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.

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Married by Mistake Chapter 21. Night In the ICU

MbM
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Chapter 21. Night in the ICU

The constant, subtle sounds made an undertone that kept Kaylee from a sound sleep. Tom constantly moaned in his drugged-sleep state which further kept her popping her eyes open to check on the wounded man she was growing fond of.

Even with the heavy-duty narcotics in his system, Tom’s sleep was without rest, the arm was kept elevated with external hardware that looked like scaffolding on a building. To help the wounds to heal, wrapped in multiple layers of surgical gauze, the room was too warm for his comfort which kept him from resting and the IV fluids went into his good arm kept him from turning over.

Kaylee was over-warm, too. She could have slept naked in the room and not wish for so much as a sheet. But the compassionate nurses brought a fan in that blew across her to keep her from overheating. She still felt sorry for her husband.

Tom, stuck in one place and, for an active sleeper this was a fresh hell to live through. Plus he slept on his stomach almost always.

She asked the night-shift nurse, a skin-and-bones woman who wore a sweater that had more acronyms and abbreviations on her name-badge than anyone she had met in the ICU, if they could turn the heat down a bit.

“I’m sorry, doctor’s orders, we don’t want patients to have cold-related problems with the injuries, so we keep it close to their body temp in here.” She smiled, the wrinkled face that had seen many shifts and had answered the same question a hundred times, lit up in a comic smile and her eyes sparkled as if she was about to reveal a secret. “I am still cold, even with it as warm as it is.”

The two women hit it off, Elda, was the nurses name, offered to get Kaylee anything she needed during the night, supplying pillows hand over fist and showed her how to inflate the vacuüm packed, plastic covered items without anyone watching.

Kaylee moved the reclining seat and make-shift bed that family members used for sleeping in the same room while loved ones recovered from what life-challenges they recovered from.

Now with the makeshift pile of blankets and pillows closer to Tom, she reached out and held his good hand while she dozed in the chair next to his bed. It was an awkward arrangement, but it seemed to settle the wounded husband and author of children’s books so that he had a quiet sleep.

As his sleep became restful, she would decide that was the best thing she could do, this was the connection he needed to heal.

Starting awake when a nurse came in to check on a misbehaving IV pump, although he slept, Kaylee did not get much rest that night.

*In and out of the room all night,* She shifted in her sleep-spot. *The nurses do their checks on Tom with their rounds and wake me up.*

Like practiced witches and wizards with their practiced motions over complex and arcane machines, the magic fluid that kept her Tom…

There it was again, ‟Her” Tom. What was this that he was to her? What was she to him?

It was almost funny, in a sad sort of way, she thought as she faded to sleep again for the countless time, so tired she missed the next round of checks by the silent ninja nurse.

Kaylee woke up next and the night outside the window had gone from black to a midnight-navy-blue, becoming lighter as she stared at a flock of pelicans, illuminated by the city lights, flew in a “V” formation towards some unknown destination.

Sunrise would be soon and Tom was still asleep, but his thumb was caressing her hand as he mumbled something in a dream.

Not about her, he mumbled a man’s name, and a tear leaked out of his eye. That was odd, why would he dream about a man so much as to mention his name and weep? Then it hit her— it was not a man’s name.

It was his dead son.

Tom was having a nightmare about the night his family died, she choked and thought she might cry for his agony.

She stood and leaned over, a gentle kiss him on the forehead and he took a deep breath and opened his bright eyes.

‟What are you doing awake?”

‟That’s funny you should say that, I think you were having a nightmare.”

‟I was? Yes, I guess so, but I can’t remember what it was about, but I think I’ve been crying, is all I remember.”

‟You were trying to speak, you were saying a name I could not make it out. It sounded like…”

‟No, please. If it was a nightmare and I can’t remember, let’s leave it there.” His hoarse whisper did not sound as ragged as a dozen hours before.

Kaylee gave a soft smile and nodded, he was right. Why make a nightmare more real in the midst of the current waking nightmare of tubes, wires and synthetic fluids that dripped into his arm?

As the sky outside slowly changed from venetian-blue to more azure-grey, the fog seemed to roll in more, fighting the light of the sunrise in a futile effort of resistance against the summer sun. Patches of the dark blues giving way to indigo that surrendered to the cool blues of the new day.

Kaylee would have thought it would be romantic if not for the soft hiss of the oxygen, beeps of the monitors and distant alarms of some demanding pump that had run its course or had an error.

And Tom’s snoring. He had dropped off again.

*Men! They don’t know when to watch something of beauty.*

Another graveyard nurse, Suzanne, a nurse from South Carolina came in and did a last check and smiled at her.

‟We will be going off duty now, we are giving report in fifteen minutes, your next nurse team is led by Randy, he took care of your husband yesterday.” She smiled. “Would you like some coffee? We have fresh made.”

‟Yes, thank you.” Kaylee smiled when the small, round smiling woman walked quickly and quietly out the door. Kaylee never knew anyone who could walk with such silent speed.

She had to get up and out of the way while the men and women in white coats poked, prodded, inflicted pain making Tom yelp and made him wiggle fingers that had swollen during the night. The swelling seemed to make the team of medical magicians worried.

Arcane questions and language were tossed around. Someone poked at Tom’s hand who yelped again and uttered a profanity.

Randy came in after reports had been given and doctors filed in and out.

‟We need to get you breakfast, how did the night go?”

‟Tom had a bad night. Some nightmares just before dawn.” Kaylee reported. “Then the doctors came in and hurt him.”

‟Yes, that happens, they keep to the first rule of medicine, to do no harm. But they can inflict as much pain as they deem necessary.” The nurse chuckled. “Sometimes they get carried away. I think they like test the limits of tolerance.”

“The drugs he gets are known to cause some sleep disturbances.” Randy said with a teacher’s wisdom. ‟Sleeping here, does not help, either. Strange bed, strange sounds, odd smells and pain. Not a good combination, like the old saying, there is no place like home.”

‟That reminds me, how long will he be here? What things do we need to buy to help him heal?”

‟That.” Randy smiled like a hospital’s own Santa, ‟Is the purview of the Doctor, I cannot say. Every time I do, they make a liar out of me and I get in trouble.”

‟When will we see him, again?”

‟Doctor Tribbing? He is making rounds now. You should see him again, maybe with his team in a few hours or so. Right now, we have to take another reading of Tom’s fingers to make sure of the circulation is still there, I can look and see that it is normal color, they left notations that the hand is swollen, and they want to document numbers. So I will be back in with another tool, it’s busy elsewhere at the moment. I read he did well during the night. They took a measurement and the numbers looked good, but his fingers were swollen slightly.”

‟I saw her do that, but I was half-asleep and didn’t ask.”

‟She would have loved to talk to you, she is a wonderful lady.”

‟You two are keeping me awake.” The voice from the bed was barely above a whisper. ‟You know what time it is?”

‟Good morning to you too.” Randy laughed. ‟And yes, I know, I just got here. Your wife is giving me a report on your night, she said it was kind of rough.”

‟Yeah, I couldn’t sleep, I’m a stomach sleeper and y’all don’t have me any kind of close to that.” Tom voice was stronger.

‟Well, talk to the doc. He is the master of this domain.”

‟Okay. And the pin-happy doctor who poked at me was not helping.” Tom took a deep breath. “I’m kind of hungry, too. Is there breakfast?”

‟Sure thing. The menu is on the TV control attached to your bed. Follow the prompts on the screen and the food will make it here as long as you order in the next twenty-minutes.”

‟Okay, I want a pizza from Alioto’s on the Wharf.”

‟Hah. Good luck with that, but our kitchen makes great food.”

‟I’ll buy pizza delivery for the entire floor today.” Tom croaked out.

‟That’s nice of you Mister Harte, but the Department, I think you mean.”

‟No, I mean the floor. And remember, my name is Tom.”

‟The floor has a dozen stations, you are talking a lot of pizza.”

‟Party hardy Marty. Pizza is coming, I need my phone.”

Laughing Randy left the room.

“I don’t think Randy did not believe I can do that.” He laughed. “He does not know Thomas Harte has both the resources and, even drugged as I am, the will to do it.”

“Kay, dial this number for me please?” His voice was stronger, the power of his soul danced in his eyes. She enjoyed looking into those emerald-green eyes of the writer.

She could see what he had in mind and it made her laugh.

*He has a surprise for everyone on this floor.*

Valley of Fear Chapter 4. Bones

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Chapter 4. Bones

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

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

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

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

“What is that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picking up some broken bones, he began to explain.

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

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

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

He took a long sniff of his iced drink.

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

Taking another drink, he took a breath.

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

They looked at him, listening.

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

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

“The monster has escaped.”

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

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

He stood up and walked over to the diorama.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where would this be buried?”

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

The students looked at each other.

“Iron meteorite.” Andre said.

“I agree.” Professor Ng said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 2. Quartermaster’s Report

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Children of fury hellions 3 October 2014

Chapter 2. Quartermaster’s Report

Disaster.

That was the only word for it.

No, there was another, an add-on to emphasize the level of defeat.

Unmitigated disaster.

The classification was undeniable.

A dead captain.

A burnt-to-the-waterline ship.

Dead crew, but for a handful that jumped overboard or put off on longboats.

All to a single ship that out-sailed, out-gunned, out-fought the ship-of-the-line of His Majesty’s Navy.

They were adrift for three days, rowing like madmen against the ocean current before they got to an island.

The curses of having no navigator or maps.

The navigator, captain and the talented helmsman that knew how to read the sea better than anyone were all obliterated in the lopsided battle with a crew of child-pirates.

A cannonball cares not for who fired it or where it goes. Random chance, the will of gods, demons and a roll of the infinite dice of the Lord God determine a sailor’s life in battle.

And in politics, those that administer care little for God’s Will or Random Chance.

There was a ship lost, that was the question that the minister wanted answered from the only surviving officer of the Worcester.

And “Will of God” was not an acceptable answer.

There! The summons came.

Dressed in his military best, he entered into the chambers and walked where the squire led him.

His heels made an echo on the fitted stone floor as he walked down the hall into the chambers of proprietary governor’s office.

His Highness Gurdman Stonecutter, Governor For the Virginia Colony stood in the middle of the Great Room that served as his chambers. Tall, he was over six-feet and four inches tall and towered over everyone in the court and at ten-stone, he weighed less than most men.

Informally, his peirage called him “Longstrider”, something that he did not object to. hahaha

Archebald Whyte, late of the Worchester stood respectfully off to the side as told by the Governor’s secretary, until the Governor turned and addressed him.

“Tell me a story, Quartermaster. What happened to the King’s ship I gave to Captain Willim?” The Governor said as he sat in a large chair, built just for him. The secretary poured a large cup of wine for the Governor, leaving Quartermaster Whyte standing, without refreshment.

It was going to be a long afternoon.

Dragon Master University Chapter 21. Night Riders

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Chapter 21. Night Riders

Garnet house was late in ending the dinner, after Professor Vale would not dismiss anyone until all students finished eating — that included the newly christened “Slop Eaters” of Stixx, Kelly, Gorm and their small group.

Getting to the meadow, the sun had slipped behind the mountains, the dragons and riders gathered for the night-time ride. Jona laughed with Kolo as they stood with the rides who were now aware of how a slop-filled attack failed and admitted to by one of the clique that had stated that she did not agree with what the leaders had planned. Vale had taken the statement and decided that eating of the slop was punishment enough for this time. Calaise had gotten away without eating the slop that Kelly, Stixx and the others had to consume.

Stixx was looking several pale shades of green as he stood next to his ride. Kanus was looking bemused, still angry at his rider of the collision earlier in the day.  Teva gave instructions about the route in the dark, although it looked like the only thing that Stixx and Kelly were going to do in the dark was some recycling of their last meal.

Mounting the rides, each rider donned their helmets and put on goggles, waiting for the captain of the racer to give the command for the night race to start.

Jona asked “Why do we fly at night?”

Eva laughed quietly “If we can do it in the dark, we can do it when it’s cloudy or any other bad weather, or even at night. The only thing we have to worry about is having other schools running the same course”

“I thought that we had the route.” Jona said “It was on the sly?”

 “The route is not truly secret,” Kolo leaned over and shook her head. “It is up to each school to do with the information that they get. Most of them practice the route for weeks ahead of time.”

“Wow, we could have them in the canyons with us?” Jona asked.

Eva flexed her wings “I hope so, a small unplanned race would give us a clue on how things might stand.”

Qo’noS shook his head. “No, I am not sure about that, that would give the other school a chance to plan how to bump us out or crowd the way into the wining circle.”

“Dragon Lords are notorious for cutting off and blocking racers of other schools, the Drakensberg’s are known to just bump you out of the sky. That’s what happened to Koord.” Kolo said. “Killed his ride. Koord was lucky to land on his ride, but Rhodes was not as lucky he landed on the top of a snag- a dead tree- and a broken branch pierced his heart. It was a very sad day.”

“LAUNCH!” Ordered Teva as he streaked into the sky.

Eva, Qo’noS, Kolo and Jona rose it the sky after Teva, the other riders also flew, but Kanus was off-balance and was struggling more to keep Stixx on her back while Sol had not yet launched, Kelly had gotten off and was on her knees behind a bush.

“Not a great start for them.” Kolo laughed as she flew ahead.”

Laughing Eva and Jona streaked off into the night chasing the Captain of the Racers.

Flee Chapter 4. Revelation

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Dracul/Nosferatu Type Vampire Skull

Image of Ondode/Nosferatu type Vampire Skull.

4. Revelation

The door was ajar to the training room, only long tables and chairs filled the room. Andrea and the Archer stepped in slowly and quietly so they could hear the typical wheezing of those horrors that could be hide in the dark.  

But they were not alone.

Movement… Weapons turned the same time. Archer lightly bumped a chair with his hip.

“Stop walking.” Andrea hissed at Archer.

It was a shadow that did not fill with light — then it was gone.

Something moved and echoed Andrea’s hiss, avoiding the lights as it moved.

It moved quickly, a blur under the corner of a table, knocking over chairs.

“Come out!” Andrea sounded braver than the Archer felt.

The shadow charged as Andrea pulled the trigger on her weapon. The flash of expanding, burning gunpowder illuminated the room for a less than a blink of an eye, driving the serpent-like shadow backwards for a moment. Another hissing sound and an arrow buried itself into the head of the shadow and the hiss became a shriek of anger.

Bits of a desk erupted into splinters and sawdust as a dozen pellets tore apart the pressed wood construction whilst Andrea tracked the shrieking creature that moved like a cat on crack cocaine and too much espresso.

Clawed hands gripped the arrow and pulled the shaft out of the right eye socket, the eye reforming as it did.

The Archer’s earphone buzzed. “REPORT! Who is shooting?”

“Sorry, busy!” Archer answered as Andrea rocked the room again with her scattergun.

Archer blinked to clear his eyes from the dust fell from the ceiling. He shot the wrong shadow with an arrow and it stuck in a stupid angle in the wall, the sight of it made him shake his head while he nocked another shaft to the bowstring, tracking the correct shadow this time– the one with teeth.

“Call back later!” Andrea yelled into in her mic. “We’re killing shit!”

The shadow was too close this time, charging like a cat as she racked in another shell, brass bounced off the floor in slow motion as the black-shadow charged Andrea. In that moment an arrow intercepted the creature in the left eye and knocked the attacker off-balance.

The shotgun fired again, destroying its face and the arrow. The black creature did a back-flip, landing on all fours. Its face rebuilding and it launched at Andrea again as a winged quadruped.

A flash of inspiration, Andrea kicked a table against the wall and pinned the attacker — It was no zombie, and suddenly bi-pedal would have stood nearly to the ceiling if it got to its clawed feet, the shriek becoming a drawing out roar as it tried to stand. Still, its facial features could not yet be determined beyond fangs and cat-like eyes— struggling against the wall, pinned in an awkward way.

However, although it was immensely strong and changing shapes, it was in a twisted  position, struggling from behind the heavy desk that Andrea held against it with her foot.

“Shut up!” Andrea yelled as she pressed the tip of the barrel into the dark visage of this solid shadow. A contact shot, she fired into the inhuman face. The shotgun blowing a hole in the wall behind the attacker the size of her fists. But she might as well have spit on it for all she had done with the gunpowder and lead.

Gristle and meat, black blood and bone exploded and splattered on the wall, and then just… jumped… back to the struggling body. Then a tickle of wind and a swishing sound at her ear and would later be angry with Archer over how close the arrow was that flew past her.

Suddenly the angry shriek and gnashing of teeth stopped as the creature choked and clawing at the arrow stuck that in its chest, then collapsed into a pile of bones and ash.

“Wh-wh-w… ” The Archer, already nocked another arrow. “The.. Son of a… Holy… Shiiii…Fuuu… what… HELL!” His eyes as large as a car’s headlight as he searched for the best profanity.

“F’k’n oath!” She said, nodding with the Yankee. Still tracking what was left of the attacker with the pool of light that was the aim-point of the twelve-gauge.

Thundering footsteps down the hall announced that Al and company were coming as backup.

“No sneaking up on a bloke with that crowd.” Andrea said to Archer as the Al kicked the door open and entered with a shotgun at the ready, followed by Stormy and Gail each with submachine guns, lasers crisscrossing, looking for a target.

“You shouldn’t talk, that damned thing is LOUD.”

“What the hell was going on down here? Could you keep the room at least in one piece?” the Canadian Cop surveying the room and the holes  and arrows stuck in the sheet-rock.

The Archer picked up a skull off the floor and walked out of the room. The skull had two huge fangs in its mouth as he looked it over in the lighted hallway, then he handed it to Al.

“This is what attacked us.” Archer said. “I believe we woke it up.”

“It’s so light.” The flesh crumbled under his fingers leaving polished bone if he rubbed firmly. “It’s so dry.” Sharp teeth glinted in the harsh hallway’s light.

“Not when I first shot it. It crumbled and dried up in seconds when I hit it with my wood-shafted arrow.” Archer reported.

“Aluminum arrows had no effect.” Andrea nodded. “Neither did the buckshot from the riot gun.”

“Wood-shafted arrow? What are you talking about?” Al asked. “What the hell?”s

Andrea and The Archer looked at each other and laughed.

“My words precisely.” Archer said. “We are fighting something besides a virus I would say.

“What does that mean?” Gale asked. “You’re talking in riddles.”

“It means, ” Archer said, “that skull you hold, goes into a consecrated cemetery. One blessed by someone of the cloth, toss that in a hole of a cemetery and it won’t rise again.”

“Rise? A-a-again?” It was Zac.

“That,” The Archer pointed to the skull. “is a vampire, a Dracula-like creäture, I would wager. It kept changing shape while we fought it.”

“BULL!” Jameson yelled. “The news explicitly said it was a virus!  We are not fighting something so profoundly… so profound…. so… F’k’ng WRONG!  NO! You are not telling me that it’s a lie! An explicit, bald-faced LIE? THIS IS JUST A…

“Jameson! CALM DOWN” Gail slapped the coach driver so hard he fell over.

“Coincidence.”  The downed man moaned out.

“There is nothing in real-life as vampires!” Zac said, echoing Jameson’s disbelief. “That is only in movies.”

“There are no zombies, either. But we have seen otherwise, haven’t we?”

“Is it dead?” Jameson pleaded.

“No.” Gail said. “If Archer is right and the legends hold true, it is in a hibernation state, drip some blood into the skull and it will wake up. That is why we need to separate the head from the body and buried at a blessed cemetery.”

“Blessed cemetery? Aren’t they all?” Jameson asked. Coming back to grips with himself. “I’m sorry about that.  Vampires terrified me as a child.”

“No.” Stormy said. “Some even have consecrated and unconsecrated ground within a single graveyard. We need to choose where to bury that skull carefully.”

“Should we put garlic in it?” Zac asked.

“You brought back some garlic powder and garlic salt with the last shopping spree you and the Canadian did.”

“Stuff it, bag it and bury it.” Sergeant Frobisher said. “But where?”

“There is a church up the way.” Andrea pulled at her ear. “I don’t recall the kind of church. Catholic maybe, but I am not positive.”

“Catholic, Jewish,” Archer shrugged. “Could be a Shaolin temple for all I care, so long as it involves holy ground.”

“Let’s make it done.” Al ordered.

2 Dracul Skulls ("Noble" caste, Possibly "Royal" Ref. Van Helsing, Et al, "Identification of skulls" Copyleft 1901 Royal Underground press.) in 2 views.  Left skull buried in bag of garlic under unknown church, skull on right was placed on display in London Museum until lost during air raids of WWII, presumed destroyed.

2 Dracul Skulls (“Noble” caste, Possibly “Royal” Ref. Van Helsing, Et al, “Identification of skulls” Copyleft 1901 Royal Underground press.) in 2 views. Left skull buried in bag of garlic under unknown church, skull on right was placed on display in London Museum until lost during air raids of WWII, presumed destroyed.

Flee Chapter 3. Stepping Out

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3. Stepping Out

 

The door of the bank opened quietly, there were few creatures in the street, not one of them alerted to the humans.

“Okay, quiet, cover each other’s back. I’m first, Stormy to my right, Andrea and Zac in the middle, cover sides and up. Gail, Al, you have the rear and up. Keep them from dropping in on us from fire-escapes or windows.” Archer said as he placed an arrow on his bow.

“Why is the Mountie not first?” Gail asked.

“I shoot faster with my rig than he can until he gets practice.”

Al loaded up a vertical crossbow, holding it so that anywhere he looked, the arrow aimed naturally.

When they stepped out into the street, a single shabby ex-human shambled towards them from where they were going. The Archer loosed his arrow and it fell to the ground as they walked quietly towards the police station. No other of the animated dead that patrolled the area

The Archer paused as they walked past the body and pulled the arrow out of the head of the horror-come-archery target.

The Archer kept his place on point as they headed to the station, an arrow nocked, his bow ready to draw in a heartbeat if a need arose. and carefully moved forward to the gate of the fortress-like structure. It stood ajar and opened silently on high security hinges.

They dragged the body of a large Rottweiler by its thick harness, Al cried when he saw it wore a badge. The head of a half-eaten corpse of the police dog blocked the spring-loaded gate from fully closing. Toothmarks on the badge where something had chewed, obliterating the badge number. Torn bodies lay about, decaying in the concrete courtyard. The K-9 cop did not die gently, as evidence of a furious fight by the bodies in the courtyard.

“Never thought a dog could tear limbs off of a body.” Jameson said.

“Canine officer. They teach them well and they require robust intelligence with the dogs.” Al said softly, tracing his index finger over the mutilated badge.

A bullet-proof glass and steel enclosed observation area inside the building controlled the gate.

Sergeant Frobisher, quickly figured out how to operate the lock and secured all the exits with a control panel.

“Excellent.” Al said. “Now we can relax.”

“No, now we need to check all the cells and rooms.” The Archer said. “I’m not sleeping without clearing this place from top to bottom.”

“You need to sleep, no matter what.” Andrea told The Archer. “When was the last down-time for you?”

“It has been a day or so.” The Archer nodded. “We will rest when the building’s secure.”

“Al and Zac stay here. Stormy, Gale and Jameson upstairs. Andrea and I will search below.” Archer said.

The Sergeant nodded.

“Here,” The Sergeant reached over into a locker as the groups were getting ready to leave. “I found these radios. Keep them on this channel I selected. Radio checks every five-minutes, everything is voice activated, so I will hear you the moment there’s a sound louder than a deep breath. As the Archer said, no rest until we clear this building.”

Archer taped an LED torch (as the label on it said) to the side of his bow and he adjusted the beam to fill a room with the glow from the diminutive light. Andrea stood next to him loading a police shotgun liberated from a gun-rack they found. She had used a key she found in a drawer and was quite proud of her discovery that allowed all the other firearms in the station available to the others.

“Right, ready.”  Andrea said as she racked the riot gun and chambered a shell. “Buckshot and slugs. That’s what this girl is made of.”

For good measure, the Aussie filled her pockets and a bandoleir with shotshells she had found while digging around the observation port. Al pointed it was not police issue.

But Andrea could not care less.