Bonus: Louis; PhD, MD, Custodial Artist

Louis; PhD, MD, Custodial Artist.

A couple of soon-to-be new parents, the woman in labor, stumbled past Louis (That’s lew-iss but it’s okay, a lot of people get it wrong) as he stepped from Wayside hospital. They begged his pardon, slipped and slid past for the doors in the cold snow. Louis was scared the mother would fall butt-first up the icy steps, so “elsewhere” was her attention focused. As large as her belly was, she’d have taken her poor husband along with her for the trip. Louis even suspected, that if she fell just right, the baby would’ve popped right out of her, slid down the icy steps into the heel of his boot.

Fortunately for all parties, she kept her balance, left a trail of foggy breath from those “birth-giving” spurts she’d taken– you know the ones: he-who, he-who, he-who. There was just enough time for him to wish them luck before the automatic doors slid closed on the father’s backward, half-wave. Louis shrugged to himself, walked on through the snow, and ’round the corner to the dumpsters for his noon-time cigarette.

Louis (one last time, lew… iss) Sacker, forty-three, was a master– nay, grand orator– of the custodial arts at Wayside Memorial Hospital. Like any other hospital custodian, his job ranged from the mundane, to the gross. From mopping floors to cleaning toilets, Louis had put in his ten-thousand hours. Meanwhile, his down and off-time were spent in deep states of self-education. Over the years, these times had gathered him knowledge of everything from herbal medicines to anatomy. But Louis’ favorite subject was physics– that’s the study of forces and motions with lots of math and other stuff Louis liked. But it wasn’t the math he liked most about it, or even the interesting, sometimes daring experiments he’d read of. It was the uses of physics he liked most to know; how rockets flew, how planets orbited, and why they didn’t fall right out of space on top of him.

His job at Wayside Memorial was just another one of these personal pursuits; a job that put him in better place to learn things his way. And since the jobs of doctors and nurses were always changing from new ideas, there was always something to learn.

He lit his cigarette, and billowed out smoke from beneath his thick, black mustache. He knew he shouldn’t smoke, but it was one’a the only bad habits he had left since he’d quit biting his fingernails to the nub. He took his due of suffering from the cold air that stung his lips, signaled the coming, January snowstorm. Even with as much as he loved his job and its chances to learn, he still hoped to return home before the storm hit. The weather man had said there’d be heavy snowfall for three or four days. It had already buried cities, trapped people in their homes, and would only get bigger. In Wayside, the houses were small, even easier to bury than usual– and this was being called the “largest blizzard in decades.” From the skin around Louis’ mustache, he felt it well-named.

As Louis stood beside the dumpsters to puff his stinky tobacco, he smiled to himself at the comparison of his big brain and his meager, little work. It wasn’t a bitter smile by any means, but rather, an amused one that one gets about oneself. He was a Doctor of physics, math, and science, and learned enough to know so, but only ever mopped floors and cleaned toilets. It was even a funny thing to others that knew him (Once they learned how deep his knowledge went.) ‘Course there were those that looked at him funny too. His odd appearance and arrangement of long side burns, beard, and pulled-back hair were repulsive to certain types. It was no matter, he felt, either he’d impress them with his way, or he’d have no need of them.

He squatted to put out the stinky cigarette in the snow, made sure the fire was gone, and the cigarette was good and wet, then threw it in the dumpster. His hands slid in his pockets as he bunched up his body for warmth against the wind and started for the hospital’s front doors. A peculiar scent smacked his large nostrils, stung worse than the icy air. It was like a mix of floor cleaners and car exhaust, almost the same smell from the time his truck’s engine had caught fire.

He followed his nose to the hospital’s emergency road and entrance way, the same place the couple’d stumbled past him along. He sniffed the air, traced the scent’s origin to the road’s center. Normally, everything about the entrance was inviting, friendly, even its smell. But this foul stink made his stomach rumble. He fine-tuned his sniffer downward as far his posture’d allow, like a floppy-eared hound-dog with its nose along the ground. Several wet spots along the entrance road steamed heat in the cold air.

It was odd– Or was it? This is where the ambulances rushed the sickest patients it, and the burning engine smell made sense if it’d leaked something. Maybe hot water? Maybe it’d mixed with something, caused that putrid stench? In any case, the odor was too strong for Louis’ sensitive beak. He was forced to rush back into the lobby, unable to stand it any longer. His stomach gave a final rumble as he jogged through the doors and took a deep whiff of the inviting smell.

He sniffed his way toward the tall reception desk where Ginny– the dimpled, red-haired receptionist waited to sign him back in.

She scribbled loud scratches on her plastic clip-board, “Snowin’ yet?”

“Not too bad yet,” he replied with a friendly smile.

Louis always smiled at Ginny for two reasons; it was polite, and he liked to see her smile back.

Even though there was something sad in her voice, she smiled back as usual, “Guess there’s no hope for me gettin’ home early then.”

The smile flickered with the start of a frown, so Louis smiled bigger, “I wouldn’t worry. Storm’ll hit tonight, but it won’ do nothin’ before the mornin’. You’ll get out ‘fore it does.”

He handed back the clip-board, and she took it, “See ya later, Lew.”

“You too. But if I don’t, good luck!”

Her smile followed him all the way to big hallway’s elevators, infected him ’til he reached the top-floor Maternity ward. He wondered for a moment how the young couple’d fared. They were at the beginning of a long road, and the more he thought of it, the longer it got. The wife and new-mother would be so tired by the end, she’d probably forget the time after a few days.

He headed along the wide hallways, adorned with lots of cutesy stickers and wall-hangings, passed the reception desk, and the six rooms between it and his tiny office to the left. If Louis was honest, and he always tried to be, it was more a closet than an office. Its size didn’t bother him though; it comfy, cozy. He stepped in as the door banged a mop and rolling bucket, shut it again to sidle behind the large desk that took up half the room. He flipped on the radio to its usual, low volume, sat down to kick up his feet and lift a book from the desk top.

For a moment he’d forgot to tell the nurses he was back, but as soon as he remembered, he picked up the phone. “Suze,” He said after a quick ring the echoed outside, “Back in if ya’ need me.”

She thanked him with a tired voice. They exchanged good-byes, and he hung up the phone to lifted his book another time and enjoy more down-time. It had been in large supply these last few days, and with the snowstorm on its way, it was likely to last even longer. He read with a certain, satisfied smile. It was more physics– some he knew, and some new to him; black holes, and parallel universes, and light waves and particles. Every word in the book was interesting, and Louis was content with being interested by them.

It only took a few hours for the young mother in the ward outside to enter the final stages of birth. As the only pregnant woman there, Louis could hear her shouts from his office across the quiet ward. He readied himself for the call, placed the finished-book on the table that his brain had gobbled up with growling hunger, and grabbed his mop and bucket. He set it on a cart with a yellow garbage bag and the peculiar bio-hazard symbol on it, and pushed it out into the hall.

He held the mop’s stick so the bucket wouldn’t jostle forward and slosh dirty water around the clean floors, wheeled it to the bathroom in the middle of the six rooms ahead. He went about his usual routine of rinsing the mop in the sink, refilling the bucket with water and a few drops of stinky floor-cleaner. The water frothed and foamed with suds, the sink’s tap too quiet to hear beneath the mother’s nearby shouts.

He glanced out the window over the toilet to keep his mind off her cries, and knew there was no doubt he’d been wrong when he’d spoke to Ginny earlier. The storm had only just begun to hit, and its heavy flakes had already piled up in the parking lot outside. He watched a small pile form in the corner of the window, judged how long it took to get to a certain height. It piled up so fast, even Wayside’s plows wouldn’t be able to keep off.

Ginny had been right, the hospital would be snowed in with all the patients and workers stuck there. Louis didn’t mind, but he wished he’d brought another book. He felt better when he thought of Ginny’s smile. It infected him again, and he plunged the mop into the foamy water. A cry of pain tore through the air like paper ripped in half. Louis’ ears told him it was from the mother’s room, but it wasn’t her pain, it was someone else’s; clearly a man’s.

Perhaps the new mother had squeezed the new father’s hand especially tight. But it came again, and Louis was certain that wasn’t the case. This voice was more like Doc Hawkins’, deep and old despit the high yelp. He’d heard it at the same volume lots’a times when he was mad, but this was a shout of pain, Louis was sure of it.

For a moment, Louis thought he should run and help, suddenly remembered he worked in a hospital. This was the only place in all the world where his skills in medicine were surpassed by the people around him. He shook his head, pulled the mop from the bucket to slap it on the bathroom floor in the furthest corner by the toilet. It made long, wet streaks from side to side that shined with the overhead lights.

Doc cried out again. Louis’ nerves were rattled. He couldn’t help it, he had to check in on Doc Hawkins. They were too good of friends for Louis not to. He slapped the mop back into the bucket, jogged from the bathroom for the one, closed door on the ward. Doc’s cries came louder now, repeated every few seconds. Louis hurried into the door, stopped in his path at the scene in the room.

Doc Hawkins was knelt room’s middle, dressed in his blue scrubs, face-mask, and head-cap. He clutched one hand with the other, whimpered like a wounded dog. The nurses had frozen alongside the mother, her legs up on the bed. They stared, horrified by smoke that rose from burns on Doc’s hands. The young wife fought her labor-pains with a purple and white face, the husband at her side in a constant stream of apologies.

Louis saw smoke, but no fire: It had to be a chemical that had caused it. He grab for a bottle of vinegar on his cart, rushed forward.

He popped off the lid, “Hold out yer’ hand’s, Doc!”

Doc couldn’t hear him, the pain was too bad. Louis did the only thing he could; dumped the bottle over Doc’s arm and hand until it was nearly empty. Doc Hawkins fell backward on the floor, the smoke gone, but his hand red and burned. He bent forward over Doc, pinched his cheeks and felt his pulse. For the most part he’d be okay, but his hands would be scarred.

He lifted Doc’s top half, “Nurses, I need some help ‘ere.” No-one moved. “Ladies, please!”

They snapped from their stupor, grabbed his legs to carry him to a chair in the room, lay him over it. The poor young woman still screamed, forced through birth as the attention shifted to Doc. The nurses checked him as Louis had, bandaged his hands over the mother’s shrieks.

Louis shouted, “What happened here?”

One nurse shrugged. The other shook her head, speechless. He looked to the new mother, her face more purple than ever; then the new father, whom stared at the ground in shame. Louis did the math, summed up that the mother must’ve caused it somehow..

But how? No woman could do that, ‘n why would she?

He thought of great practical jokes and jests of women whose insides were pure evil, like acid to the skin. But this, and other stories like it, were pure fiction– not real– and this was reality, real-life. The mother’s cries went silent, but her heavy breaths continued between loud grunts and groans. She was clearly ready to bring her baby into the world, but how’d that explain Doc’s hands? If she’d done this, why, and how?

Louis had a wild thought, so wild it almost made him laugh: maybe she wasn’t human, but a humanoid— something that looked human but wasn’t. The thought was wild, but somehow appropriate, and the only explanation that made sense to Louis. This beautiful young woman, a young, brown-haired, average human who didn’t look more than thirty, wasn’t actually a human.

Though it was far-fetched– outright unbelievable, even– Louis considered life outside of Earth as a mathematical given. Even the thought of extra-terrestrial life living quietly among them didn’t surprise him entirely, but it was stretch. It took a lot of imagination that lots of people his age didn’t have left, to even think of it. Fortunately for him, he did have some left, but never in a million thoughts or years had he considered they’d appear human in any respect.

He looked the young couple over, studied every line and curve of their faces and bodies. It had to be trickery, like some kind of advanced magician. Louis blinked, startled when the woman shrieked again. She was ready to finish the birth. Everything Louis knew about babies being born made him sure of it. And it wasn’t gonna’ wait for him or anyone else to accept crazy theories. The poor mother needed help, and human or not, she deserved it.

He rushed to his cart, pulled out a few pairs of acid-resistant gloves. They would’ve saved Doc’s hands earlier, but he’d have never known to use ’em. Louis always had a pair in his cart for cleaning dangerous spills, and they’d earned their weight in gold more times then Louis could count.

He pulled his gloves on, passed pairs to the nurses, “It’ll protect ‘ya. Trust me.”

An hour passed in screams and shouts as Louis and the nurses coached the mother to squeeze her baby out. Their gloves fought a good fight against the acidic body fluids, held up with nary a scratch. It was late in the evening when the child was finally freed of its mother’s womb and cleaned off to be wrapped in a blanket.

When the nurses passed the human baby to its mother, it was a perfect, newborn boy– or at least, looked like one. The mother succumbed to exhaustion, fell asleep with the child in her arms. The father took him as Louis and the nurses cleaned the room with their special gloves and other special cleaners. They were each too confused to talk, instead let the ward return to its empty silence.

When Louis finally finished, he approached the father with a small smile. He looked up from his son’s eyes to Louis’. A strange glimmer of light appeared in them, as though love and awe had mixed with something that scared him. The father stammered and stuttered a “thank you,” handed the sleepy baby over to a nurse who placed it in a cart. The father asked Louis to follow him from the room, headed for the elevator with Louis’ curiosity trailing behind him.

He stepped into the elevator and a jumble of words fell out of his mouth. The new father chuckled, and Louis took a deep breath to start over, “Where have you come from?”

The man’s quiet mix of fear and other things clung to his hushed words, “Far from here. Your people designate the planet only with numbers, and to us it’s merely called home.”

The elevator’s doors opened in the empty lobby, and Louis saw that Ginny was the only person left in the whole place. Outside, snow had piled high, already trapped the people in the hospital. He gave a small smile and nod to Ginny, her own smile already there from his sudden appearance.

Louis continued with the father down a long hallway past the reception desk. Louis whispered so he wouldn’t be heard, “So, why are you here?”

The father’s eye twitched with sadness, “There’s much to our world we wished to escape– to keep our child safe, and raise them well without fear of wars or pain from faith or otherwise.”

“How do you mean?” Louis asked quietly.

The father angled around another door for the large, empty cafeteria ahead, “Our people always fight one another. They are unhappy. It’s easy for a child of our kind to become the same way. We wish only love and happiness for our children, so we decided leave, hide away from it.”

“And you chose here?” Louis asked, rather sarcastically.

He apologized promptly for his tone, but the man laughed, “Do not apologize, friend. I understand your humor. But you must believe me when I say; even with its problems, your species is much safer and happier than mine.”

“I see,” Louis said, though really he had heard and not seen. In either case, he understood their reasons for coming, but continued to question it. “But what about your child’s future? Won’t he wish to have a wife and a child of his own one day?”


“And what happens then? Does he have to go home?”

The father smiled, “Now friend, I never said my wife and I are the only of our kind here.”

Louis’ eyes gleamed with excitement, “There are more of you?”

“Many more. So many, in fact, we’ve begun to lose count.”

The father procured sustenance from a vending machine, as he told more of his world and its ways. Many of their people had left home for Earth. Like he and his wife, they were refugees that had come to hide from their terrible world and seek happiness. They chose Earth because, as fortune would have it, the people that fought on their world would never think to go there. The refugees could then live peacefully, pursue their dreams of happiness, family, or otherwise without fear.

The father explained that learning of his true nature was never intended, “We knew our child’s birth was inevitable. It is why we chose Wayside: your town is small, your hospital smaller still. We knew the time would come where we would have to reveal ourselves to a select few, and hoped it would go well. Apart from the Doctor’s wounds, it has. We’re very sorry he’s been injured. He’s a wonderful man, very helpful. Unfortunately, it seems our bodies are so unlike yours that parts are dangerous to you.”

“But you mean us no harm right?” Louis asked carefully.

The father smiled wide, “Of course not, friend.”

The truth was written in the strange man’s face– or what looked like a face, and that was good enough for Louis, “Well, Doc’ll recover. But.. how d’you hide yourselves?”

The father explained, “We can shape-shift parts of our form, and what we cannot hide is protected by a natural defense from our minds that fills in the gaps. This is our real form.”

He touched Louis’ temple and was instantly changed. The man was almost orange, with a long, curvy human-like form beneath an oblong face and head. His eyes were like giant, black-metal eggs with glows of yellow at their center. One hand kept a finger at Louis temple as the other waved at him with its fingers and palm twice as long and stretched as Louis’ own. The other hand left his temple, and the shape morphed back to the man he’d seen before.

Louis was alight with joy, “But your child! How’d he look different?”

“Our children are sentient at the moment their birth begins, and are born with all of the intelligence and knowledge of their parents. He knew to change himself before he ever entered the world.”

It was the perfect image of life, Louis thought, but he spoke his fears aloud, “But soon others will know! There will be more births, right?”

The father nodded, “Yes, of course. They will be handled in much the same way as this– or perhaps better, I hope. We are fortunate enough as a species to have been gifted with foresight. That is, we can see a short way into the future, enough to know if there will be problems.”

Louis face glowed excitement and happiness, “Really?”

The man gave a nod, “My wife and I knew that bumping into you as we walked in would help us later on. Otherwise, more people may have been injured. The others here respect you though, and you can explain to them that we mean no harm.”

Louis was humbled at his importance, promised to do everything he could to keep them safe.

And in time, so it went. The two talked more, finished their snacks, and returned to the mother’s side. Questions began then, and Louis lined up the nurses beside the doctor– who was now awake– to answer them as they came. At first, they refused to believe him, but the new parents revealed the family to them and Louis explained what he’d been told, convinced them the family meant no harm. A curiously giddy joy spread through-out the room. Even Doc, with his bandaged hands, was alight that he’d delivered the first alien baby on Earth.

They agreed to keep the family’s secret, to protect them until they were ready to reveal themselves to the world, then celebrated the birth into the night. Life returned to normal not long afterward– or at least as normal as it could be after that night. A week before it was one year since the birth, Louis stepped to the door of his home. He blew Ginny a kiss good-bye, shut the door, and checked the mail before he headed off to start the night shift. He found an envelope with no return address, but a picture inside of a light-haired, baby-boy, with words scribbled on the back: Louis “Doc” Smith Invites you to his 1st Birthday.

Louis smiled at the scribbles beneath that told the date, time, and location, and requested an RSVP with a phone number beside it. He skipped to his truck, ready to call the number as soon as he got to work. It was, after all, the first birthday of the first alien child born on Planet Earth.

For Erin: Happy Birthday

Bacatta, Michigan; Where Old Meets New

Bacatta, Michigan

“Where Old Meets New”

Bacatta, a city in the lower peninsula of Michigan, sits less than a hundred miles Northeast of the Indiana-Illinois-Michigan border. Originally inhabited by the Pottawatomi Tribe until the Treaty of Chicago, the land was formally annexed with the rest of the Michigan Territory between August 1821 and March 1822. The still-juvenile US government negotiated with the Pottawatomi, Ojibwe, and Ottawa tribes to seize it and the rest of the groups’ land and force them South along the Trail of Death.

In 1830, nearby Detroit and Grand Rapids’ growing demand for both lumber and agriculture saw the initial formation of Bacatta County. What was little more than a few, massive plots of plains and even greater forests, were quickly cleared and felled to create usable farmland. While the lumber-industry eventually secured itself elsewhere, the empty land it had left behind made for wide, open fields through-out Bacatta County’s borders. By 1835, when Bacatta was officially designated a settlement, the few land-holders there had already sown fields for half a decade. The possibility of high-profits from major tracts of sow-able land incentivized others to the county. The first settlers’ numbers were soon doubled.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, Bacatta’s municipal government had been established in a small, central plot of land between the largest farms on little more than a dirt path. This trodden grassland later became the first, official seat of Bacatta’s government; little more than a few, rickety shacks of mud and fresh pinewood. However, after the downward spiral of the Great Depression, and the resultant, upward rise thereafter, a decades-long industrial-revolution took place. By the middle of the 40’s, industry had taken residence in Bacatta, helped the town expand to those few, unfortunate souls’ land the Depression had claimed.

Not long after, agricultural equipment manufacturing became the town’s mainstay. For the first decade, growth was unprecedented. To support the County and town, more and more land was bought, built on. The rickety shacks turned to brick and mortar buildings, dirt-roads to gravel and asphalt, and settlers to villagers and citizens. While World War II ground the growth to a halt as Bacatta’s multiple, machine-run factories were seized for the war-effort, employment rose sharply. However, the town’s return to normal operations after the war left many unemployed.

Despite this, Bacatta continued to grow. Still more land was purchased from its tillers. Towering pines were felled in swaths, used to build homes and businesses along the stretches of reaped plains that formed its center. Unfortunately, Bacatta’s dwindling farmland also shrank its available pool of farmers, wounding the industry that helped to build it. By the early 70’s, the town’s growth had plateaued and only a single, industrial company remained: Agri-Plus had survived the onslaught by exporting goods across the country, making deals with various, distant hardware and department stores, and offering discounts to local farmers to drive up its reputation.

Though Bacatta began to shift from an industrial economy to a more diverse, functional one, it remained incapable of long-term survival without drastic change. Unemployment crept ever-upward. Homelessness infected small areas of the town, built-up since the war. Civic leaders scurried for answers, solutions, and Bacatta Times’ headlines ranted about a nigh-end to the town.

From the mid-70’s to the mid-80’s the plateau trended downward. The trickle of new-arrivals to dried up, effectively bolstered rumors of the city’s inevitable demise. Bacatta’s already sparsely populated lands watched its inhabitants turn away one-by-one, seek work and new-lives elsewhere. Then, in 1986, Pharmaceutical Solutions arrived with a promise to help bolster the economy. Abbreviated Pharma-Sol, the company set up shop to manufacture and research medicinal drugs near the center of town. Its thousands of vacant positions offered refuge for those hurt by the economic downturn. Various incentives, tax-breaks, and closed-door deals, bribed Pharma-Sol to use its third-party realty and rental corporations to purchase and lord over the land as its benefactor.

Despite these often-seedy deals, Bacatta once more boomed. The sudden growth caused waves whose effects would be felt for decades, but not all of them were positive waves. The next decades left certain, characteristic scars on the land and people, both figurative and literal. The proverbial knife had come down during the ’90s and forever scored the beautiful face of the town.

The cut first pierced skin with an influenza epidemic that spread through the town and outlying areas, crippled Bacatta’s earning power. As per their supposed goodwill, Pharma-Sol responded with a variety of high-priced vaccines to safe-guard the still-healthy. It was hailed as the proverbial, armored-mask against the knife. In truth, Bacatta’s government and health-care providers were given no choice but to pour their last resources into Pharma-Sol’s vaccines. The subsequent, massive financial debts to State, Federal, and Private lenders only further worsened the town’s economy.

Mere months after the fiscal catastrophe, and spurned by an anonymous tip, the FBI began to comb through Pharma-Sol’s operations. The mask it seemed, had been little more than a poorly-applied placebo. Already concerned with the possibility of foul-play, the FBI used the death of one of Pharma-Sol’s head researchers as motive to sleuth through its records, employees, and dealings. The wound left behind was only fully revealed once court transcripts were publicized. Media-fueled lynch-mobs appeared in protest, outraged by the revelation of a conspiracy and scandal that spelled disaster for both Pharma-Sol and Bacatta.

As evidenced by both court testimonies, and recovered information, the aforementioned researcher had been ordered murdered by Pharma-Sol’s CEO, and Board of Directors. The killer was never caught. However, many parties testified openly, assured the court that the man’s death-warrant had been signed by his discovery of the influenza epidemic as a hoax– one engineered by Pharma-Sol’s executives to increase quarterly profits.

In less than a month the scandal shuttered the company. Its CEO and Board of Directors were either jailed, executed, or committed suicide in fear of the repercussions. Investor confidence dissolved overnight. The company’s veinous tendrils, that had snaked beneath all of Bacatta’s economy to nourish it with fluid, green life, withered and died. Bacatta declared bankruptcy months later, and Pharma-Sol’s assets were seized as evidence, and either dismantled or auctioned off for small, Federal gains.

Unemployment, debt, and homelessness quickly ran rampant. Until the early 2000s, large swaths of the town were abandoned, eventually splitting it into two parts; Old Bacatta, and New Bacatta. Though more recent restoration efforts helped to revitalize Old Bacatta, those years saw its red and white-brick buildings tarnished with the dust and grit of a seedy underbelly. The once-strong town remained largely abandoned until early 2004, when Biological-Conventions (aka Bio-Con) opened its doors.

Bio-Con’s CEO, Ronald Jorgeson, a former Navy SEAL turned businessman, unfurled his own tendrils through-out the town and surrounding County. Through Bio-Con’s third party subsidiaries, he purchased, renovated, and reconditioned the land, and continued urban development that had been stalled for more than twenty years. In short, he fought to breathe new life into the city. With Bio-Con’s reputation, soaring stock-prices, and Jorgeson’s own, personal promise to resurrect Bacatta, investor confidence leaned sharply in his favor. Like Pharma-Sol, the supposed pharmaceutical company had brought jobs, hope, and direly-needed money to the near-dead town. However, unlike Pharma-Sol, Jorgeson used effective, economic stimuli to help the town regain its footing and blossom into a full-fledged city.

With his land holdings and subsidiary contractors, Jorgeson built office-buildings, shops, and suburbs, then leased them out or sold them off for low-ball offers to encourage emigration. Through a series of donations and arranged task-forces, Bacatta’s Police Departments were bolstered, began to chase the less-desirable elements out. As Bio-Con grew, Bacatta outpaced it by a wide margin. A new population, attracted largely by the increase in employment security, education, and public safety, formed a cosmopolitan city whose sole industry was diversity itself. In less than a decade, the town that had gasped for air, breathed, once more invigorated.

With most of the gang activity and vagrancy driven from town, the landscape reformed. In only a few, short years after Bio-Con’s initial appearance, large tracts of abandoned buildings were bulldozed, demolished for new, tan-concrete boutiques, shops, and parlors that sprang up through the center of its uptown district. Downtown, municipal and private office-buildings rose behind the height of North Main Street, its rear-half long-since the sole home of the city’s government.

Though certain areas of farmland, and former-businesses, remain abandoned along its outskirts, Bacatta has once more risen from the ashes. With wise investment and cautious remembrance, Civic leaders continue to secure Bacatta’s future. Its people live mostly happy, healthy lives, completely oblivious to its largely sordid history and shadowy benefactors. And, as per its motto, “Where Old Meets New;” Bacatta is where an old world and an new one converge to ensure a long, healthy life for an assuredly interesting future.

Short Story: Deadman Part 3


Part 3

The five stepped into sunlight, the world around magnificently colored with a plethora of verdant and earthen hues. The trees, regrown through centuries that had passed, threw shadows over the ruins of once prominent sheet-metal warehouses that had decayed to rusted out skeletons. The sun shone through a missing section of roof around ivy and tall grasses that had reclaimed it and the concrete floor their boots resounded echoed with. They rubbernecked their way forward to a metal door, emerged into full-blown day.

Their radiation suits, of a thick plastic, and yellow and red in color, were hot, chaffing. A member of the team lifted an instrument to measure the atmosphere. It returned normal. The few, small bounces of needles no doubt came from the sun itself. He gave the signal– a thumbs up– and the others pulled back their plastic helmets, switched off small re-breathers on their backs through devices at their wrists. They looked upon the world with renewed eyes, saw now that the complex of rectangular warehouses, covered in green ivy, was flanked by trees that threatened to topple them. All around were high rock-walls that formed a horse-shoe ’round the warehouses. They stepped for the shoe’s center, looked westward toward its open face.

A small path led outward, wound down and around the mountainous cliffs. They took in the spectacular sight, breathed deep to inhale fresh air that lightly stung their chests. In the untold centuries that had passed, their subterranean lifestyle had only afforded them the fruits of reclaimed and carbon scrubbed air. Here, it was an adjustment just to breathe, but a welcomed one.

A renewed vigor infected the Five and their mission; they must find somewhere not far to establish a settlement. One team member elaborated on the benefits of following the path down the mountain in search of an old settlement, but stayed himself when reminded of their current location: they were atop a range, likely a few thousand feet from the region’s average sea-level. The road could twist and turn for days. The man understood. It would take far too long to blindly follow the road, when there might be a more than suitable expanse on the range itself. They did however, elect to follow the road for a time, and in keeping with the ways of their utopian society, each one agreed before any of the others would leave. They set off.

The road sloped a short way then leveled off, still far above sea-level. An exploration into a mass of plains between two tree lines that spanned yielded measurements of roughly a mile in each direction. At the furthest edge forward, a remarkable sight appeared. The ground dropped away abruptly, where the Five stopped and sat upon its edge. They looked out on the profundity of what lay below.

The cliff side was staggered, the path winding down for miles. It became smaller and smaller, until merely a line that wound beneath canopies, around forests, and onward into oblivion. The team remarked to one another. This was once their domain; Humanity had claimed it as its own, and when the bombs fell, were whisked beneath it. As if man had been a pile of dust swept beneath a

rug, there was no trace from this point, but the path that had once been a road. It was doubtless that by exploring the nethers of the proverbial rug, humanity’s final resting place would be uncovered.

For a moment, the team was contented to remain and dine on the first meal taken in the reclaimed world. The others in the utopian complex would enjoy the sight, its borders large enough to house a collective. There was a matter, however, of finding suitable agricultural land. And so, planting a tracking device, linked electronically to their wrist devices, the Five set out to find suitable land.

The path curved around to a second clearing, hidden from them by the orientation of the first, and of a lower elevation. It looked out upon a ruined landscape where, clearly, had been one of the bombs’ striking points. A team member examined the ionization, as the others looked down upon a massive crater, miles wide from end to end and more still from side-to-side. It was as if a large meteorite had struck the ground. Dirt welled up around its perimeter, such that it gave

the appearance of dunes, or waves breaking in a dirt sea. Its inner perimeter, along sloping ground, still scorched over eons from the intense heat that had been released when the missile struck.

In the center of the pit, was a clearly discernible ivy that grew in distinct, unnatural shapes. It hid beneath it, ruins of a man-made structure while the craters outer-banks were much the same as before; charred dirt that morphed into green grasses. Bushes and foliage came next, that towered over the pit. Then, a mass of sprawling trees, roughly a hundred feet high, their girth a fifth of their height.

The Five took measurements, concluding this would be a more than satisfactory place to begin their agricultural pursuits. They planted a tracker, and moved on.

So it went for days. The Five would travel a short way, find a clearing, and once satisfied, plant specific tracker for different tasks. In time, each who spoke were satisfied. The “Common-man’s” advocate found peace in the beauty of their proposed residential land. The “Agriculturist” found suitable land marked to meet their people’s needs, and when the bottom of the cliff-side seemed much nearer than before, the “Business” advocate put forth an idea. Perhaps it would be best to keep their district nearer the complex and their manufacturing equipment within. The “Security” advocate agreed; to mount any defensive encampment much further from the complex, did indeed endanger their ability to defend their industry. This was of course, in speculation that defense might be needed, as save for their underground home and themselves, they’d yet to see a shred of humanity.

When the Five returned bearing news of a beautiful world awaiting them should they choose to nurture it, the utopians obliged. They moved outward to their assigned areas, began their reconstruction. They re-fertilized the soil, cleansed from its minute contaminants with artificial, microbial life; and planted their crops. They built homes among trees and plains, cleaning and replanting the soil around them. They dismantled a few of the skeletal warehouses, used their components to repair the others, and set about matters of business and defense.

In the years that passed, they were contented to stay upon the mountain. Their harvest traditions, though no longer necessary, were upheld with even greater zeal. Their views, for the first time in the span of Humanity, worked out its flaws to incorporate the compromise of few among many, and vice-versea. While a few did leave to start anew nearer to sea-level, their spirit of cooperation lived on. If one were to wish, in any of their days, to see true paradise, they need only visit the people upon the mountain, and indulge in their way of life.

Short Story: Deadman Part 1


Part 1

The missile silo’s outdated radar screens glowed with small, green waves. Before them sat the Lieutenant with his morning coffee, as he checked the bank of monitors above that read out telemetry for inflight ICBMs. Though useless in the absence of nuclear dispersal, a perpetual watch was posted at the ancient machines.

The Lieutenant relaxed in his chair to sip coffee, kicked up his feet on a second chair before him, and flipped-on a portable television in his lap. The news droned on that the snowstorm above the base was gathering strength. Roads, railways, and airports would be inaccessible for days. He sighed, flipped the channel.

They’d already been trapped for three days, the outside world further away for secrecy’s sake. Even with a full crew on-base, duties kept them from engaging one another. Only briefly did anyone see each other on their ways in and out of the commissary. In most senses, the Lieutenant was completely alone.

A beep sounded from the console. A button in arm’s reach depressed with an uninterested, habitual motion. Moscow’s confirmation required a physical response to relay that someone still lived to watch the screens. Everything was handled electronically, save for this job. Despite forty-odd years of Cold War terror descending into the schizophrenic creation of imaginary lines, every half-hour confirmation was still required.

The signal originated from the main missile-tracking computers beneath the Kremlin, and simultaneously pinged all silos in Russia. The operators then had five minutes to respond, before an alarm sounded. In war-time, confirmation was required every five minutes with only thirty seconds to spare. Any longer might signal a silo had been compromised. Likewise, if a silo registered something, the Kremlin’s technicians would call for on-site verification while alerting military leaders.

But it was peace time. In retrospect, it always had been. The war between nuclear powers had never come. The nuclear holocaust had never engulfed the Earth in the fires of Hell, and now the once-great, Red Republic’s relics simply kept people employed.

It was boring, but the Lieutenant still preferred it to Moscow’s drudgery. Working as a political door-guard was never as glamorous as it sounded. With the general contention between the people and the government in the post-war age, the ignoble politicians felt threatened; even minor ones had four flank guards in each room. To him, it was astounding that such cowards were even allowed to grace those prestigious offices– but such was the way the world turned.

He drained his cup. Stood for the far end of the room and the table there beside the data-analogue recorders whose tapes revolved with lazy, languid repetitions as pointless as his own. He poured himself a second coffee, returned to his seat to reposition the TV.

The confirmation signal flashed again.

Had it already been a half an hour? He pressed it mindlessly, adjusted his feet, lifted his coffee to his lips. The phone beside the console rang. Half-irritated and half-curious, he leaned forward to lift it, carefully juggling the cup and TV.

“Silo 193, data-sector, we need confirmation on bogey at grid 712,” a voice said.


“Bogey, will register on your screen in 3…2…1…now.”

The Lt. saw it. A series of grids beeped in succession from the right screens. They glowed brighter as a dot inched leftward over them, designated RU:1289H-YnD. Cold-war terror was a feeling renewed; launched from silo 128, pad 9, carrying high-yield nuclear ballistics.

“Silo: requesting confirmation on designation RU:1289H-YnD,” the voice stated.

The LT. responded mechanically: “Moscow: Confirming designation RU:1289H-YnD at 19:30. Trajectory: West bound. Acquiring target… thirty-eight degrees, fifty-three feet, fifty-three point three inches North by Seventy-seven degrees, two feet, nine point nine inches West.”

“Silo: requesting confirmation of time to target. One hundred sixty minutes. ETA approximately twenty-two thirty.”

He couldn’t believe his ears or eyes. Was it another test? It couldn’t be, their tests were scheduled for once a month and this month’s had been recently. You never knew when they might drill but–

He stumbled over his words, “Uh… M-Moscow: Tar-target time confirmed: one hundred eighty minutes; twenty-two thirty.”

“Silo: confirmation received.”

The Lieutenant’s terror oozed through the phone in his sweaty palm, “Moscow: requesting interrogative.”

There was a pause. The Lieutenant swore he heard a fearful sigh.

The technician responded, “Go ahead, Silo.”

“Are we at war, Moscow?”

The technician spoke carefully, “That is… uncertain, Silo.”

More than a few thousand miles away, in NATO’s Cheyenne mountain complex, the General’s red phone was relaying a similar conversation. A fearful Master Sergeant stood nearby petrified. Maybe he had misread the radar, or perhaps the instruments had malfunctioned.

In the last fifteen minutes a dozen launches had appeared, each strategically aimed on American soil to decimate key military installations. Missile interceptors were launched with the entirety of the Air Force and Navy. Marines and Army Rangers were already working in co-operation with the Navy’s SEAL division to plan surgical strikes should the missiles reach their targets. But the President and several, high-ranking, military officials, were fearful of retaliation at this stage: It could be an instrumental malfunction, a sub-routine to test readiness, unintentionally triggered by someone or something. But action still had to be taken, the general population ignorant until zero-hour.

The General lifted a second, black phone to speak with the leader of the Russian armed forces, a man he knew well. He explained the situation, questioned an attack.

The Russian’s earnesty implied no malevolence, “We are reading the same thing on our screens, General. I assure you however, no-one in Moscow has given the order.”

The General replied formally, “I am required to pose this question; Are you being intentionally deceptive?”

He replied with a sigh, the sweat beading audibly on his forehead, “I wish that were the case. It would mean we know what is happening. Unfortunately, all we know is that there have been a dozen, unauthorized launches confirmed.”

“What the hell’s going on over there, Uri!”

“I… do not know, Jack.”

The Master Sgt. interrupted the General, “Sir, we have confirmation of twenty-more simultaneous launches.”

“Uri, what the hell’s going on?”

A second silence, and a remorseful sigh.

In a labyrinthine fallout-shelter, a console spanned a twenty-foot section of wall, divided in two, with large, flat-screened televisions that tracked the number and trajectory of launches. At the right, the Russian’s nuclear battery was zoomed to track across a global view. The other side, blank so far, had “United States” stenciled above it.

A young man in shabby, black fatigues approached an older man, “Mr. Niculescu, we have confirmation of all two hundred and thirty four launches from the Russian side.”

“Good,” Niculescu nodded.

A man appeared behind him, spoke with an American accent, “Alexi, this is a momentous day.”

“Da, it is John,” Niculescu said flatly.

“Deadman’s effectiveness is par-none. I must say; your Soviet predecessors did have us beat.”

“Ah yes, I believe they did,” Niculescu said, once more emotionless. “Soviet ingenuity always triumphed in the face of progressive adversaries. Though I must admit, setting it off was matter of American mischief.”

John smiled, “It was only a matter of a fly-by really. Low altitudes to avoid the radar, and a special package to trigger Deadman’s radiation and seismic sensors.”

He handed a glass to Niculescu, cast a glance around the room at the hundred or so young, shabbily clad men and women there.

“People, gather with me,” He requested. They formed lines before him, distributed expensive champagne into their tin cups. John waited, then, “If I may have a moment.” He cleared his throat, prepared them for his speech. “In the depths of the Cold War, a most marvelous means of destruction was created. Until this day, it went unused but maintained. Codenamed Deadman, this device was integrated into each of Russia’s nuclear-missile launch computers, designed to unleash an unstoppable counter-attack upon American soil should Moscow fall to a first strike.”

His eyes met each of those assembled in turn. “Until today, this system was largely considered a waste of time. But with your help, we have taken the first steps into a new era. Russia will fall once the American’s realize their imminent defeat. The Russians will be compelled to reveal the existence of Deadman in the last moments before America’s destruction, and when this occurs, a fury of retaliation will launch from America’s own soil. The world will wither in the nuclear winter that follows.”

He smiled, reassured, “However, with a million miles of underground complex in place, we will remain unaffected. Soon, we will descend to meet with our families and carry on our lives as the generations continue through the fallout. With the thousands of us here, it should not be entirely different to our lives now.”

Niculescu’s rigid demeanor relaxed as he picked up, “The greatest care and planning has gone into this decision. The most technologically knowledgeable and fore-thinking minds have been added to our population. They will stimulate growth through priceless, expansive research and development labs. We will live off cultured foods, and though there will be little meat at first, in time our cattle programs will thrive. We will be entirely self-sustaining, and in the days when we begin to emerge, each our future relatives will live as kings and queens.”

The two men at the front of the group raised their glasses, chorusing together: “To the future!”

The others echoed the toast at the resonance of their tin cups.