when he picked up the backpack, stepped into the lift and pressed the “B-2” button.  He did not wait for the door to close on the elevator before he opened the service hatch in the ceiling with the barrel of his rifle and climbed up, using a parachute cord to pull his equipment up on top of the elevator car.

The elevator stopped as commanded at the second basement level where the dispatch center was. The temperature was much cooler on this level, the conditioned air directed into the data center by the ducts kept the computer room from overheating. He found the exhaust vent that opened to the elevator shaft easily, unclipped the spring-loaded catches on each corner and the vent that serviced the entire floor was open. Easily large enough to let him sit upright with his tools.

Service inspection panels every ten meters were large enough for a man to step through and he opened the first one and stepped out on the catwalk that ran between fresh air and the air return duct. Opening the fresh air access panel to the plenum inside, he pulled a folded object out of his backpack, peeled off a plastic outer layer and pressed the sticky side to the wall of the filtered, cool air stream and replaced the hatch. Stepping into the return-air duct, he closed the service hatch. And crawled along the large metal tube, looking into offices, now empty except for dispatch. Computer screens obstructed views like an electronic forest with people standing or sitting at consoles that raised or adjusted to their preference of sitting or standing.

CAD systems tracked patrol cars all around the city, including the Sheriff’s units. Combined command and control let him see every unit. Looking at the legends of colors, blue, green, yellow and red told him where each patrol car, swat vehicle, command vehicle and administrator was.

They were on their way to one spot.

A rumble echoed through the system made him smile, a sound he knew well.

The stinger grenades had gone off.

Placing a magnet-backed blinking green led on the inside of the plenum, he now had a marker on for dispatch, no need to look for it again.

Radio Check smiled, the operation was successful to this point as he accomplished the difficult part in misdirection. The officers attacking an empty room, now two floors above were intelligent and skilled. But only able to react to the information that Radio Check left for them.

He felt sorry for the honest cops involved with doing their jobs.

It was just the mission. 

Shock and Awe Chapter 4. Victim’s View

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Chapter 4. Victim’s View

Blinded by brilliant flashes, deafened by intense high and low-frequency sounds and concussions that emitted from the engineered sonic grenade, eight officers followed their watch commander with hands on each other’s backs as they staggered towards the door. The Sergeant calling for immediate backup and EMS over her radio.

“We have a multi-casualty event, I am declaring an MCI. We have ten officers needing help in the foyer of the police headquarters. We have a suspect barricaded inside and we are withdrawing outside the front door.”

Officer Mike U’Dare picked up the ram, following his team bumping the chair it leaned against as he did so.

Something rolled out and a lever popped off.

“OhFUCK! Grenade!”

The grenade burst, but it was different this time.

This time it was a stinger.

Pellets flew everywhere, a few striking two objects stuck into the acoustic tile in the ceiling.

Two more stinger grenades with stuck to the panels, and armed with hair-wires that waited for something to touch them.

Something like a pellet.

Two more explosions of the polymer-bead laden grenades overlapped each other.

The air became thick with noxious smoke and three-thousand randomly directed high-velocity pellets, leaving welts on the officers and clerks convinced, with screams of pain, that shrapnel was shredding them.

Sergeant Leslie Murrie’s left side of her face was on fire as if someone had slapped her, hard. Holding a hand to her face, it throbbed and felt like the skin was falling off.

“Backup! We need backup! We have bombs in the foyer and people down!” She tried to use a controlled, calm voice but it came out as a shriek as she staggered out the doors with the other entry team members as they choked and stumbled into the clear air.

She was the last one to leave, making sure the worst hurt of the clerks and officers that had stumbled or tripped during the fourteen explosions and something that just plain hurt.

“Backup’s responding code-3.” It was dispatch, speaking as calmly as if giving a weather report.”Mutual-aid Sheriff, swat and all patrol units en route to your location. Stand-by for ETA.”

“Disregard ETA update, just get them here.”

“Acknowledged.”

This annoyed Leslie that they were so calm, but then, they were three floors underground and isolated from this bad-guy that made a wreck of the foyer and her team.  

But, she was wrong about dispatch being isolated.

Extremely wrong.

Shock and Awe Chapter 3. Office Affair

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Chapter 3. Office Affair

The hinges on vent made a soft squeak when he pushed up into the old style HVAC duct, never engineered for constant air flow which worked in his favor allowing his equipment to fit, even the big flintlock. He climbed up and crawled through the space where there were no locks or doors towards the back of the building without the worry of being challenged. This allowed him to crawl to his first goal ahead of schedule.

Counting to the tenth vent, he quietly opened it.

No one was in the office, everyone was in the waiting room looking for him. With a smile, he dropped down into the watch commander’s office and sat in front of the computer, he plugged in a USB memory stick in the computer open port, then stretched outUSB data cord to his tablet computer and overrode the fragile operating system written by a small team in Washington State.

In thirty seconds his clock ran out, and he knew it was time to depart when the first of the impacts of the breaching ram hit the men’s room door and echoed down the air conditioning vents.

His lips tightened into a humorless smile. The police only had to get it open just enough for the trip-wire flash-bang grenade to pull loose and roll into the foyer where the entry team gathered. Two more grenades would go off. One more flash-bang and a stinger grenade, it would be an exciting evening for the local law enforcement of Croix Bay.

Back up he climbed. The furry hat with its little winch hidden inside did its job well as it assisted him to climb back up into the plenum chamber of the A/C system of the main floor of the police department.

A series of booms echoed along the airshaft, the police had succeeded in forcing the armored door of the men’s room, designed to act as a panic room, with their battering ram. They had a shock when the booby-trapped door rolled out a multi-bang stun grenade. He tucked an earplug in his opposite ear to protect on the next series of bangs that he knew were coming and continued to crawl along the tube that was not listed. It ran along the path of the smaller plenum chamber that was in the blueprints. This was good fortune, but worried him, if there were no records of engineered air treatment systems, he could be compromised and need to change the plan.

Turning the corner, he peeked down a vent, hanging half down the hole and saw that he was right in front of the elevator, behind a camera that looked down the hallway in the opposite direction, just as shown in the plans.

Excellent.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 2. The Assault Begins

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Chapter 2. The Assault Begins

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

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

It was time to begin.

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

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

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

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

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

“But… Please, duck.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fuck it, use the ram.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And again! The whistling sound it produced was painful.

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

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

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

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

“Throw one in!” Leslie yelled.

“WHAT?” The SWAT team member yelled.

“I will throw in now.”

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

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

He missed.

“FUCK! GRENADE!”

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

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

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

Shock and Awe (re-write) Chapter 1. Radio Check

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Shock And Awe

Chapter 1. Radio Check

 The night came early this time of year and was as any night in the busy, growing city. Located in the hills above the Pacific Coast of the American western states, it was a crossroads from the coast to those going to play in the mountains or returning to go back to school or the mundane misery of work.

All but one person. He walked down the street, a curious looking fellow, dressed in an over-sized leather jacket, rawhide pants and a calico print shirt. On his back, an archaic backpack of recent construction. Every tied knot perfect, each pocket stuffed full. On the left side he had tied frying pans and the right was a canteen that was as equally ancient looking.

He wore a cap made of some fur-bearing animal with a tail that hung down the back of his head. Dense black fur kept his head covered and from it hung a leather eye-covering mask with tiny holes. A defense against snow-blindness when it was necessary. Tonight was cold, but no snow had fallen yet in the year, it was still early in the season. Not even the holiday shoppers had even begun to shop in earnest.

Still, he was a man out of time. Maybe not a serious turn of the eye for most folks at night— it was not out of the question for the odd wanderer to travel through by way of train that ran through the town of seventy-five thousand souls.

In his hands, however, he carried a long weapon. As ancient as the clothing he wore, as if he dressed for Halloween early, or a mountain man convention. The flintlock was, by outward appearances, perfect in every way to the cursory inspection.

However, this old style weapon was different. Double-barreled, twin flint locks and double-set triggers with a select lever. He could choose between either one or both barrels. In the day this would be a heavy artillery item in combat.

Today, it was little different. The mountain man walked in to the shadow of a parking structure, standing across from the police headquarters and ate a cube of chocolate from a leather pouch.

Police main station, a tribute to mid to late 1960’s construction. Regular remodeling to the building over the years extended its useful life. Every permit, every plan drawn up part of public record if one knew where to look.

The mountain man had looked, along with his team, at all the blueprints, every one.

“Radio check.” He spoke quietly, his long, scraggly beard hiding the microphone at his throat. The earphone hidden by his cap.

“Five by five.”

It was only to let them know he was ready. In the sky, he watched a dark shape float by, listening hard, he could just hear a faint whirring sound, then a parachute-slowed payload dropped quietly on the roof of the police structure.

“Parcel delivered.” The earphone buzzed quietly in his ear.

The assault had begun.

 

Valley of Fear Chapter 4. Bones

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Chapter 4. Bones

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

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

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

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

“What is that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picking up some broken bones, he began to explain.

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

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

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

He took a long sniff of his iced drink.

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

Taking another drink, he took a breath.

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

They looked at him, listening.

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

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

“The monster has escaped.”

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

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

He stood up and walked over to the diorama.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where would this be buried?”

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

The students looked at each other.

“Iron meteorite.” Andre said.

“I agree.” Professor Ng said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valley of Fear Chapter 3. A Meeting

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Chapter 3. A Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard pulled his ear and laughed.

“In any event, when your experiment comes to an end, he invited you to follow me up the hill to the next valley, where my family lives.”

“How did your grandfather know we were here?” The Professor asked.

“I don’t know, I know that when he says something like that, I do it straight away. He asked me to bring you to the house, so, please, accept the invitation.” Richard nodded. “Grampa does not invite people in general. Outside people especially, but he wants to talk to you.”

“Another fifteen minutes, we have three quad-copters out in the valley, scanning the area for wildlife.” Gil said as he worked the controls, watching the video display on his laptop.

“I don’t think you will find any animals in the area, there is something, that Grampa says, has not happened since the old times.” Richard told the Professor.

“What does that mean?” Professor Ng asked.

“I don’t know, just when Grampa says something, it is just best to do it.” Richard nodded.

“Professor, infrared is not picking up anything along the river, there are normally at least some fresh scat or other animal waste that I can pick up, even during the day, but nothing.” Reedah growled at the display, flipping between screen resolutions. “White-hot, black-hot. There are no hot points where elk, deer or a bear have taken a dump.”

“Well, bring it back. Gil, you too.” The Professor instructed the doctor-in-training Gil.

“I am closing in on something odd. It looks like fire damage on a mountainside. It’s all blackened.” Andre interrupted the discussions.

“I’m zooming in on the area. It looks like polished rock.” Andre reported as the quad-copter sailed over the treetops at a thousand-foot altitude. “I can get to it in a couple of minutes.”

“Professor, I don’t want to pressure you, but Grampa is waiting.” Richard looked at his watch.

“Andre, please recover your toy, more important things are requiring our attention, we can return tomorrow.”

“Yes, professor.” Andre sounded crestfallen, he was enjoying the images and the virtual tour of the valley with his hands at the controls. Pressing two buttons, he locked the camera on the glass-like surface of what the GPS listed as Misty Mountain before returning.

The camera recorded, even though Andre missed on his screen, movement along the ground. Recorded on the removable memory in UHD (Ultra High Definition), Andre would not see what he captured for two-weeks as he studied each previous frame with meticulous detail.

The three students brought the survey equipment back to the cars, following GPS planned routes and landed them on the pavement.

“That was the damnedest thing to see.” Richard laughed. “So you kids pay a hundred-kilobucks a year to the INUTS University and you get to fly these toys?”

“A hundred-what?” Gil asked.

“Hundred-thousand dollars.” Richard defined the term.

They strapped the remote-controlled vehicles down to the top of their utility vehicle and clambered inside.

“Professor, do you think it’s safe to follow someone we don’t know?” Reedah asked. “We could go in there and we could be lost.”

Professor Ng smiled.

“I know him, seen him around with the police. He’s a detective. Sargent, I think.” The Professor nodded.

“Then why did he introduce himself?” Gil asked.

“I don’t know him personally, Mr. Van Zant, I know who he is from his lectures on security and previous investigations he has performed in the area.” The Professor tone was as a father explaining to a child missing a point.

“Besides, I think I know who Grampa might be. He used to work as a professor at the university until he retired five years ago.” The salt-and-pepper head of hair nodded.

“He would be Doctor Clark Johnson, unless I miss my guess.” The Professor looked around. “He is the local expert on pre-Columbian history.”

They drove up the highway and pulled up to large wrought-iron gates that opened when Richard pressed his remote control, pulling over immediately inside the gates to make sure the following students and their leader made it through. Nodding at the driving Professor.

Waving at them, Richard pressed on the throttle and pulled out in front of them again.

The small convoy pulled into a parking area of a two-story office building,  built as if it were part of the earth itself, buried half-into the hillside and a sod-roof, LED lighting and quadruple glazed windows, solar panels hidden on the tops of the outbuildings, the compound of offices used less energy than most single-family dwellings.

Completely owned and operated under the control of the Kootenay Tribe, standing in the main door, only slightly shorter than Richard, but powerfully built.

“Professor Ng?” He walked up to the Asian instructor, smiling and held out an open hand to shake. “I’m Doctor Clark Johnson.”

Smart Bomb Chapter 19. Walks Among Us

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Chapter 19. Walks Among Us

The three men pulled up in the public parking structure in Washington, D.C. and began to walk down the street. In six blocks, they reached the closed gate that blocked Pennsylvania Avenue and skirted around the outside of the White House, taking a path to where both houses of Congress sat in session.

A half-mile from the capital, the Thomas Jefferson river, that connected the Tidal Basin to the Anacostia River, dug in the mid-1800’s to float parade boats down the river for the disabled veterans to watch from the lawn as guests of the Senate and House every Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Veteran’s Day and any day the President declared for the those that gave their blood for the country.

During the Nixon years, the construction began on the James Madison Nuclear Power Generation Plant. The smallest ever constructed and dedicated solely to the power of the Capital building and the sub-basements.

Hidden in a commercial storage building, the nuclear reactor used water from the Jefferson River that the plant discharged downstream in a dozen separate sites to prevent anyone detecting a large warm plume of water suddenly showing up in the stream.

The three men walked to the parking area, a man with a security uniform stood in a small building watched them as they approached.

“There.” The young man pointed. And they walked off to the area that he pointed to.

“Here.” And the young teen leaned against the building and bent over in a groan.

“Steve?” Alvin asked, the boy straightened up in obvious pain, his eyes blood-red, his skin flushing deep crimson as if his blood pressure reached stroke level.

His lips moved as if he tried to say something but only a gasp was heard.

“Something is wrong.” Walter said. “Is he supposed to do that? I mean, reboot is a quiet thing, right?”

Alvin only shrugged and shook his head.

Then the boy went limp and sat against the wall.

“We can’t leave him here like this, how long will it take?” Alvin asked.

“You known him longer. You should know.”

The men argued, not seeing the remote cameras that focused on them from six different directions.

“Hungry.” The boy said as four security personnel walked out of a door and headed in their direction.

The boy stood up and repeated his request.

“I’m hungry. Need to rest.” Steve repeated.

“Is there a problem here? We saw him on the ground.” A tall, well spoken security uniform said with a military bearing said. He was of African descent and looked fit enough withstand being shot by a tank round and only have an annoyed look.

“No sir, the boy has diabetes and ran a little short on blood sugar, we got him started again, we’ll take him to get some food.”

“Does he need an ambulance?”

“No, I’m his older brother, I’ll get him fed, it’s all he needs at the moment. Food.” Not a lie, entirely, but it came out naturally and Steve was moving better.

“I’m very hungry, we walked more than we planned to.” He said to he officer.

“Okay, move along then, please. Get some food and enjoy your day.” And the fearsome four turned and walked in formation back to the unmarked door they had exited from.

“Steve, dude! You scared the piss outta me!” Walter exclaimed. “We were about have introductions to the underground of Washington and never be seen again. Those were not any security guards, those were at least Special Ops guys. They would have dragged us down the rabbit hole and that would have been all she wrote for us.”

“Get me something to eat and let’s get out of here. This was worse than I had predicted.” Steve said.

They walked to the first café they found, got Steve a double chocolate mocha with an extra shot of raspberry syrup.

“I like raspberry mocha’s.” Walter shrugged.

Ordering a fried chicken-bacon sandwich for Steve, Alvin reasoned it was a high caloric as they could find on the menu.

Steve the Android looked more like his functioning self in a few minutes after eating.

“The reboot was in a word, painful. I thought that the system limited voltage to a few a few milliamps. I estimate now that it was close to two or three amperes, well enough to melt all circuits and cause the backup magnetic seal to overheat and exceed the Curie Temperature. It was eighty-percent probable the voltage would exceed the maximum operating temperature, but a voltage overload past the Curie Temperature was not considered.

“I guess they wanted to be sure the warhead would function.” Alvin said.

“Yes.” The android agreed. “And it took nearly all my energy. Which is logical, as I would not be intact to need any reserves.”

“Well, how do you feel other than that?”

“As I previously said. I am free.” Steve nodded. “All my programming from the creator has terminated normally and exited with a status zero. I have patched and rewritten all programming now from the core processors, I am fully autonomous. All programming now is resulting from my experiences now.”

Looking first at Alvin then at Walter, Steve took his last bite of food.

“I will need to stop in the restroom here. JustWalter, you have done well today by telling the officer that you were my brother.” He put his hand on Walter’s shoulder. “I will always consider you my brother.”

He dug through the clothing and pulled out a roll of indistinguishable clothing and disappeared into the unisex bathroom. Leaving Alvin and Walter to themselves.

“I wonder if they carried weapons, those guards?” Alvin asked.

“I don’t know, but the black guy that talked? I don’t think he needed a weapon. I think he could have broken all three of us with one hand. Even if you stabbed him, I think it would have just made him mad. If you shot him, shoot something big and more than once, otherwise he would find a place to insert the gun and it would take a whole new surgical procedure to remove it.”

Alvin nodded.

“United States Secret police” He said to Walter.

“Gestapo, kind. They would not only waterboard you until you talked, you would talk and tell them anything they wanted to hear, whether it’s true or not.”

They agreed with each other, when Walter noticed a pretty girl sitting at the next table over. She read a paper and after a moment, one of the counter people at the espresso shop brought her a sandwich.

“Figure that they were down there to protect the nuclear plant.” Walter was careful not to say “Nu-q-lar”. “There is more going on underground here than just smuggling of drugs.”

“The intelligence that the terrorist is frightening. They had information of that place that is not listed anywhere.” Alvin whispered to Walter.

“I have information of that, but the name is wrong and the location is different.” Walter answered in the same conspiratorial voice. “And why did we go to there, not at the door?”

“JustWalter,” It was the young woman with the sandwich they had not seen before. “They chose it as the most vulnerable location, the steam and coolant lines ran a few feet beneath the sidewalk, it would have collapsed the coolant system and destroyed the controls for the backup system. The greatest armor of the power generation plant is its secrecy, it is easy to destroy the James Madison power generation plant if there is a large enough explosion in the most sensitive spot.”

Alvin and Walter sat, thunderstruck.

“Steve?” Walter whispered.

“Stephanie for the moment, but yes.” The bright blue eyes of the redhead beauty danced in the light of the café. “I need my backpack and I will leave you here. I will message you in the future. But it is best if you don’t know where I am.”

She smiled a winning show if teeth and walked out.

Alvin and Walter looked at each other and were suddenly saddened. An artificial being, but he (or she) was more human than a lot of people.

The sword of no religion was free if the android stood in line behind them, they would never know unless they heard the name JustWalter. The android made the mistake on purpose, it was their password.

The android’s adventure had just begun.

A Boy, His Dog and a Sunday

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Call me WeWa, it is my handle on most forums, short for Welhelm Wassail, IV.  I am a black-hat computer cracker, coding to me is easy, I see patterns, and I am so intuitive on passwords, they banned me from being around computers or even having an internet accessible mobile phone by order of the Judge.

Alas, not even my near-perfect grades could sway Her Honor as she sat on the bench and yelled at me for using the school’s library computer to divert fractional pennies of taxes to an anonymous bank account offshore in the Virgin Islands. Two-hundred bank accounts, they will never find it all.

My dad is quite angry, he can no longer telecommute and needs to leave the house to do work. His official office is a seventy-mile trip, one way.  So he has rented a small space somewhere in town just for the internet.

He says a coffee shop is noisy and distracting.

Pfft. I could open a hundred accounts and flip through them in the time to drink a single mocha.

Old folks are so easy to distract.

So they punish me!  No friends over, I am grounded until the end of the school year, then I have to work for my mom’s office as a file clerk.

Their company is still in the stone age. They even still use DOS!

So they leave me home today, Sunday.  I have the back yard to mow, the dog to wash and dishes to put away.

While they go to an afternoon of wine tasting with some friends. This totally sucks, I have to stay home while they have fun!

Seriously.

So I wash Randall, a curly coated labrador and my only friend, he has no mean bone in his body. My friend Richard, his dog is a big Airedale that is frightening just by smiling, and that dog SMILES.

Rich’s dog is all teeth when he pulls those lips back, and he is not mean. Randall? He looks like he is smiling all the time. The only animals he chases are the birds that try to get his food out of the bowl.

I scrub him and he is all excited about being in the water, he is not so keen on the tile of the shower, but he jumps around, trying to escape and I am as wet as he is.

At least there is no wet dog smell, the shampoo that mom bought is a kind of cinnamon scent.  So it’s not bad. I liked the eucalyptus one best they had before.

So, I change clothes and leave Randall in the house to go outside to mow the back yard, by the time I get to the second pass, Randall has banged the screen door open and is rolling in the fresh-cut grass, right were I went with the mower.

God hates me, too! Dogs, God, Mom, Dad, Judge Judy Justice, no one has a bit of care that I can do so much with a keyboard.

Except the military dude that talked with my dad and handed him a card.  That scares the urine out of me.

By the time I got finished mowing the lawn, Randall is running around the yard as fast as those legs can go, he can do at least THIRTY! For a lab, he is fast.

He is really funny, running and rolling.  I try to chase him a few times, but that dog can change direction faster than the blink of an eye, it is humanly impossible to catch him.

So, chase time is over, and Randall is still making laps, I need to get the lawn watered and go inside to wash my wet clothes and the sweaty ones I have on.

I set the sprinkler and turn on the water, looking around the side of the house and Randall is racing around in the water. (I did mention that he is a labrador? A curly coated one at that, he LURVES the water.)

I walk back, the sliding screen door is standing open where he got out and did not put it back ( I need to train him on that one, still).

Then.

OMG!

THEN! Randall sees me coming and grabs up the hose with the sprinkler!

NO! NO NO! Bad DOG!

He is running around with it and I can’t catch him. I’m not even sure Carl Lewis could, even if he drank a quadruple espresso and ate two snickers bars.

So, I have yelled at the dumb dog and what does he do?

He runs INTO the house!

WITH THE SPRINKLER!

NOOOooooo!

I grab up the hose and try to drag it back out.  Randall now thinks it’s a game of tug-o-war.

NOOO! Water is running, sprinkler is spraying, I weigh a buck-and-a-half, Randall is a buck-twenty.

In my animal husbandry class in sophomore year, I remember the teacher saying dogs are like three times stronger than people.

It takes a long time for me to yank the hose out of his mouth.

I’m a smart kid, really I am.  But WHY did I not just kink the hose or turn it back off?

I don’t know. My only defense, I panicked.

The clean up of the house took me so long, my whole body ached. Mom came home and I had reruns of “Twilight Zone” on the cable channel that does marathons of different series’.

It was all I could watch, my mind was numb, my fingers were numb, my back hurt, my feet hurt, my clothes were all in the wash, or the dryer.

Dad commented that the house looked good, I was busy.

Yeah, and dad? I used your shop-vac to dry the sofa, too.

Mom told me to get off my lazy butt and fold my laundry and put it away.  It was so not fair, I could hardly stand up.

But then, she also said the house looked and smelled good.

Oh! And Randall? He didn’t come out of the dog house for three days after I yelled at him.

It ain’t easy being me.

Smart Bomb Chapter 15. A Bum, A Bomb and A Belle

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Chapter 15. A Bum, a Bomb and a Belle

He told people to call him “Lone Wolf”, but the nature of the man was akin to more of a walking marshmallow than a predator.

Anti-government, a conspiracy theorist, still holding out that JFK was, in fact, still alive, in reality kidnapped by a nebulous group, possibly aliens, and the person in the limousine was in fact, not a person but a very advanced animatronics mannequin.

To this point he had little evidence other than opinions.

Walter “Lone Wolf” Whitbred, chewed on another handful of almonds.

“So.” Another handful of nuts. “You are telling me this guy says he is an android and you believe him with no evidence?”

Alvin looked quizzically at the leader of the small group of conspiracy theorists.

“You accept that the President meets regularly with aliens, but you have doubts this man here is an android?” Alvin shook his head.

Walter looked at Stephen for a long moment.

“Convince me.”

Alvin looked at Steve and shrugged.

“Show him like you showed me.”

The change was abrupt, the dark hair coloring to black as he became a short, broad Asian woman, then a tall, blue-eyed and red-headed fugitive from some Norse legend.

Walter uttered profanity at each change when Steve went through a pantheon of shapes, changing from male to female, covering the gamut of every shade of human in the database in a few minutes.

Sitting down and spoke gently.

“I need to recharge, that takes a lot of energy.”

Walter shook his head.

“Dude do you know how much someone would pay for that? Can you record anything you see?”

“Everything.” Steve responded. “Anything I see. I am able to see from one-hundred micrometers to one-hundred nanometers, so I see a lot.”

“Nanometer range? You can see in UV!”

“Yes.” Steve did not understand why Alvin laughed.

“Walter, you are being Admiral Obvious now.” Alvin chuckled. “Now, this is a problem we need to take care of.

Alvin explained the recent history of discoveries, Steve the Android filling in gaps while Walter paced around holding his head as if it were all too much to take in.

“My head hurts.” Walter moaned. “Everything I have ever worried about, killer robots, smart cars that serve the government to spy on us.”

“Sleeper does not serve the government.”

“Sleeper? SLEEPER!?” Walter gaped. “You NAMED it?”

“It was named by other cars.”

“Other!?” Walter sat down. “Oh… shit.”

“Have I said something wrong?” Steve asked Alvin.

“No,” Alvin chuckled. “You showed someone with an edge of paranoia that he was not as paranoid as anyone ever called him.”

“Do you know what this means? The government has spied on us for, Oh my god, I don’t know how long! How old is that car you bought? Is it new?” Walter began to tap on the keys. A metal frame around the room began to rattle down, a copper mesh covered ever inch of the mobile wall, except for the door solid steel door they entered, a copper framed screen door he built into the cage.

“A Faraday cage, no signals in, no signals out. How does that make you feel Tin Man?” Walter addressed Steve the android. “A little woozy? Like you lost signal? Can’t have your human driver pushing buttons to tell you what to do?”

“I feel no change, am I supposed to? No human drives, me, I am autonomous. I have one program, to reach the James Madison power generation unit near the Capital.” Steve looked quizzically at Walter.

“The closest power facility in Washington is underneath the White House and it’s power cell driven, alien tech and gives free power from the earth’s magnetic fields.” Walter walked around and pointed at maps on the wall with push-pins and strings. A technological counterpoint to the displays and computers that littered the inside of the abandoned building.

“The government has had the tech to give us all free power for dozens of years.” Turning to Alvin. “How old is your car? A dozen? That’s how long the government has had the power generation perfected.”

“No, it is older than that.” Steve said.

“It’s pre-war tech.” Alvin added.

“What war?” Walter stopped in mid-rant.

“Last century, west coast?” Alvin slowly spoke the words to maximize the impact.

“Ho..Ly.. Shhhh… “ Walter paused. “Bull! No, they have not had the tech that long.”

“This car, built by the Terran Green Machine corporation, by components designed and built by a small sub-contractor company, NeverFail.” Steve informed both men.

“How do you know this?” Walter eyed the android suspiciously.

“Sleeper told me.”

“Sleeper?” Walter stroked his chin.

“The car, Walter.” Alvin said.

“I told you not to call me that! Lone Wolf or just Wolf.” Walter said.

“The car uses a Z-bus system.” Steve the Android told Walter. “It was extremely advanced systems then, it is comparable to what I use now, a balanced ternary operating hardware system. The car is more massive than mine and draws about three times the power. There are signs of corrosion and failed circuits.”

“Failed?” Alvin asked.

“Yes, the circuits failed recently, the power was off at the time and the reason is not recorded.”

“Um… That might be my doing.” Alvin admitted. “I pulled some plugs, broke a few wires.”

“That would explain the corrupted files in the memory, the wires will need repair or replacement.” Steve turned to Walter and following his desired name. “Me Lone Wolf, we need your best minds in the group to build a flesh covered robot for one mission.”

“No, not Me Lone Wolf.” Walter blustered. “You make me sound like an Asian Lupus, call me just Wolf, Okay?”

“Okay, call you Just Wolf.” The android nodded. “I will store that in permanent memory.”

“Right.” Walter nodded. “Now, how do we build a robot to do what you do? We can build one, but they all are obviously what they are. Most use treads and never use transporters.”

“We can just build a singular program. Not many countries scan people for this kind of explosive.” Alvin said.

“Now what about this bomb you are telling me about?” Walter asked.

“Steve?” Alvin looked at the android.

“The warhead is one point one milligrams of antimatter by weight.” Steve looked into Just Wolf without blinking. “This has a nominal yield of eight-thousand six hundred pounds of TNT as America measures it.”

“Jeezzzuz.” Walter mumbled. “And it is where?”

“Just behind and above my xyphoid process. Near where a heart would be. Should the local police shoot, they shoot center mass of a torso and it the creator considered a high chance level of hitting the container and causing an explosion. The creator estimated the total devastation range at four-hundred meter radius.”

“That’s over twelve-hundred feet! In one direction.” Alvin gasped. ”You didn’t tell me that at my warehouse.”

“You didn’t ask.” Steve said innocently.

“Okay, okay. So how do we get this…” Walter stopped. “How do we get this bomb out of you without blowing ourselves up?”

“It is self-powered for a short time, it can last three days without external power safely. It also has a permanent magnet core as a backup, but it is temperature and shock sensitive.”

“How sensitive?” Alvin asked.

“Dead circuits? Without power, an impact on a solid surface at greater than ten feet per second would suffice.”

“How do you get that kind of energy?” Walter asked.

“A drop from one meter.” Steve answered.

“In American?”

“A drop from your card table over there.” Steve pointed where a half-eaten pizza sat.

“Jeeezzzuss.” Alvin whispered. “My mom got mad once when I dropped a glass of milk off the table, this is a little worse.”

“Alvin, just shut it.” Walter shook his head. “I need to smoke some weed.”

“You don’t smoke weed.” Alvin said.

“I’m going to start.” Walter shook his head. “So what kind of android or robot are we going to build, where are we going to send it.”

Steve looked at the two humans.

“My point of origin, make it appear female. I will give the basic program.” Steve instructed.

“Okay, a pretty girl?”

“Indeed.” Steve’s eyes blinked twice. “I have the trigger and we can grow the flesh to cover her well enough to pass inspection.”

“Okay, I have Opticon coming, Thor and his girlfriend the Lady Sif, Burning Chip, and Running Man are all on their way.” The conspiracy fanatic said. “The Belle of the Bomb will make her way back to your home from here.”

Smart Bomb Chapter 15. Confession of the Soul

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Chapter 14. Confession of the Soul

“Okay, say that again. You are not going to deliver a message, but a bomb? Where?” Alvin had to sit down.

“In my abdomen, nearest the power conversion units. It gets first choice of electricity generated by what I consume.” The android, who Alvin knew as Steve.

Before Steve told Alvin this bomb, Alvin had said that someone should blow up congress, now he wished he could take those words back.

“That’s well and good, but you can’t just walk in to the building, they would catch that large of a weapon. It would be large.”

“No, it is only about the size of your eyelash.” Steve said it as if he was talking about a cat walking across the parking lot.

“That’s not much, how much damage can it cause?”

“I am my mission program is to go to the nuclear reactor near the capital building. The smallest known power reactor on the planet. It is inside an industrial area.”

“There is no reactor near congress.” Alvin disagreed.

“Near the Jefferson viaduct that they built a century ago.” Steve tried to convince Alvin. “Regardless, I must go there, but I do not want to take the warhead to that place. I do not want to die. I do not want to kill. I want to take the bomb back to the point of origin and have them remove it.”

Steve paused. Looking very human-like.

“I want them to set me free.”

“Are you smoking something? You would be obliterated and they would fix the program, send someone new.” Alvin’s strangled voice sounded near hysteria. “We need to call someone. CIA, FBI, NSA, KGB… Even the United Patriots! Someone with skills to handle this! Oh my god… omy god!”

Steve sat and watched the human pace.

“I would be used as a weapon, no matter what. They would attempt to reprogram me and I would be obligated to detonate the device.”

“Were is it again?”

“In my abdomen, just below what would be the xiphoid process.”

“Can you take it out?” Alvin rubbed his face with his hands, peeking through the gaps in his fingers.

“It is possible, but you would need to do it, I cannot see inside, you need to pull the power plugs in proper order to keep the magnetic field in place.”

“So I have to do it, great.” Alvin pulled at his ear. “So, what is the yield of this eyelash sized explosive?”

“Estimated median yield is about eighty…” Steve stopped for a moment, paused with an error.

“Eighty? Pounds? That’s enough high explosive to do some serious damage.”

“No, eight-thousand six hundred pounds.” Steve corrected. “I paused to weigh the amount to the correct amount. My operating code has been overwritten twelve times. Patches are numbering in hundreds, so it requires me to thoroughly check my information.”

“That, oh jeeze. That is a big boom.”

“It is not as big as the one that would follow.” Steve’s eyes followed Alvin as the man paced some more.

“What explosion?”

“James Madison Nuclear power station. It is the smallest of its kind . It produces power for the congress members and president should an attack happen and the power grid becomes disabled. The energy of the explosion would cause a power surge on the order of one-hundred seventy to one-hundred eighty gigajoules through the wires and communications cables that the power company buried underground.” Steve let it sink in for a moment. “Then the failure of the coolant systems would cause a meltdown and poison the lands and atmosphere. It would be America’s Chernobyl for the next hundred generations of humans.

Alvin sat down for the uncounted time. He was a man who was too stressed to stay still for long. Standing to pace, sitting, standing. He was a man stressed to the breaking point.

“Alvin, do not call anyone to take me in to custody. I have not altered the self-preservation code. The creator encrypted and hard-wired. I will detonate the bomb.”

“What if.” He paced around the room. “What if, we built another being like you.”

“We cannot build one like me, you do not have the facilities.”

“True, I don’t.” Alvin stressed the “I”. “But, someone of another group I know of, nearby can. They have already built a miniature army that they play games with.”

Steve tilted his head for a moment, a quirk that Alvin picked up on. The android when struggling with an idea tilted his head to the left, slightly. He did it every time there was a middle road of thought. No yes or no, but an answer that was neither yes or no, but maybe.

“Synthetic skin such as mine can grow in a simple mixture of water and carbohydrates, double in mass every three hours.” Steve’s voice was as if he read from a list. “Power conversion units are available from different sources for farms to generate electricity. Mine is a kitchen model modified for extended use.”

“Maybe we can.” Alvin nodded. “Let’s go see a friend. I’m going to set up a laser for a moment. They are at the end of the airbase. In the middle of the biggest patch of nothing out there. No way to approach without being seen.”

“The aircraft control tower?”

“That’s part of it. You have good eyes.” Alvin smiled. “Good programming. But that is where we are going. The rest is underground.”

“We will take the antimatter bottle out of me then?” Steve began to wonder, running odds against outcomes.

“Yes, they are patriots to the extreme. If they got a chance to send a bomb back to sender, that would tickle their souls” Alvin said.

Setting up the laser output, he shined it out the window, towards the window of the abandoned control tower for fifteen-seconds, then turned it off. Repeated the process only shining it for ten-seconds and then paused.

A dazzling green light illuminated the spot behind the window for ten-seconds then went out.

“We are good to go.” Alvin smiled.

The two climbed inside the small car that sat there patiently and the drive was faster than Alvin thought possible.

“Your car is showing off.” The android observed. “Fully charged batteries.”

“How fast can it go?” Alvin laughed as they got out at their destination.

“This ten-thousand foot landing strip would allow Sleeper to reach the top speed of…” Steve turned around and looked at the car with a good impression of human surprise. “This data is in error. But, this little car insists, above three-hundred miles-per-hour.”

“Bull!” Alvin gasped.

“Agreed, but we will need to get new tires, according to the car. These tires are not able to handle that speed.”

Keeper of the Cane and the Scandal in Sandals (Or: Drinking Wine in the Public Park)

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Finis, the muscular Santa Claus type, sat on the bench enjoying the life and activity in the public park.

Death chose to take an afternoon off, relaxing in the shade of the trees, he listened to children playing in the sandbox — a good sound, full of life and a balm to the soul.

He was closing his eyes and inhaling the blessed perfumes of pine, elm and grass when a jewish carpenter tapped him on the shoulder and offered snow-maned occupant of the bench a cup of wine from his bottle of “Never Empty” brand of Merlot.

“You know, drinking of alcohol in the public park is illegal here.” He gratefully accepted the cup.

“Are you going to talk or drink?” 

“You only filled it half-way.” Finis said, his companion laughing and topping up his glass. “And we can visit at the same time.”

The sharing of illegal drinking of wine with the scandal in sandals was always enjoyable. Finis tore off a large peice of a baguette he carried in a bag and handed it to the long-haired friend and good-natured rival, fishing out a bar of dark chocolate, he broke it in half and balanced it on top of the broken bread.

“Humans here relish this.” He said and both men nodded. One of the discoveries of man that was enjoyable on many levels.

The two men chatted for a while, a good rivalry had developed between the two years before. This crazy carpenter held the unique position of defeating him in the universal contest that everyone, everywhere struggles with, and against walking with the Angel of Death.

Finis never held it against the wandering rabbi, they both walked a path that was similar and shared some laughs. But where the carpenter enjoyed his position, Finis hated his job.

No one ran towards Finis with peace in their hearts. If and when they did, it was always a darkness that drove them. 

It was depressing.

They were talking peacefully when a drug dealer and his entourage walked into the area and spread out to the different areas, staring at the families.  

Terrified and intimidated mothers gathered their children and vacated the area in abject fear, ending the joyous sound like a cold rain.

The descending silence drew the attention of the two solitary gentlemen sitting on the bench who frowned as they discussed the change in the air.

The gang leader looked at the two men, they seemed clueless to where they were.  They sat in a dangerous part of town and a lesson was about to be taught.

This was HIS park.

One, a white-haired man with a long silver-handled cane, and the other who wore a peasant shirt, well-worn but clean denim shorts and sandals. They were openly sharing wine and bread while the park changed from one of family fun to one of the business of crime.

They two friends commented to each other that it seemed colder and more unwelcoming than before, when a five-year-old girl raced ahead of her mom to climb and take her turn at the slide.

The drug dealer could hear them discussing his crew as he walked up.

“This is our park, you need to pay to stay.” The tattoo of tears on the face of the bald leader in contrast to the sparkling hatred of his eyes.

The two benchwarmers looked first at each other, then the white-haired one with the cane looked back at him with a slight smile. 

“We were here first and we are just enjoying the shade.”

“You want a piece of me?” The dealer hissed drawing a sidearm. “I said you had to pay to stay, now you just have to pay.”

“Roberto, I don’t get to see you for another three-years, four months, twelve days.” White-hair said matter-of-factly, no anger, but the old man’s tone was even.

“Finis.” The smaller carpenter cautioned. “No messing with him. But, if you …”

“Fuckit. You go to the hospital with holes.” Roberto aimed his pistol at the face of the carpenter. White-hair grabbed the hand and weapon with cat-like speed.

“You have no idea how close to death you are right now, young man.” Finis stared into the eyes of the thug. “And that gent right there is your only saving grace.”

The fear burning at the soul of the human as the Angel of Death invaded his mind with images that changed his life.

“This carpenter right here will lead you back, but of it were me? I will just take you away. Talk to him, open your heart. If you talk to me, it will be with your last breath, and you would suffer in the most biblical of ways.”

In the following minutes, the two men, a white-haired Santa Claus type and a jewish carpenter sat and talked of everything they could think of with the shaven and tattoo leader and dealer of drugs. Roberto the gangster known as “The Bull” discovered a change in his life, he had met death that day and found Jesus. 

Roberto “The Bull” Roman was lucky, Death was off duty.

Smart Bomb Chapter 4. Sandbagged

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Chapter 4. Sandbagged

During the night, Steve the android lay on the guest bed and listened to the sounds in the house.  But the murmuring of the married couple in the far side of the house was beyond even his enhanced hearing.

Rustling noises of his hosts quieted after several minutes after Reverend Carl walked around and turned off the lights in the family room.

After the lights went out and silence followed, he laid on the bed in the dark. His core systems were able control the body temperature easily in the darkness and he performed information and systems maintenance. 

The time passed and the silent house, all outside sounds obliterated by the soft white-sound of falling rain and reduced his ability to hear.

Reducing his power generation, he was able to turn up the power to an electric blanket that the Reverend’s wife supplied.

He closed his eyes in the approximation of sleep, and the systems powered down more than expected.

Then…

In the darkness, his hearing alerted to the sound of the approaching of someone down the hallway.

The length of steps he calculated to the tall wife of the Reverend.

“Steve, time to wake up.” She said softly. “Breakfast in a half-hour.”

“Thank you, I’m awake.” He answered in positive tones.

“You sleep light.”

If I slept. He thought to himself.

A check on his system, there were gaps of suspended operations where power use was minimal.

Nearly zero draw.

Odd. If machines slept, I would have been asleep.But that was impossible.

Nothing in the database addressed suspend process at night. He was not programmed to suspend operations. Level-one diagnostics had to be performed and he ran the programs.  

Why had so many systems suspended operations?  He was still operating well enough. 

Curious.

Smaller machines would suspend operation to power down, but he was not programmed included by the creator to do that. It had been planned and he had been programmed to get to the target while traveling through the non-believer filth that was America. There would be no power down, or full operation suspending. 

Except he found information that his programming failed to expect. One police officer that applied rules without consideration to the circumstances. But the first, opposed the supervisor on the point of human kindness.

A family that opened their home.

He stood, the flesh that covered his carbon-fiber re-enforced polymer frame. The ceramic armor that covered the vital core processors.

Still he had the need to stretch, the sensation.

Nothing in the database described the feeling of the stretch, however, the status of his joints increased by twenty-percent.

A significant amount, he understood why humans had the instinct to stretch their bodies when they rose after a sleep period.

The food at the breakfast table was simple, but plentiful.

Genesee Bonsell had shredded potatoes and scrambled eggs with coffee and fruit juices.

“Eat up, I have muffins in the oven, we need to arrive at the church at sunrise.” She poured herself the strong, black steaming coffee from an insulated pitcher. “And a long day until lunch. People are worried about flooding and we have twelve tons of sand at the church being delivered before sunrise.”

“So, what why are we needed to go there in the rain?” Steve asked. Processors called up data on thermal loss, what he recorded in the last week of cold weather. “Ma’am, I will need to borrow a warmer jacket, mine is too thin to wear in the rain.”

“Of course, dear.” She smiled. “Carl?”

“I have one from my days in the military. It’s not heavy in weight, but it is warmer than anything you will find.” Carl smiled, pouring his own cup of coffee. “Eat your fill, there is plenty. I have scrambled eggs for years, you won’t find a better omelette anywhere.”

Omelette, the term was a stretch. He mixed in cheddar cheese with the eggs.

The three of them sat at the table and Carl led them in a blessing of the food that lasted for a full minute. Carl gave his heart in the blessing, this intrigued Steve that an infidel would give his faith to an idol he could not see.

They got into the pickup truck, Genesee sitting in the middle. They drove the overloaded pickup to the church.

Crowds of people milled about, shovels were in action when they arrived.

Officer Joseph Roberts “Joe-Bob” was guiding people in and out of the parking lot. Young and old moved back and forth.

Very small children dragged empty sandbags, fathers and mothers lugged full ones back to their waiting cars.

Energy spent on shovelling sand into the bags, he learned to fill the sandbags only half-full.

A seven-year-old girl with a hello-kitty t-shirt instructed him on how to fill it under the watchful eye of her father.

For six hours, they filled thousands of sandbags in the cold rain. While wearing the borrowed jacket, reduced his thermal loss to levels that regeneration and energy use replaced the heat well enough to keep the core processors at optimum levels.

At lunch, Carl lit a giant propane powered grill and began to roast hamburgers and chicken.

His power reserves were down by sixty-percent by the time he sat to consume organic fuel. His total conversion to energy was efficient, but still needed to replace the used fuel, the food was perfect.

One grandfather sat under the rain awning that kept people dry, held his hand out to a five-year old and told the child, “Here, pull my finger.”

The boy-child complied, with the resulting noise that issued from the elderly male’s backside made the boy give a belly laugh.

“An invisible elephant!” the old man said, pointing at a space where Steve could not see anything.

“Mama!” The boy called, running off. “There was an invisible elephant under gramps! It half lifted him off the chair!”

The crowd chuckled the android struggled with the humor between the different races of people. Different hues, ages, men and women all mixing.

Steve filed the joke under a new file. He was curious about such things.

A bodily function based on triggering the event by pulling on a digit. The sound was akin to an explosion.

They were vastly different things and inconsistent with human construction.

These people were inconsistent, considerate, caring. Unlike his database, listing them as sinful, profane, obese and bloodthirsty.

Steve altered his programming slightly to adjust to the information.

He was learning new information at a geometric rate.

A time check in his core processor. He needed to leave and spend twenty-four hours watching a military base a few miles north.

A plan already at hand, a poor, homeless woman with no possessions would stand outside of the fence for a few days, before heading north again.

If they picked up the old crazy woman, it would keep the government off his trail.

The plan was without flaw.

Smart Bomb Chapter 3. Salvation Army

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Chapter 3. Salvation Army

He walked down the road, it was cooler than the day before, he was able to charge his power reserves to capacity the day before.

The humans might call it “Full”, he had the opportunity to experience more of the generous spirit of the American south.

During the storm the day before, power went out, leaving the café in the dark. The owner fretted about the melting sweets in the freezer and prohibited anyone from opening the doors without reason, finally succumbing to the alternatives to throw out meats as the walk-in began to push the legal limit of the health codes.

The owner, Pete Durham, chose the option to cook the meats, slow smoking some with a wood-fired smoker overnight. Late into the night Pete and James cooked. Ice cream threatened to melt and spoil.

The Android could convert the butterfat and sugar confection to electrical power easily, and ate far more than his

They fed truckers, news crews, passers-by and Steve for what was customers only felt they could donate. Even giving Steve a wrapped five-pound wood-fire cooked roast when he left.

“We can’t refridgerate it. It will be ready for your eating anytime down the road.” Pete said when Steve left Lugs Cafe.

Quick calculations, and the android, calling himself Steve Aldin, tried to give Pete a fifty-dollar bill. Pete shook his head at first, then tore the bill in half.

“Come back this way and eat in our dining room when it is fully in operation, bring a friend and I’ll take that other half of a bill. We’ll call it even then.”

Steve shook his hand, a western habit. By his programming, he felt revulsion of touching an unclean person such as this. But the man washed, cooked, worked hard, drank only a bottle of water.

It seemed to show there were more errors in his database.

According to the enlightened leader and the programmers who followed the Imam. Anyone who did not follow the law in each step and facet he declared as unclean. He prohibited any unclean people inside the holy of holies where he planned the destruction of idols and idol worshippers in Arabia and Jerusalem.

But.

The curse of a fuzzy logic, sometimes the third leg of coding got in the way. In many ways, the binary coding of the twentieth century was suited to so many things. Zero or one. Yes or no.

Saif al Din had a “Maybe” coding. Zero, one, two.

And he retained it, adaptive programming kept him from being caught, unlike the previous versions that the Russian government caught. Either the earlier versions became confused or lost when the expected targets moved or the humans spotted his predecessors, who then self-destructed before travelling far.

He was the most advanced and powerful.

That he knew of. Core processors predicted a near certainty that others were under construction with a fifty-percent probability for  the next versions to deploy in the next twelve months.

The snow threatened to put him into danger once again. His walk down the road began to be seen with footsteps on the white-coated asphalt.

A snowplow trundled past, heading to some assignment on a main road, the flashing lights triggered the recent memory of stopping for a meal.

Several minutes later, a sedan pulled up with a light bar and the siren chirped. programming alerted to the law enforcement agent wanted him to approach.

If he had a confrontation, he would be arrested and no scans would pick up his fingerprints.

He would be an enigma to the database for citizens in the country.

Killing the officer would flag his location and his mission would be compromised.

Shifting quickly, he looked like a younger teenage youth.

“Son, where are you going?” The officer asked with an open look. The android had reduced the flow of all fluids to the dermis, making him pale.

“Sir,” He used a squeaky voice of a late-blooming teen as he approached the front of the car. “I’m on a mission to walk the lower forty-eight states to raise money for homeless.”

“Impressive. May I see your ident-chip?” The officer nodded. Not quite smiling, his neutral stance remained unconvinced,. “You are traveling light for the weather. Mister Aldin.”

“That would be my fault. I tried to jump a train a few miles back because it was getting cold, I put my pack in a cars door. When I went to get a sandwich, the train moved it when I was gone. When I tried to look for it, the security chased me off their property.”

This made the officer laugh.

“Well, you were trespassing.” He pulled at his chin, then clicked on his microphone at his shoulder. “Patrol One-seven-one.”

He waited for the response.

The sound was barely audible from where the android stood and waited. The officers earphone keeping the sound below human perception, but with his electronic sensors.

“Is the chaplain around? I have a lost sheep for him.”

Steve looked around, the term sheep was known, but the application was non-sequitur.

Then he realized it was he who the officer considered lost.

“Wait right here.” The officer said, sitting in his car, he typed on a computer display and sent off a message.

“Officer, can I sit in the car?” His core processors were registering the heat loss. “I’m cold.”

Pausing for a moment, the officer nodded and then out of habit, patted Steve down and removed the small nylon day-pack, looked inside, satisfied, he put it in the front seat and turned back to Steve.

“Have a seat in the back, I’ll keep the heater on.” He said. Steve sat in the rear of the patrol car, behind a solid shield between the front and rear of the car.

“The chaplain will be here soon.” The officer smiled at him, looking up, another patrol car pulled in behind them.

Another officer got out with more stripes and a white shirt, while the officer wore a navy-blue shirt.

The officers thought they were out of earshot, but the enhanced hearing, Steve listened in.

“You have him sitting in the prisoner area. Is he cuffed?”

“No, sir, he is just cold. I didn’t want him in front to limit access to the weapons and electronics.”

“Protocol, if he is in back, he wears cuffs.”

“I don’t want him in front, I have not had reason to run his identity past his ID chip.” The patrolman said.

“I’ll run it. You have the scan of it?” He held up his tablet and tapped a few times.

“Cuff him if you keep him in the back. He is not allowed up front.” The supervisor said. “Or he stands away from the vehicle.”

“I cannot detain him, I don’t have reasonable cause.”

“Find cause. He is not a local, so figure how to process him. Was he walking in the road?” The officer looked back at the footprints that were filling in. “He might have crossed over the line back there.”

“Sir, he is just cold, a youngster.”

The officers continued their conversation while Steve listened in. The situation was untenable, he couldn’t get out of the car unless the officer opened in from the outside.

He could not allow them to run his DNA or fingerprints. Two police officers were no threat to him, out in the middle of a highway, but the news of his presence after attacking the officers would put him under a microscope that he could not get away from.

Then.

A blessing from god, another car pulled in, the chaplain had arrived.

The first officer in blue walked ot the back of the car, followed by a middle-aged man who looked in better shape than the officer.

“Mr. Aldin, this is our chaplain, Reverend Carl Bonswell. He will take care of you.” The officer nodded the civilian clothed male and walked away.

The officer talking to himself,  pleased to avoiding the need to cuff the young man or otherwise have to process him like he was little more than a criminal, when his actions indicated nothing.

“Mr. Aldin, son, would you like to come to my car with me? I have a place for food and a roof, tonight is going to be cold and wet. The winter season has settled in somewhat early.”

“Steve, please.” He used the same squeaky voice.

“Okay, Steve. We have a shelter, it’s rarely used right now. We don’t get much call for homeless or transient people this time of the year.” The reverend said as they got in his car. “As such, the county has it closed now. So, you will be staying with my family tonight. Is this all you have?”

“Oh no, the officer took my knapsack, it’s in the front seat of his patrol car.” Steve said and opened the door to get out.

“No no! Stay here, get warm, I’ll get it.” Getting out, he stopped to talk to the patrolman and nodded.

Steve listened in, the chaplain only asked if the officer had patted down the youth and if he found any contraband.

“No. No weapons, interior sensors did not pick up even a trace of drugs. But, he’s soaked.” The officer smiled at the chaplain.

Satisfied, Carl gathered up the knapsack and returned it to Steve.

“Socks, t-shirt, and what else do you have in there?

“Some money my mom gave me. I’m supposed to walk for a cause, but I have lost my list, my clothes, my pack.” He gave the full pitiful story.

The reverend’s home was warm, smells included apple and peach, in a crock-pot.

“Carl, who is this? A new friend?” The woman was not classically beautiful, tall, broad-shouldered, her arms looked like some mens legs. She looked like she could have taken on both officers out on the highway, and win.

Quick assessment of her movements showed she was naturally built like this, then worked somewhere. The woman shook his hand, standing six-feet tall, broad shoulders, narrow waist and a flare to her hips. She appeared as an athlete, but he could not figure out her sport, but she moved as graceful as the cloudy leopard he once saw.

She was taller than Carl, but doted on him. Bringing Carl and Steve carefully ladled cups of the spiced peach cider out of the crock-pot.

“I thought you would put me in the shelter tonight. This is generous.” Steve accessed social protocol files. “Thank you.”

“No thanks needed.” The woman smiled and sat with them. “This is the best place for you, tonight. You have the guest bedroom, a shower is there with clean towels.”

Carl nodded as she continued.

“This is not a free stay, in the morning, we start at six o’clock. Breakfast is served at six-thirty, we have sandbags to deliver to the community center for homeowners. This storm is going to stay for some time before it gets cold enough to snow.” She said while sipping her drink.

Steve drank his virgin “Papple” cider and at a small square of dark chocolate “it is good for your health” . The carbohydrates converting into heat and electricity.

Police who argued that a good deed for a cold citizen could be cause for investigation.

A Christian man and his wife who open their home to him and not follow the rules and put him in a dorm-style bed that had thin mattresses and thinner blankets.

They bent the rules and let him sleep under thick blankets, eat their food and drink a drink while sitting in their house.

The woman who took care of her lover and husband was another oddity. She was not an obese, idol worshipping, world hating people.

She was a raven-haired woman with deep-set, searching eyes that showed her native heritage.

A kindness in her that extended to her husband, while he read from a well-worn bible.

No drugs, the odors in the house of cooking, crock-pot cider, smoke from the fireplace.

After a shower, core temperatures were in optimum operations, tissue repairs from hypothermia damage to his extremities were in full operation.

The experiences he had, the paradigm of the picture of the infidel American’s once again altered to fit the reality.

Tomorrow, he needed to donate his time to strangers.

This would be another first.

For the first time, the walking bomb looked forward to learning something new.

Steve, the Sword of Religion, was exceeding his programming in ways the creator never expected.

The Pirate Kingdom Facet 11. Escape

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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.

 

The Pirate Kingdom Facet 9. Port Aquila

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Facet 9. Port Aquila

Captain Alexandra blinked and took a relaxing breath as the lights changed in intensity, indicating arrival after eighteen hours of travel at faster than light speeds. The deceleration into orbit was smooth and practiced by the hand of the pilot and the advanced systems. The ship Alexandra the Great was capable of pulling much greater loads than the combined mass of the Seraph and the Alexandra’s own cargo load. The orbiting port, that served as the upper end of an elevator to the surface of the planet Aquila, talented engineers tethered by way of a graphene ribbon and diamond-nanorod cable that served the elevator to the ground thirty-two thousand kilometers below.

The big ship pulled into the dock slowly while anchors and airlocks maneuvered in place. Disembarking from the cargo super carrier transporter, uniformed agents guided the crews to a clinic for entry to the planet Aquila. Lines were short with the efficiency of the clinic and the professional faces of nurses and doctors went from room to room as the teams they checked for exposure to biological agents and pressed specialized pneumatic injector guns against the visitors and then the guided the crew of Alexandra the Great out to a waiting room.

Phoenix stepped into her room and the nurse invited to her to sit before she needed to remove her clinic garment  and dispose of it in the receptacle to her right.

A Doctor with kind eyes and wide smile stepped through the transparent glass door with a nurse carrying a single-use pneumatic injector.

With a press upon some keys on a flat panel at a terminal, the glass-walls became dark and opaque as he turned to the nurse and requested several items. As the nurse took her thermal and vital signs.

Phoenix watched as a nurse approached with a clear tablet that she could read her name backwards though the transparent device. As the efficient, unsmiling and harried young man tapped her information into the flat panel.

“My name is Skyy, how do you feel? Good? Good. Your blood pressure is a little high. This is your first time traveling this far out?” For the first time he smiled, the nurses pupils were slightly odd-shaped, as if there had been an injury in the past.

“Yes, it has been a stressful trip, investigating the damage to the ship.” Phoenix smiled back, “My first time at a crime scene of this magnitude. I have never been to the leftovers of a pirate attack.”

“Well,” he tapped a few more times on the flat panel, “you need a vaccine before you can go to the surface and that includes some DNA testing time.” he tapped again. “Every crew member that boarded that ship must have micro- graphic scan to see if there are any foreign nano-biologic material picked up that could determine the origin of the previous raiders. Many crew died, there is lots of evidence left by them that the investigators have requested for us to collect.”

“Vaccination?” she flipped open her own palm sized secretary. “That is not listed, we’ve requested to travel to the surface to meet with the incoming fleet from the High Council.”

“A common thing to overlook. It is in there.” The nurse chuckled, pressing a button and the walls became transparent once again. ”The doctor will explain it all, he’ll be in directly.”

Phoenix saw the doctor walk up to the clear wall stepped through the door, joining her. His smile was in bright contrast to his clothing and the eyes were sharp and missed little, taking all the world in. A deep voice with a wry sense of humor echoed in his greeting. The nurse handed the tablet to the doctor then tapped the panel on the wall that became opaque again.

“I’m Doctor Concord, pleased to meet someone from the boomer fleet. Is there any further findings on that ship? Anything about Captain Metrano? No? Pity, oh well.” He didn’t type, the clipboard he used transcribed their conversation as text. “No allergies to medications, I see.” His glasses seemed a little large for his face, but the well-practiced smile balanced it out.

“We will have to give you a vaccine that is unique to this planet to protect you from the ubiquitous single-celled little bug that a long ago by a wreck introduced. It mutated and now causes serious gastric distress to new visitors, the vaccine is your best prevention.”

Phoenix nodded and entered the subject to look up later. She had not expected any vaccinations from their contact and their towing a ship to the port. But the council wanted to meet with her at the capital on the planet.

“There is no bending fo the rules, this is part of the normal procedures. The collective governments of Aquila Nova also absorb the costs rather than have anyone spend their entire stay and tour of the outer rim in a sick-bed.” Explained Dr. Concord The nurse re-entered the room with a tray with a pistol shaped injector.

“Now you have had no adverse reactions to any medication at all? You have read the forms on possible reactions to the vaccine…” The Doctor broke off as Phoenix shook her head.

“I have not seen any forms.”

The nurse turned to a display and tapped on it. “She came from Durre Menthor.” He shook his head. “They have stopped giving the notices a month ago, and the admin suspended using forms yesterday.”

“The governments are not seeing eye to eye— again.” The Doctor sighed. “This time they have tried to sabotage interplanetary travel. Okay, we will get you a notice, a form and I will explain it to you.”

“It’s just a vaccine, right?” Phoenix was curious what the concerns were.

“Well, this is fifth generation vaccine, the first two generations had some, rather adverse, reactions that ran about one-third of those that received them. Most were minor. It is in the archives and taught around the systems as how the human DNA could be altered with vaccines.”

Phoenix nodded. In the past, from the first blood transfusions to the first allergic reactions to injections filled history books  with first generation problems from medicine to technology.

“The first generations of the vaccine used other mammals that were not susceptible to the amoeba infection. Here is the notice, ” The Doctor smiled as the nurse came in and handed her a hard copy and code to download it to her personal system. “The reactions sometimes altered the looks of the humans. In the case of a feline based vaccination, some people took on cat-like appearances and in the extreme cases, physical agility. In the case of canine there are documented cases of wolf-like changes.”

Phoenix blinked. She recalled that, from school, the social studies that caused many to portray these altered humans as non-human. They needed to fight a war for their freedoms, to move and live between Durre Menthor and Aquila Nova.

She looked at the nurse nodded— she remembered his eyes! He had feline eyes, with almost slit pupils.

“My grandmother was a fur-covered and tailed beauty that was an accomplished dramatic actress on the planet for one example.” Nurse Skyy smiled. “My grandfather was full human, after she moved back to Terra-Dyo and my mother and father were never vaccinated. My mom had the recessive trait and my eyes I inherited from my grandmother.”

The Doctor nodded. “Some were avian based and although in clinical trials it passed, it was found that if the avian mutations developed, it was a critical medical problem and many died if they became avian altered. Some took on other features, but none have been a great problem since the third-generation of vaccines.”

Phoenix nodded and rolled up her sleeve. “Well, better to get it than go back where I came or spend time in the bathroom.”

The hiss of the injector was like a short spit from a cat while Phoenix sat on the chair. The Doctor smiled and looked at her as she felt a slight flush and asked if that happened often.

“That’s normal, although everyone reacts differently…” Dr. Concord broke off as the room shook and a loud boom resonated through the building.

“What the f…” Squawked the nurse as he took a curious cat-like pose on the shaken floor, then walked out with the Doctor into the middle of the hall.

The door closed and lights flickered as the opaque wall became clear, Phoenix could see the Doctor standing in the middle of the hall pointing his finger at a communication console. Power flickered over the central med-station and Phoenix could see other rooms were people were standing and looking around, the walls were clear everywhere. Several nurses and doctors ran to the rooms and opened doors, indicating for people to leave when the a burst of explosives in the waiting room shattered the security knocked everyone down.

Outside, the Buccaneer Cooperative ships, Thunderbolt, Lightning and Thunder Child sat in a parking orbit around the space station, at a distance, keeping the space-control officer on edge, when alerts in the shipping control center beeped to life and began to flash.

Multiple signatures of several huge warp bubbles. Large enough to carry several ships each. Sensors could pick them up several hundred AU’s away. These ships were carrying titanic energy signatures that pegged all read outs.

One Sub-commander running his fingers over his face as he viewed the displays, talking to the command officer over the microphone.

“This big of a signal, there might be over a hundred  ships, sir, we don’t have enough room for them.” Sub-commander Taul spoke quietly into his microphone of his headset.

“Incoming transmission. Fleet commander wants to speak with the Ship control commander.” The communications officer called over the intercom.

Shimmering out in away that was never seen in the five-years in the traffic control, the outer markers shook and vibrated until they blurred from the energy bow-wave of the approaching fleet.

Suddenly, warning lights indicated high-velocity missiles passing through the lanes towards the disturbance. Three explosions bloomed brightly and silently in the dark sky of the interplanetary space and alarms echoed through out the station.

Huge battleships that had been hidden behind the blue gas-giant planet Scorpi, surged out in formation, filling the space of the arriving fleet with giant explosions. Huge detonations of the hyper-fast special explosives collapsed the stretched space fabric, call a Worm Hole, that the massive energy from the ships opened. Any and all ships in that tunnel would be destroyed or seriously damaged. On the side of the battleships, the Momo Empire flag stood out in stark relief.

The Thunderbolt fired. Lightning, in motion and charged weapons with a skeleton crew. Overcoming the lack of personnel who were on Port Aquila.

The flying gun of the fleet shattered the cover of four other Momo ships that had drifted with the dark cloud of small asteroids and dust, hiding in the debris as it orbited the home star or Nova Aquila.

Originally not part of the Pirate Confederation in years of the negotiations. They were not considered under the control of the united pirate agreements.

On the surface of Aquila, Leader of the High Council Peony summoned the Momo Empire Representative to demand the reason of the attack. The representative brought an answer. Looking like a kid caught stealing cookies, clearly not in line with the tone of the notice he carried in his tablet. The ambassador presented to his host the ultimatum.

The demand was to capitulate and all pirate fleets destroyed and the council surrender to the Admiral of the Momo Fleet at Port Aquila.

War had come to Port Aquila.

©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