Authors: Martin Wilsey
Tags: #mystery science fiction, #intelligence hard scifi high tech combat robot science military ai
By Martin Wilsey
a work of fiction. All characters and
events portrayed in this novel are fictitious. Any resemblance to
actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by Martin
All rights reserved,
including rights to reproduce this book, or portions
, in any form.
Cover Art by Martin
The Solstice 31
The Broken Cage
Blood of the Scarecrow
The Outer Ring
Kill Valerie Hume
The Black Pod
We had no idea we
had prevented more deaths.
We were just
trying to get by in this godforsaken desert. Now let me get back to
Solstice 31 Incident Investigation Testimony Transcript:
Harvey Reardon, Owner/Operator of Oklahoma Salvage, formerly known
as Reardon and Sons. Questioned regarding the origin of $220,000 in
gold found in his possession.
Harvey Reardon recognized the sound in
the distance of an old 18-wheeler even before the perimeter
security drones notified him via Heads-Up Display (HUD).
He got up from where he
was lying on the ground under an old PT-137 Quad shuttle and dusted
himself off. He lowered his shades, the ones that were more like
goggles, and started walking back to the shop. He was rolling the
stiffness out of his
and grumbled as he
I’m too old for this
shit…” he mumbled. It was then he realized that he had lost his hat
again. “Bloody hell.” In the fifteen
it would take him
to walk back to get it, that cursed desert sun would turn his bald
Alex would be furious with him.
He paused and tugged at his white
beard for a moment as he considered turning back. He had already
walked past a few hundred planes, copters, and shuttle
As he watched, his hat
blew across the road in the distance, taking flight in the
wind. “Oh for sewers sake,” he cursed and kept
going. Grease and dust were all over his coveralls, almost
obscuring the lettering on the back: “Reardon and
Sons – Salvage, Restoration,
and Service.” It was
called Oklahoma Salvage now. There was a new sign out by the
highway to prove it. The new patch over his right front pocket was
-faded as the lettering on his back,
and all it said was “Harv
As he entered the back
door of the main
he dropped the aluminum panel
he had been using
shade his cranium
to keep it from burning.
He walked through his office, directly into the storefront behind
the counter of the former diner.
You lost your hat again,”
Alexandra Reardon said without looking up at her great-grandfather.
She was annoyed.
How the hell do you know
that?” Harv asked in his best crotchety-old-man voice.
He slapped more dust off his
He knew she hated it when he
did that in there. And she knew he knew.
The sales counter
with electronic components,
gear. “What’s all this?” asked Harvey. When she didn’t answer right
away, he glanced her way and drew in a breath. “We have customers
coming, and you’re wearing that?!” She wore an old, black
the sleeves cut off, cut-off jean
Chinese wooden flip-flops.
Hunter told me already.
It’s just Wendy. She’s coming for another catapult shipping
container. Have you got one ready?” She already knew that he did.
Hunter was the name of the yard’s Artificial Intelligence system
and it knew what was ready.
I have eleven ready! You
should get off your ass and sell them, dammit. We are a bit light
on funds just now, thanks to all that shit Mark bought at auction
The truck could be seen
turning in from the road, r
aising a cloud of dust as soon as it left the
all this?” He picked
up a small device he didn’t recognize. It had dozens of wires
hanging from it, and it obviously had power because blue LEDs
pulsed on the main body of the tiny thing.
I was hoping that I could
put together a Quantum Entanglement Communications Transceiver from
these ten busted ones. Hunter says it might work,” Alex said as she
touched one contact after another while watching for indications on
one of the displays in front of her. She sat on an old bar stool
behind the counter, just where the old cash register
to be. She had sold that
a collector for
over six thousand dollars.
All the original
were still there on the other side of the
counter. The stools, a few glass cases and the bell on the door
were all that remained of the old diner on the inside. Outside,
there was the faded sign that said “EAT” in dull,
letters. The booths under the windows had
with racks that held various parts and tools that
. It was the same behind the
counter. Where the stove,
chillers, and exhaust
hoods had once been,
now there were
shelves that held all
manner of used parts removed from salvaged ships, shuttles, and
planes. Dust covered everything.
and Wendy entered with a smile.
” she said
as Alex looked up. “How
?” She had a thick Texas
and Alex knew it was an affectation. Wendy was incredibly
intelligent even though she tried to hide it.
Harv stared at her ample bosom. She
was wearing a low-cut halter top with a Navajo design that had been
all the fashion twenty years ago. Jeans and cowboy boots completed
the look. They knew she had a Stetson in the truck.
Why don’t you call ahead
so I can be ready, dammit.” Harv walked up to the dusty window and
saw she was driving a double. Two trailers behind the massive
The same reason I
out here to get them, old man.
Discretion. But you know
and you just enjoy belly
What’ll it be this month,
Wendy?” Alex said, “We have eleven containers that are
catapult-ready. All grav-plates tested and guaranteed. Five are
containers; three are standard C-19s, sealed
without life support, but will hold pressure under hard use. The
last three are Alpha boxes and have full inertial dampening,
internal gravity, and they’re pressure tested and insulated. One of
those Alphas is an A-11 and even has basic manual navigation
control inside and are great for docking in outer space at the
station without a tug. ”
Alex hadn’t even brought them up on
Let me have the A-11 and
one of the C-19s. Are they painted the same?” Wendy asked as she
dug into her back pocket for a large wad of cash.
and painted. Though they won’t look new anymore
out there. No tracking numbers painted on;
installed. If you want me to do
you’ll have to wait about an hour. Want to see
Nope. I’m good. Just load
’em up.” Wendy said.
That’s $3,000 for the
C-19 and $12,000 for A-11. The A-11 has only a seat in the pilot
booth. Empty otherwise,” Alex told her as Harv went out to the
Without haggling, Wendy counted out
the cash. That told Alex that it was a no-questions-asked, straw
man purchase, and she was passing the profit to Oklahoma Salvage
for future preferential treatment.
That’s fine.” Wendy
smiled. “Any luck with the other thing?”
Not yet,” Alex said.
Wendy had a standing order for some fuel grade plutonium. They
sometimes salvaged derelicts that had fuel remaining in the
reactors, if they got to it soon enough. Wendy just nodded. She had
to ask because that info would never
public Net for the same reason as the containers.
Need anything else
today?” Alex folded the bills and stashed them in her
there is one more
” she said, pulling a rabbit foot out of her pocket and
handing it to Alex.
Alex twisted and clicked
and a memory stick
was revealed, stored
inside. Her stool was on
and she launched
herself along the counter to a terminal at the end. She slid the
memory stick into the
and a schematic came up that was
the input file for a fabrication unit. Very few people knew Harv
had one. Alex raised an eyebrow at the part but said only, “Do you
want to pay now or when you pick it up? Either way is
Now is fine.” Wendy still
had a considerable wad of cash in her hand.
Is this for you? Personal
I mean?” Alex asked. It was an upper receiver for a 10mm cannon.
Illegal in most territories.
Wendy said nothing.
I will take care of
. Harv doesn’t need to
Thanks,” Wendy said, as
the clicking sound of the first container settling into the clamps
on the trailer made them look.
Harv’s container tug had
the entire top cut away. The pilot seat jutted from the rear of the
tug so he could watch the container as he clamped on. It had no
roll cage, no AI
and no seatbelts.
It was a death trap. A fun, fun death
the second container was also loaded. From the
Harv could hear the clamps grab it.
Harv set the tug down in
the parking lot and jumped out quickly as Wendy was inspecting the
clamps. She watched him jog up.
her. He never ran
Wendy, there is a truck
coming. The drones spotted it way out.” Harv looked serious, and
rested a hand on her shoulder, “It looks like a military
Wendy gave him a quick hug, and a kiss
on the cheek.
” Wendy said with a hand still touching his face. “I owe you
one.” She ran for her rig and was moving in a matter of seconds.
She drove south, away from the truck that was coming. The winding
path through the salvage yard obscured her departure in no