Interceptor

part 1: foxtrot uniform charlie kilo

This April evening darkness came early. It was hardly past 5 pm and Newport City didn’t stand a chance. It was engulfed by a tidal wave of flickering electric light, mist and a gentle rain.

The big adds on the skyscrapers flared to life, bathing the windows in neon blue, bright green and crimson. The street lights flashed, blinked and faded away, only to restart in less than half a minute.

Oz moved through his nearly empty apartment without making light. Not that he would have needed light ever again… His new prosthetic eyes automatically switched to night vision, showing him his nearly empty apartment as shabby as it felt to him right now.

In the bedroom, he unrolled his sleeping bag, where his old bed used to be. A clean set of clothes waited for tomorrow morning. He sighed, unsure what to do next, he went to the window. His own reflection looked like it always did. No scars, no metal parts protruding from his skin, even his eyes looked like his old ones. Strix made sure, he kept his retinal pattern for security reasons. No one would notice he had prosthetics. Raindrops trickled down the window. Only inches away, one would notice that his pupils would whirr and turn, not contract. He tapped the glass twice and it went milky. Nothing out there for me. He said it out loud. His voice sounded distant and flat.

What now? Izanami asked.

Can I see you? A young woman blinked into existence. She stood at his right side, and wore a grey catsuit. She had her long light brown hair braided into a long ponytail, resting on her left collar bone. Her full lips smiled at him pleasantly.

He had selected her facial features before he had his implants, even before he had his personal AI.

That face was with him, since he was born. It was the face of his mother in her twenties. His distant memories and an old photo of her laughing, were the mold, for Izanami’s facial features and her emotional response. He had set her emo-hub to be a fun person, optimistic and humming away his favorite songs, when he felt sad. Izanami monitored his neurotransmitter levels and knew when he felt stressed. She hummed softly.

Is this projection a hologram?

No. Izanami smiled. What you see, is a construct. I’m inserting your projection of me into your visual data, just before entering your visual cortex. I use the communication hub between implants and neuronal tissue for that. Your high capacity interceptors are made for this task. Do you want to change my appearance?

You are saying… You’re a hallucination? Oz surprised himself with this realization.

Technically? Yes. She nodded happily, and walked over to his left side. Your gaze follows me through space, but I’m there. Izanami pointed vaguely over Oz’s left ear.

There was the AI’s CPU and memory unit implanted into petrous part of his temporal bone. The implants for the AI were only twice his thumbnail’s size. It has been a minor operation, half an hour, or so. He had earned himself a migraine though.

The Uplink implants have been a procedure of several weeks and some hours in surgery. He still got dizzy, when looking at repetitive patterns. There was a weird interference, he hadn’t manage to filter out.

You seem not to like the word hallucination. What about ghost? Do you like ghosts? Izanami asked concerned.

No. Hallucination it is. Let’s personalize your features, security first. I should have done this on our first day. Oz paced up and down his bedroom. Izanami remained stationary where she last stood.

Firewall? Browse, select, cancel? She asked in a mocking robotic voice.

Select high security encryption. Quantum key. Select super symmetrical dummy barriers, select voice command initialized autistic mode.

Selected. Are you expecting an army of hackers? She giggled.

Select visual notifications and warnings, when attacked. Visual and audio notification, if security breached.

Right, war it is. Ok, selected. What about override? Izanami nodded, produced a clipboard and started scribbling away with a yellow pencil. Oz stopped in his tracks. What are you doing?

Taking notes, darling. She cooed.

Then select override mode, if logically impaired… Say, when I’m unconscious, or sleeping, or if I have lower than 50 blood sugar level, or lower than 80 percent oxygen saturation in arterial blood, or when sedatives or poison is detected in blood stream. Supervision only in autistic mode. I won’t have you getting bugged.

Selected. Please confirm settings with master voice command. She nodded slightly, tucking away the pencil behind her right ear.

A knock at the door interrupted. Who is it?

It’s Marcus. Izanami said. He’s alone and brought you beer. Oz walked towards the door. Go to sleep Izanami, we’ll continue tomorrow. Wake me up at 7:30 am. The woman blinked out of existence.

Open up! You think, I let you slip away that easily? The muffled voice belonged to his friend.

Oz swore under his breath. He didn’t need accommodation. Marcus… Dammit. He opened the door and there stood a tall, beefy young man with dark hair. Marcus being over six feet tall, occupied the whole doorway. His dark cat-like eyes gleamed with mischief, he smirked and pushed inside.

Man, Oz… Are you on a Zen trip, now? He whistled, and flicked on the light switch with his elbow. He thrusted two of the four six-packs into Oz’s arm. I brought beer. But I got a head start, so yo need to catch up. He winked at Oz.

Why are you here, Marcus? I don’t need a party. I don’t need your… Oz sighed, shoulders slumping. He knew Marcus stuck like chewing gum to a shoe sole, if he wanted to, and now he very clearly wanted to.

Oh come on, Oz. You got your papers… So, what? You’ve been banned, not thrown into jail. Lighten up! The world isn’t ending. Oz barked a bitter laugh. Marcus turned around and eyed him suspiciously. Are you moving? Where to? Can I help?

-No. Oz put the beer on a box near the living room door. He crossed his arms before his chest. Izanami and I can manage.

You’re the dumbest smart person I know. I’ll sign you up for the Dummy Olympics…

Am I? You know where the door is. Oz puffed annoyed and pointed towards the door.

It‘s not good to stew in your own juice. I told you, and the AI you’re so fond of cannot… Marcus breathed. I want to help. He smiled and held two six-packs up. That’s the start.

Oz wasn’t having any of that. I don’t need your help!

Yes, you do. Your dad made a scene, and you’re hurt. I understand.No, YOU DON’T! Oz shouted, his fists clenched into white balls of sinew and bone.

Man, chill. It’s been two months already. You’ve licked your wounds. Come off of it… Marcus spoke, as if to a rabid animal. Look, I got good news. You remember Professor Henriksen, pharmacology in second year? I showed him your work, and he liked it. He wants you to be his assistant. The job isn’t payed well. I know! But it’s a start. Oz looked at his toes. What do you say? Monday’s your first day! This was going to be painful.

We can share my lab. Marcus flashed his biggest smile and looked most pleased with himself. He turned around to put the beer unto the kitchen counter and got a glimpse of the letter laying there.

The temperature in the room dropped. He grabbed the paper and spun around. His face was the face of a deadly wounded. What’s this? Marcus’ voice trembled. Oz? The skin on his cheeks was ashen, eyes wide and watering.

Oz was caught by surprise, stammered. None … None of your business… The suicide note for his father would be hard to explain.

What the hell!? Marcus closed the distance between them in a blink. Oz backed away from the sudden notion, against the wall. His friend loomed over him, like an avalanche speeding down a mountain side, towards a box with puppies.

What were you planning? Oz turned his face away. TELL ME! He couldn’t stand those accusing dark eyes. The reaction wasn’t what he expected. He could feel Marcus’ beer-breath on his jaw. Is this what you want? He got pinned by his shoulders to the wall. Say something… The grip was strong. Anything… Marcus’s fingers dug into his tee and the skin beneath. It hurt. Oz bit his lips, tasted blood. He was disappointing again.

You want to die? Marcus voice broke. You really want to die? He took his left hand from the shoulder and pushed his forearm hard unto Oz’s windpipe. The bony part connected with his Adam’s apple. A surprised grunt escaped Oz’s mouth, with shock his eyes darted back to Marcus’.

You think you got it bad? Huh? You think you’re the only one suffering? You think you’re the only one struggling, from day to day? Marcus’ face was now white, distorted with rage. Oz tried to push the arm away from his throat, which made Marcus lean unto him harder. TELL ME! Marcus screamed.

He leaned on Oz with his whole weight now. The piercing pain in his throat clawed at him. It felt like glass shards being slowly pushed under his skin. His tongue felt raw, working against his teeth. You never worked hard for anything in your life! Everything was given to you, you little shit. At your first failure you toss it all aside, as if it was a filthy broke toy. And now you throw away your life too! You have no right to!

Marcus…Oz choked. No. Marcus’ eyes burned with hate. …Stop. He wheezed. Air refused to leave his lungs. The blood in his ears sang to the rapid thumps in his chest. Please. He kicked Marcus, but it went unnoticed. He reached out for his eyes, but his arms were too short, only touched his cheeks. He couldn’t swallow the saliva in his mouth anymore. The pressure at his temples blurred his vision. Iza-namiii… He had to do something. Fast.

…Your eyes! Marcus backed away suddenly, as if bitten by a snake. Tears ran down his cheeks.

Oz fell to his knees in a coughing fit. Before his eyes, the room blackened. He held his throat, sucking in greedily air, choking on it. Marcus looked at his hands, as if they were bloody.

The entrance door exploded.

Three men stormed in. Their guns stormed in too. Their movements looked to Oz like a black blur with six feet, stepping between him and his friend. Oz breathed. Each of them wore an undercut, black jumpsuits, bulletproof wests. Sort of military, Oz thought. They trained their guns at Marcus, who slowly raised his hands. Two of the men had weird looking semi-automatic rifles. The oldest of them had only a handgun. “Are you all right, Dr Wellington?” He squatted down near Oz, touching his shoulder.

Oz sat up, and croaked. Who the hell are you, people?

The man raised an eyebrow. “You’re welcome.”

What’s going on? Marcus didn’t dare to peel his gaze from the guns.

Sir? One of the men nearest to Marcus asked. “Cuffs.” The man barked back.

Oz stared in disbelief as Marcus got yanked around, hands slapped behind his back and zipped. He stood up supporting himself by the wall.

“Do you wish to press charges?” Oz shook his head. “Your call.” The man shrugged. “We got you a room in HQ. Lets go.”

Wait. Lemme say … something. Marcus begged. The man at his wrists looked quizzically at the oldest. “You’re a mistake away from another hole in your head.” The man said in a businesslike tone, and nodded .

You never understood, did you? I dropped so many hints. All the time we’ve been together, I thought… I really thought you knew. Marcus was close now. Oz furrowed his brows, not understanding.

Suddenly Marcus leaned forward, planted a kiss on Oz’s lips. He got yanked back hard. With a snort, the man handling him, dragged him out of the apartment. Oz glared after them in shock.

“That’s that. Where’s your stuff?” The man in command asked. Oz swallowed and looked at the man’s hard face, he noticed a long scar on his cheek.

Are you military? The man sighed and went looking for the bags. He found them right away in the bedroom.

“You got your papers, doc?” He shouldered one, and held the second out for Oz to take. He looked him up and down as he failed to take it. He shrugged and started downstairs. “Send in a cleaning crew.” He said.

Yes, sir! A male voice answered from nowhere.

Oz stood in his doorway wondering what to do next. Looking back at his apartment, with the busted door, he wouldn’t be able to sleep in it. Besides, a cleaning crew was on its way, whatever that meant. He followed the men downstairs. Behind him he heard steps. Several somebodies moved.

Outside a black SUV waited with its tinted windows. The wet concrete reflected the adds on the other side of the street. It drizzled. Oz hugged himself, his tee was damp and cold. As he approached, another car pulled slowly up. The man, who had his bags, pointed to it. “That’s yours. We take this one, with Mr Sampson.”

Marcus? Oz asked. The man nodded. What is going to happen to him? The man just smiled mildly. He’s my best friend.

“You should choose your friends more wisely. Try to pick those, who aren’t trying to kill you.” The man winked at him, got into the car, and they sped off, into the night.

The car meant for him halted, and the door opened. Inside, a young woman smiled at him brightly. Dr. Wellington! So nice to meet you in person. Please get in.

Oz looked around, the street was deserted, his apartment building had some lit windows. Th sky above him wept gently. No one was looking out for him. He searched for his windows, and found them smashed.

Nothing there for you anymore… The woman sighed. Get in. It’s cold.

But! Those weren’t broken before. Oz got in obediently, and buckled up. He shivered violently. The woman started the engine and merged into the occasional traffic.

That’s because you died in there. The road she took led to downtown. I-what?

Everyone looks back one final time. It’s normal. She extended her right holding a flask. Here, have some. Whisky.

Died? Oz reached out, smelled and took a gulp. The liquid tasted like extinguished fire and smoke. It burned down his throat, and he couldn’t suppress a cough. It still hurt- I…died?

-Yeah, you really scared me back there. This friend of yours, did he ever… You know? The woman tried. She glanced at him and made a sympathetic noise.

Oz wondered. Why wasn’t Izanami activating? He swallowed audibly. The whisky warmed his guts and he felt a bit better. A question dawned on him. How did these military guys know, he was in trouble? Was he bugged? Was his apartment bugged? How did they listen in? How … did you exactly know?

That’s a good question. She nodded. I’m not allowed to tell you. She said and pointed to the space between her eyes. Maybe you’ll figure out, by yourself. She winked at him too.

The winking was what made Oz lose it. He was sick of being winked at. What THE ACTUAL FUCK! HOW? WHY? IZANAMI WAKE UP!

No use, she got remotely disabled. Bound and gagged. So she wouldn’t call the police. They would have arrived too late, anyway. Luckily a bunch of smart and able guys were in your vicinity. All five, really cute too.

Five?! Oz remembered hearing steps, and a disembodied voice. I only saw… He trailed off, thinking.

Maybe they used the same trick Izanami used. But instead of inserting, the masked themselves, or deleted themselves from his visual data… Before entering visual cortex… Fucking interceptors…

Oh, Dr Wellington. They told me you’re smart. Say, what are you doing tomorrow? Got time for coffee with me?

med bay snippets # 3

Is this one of your stupid jokes, Rains? What do you mean with, “we lost Decker”? He’s hooked to E-bed 2, in quarantine, thanks to you. Care to elaborate? He raises an eyebrow.  I know the doc doesn’t approve that I ripped off the seal. The best I could do, to trigger the alarm.

I shake my head, but plunk down into the seat, the doctor offers me. He pushes a cup of fresh coffee over to me, and glances down his watch. I know perfectly well, that what I’m about to say is… It sounds batshit crazy, even to me.

Look doc, I’m… I don’t know. I – I just – I have to tell someone. Makes me feel less…

Disoriented? Distressed? The doctor offers. I know he means to be helpful. But…

This is a report. I keep telling myself. I have to warn everybody. Doc Wellington has to keep his cake-hole shut. I tell him, before I let the Captain in on this… Whatever this is.

I can’t meet his gaze. Those eyes,  they accuse, they see through, they strip you bare.

I nod and take a sip from the freshly brewed hot dark liquid. My mouth burns…  This is a report. I will burn less, when I talk. I need to get this out of my system.

You know, some hours ago… Down on Chimon, when Decker knocked himself out, and I had to haul his heavy ass back? 

The doctor nods.

I… I think something happened to Decker. Uh, he said some very weird things… Some, uh, really disturbing stuff… I don’t think he was himself.

The man sitting opposite to me,  fixes me with his blazing eyes. Even though I’m not looking at him, I feel two hot spots resting on my cheeks.  As if two wasps had decided to sting me simultaneously.  Just freaks me out. He harrumphs politely, and  folds his fingers into a praying gesture.

Well, delirium is a very strange mental state. He begins explaining, but this is bullshit. But this is not that easy. It can spook anyone. I don’t like how he shrugs. There are documented cases, where people started speaking tongues, even ancient greek or latin… His patronizing smile turns my guts.  And it was a most stressful situation. Acidic taste seeps on my tongue, and I force my stomach back down. I shake my head.

THIS IS NOT WHAT I MEAN!  Not at all. I nearly left him on the surface! I have his full attention now, he leans forward.  I nearly left him on the surface, because he freaked me out. 

The solar storm damaged the engines of the landing pod, upon reentry.  And the com.  I have to admit, the landing was less than optimal, and it’s my fault, that Decker got nearly killed on spot. He kind of rescued me, and got his oxygen tank damaged. 

My hands leave the cup alone and I raise them, palms up. Shrugging palms.

First everything was normal. Well, as normal as being stranded in a volcanic eruption zone on an unstable planet. Normal apeshit crazy stuff.  The man in front of me scoffs.  A sense of humor is always a good sign. That’s what they tell you in the military. A residual coping mechanism, when everything else is beyond repair.

Got him into the nearest pick-up area.  That was when his oxygen got down into the red zone. He said that he won’t survive this, that the drugs aren’t working properly, that something was wrong.  Then… I swallow.  

Then, uh… He screamed! He screamed for three minutes straight. It was, it was , uh nauseating. It must have hurt so badly. He screamed for his mother… I – I-  Oh, God…

Take your time… It must have been hard to listen to a man dying. 

I cannot hold back, to my surprise – I sob.

Uh, he said that he is going to enjoy this. And that I will enjoy this too. He’d make me…

med bay snippets #1

I look at my bandaged hand in the unnatural green light of the exam room. Nasty… That’s what I would say, if my mouth would do its job. Lips and tongue are swelling and numb. I try not to be too suspicious by licking them. I bet, if you eat a swarm of angry hornets, it would feel the same. Not the regular ones, but the big, Japanese ones, with mean attitude.

Oz is smiling at me, like he always does, when I get into trouble. It’s an equally patronizing and cheering smile, reserved for fuck-ups like me. It’s the smile of a big brother I never had. I’ve seen him do this with his patients too. I can almost hear his habitual mantra.  Unbelievable!

Oz jumbles on his sterile gloves. Elegant trick, how his long slim fingers do the opposite of striptease. Now comes the folding, his fingers clench into a praying gesture. I call it The-praying-Oz.

Hibernation unit. Ate my hand. 

My mangled palm leaks through the bandages. The black stain seeps through the cloth I wrapped around the hand.

I hate this part. The peeling away of bandages, the revealing of hurt, skin, muscle and sinew, maybe bones. The heavy lid traps not only fingers and palm, but the momentum of damage. The will to destroy, the idea to kill needs dear payment. Maybe I pay with more than my blood and my  fine motor skills. My breathing is fast, but not because of pain. I switch my pain sensors off, when I’m about to pull a stunt. To pull a stunt… That’s what Oz calls getting into trouble. Breathing. Fast and shallow, which is a problem. I feel the swelling starting down my throat.

This is bad. I sure hope Oz tries to get me to speak, so he’ll notice. Come on Oz, do your magic! I cheer him on mentally. 

How did you hurt your hand? Tell me!

Oz’s eyes lock on mine. Guided missiles…

I’ll pull the footage afterwards.

They just look like laser guided death on a mission. Thank God, my mouth is out of function, or I might be telling him the truth.

Mffpfen…felin …Ifaf…wetwiiin…it. 

Ah, yes, the perks of drug allergies. Not having to care about the tension in your voice, when you are lying.

My pen is safe, don’t worry about that… Of course, I won’t tell him that I was meddling with the security protocol of that hibernation tank.

I swallowed codeine beforehand and brought a broken ampule. I already swapped it with the one on the table he did not give me, when I stumbled in.

What? Why are you talking so funny?! Epinephrin. Now!  

Oz jumps out of my field of view. Better hurry…

He slams the epipen into my thigh. There they are, the angry hornets with attitude flooding my leg, or is it my lungs? Feels like drifting…

Look at me! Focus!  

I don’t think so….

#1 – the lion roars

PART 1  – LIQUID PEACE

The gutter dripped and the rain drops rapped hard on the window. My eyes were already open. The bedsheets felt cold and damp. The shutters rattled with the wind gusts.  I’ve been staring at the dark ceiling for nearly three hours. I sat up. Sleep was busy somewhere else.

Another rotten night.

My mind was stuck in ruminating mode. There was no point in trying to sleep. Heavy rainstorm washed over the town. So thirsty… I tried to breathe. The merry-go-round in my head kept me replaying the last two weeks, pining me to decisions, yanking me back and forth between faces and screams and tears. Decisions that were not my wisest… 

Wasn’t enough. 

I thought of the woman with begging eyes. She came into the ER, during my shift. She had fever, and severe abdominal pain. I guessed her secret right away. Her deep ocean green eyes betrayed her, I could read in them. Everyone could…  that she had attempted  abortion. Bleeding and in pain, she got down on her knees and pleaded. Immediately I got her a bed, and called a trustworthy gynecologist I knew. I trusted him to keep his mouth shut. I trusted that a human life was more important to him than law.

I was wrong.

Nevertheless, I started her on antibiotics and enough painkillers. I refused to make a blood test. If it was positive, she’d go to jail. Maybe she would anyway… If she’d survive, that is… I had Rose, the head nurse, look after her.

I cannot just watch and wait for her to die, that’s what I told her, and that’s what I told the head medic.

He stopped all medication. That bigoted windbag stopped ALL of her medication and I got sent home for a month. Rose tried to calm me down, but by God – I… I.

The oxygen left the room. Two days ago, Rose called. The woman with the begging eyes died. My skin felt dry and hot, like a heat blanket over a snowman.

There was this nagging icy feeling wrenching my guts, that I just couldn’t shrug off. I could use some peace for once – some sleep, or unconsciousness. I could use some liquid peace… I thought of the empty liquor bottles lined up in the kitchen. Vodka was sometimes your only friend. It was a reliable friend. Brushing over my  burning face, my forehead was sticky with sweat.

The phone rang. The sinking feeling sank deeper. I got up. The cold floor burned  under my soles. I went to the hallway to pick it up, but my hand hovered above it.

Important? Work? Catastrophe? Which is it?

I asked myself. It did nothing  to buffer the leaden dread sitting on my chest.

I grabbed the phone. “‘llo?”

“Comrade Hoia?” The stern voice on the end of the line felt like a brick wall I was about to smack into.

“Yes,” I swallowed. ”Who is this?” The man didn’t answer. Statics filled my head. This was a catastrophe, I decided. I heard a pen scratch on paper.

“I’ve got a young man here, a Hungarian Jew. He says, he knows you, comrade.”

Benny… What have you done this time?

Was this police or worse? Securitate? “His name is Benjamin Ekes,” yawned the man.

“Yes.” I croaked. “I know him.” My throat was stinging, I couldn’t suppress a cough. I heard a faint echo of myself coughing. They were recording the call. Securitate it was. My heart knotted.

A big drink, I rubbed my lips, a whole bottle.

“Do you, comrade Hoia?” He paused amused. “Then come and pick him up. Police station.” The man hung up.

“On my way.” I said, listening to the disconnected tone in the line. With every heartbeat it grew louder and louder. I stood in the darkness.

Pull yourself together.

I needed to get going. Who knows what they did to Benny. I grabbed some clothes and spares for Benny, gauze and disinfectant. On a second thought, I called the ER at the polyclinic I work, and had Rose on the phone. At least, some silver lining. She understood immediately what was going on. She said, she’d  had the scrubs ready, if needed. God bless good old Rose, the smartest nurse I ever worked with.

Two minutes later I was on the deserted main road, heading downtown. The rain came down like a curtain. My car seemed to be the only one in the whole wide world. I lit a cigarette, and thought of all the peaceful people who could actually sleep.

Benny needed me.

And I? I needed a drink, and a month worth of sleep.

Part 2 – PATIENT PAPER

the onks

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The vicious little thing, that looked like an ordinary eight years old boy, had a rotten day. He had the onks. Gnomes were prone to get the onks, especially  the young ones; and being a member of the royal family did nothing to prevent that. It was bearable in human disguise though, mingling, watching these oafs, and doing little mischiefs was entertaining enough to stand the bad days.

He strolled down the Bridle Path, enjoying the sweet shadow patches beneath the canopies of the trees,  minding his own business, slurping his fifth Vanilla jalapeño tabasco topped tripple Espresso, when a big bright blue man knocked him down hard, spilling his coffee. “BRAT! Look were you step,” the man yelled at him.

Since when dared a man to step on a prince’s foot, knock him over, spill his coffee, call him brat, and expect to get away with it? His eyes flashed red, his back burned, summoning enough magic to vaporize the whole park in one heartbeat.

That would be too easy on the human, annihilation went too fast. Severe punishment was waiting for that man, for more than a lifetime. Something nasty… Nasty… He had a brilliant idea. He snapped his fingers. Clap of thunder filled the air.  The man who jelled at him, transformed into a small pug.

The boy went to the dog. “I’ve always wanted a doormat,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. He picked it up by the scruff and shook it.“Who’s the brat now?” His eyes lit up with magic. The dog yelped and wiggled his little body out of the sweaty electric blue spandex shirt.  It started to pee itself, terrified beyond the capabilities of his little doggy brain; the bulging eyes, and the heavy shorty breathing made the gnome prince giggle. “Now you’re mine! Forever.” The pug whined. “What’s your name?” The dog whimpered. “Fine. Don’t tell me, pug.” The boy plucked a blade of grass and twirled between thumb and forefinger. A long green rope emerged between his fingers, and tied it around the dog’s neck. He put it down and looked at it quizzically, tapping his forefinger to his chin. “Hmmmm… Let’s see. Sit!” The dog sat. “Speak!”

“Hi. My name is Carl.” The dog answered with a yelp of surprise.

The boy grinned  satisfied. “Take that onks.”

Foto: http://xgram.tumblr.com

premium gold valentine’s day package

This is the first draft for a submission. ’bout 300 words, sci-fi, the spirit of Valentine’s Day should be present. But…well, I dunno. Any thoughts?

1) Test customer

„I’m not made to understand. Natsume. Kun. I’m made to be in love with.“ She giggles with her mellow voice.

„This is true.“ Sweet dialogue design. Five stars. I note on the life review feed. My follower number jumps above 50 k. Nice! I sip my drink. The rich dark scent of warm cocoa floods my palate, texture delightfully creamy. Hot chocolate. Like, no- better heart. Four stars. Her voice hub designer is an artist. Voice hub design: five stars. I bet she could purr me to satisfaction. A very pleasant picture of the Valentine Goddess. 

The waitress, dressed as a maiden, brings us a piece of  strawberry velvet cake, made to look like a cartoon heart. „I’m sorry to have kept you. The love special, for our lovers.  Best wishes from the staff at Valentine Goddess Maiden Cafe Ueno.“ She chirps heartwarmingly and bows. They should cut the adds. After all, this is just a Cafe with companion androids.

„This is my favorite! How did you know?“ My Valentine Goddess asks with astonishment. Her surprise is programmed with brows shooting up, bright flashy smile, wet glistening in her dark blue eyes. Facial expressions pretty basic, a bit overdone. They call this high facial expression mode. 

„It’s my favorite too.“ I beam at her. She gasps.

„No way! This is fate! We are made for each other!“ A bit pathetic, but men will go crazy. It’d be charming if she could eat though… I look at the display of my mobile. Fifteen minutes left with my Valentine Goddess.

At the base of my iView screen in my glasses, my bank account shows a fat plus of 70 000 Yen. Not bad for ten minutes work.

tiger, burning… (2)

part 2 - tea with jade and tiger

part 1 (the cold mountain)

“Cold Mountain holds a naked bug. Its body’s white, its head is black. In its hands a pair of scrolls – Forgive me, dear son. The autumn wind brings not only the snow clouds  from the  Cold Mountain, it also brings thoughts of frailty and decay…” Zhang Dee Yang looks into the  bright orange of the fire his foster-son just made. With a burning splint Bolin lights all lanterns  and lamps in the room. The old man  looks at him moving gracefully from corner to corner. The covert smile he flashes is only for Bolin, but only  when the boy isn’t looking. It’s the notion of a proud father towards his worthy offspring, even if the offspring isn’t of his own blood.

Thick grey clouds rush down the western slope of the mountain. They soften the lights and the sounds. The wind turns the air in the tea house cold and damp. Bolin worries about the pain the coming season will bring for his father, and closes the screen door. The crickets chirp into the clacking of the whispering bamboos, but they grow tired rapidly and stop. The governor sits by the fire, lighting his pipe, listening to the hints coming from the garden. Bolin prepares the cups and the tea, pours the hot water. He hands one cup to his father, but doesn’t seem to notice the growing silence.

“One the Way and one its Power. It needs no pots or stove.” Bolin makes sure his father is comfortable, before settling down unto his cushion. The two men sip from the steaming  fragrant tea. The pleasant warmths of the golden liquid mixes with the warmths of the  woolen covers. It promises a wonderful evening.

Before continuing on the subject of Black Viper and San Chou, Zhang Dee Yang thinks about the guests waiting in the garden, and decides to watch Bolin closely. Usually they spend hours in the teahouse discussing philosophy, art, poetry and astronomy, but this time, swiftness is most important. The governor clears his throat. He speaks the rest of his poem loud enough to be heard without any effort: “Without clothes it wanders on. But it carries Wisdom’s blade.

Scratches at the screen door answer his last verse. Bolin’s head flies towards the noise, nearly  spilling his tea. The alarmed expression on his  foster-son’s face brighten’s him up. The old man chuckles softly. “Please do come in, most honored guests. Bolin, be kind and  prepare two more cups and seats.”

The screen door slides open and a slender silhouette appears in the doorway. Right behind it, a bulky man bows slightly.  Bolin scrambles to prepare cushions and  to tea. The newly arrived guests are clad in silk with the color of shadows and wet soil. No adornment or jewels reveal their origin or social status.

A lady moves delicately towards the fireplace. The man closes the door behind them. “This is the most beautiful Fang Hua Xing, lady of thousand virtues. Her white hands have tamed the wind. This is the famous Jinhai Wei Fu, master of the green mountains. And this is my oldest son, Bolin.” The governor introduces everyone.

The guests look at Bolin carefully, long enough to make him blush. He hurries to fill the empty cups with tea. After Fang Hua Xing and Jinhai Wei Fu sit comfortably, his father waves a hand at the  free cushion. He sits down and  doesn’t dare to look at the guests. He knows, they must be fighters of some kind, maybe the best… The lady is most likely a sword fighter, and the man could be a master with stick or lance. Their elegant names hide their pasts, but names are like poems -one has to know, what their creator has in mind. But those hands do not lie about endless training hours, they have been through.

“To restore order in San Chou, it was necessary to free the village from the criminals.” The governor’s low voice slithers between the fragrant tea vapor clouds. “The most effective way was to do it from the inside. One capable man can do it.” Zhang Dee Yang looks at his son, and laughs.“Bolin! Don’t pull such a serious face, my dear son. There is nothing to be worried about. These two are good old friends of mine. They trust me, and I trust them.” 

The young man gasps and instantly bows before his foster-father. “Excuse my foolish reaction, dear father. Honored guests, please accept my humble apologies, for my rude behavior.” His forehead nearly touches the wooden floor.

“Young master, speak openly. We are all servants for the honored governor Zhang Dee Yang.” Fang Hua Xing’s words calm Bolin, and he dares to raise his blushed face. His gaze meets the lady’s. Bolin’s heart skips a beat, as he notices, that her eyes have the color of sunshine caught in pine resin.

“Let’s drink tea and play Pinyin, my friends.” Jinhai Wei Fu flashes his pearly teeth. His eyes glow with mischievous fire.

“That’s the spirit!” The governor nods happily. “Bolin. Dear son, you have returned a month ago from your completed training on Mount Songshan. You have become a capable young man, and I’d be happy to offer you to the Eternal Phoenix Throne. I believe in you.” The governor sets down his cup. “Find a way into the rows of the Black Viper, and cut it’s head off!” Fang Hua Xing’s sad eyes pierce the young man for a moment.

“Your trust honors me, governor Zhang Dee Yang! I will not disappoint you!” Bolin’s forehead touches the floor. He inhales deeply and holds his breath to calm his racing heart.

The governor smiles mildly. “I know you will succeed, my son. My dear friends will accompany you, and ease your way. San Chou will need your whole attention.  It is the best, to suspect that there is a traitor among the officers.” He sighs. “It will not be enough to destroy the Black Viper. You have to find the traitor…” The governor looks sad at his foster-son. “I fear, this will be the most dangerous part.”

“Noblest governor Zhang Dee Yang,” Fang Hua Xing interrupts carefully, “your honored name mustn’t be spoken in this matter. We do not know, who is corrupted by the venom of the Black Viper.” The governor drags at his pipe and nods slowly.

“Of course, my dear Fang Hua Xing. You are, as always, right.” He exhales smoke. “All our names must remain secret. We have to protect our families. Please accept the names, I’m going to give you for this task. Fang Hua Xing, your wisdom and beauty are for legends and poems. I offer you the name: Jade.” Fang Hua Xing bows as answer. “Jinhai Wei Fu, please accept the name Tiger. Your strength and bravery match the fierce fury of this great hunter.” Jinhai Wei Fu bows. “Bolin, my son, please accept the name Monkey.” Bolin bows.