Smart Bomb Chapter 15. Belle of the Boom

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Scene 15. Belle of the Boom

 

After a five minutes of shape shifting later, Steve had to stop for refueling. The demonstrated power the tight-knitted group stood with a collective jaw drops. Alvin whispered to Lone Wolf that the other members resembled baby birds.

Walter “Lone Wolf” Whitbred laughed out loud. After given time to recover from the story and assurances that Steve was not there to blow anyone up , the team set to work.

The sounds of micron-level printers, a laser micro-polished the mating surfaces, and they pressed resin reinforced with amorphous-diamond thread mesh into a mold made by the printers. Bit by bit, the polymer skeleton of a human female assembled quickly. Each member of the group that called themselves “The Gate Watchers”.

In a day, they had the skeleton in position on the table. Running Man checked every step and made sure the structure of the half-constructed frame had enough strength to avoid breaks and would look like bone in x-rays.

“We can’t have it breaking a leg walking down the road.” He fussed in his OCD way.

Constant and regular meetings between the group regularly discussed shapes of internal organs, in case the new robot was subject to inspection.

The one they called Lady Sif, posed as a model with enhanced appeal, increasing the curve of the hip and size of her bust, appealing to the male of the religion as a woman of good child-bearing genes.

“What’s this solution that you’re growing skin in?“ Thor asked. A small man, who had the look of not quite passing puberty. Twenty-two, he was younger that Lone Wolf, but talented in chemistry, his major in school.

“Dextrose, ten-percent in half-normal saline.” Steve answered. “I’ve also added a buffered lactate to the solution to prevent acidosis.”

Thor went glassy-eyed while Steve continued while he looked through a microscope.

“The flesh will multiply at a rate of a cube of the original every two-hours.  At this rate, the sample I’ve removed from my hip will continue to grow. It is only a gram at the moment, but in about five-hours, we’ll have a full skin cover. We can overlay the musculature that is growing on the frame now.” Steve sat back and locked eyes with Thor.  “It grows three times its size every two hours.”

“I like chemistry, but this is just creepy.” Thor said. “That could cover the world in a week. I’ll go back to my bio-circuitry and use what see here. I think that’s the way to avoid being hacked by the government.” The blond-haired computer designer muttered as he turned away. “This system is  weird. We’re building a bot that’s a bomb.”

“The government would give your system a virus, just to mess with you.” Alvin said. “Besides, we aren’t just making a bot, we’re building a pretty woman bot. Give her big boobs.”

“No big boobs.” Lady Sif said as she entered through the far door of the lab. “Seriously, we’re not making a sex toy for you boys.”

“Bite me, Al.” Thor laughed. “And yes, ma’am. She’ll be a Southern Belle of a bomb.”

“Don’t call me ma’am.” Sif said and slapped Thor across the back of the head. “You make me sound like my mother.”

“Just Wolf?” Steve the Android asked. “If we use the muscle sample and cut it in sections, it’ll grow faster over the frame.”

“The name’s just Wolf.” Walter the Lone Wolf corrected him.

“Yes, I’ll put that in permanent memory. Just Wolf.” Steve answered.

“Right. Just Wolf, you got it. “

Steve focused on the nuances as best he could and made the adjustments.

“Just Wolf, the Dextrose mix ratio is dropping, it is now four-point-nine. The tissue is growing, but it’ll slow down.”

“You still have it wrong. Call me just Wolf okay?” Wolf said. His face flushed from correcting Steve for the hundredth time.

“Acknowledged. Call you, Just Wolf.” The android answered.

“Right. Sheesh.” He shook his head. “That is harder that it needs to be. Now this system is set up with a mixer. The dextrose is in this bottle.”

He examined it carefully, tracing with his fingertip and found a kink in the line. He repaired the lines that fed to the pump that mixed the fluids to specifications that the android required.

Hours of checks and rechecks passed as they programmed the database with subroutines.With the main programming, they nearly filled the restrictive memory banks with all the needs that could be foreseen.

A binary system, less adaptable to a dynamic changing system that is the soul of humanity. This robot, less advanced, wouldn’t have the options to flex with change that Steve or Sleeper could do.

But she wouldn’t have to do much.  No spy software, no eating, no interaction except for those that she needed to speak with. She carried inside her enough nutritional reservoir to last two months. More than enough to get to her mission.

“We should make her a companion. Another female, perhaps?” Alvin asked. “That part of the world, a lone woman is going to get beat with a stick.”

“Make it so.” The leader of the group said. “We’ll make a second and maybe a third. Send them all at the same time.”

“Where do you plan to get the money for this?” Sif asked.

“I have credit.” Steve nodded.”I’ll pay the fare to send them on the transporters.”

“We have passports printing now. They’ll be excellent quality.” Christopher “Burning Chip” Kraig spoke up.

The muscular teens shadow, Robert “Running Man” Akita was a brilliant mind with moderate Asperger’s. The two had been friends since Robert and Christopher were children.

“We can also put them in the system. The hack to input them into the government system is easy. They’re only protected against theft, not input.” He smiled, his perpetual smile.  When Robert was around Christopher, Robert had a constant smile, his only wish, to be called by his hacker name Running Man when he was coding. He had stolen the name from an old novel that Robert had memorized.

Steve peered through the bars of the Faraday cage, through the clear glass mounted in the wall.

“Tin man, we need you back over here.  Don’t think you can get away by breaking through that glass. It’s six-inches thick of some weird material that’s not glass. It can stop an RPG.

“ALON, aluminum oxynitride, also called transparent aluminum. Very tough. I’ve never seen anything that thick before.” Steve looked out. “It’s clear at the near-infrared through to near-ultraviolet. Interesting, this is expensive old technology.”

Robert filled Steve, the Android, in on the history of the material and how it was first mentioned in the previous century one time in a science fiction movie.

“Interesting.” Steve would say every five minutes as Robert kept talking. Steve would never stop typing on the “quaint” keyboard as he continued to program the database of the new gynoid.

“Are you listening to me?” Robert finally asked.

“Yes.” Steve did not look at Robert as he answered the question.

“What did I say?”

When Steve stopped typing for the briefest of moments. Robert thought he had the bigger male at the disadvantage.

Then Steve answered with perfect clarity of tone everything that Running Man said.

“I can code that more quickly. You’re using a code that works best with a balanced base-three system.  You can’t use a base-three code in a base-two hardware and keep efficiency.  May I try? You have to do this best in assembly language. I can do that quickly for you. How many lines of code to you want to use?” Running Man asked Steve. “It’s a talent that even machines haven’t been able to master.”

“I want it up by morning.” Steve said, making it his answer. “The total line count is irrelevant.”

“Get me some coffee then.” And Running Man was typing nearly as fast as Steve the Android could.

Thirty hours had passed when two women of Middle-eastern descent walked into the room.  Coders and chemists, framework builders and an android stood and talked to them.

“Fully charged.” Lone Wolf introduced the pair of girls. “They’ll function for eleven days before their charge becomes critical. They’ll have a need to charge right away.”

“We need to put a weapon in one now.” Alvin said.

“Time to take it out of me and put it in one of these two robots.” Steve nodded.

Sitting on a chair, four rolls of paper towels around in his lap, Steve took off his shirt and asked for ice.

“You’re going to do it yourself?” Alvin gasped.

“Yes, you’re not qualified. I need someone to hold the mirror. I think you can do it.  There will be little blood. The fluid isn’t blood, no matter what the color is.

“M-m-me?”  Alvin stammered. “Steve, you don’t want me to do that. I faint at the sight of blood.”

“It’s not blood.” Steve repeated. “It’s a coolant fluid that also helps bring nutrients to the cells of the flesh.  And the flesh is not needed to run the frame. The muscles and skin simply approximate the flexing and appearance of being a human. The coolant simply brings nutrients to the cells of the muscle and skin. It’s colored red to look like blood, but there are no red blood cells in it.”

“Looks close enough to blood for me.” Alvin made a whimpering noise when Steve took a box cutter out of a blister package and extended the blade. “Dude! Really! The red stuff needs to stay inside!”

“Wait!” Running Man yelled. “You’ll cause an infection.”

“I don’t get infected.” The android answered back quickly.

“You don’t know germs are adaptable. This is organic tissue, right?” The young man’s hands didn’t seem to know where to touch himself. He put them in his pockets, behind his neck, on top of his head, then he folded his arms in agitation.

“Agreed.” The android paused.  “If we poured some high-proof liquor over the site, would it be acceptable?”

“Yes.” Running man said.

Steve poured a bottle of rum over the blade of the box cutter and his own stomach that satisfied the human boy. The android called Steve, cut his skin to the left of center, then reached in and made a move with his hand, pushing his hand up past his wrist in the hold he cut in his abdomen.

Slowly nodding, everyone stood around watching him, then something happened.

Steve went rigid, his eyes bulged out and stared without seeing. From his mouth issued an electronic squeal.

The newly built gynoids screamed with the same sounds. Lone Wolf joined in the chorus with his human voice, his eyes wide.

“Oh my god, he pulled a wrong wire!” Wolf screamed.

After a moment, the android went silent. Then, he turned his head and winked at Alvin. Steve stood up and nodded. The hole in his abdomen no longer bleeding, but gaped open in a grotesque approximation of a mouth.

“Humor, yes?” Steve tried to smile.

The group began laughing except for Lady Sif and Lone Wolf.

“That wasn’t funny!” Sif yelled at Steve.

“Actually, that was great.” Alvin said as Steve handed him the thimble sized warhead.

“Da-mn,” Alvin dragged the word out. “And you say this has the kaboom of a four-ton bomb?” Alvin asked.

“Yes, almost half the yield of the GBU-43/b MOAB parachute deployed bomb.” Steve answered. “As carried by a large bomber aircraft.”

“Would it be that hard to get twice as much in this package?” Lone Wolf asked as Thor hung over the shoulders of everyone.

“There’s so very little of the material in the world. Its cost is prohibitive.” Steve answered. “But no, it would be quite easy to put more than twice in there. There is the amount of one of your eyelashes in this.”

“How did your people get it.” Christopher Burning Chip asked as Running Man gave a low whistle.

“I was not powered up then, I don’t have that information.” Steve answered, then added. “Suffice it to say, I would wager it wasn’t an honest transaction.”

“Something so small and light.” Lir said as it was passed around. “How much power does it draw?”

“Five volts at six-hundred milliamps.” Steve answered as one of the nubile, young-looking robots climbed up on the table and laid on her back.

“Okay, a small cut. You’ll heal in fifteen-minutes.”

She grunted slightly, Steve fished out a single wire and attached the plug to the warhead.

He slipped the bomb back under the skin that was then smoothed over and held in place with the fat part of Steve’s thumb for two minutes.

Then. he wiped the blood-colored fluid away and the incision was fully healed.

“Holy crap on a cracker.” Thor said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

“It is a military design. I know nothing more than that. Flesh that heals a hundred times faster than normal.” Steve answered as the girl-droid got up off the table and stood quietly next to her twin.  “The origin isn’t in my database.”

To demonstrate, he lifted up his shirt and the larger hole he had cut in his flesh was fully healed.

“It just can’t take much exposure to cold atmosphere. The coolant becomes too viscous.”

“They’re now fully functional. They need clothing,” Burning Chip said. “And cards that are being printed now, thanks to my bro here, Running Man.”

The one called Running Man bounced up and down, pleased to be so recognized. He stared at the sheet wrapped naked girls standing in the room.

“Now, we send them home.” Alvin said. “And as far as the package goes?”

“Return to sender.” Lady Sif answered.

Lone Wolf chuckled.

“Make it so.” Wolf said.

 

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Married by Mistake Chapter 38. Emergency Room Visit

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Chapter 38. Emergency Room Visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Chicken.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cool? They felt warm in the airplane.”

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

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

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

“Define a while?”

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

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

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

“Why don’t you do it?”

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

Tom laughed nervously, unsure if he was joking.

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

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

“Do your fingers tingle?” The doctor said

“Yes, a little.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You say you picked something up?”

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

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

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

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

Tom moaned slightly.

“Yeah, it aches.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just one? Not two?”

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

“I will drink some espresso, then.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is this for?” Tom asked.

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

“This is electric.”

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

“It’s all electric…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading the slip, she gasped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still! Oh, smoking crap on a cracker!

“Supplies.”

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

“Um, be gentle with me?” Tom asked.

Laughing cryptically, Kaylee just drove.

Married by Mistake Chapter 36. Captain Watson

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Chapter 36. Captain Watson

Without the approval from the Federal Aviation inspector to certify the jet as airworthy, the Sea Dragon was still grounded.  A shrug from Tom and a few phone calls later, he sat with Kaylee, hand in hand while they rode in the limousine towards the parking lot of the charter jet service.

The jet sparkled with a coat of white paint and a stylized sun on the tail sat with the turbine blades slowly in the breeze that blew over the airport.

The muscular arms of Captain Watson were visible to Kaylee when the limo pulled up in front of the private entrance.

Lettie opened the door and let the couple out and touched Tom on the forearm.

‟You two make a good couple. Both of you are artists and compliment each other.” Lettie looked at them both. ‟If it costs me your business, I don’t care, I just had to say that.”

‟Lettie,” Kaylee smiled. ‟It is something I have to do. It’s a promise I have to keep.”

‟Lettie, you’re good.” Tom kissed her cheek. ‟You will always have my business when I am in Northern California.”

Nodding, Lettie told Tom that her number was always open and he could have any car he wanted in her inventory at any time, including a new MRAP-style limousine ready to go into service in the next few weeks.

‟That does not sound like something to take to a book-signing.” Tom laughed.

‟You’d be surprised what people think they like to ride in.” Lettie shook his hand. ‟I supply it so they don’t have to buy one or sign up for three years into the army.”

‟Thank you for your words, Lettie.” Kaylee hugged her. ‟I hope to see you again.”

‟You can find me on Google-plus. Facebook I don’t use anymore, they charge too much.” Lettie hugged tightly back.

‟Same name?” Kaylee asked.

‟Yeah. Or you can look up ‟sexy biker bitch”. That will get you to me.”

‟You bet I will.” Kaylee smiled.

Watching Lettie drive away in her limo, Tom and Kaylee walked inside, greeted by Captain Watson.

‟Hello Tom.” The tanned face of the retired military pilot smiled as the author of so many novels entered the building, followed by Kaylee .

‟And Missus Harte.” The Captain smiled warmly. The most emotion Kaylee had seen the professional pilot express.

‟Kaylee , please.” The younger woman asked.

‟Of course, Kaylee .”

‟Regina, my plans are to do business in Vegas and return by morning.” Tom said, in a matter of fact tone. He did not start with his usual small-talk.

‟Thank you, I learned it was you and where you said you wished to go. The Lear is ready to fly. I have just to file a flight plan. Kevin Nunez is my right-seat and he is on the plane now. Please see him and make yourself comfortable, I will be there in ten-minutes, we will be wheels-up in twenty.”

Kaylee and Tom nodded and walked out the door towards the Leer Jet holding hands.

‟I hear they are going to Vegas to get an annulment.” Another pilot mentioned to Watson. ‟They were talking about it when I was standing outside.”

Captain Watson stood up from the phone where she had filed the flight plan.

‟I have had worse.” She gave a heavy sigh. ‟Mister Harte is a regular customer.”

‟Don’t you know him?” The first pilot, a handsome twenty-something buzz-cut hairstyle co-pilot of mixed race.

‟Why do you use his last name?” The older cargo-pilot said. “He insists on first name.”

‟I use a formal addressing when talking in third-party conversations. It is respectful to Mister Harte and all he has done. I give him all the respect he is due, and when talking to me about others, I would expect the same.” Watson then turned on her heel and walked out.

‟Bitch.” The young cargo pilot muttered under his breath and received a punch in his shoulder by Buzz-cut.

On the jet, Captain Watson stepped into the cabin and smiled at the couple.

‟Tom, I have heard of your plans in Las Vegas. I must say that I could not disagree more with this trip.” The Captain said. “Kaylee here is the  bandage to the scars on your heart and soul. You must know that I had to address that. You always have said to speak my mind, even if you don’t want to hear it.” She did not smile, but nodded in self-agreement, turned to make her way forward and sat in her seat. Captain Watson, after speaking her mind put on the headset for the radio and began her check off for startup procedures in the all glass cockpit.

One at a time, the engines spun up, giving Kaylee the thrill she had the last time of being in a race car of the sky.

‟Tom, this is exciting, I know why you like to fly. But why don’t you have something like this?”

‟Well, I don’t like to stay in one place for very long. The paparazzi start sniffing around, they have already started it with the long-range picture of us on top of the Pacific Wizard.” Tom looked out the window as they taxied to the runway. ‟When I go, I won’t tell anyone my destination. I can upload manuscripts over the internet from anywhere. There are a lot of places in the immediate area that I can put down on — not counting airports — and live there for a while.”

‟You were going to move away when I went back to school?”

‟You would have to learn how to drive a different route each time.” Tom chuckled. ‟I’m not much of an interest to those jackals at the moment, so hiding out is easy. Just moving from one place to another in the area, I have dozens of bodies of water and airports. They would spend too much time looking for me than they would be paid for.”

‟Until they’d find out about me.”

‟Then we would be fodder for the monsters of the tabloids.” Tom frowned. ‟They would hunt us to the grave like they did a princess.”

‟Oh, oh! The engines are wound up to take off!”

‟Wound up?” Tom chuckled.

‟Whatever they call it when they step on the gas pedal.”

‟Uh. There is no gas pedal.” Tom was looking at her sideways. ‟You sat up front with me in the Wizard.”

‟Well, yeah. I just wanted to make you laugh.”

‟You made me worried.” Tom laughed. ‟Early onset Alzheimer’s or some such.”

‟Well, it worked.” Kaylee blinked, the jet felt like it was a horse at a starting gate, anxious for speed. ‟Omy gawd! Here we go!”

The sleek jet began to roll with the brakes off. Gathering speed, the rakish plane with swept wings did not find the end of its acceleration like one would with a car. The faster it went, the faster it accelerated as it overcame its imprisonment of the earth and to the sky like a soul on fire.

Then, suddenly, it rotated up on its back landing gear and quit the earth while Kaylee made noises like a teapot on full boil.

‟I LOVE that!” She laughed hysterically with her eyes closed.

Tom laughed at her squeal while they gained altitude.

After several minutes, they leveled off and banked into a turn towards the southeast, towards Las Vegas.

‟I hope this is fast, my arm aches.” Tom moaned slightly.

‟How long as it been hurting?” Kaylee said, suddenly alarmed.

‟About ten-minutes. Just before we took off I think I bumped it.”

‟Tom. Damn. You cannot do this to yourself.” Kaylee touched his fingers, feeling the tips and making sure they were warm and the correct color, even if stained with the iodine-betadine ‟Bug Juice” (as one nurse called it and made her laugh.) that covered his arm.

Picking up the phone, as she learned to do on the last trip north from Ocean Bay.

‟Captain, can we see you back here, please?”

A moment later, Regina Watson appeared.

‟Yes? Tom?” She focused instantly on the pale writer.

‟It’s nothing, my arm aches a little.”

Captain Watson blinked.

‟How long?” The Captain asked.

‟A few minutes.” Tom was becoming pale from the pain.

‟Like a man.” Kaylee growled. ‟It began to hurt him right before we blasted off.”

Looking around, the Captain asked Tom.

‟What did your doctor say about flying? Maybe I should declare and emergency and put down.” She grimaced. ‟What kind of injury did you have, Tom?”

‟Nothing much, I got stuck with a shard of glass in my forearm.”

‟Say the truth. Regina, it cut his tendons and everything down to the bone. Even cut the bone.” Kaylee said. ‟But his fingers are warm and when I press on the nails, it returns to color fast.”

‟That is serious surgery for a man that makes his life with typing.” Captain Watson was sounding as serious as a sidewinder missile. ‟MISTER Harte.”

‟Kaylee , I am the all-seeing, all-knowing, unforgiving Queen of The Sky here and you will address me as Captain. But my first name, Regina, please feel free to use it when we are on land. You and I will get Tom back into shape.” Regina smiled. ‟What is causing you to go to Vegas to get divorced?”

‟Annulment.” Tom said helpfully, but then cringed when both women looked at him. ‟Crap on a cracker, sorry. I’ll just take the nearest exit.”

‟Just be quiet, Tom.” Regina said. ‟You are an injured party and not thinking clearly. This is obvious.”

‟Well, honestly.” Kaylee said quietly. ‟I have requested to get this annulled.”

‟If I may ask.” The Captain didn’t smile. “Why?”

*Does she ever smile?* Kaylee shuddered at Captain Watson’s intense air of authority.

‟This was not supposed to happen. I have someone at home I made a promise to. Tom is good enough to let me go, so all this is my fault.” Kaylee said. ‟Although I there is a lot of pressure on me to stay with Tom from all sides. Every one of his friends have stood up for him. But still, I have to keep my promise.”

‟I don’t agree.” Captain Watson said. ‟You made a promise with Tom.”

Tom raised his hand.

‟Can I say something?”

‟No!” The women answered in stereo. Then both women laughed while he cringed.

Captain R.M. Watson’s laugh was frightening, a sound like someone might make when shooting down an enemy.

‟I have a boy at home that believed me when I said I would marry him.” Kaylee explained. “When Tom and I did this, it was a kind of crazy party and I had a blackout night.”

‟Were you on drugs?” Regina looked at Tom who held up his hands.

‟Of my own hand. I like to smoke and drink. It makes party life that much more fun. I woke up married to Tom, so we never dated but the one night.”

‟Ah, okay. Princess Anna on a cane. You seriously married him on your first date? Drunk to the point of no memory of the evening?”

‟Yes.” Kaylee tried to look the Captain in her eye, but was unable.

Captain R. M. Watson was quiet for a moment.

Then she laughed.

‟I did the same thing with my first husband. Kaylee, at least you aren’t pregnant.” She pondered for a moment, pulling at her chin. ‟Are you?”

‟Not so far as we can tell.” Kaylee gave a timid laugh.

‟Okay, I understand, you started your contract with each other in the worst way. At least you are friendly to each other. With Tom hurting, I’ll pick the pace up a bit. We will make for maximum speed, it’ll save us some time.”

Nodding with a soft smile. She turned and made her way back to her seat in the front of the speeding jet.

Kaylee looked at Tom.

‟You have more friends that fight for you than any ten people, combined.” She stroked his face.

Tom smiled weakly, his arm was causing him more pain by the moment and he was not prepared to argue.

“Captain. He is getting worse.” She yelled to the cockpit. The Captain nodded as she answered.

“We just got clearance for our flight change.”

Then…

Kaylee did not think possible, but she felt the small jet accelerate.

Married by Mistake Chapter 22. Treatment Course

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Chapter 22. Treatment Course

Richard Tribbing, MD, Microsurgeon, specialist in the field that saved both Tom’s life, his professional life and his arm walked in with the team of doctors who all worked to answer their calling as microsurgeons while they made their afternoon rounds.

Looking at Kaylee , he smiled as he and the seven other doctors and fellows entered and filled the room.

Describing the injuries,commenting that the wound was ‟Large shard of glass left the wound clean as if a large scalpel had cut through the soft-tissues leaving the wound with no appreciable tearing or avulsion mid-shaft radius. The weight of the glass was sufficient to cut through the bone without deflection. There were eight-slivers of glass removed during the procedure. Imaging did not reveal any other glass in the arm.”

Kaylee sat and listened, twice she tried to leave as the surgical team made notes, questioned, and spoke in terms that sounded like Greek to her.

Doctor Tribbing chuckled when they spoke later and she referred to the conversations.

‟So how long do you think it will be before he comes home?” Kaylee asked. ‟We live on a flying yacht, there is not much room for putting a hospital bed in the plane, he told me last week he has a deadline to finish writing for.”

‟Well, he won’t be going home until the danger of… ” The Doctor paused and pulled at his chin. “How should I put this? If anything should go sideways against any of our plans to get him home and whole and functioning.”

‟How long?”

‟Depending on how his healing responds, probably two to three weeks, we have not had any problems thus far so maybe on the shorter side of that.”

‟Three weeks.” Kaylee said quietly, thanked Doctor Tribbing and sat next to the sleeping Tom and held his hand again while the Doctor left the room to continue his business.

‟Kaylee ?” It was Randy the nurse at the door. ‟There is someone who wants to see you in the waiting room.”

‟Me? Okay.” This puzzled her as no one of her friends or family knew she was at the hospital with Tom.

Kaylee walked out to the waiting room where sat a middle-aged woman with a quick eye who sat ramrod straight. She was the only one in the room.

‟I am Kaylee .”

‟You? You are Tom’s new wife?” She looked down and bit her lip in a grimace. ‟I am Georgia Hershey, Tom’s agent. I am the one that gets him published and I have been with him for the last decade. I don’t know you.”

She looked as if someone had spit on her.

“How did a young… lady… as yourself marry to Tom? That is so classic. How did you meet?” It was a near accusation tone of voice, followed with a sigh. “No no..never mind. I am here to check on him, there is an installment on the series due on the Weedy Sea Dragon, but you won’t know about that I’m sure. But I will ask anyway. Do you know if he has finished it?”

‟First, I am Tom’s wife. Second, I have heard about you and how you have pushed him to write, I’m not sure of his view of you gnawing on him to get things done.” Kaylee felt something inside of her, an anger that she last felt when she broke a man’s arm. “He has told me that you said it was due at the end of the month, but the contract I’ve read specifies no such deadline. It reads simply ‟As finished.” And third, he has one completed in the last month, I have read it and it is complete but unedited. It will get to you when it he finishes the edit.”

‟And I know that Leonard the Leafy SeaDragon is a series, your attempt to misdirect me is offensive.” Kaylee kept even voice, hiding her mounting rage.

‟I would like to see him.” Ms. Hershey said, matching Kaylee ’s tone.

‟The answer is no. He needs rest, he will contact you when he is ready and not before. He has endured a horrid injury and still might lose his arm. His access is limited while he is on polypharmecutical therapy and external fixation to hold the bones in the normal anatomic positions. ” Kaylee had to clench her fist on her drawing hand until the knuckles cracked. She chose her words with care to show the woman that she was not a simple girl. “You go back to your office, and tell the truth to who ever needs to hear it, Tom has been injured and is now with family in the intensive care department of the finest institution that can be found.” Kaylee felt heat building in her chest. “So you go back to your office or whatever crack you crawled out of and he will send it in.”

‟Well.” Ms. Hershey backed up a step. ‟Tell him to call when it is convenient, but please make it soon.”

The agent walked out amid scattered applause.

An RN smiled at Kaylee as she walked past.

‟That was awesome, she called when you and Tom were asleep, then came in and was treating us like trash. It was good to see her taken down a few notches.” The name badge said ‟Trish” on it. ‟She demanded entry. Then she told us she was Tom’s closest thing to family.” Trish frowned with the memory of the event. “We told her that security would escort her out.”

‟We got married earlier this month. Kind of a surprise for both of us.”

‟What does he write? You said something about a dragon?”

‟That’s a children’s book, he has written stories that have made it to the movies. ‟ Kaylee took a deep breath, she was suddenly cold, not realizing she had started to perspire during the confrontation. ‟His movie, Steamland that is in the theaters now.”

‟Oh? Oh WOW! I have seen that twice! It is a great movie, he wrote that?” Trish’s eyes widened.

‟Yup, he’s the author.”

‟Missus Harte, anything you need. No one will get in without your say-so.” Randy said from the door as he let both women in. Kaylee felt a bit like royalty after that. The young woman with an iron will who took no crap from anyone.

Kaylee smiled, returning to Tom’s side feeling accomplished. She had done something that she felt was worthy of the title of “Mrs. Tom”.

Married by Mistake Chapter 21. Night In the ICU

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Chapter 21. Night in the ICU

The constant, subtle sounds made an undertone that kept Kaylee from a sound sleep. Tom constantly moaned in his drugged-sleep state which further kept her popping her eyes open to check on the wounded man she was growing fond of.

Even with the heavy-duty narcotics in his system, Tom’s sleep was without rest, the arm was kept elevated with external hardware that looked like scaffolding on a building. To help the wounds to heal, wrapped in multiple layers of surgical gauze, the room was too warm for his comfort which kept him from resting and the IV fluids went into his good arm kept him from turning over.

Kaylee was over-warm, too. She could have slept naked in the room and not wish for so much as a sheet. But the compassionate nurses brought a fan in that blew across her to keep her from overheating. She still felt sorry for her husband.

Tom, stuck in one place and, for an active sleeper this was a fresh hell to live through. Plus he slept on his stomach almost always.

She asked the night-shift nurse, a skin-and-bones woman who wore a sweater that had more acronyms and abbreviations on her name-badge than anyone she had met in the ICU, if they could turn the heat down a bit.

“I’m sorry, doctor’s orders, we don’t want patients to have cold-related problems with the injuries, so we keep it close to their body temp in here.” She smiled, the wrinkled face that had seen many shifts and had answered the same question a hundred times, lit up in a comic smile and her eyes sparkled as if she was about to reveal a secret. “I am still cold, even with it as warm as it is.”

The two women hit it off, Elda, was the nurses name, offered to get Kaylee anything she needed during the night, supplying pillows hand over fist and showed her how to inflate the vacuüm packed, plastic covered items without anyone watching.

Kaylee moved the reclining seat and make-shift bed that family members used for sleeping in the same room while loved ones recovered from what life-challenges they recovered from.

Now with the makeshift pile of blankets and pillows closer to Tom, she reached out and held his good hand while she dozed in the chair next to his bed. It was an awkward arrangement, but it seemed to settle the wounded husband and author of children’s books so that he had a quiet sleep.

As his sleep became restful, she would decide that was the best thing she could do, this was the connection he needed to heal.

Starting awake when a nurse came in to check on a misbehaving IV pump, although he slept, Kaylee did not get much rest that night.

*In and out of the room all night,* She shifted in her sleep-spot. *The nurses do their checks on Tom with their rounds and wake me up.*

Like practiced witches and wizards with their practiced motions over complex and arcane machines, the magic fluid that kept her Tom…

There it was again, ‟Her” Tom. What was this that he was to her? What was she to him?

It was almost funny, in a sad sort of way, she thought as she faded to sleep again for the countless time, so tired she missed the next round of checks by the silent ninja nurse.

Kaylee woke up next and the night outside the window had gone from black to a midnight-navy-blue, becoming lighter as she stared at a flock of pelicans, illuminated by the city lights, flew in a “V” formation towards some unknown destination.

Sunrise would be soon and Tom was still asleep, but his thumb was caressing her hand as he mumbled something in a dream.

Not about her, he mumbled a man’s name, and a tear leaked out of his eye. That was odd, why would he dream about a man so much as to mention his name and weep? Then it hit her— it was not a man’s name.

It was his dead son.

Tom was having a nightmare about the night his family died, she choked and thought she might cry for his agony.

She stood and leaned over, a gentle kiss him on the forehead and he took a deep breath and opened his bright eyes.

‟What are you doing awake?”

‟That’s funny you should say that, I think you were having a nightmare.”

‟I was? Yes, I guess so, but I can’t remember what it was about, but I think I’ve been crying, is all I remember.”

‟You were trying to speak, you were saying a name I could not make it out. It sounded like…”

‟No, please. If it was a nightmare and I can’t remember, let’s leave it there.” His hoarse whisper did not sound as ragged as a dozen hours before.

Kaylee gave a soft smile and nodded, he was right. Why make a nightmare more real in the midst of the current waking nightmare of tubes, wires and synthetic fluids that dripped into his arm?

As the sky outside slowly changed from venetian-blue to more azure-grey, the fog seemed to roll in more, fighting the light of the sunrise in a futile effort of resistance against the summer sun. Patches of the dark blues giving way to indigo that surrendered to the cool blues of the new day.

Kaylee would have thought it would be romantic if not for the soft hiss of the oxygen, beeps of the monitors and distant alarms of some demanding pump that had run its course or had an error.

And Tom’s snoring. He had dropped off again.

*Men! They don’t know when to watch something of beauty.*

Another graveyard nurse, Suzanne, a nurse from South Carolina came in and did a last check and smiled at her.

‟We will be going off duty now, we are giving report in fifteen minutes, your next nurse team is led by Randy, he took care of your husband yesterday.” She smiled. “Would you like some coffee? We have fresh made.”

‟Yes, thank you.” Kaylee smiled when the small, round smiling woman walked quickly and quietly out the door. Kaylee never knew anyone who could walk with such silent speed.

She had to get up and out of the way while the men and women in white coats poked, prodded, inflicted pain making Tom yelp and made him wiggle fingers that had swollen during the night. The swelling seemed to make the team of medical magicians worried.

Arcane questions and language were tossed around. Someone poked at Tom’s hand who yelped again and uttered a profanity.

Randy came in after reports had been given and doctors filed in and out.

‟We need to get you breakfast, how did the night go?”

‟Tom had a bad night. Some nightmares just before dawn.” Kaylee reported. “Then the doctors came in and hurt him.”

‟Yes, that happens, they keep to the first rule of medicine, to do no harm. But they can inflict as much pain as they deem necessary.” The nurse chuckled. “Sometimes they get carried away. I think they like test the limits of tolerance.”

“The drugs he gets are known to cause some sleep disturbances.” Randy said with a teacher’s wisdom. ‟Sleeping here, does not help, either. Strange bed, strange sounds, odd smells and pain. Not a good combination, like the old saying, there is no place like home.”

‟That reminds me, how long will he be here? What things do we need to buy to help him heal?”

‟That.” Randy smiled like a hospital’s own Santa, ‟Is the purview of the Doctor, I cannot say. Every time I do, they make a liar out of me and I get in trouble.”

‟When will we see him, again?”

‟Doctor Tribbing? He is making rounds now. You should see him again, maybe with his team in a few hours or so. Right now, we have to take another reading of Tom’s fingers to make sure of the circulation is still there, I can look and see that it is normal color, they left notations that the hand is swollen, and they want to document numbers. So I will be back in with another tool, it’s busy elsewhere at the moment. I read he did well during the night. They took a measurement and the numbers looked good, but his fingers were swollen slightly.”

‟I saw her do that, but I was half-asleep and didn’t ask.”

‟She would have loved to talk to you, she is a wonderful lady.”

‟You two are keeping me awake.” The voice from the bed was barely above a whisper. ‟You know what time it is?”

‟Good morning to you too.” Randy laughed. ‟And yes, I know, I just got here. Your wife is giving me a report on your night, she said it was kind of rough.”

‟Yeah, I couldn’t sleep, I’m a stomach sleeper and y’all don’t have me any kind of close to that.” Tom voice was stronger.

‟Well, talk to the doc. He is the master of this domain.”

‟Okay. And the pin-happy doctor who poked at me was not helping.” Tom took a deep breath. “I’m kind of hungry, too. Is there breakfast?”

‟Sure thing. The menu is on the TV control attached to your bed. Follow the prompts on the screen and the food will make it here as long as you order in the next twenty-minutes.”

‟Okay, I want a pizza from Alioto’s on the Wharf.”

‟Hah. Good luck with that, but our kitchen makes great food.”

‟I’ll buy pizza delivery for the entire floor today.” Tom croaked out.

‟That’s nice of you Mister Harte, but the Department, I think you mean.”

‟No, I mean the floor. And remember, my name is Tom.”

‟The floor has a dozen stations, you are talking a lot of pizza.”

‟Party hardy Marty. Pizza is coming, I need my phone.”

Laughing Randy left the room.

“I don’t think Randy did not believe I can do that.” He laughed. “He does not know Thomas Harte has both the resources and, even drugged as I am, the will to do it.”

“Kay, dial this number for me please?” His voice was stronger, the power of his soul danced in his eyes. She enjoyed looking into those emerald-green eyes of the writer.

She could see what he had in mind and it made her laugh.

*He has a surprise for everyone on this floor.*

Married by Mistake Chapte 20. Beside Manner

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Chapter 20. Bedside Manner

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

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

‟Kaylee Gra… Harte to see Tom Harte.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟Yeah, I feel that.” Tom croaked out.

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

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

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

‟Yes.”

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

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

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

‟What happened?”

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

‟How deep?” Kaylee ’s eyes grew wide.

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

‟What, how.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟Hey. You came!” Tom sounded surprised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‟Why is Tom’s throat sore?”

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

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

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

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

‟You bet, Mr. Harte.”

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

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

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

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

Kaylee covered her laugh with her hand.

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

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

Randy laughed.

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

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

“Ugh..that hurt to say.” He grimaced.

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

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

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

‟Punish me when I get home.”

‟Soon, how long will you be in here?”

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

A tap on the door.

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

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

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

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

‟Made you pause though.”

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

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

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

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

lunch of crushed fire.

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So far, I am convinced the world of the kitchen today is trying to perform some kind of twisted sense of humor.

In making a sandwich, A touch of mayonnaise, havarti cheese, mushrooms, sliced crimini mushrooms. Then powdered garlic, and a sprinkle of crushed red chili pepper.

Well, that was the plan. It all went well until the chili-pepper.

The dry pepper in a jar just takes a light shake. Instead of a pinch? I probably put two-tablespoons on the sandwich.

UGH!  Shake it off- carefully. And I ate it down anyway.  THIS was a sinus-clearing event.

and now, I know for sure it is not an anxiety/panic attack, but my tummy is asking me “WTF did you swallow? A bbq ember? Wow!”

Ugh, Refusal to back down, hard-headed “I refuse to let it ruin my meal.” attitude.

So now I sit here perspiring more than if I just sat in the sun after a hot shower.

To quote a famous cat. Pffttthhp.

I can even fail at making a lunch.

But I did finish making the frozen dog-treats.  Greek Yogurt, (Local “raw”) honey, banana, peanut butter that are now in the freezer. I just tried really hard to make a mess. One of the containers had a hole in it from a dog-tooth, so it leaked all over the counter. *Sigh* but that was the only fail. Messy enough. At least when breaking up larger frozen “Cubes” of the dog treat, I didn’t slice a finger.

Not that I didn’t try. heh.

I did get a half-dozen shots in with the bow, hit the milk-cap twice. I’m trying to get focused again.

On a related “Focused” note. Keep an eye on this (and a few others! PoffPublishing and Rarity for two.). blog for announcements of an anthology of Horror scheduled now for (NO later than) 1 October 2016.  Originally scheduled for 2015, but all of us have fallen behind and with my own rough patch coming up (Mama Dash with Multiple Myeloma- a bone cancer and Sister Sledgehammer [the “Dash it ALL” attitude. Do not @#$! with her, she will hurt you.] with hardware being taken out of her body to the tune of about a half-pound of steel. PLUS a discovery that the previous surgeries failed to reattach a TFL muscle back to the hip.  Papa Dash trying to crash and burn in front of the nurses the day of his surgery. ) I don’t see me doing much in a full-fledged assembly of a story, even if we have a team of us authors.

Speaking of which?

Anyone who wants to be part of an anthology of a horror novel scheduled for a Halloween 2016 season release.  We have some openings. We are shooting for a 50-60,000 word novel. No more than 100k words total. At that point, our short-story size begin to shrink.

So, shoot me a note. We can chat.

Dash

Assistant cook and chief bottle washer.

Oh and just promoted from journeyman baiter to master. So all is good there. (think about it and you’re allowed to giggle)

Arrival Home, Dogs go Ape.

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A week in Reno and surrounding area while I stayed at the sister’s house while she has about a pound of hardware that held her ribs together from her event of a (Near) Total Body Crunch.

Papa Dash had a surgery. Officially “Outpatient.” but it took 4 days from Friday to Monday before I took the old warrior home. (To my sister’s house where he was staying for the time being with Mama Dash who has her own issues. More on her later.)

So, we have one family member in the hospital for surgery, lasting until Monday, to which sister goes in for surgery, the SAME day. 0.o Okay… We can handle this. I stay at her house, sleeping on the sofa- and I am pounced by a lonely 11-year-old girl who falls in love with Archery– and we shoot until my arms fall off.

Meanwhile Mama Dash who has ongoing back pain -pain that no one can seem to track down- hurts her back again after twisting while sitting on the foot of the bed.  A sudden swelling on the vertebra below the line of the shoulder blades was palpable. *sigh* Mark it with a felt tip pen and let’s go to the ER and get it evaluated. Probably a torn muscle related to the previous pain. Possibly related?  A disk rupture? I don’t know, only an x-ray to find out. I don’t have such installed in my fingertips.

At the ER, things go from bad to worse and the Emergency Doctor transfers Mama Dash to a medical center for comprehensive testing and followup – possibly with an oncologist.

So now, papa Dash is not eating (“Everything Tastes BITTER. I have to force myself to eat.”  … Um, okay.  But overdosing on fruit is unwise. And it came to pass… that yup.  Too many banana’s, etc etc.  Do make things run faster. And RUN is what he does, get the heck out-of-the-way!)

Sister came home on Friday, 11-year-old did the archery with me on the last day and then Xbox to 1:45 in the freakin’ morning when she learned mom was well enough that it was time for me to go home.

But I could not tell her “no” or go to bed. We have had a good time this week and she is lonely with a 15-year-old sister with a social life and friends with cars. Dad is working overtime to cover costs of deductible and copay. Mom is in the hospital, so is gramma, grampa is with gramma.

That leaves the weird uncle with the pointy sticks and bows.  We built the Zombie Snowman (our name for it.) and shot uncountable times. Even got the 15-year-old sister to spend time with us.  She is also hooked. Lol. they have a JOAD team in the school, so I will have some competition next time I go there. lol.

Then time to go home.  A three-hour tour of the beautiful mountains with big clouds and occasional showers. Cool temps, taking deep inhales of cedar, redwood, pine scented high mountain air with a touch of lightning to scent it all.

Then I dive down into the Big Valley. (Look up the TV series of the same name with Barbara Stanwyck, Lee Majors, Richard Long, Linda Evans and Peter Breck) and into the heat. Blech.. I’ll go back to Nevada where the temps are cooler.

BUT!

The dogs start bouncing.  Honey the honey colored dog sits on me, Hershey the Chocolate labrador just pushes her way in. there is no such thing as a still hand. You can put it on her head, scritching does not get it, must MUST be a pat and rub.

Honey, she has her tongue out. Palm wide, two palms long.

“Human, you have been missing, I have to coat you in my saliva to make it better.”

Hah. She sits on me for awhile then goes to lay down in the coolest part of the house- a hardwood floor with a breeze.

Later, I walk outside to water the corn, sunflowers, and pumpkins.  She is watching me so I stomp my foot at her in the universal play language of dogs. “Gonna get you!”

She is “Game ON! Human-who-has-been-missing! Attack!”

Suddenly my arms, hands, feet, legs, are her personal chew toys, she hits me in the chest time and again while I put her into a head lock.

This goes on for a few minutes, then it is off to grab a toy and dance out of my reach every time I try to take it from her to throw.

I assume she wants me to throw it.  But then she keeps it away, until I ignore her then she jumps close and barks at me with a muffled “Woof”.

It is fun to have been missed. So now she sleeps with her head on my foot. her body half in-half out the sliding glass door.

That really looks uncomfortable over the threshold.

Anyway.  waiting for reports on the scans on Mama Dash, Papa Dash has agreed to eat more lean protein and get some complex carbs in.  I suggested Archery (I think I covered that before) but it won’t come to pass, so long as mom is in the hospital.  Food yes.  Archery? Yeah…not so much.

On well.  Honey dog just decided to drop a ball on me and is wagging her tail.  I have to throw it before she starts barking.

Then back to writing that I have been circumvented by an eleven year old who is lonely during the summer. (all her friends went out-of-state and the one that’s left is “always busy”)

I’ll post something soon.

Not counting my High Mountain Adventures.

your fave Up and Coming Author

Dash

Archery, zombie snowmen in the desert and chocolate bars.

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Help! I have been kidnapped by a 60 pound, eleven year old girl who has fallen in love with archery!

I spent a few hours with her talking about parts of the recurve bow, the string. How to shoot and stand.

Her first shot did not make it to the target. (10 paces away) so we moved closer- 5 paces. Next shot. Bullseye!

She was addicted!

Ut-oh! She IS addicted.  I have obtained a new longbow a few weeks ago and I am still working on drawing it after a 24 shot series without trembling.

Yesterday? I thought my arms were going to fall off.  I could not type, my shoulders ached, my fingers of my right hand are SORE. I think we loosed over, well over, 100 arrows yesterday. The only time we stopped, here in the high desert of Nevada. When it got too warm.

So we went inside where she made me some hot chocolate with the multi-use coffeeish maker. (They come in pods.) So..that was okay, I did some coffee in the chocolate, to which she went “eww!”.

So we came in to play xbox until the sun moved- and back out we went!

She got her sister’s compound bow, but after two shots, she went back to the recurve. Sister will be shooting with us today, so maybe not so much shooting?

Hah.  yeah. right.

So, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, cold packs and maybe I can talk them into a Lord of the Rings marathon. (Don’t think that will happen, not when the bows are sitting out.)  So I will attempt to write this AM and get you folks entertained.  I am already working on my third cup of coffee, it is quiet, someone is up, but I don’t know who just yet. But I will take advantage of the quiet of the morning.

If someone can shush that rooster outside that would be great! I’d threaten to shoot it, but I don’t think I can draw the bow right now! Ugh!

Moment of release

Moment of release. Note arrow in flight just in front of the bow.

We still need to work on her form, but we are having lots of fun for now.

Well, SHE is. *I* am in pain…

*Insert emotional music here*

Sister Sledge is doing well, due for release from the hospital tomorrow.  Papa Dash is nearly back on his feet after the surgery. He has been driving around in his truck. Has his leather cowboy hat on. (Seems a lot of his hair has migrated from his head to his back. I wonder… can they transplant back-hair to the head? Would that work? Hmm… AND it still has color. Although a bit darker than his original hair.)

Mama Dash is trying to be stubborn and not go to the Doctor, but the Great King has brought down the hammer. She is going. End of discussion. His eyes got a bit sparkly in that moment where you know that someone is about to be grounded (or worse) as a kid.

Anyway.  I have to keep him from doing too much. I might introduce them both to the world of archery.  It has muliptle benefits.

1. After the initial expense, it is relatively cheap. you reuse the arrows, not counting broken ones. (that’s the main cost)

2. Shooting is good for the core strength. Keeps your mind focused.

3. AFTER you shoot and do the isometric exercise of resistance pulling, you have to go get those pointy sticks! So there is a walk to the target, pulling and walk back. A second benefit!

4. Recurve bows are lightweight. Not like the machines of compounds which I find can be heavy(not always, there are the more expensive ones that are quite light). Plus with a take-down recurve, you can change limbs and draw weights. So if Mama Dash can’t pull, or has gained strength, more limbs and not an entire bow needs be purchased.

So that is the end of my rave for archery. shotgun, Rifle and Pistol shooters? Worry not, I am not dissin’ you. My aim (hah!  Not intended but I like the pun, so it stays) is for quiet and reusability. Difficult to recover your bullet and shot for reuse time after time.

Anyway.  Wish us luck, I hear that Honey the Honey colored dog is moping around, missing me. (I don’t know why, I am not her human. Princess #1 is.)  She is sleeping on the laundry I did but did not put away before I left, just sat it in the basket in front of my dresser. Now the basket has become a bed for a 90 pound yellow dog.

really? Most of my clothes are dark. Guess I get to do laundry again.

Okay, sending this away so i can do fiction before I’m kidnapped again.

Wish me luck!

Dash

PS. Nearly forgot Zombie Snowmen. We piled targets up on each other. A large white “body” with a dark, weather-beaten head.  You can see the body and head in the image, we put it up top after the image was taken. It is a zombie because we are in the desert which is deadly to snowmen. So this one is ‘undead’. lol. part of the story.

Discharged! Hospital in the Rear View mirror.

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At 5:45 in the morning, I woke alone in the room. Light was subdued by heavy drapes in the room. The Inn at the hospital was comfortable and quiet. But excitement was the ruler of the morning, Three days, count’em! THREE!

An “In and out” surgical procedure. Problems arose, along with bleeding. But the patient, a tough old bird that has had a bumpy year, health-wise has survived the tribulation and both his attitude and strength is returning.

Somewhat tired, but so motivated to get the hell out of the hospital, when the morning came, he was nearly as excited as I was.

So we laughed, talked and waited. harassed nurses (In good humor)   7:00 hour rolled by.. 8:00… 9 AM… Breakfast arrives, chocolate milk. We share the milk in our coffee, father and son drinking side by each. The Great King and the Imitation of the man. one who sits on his own throne.

No doctor.  The Nurse practitioner kept promising the discharge was in the bag.

Yeah, 3 days burned on that note.  So When does the doctor come in?

TEN O’clock…

Papa Dash and I looked at each other.

“I need to go check out of the Inn. I can always check back in and checkout time is 11:00.” And off I went.

10:30 rolls around.  I return, no doctor.

ELEVEN. A.M.  Nurses are starting to hide from me.  If I have to check back in at the Inn, I’m going to start making a spectacle of myself.

Noon.  No doctor.  Papa Dash is now dressed in his street clothes and pawing at the ground like a bull ready to charge. Lunch arrives, pudding, chocolate milk. Carrot soup.

Quarter past noon, I head over to the nurses station.

“Is the doctor in surgery?”

“He has surgery on the schedule for 1:00.” She looks at me. “I will call the Nurse Practitioner.”

Okay.  So I return to the room where an impatient and tired Papa Dash sits.

Brother-In-Law appears, sister is in same hospital and is having a scheduled surgery for trauma from three years ago. She is in the hospital at the same time as Papa Dash.

But Sister Sledge-hammer is as hard and strong as they come. More on her later.

Finally!  At half-past the hour, the doctor comes in. Nods, shakes hands, “make an appointment with me next week.” and walks out.

We are FREE!

Two signatures later, we aer SO outta there. Shake hands with Brother In Law, hugs all around.

Papa Dash does not even want to wait for me to bring the car around. He is all like “#$%@ that! Let’s go!” walks out without the wheelchair.

So a hike of a half-mile to the car, after 4 days of enforced bed rest, bleeding, post surgery, dehydration, no real food (Pudding, coffee, chocolate milk) and he made it. Although, he was glad to sit down.

The old guy rolled the window down and stuck his head out the window for the first two blocks just to feel the wind in his face.

“Damn, I missed that.” With laughter. “Drive young’un!”

Now for sister:

She is in the hospital for at least TWO days. If the math works out like Papa Dash’s, we are looking at least a week, but Brother in Law says it went pretty well.

The steel plate they put on her ribs to hold her together showed signs of infection and the surgical team took a biopsy to send to the CDC to identify the source.  If it comes back with bad news, an alternative plan that includes more surgery is in the works.

If good news?  She comes home. At which point I evaluate my position here.

Maybe a day longer to see if she can function and have her control of the children and family, if so? I go home. If she needs me to be the legs she needs, I’ll hang out for a few days, do archery with my nieces, tell stories on Grampa.  The younger niece has all but kidnapped me. We had tea with dolls, watched Cloudy with Meatballs 2, How to Train your Dragon and several games on Xbox.

I do not own an Xbox nor do I know how to play it. Maybe I can distract the kids as the favorite weird uncle that does things outside besides writing stories.

Maybe roast a few S’mores…

Tell a few fireside stories I make up as I go along.

More on that later. 😉

For now,

Dash McCallen, your fave up and coming author signing off.

Good night.

“Outpatient” Surgery

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Do I believe it? There should be “Truth in advertising” rules for some things that the good doctors do.

Outpatient surgery should be relabeled Almost Outpatient Surgery.  After a 4 hour outpatient surgery.

“In and out.” Yeah?

Okay, FOUR days later, we are still looking forward to being discharged. Papa Dash has his history of a thrill, where they started yelling “Code Blue!”.

Sister is due into the hospital for surgery tomorrow… ALSO “Outpatient”. Do I stay?  Hang out and see if she ends up in the hospital for a few nights? Support the brother-in-law with THREE invalids, and 3 children? (Mama Dash is not doing well, either with a wrenched back.)

We’ll see.  I am at their disposal. After I post this, I will write some more fiction.

Papa Dash is feeling spunky, walking around with his IV pole, hitting the bathroom hourly.  His kidneys have kicked in full force.

To the MD that figured out that the “Bleeders” that were causing some problems with a bloody mess every hour or so, thank you, the proper idea at the moment stopped all the leaks.

Papa Dash, his dire thirst has come to an end, chapped lips, parched mouth.  With Mama Dash’s wrenched back, a poor reaction to narcotics the twenty-four hours before and he did not eat or drink much if anything before he had to fast. PD went into surgery extra dehydrated, then all the excessive bleeding drained him some more. (IV Replacement fluids to blood are not a 1:1 ratio)

Then tonight, they(Nurses) got tired of my talking with Papa Dash after visiting hours and booted me out. XD Well, he is hard of hearing so my use of the “Inside voice” doesn’t work.

Anyhow.  Back to the task of writing.

Well, not a task, the thrill of writing. It is something I like to do. 🙂

Hope you do, too.

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?

A call to family.

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Emails flying back and forth, in the next state over, family has had wide-spread health issues.

Papa Dash you all know about.

Mama Dash – She has thrown her back out, in paralyzing level pain, so they took her to the ER.  After hours of pain meds, she decided that ZERO was a good blood pressure for herself at the time.

Finally having come ’round to the thought that zero/zero BP is not going to get her home she straightened up, and the ER discharged her.

Whereupon she rolled her eyes up into the sockets and she slumped over in the wheelchair. ..>Back< to the room she goes.

A few hours later, they discharge her (again) and this time they get out to Papa Dash’s desert-dune jumper.

Where she slumps over again, lights out.

Back to the ER… in the wheelchair they brought her out in.

5 AM they finally get home. But the back of Mama Dash is anything but healthy.

Sister- She is still recovering from a motorcycle vs car. (“2 Seconds” in the collections of stories I have posted. I fictionalized their accident) and one of the screws/plates to put her bones back together has chosen to be a point of infection that is refractory to treatments so far.

So… Papa Dash in for surgery on Friday.  Sister is going in for surgery on Monday, Mama Dash who would be taking care of both is not in much shape to do so and brother-in-law (awesome guy!) still has to do his 9-5 life.

So, I will be occupied and I will try to post goodies for you all.  Perhaps second editions of stories that have danced before your eyes on this screen?

Come eat chocolate ice-cream and read about romance. Eat a pizza and wonder about exploding cell phones triggered by altruistic vigilantes.

Or a suicidal future medic (Melancholy: Tunnel of Darkness) or contemporary cop (Sound of Thunder)

But I have not forgotten you all. 😀 I am still working on horror stories anthology that is due Sept 1 (two stories for the collection of authors here in WP that have come together and two for a possible Podcast locally in the autumn.)

So now I have you updated. No story yet. I’ll see about getting something adventure like posted. 🙂

Hang in the folks.  Someday you’ll be tempted to go to a movie and eat some popcorn then read “From the novel by Dash Mccallen” and you’ll have a chance to point and tell people around you – “I know him!”

LoL such are the things that dreams are made of.

So I will be heading into Nevada here in about 36 hours for an unknown amount of time. I don’t think it will be very long, and I might have internet access there and will post from there when possible.

Papa Dash

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Only son of a red-head and a giant of a man who was well-known as the foreman on a construction job to get it done – and done right – will be having surgery, a cholecystectomy on Friday.  I will be there as this is the one single hero that has tolerated my tweaks and quirks and still has the spirit to call me “Son”.

Once he had color o his hair (Even had a lot of it! Shhh… No comments on the lack thereof now!) now with his beard, his hair. The hero of my childhood and adulthood, a man who if I was not his son, I would go out of my way to know him.

He looks like Sean Connery, with the voice of James Earl Jones.  Now he is in a rough patch with stones in places they have no need to be.

So, I will be distracted this week, I think. I will try to keep you all posted, but in constant emails with him, interpreting the dr’s comments he transcribes and keeping my mom’s concerns updated.  I’ll be seeing my sister and brother-in-law there, too. (They live nearby).

So a four-hour drive for me.

Small potatoes for family, especially Papa Dash who is also titled as “The Great King”. Who’s throne I aspire to, but I am just a poor copy.

So “Papa Dash” (So named by an old friend when we were little)  John Kenneth U’Maille MagCallen (Original spelling, actually was changed sometime in the 18th century after a move to the New World as explained by “Grandma Boots”.) will be having holes poked in him by a slightly maniacal, egotistical MD with a car payment due.

The Lunch break

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The lunch break

Doctor Nickosla Jones, Trauma surgeon of the St. Osmium Medical Center sat with a cup of coffee and a dry toasted english muffin. The shift had been severe. A cold night after a snow filled month and then a couple warm days.

Black ice had taken a toll on the average person. The latest victim, an elderly professor at the Ion University, walked out his drive with a bar to break up the ice, and slipped.

The on-scene EMS crews there put the unconscious instructor of physics on a helicopter and flew him straight to the St. Oz’s with posturing, and a subarachnoid bleed that they recognized straight away.

The only question was how long the injured man lay on the ice, out if sight of the house and anyone from the street. Only when his wife noticed he had not left for his early classes did she walk outside and discover her husband of two-millenia, two centuries and six-decades, laying in a freezing pool of blood from the laceration on the back of his head.

The surgery had been long and draining. The bleeding and fractures to the skull were not his only problems, spinal pressure from the neck injury complicated the treatment protocols as the teams moved from one problem to the next.

Finally, they closed and the patient went to the recovery, one alarming moment, the patient’s blood pressure dropped alarmingly, Nick and the other fellows rushed in, and after an intense hour, restored homeostasis as much as possible.

Professor Hecate Budd still was alive.

And Doctor Jones was tired.

No, not tired. Exhausted.

And he still had an hours drive home to do.

He was debating about going to the local hotel down the street and just logging some sleep for a few hours when he looked up and saw him.

White hair, a goatee that he kept well-trimmed and the affectation of the silver-handled cane that he started to carry in the long-ago past.

“Good job,” The one called Finis said, handing a latte to the Doctor. “Your patient will live, in spite of going horizontal for about a half-second.”

The goatee widened in a smile. Sparkling eyes shown behind the rose-colored glasses.

“Yeah, but he was fixing to die on us up there.”

“That medic on scene did a good job, he called it on the money by putting him in a helicopter and flying him here.” Finis nodded. “Besides, he had you. That made all the difference.”

A pretty young woman came up and tapped Finis on the shoulder and held up a tablet computer that Finis tapped on names.

“He has family waiting. Take his wife to him.” Finis nodded. “That will help.”

The woman nodded and tapped on the tablet.

Another name, she handed the tablet back to her boss and let him read it.

“This is expected.” Finis frowned. “You did not need to bring this to my attention. She will be leaving soon, family is on their way.”

“Sorry, the calls never quit.” He apologized to Nick.

“No, no. Don’t apologize, I know as well as anyone.” Nick sipped the fresh coffee and steamed milk.

“Yes, you do, as anyone in the center here knows. You are well taught and talented, but they are still overwhelmed.” Finis shook his head. “The hospital’s understaffed. When was the last time you took a day away from this house of craziness.”

“Yeah, well, it is the path I chose a long time ago.”

“Right after you nearly drowned.”

“Yeah. That was the first time I met you.” The doctor said.

“Well, it was a good meeting. It pushed you in the direction you took in school.” Finis looked around as the woman approached again from the hallway. No one noticing her except the two men. “You were a bit of drug-oriented rebel in those days.”

The woman spoke in Finis’ ear again, slipping the tablet into his hands.

“No, this is not right.” He shook his head. “His schedule is not yet finished, he’s scheduled for another week of therapy, then I have to go talk to him.”

She nodded and walked off to do her boss’s bidding.

“The same lecture I gave you when you were being stupid and jumped off that bridge into the river, I am giving to this young man. Unlike yours were at that age, his options are limited. He has not finished school and he’s twenty with a damaged liver.”

“He still could become something.”

“Perhaps you should talk to him.” Finis shook his head. “If I do it, he will have bladder incontinence issues for a week.”

“Not going to handle him gently, old man?” Nick chuckled and took a bite of his dry toast.

“Two things.” Finis gave a crooked smile. “One, I am always gentle. But I will get my way, no one says no to me for very long. And TWO, do not call me old.”

Nick chuckled. Both those statements were true. No one could deny the handsome gentleman that sat at the table sipping on his own latte.

Finis stood six-foot tall, his white hair hung to his shoulders when loose, but often he kept it pulled back into a pony-tail.

Broad at the shoulder, large of bicep and narrow at the hip, the effect was one of a Santa Claus that spent too much time in the gym. He really did not need the affectation of the cane he used to disarm people as a grandfatherly type.

And he was hysterical to listen to when he was working, always looking at a bright spot that no one expected and could poke fun at it.

Only once did he see the keeper of the cane become angry, it was not a pleasant thing to see. The doctor learned that the subordinate involved ended up being a yard watcher at a bone-yard.

Looking at a young man reading a comic book, Finis sighed at the graphic of a cloaked monster with a scythe in hand.

“I wish, someday that I could entrust this job to someone else, then I could talk to children of the views they find in those, “ Finis paused looking for the words. “Graphic novels. Are not entirely accurate.”

He shook his head.

“Well, people do have a fear of a lot of things.”

“Yes,” Finis agreed. “But as a doctor, do you find them afraid of you?”

“Sometimes. I tell them the truth and they don’t always like it.”

“When I tell them the truth,” Finis grumbled. “They don’t believe me.”

The woman returned with the pad, but this time she had a worried look.

“Mister Sierra.” The only words she said as she handed Finis the tablet.

“Of course, he has no one. I need to go talk with him.” Finis signed the tablet and handed it back to her. “Nick, you did a fine job. The professor will leave this medical center on his own power. Don’t worry. I am not scheduled to meet with him for a long while yet.”

Looking back at the comic book the boy held.

“Maybe I should change my cane for something else? They make the cane into an edged weapon and I have no face.”

“Or a skull.” Nick nodded grimly. “You have to admit, you have a tough job.”

Nodding Finis stood up, shaking Nick’s hand. Old friends, Nick had met him when he nearly died as a teenager, the white-haired, smiling man directed him to medicine to do so much good.

Now, Nick felt a little sorry for him. Overworked and under-appreciated, the Angel of Death walked out of the cafeteria. A soul that hated his job and took it to heart that no one wanted to meet with him.

Always scheduling family to walk with the dearly departed, or walking with someone so they never made the trip alone, telling jokes or having conversations with them the entire journey. He was good at his job, and he hated it so much.

Doctor Jones shook his head and got up, the irony of it all was not lost on him.

Excerpt: Children of Fury, Chapter 20. Old School Medicine

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(Setup: Beli O’Danu, shot with an arrow and is bleeding to death. The knowledge of the Draoithe (Irish Druid) are what stands between him and death.)

20. Old School Medicine

Donal continued to help his old friend down the path to the river. Conn with his father’s arm around his neck helped to partly carry and partly drag the elder O’Danu to where the two men directed.

“Here! Put me down, here.” Beli grunted painfully, as they came to a clearing.

Beli’s shirt was sticky with clotted blood and matted with a paste of moss and herbs he had smeared on his own chest. Putting the poultice where the arrow protruded, the herbs had slowed the bleeding.

“Conn, collect some wide-flat rocks and build a small fire.” Said Donal as he went down to the riverside and began selecting plants with a critical eye. “Clean and heat the rocks over the fire until the water cooks off.” The High-Priest directed while he searched for those plants needed to save his friend’s life.

Beli wheezed out orders to Conn on what rocks to look for. Donal returned with an armful of roots, twigs and herbs with fleshy leaves, setting them down on the ground, he began to wash his hands in the clear water of the stream, cleaning the mud off his fingers.

Conn collected several large, flat rocks, about the size of his two spread hands, he cleaned them well with clean water and placed them near the pile of twigs and leaves.

While Donal was sweating from his exertions of grinding the leaves and the moisture from the herbs had mixed with the bark that he had collected in a small mortar and pestle into a smooth dough like texture. Time was short and his friend’s life hung in the balance. The longer they took, the weaker Beli was getting.

Conn started the fire with the use of flints, gently blew on the ember that he had been able to spark. With the growing fire. Conn began to wash two stones near the stream, cleaning the stones with a soapwort rub, then washed with water until it was clear. Then, with the fire burning hotly, Conn put the two stones near the flames to dry.

Conn’s father-in-law made himself as comfortable as possible, kneeling near the fire, putting a collection of bark and herbs on one of the rocks that had a concave surface, then began to press the medicines together with a small well used silver rolling-pin.

As Donal pressed the juices from the succulent greens he had just picked, chosen with an expert eye, Conn watched closely as the elder Draoi crushed and mixed the ingredients with the experience that would let him watch for the proper texture and color of ingredients.

Placing more herbs, Donal continued to grind the organic bits together on the hot rock, the mixture sizzled and put off a strong smoke that made him blink and cough.

“It is better at an alter, the smoke does not drift into my face so I can use it for bandages and not choke or blind me.” Donal coughed again. His voice quavered slightly and he cleared his throat, getting back to his task.

Conn suspected, however, that not all the tears were from the smoke.

Conn helped Donal by slowly pouring water over the tops of the rocks with a small silver cup that the elder Draoi handed him. While Donal tore a leaf apart and began to mix it with water, heating it until it bubbled.

Donal touched a branch taken from a willow tree to the mixture, the thick, hot viscous liquor coated it cooled on the smoothed carved twig.

Beli, who had been watching this turned his eyes down the path, Gael, Conn’s mother and teacher walked towards them from the ocean where they had taken refuge from the advancing armies of Parliament.

Several of the women burst out in tears at the sight of the wounded Beli laying on his back, only to have the Gael silence them with a wave of her hand.

“Time now is not for tears! Now is the time to repair and save a life. We need the finest, clean linen that anyone has.”

Gael invoked her title as a High Priestess, the Ard-Draoi. The Baker family who were Druid Priests and Priestesses of the Scots, the name of Baker had a huge influence wherever they walked and Gael was not to trifle with when it came to her knowledge of the Draoithe.

From within a pouch she carried at all times, Gael produced smaller bags of salts and knelt by Donal who looked up and nodded. Taking several small bags laid them next to the fresh herbs that Donal had collected.

Niamh, Conn’s mother-in-law and High Priestess in her own right, directed the women to gather strips of clothing to prepare for dressings. Setting down her own bag of collected medicinal herbs that exceeded Gael’s in the form of infection control herbs.

Niamh took a handful of linen from Anne MacNamara, who had grabbed anything she could while running from the advancing troops. The clothing was the best she had, giving it up to the priestess who had the intense look and a sense of urgency not seen before. Anne was not about to cross Niamh the healer.

Walking with the armful of dresses, Niamh stopped and pulled up some roots of a nearby plant. At the stream, tearing strips out of the clothing that Anne had given her, Niamh began to wash the makeshift bandages in the clear water of the river while she ordered the other women to build a fire nearby.

Gael nodded to herself as she directed what kinds of plants to use for the fire. The three Draoi worked together with intensity to save the life of their friend and mate, for what was about to come was the hardest and most difficult part for them to do.

Beating the strips furiously with a stick over one of the rocks that Conn had gathered, the plants and cloth formed a thick lather that Niamh instructed the helping women, including her friend Gael to rinse out in the flowing clear water for some minutes until all the water flowed clear of the strips. One after another Gael and Niamh inspected the linen strips carefully. Those that passed inspection were hung to dry in the smoke of the slow fire that they built using bundles of incense gathered by the remaining women and children. The smoke of the herbs, they explained, prevented infection later.

These treated linens Gael handed Conn, instructing her son to hold them by the corners and not to interrupt her while she was explaining how to do what he needed to do.

Detached from the activities that would save his life, Beli laughed silently, no matter how old her son was, he was still Gael’s child and would follow her directions.

Conn, used to giving orders and being in charge  bowed to his mothers sharp tongue and the father-in-law’s orders of what to do and how to do it.

As Beli lay on the ground, weakly moving his hands as if to guide the operation. A dozen of the villagers that had found refuge among the bluffs of the shore worked furiously to gather herbs under the directions of Donal and the Priestesses. Few had time to stand and watch, praying for the injured elder while they foraged for the needed herbs. So many had died that day, no one wanted to watch another one of their own also pass at the hands of the Parliament’s Agents.

“By the stones!” Beli wheezed out, his agitation growing with the pain. “This is beginning to seriously hurt!”

“It is going to hurt more before it gets better old friend, “Donal knelt next to Beli, “this might have been easier if I had the Spoon of Diokles with me, but that all burned with the village.”

Beli tried to interrupt but Donal shushed him.

“Yes, I have the Saultis Ominus nearly ready. Yes, our wives have the dressings nearly dry over the fire and clear of bad airs. Yes, we have the proper herbs.” Donal pressed a finger to the wounded man’s lips. “Shut up and rest.” There was no appeal to Donal’s command.

Then Donal’s tone softened as he touched his friend on the shoulder.

“Beli, to take this spike out of your chest will be difficult and the wound is deep.”

“I have made it this far,” Beli looked slowly around at the mountains and then the sky. “I’m ready to do this. This is hurting more with each breath. But I am not coughing up blood, my fingers are not white at the nails, if it has caused a hole where the blood flows, it is plugging it up now. When you pull it out, it will unplug the hole like a bung from a barrel. Then I would be dead before you could stop the bleeding.” Beli wheezed painfully.

“Beli,” Donal said softly.

“I know…” Grimacing against the pain he interrupted as he grabbed at his old friend’s chest, “I cannot live with this in and every moment it is in me, the more damage and the more pain it causes. It must come out, one way or another. It is good that it is you, you have the best knowledge to do this. You have pulled these out of men before during battles.”

Donal nodded, mixing the dried and powdered herbal potion with the smallest amount of water to mix a paste on the cleaned linens. Conn brought some powdered leaf over on the warm rock with the willow branch, now cut by Gael who carefully heated the twig over the fire until it turned color, she was careful as not to burn the wood as it would be ruined, and Gael did not have time to prepare a new branch.

Taking the remaining uncooked paste, Donal smeared the pungent mixture over his hands. Donal who wrinkled his nose at the smell.

“It tingles my hands and burns my nose — Aye, it is a strong mix. This will either cure you or kill you old friend!”

“Where is my bite rag?” Beli groaned. “Be good and sure it has the medicine in it.”

Conn brought the linen pouches that they made up for the procedure. One, moist but light in weight and green, the other that was heavier but dry and colored tan. Careful to kneel next to his mother as he held them out to Gael on a cleaned rock, who took the light one and handed the larger, heavier tan wrap to Donal who set it along on the edge of the heated rock.

Donal nodded at Gael and Beli, everything was ready.

“Put it in your mouth. Beli, bite down a few times.”. Gael gave no room for debate as she looked down at her husband, holding the thumb sized green rag to his lips.

“I know what to do!” Said Beli, with his voice muffled by the green linen bag.

“Shush and chew, husband.” She kissed his forehead. “Before I thump you.” The threat was without weight of malice. The only emotion she let be obvious, sharp she might be, he was the love of her life.

Donal looked at Conn, “I will need you to pack the wound with the flat of the willow-branch there. Scoop up the powder and dump it in and around the hole after I remove the spike until the bleeding stops or there is a pile over it. If he bleeds too much, your father will not stand a chance. But I venture an opinion that it has missed his vitals.”

One last breath Donal braced himself, wrapping his hand around the iron neck of the arrow-bolt, he held it for a moment, looking into the eyes of his friend and son-in-law’s father. Beli had become quiet. He had a familiar, dreamy look on his face and an odd glazed look in his eye that showed that he was already in an induced sleep.

“No pulsations from the shaft, this is a promising sign. Okay, straight out and easy.” Donal said quietly.

“Niamh, Conn hold on to his arms. Gael, keep him calm.” Drawing a deep breath, he looked at his old friend. “Beli, see you on the other side my brother.”

A gentle pull and Beli became wide-eyed with a grunt as the pain exploded through him. Gripping the green grass underneath him tightly.

“Keegan! Keegan! Tá brón orm! Fill ar ais go dom mo garmhac! Tar ar ais chugam!*” Beli screamed.

(*Keegan! Keegan! I am sorry! Return to me my grandson! Come back to me!)

Gael, kneeling at Beli’s head squeezed red juice from a cloth with bark and berries into her husband’s mouth, the extra plant extract calming him further. Taking care that Beli would not stop breathing under the narcotic effects of the herbal medicines, the effects were rapid and predictable.

Donal kept pulling, not letting up and not letting go for worry that it would do more damage as it returned to its resting place. But, if he pulled too hard it would cause a suction that could kill his patient.

Moments passed and the shaft did not move. Then slowly as Donal applied a little more pull on the arrow, it began to back out. Imperceptibly at first as sweat beaded on Donal’s forehead, then the arrow shaft started to move steadily backwards out of the chest of his best friend and family member.

It was out the length of a fingernail. Dried blood on the shaft was the marker how deep it had been.

“Pour some powder around the base of the shaft.” Donal told Conn.

“Keep him from moving his head as much, he flexes his muscles here and in his back when he moves. It is making it difficult and more painful.” Donal admonished Gael as he kept the tension on the shaft.

Width of a finger out.

The dart began to slide out of the wound more easily, the tapered shaft, Donal thanked the Gods it was not a broad head. Built with socket-fitted tip on the wooden arrow.  They forged the tip to penetrate armor and then wedge in the metal skin with the wood fibers, made for piercing armor and disabling but it was not efficient at killing.

Wisdom held that it took more men of the enemy to remove the wounded from the field of battle than to tend the dead. Those that were left then would have the archers come down and the killing would be done with knife, sword or ax on the battlefield.

Two fingers width of arrow withdrawn.

“More powder, get the cloth ready to staunch the bleeding.” A small trickle of blood was visible. Donal had one hand on the patients chest, pushing while the other hand pulled on the iron neck of the arrowhead.

With a wet sucking sound, the needle sharp arrowhead came out of Beli’s chest.

“Now, pour some powder in the hole and cover it up with the cloth and press firmly, until I tell you to stop.” Donal told Conn, “Not TO hard! Don’t break your father’s ribs. He won’t like that.”

His hand firmly over the hole and watching the blood soak into the cloth as he pressed directly on the wound, Conn was now sure that the old man was going to live. Donal carefully put down the blood-slicked spike. It was well made, fortune was with them, no barbs or splinters anywhere on the edges and no bleeding salts had been on the shaft. Donal did not cause more damage with the removal. The arrow did all the insult to the body at the moment when it entered his chest.

Turning back, “You can take your hand away,” Donal covered Conn’s hands and smiled. “apprentice, you have done well! You teach us how to build ships, we will teach you, yet, about herbs, medicines and how to heal.” Donal said as he dressed the wound with the bandages prepared by the women.

Conn chuckled, it had been a long time since anyone dared call him an apprentice, but here? Here he was well outside of his normal circles. Looking at his mother, she smiled at him, making him feel young again.

“You did well, Conn.” Croaked Beli, “Don’t you agree, Gael?”

“Shush, you old shoe.” Gael looked down at him. “You made me a near widow, when you are fit I will make you fear me more than death, enough to step away from any arrow. I will not do this again with you! I’ll find me a handsome young man and toss you out!”

Tears were in her eyes as she spoke, there was no conviction in the words. He might be an old shoe, but he was hers and she took care of all her belongings. She was the queen of collecting in the family and her family was her prize collection, Conn her only child and Beli her only mate. They taught and treated together many children and people, every day it was another family that needed to help a child born into the world or a negotiation between clans. Gael’s family was her soul.

Donal opened a pouch withdrew a couple of stones, setting one aside, then another.

“No, wrong effect. This one is wrong, too. There! This one.” Then with a skilled touch, Donal began to grind a small chip into a powder.

Conn looked and recognized a few of the stones in the pouch, many he did not.

“Bloodstone, feldspar, rubháid bairestone. What is this?”

“That, my son, is ‘Sruthfola’, it can cause severe bleeding. Only used in scant amounts to keep blood thin to promote healing on some injuries.” Beli whispered, “Or stuck into someone to cause them bleed for a long, long time without stopping.”

Conn looked at his father, he was still glassy-eyed from the herbal cloth that Gael pushed into his mouth, but he was still awake and able to talk.

“Dittany, is a plant that stops bleeding and promotes healing. I’ll be well enough in a day.” Moaned Beli, his voice a bit stronger now.

“NO! Beli! I will thump you!” Growled Gael, pulling her husband of so many seasons down to his back by an ear. “You will heal and rest.”

“She’s right. No herb or magic can take the place of healing. Magic can fix the problem, but the body must go back in balance.” Donal said to Beli, he would not dare oppose Gael now in any case.

“Then catch up with my son. He is walking with that look in his eye again. He is thinking of something.”

Tunnel of Darkness Section 3. Challenged

Standard

Section 3. Challenged

 

Data incoming, the Seraph was on a defensive footing, reporting that the perimeter was under assault and the hospital ship was using all non-lethal means to keep the killing and marauders  at bay. Each group claiming a holy right to kill anyone they deem unworthy of life.

Those wounded that approached with hands up and asking for help, they treated without hesitation, but the armed militias required the Seraph to raise shields.

Those wounded that did not move inside the perimeter before the hospital ship powered up, became stranded. The mob murdered dozens full view of those that swore to treat life as precious. To help and aid, to use wisdom for the healing of those that needed and asked, however they could only watch.

One technician thought to send a message to the rescue teams. The was closed. 

Safsy read the data as it came over the terminal and shook his head.

“James, we have a problem. Exit is cut off.”

“Well, this makes it a lot more difficult. Secondary zone, then. Tell them we’re heading that way now with an ETA of fifteen.” The pilot read his navigation display.  “We will need to take the long way on the water, might be choppy because of a breeze, but it will be safer.”

“Plotting now.” The Colonel looked over the live sat-nav display.  “James, we will head into a large group boats that are moving between us and the secondary, how if we do the tertiary?”

“Negative, that is an hour away as the crow flies and I cannot promise you a straight line.”

“Defense systems up then.” Safsy tapped the smooth panel, powering up the protective hardware.

“Do you have training on the defense systems?” James asked.  He was well versed in the protective hardware of the hover-hybrid, but his task now was to get them to the hospital ship. 

“Minimal, I know how to use the electric hull defense.”

“Excellent! That one’s difficult. We have also noxious gas. Just remember, there is a limited amount of that. The only resource we have in abundance is electricity.”

“Noxious…?”

“Specifically, it is a skunk oil. And not the nice kind, either. This is a mercaptan that they concentrated in the worst possible way and a permanent pink dye.” James laughed. “It can be detected by a human nose in one-part per quadrillion. If you get doused in this stuff, you will be easy to sniff out, and you will be a color that does not exist in nature and lonely.”

“Wow, pungent and pink.” The Colonel gave a grim laugh. “Should be easy to find, they would be alone.” 

“Yes, press the button on that, yell and I will be moving this crate. I want clear out of the area before the canisters discharge, that crap is hell to scrub off the paint and no one wants it in the hangar.”

“Then we are leaving. We have an hour of travel.” Safsy ordered.

“Yes, sir. And Colonel? There is a marsh nearby that leads out over the water, we can move over that and be clear of any crowds, I just cannot navigate this glorified shanty-town.”

“I’m ahead of you, working on an exit route now.” The Colonel spoke into the man-to-man mike. He spoke in relaxed tones with the pilot. “Direction and speed on your display now.” 

“I’m heading away from the groups, to some lower buildings. These skyscrapers around here are an advantage for anyone wanting to take a shot at us.” James said, dust of impacting projectiles were visible across the path they just covered.  But the shots were wide and hit ground in the distance.  They were just shooting wild in their  direction.

“Engage, put distance between us and the rioters.” Safsy had seen the puffs of dirt nearly a thousand paces behind them and did not wish to waste time.

The hovercraft was steady as it moved over the marsh. Surgery continued in the operating theater as the craft navigated the open area.

Saving the wounded pilot continued as the teams repaired the insult to the pilot’s body. The lead surgeon ordered that the moving emergency room be shown more care or cause the surgeon to become unhappy when James and the Colonel headed out over the water where the craft began to sway unacceptably.

“O.R. to the Colonel. We are working back here, please keep the rocking down to a gentle quake.” It was “Stormy” Knight, six-feet tall of surgeon that was frightening when she became angry. She had no tolerated no interference when it came to caring for her patients.

Sensors beeped and displayed information.

“Seraph is passing overhead. They’ll land on the other side and extract us there.”

“Outstanding.” James sounded pleased as they crossed from the open water back to the marsh area, the rocking motion of the hovercraft subsided. “Thank you for that info.”

In full hovercraft mode over mud and reeds , the surgical team in the operating room remained undisturbed as they repaired the shrapnel filled wounds of the pilot.

Approaching the Seraph, it was a bittersweet end to the mission. The Colonel achieved a successful mission resolution, inwardly pleased as they arrived at the hospital ship. Deploying the tank treads, James rolled them up the ramp into the hangar and powered down the engines once they were safely inside.

The melancholy set in as this would probably be the last time he would head out.

The wounding of the pilot created questions that they required to answer for. Safsy would be held responsible for injuries of the pilot, perhaps relieved of duty.  It was the way of the corporation. 

Downloading the logs into the larger ship’s memory, Safsy shut down the on board computers and stood up, stretching. He needed some fresh air, it would probably be the last time to do so while wearing a uniform.

Walking off the ramp of the Seraph, Colonel Safsy stood on the soil of Sapphire with his hands in his pockets and inhaled the breeze that blew gently into his face.

It was a nice planet, perhaps they could become a tourist destination. Safsy shrugged inwardly.

“COLONEL! Watch out!”  Shouted  a hanger technician.

Safsy looked around and saw a sentry drone with a projectile weapon locked on to him, this was not alarming, corporate drones operated with programing to follow commands of anyone wearing the ID badge with the chip in it.

“Drone! Disarm, power down.” Safsy ordered while approaching. For a moment, it seemed that the machine was turning away when it fired with a strange buzzing sound, blowing a hole in the Colonel’s chest.

The buzzing sound echoed in his dying brain.

Darkness was all around him, the insistent buzzing was annoying, the last sound he would hear in this life.

Yawning, the webs of the dream faded and the Colonel wondered why the buzzing reminded him of a gun.

“Incident assigned.” They received a dispatch to the planet Sapphire for victims of riots. The most violent planet in the outer systems.

Colonel Safsy Gliese sighed, he wished someone would shoot him.