Corsairs of the Comp-Mini-Arch


© Saul Scudder

Bangkok hotel and school......................................................................................................... 9

About the Comp-Mini-Arch..................................................................................................... 11

Arrival in the San Francisco Mini-Arch.................................................................................. 12

I am away for two days.............................................................................................................. 14

Holo stars anonymous............................................................................................................... 15

We are staying in San Francisco. I have power to burn....................................................... 18

We must all learn to race........................................................................................................... 19

The week as expected................................................................................................................ 20

The other side............................................................................................................................. 21

My morning on the day of the race......................................................................................... 23

The kid same day........................................................................................................................ 23

The race begins........................................................................................................................... 24

The wisdom of fans.................................................................................................................... 26

I keep waking up......................................................................................................................... 27

Repair everything....................................................................................................................... 27

The trail afoot Watson? ??........................................................................................................ 28

Wolfmun...................................................................................................................................... 29

Back in style................................................................................................................................ 30

Don’t step on the grass............................................................................................................. 31

A pause for social critics........................................................................................................... 32

I spot the kid a few points......................................................................................................... 33

My exit with the kid.................................................................................................................... 35

We leave for orbit....................................................................................................................... 38

Orbit.............................................................................................................................................. 39

Bluetide Comp-Mini-Arch. My new problem......................................................................... 40

Arriving and settling in.............................................................................................................. 41

A tour of Bluetide....................................................................................................................... 42

Packages...................................................................................................................................... 44

On route out................................................................................................................................ 45

Further along............................................................................................................................... 46

Battle past Saturn....................................................................................................................... 47

Did we win or did we lose.......................................................................................................... 50

A teenagers place....................................................................................................................... 51

Hunting in the dark..................................................................................................................... 52

Nothing to do but talk................................................................................................................ 55

More talk...................................................................................................................................... 58

A stop in time saves nine flowers............................................................................................ 60

Depth is something.................................................................................................................... 61

A swamp...................................................................................................................................... 62

Our furthest point on a long trip.............................................................................................. 66

New Flyer..................................................................................................................................... 70

Excerpts while returning............................................................................................................ 70

More excerpts.............................................................................................................................. 73



Reflections before the race.

The Cairo Kid was off on his Billy Cycle in the part of Share Wealth town that had a use contract with the raceway. He had belted on his lasers before he left and with a little unusual luck he would stay out of trouble. I now had a few minutes to reflect on the nature of things and make a few NET scramble-calls.

We were renting the top floor of one of the safer hotels in San Francisco. One that I thought engaged the better privacy and security services. They do try to keep the instant gossip video-soloists out and the average duelist is a bit less of a surprise. In most Comp-Mini-Arches our usual philosophy is that the bride and groom are the ones responsible for making sure their wedding night is not broadcast live against their wishes or without royalties in advance. Information is always worth it’s own value and it’s possession is cold cash.

I needed to check up on a few leads involving a lost flyer the kid wanted to find, He was paying me enough. I also had some of my own fish to fry.

After a well deserved auto-shower I linked up to the NET for a while. All things seemed to be going as planed and to my surprise it turned out Kid would be making money from the incident where he shot his tutor and not losing any as I had expected. More about that later.

Well met in Bangkok

I first met the Cairo Kid while visiting Bangkok last April 3rd.  I was drinking in one of Bangkok’s  golden age revival hospitality taverns about two hours before dawn. My bids for the Jukebox’s playtime were going to  have everyone listening to my choices of music for the rest of the night and I was starting to savor the atmosphere. Bangkok Comp-Mini-Arch has tried to recreate what they think is a tourist Mecca from another century. They have recreated a cultural style supposed to be of a gang haven from historical times and as long as all players follow the rules and the scale of things is kept properly minimal they have an environment that makes them money and gives a home to all types that like that sort of environment. The tavern appeared to be built of sawed lumber with wooden mesh screened windows and some kind of  oil lamps. I was siting just to the side of  the dimly lit central room at the end of it’s carved vat-generated wooden bar lined with patched three legged stools. Wooden meshed screens partially hid smaller rooms surrounding the central area. Two spiral stairways climbed from either side of  the main entrance opposite the bar to a balcony and rental rooms above. About half the tables in the side rooms were occupied by customers hidden behind the wooden gratings and clouds of smoke. Some ladies still at work were drinking and dancing with their clients and each other in the bar. Others were sleeping curled up in their slit skirts on chairs in one of the alcoves.

This bar cultivated the revival spirit to extremes and made it more convenient for any obviously gene modified or visibly cybed would be customers to go to Knives another bar across the square. I had been acquainted with Mai Lea who tended the main bar during some of the reconstruction after the Mars war. We were renewing our acquaintance by silently doing our jobs, she polished glassware and I sipped a glass of warm rum. We had both kept note of  each other as the nights events went by and were reacquainting our selves with a deep mutual respect half forgotten since the war.

The most recent event was a lean teenager wearing blue jeans, a  leather jacket and a blue shirt now standing in front of the bar. He was drinking  the local rat piss with a puzzled expression that came over his face when ever he tasted what was in his glass. He’d come inside a few minutes earlier carrying a white plastic backpack which was sitting on the bar. He had selected his drink by pointing at a bottle on the wall behind  Mai Lea. She had taken a dirty bottle down from near the area he pointed to when he slid a gold token from of his pocket onto the counter. Some of the other customers had also become interested and had come over to play.  All sides were conversing in gestures and the teenager had refused offers of smoke and sister with obviously growing irritation. As he turned away from the salesmen they spontaneously decided to run a shoot him and lie later ‘He drew first’ trick. I should mention that recorded data is not usable to prove anything while in Bangkok even with bonded AI encryption and verification. As all three of the salesmen were pulling their lasers I was ducking to the floor. I wasn’t going to interfere. It’s impolite to interrupt even a fatal learning experience and no doubt  bad for the gene pool.

It will always remember loseing the stir stick for my drink as I tried to juggle it, my drink and my own laser pistol while viewing between my hands and over the sawdust on the polished wooden floor the outcome of the fight. Just as the front most gang man laser pistol was clearing his jacket, the still disappointed looking teenager turned around holding a twentieth century antique and dead shot all three of them without a jerk in his motion. He did get a laser hole through his right shoulder and was low key cursing in a language I could not recognize from where he stood. My cyber sensors had told me about the antique gun he was carrying but that was minor.  Maybe I’m insulting an unknown company but I wonder if to the gang members the teenager had been shown as an unarmed man.

As I sat up I raised my glass in salute to his marksmanship. By now sweat was beading on his forehead and he was leaning on the bar and fiddling with his backpack. I found myself becoming more interested when he pulled a gold figurine with gems all over it out of the pack. Very interested when he walked to the center of the room and tossed it onto the floor while glancing around with what I interpreted as a request for paid assistance on his face.

Then I was moving over to the bar, my reaction, because that my occupation and my cybernetics were whispering that the figurine was almost certainly the most expensive small item lying around without concealing shielding in Bangkok tonight. You will note that nothing had detected anything like it until it came out of the plain looking plastic backpack and I should have known about a shielded backpack. Something unusual was up and what I’ve never seen before always needs proper investigation.

While I was on my way across the room I scooped up the statue and made a contract call to my legal AIs. Most of the bar crowd took Mai Lai’s smile in my direction as enough of a  warning but there were two patrons in the bar who were ignorant of it’s meaning, who began to draw and I had to burn them. The teenager stood there staring at the wired-to me laser pistol that had reappeared in my hand. I watched his face as it fell for a moment before he caught himself and laughed. Then he then pressed his hand to his chest some kind of salutation gesture I hadn’t  seen before and indicated that I was to follow him as he walked back to the bar.

My legal call, now live, was telling me that I had a valid implied contract, so I was working. Usually I am a bit more choosy of my jobs.

As I walked to the bar I called a well bonded local rent a guard service with a good reputation and arranged a hasty escorted exit subcontract. The exit was to take place within the next six minutes. If we were lucky and all the nearby organized loose valuable acquisition associations were slow we had a good chance to get out and across town. I was giving myself 60/40 odds of keeping my new gold statue.

By then I was standing at the bar next to a wounded young man who was looking at the rows of bottles on the wall with a strange some how sad and shocked expression in his eyes. He gestured an obvious   “I don’t know what’s any good”.  If he wanted me to pick I wasn’t about to  fault his choice of critics, but  was going to set a NET search or two running to find sources for a late (2 days)  April Fools joke. I have both  friends and enemies who would be entertained any number of jokes that begin with a scenario like tonight’s. Even if it was a joke they could have a lot else hidden in it somewhere and events so far would be only to get me involved. The real answer to jokes is to keep on living.

I told Mei Lai to set down a selection the choicer stuff and began to show them to the kid. He choose two colorfull fruit brandys poped the tops (using the wounded arm?) and after sipping  took up several of the bottles and put them in his backpack. I was adding a run of  heuristic sanity check programs to the his file as I watched it all. Though he some how did choose the best quality from the choices on the bar.

He was also naming things in his unknown language while he had them and looked unhappy until I also named them in Thai. All the translation programs that I had running on the NET using the input from my ears would not identify his language even after I paid for exceptional program access. The sounds that I was hearing did not match any languages commonly spoken in the world and the programs were returning notices on my internal visual input views of  “Access to African revival language data base will produce additional costs. Proceed?” My programming had the messages appearing over an unoccupied part of the bar and my  supervisory program would interpret the visual data I was not seeing from that section of the room. If anything I could not see because of messages occurred all of the visual overwrites would be canceled with an audible warning.

The my subcontractors called indicating their arrival outside and offering a partial refund. They told me that the statue (on my person now) had started a small gang war in nearer parts of the  city outside as word of its presence ran through local Info-NET event filters. I declined their offer because gang wars have been faked before as a tactic by the wiser such groups. I gestured  that we should walk out the door and watched as my employer nods as though it had been his suggestion and seem to say “lead on.”

Bangkok shines at night

We stepped outside into the pre-dawn mists while our rented security company’s four person aircar settled in front of us. The kid tried to look as if he had been expecting it for a moment but gave up and had a “is this more of the same look” for a moment. He was wearing  a “that’s life” expression grinning as we climbed inside. I was hiring false trail laying programs for all NETs while we launched. Then I was leaning back to monitor the chase and arrange a destination for our rapidly updated route. All of us watching both NET and air space for anything coming  too near.

We spent a while loosing our trail and switched vehicles three times. The kid was showing an interest in the city despite being wounded and pointed down to show me a shop that exploded before the NET report showed me where to llook He seemed used to flying but somehow not this kind.

The guard company was offering another minor reduction in their fee since other offers for their services were being requested and some would duplicate what they were doing for me. I told them I would take the reduction under some very specific conditions I wanted.

I began to realize there was nothing at all my sources could find about my new boss from any time before tonight. All NET search programs were returning no information at all. My sensory and cyber-sensory recordings were in use by a lot of programs that would scan external data sets and attempt to match the encrypted copy I had posted with an encryption only key. The bad guys had there own records of the kid from other inputs but my search had other data  I needed to keep private.

The search programs could report matches but not examine my records. I was receiving information on all other parties involved in tonight activities, even if I could not use it in a legal way,  but a world wide identification search was finding nothing on the kid. For what I was paying that should have been impossible. The other thing you might have noticed was that the kid had no NET presence. I seemed to be employed by a teenager with no detectable cybernetic implants at all and complete untraceable bio-modifications including perfect retina full modifications. My eyes have much higher resolution in almost any kind of light than an old fashioned pair and my modifications can magnify with it.

I was beginning to really worry. Some of the bigger corporate powers could have spend a few dozen megacredits for April Fools day. I added about a quarter of the statues worth to the funds pool for programs that I wanted to keep running.

I was calling in favors from as far away as Comp-Mini-Archs on the moon when we pulled into the hotel I selected and arranged to be secured.

Bangkok Hotel, first 54 hours

We climbed out of the aircar onto a balcony of  hotel a couple hours after dawn. The aircar left as I was closing the blinds and re-keying the hotels security during our dash inside. While I was checking all arrangements, the kid poked around the suite keeping up his forced looking bemused attitude. He was happily settling down near  the Holo sets display area after finding one of the sex channels as the reports finished. I wound up starring for at least a minute  before swearing and pointing at his right arm. The one with the cauterized hole through the shoulder. Looking back at me his face went through the expressions “What of it?  You foolish bringer of unpleasant notice of the unchangeable. What can I do to change it?”

You can ignore the things I said as while I was pulling him across the  living area and showing him the autodoc inside the wall cabinet, Thinking he was deeper into shock than I had realized. Perhaps he hadn’t seen the red cross logo. Now he was stiffly looking at it but doing nothing. He just stood there. I gestured to his arm and tried to imply “machine fix arm.”  Then he was him cleverly disguising horror and why me fatalism by putting  his hands on top of the main unit and beginning a wailing chant in his own language.  I had to open the front and show him  “No, You have to get into it.”  Because he wasn’t complying  I began to think that he was deranged. I entertained a about too many experiences with priests of idol worshipping superstitions. This inspired my miming the actions that caused him to resign himself to climbing in. The DOC was anesthetizing him and settling down to injection and glue work  immediately. Then I was getting the console to keep the anesthesia local and it’s client fit to move. After a negotiating a higher insurance addition to it’s bill it grudgingly complied.

I had been considering bailing out because of my suspicions of a false contract  setup. But seeing autodoc readouts showing that the nerves in the teenagers arm had not been cauterized to an off setting but instead were working  so he had been ignoring the pain changed my mind.

Yes,  later I checked a report from an AI I hired to run a sanity check. It complained that it was limited to real time observation data because there were no previous records of the subject. What it did say was that the young male was in a place very new to him as determined by interpretation of  my recorded observations of physical factors such as heartbeat, breathing and pupil dilation. Its interpretation of  his reactions in relation to events since I had become involved in the bar led it to it a tentative diagnosis of very very sane. Trust me to have a sane April Fools joke. I needed to dig a little deeper.

I generally keep only the past few minutes of real time sensory input stored except when I’m working. It’s too expensive for me to always save everything and keep it safe. I had  the entire record since the bar fight started and was keeping  it in safe storage in several places on the NET. Without strong preparation and precaution recordings of any kind can not be judged as factual anymore.  Simulations can be made to be as real no matter what is shown if enough is spent to do make them. I encrypt all permanent data going to outside records in bonded data vaults where it is re-encrypted by the vault AI’s as well. Anyone can generate data and encrypt it. They would have a  harder time portaying  their data as mine. The vaults and I mix encrypted time and data content signatures and a deterministic pseudo-random sequence with each item I send. Both of us are required to decode the signatures and the vault AI’s contract with me has them bonded to never decrypt their part unless specified in advance conditions are. As always reputation is the biggest part of convincing anyone of anything.

After all my years in this occupation, It’s ingrained in my nature to establish, redundant, activate only as needed, paths, safe houses,  disguise and storage, for everything.  I unconsciously plan to know all the roads I might use. I always have certain information my programs look for on the NETs saved and at least two freeze frame excerpts from my cyber-sences stored at random during each one second interval.

While the kid was sleeping blissfully for 18 hours,  Most of the time I was drinking coffee and struggling to get a clear picture of our status on the NET. Long before he woke up I came to believe that we had not been traced to the hotel and would be as least as safe staying as we would risking being spotted while leaving town.

My client was up early the next morning, climbing out of the autodoc and puzzled by his new plastic cast. He  began cycling through the hotel rooms carefully examining everything.  When he over to where I was watching, he pointed to the table and spoke a single word in his own language. When I said “table” he started  touching everything he could see as fast as I could name it. Then he was repeating the names while pointing at the objects a second time. I  found myself  miming actions and  mouthing  phrases like “I am turning on the light.”  My observing AI analyst interjected the comment “eidetic memory” when  he repeated each action and sentence  exactly the way I’d spoken it without accent. He was concealing the fact that this was all new to him so perfectly that I found myself gaining a lot of respect for his skills. Acting while the language lesson continued he managed to learn him how to operate everything in the living area.

That afternoon I was pointing to objects in the holovision display and naming them. My legal watch dog programs had just informed me that I would soon need a witnessed contract with the kid. That was a problem because we were talking in pidgin and would need of a common language for us both and the contract witness. Witness reputations are the glue that binds contracts in society and I until we could both communicate with a witness I had a problem. I’m used to internal automatic translation of whatever I want to understand and while novel the process of actually teaching someone a language was no substitute. So I hired a hired a full linguistic research AI’s attentions over the NET. I should have known, Only a few moments after I transferred the funds and my sound track it took the research AI only a few seconds. All the gods of practical jokers were enjoying my reaction to learning that a reconstruction of ancient Egyptian, with enough vowel and consonants changes to be really unique, was what the kid was speaking. Also the language AI became obstinate, requesting a full copy of  it to be studied under the classifications acting and science fiction. I had to pay extra for an privacy exemption and was swearing to never again ignore a research programs “if something new is found” fine print.

I am researching the dates of any old Egyptian April Fools Day holidays and marking them on my calendar.

Once I knew what language it was I sent out for a  voder, that is an external NET interface of the kind used by children, one that talks, and also arranged  for the services of a real time language program that would translate while learning a new form of ancient Egyptian. Then I had another cup of coffee. The voder arrived at the hotel that evening before supper. I set it on the table and said “Hello”

My client replied “Your amulet has a barbarian accent. Show your name.”, “I am Lodin” I said. He responded with a laugh and a couple of phrases that did not translate before I heard the voder say “ I am Kid”, “Is all secure in the certain areas of your responsibility” My comment was  “It’s as good as it gets.”,  and I asked “Where are you from?” He smiled stiffly and the voder translated his comment as  “Mind your own fields mercenary.” I gave up and told him “We need a witnessed contract if I am to continue helping you” His replied immediately.  “Then we must bargain. I have a deep wish to learn your language.” I told him “Arrangements to learn a language or almost anything else are easily made if you can afford to and want to learn.”  I continued, “What is your real problem?” “I am enough of a mercenary soldier to be amused by your comments but  what I really am is a contract investigator.” Leaning back he beamed. “A finder of lost truths or items, You did say!”  “Some of the fornicating gods will be real after all”, “That is perfectly the wind of agency that I now would seek”,  “My flying ‘car’ has been taken from me and I indeed must find it”,  “I will take ample pleasure in dealing with those elephant shit loving thieves when it is found as is proper”, “What do you require in holy statement marked of my honest employment of your life way?”

I paused stopped by the thought that this was a little hard to take even four days after April Fools Day. I would make sure that what I set up was tightest contract that legal software  had ever been told to write. A simple case of a native speaking Ancient Egyptians stolen car. “Right”, I said.

The voder was saying things like. “Raw fish are to be nice for lunch”,  “Would the winds let me meet some of the women I have seen on the Holo vision” when I came out of my reverie.  “Yes, You can afford it” I showed him how to use the voder to call up the kitchen menus.  While my salid and his order was being delivered I gave more  instructions to my contract software.

While he was eating the four dozen varied, raw and still crawling seafood things. He asked “Lodin, What is your opinion?”  “Should I receive an orgy-party first or should I do training before the pleasure?” I spoke the words “Your the boss”, He said with a cruel smile “Then we are to have a party.” I asked “How much do you wish to spend on this party?”, “Some of the girls on the Holo are a lot more expensive that you may realize.” Kid said “They would not charge enough”, “I have decided to show you another job” “I will pay you beforehand but will tell you what the job Is after you have been paid.”

I answered “Only if you accept the condition that I can refuse the job and return the money if it is something I do not wish to do”. He nodded and opened his backpack so he could hand me a second gem covered gold antique. He stated “Your new job is to convert into native wealth the contents of my pack”. I said “acceptable”.

Kid pulled out dozens of relics like the first two, all different and all now registering hand made possibly ancient Egyptian valuables to my scanners and software. I handled them for a while and did a good analysis. I can get some isotopic composition data from my optic scanning lasers and if they were fake it was not detectable. The archaeological software was able to identify the supposed dynasty, and school of artists from the style used and was willing to speculate on what vanished royal tombs the pieces came from.

I raised the April Fools costs to near 450 million credits and NET called some world class Mini-Arch political and security consultants. I worked for a long time on making my now known job possible. Then I told Kid “An auction had better be held somewhere else but having your party will be all right here, It will be an example of avoiding notice based on the principle if you are hiding throw a party to avoid notice”. Kid seemed puzzled by that. I have a reputation to maintain and if a client wants a party I will do my best.

Later I arranged for the credit values involved to be translated by the language program into terms Kid could understand. He never made a comment. He found out that the hotels equipment like the Holo would respond to his vocal commands if he spoke near my amulet and that he could shop over the Holo’s NET-phone. I was able to talk him out of purchasing a lot of interesting looking things by suggesting how he could do shopping for his party. I got him to sit down and pick out the ladies he could send invitations to. At his own suggestion he was including items he saw in Holo catalogues with the invitations.

I caught up on my sleep after checking the security and ordering other party supplies. Thirteen guests arrived at 11:00 that evening. To my surprise everyone had a good time throughout. Kid was charming when he needed to be. The ladies had contracts that required them to do only what they wanted to do. (That was a bit of enforced proselytization on my part. I wrote the contracts). Of course the ladies from the shows were doing what they wanted to anyway. Kid and I spent the next sixteen hours with thirteen female, almost never dressed Holo, and sensorium porn stars as they did whatever they felt like doing. Lifestyles count for something.

Kid gave one person a small statue before she left and made sure I saw him do it. I talked to her and arranged to help her secure it in her bank without compromising us. The contracts had non-disclosure clauses that were very complete. I was curious and asked the kid why he gave the statue away. He said “I wanted to”, “I may be able to come back here someday”, “She will remember me all of her life anyway so the statue does not matter.” I found an excuse to be elsewhere.

Bangkok hotel and school

In the morning we argued about the contract my legal software had had translation software write in Hieroglyphics and Chinese. Kid was able to read some Hieroglyphics which was interesting but his translation was mostly verbal. I had summoned the witnesses and we all were agreed on the final version by noon. I was responsible for an impartially judged try to find the Kid’s missing aircar. I was also contracted to arrange that the kid knew all he needed to make his own way in the world while protecting him until he did. Kid insisted that a collection of old Egyptian Gods be also listed as witness as well as the heavily bonded contract witness agencies.

Prospective tutors were arriving for their interviews under secrecy contracts that afternoon. I was the one talking during the interviews. Kid and I had agreed that both of us would have to pass a tutor before he or she could be hired. The contract was for a English and Chinese language teacher. I also found a very high ranked martial arts and weapons instructor from one of the Japanese Mini-Archs. He had a world duelists rank  and I would have been stubborn but Kid gave me no argument about hiring him. I also arranged 1000 hours of  time for Kid using a global hyper-search program  that would attempt to answer any questions he asked verbally and use the Holo unit to show him because he was not augmented internally

For a month life passed fairly quickly while I tended to some of my own business as well as Kids. Kid was spending his days obediently (at least after the first day) with his instructors. We were renting all twenty rooms in the Hotel and everyone including the staff stayed inside.

Trill Sivv the martial arts instructor had his own revival ideas of how martial qualities should be installed. They irritated Kid the first time Trill taught. When I came upstairs Kid was shouting “Standing on one leg in silence for an afternoon is madness” Trill sat there smiling. I told Kid “You wanted the instruction and have paid for it so complain after it’s done”. He smiled, then promised me he would do exactly that, then He shut up and followed every strange request to the letter during the rest of the weeks of training.

Durring those weeks. Kid never explained where he was from and I quit asking.

When Kid was not studying I was working with him on the job of finding his aircar. Kid drew sketches of a strange looking not very aerodynamic ellipsoid that he said was the mysterius missing flying craft. I set in process the usual kind of traces to locate it. Kid was able to show me on a Holo supplied aerial map were it had been stolen north-west of Bangkok. After the NET trace began I found reports of sightings of a transparent roundish aircar in several local Mini-Archs nearby. Nothing really usable. Kid told me he had hitched a ride into Bangkok by waving gold coins. The first place he stopped in the arcology was at the bar. Though we could talk now (in a sense) it was a circuitous process to get anything but basic descriptions from him. He would describe the people who stole his car and say he was well acquainted but not drop a word about where they came from. Kid was able to draw some good sketches of the thieves. He gave them the names, Mark Drescirtina, Gredo, and Miroca. He said Mark was evil and smart and that Gredo and Miroca were nearly as good with a sword as the sword tutor. I found no information on anyone matching anywhere.

My programs that reported on his progress showed an intelligence about seven standards above average. He was picking up English and Chinese at a very fast pace even with that kind of advantage. We could communicate the basics in three languages by the end of the month.

Trill Sivv sent me a hand penned letter on rice paper in Japanese saying that Kid was as good as he was going to get with antique weapons and had had considerable martial arts training of an unknown (to the tutor) kind. I had to have the note’s image translated as I don’t read and speak minimal Japanese. Trill also stated that he was switching the training to modern weapons as was considered proper by his fighting style. That was a reason I’d picked him as the martial tutor. I guess I don’t need to tell you what I think of relying on old fashioned weapons. Trill himself was rated as somewhere in the top 0.03 percent by those who rated world class duelists. I was also showing Kid some of my own lessons in the modern stuff by then. I’ve never been publicly ranked.

Three weeks later I was invited to a graduation exercise by another hand lettered Japanese note. I went upstairs at the proper time. Kid was siting to one side wrapped in a robe with multicolored coils of cloth stringers. Trill was proudly watching across the training room. I sat down. Kid smiled at me before the ceremony began. Kid dipped his hands in wooden bowls holding earth, water, fire and rice as he spoke phrases in Japanese. Still chanting, Trill unwrapped each coil while he attached a surprising collection of weapons to the robe. There were tears of pride in Trills eyes he declaimed in English so I would understand that kid was the rarest of students who mastered all lessons as soon as they were shown. Kid was now an unranked master in the ways of Trill’s martial arts form. Kid sat there stonily until the ceremony was finally over and then put on a smile I was beginning to recognize. I looked for a place to duck.

Kid started cursing loudly in Japanese, English, Chinese, Egyptian and Thai, He said “Of course it was an Honor”, “I taught myself Japanese from the Holo-Tutor to show it to you correctly” “Trill Sivv I was told you did not appreciate any other language”. The Kid described the training program in fluently obscene detail translating to English for my benefit and neglecting no details. Trill was beaming. Kid told the still smiling Trill “I have stood on one leg at random times for hours for a month” “I have had to hear your strange explanations and learn the real way of things while pretending your cruelty was teaching me”. “I promised Lodin I would follow your rules so I did”, “I studied to learned the rules of your dueling association”, “So I am going to draw my laser and shoot you now”. Kid did. He drew a laser on Trill Sivv one of the deadliest duelists in the solar system. Trill knew it was a duel in the moment before Kid began to move and tried his best. Kid won. Kid’s laser spat it’s blue beam through Trills torso and spine.

I got Trill downstairs into the autodoc. He was mumbling about certain vengeance and assassins hunts for the sole unworthy student of his teaching career.

Reading the fine print in the teaching contract told me that this would  probably cost in the millions. I told Kid that it was time to leave Bangkok.

About the Comp-Mini-Arch

Kid was still grinning an hour later as we rode a chartered transorbital  to the San Francisco Mini-Arch.

I was reflecting a bit on life in modern times during the flight. I doubt you can blame me. I’ll take the time here to give you the refection you are looking for instead of my own.

The way of things in my the world of 2231. The universal solar system culture that calls itself the Computer-Minimum-Archeology began after the fall of the World State 47 years ago. The World State was a was a bureaucratic horror that ran the world for 162 years until it we removed it. It had eradicated anything at all that was not acceptable to what it’s pyramid of ranks defined as proper. It began when absolute control of all of Terra fell into one groups hands for the first time. A nuclear war in 2029 had destroyed the primitive “Nations”. The World State quickly eradicated any remnant of the former cultures and allowed only its own creations. It is said to have been the last of the resource control empires. In it all were required to know no other skills than required by their assigned tasks. Even the ability to speak was allowed only if it was a specification. Opposition was difficult because a nuclear weapon using total resource control monopoly is very hard to bring down. Only the technological changes that were available at the end finally allowed change. Primarily the portable energy density technology of the magnetic monopole battery was the instigation of the World States fall. The philosophy that was to became that of the Comp-Mini-Arch culture that replaced the World State was a result of a century and a half of thwarted revolution. Our culture is as much anti-control as the World State was structure. I think that anything else was too close to being “kept in your place” by then.

The Comp-Mini-Arch’s main cultural theme is that only if an entire group or an individual wants a rule does it apply to them. Not democracy but unanimity. The chosen rule applies only to those who agree to it. Preventing individuals from living by their own rules is a certain cause for laser-rifle bearing immigration to the affected area on moral grounds. This cultural value is the only “law” in the solar system. There are no Governments. Contracts are the displayed rules.

What constitutes a Mini-Arch is somewhat harder to pin down. It has come to mean any place, location, group or individual where a set of abstract rules may be said to apply. Sometimes it’s obvious. I am a one person Mini-Arch with many contract agreements. The Kansas Christian towns or the Irish gene mod farms are large area covering examples. A building with an IBM logo is almost certainly controlled by the IBM Mini-Arch. It would probably be risky to pretend to be part of IBM if you were not. Except for previous contracts IBM Mini-Arch would have no rules preventing them from solving a problem. The Solar system is now the product of the evolution of too many independent and fluid societies to be judged by anything but evolution itself. There are no borders or nations just sometimes complicated agreements. What seems to have won are the better things in life.

The key phrases to describe society that I’d use are “Universal Access to Education”, “Energy Density” and “Death before a moment of Slavery”. Many Mini-Archs make a good return from judging and enforcing contracts and a fair agreement by both parties is a binding rule.

Obviously millions of Mini-Archs exist. I could give you many examples. One is the groups who felt that their calling by nature was to bring back the rain forests in the cities. They planted gene mod food plants that were designed to do well in your typical city. Those Comp-Mini-Archs have created a few hundred million new species of life to make things interesting. It seems to supporters of random life form modification that nature decided to trade 2 or 3 billion randomly evolved species that civilization killed off in the last few thousand years for the eventual gain of trillions of new species that it would have taken random genetic change a Tera-year or two to create. By now there is nowhere on the planet were I can’t find a surplus of food growing wild. It may be because bearing food for humans is a survival trait for other life in a human world.

I claim that there are others who share our world by now besides mankind and computer AI’s. You would have to go to some very isolated places to find creatures like the Dragons. I and all those who know where they are paying a yearly amount to keep the location deeply hidden in the NET. Selfish of us.

To us it’s been proven to be more stable to make good mutually profitable contracts than anything else. I don’t pay taxes but make a large variety of contracted payments. There are always fair exit clauses in contracts for those who’s luck is bad. I’ve solved a few fraud cases involving bad contracts in my time.

Arrival in the San Francisco Mini-Arch

We are gliding down to San Francisco bay by this point. I guess I’d better get on the story. I admit though that I would have taken a much more subtle approach than Kid did in the tutor incident, Trill had it coming.

We sneaked into town through hidden routes under the bay. Their use was purchased through the NET and by using favors owed to me.

No one from even fifty years ago could recognize the neighborhood. There are no streets or wires anymore. The air is filed with a few hundred thousand flying aircars. There are no rectangular blocks just a million different structures of any shape or color in every place a contract to build was in a builders clutches. There are no zoning laws or right of way restrictions. If someone wants to make a little from a route across his contracted property, He leases an auto-router sense interface to the NET that deducts the appropriate amount from ground transportation vehicle toll paying funds. The bidding and choice of routes is a constant NET transaction event done in real time as vehicles move.

Somebody once cornered the transportation market over a square mile or two and was siting pretty for about two weeks until bought out by the bicycle union. There are buildings out on and inside the bay and floating in the air. All with statistically similar contracts. I remember the hurry to add free sunshine rights to almost all contracts in the area when one of the Asian Mini-Archs threatened to put themselves inside a helium supported 10 mile diameter sphere and move in.

We came into town through three elements, Air, Water and, Earth by a very circuitous route. The kid seemed to be enjoying himself but was startled once when some gene mod orbital workers went by in the Pacific access tunnel near the Fill_Me Corps port building.

When we arrived at our newly leased hotel floor I was feeling better. I went to work setting up the auction and took care of some other business of my own.

Kid said he was supposed to study and went to sit with the Holo tutor. He seems to be about sixteen. I got a report back on the cell sample I dropped off on the way to the hotel that says 16 would be the correct age but that his genetic structure though Mediterranean has a lot of previously unknown constructions. This time I had checked the fine print first and could say no to the ‘we want it bid’ at no extra cost.

I set up ways to deal with Trill the insulted tutor if needed and started some new elements in my world wide search for the aircar. Why Kid or anyone else would want the battered, non-aerodynamic, old air truck  Kid had described I could not imagine. He also told me it was slow. He described it as an ellipsoid with a transparent plastic shell. Kid could buy a hundred fancy aircars any day with his money. I assumed it was really the job of locating the thieves I was doing and as I had a list of sightings by now I was optimistic. The thieves were stupidly still in flying around in the tub. I also had some unusual ideas by then but if you’d asked I would have said I’m just doing my job.

The kid stayed pretty much in his own room for the next three days. I saw him at meals and when he asked directions to the workout area. Finally he wandered out sat down by me and said “I want a disguise”, I said “Okay”, “Tell me why”. He said “I could go out without being recognized”. I told him “You’re not listed in the NET at all”, “I think that a simple facial modification plus a good new NET-ID would work”. I thought that Kid was showing a very fast acquisition of an appreciation of his own needs. I later learned he was only showing his training. Kid got up to go back in his room saying “Set it up”. I added a deep ID generation to the ongoing work and called a bio-mechanic of my acquaintance who told me he’d come over later.

The Doc wound up talking with Kid for quite a while after he arrived. Kid had never seen the gene injectors catalogs of changes and was playing with what he could do to his own image on the Holo. He bought a couple hundred self injection kits from Doc for later use and took them to his room. Since it was learned that some genes affecting appearance can be added as quick new growth when a package is cell injected and that undoing the change is often just another cell injection, there has been a thriving business in Dracula teeth, Elven ears and such. The technique has limits produced by nature, most genes are so deeply intertwined that multi-point changes would be required and could be tricky to perform. Only changes with all elements known can be done that easily.

For example the entire group of possible retinal mods and genetic structure changes currently possible is linked to every banking AI’s view of your account. Remind me to tell you about the Alps Bank clone twin’s job I did some day. Kid would be about a week on a high protean diet before the changes would have grown. Then he could go outside on his own.

We both went back to work. I had two more sightings of the aircar by now, One was from over the western pacific and the other was from Antarctica though it scanned like a report of a smaller but identical vehicle. Kid swore that it was almost certainly his anyway and went back into his room. He was doing some strange shopping on the NET using Holo’d catalogs and had begun watching several of the soap operas so I could ignore his being a little obtuse and do my job. At least he was not involved in the participatory shows.

By the end of the week I was no closer to solving the case of the fat flyer. I had new reports linked with the outright disappearance of an underwater  fishing town in that part of the Pacific. I had put a fair NET auction for gold figurines together and it’s progress was good. I was spending a large part of my days keeping in practice as my skills were slipping in my always active imagination anyway. No word from Trill in Japan.

Nobody would have recognized the kids new mixture of facial traits with a normal search through the constant holo records kept in any part of the outside world. He was going to go out there. Not with me. Previous contracts were calling so I had other things to do now. The kid is not my only account and conclusions of other jobs had been coming together elsewhere so I had to be elsewhere for a while. I had arranged that Kid would have the best non-visible security team money could buy surrounding him. He would be as safe as anyone out on the town can be. I told him “I’ll see you in a couple of days. Use the Voder to call me on the NET and I’ll answer as quick as I can”. I set up supervision to inform me automatically if he touched his accounts in a way that my contract with him would require intervention by me and then made tracks.

I am away for two days.

I was in the eastern Sierra Nevada’s by dark and spent the night with old friends. For the next twenty-four I did without sleep as I explored some places that used to be desert that I don’t ever want to go back to. Robot carved no-support-beam salt mines anyone?

I came straight back to San Francisco. Not having had an emergency call and busy with my other job, this was my first chance to catch up on Kid’s activities. I was looking through the report on his movements. He apparently had had a very good time. I’d thought I was tired. The highlights are as follows.

Kid went insta-gill spear fishing in a bay containment.

Then won 41 pain-gun practice duels in a row with other teenagers. The best consecutive series worldwide in four years. A record.

Kid bought a teenagers toy, a Billy Cycle. The auto gyro all terrain Micro-AI speedster. He had it delivered to the hotel.

Kid met a Real Life moderately Famous Participation Soap Star and they did it all in some of the Soapiest places in the city.

He had 5431 pieces of fan mail on the NET. 21 hand delivered invitations and a personally hand delivered letter written in Hieroglyphics from the Soap star Herself.

Five long term contract offers from her company and four others had been received.

He had gone across others contract land when he wanted 102 times refusing to pay the local passage fees when his walkchip told him what they were. Unknown to him costing him horrible increases in the security fees by contract for misadventure.

His guards were mostly ok, though Kid would have be paying for the repair of a security persons broken arm.

The security person said she was proud to pay it herself she got caught in a brawl Kid started with some deep-sea Mini-Arch tourists one of whom hit his walrus look-alike girl friend in front of the kid.

Kid was challenged to a race by the local Billy Cycle champion and accepted. Bets are to be posted starting today.

By the first afternoon Kid could be always watched on Holo and he was constantly followed by the independent producers holo cameras. The independents were bought off painfully that evening when he took up with the soap star. Her Network’s goon squads don’t waste anything. He was still a new sensation Holo target with bidding on the NET for footage of any kind.

I learned that Kid lost about 300,000 credits on his athletics with the Soap Star, given the shows ratings index that night and as he did not have a Network show contract, She did, She made 300,000 credits for her half of the performance. He was on the Holo NETwork free.

I began to smile. I giggled. I held my head in my hands.

Holo stars anonymous.

This was the end of low cost security. I could see it coming, Kid, instant celebrity, his battles with Ninja assassins, His duels over apricot brandy, His visits to the grave of his former employee killed by New Hollywood muscle while trying to prevent his protégé from signing a Holo Network contract. I might even be in default of my contract with Kid. I was supposed to be giving him an education in how to handle this world.

Putting my need for sleep away I walked over and knocked on Kid’s door. After a few minutes standing outside, I saw some smoke coming from the door’s near un-burnable upper edge. I passkey my way inside. Kid was lying on the edge of the bed holding the laser he’d been shooting at the door. He groaned and dropped the laser. I brightly asked if he had had a good time while I was away. He groaned again. I kept up the conversation for the next couple of minutes. The only intelligible sound Kid made was the word poison. When listening to the groans was no longer entertaining. I went to his wall delivery and ordered an insta-sober pill and some orange juice. I walked back, gave him the both and said drink it quick or I’ll stay in here. He drank. I waited the required two minutes and asked him how he felt. He said “bad”. I said it’s just your mouth saying that you fell better now. He opened an eye and looked out once or twice and said “Better”.

I said “We have to talk”, “Meet me out in the main room”. He said “I will”. When Kid came out of his room I told him “I hoped you would quietly explore the city and not attract unwelcome attention”, I said “An hour of the time you spent with your soap star was the same as your NET worth”. “How am I  supposed to hide the search from your enemies and find your flyer now that you are famous”. I proceeded to explain about the ways the New Hollywood NETworks had about protecting their claims on their staked and contracted Holo territory. I told him how expensive it would be to even walk down to the lobby now. I spoke about the sport of Billy Cycle racing. I showed him how quickly his funds would dry up if a Giga-NETwork wanted him on holo even against his wishes. We were near the Holo display. I looked over at the unit and said “Kid read your mail”.

He did. It’s nice that the NET lets the Holo clippings of a fan be included in their multimedia mailings along with any other random sensory data they want to include. He began to find text and voice comments of the you should have done it like this type, mixed with stills of himself and the soap star while having sex in her aircar. After about ten of those he groaned. No hangover excuse. He began to swear while viewing number 31. On number 43 he asked me “Can I quit?”

I said “It’s your mail”, “Your fans”, He kept on. After number 90 he learned how to start skimming the rest. I waited till he passed number 2053 and asked “Do I make sense yet?” He answered “Yes”. He was getting the idea.” I said “ok”, “One more lesson” “I need another gold statue in payment first” He wondered “why?” My response was “I’ll tell you afterwards.” He went into his room to get it out of the backpack and then gave it over. I said “Giving me the statue is the lesson but I have a lot to show you”.

I suggested he view the contract offers that arrived and tell me about them. Kid scanned them and told me he didn’t know what they meant. I spent some time showing him how to have a legal program tell him what the contracts meant in terms he could understand. I showed him that one of my analysis programs tuned to him could make sure it was in terms he would understand.

An hour later he was explaining to me that one company wanted to make him a household servant for life with all moneys he got from anyone theirs if he refused any duels when they wanted him to duel. Company two was interested in his being available as an escort at varied events and had the power to get any money they gave him back by asking. The others were more of the same.

I almost was feeling a little better. I gave him the invitations and the papyrus.

The hieroglyphic letter promised the Soap Stars Undying Love and asked him to meet her sky suiting next week and said she’d be watching his race this weekend. The invitations he set aside.

So then I taught him how to have the NET sort his fan mail into categories like threats, sex, marriage, invitations to duels etc. How to do an information search on his invitations and how to setup cause and reason analysis programs that explained so he understood what the reasons were. How he could access our own security screen, That one we were paying more for than last week because of penalty clauses. I showed him that some of his own subcontractors were working at a loss now because of the outside interest in his antics even as we sat there. I showed him how many of them had insurance against disastrous contracts written with their good faith. I let him learn who his Soap Star was. I showed that there was so much data on her that her entire life was on Holo. From her bathroom antics every morning to her dreams at night you could watch but never tell the truth from the mountains of fiction. I described some other exceptions to the usual in both life and contract. I put it that in the case of those marked as exceptional, the rules of this life were that all rules had exceptions.

I marked down a list of books for kid to access.

I wanted to know what he thought we should do now and mentioned the huge cost of disappearing and continuing his search from hiding. Also a lot about the risks of staying in the hotel and ignoring the change in lifestyle. I asked Kid what he knew about Billy Cycle racing and the betting and dueling industries.

He grinned and said “I heard some friends say they rode them all the time so I wanted to try it”. I said “A lot of younger folks do it for fun but when betting or races are involved it stops being a game”.

I told him that he could afford a little time to think and that I would need to know what he decided after supper.

My checking the NET in a few minutes found a fifth Holo tunnel worm bot had been caught trying to chew a way into the hotel. Someone had put out a rumor that the kid was associated with an auction in Bangkok. Just life in the big city.

We are staying in San Francisco. I have power to burn.

The kid’s decision was that we would be staying in the hotel. Also that I should show him how to write a Holo contract for what he wanted seen only. He was going to practice Billy Cycle racing all week under heavy security. He would wager against the champion but would put up bets on the NET against himself to cover. We can try it.

Before I describe sitting there drinking coffee and setting up the beginning’s of impossible holo contacts on the NET, arranging special racing security for the week and placing a lot of cheap bets. I think I’ll show you the reason for the third pair of words in my previous description of the Comp-Mini-Arch. In this case the words “Energy Density”. I mean magnetic monopole batteries.

If you have two magnetic bottles filled with north and south magnetic monopoles. Then put them in a computer chip controlled box and power the superconductor magnets and whatever device that you connect on the outside from direct electromagnetic conversion of the annihilation reaction between the north and south monopoles. If your circuitry has room temperature superconductor leads and comes from the battery at exactly the voltage and amperage that your power hungry device tells the battery’s chip to send it. The you have the beginnings of the idea.

An ‘A’ size battery the size of my hand will power a small ground vehicle across Australia on one charge. It would also make a 100 watt light bulb glow for 1243 days. Three ‘b’ size batteries will set up a standard pulse laser rifle for 300 shots at 300 meters in light fog with the designed in certainty of vaporizing instantly 3 kilograms of water if it was on the far end of the pulse.

A ‘b’ holds 5 times an ‘A’s power and is a fraction over 3 times as large. A ‘C’ has 5 ‘B’s or 25 ‘A’s power and the size of 11 ‘A’s about the size of a two inch thick old antique paper book. ‘C’ ‘D’ and ‘E’ batteries power flyers buildings and industrial sites. An ‘E’ battery holds for example over 2 billion watt hours of power and is the size of 171 ‘A’s that is between a tenth and a fifth of a cubic meter. An old fashioned 100 megawatt fusion reactors puts out what comes from an ‘E’ battery for twenty hours. ‘F’ and ‘G’ batteries have been made.

The way they are built all batteries have a very small amount of magnetic monopoles inside them. The ‘E’ size has about two grams. Their manufacture is probably the most famous trade secret in the Comp-Mini-Arch. PWRAVAD CMG (Power-Availability Device Comp-Mini-Group) makes them and gimmicks the processors inside so that you have to pay more to buy a battery that will release an unusually large amount of power quickly. They all are all designed to scatter their south monopoles unused in advance if the battery itself thinks it’s in danger of breaking. Many other groups have tried to find the PWRAVAD’s secret of gathering and taming monopoles but so for no one else has found it. The batteries themselves are expert system decision programmed in monopole secret hiding. They are also the safest power source ever used and the cheapest power that has ever been marketed. An ‘A’ battery costs much less than a credit.

Gone are the primitive wires of the last two centuries buildings and cities. Almost all lamps, transportation and dwelling microwave ovens run on their own personal battery. The personal flyer uses its batteries to bring air to near plasma temperatures in shielded ceramic burn tubes without fuel of any kind. The sport of jet suit flying does the same thing but its batteries, computer and burn tubes are in the backpack of an only for experts suit that gains or loses rigidity in a constant war between the driver and the backpack computer.

The kid’s Billy cycle uses 5 ‘C’ batteries. Some of you are getting the idea by now. A Billy Cycle is a sadistically overpowered two wheeled vehicle with built in gyros to make it stay upright and on its programmed path until a serious mistake is made. The NET-AI they are linked into, you guessed it named “Billy”, is limited by the controls on each cycle to only overriding the drivers actions if asked constantly and nicely.

We must all learn to race.

So the next morning I went down to the hotel garage with Kid and introduced him to his chauffeur, trainer and technical squad. I said they will take you to a practice field and to the race track this afternoon. The boarded a truck flyer with the Billy Cycle and took off. I went back upstairs to order up a few special items I wanted made.

The first reports from the betting side of the sports world were in and showed that while several groups were interested in playing games nothing definite could be found to be in the works yet. I had been forming a research corporation with two AI’s as the main players to run something of a Holo contract with the kid. It was to be a research group working in AI linked Holo camera tricks with previous deviously linked contracts sharing the results with all of the New Hollywood NETs under a dozen different names in layered relationships that could be used to cause some conflict in their decision processes. It was also very strongly linked to some of my bet fixing security.

While a Billy Cycle can go almost anywhere, the race will be held on a well known tangled bunch of three meter wide metal ribbons that a recreation Mini-Arch set up to add focus to the sport. It runs across the city and the bay through various Mini-Archs on the far side, clips Share-Wealth and then goes north to the recreation Mini-Archs own set of structures. The metal ribbons each have no railings, no preference for a particular height above the ground or relationship to any other ribbon, are banked at random angles and without logic, have multiple horizontal and vertical loops where a lot centrifugal force is needed at random points and require near perfect control of your speed, current gyroscopic behavior, riding and communications to survive. For no reason whatsoever commands to other riders nearby cycles can be sent across through the NET if “Billy” finds them safe. Of course when they are mixed with the commands of a cycle’s own rider and the individually safe commands of third and fourth parties the result is any body’s guess. All drivers are giving simultaneous orders to all nearby cycles while attempting to win a race in a non-intuitive inertial hell. Its supporters say such features as making the “Billy” AI irrational, unreasonable and difficult to talk to are to make the sport more of a simulation of real life. Everyone wants someone to blame. Right?

I’d never think of preventing anyone from his own gourmet choice of a place to enjoy a 500 meter 400kph parabolic landing. Kid have might have a hard lesson coming and I hoped he was not going to take it to badly. I was arranging the best medical coverage I could and had also arranged for a lot of special equipment.

If I could not keep up with this fast paced life of ours I deserved an early retirement.

Until evening I worked to further current contracts and had supper with an old friend of mine who could help.

Kid came back with bruises saying that he liked riding a Billy Cycle. He’d been out in the country and been shown the track. His trainers had him put on a helmet and showed him how to talk to “Billy”. He said that he knew “Billy” was glad to meet him and that the cycle goes wherever you point it. That it would climb hills, jump over clefts and would do the same thing leaning on its side but not falling over like a top. That you could make it do tricks like a tube spin while jumping. That it was fast. That it needed new tires a lot. He forgot to put on his belt harness after lunch and got some bruises. That his trainers said he had what it takes.

That was the way all of his conversation went. You think it’s a joke. Ha. I bet you never wanted a 3600 horsepower omnivorous toy when you were sixteen.

I was feeling better. I’d had a good day. The kid had his bruises. I guess that are close enough to the present moment that I can describe the rest of the events from there.

The week as expected.

During the last week we have gone to one party.  Kid has been practicing every day. The contracted AI tentacled Holo camera robots have been with him outside for the last two days. He has received 57000 new fan letters and the real story is to much for words. His trainers claim that he still can’t seem to understand that the cycle is not a hyperactive camel but his relationship with “Billy” is the best anybody has ever had. They are placing bets on him. Why Kid has a good “Billy” escapes them completely. I know why. “Billy” likes giving me a headache.

As for the other groups involved in the race. The varied betting factions and his opponents team have sent him gift wrapped drugs, poison, tickets to Mars, food, invitations, threats, and nude screaming fans of both genders containing all of the above. The number of known accidents already set up to be possibly triggered during the race was 301 as of an hour ago. Planning a safe path and avoiding all but the defused traps is still possible but the task of arranging it is getting expensive. The tries before the race involved Kids second duel. Yes I said second. I’ll tell you about all three duels in a bit. He has a tentative duelists rating now of up and coming and shrugs it off as “I couldn’t avoid it”.

I know of at least 14 separate orders from branches of the Giga-NETworks to the their troops with about a dozen responses each that the programs estimate as just as likely. That is not counting the further totally unpredictable autonomous decisions from local human directors. It happened that the 1st duelist was sent by  a stage background setup union holding a contact with one of the Giga-NETworks the day before yesterday because I suppose the robot Holo Cameras were going to be sweeping floors next. They sent a very low ranked duelist. Who somehow managed to be that at days practice site. The duelist formally challenged the kid who drew out his lasers and shot him as when finished talking. The kid is correct you do not have to be polite and arrange for revival insurance and set a formal time, location and date. That was the duelists plan especially when asking under the Holo camera. When he learned kid paid for a the duelists revival. Saying that guy won’t plan to try and shoot me again and it’s my money. Since his ratings went up for the silly gesture he made money anyway.

The second duel was with a member of the champions team who at the section of the race ribbon set aside for the days trial runs told the kid that as had never raced. A simple action would eliminate an amateurs cheap stunt. That was the one who said “I am dueling you now” was shot by the kid before he had his laser activated. I can’t find a sponsor for the third who stepped out about thirty seconds after the second duel shouting draw Kid. The kid won again but it was a lot harder that time. The second duelist was rated just fair to middling but the third was rated very good. They both did have no fault revival insurance. Something that bothered the kid until I reminded him that if he wished to avoid revival he should aim between their eyes.

If dueling, greedy gamblers and Media Moguls were our only problems. I would be happy. It gets incredibly worse. I’ve got a lot riding on this one now.

The other side.

Earlier this week I was able to trace a trail of may have been fat flyer sightings and unusual disappearances from the western pacific on a great circle route here. A gossip report of a warehouse rental made for an unusual flyer was something I was able to connect with the sale of one of the items from the pacific disappearances. To be exact a small speedboat and fittings. That let me set up a contract with most of the Mini-Archs interested in the disappearances and stage a raid. When my subcontract raiders and I went in a group of unknown origin set up a stiff resistance leaving no survivors. Those from that group including some former warehouse employees who tried to surrender  were killed permanently by expert system slave collars they were wearing. While some of the corpses could be identified as the pacific villigers who had vanished most of them had no NET records. There was no flyer inside. Besides inspiring a rather large reaction from all of the Comp-Mini-Archs parties involved and gaining me some notoriety I do not need anymore plus mostly useless promises of free assistance it seemed a dead end.

I was able to guess though from spilled but labeled packing material we found that a local transport company had been hired to move a large container under high security from the site a couple of hours before the raid. I showed that company management the Holo of the raid itself and was given another location. Six company employees now found in slave collars there produced a box within a crate among a bunch of corpses who had not known what the collars were. The box set off at least a hundred scattered city alarms when I defused and opened it elsewhere and has at least a hundred world class teams looking for it in town now. It was made out of the plastic like the kid’s backpack and I’m saying it’s in a salt mine in Nevada.

It would only have been a couple of hundred kilotons of old fashioned nuclear explosive but enough to cause hard feelings I’m sure. The detector proof plastics existence is on my top secret list now and will probably stay there for a while. The kid took a look at the items found and said it was Mark Desicrina’s work and then shut up. I haven’t told him about the nuclear device because I can’t make up my mind to tell him about it.

Somebody wants to get Kid at any cost and my contract with him refuses to let me set him up for a quick drug and tell all he knows session. So until he talks a bit more or I solve the case without, I’m on my own.

San Francisco is according to unfounded gossip the place to be this week and as the tourists and Soap Stars trickle in the place to be seen is at one of the kid’s practice runs on the ribbon.

The Holo camera robots that I have out exploring odd parts of the raceway at unusual hours have been noticed.

The party was where I wanted the kid to show one of his antique figurines to some of the other guests. The sort that have to handle an item to believe what the NET tells them. The only problem we had there was a bet of the Kids that he could eat all the raw sea food they could put on his plate in one sitting and his resulting stomachs pains after eating most of the living raw pet octopus put there by the guests who accepted his bet. I thought there would be trouble from the pets owner but she was had been raising it for a restaurant for only a couple of months and was in on the bet.

Anyway I am going to get some sleep now, tomorrow is the race and I know my warning programs will wake me up if there is any need before the six hour pre-race preparation time I have scheduled. The race starts at 9:00 am I’ve got to be up at 3:00 and its about 7:30 in the evening now. The kid will be back in an hour or so but I don’t need to say anything to him before leaves for the race.

My morning on the day of the race.

I am awake again now and preparing for my exit from the hotel. The very expensive Military strategy AI’s I have handling my briefing perceptions aren’t to obnoxious yet but the split screen inner eye Holo scenery is making the hotel stairs a little hard to see. I have a couple of their robot units with me to help lay a false trail as I am whisked to my planed command center. The emplacements on the hills above Share-Wealth are on line and the stuff in the bay also.

About 50 real and NET only doubles of me are in at least 50 places right now and all feeling better than I am. I am being put into a metal package delivery capsule with an anti-G gel that has to fill into my lungs and other body cavities. I left the stairs at a sub basement to be packed and will be sent as an express delivery to destination over a magnetic tube way not designed for fragile items. The recreation Mini-Arch will announce in a couple of hours the route sections of particular ribbons that are to be today’s racecourse, That is the parts that are reserved for tag-along riders and the parts that “Billy” can make raceway or not as he chooses. Until then I must use my best guess to determine what sections with rigged accidents need to be defused and where the Giga-NETworks and flying audience platforms will be during the race. The kid’s contracted pseudo-Network AI’s are acting suspicious of me because they don’t have a report on the warehouse raid from me and the entire team I’m using rates way out of their league.

I’ll be unconscious for a couple of minutes when this tube sends me  and will continue with the narrative on the other end. I always look forward to 35g takeoffs.

I’m conscious now, seem to have arrived. The various medical things are pumping me out and fixing a few parts that I broke. I plan to just lay here. I can see the NET info anyway and my team will only let me perceive other things if I need to. I am actuality physically aboard a combat flyer at the bottom end of a rather deep launch-way on the north end of the Golden-Gate Mini-Arch. We have a minute old NET Holo from yesterday of the small flyer the kid also claimed he owned. It was on the ground in a residential area. It is long gone but means they are still with us. The fliers anti-detection gear is obviously in the same class as the kids backpack. By contract the military AI’s can use that info to plan their own actions but can’t spread it around. Sending invitations to a rather classy after race victory party has removed most of the duelist problems from the time period before the race. Even though the parts of the ribbon that are raceway aren’t known yet the Giga-NETworks are playing a multilevel biding war and buying contracts left and right for leverage to try for exclusive rights to some sections. The AI’s running  Kids camera robots are out classed again badly but are holding their own against the Networks. Though they can’t rent any more camera robots the Networks are having a very hard time dislodging the AI cameras rights of entry and filming in many of the local Mini-Archs. I hope Kids new Holo company can keep its cover until the race starts. They are moving in some of their other robots and it would be sad to spoil their payoff.

The kid same day.

The kid is awake and listening to the note I left on the NET in the hotel. He gets dressed and follows the instructions on how to put on his new impact armor. I watch his progress downstairs a window as though I was there. He is leaving the hotel and though most of the planed exits are spoiled, one of the staged fan gatherings in the lobby will see their hero walk through. I watch him walk till he reaches the garage and meets his racing team. He is escorted by guards and the Holo camera robots. This is where I keep my promise and say hello. Speaking from a robot that looks like the others do. I ask him how he feels and stage a pre race interview. He gets into the arranged transportation and they leave for the race course. Here we have at least seven other vehicles sponsored by the betting camps that must think they have met Kids inside a radius of 400 meters from the garage. Arranging those cars false meetings with cars that look like Kids in my edited interview transmission and with each other for all seven was a small test of the mornings preparations. At least they get to have fun before the race even starts. The kid in his rather armored and disguised by holo real vehicle is on his way to the course. The copies of his “Billy” cycle scattered in a number of transiting vehicles and already at the race course are adding new records of contract violation to the careers of whom ever they contact as the opposing attempt access.

We have an attempt to subvert the auto route bidding software all over the pay for passage NETs. It appears to be an attempt by some of the Giga-NETworks to add dramatic interest by causing Kids late arrival. The New Hollywood NETwork Mini-Archs have a deserved reputation of doing whatever they want because they can usually pay all mouths into smiles afterwards. Also biding is bidding. One of the Networks is known as a black sheep in these matters solely because it wants to keep up that kind of reputation, so it was opposing the others. My team is finding that so much action made it a lot easier to control movements and arrange surprises for the poor gambling crews. They were so hopelessly outclassed in the current arena that they deserved a sympathy role in the documentary. I by contract with some of the folks on our side had to arrange a set of encounters under controlled circumstance for them for just that purpuse and that was eating up time I would have preferred to use on other things.

The kid after a the few hundred course changes and circling arrived at the race starting line 43 seconds late. It irritated me that the black sheep Giga-NETwork was showing a pre-hotel-departure filed prediction of exactly that time delay until my more military team told me that it was our plan not the Networks. Kid was challenged to a duel by one of the race officials while the speeches were still going on but Kid punched him before he could draw and said “I’ve got to race”. The kid walked over to the starting line and I triggered the rise of the exact copy of his “Billy” cycle from the ribbon itself surrounded by walls of sensing plastic that would become an aligned metal flake mirror given a breath from a laser. It was another four minutes until his opponents cycle drew up to the total chagrin of the Black Sheep Network who had expected no such delay. I had hidden 15 copies of  Kid’s “Billy” cycle in the most likely places for starting lines about 4 days ago.

The race begins.

Their off. The takeoff on a “Billy” cycle is really a controlled by tire survival not acceleration. The tires are pretty tough though and they both are leaving long tire sized groves for the first 12 feet or so in the metal ribbon and a cloud of flaming metal sparks that shoot for fifty feet behind them. Kid  using his own choice from the selection of metal ribbons considered raceway was a few seconds in the lead. They have his Soap Star commenting on the race after a few seconds so I guess taking the lead was enough to inspire someone at her Giga-NETwork. My AI teams is commenting “more likely the pathos of new love extinguished fast”,  you know the military mind. They have begun veering through the intersections curves and climbs above the city in a few moments.  The usual clouds of sparks marking sudden changes of momentum sparking every few hundred meters.

My military AI’s new report is that Kid was doing better with “Billy” than they could  and they pointedly state it introduces another unknown factor. My comment is “Kid is lucky”. His driving is horrible regardless and with all the best from “Billy” he was 2 seconds behind just pass the quarter race mark. At barely subsonic speeds they are both entering parallel mid-bay straightway and have a crossing where they meet ahead. Before then the Giga-NETworks unleash their next surprise. In moments a few hundred of the NETwork trucks have released an instant fog bank that covers the end of the straightway. The champion is cursing and slows down enough for Kid to get in range. They are weaving along at just 240 KPH as they enter it sending a barrage of contradictory commands to their cycles. My NET reports that the NETwork with the anti-Weather Holo cameras was going to clean up and all others including Kid’s camera team were out of luck. At this point Kid deliberately angles onto exactly same ribbon the champion was riding on. A tactic known as “splitting”. They do give and take alongside in a long set of horizontal loops around a bunch of rising observation ramp ribbons still in wisps of fog to the vast pleasure of the audience as the bad news starts coming in.

The kids Holo contract AI’s now tell me  they will have to withdraw all Holo efforts except for what had already been set up for today. They can, part of their participation was voluntary and they say they have just received financial tugs from The Giga-Networks that would conflict with their prime contracts. The truth is their cover has been blown now and the sting operation I set up with two of the insurance Mini-Archs recovery and prevention AI’s was in danger of having it’s security areas access contracts and its evidence Holo rights made suddenly too expensive.

They were glad they had the chance to tidy up a bunch of cases and felt good about everything but the jig was up. Kid’s phony Holo contract was up at dawn and the Giga-NETworks and independents knew it. More bad news was that the kid was approaching a point in the race where we felt there was about a forty percent chance he would pick a metal raceway ribbon with an undetected bit of sabotage on it and that the challenger was proposing a duel on the spot.

Kid responds in his usual way and while still on the same race ribbon they  are exchanging the occasional pop shot as the ribbon twists along. The greater part of the laser damage can not get through the armor on the “Billy” cycles and they are just using pistols. They have arrived just north of Share Wealth now and are almost to the recreation Mini-Arch itself. The Giga-NETworks seem to be pausing their own disputes and enjoying a moment of contemplation of the climbing ratings.

The wisdom of fans.

We are going to condition red with Kid’s blob flyer appearing among a cloud of race observers flyers over that end of the race course. They were opening the back door when they came in on holo and rolling out some kind of larger weapon onto the rear deck now transformed into a platform. I am receiving signs of growing alarm from the military AI’s and am told that we can not shoot at the Blob with two many fliers in the way. The AI’s are indicating that all NETs are being invaded by unknown hostile AI’s and that all the flyers around the blob are moving to place themselves between the ground and flier mounted weapons I have available, their collision observance software overridden. I comment “We have been penetrated” and suddenly only the highest quality of the military AI’s is still with me and they are telling me that we are falling back to a very defensive posture. They note “We see some of this in the research the black shops are doing” and give me a countdown “if it goes to zero cut us off and you are on your own.” A Holo of a black number 24 appears.

The blob’s weapon turns on suddenly shooting a fan of beams at the raceway. It is firing directly through some of the covering flyers that now vanish in halos. Kid is unharmed though the analysis of the shot indicates all ribbons save one ahead of him, all the ribbons behind him and all the observation sites between are now gone.

The champion and the kid have stopped trading laser shots and are on different ribbons and separating rapidly. The count Holo says 23.

The kids luck holds because a hand comes out the window of one of the nearby flyers and shoots two of the Blobs gun crew. Counts 22, 21 and 20 are while the blob shoots down most of the nearby flyers it used for cover. I am sending out a coded message and hope it reaches one of my hilltop sites. That site is one of my own wild cards who I owed quite a bit to and had brought in to give them work they needed.

The Blob is playing a game evaporating the race ribbons from either end but always leaving one route open for the riders. The champion has decided on the better part of valor and taken a dive to get out. As he sails towards the ground my readout says 19.

Thats when my favorite three huge bright military orbital range laser beams hit the sides of the blob, one, two, three, leaving two meter wide holes and blowing the gun and the gun crew out the back by thermal shock. My AI’s also launch me and we are suddenly above town traveling above sonic. Their count was falling much faster now as they fought the NET invasion and the Blob made a strait dive for the Pacific. This is during counts 18 down to 11 on doomsday timer.

I am able to get off a sequence of shots at the kids flyer thing from my own craft while I still have the only AIs, still on the job, nearby I know of. That is in the moments before my own Team blew out every NET link on my fighter and in it’s crew and I simultaneously when the count reached 3. The final message “Surprise can count too.” is left glowing somewhere in my brain.

I keep waking up.

I became aware that I was sitting in a pilots couch in the nose of a fighter and got to watch the object of the kids search impact and sink in the Pacific about four kilometers off shore. Without a single running computer aboard we would have to bail out damm quickly and I had no idea by now what had happened to Kid.

I would have to really get to work. I was way behind as far as my standards go on this one and except for the luck of that grand fool who fired his pistol at the blob’s gun crew and my hiring an out of work non-NET-linked gun crew I had served with in the Mars company wars I would have lost ridiculously badly. I could not count on the stupid cooperation of megalomaniac in the Blob if he had survived he would not be so simple minded next time. He overran My AI’s and by now he would know who I was. If I made it to shore Kid and I were going to hide in places deeper than the ninth circle of hell. I suddenly realized That the kid and I could be broke until I uncovered a few of my hidden assets. O well, He had a contract and I was still on the job.

I wound up riding into town as a hero being concealed aboard a shrimp float coming in. Their NET had frozen except for The Giga-NETwork shows and they were being sent on a lot of channels that were designed for other things. I learned that the kid had driven to the winners circle on the last ribbon intact with a bit of sabotage a moment too late as he crossed the trap on it. He was declared the winner. Had because most flying craft were grounded hitched a ride on a helium floater restaurant chartered to carry a lot of folks back into town. He had to pay an exorbitant fee to the restaurant to let a single Holo camera robot film him as he ate supper. He was still at the table when a group of people he seemed to recognize sat down next to him he said hello and a moment later one of them shot the Holo camera.

Repair everything.

I wound up sharing a ride on the unicorn belonging to the daughter of one of the shrimp float crew. We rode together till I was far enough east that I could make a collect call and borrow some money. San Francisco was coming out of it by then. The hostile AI’s disappeared before the evening and it had been found that just the programs they had written replacing their normal counterparts were jamming things. The Daughter and I spent the night together outside of town and I was worrying about how she would ride the unicorn back to town the next morning. It was probably the most I’ll tempered beast I have ever been near and kept snapping at me in spite of her soothing it constantly. She was definitely not a virgin in the morning when I asked but She laughed and said she had a very quick form of gene-injector that would solve that problem during a day of rest and relaxation. I guess she always carried it.

I bought a flyer from another hotel guest and abandoned it in Nevada. Two red haired twins I know from Mars also were in from one of the Mini-Archs there and I was able to hitch up with them until I could get some real funds and send a scout back to the hotel in San Francisco. Kid had vanished entirely. I sent a disposable robot with a passcode into our rooms and found that his backpack was gone and there was a piece of paper with a bunch of symbols on my favorite chair. They were not the kids Hirogliperacs but something new.

I had the twins start a couple of programs guessing about that and tracing out what we could about Kids trail. Not that much. He had gotten very drunk with the folks he seemed to recognized. Held a drunken duel with one of them and another customer in the restaurant after dinner. Then bought the use of all of the emergency fast landers the restaurant had aboard. He jumped over the side with his pals and into the bay from about 5000 meters. An emergency lander is a simple minded strapped on tube thing designed to let you free fall until you are close enough to the ground then it provides the exact thrust needed to halt you at ground level. The thrust begins at the time setting you dial before jumping that would make it constant until landing. The kid’s group set it so that they decelerated at about 5.5 gee’s. They sank into the bay then and did not surface after entering the water.

The paper was marked in early Finnish runes for Air, Trap, and Sister. I got the message. I am on the must be questioned list’s for most in system Mini-Archs now as it is pretty obvious that I was the only one prepared for any of the race day events. Way too prepared, as I had a military responce setup ready for the blob shaped flyer.

Everybodys looking for me now. I knew much too much, and am not talking or answering mail. It’s the kind of time where I like to dig in a little deeper somewhere. So I kissed my lady friends good-bye and left wearing a old combat flying suit I had in storage down in death valley.

I also remote triggered a preset program in Tahiti to run a plan I put together about 18 years ago. It took a clone copy of my own body that had been modded to grow without a brain when still a pin sized clump of cells. Had it unfrozen down in the Andes and implanted with an expert system that would walk the thing around and pretend to be me. The 18 year old body was injected with cell mods for a more aged appearance.

It was a little tricky but I was able to delay its capture for long enough for a partial scan by a source most of the NETs trust. I had it board an outbound outer system freighter in orbit after a quick rescue. It was to meet foul play aboard ship and lose its head in space but other pieces left with my geNETic code all over them would be there to be found when the expected high gee catch up ship met the freighter.

The Blob was not under the pacific where it went down.

The trail afoot Watson? ??

I am living off of the land as I go and visiting some non-NET AI’s and other friends to recruit them for this job. If you remember my discussion of sky suiting you already know a little of what a combat suit is like. I said that the sky suit was a flyer in  backpack form with variable rigidity in as needed. The combat suit is the much the same. In addition the combat suit has ways of canceling and absorbing electromagnetic wavelengths as it needs to and has active camouflage built in to keep it optically hard to spot. The exhaust from it jets is harder to hide but it absorbs very little heat itself and cools instantly after a burn. It can be isolated from the NETs and is independent from them for all of it’s own duties. Mine has thrust tubes that modify themselves for work above and beyond sonic speeds and stiffens in a variety of aerodynamic forms. It has a eleven custom shaped ‘C’ size batteries inside and can do 10 gee maneuvers for  30 hours non-stop. I made a few quick visits in North America and then left for other shores.

I am descending into an area in southern Spain where mostly independents have settled, before dawn and will be taking a walk. This area looks desolate at first but a trip on foot soon convinces you otherwise. There were the usual collection isolationists, extreme gene-mods and those folks who’s cyborg additions would produce the usual anti- robot prejudice even if they are human at heart. I found the message I was looking for in a cantina window and flew southeast to Africa. I crossed the Mediterranean quickly and was low over the Sahara green in a couple of hours.

I needed to find where two rivers met with appropriate bends in them without using the NET and the geography around here can change a bit too quickly. I found them on the second try and settled down in near a grove of red strawberry runner trees. The much too fat cat bats chased a few hundred decoration birds and the trees smelled sweet. I saw a New Teracitops attempt to scratch its back in the mud and watched runners from the trees at war with other nearby vegetation in the constant battle for new turf. I was almost asleep when the army ants arrived. I held completely still until the ants had finished climbing all over me and waited until I felt a brush inside my suit before raising my eyebrows. I was still buried in ants but some of them packed onto the bottom layer over my face plate linked up and I could read the message “Hot one”. I  relaxed, all I had to do was wait now. The ants carried me off while infecting my combat suit until It’s red lights stopped entirely. I got to watch as sand rose up between and among the ants.


After a while both the sand and the ants cleared and I was on the floor of a normal room. I removed my combat suit and had a drink of water from the wall fountain. I said “Wolfmun you never change”. The AI I had come all this way to meet spoke from midair “You don’t either. Always able to find a unique bit of trouble of a kind nobody expects.” I answered “Give credit where credit is due”. Wolfmun and I go back a long ways, He is an AI’s that is an eccentric outlaw in the other AI’s cultures. He never links into the NET. He plays black Mini-Arch finance investment market fixer through agents. Has never lost his reputation for being ahead of the state of the art in any area I know of. I have never heard of him failing to do what he had promised, in  anything of any kind that he says he would do. I merely made the statement “I need to put together a plan and a very good team to deal with this”. Wolfmun gave back the instant answer “I’ll be a lot of help”

I finally had someone I could speak about my troubles to. We first made a contract to protect Kids interests, then I told him everything. He refused to make any comments on my theories but agreed that something unknown was involved. We drew up a few scenarios and discussed who should we get involved and why. A meeting place and plans to have everyone supplied were arranged

That night as I slept the army ants did surgery on all my cybernetic parts as Wolfmun updated my program call files from his own. The ants also did major mods on my body and rebuilt my combat suit as a special. I suppose you would say that the ants where really Wolfmun but he liked to act as though they were an independent agent. He was the same way with all of his other living creature simulations. In the morning I would be moving on and recruiting some of the other members of my team.

Back in style.

It felt good to be able to read the NET properly again. The suit moved as well as it ever had but had much more programming and had a lot of new independent parts with special functions built into them. I was able to access most information through my suits brand new identity that was not linked to my own anywhere. I was a provable to be a roving AI working for a Mini-Arch located on Gayamede. Come to think of it the suit probably really was that AI or a flat out copy of it. What surprised me was that an AI, no small package of programs was able to exist in a system as small as I still thought of my suit being and not on the NET at all. It was a gain of at least two orders of magnitude over the known standard and was quite an accomplishment given the number of angels that must be set to dance on the pin to create a proper fully functional AI in this day and age. The claim is that you need a special addition to do each of about 10 to the 15th tasks at once if you want to be complete.

I was to be in the redone Venice Mini-Arch before noon. It now has canals in aqueducts on about four street levels. Hiring my first choice Raramin was no problem I just landed, leaned against a wall, and let one of the fingers of the suit slip off under packet beam control. It wandered past his shop and set up a later linkup by laser beaming a symbol on his eye. I hired him as attack leader by passing the offer through the finger while he polished the insides of an old war rover from his past adventures that we had gotten drunk in once.

In the Ural mountains I was the courier of a hand carried message to a custom robot Mini-Arch. I was able to view a message posting later confirming a tentacled cyborg named Oracle as lead launch man.

By dawn I was over the China sea and done with all required personal meetings. I had been leaving access paths with everyone,  So they could confirm before they subcontracted new team members. The plans were acceptable. I was due tomorrow in the wilds of Sonora for a highly visible social event. There I would be undercover as the leader of an traveling AI’s contracted guards. That is I and my suit and some guards contracted elsewhere would be security for an transport that was supposed to contain the AI who was actually my combat suit.

In a Siberian Mini-Arch I had hired a medical cyborg called Worm Walker from his habit of keeping the tools of the trade linked into himself as a forest of tunneling worms. The kind of Doctor no one crawls away from. I stopped near a lake east of the Himalayas at a resort Mini-Arch to recruit a couple of  from conception biomod launch pilots. Mods that conflict with the original gene package evolution gave humanity originally require special design and massive support from pre-single cell stages through birth. Roger and Kay have very unusual reflexes are short term decompression and vacuum immune and also possess pattern recognition eye cells that can translate while they receive and send a self taught language of very low power laser signals.

Don’t step on the grass.

I arrived at the encampment set up for participants in the sky suit event, Supposedly I was to pave the way for the AI’s presence. It was to be held in an area that was still popular as a showpiece for bio-modification skills. Every speck of dirt throbbed with overgrown bio-created life forms for 50 miles to every direction. Contracts of all flavors reserving space near this particular rock or that one covered every part of the landscape to mark the original homes of a lot of the prize specimens created during the last thirty years. The ecological Mini-Archs had put phrasing in the master agreements that stated that while each gardener could take care of their own plots. They could not interfere with the actions of any other life forms at all. As mobile life forms were included in the mix a brisk market in symbiotic defense beetle genes, discouraging bark, and eat that other guy’s plant locusts has grown.

The camp might have looked random but one of the events gimmicks was that contracts would need to be written with all parties who held an interest in each speck of ground and special negotiatiations designed to let no drop of “plant’ly” desire be missed carried out. The joke that the carnivorous plant designers wanted three babies delivered every morning fits the result.

The resulting collection of spindly, mobile, and transparent flying suit landing platforms was buzy collecting the to be expected set of accidents and contractual fines. All the Holo cameras were already running and early arrivals were rearranging the condensation patterns by jetting through the clouds. My job was to keep an eye on Kid’s Soap Star and also on all the eyes keeping eyes on other eyes that might be involved. I knew that the kid’s Finish message had pointed to this location but how he was planing  to make contact I didn’t know. We had a map of all camp locations the suit received over the NET and I was trying to schedule coverage of all events.

So far things were just warming up. The Holo channels already showing local action were mainly still camp set up humor, who was expected to show, reruns and the events sponsored by the local life. This event has been the beginning of many a profitable career for landscape artists, Holo Camera independents, scriptwriters and fashion designers. The Kid’s Soap Star, her name is Like Breath, would be arriving as the parties began tonight. The name Cairo Kid can be found on  every invitation list with requests that he call to confirm if he could be there.

I have confirmed a that tug of war between the Holo Giga-NETworks and the Technical and military Mini-Archs over outright purchase of the Insurance Mini-Archs who pretended to be the Kid’s Holo camera outfit before the race is still in progress. I guess they are convinced that the kid’s Holo contract is one they can use for both filming him and tracking down the flyer that shot at him. Drain brain, then Holo the result. Right.

A pause for social critics.

I should mention that our society is not all thunder and lightning, gun’s and duels as it seems when I am telling this story. Most folk live fairly quiet lives. The life form makers who’s work is in evidence here at the air suit contest are the equivalent of the Rose Growers of the 19th or 20th centuries. The need for humans doing any physical labor rather than making decisions is in actuality long gone. Finding ways of making a living without worrying are quite easy.

There are any number of Mini-Archs that advertise that they will pay for a special education in any subject whatsoever on the blue sky principle that later they will make the best offer if you have something they want. There are also groups who will give you a contract for a family home with no strings attached.

They could be religious or updating the work force close to a Mini-Arch. But always it only takes one NET call to find a family with no existing contracts a home. Some of the freebie’s will even include buying up old contracts so that is not much of a problem.

There are duelists societies who’s sole purpose is to let people avoid dueling who do so for free. If someone does not want a duel and that person is not a problem in the eyes of the those societies a duelist who draws on him and survives is going to have to duel each and every one of the members in a few thousand associations.

Every one of the places that has a reason for keeping activities like the tavern in Bangkok gun play, is in a well advertised location, is easy to avoid and has equivalents were trouble is kept out.

Events of the military kind between Mini-Archs always let anyone who’s contract say’s no rough stuff and those who want no part of it exit first. The ones who get involved in combat think they should be doing so.

Non-violent Mini-Archs have applied to the duelist society charities and those of other kinds and some of them are still around because they did.

I will say some of them are still around after a violent contest incident even though they did not fight back or ask for help. (They had better plans than their challengers)

There is so very much on the NETs. Dozens of free NET-link implant offers with contract clauses that protect children are for the asking. The gift of access to universal free education of every kind is paid for by the included access to the Holo NETwork and its advertising.

It all comes about because technology has made life supporting production essentially free even of a need for supervision. Statistically evolution produced a very peaceful creature with a need for occasional problem born excitement. So some people get exited.

I’ve said enough here.

I spot the kid a few points.

That night Kid appeared at the party being attended by Like Breath I watched on Holo as he moved about the party making light of the race when asked about it. When he was asked what did he think when the flyer started shooting? Kid answered “That the guy I was dueling really knew how to throw a duel”. Kid had just appeared. He did not enter through an entrance. He arrived in a flyer. He did not call about his invitation. More than thousand eyes were contemplating being found unworthy of pursuing their former occupations forever.

I was the only one prepared. I had the fireworks launched. Above the garden party the sky lit up with an explosion of light and the finish rune that resembled my name was written from one side of the horizon to the other.  A reentry fireworks of a sly suit racer followed after that. Oracle had done a very fast job considering that he had only 36 hours and a damm silly instructions.

I hope you think I can add two + two.

The kid partied till about eleven then was gone from the Holo and the party. No one saw him leave. A few thousand men waiting to meet him when he left were probably relieved. I was also relieved. The rescue I would have had to perform was off and not on tonight.

The bar in Bangkok received a NET call for me during the night. It left a message Mai Lai publicly placed where I could read it without leaving traces.

“See you tomorrow” The Holo of the kid said.

In the morning when the world audience was finished watching the romantic antics of their favorite Holo personalities during the night, The skysuit event began. Everyone suited up, launched and met around the aerial vector’s preselected for today’s event locations. I followed the ones Like Breath was breathing over. She was actually kind of cute and managed a “The kid was here” comment, to everyone significant enough, without it being obvious. I wryly grinned at the idea that I would enjoy looking over the Holo film income from Kid’s race, if for some unknown reason, We could ever access those accounts without being accessed ourselves.

The participants in sky suit gatherings tend to support the principle that if it can’t race decorate it. There were some of the strangest things flying around up here. The woman dressed as a naked fat pink mother rat with twin sets of swollen dugs running tailward being followed by a flying crowd of hungry robot baby rats was the example of the moment. The were the usual themes based on every life form that ever flew or pretended to fly and a myriad number of others. Peter Pan and some seven pirates were having an unusual flying orgy down to my right and somewhere a moose streaming trails green gas from its mouth had acquired a large jet tube strapped to it back. I got a laugh seeing miniature copies of the kids flyer zooming around shooting at the other suits.

The first events were choreographed maneuvering and demonstrations of handicap (limited computer support) flying. Then a few freefall square dances in projected Holos of ballrooms were judged. I was bored and wondering how the Kid would get in touch when my suit triggered an alarm.

Suit said that I had about five new tag-alongs who were definitely sticking with me whatever I did. The suit and I had been rigorously following paths designed to hide my being near Like Breath from the perception of analysis programs. With my mirrored face plate and the suit controlling even the turnings of my head so that I was not outputting data for interest classification personality correlation’s. I should be listed an anonymous Gayamedian agent. There had been the chance that even being near Like Breath at any time was risky but the odds were in my favor.

We guessed at a possible scare tactic to be used on each of the not so well known but the five played tag along for the next hour and that was much to long for that. I could summon major assistance to meet me in about 10 minutes but I would need to avoid capture until then and avoid getting blown up when my crew arrived. I began to angle up away from the gathering.

The five of them also wearing combat suits stuck right with me and scattered about in a spherical radius around me. The only empty direction was down. I ignored them and began to move in about 3 kilometer circles and sped up a bit. They sped up to follow me. We were getting up near racing speeds and doing each circle in a little less than a minute when always greedy Holo cameras decided that we were a spontaneous event. A  call came in from my neighbors saying. “Hey we just want to know a little more about you. We’ll pay for your trouble, even extra if you let us add a clause hiding your fee scale. Our analysis of your suit says it’s definitely the right color”.  It was black. I had the suit send back “If you catch me and I don’t catch you we can wrestle for it”. On several Holo NETworks and in real life I watched them change angle to close in.

I turned on the speed and went transonic. We would soon see how well they could fly. I don’t like things like the “Billy” cycles but I enjoy flying. I accelerated fast enough to leave them clumped a little behind me but kept to that first circle pattern. We were making about 20 second circles now.

I was having the suit interrogate the maps in its files for some features I would like to find and making my first real use of the targeting and optical enhancements.  They began  scattering so that they could close if I continued to circle and to realize what kind of job they had coming if they were not going to shoot first and find out the answers later. I did not have the time to waste so I waited until I was at the right place and dived, played terrain hug at less than a meters elevation there for a moment then lifted so I arrived crossing the path of one of my opponents who had tried crossing the circle.

He was probably wondering what he should do now as I made a NET broadcast of the words “Flowers anyone” and released a formerly thriving young plant. I had scooped  up while almost on the ground so it was sucked right into his wide open entry tubes. It helps to have an AI who can control the timing of the hand release with you. I broadcast a reward offer for anyone who caught him as he began to flip away a bit.

I was on the major NETworks now as I vectored so after going right through the rest of my pursuers and also the lets join the fun crowd we’d picked up and aimed for the camp itself on the ground. I put another message on the NET about an old game called chicken and led the pack through on a twisting course through the forest of crane born launch platform’s geodesics, a pair of open windows, and a natural stone arch in a snake like variation of the strait line.

My comment would be that I had two less of them following me after that maneuver. That it was their decision to fly so close to the ground and that if you leave window open while cooking supper you can expect flying guests.

My exit with the kid.

They gave up the pursuit then though a bunch of the latecomers not originally involved tried to wheedle me into continuing the game. I ignored them and the please, please, enter tomorrow’s races bribes that were arriving and headed back to the main event area. I would be invited to more than a few parties tonight myself. Those I might go to, but I was not going to be able to take off my suit until I could go into hiding.

After the involuntary hug I received from a flying blue hippopotamus named Nancy and a few minutes hanging around wondering where the kid’s soap star was the days official events ended. I was about to descend to my camp when a broadcast came in saying “Kid calling Lodin. Meet me one klick above the Alaska club glassworks and wait for me, sending a message.” As after a moment almost everybody seemed to be heading that way so I joined in. After a few jokers began broadcasting random messages to the Kid. I sent “Flower Tunnel sort your mail and then use the amulet”. Flower Tunnel was one of the ladies in Bangkok that would not come to come to his party.

I had just sent four or five of those while hovering over the glassworks when the suit said a door had opened just behind me and I flipped over to see the kid in the drivers seat of a flyer not a meter away. I grabbed the frame, turned off my thrust, climbed onto the passenger seat and closed the door. I saw a giggle filled Like Breath in a single rear seat with a Holo cameraman in a luggage rack behind her while on my knees in the front seat waiting for my tubes to cool. I was realizing that it would be impossible to sit in anyway and watching the confusion as through a completely transparent hull as everyone outside started looking for an invisible flyer. I came to the conclusion that I would be a little cramped until we reached wherever we were going while the kid descended dodging the paths of a few hundred flying suits that could not add him to there course calculations.

The flyer consisted of only a console attached to two metallic beams that ran from its bottom to the rear and a transparent ellipsoid with two plastic doors in it that  began glued to the bottoms of the beams and with minimal clearance came up beside us and covered us overhead. The seats and luggage rack were also plastic and glued to the transparent hull. I could see where the what must have been an extremely sloppy craftsmen puddled the glue. There were no thrust tubes, no obvious mountings for inserting monopole batteries and no technologies in the Comp-Mini-Arch that could make an undetectable flying device or fly it breaking old Isaac Newton’s rules. I could still receive the NET, my suits sensors could not read anything from the flyers parts and the Holo cameraman in the rear was recording and not broadcasting. I sent a message to the kid. “Next time I should bring a girlfriend too.”

He was still occasionally glancing at me and laughing while Breath continued her dialog that had begun with “I can arrange that. All of my friends like racers” when the kid said “We are far enough away now. Rip out the seat and sit down”. I gladly opened the door and tossed out the seat. A combat suit is pretty strong.

I was closing the door when a Holo broadcast of the blond hared man with the original Fat flyer that did the shooting over San Francisco visible behind him came onto the Holo channels with a message. He benignly smiled and declaimed “The slime you are calling the kid and his flyer just appeared about twenty miles north of his last sighting. I am sending the coordinates and a method of finding his invisible flyer when it is nearby to all parties. He followed with a tirade about how the minor amount of harm he did in San Francisco was what properly someone as nice as he was would always do when someone like the kid appeared. It went on for almost ten minutes until the satellite broadcasting it self destructed when it was approached.

I asked the kid if the blond guy was telling the truth. Kid said he didn’t know how much Mark Drescirtina knew about such things. I asked  what the fastest speed of the flyer was and he said 160 KPH. I said “That part of the data is as well as the fix on our location is correct”. The suit did some calculations and I said if the rest of Mark’s data is right we will be in danger from the horde I expected to arrive in about 3 minutes as there were satellite images of the seat ejection stop. They would start spreading out in detection patterns after that. Pre-calculation of odds of dodging them at the crawl this thing used gave us minimal chances if the detection trick worked too. Kid swore when I told him and remarked “The only cure I have is absolutely last ditch”.

I told him to descend to ground level and fly along the canyons to keep line of sight observations to a minimum and thought for a minute. He descended and we were treated in moments to the sight of flying suits crossing our path both ahead of and behind us. The only reason we were not spotted if the sighting data in Desicrina’s broadcast was valid was pure luck.

I told Kid “If you see anything with an overhang pull under it”. He took a chance a few seconds later and ran the flyer into the crack in the ravine wall that a lightning tree root had made. We came to a rather sudden stop as we attempted to squeeze between two walls of rock while the sides of the flyer shattered and tore along both sides. The Kid commented as he shook plate sized pieces of clear plastic off of his back “Non-Inertial drive usually stops better than this.” We were all unharmed though quite a bit shaken. The flyer  was now a ring not a torrus with two doors on curves from the front end. I broke a hole in the ceiling, told everyone else to stay were they were and pulled myself out using the lightning tree root above. I crawled to the rear of the flyer and began stacking rock to close the entrance. With a little careful cutting and minimal time outside  I had it nearly plugged. The kid said “Pull the rest it off so we can get out” and the flyer was reduced  further to the frame and console only as everyone made themselves at home in the now twilight lit cave.

I told everyone that we would wait till this evening before we received any help and warned that NET contact was banned. Neither Breath or her Holo cameraman had made any and that surprised me a lot. The camera man guessed what I was thinking and introduced himself as John. Also informing me that he had a contract with Like Breath and her NETwork as a Holo maker under her direction, a combination of Holo camera man and actor so she could film the moments when she needed to be seen relating comfortably to the Holo community itself. He said he was under orders to record everything around him and not to broadcast it until she said to. His own contract required him to obey her and he would get enough popular air-time money from this that he wasn’t worried about revenge. Breath chimed in that the Kid told her the plan during last nights party and she thought it was wonderful. That I was wonderful too and so were all Kid’s friends like me. Kid laughed. He and Like Breath lay down over by the front of the cave for some on Holo lovemaking. You don’t think lack of lighting makes a difference do you. I could see perfectly so could the Holo camera. They could enhance it to any kind of realism anyway. I  tried to not to think of the eventual Holo of a one room cavern. One with occasional shots of the black combat suited with a mirror face sitting in the corner.

I added an addition to the kids biomods, He did not have my mostly cybernetic eyes but he could see in the dark too.

We leave for orbit.

After sunset I waited until my suit said it was the right time fired my suit laser at the right part of the sky with a large set of instructions embedded in the pulse. I sent the suits detachable finger outside to wait. About an hour later I was ushering in Raramin with four others in full armor, not infantry, combat suits. They brought special clothing and helmets for John, Breath and Kid and after feeding a data pack from Wolfmun into my suit , we were dressed to leave.

I could fly but we had to strap the Kid, Breath and John to the front of the armor of those wearing armor. It was fun for Breath who got to comment while she  pushed back and rubbed her rear end against the one who she was strapped to, but it was no fun if you realized that without noticing it the wearers of the armor could have crushed their passengers like grapes.

We moved rapidly away. The special clothing was to prevent the nature of the cargo wearing it from showing human signatures and I now had a different and valid NET ID to interrogations. I was helping carry the frame from the remnants of the small flyer. Raramin had scheduled crossing flights by other members of his team. Some of them were carrying heavy weapons the way we were the flyers frame. I did not feel we would be lucky enouth to get far without trouble given the interest being shown in this area. We were being asked a lot of questions by other passing groups anyway and a detailed scan of the back trail of Raramin’s party would make anyone take notice. I hoped we would be gone before that happened. We met up with one of Raramin’s two fast strike vehicles every minute or so along our course and each time one of us would board it and another leave with a new package strapped in front a second later. In a minute I also boarded.

The crew there was in process of putting orbit gear and atmosphere add-ons around John while he Holo’d the process. Like Breath and the Kid were already dressed. With five from our team outside able to take care of the flyer frame we were now able to move very quickly. We landed in a shuttles bay three hundred and ninety seconds later and I went directly to the command room. I greeted the crew and when I had seen the  arrangements there, sent down the message for Kid and Breath to come up. He said that “He would be up after Like Breath and her cameraman were done being scanned and a new holo camera for recording only was attached to John. I told him “Strap down and come up later”.

I turned to Oracle and said launch. We rose at a mild 3 gees.

A monopole battery powered shuttle only needs to carry fuel and a lot of special very quick release batteries. It’s special batteries put the monopoles and fuel in guiding and enclosing magnetic fields in the launch tubes and it moves. We have a specific impulse in our exhaust higher than the dreams of nuclear rocket designers of previous era’s.


A few minutes later we were in orbit. Kid, Breath and John floated in through the door. Kid was asking were his flyer frame was now, Breath was smiling and John was filming it all. I had learned that behind us, Raramin was almost at the second shuttle but felt he might come under fire before then. I let the kid know about it and that we would find out soon enough. We had a fuel tanker in burn coming over match to our orbit and I was reviewing the possible choices Wolfmun had shown me.

I had had my suit AI, let’s name him Cold, in touch with the shuttle and the teams data. We had been designed by Wolfmun as not totally separate from all normal NETs we could read them but did not send any data.  We had our own laser pulse long range communications using satellites Wolfmun had placed independently. Raramin launched under very light fire at high thrust and would be able to meet us where we wanted. Apparently the threat of a small inter Mini-Arch-War was keeping him from coming under fire from the orbital laser’s of the Mini-Arch that he had his dispute with. I decided that was our best bet and that we would be going to one of the geosyncronius orbital Mini-Archs that Wolfmun had shown me in the plans.

We would now meet the tanker on the way out so we burned for a bit before we were in free fall again. I asked Kid if he had been in space before and he shrugged and replied that he had a couple of times. I asked him if he wanted to talk about things and he said we should tell the stories of the time we were separated since the race but he wasn’t going to talk about his flyer and things. So I told him everything he had not been told in San Francisco and what I had done to Mark Drescirtina there. I said that Mark knew me pretty well by now as the Mark’s invasion of the NETs with hostile AI’s had penetrated mine. I talked about my trip on the unicorn and that I had been arranging things with friends since then.

He told me He met some folks he knew that had seemed to be on Drescirtina’s side of the dispute earlier and as it turned out had been taking orders from him. But that when Drescirtina brought in slave collared lackeys and proved not to care who wore them they began looking for a way out. My being seen alive and with effective support and Mark Drescirtina himself going down into the Pacific was enough to convince them to leave. Crows Tail and his crew arranged to meet Kid. Kid knew enough to arrange to vanish under the bay where they had a few minor adventures before linking up underwater with Crow’s flyer. He had visited the hotel grabbed a few things left me a note and taken a trip. Then he returned to keep his promise. I asked him about the hostile AI’s and he said that he could talk them into ignoring him. He also mentioned that my AI was nice and said that the “Cold” wanted to talk to but had not asked me for permission.

I shut up. I asked “Cold” if he felt that way. “Cold” confirmed that he did want to join the conversation and let me know that Wolfmun had told nobody he was in my suit and that neither I nor Cold had told anyone either. Kid still scanned as completely cybernetics free.

I was profoundly upset and let “Cold” converse while I thought a while.

The third shuttle carrying the rest of our team was going to meet us at the Mini-Arch Bluetide and I had a lot of plans to make. I had to act as though everyone including Mark Drescirtina would trace us somehow and it wasn’t going to be easy moving this large a team around if we were marked.

Bluetide Comp-Mini-Arch. My new problem.

We arrived in a few hours and settled in a large section arranged for us. Bluetide Mini-Arch is part warehouse, part residence, part its own business, and other Mini-Archs.  It contracts space to any number of other groups who store and move cargo.

Bluetide has defensive contracts with a lot of system transport and other orbital Mini-Archs and has some pretty good defenses of its own. It would be called a Black Mini-Arch by some if they knew much more about of it’s secret operations.

It ‘s another secret that all of it’s operations are directed by only one mind. That was originally Wolfmun I’m sure. It spins along merrily with ten thousand space leases and subcontractors who are quite happy with their clause’s for security, shops, retirement, salary, transportation, and income etc. It is organized to make a profit. It is organized for perpetuation of its own survival.

Bluetide is a big sponsor of the orbit cleaning ecological groups and leases near free maintenance to some of them. (Every bolt that someone drops in orbit is someone else’s hull hole someday)

That’s about when I discovered that Bluetide had become a subsidy of another Mini-Arch named Lodin Wolfmunson. That is me. I learned when I arrived and “Cold” told me. I was now the one who decided how new contracts for Bluetide were to be written. Outside of a requirement that old contracts must be honored I could do what I wanted with the entire thing.

My real father was never known and I had looked up the AI Wolfmun originally as a joke because of the name similarities. We have continued a sort of father and son joke trade off, but Wolfmun never played this variation before. Unless he was using Bluetide as a lost chip in one of his strange economic games.

Physically the Mini-Arch was a ring that spun on its vertical axis not along its own plane. It had two landing spheres north and south and large cargo tube entrances at it’s poles. The ring itself was a tubular structure with a large amount of radiation shielding built into it and of course had a centrifugal gradient from top to equator to bottom.

I suddenly realized I was getting old. I now had ten thousand more people to worry for.

Arriving and settling in.

I set up spent some time reviewing the NET. Then I set a few tentative plans into motion and prepared for a sequence of interviews. There was a knock at the door and the redheaded twins from Mars, Katherine and Kathy stuck their heads in and said “There was someone here you know who was going to wait till you noticed her. But we said that you were immune to noticing things and decided to speed up your karma.”

They waved for someone to come past them and said good-bye. In walked the perpetual virgin who saved me from the unicorn I rode out of San Francisco on. Her name is Lewellia and the twins had taken her under their wings while covering my trail after I left Nevada. I’d known the twins since they were teenagers during  the Mars company wars. When this team was forming and Wolfmun looked at my back trail they were recognized and recruited. Lewellia was less experienced than the twins but had completed training for her career as a potential hostility contract trouble shooter and she felt was glad to see the opportunity to come along.

We were finding ways to review our acquaintance when the door opened and Like Breath walked in with John her cameraman. She came over and slid out comments about needing to talk about Kid and maybe helping Lewellia and I do what we were doing. I sighed and made room for her to sit down on the couch, Introduced her to Lewellia, and said tell me about it.

What Breath said while eyeing us as a plot diversion was. “Kid is from somewhere outside the Comp-Mini-Arch. He does not have the feel for it that we do. His technology is beyond what we can do and his Bio-Mods are awesome. He can tell what a nearby AI thinks and influence it’s actions. The conversation at the fly suit party where offered me the chance to go with him was edited out of all of my Holo scans before it left the premises.  That was what made my mind up to go with him. He was able to make that part of my life something I only could view and only by contacting the AI who was physically present at that party. I am the kind of person who enjoys being on Holo every second of life day by nature but what he did is very important.”

She went on speaking while using a simultaneous polite hand to fondle Lewellia’s leg, “I worry because Kids enemies don’t have the sophistication implied by everything else. It is incongruous. I can even tell that the Kid worries about things differently than we do.”

Lewellia took my lead and made the appropriate subtle some other time gestures which Breath caught without a pause changing scripts. I began a comment were I admitted that I had the same impressions but that Kid had the right to decide for himself when he wanted to say something. I said I always kept to the idea that we would find out what we wanted eventually because that was the way nature had developed both us and our culture. Breath said that she agreed with me on the way things should be done and that the real reason for her visit was the milepost we passed by this exchange of comments as  we had not had the chance to talk before.

As Like Breath became a river that had decided from the way of waters everywhere to flash in a few places and then be already out the door. I decided to add a “Never underestimate a Soap Star” comment to my internal files. Lewellia looked at me and said “You should take care of all the immediate problems and tell me everything now. I know the twins also hope for a nice visit with us so lets do it”. Only fools go for lifestyles that manipulate them and those they travel with. I like Lewellia and know the twins extremely well.

I called the Kid on our own NET and he said his flyer needed a new non-conductive plastic hull so I put “Cold” in touch with him to do that. He also wanted a package picked up on the North American continental divide so I had a conversation with Raramin. I arranged a that our team quarters would move to separate parts of Bluetide and that constant routes for quick access and meeting would be maintained by our private NET. We decided to have about fifty percent of our group leave in the shuttles and that we would lease a great number of different ships at different times to muddle our exact location by moving members of our team around the Earth-Moon system. We would hold information from any searchers by keeping those who possessed it with us at all times.

I found out that was there was an AI Mini-Arch established on Bluetide. They were able to call me directly on our own NET and introduce themselves. A normally hidden group that Wolfmun had decided to link us to. Wolfram had apparently been the cause of their existence somehow and they were involved in a far seeding program that most of the system was ignorant of. They were sending ships coasting out-system on multiple thousand year journeys to as many other as they could. While also making no distinction between AI’s, non-sentient programmed devices, frozen egg cells of human and/or bio-modified sentient and non-sentient life as cargo. One of Wolframs many different blue sky projects. I guessed that he was playing his game of diversity makes progress and trying to spread the products of our system as a charity. “Cold” told me that Wolfmun had included a specific message to me in my last data package from him about it, Also explaining that Bluetide AI’s were very very discrete.

A tour of Bluetide

So I spent the rest of the day with Lewellia and the twins. While we were having fun entangled in the micro-gravity Jacuzzi I told the them entire story. I did get them to mark contracts so that they were subcontractors of my contract with Kid. I decided to stop judging the situation with empiricism and to let my experience come up with a few of the answers on it’s own. By evening the ladies had come up with their own plans and I was beginning to get a feel for what I should decide to do.

I checked and Kid was involved with a rush job pasting plastic around his “flyer”, we had new vehicles in dock and the shuttles gone on errands.

I decided to try to continue my non-empirical trick and would take a walk around Bluetide.

Katherine and Kathy wanted to come along too. So after I put on a vacuum suit and we all went out.

The pedestrian walkway of Bluetide is a weaving corridor ramp that never ends. Most but not all of the public catering establishments of the small community run along it. We were soon walking through the usual mixed crowd of gene mod and system-cybermods out for public entertainment and shopping. The ladies were dragging me from place to place whenever they saw interesting toys. I watched a holo of the newest asteroid homestead robot tunneling team and advertisements from some of the outer-system Mini-Archs that said they would buy up your contracts  if you wished to join them. The only condition on those was a clause requiring that any children when both parents were members of the Mini-Arch be pre-conception genemods. They plan to have a happily population of people who enjoy a balmy day with minimal support equipment on Triton. Cold.

In my worst reflections I consider the future were the mentality I can almost see defined in that advertisement has grown to become the norm. Each Mini-Arch consists of it’s own definitely defined species who form job related casts based on the abilities they were born with and happily live tailored to be smiling cast lives from birth to death. Suppose in practice it becomes that only good NET economy accountant species can have in those no longer Mini-Archs management species children. Brrrr.

I am just pretending to be cold. After all I spent the day with three ladies.

Katherine wanted to visit a well known gunsmiths establishment. We went in and all wound up buying projectile pistols and their very expensive bullets. They were a new product from PWRAVAD CMG and for a extremely steep price you can have a very fast, self guiding, programmed by the pistol, bullet missiles that use monopole propulsion and will have up to a tenth of a gram of monopoles left to instantly release their monopoles on impact. The tenth of a gram was the top of the line in a set of explosive result caliber. A gram of monopoles if mixed north and south represent about a kiloton of explosive energy. Thinking in kilotons made me think of Kids enemy Mark and his antique fusion bomb. I purchased the gunsmiths entire stock and ordered sets of the pistols and a large amount of the ammunition for the whole team. I spent am sure that PWRAVAD will soon raise the prices to a level beyond the impossible level they were charging now and that my three-hundred mega-credit order would probably never be delivered. I had made my plans while walking and this fit in well enough.

Don’t be nearby if any of us are vaporized, as fail-safe in the bullets would have no time to react and I alone would contribute more than 4 Kilotons to the reaction.

We ate in a private room of Bluetide’s only really famous restaurant and while watching from its location in the non-rotating south landing globe I also set most elements of my plan in motion. First I bought outright a very large ship and then set the resident AI Mini-Arch to designing the contracts that would run Bluetide in the future. I also purchased a large amount of other equipment and sent a messenger to Wolfmun for more equipment. I called the kid and told him to start packing his in process of being readied for a plastic coating flyer. He was upset at the delay in finishing it but agreed after I convinced him that we had to and that it would be a minor delay. His other concern was the package he was having picked up on the surface and as checking told me that it would no addition to our time. It was not a problem.

Then I let the team leaders know so they could prepare and I had a nice dinner.


We had thirty-six hours that followed of hectic scrounging up everything we needed and arranged rush delivery of what we could not locate. Wolfmun delivered his first part in twenty hours and that let me know that he would enjoy the rest of his job. I ran the Kid through a question session with the AI’s about Mark’s personality and the analysis was about as expected.

The kids package arrived and contained his and my own Egyptian figurines. Kid had picked them up before he left San Francisco. He was finishing with the AI’s and had asked me to meet him when he was done. As I walked in He pulled a bottle out of his backpack and poured some into a glass on the table. He looked at me and said “Drink up”  I inquired “Any reason” and he looked at me with a distant expression and told me He would do one favor for me after this was over without asking my reasons.

I thought about all the possibilities for a moment and then drank it. It tasted and looked like apricot brandy, No favorite of mine.

“Demon Tail” our new ship was a large exploration and transport vessel with a fusion power plant aboard. It could be crack hydrogen and refuel without access to the PWRAVAD monopole outlets and was for a longer term independent calls to port. We loaded it with all of the equipment that any of us thought might be needed and would need a week or two to unpack it all. It now had laser cannon   anti-missile and anti ship armaments aboard in crates and we would be even longer installing the weapons. I had a new auction arranged for the kid’s figurines with a showing to take place to take place on another smaller orbiting station after we left. A promise with a good deal on later resale of the ship got some of the seeding groups AI’s to come along.

I also had everyone visit Worm Walker our medical chief for a surprise inspection by his worms. My reports showed that all of the ground teams were ready. Indications showed that I had gotten preliminary results from the interview I put the kid through. We had still tried to maintain a low key profile when we equipped the ship and were keeping up the appearance that my team could have departed on any of a hundred ships.

I’ve reached the point in the story that has us aboard and under mild acceleration to a rondiveiw with a couple of boost tugs. The tugs would accelerate us to high speed to avoid wasting much of our own fuel. “Cold” was working on a transfer to space armor with the help of a crate of Wolfmun’s army ants that were delivered with it. I had also requested very special armor for all the rest of the team. Like Breath had a copy of her Holo recordings that we left with the AI’s on Bluetide To be released later and I had arranged a tidbit that showed her with Kid in an unidentifiable location where she promised more of to come as she was doing a Special. Her NETworks were screaming of course.

I should point out that while I am alone to blame for any results implementing the plan. That Lewellia, Kathy and Katherine were the source of the ideas and discussion that derived it. I was beginning to think we stood a chance of it working. I was whistling as I walked through the pre-strap down chaos.

On route out.

The Tugs teamed up to put us under very fast flight towards the Saturn system.

The technique is to have an over fueled tugs with large monopole supplies match our speed and course using little of their power because of  low mass and then use up most of the monopoles to push us a little faster. Twenty five tugs later we were moving at an unusual clip. As we coasted now we began to install all the fixtures we wanted in Demon Tail,  it had been striped to basics before being sold. We wanted to have a fighting vehicle as quickly as we could.

The kid was down helping delicately spray a smooth layer of non conductive plastic in exactly the right ellipsoid onto the flyer. Like Breath was playing with everybody and I was checking items off of lists. It would be about two months before we reached the Saturn system and we were not stopping there.

The auction was announced when I was ready and all who were interested in it as an event had were instructed give notice. I had left contracts for a notable Holo character to MC the event and we released more of the Like Breaths footage. We limited the number who would be invited to 500. Had prearranged shuttle flights and unmentioned was the fact that most of those who would go had been contacted in advance too. I was sure that all the representatives of many Mini-Archs were watching with puzzlement our media event.

We were past Mars orbit on the scheduled day and held a party so we all could view the festivities. As the MC narrated the lucky invited participants boarded our transports and launched for orbit. We the system watched as they left the shuttles to mingle in the pre-opening party aboard the contracted orbit station. The entire system would be giving out light speed delayed groans of horror but we emitted cheers when the station was vaporized by a not very clean nuclear explosion at the door opening.

I was launched raids on two of the sites that we had an indication that Mark Drescirtina was using and would delay raids on the others as we had observers in place and would go in if we could detect the Kids larger flying device. The one Drescirtina had used in San Francisco to destroy the raceway. We had more success this time and were able to save the lives of some of the unfortunates wearing the slave collars. We had limited our raids to the sites that it was obvious that Mark’s slaves had tried to interfere with the auction participants. I was sure that he had intended them as sacrifices anyway.

After the raids we held a only on Holo auction were all those who had been invited got to show that they were actually still alive. We added Holo message from the kid psychology prepared for Mark Drescirtina explaining to everyone that it had been a trick to try to catch the slavers.

We had let the bomb go through ourselves and all passengers for the auction had simply stayed aboard the shuttles and been replaced by robotic copies at the station. We had no trouble removing slave collars from three of them who were wearing them. I doubt Mark the slaver had expected to get kid or I in the nuke and he was attempting to prove he was a nuisance again with the explosion. We had counted on that in arranging it. All the action goers had discovered that the insurance part of their contracts as participants had contained Holo auction if needed clauses.

The long time collar wearers captured by the raids could tell us nothing at all about Marks activities. A feature we found out was built into slave collars in a electrochemical conditioning form.

I crossed my fingers and said I hope part two does the job and we do not need to go as far as parts three and four.

Further along.

The next week it was back to work aboard ship and we were beginning to see results. Nothing happened at the three more sites under observation and we had preparations in place back on earth. The kid had finished his preparations and was beating some of the AI’s at the game of go. They said he cheated but I was beginning to get some hints as to how by now.

Twice small flyers appeared inside the sites we watched but Kid vetoed any raids before I was forced to veto them myself. He still had not said a word about were they came from and I wasn’t counting on it. At last after another week and a half two not one of the of the sites had flyers like the kids large one appear at one time and by Wolfmun’s troops attacked. The idea was to damage the flyers before they could leave and capture everybody aboard. All the seeming native life in those sites by now were parts of Wolfmun and it went off without a hitch. We were able to turn off the collars programs from a distance but there were no keys so getting them off was still a surgical procedure.

Mark Drescirtina was not aboard either of them and when I asked the kid if one of them was his he shrugged and said He didn’t know. He said I’ll take one if its fixed as a substitute. I said we’d better call a meeting and decide what to do.

I was aware by now of the 10 or so in system ships that could match any of the beyond Saturn courses we decided to pick. They had been gradually sliding onto trajectories and gaining appropriate speed for the last two weeks. It was most likely that they were the work of Comp-Mini-Archs that had traced through the confusion we had tried top sow at Bluetide. That was a fact that anyone with a good system and wide NET access would almost certainly know by know. We had a couple of weeks delta-vee after Saturn before any match up of course could be done and our original plans included a lot more than the ships presence.

At the meeting the kid wanted to turn back and most of the team agreed with him but when Lewellia, Breath, The AI’s and I said we weren’t done yet He agreed to go with our opinion.

I had Like Breath send a message to release all of the previous but slightly edited Holo recordings before today as a victory celebration. I myself put out an announcement telling our location and that we planed to turn around at Neptune and return in system. Breath was to send Terawards approved footage everyday. I arranged a closed door bidding session for one of the captured flyers and The release of Holo footage of both captures. Wolfmun had the other for now. The system though still puzzled by the kid, was having much publicized victory celebrations.

The other ships stayed on our tail.

Battle past Saturn.

We made our course change as we rounded Saturn and were on the way to Neptune. The biding for the flyer was fierce and the kid and I as his agent were very well off. The ship was now armed and those of us aboard had tested everything. I was still learning a few new tricks everyday though and that pleased me a bit.

After the biding only four ships stayed on our tail. Though they were close enough to match speed they had done nothing. The AI’s refused to bet with me about it so I was fighting boredom by practicing a lot. I hoped that nothing would go wrong.

About a six weeks past Saturn two of the ships made their move and burned so that they would match course in less that four hours. We went to condition red though there was not much we could do except wait.

In an hour, He must of realized the same thing, Mark Drescirtina himself came on Holo for a while and bragged about how his two ships play toy with the mouse with us. I silently collected about a dozen bets. We launched some of the remaining smaller vessels we carried and hoped for the best. I had expected one ship but two was always a possibility. The ships coming were some that we could not be sure had been able to put any aid for us aboard before launch.

We reached laser range and the slow movement of missiles was visible on the my in brain Holo simulations to chart the course of the battle so far we had taken superficial laser damage and were picking off the missiles at a reasonable rate.

We were still at long range and it would get a little trickier very quickly. We could not hope to outmaneuver monopole thrust driven ships with our fusion drive and they while probably not get through with the missiles while we had operating laser defenses were going to be vulnerable to their lasers eventually.

The two other ships that trailed us were absolutely neutral but one of them would be in range with one of Marks ships for a few minutes if nothing changed. I said that I was feeling lucky but Kid declined the bet.

As I expected the third ship opened fire on one of Mark’s as it came into range. It used a weapon I had not seen before and those two were now on a differing vector that would take them out of the fight between Marks other ship and us for at least six hours. We were starting to take laser damage but our extra mass as a larger vessel was making a big difference.

I was wondering how we were going to shake loose when the AI’s said that other AI’s had invaded the ship systems though the invaders were simply blocked as they appeared in such limited equipment. Our AI’s had been ordered to ditch ship in such a case and I didn’t blame them.

I ordered the crew to do begin to allow damage and to abandon ship in the remaining escape vessels when they felt it was necessary. I turned to the kid and said “Lets go”.

The official plan was for us to take two of the little fast monopole launch tube systems arranged to go with our armor by Wolfmun. They were fast and small enough that when taking vector away were not going to be bothered during combat and simultaneous launches of missiles with higher priority. The kid had never told me what he thought of the official plan but I knew he knew I knew.

If anything seems wrong by now I will give you the real picture while the kid and I board his invisible “flyer” wearing armor and it is pushed by thrusters that drop before it even exits the side of the late Demon Tail.

Almost all of the crew got off as we made our close approach to Saturn wearing the armor pre-prepared by Wolfmun and under the guise of our weapons testing drifted away and by now were in suspended animation having made a much different hyperbola around Saturn awaiting a prearranged rescue in about six months on the far side of the sun at Jupiter. Only five volunteers besides the kid and I stayed aboard. They were now in nearly disabled ship with holo recording from Holo equipment set up with no computer link to control. It showing the invading AI’s the scene of the kid and I watching the battle rage. Our part of that had been constructed during the last month by the Bluetide AI’s. It was merged mechanically by devices that had no computer control with the control room battle.

I hoped that all the volunteers who had stayed aboard with us would get out in time. The holo was scheduled to cut off shortly when a suitable hit was made on the ship by the Marks ship. The problem was to disable the ship convincingly enough that a nuclear finish was not needed and it would be boarded by Mark Drescirtina’s crew.

The Kid and I floated already out of range of the see invisible flyer trick and watched through space armor enhanced vision that as Demons Tail activity sputtered down to one laser that fired intermittently while randomly spinning. It worked, the rest of the missiles inbound suddenly vectored away. We made a direct course away from there

Lasers played over Demons Tail till movement or repair of systems were obviously impossible.

We watched as several smaller craft drew near her and boarded. They had a few surprise traps to find and nothing else aboard. The plan was for them to start for the control room and then discover that the fusion reactor was set to  give out in an overload in ten minutes time. A timer set to mechanically turn on some of the “damaged” reactor sensors would ensure that they would have just enough time to evacuate before the ship blew.

We watched the boarding party hurry out to meet with their own vessel ,  it wasn’t making it easier by moving a good distance away beyond any reasonable reactor explosion having any effect at all. They caught up though and had been aboard for about five minutes when the multiple frequency message I had arranged sent by one of normal lifeboat type vessels we dropped off when they began to close arrived. Those lifeboats were dropped to simulate the evacuation conditions that they would find after our losing battle and The computer in one of them was to send it if any ships met with the one Mark Drescirtina was in.

The way we knew the message was received was the explosion to end all explosions that went off when it arrived was the Demon Tails real tail.

We had packed more monopole batteries and launch fill packages aboard in thirty six hours before launch than you could imagine. They were deep in protected areas of the ship next to the reactor and the battery chips were two small for AI infection.

We had arrived a good distance away from that location by now but we still had melting on some of the plastic outside. We now had hefty radiation doses but the space armor medical equipment would keep us alive. The calculation of  the dose Mark’s ship received was intermittently lethal because of its shielding but it would almost certainly by inoperable due to partial melting and electromagnetic pulse.

Did we win or did we lose.

We watched. I asked Kid if he wanted to open the door so we could transmit a request for missile fire to the lifeboat site. He said no and that we could wait and see what occurred first before doing any more damage.

Marks other vessel was on far away and I wondered what the a crew of slave collar who wished to make port after the details of this reached Saturn and the rest of the system at light speed. That is if Mark had been on the first ship.

We could only watch with the armors optic enhancements that could act as telescopes with visible radiation on the face plate. I would have appreciated a way to communicate with armor lasers to the lifeboats as they could observe but I had learned before that the whatever kept the kids vehicles transparent was equally able to keep signals inside.

I stretched back in the ellipsoid. It only had two seats in it now and barely room for two sets of armor. How long do we wait Kid. He said I’m not waiting pulled a black rectangle out of his armors front storage, pushed it into a slot in the flyers console. Set a dial there with letters in a language that “Cold” hadn’t been able to translate and pushed one button.

The space outside the bubble became gray. I asked Kid “What’s up”. His answer was “We are going to a base of mine in about in the last ice age”. Oh. He told me then it would be about twenty four hours before we arrived and that we might catch a little sleep.

I started thinking and when I remembered the unreadable dial I also remembered our third passenger who was unconscious as he had been since the AI’s invaded. He was stored in optical memory that could not be erased but his entire system had had all power drained. So I flipped the switch and planed to fill him in when he was done unpacking. I had an interesting experience then, sort of feeling “cold” begin to come to life and somehow thinking I knew what “Cold” was thinking. So I fell asleep. When I woke up “Cold” sent me an question asking where we were. I told him we were supposed to be on our way to see mammoths. “Cold” said he would meditate on it.

Kid woke up about nine hours after we last talked and spoke over the very Limited NET “Hello Cold” I was beginning wonder about something and was sure after I proposed a game or two of chess. I could beat the Kid but both of us could beat “Cold”. If we left him alone “Cold” would get ahead but we both were able to make him hallucinate by trying to and win at will. I was considering what strange physics could make a flyer vanish and make a man able without another AI’s help cause an AI to hallucinate.

I asked “Cold” to give me a physical and he used the suit systems to do that. I have developed new brain cell growth a number of other minor organ changes and seem to be a lot younger medically than the last time I looked in the mirror.

The kid seemed nervous as we approached what he informed me was our coming exit from the gray blur. He watched the changes on console the lights and when one started blinking he said hold on. We suddenly appeared in a large room and were under about five gees for a second. The flyer almost hit the floor but recovered and was hovering about a foot from the ground. There was nothing in the room except a black metal bar about ten meters long held up by attached metal struts. It had a cable of the same color hanging down from both sides that almost reached the floor.

The kid turned of the flyer we settled to the ground and He opened the door. He Stepped out pulled one of the cables out from the bar and pushed it in front of his seat to bottom of the console. It attached and “Cold” told me he detected a very strong power flow.

The kid was acting like he expected me to get out so I did. We walked to one side of the room and then he opened a door concealed in the rock. We walked in.

A teenagers place.

Beyond was a combination of apartment and warehouse. It had a modern looking kitchen, an antique videotape player,and anoether antique internal combustion automobile sat in the living room. There were paper books lying on a nice collection of furniture from all times and places. Art was haphazardly hung on the walls. A projecting rock in the back was covered in haphazard Hieroglyphic graffiti.

Kid took off his armor and made himself busy in the kitchen opening metal cylinders with advertisements in a variety of languages on them. He was pouring a collection of things into a large bowl and put the collection into the microwave. He busied himself with what proved to be a hand pumped faucet. He was happily chanting to himself in a monotone and acting like he had finally come home.

I also removed my armor and left it and of course “Cold” sitting there as another warehouse fixture next to Kids. I and “Cold” were a bit un-keyed as the NET was totally empty except for us. I sat down on a reclining chair that had a label saying it was a “vibro-natural from New York City” and investigations found a set of covered switches and what they called a power cord until fifty years ago so I gave up.

The Kid washed dishes by hand in another large bowl. He served a mixed together collection of vegetables and meats on plates with solid sterling silverware that was bent but almost new. I was busy ignoring the metal taste and the nature of the food as I ate it and waited for Kid to speak. He finished the initial part of his meal quickly and looked over and spoke out “Sort of different, Eh.”

Before I could comment he continued “It’s not safe here. We have to wait until the machine is done recharging and then we have to get going. If we go outside and are lucky we can have steak for dinner though. I’m going to load the flyer with some things we need after we are done eating.” I asked him if he had anything else to tell me. He shook his head and replied “No it’s my turn to make the plans this time. We learned not to explain anything.”

Loading the “what we needed” was just a couple of backpacks one of them full of the black rectangles, he had put in the console, before bringing us here. He Put the backpacks in the flyer. Then He indicated we should put our armor back on. “Cold was silent and expectant as we all climbed about six flights of crudely carved stone stairs and then walked out into a starry moonlight night.

We were atop a small isolated rocky prominence with a view of prairie all around. I could feel Cold’s mind as it swore to spend eternity chanting mantras of humility and with the optical enhancements I could see herds of animals standing sleeping on the mostly grasslands in the distance.

Kid who had a has a way of setting anything onto his own unique track, spoke up “Damm, Its dark. We can’t hunt till morning.” I realized that what he meant by “hunt” was use the lasers in the armor to shoot a defenseless herd animal from the top of the pinnacle and then to climb down and carry it up.

I suggested using the armor to climb down and walking closer to some of the wildlife before finding supper. He said “I never think of that.” We began to clamber down the rock using the armors amplified strength to grip whatever was handy.

Hunting in the dark.

The kid was grumbling “I have not remembered that some days it is good going down the rock. I was clawed by one of the God of pair that lived here. Among my first friends were some eaten by them. The habits remain when the armor comes.”. I am giving “Colds” translation from Egyptian of some of what he said.

When we reached the bottom I soon discovered that powered armor is for pushing through never cut brush but lacked something in the way of a quiet approach for hunters. Kid didn’t worry about it and soon enough we were a couple of hundred yards from a herd of animals as strange all the biomods I ever seen.

Kid sent over the message “Your shot.” With an offbeat amusement in it that reflected his perception of my reaction to using auto-targeting lasers on dinner. I picked one of the standing fat meter high flat deca-meter nosed sleepers as a target and had “Cold” calculate where the heart was for my shot. I fired and the horse high animal who had a fair part of a hippopotami bulk,  a nose and mouth that stuck out like a shovel, and gave me a “We eat the plains impression” fell. Kid taught me a little about being a butcher while dressed in space armor and we made our way back to the pinnacle carrying about ten kilo’s of steak.

We climbed up the rock and down the stairs and took off our armor. Kid began to prepare our supper of microwave steak. I watched as began to he cut a small steak and put it in the kitchens oven. That was more than I needed then. I got up and said “Kid, Its my turn to cook.”. I am no believer in sanctity or any special truth found in a properly roasted steak beyond taste that is. I while Kid watched in puzzlement carved the meat. Put on my armor and made a grill out of what loose metal I could pull out of furnishings and then bend. I climbed the stairs and gathered wood braced the grill between two stones and started a fire beneath it. I scanned the Kitchen for spices and salt. I found some abandoned in a locked wooden box. I cooked the steaks. We ate. The kid laughed a lot.

He more or less told me that being used to so many different customs, food was food and He ate the going fare however it was prepared. He said you get used to doing that kind of thing. That I put a lot of effort into dinner and he would never have expected it. I asked how the steak was. He nodded noncommittally and said “Not bad.” I guess I can say “When one is always a tourist, Rome does not know what it is missing”. Ok.

We waited for an couple more hours and then we boarded the flyer wearing our armor. He put in one of the black rectangles, pushed buttons, and then the room outside was gone.

I asked Kid how long he had lived in the rock pinnacle in 11343 BC. He told me that it was unknown. He had been about 9 years old when he first arrived and grew up there.

He continued saying that he had been adopted by the temple in an artisan community when he was four or five and lived with the priests for four years after that. One day in his third year at the temple, He was watching the farmers carry water from the river for the onion fields when two fighters like the ones from my time came.

One was firing at the other and managed to destroy it above the temple. It then came under return fire from hill above the temple. While the younger Kid was hiding behind a wall between the temple and the hill the fighter turned and set off an explosion on the slope above the wall. He stuck his head up as the dust blew over and watched as several men climbed out of the fighter which by then had landed. They ran into the temple but did not come out. He waited and returned into the temple when he saw priests come out after a few hours.

The priests could not tell him anything about what had occurred. He could no longer hear. A week later he and a friend of his found the body of a man from the flyer laying in a partially underground grain storage room. They liked to go sneak into the room because it was cool. He found one of the priests sling stones in the man’s clothing that did not penetrate a padded vest the man had been wearing when he died.

The man had a glowing box that spoke and he and his friend took it away with them.

The box stopped speaking when he pulled a knob outward and they hid it when He told his friend the priests would punish them if they had it. He made his friend swear never to tell others of the secret location of the gods box and to make up in all ways for all of life slight’s to the gods that taking it surely was. The priests found the body and questioned everyone who may have been  nearby. He having been seen in that area was called in to the head priest’s rooms. He could not hear what the priest said but was able to act as though He had not been there at the time. Perhaps the head priest suspected something, perhaps he was impressed, because Kid was assigned to the be taught magic and to write and read. Something usually reserved for those families that could pay for it.

By winter he could read and write all the common script and Hieroglyphics the priests could show him even though he could not hear them speak. He had taught himself to read lips by then and so impressed his teachers that He was initiated as the youngest priest in four decades and given a room in the temple. He was told to expect to become a temple scribe.

His friend who being still being trained as an artist not a priest, died in the spring from a seasonal fever. He went one night and got the box and kept it in his room at the temple in a woven reed container. He could try to appease it’s wants at night.

It had dials and knobs and occasionally he would here voices when he moved them. He would occasion chant at the box with some responses that he could not follow.

That summer Kid was brought in to see the all of the priests assembled and asked to read aloud the text of a scroll. The scroll instructed him how to journey to the main temple at the new royal city and told him he had been summoned to join the priesthood there.

He left alone that month with a basket of food and the magic box. He rode river craft until he felt too guilty about not worshipping the box at night in front of the others. So he left the boat and as he knew that he could from his location, walked from there along the river.

About a day later while worshipping the box a flyer a bit larger than the ones at the temple appeared above the river near him and floated in his direction. It settled on the bank in front of him and three men got out. They settled in front of him and one of them fiddled with a something with glowing dials like his box. Suddenly a loud repeating noise occurred and two of the men fell the third vanished and then bright lights and fires began about 100 yards away.

He waited but nothing happened. One of the men who had fallen groaned and he walked over and to find that person bleeding badly and his thigh bones broken and extending into the air and though conscious. He showed him the box. The wounded man tried talking and then pointed at the flyer and himself somehow indicating that he must be put aboard the flyer.

Kid took a rope and straps he found aboard the vehicle and managed to both tie up the man’s legs and stop the worst bleeding and rig a pulley system and get the man aboard. The man passed out after that but when could he look at the kid he was trying to laugh. After a while as they remained in the flyer, the man who had vanished appeared, he stared at Kid’s rope contraption then at kid and his unconscious companion. He then climbed into the flyer, cut the ropes and the world outside vanished.

Kid said “That was how I first got to our last stop”.

Nothing to do but talk.

I said “Kid, go on your I’m following you” Kid gathered a distant expression and told me “Some other time.” He said we are going to make a few stops. Doesn’t “Cold” have some movies He could show us? We watched Holos and slept for the next day, then a rainstorm appeared outside and we were stopped at one of the black bar’s in a gully field and connecting the recharging cable. “Cold” told me we were in Australia at 21000 BC or so. We got to eat marsupial of an unknown kind for dinner and left again.

The next halt was in Asia in 31000 BC a day later with another metal bar, also in grasslands. After we left Kid continued with his story.

Kid said “I could tell the god (whom I found out was a man) who was able to become invisible was also wounded and I helped him take a machine made of a million snake like wires off” He didn’t talk but set out bindings his burns with clothing and taking pills. I pointed to the other wounded man and He injected him with something. He slept until we arrived in the cave in the rock were you cooked. I woke him then and he climbed out of the god’s ship and left. I followed him inside. There were three men there and the disappearing man was gone when I entered. They drew pistols and I presented them my box. They must of felt a little foolish and brought me in and fed me. I tried to ask about the disappearing man but they couldn’t understand. I walked around and went back out with one of them and saw the other wounded man still in the flyer.

I told the man I was with and he shook his head and gestured me back inside. I indicated wounds and that we should get the wounded man out. He shook his head and pointed at me and the man to show that if I wanted the wounded man I could get him myself. So I got him out. I put together another tool of ropes and pulled the man with the broken legs out, It was harder than before because the flyer was higher but I got him out. I got another man to come into the landing cavern with me and when he saw the wounded man out of the flyer he helped me move him inside and put him on a pile of blankets. That was a former roman gladiator named Manius, He never talked much but could be counted on to do the right thing.

I don’t know who the man who would not help was but I’ve met several like that in various places who would never do anything for anyone else.

I helped Manius as he put the bones back into both legs. He showed me a laser pistol and heated a sword with bursts from it to cauterized the wounds. The interesting thing is first he asked me in gestures if the wounded man had talked to me. When I showed how I had been asked to put the man (I would call our future leader Pegman later) with his broken legs into the flyer was when Manius did the surgery. I know now that Manius would have killed Pegman out of mercy if I had not shown him.

Manius showed me where to sleep. He took me out the next day and began teach me how to use a practice sword that he carved when we climbed down the cliff. I was amazed at the animals in the “Land of the God’s”. Manius always ignored things like the big cats. I did not become friends with the other two and The man who could disappear stayed in his own room. Though he did come out once and get a package of the injectors he used on Pegman while we journeyed. Manius saw him and motioned if they had been used on Pegman. I indicated that one of them had. Manius began to give Pegman an injection with one every day after that. I was to clean him and pour water down his throat.

I found out later that a man who was allergic to the antibiotics was the first man Manius had ever seen them used on. He had begun to teach me his language and at the end of the week even though I could not hear him. Pegman was awake though neither leg could be moved and they were horribly swollen.  He saw the language lessons and decided to compete with Manius in pointing things out and naming them. I must have been able to sound right after a while because they were acting as though I pronounced things properly. They did not have a common language so I was learning Finnish and Latin at the same time. He showed Manius some other things to inject him with and was able to eat and drink.

The man who could make himself vanish came out of his room and one night and injected me with something that fixed my ears during the next week. He looked disgusted that he was doing so and went back to his room in a huff.

The next week “Rust” which was Manius’s name for the disappearing man was out of his room. He did not talk but indicated for Manius and the one of the others to come with him. Manius looked displeased but they went into the flyer and vanished. I was left with Pegman and the other silent man who had filed teeth. Pegman gave me a laser pistol after they left and said shoot the silent man if he bothered me. I think he was concerned that the man with filled teeth who only sat staring into space would go mad. Correctly as it happens but that was much later.

Pegman was able to show me how to prepare food though we had only a portable gas stove to cook with. In two weeks Rust and Manius returned Pegman’s legs were no better by then and we were out of food but I was able to talk to him a lot better. Manius greeted me warmly and when he saw I had no food took me hunting. The next day “Rust” could not find any food and took Manius, the silent and the Hostile one out into the landing room to talk. I heard some noise and waited then went out there and found out what happened. When I arrived the silent one was sitting in the corner, Manius was unconscious, and “Rust” and the other were dead. I had to inject rust and give him water were he was on the ground for a day and a half before He was awake enough to move. Pegman told me to make very sure Rust was dead and to take everything off him and use the laser pistol on his head.

Pegman had told me that Manius had a laser burn when I described it and how to treat him. I also had to learn to hunt birds with my laser pistol and a sling that I made so we could eat. When Manius awoke He crawled inside and I made a pallet near Pegman’s for him. They were worried about the silent one who did not move and would only sit were he was. Manius was able to treat his own wounds and then to walk in another week. I fed everyone. I even left food and water near the silent one. He drank the water but ignored the food.

The silent one came in and shot Manius again after Manius started walking. Pegman shot the silent one in the back at the same time. I was upstairs and when I came down I had to wrap Manius’s arm in bandages and start hunting again. Pegman told me That Manius arm wound was actually worse than his chest wound. Some of the bones in the shoulder were gone. He asked me to gather all of Rust’s things carefully from the back room that Rust had lived in and pointed out a laser rifle. He said we were lucky that only pistols were used in the fighting as the laser rifle wounds were almost always fatal. His leg was not getting better.

After Manius woke up, He and Pegman used me as an interpreter and I showed them when they asked, that we had only six more injections. They asked me to inspect the flyer and see if it was all right. I did not like that as that was the room full of corpses but went anyway and it had no changes I could see. They took my last piece of chalk and drew symbols on the floor and pointed a lot.

The next day Pegman told me we were going to a place were his legs and Manius arm might be helped. Manius could barely move but between us we got Pegman to the flyer and we all of us inside. They told me to unplug the charger and I did. Then Pegman showed me how to fly it. He made me move very slowly around the cavern.

Kid was demonstrating what he learned then as he spoke. There was only one flying control a knob that you could move in any direction or rotate on all three axis. The amount of push that you gave it controlled how much of its maximum speed you used in that direction. It would fly backwards or sideways. Rotating the knob spun the flyer on that same axis constantly at a rate proportional to the knobs rotation.

Kid said “Pegman told me I was never to push any of the buttons or I would never see them again.” Pegman set the dials and pushed a button. Then the cave full of corpses vanished.

Pegman became unconscious before we arrived. Then we spent a long time over an ocean. Manius sipped water and told me repeatedly that we were to look for a magic city. I was to help them both get out when nobody was nearby to see me. Then I was to get in, close the door, fly higher to were I could follow wherever they were taken. I was to stay hidden in the flyer until they found me. He told me if I saw food and no one else could see the flyer to get out and take the food then get in and close the door. I was never to leave the door open.

I found a magic city of lights after a day of flying but by then Manius was almost always delirious, I was able to remember enough to get near the ground without hitting anything except some wires by a grassy place inside the city. I convinced Manius to jump out and to come around and pull Pegman out with one arm. I shot a laser pistol at a tree until it was burning then closed the door and made the flyer go up until I could see everything.

A large number of twentieth century vehicles that I thought were magic flashing boxes then came and different people got out of them. They waited and then put Manius and Pegman in a flashing thing and I tried to follow. I soon was unable to follow the flashing thing and I was lost.

Kid stopped talking. We had arrived in what must have been a 41000 BC Arctic. “Cold” couldn’t tell the date as it was daylight while we were there. “Cold” also said his dates were estimates now anyway as he was having to guess at the proper motions of the stars and did not have the data with him.

We had a small stream here and cleaned up and filled the armor’s recycling water containers. I really can’t complain about the facilities in military space armor. There are no places to stop and go to the bathroom on one of these trips and it must have been a nightmare trip when the Kid and his wounded friends flew.

Kid did tell me we would have only six more stops before we reached the machine he left at out final destination.

More talk.

Kid wanted to watch Holos the next day. I spent some time digesting the facts. My comment is that I was already aware that history was not big enough for even one episode with hard-bitten time traveling gunmen.

After one more stop, were we shot a giant predatory ground bird that attacked camp while we were eating, he went on with the story. He said he was lost all the next day but watched the people who were oriental walking in the city. He was looking for food and eventually found a fishing dock with a million fish in a pile mixed with snow. He could drive next to them and scoop up as many as he needed. He was learning how to make the flyer move but could not do fast things yet.

He said “I looked all day and also got some blue clothing from a line between two houses. I slept till sunset and began to look for the road full of metal moving objects that was the one from the place I first landed. I spent the night following flashing lights from near there until I found a building with the right kind of boxes going to it. Then I slept till dawn and floated past all the windows looking for Pegman and Manius. I finally found one of them. He was lying on a bed by the window and wrapped in bandages.

I was suddenly happy. My friends were alive and I had an infinite supply of fish. I was all right for a few days but became bored after a week. I had located Manius in a room also and he was looking much better but unable to see Pegman because his door was guarded. I watched flat-screen movies by flying near them but they are no fun when you don’t speak the language after a while.

I guess it was foolish but I found some others my own age playing on a farm outside the city. They had something like laser pistols strapped to their belts and were running around in costumes having a good time. I got out of the flyer where they could not see and came over watched. They were coming my way so I jumped out from behind a bush and surprised them. They were speechless for a moment and then started talking they showed me there pistols and clothing and I showed them my laser pistol. We had fun though we had no common language playing explore the little patch of forest. They left in the evening and I went back to the flyer. It was ok but I was assumed that anyone could have found it while I was with my friends.

The next day I met my friends and got them to follow me to the flyer. They did not know what it was and got in wrinkling their noses. I flew us around all day and they were amassed and exited. I took them home and went to spend my night outside the hospital window.

The next day I went to see my friends but there were a bunch of adults there with what I later learned were flat screen TV cameras. So I left.

I tried saw Manius at his window looking as though he would like to climb out that afternoon so I came vary close and opened the door. He broke the window and jumped in. I drove to where Pegman was and Manius watched for a while and said we would have to wait and return for him. He asked what I had been doing and I told him about the fish.

We flew north until we found a place that looked good and was empty for miles around it. There we wasted a week fishing and hunting the small deer. Manius’s  arm was in a cast and I learned later they found someone who could talk to him who told him it could come off in two lunar months. His chest was bandaged heavily. He said if he grew feverish I should give him an injection and if that did not cure Him he would go back to the hospital.

A week later we were outside Pegman’s window and He was awake. He had metal pegs on his legs now and was talking a nurse into fooling around with him even though it was obvious she could not speak his language. Manius said we should still wait and so I showed him the city. I still knew very little Latin and he had been teaching me all week.

We had to find him new clothing now but that was easy when the clothing was on lines in the air even at night. We stayed in the city for another week. Watching movies on both little and big screens. Then Manius decided to sneak into the hospital at night. I let him out a little ways away from it. He had been comparing the clothing on people outside with his own and we had found some that was nearly the same. Though he did not like the sandals we got from a doorway.

I watched as Manius came into Pegman’s room and talked to him. Then he left and I flew back and picked him up. He said Pegman would be able to leave in another week.”

Kid was done talking again. The last thing He said was “We did some other things but got Pegman out at the end of the week and went home.”

A stop in time saves nine flowers.

The next stop was in a rain forest jungle with two of the standard power bars there not one. There was a much larger bar also and that is what we hitched the flyer to after we cleared the jungle around it with our lasers. Kid commented that this was risky but our best course of action. I asked him why the risk and he said “We are way too near the place were I met Mark”.

All the trees and plants were new to me again and I was beginning to enjoy the feeling. I felt that I was watching visual proof of the beliefs of the gene mod religions. The time it takes for species change in any micro-niche is much less than you might imagine. I think the viewpoint of my time is correct in letting changes happen, the winner of the evolutionary gambles when intelligence and the statistical results of repeated new tries at creation are in the combination is everything. At all the stops on this trip I got to see another of the tries nature made without intelligence’s ability to do both good and bad added and I felt natures nakedness with chance alone serving as a partner.

Kid said that the larger bar could give us a much faster charge and that we could leave in only two hours. We waited a little ways from the flyer and talked while the flyer charged.

I asked about Mark Drescirtina and Kid said “That psychopath could be from as many places as there are times to be from, more than that, every step we take makes part of a new time for a while. I should be saying every step makes a new time but some of the groups who have flyers are organized to undo the changes and they do a fairly good job.”

He continued “I once met what was either a biomod or as he claimed a species that never developed in times we know of who told me that there have always been those who could change time and those who tried to repair it. He said the only changes that last are the subtle ones. He may have been lying but he had a flyer that was different than all the others I have ever seen and said he was cooper blooded not an iron blooded creature. He had grown old looking for a timeline like his own. What he told me was that he was an accident. That some group had made a change once so far back that his species gained intelligence, created a civilization, sent him as a test pilot in their first time machine and were unmade when the mistake was changed. He told me no changes ever made a world like his again but only variations of ours. There have never been mollusks who rose as species in any of the times that he tried to cause to exist and that when he learned to meet and talk to other groups who used time they were mammals. He said that they have been using the time lines longer than he has and that he was the fluke”.

Kid explained to me then that when you traveled in time your own history remains the truth and any timeline you created was built as a whole, instantly from that moment to the farthest anyone had ever gone to look. He said he would show me a trick and that we would only need to stay an extra hour or two.

He began to hunt birds and cook them saying they will go bad quickly but should hold us for a little while. I could guess what was coming but helped him hunt.

Before we left Kid said imagine that is a father of a billion trees and destroyed a plant with purple flowers. The we climbed into the flyer and he set the dials and said watch this is the rectangle that brought us here. He pushed the button but we were only had gray outside for an instant. We appeared above the same jungle and I could see two men in space armor roasting birds. We flew away and then Kid opened the door and fired three shots from one of the monopole pistols we got on Bluetide at the clearing. There were three explosions as kid closed the door and pushed the button.

Depth is something.

We were in the gray again. Kid said “Ask “Cold” what they did.” “Cold” told me that as soon as Kid opened the door another AI was on our military NET and that the other AI was very upset when it’s own flyer still connected to the black bar had been destroyed. I was upset also when I realized that a copy of myself was now abandoned in 61,000 BC.

Kid said “They are on their own timeline now, they probably never saw the plant with purple flowers. It can get worse, We will almost certainly never see them again. They will be erased if hostile groups were in that time and saw the explosion. If they fixed the time machine it will vanish and never reappear in any time. Time machines protect themselves by making sure that only the first copy comes out when they go into this gray stuff. If we had been using a bigger machine and they had climbed in they would still be with us as duplicates but the duplicate of the machine would be gone if anybody used it. What I really did was set a trap for Mark Drescirtina I left his group two angry duplicates and a trapped time machine.”

I agreed with the kid when he said that he did not want to go around making duplicates of himself. The risk we were taking with duplicates was if they could find the master copy of a different time machine and used it. I wished my duplicate luck and that we would never meet.

We were on another long trip now and I needed some time to analyze the information. So I was going to be thinking for a while.

After another long trip we arrived at a rocky point in an icy storm. Kid’s demo had answered a few questions for me and I was beginning to work out what it meant to me. We were not bothered by the storm in armor, though wearing it constantly for 210 hours is a pain in more places than I will ever count. I asked Kid a few questions about time traveling to fill in details and he answered them. The flyers were all the same in construction with a frame and a console with writing in a language that no one he had ever met knew. Some of the groups using them were quite large and organized and others quite small. The biggest were the ones constantly repairing the time lines and they claimed to be the defenders of the future that invented them.

It was a moot question said the kid, as they were also recruited from any time at all and could neither read the language on the controls in or build new time machines. The future they were protecting was as unknown to them as any to one else because the technology used about 300 years after my own era could detect a time machine instantly and was avoided by all travelers. A century or two after that was a time when the technology was so strange that anything could happen if you tried to go there. Kid said the reason as far as he had been able to learn, was that communication with other stars in the galaxy had been accomplished and the custom was to travel as a species and a culture by sending information containing the chemical means to create members of the species and the information that was the culture or personalities involved. What you ran into in those times, was all the technology and species from other parts of the galaxy. A timeline with slow technological development does not become that way until it passed the communications point but all of them do eventually and it was a big risk jumping that far to test the lack of development. He thought that since the time machines seemed limited to slow speeds in one solar system that each of the other systems had there own set, if any.

We waited until the charging was done and said good by to 71000 BC.

A swamp.

We arrived at our next stop in a swamp in the eastern Appalachians, Kid by now had informed me that the range of a machine is limited by the size. The machine Mark Drescirtina had stolen from him was the largest and could travel 44,000 years or so in one jump. We were limited to 14,000 years but Kid had set up this trail of chargers in 10,000 year intervals so that he could get as far back as possible in the smallest machines.

We had to dig out the charger bar and carry it out of the swamp. Then we waited to let the flyer charge again and Kid talked again.

Kid began “Pegman and I lived in the pinnacle cave for four years, Pegman knew enough to make plans and Manius while he was with us was good at carrying them out. I was still 9 or 10 when we returned from that trip where they were in the hospital and I had found all the fish I could eat.

You need to realize that our life in the pinnacle required trips to get necessities a lot of the time, Most of what we needed except meat is hard to find in 11,343 BC. Even that requires weapons for hunting and it is not as easy as you think to go and get them. If you buy anything it takes money that is acceptable at the time and place. You have to hope a hostile group is not going to notice your presence in an era before you leave and money gathering or shopping trips that require a days drive each way are no fun. Also there is the language problem everywhere.

Pegman was full of great plans and would argue with Manius over their practicality. Because they did not have more than a pidgin language in common and Manius was low tech, they always were trying the wrong things. Remember it is easy for groups with the right equipment to monitor conspicuous treasures. Also attempting to loot the known position of an ancient tomb may have you appearing in an alternate future were some other group looted it first and that requires another trip to recharge and re-try. If you leave them connected to the power bars long enough a time machine will hold multiple trip charges but they seem to get used up fast. Anyway It seemed as though Pegman and Manius were incompetent temporal pirates, They tried all kinds of stunts and would up bringing back very minor things like food and silverware. The charges on the laser weapons went first and later the ammunition for the replacement rifles ran very low constantly. They were able to bring back basics and I was allowed to drive on some of the trips.

We were settling in to a life of live in the cave, practicing fighting with Manius, two or three trips to get supplies, and a trip when they had negotiables, to bars or a whorehouse when we were visited by another group for the first time. The first we knew of it was when the door opened and a standoff occurred between Manius and a stranger wearing a uniform holding a rifle. They held weapons pointed at each other as I watched until five other uniformed men walked in and one of them laughed. They were all in uniform and five were subordinate to the one who had laughed. Their leader walked around and did not appear concerned about us after Manius lowered his weapon.

We found that Pegman spoke German when he came in on his crutches and I learned that they were from Europe during a war in the twentieth century. Their leader was impressed when he learned that Manius had been a gladiator and told Pegman that He was sure that Manius must be of Germanic descent as it was well known the Germans had been the best gladiators in Rome. They had been using their two flyers for a short time only, having been recruited by a larger group and stealing the flyers almost immediately. They only knew how to go to destinations programmed into command rectangles and only had three possible destinations. Also one of their machines was slaved to follow the other and they could not change it. Pegman told Manius and I that we had a lot of trouble coming and that He would be lying to them constantly.

What Pegman told them when he was sure that they were ignorant of the facts was that we had only two rectangles ourselves and that we had only lived here a few months. We were planing to establish a base here and find a better location when we could. He told them to make themselves at home, but we would need to go hunting for food to feed so many people.

Pegman told Manius and I that we would have to destroy them as quickly as possible and to take any opportunity as it arose. They were joking and indicating contempt for our living conditions and the lack of lighting in some of the rooms. The leader’s name was Johanus. He was a very angry looking at the cans in the kitchen and swearing at the labels.

In the morning Johanus asked “What is this hunting you were talking about.” and made us lead his entire crew up the stairs to the top so he could see the plains. He said yes the hunting was good and set three of his men to the task of going down with Manius to hunt. He said that Pegman and the rest of his men would wait on top with him for the others to return. They left and the others settled in to wait.

I went downstairs and got the my laser pistol. It still had a few charges left and as it was mine no one else knew where it was. I climbed back up and was sneaking out when I heard shots ahead of me. I crept out like Manius had shown me and found two of the soldiers dead in an other wise empty area. I could hear talking in German and when I got over to that side of the pinnacle I could see The officer and one of his men huddled behind rocks facing the other edge. They were firing at a slightly lower clump of rock and I was sure Pegman or Manius were there.

I found a set of rocks to hide behind where I could get a view of them and aimed as I had been taught and shot them both. Johanus ran to where I could not see him but I was able to shoot the soldier where he fell twice more. I hid deeper in the rocks and waited but I saw nothing for hours and it grew dark. I had almost made my mind up to look when a hand grabbed and held my arm with the laser pistol. I started but calmed down immediately when I realized that it was Manius. He had been able to find and sneak up to me in the dark while I was hidden in a rock maze. He led me to another spot and whispered “Wait”. He returned in a little while and said there was nobody to be seen on the pinnacle but we should wait and find out what had happened before going inside. I told him what I had done and his only comment was “We still wait, That he had seen lights outside and that there was more going on than we knew.”

We waited and every so often Manius would disappear silently to scout the peak and then return and sit. I was worried about Pegman and hoped he had survived.

In the morning we went and saw the bodies. Manius had already removed the weapons. We looked and found Pegman about halfway down the peak with a dead cat nearby. He had tried to climb down the wrong side without legs and become stuck. We would need to get a rope and climb down and get him. We went to the stairs and Manius told me to wait and went inside. I was standing watching the dead Germans when a voice from the air above me spoke in Latin, “So you got them did you”. I looked up there was a large flyer with doors open about ten feet over head with about eight men in it. A man was leaning out of the side and had a gun pointed at me. He was smiling but that wasn’t nice.

They landed and another flyer appeared further away and vanished again. I was led to the man who had talked to me in Latin and questioned. He asked me if there were any others inside. I said “Yes”. He wanted to know “How many”. I said “I don’t not know”. He wanted to know if they would fight. I told him “I don’t know”. He suddenly realized the laser pistol I was wearing was not a toy. He told me to give it to him. I said “No”. He motioned to the men standing next to him and they pointed rifles at me.  I gave him the pistol.

Manius came up the stairs then. He must have known that there were others here and decided to because he came unarmed. They covered him with rifles and he was also asked a large number of questions. He told them there was no one inside and that the Germans were all dead. They did not believe him and He replied “I was a gladiator of the city of Rome. They are dead.” The one who spoke Latin told him He would be shot if there were any people downstairs and he did not tell them. He answered “A true soldier would not tell anyway but we are alone.” Some of them checked downstairs and returned to say there was no one there. Two more flyers landed and six more men got out. Then we went inside.

The new group were the people that the Germans were running from. They had tracked them here and investigated a day before entering. They told Manius that he would have to join them but that he would be in a good position after he had been accepted. He talked at length with them. In a while Pegman was carried inside. Manius came to me and told me that He had told them about Pegman because they would be using the base here and I needed protection. Manius formally bid me good-bye and left with the main party. Pegman was told that he would be maintaining the base for the group that now controlled it. They all left then taking our flyer. Pegman and I were alone.”

Kid said “I’ll leave you guessing again there.” We left the swamp and I began working with “Cold” to set up estimates while the kid watched recorded Holos.

Our furthest point on a long trip.

We appeared in a cave in 91000 BC and landed with only the lights from our armor shining through the open doors. Kid and I took off our armor and washed in a river inside after we had checked the air. Kid said that when he carried the power bars back in the large machine that was stolen from him he arranged to put this one in the cave alone and I was the only person who had ever seen it besides himself. We would have to wait twice as long here as the next and final stop had no power bar at all and we would appear in a random location and have to fly to Kid’s storage.

I told “Cold” to set up the suit as a lamp and highlight what I glanced at. I was very glad to walk around without armor. Don’t try 330 hours in space armor that you have no room to take off in your vehicle. I was finally able to scratch in the places that I hesitated to ask “Cold” to handle. It’s a new experience, wondering what kind of relationship you form with an AI that is a constant companion and is in charge of all scratching. Kid showed me some equipment he had hidden here and we used a plastic NET to catch blind fish.

I asked him while we were fishing why he had bothered to set up a ten stop trail to nowhere. He said because He wanted to be certain of finding the maximum number of alternate time lines possible and you never reached some of them if you had never been further back. Apparently though you were in no danger of suddenly being erased after using a time machine the number of alternate time line you could visit depended on the distance back you had actually been.

I explored the caves for a while and investigated stalagmites. I was certain that I could recover the kids flyer now but the ramifications bothered me and I wanted some time to fill out the missing spots. I would also need some equipment and could not count on Wolfmun remembering our last meeting as it was in a time line that would be edited out of existence as soon as the editing groups visited a time after the “Billy” cycle race. It would be a problem using my own identity on the NET if an unknowing duplicate of me that had never met the kid was around. I laughed, Once you stepped aboard one of the kids flyers you were guaranteed of a different life from then on, being effectively divorced from your own time line sooner or later.

I told “Cold” that He was divorced from Wolfmun and that we were on our own, He replied speaking from my helmet, “I always wanted a life as a mobile lamp”. We left after 24 hours.

If the rides on the flyer sound boring, you are absolutely right. The hours in the gray walled box barely big enough for two suits of space armor are about as bad as you can get. Kid had somehow gotten the habit of telling a little bit of a story every two days and was content to vegetate otherwise. I could wonder about the effects of being raised in a company composed of the polyglot denizens of various timelines often cramped together in one of the machines. Kid had made it his nature to follow a rule of outputting small amounts of talk while traveling and it was almost impossible to divert him from his upbringings conditioning.

I realized with a start then that I was more guilty than the kid and had not said a word about my own life even though I had reminded myself often enough to do so. I had been with Kid for about seven months and I had never talked about my life. So though I will gloss over it here, on that leg of our trip I told Kid about growing up in the Comp-Mini-Arch and the Free Military in the Mars Company Wars.

We reached our destination time of 101,000 BC while I was explaining why it all could be understood by my relationship with the twins. It was daylight above an ocean as usual and though “Cold” told me he could sense our latitude by testing the local gravitational he was approximating or longitudinal position from a best estimate as he did not know the exact time. Try to get a quick navigational fix when procession of the equinoxes becomes a variable with uncertainty in it upon arrival, and the original arrival location is unknown. Actually the problem is not that bad given a little time to gather data. The north most point the sun reaches gives time of year. Tracking the changes in the constellations takes only one clear night. Then approximating possible positions from the data as it would appear in each possible year is minor.

We had “Cold” flip a random virtual coin while Kid and I both tried to cheat. I chose East and won. Kid was hiding his amazement without much success. We reached land soon and after dark could fly to our destination. We were in the Americas and we needed to go to Europe. It would be a long flight at 150 KPH.

After a while Kid began to tell his story again. He let me know that the next part of his life was growing up in a recreational base for the group that took Manius and that he had to learn how to get along with a varied set of camp followers that were dropped there to entertain.

In his words “Pegman worried that I would have a problem with the visitors who liked boys but I soon learned that Manius was now a troop leader whom everybody either respected or feared and he claimed I was his son. I would only have to avoid his enemies and Pegman was able to set up relationships with the ladies and the two servants that joined us that had him in possession of more information than we needed.”

There were usually seven or so of the ladies with us and a visit every other week from some of the troops. They soon learned that they needed to bring their own food, drink and presents along if they wanted to have a good time. Unless they visited we were on our own and Pegman and I had the task of organizing the survival and acquisition of food for a set of courtesans kidnapped from all era’s. That was a tough job. For the first two years Pegman would not let me out hunting on the plains below and either he or I would often stand guard wile the ladies trapped birds and gathered their eggs. It became a traditional bet among our guests that they could do dramatic things as hunters though and we smoked the meat with fires on the top landing of the stairs. It  was rather different with seven mostly naked ladies who always competed for gifts of the bizarre kind.

The people I grew to like best were Regna, a woman from Norway before Pegman’s time and a pair both called Cleopatra who spoke Egyptian that was not the same as mine. Regina would browbeat Pegman unmercifully so He could put up with it and shuffle off to do whatever task she wanted done. It was a game they played and they would gang up on anyone who interfered. The two Cleopatras where originally one Cleopatra who was very young and cried for her servants after being brought by an officer. The officer later took her out and returned with two identical copies who stared at each other with death in there eyes. I told them both that their own fates in this land of the gods had decided that they would need all the cleverness of being two copies of the same clever person and after that they began plotting together merrily. I almost regretted telling them because until they decided Pegman and I were gods even if we did not know it they gave Pegman a lot of competition for leadership. The Cleopatrias were as smart as anyone I have ever met anywhere in controlling other peoples lives. They were also untouchable except by the officer who brought them in.

Even He soon began arriving with gifts and some trepidation and leaving as though he would hurry back while looking like he did not quite understand why he should have been allowed out.

I was surprised by a visit from Manius after about a year who came in a very large flyer with nearly forty troops of his own. He brought me laser pistol batteries, a sword and clothing. Pegman said I needed an education too and Manius promised if I was good enough with the sword I would have a teacher on his next trip. It was lucky I kept practicing while he was gone because I could show him a lot of improvement. He brought a lot of gifts for Pegman too. He said that the life of a soldier in the group he was in was more like being a gladiator than a normal soldiers life of mostly waiting for something to happen. Manius’s troops could go directly to a fight about once a week. He talked a lot about survival and said that he had lived longer on the job than any other fighter in all of the bases that were controlled by the group. He was being considered for promotion to head of all the fighters and if an assassination he had tried to arrange to happen while he was here worked he would be the general. He said he was about four years older then the last time he saw me by his count. He smiled and said if He was ever killed I should not  let them take me alive for revenge against him. I told him that I was sure we would see each other again and that it was unlikely that He would die. He said yes, but I should make sure I was ready to take over from the current leaders before he grew old. I told him that would be my sole task from that moment on. He took me hunting one of the big cats that afternoon. I still have the cat’s pelt.

Manius was quickly gone and life went on as usual. The three main events in my life during the next year were my losing my virginity, The Cleopatrias disappearance and my education starting.

The first happened after I tried seducing some of the ladies in camp and failing miserably for no reason I could determine. Later the same week I was awoken by two of the Cleopatrias closer companions and brought into the room they had reserved for themselves. I was bathed under the critical eyes of the Cleopatrias and subjected to the most technical loss of virginity you could imagine. I was instructed from the viewpoint of a perfectionist who believed that her responsibility to the gods was to make sure I knew details I had never imagined about the lusts of mortals. She had planed the event for a year as her own job and even had written scrolls for me to read about it. I was a diligent student but she may have been disappointed in the capacities of gods, she blamed it on my youth and said that I was superior to the mortals she had practiced on when she was my age. Every other lady had been informed that she alone had enough god in her to teach me. I think that explained the failures. I should add that in most time periods sex with a male as young as I was then is nothing unusual and I had been certain there was something wrong for me to have failed that badly.

It was only a month later that we discovered one morning that the Cleopatrias had vanished with one of the servants. I learned later that they seduced their friend the officer into taking them away with him. An investigation was held but knothing came of it. The Cleopatrias have been reported by gossip regularly on the timelines in one way or another ever since.

A gene mod from an alternate timeline was brought to the pinnacle with three other teenagers during the last part of the year. He was supposed to teach me and had equipment built into him to project Holos and do so. He was called T’ercna and began teaching both the written and spoke versions of his language. That was a waste. His history was a timeline were the world’s technological revolution was brought about by the Aztecs and Eurasians were the playthings of colonial empires. He also taught me science and what he knew about the time traveling culture. He was amazed at how fast I learned and would pray to the his gods every night in gratitude for the opportunity to teach. His other three students were not very good at learning from him but they were fun to have around. One of them has his own group and is fighting Mark’s gang also now but the other two went sneaking out to try hunting that year and were eaten by cats in the rocks. I was going to stop them if they tried but they got out when I wasn’t watching. I was with the soldiers that found them afterwards.

I was a captive of that bunch for two more years until they broke up and Manius claimed the pinnacle as part of his own domain. He and I were always busy after that He with his portable army in three of the largest flyers and I with trying to form my own group. I built a base in the pacific and had nine flyers for my own team and alliances with three groups besides Manius’s when the problems that left me stranded in Bangkok happened. I was been kidnapped into a mercenary team that trained in Finland once but I took over in about a month.

Kid was quiet after that until we reached the Rivera coast and he began searching for a cave there.

New Flyer

We found the cave with no trouble and Kid opened the door inside with a password. There was a larger flyer with what looked like another small craft of a different kind inside of it and also a great number of crates lying on the rock. He had stored his emergency catch of supplies here and they were a mixed set. Kid broke open a supply crate of food and said we don’t have to hunt anymore. While we ate He began telling me what everything was. He had a ten crates of gold antiques and two of refined rare isotopes. A large supply of medical and recreational drugs. A crate of monopole batteries. Twenty-four charged laser rifles. A surgery supply crate. A small yield nuclear missile. Six outdoors mans kits with everything from tents to inflatable rafts. A crate of old fashioned hand-grenades.

He told me that the best item was the spacecraft inside of our new flyer. It was from a nearly two centuries after my own time and was supposed to be hot. He had been reluctant to use it before because he lacked the training and didn’t trust AI’s but now it had a hot shot to fly it. That is he was saying I was it’s new pilot and owner. It actually might fit into the plans I had been making so that was interesting. Now all we had to do was pack the new time machine full and set them into action.

I had “Cold” begin to learn about my new fighter while we packed the flyer full of everything we could use. We would be out of our armor on the trip back as we packed it into the corners. We would be able to return at twice the speed we arrived with as the new time machine had a longer range. The small flyer would be left here as a backup. I told kid that I had figured out how I was going to get Manius.

I spent some time explaining why we should use my plans now and kid agreed that I was in command again from when we would reach my own time until the job was done.

It was as cramped as wearing armor had been when we were done packing so with some reluctance I boarded. Kid didn’t seem to notice. The gray outside was the same once we left. Kid could not watch Holos out of his armor. I still had my NETlink cyber parts so “Cold” could show me anything I wanted from his packed position buried under everything else.

Kid did talk more but it was mixed in sequence and I will only give excerpts.

Excerpts while returning.

Kid narrating---I was getting my tools from the first technological centuries through some of the other members of the team. Stone had two small flyers and I had one so we linked up. You can make a living using a time machine but with all the competing groups it’s harder than living in one place and hiding is required constantly. I was about fourteen when I first started trying.

We tried all kind of things. I was planing to build my own base but needed the tools and it is hard to get them. Stone’s group were robbing any buildings with money in them wherever they went and going back a year or two to spend it. They had just returned with wounds and one dead from a robbery like that and were dividing up the spoils to spend them. I had been taught economics and thought I could see the problem.

They would get in the flyers all six of them and go to the twentieth century. I should mention that most centuries after the twentieth were considered risky by the people I knew then. Wherever they arrived they would fly to a city and search for a bank. When they found one they would get out with their weapons and run inside, make everyone lay down and get the money. If no one stopped them they would get back in the flyers and change times. Looking back the problem is obvious though the economic part is all I understood well then. They could not open safes, were from varied time periods and did not always recognize guards or alarms. Averaging the banks in that period they only had say 4000 or so paper moneys available at a time.  Split six ways that was at most 800 each. If they could spend the kind of paper where they arrived they could by food, clothing, maybe weapons, drink and women for few days, medical care and a few other things. The average time for a trip was seven days. One day to arrive from their base, one day to fly to a civilized spot from the random point of emergence and find a bank, one day to jump back a year and find a land that accepted the money without taking them into custody, one day to by supplies, a day to jump back to the base and two days to recharge the machines. Of course sometimes they got lucky and got ten times the money. It was irrelevant they got nothing for it anyway. They had small bundles of bills of all kinds but still got thrown out of bars. I was not ready to risk my life once a week to make the same living as an educated person in one of those places.

That is problem with trying to build anything, how do you pay for it. I tried a lot of things. There is that plant that people smoke in some parts of the world. I’ve never used it but one of Stone’s people did and claimed he could show me how to make money with it. That was Hermandez. He spoke Latin because he had been left in Roman times for two years when I took Stone there. He had me go to San Francisco also but in the late twentieth century not the Comp-Mini-Arch. It took three jumps to find the exact time he was looking for. Once there we had to dress in stolen costumes and hide our weapons while he searched through a street full of long haired people carrying the gold coins we had brought with us. Later that day Hermandez came back with a box of seeds, we bought supplies and we left for an island in 7000 BC. He informed me that we could have bought the plant cheaply in the parts of the world it grew naturally and resold it here were the money could buy equipment for my base. We could not do that because of the effort a stranger, especially a Caucasian, who appears in most parts of the world before technological times needs to avoid notice.

We arrived on our island before what Hermandez called the pacific migrations had occurred. I flew to Asia and flew a family of farmers I found to the island. Hermandez and I used the tools we brought back to build a home for them and while He waited I took a trip to recharge the flyer and get more supplies. We wanted the farmers to plant the seeds we had along with food crops and harvest the plants for us but first they had to be trained. It took about nine more trips before we had enough Neolithic farmers and tools to start even the most basic plantation. I had to bring in saws, hoes, axes, knives, shovels, an electric tiller, pigs, fishing hooks, a windmill generator—in parts, nails, hammers, bows and arrows, antibiotics, goats, horses, cats, dogs, lamps, spices, special food, an electric saw. I would have felt bad about taking the farmers from their former lives but they were obviously certain that the life on the island was better than anything they had ever known.

I jumped forward six months and when I got to the island. There I met Hermandez and his new wife. He came away with me to establish business, as he said. Hermandez was from 1970 and claimed to have all possible circumstances included in his plans. We arrived in 1967 again and he went through his strange walks on the street and several meetings before he gave a cloth bag full of plants to a man who looked just like all the others. We rented part of a residential building and left the bags there with a a blond woman who liked to sit around naked to mind it. Then we left to get some more from his island. For us it was a week to get recharged and pack another load. I asked him when we would make our fortune and he said soon, business’s started slowly. When we returned, he showed me 500 dollars we had waiting for us and went looking for more customers.

Let me explain. Hermandez told me that we sold the plant by weight. One cloth bag held about five kilograms and person we sold to would pay about 100 dollars for each kilogram. I could easily fit thirty bags into the time machine so I felt we would make 15,000 a trip. Hermandez said it was not that simple we would have to find other customers and other places to sell from. As each middleman we sold to was limited to his own customers, it might take him a week to sell what he bought. So unless we sold larger amounts we needed more buyers and several locations to use. We needed to subtract the rent and food money for shop minders like the blond lady who would give the plant to our dealers. We would collect the money from them ourselves later. It was illegal to possess the plant where we were and we needed to be cautious to approach the apartments and the buyers. I added up the costs again, a week of time per bag equaled 30 weeks or 7 months per load and a loss of half of the money in expenses. I told Hermandez it was easier to rob banks. He told me we would sell larger amounts for a little less as soon as he made the arrangements and I should bring more loads.

I shuttled the years crop from the island in twenty loads and twenty weeks counting recharging time. Hermandez put some middlemen in their own apartments and gave them the plant at lower cost and we began to make more money. I was not enjoying myself the women there were less knowledgeable than in most other time periods and had a silly religion that required constant rituals. In twenty weeks we made $100,000 each counting theft, the local laws, and cheaper prices. If I had been robing banks and made the average it would have been $80,000 each minus the expenses so we made a profit but it was not enough. To build the base I wanted I would need mining equipment, minors, all of their support and furnishings. We marked the date I took Hermandez home and told him I would be back in a year. I went back later but by my own time I spent two years before I did.

The next thing I did was to pack the paper money in a water proof box and leave it sitting for a year in a time when it couldn’t be bothered. Then I duplicated it by going backward and getting it every two days or so 150 times. Because the dials on the time machines are non linear and don’t set properly---(it was explained to me that the point of emergence is integrated with the temporal position in base twelve. You need a computer or a guide rectangle to appear where and precisely when you want.)--- It took me more than a day per pickup and 36 full recharging trips that took about 5 days each. So by my fifteenth birthday I was a multimillionaire with 150 boxes of money. It was way too slow. I decided to find a better way of getting rich.

It was Manius who came up with the next plan. He had learned the main parts when he was still working for others. I met him in Rome while looking for new players in one of my trips after dropping Hermandez off. It was possible in Rome for me to pass as a young Egyptian with money and connections. Manius had gotten me papers saying the right things when He took me there a year or so earlier. So I knew a few people in the Egyptian ghetto because of him and could rest and watch the city for fun. When Manius identified himself on the proper communication box channel I was overjoyed. He had left with recruits and though I journeyed to Rome to meet him several times I had never found him. We finally met at a party. He arranged an invitation for me and we talked while everyone played games and drank watered wine. He had been on a sequence of trips that had his army working in the far parts of an alternate timeline. The arranged payment had not been given so He was making up his mind what to do next. I told him what I had accomplished, how long it took, and that I was looking for a better job. The conversation led to my invitation to his stronghold and I accepted. He carried my time machine and I back to his base in his larger machine but warned me I might not be able to come along on his next job.

He warned me that his place was an armed camp of the most dangerous men from all times and that I would be risking my life even visiting. His base was a metal sphere with several sections underground and he was correct in saying it was risky. They had an area and would all duel with any weapons at will for fun. Almost all of his men had never known any life except killing as the occasion arose from childhood. Before they had been gladiators, tribal warriors and whomever from any age fit in. Since he became an independent and it was allowed there were a large number of camp followers among them, Kidnapped and invited from the times the Manius had taken his troops into. They were shouting and talking in a polyglot of languages and a ugly mood. One of the crowd saw me stare towards him when we came in and cut the throat of a boy standing next to him as I watched. Manius ignored it then but said that they had to take responsibility for there own actions and told me later that the soldier who cut the boys throat was crucified for showing me such disrespect.

Manius was a gladiator from a time when armies were chastised by whipping every tenth man to death. He did not try to rationalize his place in life he just did what he felt was needed. I went around as armed as I could be because this was a much meaner bunch than the men who visited the peak when I was young. That meant laser weaponry I carried because Manius had an armory and the troops were required to put those weapons in it when they returned from a mission. Manius had told me he was trying to find men who were better at the job than common soldiers. To him this meant gladiators and other men who had the philosophy that their own lives were to go when fate decided and who knew little else.

He also had two autodocs, Though I did not know what they were then and full environment support powered by equipment from somewhere advanced. Manius took me on a tour and introduced me to his three sub-commanders explaining that I would be working with them on the next job and scheduled a meeting in the morning. I ate in the common mess and survived it though several troop factions felt out my opinions of for reactions.

The meeting was Manius, I, the sub-commanders and a few special troops from higher tech places. Manius had learned the location of a large amount of gold kept in a fort on the standard time line and wanted to perform a two stage raid to acquire it. He said Gold was a commodity useful in most times if you could defeat the ways it’s ownership was regulated. He also said that most of his men had never worked for much and had in actuality been owned in there own times so keeping them happy was a matter of them enjoying themselves and having what that implied.

The first stage of Manius’s plan was to create an alternate time line after the fort began to be used to store gold. The second was to get in and get the gold from the new timeline. I had been coached by Manius in advice to give about the way the first strike should be done. He ran the meeting so I appeared to be an expert. I told them the date to go to and what Manius had told me to tell them to do there. I heard a lot about the abilities of high tech military equipment from your era at the meeting and it was arranged I would carry out some of the gold during the second strike. It was explained that there would be enough that I could take as much as I wanted. The first team left immediately in a mid sized time machine like the one we are in now. The next evening after detailed planing the troops were addressed by Manius. Those going on the raid were armed with laser weapons and also given projectile armor. Also a gunship from the your Comp-Mini-Arch era, two unarmed ground transports from near that time and an artillery type laser weapon were loaded aboard Manius’s remaining three large machines. After about eight hours of waiting we left.

The first team had been instructed to use a high yield bomb on an event in Germany during the 1930s and it was to make sure all the speakers were dead. We were to go to the fort look around and then attack it.

I slaved my flyer to Manius’s command machine and we jumped to 1942. We arrived and spent about three hours flying to the right place. The large time machines are also faster in the air and can do about 450 KPH. The plan was to release our gunship at high altitude and let it attack any aircraft and ground vehicles in range when we released the troops in the grassy area around the building itself. I was to remain in my flyer until almost everything was already done.

I watched everyone get out and the destruction of the armored vehicles at the army base next to the fort. Our combat flyer had an easy time of it witch is not surprising considering computer laser targeting as opposed to weapons not designed to fire on a super-sonic target. Manius burned the armored doors from the fort at short range with the ground laser, now mounted on one of the transports. The other transport was quickly taken out by mortar fire from infantry that responded to the attack rapidly. Manius’s troops somewhat suicidal charged the melted entrance and secured it. Then transport with the lasers on it drove inside. About half of Manius’s men went inside with it. The rest spread out to keep the infantry out of the area and cause. I was to fly in when I saw a flag waved from one of the other armored entrances when they were opened. It was a very long hour before I saw the flag. A lot longer than was planed. By then our gunship was shooting down a couple of aircraft a second in a sky full of anti-aircraft explosions and I was uncomfortably floating below the shrapnel. I descended to the door as quickly as I could and flew strait inside. One of Manius’s men was waving me onward and I was guided through several doors to a place were gold bars were being carried in from narrow doors. Manius and the transport awaited me there.

I opened time machine door and waited. When Manius came over, He told me that losses were much higher than expected and there would be problems for him. I was to change time as soon as I was loaded with the gold and meet him in Rome a month after our last meeting there. He said the gold was kept in separate places and that carrying it was taking up a lot of time. Our combat flyer had radioed that he was at risk now as he was only able to get some of the other craft there were so many and he might run low on power. Gold is very heavy so it was another hour before we were done loading my time machine. Then I left with the gold and a wounded man in the other seat.

I went to a time I knew of, with a charge bar in it, that Stone had showed me where to find. I did not have a code rectangle for it to plug into the console but could go to the time I knew of and use geography to find it. I spent a week there hiding the gold and helping the wounded man recover. He had a gotten a head wound but woke up on the way over and was normal quickly.

Manius’s troops were of the opinion that a wounded man’s life was the god’s, the emperors, and his commanders property and they never showed concern about it. Later cultures have a different attitude that the gladiators would have had a hard time understanding. I asked the gladiator if he could hunt and instructed him to watch the camp. Then I went back to Rome.

Manius wasn’t there and I had decided to get an education so I arranged to hire a man who could read scrolls and teach Latin to read to me. I paid him with gold drops I melted from the bars. Unfortunately I felt that I knew enough ways of writing things and just wanted the information and better Latin. I speak parts of a lot of languages but can only write alternate timeline Mayan, Finish runes and Hieroglyphics.

After a month Manius arrived. Two of his flyers plastic shells were damaged while the loaded them from a side of the fort he blew out and they could not become invisible or move through time after that but would still fly. The combat craft he used for air-cover escorted them until they lost pursuit and they were hidden on an island in that alternate timeline. He was able to patch one of the damaged ones from the other and put the frame of the second one in the first. Then he returned to base. He had lost 121 out of 170 men and was going to retire. He left half of the gold with his men somewhere in the eighteenth century and offered me one of his two working flyers for half of the gold I had. I offered to buy the frame of the non-working one for less but he said he had already sold it. I said I would take him up on his offer.

We went to an island in the Atlantic and I inspected the gold for him while he remained out of sight in the flyer he was selling me. I met Mark Drescirtina there for the first time and gave him a code rectangle to Manius’s base, it was also being sold. Drescirtina sent a team to inspect the base and I had the unpleasant task of waiting a day and a half for their return with the news. He let me put the gold in my machine then though I nearly had to shoot someone for help loading it. Then I flew away with a dismounted door and one of Mark’s men inside with me watching until Manius radioed information about were he put the frame of the non-working machine. When Drescirtina responded that he had the frame the guard with me jumped out and swam for shore. I don’t blame him Manius had appeared next to us in his machine and had been keeping the drop on him for several minutes. We remounted the doors and I jumped out to meet Manius in Rome. Then I flew my new machine with Manius back to get his gold. It was a 17x6x6 meter rectangular ellipsoid, a cargo mover with big luxurious seats in front and a metal mesh laid over the floor frame parts so heavy cargo would not drop through the plastic. It could fly much faster and go much further through time in each jump. For the first time in a year I was really happy.

I took Manius and the man I left guarding the camp back to Rome. I left them there and went back to Stone’s base in Finland to plan how to build a my own base. I hired one of Stones men who I met when I first taken there at the end of my stay on the pinnacle. He said He was Lifnada from the World State and that his expertise as a businessman would demolish the rules of primitive economics and get everything I needed.

Lifnada and I went back to pick up a load of gold in my new machine from 10 years after I hid it so I could duplicate it later.  Then we went forward to 1973. Lifnada spoke both Stone’s groups broken Finnish and an twenty-first century African language. We flew to the Alps then after arriving over Antarctica. Lifnada had had partial training as a navigator by Stone and tried to show me how to use a sextant. I was having better luck in those days having memorized the stars and using geography for details. The new machine was so much faster that my own method seemed easy. I let Lifnada out in the woods in Switzerland and followed him into the city using the invisible machine. He rented a hotel room with some of my paper dollars. I was able to climb inside through the window that night. The new flyer would stay in place were I left it and it’s doors opened only when I put my palm on them so Lifnada could not steal it.

In the morning We used the dollars first to barter for clothing and to have our hair and nails trimmed in the shops downstairs. That afternoon following his plan we took a cab to a bank where we spent hours trying to be understood. Finally after showing them a new leather case with the money in it several times the bank found a translator who could understand Nigerian. Lifnada told me he was saying that I was twenty-one and from Iceland. I needed an account for the company my father had left me that did business in Africa and was planing on changing the nature of the business. Lifnada was my manager from Nigeria and wanted to hire a translator before opening the account. The bank refused to open an account then needing more information but was happy to do the service of placing an advertisement for a translator in the paper for us once they understood what we wanted.

We returned to the hotel to wait. In two days we had a response to the advertisement and Lifnada had a translator.

The translator was to write letters for us to lawyers who could arrange the Swiss side of thing’s for an exploratory mining company that worked in many countries and needed to conduct business through Switzerland. The business to be done during the next year was to open accounts, rent a very small warehouse, hire security and transportation and to staff an office. The lawyers would have to be bonded for the amount of the first transactions but this would not be large. Several such letters were mailed and we received a reply to each of them. The translator read the contracts they sent to be signed and I picked one at random. I was taught to sign my name and we sent it back. The next day two copies arrived with the lawyers signatures. It was easy to arrange for a check we purchased in the hotel to be sent as a retainer. The plan was for me to return in a year and Lifnada direct the lawyers to set up a business I could control. I left Lifnada with two of my boxes of money..

I jumped back to the island in 7000 BC and got to meet meeting Hermandez’s new daughter before returning to San Francisco with him. This time I saved thirty trips and putting the entire crop in one load because the new time machine was so large. It was still an unpleasant job unloading it after we arrived anyway. Because even at night it was not small enough to hide behind the buildings Hermandez had rented parts of without being seen. Hermandez had to buy a small truck from one of his salesmen to move the bales of plant tied with homemade twine. We filled the truck outside the city several times a night when nobody was watching. Hermandez then drove the bales to their destinations and unloaded them covered by cloth. It took a week but eventually it was all out of the time machine and the salesmen were working.

I bargained with Hermandez to get me paper identification to open my own bank accounts. He said he could by looking up records for those who died during childhood at a university library. We went back 15 years in the time machine and he sent for the children’s birth records after cashing in some old stamps he bought before we left. He had me drop him on the roof of a hospital and after some trouble returned and told me that the only copies of the death records were destroyed. He bought money orders at a bank and rented a post office boxes in several cites. Then He got forms from a government office to send with pictures of children who looked a little like I had when young for children’s passports. He sent them claiming to be the father listed on the birth certificate who planed to travel with his son. Most came back with questions saying the father was unknown to the passport agency and had his own passport expired but two came with passports.  He then opened bank accounts with a small amount of money in each name using some of his stamps.

We jumped ahead a five years and did the same thing sending for what he called renewals of the passports and sending new photographs. When we checked after three weeks both passports were there but one of the fathers was instructed to renew his own passport. He sent a in a renewal application for the father and we jumped ahead five years again. This time he had a photographer take real pictures of me in a what he called a tee-shirt so I would look young before sending for the renewals. I was tired of waiting for the passports to arrive so we jumped six months or so forward. I only missed by a month and both passports were there.

I took him back 1970 to a month after we left and we collected most of the money from his salesmen though some them were in jail. It was arranged to open  checking accounts in my name in the banks were the savings accounts already were and have a lot of deposits sent to them.  He also sent for new copies of the passports, with me as an adult wearing the suit in the pictures. They came back quickly. My part of the bargain was to carry a lot of things back to his island and promise to take him on two more such trips to buy things this year. He used his truck and did constant shopping for a week. When the time machine was loaded with plantation supplies we collected the last of the money and left. First we went back to recharged the machine itself. As there was enough room left inside it the charger went in with the supplies already there. I dropped off Hermandez at his island then went back to Switzerland to meet Lifnada.

Lifnada had done almost nothing at all since I left. I had to walk into the city from where I got out up in a tree by the lake and found him in party at his hotel room. It was morning before I could talk to him and then I discovered that he had not done anything except pay the lawyers when they asked. He had also somehow spent almost all of the money I left with him. He asked me for more money and complained that living in a Swiss hotel was expensive. The reason he gave me for al of this was that the lawyers needed my signature to proceed with anything. I walked out of the hotel, the city, and 1974.

I went back to Hermandez’s island to get his help. I had to promise him more money and also to perform his shopping trips while he helped. He was also tired of long flights from home and wanted to do the job quickly.

Switzerland was our first stop. There we used my passport with Hermandez talking to get a room in a new hotel. Then Hermandes went out and found friends who were bilingual on one of his odd walks. He also rented a room in the hotel Lefanda was staying in and broke into Lefanda’s room. He removed all the papers he could find. He had his new friends translate the papers for him and told me that most of them were Lefanda’s business alone but he had found the contracts and letters from the lawyers. They had been asking how to proceed as arranged and billing for their payments quarterly. Hermandes had a letter translated that told them Lefnada had been fired for fraud and that the new manager was the name on one of my American passports. He had me sign it in my old name. He also had a letter written saying that the manager was in Switzerland to solve the local company problems with a companion and though an infection had left him unable to speak he would soon identify myself to the bank and make a deposit for the company account the lawyers had arranged.

We flew across the Atlantic were we mailed the letters and sent in another of my boxes of money to my checking accounts. We bought clothing and had our hair cut in a city called New York. When we returned to Switzerland five days later we went to the bank and deposited another 150,000 in cash. I was silent except to show my passport and sign the passport name three times. The bank personnel spoke enough English for him to arrange letters allowing the lawyers to make withdrawals to pay for items we would list if they sent bills the bank could verify as real and for those purposes. We flew back to New York again and  Hermandez paid two years rent for an office to be used by World Exploratory Mining. He took my to stores to pay cash for delivery and installation of office fixtures. Next representing himself as the American manager of the company Hermandez arranged for a phone and post office box and also paid in advance. He hired an something called an answering service to take messages for the company and a secretary to come in once a week. She was to listen to the messages, write a list of them, package any mail the post office box received and rush it to wherever the name on my passport was supposed to be. We signed the letters for the Swiss bank. Hermandes dictated a response to be typed and mailed with them. He made some phone calls, had her type text onto some of the Swiss banks checks for the company and then had me sign them. I stayed in a New York hotel and watched flat screen TV for a few days while Hermandez made more phone calls. Then we flew back across the Atlantic.

Back in Switzerland we called one of Hermandez’s new friends and had him come over and write letters to the lawyers. They were to open an office, hire staff and rent a warehouse. They were to make arrangements for future gold transactions when the company had gold in Switzerland. He called the office in New York and left messages. He had me sign checks for some of his own supplies from my American accounts. We waited for a week and then flew back to New York were he opened an American bank accounts for World Exploratory Mining and gave and accounting firm the ability to pay bills from one of them. The other one required the signatures from two of my passports to get the money out though I only had to show one of them to the bank. He showed me catalogs that were arriving and hired an engineer from a city north of New York to begin work. The engineer was to draw up plans for the construction of the base I wanted and list all needed equipment and personnel. We ordered equipment from one of the catalogs to be delivered to New York. We flew back to the other side of the Atlantic and I inspected the new offices there. The two office workers were told we would tell the rest of what they were supposed to do later and to just answer mail and send translated copies to New York until then. We also inspected the warehouse. It was a small building half buried in a hill a few miles from the city.

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