SUDDENLY THE ROOM WENT DARK.


Bang! Bang! I was awoken from a deep sleep and jumped up from bed. My head collided with something hard and I fell back into bed. I felt an intense pain race down my neck and into my lower back. My face felt as if I was walking under a sprinkler. Immediately I knew what was coming next. I could taste the viscus liquid on my lips, I was bleeding. I looked up and  noticed the nail on the bottom of the upper bunk. I had not slept in a bunk bed in many decades and the bed had taken its revenge on my head. The pain became more intense and I grabbed the blanket and applied pressure to my head, but the flow of blood was stead and unrelenting. I felt as if I could not breathe. I tried to open my eyes fully but my sight was being obscured by the red flow.  I called for Paul, but there was no answer. I more carefully stood from the lower bunk.

I tried to move forward but did not get far. I was pulled  toward the floor by an unseen force at my left ankle.  I used my hands to cushion my fall and let go of the blanket and the stream of blood became a torrent. I heard the scrapping of metal against concrete and felt the coolness of the concrete floor under my elbows. The impact was painful and I screamed from its intensity.  I thought the pain in my elbows would be the worst, then my chin meet the concrete floor. My jaw was on fire. I pulled at my left leg but it was not going anywhere.

Bang! Bang! Bang! I had forgotten about what had awoken me. It was gun fire. I was certain of it. I shouted for Paul again, but there was still no answer. Suddenly there was an intense beam of light. The door slammed into the wall with a loud bang and the intensity of the light made me realize how dark the room was. I heard a loud voice in a strange language. Suddenly the room went dark again. There was a bag over my head.

YOUNG LIEUTENANTS


As I ran against the crowd the intensity of the gun fire increased. I had to ask myself why I was not going in the opposite direction with the rest of the crowds. It was not a question worth asking at this point since I had to get back to the apartment and get the rest of the family. The city was under fire from the rebels and I was determined to get the entire family out before the rebels took control. I was a known government employee and my family had always been loyal to the government. We would not be safe under the new regime. I had promised to get every family member out of the city. I had made the mistake of getting my parents out before meeting my nephews who lived closer to the front.

My brothers were on duty at the front and I was responsible for the safety of the rest of family. At first it seemed like I was doing the logical thing. I got the sick and the older relatives out and left the fit and young for last. I was hoping that they could run faster than the crowds. We were a fit family, we were a military family. All the young men were expected to join the service so we were always ready for war.

I pushed through the crowds and made it to the apartment complex. The sound of artillery was deafening, but there was no sight of combatants. The gates were open and the courtyard was empty. I stopped to catch my breath hands on knees. As I recovered from the run it hit me that the fighting must have entered the city proper. I never though things would get this far, but we were prepared. The sun was moving toward the horizon and night fall would arrive within the next 2 hours. I had to pick up the pace before nightfall. The red indicator lights were blinking. It was soon going to be really dark in the neighborhood, the mains power was out. I swiped my card and gained entrance to the complex. I would have to take the stairs since the elevators were powered off during emergencies. As I started the climb to the 5th floor a projectile crash through the door. I crouched along the stairway as what looked like a small recon drone scanned the room. As an intelligence officer it took me seconds to recognise the drone. It was a rebel recon drone. It scanned the room and moved toward the courtyard. I used the opportunity to continue climbing, there would be a few more drones moving soon.

I moved as quickly and quietly as I could. I finally got to the apartment breathless and sweaty. I knocked and the door opened quickly. The boys were ready. Backpacks were filled with food, water and weapons. They were well prepared for a fight. They handed me a survival kit. I was proud of their preparation but Max and Taylor were a little too eager for the fight. I repressed the thought and slipped my backpack on and told them about the drone. They had more information than I realized. They had seen the drone and had been watching as the fighting got closer to the neighborhood. It was not the ideal time to introduce them to the brutality of war, but it had to happen at some point. It took less than 5 minutes for us to debrief , plan and move out. I felt like I was a young lieutenants leading a small recon team. I was long pass those days but I too was itching for the fight. The family was safely away from the front and it was time for us to find the rest of our team.

SNOW


Living on the 22nd floor was great, but I felt a need to get out of the house. I had not left the house in about three days. It had been warm in the apartment and the closest I had gotten to the blizzard was watching from my window. For the first time in a long while I did not have to shovel a sidewalk or spread salt. It was a wonderful feeling. I was even happier with my decision to sell my car last summer. The last few days were even better that classes had been cancelled and my pantry was stocked and prepared for a long stint inside. It was going to take a special event to get me out of the house.

The view from the 22nd floor was glorious. I sat in the front of the apartment and sipped my cocoa tea and enjoyed what I saw. The apartment was in the front of the building overlooking the street and across from my favorite park. It was a great place to live in the summer and I was about to find out how much fun winter could be. Well not really, I was here for the summer not the winter. I had thought my research would have been complete before the first snow but it was not even thanksgiving and a giant snow storm had already stalled the city. My hope for a short winter without much snow was already headed in the wrong direction. I was still hoping but not hopeful. The old timers were certain that it was going to be a cold snowy season. I should have followed my instincts and taken the assignment in South Florida. But the draw of the city was too much. I convinced myself that another year in the cold would be ok. Only 2 months in and all my assumptions had already been proven incorrect. I was hoping I was going to get at least one prediction correct. It was not looking good.

Well, I did get one thing correct. The stray cat I had adopted was still around. Kitty was with me at the window enjoying the view. She was curled up by the heater with her face against the glass. The glass was cold and the floor warm, so I was lost as to why she was in that position. She was a cat after all, there is no making sense with them. Maybe she just needed to make sure there was an actual barrier there. The window was a giant pane of glass, it was in fact the entire front wall of the apartment. We had a postcard view. We sat in silence for what seemed like forever until she suddenly jumped up unto my lap and demanded my attention. I was not fast enough for her it seems so she started to lick my face. I started to pet her but she was not satisfied. She jumped off my lap and was back at the window and looking down intently. I followed her gaze. She was looking into the park. I gazed into the park just as intently as she did, but all I saw was a blanket of snow covering my running track.

I got back into my comfy seat and tried to get back to my mug. That did not last. Kitty was back in my face showering me with saliva. I followed her to the window, she was trying to show me something I assumed. I still only saw snow. I backed up to my seat and as I was in the motion of setting I noticed some motion in the tree line beyond the 400 meter track. There was just enough movement, but I could not tell what was moving. It was not windy so something other than the wind was causing the movement. I would have ignored it, but the streets were empty and the track was covered in snow, no one should have been out there. So I decided to go investigate.

TRAUMA


The coffee was much too hot and the air was much too cold, but she was perfectly happy with the world. The room was loud, but it seems she did not notice. As I tried to pass her I tipped her table with my backpack, and spilled coffee into her lap. As I frantically gestured to the barrister for assistance I notice that she had not moved an inch. No assistance was forthcoming. The shop was full and all behind the counter were busy supplying the assembled masses their morning dose of caffeine. I retrieved my sweater from my backpack and in the process spilled my headphones and various cables unto the floor. I tried to mop the steaming liquid from her legs and shorts. She did not move. It seemed as if she had not noticed that I was trying to get her attention. I tried to get her gaze, all to no effect.

I was immediately transported to my time on the inpatient psychiatric unit. There I was introduced to catatonia, and this was it. I was surprised and scared by what I was seeing. I was snapped back to reality as a baby started to cry. I looked around only to notice that the cry was coming from the floor next to her. It was a baby boy or I assumed so from the blue clothes. His crying snapped her awake and she shouted at me for spilling her coffee. I was startled, but happy to see her aroused. I hugged her in relief, but she did not share my emotion. I apologized as she picked up the baby and consoled him. Only them did she notice that the coffee had spilled into her lap. She was not bothered and continued to cradle the now quite baby. Her demeanor changed to a concerned loving mother and I was impressed by the rapid change.

As I sat I wondered what she was thinking while she was in that haze.
“Was I out long?” she asked.
“No, you were not, it was only about 3 minutes.”
“Thanks for getting the spilled coffee. Sometimes I am helpless.”
“What do you mean?”

Maybe I should have left it there, but my curiosity got the best of me. As she started to talk I was being drawn into a deeper more complex puzzle. She had delivered her son twelve months earlier by cesarean section, which was her first surgical experience. It was not planned, but she was having a complicated labor and her doctor suggested that a cesarean section would be safe for her and baby. Her had a long reassuring discussion with her Anesthesiologist and was comfortable with the plan. But the experience was more challenging.

As she talked the color went out of her lips and face. Her experience of the spinal was clouded by the coldness of the room and the warmth of her nurse’s hands. She was happy to be able to watch and she remembered the mirror. She watched as her prince as plucked from the warmth of her body to the cold of the world. She saw her stomach open and admired the hands of her surgeon. She watched to make sure all the layers were closed. While she watch her view started to get cloudy and her chest felt heavy. She quickly became aware of the beeping over her shoulder. She started to feel the approaching nausea and caught a glimpse of the heart monitor as the number fell slowly from 35 to less than 30. As her vision continued to get darker she could hear a sudden piercing sound and then blackness. She then awoke to the bright lights of the operating room and returned to watching her doctor close all the layers of her abdomen. It was all over and she was happy for it. Her prince was safe and warm in her arms.

“All I could think of for the next day was how beautiful he was,” she said.

I shook my head in understanding and lost all the questions I was contemplating. As she continued I notice that the baby had fallen asleep with his little fingers wrapped around mommy’s pinky. She did not seem as comfortable as he was and as she continued to speak I understood why. Her birthing experience was not as she had expected. For the first 48 hours she was great, but then she started to have moments of “haze” when she just could not remember or hear people around her. The first time it happened she was being taught how to breast feed by the lactation consultant. She was in a “haze” and did not hear the instructions being given to her. She continued to ask her consultant to repeat.

Her husband had returned to work and had not noticed anything different about his wife. He was an active duty soldier and was deployed less than 36 hours after the birth of his first son. She still could feel his hug and kisses, but he had not returned home. Her life was forever changed.

She had become a widow of war and trapped by the trauma of her berthing experience. I listened, but there was no word of comfort that came to mind. I was shocked by her story and lost in her grief.

THE GIFT OF WORDS


There is a time and place for everything is a saying that is banded about often. For me, Sunday morning is a time for words and words are key to opening the world. I learned my appreciation for words from my father and grandfather. Both read a lot and gave me the desire to read. The power of words are in their ability to transport. Unlike any other medium words are all-powerful. They transport both in time and place. How far we get transported is determined by our willingness to grasp the full meaning of the words we encounter. There is no short cut to getting to full understanding. All understanding comes via a dictionary. I had to learn that the hard way. I wanted to get the words without putting in the dictionary time. I resisted examining the meaning of unfamiliar words. My resistance stifled the growth of my vocabulary. Over time I have come to the understanding that a dictionary is an essential tool. I now check my dictionary as often as I can and am the better for it.

Sunday morning is my special day. Sunday morning is my newspaper day. Getting the Sunday paper and reading for hours is my joy. The importance of reading cannot be underestimated. I want to read for fun and encourage all to do the same. Sitting in a comfortable chair with a coffee and the Sunday New York Times makes my weekend. The feel of the paper between my fingers. The sounds and pictures created in my mind are always a joy. Giving that joy to my children is my goal.
Giving the love of words to our children is the most vital gift. We must give them that gift without reservation and allow them to express themselves. They will surprise and delight us. I love words because they have opened the world to me. They bring the outside in and the inside out. They transport and uplift. They transform and elevate. Giving the power of words transmits great expectations and challenges the receiver to greatness.

Let us challenge the children in our life with meaningful words. The love of words will open to them the broad expanses of life’s possibilities.

ARNOLD


We had the smallest office in the community work space we shared with three other local start-ups. It was my turn to prep the office for the day. We slept little and worked a lot, but the weekend was sacred, so we all went home. Under a bright full moon I fumble just enough with the keys to notice that there was an open window in the building adjacent to ours. I ignored it  but I did notice the slight irritation of chlorine in my nostrils. I ignored that too, and while opening the door noticed that it was heavier than usual.

I pushed the door open expecting to find something blocking it, but there was nothing. I checked the hook on the back of the door and there it was, a winter coat. It was a heavy-looking neon orange winter coat. Even in the Florida winter such a coat would be out-of-place. The slight hint of chlorine was more pronounced, but I ignored it.

We called our building the gym, since it was just a large industrial building divided into work spaces. In a previous incarnation it was a dance studio. The floor was made of wonderful material and felt great under foot, so most of us walked around bare footed. I ignored my intuition, took off my shoe and placed them on the shoe rack. The shoe rack was the water cooler of our office. We all wore shoes made by the Shoe Company. It was the first local start-up to make it big and we were all proud to show off our latest wears.

We were proud to share space with them. They had long pasted the start-up phase, but they still had that feel. Most mornings  I would go visit their sector to see what cool designs they had on display. Mike, one of the co-founders was always first in the office and we would share coffee and catch-up. He still slept in his office many nights and worked like a dog. Recently he talked about slowing down. He had gotten engaged and it was time to play more than he had been.

Mike and I were the coffee people and I was going to miss him discovering exotic blends. We had a deal with the coffee importer on the second floor. We rigged a shoot that delivered the latest coffee to us each morning. We had a coffee treat everyday. Coffee from the heaven we called it. As per our arrangement a new flavor was awaiting me. I did not hear anyone in the office but assumed that the heavy coat belonged to Mike. I setup the brew and decide to check Mike’s office and tease him about him having a winter coat in the Sunshine State.

As I opened Mike’s office that subtle scent of chlorine became a dense fog clogging my eyes and nose. I called for Mike but there was no response. As I caught my bearing I noticed that the office was a wreck. It was as if a hurricane had passed through. There was no sign of Mike, but I did notice several brown spots on the floor.
The six desks in the office had there draws out and the pictures from the wall were on the floor. The chlorine was choking and so I opened the windows. I hurried out of the office to avoid being overwhelmed by the smell.

I ran to the front door and opened it to get some airflow. On the way out I noticed that the other spaces looked just as I had left them last Friday. No one was to have been here over the weekend. My office was the only space containing any valuables so I went to check our safe. All I could think of was that we had been robed, but why the heavy chlorine smell. Once into my space I noticed it was essentially untouched. I called Mike’s number and I heard a phone ringing in the office. I followed the ringing to the community restroom and noticed his phone was on the window ledge. Mike was nowhere to be found and it would be another two hours before anyone else was expected in the office.

The state of Mike’s office, the smell of chlorine and Mike’s phone being in the bathroom was all suspect. You, Arnold, was the first person I called.

ENJOY YOUR EASTER.


Often life gets in the way of living and we get carried away with the emotional. The beauty is in the living not in the life. Our experiences are the sum total and the after life is irrelevant. That view of life is much disputed, but it is my view. The constant attempt of the religious to guilt us into prescribed behaviors is admirable only in that it has so thoroughly succeeded.

The complaints that will spring from my expression of this opinion is so perfectly conjured, by the religious, as to make even the most noncommittal give credit to those views. The oddity is that the same people who believe in the absolute power of scientific evidence in the care of patients ignore the validity of those rules to justify their beliefs.

As I tell the story I lost my religion in the sixth grade when a teacher seeing I was bored gave me a book about the solar system. Not far into reading about our tiny part of the universe the story of creation as proclaimed by Genesis lost all meaning. As a 9-year-old I was not sure about what I was reading, but the seeds were planted.

Those seeds grew into my love of science and evidence. I will allow you your belief structure as long as you do not attempt to guilt  me into compliance with your view of the universe. I will acknowledge the evidence and your freedom to do otherwise. I am comfortable with the knowledge that I am not in control of the universe. I am comfortable that your religious convictions do not give you any more understanding of the universe.

Religion is about ignoring the uncertainty and providing platitudes to explain the unexplained. I will stand with the evidence and follow it where it leads. I can live with the uncertainty and strive to find the evidence to answer the important questions.  Because I am looking for evidence does not make me any less of a person than you are. It makes me less ideological.

Enjoy your Easter, while I continue to look for the evidence.

FOG


The slow climb of the fog over the hillside was fascinating to watch. Sitting in a rocking chair on a wide veranda was almost comforting. However, I was in a hurry to leave town before I had to make any more decisions. The smell of rot was deep in my lung and the feeling of isolation heightened with every passing minute. The sun tried to rise about the fog but it seems as if the fog had a mind of its own. It was as if it was racing to catch up with the rising sun. There was a race to keep an eternal dawn. I could see the problem but the beauty of the orange sun piercing the white fog was irresistible. I stood there and enjoyed the view for much too long. Enjoying the view distracted me from the facts, I was fired from my own project.

I was so distracted by the beauty before me that I did not hear the low whine of the electric scouter until it was just meters in front of me. I noticed the flash of orange against the thick white of the approaching fog. Her hair was red-orange and floated like streams of diluted red ink in a fast flowing river. Marcia was in a hurry. As she jumped off the scouter and ran into the house she shouted, not quite intelligibly, for me to come into the house. I had never seen her in such a state, so I dutifully followed her. She disappeared into the darkness of the house as I closed the door. She was still shouting and I still could not understand what she was trying to tell me.

As I tried to understand her I heard a high-pitched whistle. I turned and opened the door and notice that the fog had moved with a 100 meters of the house. What was creating the noise was not clear. As I stood there a sharp, small blob hit me on the left cheek and without thinking I slapped my face and crushed the small device. I instantly recognized what I was seeing and her babble became intelligible. It was our creation. It was a cloud of nano-bots. I slammed the door shut and for a second was paralyzed by questions. My back was pressed into the door and my eye fixed on the clock about the archway to the dinner room. The second-hand seemed to be moving in slow motion. I had many questions. Who is controlling them? We had designed the system to be a directed cloud. I did not notice, but I was shouting. I could see Marcia running about but I could not hear what she was saying. I felt my body move but had no control. I was moving without purpose then suddenly there was a loud bang and my brain started to function. I pinched myself and it hurt. This is not a dream. I started to see and hear her. From the clock only about twenty seconds had passed.

Marcia slammed the back door shut and started to spray silicon sealant around the door. My daze lifted and I grabbed the canister Marcia offered me and started sealing the door and windows. We got all the windows and doors and them focused on the few bot units that had gotten into the house. Being apart of a hive brain they were lost outside of the cloud so they were easily destroyed. As Marcia caught her breath she started to tell me that an experiment had gone bad and the nano-bots had escaped. It must have shown on my face, since Marcia tried to comfort me. She knew what I was thinking. We did not design autonomous bots, so who is controlling them?

FOCUS


The gentle shake that awoken me became a loud bang and turned into a cascade of light and sound. I did not feel any pain but my head was spinning and I could see my glasses vibrating to a quarter note beat. The tremor became a staccato as I watched my glasses slide off the desk toward the floor. I did not see it hit the floor because the ringing in my left ear was so distracting. As I cupped my ear I could feel my heartbeat in my head. I could not think, but I was sure I was dreaming.

I tended to have vivid dreams but had gotten really good at directing them into something more pleasant. This time all my attempts at direction fell short without any effect on the trajectory of events. I was supposed to be in the safest city in the world and there was no earthquake threat, so I was confused  as to what I was experiencing. I felt alone with my thoughts, but out my right ear I could hear a faint whine. The whine was unmistakable, it was the sound of a helicopter starting up.

The whine cracked the code. I was in a hotel on the waterfront next to the largest heliport in the city. At anytime there would be thirty to forty aircraft and it sounded as if they were all starting up. The ringing in my ear was deafening and made it hard to concentrate. I just tried to breathe. It seemed as if time stood still, then I found myself on the floor. The ringing in my ear had disappeared, but all around me was a blur. I could not feel my glasses and I felt some relief. I called out and someone answered. It was a nurse and she informed me that I was in the safe house and that my op was a bust. I was disappointed.

 

THE PITCH 5


“Sir, your team may have designed all our gear, and we are thankful, but we are here to complete a successful strike. Lets keep the chatter to a minimum.” I was disappointed with her attitude, but she was right. We had stopped within 5k of the target. This stop was to finalize the plan and get our last rest for the next 24 hours. Because we were so close to the target 2 members of the security team would stay awake while the rest of the team slept. I distributed 2 sets of tablets to all except Kathy and her communications officer, Mary. They got a single tablet.These were may direct contribution to the project and I was proud.
I was just as proud of my Mechanical Engineering degree but my first true love was biologic systems. I completed college with at least 3 degrees but only one was recognized. I did not complain because I needed the money and at a time when jobs were hard to come by I was promised a lifetime appointment with guaranteed college funding for 2 children. It was a great deal for the Consortium since I spent my PhD years working on developing these pills. My true PhD work was in nucleic acid control and I now have a better understanding of the Consortium’s generosity. These pills were the peak of my work and they were not likely ever going to be released to the public. After more than two hundred years since the double helix discovery we were still afraid of nucleic acids.

Sleep came quickly and the wake up just as fast. According to our watches we had been asleep for 2 hours, but it felt as if we just dozed off and had woken right away. The beauty of my work. I was very proud of the effects and quite disturbed at the side effects but most of us would never experience them. Kathy and Mary looked vigilant and were ready to go. We made ourselves ready. At the last-minute Kathy suggested we pray. The security team quickly lined up holding hands while my team looked blankly at them. We were not the religious types. We allowed them to do their bronze age thing. We checked our weapons and Kathy began to give final instructions.
“Mary will be turning on our implants right now. You and you alone will be able to hear your instructions. The controller will guide us in pairs to our target or targets. Once within 1k of the target we will be linked and the entire target map will be accessible to us all.” She fiddled with her gear for a moment.
“Make ready!”
The response was in unison, “Ready!”
“You’ll never run alone. Let’s run.”

For a second I felt as if the world went black, it did not last. Kathy and I started to move as a unit. Although I was nervous I felt a sense of pride because our work had made it out of the lab. The second of blackness was a momentary blackout in the system. It was the time need to reboot our brains and make the network connections. Many years before we had realized that the human brain was a powerful computer limited by low on board RAM. Many great neuroscientists had worked on improving utilization of the on board RAM. This was a losing proposition that set human evolution back for a century. One crazy low-level guy asked the question that needed to be asked. “Why can’t we just put more RAM in?” He answered his own question by inventing a method for installing more RAM into the human brain. He thought it was a great advance but the authorities did not see his vision. He lost all research grants and soon became a liability to his employer and was let go. I still remember that day. But my father was a dreamer and became even more driven to prove that his invention was feasible, reliable and worthy of further investment. He began to work in our garage and when money ran out he began to sell his inventions to support his preoccupation.

I loved him and it seemed that I was the only one in the household that was interested in his work. I would spend all my time with him in the garage. First I would just watch. I was the first person to hear all his new ideas. For months I would just sit and listen. I thought he was the smartest person alive and I still think he was. After months of me just being there he started to talk to me. He had me write equations and soon I was solving them and before I knew it I was coding. I stopped going to school and just took the quarterly assessments as required. I was the top student in the division. I finally got to the point that he thought I was ready to understand his ultimate plan and we started to talk about biologic systems. He called it wet engineering. I was back at the listening stage. I listened and understood most, but concluded that it was impossible. Then he disappear and my life was never the same. Over those years I had become very close to him. I started to believe that we could do anything and we did for a while. I took his loss very hard but instead of lashing out I retreated. I read more and studied less.

It was a little disconcerting to hear your thoughts and feel your body complete actions while simultaneously feeling like an observer. However disconcerting, it was highly effective. All of us were feeling the same emotional abstraction but we were fully aware of the moments. Another pulse, black, reboot and secondary RAM was engaged. We crossed within the 1k perimeter. Kathy and I now acting as a single unit as we crossed into the next phase. We ran at full speed toward the guard post without any attempt at camouflage. We were moving so fast and so accurate that the guards did not have time to respond. It was the same at all other engagement points. It was over within seconds. Kathy was in my head and she in mine. After the last guard post she allowed me access to her intel.
“From now on they will be expecting us.”
“How do you know that.”
“We had someone on the inside.”
“Had?”
“Yes, she is no longer there.”
“Okay, but how will they detect us.”
“They have a very sensitive sensor network.”
“How sensitive?”
“DNA sensitive.”
I should have known that. It was too late, the strike was beyond the abort point. The engagements became more challenging but we were ready and well prepared. For a unit that had never trained together, things were going as well as could be expected. For a moment I wondered how the other teams where doing. I lost focus and Kathy had to reorient me. As she did I felt the burn of a laser weapon on my left shoulder. My bodysuit sprung into action and I could feel the cold of the nano-particles going to work on the repair job. The initial pain was intense, but was gone within seconds. Fortunately the AI would acknowledge pain and start repairs but would not deviate from task. It had only been 5 minutes since we crossed the 1k perimeter and the entire team had made the rendezvous point. All targets had been neutralized and we were all in some stage of repair. The AI was still up and running at max capacity in spite of the less that optimal physical condition of the team.