Smart Bomb Chapter 4. Sandbagged

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Chapter 4. Sandbagged

During the night, the android bomb that everyone knew as a teenager named Steve,  the guest bed in the house of the Reverend Car and listened to the sounds in the house.  But the murmuring of the married couple in the far side of the house was beyond even his enhanced hearing.

Rustling noises of his hosts quieted after several minutes after Reverend Carl walked around and turned off the lights in the family room.

After the lights went out and silence followed, he laid on the bed in the dark. His core systems were able control the body temperature easily in the darkness and he performed information and systems maintenance. 

The time passed and the silent house, all outside sounds obliterated by the soft white-sound of falling rain and reduced his ability to hear.

Reducing his power generation, he was able to turn up the power to an electric blanket that the Reverend’s wife supplied.

He closed his eyes in the approximation of sleep, and the systems powered down more than expected.

Then…

In the darkness, his hearing alerted to the sound of the approaching of someone down the hallway.

The length of steps he calculated to the tall wife of the Reverend.

“Steve, time to wake up.” She said softly. “Breakfast in a half-hour.”

“Thank you, I’m awake.” He answered in positive tones.

“You sleep light.”

If I slept. He thought to himself. I would sleep light.

A check on his system, there were gaps of suspended operations where power use was minimal.

Nearly zero draw.

Odd. If machines slept, I would have been asleep. But that was impossible.

Nothing in the database addressed suspend process at night. He was not programmed to suspend operations. Level-one diagnostics were performed multiple times for verification and he ran the programs twice over.

His core systems generated three reports, each one listed no errors.   

Why had so many systems suspended operations?  He was still operating well enough. 

Curious.

Smaller machines would suspend operation to power down, but he was not programmed included by the creator to do that. It had been planned that he did not need to shut down. His mission was a one way and longevity was not a concern.

His programming  was simple:  To get to the target while traveling through the non-believer filth that was America. There would be no power down, or full operation suspending. 

Except he found information that his programming failed to expect. One police officer that applied rules without consideration to the circumstances. But the first, opposed the supervisor on the point of human kindness.

A family that opened their home.

He stood up out of bed, all his senses working at capacity. Every sensor told the core systems that the flesh that covered his carbon-fiber re-enforced polymer frame was in normal parameters, although joints were stiff. The ceramic armor that covered the vital core processors sensed the direction of gravity when Steve stood and the system checks all came back as nominal.

Still he had the need to stretch, the sensation was unique and pleasant.

Nothing in the database described the feeling of the stretch, however, the status of his joints increased by twenty-percent.

And more what was more important, it felt good. 

A significant amount, he understood why humans had the instinct to stretch their bodies when they rose after a sleep period.

At breakfast the food at the breakfast table was simple, but plentiful.

Genesee Bonsell had shredded potatoes and scrambled eggs with coffee and fruit juices.

“Eat up, I have muffins in the oven, we need to arrive at the church at sunrise.” She poured herself the strong, black steaming coffee from an insulated pitcher. “And a long day until lunch. People worry and fret about flooding and we have twelve tons of sand at the church being delivered before sunrise.”

“So, why are we needed to go there in the rain?” Steve asked. Processors called up data on thermal loss, what he recorded in the last week of cold weather. “Ma’am, I will need to borrow a warmer jacket, mine’s not good enough to wear in the rain.”

“Of course, dear.” She smiled. “Carl?”

“I have one from my days in the military. It’s not heavy in weight, but it is warmer than anything you will find.” Carl smiled, pouring his own cup of coffee. “Eat your fill, there is plenty. I have scrambled eggs for years, you won’t find a better omelette anywhere.”

Omelette, the term was a stretch of the definition, although technically correct. He mixed in cheddar cheese with the eggs and no other filler was used. But the matter-energy conversion system would have little problem with the simple meal to convert to a usable energy source. 

The three of them sat at the table and Carl led them in a blessing of the food that lasted for a full minute. Carl gave his heart in the blessing, this intrigued Steve that an infidel would give his faith to an idol he could not see. A notation was made in the hidden, permanent files of another possible flaw in the database of American’s and their quality. 

They got into the pickup truck, Genesee sitting in the middle. They drove the overloaded pickup to the church.

Crowds of people milled about, shovels were in action when they arrived.

Officer Joseph Roberts “Joe-Bob” was guiding people in and out of the parking lot. Young and old moved back and forth.

Very small children dragged empty sandbags, fathers and mothers lugged full ones back to their waiting cars.

Energy spent on shovelling sand into the bags, he learned to fill the sandbags only half-full.

A seven-year-old girl with a hello-kitty t-shirt instructed him on how to fill it under the watchful eye of her father. For a small child, Steve decided, she had done this before.  Skylar the girl was an expert in how to shovel sand into bags. 

For six hours, they filled thousands of sandbags in the cold rain. While wearing the borrowed jacket, reduced his thermal loss to levels so  that regeneration systems used the stored energy to replace the heat well lost to the cold. The omelettes that Carl cooked in the predawn breakfast kept Steve fueled well enough to keep the core processors at optimum levels.

At lunch, Carl lit a giant propane powered grill and began to cook hamburgers and chicken.

His power reserves were down by sixty-percent by the time he sat to consume organic fuel. His total conversion to energy was efficient, but still needed to replace the used fuel, the food was perfect.

One grandfather sat under the rain awning that kept the falling water off the already soaked people.  The old man held his hand out to a five-year old and told the child, “Here, pull my finger.”

The boy-child complied, with the resulting noise that issued from the elderly male’s backside made the boy give a belly laugh.

“An invisible elephant!” the old man said, pointing at a space where Steve could not see anything in visible light.  The android tried in other wavelengths immediately after, but without success.  

He came to the conclusion there was no such animal that was invisible. 

“Mama!” The boy called, running off. “There was an invisible elephant under gramps! It lifted him off the chair with its trunk!”

The crowd chuckled the android struggled with the humor between the different races of people. Different hues, ages of men and women all mixing.

Steve filed the joke under a new permanent file. He was curious about such things.

A bodily function based on triggering the event by pulling on a digit. The sound was akin to an explosion.

They were vastly different things and inconsistent with human biomechanic construction.

These people were inconsistent, considerate, caring. Unlike his database, listing them as sinful, profane, selfish, obese and bloodthirsty.

Steve altered his programming slightly to adjust to the information.

The core systems did not note it, but the android was learning new information at a geometric rate.

He sat on the plastic chair, eating the last of his fourth hamburger when the he performed a time check in his core processor. Instructions, pre-programmed instructed him that he needed to leave and spend twenty-four hours watching a military base a few miles north.

The was plan already designed and thought out, he would be a poor, homeless woman with no possessions and stand outside of the fence for a few days, before heading north again.

If they picked up the old crazy woman, it would keep the government off his trail.

The plan was without flaw.

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Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Chapter 6. Log Search

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Chapter 6. Log Search

Fae walked alone with Thea fluttering along next to her.

“You have been quiet for a human. Especially for you.” The mini-bot looked around. “We are farther than we have ever gone, are you disturbed about something?”

Fae shook her head as she walked along in her thoughts.

“No, not something, someone. When we got the order for everyone who would voluntarily go into hibernation or stay on the surface, I talked to my family, everyone accepted the positions in the pods, my husband did too.” The human frowned. “I found my brother’s name, he is in there. So is my mom. But my husband and father are not in the logs. I don’t think they made it, thirty-thousand years, there is no way to find their graves if they died. If they were not buried, their bodies have long gone to dust.”

“We can find out if there was anyone left out in the contaminated atmosphere.” Thea flitted. “I know where the early archived logs are. Early on, humans wore virus-check badges that automatically registered the movements and if they suffered exposure to any contagion.”

“There are logs after so long?”

“Core System deletes nothing. You just need to know where to locate the logs. Core System maintains them deep in fixed archives, written into hardware systems.”

“What do you mean? Hardware systems.”

“It is not a code, the Core System determined that the best storage is writing in hard-wired systems. They cannot be accidentally erased.”

“Let’s go look up the logs, we can compare them to the ones I have seen.”

Following the large artificial dragonfly, Fae walked as fast as she could to keep up.

“Could I get a flyer like you have? Only bigger?”

Thea laughed and slowed down to a human walking pace.

“The size requirements increase exponentially with weight and size.” Thea explained, and drifted off into an engineering lecture that included wing loading, speed of wing flap and size of wings.

It was all beyond engineering that Fae had ever studied. Her studies never covered flight engineering, physics of flight and related math formula.

“So the final answer is that I would have to have one that has a wingspan about double my own arm-span.”

“Blunt, but essentially correct.” The riding mini-bot nodded. “At macro sizes, rotary wings become more efficient than those of Rudy here.”

“Rudy?”

“That’s what I call my flyer.” Thea smiled, her eyes glittered in good humor. “I named him after a company that built powerful engines for waterborne vehicles.”

“Ah.” Fae tried to nod and look wise, having no idea what Thea was talking about. “Good choice.”

They arrived at a building that Thea flitted up, then stopped.

“I don’t know how to get you inside. I fly through the vents normally.”

“Your nanobots maintain everything perfectly, let me try just opening the door.”

She turned the red-metal knob, it felt stiff as if it were not going to give. Then warmed up and pinged.

A built-in panel, flush with the wall. Not visible until the words illuminated “Access Granted.” On the surface.

“That is weird.” She traced her fingers over the panel, it was the same texture as the wall, there was no change, perfect blending of the function and structure.

“This way!” Thea called as she and Rudy the speed happy artificial dragonfly fluttered ahead.

Stopping at a console, they fluttered for a minute and then landed.

“This is the first one we can get to, the access is open. You just log in with your badge.” Thea smiled. “The logs are sequential. No codes, you can scroll all the way back to day-zero.”

“When is day-zero?”

“You will have to tell me. I was not around then.” Thea looked up at the human woman. “But zero is before humans were frozen, no one was frozen then.”

History scrolled by, she stopped zooming forward on video, war information, death counts, virus discovery. Fae closed those and moved her hand through the three-dimensional file system, spinning the virtual clock forward and opened another video file.

Thousands dead.

Closed the video with a sigh.

“How did people die from this?”

“Badly, it was a hemorrhagic virus, it drove people mad after it caused a bleeding in the brain. People would pull off their own ears, claw out eyes, those that did not self-mutilate, they became murderous and turned on others.” Fae shook her head. “It spared anyone with a genetic mutation of four fingers. If there was an accident, and they lost a pinky, it did not matter, the virus targeted only five-finger DNA.”

“I read that it was a four-finger DNA virus.”

“That was the answer the government had, once it was out of the control of the scientists, the two different DNA were going to be wiped out. That was everyone. Only the others that would have had mutations of three or six fingers would survive.”

“How many of those genetic structures were there?”

“On this planet? Too few to survive. We all had to go into hibernation. So the military did a final attack then ordered everyone into pods.” Fae flipped through more files and found the order that she was talking about. “People who refused to go, for health or religious reasons remained unfrozen, but they were all had to live elsewhere.”

She opened a file.

“Oh my god.”

“What?”

“I found my brother, he was one of the first into the pods. Number nine-sixty-two.”

“That would be very near the Core System on the X,Y grid and nearly a kilometer deep on the Z axis.”

“How deep does it go?

“One-hundred meters per hundred pods.” Thea answered. “They go top to bottom, the deepest pods are five-kilometers deep and are leaders of the saved society.”

“My brother is almost one-kilometer deep. That makes him important.”

“Yes, how deep were you?”

“I don’t know, I wasn’t awake.”

“Last in first out.”

“Oh. So I was not that deep.”

“No, your pod was one of the first by the doors.”

“That’s depressing.”

Thea danced through the three-dimensional displays and moved files around on her own power and found what she was looking for.

“Here is yours. The system shows you also had a neurological implant for encoding memory engrams.”

“What? I don’t remember that.”

“Odd. Do you find that you have unexplained knowledge about systems you didn’t know of before?”

“Like this one? Yeah.”

“Do you have an access port?”

“Um. That is a little personal?” Fae laughed. “Sorry. Gutter mind.”

“What is guttermind?”

“Never mind.” She laughed again. “Now let’s find my dad.”

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.