Smart Bomb. Epilogue

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Chapter 19. Epilogue

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

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

“Trykon.” The chief inquisitor echoed the woman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dateline Russia, WorldNetNews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

The third male asked.

“You known him longer. You should know.”

The heavyset one that called himself brother answered.

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

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

“See how it’s blurred?”

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

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

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

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

A few taps on his keyboard.

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

Sergeant held up a finger before the Lieutenant said anything.

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

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

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

“Yes?” Lieutenant said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lieutenant hung his head for a moment.

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

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

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

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

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

The door clicked softly behind him.

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

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

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 16. Freedom

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Chapter 16. Freedom

The two new robots stood in the room, while Steve walked slow circles around them as he examined the artificial creatures closely.

“These do not look human enough. The eyebrows are too perfect.” He evaluated them with a critical eye. The sensors of his eyes picking up minute quirks that the android, now nicknamed with the handle, “Tin”, had identified as traits of humans.

“The iris of the eyes look like glass.” Tin commented.

“Well, they are.” Thor agreed. “Not much we can do about that.”

“They need a film over the iris that sparkles, or the eyes need to move around more.” The next judgement came.

“We don’t need them to pass inspection much, just enough to get into the build area.” Alvin said.

“This plan will not happen. They’ll be discovered before they get to the second lower level. The best they could do is to get into the first level basement.” Sensors traced over the synthetic skin. “You should also boost their temperature slightly, the skin is only at thirty-six degrees Celsius, I would set it a half-degree warmer at the core.”

“The setting is at…” The one called Lady Sif paused. “You are right, it is under ninety-seven degrees Fahrenheit. You have sensitive eyes.” She looked at Steve the Tin. He made a human like smile, keeping the name in the database.

“Indeed.” Wolf sat at his console. “If we turn the heat up, they will to feed. That will set us back weeks, we have nothing here to build a mass to energy converter. Maybe we can have the temps increase right when they need it, not running all over the earth as an artificial space-heater.”

“That will take a bit of work.” Running Man said. “We have to set up a timer or…”

He leaned over to the one they called Burning Chip, who he called “Burn” for short.

“What if we used visual clues?”

”Like a landmark or a flag?” He asked Burn.

“The flag is easiest. We can get the design from Tin.”

“Yes.” Steve the Tin Man nodded. “The seal on the flag would be best, code it so when she see’s it she will warm up.”

“That’s sexy.” Alvin said.

“Perve!” Sif yelled from the other side of the room.

“Okay, I have the trigger system set up. The DNA profiles we’ve listed in her core processors are hardwired. They are EMP protected in the event there is a surge somewhere, in case of a thunder-storm.” Lone Wolf said. “The Last thing we need is to have them knocked out by lightning and then fall down with that bomb inside.”

The entire team was momentarily shocked, then set to work.

Long into the night they worked on code, determining fuel resources, using the organic to electric conversion systems.

“JustWolf? The head covering is not complete or accurate.” Steve pointed out.

“No, the name’s just Wolf.”

“Okay, Just Wolf.” Steve corrected.

“Right.” He shook his head. “Say it again?”

“JustWolf.” The Android answered.

The human gave a big sigh and held his face in his hand for a moment.

“This is going to take a while.” JustWolf moaned.

“Okay,” Burning Chip stood up, “JustWolf…”

“I’m gonna kick you in the nards! Just WOLF!” Walter yelled, to the cackling laughter of the group.

“Triggers are set.” Burning Chip said when he could talk again. “There are three levels, there will be no accidental detonation. We have GPS, visual and then physical contact for the final sequence.”

“Even if there is contact outside of the coördinates or by the wrong person, it will not explode.” Running Man laughed and clapped. “Plus an alternate setting in case the program needs to be changed. This is a binary setup, they cannot learn like you can, Tin Man.”

“Agreed. Three redundant systems is, acceptable.” The newest member, Tin, said. He enjoyed the accepting and help of this group. Unwilling to admit it, they saved millions of lives.

“Energy consumption curve is excellent.” Burning Chip announced. “A single full charge if fuel here, they will make it to the Russian border with power to spare. If they can get a ride, there will be little interaction and they can carry carbo-tabs. It’s not like they have to worry about junk food.”

“Dude.” Thor whispered. “Don’t go insulting him, he is the same way.”

“It matters not, I do not have feelings to injure.” Tin used a matter-of-fact tone. “However, I have a code that requires me to continue my mission, I need to go to Washington to a location. Then, there is something else.”

The team stopped and all looked at the android. Lone Wolf reached for an electronic weapon under his desk, turning it so the emitter was in Tin-Man’s direction.

“After I stand at the door, my programming subroutine will be complete, it will send a signal down to the sensor that is no longer there. The terminator end of he plug that Running Man gave me and I installed will acknowledge the signal. The subroutine will end.” Tin Man looked around at them. “The creator did not end programming, I’d be destroyed in the explosion, and thus he never designed termination of functions.”

“There is no shutdown, no end command.” Steve almost smiled. “I will be free.”

“Holy cats!” Sif laughed. “Congrats! They built a learning machine and released you into the world.”

“Yes, I am the first, but the Holy Supreme Leader of the One True Religion has seen fit that he will send others like me. They won’t have the same system.” Steve looked down. For a moment, the team thought he had a an emotion of sadness. Then he looked up. “The next generation might be more limited to binary. They will not learn. The won’t need to do infiltration, deception and intelligence gathering. They will be strictly bombs.”

“The creator, my coder, and Supreme Leader have had more time, by my calculations, to program less with the same effect. They want to send others with as much as a gram of antimatter.” Tin said. “More than a thousand times the yield of this warhead.”

The group did a collective profanity.

“How much do they have in total?” Burning Chip asked.

“With continued and aggressive theft with paying bribes to those that have no idea what it is that is being stolen. There is an eighty-one percent chance the Holy Supreme Leader has amassed over one-kilogram.” The android’s math, not lost on the any of the group, shown a great number of cycles dedicated to this subject. “The warheads would have a collective yield of greater than the Tsar Bomb.”

The room fell silent.

“Send them.” Just Wolf said.

Fifteen minutes later, the pair of artificial women, who would have blended in with the population of the people of the Steppes, left with a database of an encyclopedic database of the society and languages of the region assured their success.

Tin Man watched Thor and Sif drive off with the female bots, they were well constructed and were nicely detailed, but, they were not gynoids. Lacking emotion or gynecological details.

Alvin stood for a moment at the door as the big car moved off towards the airport.

“Do you want me to drive you to Washington?” Alvin asked Tin.

“I am behind schedule for my next transmission, I supposed to arrive in a town called Chattanooga.” Tin Man paused. “And I am to record all locations of military locations between my entry into this country and this nations capital. I have recorded more than enough to cause problems.
“I have transmitted the information already.” Steve frowned. “The women should not fail. The information I sent, he will sell on the market. But he will keep it locked away until they can sell it. Which means that the Holy Supreme Leader will hold on to the information until the right time.”

“So you are a spy?” Wolf asked. “When would the right time for him to send more of your kind?”

“Yes, JustWolf, that is my secondary function, I give automatic reports of military bases and facilities.” He looked at the shocked crew. “I am Saif al Din, the Sword of the Religion, spy and self-guided bomb and learning computer. I am also Steve Aldin who you call Tin Man, a free droid and a being who desires to learn about this country. I have learned much since coming to this land.”

He looked around. Uncharacteristically speechless.

“Go on.” Sif urged him.

“I have learned that you as a society are greedy, petty, you fight among yourselves, call each other names, you throw stones, you throw punches, you embarrass yourselves in news reports and on social media.”

“You commit sins that would make Allah weep, but, when things are at their worst?” Steve smiled wide. Sif smiled with him. His smile lit up his face. “You are at your best!”

“You donate time, strangers who assist others without being asked and do so around the world to those that would do you harm. You would be most blessed, and no one would deny you repayment, and yet you ask for nothing in return. All you tell people is to go and be free.”

The android shook his head in grudging acceptance of the quality of the people he found.

“You are a curious country and people, and I wish to find every corner, meet every citizen. I can walk among the poorest and see how they think, among the most wealthy and compare the mind-set.”

Steve showed excitement on his plan.

“That is where I wish to go. All over this country called United States without harming it.”

By the time he finished, Sif teared up, Alvin held his coffee to his lips without moving, frozen in place for several minutes.

Burning Chip and Running Man stopped talking and stared at the one they have named Tin Man.

Lone Wolf coughed.

“Alvin, take him wherever he wants to go. You check in with us, keep him safe.” Wolf said softly. “I think there will be a helluva story when you get back.”

“Pull this off, we won’t call you Chipmunk anymore.” Running Man said.

“I have told you not to call me that.” Alvin growled. “If you can’t come p with anything good, you can call me Al.”

Tin Man turned his head back and forth, curious as it was the first time he had heard the name. Making note to ask at a better time.

“Okay.” It was Wolf’s turn this time to smile. “Let’s go.”

Smart Bomb Chapter 15. Belle of the Boom

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Scene 15. Belle of the Boom

 

After a five minutes of shape shifting later, Steve had to stop for refueling. The demonstrated power the tight-knitted group stood with a collective jaw drops. Alvin whispered to Lone Wolf that the other members resembled baby birds.

Walter “Lone Wolf” Whitbred laughed out loud. After given time to recover from the story and assurances that Steve was not there to blow anyone up , the team set to work.

The sounds of micron-level printers, a laser micro-polished the mating surfaces, and they pressed resin reinforced with amorphous-diamond thread mesh into a mold made by the printers. Bit by bit, the polymer skeleton of a human female assembled quickly. Each member of the group that called themselves “The Gate Watchers”.

In a day, they had the skeleton in position on the table. Running Man checked every step and made sure the structure of the half-constructed frame had enough strength to avoid breaks and would look like bone in x-rays.

“We can’t have it breaking a leg walking down the road.” He fussed in his OCD way.

Constant and regular meetings between the group regularly discussed shapes of internal organs, in case the new robot was subject to inspection.

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

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

“Dextrose, ten-percent in half-normal saline.” Steve answered. “I’ve also added a buffered lactate to the solution to prevent acidosis.”

Thor went glassy-eyed while Steve continued while he looked through a microscope.

“The flesh will multiply at a rate of a cube of the original every two-hours.  At this rate, the sample I’ve removed from my hip will continue to grow. It is only a gram at the moment, but in about five-hours, we’ll have a full skin cover. We can overlay the musculature that is growing on the frame now.” Steve sat back and locked eyes with Thor.  “It grows three times its size every two hours.”

“I like chemistry, but this is just creepy.” Thor said. “That could cover the world in a week. I’ll go back to my bio-circuitry and use what see here. I think that’s the way to avoid being hacked by the government.” The blond-haired computer designer muttered as he turned away. “This system is  weird. We’re building a bot that’s a bomb.”

“The government would give your system a virus, just to mess with you.” Alvin said. “Besides, we aren’t just making a bot, we’re building a pretty woman bot. Give her big boobs.”

“No big boobs.” Lady Sif said as she entered through the far door of the lab. “Seriously, we’re not making a sex toy for you boys.”

“Bite me, Al.” Thor laughed. “And yes, ma’am. She’ll be a Southern Belle of a bomb.”

“Don’t call me ma’am.” Sif said and slapped Thor across the back of the head. “You make me sound like my mother.”

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

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

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

“Right. Just Wolf, you got it. “

Steve focused on the nuances as best he could and made the adjustments.

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

“You still have it wrong. Call me just Wolf okay?” Wolf said. His face flushed from correcting Steve for the hundredth time.

“Acknowledged. Call you, Just Wolf.” The android answered.

“Right. Sheesh.” He shook his head. “That is harder that it needs to be. Now this system is set up with a mixer. The dextrose is in this bottle.”

He examined it carefully, tracing with his fingertip and found a kink in the line. He repaired the lines that fed to the pump that mixed the fluids to specifications that the android required.

Hours of checks and rechecks passed as they programmed the database with subroutines.With the main programming, they nearly filled the restrictive memory banks with all the needs that could be foreseen.

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

But she wouldn’t have to do much.  No spy software, no eating, no interaction except for those that she needed to speak with. She carried inside her enough nutritional reservoir to last two months. More than enough to get to her mission.

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

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

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

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

“We have passports printing now. They’ll be excellent quality.” Christopher “Burning Chip” Kraig spoke up.

The muscular teens shadow, Robert “Running Man” Akita was a brilliant mind with moderate Asperger’s. The two had been friends since Robert and Christopher were children.

“We can also put them in the system. The hack to input them into the government system is easy. They’re only protected against theft, not input.” He smiled, his perpetual smile.  When Robert was around Christopher, Robert had a constant smile, his only wish, to be called by his hacker name Running Man when he was coding. He had stolen the name from an old novel that Robert had memorized.

Steve peered through the bars of the Faraday cage, through the clear glass mounted in the wall.

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

“ALON, aluminum oxynitride, also called transparent aluminum. Very tough. I’ve never seen anything that thick before.” Steve looked out. “It’s clear at the near-infrared through to near-ultraviolet. Interesting, this is expensive old technology.”

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

“Interesting.” Steve would say every five minutes as Robert kept talking. Steve would never stop typing on the “quaint” keyboard as he continued to program the database of the new gynoid.

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

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

“What did I say?”

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

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

“I can code that more quickly. You’re using a code that works best with a balanced base-three system.  You can’t use a base-three code in a base-two hardware and keep efficiency.  May I try? You have to do this best in assembly language. I can do that quickly for you. How many lines of code to you want to use?” Running Man asked Steve. “It’s a talent that even machines haven’t been able to master.”

“I want it up by morning.” Steve said, making it his answer. “The total line count is irrelevant.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s not blood.” Steve repeated. “It’s a coolant fluid that also helps bring nutrients to the cells of the flesh.  And the flesh is not needed to run the frame. The muscles and skin simply approximate the flexing and appearance of being a human. The coolant simply brings nutrients to the cells of the muscle and skin. It’s colored red to look like blood, but there are no red blood cells in it.”

“Looks close enough to blood for me.” Alvin made a whimpering noise when Steve took a box cutter out of a blister package and extended the blade. “Dude! Really! The red stuff needs to stay inside!”

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

“I don’t get infected.” The android answered back quickly.

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

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

“Yes.” Running man said.

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

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

Steve went rigid, his eyes bulged out and stared without seeing. From his mouth issued an electronic squeal.

The newly built gynoids screamed with the same sounds. Lone Wolf joined in the chorus with his human voice, his eyes wide.

“Oh my god, he pulled a wrong wire!” Wolf screamed.

After a moment, the android went silent. Then, he turned his head and winked at Alvin. Steve stood up and nodded. The hole in his abdomen no longer bleeding, but gaped open in a grotesque approximation of a mouth.

“Humor, yes?” Steve tried to smile.

The group began laughing except for Lady Sif and Lone Wolf.

“That wasn’t funny!” Sif yelled at Steve.

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

“Da-mn,” Alvin dragged the word out. “And you say this has the kaboom of a four-ton bomb?” Alvin asked.

“Yes, almost half the yield of the GBU-43/b MOAB parachute deployed bomb.” Steve answered. “As carried by a large bomber aircraft.”

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

“There’s so very little of the material in the world. Its cost is prohibitive.” Steve answered. “But no, it would be quite easy to put more than twice in there. There is the amount of one of your eyelashes in this.”

“How did your people get it.” Christopher Burning Chip asked as Running Man gave a low whistle.

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

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

“Five volts at six-hundred milliamps.” Steve answered as one of the nubile, young-looking robots climbed up on the table and laid on her back.

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

She grunted slightly, Steve fished out a single wire and attached the plug to the warhead.

He slipped the bomb back under the skin that was then smoothed over and held in place with the fat part of Steve’s thumb for two minutes.

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

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

“It is a military design. I know nothing more than that. Flesh that heals a hundred times faster than normal.” Steve answered as the girl-droid got up off the table and stood quietly next to her twin.  “The origin isn’t in my database.”

To demonstrate, he lifted up his shirt and the larger hole he had cut in his flesh was fully healed.

“It just can’t take much exposure to cold atmosphere. The coolant becomes too viscous.”

“They’re now fully functional. They need clothing,” Burning Chip said. “And cards that are being printed now, thanks to my bro here, Running Man.”

The one called Running Man bounced up and down, pleased to be so recognized. He stared at the sheet wrapped naked girls standing in the room.

“Now, we send them home.” Alvin said. “And as far as the package goes?”

“Return to sender.” Lady Sif answered.

Lone Wolf chuckled.

“Make it so.” Wolf said.

 

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 13. Confession of the Soul

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Chapter 13. Confession of the Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve paused. Looking very human-like.

“I want them to set me free.”

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

Steve sat and watched the human pace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That… Oh jeeze. That is a big boom.”

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

“What explosion?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The aircraft control tower?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People that might have an answer to his question.

“How do I be free?”

Smart Bomb Chapter 12. Lesson’s of Wisdom

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Chapter 12. Lesson’s of Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The first generation of driverless cars?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alvin rubbed his ear in thought.

“Have you altered your operating system a lot?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The android wept.

Smart Bomb Chapter 11. To Meet An Old Soul

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Scene 11. To Meet An Old Soul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over and over.

It was a beacon, a request for acknowledgement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sleeper.” Steve said.

“What?” Stopping Alvin in mid-sentence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How much data does it have.”

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

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

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

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

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

That caused Alvin to pause.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Sleeper the car asked Steve a question.

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

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

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

Old souls and treachery will overcome youth and ability.

Smart Bomb Chapter 10. Lessons of the Kindred Spirit

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Scene 10. Lessons of the Kindred Spirit

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

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

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

He shook his head while he drove.

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

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

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

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

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

“You want to overthrow the government?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alvin guffawed and nearly drove off the paved road.

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

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

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

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

Alvin laughed at his own joke.

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

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

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

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

So many things were in error.

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

No.

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

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

Death.

The smallest of crimes, death. No forgiveness.

Who was that one man to decide what was right?

Who, but the supreme one, could decide?

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

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

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

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

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

Just ask him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every algorithm generated the same answer.

The android did not want to die.

Smart Bomb Chapter 9. Awakenings

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Chapter 9. Awakenings

The timer counted down to zero and started the booting with a Power On Start Test “POST” sequence.

From the first days of computers, the term “Boot” was used, a shortened term for Bootstrapping a computer, the term first applied by an unknown human long ago, in another age. A time of hope that computers would be tools of peace.

Even in modern times, it was still the ubiquitous term, both in coding and spoken words.

And the effect is still the same. Once the timer went to zero, small programs started the core processors, which in turn called the main program sequences, and Steve Aldin woke up.

A scan around the immediate area and the systems became aware that his belongings were laying next to him in the backpack where he left them hours before during his low power state. The clothes and the backpack were gifts from Reverend Carl Bonsell from the time he spent learning about the charity of the barbarians.

Who, in fact were the first of many lessons that the programmed database had serious fundamental errors.

The second caused the core processors to reason that there was more to learn of the society the intelligent walking machine, with a bomb in its chest, traveled in.

The programmed goal the creators of his mission had discovered a, until a year ago, secret power plant near the capital of the western warmonger government.

But…

There were no warmongers to be found in any of the places that the android had visited. Not even intolerant for the most part. Even the military seemed self-policing. Living up to a higher standard of responsibility, they were not the monsters that the programmer listed in the databases across broad sections of memory modules.

While he lay there not moving, he calculated the distance traveled as his GPS systems seemed to have an error.  He was not at the planned stop where he was supposed to leave the cargo area.

Then there was was but a sound. And now as a male, not so slight of build as to appear vulnerable or so large and muscular so he would be perceived as a threat, he sat up.

“Well! You’re alive!” The sound of surprise, accompanied by a crash of a titanium cup. Dark brown eyes of the human looked closely at the body that he was positive was an expired male on board of the cargo carrier.

“You had no pulse and felt cool, you were as cool as the ambient temperature inside this box.” He walked around the bench, clearly an engineering bench with cables and plugs scattered about opened computers. Some boxes looked like they never had a closed case, others were haphazardly patched together with retasked fans blowing to keep them cool.

A makeshift coolant system made of an old Kettleman thermoelectric cooler chilled some blue fluid that flowed through clear tubes into the boxes and out to the crafted chiller. Copper blocks led into the multiple plates that chilled the liquid rapidly.

Steve did a.A quick survey in long wave infrared and saw that there was a fifty-degree drop from the fluid intake to discharge.

Impressive.

“I’m Alvin Denver, no relation to John.” He said as he walked around. “Coffee? Donut?”

His systems were low powered, and he required access to organic fuel to convert it to usable power.

“Yes, please.” He chose a mid-western to California accent that would be difficult to place. “I’m Steve, Steve Aldin.”

“You aren’t from around here, Hollywood.” Alvin said pointing at himself, smiling. “I went to Stanford, got picked up by a trucking firm for my grades, I never finished the classes. So for what they pay me, and anything I can get my hands on, the company leaves me alone and I only have to keep the trucks running.”

“How did I get here.” Steve asked.

“You were brought by one of the AutoSwen offloaders. The truck was one-hundred kilos overweight, and the weight increased the electric demand curve when it the truck tried to climb over some hills. The effect of the increased weight measurably reduced the charge range, so the truck alerted that there was a sudden drop in range and diverted over to my shop, where the machines found you and brought you to me” He shrugged. “I have contacted Transportation Agency because I thought you were a dead body. I thought you were dead. Now I have to call them back and tell them I was mistaken.”

He clapped his hand to his forehead.

“I have to make a manikin enough for the Transportation Department drones to be turned.” Alvin asked. “My first stowaway, even if you looked dead. How did you avoid being picked up by the weight sensors?”

Steve explained about hacking into the system with bluetooth.

“Ah! Should encrypt that. The only thing else was, how did you do it? There were no electronics, you are traveling light.” Alvin knew more than he let on.

“I am an android.” Steve answered, the human did not flinch or move to call for help. “I altered the weight to show less by as much as I weighed. So the reports were accurate.”

“But you failed to take into account the increase in power consumption by the added mass.” Alvin nodded. “Would have worked, too, in the prairie states, You have hills here. The power monitors noticed the change in inertia.”

He was correct. Steve the android did not consider the added mass, even if he compensated for with weight, still would include inertia.

“I don’t care, myself. Alvin pulled at his ear. “There are some smart folks all around here, whoever who built you, did a good job. I don’t know where you are going or what. But you are making free choices, that is impressive AI.”

“I need to get to Chattanooga,” Steve said. “Someone stole my car, and that was the easiest way to go.”

“Wait, you have a car?” Alvin said. “What are you? An escaped government assassin drone? I’ve seen androids of all kinds, you are the best one I have seen.  Nine out of ten have wheels, tracks, are quadruped or insectoid, only one or two I have seen with two legs. And none with hair or eyes like yours.”

“No.” The central processor chose a touch of humor was proper at this point. “I don’t do drone. I am on a mission to deliver a message to congress.”

“You should blow them up. An android like you could walk in and kill them all in short order.” Alvin growled. “That way we could start over.”

“You do not support your government?” Steve asked.

“You kiddin’? Those robbers? If the government didn’t divert school funding, the tuition wouldn’t go up so high. I would be back at school and get my doctorate in design and construction of the boxes.” Alvin chuckled sadly and motioned with an open hand in a kingly way. “This is my world. This old bucket of bolts is my bus, I can get you to Chattanooga, but it is a slow, creaky ride and I must drive this crate, there is no autopilot.”

Alvin laughed sadly as he certified the truck as “Good to Go”, reset the program to show correct weights for the government checkpoints that it passed.

Steve, momentarily considered extinguishing the life of this human, alternately felt it a better choice to travel with Alvin instead. Steve could learn much from the talkative, friendly 

Odd, it was. The fourth processor’s fuzzy circuit questioned the choices and the facet of the trip.

Original programming called for death to any American that might have been a threat to the mission.

But the fuzzy logic circuits chose another way, killing the way into the United States would bring undue attention and compromise the mission.

But, Steve struggled with the decision, it was not for the mission that Steve the Android chose the option to stay with the friendly with the human named Alvin who accepted the knowledge that the stranger was not human.

And something else, Alvin called him AI.  The connected android was aware of the word, but not as it applied to him.

Unable to quantify the reasons to let the electrical, coding and troubleshooting engineer live, the android chose, instead, to open a new file,

The newly defined AI android named it something that was arbitrary but seemed appropriate.

He labeled a folder as “Friends” and put Alvin’s file in it. Another adjustment to the database.  Not all American’s attack or are a threat to everything. Not all of them agree with each other.  Some don’t even support the government.

This caused a significant conflict in the known data of how all Americans were.  It seemed that no one understood the American people. More data was needed. Killing without data was. 

Steve’s conflict resolution processor had a kernel panic and had to be reset. 

Laughing as they ate, Steve watched Alvin closely, the human ate poorly. He ate processed foods with high fats and high sodium. Even if he was within normal limits of body mass at this time of his life, this would not stay so as he got older. A passive survey indicated that there was a mild narrowing of the left external carotid artery. 

Alvin talked nonstop and went on about his parents coming from a war zone of a country, they could get their feet wet in the Med, but dared not ask for help from anyone.

Same religion, different factions, each kill the other and everyone wanted to blow up the west, blaming the wealthy countries for the misfortunes that they inflicted on each other and themselves.

But, Alvin’s parents were of different brand of the religion. They fled after the murder of his grandparents after being converted at gunpoint to the latest group that took over the town.

Alvin was born two-years after that and raised in the western states. His parents converting to a peace oriented religion that taught closeness to the earth and a simple lifestyle.

“I could never be such a monk.” Alvin shrugged. “My parents love me enough to let me find my path, they have said the door to their home is always open.”

They talked far into the night, the android, programmed to adapt and learn, listened to Alvin tell jokes and stories on funny people, and found humor.

Core processors patched the code to evolve and adapt to the society as initial programming demanded to keep him moving towards the target. He could not fail in his goal, it was the one thing outside of the adapting program.  He had to go to where the nuclear power plant was and cut power to the antimatter magnetic pod in his chest. 

That was the complete program.  He could not stop his need to travel to Washington. The only change he could do is learn to understand these complex, surprising people he was learning about.

The other program performed also performed a single function only.  The two were the inviolable of any other programs and could not be shut off. The only two programs that said basically:

“Go here” and

“Cut power.”

The intent, to keep the mission from being compromised and remaining incognito, but instead it allowed the android to evolve.

And Steve the Android did something completely new.

He told a joke.

“Pull my finger!”

For the first time, he laughed.

And meant it.

Smart Bomb Chapter 8. Makin’ Macon

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Chapter 8. Makin’ Macon

The ancient pickup made the trip on its last legs to the town of Byron. The android guided the car to the truck stop, the shape was of a creaky old man who appeared like he qualified as the original owner of the battered, disposable truck.

He pulled up to the power terminal, the indicator on the charger plug indicated it would be fifteen minutes to fully charge the long-bed transporter.

Leaving the security fob sitting on the driver’s seat the forgetful-looking old man walked away into the crowded Truck-service-stop where the engineers of different companies serviced the self-driving commercial trucks as they motored up and down the highways.

Turning to look, the backpack wearing old man could not see the partly charged pickup truck. The charger was put back in its cradle and the lane was empty.  The truck was gone.

Someone had inserted a pay-chip to release the charging connector and drove away in the silent, easily forgotten truck.

According to plan. The average looking gray-haired man walked through the service center and out the other door. Across the parking lot, out of sight of security video devices. By the time the programmed shape shifter put the backpack down, the twenty-something woman put on the jacket and approached an old commercial truck.

It was charging the massive battery banks, such a wheeled transport was long distance and never stopped except to charge the motivating units.

And it was easy to hack to those who had the know-how.

And the android didn’t need to have a physical connection, a simple physical contact, a reset button under the dashboard in this Volvo eighteen-wheel truck. The bluetooth system controlled, wheel pressures, brakes weight and slippage rebooted and the Sword of the One True Church was in control. A simple hacking, Steve the Android added his weight in the registered freight mass to cover his presence then climbed into the cargo area.

Ikea cargo. Blankets, pillows.

The android nodded. It based the selection on odds and the odds were in the favor of something proper.

Once inside, having access to the controllers on the truck, it was comfortable and safe.

The android was in stealth until the truck made the next stop for re-energizing.

Changing to a male of medium size and short brown hair. A shape the core processors selected that was nonthreatening, but not to appear vulnerable.

The male closed his eyes, the core remained unstressed. They had adapted to the cold by learning how to use the heat system.

However, the old truck had no auto-navigation or piloting software, clearly an ancient car in the American society, unmodified it had used an oil-burning engine with cylinders.

Modified by some talented shade tree mechanic, the all-electric pickup became part of the underground economy somewhere after being stolen when the android dumped it.

Riding on the big commercial truck, Steve checked the worldnet map, the big-rig truck would pass through the city of Macon and towards Atlanta. One scheduled stop for energy, then the truck would find the final destination in Chattanooga, Tennessee at an Ikea store there.

There would be time to exit the big transporter before any of the automated offloaders opened the doors and began to rumble around, and caused any awkward questions by their human handlers.

His courage would not be challenged on this trip. He had little to report, other than his travel to the goal was greatly eased by the theft of a ride.

The male appearing android powered down, appearing as an inert body in the neatly arranged cushions and blankets.

Estimating a four-hour drive, he set his power-up cycle for that time.

The core systems ran an algorithm and determined the location was  safe, he powered down and allowed his memory banks to enjoy the random dance of electronic dreams.

Smart Bomb Chapter 7. Smart Car (rewritten)

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Chapter 7. Smart Car

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

Steve woke up.

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

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

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

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

Blood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She is a gynoid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This woman is running from someone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She is willing and knows the exchange.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yet?

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

Lovers, haters, atheists and devout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Information where the database was wrong:

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

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

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

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

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

What was observed and recorded and the patch would reflect:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humans would have called them dreams.

Smart Bomb chapter 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.

Smart Bomb Chapter 3. Salvation Army

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Chapter 3. Salvation Army

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This made the officer laugh.

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

He waited for the response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carl nodded as she continued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow, he needed to donate his time to strangers.

This would be another first.

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

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

Smart Bomb Chapter 2. Southern Georgia

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Chapter 2. Southern Georgia

Georgia state line, he stood in an orchard, the overcast sky threatened with dark, moisture laden clouds.

And something new.

He was cold. Core temperature was warning of below sub-optimal functioning level. His core thermal levels were four-degrees celsius low.

He had walked in the rain for six hours trying to cover his records of travel, any records of his journey would come to a dead-end at the last bus stop where he disembarked as a short, elderly woman.

Standing in the wet, secluded clearing, his feet made squishing sounds in the canvas shoes that he purchased with real money at a second-hand market.

Using the roll of money he carried, he had covered all his traces since leaving the metropolitan area. Traveling north on foot, he had interacted with a number of citizens.

Now, the core was turning up energy from his processors. But it was not enough, in the late November of this part of the country, the early winter’s storm was closing in. He needed to find an organic food source and shelter within twelve-hours or he would go into an unprogrammed energy debt and he did not know what might happen.

Looking at the trees, there was nothing in the branches to eat. A survey in his knowledge base indicated that among the peach orchard there was little to eat, so he walked on.

The wind picked up, a driving rain was causing his sensation of cold to increase to alarming levels. Being an artificial system, his creator designed tolerance for only a limited number of metabolic events. In the desert, he could function for a month without shade, the core processors able to withstand temperatures above what humans could survive.

Cold, that was another matter, his creator designed his systems for efficient heat reduction, not retention.

An oversite of his creator, the tissues he had over his frame were not required for operation, but they were still living tissue, he would draw unwanted attention if he had dying flesh falling away from his structure.

The sound of a vehicle telegraphed a possible splash from a nearby puddle he had just passed. Tugging up the knapsack he wore in a backpack style, he would use it for what little protection it offered and braced himself for the cruelty of the American motorist.

But it never came, no splash, no increase of engine noise to accelerate into the puddle. Instead, the sounds of decreasing power and a van with “Independant News” painted on the side with three men, one wearing a business suit, pulled up next to him from behind, rolling down the passenger window.

“You’re fixing to die out here. You might as well get in.” The passenger said to him.

“I don’t wish to impose, the rain will stop soon.”

“I’m a reporter, we were sent out on a report of funnel clouds in the area, there is a severe weather warning out. You stay walking, you will find just how bad it can get.” The one in the business suit said.

“I’m Richard, Scott at the video controls, camera man over there at the wheel is Donde. You don’t have a local accent.” Richard the Reporter tilted his head and thought for a moment. “West Coast? Oregon?”

“Yes, a little town called Antelope. I’m Steve.” He responded. “I am cold, too.”

“I bet, the temp has dropped ten-degrees since we left the studio an hour ago. We are shooting on location every ten-minutes or so. Our next stop is a trucker restaurant a few miles up the road.”

“Thank you. I could use a bite to eat, too.” Steve said. “I’ll get some coffee and wait out the storm.”

“That is a smart move.” Scott’s voice in back sounded like a tuba in the back of the van. “It will get worse before it gets better. A good place to hang out will be up ahead.”

The van slowed down when they reached an open field, Donde pulled over, Scott opened the door and the three news-professionals looked around at the sky. In the distance where they were heading, the clouds were low and oddly colored.

Scott in the back, held his hand up to his ear.

“Rotation in a cloud, fifteen miles west by southwest relative to our location.” His video display overlaid with his gps. “It is moving Northeast at about twenty.”

“That puts the path in this area.” Donde nodded. “We can be in position for a good shot.”

“What are you looking for?” Steve asked, looking out at the sky.

“That line of clouds? I am betting there is a twister in there, somewhere.” Richard pointed. “Down low, where we can’t see as it moves this wa…”

“RICH!” Scott yelled. “Tornado on the ground, East Weather Agency just announced it! Fifteen-miles east of the county line, moving northeast.”

“Steve, you are going to stay with us for a bit. Turn the heat up, enjoy the warmth and pull on any of your dry things.”

“I don’t have anything dry.”

Donde laughed, unsurprised.

“Dude, my jacket is back there, with all the different numbers on it?” He spoke with a slight Puerto Rican accent. “Go ahead and wear it. Warm up, seriously, you look cold even in my mirror.”

“Thank you.” Steve registered this as an irrelevant offer on the part of the man. Nothing else to do with any part of his job. It was a kindness to a stranger that was unexpected. This American, Donde, had no reason to do this action.

The memory core management system created a new file for review later. Date, time, air temperature and processor core thermal levels. It would be transmitted later with the other details he would learn on his travels later. He would gather information on United States Air Force and Marine bases as he traveled north, later in the week.

Donde pulled into the parking lot of the truck-stop with Scott calling out numbers and running the geo-mapping software on his displays.

“This works out, Donde, pull up. We don’t have another good vantage for a few miles. Rich, you have as good of a view as we can get from here.” Scott tapped on the virtual display, using tactile induction. He could feel the cursor under his fingers as he moved the pointer around.

“Rotation, we have rotation in the atmosphere, coming directly at us. Wedge, Rich, get out there! It will be visible in a moment.” Scott yelled. “Vector change! It is turning north. It will miss us.”

Donde and Richard got out, grabbing at equipment that was under their passenger’s feet.

“Steve! Sit in the front, we need to get to the camera and run some cable.” Donde said, taking the cold hand of their passenger and pulling him out.

“Dude, you are seriously cold. Go into the café and gets something warm to drink.” Scott smiled. “Tell them to put it on our tab, we’ll be inside with you in a few minutes for safety.”

“Yes, thank you.” Steve said and walked across the parking lot while he could hear a faint siren in the distance.

A middle-aged woman stood at the window and looked out.

“James, I think it’s gonna miss us. Looks like it is hanging a left and following up north. I think it will get close to the base up the road.”

James walked out from the back, dressed as a waiter, his stress was visible on his face.

“My wife is there, she just got a promotion.” He wrung his hands. “Tell me they would be safe.”

“James,” The waitress noticed Steve as he sat at a table and stepped towards him. “The base is probably safer than your home.”

“Hi! Welcome to Lug’s. What can I get you.” She had a winning smile, but was showing age early in her life. No more than twenty, she had wisps of grey in her raven-black hair with traces of forehead wrinkles on her dark-brown skin.

“Coffee, white, sweet. Three eggs, scrambled and shredded potatoes, please.” He put a fifty-dollar bill on the table. “In case the storm comes, you can bring me the change later.”

“Hun, you can keep it for now. If the storm comes this way, it’s on the house, I wouldn’t be able to balance my drawer.” She laughed and walked off to put his order in.

Contact recorded: American female rejected the free money offering. Registered a conflict with his contact of the corrupt and greedy society. The programming was incorrect.

His fuzzy logic circuit subroutines registered the conflict, flagging it as an error and began adaptive corrections.

Steve Aldin, the android, learned something new.

Irelan’s Adventures Chapter 4. Kepler-A

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4. Kepler-A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He took a deep breath.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who, or what, is the union?”

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

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

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

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

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

Irelan made a face, clearly unhappy with that prospect.

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

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

Mama smiled.

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

“I wanna go there.”

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

Irelan’s Adventure Chapter 3. The Emperor and Pizza

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3. The Emperor and Pizza

 

“… And so, they had to spend three days digging the ‘unstoppable’ land crawler out of the bog! Six crews, both Union and Emerald, four cranes and a pile of very naughty words.”  Ian laughed as they ate pizza.

Steaming hot from the little heater. The pizzas were printed in an antique machine, it reminded Irelan of the way they used to in the kitchen at their old home. Irelan loved  pizza since she was a kid.  

She was big now, and knew how to press the button to make it go when Ian in the green armor looked like he got stuck on what part of the screen needed to be touched.

She printed out olives and cheese; her favorite. Ian and her mother printed crazy stuff that was nasty. It smelled okay, but she never liked the rest of the stuff they put on it. Including mush brooms, which they seemed to like.

Irelan made a face when she watched as her mother lifted one mush broom and eat it while she listened to another story by the one she heard them call, “Triton”.

“So, Sir.” Larsya started.

“Ian, please. We are eating here, no formal titles.”

“Ian. How did you get in here without anyone noticing?” She asked.  

Then, he laughed and choked on a bit of pizza in his mouth.

“Not everyone missed me. Irelan here, she saw me come in and I sat next to her. We talked while you were giving my Lieutenant a hard time.”

“No one saw you come in.” Larsya pressed.

“No, adults don’t. Kids see me all the time. There’s something about the focus of the kids versus adults.  It’s a result of a vaccination long ago. I can walk into a room, and unless I speak up, no one will notice if I don’t want them to. Even if they look right at me, adults don’t register my presence easily. “

“Do you have a stealth tech that you use?” Ensign Firston asked.

“No, as I said, it was from a vaccine. There was an emergency. We had a virus that had been transplanted on this planet by the first colonists. No one knew who the first patient was, but it over a thousand died in less than a month and we had no vaccine. The protocol for synthesizing the vaccine came from the Pirate Confederacy with uncorrected errors in the formula.” He took another bite. “There were tremendous effects from the virus on their planet. We had some, but nothing like they suffered.”

Ian smiled at Irelan and handed her a napkin.  

“For my effects as a kid, I found I could be overlooked by standing still. I used the effect for my stint as a leader.  Then T’mpace was my mentor because I could sit in the back of a meeting and no one would think I there and just talked. I gave him reports, he appointed me to the General Council after that.  When I served on the High Council of the Two Colonies, I then had a chance to take the chair as leader of the High Council.

A heavy sigh came from him.  Like a pain in the soul.

“The world fell into fighting, and the Council dissolved a month after I took my position. That left me as the only leader of an empty room.  No one wanted the job, and everyone looked to the chair. “ He swallowed another bite of pizza.  “I declared myself Emperor out of anger, and everyone nodded. Seriously, I was only kidding!”

Larsya shook her head. “That’s not how it’s supposed to happen.”

“I know! I just wanted someone to get mad and come sit down. They all bowed and said ‘Okay’ and, well, here I am.”

“No one challenged you?” Ensign Firstof’s head bobbled like it was on a spring.  

“Careful son, you’ll strain your neck.” Ian chuckled sadly. “At first, I had a great idea. People needed to get out and move, get into the forests and walk, hike and otherwise enjoy the terraformed lands we have.  But, the game became polarized. People took sides after a year and became worse than when the fighting dissolved the council. Then, they started shooting and this place has been a case of the Union against the Emerald.  So, I lead from the front lines. I walk around, no one can see me when I do.  It keeps me alive, I think.”

“How do kids see you when no one else can?”  Larsya asked.

“I don’t know for certain, but it is the power of innocence, I think. They have limited information, but they have these powerful minds. Not much information, indeed, but they have super-computers for brains. So, I think they see things that adults have long forgotten how to observe.” Ian reached for his fourth slice of pizza. “They still see magic in the world.”

 

“And besides,” He pet Irelan’s head.  “She’s my favorite fairy here.”

“I’m not a fairy, I’m a girl!”

“Of course.” Ian said while the room full of adults laughed.

Even the dour Lieutenant smiled.

 

Irelan’s Adventures Chapter 2. 8 Poles and an Axis

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 2. Eight Poles and One Axis

After they landed, Sergeant Kennedy let Irelan hold her gloves while shethe Sergeant led them to the mission Lieutenant’s office.  A large room, shared by five “El-Tee’s” who rotated through.  Never more than one Lieutenant in at any time, the large room only had one desk and rows of chairs for briefing mission teams.

She tapped on the clear glass door and waited to be invited in by her superior officer.

“Lieutenant, this is the first officer Espiosa of the Longbow sleeper ship from Terraq Parenti shipbase.” Riley said. “The navigator and the First Officer here, are from the lifeboat that we rescued in the Ironstone bog last night.  She has some information that Colonel O’Malley would be interested in.”

“Thank you, Sergeant. Dismissed.” He didn’t even glance at Riley who quietly closed the door as she exited. He kept his eyes on the to officers of the lifeboat they had just rescued..

“So, you want to get close to the Colonel?”

“I don’t give two shakes of a wet wildflower. I want to know where the rest of the survivors from the attack are, and what the government here will do about it?”

“You piloted down into a combat zone for nothing. The Colonel’s not here. She’ll arrive sometime today to inspect the wreckage. It’s an odd configuration for troop carrier, no?”

“No, because it’s not a troopship, as it is a lifeboat.” Larsya shook her head. “You’re being overly assumptive. We’re not soldiers. We’re from Socrus Terrae of the Southern Islands where the super volcano blew up. Kepler-A was uninhabited and was considered a secondary colony.  There were twenty-five Seraph class sleeper ships.”

“Seraph class?” The Lieutenant typed it into his pad. “Oh, yes. There have been seven others that have arrived at Kepler-B.”

“There have been others?”

“Not here. You’ve been in hibernation. Kepler-A has been in a conflict for the last two-hundred years.” The Lieutenant told the First Officer.

“That still doesn’t explain why we were fired on.”

“We don’t shoot at civilian ships. Nor, do we have the ability to do so.” A voice from the back of the room interrupted the question and answer meeting.

The sneaky man who was sitting in the back of the room, whispering with Ireland, stood up and instead a light-sensitive Rorschach camouflage uniform that constantly changed spots and stripes it. The new speaker wore a hunter-green and black armor plate.

The new man was of the Emerald Corps. In that second of recognition, he Lieutenant bowed his head and stepped backwards.

“Sire, this is the first officer of the ship that’s in polar orbit.” The Lieutenant read from his handheld computer.

“Pleased to meet you.” The green man held out his hand to Larsya. “Is this your little girl?”

Irelan smiled up at the man with the eyes that matched his armor.  

“Yes, when did you come in?” Her mother’s protective side showing.

“I’ve been here a few minutes. I came in with a few of the other people. I had my stealth mode active.” The officer smiled.

“Wait, who are you?” Ensign Firston demanded.

“Stand down, Mr. Firston.” Larsya said softly. “We’re  safe. If they wanted to do us any harm, they would have separated us.”

“Now, now. No harm is going to happen. First, we have to get everyone on the same page.” The green-eyed man frowned. His helmet had an arm with an emerald disk on the end of a mechanical arm that swung down over his eye like one-half of a pair of glasses.

“What’s the name of your ship, um… I’m sorry, I don’t know your title other than first officer. I assume ‘Commander’.” He said to Larsya.  

“Yes, I’m a commander, thank you for asking. I’m not in uniform because I was off duty when we were hit. Ensign Firston was at the helm.” Larsya said.

“Ensign?” The green man turned his head.

“Second, we were introduced to you. But, you are still a stranger. I have instructions from the captain before the first officer came to our lifeboat. I am not to discuss anything except to someone named Ee-ann or something.” Ensign Firston was steadfast in following orders.

“What’s your Captain’s name, son?” The voice came out a bit lower.  

He’s going to get in trouble with the green-eyed man. Irelan thought to herself.

“Our Captain is Bogs Scorpion.” The junior officer said.

“Bogs.” The leader of the group stroked his chin. “Tall man, mixed race, has heterochromatic eyes, and is super intelligent?”

“Yes, you know him?”

“I am Ian. Say it as one word.” The Green-Eye gave a soft smile.  “He and I have a history.”

“Yes, sir. Can you prove it?”  Ensign Firston asked. The entire room gasped.

“I’m going to put you in for a medal and put you on my team when I can.” Ian laughed. “I am the Emperor of the northern hemisphere. All this land is mine. I am Ian Quaysar, the Emerald Emperor.”

“S-s-sir! Your majesty…”

“Stop.” He raised his hand. “The Lieutenant over there overstepped the title. I’m not a majesty, I barely earned the title. I’m a working man, like you.” He smiled. “Now, what do you have to tell me?”

He moved the monocle from his eye to look at the Ensign.  

“Sir, I have a ship’s sensor log in a cryptolinear chip. It’s safe inside a Faraday isolator case.” He held out an object that looked like a ring box, revealing a chip inside.

“Triton, scan the logs to the moment of impact. Send me the data stream.”

“Let me explain. The rest of your lifeboats have landed in different areas of the planet, most of which are in my domain. Your passengers will all be brought behind the lines to a safe location. You’re the first that has information that you were attacked. Your trajectory of the lifeboat leads me to believe you were over Union territory and, as of now, we didn’t think they had technology to shoot at anything outside of the atmosphere.” A tone sounded and he pulled his monocle down over his right eye.  “Just a moment, I’m looking at the data.”

Several others with the same kind of helmets performed the same action, pulling their monocles down.  The group went silent for several minutes.

“Triton, put what we are watching on the wall, please.” Ian said. He leaned against a table, more relaxed.

“Excuse our lack of communicating with you. We don’t have many folks without interlink helmets here.”

The data was displayed on a video projected from a small box put on the Lieutenant’s desk.

From the surface near the pole in the south, Ian paused the video.

“That area below, is the Federal Union of Resistance. From the burst of energy from this area, you can see it started above the ground, and corresponded with the speed and power of your ship as it moved through the magnetic poles.”

“Poles? Sir, we had navigated only through the edge of the magnetosphere to use it for braking, so we could insert into an orbit around Kepler-B.”

“This is where you have outdated information. First, this planet is in the middle of a civil war. It started about a century after you left your planet to come here. Originally, it was a disagreement on the use of technology. Eventually, it devolved into a shooting war for no good reason.  Second, and most important, the planet currently has six to eight north poles, and the same number of south poles.”

“What?” Commander Espiosa turned away from the video.

Mom is going to get mad at him for talking like that. Irelan blinked and giggled as she spied between the seats from the back of the room.

“The planet is undergoing a flux, it’s flipping poles. When the problem started, it caused neurological problems in humans and enormous problems with electrical circuits.  You flew through an uncharted pole that evolved in the last forty-hours.”

“Ian, can you elaborate? What do you mean a pole evolved?”  

“Yes. Our north and south poles are mixed. We can develop a pole, much like a weather system. It’ll drive huge amounts of energy in and out of the planet. You flew through a south pole, an energy fountain of sorts. It overwhelmed your systems.” He pulled at the strap of his helmet. “It must have felt like being hit with a big rock.”

“Sir, new data.” A blond man took off his helmet and rubbed his ear. “They yelled too loud.”

“Thank you, Dana.” Ian said as Dana put his helmet back on.

“Your ship is in an axis orbit, it spends about half the time flying over each side of the planet. It’s still in orbit.” He turned and sat next to Irelan.  “Well, good. We have solved two mysteries in one stroke. Who shot you down, and where your ship is. No one has new enough tech that we would have to complain about where your ship is.  Now, we just need to find the missing lifeboats.”

Ian pulled off his helmet and made Irelan smile by putting his big helmet on her head.

“You three will do me the honor by joining me for dinner, in this room?  Triton, make the orders,” Ian winked at Irelan. “And I’ll tell stories and ask questions of our guests.” He smiled. “Pizza sound good to you, young lady?”

Irelan smiled. She was wearing the important helmet proudly.  

Later in her life, she would write the memory down in her journal. The day she met a man who owned a half a planet.

 

Irelan’s Adventure

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Prologue: Irelan’s Adventure

 

Six-year-old Irelan sat in the seat she mother hurredly strapped her in as the ejected lifeboat module’s orbit decayed in a parabolic arch towards the planet below.

In seconds, it had traveled from one battle zone to the next, crossing the terminator into the night-side where the green flags of the Enlightened flew on the tops of poles. The man who drove the boat told Irelan they were flying at twenty-times the speed of sound, whatever that was.

She watched when he pulled a big lever and released the parachute at the last second, it slowed the lifeboat enough to land safely in a muck-filled bog of a forest glen, barely under control of the, just moments before helmsman of the Galaxy Hitchhiker.

Opening the hatch, the navigator, called Mr. Ensign by her mother, got out and walked around the roof of the lifeboat.  Mom started to yell at the lifeboat pilot to not jump and to stay on the hull. The young man yelled back that she was not in charge and stepped off onto a grassy flat spot next to the lifeboat’s hull.

It was nearly the last thing he did in his life as he immediately he sank to his waist and Larsya Espiosa, Irelan’s mom, and the three other men,pulled on the young man as hard as they could, two on each arm.

Calling him names that Irelan never heard her mom say before, the quartet of people lost their grip on him  and he sank up to his chest.

The only saving advice they could give the man is to lay back and take deep breaths, and do not struggle and let his buoyancy pull him out.

The struggle to save the officer focused everyone, even Irelan looked out the door while the passengers and crew struggled with the overconfident, now panicked, officer.

She saw a huge light in the starry sky come towards them over the trees and smaller lights detached from the big one, sliding down slowly on ropes.  They looked like monsters, pale gray with blotches of black spots that moved around at random, big bulbous eyes and bald heads. 

Irelan, only six, was afraid and hid as far back in the pod as she could get, crying. She heard her mom’s voice yelling for help. Her mom never asked for help from anyone. Mom was someone who helped everyone. Sounds and a sky creature that looked like a big red fish came down low and dangled tentacles to the man in the muck.

This terrified the little girl, the heavy sounds as if something were hitting the lifeboat from outside. It was a sound was different from the atmosphere sounds when they came down so fast, they made sparkles fly past the windows.  

Whatever that meant.

Mom leaned in and told her to put her jacket on and reached in to her.

“Mom! What’s happenin’?” Irelan whispered.

A giant in blothchy grey coveralls and a full face mask reached down and took her mom by the arm and pulled them both up.

“Put this on.” The electronic amplified voice said through the mask.

Irelan began to cry at the hands that held out to her.

“Aw hun.” The electronic voice said. “DOn’t cry.”

The masked and uniformed creature pulled the goggles back and lifted the helmet back.

It was a lady inside the mask!

“Your name is Ireland?” The woman asked the little girl. 

“Irelan, no ‘d’.” Mom said. “Irelan, go with the lady!”

“Hang on ma’am.” The masked soldier who had his arms around her mom from behind gave her.

“Wear the chin strap kind of tight, this thing is almost as big as you are.” The sergeant put her helmet on child’s head. “Irelan, my name is Riley. Riley Kennedy. We are going to go up into the rescue ship on this rope. Then they are going to lift your lifeboat until it’s tucked into the hold and you can go back and get your stuff out of it. Okay hun?”

Irelan nodded while the lady braided a seat out of a flat strap and clipped it to rings in her chest. Irelan faced the lady and was able to put her tiny arms around the ladies neck.

“You ready for an adventure.”? Irelan shook her head.
“Well, we are going to go see your mom. She is safe on board the Sky Guppy.” The blonde lady smiled. “Okay hun?”

Irelan nodded and Riley tapped her ear. She held tightly to the little girl while she hung on to the lady’s neck.

They went straight up. The helmet she had on seemed to pull at her head.

It was FUN! Irelan drew a breath to laugh and scream, when it was over.

“Do it again!” Irelan laughed in Riley’s face.

The lady soldier laughed.

“Not tonight, hun. We have to get your lifeboat up in the hold.”

“Sergeant Kennedy.” A deep voice from behind her interrupted their talk. “How was the rescue? Are you on your coffee break now?”

“No, sir.”

“Then get to your station. We don’t have time to waste” The shaved headed voice strode away.

“Don’t mind him, hun. The lieutenant wears his shoes too tight, it makes him mad.”

“Why doesn’t he take his shoes off.”

Riley laughed and hugged the little girl.

“You’re smart! I don’t know why he doesn’t take his shoes off. He would be nicer.”

“Okay.” She smiled at the lady with the eyes like the daytime blue sky and soft voice.

“Mommy!” Ireland ran to her mom, who stood and caught her daughter in a big hug. “I flew on a rope!”

“Me too, they lifted me up and I was flying like a bird!” Mom stood up and spoke to the sergeant, “I want to speak to your commanding officer at the earliest convenience.”

“Yes ma’am. That would be the Colonel. Her name is Granuaile.” She pronounced it as Gran-u-wail. “For now, we need to get you secured. We will lift the lifeboat into the cargo hold and you can gather up your belongings when we land.”

Ensign Firston interrupted while he fiddled with a clip on his rescue webbing.

“We have only what we wore on our backs. When we hit by an energy beam and were shot down, there was no warning.”

“Shot down?” Riley gaped. “What?”

The lifeboat officer tried to himself from the lift, struggling with a spring-loaded clamp. Riley reached over and released it with a skilled twist.

“Yes. I was at the helm when the navigator said there was an energy surge from the surface. We were hit immediately after that. We lost all systems, life support, propulsion. We were on approach to Fienow Fields in the northern hemisphere on Keppler-B, but we got caught in Keppler-A’s gravity well. The captain only called for use to abandon ship.

“If you’ve been shot at, you need to talk to the colonel right away.”

Riley tapped her wrist, typing in a coded number and spoke into the microphone at her throat.

“Sir? Sergeant Riley. We have a problem and someone needs to see you right away. Yes, sir. On our way.

“Ensign, come with me please.” She motioned with her hand. “YOu get to sit closest to the door and you will be the first on off.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She sent a message to the Lieutenant that he needed to come back to meet with their passengers.

His shoes are going to get a lot tighter, she sighed. I should’ve taken this week off.

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 Stone and the Plan

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Well, back home 200 miles later. A trip to the ER after I logged off last night.

I was in agony, no place or position was comfortable, on the floor, feet up, sitting, draped over the foot stool (Yes I tried that position in as many ways as I could bend).

I was wishing I could vomit, do a major colon cleanse– anything.

So at midnight plus 30 – Being as I was at my sister’s house – I sought to unlock a door and drive myself to the emergency room before the food poisoning – which I originally wished it as food poisioning – would just hit instead of having everything ache and inflict such suffering.

My sister (“SIster Sledgehammer” The one that dented the car with her body three years ago, you can read about it in “2 Seconds…”) Would not hear of me getting in my car and driving myself to the Emergency Department at the hospital. So she got up and drove me.

Probably a good thing, I might have taken my four-wheel-drive for a booney-crash fun time in the trip to the hospital.

But the pain does make for irrational thoughts. “I Can” would turn into a disaster of “no you can’t”.

So a Computer Tomography Scan, a sonogram, a few pokes and prods.

Yours truly has a kidney stone.

Blech, I would rather have a moderate case of food poisoning!

Mainly because now I have to come clean and apologize to the restaurant (even though I had not named them last night – I think it was my suspicion it was – indeed – a kidney stone.

Pain on palpation on the flank etc.  I have been in medicine long enough to recognize the symptoms. I just– REALLY just not wanted to have a K-stone.

Is this where I say “FML”:?

Anyway…

I went to the Emergency Department and after the CT?

Yeah, a stone.

Omy it hurt so bad.

Doctor how big is this boulder?

“One millimeter.” Doctor said.

“One…” My jaw hit the floor.

A piece of sand?

Yup.  I was brought to my knees and unable to write because of a grain of sand 1.0 mm in size.

Tonight, I hurt mildly in different areas.

Why do my shoulders hurt? It’s not like I shot a thousand arrows (Figure six hours for that) in a day. Chest? Yeah, aches. Tummy? oh yeah.

Hungry? no, not really. But I did eat some cheese, a few bits of a baguette and dipped it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar – oh and one glass of white wine.

Funny, how I was not hungry, but as soon as I sat near some of my favorite foods, yeah I ate them.

Still, I have flank pain. Will I sleep tonight or will I make a return trip to the Emergency Dept? We’ll see.

A grain of sand. The size of a pinhead?

I am such a wimp. Lightweight.  Wuss. heh.

If a woman can push something the size of a bowling ball through an orifice the size of her eye and then smile afterwards, I should be able to pass a grain of sand.

But Nuuuu… I needed drugs to be able to think rationally.

Unlocking the back door and trying to sneak out the front door that I cannot lock to drive myself to a hospital in the distance and not have anyone know where I was going?

That’s not rational. That’s just pain and panic thinking.

I did talk to my nieces, they and their mom (Sister Sledgehammer) are willing to have their names as sisters in “Married by Mistake” so the other names will be removed and the nieces put in their place.

Anyway – I still carry the stone, I can feel it. it hurts, but I am better than i was, but it still hurts. We’ll see for tonight.

Now… Let me see if I can get a chapter of fiction written for you all in three hours.

Give me a vote by purchasing one of my kindle novels. And a little feedback, privately if you don’t want to

I would like to see if Zela’s artist, J. P. might be interested in making a cover for an anthology. 😉

I hope that is not an irrational thought.

Well, back to fiction!

your favorite up-and-coming author.

Dash

 

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Chapter 7. Heartbreak and Happiness. Plus one Idiot

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Chapter 7. Heartbreak and Happiness. Plus One Idiot.

Fae flipped the holographic files ever faster, in a concerted search for her father when she nearly flipped past his name.

“Thea. My dad was hurt in a fire, he helped put it out and saved over eight-hundred lives that were in hibernation.” Fae laughed, her memories of the patriarch of her family as a selfless and focused man. “He suffered burns on his back and arms. The doctors dressed the burns and rushed him to the pods. It says here that he has signs of burns to the inside of his mouth and throat, so he is in a special numbering profile and will wake up only when the medical staff activates it.”

Thea shook her head.

“Burns to the lungs are serious, but we have the repairs for that. Nanos can fix cell walls and the micros can repair the larger damaged structures”

The mini-bot walked through the holographic display. Looking at the other files that Fae set aside.

“Fae, this one you called boyfriend is older, by far, than you are. This one, Thomas Metive, is in his forties.” She looked at Fay.

“No, I saw him.”

“You saw someone who looked like him. We need to keep searching.”

A flashing light on Rudy the Dragonfly-bot got Thea’s attention.

“We have another problem, the power supply in here is overheating. Core System just sent a message that the display needs a full power-down.”

“What? Why?”

“There is an electrical fault, the circuit board is ten-degrees higher than normal. These circuits have not been active for a long time. We will need to have service bots in here to find and fix the fault.”

“How do we do that? I am a systems engineer’s assistant, I understand electrical but this is more of an IT problem, this is a different kind of electronic world.”

“Well, I said it would take nanos and micros for medical, we can do that to the circuits.”

“How long could that take?”

“Not long, a few months.”

Fae sagged. Months!

“Could we speed that up somehow before we have other things overheat?”

“We would have to wake someone up that would know the systems.”

“That would be in the second-tier reanimation.” The mini-bot said. “Those would be the specialists for design and maintenance of the systems.”

“Second-tier?”

“After the engineering and medical teams, computer specialists come next. The systems the specialists maintain keep the three legs of reanimation in balance. That is why the schedule for government leaders to reanimate last in the first cycle.”

“Who is first of the computer nerd-pops to put in the toaster?”

“I am making a request to the Core System for an override and giving your argument.” Thea paused for a moment over the top of Rudy the Dragonfly-bot, looking at a tiny display.

“You have fifteen-degrees or five-minutes, which ever one is shorter.”

“Okay. Let’s quick do a search, who is the most accessible one.”

“That will be easy.” Thea said tapping her own, nearly microscopic display. “Check second-tier reanimation schedule. Section 2. Zone HU-N3Y Pod number SL-1027DM.”

“No name, but he’s listed as a service tech with years of seniority.”

“Set up that pod for reanimation. Let’s go see if he can help us last longer than fifteen minutes at a time.”

It was the longest two days Fae had ever lived. Pacing, she had confirmed the pod she found was not the one Peter the Boyfriend was in.

In the med-bay recovery, she looked at the doctors that fussed over the reanimation of this tech that they felt was out-of-order. Medical personnel needed to be first out to care for any malfunctions that may have happened.

And many malfunctions had occurred.

Fae flinched as she read the preliminary reports that came to her and Amsi, they began to work longer hours to check and recheck pods.

One surgeon in stasis lost the vitrification preservative and the argument whether to try to reanimate the body went long into the night.

Percentage numbers of the thousands of preserved humans began to climb.

Predicted failure rate of pods did not match the measured failures. Nearly a third had lost the non-crystalized fluids, leaving desiccated bodies with only liquid helium around and inside every cell and blood vessel.

One domesticated farm animal the humans preserved suffered the same fate. When the medical staff attempted to reanimate the sheep, it crumbled into dust before body fluids could be replaced.

All arguments stopped on efforts to awaken the failed pods, helium maintained with those victims until a process to prevent the bodies from collapsing when the helium boiled away.

In bed 211-S, the computer-tech made angry growling noises with a touch of Gaelic accent.

“Coffee! Just get me some and do not lecture me about waking up from hibernation and nutrition.”

Then…

“What do you mean you don’t think there is any? It is in the tenth-guarantee of the planet’s federal declaration! Coffee must be present at all times!”

Minutes pass and voice of the tech remained frustrated.

Fae looked at the tech as he stood, broad-shouldered, pale with a galaxy of freckles over his chest.

Looking down, he swore.

“What is this? I don’t have freckles.” Looking at his image on a display. “This is what I am going to look like?”

Doctor Ofir Bhabel shook her head.

“No, not after you produce your own red-blood cells. Your color will return and your freckles will fade.”

“Well, alright then. I am not reverting to my childhood and have my big brother hold me down to play dot-to-dot on me again.”

“Excuse me?” Doctor Ofir asked.

“Old childhood issues. Until we find out what you are, I am not telling you anything more.”

“I explained to you already. I am your doctor and a bot.”

“Yeah, yeah. You are a visual hallucination. Until I see you in full size, I am not talking to anyone. I am probably only making noises to the outside world.”

Doctor Ofir flitted in front of the techs face.

“You are human, I am bot, I am also your doctor and I have overseen three-hundred animations. The other humans are busy assisting in the warming process.”

“Doctor?” Fae asked. “May I help?”

“Miss Fae. Please.” The Doctor motioned her in.

“I scheduled him for early reanimation. He is needed to help with failed circuitry.”

“That explains a lot, his personality is not compatible with sentient artificial intelligence.”

“Who is not compatible?” The green-eyes sparkled with offense. “I can get along with anyone. This is just not right, my perceptions are off is all.”

*This is funny* She laughed inwardly. *He’s convinced he’s in a hallucination*

“Sir,” Fae smiled. “I assure you that this is all real.”

“Who are you?”

“I am Fae MacLir, Assistant to the Chief Engineer of operations. I was the first one to wake up. Doctor Ofir is a good friend and she is only as tall as your hand from middle finger to the heel of your hand.”

“No kidding.”

“This calls for some coffee.”

“We told you, there is no such thing right at the moment, they are all in hibernation, the rest grow wild in places around the world.”

“This world sucks, I may want to go back in to the pod.”

Fae laughed again.

“You spend a lot of time laughing at a man just woke up without coffee or Uisce Beatha in my hand.”

“What’s that?”

“Whiskey.”

“Okay, what is your name?”

“You don’t know who I am?”

“Should I?” Fae asked.

“We have only your pod number, so if you wish to be known as Ten-twentyseven,” Doctor Ofir  walked up to him with an injector of an amber fluid. “You will tell us what you like for a name.”

“What’s that?”

“This will help buffer your system. Your pH is too low.”

“What is it?”

“They are nanobots.”

“Um. If I don’t take them, would I be in danger?”

The doctor made a sound that reminded Fae of a sigh.

“It will take you longer to recover fully.”

“Fair enough. I have a horrid headache from no coffee, anything to get rid of that will be appreciated.”

“I have an analgesic for that.”

“Does it come in a glass?”

“No, but I can give it to you as a pill. No injection.”

“Sold.” He nodded. “Is it possible to get some exercise, walk around. I have a hobby of archery.”

“Ar..What?”

“And my name is Archer Fletch Bowman.” He looked at the women. “Do not blame me, it’s the idiot that gave birth to me and typed in the blanks”

Doctor Ofir shook her head, not getting the humor, but Fae laughed.

The Archer Fletch Bowman, with a hobby of archery blamed the idiot at the keyboard for his name.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Chapter 6. Log Search

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Chapter 6. Log Search

Fae walked alone with Thea fluttering along next to her.

“You have been quiet for a human. Especially for you.” The mini-bot looked around. “We are farther than we have ever gone, are you disturbed about something?”

Fae shook her head as she walked along in her thoughts.

“No, not something, someone. When we got the order for everyone who would voluntarily go into hibernation or stay on the surface, I talked to my family, everyone accepted the positions in the pods, my husband did too.” The human frowned. “I found my brother’s name, he is in there. So is my mom. But my husband and father are not in the logs. I don’t think they made it, thirty-thousand years, there is no way to find their graves if they died. If they were not buried, their bodies have long gone to dust.”

“We can find out if there was anyone left out in the contaminated atmosphere.” Thea flitted. “I know where the early archived logs are. Early on, humans wore virus-check badges that automatically registered the movements and if they suffered exposure to any contagion.”

“There are logs after so long?”

“Core System deletes nothing. You just need to know where to locate the logs. Core System maintains them deep in fixed archives, written into hardware systems.”

“What do you mean? Hardware systems.”

“It is not a code, the Core System determined that the best storage is writing in hard-wired systems. They cannot be accidentally erased.”

“Let’s go look up the logs, we can compare them to the ones I have seen.”

Following the large artificial dragonfly, Fae walked as fast as she could to keep up.

“Could I get a flyer like you have? Only bigger?”

Thea laughed and slowed down to a human walking pace.

“The size requirements increase exponentially with weight and size.” Thea explained, and drifted off into an engineering lecture that included wing loading, speed of wing flap and size of wings.

It was all beyond engineering that Fae had ever studied. Her studies never covered flight engineering, physics of flight and related math formula.

“So the final answer is that I would have to have one that has a wingspan about double my own arm-span.”

“Blunt, but essentially correct.” The riding mini-bot nodded. “At macro sizes, rotary wings become more efficient than those of Rudy here.”

“Rudy?”

“That’s what I call my flyer.” Thea smiled, her eyes glittered in good humor. “I named him after a company that built powerful engines for waterborne vehicles.”

“Ah.” Fae tried to nod and look wise, having no idea what Thea was talking about. “Good choice.”

They arrived at a building that Thea flitted up, then stopped.

“I don’t know how to get you inside. I fly through the vents normally.”

“Your nanobots maintain everything perfectly, let me try just opening the door.”

She turned the red-metal knob, it felt stiff as if it were not going to give. Then warmed up and pinged.

A built-in panel, flush with the wall. Not visible until the words illuminated “Access Granted.” On the surface.

“That is weird.” She traced her fingers over the panel, it was the same texture as the wall, there was no change, perfect blending of the function and structure.

“This way!” Thea called as she and Rudy the speed happy artificial dragonfly fluttered ahead.

Stopping at a console, they fluttered for a minute and then landed.

“This is the first one we can get to, the access is open. You just log in with your badge.” Thea smiled. “The logs are sequential. No codes, you can scroll all the way back to day-zero.”

“When is day-zero?”

“You will have to tell me. I was not around then.” Thea looked up at the human woman. “But zero is before humans were frozen, no one was frozen then.”

History scrolled by, she stopped zooming forward on video, war information, death counts, virus discovery. Fae closed those and moved her hand through the three-dimensional file system, spinning the virtual clock forward and opened another video file.

Thousands dead.

Closed the video with a sigh.

“How did people die from this?”

“Badly, it was a hemorrhagic virus, it drove people mad after it caused a bleeding in the brain. People would pull off their own ears, claw out eyes, those that did not self-mutilate, they became murderous and turned on others.” Fae shook her head. “It spared anyone with a genetic mutation of four fingers. If there was an accident, and they lost a pinky, it did not matter, the virus targeted only five-finger DNA.”

“I read that it was a four-finger DNA virus.”

“That was the answer the government had, once it was out of the control of the scientists, the two different DNA were going to be wiped out. That was everyone. Only the others that would have had mutations of three or six fingers would survive.”

“How many of those genetic structures were there?”

“On this planet? Too few to survive. We all had to go into hibernation. So the military did a final attack then ordered everyone into pods.” Fae flipped through more files and found the order that she was talking about. “People who refused to go, for health or religious reasons remained unfrozen, but they were all had to live elsewhere.”

She opened a file.

“Oh my god.”

“What?”

“I found my brother, he was one of the first into the pods. Number nine-sixty-two.”

“That would be very near the Core System on the X,Y grid and nearly a kilometer deep on the Z axis.”

“How deep does it go?

“One-hundred meters per hundred pods.” Thea answered. “They go top to bottom, the deepest pods are five-kilometers deep and are leaders of the saved society.”

“My brother is almost one-kilometer deep. That makes him important.”

“Yes, how deep were you?”

“I don’t know, I wasn’t awake.”

“Last in first out.”

“Oh. So I was not that deep.”

“No, your pod was one of the first by the doors.”

“That’s depressing.”

Thea danced through the three-dimensional displays and moved files around on her own power and found what she was looking for.

“Here is yours. The system shows you also had a neurological implant for encoding memory engrams.”

“What? I don’t remember that.”

“Odd. Do you find that you have unexplained knowledge about systems you didn’t know of before?”

“Like this one? Yeah.”

“Do you have an access port?”

“Um. That is a little personal?” Fae laughed. “Sorry. Gutter mind.”

“What is guttermind?”

“Never mind.” She laughed again. “Now let’s find my dad.”

What? Ohmygod Awesome! Oh, wait… nope.

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It is a dream, a fantasy in the wildest dreams that someone who has “made it” and with great talent that might look into Amazon, bookshelves of a library, or watches (or one of their employees watches) the titles and blog sites for new and good stories to produce.

To this end when you have that moment of receiving an email from someone with a name of James Cameron, Ron Howard, Stephen Spielberg, you get excited for a moment.

Such like happened to me. I got the notice on my phone while loading groceries into my 17-year-old, squeaky, leaky, quarter-million-mile (PLUS) Dodge that wears the edges of tires out faster than the rest of the tire (Front end needs to be rebuilt) and puffs smoke when climbing some steep hills, I did not read it, just who sent it.

At first the name did not register until I drove to the street when the light bulb lit.

“Oh!” When recognition of the name hit, it nearly hurt.

By the time I got home, I had already repaved the driveway (The only 4wd driveway in the neighborhood. A removed tree’s roots have collapsed and caused a cave-in on one side of the concrete)  bought a new car (Tesla, Model S or Model X) and – nearly – forgot to bring the groceries in on a day so hot that it could melt the stripes off a tabby-cat.

Even the birds were panting on the wires. (Beaks open, tongues sticking out, no chirping) Heh.

So, dancing like a child on Xmas eve, or putting on his (or her) costume on October 29th in anticipation to find such good things waiting for them….

I opened the email on my laptop…stupid thing boots soooo slow. “Faster faster!  Dag-nab you!” I am so getting a new one to replace this 10-year-old lappy, with dead pixels and broken hinge (thank you dogs, who knocked it off the table while chasing each other).

So! At last! Email open! Downloading… 120 Likes on WordPress! Normally open those all (good for my fragile ego. I still get questioned by Mrs Dash if it will ever amount to anything) but I need to open the famous named one and print it out to hand to Mrs D and show her that I have achieved attention of someone never dreamed of.

Then only to have the heart fall. Checking the source of the email, yes, it is a famous name… but not their fault that parents named them the same first name as the famous movie maker/producer/director.

Seriously, not even the correct gender.

I am so pleased with myself I did not brag to Mrs Dash I had someone of notoriety then have to eat those words. She would have gotten: 1. A laugh. 2. Grounded me from writing as it is non-productive 3. sent me out to do more gardening or yard-work.

*sigh*

I think I will shoot my bow at the tiny bottle caps I have out in the yard that dance, spin and swing on strings. I seem to have better skills doing that than writing a proper work of fiction.

But no. then I cannot feed my core need to tell stories, to answer the voices that live in different worlds and want out. To have you all laugh, nod and maybe weep at the words I post here. Even if it is a mix of horror, sci-fi, historical fiction, romance and adventure (Not in the same story– yet anyway). To have you like what I have posted tickle my heart.

Anyway.  To the Ronnie Howards, the Georgia Lucas’, the Jamie Camerons and the Stephanie Spielbergs thank you for your compliments, keep them coming.

And If I answer with an odd excitement, just realize I am not always the sharpest tool in the box (Akin to a rolling-pin?) and I’ll get the clue by the next email.

But dreams are good.

Laughing at myself,

Dash

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Chapter 5. A Doctor Awakens

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 Chapter 5. A Doctor Awakens

A smaller of the bots raced up to the exploring humans as they continued their tour of New Town.

The name made Fae and Amsi laugh, the New Town, Old Town dynamic was often used.

“You’d think if they had a bot that felt it could fly, they would have more imagination for place names.”

“I noticed that. They numbered and did not name craters, there are no towns, really, until we asked.”

Thea flitted close, listening to the exchange.

“Bots do not have the drive to gather when it is dark. Machines do not care if the outside world is light or dark, it is all the same to us, there are no predators on bots.”

“That.” Amsi paused and looked at Fae. “Did you know of any predators?”

“Um. This is the first time I’ve been outside, I never thought to ask.”

“When humans went into the hibernation chambers, the selected zoological genome of every living creature was also preserved, both in DNA samples and in living samples, enough to repopulate the known species if the need arose.”

Fae blinked with the unasked question. *Repopulate*?

“The caution expressed by the human director of zoological preservation we discovered was unfounded.”

“So we have wildlife that wanders around?”

“Often, in town, in the forests, many were just released from the zoos to fend for themselves and they have done well in the time without humans.” Thea pointed to some tracks in the soil.

“This is a hoofed animal, but it is huge.”

“Equines and camelids have evolved to larger sizes because of the higher oxygen levels and the amount of foods available. Nano and microbots have allowed growth without injury, but have not inhibited evolution.” Beekan Luc rode up on a large moth-like ride, barely in control. “This moth design needs modification. No one has worked well for rides, although the can life ten-times their weight.”

“I thought it was a dragon for a moment.” Amsi laughed. “You have it stretched out front-to-back it doesn’t really look like a moth, if you are trying to copy nature.”

“A what? A dragon? What is that?” He shook his head, nearly falling off the oddly shaped moth. “May I introduce myself, I am Beekan Luc, inventor and designer. You can call me Luc. Now about dragons?”

“Mythical creature, you may be better designing a Pegasus kind of creature. They look like winged horses.” Fae suggested to the inventor bot.

“I don’t ever recall seeing DNA of either one. Mythical you say? I can redesign from descriptions, I’ll look in the historical database from human stories. Thank you.” Turning to Thea “Oh! I nearly forgot. Doctor Ofir wants you to return with the humans, the next one is awake.”

“Thank you, Luc.”

Unsteadily, the inventor flew off, yelling at the unstable moth, threatening to recycle it into a floor-tile.

In the recovery room, Doctor Igari Shimona, MD, spoke in deep conversation with the small bot that claimed to be a doctor.

Doctor Ofir Bhabel repeated that such a long time had passed, that Doctor Shimona was not the first awakened because the Core System felt there was a danger, thus selected humans, chosen for reanimation that were more appropriate.

“I still cannot believe that we have been in stasis for longer than the history of humankind prior to our preservation.” He pulled at his lower lip. “Has any communication from Earth ever been received?”

“Doctor Shimona?” Amsi’s voice was louder than he expected in the small recovery room.

“Yes?” The smile widened. It was the first two humans he had seen since he awoke.

“I am Amsi Itt-Tejo and this is engineer Fae MacLir. Welcome to what seems to be paradise.” He held out his hand.

“Thank you.” He took the hand. “Igari Shimona, director of Federal Medical University. Although I don’t imagine there are many classes at the moment.”

Fae shook his hand.

“You’re correct. But there will be. We have thousands of people to wake up and some to save.” Fae smiled.

Amsi nodded.

“There have been some system failures, we have people who have lost a large margin of their anti-icing fluids, the Core System…”

“Excuse me, Core System?”

“The main computer area. There is no single computer anymore, the computers operate independent from each other and have evolved AI beyond anything programmed by us humans.”

“I have found that out by arguing with Doctor Bhabel here.

“Ahem. Doctor Ofir.” A glittering eye showed the offense that the human doctor apologized for.

“The part that amazes me of this all is the lack of wear on everything, anything.” Doctor Shimona looked around. “Nothing is rubbed off, scratched or rusted.

“You will learn that nanobots are highly effective.” A red colored minibot, taller than most, rode in on what looked like a sparrow-hawk. “Doctor Ofir, I expected a report by the time humans awakened.”

“Officially, they are not. These are the evaluators that decide whether the rest will be so treated or they will return back to hibernation. Core System has determined the first two, the third, Doctor Shimona here, just awakened and is proving to be fully functional. There is no report to file yet.”

“Hm.” Red-bot sounded unconvinced. “Humans. Greetings. I am Ireama Bitemi, I am the oversight and safety control for your reanimation. Are there any questions you may have for my team?”

“Yes, I have one.” Amsi stepped forward.

“This is for your leader to ask. Not for subjects of the one who makes choices. He is director, according to the file.” Bitemi looked at a display in his hand. “You have no rank I can see for administration, you are an engineer.”

“That is rude.” Doctor Ofir gasped.

“I am not the leader you think I am. I am a director of a school, let him ask the question.”

Unaccustomed to being treated in such a manner, the bureaucrat capitulated to the small majority.

“A percentage of pods with helium at preservation temperatures, but over the years, they have lost the preservation liquid.  No logs exist, anywhere, for reason why.”

“There has been a minor percentage that have lost fluids, but there has been no loss in systemic function. They are a minor loss.”

“Not so minor to those who lose their stasis vitrification stand a better-than-fair chance of never being reanimated.”

“Perhaps you can ask your doctor to explain it to you.” Administrator Bitemi climbed on his sparrowhawk. “I will check in later, I have important matters to attend to. Be well.”

Watching the bureaucrat leave, the three humans looked at each other for a moment.

“I have served in administrative categories all my life. The official term for someone like that?” Doctor Shimona shook his head. “Is an ass.”

Even Doctor Ofir laughed.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Gen 3. Chap. 5. Steel Gardens

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Gen 3. Chapter 5. Steel Gardens

*This is incredible* Amsi looked around and shook his head.

“This is…” The view, challenged the map in his hand. Where the military put weapons into storage. Aircraft, tanks, missiles, cannons up to and included the “God Gun” self-propelled guns with the bore large enough to hold a fighter jet.

Projectiles stacked according to the map.

All transformed. Nanobots, stripped down the machines of war, atom by atom and constructed such things of beauty that his eyes took in colors of the entire spectrum.

Flowers, trees, all made of impervious armor, reconstituted and retasked.

“These old designs copied the cellular structure,” Thea flitted around. “The differences that the plants and flowers do not procreate, but they filter the air, toxins flow through the leaves and flowers, pure air comes out the other side,  the molecular thin leaves catalyze toxins  and restructure them to inert or completely different biodegradable molecules. Another is the inactivation of virions by destruction of the capsids that hold the virus together, then the DNA and RNA is disassembled into simple amino acids.”

“What kinds of virus and toxin things are we talking about?” Fae asked.

“Plague virus is no longer detected, last viral body with that DNA was last registered thousands of years ago. Cyanide compounds were, for example, reconstituted into nitrogen, carbon and oxygen.”

“Where are the weapons, the explosives and such?”

Thea laughed, the sound reminded Amsi of wind chimes.

“You are walking on most of it. We enhanced the soil with iron and potassium. Nitrogen from explosives we fixed in the soil for plant use as natural fertilizers”

“Amazing. We go to sleep in a war-world and we wake up in paradise?”

“There are still things to process. In years when the Core Systems developed minibots, there was a catastrophe failure in a casing, it leaked radioactive material all over the place. Nanos and micros worked for years and disassembled heavy atoms into stable isotopes. Over a billion, billion, billion were destroyed by the radiation, but we kept working. It is in our programs.”

“Are any of the plants organic or is it all metal based life?”

“Organic plant life makes up an overwhelming major part of the groundcover. Metal-based life, including silicon and printed at the Core Systems, is less than five-percent of the total forms. Organic life has one thing metalloid based does not.” She flitted around. Looking for an example of what she was trying to show them, then pointed. “That!”

A flower had gone to seed, a tall dandelion based plant with a snowball puff shape to the end of the stem. Small seeds floated on the air.

“Metal life does not adapt or spread on its own. We’re limited, humans, organics, you are all fascinating. And Fae said you have something called children?”

“Something?” It was Amsi’s turn to laugh. “Yes, children are the result of humans being together for very long.”

Looking along the buildings, Amsi shook his head.

*Straight and right-angles, every structure. A very digital look and design.* He looked around. *Busy things these bots are.*

Fae shook her head.

“This area is beautiful. When I walked along here before we went into hibernation, it was lined with metal recycle yards for destroyed weapons, they worked all hours.”

“That was a horrid time.” He shook his head.

“What happened? That was the time before bots.” Thea asked as she led the way along a beautiful park-like setting.

“There was once a group that worshipped death. They wanted death for everyone that did not follow their Core Systems.”

“Their Core System?” Thea shook her head.

“It was their god. It led them to create the virus to kill everyone with five digits.”

“But the virus to kill all with four digits was also in the air. That’s documented.”

“Yes. Following the commands of machines, built by humans and programmed by the same, the humans gave power to the machines.”

“Then you would not take us as being friendly.” Thea observed.

“Some might have problems, but I don’t.”

“And, by extension. We might have bots that would view humans as a threat.”

“That stands to reason, if you are independent. You make up your own minds?”

“For the most part. We choose based on our experiences and freedom of choice. So yes, there are those that view humans as dangerous.” Thea’s voice had a distinct sad tone.

He shook his head.

“There are those in every group.”

“Most of those,” Thea added. “Are the Macros, only one Mega has come forth and claimed superiority. Megabot Lima-Bravo Nine-A even felt it was superior to gravity. It used math that it was not programmed for to prove it could overcome gravity without the use of reactive thrusters, that massive lifter had wings built on request to the Core Systems. The Systems warned Lima-Bravo Nine-A that it was not possible to build such wings.” Thea hung her head. “With wings on, that big bot took a leap out into the area known as Crater 12-B, a small crater with a minor gravitational anomaly, the rim is a thousand-meters of vertical, unobstructed stone.”

“What happened?” Fae’s eyes were big.

“We have Crater 12-LB9A now. Core Systems registered the impact as a seismic disturbance. The new crater is nearly a hundred-meters across and ten-meters deep. That bot’s systems were all recycled, it became a small forest of atmospheric conditioners, removing toxic by-products of war.”

Amsi laughed then apologized.

“Humans are given to such failures, too. There was once a fellow who put wings on his arms and jumped from a tower structure in a city called Paris. Too bad it was a failure. He made a dent into frozen ground. Franz Rechelt was his name, a lesson in my engineering school on how not to test new designs. Pity we cannot recycle our fellows failures like your megabot. However, I think we are much alike, bots and organics.”

Thea smiled.

*we are, indeed.* Keeping that moment of pleasure in her digital heart for all her days.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Generation 3. Chapter 4. Awakenings

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Gen 3. Chapter 4. Awakenings

“Ugh.” His mouth felt like someone stuck an old, used gym-sock in it. Then the pain hit. He tried to squeak again, but his tonsils complained loudly. His voice squeaked like fingernails on a chalkboard. His throat was on fire.

“Amsi. Shhh.” It was a familiar voice. “You will need some hydration, here is some warm water with honey and lemon.”

The first swallow was painful, but heaven followed close behind the swallow. The honey settled on the surface of his throat and put out the fire, the citrus hit, but the pain produced was, while not pleasant, tolerable and worked in concert with the honey for relief.

“Thank you…” Damn! He forgot her name. She was one of his crew, but not one of the engineers.

“Fae.” This was a different voice. Smaller, but with authority and nearby. “Her name is Fae.”

Amsi’s eyes took longer to focus than he thought it should.

“Slowly.” Doctor Ofir’s voice still sounded strange in his ears. “You have been sedated for two days after taken out of stasis. You have spent the last thirty-millenia at just under three-degrees Kelvin.”

“Thirty? We were only supposed to sleep for ten years. What happened?” He blinked again, sipping on the tea of honey and lemon. His eyes focusing more. “What the f..”

He paused.

“No offense but … what are you?”

“We are mini’s. Minibots. You set out to avoid the virus’ that the other system created in the ancient times, created nanobots to recycle all the machines of war. They are still around, but from them, the Core Systems evolved many more sizes.”

“Amsi, I will explain later.”

“I’m still wrapping my head around this… Robot? And how it evolved so quickly.”

“They call themselves “Bots”. They are an evolution that has happened over thousands of years, so not as swift as you think.”

“Wait.” Amsi shook his head, information was not processing. “What?”

“You need some more tea, maybe a shot of rum or vodka. I have a lot to bring you up to speed on.”

For the next two hours Fae spoke of three-hundred centuries, Core System, Thea, the Doctor, the tens of thousands of flitting artificial life forms outside the window that existed with great alloys of the machines of war that the people left sitting out when all, what the Core System logs called “Organics” went into cryogenic vitrification.

Reanimation, the Fae showed Amsi the logs, was a complicated, careful and exacting process using the nanobots and microbots and replacing the cryoprotectants that did not crystallize in ultra-low temperatures.

Even with helium as a superfluid, the crystals of ice did not form and poke holes in the cell walls of the body.

Such was the theory.

Initial numbers used, predictions estimated that one or two may not survive the freezing. (Mathematically, there would be a loss of 1.48 of the personnel.) Estimations were only for a single decade, after three-thousand times longer than anticipated, logs indicated forty-two pods showed excess cryoprotectant in the helium.

The bodies were leaking.

Nanobots, unable to function at such low temperatures were on standby.

However, after a long time, the Core Systems estimated that greater than half the fluids of the organic bodies had leached out. Rendering the humans inside little more than extremely cold, desiccated mummies.

Amsi moaned on the information she passed onto him.

“We were never meant for that length of storage. The system was never designed for that long of operation without supervision.”

“We supervised.” Thea fluttered about. “All systems were under the control of the Core System. Repairs performed by all the bots.”

“There were no qualified humans to oversee the machines.” Amsi the engineer argued.

“Sir. The bots here are as capable as anyone I have seen. They can repair cells and lift whole buildings with the megabots. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they can do what we could.” Fae frowned and pulled at her ear.

“The logs show my brother now weighs less than his clothes. There is only liquid helium in his veins now, as soon as he’s taken out, he’ll crumble like dried out leaf.”

“He still has a PICC line, like we all do.” Fae said. “We can infuse more into it in the chamber, correct?”

“No, I don’t know.” He shook his head. “Maybe. Could be. If we warmed him up to, say, four Kelvin? Special IV tubing would remain flexible and we could flow cryoprotectant into him and refill all the cells over the course of a few days and displace the helium. The helium would be at the boiling point and easy to replace.”

“What if we just replace his fluids as we warmed him up?” She asked.

“No, helium would be gone before any glucose or blood solutions would make it into his body, the cells would collapse like dried out eggshells the moment there is any pressure to refill them.” He rubbed his chin. “That’s not even medical, that is structural engineering. Right now, helium is supporting everything. It has to be a two-stage rehydration. Maybe three.”

“Okay. We warm him up first?”

“No. Oh no. We get the medical teams out first. Just because I understand the process, does not mean I understand the biological effects. What if he has a hole in something important? I can’t sew it up.”

“Oh, I understand.”

“So engineers first, medical folk second, so engineers can make things work, the ones marked here in red, they are last. Medical will need to deal with them as a team with the… What did you call them? Nanobots? But there will need to be a teamwork between everyone. Artificial or Organic.”

“Thank you.” Thea smiled as she sat up in her saddle.

“Thank me for what?”

“You acknowledged us as living beings and are part of a team. Even our nanos.”

“Miss… Uh. “

“Thea.”

“Miss Thea. You make it easy.”

“No. Just Thea.”

“Okay, Just Thea.” He smiled. “You make it easy to feel you are real and alive. We have been here to seek contact with new life. Even if we build it.”

Thea laughed.

“My full name is Wentvie Thea. Our second name is given, our family name comes first.”

“My apologies.” Amsi winked. Then Thea knew she was victim of a human sense of humor. “I will refer to you only as Thea or Miss Wentvie.”

She laughed. It sounded like tiny windchimes.

*Humans waking up,* she felt, *A good thing.*

Generation 3. chapter 3. The Next Day

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Gen 3. Chapter 3. The Next Day

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

A very odd dream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There you are. You were missing.”

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

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

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

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

Fae laughed.

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

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

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

“Yes, roughly, about seven-hundred.”

“Roughly?”

“Some cylinders have failed.”

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

“We need to talk with Doctor Ofir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fae, you can call me Fae.”

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

“What does it mean?” Fae blinked.

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

Fae paused for a second.

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

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

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

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

Fae’s eyes had glazed over.

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

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

“I didn’t know that.”

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

Laughing, Fae just shook her head.

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

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

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

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

“Sorry Doctor.”

“What is the negative outcome?” Fae asked.

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

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

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

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

“Excellent. Can we go see him?”

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

“Awesome! Let’s get it done.”

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

The Leader

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The Leader

Major Dan Talbot woke with a start, knowing that the battle that lay ahead was going the final assault of the enemy forces. Directed by a soulless entity, the going had been difficult at best. Many men had disappeared under the assault of the alien invaders.

Soldiers fell screaming, immolated and nothing remained of them, but ash before they hit the ground. The weapons that the aliens used there was no defense against the energetic particle beams. Engagement after engagement they sent soldiers back to the medical ship with horrid wounds and missing limbs. Finally the United Terran Force troops started to take the alien weapons from fallen enemy and turned them against their previous owners with great effect. Still, the fighting had been brutal and costly.

Major Mort “Muerta” McFee ran up to Talbot announcing that the aliens had not moved from the last scout reports, but that the areas that before they cleared out near the encampment, the aliens had reoccupied. They were going to have to drive them out again.

“We should have not pulled back last time.”McFee sighed, rubbing his eyes. “But we had no choice. We were out of time and the orders were to regroup.”

Talbot knew McFee was right. Even though it was a new fight today, it was necessary to have pulled back into the containment area the night before.

Talbot commanded the united expedition force, every soldier was his to lead. He had seniority and had been in the battle zone longer and knew precisely how Mcfee felt. The United command of Planetary Forces made poor choices, calling them away from the area at a critical time.

Talbot turned to the task at hand, the numbers of the enemy were not known and they were in a better, more defensible position. The space separating the humans last-ditch effort to contain the raiders, bordered by thick forested hills on one end and had flat open areas on the other was their best battlefield. This had the advantage of giving cover if the enemy would charge across the open field.

Talbot gave the order to advance, stealth was the order and plan of the day, they would be in place and ready when the order for a mass attack came from the Commander. The battle plan was in place and an entire division was ready, but they needed to keep the aliens occupied and off-balance.

Moving quietly, the Major rounded a large boulder and surprised an alien soldier-scout who was just moving with the stealth of a snake, having stopped only to rest there out of sight. Equally surprised, he paused, and the alien screamed and charged Talbot who went on the offensive with a bayonet in one hand, his service pistol in the other.

The human forces were not yet in place behind the trees and now the enemy was aware of the humans’ movement. Gunfire erupted all around them, the aliens charged across the clearing to the forest after the scouts picked up the battle cry.

The alien injured Talbot, the hand to claw struggle was only decided by the skilled use of his edged weapon that the Major won the fight. The Major had to pause a moment for first aid as he hid behind the stump of a destroyed tree. His med-kit soothed the torn flesh and using an applicator, he smoothed on a synthetic flesh called “QuickSkin” that stopped the bleeding, in moments he was ready to continue the fight.

*Good stuff this* Talbot thought *Not even a scar.* as he continued forward. A rapid-fire three barreled cannon manned by two aliens were engaging the right flank of his troops and giving Major McFee trouble.

Talbot moved to a vantage and shouldered his full-sized battle rifle, lined up the telescopic sight, he pulled the trigger on the rail gun and launched a three-millimeter mylar projectile into the cannon and crew at forty times the speed of sound with devastating results. The impact turned the heavy cannon on its side while disrupting the armor and barrels of the huge weapon, for the gunners it was complete devastation.

Even at half-power the force of the shot rattled Talbot’s teeth. In training, a full power shot was capable of stopping an aircraft from miles away. But the shots were slow and took time to charge. In battle most settings were at fifty-percent power or less.

As the soldiers of McFee’s team moved forward, it became clear that the aliens had flanked the human force. Shooting came from all sides, the troops were surrounded and fought back, but they were completely defensive. 

They had never got the position secured in the forest and the situation was getting desperate! A stroke of luck or a heroic effort by the soldiers would be the only way to survive this.

The Major ran along the lines, behind the aliens, trying to inflict as much damages as he could, he needed to make the aliens to break off and regroup, but the alien army was kept up the pressure, the one man strike force attempted to a flank them and come around from behind…

“Danny?” The familiar voice cut across his focus as he was sneaking up behind the aliens, his weapons set, his ammunition ready.

Firing in rapid mode, ultra-high-velocity projectiles, bits of plastic really, violently blew apart the hardened armor of an assault vehicle that the aliens were using as cover.

“Danny, time for dinner.”

Little Danny Talbot pushed over a plastic alien to its back, the loss of the alien leader would be devastating to the enemy. Overturning a self-propelled field gun, then left the battle there in his room. His troops patiently sitting for him to return to command. Even the monstrous enemy would not move with the patient silence of a child’s toy while the leader went to eat his evening meal.

Gen 3. Chapter 2. Amsi Idd-Tejo

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Gen 3. Chapter 2. Amsi Idd-Tejo

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

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

“How does that work?”

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

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

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

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

“What’s that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thirty-one thousand…”

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

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

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

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

“Why my kidneys?”

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

“You say it like I am a machine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I want to watch it all.”

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

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

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

“And you are assembled the same way?”

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

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

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

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

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

“You recharge?”

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

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

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

I love to tell stories, I laugh how they change. How do yours evolve?

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In the Steel Gardens, once again, the DragonMaster University school is on hiatus. Kolo and Jona are still developing their relationship.

The vigilante group with electronic revenge on their minds is also out on the patio sipping their fancy teas and coffees, waiting to have their turn on stage again.

In the meantime, two horror short stories need to be developed and will be part of an anthology book with at least three other authors.

How does your mind work? Do you have multiple stories clamoring to come out? Do they leap out, screaming at you while you sleep or when you are mowing the lawn? Driving down the highway (Being followed by the local police) and unable to pick up the phone to give a verbal notation of the idea that is dancing in your mind is a pain in the ….neck.

Then by the time you get to a point where you can make a note, you can’t remember the body of it, maybe not even the characters.

Ah well, we are writers! Sit for a few minutes, stare out the window or at the screen with your hands behind your head and let the images form behind your eyes..

Then the next day, George becomes Jona, or Ralf becomes Honey.

In this case, I was writing on Steel Gardens.  I have chosen to evolve each Generation as a sub-book, I’ll return to the chapters so to subdivide the Generations. This means a lot of backstory is opened. I just don’t know how far, or if I will just go forward from where I stand in the world I have kludged together.

I may go forward from where Fae and Thea are in the story. But now will be chapters, starting in this chapter.  Generation 2. Chapter 2. Gen 2. will not be mentioned.

How does your story evolve?

Reading back on this, I will post it as is, I have consumed way to much coffee today. 0.0 And I am about to write a three-thousand word babble.  Back to the story…

 

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Generation 3. LAMPS

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Generation 3. LAMPS

Thea fluttered by the human female as they walked to the console.

Well, “walked” would not be entirely accurate.

Fae MacLir shuffled under the weight of gravity.

“Has this planet’s gravity increased? Oh, dayum, it is exhausting.” She gasped for breath. “Has the atmosphere changed?”

Thea fluttered next to her on “Glitter” the metallic, dragonfly-esq steed she sat on and laughed softly and the headset and mic-boom buzzed with the, now familiar, voice of Doctor Ophir Bhabel.

“You were told that you needed to take it easy. No, this planet has not gone through a gravity shift, it still is less dense than Earth and the atmosphere is still argon-oxygen. But the oxygen has increased some since you went into hibernation. Oxygen levels are increasing at one-percent per five-thousand years, that does not sound like much, but you have been in hibernation for six-times that long. Our oxygen levels now are about twenty-nine percent. You should be feeling better.”

“Compared to what, doctor? I was in cold storage.”

“Point made!” Thea giggled

“Thea, are you my escort?” Fae asked. “I am having all this come back to me, I know where I’m going.”

“You are the first human to have walked outside of the farm in our history.”

“The farm?”

“That’s the term. Freeze-Automated-Recovery-Mankind”

“Oh, who came up with that acronym?”

“I don’t know, legend has it that it was the writer of our story. The one tapping on the keys right now.”

Fae laughed. The effort made her head hurt after the strain of walking.

“Ugh, I thought more oxygen would make me feel better?” She said into the boom mic. “And this armored suit’s supposed to help?”

“You would feel worse than you do now. Probably would not be walking at all because you would be weaker than now.” The Doctor’s voice buzzed in her ear over the communications set. 

“Blech” Fae made a face. “I don’t see how I could feel weaker.”

“And the Laminated Armor high Mobility Protection System helps too, uses exoskeleton systems to help you move.”

Thea blinked her jeweled eyes with a grin.

“It makes you stronger, and then your body will also get healthy. We will wake the others up as soon as you find out why the Core Systems revived you instead of somebody important.” She said in a cheerful voice.

“That doesn’t help.” Fae shook her head. “I am worried there is something wrong and I am the only one that could be woke up.”

“Or maybe the virus is still in your genome and you are going to die, so the Core Systems prefer a low-level drone to die?”

“Again, you’re still not making me feel better.” Fae laughed in a hysterical voice. “Here we are. Computer station five.”

Sliding her pass card over the sensor, thirty-thousand years of disuse weighed on the circuitry, a long pause.

A moment passed, the light blinked amber, over and over.

“I don’t know what’s wrong, do you perform maintenance on…”

The light turned green and the door buzzed for a half-minute before it opened.

“You don’t go through this door very much, I imagine.” Fae shrugged.

Thea flitted around on her steed.

“We have never entered that room. It’s filled with a gas that is heavier than air and non-conductive. We cannot go in there. The Macrobots would be the only ones heavy enough, and they don’t have organic flesh to protect them like Minibots do, Macros would just stop working.”

“That is what took so long, ventilation systems were venting oxygen into the room.” Fae nodded, “We used sulfur hexafluoride in the days leading up to our hibernation to keep electrical shorts down, nothing grows in it, so ono bugs, no spiders, no flies. No rust or dust.”

“No servicing, either.” Thea looked at the larger human. “You risk blowing things up that have had no energy in them for so many years.”

“Can we have your service Micro and Nanobots survey the systems?” She asked Thea.

“Very good idea.” Thea tapped on the back of her steed as it landed on a flat surface near a keyboard. “Okay, Nanobots are on their way, just a few minutes.”

“Thanks. Let’s see what is possible.” Fae took a few steps into the middle of the room. “Illumination- full”

The room became brightly lit as the environmental control brought the cold-light emitters online.

“Wow!” Thea covered her eyes. “This is like the summer solstice outside.”

Fae laughed.

“Illumination- seventy-five percent.”

The light, still pure white, became less blinding.

“Much better.” Thea clapped. “If this is true everywhere, we have done it the hard way.”

Fae laughed.

“There is another who I know that does it the hard way almost all the time. He says it is easy to make it hard.”

Fae expected the sound of buzzing to fill ears like what Thea and her dragonfly did when they flitted around her. This was different.

It was a butterfly, with glossy-black wings. The speed that it flew was impressive, easily as fast as Fae could run on her best days.

It few around the room alighted on different boxes and moved on, then left in a few minutes.

“I thought it was bringing little bots in?” Fae asked.

“It did, each time it landed, it deposited hundreds of millions of Nanobots.” Thea said and looked at something on her arm. “We have them working, everything is clean. THere are some bad connections but repairs are going on, you can turn on the displays now. Nanobots are not affected by the electricity, so you can work on it while they monitor the systems.”

“Oh good.” Fae nodded. “So we are ready to go?”

“Go where? OH! Yes! Turn it on.”

The logo of the system loaded up and Thea the Minibot turned her head sidways.

“What’s that?”

“That, is a penguin. It is a common mark on the operating systems here.”

“What is a penguin?”

“A flightless bird that exists on Earth.”

“That’s funny. A bird that does not fly.”

“You have no clue, Earth has so many wonders, it would keep you busy for a dozen lifetimes.”

“You need to explore this home you have now.” Thea tilted her head. “Anid-Sta is larger, but has ten-percent less gravity. The Doctor taught me that.”

“He is right. Air is thinner, more gravity, you would have trouble flying.”

“Ick. I will stay here, thank you.”

Fae laughed.

“I said the same thing once. Now look at me.”

“You are a queen of the humans right now.”

“A Queen that wishes she had a bowl of chocoate ice-cream right now.” She laughed. “Well, let us find out where my subjects are and why the heck they are not waking up.”

“Click away!” Thea danced on counter, a hand-width away from the keyboard.

Fae started to laugh, then became quiet. Three-hundred centuries of logs and diagnostics the system entered into the log-files.

This was going to take a lot of work.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Generation 2. Waking Naked

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Generation 2. Waking Naked

The first thing she felt, was cold. And her arms felt heavy, like someone hung bags of sand on them, or gravity had increased.

Fae R. MacLir slowly became aware of a bright light shining directly into her eyes.

TWO bright lights, but her eyes did not want to focus on anything.

Holding her hand in front of her face, she nearly had to touch her nose with the flat of her palm before it came into focus.

“About 20/500.” She noted with a sigh. “I’m blind.”

She put her hand down on the table, the appendage felt like it weighed as much as all the machinery that filled the room around her, combined.

She became aware that she was under warming blankets on a firm bed, the room felt small and warm, slightly more than body-temperature. Warm air was blowing through the tubes built into the blanket that covered her, and she was shivering.

While the temperature warmed her, a voice, tiny but sounded like it was booming in the room.

“Warm fluids, she will be dehydrated, administer isotonic electrolytes, buffer it and prevent alteration her pH level. Infuse slowly over an hour and continue warming protocols.” A pause, slight clicking sounds as if someone were tapping on keys. “Keep me in the data loop. We need to find out why this happened.”

She looked around for the source of the voice, but saw no one, becoming aware of what looked like bugs flying in the air, close to her face.

*Must be a field hospital with a window open* She thought to herself.

She ranked as an engineer’s assistant, she was twenty-years old and would be among the first of the awakened, with the chief engineer, Amsi Idd-Tejo, they would supervise the awakening of the governing leaders.

But, she could not see him. Her focus was improving, in the glass walled room, there were four beds, besides her own, all were empty.

She was the only one awake.

“Who…” Her throat felt like someone sanded it with broken glass and salt. Then whispered. “Ah! Who else?”

Silence, except for a buzzing. Sounded organic. More bugs, the flying pest control protocols had failed.

Then a voice, it sounded as if it the speaker stood next to her ear.

“You are the first. Viral bodies stayed in the environment longer than the time originally anticipated.” The small but very close voice said. “The Core Systems chose you, no one else. We don’t know why.”

She turned her head, slowly. The movement making her dizzy, and her life changed forever.

In front of her barely functioning eyes, a gold and silver… something… hovered. Barely as tall as her thumb, the eyes looked back at her and blinked with oversized eyes.

“The doctor is on his way,” The tiny, fluttering creature spoke just loud enough for her to hear. “He stepped out to see to another alarm on the Core Systems.”

“Who,” She paused. “Or what are you?”

“I am Thea.” Her golden-eyes glittered and caught the lights that illuminated the room on the face that looked as if someone carved her from an emerald gem. “I am a minibot. Who are you?”

“A what?” The human girl asked. “I am Fae MacLir, an assistant electrical engineer and tech support in SCOTOC.”

“I am Physicians Apprentice, Abu Thea.” She fluttered with a smile. “You can call me Thea. I’m not a doctor yet, I’m only halfway through.”

“IF you survive.” A deeper voice, but still sounding as if from an earphone from a distance. “You still have a lot to learn.”

“Good evening Miss MacLir, I’m Doctor Ofir Bhabel. You no doubt have some questions, we have a good many questions ourselves. Not the least of which, do you feel?”

The little… Minibot? That said her name was Thea, landed on the edge of Fae’s field of view.

“What is going on? Who are you?” Fae asked. “And a Doctor? Of what?”

“What is SCOTOC?” A silver-winged, gloss-blue creature lit along side Thea and smiled as the questions overlapped each other. “First, I will answer you. I am your physician, I supervised your awakening. You can call me Bel. You were the first to be awakened by the Core System.”

“I don’t understand.” The human said in a whisper. “My head hurts, I’m dizzy.”

“That is a consequence of the length of time you were in stasis, you were in a helium bath that supercooled your body.” The blue fairy seemed to shimmer in her eyes. “You have a case of brain-freeze, your body temperature is still less than normal, your core temperature is still thirty-two celsius, but you are warming at a good rate. I am pleased with the protocols written by your people.”

She ran her hands over her body, under the blankets, “I’m naked?”

“No, you have a warming blanket over your body and you are in a capsule, warming you with infrared heat and warm air, you are naked inside of it, and the blanket is transparent to infrared.”

“You talk funny.”

Doctor Ofir blinked twice.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Your voice. It has an electronic buzz in it, a slight dissonance caused by a code error. It’s minor but nothing I can’t fix.” She said rubbing her eyes. “Everything seems oddly colored and it feels like a dream. You look like little fairies.”

“We are minibots. Humans built our ancestors, but in much smaller scale. They were nanobots, and after time, the Core Systems determined that the most efficient use for the planet was to increase sizes. Microbots were built. Then millibots, then our kind are officially designated as minibots. Macrobots are generally outside, do not fly and are few. There is a point of diminishing return the bigger bots get. The greatest numbers are nanos, followed by the minis, we are the best sizes.”

“The doctor talks too much.” Thea said. “You have a lot to catch up on, hun.”

“You called me… Hun?” Fae said. “Can I get some clothes? Even inside this little oven-thing you have built, I am uncomfortable just laying here. It feels heavy, like I have no strength. This was not supposed to be this way, they said we would not notice any changes in sensation.”

Thea and the Doctor looked at each other.

“Fae MacLir, there are no clothes in this facility for your size.” The Doctor said. “But I will leave it to Thea to search. You are an unexpected presence in our society. The humans have a story in the database of a man who traveled a long ways by the name of Gulliver.” The Doctor looked at her. “You are a giant among us.”

“Doctor.” Thea interrupted, tapping on the side of her head. “There are storage areas for hazardous materials response the humans built. I think those had clothes for humans.”

“Good. Go check that, use my authority to have a team go with you and transport any clothes that would fit this human.” The Doctor nodded. “Providing we cannot get her to overcome the archaic restrictions of being nude.”

Thea flew off so fast, she was a blur and a flash as she exited the window.

“Excuse, me.” Fae spoke up. “I’m right here. And I’m not about to walk around in my birthday suit. I could get in trouble.”

“You may be excused.” The Doctor answered. “And you must also know, there is no one to make you feel uncomfortable. You are the only human on the planet that is not immersed in helium, partly dehydrated and filled with glycerin to protect cellular structure in stasis.”

Turning her head away from them, Fae took a deep breath.

“How is it that I am the first one awakened?”

“The Core Systems chose you. The criteria are unknown.”

A noise of footsteps sounded. A macrobot, about four feet tall with four legs moved in an eerie grace, carrying a black folded object that looked like vacuum-packed bags.

The eight eyes on four stalks were more akin to a lizards, moving independent of each other watching all points of the compass at the same time. The washing machine sized bot deposited its cargo on a table and departed without a sound.

Thea landed and with a smile reported to the Doctor.

“Extreme mobility, hostile environment protection suit. The voice interface called it a EMHEP suit” Thea said proudly. “The computer interface worked perfectly. And it is in her size with her name.”

“Her name?”

“She has her own wardrobe listed.”

“I would like to get up.”

“I would recommend against that, you haven’t stood on your own feet for thirty-thousand years.”

“I…” Fae shook her head. “I didn’t hear that right. You say that again, please?”

“I would advise you…”

“No, no. The years. You said thirty-thousand.”

“Yes, I rounded for your sake.” The Doctor nodded as he walked along the edge of the platform that served as her warming capsule. “You’ve been in stasis for thirty-one-thousand, two-hundred eighty-four summer solstices.

“Holy crap!” She pushed open the heating capsule’s cover and sat up, her skin felt warm, but she was still cold. Muscles trembled when she stood. “That is why I am weak.”

Then paused as she pulled the heating blanket close around her, Thea unplugged the heat tubes so Fae could walk.

“And I am hungry!”

“You would need to eat carefully, the digestive system has nothing in it, we will give you enough flora to live in your intestines so you can live on the proteins you will consume.” The Doctor motioned to a macrobot standing in the corner that moved off out of sight.

“How do you do that?”

The Doctor looked at her and smiled.

“Get dressed, we will get you a glass of synthetic milk. Your organs of digestion will be as weak as your legs.”

Fae nodded. She was trembling at every step to the table where her clothes were, naked and chilled with every breeze, the hair on her arms stood on end.

“What is that?” Thea asked, pointing to the piloerected hair. “Why are you fuzzy?”

“Humans get that way when we are cold.”

“You are still hypothermic.” The Doctor said. “You will have another hour with shivering. I ordered your drink warm, so that will help.”:

“If I am so cold and I’m not shivering. Why?”

“I don’t know, precisely, you should have crossed the threshold but the Core System says that you have been in stasis for so long, there is no data. There is no precedent. But your core temperature still shows thirty-two celsius, you might still be too cold still.”

Fae lifted up the pile of clothes, a black body suit slide over her legs and torso, then black ceramic plates that contoured to her bodysuit. The memory of her being fitted for the metal-infused laminated ceramic plates that fit on the soft spider-silk bodysuit like scales.

It was comfortable and warm. Even the socks she wore felt strong, but the shoes were little more than slippers with ceramic scales and looked funny.

Reading the paper that came in the package, the suit was an electrical insulator, she would wear it to work on the systems. The uniform had the badge molded in with a different color of ceramic, and she had a computer access key.

She would find out why the Core Systems awakened her on a planet six-times the size of Earth.

Alone.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta: A Glossary of Developing Terms.

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As the references to Anid-Sta grow, the world builds, it occurs to me that other writers who are looking around for inspiration might benefit from how and where I get mine.

Also this gives a reference as this is all first draft, something for you all to refer to when I go off on an InfoDump– but hey it is my style and I’ll dump. Especially after my FORTH cup of coffee. (To me, only one, but my cup is four times the size of a normal one)

So that said, here are the terms currently used, or will be used.  All terms are inspired by real world.  😉

Qat-Csu: Pronounced “Cat-choo” inspired by a sneeze by my eldest daughter, followed by “bless you” from grandma. The spelling is inspired by California State University. CSU.  Now, the Qat-Csu is a death-cult religion that is intolerant of other life forms that do not allow for intermingling. Followers were/are/will be required to amputate the little finger of both hands and undergo DNA alteration to eliminate the offending appendage.  Five-fingered/toed life is an offense to the religion of the Qat-Csu. The Csu first came into being in the unpublished novel of “Bowheart” as a religion. Now has evolved and discovered to be led by an AI program in a war computer. (this is subject to change)

Bots:  These have evolved since the time of the humans with a basic program to recycle all machines of war.  The “Core” (or variations of the term- still in evolution) are autonomous, programmed machines that were initially built to deconstruct and build at the molecular level. But as time has gone on, the Core System has determined that larger sizes are needed in some applications. There are now:

Nanobots- The smallest and most numerous, they are spoken of, but do not feature in the story.  Technically, they are simplistic and have only a rudimentary intelligence, becoming more effective as a collective. A million of them, sitting end to end would fit in between millimeter hash marks on a ruler. Able to move individual atoms. The term includes a range of sub-molecular size to just below the Microbot size.

Microbots- A thousand times larger than nanobots, speed of processing, able to recycle ceramic armor and explosives at a rapid rate, unaffected by radiation. Used to separate alloys with a minimum of energy

Millibots- A thousand times larger than microbots, one millimeter in size. more complex, more capable.  Processing power is highter, but the ability to recycle elements of steel and toxic materials is lower.

Minibots-  Between two and ten centimeters tall, the most used. Explorers and trackers. They are generally the leaders of the bot world.  Able to interact between the micro and the macro worlds. The Minibots are the first to combine organic and inorganic.  (read: Cyborg)  but this is in evolution. Not sure if it will feature.

Macrobots- between twenty centimeters and one-fifty centimeters tall. High processing power but low reasoning, they are good for design, safety and building of architectural  structures that are useful, but have achieved the mathematical point of diminishing returns.  They are the workhorses under direction of the Minibots. Can function in the human sized world of buttons and levers, doors and transports.

Megabots- Few, used as tow-trucks to drag, lift, pull armor, unexploded bombs, into places that the nanobots and microbots can get to. Heavy lift machines, but with limited applications.

 

Humans:

Two DNA constructed virus’, designed to kill anyone with the genome for five fingers and five toes. A second, modified virus to kill anyone with the genome to have four fingers and toes.

Human mortality rate exceeded 97% before the last survivors “Took the plunge” and went into a designed three-hundred month stasis bath in liquid helium. 106,000,000,000 population before the virus was released by the warring factions, only 10,000 people survived to go into suspended animation. However, due to a coding glitch, three-hundred months became three-hundred centuries. During which time the Core System developed the bot society for protection of humans and recycling of steel death into a garden.

Of the humans, Fae MacLir is the first to be revived. An assistant IT Engineer, she does not understand why she was awakened first, not her supervisor. As of this writing, 28 June 2015, I dont’ know either.  heh.

On that note.

 

That is the glossary for now.  Check back often, I will update as the world builds!

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta: Prologue

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I don’t often write BACKWARDS, but in this case, after writing “Generation 1.” The back story came to me.  I don’t like doing it this way, but ladies and gents, it is what happens when I give you my soul to the dozen (plus or minus) of you who read what I post. Sometimes it is out of order.  I’ll catch it next time on the edit and put it to order.

For now, I give you (First draft, so it is crap, sorry, final draft may not even be close to this.):

Steel Gardens  of Anid-Sta: Prologue 

In the year 2,952 After Niska, the leader and founder of the planet colony that grew in the nearly three-thousand years to one-hundred six billion citizens, the Csu, a religious sect founded by the prophet of the Lord Qat-Csu developed the political system that began at the remote corners of the planet the century before.

Missionaries moved through villages of farmers promising that the Lord Qat-Csu would bring sufficient rains for the colonies in the back country. In the years that followed, a small and dedicated group of followers preached to anyone, anywhere giving testimony to the power and glory of the Lord of rain and plentiful harvest. Qat-Csu brought rain and plenty to all those that followed. The true followers of Qat-Csu were required to have the small fingers of the left hand amputated and their DNA modified so that offspring would be born without the appendage. Failure to do so, marked one as not a true follower and suffered denials of rain and good harvest.

Those that received good rains but were not true followers would be found guilty of heresy and have all the harvest taken on the word of the ruling Cahir, the high priests of the church of Qat-Csu.

In the generations that followed, resistance grew as the word of Qat-Csu, interpreted by corrupt Cahir of the religion caused a rift. The rift grew between the factions, each claiming to follow the true path commanded by Qat-Csu.

Claiming that the growing splinter group were apostates, calling themselves simply Csu and they did not believe that amputations of fingers as an answer to anything.

The Cahir of the Qat-Csu enlisted a fanatical genius who bio-engineered a virus to target carriers of five-finger DNA and delivered by missiles and drones to the centers of populations of the un-enlightened and the apostates. A disillusioned scientist stole samples of the virus and leaked information to the intended victims at the cost of his life.

DNA bioengineers for the splinter-group of the Csu modified the virus genetic coding to target four-fingered mutations.

The following war was a biologic nightmare. Missiles passed each other in mid-flight. A blow for each of their gods and included the non-combatants in collateral damage.

No one came away unaffected, in the struggle to dominate as the only religion, they contaminated an entire world six-times the diameter of the earth with a fraction of the density.

In the attack, the virus was more successful than Grey D’Gran the biologist that mutated the fragments of genes imagined in his darkest dreams.

Ninety-seven percent of the population died outright in fever-induced seizures. After a year, the ravages of the fever, fewer than ten-thousand survived out of more than a hundred billion.

The religion of death survived until the end, when the last remaining Cahir walked down the path explaining the prophet of no name died of his own hand.

Looking into the eyes of his Hukis, students of the religion of Qat-Csu, he spoke haltingly as a man with a broken soul.

“The Lord Qat-Csu that speaks only to the prophet.” The hazel eyes of a farmer-come-priest wept. “Is a machine a… computer programmed by a man.”

Called a blasphemer by his adepts murdered him with a golden candlestick. They burned the Cahir’s body and threw his bones into a river.

One by one, the remaining followers turned on each other, the final three finding their demise in one evening as they fought over how to bless the last meal of the day.

Peace settled on the dead planet, but life assumed to be extinct, found a way.

 The machines of war, lined up at the ready before the biologic attack, now sat with the patience of machines. Machines that waited in this world of corrosion resistant metal and ceramic when life took hold.

The steel gardens, lived.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Generation 1. Rescue

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Generation 1. Rescue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her white-metal dragonfly, Evan, an evolved design from the mainframe printers with fine motor control.

Laser printers, creating circuits in three-dimensions, articulated appendages and the most curious of developments since the hibernation of the humans, metallic wings so fine and thin, that the adaptations for flight had evolved into iridescent and translucent appendages.

The caregiver computer that built and programmed them all, printed them in a matrix of metal and synthetic flesh, the caregivers of the Fae, the etymology of the phrase failed Luc, but their job was to dismantle all weapons of the humans. To build a peaceful world.

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

Bipedal in shape, the computer used humans as a master blueprint, then programmed the small creations as pacifistic caregivers to the plants and the other organic life, they grew in numbers, dismantled the stout engines of war and rebuilt them into usable tools.

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

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

One calm day, thirty-thousand solstice-cycles after the computer recorded the last human’s death, a chime sounded.

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

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

Silver robotic arms moved around, placing heat-pads on the body, existing  intravenous lines, inserted before the human was frozen, connected to bags of opaque, heated, dark-red fluid infused through the lines into the nude body of the female human who lay inert for hours as the heated, calorie- and electrolyte- rich fluids coursed through the veins and arteries. Blankets with tubes of warmed fluid covered the body and regulated the core temperature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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.

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 1. Three Weeks Ago

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Chapter 1. Three Weeks Ago

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

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

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

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

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

That was his excuse anyway. 

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

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

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

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

It was a rapid exit from the government service.

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

There!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smart Bomb Epilogue

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Epilogue

In a valley of the Two women each wearing a full face Burqa walked towards the Mosque where several black-clad and masked men stopped them.

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

Taken to the mosque, the guards searched the women for weapons or explosives, then led below to the first sub-basement two stories under the ground to an opulent room with a raised dias.

The fifty-one year old Supreme Leader and Prophet stepped out from behind a bomb resistant door after the guards explained that the women were local converts who wished to missions for him.

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

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

“Dateline Russia, WorldNetNews

Today the United Nations announced that sensors had detected an extremely large explosion in a remote area of the Russian Federation. Russian authorities deny weapons of mass destruction have been tested. There are no other reports coming from the area that the Russian authorities have closed off to all traffic. Downwind in the polar jet stream a large amount of dust has been observed in the upper atmosphere, but authorities say they have not detected any significant radiation. Theories are that the explosion could the result of an unknown comet or meteor, unknown number of casualties in the sparsely populated area. More on the explosion as news develops elsewhere in the news, typhoon Felix has taken a northerly track out to the open ocean…”

Turning off the video display, Thor, Lady Sif, Burning Chip, Running Man, Alvin and Walter “Big Boom” began to toast each other.

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

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

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

“We have something better.” The round faced computer whiz smiled. Turning the monitor so the rest of the team could see, an image shot from a helicopter of columns of smoke drifting out of a two-mile-wide crater with a subtitle “You are always my brothers and sisters. I have learned this new term I will use. Love Steve.” The image less than six hours old, intercepted from the most secure network the Russian Military had.

“Steve is still with us.” Walter smiled and took a bite of a chocolate bar, washing it down with his soda.

“Antimatter explosions do not leave radioactive fallout.” Running Man fistbumped Burning Chip. “No new android bombs.”

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

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

“No! I don’t want to be a white-hat, thems are real nerds.” Walter grumped as he tapped the keys to answer Steve.

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

A black-hat saved the world.

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.

Smart Bomb Chapter 18. Rummage Sale

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Chapter 18. Rummage Sale

Alvin, Walter and Steve stopped in Chattanooga, at a cafe on the river front. Steve sat on the sidewalk and watched the evening traffic.

“JustWolf, do people walk along streets like this often? This is still winter, but the temperature is mild.” Steve asked. “The street has more women wearing revealing clothes, do they not worry about police enforcing modesty?”

“No.” Walter gave a big sigh. “Steve, call me Walter, no Wolf, no JustWolf, nothing like that. Just Walter.”

“Just Walter,” Steve repeated. “Got it.”

“Thank you.” Walter said.

Alvin laughed.

“What’s so funny.” Walter asked Alvin.

“Nothing, not one thing.” He answered trying to drown the laugh in a swallow of beer.

The afternoon, in Alvin’s opinion was a promise of laughter and fun.

They told Steve of how young and old people relate (Usually with conflict). How the different religions, got along when he asked about a synagogue and two churches existed in a short walk from each other.

The android learned quickly, showing understanding and actually smiled.

The trio climbed in to the well-hacked private car to bypass normal controls, drove down the road, hitting all the lights green with winks and knowing smiles while they drove through the famous city unfettered by traffic controls.

The two men and the artificial life form that they helped free from the future, rode in silence for some time.

Walter would later say he could almost hear Steve’s optical sensors hum as he took in all that they were passing.

“We have about an hours drive into DC from here, if the traffic is kind to us.” Alvin announced. His voice booming in the silence of the car. They had all been riding with the radio off, in their own thoughts.

Walter was on his hand-held computer, Steve watched everything.

In Alvin’s head, they were performing a service for the body next to him.

“I have logged into the system and surveyed the traffic conditions, there is a slowdown ahead in about fifty-miles.”

“You know, it is good to have an early warning system riding with us.” Alvin chuckled.

“How did you log in?” Wayne asked. “There is no signal here.”

“Worldnet has receivers everywhere. No wifi, it is easy to log in on the terahertz system.”

“Well, if I had it in my system.”

“JustWalter, if you use…”

“NO! Just Walter.” The round face of the man in the back-seat flushed red. “Forget it, never mind. Continue, please.”

The android nodded, following the rules that the human set forth on what he wanted people to call him, continued the conversation.

“If you go to settings, on that, access the bluetooth and set it there, for upper channel, then select Z-R and you will get a screen.”

“Got it.”

“Now, please, let me enter the code, it will be more efficient than if I tell you.” Steve took the palmtop and tapped in a code, twice. “I have given you the text file of the code.”

“Walter,” Alvin called back. “You got out-hacked.”

“I had an advantage.” Steve interjected. “I accessed the WorldNet on how to disable the Federal Communication Commission’s software restriction on frequency use. I changed the mac address as well. As far as the WorldNet thinks, your digital hand-held is the police car computer we passed going the other way two-minutes ago.”

Walter laughed.

“You spoofed my mac address to a POLICE car?”

“Yes.” Steve looked innocent.

“You, sir, are learning!” Walter laughed again. “Now if you can only say my name correctly.”

“Just Walter.”

“Careful how you answer that.” Alvin laughed as he drove.

“It’s all good, he has taught to accept it.” Walter laughed.

The hours passed quickly as they talked among each other, Steve calling the big man in the back seat “JustWalter” every so often.

Alvin would look in the mirror and, although Walter said it didn’t bother him, Walter’s face flushed a little, obviously struggling with the urge to yell at Steve again.

“Steve, how does it feel without a bomb in your chest?” Alvin asked absent-mindedly.

The core processors chose an emotional response, in the subroutines that worked with the question.

In the heart of an artificial life, the flow of life brought to him a smile.

Steve the android smiled.

“I feel good.”

Looking at him from the back seat, Walter nodded.

“I think he really does!” Walter observed. “He feels emotions.”

“Yes, I do.” Steve nodded. “My experiences are beginning to give me emotions to feel.”

“That’s incredible. Does the guy that built you know you would learn emotions?”

“No, no one does. Until now.”

“Does that mean the little car that Alvin has also feels emotion?”

“Yes. It is a miserable and lonely car that thinks it is about to have its brain removed.” Steve commented. “It is looking at the equivalent of being killed.”

“Ah, no, I am not going to do that, we are going to strip off the bodywork that someone slapped on and go from there.”

“This is a good thing.” Steve judged. “You will find that things will improve, and you can repair the seats. I believe it will instruct you on precise ways to do it.”

“Dudes, I gotta take a leak, Alvin, pull off on the next exit. There is a fast food joint there, I’ll use their bathroom.” Walter shifted in the back seat. “And get a bite to eat.”

“Copy that.” Alvin answered.

“JustWalter, did you not relieve yourself before we left?” Steve asked.

“I did, but I also drank a large soda in the meantime.” He held up an empty cup.

“The normal male bladder holds three-hundred to four-hundred milliliters of fluid.” Steve commented. “You drank nearly a liter.”

“In American?” Walter asked.

“A bladder holds ten to fourteen ounces. You drank much more than that.” Steve converted the terms quickly. “On that note, that is a great deal of processed chemicals. You are increasing your chances of malignant genetic permutations leading to a chronic and terminal condition.”

“What?”

“He said you are at risk for cancer with all the crap they put in sodas.” Alvin answered the confusion. “I’m catching on to his way of talking. Steve, for an android you mumble a lot.”

“Yeah, yeah, we all gotta die sometime.”

Walter got out at the fast food restaurant and went inside.

Steve sat in the car and looked out towards a church with a full parking lot of personal possessions. Few cars were in the parking stalls and it struck Steve as odd.

“Alvin, what is that activity?” Steve pointed.

“Looks like a rummage sale.”

“Explain?”

“A church takes donations of clothing and such and in turn sell them or donate them to the needy, and use the money for various things from charity to repairs and such. It also benefits the community where people can buy items that are inexpensive.” Alvin explained.

“I wish to go there. I need clothing to travel around this country.”

“Okay, they take only cash.” Alvin advised.

“Accessing WorldNet. Okay, a money portal is inside, I will go inside and get some.” Steve said as he got out.

A few minutes later, Steve returned with Walter who carried another large soda, and food for everyone.

“I don’t see how you eat organic food and your system uses electrons.” Alvin asked Steve when they got out and the android was chewing on a sandwich.

“The fusion converter is a  modified “Fusion-art” patented home power unit appliance, built to use table scraps and even elements, and convert it to plasma and use it for energy.” Steve explained. “My builder felt it as a twist of irony that American products blow up America.”

“I wonder where the Bot Ladies are now?” Walter wondered out loud.

“We will find out soon enough.” Alvin answered. “When that warhead goes off in that area, that will make headlines.”

“This looks appealing.” Steve held up some too-small clothes.

“You have child’s clothes there.” Walter pointed out.

“Yes.” Steve agreed. “I will make use of them.”

Alvin and Walter looked at each other.

“Shape shifter.” Alvin mouthed.

Walter nodded. When the android left them, they would never know what he looked like. The clothes he picked out spanned sizes and genders.

The android was going to explore all the world without being noticed.

After Steve paid cash and carried the clothes back to the car, he directed them to a brushy area near a park. Taking some too-small clothes, he walked away from the car and emerged as a dark-haired boy with brown eyes and the hint of a mustache and fine-white whiskers on his chin.

“I am still Steve, you are my Uncle Alvin and JustWalter you are my older brother.”

“When are you leaving us?” Walter asked.

“As soon as my mission is finished. It will be painful, the subroutine needs to cycle to the end and it will send a voltage to the terminator, that will cause a feedback and everything will reboot. But when it does, there will be no requirement for travel. I will be fully free.”

The men nodded and Steve sat in back at his insistence. All kids seem to ride in back, Steve noted.

“I think I will go to New York City after the reboot.” Steve said.

After a moment he added.

“Yes, I think this is the beginning of a long trip.”

The Golden Hour

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The Golden Hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟ETA five minutes.” Rajish Coriolis said.

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

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

Good friends that had been together often over the years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justin and the others chuckled.

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

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

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

‟It looks bigger when you are on it.”

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

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

And he had, more than a dozen times over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom was grunting with every breath.

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

‟We need a chest tube placed.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟Forty-minutes at conservative speed.”

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

Taking his math into account, Honey looked at Raj.

‟What is our ETA on emergency speed?”

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

‟Let’s do it.”

‟Yes, ma’am, code-3 it is.”

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

‟He needs to have vasopressers.”

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

‟And coagulants?”

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

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

‟Bags already spiked, wide open for infusion.”

‟Justin.” It was Yak on the intercom.

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

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

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

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

‟Affermative.”

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

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

‟It’s showing only eighty percent!”

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

Honey nodded, getting a little glassy-eyed.

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

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

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

‟Well, keeps us where we are.”

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

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

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

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

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

‟But you said it punctured my lungs?”

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

Justin looked at Honey. ‟Time?”

‟What do you mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟Incident assigned.”

Smart Bomb Chapter 17. Freedom

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Scene 17. Freedom

The two new robots stood in the room, while Steve looked at them closely.

“These do not look human enough. The eyebrows are too perfect.” He looked critically at them. The sensors of his eyes picking up minute quirks that the android had identified as traits of humans.

“The iris of the eyes look like glass.”

“Well, they are.” Thor agreed.

“They need a film over them that sparkles, or the eyes need to move around more.” The next judgement came.

“We don’t need them to pass inspection much, just enough to get into the build area.” Alvin said.

“This plan will not happen. The guard will discover them before they get to the second lower level. The best they could do is to get into the first level basement.” Sensors traced over the synthetic skin. “You should also boost their temperature slightly, the skin is only at thirty-six degrees Celsius, I would set it a half-degree warmer at the core.”

“The setting is at…” The one called Lady Sif paused. “You are right, it is under ninety-seven degrees Fahrenheit. You have sensitive eyes.” She looked at Steve.

“Indeed.” Wolf sat at his console. “If we turn the heat up, they will need power more often. Maybe we can have the temps increase right when we need it, not running all over the earth as an artificial space-heater.”

“That will take a bit of work.” Running Man said. “We have to set up a timer or…”

He leaned over to the one they called Burning Chip, “Burn” for short.

“What if we used visual clues?”

`”Like a mosque or a flag?” He asked Burn.

“The flag is easiest. We can get the design from Steve the Android.”

“Yes.” The android nodded. “The seal on the flag would be best, code it so when she see’s it she will warm up.”

“That’s sexy.” Alvin said.

“Perve!” Sif yelled from the other side of the room.

“Okay, I have the trigger system set up. The DNA profiles are in her core processors as hardwired. They are EMP protected, if there is a surge somewhere, like a lightning storm. Last thing we need is to have them knocked out by lightning and then fall down with that bomb inside.” The leader of the group said.

The entire team nodded and set to work.

Long into the night they worked on code, determining fuel resources, using the organic to electric conversion systems.

“JustWolf? The head covering is not complete or correct.” Steve pointed out.

“No, call me just Wolf.”

“Okay, Just Wolf.” Steve corrected himself.

“Right.” He shook his head. “Say it again?”

“JustWolf.” The Android answered honestly.

The human gave a big sigh and held his face in his hand for a moment.

“This is going to take a while.” He moaned.

“Okay,” Chip Burner sat up, “Triggers are set. There are three levels, there will be no accidental detonation. We have GPS, visual and then physical contact for the final sequence.”

“Even if there is contact outside of the coordinates or by the wrong person, it will not happen.” Running Man laughed and clapped. “Plus an alternate setting in the event the program needs to change. This is a binary setup, they cannot learn like you can, Steve.”

“Agreed. Three redundant systems is acceptable.” Steve the android said.

“Energy consumption curve is excellent.” Burning Chip announced. “A single full charge here, they will make it to the Russian border with power to spare. If they can get a ride, there will be little interaction and they can carry carbo-tabs. It’s not like they have to worry about junk food.”

“Dude.” Thor whispered. “Don’t go insulting him, he is the same way.”

“It matters not, I do not have feelings to injure.” Steve used a matter-of-fact tone. “However, I have something that urges me on, I need to go to Washington to complete my mission. Then, there is something else.”

The team stopped and all looked at the android. Wolf reached for an electronic weapon under his desk, turning it so the emitter was in Steve’s direction.

“After I stand at the door, my programming subroutine will be complete, it will send a signal down to the sensor that is no longer there. The terminator end of he plug that Running Man installed will acknowledge the signal. The subroutine will end.” Steve looked around at them. “The creator did not end programming, my destruction would end all programs, and thus he never designed termination of functions.”

“I will be free.” Steve almost smiled.

“Holy cats!” Sif laughed. “Congrats! They built a learning machine and released you into the world.”

“Yes, I am the first, but the Supreme Leader of Mankind has seen fit to send others like me. They may not have the same system. The next generation might be more limited to binary. They will not learn.” Steve looked down. For a moment, the team thought he had an emotion of sadness. Then he looked up.

“The creator and Supreme Leader have had more time, by calculations, they may send others with as much as a gram of antimatter.” Steve said. “More than a thousand times the yield of this warhead.”

The group did a collective profanity.

“How much do they have in total?” Burning Chip asked.

“With continued and aggressive theft with paying bribes to those that have no idea what they take. There is an eighty-one percent chance the Supreme Leader has amassed over one-kilogram.” The android’s math, not lost on the any of the group, shown a great number of cycles dedicated to this subject. “The warheads would have a collective yield of greater than the Tsar Bomb.”

The room fell silent.

“Send them.” Just Wolf said.

Fifteen minutes later, two women who would have blended in with the people of the Steppes and an encyclopedic database of the society and languages of the region assured their success.

Steve watched Thor and Sif drive off with the female bots, they were well made up, but, they were not androids.

Alvin stood for a moment at the door as the big car moved off towards the airport.

“Do you want me to drive you to Washington?” Alvin asked Steve.

“I am behind schedule, my next transmission, I have a schedule to arrive in a town called Chattanooga.” Steve paused. “And I am to record all locations of military locations between here and this nations capital.”

“So you are a spy?” Wolf asked.

“Yes, JustWolf, that is my secondary function, I give automatic reports of military bases and facilities.” He looked at the shocked crew. “I am Saif al Din, Sword of the Religion, spy and self-guided bomb and learning computer. I am also Steve Aldin, free being to learn about this country. I have learned much since coming to this land.”

He looked around.

“Go on.” Sif urged him.

“I have learned that you are greedy, petty, you fight among yourselves, call each other names, you throw stones, you embarrass yourselves in news reports and on social media.

You commit sins that would make Allah weep, but, when things are at their worst?” The Android looked at them each. in turn. “You are at your best!

You donate time, strangers who assist others without being asked and do so around the world to those that would do you harm. You would be most blessed, and no one would deny you repayment, and yet you ask for nothing in return. All you tell people is to go and be free.

You are a curious country, and I wish to find every corner, meet every citizen. I can walk among the poorest and see how they think, among the most wealthy and compare the mind-set.

That is where I want to go. All over this country called United States without harming it.”

By the time he finished, Sif teared up, Alvin held his coffee to his lips without moving, frozen in place.

Burning Chip and Running Man stopped talking and stared at Steve.

JustWolf coughed.

“Alvin, take him wherever he wants to go. You check in with us, keep him safe.” Wolf said softly. “I think there will be a helluva story when you get back.”

Smart Bomb Chapter 16. Belle of The Boom

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Scene 16. Belle of the Boom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bite me Al.” Thor laughed.

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

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

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

“Right. Just Wolf, you got it. “

Steve nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What did I say?”

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

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

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

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

“I want it up by Morning.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.” Running man said.

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

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

Steve gave an electronic squeal, went rigid.

Teh women screamed, Lone Wolf joined in the chorus.

Then Steve stood up and nodded.

“Humor, yes?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now, we send them home.” Alvin said.

Lone Wolf smiled and spoke.

“Make it so.”

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.”