2 Seconds…

2 Seconds Cover
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Two Seconds… 

 

 

 

T-Minus 5.4×10¹² seconds

 

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

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

 

T-Minus 4,162,752,000 Seconds

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s a boy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

T-Minus 3,437,424,000 Seconds

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

T-Minus 1,923,696,000 seconds

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Russell rode a lot.

 

T-Minus 2,775,168,000 Seconds

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

T-Minus 1,608,336,000 Seconds

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was alone.

 

T-Minus 1,545,264,000 Seconds

 

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

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

But with Lulu, it was all futile.

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

She had her four brothers treed.

Roberto laughed in spite of himself.

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

The result:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

T-minus 950,354,000 seconds.

 

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

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

CarlaAnn laughed as she whispered to Lulu.

“That was awesome!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t tell Jack. Please.”

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

Lulu met Russell at one autumn car show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

T-Minus 14,400 seconds

 

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

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

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

 

T-minus 10,800 seconds.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

T-Minus 500 Seconds

 

Energy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

T-Minus 300 Seconds

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All five of them.

And then Sunday, too!

It was a great day, Lucy thought and smiled.

 

 T-Minus 60 Seconds

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Destiny awaited the players who were in play.

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

 

T-Minus 15 Seconds

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

T-Minus 5 Seconds

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little four heartbeats.

 

T-Minus 3 Seconds

 

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

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

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

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

Too close!

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

He didn’t wait.

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

“Where?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Car!

T-Minus 2 Seconds

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

T- 1.25 seconds. Brakes! The mind yelled. 

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

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

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

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

“Noooo!” It was Lulu.

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

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

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

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

Twenty feet he did not have.

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

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

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

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

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

It would not be all right.

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

If only… Was his thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, he saw his best friend’s body.

She was very still.

Too still.

Still as death.

T+ 15.0 seconds.

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

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

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

T+ 125.0 seconds.

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

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

“Lulu?” Russel moaned. “My wife?”

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

“Call 9-1-1.” Russel grunted in pain.

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

Two-seconds!

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

Finis

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Smart Bomb Chapter 7. Smart Car (rewritten)

Standard

Chapter 7. Smart Car

The internal clock ticked to the appointed time and activated the core systems.

Steve woke up.

The moment he opened his eyes, wisps of a ghostly sensation filled only one memory circuit. This was odd, the information failed checks, and appeared to be corrupted. No matter how many times he attempted, it failed to retrieve. His memory bus was the best on the market a year ago. More advanced by an order of magnitude over anything on the market. The only better memory systems rumored GI-Bus, zebibyte memory systems rumored in some specialized cars.

The android struggled with the random data once more, then he sat up. The dent in the memory foam of the mattress where he remained motionless on all night stayed for several minutes before filling in.

His permanently lubricated joins moved without effort, but the flesh that covered his frame was stiff and the sensation from his skin felt cold. The old memory foam, supposed to prevent pressure points, but it just put the pressure over a wider area of skin.

Microscopic sensors indicated pressure points and stiff areas where the artificial fluid it used for blood, despite the promises that the mattress reduced pressure spots on the body.

Blood.

It was an artificial fluid to mask his lack of humanity. Even in the event he suffered an injury, should something cut his flesh? He would bleed red that would turn Dark red then blue-black while it dried. In a close examination, it would be discovered that there was complete lack of normal proteins. The blood, in point of fact, was a polymer.

Still, it was water-soluble, it could be washed away, like real human blood, but it would never pass any close examination by anyone. It had no blood type to identify. In trying to make the artificial biped unidentifiable, the terrorist leader had inadvertently created the perfect blood replacement. It performed the duties of organic blood without the dangers of rejection.

And any wound he’d suffer, would be treated by the android, not a human. Someone who might not understand the red fluid under the microscope.

He performed an inventory against the list in his database in his core memory.

Bandages, cash money, the jacket that was a parting gift from the Reverend and his wife, a forged reprogramable-chipped id card that the android could alter in a second and the image could be altered as fast as the data circuit without use of a camera.

Different sized overclothes. The core system database assumed that walking naked in the American countryside would cause unwanted attention. And to move about as a homeless person, ill-fitting clothes were acceptable.

Pulling his backpack on, he left the room key on the table as instructed by the woman at the front desk then he closed the door behind him. Then determined a route towards the used-car lot a few miles north on the highway that the android discovered on the map while researching the area when he woke up.

Departing, the tall male with dark eyes moved behind some not-yet-opened stores. A quick search for a blind spot away from security cameras was successful. Out of sight of any eyes, biologic or electronic, Steve once again shifted size and gender.

This time, the body shape chosen he took to the maximum that the synthetic bones and flesh could appear, the android now appeared as a small female with large breasts. The choice was dictated by known American tastes taken from the decadent music videos and the rampant pornography that are broadcast in the early evening. This time, red hair and a wide, smiling mouth was selected. The core systems chose green eyes for contrast. Eyes that were selected from a random meeting in previous days at the air terminal.

A perfect retinal image taken from a couple who entered the terminal from a private area as they left a private jet with the name “Pacific Wizard” emblazoned on the tail.

Retina pattern was recorded when the android locked eyes with a man talking with a pretty young woman who read to him an itinerary.

“Okay, Tom. You listening, psst? Hey Okay. You have to be at the panel by noon. You are sitting next to that brat Keegan what’s-his-name, the one that wrote that tripe about his ancestors adventures? And …OH! You have to be at Lynn’s office at McHill publishing at ten O’clock, she says she has a surprise for you and you need to be there.”

If a facial recognition camera would image the eye, the database would supply the image of Thomas Harte, novelist.

Another thought, a file opened and defined the current body shape and style. If they created Steve as an android. But as a female version, this no longer fit in the definition. When he is a she, she is no longer an android.

She is a gynoid.

The, now gynoid’s feet crunched on the gravel along the shoulder of the road as she moved towards the used car lot. In front of a house of worship, she paused however one of the circuits that the core processor established to record the sins of the American south indicated that the programming had flaws, the core systems concluded.

The core processors determined a need to observe the television programs that the general American culture watched and record accurate information. Information that conflicted what the religious leader taught. Conflicting with the Holy Leader was also a sin and all sin should be condemned and erased.

The Holy Leader declared that only those programs that showed approved versions of history and prayer programming would be allowed. And America had to be burned to the ground.

First, to kill all of the leaders of America, the force and type of the explosion would remove all trace of the bomb, with the added level of contamination of radioactive debris for thousands of years, America would be crippled by their tiniest President’s namesake.

Then the struggle of the most righteous would take over and the unbelievers who occupied all the holy lands would be wiped out next. The idolatry of the prophet would be removed in a millisecond of blinding righteous heat.

The Commandments were given to Holy Leader by Michael the Archangel, in his dreams. Blessed above all, the Holy Leader said Steve Aldin was the hammer of the church of the righteous. And all the truths of the one true God were taught.
Gabriel, the Holy Leader taught, was not an Archangel, any lessons taught by Gabriel were false.

The little pissant who was a carpenter in the area of Nazareth who got his own nails driven through his arms and suspended from a cross got what he deserved.

Only D’urs’l was the one and true savior. The only God that could keep going after all others would fail.

These truths were commanded to the truly religious to code into the android’s database. Then the Holy Leader instructed the automaton to follow the teachings and learn all the evils and weaknesses of America.

Confusion edged in on the corners of the androids programming. Each patch of code that recorded kindness, conflict, wrongs or rights , adjusted the database accordingly.

Programmed with a learning algorithm, the core system patched the database to correct errors to fit the circumstances.

Now, the mission to travel on foot changed due to the cold weather. Snow was early this year, and it required the android to change to another mode of travel or the mission could be exposed.

The gynoid arrived at the used car lot and it began to drizzle. From inside the lone salesman watched the lone backpack-laden woman with freckled skin and a size thirty-six chest, walk onto his lot.

Her pants were slightly oversized, cinched by the last hole of her belt that barely held her drawers up over the nice swell of her hips.

She walked around looking over an ancient pickup truck that suffered badly from generic paint, rust and appeal.

It was the cheapest transporter on the lot, he could not give it away it seemed.

Because some fool modified the ancient pickup to a full electric.

“I will take this one.” She said as she looked inside the nondescript transportation.

This woman is running from someone.

“Well, we have some paperwork to do.” He smiled at the little lady. “I’m big Peter Prichet, you can call me Pete.”

“Thank you Mr. Prichet, I have cash. I would like to buy this and be on my way.”
“Well,” Big Peter pulled at his ear, he saw an opportunity. “There is some paperwork to fill out.”

Holding out the roll of paper money, she peeled off enough bills to make a the stack of bills easily visible from the side. She matched the asking price without question.

“This would be sufficient?” She smiled at him.

“We still need to fill out papers, but we might work something out if you are in a hurry.” Peter winked. The woman is obviously running from someone, she had saved a roll of money on the sly, and now was making her escape, she’ll be willing to do anything. I could get something extra off of her for my good deed of getting her on her way.

“That is enough.” He put on his most winning smile. “We just need to fill out some paperwork. Should have you out and on the road in about an hour.”

“You have the money. I need the keys. No paperwork is needed, please. Just release the title to me.”

“It is a government requirement.” He lied as he put the papers on a desk, so she could sit to look at them. “We have pages of papers to fill and sign.”

The papers were loan requirement information, and “as is” statements. Cash sales would be a loophole and no paperwork was truly needed.

He stepped close to her, leaning over slightly to look down her top while she looked at the papers.

“We need to fill out here and here. Insurance is required according to the laws, or I need to charge you for insurance. It’s a small fee.” He surreptitiously glanced out to the sales lot. No one was out there. This would work, the plan is perfect.

She was at the perfect height, sitting in the chair.

“I might be persuaded to break the law and take on a risk.” He said softly, as if he would do her a favor. “If I could get something in return. Just between us. No one needs to know. I can make this paperwork vanish, then you can leave right away. In exchange for some… services.”

“What services?” She looked from the papers and glanced at his pants.

She is willing and knows the exchange.

“Well, you are running from someone, and you need the paperwork done quickly and the title transferred.” Another lie. She knew he had already transferred the ownership with his thumbprint and her ID card stuck in the slot. “If you take care of this, we can get you out of here right now, and no one need to know you were even here.”

He started to unzip his pants. A smile spread across his face.

The plan was perfect. She was wet from the rain, cold and on the run. He’d get a little fun on the side.

Her hand slid into his open fly, a delicate hand as it wrapped around his anatomy and gently caressed the most sensitive parts of his anatomy.

This was a good plan, she would be here for a little while longer while he made good use of her mouth. Her hand cupped his organ with a gentle touch.

Kind of firm. Then explosively painful while the artificial hands, able to exert a force of seven-thousand newtons per square centimeter, squeezed until Big Peter’s scream was nothing but a strangled squeak.

The gynoid changed Big Pete’s plan. No paperwork needed to be filled out while her unremitting crush of his scrotum ended all conversation. Peter sank to his knees, holding his groin as pain exploded through his nervous system after she let go.

“Anyone comes looking for me, you never saw me.” She said as calmly as if she talked of the weather. “I have recorded the monetary exchange for that truck and I will forward it to your wife that you have hanging on the wall there.” She pointed at the family picture of him, his children and his wife.

A wonderful wife, but a ferocious lioness when crossed, and if he crossed that certain line, she would tear off what was left of his testicles with vice-grip pliers.

She picked up his dropped personal device and hacked it in a blink of an eye, tapped on it a few times then left after she laid the tablet on the desk.

Breathless and in pain, he turned the tablet computer so he could see it.

For the second time in a few minutes, he was unable to breathe. This tiny, cute, redheaded, freckle faced woman had his wife’s email information displayed with a video of the transaction and with him as he unzipped his pants. Including the tattoo “Property of Tessalynn” prominently visible. All this woman needed to do was press “Send” on the screen.

He heard the gravel crunch as she left in the modified battery-powered pickup truck with oversized tires.

In the spray-paint and rust, all-electric American built pickup truck, the modified battery pack listed itself as seventy-percent charged. It had a modified drive system that someone planned to make the it a redneck a long distance champ, but the whole system was an abysmal failure.

It could hold the legal speed, but it’s acceleration was slow. Still, after a two-hour drive, the truck made a ping noise and audio warnings for a charge. The extended battery pack was less than five-percent and needed a deep charge from an appropriate source. She plugged it in to an independent solar charger left over from the early days of the electronic revolution. All the extra technology had been removed, so it was not part of the worldnet.

The full charge was free, while an elderly child of a couple of hippy parents raged against the corporate society by charging cars and trucks for no charge.
This was another lesson, with help from the old man who went by the name of “Hummingbird” Johnson, he charged the big, black primer-spray and rust pickup with a lecture on how America lost its way with people dependent on oil energy.

This was something to learn about the American people at that instant. The kindly gift of energy, by the man railed against the importing of oil from the seat of civilization. An elderly soldier in a singular war against the planet’s use of resources started by his parents.

Except that, from the point of view of the slow hike on foot from Florida, charging stations were abundant, fuel depots that dispensed oils were not. So the elderly man seemed to be in error.

However, the android calculated the charges of the electric power stations owned by Standard Excel Electric Motivation Systems “SEEMS” charged equivalent amounts of credit per unit of energy.

The old man swore the population might feel the electric company that “Filled up” their electric automotive machines on the cheap. He uncovered that the per-mile cost of energy worked out to the same or higher than if they drove an oil-burning vehicle.

Hummingbird had it correct, the technology had hidden the cost compared to the profit.

A definition: Greed. He fumed. The God of Business. The power company would make as much money from the people who worked as it could. They swear god is in the money that people spend just to go down the road, that is what keeps everyone alive.

And yet?

And yet the people believed that they were making lives better for themselves in the name of buying power, converted from the sun.

Lovers, haters, atheists and devout.

Then those, like Hummingbird, who believed in the God of the leaf he smoked in his pipe “helped with the appetite”.

Once again. There were errors in the database. The update algorithm encoded a patch to install during the night when the android powered down again at an inexpensive, hotel after the long drive.

Still with a full charge on the batteries, the stone-crushing truck came to a stop in a motel’s parking lot.

The ancient pavement and paint barely marked places to park. The tiny woman who purchased the big truck was no longer visible. Instead, there was a tall, broad, bushy-bearded biker-stereotype with tattoos that took some effort to place in obvious locations on the forearms and hands.

The big man looked like a stereotype of a biker returning to his roots, he signed his name on the register as “Snake” in generic block lettering. The intimidating new tenent paid cash and took the key with barely a word.

The android retired to the rented room alone. His perceived size would ensure people would avoid him and the room.

He sat on the edge of the bed and re-shaped to a slim, human male. This basic shape drew significantly less energy to maintain.

Greed, anger. The android had found a few dark sides to these Americans, but few could truly be listed as evil.

He removed his shoes and pulled down the bedclothes before he got on the bed.

He adapted to the cool of the night from the previous hotel by using blankets for warmth, not just for looks.

Information where the database was wrong:

America, not a cesspool or an evil place. It was not wholly godless, pagan or god-fearing.

America, not a place there were no streets paved with gold or they practiced libations and orgies.

America: They swore at each other, pointed fingers, fought and published news unlike anywhere else. They exposed the worst parts of each other. But, when attacked, they showed the family ties that they were.

Family. Every one. Every hue, it seemed. Hated each other, but when someone outside threatened them. They stood side by side and protected each other’s back no matter their religion, color or orientation.

Data. So much data to rewrite. The patch would need to be written in sections during the power down.

What was observed and recorded and the patch would reflect:

It was a place where people loved, laughed, and lived lives, had children. Some never gave birth to children and were fulfilled and happy.

Some eschewed technology and lived close to the Supreme Creator according to their belief by toiling on the earth for the bounty that they grew.

Information picked up in six hours of driving and observing. The code to update the database was large and complex. It would take the full night to rewrite the new information.

A quick inventory, shoes off, blankets up. Room heat, according to human sleep cycles, turned down a few degrees below normal body temperature.

He turned off the lights in the room with the remote control and closed the optic sensors that were eyes.

Setting the timer to start the power-up start sequence before sunrise, he shut down. His core processor seeking that edge of programming that danced around the low energy gates of the memory bus.

Humans would have called them dreams.

An editor? When you need one.

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Writers make rough editors. We clean out our mistakes from a manuscript, and write in whole new batches of them. Another writer looking at your work, puts in their version of your story. It is >your< world.

So you think you need a professional editor. Five cents a word. Not bad… but you have one-hundred thousand words. That gets expensive. So you stick it out. It’s not so bad, right?

Then you have something you have found a flaw?  The more you clean it up, the more errors you find.

When you are about to give up, you resign yourself to keep it on the back burner.  It eats at the back of your brain.  You see the flaws, but those that are your family pat you on the head and tell you “Everybody dreams.”

Some people you come across say they can take a look. Then run a spellcheck on it and say it’s perfect.

Um… no, it’s not.

Slowly, as a writer, you fix a few things, but you know you are blind to the flaws. Mom says this is good and is excited.

Then, maybe, fortune wanders into your library of “Someday could be’s.”

The person asks “Can I take a look?”

Sure. You and 20 other people.

Only this one.  This person they find a flaw and tell you..then another. They pronounce it good, but would you send them the composition and they would look at it.

What the heck. Shrug. Go for it.  What few flaws you can find, if you catch the ones I have given up on.

And the list grows. (Insert boggle here)

This person makes you excited again.  You still need to write and you do.  But this person makes it a happy thing and you begin to obsess.

“Let’s get it done!”

This editor makes you more proud of what you have created than any time in the past.  You begin to think there might be a living at this!  Maybe get a professional editor!

Then you find out that the editor that works on your books, they are indeed an English Lit major and is days from getting a degree.

An awesome twist of fate, no?

Well it goes on now.

I would like to introduce you to the editor, CEO and degree holding (She goes for her official graduation in May) She shares a soul, pulls no punches, is honest and fast. Another author friend of Poffpublishing here in WP world also takes of this young woman’s skills and spirit.

If you need a manuscript to be looked over.  To have a person with increasing skills.  She will polish your manuscript and improve your satisfaction.  She’ll cover a broad range of issues.

Contact L. Barnhill here on
lbarnhill556@gmail.com

A good soul, she holds her degree and we have cheered (Poffpublishing and myself) her on.  Now so is a degree holding editor who is gaining confidence, along with her friendship. I recommend her for your budget editing needs.

Use her schooling, her skills and her frustratingly accurate comments of “Huh?” .

So be warned.  She pulls no punches. But she coats it with love.

Email her with an inquiry as soon as possible. Be part of her growing tree of clients because she is soon in demand by many people.

The Stone Carver

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The Stone Carver

 

In the gallery of statues, the old stone cutter swept around the life sized, Greek-Roman statuary. Many were carved of solid blocks of pink salt from beautiful flowers of incredible detail in different colors of salt, to macabre life-sized statues of people in still life. Some writhed in horrific throes of agony, where he had carved the body, then used water to partly dissolve an appendage.

The tourists that came to the gallery, never left disappointed. It was a gallery of classic, eclectic, romance, and agony.

And within him, was agony. He suffered the loss of his wife, murdered years before. The funeral lasted two days, and had thousands of people in attendance. Such was her popularity.

Security video showed a Saleen Geeteks, who killed her with a broken lampshade as he robbed her. When the police apprehended Saleen, he was found insane and they sent him to a mental asylum for life.

In the end, Angus felt no justice was served and he was not whole. Following his disappointment, he vanished from public life. Never to venture out, he moved his shop to the country where he carved and whittled on marble and salt blocks. It was the quiet life where people left him alone in his heartbreak.

It was quiet, until two couples opened the door and stepped into the gallery. The number and size of the stone carvings was beyond belief.

“I have heard of this place. I didn’t think it was real.” Trokken said, dressed in the latest adaptive combat camouflage. A cream-white jumpsuit that changed patterns and colors as the wearer moved, reducing the wearers visible outline.

They stood inside the door, one of the women, Sunrise, pulled on the others.

“Get out of the line of the door. Stand between the decorations.”

“May I help you?” Angus walked from his studio.

“This is yours?” Trokken asked.

“All you see here; marble or salt, I have created. Flowers, faces, from beauty to horror. What you wish, you will find here.”

“Flowers?” The one called Lillith looked around. “This is stone?”

“Salt, to be precise. The pink comes from a mineral that’s extracted from different sources, and then baked into a block of anhydrous sodium chloride. I carve the shapes as I see them after that.“

“This is gross.” Lillith said.

“The images you see here represent many facets of the struggle of humans, and the beauty of the human body in the marble. Nudes are in the other room, away from where children or people easily offended.” Angus smiled. “Follow me.”

He turned and led the others into the studio of creating.

“In here, I make the objects of beauty. Those flowers you have seen, Miss?” He looked at the taller, dirt-encrusted woman.

“Lillith. That is my war name.”

“War name?” Angus blinked. “Very well, Lillith. The flowers are made of a kind of salt I call, “Dood”. And here, I have a bust of a woman who requested to have her looks immortalized for her grandchildren.”

A crash sounded in the gallery by the entrance. They realized that Odyri was not with them. The young rebels ran to the gallery followed by Angus.

The statue of Adonis lay on the floor, decapitated and splintered.

“Ach! Noooo.” Angus picked up the head. “This was hundreds of hours of chiseling. It was Kaelin’s favorite. I made the body as I was when she met me.”

“This is what must happen to all graven images. You have souls captured in here.” Trokken hissed.

“I do not! You need to rethink your perversion.” He held a stone finger in his hand his voice became tight. “I cannot accept this.”

He glanced around with a fire in his eyes.

“You will join that statue.” Trokken told the kneeling stone carver.

Screams of fear and terror shredded the silence in the gallery.

****

After six weeks had passed, Detectives Barnes and Noble stepped through the doors and rang the ancient bell on the counter.

“May I help you?” Angus asked.

Odd, he doesn’t seem surprised to see us. Thought Detective Barns as they introduced themselves.

“Business going well for you?”

“Quite fine. I am busy in my studio back here.” Angus smiled, motioning the men to come join him. The old chisler struggled to move a statue of four life-sized figures carved out of a single block of salt to the wheeled frame of a moving dolly.

“We are looking for four people, two men and two women who are wanted in connection to a bombing at the community services center.” Detective Nobel said, reading off of his handheld notebook. “They stole a car and murdered the owners. About a week ago the car was found up the road about ten-kilometers from here. Your gallery is the only building between the city and where it was found. Has anyone that looks like this come into your shop?” Detective Noble showed Angus images of the four wanted felons.

“No sales, a few visitors. I sell mostly by online catalog. I keep busy creating salt-blocks for my sculptures. I am preparing a new block of marble in the back and I’m making a block of red-salt  in the mold over there.”

“You mold salt?” Detective Barns

“Yes, it’s heated to over eight-hundred degrees centigrade and slowly cooled so it grows into a translucent crystal. It takes about a week to make a pretty block with inclusions just before the block solidifies and I start carving.”

“You do some beautiful work.” Detective Noble said as he leaned over a flower. “This is very beautiful. How do you get it so smooth?”

“Moist rag. I sometimes lick a finger and just rub, but that leaves striations. So, I use a nanofiber rag with a fine spray of water.”

“This is macabre.” Detective Barns examined a figure of a woman with a horrified look, a spill of simulated water had dissolved her hand off her arm.

“Yes, I have a wide range of creation. It is my therapy since my wife was murdered a few years ago.”

“Yes, my deepest condolences.” Barnes’ words were without emotion. “As I recall, the killer was sent to a hospital for the criminally insane.”

“For life, which is longer than my wife had at his hands.” Angus stood up and glared at the taller detective in the eye with undiluted rage. “There was no real justice in that. You know how she died, detective?”

“Yes, he used a sharp object that was never recovered.”

“Yes. The reason it was never recovered was because she had been repeatedly stabbed by a shard of salt. He left it in the pool of her blood where it dissolved.” Angus hissed. “Not only did she die alone, she died in unremitting agony. Each hole stuck in her by that sharpened stone would have burned like a hot iron. So, forgive me if I have some statues that have a touch of anger in them.”

“This statue is odd.” Detective Noble commented on the life-sized quartet Angus moved.

“Odd, yes, it is my most recent inspiration. It is the Compass of Justice. Each criminal turns on the other, each stabbing the next in a circle. There is no honor among those that worship death.” Angus smiled softly. “I apologize for my flare of anger, detective. Kaelin was my sunshine. When she was alive, we helped the community. Now, I am just a stone carver. I have no use for the outside world other than to bring me subject matter.”

“You have some fine detail, Mr. Cu’Laith.” The detective said, leaning forward. “This face has shadows, but the salt is clear as glass. Like something is inside of the sculpture.”

“You can see into the crystal, nothing is there.” Angus smiled. “I have been working it for a few days to get that effect.”

Angus pulled at his ear. “If you would be so kind as to watch the clearance while I roll this to the gallery, we can get on with the interview.”

“Oh, Mr. Cu’Laith, this is not an interview. Just tying up some loose ends.”

“Of course, detective.” They followed the stone carver to his gallery with the newest display.

Something about that. Ran through Detective Noble’s mind. Oh, I know! He has used the same faces as the museum downtown.

The two detectives bid their farewell from the stone carver. Gave their condolences again over the loss of his wife and crossed the address off of their list. Barnes and Noble glanced at each other and shrugged.

He struggled with the statue and muscled it in place. Then in an inspiration, he rotated it to the best view from the door, then walked back into his studio.

He stopped at the Compass of Justice. The framework inside was barely visible. You could almost see the gossamer thin flesh of a face under the half-inch of polished sodium chloride.

 

Failure of the Heart

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If Only… The failure of the heart

 It seemed like a lifetime ago, he knew her as a young man and broke her heart. Three words he never said, the phrase withheld with a hesitant heart. 

She once looked him in the eye and used her willpower to get him to speak his heart, and then he changed the subject. In the months that passed, they began to see less of each other. Then school, career and the end of innocence came after that

Then came separate lives.

Years later, after a friend (now no longer such) played mind games with the knowledge that friends share in matters of the heart and served only to increase his guilt while he kept her in the front of his memories.

Thoughts of a life that could have been, a smile never forgotten, a sad look that never rose above the pain of his immaturity.

Often he could look back and recall her expectant smile. The words she never heard in life he now whispered as he knelt at her headstone.  Another victim of domestic abuse that could have had her path changed for the better with but a single expression of emotion from a college-bound ex-boyfriend. A phrase that could have changed their lives.

Could he have changed the world with three words?

“I love you.”

Silence. Granite and bronze are as unresponsive as the teenage heart that has plans of school and career. Could this young man have saved her from the pain and years of domestic abuse?

Perhaps.

Then again, perhaps not.

With a heavy sigh, the ex-boyfriend stood and walked away from his agony of failure. The weight of ten-thousand nights that he relived his choice that condemned them to separate lives.

Could their lives have been different? The world will never know.

But the answer was known, deep in his heart.

The deepest wish of a simpler time, the teenager, now aged with laced with white hair and a slight limp from a long-ago accident that also left him widowed had come to visit, just fifteen months too late.

News in the way of gossip around a school reunion came to him of her current address on this quiet lane, lined with headstones. Only an apology on his lips and the sob that escaped his soul.

As the salt and pepper haired man held hands with princesses and left the lane, the curious voices of the grandchildren echoed among headstones. Soft sounds of life were all that they left for those that slept the forever slumber.

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

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

‟Tom! This. I mean you…!” Kaylee paced the length of the jet, laughing hysterically holding her hands to her face. ‟I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t want to talk about this. We can’t be having this talk.”

She tried to make herself relax.

‟It can happen,” Tom said with a smirk. “It would be a simple mistake if it were a small thing, but you made an error like that? You’re stuck as my wife. I’m sorry but that makes me smile. It’s your issue to deal with right now. We can fix it, besides I don’t mind being married to you.  It’s entertaining.”

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

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

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

Tom chuckled when an a thought struck him. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It is the weirdest month I’ve ever had.” Kaylee whispered.

*It’s been a summer to remember! I have seen both the good and bad sides of people. It’s as if some grand illusionist with  a twisted imagination has written my life. A perfect storm of adventures and perverts. Days with drugs…*

Kaylee gasped.

*What if this was all a dream? Could I be still in early June? After being attacked, when I beat the crap out of that serial rapist, wanted on at least ten different crimes. Am I going to wake up in my bed, alone?*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟How many husbands have you had?” He looked down at her when he flinched. “Ack! Brat.”

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

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

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

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

‟I don’t know. Maybe they would put this all into a book- a series even.” She laughed. “I could go on adventures with you until we made the coastal cities complain, we could be a husband-wife crime solving movie series.”

‟Naw, I couldn’t take that. I’m sad enough that you want an annulment to go marry someone else.” The writer of heart and passion looked down. “Keep this going as a series? We’d have to roll the clock back and live an hour-by-hour book.”

‟That would be a long series.” She nodded. “And a lot of fun.”

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

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

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

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

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

‟Heron and who?”

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

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

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

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

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

‟What? OH! Tom, I’m being serious.”

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

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

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

Feeling suddenly unhappy, selfish, even a little unwanted. She took her head off Tom’s chest and got out of bed.

‟I think we should get going. You said you would be able to fly with your arm?”

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

‟Cursive?”

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

‟So what are you saying?”

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

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

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

‟Well…”

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

‟Two things. I care a great deal for you, Glenn would have never tolerated my quirks.” She said. “He would have blamed me for the Professor. And Glenn likes to keep me stoned. Loving him when we’re stoned is fun.”

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

Kaylee laughed.

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

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

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

‟So I am the consolation prize?”

Kaylee face-palmed, she did not mean it as an insult and an embarrassed laugh escaped her.

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

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

‟Melanie .”

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

‟She would like that.”

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

‟You find someone?” Kaylee said. ‟Please? You should not be alone.”

‟No. I can’t promise that. I won’t be untruthful to you.” A small smile played on his lips.

“I have been alone a long time, you were a surprise.” Tom said. ‟A pleasant, exciting, twisted, funny and chocolate-flavored,” He licked her lips. ‟Surprise.”

‟You are not upset?”

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

“Okay.” She looked him with suspicion, then changed the subject. ‟We can fly now?”

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

Married by Mistake Chapter 32. Jaw Drop

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Chapter 32. Jaw Drop

‟What do you mean it won’t be accepted?” Kaylee’s eyes widened..

‟Clerk of the court is exacting and by law can not help or give advice. It is outside their scope.” Tom smiled while he pulled at his ear while looking where she had initialed and signed. “I have had experience with court papers in the past.”

‟So… We have to fill another set of papers out.”

‟Well, yes.” Tom stopped smiling. ‟If you are still wanting the annulment, we can go there tonight and be there when the court opens in the morning.”

‟Can you fly?” Panic grew in her soul like a fire. “It’s not so much wanting it. I don’t want to divorce you.”

‟I can be flown. I have healed pretty well, we are changing the dressings regularly and I have no infection showing. So. Yes. I can go.”

A wink meant to put her at ease just made Kaylee think he was hiding something.

Kaylee turned to the steaming pot of her own recipe of dark chocolate and fresh pomegranate juice she had crushed with a spoon, dribbling the liquid into her creation.

“I think you might have done this on purpose.” Tom pondered as he looked over the papers that his wife signed. “You are sure you signed these carefully?”

Shaking her head, her hair swayed in the soft light of the galley while she moved around the steaming pot.

A makeshift double boiler, chocolate, essence of pomegranate infused into the molten mass, a pinch of powdered chili pepper that she found in his pantry of the large jet.

*Flying boat.* She reminded herself for the umpteenth time, while she moved about the galley wearing his pajamas and t-shirt, yipping slightly when she stirred the wine into the sauce to energetically and splashed a drop on to her bare skin to Tom’s amusement while he sat in the dining area. .

*The reason people do not cook while half asleep.* She thought to herself.

“And I did not make an error on purpose.” She said, taking a dab of melted chocolate out of the pot and rubbing it on his nose, licking it off. “Mm, good.” And turned back to her “Operation-Starved-Lover” at hand.

Tom moved so he could watch her from his perch on the edge of the table. He didn’t want to sit down again, he missed some moves and bends she made.

For Kaylee , the shock of the news that she signed and initialed the wrong places had thrown her off her mood. She wanted to do something constructive that she had skills in, cooking up sweet and savory things was a knack for her. Sometimes she used a little weed in her mixes to enhance things.

A slightly spiced dark chocolate-pomegranate sauce with a pinch of Australian pink river salt.

“No, I need to go home, anyway. My pops would not take kindly to us getting married the way we did.” She spoke softly as she leaned over and kissed him again with chocolate on her lips. After she pondered for several minutes, looking in his eyes and seeing a sadness creep in to his eyes, she went back to work on her creation.

He struggled to keep her from seeing the hurt, but Kaylee was a student of observation and art. It did not get past her.

Slicing up bananas into a bowl, she dribbled her dark-chocolate wine sauce over the coin-sized medallions of the fruit.

‟There.” She smiled. ‟Only 15 minutes and I am just now getting some feeling in my legs.”

‟You have moved okay from my point of view.” He said, smiling at the way she moved around the chair to him. “You are enjoying yourself making that so much, I bet that must be a practiced snack.”

Sitting on his lap, Kaylee scooped up a banana slice with a spoon and gave him first bite of her impromptu morning meal.

‟That is good.” He smiled. ‟Salty, sweet, peppery.”

‟Like me?”

‟You. You are just a pepper.” He kissed her chocolate flavored lips. “A beautiful one.”

‟What do you mean?” She sat back, giving him a quizzical look.

Tom kissed her, causing Kaylee gasp playfully.

‟You are hot.” Tom smiled. Tracing the tip of his tongue over her sensitive vermillion zone of her labial oris.

‟You are going to make me spill this.” She whispered with her eyes closed.

‟Just wait. You might want to put the bowl down for this.” He winked with a glint of humor in his eye.

Stealing a slice of a banana dipped in the chocolate Tom then put both in his mouth and kissed her deeply, enjoying the blend of flavors.

Kaylee returned the kiss with eyes closed, dreams tickled her soul. Passion filled her heart. Images of brilliant color danced with the muse of her mind.

‟Ouch…” She rubbed her lip.

‟Sorry.”

‟No, please. It hurt, but in a good way.” She whispered in his ear. “Don’t you dare stop.”

She shifted her position so she was astride him, Kaylee fed him more of her chocolate-flavored creation from the shared spoon.

Taking a smear of breakfast on her finger, she traced the chocolate covered digit over Tom’s lips, kissing him as his good hand caressed her body as if for the first time. Her body was a playground for his muse.

When the kiss broke, Kaylee leaned back slightly, putting a spoonful of the fruit and chocolate into her mouth with a smile while Tom kissed the void just above her collarbone, his hand supported the small of her back.

‟Mm… I like that.” She whispered as he small dribbles of chocolate that flavored her skin, then blew gently to give her a thrilling chill.

“Oh… I like that. A. Lot.” She bit her bottom lip, she held the bowl in one hand and ran her fingers through his hair with the other.

Balancing the bowl in her hands, she leaned forward and wrapped her arms around him holding him, his breath, tears from his eyes both alarmed her and made her smile at the same time.

A moment passed as she kissed his neck and earlobe.

‟You should have stopped when I told you to.” Tom said when he could talk again.

‟Take a bite.” She said offering him another spoonful. ‟Why should I deny myself the fun of making you squirm? I like watching you struggle for control.”

‟Because I was admitting to something.” When he could talk after swallowing the offered morsel.

‟Mm…what?” She still had not realized what he was saying.

‟You.” He whispered. “You… are the sole reason I smile.”

His words finally making sense, her eyes got big for a moment and put the bowl down on the table.

‟Oh, uh oh! Don’t you dare say that.” Kaylee tried to stand but her legs were refusing to flex properly and she had to help herself with her arms from the chair. ‟Tom, I didn’t want to have this.” 

Tom thought about that for a moment, then he nodded. 

“Nothing like complicating matters.” Tom chuckled. 

“Don’t make me love you back.” She said, a tear filled her eye with a sad laugh.

Married by Mistake Chapter 25. Month’s End

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Chapter 25. Month’s End

Kaylee walked slowly with Tom as while she pushed him in a wheelchair towards the ‟Garden of Healing”.

Reaching the trees, native redwoods that bounded the half-acre garden full of native coastal plants.

The garden grew rich with beautiful colors of life, a peaceful location in the middle of the huge facility of intense emotions where hearts and souls healed from having their bodies repaired from different trauma and illness.

The couple enjoyed the sunlight until they came to the natural ten-century old Cathedral Tree where Kaylee parked Tom in his wheelchair, talked and held hands like the lovers they had become.

The Cathedral Tree, a half-circle of redwood trees that grew in a large open area on the campus of the medical center. Kaylee smiled at the smells that reminded her of home. She could feel the power of the Earth that lived here. In the middle of the healing professionals, medicine and sterile atmosphere, the Gods of Old, of life and sky sat in watchful gaze over the modern lives that began, ended and healed in the nearby structures of doctors, nurses and patients.

Except for one stubborn area of his arm, Tom’s condition improved faster than predicted, he impressed the team of surgeons, one suggested that part of the healing was the hand holding by the young wife had a positive effect.

“Attitude accounts for much of the recovery.” A journeyman surgeon said during an exam of Tom’s arm while waiting for Doctor Tribbing.

Fortune had it that the wound made by the glass in the tissues was smoother than even they could do with their surgical steel scalpels. Even obsidian or diamond bladed edged instruments could not have performed a cleaner, smooth-edged incision.

The wound, they said after surgery, was perfect for them to repair. Flesh and even the ends of the bone that were cloven so smoothly that the ends matched up precisely.

The only failure was the annoying lack of healing in one deep area in his arm. A drainage kept coming from the tubes they put in to help his wounds to keep fluid from building up.

Tom had stopped eating for fear of gaining weight and lost weight, despite the IV that ran into his arm constantly. Kaylee nagged him to eat, and when he did, he would only eat the most minute of portions.

Once again she could not help but think of more than three weeks ago. The summer was an adventure in ways she had never dreamed.

They sat in the filtered sun of the Cathedral Tree. The perfume from the tree made Kaylee think of camps and a campfire, she took deep breaths and images of fire-roasted cornbread, and foil-wrapped baked potatoes danced in her head. She could feel the power of the earth coming from the ancient species of tree dance with her muse.

Even obnoxious, bored children that made noise and were under the constant shush of nurses and parents, whispered in the natural wood enclave saved by some genius architect. Such was the power of the Cathedral Tree.

Small crosses with names – people who committed to each other here –  tucked in the small areas between the trunks of the trees. Momento’s of weddings and thanks for the peaceful place in the middle of a medical center.

It promised of a time she looked forward to when the hospital released Tom and they would spend an evening on the beach.

In the quiet of the shade, Tom had slipped into a soft sleep, caused by the residual effects of heavy medications. She sat and held his hand, waiting for him to drift awake again when they would talk more. A conversation between the husband and wife, lovers and friends that could continue after a nap as if it never stopped.

In this quiet moment, Kaylee ’s phone chimed an alert to a text message. As she read her phone, it was a class synopsis that her education mentor suggested for the upcoming year.

Scrolling through the pages, the mentor reduced her class schedule. The math showed she had enough extra credit she had done the year before. She could do one less class this year, two less in her senior year if her grades qualified.

*I might do post-grad credits before I graduate! I like extra credits.*

‟Kaylee ?” Tom was awake! ‟Damn, how long have I been sleeping?”

‟Tom! How do you feel?” It was her standard question. The arm would sometimes cause him in agony. Then she smiled and gave him a synopsis. “Oh. Today or total? You woke up for a half-hour this morning, but you have been pretty groggy the last seven days. They don’t want you to move the tendons just yet.”

‟It has been a week?.” Tom had lost time during his stay. It was a regular start to all his conversations of late.

‟Yeah, a lot has happened and everything has been on hold.”

‟Let me get my mind around this. I’m still fuzzy.”

The drugs they shot Tom up with during the last week faded quickly in the sunlight and redwood perfumed air.

*The nurse had said this would happen when they discontinued his medications that kept him from moving much.* She smiled.

Even in his induced sleep, he was incredibly uncomfortable. A stomach sleeper and the doctor wanted him to keep the arm above his heart.

‟We need the annulment papers signed. We can file them tomorrow or the next day. I’ll have Robin, my lawyer, do it. You just need to sign the papers, they are on the Flying Sea Dragon.” Tom said quietly. His voice much improved since the first night when the nurse said it was a side-effect of having a tube pushed past his vocal cords.

‟What about your signature?” She frowned. This moment took a sudden turn to the sad-side.

‟I signed the papers weeks ago, a night you were crying in your sleep.” Tom said quietly, a shot of pain ran across his face. ‟You whispered Glenn’s name in that dream.”

‟Omy god, I’m so sorry.” Kaylee doubted that the pain was from his arm.

‟Don’t be. You said from the beginning, we weren’t supposed to be married. And really, you did not have to come here, either. You are a good person, but I am almost twice your age, I have all I have, but I lack one thing.” Tom moved a bit and groaned in pain and whispered a profanity. ” A future.”

Tom looked up at the big tree and gave a big sigh.

‟Like this young tree, your future is still bright and lays ahead of you with your Glenn. Get the papers and walk them over to the offices at the airport. Send them registered mail so it’s a required signature. That way it is the soonest it will be over, and you won’t have to return from your days back home to here and deal with this mess.”

‟Tom, I…” She couldn’t talk, her throat had tightened up like a knot. It was what she had wanted all month, why was it that it seemed to hurt, now that the time was here.

When this mess started she wept for the loss of her single-ness.

She loved with him.

She had fought with him.

She raced to his side in his time of need.

She spoke with the doctor about him and his arm when they thought that they may have to amputate.

She had fought for him with that witchy-woman who would demand he write while he recovered from having his arm, his future, hung by a thread of flesh.

She still felt like he told her to abandon him.

‟Tom, I…” Damn, there goes that knot in her heart again. ‟I will stay until they send you home, there are days I can catch up.”

‟You have to sign up for the classes, I’ll be discharged to attend Doctor Manga’s installation and make a speech. I can do that with only one arm.”

‟Tom, Honey, maybe you and I can get together after you get back from, Cambridge is where it is?”

‟That would be nice, but when I get back from Cambridge I’ll head to other places for a while.”

‟You think you might move?”

‟I am never in one place for long, you know that.”

‟Well, I thought. I mean, I just assumed that you stayed there.”

‟No, I was in Ocean Bay to meet with Dr. Manga and make a few donations and write. I would have been long-gone if we never met.” Tom groaned as he shifted in the wheelchair. “I just couldn’t fly away.”

‟And how do you plan to fly with that arm.” Kaylee was a little taken aback at her effect on his life. She and Tom worked well as a team and she kind of wanted him to grieve. It stung her that he had planned on moving on already. ‟You should be with someone to help you heal.”

‟I’ll hire a nurse, if need. But I think I am okay with flying on a wide-body jet in first-class. I can even buy tickets for four seats so I can spread out.”

This was all twisted, she was about to get what she wanted and he acted all matter-of-fact about how he would return to the world that he lived in.

*It feels like he woke up only to stab my heart.* Her heart and soul had a hard time with this.

*No. This,* she made a choice, *Is an opportunity. My life can get back on track, I’ve had an adventure. Me and Melanie can share this and still be friends with Tom. I can still go live my life as I meant it to be.*

But why did she feel as if she was about to lose a piece of her heart. If Tom wasn’t so badly hurt, she’d break his arm.

*And I can do it, too.*

*Ugh!* She clenched her teeth.

Even if it was right, this was so wrong.

*So damned wrong.*

Married by Mistake Chapte 20. Beside Manner

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Chapter 20. Bedside Manner

Kaylee exited the elevator car and followed the signs on the signs to the locked ICU doors, Kaylee picked up the phone on the wall and held it to her ear.

‟May I help you.” The voice was impersonal, professional and disinterested as if it answered the request for entry a hundredth time this shift.

‟Kaylee Gra… Harte to see Tom Harte.”

The lock buzzed and she pulled the heavy fire-rated door open and walked in to the nurses station.

The tall, redheaded nurse with a badge of ‟Michelle, RN, BSN, MSN” stood up and smiled.

‟You are looking for Mister Harte? The Doctor is in with him now.”

‟Thank you.” Kaylee nodded and smiled and followed Michelle who led her to room ‟E” where through the partly closed drape, through the door she could see a body that lay covered in tubes and wires.

The smells of disinfectant were everywhere, and although the nurses station was cool, the breeze that wafted out of the ICU room was quite warm, tubes ran to Tom’s uninjured arm, an oxygen tube ran from the wall ending in a forked pair of small tubes going into his nostrils.

“Please wait here for a few minutes, Missus Harte, the doctor is with your husband now.” Michelle said. “I’m sorry to have to make you wait, the doctor went in and sat down.”

“No worries, Michelle. I will wait here, thank you.”

The right arm was laying in gauze that had already stained a red and the doctor was touching the copper-colored fingers with a stainless steel stylus.

‟Yeah, I feel that.” Tom croaked out.

‟Good, can you move them?” The doctor asked.

A moment passed, and the fingers moved almost imperceptibly, but definite movement.

‟Good.” The Doctor just noticed them as Kaylee stood outside the door. “OH! You’re his wife?”

‟Yes.”

‟Tom has spoken a lot about you, how do you do? I’m Doctor Tribbing, I led the team to repair the wound in Mister Harte’s arm.” The Doctor pulled the drape open to allow her in and then fully around and obscured the world outside the door. “That was my fault, I didn’t let anyone know I came back here to double-check Tom’s wound.”

‟Kaylee!” Tom’s voice was hoarse and creaky. ‟Hi.”

‟He will sound like that for a few hours, he just got out of surgery, there was a bit of damage and we reattached his tendons without difficulty.” The Doctor nodded then adding. “He may have some nerve damage we are watching for.”

‟What happened?”

‟Report is he dropped some heavy glass object, a broken section of glass hit his forearm and cut a large defect into his arm.”

‟How deep?” Kaylee ’s eyes grew wide.

‟Well,”The Doctor said as he flipped through the chart. ‟Through the soft tissues and the radial bone. It was like being hit by a large scalpel. We had some cleanup to do with glass splinters, but the damage was otherwise clean on his forearm, no breaks, the glass cut through the bone, we did an external fixation— this is why you see this Erector set construction here on his arm. The soft-tissues were similarly cut, but it was, as I said, like a scalpel had done it.”

‟What, how.”

‟He said he was carrying a glass table top that broke when he fell and Mister Harte ended underneath it all with this wound.” Again, Tom gave a weak nod. “So we have some chance of a crush injury as well, but it is not obvious at the moment.”

‟Oh my god.” Kaylee held her hand to her mouth. “Will he be okay?”

‟Yes, he lost a lot of blood, but we fixed the leaks. He said he had to crawl out from under it to get help.” The doctor looked at Tom who nodded.

‟What he said.” Tom croaked again, then went quiet as his eyes closed.

‟He will be in and out for a bit. I prescribed him some pretty potent pain relief. He woke up in good deal of pain after the surgery.” Doctor Tribbing said. “An object hit his hand with considerable force before the glass cut his arm.”

‟He is okay now?” Kaylee repeated herself, her mind spinning.

‟Time will tell for sure, but the prognosis is good.” The Doctor nodded to himself, the smile ran away from his face when a tone in his jacket pocket sounded, the doctor opened the cover and looked at the screen of the flip-phone. ‟I’m sorry, but I must go. He will become more alert in a little while.”

“Michelle!” The doctor turned and called across the hallway.

He walked out to answer the text he received and she sat next to Tom.

‟Hey. You came!” Tom sounded surprised.

‟Yes, I have been here for a few minutes, you talked to me already.”

‟Oh. I don’t remember.” Tom said. “You sure? I know everyone who comes in and out.”

He sounded sharp, but he faded quickly. A blink of an eye that did not open again.

‟It’s the drugs, like when we got married.”

Tom tried to laugh, then groaned. ‟Ouch.”

‟What is wrong?” Kaylee stood and kissed him on the forehead. “Are you in pain?”

‟My throat is sore, like they ran a pipe-cleaner coated with broken glass down it.”

‟Are you sick?” She stroked his nose. “No kisses for you if you are.”

From the doorway, a nurse walked in, different from the one that greeted her. He was heavyset and goatee going grey at the edges, ‟Randy, RNIII, MSN” On his badge.

‟I’m his nurse for the next few hours. Tom has done well during the surgery.” Randy said with a smile. “I hear you are doing well, Mister Harte.”

‟Why is Tom’s throat sore?”

‟When he was in surgery, they put a tube down his throat, it’s not unusual to have that discomfort.” Randy said. Soft-spoken, quick to smile, he had years of caring and seemed to enjoy his job of caring for the sick and injured.

‟How long will his throat be sore?” Kaylee stroked Tom’s good arm.

‟A few hours to a couple of days. His vocal cords got an unusual bit of abuse today. Some ice chips if he wants.” Randy nodded at Tom. “It will go away after a bit.”

‟Ice chips, yeah. Please.” Tom rasped out.

‟You bet, Mr. Harte.”

‟Tom, please. Mr. Harte is my dad. Admiral Harrison Harte. He will be on his way,” Tom winced as he spoke.”Him, you better call him Mister, mister.”

Randy laughed at the wordplay from a recovering patient, just out of post-op.

‟It’s you came back to this room faster than normal.” Randy said when he returned with a plastic cup of ground up ice.

‟I was tired of being in there, I told them I wanted to come back. The nurses in there were telling me that I had to spend time there until I was awake. So, I started singing, “Oh the cow kicked nelly in the belly in the barn” song- I tried to get a singalong with the other patients. They shoved me out pretty fast then.” Tom gave a weak smile.

Kaylee covered her laugh with her hand.

‟Oh, Tom! You didn’t.” She covered her face. “Oh gawd. You are worse when drugged.”

She turned to Randy. “Is it too late to claim I don’t know him? He is embarrassing me.”

Randy laughed.

‟Tom, you are one of a kind.” Randy shook his head and silently exited the room.

‟I did.” Tom said, smiling. ‟All kinds of messed up being in there and in pain. And flippin’ COLD, I don’t know why they have such cold oxygen going on a mask to wake you up.”

“Ugh..that hurt to say.” He grimaced.

‟Tom, you have to hush and suck on ice for now.”

‟I’d rather suck on your lips in a kiss.”

‟TOM!” Kaylee looked around, but no one was close enough to hear. ‟You are… seriously, bad.”

‟Punish me when I get home.”

‟Soon, how long will you be in here?”

‟I don’t know. What day is this now?” He took a small spoon full of ice. “\I feel like I have been in here for a month, already.”

A tap on the door.

‟Mister Harte?” It was a phlebotomy tech looking to draw Tom’s blood.

‟Over there, the pretty dark-haired one.”

This made the blood-draw tech to look between the two people in the room.

‟I heard about you.” The tech laughed. “Sorry, you can’t fool me.”

‟Made you pause though.”

Even with his arm almost cut off, Tom tried for laughs.

Kaylee looked out the window while she sat and thought while Tom flinched and said ‟Ow.” every time the tech touched him.

*A little boy in a grown body.* Kaylee shook her head and laughed again.

Later when she arranged for an overstuffed chair in so she could sleep next to Tom, she began to think twice about things. She hated to admit it to herself, but the truth of it all, he earned her respect. For good or bad, she had grown fond of him.

Married by Mistake Chapter 19. At The Hospital

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Chapter 19. At the Hospital

The trip by air to the north state was the fastest she had ever traveled, they were there in less than an hour when the Captain announced they were descending.

A quick touchdown in the sports car of the heavens and they taxied to the private area, coming to a complete stop in less time than Tom could get the Flying Sea Dragon out of the sky. The little business jet was faster in all categories, compared to the yacht that she had been on. But nowhere near as comfortable.

After the jets engines wound down, Kaylee stepped forward to the door when Captain Watson opened the door.

“There is a limo waiting for you Mrs. Harte.”

“Where are we?”

“Hayward Airport. This is the closest I can get you with the traffic tonight. The limo will take you directly to the hospital. Tom is in room 3418, it’s here on this paper. He might still be in surgery, I don’t know.”

“Thank you.” Kaylee answered taking the yellow notepad paper from Captain Watson.

The limo rocketed along at a fast walk as the chauffeur navigated through stop and go traffic in the Maze to cross the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

“Oh crap, someone’s grandma just past us with her walker! What is the hold up?” Kaylee called up through the open window.

The driver, Kaikane, laughed, then spoke with a pronounced Hawaiian accent.

“It is another one of those things about the local traffic in the Maze. You would do well by opening one of the bottles in the back, the green ones are good. They don’t taste like much to me, but they would put you in a mood. The one that says Absinthe.”

“Oh, hell no.” Kaylee laughed. “I have been on that stuff before, then I woke up two towns away with people who still think my name is Stacy. Absinthe is wicked magic in a bottle.”

“You should move to my home.” Kaikane laughed. “We have a drink, okolehao, that can do that, but you cannot be that far from where you live.”

Kaylee laughed at the tall Hawaiian, built like a giant “V”, she wondered if he tailored his driver’s uniform to show his build off or if it was a trick of how the jacket was cut.

They drove through the toll booths without stopping, the lane was a cash free lane, no fee collector occupied the booth. Kaikane lifted his foot off the pedal a little and rolled past the sensors at the perfect speed.

“Just like surfing.” Kaikane said, looking over his shoulder. “You do it right, it is easy.”

“Eyes on the road!” Kaylee gave a squeaky nervous laughed. The dark hair of the islander barely hung to his collar, except for islanders with shaved heads, his hair was shorter than of any Hawaiian she had ever met.

The white limousine was not stretched as she had seen others, and it was a solid ride, unlike her own rattle-trap of a car. She named her old girl, “Spot”, a car that would continue making spooky noises after hitting a bump for several dozen yards down a street. Her friends would say that the only reason it held together was habit.  

The expert hands of the college age chauffeur guided them to the main entrance of the medical center.

“Here we are Missus Harte.” Kaikane opened the door for Kaylee and handed her a business card. “Take this, I have his room number written on the back of my card. Good luck, Missus! I hope Tom is doing well.”

“Doesn’t anyone call him “Mister”?” She asked. “And when did you find out about what room he was in?”

“Oh no! He won’t allow it. If you are formal to him, he won’t consider you worthy of his business, Tom is quite insistent on that.” Kaikane smiled. “And I have an earphone, I wrote it down while sitting in traffic.”

“Oh my.” Kaylee pulled at her ear. She had learned more about Tom in the last few days than she had in the last three weeks sitting in his lap.

“Call the number anytime you need me back Missus…”

“Kaylee , please. If you call him Tom, you call me Kaylee .”

“Yes, ma’am. Kaylee .” His eyes sparkled with that calm soul that some people have. Kaylee wondered if it had to do something with the beauty of his home that gave him that ineffable contentment that showed in his actions.

Bidding him farewell, Kaylee walked through the sliding glass doors and to the information desk.

She had to be with Tom, even if she was not positive why this was important.

*I am his wife, it is in the rules somewhere. I am a good person too.* Kaylee laughed to herself.

And that made all the difference. Except it felt more than a duty, she was fond of him in different ways, with each passing day, she found another facet she adored of this man who she called “husband”.

The man who loved his solitude, but touched lives everywhere he went. Everyone called him by his first name, and for a man who even described himself in misanthropic terms and, except for tabloids, everyone liked him.

A lot.

The doors of the huge hospital opened to a small foyer that led to a security desk and a locked door.

“I’m here to see Tom Harte?” She asked the buzz-cut middle-aged man behind the thick glass who eyed her up and down.

“Open your purse please?” He had not even looked at the screen when he typed the name she gave him- he kept his eyes locked on her while he typed out everything.

Satisfied for whatever inspection that he performed when he shined an intense palm-sized light into her purse through the glass.

“Through the door, third elevator doors to the right side of the hallway, thirty-forth floor.” The directions were well rehearsed and spoken with a too-bored voice.

The door buzzed open and she walked down the hallway. The hallway at this time of day reminded her of the… What did the driver call it? What was the driver’s name? Kai, something, Kaikane. He called it “the Maze” on the approach to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The Maze had a little brother and she was in the middle of it.

Nearly losing count of elevators, Kaylee stopped, recounted behind her and found she was spot on at the correct elevator doors.

“First floor.” An electronic generated voice of a woman intoned.

Kaylee stepped into the elevator car with five other people.

“… Finally after all that, surgery went well, we re-established circulation with a Gore-Tex graft with good return of…” A young woman with an intense gaze told her fellow surgeon. She sounded exhausted as if she had been in surgery for a long time.

The male companion, touched her on the shoulder and the speaking woman looked at Kaylee and smiled, but spoke no more. The conversation continued as soon as the elevator doors opened on the tenth floor and they stepped out.

Finally with people getting on, and exiting, Kaylee arrived at the thirty-forth floor.

She immediately saw the sign she needed to direct her to her destination.

ICU.

Holding her breath, she picked up the phone next to the door.

“Here for Thomas Harte.” Her voice squeaked.

The door lock buzzed and she walked in to a new world.

Married by Mistake Chapter 17. Tom’s Thumb

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Chapter 17. Tom’s Thumb

Finals over, Doctor Manga and his staff looked at the image she created from a blank canvas, talked to her at length in the middle of a classroom of other students who needed make-up testing. The written sections were long, but she knew every answer.

Four hours later, she was back at the Wizard, a great weight off her soul while she traced her fingers over the computer and built-in phone charger that Tom would put his mobile phone in and then forget where he put the electronic equipment.

Kaylee sat on the sofa and pondered, her mind she thought would be clear with the finals test over. Was as conflicted as anyone ever could be.

*Ugh. One one hand, he was the most wonderful person I have ever met, all that history on the net even stands up for him.* She rubbed her forehead. *But he is not Glenn, and I have a life to live on my own.*

“Ugh!” The scream and clenched fists,  and she felt no better.

She gave herself a five-minute cry and a few minutes to recover. After she caught her breath, Kaylee walked to her car to drive to the bar and ask if she could get her job back. She hated to go in and beg with her bottom lip poked out and her hat in hand. If that would not work, she knew that another pub down the street that had just opened, only they had already staffed up their positions. It would be difficult to talk her way into the next pub if they had no open positions.

But in the next few minutes, all the plans of job-hunting would soon be forgotten.

The moment she walked out of the metal hanger, her cell phone started ringing. The number was the same one on the business card that Lettie, the owner and driver of the limousine that had taken her to the Stockton airport had given her.

“Hello?”

“Hello, this is Lettie Nesmith, I’m calling for Kaylee .”

“Hi Lettie! This is Kaylee .”

“Kaylee! Hey! Listen, Tom’s been hurt. They took him to the hospital about six-hours ago. Rumor has it that he hurt his hand and they are talking about flying him to San Francisco in a helicopter.”

“Ohmygod” Kaylee said it as if it was a single word. “What happened?”

“My cousin says he hurt his hand. They are sending him to a hospital in San Francisco that specializes in sewing on hands and stuff.”

“Sewing on … His hand? What happened.”

“I don’t know, but no one called you?”

“No, but I have not been getting service. I was in the plane that is inside the hangar.”

“Okay, anyway. You should charter a flight back to Sacramento.” Lettie sounded stressed. ”The sooner the better.”

“I don’t know how to do that.” Kaylee said.

Kaylee could hear papers get shuffled on the other end.

“Okay, don’t worry about it, I will take care of the details. Did you say he had given you a charge card?”

“Oh! Yes! But how do I…”

“Kaylee, I’ll find somebody to call you. I know who Tom deals with when he’s not flying his own planes.”

“I don’t know, I was kind of bitchy to him when I spoke to him last time.”

“It’s up to you. But I saw how you act when you talk about him. Your husband is hurt, it might be serious, and you will to kick yourself later.” Lettie’s voice was like another sister giving support. “I have a driver that is available.”

“Okay. Tell him my number, I’m at the South Harbor Airport.”

“He will pick you up right away, he’s at that same airport.”

She looked out over the tarmac towards the executive jet airlines and started walking to the office.

“Excuse me, miss. But you cannot walk here, are you lost?” It was an airport security officer driving up in an electric cart.

“I’m leaving on a plane, I just left the Pacific Wizard and I received a call to meet a chartered plane here. I’m running over to the office now.”

“Sorry, still, you not allowed to walk here. Walk around on the marked walkway.” He pointed to red, blue, green and yellow painted lines on the ground. “Follow the green line and it will take you to the executive charter lobby.”

“Can I ride with you over there?”

“No ma’am.” He said as he drove off, an alarm sounded on his radio of unauthorized access of the grounds by a car on the far side of the terminals.

Grumbling at how it was that the rules forced her to walk around when she was only had a hundred feet or so in a straight line. It would mean heading in the opposite direction and around.

Looking over her shoulder as she headed out to the walkway gate, the security car sped off after the car trying to enter a clearly marked “Do not enter” area.

She paused for a heartbeat, watching the golf cart race off at the top speed of a fast walk for a few minutes. The guard never looked back.

She took two, then four tentative steps to follow the painted line. Then turned and ran in the straight line to the executive charter office as fast as she could.

* This is an emergency, I can’t stop.*

She skidded to a stop at the back door of the charter office and quickly composed herself.

She put her hand on the door, took a breath and walked in as if she had not just broke the rules.

Married by Mistake Chapter 14. At The Wizard

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Chapter 14. At The Wizard

Bumps and sounds from the flaps and landing gear extending gave her thoughts that the flying hunk of metal was falling apart. She hated this part of any flight, it always felt like a semi-controlled crash. The sound of air rushing over the flaps unnerved her, the drift of the executive commuter on each little puff of wind was sharp and sudden.

Profanity was on the tip of her tongue every moment. When the shriek of tires touched the runway, she matched the tone for a split second with a small scream of her own.

As the speedy jet slowed down, she let go of the arms of the seat and noticed her knuckles had gone white. Not that Captain Adanna was a poor pilot, but the diminutive airplane was not a comfortable as the Pacific Wizard or the Flying Sea Dragon, the jet was all business like the pilot.

Under the expert guidance of Adanna, the winged race-car taxied near the hangar where the Pacific Wizard sat while service techs milled about, the Olympic-swimming-pool sized doors of the huge structure were open and she could see the size differences between the jet she rode in and the Pacific Wizard.

The great plane’s engine hatches were open and technicians and mechanics climbed up and down ladders as they worked on the flying yacht. Kaylee worried that the workers might stop her from going into the Pacific Wizard to retrieve her belongings she had left when she went north with Tom.

The Captain opened the door and stepped out on to the asphalt-concrete of the airport. “Missus Harte, you may deplane now. Please watch your step, the Pacific Wizard is over there and the employees are expecting you.”

“They’re expecting…?” Kaylee suddenly felt like she was in a spy movie and big brother, in the name of Tom was watching.

“Yes, it is your home they are working on, is it not? I radioed ahead while we were in the air and notified them of our impending arrival. The service crew is returning with us to assess the damage to the Sea Dragon.” Adanna nodded. “Have a pleasant day, ma’am. Stephen here will take you to your plane.”

“But it’s not my plane, it belongs to Tom.”

“You are married to him, and as this is a community property state, so it is yours, too.”

Kaylee let out a long breath. *This married  crap is not what I want.*

But as she thought further on it, he was a considerate, kind, thoughtful and caring man. Not at all like Glenn, not that Glenn was uncaring.

But in relative terms, he was as if he was a bear wearing boxing gloves trying to open a jar. Awkward, clumsy and did not have a clue what to do.

Kaylee smiled at that thought of Glenn. She wondered if he would change his last name to hers?

*It isn’t tradition.* She smiled, *But I’m anything but traditional.*

This made her laugh at herself. She had proven that beyond a doubt in the last week. Still, if he changed his name it would be Glenn Greggory Grant. His house was on Amber-Elm Boulevard in her home town, elm trees in the yard. He could be an ass, but she enjoyed his company after all these years.

Often talking in the night about getting married after they graduated, they had grown up together and would spend all their lives with each other. Her with a PhD. in fine arts and him with a degrees in political sciences. He wanted to serve in Congress.

But now, as she walked towards the Pacific Wizard in its odd paint job with a wizard flying on a broom on the engine cover. A touch of whimsy that showed the heart of the man who wrote children’s books, then used the premise to live his life.

And yet she was so angry at him on so many levels. Not the least of which, he was making her fond of him. She liked the way he smiled, his view of the world. The quirky jokes he made now and again. She loved his smell, how his kisses tasted and his attentiveness when they were together.

And the sights she had seen? The excitement and passion of discovery that Tom had? They had sparked her artistic imagination and tickled her heart, maybe she could…

That thought made her pause, was she falling in love with him? Married first and love second?

*No! It. Can. Not. Be! I need that annulment when it comes time to go home!* Her heart belonged to Glenn!

She loved Glenn, not this man who was an accidental husband from a night of – okay, that was a blank, but a wonderful weekend – of party.

Sadly, she could not remember the one important part of it.

The wedding.

She still was angry over that. He could have said no. She would have never been married and then not worry about Glenn finding out.

*Oh Glenn!* She let out a heavy sigh.

*He will never accept this if he ever finds out. But we agreed that we would be free to date other people, so there would be no cheating.* She rubbed her eyes. *But getting married is so wrong.*

Kaylee climbed the steps into the Pacific Wizard, although it felt like a wonderful sky-palace, she felt odd. It was like…

*No, it can’t be. It’s like…* She gritted her teeth against the emotion.

She was home.

This made her angry again. Her home and life was with the blond, slightly arrogant boy that snorted when he laughed and became embarrassed by the sound when he did, she laughed at the memory of that laugh.

*And then there’s Tom. A special kind of man, but not someone I planned on. He is… Just not in my plans.*

*This is just horrid. The drinking, that ugly Friday, a few hits off a bong and I have a new husband who is so kind and irritating at the same time.*

*It could have been much worse, I suppose.* She sat in a seat and pulled her legs up. *I have awakened in beds that I’ve had no clue where I was, like at Gramma’s house when I was ten.* She sat and pondered for a moment, looking around.

*And this is mine? I could attend school, not need to work forty-hours a week. Instead I could study and practice my art.*

*I could find happiness here… Wait! NO!*

No. She wanted Glenn.

*Maybe.* A sigh.

She was angry with Tom again. He was more caring about her than any other man she had dated or been with. He never tried to force her to do anything, she volunteered.

She remembered that one of his rules as far as her body went.

“No means no.”

This was unusual among her friends. Kris and Crystal had often made demands of each others attentions, even at parties. Thinking back, it was disrespectful to each other. When Crystal told people what she was going to do to Kristoph, even if he would try to say he would be getting ready for work or school. This would not deter the wife.

Kristoph of course, would brag about what he did with Crystal if she passed out after a party.

Both ways, Kaylee laughed at them when they talked about it.

Now?

Now, she found it offensive. She would tease Tom, but never tell him “Or else” or dismiss his objections.

*Dang, I’m getting spoiled.* Tom treated her with respect, it felt proper and good.

Tom cared for her and she liked it.

*That’s irritating, too.* She huffed to herself.

Married by Mistake Chapter 11. Day Flight

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 Chapter 11. Day Flight

*Clothes should fold themselves.* She used the break to spend time and think while she laid aside the clothes she could not live without and with an artist’s eye, tucked them into her suitcase for the smaller drawers of the Flying Sea Dragon.

While Kaylee packed for the adventure, Tom waited for his accidental wife to arrive.

The Pacific Wizard sat on the tarmac, and he walked around and inspected for dents, loose rivets and marine growth. It had been in the ocean for almost a week straight, and still did not show signs of great deal growth.

There was some areas that seemed to have a light coating of slime, but the maintenance team would steam-clean it quickly and inspect for other defects, it had been over a month since its last haul-out and the Wizard had flown to a handful of locations in that time. Vegas, Sacramento, Portland, Astoria and Seattle.

Seattle and Brisbane were his favorites.

He liked the motion it had when it floated on the water, and the neighborhood was much quieter than at the airport with the flights coming and going every few minutes. But, inspecting it was necessary with the growth of marine life, and even with carbon fiber and titanium, corrosion was a hazard with salt water intrusion.

The bulk of the Pacific Wizard, on his insistence, built with titanium and carbon fiber and a great deal of corrosion free materials.

Tom worried, still.

It was an expensive RV, for sure.

Still, it was his favorite. He had the pontoons on the wings modified by the builder so they folded hydraulically into recesses on the wing-tips, making the wing much cleaner for the airflow.

Tom had larger, more powerful engines installed on the Wizard. More than fifty-percent greater thrust output over the rest of the fleet that Tom’s company purchased. To his pleasure, the greater efficiency of the new engines produced more power and still used less fuel. The new engines extended his range without the need to carry more fuel.

He still had the fuel systems modified to his specs by the company that built the jet. All of the changes were now included in the later versions produced after his flying yacht.

Tom walked slowly around the hull, tugged at the landing gear and the doors, nothing was loose. Running his fingers over everything, checking that every surface was smooth and the seals were intact. Climbing up through the top hatch, he checked the engines, running his hands over the compressor blades and the smooth, painted surfaces of the nacelles.

He especially liked the images of the wizard and witch on brooms, custom painted, it was also his muse, often feeding his whimsy when he was enjoying his solitude out on the water.

Walking out on the wings, he crawled along on his hands and knees and inspected the control surfaces. Everything was in perfect shape, even to the tip of the wing where the pontoon fitted when in flight, where it became part of the wing, and not a drag on the plane.

Tom was still sat on the left-wing when Kaylee walked up, escorted by a TSA officer.

“Hi William! Thanks for escorting her.” Tom called down, then disappeared down the hatch into the Pacific Wizard.

Stepping out the door of the out-of-service jet carrying two plastic bins of clothes, Tom put the bins down in front of William and Kaylee as they stood near the Pacific Wizard.

“Tom, she says that you two are…  married?”

“That’s right! It was an elopement. Kind of surprised us, too.”

“Mister Harte, you are always entertaining. I look forward to working here when you’re around.” William the officer laughed. “Everyone does.”

“Thank you for your company, William.” Kaylee said.

“Yes, Missus Harte. “ William laughed, “I’ll never get used to saying that!”

“Kaylee , please.”

“Yes, Missus… er… Kaylee .” William said as he walked off.

“Are you friends with everyone? I would have thought that a rich-bitch like you would have kept away from the common people.” Kaylee said to Tom as William walked away.

Tom chuckled as he picked up the boxes again and they walked towards the Flying Sea Dragon.*

“Yeah… no. I worked with the “common people” for years before I started to write. I had written for a long time and had only expanded past my personal writing when I had found computers. After that, the challenge was to find someone who is willing to publish my stories.” Tom said as they entered the smaller plane.

“Smaller” the term really did not fit the description, but it was what he called it. It was the same model of aircraft, but did not have some of the features of the Pacific Wizard.

“Why is getting published a challenge?”

“No one wants to publish works by someone who has not been published before.” They sat in the flight deck of the older flying yacht. Tom pulled on a headset that kept his right ear uncovered, the side that was nearest her.

“How does someone have a book published, then”

“That’s the trick… Just a moment.” He called into his headset to the tower. Then turned back to Kaylee . “I had filed a flight plan before you arrived.”

“Oh you knew I was going to coming with you?”

“No, just a standard precaution. In case something happens and if we are late by more than a half-hour, they will come look for us.”

“Oh wow, I never knew that.”

“Okay, well, they cleared us to taxi. Sit in that chair, belt in and hold on. I’m going to show off a bit with these Rolls Royce engines. A touch of teenager and fast car – with a big boy’s toy instead of a car.”

Kaylee laughed and cinched down her seat belt.

“Don’t touch anything. Just look out the window and enjoy the sights.”

They taxied to the end of the runway and Tom spoke some more into the microphone that jutted out from his headphones.

“November-Alpha Foxtrot one-two-zero; cleared for runway three-one west.”

“And up, up, and away.” Tom pushed two levers forward and the engines in back increased in pitch. Pausing for a moment, he let the brakes off and the plane accelerated as if it were kept in a hangar too long and was anxious to quit the earth and fly.

They rapidly gathered speed down the runway and Tom began to say words to himself.

“Vee-One. Faster and faster, faster we run.”

“Vee-R and rotate and purple dinosaurs go rar.”

“Vee-two, off the ground and into the blue.”

Calling into the headset, Tom thanked the air control and they began to climb out over the ocean. The greens and blues of the coast contrasted with the white of the coastal fog as they climbed to their designated altitude.

“This is beautiful!” She said looking out the window. “I never knew this was such an incredible view from here.”

“Yes, the flight deck has the best view.” Tom nodded. “You have never been up here just to look before.”

“Is this against some regulation to leave the driver’s seat?” She was curious about the night they got married.

“Pilot, and yes. It’s frowned upon, but we are the only two on the ship, so if I get up and I am back on the flight deck quickly, we will be okay.

“How did you get away with it the other day?”

“We didn’t exactly hold to the law.” Tom said.

“Autopilot, on. Check…” And he stepped out of the pilot’s seat.

She teased Tom with every few minutes she could think of, slowly kissing his ears. Correcting him every few minutes to stay on the flight deck while she danced outside of the line that separated the flight-deck from the rest of the cabin.

Smiling, she teased him without mercy with the all the tricks she could think of.

Laughing and kissing her before he sat back down. She joined him, sitting on his lap. Keeping her hands off the controls, she looked out over the state.

“I can say this for sure, this is a first to have someone sitting on me in the front of the plane while we fly.” Tom said, smiled at her, the shine of her eyes tickled him, while she looked with an inspired heart, commenting on the colors of the different lands below.

If the FAA ever caught wind of what was going on with the pilot of this plane, he would never fly again.

*But it would be so worth it.* He thought. *So very worth it.*

 

* Author’s note: Airplane name change from “Fleeting Fantasy” to “Flying Sea Dragon”. Alludes to his children’s books.

Fire: The Oasis

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Fire: the oasis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The worst words possible, “crowning fire”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looked down?

Wait, what? LOOKED DOWN!?

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

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

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

Running feet. Hands, many hands..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“DADS A HERO!” was visible. 

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

Today, Reibold Rasmussen felt he made the heroic choice.

No one died.

A note from your writer. An Author’s Moment.

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Greetings and salivations:

 

Yeah, that’s no typo, but it got you to smile, I hope.  As of yesterday, the first edit of “Shock and Awe” came to a close. There is a third in the offing but it will be a couple months before I revisit it. The good police need to have their points of view told.

Plus, I started a romance in it, if anyone noticed.

Radio Check and his team will return in an expanded story, cleaned up and more intense. No technology was used in the story that does not exist. … Well… mostly.  I expanded on some things. heh.

In the next few days we pick up on another story. Perhaps dragons, perhaps cell phones.

A few other threads of stories.

I sit now and ponder my next moments. A French Pressed coffee and a new coffee cup that was a gift of father’s day.  A small model of “Red Jacket”, a clipper ship of the 19th century.

In a steampunk kind of twist, features of the ship will appear in the next story of the stolen children who returned home in the first book.  “Hellions” is in evolution.

In the last few days, we have had a minor heat wave, so in temperatures hot enough to make tar on the street soft? Honey the honey-colored dog goes out into the middle of the yard and naps in full sunlight.

“Recharging her solar power.” I laugh at her.

It makes for a desire to write her into the story. So keep an eye for the broad-headed dog that loves her humans, but with jaws strong enough to crack a coconut. (it took a few hours, but she got it. I lost that bet, after all, coconuts are HARD.)

Looking for some beta readers, we have multiple authors with some very awesome story types looking for an honest reveiw so that the story may achieve its grace and beauty that the author intends for it to be.

If you are interested in being a beta reader/critique officer, send me a private message on Google Plus and we’ll get you squared away and you too can be a part of something larger than large. 😀 Imagine being the JK Rowlings beta reader for the first book in her wizarding fantasy book. Kinda dorky, different from anything that came before, but interesting and constantly busy. How much would that raw, unpublished work be worth to your grandchildren and their grandchildren (assuming she let you keep it) as the beta manuscript before publishing?

I have a couple, over the years. As fate would have it? The unpublished words in a beta reader book are unsearchable in all of the internet. But I will keep the 1980’s version of the manuscript books for the sake of interest.

But I have drifted off point.  Giving ice-cubes to the overheated dogs after they ran in the back yard and barked, protecting their home from someone, so they now have ice-cube treats.  They love their ice cubes. (AND those treats are cheap.)

So questions for you writers:

When you are stuck, as someone has said “Blocked” what do you do when this happens? What do you do to break through?

In my case, walk away, roll around on the floor with a “Who pins who” match between Honey the Dog and myself, shoot some archery.

So far, a note to you, my followers and readers. Keep reading! I’ll keep writing.

For now, Live, laugh, love, let the adventures begin- again.

 

Dash

 

You’re home!

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Dancing four legs

a wagging tail

“I missed you, you were gone forever!”

One must pass the sniff and taste test.

“Who have you been near, who did you pet?”

A demand of a scratch by the ears.

Forty-five kilos of love.

Sitting down

Now a giant yellow lap-lander.

leaning against the chest, throwing head back.

The claim of the body. Human! You are MINE!

Canine cackling

Who belongs to whom?

“Welcome home.”

Good morning!

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Sleep hanging on,

like webs of a glorious place

dreams rent asunder

a palm wide tongue

a happy smile

the canine’s passion

“GET UP GETUP!”

love on four legs

you don’t move?

forty kilos of four-legged loving

jumps up and down

ignored

rasping tongue in the ear

face

neck,

a laughing face

bright brown eyes

“FEED ME!”

Ignored,

sleeping

a drool covered ball

bouncing on the head

“WAKE UP!”

sleep is gone.

Forty-kilos of laughing face won…

What a glorious morning to be a dog.

Journey Never Ends. The (almost) never rhyme.

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Clouds float overhead in the dark of the night

Alone, as the minutes pass

he has been here before.

Shoes off

drink in hand

a walk in the sand. 

Alone

The ring of fire is his path

among the rocks lovers chase

they wear rings 

shimmering in the moonlight

a swallow taken

Married by mistake?

a wish for luck

The beach is as long as their future

a glass raised in honor

A toast to beginnings

the old man walks on

to the end of his path

alone 

Images from the house of Smites

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Report from the Smite House

 

Ringing sounds from firm smites

The anvil hums keeping time

Hammers and tongs

A fire and bellows

Metal becomes plastic

Into the steel

The soul belongs

Ogham transparent

 

 

Black sand

Found in a stream

A careful eye

A skilled hand.

Ogham transparent

 

 

Carbon, fire, ore of iron

Coke from coal

As charcoal is to wood

Aching arms

Blue flames, yellow heat

And a loving eye

Ogham transparent

 

 

Red heat and the sand fused

Shapes to a curl

A wood seat used.

Long curved rails

Twisted steel leaves

The chair takes shape

Ogham transparent

 

 

A century past

A grandchild rocks

With a child of her own

On steel curved

By the house of the Forge

Ogham transparent

 

 

The steel soul

Still touches

With words engraved

“For my children”

Copyright ©2015 Dash McCallen

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

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

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

She tried to make herself relax.

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

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

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

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

Tom chuckled when he was struck by a thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A thought occurred.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟Heron and who?”

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

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

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

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

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

‟What? OH! Tom, I’m being serious.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟Cursive?”

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

‟So what are you saying?”

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

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

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

‟Well…”

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

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

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

Barbara laughed.

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

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

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

‟So I am the consolation prize?”

Barbara face-palmed.

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

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

‟Sandy.”

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

‟She would like that.”

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

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

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

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

‟You are not upset?”

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

‟We can fly now?”

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

Married by Accident Chapter 27. Kaikane

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Chapter 27. Kaikane

Less than a half-hour passed when the black limousine rolled around the corner.

Barbara could see the driver’s seat, the broad shoulders of Kaikane, the smile matched his build when he saw it was Barbara. A driver with enthusiasm for his clients.

Putting on his hat, as he got out, Kaikane looked professional and as pressed as if he came out of a dressing room.

‟Missus Barbara. Howzit? How’s Tom’s arm?” Kaikane had such a happy soul, that Barbara had to smile.

‟Oh, Kaikane, Tom is healing fast. The glass cut down through the bone, the doctors put on some hardware attached to his arm to help the bone heal.” Barbara looked down while she stepped up to the limousine while Kaikane held the door open.

Barbara put her hand out on the open door.

‟Kaikane, I want to ride up front with you.”

‟Missus Barbara, that’s not regular. All clients ride in the back.”

‟Kaikane, how long is the ride to the hospital?” She gave her best direct look at the Islander chauffeur. The effort nearly made her laugh. Kaikane was as friendly as Lettie and closer to her age.

‟Missus Barbara, it is all on the traffic, we will get there when we arrive, is all I can say.” In a philosophy that echoed his Hawai’ian spirit.

‟That’s alright, I would like to take the long way, if we can.” Barbara said.

“I would like to roll down the window and sit in front. Can we go around to west of the Golden Gate?” She asked.

‟’E’e,” His word sounded like he said ‟Aye” in his language. ‟For sure. T’wood ‘A‘ole pilikia Missus Barbara.”

Then he laughed softly as she got in the passenger seat without taking her eyes from him.

‟What does that mean?” The words bounced around in her brain and could not find a place to fit.

‟No problem.” Kaikane said as he closed the door.

Watching him as he walked around and then got into the driver’s seat. The limousine was not a large stretch, but it was roomy in the back. The front- not so much. It was cozy in her opinion. Just a standard seat. Somehow she had thought it might be more plush.

‟Kaikane, can I tell you something?”

‟’E’e. Of course Missus Barbara.”

‟First. Just call me Barbara, even Barb would work.”

‟I’m not sure I can do that, but I will try.” Kaikane was polite to a fault. A credit to Lettie’s training and his cultural heritage.

‟Fair enough.” Barbara smiled and then explained her entire month to the Hawaiian driver who made her feel comfortable with his smile and kind voice.

She found that he was a psych major at University of San Francisco, which was perfect for the dark-haired, smiling student.

‟Well, Missus…”She shot him a sideways look. ‟Ugh. Sorry, Barbara. My Kapuna Wahane said that the matters of the heart are the strength of a woman. Men of a certain age are best for fishing and building and making happy times.”

Kaikane laughed and Barbara swore he blushed.

They talked as he did a slow drive. He was six-months younger than she was, but he showed a wisdom that made her want to visit the islands of Hawaii.

Somewhere in his pidgin-surfer English and his wit, mixed with his grandmother- his Kapuna Wahane- Barbara knew that there was a path she could take in her life.

She just had to go home to Glenn and answer the question that her childhood sweetheart was going to ask.

Kaikane wheeled the limo around the point where the Golden Gate bridge’s foundation anchored it to the southern side. Connecting the orange-colored suspension bridge to the Marin Headlands where people lived and looked at San Francisco’s skyline out the windows of their homes.

“Kaikane, how long have you been on the mainland?” Barbara asked while looking out the window. “How does this area compare to your side of paradise?”

Kaikane laughed quietly as he paused at a stop-sign to let another car take its turn.

“I’ve been here for three years. A ways down the coast there is a place called Mavricks beach, has good surfing most of the time, but a few times of the year is world-class! I have competed all three years.”

“WOW! Have you won?”

“No.” Kaikane shrugged with a smile. “I can’t compete with some of the talent there. I have found I am afraid of Mavericks.”

“A surfer afraid to surf?” Barbara looked at him. “How does that work?”

“Some waves are higher than eight-story buildings, there have been two world-class pros that have died there.” Kaikane stopped smiling for the first time. “I can feel their mana that stays there. They have not gone on, they surf the waters there still.”

Barbara felt the need to paint. The things Kaikane kept talking about, mana, soul, spirit, breath was inspirational to her. For the first time, she knew that the Hawai’an was deeply spiritual.

In that moment, Barbara found that she had left mana in two places. Back home, where Glenn was and with Tom, where he lay in the hospital.

“Okay, Kaikane.” She said, coming out of her reverie of looking at the largest body of water in the world pass by as they drove south on Highway-1. “Take me back to the medical center. I’m ready to go back into that house of crazy people wearing white coats.”

“Yes Ma’am.” Kaikane smiled. “Sorry, Barbara.”

Turning left, Barbara saw the San Francisco zoo as they drove past.

“I will take Tom there when he gets discharged from the hospital.” She told Kaikane. “I have never been there, and I would bet it would be Tom’s first time as well.”

“That would be a good day. It is a large area, be prepared to spend a whole day there.” Kaikane said.

“Thank you for that warning. Note to self: comfortable shoes.”

She thought it might be fun to spend time with Tom at the zoo with a picnic of cheese and wine before she went back to her more mundane life.

After the hospital discharged him, she reminded herself, laughing.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 2 Seconds

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T-Minus 2 Seconds

Passing through the atmosphere, photons interacted with the oxygen and nitrogen, but still straight on to the stalled dark blue car of LucilleMay Sprecks who was frozen in fear.

Photons struck the paint and chrome of Lucy’s car. Instantly redirected by reflection, the photons passed through the air at ninety-thousand kilometers per second slower than in a pure vacuüm. Some colors absorbed by the paint and then reflected the remaining color of dark blue.

Engine 2315 self-dispatched, rolled down the driveway, already the crew had dropped paintbrushes and rakes, running towards the engine. The seasonal firefighters did not know the nature of the call, but the Captain was waving frantically. The Engineer already on the radio. The two men, from years of experience, knew of the impending accident was just seconds from happening and called for a dispatch of a paramedic unit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oncoming traffic in front of the stopped car — rejected as death was all but certain.

Forest with big trees, bushes and large pointy rocks: – rejected. The outcome would be equally bad.

Hit car — poor choice, but the debate was moot with the outcome defaulted while the mind of the man searched for safe exit to this disaster. He was out of time for evasive maneuvers.

T- 1.25 seconds. BRAKES! The mind screamed! Russell took a deep breath.

T- 1.20 seconds. BRAKES! The mind begged. The entire world was silent, his soul was deaf to all sounds. All the world was mute.

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

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

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

“NOoooooo!” It was Lulu.

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

T- 0.4 seconds. The brake pads built up pressure. Years of riding, he closed his hand into a fist and crushed the front brake lever.

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

In an instant, Russell did calculations in his head, estimating he needed an extra twenty feet to fully perform an emergency stop.

Twenty feet he did not have.

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

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

The rear tire of the motorcycle began to skid, the tire locked up and melting from friction with the highway, liquid rubber now lubricating the tire which began to yaw to the right, the front tire slowing faster than the rear. Lulu, sat farthest away from the center mass of the motorcycle and adding more weight to the pendulum. Out of control with the dynamic forces Russell valiantly struggled to stop the inevitable.

Unstoppable, moving towards the immobile car, “Crossed up” as Gertrude the motorcycle yawed and slid sideways, they moved with Lulu making prayers, begging that it would be all right.

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

It would not be all right.

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

If only… Was his sole thought.

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

T- 0.02 seconds. Photons made shadows on the ground. Shadows that merged as the front tire was bound down as tightly as it could be without locking up as the rear brake did. Speed was dropping rapidly, if it was on a graph, it would show the line of the deceleration as nearly vertical on a second by second chart.

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

T- 0.00 seconds. Impact! The photons that made shadows, now only made one as the front tire hit slightly ahead of the rest of the hog.

The force of the energy ripped the big bike’s grips from Russell’s hands. The husband’s body became a missile of kinetic energy launched by the impact of the vehicles.

Russell hit, bounced and flew over the top of the car, breaking the windshield with his helmeted head as he went by and landed partly on his face. The open-faced helmet affording him little protection, sliding and rolling down the asphalt. Russell came to a rest on his back. His face hurt, but he was awake.

T+ 0.50 seconds. Russell laid there, taking stock of his limbs. Pain was not overpowering but there was no question he was hurt. Movement at the periphery of his eyes made him turn his head.

The car was on the move. The little old lady was leaving! He could see her tail lights getting smaller as he tried to read the license plate from his awkward position.

Then, he saw his best friend’s body.

She was alarmingly still. Still as death.

T+ 1.5 seconds.

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

She lay on the ground, partly under the motorcycle. Unmoving, silent. She lay there with her leg bent in way that was unnatural. He tried to crawl on his arms, leaving a bloody trail back to where his wife, his copilot and his best friend and lover, lay. Russell’s vision became blurred with agony as the pain set in. Blood dripped off his face where the road abraded his skin away with the rough black top.

T+ 5.0 seconds. Pounding of feet and a heavy “Thump-thump” of a huge motor pulling up next to him. An enormous chopper with an even larger rider looking down at him through goggles. A tattoo of the 82nd Airborne division on his forearm oddly was in focus to Russell’s eyes.

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

“Lulu?” Russel moaned. “My wife?”

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

“Call 9-1-1.”

“Station is right there, they are coming now.” The giant biker told Russell with a slight Norwegian accent. “They’ll be here in two seconds.”

Two seconds, if only he had seen the car two seconds sooner.

FINIS

2 Seconds… T-Minus 5 Seconds

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T-Minus 5 Seconds

 

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

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

Riding on the back of the motorcycle that Russell had named after an adventurous water-bird “Gertrude”, her arms around him, and looking around at the mountains that gave her such joy to be among trees that dwarfed any other living thing and Lulu could see the bare stone above north shore where an avalanche stripped the mountainside clear of vegetation down to bare rock decades before and had not yet recovered.

Smiling, she leaned back, the wife and mother looked out to the right, over the sapphire-blue water of the twenty-two mile long lake. Water so naturally pure, even as it sat in the lake, open to the sky it would pass any health and any purity tests that a government body could do. Naturally soft water, pure as it could be.

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Thomas stood at the end of the ramp to the garage that held his engine, waiting for the rumbling group of Harley’s go past. A curiosity of who would be riding through, interested him. A few clubs were at constant odds and, on occasion, murdered each other.

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

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

Russell, dropped back from closing on a semi-truck that had “Eat Organic” in a graphic painted on the back of the trailer. Remembering to make a call later in the week on an investment that would boost a local organic farmer’s business.

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

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

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

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

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

A little over three heartbeats.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 15 Seconds

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T-Minus 15 Seconds

 

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

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

The very thought of it made him smile.

In space, photons were leaving the orbit of Venus behind and approaching the orbit of the moon. A this distance, the moon would be barely more than a bright spot on the edge of the Earth’s blue disk,  the shape and distance became clear as the seconds ticked by.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drifting over the line, the pickup truck with the big camper on the back went through the intersection without slowing down and hit Lucy head-on as she sat still.

With air-bags and seatbelts, Lucy walked away from collision with nothing more than a skinned nose.

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

Ever since that day, she had panic reactions when something came at her from any direction. She even became unable to watch the news when it showed car crashes on the TV.

Ten times the orbit of the moon away, photons closed the distance to the earth and moon had separated into two points of light, the brightest points at this distance, other than the sun that was falling behind.

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

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

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

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

“That will not leak again this summer. All new parts.” Hank smiled, pulling off nitrile gloves and throwing them into the can in the corner.

Captain Thomas nodded and looked down the drive as it opened out on to the highway, the sounds of a deep rumble, like an earthquake, but constant and growing louder.

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

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

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

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

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

It was Saturday night, after all!

2 Seconds… T-Minus 300 Seconds

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T-Minus 300 Seconds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traffic was a pestilence as Lucy waited, she remembered the days when her husband would drive them in their old car – then itself was a jewel, a Darrin. Sporty, windy with the top down and it was the most expensive thing that Joshua bought. She brought herself back from the distracting thought as the wine was waiting for her in large enough amounts to improve the day for even the dour Katarina Kurk, the German woman who was hysterically funny when she had a half-bottle of wine in her.

Katarina, once an actress and comedian in her old country, Kat had retired to California, then to the Nevada side of the lake. Hating everyone that was not her friends, it would take her many meetings to warm up to any one person.

Katarina would not even crack a smile, even with watching reruns of Abbott and Costello on the newest television she could afford. Although the woman had long retired, she had a habit of buying new household items every-other year. Nothing in her house was more than two years old. Kat never batted an eye for spills on her sofa or chairs, she just would replace everything.

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

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

Few tried, most felt a great fear of Kat, she was a giggly drunk, but her temper flared like a volcanic blast if she was ever pushed. Katarina was famous locally for beating a would-be armed robber that raided a grocery store where she was shopping. One of the pair put a machete in her face and she proceeded to beat the young man unconscious with a stick of dry salami. His partner ran up to assist, Kat used the same salami stick to crush the other bad guy’s testicles with a blow that security cameras recorded that the shop owner released online.

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

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

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

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

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

All five of them.

And then Sunday, too!

It was a great day, Lucy thought and smiled.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 14,400 Seconds

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T-Minus 14,400 seconds

 

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

At the dwarf-yellow star that human now call Sol, photon packets that spent the last thousand-centuries in the random walk from the core of the sun had now lost much of their energies.

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

T-minus 10,800 seconds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sky was blue with broken clouds, the chill of the mountain air tickled the souls of the couple that escaped the daily grind and pain of the wife-come-teacher and the business-creator and owner husband that was their work week.

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

Lulu laughed into the intercom like a dutiful wife, but rolled her eyes and shook her head at the stupid joke.

Lunch at their favorite stop, “Ian’s”, seafood grilled over an open fire, the perfect break for the mid-day meal, sitting on a balcony, overlooking lake waters so clear, that it could give cause for acrophobia- a fear of heights, looking down through the water to the bottom of the jewel of the Sierra Nevada.

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

Russell paid the bill and the two walked out of the restaurant holding hands as they headed to where Harrison the Hog waited for them with a machine’s patience.

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

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

Time was T-Minus 6,300 seconds.

Dragon Master University Chapter 23. Baby Talk

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Chapter 23. Baby Talk

The weekend. Racing with Eva, Kolo and Qo’noS, he’d gotten chilled and was so terribly exhausted. So much so that he felt like a party lizard (A term he had picked up in the day-room) crawling in after a weekend binge.

He collapsed on to his bed and felt a lump under his pillow struggle.

Sprite crawled out and complained in a whiny voice, then saw who it was.

‟Papa! Papa papa papa papa papa!” Sprite squeaked while bouncing up and down. Eventually settling into the crook of Jona’s arm, licking the neck and ear of Sprite’s favorite human.

His papa.

Jona shushed Sprite while he drifted off to sleep. If anyone could slur a shush, Jona did it as his eyes closed.

Then the papa’s eyes popped open.

‟SPRITE!” Jona jumped up. ‟You talked!”

‟Papa! Papa papa!” The little dragon fluttered and hovered in the air in front of Jona, over the bed.

Laughing, Jona knew Sprite would learn to talk eventually. Still, not comfortable with the fact he was the dad, everyone else in the school took it as a right of passage. Many had, what Jona thought at first as pets, but found out that small dragons reflected that the heart of dragons loved at least as deep as humans.

Just longer. Much, much longer.

After a few minutes to recover from the shock, he held Sprite in his arms and stroked the glass smooth scales that covered the small winged-body.

Settling down, Jona smiled as the little body curled up under his chin, licking a few times, then going into a slumber that, curiously, sounded like a snore.

Only a pint-sized snore.

It was quite relaxing, and Jona slipped off to sleep with Sprite in his arms.

Together, they slept in similar poses.

Jona and Sprite performed a slow, synchronised sleeping ballet in the blankets.

Later, when the sun would rise, Jona would be roused out of bed by his friends. Although he would wonder if they were indeed his friends, for now all Jona wanted, was sleep.

Dragon Master University chapter 17. History Crystal

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XVII. History Crystal

Professor Koos watched Jona as he took in the history lesson presented him.

******

“Many years had passed with the green wizard teaching his student, in time, the student moved out to the valley beyond, taking with him, the red-haired daughter of the green wizard. In the honor of his wife, the wizard became the red wizard and the two great wizards taught the ways of how earth lived within each of them.

Crops flourished, and in time people began to move into the vale of the red wizard. The green wizard would come and visit time to time, the houses were at peace.

Barbarians came, camped out on the far shores of the valley. The red wizard told the people to go and greet the new comers. But in a savage display, the barbarians raided houses and farms, burning as they went. The green wizard cast a spell and withdrew, telling the red wizard that the spirit of man is all of destruction and domination, but the younger wizard of the crimson sky refused to hide with his wife’s father. The red-witch and crimson wizard joined forces with the communities of the valley and stood against the destroyers of their lives.

All day and night the war came, the barbarians came from the sea, dressed and ready for war. In the middle of the vale they forced against the defenders and were slowly pushed back. The red witch lead her own side against the hoard, calling on them to fight and telling the attackers to drop their weapons and leave.

Suddenly she had stepped in a hole, a small gopher hole that broke her ankle. The red wizards wife was down in the front of the barbarian hoard as they surged forward towards her, axes glimmered in the light as she lay helpless on the ground. All her protection was busy fighting others of the invaders.

Fifty meters away, the battle line drew closer.

The wicked edges of the knives and axes pushed forward and the red wizard grabbed at his pendant. Looking for someone to volunteer to have a spell cast on them, he could change someone into anything he wished, his pendant, like that of the green wizard was that of a dragon.

Forty meters. The Red-Witch could see their eyes, locked upon her.

Everyone was in combat and pushing the invaders back, the fighters cut him off from his beloved wife. The wizard looked for someone to transform into a dragon! No one was there.

Thirty meters.

She lay screaming on the ground, the skin of her leg tented up by fractured bone that threatened to cut through from the inside, the red-headed warrior-woman was unable to focus enough through the pain to help herself, her people of her brigade were falling back, her life was in danger.

She was alone.

Twenty meters.

Blood lust of the barbarians grew, Uruk the Strong was in battle mode, he knew if he could get to her, the fight would be over. Pushing through, he could see the freckles on her face as he adjusted the grip on his sword.

Fifteen meters.

“Is there NO one that can help?” Bellowed the red wizard, his weapon stunned another berserk warrior charging him. A staff of hardened hawthorn wood with a crystal embedded in it, a gift from the green wizard.

Ten meters.

The tide of the battle was turning against them, the people of the valley would lose their homes, their witch and their lands. The wizard knew that he would lose his heart and his love. He had to protect her no matter what.

One last thought as the words he spoke in a long dead language, changed for use on self instead of another.

Seven meters away.

Uruk was nearly upon her when a shadow blotted the sun out.

It was the largest creature he had ever seen in his life, but he recognized its shape. The blood-red scales, eyes that looked into one’s soul.

“DRAGON!” He screamed like a little child.

And such a dragon, easily three men tall,  landed with such force that the ground shook. The red witch had no idea where it came from, under the shadow of its tail, she drew a dagger.

As the great-lizard like creature gazed at the barbarians, she stuck the dagger in at the base of the dragon’s tail, shoving and twisting at the same time.  This scaled monster was not going to eat her or any of her people with impunity.

The dragon let out a roar that, people who heard it said, the echo bounced back and forth for days.

All fighting, everywhere, halted.

The hundreds of barbarians had a collective loss of bladder control as the ground at their feet became suddenly wet.

The dragon’s roar ended up in a shrill screech that caused the barbarians to drop their weapons as the warriors attack turned into a retreat to the sea that had brought them to the lands of the red witch and wizard.

The valley was safe, the people of the lands cheered the dragon who reached back and pulled out the knife that stuck in his backside with a clawed hand, his only identifying mark was the pendant that he wore around his neck.

Her husband had saved her life, the lives of the villagers and the valley at the cost of his human shape.

What spell did you use, husband?” But the dragon could not speak in human words. Protecting the valley and his wife became the history of the land.

In time the dragon became known as a fair and wise judge, learning to speak human, but never able to tell of the magic spell he used on himself.

The green wizard tried for years, but the many thousands of different spells in different languages, no one could find out what one it was. But the quest continues to this day. The dragon known for its valley that it so well protected has since become known as Vale.

The blood of the villagers that gave their lives, watered by the barbarians in their moment of fear, sprouted trees along the shores of the stream where they fought. The stream changed the flow, but the hedge grows still as a memorial to those that gave all that they had to the protection of the land and the lives of those they loved.”

*******

Jona looked as the crystal faded back to its normal color and then the thought struck him.

“Professor Vale?”

“Indeed” Koos said. “This all has occurred long before there were dragon schools, but Vale and a few others have come together and have promoted safety for both human and dragon. Indeed one country has even developed a fighting style of dragons, used by dragons and mankind alike. Adapted of course for the different needs and body styles.”

Jona sat there with his mouth open as if going to say something but froze in the middle of the word.

“Lore and law, that is what you need to know in all forms. Lore — that is the story you just saw, law is what is handed down from the lore and the wrongs within it. Does it touch you? Yes, through Professor Vale.” Koos lectured him.

Jona nodded, “Yes, I see, Professor, thank you. I will get the past due homework in. Kolo has helped me, she is very good tutor, she is also the sister to one of my roommates.”  Jona stood up and thanked Professor Koos. Gathering his books, he returned to the dorms to retrieve his assignments.

Watching Jona walk out of the classroom, Professor Koos would only hope that he had the spark started in the soul of the boy, for if he did not continue to improve, they would have to pull him off of the racer team.

Koos knew if he could push the young man, get him to realize the potential in his soul, get his heart and spirit in the same spot, one day, dragons or humans would never have to worry about trauma or illness.

“I must speak to Kolo…” His thoughts trailed off, shaking his head, the boy was old enough to make his own path, but occasionally, Professor Koos knew, even the wisest needs a friendly slap to the back of the head to get them ot pay attention.

He walked to his chambers that looked out over the sapphire blue lake and sent word to Kolo to come see him.

The Red Witch’s Dragon (A short story about 3,000 words)

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The Red Witch’s Dragon

Smoke of the burning ships drifted across the hills.

They had come.

The warriors from the north and east to the verdant land. Of the people, even the Green Wizard had summed up his advice in one word.

Flee.

Even the Green Wizard had told the younger, more volatile Red Wizard of the west to leave the area. They could return to the land after the raiders had left.

The Red Witch and Wizard taught the artisans the ways to perform their own brand of magic on ingots of gold, silver, copper and other metals. As they traded for and wide for the raw materials that they brought back to the village, both the husband and wife of the mountain felt they owed the village the best protection they could do.

“The best protection, my son, is to lead them to safety.”

Safety from the Dubh-Gall. Ferocious warriors that the world had not before seen. They came out of the north in high prow-ships, rowing like madmen. Swift, unstoppable and terrifying. In another age and language they went by another name.

Viking.

****

“Move along! Quickly! The sooner we are through the hills…”

A scream echoed down the line of people. In the distance, the glint of steel shown through the forest.

They were coming.

“RUN! Drop everything that you are not wearing, carry the children and run!”

Oengus, the Red Wizard turned to his wife and they both knew what they had to do.

“Come with me.” The Red Wizard said to the most well armed of the men that did duty as the rear guard.

“Flank guard, come with me!” Assa the Red Witch said loudly. ignoring the irritated look from the Green Wizard as he herded the people through the gap.

Taking a group of adults to the rear, the plan quickly evolved to keep the Dubh-Gall from crossing the stream. They lined up in two rows, forming a giant V to keep the raiders from crossing the water ford and away from the escaping people.

The plan was to force the raiders to think they had broken through, only to cross at the deepest part of the stream where the swift waters flowed into a cataract.

****

Confident in their plan they deployed their under-armed and untrained warriors, painted the ruddy color of blood, they took finely forged weapons meant for trade and selling to princes and kings. This time, the people used the fine weapons to defend children, and those that could not defend themselves.

These were not soldiers, the was the leader, but the Wizard himself was no soldier.

Still, he had read the books of Alexander and Hannibal.

****

The rending of wood and metal upon flesh. The battle of the artisans against those of the raiders was decidedly one-sided.

Battle hardened from their many raids where the people ran like sheep. They were not ready for the she-wolf in red hair in the form of Assa, The Red Witch.

****

Their attack faltered as they surged forward against the raiders, the bright red hair and furious scream of a wild-eyed warrior woman bent on protecting those that have asked for it— fell.

Of all the things to happen to a person with arrows flying both directions, spears thrown and sharp instruments swung like scythes in the field.

Stepping sideways to dodge a swinging ax, she moved in front of a charging horse that killed the murderous berserker with its massive hooves and knocked her down in the process, stepping on her foot as it charged forward.

****

Two-hundred fifty paces from the front of the lines, she was not in the lead and her line began to falter.

Fighting and falling back, the line of home protectors, elders and the crazy aunt that everyone has, stood between the fleeing line of family and the bloodthirsty men from the sea.

In the clearing of bodies, Assa’s head bobbed up and down as she tried to make a splint out of a dropped battle club. Too far away, Oengus the Red saw his wife laying on the ground in harm’s way.

The line had moved away from her as his line was putting pressure on the raiders with archers and running battles.

But Assa was alone. Without a leader, her line began to fall back.

****

One-hundred fifty paces between her and the fighting line of death.

Arrows fell around her, the Wed Ritch without a weapon or tool, dragged herself to a broad shield dropped in the heat of battle and pulled it over her as three arrows hit nearby. Using it thick leather, wood and metal as an umbrella to protect her from the steel rain.

And the viking archers were finding her range.

Pulling the shield over her, broad as two men, an arrow struck the shield at a dangerous angle. This archer was spot on target and she was the bullseye.

Looking about, Oengus sought a volunteer to become a protector of his wife. Try as he might as they pushed towards where Assa was, the raiders were too strong and pushed back.

One-hundred twenty-five paces, the line grew closer to her. The defenders were retreating inexorably back, no one stopped to help her, they were all too busy fighting. Those that fell were on their own.

Such are the costs of war.

Oengus continued to search, but no one could break away, his own line unable to make headway.

****

Her line of defense was enough to keep safe the lives of the fleeing villagers that had moved out ahead of the landing of the high-prowed ships. Little did they realize that the well planned invasion had come in three parts, each raiding party had landed ten miles apart, north to south to cut off the refugees escape route.

One-hundred paces.

The line had to reform as the fighters fell back from a wedge attack the raiders had formed.

The vikings were trying to punch through the lines and nearly did so, but Nial had other plans, half his family had yet to cross the water ford and de was not about to let the line closest to them break and endanger the people he is trying to protect.

Failure was not an option for any of them.

****

Seventy-five paces away from Assa.

Looking about at the melee of furious fighting, Oengus saw his love and reason for living now only steps from capture, hiding under broad shield, even from here, Oengus could see that her left foot was not in the anatomic normal position. It was badly broken by the warhorse stepping on her, the pain would be excruciating. It was no small wonder that she had not cast some spell of hiding or concealment, the agony of her broken foot kept her from focusing.

****

Forty paces.

No one was able to take the time, everyone was defending to their utmost

Assa could see the individual hairs in the beard of the pig-tailed, pig nosed man who carried a sword nearly as long as he stood tall.

Two thin lines of defenders, one defender deep stood between her and death, like mighty trees standing against the storm. Screaming berserkers, by the twos and half-dozens, charged time and again against the smiths, tinkerers, carpenters and farmers, crashing like waves against stone. Steel upon steel and bronze upon leather, the screams of the dying and the momentary victorious sounded along the battle line, it all blended in an awful din.

Oengus knew that they could not keep up the defense, the archers left alive were running low on arrows. Youthful runners sprinted, some never returned, a small few returned bringing arrows in hand and in body before collapsing in death, giving the arrows that had pierced them as they had run. Each man bled to hold his line next to his brother or cousin. None of the villagers would give a willing inch to the biting axes and hissing arrows.

Their own archers gave the raiders something to respect. Time and again, even as their own had fallen to arrows that came in, they outdistanced the Viking archers with their long bows.

Thirty paces. The wounded men stood against the charging invaders of the land, like time and waves on rock, it was wearing them down.

Twenty-five paces.

The line retreated, but at a hideous cost to the men of the east, dozens fell with arrows jutting out of their eyes and stuck in their throats.

Twenty paces.

Oengus was in a panic, he needed a subject, someone who would willingly endure a temporary transformation and be the hero of the day.

No one!

Anyone?

None could turn to even engage the question. Everyone was committed to the battle.

****

Fifteen paces.

He was the wizard of harvest, he could bring a flood and storm. But here in the vale, they were all in the floodplain. He had one spell, ten-thousand spells for the same effect, ten-thousand ways to cast each one and he had to undo what he was about to do. Once done, anyone else would be hard pressed to cast a counterspell on changes he wrought with his words.

****

Ten paces.

Out of time. Oengus knew who would do the heroic deed. But the return would be so much longer than the first transformation.

Sliding his sword into the scabbard and dropping it against a tree. He readied himself for the power to flow and transform.

Oengus, Wizard of the Red Dragon of the Westland was ready.

He imaged in his mind his subject and began chanting the five-keys of spells in a specific pattern.

He awoke the land and called upon its power.

****

Assa the Red Witch of the Setting Sun, hid under the broad viking shield, dropped by a raider when her defenders surged forward out of the narrows where the water flowed, her ankle hurt so bad, she screamed when she moved it. Remaining still was not an option.

“Protect the Red!” The artisians yelled. A gravelly voice of the singularly talented smith in seven villages, he called himself “The Smite”, bellowed that no one would be allowed to take the Red Witch.

“Gather her! Pick her up and take her away!” As his great hammer inverted yet another Norse shield into the unfortunate wielder.

But no one came.

She was alone. In a sea of friends and family, of those she had healed, the only help could be had were those that were fighting to protect her untenable place under the broad disk of bronze and iron.

Using a sprig of a spice she dug from the ground, Assa chewed on it for the narcotic, albeit minimal, effect it had.

She needed greater magic than she had with her, her bag, torn from her body by Ulain and his bronze-armored steed when she was ran over by the thundering hooves that stepped on her ankle.

“HERE! Assa!” It was Ulain’s son with the armored horse holding out his hand whilst holding onto the reigns of the angry warhorse with the other.

They were in a semi-circle of a path, a lane really, two rows of fighters, archers on one side shooting between the ranks of the defenders on the other, into the bodies and heads of the raiders that surged to drive the villagers into the water.

It was the plan all along, to draw the heavily armored invaders into a white water grave in the rapids, but with the falling of their leader, she now needed more protection than any of them.

A loud sound, like that of a gong, sounded loud and the great black horse fell, Ulain was gone, Assa did not know if Ulain died somewhere or unhorsed and was fighting on foot. His son now lay crushed under the horse that had an embossed mark like a hammer on the side of the horse-helmet, struggled.

Assa could feel the horse remained alive, but instead of shifting emotions and feelings of the animal, it was a soft blur, the horse was unconscious.

****

Then Assa spied an object that made her heart leap for hope— Her medicine bag, lost in the early part of the fighting. In it she could heal a broken ankle in moments, give strength to the fighters defending their homes and heal herself.

Now she needed Oengus and he was a thousand paces away and the killers of women and children were…

****

Ten paces.

The villagers would shove and battle, gaining ten steps and be driven back eleven.

If viewed from above, the line moved as a snake, writhing, biting, killing— pain.

Her bag, was fifteen paces behind her, she struggled towards it, putting distance between herself and the inexorable retreat of the line to the river.

An ax banged against the shield and bounced away.

The battle was twelve paces distant. She was getting hit with debris that flew about during battles.

A blast of wind blew her bag towards her hand, almost into her grip, but paused.

Not waiting, she lunged and grabbed the soft leather and pulled it under her makeshift roof.

Focusing as she pulled out a stone, spit on it — which was a challenge as her mouth was dry — she only needed a little moisture to have the powder stick to the stone.

And … A sound that grew louder…

The battle seemed different.

Sounds of the rage of war had changed, becoming screams of fear.

Lifting up the shield that was her savior several times in the last few minutes, she saw what looked like ruby-red tree trunks just to the battle side.

It was…

A dragon!

****

The roar of the furies combined with the sound of a thousand storms were no match for ruby-red dragons voice.

The roar echoed off the distant mountains and rolled back along the battle line.

Although in legend and by fire they bragged about being brave, but on this day, the raiders had a collective loss of bladder control at once… Then ran.

Snarling with fury the great dragon launched itself against the fleeing hoard and continued to roar and snarl as they dropped weapons to run faster. The raiders of the lands did not feel they had to outrun the dragon, just the man next to him.

Sure victory had become a race of retreat to the boats.

In legends down time, the people told and re-told the story that the roars of the dragon echoed in the hills around the vale for three days after the battle.

Those raiders fallen  behind were left by their brothers, the Dubh-Gall that fought and drove the farthest inland were now the most far behind when the running began,  finding themselves abandoned by the hoard of now frightened men who sailed away on the ships they arrived in. The abandoned warriors settled peacefully, never wishing to draw the ire of the red dragon of the west ever again.

In the vale, where the villagers returned, blood that had seeped into the ground from the defenders that would give their lives for the loved one named Assa that taught them all how to live, love and laugh.

In the days that followed, leaders looked for Oengus. After weeks of searching, finally identified him by his medallion of a Red Dragon hanging around his neck. No help could be rendered in by any artesian or even the great Green Wizard of the east.

Oengus had changed himself into the dragon, but unable to speak any human tongue in his condition, no one knew the spell he performed.

Finn of the White Water, where he lived on the river, was able to perform the mathematics to figure out the time needed to change Oengus back to his normal self.

One-hundred million ways to cast the spell, each one taking a half-minute to recite in a rush without mistakes.

Assa would age, pass, then be dead and gone if she had to go to the end and try every spell to get her husband back.

Such was the price of a hero.

He won the respect of every day the villagers lived in peace, but had no part in the celebration, he could never know the hugs of the children that he saved.

For dragons live forever, men and women do not.

Even witches and wizards.

In the decades that followed, if one stopped and listened in the far end of the vale, one could hear the red witch yelling at her husband, calling him names for using a spell that no one could reproduce.

****

Early one fine spring day, about two years after the battle, Granuaile walked to the mountain of the dragon and announced herself.

The Red Witch, always enjoying company, yelled at the husband.

Once they called her Assa, the Red. The Gentle Red Witch.

Now, she called herself Nessa, meaning “Ungentle”, she became Nessa the Red, the Warrior Witch of the Westland.

“Dragon! Show yourself! It is the girl from the village.”

Pointing to the vale, Granuaile told them of the trees that the Green Wizard had planted.

“Come see. A monument to the day you saved us all.” With that she ran off down the path, waving at the Red Witch.

In the lane, near the ford, trees now lined the path that followed where the dragon had stood and walked until the fighters and defenders that held their ground in defense of the Red Witch of the Mountain, was safe.

In the times that followed, the stream silted up and moved, the ford became a meadow, but the trees remained. When they died or fell, there were people of the land to replant the trees, eventually becoming giants, growing over the path with a protective canopy along the section where once stood a dragon that was a man who gave his life as a human to protect the jewel of his heart.

In time the vikings would return, forgetting the Red Dragon that lived in the Westland.

They would not forget for long.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul 20. Bone Fire

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20. Bone Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laughing, Daigh ran with his carved wooden bird.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finis.” Kane interrupted. “No.”

The Angel of Death shrugged.

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

Kane looked over the bird’s wing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They give you things to walk with you?”

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

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

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

Daigh looked curiously at the old man.

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

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

Counting the sparkling stones.

I have twenty-four gems.”

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

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

What? Why?” Daigh asked.

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

Then Kane handed Daigh his toy back.

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

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

Finis cleared his throat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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19. A Nightmare Of A Possibility

Twitching, the world took on a surreal color pallet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was HER!

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

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

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

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

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

But this angel did not read the rule book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Orcus! HELP!”

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

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

And failed.

But not this time.

Not again.

Never again.

Shall not. Ever again. Fail.

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

“STOP!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She pleases me.” Orcus looked at her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orcus nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She would give up her heaven.

Her lord and her soul.

For him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I”ll do anything for love!”

A pause…

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

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

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

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

“… NO! I WON’T DO THAT!”

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

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

“TRAITOR!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One loved power, the other loved.

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

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

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

Was this beseeching? That thought was entertaining.

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

A plea? Hardly.

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

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

A mistake.

A fatal mistake.

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

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

Too late!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A soft cough from a few steps away interrupted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We can change the future.”

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

But Kane had his doubts.

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.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 17. Highwaymen

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17. Highwaymen

The wagon rumbled back to the coastal village with Kane and Bronwyn riding in silence.

Weeks of trading and occasional party in their honor had left them fatigued. With hours of travel-time still left in their journey, they were far from talkative. Already on the road for several hours, Bronwyn was sleeping on Kane’s shoulder when he pulled up the horses.

We are not alone.” He whispered to the groggy but waking wife.

An old man stood along the side of the road near a body of a man sprawled on the ground. The older gent was familiar to them, but he was not who they thought he was.

Greetings slime-devil. It has been nine-years since you violated the oath of demons.” The black-eyes looked into Kane’s green.

Well.” Kane said carefully. “Greetings Abraxas. Perhaps you have not been aware of my mate here. This is my wife, the Angel Bronwyn.”

All of the upper ranks are aware of your betrayal and punishment. Up to now, it has been easy, the Masters have plotted against one and another and you were forgotten for a time. And you have saved me from obliteration on three occasions. Once from the Dark Lord himself, you stood up for me and defended the actions that I took.” Looking at the human couple the demon pointed at prostrate form at his feet. “This man here was a lookout for soldiers that are up ahead. They will shoot you full of arrows and take her along with all your goods and wagon.”

We will head another way then. Why warn me, if you would explain once more?” Kane asked.

I owe you three times over, this makes up for one.”

Watch out!” Bronwyn yelled as an arrow hissed out of the wood and hit the old man.

A scream like no other animal sounded out of the old man as the armed warriors emerged from behind the trees of the forest, weapons drawn.

Three more arrows hit the man as he stepped backwards, then transformed into a part-snake and part-human and began to attack the robber-warriors. The sounds were such that the horses spooked. Kane struggled with the panicked animals then spoke words to calm them.

A pull on the silver mouth-bits aimed them at a route past the battling unearthly creature and the robbers. Once the equine minds got the image of safe passage, Kane was nearly out of control as they wasted not one ounce of energy to put distance between the battling humans and the noisy, spitting giant human-snake that caught and ate the highwaymen one at a time. 

Two-minutes of full gallop he pulled back on the reins, making calming noises and stopped the wagon.

Owe you? He Owed you for saving him?” Bronwyn’s voice was air-chilling. “When did you save him? What did you do?”

It was a simple matter of witnessing that he did the right thing. It was your Lord that flooded the world. Abraxas arranged for the ark. He brought along every species of the mosquito.”

“That’s awful.” Bronwyn laughed. 

And yet, you laugh.” Kane said with a smile, wincing slightly as his wife punched him playfully in the shoulder.

 

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 16. A Move To Celtica

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16. A Move To Celtica

Sitting on the beach. A long week of days they had spent in their shop, Kane and Bronwyn had created several pots that they had sold on the mainland called “Gaul”. Kane had become skilled in speaking of the laws of the Celts. Often Tort, criminal law did not exist, but the civil law was complex and often took days to seek an answer to complaints of those wronged. His mind, fatigued from the studies and questions, only enjoying the fire on the beach with his angel laying her head on his shoulder. The cool of the breeze blowing over them caused Kane to pull a sheepskin over them while he tossed more wood on the fire.

“I think we should move, maybe to the south.” Bronwynm said softly. “We have been here long enough that some of the mid-wives are asking when I may have a child, we are not supporting the numbers of children.”

She softly laughed, but Kane did not.

Kissing her nose, he whispered. “Are they jealous that you have kept your girly looks?”

“In fact, they are. Stairiemh has complained that she was more beautiful than I was before she had her second child, now she has a tummy that will not go away.” Bronwyn nodded. “And she is right. She is taller than I am and very beautiful now. But she is not as lithe as a willow as she was when we first came here.”

“They will start noticing our childless status more as time goes on.”

“Yes, and the children are care for by people of the Tuathe. You are the father of no less that ten boys and girls that have adopted you as their favorites.” Bronwyn giggled. “The boys want to go throw that stuffed ball you made. I think it is Dagda’s favorite toy. He is always throwing it up in the air when you are not around. You made it for the kids, but he has taken it for himself. I think you need to make other toys for the kids.”

Kane laughed quietly. “I need to make enough for all the kids with that idea. Every child would need to get one, I’ll be stuffing and sewing for a year!” He covered his face with his hand, I’d have to make a wish list.”

Kissing him softly. “You would be the first Father Christmas.”

“NO! No no no..” He laughed out loud. “We are long years before that era.”

A laughing voice came from behind them. Finis, the Angel of Death, sat with his hands resting on his silver-handled cane.

“Why not set the theme of years to come?” The white goatee-sporting angel chuckled. “Start mankind on giving of their hearts. Giving good wishes to those in the darkest times of the year. This giving is not a religious thing. Let it come from within, give to the children.”

 “Be the seed of what would be come known as a time of giving.” He held out his hand, palm up. “Mankind will twist it in various ways in the years to come. In each society, warrior based would make it more wild. Another society might make it more sexual and still another society may make it a respectful time of those in need and a giving time of presents and food. To take in the homeless or downtrodden. You were once like that.”

“A man alone, in their eyes, and yet?” Finish looked at Kane. “And yet, that they took you in and in time you became a productive member of the society. Maybe you can serve to show the way. Show love to the children, for they are the future of the world.”

Kane sighed. “This society already shows that an entire community raises the children. Everyone takes care of the boys and girls that walk and live.”

“And you can show them a peaceful way to live.”

Bronwyn smiled widely.

Kane frowned. “Why me?”

“Because you are good at it.” Another voice chimed in, it was Micheal, the Archangel.

“The Lord says to make it so. It is a good idea, one that will make your dark master quite angry with you.”

“Yes, he has been angry with me before. Kinda hurt.” Kane said as the memory of the worst pain he ever known came back to him.

The day a demon died.

From that day forward, Kane and Bronwyn traveled in their business trading gems and gold. Often teaching how to sing. Children became more excited with the arrival of the couple that traveled together. Kane created such toys out of wood and leather, for men, often was a small gift, a hatchet, hammer or in some cases if he knew what the need was, a lantern or a pair of shoes. Trading then became much easier with the people who did not know them, knew them by reputation.

Gift giving caught on and became popular, often gifts made by children were given to the couple as gifts for the children of the next village.

Romances blossomed from one clan to the next as love letters delivered  between the distant towns.

Kane laughed on one trip, holding a finely worked calf-hide, sealed with wax.

“And future experts would say that humans did not write for another thousand years.”

Wars halted in times of harvest or in the cold and dark at by the end of the year.

In the eighth year of their living as humans, they had moved to the land of the Celt.

“You will come back?” The bright eyes of an eight-year-old boy Daigh looked up at Kane. “You promise not to stay away?”

Looking at the youth, Kane nodded and smiled.

“I promise. I will come back when the nights are at the longest and the weather is at the coldest. I will come back and we will play games as we have with the ball I have given you.”

“Never break promises to kids.” Daigh said. “I will remember!”

“Nope,” Kane shook his head. “I don’t break my promises to young ones.”

On the coast of mainland, they spread their way of life. Bronze was much easier to obtain and Kane began to teach other young men and women how to sharpen stone tools that they used.

Comments came of course. “The forefather did it this way” and “We do it that way.”

Sometimes, Kane learned some new technique, but most he taught.

Living near the coast, they traded upriver to the communities that desired their arts and crafts as well as Kane’s ax designs in bronze.

Traveling up the river towards a growing village of Lutetia

Kane was quietly contemplating the shape of a hammer in his head. A small hammer with the anvil shaped to fit the needs of a small.

“You know we are going to the future city of passion and love.”

“Oh?” Bronwyn said absent-mindedly as she struggled to sew a carved wood face of a smiling dog on a fuzzy body. Floppy ears for a baby to pull on or a child to cuddle with. “What makes you think that?”

Kane chuckled as she used a rare profanity as the stylus poked a finger through the carefully carved holes in the edges of the wood.

“The village we are going to has a population of only about two-thousand, will one day be Paris.”

“WHAT?” She sat up and laughed. “Really?”

“Yes.” Kane laughed with her. “I helped set back civilization here a few times.”

“Kane. What did you do?” She punched him in the shoulder playfully.

Their chatter filled the late afternoon air as the two lovers moved their wagon of bronze utensils and trinkets for trade in the future city of Paris.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 15. A Brush With Breitheamh (Brehon) Law

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15. A Brush with Breitheamh (Brehon) Law

Tinktinktink..Tinktink. Bronwyn’s small hammer made musical notes on the tiny anvil that her husband and best friend made for her out of the finest bronze. She worked her gold carefully into the decoration that she had carefully chiseled into the back of an unfinished bronze mirror. Kane would polish the mirror after she finished inlaying the gold.

TINKTINKTINK…

She was looking forward to when Kane would return. He was trading for more gold and some gems he had heard were available in raw form at the harbor. He had been gone seven days now and the fine work she had left to do in the little shop would bring them enough trade to keep the tuathe they lived in comfortable enough for a year.

In the last two years after joining the family, they had become accepted with laughter and hugs. Such was their ways of dealing with the humans. At first, Kane kept his distance, but the love of the people and kindness towards wandering strangers impressed the ex-demon.

Kane developed a habit of staying up late with the men and women, telling tall tales of adventure and heroic acts. Little did they know that the stories told were only slightly modified to fit into their world. The concept of flying machines holding entire families and horseless powered chariots were quite beyond the concept of the average person, so stories told of land and sea based adventures where dragons lived and giants grew. Stories that made people laugh, cringe in fear, cry and laugh again as they fell in love with the characters that were in the stories.

Kane for all his disdain for humanity in the beginning, enjoyed the attention he got with his skills of telling of things that were and things to come.

With the skills in artistry and the stories told, they rose in the hierarchy of the tuath and became well-known as skilled artisans and hospitable hosts.

It was late in the afternoon in the outbuilding while Bronwyn tinkered on her designs when two strangers walked out of the oaken forest.

She smelled them before they walked around the wall of the shop. Looking up, she saw they were just standing there, taking in the displayed shiny things that she had made, they were not of the area, indeed looked like men of the northeast. Cruthin or Ulaid perhaps.

We are hungry.” Said the larger of the two men. They had not bathed in some time – they reeked.

“Do you have food? Our hunts have been without success. We have not seen a deer since we left our fine. Give us food and the comfort of your company, when we have our fill, we will go on our way.”

I will feed you and give you water and wine, but the company I hold is mine to choose.”

You WILL!” Shouted the smaller man as he grabbed her by the hair and yanked on the copper-hair.

She grabbed at the hand and pinned it to her head then, twisting around, pinned the man’s arm and smashed his face, with a bang, to the finely carved table, causing dust to fly up off the flat surface and the legs to bounce on the floor. An old move, but so very effective when used against those that were overconfident. Bronwyn did not even wonder about the attack, she just responded with ages old skill.

A back kick to the knee of the other, larger hunter who shrieked in pain and dropped to the floor. Gasped twice for air, then growled with anger while his friend begged for mercy while Bronwyn bent the arm backwards to the breaking point. 

The larger hunter pulled a dagger made from an antler spike,  leaping on to Bronwyn’s back, sticking the sharpened spike into her shoulder.  Bronwyn screamed in agony and let go of the smaller hunter who pulled away and rejoined his and his partner’s attack

Then… Rage.

She felt it. In her heart, it burned like a bonfire. Men who would come and would take that which was not theirs, who felt that her body was theirs to do as they pleased, caught off guard by the burning fury of a soul rescued from ashes.

It was an intense rage like she had not felt in a long time and never on this plane of existence. She wanted these takers, thieves and those who would pillage because they felt that they could.

Then.

The sound of a gong echoed in the small shop as Kane use the head of the large man as a bell clapper against a copper pan he had picked up and swung like a club.

The smaller man was a little more difficult, attacking Kane with his fists, trying to beat the human-demon into the ground. Each punch aimed and thrown to hurt was only batted away with the red-metal pan.

The sound of a bell gonged through the shop again.

The smaller hunter’s knees buckled and he fell forward face-down on the floor of the shop.

Looking at Bronwyn, Kane shrugged holding up the heavy copper skillet.

Frying pans. Who would have thought?”

Brought before the Breitheamh, which was less than a day’s ride from the community of the clan. The men stated they were Cruithni and what they had done. In their tribe, lone women were always available to men who were traveling or hunting. Never had they seen a woman who would fight back or refuse a request of favors.

A Breitheamh, (pronounced Brehon), a skilled judge of the law, agreed upon by the Tuathe Ri. Found that the penalty of the attack was the income of four deer, however how long it took them to hunt, dress and cure the deer meat.

Bronwyn’s wounds healed far faster than the time it took the men to satisfy the words of the Breitheamh, which were also upheld by the Queen of the Tuath.

Messengers ran to the other houses of law of the clans and took messages of findings on the attack by the hunters and their punishment of working off their fines to the community.

No prisons, the theory being that everyone works for the community. In other societies where the rise of the warrior class gave birth to taking life or spending one’s life in jail, the punished worked for the good of the community.

This pleased Kane.

He began to study the laws of the land. This ancient place in history seemed to have a better view of life. All life was precious, all freedoms honored.

He began to speak to the Society of Draoi, the Druids of Hibernia for admission to school of Breitheamh law.

Kane, late of being Hell’s demon of chaos, was becoming a representative for order.

Later that month after he had chosen this path, then thought of the irony of it, he laughed at himself for the first time in many ages. 

If ever there was good humor in a situation, this was it. The Demon of Anarchy and Chaos, studying to act as the champion and warrior of law. 

Kane laughed again.

If Only… The failure of the heart

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If Only… The failure of the heart

 It seemed like a lifetime ago, he knew her as a young man and broke her heart. Three words he never said, the phrase withheld with a hesitant heart. 

She once looked him in the eye and used her willpower to get him to speak his heart, and then he changed the subject. In the months that passed, they began to see less of each other. Then school, career and the end of innocence came after that

Then came separate lives.

Years later, after a friend (now no longer such) played mind games with the knowledge that friends share in matters of the heart and served only to increase his guilt while he kept her in the front of his memories.

Thoughts of a life that could have been, a smile never forgotten, a sad look that never rose above the pain of his immaturity.

Often he could look back and recall her expectant smile. The words she never heard in life he now whispered as he knelt at her headstone.  Another victim of domestic abuse that could have had her path changed for the better with but a single expression of emotion from a college-bound ex-boyfriend. A phrase that could have changed their lives.

Could he have changed the world with three words?

“I love you.”

Silence. Granite and bronze are as unresponsive as the teenage heart that has plans of school and career. Could this young man have saved her from the pain and years of domestic abuse?

Perhaps.

Then again, perhaps not.

With a heavy sigh, the ex-boyfriend stood and walked away from his agony of failure. The weight of ten-thousand nights that he relived his choice that condemned them to separate lives.

Could their lives have been different? The the world will never know.

But the answer was known, deep in his heart.

The deepest wish of a simpler time, the teenager, now aged with white hair and a slight limp from a long-ago accident that also left him widowed had come to visit, just fifteen-months too late.

News in the way of gossip around a school reunion came to him of her current address on this quiet lane, lined with headstones. Only an apology on his lips and the sob that escaped his soul.

As the salt and pepper haired man held hands with princesses and left the lane, the curious voices of the grandchildren echoed among headstones. Soft sounds of life were all that they left for those that slept the forever slumber.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 14. Heaven on Earth

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14. Heaven on Earth

Cuinn, as he now called himself, looked out the door of his room watching the matriarch of the family teach a small girl-child how to use a loom to make a tight weave of a brightly colored cloth, everything about these people was one of joy and color. Out in the pasture, a young man tended to a horse, sliding his calloused hands over the long legs of the equine. Years of skill and knowledge of what the big animal could do with a single kick now kept the horse calm as he checked the legs for injuries. On the far side, he saw four men who used a fire to point a log that people were going to drive into the ground with the dozen other logs to make an enclosure for the creatures that they kept in abundance.

Once upon a time, he hung on the side of a building and watched as an advanced human race slowly poison themselves with chemicals in the form of drugs to make themselves happy. Here, in the prehistory of that same race, they worked and lived with animals and crops. No one was on the verge of suicide in this group.

He pondered about crime.

Crime? They probably did not even have a word for it.

He had yet to speak to anyone or tell them of his name. Finis had gone, after some length if time, when the eldest male had brought him a tunic of fine wool to wear. The man was rather taken aback with the naked face of the stranger and had asked if he was some sort of girl.

That made the demon laugh inwardly. So he had decided to grow a beard, but it was taking longer than he had expected. It has been several hours and he could not detect any change. As a member of the hoard, he would only have needed a second to change his appearance. This, however, was presenting a challenge, indeed. But he was not going to fail, never would he return as a lowly unnamed slave of anything that crawled out from under a rock.

“You look out on the land as if you have new eyes, fair-faced one.” The sudden voice behind him brought him out of his reverie.

He turned and it was the matriarch of the family, she was tall and slender, her hair behind her head in a single plait that was the color of a sunrise. She was about thirty summers old, by the time of humans able to do space flight, this grandmother, wise and with wisps of gray hair, would be a young woman in the eyes of the society of that far off age.

He opened his mouth to say something, not knowing just what to say and his voice made a croaking sound when he spoke.

“I see beauty in your family and I thank you for your kindness and hospitality. I have been to many places and have lost sight of that which I have seen as beautiful. This family of yours has taught me the meaning of beauty once again.” he smiled softly. “I don’t know the name of your family here.”

His hostess smiled softly and nodded, “The way you found on the road, naked and beaten by someone or something you had made very angry, concerns me. Only this ax that leans against the wall was in your hands. It is unlike anything we have seen.”

She raised one eyebrow as she looked at the ten-pointed ax. “As for our family? We have a few families here. This is what we call a fine (She pronounced it as “finna”), we are a smaller part of a Clan, but when we finish gathering up the sheep and animals that have ranged in the hills here, we will go and meet at the Clan home on the coast, at the edge of the world.”

He nodded understanding, pointing at his ax, “This ax is a weapon and tool that was given to me by someone long ago.” (Or would that be long in the future? Time was not something he could relate to very well, without even including the effort to explain it to this terran.) “I can’t recall his name,” (A lie, but no one needed to know it was Hades, the Emperor of Hell in that time.) “Or for that matter I don’t know my name.”

This was true enough, he had chosen the name “Cuinn”, but wanted to find more knowledge of the people here before he used a name that could be one of a hated history. “All I remember was a man on a horse.”

“That would be my sister’s son, Tosk. He is the leader of the hunt. Nearly always brings back meat for the family and fine. We should find your name, for your spirit cannot be inside you without your name. Who ever struck you and knocked it from you did you a great harm.”

“We would have to drive you out of this area.” She shook her head, sadly. ” Without a spirit, you could harbor a dark demon inside you and brought into our midst.”

He nearly laughed out loud at that. She had no clue about the true nature of the man in front of her. At one point, he would have enjoyed making her weep and turn on any of the host. That was his job and he enjoyed creating bitterness and woe greatly. But now, he looked on her with different eyes.

They knew him not. And yet, and yet they brought in his broken and bruised body and cleaned him up, put him in a bed reserved for guests and clothed him. No other reason he could think of other than it was part of the fabric of this society.

Then, a yell came from below. A rider on a horse was seen riding in on the road was coming towards the enclave. In no hurry, the rider waved at the small group of buildings and the people as the horse and rider made their way up the path. Sleek, tall and black, this horse was unlike the smaller ones that were in the compound. 

The rider looked up at the larger house where he stood in the window and looked out. He felt a thrill of recognition, it was HER. His heart leaped with such joy he bounced on his feet.

“You know this person?” the leader of the clan asked. Gretna was that which all the others had called her. “You act as one of my children when the father returns with a prize of the hunt.”

 “Oh yes, she is known to me. I would go talk with her now.” He smiled and she granted him leave with a smile and nod.

He walked to the black horse with a bounce in his step and a smile on his face.  The new stranger smiled down on him then slipped off the great horse. 

“There you are! I have looked all over for you. I was coming to ask these good folk if you had been seen and that I had lost you.” Her red and gold mane of hair glittered in the mid-morning sunlight. “You are well taken care of I presume?”

“This is Kane, he is my mate.” She said to Gretna. “Ten nights ago he went to get water and never returned,”

“Many foot prints were found near where he should have been and it I feared that the Picts might have taken him.” She looked him in the eye and spoke to the leader of the Fine.

“I thought I had lost you.” She whispered as her fingers caressed his cheek.

He looked her in the eye and mouthed the name, “Kane?” and turned and nodded, “I am Kane! Pleased to meet you and thank you for your kindness.”

Looking back to Bronwyn,

“For a time I have been lost, lost to the world,” Kane said softly. “For I could not speak, lost to these people who saved me for I knew not who I was, taking any name I could, to see if any reminded me of who I was, lost to you because I did not know where you were.”

The newly named human made her smile wider than she had in a very long time.

 “Kane! it is our joy to meet you!” Two men laughed and now greeted him without suspicion. 

They slapped him on the back and welcomed him now as family might greet a long-lost relative.

The crimson haired rider stroked the neck her horse, turning to look at Gretna.

“I am Bronwyn, we are making our way inland, away from the water. Our lives are forever on the edge of the world it seems.”

Bronwyn did not lie. But she covered herself well.

“You are welcome to stay for the night and share our food.” Gretna smiled broadly “If you would trade any stories this will make the night seem short. We have ale, for which we have traded with other clans. Our wool is of the finest on the coast.”

“I would appreciate that and my camp is over in the next valley.” Bronwyn nodded. “I have been lucky to have found him alive and well. I will accept your offer and make the long trip back on the morrow’s first light.”

She walked her horse up the path to the enclosure that was nearly built. Pulling off the bridal she showed it to the men that examined her horse. “I had this made in a land across the water. A whole village used them with the horses. The animals accepted it well and would not buck as badly.”

Gretna smiled broadly and motioned to Bronwyn to come over.

“Let the men play with the new horse, that will keep them busy for most of the day and you know how men are with things that go fast or one as tall. Nor have I seen one as tall as you or your mate Kane.”

The disguised angel nodded and spoke softly to Gretna.

“I wish some time alone with Kane so we can talk and I find out what has happened to him over the last few nights. It is not like him to wander off, and you say he had his ax with him?”

The matriarch answered just as softly, two women that cared deeply for what was theirs and they were in the deepest worry.

“Yes, it is nothing like any of us have ever seen. It gleams like the full moon and has a shape that is impossible for us to figure out how to do with bronze and copper, not counting this moon metal.”

The two women walked up towards the house talking to each other in hushed tones.

Kane felt the fear that all men everywhere feel when two women get together and men are on their tongues in conversation.

Following along behind them, holding to the theory that it was better to keep them close than be surprised about it later when they would come looking for him, later.  Beside the fact that Bronwyn was his liaison here, he knew little about humans and wanted to keep it that way. But now he was in for a battle.

He chuckled darkly, his fortunes had not changed much. But. at least, Bronwyn was nearby and he had an ally. He could not wait to get her alone to find out what she was doing here.

Not one to look down on a fortunate gift, but he just did not know what to think.

That night after the meals had ended and the humans had consumed their fill, only Bronwyn and Kane remained awake.

“What are you doing here? I cannot come back with you, I am here forever, and you are an angel.” He said directly and softly. “You can return any time, yes?”

After she had taken him by the hand and made love to him for the first time in this age, she kissed him a long time before she answered his question.

“I have spoken with my Lord and got permission for you and I to live here and I will help you do what you need to do without being alone.” Brilliant blue eyes sparkled with excitement on the current life. “To keep you from being taken off your path by the imps and demons of your past life. We can do as you wish, but I chose a life with you, life as a human like you. I have no powers, but I will live in immortality like you do. We will span the years together and I can return any time that I wish to the other side. But so long as I am here with you I can’t use any power that I have in my Angel form. When I am here, I am human in form, but I am immortal. I may live as a human, but I am not unprotected from the Dark Side, the Host has many that have supported me. You are not a favorite being, those you have met and brought down in battle do feel some ill will towards you.”

Kane grimaced over the huge angel that had him at her mercy for a moment.

“I think she would have more than a little ill will.” he thought.

Bronwyn continued “They are all wishing us well and good will.” She grinned “Most of them anyway.”

Then Bronwyn frowned slightly, “The cost of this union is that we can never have children, there have been events that have crossed boundaries and plague Angel and Demon alike. But the Lord assures me that this will never be a great issue. But my Lord has denied at every plea, ‘no children’.”

She drew a breath, “This may cause a bit of a tribulation in the future I think, because children are a staple of the energies of the hearth.”

Kane smiled softly, “So long as you are with me, we can make due with anything else. But – No powers at all? What if some of my old brethren got involved. They have no such restrictions.”

“I can use my powers subject to the approval of Gabriel, the Archangel.”

Kane sighed… Gabriel! He and Gabriel had faced each other in battle before and had not found who was the better warrior. This made for some consternation in that Gabriel and Micheal had both been looking and waiting to test him in battle again. This was a terrible worry. He still carried memory of scars and injuries inflicted by those two thunderbolts of the Other Lord. The Dark Lord had healed him when he had returned broken and injured, but never beaten. But never had he been allowed to walk away without scars.

But now he was with his hearts deepest desire. Bronwyn had come to him, giving up all so she could have a life with him and create a life that , to say the least, would be challenging. Here, where the scars could heal, he could cause the very throne of the Emperor to tremble in anger.

This pleased Kane to no end.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 13. Heaven Sent

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13. Heaven Sent

She had been meditating, but peace would not come.

In this place Love and Peace were the orders of the realm. But, alas, such was not forthcoming. She had known that he was cast out and he was living with humans. Even such things are harsh for imps and demons She knew in her heart that she had to try to ask a favor, permission to allow her to help him, somehow.

With a heavy sigh, she stood up and walked away to where help could be obtained.

As she approached the place where the Lord of Everything held court, she met Gabriel the Archangel outside.

“The Lord is expecting you. If anything, you are late.” He brushed a crimson lock out of her face, giving her a critical look and walking circles around the small angel, assessing her,  he gave Bronwyn the rules of speaking in the inner sanctum.

“Speak only when spoken to, keep your answers short and direct. Stand up straight. One word answers are best. Do not exaggerate, you would be found out before you even said the words. Stand straight, smile but do not look directly at the Lord. Use the title at the end of each answer. Yes, Lord. No, Lord. And so forth, stand up straight when you do.” Gabriel plucked at her hair, fluffed her wings, tucked her here and there. Then stopped, tapping his chin with a knuckle. “Spend as little time as possible there, the Lord is very busy. Stand up straight. All answers to questions and requests are final, do not argue or attempt to change the answer with any kind of debate. Be sure to stand up straight. Now, off you go, do not wait around. And stand up straight!”

Bronwyn stepped through the gates and into the light. She was momentarily blinded the bright light on the other side of the portal, but then her eyes adjusted.

She found herself in a garden with the bluest of skies. A woman slightly older than Bronwyn was planting a row of flowers in one area of the garden. No one else was nearby and the woman looked up and smiled but kept at her work that she seemed to enjoy a great deal.

Hesitantly, Bronwyn stepped towards the woman, moving so she could see all that the digging and planting was doing when the woman stood up and brushed the dirt from her hands.

“Well, a lot done, but a lot to do still.” She smiled at the younger angel. “You have come to see me in regards of a matter of the demon who had been cast of hell out by his master and Emperor?”

Bronwyn took a sharp breath.

“You, um, you are the Lord?” She stammered. “I expected someone older, a man with a beard perhaps. I had never thought of a woman.”

“What you wish to see is what I will be,” The Woman-Lord laughed delicately. “But I thought you might have a better time relating to someone closer to your age. Image and perception accounts for a lot when telling of matters such as you have. I can even be a girl of your appearance.”

With that, the Lord changed slightly and appeared as young as Bronwyn, a girl that she could confide in, with bright eyes and wide smile as she sat.

“Tell me! Tell me about him? Is he exciting? Does he make your toes curl when you think of him?” The girl held a flower to her nose and sniffed it with her eyes shut. “Someone that would hold your hand and laugh with a sparkle in his eyes just for you.” She giggled as she put the flower in Bronwyn’s hair. “Have some of this! It is what is called chocolate, one of my greatest creations!”

Bronwyn laughed nervously as she took a bite of the small bit of dark confection, it was heaven on her tongue.

“This is a bit too much, too fast of a change.” She gave a deep sigh. “But, I know he is among humans, he is alone and can not speak the language. He risked everything of his being just for me.”

“He now is in need of help,” Bronwyn frowned. “And we are always sent to help someone who needs or asks. Even if they should never ask, you have said that to offer, to teach a way out is the best way. That sometimes those that can see the clearest are the most blind.”

The Supreme Being now appeared as an elderly woman with wisdom and long found happiness nodded.

“My child, you have the power to do as you wish. It has always been about freedom of choice. You are here on this plane of existence because of the path you have chosen. He is on his path because of the choices he made in his early life. If you believe he needs guidance and help, you may go. Finis has already talked with him and given him a gift that will be most useful. But you must choose. Only you can choose. You can guide him as an angel and then Finis is no longer going to act as a go-between, until… and if… your demon fails his tribulation.” The elder Lord said softly.

She stroked a wilted and dying flower that became tall and strong again at her touch, she turned and took Bronwyn’s hands in hers, the matronly image continued.

”If he fails and falls, Finis will return him to the dark-side as a slave forever; or you can go without your powers, as immortal as his Dark Lord has condemned him to live, but you will not have any other direct contact than Finis. He will be your mentor, guide and go-between of this place and the human existence, other angels have spoken. They have all said that they will not aid or hinder. The only one that offered to make contact with you is Finis, the Angel of Death, I have left it to him to act as a messenger. Other than Finis, you may not call upon the Host for any reason. You can speak in prayer to me only.”

Bronwyn jumped up, dancing on the balls of her feet, her mind made up.

“I choose the life of being a human with him! If that is one of my choices, that is the choice I will be!”

“My dear child, be sure this is what you want. On earth there is a saying ‘be careful of what you wish for, you may get it.'” The Grandmother-Lord said softly.

“Lord, this is what I want. What I wish to do with him, where ever he goes on that plane, I will be at his side.”

“Then it is so,” The slightly older woman appeared again. “You may keep your blessed sword and angel armor, you will have knowledge that you have now and clothing. Several of the Archangels have said they also have gifts to give you that will not cause disruption with humans. No magic, no powers. But you will not grow old, this is one of the trials you will have to endure. For if it seems that you are more than human, all my children on earth will turn on you and he. You can not stay in one area for long. No place will be a permanent home for the both of you. Wars will come, famine, terrible things. He is in a time of prehistory of humankind. The best and most worst of the human soul has yet been realized. You will be part of it, you may influence it to one degree or another. Finis will help guide you through the times and ages. But be warned! Demons and other dark forces will try to create havoc with you and cause him to fail. All he has to do is call upon his powers once. Just once. Just one time and he will be lost to the Emperor of Hell for all time.”

“My child, go now to him.” She said it with a motherly look in her eyes. “You have only one chance to choose. Make the wise choice, for it will be forever. Time will move for you only one direction, one minute after another. Time cannot be as flexible for you as it is for the Host, how we can choose to move forward or backward through time. For us, time is not a line, but there for you, it will be.”

She smiled. Once more a girl the same age as Bronwyn.

“Go on hun! Be happy and take good and well care of him. Give him some loving from me, too!” Her soft voice sounded like bells as she talked and laughed while she bounced on her feet like an excited teen confided in by a friend about her love.

Bronwyn walked down the path with a light heart and a little fear, at the edge of the garden she turned and looked back. There stood a smiling grandfather type that held a growing flower in his hand as he tenderly planted another growing life in the fertile soil of the garden.

Laughing, she turned and left the garden with confidence and a smile that made Gabriel scratch his head.

 

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 12. The First Sunburn

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12. The First Sunburn

Hours passed and the sun slowly slipped behind the trees, shading him, the cool change awoke him gently. He felt rested, but oddly stiff. A large lump had formed on his forehead. No doubt a souvenir of either his fall or near drowning. Another survey of himself showed that he looked like, well, like hell. Lumps and bruises covered him in a familiar coloring in many parts of his body. But more, his skin was a deep crimson hue and was more sensitive to the touch than he recalled from several hours ago when he first crawled on the rock and slept in the warming sun. 

Looking over the edge of the rock, he could see his ax glittering in the water below, but it’s depth was at least over his head.

He had to go get it, calling to it was out of the question, it was an exercise of his demonic powers, he knew. So he had to go get it like a human. Standing there he thought of a plan to retrieve it.

He jumped in, feet first, near where he could see his ax and he went all the way to the bottom. Putting feet on the rocky bottom and grabbing at the shiny blur – success! The now-human kicked off the bottom he launched himself much like when he could fly.

He broke the surface he found he was farther downstream than he thought he would be. He washed against some large boulders that formed a natural pool. He struggled against the current, slipping on the smooth river-rock. He climbed and slipped, climbed again. The fight to get out of the chill water was the most difficult he could remember. 

His hands were cold and slick, but using the hook end of the weapon to hauled himself up and out of the cold water. Chilled again, he looked around and followed a path downstream, slipping once on a rock that cut his foot painfully he fell into the dust of the late afternoon. Dust and dirt sticking to his wet, sunburned skin and limping in pain from the laceration on the instep of his foot, he walked as best he could. He fatigued quickly and began to shiver violently in the waning light of the day, even as he exerted himself. Stepping into a clearing and realized he stood on a wide path – more like a road! This meant someone must use it.

He was thankful as he walked a the slight downhill slope when a cloaked rider and horse pulled up, surprised at the sight of a nude, sunburned, dirt-covered and battered walker, the rider looked about the tree line.

“Who are you and what has happened that you would be looking like you are nearly dead?” The rider asked.

He knew the language well, but found he could not talk to the rider. His new body did not include knowledge on how to talk in a language. He had never spoken in a Terran voice, all he could do was make incomprehensible noises and then point at his throat.

Only then did he feel the great weight of what he would learn later would be total exhaustion. He felt like so much weight in his feet that he could no longer take another step. He slumped to his knees, using his weapon and sole companion as a brace, then his consciousness slipped into the darkness that closed around him and took him in its merciful embrace.

When he next awoke, he was on a sleeping pallet with a brightly dyed blanket over him and a familiar figure sitting on a stool watching him.

He had the look of an old man, but to call him elderly would be a mistake. He resembled a bearded grandfather, or the personification of the spirit of giving that is St. Nicholas. Except this jolly old St. Nick looked like one who spent far too much time in the gym and this was no ordinary angel.

Finis, the Angel Of Death, was watching the banished demon-come-human with an entertained look on his face.

“How do you feel? You have been asleep for nearly 24 hours.” He spoke in the language of the Host that only those of either side could understand.

“I have pain in places I never thought I had.” He took a breath and moaned as he tried to move. “This is a bad place for me, I cannot speak the languages even though I can understand them. The Dark Lord has put me in a dangerous place. I can not use my powers or I go back.”

The new human sighed heavily and leaned back closing his eyes against the nightmare that he found himself in. All because of his weakness for the Angel named Bronwyn.

Finis chuckled quietly before he spoke.

 

“There is one thing that the Supreme one granted to you.” He smiled. “After this, you can speak their language, and I can expand on that. You will be able to talk to all of them in their native tongues, after a fashion. You need familiarity with who you are talking with before you are able to speak to them. It would also be best that you think of something to explain why you were acting like some insane wild man staggering down the road looking like someone had beaten you with every ugly stick in these mountains.”

“What do I call myself? What CAN I call myself that doesn’t raise eyebrows and questions?”

The Angel of Death thought for a moment.

“You were not named by the Emperor, this would be a good thing, you would want to use that and this would be bad. No demon’s name would work on this plane of existence. As for a good name? I see that you had landed in a stream. Call yourself “Hill” or “Rivers” or something anyone would accept in this age.”

“Okay, good for a last name, but what about a first?” He thought of the name of Greenhill as he asked the Angel, shaking his head and not liking the name.

Finis looked away for a moment and sighed, “At this time in human history, there where few that had more than one name, and you are in a Celt, actually pre-Celt time. I would pick something like Conn or Cuinn, these are common names of this era.”

“I think Cuinn will work, recall that name as being one of the earliest recorded names– and you say this is what age?” He nodded.

“I have not told you yet.” Finis shook his head. “There are many things you have yet to learn about that are going to work for and against you.” the angel took a breath, “First: this is the late Neolithic era the island of what will be known as Ireland in the future time-line. You cannot change your time and you are alone. You can not die – you are immortal, but you will be surprised how much pain and misery you can live through. Added to the requirement that you must not use any of your powers, but they will be at your fingertips always. All you need to do is call upon them.  But!” The Angel of Death held up his index finger in admonishment. “Just one time and AFTER you do? You will return and then suffer the ravages of the condemned, forever as a slave of hell, no name, no power other than to scream in agony, to run along next to the victims of those who have fallen prey to the true demons. You cannot use any power, any time if you wish to stay here and away from the pits of Hell. They will all be watching, Angel AND Demon. All want you to fail, you have inflicted too much damage to Angels, have advanced too far in the Hoard. Only myself had any thoughts to deal with you directly as a liaison.”

“The only one that wants to deal with me is the Angel of Death, the one being that NO one wants to talk to, in the first place?” His predicament was getting so much worse by the minute.

Cuinn sighed and nodded, the most vile parts of human history had such things as dismemberment and torture. If he was at the dawn of the bronze age, he had a lot of superstitions to deal with in the coming years.

Pulling at his ear he asked Finis. “So you are to by my companion through all of this? My spy to the non-corporeal side?”

Finis laughed out loud, “HO! Hah… no… I am simply your liaison. You have someone who is even now seeking to assist you. You do not have many who would help you, there are many that have a grudge against you and that ax of yours.”

Looking out the window, Cuinn nodded slowly. It was war between the two sides, but hard feelings for those that suffered the pain of being sent back by his hand still existed. He was still the enemy after all. He could not see the angels that surrounded him and wished him to fail, to become a lowly slave of the deepest depths of Hell and not one of their own.

He wondered just who would be the spy, the friend that would help him or the underhanded soul who might push him to fail.

This would be a short rebellion on his part, he would be the lesson for everyone else who dared cross lines.

No one cheated Satan.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chatper 11. Hell on Earth

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11. Hell on Earth

It was this demon that had betrayed the battle!

TRAITOR!

It was HIS cause for the failure of the plan. Claw of Hades now sheathed, hummed a warning too late!

The bolt of demon-fire struck him between the shoulders, Claw of Hades took most of the unholy blast, saving the demon. The wounded demon fell down on the path at the base of the raised platform, his body smoking from the fire of the Devil.

Pain! A lot of pain, groaning as he struggled to stand, the sentence was coming. This was going bad quickly. For even among immortal demons, there are fates worse than death.

Then it came.

“If this demon so desires to protect humans, he can live as one!” The Emperor shouted as he passed the judgment .

The Dark One announced the punishment rules. 

The demon only had to bow to what he really was,  and return to this place of punished souls. It would take only a one time use, JUST ONCE,  of his demon powers and he would return forever, not as a warrior, but as a slave.

No name, no power to inflict misery on any of the residents of the race of man. For his would be one of the background agonies that those that have turned their back on the other Master would hear. His own misery would be music for the damned to listen to for all eternity.

As the Emperor read off the sentence, the demon moved suddenly.  A sudden thought,  a plan!  He knew of he had to strike against this wrong, to strike down that which deserved it the most.  With a single movement he threw Claw of Hades directly at the Emperor.

And missed.

Straight and true it sailed, until Claw of Hades was intercepted by Emperor’s personal guard, who then handed the humming, living weapon to the Devil, the six-clawed hand wrapped around the weapon with a sensual, almost sexual stroking of it’s cutting edge.

A pause, and he amended the sentence, the demon was to keep the battle-ax and care for it. If the small demon used for any purpose that was beyond the powers of a human, he would return as a slave, to burn and suffer the exquisite agonies of the damned, he would be music to the lost souls of that place of humans.

No growing old and no peaceful death as a good person. That would make it too easy to get out of it and go to the other side.

He would be immortal still. Living as a human, never growing old, trying to hide his true nature from the weak-minded life that called itself “Human”. They would force him to show his true nature and weaknesses. He could learn how insane humans could be with someone different from themselves. Then, the Emperor was confident on this point, when he used his powers, he would fail and return to serve as one of the lowest caste only. His rank would not be restored.

With this, a shimmer of a blue flame appeared at the hand of the High Demon of All and raced towards the lessor demon.

PAIN! OH Sweet PAIN! He closed his eyes and screamed in agony. Claw of Hades struck him across the chest, the force of the blow knocked him to the ground. Agony… The fire burned deeply, only once did he try to stand, then his right-wing broke off with a hissing crack. His hide, his very flesh was melting off! The center of his soul was boiling in pain and anguish. Nothing lasts forever, but this was non-ending pain.

Then…

Suddenly.

It was over and a weightless sensation overtook him just long enough to let him realize that he was falling. He landed hard on the soil, bounced and slipped over the edge of a ravine, vines and brambles scraped his flesh as he fell. As he slid by the roots and as he became more aware, he reached out and grabbed at them as he went by.

Abruptly he was airborne, he felt the rush of air past his skin was an oddly pleasant sensation until he landed on his back in a shallow pool of a stream. The shock of the cold water stimulated his numb body, he could feel. And his tail HURT! He felt agony as if he had his tail torn out by the root, or burned off. Pain was all-encompassing and he screamed.

Then as suddenly as he grabbed at the root of his tail, he realized it was gone. The pain subsided and he realized he was lying nude on his back in a sandy shallow stream. The pain subsided and he pushed himself up on his hands into a sitting position.

Sound from above. Something was coming through the bushes from where he had come.

He looked up and his battle-ax and companion of lo these many conflicts sailed over the bluff falling like a spear down at him. Making squawking sounds, he kicked hard backwards as the main blade embedded itself half of its length in the sand. Half a hand width closer it would have emasculated him in a way that made him double-check that nothing was missing.

He chuckled, in a nervous-hysterical tone at the nearness of the miss–and then stopped.

The sound was alien, he never made that sound in his memory. It was a curious sound, then he became curious of all the changes of his appearance as he looked at his hands and body. Skin, no scales, no fur.

Just pink skin.

He was not sure in his curiosity, not really wanting to look at his disfigurement, but chose to look anyway. Taking several steps to a quiet pool he looked at his reflection in it, he was far different from what he looked like before. His eyes were forward-looking and deep-set, glittering in the reflected light, his mouth was wide enough for that chuckle that he just heard – and then some. The hellfire that he just sustained had done more than take his armored hide, it changed him into a HUMAN!

Not bad-looking either.

He stood there, looking about himself, shivering. The cold water had chilled him and he was still standing knee-deep in the stream, there were two very steep banks on each side and he could see no path out of the stream bed. With a grunt he pulled his old friend and battle-ax out of the sand and he started to hike downstream to look for a way out of his predicament.

Finding that his walk out was difficult, caused by the slippery stones that lined the mountain stream, he stepped down into a pool of water that was deeper than he thought and he fell in, immediately went in over his head, and a sudden panic set in as he struggled to the surface. In the struggle to get out of the water, he dropped his ax as he grabbed for a purchase on the sides of a large smooth rock. The now-human swept along with the flow of water until he found a grip a short distance downstream and pulled himself up to a flat part of a large rock. He lay there in the sun for several moments coughing retching with his lungs complaining of the water that he had swallowed.

A few minutes of trying to catch is breath, the naked, cold man collapsed face first on the outcropping, The texture of rock was warm to his cheek, for which he was thankful. His sense of time was lost in the warmth of the sun on him, catching his breath and warming. Wonderfully, he was no longer shivering and after several moments, warmed by the sun and rock, exhausted from his recent journeys of battle, pain of having been burned out of hell, dropped thirty-feet through berry bushes, trees, and brambles into a box ravine, becoming badly chilled and then nearly drowning, then warmed by the gentle sunlight, he slept a dreamless sleep on his first day of being human.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 10. Poor loser

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10. Poor loser

The Emperor of Hell was violet with fury, blaming others for their failed efforts that allowed the Other Master and Lord to start humanity. That small effort, that simple change in the time-line that the Other Master had undone the Emperor’s entire plan for the fall of man. If not for the damned rock, the humans could not survived on that mud ball! The battle, instead of destroying civilization, instead assisted the rise of man.

All that damage to the Black Battalion was for nothing  and it was going to take some effort to rebuild the numbers of demons. Raising new demons from the lowly slave caste was a challenge and difficulties always occurred. But one bright point in the catastrophe, one of the warriors had stood up to one of the Others and even outclassed in power and size and he was able to send that one of the Others, this giant angel, back to her Master.

This demon would be raised and given back his ancient name to show his value. All other of the imps and demons would learn that success had great rewards as failure had severe punishments. With a sweeping motion of a great six-fingered hand, all tipped in claws, he commanded the mid-caste demon to come and receive his reward for courage.

Down and away, The Demon sat alone with his back to the rage of the Emperor. He felt the command to come to the seat of power as much as saw it. He stood and turned, slowly with each step from an exhausted warrior, as he walked up the path to the Black Throne, he cringed inwardly, sometimes awards were as cruel as punishments.

A promise was never the way you could take it. Fear was not unknown to even those that received the highest of awards and raised and became his personal warriors.  They were dangerous things, the Dark Lord’s favors, because the Emperor was a trickster and a breaker of promises.

Still, to refuse the Emperor of Hell was, to say the least, unhealthy. So the Demon stood with his chest out and with the look of pride he did not feel, it seemed that all had gone well.

Then, a voice sounded. It was one of the other warriors that had seen his actions with Bronwyn, stood up. As the statement hung in the air he decided to challenge the lessor demon, only to have three others speak out in unison. The air suddenly chilled by a crackle of cold rage behind him.

The Emperor in a hideous fury brought forth the judgment.

9. The Big Switch

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9. The Big Switch

On earth, no telescopes spotted the approaching missile, no alarms sounded anywhere. As the first of the chunks of space debris fell into to the atmosphere, heads turned and looked up. Only minimal alarm was felt anywhere until the planet suffered a direct hit at the Yucatán peninsula.

All eyes looked at the growing column of destruction as the shock wave, faster than the speed of sound, overwhelmed the witnesses. There was little time to panic, less time to react as the wind left only dust behind. It pulverized the very ground, turning stone and stick into missiles. Pebbles flying faster than a bullet rode the shock waves as death spread from the epicenter of the impact. The very air became compressed, heating to thousands of degrees as it scoured the planet of life. Death rained down from the upper atmosphere heating the air to oven temperatures. Firestorms blasted along the ground with the super-hurricane winds that blasted flesh and earth as the shock wave spread around the globe.

Among the messengers of the Host. Profound was the sadness and defeat. All the host hovered above the beauty that their lord had created without moving, now a smoking ruin. No commands came to save any souls, all was silent sadness. So much life lost, for no reason. The dark realm had won with the effort of the host, the Dark Lord’s plans blindsided the Host. A betrayal of the war, they had obliterated those they swore to protect.

Then, quietly. One of the highest angels appeared, smiling. She commanded them all to walk the land and see up close.

No one had died.” She announced in a soft voice.

Unbelieving, the bruised and depressed army of angels walked the land in a slow, defeated march. Looking about them at the death and wreckage of the planet. Picking out the view of body parts that laid strewn about were oddly shaped in death. Here a cow type of creature, its skeleton denuded of flesh as it lay in the gray dust and ash.

Some of the warriors noticed an odd club-shape to the end of its tail. An odd deformity, for sure. Then the group looked around, a parrot beaked animal, huge in size, lay on its side with a bony crest covering its neck broken, but still obvious what it was. This was what the humans had identified as a triceratops! This was a prehistoric animal, long before the Lord chose the next step for this planet.

The Lord and Master of this all had allowed the armies of the Dark Realm to believe they had won. Only just changing time in the universe when no one would be aware, when all other battles were raging to whatever end. Meanwhile the world of the man was safe.

A simple change for the supreme being. No one expected to have the universe around them changed, without a sound as the Master of All simply changed where in the time-line that the destruction happened.

 

8. Battle Chess of Masters

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8. Battle Chess of Masters

With a slight motion of his huge clawed hand the Emperor of Hell sent them in a flash to where the battle now in progress. Here an angel that was not well-known, being beaten by two of the lower caste and soon would be returning to the other place if no help would come soon. The demon directed the battle from his position to the other imps and damned under his command. Those of the Dark Realm were being effective in keeping the Others busy. The main goal was not this small mountain of a rock being moved away from its orbit. It was going to hit the moon if the Others interfered, protecting the other blue and white sphere. The main one was the huge asteroid, a continent-sized lump of iron and nickel that had been quietly brought into its place and the diversion was working perfectly.

Sound does not carry in the vacuüm of space, but immortals still heard the pitch of the battle as it intensified, the demon was now in the middle of the fight, hand to hand, club to ax, ax to sword, sword to club. With a mighty leap he landed in between several of the Others, The battle-ax, a gift from Hades to him long ago and given the name Claw of Hades sang its terrible song as he sent six angels back to their Master and Lord. Feeling the ground shudder behind him, he turned and looked up at the largest angel he had ever seen. He never knew that something like that was part of the Others! This angel was huge, easily quadruple his size and she was beautiful and frightening, full of holy anger focused directly on him. As he shrugged inwardly he launched his first attack before the angel did. It was a struggle to get inside the danger zone of the curved crystal blade, he drew back the Claw of Hades, the only reward was an unbelievably hard blow from the back of a huge right hand.

Ugh- now that hurt!” His eyes seemed to rattle in their sockets.

The demon’s body skipped across the surface of the asteroid and crashed into a vertical projection. He saw as his painstaking effort tested his will as he  pulled himself from the crater caused by his impact, the angel was stalking him.

The angel was not finished inflicting pain.

Gaining his feet he launched himself up, trying to out flank this angel he was hit again with a bolt of energy from the sword that the angel was carrying. Dropping his ax, again he bounced across the surface of the asteroid as the battle raged around him.

This is getting old.” The demon thought as the angel shook the rock with every step, approaching him with the sureness of a victor. The demon grimaced, victory or defeat, it is never sure until the end. His hands clutching at nothing, they were empty where the battle-ax once resided, he watched the angel approach him, the glittering in her eye. She had hell’s champion at her mercy and mercy was not what she was going to give.

His ax, the Claw of Hades now on the far side of this angel, the only way for him to get to it now was through her. Doing that so far has proved painful in a most brutal fashion. With all this terrifying and beautiful angel’s attention on him now, raising her huge weapon for the final stroke, the demon raised his hand. Not a plea for mercy, it was a command.

A call to an old friend.

As the angel focused on him, he focused on his battle-ax, until now laying quiet and abandoned in the dust. Now it stirred.

It answered the call and command to return to its master. The main blade pointed forward with the speed of thought, the battle-ax struck the angel in back and passed through the middle of her soul. The impact ended the fight and erupting into light and thunder, sent her back to her Lord and King. The Claw of Hades was only returning to its master, but the weapon cannot be stopped when the command was felt. The ax settled into his hand still sparkling from passing through the body of the giant angel, ringing with the power that lived within its metallic heart.

The ax quieted as its master used it for a crutch at the moment.

Looking around the demon saw another interloper coming towards the rock. It is HER! Of all the horrid luck, he has to fight Bronwyn! Taking the pain of his recent fight and making it his strength, he watched her engage and wipe off the battlefield a dozen demons with her sword. All of those mid-caste that were under his charge. Other demons were fleeing from her.

Cowards.” Was his only thought.

With great effort he kicked off, up and above her, arching over where she stood, he dropped down from behind to collide with her do drive her into the floating mountain. But she was too good, too fast. Launching herself with a flap of her great wings she spun around and deflected his attack. Only with the design of the ax trapping her blade and his prehensile tail keep them close as he pulled her into a deep crater of the rocky surface below.

Bronwyn fought furiously kicking at him as he tried to get her attention. She was in a berserk rage, seeing only demon, not who he was. Finally with a sudden advantage, he trapped her blade and disarmed her by twisting his weapon. Disarmed She stopped fighting for a moment as the tip of his weapon pressed against her throat forcing her to look in his eyes. He was about to strike she knew, but he was not moving. They remained motionless for a moment, then with a move he opened a dark rift next to her and shoved her with her spear tipped sword, closed it rapidly. He did not notice four of the Black Battalion that had come to give him backup. Looking at one another they backed away and rejoined the shrinking circle of battling demons as the Others were gaining the upper hand before this rock could impact the earth.

Bronwyn fell on to a dust strewn patch. Momentarily disoriented, she looked around when a sound behind her caught her attention. She turned her and saw her sword glittered as it fell out of a closing dark vortex and the handle of the holy blade struck her in the side of the head infuriating her once again. Looking about her, she saw the binary stars that governed this quad-planet system. Far away in time and space from where she started. He had removed her from the battle without inflicting any wound, had spun the clock to a random place in time to further her difficulty in returning. But she had to return, but which direction in space? Or time? Looking as far as she could see, with sight far better than the Hubble Space Telescope she could see the planet, there was no fighting.

So, he changed time on me, too?” Smiling to herself, “Nice trick. Different place AND time to get me lost? Little devil, I  will kick your ass.”

She thought he would be quite surprised when she returned. With a slight pop of sound she left this alien world and headed back to the conflict.

On the asteroid, the angels were winning. No missile of earth could move the planetoid sized iron and stone asteroid. The circle of remaining demons that protected the teams that guided the asteroid towards the small blue sphere below was grew steadily smaller. The host of the angels slowly tipped battle for victory. Holes in the line of demons opened up.

Bronwyn’s demon was directing a regrouping, a general of the Dark Legion fell to one of the Seraph, leaving only the one demon to direct and command. The shrinking circle covered the escape of the teams of demons and imps that had done the dirty work while the other demons had battled to protect them. They began to abandon the effort, while angels pushed to the giant rock away from the earth. With the last of the teams gone from the surface, the circle of demons now almost back to back against the advancing angels, disappeared in a flash of flame and thunder.

Angels by the thousands pushed the mass of rock and iron away from the blue planet, it was the focus of all the host to push when one angel called a warning that another asteroid was in the way and they were going to hit it. A great effort of angels who struggled to change the angle and prevent a collision, but too late, the asteroid collided with a titanic explosion of kinetic energy with the other larger rock. Huge pieces splitting off in island-sized chunks.

The piece angled on a collision course to the earth. It became clear that the battle for the smaller asteroid was a diversion. It only looked like the smaller bolide would impact the earth, instead there was another larger rock in the in the path of danger. The death of the earth’s population, wiped out by the very host that was attempting to prevent the catastrophe that happened.

7. Battle Plans

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7. Battle Plans

Bronwyn, the angel, now with her group of armed and muscular angels of all shapes and sizes. Each carried weapons that glittered with the eternal light. some of the angels welcomed her, while others left for other places. Being a guardian angel is no easy task. Rumors of the latest confrontation that was to come had been spoke of.

Two of the Seraph were to call the angels together and break the details of the news.Michael, who had defeated Lucifer during the first rebellion was always at Gabriel’s side, the two were friends and it was Gabriel that brought messages from the Lord. Michael was Gabriel’s assurance that the message was not lost or corrupted.

Gabriel sat and placed his hands on his hips. It took a moment, but then drew his breath and announced that a battle was in the offing. The Dark Realm had begun an event that threatened the very existence of the earth. Those all who were not assigned to other duties were to change the outcome. It would not be easy, the numbers of demons and imps were large and the fighting would be intense according to what the Lord had said, but victory would happen with no doubts. The Lord of the Host said it was so.

In a rage(his usual state of being), the demon entered the arena and other imps and slaves bowed to the dark warrior’s passing. He was one of the higher demons and though he still did not have his name returned to him, he was one of the most feared. Even so, one of the mid-ranking demons stood up as he passed, refusing to bow to the warrior that approached.

A challenge for position.

The challenging demon drew a weapon, a flaming sword, only to have it and its arm drop to the ground. In a blur, the high caste demon struck the middle demon down cruelly and then with a furious blow, the ax of the higher ranked demon split the lower ranked one down to his pelvis. Among these immortals there are fates worse than death. This mid-demon was no longer one of the mischief makers, but now only a lowly slave. A gamble and a loss of status, the low demon had put his all on the line and lost it. It was over in thoughtless accusation – But the Claw of Hades was faster than thought, even though a sheath was a place for it, the battle-ax almost never put away when He walked the Outside. Little did this demon care for any creature here, he hated them all. The smell, worse than humans and the constant efforts of making the Dark Lord notice them. He had been there before, in one time. He had given it up for a treasure. If they only knew what he knew, they would not wish for attention of the Dark One, whose attentions could be a nightmare from that they would never wake.

The stony path wound through the blasted thicket of death and suffering. Those who earned all the pain, it turned now on them. In the clearing of the cavern as he looked about. That could be the only word he ever called this place. The urge to come here was rare. Only caused when the Dark Master had a special task. When the call came, it was irresistible. Each one was always a little different. Twice it had passed to cause the death of all humankind.

Terrans he liked to call them, for this demon hated almost all the life on that little blue planet. To call them “human” was an insult to the word. So they were of that place where the planet Terra was. The dirt that they called Terra Firma would be, hence the name he called them – “Terrans”.

As he stood in the middle of his only sanctuary with the other winged warriors of this realm, he looked about. Many of the hoard were there that were not usually in attendance. The plan was laid out by Pythos, the demon of lies. It was he who explained that the lower caste would do the work while the winged higher caste were to defend against the Others who would attempt to cause them to fail. Most of the events were already in place and only now was the despised High Throne becoming aware of the impending doom of the planet. A rock, the size of a small moon, was now racing towards the intercept point of the planet. Falling to the yellow star it was gaining speed with the help of the hoard of the weaker demons. The higher ranks were to keep the rock on course to its destination.

The destination?

Earth.

6. Dawn’s Early Light

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6. Dawn’s Early Light

Outside the dawn broke to a cloudless day. The demon sat in the canopy of the trees, a shadow in shadows. Pondering what had happened.

What HAD happened?

It was beyond his knowledge or reason. Unbelievably the pain and anger had gone for a few moments. Being immortal he had always known blackness, it comforted him in the mischief that his kind did. Even in battle with the Others, he enjoyed sending them back to their Lord with grievous injuries. His own injuries let him just be stronger for the pain from them. But feeling the seed of calm in him was disturbing and confusing.

A shadow!

Clouds had begun to drift over the valley, the imp flitted above them and looked down from high above. From his hiding spot in the puffy white clouds, he spotted a shepherd trying to get a small lamb out of a muddy pool.

In that moment he struck on an idea, in the early morning light, his wings made hardly a sound as he dropped lightly by a ram, he whispered into its ear and pointed. The Shepard being busy trying to free his charge from its muddy prison was unaware of the glint in the eye of the ram as it charged towards his unprotected backside.

The lamb could only duck as the man sailed over her head and landed on the other side in the deeper mud and water. Yelling oaths and making comments about the rams parentage, the man failed to notice the shadow that flitted through the growth of trees stampeding the free sheep in all directions. The demon cackled at this mischief then flapped his leathery wings and hid in the cloud above and watched the man free himself and the lamb at the same time.

Finally the shepherd crawled up on dry land where he stood and turned. Looking from the edge of the mud puddle, the Shepherd saw his flock had spread through the trees. The mud covered, soaking wet and fuming shepherd was making comments about the parentage of the ram when he put down the lamb he reached for his hat and found it missing. He swore and looked around and found it.

There it lay behind him and still in the mud, too far out to reach.

Jumping up and down cursing incoherently at the top of his voice, the sounds of the Shepherd’s anger was music to the demon’s ears. The man struggled back out into the mud to the hat that was beyond the reach of his crook, swearing and screaming. The demon’s dark spirit was lifted, this was a good moment in this morning of frustration and confusion. His morning mischief complete.

Then he was gone in a clap of thunder that was heard by humans down the vale and presumed  that it was the last grunt of the waning storm.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 5. Love Changes

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5. Love Changes

Moments passed as she watched his eyes began to shut and sleep in her arms. And she knew and loved him like she loved no other. The angel smiled as the demon slowly further relaxed in her arms and she began to notice a subtle change in him.

The first change was small, but she noticed… His eyes! They are not so red! Spreading down from where the tear landed, his once hideous scar covered and ruined flesh was now no longer appeared so inflicted with the horrors of war. The leathery claw-tipped wings on his back, something glimmered weakly in the light.

THERE! It was a shimmering feather, then two, then four!

Her heart shook with the sight of this change, could this be?

A soft gasp as her heart danced! Where she touched, skin, soft and undamaged was found.

In giving everything of her heart she had taken all of his darkness. Even the battle-ax in the corner fell completely silent.

Faster the change came, the clawed hands softening and losing the hellish tips, becoming graceful fingers that even the smallest child would love to hold.

The face was the last to change, the beak that was his mouth, becoming softer, a wide mouth so capable of a smile, the teeth now no longer fangs, but perfect and unbroken.

The black horns transformed to soft hair. The rage filled eyes faded from red to a green-blue hue as he opened them and looked at her for the first time, taking in her face with clarity.

Beneath the heavy scars on his chest that now covered with a soft sparse downy hair, the heart began to beat with volume as the power of the pump exerted itself, She could feel it beneath her hand in his chest.

The sound of the heart was like the name the Others call her.

“Bron-wyn, Bron-wyn, Bron-wyn.” It beat for her and for her alone. The smile of the angel made her cheeks ache as she put her ear to his chest and she held him to close to her.

Here among this Terran setting. Neither one place or the other, this was their place now. No one could invade and now he was one of the host. He smiled up at her, his voice spoke her name for the first time in words that she could understand. Speaking only her name he pulled her down for a kiss. The lips touch hers with the gentleness of the greatest of lovers. As the kiss broke, she looked at him, smiled and stroked her fingers through his hair.

His eyes where slow to open and his face lit up with a great smile seemed to warm the room and the storm outside seemed quieter out of respect of his new spirit.

But the smile was brief, and as the smile fading suddenly and his skin grew cool. His blue-white feathers changed suddenly and revert back to the leather skin.

“no-No-NO!” Her only response she could do. “Do not let this be!”

But no matter her plea, the change was rapid as his dark side reasserted itself. His anger at the attempt to change him manifested itself with his eyes staining with the old red fury.

He pulled away in anger, he got out of the bed and stepped away from her. She attempted to follow him for a step as he held out a now taloned fingered hand to Claw of Hades, the ax, now keening loudly for battle against Her, it flew across the room to the hand of its owner. Ready to do its the wish of its master.

She moved towards him holding her hand out plaintively, his blood-red eyes become brighter with fury as his barbed tail made a sound like a bull whip as it whipped out in a blur at her face and caught the barbed tail in her hand.

Hisses spilled out of him as he tugged with his tail and only after a brief pause, she sadly releases the demons tail.

His fury redoubled at being held for even a moment at a disadvantage, claws and fangs with his weapon ready, the demon turned to face her, his eyes faded for a moment as the anger cooled but then returned. With a shriek he was gone in smoke and thunder that shook the walls of the inn that left only dissipating smoke and the light smell of sulfur in the air.

The angel hung her head weeping for a moment until she became aware of the sounds of approaching people – humans – were coming to investigate the sounds of explosions from the room.

In two long steps she recovered her sword and armor departing in a flash of light as the door of the bedroom burst open, with the first of the men whose only vision is of a fading after image of a beautiful, winged and nude woman with a large knife in her hand.

The three men walked downstairs to tell of what they saw to those that would listen and to those that laughed and said that they had too much of the spirits and not the spirit they said they had seen.

In time the story passed into the role of legend around the pubs, joining the other ghost stories told everywhere.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 4. Two Worlds, One Heart(Caution: Not Safe For Work)

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4. Two Worlds, One Heart(NSFW)

A soft smile, she stepped close to him with a soft smile, running her hand over the sad ruin of his what only in the loosest of terms could be called skin.

Hesitantly he touched her bare shoulder with a clawed finger. Any other being would recoil in horror from the touch of such a dark being. So much fury and so scarred from past battles, each injury overlapping with another had made a map of pain and scars on his body.

The red-headed angel slipped her arms around his neck, stroking his horned head lightly while she kissed the beak-like face. A hideous arm slid slowly around her and pulled at the soft material that was her only clothing while she undressed him from his skeletal armor.  She Gently pulled him to the bed crafted with great skill by some human, she held him down gently and began to stroke the dark muscle of his sex.

He gasped as he caressed her flawless skin with a finger and in turn he drew a hissing breath of shock and pleasure as she took matters into her mouth, taking from him his pain as well as giving pleasure. A slow caress along his naked form while she kissed the horror of his chest, an ancient scar from a wound that she herself had inflicted was still obvious under the many other scars.

She moved slowly, exploring a body that was at once both familiar and new. Moving with intent, she slid her leg over his chest so that his long forked tongue to enter her as she leaned forwards taking his erection with her hands and mouth.

A gasp as she pulled back, the sensations he was causing was far beyond pleasure. She turned around and she sat astride him. His clawed fingers pinched her nipples as she slid her pelvis close to that tongue that was giving her such pleasure, so she could watch him perform his skills on her labia.

A soft moan as his long arms caressing her breasts as he slowly used his tongue as a sex organ. The angel gasped as the demon grabbed her hips, and growling, pushed her tasted and wet regions down to his waiting member.

She Leaned over, pressing her breasts against his chest while her lips kissed where his lips once were. Looking deeply into fury-filled eyes with her own crystalline clear she let him penetrate her body willingly. Gasping, the horned head arched backwards and his eyes closed in pleasure his body entered hers.

Slowly, gently at first she moved with pain mixed with pleasure, the pain it was almost even more that she could take. As she forced him to gaze into her eyes, she held him within her, she knew that those of his kind never open unless pushed. Some hearts, buried deep in scar and pain, never open to the outside world. It is those hearts forever trapped in darkness, to worship hate and wish death to those things they see as a weaker species.

She began to ride him more rapidly taking his full length in, pressing against the back wall of her chamber. Taking from him his darkness and gives to him her brightness of soul. In that one moment she did that which is unheard of; for it was of such things that wrote legends passed down from generation to generation. That this angel, her love for this demon and his darkness that has driven him, she took all he could give.

Two bodies joined together with fury and love, in the trembling, clenching, gasping of that moment. These two beings, one sacred and one profane, found somewhere in the middle of those extremes something that was greater than the powers of either of them.

In her giving herself in such a way she took from him the darkness he had released. The pain slowly receded from deep inside her. The dark seed that flowed into her, faded like a shadow the bright intensity of her being.

Gasping as she slowly relaxed, she slid him out of her and stretched full length along side this one known as a destroyer. Stroking his body gently as he lay in her arms. The angel smiled down at the quiescent form that looked back at her while he gave her a gentle caress of her face with a clawed finger. Smiling softly as she gave a kiss to the face that only she could love. Still, so much ruin that was there broke her heart.

This demon, a warrior of the first rank, a leader of legions of demons and imps, in the post-coital moment he relaxed by degrees in her arms. The weeping of her heart gave birth to a single tear that escaped and trickled down her nose and dropped on one of his twisted horns as her fingers caressed his torn and scarred skin.