(Rewrite)Snowed: The Weekend Trip

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The station light snow-a composite

Evidence photo 1-a, 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road

(Note: This was published a few years ago, I opened it and facepalmed.  This is a rework of it. The story is the same, just grammar has been adjusted for clarity and attempts to increase the emotional content.)

 

Snowed: The Weekend Trip

 

 

Jason Best Ph.D. took another swallow from the old whiskey bottle while he pulled on the wrench as he struggled to remove the cap that protected the fill valve.

The cabin, originally constructed during the California Gold Rush. The heavy timber construction was built over an entrance of a horizontal mine that produced small amounts of gold. It functioned as the home of the elderly prospector who continually mined underneath his home until he died and ownership passed, eventually, to Jason.

In the construction style of the era, the first owner built the cabin’s foundation out of charred cedar logs on bedrock. The foundation held up better than the modern versions. Remodeled twice, the one-floor abode grew into a split-level, two and a half story mountain home with a hot spring. Built during the Reagan administration, the steam generator used isobutane in the heat exchanger.

Leaks in the plumbing lost much of the volatile gas in the system. Checked and rechecked, he found the valve seal that charged heat exchanger had failed. It Appeared to have been screwed down too tight and the seal developed a slow leak that took a toll over the years. This had the gradual effect of power generation down to zero.

The Doctor studied the concepts of the hot spring and geothermal sources and Jason taught himself enough to rebuild the system, updating the electrical system in the cabin that he called “Mountain House.”

After a few moments when he had his doubts of success, the cap gave stubborn creaks as it turned until it was loose enough for him to spin it off with his hand. The threads were in good shape, however, the rubber seal was in bad shape. Cracked and falling apart.

He used the special tool he’d tracked down over the internet to a company that dealt with replacement parts and shipped to him at his house in the city and brought it to Mountain House to rebuild the power system.

While he performed an upgrade in the of the house, Jason accidentally discovered a room below the house. What started as a simple fusebox on a half-rotted board was all the more useful when he knocked a hole in the wall, and discovered to his pleasure, a hidden space carved out of the bedrock. He took full advantage and turned it into a room that an electrical engineer would be delighted to call home.

As an added plus, the room was a wine-cellar of sorts. Stored on dusty shelves in the cool corners of the dark, were bottles of wine. Many he had found dated from just before the prohibition era, two-dozen were stored on their sides.

A few sat upright with the corks exposed, he found these corks to be dried and leaking. Nine out of ten bottle seals failed in that position and he didn’t want to try them.

But!

Those bottles, laying on their sides, were all intact. But with so few, Jason opened only one and tasted its treasure inside.

And it was excellent.

A greater discovery, however, was a treasure-trove of rye whiskey. With labels marked “Robert’s Rye” and each onion-shaped flask had a layer of rye-seeds on the bottom.

As he drank the potent brew, he conjectured that the rye grains left in the bottom were the reason that the rye whiskey was so excellent. And he had a hundred bottles with seals intact.

He drank half of the bottle of the rare and potent nectar and each sip was even better than the previous, but he was getting hungry and the whiskey had gone to his head a bit. But first he was going to recharge the heat-exchanger.

He tightened the hose to the rebuilt valve and turned the handle, he watched the cylinder’s gauge indicate the system pressure.

A delicious smell of food reached his nose. Doctor Tessa Pershing clanked about in the kitchen as she prepared the meal.  She was his colleague from the university, they had dated each other outside of work for a few weeks, but Tessa worried about being caught. She didn’t have tenure yet and didn’t want to jeopardize her position and future, so they kept it quiet and only with close friends.

But here, with the whiskey, wine, and snow so heavy, no one would come by. The storm was dropping four inches of snow per hour on top of the six-feet of the cold white stuff that was already there when he had arrived.

When he drove up two days before, Jason dragged, cussed and pushed the big gas cylinder through the deep snow to the basement door.

Now his efforts of sweat, profanity and bruised knuckles paid off. The hiss of gas subsided and system now showed green lights and the sweep needle gauge indicated the system was full.

Electric power was now available.

He put down the craftsman wrench. The best thing that Tessa thought to buy him in a kit. He walked to the electric panel and read the displays. Lights blinked and flickered as electricity flowed through new wiring in the panel and the house. Everything was green.

He wondered what might go wrong. It was too smooth. Nothing ever went that smooth unless it was broken.

The Professor of Biochemistry laughed at himself. With the power running, he had the good fortune to turn on the hot-tub on the patio. Tessa and he could sip ninety year old whiskey, sit in the bubbling warm water and watch the snowstorm, safe warm and naked.

Maybe they might get a clearing and watch the stars during the night. Then he’d shower with her and, he hoped, sleep with his arms around her.

“Dinner’s ready.” She called down.

“I have a surprise for you up there!” He said, waited a heartbeat and threw the circuit breaker and energized the system.

The exterior of the house lit up.

LED rope lights he had hidden in the eaves over the last few weeks, illuminated.

The lights gave the optical effect of electronic icicles and made the snow appear to glow blue.

It was breathtaking.

Tessa walked around with just a light work shirt and looked out the window in amazement.  She had complained that a bra was too uncomfortable to wear while she did lifted and helped him clean the debris of new construction and century old corners that had not been touched. So she had disposed of the constricting undergarment.

Which was fine in Jason’s point of view. With an oversized sleeveless shirt, sometimes he would get lucky and watch her accidentally flash him. Her bare legs were smudged and dust-covered while she wore shorts and slip-on flats.

He sat down with a bowl the chicken soup and warm bread that had baked all day. Tess and Jason used his grandmother’s recipe that the elderly woman had taught him in his childhood.

In a conversation about the house, he apologized for making her work when she should have been relaxing and enjoying the sights.

Tessa smiled brightly and touched his lips with a warm kiss. “Helping set up the cabin with you is my pleasure.”

He nearly passed out from the thrill of her words and the touch of her lips right then.

They could hear sounds from the upstairs bedroom, the walls echoed with a rhythmic thump as the other couple had gone to organize the rebuilt Mountain House.

Doctor Lettie Hackett and her rebound boyfriend, Kevin Acker, a post-graduate from the School of Pharmacy, were not coming down the stairs for food.

Jason yelled up the stairs for them to give it a break. They were supposed to be setting up the bedrooms, not testing the beds in each one.

That was when the first scream sounded. A sound,like a gunshot, echoed throughout the cabin.

Jason jumped up and left Tessa at the table while he ran up the stairs, taking them three at a time. At the top he ran into the arms of the half-naked Dr. Hackett who screamed that the wallpaper had come to life. Tentacles grabbed at her and tore her clothes while Kevin fought the sticky appendages to save her.  

“It sucked him in!” She screamed. “It sucked him in! The wallpaper grabbed Kevin! It sucked him in!” The voice of the calm doctor was a squeak of hysteria.

Jason sent her down the stairs and looked into the room. Underneath the paper, a silhouette of a man moved slowly, as if some crazed worker plastered over an unfortunate person who stood in the way.

Jason grabbed a putty knife out of a plastic bucket to cut the paper-covered Kevin out. The colored wallpaper began to show details of Kevin’s form behind the branches and birds, as if he were on the other side of a multi-colored hedge.

Jason called Kevin’s name and the young associate professor of pharmacology looked at him for a moment, then faded into the wallpaper. Leaving it as flat and perfect as if just placed by professionals and left Jason with no place to cut.

But he tried anyway. He sliced and slashed over the area where he saw Kevin under the paper, but all he found was wall. Kevin was no longer discernible among the branches and trees of the wallpaper, he was gone.

Screams again, downstairs. Jason sprinted the short hallway, and leaped down the stairs. Tessa was at the door, her eyes bulged in abject terror as if she saw moving shadows in the corners. The muffled sounds of screams coming from a lump in fresh wallpaper. The scene was a horror with Lettie’s hands were sticking straight out from the wallpaper. The textures and colors of the wallpaper crawled up the length of her arms towards her fingers while she waved about in the futile effort to grab for something, anything, for rescue.

Jason slashed at the paper with the sharp corner of the putty knife they used to spackle the walls for new paper.

A high-pitched sound came from the wallpaper, a scream louder than the screams of the women came from the cuts. It sounded as the Jason slashed at the wallpaper with the sharp corner of the metal blade of the putty knife.

Lettie screamed that the wallpaper was haunted.

The wallpaper? Jason froze, slack-jawed. He could not accept it, but it moved like something alive. It tried to pull Lettie into a growing wrinkle that looked like…

It looked like a mouth! Just like it did with Kevin. The wallpaper had a hunger.

He grabbed his coworker by her left arm and pulled hard on her, using his right foot to stomp the wallpaper flat against the wall, and tore it away from Lettie’s body.

Traces of wallpaper paste remained on Lettie after he freed her and pulled her into his arms, he didn’t stop to consider the slime. They ran towards the the front door where Tessa screamed at them to hurry.

Without warning, the door slammed closed as they got close. Jason pulled as hard as he could on the handle, and the door refused to open.

Jason realized Tessa’s danger. She was locked outside and wore only the thin shirt and shorts.

And it was lethally cold outside.

He pounded the picture window with a chair with futile effort, the glass just wouldn’t break. Jason gave up after the fourth try and pointed to the basement, telling her where to go with sign language. Then he and Lauren ran down the stairs, her long legs lacerated from the branches on the other side of the wallpaper, bled freely. In the basement, stone walls were safe.

Jason showed Lauren where to sit and ran towards the basement’s heavy-timber doors like a football tackle and hit them at full speed.

And bounced off.

The gold mine might be a safe haven, but the doors were part of the house and refused to budge.

Tessa’s voice on the other side of the door called his name, she needed to come in out of the cold.

His mind raced. They woke a malevolence while they worked in the house.

Tessa yelled his name in a feeble voice and pounded on the wood with a failing strength.

In a near panic, he searched for something to open the doors with and then he looked at his work table.

The table! He had built it using the ore-cart that belonged to the long-ago miner, and it still sat on the rails in the floor. He kept it all clean for the sake of nostalgia. Because it looked “Cool”.

Jason got behind the cart and released the brake, he took a last deep swallow from the whiskey for luck and then pushed the half-ton cart as hard as he could.

The ore cart hit the doors with a huge bang and a the door creaked and opened about the width of his forearm from the impact.

Tessa’s hand came through the hole and Jason grabbed her and pulled.

Shivering and covered in powdered snow, Tessa struggled and pulled on Jason to get through the gap.

Halfway through, the doors began to shut!

Tessa screamed in pain, the doors trapped her leg between them as they returned to their locked position.

Jason Grabbed a shovel and wedged the width of the narrow trench shovel’s blade in between the doors to keep them from crushing Tessa’s leg.

He struggled, pushed, leaned on the doors that creaked and groaned with increasing pressure on the blade of the shovel. Ages seemed to pass. Then as if she was a cork from a bottle, Tessa was free of the doors and they collapsed on the floor together. Out of breath, she clung to him while she wept.

“What’s happening? Jason? What is it?”

Screams started again. But it wasn’t the women.

The house seemed to come awake as Lettie ran down the stairs. Jason took her to sit with Tessa and began to explain, as he started to talk to them, the shocking gray face of Lettie looked around, her eyes haunted.

No, not haunted.

Missing!

Her face was no longer beautiful. It was a horror with a toothless mouth that made a big “O” in a scream that matched Kevin’s. A thread of wallpaper extended down from overhead attached to the top of the woman’s head.

Jason grabbed a hatchet from his workbench and jumped at the thread that was stealing the life out of Lauren. Time slowed down.

He’d saved her once by cutting her out of the wallpaper. This time, he swung with every ounce of his anger and fear-fueled strength to cut it off.

And missed.

“Oh God!” He screamed as thick white fluids leaked out of the horrid wound in Lettie’s skull and dripped to the floor.

“Oh God! Oh God! No! No! No! I’m so sorry!.”

They had to leave, and leave now.

Jason looked at Tessa and he knew he was the only one that could make it to the car. But, Tessa would be in this house alone. Even if she was safe for the moment, hiding in the corner behind the work table, between two rolls of…

Two rolls of…

Wallpaper!

He turned to where Tessa was hiding and he could only see a ball of wallpaper where Tessa had been hiding. The big ball of paper quickly shrank, he could see her outline fading under the wrapping that had slid around her like a web.

He leaped over the table with a box-cutter in hand, slashing at the cocoon of wallpaper around her, and found…  

Nothing. Just paper, wadded up and desiccated.

Tessa was gone.

He was the only one left and the gap between the doors was too small to allow escape.

Pulling on the work table, he rolled it as far into the deepest part of the mine that he could reach.

He took a long, deep pull of the whiskey bottle.

“Last drink in this house!” He yelled.

Leaning on the table, he pushed.

Hard.

He had a thirty-foot running start with the thousand-pound battering ram on rails. He pushed for the snow, he pushed with berserker strength. Adrenalin giving him energy, motivation enough to break through the doors.

Ducking the wedged shovel handle he had jammed in over Tessa’s head as he and the cart hit the doors at a full run, the left door trembled and creaked open.

He seized the momentary advantage and dove through the opening as the door tried to shut on the table time and again as the house tried to claim another victim.

Laying in the snow, it was strangely quiet, illuminated by the inviting, cold-white LED icicle lights he spent so much time hanging.

A beautiful and deadly structure.

He crawled through the snow away from the devil house. Then his hands felt like they were on fire. Burning hot, like the flesh was going to melt off.

Pain!

It hurt! So much pain. It had to be the snow, it had to be.

Then he looked at his hands, the skin was pale.

In the dim light from the house, was his skin mottling? Or turning into wallpaper?

Doctor Jason Best stood and ran through the snow as fast as anyone could. Slipping and falling, he covered the mile in nearly an hour when he fell and rolled onto Spicer Road. His hands feeling like no other pain he ever had in his life.

As he layed on his back, the ground rumbled, he could feel it up through his spine. Something was coming.

Something huge. House-sizd.

It was the Mountain House! It chased him on cedar pillar legs. The ground trembled with an evil hunger that stalked him down the mountainside.

Too tired and cold to run, he lay supine on the lonely mountain road and began to scream that he was sorry. From the distance, lights from the porch bore down on him, unstoppable and implacable. He had nothing left, his mind broke as he screamed out his last prayers and the lights engulfed him.

Jason Best awoke in a bed to the beeping sounds of a cardiac monitor. It took a long time before he was able to get his eyes focused on a pole that held IV bags that ran into his arms.

For a week, he could not understand all of it. His soul should have been taken or some-such.

 

It was all like in another world. Soft, but cloying like spiderwebs to drag him back. Nightmares of the events were slow to fade, it kept on. Soft and horrid.  Whispers in the shadows that invited him back to the Mountain House to stay, pulling on the spiderwebs lodged in his mind. It was difficult to comprehend all of it.

This room, bed, poles and equipment were solid, real, easy to understand.

After two weeks and the realization that he was alive, Jason was discharged home from the hospital. Then the interviews for days by the police about the three deaths ended.

Detectives took notes, wrote down everything the college professor described in vivid detail, and interviewed the attending physicians.

After a month, a preliminary report was ready for review. Jason obtained a copy and read it while sitting at his breakfast table.

“Jason Best, Ph.D. was found by a snowplow driver, Honey Gareth (See interview notes: Honey Gareth), laying in the middle of Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the two days in question, Dr. Best spent the time alone in the cabin at 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the course of the weekend, Doctor Best discovered an old wine cellar stocked with wine and rye whiskey. Tests of opened whiskey bottles showed high levels of ergot alkaloids, consistent with acute ergot toxicity causing visual and auditory hallucinations, per the attending physicians. This resulted in Doctor Best becoming convinced that he was with three other people over the weekend who died as a result of paranormal attacks.

Subsequent interviews with the named people, Doctor Contessa AKA “Tessa” Pershing is alive and well, continuing to work at Ocean Bay Community College. Doctor Best is familiar to Doctor Pershing in that they have attended same meetings and office functions but denies any relationship that might exist between Doctor Best and herself.

Doctor Lauren MacKay is friends with Doctor Best, but states no knowledge of anyone named Kevin. Her spouse, Michael MacKay, works at Ocean Bay University as a Fine Arts Professor. Further, no record of Kevin Acker, student or faculty, have been discovered. Searches of phone listings have proved fruitless.

To date, no evidence of any deaths at this address during the weekend in question exists.

Interior of 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road shows the wallpaper slashed and torn in the kitchen and third-floor bedroom (See attached photos). The barn door to the basement has been knocked off the hinge by a gold-rush era ore cart on rails and a hatchet discovered embedded into a can of white paint.(See attached photos)

A horizontal goldmine dug circa 1850’s shows evidence of modern reinforcements and extensive work in a room with a power management center from a self-contained geothermal generator. Adjacent to the power room is the previously mentioned wine cellar. (See attached photo series)

Ninety-six bottles of Rye Whiskey were found with rye grain still floating in the bottom of the bottles. Original labels, dated from 1910 to 1919 of quart-size “Robert’s Rye Whiskey.” Two bottles were discovered opened, one empty, the second appeared three-quarters full.(See attached photos)

It’s the conclusion of the investigation that Dr. Best suffered from accidental ergot intoxication per the attached pertinent physician’s notes.

No complaints filed with the evidence uncovered.

Lt. Liewess J. Jonah, investigating.”

<<<>>>

 

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Smart Bomb Chapter 11. To Meet An Old Soul

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Scene 11. To Meet An Old Soul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over and over.

It was a beacon, a request for acknowledgement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sleeper.” Steve said.

“What?” Stopping Alvin in mid-sentence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How much data does it have.”

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

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

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

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

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

That caused Alvin to pause.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Sleeper the car asked Steve a question.

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

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

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

Old souls and treachery will overcome youth and ability.

Married by Mistake Chapter 45. The Mother-Child Reunion

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Chapter 45. The Mother-Child Reunion

She watched Glenn leave to do the chores for his mother, Kaylee turned and walked in the house and handed the platter to her mom, sat at the dinner table and waited for the matriarch of the family put her mobile phone back in her holster.

Not often in the family kitchen, Mama Grant, the hard-driving and meticulous leader of local business after the girls had gone off to college.

Once-upon-a-time she was a soccer-mom with dresses and worked as an office accountant. She did odd jobs on the side to balance books for local businesses, her life was one of four walls, erasers and double-entry books.

Then she had to hold a meeting with the owner of a small, money-losing enterprise called ‟Java Hut” and give the owner the bad news that he was broke.

The owner sold the business to her in lieu of the work she did to balance his books. Preventing a foreclosure on his contracts and business with creative book-keeping to keep the collectors at bay. Even then it was a major effort. Linda Grant took a personal loan, using her car as collateral to keep the doors open.

After months and diligent following of the business map the previous owner had created, she discovered the flaws in his business plan and corrected the minor operational errors.

The net income increased geometrically after each change in operations. In a six-months time, she paid off the loan, opened a second café on the opposite side of town with easy access of the main highway.

The income increased enough that and a third café opened, followed by a fourth and a fifth. No longer called Linda by other businesses, she was Mrs. Grant.

When she left her employer, in anger he predicted that she would return, humbled, despite of her first successes.

‟Women do not have what it takes to operate in this coffee business.” The old man said. A coffee roasting company owner of a mind-set era she thought was dead, his last words motivated her with anger. She became determined never to go back.

Even if she lost her house and starved. She would never work for that dinosaur ever again.

He, she promised herself, would work for her.

Her husband, father of two princesses, kept his job only for the retirement account. He helped his wife, followed her directives and business model, imposed strict observance of Mrs. Grant’s rules of operations.

If ever a husband was proud of his spouse, it was the Patriarch of the Grant clan.

The change in Linda surprised Kaylee in both outlook and attire.

Before, mom was in skirts and blouses. Now she wore slacks and a polo-shirt with the logo of her company, her hair, differently styled and her demeanor was more focused and intense. A coffee buyer, learning how to roast coffee and her business success, becoming known as a keen business mind and a well-respected leader of the business community.

Kaylee loved her mom before, now, amazed and truly proud of her. Unlike some of her college friends, embarrassed about talking about their own parents. Kaylee already enjoyed talking about her mom, and she was Kaylee ‘s personal super-hero.

Mother and child sat down over the coffee and Kaylee opened the subject.

“Glenn is acting odd.” Kaylee said before her first sip.

“No.” She corrected herself. “Not odd. He was…”

“Reserved.” Mom said and nodded.

‟I noticed that. He wasn’t excited answering the phone when I called his mother and asked for the platter.” Linda Grant and Katherine Tucker-Schroder were friends who went back to their own high school days in Salem, both moving out the northwestern state for different times and reasons and kept a close friendship.

‟I wonder if he is in trouble somewhere. Maybe his job is in jeopardy in Washington.”

‟Perhaps.” Mom nodded slowly. ‟I think it is more personal. Something close to his heart that is scaring him.”

‟Well, he doesn’t have to be scared to talk to me.”

‟Have you ever done something that scares you to talk about?” Mom sipped her coffee and looked over the top of the rim into her daughter’s eyes. A sparkle there that meant that mom was fishing a little.

‟Well…”

The story of Thomas Harrison Harte, drinking and a summer of adventure poured out of Kaylee in laughter, tears, smiles and more laughter.

‟Anullment makes it that you never divorced. Someday maybe we can talk about it with your father, but for now? I think it would be best if we kept it between ourselves.”

‟And Melanie .” Kaylee said.

‟Yes, and Melanie .” Linda stood up and kissed her daughter on the head as she refreshed her coffee.

‟I won’t ever tell Glenn. It would be a problem that we might need to do counseling over.”

‟Well, that’s up to you.” Mom said. ‟You are Glenn’s girl to go through all that, rather than bringing home a millionaire husband.”

‟Should I have done that?”

‟It’s done. No going back to worry about it.” Mom said quietly. ‟Besides, Glenn and you have a relationship that you need to take care of.”

‟Yes, this is true.” Kaylee nodded. ‟Glenn and I have a lot of good memories and I don’t need to bring up anything that might screw things up. Melanie thinks that Glenn is going to ask the question.”

‟Oh honey! That would be terrific!” Mom said. ‟That might be the thing that is stressing Glenn out. Men have such problems with that issue. Your father couldn’t even say it right. It took him five minutes and I said yes before he got it out.”

The two women laughed and made jokes at the expense of the male gender for several minutes.

‟Kaylee , take my keys. Go talk with Glenn, we can make this an engagement announcement dinner.” Mom smiled widely. ‟It’s full of gas and the wheels are winter readied. Oh! When you come back if you can pick up a five-pound bag of russet potatoes from the grocer, we can have enough bakers for dinner. I have a roast in the oven that would go perfectly with that.”

‟Thanks mom, you’re the best.” Kaylee said, standing up and heading to the door.

Standing on the front porch for a moment, she thought about what her mother had said. She did not want to hold anything back from dad, but there was time enough for that discussion.

Looking around for the dark red Dodge Durango, the car her mom had named ‟David” sat in the two car detached garage. The garage was her dad’s own design. He had designed it as a pull through with cobblestone drive around the entire structure.

One thing her father had an eye for, was beauty and function. He had turned the attached garage into his shop that he spent long hours in with his IT skills. Sometimes mom would worry that government agents might come and take him away as a hacker of some arcane database.

Kaylee wanted to go surprise Glenn at his house, she got into David the Durango and started up the powerful engine and it grumbled to life.

Kaylee wondered if mom had work done to the new car, it felt unusually powerful when she pulled out of the driveway.

She smiled to herself and nodded in her thoughts. *Mom’s was right. Glenn sometimes stressed out when he had important things to do and if he is going to ask me to marry him would be no different, he might even panic.*

Even if it was a forgone conclusion that she would say yes, it would stress him out if he was already having troubles at college or his assistant program.

In deep thought, she drove over a newly paved road, the old section, patched for years, becoming a solid patch, each asphalt patch that filled a pothole covered part of its neighbor, new patches overlapped old patched asphalt until the funds became available to replace the patchwork pavement. The ride was a smooth surprise that made Kaylee laugh, she remembered the route to Glenn’s house as so bumpy, people had to slow down or risk damage to their wheels and tires.

It was a nice drive today, a classic country road that was perfect. Trees glistened in the mist, it was a Kate Williams watercolor image, Kaylee smiled. She wondered if Glenn would have gotten an engagement ring that duplicated the cigar band that he had given her a few years before.

That would be funny and romantic!

Pulling in the Schroder driveway, the two-story A-frame home was a beautiful place in the small town. Peaked roof homes were the norm, but this one used extensive glass to look out over the valley.

She got out and looked up, in the tree, the elaborate treehouse that Glenn and his dad built when Glenn was not even a teenager, was still there. She had sneaked up into the treehouse with Glenn more than once. A good place for a couple of kids with the summer off.

She created more than one sketch of the views from the treehouse.

It looked tired and dusty. A window, broken sometime in the years she was at college, and the ladder from the Rose Suchuck Ladder company that leaned up against the tree, looked unsafe at best. It had been years since she climbed the ladder to get inside of their little home away from home.

Natural stone steps, built by his father after he spent weeks in a rock-hunt along riverbeds for just the right kind of stone fit tight together.

Plus four small nuggets of gold, a lost wallet and one victim of a mountain lion attack over the months of his hiking. The victim stayed in touch with Anders Schroder over the years and they often traded services to the business benefit of each construction company.

Kaylee walked slowly up the steps, she enjoyed the memories of childhood passions and anticipation of being a member of this family.

The natural wood door was taller than most, shaped like the A-frame of the house, hundred-year-old iron knockers from some antique store that a talented cabinet company took great care to fit in the middle of the doors. The effect was dramatic and castle like. When the doors opened, it was as if the whole front of the house welcomed you in.

She rang the doorbell and looked around, Glenn’s car was not in the driveway, she had arrived ahead of him.

This was fun. David the Durango was new and Glenn had never seen it before, plus she had parked near the neighbor’s house. She would surprise him, twice today. If she needed, she would beat the engagement ring out of him, then kiss all the bruises better.

Footsteps, she knew the sound of heals, his mom would be surprised, too. If she beat Glenn home, she did not know that Kaylee could stop by.

And the pregnant woman who opened the door was a complete stranger to Kaylee .

‟Um. Hello. I’m looking for Glenn?” Kaylee had a thrill of fear, like what the lookout on the Titanic might have had at the last moment.

Smiling, the pregnant, blond woman held out her hand.

‟Hi! I’m Samantha, Glenn’s wife.” 

Married by Mistake Chapter 28. Early Release

MbM
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Chapter 28. Early Release

Back at the hospital, Kaikane opened the door for Kaylee , she talked with him one more minute before returning to her life, he gave her the breakdown of the famous Hawai’ian word that is commonly used.

“Ha is spirit, of breath and life. It is the divine breath that allows us all to seek our center. So, aloha Barb. Malama pono- take good care of yourself.” Kaikane smiled. “And you take care of Tom, he will take good care of you.”

A hug from the hot Hawaiian and she entered through the automatic doors and signed in as security Lt. Honey Stevens waved at her and buzzed Kaylee through.

The ride up the elevator was uneventful, rounds were over and the medical professionals, a few with MD on name tags some with RN, one with “Phlebotomist II”, color-coded tubes, tape and small square gauze pads filled the small, wheeled cart that he pushed.

She arrived at the floor where ICU housed Tom. Kaylee stepped out of the elevator, her mind on Kaikane’s words.

‟Passion of the heart, it is rare. It is like a wave on the water, sometimes you must hang-ten to keep on it. If you fall off, you get wiped out.” He smiled, saying the words of wisdom of his peers. “You have to wait and measure each one to find the perfect match to you, then ride the best one you can.”

She puzzled over that, in a way she kind of understood. It might make more sense to a surfer when she saw a group at the nurses station.

As she walked by, Kaylee caught snippets of conversation that included Tom’s name.

‟We want the story, who is this mystery woman who Thomas Harte was with? Did she cut him? Was it her?”

She pushed her way through and met Tom, finding him as he sat in a wheelchair with flowers and cards piled on top of him.

‟Why hello! They are discharging me! I’m out.” Tom looked cheerful.”I’m going home.”

Kaylee smiled wider than she had in days. It was a night…

*Ugh! This night is about be even worse, I have to tell him that I signed and mailed off the papers.*

Then Georgia stepped out from behind the door with more of Tom’s get-well cards in her hand.

‟Ah, Kaylee. I thought you might have left and went home.” She glared at Kaylee . ‟Business keeps going, but you would not be aware of that. You cannot even balance your own books, it seems. You were two-months behind on rent before you met Tom, failing a class and you couldn’t even finish the finals. I would venture a guess that you didn’t even have a job or a prospect for one when you met Tom.”

‟Now wait a minute. You dare…”

Georgia’s face split into a malicious smile.

‟Did you or did you not have yourself in a compromising position, nude with a professor? How many times has this gone on before you blew the whistle?” Georgia pressed the point harder when Kaylee’s shocked look told volumes. Her money well spent on the P.I. ‟I wonder if the professor will make his case for entrapment. Probably so. Then he will sue because he will never work in education again because of you.”

‟Georgia.” It was Tom as he rolled back towards them in the wheelchair, pushed by a nurse. ‟Is there a problem?”

‟No problem.” Georgia answered. ‟Just some girl talk. About gold in the area and the women prospectors that dig for it.”

‟Okay,” Tom missed the reference. “Well, there is a lot of stories around this area.” Tom nodded and smiled, oblivious to the shocked look that Kaylee had on her face.

The trio, plus nurse pushing the wheelchair, moved towards the elevators that Kaylee had just exited a few moments before.

‟Georgia, I have the next edition you need. We still have a week to edit it anyway, the adventure is a bit longer than previous. Nearly doubled the word-count. I am quite pleased with it, Kaylee here has helped by being my muse.” Tom smiled and kissed Kaylee’s hand.

‟Tom.” Georgia said softly. ‟We need to keep you on a regular schedule. The book signing I had set up for you had gotten postponed because of this little side-track into the hospital. You need to get back into the swing of things. I am sure your wife here would be interested in you continuing your career and keep an income to supply her with the attentions you have given her.”

Kaylee was at the brink of breaking, the thought of painting this woman as spider in her next work art . Georgia was certainly creepy enough, the older woman pulled on threads to make Kaylee flinch.

Kaylee spoke up.

“I need to speak with Tom, alone and we are returning to the Sea Dragon to have time alone and talk about some important items.”

‟I need the manuscript, Mrs. Harte.”

‟Georgia, I have it sent to your email just now.” Tom said with no room for argument. ‟This is why I have put this on the database so I can get access to it with my tablet.” He said holding the flat glass and plastic collection of electronics that bore a strong resemblance to a large mobile-phone.

‟With this, I have played a game called ‟Ingress” from my room.” Tom said with a laugh. “On the way home, drive slow, I want to do some gaming along the way.”

Kaylee and Georgia looked at each other for a moment, the animosity between them momentarily forgotten as the collective shrug between the women joined the rolling of the eyes.

*Boys and toys.* Made Kaylee smile inside. *It is nice to know that some parts of life never change.*

Then Kaylee became interested in the stories he described the city. He used it as a reason to walk the City by the Bay.

“You have the look of someone who has important news to talk about.”

She poured out her heart to him in a gush, at first, she was ready to get angry at him. She was sure that Tom would be defensive, even if she did what he told her to.

It he sounded as if he found a way in his heart to still be friends with her, even after she told him that she signed the papers and sent them off to the courts in Nevada.

They would be together at least one more night together before Georgia the Agent got her wish to have Kaylee out of Tom’s life and be his wife no more.

Tom told Kaylee the wicked witch of the children’s books had her investigated.

*Investigated!* She shook her head, trying to remember if she saw any kind of cloak and dagger person around her.

“Really, Georgia did this?” Forced out of her shock and asked the unbelievable.

Startled out of her world of indecision, sex and growing affection for Tom, with the words of Georgia insinuated that the only reason Kaylee married him was only for his money.

*Could it be true?* She doubted herself.

Could she have only stayed with him because of the glorious life that he lavished on her?

She didn’t care about what could have been, she was going home to Glenn.

Tom was awesome, but he was not what she had planned.

She was lost for a few minutes in her deepest thoughts. When she came to the here and now, Tom’s voice cut through her emotional storm with his own irritated voice.

‟… So we went for a day flight in the Sea Dragon. So, Georgia, she is not digging for gold. I made first contact, you can call off your investigation, I know more about her than you think.” Tom finished as Kaylee came back from an inward look on her own heart.

‟Tom, she is distracting you from your work.” Georgia said as she followed Tom and the nurse out the door of the elevator. ‟No offense Miss Grant, but Tom, there is no way you could be writing with her walking around naked in your winged-yacht.

‟I don’t walk around naked on his, whatever you called it.” Kaylee growled. Her right fist clenching, she could punch the woman in the sternum so hard she could separate it from the cartilage that attached it to her ribs. It would crackle and pop for the rest of her life, even after it healed.

*Control!* She had control.

‟Do you really want to go there, Miss Grant?”

‟Georgia, it is Missus. She is my wife.”

This made Kaylee cringe. She had signed the papers, Tom should have known that would have happened when she left last night. He gave her step-by-step directions on what to do.

‟Tom, you prove to me that you can write with her doing who-knows-what when you are alone for what reasons…”

‟Hello, I’m right here.” Kaylee looked at the agent.

‟She only knows.” Georgia shot a look at Kaylee . ‟You stay out of this. You are the cause for all this.”

‟Georgia, I have sold a few hundred-million dollars worth of books…”

‟One hundred-ninety eight million last year, after expenses.”

‟Yeah, and you get fifteen-percent of that.”

‟Whoa!” Kaylee ‘s eyes boggled. ‟Fifteen PERCENT? Of almost two-hundred million dollars in a year? Almost three-hundred thousand dollars for one client?”

Turning to Georgia, no longer looking belittled and beat down. She was now convinced where Georgia stood.

‟You called ME a gold-digger? And you suck over a quarter-million dollars a year just from Tom?” Kaylee was angry, verging on fury. Her knuckles were white, her fists were hard a stone. ‟You… You… hypocrite!”

‟Kaylee , just a moment.” Tom said. ‟Please let me finish.”

‟Georgia, you have been with me for a decade. Each year has been better than the last, but for as long as we have been together, you have been always pushing. You have chased off nearly every woman I have tried to start a relationship with, only Kaylee has remained. But you force me to choose, now. We must seek our separate lives from now on.”

‟You… I am fired?”

‟That is a bit harsh, but accurate.” Tom nodded. ‟It’s just time we parted, I hope amicably.”

“Tom…” but it was over.

Thomas Harte fired her.

Generation 3. chapter 3. The Next Day

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Gen 3. Chapter 3. The Next Day

Sleep shed itself slowly from her mind. Strange dreams of small robots that talked with her.

A very odd dream.

Then Fae remembered. It was not a dream, she had this miniature bot that called itself Wentvie Thea.

But now, she was alone, her uniform she had hung with care on the artificial torso that hummed for a half-hour while she took a shower.

A long, glorious shower that seemed to awaken her from the sleep of so long. Longer than the history of humankind when she had taken a transport to this planet.

Then the wars came, her last memory was the classes to warn her about how long her helium immersion would be.

Five years to avoid the virus. Ten years on the outside.

But it was three-thousand times that long before the virus mutated to a non-threat.

On the bench, her underwear waited for her while she used the towel to dry herself, the multiple shower area built for a dozen people to shower at once possessed an air-conditioned and air-drying system that chilled her as she dried the last of the shower off her skin.

Feeling human again, she pulled on her underwear and bra and padded out to where her uniform hung.

A soft, fluttering sound was audible as her little shadow that rode the artificial dragonfly. Thea moved from one room to the other.

“There you are. You were missing.”

“I was taking a shower.” Fae smiled. “It has been a long time since I had that pleasure.”

“I can see you changed your clothing. You have some swellings on your upper torso.”

“I do?” She looked down for anything akin to a blister, then realized. “Those are breasts. All humans have them. On females they’re enlarged compared to those of males.”

“Do they perform some function? The copies we follow is sometimes a problem as it changes the center of balance on the macros, so only our size has them in the female versions. There are many theories why the added weight on the chest is for.”

Fae laughed.

“Breasts…” She laughed again. “Breasts have multiple functions, one is to feed children.”

“Children?” Thea paused. “Offspring? There are no samples of such in any of the humans in the system. Just some records.”

“Well, I think you will have the good fortune to witness them in person if the Core Systems wake all the humans up.” Fae nodded. “If I recall, there are equal numbers of women and men.”

“Yes, roughly, about seven-hundred.”

“Roughly?”

“Some cylinders have failed.”

“Oh my god.” Fae covered her mouth. “We have to wake them up straight away. We start with my boss and get that all started.”

“We need to talk with Doctor Ofir.”

Fae pulled on the body suit and armor. The carbon-fiber plates felt lighter than the previous day.

The shower had performed more magic than she thought. No longer stiff, she felt more human, more supple and stronger. Her muscle tone returned by degrees as she moved.

Even with her body cooled a few degrees above absolute zero, so many years still required recovery. Where she would have been able to warm up and continue in a few hours, she needed more time. More than a day, but now she felt stronger and more alert.

Opening a log, she recorded her recovery and the associated aches and pains that made her feel like…

“Well,” The thought made her laughed at herself, “like I was a thousand years old.”

“Human female,” It was Doctor Ofir Bhabel. “How do you feel today?”

The Doctor flitted around on her own wings, even though there was a golden dragonfly shaped bot below her as she flew up and hovered in front of Fae’s eyes.

“Fae, you can call me Fae.”

“You can call me Doctor Ofir. I do not like my name as assigned by Core Systems. I discovered the human meaning, the Core Systems sometimes show more human traits of humor than I care to say.”

“What does it mean?” Fae blinked.

“I am off my bubble.” The sound of irritation in the small artificial life form’s voice was obvious. “I am crazy. I am not crazy.”

Fae paused for a second.

“Ofir Bhabel. Oh!” She stifled a laugh. “I know who programmed that part of the system.”

“Well it has gotten worse over the years. We have family names of Beekan, a twist on the word bacon, on and on. Some are truly perverse, so we attempt to change them.”

“Change? Your names? But you are bots, aren’t you connected to the Core Systems?”

“Only voluntarily after we have finished with the initial bootstrapping.” The Doctor said. “We use the Core Systems for repairs and communications but little else. We can change our identifier at any time. Many do not. I have not had the urge, I just don’t like my name, but it is in every database in the systems. In the beginning I accessed medical protocols immediately after I came online and… I’m lecturing, aren’t I?”

Fae’s eyes had glazed over.

“Just a little.” She shook her head to clear it. “I mean, Thea said you were a teacher.”

“That is what the root word for Doctor means.” The Doctor nodded, her eyes gleaming with self-awareness.

“I didn’t know that.”

“I taught you something, good. I should teach at least one thing per day.”

Laughing, Fae just shook her head.

“We need to get back to the first question, I feel better than yesterday. Not nearly so fuzzy or stiff.”

“We have evidence that you should feel more improvements as the days go by.” The Doctor nodded. “Only one raised an objection for a possible negative outcome.”

“Spoken like a politician.” Thea said from behind them as she flitted into the room.

“I will banish you from here and fail your internship, you can go to 3-D printing for macros.”

“Sorry Doctor.”

“What is the negative outcome?” Fae asked.

“Well, at this time, we think it is all good. But one of my colleagues Doctor Shorne Sheype worries you may get more flexible and have a breakdown of connective tissue from the freezing process may have weakened your cellular structure.” The Doctor looked at her hands. “You will live, but you will become little more than a puddle with bony lumps.”

“That. Is. Horrible!” Thea said while Fae leaned up against the counter and rubbed her forehead.

“Let’s wake up my boss, we can go from there.”

“He is almost awake, now. His temperature has risen from just under three-kelvin to nearly your body temperature, which we assume is normal as of this point.”

“Excellent. Can we go see him?”

“First, you must eat this square of carbohydrate plant product. The Core Systems called it Chocolate. It follows an old recipe that’s supposed to decrease incidents of depression.” The Doctor took a pack off the little dragonfly she rode. “Your boss? He is still under sedation, we will keep him asleep longer than we did with you. He will awaken a day later than you did, to give his body time to adjust to oxygen and being thawed. We will flex his appendages and hydrate him.”

“Awesome! Let’s get it done.”

The trio walked out of the room and down the hallway to the lab where future humans would awaken.

Dragon Master University Chapter 30. New Year, New Session

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Chapter 30. New Year Session

Tired, sore muscles, a continual headache from boggling at history, teamwork and predicted future, not counting the lessons in magic taught by Cranndair the Green Wizard, the students walked, crawled and a few fluttered back to their rooms in the various houses they belonged to. All were bone-tired.

If anything, the Green Wizard taught with the students in a practical application, humans and dragons and those that had a bit of both, hugged and smiled as they parted company, instead of being in separate houses, they all knew they were of one house.

The House of The Green Man.

Sprite had grown even longer, although she had gained some length, her weight had not increased, she continued to grow longer but, like all children, she started to stretch out into a willow of a creäture.

Back in the house of Garnet, Jona walked to his room and found Sam-Sam had already returned and unpacked.

“Hi Jona! Are you back, visiting the lower side a bit with us? You don’t have a room on the brown garnet level, anymore. You have gone up on the scale. They should place you at least in blue, if not green, I’d say. You spent winter’s break with the Green Man. So you would have a room there.”

“I didn’t know. Where would I have found that change?”

“Professor Vale posted it on pillar by the front door.”

“Oh, ugh. I was too tired, the Green Wizard is about killed us all.”

“Yeah, he does that. He is spry for an old guy, a thousand years old and he can move a mountain with a finger. Not even Professor Vale is more powerful.” Sam said.

“That is because the Green Wizard lives with Nature.”

“Yeah, always in that mountain.” Sam nodded. “He has more power from the trees and rocks that he cares for.”

“No, it’s not that, his mate is Nature.” Jona laughed. “She is his spouse.”

“What?”

“Dude, didn’t you go to study with him once?”

“No, I was more interested in racing and never went, I learned all I wanted about him from those that have went there and came back all broken down and dirty.” Sam shook his head. “Teamwork, what good is that in a race with one-on-one paired rider and ride?”

“When the world has floods, fires, or earthquake, how do we help each other?”

“Well, how do…” A familiar voice interrupted Jona.

“Well, I thought you might be lost.” It was Kolo. “Well, sexy human, you do not live here anymore, your room is in another level, since you came back from the Green Man’s mentor program. Did you learn a lot?”

“Oh HI Kolo! Oh wow, did I ever!” Jona said.

“You lost weight.” She traced her finger over Jona’s left shoulder. “You look good. You could be ridden, looking like that. You would be a good training for a racer girl.”

“What?” Jona boggled.

“Never mind. You are sexy looking, just saying.” Kolo winked. “Come with me, we need to find your new room.”

“Okay.” Jona was still trying to get his mind around the flirt he had just gotten. Dragons were a strange group. They loved like no other, but loved one after another.

“Sam.” Kolo turned to Jona’s ex-roomie. “Come with me, you are on the Blue floor. It appears you did not check either.”

“I did! The color was brown.”

“You did not have a color until this morning. Your grades have improved and the professors were talking about keeping you and Jona together. Jona is a good influence on you it seems.”

“He just showed me around.” Jona said.

“Jona, you got him to attend class. Attendance is the single most important thing in school, even if you don’t work, the professors feel that you absorb information by sitting there with your eyes open. Sam has been at ever class last session.”

“Well, I’ll have to pack.”

“I’ll send Wynter for you.”

“AH! I’ll be packed in two minutes! Don’t send the Wyvern for me!” Sam jumped up and was immediately stuffing clothes into a pillow-slip and wrapping the rest up in his big wool blanket he brought from home.

“Why is he worried about Wynter?”

“Wynter is a wyvern, and he has no patience for lower level students. He is especially angry with Sam-Sam, they’re related and he bragged about Sam being smarter than most everyone around before this little hatchling arrived.” Kolo laughed. “I think Wynter would roll Sam up in the blanket and play football down the hallway with him.”

“Football?”

“Yeah, you kick it, until it gets to where you want it to go.”

“Ooooh!” Jona laughed, imagining Sam-Sam the Dragon, already in hot water with his family, being used as a sports toy.

“Here we are. Green level.” Kolo said, her tail swaying in a more serpentine way when she was walking in front of Jona. Jona could hear the other men whisper to each other when they walked in.

“Kolo, why is he here? This is a Brown Level Garnet.” A red dragon with vestigial-black wings and eye-brow scales said. Chain mail that glittered in the light when the dragon moved, they had arms like some other people had legs.

Very muscular legs.

“Mars, this is Jona, he just came back from winter break with the Green Wizard. He passed with the wizard giving him a pat on the back and an invitation to come back.”

“Well! That is different, welcome Jona. I am Mars, the senior leader of the game-players club. Do you play Drake and Hunter?”

“I never heard of it.”

“Awesome, you are human? If you get to enjoy this and want to play a lot, you can join our club. The only requirements are good grades and play at least a bit every day.” Mars nodded, his scales glistened like polished jewels. If one did not know that he was a dragon, one would thing he was human dressed in fine scale armor.

“Mars,” Kolo smiled and traced her finger over his ear (Mars’ eyes dialated and Jona swore he could hear the scales shake.) “Would you ask that Jona have a tutor to keep his grades up? Professor Vale has requested that Jona keep his studies going from the Green Man. Jona is a racer and a good one at that.”

“You do can keep doing that, Kolo, but so that you know I’d do it anyway.” Mars laughed. Turning to Jona. “She is the one that keeps Garnet house going. And she is cute.”

Mars shook his head to clear his vision.

“You know how to touch my feelers,” Mars sighed and Kolo laughed softly.

Jona laughed awkwardly as the pretty girl dragon flirted with the brawny leader of the Green level.

“Where is my room?” Jona asked.

“This way,” Kolo smiled. “You have a choice, Green Level has had a change in tenants here. A few have not kept up their grades, another has aced her studies and has moved up from Emerald to Gold level.”

“What is Emerald level?”

“This one. We call it green informally, but the official term is Emerald. Blue is Sapphire, Brown is Rough.”

“Rough?”

“As in unpolished and dirty.”

“Oooh!” Jona said as Kolo led him to his room.

“Here is where you will stay. Mars’ is at the end of the hall, he has a private room, most of his club members meet there. You will have no one else in this room for a while. So I will check on you from time to time to make sure you are keeping your studies up.”

“Mars will, too?”

“Yes, it is important to the house that we keep our ratings up. It is a contest between each house who has the highest ranked students. It will also give you a chance to study with the Green Wizard once again.”

“I’m not sure I can survive another round with him.” Jona laughed.

“It will do you good. You will find studying here is easier than with that old man.”

A soft voice behind Jona, a human girl with tight curly hair and dark skin whispered to the new arrival.

“That is for sure, the Green Wizard made me want to come back so much, I made sure my grades were high enough I could go again.”

“I did not see you there.” Jona said.

“Part of my skills, I’m a member of the Fae.”

“The who?”

“No, that is a music group in about a hundred centuries, I am fae.” She smiled, probing eyes looked into his eyes to see if he understood the joke. “My family are more magical than dragons.”

“A fairy?”

“No, well, in a stretch of the sense, I suppose, I can change size.”

“You can get bigger?”

“Ohh, no. I am at my largest now, I can get smaller, a lot smaller.” She smiled. “My name is Retta. This is my last year.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

Watching her walk away, she wore her armor like it someone painted it on and then oiled over the leathery parts until she shimmered when she walked.

Kolo laughed.

“Human boys are so much fun. Brain damaged since puberty and it takes years to have enough blood to run all your parts at the same time.”

Laughing at himself, Jona moved into his new room that he had no one to share with.

The second session in the main school of Dragon Master University was going to be fascinating.

Instructive, anyway.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 18. A New Life

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18. A New Life

After finishing his education of the different laws of the different Celt tribes, Kane had made friends with the Parisii tribe, but the growing land that would be one of the largest metropolitan areas in the future, for now it was a small place to trade.

Still, raw materials from the inland areas were good for trade. Kane and Bronwyn had a good name as tinkerers and artisans of the crafts. Anything from a copper pot to bronze and gold torcs for the neck and upper arm.

Kane had figured out how to tie knots in the metals, gold being the easiest to braid into popular shapes. Still, he knew how to work the metals carefully.

Bronwyn had patience to inlay gold wire after both she and Kane had carved a pattern that they had worked out.

Often in intricate patterns, it was the High Priests of the different religions that spoke of how life was that inspired them. However bringing the Celtic knot to life was a trick. Not many of the High Priests agreed on the beauty.

But the concept of the tree of life, this intrigued Kane and discussed in many nights with Bronwyn as they carved, first in clay, then wood and finally in bronze and gold, an inlaying of gold in bronze or copper in bronze was often highly sought after. In trade, the artisans that they were, received different items in trade.

Often they took ingots of raw metals, frequent was a trade for meats and grains.

Coins were always accepted, of course, but when a young man wanted to buy something to woo a beautiful young woman or impress her family, a cow or other farm animal would be taken in trade.

Bronwyn, more romantic than Kane, would not be above making a beautiful ring out of bronze or brass in a moment’s notice, with the promise to work with the boy to create something even more beautiful out of anything he might like and torcs were common.

The occasional master of captured slaves would take a shine to one and buy gold collars with a certain gem he possessed.

Those owners of slaves tended to get charged fully without breaks on value for the trinkets. Bronwyn had a particular distaste for slavery any kind.

Slavery will exist for several thousand more years in many shapes, my angel.” Kane would say softly to Bronwyn in the nights where they lay in each other’s arms. “They will have not achieved complete eradication of it until well into the twenty-fifth century.”

It’s not right, still. No matter the age.” She said dangerously.

Do not make history, we have to avoid being too well-known.” He said softly.

Still, it doesn’t make it right.”

No, it doesn’t, but there exists a great many flaws that humankind must overcome. One thing at a time.”

I can’t wait.”

The day wore on until they arrived at home. Kane again began packing trinkets, but this time were more for children. Dolls, wheeled pull toys that looked like animals.

Stroking his head as he bent over yet another bag, she smiled at his loading.

Who do you pack for?”

Well, we are moving in a fortnight, aren’t we? Back to where we started for a few more years. Plus, I pass out gifts at this time of year, and it is fast approaching. Harvest will begin in a fortnight in most areas. I have a boy who is nine-summers old now and I have a promise to fulfill.”

And you don’t want to break a promise to a child.”

No, never. A grownup gives a promise to a child, as sure as your hair grows, you better keep it. They have the souls are most accepting and will make this world a place far better than it could be.”

And you say not to make history.”

Oh hush. There are other ways to affect for the positive.” Her husband said. “I will wage war my way. Let others try to figure out how to undo a child’s smile when I finish.”

Kane, you have to stop this life in time and we have to move away.” Bronwyn stroked his ear and kissed her mate carefully.

Time. He cursed it and welcomed it. They were closing a decade together on the blue planet and he regretted not one moment with her.

Although, time to time, he watched her look at children with a faraway look that women get. She had all the drives of a young human woman, with no chance to produce something that was part of their union. They were a team, forever and always, but by command, they were not allowed to have children.

Her voice brought him out of his thoughts.

Where do you think we should restart our lives as artists and young couple?” She was looking at herself in a silvered bronze-backed mirror.

Unlike other women everywhere, she strove to make herself look older, but vanity prevented her from striving too hard. Using hardwood ash now and again, she would put in white streak that would look like she had hair of an older woman.

He was finally packed and stood up.

I am thinking of the middle-sea where Egypt is building pyramids for about another three-hundred years.” Kane pulled at his chin. “Perhaps Athens. I hate to leave this area, the best copper is on the island of our first home.”

Let us live there on the other side of the island, towards the east. In time, there will rise an empire that will overwhelm this area of Celtica and rename it. They will invade the islands and the Emperor Hadrian will build a wall. If we stay on the island, they will not invade.”

Sitting down in a chair of finely crafted leather and polished wood, he rubbed his forehead thinking.

Perhaps. Or…maybe… before the empire arises, we move close and disappear in the crowds and be artisans. Or we can move to Athens as I said, and get the trading in there first. Then we can join that fellow that turns water into wine goes about teaching.”
Kane winked and held up his forefinger. “Now there is a person to invite to parties!”

KANE! Is that all you think of?”

No, most times I try to think of you, naked.” He winked at his wife.

KANE!” Bronwyn laughed as she sat in his lap. “You are so bad.”

That night, they slept together, skin to skin after hours of their bodies joining in as many positions as they could think of. Kane dreamed a recurring dream. This night was different, his old name came to the fore of his mind. Worries of having to end this life and start a new one brought on the dreams that a change of place to live in secret once again would be opposed by the one that put him in this world of humans.