The Electric Owl – Chapter I

The Electric Owl (1982)

or

Bot Hunter

or

Do Bots Dream Of Bi-Horned Unicorns?

Electric Owl Red

a Ragle B. Gumm novel

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All owls are electric.

To a certain extent.

But what if they weren’t owls?

This was the subject of Aardvark Magnussen’s ground-breaking scientific research. Anything could be genuinely electric, in theory. This, however, had yet to be proven.

Until now.

Aardvark had made an electric owl and this meant that, not only was his experiment successful and he therefore possessed tangible scientific proof but now it was time for the next step.

“Damn this headache.”, he complained.

Perhaps he was overworked, perhaps it was the stress. After all, his horoscope had not been particularly encouraging for this month.

“You will find the key. You will not like what the key will unlock.”, it said.

Petal Pladd was a telepath, her head was literally bigger than most people’s. Her predictions were, unfortunately, never wrong.

A few Martian poppy seed pills should do the trick, he concluded. They’d put him right to sleep and he wouldn’t remember Pladd’s cryptic nonsense in the morning.

After popping five pills, Aardvark sat down, dimmed the lights in his laboratory and fell asleep quickly and quietly.

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Dick Richards felt nauseous.

He’d just awoken from a particularly unpleasant dream: he was pregnant with a bi-horned unicorn, he was bleeding inside and out. The blood was white, like milk, and smelt like trees.

He heard a faint sound, was it raining outside?

Looking up, he saw, in the distance, the faint blurred curves of a naked woman surrounded by steam.

His wife Nat was showering.

Ex-wife, he corrected himself.

“Where’s that goddamned Happy Sink?”, he thought. Lighting a death stick blindly, standing up with a wobble. He twisted the tap, set it to “perky” and closed his eyes.

“If you’re confused, hun: it’s the poppies. You took a handful last night. “, Nat said all the way from the shower pod. “We made love again. You should set that thing to “perky” next time. You were drunk.”, she added.

Too early for poppies.

Never mind. She was a quick dresser. She’ll be out in a minute.

Coffee.

Coffee sounded good.

He smiled a little, just thinking about it.

If only coffee was still around…
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Dick’s fly-bike was hovering higher and higher, but not fast. He was in no hurry to get to this next job.

Dick was a bot-hunter: he hunted bots, bots that got out of hand somehow. It didn’t help that they looked like anyone else, like flesh and blood human beings. They paid the rent, though, and the imitation-coffee. Three-hundred floor apartments don’t come cheap and neither do those rare artificial beans.

The client was Aardvark Magnussen, some crackpot Swede with way too much money and way too much power, Dick thought smugly. In a way, Dick owed his whole livelihood to Aardvark. After all, the latter did build the first bot and all bots since.

I’ve been cleaning his mess for years. I hate him. But let’s face it: without Magnussen, I’m nothing.

This depressing realisation left Dick beaten.

Why did I choose “perky”? Perky never lasts.

Dick had never been this high-up.

He didn’t even know that a fly-bike could reach the clouds.

So peaceful up there.

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The inside of Magnussen’s office was vast and nearly empty save for a single desk and a winged creature perching on top of it, silhouetted by the Sun.

I had never seen an owl, Dick realised.

Those eyes…

He could hear the sound of footsteps heading in his direction but somehow, he just couldn’t look away from the animal.

“Mr Richards.”, said the female voice coming from somewhere on the other side of the room.

“Yeah.”, was Dick’s vague reply.

“We weren’t expecting you here so soon.”

“That a real owl?”

“That depends.”

“On what?”

“On what you mean by ‘real'”.

Dick gives her a puzzled look.

“And ‘owl'”, she adds.

This was a good-looking gal. The classy, sophisticated type. And she was looking at Dick with a mix of disdain and curiosity. Sad thing was: it was probably a bot.

“You’ll have to wait, Mr Magnussen is still… away.”, she instructed Dick bluntly.

“You got a name?”

“Emily. Anything else?”

There was that disdain again.

“No. I’ll just wait.”

Emily leaves the room as Dick sits facing Aardvark’s desk. The owl flies to the other side and lands on the absent inventor’s chair.

Date with an owl, there was a first, Dick thought as he lit up another death stick.

“You can’t smoke in here, Dick.”

Dick takes a quick look around the room: he is alone.

Did I hear something?, he wonders.

“It’s a bad habit and it bothers me.”

That voice again.

Either Dick was losing it or someone was playing an elaborate prank on him. Neither pleased him much.

“Whoever this is: mind your own business.”, Dick said to the room.

“Oh but it is my business.”

Dick now started losing patience.

“What in the…”

“Death sticks aren’t good for you. Believe me.”

Just then, Dick’s attention turned to the only moving being near him: the owl, who ruffled its feathers and turned its head towards him just as the voice spoke. Quietly, Dick extinguishes his cigarette on the desk, watching the owl as he does it.

“Thank you.”, the voice said.

The owl blinked.

It couldn’t be…

“Mr… Magnussen?”, Dick asked.

“Yes.”

“What have you done?”

“We mustn’t speak now.”

“You’re…”, a stunned Dick interjects.

“My experiment is not complete, we will speak later.”

“W-word is you’ve made a bot. I’m looking for it.”, Dick persists.

This time, there is no answer.

Dick sits back, looking at the owl in disbelief just as Emily walks into the room. The owl promptly flies over to her and sits casually on her shoulder. Dick stands up, still stupefied and points at the owl.

“That owl!”

“I suppose you’ve figured it out.”

“I knew Magnussen was eccentric but I would have never expected he’d do something like that.”

“It’s all in good fun, Mr Richards.”

Dick takes a second to stare at her in puzzlement.

“In good fun?!”, he asks incredulously.

“The possibilities of bot technology are endless, that’s our motto.”

Dick shakes his head absently, he doesn’t reply.

“Maybe I could take a message?”, Emily suggests politely.

The owl defecates on her, she doesn’t react.

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Dick Richards is standing outside a noodle stand in the rain, chewing on a chow fun enchilada looking morose. He opens the newspaper to find several advertisements relating to space travel, promoting inter-planetary migration.

“The very idea…”, Dick thought, “Fleeing like cowards when we’ve got a perfectly good planet right here.”

Dick always believed in fixing one’s own world before contemplating another. He chews down some of that soy sauce and cheese and dumps the newspaper on the counter. He feels a slight tap on his shoulder.

“Vous have a rendez-vous, old bugger.”

Dick recognises the voice: it was Jacques Smith, another bot hunter. Dick could never stand the guy, or understand him with his confusing French Cockney accent.

Still, the man technically outranked him.

“I’m eating.”, Dick threw in a deadpan tone, before turning back towards the counter.

Jacques this time places his hand on Dick’s shoulder.

“Drole, sonny Jim. Le Commissaire wants you, innit?”

“The Commissionner?”

Jacques slyly grabs Dick’s chopsticks and proceeds to eat one of his jalapenos.

“Oui.”

Dick makes a face.

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Look out for Chapter II soon.

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Star Trek Into The Darkness – Fan-Fiction

“Star Trek Into The Darkness” (2012)

Into the Darkness Poster

a G.J. Adams pre-imagining 

Written 6 months before the release of the motion picture “Star Trek Into Darkness”

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Extract from Chapter XIV:

“The Last Generation”

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The Enterprise had come to an abrupt halt, in space.

Where was John Harrison’s ship? Was it somewhere else?

The USS Defiant, which Harrison had acquired seconds before entering the black hole,  had pierced through first and although the Enterprise had promptly followed, the rival ship was gone. Now the Enterprise was floating aimlessly over an unknown planet in an unknown corner of the universe.

They had gone into the darkness and now there was only darkness.

On the bridge, Captain James T. Kirk sat and pondered.

“Spock, any thoughts?”, Kirk said finally.

“Several, though seeing as it appears we are currently marooned on the other side of the galaxy, it is very likely that none of them will qualify as valid.”, the Vulcan answered.

“Indulge me.”, Kirk said playfully.

“By going through the black hole, space and time could have been affected. If you remember, my older self, in a similar situation, found himself travelling back into time.”

“What are you suggesting, Mr Spock?”

“It is possible that John Harrison, by piercing through the black hole first, landed the Defiant in another space, in another time entirely.”

“Fantastic…”, Kirk said sarcastically.

“I fail to see the positive aspect of this theory.”

“Sarcasm, Spock. Look it up.”

Spock raises an eyebrow and quietly judges Kirk. Meanwhile, Uhura, who had been working on confirming the ship’s current coordinates, intervenes.

“Captain, I believe I’ve found the Defiant.”

Kirk promptly stands up and walks to the elevator, instinctively opening up his communicator.

“Chekov, prepare to beam us onto the Defiant.”

“Aye aye, Kieptain.”, was the thickly accented answer from the communicator.

Uhura stands up and walks up to Kirk, concerned.

“Captain, I wouldn’t beam onto the ship if I were you.”

“And why is that, Uhura?”

“The ship has crashed onto the surface of the planet below. We don’t know how bad of a state it’s in.”

“Then I’ll beam down around the crash, walk in and search the ship.”

Dr McCoy, who had been quietly listening to the conversation from a corner of the room, walks up to Kirk. He looks worried, angry and sweaty.

“Jim, you can’t be serious! For all we know John Harrison was devoured by Glorbs and they’re still hungry!”

“Bones, Harrison is genetically enhanced and virtually undefeatable, I’m sure he’s fine.”, the Captain replied calmly.

“But what about you? You’re about as genetically enhanced as a Romulan boar!”

“I know”, Kirk replied with a smile, “That’s why you’re coming with me.”

“For god sakes Jim, I’m a doctor not a…”

Mr Spock promptly intervenes.

“Captain, may I offer a suggestion?”

“Don’t worry, Mr Spock, you’re coming too.”, Kirk turns to Sulu, “Mr Sulu, you have the conn. If we’re not back in an hour…”

“Yes Captain?”

“Warp the Enterprise out of this god forsaken place.”

Kirk, Spock and McCoy proceed into the elevator as a single tear rolls down Uhura’s cheek. And Sulu’s.

In the transporter room, Kirk approaches a nearby red-shirted security officer.

“Jones, is it?”

“Yes Captain.”

“You have been equipped with a working phaser?”

“Yes Captain.”

“Good, you’re beaming down to the planet surface with us.”

“What’s my mission, Captain?”

“Survival.”, Kirk said simply.

Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Jones get ready to beam down. A worried-looking Chekov prepares to activate the transporter.

“Ready Kieptain?”

“Energise.”, was Kirk’s reply.

“Wery good leck, yentlemen.”

A single tear rolls down Chekov’s cheek.

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The crew beam down successfully.

The planet surface is an unfriendly setting to say the least: a sea of sharp blue rocks with harsh, freezing winds and geysers of red ash popping out of the occasional crater. A Starfleet ship is close by, lying half-crashed into the ground and therefore barely recognisable. It looks worn and completely out of use. The crew approach the ship carefully. Kirk sets his phaser on “burn” and burns an entrance into the ship.

“Captain.”

“Yes, Mr Spock?”

“Based on the Defiant’s damaged structure, I can hypothesise that it did not crash recently. Quite the opposite, in fact.”

“We must have skipped over a few years when we… entered the black hole.”

“A few years or many.”

“How many?”

“Approximately 40 years, Captain. Also…”

“Yes?”

“Whatever ship this is, this isn’t the USS Defiant.”

They all think about that for a moment and finally enter the ship.

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Inside, the unlit corridors reeked of old. It was like nothing had passed through them in decades. Spock is scanning for lifeforms.

“Report, Mr Spock.”, asked Kirk.

“I have only found a single lifeform.”

“Harrison…”, the Captain said quietly to himself.

“Perhaps. Whoever he or she is, they are located on the bridge.”

“Damn it, Jim!”, interrupts McCoy, “What if it is John Harrison? He’s indestructible! What can we possibly do?”

“Bones, you forget his position. He has… nothing. He is lost… on an… unknown planet in an unknown time. Why… would he resist arrest? I, for one, believe he’d welcome a ride.”

“I concur.”, Spock confirmed, “Logically, Harrison would have more to gain by accepting our arrest peacefully than by setting up an unmotivated attack.”

“Open your eyes, you green-blooded son of a bitch! Nothing about any of this is logical! He’s not logical. He’s a demon!”, McCoy yelled out mindlessly.

“You’re letting your emotions get the better of you, Doctor. May I suggest you rethink your previous statements.”, Spock warned with the quiet sternness only a Vulcan can express.

“Why you…”

“Alright, you two, enough bickering.”, said the Captain, “We’re on a mission here. Focus, for crying out loud!”

McCoy grumbles something inaudible and remains quiet for the rest of the walk towards the bridge. Spock goes back to scanning.

They arrive at the door leading to the bridge. Kirk turns to the rest of the crew.

“Set phasers to “stun” but prepare to switch to “kill” on my orders. Jones, come with me.”

“Me, Captain?”

“No, the other Jones. Yes you!”, Kirk replied, sarcastic.

They approach the door after changing the settings on their respective phasers. It “shhhhh’s” open. Inside, is a foul stench like nothing any of them have ever experienced, except Dr McCoy, whose experience conducting autopsies made the smell almost smellable. Around them, the skeletons of what used to be the ship’s crew pepper the bridge. They approach the Captain’s chair, which is turned back the other way.

“Jones?”

“Yes Captain?”

“Turn that chair around for me.”

“Y-yes Captain.”

Jones gets close to the chair and turns it around. He is suddenly shot by a phaser and dies instantly. Kirk, Spock and McCoy point their phasers at the person responsible: a very old man, aged 80 or 90, bald, thin, British, well-spoken and tired-looking.

“You can lower your phasers, gentlemen, mine is now… powerless. As am I.”, he said.

The old man drops his phaser.

“We will drop nothing. Who are you?”, enquired the Captain.

“Captain, I believe this is the man we are looking for: John Harrison.”, explained Spock.

Kirk turns back to the man dramatically.

“Harrison? Is… is that you?”

“It is I. Captain James Tiberius Kirk, it has been a very, very long time.”

“It certainly appears that way. What happened to you?”

As he answers, Harrison is weak and struggling with every word.

“I have lived a life beyond the one I once possessed. After entering the black hole, I was picked up by a ship. Starfleet. It was the future. Suddenly I was not superior, I was… not stronger and smarter than most. I was a dinosaur. I lived a life at the heart of Starfleet, my expertise allowed me to go up the ranks relatively quickly. I rebuilt myself. They gave me the Enterprise.”

“The Enterprise? They… gave… you… the Enterprise?”, asked a shocked Kirk.

“Not the Enterprise you know. I became the most respected Starfleet Captain since… well, you. But after a particularly feisty battle with the Borg, I was thrown off-course and landed here. Where I remained for decades.”

“The… Borg?”

“Advanced race of leather-wearing intergalactic… oh never mind. They are irrelevant.”

“John Harrison, you are under arrest for your crimes against Starfleet back on Earth and for attempting to manufacture a war between us and the Klingons.”

John Harrison laughs before coughing uncontrollably. Kirk turns to McCoy and nods: knowing exactly what he is thinking. The doctor promptly walks up to Harrison and scans him.

“My god, Jim. He’s dying!”, was the Doctor’s diagnosis, “We’ve got to get Harrison back to the Enterprise at once!”

“Leave me! I am dead already. I have been left buried alive for a reason, to pay for my crimes.”

“That’s for a court to decide, Harrison.”, Kirk defiantly explained.

Harrison starts staring at Kirk with a deadly serious expression on his face, never blinking once throughout the following revelation.

“My name is not John Harrison. That was only a smokescreen to conceal my true identity. Back when I was a heartless killer with nothing to live for, with no code to live by. My… name… is: Jean-Luc Picard. I… am the Captain of the starship Enterprise. The starship you are now, as we speak, currently, at present, right this second, standing in.”

“No, it can’t be…”

“I only ask one thing, before I go where many have gone before me.”

“Yes?”

“Tell my wife I love her. She’s in sick bay, growing babies for dinner.”

A cloud of blankness passes over Picard’s eyes and his heart quietly stops, never to beat again. McCoy scans him promptly.

“He’s dead, Jim.”

A single tear rolls down McCoy’s cheek. Kirk turns to Spock.

“Spock, I want you to keep scanning for lifeforms. If you missed Picard’s wife, there’s a chance you might have missed others.”

“Agreed.”, the Vulcan agreed.

“Bones, come with me.”

Spock starts scanning around the bridge as Kirk and McCoy exit towards sick bay. As Spock walks towards the ship’s smashed screen, he steps onto something crunchy. He looks down to find what appears to be some kind of small air-filter for someone’s face.

“Fascinating.”

A single tear rolls down Spock’s cheek.

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On the way to sick bay, McCoy starts sweating more than ever.

“What’s troubling you, Bones?”

“Did… did he say his wife was growing babies?”

“I believe so, yes.”

“TO EAT?!”

They arrive at sick bay and point their phasers forward, before walking through the door which awkwardly “shhhh’s” open. Again, they are suddenly faced with a horrendous stench as they notice the room is filled to the brim with babies in glass jars. Thousands upon thousands of babies in jars.

“Mrs Picard? This is Captain James Tiberius Kirk, of the starship… well,  Enterprise. But not this one, the old one.”

They hear a lower-pitched voice than they were expecting.

“The legendary James Tiberius Kirk?”, was the reply the Captain received.

“I… suppose.”

Just then, a male android walks in from the back of the room. He is naked but only the top half of his body still has human skin graphed onto it. The rest is all metal and wires.

“Welcome, Captain. It is an honor.”, the android said politely.

“Who are you?”

“Data Picard. Formerly Data.”

Data holds up a twitching, drooling half-grown wet baby.

“Care for a bite?”

A single tear rolls down Kirk’s cheek.

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G.J. Adams’ “Star Trek Into The Darkness” can be found in most second-hand bookshops, behind several other books. More Star Trek fan-fiction coming soon.

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