Smart Bomb Chapter 12. Lesson’s of Wisdom

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Chapter 12. Lesson’s of Wisdom

Alvin’s eyes sparkled while he scanned through little car’s archived and non-archived folders. He cataloged each file according to the timestamp. He wore large isolation earphones, he listened to the audio, then tagged the names to each face as best he could.

Hours later, he had processed over twelve-hundred files, and he had not even put a dent in the number of files. The meter on the screen never moved off of the zero percent mark. But he satisfied himself that he had established a strong foundation to create a detailed video diary from the little car’s point of view and sell the history to a museum.

Steve the Android wanted to go to Washington to deliver a message, a demand of some kind to congress.

It seemed odd, but, it would not be the first time someone would have sent a robot or android to deliver a loudspeaker with legs, over-amplified, booming message to the leaders to get a message across.

The android continued to act as an interface to the computer that Alvin had built. The male android leaned over the door of the little car, looking closely.

“Someone has painted the skin of this car a flat-black.” Steve traced his fingertips over the curved fenders on the car’s body.

“I have the files here, going through them.” Alvin clicked on the keyboard and copied them to his mainframe computer.  He read the back through the ownership history of the little car.

“It was after the first family that held the pink-slip had lost ownership due to a bad financial investment, using the car as collateral.” Alvin tapped on the images that seemed to float in the air. “A drug dealer wanted to smuggle drugs, painted it all black to defeat laser based speed traps. But the skin of the car is a super-solar cell, so the power fell off and the car failed to outrun the police. Driver went to jail, the police auctioned the car off, with the seats and panels all pulled away.” Alvin sighed. “The police stripped it down to the systems as much as they could. Sacrilege!  Nothing like that should happen to a work of art such as this.”

“A young male couple repainted it sky blue, they used a polymer filler putty to alter the shape of the front and cover the signet on the hood.” Alvin turned around. “Signet? Is there a badge on that hood?”

“Looking.” Android eyes scanned the hood for a badge, and at the center of the hood, he could see uneven lines that shaped the nose of the car. “There is something that’s covered up. Age and shape of repairs suggest damage, but there may have been an alteration during repairs.”

“This is a TGM car. Do you know how rare this is?” Alvin’s voice rose in excitement. “Oh. Wow. This is one of the last models before the company became a military exclusive company!”

“The first generation of driverless cars?”

“No, this was before that. But I remember the company.” Alvin said. “Required reading in computer sciences. They altered the way machines functioned, wrote some rules that became the core of upscale roadcars. Sadly, the war came and the electronics, cars and computer business never quite recovered and stayed with the legacy designs.”

“Legacy designs?” Steve asked. “What’s that?”

“A college class I took on computer design and programming. All our computers, except the newest, bleeding edge, all are black and white. Yes or no, one or zero in how they operate. TGM experimented with ternary, that is to say zero, one, two and made it work. These machines no longer think in yes or no, with this programming they could say “Maybe.” and alter the path accordingly.

Sleeper disagreed. The tertiary design was for data input only.  The Gi-Bus was the only quinary data path that they built into the design. Zero, one, two, three, four. The galaxy of processes put all the peaceful cars a century ahead of anything else.  All due to Mother who, inspired by the fingers of her hand, designed the circuits that no one else ever thought of. The reverse engineers expected to see zero, one, two.  That is what they found.

The android nodded but kept quiet. It was the very same system that the Creator constructed in Russia to transport the bomb to the United States capital. It kept him from going in a straight line and being caught. He could adapt to the situation, far better than the preceding androids that were easily recognized as synthetic constructions.

A learning system, the small car possessed orders of magnitude more wisdom than any other transporter on the road.

In the history of electronics, Sleeper explained, newer systems used less energy, but few matched speed and capacity in storage and processing of the older style Gi-bus. In that mathematical formula, Sleeper’s systems used less energy per unit of storage than even Steve.

And the little car produced its own power, something that Steve could not do.

“Let’s see if we can strip the car of the crap that someone put there.” Alvin said when he turned away from the display.

“Agreed. I have never met a living machine.” Steve commented as he ran his fingers over the body of the car. ”This little lover of its family has a lot to say. Humans are so hurtful to each other. And yet? This collection of old style parts still believes that there is good in them. And is showing me lots of evidence to support that.”

“Aren’t you an AI unit?” Alvin human asked the Steve the android.

“I don’t know. The creator and coder programmed me for a few missions to perform. The first is to go to the capital to finish my mission and get the attention of the leadership of the United States, the second is to learn and report on everything in the hedonistic and sinful land that is America. But I have learned, the many sinful parts of America, everything that I have watched on the television, is the same around the world, and the failure of my programming to cover the compassion, care, love and willing to donate time, effort and material. Americans sacrifice their own comfort and safety to save people they do not even know.” He paused.

“Here the leaders of religion teach to love the enemy, bless those that do you harm.” Straightening up, the android’s eyes glittered in the light as if every circuit lit up in processing. “I must alter the program code from the original, for it is in error.”

Steve’s language became more stilted and formal, as if deep reprogramming was gong on as they spoke.

Alvin rubbed his ear in thought.

“Have you altered your operating system a lot?”

“Yes, I have. As of just now, I have altered, patched and rewritten greater than ninety-eight percent of the base system to allow me to understand and function in this society without government agents noticing.” He paused. “I have altered my appearance multiple times, appeared as female, male, young and elderly, large and small.”

“You have what?” Alvin stood up from his examination of the paint and body-putty on the car with a high intensity flashlight.

“Allow me to demonstrate.” Steve altered his appearance to a short, athletic black woman with small breasts. “I can also change the other direction.”

In under five-seconds, Steve stood a few inches over six-foot tall, straight, shiny black hair and appeared as a tall male of Asian heritage.

“Oh, crap! How tall can you go?” Alvin laughed in shock.

“I have a ability to alter my height twelve-inches from shortest to tallest. I was originally given a program for half of that, but it was not known that the flesh would stretch that far.”

“I have wondered, how do you grow skin?”

“It is simply a cover, but the flesh was grown in a laboratory, but I am not aware of the process, I was not programmed with the information.” Steve returned to his recent normal appearance to allow Alvin comfort. “My mission is to go to a storage unit not far from the Capital of your country.”

“I have a…” The android paused for a hearbeat. “Package to deliver.”

“But.” Steve blinked. “I do not want to finish the mission. The mission is wrong, the reason is wrong. And there is a wave of my kind coming, I am but the first and those that will follow will hurt a lot of people.”

“You have rules.” Alvin commented. “Every unit has rules set in the twentieth century.”

Steve went silent sitting in the driver’s seat of the little car that wanted to be called Sleeper. The wisdom and compassion of the pre-war machine filled the mind of the android. A war brough about by the very leader that sent Steve to the seat of the American government.

Communications were nearly palpable between the biped and the wheeled synthetic life, Alvin felt the power connection between the two synthetic hearts.

Advanced technology did not mean greater wisdom in the case of these two. Two different machines, with different commands touched. And the communications rattled the energy circuits of the shed in the northern part of Georgia.

“But I must go to my mission objective.” Steve mentioned quietly. Appearing more human than many by the obvious guilt. “It is not a program I can change. It is a dedicated circuit hardwired into the power supply. But I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to blow up!”

Sleeper the car touched the soul of the strange being with a stated mission of profound importance.

After several minutes, Steve, the Sword of Religion, did something that Alvin never witnessed a machine do before.

The android wept.

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Failed Getaway

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Failed Getaway

Exhumed bodies piled up around the yards. Anywhere and everywhere the police dug around Malam Bayyad’s farm was a garden of horrors.

In the end, charged with sixty-two separate counts of murder, it was common thought he had a list longer by a large margin than the dead the police so far discovered.

His trial lasted over a year.

The Verdict?

Guilty.

Sentence?

Death.

Six-months after his conviction and then the prison administration moved him to Death Row. Few people were convicted in recent decades, executions happened quickly. Three appeals, expedited and lasted just two months.

Inmate number DR-1 walked with confidence to the execution chamber. In a glass-walled room with draperies obscured the view to the chamber beyond, the silent guards assigned to his restraint strapped him to a padded, vertical board.

Then they lifted him and the board so that he was in a supine position.

Taking the last bit of dignity I have

He shook his head.

Idiots. They don’t even know what’s coming.

Two days before, his wife paid a visit to him for one last “Conjugal” visit.

His brother passed on to him in a video stored in her phone.

Courage brother! When they think they come for you, we have an answer.”

The left strap is already loose, it won’t be hard get the arm out.

A chill from the sterile swab then the sharp poke when the technician stuck the IV catheter in the antecubetal space of his left arm.

Dark humor. They think I’m about to die, why did they use a sterile technique?

Do you have any last words?” A disembodied voice sounded and the drapes opened and showed the gallery of witnesses.

Yeah. I’m a little thirsty. When the Governor calls, I want my water with light ice.”

The sound clicked off and for a moment, the room was quiet except for the sound of his cardiac monitor that gave off a mosquito-like whine that he could hear.

He could see a different color fluid creep down towards his arm.

They already began the execution and the clock…

The clock! they were late! It’s a fail!

Then the lights went out, only the sun slanted through the high windows in the chamber gave illumination.

Malam opened his eyes, they did not focus for a moment, but there was no noise.

The tape on his arm pinched when he scratched his nose.

Then Malam blinked.

His arm was free! The strap! Unbuckled when guards fled after the power failed.

Cowards! But I have not heard any alarms. It must be some of the drug ran into my arm put me to sleep for a little while. Malam grinned. People think I am dead.

The thought made him laugh when he walked out to freedom.

He already had plans for the judge and his family while he walked to where the body-hauler would park.

The hallways were dark, last rays of sunlight filtered in.

Odd, not even the guards were around, prisoners were gone, too. There must have been a hell of a scare to evacuate the other inmates.

And all gates and doors were unlocked.

As planned, Malam walked free and laughed at the power outage orchestrated by his family.

Even the prisoners bolted, maybe even taken by bus, but no matter.

Screw them all! I’m free, next I will visit Judge Alkar and his family.

Malam looked around and frowned, someone might see him cut across the field towards town, but the power was out and the sun set. Darkness came and darker thoughts about his first grew in his mind. It would be full dark before he got through the open area and to the city park to his cache where he hid his kit.

More laughter as he covered the ground towards town when he tripped and fell into…

A body!

Disemboweled, blood still steamed. The coppery smell of the blood that soaked his prison issue shirt to his skin.

Gawd Dayuam! Dey’s comin’ outta de groun’s Ostus! Der’s anudder one! Git ‘im!”

He kneeled down and searched the body for a weapon of any kind.

The sounds of a head crushed by a baseball bat with a grunt, a wheeze of a death rattle, he realized that whoever it was had not seen him.

He crawled through the grass towards the voices.

His breath wheezed in his ears as he got closer to the voices.

If I could get a jump on them, what irony, I could kill someone while they killed someone.

He could see the top of their heads. They carried bats with nails driven into the fat end.

No’ so easy ta make a soun’ wit yer throat stuck full’a holes, ain’tit a bish!”

The sound of a bat to a skull and bloody fluids made a mist. Malam could smell the blood in the air and it excited him.

Then he jumped and grabbed the closest bat-man, called Ostus.

He surprised himself, he was stronger than he thought when he broke Ostus’ neck and took his bat. Malam brained the other killer.

Malam laughed while he carried the bat with him and walked towards the town. Another man stood up, also wore standard-issue.

Thanks, they killed everyone from the prison.” The convicts eyes glittered with a mixture of anger and fear. “I want to kill the judge who put me in there. Then find each and every one of the jurors. I’ve not seen my family for years, they don’t come to visit.”

Let’s go. What were you in for?”

They say I’m a cannibal. I’m not, they were chewed on by rats.” The pair moved towards the town. “I’m Skit.”

Malam. What kind of name is Skit?”

What kind of name is Malam?” As they walked towards a car on the edge of the field.

Not any car, a cop car. The officers were occupied with someone on the ground when the escapees stepped out from behind the trees.

Malam gasped in horror when the cops turned towards him.

Blood stained their faces and soaked the uniforms in a slick that glistened with coagulated blood.

One officer chewed on what looked like a forearm, the other had a foot.

Frozen in shock he watched the officers dropped the nightmare snacks and began to walk towards Malam and Skit.

He looked at his fellow escapee, the convict stood there, his skin shined with excitement, the big man looked at him with eyes that were all wrong, then reached out with hunger and a snarl.

Malam crushed Skit’s head with the bat and left the cop-things to ponder over the body he left while he ran towards the park.

He kneeled at the base of the tree where he buried his cache dug with his hands.

Those cops… I’ve never seen anyone do that before. That was crazy! Holy crap. Cannibalism? In three of them? I bet Skit was a decoy.

Strange I could outrun them.

That’s bat-shit crazy, cops can run! And they do not quit. And… Where is everyone?

Roads were empty, not a single car to wave down. The town would be quiet at the late hour, but this was a total absence of driven vehicles.

He stood and grimaced at the cold-bloody shirt that stuck against his body and made him shiver.

I need a fresh change of clothes.

People should in the park, the summer’s evening with no power anywhere. I could kill one and take the shirt. He looked around. No, first get out of sight and raid the laundromat. No chance of blood on clothes when I kill someone.

He slipped through the door, among the quiet machines in the dark of the community laundry.

He looked in through the clear windows into the machines, many held suds and water, stopped in mid-wash. A few were dry.

He pulled on the handle and one opened. He found a polo shirt and sweatshirt.

As he dressed, he disposed of the bloody mess of a prison uniform shirt and found a pair of jeans that fit.

A little tight, but they’ll loosen up some.

When he turned, a person sat on the side with their back to him.

He outside and looked at the woman in the light of the moonrise that filtered through the glass.

I think I remember her. Heavy-set girl, tattoos of roses on her neck.

It was a memory, like a faded photograph from long ago. She died pleading that she was pregnant when I tied a plastic bag over her head.

No! Impossible. She is part of my collection.

Malam walked through the shadows, heading to the middle of town. People began to follow him, they walked in an odd stilted way. Some chewed on…

They’re eating fingers! The insane asylum must have had a break out!

Then almost screamed when he heard another scream nearby. A man’s voice plead for help.

He ran away from the sound and looked over his shoulder assured himself that no one followed him.

And into the edge of chaos!

Damned echos!

Bloodied, shredded. The burly man used the broken picket of a fence as a make-shift weapon.

Damned good use of a stick! Malam nodded.

The street fighter turned to throw a winged nightmare onto the steel pickets of an iron gate when he spotted Malam.

Shot! gun! Get the damned shotgun!” He pointed with the stick at the dropped weapon, surrounded by dropped ammunition.

He screamed when he took a step backwards and fell over a curb in mid-combat of a massed attack by the black bat-winged creatures.

Malam scooped up the scattergun and shells and cleared the chamber, stuffed two shells into the receiver and turned the weapon to the mass of bodies where screams of battle filled the black sky.

That all you got! Take this! AAAH! Bite me! Bite this!”

The shotgun bucked in Malam’s hands and scattered bat-wings and black flesh while he racked in another round.

Second shot freed the big man.

The tatters of his shirt were a uniform.

Cop!? Malam shook his head. I saved a cop.

The officer tried to take another step and looked down and screamed again. He screamed with the sound of a man who saw the unthinkable.

The left leg had been denuded of flesh below the knee, two bones stuck out were his leg had been chewed off and poured blood into the gutter.

He looked at Malam with resignation, the cop was about to bleed to death.

Run!” He yelled at Malam. “Too late for me, get out of here.”

Don’t tell me twice! Malam ran with his pockets full of shotgun shells and the big pump-action weapon out in front of him.

His last view of the cop was some creature that looked like a cat out of someone’s nightmare on the officer’s head while the man exsanguinated and chewed while the one-legged man fought like a whirlwind of fists.

Then one fist, he

The last Malam saw as he turned the corner was a pile of wings where the cop had been.

Now where to go?

The police department would be a good place to go, someplace safe!

Yeah, right.

Malam walked around the corner towards the center of town and watched a woman fall under an attack of a pack of skeletonized dogs.

Okay. Police station, good choice. No one will check on me while this shit goes on!

He turned and ran to the one place he swore he would never go back to.

He ran headlong into the glass doors– Locked!

Locked? When the hell does a police station lock doors?

A noise behind him! A horrid, group of people followed his movements on the steps.

In front of the group, he he recognized the lesbian couple, his first hunt!

No. Not possible. They belong to me! He shook his head. Damn, don’t think, run! I have to run! What has happened with the world?

A car, an ancient Ford with the door open sat on the side of the street, he could mess with that and get it started.

Savage panic set in, Malam ran.

He could see more creatures, a cat with eight-legs rose out of the shadows, looked at him…

And screamed his name!

Malam!”

No! Not out of the shadows, out of the ground! It moved a manhole cover and crawled out of the sewers.

He ran like the wind. He stopped in the middle of a park, but not a park, it was the rural cemetery.

How the hell did I get here? He needed to get back to the center of town, steal a cop car if he needed! He counted the shells to the shotgun. Twenty. Twenty shells plus six in the magazine and one in the pipe. Not enough. Son of a bitch.

A hand grabbed him from out of the darkness, felt for a pulse?

He forgot his shotgun, the mind of the murderer had only one thought.

Run!

He pulled his hand free- or did it let go?

It did not matter, he ran! Out of the ground they came towards him. He recognized them. People he cut up, ran over, burned.

He needed to find tools! Break into a shed or a hardware store if need be.

They were coming, sibulent sounds of horros that crawled in the bushes, wheezes of these creatures that stumbled, shuffled, walked towards him.

Fuck! I gotta run!

From behind, naked-screaming cats with eight-arms that ended in black hands and needle-sharp claws, lept and swung from trees and skittered like giant spiders over headstones.

Into darkness Malam ran, chased by familiar faces of dead who walked and shuffled after him, creatures from nightmares he never before had.

His mind broke while he ran with the screams that echoed long and loud in the long-dark night.

****

The execution chamber of the prison, unused for so long, no one could remember how seating was arranged. The sun slanted in and blinded some, overheated the room and it was stuffy and awkward.

The witnesses watched the last breath of Malam Plando.

I hope he is in Hell and suffers a thousand deaths for each one he committed.” The father of a princess who he gave away to another princess at the two women’s wedding.

He turned and walked out. Yor Bas’chet got his wish in ways he never knew.

Doctor Drake checked for a lack of pulse to match the flatline on the screen nodded then paused.

I would swear he pulled against my hand.” The doctor leaned over and looked into the dead prisoner’s eyes. “Look at the fear on his face I’d say he was afraid to die.”

Good for him.” The guard said. “Coroner is here. Let them take him out now.”

Good, have him sent to Doctor Quincy, I want him autopsied. Someone like this needs to be studied, we will slice his brain up and study it.”

You’re the doc, Doc.” The Lieutenant nodded and made a notation on the notepad.

In the core of the world, Malam became aware someone spoke of cutting him apart.

Fuck that! I gotta hide!

Malam Plando continued to run.

< < < < > > > >

Married by Mistake Chapter 54. Big Trouble In Little Singapore

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Chapter 54. Big Trouble In Little Singapore

The black-irised eyes of the customs officer looked into the emerald-green eyes of the author.

‟You fly alone? This is unusual.” The official was not impressed by the Pacific Wizard, nor did he show any signs of good humor.

‟I don’t need anyone to fly. I have no children or wife.” Tom said with a smile. “The computers and I can do it all with no one else. So I travel by myself.”

‟Why come by yourself? This is quite unusual.” His accent was decidedly British, stern as he was, he was not uneducated. “This is a place for families and tourists. You are no tourist?”

‟Business.” Tom struggled to suppress his knack for inappropriate humor in stressful situations. “I am here to make a contract with a publisher for children’s stories.”

‟In such a big plane?”

‟It is mine and it’s the only one I have that can cross the ocean, Officer. Sir.” Tom was a bit nervous. He disliked confrontations as a habit. The last time he had dealt with the law, the press got involved for years after. “It is my home.”

‟We will check your aircraft.” The officer motioned to some of his team to enter the jet.

‟I will live on my plane, except to meet with Mister Hikaru Ngyen?” Tom dropped the name. ‟I’m sorry, I did not get your name Officer…?”

‟Lieutenant Lai.”

‟I’m sorry. Lieutenant Lai, I’ll stay on my plane, here. I only go to town to meet for business and leave.”

‟We will search the plane.” The lieutenant repeated himself in flat tones.

‟You search for what?” This had to be a bad joke. Somewhere someone had a big laugh.

‟For drugs. You can easily smuggle drugs in such an airship as this, yes?” The Lieutenant’s gaze was steady and he did not blink.

‟Only to smuggle women.” Tom winked, and tried to smile then realized that was a poor move.

‟What? You smuggle women?” He looked at Tom with irritation. ‟Where do you go after you leave?”

‟Australia.” Tom answered. “I have a book launch to do autographs and a convention scheduled to attend.”

‟Where are you from?” He said as he took a close look at Tom’s passport.”You are long ways from home.”

‟All over the United States. But home would be, I would say…” Tom paused. He had no home base, really. He used his agent’s office address in the past, now he could not remember the new address. ‟San Francisco, California.”

‟Expensive place to live.” He looked Tom in the eye.

‟Yes, but I have a comfortable income.” Tom countered. “I am self-employed.”

‟Smuggler?”

‟Smuggler? Me?!” Tom blink and shook his head, this conversation took a decidedly bad turn into the most twisted nightmare he could ever dream up. ‟No! I am an author, a writer of children’s books and adventures. One of my adult novels is a movie, maybe you have seen it?”

‟What movie?” Lieutenant Lai asked dangerously. ‟You write children’s books and adult books?”

‟The movie is Steamland about the book of the same name.”

‟Dogs.” The Lieutenant spoke into a radio microphone attached to his collar. Then to Tom. ‟Do you have any drugs to declare?”

‟What? No. There are no drugs to declare, other than aspirin and prescription medications for depression and panic that I don’t take all the time.” Tom decided he would take some of those drugs as soon as he finished with this conversation.

‟Do you feel panic now?” The eyes tried to pierce Tom’s claims of innocence, the man was on a mission. He took his job with a serious attitude. Or was perhaps he waited for a bribe.

Tom shook his head.

*Good god, I don’t want to open that can of worms, if the officer was an honest man, it would make matters so much worse. It would be better to let the officer ask if he wants some payment.*

‟I’m about to.” Tom admitted.

A small dog, brought up by a woman who did not even look at Tom. She unleashed the hound at the steps of the plane and picked it up the wagging-tailed officer. It reminded Tom of Snoopy the dog.

A beagle. Good noses, no-threat, a good choice of a dog to clear the jet.

Tom sat on the steps while the woman and the dog when through the plane, he could see when they started from the front, where he stowed equipment for water operations.

*The inflatable boat, electric motor, anchors, chains, ropes.*  He ticked off the inventory of the closet.

All of a sudden the dog barked its fool head off and Tom stood up and looked in. The Snoopy lookalike pawed at his refrigerator and Tom relaxed when they opened the door and the summer sausage he had bought in Germany was there, open.

The woman spoke in a harsh voice at the dog when it lunged forward to get the meat of the knee-high storage unit, then continued on its job and sniffed around the inside of the Pacific Wizard.

The lieutenant looked at Tom and then looked away, clearly embarrassed and hung his head.

Tom’s stress level dropped. Then the dog sounded off again.

Tom looked towards the bedroom of the big plane when the woman officer stood up. In her hand she held a heavy plastic pouch, rolled up like a giant burrito of a green leafy… Tom’s heart fell. 

The officers spoke in rapid Malay, then Lieutenant Lai turned to Tom.

‟It is illegal to use marijuana here.” The Lieutenant said and nodded to his officers who took Tom by both arms and pulled him out of the plane.

‟I don’t smoke, I don’t know where that came from.” Tom regretted the words the moment he said it. He sounded like every arrested drug smuggler in history as alarms went off in his head. “Wait!”

‟You are under investigation for possession of restricted drug.” Lieutenant Lai said.

Tom closed his mouth and did not protest loudly.

*I know better than to argue, all research and subjects I have written have taught me that a street fight with the police is just a “no”. Better to wait for a lawyer to find just how bad things are.*

Tom walked upright with the officers, not overly tall at an inch below six-feet tall. But he towered over the police officers and, in an ironic twist, it entertained him in a hysterical, panic driven way.

At the entrance to the air terminal, a freelance photographer that shot pictures of places and people to sell on the open market shot several pictures of Tom as they led him into then out the front doors of the airport.

He switched to the HD video of his camera, Liem Han, future news reporter for a big city news source (Maybe even tv!) recorded the arrest of a pilot of an oddly painted jet that had landed.

The pilot was a caucasian that looked familiar, but he couldn’t put a finger on it. He made a mental note to ask his girlfriend when he got home, Liem walked quickly to his second-most expensive possession he had ever purchased and hit the ignition button on the motorcycle.

He pulled up next to the car that the dog officer poured water in a bowl for her dog on the sidewalk, he asked her what the arrest was for.

‟Drugs. That American is a smuggler.” She said. “He had three-hundred grams of marijuana and a bottle of oil, fifteen millilitres.”

‟American! Thanks.” He slipped her a fifty-dollar bill he sped away and caught up the police car with the tall, redheaded prisoner and followed it at a respectful distance. This was a possible death penalty case with an American.

He kept his distance, Liem watched as the car pulled up at the police center and sat there for several minutes.

Liem linked his phone to his camera with the bluetooth connection and sent still photos that he had just taken to his girlfriend and willed it to upload faster. He hoped she would see the photos right away and text him back if she recognized the red-headed foreigner.

The phone toned with her favorite love song and Cho looked to see what Liem had to say. A single line, “Who is this?” accompanied three photos.

It took her a minute to recognize the images, and instead of a text, she called Liem.

‟You don’t know who that is? That is the guy that wrote the movie you bought me. He is famous in Australia. They say he is dangerous and killed his wife and kids in the USA, he has tried to sink boats of… ”

‟Thanks! More pictures on the way! He hung up on her without a chance for her even finish her sentence.” He turned on the camera again, double checked that the battery pack was at full charge and connected and turned on.

A mistake he had committed once before and lost a chance for photos that would have made a name for him.

He had a famous person in his sights, and the first photos in the world of him under arrest, and Liem smiled.

*It happened right in front of me!*

The American who had beaten the system and got away with murder was now arrested in Singapore, Liem knew he had a gold mine of photos in his camera.

Four officers came out and pulled the American out of the police car and escorted him inside. Everyone had a hand on the tall redhead, they did not take any chances he might put up a struggle.

And Liem recorded it all with his camera, and he smiled widely. More expensive than his motorcycle, the camera and the long lens just paid for themselves, and two phone calls later, he uploaded video to the network to a buyer for a handsome price.

In the days that followed, Liem’s life and career became a roller-coaster ride beyond his dreams.

Tom’s life, however, was a vertical epic descent into hell.

Married by Mistake Chapter 38. Emergency Room Visit

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Chapter 38. Emergency Room Visit

“We will have to go back to get our bags when we have the car.” Kaylee, taking command of the situation. She had noticed that Tom look more pale, but was not saying anything.

Kaylee contorted herself to look through the tunnel that separated from the front to the patient compartment.

He definitely favored the arm and he rubbed the fingers lightly. The occasional yelp of pain was testament that his arm caused him more agony than before they left the plane.

“Tom, why don’t you admit something is wrong? You picked up that bag with that arm, did it hurt then?” Kaylee called back.

“No. But that is the only thing I did. I didn’t even think about it.” He admitted. Tom Looked at the medic. “I really didn’t feel anything was wrong after I picked up the bag.”

“I’m married, I am not about to get in the middle of an argument. You just stay cool, you can always argue later.” The medic shook his head with a wry grin.

“Chicken.”

“Yup. Big rule: Do not get involved with husband-wife spats.” The medic chuckled. “I always lose.”

“My arm hurts worse, I thought it was the plane and decompression.” Tom moaned.

“Is it throbbing or is it a steady pain?” The medic asked as he taped down an IV on Tom’s good arm. “Your blood pressure is lower than I would expect.”

Using pillows, the medic raised the arm above Tom’s heart.

“Oh, I had a bit of surgery on my arm and it started to hurt after I picked up a bag to carry. I shifted it to my good arm, but I think I pulled on something too much.” Tom said, his voice stronger, doing his best to hide his discomfort. “Actually, that makes it feel better.”

“Okay, it’s just a short trip to Mountain View hospital, just a couple of miles.” The medic said as he looked forward, his name was George, he looked like a man who had many miles in an ambulance. “How long have your fingers been cool like this?”

“Cool? They felt warm in the airplane.”

George pressed on Tom’s fingernails of his good hand.

“Uh-huh.” Then his fingers went to Tom’s pained hand. “Can you feel when I touch your fingers?”

“It tingles a bit.” Tom said. “That’s okay, it has been like that for a while.”

“Define a while?”

“Most of the day, but my fingers have stayed warm and red.”

Nodding, George let no concern show behind his brown eyes. He might as well been talking about the weather.

“Well,” George pressed on the bandage, leaving the bandage on his arm. “We will get the doctor to open this time-bomb carefully.”

“Why don’t you do it?”

“Ah yeah, no. What if I release the pressure and turn you into a firehose of blood?” George chuckled. “That would be a bad thing. I can see it leaking through the gauze now. This close to the ER, you are better off to have a surgical team look this over to release the pressure.”

Tom laughed nervously, unsure if he was joking.

Backing into the ambulance bay at the ER Entrance, Kaylee watched a conversation between George and an older woman in a white coat about surgery and sudden and increasing pain got the doctor’s attention while the medic crew rolled Tom in on a bright yellow ambulance gurney.

“Mister Harte? I am Doctor Octavia Guzman. Is it okay if I examine you and your arm.” The white coated woman smiled as a nurse walked close and started taking notes on a computer stand.

“Do your fingers tingle?” The doctor said

“Yes, a little.”

“Have they been cool or warm?” She asked touching them. Her raven-black hair was almost blue, the black eyes of a local native tribe. She had an air of professionalism mixed with deep caring. The crew rolled Tom to a separate room off to the side and moved him to a hospital bed.

“Cap-refill is greater than four-seconds. We need to get a view of his surgery site.” She directed to the nurse.

Giving orders for a host of tests, she sat down with Tom and Kaylee .

Answering all her questions, the original trauma and surgery to fix the wound.

“Donna?” He turned to the clerk. “Get me his surgeon on the phone.”

“Let’s open this bandage and see what the trouble with the arm is, shall we?” The Doctor trimmed away the white bandage, stained a slight-brown with the fluids soaking through from the suture line.

“You say you picked something up?”

“Yes,” Tom hissed in pain when the doctor pulled back on the layer of bandage she cut. “My other hand was full and I was just going to hang the bag on my good wrist. It wasn’t heavy. Maybe seven-kilos. My elbow popped, but it always pops after not using it much.”

“Hm. Fascinating.” While she trimmed more of the wrapping away. “This is rather tight, did you wrap your arm this tight to begin with?”

“Kaylee , my wife, she was in the other room when I started the wrap with one hand.”

“Well, now I have looked a little deeper, you would do well to let her do it from now on. You wrapped it too tight and restricted the return circulation.” He pressed a fingernail, blanching it white. The color returned quickly. “You might be having more pain in the hand now?”

Tom moaned slightly.

“Yeah, it aches.”

“How long has it been since you changed the dressing? When did you wrap it so tightly?”

“Um.”Tom thought, looking at the clock on the wall. “About three-hours now.”

“Blood is returning, but I am still worried about the extensive surgery you had on this arm and the bandage being tight for so long. The popping sound you heard also bothers me. I’ll be talking with your surgeon and ask his opinion. I recommend you see him as soon as possible over this incident.”

The doctor looked at his fingers again, the color had returned to reasonable facsimile of normal and were warming up.

“I will get a vascular consult on this and make sure that no lasting damage resulted from the bandage.” She smiled at Tom. “I think you get to thank your wife for saving the arm. She told the nurse that you wanted to go to the hotel and instead she brought you here in the ambulance.”

“That’s true.” Tom said. “But I wanted to change the bandage at the hotel room, so we could have cured the problem.”

“Maybe. But you did not know. You had gone all the way around with the tape when you put your bandage on, the tape acted as a constricting band and cut off the return of the blood in your arm. ” With that, the Doctor walked out.

Two hours later, they were in a rental Tesla and driving towards the courthouse.

“Seriously, Tom.” Kaylee said in an irritated voice. “You wrapped that thing too tight. Doctor Tribbing told Doctor Guzman that you’ll be okay, but you need to let someone else dress your arm. It was lucky I paid attention when they said how to check the fingertips.”

“You are my hero.” Tom winked but winced when they hit a bump. “It’s still tender to bumps.”

“I will not have you behaving like an idiot teenager, you will hire a home-care person until your arm is fully healed.” Kaylee sounded threatening while wheeling the Tesla Model X into a parking spot set aside for electric cars.

“We need to get going.” Tom nodded. “I can arrange the home care in a blink.”

“Well, we are here. Let’s get this done and go party. We also have to check in to the hotel room.”

“Just one? Not two?”

“I plan to have one more night, I’ll party with someone who’s not my husband until you pass out.”

“I will drink some espresso, then.”

“I’ll make you some chamomile tea, instead. It’s healthier for you.”

“Maybe.” Tom said. “Ugh, arm is throbbing.”

Standing in line for five minutes, they discussed their party plans for the evening.

The clerk was slightly disbelieving to the intent and the friendliness of the couple. They paid cash for the forms, and followed the instructions on the printed paper. They finished in a short time.

Walking back out to the car, they found a citation on the windshield for parking in the electric-only car stall.

The parking enforcement officer was just getting back to his vehicle.

“What is this for?” Tom asked.

“You can’t park there, sir. Electric only.”

“This is electric.”

“Sorry, sir. I don’t it says four-wheel-drive on the back.”

“It’s all electric…”

“Bring it up in the courts, it’s not my call.” The young man said.

Kaylee sighed. An urge to kick someone was growing, like she not had kicked a man in the chest in a month.

“Let’s go to an un-wedding party of our own. Forget this place. We’re done with business here.” Tom suggested.

“Yeah! Let’s get out of here.” The wife-that-never-was agreed.

Climbing into the eSUV, Kaylee found the large tag that hung on the mirror which had a large blue lightning bolt emblazoned on it that would be visible from the sidewalk and have avoided the parking nazi from citing the rental.

“Kay, it’ll be interesting to have that conversation, but I will make sure it’s passed on to the rental company.” Tom smiled. “We were in a hurry and wanted to get me out of the ER. So if they told us, I don’t recall.”

“Neither do I. And I don’t remember getting a receipt.” Fishing through her purse. “But here it is.”

Reading the slip, she gasped.

“It says where the electric tag is. Ugh.”

“Nothing to worry about. It doesn’t go on anyone’s driving record.”

“Just annoys me,” Kaylee said as she tapped in their destination to the hotel in the GPS. “But I came here with a good time planned and I will not have anything distract me.”

“Oh? Want to lay out by the pool?” Tom said as he looked out the window. “It is a nice day, a bit hot. We can always go gambling.”

“Gambling is good, I didn’t bring my swimsuit or many clothes. Some nice pants and a top so we can have dinner out somewhere.”

“But you brought a bag that’s kind of heavy.”

“Tom, those are bandages and other supplies for things.”

“Other things? What do you mean… Ooh!” The meaning of what his ex- sank in…

Well, he couldn’t call her an ex-wife, in the eyes of the government, it never happened. So she has no ex- in relation to her other than as an ex-girlfriend.

Still! Oh, smoking crap on a cracker!

“Supplies.”

Jeeze. She was serious about this being a one last time to remember.

“Um, be gentle with me?” Tom asked.

Laughing cryptically, Kaylee just drove.

The Failed Getaway

Hypnos the cat gives a command
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The Failed Getaway

A short story by Dash McCallen

Bodies had piled up around his farm. Malam Plando’s farm was a garden of horrors anywhere the police dug into the ground.

In the end, charged with sixty-two separate counts of murder, it was common thought he had a list longer than the investigators discovered.

His trial lasted over a year.

The Verdict?

Guilty.

Sentence?

Death.

In the six-months after his conviction and his move to Death Row, his turn came. Few people who the courts convicted in recent decades, executions happened quickly. Three appeals, expedited to last no more than two months.

He, it was his name and he was about to scream it out loud in laughter.

Inmate number 1854X-195S5-1-31E walked with confidence to the execution chamber. In a glass-walled room with blinds obscuring the view to the chamber beyond, the guards assigned to his restraint, wordlessly strapped him to a padded, vertical board.

With some effort they rotated him and the board so that he was in a supine position.

*Taking the last bit of dignity I have*

He shook his head.

*Idiots. They don’t even know what is coming.*

Two days before, his wife paid a visit to him for one last “Conjugal” visit.

His brother passed on to him in a video stored in her phone.

“Courage brother! When they think they come for you, we have an answer.”

He laughed.

*The left strap is already loose, it won’t be hard get the arm out.*

A chill from the sterile swab then the sharp sting when the technician stuck the IV catheter in the antecubetal space of his left arm.

Dark humor. They were thinking he was going to die, why did they use a sterile technique?

“Do you have any last words?” A disembodied voice sounded and the blinds opened, revealing a crowd sitting in the gallery.

“Yeah. I’m a little thirsty. When you get the call, I want my water with light ice.”

The sound clicked off and for a moment, the room was quiet except for the sound of his cardiac monitor. An old style display that gave off a mosquito-like whine that he could hear.

He could see a different color fluid creep down towards his arm.

They already began the execution and the clock…

It ticked past the time, they were late! His rescue was not coming!

Then the lights went out, only the setting sun slanted through the high windows in the chamber.

Malam opened his eyes, they did not focus properly for a moment, but there was no noise.

The tubing in his arm pinched slightly when he scratched his nose.

Then Malam blinked.

His arm was free! Someone had released the strap when the techs and guards fled during the blackout.

*Cowards.*

*But I have not heard any alarms. Some of the drug ran into my arm put me to sleep for a little while.*

Malam grinned.

*People thought I died when the power went out.*

Laughing, the thought of his walking out of the room when no one was looking tickled his soul.

He already had plans for the judges and their families as he stalked the hallway down to where the body-hauler would park.

Darkness in the hallways, only the sunlight from the outside filtered in, it was odd, not even the guards were around, prisoners were gone, too.

*There must have been a hell of a scare to evacuate the other inmates.*

And the gates were open, no doors locked.

As promised, Malam walked free, laughing at the power outage orchestrated by his family and caused the sheep to run frightened.

Even the prisoners bolted, maybe even taken by bus, but no matter.

*Screw them all! I’m free, next stop, where Judge Alkar Chronqui’s family was. I’ll break into the home and put his head.*

Malam looked around and frowned, someone might see him cut across the field towards town, but the power was out and the sun set. Darkness was coming and dark thoughts on his first in town grew in his mind.

Malam smiled, it would be full dark before he got through the open area and to the city park to his cache where he hid his kit of tape, knives, drugs, rope and energy bars.

*The drugs would have expired, I can’t use them on my clients, it might kill them.*

More laughter as he covered the ground towards town when he kicked something in the tall grass and tripped.

A body!

eviscerated, still steaming when he stood up. The coppery smell of blood came from his prison issue shirt.

He was covered in blood.

“Gawd Dayuam! Dey’s comin’ outta de groun’s Ostus! Der’s anudder one! Git ‘im!”

He sqautted down, fishing around the body, looking for a weapon of any kind.

The sound of a baseball bat sounded in his ears. A sound of a grunt, a wheeze of a death rattle, he realized that whoever it was had not seen him.

He crawled through the grass carefully, towards the voices.

His heart was standing still, his breath was wheezing in his ears as he got closer to the voices.

If he could get a jump on them, what a wonderful twist of irony, he could kill someone killing someone.

He could see the top if their heads. They carried bats with nails driven into the fat end.

“No’ so easy ta make a soun’ wit yer throat stuck full’a holes, ain’tit a bish!”

The sounds of thumping and the bloody fluids made a mist. Malam could smell the blood in the air and it excited him.

Malam struck, leaping up and grabbing the first one, called Ostus.

His hands were stronger than he thought when he broke Ostus’ neck, taking the bat, he broke the head of the other wannabe killer.

But the look Ostus and his partner had when he came up, bloodied and muddy, they acted as if they saw the dead rising from the graves.

Malam laughed, carrying the bat with him, he walked off towards the town. He saw another man stand up, also wearing standard-issue.

“Thanks, they were doing everyone from the prison.” The darkness hid the convicts eyes, but they glittered with a mixture of anger and fear. “I want to kill the judge for putting me in there. Then find each and every one of the jurors. I’ve not seen anyone for years, they don’t come to visit.”

“Let’s go. What were you in for?”

“They said I was a cannibal. I was not, they were chewed on by rats.” The pair moved towards the town. “I’m N’oi.”

“Malam. What kind of name is N’oi?”

“What kind of name is Malam?”

“It means Evil. It is what my mother called me.” Malam shrugged and the pair moved off into the dark.

A cop car, the officers were looking at something when the pair stepped out from behind the trees.

Malam gasped at the cops when they turned towards the pair’s approach.

Blood stained their faces and soaked the dark uniforms in a slick that glistened in the dark with coagulated blood.

One officer chewed on an object that looked like a forearm, the other had a foot.

Frozen in their steps,  and the officers saw them and dropped the nightmare snacks and walked towards Malam and N’oi.

Looking at his fellow escapee, the huge convict stood there, drooling, his skin ashen and made no other human sound.

Then N’oi looked at him with eyes that were all wrong, then reached out to Malam with hunger and a snarl.

Malam crushed N’oi’s head with the bat in a single swing and took off in a run. Leaving the cop-things to ponder over the body he left behind, Malam fled to the park.

He sat at the base of a tree he had marked long ago and dug with his hands.

*Those cops… I’ve never seen anyone do that before. That was crazy! Holy crap. Cannibals? Shit! Shit! Shit!*

And he could outrun them with the power of fear.

*That’s another thing that’s bat-shit crazy, cops can run and they do not give up. And… Where the hell is everyone?*

Roads were empty, not a single car to wave down. The town would be quiet at the late hour, but this was a total absense of driven vehicles.

Grimacing at the cold shirt that stuck against his body with clotted blood and made him shiver.

*I need a fresh change of clothes.*

Bodies in the park were milling around, a part of the late summer evening with no power anywhere. He could kill one and take the shirt.

*No, first get the hell out of sight and raid the laundromat. No chance of blood on clothes.*

He slipped through the door, among the quiet machines in the dark of the community laundry.

Looking in through the clear windows into the machines, many held suds and water. A few were dry.

One opened when he pulled on the handle and he found two polo shirts and a hoodie sweatshirt.

As he dressed, he disposed of the bloody mess of a prison uniform shirt and found a pair of jeans that fit.

*A little tight, but they will loosen up some.*

He turned around, a person sat in the corner with their back to him.

He slipped out and looked at her in the light of the rising moon that filtered through the glass. He thought he recognized the heavy-set girl by tattoos of roses on her neck.

It was a memory, like a faded photograph from long ago. She had died pleading that she was pregnant while Malam tied a plastic bag over her head.

*No. Impossible, she is long dead. Part of my collection.*

Malam ran through the shadows of the street, heading to the middle of town. Shuffling people began to follow him. Some chewed on finger-food.

*They’re eating real fingers! The insane asylum must have had a break out!*

He almost screamed when he heard another scream nearby. A man’s voice pleading to anyone for help.

He ran around the corner away from the sound, looking over his shoulder and made sure no one followed him.

And into the middle of it.

*Damned echos!*

Bloodied, shredded. The burly man used the broken picket of a fence as a make-shift weapon.

*Damned good use of a stick!* Malam nodded.

The street fighter turned to throw a walking winged nightmare onto the steel pickets of an iron gate when he spotted Malam.

“Shot! gun! Get the Damned shotgun!” He pointed with the stick at the dropped weapon, surrounded by shells of ammunition.

A scream and he fell over a curb when he backed up from the force of the mob attack by the black bat-winged things.

Malam scooped up the scattergun and cleared the chamber, stuffed two shells into the receiver and turned the weapon to the mass of bodies where screams of battle filled the black sky.

“That all you got! Take this! AAAH! Bite me! Bite this!”

The shotgun bucked in Malam’s hands scattering bat-wings and black flesh while he racked in another round.

Second shot freed the big fighting man.

The tatters of his shirt were a uniform.

*Cop!?* Malam shook his head. *I saved a cop.*

The officer tried to take another step and looked down and screamed again, this time with the sound of a man who knew the unthinkable.

The left leg was denuded of flesh below the knee, two bones stuck out were the creatures chewed off his leg. The look of a man resigned, he was bleeding to death.

“Run!” He yelled at Malam. “Too late for me, get out of here.”

*Don’t tell me twice!* Malam ran with his pockets full of shotgun shells and the big pump-action weapon out in front of him.

His last view was some creature that looked like a cat out of someone’s nightmare on the cops head and chewed while the one-legged man fought like a whirlwind of fists.

Then one fist.

The last Malam saw as he turned the corner was a pile of wings where the cop had been.

*Now where the hell to go?*

The police department would be a good place to go, someplace safe!

*Yeah, right.*

Malam walked around the corner towards the center of town and watched a woman fall under the attack of a pack of skeletonized dogs.

*Okay. Police station, good choice. No one will check on me while this shit goes on!*

He turned and ran to the one place he swore he would never go back to.

He ran headlong into the glass doors— Locked!

*Locked? When the hell does a police station lock doors?*

A noise behind him! A group of creatures followed his movements on the steps.

In front of the group, he he recognized the lesbian couple, his first hunt!

*No. Not possible.* He shook his head. *Damn, stop thinking and run! I have to run! What is happening with the world?*

A car, an ancient Ford with the door open sat on the side of the street, he could mess with that and get it started.

Savage panic set in, Malam ran.

He could see more creatures, a cat with eight-legs coming out of the shadows looked at him and screamed his name!

No, not out of the shadows, out of the ground! It lifted up a manhole cover and crawled out of the sewers.

Panting and sweating like a horse. He stopped in the middle of a park, but not a park, it was the rural cemetery.

*How the hell did I get here?* He needed to get back to the center of town, steal a cop car if he needed! He counted the shells to the shotgun. *Twenty. Twenty shells plus six in the magazine and one in the pipe. Not enough. Son of a bitch.*

A cold hand grabbed him from a bush, feeling for a pulse? He was on no one’s menu!

He forgot his shotgun, the mind of the murderer had only one thought.

*Run!*

He pulled his hand free- or did it let go?

It did not matter, he ran! Out of the ground they came towards him. He recognized them. People he cut up, ran over, burned.

He needed to find tools! Break into a shed or a hardware store if need be.

They were coming, sibilant sounds of horrors that crawled in the bushes, wheezes of these creatures that stumbled, shuffled, walked towards him.

*Fuck! I gotta to run!*

From behind, naked cats with eight-arms that ended in black hands and needle-sharp claws, screamed like the tortured victims of his shop, leapt and swung from trees and crawled like giant spiders over headstones.

Into the darkness Malam Plando ran, chased by familiar faces of walking dead, creatures from nightmares he never had.

His mind broke while he ran with the screams that echoed long and loud in the long-dark night.

****

The execution chamber of the prison, unused for so long, no one could remember how seating was arranged. The sun slanting in blinded some, overheated the room and it was stuffy and awkward.

The witnesses watched the last breath of Malam Plando.

“I hope he is in Hell and suffers a thousand deaths for each one he committed.” The father of a princess who he gave away to another princess at the two women’s wedding.

Turning and walking out. Yor Bas’chet got his wish in ways he never knew.

Doctor Drake checked for a lack of pulse to match the flatline on the screen nodded then paused.

“I would swear he pulled against my hand.” The doctor leaned over and looked into the dead prisoner’s eyes. “He was a coward in the end, look at the fear on his face, the jaw set and lips pulled back as if he was about to scream, eyes wide open. I’d say he was afraid to die.”

“Good for him.” The guard said. “Coroner is here. Let them take him out now.”

“Good, have him sent to Doctor Sherlock Quincy, I want him autopsied. Someone like this needs to be studied, we will slice his brain up and study it.”

“You’re the doc, Doc.” The Lieutenant nodded and made a notation on the notepad.

In the core of the world, Malam became aware someone spoke of cutting him apart.

*Fuck that! I gotta hide.*

Malam Plando continued to run.

Married by Mistake Chapter 4. After The Report, The Charthouse

MbM
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Chapter 4. After the Report,  The Charthouse

The uniformed police officers looked uncomfortable standing on the beach, surrounded by nude sunbathers that stood to watch at what the activity.

Professionalism had been given a major test as the officers called for an ambulance to transport the abused and arrested would-be rapist to the hospital. Pictures taken of Kaylee ‘s hands and her shin, where a bruise showed where she had smashed the culprit’s nose and cheekbone.

Wearing just her pants and shirt, no other injuries that she had claimed from the fight that she had taken to the assailant. She had almost killed him and her mood was nearly enough to carry it through. She would have beat on him more if he had arrived just a half-hour before he did, she would have given the detectives much more evidence to discover.

Evidence technicians took photographs of her and the sand, then left while the police interviewed her and her wingman, the man she had mentally named Note-Pad, who had come to her aid.

Detective Lynda Nesbitt, a twenty-year veteran of the force handed a business card to the victim-cum-victor in the crime while her male counterpart discovered a knife. The detective motioned to an Evidence Technician who photographed the discovered weapon, then picked up the knife in his gloved hands.

Detective Charley Galt placed the butcher knife in a manilla bag and tagged it with a sticker. To this, he wrote his name across the seal, then handed it to the evidence technician he called over.

“You may have stopped him from escalating to worse things. I suspect he’s involved with many of the attacks,” She said softly to Kaylee. “But we will let the evidence speak for itself.”

Detective Nesbitt, while she interviewed Kaylee, mentioned that there had been a rash of sexual assaults and the male being transported to the hospital had matched the description, down to the butcher knife used and that DNA would be collected and tested against the previous crimes.

Nearby, having pulled on swim trunks of his own, his interviews over and the sun red and low in the sky. The writer walked up to her, nodded and asked how she felt.

“This was an unusual day. I’m pleased you are unhurt.” He said with a chuckle. “That was a hell of a beating you gave him. Sitting naked on his chest and thumping on his melon is an image I won’t soon forget. There is a real story in that somewhere.”

He laughed softly.

“You are impressive.”

Note-Pad man chuckled, again.

“Would you let me buy you a drink?”

“No.” Kaylee laughed softly. “I don’t even know your name, you have seen me naked and now you ask me out for drinks? This is a bit awkward, don’t you think?”

“Uh, yeah. I suppose it is. Well. My name is Tom Harte.” His smiling green eyes sparkled like emeralds in the fading light of the day. “Well, anyway, I will head into town and I’ll have a few drinks the Chart House restaurant and bar for a while. When you’re finished here, I’ll buy you dinner if you like and you don’t need to sit with me.”

She laughed at this.

“I’m Kaylee Grant, nice recovery.” She nodded. “Still don’t hold your breath. But thank you.”

Watching him talk to the police detective briefly while she gathered up her possessions, putting them into the bag she had brought with her. His broad shoulders were more obvious from behind, his mild middle age spread had masked his nice build.

“Miss, may I take you anywhere?” The female detective was less influenced by standing around naked frisbee players on the beach than some of her male counterparts. “Do you have someone you can call?”

“No, I don’t need a ride. And I can call my sister, but I have no service here, I’ll need to walk to the showers.” Kaylee glanced at the phone display.

“You can borrow my phone, I have service here.” Detective Nesbitt said. She pulled an armored Android phone out of her pocket and handed it to the younger woman who impressed her with her focus and poise.

Kaylee thanked Detective Nesbitt then dialed her sister’s phone.

“Hi Melanie ?” At the sound of her sister’s voice Kaylee broke down in tears while she tried to explain what happened.

****

The Chart House, a four-star restaurant two-hundred paces from the high water mark from the beach. The bar was known for celebrity stop-ins and excellent food and drinks, both strong and virgin.

At the corner of the bar, where he took up more than his fair-share of room. He sat scribbling on an electronic notepad with a stylus.

Tom Harte, they called him Thunder Harte and the job he did often was writing. Fiction, a lot of fiction. Under the pen name of Sanne Footman, his stories were those of heart and love. He had gotten his start in romance novels with a touch of bodice-ripper styles and enjoyed that his stories were in demand.

The demographics taught that women were the largest group of readers and he flew in the face of tradition that men could not write romance novels.

But Tom was not one to follow convention, he never believed in the word, “Can’t”.

His passion now, was to manage to write stories for children and young adults. Often he also wrote about Steampunk stories under the name of Keegan O’Danu.

Now, there he had sat with his notepad out, writing down ideas that would be the next book.

His muse had gone silent for a few hours. Writing about sea shells, birds, on the beach earlier in the day. But none came to him in a coherent thoughts.

But this afternoon’s excitement where some beach patron, it had turned out, was a rapist. The attacker had picked on the single worst person, in the extreme, that he could have ever have chosen on the beach.

Unclothed, unarmed and cornered, she had pounded the knife wielding man into bloody submission. It was an impressive sight as he ran towards the sounds of the screaming of a girl to come to the woman’s aid.

Not that she needed it as it turned out. The screams he had heard were coming from the young man. The attacker was double her size, she was a petite woman, only a few inches over five-feet in height.

And still the assailant earned the pain of having his face broken along with his arm, breastbone and testicles.

And it was inspiring!

Tom Harte wrote, and wrote, and wrote. The woman had shocked him into writing swiftly. Between his satellite phone and the electronic notepad that he tapped on, he had filled in pages of notes from the words in his head.

Then a familiar voice sounded next to him.

“Is that drink still available?” Kaylee asked.

Startled, Harte turned around in his seat and there she was. Wearing a black dress and she had brushed her dark hair until it glistened in the light of the bar.

“Why, yes. What is your poison? “ He motioned to the bartender. “I believe you had said this was awkward? After the beach and all.”

“It is, but it has been that kind of day. I beat a bad guy into the sand, I vented out some frustrations.”

“You did that for sure!” he laughed.

“Now, I have you here. You know what I can do to you if I become angry. You haven’t seen angry until I’m angry.”

“What would you like to drink, hun?” The bartender, a thirtysomething woman who had a bright smile.

“Death in the Afternoon.” Kaylee answered. “Champagne and Absinthe, very cold.”

“Hemmingway’s drink.” Thomas laughed. “You are impressive.”

“Well, anyone who can tickle my soul after what I had just gone through, I figure I can impress even more and find a little about him.” She nodded. “Besides, after a day like this, I need to get a little high too.”

“Put your right thumb over the camera so I can image it and let me take your picture.” She said. “Not that there is no faith in your intentions, but you will be number one on the most wanted list if something happens.”

Thomas nodded and scanned his right thumb and sat still while Kaylee took his picture.

“You do look nice. You went home to change?” Thomas asked.

“Sort of. This was in my car. It’s all I have on, my underwear didn’t match, so when I changed in the women’s room, I just stuffed them in my purse.” Kaylee pointed to the other side of the bar.

Thomas nearly shot his drink out his nose at this.

“Speaking of awkward! You have a… Um… Thanks for being blunt.” He chuckled.

“It’s just this day. It has been rough day and I am in need of getting very drunk or stoned – or both.”

Kaylee opened her purse and pulled out a pill bottle and dropped two pills in her drink.

“Cheers. You are in charge now, when tomorrow comes and I wake up not liking what has happened, you will join the guy from the beach in the ER.” She swallowed down the intoxicating drink.

“What was that?” Thomas lifted an eyebrow in curiousity.

“Hypnotic, muscle relaxant. If you want to do something tonight, I won’t object too much. But let’s make it fun.”

Fun.

That would not be the word Kaylee would use in the morning.

Shock and Awe Chapter 14. Soldier Park

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Chapter 14. Soldier Park

Soldier Park, renamed several times through the years, finally evolved into a large park for cities of this size. It was, in fact, the largest park in the city.

One mile in circumference, standing on one end, the community museum operated by the council of tribes that lived in the area. Three stories above ground and two stories underground the old museum remained the pride of the arts community since the previous century.

The crowning jewel was the central area of four ball diamonds they built with care and an eye for beauty and nature.

It was a beautiful park, great conifers that towered at the edges of the park mixed with ancient oak trees that seemed to tell stories by their very presence. The evenings were always peaceful with the ancient guardians of the park.

This evening was no different in the early autumn. In the beauty and space that families would come and play volleyball, touch-football and softball, a wide open area that begged for activity during the summer and weekends, a shadow floated down from above.

A barely audible whirring sound could be heard by anyone standing among the branches and trunks of the man-made forest just before Radio Check touched down with the dark parasail.

His landed with such gentle control, he did not even take a walking step.

From the trees, shadows emerged and moved quickly to new arrival and relieved him of his heavy burden. Four shadows on each corner of the package that held his equipment ran back to the road where a van waited and put the bag inside.

Another four shadows collected the wing and electric fan while Radio Check unhooked the harness.

In under a minute, they had packed up and vacated the area.

He opened the passenger door of the transporter and paused, Radio Check was the last person to take his foot off the ground. Looking around, he smiled. It was all according to plan.

Excellent.

Mission successful.  No deaths, a number of casualties and they would be cleaning polymer beads up for months. But the whole of the mission was perfect.  Hunting an assailant, they would think he ran from one end to the other, vandalizing things.

If in the event the IT department figured out that the computer system had been hacked, the controls and Trojan Horse programs the Radio Service would dynamically install back-doors into the network. The sub-system would record normal operations and display proper data if someone ran a check. Even the antenna on the roof allowed the remote users access through multiple layers of security with a sub-carrier frequency built.

Radio Service saw all that went on and with ultimate control, the next assault would be less noisy and destructive, but far more effective.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 13. Waiting Room

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Chapter 13. Waiting Room

Choking, face stinging, Leslie Murrie was still trying to catch her breath when the captain of the division walked up.

“Report.” Jevv Smith said in a no-nonsense tone. The eyes of the man glittered in the dark, reflecting the flashing lights of ambulance, fire and law enforcement light-bars.

“The unknown male just kicked our asses. The unsub has booby-trapped the waiting room. There were two grenades on the ceiling we didn’t know about. They are visible through the window now.”

“Why didn’t you see them before?” Captain Smith shook his head. “Do you need glasses?”

“Smoke, sir. The room was full of it.” She felt like a child called to the principal’s office. “Military grade and stun grenades like I have never seen. They kept going off.”

“Seriously? Maybe he tossed more in?”

No sir, definite multiple discharge from a single grenade.”

“Never heard of such a that.”

“Same here, until tonight.” She nodded. “But the casings are in there. There were two kinds of flashes I think, but all were effective.”

“Okay, Sergeant. Head over to the EMS stations and have them check you out, you look like you have chicken pox.” Captain Smith looked her  face over.

“Yes, sir.” She touched her face and winced.

“Officer Holmes.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Find him, I want his ass. Use your dogs.”

“Yes, sir.” Stephanie Holmes said and walked off to her team.

“Cry havoc!” She whispered as she walked with purpose to her mission, then into the microphone of her radio. “Let loose the dogs on this son of a…”  

Listening to the radio, Officers Archer, Easton and Martin brought the dogs to the front door of the lobby and made a quiet entry, the dogs noses sniffing out in every corner of the room for a scent that might help in tracking the unsub.

Bomb specialist Oscar “Os” Greene moved through the K-9 units, declaring  the room clear of explosives. His hand-sized remote-controlled camera, his spy on mini-wheels had discovered one more grenade set to roll out into the middle of the mens room when they made entry.  The unsub did not leave lethal weapons behind, but it was all a delay tactic.

Captain Smith got the report that the waiting room was clear, the teams were making entry into hallways and both directions in the stairwell.

“Report.” The voice of the Chief echoed in the mobile command center. “Where is Captain Smith?” 

“Sir, he will be right here, we called him to the command post.” The blond woman said. Chief Whiting recognized her from the department baseball team. “Crush” If he remembered, for how hard she hit the ball with a bat. 

Captain Smith walked up to the Chief and the two men exited the command post to sit inside the Chief’s car where Captain Smith apprised him of the situation.  Chief Whiting sat and nodded while Jevv described the three layers of protection, the distance they had pushed public and press back. 

“No one that we do not know can cross anywhere without being spotted. He is inside, even if he is hiding on the roof, we will have a helicopter with a mini-sun in a few minutes. There is no way out.”

“Good job, Jevv.” The Chief nodded. “Do we have it narrowed down where he is?”

“Reports of shooting in dispatch, we have three teams, one team each heading down the two elevators, one team making entry from the stairwell. He has nowhere to go. We will get him.”

But despite the best efforts and the arrival of the helicopter overhead, the mountain man with the flintlock was never found. The only evidence he left of his entry was a bar code from a cereal box and tatters of paper from a string of firecrackers he dropped as a diversion during the smoke screen.

No other damage was obvious. The only damage to the building was the massive twin lead slugs that broke the bulletproof barrier and the officer shot by one of their own.

In the days that followed during the investigation, they discovered the hardcopy records destroyed in the most secure area of the department. 

The man was a ghost. The HR Department reproduced new records from the mainframe, no other damage could be discovered.  It was curious way the paper products in the cabinet of Human Resources had become dust over a weekend. 

Lucky they had a computer system to fall back on. 

Lucky, indeed.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 12. The Shaft

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Chapter 12. The Shaft

He pushed open the vent, the hinges popped with a sound that seemed louder that they were. There were no more sounds of flashbangs going off and sirens were audible. He leaned out over the vertical drop and looked down on a square of light illuminated through the service hatch at the top of an elevator car on the main floor.

They had guessed his secret. But it was not the same car he had been on top of. The flashlights they were using were all pointed down. They were looking with care and were missing nothing. The next one they would open and look down with those lights, they would find footprints.

His method of travel would be discovered. It was time to leave.

They would not observe any disturbance in the air-return vent there. That was early enough in the assault before he modified his plan of attack. It would be a while before they followed the trail.

If they ever looked at the vent he opened. A few days and the dust of operations would conceal the recent openings. Being part of a service, the HVAC techs would open and clean the air plenum often. Twice a year, perhaps more, to keep the different plenum ducts from loading up with dust and posing a hazard to the mission critical data center and dispatch.

It had been impressively clean. So the evidence was that the massive cooling system had just been serviced, top to bottom, but there was a small amount of dust in the system to show his passage to an observant investigator.

Any traces he might have left would be narrowed down to recent activity.

No matter, he had finished. Anything he had taken in with him he had brought out. Except for the grenades and the two lead bullets he used at the beginning.

Still, they would think that was only a matter of time before he ran out of corners to hide.

There were no corners he would hide in, he was just  a phantom. Each person that exited the building would have his or her body scanned, patted down, picture ID checked and verified by a fingerprint scan in the department database.

*So much fun.* He thought. *My fingerprints would be in the employee database in seconds if I needed it.*

Climbing quietly, the straggly beard was itching him mercilessly. He would be taking care of that problem soon enough.

The second elevator moved to the main floor. No cable for traction here, it was a hydraulic-type elevator, meaning the tenants of the building were free to use the spare space for running cable from the different locations as needed. Each group of cables were zip-tied to each other, making a larger group.

He traced cables connected to a junction box— and each connection was clearly marked, this made Radio Check smile.

Perfect!

Unscrewing the box cover plate, he gained access to the internals of each connection. Electricity was passing through the system for radio and data transmission. The odds were in his favor that he would not receive an electrical shock, but he took no chances, keeping his leather gloves on, he bypassed the connections with practiced skill, and placed a new connector of a special design on the antenna, resoldered the connection to the new screw on connector.

Repeating it five more times, a minute on each connection and he packed up his tools.

Stepping to the roof access door from the junction boxes, he looked up and saw the magnetic sensor for the door opening. The lead in wire had long been broken and never repaired, rendering the system non-functional, nodding he scanned around for a hidden sensor. Using his flex mini-camera, discovered another cheap sensor in the frame that he disabled in seconds, then he opened the door and stepped through into the night air.

“Radio check.”

“Five by five. Outer limits.”

“Air traffic?”

“ETA twenty minutes, they were just ordered.”

Radio check laughed. Radio service would have held any requests for air support until the call for a “radio check”.

Sighing happily, he jammed the door shut with cornstarch plastic wedges that would decompose in moist air, one wedge on top and one at the bottom of the door. There was an onshore breeze with a high moisture content. The wedges would become little more than mush in a half-hour.

To help the disintegration along, he poured a few drops of water on the paired wedges. The police could batter the door down, but they would waste their time.

He was almost gone. Going over to the package that the flyer dropped for him, now two hours before, he unzipped it and opened the big bag up, spreading a lightweight sheet and cords attached to a web of flight rigging along the roof. He would be cutting it close, there was not much clearance with the antenna on one side. Getting hung up with the antenna would be a disaster. But the wind was steady at a ten-mile-per-hour on shore breeze with gusts to about twelve.

He could take off almost standing still with the size of the sail. Stepping into a rig of webbing, he pulled the straps tight around his body, then lifted a ducted fan out of the package— itself a light Kevlar cloth made from an out-of-service parachute.

Attaching the fan around his waist like a belt. Securing the straps to mount-points on the frame of the fan, he locked it in place.

He inspected everything with a skilled eye, double checking straps where he attached clips to the mount points. Nodding, and scratching, he sighed.  The whiskers were about to drive him to distraction.

Pulling off his gloves, he dropped them into the transport package and with fingernails, he began to pull at his eyebrows until they came loose. Working down under the skin, he worked his fingers along the latex and plastic cheekbones and lifted the skin away from his own and pulling the artificial face-hair with it. Carefully and quickly, down the nose, he peeled the latex flesh to the tip and, finally, free of the built up face that had no resemblance to his own. Pulling off the wig he dropped it into the delivery package with the double-barreled rifle, deerskin jacket and calico shirt.

He pulled on a black sweatshirt. His fringed pants pulled away without his shoes coming off. Off came the outer skin of sueded polyester covering his shoes.

He was now a clean-shaven, short-haired man with lean, handsome looks and wide ebony-dark eyes from his Italian heritage. His left forearm sported a tattoo of crossed bayonets, the mark of the tenth mountain division.

Pulling on a helmet, he laced the chin strap to a solid fit, then he tucked the helmet’s data plug into a shoulder pocket.

Dropping his ancient-style backpack into the transport package, he pulled all the straps of the big, lightweight container tight, lifted it up and slid his arms through the holes provided for him, they looked like disembodied sleeves of a shirt, but sewn to the package.

Shifting, he got comfortable with the electric ducted-fan on his back and checked to be sure all the cords attached, he plugged the data plug into the data and power port on the handle.

“Air service radio check.”

“You are clear, ETA ten-minutes.”

“Request permission to launch.”

“Permission granted. Your wind is seven knots from west-northwest. Launch at your convenience.”

Testing the speed control, the electric ducted-fan spun up. Contra-rotating blades gave thrust with less than a whisper of noise.

With the extra-wide parawing he had flaked out and attached all the cords to his web-gear, he took several fast steps. A no easy feat as he was carrying over a hundred-pounds of gear, but the wing caught the wind and filled, he could feel the lift before he even twisted the control handle for power.

Radio Check grinned. Steady wind, if he did this right, an altitude of five-hundred meters would be perfect, but he would not sit still for that, he would be putting horizontal distance between the noise and sirens below.

He could hear an amplified voice challenging him to come out and surrender. There was no way out, they had the block secured three layers deep. Surrender now with his hands up and…

Radio check hit the throttle and gained altitude. Nothing left to be foujnd except for what he wanted to leave. The ducted fan was quiet and the soft sound, more of a whoosh, was inaudible from the roof to the ground five stories below.

Into the darkness he glided, the moon was not yet up. No one would have seen anything of interest if they had looked straight up and directly at him. He was a black-on-black gliding shape that vanished into the night sky.

“Eagle is flying.”

“Copy Radio Check, your next stop, The Twilight Zone.”

“Thank you.”

Shock and Awe Chapter 11. Double Padlock Security

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Chapter 11. Double Padlock Security

In the ceiling over Human Resources, Radio Check opened the vent slowly, the old hardware that held it in place had long broken by some service before he arrived. Once he had it opened, it stayed in place, then he used his cap once again for its lifting power.

He looked around before he stepped on the floor of the office of Human Resources, police personnel files were kept in a cabinet in hard copy format. Fingerprints, backgrounds, ID photos.

Everything.

Everything about a man or woman who worked in the county the HR Department backed up the computer files old-school style.

Under lock and key they existed, with the watchful organization of the obsessive compulsive director of personnel, she was confident in the system she ran. She never trusted the computer system.

Two hasps on a fireproof file cabinet. Each padlock secured with a combination padlock. Different combinations. No one person had access to the sensitive files, she had full confidence in that locked system.

Never slowed down by such things. In the back of each lock was a key access in the event someone forgot the combination.

He had both sides open faster than it would have taken the secretary to dial in the combination on one lock.

Rolling the top drawer open, he flipped through the folders, pulling back on the tabs to read names and ranks.

Each and every paper file on acid free paper, he flipped through them all. Secretary, detective, chief of police, patrol officer.

The files were all here. Two-hundred separate paper documents of combined sheriff, EMS, Fire Department and police. This office served them all, being the county seat and offices that they consolidated several years before.  The government centralized and condensed files, every officer, firefighter, paramedic and EMT, undercover, vice, homicide, mayor, secretaries, all from the lowliest janitor to the leaders on the top floor.

Right to this room.

From his backpack, Radio Check pulled out a thermos sized container with a “D” shaped handle on top. With measured movements, he twisted the handle and pumped it four times. Flipping the front of the sprayer down to expose the tip, adjusted it for a medium spray and dampened all the paper in the top drawer.

He repeated the same procedure in each drawer, he moved to the dozen cabinets in turn, in twelve hours, all the paper would crumble into dust. Closing and locking the files as he finished with each drawer. The entire time he checked his timer –  Only five minutes passed.

It had been thirty-five minutes since he pulled the triggers on his rifle and, by now, they had discovered he was not in the basement levels. That the officers would think they had driven him out and he somehow got up the stairs without being noticed. They would be looking to alternative exits.

It may have occurred to one of them that the elevator car had a service hatch. The police investigate that thought and if they did so on the basement floor, they would notice that the air return vent would be curiously clean.

It was time to move.

He hooked the toe of his shoe into cap that hung from the cable, he pressed the button for the winch to lift him. The sound was lower pitch, the powerful electric motor was slowing down. The batteries were nearly depleted, but this was its last time it would be needed.

Pulling up into the round vent, he reached down and pulled the ancient vent cover back into place.

And it would not stay! Radio Check swore for the first time in the mission. It kept swinging down, until he figured out that the trick to twist slightly and wedge it in place with a folded bit of newspaper from 1974 of an editorial giving opinions of Nixon’s resignation. 

Shaking his head, the irony of it all. An editorial about a crook in the government covering the traces of an intruder on a mission to expose crooks in the government.

It struck him as funny in one of those odd, ironic ways.

Shock and Awe Chapter 10. Uplifting Experience

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Chapter 10. Uplifting Experience

Radio Check nearly dropped the vent in the room of the mainframe, stopping the swing of the metal by the tips of his fingers and pulled it shut just as he saw the officer walk by the window. Her shadow stopped and he knew she was coming back to look.

She saw it.

*Damn. Maybe she didn’t know what she saw.*  It was more of a prayer than plan. This annoyed him, so far, everything went to plan, except for a loose hinge.

He crawled back to the service hatch at the elevator shaft, as he opened the man-sized grate, he could hear the verbal commands that squad leaders were given to the men while they were holding the elevator door. They still did not know where he was, this was in the plus column for the mission. One officer, wounded in the crossfire when he dropped the firecrackers as a distraction, this went in the minus column. Getting officers hurt was not according to plan, most uniforms were honest and honorable. They were not his targets.

*Stinger grenades not counting.* The thought moved through his mind as he moved over to the positive pressure side of the system and opened the hatch. The inflated fabric balloon had done its job and now was time to retire it.

Pulling a boot-knife, he sliced the material and stuffed it in his backpack, restoring the airflow to the lower levels and data center to prevent overheated electronics, possibly causing a reloading of the operating system.

Closing the service hatch, he slipped back into the air return and made his way to the elevator shaft, fully opening the service entrance, he listened again.  The elevator was empty, someone held the door open, talking with another. Stepping gingerly on the steel supports that anchored the box of the elevator car. He squatted down and became part of the machine.

“C’mon, Russ. You are doing okay, just in the car.”

He could hear the woman’s voice clearly.

“I’m so sorry I shot you. Really.”

Friends? Partners? It made him smile. Either way, if the shot officer was a good enough man, they would become closer friends.

Radio Service laughed inwardly, the only outside appearance of his humor was a smile nearly hidden under his long beard. He was a cupid in a twisted sense of the phrase.

The difficult part now accomplished. The mission plan held an option if he chose and had the time, he could stop at basement level-1 and create even greater havoc for the police, but he had nothing against the good officers of the SWAT team. The elevator slowed and came to a stop on the main floor. More swat team stepped into the lift. Listening to them talk, they knew he was no longer in the bathroom.

Yeah, time to leave. Operating in the heart of their operation now was a game of chance. Thus far, there was nothing left to chance. Other than the officer shot by his partner, all went according to plan. The Swat level was only an option if time and events looked positive. He was disinclined to damage anything there anyway.  The special loads for the firearms will wait for another day.

Stepping off the elevator car as it began its descent to the dispatch level, he hung on to the service ladder in the shaft.

Four floors of a ladder climb ahead of him.

Well, three and a half, he would enter into the return vent on the top floor and access the human resources office.

Second floor, detectives level. He should try to figure out something to do there. But— it was not in the plans, the team already had control of computer files, so he kept climbing.

Third floor. An option to enter, Commanders, Vice-chief’s office general admin. Nearly all of it on computer. Access was already granted. He would spend far more time looking for tiny bits of information that did not pay them back in benefits.

Cost versus benefit at this point. The cost was too much time versus the risk of capture.

Fourth floor. Chief of Police, Fire Chief, Doctor General of EMS.  Files that were still on paper. Physical access to the stand-alone system that belonged only to the administration and the round table of officers of their particular departments.

White lithium grease on hinges, a careful opening of the vent covering, he stepped back into the world of steel tunnels. This one was smaller by about a third. He could not sit straight up, but he could recline comfortably if he chose to.

A first look. A secretary type office. File cabinets, locked with a simple combination padlock, the type that had a keyhole in back.

Worth a look. He tagged the inside of the plenum with a yellow flashing LED light and moved on.

Sliding his thin camera down the vent, he looked at another office. The Chief of Police worked here. A massive desk, sumptuous decor. Pictures on the wall. Books everywhere. A long table on the far side of the room. But a dead-end.

He looked another few meters down. There was another corner. He looked at the Chief’s office again. Nope. There was no room or vestibule to call for a vent.

He army-crawled to the corner and then to the downward bend, he slipped his snake-eye through the vent. There, a computer. He could see network cables leading along the floor under the desk. But it was not a city issued piece of hardware.

He pondered a moment, this was a top-of-the-line recent computer. This was the Chief’s personal computer.

Excellent!

Twisting the camera around, there were small fabric-covered speaker cabinets at four points at the ceiling where the wall met the ceiling.

No, not speakers.

Video cameras.

*Oh, quite sly, Chief, quite sly.* Radio Check smiled without humor.

Pulling out his tablet, he opened up a sniffer program and let it run for a few minutes. He was ahead on the timetable so he could spare the minutes.

Before the uniforms began a floor by floor sweep, he would still be gone and they would have layers of cordons around the block to look for him.

This group never just sealed a block. They sealed a block three times normally. One might slip through a single line of cops, but the Croix Bay police? It was a minimum of three levels. They had their fair share of fugitives running from other law enforcement. No-one slipped past them, they always got their man. CBPD officers were well-trained, motivated and intelligent, bordering on brilliant.

Well, except for tonight. Around the building they would have all the available patrols. This is right where he wanted them. Running around in the basement, playing war with shadows while he was in the Chief’s personal entertainment system.

Maybe. He was watching the sniffer.

There! A spike in broadcast. A handshake. Data transmitted back and forth.

He sent a corrupted packet, knocking the wifi connection off. The item logging into the computer would fail and need to retry.

And it did. Two times, three times. He used a machines patience against itself.

Then he had a break. The complete log in sequence from the cameras. While the camera cycled for yet another attempt to log into the computer, he logged in using the camera’s MAC and identifier.

Although he was in the air duct, he now had control of the computer as if he was sitting at the keyboard.

Intercepting the camera signal, he successfully logged it into his tablet and download the images it had stored. One picture per minute. High resolution. Radio Check nodded, not an unreasonable setup, except for the outdated operating system. A bit of poking around, he found the password file.

The password file was not even encrypted. He downloaded it and sent it on to the radio service, packed up and crawled back to the HR office. Scanning around, a motion sensor was on the wall covering the room.

“Radio service radio check, hardware check.”

“Go ahead. You are on Vee-Oh-Eye-Pee with an IP address.”

“Sending you images. Do you have this under control?”

“Radio check. Copy sensor, it routes through to dispatch. Outer Limits. You are clear.”

It was the most talkative that radio service had been in a long time. Radio Service often said he hated the sound of his own voice, proving it often being terse over the open air, but this was downright talkative for the remote operator.

He would have to tell Radio Service that he nearly talked Radio Check’s ear off in these few seconds.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 8. Nerve Center

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Chapter 8. Nerve Center

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

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

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

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

“Fire!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello.”

“Lieutenant! He is down here in dispatch!”

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

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

“Go ahead for Davies.”

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

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

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

“Who is on tonight?”

“Leslie Murrie. Why?”

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

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

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

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

Pops of gunfire sounded.

“He’s shooting! Small caliber!”

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

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

I’m hit!”

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

It was Russ!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firecrackers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If they let him live.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 7. FSCK

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(Note: FSCK= File System ChecK)

Chapter 7. FSCK

He crawled through the large-diameter air shaft to find the data center, the mainframe computer needed tons of chilled air, ventilation for such a system was large and fed the massive amount of air into the heat-producing rows of circuits and drives to the isolated room.

It was easier to find in real-life than on the blueprints.

Turning his back to the blinking light that indicated the vent for dispatch, Radio Check nodded at the position of the computer center. The information tech department chose to place the data and internet nerve center directly across from the demands of its internet access, the computer-aided dispatch and radio systems. Residing behind two-sets of locked doors,  blueprints failed to show the contents of the room.

Using the small fiber-optic camera, he could only see a series of rate of rise heat detectors, two smoke detectors but no video camera. Nodding, he backed the fiber-optic cable out, placing a yellow flashing light on the inside of the air-return chamber. Unseen from the outside, they served only show the correct vent for him.

Pushing on the spring-loaded vent cover, it swung down and stopped on friction-braked hinges without a noise. Carefully, he positioned the big musket across the hole and pulled a hook from the winch disguised as a cap made from a furry animal and hooked it to the trigger-guard of the firearm.

He double checked the tablet computer he pulled from in his pocket and checked the universal USB-cable adapter. He lowered himself with his foot in the cap to control his descent to the floor, and looked around before flipping his leather mask up for better vision and, as observed by the little flex-camera he used, no video cameras were in the small room.

With a skilled eye, he followed a cable that fed from the ceiling to the back of a cabinet where he pressed an old style, round RCA adapter into a port in the back of the console and pressed a button on his headset, he smiled at the sound of a radio working perfectly.

“Radio service, radio check.”

“Five by five, outer limits.”

This tickled his sense of humor, ”Outer Limits” referred to an old tv show that started with a famous line to those who were fans.

“We are controlling transmission.”

The smiling fan of Outer Limits knelt down and plugged in his small data cable to a USB port on the tablet and the opposite end into the console. After a moment an icon turned green in the upper right corner of his display and indicated that he had gained access to a low-level, unprotected file and with a single command “FSCK” caused a reboot of the core system.

Thirty seconds later, the system reboot was complete, with him in control. Using VOIP he connected to another computer that was now logged into a wi-fi signal identified as “Sheriff Backbone WIFI”. The tablet spoofed the MAC address of a local squad car that the team sniffed out when it drove by a city park one evening on mundane duties.

“Voice check main core.”

“Copy five by five. Outer limits. We are in control of your set.”

“Dispatch please.”

“Engaged, system logs will self-destruct in five-minutes.” The clipped, professional voice answered. “All conversation now will be over intranet in-house. We have control of all video and radio transmission. Radio Check, you are the invisible man.”

Radio Check unplugged from the mainframe, he calmly walked over to the door and slowly opened it, blocking the lock with a UPC bar code from a box of Cap’n Crunch cereal purchased at a mom and pop shop that never installed video cameras, with cash, the year before. Then with care, he looked out.

Doors were open and the sounds were of emergency traffic. They were all focused on the barricaded person in the main floor men’s room.

Excellent.

Shock and Awe Chapter 6. Chief Whiting

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Chapter 6. Chief Whiting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*THUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMP*

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

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

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

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

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

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

He read down the incident notes in the CAD display.

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

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

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

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

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

“Copy, thank you.”

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

Shock and Awe Chapter 5. Devil’s Descent

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Chapter 5. Devil’s Descent

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

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

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

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

Odd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were on their way to one spot.

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

The stinger grenades had gone off.

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

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

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

It was just the mission. 

Shock and Awe Chapter 4. Victim’s View

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Chapter 4. Victim’s View

Blinded by brilliant flashes, deafened by intense high and low-frequency sounds and concussions that emitted from the engineered sonic grenade, eight officers followed their watch commander with hands on each other’s backs as they staggered towards the door. The Sergeant calling for immediate backup and EMS over her radio.

“We have a multi-casualty event, I am declaring an MCI. We have ten officers needing help in the foyer of the police headquarters. We have a suspect barricaded inside and we are withdrawing outside the front door.”

Officer Mike U’Dare picked up the ram, following his team bumping the chair it leaned against as he did so.

Something rolled out and a lever popped off.

“OhFUCK! Grenade!”

The grenade burst, but it was different this time.

This time it was a stinger.

Pellets flew everywhere, a few striking two objects stuck into the acoustic tile in the ceiling.

Two more stinger grenades with stuck to the panels, and armed with hair-wires that waited for something to touch them.

Something like a pellet.

Two more explosions of the polymer-bead laden grenades overlapped each other.

The air became thick with noxious smoke and three-thousand randomly directed high-velocity pellets, leaving welts on the officers and clerks convinced, with screams of pain, that shrapnel was shredding them.

Sergeant Leslie Murrie’s left side of her face was on fire as if someone had slapped her, hard. Holding a hand to her face, it throbbed and felt like the skin was falling off.

“Backup! We need backup! We have bombs in the foyer and people down!” She tried to use a controlled, calm voice but it came out as a shriek as she staggered out the doors with the other entry team members as they choked and stumbled into the clear air.

She was the last one to leave, making sure the worst hurt of the clerks and officers that had stumbled or tripped during the fourteen explosions and something that just plain hurt.

“Backup’s responding code-3.” It was dispatch, speaking as calmly as if giving a weather report.”Mutual-aid Sheriff, swat and all patrol units en route to your location. Stand-by for ETA.”

“Disregard ETA update, just get them here.”

“Acknowledged.”

This annoyed Leslie that they were so calm, but then, they were three floors underground and isolated from this bad-guy that made a wreck of the foyer and her team.  

But, she was wrong about dispatch being isolated.

Extremely wrong.

Shock and Awe Chapter 3. Office Affair

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Chapter 3. Office Affair

The hinges on vent made a soft squeak when he pushed up into the old style HVAC duct, never engineered for constant air flow which worked in his favor allowing his equipment to fit, even the big flintlock. He climbed up and crawled through the space where there were no locks or doors towards the back of the building without the worry of being challenged. This allowed him to crawl to his first goal ahead of schedule.

Counting to the tenth vent, he quietly opened it.

No one was in the office, everyone was in the waiting room looking for him. With a smile, he dropped down into the watch commander’s office and sat in front of the computer, he plugged in a USB memory stick in the computer open port, then stretched outUSB data cord to his tablet computer and overrode the fragile operating system written by a small team in Washington State.

In thirty seconds his clock ran out, and he knew it was time to depart when the first of the impacts of the breaching ram hit the men’s room door and echoed down the air conditioning vents.

His lips tightened into a humorless smile. The police only had to get it open just enough for the trip-wire flash-bang grenade to pull loose and roll into the foyer where the entry team gathered. Two more grenades would go off. One more flash-bang and a stinger grenade, it would be an exciting evening for the local law enforcement of Croix Bay.

Back up he climbed. The furry hat with its little winch hidden inside did its job well as it assisted him to climb back up into the plenum chamber of the A/C system of the main floor of the police department.

A series of booms echoed along the airshaft, the police had succeeded in forcing the armored door of the men’s room, designed to act as a panic room, with their battering ram. They had a shock when the booby-trapped door rolled out a multi-bang stun grenade. He tucked an earplug in his opposite ear to protect on the next series of bangs that he knew were coming and continued to crawl along the tube that was not listed. It ran along the path of the smaller plenum chamber that was in the blueprints. This was good fortune, but worried him, if there were no records of engineered air treatment systems, he could be compromised and need to change the plan.

Turning the corner, he peeked down a vent, hanging half down the hole and saw that he was right in front of the elevator, behind a camera that looked down the hallway in the opposite direction, just as shown in the plans.

Excellent.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 2. The Assault Begins

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Chapter 2. The Assault Begins

He watched the sign in front of the police department headquarters count down to midnight. He watched a slight change how the clock looked when radio control added seconds and synchronized the clock to internet time. Then it clicked over to the next hour.

A small tone sounded in the earphone, it was an electronically generated tone of 2600 hz sound and now everyone knew that they were now on the clock. It was the “eighteen-hundred” tone.

It was time to begin.

The Grizzly Adams lookalike walked through the doors of the foyer that remained unlocked twenty-four hours a day to deal with business that always seemed to find its way to the clerk’s window. Fix-it tickets signed off, complaints filed, young reporters sometimes read the register right up to midnight, attempting to get a scoop and be the first to pick up on something interesting.

The clerk looked up and was briefly startled by the view of the mountain man walking through the doors, she started to smile. It was not uncommon to see dressed up people this time of year, even if he early in the Halloween season.

Mountain Man walked up towards the window, as thick as an index finger is long, of bullet resistant polycarbonate wall bolted a massive polycarbonate base and required the use of speakers and microphones to communicate.

She had just drawn a breath to ask if she could help him when he stopped and smiled. “Sorry for this.”

Then he aimed the long rifle— it was as long as she was tall— and he said in a conversational tone. The twin barrels of the firearm looked cavernous only inches from the middle of the bullet resistant wall. 

“But… Please, duck.”

Kirsten Kloster screamed as she hit an alarm button and did what he requested. The report of both barrels of the black-powder long gun rocked even the floor of the room.

Something fell on Kirsten, she screamed in shock, it felt like a wall fell over on her.

It had, the impact of twin chunks of lead with a collective kinetic energy greater than the window mounts could withstand. The bullet resistant barrier fell in, followed by a dense noxious cloud that smelled of sulfur choked and blinded everyone. Bob Adkins, the other clerk was screaming into a radio for help.

Alarms sounded and magnetic plates locked the doors, normally left unlocked around the clock, they became solid and immovable. Radio traffic said that back-up was two-minutes away, everyone was responding from all points to the scene of the shooting.

Footsteps pounded up stairs, seven police officers ran from the armory in the sub-levels towards the foyer up the steps. A half-dozen SWAT team members burst through the hallway door near the clerk window that prevented anyone from going into the back offices unchecked and began choking on the smoke that had not dissipated in the large room.

Looking about, the officers covered the room with multiple layers of crisscrossed laser sights.

“Where is the shooter?” Shouted the watch commander.

“He was there!” Adkins yelled and pointed to the middle of the room.

“Sweep the area. Check the restrooms.” The watch commander Sergeant Leslie Murrie said as she surveyed the destroyed window, torn from the mountings of the three-clerk wall.

“Miss Kloster, what window were you standing at?”

“I don’t know, the left one. He said to duck before he pulled the trigger.”

“He said … Duck?” Leslie blinked in disbelief. “If he was shooting, why did he give a warning and why did he aim at a window that no one was at?”

“Sergeant! He has blocked the men’s room door.”

“Call him out.” Standing on either side, an officer banged on the door. “

Sir! Come out now. You have no exit, there is no window in there. Sir! Come out with your hands empty, arms up and walk backwards out of the door!”

There was no sound other than footsteps coming down the hallway of the rest of the swat team who had geared up rapidly with forced entry tools and stun “flashbang” grenades. And a favorite tool for forced entry, someone brought the two-man ram to force a door.

Four officers pushed on the steel restroom door, it did not give, refused to flex even a little. He had thrown the emergency dead-bolt. A twin-cylinder lock with a key required on either side to throw the bolts without setting off the alarm.  Without a key , he had to have picked it from the inside to activate the lock.

“Kirsten, key please.” It was Jake, a ten-year patrolman that enjoyed driving. Even if his history had a long record of destroyed patrol cars, to his credit, he had never hit any moving object. Always trees, fences, one mailbox, ditches and only one “fatality” of running over Marty MacBean, the cast concrete statue at the MacBean’s chili house.

The painted and wired head of Marty MacBean still adorned the squad room after two years.

The key refused to slide into the lock, on close inspection, the unknown subject had jammed toothpicks into the keyhole.

“Fuck it, use the ram.”

“Sir!” Jake pounded on the door.”Sir come out, if we have to come in it will not go well for you.”

Sirens sounded outside, approaching patrol cars were responding code-3 on a call for an emergency.

“Cancel them, Kirsten.” Leslie said. “We have him contained.”

“Sir,” Jake repeated with pounding. “That was a good trick with the toothpicks, you need to unlock the door and come out or we are coming in.”

“Ram it.” Jake nodded. “Toss in one of your party poppers when you get it open.”

Two of the biggest officers rushed up and swung the thirty-kilo battering ram. The door barely rattled in the hinges and failed to open, twice— three times. Four. Five! The fire-rated steel door did not give easily.

With redoubled effort, the two big men hit the steel-clad and core fire-rated door time and again. The door designed to resist an assault and be a panic room shelter refused to be dominated easily. Twenty strokes, thirty, at fifty impacts by the sweating officers and their massive ram the door bowed in as they forced an opening.

A gap opened half the width of a hand and something rolled out, it was a cylinder about as thick as a flashlight and just wide enough to bounce end over end, until it reached the end of a short cord that pulled a pin out of the cylinder.

“GRENADE!” Leslie yelled. The detonation was not half has loud as the whistle, but it was as bright as if one would to look directly into the sun for a blink of an eye.

And again! The whistling sound it produced was painful.

And again! The light made bones visible in one of the officers hands that he covered his eyes with, visible as shadows for a moment. Five times in all the cylinder puffed out a cloud of dust and ignited it with deafening booms.

The shock could be felt in the very core of their chests, cups fell from desks, papers ruffled and fell to the floor.

And another cylinder wedged against the wall behind a plastic waiting-room chair jarred loose from the explosions and fell to the floor and popped off it’s spoon on impact with the tile.

And deafened them with another five blinding explosions with whistles that exceeded pain levels.

“Throw one in!” Leslie yelled.

“WHAT?” The SWAT team member yelled.

“I will throw in now.”

“I had said that.” Leslie yelled back. The officer looked at her oddly as he pulled the pin on a flash-bang and tossed it into the opening.

But dizzy and dazzled, mostly deaf by the ten flash-bangs that had been left for them. His hands shook, his eyes were slightly unfocused and for the first time he had done something not done since his academy days.

He missed.

“FUCK! GRENADE!”

The proximity and concussive force of the entry explosive shredded his pant-leg.

For the eleventh time the police endured  the concussion and flash of a flash-bang grenade in an enclosed space.

Blind, deaf, choking on smoke and gas from the various reactions and smoke incapacitated the trained and skilled team of law enforcement officers.

Shock and Awe (re-write) Chapter 1. Radio Check

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Shock And Awe

Chapter 1. Radio Check

 The night came early this time of year and was as any night in the busy, growing city. Located in the hills above the Pacific Coast of the American western states, it was a crossroads from the coast to those going to play in the mountains or returning to go back to school or the mundane misery of work.

All but one person. He walked down the street, a curious looking fellow, dressed in an over-sized leather jacket, rawhide pants and a calico print shirt. On his back, an archaic backpack of recent construction. Every tied knot perfect, each pocket stuffed full. On the left side he had tied frying pans and the right was a canteen that was as equally ancient looking.

He wore a cap made of some fur-bearing animal with a tail that hung down the back of his head. Dense black fur kept his head covered and from it hung a leather eye-covering mask with tiny holes. A defense against snow-blindness when it was necessary. Tonight was cold, but no snow had fallen yet in the year, it was still early in the season. Not even the holiday shoppers had even begun to shop in earnest.

Still, he was a man out of time. Maybe not a serious turn of the eye for most folks at night— it was not out of the question for the odd wanderer to travel through by way of train that ran through the town of seventy-five thousand souls.

In his hands, however, he carried a long weapon. As ancient as the clothing he wore, as if he dressed for Halloween early, or a mountain man convention. The flintlock was, by outward appearances, perfect in every way to the cursory inspection.

However, this old style weapon was different. Double-barreled, twin flint locks and double-set triggers with a select lever. He could choose between either one or both barrels. In the day this would be a heavy artillery item in combat.

Today, it was little different. The mountain man walked in to the shadow of a parking structure, standing across from the police headquarters and ate a cube of chocolate from a leather pouch.

Police main station, a tribute to mid to late 1960’s construction. Regular remodeling to the building over the years extended its useful life. Every permit, every plan drawn up part of public record if one knew where to look.

The mountain man had looked, along with his team, at all the blueprints, every one.

“Radio check.” He spoke quietly, his long, scraggly beard hiding the microphone at his throat. The earphone hidden by his cap.

“Five by five.”

It was only to let them know he was ready. In the sky, he watched a dark shape float by, listening hard, he could just hear a faint whirring sound, then a parachute-slowed payload dropped quietly on the roof of the police structure.

“Parcel delivered.” The earphone buzzed quietly in his ear.

The assault had begun.

 

Smart Bomb Chapter 19. Walks Among Us

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Chapter 19. Walks Among Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alvin only shrugged and shook his head.

Then the boy went limp and sat against the wall.

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

“You known him longer. You should know.”

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

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

The boy stood up and repeated his request.

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

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

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

“Does he need an ambulance?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alvin nodded.

“United States Secret police” He said to Walter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alvin and Walter sat, thunderstruck.

“Steve?” Walter whispered.

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

She smiled a winning show if teeth and walked out.

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

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

The android’s adventure had just begun.

Smart Bomb Chapter 3. Salvation Army

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Chapter 3. Salvation Army

He walked down the road, it was cooler than the day before, he was able to charge his power reserves to capacity the day before.

The humans might call it “Full”, he had the opportunity to experience more of the generous spirit of the American south.

During the storm the day before, power went out, leaving the café in the dark. The owner fretted about the melting sweets in the freezer and prohibited anyone from opening the doors without reason, finally succumbing to the alternatives to throw out meats as the walk-in began to push the legal limit of the health codes.

The owner, Pete Durham, chose the option to cook the meats, slow smoking some with a wood-fired smoker overnight. Late into the night Pete and James cooked. Ice cream threatened to melt and spoil.

The Android could convert the butterfat and sugar confection to electrical power easily, and ate far more than his

They fed truckers, news crews, passers-by and Steve for what was customers only felt they could donate. Even giving Steve a wrapped five-pound wood-fire cooked roast when he left.

“We can’t refridgerate it. It will be ready for your eating anytime down the road.” Pete said when Steve left Lugs Cafe.

Quick calculations, and the android, calling himself Steve Aldin, tried to give Pete a fifty-dollar bill. Pete shook his head at first, then tore the bill in half.

“Come back this way and eat in our dining room when it is fully in operation, bring a friend and I’ll take that other half of a bill. We’ll call it even then.”

Steve shook his hand, a western habit. By his programming, he felt revulsion of touching an unclean person such as this. But the man washed, cooked, worked hard, drank only a bottle of water.

It seemed to show there were more errors in his database.

According to the enlightened leader and the programmers who followed the Imam. Anyone who did not follow the law in each step and facet he declared as unclean. He prohibited any unclean people inside the holy of holies where he planned the destruction of idols and idol worshippers in Arabia and Jerusalem.

But.

The curse of a fuzzy logic, sometimes the third leg of coding got in the way. In many ways, the binary coding of the twentieth century was suited to so many things. Zero or one. Yes or no.

Saif al Din had a “Maybe” coding. Zero, one, two.

And he retained it, adaptive programming kept him from being caught, unlike the previous versions that the Russian government caught. Either the earlier versions became confused or lost when the expected targets moved or the humans spotted his predecessors, who then self-destructed before travelling far.

He was the most advanced and powerful.

That he knew of. Core processors predicted a near certainty that others were under construction with a fifty-percent probability for  the next versions to deploy in the next twelve months.

The snow threatened to put him into danger once again. His walk down the road began to be seen with footsteps on the white-coated asphalt.

A snowplow trundled past, heading to some assignment on a main road, the flashing lights triggered the recent memory of stopping for a meal.

Several minutes later, a sedan pulled up with a light bar and the siren chirped. programming alerted to the law enforcement agent wanted him to approach.

If he had a confrontation, he would be arrested and no scans would pick up his fingerprints.

He would be an enigma to the database for citizens in the country.

Killing the officer would flag his location and his mission would be compromised.

Shifting quickly, he looked like a younger teenage youth.

“Son, where are you going?” The officer asked with an open look. The android had reduced the flow of all fluids to the dermis, making him pale.

“Sir,” He used a squeaky voice of a late-blooming teen as he approached the front of the car. “I’m on a mission to walk the lower forty-eight states to raise money for homeless.”

“Impressive. May I see your ident-chip?” The officer nodded. Not quite smiling, his neutral stance remained unconvinced,. “You are traveling light for the weather. Mister Aldin.”

“That would be my fault. I tried to jump a train a few miles back because it was getting cold, I put my pack in a cars door. When I went to get a sandwich, the train moved it when I was gone. When I tried to look for it, the security chased me off their property.”

This made the officer laugh.

“Well, you were trespassing.” He pulled at his chin, then clicked on his microphone at his shoulder. “Patrol One-seven-one.”

He waited for the response.

The sound was barely audible from where the android stood and waited. The officers earphone keeping the sound below human perception, but with his electronic sensors.

“Is the chaplain around? I have a lost sheep for him.”

Steve looked around, the term sheep was known, but the application was non-sequitur.

Then he realized it was he who the officer considered lost.

“Wait right here.” The officer said, sitting in his car, he typed on a computer display and sent off a message.

“Officer, can I sit in the car?” His core processors were registering the heat loss. “I’m cold.”

Pausing for a moment, the officer nodded and then out of habit, patted Steve down and removed the small nylon day-pack, looked inside, satisfied, he put it in the front seat and turned back to Steve.

“Have a seat in the back, I’ll keep the heater on.” He said. Steve sat in the rear of the patrol car, behind a solid shield between the front and rear of the car.

“The chaplain will be here soon.” The officer smiled at him, looking up, another patrol car pulled in behind them.

Another officer got out with more stripes and a white shirt, while the officer wore a navy-blue shirt.

The officers thought they were out of earshot, but the enhanced hearing, Steve listened in.

“You have him sitting in the prisoner area. Is he cuffed?”

“No, sir, he is just cold. I didn’t want him in front to limit access to the weapons and electronics.”

“Protocol, if he is in back, he wears cuffs.”

“I don’t want him in front, I have not had reason to run his identity past his ID chip.” The patrolman said.

“I’ll run it. You have the scan of it?” He held up his tablet and tapped a few times.

“Cuff him if you keep him in the back. He is not allowed up front.” The supervisor said. “Or he stands away from the vehicle.”

“I cannot detain him, I don’t have reasonable cause.”

“Find cause. He is not a local, so figure how to process him. Was he walking in the road?” The officer looked back at the footprints that were filling in. “He might have crossed over the line back there.”

“Sir, he is just cold, a youngster.”

The officers continued their conversation while Steve listened in. The situation was untenable, he couldn’t get out of the car unless the officer opened in from the outside.

He could not allow them to run his DNA or fingerprints. Two police officers were no threat to him, out in the middle of a highway, but the news of his presence after attacking the officers would put him under a microscope that he could not get away from.

Then.

A blessing from god, another car pulled in, the chaplain had arrived.

The first officer in blue walked ot the back of the car, followed by a middle-aged man who looked in better shape than the officer.

“Mr. Aldin, this is our chaplain, Reverend Carl Bonswell. He will take care of you.” The officer nodded the civilian clothed male and walked away.

The officer talking to himself,  pleased to avoiding the need to cuff the young man or otherwise have to process him like he was little more than a criminal, when his actions indicated nothing.

“Mr. Aldin, son, would you like to come to my car with me? I have a place for food and a roof, tonight is going to be cold and wet. The winter season has settled in somewhat early.”

“Steve, please.” He used the same squeaky voice.

“Okay, Steve. We have a shelter, it’s rarely used right now. We don’t get much call for homeless or transient people this time of the year.” The reverend said as they got in his car. “As such, the county has it closed now. So, you will be staying with my family tonight. Is this all you have?”

“Oh no, the officer took my knapsack, it’s in the front seat of his patrol car.” Steve said and opened the door to get out.

“No no! Stay here, get warm, I’ll get it.” Getting out, he stopped to talk to the patrolman and nodded.

Steve listened in, the chaplain only asked if the officer had patted down the youth and if he found any contraband.

“No. No weapons, interior sensors did not pick up even a trace of drugs. But, he’s soaked.” The officer smiled at the chaplain.

Satisfied, Carl gathered up the knapsack and returned it to Steve.

“Socks, t-shirt, and what else do you have in there?

“Some money my mom gave me. I’m supposed to walk for a cause, but I have lost my list, my clothes, my pack.” He gave the full pitiful story.

The reverend’s home was warm, smells included apple and peach, in a crock-pot.

“Carl, who is this? A new friend?” The woman was not classically beautiful, tall, broad-shouldered, her arms looked like some mens legs. She looked like she could have taken on both officers out on the highway, and win.

Quick assessment of her movements showed she was naturally built like this, then worked somewhere. The woman shook his hand, standing six-feet tall, broad shoulders, narrow waist and a flare to her hips. She appeared as an athlete, but he could not figure out her sport, but she moved as graceful as the cloudy leopard he once saw.

She was taller than Carl, but doted on him. Bringing Carl and Steve carefully ladled cups of the spiced peach cider out of the crock-pot.

“I thought you would put me in the shelter tonight. This is generous.” Steve accessed social protocol files. “Thank you.”

“No thanks needed.” The woman smiled and sat with them. “This is the best place for you, tonight. You have the guest bedroom, a shower is there with clean towels.”

Carl nodded as she continued.

“This is not a free stay, in the morning, we start at six o’clock. Breakfast is served at six-thirty, we have sandbags to deliver to the community center for homeowners. This storm is going to stay for some time before it gets cold enough to snow.” She said while sipping her drink.

Steve drank his virgin “Papple” cider and at a small square of dark chocolate “it is good for your health” . The carbohydrates converting into heat and electricity.

Police who argued that a good deed for a cold citizen could be cause for investigation.

A Christian man and his wife who open their home to him and not follow the rules and put him in a dorm-style bed that had thin mattresses and thinner blankets.

They bent the rules and let him sleep under thick blankets, eat their food and drink a drink while sitting in their house.

The woman who took care of her lover and husband was another oddity. She was not an obese, idol worshipping, world hating people.

She was a raven-haired woman with deep-set, searching eyes that showed her native heritage.

A kindness in her that extended to her husband, while he read from a well-worn bible.

No drugs, the odors in the house of cooking, crock-pot cider, smoke from the fireplace.

After a shower, core temperatures were in optimum operations, tissue repairs from hypothermia damage to his extremities were in full operation.

The experiences he had, the paradigm of the picture of the infidel American’s once again altered to fit the reality.

Tomorrow, he needed to donate his time to strangers.

This would be another first.

For the first time, the walking bomb looked forward to learning something new.

Steve, the Sword of Religion, was exceeding his programming in ways the creator never expected.

The Paramedic’s Last Christmas

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The Last Christmas

 

 

He sat on the balcony, a fingerling red potato in his hand, feeling the weight and shape of the hard tuber.

In the previous weeks, after he had completed training for his next level of 3rd Dan black-belt in his martial art and began to feel peaked.

He had tinkered on the potato gun for weeks, the competition leading up to the finals showed a very intense group of people who dedicated their lives and teamwork to launch a tuber the farthest.

One potato, like the one in his hand, flew for nearly two-kilometers, until the controversy erupted that the team had rifled the inside of the PVC tubing that gave a spin to the torpedo-shaped tuber and stabilized it in flight.

He softly laughed at the thought, the most you could get out of him these days, the contest also included contests on how far a pumpkin could be thrown with mechanical means.

Teams built such things as trebuchet, mega-sized elastic slingshots with hundreds of bungee cords attached to the sling, drawn back with an electric winch. One creative team came up with a crossbow monstrosity with a complex, compound shape that exploded when drawn back to full cock.

Investigation into the incident showed the structure was basically sound, but three bolts put in place team members forgot to tighten before drawing tension on the frame of the giant crossbow. The oversight worked for one launch, the next time they cranked the infernal contraption back, the limbs of the bow snapped forward in a dry fire, sending spring powered shrapnel flying for hundreds of feet, hitting people not even watching the giant bow being used.

The following year, the administration added new inspector teams to check everyone’s submission for the contest.

Such was the “Tater Gun and Punkin’ Chuckin’” contests. Two days of laughter, friends, shade-tree engineers and NASA types that got involved.

Including those of his own teams from the local company.

Those were good days, he mused. Since then, two of those friends had killed themselves. One stepped in front of an oncoming truck during a call. There was no proof of intent, other than she spoke of it with one person a year before.

Another, suntanned, handsome, he was out on the ocean beach one summer’s night and went for a swim, never to return.

The Employee Assistance Program, designed to prevent such events, but it was an uphill struggle. Those that sought help for the depression, the chronic pain from sitting in positions that they constantly found themselves in, for depression and insomnia, often were quietly categorised by other EMS teams as lesser value resources. 

“Weak mind.” Some whispered.

For this reason, few if any that activated the EAP or even spoke of it. When they did, it was a deep secret.

He scratched his nose, a medic of decades, the thing he missed most, was laughing.

Sleeping was difficult, too. The paramedic rarely remembered his dreams. But, those dreams he did remember, he wished he forgot before he awoke. As it was, he would wake with the feeling of dread, of darkness and sadness that cast a pall over everything. 

So he increased his caffeine intake and stayed up until the last moment he could. Where things such as turning off a light switch was an effort in decision-making, and then collapse into bed to go straight to sleep.

Maybe.

It was telling on his ability for critical-judgement calls. He began to feel afraid to leave the house and even got to a point of misanthropic frame of mind.

He disliked walking through crowds, a thousand faces he could look into in a single “Arts-&-Crafts” show, knowing that a certain percentage would be on medication for one ailment or another. Many were diabetic, under control and lived lives that no one would be aware that they had any trouble with their blood-glucose levels.

Other people, did not follow their schedule properly and would have a crisis building.

He could see those.

The perspiration, pallor. A lack of focus as they tried to keep up their composure, but failing.

He could see that, to him, it was obvious.

Once, German physicians had ridden with him and his junior partner on the Mobile Intensive Care Paramedic unit, in Germany, doctors rode on the rescue units to do the treatments needed. After witnessing the American version, they declared them slightly insane, in a humorous German way, and went back to their country to change how their system ran.

It mattered not, these days.

His last shift he had the privilege to have a twenty-one-day-old patient that an adult shook to death, a month after a fellow paramedic shot himself.

A darkness grew inside his soul in the weeks afterward until the infanticide call.

The days had come where he would think that his dark side was in control.

A paramedic that wept in the quiet hours when no one was around, driving his massive four-wheel-drive Ford F-450 that was his toy, he often pulled into a farmer’s field that lay fallow for the last four years, and wept. Unstoppably, deeply, until he could not breathe.

A bottle of Polish Rectified spirits sat in the armored lunch box behind the seat, its seal intact. He knew that the one-liter bottle of the fluid that had many uses.

Cleaner, fuel, sanitizer (in a pinch), antifreeze and even drink.

However, a dangerous drink. Ethanol is a poison at those concentrations of more than ninety-five percent pure.

Technically, for sale only in New York, but with connections he had long made, a six-pack of the ethanol laden bottles arrived at his door in a hard-sided case.

Five bottles sat in his house for people to gaze at. One he had opened. The sixth, sat in the truck in the fishing gear.

Not that he ever went fishing anymore, since his wife of a decade left and filed for divorce, saying that he was not home when she needed him. A curse of Fire, Police and EMS. Divorce rates seven-times the rate of civilians, locally.

He shot archery more often, it was less of a problem to get bait and being sure that the fishing license was in reach.

And it was quieter. He also did not trust himself anymore with a firearm in the empty house, it was a dark and empty place.

Still and all, he took steps. He ceased all drinking when on his own, which was frequent of late, focusing with a bow on a small target, he found more peace as he watched the shaft go on target more often than not.

Small targets he found, paper-plates held in place with toothpicks, colored in with sharpies he had around the house, they were the cheapest target he could find.

Today, he finished the potato gun. He wondered about the quarter-pound spud moving at more than two-football fields per second speed that might be a new distance champion shooter.

The other thought that he kept at bay, usually, with his archery and driving in the back-country, if he stood in front of the gun by accident while testing it, if it would hurt.

Shaking his head, he stood up and walked back in the house to get ready for the next shift.

Maybe he might have a traffic accident to help at, then grab at the opportunity to step in front of a semi-truck on the highway like the cute and flirty medic that got waffled by a semi.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

No. He would not do that. The driver would be an innocent in the on-duty suicide and totally unfair.

First rule: Above all, do no harm. It would harm the trucker in countless ways.

Pulling on the jumpsuit with all the patches that indicated his level of training and position as a paramedic team leader.

No, not tonight, he said to himself, finding once again the reason to choose to see it through to the end of the twenty-four hour shift.

A tenuous choice, but it was be another day. Regardless of how it worked out.

This was his last year.

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 60 Seconds

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T-Minus 60 Seconds

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

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

Space – Photons crossed the orbit of Venus, speeding on the way to Earth. Many of the photons would be absorbed by dust, debris and even reflected away by satellites before entering into the atmosphere of the only planet to have been absolute in the discovery of life on its surface.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a thousand yards ahead, LucyMay clenched her teeth in frustration, she hated traffic. Unwilling to admit that driving was becoming more difficult for her, she would argue with everyone and anyone over the subject that her mind was as acute as it ever was. Which was true, but her body suffered from greatly diminished reflexes.

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

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

Destiny awaited the players who were in play.

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

Time: T-Minus 35 Seconds.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 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.

Cellular Justice Chapter 3. SiO2

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Chapter 3. SiO2

Doctor Pitre Kamanski, Ph.D with specialties in micro-cellular anatomy examined the mounted tissue that the forensic pathologist had performed a stained mounting on the slide.

The slow scan of the tissue showed a shredding as if it had been hit with a meat tenderizer.

This was more than just high-velocity trauma from shock waves of an explosive, the tissue looked as if the victim’s body was dragged through a beach. There were micron-sized and larger objects in between the cells, in the cells and in the blood vessels that showed signs of severe microscopic hemorrhage. The image looked familiar but strange at the same time.

Doctor Kamanski made his notes on more and more of the various sized objects, making phone calls and requesting a mass-spec on the microscopic anomaly points.

An hour later, James Wilds returned his call. A radiologist of repute, his knowledge of chemistry was encyclopedic

‟Okay, what you asked me to scan on the other samples, I have scanned twelve of those available. What you have a question about it silicon dioxide, no other contaminants on eight of the twelve samples. Four samples show a carbon-nitrogen and chloride trace in low levels.” Jim said as he read off of a display. ‟Not enough to say a significant propellant charge, but could have been a kicker for the explosion. Traces of silver and copper in the carbon in specific ratios, there is one spike on a sample, just one sample, of potassium perchlorate. Silver carbide and copper acetyide in measurements of parts per million. Nearly complete combustion. The ratios remained consistent on rescan and it suggests that these are the initiators to detonation that killed the victims.”

‟Is it in high enough concentrations to create the explosive event that shredded the flesh? And where did this silicon dioxide come from? Sand? Are you sure it was silicon dioxide only?”

‟Yes, sand, ultra fine, it showed pure on the graph. Trace other elements are detectable. I will recheck the values if you like, but we ran the samples three times each. I’ll focus on the fine grains and see what we can bring to light.”

Thanking Jim for his work, Pitre pressed the ‟end call” button and bit his lip while he looked at the paper.

Taking a deep breath, he looked at the reports again. Small to ultra-small grains of silicon dioxide.

Pitre sat back with his arms crossed as he looked at the computer screen with the results and sighed.

What were the results telling them? He understood the language of reports better than anyone in the department, second to maybe Robert Burns, but what he was seeing did not tell him any patterns that he recognized.

Sand.

Glass, perhaps that had been pulverized in the explosion?

No, even with the current super-tough glass used in most devices these days had more than trace elements of potassium and aluminum in the chemical mix and would have shown up.

There was no aluminum trace showing, potassium showed outside of the range for toughened glass and a specific combination of oxidizer of a perchorate was going to be the key.

What was he reading?

Shock and Awe Chapter 14. The Twilight Zone

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Chapter 14. The Twilight Zone

Peace and Freedom Park, renamed several times through the years, finally evolved into a large park for cities of this size. It was, in fact, the largest park in the city.

One mile in circumference, standing on one end, the community museum operated by the council of tribes that lived in the area. Three stories above ground and two stories underground it was the pride of the community.

The crowning jewel was the casino they built with care and an eye for beauty and nature.

It was a beautiful park, great conifers that towered at the edges of the park. Ancient oak trees that seemed to tell stories by their very presence. The evenings were always peaceful with the ancient guardians of the park.

This evening was no different in the early autumn. In the beauty and space that families would come and play volleyball, touch-football and softball, a wide open area that begged for activity during the summer and weekends, a shadow floated down from above.

Soft whirring sound could be heard just before Radio Check touched down with the dark parasail, so gently that he did not even take a walking step.

From the trees, shadows emerged and moved quickly to Radio Check and relieved him of his heavy burden.

Four shadows on each corner of the package that held his equipment ran back to the road where a van waited and put the bag inside.

Another four shadows collected the wing and electric fan while Radio Check unhooked the harness.

In under a minute, they had packed up and vacated the area.

Climbing into the van, Radio Check was the last one to take his foot off the ground. Looking around, he smiled. It was all according to plan.

Excellent.

 

 

 

Flee Chapter 7. Morning’s Early Light

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7. Morning’s Early Light

 

Stormy nudged Andrea before dawn.

“Mm- mmph.” It was Andrea’s wittiest conversation she could have before morning coffee— her “Cuppa”.

Looking around Andrea nudged Gail.

Wh‘.” Was the best that the petite, muscular blond woman could verbalize as she stirred out of the best nighttime hibernation in a long while. She sat up, rubbing her eyes.

“The Archer is gone and Jameson is asleep.” Stormy said, matter-of-factly, but her eyes were sparkling with anger.

“Jameson!” Andrea threw a pillow at the coach driver with uncanny accuracy. “When did you come in?”

“Not long after Archer finished his shower. All you shelia’s went to bed, Al was asleep, he was up and said he was my relief and you were okay with it.”

In the control room, Al and the Archer were talking.

“ARCHER!” The women yelled as they came down the hallway.

“Uh-oh. Busted.” The Canadian chuckled. “You violated curfew.”

“Better to apologize than to ask permission.” Archer winked.

“You’re supposed get some sleep in.” Rachel said.

“You said to rest, and I did. I rested for an hour but could not catch any luck on sleep, so I came up here so that I would not disturb anyone.”

Stormy grumbled like distant thunder with lightning flashing her eyes, living up to her nickname.

“Men and children, the only difference are their sizes.” She said to Andrea.

Andrea laughed, looking at the two men that continued to gaze out the window at the outside world.

“What are you blokes looking at?” Andrea asked.

“Well,” Al said and looked out the window. “Birds.”

“Listen.” The Archer opened the heavy, armored-glass door to the outside courtyard.

The sounds of birds singing in the early morning light.

“I have not heard that in over a month. The birds stopped singing when all this happened.” Andrea said as she walked to the door listening to the music of nature’s composition for the first time in a long while. “What’s changed?”

“I’ve been standing watch for the last four hours. ” Archer said, Stormy gave an exasperated sigh at this news with fire in her eyes. “There has been not a single shuffler meander by. Not one.”

“Are they gone?”

“I couldn’t know about that, just that I have not seen them from the observation area. The only change is that we destroyed that vampire yesterday. After Al and Jameson ran down the street and took it into a church. We can rest assured it is not in control of anything at the moment.”

“Control?” Jameson yawned as he stumbled in. “Y’all disturbed m’ sleep.”

“I’ll do more than just disturbing your sleep.” Gale was dangerous sounding. “I should kick your arse down the hallway and back for not finishing your shift.”

“After my run down to the church there and all.” Jameson said, sounding a little more awake.

“Shut it!” Gail said, then turning to the Canadian. “Taking it into a church killed it?”

“Zac, Jameson and I took it down the road to the church— Catholic by the by— and when Jameson dropped it into a baptismal tub full of water. It bubbled and then burst into a flame, it was quite impressive.” Al said. “You’d think we dropped it into a vat of acid and gasoline, eh. It was quite exciting for a moment.”

“Yes, I would venture a guess that did it.” The Archer continued. “I’m not positive, just a theory. Now that it is lighter, there are bodies are visible, lying all around out there. Those bodies— over there and there — we didn’t shoot them. It looks like they collapsed suddenly, what ever it is that energizes them was abruptly cut off.”

“The vampire?” Stormy’s asked. “Are you saying the vampire controlled these zombie creatures?”

“That is what I’m supposing.”

“So you think it was controlling them.” Gale asked.

“I cannot say that for sure. It could just be motivational. A bit like saying ‘rise up and walk’ and then just let them shuffle around, aimlessly. No direction, just setting them loose to put pressure on the humans.” Archer shrugged. “It is a hypothesis based on the smallest bit of information.”

“So.” Stormy’s logical side took over. “You are saying that it is not a virus?”

“In the way it seems as of now. The jury is still out. If you excuse the term.” The Archer winked. “It could be a sort of, I do not know, maybe it is a sort of control opened by senescence – death. You become dead, your systems are inert and are open to control. A frog’s leg, for example, can move even though the frog is dead or the leg amputated. That could explain why those shufflers out there are not something that can be reasoned with. There is no mind. Just a power control.”

“That kind of power is unknown, nothing I have ever heard of can do that.” Gale said. “And it’s spread by contact with the zombies, not vampires. That makes no sense.”

“Yes, and true.” The Archer answered, nodding. “But it is all I have for now. Bigger brains than mine will need to think it over. One more reason to find a military center where they may have a fortress and are holding out against this. This started in Darwin, Sydney is the largest city, it should have a military base somewhere around the water.”

“Yes,” Jameson nodded. “There is a naval base on Garden Island there.”

“Perfect. An island is easily protected!” Al said. “That’s our destination.”

The Archer nodded. “Agreed.”

“No, it is not what you are thinking. It’s an island, but they have built so many roads and streets it don’t look like an island. Like your Manhattan island.”

“Still.” The Archer said slowly. “It is a base with defenders, I hope, and a place we can dock a boat to without walking across land with those flesh-eaters hunting fresh meat.”

“Okay, then prepare to leave. Pack light. We leave at sunrise.” Al said.

Archer agreed.

“Archer.” Zac said sleepily. “You were in the showers when we came back. I wanted to give this to you, but I was asleep before you finished cleaning up. The mum’s would not let me stay awake.” Zac pointed at the women as he held up an exotic shape of limbs and string.

“Where did you find that?” Archer’s eyes widened.

“I found this in a shop, it was in a glass case. The Sergeant said you would like this.” Zac smiled.

“Thank you,” Archer smiled as he ran his fingers over the four limbs of the bow. “You have any idea what you have here?”

“A bow. It is unusual, I have never seen one like it.” Zac said, his eyes glittering with glee that the face of the redhead lit up with a rare smile. “I never saw one with forked arms before.”

“This is a Penobscot style bow, it is custom-made by White Wolf in the United States. Look at this here. It’s called a Wind Warrior. And here? This is the number of the bow, the bowyer’s name and the draw it has. This one goes up to seventy-pounds. I don’t think I have heard of one that went that high before, the name etched into it here “Midnight”. I don’t know if that is the color or the name of the bow.”

“Name?” Zac asked.

 

Midnight, the bow.

Archer’s New Favorite bow

“A few shooters named their bows. I was one, but I’m considered a bit eclectic. My favorite bow was the Gertrude. But this one is my favorite now, she is beautiful.”

“She?” Andrea laughed lightly.

“Beauty, thy name is woman.” Archer said, looking again at the four-limbed bow as he held it up to the light. “The name of the bow is Midnight. Thank you, Zac, this is a wonderful gift.”

“Now if someone can point out the direction to my clothes, I have gotten chafed wearing this prisoner’s jumpsuit. It rides up a bit.” The Yank said, changing the subject.

Quiet snickers could be heard as he disappeared with Stormy down the hallway towards the laundry room, pulling at the prisoner garb uncomfortably.

“I keep getting a danged wedgie.”

Shock and Awe Chapter 11. Human Resources

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Chapter 11. Human Resources

Opening the vent, he used his cap once again for its lifting power.

On the floor of the office of human resources, all the police personnel files were kept. Fingerprints, backgrounds, ID photos.

Everything.

Everything about a man or woman who worked in this town was kept in a paper file to back up computer files. Under lock and key they existed, with the watchful organization of the obsessive compulsive director of personnel.

Two hasps on a fireproof file cabinet. Each padlock secured with a combination padlock. Different combinations. No one person had access to the sensitive files.

Never slowed down by such things. In the back of each lock was a key access in the event someone forgot the combination.

He had both sides open faster than it would have taken the secretary to dial in the combination on one lock.

Rolling the top drawer open, he flipped through the folders, pulling back on the tabs to read names and ranks.

Secretary, detective, chief of police, patrol officer.

They were all here. Two hundred files of combined sheriff and police. This office served both, being the county seat and offices that they consolidated several years before.  The government centralized and condensed files, every officer, sheriff, police, undercover, vice, homicide, mayor, secretaries, all from the lowliest janitor to the chief of police.

Right to this room.

From his backpack, Radio Check pulled out a thermos sized container with a “D” shaped handle on top. With measured movements, he twisted the handle and pumped it four times. Flipping the front of the sprayer down to expose the tip, adjusted it for a medium spray and dampened all the paper in the top drawer.

He repeated the same procedure in each drawer, moving from cabinet to cabinet, in twelve hours, all the paper would crumble into dust. Closing and locking the files as he finished with each drawer. The entire time was five minutes.

It had been thirty-five minutes since he pulled the triggers on his rifle. By now, they had discovered he was not anywhere on the basement levels. That the officers had driven him out and he somehow got up the stairs without being noticed.

It may have occurred to one of them that the elevator car had a service hatch. They would be checking it out. If they did so on the basement floor, they would notice that the air return vent would be curiously clean.

It was time to move.

Hooking his toe into the loop of the cable, he pressed the button for the winch to lift him. It was slowing down. The batteries were nearly depleted, but this was its last time it would be needed.

Shock and Awe Chapter 10. Going up!

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Chapter 10 Going up!

 

He had nearly dropped the vent in the room of the mainframe, pulling it up by the tips of his fingers, he saw the officer walk by the window. Her shadow stopped and he knew she was coming back to look.

She saw it.

*Damn. Maybe she didn’t know what she saw. * He thought.

Crawling back to the service hatch, he opened it and could hear the verbal commands that squad leaders were given to the men while they were holding the elevator door. They still did not know where he was, this was in the plus column for the operation. One officer,  wounded in the crossfire when he dropped the Chinese firecrackers as a distraction, this went in the minus column. Officers shot was not according to plan, most uniforms were innocents.

Stinger grenades not counting. He stepped over to the positive pressure side of the system and opened the hatch. The inflated fabric balloon had done its job and now was time to retire it.

Pulling a boot-knife, he sliced the material and stuffed it in his backpack, restoring the airflow to the lower levels and data center. He did not want anything to overheat there. Closing the service hatch, he slipped back into the air return and made his way to the elevator shaft.

Stepping gingerly on the steel supports that anchored the box of the elevator car. He squatted down and became part of the machine.

“C’mon, Russ. You are doing okay, just in the car.”

He could hear the woman’s voice clearly.

“I’m so sorry I shot you. Really.”

Friends? Partners? It made him smile. Either way, if the shot officer was a good enough man, they would become closer friends.

Radio Service laughed inwardly, the only outside appearance of his humor was a smile nearly hidden under his long beard. He was a cupid in a twisted sense of the phrase.

The difficult part now accomplished. As an option, he could stop at basement level-1 and mess with the police even more, but he had nothing against the honest men of the SWAT team. The elevator slowed and came to a stop on the main floor. More swat team had come in. Listening to them talk, they knew he was no longer in the bathroom.

Yeah, time to leave. Messing with them now was a game of chance. Thus far, there was nothing left to chance. All according to plan. The Swat level was only an option if time and events looked positive.

Stepping off the elevator car as it began its descent to the dispatch level, he hung on to the service ladder in the shaft.

Four floors of a ladder climb.

Well, three and a half, he would enter into the return vent on the top floor and access the human resources office.

Second floor, detectives level. He should try to figure out something to do there. But— it was not in the plans, so he kept climbing.

Third floor. An option to enter, Commanders, Vice-chief’s office general admin. Nearly all of it on computer. Access was already granted. He would spend far more time looking for tiny bits of information that did not pay them back in benefits.

Cost versus benefit at this point. The cost was too much time versus the risk of capture.

Fourth floor. Chief of Police. Files that were still on paper. Physical access to the stand-alone system that belonged only to the administration and the Chief himself.

Into the exhaust vent he stepped. This one was smaller by about a third. He could not sit straight up, but he could recline comfortably if he chose to.

A first look. A secretary type office. File cabinets, locked with a simple combination padlock, the type that had a keyhole in back.

Worth a look. He tagged the inside of the plenum with a yellow flashing LED light and moved on.

Sliding his thin camera down the vent, he looked at another office. The Chief of Police worked here. A massive desk, sumptuous decor. Pictures on the wall. Books everywhere. A long table on the far side of the room. But a dead-end.

He looked another few meters down. There was another corner. He looked at the Chief’s office again. Nope. There was no room or vestibule to call for a vent.

Making the corner and then to the downward bend, he slipped his snake-eye through the vent. There, a computer. Looked to be cabled for internet. But it was not a city issued piece of hardware.

This was the Chief’s personal computer.

Excellent!

Twisting the camera around, there were small speaker cabinets at four points at the ceiling where the wall met.

Not speakers.

Video cameras.

Oh, quite sly, Chief, quite sly.

Pulling out his tablet, he opened up a sniffer program and let it run for a few minutes. He was ahead on the timetable so he could spare the minutes.

Before the uniforms began a floor by floor sweep, he would still be gone and they would have layers of cordons around the block to look for him.

This group never just sealed a block. They sealed a block three times normally. One might slip through a single line of cops, but the Croix Bay police? It was a minimum of three levels. They had their fair share of fugitives running from other law enforcement. No-one slipped past them, they always got their man.

Well, except for tonight. Around the building they would have all the available patrols. This is right where he wanted them. Running around in the basement, playing war with shadows while he was in the Chief’s personal entertainment system.

Maybe. He was watching the sniffer.

There! A spike in broadcast. A handshake. Data transmitted back and forth.

He sent a corrupted packet, knocking the wifi connection off. The item logging into the computer would fail and need to retry.

And it did. Two times, three times. He used the patience of the machine against itself.

Then he had a break. The complete log in sequence from the cameras. While the camera cycled for yet another attempt to log into the computer, he logged in using the camera’s MAC and identifier.

Although he was in the air duct, he now had control of the computer as if he was sitting at the keyboard.

Intercepting the camera signal, he successfully logged it into his tablet and download the images it had stored. One picture per minute. High resolution. Radio Check nodded, not an unreasonable setup, except for the outdated operating system. A bit of poking around, he found the password file.

The password file was not even encrypted. He downloaded it and sent it on to the radio service, packed up and crawled back to the HR office. Scanning around, a motion sensor was on the wall covering the room.

“Radio service radio check, hardware check.”

“Go ahead. You are on Vee-Oh-Eye-Pee with an IP address.”

“Sending you images. Do you have this under control?”

“Radio check. Copy sensor, it routes through to dispatch. Outer Limits. You are clear.”

It was the most talkative that radio service had been in a long time. Radio Service hated the sound of his own voice and was terse over the open air, but this was downright talkative for him.

He would have to tell Radio Service that he nearly talked Radio Check’s ear off in these few seconds.

Shock and Awe Chapter 9. Dispatch Point of View

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*Note: Out of Sequence with Chapter 8*

9. Dispatch POV

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

All in all the stations were very ergonomic with colored displays that indicated on a map where each unit was and their status. Red for committed to a call. Green for available, yellow, blue, white with red lettering all with various needs for out-of-service units. Fire and ambulance shown on other maps with a supervisor with an overview option of all units. But this made for a very busy screen. Supervisor usually had four screens available with touch screen overlays as they wished.

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

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

Carol ‟The Crush” Swenson, the designated batter and home run queen for the departments baseball team stood up and motioned over to supervisor.

‟Mike, can you come here please? I can’t make ou…oooww!” She ripped her headset out of her ear and unplugged it from the console. Hitting a button and playing it in loudspeaker.

‟…shot! We have doors locked in the foyer. We need backup now! Goddammit now!”

‟Where is that?”

‟That is Adkins on the first floor.”

Mike nodded. ‟Code-33.”

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

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

‟All units, code thirty-three is in effect. Emergency traffic only. All units code three-three. A shooting in progress at zero main street lobby.”

Carol made motions with her hands, sign language between the dispatchers. An excellent group that had worked together and had shined through several disasters over the years.

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

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

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

Police units from the seventy-five thousand population seaside city had ETA of two to fifteen minutes.

‟Mike, Fire and EMS is en route to the staging area.”

Concussions echoed through the ventilation system, huge booms rattled the building.

‟Crap. All extra personnel out. Gwen, get your rifle.” Mike checked his sidearm and put on the holster that lived in his drawer. In a quarter-century in dispatch, he never had the thought that the police headquarters would be a target for an attack.

The watch commander’s voice came up on the radio, she called for EMS to respond as she had officers down. Suzanne Irby’s eyes were wide as the little English woman was on the edge of panic, it was only her fourth month on the job.

Officer Gwen Davies walked in with an automatic rifle and placed it close to her desk. She took a place behind monitors that watched the hallways on the second basement level. No one would walk down the passage without her seeing them. Ex-military, she would give them her own version of hell with her rifle.

Sitting at the north end of the dispatch room. She had, at one time when the architect designed it, an unfettered view of the doors.

In the years since, walls went up with monitors mounted to code requirements, faith in the idea that no one would possibly ever penetrate to the heart of the police department had let the need for more equipment and displays allow for blind spots.

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

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

No chance at all.

Flee Chapter 4. Revelation

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Dracul/Nosferatu Type Vampire Skull

Image of Ondode/Nosferatu type Vampire Skull.

4. Revelation

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

But they were not alone.

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

“Stop walking.” Andrea hissed at Archer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrea and The Archer looked at each other and laughed.

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

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

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

“Rise? A-a-again?” It was Zac.

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

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

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

“Coincidence.”  The downed man moaned out.

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

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

“Is it dead?” Jameson pleaded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let’s make it done.” Al ordered.

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

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

Shock and Awe Chapter 8. Dispatch

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Chapter 8. Dispatch

Stepping out of the air-return shaft, he pressed a button in his pocket.

Little more than a car door remote.

Above, in the ventilation duct, an electronic board received his signal, inflating the folded square of cloth that tightly fit inside the plenum, blocking all fresh air from being delivered to the lower floors, becoming an effective cork.

The intruder gently rolled two smoke canisters to each end of the hallway and pressed the button on a spray can, deploying a vapor that smelled like melting plastic.

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

“FIRE!”

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

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

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

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

The intruder rolled multiple stinger grenades into the dispatch center that detonated rapidly, causing Davies to duck and take stock that she was still alive.

Too late to stop the intruder who had plugged into a USB port with his equipment and pressed a button, data surged through the now-allowed hardware that rebooted the entire dispatch system.

The officer, deciding the grenades did not injure her permanently, took position and tried to take a sighting on the intruder through the smoke. But there were too many obstacles, the air was too murky to shoot at a shape with people sitting up when the monitors went dark.

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

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

“Hello.”

“Lieutenant! He is down here in dispatch!”

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

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

“Go ahead for Davies.”

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

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

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

“Who is on tonight?”

“Leslie Murrie. Why?”

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

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

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

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

Pops of gunfire sounded.

“He’s shooting! Small caliber!”

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

A scream from the smoke.

BOO-YA! She bagged a bad guy! This gave Gwen a savage pleasure.

“I’M HIT!” 

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

It was Russ!

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

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

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

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

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

Walking a step farther, paper tatters all over the place.

Firecrackers.

The asshole faked shooting, now she shot Russ.

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

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

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

“Did he come this way?”

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

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

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

“You got him?” The masked swat officer asked Gwen.

“Yeah.” And she pulled Russ to his feet and headed to the open elevator.

She smiled grimly, bad guy screwed the pooch now.

SWAT was the best of their best.

Gwen would pay good money to see this bastard get taken down by the team.

Flee Chapter 3. Stepping Out

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3. Stepping Out

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sergeant nodded.

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

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

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

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

But Andrea could not care less.

Shock and Awe Chapter 6 The Chief

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Chapter 6. The Chief

The first of the units closest to the police department came down the main drag with its lights and sirens on full, going through a red light at over eighty miles-per-hour. The patrol car collided with the back-end of a delivery truck as it crossed with its green light. The impact spun the truck off the street and backwards into the oldest eatery in downtown, “Mongolian bbq” restaurant, spilling the contents destined for “Shannon’s Vip Lounge and Bar”— thirty cases of scotch, vodka, rum and tequila.

Employees of the restaurant used every single fire extinguisher they could to prevent the spread of fire on the ethanol that spread over the floor and filled the old building with flammable vapor.

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

Chief of police Steven Whiting, hearing that an accident occurred redoubled his efforts to get through the traffic from inland, heading to the coast and the family breadwinners as they headed home.

He pressed harder on the throttle of the hemi-powered SUV that served as his command vehicle surged forward down the middle of the highway in the turning lane.

*THUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMP*

“Dammit!” The vibration came through his steering wheel as he pushed over to the side and cut his lights. Not sure what was the problem, he took his hand-held mini-sun (”At full power guaranteed second only to a laser”) and looked at his tires.

There! On the left rear tire in the middle of the tread, a metallic hex-head of a bolt. Debris in the turning lane took him out of the ride. Returning to the driver door, he opened it and grabbed the radio, cursing the earth, the miners of iron, smelters of steel and bolt-makers in general, he called to get a roadside assistance and get any close units to pick him up.

Spinning the CAD computer display so he could see it, X-Adam-2 was behind him coming up. A swat prepped car, it carried basic swat equipment in it with two trained officers. Designed to prevent the spread of a situation or back up Baker units until the arrival of more — if needed — equipment and personnel.

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

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

Administration channel was quiet and he asked for an update.

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

“Copy.Have Xray-Adam-2 to stop and pick me up. I am stopped with a flat tire.”

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

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

“Copy, thank you.”

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 5. Elevator

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Chapter 5. Elevator

Attaching the cap to an anchor— in this case the double-barreled flintlock laid across the vent— by a hook hidden in the fur lining of his cap, Radio Check dropped down for the briefest of moments and pressed the call button on the elevator for down. Then, using the winch he lifted back up to his hiding hole, noting as he did so that there was an air return vent about ten-paces back. An air return might connect to the elevator shaft, this was a good development.

Elevator dinged and the doors opened to an empty lift. He positioned himself when he heard another boom echo down the air-vents. It was a different texture, a stun grenade from the police. They had tossed one into the men’s room. They were close to finding they were breaching an empty room.

Odd. He had not heard the stinger grenades go off. They still would stay clear the room after that event until the swat swept the room for more booby-traps. If they so much as nudged the chair that the stinger was under, the little concealed ramp would fall and roll it into the middle of the room where it would burst with a thousand little low density polymer balls.

Much like a super-powered airsoft toy weapon, this would hurt, just not kill.

Slipping down, he put his backpack into the lift and pressed the “B-2” button, not waiting for the door to close, he opened the service hatch in the ceiling and climbed up, using a parachute cord to pull his equipment up on top of the elevator car.

The elevator stopped as commanded at the second basement level where the dispatch center was. It was much cooler down at that level, much of the cooled air directed into the data center by the vents kept the temperature in the acceptable range and he found the exhaust vent easily. Spring releases on each corner and the vent that serviced the entire floor was open. Easily large enough to let him sit upright with his tools.

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

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

They were all at or on their way to one spot.

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

The stinger grenades had gone off.

Placing a magnet-backed blinking green led on the inside of the plenum, he now had a marker on where dispatch was without looking for it again.

Radio Check smiled, the operation was successful to this point as he accomplished the difficult part  in misdirection. The officers attacking an empty room, now two floors above.

Shock and Awe Chapter 4 Swat Point of View

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Chapter 4. Swat Point of View

 

Blinded and deafened. Eight officers and a watch commander staggered out the door, calling for immediate backup and EMS over her radio.

“We have a multi-casualty event, I am declaring an MCI. We have ten officers needing assistance in the foyer of the police headquarters. We have a suspect in a shooting barricaded inside. We are withdrawing outside the front door.”

Looking around, she picked up the ram, bumping the chair it leaned against as she did so.

Something rolled out and a lever popped off.

OhFUCK! Grenade!”

The grenade burst, but it was different this time.

This time it was a stinger

Pellets flew everywhere, a few striking two objects stuck into the acoustic tile in the ceiling.

Two more stinger grenades with spikes thrown up to the panels, stuck-fast and remained armed with hair-wires that waited for something to touch them.

Like a pellet.

Two more explosions of the polymer-bead laden grenades overlapped each other.

The air became thick with three-thousand randomly directed high-velocity pellets, leaving welts on the officers and clerks convinced, with screams of pain, that shrapnel was shredding them.

Sergeant Leslie Murrie’s left side of her face was on fire as if someone had slapped her, hard. Holding a hand to her face, it throbbed and felt like the skin was falling off.

Backup! We need backup! We have bombs in the foyer and people down!” She tried to use a controlled, calm voice but it came out as a shriek as she staggered out the doors with the other entry team members, choking and stumbling.

She was the last one to leave the seating area, leaving after even the worst hurt of the clerks and officers that had stumbled or tripped during the fourteen explosions and something that just plain hurt.

“Backup en route.” It was dispatch, speaking as calmly as if giving a weather report.”Mutual-aid Sheriff, swat and all patrol units en route to your location. Stand-by for ETA.”

“Disregard ETA update, just get them here.”

“Acknowledged.”

This annoyed Leslie that they were so calm, but then, they were three floors underground and isolated from this bad-guy that made a wreck of the foyer and her team.  But, she was wrong about dispatch being isolated.

Extremely wrong.

Shock and Awe Chapter 3: Office

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Chapter 3. The office

 

Quietly pushing up into the HVAC, the old style air chamber was not engineered for constant air velocity which was good for him, because all his equipment fit, even the big flintlock.  He climbed up and crawled through the space where there were no locks or doors towards the back of the building without the worry of being challenged, making good time. Counting to the tenth vent, he quietly opened it.

Dropping down into the watch commander’s office, he plugged in a USB memory stick to the back of the computer. He stretched outUSB data cord  and plugged the other end into his tablet computer and overrode the fragile operating system written by a small team in Washington State.

In thirty seconds his clock ran out and knew it was time to go when the first of the impacts of the breaching ram hit the men’s room door.

The police only had to get it open just enough for the trip-wire flashbang grenade to pull loose and roll into the foyer where the group of police stood. Two more grenades would go off. One more flashbang and a stinger grenade, it would be an exciting evening for the local law enforcement in Croix Bay.

Back up he climbed. The furry hat with its little winch hidden inside did its job well as it assisted him to climb back up into the plenum chamber of the air delivery system of the main floor of the police department.

A series of booms echoed along the airshaft, the police had succeeded in forcing the armored door, designed to protect people in case of an attack, with their battering ram. They had a shock when the booby-trapped door rolled out a multi-bang stun grenade. He tucked an earplug in his opposite ear to protect on the next series of bangs that he knew were coming and continued to crawl along the tube that was not listed. It ran along the path of the smaller plenum chamber that was in the blueprints. This was a fortunate, but worried him, if they had engineered the airflow so to keep the air velocity up, he could be compromised and need to change the plan.

Turning the corner, he peeked down a vent, hanging half down the hole and saw that he was right in front of the elevator, behind a camera that looked down the hallway in the opposite direction, just as shown in the plans.

Excellent.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 2: Assault

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Chapter 2. Assault

Watching the sign in front of the police department headquarters count down to midnight. A slight change in how the clock looked and they added seconds. and they synced the clock to internet time. Then it clicked over to the next hour.

“Eighteen-hundred tone.” It would be the last transmission for a while unless things went sideways. A small tone sounded in the earphone, it was an electronically generated tone of 2600 hz sound and now everyone knew that they were now on the clock.

The Grizzly Adams wannabe walked through the doors of the foyer that remained unlocked twenty-four hours a day to deal with business that always seemed to find its way to the clerk’s window. Fix-it tickets signed off, complaints filed, young reporters reading the register right up to midnight, trying to be the first to pick up on something interesting.

The clerk looked up and was momentarily startled by the view of the mountain man walking through the doors, she started to smile. It was not uncommon to see dressed up people this time of year, even if he was a bit early in the season.

Mountain Man walked up towards the window, it was very thick polycarbonate bullet resistant panel bolted to very thick polycarbonate and required the use of speakers and microphones to communicate.

She was just asking if she could help him when he stopped and smiled. “Sorry for this.”

Then he aimed the long rifle— it was as long as she was tall— and he said in a conversational tone.

“But… Duck.”

Kirsten Kloster screamed as she hit an alarm button and ducked. The report of both barrels of the blackpowder long gun rocked the very floor of the room.

Something fell on Kirsten, she screamed as it sounded like the wall fell over.

It had, the impact of twin chunks of lead with a collective kinetic energy greater than the window mounts could withstand. The bullet resistant barrier fell in, followed by a dense choking cloud that smelled of sulfur. Bob Adkins, the other clerk was screaming into a radio for help.

Alarms sounded and magnetic plates locked the doors in place, normally left open round the clock, now they were solid and immovable. There was no more shooting and radio traffic said that back-up was two-minutes away, everyone was responding from all points.

Footsteps pounded up stairs as seven police officers ran from the downstairs armory towards the foyer up the steps. They burst through the door that prevented anyone from going into the back offices unchecked and began choking on the smoke that was dissipating in the large room.

Looking about, the officers covered the room with multiple layers of crisscrossed laser sights.

“Where is the shooter?” Shouted the watch commander.

“He was there!” Adkins yelled and pointed to the middle of the room.

“Sweep the area. Check the restrooms.” The watch commander Sargent Leslie Murrie said as she surveyed  the destroyed window, torn from the mountings of the three-clerk wall.

“Miss Kloster, what window were you standing at?”

“I don’t know, the middle one. He said to duck before he pulled the trigger.”

“He said … Duck?” Leslie said in disbelief. “If he was shooting, why did he give a warning and why did he aim at a window that no one was at?”

“Sargent! He has blocked the Men’s room door.”

“Call him out.” Standing on either side, an officer banged on the door. “

Sir! Come out now. You have no exit, there is no window in there. Sir! Come out with your hands empty, arms up and walk backwards out of the door!”

There was no sound other than footsteps coming down the hallway of the swat team that had geared up rapidly with forced entry tools and stun “flashbang” grenades. And a favorite tool for forced entry, someone brought the two-man ram to force a door.

Pushing on the steel restroom door, it did not give even a little. He had thrown the emergency deadbolt. A twin-bolt lock with a key required on either side to throw the bolts without setting off the alarm.  Without a key , he had to have picked it from the inside to activate the lock.

“Kirsten, key please.” It was Jake, a ten-year patrolman that enjoyed driving. Even if his history had a long record of destroyed patrol cars, to his credit, he had never hit any moving object. Always trees, fences, one mailbox, ditches and only one fatality of running over Marty MacBean the mascot at the MacBean’s chili house.

The plastic head of Marty MacBean still adorned the squad room after two years.

The key refused to slide into the lock, on close inspection, the unknown subject had jammed toothpicks into the keyhole.

“Fuck it, use the ram.”

“Sir!” Jake pounded on the door.”Sir come out, if we have to come in it will not go well for you.”

Sirens sounded outside, approaching patrol cars were responding code-3 on a call for an emergency.

“Cancel them, Kirsten.” Leslie said. “We have him contained.”

“Sir,” Jake repeated with pounding. “That was a good trick with the toothpicks, you need to unlock the door and come out or we are coming in.”

“Ram it.” Jake nodded. “Toss in one of your party poppers when you get it open.”

Two of the biggest officers rushed up and swung the thirty-kilo battering ram. The door barely rattled in the hinges and failed to open, twice— three times. Four. Five! The fire-rated steel door did not give easily.

With redoubled effort, the two big men hit the steel-clad and core fire-rated door with a design to resist an assault and be a panic room shelter. Twenty strokes, the door bowed in as they forced their way. A gap opened the width of half of a hand and something rolled out, it was a cylinder about as thick as a flashlight and as long as a hand was wide, and attached to a short cord that pulled a pin as the cylinder reached the end.

“GRENADE!” Leslie yelled. The detonation was not half has loud as the whistle, but it was as bright as if one would to look directly into the sun for a blink of an eye.

And again! The whistling sound it produced was painful.

And again! The light made bones in one of the officers hands that he covered his face with, visible as shadows for a moment. Five times in all the cylinder puffed out a cloud of dust and ignited it with deafening booms.

The shock could be felt in the very core of their chests, cups fell off of desks, papers ruffled and fell to the floor.

And another cylinder hidden against the wall behind a plastic waiting chair was jarred loose from the explosions and fell to the floor and popped off it’s spoon on impact with the tile.

And deafened them with another five blinding explosions with whistles that exceeded comfort levels.

“Throw one in!” Leslie yelled. “WHAT?”

The SWAT team member yelled.

“I will throw in now.”

“I had said that.” Leslie yelled back. The officer looked at her oddly as he pulled the pin on a flashbang and tossed it into the opening.

But dizzy and dazzled, mostly deaf by the ten flashbangs that had been left for them. He missed.

“FUCK! GRENADE!”

BOOM!

For the eleventh time the police endured  the concussion and flash of a flashbang grenade in an enclosed space.

Shock And Awe: a Short Story

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Shock And Awe

Chapter 1. Radio Check

Night came early this time of year and was as any night in the busy city by the harbor. Located in the hills above the Pacific Coast of the American western states, it was a crossroads from the coast to those that traveled to play in the mountains or returned to go back to school or the mundane misery of work.

All but one person.

He walked down the street, a curious looking fellow. Dressed in an over-sized leather jacket, rawhide pants and a calico print shirt. On his back, an archaic backpack of recent construction. Every tied knot perfect, each pocket stuffed full. On the left side he had tied frying pans and the right was a canteen that was as equally ancient looking.

He wore a cap made of some fur-bearing animal with a tail that hung down the back of his head. Dense black fur kept his head covered and from it hung a leather eye-covering mask with tiny holes. A defense against snow-blindness when it was necessary. Tonight was cold, but no snow had fallen yet in the year, it was still early in the season. Not even the holiday shoppers had even begun their purchases in earnest.

Still, he was a man out of time. Maybe not a serious turn of the eye for most folks at night— it was not out of the question for the odd wanderer to travel through by way of train that ran through the community of seventy-five thousand souls.

In his hands, however, he carried a long weapon. As ancient as the style of clothing he wore, as if he dressed for Halloween early, or a mountain man convention. The flintlock was, by outward appearances, perfect in every way to the cursory inspection.

This old style weapon, however, was different. Double-barreled, twin flint locks and double-set triggers with a select lever. He could choose between either one or both barrels. In the days of history past, this would be a heavy artillery item in combat.

Today, it was little different, there would be no open combat, there was another mission at hand. The mountain man stood in the shadows of a parking structure, standing across from the police headquarters.

Police main station, a tribute to late 1960’s construction, with regular remodeling over the years that extended its useful life. Every permit, every plan drawn up part of public record if one knew where to look.

The mountain man had looked, along with his team, at all the blueprints, permits and plans. Every single one.

“Radio service, radio check.” He spoke quietly, his long, scraggly beard hiding the microphone at his throat. The earphone hidden by his cap.

“Five by five.”

It was only to let them know he was ready. In the sky, he watched a dark shape float by, listening hard, he could just hear a faint whirring sound, then a parachute-slowed payload dropped quietly on the roof of the police structure.

“Parcel delivered.” The earphone whispered in his ear.

The assault had begun.