Smart Bomb Chapter 7. Smart Car (rewritten)

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Chapter 7. Smart Car

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

Steve woke up.

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

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

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

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

Blood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She is a gynoid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This woman is running from someone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She is willing and knows the exchange.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yet?

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

Lovers, haters, atheists and devout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Information where the database was wrong:

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

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

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

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

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

What was observed and recorded and the patch would reflect:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humans would have called them dreams.

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Married by Mistake Chapter 45. The Mother-Child Reunion

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Chapter 45. The Mother-Child Reunion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He, she promised herself, would work for her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Reserved.” Mom said and nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

‟Well…”

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

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

‟And Melanie .” Kaylee said.

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

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

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

‟Should I have done that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That would be funny and romantic!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟Hi! I’m Samantha, Glenn’s wife.” 

Married by Mistake Chapter 34. Flight Plans

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Chapter 34. Flight Plans

Kaylee finished dressing while Tom pulled on his clothes in awkward silence.

“Why are you mad at me?” Tom said as they walked across the tarmac to the flight control office.

“If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.” Her words chilled the air.

Tom rolled his eyes in that way that drives women crazy and would turn Mother Theresa into a club wielding banshee if she had seen it.

Half-way from the office in the three-hundred meter hike, Kaylee started to laugh and took Tom’s hand.

“I’m sorry. But I kind of thought you would be a little heartbroken.” She smiled. “I was hurt you are just okay with it.”

“Kaylee, no, I’m not okay with it.” Tom said as they walked through the door. “But, if I trapped you here, what good would that do? You’d leave anyway and never return. My way, it stings like a slap, but you might decide that you like life on the Pacific Wizard and the need to renew your passport once-a-decade.”

“Renew my passport? What do you mean?”

“You can’t leave home without it. If we went anywhere, like the U.K. to watch Doctor Manga’s installation for example, you will need that silly-assed bit of paper and plastic.”

“Hm. I don’t know, Tom. You make me feel…”

The clerk walked in and Tom pulled a form from the slot and began to fill in the blanks.

They finished the paperwork in ten-minutes, filed with the person behind the desk and walked out, Kaylee felt a pang of sadness when Tom took her hand as they walked back to the Flying Sea Dragon.

“I’m serious, Kaylee. I don’t want to see you go. But there is an old poster about a butterfly or a bird or something, you let it go and if it returns, et-cetera.”

“Yeah. Who knows. Maybe Glenn needs to tell me he is gay and everything is off, because he is in love with some guy named Joe Young or something.”

“We talked about this, I don’t want to think I’m a consolation prize. You make me smile wide because you are my wife.” Tom smiled at her. “But I laugh because I am your husband.”

“What?” Kaylee blinked. “I don’t understand you, you are talking in riddles.”

“No riddle. I smile because I got such a great treasure, if I can count you as such, and in comparison, you got the joke prize. I got a better deal by far out of this whole situation than you did.”

Tom laughed out loud at this.

For a moment, Kaylee pondered what he had said.

Then she began to laugh.

“Tom, you are the treasure. Never say otherwise.” She kissed his hand and continued to swing it in hers.

“Yeah. Ain’t ever going to happen. I’m just a writer, I am not a treasure. You are the gem in this relationship. I’m a damaged diamond, a shattered sapphire, a pulverized pearl, a…”

“Okay, enough. And you are not.” Kaylee said pulling on his hand as they got close to the big jet. “You have had more sorrow than anyone should be allowed, but you are awesome. You make me draw and paint. You keep me turned on, creatively speaking.”

“I thought…” Tom was winking like a dirty old man in a bar.

“Shh. I am being serious and trying to tell you my heart, you are trying to make a joke.”

“Sorry.”

“Men are all alike.”

“Well. Yeah. We’re married at the moment, I’m supposed to act like that, it’s in the rule book.”

“You are changing the subject.” She growled at him. “Is this bothering you?”

“Yeah, you could say that.”

“Okay, well, I would like to go back to my old life, but it is not going to happen. You have already spoiled me.”

“That is a good job, spoiling you. Glenn will have to work that much harder.” Tom said as they approached the Sea Dragon.

“You have raised the bar high on that.”

“I hope so.”

“Where are we going now?” Kaylee asked as Tom walked past the steps going up to the door of the jet.

“Over here to the service office on the far side of the hanger. I need to do a couple of things. first is to make sure the payment for the services is complete and two, that the inspection by the FAA officer clears the Dragon for flight. I want to go over it together with him and make sure that nothing falls off the yacht while we are airborne, that would go into the bad column.”

“What if we took a commercial flight?”

“We could, but then we would be at the mercy of the commercial operators and TSA officers that are tasked with complex jobs that now take hours what used to take minutes when our grandparents traveled. Back in the day of Humphry Bogart and Casablanca.”

“I wish it would be like that. I could so make a charcoal of that.”

“How long would it take you?”

“I… I don’t know, why do you ask?”

“Well, I need to find that pain in my neck FAA agent or we have to charter a plane, or we have to buy tickets and wander over to the terminal and be tourists in Vegas. It may take hours to do that last part, just to leave on a commercial airline, so you might go do some drawing?”

“And leave the business to you while I entertain myself? Hardly, Mr. Harte. I am not just along for the ride, I will help you make this happen, even if it is my choice— right or wrong. I control my destiny.”

“One day, Missus Harte, you will be in charge of your own house of beauty, painting and sculpture. You will be an artist in demand.” Tom nodded. “You have the attitude.”

“Right? Just for now, I have to finish another year of college, get my business admin minor out of the way. Melanie will help me, we keep each other balanced with life’s challenges.”

“I would like to get to know Melanie better.” Tom smiled.

“Tom, do you plan to replace me, already?”

“Heh. No.” He back-pedaled quickly. “She just sounds like a good friend to have. And she likes my movie.”

“Oh, you don’t know the half of it. She is a true fan and in love with some of your characters. The airship pirates, some of the princes. Her costume for Halloween last year was the red-headed pirate princess, I can’t remember the character’s name.”

“Julia Aquila.”

“Yeah! That’s it, Melanie makes a good Princess Aquila.”

“SteamLand is fun to write.”

“Is? It’s not finished?”

“Heck-no. There are lots of adventures for the Sky-Pirate empire to deal with.” Tom smiled with the memory of writing the novel series.

“I thought you liked to write children books now?”

“Yeah, that is fun, but SteamLand.” Tom smiled wide. “I really enjoy writing. So much fun with that. Roman times, airship pirates, steam-powered arrows, demi-gods. A lot of fun.”

“Demi-god?”

“Oh. Ut-oh. Spoiler-alert.” Tom laughed. “Let’s go over here. This way we can talk without being distracted.

Together they went to cancel flight plans and charter an executive jet, instead of taking the yacht.