A Whateley Academy Tale
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These) - Hive 3
Everyone was in the conference room in Kane Hall.
Drs. Tenent, Shandy, Bellows. Mrs. Carson, Franklin Delarose
Elizabeth Carson started off, "We have a problem on our hands. Samantha."
"What's wrong?" Alfred Bellows asked.
"Apparently, Samantha has become unstable," Chief Delarose said.
"With all our sensitive people and testing, we missed this? And how did you learn of it?" Dr. Shandy asked.
"Hive told us," Beth said.
"How, if I may ask, did the hive communicate to you? And how did it determine a problem?" Alfred asked in disbelief.
"THIS WAY, Doctors, Mrs. Carson, Chief. Communication attempted with you all. No accessible computers found near you till now," came from a computer with speakers on the table.
"How did you track us?" Dr. Shandy asked.
"Hive hitched a ride. Hive has many parts; some of Hive rode along on your coat."
"Simply amazing," Alfred said, then asked, "How did you determine there was trouble with Samantha, Hive?"
"Routine monitoring of brain activity showed a shift from normal previous readings to those taken from clinically depressed patients who later committed suicide. Also, audio monitoring of Everheart network sleep cycle indicates extreme stress. Alpha brainwave rest state not achieved normally," Hive said on the screen.
"And this led to your raising the alarm about Samantha?" Dr. Shandy asked wide eyed.
"Hive is programmed with medical library current as of November 1st 2006. Cross checking of gathered data showed a probability curve of outcome could endanger Hive. Assistance requested."
"We've been asked for help, gentlemen; now what do we do?" Beth asked.
"My first impulse would be to get her weapons away from her. But she's a trained SEAL. She is a weapon," Chief Delarose said rubbing his forehead.
"Great way to reassure us, Chief," Dr. Shandy said with a weak smile.
"Many mental problems display no outward signs until they reach a certain point. Samantha is in a unique situation. The Hive’s normal operation is apparently to maintain Samantha’s health. So Hive has probably suppressed any tale-tale physical signals that something is wrong. Samantha was in the military prior to her change. This could be PTSD or something else. She needs treatment for the mental problem she has. We need to find out what it is first," Dr. Bellows said.
"And how do we disarm this ticking time bomb, doctor?" Chief Delarose asked.
This attitude where darkness thrives,
Is it loneliness retained in sections?
Or from undetected sharpened knives.
Oh the sharpened knives from other people's lives.
Is that why the darkness thrives? -- John Gorka, Furniture
"We get someone who can go in there and ask her," he said with a smile.
"Last I checked, there were no indestructible therapists working on the east coast doctor," Mrs. Carson said. The tapping of her pen showed her growing impatience.
"We have someone with a skill that could help in that department," Dr. Bellows said.
"Who? There’s no one I know of on staff."
"No, I‘ll not have a student endangered," Mrs. Carson said dropping her pen.
"Hive can you keep Samantha asleep?" Dr. Bellows asked.
"Affirmative," Hive responded.
"Problem solved. Dr. Otto from ARC has been keeping me apprised of what he's been doing with Sara. She helped with a schizophrenia patient at ARC not too long ago. And her mental abilities will be of use here too," Dr. Bellows explained.
"OK, get her," Mrs. Carson said. Pen found the tapping began again.
Sara had just settled down to meditate when a knock came at her door. She sighed at the interruption, then got up to answer the door. It was Mrs. Horton.
"Sara, there's a security guard here to escort you to Kane Hall. Have you been doing something after curfew?" she asked wringing her hands.
"No, Mrs. Horton, I've just been meditating," Sara said.
"Well, get dressed quickly; it seems urgent."
"I'll be right up," Sara said and quickly slipped back into her day clothes.
She reached the public lounge to find a security guard with the name “Green” on his nametag.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"I'm not sure; I was told to bring you to Kane Hall, Miss Waite. If you'll follow me, please," he said.
As they walked back to Kane Hall, Sara tried to get more information. "What were you doing when you were told to get me?" she asked
"I was patrolling. I happened to be close to Poe, so I got the call."
They arrived at Kane Hall, and Sara was led into the conference room.
"Hello, Miss Waite," the headmistress said, "We have a problem you may be able to assist with."
"You have a demon you need to talk to?" Sara asked wryly.
"Ahhh, no. Miss Waite. Dr. Otto has been keeping me up to date on your progress at ARC. Well, at least as much as he is willing to tell me. Anyway, your psionic power and your assistance with that patient at Arkham makes me think you could be of assistance," Dr. Bellows said smiling weakly.
"What's the problem?" Sara asked.
"This is the problem," Chief Delarose said, pointing at the screen showing a sleeping girl.
"Samantha…." Sara breathed.
"You know her?" Dr. Bellows asked.
"We've met. She's eaten with Team Kimba a couple of times"
"Good, that may help."
Sara was told of how the hive had contacted the Headmistress and the Security Chief asking for help.
"I tend to agree with the hive's assessment of Samantha's possible mental state. While I don't think she would be the kind of person to go on a shooting rampage, there is the possibility of her taking her own life. That wouldn't look good for the school at all," Dr. Bellows said.
"So, what help can I be with this problem?" Sara asked.
"Samantha is in a dream state at the moment. Your abilities will let you enter her dream and find out the crux of the problem and possibly effect a solution," he said.
"I'm not a trained psychologist. How will I know I'm not mentally scarring her for life? Or if something I do just reinforces an urge to turn postal?" she asked.
"Dr. Otto seemed to think you have a natural knack for getting into a person's mind," Dr. Bellows countered.
"OK, I'll do it, but it's not on my head if she goes over the deep end."
"If you don't mind, I'll go up there with you, Miss Waite. Perhaps I'll be able to give you any advice if you need it," Dr. Bellows said.
Dr. Bellows, Chief Delarose, and Sara left the room and went to the apartment. The Chief let them into the apartment and closed the door after they entered. Sara went over to the dining area and picked up two chairs. She carried them over to the door, handing one to Dr. Bellows. They entered the bedroom.
Samantha was sleeping quietly on the bed. The two of them set their chairs down and sat down in them.
"Anytime you're ready, Miss Waite," Dr. Bellows whispered.
Sara reached out and touched Samantha's hand.
I closed the book at the first “clack” of noise. I looked around, seeing nothing but the bars of a cage.
The noise was faint but growing louder. I recognized the noise now. It was boots on tile. A few more steps. A glimpse of light played across skin-tight leather. Then it was gone. The steps continued to ring out, getting louder.
Light shone on straight black hair, and a white blouse with the black skirt of a school uniform.
Darkness claimed the form, except for two eyes that glowed through the darkness and rose in height. Dark ebony hair draped past horns to fall across glowing eyes. A clawed hand brushed it back over a pointed ear.
Night blocked my view, only to move away to reveal the studious child who looked at me through her bangs before slipping from view.
My view was blocked by cleavage. Not a bad thing to have block a view.
"Eyes up here, He-man," a voice said as a clawed finger motioned upward.
She began a slow, walking examination around the cage. The stretch and creak of leather was familiar somehow.
"Well, you certainly have gotten yourself into a mess," she said.
"You're outside this. Get me out," I said, rattling the cage for emphasis.
"What? The big tough Navy SEAL can't get out of a simple cage? Don't make me laugh."
"I've tried to get out. I can't do it, " I said.
"Men make the worst liars. I'll bet you spent all your time here looking at that book and didn't even know you were in a cage till I showed up."
"I don't know how I got here. I just was."
"We are in your mind. This is all your doing. You'll have to get yourself out of it."
"What? How? I didn't lock myself in a cage and turn off the lights."
"In a way, you did. This is your mind. Or at least was. Did it get this empty when you became a blonde?" Sara asked. A second noise started. I could hear a wind.
"You’re not going to help me get out?" I asked.
"I can't. Strange as it may sound, the cage and darkness are part of your defenses. They aren't there to keep you in. They’re there to keep people like me out," she said. "Do you remember me? Do you remember that afternoon we spent together?"
I felt something well up, a strange mix of fear and sex. She started to move away. Were the bars getting thicker? Her legs weren't moving.
"I didn't hurt you then. You trusted me then. I ask that you trust me now," she said.
She stopped moving away and started walking towards me again.
"As I said, we're in your mind. You created the cage; you can unlock it. I won't cross your defenses any more than I have to."
I reached down, pushed on the cage door, and it swung open. Then I noticed my hand. It was my old hand. I was ME again!
I looked myself over, taking inventory, saying hello to the long-lost friend that was my body, as I stepped out.
"I think we are going to need this," she said as she stepped to the cage and grabbed the book I had set down.
As I looked at her, I felt some long absent stirrings in my loins that I had not experienced in some time.
"As interesting as it would be to me to try you on the other side of the fence, we have other matters to attend to," she said.
"Whoa, this gets heavy quick," she said as she adjusted the position of the book in her arms.
"I can carry it if you’d like," I said.
"No, no, that's how you got in this situation in the first place." She started flipping through the book. "Ahh, no wonder this thing weighs a ton."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
She pointed to a bookcase that I'd not seen before. "I'm going to take a shot at explaining some advanced psychology to a neophyte. This universe, or plane, or level of consciousness is a representation of your mind. As such, everything has meaning you; how you perceive yourself, your hopes, fears, pains and pleasures are all represented here someplace. That bookcase, over there, and this book represent something. From my quick scan of this book, I'd say it's your memories. The bookcase over there is for memories that you found closure with, and this monsterous book contains the ones you've been lugging around. I see now that I not only knocked you off your feet physically, I may very well have done so mentally as well. Since I may be responsible in part for this situation, I'm going to help you."
"And how are you going to help me do that?" I asked
"We need to bring out your creatures of the id, so you can do battle with them and put them behind you, so you don't have to lug this damn big book around. I'll warn you though, it's gonna be rough."
From little rooms inside the heart
The furniture there bears the traces
Of every unsuccessful start
Unsuccessful start, it's like a work of art
The bottom of the heart---- John Gorka, Furniture
We appeared on a television stage with a shadowy camera crew and audience.
"Yes, Sam Everheart, it's 'This Is Your Life'," she said in an announcer voice backed up by cheesy music. "It is here we will examine, confront and bring closure to you. And for the viewing audience."
"What now?" I asked.
"We confront your demons and lighten your load," she said in a more normal voice.
"Huh?" I asked as I looked down at her.
"Such a glowing conversationalist. In simple terms, you get to say good-bye," she explained.
"How am I going to do that here?" I asked.
"Well, I get to play a macabre version of Raph Edwards," she explained.
"Do I have to face everything in my life? We'd be here a long time," I hedged.
"Hardly. We'll just be hitting those nasty high points, or is it low points, that have haunted you all this time."
"How will you know what parts we need to visit?"
"We'll just hit the dog-eared sections of the book."
"Where do we start?"
"Grenada," she said slipping into an announcer voice, "Yes, Grenada, your first assignment. Do you remember these voices?"
"We were a team, and there was no telling what we were going to find in that village," said one voice.
"There's nothing I hate more than getting rained on. Except maybe dying," said another
"I need a drink," said a different voice
"You and what Army," said a forth.
"Hoo YAH!" said a last voice
I remembered. "Sixteen bravo," I said. "My first seal team. But they all died."
A new light appeared, shining down on tropical foliage. Five men in combat gear stepped from the forest.
"Yes, that's right Sam. Here are Grohovitch, Murry, Sims, Long, and Tyler. SEAL Team sixteen bravo. You had been with them through Hell week and the rest of SEAL training. You were sent in to grab a drug lord. He and his personal army hunted you all down when the mission went bust. You were the only one to survive."
I went around shaking hands and slapping backs in hugs. We had gone through hell together.
"And now that the hellos are out of the way, let’s get on with the rest," she prompted.
"Everheart, you led, motivated, cajoled, and sometimes carried us through Hell week," Grohovitch said.
"We knew when we volunteered for SEAL training that on any mission we might not come back," Murry said.
"Each of us died knowing we were giving the rest of the team a shot at getting clear," Long said.
"Yeah. It wasn't your fault we died; the peckers just got the better of us. Considering the circumstances, I'll let you off on that fifteen dollars ya owe me," Tyler said.
I had to laugh at that. "I guess I knew it, but just didn't want to admit it till I heard it from you. It was my responsibility," I said somberly.
"No, man, we all reconned the location; we all agreed to the plan. We all could have died that day in the trap they had set. But we got clear of that. And got clear again seven more times. Our deaths were not your responsibility."
I took a deep breath and nodded with a sigh. The forest and five men faded from view.
True love is a welcome struggle
The only one that's worth it's salt
I want to say I caused that trouble
I want to say it was my fault
I want to say it was my fault---- John Gorka, Furniture
"Ready for the next big event in your life?" she asked, and I nodded.
"Do you remember this voice?"
"I do, honey, I meant it then, and it still applies now," the voice said.
I looked at the girl. "Don't do this, you bitch. I can't stand to see her. Not now."
The strange teenager looked at me as she held the book and shrugged. The curtain opened to reveal Joann, my wife, exactly like she was the day I proposed to her. She came over, and I hugged her hard. I didn't want to let go.
"Yes, that's right; you met your future wife Joann in 1982 while you were Pensacola, Florida. You married her after you got back from Grenada," the strange little girl explained, reading from a book that appeared half her size.
"Honey, while I'm glad you're here, I have to ask why?" I asked.
"To help you through it," she answered. "Remember, we said ‘for better or worse'."
"We also said 'Till death do us part.'"
"Did we? I must have missed that part," she said.
"Now, do you remember this voice?" the little girl asked.
"Boss, do I have to get that gun ready to catch up with you?" the voice said.
"Curley! Wait, what's he doing here? He's still alive!" I said.
He came out from the curtain, looking a little better dressed than the last time I’d seen him, over a week ago.
"What are you doing here?" I asked him.
"What am I doing here? What are you doing male?" he asked back.
"I don't know why I am. This is some kind of weird dream," I explained.
"To get back on topic," she said, "after the loss of the rest of sixteen bravo, you volunteered for further sniper training in Quantico, Virginia. After a short stop in Pensacola to pick up Joann, you were teamed with Curley for training. The two of you were an odd pair a naval officer SEAL and a marine non commissioned officer from RECON, but you two worked so well together they let it go.
"You had lots of fun going through sniper training. And apparently you had some fun before Grenada, because your daughter Samantha was delivered by the stork the same year,” the dark teen girl said lecherously.
I looked at Joann, and she was holding a baby in her arms and cooing at her.
"You know? I forgot how great you looked as a family," Curley said with a tear in his eye.
"Ewww," the dark girl said as she flipped through pages. "We'll just skip that part. Lots of dirty diapers in there."
I looked down and Samantha was bigger. Though she still seemed determined to try to stuff her whole hand in her mouth.
"Now it's 1985, and you, along with Curley, were deployed to Central America," the teenager began. "Since you never heard any voices there, we'll just have to go visit."
The world changed. I could still see the audience and the cameras, but they seem faded and indistinct. We found ourselves in a jungle clearing. It was hot and muggy.
"Welcome to tax day, April 15th. You and Curley were sent out to explain to a drug lord why he shouldn't use ships going through the Panama Canal to carry illegal drugs. You tracked him down to a small no-name village ten miles outside of the Canal Zone." The dark girl continued to read, "You watched as a Panamanian national delivered the ultimatum and left. The drug lord got excited and started urging on preparation for his next shipment. You had your orders. You got a clear shot and fired."
"What you didn't see was this…" the little girl said.
The world changed to inside the building as the drug lord was urging on his workers with threats. Everything went into slow motion as the bullet entered the room. The bullet pierced the man's chest, picking him up off his feet in the beginnings of a back-flip as the bullet exited his back. It continued its downward angle of travel, striking the stone floor and changing direction to puncture a tank of ether. The resulting explosion leveled the building and killed some forty people.
"There are some people who wish to talk to you," said the little girl.
As the fireball cleared, the forty people stood up and walked over to us.
"My name is unimportant. What you did is. You stopped a warlord's oppression of a village. He made us work on that vile stuff, threatening that if we didn't he would kill our children. The older boys and men who didn't agree to join him, he had taken out and killed. We were in his hell, and you released us from it and a life of despair," a native woman said. She stepped forward and hugged me in thanks then stepped back
I sighed and nodded, and they faded from view.
"But, wait! There's more! Do you remember this?" my dark guide asked.
A bell rang out over the jungle. We found ourselves looking down on a village with a church. Crucified outside the front door were the mission father and his wife. A shot rang out followed by the burp of a sub-machine gun emptying its clip intermingled with cries from the dying.
The world moved, and we were in the church. Parents stood over children; children looked down at parents. Husbands looked at wives and vice versa. All in a carnal wash of blood and gore. It seemed as if each family had lost someone. I stepped forward, and they looked up in surprise.
I was in uniform again, and they came over and thanked me for killing the gunman. I tried to apologize for the deaths of their loved ones. One said, "We were to die by single shots, like the gunman did, unless we could hide him from you Americans. We knew that he wouldn't let us live after helping him. Neighboring villages had died that way. You let us live on to rebuild. You had no idea where we were in the church."
I just dropped my head, nodding into my chest while they faded from view. I felt loving arms around my body. I could see Joann's arm and feel Samantha hugging my leg. Samantha looked up and said, "We love you, daddy."
After a moment, the dark girl was smiling with glee as she read the next part.
"How touching. After this little party, your friend and partner, Curley, went home on leave. Which left you with not much to do. That is, until the CIA came to call. You were assigned to work with a CIA team on a drug op. It wasn't big enough to warrant using one of the agency's 'special' agents. So, they sent this team and you in. The mission was a simple execution. You had already killed many times. This time it was different. It was up close and personal."
The jungle changed again to a moonless night. We could see everything in a dim light that allowed the details to be seen.
"You weren't in charge of this mission. The team split into two-man sub-teams. Access to the house was achieved through eliminating two patrolling guards. This was carried out by a different team. Once inside the house, the team split up to cover multiple wings of the house."
I was no longer watching this; I was living it again. My partner and I moved into the wing we had been assigned. We prepared to enter the first room; I looked at my partner. It was that strange dark girl. She grinned evilly and whispered, "This is gonna be fun!" then slipped in the door. I heard a muffled grunt of surprise and a groan. She slipped back out, smiled and said, "Your turn."
I slipped in the door and snuck over to the bed. That damn girl followed me in. She watched as I slipped over to the bed, dropped my hand over the man's mouth, and slit his throat. He struggled a bit as he bled out, then stopped moving. I was covered in blood. It felt good. It made me feel powerful! I liked it.
I quietly moved out of the room and into the next. Slipping up on the sleeping boy, I covered his mouth, then slit him from groin to neck. Again, blood went everywhere. I was a god! I had control of life itself.
I left that room and peeked in the next to see the girl ripping a man limb from limb. I thought to myself. Hey, I could do that easy enough. And moved into the last room.
I eased open the door. I heard scrambling feet. I was prepared for an attack that didn't come. Inside this room, I could see posters on the walls and toys on the floor. The dark girl followed me in and spotted some movement.
"There!" she said pointing.
I moved that way, towards a closet. Scrambling in the back was a little girl, about twelve years old. I reached in, picked her up and carried her back to her bed. All the while, she was saying, "No, no, no me lastima por favor. ¡Seré una buena muchacha apenas satisfago, no me lastima! Seré la mejor pequeña muchacha del mundo por favor, por favor," over and over again like a mantra.
"Oooo, she's a pretty one. Are you going to take her first, then kill her or are you going do it the other way around?" the dark girl asked.
I laid her down in bed, seeing her begging, pleading eyes. I reached down and pulled the comforter up and tucked it in nicely around the girl. She looked up at me and said, "Gracias. Usted no es malos hombres después de todos."
I reached up, patted her check, smiled, then snapped her neck.
"Oh poo, you're no fun at all." the dark girl said.
The scene faded, and I found myself facing Joann, Samantha and Curley.
Joann looked sad, Samantha looked frightened, and Curley looked shocked.
"Y-You never told me about this," Curley said.
"I never told anyone about it," I said.
"You reveled in the power you had," he said.
"Yes, I did."
"You could have done much worse. You could have given in to the rush."
"Yes, easily," I said.
"But you didn't. You didn't become the monster. You completed the mission. That stands for something. Faced with that overwhelming feeling of power, you caught yourself, stepped back, and turned away from it, rather than embracing it. You beat your own devil. You have been torturing yourself from that night till today. You proved you were better than it. Don't let it keep trying to beat you. With our rifles, we have always been distanced from the people we killed. Remember, you didn't become the thing you were sent to kill,” Curley said.
I turned to Samantha; looking down at her, I smiled and said, "Thanks."
"Enough of this mushy stuff," my female guide said. "There's more to come. And it is with a glad heart and happy spirit, (darn it) that we leave the jungles of Central America behind and head for the wilds of Virginia and Quantico, the United States Marine Corp base there. It says here, you got to teach for a couple of years there."
"Yes. Both Curley and I taught there for those two years," I answered, and Curley nodded.
"Then perhaps you remember these men," that demonic MC said, and with a gesture, a curtain opened revealing twelve men in uniform.
They stepped into the room in formation and stopped at attention. They were twelve of the 244 men the two of us taught at the course. I knew all their faces.
"Wait. We don't have to go into this. I know that each of these men died in situations that I had no control of or responsibility for. I know that I had trained them to the best of my ability at the time and that, even if they had done everything perfect, there is still the chance of plain old bad luck." I saluted them. "Gentlemen, you are dismissed." And they vanished.
"Just as well you got over them quick. Now we can get to the juicy stuff," the MC said. "Both you and Curley remember this street, don't you?"
The world changed again. We found ourselves in Washington D.C. in the spring. The cherry blossoms were in bloom. Curley and I were walking down Embassy Row, heading toward the Mall. We were enjoying the day till we walked past a bicycle chained to a parking meter with a package strapped to the rack over the rear wheel.
Alarm bells went off in my head. I stopped to take a look around while looking at the Turkmenistan embassy. I asked Curley, "Do you smell it?"
"I can't smell anything over these flowers," he said.
"Concentrate, do you smell it now?" I asked, while pointing at the molding on the embassy.
"Cordite?" he asked and started to look around, but I stopped him.
"Yes. That bike we passed. The one with the package strapped down over the rear wheel. Whoever did it, screwed up. The tire wore through the package, and it's leaking now. My only guess is it's a bomb. If it goes off here, any number of people could be hurt. Let's go across to the Luxembourg embassy and work our way back for another look. Keep your eyes open for anyone that looks out of place."
We crossed the street in an easy manner, looking at the embassy and commenting on the different look it had. Once across the street, we turned and started back up to where the bike was across the street.
"See anything?" I asked.
"Other than a roving guard on an embassy roof, nothing out of the ordinary," Curley said.
"Where was the guard?" I asked.
"Two buildings down on the same side as the bike. Address 2211," Curley said. I could see he had begun thinking in terms of an ambush and was on guard now.
"One problem with that, Curley. That's a private home, not an embassy."
"Shit!" Curley whispered.
"We don't have time for you to go to the bathroom right now," I said.
"Shit!" Curley repeated.
"Oh, alright, let's see if we can use a bathroom here," I said, as I led Curley across the street to the house he had spotted the patrol on.
Once we were close, it was simple to shift direction and move around to the back of the house. Arriving at the backdoor, I could see that it had been kicked in then closed again
"Amateurs" I muttered.
I signaled Curley to be quiet and follow me. We crept in the back door and entered the kitchen. Lucky us. Right there on the kitchen island was a knife block containing almost a full set. We each grabbed one and listened. We could hear steps and whimpering coming from the front area of the house. We crept that way. We arrived at the door from the kitchen to the dining room to see a man walking out of the room, apparently to where the hostages were being held. We continued to observe and saw that the guard was only stealing quick glances out the window when he heard something. Otherwise, he kept his eyes on the other room.
I signaled Curley that I thought there was only one guard and that we should take him quickly on this end of his patrol. If we didn't, the hostages might tip him off we were here. Curley nodded, and we prepared ourselves.
Luck was with us; as he entered the room, a car drove by and he peeked out the window. At that moment, Curley killed him with a quick thrust. As Curley lowered the man to the floor, I turned to the hostages to see a woman and two children. They were excited and trying to talk around the tape. I held a finger to my lips to signal quiet and pointed up and glanced up. They quieted down. I removed the tape and gag from the woman.
"They have my husband!" she began in an excited whisper.
"Who? And how many more?" I asked.
"I saw at least one more. He took my husband, Art, upstairs."
"OK, Curley, let's go. Ma’am, you and your children stay here."
We moved to the stairs. Curley handed me one of the two semi-automatics and a spare clip the dead man had on him. We crept upstairs as quietly as possible, which wasn't too quiet in this old house. We managed to minimize the creaking by walking near the edges of the stairs. The top of the stairs was at the back side of the house. We moved to the first bedroom on the front side of the house. Listening at the door didn't let us know if anyone was inside. Opening it carefully only revealed an empty room. We moved to the next bedroom only to find it empty.
"Crap. Where are they?" Curley whispered.
"Only place left is the roof where you saw him, forgetful. There must be a roof access in the master bedroom. Let's go."
We returned to the top of the stairs, the door we had skipped. Once again, we listened and heard nothing. We opened this door slowly as well. Nothing was in view. In this bedroom, there were two additional doors. I crept over and checked the first door and found the master bathroom and no roof access. That left the last door.
Moving over to it, we knew there had to be roof access in there. If there wasn't any, it would mean there had to be a ladder outside. But the husband had been brought up here. We'd not found him, and the stairs appeared so far to be the only way out, so there had to be another exit.
Opening the last door revealed a walk-in closet. Coming down from the ceiling was a fold-down attic stair. It led up into the dark.
I led the way up the stairs, gun at the ready. I bumped my head on a lid covering the top of the stairs. Cursing myself quietly, I pushed to open the cover. Once it reached about forty-five degrees, the top-heavy weight pulled the lid away from my hand and onto the roof with a loud clang.
"Alright! Whoever you are! Come out where I can see you with your hands up," a voice yelled.
Quickly, I stuffed the gun in the small of my back. Curley followed me closely, but rather than slip into view, he crawled out on the roof as I moved up into view. I turned to hide the gun.
I saw the terrorist using another man as a shield between us. They were toward the front of the roof.
"Who are you? What are you doing here?" the terrorist asked.
"I'm his brother-in-law. Whenever I'm in town, we always get together for dinner one night. Tonight was to be that night. I figured I would surprise him," I said.
The terrorist was glancing from me to the street, then back to me. Finally he said, "Well, how’s this for a surprise?" He aimed and fired at me.
As he aimed, I dove to one side, reaching for the gun at my back. I drew it once I had landed and squeezed off a shot. I had shot the hostage. Lucky for me, my aim was off. While I hadn't killed him, he was just so much dead weight to the terrorist. As the man slid out of the terrorist's grip, and before he could change his aim again, both Curley and I fired again. This time I didn't miss.
Rushing over, we treated the shoulder wound on Art. I picked up what I thought was the detonator. It was a car alarm key-fob; the kind of thing you'd hang on your keys to control your car alarm. "Shit, it's not over yet Curley. Take care of Art, then call the authorities. The damn bomb is controlled by a car alarm."
I raced downstairs and out to the bike. Looking closer at the bike, I saw the wires leading away to a curbside storm drain. Following them revealed an electric eye aimed across the street and up at a tree. I could see a reflector in the tree. I went back to the bike and pried off a mirror from the bike. I went back to the eye and placed it in front of the eye. Now that beam couldn’t be broken to start a timer on the bomb.
Looking at the pack on the bike again, I could see it was full. I carefully unzipped the pack and looked inside. As luck would have it, a policeman on walking patrol happened by just as I said, "Shit, there is enough explosives in here to orbit Arnold Schwarzenegger."
"What did you say, young man?" the cop asked.
"You heard me right the first time. Get on the horn to bomb disposal and all the other agencies. Near as I can tell, this thing is remote armed from a car alarm. It's not armed at the moment, and I may have done something to prevent it from going off, but I'm not sure. Keep it quite though. You, me and the bomb don't need a panic in this area just now," I said, then went on to explain about how we came to discover the bomb and the terrorist behind it. He called in on a cell phone he had. In minutes, the street was cordoned off and the bomb squad arrived.
Curley and I were being debriefed for the tenth time in the living room of the house we had originally entered, when a group of men in suits that just screamed Treasury Department showed up. Accompanying them were some other men that, while not in the same suits, still moved like a security detail. I heard one of say to the other men, "Halo and Dragon are coming in."
Moments later, a tall man with his hair slicked back and a narrow mustache entered, followed by the President of the United States. Training kicked in, and Curley and I snapped to attention even though we were in civilian clothes. The President and the other man walked over; Curley and I saluted.
"No need for that, gentlemen. You're in civilian clothes after all," he said. "Who is it, may I ask, that averted an assassination attempt."
"Lt. Samuel Everheart and Staff Sergeant John Fleetwood," I said.
"How did you know about it?" the President asked.
"I just knew there was a bomb on a street filled with innocent bystanders, sir," I said.
"No, it was an assassination attempt. Tell them, Joe," the President prompted.
"You managed to partially disable the device with the mirror. The backpack contained a real 'overkill' of explosives. Four pounds of TNT, with C4 and black powder. The kicker was the steel plate in the side of the bag closest to the street. A similar device was used in Mexico to kill a banker in an armored car. The explosives fired the steel plate through the armor with more force than a tank shell. It was highly accurate too. The driver for the banker walked away without a scratch after he was removed from the wreckage. If this bomb had been successfully detonated, the President and his guest would have died in that attack."
"Yes, gentlemen, you saved my life. My security detail is livid with me, along with themselves, for their failure. I am in your debt. Lt. Commander, Gunny," he said as he turned to talk to some of his staff.
The other gentleman stepped up and said, "First, let me introduce myself. I am Lord Fredrick Paramount, Crown Prince of Wallachia. I find myself at a loss for words. I have fought and built my country with my own hands, not dependant on anyone. To find myself in debt to not only a stranger, but one of a foreign nation, is uncomfortable to me." He leveled his granite gaze at the two of us. "I owe you both a debt. Collect it at your leave." He turned and went to join the President.
I turned to Curley. "Did we just get promoted?" I asked with a smile.
"I'll believe it when I see the pay check," Curley said.
"Yes indeed, you both earned promotions for stopping that attack," the MC said. "But let's skip ahead now. You seem to have an understanding that the men you trained or those not directly under your command were not your responsibility. So, that takes us past operation 'Just Cause' in Panama and on to Desert Shield and Storm. You both distinguished yourselves in Panama and were a rank higher going into Desert Shield. Yes, the cute youngest full Commander in the Navy and his Gunnery Sergeant lapdog were hot stuff going into Desert Shield. Do you remember this?"
I found myself on a ship's bridge. I remembered this night. We were passing through the Strait of Hormuz entering the Persian Gulf. It was foggy, and the senior watch officer was irritable. The radio room contacted the bridge on the squawk box, saying that they were receiving a signal on the international shipping frequency. He had them patch it up to the bridge.
"I say again, 'Please divert your course fifteen degees north to avoid collision." the voice said.
Immediately the officer picked up the microphone and replied, "Recommend that you change YOUR course fifteen degrees south to avoid a collision."
I checked the radar. I saw trouble. "Uh, officer of the deck...."
"No, I say again, divert YOUR course north," the voice said.
"This is a U.S. Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course," the officer said.
"I ask you once again to divert your course fifteen degrees north," the voice said.
"Uh, Lieutenant...." I tried to break in.
"This is the LHD Iwo Jima. We are the size of a small aircraft carrier. Divert your course NOW!" The lieutenant was almost yelling
I winced because I knew what was coming.
"This is a lighthouse. Your call."
The world faded back to the stage with the MC, Curley, Samantha and Joann.
"I understand why I was shown the other things, but why this last?" I asked the girl.
"Oh, no real reason. We’ve been dealing with so much gloomy stuff, I figured it was time for a laugh," she explained.
You are everywhere now you are gone
There's no stone left I have not found unturned
Like a tidal wave that never breaks
I will run and run and never stay
Cos there's no way back, that I can face
No one's come to take your place - Keeping by Embrace
"Now on to more serious things," she said.
I said, "No, I won't do it."
"You have to; it's in the past."
"I won't do it; and nothing you can do will persuade me otherwise."
The demoness turned dark for a moment. "Do not toy with me. I am here to help you, and you will face this now."
As I was looking at the girl, a hand landed lightly on my shoulder.
"Sam?" came Joann's quiet voice.
"No, Joann," I said as I turned, "I am not going to give up on you. I love you. I have loved you from the first time I saw you. I still love you, and I am not going to let go."
"No one is asking you to, Sam. Somewhere deep in that rock-filled head of yours, you think the accident and our deaths were your fault. It wasn't, and if you really think about it, you did everything you could possibly do to minimize the accident and save us. But as that band used to sing, 'You can't always get what you want.' It was our time. Yes, it's horrible that we left you holding the bag. Not only that, we piled more on you. But you have survived this and more. Remember us, but continue to live. Now, give me a hug that I can keep with me until we meet again."
I hugged her deep and hard. Then I turned to Samantha.
"I'd say remember me too, Pop. But somehow I don't think that will be too much of a problem," she said as she stepped into a hug. "Just give me a hug."
I hugged her deeply and stepped back with weight landing on my heart.
"Hey! None of that now," Joann warned. "We may be gone, but don't use it as an excuse to pile more despair on yourself. My grandfather used to say, 'As long as one person remembers you, you're not really gone.' Remember us. But don't let us rule your life."
As Joann faded from view, I heard a voice.
"Can I cook, guys, or can I cook?"
I turned to see Dr. Terry and her two assistants.
"I suppose you're wondering why we have shown up in this dream of yours," she began.
"Because he was there when you died," Sara said.
"Well.... partly that. There's more."
"What do you mean more?" I asked.
"In my junior year at M.I.T., I hit on the idea of using cerebral engrams in programming computers. I had a 24-hour period of my engrams recorded as I did various things. When I finished that, I ran up against the technology wall. There was no computer with enough memory to make use of the system. So, I set it aside and moved on. When I got the grant to develop the Hive, I saw another opportunity to try again. I recalled an old article I read about holographic memory. They used a one-centimeter ruby cube and lasers to store terabytes of information in that cube. I broke it down further. Contained within the Hive is a cubic centimeter or more of ruby. It's broken up among a large portion of the Hive, but it works. The engrams taught Hive how to learn and be curious," Dr. Terry explained.
"But you’re talking to me. Are you a new personality that's going to be part of a growing collection as I go nuts?" I asked.
"Not hardly, you forgot a few things. I'm dead, and this is a dream. Oh, the basis for this conversation is stored in Hive. I had to copyright my work somehow. But you managed to go bughouse all on your own. Anyway, I screwed up. I should have spent that evening programming in the safeguards. Like a few choice lines from Hippocrates' 'Epidemics.' One translation reads, "Declare the past, diagnose the present, foretell the future; practice these acts. As to diseases, make a habit of two things -- to help, or at least to do no harm.' And I see that Hive has harmed you greatly. "
"I need to make amends.“
"No, quit interrupting, I have to think on what I can do to make this better."
"I said stop interrupting!"
"Doc, you're forgetting something."
"What? What am I forgetting?"
"The glaringly obvious. And you reminded me of the fact not too long ago. You're dead."
"Something like death is only an inconvenience."
"And a figment of my mind."
"Whatever. I know I won't win this debate."
"You're right there."
"Uh. Pardon me…," Sara interrupted.
"What?" we both asked in unison.
"If we don't get a move on, the show is going to run long."
"I didn't set the rules of this dream, you did. And if we don't get on with it, we'll run long. The sponsors and the network won't like that."
"OK, so that brings us up to the present, right?" I asked.
"I think so, but there's still more to this book," Sara said.
"Perhaps I can be of assistance," a voice said.
We turned to see Sean Connery in the costume he wore in Highlander.
"I am Juan Sanchez Villalobos Ramirez, chief metallurgist to King Charles V of Spain, and I'm at your service," he said.
I turned to Sara and the direction of the "studio audience."
I said, "You're seeing it here first, ladies and gentlemen, a person going completely crackers on national TV."
Ramirez reached into his sash, pulled out a snuffbox and proceeded to sniff a pinch. "I've come for you, Highlander, or more exactly, you who has changed gender recently."
" I'm familiar with the movie you're from, but you're not following the script."
"That is because I'm talking to you and not McCloud," he said.
"Because we've met before, Highlander," he said with a gesture, beyond which a familiar pyramid was illuminated by a spotlight.
"Ah, I see, said the blind man to the deaf mute," Curley quoted.
"Be that as it may, Highlander, this is the first chance I've had to talk to you since our last contact."
Thunder rumbled. "Yes, it was very much like the quickening, but you managed to get your message across in an elementary fashion to me that my drawing so much power from your simple fission reactor was endangering the lives of everyone. I then took steps to ensure I would get access to more power."
"The fusion plant plans?" I asked
"Just so, it's old technology to me, but slightly better than existing power systems. I estimate that I only advanced technology here some ten to twenty years. My research has shown me that they were already close to making the jump in technology; I only rocked the boat a bit early," he said.
"So, how is it you're able to talk to me now?"
The lights dimmed, and Dean Stockwell, dressed as "Al" from Quantum Leap, was standing there. "It's bad enough that I have to hold your hand through helping me. Now I have to give elementary school explanations on physics," he griped. "Look, when you broke through and talked to me, I scanned you. Sorry about that by the way. Did it hurt?"
"Yes, it did."
"Good. Now that scan gave me the readings I needed to track you, and opened up a way for me to communicate with you. Until today, I had lost track of you and didn't have enough power to open communications. Hive has helped a bit there with its seeming need to connect to networks. I talk a different language than any of the dumb systems on this backward planet, so I don't interfere with them. An easy explanation is that we are operating on a different frequency."
"But why contact me at all?" I asked.
The lights dimmed and came back, and I was now talking to Mark Lenard as Sarek.
"I have need of an emissary to your world, at least until such time as truly proper communications can be established. Logic dictates that you are that emissary. We have already established a tenuous link. Until such time as your planet's technology has reached the point that full communications is possible, you are my primary contact," he said
"What about me? I know you're intelligent now. I can insure your safety as well," Curley asked.
"An interesting attempt, sir, but you lack certain traits that make her more appealing."
"You're looking at her tits? You're looking at my best friend's tits?"
"No, actually her potential lifespan. If my estimates of this planet's technology level are correct, my emissary is going to have to be around for a while. I do not treasure the idea of having to train a new one every twenty to forty years. With her, I won't have to."
"Say what?" I asked dumbly.
"As she said, 'She can cook.' Hive is very efficient at its job. It is maintaining your fitness level. As long as Hive stays in operating condition, so will you."
"I don't have to say it; you know the truth. Let me give you a gift for preventing me from blowing myself up." He reached out and placed his hand across my face in some Vulcan hold, then stepped back. "I've unlocked your mind. Do with it what you will. I'll be in touch." And he vanished in a darkening spot.
"This is an 'Oh Shit' moment?" Sara asked.
"Only if you want it to be. Is there anything else?" I asked.
Flipping through the last few pages of the book, she answered, "Umm, no, I don't think so. Whoops! There is one more thing."
I turned to find myself standing there. My male self.
"You were told that the change back into your male self would kill you. Deep down, you didn't want to let go," explained Sara
"So, I'm supposed to say good-bye to my old life?" I asked
Looking at my male self, I mean REALLY LOOKING that you can really only do from outside yourself, I saw a man fighting not to "go over the hill." While he wasn't using a hair dye, he was keeping it short. He was just beginning to lose the battle of the bulge, and his face showed pain -- the long lingering kind -- the kind of pain that wears a man down.
"Well, I don't know what to say."
"Before you do, you should think about what you've gained and what you've left behind."
"Breasts and a vagina? Boys hitting on me? Monthly periods?" I countered.
"Lack of pain, youth, vigor," the ghost said.
"People hunting me," I said.
"You had that in the Navy."
"Not every waking moment."
"You're safe at Whateley."
"For how long?"
"Uh, excuse me, but when are you going to get to the good-bye part?" Sara asked.
"Now," the ghost said. "Sam, you know you're better off like you are now than you were. You owe it to Dr. Terry to keep going."
"Darn tootin’ you do," rang out Dr. Terry's voice from the darkness.
"I thought I was here to get rid of assumed responsibilities," I said.
The ghost angrily said, "You were getting rid of useless luggage from over twenty years ago, not abandoning everything." Then lighter. "Besides, the way I see it, you're being well compensated for the responsibility. Call it a perk."
At that, I had to laugh. "OK, OK, point made. I'll see you when I see you. Just don't fade completely away." And I hugged the ghost.
"Never, dear, I never will," he said.
Suddenly, I was sitting at a table with the book on it. Sara was standing next to me and looking over my shoulder.
"All done?" she asked.
I went to sleep.