2 Seconds…

2 Seconds Cover
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Two Seconds… 

 

 

 

T-Minus 5.4×10¹² seconds

 

Near the core of the stellar object in a later age called Sol, eight-hundred billion tons of hydrogen reacted in the pressure and the heat fused the nuclei to create helium and gamma rays. The high energy photons created began the random walk to the surface. Absorbed and re-emitted at a lower energy each time, the photons made the slow walk to the surface of the sun.

In the times before the creations of humankind orbited the earth, flew the sky or rolled along roads. Long before any human ever walked along a river and pressed their footprint into the mud along a shoreline. The energy packets as gamma rays began the travel through the dense core of the star that would become known as Sol.

 

T-Minus 4,162,752,000 Seconds

 

Late one night in the year 1880, a woman moaned in pain. midwives walked about as the birth pains continued. William Harley paced outside the door. Few times he dared to pull on the handle to peek inside, then had his life threatened by the women inside.

One of the three men that stood watch with the soon-to-be father, Rev. Frances Knight patted William on the shoulder. “Will be over soon, by the sound of it. The babe is almost here.”

“It was a good Christmas, this will top the holidays.”

Robert Valance joked, “She’ll never let you back in the bedchambers Will, less than twelve years and five children. She will do you such harm as to make a new chapter in the Good Book.”

Frances laughed. “I doubt that, Robert, she is a good church woman.”

The sound of a baby’s cries announced the arrival of a new life to the men outside the door.

“Congratulations William.” Francis smiled. A moment more…

The door opened and interrupted the Reverend as a woman stepped out with the newborn.

“It’s a boy.”

William smiled wide. “William Sylvester will be his name. I have named him after myself and Mary’s father.”

As the boy-child grew, he met another young man with a curious mind and an active imagination with the talent to design and build what he had in his mind.

Inventions of fish-line winders were always in the young Arthur’s mind. They loved to fish and laugh, the two boys were best of friends always. Even the times they argued, it would always end in respect and laughter as they shared their lives and secrets between each other.

One spring afternoon, Author and William ran out to watch a man rode up and down the street on a noisy contraption, a “motor cycle” he called it. The excitement grew in their souls and sounds of the two-wheeled infernal machine inspired the boys with a passion for things to come.

In years of college that came, the younger William impressed his professors and teachers of his knack with the mechanical talent above many of his peers. The dream from what he had seen with his best friend, Arthur, still lived in his heart.

Together the boys grew into intelligent and courageous men who started a company that would inspire heroes and villains alike on the way to become legend.

 

T-Minus 3,437,424,000 Seconds

 

Harley-Davidson Motorcycles was born of little more than a handshake, and a gentleman’s honor between two best friends, then business partners. To this end, they achieved both respect and honors of those that worked for them through the years, two world wars and into the future.

In the war with Pancho Villa, the military purchased some of the boys’ (Now grown to men.) Machines. A colonel who rode with his troops was very impressed by possible uses of the motor-powered bikes to get messages from one site to another in a hurry.

World War I — the Great War, came to the fore. The military with its long memory ordered thousands, and by the close of the war, numbered more than fifteen-thousand of William and Arthur’s motorcycles with the new V-twin arranged engines.

Life improved as the employees respected the owners and the employees worked the best that they could to build products that they would want to own themselves.

World War II, the war that followed the War-To-End-All-Wars and the government called upon Harley-Davidson once again to produce the legend they had before.

William and Arthur were more than capable and happy to oblige. They increased the power of the V-twin time and again, the iron horse was no longer on rails, but rubber tires and now could be ridden.

However, William did not live to see the end of the war. A conflict that both saddened him and made his company famous.

After a long hard year of contract negotiations and sure that they filled all their obligations. William played golf to relax after a very stressful day that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor. William never returned, his time ended with sudden cardiac arrest.

William Harley was 1,996,444,800 seconds old.

 

T-Minus 2,175,984,000 seconds.

 

The company’s reputation spread as the power of the engines grew and the nickname of “Hog” that had begun as a race team now became a common reference to the large motorcycles.

Discharged soldiers found that the freedom of the road was ever more pleasant with the powerful and dependable motorcycle from the once best of friends that dreamed of machines were best of friends as business partners. Harley-Davidson Motorcycles were the most desired of all the big machines by a generation that had lived through horrors of death and destruction unmatched in history.

 

T-Minus 1,923,696,000 seconds

 

For years, after Bill passed away from a heart attack, Arthur had stayed the course of his motorcycle company on the same business track as he, William and the rest of the Davidson crew chosen years before, together. Bill lived to honor his best friend and increased the depth and breadth of the company that they had started so long ago.

Five days after Christmas 1950, Arthur and his wife, Clara, left the house in the car. Ice on the roads had melted, in the shadows of trees, water refroze into a surface smoother than glass. While Arthur was a careful driver, not so the driver of the pickup truck that slid around the corner on the icy pavement and hit them, driver side headlight to driver side headlight at less than twenty-five miles-per-hour. Arthur’s car careened off the road and came to rest against a tree. Hard interior surfaces with sharp corners did more damage to the human occupants than the impact of the accident and the unexpected death of Arthur Davidson was felt throughout the motorcycle community.

Arthur was 2,201,904,000 seconds old.

In 2008, Harley-Davidson produced motorcycle number 1HD1DJV131Y 584344, the skills of the company were not wasted on the powerful machine. It was perfect only when the thirty-year veteran inspector, David Oliver “Papa DOK” Kraig deemed it so. On the computerized display, the power curves that the engine put out were not just within limits, but perfect.

After a brake check and this newest of additions to the H-D family received the pronouncement “Perfect” by Chris “Eliminator” Thanatos. A six-foot four-inch frame that was always in a dark mood, he was without mercy as he placed a red-tag of rejection on any product that was marginal in test limits. A strict personal need and a meticulous eye for flaws made for many employees on the assembly line to flinch. When it came to this OCD employee’s inspections – It was perfect or it never saw the light of day.

One-hundred-percent pass score, one of the names that the employees labeled this new iron horse “P.H.” or “Perfect Hog”.

Shipped with care out west. It sat on the sales lot until a young man who William would have been proud of sat astride it and smiled. Russell Fletcher’s dark eyes looked over the chrome that William and Arthur’s old company had given birth to.

Before the hour was up, Russell was on the road with his prized new possession.

A life of glory on the most glorious machine of the year, Russell laughed every night he rode.

And Russell rode a lot.

 

T-Minus 2,775,168,000 Seconds

 

LucilleMay Adler born to George and Ethel grew up in Chicago on the poorest side of town. George was a warehouseman and had never had much time for his family. A heavy drinker by the time that Lucy was in her mid-teens. He died when he drove into a tree on his way home. Ejected from the car, the intoxicated father struck his head on the hard ground and died right there from his injuries.

Lucy and her mother moved to California where her aunt Lewellyn suggested where she became involved with a young man who went to school. He impressed Lucy with his clear blue eyes and aspirations. The young man often would take Lucy on rides in the country as they sat with picnics under his favorite trees along the Marin headlands.

He tried to farm crops, but Joshua Sprecks failed and was now stuck with the land in hills of the southern bay area, they struggled for years until a builder made an offer to buy some land so a home could be built.

Joshua paused, pondered, then refused the offer. Instead, he spoke with an employee who helped him and in turn they looked into construction of three houses which sold for a large profit.

In the years that followed, Joshua found he had talents in the business of home and subdivision design. With a good relationship with the local inspectors, Joshua Sprecks made life comfortable for his family. He chose schools that the children would attend as father blazed the trail and returned to school himself. Joshua graduated and, in time, became an architect of some renown in the area.

Soon after the first of Lucy’s four children were born. Lucy developed an addiction to Valium, a common problem first decade’s prescription of the drug. Most of the women in her church were very much addicted to the Valium class of medications, and an active trade developed within the group as the hoarders would sell among the women that needed it at the moment.

One springtime afternoon, everyone had arrived at home from school with chores finished. The day was warm and beautiful and a wonderful time for the young. Joshua Junior promised he would be careful, Lucy’s smiled and allowed her eldest son to take the family car and drive his younger brother and two sisters to the store for sodas. Joshua Junior was always very careful at the wheel of the car, Lucy was always careful to teach him of his responsibilities. Lessons that he took to heart, always.

However, the drunk driver that collided with them had no such guidance.

The light in Lucy’s eyes dimmed as she never quite recovered after they buried four of her five children. The sole survivor of the accident that took the lives of all the children was the youngest who had to stay home to do homework.

Josh Sr. took the next offer of his three-hundred-acre ranch and bought land in the Lake Tahoe area away from the metropolitan growth around their orchards. It seemed unfair to Joshua Sprecks who had no wish to stay in the area where his children died at the hands of a man who paid just a month’s worth of salary in fines.

 

T-Minus 1,608,336,000 Seconds

 

Russell Fletcher, born to James “Fletch” Fletcher and his wife, Mitsu, in Tokyo, Japan.

A young life that started with his father’s business in full operation. Fletch had a knack to turn companies on the verge of failure into successful enterprises and would then sell them. All his life, he was a fixer.

Russell learned much under his father’s tutelage. After he Graduated college, the young Fletcher started a business of food delivery to community elders after he had cooked for his grandparents in the last few years of their lives. The growth in the food system was explosive, soon outpaced Russell’s ability to hire new employees and get them trained.

Russell became known to have his father’s golden touch. He developed a skill to negotiate a fair price on services for the company, he expanded into other communities and got concessions of tax credits for the good will he had created in the company as his “Wheels of Hope” brought smiles to those that could not go to the stores and buy food items.

In the end-of-year holidays, Russell’s company delivered Christmas dinners to lists of families, food donated by local businesses, drivers dressed as elves and Russell made his mark on how business ran in the state. It was his personality and his father’s lessons that taught other companies to conduct themselves and not be ruthless.

Never could he teach the political parties the same lesson, in time even Russell gave up on politicians with back-room deals.

He turned his back on the games that are politics. He found that his amount of goodwill was ignored in large part and he began to feel the weight of taxes that politicians crafted for his style of business and stringent rules that became law that governed his delivery vehicles.

After a legal challenge, and a judge who found that such restrictions unconstitutional, Russell sold his stake in the company he had founded a few years before and moved on and started a new company that excelled in performance once again.

Freedom became his greatest business, taught inner-city kids and kept them from prisons. Once again he built a business with the power of goodwill that spread beyond his dreams and expectations.

Still, he felt he needed more. In the world of success and parties, there was one problem.

He was alone.

 

T-Minus 1,545,264,000 Seconds

 

Lluvia “Lulu” was born to Roberto and Delores De Soto while the most intense storm of the season thundered outside. Descended from Hernandez De Soto, she inherited a soul for exploration.

Never one to back down from a challenge she met each one with a quick wit and a laugh. Beauty sparkled in her eyes as she looked upon the world. As a child she would be found in trees she climbed – much to the chagrin of mother Delores who tried to teach this girl how to behave like a girl.

But with Lulu, it was all futile.

Once when teased by the boys, Roberto heard screams of fury and knew, Lulu was beyond angry. The father of eight put down his tools, and walked around the house. There, Roberto found that his Lulu of the sonrisas, pushed beyond her limit of temper by her brothers.

She had her four brothers treed.

Roberto laughed in spite of himself.

The four older brothers had pelted Lulu with fruit as she had come home from school in her new dress that her Mama made.

The result:

A temper that never broke without reason, this day did. Fury, like the tornadoes that could scour the earth clean of soil and asphalt across the middle of America, she had bloodied the nose of one brother and all had climbed the tree they had picked fruit from.

Lulu had pushed the ladder onto its side and now carried an ax to where her brothers sat trapped. The girl with the pretty smile, had tears and murder in her eyes.

The elder De Soto called Lulu over and calmed her. Mother De Soto would be furious when she got into the house, Lulu cried on her papa’s arms.

“Mi bebé, I shall take care of that now, your brothers will pay that penalty. Just do not cut down this tree, please? It produces fruit for our crops and it would be years before a new one I would plant to reach a productive age.”

In the weeks that followed, Lulu laughed as the brothers learned how to sew and created for her and her three sisters dresses that matched. Sewn to the microscopic standards of Delores De Soto, it took the four boys a year to get it right.

The brothers received brutal teases from their friends that lasted longer than the year that they learned to sew “Like a girl”.

In years to come, Carlos, the middle brother, became a well-known clothier and influential designer of fashion as he grew up. He incorporated with his name on a high rise in New York at the age of 630,720,000 seconds, his name was soon a desired label.

 

T-minus 950,354,000 seconds.

 

Lulu entered college, the first of the De Soto siblings, with some challenges in her grades she did not get into the colleges she wished for. She learned to learn at the local college, she met a girl who would become one of her closest friends. CarlaAnn was a dreamer, planner and rule-bender. A girl who was fun to do things with.

Together they got in occasional trouble but never serious enough for the police to ever press charges. Just once did the girls have to sit in the police station and wait for their parents to come pick them up.

CarlaAnn laughed as she whispered to Lulu.

“That was awesome!”

Lulu laughed, A month grounded? They had set off the fire alarm at the hotel and people ran out in various stages of undress. It was so worth it.

Lulu and Carla began a business together of rodeo outfits until CarlaAnn met Jack, an older boy who CarlaAnn was in love with, who convinced her to buy Lulu out and expanded the business into motorcycle competition instead of just rodeo outfits. CarlaAnn allowed Jack to run the company with CarlaAnn and Lulu became sales representatives.

Lulu met with many of the race teams and promoted her friend’s company.

After several months Jack became the head of the company and would direct all day-to-day operations. Sometimes it seemed the company shorted Lulu or would be very late to pay Lulu her salary, but CarlaAnn just made excuses. As weeks went by, CarlaAnn  lost her ability to people in the eyes, even more so her best friend, Lulu.

Then it began. A slight discoloration of CarlaAnn’s face that could not be covered by make-up would worry Lulu, but her best friend would never let on what happened.

Then CarlaAnn began to slip rolls of hundred-dollar bills into Lulu’s purse and whisper.

“Don’t tell Jack. Please.”

At one rodeo, Lulu sat with a horse owner while they talked about equipment that his company sought to purchase. Barrels, saddles. Many saddle-makers had lined up when the rumor (started by Lulu herself to test the waters) that CarlaAnn’s company moved into distribution of more equipment at a reasonable price.

Lulu met Russell at one autumn car show.

She met with a horse owner, Harold Stepkin, invited a handsome young man and introduced him to Lulu. With ebony eyes that sparkled with humor, an exotic look and a brilliant mind, Russell Fletcher attracted Lulu right away. In turn, when he looked at her, the world went silent.

Dark of eye and quick of wit. She enthralled him in an instant.

Well on her way to make an impact in alternate power sources for big vehicles. She promoted her best friend’s company then lost the subject while she talked with him.

Two weeks later Russell bought Lulu dinner and they talked long hours after the sun set. The restaurant closed around them and they left with the employees.

In the months that followed, Jack’s mismanagement took a toll on CarlaAnn. No longer did the two women travel together or were known as the party girls to known to sell needed equipment.

Lulu was paid in full by CarlaAnn’s company while Jack failed to make other payments required by the government. Instead Jake spent money on other dubious activities.

Quietly, Lulu returned the rolls of hundred-dollar bills from the accumulated pile to CarlaAnn after Jack went to prison and CarlaAnn’s acquittal. The court found Jack had used the resources of the company and had a role in corrupt activities in the local community.

After CarlaAnn’s business dissolved, Lulu and Russell were never apart more than an afternoon in the years that followed.

The spring that followed, Lulu’s father, Roberto passed away hours after he watched his bebé marry the boy with almond eyes and an honest heart. The bittersweet day would be remembered by both families for generations.

Seven years later, Mama Delores married a green-eyed Celt with quick wit and a voice like distant thunder.

While they settled in, children were born to the newlyweds while they started their next generation. Russell moved his growing family to the high desert area south of Reno. They loved to visit, but not live in, the snows of Tahoe to the west. He took Lulu often to ride around the jewel the mountains.

 

T-Minus 14,400 seconds

 

One summers day, on his beloved Harley-Davidson, Mister and Missus Fletcher enjoyed the weather that midsummer offered. The neighbors watched the children as they spent their anniversary on the back of an iron horse and freedom in their hearts.

At the dwarf-yellow star that humans now call Sol, photon packets that spent the last thousand-centuries in the slow random walk from the core of the sun was now a lot less energetic.

Photons, randomized now into what had become known as visible light began to move faster as the hot gasses thinned enough to allow the photons to reach speeds associated with light. Ten-percent, then twenty, fifty-percent of the speed of light in a vacuum the EM radiation began to move to the universal speed limit.

 

T-minus 10,800 seconds.

 

On earth, the eighty-cubic inch V-twin engine rumbled in good tune. A header pipe that Russell had plumbed into a high-efficiency muffler improved the fuel consumption, gave more power— and less noise— was the song of freedom for the couple that rode on the full-dressed motorcycle.

The sounds of the wind, the intercom they used to talk with while they wore their helmets. All the details that represented their closeness.

It also gave Lulu, the beautiful wife, teacher and mother, a titan in a tiny body, reason to hold onto the man that she called “Husband”.

Not that she ever needed a reason to hold him, it was a perk while she rode on the back of their favorite steed.

The midnight-blue of the paint glittered with faint scratches that were long earned with thousands of laps around the blue mountain lake.

Russell once estimated they had driven the circumference of the earth on the mountain roads that circumnavigated the twenty-two-mile long lake. It was a trip the happy-camper couple made often. They slept on the shores of the lake in the many campgrounds maintained by the Federal and State Agencies.

The sky was blue with broken clouds, the chill of the mountain air tickled the hearts of the couple that escaped life’s grind and pain of the wife-come-teacher and the businessman-husband that was their work week.

They wound their way through the forest as they followed the black strip of asphalt and the dashed lines, Russell told a joke about a mason and his union, who got stonewalled.

Lulu laughed into the intercom like a dutiful wife while she rolled her eyes at the stupid joke.

Lunch at their favorite stop, “Ian’s”, seafood grilled over an open fire, the perfect break for the mid-day meal. They sat on a balcony and overlooked lake waters so clear, that it could give cause a fear of heights if one looked down to the bottom of the jewel of the Sierra Nevada.

An hour and a quarter of fresh bread, fish, grilled red baby potatoes and wine by Ian Mehretu, the owner and cook in the tiny, lakeside eatery.

Russell paid the bill and the two walked out of the restaurant and held hands as they headed to where Harrison the Hog waited for them with the patience of machines.

Helmets on, the intercom plugged in, the big engine rumbled to life and the day held fewer clouds in the sky as they merged into traffic of the high-mountain community main road.

They had a long trip ahead of them to their favorite mountain lookout and then back home.

 

T-Minus 500 Seconds

 

Energy.

It boils and seethes on the surface of Sol, the gas heated by the high energy photons that kept the plasma illuminated with the glow of unimaginable heat from the core of the sun. Energy generated a hundred-thousand years before this day, radiated out towards the surface of the sun in the slow, random walk, and transferred heat to the material along the way.

On the surface of the sun, photons were freed from the surface traveled unfettered through space at lights natural speed. A blue, green and white marble that orbited Sol was just a small speck at this distance as the photons sped away from the star that had given them birth. The electromagnetic packets of energy reached three-hundred thousand kilometers-per-second an instant after they passed through the photosphere.

While the photons traveled towards the single planet in the system known to harbor life and a couple rumbled down the road on their motorcycle, Lucy Sprecks got into her car. She was now 2,840,122,800 seconds old. Joshua, her brilliant star of her life, had passed away years before. And at this time of her life, Lucy just went and donated time to charity work and her church.

To share her love of the good book became the one reason she left the house these days. Her own child visited on rare occasions, busy with his own life.

Long passed her addictions of prescription medications, Lucy now drank her bottle of wine each lunch time and she looked forward to today’s lunch with her friends. Edna supplied more wine than any of the Society of Lady Druids.

Lucy was certain she would convert the heart of Edna to the true path of Christian religion. Then a sudden memory!

“I forgot my bible!” Sighed Lucy. She pulled over and double checked in her oversized purse. It was not there, nor was the passage she had copied out for Edna to read. She needed to turn around and go back home. She loved her big car, the Mercedes made her feel safe, but it was difficult to perform tight maneuvers with Lucy just able to look over the dashboard of the powerful German-built car.

In space, waves of EM radiation, the photons given birth tens of thousands of years before, now closed the distance at the cosmic speed limit and sped to their destination on earth.

 

T-Minus 300 Seconds

 

They rode along at the speed limit, Russell and Lulu talked about lunch at the North shore of the lake, Ian had done an extra good job this time.

Russell had his open-faced helmet on so the conversation was easier for him. Lulu wore a full face helmet with a stout chin guard with a gem-light just above the eye line. The light allowed Lulu to read map sections taped to the back of his helmet at night. Lulu’s helmet was very expensive and lightweight, made from such materials that would make a NASA test pilot envious.

They laughed together at a joke, they passed a state patrol car that sat on the side the of the road, the officer inside did paperwork of a recent citation. Russell, like everyone else on that section of road, checked his speed at that moment. Lulu laughed at her husband, he was just at the speed limit anyway, and yet he still backed off the throttle a little.

“No need to slow down old man!” A Jab in the side with her thumb. “You drive like a grampa anyway!” Her voice clear in the electronic mini-earbud built into the helmet that then in turn connected to the motorcycle’s audio system.

Two miles ahead, Lucy found her bible. She had tucked it into her blouse pocket. She did not have to make the ten-mile trip back home and be late for lunch after all! Now, Edna would not have wait to have her soul saved.

Or at least Lucy would try to save Edna’s soul –again.

Lucy pulled over and let the big trucks pass. The next place to turn was another three-miles, this spot would be good enough for a U-turn if she just did it quick.

Traffic was a pestilence as Lucy waited, she remembered the days when her husband would drive them in their old car – then itself was a jewel, a Kaiser Darrin, sporty, windy with the top down and it was the most expensive purchase Joshua made.

She brought herself back from distraction of the thought as the wine was waited for her in large enough amounts to improve the day for even the dour Katarina Kurk, the German woman who was face-hurt-from-laughter funny when she had a half-bottle of wine in her.

Katarina, once an actress and comedian in her old country, she had retired first to California, then to the Nevada side of the lake. She hated everyone that were not her friends, it would take her several meet-ups to warm up to any person.

Katarina would not even crack a smile, even when she watched reruns of Abbott and Costello on the newest television she could afford. Although the woman had long retired, she would buy new household items every-other year. None of the furniture in her house was more than two years old. Kat never batted an eye for spills on her sofa or chairs, she just replaced it.

Rumor was that her most loved furniture remained in a house in Los Angeles for when she wanted to entertain her old friends in Hollywood.

Here, in the high-mountains, she was a party animal from the old-school ways. Able to drink many men under the table.

Few tried, most were frightened of Kat, she was a happy drunk, but her temper flared like a volcanic blast if she was ever annoyed. Katarina was famous in the local community as a senior who beat a would-be armed robber that raided a grocery store while she shopped. One of the two ruffians held a machete in her face and she proceeded to cudgel the young man unconscious with a stick of dry salami. His partner ran up to assist, Kat used the same salami stick to crush the second guy’s testicles with a blow that security cameras recorded that the shop owner released online.

A late night talk-show host invited Katarina to sit and talk, which led to more movie offers, most of which she turned down.

And then, there was the rogue-ish secretary that worked for Katarina.

Tall, rugged, the ginger-haired assistant played winemaster when the ladies met, and had arms that both Edna and Lucy loved to touch. He never complained and always kept their glasses and bottles fresh and full.

If ever he complained about sexual harrassment, Kat never said.

The women’s coffee klatch was Lucy’s favorite time of the week.

All five of them.

And then Sunday, too!

It was a great day, Lucy thought and smiled.

 

 T-Minus 60 Seconds

 

Lucy became impatient, traffic lined up and unbroken for a few minutes — too many. She was impatient and irritable. Not for the first time she swore at the numbers of people around the lake that Joshua loved, and died in while he fished. She longed for the days where you could drive for an hour and not see a single soul.

A break in the traffic in the opposite direction showed itself. Lucy would take it. Traffic came at her from in front, she timed the arrival of no cars in the direction she wanted to go.

In space, the photons crossed the orbit of Venus, sped on at the speed of light on the way to Earth. Many of the photons would be absorbed by dust, debris and even reflected away by satellites before they entered the atmosphere of the sole planet to have been absolute in the discovery of life on its surface.

One-thousand one-hundred meters away from Lucy and her new Mercedes that all the women were jealous of, Russell and Lulu laughed over the intercom when she slid her hands under his jacket and over the chest she knew so well and always enjoyed her husband’s body, and any chance she could touch him? She would.

Even more so if it was an inappropriate time and place, she enjoyed his reactions ever the more.

As a wife, she would walk arm in arm with her husband, often with her hand in his back pocket just so she could squeeze anytime her hand had a need.

As a mother, she loved her children more than life itself. Lulu was known to run over rattlesnakes with her truck if there were any in the areas of the hundred-acre desert backyard that served as the children’s playground.

Russell had his own fun with the girl of the dark eyes and black hair that moved in with him, took his last name and gave him children that he loved most in this world.

Even more than his big v-twin motorcycle that he bought before they were married. It was the ride, he felt, that Lulu fell in love with him for.

Lulu had other ideas, most involved how Russell’s jeans fit around his hips.

But whatever the causes of the two soul mates to find each other, neighbors and family knew it was a love affair of legends.

Just a thousand yards ahead, LucyMay clenched her teeth in frustration, she hated traffic. Unable to admit that to drive the car had become more difficult for her, she would argue with everyone and anyone over the subject that her mind was as sharp as ever. Which was true, but age diminished her reflexes.

It was times like this that she never thought about the size and speed of highway traffic. She felt that her car was the speediest and safest on the road for a hundred miles in any direction.

An intersection on the highway almost nine-hundred yards away, a dozen Harley-Davidson motorcycles waited to turn and merge with the flow of traffic. Riders waved at the couple and Russell waved back in the common show of solidarity of two-wheeled riders have everywhere.

Destiny awaited the players who were in play.

In space, from the photon point of view, the earth separated from a bluish speck to two specks of the moon and earth.

 

T-Minus 15 Seconds

 

“Next time we come, let’s stay the night at the village?” Lulu asked. Russell knew the place she and nodded. A bed and breakfast house with a claw-footed tub in the room. A huge fireplace with wood stacked by the workers and an expansive view of the lake.

A hot tub on the balcony to watch the sunset over the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It was the perfect spot to spend time away and to themselves.

The memory of days past at that lakeview room made him smile.

In space, photons left the orbit of Venus behind and approached the orbit of the moon. At this distance, the moon little more than a bright spot near the blue disk of the earth, but the definition of the shape and distance became apparent as time ticked by.

Four-hundred meters ahead, a quarter-mile away, Lucy Sprecks, irritated and frustrated with the traffic, moved her right foot off the brake and moved it to the gas pedal, while she did the trick that her husband showed her years before, to use the left foot on the brake for a quick dash if she needed.

Lucy had picked up a few tricks over the years, she was an expert driver, no matter what the Motor Vehicle Nazi’s said. She had driven more years than the testers had been on this earth. She was not about to listen to the young’uns about changes in rules that had worked for years.

Seat belts! Heaven’s sakes. She never had seat belts as a child and she lived. But now, even that kind State Patrolman who talked to her at length, even if it seemed that he and his girlfriend partner camped out at the corner down from her gated driveway. He would pull her over before she even got to the stop sign down at the end of the street and lecture her.

Once again, she would put the seatbelt on. Even the cute little girl that carried more equipment than Lucy felt was needed, lectured her on a few occasions when her man-partner was not there.

“Are you two married?” Lucy asked once, “You should be, you make a cute couple.” She added when the young lady answered “No.”

One late afternoon after Lucy got another lecture from Officer Karen, Lucy sat at the stop sign an extra hundred feet down the street with the police car right behind her when a man from the place she had fled long ago with Joshua after the death of her children, had a seizure at the wheel when he entered the intersection that Lucy waited at.

He drifted over the line, the pickup truck with the big camper on the back went through the intersection and hit Lucy head-on as she sat still.

With airbags and seatbelts, Lucy walked away from the wreck with no more than a skinned nose.

Ran was more like it! The smoke from the airbags made her think that the car was on fire, her knees hurt, but she would have walked barefoot over children’s toy blocks rather than to burn to death.

Ever since that day, she had panicked and froze when she was startled. She even became unable to watch the news when it showed car crashes on the TV.

Ten times the moon’s distance away, photons closed the distance to the earth and moon had separated into two points of light, the brightest points at this distance, other than the sun almost one AU behind.

On the back of big motorcycle, Lulu talked into the microphone of plans with the children and a weekend on the lake with the entire family as they cruised along.

“Ugh!” A complaint from Russell interrupted Lulu, Russell suffered a direct hit by a butterfly to his shoulder that spread to his chest and cheek. He would need a shower.

Lulu offered to help, after the children went to bed, the tip of her finger played with the back of his neck, below the helmet.

Nevada Douglas County Fire Department Station 2315, Engineer Hank Kettleman stood up and looked at the Captain.

“That will not leak again this summer. All new parts.” Hank smiled as he pulled off the rubber-nitrile gloves and threw them into the can in the corner.

Captain Thomas nodded and looked down the drive as it opened out onto the highway, the sounds of a deep rumble, like an earthquake, but constant and it grew louder by the moment.

A group of motorcycles, Robert Thomas owned his fair share of iron horses and would never miss an opportunity to watch a club ride by.

As Bob watched the highway, he noted a late-model Mercedes to the right of the fog-line with its turn flasher on, but it was not in a turn lane, nor was there an intersection.

Bob had seen this before, a triple-fatality accident a few years before, teenagers in an old VW Bus pulled an illegal U-turn in the highway after a missed corner, the broad-side impact from the delivery truck split the teen’s car in half and spilled bodies out onto the pavement.

Two died at the scene, and the third, the driver, willed himself to death a few days later. No amount of medicine would save the soul who felt such guilt for the death of his own brother and girlfriend.

The length of a football field away, Russell and Lulu enjoyed their conversation while they drove the hour’s ride home with plans about dinner and a shower later.

The fun kind of shower, between two lovers. It was Saturday night, after all!

 

T-Minus 5 Seconds

 

Photons were less than four-times the distance from the moon as the moon was from the Earth. Raced at full speed in space, the fates guided the energy packets that were visible light.

On the highway, Russell had thoughts of dinner on the back patio of burgers that he would cook on the wood-fired grill outside. The smell of smoke was light in the air from the wildfires seventy-miles away mixed with pine scent of the forest filled the senses as they rode on the thunder-voiced Hog.

While on the motorcycle that Russell had named after an adventurous water-bird “Gertrude”, Lulu’s arms around him, she looked around at the mountains that gave her such joy to be among trees that dwarfed everything alive. She could see the bare stone above north shore where an avalanche stripped the mountainside clear of vegetation down to bare rock decades before and had not yet recovered.

Lulu leaned back, smiled and looked out over the sapphire-blue water of the twenty-two-mile long lake. Water so pure, even as it sat in the lake, open to the sky it would pass any health and any purity tests that a government body could perform. As pure and natural as it could be without chemicals to treat it.

Those that sailed on the waters of the lake were known to have occasional attacks of acrophobia, a fear of heights when they would look over the edge of the boats into the water. Such was the lake called Tahoe.

In some winters, parts the big lake would freeze and then the ice would make large piles on shore when storm winds blew. In summers the big lake was known to have waterspouts that danced on the water that would be featured in local headlines.

Over the lake, Lulu pointed out and began to fumble for her camera, a white-headed raptor circled on the hunt.

*Maybe* She thought. *If I get just a little lucky, I might get a shot of the eagle in a dive to catch a fish.*

Less than two football fields ahead, Lucy turned the wheel of the car as far as it would go and inched forward and began her turn. A big truck rumbled down the highway and blocked part of her view, but it looked clear behind the trailer so she could do her illegal U-turn.

Captain Thomas stood at the end of the ramp to the garage that housed his engine, watched for the thunderous group of Harley’s ride past. A curiosity of who rode through interested him. A few clubs were at constant odds and, on occasion, murdered each other.

Engineer Thomas cussed as he dropped a socket and it rolled under the wheeled tool-box he maintained at the garage for light maintenance of the fire equipment.

A break in the traffic in the direction that Lucy wanted to turn was a treasure that God had sent her and she would take it.

Russell slowed Gertrude the Hog and increased his distance from a semi-truck that had “Eat Organic” in a graphic painted on the back of the trailer and remembered to make a call later in the week on an investment that would boost a local organic farmer’s business.

“Honey, make a note to call Charlene tomorrow? I want to meet with her on a distribution idea.”

Lulu was focused on the eagle as the big bird circled as it searched for its next meal.

“Okay.” She sighed. “I can’t get the picture anyway.” As they approached a wide spot in the road, she saw a sedan on the shoulder of the highway.

Stonn “Hammer” Erikssen rolled on his custom-extreme modified motorcycle. A Harley-Davidson by heritage, but the engine that powered this two-wheeled fury, an engine built by the company named Orca Cycle Dominator, the second largest in the line, more horsepower than many cars generated and an enormous rear tire to put power to the ground kept his soul happy. Third in command of the small group of riders and watched the rider and passenger about a half-mile ahead as they closed on the pair.

From the photon’s point of view, the continents on the earth could be identified. At the universal speed limit, the ETA now?

A little four heartbeats.

 

T-Minus 3 Seconds

 

Twice the distance from the earth as the moon, photons closed the distance to the blue and white sphere that destiny had chosen for them. Of the many photons that left the photosphere of Sol, dust, satellites, Van Allen Belt and the associated quantum debris that flew around the photons that remained, approached the crossroads of fate.

Alongside the highway, Lucy saw the gap in the traffic and took her foot off of the brake of her luxury car and pressed on the throttle and she pulled out across the lanes in an illegal U-turn. It was perfect, a godsend to get on her way.

The big car spoke with its authority and crossed the lanes of traffic…

And stopped! She jammed her foot down onto the brake pedal, and avoided an accident by the narrowest of margins with a car that turned left – she had not seen the turn signal on the old junker driven by an even older man. Then Lucy took her foot off the brake and began forward again more slowly and crossed into the lanes midway and tried to figure out if she still had enough space to merge into the lane of traffic, then when she looked back Lucy realized the headlight of a motorcycle was close.

Too close!

Fire Station 2315 still had the garage doors open, two bays, two type-3 engines stocked with first aid equipment, now warmed up with the vehicle checks. Two full crews did maintenance around the property while Captain Thomas watched the disaster set up.

He didn’t wait.

“Hank! Hit the alert button!” He yelled at the engineer who sat in the driver’s seat. “We have an accident!”

“Where?”

Hank’s eyes followed where the captain’s pointed as his hand moved to the control panel.

“Ohshit.” He said it as one word. His right hand mashed on the siren button without a pause to switch the control button.

A hundred-yards behind, “Hammer” Erikssen saw that the rider in front of him did not seem to react to the big German luxury car that pulled out and stopped in front of him. Even from here, he swore he could see the saucer-wide eyes of the little-old-lady who was supposed to command the rubber and steel cage.

He yelled at the rider and his passenger, but it was futile. No matter how loud he could yell, it was not possible for Russell to hear the big Norwegian.

The entire collection of Norwegian profanities issued forth while Stonn watched helpless what was to come.

Russell turned the throttle up on Gertrude and turned the signal on to prepare a lane change while he checked his mirror and glanced over his shoulder to make sure the lane was clear, he noted a large group of motorcycles in his mirror. He counted at least ten riders as he judged from the headlights. His eyes then moved to his lane to see…

Car!

T-Minus 2 Seconds

 

Photons passed through the atmosphere and interacted with the oxygen and nitrogen, but still straight on to the stalled dark blue car of LucilleMay Sprecks who sat at the wheel of her car, frozen in fear.

Photons struck the paint and chrome of Lucy’s car and redirected by reflection, the photons passed through the air at ninety-thousand kilometers per second slower than in the vacuum of space. Some colors absorbed by the paint and then reflected the color of dark blue to the eyes of a man and woman on a motorcycle that closed the distance.

Engine 2315 self-dispatched, rolled down the driveway, already the crew had dropped their tools and ran towards the engine. The seasonal firefighters did not know the nature of the call, but the Captain was waved and yelled while the siren blared. The Engineer was already on the radio. The two men, from years of experience, knew that an accident was about to occur in seconds and called for paramedic units to be dispatched.

“Copy, medics Code-3 to your location.” Dispatch responded.

The ancient energy traveled the distance between the sudden obstruction and passed through the iris of Russell’s eye in twenty-five nanoseconds — 0.000000025 — struck the light-sensitive membrane in the back of Russell’s eyes. Neural pathways reacted to the absorbed photons and processed it to his occipital lobe in the back of Russell’s cranium.

T-1.9999955 seconds. Photons streaked past Russell’s head and entered the lens of Lulu’s eyes. The nervous system transmitted the image at two-hundred miles-per-hour to the brain of Mrs. Fletcher.

Russell’s brain transmitted the image to the frontal cortex. One-point-six seconds it took to have the one-hundred billion axioms to recognize the threat, the mind of the skilled rider tried to organize a reflex action.

T-1.99925 seconds. Fifty-miles per hour they traveled towards the immobile car. More than seventy-three feet per second — Already they had covered more than a third of an American football field.

T- 1.5 Seconds. Lucy saw the headlight, her eyes processed the motorcycle approach and her mind locked up. All she needed to do to avoid the imminent collision was move her foot to the gas. But in that moment, she did not know what to do. There were no answers for the panicked soul that only wanted a glass of wine and to save the soul of a lady Druid.

Russell’s brain processed information at the speed of three supercomputers.The most intelligent man on earth was not needed to know that the exit routes were:

Head-on traffic in front of the car — rejected. Death was all but certain.

Forest with big trees, bushes and large pointy rocks: – rejected. The outcomes could be as bad.

Hit car — poor choice, but the outcome defaulted while the mind of the man searched for a safe exit to this disaster. He was out of time to evade the disaster. He had to stop.

T- 1.25 seconds. Brakes! The mind yelled. 

T- 1.20 seconds. Brakes! The mind begged. The entire world was silent, Russell’s soul was deaf to all sounds. All the world was mute except the sounds of his scream.

T- 1.1 seconds. BRAKES! The mind commanded. No bumps, no sound of wind. Silence was louder than a rock-concert in a steel warehouse.

T- 0.9 seconds. BRAKES! The mind ordered. The engine was inaudible.

T- 0.8 seconds. A plaintive voice sounded through the earbud of the motorcycles comm system.

“Noooo!” It was Lulu.

T- 0.5 seconds. BRAKES! The foot now responded and jammed down on the rear brake and the hands grabbed for the front brake lever.

T- 0.4 seconds. The brake pads built up pressure. Years of ridership passion of the life, he closed his hand and crushed the front brake lever.

T- 0.15 seconds. The friction pads moved into contact with the rotational mass of the brake disc and began to engage at fifty-one feet away.

In an instant, Russell did calculations in his head, estimated he needed an extra twenty-feet to complete a full emergency stop.

Twenty feet he did not have.

T- 0.10 seconds. Russell tensed up. Impact was imminent. Pressure in rear brake built up enough to stop rotation of the rear tire. Seventy-percent of the weight of the motorcycle shifted to the front tire.

The shock absorbers on the motorcycle compressed as the big bike did a nosedive. On two tires, patches of rubber the size of a hand of a large man tried to stop a half-ton of steel, rubber, human flesh and bone.

The rear tire of the motorcycle began to skid, the tire locked up and rubber melted from friction with the highway, liquefied and vaporized rubber now lubricated the tire which began to yaw to the right, the front tire slowed faster than the rear with the weight of the motorcycle that pressed down and prevented the front from lock-up on the dry pavement. Lulu, as she sat on the back of Gertrude, farthest away from the center mass of the motorcycle and the pendulum. Out of control with the dynamic forces Russell in a valiant but futile effort to stop the inevitable.

Unstoppable, the thousand-pounds of metal, plastic, and bodies careened towards the immobile car, “Crossed up” as Gertrude the motorcycle yawed and slid sideways, they moved with Lulu made prayers, begged that it would be all right.

“Please don’t let it be bad, Lord, please let it be all right.”

It would not be all right.

T- 0.05 seconds. Russell could see over the top of the car, his mind processed information at a phenomenal rate, he could see the road was clear on the far side of the obstruction.

If only… Was his thought.

He could see the eyes of the little old lady, they were wide like a deer in the headlights, with plate-sized pupils.

T- 0.02 seconds. Photons made shadows on the ground that merged as the front tire braked as hard as it could be without the slide like the rear wheel did. Speed reduced rapidly, if someone plotted it on a graph, it would show the line of the deceleration as almost vertical on a second by second scale.

T- 0.01 seconds. Russell could calculate his speed was still greater than…

T- 0.00 seconds. Impact! Blocked photons which made shadows, now just made one shadow as the front tire hit ahead of the rest of the hog.

The force of the collision ripped the big bikes grips from Russell’s hands and his body became a missile, launched by the impact of the vehicles at twelve miles-per-hour, about the speed of a moderate run.

T+ 0.2 seconds. After Russell hit, he bounced and flew over the top of the car and broke the windshield with his helmeted head as he went by and struck his face on the asphalt. The open-faced helmet afforded him little protection, he slid and rolled down the rough road surface. Russell came to a rest on his back. His face hurt, but he was awake.

T+ 5.0 seconds. Russell lay there on his back, took stock of his limbs. Pain didn’t overpower him but there was no question he was hurt. Movement at the periphery of his eyes made him turn his head.

The car was on the move. The car drove away! He could see tail lights grow smaller as he tried to read the license plate from his awkward position.

Then, he saw his best friend’s body.

She was very still.

Too still.

Still as death.

T+ 15.0 seconds.

“Lulu…” He whispered a plea. “Lulu, move.”

She was under the motorcycle, pinned. Still, silent. She lay there with her leg bent in an unnatural way. He tried to crawl on his arms and left a bloody trail back to where his wife, his copilot and his best friend and lover, lay.

Russell’s vision became blurred with agony as the pain set in. Blood dripped off his face where his skin had abraded away by the highway blacktop.

T+ 125.0 seconds.

Feet pounded on approach and a heavy “Thump-thump” of a huge motor pulled up next to him. An enormous chopper with an even larger rider looked down at him through goggles. An 82nd Airborne division tattoo on Hammer’s forearm stood out in odd sharp focus to Russell’s vision.

“We caught her, brother. We caught that old lady before she got very far. Hang in there, help is on the way.”

“Lulu?” Russel moaned. “My wife?”

“Your old lady’s alive, bro. Hurt bad, but alive.”

“Call 9-1-1.” Russel grunted in pain.

“Station is right there, they’re on their way now.” The giant biker told Russell. “They’ll be here in two seconds.”

Two-seconds!

If only he had seen the car just two seconds sooner.

Finis

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Married by Mistake Chapter 46. A Husband’s Terror

MbM
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Chapter 46. A Husband’s Terror

The familiar car pulled into his driveway and Glenn finished his chores around town at the request of his mother. After he took the silver platter to the Grant’s house and tackled by Kaylee who nearly gave him a heart attack. He did not look forward to the conversation about his sudden life change that he invited no one to attend.

Sam and he dated on and off. Two months after they had a weekend trip to Canada, Sam began to get sick at every smell there could be.

Eggs, she got sick.

Soup. Any flavor. She got sick.

Pasta. (Pasta!?) Sick.

Toast. (Well, smoke, he did not clean his toaster.) Sick.

So Glenn went with his ill friend with benefits to the doctor, sudden movements sometimes made her nauseated, so he drove.

The doctor smiled and sat down with them, explained that the hyperemesis gravidarum would pass after a few weeks and in the interim they would put her in a hospital and give her some IV fluids and keep her hydrated.

Glenn had to ask the doctor to define the of the name of this arcane illness. His mind refused to accept what the doctor tried to say.

In a moment, the doctor congratulated the couple. It was no virus, it was morning sickness, Sam was pregnant.

Glenn could not believe it at first. He could only see his career  fall into a smokey ruin like his toaster.

Samantha was also a poli-sci major and after hours of tears, they decided to get married. Neither one of them needed to have a scandal.

In his panic he had forgotten his home town while he was in the big-city. He had fixed a flaw in his life.

“So I’m a flaw?”  Sam became furious. No one called her a flaw, she threatened to tell everyone that he would leave her when she needed him most.

It evolved into a scream fest and rash words exchanged. They did not see each other during that week or part of the next. Two-weeks later, while they attended a study group together and sat across the table in awkward silence while they studied with the group.

Glenn finally brought her a glass of water and some saltines, seeing that she was pale and had developed a sheen of sweat on her forehead.

This singular awareness and his effort to keep her nausea under control had gone a long way to get Sam to smile at him again.

By the end of the homework jam session, people got up and went back to their apartments and lives.

Except for Glenn Schroder and Samantha Walshe who talked far into the night and they married in secret the next day in a civil ceremony. Shortly after that, they went off to Washington State and had a small ceremony for her family.

In those panic filled days, the childhood promise he had with Kaylee evaporated.  He forgot the depth and breadth of the years invested and he did not remember any moments of paper cigar rings and motorcycles.

He began to think about his childhood sweetheart about a week after he had done the deed with Sam, when she was changing her name to Schroder while he stood there.

Glenn practiced and readied for weeks to have a long talk and try to keep things on the down-low with Kaylee. Then when she showed up early at her mom’s house and surprised him, all practiced words left him.

But! He told himself, life changes and he and Kaylee readied for each other to have separate lives.

He walked up the steps to his parent’s house unaware of the new car parked on the street. Glenn’s focus consumed with all his thoughts that raced in circles in his mind. He wanted to make things smooth with his best friend, who he had replaced with a new, pregnant wife. When he would get to talk to Kaylee, he would make it sound reasonable that they stay close friends.

*Yeah! That was the way. If I could do what the Senator Mumy did in Washington, who talked his wife out of a divorce and still kept his girlfriend.* He smiled. 

And no one knew but for Glenn who ran errands for them. And the girlfriend began to come on to Glenn.

*Senators and Congressmen shared a lively trade in girlfriends and boyfriends. Congress members would grow tired of their trysts with one and move onto the next. The women in Congress are as bad or worse than the men in Congress.*

The one thing that Glenn looked forward to, have enough petty cash to keep an apartment in D.C. on the side.

He nodded. *This is one thing I have it dialed in, I know Kaylee and I can pull strings with her.* 

He opened the door and stepped through, he had weathered the worst part of the storms, but with any luck? He would still come out with a little fun with a bong and Kaylee and Sam would never have to know about the local party-girl he had on the side.

Then he stopped at a sight that made his heart drop into the pit of his stomach.

In all the world’s history, the things would fill a man with terror and fear for his life.

The Great Chicago Fire…

Terror of being consumed by a wall of flames.

The Great Quake of 1909…

Terror of the very ground that shook without reason.

The Stupid Husband Bust…

Terror? Terror is to stand in the doorway while your girlfriend and pregnant wife sipped coffee, looked at you and invite you to sit.

In the kitchen.

Near knives and other sharp objects.

And boiling hot liquid.

That is terror.

Discharged! Hospital in the Rear View mirror.

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At 5:45 in the morning, I woke alone in the room. Light was subdued by heavy drapes in the room. The Inn at the hospital was comfortable and quiet. But excitement was the ruler of the morning, Three days, count’em! THREE!

An “In and out” surgical procedure. Problems arose, along with bleeding. But the patient, a tough old bird that has had a bumpy year, health-wise has survived the tribulation and both his attitude and strength is returning.

Somewhat tired, but so motivated to get the hell out of the hospital, when the morning came, he was nearly as excited as I was.

So we laughed, talked and waited. harassed nurses (In good humor)   7:00 hour rolled by.. 8:00… 9 AM… Breakfast arrives, chocolate milk. We share the milk in our coffee, father and son drinking side by each. The Great King and the Imitation of the man. one who sits on his own throne.

No doctor.  The Nurse practitioner kept promising the discharge was in the bag.

Yeah, 3 days burned on that note.  So When does the doctor come in?

TEN O’clock…

Papa Dash and I looked at each other.

“I need to go check out of the Inn. I can always check back in and checkout time is 11:00.” And off I went.

10:30 rolls around.  I return, no doctor.

ELEVEN. A.M.  Nurses are starting to hide from me.  If I have to check back in at the Inn, I’m going to start making a spectacle of myself.

Noon.  No doctor.  Papa Dash is now dressed in his street clothes and pawing at the ground like a bull ready to charge. Lunch arrives, pudding, chocolate milk. Carrot soup.

Quarter past noon, I head over to the nurses station.

“Is the doctor in surgery?”

“He has surgery on the schedule for 1:00.” She looks at me. “I will call the Nurse Practitioner.”

Okay.  So I return to the room where an impatient and tired Papa Dash sits.

Brother-In-Law appears, sister is in same hospital and is having a scheduled surgery for trauma from three years ago. She is in the hospital at the same time as Papa Dash.

But Sister Sledge-hammer is as hard and strong as they come. More on her later.

Finally!  At half-past the hour, the doctor comes in. Nods, shakes hands, “make an appointment with me next week.” and walks out.

We are FREE!

Two signatures later, we aer SO outta there. Shake hands with Brother In Law, hugs all around.

Papa Dash does not even want to wait for me to bring the car around. He is all like “#$%@ that! Let’s go!” walks out without the wheelchair.

So a hike of a half-mile to the car, after 4 days of enforced bed rest, bleeding, post surgery, dehydration, no real food (Pudding, coffee, chocolate milk) and he made it. Although, he was glad to sit down.

The old guy rolled the window down and stuck his head out the window for the first two blocks just to feel the wind in his face.

“Damn, I missed that.” With laughter. “Drive young’un!”

Now for sister:

She is in the hospital for at least TWO days. If the math works out like Papa Dash’s, we are looking at least a week, but Brother in Law says it went pretty well.

The steel plate they put on her ribs to hold her together showed signs of infection and the surgical team took a biopsy to send to the CDC to identify the source.  If it comes back with bad news, an alternative plan that includes more surgery is in the works.

If good news?  She comes home. At which point I evaluate my position here.

Maybe a day longer to see if she can function and have her control of the children and family, if so? I go home. If she needs me to be the legs she needs, I’ll hang out for a few days, do archery with my nieces, tell stories on Grampa.  The younger niece has all but kidnapped me. We had tea with dolls, watched Cloudy with Meatballs 2, How to Train your Dragon and several games on Xbox.

I do not own an Xbox nor do I know how to play it. Maybe I can distract the kids as the favorite weird uncle that does things outside besides writing stories.

Maybe roast a few S’mores…

Tell a few fireside stories I make up as I go along.

More on that later. 😉

For now,

Dash McCallen, your fave up and coming author signing off.

Good night.

Fire: The Oasis

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Fire: the oasis

He had worked his way up through the ranks of wildland firefighting. Part-time, seasonal, and then full-time, taking classes when they came out. He excelled with his motivation. Reibold Rasmussen was never much of one to laugh, his humor always kind of quirky.

But he feared fire since a child. His house caught fire when a car ran into the garage. Dad scooped him up with his two sisters and ran like a like an Olympic sprinter through the back door that mom held open, returning for the dog that was still in the house, barking behind the armored bars that covered the windows.

The deep boom of something rupturing in the house blew the door shut. Dad, hit the door going in like a human  freight-train breaking it off the hinges as he did so. Then appeared with the unconscious Great Dane in his arms.

Zeus the Dane, famous for his deep bark in the neighborhood would live to be Reibold’s best friend for years to come, except for the bald patch on one ear, he suffered no injuries in the fire.

In the years to come, the son of the family hero did the father proud. Firefighter of the year, EMT then a Paramedic. Finally becoming a Wildland Firefighter and traveled around the country, where the job needed or where classes could be 

His own son looked up to him, now seven-years of age, Nicholas watched for dad on every news report of forest fires.

The memory made Reibold smile as he touched the drawing of a heart with the three family members inside. “Team Rasmussen” in a child’s writing. He kept it for luck, taped to the inside of his locker door.

Well, not for luck. He just loved his son.

“Vegetation fire.”  The dispatch went out calling upon the men and women that were the foot-soldiers in the yearly dry-season battle of protecting life and property.

Reibold the father was different from Lieutenant the smoke jumper and a hand crew leader for ground fire attack in the forests. Glittering blue eyes missed little and showed a high intelligence with a quick wit that on occasion was misunderstood by his peers, often that making him laugh even harder at his singular wit that only his son might catch.

Today, in a parking lot barely large enough to hold all the equipment, the “Mountain Mike’s” shopping plaza became a wildland command center. The fire plan posted locations of the rest of the fire teams and equipment around the valley in the pockets of school grounds and church parking areas.

Weather reports came in and sent out from the command center, plotters predicted on the weather service map predicted that unpredictable winds with a low pressure system moving in.

Reibold sighed as he read the dispatch on the computer aided dispatch display, called a CAD for short. No part of the display was good news. 

A low pressure system meant a reasonable possibility of rain which would help. However the downside with the heat rising from the large wildfire could create thunderstorms. Lightning! By any measure, this would work against the fire campaign. The fuel for the fire, the wood and grass in the forest with months of heat and sun, became explosively dry.

By noon, dressed in his fire-resistant gloves, jumpsuit and helmet. They flew in by helicopters to an oasis at the foot of a mountain for a mission. Condor Mountain was the local name of the tall peak, at the base of this high desert rock was an oasis of fresh water that sprang naturally from bedrock artesian wells.

Today’s Mission: Create a fire break and save the oasis of palm trees and protected wildlife refuge.

The Plan: First arriving hand crews would clear back the light grass and brush before the arrival of the bulldozers that were on their way. The large equipment slow speed meant a delay of four-hours behind the hand crews.

Reibold lead his twelve-man crew while they cut and tossed brush to create a path that connected natural firebreaks around the oasis.

Sweating heavily under the unrelenting sun, the breeze began to pick up, alarming Reibold a little. The fire was on the far side of the mountain, some fifteen miles distant, but it could cover that distance faster than many people would think. 

Still, the fire observation radio code “Airboss” that flew in the two-seat spotter plane in circles kept reports coming in about the fire that threatened the mountain. Orders came from the Airboss to pull all personnel off the threatened side of the mountain. The fire was moving too quickly to stop it before they finished building a firebreak and fire command ordered the effort abandoned.

Reibold nodded; This put the pressure on Bravo-Team to save the oasis. Airboss just wrote off the mountain.

Bulldozers arrived and cut a line wider than an interstate, hand crews cleaned up the edges of the firebreak. A call of team leaders and Reibold answered.

Standing with the other leaders, each with a book out as the plans for the next effort of defending the line.

“Fight fire with fire.” Was the plan, a backfire would to burn up the close face of the mountain to the top. The speed of the mission was critical with the weather system moving in. Agreed and commanded, the leaders adjourned to their respective crews.

The planned backfire had the fire crews stand in line along the firebreak. Three bulldozer blades wide, down to bare mineral soil. Reibold stood his twelve firefighters in line. Ax’s, shovels, gloves and face wraps against the dust and heat.

The radio crackled with the “Go hot” with the order of the backfire. Two officers walked along the fire break with drip torches filled with diesel. Flames consumed the brush next to the bare mineral soil like a teenage boy consumes food from mom’s pantry.

A lot of heat came off the backfire. Too much! Lt. Rasmussen turned around and looked at some of the palm trees behind them.

The radiant heat was enough to force his crews look away from the flames and protect their faces. The firefighters watched for embers to prevent the fire from jumping the line, but Reibold had the angle to view directly behind them. And he saw it, a half-dozen tendrils wafting towards the main backfire the trees were smoking!

“Shovels! SHOVELS! Throw dirt on the trees! Cool the trees down!” Lt Rasmussen called.

“Too much fire, too much heat!” Another Lt. Yelled at the Forest Ranger in charge of the torch, who walked along the line.

Grabbing his radio, Reibold called and reported that the fire was flaring up too hot. The radiant heat off the mountain’s face was putting them and the oasis they were to protect in jeopardy. Bark on trees was smoking and they needed back pumps with water and shovels of dirt to stop the smoking trees from catching fire.

A flame, not large, grew rapidly up the trunk of a coconut palm. Extending its reach up to the dried and hanging palm fronds that hung down like hands. Paper thin, tinder dry.

Reibold lifted up his radio to his mouth. “Emergency traffic, zone 6, crew 4488. Fire in the trees, crowning fire.”

The worst words possible, “crowning fire”.

The first tree lit like a match, three officers and the Forest Ranger all nodded and gave orders to their crews.

“We are bugging out.” Reibold sounded as if he was ordering a burger at a leisurely pace in contrast to the stress he felt. “All crews in zone 6 pull back to fire safety zones. We have lost the oasis.”

“RUN! RUN!” The Fire supervisor yelled to the dozen men and women that carried hand tools. A wind was building and blew in their faces.

Behind them the flames from the one burning tree hit the dried palm fronds of the line of trees and like a match that ignited in a matchbook. The gale force wind became a hurricane wind of heat and grit, drawn in by the column of fire and smoke that rose up into the atmosphere. The fire made its own weather had produced the winds that rushed to feed the intensity of the firestorm 

Lt. Rasmussen fought his way with the increasing wind that tore at his clothing, he tried to protect his face with the shovel, only to have it torn from his grip by the screaming wind that fed the monster that ate tree, bush and flower.

Although it was midnight, Reibold could see his shadow was visible on the ground as he looked down.

Looked down?

Wait, what? LOOKED DOWN!?

The fire was right above him, moving faster than a man can run!

Another gust of wind– picking up stones the size of his fist– pelting him as he and the crew struggled against the breath of the devil, the radiant heat was making the back of his uniform overheat.

Finally! Cresting the hill into a parking lot, he stumbled over the edge to the asphalt of the parking area. The heat on his back did not let up, the backs of his gloves were smoking, the insulated leather was hot enough to sear the back of his hand, flames blew vertically up into the sky at the Lieutenant’s heals. Screams echoed in the parking area.

Running feet. Hands, many hands..

The sudden, unbelievably cold feeling on his back..someone had dumped a bucket of water on him as the pain set in and he blissfully, quietly let the soft darkness of shock and coma take him into sweet unconsciousness.

Days later, Reibold awoke. His Commanding officer was sitting in the chair near him with eyes half-shut.

Steve?” Reibold’s voice croaked more than it should have, surprising himself. His throat felt like he had gargled with salt and broken glass.

“Reibold? Sheesh, man you have us a hell of a scare! You were the last one out and came over the crest into the staging area with the fire at your heels. ” Steve Womack sat forward. “You were on fire, brother. Your web gear, fire tent and the helmet you were wearing were smoking and your helmet is half-melted.”

Reibold sat back into the bed. “Did we lose anyone?”

“No, your call on the trees was just in time. We lost the oasis, but no one died.”

“When do I blow this joint?” asked the Lieutenant. “I’m not that hurt and my son will be worried.”

“In a while, you had inhaled a lot of smoke. Your voice still sounds like a rusty gate, they had you on a ventilator for two days.” The Commander explained the timeline. “Your son has been here with your wife. There is something on your hand. And Rei, brother, you have been in a drug induced coma for the last few days. Don’t expect to come back soon. Go home, be with the boy, love the family and let them love you for a few weeks.”

“Aye, I can feel it. Steve,” He sighed.“I feel this is my last year. I’m going to request a transfer to investigations.”

“Granted. I’ll put the paperwork in straight away.”

Reibold the Lieutenant soon-to-be-investigator laid back on his bed and closed his eyes.

Slipping back to that moment where he knew, the call to abandon the oasis was the right one.

Looking at his hand, a heart drawn on it and in a child’s lettering. 

“DADS A HERO!” was visible. 

The hero of a  seven-year-old smiled. The boy was right, 

Today, Reibold Rasmussen felt he made the heroic choice.

No one died.

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 8. Nerve Center

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Chapter 8. Nerve Center

Stepping out of the air-return shaft, he pressed a button in his pocket, the remote control was little more than a car door remote that sent a signal to the receiver in the fresh air duct above the ceiling.

With the patience of electronics, the signal activated a circuit that inflated the folded balloon, that obstructed the duct and blocked all fresh air from being delivered to the lower floors, becoming an effective cork.

Radio Check gently rolled two smoke canisters to each end of the hallway and pressed the button on a spray can, deploying a vapor that smelled like melting plastic and stood in the expanding cloud of thick smoke, pressing his back to a wall.

A dispatcher that was questioning the radio traffic, was turning to her supervisor to say there was something wrong when she saw smoke and smelled wires burning.

“Fire!”

As one, the dispatchers all stood up and made for the smoke-filled hallway.

Suddenly blocked by a man in a mask and leather jacket.

“No fire, just attention-getter. Please, everyone lay down.”

In the far end where Officer Davies sat, she brought out an AR-15 that out on the first alarm of an attack.

The intruder lobbed three stinger grenades into the dispatch center, one detonated  in mid-air, causing Officer Davies to duck and take stock that she was in pain, but still alive.

She could not see, and was too late to stop Radio Check who had plugged into a USB port with his equipment and pressed a button, recognized and allowed the tablet computer administrative access. Data transferred through the now-allowed hardware and rebooted the entire dispatch system.

Officer Davies, decided the grenades did not injure her permanently, picked up her rifle and took up a position behind her desk and attempted get an aim on the intruder through the smoke. But there were too many obstacles, the air was too murky to shoot at a shape with people sitting up when the monitors went dark.

Someone yelled “RUN!” and twenty people scrambled for the stairwell.

Officer Gwen Davies grabbed the phone and tried to call the watch commander’s cell phone.

“Hello.”

“Lieutenant! He is down here in dispatch!”

“Shit! On our way.” The masculine voice broke the connection. Gwen looked at the phone for a moment, she thought Leslie Murrie was on duty.

Her radio on her hip buzzed on a person-to-person frequency. “…Davies.”

“Go ahead for Davies.”

“It’s Russ, I’m coming your way to back you up, this place is on fire,”

“No, we the subject is here! He’s smoke-bombed us.” She said quietly. “He is here in dispatch.”

“Enroute. I have contact with the watch commander, I’ll tell her.”

“Who is on tonight?”

“Leslie Murrie. Why?”

“There was a male voice that answered the watch commanders phone.”

“Could have been one of the other guys. Shit is going bad up there. We have officers down.”

“Okay, get here as soon as possible, I’m pinned down and he has explosives.” She looked again. “I can’t see because of the smoke, and I think he is moving so I can’t get a clear shot.”

“Copy, I’m at the end of the hall. He has to come past me or you to leave the floor. I can’t see shit with all this smoke, why is this floor not venting?”

Pops of gunfire sounded.

“He’s shooting! Small caliber!”

Gwen dove through the door, flashes of his weapon illuminated the smoke. She aimed about leg high and laid grazing fire down the hallway.

A scream from the smoke.
Boo-Ya! She bagged a bad guy! This gave Gwen a savage pleasure.

I’m hit!”

Shit! She knew that voice, she was just listening to it on her phone.

It was Russ!

Gwen got to her feet and moved from side to side of the hallway. The heavy smoke was acrid in her nose, it was military spec smoke. She knew the smell intimately from her time in the service and the smoke grenades are easy to get from the internet. She passed by the data center and tried the door.

Locked. It was always locked. The window was intact and it was clear inside.

As she stepped away, a movement caught her eye as she passed the window. She stepped back and looked again. Staring and tried the door once more.

Locked, positively locked. She looked up and down the door, nothing wrong with the door, no tamper marks, but, on the floor, something odd.

A bit of cardboard with bar codes on it. She left it alone, dropping a folded notepaper over it in the shape of a tent.

A few more steps in the smoke, the smell of burning plastic still faint in the thick haze, she saw paper bits on the floor with a few small paper cylinders that had not burst.

Firecrackers.

The asshole faked shooting and she shot Russ in the confusion and .

Russ was on the ground, blood had sprayed on the wall directly behind him. The bullet had grazed his calf, giving him a groove in his muscle the size of her index finger to fit in.

“You will be fine, it is just a flesh wound.”

“Oh yeah, they say that, but they never said that it hurts like a bitch!” Russ said, rocking back and forth, holding his leg up. “Damned thing throbs!”

“Russ!” She yelled at him by accident, surprising herself. “Did he come this way?”

“What?” The question distracted him from his pain for a moment. “No. I saw a shadow in the smoke, then he started shooting, but no one came this way.”

“He had to go back into dispatch and he is in there somehow.”

The elevator door opened and eight black-clad SWAT officers stepped out, seeing the bleeding brother on the floor, the leader motioned to one of the heavily armed officers who stooped next to him and applied a pressure dressing. It was a SWAT medic.

“You got him?” The masked swat officer asked Gwen, then pointed to the elevator. “Take him out of here.”

“Yeah.” And she pulled Russ towards the open elevator.

She smiled grimly, bad guy screwed the pooch now. His life was about to become harsh beyond any nightmare he may have ever had.

SWAT – the best of their best, pissed off and heavily armed.

Gwen would pay good money to see this bastard get taken down by the team of extreme trained professionals. She would have to fight the urge to kick the unsub in the testes when they led him out in cuffs.

If they let him live.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 6. Chief Whiting

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Chapter 6. Chief Whiting

The first of the units closest to the police department came down the main street with lights and sirens on, blowing through the red light in a large intersection, traveling over eighty miles-per-hour.

The patrol car broadside hit the back-end of a delivery truck as it crossed with its green light and spun the panel truck off the street where it crashed backwards into the oldest eatery in downtown, the “Mongolian BBQ” restaurant, overturning as it came to a rest and spilled the delivery destined for “Shannon’s Vip Lounge and Bar”— fifty-cases of scotch, vodka, rum and tequila.

Employees of the restaurant used every one of the  fire extinguisher they could to prevent the spread of fire on the ethanol that spread over the floor and filled the old building with flammable vapor, even with the fixed extinguishers over the deep fryers in the kitchens that a panicked busboy triggered.

In the street, the patrol car careened across the sidewalk and into a glass wall of a Lawman’s Bank. Lawman’s was the first bank in town, founded by the first town sheriff for his deputies.

Chief of police Steven Whiting, heard the dispatch report that an accident involving a police unit occurred.

Swearing and beating on the steering wheel, he mashed down on the throttle redoubled his efforts to force his way through traffic. The lanes, packed with people heading to the coast for pleasure and the family breadwinners as they headed home from their jobs.

He pressed harder on the throttle of the hemi-engined SUV that served as his command vehicle. The powerful engine responded and surged forward while he guided the emergency command vehicle down the middle of the highway in the turning lane.

*THUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMP*

“Dammit!” The vibration came through his steering wheel as he pulled over to the right of the road, forcing people to move around him. He found the shoulder of the highway and cut his lights. Not sure what the problem could be, he took his hand-held mini-sun (”At full power guaranteed second only to a laser”) and looked at his tires.

There! On the left rear tire in the middle of the tread, a metallic hex-head of a bolt. Debris in the turning lane punctured through the tire and took him out of the race to headquarters.

Returning to the driver door, he opened it and grabbed the radio, cursing the earth, the miners of iron, smelters of steel and bolt-makers in general, he called to get roadside assistance and get any close units to pick him up.

Spinning the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) laptop around so he could see it, X-Adam-2 was behind him and headed the same route to the scene. A swat prepped car, it carried basic swat equipment in it with two trained officers. Designed to prevent the spread of a situation or back up Baker units until the arrival of more — if needed — equipment and personnel.

Swearing again. At least he would have someone left with the chief’s car until the road service came and replaced the tire.

More reports of multiple explosions inside the headquarters, a responding unit has been in a TC with a fire. The emergency beep on the radio sounded again. Once every twenty-seconds, a small tone beeped to let everyone know to keep the channel clear except for emergency traffic.

He read down the incident notes in the CAD display.

Administration channel was quiet and he asked for an update. The voice answered as if it could be quoting scores of a local ball game. 

“We have fire and EMS en route to the accident scene, fire and EMS going to the incident at the station. Captain Sams has taken over from Sargeant Murrie and has established a triple perimeter and a remote area for the media. Air cover is not available for at least a half-hour. They are en route, from an inland response and will need to refuel before they can lift-off en route to the incident at the foyer.”

“Copy. Have Xray-Adam-2 to stop and pick me up. My unit has a flat tire.”

“Affirmative.” A pause. “ETA two-minutes.”

The Adam unit was closer than it showed on the computer display.

“Copy, thank you.”

All he could do is stand and grind his teeth in fury.

Shock and Awe Chapter 5. Devil’s Descent

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Chapter 5. Devil’s Descent

Attaching his cap to an anchor— in this case the double-barreled flintlock laid across the vent— with the titanium hook hidden in the lining, Radio Check used cap as a foothold and lowered himself down on a thin cable and pressed the call button for the elevator.

Looking along the hallway while the built-in winch lifted him back up to the duct above the ceiling, he noted there was an air return vent about ten-paces back.

He smiled with humor this time. An air return might connect to the elevator shaft, this was a good development.

Elevator dinged and the doors opened to an empty lift. He positioned himself when he heard another boom echo down the air-vents. The concussion felt different, the shockwave he knew came from a police issue flash bang. They had tossed one of their grenades into the men’s toilet. They were close to finding they were breaching an empty room.

Odd.

He had not heard his stinger grenades go off. The police would evacuate then and stay clear the room after that event, until the swat swept the room for more booby-traps.

If they so much as nudged the chair that the stinger was hidden under with the little concealed ramp. It would fall and roll it into the middle of the room where it would burst with a thousand little low density polymer balls. Built like a super-powered airsoft toy weapon, this would hurt —  a lot — but it would not kill.

Lowering his backpack to the floor with the cord, Radio Check dropped down with the rifle in his hand. He never took his eyes off the doors at the end of the hallway when he picked up the backpack, stepped into the lift and pressed the “B-2” button.  He did not wait for the door to close on the elevator before he opened the service hatch in the ceiling with the barrel of his rifle and climbed up, using a parachute cord to pull his equipment up on top of the elevator car.

The elevator stopped as commanded at the second basement level where the dispatch center was. The temperature was much cooler on this level, the conditioned air directed into the data center by the ducts kept the computer room from overheating. He found the exhaust vent that opened to the elevator shaft easily, unclipped the spring-loaded catches on each corner and the vent that serviced the entire floor was open. Easily large enough to let him sit upright with his tools.

Service inspection panels every ten meters were large enough for a man to step through and he opened the first one and stepped out on the catwalk that ran between fresh air and the air return duct. Opening the fresh air access panel to the plenum inside, he pulled a folded object out of his backpack, peeled off a plastic outer layer and pressed the sticky side to the wall of the filtered, cool air stream and replaced the hatch. Stepping into the return-air duct, he closed the service hatch. And crawled along the large metal tube, looking into offices, now empty except for dispatch. Computer screens obstructed views like an electronic forest with people standing or sitting at consoles that raised or adjusted to their preference of sitting or standing.

CAD systems tracked patrol cars all around the city, including the Sheriff’s units. Combined command and control let him see every unit. Looking at the legends of colors, blue, green, yellow and red told him where each patrol car, swat vehicle, command vehicle and administrator was.

They were on their way to one spot.

A rumble echoed through the system made him smile, a sound he knew well.

The stinger grenades had gone off.

Placing a magnet-backed blinking green led on the inside of the plenum, he now had a marker on for dispatch, no need to look for it again.

Radio Check smiled, the operation was successful to this point as he accomplished the difficult part in misdirection. The officers attacking an empty room, now two floors above were intelligent and skilled. But only able to react to the information that Radio Check left for them.

He felt sorry for the honest cops involved with doing their jobs.

It was just the mission. 

Images from the house of Smites

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Report from the Smite House

 

Ringing sounds from firm smites

The anvil hums keeping time

Hammers and tongs

A fire and bellows

Metal becomes plastic

Into the steel

The soul belongs

Ogham transparent

 

 

Black sand

Found in a stream

A careful eye

A skilled hand.

Ogham transparent

 

 

Carbon, fire, ore of iron

Coke from coal

As charcoal is to wood

Aching arms

Blue flames, yellow heat

And a loving eye

Ogham transparent

 

 

Red heat and the sand fused

Shapes to a curl

A wood seat used.

Long curved rails

Twisted steel leaves

The chair takes shape

Ogham transparent

 

 

A century past

A grandchild rocks

With a child of her own

On steel curved

By the house of the Forge

Ogham transparent

 

 

The steel soul

Still touches

With words engraved

“For my children”

Copyright ©2015 Dash McCallen

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.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 3 Seconds

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T-Minus 3 Seconds

Twice the moon’s distance from the earth, photons closed the distance to the growing blue and white sphere that destiny had chosen for them. Of the many photons that left the photosphere of Sol, dust, satellites, Van Allen Belt and the associated atomic debris entrapped around the earth’s radiation belt, while many photons reflected off or absorbed by alpha particles, more than half passed through the region.

Alongside the highway, Lucy saw the opening in the traffic and took her foot off of the brake of her German engineered car and pressed on the throttle. Turning the wheel she pulled out across the lanes in an illegal U-turn. It was perfect, a godsend to get on her way.

The big car spoke with its authority and crossed the lanes of traffic…

AND STOPPED! Jamming her foot down on the brake pedal, narrowly missing a car that turned in, she had not seen the turn signal on the old pickup truck driven by an even older man. Then Lucy took her foot off the brake and began roll forward again more slowly, crossing the lanes midway and trying to figure out if she still had enough space to merge it, Looking down the lane of traffic, not enough room, she looked back and realized the headlight of a motorcycle was close.

Too close!

Station 2315 still had the garage doors open, two bays, two type-3 engines with fully stocked first aid sat, now warmed up with the daily checks. Two full crews did maintenance around the property while Captain Thomas watched the disaster set up.

He didn’t wait.

“Hank, hit the alert button!” He yelled at the engineer sitting in the driver’s seat. “There’s an accident going to happen!”

“Where?”

Hank’s eyes followed the captain’s pointing finger as his hand automatically moved to the control panel.

“Ohshit.” He said it as one word. His right hand mashed on the siren button, not pausing to switch the dial to any other setting.

A hundred-yards behind, “The Hammer” Erikssen saw that the rider in front of him did not seem to react to the big German luxury car that pulled out and stopped in front of him. Even from here, he swore he could see the saucer-wide eyes of the little-old-lady that was piloting the rubber and steel cage on wheels.

He yelled a futile warning to the rider and his passenger. But no matter how loud he could yell, it was not humanly possible for Russell to hear the big Norwegian.

A string of Norwegian profanities issued forth while Stonn helplessly watched what was to come.

Lulu spoke of what she planned for dinner, later with the children and pondered what she had in the ice-box. They would sit on the patio after Russell cooked up the chops she had to get cooked or throw out. Russell agreed that it sounded like a good plan and mentally mapped his route home.

Russell turned the throttle up on Gertrude, preparing to change lanes, just checking his mirror and glancing over his shoulder making sure the lane was clear, he noted a large group of riders was behind him. At least ten riders judging from the headlights. Looking ahead again to see the…

CAR!

Dear Universe: Letters from Dad Chapter 3. Fire Camp Epsilon

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Chapter 3. Fire Camp Epsilon

Five years ago:

In the fire camp, designated Epsilon for being the forth in a series, Lieutenant O’Danu dug in his foot-locker for the pen he just dropped. Profanity colored the air around him as he cherished the pen that his wife and daughter had given him.

He had started writing his daughter letters years before. Before she was born even, and had kept at it every time he went out on spike.

Spike, that word that often meant overtime, but also time away from his family.

His own father had said it, often.

‟Family is everything. Spend all the time you can with them, hold their hands. No parenting is worse than bad parenting. Children do not come with wisdom, it is up to you, my son, to teach your own children what is respect to others, teach them inner peace so they may shine with the O’Danu name.”

Lt. O’Danu smiled. The old man had the voice of black clad science fiction villain, sans the wheezing, but the looks of a British super-spy from Scotland.

And he heard his father’s voice daily in his head.

Today, they had off, twenty-four hours on the line, then twelve to twenty-four hours off. The rules in this verdant part of the world were somewhat different from in his home jurisdiction, but he did not mind in the slightest.

His team was the best there was, they had put out fires in the most rugged places on earth, climbed, hiked, cut with the most primitive tools in history.

The ax, rake, hoe and shovel.

Now they were at the bottom of the world, fighting a fire caused by— what he did not know or care — and it was their job to protect the dozen villages and the huge nature reserve.

 Lt. Dennis O’Danu Shook his head at that thought. The nature reserve had more scratchy, bitey things that had toxins in them that would drop a firefighter in his footsteps if it were not for locals that accompanied the fire teams to warn them. Hot Shots, Strike Teams, Fire Crews, whatever the label that their respective departments put on them, whether it was federal, state, royal or even a few private agencies, they were all professionals working towards one final goal. Well, except for the Her Royal Princess’s Fire Control teams, they worked towards promised medals of heroism.

For the rest of the firefighters? All they wanted, was to go home.

In this nation where cats were bigger than motorcycles and serpents deadlier than a wife’s angry glare, they all held on to the brotherhood of the service while they broke their tools and sweat in their effort in this fire that covered nearly four-hundred square miles.

Nomex with the colors of his team, gold and green, the Iron Canyon Kings were a storied and experienced direct attack fire handcrew. No assignments they failed, should they need to hike in, fly in or take a boat to deploy and cut vegetation down to bare mineral soil, they did their job and went home.

And they performed such tasks with speed that no one could better for a twelve-member crew.

At last!

A shine, there between to tightly folded shirts, the hint of gold-colored metal. He stored his badge away in the side panel, so that was not it.

Reaching down, his fingers closed around the shaft of the fat ballpoint pen, a gift for Father’s Day. It was one that he kept with him, in his journals, always.

Sitting down, he had an hour before he had to sleep, he was sure he could get a page of a letter written to each of his girls at home.

‟Dear Family…”

Shock and Awe Chapter 9. Dispatch Point of View

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*Note: Out of Sequence with Chapter 8*

9. Dispatch POV

Eight stations, adjustable level monitors or keyboards for comfort. A dispatcher could stand or sit as he or she felt. Back saving seats were available that would allow the person using the chair would be in a partial kneeling position that kept pressure points off of the back.

All in all the stations were very 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. But this made for a very busy screen. Supervisor usually had four screens available with touch screen overlays as they wished.

Normal traffic that early evening, running warrant checks on simple traffic stops (A standard procedure). Taking complaints of dogs barking. Report of a car running over a fence on a remote road between two ranchers. One of the ranchers was hauling horses and cut a corner to tight.

Overmodulated radio traffic squawked over a channel into a headset, plugged into the USB jack that served the dispatcher for communication and data.

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.”

Mike nodded. ‟Code-33.”

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

Plugging into his console, he hit emergency tones over the dispatch channel.

‟All units, code thirty-three is in effect. Emergency traffic only. All units code three-three. A 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 shined through several disasters over the years.

‟All units, emergency traffic. Shooting in progress at zero main street, police lobby. We have the lobby locked down, backup needed from all available units. Fire and EMS are staging at six blocks away at Center and Main.”

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

Sheriff deputies. Six from the north county, four from the south. ETA given at twenty minutes for the north end and twenty-five minutes for south.

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 personnel out. Gwen, get your rifle.” Mike checked his sidearm and put on the holster that lived in his drawer. In 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 as the little English woman was on the edge of panic, it was only her fourth month on the job.

Officer Gwen Davies walked in with an automatic rifle and placed it close to her desk. She took a place behind monitors that watched the hallways on the second basement level. No one would 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, faith in 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 allow for blind spots.

Without dispatch handling all the phones, maps, different agencies and the computer indicated alarms that came in the emergency systems, the police units would be lost. So monitors and maps, graphical displays of the communities took precedence over protection that was not needed in the dispatch area anyway.

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

No chance at all.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul 20. Bone Fire

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20. Bone Fire

Autumn had come to the green island, Daigh danced around on his feet, carving a turnip and put a candle in it to show Kane that he paid attention to the stories that he would tell to the children at night.

His sister, Daigh thought, was in love with one of Kane’s character’s in the story. A man who traveled the world, stealing from the rich and using the treasures to keep the people of a far off land safe, warm and dry. The green man, some called him.

Then Bronwyn, his wife, would often push Kane off his log when he told these stories, laughing at him and saying he was telling it wrong.

But Daigh did not care, each word, each syllable was an adventure. Kane laughed as he would sometimes make a sudden movement and raise his hands, scaring them.

But Daigh did not care, each word, each syllable was an adventure. Kane laughed as he would sometimes make a sudden movement and raise his hands, scaring them.

Lately, as they piled stacks of wood on surrounding hills, Kane would smoke with a long clay pipe, pondering over a sheet of copper that had come to him from the east coast of the lands.

Kane called it “Sunrise” metal, from where it came from.

It come from the coast from where the sun comes up.” He told Daigh. Then go back to his contemplative mood and just stare at the metal while leaning on his work bench. Turning ingot – really just a sheet of metal over in his hands, he watched a boy run past his shop while his mind ran with plans for the red metal.

Laughing, Daigh ran with his carved wooden bird.

On the end of a stick, he could feel it’s carved feathers flutter as he held it up in the wind as his feet made the wind rush through his hair, it was a marvel of a toy. Each wing held by a bronze spring, each feather carefully carved by Bronwyn were held in place by a spring that Kane painstakingly embedded in the wood with a small metal “quill” attaching to the suspended wing.

DAIGH! Look out!” Kane yelled, only to cover his eyes with a calloused hand as the boy ran head-long into Muirne, wife of Finn of the Joining Streams. Curiousity forced him to peek between his fingers.

Kane laughed as Daigh bounced off of the larger woman who also staggered backwards and sat down into a bucket of water.

Kane hid his face in his hands, not really wanting to see the chaos when a voice made him turn around. It was Finis, once again after a long absence he stepped out of an unobserved area of the shop and near where Kane contemplated what to do with this sheet of copper.

What makes you wonder about that round ingot so much, Coppersmite?” Finis used his term for a smith that beats on metals.

OH! You startled me. After two-years and then eight years before that you have been away. What brings you to us now?”

Daigh was walking back after his lecture from the wet-bottomed woman about being careful and running in crowds. Although he was ten, he was tall for his age and ran like the wind, even still, Muirne was larger than he was by half again.

But now, his wooden bird that made him dream of flight was hanging, broken-winged on his stick.

Kane, can you fix this?” He asked as he came in from the outside, not seeing Finis at first. “Oh hullo.”

Daigh tilted his head to one side. “I don’t know you.”

No,” the white-haired traveler said. “you are not to meet me for another…”

Finis.” Kane interrupted. “No.”

The Angel of Death shrugged.

No, you don’t know me, I am just here to greet Kane and talk a while.”

Kane looked over the bird’s wing.

See, here, the bronze brace is bent. It won’t let the wing flap in the wind properly. I can fix it easily.” Kane pulled at the fitting. “I made it to flex some. It is not easy to break, but it will bend. I will heat it up and straighten it.”

Thank you Uncle Kane! I will wait, you make the best toys!”

Finis chuckled as the boy bounced on the hardwood of the floor of the shop.

Turning to Finis, Daigh began talking while Kane worked out the fitting while he frowned at the Angel of Death.

I have never seen anyone with hair like yours, you keep your hair white. What are the beads in your whiskers?

Well, young master.” He pulled at the beads in his mustache, “I have gotten these gems in the many places I have traveled. I have traveled far and they were gifts from those that have walked with me.”

They give you things to walk with you?”

HO! No, no. They sometimes give me things to not walk with them…”

Finis.” Kane stopped working and was walking back. “Daigh, the toy’s done and fixed. Try not to run into people, or worse, trees and buildings? Okay?”

Or off cliffs” Finis added. “No need to rush things.”

Daigh looked curiously at the old man.

Pausing for a moment. The Angel of Death pulled the gems out of his mustache.

Hold on to these for me. Don’t ever spend them or trade them for anything. Perhaps Kane here will build you a small box to put them in. Each time you need a favor from me, I will take one of the gems. So there you have how many?”

Counting the sparkling stones.

I have twenty-four gems.”

Correct. For such a good-looking young man, you get that many favors for as long as you have the stones. These are special gems. Do not give them away. They cannot be stolen, someone who takes them from you, I will know and I will bring them back.”

That would be scary.” Kane said softly behind Finis.

What? Why?” Daigh asked.

Never mind. A kind of joke.” Kane chuckled as he spoke, shaking his head.

Then Kane handed Daigh his toy back.

Daigh ran out with his bird flapping on the stick again. Happy as he could be, yelling “thanks!” over his shoulder to Kane.

Bonfires are in three days, it will be the end of the harvest and then the spirits of the underworld will walk. People will dress up and drink the beer that has fermented for weeks in the copper kettles I built that are down where the two streams meet. Almost more than this community could drink per person in total. I calculated it out on the largest of the residents and then took the smallest of adults of men and women and did the math.

Finis cleared his throat.

I have come to point out a few things.” Finis said. “Bronwyn should also be here.”

You can stay for the evening meal. She and the other women are cooking now.”

Aye. I can smell it. But you should also know, there are those that are noticing that you and she are not aging. One woman is calling it magic. She has already spoke with the high priestess.

Finis stood and watched Bronwyn approach. Hugging her when she entered the smith-shop.

I want to ask, what is wrong with Gretna?”

Sad news,” Finis shook his head. “she has cancer. She knows, a lump that she found in her breast has spread to other areas. In years to come, the illness will be known as consumption. Her weight has already gone down if you have noticed.”

I have, she is thinner I have noticed.” Bronwyn felt like crying.

She will walk with me before the weather gets warmer in the spring. I have come to meet with you and say that you need to consider moving on. Your lack of aging and children will soon be noticed, one already has done so and brought it to Gretna’s attention. This village you live in, this trícha cét is well over six-thousand people, someone is going to notice.”

Gretna has spoke with me about that.” Bronwyn nodded.

Indeed.” Finis nodded. “Take her advice that people are noting this and the advice of mine as well.”

We must leave?” Kane said. Thinking about Daigh and the other children that look forward to his toys every year during the time of the bonfires.

If you were to stay, you would make your leaving more difficult to start fresh. Many love you as kin. Especially the small children that dance around your legs when you have finished your travels. Kane, you would suffer first I would wager. Someone will notice that you are never sick or have aged, even though you has put yourself in harm’s way more than once.” Finis nodded. “Alternately, when you return, leave again to trade. Take all that you like, but then burn the wagon and leave the road and travel on another path. You will have to fake your deaths and create new life, this is part of your challenges you have taken as your tribulation. It is his punishment and your elected life here, Bronwyn. Remember, I am just your advisor, you can do as you like, but I would say your time here with this Clan is over.”

Bronwyn nodded, sad that it seemed like just last week they had stumbled into the lives of Gretna and her family.

Bronwyn was helpless to make that happen. She could only wish to have a full ten years of words to describe the life she has enjoyed…