good advice

It’s no fun, being dragged behind a car at breakneck speed.

Just in case you were wondering, or planning on doing it… DON’T!

Half of the time you try to dodge stones and sharp rocks, and you try not to get too close to the tires of the following car, for obvious reasons. The other half, you try not to swallow too much dirt and fumes, so you won’t get dizzy. You have no time to enjoy the view. Besides, it’s most likely, that some moon tanned idiots scream profanities at you; all seven of them at once. This makes it even harder not to damage anything vitally important, like head, neck, spine, hands, or eyes. God of skull integrity, stay with me!

Some of those volume bloated harsh statements about your family and your origin are pure fiction and wishful thinking. Their promises of where which of their and your body parts will go, is mildly off-putting and fly off of the politeness chart. The newly imprinted courtesy protocol in your neural language hub does its best to bleep the sense out of words lodging themselves into your auditory canal. Thank you, universal translator. Well done, courtesy protocol.

So, how did I get myself tied up and dragged behind a car, you ask? Not on purpose. I’m not that crazy, despite the gossip – I swear. It chalks up to being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m the odd one out, not fast enough to hide in the nooks and crannies of my gallery, down in sub-level five.

It’s questioning from the lunatics’ point of view. It’s a full grown lynch mob, if you ask me. But no one ever does.

#2 the lion roars

PART 1 – LIQUID PEACE

PART 2 – PATIENT PAPER 

The police station was accommodated in an old building, a school from the 19th century.

It took me three hours to get anywhere near Benny.

They had me fill out seven forms, both sides, all identical. The policeman in charge ripped two forms apart, and I had to start again. “Hand slipped.” His comment slapped my ears. This was nothing but mile high harassment. I knew it. The police man knew it, and I tried not to get too angry.

Then they had me write down what happened from the phone call on, till now.

Time delaying tactics. Maybe they searched and bugged my apartment right about now. They must have turned Benny’s upside down already.

 I tried to remember, if there was anything suspicious in my flat, something that could get me in jail.

Nothing to hide…

No political literature, beside what was permitted and encouraged. Some family photos, but I’m the only one left alive, so no danger on that end. No newspapers or magazines, no radio – lucky me. Only cigarettes, coffee and booze and dirty laundry.

Still, they told me to wait.

On the other side of the dirty window, the sky caught fire on the margins. The sun would be up in less then half an hour. Exhaustion burned under my eyelids, like sand. I attempted to close them, it stung like salt on an open wound. I feared my eyelids wouldn’t go all the way down. I pushed with with my fingertips against them. The burn eased a tiny bit, only to be replaced by headache. Benny mattered now most. As soon as I opened them, the artificial light made them water. I had to focus on Benny.

 From somewhere outside, they dragged Benny in, hands cuffed behind his back. He stumbled forward, face pale and bright and full with terror and relief. He was scared to death. From the stains on his clothes, I could tell he had wet his pants.

This was, what a man on death row looks like. Nausea greeted me. God! I had to push that thought out of my head fast.

At first glance there seemed nothing wrong with him, only a split lip. His wet hair stuck to his sweaty forehead. I was three feet away from him. I could reach out, but I knew better than that.

The uniform holding  his left elbow grunted. “He fell all by himself. Clumsy, like a child.” The other man at his right and the policeman, I gave my forms to, laughed. The smell of ethanol and urine hit me. It was a roaring filthy laugh, a laugh you laugh at a salt covered foaming snail, or at a cringing burning spider.

The man on his left pulled a lighter out of his pocket. Benny whined and jerked back as far as he could. I had to swallow hard, clench my teeth, so no reaction escaped me. The uniform at his right lifted his right elbow, forcing him down. His face got close enough to the flame that he could have breathed it out. He did nothing. He just trembled.

 

Behind me, the slick voice from the telephone harrumphed. The man put away his lighter, and the other uniforms straightened up. Everything went silent.

“So you are friends with Jews and Hungarians, doctor?” That man… The hair on my neck stood on end. Benny’s face fell, he winced. Slowly, I turned around.

The man leaned with his elbow over a filing cabinet, posture most casual. He was bigger than me, wiry stature. He had broad forehead, a long crooked nose, broken once but healed well and bushy brows. His dark eyes seemed to sparkle with mischief.

From the edge of his lips hung a lit cigarette. Ash clung to the paper. His clothes were elegant, no uniform, coat and shoes handmade. He blew smoke through his nostrils right into my face. I didn’t breathe. Manicured hands, I noticed. Nothing cheap about this man, this was no foot soldier. This was someone, a big someone. This was an intelligent, well educated high ranking officer. He smiled a peaceable smile, perfect teeth hid behind his lips.

This man could only mean trouble.

I steadied my voice. “Only this one.” What a stupid thing to say! My head was empty, there was nothing witty to say.

“Your boss says, you are a capable man. A bit soft, but capable nevertheless. We’ll see about that.” He looks at his manicured nails with interest.

He noded a tiny bit, and the men shoved Benny into my back. I felt him bump into me, grab for my jacket and going down unto his knees.

The man chuckled and waved a hand. “So collect your garbage and go.”

Monkey on the Road – tiger, burning… (3)

Part 1 – The Cold Mountain

Part 2- Tea with Jade and Tiger

The silhouette of San Chou gleams between the three green hills of the southern part of the Yellow River. Like a hungry locust reaches a rice paddy, I reach San Chou, five days after Jade, Tiger and I part at my father’s house. My father is Zhang Dee Yang, the most honored governor of Li Jiang. His high hopes are resting on my shoulders. Jade and Tiger, his friends come along to help me complete my mission.

Dressed like a wandering astronomer, nobody takes noticed of me. I merge with the river of craftsmen and farmers going to the Moon Market in the heart of San Chou. I have no troubles at all. The whole village is busy preparing for the Moon Festival anyway, so no one pays attention to the flood of strangers mixing with the villagers on the streets. Children laugh, dogs bark, horses leave their droppings everywhere. Life pulsates in this seemingly happy village. Nobody knows, that it’s rotting  from the inside, with the poison of the infamous Black Viper, a gang of thieves and murderers.

In the first hostel at the outskirts of the village, I ask for martial arts schools. San Chou has three, the owner tells me. He smiles a polite but expectant smile, so I buy a pork bun and a hot cup of tea.

That’s a start!  The whole way to the village I muse how to infiltrate the Band of The Black Viper. I will find  some shady characters and tell them good fortune, let slip, that danger is around the corner. A big black snake ready to bite them. I will observe very carefully.  I know where to look for shady characters… “If you look for trouble, search for the troublemakers.” That is what my master in the Monastery says. Martial arts scholars have a clear stroke of trouble on them, no doubt about it.

I’m one of those trouble makers indeed. Before my father sent me to Mount Shongshan, I was a no-good, lazy boy, bound to destroy myself and my foster family. I knew nothing.

The memories of my training well up in my heart. I sip the tea and smile at the years on Mount Shongshan. The wise monks were firm, never allowing anger, fear or joy in their scholars. I cannot imagine that my dear teachers were ever able to giggle, to burst into a fit of laughter or shout at someone. The tea tastes mild and refreshing, I bite the soft bun.  The taste of it’s dough fills my mouth. The spicy pork meat swipes away the gentle sweetness around it. What an excellent bun! I think of the constant hunger and the countless hours of hard work and pain in the Monastery, to school my mind. “Character is the silver you get, when you refine the rocks from the mine.” My foster father says, before he sends me away. The last thing he says to an angry little boy, who just stole the horse of a drunken soldier. The horse, he had to kill and replace, because I made it fall and it broke one of it’s legs… I did not know, what he meant with his farewell words. Years later, my master completed what I could not understand with my angry blazing heart. “But first, you have to crush them, then heat them, so they lose their stubborn efforts to cling to their habit of being rocks…”

Master is right, I decide. Troubled souls have an affinity to martial arts. They are attracted to what they think of as an act of violence, like moths to the fire.

The owner of the hostel comes to refill my cup. I ask him for a room, for the duration of the Festival. He seems happy, and he shows me into a tiny room under the roof. “Three days in advance.” He smiles bowing deeply, and I pay making a sour face. He will get greedy, if I do not show, that the two wen he wants hurt my moneybag. Downstairs, I take two more pork buns. I have to take a look around the village.

A little boy, not more than three summers, squats at the entrance of the hostel and looks quizzically at me. Snot runs down his dirty round face, and he sweeps it away with the back of his puffy hand. I give him a bun. His little moonface brightens up, he bites a mouthful, barely able to close his lips, or chew. “Is this what father saw in me? A hungry little runt? Was it pity?” He shoots up to his feet, suddenly with a troubled look. Fear crawls over his smooth forehead, fear that I might change my mind and take back his tasty treasure. With a shriek around the mouthful of bun he runs. My gaze follows the boy running as fast as his tiny feet carry him. He disappears in the shadows between two huts on the other side of the street. At least he isn’t hungry anymore, and nobody else needs to pity him for today.

“You have a good heart, I can tell.” Behind me a boy tugs at my sleeve. “But you are a stranger here, I can tell that too.” I turn around and look at him, eight summers, maybe nine. He is thin, hungry too, not fitting his clothes. He is, what I need.

I will pay the boy three wen to show me around. One coin for each school. I will give him another, for food. San, my guide, walks with me towards the heart of the village. He does not question anything I say to him. He seems to know everybody around… He must be a beggar of some sort. Tiger and Jade are nowhere to be seen, so I start my observations and take notes. San is explaining everything to me. Each school has one active teacher, and one older master. The number of scholars are variable. Southern Fist has eleven boys, Wing Chun has fifteen and Northern Legs has seven.

I try to remember every scholar entering and leaving the school. It is most likely, that the criminals have some sort of training. I will have to ask the masters for drop-outs without attracting too much attention… Or maybe I will ask San, he seems to know a lot about the people living here.

After that, I check the administration. From the outside it looks fine. I send San away with four wens, and make him promise not to steal for today and to hide his coins from the elder boys. “You may come back to the hostel tomorrow.” I tell him, seeing his sparkling eyes. “I might have work for you.” I lie.

Then. I catch a glimpse of Tiger. San sees me. He sees Tiger. I shoo him away. Tiger leans at the garden wall of a house nearby, in a beam of sunlight and throws me a disgusted look.

Where is Jade?  That smile… My stomach falls. Is she in trouble, and Tiger plots something to get her out? Inside me things add up in a bad way. I have to check for myself.

I have a brilliant idea! I go to the entrance of the administration and knock at the door. Truth is a tool, as much as lies and betrayal are.

A soldier lets me in, and I demand to see the high official. The courtyard of the administration is tidy. Busy officials rush from the entrance to the house. The soldiers guarding the house look sharp. They notice every tiny movement. So far so good, I tell myself.

The soldier leads me to a wooden door at the northern side of the building. I’m shown into a small dark room, with one chair and one table. After a minute, a thin old man comes in. His feet shuffle him forward, a cane supporting his unsteady steps. His clothes are richly embroiled. His hat marks him as a high ranking official.

As he sits down, he nods and flashes his complete set of teeth. Only as he indicates with his hand, I start speaking: “My Lord. I am a wandering scholar, an astronomer. I’m here to warn you. A man I noticed on the other side of the street is spying out the administration.” The man shows no reaction. Odd. Maybe, if I speak louder. “I know him from my hostel, where I made a horoscope for him. A truly dangerous and brutal man.” I try and bow slightly in front of him. He indicates me to stop, stands up and shuffles out of the room. Surely, to check my claims. Or…

Four soldiers barge in. Swords drawn. All pointing at me. The man comes back in, with a most satisfied smile.  “So we caught you, Monkey!” He barks a little laugh, and turn towards someone outside. “Call Miss Jade.” This is not how I planned it. “You’ll see that our prisons are as comfortable, as the ones in Li Jiang.” He points his bony index at me and grins.

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 #2

The soft purring of the monitoring alarm on my watch wakes me, by vibrating. I’m up…

I tell the watch and it recognizes my voice. The command kills the alarm.

Sleeping at the med bay is seldom a good idea, and sleeping at a working station – uh, table – is downright irresponsible. I rub my face into some kind of wakefulness and wish I could rub my back into a painless state.

I wish I would have slept in one of the E-beds, but shake my head at the idea. The beds are semi-autonomous, so they can keep an exhausted man in stasis, till he gets all the tiredness out of his system. No matter how long that may take.

In case you are the ship’s doctor, this is a very bad idea. They tell you that in doctor’s school. Don’t get high on E-beds pain or sleep medication. I guess some of my colleagues must have tried, during their long trips to the Kepler System.

I have Lieutenant Decker in one. The screen above his E-bed flashes red.

Let’s check you then. 

I download the most recent parameters the bed has measured to my watch. I throw out my thumb and index above its display to activate the tablet function. Blood pressure: 100 to 80. Good, pulse: 110. Almost okay. Oxygen saturation: 85%. Not okay… Breathing frequency dwindling under 10. Bad. I shake my wrist to retract the tablet. The antidote is wearing off.

Load E-bed 2 with enough Naloxone. Doctor Oscar Welligton, authorization 00.01, code 672779-0.

The unconscious man in front of me looks like he just hopped from the grim reapers grasp, with a nearly translucent, pale skin.

What a disappointment… I do not recall Decker to be a genius, or  even smart. The flashing red on the E-bed monitor stops. His breathing improves visibly, oxygen saturation climbs above 90%. That’s the spirit, Lieutenant. 

This bloke finds the most pleasant way to go. Fearless, without the hunger for oxygen, without the hunger for life. I make a mental note to stock every suit – at least mine – with enough morphine to kill an elephant. This is a manageable last resort.

It is a stroke of genius to use morphine to save himself from asphyxiation. The question remains, if he’s left with cerebral damage. No one knows how long he was cold out, or even breathing… After all, Rains is not to be trusted with precise observation about his colleagues. If I recall correctly, he even broke Decker’s nose in a brawl a month ago.

How’s the lieutenant? 

The captain’s voice rings through the med bay. The com is in override mode on my watch.

Barely alive. I answer. That’s that.

Any permanent damages? 

Can’t tell… Sleeping beauty has to wake up on his own. The morphine still has  about two hours to the  pharmacological half-life. Ask me again in two hours. 

The Captain seems satisfied, and the com dies down. I pull the footage from Decker’s and Rains’ suits.

#1 – the lion roars

PART 1  - LIQUID PEACE
Part 2 - PATIENT PAPER

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 in curtains. 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. In their beds.

Benny needed me.

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

 

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.