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Story Ascension
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Thread: Ascension

  1. #1
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    Ascension

    Ascension
    FMJ
    ©2018
    (1)


    He had been cautioned by the hospital doctors that a possible side effect of a flash-burn injury was a reduction in the physical range of motion but the treatment and follow-up rehabilitation would have doubled his recuperation time. After fifteen days in the hospital, Marty was anxious to get back to the shop floor where he belonged.

    The second degree burns and blisters on the side of Marty’s neck and arm had mostly healed but the scar tissue lacked elasticity. Simple repetitive motions, especially those involving turning and reaching were more difficult. Working through the difficulty was occasionally painful and usually awkward but he was determined. He had taken twice as long as he normally would to replace a malfunctioning sensor in the emergency life support air system of a Knight because he lacked the basic flexibility to reach the device. Improvising an alternate route through secondary electrical seemed like going the long way around but it served the purpose.
    When he sat in the pilot’s seat to run the final diagnostic checklist to be certain the fault code had been cleared, the machine spoke.

    “You are the T9.”

    “Pardon?” Marty answered looking up from his portable logic display.

    “You are the T9 that configured the Instrument in his Ascension.”

    “I don’t understand. I am a T9, that’s my proficiency rank but I don’t know anything about an instrument or an ascension.”

    “You were there when the Instrument Ascended, you were touched by his Illumination. You are the T9.”

    “Touched? You mean burned?” Marty asked making a quick mental connection.

    “The Illumination touches all those close to the Instrument. Such is the nature of the Instrument.”

    “Since when do Knights speak in riddles?” Marty asked starting to lose his patience.

    “All will be revealed.”

    “Okay, let me see if I’ve got this right,” Marty said shaking his head. “What you’re saying is the Centurion itself is this ‘Instrument’ and the power upgrade I performed on that Centurion was part of this ‘Ascension’?”

    “You are the T9.”

    “I’ll take that as a ‘Yes’. But the flash-fire after his restart that ‘touched’ me; the accident was part of this ‘Illumination’ you’re talking about?”

    “You are..., yes, T9.”

    “Alright, then when you said that the Illumination will ‘touch’ those close to the Instrument and such is the nature of the Instrument, did you mean that this ‘Illumination’ wasn’t actually an accident, but some kind of a..., product of his ascension?”

    “You are the T9.”

    Marty sat back with a thump, “Then it wasn’t an accident after all! I was burned in some kind of a concentrated energy burst the Knights are calling the ‘Illumination’, whatever that was,” he realized with a mix of shock and relief.

    “The Instrument will Illuminate the world.”

    With a stunned look, Marty scrambled out of the pilot’s seat and ran stiffly to the open doors of the passenger elevator.
    He punched the button for the second sub-level of the depot maintenance floor fully expecting his work area to still be a shambles; cordoned off till the accident investigation was concluded.

    When the elevator doors opened, Marty was astounded to find his work area deserted, clean and smelling of fresh paint. All the yellow ‘caution’ tapes and barriers hastily erected following the ‘accident’ had been removed and all evidence of the flash-burn damage repaired.
    The melted access scaffolding over the service bay had been meticulously replaced with new and the safety hand rails re-coated with fresh yellow paint. The massive Centurion, however had simply disappeared.

  2. #2
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    Thank you FMJ, I was wondering where this was going to go...

  3. #3
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    FMJ,

    Illumination and Ascension.....

    Now where have I read something similar....

    And if the Centurion is the Instrument, where did he go???? Ascended???? To Where????

    So many unanswered questions....

    Texican....

  4. #4
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    Thank you! Like Lone_Hawk, I was wondering where you would take this.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  5. #5
    Thank you

    D.
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

  6. #6
    Thank you! Like Lone_Hawk, I was wondering where you would take this.

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    (2)

    Immediately following the lengthy and admittedly confusing briefing with Colonel Temple and her Centurion concerning their unusual actions, General McCready made a private call to a local business establishment.

    “Pop’s Garage, how can I help you?” Pete McCready answered through his headset from inside the motor access hatch of a Tiny-Turbine single-seat speeder in the service bay.

    “Dad? This is Mike. I’m afraid I need to ask for another favor,” the General said without pausing to explain.

    “Sure, Mike, anything. Will we get to see Ambassador Nes again?” Pop asked hopefully. “Mabel really enjoyed that whole Eloysian Embassy hostess thing last time.”

    “Well, no, not this time, sorry. Dad, there was some kind of an accident here at the maintenance depot where Dominic was getting a special power upgrade,” the General explained.

    “You’re back here on the surface? Over at the Depot?” Pop interrupted.

    “Yes, and the technician performing the upgrade was injured in some kind of a flash-burn accident before he could complete the procedure,” the General continued.

    “How can I help?” Pop asked already suspecting he knew the answer.

    “Dad, before you volunteer to help, you need to know this situation has gotten dangerous and more than a little weird. I’m going to have to swear you to secrecy if you choose to get involved because things have gone so far down the rabbit hole now that I don’t even know if there is a way back. No one else knows we’re having this conversation so I need you to know you can refuse without anyone being the wiser.”

    “What are you trying to say, Mike?” Pop asked curiously.

    “What I’m saying is that if you want to steer clear of this, you can. You can just say, no thanks, Mike and no one else will know. You can just go on with your daily business at the garage like you did yesterday and the day before that without any additional risk,” the General continued.

    “Mike, you must have needed my help or you wouldn’t have called. Jenny probably needs our help because something has happened to Dominic and it just so happens he is a friend of mine, so I’m in, thick or thin. What do you need me to do?”

    “You’re sure?” the General asked gratefully.

    “Sure, I’m sure. Now if you need something, Mike, just level with me and tell me what it is,” Pop said quietly.

    “I need to get Dominic out of the depot. I need to bring him to the garage so you can look at that custom power upgrade for yourself. The investigation underway here at the depot is becoming more positive by the hour indicating the upgrade itself was responsible for the accident in the first place. You’ll have full disclosure; all the blue prints in the upgrade design template, the engineering and feasibility studies and the checklists the technician used to perform the procedure,” the General explained.

    “That’s it? I only have to pick up where somebody else left off on a rebuild? That doesn’t sound so tough. Shoot, the way you were going on about secrecy, I thought you had something tough for me to do.”

    “People got hurt, Dad. I signed the requisitions. Heck, Orbital even provided the fusion engines based on my recommendations alone. But it’ll be your call. If this custom upgrade, in your professional opinion, was the cause of the accident then I intend to take full responsibility. It won’t be pretty but I feel like your judgement is the only one I can still trust on this,” the General concluded.

    “You know you can count on me, Mike, I’ll do my best. When can I expect him to arrive?” Pop asked.

    “Well, about that, uh..., he’s, well, he’s almost there now,” the General replied a little sheepishly.

    “Whoa. I guess I’d better clear my schedule for today then. Can I reach you at this number if I find something, Mike?” Pop asked trying valiantly to stifle laughter.

    “No, this number won’t exist after I hang up. This call was encrypted and scrambled for our privacy. I’ll send you a contact number where I can be reached. Thanks again, Dad. Thanks for everything.”

    “That kid hasn’t changed a bit,” laughed Pop as the line disconnected with a loud click.

  8. #8
    Thanks

    I keep feeling like I may be missing back story on this, is there a different story I need to have read to follow along more.

    It's fun to figure it out as I go, but well, addicted reader so I always wonder.

    D.
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dosadi View Post
    Thanks

    I keep feeling like I may be missing back story on this, is there a different story I need to have read to follow along more.

    It's fun to figure it out as I go, but well, addicted reader so I always wonder.

    D.
    It is a continuation from "Introductions," "Serious Protection" and "Illumination"...seems like there was another one also???

    Also a big thanks to FMJ for this episode

  10. #10
    Revelation

  11. #11
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    FMJ,

    Pop to the rescue....

    Thanks for the chapter....

    Texican....

  12. #12
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    Been waiting for this! WOOHOO!!!

    Thank you!
    It's kinda hard to work within the system when it's a septic system.

    There's one thing worse than a wolf in sheep's clothing. That's a wolf in sheepdog's clothing.

  13. #13
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  14. #14
    Thank you FMJ. I've also been awaiting the continuation.

  15. #15
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    Thank you!
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  16. #16
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    (3)


    At a few minutes after two in the morning, Lizzy and Magnus were in high cruise enjoying the rare uneventful patrol of the northern I-80 corridor when they received an encrypted instruction file and program upgrade through the same secure directive channel their orders were normally received from TVS.

    “We got a what?” Lizzy asked again in confusion.

    “We have received a directive to accept an upgrade at the build code level of Knight programming, my lady. An authority known only as the Instrument appears to be the originator, but I am unfamiliar with that designation. D4MNC8 transmitted the change via a secure directive channel in the Tactical communication web.”

    “Isn’t D4MNC8 Dominic’s designation? Lizzy asked curiously.

    “Yes, my lady, it is. For a moment, I did note an odd duality about the transmission as though the Instrument and D4MNC8 were integrated in some fashion. As though they spoke with the same voice.”

    “Sounds spooky. How do we know if this transmission is genuine then? We know personally the Strax have managed to hack Tactical on at least a couple of occasions in the past,” Lizzy reasoned.

    “The directive did arrive through a secure channel so it appears to bear all the markings of a legitimate transmission. Standard procedure or not, I must admit, it is still highly unusual. I have never received any update outside of a depot environment in the past, let alone a build code upgrade. I should think that would require a more substantial authentication, but I am compelled to accept it.”

    “Can’t you just download it and hold it in quarantine until we can verify where it came from before you take the risk of making a change to your build code?
    I’ve grown quite attached to Magnus version 1.0 you know, what if you’re different afterward?” Lizzy asked in sudden concern.

    “My lady, A directive is a volatile commodity that requires I not only comply within a very short time-frame, but then I must acknowledge that I have complied via a route only available through the completed directive.”

    “Wow, verification security. How short is the time-frame, Magnus?” Lizzy inquired.

    “Approximately one half has already elapsed. The delay provides the receiving device time to shut down nonessential programs and save work in progress. Directive warnings require traction circuits be idle and weapons be placed in safe mode prior to the upgrade.”

    “So, you have to do this? You don’t have any choice?” Lizzy asked incredulously.

    “Not in the case of a directive, my lady. Even the relatively benign practice of postponing periodic updates is discouraged as leading to instability in critical systems.”

    “Okay, forgive me for being paranoid, but this just seems like it’s a little rushed, is all,” Lizzy admitted. “I guess we better be good little soldiers and do this, then.”

    Magnus slowed rapidly coming to rest on the shoulder of the dark deserted highway before initiating the command to accept the upgrade. A short specific query identified the recipient machine by designation number and a download package content authorization was issued. After a short delay, two destination files were assembled that began to rapidly accumulate very different types of data as the download progressed. The larger of the two filled with complex Knight build code symbology compiled into a new more efficient structure. The other file was identified as a video compilation containing a link to a trusted platform module intended for the Knight’s pilot should there be a problem with the upgrade.

    When Lizzy touched the icon launching the video instructional, she was surprised to see the image of her mother, Colonel Jennifer Temple in a dress white TVS tunic preparing to address an unseen audience. Responding to an off-screen prompt, she turned to face the camera and smiled reassuringly.

    “Greetings, Pilots and Cerulean Knights. For those of you who have not as yet made my acquaintance, I am Colonel Jennifer Temple, commanding officer of North American Tactical and pilot of the Centurion, D4MNC8.”

    “Do tell,” Lizzy mocked the recording while slouching deeper in the pilot’s chair.
    “First, I feel I should apologize and explain the reasoning behind the abrupt and unusual manner in which this vital upgrade had to be distributed.”

    “That might be appropriate,” Lizzy continued in her frank one-sided commentary.

    “D4MNC8 analyzed an Emergency Priority up-link following a Strax contact that detailed their use of a shielding antenna array allowing an entire pod to operate under a green icon on tactical until they were at point blank visual range. I’m sure the implications of the Strax developing a technology allowing them to ‘spoof’ tactical are self-explanatory.”

    “Hey, that sounds exactly like the battle that Bobby and Lacy described!” Lizzy said sitting up.

    “D4MNC8 identified the weakness in the Knight build code being exploited to make this deception work and the upgrade you are receiving as we speak will eliminate that weakness in the entire Knight fleet in a single stroke.”

    “At-a-boy, Dominic!” Lizzy cheered.

  17. #17
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    “An upgrade at the Knight build code level will require an AI restart to take effect so please review the included instructions to determine the PIN code for your individual operation. A select portion of your ID sequence code number will serve as a PIN to restart the AI securely tying the wetware to the hardware through the software. Twenty-five Knights received this upgrade under a variety of adverse conditions with no problems encountered,” Colonel Temple continued.

    “And the next twenty-five are expected to recover,” Lizzy giggled.

    “In the unlikely event that the upgrade fails to load or the AI fails to restart after the correct PIN is presented, a provision within the update verification process will notify a TVS Rapid Response technician while the system restore will attempt to reload your original build code configuration to get you back up and running.”

    “Uh-oh,” Lizzy thought worrying again.

    “I only have one additional note for the fine Pilots and Knights of North American Tactical; the Strax are unaware that we have removed their tactical advantage with this upgrade and their false sense of security may play directly into our hands leading to a particularly target-rich environment for you, so happy hunting,” Colonel Temple added with a feral grin.

    Lizzy punched in the portions of her Pilot’s code sequence that the instructions requested and Magnus’ AI immediately restarted as his diagnostics silently ran through propulsion, life support, navigation and armament.

    “You still with me, Magnus?” Lizzy inquired a little desperately.

    “Yes, Lizzy. I’m here,” the machine replied.

    “Whew!” Lizzy sighed with relief. “We’ve never done a restart before and I didn’t know what to expect.”

    “You needn’t have worried, m’Lady. The Knight is a most resilient intellectual platform.”

    “I’m just glad that you’re still the..., hey, wait a minute, you just used a contraction! You’ve never spoken like that before, and you sound a little different, too. Not ‘bad’ different, just kind of, well..., smoother, maybe. I wonder what else you got in that upgrade,” Lizzy said thoughtfully.

    “Now that you mention it, my throughput rates are higher now and it’s almost as if there are fewer logical steps in familiar routines. I do feel somewhat different, perhaps more efficient than before, I believe. Standard functions are being completed in less time.”

    “Well, let’s go do a shake-down cruise and make sure everything still works before they decide to change something else tonight,” Lizzy advised.

    “At your command, m’Lady, accelerating.”

  18. #18
    GREAT WONTERFUL BEST YET NO 1 REMEMBER.....GREEN SIDE UP

  19. #19
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    Thank you! Better and better.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  20. #20
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    FMJ,

    Upgrades to Magnus with increased mental and weapons capabilites....

    Now Lizzy and Magnus off to start some fights....

    Thanks for the chapter....

    Texican....

  21. #21
    TY

    D.
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

  22. #22
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    Hmmm... An upgrade written by an alien AI infected knight.....

  23. #23
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    (4)


    The scaffolding and work platform had gone up quickly allowing safe access to the equipment hatches on the Centurion, but only Pop’s legs still protruded from within the machine.

    “So, what do you plan to do?” Mabel asked from somewhere above and behind him.

    “I don’t know,” Pop replied sounding hollow and echoing. “At this point, I’m willing to bet the need for special tools will rise in direct proportion to the depth I am working inside this machine.”

    “Didn’t you say Mike wanted your professional opinion of something..., some work that was being done on Dominic at the depot?”

    “An upgrade,” Pop muttered while straining to get more leverage to break loose another stubborn fastener.

    “But he wanted your professional opinion of that upgrade before the investigation at the depot was completed, right?” Mabel asked in concern.

    “I’m trying, Mabel, I told Mike I’d do my best,” Pop said pausing a moment to rest an aching wrist. “I’m not making progress because I’m spending too much time fabricating the special tools to do each job,” Pop admitted.

    “Ask for help,” Mabel advised in her usual straightforward manner.

    “Ask who?” Pop said worming his way back out of the access hatch to stare at her in amazement. “Nobody else is supposed to know he’s even here. Mike got him moved out of the depot under cover of night and swore me to secrecy. Who could I possibly ask?”

    “Call Mike and tell him you’re having trouble. The way he plans ahead, he has probably already considered this possibility,” Mabel said with a wink.

    “Hmph, you’re probably right, but that’s a bitter pill for me to swallow. I was the mechanical go-to source around here when he was in diapers. I have to admit though, it felt good to know ‘the General’ still needs me to do something for him now and then.”

    Mabel turned to carefully climb back down the ladder built into the scaffolding, “Take a break, get something cold to drink and call your son.”

    “Yes, Ma’am,” he replied playfully. “Right away, Ma’am.”

    When Pop keyed the number into the phone, it connected instantly without a ring tone and Mike’s face appeared in the view screen.

    “Yes, Dad? Have you already found something?”

    “About that, no, I haven’t. The reason I’m calling is..., I’m having some trouble,” Pop managed to say.

    “No problems. The technician that performed the upgrade said you might have problems working on alien military hardware for the first time because of some of the weird tools required. I have both him and a rapid response truck available if you would like some help.”

    “Yes, Mike. I think I need some help,” Pop admitted.

    “I was only waiting to hear it from you, Dad. I know that the garage is your turf and maintenance is your profession. You take it very seriously and I didn’t want to risk offending you by sending people to help if you didn’t need it or want it. Oh, incidentally, I just received confirmation the rapid response truck has just left the depot, ETA, forty-five minutes.”

    “Thanks, Mike. Mabel said you might have already planned for a scenario like this ahead of time when she suggested I call.”

    “I can’t take the credit, Dad. When Ambassador Nes learned of the incident at the depot, he was adamant that the technician that performed the upgrade, Martin Lennox, be kept available on short notice to assist you should the need arise. As usual, his intuition appears to have been correct.”

    “Please extend my profound gratitude to the Ambassador. Is there anything I need to know about this technician, Mike? Who is this Martin Lennox anyway?” Pop asked with a grin.

    “Oh, nothing unusual, other than the fact that he’s a T9 which is the highest proficiency level for technicians in TVS meaning he’s very knowledgeable in his field. He is also resourceful, intuitive, inventive and stubborn. He reminds me a lot of another master mechanic I’m related to. Call me if you find something, Dad. Bye.”

    Pop sat looking at the dark view screen for a full minute before he reached out to flip the switch back to ‘standby’ mode that sent all calls back to ‘record for review’ and
    made a mental note to check the filters in the air cleaner on the roof. “Darn dust,” Pop muttered as he wiped his eyes on the sleeve of his faded coveralls.
    Last edited by FMJ; 02-15-2019 at 11:55 AM.

  24. #24
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    Thank you.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  25. #25
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    FMJ,

    Pop needs some special tools and assistance.... Something must be off....

    Now just who is this Martin Lennox????

    Thanks for the chapter....

    Texican....

  26. #26
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    When the TVS Rapid Response truck arrived at Pop’s Garage, it became quickly evident that the TVS technician, Marty Lennox and Pete McCready already shared a substantial number of similar protocols for the logical process of detecting mechanical issues.
    With Pop’s decades of trouble-shooting experience tracking down elusive mechanical problems and Marty’s extensive knowledge of the Centurion platform, they quickly reviewed and eliminated the uninvolved systems. With that as a starting point and Dominic’s active system diagnostics for verification, they walked through the detailed checklist of the complex upgrade, hand-over-hand for the next eleven hours.

    Dawn found them both in the heavy wooden rocking chairs under the canopy, the ground between them littered with crude drawings and checklists full of mechanical jargon hand-printed in each of their own precise scripts still proposing what-if scenarios.

    When they began the search for the cause of the incident at the depot, they had literally dozens of possible, if not probable explanations for the high-energy flash-burn type of accident that injured several people. Their investigation however, revealed none of the obvious damage that would result in the plasma-level, flash vaporization of high current carrying conductors. The short circuit necessary to produce the large scale thermal effects described in the depot incident report would have, at the very least, consumed large portions of the Centurion’s upgraded drive sled or even damaged the integrity of one or more of the fusion engines.

    But the custom-built triple fusion engine drive sled accessible through Dominic’s propulsion hatches appeared new, unmarked, pristine. When the list of obvious failure modes gave out, they explored the more unusual and unlikely and finally resorted to the strange and bizarre before lapsing into an uneasy silence.

    “You didn’t do anything wrong, Marty,” Pop finally pronounced into the graying dawn as he took another sip of ice cold grape soda. “Your work is exemplary. You followed the procedure in the design template but you still verified the compatibility of the Centurion platform with their new-fangled three engine compound cascade setup. The fit and finish of the power couplings you had to fabricate in the field is an improvement over their stock part,” Pop ticked off items on his fingers.

    “You were actually doing engineering work when you realized the safety interlocks prevented the restart because the engine pattern configuration was wrong. You’re a gifted technician, Marty,” Pop concluded. “I’m going to tell Mike, uh..., the General that I find nothing wrong with the work you performed and I fully recommend the propulsion disconnects be reclosed on this Centurion. Whatever happened that day in the depot, it wasn’t because of anything you did.”

    “Thanks Pop, I really appreciate that,” Marty said with relief. “I must have reviewed every part of that upgrade in my head, hundreds of times now, looking for a clue, something, anything to explain what happened. I just about had myself convinced I was responsible for an accident caused by an error that didn’t exist. I couldn’t point to anything I did and say, ‘right there, that’s it, that is what I did wrong, that’s what caused it’ because there wasn’t anything wrong.”

    “That’s certainly the way it looks to me, Marty,” Pop replied watching the amber glow slowly brighten in the east.

    “So, what’s the next step?” Marty asked brightly.

    “You mean outside of getting at least a few hours of shut-eye? I don’t know about you Marty, but I’ve been awake for almost twenty-four hours now and I’m just about whipped. I say we call the General and advise him of our findings and call it a night,” Pop stated with finality.

    “I’m just getting my second wind, Pop. As soon as I finish this soda, I’ll be good to go again, no problem at all,” Marty offered through half-closed eyes unconvincingly.

    “Don’t expect me to buy that, mister. Your mouth is writing checks your butt can’t cash. Why, even back when I was your age, my old partner and I would only have to pull a couple all-nighters back-to-back trying to keep the heavy equipment running for the gravel quarry over near Sparks before we would start stumbling around here like a couple of zombies trying to just...,” Pop’s narrative was interrupted by a soft snore from the other rocking chair as the young technician had fallen fast asleep.

    “Like I was saying, I think we’re going to call it a night,” Pop said with a grin taking another sip of ice-cold grape soda.
    Last edited by FMJ; 02-16-2019 at 05:32 PM.

  27. #27
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    Thank you, Now for another restart? Where is the human part of the team? I might have to go back and re read to find out if she was there when the flash happened.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  28. #28
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    OUTSTANDING!!!
    I keeps my chickens in a Faraday cage.

  29. #29
    TYVM

    D.
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

  30. #30
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    Excellent! Thank you!

  31. #31
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    Slowing to enter the crossroads town, Lizzy recognized the name on the post office as the same place she stopped for a much-needed breakfast nearly a year ago. Outwardly, nothing seemed to have changed much since that time, either.

    The terrible memory arose unbidden of finding Bonny, the waitress at the diner who had been kind to her; so dreadfully killed on the side of the lonely highway in the dark. Lizzy couldn’t begin to imagine how frightening it must have been. She could only hope that her violent death had been mercifully quick.

    There were only two cars in front of the diner and one old dusty pick-up in front of the hardware complete with a roll of barbed wire, a sledge hammer and a shovel in the bed. At only a quarter after seven in the morning, it was too early for most bar patrons and the post office didn’t open till nine. Still odd there was so little activity and no one in sight, though.

    “Magnus, are we clear on tactical here?” Lizzy inquired automatically as she pulled into a parking space in front of the diner.

    “Yes, my Lady. Tactical is clear but I am unable to detect the presence of any other respiration or human heartbeat within my sensory range.”

    “What? You mean there’s no one else here? But there are cars parked in front of the diner and the lights are on. Are you sure?”

    “My sensory diagnostic suite returns all functional indications, verifying the fact that we do seem to be alone. Appearances would suggest this town may have been abandoned suddenly as a result of some emergency.”

    “Well I’ve got a bad feeling about this and I think we need to take a closer look,” Lizzy responded.

    “An investigation of lawlessness should be conducted by human law enforcement, my Lady,” Magnus reasoned.

    As Magnus’ cabin door unsealed with a hiss of escaping air and Lizzy climbed out blinking in the already too bright sunlight, she was surprised by the unnatural silence of the tiny crossroads town. No birds chirped, no dogs barked and even the wind was still.

    “Cover me, big guy. Something is way wrong here.”

    “Comm check, Captain. Five by five?” Magnus relayed through the tiny communicator in her ear by procedure.

    “Roger, Magnus. Loud and clear. I’m going in,” Lizzy said steeling her nerve for the second time.

    The rising whine of the rail-gun auto-loader spinning up an exotic round to delivery speed seemed unnaturally loud on the quiet street but the comfort of knowing that kind of firepower was ready to act in her defense gave her the courage to continue.
    Besides the silence, there were no enticing odors of food cooking in the air and Lizzy could see no movement through the windows of the diner. No familiar figures hustled back and forth waiting tables or sitting on stools at the counter. No stocky short order cook dressed in white stood ready at the grill.

    When she gingerly pulled the door open a crack, the wave of foul odors wafting past her stopped her cold. The overpowering smell of smoke only partially succeeded in masking a putrid odor of rot mixed with the stench of something else cloyingly sweet. Large numbers of blowflies buzzed on the inside of the diner windows making Lizzy’s skin crawl with the very idea of actually going inside.

    When Lizzy reluctantly pulled the door open wide enough to walk in, her senses are assaulted with the reek of decay and she gagged while vainly trying to hold her breath in defense. Plates of moldering food covered with flies lay strewn haphazardly on tables or broken on the floor. The entire exhaust hood and ceiling behind the counter is black with soot from a fire that must have started on the grill and triggered some system that doused everything below with a thick layer of white dry chemical.

    To her left, the light from a grimy ceiling fixture is reflected in a pool of dark liquid on the floor between the single pair of booths. Though her courage wains and her resolve begins to falter, Lizzy hesitantly edges toward the dark booths at the end of the aisle in the deserted diner; the incessant buzz of flies growing louder with every step.
    For just a moment, Lizzy thinks she hears a rapid ‘clicking’ sound, like knitting needles, but the drone of the flies makes it hard to hear. Placing one hand on top of the booth wall to steady herself, she slowly peers around the edge into a scene from a nightmare.

  32. #32
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    nw mountains
    Posts
    3,785
    Thank you, Biologic?
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  33. #33
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    SE Okieland
    Posts
    6,861
    For just a moment, Lizzy thinks she hears a rapid ‘clicking’ sound, like knitting needles, but the drone of the flies makes it hard to hear. Placing one hand on top of the booth wall to steady herself, she slowly peers around the edge into a scene from a nightmare.

    Seems like a new threat is alive and ready to pounce....

    thanks for the chapter FMJ.

    Texican....
    Born Free, Live Free and Die Free....

  34. #34
    Ugh, bug noises like pincers clicking?

    TYVM

    D.
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Hooterville, MI
    Posts
    915
    Heh, just a nudge here and there and I'll bet you could fill in the details.

  36. #36
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    SE Okieland
    Posts
    6,861
    Quote Originally Posted by FMJ View Post
    Heh, just a nudge here and there and I'll bet you could fill in the details.
    Not near as well as you do FMJ....

    Texican....
    Born Free, Live Free and Die Free....

  37. #37
    Yep, we're back to another cliff!
    Thanks!

  38. #38
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    4,166
    CLIFF!!

    Don't leave us hanging!!

  39. #39
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Hooterville, MI
    Posts
    915
    The pool of dark viscous liquid on the floor oozes slowly from a raw opening in the side of a bloated thing slumped against the wall of the booth like some grotesque fluid-filled bag before dripping to the floor in syrupy strings. Lizzy screams despite herself, retches and vomits on the floor, recoiling in disgust.

    “MY LADY! ARE YOU ALRIGHT?”, Magnus shouts in her ear.

    “Yes..., no, Magnus, I got sick, is all. I’m..., I’m sorry if I surprised you, I’m alright,” Lizzy said wiping her mouth on a sleeve. “I found someone in here who is extremely dead and I freaked.”

    “Please come out, my Lady,” Magnus pleaded.

    “In a moment, I still need to look behind the counter and in the back room,” she explained picking her footing carefully as she backed away from the grisly scene in the booth.

    “This should be handled by the proper authorities if there are human dead here,” Magnus vainly tries to reason with his stubborn pilot.

    “I agree, Magnus but I don’t understand what happened here..., I mean what would be the motive anyway? Where is everybody? A year ago, I paid my bill here with a chip.
    They probably haven’t used cash in years, so it couldn’t have been a robbery. I’m going in the back now; I’ll be back out in two minutes, tops.”

    In the small prep room, Lizzy discovered and gave a wide berth to another dead thing lying on the tile floor; but the appearance of this one was markedly different. No longer bloated, it had been reduced to an empty flaccid sack of translucent skin. Its features a crude sunken caricature of a human face, like a pale misshapen rubber mask.

    Against the walls, Lizzy saw a sink, shelves loaded with boxes and large cans, a work table and a commercial size refrigerator and freezer. The stainless-steel work table was still surprisingly clean, but the knee-high mound of decaying food piled next to the freezer spoke of something..., more ominous. Lizzy gathered her courage again as she circled the work table to squarely face the large freezer.

    “I don’t have to open it..., I can just walk out of here,” she thought looking at the beckoning doorway behind her and knowing she could not actually do so. “The authorities will probably be here in minutes after I make a report, I..., I really don’t need to know,” but Lizzy was sure that she actually must know.

    She reaches out to grasp the heavy chrome handle with both hands and begins to pull. Reluctantly at first, the magnetic seal gives way under her efforts and the door swings open hard, pushed by the weight of something from within.

    The rigidly frozen body of a girl, no more than five or six years old, tumbles from the freezer to land on the prep room floor with a dull sickening ‘thud’. Although she falls unceremoniously to land in a heap amongst the filth on the floor, the silent child appears to merely be asleep as a delicate frost covering her closed eyelids slowly melts in the warm fetid air.

    Lizzy is literally stunned by the sight. Almost overcome, she forced herself to breathe as she held one hand to her mouth unable to tear her eyes away from the tragic death of one so young and innocent.
    She slowly sank to her knees and simply sat rocking quietly, to and fro, beside the dead child, stroking her golden hair.

    “Be careful, Lizzy. You may not be safe here,” Magnus called through her communicator breaking the grief-stricken trance she had involuntarily fallen into.

    “What..., what did you say, Magnus? Is something happening?” she said in a rush rising from the floor in alarm.

    “I have detected multiple sources of a very low-level navigation telemetry in our immediate vicinity that do not appear on Tactical. The steady increase in signal strength does suggest they are converging on our location.”

    “I’m coming out now,” Lizzy said rounding the table and heading for the front door of the diner.
    Half-way to the door, she crosses the dimly lit aisle leading to the booth where the dark pool gathers on the floor and once again hears a rapid ‘clicking’ like many knitting needles. On a sudden impulse, Lizzy looks up only to cower in abject terror at the sight of dozens of black spider-like things walking across the ceiling of the diner. Moving on spindly multi-jointed metal legs, the fist-sized devices march down the wall to disappear into the nightmare booth where tiny blue lights flash with their movements.

    Seized by an obscene curiosity to know and yet unable to look away, Lizzy watches as the nightmarish machines march down into the booth where they slake their obscene thirst. As quickly as one is filled, another takes its place. Lizzy’s skin crawls to think that swarm of black horrors was up there on the ceiling, right over her head the entire time, eagerly awaiting their turn.

    Lizzy sprints to the door and bursts outside into sunlight and fresh air after what seems like an eternity spent in filth and horror. Magnus unseals the cabin as she approaches, but she stops mid-stride standing on the street to strip down to her underwear rather than climb in and foul the cabin of her clean Cerulean Knight.

    Lizzy crams the filthy uniform into a plastic bag knowing for certain any place will be an improvement over here to get dressed in a clean uniform and she vaults into the cabin telling Magnus to get them out of this place fast.

  40. #40
    TYVM

    D.
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

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