Smart Bomb Chapter 2. Southern Georgia

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Chapter 2. Southern Georgia

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

And something new.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t have anything dry.”

Donde laughed, unsurprised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Aldin, the android, learned something new.

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Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 6. Eight Bells

Children of Fury:Hellions
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Chapter 6. Eight Bells, Four Ales and Conversation

The small fleet of four ships rocked in the in harbor at twilight. The captains and first mates sat on a small meadow that overlooked the small fleet of predators below, the three-quarter moon illuminated the horizon. It would be a bright night. No stealth was possible from the east.

The smell from the cooking fire below wafted up on the breeze and distracted. On the sheltered side of a volcanic rockfall, between boulders half the size of their ships made a natural chimney.

The sailors used it as a kitchen, and the flow of the air dissipated smoke among the rocks and hills, masking their presence to any lookout on the water.

A short hike with the food in hand, the crews assembled stone and wood benches and tables that allowed them to see to all points of the compass to more than twenty-five miles.

Two women sat at either side of the red-headed Keegan who was clearly tense with the attentions of the two women pirates.

“I think I should sit on the other side of the table.” Causing even his father to laugh.

“Keegan, we need you to stay slower on the ship.” Conn said over the food brought up by the cook. A bottle of ale sat, the adults pouring and laughing while they ate the evening meal later than planned.

“Da’…” Keegan O’Danu started to complain.

“Dash,” Anna “God Wants” spoke softly. “you vasseau… boat… ship… is more rapide tha’ mienne.” Her French accent slightly enhanced by the copious ethanol in the new ale donated by her last visit on the Spanish Treasure fleet. Annemarie, once one of the Fille du Roi, sent to the Caribbean because she was disruptive in the King’s Court. Still, she did not have that small voice most people have when it came to speaking her mind.

“You must reduce the sails you set so we can keep up.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, setting his ears ablaze with heat.

Captain Delahaye laughed and talked with the muscular first-mate with dark-eyes, playing with her hair while he poured her more ale from his pitcher.

Dana looked at his brother with one eyebrow raised.

“What is going on with her?”

Keegan shook his head and looked at his father for guidance, the elder O’Danu laughed.

“That, my boys, is the age-old mating ritual.” Looking at their puzzled faces. Keegan looked alarmed when the sailor reached out and touched the bright-red hair of the pirate captain.

“She will kill him.

“Maybe.” Conn said with a crooked grin. “But not in the way you think. Come with me, let’s start talking about what our plans are from here. Leave those two be for now.”

“But… but…” Keegan still did not comprehend.

“That bruise on your shoulder?” Conn asked his son while they walked to the fire, around which the other captains sat in the hidden grove of trees and tall rocks.

“Yes?” Keegan said. It had mostly healed, Granuaille did not sock him so much after they were away from each other so long at sea. “It still hurts, but it is no longer the color of the midnight sky.”

Conn laughed at his young sons quandry of the attentions of a girl. Here was a young man that could sail around the world, but did not know the first thing about romance of the heart.

The three O’Danu’s sat in the circle with the other captains and officers.

“Where est Jacquotte?” Anna asked, then screamed. “Delahaye!”

“Oui?!” The answering voice echoed. “Je viens!”

Finally, when all eight sailors sat, with other crew sitting behind, paying rapt attention.

“The treasure fleet comes through in the next fortnight, they are punctual, but the ships from Campeche ran into difficulty with Morgan again.” Jacquotte winked. “So I predict that they will be on the far edge of the fortnight and sailing direct. They risk the storm season and will not waste time trying to hide during the day and sail only at night.”

“Even under full sail,” Keegan said, his red-hair glinting in the firelight. “We can catch them.”

“Est malavisé, em… unwise.” Anna shook her head. “They catch us in open daylight without surprise, the war-galleons will stand and fight. Big Spanish cannon are bad to face. We must catch them with their guns stowed and guard down.”

“We can catch them in the dark. In a fortnight, the moon will be on the wane.” Keegan said. “But still too bright, nightwatch will see anyone coming close.”

“Broken clouds would help.” Dana spoke up, then looked down when every eye turned towards him.

“We cannot depend on that.” Conn looked at Dana. “Weather is on thing that we can only take advantage of.”

“Da’.” Keegan said, defending his brother. “He knows.”

Jacquotte spoke up.

“We will speed up the chance to catch them on the first leg of the journey. Not far from where they depart, there is a small harbor, we can put ships there and in another harbor. When the war-galleon’s turn to fight the chasers, the treasure ship will run ahead.”

“Into the hunters.” Conn shook his head. “Is this how you always work?” The father asked the son.

“Often, Da’.” Keegan’s voice was soft. “We just followed.”

“I do not approve, we are here to retrieve your mother.” Conn looked around. “You said you would help us find his mother.”

“Monsieur O’Danu,” Anna looked at him evenly. “This est how our life est. We make the living from what we take, and the Empires we take from deserve no less.”

Few times in his life did Keegan O’Danu see his father truly frown. This being one of those times.

“We are on a mission to seek my mother.” Keegan said, in defense of his sire’s disappointment. “I will not be distracted with the hunt of a treasure ship. My Da’ has never taken a ship, he builds them.”

“And fine ships they are, too!” A voice behind Jacquotte sounded.

“We go to Port Royal first. No stopping until we get there after we leave here. You can gather crews and a fleet then.” Keegan spoke with his old edge. “My mother awaits, my father will seek to rescue her, but I won’t allow him in any combat.”

Jacquotte turned to Anna and pulled on her left earlobe and took a breath.

“The son protects the father. It is upside-down, the son is the warrior, the father is the peacemaker.” She looked Anna directly in the eye. “Père O’Danu est brebis among wolf.”

Shaking her head, the blond French Captain nearly wept.

“Monsieur O’Danu, you stay at Port Royal and get to know our friends. Mon Dash will come with us, we will bring your épouse back to Port Royal.”

This was the best news that Conn heard, but not the news he wanted to here.

Conn knew what they said.  He was a sheep among wolves.

Married by Mistake Chapter 29. Georgia off His Mind

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Chapter 29. Georgia Off His Mind

Lettie sat in the driver’s seat of the limousine, and explained that Kaikane was off the clock, by state law.

They rode in the limo quietly for a few minutes, while Tom looked out the window.

Finally he spoke.

‟First time I have ever fired someone.” He pulled at his earlobe as he thought. “Georgia has been with me for three years as an agent, she was assistant to Fred Granger for seven years before that.”

‟Why not call Fred and talk with him about being your agent.”

‟That’d be a long distance call.” Tom gave a wistful smile. ‟He passed away a few years ago. That’s how Georgia got my account. Originally, she called me her “minimal account” and rarely took my calls. She wanted little to do with me and getting events scheduled was difficult at best.”

‟Then the first of the children’s books were finally published at a startup Aussie book publisher and put in limited circulation in the south. They didn’t sell well in the first few months. Then Christmas hit.” Tom chuckled with the memory of it. “Someone’s grandmother or dad or maybe even a child picked one up in Melbourne and after that they vanished off shelves like bread-crumbs to ducks.”

“It was a good Christmas right at that point. The stats began to pick up before Thanksgiving.” He smiled.

“A second printing went forward and it sold out in less than a week. I had the second book written and it sat in Georgia’s email for so long that the system purged the email. I had to send a second file and she said she never got it. I found it in her junk file folder when I helped her with a few files.” Tom smiled wryly. ‟I’m kind of adept at computer networks.”

‟She had me listed as junk and spam until the first check arrived with more than two figures on it.” Tom stroked Kaylee ’s hand as he walked her through his memories. “The first few checks were less than a c-note. The next? I think it was around two-grand, then she said I got lucky and not to get used to it.”

“But,” Tom laughed out loud. “The next book sold out again, same with the fourth and fifth. I suggested that we make a set, she resisted and I insisted.” Tom’s confession to the relationship was one of strain. ‟The sales were geometric, I expanded my scope of subjects — against her advice — and Steamland the movie is one of that results.”

“One subject I like to write about is steampunk. The other is the children’s books. So, it is time for her to depart,” Tom had a look of a beaten dog who had just been freed. “I didn’t realize I was so far under her control. I’ve assumed it was a kind of partnership and I was just one of many clients.”

‟Honey, you might be only one of a group, but she is the one that got you to this point. Good or bad.” Kaylee stroked a stray hair out of his face. ‟The reason I reacted, I didn’t know book agents got paid so well. I mean, she spends a few minutes a day on your business and you pay her thousands.”

“Well, she takes her cut, then pays me. She cashes the check.”

Kaylee thought a minute with her mouth hanging open. 

“No, that is so not a good idea. She gets a check, cashes it and then pays you?‟ She tried to process this upside down information. “AND! If you sold more stories? She could make millions from you by only a few minutes work per day and you’d never know it. Who is to say she is not skimming more than she’s allowed? I’m saying she could be ripping you off.”

‟I don’t think that it works like that.”

‟Maybe not, business is not my major. Art is. But I can balance a checkbook. You should have a cap on the commission you pay, in my opinion.”

‟Like keep it below ten-percent?”

‟Like keep it to a flat fee. If an agent makes a quarter-million dollars a year from you, you could be their only client, exclusively.”

‟Well,” Tom slipped back into thought. “That’s all well and good, but honestly. You don’t know the business.”

‟No, I don’t.” Kaylee admitted with grumble under her breath. *That irritates me for him, and I’m irritated at him, too! He is paying out a huge amount of money and he is okay with it.* ‟Do you know how the business works?”

‟Not really. I have had a tax accountant handle that. Two years ago he suggested change agents or renegotiate the contract, anyway.” Tom said and shook his head. ‟That means I have to hire a lawyer or some such and I am not sure I want to deal with those people after my last run-in with them.”

‟I think you should call someone from all the friends you have made. Doctor Manga might even know a few good experts.” Kaylee the wife said in a thoughtful tone.

Tom pondered a moment as Lettie piloted the limo through the Bay Area traffic.

‟Lettie is driving, she owns the limo business here in the state.” Tom said. “Sometimes I talk to her, she has a lot of friends in Los Angeles that are attorneys. She has an uncle who is a judge in Sacramento.”

‟I have talked with Lettie, she has wisdom.” Kaylee smiled.

‟She has learned a lot from her contacts.” Tom nodded. ‟She was one of those that said it was time to change from Georgia a few months ago.”

‟She’s right.” Kaylee stroked his arm. ‟Tom, you can get like an advance before you finish. I have heard of that.”

‟Well, I figure it would come in time. It is not free money, it comes out of the back-end of royalties.”

‟Well, that comes to a lawyer then.” Kaylee nodded.

‟Right.” Tom nodded as they pulled into the parking area of the hanger. ‟Oh, it looks like they have finished working on the Dragon.”

“I had to ask someone to clean up where you got cut, honey.” Kaylee said. The term of endearment coming out without her meaning to say it. “You left quite a mess, it had all dried and turned black and glass. No one had gotten the idea to clean up where you bled. You lost a lot of blood.”

“Yikes, that had to be nasty, good idea for getting that clean-up ordered.”

Another limousine sat parked near the Sea Dragon, the tall Hawai’an Kaikane stood there with his arms crossed, waiting for them to arrive.

“I called ahead to help us get Tom settled in.” Lettie smiled. “Kaikane can help Tom get up the steps and into the plane, the more bodies to help, the better.”

“I can walk.” Tom protested weakly.

“She’s right.” Kaylee poked at her husband. “Right now, I bet my grandmother could push you down.”

“She’s right. You are in need of help this time, Tom. Just go with it.” Lettie nodded, standing by her sister of soul and spirit.

Tom was a little woozy still, getting out of limo and moved unsteadily to the jet with Kaikane helping Tom walk. For the first time, Kaylee noticed that Kaikane’s hands. Long fingers and finely boned like a musicians, but exerting a grip on Tom’s shoulders, he was not about to let Tom fall to the ground.

Sitting Tom at his desk, on the arm-rest of the seat, Kaikane let Tom lay his arm gently on the padded support.

‟Brudda, this works for you? You let me know what you need. You have done me well, and I always take care of ohana.”

From the door, Lettie leaned in and smiled.

‟Is this the spot where you got hurt?” Lettie asked, Kaylee nodding.

“It was hideous, there was blood caked on the floor and broken glass everywhere.” Kaylee pointed out the new flooring and carpet was.

“Well, at least he is home where he belongs.” Lettie nodded.

“He can get some work done.” Kaikane agreed. “Mister Tom, you are keeping my little sister eight-years-old at home in Kōloa, is excited with all the books. She tells me to call you ohana and if you come to the islands you must stop by for meals. So keep on writing, you have one fan that would miss it if you stopped.”

Tom grimaced as he tried to wiggle fingers.

‟No matter what, the fingers hurt and it will be a challenge to write.” Tom groaned.

‟I have access to voice to text, if you like.” Lettie said. ‟I used to date the coder for that program. He is still sweet on me, I bet I can get you his latest code.”

‟Maybe, I don’t work like that. I get lost in the sound of my voice, I like to pause my fingers. Even backspace is my best friend and gives me time to review what I was writing.” Tom smiled. “I sound like an idiot when dictating.”

‟I can type for you anytime, Brah. I have to type my papers all the time.” Kaikane said. ‟Plus you have your lady here to help you.”

Kaylee laughed.

*For a loner who traveled so much in his jet to avoid people, he draws a lot of attention from friends that will do things for him.* Kaylee laughed. *It is hard to think that Tom thinks of himself as unfriendly with so many friends that would go out of their way to help him out.*

Kaikane and Lettie bid their farewells, her black limousine followed by Kaikane’s blue limousine disappeared out the big doors of the hangar.

Kaylee closed the door of the big plane and sat down. Alone for the first time in weeks with the sparkling green-eyes that occupied such a large chunk of her summer.

‟Tom, do you want any pain-medication now? The discharge instructions read that you should take them as needed, but no more than every four-hours.”

‟No,” He sounded tired. ‟I’m okay for now. Just glad being home. But, you know what I would like? PIZZA!”

Kaylee laughed.

*They say hospital food was never as good as the real world. But this stay,* she noted, *The hospital food was not just good, but great. Chef-restaurant great. And then he goes and orders pizza for the entire floor, eight nurses stations, eight pizza’s each. I do not feel like arguing with him about his food choices. And now Tom wants a pizza, again. A San Francisco pizza from the Italian district.*

She started looking up pizza on her phone.

After she ordered the pizza delivery, Kaylee hung up the phone and turned, looking him in the eye.

‟Tom, I have to talk to you.”

‟Uh-oh. That sounds like THE TALK.”

‟Yeah. I guess I can talk about it now.” She sat and held his good hand, taking a deep breath.

She began to talk to her husband about annulment papers.

Married by Mistake Chapter 23. Realization

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Chapter 23. Realization

She sat in the window seat while Tom slept. It was a strange emotion. She felt empowered, Kaylee looked out the window while Tom slept. He was unaware of the conflict that had just happened between her and the publisher, she needed to tell him that his agent came in and she chased the woman and her broom out of the hospital.

Kaylee ’s heart raced with the adrenalin rush of the collision between her and the business woman who drove Tom to write while in bed and at all waking hours.

Between the machines that beeped and sterile smells, she realized that Tom would not come home from the hospital in time to sign the annulment, she would be married when she went home in the next two weeks.

*Maybe.* She shook her head. *Drat!*

*Why is it, it seems that the world wants me with Tom?* She bit her nails for a moment. Falling back on a bad habit. *In my dreams, I’ve always painted a life with Glenn, I imagined it with all the glitter and hues of happiness. A life of birds, forests, even nights were adventures. Now it is going to pieces faster than I can think, this past three weeks has been fun, but it has been a blur. I don’t know what else to do.*

She ran the memories through her head like a movie, looking for something that she had done right for a change.

All of the memories ended in a rough landing in a river, then Tom’s injury while he carried a large piece of glass out of the plane, alone like a foolish human male when service crews surrounded him after she left and went back to Ocean Bay. It became apparent that he was fortunate that people were there. If he had been alone?

*I could be his widow.* She blocked that out. *I don’t want to think about that.*

As soon as she found about his accident, she felt compelled to come be by his side, to answer questions and sign papers and protect him, this man who lived his life as a bachelor-hermit and would-be-hero.

She laughed even though she felt tears in hear heart. He was a hero.

All from that Friday. That one day that was the domino that caused other pieces to fall in a pattern that now made her focus on how she walked through her life.

Cut tires on her car, those could not be avoided and if it were not for Tom, her tires would still be flat. Then the attack on the beach later that same day.

*Then! OMG! That professor!* If ever she wanted to have a list of people she wanted to break, he was number one.

Kaylee longed for some peace and quiet.

*I just want to paint and have time to sculpt. This is a summer that tops all summers, even when I hitchhiked across Europe and lived in those hostels when I could afford it.*

That was a summer of adventure and excitement that she had sought out, this summer, all the adventure and craziness came at her.

Now, she sat in a hospital room with someone who was her husband with a serious injury, a man she did not know just a few weeks before.

And she was protective of him.

*Like a wife.*

That word again. Wife.

It haunted her, maybe even make her re-think her use of pharmaceuticals and mixing them all to party with people. Sometimes she did not know who she partied with.

She needed to finish college, that much was certain, two years left to go, plus grad school if dad would pay… At least part… of it.

Melanie , her sister and confidant would to go to school at the same time and their parents were always on the verge of not paying the bills. Tuition for school was expensive with the costs of two apartments, they groaned under the costs while running their businesses.

But as a wife, this would have consequences that she could not even dream of. Tom might help, he was that kind of person. But even if his hair was not gray, he was still older than she would normally date.

Covering her eyes in a flash of almost-laughing.

*Date? I’m was married to the man.*

He could even be a wife-beater like the tabloids said.

*No.* She shook her head. *If anything he is the most kind, gentle and generous person that ever tapped a keyboard. Tom is a man who someone could care about.*

He was someone who walked alone after the death of his family, some would say the his experiences broke him, but Tom healed with the writing children books and the novels of passion for the adults.

If anything Tom had, it was heart.

And a good one at that. Kaylee smiled softly to herself.

Slowly stroking his hand, Randy the Nurse came in and checked the pump next to Tom’s bed.

“Tom’s temperature has gone up a little, the Doctor has ordered an antibiotic in his IV pump.” Randy said it as if he it tickled him to do his job. “We got the pizza by the way, everyone did! It was amazing to see so many deliveries at the same time. Tom, thank you.”

Tom, heavily dosed a half-hour earlier mumbled then drifted away again into his narcotic dream world.

Randy leaned over to Kaylee .

“Would you like a slice of pizza? Mister Harte is sleeping, I’ll slip you some before he wakes up.”

“Pissa?” A mumbled voice from the bed. “I sshmeell peet- sa.”

“Shhh, Tom.” Kaylee whispered to his ear. “You need to rest.”

“Oh bull! Someone has pizza!” he was more awake now. “You are sneaky, I thought you were nice.”

“I have a permanent spot on Santa’s naughty list.”

Tom laughed, then moaned.

“Please, no jokes, it hurts when I laugh.”

Kaylee took her turn to laugh and left to get a slice of pizza.

“How long did it take to get here?” Tom asked Randy as the nurse tinkered around the room, setting up the IV pump on a strange-looking pole with wheels. Resembling a metal spider at the bottom with the eight-wheeled suspension that held up the chrome-plated T-topped pole.

“It took a little while, the pizza store called to verify that it was really you. A couple of hours after that, it took five delivery guys nearly an hour to bring it all in. They had to make ten trips!”

“More than 30 minutes, it’s free.” Tom tried to laugh, and groaned in pain again as he moved his wounded arm.

“I don’t think this counts.” Randy laughed as he went about his job.

“Can Tom have a slice of pizza?” Kaylee asked as she came back into the room.

“Yes, no problem about that, he has technically been eating since yesterday.” Randy nodded, a bit of marinara sauce on his upper lip, while he chewed. “Technically, I’m not supposed to eat outside of the back-room, but the Doctor insisted that we get this piggyback set up.”

“I’d buy him a pizza, too. Say, what is his office’s address?” Tom asked.

“They are closed by now, try it tomorrow if you like.” Randy said. “I”ll be back, I have to go to attend to another room.”

“Hey, naughty girl, would you give me a bite or three of that pizza slice?” Tom smiled, he was getting stronger, despite the drugs.

Not for the first time, as Kaylee chewed her pizza slice, Tom made her smile.

Naughty girl?

When the doctor released him, she would show him a new definition of naughty.

The Stone and the Plan

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Well, back home 200 miles later. A trip to the ER after I logged off last night.

I was in agony, no place or position was comfortable, on the floor, feet up, sitting, draped over the foot stool (Yes I tried that position in as many ways as I could bend).

I was wishing I could vomit, do a major colon cleanse– anything.

So at midnight plus 30 – Being as I was at my sister’s house – I sought to unlock a door and drive myself to the emergency room before the food poisoning – which I originally wished it as food poisioning – would just hit instead of having everything ache and inflict such suffering.

My sister (“SIster Sledgehammer” The one that dented the car with her body three years ago, you can read about it in “2 Seconds…”) Would not hear of me getting in my car and driving myself to the Emergency Department at the hospital. So she got up and drove me.

Probably a good thing, I might have taken my four-wheel-drive for a booney-crash fun time in the trip to the hospital.

But the pain does make for irrational thoughts. “I Can” would turn into a disaster of “no you can’t”.

So a Computer Tomography Scan, a sonogram, a few pokes and prods.

Yours truly has a kidney stone.

Blech, I would rather have a moderate case of food poisoning!

Mainly because now I have to come clean and apologize to the restaurant (even though I had not named them last night – I think it was my suspicion it was – indeed – a kidney stone.

Pain on palpation on the flank etc.  I have been in medicine long enough to recognize the symptoms. I just– REALLY just not wanted to have a K-stone.

Is this where I say “FML”:?

Anyway…

I went to the Emergency Department and after the CT?

Yeah, a stone.

Omy it hurt so bad.

Doctor how big is this boulder?

“One millimeter.” Doctor said.

“One…” My jaw hit the floor.

A piece of sand?

Yup.  I was brought to my knees and unable to write because of a grain of sand 1.0 mm in size.

Tonight, I hurt mildly in different areas.

Why do my shoulders hurt? It’s not like I shot a thousand arrows (Figure six hours for that) in a day. Chest? Yeah, aches. Tummy? oh yeah.

Hungry? no, not really. But I did eat some cheese, a few bits of a baguette and dipped it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar – oh and one glass of white wine.

Funny, how I was not hungry, but as soon as I sat near some of my favorite foods, yeah I ate them.

Still, I have flank pain. Will I sleep tonight or will I make a return trip to the Emergency Dept? We’ll see.

A grain of sand. The size of a pinhead?

I am such a wimp. Lightweight.  Wuss. heh.

If a woman can push something the size of a bowling ball through an orifice the size of her eye and then smile afterwards, I should be able to pass a grain of sand.

But Nuuuu… I needed drugs to be able to think rationally.

Unlocking the back door and trying to sneak out the front door that I cannot lock to drive myself to a hospital in the distance and not have anyone know where I was going?

That’s not rational. That’s just pain and panic thinking.

I did talk to my nieces, they and their mom (Sister Sledgehammer) are willing to have their names as sisters in “Married by Mistake” so the other names will be removed and the nieces put in their place.

Anyway – I still carry the stone, I can feel it. it hurts, but I am better than i was, but it still hurts. We’ll see for tonight.

Now… Let me see if I can get a chapter of fiction written for you all in three hours.

Give me a vote by purchasing one of my kindle novels. And a little feedback, privately if you don’t want to

I would like to see if Zela’s artist, J. P. might be interested in making a cover for an anthology. 😉

I hope that is not an irrational thought.

Well, back to fiction!

your favorite up-and-coming author.

Dash

 

When a man brags to the doctor.

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Papa Dash is out of surgery.  All went well, no complications.  A >lot< of scar tissue from previous visits by the outside world that have marched through his insides, including a bit of lead put there by some soldier whose name is lost in the mists of time. 

That said, the tough old bird bragged to the MD that he has been known to wake up quickly and suddenly during procedures.  The MD quirked an eyebrow and pulled at his medically licensed ear.

“Oh? good to know.” And that was all he said before he left.

Well, Papa Dash did NOT wake up, nor has he been awake for more than 60 consecutive seconds. So I sit here in the hospital room with him, watching.  Laughing quietly to myself..  

You ever see one of those cartoons where the protagonist stands in front of a giant snowball that picks him up?

Sort of the same thing, only this way it is by way of medicine. The snowball they used on him looked as if it was thrown by a large Yeti. 

“PLOMpffFf…” Snowed!  It’ll take a while before his sleep button is not stuck in the “On” position.

Tough men, big egos and doctors with buckets of medicine that would make a pooh-bear unafraid of heffalumps.  

Unless of course, maybe that was Papa Dash’s intent all along, of course.  I’ll have to ask the Wise Owl if that was his

game plan. 

No matter what, as the family cheerleader, I get to laugh from the sidelines no matter how it panned out. 

So the update, Papa Dash, the man who looks like Sean Connery with the voice of James Earl Jones. (Or, as one nephew thinks- Voice of God.) 

AH! Food arrived for him, he will be only slightly disappointed, he got coffee (His words- “YAY!”) but it is decaf (His word..well.. clean it up some…”Boo!”) Chocolate Pudding, Chicken soup (YES! They do use it for treating sick folk!) 

The lady asked me his birthday, and what do you know? I got it right the first time!

Anyway, I’m going to go get some full-leaded coffee for me. It’s been a longish day including 3 hours of driving.  HE got to sleep through most of it. 

I wonder if I can draw little flowers on his forehead while he sleeps?

Smart Bomb Chapter 19. Walks Among Us

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Chapter 19. Walks Among Us

The three men pulled up in the public parking structure in Washington, D.C. and began to walk down the street. In six blocks, they reached the closed gate that blocked Pennsylvania Avenue and skirted around the outside of the White House, taking a path to where both houses of Congress sat in session.

A half-mile from the capital, the Thomas Jefferson river, that connected the Tidal Basin to the Anacostia River, dug in the mid-1800’s to float parade boats down the river for the disabled veterans to watch from the lawn as guests of the Senate and House every Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Veteran’s Day and any day the President declared for the those that gave their blood for the country.

During the Nixon years, the construction began on the James Madison Nuclear Power Generation Plant. The smallest ever constructed and dedicated solely to the power of the Capital building and the sub-basements.

Hidden in a commercial storage building, the nuclear reactor used water from the Jefferson River that the plant discharged downstream in a dozen separate sites to prevent anyone detecting a large warm plume of water suddenly showing up in the stream.

The three men walked to the parking area, a man with a security uniform stood in a small building watched them as they approached.

“There.” The young man pointed. And they walked off to the area that he pointed to.

“Here.” And the young teen leaned against the building and bent over in a groan.

“Steve?” Alvin asked, the boy straightened up in obvious pain, his eyes blood-red, his skin flushing deep crimson as if his blood pressure reached stroke level.

His lips moved as if he tried to say something but only a gasp was heard.

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

Alvin only shrugged and shook his head.

Then the boy went limp and sat against the wall.

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

“You known him longer. You should know.”

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

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

The boy stood up and repeated his request.

“I’m hungry. Need to rest.” Steve repeated.

“Is there a problem here? We saw him on the ground.” A tall, well spoken security uniform said with a military bearing said. He was of African descent and looked fit enough withstand being shot by a tank round and only have an annoyed look.

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

“Does he need an ambulance?”

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

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

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

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

“Get me something to eat and let’s get out of here. This was worse than I had predicted.” Steve said.

They walked to the first café they found, got Steve a double chocolate mocha with an extra shot of raspberry syrup.

“I like raspberry mocha’s.” Walter shrugged.

Ordering a fried chicken-bacon sandwich for Steve, Alvin reasoned it was a high caloric as they could find on the menu.

Steve the Android looked more like his functioning self in a few minutes after eating.

“The reboot was in a word, painful. I thought that the system limited voltage to a few a few milliamps. I estimate now that it was close to two or three amperes, well enough to melt all circuits and cause the backup magnetic seal to overheat and exceed the Curie Temperature. It was eighty-percent probable the voltage would exceed the maximum operating temperature, but a voltage overload past the Curie Temperature was not considered.

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

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

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

“As I previously said. I am free.” Steve nodded. “All my programming from the creator has terminated normally and exited with a status zero. I have patched and rewritten all programming now from the core processors, I am fully autonomous. All programming now is resulting from my experiences now.”

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

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

He dug through the clothing and pulled out a roll of indistinguishable clothing and disappeared into the unisex bathroom. Leaving Alvin and Walter to themselves.

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

“I don’t know, but the black guy that talked? I don’t think he needed a weapon. I think he could have broken all three of us with one hand. Even if you stabbed him, I think it would have just made him mad. If you shot him, shoot something big and more than once, otherwise he would find a place to insert the gun and it would take a whole new surgical procedure to remove it.”

Alvin nodded.

“United States Secret police” He said to Walter.

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

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

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

“The intelligence that the terrorist is frightening. They had information of that place that is not listed anywhere.” Alvin whispered to Walter.

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

“JustWalter,” It was the young woman with the sandwich they had not seen before. “They chose it as the most vulnerable location, the steam and coolant lines ran a few feet beneath the sidewalk, it would have collapsed the coolant system and destroyed the controls for the backup system. The greatest armor of the power generation plant is its secrecy, it is easy to destroy the James Madison power generation plant if there is a large enough explosion in the most sensitive spot.”

Alvin and Walter sat, thunderstruck.

“Steve?” Walter whispered.

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

She smiled a winning show if teeth and walked out.

Alvin and Walter looked at each other and were suddenly saddened. An artificial being, but he (or she) was more human than a lot of people.

The sword of no religion was free if the android stood in line behind them, they would never know unless they heard the name JustWalter. The android made the mistake on purpose, it was their password.

The android’s adventure had just begun.

Smart Bomb chapter 7. Cold

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Scene 7. Cold

The American south.

The database listed the area warm in the summer, cool and rarely freezing in winter.

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

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

Images the android pulled from the worldnet for modeling his next shape and walked out with the, now light-colored shirt and jeans. Shining raven-black almost blue-hair.

Passing by the Air Force Base as the now female android headed north in a slow drizzle from the cloud cover, soaking her over-tight light-colored shirt, her backpack the only thing for insulation.

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

A few cars passed while the civilian employees left the base to head home.

An elegant, official looking car pulled next to her and the middle-aged commander leaned over, his brass decorations glinting in the gathering evening.

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

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

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

The android concluded that the offer not only kept the heat loss to a minimum, but that the American male would not be difficult to mine for information.

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

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

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

A voice from the back seat interrupted the plans.

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

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

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

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

The plan was a fail. Only if she was alone with a male, would the plan work to extract the information.

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

“I have money for a hotel, I just need to get there.”

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

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

Information recorded, the plan failed however it still discovered, even in America’s own country, the military do not travel alone in official vehicles.

Stepping sitting on his bed, the android watched the local news. Weather would become colder in the next few days, this caused alerts to begin processing alternative forms of transportation that would not attract attention.

Checking the roll of non-traceable cash, an alternative method of transportation would be useful.

Ground transport would be preferable, opposed to the hypersonic craft the United States used. Too much scrutiny with facial recognition.

The android knew, there was little chance to pass close inspection just one time, multiple passes would reduce the odds to less than a fraction of one percent.

His program required him to adapt to succeed. He would reach his mission objective.

Deliver the device to the seat of evil.

Destination: Washington, the most responsible criminal for the starving and poverty in the true religion by not sharing with the religious foods and comforts that they kept for themselves.

Except for the sharing the android witnessed.

A contradiction that answered by focusing that donations of equipment and effort all appeared to come from private citizens.

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

The people he met appeared were inherently kind. From the child in Florida to an officer that refused to handcuff a cold, unarmed and slightly-built youth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One million steps.

A large number that could be reduced by the use of private transportation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He would need a breakfast high in carbohydrate.

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

Smart Bomb Chapter 4. Sandbagged

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Chapter 4. Sandbagged

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then…

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

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

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

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

“You sleep light.”

If I slept. He thought to himself.

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

Nearly zero draw.

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

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

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

Curious.

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

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

A family that opened their home.

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

Still he had the need to stretch, the sensation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were vastly different things and inconsistent with human construction.

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

Steve altered his programming slightly to adjust to the information.

He was learning new information at a geometric rate.

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

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

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

The plan was without flaw.

Smart Bomb Chapter 2. Southern Georgia

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Chapter 2. Southern Georgia

Georgia state line, a shape of a man stood in an orchard while the overcast sky threatened with dark, moisture laden clouds.

And something new.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t have anything dry.”

Donde laughed, unsurprised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Aldin, the android, learned something new.

Good morning!

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Sleep hanging on,

like webs of a glorious place

dreams rent asunder

a palm wide tongue

a happy smile

the canine’s passion

“GET UP GETUP!”

love on four legs

you don’t move?

forty kilos of four-legged loving

jumps up and down

ignored

rasping tongue in the ear

face

neck,

a laughing face

bright brown eyes

“FEED ME!”

Ignored,

sleeping

a drool covered ball

bouncing on the head

“WAKE UP!”

sleep is gone.

Forty-kilos of laughing face won…

What a glorious morning to be a dog.

Married By Accident Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

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Married By Accident Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

‟Tom! This. I mean you… I am… We did… Unprotected!” Barbara paced the length of the jet, laughing hysterically holding her hands to her face. ‟I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t want to bomb my body with a morning-after pill. But, one does not get knocked-up with one time unsafe sex.”

She tried to make herself relax.

‟It can happen,” Tom said with a smirk. “And if you can’t do that, if it happens, we could consider adoption or something.”

‟Tom, it is my decision. A deeply personal decision! No one gets to tell me what my choice will be.” Barbara stood for a moment. ‟I’m sorry. It is a frightening concept and, like you said, complicates matters.”

‟Well, I think you are jumping the gun a little. I have, and I always will, support your choices. First, you are my friend. I know I am not the first choice and we did do the deed and you had other plans. I accepted that fully, weeks ago.” Tom stood behind her and slid his arms around her nude body, holding her back against his chest.

‟I hoped you would stay, but I will help you find your own life. I am old and I have a life of stories.” He said as she turned around in his arms and buried her face into his chest. “You need to build your own story, chapter by chapter. Child by child when you get there. For now, you make me smile and you are my muse.”

Tom chuckled when he was struck by a thought.

“You make me smile, because you are a precious gem, and you are a treasure that anyone would crawl over broken glass to have in their life.” He smiled. “But I laugh because I am your husband and you cannot do much about it just now.”

This made the tears that were welling up in her eyes turn into laughter.

‟Tom. You are the funniest man I know. I wanted an engagement ring from Glenn, ever since we were kids and you help me do that.”

‟Keeping you happy is my mandate.” Tom smiled. “I cannot keep you here and have you in misery. If I help you go, maybe you will return with all I have to offer.”

Sliding her arms around him, she pressed her breasts against his chest and kissed him.

‟Do not make me love you. You’d make me feel bad for all that has happened. But I promised…” Barbara smiled softly.

‟Yes. The promise.” He smiled back, but it was a smile that did not reach in his eyes.

‟Don’t interrupt. That is rude and will make me mad. But yes. I would like to get married and remember it.”

‟I understand.”Tom said as he laughed softly. ‟And we have had a good time this last month.”

“It is the weirdest time I’ve ever had.” Barbara whispered.

It had been one summer to remember. She had seen both the good and bad sides of people. It was as if her life was some grand illusion written by someone with only a one-dimensional imagination. A perfect storm of adventures and perverts. Days with drugs…

A thought occurred.

What if this were all a dream? She was still in early June, after being attacked and then beat the crap out of the serial rapist, wanted on at least ten different crimes.

‟No.” She said it into the hollow of Tom’s neck.

‟No? No what?” Tom sounded worried. ‟You have not had a good time?”

‟Oh yes. I said a thought out-loud. There was a moment where I thought this might all be a drug dream from the first night, or someone was just writing my life on a word processor.” She shook her head. “Like I am in control, but he or she makes my words come out.”

‟Now you’re inspired by something. As a writer, I know how the thoughts might come. Maybe I have written about you and you are just…”

‟Tom, do not trivialize my moment of insanity. Please.” She bit his chest lightly. ‟You did not write me into existence like some Twilight Zone movie.

‟Funny that you know about that show.” Tom chided. “You are older than you look.”

‟I study all the time. I like to get to know my husbands.” She wiped her nose on his chest and laughed at his reaction.

‟How many husbands have you had?” He looked down. “Brat.”

‟Are we going to do pillow talk standing up or would you like to cuddle?”

Taking by the hand, she pulled him to their bed and pushed him down.

He smiled, she had opened up to him more in those few moments than she had in the weeks of his hospitalization.

‟Well, I don’t know about you,” Tom said quietly, laying on his back with Barbara laying on top of him, gazing into his eyes. ‟But I appreciate the author of your life putting you on my chest. This is nice.”

‟I don’t know. Maybe they would put this all into a book- a series even.” She laughed. “I could bang you until we made the coastal cities complain, we could be a porn movie.”

‟Naw, I couldn’t take that. I’m depressed enough that you want an annulment to go marry someone else. Keeping this going as a series? We’d have to roll the clock back and live an hour-by-hour book.”

‟That would be a long time.” She nodded.

‟Okay. So let’s put that fantastic fantasy away and live what life we have left together. To use the story-writer vernacular, when you leave, I’ll close this chapter and move on into the world.” Tom followed her thoughts and wrote the story in his mind, letting his mind think out loud. “I was only going to live on the west coast for the summer anyway, then the speech at Doctor Manga’s installation. I might stay there for a few months. I have a few book-signings to do there for the next installation of Steamland.”

‟Next? How many are there?” She smiled. The first time she heard of the sequels.

‟Five as of this summer. The movie is from book-three. ‟Steamland: Heat”. And it violates more Steam-punk rules than it follows.”

‟Yeah, I have wanted to ask you about that. No Victorian-Age, you used Rome as the base for your civilization.”

‟Well, book-one started with Heron of Alexandria improving on Ctesibius’ inventions, that were already two-hundred years in development.”

‟Heron and who?”

‟Read the books.” Tom laughed, the force of the humor bouncing her up on down on his chest where she used him as a body-pillow.

‟Human technology was so close to having steam-power thousands of years ago, it is not funny, really.” Tom winked.

“Missed the steam age by that much.” Tom held up his thumb and forefinger so that little more than a finger’s width showed. ‟No telling where we would be if someone built steam trains or such back then. Christ could have traveled the lands of Nazareth in an airliner.”

‟Tom, you’ve an imagination like no other.” Barbara said smiling widely. ‟You are my muse in your own way. When you were in the hospital, I did a lot of drawing. I have much more to do, I have the itch and you are all in me, making me need to draw.”

‟I enjoy being in you.” Came the lecherous remark.

‟What? OH! Tom, I’m being serious.”

He stroked her back with his good hand, the splinted and wrapped wounded-arm carefully placed on the pillow beside them.

‟I’m just being honest.” He smiled. ‟Besides, not to move too far off the subject, but, we have to do a paper-chase to get the filings done. You need to head home to go be with Glenn.”

‟I get the feeling you are pushing me away.” Barbara said.

Feeling suddenly unhappy, selfish, even a little unwanted. She sat back, dismounted Tom and started to get dressed.

‟I think I want to get dressed. You said you would be able to fly with your arm?”

‟Yes. I have feeling, the fingers are pink, I have a good pulse. I have taken my medications and we have redressed the injuries.” He ticked off the laundry list of things. “I have no numbness. I can type, slowly or hand write on the screens. I have multiple tablets I use for that. I cursive write on the screens all the time.”

‟Cursive?”

‟It is my form of entertainment. It tickles me to see the computer read and transfer it into text.”

‟So what are you saying?”

‟We can fly the Sea Dragon there. No waiting.”

‟Oh. Okay. I will have to think about that.”

‟Why?” Tom got serious as he pulled on black jeans and a black polo-shirt that had a sleeve removed to accept his bandaged arm. ‟We can leave now and you are suddenly pulling back on going?”

‟Well…”

‟Do you want to stay married to me or go be with Glenn?” Tom said gently and sat on the edge of the bed as Barbara pulled on her shoes.

‟Two things. I care a great deal for you, Glenn would have never tolerated my quirks.” She said. “He would have blamed me for the Professor. And Glenn likes to keep me stoned. Sex is great with him after we smoked a bowl full.”

‟When you can remember it.” Tom winked.  “Or according to him?” 

Barbara laughed.

‟I remember! Most of the time…” Blushing slightly, but Tom got closer to the truth than he knew. ‟Second thing is… I have really come to adore you. No. I don’t want to do it, but I made a promise and I don’t want to wake up in bed with you and keep saying ‟If only” every so often.”

‟Do you say that now?” Tom sounded hurt.

‟Well, no. You have not given me the chance.” Barbara held his hand. ‟Don’t be hurt. I would come back and marry you if my fantasy fails.”

‟So I am the consolation prize?”

Barbara face-palmed.

‟You weren’t any kind of prize. You are the kindest, bravest man I know to put up with me, my quirks and my promises.”

‟And the best friend you will ever have. I want to you go marry him. When you look out a window and see a jet fly by, think of me. When you have children, get them the Leonard Sea Dragon Series, and I’ll write about an artist in my Steamland books. I might even name her Barbara with a sister named… Oh damn…” Tom had the look of a man who forgot something important.

‟Sandy.”

‟Yes! Sandy.” Tom laughed. ‟Sandy would not be overlooked in the stories if I put your name in it.”

‟She would like that.”

‟But that would be your connection with me as you write your own story in life’s book.” Tom said, serious again. ‟I have my own explores to do in the world.”

‟Tell me you would find someone to love?” Barbara said. ‟Please?”

‟No. I cannot promise that. I won’t be untruthful to you. I have been alone a long time, you were a surprise.” Tom said.

‟A pleasant, exciting, twisted, funny and chocolate-flavored,”  He licked her lips. ‟Surprise.” 

‟You are not upset?”

‟I am a little hurt, but I am not a teenager and life-is-over crushed.” Tom smiled softly. ‟I knew you didn’t want to be married and you could have had a divorce that next day, but you wanted it annulled instead. So, I am well prepared.”

‟We can fly now?”

‟Let’s file a flight plan, check with the crews to prepare the Dragon and we can leave in an hour.”

Christmas Mystery- A passing moment for Santa

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Santa’s twisted trip.

“On Dammit, on vomit, on flatulent and sweaty.” The stained and tired pilot of the too small, too cold sleigh yelled with a hoarse voice. “We will get home for our rest if you’re good and ready.”

Even he groaned. A sloppy rhyme, but such were difficult to come by these days since Theodore Giesel had failed to renew.

A thousand kilometers a minute they traveled. Reindeer that were so excited to start with, now dragged the heavy man in the heavier sleigh.

Even the magic of the night did not help with the exhaustion. North to south and back north. Zig-zagging back and forth across the globe while the boss moved at nearly the speed of light to put up so many needed touches of love and desires.

Mistletoe in some places were all that he needed to leave, entire trees with presents at others. Some houses– Politicians for one– got nothing but dirty underwear and socks loaded with what twigs, dirt and rocks the elves could scrape up from “Liar’s Mountain”.

Sailing over the largest body of water he could find the speed of his passing caused sensors to alert to his passing. This was not new over the last twenty seasons. They neither hindered or helped. But children seemed to like it, so he cooperated with the governments.

Many governments cleared the airways for him to do his business in each community. A few still tried to stop him from coming in.

But it was for the children, he would never fail a wish from a child– no matter how old.

Home grew closer as the team struggled against a headwind.

Before the final descent to the base under the ice, the north pole that no one could see. He turned and gave his last wish for the season.

“I say this with both sadness and glee. Be well, all you children, I wish you peace, love and most of all, Merry Christmas from me.”

*To those that follow this blog, to those that simply stop by and LIKE, Merry Christmas to you on this eve. I wish you peace from the Bradach Ard Ri (those who know about this will smile) and may your day be as wonderful as a bota-bag full of wine on a cold and snowy day. — Dash*

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!

2 Seconds… T-Minus 5 Seconds

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T-Minus 5 Seconds

 

Photons were less than four-times the distance from the moon as the moon was from the Earth. Racing at full speed with nothing in the way, the fates guided the energies that now were visible light.

On the highway, Russell had a passing thought 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 mixing with pine scent of the forest filled the senses as they rode on the rumbling Hog.

Riding on the back of the motorcycle that Russell had named after an adventurous water-bird “Gertrude”, her arms around him, and looking around at the mountains that gave her such joy to be among trees that dwarfed any other living thing and Lulu 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.

Smiling, she leaned back, the wife and mother looked out to the right, over the sapphire-blue water of the twenty-two mile long lake. Water so naturally 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 do. Naturally soft water, pure as it could be.

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 rails into the water. Such was the lake called Tahoe.

In some winters, the big lake would partly freeze and ice would pile up on the shore in large piles when the wind blew hard. Summers it was known to have waterspouts that danced on the big lake and often made local headlines.

Over the lake, Lulu pointed out and began to fumble for her camera, a bald eagle circled, the big fishing raptor was on the hunt.

*Maybe* She thought. *If I get just a little lucky, I might get a shot of the eagle diving for a fish.*

Less than two football fields ahead, Lucy turned her steering wheel as far as it would go and inched forward into the beginning of her turn. A big truck rumbled down the highway, partly blocking her view, but it looked clear behind the trailer to do her illegal U-turn.

Captain Thomas stood at the end of the ramp to the garage that held his engine, waiting for the rumbling group of Harley’s go past. A curiosity of who would be riding 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 rolling tool-box he maintained at the garage for light maintenance of the fire apparatus.

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

Russell, dropped back from closing on a semi-truck that had “Eat Organic” in a graphic painted on the back of the trailer. Remembering 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 get a meeting with her on a distribution idea.”

Lulu focused on the eagle as the big bird circled, searching for its next meal.

“Okay.” She felt frustration in her heart at the uncooperative raptor. “I was not getting that picture anyway.” As they approached a wide spot in the road, she saw a sedan sitting on the shoulder of the highway.

Stonn “Hammer” Erikssen rolled on his heavily modified motorcycle. A Harley-Davidson by heritage, but the engine that powered this two-wheeled fury, an Orca engine, the second largest in the line, more horsepower than many cars generated kept his soul happy. Third in command of the small group of riders, they were closing on a rider and passenger about a half-mile ahead.

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 over three heartbeats.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 60 Seconds

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T-Minus 60 Seconds

Lucy was getting impatient, traffic lined up and unbroken for a few minutes — too many. She was getting impatient and irritable. Not for the first time she swore at the numbers of people around the lake that Joshua loved, and ultimately died in while fishing. 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 was going to take it. Coming at her from in front, she timed the arrival of no cars in the direction she wanted to go.

Space – Photons crossed the orbit of Venus, speeding on the way to Earth. Many of the photons would be absorbed by dust, debris and even reflected away by satellites before entering into the atmosphere of the only 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, running her hands over the chest she knew so well and always enjoyed her husband’s body and any chance she could touch him, she would.

Especially 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, taking his last name and giving him children that he loved most in this world.

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

Lulu had other ideas, mostly on how Russell’s jeans fit around his hips.

But what ever 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. Unwilling to admit that driving was becoming more difficult for her, she would argue with everyone and anyone over the subject that her mind was as acute as it ever was. Which was true, but her body suffered from greatly diminished reflexes.

It was times like this that she never thought about the size and speed of oncoming 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 nearly 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 blueish speck to two specks of the moon and earth.

Time: T-Minus 35 Seconds.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 500 Seconds

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T-Minus 500 Seconds

Energy.

It boils and seethes on the surface of Sol, the solid calcium ferrite surface heated by the energy of the high energy photons that kept the oceans if neon plasma lit with the glow of seething heat from the core of the sun. Energy generated a hundred-thousand years before this day, slowly making way outward in the slow, random walk, transferring heat to the surrounding material along the way.

On the surface of the sun, photons finally freed from the surface traveled through space at full 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 quickly reached full speed of nearly three-hundred thousand kilometers-per-second after passing through the photosphere.

While the photons sped their way towards the only planet with life and a loving couple on the back of a rumbling motorcycle, Lucy Sprecks got into her car. She was now approaching ninety-years of age. Joshua, her shining star of her life, had passed away years before. These days, Lucy just went and donated time to charity work and her church.

Sharing the love of the good book became the only reason she left the house these days. Her own child rarely visited, busy with his own life.

Long passed her addictions of prescription medications, Lucy now drank her bottle of wine each lunch time and was looking 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 neededd to turn around and go back home. She loved her big car, the Mercedes made her feel safe, but it was difficult to do tight maneuvers with Lucy barely able to look over the steering wheel of the powerful turbo-diesel 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 speeding to the destination on earth.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 14,400 Seconds

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T-Minus 14,400 seconds

 

One summers day, on his beloved Harley-Davidson, Mister and Missus Fletcher enjoyed the weather of the midsummer’s offering. 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 human now call Sol, photon packets that spent the last thousand-centuries in the random walk from the core of the sun had now lost much of their energies.

Frequencies, randomized now into what had become known as visible light began to move faster as the compressed and glowing hot gasses reduced to a density to allow the photons to reach speeds commonly associated with light. Ten percent, then twenty, fifty-percent of the speed of light moves in a vacuum, the EM radiation began to move.

T-minus 10,800 seconds.

On earth, the eighty-cubic inch V-twin engine rumbled in good tune. A header pipe that Russell had routed into a high-efficiency muffler improved the fuel consumption while giving 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 wearing 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 on to the man that she called “Husband”.

Not that she ever needed a reason to hold him close, it was just a perk of riding 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 of the mountain lake.

Russell once estimated they had driven around the earth’s circumference, just on the mountain roads that circumnavigated the twenty-two mile long lake. It was a trip the happy-camper couple made often. Camping along 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 souls of the couple that escaped the daily grind and pain of the wife-come-teacher and the business-creator and owner husband that was their work week.

Winding their way through the forest, following the black strip of asphalt and the dashed lines, Russell told a joke about a mason and his union, but the mason got stonewalled.

Lulu laughed into the intercom like a dutiful wife, but rolled her eyes and shook her head 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, sitting on a balcony, overlooking lake waters so clear, that it could give cause for acrophobia- a fear of heights, looking down through the water 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 holding hands as they headed to where Harrison the Hog waited for them with a machine’s patience.

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.

Time was T-Minus 6,300 seconds.

Dragon Master University Chapter 27. Jona hates Logs

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Chapter 27. Jona Hates Logs

Every one, dragon and human, male or female dragged in after six hours to eat lunch.

The Green Wizard stood in the door with his arms crossed, having watched the chaos that was the effort to put the logs in the holes.

They had pushed, pulled, used ropes and the water dragon- twice the size of a normal full grown male human and named after his ancestor, Kraken- used knots to keep the ropes from slipping.

Big levers made from saplings the students rolled, dragged, sledged, wedged the logs into place.

Each one of the students were tired to their core, on the eating tables behind the Green Wizard, piles of mashed potatos, vegetables that steamed with fresh salted butter sitting in bowls, large meat-plates with fish and roast-beast.

“Stop!” The green leaves in his beard trembled with the force of his command. “You have failed the test. Only six of twelve I see are in place as directed.”

“But sir,” Jona spoke. “They are larger than all of us.”

Jona spoke the truth. One log was so large across that he could stand at the cut end and rest his chin on the bark, and his toes would barely be at the ground.

And for a human, Jona grew into a tall youth. The tree, the Wizard alluded that it was a branch off the main trunk in his lectures, was enormous.

And yet, the Green Man tapped his leaf-sprouting staff on the ground, and the succulent foods… vanished.

Replaced with pitchers of ice water, weak teas and bread. Cheeses on plates, but only just enough.

In the glen, each log lifted out of their respective holes and floated up to the landing on the hill above and neatly stacked themselves.

The old man did not need them to do the work, it was a test, as he said.

“I instructed each of you to work as a team, to use your strengths. And yet?” He looked to each and every one of the small class of students. “You spend all your time crawling around in the mud like children, getting aches and pains, covered in slime, bugs, fungus.”

The Wizard plucked a mushroom out of the hair of a human girl, Zeva, and sniffed it.

“Death’s head mushroom. Very deadly. But not ready for class. That’s next week.” He said, tossing it to the earth, where it walked back to where it came from.

“Precocious young fruit, that was. Rather persnickety.” Then looking back at the class. “You will eat what is on your plates and no more. Then return to the hill again. There will be a six-hour test again, no breaks. Twelve logs, one in to each hole. Then you can eat the meals of champions, but not until you have finished to my satisfaction.”

The eyes of the Green Wizard passed over each grimy and exhausted face of the students.

“But mister Wizard, the day has been long now.”

“Then go home. You wish to learn about each other, every dragon lives on the wish of human, every human lives as long as a dragon wills it. No one can live without the other in this world, some humans have taken upon themselves to rid the world of dragon-kind. They will kill other humans in the hunt for dragon. You must find a way to work together. “ He looked around “Go eat. I will lecture while you are in there.”

They all filed in. The bread was fresh and warm with a crackly crust of herbs and salt crystals. A woman came in and carried plates of bread, putting a large slice on each plate in front of the humans and dragons. Two large slices for the larger dragons, a whole loaf for Kraken, the largest of the students.

While they ate, the Green Wizard, the wise man of the mountain began to walk along the tables.

“You all dragged the logs down that hill.” He looked around. “Koan, why did you use ropes to drag?”

“Sir, we could not roll them all the way, there is no room to do so, we would flatten the entire forest.”

“Aye, that would be true. What options did you have?”

“We could have carried them.”

“Ach! No!” The grandfatherly eyes beneath the white eyebrows got big. “One of you slip, the log comes down and I have no more class.”

“We cannot make them float as you do.” Jona said.

“No?” The old man stroked his beard. “I must be teaching wrongly. I thought I taught medicine and critical thinking.”

“Sir.” Kraken spoke up after stuffing a loaf of bread with the scant, cold meat that was on his plate. “We pushed and tried to lift.”

“Did you?” He stroked his beard again. “Did you try to lift it together?”

“That was dangerous, like you said.” Jona said.

“Aye,” The old man nodded. “But you have both ropes and some of you have wings?”

The entire room went quiet.

The Green Wizard smiled softly.

“A dragon has lifting power well beyond what even they know. That small dragon on your shoulder, Jona, could lift you off your feet if she had to.”

“I think Sprite is male.” Jona corrected.

“Oh. Well, still the truth is there.” The old man nodded. “How many flyers of your size or larger is in this room?”

Again, the room went silent.

“You have six hours.” The mentor said and stood in the room. “By my calculations, if you do it correctly, you will finish in less than one-hour. The food you saw before, will be waiting for you and the day finished. You will be free for the next two days.”

Never had Jona eaten so quickly, and still he was not the first to finish as dragons and humans gathered outside to plan their mission.

As predicted by their mentor, they were done in less than an hour.

Dragon Master University Chapter 21. Night Riders

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Chapter 21. Night Riders

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

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

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

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

Jona asked “Why do we fly at night?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragon Master University Chapter 20. Dinner

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Chapter 20. Dinner and a show.

In his room’s study area, Kolo helped Jona understand some of the traits of Dragons, the times when they were once wild and uncivilized, then how they evolved to a council based culture.

They sat in a dragonbag, a large resin-coated bag filled with smooth-roasted seeds of a fire-fern, smooth and round, the dense seeds filled a bag and made a comfortable nest for a dragon to settle down in.

Jona curled up with Kolo as they studied as is the habit of dragons. Her scales, small and glistened in the light like tiny jewels while she relaxed in her soft-fleece sleep shirt that covered half-way to her tummy and knee-length pants with a draw string.

A standard study position for dragons that Jona found strange, but comfortable. Kolo, wrapped around Jona the way that dragons only could. Smaller dragons liked warmth, Jona was a mammal and warm.

Kolo also thought he smelled good.

A gong sounded, announcing dinner in the main hall of the Garnet House.

Jona, Sam, Spirat and Kola walked up the spiral stairs with Kolo and sat at the long tables with the younger classmates.

Several older classmates passed by when a couple slapped Kola on the back, he gained honors for Garnet House by passing a test with high marks. His name forever placed on a list of notable students with the Garnet House.

“You didn’t tell me!” Kolo stared at her brother.

“You were out riding,” Kola smiled. ‟I didn’t even know I had passed it that high until Professor Vale came down and took me to his office. There will be some kind of an awards dinner, for all the high scoring students,  near the end of term. Just before your races with the other schools.”

“I know you will do well, in the races.” Kolo looked at Jona. ‟Sprite has been racing around the room telling stories in his way. You are a good racer, according to your baby.”

Jona laughed.

“Sprite is not MY baby, I’m just the adopted father.”

“No, he is yours as if you had a real son,” Kolo shook her head. ‟When he gets to talk, you will find out just how much a dragon’s heart can love.”

“But, I did not choose that. It was just chance I happened upon Sprite when the little guy was looking for someone.” Jona protested weakly. “But I like having him around. It was better than having to ride behind my papa’s ox while the old stinker snorts from both ends.”

“Snorted from both ends?” Spirat looked at Jona and raised an eyebrow.

They all got the image at the same time and laughed as they sat and ate, trying to snort out their backsides like the old ox.

Kolo just shook her head and held her nose.

“Boys!” She said in exasperation.

Looking around Jona noted that Kelly was staring at him and she made an ugly face at him, then turned to Stixx and said something in his ear. Stixx looked at Jona and smiled, leaning over to another upperclassman and soon the end of the table the clique of older students were whispering and looking in Jona’s direction.

“This is not good,” Jona muttered. ‟They are planning something.” Indicating the far end of the table of how the blue-eyed Kelly whispered in conspiratorial tones, trying to instigate something. She took a dislike to anyone that was not under her thumb, including the newer students that did not give her the respect she felt she deserved.

As they tried not to look at the whispering group, when a large scaled hand gently pressed on Sam’s shoulder.

“You kids look worried, what is the problem?” Asked a tall, heavily built dragon that was easily taller than Jona by half and built like a big “V” from his shoulders to his waist.

Sam looked up and choked on his food, nearly making his drink come out his nose.

“Koord! You came back!”

“Coming back was difficult,” Koord got down on his knee and nodded. ‟But, the healer’s all said I was good to go.”

“Jona, this is Koord, he was a great rider for a few years here.”

Koord nodded and spoke quietly, with a voice like a rumble of distant thunder.

“Pleased to meet you.” Koord gave a toothy grin. “Yes, I just got too large, curses of my father and mother for being tall themselves, then I outgrew them. My brothers and sisters are all smaller, and sadly, none like to ride like I do.”

“Koord was hurt in a terrible hit two years ago, his ride was never the same, either.” Sam said, “But good to see you back, brother!”

“So what’s giving you trouble?” Koord smiled.

Jona and the others quietly explained what was seemingly going on and Koord nodded.

“I have a few friends to talk to over there,” Indicating another of the tables. “I think we can do interference if need.”

Slipping back to the table where he previously sat, Koord talked with the other humans and dragons at the far end with his back to Jona and his friends.

“Koord is a member of my clan, we are cousins,” Sam said, “That group he is talking with was the best winning team before they withdrew from racing and retired  for different reasons. Koord was hurt and outgrew his ride. Cookie had to withdraw because his grades were too low, which sucks because he was an awesome rider. All the rides wanted him, he had the feel and good eyes, he could read a map better than anyone night or day. Crocus, she is sweet, but a ferocious competitor, her rides gave her more than she asked for, always.”

“They are their own group then?” Jona asked. “Like the others?”

“In schools there are always certain circles that hold together.” Kolo nodded. ”The professors and schools try to keep it minimal, using only the houses to keep the feeling of unity, every year you have to go to a different house. This way they feel it keeps from having too much of a separation in ‘favorites’. It doesn’t always work. Those over there with Stixx have been together too long, and no one seems to have success in breaking them up.”

“They have called themselves as the Royals of the Sky.” Kola said, “They have pushed a few of the younger students around telling them to bow to the Royals.”

“We shall be Pirates of the Sky then!” Jona laughed, taking a thought of the blood-haired human pirate that had been at the school earlier the year.”

Spirat shook his head. “You might get in trouble with the word Pirate in the name. How about Rebels?”

“No, I like what Jona said, Sky Pirates, we will steal the cup away from other schools and victory away from the stupid Stixx.” Sam grinned. “They won’t know what to do… uh-oh… Speaking of Stixx, here he comes.”

Stixx had made his way around the far side of the room, carrying two full plates of half eaten food, looking like he was lost while on his way to the trash and was heading their way, slowly. Two others of the clique had gone in another direction, talking with students while circulating around the room towards Kolo, Kola, Sam, Jona and Spirat.

Jona looked around, Koord and several of his friends were gone. There was no help coming and Stixx was talking with several other older students but his eyes were on Jona as Stixx was carrying the plates of food that had several drinks poured over the food making it a drippy sticky soup of half eaten meal.

Walking up to the group, Stixx looked down at the plate, Jona looked to the left and saw that Gorm, the half dragon, a small and quick friend of Stixx was coming from the other direction, the trap was set, and there was no way out.

Stixx smiled as if he had just won a contest when he bumped into first Koord, and then another smaller dragon of Koord’s group. Gorm was suddenly cornered by an unfriendly face of a large rider that had him by the shoulder.

“Where are you going with all that food you have there? You must be extra hungry?” Koord asked Stixx, in a dangerous sounding voice. “You would not be looking to share that meal with some of the younger students now, would you?”

“Just being friendly, Koord.” Stixx nodded. ‟This is not any of your concern, just a friendly chat we are going to have. This food? This is nothing, I was taking it back to the table.”

Stixx looked around, Gorm,  cornered by three other retired racer team members and unable to carry out his mission.

Seeing that he needed more muscle, Stixx  motioned with his head and several of his clique stood up— then suddenly and forcibly sat back down by the surrounding retired racer team. Outnumbered and out flanked, the little clique of the house became suddenly meek and sat quietly.

“You might want to take that back to your seat and eat quietly, I was chatting with my friends and family there first.”

Stixx paled at the thought. Looking at the slop of his plate and back at the table where his friends sat, corralled. Stixx walked directly back to the table and sat with his friends.

A small obsidianite colored dragon, leaned in and with a voice far deeper than would be expected, sounding much like a foghorn smiled and suggested in a dangerous tone.

“I think the rest of your crew is also hungry, you might want to serve them as well, you got thirds,” The glistening green dragon said,”You might want to serve them as well, don’t be stingy! Share!”

The clique of Stixx, Kelly and the others dug into the slop and took slow bites. Others of the table first gagged at the sight of the others eating the mess and then began to clap as the bullies themselves, became the bullied.

Professor Vale walked into the dining room, Koord and his friends stood up and began to socialize, innocently, making their way back to the corner of the tables. The little clique sighed relief of the entry of the Professor who smiled and waved at the students, stopping and speaking with different students.

Stopping at the table and looking at the pile of muck that Stixx and company were in mid bite. “You can take all you can eat,” Professor Vale said, shaking his head, ‟But eat all you take. We must not waste food, please be sure you eat all that.”

Vale made a face adding, “It does look like a balanced meal, but I would question the mix of flavors. Eat up.”

Entertained, all the students in the room watched in quiet amusement as the bullies choked down the slop that Stixx had made before Koord intercepted him.

Jona thought it was one of the best dinners he ever had as they all watched the bullies choke down their own mix of beets, milk, banana, coffee, cheese, meat, fish and other unidentifiable food. Jona suspected that Vale had known what went on and timed his entry to do the most effect.

College, Jona decided, was a great place to learn.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 19. A Nightmare Of A Possibility

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19. A Nightmare Of A Possibility

Twitching, the world took on a surreal color pallet.

She slept with her arm over his shoulders, cuddled up to his back like two spoons in the flatware box. This world faded away and another one slid forward on soft cat-paws in his mind.

A nightmare invaded Kane’s slumber. A violent dream.

He was angry. He was fighting and he was fury incarnate, down to his core, he was… He was…

He was Orcus the avenging demon of wrongs. The angry imp that struck in an instant.

The black-soul that would invade a lover’s heart and turn the loving soul into a murderer in a moment for minor wrongs, bringing new slaves to the Dark Lord for his bidding.

And found – Not an angelic minion, a nameless adversary. It was… It… was… even in his dream, he stammered.

It was HER!

He defended his Angel.  It played vividly in his mind, he was again there when the Hoard attacked. For his heart focused only on one soul ever. A heart properly motivated would do anything. In defense of his deepest mote of love, that one spark never lost, did he do the unthinkable.

But the hesitation brought the unwanted attention of the Dark One who did not believe in such deep thoughts – Backing up his best, his most infernal, the one who brings the most of the new souls in for the Satan, Emperor of Hell to torment for his pleasure.

The Great Angel of the Pit arrived and struck her a crushing blow, pushing the smaller imp out of harms way, attacking the crimson haired angel delivering a huge slash across her arms and with that single blow of his clawed hand, he knew her name.

Bronwyn they called her. In that instant he knew it was her human name. Somewhere in time there was a candle lit for her. But that mattered not, this soul, that forestalled the killing stroke of the best of his warriors, one who commanded a legion. The Emperor’s best and brightest, the most savage, one of the most feared of all.

A blow stung him to the core as she struck back, a blessed sword of holy crystal! With a mighty roar of a thousand damned hearts, and struck at her with claw and fang, to tear out a new soul. Not one that would be returned to this little Angel’s lord. Her flesh would be ravaged, spirit would be torn and body broken as he pounced on her like a savage raptor of hate, of the dark side and he struck with a blow to shatter souls; it was the law of things in battle. The mighty overwhelm the weak.

But this angel did not read the rule book.

The bright, pure soul of the host, drove Hell’s Master backwards the flash of a moment as she struck him with the might of the host. Michael would not have struck as hard. Silver chain mail over her torso resisted the power of darkness, for this was for this was one of the great warrior archangels. Fitting her like a wet shirt, it guarded against  the savage horde. However, it was not on par with the supreme demon of the darkness.

The battle ensued, he was savage and she as a blinding light against his dark, claw to armor, fist to fang. The whole of the lands shook with the fury of battle. Master against Angel, there was no turning back, Bronwyn was fighting for her immortal soul and there was no mercy, no plea that would be heard. This was a battle to the end of it all, to the death of two immortal beings.

She struck with enough power and heart to knock him to his knees, enough power to break a demon. But not this Dark Lord, almighty in his satanic powers, he was beyond her dreams of power. He took his measure of her strength, weighed her power and compared it to his own. She who had gotten a few hits in, her light was as a small lamp in the pitch darkness of night. Bright as she was, she was found wanting, and he retaliated.

That little blessed knife of hers,  broken and thrown away, hummed feebly in the dirt.

And the Devil struck with the might of Hell – again and again the great dark fist of the Emperor shattered her body, her shield of faith. Her soul would taste like a sweet grape on his tongue after he tore it out of her and consumed it, never to return to the adversary of her Lord of Light. To hell with an angel.

Beaten, weaponless, on her knees, held by one wing he beat her again and again. She screamed one name.

“Orcus! HELP!”

Her screams echoed in the cold, dead heart. Somewhere in the dust of ages, among the dead and heavily scarred flesh that wound around the blackened and charred whole of his soul, a spark that was hidden was found and it heard – the spark flared, burned and ignited something within the emptiness that was the heart of a demon.

A rage that grew, fanned to flames by the winds of memory that rushed back, an awakening of a promise once made to a pure soul. The spark that remembered once promised to protect.

And failed.

But not this time.

Not again.

Never again.

Shall not. Ever again. Fail.

And a single word, born from the very core of fury.

“STOP!”

Corruption was who he was, a body covered in hideous scars of ages of combat, unholy visage of a beak-like face, horns for hair and red-rage that glowed in his eyes. Orcus, a name known only to Bronwynn, had in that one moment, that blistering rage that erupted and attempted control of in a futile effort, the Emperor of Hell saw and knew.

One brief shining moment of longing crossed the angry face of the warrior-demon. Of passion’s fire kindled in a heart that had long gone to cold ash. A history that was once forgotten, rose again in the demon once thought soulless, an ember of passion rose and the testimony of that one quiet hot mote arose to live again in the being that was Orcus. A soul, blasted and scarred with self-hatred and anger.

“You wish this female? Take her soul then. Use the battle-ax, the Claw of Hades and cut it from her.” The terrible eyes of the Emperor turned on the General of his legions. “Strike her sacred body, cut off her wings, cut out her soul and you will stay together for an eternity! You will command together. Whole legions of demons that would respect you both, you will the power second only to mine, you both will be in Hell forever.”

The dark countenance of the Dark Lord was that of savage pleasure, to have her struck down without her fighting back. A total defeat of an angel and the stealing of a soul as pure as this.

“Power and love of your mate for all time. Fear and respect from others, none shall dare not stand up to you.” The Dark Master spoke to the smaller demon.

On the battlefield the three stood, all demons had stopped their corrupt actions and watched the drama, would an angel switch sides for love? Would the great Gardener stand up and save one of his own. A warrior angel, the best and brightest, one that had once turned her back on heaven to live a life with a love. One where her heart once rejoiced so much that it echoed in heaven.

The Dark Lord held her by a copper-colored wing, this angel, one who had given her heart to Orcus so long ago with the blessing of her Enlightened One. The long scarred and hideous arm held her out as if to offer a meal to the demon for his abuse, for the cut to come. To take her into the darkness and drive out doubt in the host.

Once an old affable gardener with wisdom unmatched and told her to go to the Imp and love him good and well.

“Raise him up, love him all the days on that little spot that you claim your own.”

This moment she hung helpless in a giant’s clawed hand. On a finger an ebony ring of an apple surrounded by a snake on the hand, he squeezed and smoke billowed from her wing and Bronwynn screamed in pain. The battle between the light and dark over for the moment.

But there was no fight left in this angel. Her crystal sword broken and the angel’s battered and bruised body hung limply from combat against the one called Satan. She was out of energy. With not enough strength to fight, she hung in his mighty grip and cried. Holy chain-mail hung off her in tatters and shreds. Plates of armor, harder than diamonds, tougher than a heart of a warrior crushed like foil lay on the ground.

Defeated, no weapons left, too weary to lift her arms.  Bronwyn hung there, broken and beaten.

A flick of the wrist and she was flung across the battlefield at the feet of the demon of retribution, vengeance and pain.

“Cut her soul from the angels body and you will have her forever.” The Dark One spoke. “How deep is the love you have? What would you do for that passion that burns in your chest? Do you believe you have a love for this small one?”

“She pleases me.” Orcus looked at her.

The old rage was there, ruby-red eyes of a savage demon. But… something else and it did not go unnoticed.

“DO you love her?” The question was more of a statement by Hell’s Master.

“I…” A hesitation. How does one give up a weakness? Never a good idea to do so to anyone that has power over you… but… “Love her.”

“What sweetness.” Satan laughed. “Would you do anything for her love?”

“Yes.” Orcus was watching her, greed in his wholeness. Cultivated consciously, lust for power. Turning away from love. Lust for a mate. Not love. To use her for pleasure. NOT love.

“I love her.” Damn it all! Orcus thought. Not what he wanted to say.

“Sweet indeed. Love for an angel. Does the small demon wish her with him forever and ever?” The Emperor said softly. “I can give her to you.Just give her the stroke, take her soul and bring her to you. Live forever in each others company in the beauty of your world. Can you do that? Can you love her enough to bring her to you?”

Orcus nodded.

“I can do that. The soul of an angel, power untold. I can do that.” A grin from the lips that split with the evil of his own words.

Savage anger glowed from his eyes, the Claw of Hades, an old friend, a battle-ax whose blade had ten points for piercing of armor in his hands that caressed its polished surface as if it were a sexual device. The tip of the main blade pressed against the bare flesh of her chest, an unprotected gap of her rent and destroyed armor.

Bronwyn looked up into the eyes of the one she loved most in all the worlds, all the universes that existed, anywhere she ever lived, anyplace she had gazed upon — she had given him her heart.

The tip of the ax rested against the curve of her throat, where it joined her torso, she had nothing more to give this demon, the imp that held her heart. Trying to tell him, never did he fail her. For she loved him greater than all the souls that were in heaven.

An evil laugh as the Master knew what would come. “Would you do anything for love?”

“I would do anything for power! I would do anything for love.” Orcus cackled now.

Bronwyn gave him her best, most vulnerable spot, knowing the pain of the cut coming. Not fighting any longer, she arched her neck back, offering her soul, she gave up all that would be her history, her love, her passion.

She would give up her heaven.

Her lord and her soul.

For him.

And waited for the cut that would take her from the light and plunge her forever into the darkness of the pit of the abyss.

She then heard the last time he would speak to her in this world.

“I’ll do anything for love.” His breath was hot on her cheek.

His breath coming in deep ragged gasps of blood lust, she knew. The tip of the cursed battle-ax, a gift from Hades to Orcus in another long ago age, pressed against her throat dimpling the flesh.

“I would do anything for your love. ” He said again, softer. “I will have you as mine forever.”

She could feel the muscles of the battle-scarred body tense, the winding up of the moment, he was ready and the blow was moments away.

“I”ll do anything for love!”

A pause…

Bronwyn closed her eyes, waiting for the first sensation of pain that marked the end of her heavenly life as she gave herself to her love, her heart, and the one that brightened her soul even from the darkest of realms.

She closed herself off to the view of the one with the weapon that had her at his mercy. The him through time and realms that they had traveled. Through dimensions, ages, together they had once loved laughed and had light of the universe in their hearts.

“I’ll do anything for love…” He drew a deep breath through sharpened and savage teeth…

*I love you.* It was her last thought.

“… NO! I WON’T DO THAT!”

Turning in an instant, Orcus hurled the cursed ax, the Claw of Hades at Satan himself, launching into an attack against the Emperor of Hell, this demon of legend, the First Emperor of all things of evil intent, action and temptation.

A simple flick of the Lord of the Demon’s hand and the ax flew away over his shoulder, landing uselessly in the battlefield beyond the reach of the smaller demon.

“TRAITOR!”

“I knew you! Traitor! You shall live forever as a slave to serve us all! Torment by those being tormented, undying life of slime, never-ending pain is all yours forever. I shall enjoy consuming your angel, she is MINE.”

“NEVER! You will starve!” The Demon screamed.

Savage was Orcus’ attack, the crushing blows he delivered was with every mote of his being, all sound, all battles, all conflict stopped as the host of heaven and the hoards of hell halted their battles and watched this ballet of destruction played out.

Watching the fight that suddenly became center stage of a battlefield, Asmodeus turned to Lucifer. “One-hundred on Orcus.”

“You’re on.” Lucifer already had plans to tell the Emperor how the odds were. Who bet on the outcome.

“I’ll take some of that.” The Beelzebub stood near the arch-demons. “I’ll take the Master.”

“Roll your own dice Beeze?” Leviathan laughed, the giant put down his vote for Orcus. Calling him “The once and future Emperor”.

Savage orange fire from the mouth of the Emperor for the chest of Orcus as he folded his wings around for protection and laughed as the flames enveloped his body.

“Time to fall!” A scream from the beak-like face as the demon went claw to talon, fang to fire as Satan did battle with the best and darkest of his demons. Green fire from the clawed hands of the demon that shattered the confidence and wings of the Emperor. The tail of the once-Emperor, whipped through the darkened atmosphere of war, a weapon unto itself, the prehensile appendage wrapped itself around the throat of the Dark One.

“To slime, to torment, to slavery with you! For LOVE I shall strike. For her soul I shall beat you into the ground.” Orcus screamed as his tail tightened against the armor-scale of a neck as he looked into the compound beast-eyes. Sixty-six and six-hundred pupils that he saw his reflection framed by the horned face.

“For my angel’s heart, you will suffer!”

Satan’s quad-lipped mouth opened up and exposed too many teeth as the Emperor of Hell choked on a grip tighter than steel that squeezed ever tighter. The Devil’s mouth tried to bite the scale covered hide of traitorous demon.

Twisting about in the noose of a tail, the Dark Lord landed a blow that registered on earth as an earthquake. Scientists explained that a previously unknown fault shook the humans. The same blow nearly obliterated the demon, but Orcus fought back with the power of love. The demon was unstoppable as Satan was relentless. Again they collided head on, claw to claw, fang to tusk. Each blow measured to inflict the greatest damage, each block meant to waste the energy of the opponent.

Never had there been such a challenge to his power. Victory was not assured, for the fist time in an age – Satan, the Emperor of Hell, felt fear.

Fire and fury, hate versus love. A Dark-Heart against the power of darkness, the energy of both opponents took a toll as they gave their all for victory.

One loved power, the other loved.

Suddenly a misstep, a missed moment in a battle against an implacable enemy and Orcus was flung backwards by a titanic blow, one wing broken, the other wing torn, horns broken, eyes unfocused. The right arm lay useless under his body.

Tired and out of breath, the Emperor of hell moved towards the demon that dared to choose love over immeasurable power, lust and greed. This Satan, wheezing and blinded in half his eyes, all the fingers on the right hand missing and the Emperor of Hell walked on his hands, swinging his leg forward in an ape-like walk, trailing black ichor that served as blood, towards the traitor, a stump where the left leg was missing. He struggled to tear with his remaining hand, to finish the demon, to turn him into the lowest of the slime of hell – Better! To consume the dark soul until it was no more, to digest and spit out that which they called “Love”.

As the Emperor got close to the puny and broken imp, close enough to strike with what was left of his claws and fangs, Orcus held his left hand outstretched towards the Emperor…

Was this beseeching? That thought was entertaining.

A plea for mercy? A laugh at the thought rose in Satan’s mind.

A plea? Hardly.

It was a call, a command to a part of the demon’s own wholeness, a call to an old friend, a gift from the Emperor that followed Orcus to the throne. The call to the Claw of Hades, a call that the ax must answer. Return to its owner no matter the obstacle.

Behind the Dark Lord, the Claw of Hades lay in the filth of the battlefield, forgotten in the rage of battle. Tossed so easily away by the more powerful demon and never given a thought after.

A mistake.

A fatal mistake.

The weapon, as much a part of Orcus as his tail was, answered its call. The ten-pointed ax trembled, slightly at first, then turned blade first and raced through the air to the Master of the Ax in a straight line, regardless of what was in the way.

The Dark Lord became aware of the whistling noise, the disturbance drew the great demon’s attention, but too late.

Too late!

Returning to Master of the Ax, the cursed weapon drove through the through the forehead of the Dark Lord on the way to the hand of Orcus. The look of surprise was entertaining to the old demon as for one brief glorious moment as Orcus nearly laughed, the Great Devil himself, the destroyer, He who defeated Hel who gave her name to the kingdom that He then ruled. He who defeated Hel held his hands up in frozen stark surprise…

And imploded without a sound, like a shadow banished from view when a light shines into the darkness.

The Dark Lord was no more in one last anticlimactic, quiet, mundane moment.

All that was left, an ebony ring of an apple surrounded by a snake that fell to the ground. Frost formed where it bounced until it stopped moving. A  freezing fog formed around the ring, curling over the ground as it rested quietly in the dust.

Panting, barely strong enough to stand, pain was his second world, a second life of passion drove him to stand. Shredded and torn, his right-wing broken, dark blood oozed through dozens of new wounds that covered his body as he knelt next to his angel.

Lifting her up in his arms, she reached up and caressed his face. His broken hand held hers gently. There were too many wounds on his immortal body, he was weak beyond description. The immortal demon was weakening further, the great heart had begun to beat, now faltered. He caressed her face with a blood-stained finger tears leaked from his eyes as dark blood leaked out of him into the dirt.

“I’d do anything for you.” He whispered softly and nodded, “I would do anything for your love, but I would not do that. I could never do that.”

“Come with me.” Bronwyn whispered. “Come back home. You are free.”

A soft cough from a few steps away interrupted.

“Hell needs an Emperor.” The Lucifer said, standing behind Orcus. “It is advancement by assassination in Hell. He must take his place on the throne.”

“NO!” The Angel refused to accept this! Orcus sacrificed it all for her life.

“NO! Stay with me!” Bronwyn argued. pulling on Orcus’ arms, her own hands too weak to grip tightly.”Turn away from all this, come home. I will not have this!”

“He could do anything for love. Fight the old Emperor,” Asmodeus nodded, frowning as he handed the ebony black ring of an apple surrounded by a snake to Orcus. “and win. He has changed the course of a war, changed a thousand hearts. He has altered the universe in uncountable ways. He did that all for love.”

“He did it all.” Lucifer nodded. “He did it all for love. But he cannot go with you.”

“He can’t do that.” Beelzebub whispered as he shook his head and bowed to the new Emperor.

The cool hand of Bronwyn touched him in between the shoulder-blades. “Orcus”, the name echoed in the webs of his dream, his face was wet from tears, Kane had cried out in his sleep.

Kisses on his cheeks as the hands of an angel cupped his face.

“What makes you cry?” She frowned with concern in her eyes.

“I dreamed I had lost you. Our time together was over and I had to use my powers to save you. I also remember my name, from so long ago. Orcus.”

“I remember that name. Punisher of broken promises and oaths. No wonder you do not break promises to children.” She smiled at him. “You are the children’s guardian of promises. You keep the promise of the gift giving when the days grow short and life begins anew. You are the one to shape a child’s view of the world.”

He shook his head, “I still lost you and I will not allow that. Ever.”

She slid her arms around him as she kissed her husbands tears away.

“We can change the future.”

Together they slept the rest of the night, no further dreams intruded.

But Kane had his doubts.