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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Married by Mistake Chapter 51. Watching the Bay

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Chapter 51. Watching the Bay

*Homework!*

*Ugh!* She had cottonmouth from the awkward sleep position on her tablet. In a moment she laughed when she sat up. She left a face print on the smooth, high gloss finish of the computer’s screen. *So much homework! Not enough coffee!*

Every night. Kaylee had not taken time to smoke even one bowl in two days. She sketched every day and, after the first few days, it brought her no joy. A still-life of the bay from her balcony, then she went to the beach and painted there.

One late afternoon the memory of Glenn returned in a blast of fury, in a heated moment of inspiration she threw sand on the paint, before it dried, unable to rework the image, she displayed it in class.

She expected Doctor Fayse to reject the sand-textured painting out of hand, but he instead gave her extra points for the painted colors and strokes of the brush and sand effect, giving the feeling of emotion of anger and rage that she had created.

Rage?

Yeah. Oh yeah, she was angry. She kicked Tom out of her life in favor of Glenn.

And then Glenn screwed the pooch on that subject. Samantha, too for that matter, and his life.

That he could not see his way to keep his DNA in check, really did not hurt.

*It’s that he is, rather was, supposed to be my best friend, too. He should have talked to me, not just give a half-limp kiss and never say a word about a pregnant wife.*

*Yeah, he screwed his life up, all right.* She kicked an innocent stick of wood on the ground hard enough that the little driftwood twig skipped across the parking lot. *But so did I.*

Tom was overdue in the bay and she was unable to keep away from his website. It was no help, just an information page, no “Contact Me” information, there was no way for her to email him.

Georgia closed his email that she had in her phone, after he dealt with that agent, it looked like he signed with another company and there was no direct contact with him through that web-site either.

Never in the news and the events on his web page were out of date and ended with Doctor Manga’s installation at Cambridge University in the UK.

Still, everyday she went to the beach with an occasional drive past the airport, but the closed football-field sized hanger doors looked as if they had not been used and there was a noticeable lack of activity around the building.

Another week dragged past and the wet season was coming, she would go home for Christmas soon and Tom’s plane still had not returned.

Early Saturday, Kaylee was in a deep sleep and the sun had not yet come up. She had spent her Friday night in deep study and memorized her half-dozen assignments and typed her class reports on each with an original point of view as required by the professors.

Seven hours a day in classes, another four-hours at home on her computer, another shift at the beer and ribs cook-house. She felt overwhelmed, as so many college students do.

She had nightmare dreams of the reports when her phone rang, saving her from being attacked by a anthropomorphized, giant report on an artist that she could not recognize. She was thankful for that save.

It was Melanie. She loved her sister more than anyone in the world at that instant.

‟Mmph. Hel-” Kaylee yawned and dropped her phone on her face. ‟Lo? Melanie ?”

‟Tiny! I found him!” Melanie was wide awake. ‟I know where Tom is!”

‟Whath timeish ish it?” Kaylee was almost incoherent. She had not slept well, then it had hit her in last night’s studies and she slept like the dead without any sleep aid or to cook hash-brownies to assist in her stress. “Tom? Who’s you talkin’ ’bout?”

‟It’s quarter of three. Why are you sleeping? You are always up at this time.”

‟Not th’ last four days… Mel, I was asleep, issa ya drunk?” Kaylee slurred her words as if she had was drunk herself. “Wha’ di’ you say about who? Wha’ Tom?”

‟No! Noooo…I have been on the hunt for Tom.” She sounded like she found a gold nugget after a long search. ‟You know I had Steven check some things for me?”

‟Sheven? Ahem..Steven? Th’ Stalker?” Kaylee interrupted. “Wonder” *yawn* “Ful. C’n I g’back sleep now?”

‟Not a stalker.” A pause as her sister contemplated the conversation. ‟Okay, well, maybe I am. But it’s for a good cause!”

Kaylee laughed while she balanced the phone on her head and pulled her arm under the blanket while her younger sister babbled news about a guy named Tom and his travels.

‟Did you hear me? He is in Australia.” Mel said to her sister in a sad tone of voice. ‟Aw. Kaylee, I think he has moved there.”

‟Moovmmph… Moved there?” Kaylee ‘s brain did not register the conversation still.

Then she blinked and stared into the dark.

She was wide awake with a sudden rush of thoughts.

“You mean TOM? My Tom?” She said loud enough and had to grab at the phone. ‟Tom has children’s books published there. Southern Oz.” 

‟Where?” Melanie did not catch what her older sister said.

‟Australia, he called it Oz a lot.” She did not want to wake up this much, but now she was awake and not happy. ‟Can I sleep? I need to sleep. I’m too awake, I don’t wanna be awake.”

‟Well, you need to stop by that hanger and go ask. Not just drive by.”

‟I won’t stalk him.” Kaylee said, she struggled to dive back into sleep and try hard to forget that screwed up chapter of her life.

‟You’re not a stalker if you’re worried about him.” Melanie said in conspiratorial tones. ”I was worried. You remember the look on his face when you and he were here?”

‟I remember you squeaked like a mouse and fell off of the sofa.” She grumbled and snuggled back under the blankets.

‟That never happened. He startled me.” Her sister was defensive. ‟But he did have a big smile. Tiny, you made a happy man.”

‟You just want me to hook up with him again.” She mumbled. “Melly, I’m going back…”

‟If you don’t, I will.” Melanie interrupted.

“…to sleep.” Kaylee finished.

‟If you keep on that subject, I’m going to hang up on you.” Kaylee twisted the phone around so the light from the screen didn’t bother her.

‟Okay, I’ll let you go.” Melanie said.

‟Good.”

‟You need to get some sleep, you are a bitch at night.” Younger sisters, sometimes, annoy and Melanie was making it her number-one trait as far as Tom was concerned.

‟Good night, Mel.” And she broke the connection, laughing herself to sleep.

*When she gets older, she will be the most famous busy-body in our family.* Was Kaylee ’s last thought before sleep reclaimed her.

The morning after the phone call. Kaylee walked around in the apartment, off in her emotional bubble. It took two-hours for her to figure out what was bothering her.

That phone call at zero-dark-thirty by her over caffeinated sister who was more insane about Tom than cats were about laser-pointers.

She made coffee in an old-school way of heated up water in a pot, then she poured the scalding liquid over Kona coffee grounds in a single-cup filter.

Not for the first time, she drank her coffee on the balcony and looked towards the picturesque bay.

And not for the first time, she saw only beautiful blue water and boats.

And not for the first time…

She wept.

Married by Mistake Chapter 41. Afterglow and Tables

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Chapter 41. Afterglow and Tables

Candles, perfumed smoke of a cedar-wick that crackled on the far table wafted through the room with two exhausted lovers relaxed in the soft light.

Tom still had his shirt half-on, he was too drunk to take it off with one arm when they got home, the white material stained from when he fell into a fountain. .

Kaylee kissed Tom’s chest as he slept. Six hours of dance and drink and then home to the penthouse pushed him over the edge of exhaustion more than once, he drank too many cups of coffee to keep going.

Now, with his shoes removed, he was in a deep sleep, despite where he lay his recovering arm.

Small marks on his chest would take a few days to heal where she had bitten him during a slow dance, but between the ice-cubes she dropped down his shirt and kissing, he was sleeping with his arms around her. The pain of his wounded arm forgotten as was the wound in both their hearts while their bodies recovered from the intense celebration.

They were friends and even if her promise had to take them each on a separate path in life, she knew in time that he would relax more.

‟You know,” Tom said quietly, little more than a whisper. ‟If this is what it is like getting  annulled from you, I want to do this once a week, at least.”

Kaylee laughed quietly, the sun was going down and they were about to wake up.

‟There is a private gaming table with our names on it?” She asked.

‟Now you mention it.” Tom snuffled. ‟We do.”

‟You said you like to play blackjack?” She asked and pressed her body against his, she was still in her silk party clothes, too tired the night before to undress. She wanted to remember what it felt like and she wanted to touch every inch of him for as long as she could.

All too soon, this journey of passion and party would be over and she would go back to the life that she had planned since before puberty.

Artist, student, possibly even the wife of a congressman. Elected officials had a more complex life while trying to do their jobs.

Glenn often said they had to make hard choices that might make them unpopular with the voters. So the right thing was the thing that would get them removed from office.

It was a wonderful, great time build a life.

If it wasn’t for Tom and this past few weeks of wonder and passion. An exciting summer of build-up to the wedding and the first years together with Glenn.

She lightly touched Tom’s chest. He twitched with a slightly hysterical giggle. His body was still tingled from the intense excitement of the impromptu party and dances she made him do while he drank expensive wines until his words slurred.

His smooth and, now, hairless chest. Her skill with argument, convincing him on this last night of the thrill and fun to have every hair on his body removed, every strand of stray hair. His control impressed her while the attendant wax his underarms and toes.

Even if he did squeak a couple of times.

*Well, maybe not fun for him, but I enjoyed watching it.* She smiled, on the knife-edge of laughing out loud.

The rewards of his clean-to-the-Nth-degree-body made for better dance-floor teases. She loved his bare, hair free chest.

*He will never forget any of this, I hope he still loves me for having his hair ripped out!*

She knew she would never forget.

Kissing his chest, his twitching making her smile. She stood up and pulled him to the edge of the bed.

‟Oh? What now?” She shut him up with a kiss.

‟Let’s not waste anymore time! Let’s go party gamble for our un-wedding.” She smiled and opened her bag and pulled out a small black dress.

‟What? Do you have a wardrobe in that thing?” He yawned, and made a quiet yelp of pain. “My armpits are sore! Woman, you said this was painless.”

She laughed.

‟Melanie ’s design. Whenever we travel, we keep nice clothes in a kit, I have another one for formal, it is slightly larger with a full length black dress and heels. It fits in a dresser drawer, and I can put it in a bag or purse in a second. She has wanted to market it, but some problems with one seam  or another not lining up and we keep getting creases in the wrong places.” She smiled while she pulled the dress up, pulled her hair out and tucked herself in. Buttoning up the up to the top of her cleavage. ‟We are going to try to roll dresses in the next design in special tubes made for packing. It takes less room and, in theory, does not cause creases.”

‟Quite the invention.” Tom smiled as he pulled on a red-silk shirt.

‟We had plans of being famous designers and do art-level clothing that could be inexpensive, and recyclable. We could keep it as haute couture, with a fraction of the price.”

‟What has stopped you?”

‟Lack of funding and time. Dad is an IT tech and mom teaches accounting. It’s just enough to help us go through college, even with scholarships.”

‟Yes,” Tom took a deep breath let it out slowly and shook his head. ‟This state charges more for education with a high cost of living that prevents many students from going to higher education. It is a weakness in this country. No investments in education on a higher level.”

‟Well, whatever, but I am going to finish what I have started and have my Master’s in fine arts.”

‟Okay, I’m ready. Do you want to go gamble?”

‟Yeah!” She cheered. “Woot!”

‟I don’t know if I want to take you downstairs, there won’t be any eyes not looking at you.” Tom said. ‟I may become jealous.”

‟Yeah, right. You have one quirk. You are the most laid-back man I know.”

‟The most laid on his back, anyway.” Tom laughed. ‟Okay, to the elevator.”

Kaylee walked carefully in her high-heels, wearing the shoes, she was as tall as Tom.

‟You are beautiful.” Tom whispered.

Kaylee felt her cheeks flush.

‟Thank you. I wanted you to enjoy this date.”

‟I have. I’m just sorry it has to end.”

‟Tom, I want to go home to Portland when we get back. Glenn is waiting for me there, he has asked the family about me. Melanie says that he is going to ask the question.”

‟The big question?”

Kaylee laughed.

‟I hope so, if he asks me to borrow my car, I’m going to punch him.” She raised her fist. “Hard.”

They both laughed awkwardly.

The door of the elevator opened and the couple entered.

A direct ride to down, over twenty floors, to the one room with limited access.

Tom handed over his room key,  scanned by a security guard who nodded and then they were in.

‟Let’s go here, you said you like the old-style dollar machines?”

‟Oh yeah, you have no idea.” Kaylee laughed and imitated the clinking of silver dollars falling.

‟Okay,” Tom smiled. ‟Let’s go over here.”

At a cage, Tom chatted a girl who knew him by sight.

‟Hi Tom!” She smiled, a brilliant grin that looked natural. Kaylee felt a pang of jealousy when she leaned in and kissed Tom on the cheek.

‟Five-thousand singles for this young woman here.” Tom said. ‟She wants to play the dollar slots.”

‟Yes, sir. Very good choice.” She smiled again and began to tap on a computer touch screen. ‟And your usual starting stake?”

‟Yes, please.” Tom nodded. ‟And if she comes back, fill her order at a thousand-chip increments, she can carry those without tipping over.”

‟Of course.”

The stack of chips were the size of silver dollars of the Eisenhower era.

‟If you go over there, you can play the giant machine and still watch me. I’ll be here on the table with blackjack.” Tom pointed to the empty table in the middle of a large room with very few people walking about.

‟Wow!” Kaylee boggled. ‟I never knew this place even existed.”

Tom smiled and sat on the stool. He was the only person there.

‟I don’t think this one is open, hun.” Kaylee kissed him. “Maybe we can raise our hands to attract attention?”

‟It’ll be open, give it a half-minute.” His eyes reflected the confident tone in his voice.

Kaylee laughed and went to the one-armed bandit and dropped in a few of the chips that clanged all the way in. Her first pull she won twenty back that clanged in the tray under the two images of cherries and a golden number seven.

An hour later, Kaylee dropped in her last dollar chip. Biting her fingernails she pulled the lever, then the jackpot hit on a minor score.

She won all but two-hundred dollars back in chips. The sound clinked nonstop while machine stayed in dispense mode for five minutes.

Gathering up her Casino treasure in a bucket, she went to see how Tom was doing and found him right where she left him, but now he sat with five other gamblers, plus the dealer. In front of him was a minor stack of chips, she noted, and it seemed smaller than when she had left him, and the chips were different colors.

*Lower denominations.* She tried to look over his shoulder.

‟Tom?” Caressing his shoulder. ‟I’m ready to go see the rest of the town.”

‟Hi, babe. Just a minute. I’ll finish this hand and we can go look at things.”

‟How much are you betting?” She was unfamiliar with the chip colors.

‟A hundred.” Tom did not take his eyes off the dealer’s hands.

‟That’s a lot of money to put down on a single bet.” She said while the dealer went down the line of players. ‟I could have a lot of fun with a hundred dollars than to blow it on a bet. I thought you would bet the regular amount.”

‟It’s not a hundred dollars.” Tom said with a crooked smile.

‟What is it?” She blinked. “Credits?”

‟A hundred-thousand.”

Kaylee felt like she had been hit with a snap-kick in the chest and lost her brain-power to speak, her mouth opened and her lips just twitched.

‟Oh my god?” Tom asked. While he nodded. With a jack and a duece showing, he drew a king and lost the bet. ‟Okay, thank you.”

He rolled a token towards the dealer.

‟Thank you.” The tuxedo clad dealer smiled at the five-hundred-dollar chip given to him.

‟Tom!” Kaylee was able to get the word out. ‟Tom, you lost a bet! That could have bought a nice car, even.”

‟It wasn’t one bet. That was my third loss in a row, that is why it was time to quit.”

‟Wut?” Kaylee got dizzy and grabbed at Tom’s sleeve and looked in his eyes.

‟I lost three bets in a row, it was time to leave.”

‟You lost a hundred-thousand dollars on one bet? You were betting… A. Hundred.” Kaylee couldn’t breathe. “Thousand. Dollars.”

‟Yes. I was there, I know it was a hundred-k bet.”

‟You lost three-hundred thousand?”

‟No, only one-seventy five.”

‟Oh. TOM!” She was about to blow a gasket. Suddenly, she was angry.

‟I’m still up two-hundred twenty thousand.” He shrugged and continued walking.

‟Holy crap!” Kaylee sat down on a stool.

“Well, are you hungry? Let’s go get food.” Tom smiled.

“Now I know why they want your money back.” She got up to follow Tom, her legs still a little shaky. Kaylee was not sure if it was from the shock, dancing or wine.

“They always do.” Tom laughed.

Married by Mistake Chapter 25. Month’s End

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Chapter 25. Month’s End

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She loved with him.

She had fought with him.

She raced to his side in his time of need.

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

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

She still felt like he told her to abandon him.

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

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

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

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

‟You think you might move?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*And I can do it, too.*

*Ugh!* She clenched her teeth.

Even if it was right, this was so wrong.

*So damned wrong.*

When a man brags to the doctor.

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Papa Dash is out of surgery.  All went well, no complications.  A >lot< of scar tissue from previous visits by the outside world that have marched through his insides, including a bit of lead put there by some soldier whose name is lost in the mists of time. 

That said, the tough old bird bragged to the MD that he has been known to wake up quickly and suddenly during procedures.  The MD quirked an eyebrow and pulled at his medically licensed ear.

“Oh? good to know.” And that was all he said before he left.

Well, Papa Dash did NOT wake up, nor has he been awake for more than 60 consecutive seconds. So I sit here in the hospital room with him, watching.  Laughing quietly to myself..  

You ever see one of those cartoons where the protagonist stands in front of a giant snowball that picks him up?

Sort of the same thing, only this way it is by way of medicine. The snowball they used on him looked as if it was thrown by a large Yeti. 

“PLOMpffFf…” Snowed!  It’ll take a while before his sleep button is not stuck in the “On” position.

Tough men, big egos and doctors with buckets of medicine that would make a pooh-bear unafraid of heffalumps.  

Unless of course, maybe that was Papa Dash’s intent all along, of course.  I’ll have to ask the Wise Owl if that was his

game plan. 

No matter what, as the family cheerleader, I get to laugh from the sidelines no matter how it panned out. 

So the update, Papa Dash, the man who looks like Sean Connery with the voice of James Earl Jones. (Or, as one nephew thinks- Voice of God.) 

AH! Food arrived for him, he will be only slightly disappointed, he got coffee (His words- “YAY!”) but it is decaf (His word..well.. clean it up some…”Boo!”) Chocolate Pudding, Chicken soup (YES! They do use it for treating sick folk!) 

The lady asked me his birthday, and what do you know? I got it right the first time!

Anyway, I’m going to go get some full-leaded coffee for me. It’s been a longish day including 3 hours of driving.  HE got to sleep through most of it. 

I wonder if I can draw little flowers on his forehead while he sleeps?

Good morning!

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Sleep hanging on,

like webs of a glorious place

dreams rent asunder

a palm wide tongue

a happy smile

the canine’s passion

“GET UP GETUP!”

love on four legs

you don’t move?

forty kilos of four-legged loving

jumps up and down

ignored

rasping tongue in the ear

face

neck,

a laughing face

bright brown eyes

“FEED ME!”

Ignored,

sleeping

a drool covered ball

bouncing on the head

“WAKE UP!”

sleep is gone.

Forty-kilos of laughing face won…

What a glorious morning to be a dog.

Dragonmaster University Chapter 33. After Metal shop

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(Note, this is a rewrite.  There was a missing chunk out of the last third.  So I leave this non-repost for your repast, re-read, review and reply if you care. So this non-repost will replace a non-reblog of the re-imaged rewrite. )

Chapter 33. After Metal Shop

 

Holy crap!

Metallurgical class from the autumn semester was not easy, but this semester, they put to action the chapters they had read out of the Book of Smites and the workbook “Alloy Allies”, written by some hammer-slinging maniac named Hephaestus.

Jona came back to the dorms on the Emerald floor covered in soot and sore to the bones, going straight to the showers, he barely had the strength to take off his clothes and stand there in the hot water as it cascaded over his shoulders.

He hurt so bad, even swear words were not enough to describe the all-day torture. Several minutes passed before he was able to scrub with a sponge that grew on a stick and struggled with that when he saw that the oversized pool of water that served as a bath for larger swimming dragons and thought that it would be enjoyable to just sit in the warm waters.

But it was so far to walk on his sore legs. Professor Vuul, the fire-drake from the south had him pumping the bellows for the forge for the last two hours— after he had swung a hammer on different metals that he learned to heat from barely able to hold it in his hand, to sparkling white-hot.

He shook his head, he had to fill the great tub and even with the massive-multiple faucet, it would take longer than he wanted to wait, and he had hot water now.

With the hot water running over his shoulders and cascading down his body, he felt a great deal better.

He was standing there with his eyes closed, letting the water do the magic of bringing a soul back to the comfort zone when he felt a soft hand slide over his left shoulder.

It was Kolo, the teaching assistant to Professor Vale.

“Let me wash your back. You look like you are in pain.”

Jona covered up as much as he could, yipping like a startled puppy.

“You… I mean… me… I’m…”

“You are naked, yes, and so am I. But relax, I was watching you and you need someone to wash you. We are on the same team, right? We take care of each other.” She smiled, her tail slowly sliding over his hip while the girl dragon rubbed his back with a fibrous sponge that a dragon-team harvested from halfway around the world.

Kona’s hands, covered in human like skin on the palm, had a slightly coarse texture, like the paw of a cat. It was very sensual, but Jona was not ready for sensual.

He was in too much pain with overused muscles that he never thought he had, understanding now, more than ever, why his dad was so strong.

Even with her ministrations of creams and perfect pressure of her fingers, Jona’s body punished him with cramps and heavy, aching arms that could not shut the water off to the shower, his fingers didn’t want to close tightly enough without cramping.

“Jona, you need a cuddle for the night.” Kolo said matter-of-factly as she turned the hammered-bronze and emerald water control to “off” and draped a large towel around his shoulders and tied the belt at his waist, creating a large tunic of soft brushed cloth against his skin.

“What? Are you trying to get me in your bed?”

“You can keep your clothes on, but you should know by now, dragons like to touch and be touched. I will let you sleep in my arms, it will be a help heal your muscles and you can go back to class.” She smiled, her eyes sparkled like nothing else. Kolo did not have faceted eyes like full-blooded dragons, but she had the glint that stopped conversations. “Besides, the cloth in that robe you wear has medicines in the fibers, they do the most work. I will just help you sleep.”

“Aw, I can’t do that, Sprite would not understand with another body in the bed.”

“Sprite is a dragon.” She smiled. “This is what she will desire most as she grows, the more the better in her mind. Dragons sleep together.”

Jona hurt in all his muscles. The thought of having the gentle touch of this dragon that he had a crush on sleeping with her arms and tail around him was beyond his dreams of desire.

“And I have a special nightshirt to wear to bed.” Jona said. “My mom made it for me.”

“Sprite has told me she loves cuddling with you and that shirt a great deal. It’s made of the finest fibers that could be found of Honeytree thread.” Kolo nodded. “When I was little, I had a sleep-ball made of Honeytree thread.

“Honeytree thread?” Jona blinked, it was the first time he had heard of the name.

“It grows in a valley two days’ flight from here. Think of the fur of a long-haired kitten, only as long as your arm and twice as soft.”

“How? I mean…” Jona stuttered.

“I have studied a great deal. I am still learning every day.” Kolo said softly, sitting on his bed, pulling him to her arms.

She was absolutely correct. His aching muscles needed to rest, the girl dragon laying with him, with her arms around him. The three of them lay in her huge bed, Sprite against his chest, Kolo spooned to his back, it was nothing like what he expected, it was like being in a giant kitten hug, without being overheated.

For all their scales, dragons were able to give an immersive sleep. And Jona slept without dreams, in the medicated toga, Kolo’s healing touch, Sprite’s love, his body healed far more quickly than if he slept alone.

Kolo watched the Jona sleep, her parents would fart flames to have a daughter curled up with a first-year student, and not wait until he was ready to graduate.

But he made her smile widely. For all his flaws for being a young human, he had the  pheromones of a dragon, the brilliant mind of the best of humans and the heart of a master.

She just had to mentor him into being what he could be. She had to talk with the Green Man.

For now, however, Kolo the youngest, of the water clan of swimming dragons, closed all three eyelids on both her eyes and slept with the human in her arms who slept against her chest in a wonderful, warm snore.

Dragon Master University Chapter 23. Baby Talk

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Chapter 23. Baby Talk

The weekend. Racing with Eva, Kolo and Qo’noS, he’d gotten chilled and was so terribly exhausted. So much so that he felt like a party lizard (A term he had picked up in the day-room) crawling in after a weekend binge.

He collapsed on to his bed and felt a lump under his pillow struggle.

Sprite crawled out and complained in a whiny voice, then saw who it was.

‟Papa! Papa papa papa papa papa!” Sprite squeaked while bouncing up and down. Eventually settling into the crook of Jona’s arm, licking the neck and ear of Sprite’s favorite human.

His papa.

Jona shushed Sprite while he drifted off to sleep. If anyone could slur a shush, Jona did it as his eyes closed.

Then the papa’s eyes popped open.

‟SPRITE!” Jona jumped up. ‟You talked!”

‟Papa! Papa papa!” The little dragon fluttered and hovered in the air in front of Jona, over the bed.

Laughing, Jona knew Sprite would learn to talk eventually. Still, not comfortable with the fact he was the dad, everyone else in the school took it as a right of passage. Many had, what Jona thought at first as pets, but found out that small dragons reflected that the heart of dragons loved at least as deep as humans.

Just longer. Much, much longer.

After a few minutes to recover from the shock, he held Sprite in his arms and stroked the glass smooth scales that covered the small winged-body.

Settling down, Jona smiled as the little body curled up under his chin, licking a few times, then going into a slumber that, curiously, sounded like a snore.

Only a pint-sized snore.

It was quite relaxing, and Jona slipped off to sleep with Sprite in his arms.

Together, they slept in similar poses.

Jona and Sprite performed a slow, synchronised sleeping ballet in the blankets.

Later, when the sun would rise, Jona would be roused out of bed by his friends. Although he would wonder if they were indeed his friends, for now all Jona wanted, was sleep.

Dragon Master University Chapter 12. Class Schedule

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XII. Class Schedule

“Here you go, Professor Vale’s office, each student’s schedule is on the door. He’s a red dragon and rumor has it that he was once a human. He had a magic spell go as wrong as it could possibly go wrong, now he can’t turn back.” Sam said, then added with a tinge of fear in his voice, ‟His wife is the Red Witch. So don’t try to cheat on anything, those two will KNOW.”

Jona pulled a folded parchment from the door with his name scribed on the folded-over flap and opened it. “Dragon lore and law, dragon speak one-oh-one, basics of flight, mathematics— MATH?” Jona gasped, “Math was not my best subject, why do I need math here?”

“They always stick me in math. Hate it, but it has to be passed.” Sam shrugged.

Jona kept reading.

“Health: Pathogens of Dragons and Humans, Communicable  Diseases and Interspecies Transmission. I do not even know what the title MEANS, how can I even pass the class if I cannot understand even the title?” Jona had a note of panic in his voice.

“You’ll learn.” Sam laughed, “As a dragon, I have had classes that instruct about the jealousy of humans, ‘human emotions’ that is a class that is a real pain. All the mammal humans I know are okay. I have considered that they’re talking about old humans.”

Jona smiled and kept going down the list.

“Fundamental relationships of rider and ride”, Jona blinked “Rider and ride? Like horses?”

Sam laughed again as they walked down the stairs.

“No, some dragons you ride. NOT like horses, they give rides if it is a bond of trust or friendship between the human and dragon. Like your baby dragon that rides on your shoulder and head. Someday he’ll become large enough to give you rides.”

Jona thought of sprite, had not seen him in a while and was being a little worried.

‟Well, right now, the little guy wouldnt’ be much of a squish if someone stepped on him.”

Back in their rooms they settled in for the night, Professor Vale, on the main floor, called that lights out time was nearly upon them, now the sun was down. Classes started early in the morning and all were to be in bed.

“Good night, students.” The voice was like soft thunder that echoed in Jona’s head long after he settled into the soft bed.