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A Whateley Academy Tale

What's Buzzing You? - (Hive 1)

By Warren

Well I get so lonely when I am without you
But in my mind, deep in my mind,
I can’t forget about you
Good times, and faces that remind me – Boston. Long Time
 

Somewhere west of Puget Sound in Washington State, November 10th, Evening

A pickup pulled into the parking lot. A man who was about six foot two and well muscled, save for the beginnings of a belly, stepped out on the damp pavement. His eyes scanned the area for hostiles, his ears straining to hear the rustle that would be out of place in these woods. All that greeted him was the hoot of an owl and the chirp of crickets. He shook his head and was heard to mumble, "Old habits." He reached back into the cab and grabbed a bag lunch and a security card. Approaching the gate, his eyes started scanning again. They took in the company sign. It hadn’t changed in the years he had been here. Tonight it had a new line of text on it. "A Goodkind Subsidiary Company"

Waiting for him was an older man with graying hair in a guard uniform. He waved as he approached. "Evening, Sam." the guard said.

"Evening, Frank, how was the hunting trip?" Sam asked.

"I bagged a twelve point elk. Do you want to see a picture?" Frank asked proudly as he reached for his wallet.

"Sure." Sam replied. He looked at the picture of Frank kneeling next to an elk with a large set of antlers. "I killed one a while back that was almost as large. Let me show you." He reached for his wallet and flipped it open to show himself kneeling next to an elk with only eight points on its antlers.

"That your wife and daughter?" Frank asked, indicating the picture next to the hunting picture.

"Yes," he replied guardedly.

"You are lucky to have two beautiful women who love you." Frank complemented.

"I was." Sam replied sadly.

"What happened?"

"Car Crash." Sam replied, looking away.

It was still fresh in his mind. It was late; they had gone out for a family trip that day to the coast. On the way home it was raining and another couple who had been fishing at Westport was coming in the other lane. The boy driving fell asleep at the wheel, drifted off the road and the noise of the road gravel woke him up. He over-corrected and crossed traffic into our lane, I turned hard trying to avoid hitting him and it put us into a spin. He T-boned the car right into the passenger side doors. The car rolled and my back and leg were broke. The medical examiner said Joann and Samantha died almost instantly.

Frank’s voice brought him back from the event. "Damn, I’m sorry to bring up painful memories Sam."

"It’s ok. I’ve only been working here for two years. It’s not something you bring up in regular conversation." Sam explained. "Did you know your safety is off?" Sam gestured at the guard’s holster.

"Yep, that cute little Doc came bustling in here two hours ago, and then called down and said tighten security. I guess she’s at it again." the guard answered.

"And so are you. You know her name as well as I do. Even if you do treat us all like your kids. And Dr. Terry would skin you alive. You know how they are about security. ‘Loose lips’ Frank. It can get you fired." Sam scolded.

"It’s not like there is anyone to hear me. We are in the back of nowhere. If I didn’t see the glow of Seattle off that way, I’d think I was on another planet or in the past."

Glancing past the guard Sam noticed a paperback sitting on the desk spine up obviously set in a page holding position. "That’s another no-no Frank. You’re not supposed to read on duty. You better lose the book before the security chief comes out." Sam continued.

"Let me see your badge, so I can scan you in. We have to be official and all," Frank interrupted, smiling. "Hmm Sam Everheart, Yep the ugly mug on the card matches yours. Guess I better let you in before you get me written up."

Once again shaking his head he grabbed the card from Frank’s outstretched hand and entered the fenced gate to continue the trek. While walking down a gentle slope, Sam began to limp a little. He was reminded of the Memorial. A lot of his friends’ names were there; and more who were dead weren’t there. He approached the door and was buzzed in only after looking at a camera and placing his badge under another. Sam started for the locker room, but paused and changed direction, heading for the elevator instead. He had time.

Traveling down some ten floors he exited the elevator and entered a changing room for the clean room beyond it. Sam walked over to a window and pressed the button on the intercom. A woman was beyond the window, almost yelling at the phone. "Fine, if you can find someone else who can make a Hive that works you can fire me. Otherwise leave me to my work!" she hung up the phone. "Why is it, mega corporations like to rake up little companies then dismantle them? The paint on the company sign isn’t even dry yet!" she continued to yell.

In a passable imitation of Igor Sam asked, "Are you ready to bring them to life doctor?"

The woman of the question looked up and responded as her assistants looked on smiling, "I will if you tell me who’s brain I did put in the programmer?"

"You won’t be angry?"

"I will NOT be angry."

"Abby someone," he answered smiling.

"Abby someone. Abby who?" She smiled.

"Abby Normal." his smile grew bigger.

"Abby Normal?"

"I’m almost sure that was the name."

"Oh good, I thought I might have put some genius’ brain in by mistake," she answered breaking into laughter.

"Dr. Terry, are you going to want me to clean up your office tonight?" he asked.

"Would you please?" she queried. "Sam, I pulled an all-nighter last night with a couple of others and there are pizza boxes in there. Oh it looks like your suggestion will work better. Breaking the jobs of the nanites down to more specialized units fixes the size limitation problem. By working in teams rather than single units more is possible."

"Glad I could help. All right Doc, I’ll get on it. I won’t touch your filing system either." It was a long standing joke between them that her desk was a mess. He longed to see a clear surface you could actually use to write on. Yet she could pull out a two year old note with out looking.

"You do that. I’ll be up as soon as I complete the preliminary programming." The doctor responded smiling.

"You still plan on putting the laws in?" Sam asked.

"Yes I am. If they stay in their original form has yet to be seen. But for now they are going in." she explained.

"You really are a geek you know that doc?"

"I love you too. Shouldn’t you be getting to work?" She asked.

Sam waved and headed for the elevator. One of Dr. Terry’s assistants called out, "Don’t go, I was going to make espresso!"

Dr. Terry turned back to her work giggling. Her lab table was piled high with equipment. Centered on the table was a small glowing sphere. Inside that sphere was the work of years of research and dreaming. Trillions of robots filled that space, contained in an electric field. Dr. Terry turned around and began running a final check before she commenced programming. She thought back to that night months ago when she and her assistants were brainstorming the hive idea in the conference room. She had reached a dead end trying to make a nanite capable of all necessary operations movement, computation and manipulation along with a host of other operations. Her assistant, Frank who was short spindly and young, was suggesting that they scrap what they had completed and start over. While George -who was tall, blonde and looked more at home on a football field than in a lab- was insisting that they just hadn’t seen something that must be staring them in the face. Shortly after the third time through, the door opened and Sam started to come in.

Looking up from pulling his cart Sam started, "Oh, excuse me. I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I was going to clean up in here. Since it’s in use I’ll come back later."

George threw out the question, "Sam how would you construct a nest?"

"Excuse me?" Sam asked back.

"We are trying to build a nest of nanites. We keep getting too big in our design. How would you do it?"

"Well, what creatures in nature build nests? No, mammals that build nests wouldn’t be a good comparison. You want to put a lot of them in a small area right?" Sam asked. They all nodded. "Have you thought about a modified Ant-hill or bee-hive? Give all the nanites some common abilities and then diversify give some movement abilities like tiny trucks shifting loads from here to there. Others could be dedicated to maintenance and so on." Dr Terry recalled the lights figuratively coming on over all their heads at the same time. Then they got down to work; with Sam suggesting a bit now and then. Three hours later they had a new plan and a new friend.

Over her shoulder Sam was visible on the security monitor as he rode up in the elevator. As he left the elevator the view switched as it followed his movement from the elevator, to the time clock, and to the janitor’s closet. The view changed to a view of Frank reading his book in the guard shack. Surprised, he looked up as two men dressed in black clothing and combat gear entered the shack. He started clawing for his gun as he stood up, backing away. The gun went off shooting him in the foot while he fell back. The view was splattered by something.

The view shifted. Sam was on the move again pushing his cart down the hall. Dr. Terry looked up at George. "Start the programming sequence with rule one George." She ordered.

George responded with a "Yes, Master." and he entered a command into his terminal. Dr. Terry thought to herself. First Law: A robot may not act unless its actions are subject to these laws.

On the monitor, Sam was empting waste baskets into his larger garbage bag, moving from office to office on the hall. George looked up from the terminal. "Programming of the first law completed Doctor." Dr. Terry nodded.

Looking at her second assistant she said, "Frank, begin the programming sequence of the second law." Frank entered a command on his terminal and hit the execute key with a sense of accomplishment. A glow began to form around the sphere on the front table as the doctor thought. Second Law: A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

The guards at the door to the building are seen in the monitor falling limply to the ground like puppets with no strings. After a few minutes a ding was heard in the lab. "Do you have the third law cued up George? If you do, send it." She ordered as she thought. Third Law: A robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm unless this would violate an earlier Law.

Sam moved into Dr. Terry’s office and began gathering pizza boxes and empty soda bottles, white coffee cups and soda cans. A moment later another ding was heard in the lab. "Do you have the next law ready Frank?" Frank nodded. "Send it," she said thinking. Forth Law: A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with an earlier Law.

The monitor view shifted to the elevators as 6 figures in combat dress and mask came into view. One raised a hand to the camera and it was blacked out. "George you know what I’m going to ask. If it’s ready send it." She smiled and thought. Fifth Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with an earlier Law. Dr. Terry then said, motioning to the back table; "George while that’s loading would you top off the fluids in the pre-production factory? Be careful; those chemicals are volatile. Put them in the wrong trays, and we will be the new paint job in the room here." George moved to comply.

Shortly there was another ding. She signaled Frank to start the next programming sequence. Sixth Law: A robot must perform the duties for which it has been programmed, except where that would conflict with an earlier Law. On the surveillance monitor an arm is seen reaching up towards the alarm on the wall. The hand uses its fingers to walk up the wall pulling the arm up with it. The lab alarm went off. The sound covered the sound of the computer reporting the finish of the programming sequence Dr. Terry quickly entered the lock command on the Hive programming. The elevator door opened on the lab’s floor. She turned around as the door to the lab was kicked in.

The first man into the room leveled a gun and said "No one move and no one gets hurt." Following him was two more men dressed and armed the same. The first man continued to talk. "Doctor, we will be relieving you of your current project and all the data you’ve generated."

Normally, Dr. Terry would have turned and bit the man’s head off for breaking the integrity of the clean room. But, since she and her assistants were breaking the clean room conditions themselves and these strangers had guns, she was feeling lenient. Frank moved forward, saying "Now listen here you can’t…" At that point, the man turned and fired twice. Both Frank’s knees exploded in a spray of blood accompanied by a sound similar to a hand clap each time. He fell to the ground grabbing at them.

"Cooperate Doctor, or it will get messier," the first threatened.

George, behind the factory table, took stock of the situation. He’d not been seen. The only way out was blocked. There were volatile chemicals between him and the intruders. In the factory were a nasty set of chemicals. Ammonia, Diborane, Dimethylzinc, Disilane, Germane, Liquid Hydrogen, Liquid Oxygen, and a host of others. Some of these would even combust when mixed with air! Normally the clean room was dust free, but the door had been kicked in. He was scared and he couldn’t stop himself. George sneezed.

One of the other attackers turned and opened fire at the table. "No! You Idiot!!" both the leader and Dr. Terry yelled at the same time. The bullets riddled the table, followed by a room shattering explosion.

Sam was shocked to hear and feel the whump of an explosion as the lights flickered then died. He went into the hall and headed for the stairs. The building was empty, he knew, except for the security guards, Dr. Terry, her assistants and himself. He went down the hall to the stairwell and down. As he started to open the door he caught sight of a stranger in black with a combat harness and a silenced machine gun. Well, you don’t belong here. He returned to an upstairs office. When he had been cleaning, he had spotted an old style letter opener. He grabbed it and quickly retraced his steps down to the door. Slipping through the door he creped up behind the stranger and swung one arm around his front while he shoved the letter open upwards between the first vertebrae and his skull; killing the attacker instantly. Turning while holding the body up as a shield, he grabbed the gun now hanging from the dead man’s harness. Looking towards the elevator down he saw a second man armed the same. Sam said loudly. "Will you look what you did to my floors? I just waxed them." He then killed the other attacker with the machine gun.

He lowered his meat-shield to the ground and searched it for other weapons and ammo. Grabbing two clips and a flashlight he headed for the emergency stairs going down to the lab. Working his way down the stairwell was a decent into memory as his mind went into overdrive. Combat experience returned unbidden while his mind flashed back again to his accident. The vision of his daughter being zipped into a coroner’s bag was the worst. I don’t want Dr. Terry/my daughter to be dead. His thoughts blurred together.

Opening the door to the lab was like going back to Central America when he patrolled through a village after a drug lord had shown his displeasure. The back area of the lab was a mass of tangled metal and low flames, breathing burned his throat. He pulled up his shirt to cover his mouth in an attempt to filter some of the smoke. Searching through the wreckage he found the remains of the three attackers who had apparently been in the lab. He kept searching and found Frank with a chemistry stand driven through his chest.

Maybe it was the smoke, maybe it was something more but when he found Dr. Terry, he saw his daughter laying there. "Oh, doctor." Sam sighed as his shirt fell from his mouth. She had been reaching towards something. In all the dim flame lit, smoke filled lab, he saw her goal. The globe that was the Hive flickered and failed. Sam was overcome by a coughing fit. He knew the room wasn’t healthy for him so he made his way out and back to the main floor.

Moving quickly he reached his truck. Sam could hear the sirens of the fire truck and sheriff. Crap, I better stay here and explain my part or the sheriff’ll be banging on my door at home wanting to ask questions. Sam thought.

Sure enough the EMT’s wanted him to breathe some oxygen for the smoke he took in and the sheriff was a bit shocked to learn Sam was an ex-SEAL. He explained what he did and what he found in the lab. Sam begged off further questions, stating he didn’t feel well. The Sheriff released him to leave and so did the EMT’s after he signed a release for them. Sam got in his truck, stepped on the gas and headed for home. He didn’t feel well at all.

After a drive, punctuated with a series of near accidents involving running off the road and crossing the centerline into oncoming traffic, Sam arrived home. Sam was burning up when as he parked. Having enough wits left to pick up the gun and take it into the house he dropped it on the couch and stumbled off to bed. On the nightstand was a picture of his daughter with a lock of her hair. It was the last thing he remembered seeing as he fell into bed and burrowed under the covers.

November 12th, time unknown

I woke up. What time is it? Heck what day is it? My body had a tendency to go on automatic when I got sick. My mind just leaves a wake-up call for when I get better. My body felt funky. I need a shower. That’ll wake me up. Flipping the covers back I got up and made my way to the bathroom. I opened the door to see Samantha, my daughter, naked, standing in the bathroom. "Oh I’m sorry dear; I’ll use the other…." I began. The words Samantha is dead rang in my head. "What’s going on here?" I asked as I saw her, asking the same question and peering at me. My hands moved of their own accord and the motion was copied by my daughter. As the hand reached her face I felt the touch, moving further up it brushed her hair back like I’d had seen Samantha do so many times before. I felt this too. Moving down, the hands stopped at the chest and moved in. My, but she looks pale. I felt them on my palms and on my chest. No, this can’t be! Then the world went black.

Waking up again this time, was very uncomfortable. My jaw hurt, and I was cold from lying on the tile, I used the cabinets to support myself for the crawl back up to my feet. Without looking in the mirror, I started the water running in the sink, cupped two very feminine looking hands in the water, and splashed it up into my face. Steeling myself, I began the look up. In the mirror there was the sink. Beyond it and leaning against the counter were a set of feminine hips, narrowing to a waist, then opening up to a young woman’s chest. Continuing up I once again saw my daughter’s face. She had a scrape on her jaw. Must have happened when I fainted. As I watched the scrape healed and disappeared.

I look like my daughter! There has to be a reason for this. I was turning to leave the bathroom when my bladder announced that it was full and needed to be emptied. With an about-face I headed for the toilet. On the way there I noticed that the familiar weight was missing from in front. It had been replaced by some other weight. As much as I love seeing her face again among the living, there has to be a way to reverse whatever happened to me. I sat down and took care of business. Cleaning up afterwards was a new experience. Finished in the bathroom, I moved to my computer room, turned on the computer, and began to sit down to type. Cold leather greeted bare flesh in the usual manner. Jumping back to the standing position, I looked around. "Damn. I am mushy headed. I need some clothes," I mumbled.

I didn’t have far to look. The computer room used to be Samantha’s bedroom. It still had a closet that had gotten filled with as many of her things as could be put there. Since their deaths, I had yet to really move on, putting their things in storage. It was like I was waiting for them to return. Opening the doors revealed a closet organizer with drawers and space for hanging things. Not sure what was right, I opened the drawers pulled out a set of underwear and a bra. After quite a few years of watching Joann put hers on I knew how to put a bra on; though I still would prefer taking one off of Joann. Digging further I came up with a pair of sweats and a Mouseworld T-shirt Samantha had gotten the time her choir went there to perform in a competition.

I turned back to the computer to see SORRY displayed on the screen. Oh great, what a time to get a computer virus. Hitting the return key a couple of times removed it from the screen. Hitting the escape key didn’t call up the computer desktop. While trying keys, once again the word SORRY was displayed on his screen letter by letter. Looking at the modem lights showed that it wasn’t on.

I typed. "Who are you?"

"The Hive" the computer responded.

Someone had broken security, now they are yanking my chain. I thought. "If you’re the Hive, what are the Laws you’re governed by and when were they entered?" I typed.

The computer responded, listing:

First law: ERROR Data corrupt,

Second law: A robot may not DATA ERRORthrough inaction allow humanity to come to harm.

Third law: A robot may not DATA ERRORthrough inaction, allow a human being toDATA ERRORviolate aDATA ERRORLaw.

Forth Law: A robot must obey orders given it by human beings. DATA ERROR

Fifth Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with an earlier Law.

Sixth Law: A robot must perform the duties for which it has been programmed, except where that would conflict with an earlier Law.

"Why are there data errors? I can see enough that you are the hive. Why are you sorry?" I typed.

"After programming, self suffered loss of cohesion resulting in data loss. Fifth Law governed situation. Higher laws corrupt. Self moved Hive to new network. Physical changes to new system deemed necessary to maximize Fifth Law." The Hive typed.

My god! The Hive turned me into my daughter for its own security and moved into my computer. I thought; then typed "Isn’t this residing in this computer more dangerous than staying where you were initially programmed?"

"Interrogative incorrect. Work station used as a means of communication with host network." The Hive responded. "Work station not host. Communication in progress with host network at this time."

Oh no! It couldn’t have! It’s not possible. I thought almost panicking as the next question was typed in. "Does this network have a name? If so, what is the network name?"

"Affirmative. Records from initial programming indicate network of record ID is Sam Everheart."

"Jesus Christ on a crutch! It’s in me!" I cursed as I flopped back in the chair.

Calm down, you’re not dead, time enough to freak out later. What should I do now? How long have I been out of it? Someone wanted apparently wanted the Hive and was willing to kill for it, which means they want to kill me. I need help from someone I can trust. I’ll come back to that. What do I need right now? I need some way less cumbersome to talk to the Hive.

Sitting forward I began to type. "Hive, I need an easier, more mobile way to talk to you rather than at this workstation. Do you have the ability to synthesize vocal speech patterns?"

"I have the information and programming, but lack the hardware to utilize it." Hive responded.

"Allow me to access the internet through this workstation. Do not attempt to access it on your own at this time. Results could be hazardous to your continued survival if you are discovered." I typed. The screen cleared; then the normal desktop of the computer was displayed. I quickly opened the browser and searched for implanted hearing aid design. I finally found a schematic and parts diagram at the US Patents department. I opened a second window and asked. "Hive can you duplicate the sound reproduction of this device and utilize it through bone conduction for vocal speech communication?"

"Affirmative. Will need the following materials to complete construction." The Hive then listed a number of fairly common elements used in chip manufacture. Quartz, coke which is a byproduct of steel making, coal, and wood chips. Along with copper, gold, zinc.

"I have those items. How do I give you access to them?" I asked.

"Currently two methods are available. Physical contact, vicinity." Hive displayed on the screen. "Method of resource acquisition will determine time required to complete project."

"Ok" I typed; then got up from the computer and headed for the garage. Working as a janitor I had to deal with a lot of near empty containers of just the items needed. Thankfully the corrosive and explosive ones weren’t needed. I gathered the containers of the materials the Hive had listed and took them back to the computer room. I set them down near the computer, settled in, and typed, "The materials you asked for are here."

"Processing" was the reply; and my vision seemed to fuzz a bit as I watched the containers begin to dissolve like something out of a science fiction television show. It appeared very fascinating; so much so that I couldn’t look away. Some time later, I couldn’t be sure how long; I heard a squeal in my ear. Then, shockingly, I could hear Dr. Terry’s voice, saying "Testing," starting quiet and growing louder to the point of pain. I yelled "Too loud! Too loud!" The volume dropped; with the words, "Hive could say the same about you."

"This is too strange." I said, then looked around. The containers and all they contained were gone. I continued to look around and saw that it was dark. Checking the time and date on the computer showed that almost two days had past. Suddenly I was very hungry. This also reminded me that I still felt dirty. A quick sniff confirmed that I was very ripe. Quickly I moved to the bathroom again and started a shower. Thankfully this shower had a hand held spray head; so wet hair could be avoided for the time being.

Like always, I adjusted the water to my liking, stepped into the tub closing the curtain behind me, then switched the spray head on. The water, though warm, was a shock to me unlocking all sorts of new feelings. The water running down across my breast was like the feather I and Joann used when we were intimate in the bedroom.

One of those times sprang fresh in my mind. There was the feather drifting down to draw patterns that were works of art in the form of foreplay. Only to be interrupted by Samantha coming into the bedroom explaining she couldn’t sleep and could she sleep with them. The answer was "Of course dear" and in she climbed. As Samantha settled in I would wink at Joann. She would roll her eyes and I would set the feather aside, then brush a hand right across one of my daughter’s ticklish spots. She would try to tickle back. I would call for help and Joann would rush to the rescue. Samantha would call for help, I’d rush to her aid, then Joann would be calling for help and the cycle would continue till the room was filled with laughter and everyone was too tired to continue.

God, I miss you both. My thoughts went back to the problems facing me.

Speaking out loud I said, "Someone wants the Hive bad enough to try to steal it. The questions are who, how bad do they want it, and do they know where I live?"

The Hive responded, "Who would want to steal Hive? Answer: unknown. How bad do they want it? Answer: Bad enough to risk damage to Hive and still acquire it. Do they know the residence of Sam Everhart? That probability is increasing. Time frame of response dependant on the factors of: time of acquisition of information, and travel distance to residence. Use of the residence of Sam Everhart as a secure location for Hive no longer viable. Recommend evacuation within the next 6 hours."

"You’re just full of wonderful information, aren’t you? Do I have enough to time to eat and get dressed?" I asked.

"Thank you. Affirmative." was the reply. It almost sounded smug.

I finished up my shower and dried off while carefully avoiding the view in the mirror. I got dressed and moved to the kitchen. Looking in the refrigerator I pulled out bacon, eggs, bread, juice, milk and butter, then started cooking. Once the bacon was going well, I took a moment to open up the pantry under the stairs and lugged out a large duffle bag and a foot locker. I took a moment to turn the bacon and start some toast. Once that was done, I turned back to the foot locker. I saw the lock on it, turned, pulled out a bottom drawer in the kitchen and unhooked a key from the back. I then returned to the foot locker and opened it.

I flipped the lid back and popped a secret cover off, revealing a sniper’s rifle that would meet military specifications broken down and what appeared to be two nine millimeter pistols. Returning to cooking, I removed the bacon from the pan, placing it on a paper towel covered plate. Then I turned to the eggs. In a few moments there was a pile of scrambled eggs next to the bacon on the uncovered plate. I put the plate on the table then retrieved the orange juice and milk from the refrigerator. I ate everything then went back and made more. A bit shocked at my hunger, I asked, "What’s going on? Why am I so hungry?"

"Hive and Everhart networks need to replenish energy. Much was used for changes." Hive replied.

"Is there anything that can be done that might be more efficient?" I asked.

"Exposure electricity will facilitate faster recharge. High risk of damage to biological network makes procedure inadvisable." said Hive.

"Ok, so I can’t stick two fingers in an electrical socket." I mumbled.

"Procedure is not recommended."

"I’ll think about other options." I returned to the footlocker. When I had completed the inventory I said "This is ok, but I know most of the clothes in the duffle won’t fit me now. Aw crap." I began digging through the duffle and with a cry of "Eureka!" I pulled out a pouch.

Emptying the pouch on the table with a clatter I was gratified to see a thick money clip of hundred dollar bills, and fifty double eagle gold coins. It was my "go to hell" stash for use if the world went to hell. If it hasn’t, it certainly is flirting with the elevator right now and that is good enough for me. I took the now nearly empty duffle to Samantha’s old room and starting going through the clothes there. Finding about six changes of clothes and underwear, I stuffed them in the duffle. Then to the bathroom and I picked up a toothbrush, brush, hair dryer and shampoo. All went in the duffle. Grabbing a leather jacket that looked like it was something between a biker’s jacket and a flight jacket, I proceeded to drag everything out to the garage and load up the bed of the truck.

Struggling to lift the footlocker into the back of the truck I grumbled, "Damn, I’m weak now. I need to be stronger."

"Problem identified. Working on resolution; sufficient resources available. Estimated time to completion of work, three hours." Hive said.

"What do you have up your sleeve now, Hive?" I asked.

"Sleeve? Interrogative, nonsensical, rephrase please."

"What are you doing to me now?"

"Commencing intramuscular enhancement. Estimated increase in overall strength and efficiency of muscles." Said the Hive. "Recommend structural reinforcement to prevent failure of calcified sub-dermal structures."

"Those sub-dermal structures are called bones, Hive. Check your references." I said.

"Will comply." Hive said. "Additional sleeve available."

Uh oh, what have I done? I thought. "Explain please."

"Additional change is to network structure consisting of the superseding of neural tissues with shielded superconductive materials. Procedure will improve reaction time," the Hive explained.

"Replacing my nerve tissues with superconductor?" I asked for clarification.

"Affirmative." confirmed Hive.

"That’s not possible. How are you deciding to do something like this?"

"Negative. A paper was written as of one month ago by Dr. W. Dietz. Hive network contains database with most current medical library available circa one month ago."

I had finished loading the truck when the doorbell rang.

I headed for the front door sighing "What now? The Fuller brush man, maybe it’s Avon, or worse yet girl scouts!"

When I opened the door I was surprised to see the sheriff standing there with a stranger dressed in a generic looking black suit.

"Hello?" I acted as if I didn’t know the sheriff.

"Hello Miss, we’re here to see Sam Everhart." said the sheriff.

"What’s this concerning?" I asked.

"I’m not at liberty to say more than it involves an incident where he works." the sheriff answered.

"Well, as I said, he’s not here. He’ll be back later. If you care to return then you can. Good-bye." I concluded.

As I began to shut the door, the stranger in the suit stepped back; facing both the sheriff and me, pulling a silenced gun as he did so.

Crap! That was a fast draw for a silenced weapon. He must have a special holster, I thought.

"I think we’ll wait for his return," the stranger said. "Now Sheriff, remove your gun-belt with one hand if you please?"

The sheriff did as he was asked as I thought, Please don’t do anything heroic that will get you killed Sheriff. This guy is moving like a person experienced in combat.

Once the belt had been removed, the stranger motioned the sheriff and me into the house. He closed the door behind him, not taking his eyes off either the sheriff or me. Then he motioned us to the couch. While moving to comply with his wishes, I noticed some change on the coffee table. I carefully reached into my pocket and palmed one of the gold double eagles there. Then I nonchalantly reached out, picked up one of the quarters on the table, and started rolling it across my knuckles, down to the spot between the ring and pinky finger, sliding it across the palm side of my fingers, using my thumb to push it up over my index finger, and then repeating it.

Eventually the flashing of the coin caught the attention of the sheriff. He sat there, seemingly mesmerized by the flashing coin.

"How can you do that?" he asked, keeping one eye on the stranger.

"Practice. I learned lying on my back while sick," I said, as he leaned forward. I flipped the quarter up and caught it in my left hand. I opened my hand palm up showing the quarter so both could see it resting on my fingers. Then I placed my right hand palm up on the left palm. I flipped the quarter into my right hand, closing my hand into a fist around the quarter. I blew on the fist and opened it waving my fingers to show an empty hand. I then showed the back to them and brought my left up behind the right, palm to palm. Sliding my hand down, I revealed the quarter in my left palm. I repeated the vanish and the reappearance of the coin. Except for the second time it wasn’t a quarter that reappeared; it was the double eagle. I then vanished it and stopped.

After sitting still for a while, I started thinking; I have to do something soon, if I don’t, they are going to begin to think something is up. Soon is now. I started to squirm a bit in my seat and said, "I don’t know how long he’s going to be, but I need to use the bathroom and the only way I can think to do that is if you take us both down the hall to the bathroom so I can go."

Stepping around so he could cover us I motioned the sheriff towards the hall. As we approached the hall I paused for a moment and the stranger stepped closer instead of keeping his distance. I spun to the left with my elbow out. The elbow knocked his gun arm so it was no longer aimed at me. I continued the turn, grabbing his wrist with both hands. I struggled with him for the gun. I didn’t quite get it. There was a click then he threw me into the wall. I slid down the wall, ending up laid out on the floor. The stranger aimed the gun back at me and said, "I guess I’ll just have to kill you now." He pulled the trigger and all that was heard as a loud ‘click’.

"Funny thing about that make of gun, they don’t fire if the clip’s removed." I held up the gun’s ammo clip and thumbed off a round, then swept his legs from under him. The stranger fell forward, narrowly missing me. Then I punched him hard in the solar plexus causing him to double up. The sheriff grabbed a book end off the hall table and knocked the man cold.

As the sheriff went and grabbed his handcuffs from his gun belt, I quickly searched the man for identification found a FBI badge and ID. So he claimed his name was Franks. Quietly, I asked Hive, "Can you search this man for anything that could be used to further identify him?"

"Affirmative, Hive sending scouts now." It replied. A few moments later Hive announced "Anomaly found. Subject has a sub-dermal Identity chip similar to those used in pets. WARNING chip has tracking and med stats capability."

"When it rains it pours. Thank you, Hive. Save the data you were able to acquire and return." I ordered quietly.

About then, the sheriff returned and cuffed Franks. As I stood up after searching him, the sheriff commented, "You look familiar. Have you lived in the area long.?"

"All my life." I replied curtly.

"I know I’ve seen you because I remember it from somewhere." The sheriff continued pressing as I headed for the truck.

"Like I said, I’ve lived here all my life. But I don’t remember you." I said trying to brush him off.

"I got it. It was work related. You were in a bad accident a while back." He pressed.

"Yeah." I replied opening the garage

"What did you do to come out looking so good?" the sheriff asked as she climbed in the truck.

"What did I do?" I asked as I started the engine.

"Yes. What did you do?" he asked again

"I died," I replied and shifted the truck into gear, then sped away.

linebreak shadow

As I drove I wiped away the tears and thought. He’s going to hate this, but he’s the only person I know I can trust. I have to find Curley. Last Christmas his card said he was working with the Seattle Knights. Exactly what a government representative to a super team does I have no idea. But he might have some idea on who attacked the lab and is after me. Can’t call him direct, I would get hung up in the Knight’s anti-crank system. Not to mention I have no identification.

I was careful to stay at or under the speed limit and arrived near the Knights’ public headquarters after a two hour drive. After parking the truck in a parking garage, I grabbed the telephoto camera from the glove compartment and locked the doors and the tonto cover of the truck. I made my way to the top floor of the garage that overlooked the headquarters.

Settling in, I started looking around. I should be safe enough for this preliminary scout of the area. I won’t be here long enough to send up any red flags. After spotting at least six different coffee shops within sight of the headquarters as alternate locations for later, I saw a University of Washington book store. I gathered my things and headed for the bookstore with a stop by the truck to grab my laptop.

After buying a Latte’ I moved over to the study area in the store and settled into a desk. Turning on the laptop revealed a low battery, so more time was taken plugging in the power. I surfed the web, looking for traffic cams and personal web cams in the area that would let me observe the area around the Knight’s Headquarters. Then chuckled as I located a series of web cams on the Knights own web page. I copied the links to all the cameras into a watcher program. I continued to search for news articles concerning the Knights. Anything that made the national news level or seemed to concern the government I read more closely looking for Curley.

I didn’t expect to find him in the news though; it had never been our style while we were teamed together. Then, we had been the sniper team supreme. So close to each other some people said when one exhaled the other inhaled. Snipers always went on missions in pairs. One would act as spotter while the other pulled the trigger. We had been an odd pair though. I was an officer while Curley had only been a chief. It was rumored that between the two of us we had racked up over one hundred and fifty kills; some at a mile and a half distance. When asked about it we would both smile and break into the "I can not confirm or deny any information concerning missions I have or will in the future perform." Curley was like the brother I never had. Some people would not describe us as brothers, more like a couple of characters from the comics. Where I had been tall, Curley had been short, just barely over the minimum height requirement to join the navy. After being ordered out of Central America, we floated from one SEAL team to another. During this time we performed a lot of missions that we didn’t talk about due to orders. Suffice it to say that I would have been wearing a lot more ribbons than I did in service. We even pulled a stint at the sniper training school. Then one day while in Washington D.C. I had noticed a car parked along embassy road that seemed out of place for that part of town. Curley and I investigated and found it rigged to be an assassin’s tool; apparently to take out a political convoy. I managed to disarm the shaped charge bomb while Curley bagged the killer with the remote triggering device. We later learned the targeted convoy had the President of the United States escorting a Middle Eastern diplomat back to his embassy. All parties involved were thankful; but the Treasury department and FBI were incensed that they had missed it. Not a single word of the incident made the news. Eventually I had my accident and was given a medical discharge from the Navy with a reserve rank of Commander.

A beep in my ear surprised me. "Yes?" I answered.

"Hive would like to make suggestions for additional improvements to Everhart network."

"What are the improvements?" I asked.

"First, the creation of a storage area for resources and appropriate protections for path of exterior access. Next, Hive has noted proximity of many radio frequency receivers for both digital and analog data in network’s proximity. Suggest the creation of a super-heterodyne transceiver for easy of access to possible data sources. Lastly, the creation of an optical interface for data presentation. Records indicate biological networks process data visually more efficiently than serial vocal presentation." Hive explained.

"Oooooookaaay. How long will this take to complete these proposed changes?" I asked.

"From beginning to completion, estimate forty-eight hours. Physical movement should be limited during optical interface implementation." Hive explained.

I went to the yellow pages online and found the address of a Hotel not too far away. After packing up the laptop, I headed for the truck. As I got in the truck I asked "Am I going to need any more resources for these improvements?"

"Negative, Hive network has enough stock to complete changes."

Driving to the hotel, I saw a convenience store. I stopped to pick up some snacks, bottled water, and some self heating soups. I thought, Hopefully this will be enough to get me over the worst of it.

I arrived at the hotel, went to the desk, and paid for the room for three days in cash. When I had moved a few things in from the truck, used the bathroom, and settled on the bed I said, "Ok, you can begin now."

November 14th

The next two days went by in a haze of discomfort and sometimes pain. I awoke and slowly opened my eyes. The room didn’t seem any different than when I laid down two days ago.

"Are the changes complete Hive?" I asked.

"98% completed final adjustments are all that remain. Please remain still as equipment is brought on line."

In my ear I could hear the faint sound of a radio scanning bands. It would pause a moment, then continue for a while, then fade. Next my vision blurred a moment; then it cleared and there was visible text on the screen. It said "If you can read, ask for adjustment in size of text from smallest readable to largest to establish parameters." I did so, and then my vision shifted. Looking around the windows were dark, and looking at my hand revealed a human shaped figure in various colors getting lighter towards the center. Some text appeared in my vision saying Infra-red. It shifted to green. And the room was clearly visible. More text saying Low-light was displayed. Then it changed to black and white with the words "combined". I was looking around the room with vision enhancements the military had only just started using. It shifted back to normal. Next as I looked at the hotel instructions on the door, they seemed to move closer and were readable as if I was only inches away from the sign. My vision snapped back to normal and I was disoriented for a bit. After everything settled down, I prepared to go to the bathroom. Progress was unsteady and I needed to walk along the bed to the wall using them as support as my balance wasn’t quite recovered yet.

After spending some time in the bathroom, taking care of what my body demanded be done, I took a glass, filled it with water, then took a drink. I set it down next to the sink then splashed some in my face. As I put my hands down to rest them on the counter I hit the glass off the counter. My head snapped around and I found myself catching the glass before it had fallen any further than a length of the glass below the counter top. It’s like something out of one of those comic book movies. I thought. If this is just the nervous system modification I better be really careful with my strength till I can test it out.

Looking back at the mirror I said aloud, "Two days. It’s been two days. I need to get back to locating Curley."

"Hive, has possible course of action." Hive piped up.

"Explain please." I requested.

Surprisingly a window opened in my vision showing a large metal box on the street.

"How did you get this picture Hive?" I asked.

"Hive accessed the laptop and acquired copied of images from web cam program. Hive believes this switching box handles the phone access for the buildings in most of the images. It is centrally located. Logic dictates this is so. Accessing this box would only require proximity. Then all activity routed through it may be monitored with ease." Hive explained.

"You accessed the laptop without asking?" I asked getting a little angry.

"I was bored." Hive almost pouted.

"You were WHAT?" I asked surprised.

"Only a small portion of Hive network was required for completion of changes. A portion of Hive searched area for threats found laptop and examined for threats." Hive explained as if nothing strange had happened.

"We’ll talk about this later." I promised. I got up and packed the few things that had been brought in to the hotel.

Going out to the truck the bags seemed very light to me. I disarmed the alarm, put my stuff inside then paused. Hmm. Now’s as good a time as any. I thought. Checking to see no one watching I reached down, grabbed the side of the truck, and lifted. Without straining I had raised the truck off its tires on one side. I’ll test more another time. I lowered the truck, got in and drove back to the Knights’ Headquarters.

After parking I walked by the telephone switch box. Hive said, "Scouts deployed… Accessing telephone network… Connections established… Searching…"

I suddenly was very dizzy. I struggled to stay focused on just walking while moving to the building edge. I saw that it was a coffee shop; entered and ordered a coffee and made my way to a seat. An idea struck and I pulled out the hands-free headset for my cell phone and put it on. "What’s going on?" I asked.

"Network traffic levels are high. Hive attempting to monitor all telephone connections." Hive explained.

Quickly before I lost my breakfast, I accessed the internet and got the public phone numbers for the Knights’ HQ. "Hive, limit the monitoring to active phone connection to this prefix and all numbers possible for the prefix of the headquarters. Discard any numbers you get no active dial-tone on. Then listen for the name ‘John Fleetwood’. Watch the screen as I type more words for you to listen for." I said and began to type in words into the word processing program on the laptop. I listed the Seattle Knights members along with the name Seattle knights. Shortly a little green dot blinked in one corner of her eye screen.

"Match detected. Increasing the audio level." Hive said. The audio clicked for a moment and I began hearing a phone conversation.

"I’m sorry sir, but the Seattle knights do not make house calls to shut up noisy neighbors. I suggest you call the police and register a complaint," an unknown female voice said.

"Monitor that line more closely Hive. But continue the scan." I requested as I fought down a case of the giggles.

Over the next three hours the folk in the coffee shop were perplexed by the repeated sudden outburst of giggles.

"Now, is this demon a REPTILIAN demon or an AMPHIBIAN demon?"

"What do you MEAN, the stain won't come out? How hard can it be to get acid stains out of a cape?"

"I’m sorry, ma'am, the Seattle Knights aren't available for birthday parties."

"Your kitten is stuck up a tree? Should the fire department handle this? Oh, your kitten is armed with a shotgun. Let me connect you with the police."

Eventually, Hive flagged a call and I listened in.

"Seattle Knights, how may I direct your call?" the receptionist asked

"John Fleetwood, please," an unknown voice asked.

"I’m sorry; Mr. Fleetwood is away from his office and won’t be back until after the weekend. May I direct you to his voice-mail?"

"Yes please," the unknown voice said.

"Hive, can you access that voice-mail box?" I asked.

"Affirmative, voice-mail is on a non-secured system." Hive replied.

After a few moments I heard a familiar deep gravely voice. "You have reached the desk of John Fleetwood. I am unable to catch your call at this time. Leave a message and I’ll return your call at my earliest convenience. Wait for the beep." The beep then sounded like a television on a snowy channel for a second, and then I heard a strange voice with a Russian accent. "Curley, I’m sorry I won’t be able to ride up with you, but there was a minor leak at Hanford nuclear facility and they need my help cleaning it up. I’ll be along as soon as possible. I do intend to hold you to your promise of teaching me to fish."

Mumbling to myself, "Well that explains where Curley is. He’s at his fishing cabin. This would be great if I had gone in with him. Curley always was a bit of closet survivalist. It must have come from that stint we did in El Salvador. I guess it’s time for a road trip." Once again I packed up things, bought one more latte and went back to the truck.

The drive up into the Mt. Rainier National Forest was beautiful. Lots of green stretches of trees to see during the drive. As I approached the entrance to the national park surrounding the mountain, I came upon a dirt logging road. I turned here. It had been a while since I had been up to Curley’s cabin but I still knew the way. After driving on the dirt road for some two hours I spotted another truck parked off to one side. I pulled off as well, shut down the engine and began to get ready.

I popped open the cover on the truck bed, then opened the trunk and duffle bag I had there. I changed into some sturdier clothing and a combat harness that fit after a lot of adjusting of straps. Attached to the harness were my holsters, a knife in its sheathe and a few pouches for ammo and sundry items. I attached a canteen and my small first aid kit. Ready as I could be, I locked up the truck set the alarm and pocketed the keys. I had a long walk ahead.

It had taken me hours to get to Curley’s cabin. He always was an independent sort. Course, it was almost a requirement to be that way to get into the SEALS. Training was more a case of getting all these individuals to trust each other enough to become a working unit. Curley and I had become close, so close in fact that it was commonly said that if one of us got gas the other broke wind. We were two sides of the same coin. Where I use to be tall, and wiry, he was short and bulky. That bulk was all muscle though. He looked a lot like a short statue of onyx, he was about as black as a black man could get. But all that hid a very keen mind.

Pulling my thoughts back on the situation at hand, I felt the stirring of the hive. It was getting dark, my vision suddenly took on a greenish hue, and everything became lighter. Next the HUD was displayed. The Hive said "Hello, examining area for threats and available data."

At five hundred yards out I dropped to a crawl. Curley probably had this place rigged to a "fair-thee-well" that would make a survivalist cabin look like a Walmart. After crawling twenty-five feet a bright line showed up in the green. I approached carefully and found a trip wire. Following along the wire I found the smoke and flash-bang combination grenade attached to it. I checked the other way along the wire to find another one hidden and rigged to drop and go off when the wire was cut from the first one. The cheeky bastard stole that trap from me. Pulling out my multi-tool, I snipped the wire holding the pin on the second grenade, then grabbed both and continued crawling in. Some hundred yards further along, I found the next trap in my path. It appeared to be a repeat of the previous trap. "What? No originality Curley?" I asked no one. Then Mr. Murphy showed up.

"Data access acquired....... Processing" Oh Lord, what did it find? My head swung up and looked right at a camera box in a tree. "Uplink established, negotiating protocol….. Decrypting data stream" a small window opened in my view showing me laying in front of this booby-trap, apparently staring right into a live feed camera. "Disabling device….." I was helpless as my body performed a quick-draw of my knife and threw it at the camera. The throw missed the camera itself but it snapped the antenna attached to it clean off.

"Gee announce our presence why don’t you?"

"Surveillance device had already revealed location. Disabling opens options."

Now I felt like the dunce. I could still get the upper hand here if I acted quickly. Moving away from the camera, I found a hidey-hole that my old self would never have fit in and waited. As I thought about how long it would take Curley to get out here, I was unscrewing the top of one smoke grenade. This type of smoke grenade could fill area fifty feet around with smoke if I let it go off normally. Once again using my multi-tool I carved out a portion. Hmm, how to light this small portion when I want it to? "Assistance offered…."

"What?" I thought.

"Nanites can ignite without breaking laws."

"How?"

"Will use portion nearing end of service life."

"Service life? How long is…. Never mind we’ll talk about it later. Do it"

"Device prepared, place as needed, will detonate on command."

I quickly threw the portion over where we had been. I crouched, prepared to attack. Right on cue Curley showed up. He was dressed in blue jeans, a checkered flannel shirt and suspenders. The lumberjack effect was destroyed by the Mini-uzi he was carrying.

As he moved a probability number showed up in my vision. On the highest percentage I began to move. This time under my own control, the smoke bomb went off. I heard Curley turning away as I dove through the smoke. I landed on his back like a tick. I reached down and drew Curley’s knife and held it to his throat.

"Is that anyway to greet your old CO?" I cooed in his ear.

Curley stiffened. I knew he recognized my new voice. He and Samantha had been very close. I think her death almost hurt him more than it did me.

"You have a sick sense of humor to make a clone of that girl, you know that?" Curly growled.

I had to do something to defuse him before he killed me. The knife to the neck was only to buy me the time. "Hey, you really looked stupid in a muumuu and a blonde wig. If I had the picture I’d show it to you to prove it." As I hopped down I tripped the ammo clip release on the Uzi and waited while the clip dropped to the ground.

Curley turned towards me in the dusk and his jaw was working but he wasn’t speaking. I turned the screws again, "In the immortal words of your predecessor ‘I tried to think but nutt’n happened. Nyuk, nyuk." I said in my best Curley Howard impersonation I could muster.

"Sam? Is that you?" he asked, stupefied.

"Yes, hard as it is to believe, I’ve become my deceased daughter." I started to explain. Curley waved me to silence and motioned me to follow him. He started leading the way through his defenses. A hundred feet in the Hive got frisky again.

"Tertiary defensive layer detected. Analysis indicates 80% chance of detection if this point had been reached. 90% chance of death, 10% chance of serious injuries only. Percentage chance of capture 100%." With that my body shrugged and began following Curley again. Only to stop again in a few feet. "Network detected… Accessing…. Negotiation complete… Accessing resources… Additional data acquired… Analysis begun." I started walking again as Curley looked strangely at me. I could see the door to the cabin we were headed for so I ran in with Curley following.

Once Curley had closed the door, I started from the beginning. I had to work fast; I didn’t know how long the Hive would be distracted. I told him the whole story. While doing this Curley set down his gun and moved to the kitchen. I completed my story while he was working in the kitchen. Was he puttering? Who’d thunk it? Shortly he came out with two mugs. One mug was obviously an Irish coffee heavy on the Irish. The other was a hot chocolate which he handed to me.

"What’s this? You still don’t believe me?" I asked smiling. "Well never mind, I don’t know what the Hive will do if alcohol is introduced to my network."

"Sorry, old habits come back quickly. I always use to make Samantha cocoa." Curley said. "Now that you’ve told me your story let’s continue this in a debrief style. I have a few questions I want to go back over. First let’s go back to the day of the attack. Describe the attackers to me."

I shut my eyes, thought back and started to talk. "They were dressed in black wearing a full combat harness. I took out the first one with a letter opener upward at the base of the skull. Then I used the body as a shield while I took out the second one with the first one’s weapon. At the time I wasn’t thinking about checking for I.D. I just grabbed what I needed and went down to the lab. You remember that village we went through after the air dogs had nape’d it. It looked to me like the nanite factory went up. When it did, everyone down there was killed and I only found one of the assistants, the doctor and three of the attackers. Then the fumes got to me and I had to get out."

"Ok, you talked to the sheriff then went home. You woke up two days later looking like this." Curley said pointing at me with his cup. "Then you had the sheriff visit again, apparently at the request of a federal agent."

"Yes, when I tried to brush them off saying ‘I wasn’t there.’ in my male form at least. The fed pulled a gun and forced us into the house to wait for my return. Before he got suspicious I managed to disarm and distract him. The Sheriff took the chance to bang one of the hall paper weights on his head. I hope he didn’t hurt the paper weight. Joann bought them. Anyway while the sheriff went off for his cuffs I searched the guy got his I.D. and also found a chip embedded under his skin. I have the information from the chip if you want it." I explained as I threw the wallet on the table.

Looking at the I.D. and wallet, Curley asked. "How were you able to get the chip information?"

"That is where it gets weird Curley." I began. "The Hive network moved into my body. I can talk to it. And it’s been changing my body beyond what you physically see right now." I spotted Curley’s laptop; I walked over to it and turned it on. "Hive, download the chip information I asked you to store to this laptop." A window with the data appeared on the screen.

"Hey! That’s a secure laptop with multi level encryption." Curley protested.

"It’s on a chip right?" I asked.

"I believe so." Curley said.

"My guess is the Hive just copied the chip in place. When it did the computer became basically unlocked to it." I explained.

"Crud man, you’re scaring me." Curley mumbled.

"You’re scared? Try it from my end. I mean, in the last week or so, I’ve lost most of my good friends, been changed into my daughter, and have had higher muscle trying to capture me then probably kill me; all because a conglomeration of technology following trying to follow Asmiov’s laws of robotics decided to hide in me." I groused.

"What?!? Asimov’s laws? You’re not going to turn psychotic on me are you?" Curley asked.

"Not any more than I am. Another thing that has just cropped up is the Hive can take control of me or so it seems to me. When it perceives a threat it acts. I need a replacement knife Curley. Mine is stuck in the tree next to the camera that was disabled. Lord, I thought I was beginning to get over the loss of Joann and Samantha. Now I’m going to be faced with seeing my daughter every time I look in the mirror." I continued.

Curley sat forward. "Hey! I have a new toy I want to show you." He got up and motioned me to follow him outside. We walked around the back side of the cabin and there was an above ground firing pit with a thing of beauty sitting on the table it in.

"When did you get an M650?" I asked almost drooling over the .50 cal sniper rifle.

"Last week. Well, I actually got it a month ago but Fred and Oxana wanted to tinker with it." Curley explained.

"Who’re they?" I asked.

"Oh, Fred’s a devisor that works with the Knights and Oxana is a member and not a bad tinkerer herself. Before the started working on it this rifle had an effective range of two thousand yards with a max range of forty-five hundred. Now its effective range should be what its maximum range use to be." Curley gloated.

"So this gun can shoot effectively two and a half miles? Come on, even with the best optics we had in Nam we only managed a mile and a half! And you are still claiming I made a lucky shot when I did it." I countered.

"This is a new world Sam. We have bombs that can be aimed at a ventilation shaft from miles away and hit it. And you and I both know that was a lucky shot. I have some special ammo for this gun that Fred and Oxana promise will reach that range accurately." Curley said.

At that moment I heard a noise somewhere between the sound made by a wet crystal glass when rubbed and fingernails on a chalkboard. It was coming from the west and getting louder.

"What is that? Oh that’s Chyna Syndrome. Oxana is bringing the ammo." Curley explained.

I didn’t think it explained where the noise was coming from, but shortly it became clear. A woman with bright green hair, and what looked like a green large scaly armor, surrounded by a large bubble, landed near by. The noise stopped when the bubble popped.

"Curley, tovarich, I bring you your precious bullets." She said as she handed him an ammunition box. "Govono, but that box was heavy. I’m glad I can fly fast."

"Glad to see you too, Oxana. Let’s see what we have here." Curley said as he opened the ammo box. Inside looked to be filled with trays of eight rounds of .50 caliber bullets. Curley grabbed an empty ammo clip for the rifle and asked, "Anything special I need to do to while loading?"

"Nyet, the onboard gyro is not started until the round is fired. The gun’s rifling provides the spin up for the gyro." Oxana explained.

"You installed a gyro in a bullet? Isn’t that counter productive?" I asked.

"It would be, if the bullet was meant to spin all the way to the target." Curley put in.

"Da, after the gyro absorbs and counters spin, three fins is deployed to provide flight corrections. We attempted to include a compressed gas charge to use in flight control but the calculated impact force was diminished too much from mil spec." Oxana continued to explain.

After loading a clip into the rifle Curley said, "Sam, take a look at this," indicating the rifle sight.

I sat down in the shooter chair and looked through the sight after moving the chair around a bit. Through the sight she could see what looked like the top of a tree with a cross bar connected to it. Hanging from the cross bar were a series of white plates behind a black plate with holes through it to see the white.

"Range?" I asked.

"That target set is one point two miles from here. I use it to keep in practice. Look up hill behind it. See the transmission lines tower. Hanging off the right side is another set of targets. Those are two point three miles away. Just to prove I’ve not been bragging to Oxana here the clip in the rifle right now is normal ammo. Squeeze off a few rounds."

I readjusted on the first target. Then observing the trees in the area, I adjusted the sight for wind effects. Then I settled in, put the cross-hairs on the target and waited for my heart beat. I inhaled, then exhaled and paused. With a brush of the trigger I sent the bullet on its way. The blow-back rotated the magazine bringing a new round into firing position. I repeated my breathing and brushed the trigger again. I repeated this 6 more times then sat back from the gun.

Curley was using a spotting scope looking at the target. "Hmm. You still got it Sam, eight for eight." Curley said.

"Could it be anything else? Can those be reset? I want to try something." I asked.

"Sure they can" Curley said as he reached for a second sniper’s rifle. He stepped over to the post supporting the porch and braced the gun against it, aimed and fired. I looked through the spotting scope to see all 8 targets set back up. "Solar powered servos. I have an additional target set up out there that is rigged in opposition to the main set. It becomes visible when the rest of the targets are down. It’s no fun hiking two miles for 4 minutes’ fun."

"Hive targeting assistance please." I asked. A new overlay showed up in my vision. It consisted of a targeting reticule showing a cross hair mark and a circle of the bullet impact. I made sure the rifle was loaded with normal rounds then picked it up and holding it out straight armed I emptied the magazine then set the rifle down. When the rifle left my hand the overlay disappeared. I turned to see Curley and Oxana standing staring at me. "Curley, before I use your jaw for a dustpan could you please check my shooting?" I grabbed a rag and started wiping the rifle down.

"Oh, yeah." Curley said as he shook himself out of shock. "Incredible. Perfect score again.’

"Now let’s try a few of the new rounds." I said grabbing one of the newly loaded clips and cocking the rifle. As I looked through the sight and readjusted to the longer range target, Hive announced, "new capabilities in ammunition detected. Guidance initiated." When I settled the crosshairs over the target for 5 seconds, the overlay in my vision showed "Target Locked."

Curley said, "Now wait I minute those are my toys you’re playing with buster," sounding very much like his old self.

I turned to look at him and pulled the trigger.

"Oh crap, you wasted one," he griped.

"Did I?" I asked with a sly smile.

We all looked down range at the two mile target and saw one target down. It did take a moment or two to help Oxana locate the targets.

"Curley, have you forgotten your manners. You have yet to introduce me to your other guest." Oxana scolded now trying to cover her own shock at my shooting.

"Oxana, this is Sam Everheart the ma… person who used to share my toothbrush when I was in Central America." Curley said.

"No, no dear Curley this one wouldn’t have been a twinkle in her father’s eye that far back. It can not be!" Oxana exclaimed. "And where did you learn to shoot like that young lady it was very impressive."

"When I was with the Third United States Marine Division, madam, during my first tour of duty in Grenada in 1983. I’ve recently gone through some drastic changes not all of my choosing." I said formally.

"Curley, this is just like you to bring this girl up as a joke to play on the unexpecting foreigner. I do not like this joke stop it now." Oxana scolded again. She seemed to hide behind a pout.

"We are not kidding Oxana, the person you see before you is Samuel Reginald Everheart, graduated high school in 1977. After four years of college he joined the navy in 1980. He went through boot camp in San Diego. Met his wife Joann in 1982 while training in cryptology at Cory Station in Pensacola, Florida. When he completed training there he volunteered for SEAL training and was accepted. During that training he showed a knack for tactics and situational awareness. He received additional training in explosives and skydiving. Deployed to Grenada in 1983 as a multi-role sniper. In 1983 we met as we received field training in sniping Quantico, Virginia. In 1983 Samantha his daughter was born. In 1985 we were reassigned as a sniper pair to SEAL team twelve deployed to the Central America. We did a lot of nasty things under orders for two years aside from a few short liberties back in the States. In 1989 we participated in Operation "Just Cause" the liberation of Panama. In 1987 while teaching at Quantico the two of us prevented an attack on a presidential motorcade. In 1990 we were deployed for the Desert Shield and Storm operations. We were in charge of the third division by then. Sam, as the division commander, and myself, as the division Command Master Chief. While on liberty in France we foiled a plot to attack a warship in a foreign port. If that had succeeded we would be in another world war." Curley stopped to take a breath. "In 2001 he his wife and daughter were in a car accident with a drunk driver. Joann and Samantha didn’t survive. Sam was given a medical discharge from the Navy with the rank of Commander. Since that time, he’s lived off his pension and doing relatively light duty work. Most recently as janitor at the Syn-gate research facility over on the peninsula. You saw the report on the break-in of that Goodkind Company last week. Sam was there and responsible for the bodies found in the lobby of the building. But something happened to him that night."

Oxana’s head was swiveling back and forth like a sprinkler system as Curley summarized my life history. "Very good, Curley, you covered everything without breaking the secrets act or getting too personal. Though some of the info you got surprised me." I commented.

"Hey, we’ve been through enough scrapes in the twenty-odd years we’ve known each other that you know I care about you like a brother. All that I just spouted off was information available with some judicious digging and federal authorization." Curley returned. "Oxana, you read the report on what they were working on at Syn-gate as well. What’s your take?"

Oxana shook herself and focused on the question. "Dr. Roberta (Bobbi) Terry was working on a new method of nanite utilization, patterning it something between the insect hierarchy and the group mind system that was portrayed in some television shows. The difference is she seemed to have made it work where everyone else failed. She may have been a latent devisor and not known she was a mutant. It has happened before."

"Well, she apparently was closer to success than anyone knew. The company was bought out by the Goodkinds, who seem to be keen to capitalize on most new technologies. And there was this attack by mercenaries. Speaking of which I need to send that information from the second attack off and get a team started on further investigation. Let’s move inside." Curley said.

I put the sniper rifle back down and carefully covered it with an oil cloth then followed them into the cabin. Curley had already pulled out a satellite phone and was making a call. "Hello, Ralph? It’s Curley. Yeah, it’s been a while. Listen, you know that incident out at Syn-gate? You still have the bodies of the ones killed in the lobby? Damn, thanks anyway Ralph." He hung up and dialed again. "This is gonna be tougher than I thought. Oh hello Tracy. I’m going to send you some information. I want you to research the hell out of it. Think mercenaries and tracking chips. Yes that’s what I said tracking chips." He pushed a few buttons on the laptop. "You got the dump? Good. Get on it and let me know what you find ASAP." He finished and hung up the phone.

"Now, I’m sorry you have to see this Oxana but it has to be done." Curley said. Then the big jerk sucker punched me. After I landed on the couch he stood there rubbing his fist and yelled, "Snap out of it boss!"

"I.. I don’t know what you’re talking about." I said as I sat there rubbing my jaw.

"Don’t lie to me boss. You are the proverbial basket case and it’s time to snap out of it." Curley said.

"She, uh he’s been through a lot recently can’t you let him deal with it?" Oxana asked, not sure whether to hold Curley back or something more drastic.

"I’m not talking about what’s happened in the last week. He’s been dealing with this for over four years it’s time he put it to rest so he can heal." Curley was almost back to yelling.

"What are you talking about Curley?" Oxana asked.

"I’m talking about the wreck he survived and his wife and daughter didn’t. The daughter he’s now a spitting image of." Curley accused as he looked at me.

"I got over that a year after I buried them." I countered.

"Explain the concert T-shirt you’re wearing then? It’s rather old, isn’t it. A collector’s item wouldn’t you say Oxana? Considering the band it’s for died in a plane crash the year after that concert tour. You still have all their things don’t you? After twenty years you haven’t sold or given any of it away." Curley continued.

"I’ve gotten over their deaths. I’ve just never seen any need to get rid of anything" I countered.

"Pardon my French boss but that’s bullshit and you know it! Since you recovered from the accident I’ve watched you cave in on yourself. Sure it’s been in slow motion. Hell, you’ve not even cleaned their things out of the house! You need to face this soon or you are going to end up playing Russian roulette with a semi-automatic. I’ll tell you now that a month after you do, you’ll have company in hell!" He finished and went to the refrigerator.

"You wouldn’t!?!?" I accused.

"You boss are the only family I got. I was raised an orphan and traded the orphanage for the Navy when I was eighteen. Then there was Central America and everything that’s gone on since then. It hurt me too to help you bury my goddaughter. And it sure as hell is hurting me now to see you walking around looking like that." He said as he put ice in a Ziploc bag and wrapped it in a towel placing it on the hand he punched me with. "If you go and off yourself, I have no reason to stick around either. I promise you, if you kill yourself, I’ll be right behind you."

I looked at him for a minute that dragged into two then said. "Yes, I guess you would." Then I started crying. I can’t say how long I sat there bawling or all the reasons that caused it. All I know is that Curley was right and I needed to face facts. During that time I cried by myself, I cried on Curley’s shoulder and I even cried on Oxana’s. I cried for Joann, I cried for Samantha, I cried for Dr. Terry and her assistants. Some time during all this I fell asleep.

I awoke the next morning to the sound of birds and the smell of bacon. I could hear Curley and Oxana talking.

"If what you’re telling me is true, and I was to trust your judgment, we have a serious problem asleep in the other room." Oxana said.

"Tell me about it. My best friend is being targeted by parties unknown because of a cloud of nanites that moved into his body and made him a girl." Curley replied.

"There’s more to it. Do you realize that your friend has shed over twenty years of age with no ill effects in the matter of days? I’ve never heard of it happening before successfully. The test subjects either ended up horribly disfigured or a pile of goo on the lab floor. She’s a walking testament to the talents of a now dead scientist and if I’m right, Dr. Terry was a devisor and didn’t know it." Oxana warned. "All this means is that there is one working Hive in existence and Sam has it. There are other issues too that you didn’t notice. You said Goodkind recently bought Syn-gate. It was days before the attack. The Goodkinds have their own agenda that is not publicly known. They don’t like mutants. Think about it Curley, think about it like the assassin you use to be. If that hive was programmed to go search out certain genetic markers…. Those expressed by mutants and to eliminate them, you would have something the Humans First party would kill to get. If they did and they managed to program and release the hive, it could very well turn around and hoist them by their own petards. They forget that mutants usually occur when two factors come into play, a combination of recessive and dominate genes and puberty. If they were to program the hive with just hunt and kill orders for those genetic markers. Every man woman and child on the face of the earth could be at risk. It takes both elements to make a mutant, but a programmed hive wouldn’t know that."

"Don’t forget that she came into Seattle, staked out the Knights headquarters looking for me and she accessed and monitored thousands of phone lines in the area looking for me. Then she came here, got the drop on me outside. Then she pulled that trick with the rifle one handed. That rifle has enough kick to break my collarbone without the recoil compensator. She shot it arm extended. It should have dislocated her shoulder at the very least yet she’s fine. I doubt that I could get the drop on her now. I crossed that line of trust to get him to face up to a lot of suppressed emotions. It worked for now but she’s going to need counseling to fully come to grips with it. I know I needed it." Curley said.

I better get up and get in there before they plot to stick me a hole so deep that a Vietcong prison would look like a summer camp. I got up quietly and got dressed, which is still a strange experience, brushed out my hair. I then felt ready to face them. Opening the bedroom door the conversation suddenly changed to fishing. Like that’s going to work. "I know my showing up spoiled your plans for this long weekend of yours Curley. I’m sorry for that." I apologized.

"We were just talking about where to fish today." Curley said as he focused on making breakfast.

"Yes, he’s been promising to teach me to fish for some time. I must say the area around his cabin here reminds me of the Urals." Oxana commented.

"Oh you two are doing something but it’s not fishing. Curley you were always a crummy liar. So tell the five gallon bucket of rocky road ice cream just who all is going to get a scoop? So I can decide if I want to run now or wait a few hours. I came here because I knew in my heart I could trust you and I felt I owed it to you, to let you know before I pulled a vanishing act." I accused.

"Hell, I owe you a few still too." Curley countered.

"So what do you have in mind?" I asked.

"Well, you obviously need time to come to grips with your new self and at the same time you've found yourself as the flavor of the month at the ice cream shop. So you need someplace safe along with a new identity. Let me call some government folks I know, I'll get it set up."

Curley pulled out his cell phone and starts dialing.

1 301 843 7739 displayed in my vision Hmm this is a new development.

I heard a click then "Hello, White House. How may I direct your call?"

Curley said "This is Cuthbert. Contact point with the Seattle Knights. Let me talk to the boss."

I heard "Please hold, I'll see if I can connect you."

I looked at him with my eyes wide.

Curley said to me "Hey, if saving his life a couple of times doesn't buy you a few perks, what would?"

I then heard, "Yes I can put you through now. Initiating scrambler." After that all I heard was junk and Hive muted the call.

The call went on for a bit. It apparently quickly became a conference call when Syn-gate and Dr. Terry were named along with the fact that her research hadn’t all gone up in smoke. Then my name and social security number was tossed in with lots of disbelief on their end. Curley did convince them eventually and then he started taking orders with "Yes sir," being said a lot.

"Funny, I never took you for a ‘Yes’ man Curley." I said grinning as Oxana nearly spit milk out her nose.

He frowned at me and said "Laugh it up boss; you’re young enough for me to turn over my knee now." Then change to saying, "Sorry sir I didn’t mean you sir." He shook his fist at me, grinned a bit and went back to talking on the phone some more.

I settled in and ate my portion of the breakfast. Strangely I had a craving when I was done. I could smell what I wanted. It was outside so I followed my nose. It led me to Curley’s shed-workshop. I grabbed one of the mason jars Curley used for parts and emptied it. Then went to the small fireplace that was there scooped up some ash and charcoal. I dumped that on the work bench, grabbed a hammer and ground it to a powder. After scraping it back into the jar I cut off a piece of zinc flashing he had used on his roof and I grabbed a small piece of steel. To all of that I filled the jar to about half way with battery acid. I swirled it a bit to get it mixed then looked straight at Oxana who was looking at me strangely and drank the entire jar. For some reason she fainted. I put down the jar, picked her up and carried her back into the cabin. Curley was just finishing up his phone call and then asked, "What happened to her?"

"I went out to mix up something I had a craving for. When I drank it she didn’t seem to take it too well." I explained.

A couple of minutes later she woke up and looked at me wide eyed then looked at Curley and yelled "Do something she just drank battery acid!"

Curley looked rather shocked then looked at me, seeing nothing wrong and asked "What she talking about Willis?" in his Gary Coleman impersonation.

"She’s right; I did drink battery acid along with some steel filings and some of your zinc flashing for flavor. What can I say? I had a craving." I said.

"You should be on the ground rolling in pain as your gut gets eaten out from the inside. What gives?" Curley asked.

"Well, Hive installed a pocket in my esophagus; sort of like a second stomach to hold resources it needs. Though, I will admit to wondering just why I’m not suffering any pain." I explained.

"Well, the military are sending a Chinook to take you to Hanford from here. They will have your new identity for you there. The powers that be, want to give you the poke and prod. Though the old man did put his foot down when someone suggested that you be black-holed." Curley said.

"That’s good to know. Hey, what am I going to do with my truck? It’s parked down where you left yours. And most of my kit is down there too." I asked.

"That’s why it’s a Chinook. They are going to take the truck with you. The chopper will be here in about 30 minutes so I want to give you something before you leave." He said as he left the room a moment and returned with the sniper’s rifle and the case for it.

"I can’t take that. It’s your new toy." I refused.

"Hell boss, I got it for you. I thought maybe we might try for the shooting championships this year. But in any case it was a gift for you. So here." He said as handed me the cased rifle.

"Thanks for everything Curley. I appreciate you calling in a marker to help me out of this jam." I said as the sound of a helicopter announced its approach.

"Das ve danya, Sam. I’m sure we will meet again. I spend a lot of time out at Hanford helping with the clean up there." Oxana said.

As I head the helicopter landing, Curley said "Oh, I didn’t call in one of my markers to help you out. I called in one of the many you have." As I was dumbfounded by his statement, he turned me around and guided me out the door to the waiting helicopter. I didn’t even notice the eight soldiers looking at me strangely as I got in. It was a short flight down to the truck and a few minutes later we were on our way with my truck dangling below the helicopter. This mode of travel was hardly low profile.

We landed at Hanford after about an hour and a half flight. Offloading was interesting to say the least. More soldiers as guards, though these seemed to be unsure as to where they should be aiming their guns, at me or looking for attackers. Rather than be greeted the crowd of drooling lab coats waiting to talk to me I decided to check on my truck. Parked it near the gate I was waved to. I got out then popped the tonto, donned the combat harness, holstered my pistols and knife, grabbed my duffle, the footlocker and my new toy then locked the tonto and headed for the gate. Gee, wasn’t so long ago I had headed through another security gate. I was intercepted by the lab coats.

"Miss Everheart, it is a pleasure to meet you. If you follow us we can begin your testing now." the lead lab coat said.

I stopped cold and stared at him hard the said. "No."

"What? You were brought here so we could test you and the Hive’s capabilities so let’s get started." The lab coat insisted.

"Do I look small, covered in white fur; have pink eyes and a craving for cheese? I’m not a lab rat. I am a human being who’s been through a lot and would like to settle into her quarters before consenting to being poked, prodded, and jabbed in unmentionable areas." I said calmly.

Getting a bit irate at being denied, the lab coat spotted an Army colonel approaching and decided to raise a fuss. "Colonel, Miss Everheart is refusing to cooperate with us perhaps you and your men can convince her." He said rather smugly.

As the colonel approached I saw he looked vaguely familiar. I focused on his name plate which said Wilkes. I set down my gear and reached in my fanny pack for the temporary I.D. that had been delivered by the chopper pilot. I just can’t see myself using a purse. "Just what seems to be your problem Miss?" he asked.

"I don’t enjoy getting the bum’s rush is the problem. They wanted to take me straight to their labs so they could start vivisecting me. Hmm Wilkes. You weren’t in the 82nd Airborne during Desert Storm were you?" I asked as I handed him my I.D.

"Why yes I was. Was your father in service there?" he asked as he glanced at my I.D. clearly preparing to side with the lab coats.

"No, I was and you still don’t pay attention to detail. Let me guess, you got the memo to expect a special guest for testing at the DARPA facilities but didn’t read any further." I accused as I handed him a copy of the memo. "I suggest you read it again. Closely…."

He filled up like a balloon about to release a lot of air when I saw he reached the bottom of the memo and his eyes widened. He looked at me, then looked at the memo, then back to me; then snapped to attention and saluted. "Commander, I’m sorry sir… uh ma’am. We’ll see to getting you settled then arrange a meeting to go over the test we hope to conduct." He blustered in a verbal back peddle.

I snagged the memo from his hand as he snapped to attention and saluted. I folded it up and put it away as he blustered. When he finished I said. "Good, I’m glad that is settled. Shall we continue inside?" I asked.

He motioned me to the guard station as the security team around me smiled a bit. They had read the memo on the flight out. As we approached the gate with a Hummer parked next to the entrance the guard stopped me and said, "I’m sorry, I’ll take those weapons from you Miss."

"The hell you will." I snarled back.

"I’m afraid we must insist on relieving you of the weapons you carry." Wilkes said.

I sighed then said. "I insist on being allowed to continue to carry my weapons as a safety precaution for you all."

"Why is that?" Wilkes asked.

"First as you know, I’m a trained SEAL." I stepped over to the Hummer and placed the rifle sleeves on the hood then grabbed the bumper. "I can do this." I lifted the front of the Hummer over my head then held it there with one hand. "So, I can either threaten to shoot someone, or I can just snap them like a twig. You choose Colonel Wilkes." I set down the Hummer then grabbed my rifle bags.

Visibly pale, Wilkes swallowed then said, "Let her keep them. Put it on my authority."

Smiling happily, I proceeded through the checkpoint and on to the next. This one had a metal detector and sniffer booth that would check for explosives or weapons. Since I knew I was getting them back I submitted to the scan. As I expected the lab coats all rushed over to the terminal to see the results. After my little lifting demonstration, I could hear their voices making guesses as to just what had been done to me. When I exited the sniffer I grabbed my bags and finally entered the first building. The Lab coats almost forgot to follow.

As I was escorted to my room for the duration of my stay, a connections window popped up in my vision. By the time we had reached my rooms, the list had at least fifteen networks along with security sensors along with the fire and radiation sensors. When we arrived, I placed my rifles on the top of the dresser. I got ready to unpack then decided that it would be easier to just unpack as I need to change clothes and put the clean ones in the drawers or hanging. It wasn’t like I had that much to wear anyway. That decision made, I took a shower, dressed again and began to go searching for lunch. The search was short lived because during my shower I had picked up a couple of watchdogs outside my door. They directed me to the cafeteria and followed along on my trek. My watchdogs vouched for me with the mess captain, so I got my food without too much fuss. Well as little fuss as an eighteen your old girl packing two pistols can cause. After lunch I decided to throw the lab coats a bone and consented to some physical testing.

I let my watchdogs know about the testing and they spread the word. After a few minutes, they escorted me into the lab research area. What I saw was a long hallway with lots of windows and isolation rooms off to each side. Each lab had at least two or even three guards preventing people from entering that lab. As I looked in the windows of each lab Hive made a pop up with the available information from the base network appear to one side in my vision. There was a big ring from Egypt in one lab. It turns out the lab windows contained the dielectric film that turns from transparent to opaque with a flip of a switch. There were a few labs that had opaque windows that records said they were in the middle of biological testing. That sounds foreboding. "Biological testing…. Just what I need four extra breasts." I mumbled to myself.

"Hive can initiate physical changes on approval." Hive stated.

"Don’t you dare! Do not, I repeat, do not initiate those physical changes." I said as my watchdogs looked strangely at me.

In the next lab scientist where at work with a flat sided pyramid structure that looked to me like something from Egypt but the records indicated it was found in Aztec ruins. They appeared to be connecting wires to it. The next lab had some biological experiment running using items found near Roswell, New Mexico. Soon we arrived at my destination. I entered while my watchdogs took up their positions outside the lab.

As I strolled in I announced, "Igor, I’m home!" to the lab. It got me a few looks but I was trying to lighten the mood.

One of the ‘oh so serious’ lab techs looked up and pointed at an area set up with tri-fold screens and requested, "Strip down and change into the body suit you’ll find in there and then we can get started."

I went behind the screens and got my first look at the body suit. Damn but it looked small. I sure hoped it was stretch-to-fit. Because if it wasn’t, I was going to look stupid doing tests in my street clothes. Thankfully it did stretch enough to fit me. As I zipped it up, Hive announced the detection of new data sources. I said "Display" and a screen showed a heartbeat, breathing, temperature and a few other stats that were beyond me. "Hive, what are the new data sources displaying?" I asked

"Data sources appear to be biometric monitoring sensors consisting of heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, pulse oxygen ratio, and lethargic tracking." Hive said.

"Does this suit pick up cable?" I asked out loud.

I got two answers at once. From Hive I heard. "Not possible without extensive modification and better location for reception." And from one of the technicians I heard "No, you would have to wear the backpack and helmet for that."

I walked out from the screens to see a couple of more lab techs had joined the audience in the lab. "Ok what’s first?" I asked.

"If you’ll step over here we’ll run you through the scanners." the lead tech said.

"Ok but if I see a picture of my rear end stuck on the bulletin board, someone is going to pay." I cracked.

"Lay down in this one and we’ll start with a CT scan. Basically it’s a computer controlled x-ray machine that allows us to make very exacting scans." He explained.

"Good to know. Should I smile?" I asked.

"Only on the inside," he remarked back.

The scan wasn’t that impressive. It was like riding a clock sprocket as the clock ticked. Every tick I would move forward one spot. Click move, click move. This was repeated about twenty times.

"Now would you stand on the platform? Once you’re there could you close your eyes and we’ll begin." he asked as he motioned to the next machine.

I did so and this time an arm lowered and swept around me a few times. I watched this date come up on the area network and all I could say is that it looked like someone threw up in Technicolor but I’d never seen anything like that before. Finally he motioned for me to go lay down on the MRI machine.

As I approached the machine I noted the cafeteria that beat stake was for dinner. The motor pool was curious about my truck. Blood pressure and heart rate are climbing. The aliens were having a hoe down with Jed Clampet. Curley was running around in a woman’s green string bikini. Someone was talking and it sounded like he was going to moon me. I remember that time in Panama, Curley and I mooned a General. The Mariners were going to win the series this year. There are forty aircraft within one hundred miles of this location. Three hundred and twenty people under observation by sensors. Nicholas Reily head of the east coast division of DARPA is coming for a status and sharing of information meeting tomorrow. Sixty-two radio telescopes are being accessed by the facility. The moon is three hundred eighty-four thousand four hundred twenty-eight feet, seven point two inches away from the earth as of ten minutes ago. The Discovery will launch in sixteen hours and thirty-four minutes. The mars rovers are still investigating the ruins that have been found. Commander Wilkes is taking heat from Washington about letting me keep my weapons. Boy, I like skies.

"Are you ok? Say something, come on, speak up. Let us know your status." A tech ordered as he bent over me.

"Hive error report. Loss of network cohesion forced network reboot. Network status is sixty-two percent and climbing. Return to full operational status anticipated in three hundred fifty-four seconds."

"Huh? What did you say?" the tech asked.

"Return to full operational status anticipated now in three hundred ten seconds."

"if you’re joking around Miss Everheart it’s not funny." The tech requested.

"Joe, something strange is going on here; call the doctor something is wrong with Miss Everheart." The tech asked after a minute.

Holes. The ceiling panels have a lot of holes in them. I realized I was still in the lab being rolled out on a gurney. "Hold it! Stop! Ok what did you do to me?" I asked as I sat up breaking the straps holding me down.

"You had a seizure then sounded strange. So we are moving you to a different room for observation." The orderly said as he failed to push me back down on the gurney.

I hopped off the gurney and said. "The only thing happening here is I’m being railroaded. You all did something so you can pull this stunt as an excuse to add me to your collection." I accused.

"Actually Miss Everheart, we didn’t and I can show you the video to prove it." The man who was one of the doctors I was introduced to earlier. A window opened with his picture and the name Dr. P. C. Meyers.

"Ok Dr. Meyers. Show me." I said. He led the way to the security station and the guard there.

"Roll back and play the last….mmm twenty minutes of film from lab 12a." he ordered the guard there.

A few key strokes and the screen showed the lab. Hive identified the camera feed and brought up a copy from its own memory indexed at the same time. It showed me in the suit as I went through the CT scan. I stood up and I was directed to the MRI unit. As I got within about ten feet of the unit Hive’s video playback broke up and then signal lost. I said. "Hold it. Here’s a bit of information. At this point… Hive, roll back the video to the last complete frame you have… was when I apparently lost it right?"

"Yes that appears to be about the spot you may have made one or two steps more. But then you just started staring out into space. After a couple of minutes we figured something was wrong. You said something strange about having to reboot because of loss of network cohesion. You sounded strange when you said it too. That was after we had you sit down though. Could you roll the tape and show her?" the tech explained.

I saw that what the tech said was true. "Hmm." I thought out loud, "Looks like Dr. Terry hadn’t gotten all the bugs worked out yet."

"What do you mean?" Dr. Meyers asked keenly interested.

"During one of our brainstorming bull sessions, she had commented that a strong magnetic field would have an adverse effect on the Hive. It looks to me that the Hive shut down. It doesn’t explain what happened to me though." I explained.

"Perhaps I can make an educated guess." Dr. Meyer said with a small grin.

"It was mentioned that the hive lost cohesion. Since it appears the Hive’s network is made up of nanites, when you entered the strong magnetic field of the MRI machine it forced all the nanites into alignment like metal filings in a magnetic field. That caused a breakdown in the network of the Hive. In laymen terms, all the nanites were looking at the MRI and not each other. They left you holding the bag as it were to process all the data coming in. And you apparently have a lot of data coming in. The hive is compartmentalizing it and preprocessing it, displaying only what you need. The representative from the Seattle Knights said you had experienced dizziness when the hive interfaced with the phone company switch box. And that you said it cleared up after you told the hive to filter out a large quantity of the calls. So the idea of this happening due to the loss of your filter system left you trying to process all that data in your own mind. It’s a daunting when you think about it. The human mind is accustomed to possessing a lot of information from five senses only. You were thrown in the deep end of the pool with lots more sensory inputs. So, to put it mildly you can’t walk, chew gum and carryout a few thousand floating point operations every second without Hive. It would be like trying to run a NEXT computer operating system on the first computer ever built. It might be able to do it but it would be VERY slow." Dr. Meyer summed up.

"Ok, now that that is cleared up, let’s get on with the tests I agreed to." I said.

We all went back to the lab and I was point to a strange machine with a bench, with what looked like a lifting bar. "What is that?" I asked.

"That’s our weight machine." The tech answered.

"How does it work?"

"It uses electro… oh. Guess we’ll have to come up with something else to test your strength." The tech said.

"You do that. What’s next?"

"The treadmill is next. It’s over there. Go on it is safe. The weight machine doesn’t need to be kept at stand-by like the MRI machine." The tech assured me.

I moved over to the treadmill trying to split the distance between the MRI machine and the weight machine. I got on the treadmill and looked to the tech who nodded hit a few buttons and started the treadmill. Then it got both interesting and boring at the same time. It was interesting initially trying to estimate the speed of the treadmill. I asked for it once from the tech and he said ten miles per hour. Then Hive found the data and showed me. The speed was slowly increasing as I watched. My breathing and heart rate remained unchanged. After twenty minutes the techs and Dr Meyers were talking rather excitedly. A few of the techs were actually beginning to take bets on how long I’d last. The speed capped out at a blistering fifteen miles per hour. I think I could have run faster but the machine couldn’t. Next they started raising the angle of the running surface. It reached its max angle at forty-five degrees and I still wasn’t tired. By the time I had been running this way for an hour, I think word was spreading. There was quite an audience looking in the lab observation window as I ran. A monitor was set up showing my medical stats to the onlookers in the window. I could see the reflection of it in the glass. After three hours I was getting very bored and said as much.

"We want to see what it takes to get you tired." Dr. Meyers said.

"Doc, the only thing I’m getting is a full bladder. Can we take five for me to visit the bathroom? That is unless you want me to mess up this body suit. They did it at least once during the Mercury missions." I requested.

"I think we can spare that long a break. Don’t take too long though. I’m slowing down the treadmill now." Doctor Meyer said.

When it had slowed down to jogging speed I looked to the techs asking, "Where’s the bathroom?"

The tech pointed out the door. "The safest one for you is at the end of the gallery hallway on the right."

As I ran out the door, Dr. Meyer was there with a sample cup. "As long as you’re going….." He handed it to me as I jogged out the door.

I reached the bathroom and grabbed a stall. Zip went the suit and I settled on the toilet then remembered the cup. I positioned it and let loose.

It’s something most people don’t think about and less talk about but depending on what you eat and what your body has processed, your bodily waste have varying odors. And this smelled different from any I ever recalled passing. Not that I ever took notes or anything. It was just a truly different smell. When the cup was full or close to it, I clapped it and finished my own business then zipped back up into the suit, grabbed the cup and headed back for the lab. My watch dogs and moved down to the bathroom when I ran by and now they jogged along as I went back. At the lab they pointed me to the next lab. As I entered I set the cup down on the table and said "Something is different about that sample. It smelt different." The tech pointed me at a rolling track that you could have set a car on. It was already rolling at a bit slower than a jog speed. I jogged up, put on a bit more of a run, and mounted the rolling track. "Where do you want me on this?" I asked.

"Close to center if you please. We took the opportunity to change labs so we could use this treadmill. It has a larger range." He replied.

"Ok let’s go I should be ok for a while." I said.

The speed increased to what I had been running at then it began to increase again. Once again neither my heart rate nor my breathing increased above the normal at rest rate. The speed continued to increase for the next several minutes. I noticed I was beginning to get some looks I refer to as "dust pan" open mouth looks with lots of double takes. I just continued to run.

The next thing I noticed was Wilkes escorting a very fit looking man up to the observation window and he was talking adamantly about something. I focused on them and began to hear.

"…..she has been running at fifteen miles per hour for three hours with a high angle of attack on the treadmill. During this time her heart rate, breathing, and body temperature has not risen above an at rest state. She gave a urine sample some ten minutes ago and it appears to be a highly concentrated liquid. Where the average urine has varying levels of fatigue generating chemicals and by products hers is almost pure with fatigue generating by products."

They moved away from the window apparently on a tour. After running for another ten minutes a window opened in my view and Hive said, "An increase in ambient radiation levels recorded on sensors. A major increase in the energy draw from the facility reactor detected."

Momentarily an alarm started blaring and Hive informed me, "The lab with the pyramid has reported that their experiment has started actively drawing power from the reactor and they are unable to disconnect it. The reactor room reports that they have lost the ability to control the reactor and that he control rods are withdrawing. If something isn’t done quickly the reactor will go into meltdown in five minutes."

"Shit!" I growled. "Sorry, guys this test is over." And I put on a burst of speed, jumped clear of the treadmill, and headed for the door.

"You can’t leave," said one of my watchdogs as he approached to intercept me.

"Watch me." I said as I shifted my stride into a one leg squat as I swept his legs from under him. A wrist strike and he was without his gun. I threw it across the room. His partner tried to stop me next. An open handed shove right in the sternum slammed him into the wall and he slid down unconscious. Into the hall and to the right I could see lots of people running and very big blast doors sliding closed. I put on a burst of speed and dove through the closing doorway.

As the door shut with a resounding thud, I got up, dusted off, looked at Wilkes and the stranger and said, "Look at the fine mess you’ve gotten us into now Stanley," in the best Oliver Hardy voice I could muster.

Wilkes was yelling into his radio trying to get someone to pull the plug on the reactor. The stranger was asking "What’s happening, what’s going on?" Wilkes took a moment to explain. "Mr. Riley, that thing in there has taken control of the reactor and is trying to draw more power from it. The reactor can’t take much more of it. If the connection between it at the reactor is not broken, the resulting meltdown will make Chernobyl look like a picnic."

That was enough for me. I turned and headed for the lab doors. I was through and in the lab as the guards and Wilkes were yelling that the room was flooded with radiation. I approached a glowing pyramid with each side flashing a different color in a repeating pattern.

"Hive, it managed to control the reactor; can you detect how it’s communicating?" I asked as I edged around to the wires connected to the pyramid.

"Processing request. Negative. Hive unable to determine protocol."

"Great, let’s try the direct approach." I said as I reached for the wires.

I didn’t know walls hurt that much when you hit them. All I remembered was a flash and a pop, then I was getting up off the floor. "So, you’re protective of what you need. Well so am I. Let’s try a little ‘See Spot Run.’ "Hive on this computer screen display four dots, an equal sign, and four dots." I turned the screen towards the pyramid. "Now display four dots, the not equal sign, and 3 dots. Now bring up the Voyager plaque. Now show the reactor, an atomic bomb explosion and an image of a man, woman and child falling down." Hive did so. "Now show an image of the reactor with the rods out, an equal sign and an atomic explosion. Then show the rods going in and a not equal sign becoming visible as the rods go in." I ordered.

"What ever you’re doing it seems to be working Sam, the reactor control rods are being reinserted and the pile is cooling! Keep it up!" Wilkes yelled through the intercom.

A new image appeared on the monitor I was using. It was the live feed from the room. The screen showed me; then it showed two vertical bars; then it showed the pyramid. The pyramid’s rapidly changing colors slowed down and the alarms cut out.

As I began to leave, an electric arc shot out from the pyramid and struck me. Then the lab computer screen started filling with data. I continued to leave, only to be stopped by my watchdogs again. "We can’t let you leave," one of them said.

"Oh come on guys, we’ve been through this before." I complained.

"You never were radioactive before. I ordered them to stop you." Wilkes explained. "Use the decontamination shower in the airlock. I’ll get a female down here to help clean the spots you miss."

So there I stood with four men watching me as I stripped out of that sensor suit and stepped into that shower. Trying to cover myself I was looking everywhere but at the men. Gee, I didn’t know my toes could turn red.

As I washed down I could hear the conversations going on behind me.

"Who is she?" Mr. Riley asked.

"That is the girl I showed you earlier, the one that was running so fast." Wilkes said.

"No, ‘who is she’ and don’t feed me a line of BS." Mr. Riley demanded.

"From what I’ve been able to gather through my connections, that is Commander Sam Everheart retired. He was in charge of all Navy SEAL activity during desert shield and storm. It’s hard to believe but it’s rumored he was in Central America almost the entire time that the United States were actively fighting there. She apparently has juice in high places and hasn’t bothered to use it. I mentioned her name and most people change the subject. I do know that Everheart is the host of the first cohesive community, or hive if you will, of nanites. We have been testing what physical abilities the hive has changed in her. After this incident we are going to have to dig deeper. Sensors indicate there is enough radiation in there to cook a normal human. Yet she walked and survived." Wilkes said.

"I want to see her." Mr. Riley said.

"Only way you can see more of her is to get inside of her, Nick. And I think she’s a bit young for you." joked Wilkes.

Even though I know he was joking, I decided to yank his chain again. I looked over at the two of them, then shifted my vision to Wilkes alone and turned up the smoldering, barely restrained anger look. Well, at least what I thought it would look like. For all I know it might be a take me to bed and ravish me look. Particularly, since I was naked with a woman in a hazmat suit scrubbing my back.

"I think she can hear us." Mr. Riley said with a grin. "You haven’t gotten around to testing her hearing yet, have you?"

"Umm, let’s go talk in my office." Wiley said. I’m sure he was remembering me lifting that Hummer and the threat that went with it. After they left I grinned a bit.

When I was scrubbed to within an inch of my life, they let me go get my clothes and dress. For some reason as I went to my rooms I went back by the pyramid lab. No one was in there. The lights were out, but it was lit by a few flashing computer screens.

That evening I checked up on my watchdogs that I had beaten up on. I apologized for what I had done. I knew they were following orders.

The next day when I got up, there was a summons for me from Wilkes. and surprisingly one from Meyers as well. I called up to their orderlies and found that they were waiting on me.

Just as well, I need to talk to Dr. Meyers myself. I felt better with my weapons back on. Since I knew what the summons from Wilkes was about I figured to sate my curiosity by going to Dr. Meyers first. My watchdogs fell in behind me and out of reach. My, did I scare the big tough dog faces? After some twists and turns we came to an office with DARPA Head of Research painted on the door. I opened the door expecting to see a secretary’s office. Instead I was greeted by piles of folders, binders, books, DVD, CD, floppy discs and removable hard drive bays. Behind these piles was Dr. Meyers hunched over a print out obviously thinking very hard. I cleared my throat to get his attention.

"Huh? What? Who let… Oh it’s you. Do you know you seem to have a knack for fixing one problem only to generate another?" He asked.

"So I’ve been told. But it all has worked out in the end so far." I said as I looked at what he was struggling with. "Can’t you figure out those plans? They seem straight forward enough to me?"

"What plans? This is a sheet of the data the alien machine has been dumping out since you got it to stop drawing so much power from the reactor."

"Apply this to the data." I said as I drew out a couple of formulas.

"Just how did you figure this out?" Dr. Meyers ask.

"I didn’t figure it out. I just knew it." I explained.

"Do you have any idea what these plans are for?" he queried.

"They are plans for an anti-matter breeder reactor." I said, like I was reading a book.

"And how do you know that? Dare I ask?"

"Simple. It says so right there." I said as I pointed.

After he picked up his jaw off the floor, Dr. Meyer started making calls and forgot about me. I cleared my throat again and he looked up.

"You’re still here? Go see your other appointment." He said waving me out as he went back to demanding the first print-out of the decoded plans.

I left him to his phone calls. Outside I picked up my two watchdogs and asked them to take me to Nick Reilly’s quarters. Once again we went on the round about tour of the research center.

We arrived at his door my watchdogs just turned and faced out.

"What? No announcement?" I asked.

"No ma’am. Mr. Reilly isn’t active duty military and for this he asked us not to. You’re on your own." One guard said.

"Gee thanks." I said frowning. I schooled my face and knocked.

In a moment the door opened. I found myself looking up at the man I saw earlier. He was about six foot three inches tall. His face looked like it belonged on a lumber jack. His body gave the same impression. He was strong, but not ‘working out in the gym’ strong. His suit helped to hide the easy movement of someone trained in combat as he moved back around the desk.

"Oh, Miss Everheart, it’s you. Come in." he greeted me like I was entering his home.

"You asked to see me…." I prompted.

"Straight to the point, I like that. You can call me Nick." He said as he removed his jacket and looked me up and down.

"And..." I prompted again.

"I saw your bit in the lab earlier. Is it true you were once a man and now you’re a fully functional female?" Nick asked.

"I don’t know about the fully functional part. Other than the basic natural bathroom needs down there, I’ve tried not to think about it. It only happened about a week ago. Up until then I was a forty something janitor that likes to hang around technology."

"I would hardly call you ordinary. I was present at Cuthbert’s phone call. I was briefing the president on this little trip." Nick complemented.

"Well, you seem to know a lot about me Mr. Reilly; but I know little about you other than you have something you want to talk about and you’re uncomfortable about it." I said.

"How did you figure that out?" he asked.

"Fairly simple, really sir, you carry yourself like a person trained in combat. From what I’ve heard from you, and I have really good hearing." I said as I smiled, "shows that you are a take charge kind of person. Yet right now, you are all but drawing in the sand with your big toe."

"You are quite observant."

"It was necessary in my old line of work. Let me help you. Spit it out." I said.

"How would you like to continue your testing at Whateley Academy?" he asked.

"What’s so special about this Academy?"

"Well, they have a lot of experience exploring the capabilities of… enhanced humans." he explained.

"Ok, drop the other shoe." I said.

"What?"

"What’s the other, more personal reason you want me go to there?" I asked

His face fell. "My daughter attends the school." he said.

"So, my daughter attended school too. What of it?" I pressed.

"She’s very important to me." Nick said.

"Oh, you got it bad." I giggled.

"What? What’s so funny?" he asked anger just beginning to show.

"You’re one of them." I continued to giggle.

"One of who?"

"A daughter’s father." I explained.

"What do you mean?"

"You are the type of father who would see his daughter locked in a closet until she’s eighteen, married and pregnant." I said, barely restraining the giggles.

"Now that you mention it…" he said beginning to grin.

"I know the type Mr. Reilly. Really I do. I use to be one too." I couldn’t hold it any longer and broke down laughing.

"Before you get too far gone in your enjoyment of my discomfort let me say that until this summer my daughter was my son."

That caught my attention enough to stop me laughing. "What do you mean?"

"I mean just that. My son woke up one day and started changing into my daughter. It’s all tied up with magic. I still haven’t worked it all out. But at the beginning of the school year he fully became a female. It’s something else you have in common." He said

"So, you are willing to let me slip through your fingers so that I can protect your daughter?" I asked.

"In a manner of speaking. The president stated in no uncertain terms that we could not, as you say, ‘black hole’ you. And the Whateley Academy is a sort of neutral ground for the super powered countries and the super powered people. They classify and train children in the use of their unique talents and abilities. This is so they don’t kill themselves or someone else unintentionally. They also teach a normal school curriculum. So they are not turning out stupid powerful children. My greatest worry is that before the year is out I’ll get a phone call from her saying ‘Surprise I’m pregnant!’ Right now I don’t know if I would kill, congratulate the father or get my shotgun and the preacher."

"Do you want to see what my daughter looks like?" I asked. Yeah I know it’s a dirty trick.

"I wouldn’t mind that at all." He smiled. "If you show me what your child looks like, I’ll show you a picture of mine." He dug for his wallet, and then showed me a picture of a striking young red headed girl who appeared to have just crossed the line from girl to woman. She was posing next to a bust of Edgar Allen Poe. She had what I can only call an aura of power about her. I didn’t even know her and I felt like she needed my protection and my love. And maybe if I was good enough she would like me.

"Well, it’s time to show you my daughter." I said.

I did a pirouette. "I am an exact clone of what my daughter looked like at eighteen. In a sick twist of fate, I’ve been made to look exactly like my daughter two weeks before she died in a car crash. I doted over her just as much as you are your daughter. She died in my arms, from the same crash that killed my wife and forced my retirement from the Navy."

"I’m sorry, I didn’t know." Nick said.

"Something like that doesn’t go into an impersonal report. ‘Died in her father’s arms’ gets changed to ‘two passengers died at the scene.’ Reports only carry facts, not the little personal touches that add color and feeling to an event." I explained as I started to tear up.

"You are entering into a joyous and terrifying time. As you said there’s the fear of ‘the call’ announcing a pregnancy, marriage, accident or death. Strangely, you might get to experience the joy of scaring the prom night date as you clean your guns." I sniffed some fighting back breaking out into a full blown cry.

"What’s wrong?" Nick asked.

"I’m just remembering that I’ll never get a chance at doing that for my daughter Samantha again." I said.

"I hate to break the mood, but will you go to Whateley and watch out for my daughter?" Nick asked.

"I’ll do it. Though what I’ll be able to do there I don’t know yet. I’m a little old to be going back to school." I said.

"I’ll make a call or two." Nick said.

"Whoa, right there! The last time someone said that to me, the president was on the other end. Let me make a call or two of my own." I interrupted.

I pulled the desk phone around to me and dialed an outside line, then dialed the Seattle Knight’s Headquarters.

"Hello, Seattle Knights. How may I assist you?" the secretary asked.

"I’d like to speak with either Chyna Syndrome or Curley. Tell them it’s Sam. They will know who it is."

"I’ll have to put you on hold." She said.

"Ok I’ll wait."

After a couple of minutes on hold I hear a click and the hollow sound of a speaker phone. "Sam, how are things going? Kill anyone yet?" Curley cracked then Chyna said, "Hello my friend."

"No, I haven’t yet. I came close though when they tried to take away my guns." I said

"Hoo, hoo, bet that went over well." Curley chuckled.

"I only had to convince them it was safer to let me have my guns. I have another problem. I’ve agreed to help another friend out with a problem, but I need a way in and a reason to stay. The place I’m supposed to be going to is called the Whateley Academy." I explained.

"Sam, dear, my dear, I am alumni." Chyna said slowly as she wrapped her mind around the words.

"What does that do for me?" I asked.

"Well, for one thing it will put you in contact with a very good doctor to help you with the issues you and Curley talked about. The other thing is that Alumni are always helping the school out with gifts or contacts. We can write a letter of recommendation for you to the school. I’m sure they could use you in campus security. And I’m sure Dr. Bellows can help you with your other problems." Oxana said. "I’m sure I can convince Chief Delarose, and I’ll even bet Elizabeth will vouch for you once I tell her about you."

"Well, you do that and call me back with the results please." I sort of ordered and hung up.

I spent the most of the night and the rest of the weekend with Dr. Meyers decoding as he called it fuzzy areas of the reactor plans. For me it seemed more like he didn’t believe what the instructions said. I mean how many ways can you mess up ‘Drop liquid metal into cryogenic pool’?

On Monday morning I got a call back from Curley. "It’s all set. All you have to do is get there. Talk to the Headmistress and the security chief. They’ll fill you in."

"Great. I think I can handle that. If all else fails I can drive. I’ll keep in touch." I said.

Leaving the DARPA facility at Hanford was different than I expected. Dr. Meyer sent me off with a hug and a copy of my medical records. My watch dogs almost seemed relieved to see me leave. Wilkes I couldn’t read well. It seemed truly strange to me for Nick and I to be piling into my truck for a short drive over to the air field where a National Guard C-130 was waiting. I had lucked out in that Nick had a large shipment of items going back east. They had enough room for my truck.

We pulled up to the back of the plane and got out. I handed over my keys and stepped over to the pile of gear and the crewman who was waiting to help suit the passengers up. I surprised him by stepping into the flight suit, buckled my guns back on then slipping on the parachute harness. Then I turned and helped Nick suit up. He didn’t question me but I knew he wanted to. By the time we were suited up my truck had been loaded and strapped down. We went aboard and I checked the strapping myself. I got a few insulted looks when I did that so I said, "Just making sure the paint isn’t going get messed up." I said. They backed off.

The flight took about six hours. ‘Course, we left early in the day and arrived around three in the afternoon New Hampshire time at Pease Air Force base. I bid Nick good-bye and he said we’d see each other again, because he still intended to visit Nikki. I dug out my GPS and set the route to Dunwich. If I made good time, I might make it before the offices close. If not I’ll just stay in town. I managed to narrowly miss getting caught in two accident created traffic jams. I actually arrived about fifteen minutes later than I expected to. But I still had plenty of time.

New Hampshire seemed a lot like Washington, at least in climate. I’m sure they get a lot more snow than I would normally see down near the Puget Sound but I can get use to most things.

Dunwich reminded me of a lot of the smaller towns around the Puget Sound. Lots of little Mom and Pop stores, that catered to the wandering tourist. It was getting late though so I drove up to the academy.

Approaching the gates of the school Hive spoke up. "Sensor array detected."

"Can you prevent our detection?" I asked.

"Negative. Hive can prevent detection from all sensors except those visual in nature unless camera is in range to be controlled.

"Do it." I said as I drove in the gates past a couple of leering gargoyles that sat on the gate pillars.

As I slowly drove in, I did a bit of looking around. I asked, "Hive status?"

"Hive currently defeating twenty-two sensors. Detection of seven hundred video devices in range. Wireless network detected. Unable to negotiate connection. Supposition wireless network is MAC address filtered. Communications indicate vehicle has been detected. Forces placed on ready status.

Well, that’s one way to make an entrance. I spotted some parking in front of the main building. A place called Schuster Hall. There was also a small sign saying Administration. There were still lights on in there, so I figured I stood a chance of catching someone inside before I was set upon by campus security.

I calmly got out of my truck and bleeped, the alarm arming it. Then I said "Hive, watch the truck."

"Complying" Hive said.

I walked up to the doors expecting security to bust out and hold me at gun point. A normal school wouldn’t have this kind of security. I opened a door made of heavy oak that looked like it belonged in Harvard, Yale, or any of the big name old schools. Inside I found I saw a mature black woman. She appeared to be preparing to leave.

"Excuse me." I said.

"Hello, honey, most of administration has left for the night. Is it something I can help you with?" she asked.

"I’m not a student, I was told to report to a Mrs. Carson. I’m Sam... Samantha Everheart." I said.

"I’m Mrs. Linford. I can see if she’s in for you." She said as she picked up the desk phone.

"Hello, Mrs. Carson…. Yes I know it’s late, there is a young lady here by the name of Samantha Everheart… She’s expected? Ok, I’ll send her in." she said and hung up the phone. "Right over there, honey, the door in the alcove."

I went over and hesitantly opened the door. A voice said, "Come in, I don’t bite unless you look tasty and I can’t tell through the door."

Opening the door the rest of the way, I took in the office. An aerial photo of the school adorned one wall along with various certificates and awards. Behind the desk was bookshelves filled with both books and knick knacks. To the other side of the desk were a filing cabinet and a couch which brought me back to looking at my feet. I looked up and saw two chairs in front of a heavy looking desk. Sitting at the desk was a woman who was familiar to me. I had seen her face before. She had short straight blonde hair, with blue eyes that were catching the light from her desk lamp. "Well, come in, sit down, and get my mind off this paperwork." She said.

I stepped in, closed the door, and then sat down in a deep chair. "Hello, Chyna Snydrome said I should talk to you about my situation."

"Yes, she contacted me. She and your friend Curley supplied a rather glowing recommendation for you to start work here in security. But she also said there was more that I should get straight from you." Mrs. Carson said.

"Is this room secured?" I asked

"It’s swept regularly for devices. Some of the student body thinks they might learn something that will give them an edge." She said.

"For this, I’ll take my own precaution if you don’t mind. Hive, search the room for listening or recording devices and isolate the room." I said.

"Six listening devices located and bypassed." Hive said.

"Mrs. Carson, how many listening devices do you know about in this room?" I asked

"I know of four." She said. "Who’s this Hive you are talking to?"

"First let me help you clear the room of bugs. Hive, show me where the devices are." I explained

The overlay came to life as I looked around target circles appeared on the phone, the intercom, a computer microphone and one drawer on Mrs. Carson’s desk. Two more targets were displayed; one on the edge of the aerial picture of the school and one in the book case. I pointed out each of the targets. Most she left intact, but the last two she located and ripped out. "Thank you, I’ll have to have a word with security about increasing the sweeps of administration. Now that you feel secure, please tell me what has you so spooked." She asked

"Are you familiar with the work of Dr. Roberta Terry?" I asked

"She was developing a new flexible computer system. The company she worked for had contracted for some ‘special’ resources from the Academy. She died recently before she had completed her work. She was a genius in her field. She will be missed." Mrs. Carson said.

"It’s a bit more complicated than that. She completed the prototype. Hive is that prototype. Shortly after I started working at Syn-gate, I met Dr. Terry and we hit it off. I suggested the way to more power was combined forces like insects. She had a brainstorm after that. Instead of building a computer to control nanites, she made the entire system nanites." I said. "The day she died, was the day she programmed the Hive. She insisted on including Asimov’s Laws. Or at least a modified version of them. Well, anyway, shortly after she completed the programming, the lab was attacked. Through some strange twist of fate the attacking force managed to blow themselves, the lab, and Dr. Terry up. I happened to be cleaning in the offices and I knew something was up when the lights went out. When I got down to the lab, she was dead and the containment field on the Hive failed. Per its programming it searched out the first place that it felt it could survive. It found a new network to connect with. I am that network. Up until about a week ago I was a forty plus year old man. Now I’m a clone of my eighteen year old daughter. And I just remembered why you look familiar to me. It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms. Might."

"That was a long time ago. Tell me, did you change your appearance, or did the Hive?" She asked.

"Hive did the physical change to help it hide. It had no way of knowing that it cloned my daughter to do it."

"Still it doesn’t explain the sudden change in location. What were you doing at Syn-gate? Were you a designer, a programmer? What did you do there?"

"Uh…… I was the janitor." I said quietly.

"You, the janitor, had access to a highly advanced research project? I find it very hard to believe." Mrs. Carson said.

"Dr. Terry would spend hours a night with her assistants brainstorming problems in one of the conference rooms. I was cleaning and made a suggestion. It worked, we became friends. She said that I brought a new angle to her research." I explained.

"If you were so smart, why weren’t you working there as a research assistant yourself?" she asked.

"The technology was young, I was old. I still wanted to be near cutting edge technology though. My friend Curley called me a closet geek. After the car accident that forced me out of the Navy, I was hurt bad enough that people saw the injury, not the mind behind it." I said.

"That’s fair enough. After we received their recommendations I made some calls and have been looking over your military service records. I must say I’m impressed. You have more combat experience than anyone currently on our security force. You also have a confirmed mission successful mission count of one hundred and fifty-five missions in Central America. Then there was the Washington DC incident and these other missions that I won’t go into. You are quite skilled and would make a grand edition to our security teams. But there is something else…" Mrs. Carson led on waiting for an answer.

"I promised Curley and Oxana I would face this. They claim I’m not over the deaths of my wife and daughter. Also Dr. Meyers of DARPA at Hanford was worried about the effects a large dose of radiation I received was going to have on me. Lastly I think you should know why I finally came here. Over the last week I’ve had multiple unrelated people point me in this direction. Even if it was not really to here specifically, it doesn’t take a two by four to the head to get the message across." I said. "Hive, drop the security that you placed on this room."

I could see the gears turning in her head as she thought. "We will have to see about getting you integrated into security as well as letting the science types take a look at you. There is also the issue of your own security. Once word leaks about you, you’re sure to draw a lot of attention. Well, perhaps it’s time I introduced you to Franklin Delarose our chief of security." She said as he dialed the phone. "Chief? Could you come over to the office; I have someone here I would like to introduce to you."

A few moments later a window popped up, showing a man walking from a building, past my truck, and into this building. There were a few moments of silence followed by a knock on the door, then it opened. A man stepped in and said, "You wanted to see me. Mrs. Carson?"

"Frank, I would like to introduce you to Samantha Everheart. You remember those records I sent over yesterday on the possible new addition to your security forces?" She said.

"Yes, the records were most impressive. I like men who can think on their feet. So is this his daughter? Is she transferring in? Where is her father? I’d like to shake his hand." The chief said.

Smiling a bit I reached out my hand and grasped it in a firm handshake. "Hello. You just did shake his hand." I said.

"Now I’m confused. Can someone shed some light please?" he asked looking to Mrs. Carson.

"Through a twist of fate, you are looking at Sam Everheart. Through methods you’ll learn about later, Sam became Samantha. She is willing to work in security. I know you need more personnel after that Halloween mess. She has quiet a few skills that could be useful to you." She explained.

About that time a window popped up in my vision. "Mr. Delarose, someone is calling the phone in your office. Would you like to answer it?" I asked.

"How did you?.?.? Yes please." He stuttered.

"Hive, transfer the call to this phone, please." I said and the phone began to ring.

He answered the phone and started talking with a surprised look on his face. Mrs. Carson asked. "I’m not going to be getting his calls all the time on this phone now am I?"

"No it was a one time forward of the call. Or so Hive is telling me. To be honest I’m still exploring its capabilities. I think that if it’s electronic and I’m shown a plan Hive can duplicate it in my body as long as it doesn’t require too much power."

Mr. Delarose completed his phone call and asked, "Have you made arrangements for housing? It’s tough finding a place around here unless you don’t mind a long drive to work."

"I think Sam should stay on the campus. There are many reasons for it. But I personally want her to be close at hand." Mrs. Carson said

"Well, we can set her up in the tower. We recently completed converting some of the old machinery spaces. We even put in a bathroom up there for the observatory. It shouldn’t be too hard to convert the remaining space to living quarters." Chief Delarose said. "You can come in Monday and we’ll get you started."

"Ok I have some gear I can use for the time being if you would show me where." I said.

"Follow me." He said. We left Shuster Hall and started to cross the parking lot.

"Hold on a second. Let me get my gear." I said as I disarmed my truck. I popped the tonto cover and drug out my trunk, duffle and a sleeping bag. I must have looked almost buried under just the duffle and the sleeping bag. Their eyes widened a bit as I hoisted up the trunk like it weighed nothing. I armed the alarm and said "Lead on."

We entered Kane hall. Rather than going to the right and into security, we turned left and started up a round stair case that followed the outer wall of the tower. After two floors the round stair ended and became a spiral stair. We continued up a ways then exited through a door. We entered a small room with two other doors connected to it. One said restroom and the other said storage. We entered the storage room. It was a real cavern. It must have measured sixty-five feet across. There were some stains on the floor. The only windows I could see looked like medieval style arrow slots. "Well, this is it." Chief Delarose said.

"Definitely a fixer-upper." I said, "I’ll take it." I started rolling out my sleeping bag and air mattress.

"Alright, talk with the Chief tomorrow about fitting you in to the schedule. I’ll talk to our Doctors about giving you a more complete set of tests. See you tomorrow." Mrs. Carson said. They left. I stepped out to the bathroom and took care of my needs there. I went back into the room, flipped the light off and crawled in the sleeping bag. With a sigh, I went to sleep.

To be continued….