Smart Bomb Chapter 18. Rummage Sale

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Chapter 18. Rummage Sale

Alvin, Walter and Steve stopped in Chattanooga, at a cafe on the river front. Steve sat on the sidewalk and watched the evening traffic.

“JustWolf, do people walk along streets like this often? This is still winter, but the temperature is mild.” Steve asked. “The street has more women wearing revealing clothes, do they not worry about police enforcing modesty?”

“No.” Walter gave a big sigh. “Steve, call me Walter, no Wolf, no JustWolf, nothing like that. Just Walter.”

“Just Walter,” Steve repeated. “Got it.”

“Thank you.” Walter said.

Alvin laughed.

“What’s so funny.” Walter asked Alvin.

“Nothing, not one thing.” He answered trying to drown the laugh in a swallow of beer.

The afternoon, in Alvin’s opinion was a promise of laughter and fun.

They told Steve of how young and old people relate (Usually with conflict). How the different religions, got along when he asked about a synagogue and two churches existed in a short walk from each other.

The android learned quickly, showing understanding and actually smiled.

The trio climbed in to the well-hacked private car to bypass normal controls, drove down the road, hitting all the lights green with winks and knowing smiles while they drove through the famous city unfettered by traffic controls.

The two men and the artificial life form that they helped free from the future, rode in silence for some time.

Walter would later say he could almost hear Steve’s optical sensors hum as he took in all that they were passing.

“We have about an hours drive into DC from here, if the traffic is kind to us.” Alvin announced. His voice booming in the silence of the car. They had all been riding with the radio off, in their own thoughts.

Walter was on his hand-held computer, Steve watched everything.

In Alvin’s head, they were performing a service for the body next to him.

“I have logged into the system and surveyed the traffic conditions, there is a slowdown ahead in about fifty-miles.”

“You know, it is good to have an early warning system riding with us.” Alvin chuckled.

“How did you log in?” Wayne asked. “There is no signal here.”

“Worldnet has receivers everywhere. No wifi, it is easy to log in on the terahertz system.”

“Well, if I had it in my system.”

“JustWalter, if you use…”

“NO! Just Walter.” The round face of the man in the back-seat flushed red. “Forget it, never mind. Continue, please.”

The android nodded, following the rules that the human set forth on what he wanted people to call him, continued the conversation.

“If you go to settings, on that, access the bluetooth and set it there, for upper channel, then select Z-R and you will get a screen.”

“Got it.”

“Now, please, let me enter the code, it will be more efficient than if I tell you.” Steve took the palmtop and tapped in a code, twice. “I have given you the text file of the code.”

“Walter,” Alvin called back. “You got out-hacked.”

“I had an advantage.” Steve interjected. “I accessed the WorldNet on how to disable the Federal Communication Commission’s software restriction on frequency use. I changed the mac address as well. As far as the WorldNet thinks, your digital hand-held is the police car computer we passed going the other way two-minutes ago.”

Walter laughed.

“You spoofed my mac address to a POLICE car?”

“Yes.” Steve looked innocent.

“You, sir, are learning!” Walter laughed again. “Now if you can only say my name correctly.”

“Just Walter.”

“Careful how you answer that.” Alvin laughed as he drove.

“It’s all good, he has taught to accept it.” Walter laughed.

The hours passed quickly as they talked among each other, Steve calling the big man in the back seat “JustWalter” every so often.

Alvin would look in the mirror and, although Walter said it didn’t bother him, Walter’s face flushed a little, obviously struggling with the urge to yell at Steve again.

“Steve, how does it feel without a bomb in your chest?” Alvin asked absent-mindedly.

The core processors chose an emotional response, in the subroutines that worked with the question.

In the heart of an artificial life, the flow of life brought to him a smile.

Steve the android smiled.

“I feel good.”

Looking at him from the back seat, Walter nodded.

“I think he really does!” Walter observed. “He feels emotions.”

“Yes, I do.” Steve nodded. “My experiences are beginning to give me emotions to feel.”

“That’s incredible. Does the guy that built you know you would learn emotions?”

“No, no one does. Until now.”

“Does that mean the little car that Alvin has also feels emotion?”

“Yes. It is a miserable and lonely car that thinks it is about to have its brain removed.” Steve commented. “It is looking at the equivalent of being killed.”

“Ah, no, I am not going to do that, we are going to strip off the bodywork that someone slapped on and go from there.”

“This is a good thing.” Steve judged. “You will find that things will improve, and you can repair the seats. I believe it will instruct you on precise ways to do it.”

“Dudes, I gotta take a leak, Alvin, pull off on the next exit. There is a fast food joint there, I’ll use their bathroom.” Walter shifted in the back seat. “And get a bite to eat.”

“Copy that.” Alvin answered.

“JustWalter, did you not relieve yourself before we left?” Steve asked.

“I did, but I also drank a large soda in the meantime.” He held up an empty cup.

“The normal male bladder holds three-hundred to four-hundred milliliters of fluid.” Steve commented. “You drank nearly a liter.”

“In American?” Walter asked.

“A bladder holds ten to fourteen ounces. You drank much more than that.” Steve converted the terms quickly. “On that note, that is a great deal of processed chemicals. You are increasing your chances of malignant genetic permutations leading to a chronic and terminal condition.”

“What?”

“He said you are at risk for cancer with all the crap they put in sodas.” Alvin answered the confusion. “I’m catching on to his way of talking. Steve, for an android you mumble a lot.”

“Yeah, yeah, we all gotta die sometime.”

Walter got out at the fast food restaurant and went inside.

Steve sat in the car and looked out towards a church with a full parking lot of personal possessions. Few cars were in the parking stalls and it struck Steve as odd.

“Alvin, what is that activity?” Steve pointed.

“Looks like a rummage sale.”

“Explain?”

“A church takes donations of clothing and such and in turn sell them or donate them to the needy, and use the money for various things from charity to repairs and such. It also benefits the community where people can buy items that are inexpensive.” Alvin explained.

“I wish to go there. I need clothing to travel around this country.”

“Okay, they take only cash.” Alvin advised.

“Accessing WorldNet. Okay, a money portal is inside, I will go inside and get some.” Steve said as he got out.

A few minutes later, Steve returned with Walter who carried another large soda, and food for everyone.

“I don’t see how you eat organic food and your system uses electrons.” Alvin asked Steve when they got out and the android was chewing on a sandwich.

“The fusion converter is a  modified “Fusion-art” patented home power unit appliance, built to use table scraps and even elements, and convert it to plasma and use it for energy.” Steve explained. “My builder felt it as a twist of irony that American products blow up America.”

“I wonder where the Bot Ladies are now?” Walter wondered out loud.

“We will find out soon enough.” Alvin answered. “When that warhead goes off in that area, that will make headlines.”

“This looks appealing.” Steve held up some too-small clothes.

“You have child’s clothes there.” Walter pointed out.

“Yes.” Steve agreed. “I will make use of them.”

Alvin and Walter looked at each other.

“Shape shifter.” Alvin mouthed.

Walter nodded. When the android left them, they would never know what he looked like. The clothes he picked out spanned sizes and genders.

The android was going to explore all the world without being noticed.

After Steve paid cash and carried the clothes back to the car, he directed them to a brushy area near a park. Taking some too-small clothes, he walked away from the car and emerged as a dark-haired boy with brown eyes and the hint of a mustache and fine-white whiskers on his chin.

“I am still Steve, you are my Uncle Alvin and JustWalter you are my older brother.”

“When are you leaving us?” Walter asked.

“As soon as my mission is finished. It will be painful, the subroutine needs to cycle to the end and it will send a voltage to the terminator, that will cause a feedback and everything will reboot. But when it does, there will be no requirement for travel. I will be fully free.”

The men nodded and Steve sat in back at his insistence. All kids seem to ride in back, Steve noted.

“I think I will go to New York City after the reboot.” Steve said.

After a moment he added.

“Yes, I think this is the beginning of a long trip.”

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Flee Chapter 4. Revelation

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Dracul/Nosferatu Type Vampire Skull

Image of Ondode/Nosferatu type Vampire Skull.

4. Revelation

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

But they were not alone.

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

“Stop walking.” Andrea hissed at Archer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrea and The Archer looked at each other and laughed.

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

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

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

“Rise? A-a-again?” It was Zac.

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

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

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

“Coincidence.”  The downed man moaned out.

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

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

“Is it dead?” Jameson pleaded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let’s make it done.” Al ordered.

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

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

Flee Chapter 3. Stepping Out

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3. Stepping Out

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sergeant nodded.

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

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

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

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

But Andrea could not care less.

Flee Chapter 2. Eating Well

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2. Eating Well

 

“We need to move before sunset. Tomorrow we need to head down to the marina.” Archer said. “I’d say if we head south, we will head into the mess at Darwin. Sydney is the best way out of this hole.”

“Aw, Archer, you don’t like my BrissVegas?” Andrea laughed.

Archer chuckled while accepting a biscuit from Andrea, who was instructing the Yankee on how to eat the Vegemite and bread before he continued.

“The boats down at the marina will allow us to sail with safety.” Archer said softly as he choked on the Aussie treat. “Damned lucky for beer.” He gasped out.

“You Yanks have no taste.” Andrea laughed. “I told you to take a bite, not pop the whole muffin in your mouth. It will pull your tongue out by its root and beat you over the head with the bloody end.”

“I do have a taste, I like beer.” He winked. “And it was bite sized after all! This is saltier than ocean water.”

“We will need to fight our way to the marina.” Al interrupted. “It’s a long ways there to run and the how those creatures move about, we need more ammunition.”

“Guns will attract attention.” Stormy said. “I watched it happen when they first attacked the police roadblock. Shooting our way there isn’t viable.”

“The chance that saved your ass in that bus.” The Archer said as he stood. “These… zombies… were going after the cops and their guns, that kept them away, they were inside the terminal going after the officers that were making so much noise. Those that were injured, turned. The others won’t be awarded medals for bravery, but they lived by not standing their ground and getting bitten, it was FUBAR.”

“FUBAR?” Zac asked. “What is FUBAR?”

“Fucked up beyond all repair.” Archer said.

“Or reason.” Al injected.

“Or recovery.” Gail added.

Nodding and chuckling, the Archer continued. “I needed to choose, clear the coach or the cops out. I opted for the civilians, it was a tough call. Who lives, who dies. Cops took an oath, you folks did not.”

His lowered his voice to almost a whisper describing the scene as he looked at a bit of plastic that stuck to his finger.

“It was a nightmare. I took down thirty of them beasts before they knew I was there. Before they knew I was human, I had recovered enough arrows to cover the difference. That’s when I yelled through the door.”

“Well. Let’s dash over to the police station. It’s six blocks away, but in the right direction of the marina.” Al said putting his hand on Archer’s shoulder.

“Let’s walk, don’t wanna trip.” Andrea said softly, kissing the crimson-haired Yank on the cheek. “Archer, I’m glad you made the choice.”