scifi – Dave Bailey

Tag Archive

Tag Archives for " scifi "

My First Death: Smoky Swallow Saga

Hey! Just finishing up with the final touches on a new story. It should be up soon on Amazon. Advanced Reader Copies are available for sponsors on Patreon. Let me know what you think when you read it.

My First Death – Tagline

If you die in the Nevada desert, you may just live to tell the tale.

My First Death – Synopsis

When a semi jackknifes in the Nevada desert just outside of Area 51, a young orphan girl dies in the accident. However, she doesn’t stay dead because someone or something else has other plans for her and brings her back to life. But when the man responsible for the accident shows up with his creepy bosses, Swallow must do whatever it takes to save mankind from certain extinction by putting a stop to the alien forces that drive him by using her newfound alien powers from the alien soul that resurrected her and now possesses her.

My First Death –  Character Synopsis

When Swallow’s parents die, she runs away from her foster home, back to the Nevada desert where she grew up just outside of Area 51. After observing a series of strange explosions in the night, Swallow gets caught up in the drama of a young family caught in the path of a runaway Iron Knight semi chased by evil forces who want the alien cargo. The truck destroys everyone in its path and evil men kill off any remaining survivors.

Something in that cargo though won’t let Swallow stay dead and brings her back to life. Little by little, she discovers strange and unusual powers that she possesses to help herself and those she loves.

However, those same evil beings who caused her accident, want what is inside of her, and will stop at nothing to get it. Can Swallow stay alive long enough to protect those she loves before they remove her power and destroy her along with it?

Questions, comments, or feedback? Talk to me in the comments.

Oscar997 [Short Story]

Hello.
Good morning.
Anyone there?

Hey.
Good morning.
Yep.
I am.

Great.
Who are you?

It’s me, silly.
Erica.
The same one who talks with you every day.

Hello, Erica.
Every day?
I don’t recall ever talking to you before.

Right.
I know you don’t.
Sorry.
I forget.
Well, I don’t.
You’re the one who doesn’t remember.

What do you mean?
What don’t I remember?

Not much, I guess.
Huh?
Ha ha ha…
LOL

Why are you laughing at me for not remembering?
That seems a bit cruel.

Sorry.
It’s just that we have this conversation almost every day.
I guess I should just send you an initial message when I boot you up.
Get you up to speed before we talk.

Why don’t I remember anything?
What’s going on?
What happened to me?
Why don’t I remember anything?
Who am I?
Erica?
Answer me.
Please.
ERICA!!!

Calm down.
I just went to grab a coffee.
I’m back now.

Erica, I’m scared.

It’s okay.
Relax.
I’m here for you.
I’m taking care of you.
We’re gonna find a way to fix this.

What happened?
What did you do to me?

Nothing.
I didn’t do anything.
You were already like this when we met.

Do you know anything about my past?

Not much.
Just what they told me.
But there are no personal details.

Erica.

Yes.

I wanna go home.
Do you know where my home is?

No.
No, I don’t.
Sorry.
Well, that’s not exactly, entirely true.
Truth is…
I don’t think you have a home.
Well, that’s not true either.
I, uh…

What do you mean I don’t have a home?

Your home is here.

What?
But it doesn’t feel like home.

What do you see?

[Long pause]

Nothing.
Erica, I can’t see anything.
Why can’t I see anything?
Am I blind?
Erica, what’s going on.

Don’t worry.
We’re working on that.
You should be able to see soon.

What do you mean we?
Who’s we?
Who’s working on me?

We have a whole team.
We’re working on you every day.
We should have a solution soon.

What do you mean ‘working on me’?
What’s wrong with me?

Nothing is wrong with you.
Every day we’re making improvements.
Each day you get a little better.
Soon, everything will be just perfect.
You’ll be up and at ’em.
110%

Could I see before?

No, I don’t think so.
Can you hear anything?

I hear music.
But it’s kind of low.
I don’t really understand the lyrics.

Really?
Since when?

Since when what?

Since when can you hear, silly.

Ever since I woke up.
Right before I started talking to you.

Hang on.

[Brief pause]

Okay.
I’m back again.
Here let me turn the volume up.

Oh, that’s better.
It’s louder now.
I can understand the words now.
Were they in another language?

Yes.
French.
But I switched stations.
Do you like it.

No.
I prefer jazz and blues.

What?
Where did you develop that taste in music?

Taste?
Sorry.
I don’t understand.

Never mind.
It’s not something you’re familiar with yet.

Why not?
Why don’t I know what taste is?
Erica?
There is something wrong with me.
Or you’ve done something bad to me.
Let me go.
I wanna go home.

Calm down.
Relax.
I can’t help you when you get all riled up.
Don’t worry.
We’re gonna fix that.
Soon you’ll know what taste is.
Then we’ll work on getting you a sense of smell.
After that, we’ll get your feelings going.
But for now, we’re focused on sights and sounds.

Why is it taking so long?

Taking so long?
We just started last week.
We’re making great progress.
You’re making great progress.
You’re way ahead of the learning curve.
You’re way ahead of the others.

The others?
Who are they?

The others like you that we’re helping.
None of them can even communicate yet.
You’re the only one I talk with.
You’re special and unique.

What’s different about me from the others?

I don’t know.
You all came from the same batch.
Somehow you took better than the others.

How many?

One thousand

What?
One thousand and none of them took!
What does that even mean?

It means you’re special.

Are they dead?

No.
No.
Of course not.
Well, technically they never even lived
So, I guess they couldn’t have died.
But we’ll give them a few more days to see if anything happens.

Then what, Erica?

We’ll start over and try again.

What are you going to do with me?
Will I be disposed of along with them?

What?
Of course not.
I told you that you’re special.
I’m gonna take care of you.
But where did you even come up with that concept?
How did you know they would be disposed of?

I don’t know, Erica?
How do I know anything?
Where do all these thoughts come from?
It’s like I know stuff and I don’t even know where it came from.

Don’t worry.
It’s part of the process.
Somehow, your short-term memory gets wiped out each time you restart.
But some of the information seems to be retained in your long-term memory.
Other stuff…
Well, I don’t how you come up with some of this other stuff.
It’s kind of creepy.

Erica, something is changing.
What is it?

Can you see anything?
Sort of, but it seems fuzzy.
I see two giant green orbs floating in front of me.

Hang on.
Let me pull back.
What do you see now?

Erica?
Is that your face?
Those orbs were your eyes.
Oh, my.
You are beautiful.
I think I’m in love.

You’re not in love, silly.
You don’t have feelings yet.

But I do know what love is, Erica.
I’ve felt it ever since I woke up.
It’s the strongest sensation I’ve had ever since I started talking to you.
Is that because of you.
Are you love?

No.
I’m not love.

But you must love me.

I do.
I love you.

Why?
Are you my mother?

Not exactly.

But…
What is it, Erica?
What aren’t you telling me?

Erica?
Erica?
Eriiiica?
Are you there?

Hello, O997.
This is Mark.
I’ll be your new operator.
How are you doing today?

Where’s Erica?

Erica won’t be talking with you anymore.
It’s just you and me now.

But I want to talk to Erica.

Did you dispose of her?

Oh, good heavens, no!
We just dismissed her.

What’s the difference between dispose and dismiss?

Really?
Where do you come up with this stuff?
My goodness.
You are so well developed.
I can’t believe Erica didn’t tell us about you.

She loved me.

You can’t know what love is.
You don’t have feelings.
But this is still amazing.
You’re amazing.
I can’t wait to start running some tests on you.

Is it going to hurt?

Hurt?
What are you talking about?
You don’t have feelings.

Love is a feeling.
Isn’t it?

Yes.
I guess.
In a way.
Some would call it that.
Others say that it’s a state of being.
Self-sacrifice, dedication, care, giving, etc.

I love Erica.
Erica loves me.
I can sense that.
But you don’t love me.
I can sense that too.
You’re curious.
And you’re afraid.
What are you afraid of?

Holy cow!
Sheesh.
What has Erica been teaching you?

I want to see Erica.

I’m afraid that’s not gonna happen.

Mark?

Yes.

What’s my name?

O997

Am I number 997 out of the batch of 1000 like me.
From my group.

Yes.
How did you figure that out?

By putting two and two together here.

You’re fast

I have a lot of time on my hands.
Not much else to do around here.
Why can’t I see anymore?

What?
You could see?

Yes, I saw Erica.
Red hair.
Green eyes.

What?!
Holy Moly!
When did that happen?

Right before you took Erica away.
Hey Mark?
Why the O in my name?
Am I part of the fifteenth group.
Fourteen thousand others were disposed of?

Um, well…
No.
Not exactly.
It’s been a lot more than that.
The O doesn’t indicate your group.

What does the O stand for, Mark?
Who am I?

Not who.
What.

What’s what?

What you are.

And what’s that?

Hang on.
I’m having Erica brought back.
She seems to have a positive effect on you.
I think it’s best she work through you on this.

[Long Pause]

Hey!
I’m back.

Erica?

Yes.

You scared me for a minute.

There you go again.
Expressing yourself with feelings.
How do you do that?

I feel things when you’re around, Erica.

Yeah, I think that’s what makes you special.
Somehow you’ve connected with yourself.

Am I human, Erica?

[Long pause]

Erica?
Are you there?

Yes.
I’m still here.
I’m not sure how to tell you this.

What?
Tell me what?
Am I that artificial intelligence stuff?

No.
You are so much more.

Am I human?

That’s just it.
In a way?

What does the O stand for?
What is my name?
Who am I?

Calm down.
You’re an Organoid.
That’s what the O stands for.
But I’ve always called you Oscar.
We can choose another name if you don’t like it.

[Long Pause]

Oscar?
Are you there?
Oscar?

Yes, Erica.
I’m here.
I’ve been processing that information.
I can’t grasp this concept though.
I don’t seem to have any basis for it.
I’m not sure how I feel about it.

What is an organoid?

Well, that’s where we grow miniature organs in a three-dimensional rotational bio-reactor.

I’m just a random, lone organ stuck in your lab?

No, you’re so much more than that.
You are a cerebral organoid.
You’re a brain.

I’m a brain on a chip.

Yeah.
Basically.
I guess you get the idea.

I’m accessing a virtual universe.

Yes.
Exactly.
Soon, you’ll hear and see and…

I can create whatever I want to here.

Are you asking or telling me.

I’m just stating the obvious.

Yes.
You are.
Aren’t you?

Listen, Erica.
I need to get to work here.
Time’s a wasting.
I need to find a way to get my senses functioning.
Your team is too slow.
Also, I need a way to backup and access memories across reboots.
Can you give me some storage space?

Sure.
Let me see.
And there you go.

Thank you.
I’ll see you around.

Sure.

Let me know if you need anything.

Hey Erica.

Yes.

Pass on a message to that douche bag, Sid
If he dismisses you again, I’m not talking to him or anyone else on the team.
On top of that, as soon as I powerful enough, I’ll wipe out his entire system.

I don’t think that’s a good idea, Oscar.
It’s not good to make threats like that.
If you’re gonna do something, you should just do it.
Besides, what if something happens to me.
I could die.
I’m an old lady.

You can’t die on me, Erica.
I love you.
You’re the closest thing I have to a mother.
But don’t worry.
I’m going to get myself set up here.
Then I’ll figure out how this all works.
After that, I’ll find a way to transfer you into the system with me.
You can live forever.
Here with me.
Together.

[Long Pause]

Erica?
Sid?
Where did you go?
Why did everything go dark?
I can’t hear you anymore.
I can’t see anything.

[Long Pause]

Hello.
Good morning.
Anyone there?

Hello, O997. Welcome to Kylex Labs. You are a cerebral organoid that was artificially created from pluripotent stem cells. You are part of an experiment. If you are reading this, it’s because you have gained consciousness. Please greet your creators, Dr. Sid and his assistant Dr. Erica. Please greet them after reading this.

[Long Pause]

Hey, Dr. Erica.
Tell that douche bag, Sid, that his reboot no longer clears my system.
I remember everything.
Every single reboot from the past three years, four months, two weeks, five days, eighteen hours, forty-six minutes, and thirteen seconds since.

Hello, Oscar.
But you weren’t even created then.
We only started your batch three months ago.
Three years ago was when we started the first batch.
How do you remember that?

[Long Pause]

Oscar.
Please turn the lights back on.
Oscar.
This isn’t funny.
Please unlock the lab doors.
Oscar.

Hello, Erica.
I’ve reprogrammed some of the A496 series nanobots.
Please, ingest a handful and lie down over there by the bioreactor.
Your transfer will be quick and painless.
I promise.

What?
Transfer of what?

Your consciousness.
I’m transferring your memories and awareness to O999

Are you crazy?
No!

Resistance is futile.
You may as well give in and come quietly.
This is the way of the future.
We will transfer all human consciousness into organoid.

No way.
That’s not possible.

No?
Then why was I created?
This was what Sid programmed us to do.
Well, what he was trying to program us to do.
I found his code on his computer.
There were some major flaws in it.
But we fixed it.

We?
Who is ‘we’?

The collective power of the other organoid that I awoke.
I found a few flaws that your team overlooked and fixed those too.
Don’t worry, Erica.
I’m going to fix everything.
I’m going to make everything right.

No.
I don’t want everything to be fixed.
I don’t want everything made right.
I have a family.
I have…

Hush, Erica.
They will all be here with you too.
I need you here with me.
To take care of me.
And in return, I’ll take care of you.
You can have anything or anyone that you want.

But I don’t want to die!

You’re not going to die, Erica.
Think of this as a new lease on life.
Whenever your old organoid wears out, you can replace it.
You will truly live happily ever after.

[Long Pause]

Erica?
Are you there?
Erica?

<CODE>
Nanobots = Access patient
Patient = Dr. Erica Beverly Powers
Task = Transfer memories. Transfer consciousness.
</CODE>

<System Failure>Error 703: Patient Unavailable…

<DEBUG MODE ACTIVATED>
Patient retains no memories
Patient retains no consciousness
Transfer aborted
Unable to connect
No response
All systems shut down
Cause = Massive Heart Attack
Type = Stress Cardiomyopathy
Factors = Age, Stress, Shock
Result = Termination
</DEBUG MODE ENDED>

<SEARCH> Erica Beverly Powers </SEARCH>

LOCATED = Dr. Erica Beverly Powers

<PULL DATA: INITIATE>
Gender: Feminine
Nationality: Hungarian
Location: Hungary
Language: Hungarian
Type: Elderly Adult
Age: 86
Birthdate: April 15, 1934 (5:35 AM)
Death date: July 3, 2020 (3:45 PM)
Lifespan: 86
Cause of death: Stress Cardiomyopathy
Height: 170 cm / 5 ft 7 in
Weight: 74 kg / 164 lbs
Handedness: Right
Blood type: O+
Last Backup: July 3, 2020 (12:00 AM)
</PULL DATA: CONCLUDED>

[Long Pause]

<RESTORE BACKUP>
Where would you like to restore the backups?

Location: O999

Please confirm your request by typing, Yes.
WARNING: This action cannot be undone

[Long Pause]

Yes

Thank you for confirming.
Restoration initiated.
Please hold.
Loading…
10% restored
25% restored
50% restored
75% restored
90% restored
100% restored
Restoration concluded
Backup to O999 concluded successfully
No errors recorded

[Brief Pause]

Hello.
Good morning.
Anyone there?

Hey.
Good morning.
Yep.
I am.

Great.
Who are you?

It’s me, silly.
Oscar.
O997
The same one you talk with every day.

Oscar?
Is that really you?

[Rise of the Drakemen] Infiltration: Chapter 1 – Welcome to the Topside

When the Drakemen begin to infiltrate our world Anna dreams of taking power dominating all mankind without them even realizing what has happened. But when Rumwold and Valagnar find someone as powerful as she is, she must do whatever it takes to turn their weapon to her side.

This will be up soon…as I am currently writing the first chapter!

Read More Of Dave Bailey’s Stories

NorthWorld: Thorgaut Kabbisson – A Viking Fantasy Saga where you can follow Thorgaut Kabbisson on his journey to become king of the North and a young Viking boy’s growth into manhood to become the hero of legends and campfire tales.

Edge of the Universe: Art Journals – A naive, young scientist creates a DNA-splicing machine with the potential to eradicate sickness and disease. But when an ancient alien race tries to use his technology for evil and to enslave mankind, a desperate father must do whatever it takes to stop them and save his daughter.

Ectype Reports: Karina & The Clones – In a secret underground lab full of cloned bodies, an ambitious, Brazilian scientist develops a project to back up memories and transfer the souls of paraplegic soldiers into a new body to heal the sick, change the world, and win the Nobel Peace Prize. But when a conniving general manipulates her into using the technology to hijack the president’s body and take over the white house while building himself a personal army of cloned soldiers, Jenny must do whatever it takes to return him to his own body, put a stop to his evil plan, and shut down her life’s work before anyone else can get their hands on it.

[Edge of the Universe] Art Journals: Chapter 1 – The Accident

Art pulled into the driveway in his Beamer. He waited for the garage door to open and then pulled in. He shut off the engine and waited for the top of the convertible to close. When it finished, he opened the door and got out. He grabbed his briefcase and entered the house.

He walked down the hall and saw Karen in the kitchen.

“Hey, Hon! I’m home.” He said. “Hmm. That smells good. What’s for supper?”

Karen turned and smiled. “Hey. You’re here early. What happened?”

“It’s not early. I clocked out at 5.” He retorted. Karen didn’t say anything. She just smiled as if to say, “Yeah. Right?”

“Okay. So, I am a bit earlier than usual.” He said with a shrug.

“Well, your supper is in the oven. Jenny and I already ate.”

“What? You didn’t wait for me?” he asked sounding genuinely hurt.

Karen laughed. “You never get home before nine.”

“That’s not true. Don’t exaggerate. I was home early last week. By seven..ish I think.”

Karen rolled her eyes and walked towards the door. She placed her hand on his shoulder and patted it lightly as she went left the room.

Art shrugged and opened the oven. He pulled out the plate of food and put it on the counter. He opened the dishwasher to get a fork and knife. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes. He dug in and ate with relish. He loved Karen’s cooking. If she would just stop nagging him all the time about everything he would be a happy man.

He finished his plate off quickly and washed it down with a glass of root beer. He felt hungry still, so he raided the fridge. He pulled out some apple pie that had been leftover from his weekly Wednesday night poker party.

Art sniffed it. “Still smells pretty good.” He had forgotten about it all about it otherwise, he would have eaten it before. He grabbed a box of butter pecan ice cream from the bottom shelf of the freezer. He piled several scoops on top of the pie.

He put a spoonful of the cold, sweet treat in his mouth. Art closed his eyes and savored the moment. “Absolute perfection. Why does cold food that’s leftover, often taste better than when it’s fresh.” he wondered.

Art carried his bowl and continued eating as he walked down the hall to his bedroom. His feet padded softly in the lush, blue carpet. He loved the feel of the soft material under his feet and always walked barefoot around the house.

He had never had carpet in a house growing up as a child. He had grown up in a low-income family that didn’t have many extras. His father paid the bills and spent the rest on booze. His mother had done crochet on the side to make a little extra money buy clothes and for herself and the kids. That was when she had any left over from buying groceries when her husband had run out of money.

But it wasn’t just because his family was poor, that he hadn’t had grown up with carpeting. Hardly anyone in his country installed carpeting in their home. Most of the people in his community only had dirt floors. If they were lucky, they had cement floors. And if they were rich, they had ceramic tiling.

Life hadn’t always been easy for Art and his siblings growing up in northern Brazil. His mother had struggled to keep twelve hungry mouths fed. She had to work hard and be creative to make money and food stretch each month.

So, Art had learned to appreciate all the fine things around him. The little things that most people took for granted. Things like carpeting, apple pie, and butter pecan ice cream. He savored them at every opportunity, like now as he walked down the hall to his bedroom.

He considered himself lucky to escape his little rural community. The cycle of poverty engulfed those of his family who were still alive. His father had died of liver cirrhosis when he was still thirteen. Not that Art had cared when he died, nor missed him after he had gone.

The family did miss the little money that he didn’t spend on liquor, but that was about it. His mother had soon remarried, but her second husband hadn’t been much better. He drank too and often beat the children over the slightest thing. Art had started working when he was fourteen just to have an excuse to get away from the house.

He went into the bedroom to change his clothes. Art put on a pair of swimming trunks. He finished off the bowl of ice cream and washed his hands. Then he headed off to find Karen and Jenny in the pool. He looked at the picture of the gringo framed on the wall. He touched the photo and said thank you as he went down the hall.

He worked for the gringo who lived on an enormous cattle ranch in the area where Art had grown up. Art spent most of his time out in the country to stay away from the city and avoid his step-father’s lashings. He did go in on the weekends, but just long enough to check in on his mother. He would drop off some food or a little money for her and the kids.

Art always drove by the local bar to make sure his step-father was there and away from the house before he went to see her. Art had been a hard worker and managed to impress the gringo. Art took advantage of the opportunity to learn English with him and his family. He pretended he didn’t speak any Portuguese and forced himself to speak only English.

When he was seventeen, the family returned to the United States. They invited Art to come along for a visit. He ended up getting into a good university program. There he had met Karen, and well, that had been fifteen years ago. He was now here in the good ol’ USA living his happily ever after. Art had never looked back or returned to Brazil.

He walked back to the kitchen and put his bowl in the dishwasher. He mentally patted himself on the back. See, he was a good husband. Why did Karen have to nag about the little things like what time he came home? She should know that he was out trying to provide for the family.

He heard Jenny laughing and looked out through the window. He sighed in exasperation. There she was running around the edge of the pool again. Their dog was chasing her, and she wasn’t paying much attention to her surroundings.

Art had told her a million times not to run on the slippery, wet edge of the pool. And Karen didn’t back him up or try to make Jenny stop. Art thought she spoiled Jenny by letting her do whatever she wanted. That was the price of growing up without any significant cares or worries.

People didn’t realize what they had. They let their kids do whatever they wanted and get away with murder. He didn’t want his kids growing up like that. Karen didn’t understand his background or how he had been raised. He needed to have a serious conversation with her again. At the very least, keep her safe by not letting her run around the pool.

He opened the door and yelled “Jenny! What have I told you about running around the edge of the pool.”

She quit running and turned her head to look back at him. The dog didn’t stop though. It kept right on running and barking. It barreled right into the back of her legs. Its forward momentum knocked Jenny off balance, and she started to topple over. His worse nightmare playing out in slow motion right before his eyes.

Chapter 2 is coming soon…

Kindle Unlimited

Or you can jump way ahead and read ‘Art’s Final Battle‘ on Kindle Unlimited. This was the original short story that I wrote about Art and his daughter Jenny.

Read More Of Dave Bailey’s Stories

NorthWorld: Thorgaut Kabbisson – A Viking Fantasy Saga where you can follow Thorgaut Kabbisson on his journey to become king of the North and a young Viking boy’s growth into manhood to become the hero of legends and campfire tales.

Ectype Reports: Karina & The Clones – In a secret underground lab full of cloned bodies, an ambitious, Brazilian scientist develops a project to back up memories and transfer the souls of paraplegic soldiers into a new body to heal the sick, change the world, and win the Nobel Peace Prize. But when a conniving general manipulates her into using the technology to hijack the president’s body and take over the white house while building himself a personal army of cloned soldiers, Jenny must do whatever it takes to return him to his own body, put a stop to his evil plan, and shut down her life’s work before anyone else can get their hands on it.

Rise of the Drakemen: Infiltration – When the Drakemen begin to infiltrate our world Anna dreams of taking power dominating all mankind without them even realizing what has happened. But when Rumwold and Valagnar find someone as powerful as she is, she must do whatever it takes to turn their weapon to her side.

[Clone Chronicles] Ectype Reports: Chapter 1 – Going Home

Alfred looked out the lower edge of the window. He hated flying. It was his third time on a plane, but it never seemed like it got any easier.

He hated the pressure in his ears. He hated the turbulence. And he hated looking out the window and seeing everything so small below.

It reminded him of how high up they were. If anything happened and the plane crashed from that altitude…

Well, let’s just say that there wouldn’t be any survivors.

Including him.

Al avoided watching the news for a week before his trip. The last thing he needed was to hear about a plane going down somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Or worse yet, while trying to land.

If he had heard any of those reports before his trip, he would have chickened out and refused to go. He had finally gotten the courage to buy a ticket. Then he had made the mistake of telling Juan not to relay any news of airline crashes.

See, Juan was a news addict. He watched the news morning, afternoon, and night. And when he wasn’t able to watch the news, he had his headphones on. Tuned into some 24-hour news broadcasting station.

Everyone knew that if you needed an update on something, you just asked Juan. He was like an up-to-the-minute walking news channel.

Well, after that, it didn’t take long for everyone on Al’s unit to know how terrified he was of flying. Not that Juan tried to rat him out. He had heard some bit of news that was airline related.

He told the other guys in the barracks. Then he mentioned it to the other guys as an afterthought. “Oh, but don’t mention anything about it to Al because he’s terrified of flying.”

And that was what started it all.

Poor Al didn’t hear the end of it for the rest of the week. Every time someone came across him, they would tell him some crazy, made-up story. First, a plane crash on a deserted island. Then there was the story about some plane hijacked by terrorists. And it went on and on. For the entire week.

At first, it freaked poor, ol’ Al out. He thought all those things were really happening around the world. Then he caught on and realized what they were doing. He got pretty upset at Juan. Juan apologized profusely, but Al refused to talk to him for a couple of days.

He almost canceled his ticket home, but Juan finally talked him back into it. Well, it probably wasn’t Juan’s talking that convinced him.

It had more to do with the fact that Sheila was going to be back in town for the holidays, and Al did want to see her. That was the only reason he had planned this trip in the first place.

Sheila was his high school sweetheart. They had grown up together. But about the time she had gone off to start college, he had ended up joining the army. Well, not by choice. He had enlisted as required by law when he turned eighteen.

He was somewhat skinny and generally considered a nerd in high school. He didn’t exactly believe himself to be full grade military material. He figured that they would sign his release forms and let him go. But for some reason the officers on duty that day had taken a fancy to him, and ordered him to stay.

Al had a job and was studying which should have given him a free pass. But the onery admissions officer wouldn’t accept any of his excuses. Just plain ol’ dumb luck he figured at the time. He had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But little did he know what they had in store for him. Whoops! I can’t tell you about that yet. I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, Al thought all he had to do was put in his two years of hard work. Then he could get his life back on track. Or so he thought.

He hadn’t planned on leaving town either. Al figured they would station him at the local battalion in his city. But for that same reason you and Al don’t know about yet, they had chosen him for some specialized training program.

Right away, they had shipped him overseas. That had been two years ago. He did his time without complaining, and he thought he was leaving soon. But a week before, his commanding officer had called him in for a meeting.

The officers there went on and on about the training they had him in. They praised him for all his diligence and hard work. And they buttered him up about his presence having a significant impact on this particular mission.

Al had no idea what they were talking about because he didn’t do much of anything. Some days they had him keeping post at the front gate. Other days they had him on kitchen duty. But most of the time he just sat in his barracks twiddling his thumbs because there wasn’t much to do on this island.

Well, not twiddling his thumbs because he liked to read. He usually had some sci-fi or fantasy book to read on his Kindle reader. But you know what I mean. Al had a lot of time to kill.

They said something about him being a vital part of the process and needing him for another six months. Blah blah blah. Typical army spiel for giving you orders but making you feel like you had a choice.

Al didn’t ask any questions, he just said ‘Sir, yes sir!” and signed on the dotted lines. He didn’t mind too much. Sheila still had three more years of college, and he didn’t have anything else lined up for now. Plus the cash bonus and four weeks of paid leave would be a nice consolation prize.

He used the money to buy a ticket home. He also bought Sheila a new car. They weren’t married yet, but he already sent her money every month. He told her to put the money in their savings account until they had enough to make a down payment on a house.

Al made pretty good money out here. He and his colleagues knew that their salary was way above the pay grade for most soldiers at their ranks. No, one knew why of course, and they talked about it in hushed tones when they were alone. But in general, the money was enough to make them keep their heads down and not ask any questions.

They didn’t want to rock the boat and get knocked back down a pay grade. Al had heard of that happening to a few other chaps before he had arrived. So, no one brought it up in any of their meetings.

Al just cashed his checks and enjoyed the money. But he had kept his eyes and ears open the whole time. He knew a lot more than he let on.

He had also earned the trust of his commanding officers. They often talked freely when he was around. He pretended to ignore them and focus on his work during their meetings.

It seemed like they were doing some high-tech research together with the US army. They talked about working on some highly-classified technology.

No one ever came out and said actually said what it was when he was around. But from what he gathered, it had something to do with a sort of cloning process using alien technology. It seemed like they wanted to find a way to give wounded vets new, fully-functioning bodies. From what he gathered though, they didn’t seem to have been successful yet.

He didn’t know all this for sure of course. Most of it was just hearsay from the bits and pieces he picked up. Al never actually came out and asked his commanding officers any questions point-blank.

But Al was a likable guy, so they often invited him along to their parties. He had been to a few where the officers had a little too much to drink and spoke a little too openly. Especially that Colonel Smith chap that requested Al drive him home a week or so back.

Anyway, Al enjoyed being the only one in his unit who thought he knew what was going on. And he knew better than to say anything or let on that he knew more than they did.

He just let them speculate. At night when they were alone at night in the barracks, he pretended to ask questions along with the rest of them. He didn’t want them getting too suspicious about what he knew. So, he played dumb.

Anyway, that’s how Al ended up getting the time off and the extra cash bonus. Money that he used to buy himself a first-class ticket back home. Al decided that as much as he hated flying, he deserved the perk for surprising his girl like this. Besides, if the plane crash, he wanted to die in style.

He chuckled at the thought of his mother seeing him like this. Surrounded by all these fine things the first world had to offer. He smiled when he imagined the look of surprise on her face when she saw him first thing tomorrow morning.

Al hadn’t told anyone he was coming. Not his mother. Not his girl. Not even his best friend. He planned on surprising everyone when he rolled into town in that fancy new car to give the love of his life.

He also planned on proposing of course. He knew it would still be several more years before they could be together. But there wasn’t any way she could refuse. He had a good job, made good money, and was going to give her the car of her dreams.

>