Smart Bomb. Epilogue

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Chapter 19. Epilogue

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

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

“Trykon.” The chief inquisitor echoed the woman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dateline Russia, WorldNetNews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

The third male asked.

“You known him longer. You should know.”

The heavyset one that called himself brother answered.

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

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

“See how it’s blurred?”

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

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

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

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

A few taps on his keyboard.

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

Sergeant held up a finger before the Lieutenant said anything.

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

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

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

“Yes?” Lieutenant said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lieutenant hung his head for a moment.

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

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

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

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

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

The door clicked softly behind him.

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

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

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Smart Bomb Chapter 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 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 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 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.

Married by Mistake Chapter 53. Singapore

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Chapter 53. Singapore

After he left Hiroshima, Japan, Tom’s plane traveled over the expansive eastern Pacific Ocean, the early day was clear and broken clouds. The Pacific Wizard’s upgraded twin engines operated so smooth and so well-balanced, one would hardly know they pushed the big plan at hundreds of miles-per-hour as he wandered around the open expanse of the big jet alone.

Tom walked the length of the plane, using the restroom. At his designated altitude, he still flew slow compared to the commercial airliners.

Not meant for blistering speed, his craft and home was a yacht, after all, a flying boat. And even with the upgrades in the engines, it still traveled at a sedate speed of a little less than six-hundred kilometers-per-hour, about thirty-percent slower compared to commercial passenger jet.

But, it was his home.

He passed over the water, the autopilot followed the path programmed in the flight computer. The Japanese were sticklers about accuracy and with the unusual private jet, made good and sure that he had the proper data set logged into the computer.

He stood behind the pilot’s seat, he did not sit back down, just stood there and watched the machine fly on itself with the automatic guidance system engaged. He had spent a lot of time in the plane in recent weeks. Although his arm was no longer oozing blood, he kept applying new, clean dressings, if the air-pressure changes caused some unexpected problems. The last thing he wanted, to lose the use of his injured arm.

It would have a scar for some time that would be impressive to show off. But for now it was an angry line that crossed his forearm, as if someone hit him with an ax.

It was quite impressive to the unprepared, if he could show it off. But there was no one to show it to while being on the Pacific Wizard in mid-flight.

Tom took a deep breath and let it out in a controlled slow exhale, it felt so good, he stretched a second time before he went to his desk and picked up the tablet computer. It was the one he used so often to write on and sat back in the pilot seat, where he could keep an eye on the displays.

Radar indicated several aircraft above and below, a heavy jet was passing over him going the same direction. He read the display and looked the specs up on his computer and shook his head at the numbers it displayed on the size and speed of the larger plane.

Laughing, the engines on the passenger jet was larger by far than the two that powered the Wizard. Even with the engine upgrades when he purchased the big jet through his company, the specs made him a tiny bit envious.

If he could get another upgrade and put those on his yacht.

Laughing out loud again, he realized he would have to have the engines out on longer stalks or have divots pounded into the fuselage of the plane to fit the big fan-powered blowtorches.

A man could stand up inside the big airliner’s engines if he had a mind to.

He could spend all day in the air with Kaylee if he had the plane like those. Except for the cost, some twenty-five thousand US dollars per hour!

She would have to paint a lot to sell her creations to help offset the cost of flying a privately owned seven-eight-seven.

*Even if it is just a fantasy.* Tom shook his head. *There was no way to buy one of those wide-bodied birds.*

The memory of the woman echoed in his head.

His shoulders sagged. He had spent almost the last two hours not thinking of that raven-haired artist.

She had made him laugh, and even if she had not intended to do so, she had hurt him to the core of his heart.

More than he would ever admit to anyone except himself. It was important to him that she kept her promise to… He forgot the other man’s name except he was a congressional aide of some kind.

Shaking his head, he returned to his writing, trying to keep Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon and his friend Weeds, on a child’s level of understanding. This story had become one about keeping promises.

“A promise kept, makes a person’s word valued.” He typed on the screen in the word bubble of Wendel, the Weedy Sea Dragon.

Still, as he wrote the adventures of Leonard and Weeds his mind drifted to the mote of loneliness in his mind.

The autopilot computer chimed, it was time to make radio contact with Singapore and begin his descent.

Checking his fuel, he was still had a third of his operational fuel left. Traveling the way he had of late, the service techs in San Francisco had fitted his yacht with fuel cells and turned the luxury jet into a virtual gas-can with wings.

Tom, hopped from one city to the next from book-con to comic-con for signing of books and traveled alone, he had flown the great circle route with no one to talk to in the big plane.

Still, he had the computers and could video chat with anyone he chose. But he had no one to call. So he followed his schedule, his eyes settling on a the event that he had attended after Dr. Manga’s installation, the event where the sponsor set him up with a date-for-hire.

He laughed sadly at his perception of the date, that woman came from a company the organizer hired at the Frankfurt comic-con to escort him so that he would look even better with the beautiful woman on his arm.

Tom laughed as the night had progressed and the escort was in fact, more than an escort. With a Master’s Degree in biology and organic chemistry. She was wonderful to talk with an ability to see both sides of an argument, a quick wit and the ability to shut down the probing questions on her relationship with Tom.

Even when one person tried to prove that she was some gold-digger with no brains.

‟I hoped you would slap down that SOB from the vomit-rag tabloid, but jeeze!” Tom commented when they were alone and he laughed. The sight of the tabloid reporter made to look like an imbecile tickled him. “That was beyond good!”

She called herself Krystal with a slight Saxony-German accent, and Tom immediately doubted that was her real name. As far as her education, he could not prove she lied about a Master’s Degree, and she could talk with anyone about nearly any subject. Even the most recent journals of learned circles of chemistry.

When Tom started to talk to her the next morning, she picked up the phone called someone, then told him to get dressed.

‟We are going to breakfast.” She smiled. Taking him by the hand and led him out the door of the hotel.

‟Sorry about last night, I have a lot of things…”

‟Shhh… Mister Harte. Things happen, sometimes they don’t. You are awesome and you did a lot of public interaction at that event. In total, I am very impressed with your work.”

‟You have read my books?”

‟I’ll read the rest tonight, but I read all the children’s books while you slept.” She tapped her phone.

‟Wow. That’s a lot of books, I’ve written for a quite a few years now.”

‟I can read two-thousand words per minute. That’s measured, sir.” She smiled. ‟I can type one-hundred words-a-minute, and I speak five languages, there is little that gets by me.”

‟Anything else? Why are you with me, why not at your own convention?”

‟I’m still in debt for school and a chance compete for a place on the Olympic Archery team.” She said as they stepped into the elevator, alone. “I need to purchase some equipment to keep up with the other competitors.”

Tom laughed, then she kissed him deeply.

‟That’s for being wonderful.” She said softly, coughing with a guilty sound.

‟You said you couldn’t kiss me last night.”

‟Yes, I broke the rule. Sue me.” She chuckled as the doors opened. No one was there to snap pictures or talk to them. She knew the way around the crowded hotel.

‟You are good.” Tom said, looking around. They had come out of an elevator facing away from the foyer and walked out a side door.

‟Logistics and protection. Part of the job.” Only then did Tom notice that Krystal’s eyes were quick to take in everything.

‟We can walk out now. We have reservations at the Meadow. It is where we will meet some of your cohorts in crime.”

‟My cohort… What?” Tom looked sideways at her.

‟The other authors. Each one has an escort to get them there and on time.”

‟So you are a babysitter?”

Krystal laughed. It was a musical sound.

‟I am an escort, but our company requires special skills that is beyond the typecast Hollywood version.” She said softly. As they got into a dark-windowed limousine. ‟I am here to make you look good and to keep you safe.”

Tom boggled.

‟And I thought you were just smart.”

‟Not bad for a call girl?” Crystal said. ‟Don’t worry about my emotional state. I am well compensated to keep you safe.”

‟Who would want to hurt me? I’m just a storyteller.”

‟You don’t know?” Her face became serious, no longer a tall, Nordic beauty that graced the floor, but a military-esque hard look of a bodyguard. ‟There was a threat to the convention. Because of your novel and movie, it is felt that you are a high-value target.”

‟Oh crap…” Tom boggled. “So you are a bodyguard? But just not armed.”

“Oh yes, sir I am.”

“Please for the thousandth time? Call me Tom.” He said.

“Yes, Tom, I’m armed. I carry devices always within reach.” She slid up her skirt, where he could see she carried four knives and two small pistols with silencers in thigh holsters. “Point two-two caliber with sound suppressors. Power is not as important as placement.”

Tom could not get his mind off what was under her skirt for the rest of the trip in .

That was over a week ago. Today he stood inside the Wizard far above the eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean descending into Singapore. Here, he was to meet with a local publisher and distributor for children’s books and he received an invitation to stay at a high-mountain villa. He would to try to get his stories published in the island country. A fresh market for him.

The autopilot chimed and returned control to the human pilot and Tom guided the big jet down into the approach lane.

Slow descent and a perfect touch down with mild weather, the Wizard rumbled down the taxiway to where the crews indicated with their long, bright-colored batons.

The engines powered down with the typical sound of jets and Tom stood out of his seat. Opening the door, and stepped out into the sunshine of the beautiful southeast Asia day.

A few hours later, Tom would wish to never see such a day again.

Shock and Awe Chapter 10. Uplifting Experience

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Chapter 10. Uplifting Experience

Radio Check nearly dropped the vent in the room of the mainframe, stopping the swing of the metal by the tips of his fingers and pulled it shut just as he saw the officer walk by the window. Her shadow stopped and he knew she was coming back to look.

She saw it.

*Damn. Maybe she didn’t know what she saw.*  It was more of a prayer than plan. This annoyed him, so far, everything went to plan, except for a loose hinge.

He crawled back to the service hatch at the elevator shaft, as he opened the man-sized grate, he could hear the verbal commands that squad leaders were given to the men while they were holding the elevator door. They still did not know where he was, this was in the plus column for the mission. One officer, wounded in the crossfire when he dropped the firecrackers as a distraction, this went in the minus column. Getting officers hurt was not according to plan, most uniforms were honest and honorable. They were not his targets.

*Stinger grenades not counting.* The thought moved through his mind as he moved over to the positive pressure side of the system and opened the hatch. The inflated fabric balloon had done its job and now was time to retire it.

Pulling a boot-knife, he sliced the material and stuffed it in his backpack, restoring the airflow to the lower levels and data center to prevent overheated electronics, possibly causing a reloading of the operating system.

Closing the service hatch, he slipped back into the air return and made his way to the elevator shaft, fully opening the service entrance, he listened again.  The elevator was empty, someone held the door open, talking with another. Stepping gingerly on the steel supports that anchored the box of the elevator car. He squatted down and became part of the machine.

“C’mon, Russ. You are doing okay, just in the car.”

He could hear the woman’s voice clearly.

“I’m so sorry I shot you. Really.”

Friends? Partners? It made him smile. Either way, if the shot officer was a good enough man, they would become closer friends.

Radio Service laughed inwardly, the only outside appearance of his humor was a smile nearly hidden under his long beard. He was a cupid in a twisted sense of the phrase.

The difficult part now accomplished. The mission plan held an option if he chose and had the time, he could stop at basement level-1 and create even greater havoc for the police, but he had nothing against the good officers of the SWAT team. The elevator slowed and came to a stop on the main floor. More swat team stepped into the lift. Listening to them talk, they knew he was no longer in the bathroom.

Yeah, time to leave. Operating in the heart of their operation now was a game of chance. Thus far, there was nothing left to chance. Other than the officer shot by his partner, all went according to plan. The Swat level was only an option if time and events looked positive. He was disinclined to damage anything there anyway.  The special loads for the firearms will wait for another day.

Stepping off the elevator car as it began its descent to the dispatch level, he hung on to the service ladder in the shaft.

Four floors of a ladder climb ahead of him.

Well, three and a half, he would enter into the return vent on the top floor and access the human resources office.

Second floor, detectives level. He should try to figure out something to do there. But— it was not in the plans, the team already had control of computer files, so he kept climbing.

Third floor. An option to enter, Commanders, Vice-chief’s office general admin. Nearly all of it on computer. Access was already granted. He would spend far more time looking for tiny bits of information that did not pay them back in benefits.

Cost versus benefit at this point. The cost was too much time versus the risk of capture.

Fourth floor. Chief of Police, Fire Chief, Doctor General of EMS.  Files that were still on paper. Physical access to the stand-alone system that belonged only to the administration and the round table of officers of their particular departments.

White lithium grease on hinges, a careful opening of the vent covering, he stepped back into the world of steel tunnels. This one was smaller by about a third. He could not sit straight up, but he could recline comfortably if he chose to.

A first look. A secretary type office. File cabinets, locked with a simple combination padlock, the type that had a keyhole in back.

Worth a look. He tagged the inside of the plenum with a yellow flashing LED light and moved on.

Sliding his thin camera down the vent, he looked at another office. The Chief of Police worked here. A massive desk, sumptuous decor. Pictures on the wall. Books everywhere. A long table on the far side of the room. But a dead-end.

He looked another few meters down. There was another corner. He looked at the Chief’s office again. Nope. There was no room or vestibule to call for a vent.

He army-crawled to the corner and then to the downward bend, he slipped his snake-eye through the vent. There, a computer. He could see network cables leading along the floor under the desk. But it was not a city issued piece of hardware.

He pondered a moment, this was a top-of-the-line recent computer. This was the Chief’s personal computer.

Excellent!

Twisting the camera around, there were small fabric-covered speaker cabinets at four points at the ceiling where the wall met the ceiling.

No, not speakers.

Video cameras.

*Oh, quite sly, Chief, quite sly.* Radio Check smiled without humor.

Pulling out his tablet, he opened up a sniffer program and let it run for a few minutes. He was ahead on the timetable so he could spare the minutes.

Before the uniforms began a floor by floor sweep, he would still be gone and they would have layers of cordons around the block to look for him.

This group never just sealed a block. They sealed a block three times normally. One might slip through a single line of cops, but the Croix Bay police? It was a minimum of three levels. They had their fair share of fugitives running from other law enforcement. No-one slipped past them, they always got their man. CBPD officers were well-trained, motivated and intelligent, bordering on brilliant.

Well, except for tonight. Around the building they would have all the available patrols. This is right where he wanted them. Running around in the basement, playing war with shadows while he was in the Chief’s personal entertainment system.

Maybe. He was watching the sniffer.

There! A spike in broadcast. A handshake. Data transmitted back and forth.

He sent a corrupted packet, knocking the wifi connection off. The item logging into the computer would fail and need to retry.

And it did. Two times, three times. He used a machines patience against itself.

Then he had a break. The complete log in sequence from the cameras. While the camera cycled for yet another attempt to log into the computer, he logged in using the camera’s MAC and identifier.

Although he was in the air duct, he now had control of the computer as if he was sitting at the keyboard.

Intercepting the camera signal, he successfully logged it into his tablet and download the images it had stored. One picture per minute. High resolution. Radio Check nodded, not an unreasonable setup, except for the outdated operating system. A bit of poking around, he found the password file.

The password file was not even encrypted. He downloaded it and sent it on to the radio service, packed up and crawled back to the HR office. Scanning around, a motion sensor was on the wall covering the room.

“Radio service radio check, hardware check.”

“Go ahead. You are on Vee-Oh-Eye-Pee with an IP address.”

“Sending you images. Do you have this under control?”

“Radio check. Copy sensor, it routes through to dispatch. Outer Limits. You are clear.”

It was the most talkative that radio service had been in a long time. Radio Service often said he hated the sound of his own voice, proving it often being terse over the open air, but this was downright talkative for the remote operator.

He would have to tell Radio Service that he nearly talked Radio Check’s ear off in these few seconds.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 9. Dispatch’s Point of View

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9. Dispatch’s Point of View

The entire communications center for police, fire and Emergency Medical Services, hidden in the second sub-basement with the consideration that the data center and dispatch were the eyes and ears of all units in the county. 

A modern, if overcrowded, electronic base of operations, eight stations, adjustable level monitors or keyboards for comfort. A dispatcher could stand or sit as he or she wish and use back saver seats that kept pressure points off of the back.

All in all the stations were ergonomic with colored displays that indicated on a map where each unit was and their status.

Red for committed to a call. Green for available, yellow, blue, white with red lettering all with various needs for out-of-service units.

Fire and ambulance shown on other maps with a supervisor with an overview option of all units. This made for busy screens, the supervisor alone had four screens available with touch screen overlays as needed.

For that early evening, it was a normal day, running warrant checks on simple traffic stops (A standard procedure). Taking complaints of dogs barking. One rancher in the midst of transporting his horses and cut a corner too tight and damaged a fence that separated the two lands.

Distorted radio traffic squawked over a channel into a headset plugged into a USB port caused pain the dispatcher, making he wince.

Carol ‟The Crush” Swenson, the designated batter and home run queen for the departments baseball team stood up and motioned over to supervisor.

‟Mike, can you come here please? I can’t make ou…oooww!” She ripped her headset out of her ear and unplugged it from the console. Hitting a button and playing it in loudspeaker.

‟…shot! We have doors locked in the foyer. We need backup now! Goddammit now!”

‟Where is that?”

‟That is Adkins on the first floor.”

‟Code-33.” Mike nodded.

‟Activate SWAT, tell them we have a shooter in the waiting room of the first floor.” He said pointing to Carol.

Plugging his headset into the USB port at his station, he hit emergency tones over the dispatch channel.

‟All units, code thirty-three is in effect. Emergency traffic only. All units code three-three. Active shooting in progress at zero main street lobby.”

Carol made motions with her hands, sign language between the dispatchers, an excellent group that had worked together and had their own  through several disasters over the years.

‟All units, emergency traffic. Shooting in progress at zero main street, police lobby. The lobby is locked down, backup needed from all available units. Fire and EMS are staging at six blocks away at Center and Main. All units respond on channel-two, channel one is emergency traffic only.”

The other dispatchers tapped in their patrol unit’s numbers on their CAD systems and dispatched every single unit were not already priority-assigned elsewhere. Only the priority calls were kept active.

Sheriff deputies. Six from the north county, four from the south. ETA given at twenty minutes and twenty-five minutes respectively, the units pushed the limits of safety at such speeds.

Police units from the seventy-five thousand population seaside city had ETA of two to fifteen minutes.

‟Mike, Fire and EMS is en route to the staging area.”

Concussions echoed through the ventilation system, huge booms rattled the building.

‟Crap. All extra staff out. Gwen, get your rifle.” Mike checked his sidearm and put on the holster that he kept in his drawer and shook his head, a quarter-century in dispatch, he never had the thought that the police headquarters would be a target for an attack.

The watch commander’s voice came up on the radio, she called for EMS to respond as she had officers down. Suzanne Irby’s eyes were wide, the little English woman was on the edge of panic. Only her fourth month on the job, she had not unprepared for this.  None of them were.

Officer Gwen Davies walked in with an automatic rifle and placed it next to her desk. She took a place behind monitors that watched the hallways. No one could walk down the passage without her seeing them. Ex-military, she would give them her own version of hell with her rifle.

Sitting at the north end of the dispatch room. She had, at one time when the architect designed it, an unfettered view of the doors.

In the years since, walls went up with monitors mounted to code requirements, the idea that no one would possibly ever penetrate to the heart of the police department had let the need for more equipment and displays create blind spots.

Without dispatchers handling all the phones, maps, different agencies and the computer indicated alarms that came in the emergency systems, the police units would be lost. Over the years, big screen monitors and maps, needed graphical displays installed in strategic areas so they could be seen, also created blind areas in the large room.

Considered as one of the most protected areas of the department, no access by the public, no chance for the security could be compromised.

Nobody could penetrate this far.

Shock and Awe (re-write) Chapter 1. Radio Check

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Shock And Awe

Chapter 1. Radio Check

 The night came early this time of year and was as any night in the busy, growing city. Located in the hills above the Pacific Coast of the American western states, it was a crossroads from the coast to those going to play in the mountains or returning to go back to school or the mundane misery of work.

All but one person. He walked down the street, a curious looking fellow, dressed in an over-sized leather jacket, rawhide pants and a calico print shirt. On his back, an archaic backpack of recent construction. Every tied knot perfect, each pocket stuffed full. On the left side he had tied frying pans and the right was a canteen that was as equally ancient looking.

He wore a cap made of some fur-bearing animal with a tail that hung down the back of his head. Dense black fur kept his head covered and from it hung a leather eye-covering mask with tiny holes. A defense against snow-blindness when it was necessary. Tonight was cold, but no snow had fallen yet in the year, it was still early in the season. Not even the holiday shoppers had even begun to shop in earnest.

Still, he was a man out of time. Maybe not a serious turn of the eye for most folks at night— it was not out of the question for the odd wanderer to travel through by way of train that ran through the town of seventy-five thousand souls.

In his hands, however, he carried a long weapon. As ancient as the clothing he wore, as if he dressed for Halloween early, or a mountain man convention. The flintlock was, by outward appearances, perfect in every way to the cursory inspection.

However, this old style weapon was different. Double-barreled, twin flint locks and double-set triggers with a select lever. He could choose between either one or both barrels. In the day this would be a heavy artillery item in combat.

Today, it was little different. The mountain man walked in to the shadow of a parking structure, standing across from the police headquarters and ate a cube of chocolate from a leather pouch.

Police main station, a tribute to mid to late 1960’s construction. Regular remodeling to the building over the years extended its useful life. Every permit, every plan drawn up part of public record if one knew where to look.

The mountain man had looked, along with his team, at all the blueprints, every one.

“Radio check.” He spoke quietly, his long, scraggly beard hiding the microphone at his throat. The earphone hidden by his cap.

“Five by five.”

It was only to let them know he was ready. In the sky, he watched a dark shape float by, listening hard, he could just hear a faint whirring sound, then a parachute-slowed payload dropped quietly on the roof of the police structure.

“Parcel delivered.” The earphone buzzed quietly in his ear.

The assault had begun.

 

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.”

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 15. Confession of the Soul

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Chapter 14. Confession of the Soul

“Okay, say that again. You are not going to deliver a message, but a bomb? Where?” Alvin had to sit down.

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

Before Steve told Alvin this bomb, Alvin had said that someone should blow up congress, now he wished he could take those words back.

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

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

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

“I am my mission program is to go to the nuclear reactor near the capital building. The smallest known power reactor on the planet. It is inside an industrial area.”

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

“Near the Jefferson viaduct that they built a century ago.” Steve tried to convince Alvin. “Regardless, I must go there, but I do not want to take the warhead to that place. I do not want to die. I do not want to kill. I want to take the bomb back to the point of origin and have them remove it.”

Steve paused. Looking very human-like.

“I want them to set me free.”

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

Steve sat and watched the human pace.

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

“Were is it again?”

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

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

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

“So I have to do it, great.” Alvin pulled at his ear. “So, what is the yield of this eyelash sized explosive?”

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

“Eighty? Pounds? That’s enough high explosive to do some serious damage.”

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

“That, oh jeeze. That is a big boom.”

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

“What explosion?”

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

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

“Alvin, do not call anyone to take me in to custody. I have not altered the self-preservation code. The creator encrypted and hard-wired. I will detonate the bomb.”

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

“We cannot build one like me, you do not have the facilities.”

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

Steve tilted his head for a moment, a quirk that Alvin picked up on. The android when struggling with an idea tilted his head to the left, slightly. He did it every time there was a middle road of thought. No yes or no, but an answer that was neither yes or no, but maybe.

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

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

“The aircraft control tower?”

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

“We will take the antimatter bottle out of me then?” Steve began to wonder, running odds against outcomes.

“Yes, they are patriots to the extreme. If they got a chance to send a bomb back to sender, that would tickle their souls” Alvin said.

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

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

“We are good to go.” Alvin smiled.

The two climbed inside the small car that sat there patiently and the drive was faster than Alvin thought possible.

“Your car is showing off.” The android observed. “Fully charged batteries.”

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

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

“Bull!” Alvin gasped.

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

Smart Bomb Chapter 13. Lessons of Wisdom

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Chapter 13. Lesson’s of Wisdom

Alvin scanned through the files, cataloged each file according to the time-stamp. Listening to the audio and tagging the names to each face that he could.

Hours later, he had not even made a dent in the number of files, but he satisfied himself with the foundation to bring a detailed video diary to a museum.

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

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

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

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

“I have the file here, going through it. It was after the family had lost ownership with a bad investment, using the car as collateral.” Alvin tapped on the image that floated in the air. “A drug dealer wanted to smuggle drugs, painted it all black to defeat laser based speed traps. Then power fell off and the car failed to keep from being stopped by police. Driver went to jail, the police auctioned the car off, with the seats and panels all pulled away.”

“A young male couple repainted it sky blue, they used a car putty to fill in the shape of the badge on the hood.” Alvin turned around. “Is there a badge on that hood?”

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

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

“The first generation of driverless cars?”

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

“Legacy designs?” Steve asked.

“A college class I took on computer design and programming. All our computers, except the newest, bleeding edge, all are black and white. Yes or no, zero or one in how they operate. TGM experimented with ternary and made it work. Machines could say “Maybe.”.

The android nodded but kept quiet. It was the very same system that the Creator constructed in Russia to transport the bomb to the United States capital.

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

In the history of electronics, Sleeper explained, newer systems used less energy, but few matched speed and capacity in storage and processing of the old style G-bus.

And the little car produced power of its own.

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

“Agreed. I have never met a living machine.” Steve commented as he ran his fingers over the body of the car.”

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

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

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

Alvin pulled at his ear.

“Have you altered your operating system a lot?”

“Yes, I have altered, patched and rewritten greater than ninety-eight percent of the base system to allow me to understand and function in this society.” He paused. “I have altered my appearance multiple times, appeared as female, male, young and elderly, large and small.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve went silent sitting in the driver’s seat of the little car that wanted the name Sleeper used.

Communications were palpable between the biped and the wheeled synthetic life.

Soul to soul the communications rattled in the northern part of Georgia.

“But I must go to my mission objective.” Steve mentioned quietly. Appearing more human than many humans by muttering under his breath.

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

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

The android wept.

Smart Bomb Chapter 12. To Meet An Old Soul

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Scene 11. To Meet An Old Soul.

Steve, with Alvin at the wheel of the creaky panel-truck of electronic repair equipment wheeled in to an industrial area, to the back where ancient buildings were held up by piles of dead and decaying equipment.

A freezer here, a wheel-less old step-side pickup truck body there. All the bodies seemed to hold up the walls of the, even more rusty, walls of the warehouse.

“This is what I call home. It ain’t much, but it’s watertight, secure and has close access to a central data-hub. I have hardwired the warehouse to the underground trunk lines. It’s all optic, so I get the best data bandwidth than anyone around here.”

Steve got out of the truck, looking around the surroundings, inside the warehouse was in stark contrast to the exterior.

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

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

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

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

Over and over.

It was a beacon, a request for acknowledgement.

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

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

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

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

“Asphalt ripper?” Steve tilted his head in curiosity.

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

“Sleeper.” Steve said.

“What?” Stopping Alvin in mid-sentence.

“Sleeper, that’s this car’s name. It wants you to call it Sleeper.” Steve stepped closer to the car.

Two souls, one intensely loyal to the first human family from which it now found itself a long ways away. The other, an artificial soul like the first. But that was where the similarities ended. The second with a mandate, bent on destruction of anyone who the Supreme Leader viewed as infidel.

“What are you talking about?” Alvin asked the android. “Are you talking to it or something?”

“Yes.” Steve said. Then the core processors created a subroutine that to elaborate was a necessary effort. “The car is awake, and possesses a large store of information.”

Alvin blinked. This was more knowledge than he ever thought he might get about the car. Purchasing it at auction the year before, it rarely broke the speed limits on the street.

He could get it to show neck-snapping performance on the grounds of the industrial area.

But every time he got the little car on the road, something seemed to hold it back, a power drain, a failed circuit.

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

Still, the voltage showed full.

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

Now this android was telling him there was more to the little car than he was led to believe.

“How much data does it have.”

“Reporting nine-hundred eighty Zebibyte total storage, with six-eighty-six Zebibytes of storage used.”

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

“This little car has Zebibyte capacity, each Zebibyte is one-thousand million Terabytes.”

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

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

That caused Alvin to pause.

“And you have … seventy-five percent full?”

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

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

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

“That is for one ZiB, a term for Zebibyte, Sleeper the car has six-hundred and eighty-six times that in recorded information.”

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

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

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

“No.” He shook his head. “Damn, I never even thought to try.”

“Let me find a connection…”

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

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

Opening his 3-D viewer, he fast forwarded through the recorded years.

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

“Now we know why it calls itself “Sleeper”.” Alvin whispered “It has more acceleration than any other wheel-driven machine on record. In fact! If this is the car…”

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

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

“But here!” he pointed at the display. “This shows an asterisk, it shows a year that was pre-war. This car cannot be that old?”

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

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

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

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

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

Then Sleeper the car asked Steve a question.

The telling of truth between machines would change the android’s code completely.

Smart Bomb Chapter 9. Makin’ Macon

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Chapter 9. Makin’ Macon

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

Pulling to the power plug, the indicator on the plug showed it would be fifteen minutes to fully charge the little unit.

Leaving the ignition key-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 driverless trucks as they motored up and down the highways.

Turning to look, the backpack wearing old man no could see the partly charged little car.

Someone had inserted a pay-chip to release the charging connector and drove away in the unattended car.

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. Putting the backpack down, the twenty-something woman put on the jacket and approached an older pilotless 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 ability.

And the android did not 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 religion was in control. A simple alteration of the weight, and 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 to be both unthreatening, but not appearing dangerous.

The male closed his eyes, the core remained unstressed. They had adapted to the cold by using the SmartCar heating system.

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

Modified by some talented shade-tree mechanic, the all-electric little car was now on the underground economy after being stolen somewhere after the android dumped it.

Checking the worldnet map, the 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 the automated offloaders opened the doors and began to rumble around, preventing awkward questions.

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 four-hours drive, he set his power-up cycle for that time.

Feeling safe, he allowed his memory banks to enjoy the random dance of electronic dreams.

Smart Bomb Chapter 8. Smart Car

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Chapter 8. Smart Car

The internal clock ticked to the appointed time. An electron gate opened and subsystems became active.

The moment he opened his eyes, wisps of a ghostly sensation filled only one of his memory banks. This was oddly, the information corrupted and failed to retrieve. His memory banks were the best that could be obtained at the time of his construction a year ago.

Struggling with it for one-tenthousandth of a second to an android is a lifetime – he sat up, the dent in the memory foam of the mattress where he remained motionless on all night.

Permanently lubricated joins moved without effort, but the flesh that covered the frame was stiff and felt cold.

Sensors the size of a human skin-cell indicated pressure points and stiff areas of limited circulation of the artificial fluid it used for blood.

Blood.

It was an artificial fluid to mask his lack of humanity in the event he suffered an injury. If something lacerated his flesh, he would bleed dark red that would turn blue-black over a time while it became tacky then hard.

Water soluble, it coud be washed away, but, it would never pass any lab analysis.

Yes, it carried glucose and oxygen in an approximation of real blood, but no red cells were in the fluid. A wound would receive care by the android, not a human that might not understand the red fluid under the microscope.

Pulling the pack on, leaving the keycard in the room as instructed by the woman at the counter, he left, walking towards the used-car lot the android observed the day before.

Out of sight of any eyes, once again shifted size and apparent gender.

Pulling to body shape to maximum, the android appeared as a small female with large breasts, as dictated by known American tastes in the decadent music videos and the rampant pornography that the media pours out in the early evening hours.

The android had not logged in to any of the televisions, however one of the circuits that the core processor established to record the sins of the American south indicated that the programming had flaws, the android concluded.

The core processors deteremed a need to observe the television programs that the general American culture watched and record accurate information. Information that conflicted what the religious leader taught. Conflicting with the Leader was also a sin and should be burned from the face of the earth.

Only those programs that showed approved versions of history and prayer programming would be allowed.

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

Then the jihad of the most righteous would take over and the Kafirs that occupied all the lands and Mecca would be wiped out next. The idolatry of the prophet would be removed.

The Commandments given to him by Michael the Archangel in his dreams, the leader passed on to the creator of the android, there is only one Most Righteous to follow on earth and it was He who walked in Russia alone. Blessed above all, the leader said he was.

Gabriel, it was taught, is not an Archangel, any lessons taught by Gabriel were false.

The little pissant that was a carpenter who got his own nails driven through his arms and suspended from a cross got what he deserved.

Only D’urs’l was the one and true savior.

This coding in the android’s database instructed the automaton to follow the teachings of the holy one.

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

Programmed the android might be, the recognition of error in observation to programming required corrections to fit the circumstances.

Alternatively if the core processors did not alter the programming to fit the situation, the mission would come to an end as the covert nature of the android would be compromised.

Now, the mission to travel on foot changed due to weather. Snow was coming early, it required the android to modify the untraceable mode of travel or the mission would be exposed.

Arriving at the used car lot, the salesman watched the backpack wearing woman of dark skin and a size-forty chest that poked out past her the shoulder-straps of her backpack.

Her pants were slightly oversized, cinched by a belt that barely held her drawers up over the nice swell of her hips. She walked around looking over an ancient SmartCar that suffered badly from generic paint, rust and appeal.

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

“I will take this car.” She said as she looked inside the non-descript transportation.

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

“Thank you Mister Prichet, I have cash. I would like to buy this and be on my way.”

“Well,” Big Peter pulled at his ear. “There is some paperwork to fill out.”

Holding out the roll of paper money, she peeled off enough bills to make a layer visible from the side, matching the asking price.

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

“We still need to fill out papers, but we might work something out if you are in a hurry.” Peter winked. The woman was obviously running from someone, she had saved a roll of money on the sly, and now was making her escape, and as such, she would be vulnerable.

He could make this worth his while.

The android had other plans. No paperwork filled out and a single punch ended the discussions while Peter lay on the floor holding his groin.

“Anyone comes looking for me, you never saw me. I have recorded the monetary exchange on my phone (The android did not have one, a total bluff- learned from playing poker with the Bonsells while discussing religion.) and I will forward it to your wife that you have hanging on the wall there.” She pointed at the family picture of him, his children and his wife. A wonderful wife, but a ferocious lioness when crossed. 

She took his personal device and hacked it in a blink of an eye. Leaving his personal information displayed as she left in the modified SmartCar.

All electric, the battery pack listed itself as seventy-percent charged, a modified drive system someone planned to make the car a long distance champ, but failed.

Still, after a two-hour drive, the car was making noise for a charge. Batteries were less than five-percent and needing of a deep charge. Plugging it in to an independent solar charger left over from the early days of the electronic revolution, it was not part of the worldnet. Charging was free as an elderly child of a hippy rebelled against the corporate society by charging cars and trucks for no charge.

This was another lesson, with help from the old man who went by the name of “Hummingbird” Johnson, he charged the small car with a lecture on how America lost its way with people dependant on oil energy.

Internal conflict at that moment. The gift of energy, yet the man railed against the importing of oil from the seat of civilization.

Except that from the point of view of the slow trip from Florida, charging stations were abundant, fuel depots that dispensed oils were not.

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

A calculated ratio, the population might feel the electric company that “Filled up” their electric automotive machines, uncovered that the per-mile cost of energy worked out to the same or higher than if they drove an oil-burning vehicle.

A definition: Greed.

In certain ways the ancient flower child of the twentieth-century was as right as he was wrong.

Business would make as much money from the people who worked as it could.

And yet?

And yet the people of devote religion, some non-religious, others, like Mister Hummingbird, swore that god was in the leaf of the pipe he smoked that “helped with the appetite”.

Errors in programming were again addressed that night as the android stopped again at an inexpensive, hotel after a mile walk. Arriving to look like a tall, broad, bushy-bearded biker-stereotype with tattoos that took some effort to place in obvious locations on the forearms and hands.

Signing his name on the register as “Snake” in generic block lettering.

The android retired to the rented room.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, he re-shaped to the standard shape of a slim, human, a shape that drew less energy to maintain.

The android had found a few dark sides to the Americans, but few could be listed yet as evil.

Laying on the bed, the android began the required patching of the database.

America, not a cesspool or an evil place.

America, not a place where no streets had paving of gold.

It was a place where people lived, laughed, and lived lives, and in some cases, close to the Supreme Creator.

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

Setting the time before sunrise, he powered down, seeking that edge of programming that danced around the low energy gates of the memory banks.

Humans would have called them dreams.

Smart Bomb Chapter 5. Mental Health With A Baby Stroller

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Scene 5. Mental Health with a Baby Stroller

Rumbling the sidewalk, his mission was to observe and record all he could at any base he could without compromising his cover.

He appeared as a hunched over homeless, and with mutterings to himself, with height reduced, he looked like he stood no more than two-inches over five feet tall. His hair lengthened with the hair follicles stimulated to grow an inch-per-hour at a cost of significant energy, he ate the entire jar of peanutbutter that Genesee gave him to balance the fuel costs.

In the day that Steve left the house of Carl and Genesee Bonsell, they had a long and enlightening conversation of a religious nature.

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

Purchased with cash, the woman with a pixie haircut became a hunched, salt-and-pepper haired man that he was now.

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

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

They also supported with accepted fact of the Roman records.

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

Faced with such details and the pointing out that it is always easy to ret-con history.

He researched his databases as he walked and thought. Having to patch his algorithms while searching for facts. He circumvented the programmed exclusion of outside information.

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

The wars after his leaving the earth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shallow Americans, they judged him on his appearance.

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

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

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

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

Smiling at her as he nodded shyly.

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

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

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

Americans were becoming more difficult to understand with every step.

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

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

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

Did he dream when he was “Sleeping”?

He wanted to know.

Smart Bomb Chapter 4. Sandbagged

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Chapter 4. Sandbagged

During the night, Steve the android lay on the guest bed and listened to the sounds in the house.  But the murmuring of the married couple in the far side of the house was beyond even his enhanced hearing.

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

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

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

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

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

Then…

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

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

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

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

“You sleep light.”

If I slept. He thought to himself.

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

Nearly zero draw.

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

Nothing in the database addressed suspend process at night. He was not programmed to suspend operations. Level-one diagnostics had to be performed and he ran the programs.  

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

Curious.

Smaller machines would suspend operation to power down, but he was not programmed included by the creator to do that. It had been planned and he had been programmed to get to the target while traveling through the non-believer filth that was America. There would be no power down, or full operation suspending. 

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

A family that opened their home.

He stood, the flesh that covered his carbon-fiber re-enforced polymer frame. The ceramic armor that covered the vital core processors.

Still he had the need to stretch, the sensation.

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

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

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

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

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

“So, what why are we needed to go there in the rain?” Steve asked. Processors called up data on thermal loss, what he recorded in the last week of cold weather. “Ma’am, I will need to borrow a warmer jacket, mine is too thin to wear in the rain.”

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

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

Omelette, the term was a stretch. He mixed in cheddar cheese with the eggs.

The three of them sat at the table and Carl led them in a blessing of the food that lasted for a full minute. Carl gave his heart in the blessing, this intrigued Steve that an infidel would give his faith to an idol he could not see.

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

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

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

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

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

A seven-year-old girl with a hello-kitty t-shirt instructed him on how to fill it under the watchful eye of her father.

For six hours, they filled thousands of sandbags in the cold rain. While wearing the borrowed jacket, reduced his thermal loss to levels that regeneration and energy use replaced the heat well enough to keep the core processors at optimum levels.

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

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

One grandfather sat under the rain awning that kept people dry, held his hand out to a five-year old and told the child, “Here, pull my finger.”

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

“An invisible elephant!” the old man said, pointing at a space where Steve could not see anything.

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

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

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

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

They were vastly different things and inconsistent with human construction.

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

Steve altered his programming slightly to adjust to the information.

He was learning new information at a geometric rate.

A time check in his core processor. He needed to leave and spend twenty-four hours watching a military base a few miles north.

A plan already at hand, a poor, homeless woman with no possessions would stand outside of the fence for a few days, before heading north again.

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

The plan was without flaw.

Smart Bomb Chapter 2. Southern Georgia

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Chapter 2. Southern Georgia

Georgia state line, a shape of a man stood in an orchard while 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 below normal.

He had walked in the rain for six hours trying to prevent anyone to follow his travels, any records of his journey would come to a dead-end at the last bus stop where he disembarked as a short, elderly woman before changing his shape and look. 

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 receive 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’re 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.