His Robot Wife – Chapter 8 Excerpt

“Good morning,” said the man. “This is Daffodil Tech Support. For a list of known issues, press one. For an automatic diagnosis of your problem, press two. To be contacted by a Tech Support representative, press three.”

Mike pressed one. Just as he had on the previous time that Mike had checked the tech support page, the blue clad man on the screen was replaced by a long list of text. The topmost line this time said “minor software upgrade”. Mike moved the curser over this line and pressed.

“A small service software update was pushed through the InfiNet 05:25 7.12.32,” said the next screen. “A small percentage of Amonte models may experience slight behavioral quirks. This is a known issue.”

Mike touched the screen to turn off the vueTee. When he turned back around, he was startled to find Patience’s face only a few inches from his.

“Is there a problem?” she asked.

“I was just checking on something,” replied Mike. “Are you having a problem?”

Rather than answer Patience punched him in the stomach, so hard that he was doubled over with all of the wind knocked from his lungs. Then she grabbed a fist full of his hair with her left hand and bent his head back, so that he was looking up into her right fist as it slammed into his face. Blood fountained from Mike’s nose and he felt his head smack on the living room floor.

“Christ, Patience! What the fuck…?”

Patience cut off Mike’s exclamations by stomping on his mid-section with her bare foot, once again knocking the air from him. Then she clasped the front of his shirt and lifted it and him up into the air as easily as he could have lifted an empty shirt. She looked into his wide eyes.

“You didn’t need to check anything at all,” she said.

She threw him against the wall. The edge of the arch between family room and living room dug into Mike’s back and his head whiplashed into the wall. He thought he could feel blood running down the back of his neck as well as down his face. Something in that download must have scrambled Patience’s brain. She was a robot gone berserk!

Mike knew he had to get away, but Patience stood between him and the front door. He made a dive into the family room, thinking that he could cut around into the kitchen and out the back door. Before he had gone more than two steps, Patience caught him by the back of the neck and threw him across the family room. He hit the far wall so high up that he landed on top of the upright piano. He crashed down first upon its top, then rolled down to hit the keyboard, rolling again down onto the wooden piano stool, and then finally to the floor.

Mike looked up just in time to see Patience crossing the room toward him. With every ounce of his strength, he kicked out, making contact with her right leg just below the knee. Though this attack would have shattered the tibia (and if the weight was just right, the fibula too) of any human, Patience took no notice, and with her left leg, kicked him viciously in the side. Mike flopped over onto his back, and thought that he could feel several broken ribs spearing his internal organs. He was sure now that he was about to die.

Then from the corner of his eye, Mike saw a figure moving across the living room. Patience kicked him in the side. He rolled over. He looked again toward the archway. From his new position on his back, everything he was seeing appeared upside down. Standing at the entrance to the family room was Patience. Another Patience. She was dressed in shorts and top and her pink wedge sandals made her look about seven feet tall. Even from upside-down, the look of fury on this second Patience’s face was frightening to behold.

“Shit,” thought Mike. “The first one was killing me and she wasn’t even angry. What’s the pissed-off one going to do to me?”

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 15 Excerpt

Ssichutuu was probably not nearly as frightening as his chief. He did not for instance appear to be wearing any part of a skeleton as decoration. He also did not carry any obvious weapons, save a small stone knife with wooden handle. Nevertheless, Zeah Korlann found his new companion every bit as frightening as the tyrannosaurus that stalked the forests of the region. Ssichutuu was a little over six feet tall and looked more than a little like an upright alligator. His deep olive skin had few obvious scars or discolorations, marking him as a younger member of the fifty-strong group of visitors. He kept his dewlap for the most part tucked up against his neck. The truly unnerving thing was the fact that his yellow eyes never seemed to leave Zeah for long and they almost never blinked.

Most of the natives had left the compound to go on a hunting expedition with Master Terrence, but ten had stayed to observe the lifestyles of the newcomers. Each of these temporary visitors had two colonists to look after them. Zeah and Saba Colbshallow were both escorting this particular lizardman or lizzie around. Saba had already nicknamed the creature Sichy. The aborigine took a keen interest in almost everything that they were doing. They walked along the shore and watched the finishing touches being put on the dock’s crane, which once finished began lifting the last of the heavy cargo from the battleship. They walked up the hill, now mostly denuded of trees, which was being spread with gravel to form a roadway. At the top of the hill, they watched the construction of the barracks. Ssichutuu seemed fascinated by the smoothness of the wood used so they walked back down the hill, just south of the dock to observe the power saw slicing logs into boards.

At lunchtime, the lizardmen were brought together along with their hosts around a large table just inside the great protective wall. Two foot long log segments were turned on end to be used as chairs. This was functional enough for the colonists and even better for the natives than real chairs, which interfered with their thick tails. A kind of shish kabob, with pieces of meat, onions, and potatoes was served. The reptiles eschewed the vegetables but ate the meat happily enough. Zeah suspected that they would have preferred it raw, and maybe aged to the point of rotting.

Afterwards the humans watched as the lizardmen gave a demonstration of their method of creating stone blades from the local flint and obsidian. They used large rocks to break off long slender flakes and then used pieces of bone to chip tiny bits off of these flakes and make them even sharper. When they were done, they attached the now very sharp stone blades to handles of wood. Ssichutuu presented his completed knife to Zeah and indicated by hand signals that he should keep it as a gift. The former butler marveled at the keen edge. He didn’t think that even the steel knives brought from Greater Brechalon could match them. The real advantage of manufactured tools would be their durability.

Late in the afternoon, the hunting party returned, carrying massive amounts of dinosaur meat. Once again there was a great feast, with members of both races eating large amounts of the new world’s unusual meat. The natives seemed to have the ability to pack away gargantuan portions of food. Zeah overheard Saba remarking on this to Professor Calliere.

“I believe it to be a function of their reptilian nature,” replied the professor. “They can eat great amounts of meat at one time and then go without for perhaps weeks. I’m sure that this will be of benefit to us once they begin fulfilling their purpose as our natural servants.”

Zeah didn’t pay too much attention to the professor’s pronouncement—in truth, he seldom paid a great deal of attention to what Calliere said—but this time it was because of the presence of Egeria Lusk at Calliere’s side.   She wore a teal brocaded dinner gown with large gold buttons from the neck to below the waist, and a straw boater with a teal ribbon around it.

“You look lovely Egeria,” Zeah thought he probably sounded as though he was gushing, but he didn’t care.

“Thank you, Zeah,” she said. “I must say you look ruggedly handsome.”

Zeah looked down at himself. He had been wearing the same type of khaki safari clothing that the soldiers wore. In fact, he had requested a set of the clothing from the mercenary company supplies when he found that he would be spending the day playing tour guide to an oversized lizard. He had to admit that the color accentuated his tall, thin form. And he thought the stone knife blade worn at his belt made him look manly. He took her hand and led her away from the crowd.

“I haven’t seen much of you the past two days,” he said.

“Don’t expect to see much of me the next few days either,” she said. “The Result Mechanism is being brought ashore tomorrow and the professor will need help getting it up and running. After that I need to input the measurements from the survey.”

After watching the look on his face for a moment, she burst out laughing. “You really are medicine for the ego! If you’re going to be all that broken up about not seeing me, you might as well come by and help me with the great machine.” She said the words “great machine” in an abnormally deep voice.

Zeah perked right up.

“I might just do that,” he said, guaranteeing himself in his own mind that he would.

His Robot Wife – Chapter 7 Excerpt

The remainder of June shot by. Each day Mike got up and showered, to find a warm dry towel waiting for him. This was followed by breakfast, which he had gotten used to. Mike began to follow Patience’s example and usually did a bit of light home improvement work before lunch, but as the month progressed and it became far too hot to work outside, he thought more and more about doing some writing. He would write a book about his experiences as a teacher. On Monday the twenty-first he cleaned up the desk that had been sitting unused in the south bedroom and went to Wal-Mart to purchase a new wriTee, which he quickly set up. Within a few days, he had the first chapter of his book done, though after that it became more of a strain to remember all the stupid things that the kids at school had said or done. Afternoons were almost always a time for relaxation in front of the vueTee. Evenings had used to be the same, but right about the time that Mike began working on his book, Patience began dragging him out after dinner. They went to the movie theater, the city event center to listen to the philharmonic, and even went dancing. Mike couldn’t dance, but as with everything else Patience was programmed and ready to go and she guided Mike through it.

For her part, Patience didn’t really have any down time. She went to bed with Mike, but within an hour or so after he had fallen asleep, she was back up. She used the night time hours to clean and maintain the house and by the middle of the month there wasn’t a spot anywhere that the most fastidious person wouldn’t have been happy to eat off of. This left the daytime hours free so that she could take care of Mike’s every needs. She waited upon him. She served as his accountant, personal trainer, and expert chef. She was mother, friend, concubine, confidant, and upon occasion taskmaster.

On the thirtieth, which was a Wednesday, Mike stood on the scale at the gym and marveled that he had lost sixteen pounds. Actually he was marveling that he had lost only sixteen pounds, because he thought that he looked at least thirty pounds lighter. It was he supposed, because muscle weighed so much more than fat, and he was putting on a bit of the former as he was losing the latter. He flexed his arm to make his bicep bulge and smiled to himself.

He and Patience climbed back into the car and returned home. A nice hot shower awaited him and he didn’t take long before climbing into it. He had his head bent down beneath the steaming spray, when he heard Patience outside the shower door.

“What do you think about going to Knott’s Berry Farm?” she asked.

“Why?”

“This 150-acre theme park has many exciting rides like the Jaguar, Montezuma’s Revenge and Calico Thunder as well as many fun attractions like the Buffalo Nickel Arcade, Camp Snoopy, and the Mystery Lodge.”

“Are you reading a brochure?” asked Mike, sticking his face out of the shower door.

“I memorized the ad on the vueTee.”

“Why do you want to go to Knott’s Berry Farm?”

“It is not that I want to go. I thought you might like to go.”

“I took the kids when they were little,” Mike said, as he climbed out of the shower and took the towel that Patience held in her hand. “I don’t think I would want to go now. Besides, last time I went, I didn’t fit in half of the ride restraints. If I was going to go somewhere, I’d… I don’t know.”

“June is over,” said Patience. “You have less than a month and a half before you have to return to school. We should do something that you would enjoy.”

“All right, let me think about it for a while.” Mike went upstairs to his den and began typing away, writing down as many anecdotes about school as he could recall.

Around noon Patience arrived at Mike’s elbow with his lunch. She had constructed a near perfect club sandwich on toasted whole wheat bread and arrayed it on the plate with a cup of tomato salad. A large diet Pepsi accompanied it. He had no sooner accepted the tray and opened his mouth to thank her, when the front door bell rang. She turned and bounced out of the room. A moment later he could hear a conversation going on downstairs, though not the words. He also heard the door to the garage opening and a few minutes later, closing. Mike didn’t get up to see what was going on because he already knew. For the past week, the FedEx man had arrived every single day with boxes of merchandise that Patience had bought on eBay. She usually had at least one package going out too. A few minutes later she entered the study carrying a very large and very heavy looking box.

“What is that?” he asked.

“It’s a desk,” said Patience.

“I don’t need a new desk. This one works just fine.”

“It’s not for you, Mike. It’s for me.”

“What do you need a desk for?”

“I’m going to use it when I keep track of my shipping and sales. I’m going to get a little vueTee and set it up here too, so that I can buy and sell on eBay right from here. Then I’m going to set up shelves in this closet and store my smaller merchandise right here. I can continue to keep the bigger things in the garage.”

“All right.”

Patience tore the end of the box open and began pulling out pieces of a black and white, assemble it yourself desk. She was still examining the parts that she had pulled from the box, when the doorbell rang again.

“Don’t get up,” Mike said. “I’ll get it.”

He skipped down the stairs to the front door and opened it. A tall man in a green army uniform stood at the steps. Mike stared at him for a moment and then stepped outside to clasp him around the shoulders.

“General Smith! How are you?”

“Dad, you know I could get court-martialed for impersonating a general. Why don’t you let me in? It’s got to be 400 degrees out here.”

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 14 Excerpt

After dinner both women changed into khaki jungle outfits. These, though they resembled the men’s in color and sturdiness of the material, were still primarily feminine attire with long skirts cut large enough for an appropriate bustle. Iolanthe also belted on a holster with a .45 caliber revolver. Yuah had never used a firearm before and thought that if she had taken one, it would be more likely that she would discharge it into her own foot than into any threat. They didn’t need to go back topside. The external hatch on deck six opened onto the middle of the temporary staircase, which had been erected on the side of the ship. Here a launch was awaiting them, the sailors who had just come from the shore having been replaced with a fresh group of rowers. Also waiting in the boat was Wizard Suvir Kesi.

“Good afternoon, ladies.” His accented voice seemed naturally oily. “Do you mind if I accompany you today?”

“Not at all,” said Iolanthe. “In fact, this is my first trip ashore and I think Yuah would welcome the company of a magic user as much as I would. Have you been ashore already?”

“Yes,” he said. “I was with Captain Dechantagne this morning as he chased the dinosaurs off the promontory. I made a small contribution myself, and so I had to return to my cabin to replenish my spells. I am once again fully prepared now.”

The sailors pushed the launch away from the side of the ship and began rowing across the relatively calm water of the bay. Several hundred yards away, Iolanthe could see the smooth back of some enormous reptile sliding through the water as the beast cut the surface to take a breath.

“Not to worry, Miss Dechantagne,” said Kesi. “That’s not one of the big mouthed fellows. That is what Professor Calliere described to me as a plesiosaur. They have large bodies, but small heads suitable for eating only small fish.”

“I wasn’t worried,” said Iolanthe.

“I bloody was,” said Yuah.

As she said this a fish, a monstrous fish the size of a steam carriage, leapt completely out of the water and fell back with a splash thirty feet from the launch.

“On the other hand,” said Kesi. “I’m pretty sure whatever was chasing that little minnow has quite a large mouth.”

It became increasingly difficult to talk as they neared the shore because of the sound of steam engines and power saws. The boat reached the shore and two of the sailors jumped out to secure it to the land. All of the sailors were then ordered to wait as the two women and Kesi met two waiting riflemen. It felt remarkably good to walk on dry land. Dozens of men were working nearby, chopping logs into segments, pulling them to the massive power saw, and slicing them into boards. A large swath of the once beautiful forest had become a wide muddy path, and it was expanding.

“If we had arrived any later, there wouldn’t be any trees at all to save,” said Iolanthe. “Ribbon, Yuah?”

Yuah handed her a roll of inch wide red ribbon. Iolanthe started into the woods, working her way up the slope of the land and to the left of where the workmen were. The dressing maid and the wizard followed. After several dozen steps, she came to a particularly majestic redwood. It was about twelve feet in diameter, not the largest tree, but symmetrical and tall. Iolanthe handed the end of the ribbon to Yuah, and then circumnavigated the tree, letting the ribbon unroll off the spool as she went until she returned to the starting spot. Then she took the end from Yuah and tied the ribbon into a neat bow. The red band at eye level would serve as a note to the woodcutters that this tree was to be left undisturbed. The sound of the power saw continued in the background, only occasionally stopping as men adjusted the controls for the types of boards to be cut.

“That’s a nice tree,” said Kesi. “But why this one. There are plenty that are just as nice.”

“This one is going to give shade to the port office, which will be right over there,” explained Iolanthe.

“Do you have the entire city planned out in your head?”

“Of course not. I have a rough idea about the port. Of course everything can be adjusted as needs be.”

She continued up the slope followed by Yuah and Kesi, marking one tree in fifty to be saved as she went. When they reached the top of the promontory and the clearing, they could see the men working on the wall several hundred yards away. Calling the structure a wall was doing it a great disservice. It was a fortification, six feet thick, with an outer wall thirty-five feet tall and an inner wall twenty feet tall, and a walkway between them built atop the inner wall. Though they couldn’t be seen from this angle, two lines of sharpened stakes pointed outward, one at fifteen feet in height and the other at thirty. The spikes were spaced four feet apart.

“Your bother’s design is impressive,” said Kesi.

“I see now why all the trees are going to be gone,” said Yuah.

“The trees around here will be cut,” said Iolanthe. “But remember, we’re sitting on the edge of a forest a thousand miles across. There will be no shortage of lumber.”

Walking the length of the peninsula and tagging each of more than one hundred trees while doing so used the remainder of their afternoon and the remainder of their ribbon as well. Several times Iolanthe noticed Wizard Kesi speaking in low tones to Yuah. When at last she was ready to return to the ship, Iolanthe called the other two to follow her back to the shore.

“If you don’t mind ladies,” said Kesi. “I’m going to stay here and do a little bit of exploring.”

“Do be careful,” said Yuah.

“Don’t worry,” he replied. “I have no intention of becoming a meal for one of the local monstrosities.”

The two women were dutifully rowed back to the Minotaur without incident and they made their way up to the deck.

“I noticed that Suvir Kesi spoke quite a bit to you while we were over there,” said Iolanthe.

“Yes, Miss.”

“May I ask what he is plotting?”

“He was wondering if he could call on me.”

“Really? Can he?”

“I don’t know how I feel about him,” said Yuah. “Him being a foreigner, and all.”

“Yes, foreigner.” Iolanthe nodded in understanding.

His Robot Girlfriend – Chapter 6 Excerpt

Parking the car in the high-rise parking structure, they made their way in through a large door and into the vast, sparkling landscape of the casino. A golden pathway on the rug led through it to the hotel lobby. Along the way, Mike stopped and swiped his cash card through the reader in front of a slot machine. Pressing the indicators below the slot, he bet five dollars and the pulled the one arm of the one arm bandit. The digital pictures that had long ago replaced mechanical wheels whirled around and came to a stop. There was a rocket ship in the first column, a naked woman in the second, and a banana in the third.

“No robots allowed in the casino,” came a voice behind them.

Mike looked back to see an armed security guard standing next to Patience. They were both a good five feet away from any of the gaming machines.

“She’s not playing.”

“Robots are not allowed in casino. It’s state law: Nevada Revised Statutes. It can pass through with you, but you can’t stop and play while it’s with you.”

Mike took Patience by the hand and led her through the far end of the casino and into the spacious marble-tiled hotel lobby. It took only minutes to check in and receive their key.

“I didn’t like it when he called me an ‘it’,” said Patience, while they waited.

“No, I didn’t either,” said Mike.

Moments later they were on their way up in the elevator. Their room was on the seventh floor, which Mike took as a good omen. He had been tempted to get one of the custom suites. The Erotic suite, the g-Suite, the Sapphire Sundown Suite, and the Hot Pink Suite had all sounded like fun. But he reminded himself that he was still a teacher and had been living quite the high life lately. Despite the large bank balance that he had upon Patience’s arrival, he had only received one paycheck since that time, and he still wasn’t all that sure about Patience’s eBay money-making schemes. The “Superior” room, as it was called, had a king-sized bed, a big vueTee, a Jacuzzi tub, and a very nice sound system.

Mike plopped down on the over-stuffed, king-sized bed. Not twenty minutes later, the robot bellhop arrived with their luggage, and Patience unpacked and put all of the clothes in the dresser drawers and the closet. Mike smiled. He usually left everything in the suitcases. She finished quickly, then knelt down at the foot of the bed and gave Mike a foot massage. He sighed and relaxed and had almost fallen asleep, when she began to move up from his feet to the zipper of his pants.

“I find it amazing, Mike.”

“I don’t think it’s all that different from any other guy?”

Patience laughed. “I find it amazing that we are here hundreds of miles from where we were just this morning.”

“Pretty amazing,” he agreed.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 13 Excerpt

It was chilly and wisps of mist hung in the air. On the distant shore, beyond the wall formed by impossibly tall redwood trees, large spruces, massive maple and bay trees, filled in between by thick huckleberry and azalea bushes and wave upon wave of rhododendron, some giant and no doubt frightening monster roared out a challenge. From its tiny animal carrier on deck, the little dragon answered.

“Gawp!”

Senta stepped onto the deck and knelt down by the box. Zurfina had dressed her in another weird outfit, this one a floor length black dress with a white collar. A black ceramic rose right in the front of her neck that made it difficult to look down at the high-heeled black sandals on her feet. Of course Zurfina had on a matching dress, and cut a striking figure standing along the railing of the forward deck with the Captain, Miss Dechantagne, the Dechantagne brothers, and other notables, all of whom were dressed in light summer clothing, as they surveyed the coastline.

“Pet!” said the dragon.

“Yep, it’s me,” said Senta. “I’m going to take you out, but you have to have your leash on.”

The dragon hissed. She opened the door of the carrier and the dragon climbed out onto the top. He turned his head and pointedly looked the other direction as she snapped the little chain onto the ring around his ankle. Once the little clip had snapped shut, Senta attached the other end of the chain to a bracelet on her right wrist.

“See there. We’re both chained by the wrist. Nobody’s the boss.”

“Gawp,” said the dragon, and then spreading its wings to balance, it climbed up her arm and onto her shoulder. It slithered down to lie across her shoulders, one hand and one foot holding onto her dress and one hand and one foot holding onto her hair. Senta stood up. The little dragon was now over four feet long from nose to tip of tail, but he was only about six inches thick across the belly and he was surprisingly light.

“What do you want to do?”

“Gawp.”

“Me too. This is sooo boring.”

The ship had been sailing parallel to the coast for the past four days and Senta was getting tired of it. What was the point of sailing all the way to Mallon, if you didn’t get out and walk around on it? Twenty days was more than enough time to explore every square inch of the largest battleship and Senta had spent more than three times that length of time on the Minotaur. Not even murders, gunfights, and drinking wine until you threw up could take away the boredom forever.

“Fina,” said the dragon.

“All right.”

Senta walked toward the front of the ship. She had gone only about halfway to where Zurfina and the others stood watching the coastline roll past, when a figure stepped out of the shadows. A freckled face and striped shirt quickly identified the shady figure.

“Hey Graham,” said Senta.

“Hi Senta. What’ya doing?”

“Nothing. He wants to go up by the grown-ups.” She indicated the dragon with her thumb.

“Can I come?”

“Sure. Just don’t get too close, ‘cause he’ll bite you.”

“I thought he was tame.”

“You can’t tame a dragon. Zurfina says you can’t tame anything that’s smarter than you are.”

“Who says he’s smarter than me?” Graham was indignant.

“Not just you, stupid. Dragons are super smart. When he gets big, he’ll be able to talk and do magic and all kinds of cool stuff.”

“Brill,” said the boy.

Senta and Graham walked forward, the boy keeping several paces behind her at all times, until they reached the group of adults. Miss Dechantage was wearing a yellow dress with lots of lace and a matching hat, tied below her chin with a lace ribbon. Her dress was almost the same color as the suit Professor Calliere was wearing. It made him look like a very large banana. Mr. Korlann was much more dignified. His grey suit was so light that it would have seemed white, had he not been standing next to Miss Lusk in her white day dress. Senta saw Miss Lusk reach over discretely and touch Mr. Korlann’s hand. Wizard Labrith was wearing a light brown suit and Wizard Kesi, for once not in colorful silks, was dressed the same. They both stood near the back of the group, all four of their eyes boring holes into the back of Zurfina’s black dress. The two Dechantagne brothers were both wearing khaki safari clothes and pith helmets. The older brother looked like he was sick. Finally Father Ian had eschewed his traditional robes for a more modern suit with a clerical collar.