Saturday, May 31, 2014

I 01001100 01101111 01110110 01100101 You #9


Albro was in the middle of his bed frame, clutching an allen wrench, and scratching his head when he heard the knock at the door. He rolled his eyes at the thought that it was Jefferson returning for a second time that morning. He had disabled the EyeSpy at the door, but still instinctually looked at where the monitor on the wall would have been had it not been packed away already.

Gronk. Gronk.

He went back to work disassembling the frame when he heard the door again.

Gronk. Gronk. Gronk.

Things had been quiet since Ito had been shut off and put in the garage, so Gronk’s sudden fervency caused Albro to pause. He listened as silence once again settled over the house. Then he heard T1N’s quiet steps and the latches securing the door being moved aside.

“T1N!” Albro started towards the front door. What has gotten into them, he wanted to scream, but instead braced himself for the difficult task of telling Jefferson they were moving. He rounded the corner and then stopped. Gwen stood framed in the daylight.

Albro flushed and then became acutely aware of his appearance. His “Han Shot First” tee shirt was stained at the pits and the pair of jeans he was wearing was a work pair with gaping holes throughout. “I… I… I need to go change.”

He rushed off back to his room, tore the first box he saw open, and threw clothes out onto the floor.
Gwen followed T1N quietly into the empty living room. Gronk rocked from side to side, saying its name over and over again until she patted him on the head. A puff of smoke came out of him and he became instantly silent and still, causing Gwen to wonder if she had overloaded him.

“He probably blew a capacitor.” Albro was back, in a clean ThunderCats tee shirt and intact jeans.

“Does that happen often?”

“Just when he gets excited or at the end of Serenity when Wash dies.”
The two fell silent and then each looked away from the other. T1N stood in the middle, his head moving back and forth between them, and then he went over to Gronk, picked him up, and took him to the front of the house. Albro and Gwen were now alone.

“So… you’re moving.”


“Any particular reason?”

Albro looked down at the floor and then seemed to start talking but then stopping himself before even a syllable could come out. Finally, “With the neighbors… I’m just stirring up trouble if we stay.”

“So you’re just running away again.”


“Oh, I know all about it.” Gwen’s voice suddenly became hard and she spoke briskly. “After you ran off at the movie a friend of yours introduced himself. He told me all about your college days. I just wish I’d known all this before…”

“Who…” Albro started to fidget, his eyes swept the room frantically, and he took small steps back towards the bedroom. T1N, sensing his anxiousness moved himself between Albro and Gwen.

The hard mask slipped a little from Gwen’s face and she hesitated before continuing, “Your old roommate, Calvin Rueben Hanson.”

T1N locked his sensors on Gwen and his relaxed posture was replaced by a more ready one; legs spread and arms held up at the waist.

“No… no… no…” Albro muttered as he backed into the wall, his legs gave out, and he slid down it.
Gwen’s face fully dropped its harshness and at once became concerned, even reaching out a hand towards the pathetic figure now curled up into a ball. “What’s going on?”

T1N looked from his master to Gwen and then back again. He then motioned for Gwen to follow, walking back towards the entrance. Gwen followed slowly, watching Albro with one eye and tracking T1N with the other.

T1N went into the office just off the entrance, went to the desk, and then motioned towards the one black screen streaming green text. Gwen peered past the white automaton to read the emerald words, which had slowed so she could read them. Stopping now and again to silently question T1N, who would nod his accent, Gwen read in amazement.

“Oh, no. I’m so, sorry. I told him where he lives. I’m so sorry.” Gwen raced around the corner, tears started in the corners of her eyes. She knelt down in front of Albro and delicately put a hand on his shoulder. Albro was perfectly still and made no indication he noticed being touched.

“I’m so sorry, Albro. I told him where you live. He’s coming here today to challenge you to some stupid robot duel.”

Albro looked up, his eyes haunted and bloodshot; he seemed small and fragile, like a child. “Why,” he whispered, not trusting his own voice.

Gwen struggled herself to speak, her face passing from happy to sad and back again. “I wasn’t going to be hurt again. I felt so stupid for going to that movie… meeting someone I’ve never really met. Then you’re gone and this guy starts talking to me about you… I just didn’t want to get hurt again.”

“I’d never hurt you,” he whispered again.

“Jason wouldn’t have intended to hurt me either.”

Albro, for the first time looked Gwen in the eyes.

“You don’t know me either, Tin Man.” Gwen laughed lightly. “I was engaged once. His name was Jason. He’d joined the Marines right after highschool. He said, ’After this tour I’ll marry you before someone else snatches you up.’ But he never came back.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I didn't leave my house for months. Luckily I worked for my uncle, so I had a job waiting for me. At some point, sitting in a dark house, alone, I promised myself I’d never be hurt again. And here I am, back in a dark house.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

The two jumped when there was a forceful knock at the door.

“It’s him. I’ll take care of it,” Gwen said before getting up. Albro stayed on the floor, shrinking back a little. 
Gwen opened the door, to reveal a very surprised Calvin Rueben Hansen.

“Gwen… what an unexpected surprise.”

“Mr. Hansen, Albro is busy at the moment but I am authorized to inform you that he accepts your challenge.”

Hansen suddenly looked like a drowning man. “You… you told him?”

“Oh, yes. In fact he got right to work; it’s what he’s doing right now.”

“I was under the impression he was running away again.”

“No. The U-Haul there,” Gwen motioned to the truck sitting in the driveway,”…has his spare parts and extra supplies. It’s like he’d been planning for a day like this for a long time.”

“Has he now. I’d like to speak with him.”

“I’m afraid he’s far too busy, something about delicate wiring or some such.”

“Well then, if you could hand him this.” Hansen produced a thick binder labeled DUEL of the ROBOTECH MASTERS. “The rules for the event and his consent form. If he could fax that to my lawyer by tomorrow afternoon there will be no delay in our “business”.


“It’s what I’m calling this endeavor. Albro Swift is the first of the Robotech Masters who I will challenge and fight to the delight and marvel of a global internet audience.”

“Isn’t Robotech from something?”

“No, it’s an original idea.”

“OK. I’ll make sure he gets this.” Gwen began to close the door and then stopped. “There is one more thing. He’s going to kick your butt.”

Gwen then slammed the door. Hansen stood comfortably, looking up and down the length of the neighborhood, and then muttered, “Well that was unexpected.”

*                                  *                                  *

“Thanks for coming.”

“It’s worse than I thought.”

“I think he really needs you.”

Jefferson made no indication he heard Gwen, he simply stared at Albro still huddled on the floor.



Jefferson took something from T1N and then knelt down next to his friend.

“Your finger would remember their old strength better… if they grasped your soldering iron.” Jefferson said as he slide the iron into Albro’s hand. Albro looked at the iron in his hand, then at Jefferson, Gwen, and T1N.

“Where is Ito?” Albro looked around the room. “We have a duel to win.”

An evil grin crossed Jefferson’s face and he let out a wild, “Yeeessss!”

You've just read 1,394 words, of which 1000 I struggled over and still struggle with. Part of me didn't want Gwen to be the one in this scene, but the other half of me knew she needed to be more involved. How does this day work for you guys? Too much? Too little? Not enough robots fighting? Oh we'll solve that one.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Memorial Day

No update to the story today, since its Memorial Weekend. Instead here is a link to a far better article than I could ever write about Memorial Day by Marcus Brotherton.

Marcus is the author of several books that help to fill out the Band of Brother's stories, originally told by Stephen Ambrose. All of them are excellent and I highly suggest you read them. He is also the author of  "Feast for Thieves" coming out in September, the fictional account of a rough around the edges paratrooper turned pastor, which you should also read.

Remember that this holiday was the result of someone dying so you could enjoy long weekends, read silly stories, or be able to write blogs on whatever subject you want, whenever you feel like it. Thank a vet too, they sacrificed a lot as well.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

I 01001100 01101111 01110110 01100101 You #8


The house was eerily silent for what was usually the Remington Steele Hour; instead empty boxes were stacked up in front of the black TV screen and first shelf of collectable Star Trek figures was now cleared. T1N carefully placed the still-in-box Dr. Crusher into the bubble wrap and then atop the other crew members of the NCC-1701D - the NCC-1701 box was already filled with her compliment, while the crew of Deep Space 9 awaited their packing. Ito worked in the parts room, his manipulators slowly collecting the assorted parts to pack away in rubber tubs.

“Pick up the pace Ito! Stop dragging your feet.”

Ito waited for Albro to turn his back and then dropped a spanner. The human turned back around and scowled.

“We wouldn’t have to be doing this if you’d just stayed here.”

Ito turned his sensors away from Albro, picking up a round plastic cowling, and then tossed it like a frisbee into the kitchen.

“That’s it!” Albro rushed up to Ito and made for his shut off, but Ito swung his arms in a flurry, striking Albro several times and forcing him away. “Why you little…!”

Albro rubbed his arms, which stung badly and would probably bruise, as he walked back to his office. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you… but this is over! I’m wiping you back to a zero state.”

Albro brought up Ito’s console which displayed the automaton’s log and command line prompt. He had typed in the first three characters when he stopped, his eyes drifting to the log which was filling with five characters - (ToT).

“Are you crying,” Albro asked. Ito had followed Albro into his office and was now nodding it’s sensor. T1N and Gronk were also just outside of the room, watching Albro. “No, you don’t get to do this. You don’t get to feel sorry for what you did… what you keep doing! You’ll just do it again and again and again. You’ve had your chances, more than I should have given you.”

Albro finished the shut down command, forcing himself to not look at the log which had been busily displaying Ito’s final plea. The index finger hung over the Enter key for a moment but finally came down and Ito’s log stopped. Finally Albro looked and read the last line.

No disassemble.

His legs gave out and he sunk to the floor. His body shook violently with his sobs and his hands tried in vain to hold back the tears cascading like saline waterfalls.

*                                  *                                  *

Jefferson walked in, put his package scanner on the counter, and slammed his hand down hard. “It isn’t right!”

Gwen, sitting at her desk with her back to Jefferson, tried not to react to the sudden outburst. Uncle Sam on the other hand, despite helping a customer in the front of the store, sent daggers at the ESP driver. Getting up, Gwen handed Jefferson a pen to sign for the packages.

“Maybe there’s a reason he never came out.”

Jefferson nursed the hand he’d slapped down and mouthed an “ouch”, before taking the offered pen.

“And what reason could that be?”

“What do you really know about him? I mean, do you know anything about him? His past? The things he’s done?”

“The things he’s done?”

“All I know is nice guys don’t hide.”

Jefferson slowly put the pen down and locked Gwen with the most piercing stare his momma taught him. “Now you listen here. I may only have known him for a few days, but I can safely say I have never had a better friend than Albro Swift. Most people just brush me off, tune me out, and try to avoid me but not him. Sure I had to force my way in, but once I was in I always knew he wasn’t just humoring or tolerating me. So, whatever his reasons for living alone all these years are his own and in no way detract from him being a man of quality.”

Gwen broke away from Jefferson’s glare, collecting the papers and filing them away. “Have a good day Marcus,” she said without looking at him.

Jefferson’s posture relaxed and his own gaze went down to the floor. Before leaving he replied with a weak, “Have a nice day Gwen.”

Sitting back down, Gwen tried to return to her work but struggled to muscle up the energy. Uncle Sam plopped down into his chair behind the counter and let out a sigh.

“Guess he doesn’t know.”

“Know what?”

“That his man of quality is leaving town.”


“Yeah, he called this morning before you came in to settle his bill and cancel his last order.”

“Where’s he going?”

“I don’t know. He didn’t give a forwarding address…” Gwen turned away from her uncle. “…I asked,” he offered.

The two sat in silence, Uncle Sam shifting in his seat uneasily, but he was saved when a customer came into the store and Gwen rushed to the back. Uncle Sam heard the bathroom door slam shut. “Aw, crap.”

Sorry for the delay, had a busy Mother's Day weekend, with my beautiful wife and wonderful mother, but we're back! 

As far as Tuesday; I had a hard time writing the end of this post, trying to figure out what to share about Gwen and Uncle Sam while keeping with the tone of the day. At one point I had them both sharing more, even Uncle Sam trying to push Gwen towards Albro, but it just never felt right. I think at this point Gwen is a mysterious character because we haven't seen why she does what she does, which I hope to bring in and flesh her out more in the next day or two. She is one of the more difficult characters for me, but that's probably because I'm a guy. Really the characters I enjoy writing the most are T1N, Ito, and Gronk because they have so much character which comes out in odd and interesting ways. Just writing "Gronk" and having it mean something different is just good fun.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

I 01001100 01101111 01110110 01100101 You #7


Jefferson knocked a seventh time and then put his hands on his hips. His black Crown Victoria idled at the curbside.

“We going to do this the hard way, eh?”

Jefferson made his way to the side of the house and after three attempts scaled the fence. Once around the back he instantly spotted the closed curtains and the note taped on the inside of the sliding door.

Go away.

This means you, Jefferson.

“I see how it is.”

Jefferson went back to his car, dug around the glove box, and revaulted the fence after two tries. He wrote something on a piece of paper he’d found in his car and then looked at the door and then back at the note.

“How I’m gonna…” he muttered and then he smiled. He brought the note up to his mouth and then licked it. Jefferson then smacked the now moist note against the glass and then stood back to marvel over his ingenuity.

“How ‘bout them apples.”

Jefferson then left, speeding down the highway but not being pulled over and running into a certain patrolwoman like he’d hoped. Meanwhile, Albro waited until he was good and sure Jefferson was gone before he pulled the curtains aside.


The rest of the numbers were smudged beyond recognition. Albro shook his head and then let the curtains swing back into place.


Nothing happened on Sunday.


Albro looked up once he realized it wasn’t Jefferson knocking on his door. The EyeSpy was just deploying when he saw it was a police officer and he killed the program. A moment later he opened the door with just the faintest thought it might be some trick of Jefferson’s to get him to open the door.

“Mr. Swift?”


“I’m Chief Vanderpolitie, Eldon Vanderpolitie.” He held out his hand for Albro to shake, which Albro took hesitantly. “Could I have a word with you inside? It’s about your robots.”

“Uh… of course.” Albro stepped aside and let the policeman in.

The man was instantly uncomfortable in the dark house, filled with strange electronics and toys. Albro led him into the kitchen, turning the light on, and then indicated an open chair.

“This conversation is probably long overdue.” Vanderpolitie said with a small smile. “I understand my predecessor had a talk with you when you first moved to town and your… your robots started to… to come out. Things seemed to be going well and any problems there have been you’ve handled, so it was a case of out-of-sight-out-of-mind.

“There was the Milking incident last year, but Ed never pressed charges and I’m told the cow recovered just fine. I’m sure this situation would probably resolve itself in much the same way, but there are some extenuating circumstances that make both of our lives… difficult.” He chuckled and gave Albro a bigger smile this time. “Before last week’s incident every member of the city council, the mayor and his staff, and my own department received letters from a group of concerned citizens about your…”

“Automatons,” Albro offered.

“Automatons. I’m also told a lengthy opinion piece is going to be printed in the Tribune this Wednesday, directed at you and your… automatons. There is suddenly a great deal of pressure for the city to pass laws limited – if not outright outlawing robots and their ilk.” Vanderpolitie eyed the man across from him who had seemed to shrink into himself. “Now, I have no bone in this fight and like I said, things have been smooth on my side of things beside the two incidents which have probably been the most excitement we’ve had since that lady remotely ‘saw’ a bomb in the bank last year.

“But I have to take public opinion into account and I know there are three council members looking to get reelected this fall who hold public opinion in even more regard than I do. So I’m going to have to make it very clear that until the council decides what to do about robots in general and yours in specific, yours aren’t allowed off of your property and probably should be seen outside if you want it all to blow over.”

“I understand. When could I expect to have them returned to me?” After Ito had been deactivated, the three automatons were impounded by the police.

“Well the one with all the arms has been running a cup across the bars ever since he turned back on and the little trash can has been saying gronk in the most mournfully way possible, so I’d be real happy to have them back in your custody as soon as possible. If it hadn’t happened over the weekend you would have had them returned the next day. All that to say, you’re welcome to come collect them as soon as we’re done here.”

“Thank you.” Albro briefly met the officer’s eyes an d then dropped them again.

“I thank you for your time, Mr. Swift.” Vanderpolitie began to leave and then stopped. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but you’ve created something out of the sci-fi books, so what are you doing hiding here and not working for NASA or something?”

“Oh don’t know… never crossed my mind I guess.”

A crooked smile came on Vanderpolitie and he again held out his hand for Albro to shake. “You take care Mr. Swift.”

“You won’t have to worry about us much longer Mr. Vanderpolitie, I think it might be time to move on.”

Chief Vanderpolitie’s eyes got real thoughtful and mouth turned down as he gave Albro a final look. “Good luck to you then, Mr. Swift.”

I enjoy names and making up or devising character names is especially joyful for me. Our story's hero is named after a road sign on I-5 in Seattle just past the exit for Safeco and the Clink - Albro St. and Swift Ave. The bad guy, Calvin Reuben Hanson, is an old pen name of mine who turned into the bad guy of the long running "Time Cop Cruisers" weeks at FirCreek Day Camp. T1N, pronounced "tin", is 1337 speak. Gronk is named/modeled after a Star Wars droid who says "Gronk", while Ito just came out onto the keyboard and it stuck. This newest character Chief Vanderpolitie makes me giggle and probably a little too much (I believe firmly in the Jason T. Kendall Rule - "Program is for the staff"). Bing or Google Translate "Politie" if you want with the added knowledge that Vander means "of the". I'm such a nerd. 

What to you makes a great name? What are your favorite name(s) and why?