Aphelion Issue 244, Volume 23
October 2019
 
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Bug

by Coffee Anderson


PeeWee

Radium Dubellates, a malnourished thirty one year old vagabond, knocked on a rusty steel door at the back of a rat infested alley. The metal's sun baked surface burned his knuckles even after short contact. Seven seconds pass and a small eye level plank slid open revealing a shotgun's menacing twin barrels. At its end sat a rugged faced man in his late sixties. One of his bloodshot eyes beaded out of the peep hole with an intimidating stare. The other, clouded with cataract, gazed into empty space.

"Bugger off!" he growled with a phlegm-choked British accent -- a rare one to hear these days in the City State of Las Vegas.

"I'm here to see the doctor," Radium said, doing his best to hide a desperate tone.

The man and his gun barrels prolonged the silence to unease his visitor.

"The Doctor…?" he finally asked, "…Who?..." then burst into laughter.

The phrase, "Smart ass!" almost sprouted from Radium's tongue, but the shotgun stimulated sound judgment on behalf of his best interest. Instead, he joined in and chuckled along.

"Ha Ha. Very punny!"

"Oh, nice one…very nice. It's about bloody time we get someone 'round here with some actual wit to their name. You must have ancestry from the UK."

The shotgun retracted into the hole, and the man unlocked what seemed to be twenty different chains and deadbolts.

"They call me 'Buckets.' Our street sources said you were coming." The man grumbled as creaky hinges echoed off poorly lit walls behind the door. To his surprise, the open frame revealed a young child standing next to Radium, not more than three years old, plucking leaves off a small potted shrub besides the jamb -- the only living vegetation within a one hundred yard radius.

"Hello, then." Buckets said with astonishment. "I thought it was just you coming." He said looking at Radium.

"Nope…the both of us." Radium said, "PeeWee loves picking leaves."

The boy plucked them, one by one, and threw them to the ground giggling with pudgy dimpled cheeks and a squeaky voice; as if watching a talented comedian deliver perfectly timed punch-lines. With the juxtaposition of a big bad world and a baby boy's innocent curiosity, Radium felt comfort knowing his son found fascination in life's simple things.

"Come on, son." Radium told the boy. With his still unperfected walking skills, the toddler held his father's hand and fumbled his tiny body into the dark vestibule.

Radium lamented dragging themselves in hobo fashion from hostel to hostel in search of proper medical treatment, but they had no alternative. At two and a half years old, the boy didn't know how desperate their situation had become. Holes dotted his ragged clothes in addition to dirt stains and any other substance his tiny limbs encountered. His miniature tennis shoes were scuffed and worn, and his thick blond hair hadn't been combed in a fortnight.

Though they lived like paupers, Radium wasn't poor…far from it. But he had to hoard the bulk of his savings to cure a horrid man made disease PeeWee harbored within him, a disease that required treatment from a highly specialized and expensive physician.

Due to this ailment, PeeWee's clothes always smelled of bubblegum-flavored antibiotic. Radium had to orally administer the liquid to him three times a day with a plastic syringe whose measurement lines had faded from so much use. PeeWee hated the liquid and spat it out any chance he had, resulting in an extensive collection of pink stains on every article of his clothing. But antibiotics were the main thing keeping PeeWee alive. Without them he would have died within hours. But every day they lost more effect, and would soon have none against the lethal pathogen.

Radium cried silently every night after PeeWee fell asleep, thinking of better days when his son had his mother, and health. The child's pudgy hand clutched a necklace charm his mother gave him and softly lulled himself repeating, "Mommy? Mommy?" knowing the item represented her; wondering when she would come back. But it was PeeWee's only remaining memory of her. Mommy was gone.

A rogue band of crooked politicians had secretly infected PeeWee with a synthetic blood poison as a threat to his father. The boy's mother had inadvertently witnessed one of the congressman sharing illegal recreational substances with a prostitute before his reelection term. The congressman's backers had assassinated her.

Radium had attempted revenge by facing down the big bad wolf of corruption, but they had prevailed, and he faced the possibility of losing it all. For crossing them, he might pay the ultimate price by losing his last beloved family member -- his precious baby boy.

PeeWee had first showed symptoms a month ago when he began vomiting on the hour, every hour -- as if it was programmed. He could hold nothing down and ran fevers over 103 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to the sickness, Radium had received discreet threats ordering him to hush or die. Piecing things together, he realized both circumstances shared a devious kinship forcing them into grave danger.

Radium visited multiple pediatricians searching for a solid diagnosis, but received cold shoulders from them all once test results came in. "Just a bug," they said with fearful and suspicious looks in their eyes. One of them even had security escort them out in silence after lab work returned. At least they prescribed antibiotics, which lessened the boy's suffering, but his symptoms never disappeared completely.

PeeWee lost ten pounds, a dangerous amount for a boy of his age, before Radium lucked upon an Asian physician with a thick accent who didn't fear the consequences of telling the truth.

"Your boy has man made disease," the man told him. "I see critters under microscope. They not natural…this like mafia tell you they not like you. If I were you, I'd get this boy to doctor that qualified to deal with this ASAP…or sooner!"

"You can't help us?" Radium begged in disbelief.

"I can prescribe antibiotics and they make symptoms go away for now, but it only prolong the inevitable. You got big problems. I wish I could help, but laws in this country not permit us to do this kind of procedure -- FDA testing still not complete. Only military allowed to do this work. Besides, it prohibitively expensive, and require lots of special equipment. But if you leave country and go to place where they offer it, you can fix."

"Where?"

"Las Vegas is closest state that have this. I make a few phone calls to some sources I have and set something up. But you not tell a soul. My career, maybe life is on the line."

Radium agreed, and kept his word, but it didn't matter. The clinic's staff found the doctor dead in his office from a sniper's single gunshot to the head the next morning when they arrived for work.

Radium immediately fled with PeeWee for Sin City.

Buckets

Radium grew uneasy of the facility's dilapidated state as they followed Buckets down a dank hallway. Their mysterious guide's flashlight provided miniscule illumination as it swayed back and forth in front of his trench coat. Radium heard the steady hum of air conditioning, and the echoes of water drops plunging into condensation puddles. The place seemed more dungeon than medical clinic until they reached a large steel door with a numbered key pad mounted to its side. Buckets dialed a code and it slid open.

"Down here, boys…" Buckets said and they descended a staircase into a basement. They arrived at a tennis court sized room, filled with computer stations and medical equipment. The facility gleamed with a clinical sterilization as if one could safely eat meals off the floor without dishes. Several people dressed in scrubs walked about with clipboards in their hands.

"Say, fellas," mumbled a tall skinny black man sitting at a desk behind a computer monitor. He held a pen between his mustache/goatee framed lips as he typed on a keyboard. Under his lab coat he wore a crispy ironed shirt and tie, pleated trousers -- and a scuffed up pair of tennis shoes. His circular glasses reflected light from the ceiling's fluorescent fixtures, and a half filled Styrofoam coffee cup steamed from the desktop.

He removed the pen from his mouth and mounted it behind his right ear."Word has it your boy is carrying a dangerous man made bug, Mr. Dubellates," he said without shifting focus from his task.

"That's right," Radium said to the man. "Are you Dr. Neville?"

"The one and only," he said, smiling. Neville stood up and extended his hand, his stethoscope dangling from his neck like a pendulum.

Radium shook Neville's hand with relief. Finally, he had found someone who could and would try to help PeeWee.

"Sorry to jump straight into formalities, but let's talk payment," the Doctor said. "I ain't cheap."

"I know." Radium replied.

Radium opened his backpack and placed several large wads of rubber banded cash on the table -- most of them One Hundred Thousand Dollar Bills.

"We don't accept New U.S. Dollars here." The Doctor raised one eyebrow raised in potential contempt. "You should know that by now. We only accept 47, 78 and 79," the Doctor said, referring to the respective metals' atomic numbers. "I know it's old fashioned, but that's how we work."

"Sorry, I try and dump New-Dollars every chance I get," Radium admitted.

"Don't we all? My retainer is 100 Hanse Novus Ounces or the equivalent thereof. Now show us some metal."

Radium reached again into his backpack and produced a box containing ten small cylindrical plastic canisters. He pulled the top off of one and emptied the contents onto the desk. Ten shiny yellow coins glistened from the intense lab lights from an adjacent exam table. Neville examined a couple of them.

"Fine by me," he said. He knelt down in front of the boy.

"Can you show me your hand, son?"

PeeWee shied away from the Doctor and clung to his father's leg, but reluctantly extended a hand.

Neville held it palm side up and applied a golf ball sized digital device to the boy's index finger.

PeeWee flinched as the spring-driven lancet inside the ball poked him.

"Good job, son. Just a little pinch," the Doctor said.

Neville turned to look at one of the medical assistants wearing blue scrubs. "Fred, this kid's burning with fever. Get him on the exam table and let's check vitals."

"Sure thing," Fred replied.

PeeWee began a steady whimper as Fred helped Radium lift the boy onto the table.

Meanwhile, Neville placed the blood sample into a device next to his computer. His monitor scrolled a large information display.

"Son of a bitch!" Neville proclaimed with astonishment.

"What?" Radium asked.

"Is this boy on any medication?"

"Yes." Radium reached into his backpack and placed the antibiotic on Neville's desk.

"It's a man made pathogen, all right. And it's not even organic -- they're nano-bots…" Neville said staring at his monitor with intense concentration, "…and nasty ones, too!"

Neville pursed his lips and shook his head.

"Man, I ain't seen one this bad in a long time! It's a miracle this kid's still alive!"

"Is he going to be all right?" Radium asked, near to tears.

"Look, this bug can't be filtered out of his blood. It's developing a fast immunity to anything you throw against it via artificial intelligence. And worse…it's reproducing. We must treat it with a custom made enemy." the doctor said.

He picked up the bottle of antibiotic. "Amoxicillin?" he cried. "They still dishin' out this crappy dinosaur on the other side of the border?" He set the bottle down. "Okay, no more of the pink shit. It's only making the bug stronger. How long's it been since his last dose?"

"Six hours."

"Hmm. The heaviest symptoms might roll back in here any minute. Fred, get SHEAA on the line, fast! We got work to do!"

Creator

Creators come in a broad range of categories. First in the hierarchy are God, Allah, Mother Nature, and a variety of deities from the world's religions -- many of them famed for creating and/or ruling our universe. Next we have the demagogues, politicians, and world leaders (some claiming they belong to the previously mentioned "God/Creator" category) who create, shape, or mutilate history in accordance with their warped desires. Then come the likes of architects, inventors, artists, and composers -- those famed for leaving behind cherished reminders of history's eras. Last on the list, we have the unknowns: people ignored and overlooked by the masses and history books with no recognition, but having profound effects on society, or achieving astonishing accomplishments.

Sopenko Gigglebottoms might hold last place amongst the "Unknown Creators", but his accomplishments had proven remarkable.

Today, Sopenko had created twelve point five trillion New-Dollars out of thin air in eight point four seconds by taking advantage of the miniscule interest rates the United States Federal Reserve charged for loaning money to banks. Sopenko was the only individual on the planet to whom they offered this unique benefit, but they didn't know it. You see, The Fed only lent money to reputable banks and other legitimate financial institutions, not individuals. But several months ago, Sopenko had created a series of cyber smoke and mirrors, via fancy web sites and falsified foreign corporate registrations, which gave the illusion of all the necessary electronic credentials of a genuine bank.

Sopenko had discovered nothing new. For centuries, investors and financial institutions throughout the planet have used the same trick of borrowing money at cheaper interest rates to purchase higher paying investments to pull a profit. But nobody did it cheaper than Sopenko. He had cracked the Fed's encryption and borrowed money at a negative amount of interest -- meaning the Fed actually paid him to borrow money. But they had fallen so behind on accounting due to the currency's recent hyperinflation, and its resultant economic havoc, that nobody had noticed, and probably no one ever would.

12.5 trillion New-Dollars used to be a lot of money. One could have used it to buy a small island-nation. Now, it will only pay for a nice beach house on the coast of La República de Southern California.

But Sopenko converted his money to sounder commodity-backed currencies and used it to buy other lucrative investments that showered him with more wealth. Since he was so good at creating money out of thin air, he did it on a frequent basis.

Fraudulent? Quite.

Risky? Well, Sopenko didn't think so. Especially since he resided in a location several thousand miles from any United States border, light-years from their jurisdictional reach.

Shady as his work might have seemed, Sopenko didn't meet the criteria of exciting. He didn't fight gun battles against organized crime members in dimly lit parking garages. He didn't spend weekend evenings at fashionable nightspots with beautiful female spies, nor did he drive fast sport cars in high speed chases. Instead, he sat every day glued to his laptop computer at his breakfast table on a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean Sea -- catching the breeze and raking in money. His obese body made his metal chair squeak when he shifted in it, and his large locks of curly hair, which he seldom groomed, glistened at the roots where strands clumped together with sweat. His thick-framed out of fashion glasses slid down his sweaty nose, and Tubs, his fat tabby cat, sat on the table sharing sips of his endless cups of sugary coffee and milk.

But it was all for a good cause. He donated large portions of the money to those in need -- thinking of himself as a cyber Robin Hood. And today, Sopenko's charitable 12.5 trillion of the hour would help pay medical expenses to a desperate father somewhere in North America whose son harbored a terrible blood contaminant…

Yosi

Ten bars of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony chimed in a soft volume from Yosmani Washington's laptop computer. This alerted him that a lucrative job posting has opened on the global messaging board of the Society of Human Engineered Antibody Architects (SHEAA).

Yosmani's laptop sat on a creaky wooden table next to three perspiring bottles of beer. Two cigars rested in an ashtray billowing smoke into the humid night air. A buzzing streetlamp cast dim shadows of Yosmani and his two dominoes-obsessed uncles onto the sidewalk and its adjacent apartment building wall. All three slumped in comfortable positions on their folding wooden chairs.

"Papito, your machine's calling you." Yosmani's uncle Julio mumbled to him as he set a winning domino on the table. Yosmani diverted his attention from the match and focused on his computer.

As Beethoven faded from the speakers, Bela Lugosi's black and white image appeared on the monitor and addressed Yosmani in his ghoulish but charming accent.

"Yosi, my boy." His voice crackled from its analogue sampled origins.

"Bela, how are you?"

"Fine, thanks. And you?"

"Just hanging out with my uncles on a Friday night."

"Wonderful, my boy."

"So, what's happening?" Yosi asked as he swigs his beer.

"Well, it appears an interesting job has arisen on the SHEAA posting board."

"Really? When is the deadline?"

"One hour."

"Jeez! That's short!"

"Yes, but it appears the patient is in critical condition."

"What's the outcome upon deadline if the patient goes untreated?"

"Death."

" 'Fatal Unless Treated,' huh?"

"Very much so, my boy."

"What's the managing physician's diagnosis?"

"Positive ID of a circulatory system based infection from a human engineered robo-pathogen."

"Has the germ's structure been mapped out?"

"Samples have been taken and a three dimensional microbial mapper is rendering its structure as we speak."

"What's the lowest bid for architect's pay upon successful antibody treatment?"

"120,000 HN Credits."

"Age and gender of the patient?"

"A two year old boy."

"¡Coño! These damned bio-assassins stoop lower every time. Used to, they'd attack adults only, but now little kids? When will they get pounded over the head with a stick of humanity? I'll do it for 80,000 HN Creds."

"80,000 Credits?" Bela remarked with astonishment, "That's almost free…a gift! Are you sure, my boy?"

"It's a two year old kid. I'm surprised nobody bid lower. Has patient payment been qualified?"

"The patient's guardian already paid the first One Hundred credits of Doctor's and Architects' fees. The remainder will be funded by The Gigglebottoms Charitable Foundation for the Synthetically Ill, which has already been deposited to a credible escrow establishment."

"Sounds good. Sign me up."

"Very well, my boy. I'll see to it right away."

Bela's image faded from the screen.

"You got another job, papito?" Uncle Julio asked from behind his cigar and thick glasses as he shuffled the dominoes for the next round.

"Yah, I'll be upstairs for a while, tio." Yosi replied as he set his beer bottle down and scratched his scalp through his short dreadlocks.

"Make your Mami and Papi proud, que descansen en paz," his Uncle Mario said referring to Yosi's deceased parents. Both uncles made symbols of the cross over their torsos and puffed their cigars. His mother and father, both assassinated by human engineered pathogens during the freedom revolution, had inspired him to learn how to save lives threatened by bio-assassins.

Yosmani practiced Antibody Architecture -- the science of designing antibodies to fight man made pathogens -- organic or otherwise. But his unorthodox methods were not well received amongst his peers.

Most Antibody Architects treated their patients relying on a traditional combination of antibiotics and ordinary brand name "on-contact" vaccinations (vacc's) -- ones that analyzed the pathogen's genetic structure before morphing themselves in the field against a pre-programmed set of threats.

But Yosi found the typical "on-contact" vacc's too slow, performing too few tricks, too late. Most doctors requested antibody architects to prescribe a trio of on contact vacc's best suited for an identified pathogen, hoping a triple combination would cover all their bases. But this only provided a limited selection of typical defensive responses. The problem was many bug creators had become increasingly sophisticated. They had encountered most of the Pharmaceutical market's on-contact vacc's, then pre-programmed resistances against them -- like bacteria strains evolving in response against antibiotics. SHEAA's research journal had published several recent cases showing patients who died from an antibody's lack of quick defensive ability. In short, the bad guys learned the good guys' tricks and figured out how to subvert them.

Yosmani, on the other hand, partnered with an eccentric defensive pharmaceutical company from the City-State of Los Angeles. Their secret marketing weapon was their 24/7 ability to remotely distribute antibody manufacturing instructions anywhere on the planet to a physician's bio-defense equipment so they could treat the patient within five minutes. No other competitors could claim such lightning fast turnaround times.

Impressive!

The manufacturer's popularity deficiency didn't stem from bad products. Rather, they had neither the proper SEC required corporate structure, nor the desire, to be traded publicly. They were too busy providing excellent service to spend time and money on sexy façades for superficial investors. Besides, few were impressed by the company's name: "Bio-Thugs." Nor did having an ex-gang leader with an MBA as a CEO make them welcome amongst Wall Street's typical crowd. Usually CEOs went to jail after they had run a company for a while, not before.

Yosi also believed the top 10 antibody manufacturers spent so much on marketing that their R&D departments suffered the financial and competitive difference.

"Ojos Del Mar"

Sweat beaded on Yosmani's dark black skin, forming perspiration spots on his baseball jersey, as he raced up the communal stairs to their third floor apartment on Calle Obispo in Old Havana. Under normal circumstances, this neighborhood was too expensive for Yosmani's guardian aunt and uncle. Ever since it had begun trading as a prestigious Real Estate Investment Trust on Havana's Mercantile Bourse, prices had ascended to far more than Havana's new middle class could afford.

But Yosmani's income had sky rocketed since acquiring his license as a Level 3 Antibody Architect -- the highest one can achieve in SHEAA rankings. Most Antibody Architects only ranked a Level 1 or 2. But at seventeen years old, Yosmani was the youngest person on the planet to pass all 32 grueling SHEAA exams with perfect scores on the first try.

"Yosi," whispered a sultry female voice from the neighboring apartment entrance as he fumbled with his keys. "Are you saving lives again tonight?" The girl stared at him through half-lowered lashes, a faint smile emanating from her thick pouted lips .

Yosi had little interest in most temptations with the exception of three things: antique cars, baseball, and "Ojos" Lozada.

Eighteen year old nursing student Lizyanet "Ojos del Mar" Lozada stood in her doorway leaning against the jamb, head leaning to one side. She was one of the few "mulatas" with piercing blue eyes -- the source of her nickname. And these were God given, baby! No bio-tech, no contact lens intervention gave these peepers their hypnotic hue. Her angelic face and light chocolate skin glimmered with a satin tone from the hallway's pendant lights. A thin but obvious laceration scar she had received from a frightening automobile accident years ago stretched from under her right eye down to her lower cheek. But Yosi found it quite aesthetic…sexy in fact. He affectionately referred to it as God's tattoo, and kissed it as often as he can.

Her skimpy shorts and sleeveless blouse articulated her seductive figure and distracted Yosi from the fact that he had a life to save.

"Yup, saving a life." Yosi smiled back. "Will you be free when I'm finished?"

"Sure." She smiled, crossing one leg over the other to reposition her stance. Loopy earrings dangled from her lobes, and a gold bracelet hugged her curvaceous ankle.

Yosi felt dangerous excesses of testosterone and adrenaline evaporating off his skin's surface as he attempted to maintain his cool.

Yosi entered his bedroom where his state of the art computer displays a rapid information download regarding his assignment. His bedroom's balcony view encompassed Calle Obispo's entirety, and on days when the east wind blew, he could hear choppy ocean waves crashing against the Malecón sea wall. Yosi opened the balcony's French doors and let Old Havana's humid ocean breeze permeate the room. The download had finished, and Yosi sat down to begin.

Project stats:

2 year old male, blood type A positive, no drug allergies, blood pressure 150 over 87, body temperature 104.1 degrees and rising.

Not good!

Synthetic microbial identified as follows:

Non-contagious custom built circulatory robo-pathogen of a cell attacking nature, shows no relation to any known manufacturer in the typical market -- black or otherwise. Highly complex and sophisticated in comparison to most makes. Extreme caution advised.

Based on this info, Yosi knew that this pathogen must have come from one of only three sources having the kind of money and power needed to create nano-assassins of this stature: a well funded government, one of the rogue faction city-states, or a rich organized crime ring.

Much to Yosi's misfortune, his one hour time limit had just been cut in half due to the patient's critical condition vitals, and the bio-bug's complexity. This kid was in bad shape.

On half of his monitor, Yosi opened three-dimensional genetics files of the microbial samples on his Medi-CAD -- a cross between a medical data mapping platform with videogame-like viewing abilities, and a three-dimensional CAD system. On the monitor's other half, he opened an interruption free encrypted data connection with a top fabrication manager at Bio-Thug's 24 hour production department. They must all work fast.

Yosi analyzed the pathogen's complex genetic structural images, cross referencing them with relevant data compiled on a side column. He began with two simultaneous approaches allowing him to design an antibody: One, visually looking for what Antibody Architects call "Dumb-Dumb Back Doors", or holes in genetic programming that pathogen creators either didn't know existed, or didn't know how to conceal. A bug's 3D structural CAD images often revealed their weak spots' signature identifiers, sometimes obvious giveaways in less complex germs, which were visible to the trained eye. But in sophisticated bugs like this one, the visual approach might prove too complex, like searching for a hay straw amongst a field of needle-stacks. Which led to approach number two: a super fast Yosi-written software algorithm which mathematically searched the entire structure in minutes alerting the architect to the type and location of all weak spots.

Bingo! Yosi's algorithm identified three Dumb-Dumb Doors in the germ's make-up allowing antibody attacks to destroy its structural frame.

As Yosi glanced at the sidebar display showing patient's vitals, he noticed the boy's body temperature had risen to 104.8 degrees and blood pressure was 202 over 98. If Yosi didn't act fast, the boy would die in minutes.

Yosi's muscles unconsciously tightened up in response to the urgency of the situation. Sweat dropped off his brow onto his glasses, and his posture turned rigid as steel. His fingers flew over the computer's keyboard as he quickly whipped up a Medi-CAD antibody platform assigning medicines and tasks to each component.

"¡Sana, sanita, colita de rana…!" he recited as his right pinky slapped the keyboard's enter button. His system transmitted manufacturing instructions over the encrypted line to Bio-Thugs with a Level 10 priority rating -- the highest emergency rating an architect could assign to an antibody order. This alerted Bio-Thugs to place any other less important orders on hold until they processed and administered the Level 10. His monitor confirmed Bio-Thugs receipt of instructions.

He had finished, and the situation now relied on Bio-Thugs and the managing physician. He stood up and stared out his balcony doors saying a prayer in his mind as he viewed Havana's lit skyline.

The money meant nothing. Yosi's career had already made him rich. He cared about the child, and the cruel predicament he had acquired. And though he knows he has done his best as quickly as possible, he could only hope his antibody would prove successful and arrived in time to save the boy. All he could do was wait.

Nano-Ass-Whoop 732:

Nano-Ass-Whoop 732 (NAW732) rocketed through a steel tube at a velocity similar to a bullet exiting a firearm barrel. The tube ended and NAW732 found himself deposited in a thick liquid stream, red if light were present, that flowed like an underground river through a series of hose like chambers. The hoses dwarfed him. Amongst the river's occupants were trillions of other little critters similar to him in size and composition.

NAW732 understood he has just been created. His existence had been sub-contracted a few minutes ago off a sophisticated cyber posting board.

He had a million brothers, he thought. They had all exited with him down the steel tube into the river, and received the same orders via a strange but familiar signal. They had never heard the voice before but they understood its communication: it told them to help their friend -- the giant entity with the hoses in which they traveled.

These hoses contained a liquid helping their friend stay alive. The signal called this substance "blood." It ran throughout their friend's "body" as they called it, carrying life giving substances, like food, water and oxygen -- big words for the NAW family -- which kept him alive and healthy.

But there was a problem, the communication told them. Certain bad guys floating around in their friend's hoses wanted to kill him. They were big and scary, but headquarters reminded the NAW family of their strength and assigned them a "seek and destroy" mission. Their creator had engrained them with a design -- something called a "hyper defense guerilla antibody" -- enabling them to chase down and beat the living hell out of enemies to save their friend.

The NAW brothers didn't know what the bad guys looked like. The signal said they were twenty times the size of an NAW family member, but sluggish in comparison. They must gang up on the bad guys attacking them in groups.

The signal transmitted a terrifying image of the enemies to the NAW brothers. They had fat bodies, giant claws, and sharp teeth. They were designed to attach themselves to things their creators call "cells" and use them as breeding grounds for more bad guys, which in turn killed the "cells".

NAW732 cringed. He felt little and scared, and didn't want to fight the big dangerous bad guys. But he knew his family must help their friend or he would die.

Scary noises from a few horizons down the hoses frightened NAW732. His programming could identify things called "heart-beats", "breathing", and "digestive processes," but it didn't recognize this low pitched hum making his insides vibrate. NAW732's panic unleashed his bladder and he peed. Embarrassed, he looks to make sure his brothers missed the incident, but to his relief, they had peed themselves too. In fact, their urine bunched together in a collective cloud and advanced down the "blood" river.

The pee cloud glowed bright yellow, even in the dark, and sought out the scary sound. The NAW brothers looked at each other wondering what was happening.

A giant monster roared with deafening ferocity and jumped towards the NAW brothers. They all screamed with fear and watched as the monster passed through the pee-pee cloud. To their delight, this sickened the monster and slammed him to a halt. NAW732 realized that peeing has made him hungry. Really hungry! In fact, the monster appeared quite appetizing. He noticed his brothers were hungry too. The faint odor of chemical burned monster affected the NAW brothers the same way a sizzling rack of pork ribs -- smothered in barbecue sauce over a mesquite fire -- affected a band of hungry human cowboys.

The NAW brothers attacked the roasted monster, devouring him whole without chewing, like starving men at a buffet. They engorged so much they felt they will pop. And they did -- in two. NAW 732 split into another NAW named NAW732b -- just like his brothers, and their appetite increased.

More scary noises emanated from downstream the river hose. Confidence spread as the NAW brothers realized their invincible hunger would save their friend.

Casablanca

Lizyanet knew that Yosmani's shoulders carried a giant burden. He always wore a look of uncertainty when his patients' lives were on the line and he didn't know the result. He strolled into the hallway staring at the floor.

"How's your patient?" she asked.

"I don't know yet," he mumbled. Lizyanet sensed a special concern with this one.

"You okay?"

Yosi shook his head.

"It's a two year old boy…a little baby boy." He removed his glasses and rubbed his forehead.

Lizyanet placed a sympathetic hand on his shoulder, hoping that it provided some sense of comfort.

A small paging device hanging from Yosi's baggy jeans began to vibrate. He unclipped it from his belt and read its display.

"Well, is he okay?" Lizyanet asked.

Yosi smiled with a sigh of relief. "Alive and kicking!"

"Smart…sexy…" Lizyanet said to herself as she wet the gloss on her lips, "…and you save lives! Ay Dios Mio!" She wrapped Yosi in her arms and pressed him against the wall. As he returned the embrace, she locked him in a long seductive kiss. Yosi inhaled a deep breath through his nostrils and took in a soft floral aroma. Her perfume was subtle and effective.

"They're showing Casablanca at the Classics Film House tonight. Wanna' go?" Lizyanet asked, breathlessly, her eyes half-closed.

"It's one of my favorites!" Yosi replied.

"I know. Mine too, and a great backdrop for making out in a dark theater."

Yosi smiled and continued the kiss, knowing this girl would form a big part of his future.

THE END


© 2008 Coffee Anderson

Bio: Coffee Anderson is a homespun-self taught-economist in southern tornado alley. His story Chef appeared in the August 2007 edition of Aphelion.

E-mail: Coffee Anderson

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