Summer Crash (Zerralon 1.1) – Part 21: A Focus

This entry is part 21 of 28 in the series Summer Crash (Zerralon 1.1)

Summer comes to a crashing end…

Ten-year-old Kevin Taggert prefers to stay home with his video games, but his parents insist he join a summer sports program. Exactly on the day the Vordac raid Earth. With his little sister depending on him for protection, Kevin must find the strength and wisdom to keep them both safe.

Before they both end up dead, or even worse: as life-long slaves of the Vordac.

You can read the story serially on this website for free, or purchase and read it now in ebook.
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | DriveThruFiction | Google Play | Kobo | Omnilit | Smashwords | Xinxii

***

Summer Crash (Zerralon 1.1)

Part 21: A Focus

Having made the decision didn’t solve Kevin’s issues. Deciding was one thing. Doing it another.

He found plenty of information on the internet about all sorts of robotics and robotic programming. Some of it simple things he already know, such as how to reset and restore a processor. Simple things that required only the touch of a button.

No, he needed more than that.

To bad he wasn’t left alone to do it. His brothers and a few of the neighbor kids needed him to complete a team. He played basketball in the driveway of the neighbors for about an hour before everyone agreed Kevin probably wasn’t the best to have on a team. Nice blow to his already-bleeding ego.

Then, Christy dragged him away for a tea party. He gladly went. At least her dolls wouldn’t complain about his lack of coordination.

“Boo is visiting today,” Christy said as he sat down at the small round child-height table in the back yard. Dolls of different sorts sat in the other chairs, each with a teacup and saucer placed in front of them. Including Boo, who sat in the privileged chair right next to Christy.

“Boo had to travel a long way to get here,” Kevin said.

Christy nodded fervently. “Oh yes. A very dangerous journey. She was in my dream last night. She saved me from the robots.”

Christy smiled at Boo while she poured the imaginary tea. Kevin watched her, his dreams now taking on a darker side.

“You’re having nightmares, too?” Kevin asked as she turned to pouring him his share of the imaginary tea.

Christy set down the pot and adjusted her wide-brimmed hat. “Nope! Boo was there to help. Like I told you.”

Kevin took a sip of his tea, now wishing it were the real thing. Too bad he didn’t have something coming to his rescue in any of his dreams.

“Now, I don’t know if Boo is having bad dreams. She might, but she’s brave,” Christy said with a grin as she lifted her own cup.

“Yes, she is. So were you.” In some ways braver than him.

Christy shook her head. “Nope. I was scared, but I was okay.”

Kevin set down his cup, not understanding that a bit. “What?”

She shrugged, then reached over to straighten one of the dolls threatening to tip out of their chair. “I knew you would know what to do. You would take care of me. So, I was okay.”

Simple straight-forward logic. How he wished it worked for him, but it didn’t.

Not that he could say anything to Christy about it. She wasn’t having nightmares, and he didn’t want her to. Which meant, he just needed to get his own problem figured out. Find a way to make the dreams go away.

“I don’t like bad dreams,” Christy said simply. She reached over the table with a small plate with a fancy scalloped edge. Arranged in a circle were miniature crackers. “Cookie?”

“Neither do I. And, thank you.” Kevin took one, wishing she’d snuck real cookies out of the kitchen for the tea party. But not with Nanny-Bot back with the family. She might be currently watching Sean and Greg’s basketball game, but she seemed to know when anything was amiss. Such as snitching snacks that could spoil their appetite for dinner.

A big wet splat hit one of the teacups directly inside. The next one hit Kevin’s hand. He looked up, finding a dark cloud drifting overhead. Small drops hit his arm and a cheek.

“Rainstorm! Inside loves!” Christy jumped up and grabbed her dolls.

Kevin grabbed the two dolls on his side and the plate of crackers as the rain started falling in earnest. They ran for the closest door, stopping only once they were inside the garage.

Christy stopped and looked back outside. “So much for the tea party.”

“We had a little bit of one,” Kevin said, handing her the other dolls. The crackers he kept for himself.

“We can continue our visit with Boo upstairs,” Christy announced, heading for the door leading into the house.

Kevin munched on a cracker, no longer seeing the downpour outside. Only vaguely was he aware of the front door of the house opening and closing as Sean, Greg, and Nanny-Bot came inside.

Instead, his attention focused on the shelf next to the open doorway leading to the back yard. A shelf with several metal and composite shapes sitting on it. Layers of dust covered two of them, indicating how long they’d been there. Both projects his mother and father promised to get to someday, but never did.

“Are you coming?”

Kevin glanced over, finding Christy waiting for him at the open door leading into the house.

Something in his mind clicked. Another way to do something about the dreams. To not feel so helpless. To fill these days with something more interesting to him personally rather than what everyone else wanted him to do.

“You go ahead. I need to work on something,” Kevin said. Christy frowned, obviously not liking it a bit. “Greg is back inside. Why don’t you ask him? He hasn’t visited Boo in a while.”

Christy grinned, making a little jump. “Good idea!”

She shot into the house. The door closed behind her with a solid click. Greg would soon find himself presented with a very determined little sister who didn’t care if he wanted to play video games instead.

As for Kevin, he knew what to do now. Learn by doing. Learn by practice. Drive the dreams away by actively doing something.

He set down the small plate of crackers on a shelf and reached for the dustiest lump. The perfect thing to learn on: a malfunctioning yard-bot.

TO BE CONTINUED…

***

Come back for more reading! Look for the next exciting installment each Tuesday.

Support the story by throwing a tip my way if it makes you happy. Buy my other books for more reading joy. Comments have been known to result in warm fuzzies. Spread the word, tell a friend, or add a link to the story for even more. So many ways to gather warm happy fuzzies!

Part of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Challenge.

The String Weaver and Mother Hen Update

The String Weaver and Mother Hen Update

The Zerralon serial is still going strong. To start at the beginning, click on the “Free Fiction” tab at the top of the page.

But, other things have been going on, as well. Mother Hen had a new surgery in late May to take out the part of the tumor that was operable. Yes, there is part that is inoperable. In any case, she came out of this with more side-effects than the first surgery. Her left leg is not as strong and its caused her to trip and fall several times. She’s also having issues with her balance.

Mother Hen is now in physical therapy to help with her leg strength as well as to improve her balance. We’re into the second week of it now and I’m seeing an improvement on the latter. The strength part is going to take longer.

On top of this, she’s also started on Avastin. This is not a chemo drug. Instead, it blocks the tumor’s ability to trigger the body to create new blood vessels to it. Basically starving it a little so it can’t grow as big or as fast. Too early to know if this is doing any good.

We have a new MRI coming up to see how the tumor is doing. I’m really not sure what it will show. She’s had some odd symptoms lately that could be from the healing from the surgery, but it could also be because of tumor growth. We’ll soon know!

In other news concerning Mother Hen, the next story in the String Weaver series is finished! yes, the “Mother Hen String Weaver Project” is still puttering along. She’s now reading the book after this one, and the book after that is waiting for her.

The DividersSorry guys. She gets to learn what happens to Kelsey before anyone else. 😛

So, here is the new release!

The Dividers (The String Weavers – Book 4)

The chase reverses, and the Weavers become the hunted.

Dangerous pulsing in the Strings trap Kelsey Hale’s Weaver team in a place Captain Delphi Winters recognizes: Universes she and those of her Universe escaped many years before. A Universal Group filled with creatures who have harnessed Phoenix Eggs and the division of Universes for their own destructive gain. A whirlwind of rebellions, old friendships, and new enemies test them as never before.

But Professor Hadrian’s shadow casts darkness even here, in the unexpected discovery of a piece of Kelsey’s past.

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Summer Crash (Zerralon 1.1) – Part 20: Neverending Worries

This entry is part 20 of 28 in the series Summer Crash (Zerralon 1.1)

Summer comes to a crashing end…

Ten-year-old Kevin Taggert prefers to stay home with his video games, but his parents insist he join a summer sports program. Exactly on the day the Vordac raid Earth. With his little sister depending on him for protection, Kevin must find the strength and wisdom to keep them both safe.

Before they both end up dead, or even worse: as life-long slaves of the Vordac.

You can read the story serially on this website for free, or purchase and read it now in ebook.
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | DriveThruFiction | Google Play | Kobo | Omnilit | Smashwords | Xinxii

***

Summer Crash (Zerralon 1.1)

Part 20: Neverending Worries

Christy squealed again and rushed over. Nanny-Bot picked her up to give her a robotic hug.

“How did she get here?” Greg demanded.

“I thought she was destroyed,” Sean said, this time at Kevin.

“I never said she was destroyed. Only the hovercar,” Kevin shot right back.

“My power systems and higher functions shut down. Otherwise, I was not seriously harmed,” Nanny-Bot said, setting Christy down and patting her on the head.

“The authorities found her in the park cleanup. Once she was cleared and her systems reset, they brought her home.” His mother smiled at Nanny-Bot. “I’m so glad to have you back.”

“I am pleased to return,” Nanny-Bot said. “I see it is time for the afternoon snack. Greg, perhaps you can help me.”

Greg groaned and gestured to the holovid. “It’s my turn!”

“You crashed,” Christy told him, now hugging Nanny-Bot’s fused legs above the hovering platform.

“We were surprised,” Sean said as Greg sputtered.

“I didn’t get that excuse,” Kevin said, which resulted in a stuck-out tongue in his direction from Greg.

“Isn’t this wonderful, Kevin?” his mother asked.

Kevin started, realizing he was still staring at Nanny-bot. As if expecting her to disappear in another dream about to turn into a nightmare. “Uh, yes. I’m just surprised.”

“As am I,” Nanny-Bot said. “I was quite distressed to learn what happened. I am pleased all of you returned home safely.”

To learn what happened? She didn’t remember? She’d seen the Vordac mothership arrive. Had detected the danger and turned them back to the hovercar before Kevin knew what was wrong.

Now that he thought about it, there were scuffs on her surface. Her uniform would need changing. Dirt and grass still clung to it, with one of the hems torn.

Some of his nightmares came back. He asked, “Mom, shouldn’t she go through another diagnostic? Just to make sure?”

His mother looked Nanny-Bot up and down. “It wouldn’t hurt.”

“If you believe it is necessary, then shall we do so after snacks?” Nanny-Bot suggested.

“The boys can work together to make the snack. We should do this now,” his mother said.

Greg and Sean protested, but Kevin didn’t. The Vordac were experts in robotics, computers and programming, and AI systems. They needed to make sure Nanny-Bot hadn’t been corrupted in some way.

As Kevin helped get out the peanut butter for the crackers and celery, he realized something else that could have helped.

He ducked out of the kitchen to Greg threatening to wrestle him back in. He arrived in his mother’s workshop just in time for Nanny-Bot’s eyes to close. She stood next to the bench with a wire hooked into an access panel on her side.

His mother glanced up. “Kevin?”

“How is Nanny-Bot reset?” Kevin asked, rushing forward. “If we could have gotten her going, we could have escaped sooner.”

His mother stood up from her chair just long enough to give him a quick hug around the shoulders. “Nice thought, but it would have taken more than a push of her reset button to get her going again. They had to go into her core memory matrix to reset to her original programming. Then they reloaded our stored preferences.”

“If you had been there?” Kevin asked.

“Maybe.” His mother went back to the computer. The multiple screens along the back of the workbench flashed and scrolled. “It all depended on exactly what the Vordac used to shut them down. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know.”

Kevin describing the light that rolled over everything didn’t help. Her mother still didn’t know how it worked, and as such, didn’t know what specific reset would have worked.

It didn’t satisfy Kevin. Not one bit.

He watched her check Nanny-Bot’s internal systems. Do a soft and hard reset. Some of it he understood. Some of it he didn’t.

That bothered him.

So much so that he couldn’t sit still. He played games with his brothers. Played Hide and Go Seek with Christy. All while watching Nanny-Bot for any sign of malfunction.

Not that he expected to see any. Not with his mother having checked her over. He trusted her more than anyone the police or anyone else used before bringing Nanny-Bot home. She was a well-known robotic expert, after all.

He wasn’t. Not an expert on anything, except video games, and maybe math and science class. For the first time, he didn’t like that.

What if he’d known more? Could he have done anything better or differently in the little time they’d had? Would having Nanny-Bot awake and functioning have made any difference? Would he have known how to deal with the Vordac robots better?

He wondered about it all night. The few times he dozed off his dreams filled with the questions and uncertainties. Turning into replays of what happened, but with parts going much differently. Nightmares that woke him up early again, with no hope of falling asleep again.

But one thing he knew. He needed to know more. Needed to have more of a chance if it happened again. Only one way he knew to do that:

Learn robotics.

TO BE CONTINUED…

***

Come back for more reading! Look for the next exciting installment each Tuesday.

Support the story by throwing a tip my way if it makes you happy. Buy my other books for more reading joy. Comments have been known to result in warm fuzzies. Spread the word, tell a friend, or add a link to the story for even more. So many ways to gather warm happy fuzzies!

Part of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Challenge.

Summer Crash (Zerralon 1.1) – Part 19: Anything But Normal

This entry is part 19 of 28 in the series Summer Crash (Zerralon 1.1)

Summer comes to a crashing end…

Ten-year-old Kevin Taggert prefers to stay home with his video games, but his parents insist he join a summer sports program. Exactly on the day the Vordac raid Earth. With his little sister depending on him for protection, Kevin must find the strength and wisdom to keep them both safe.

Before they both end up dead, or even worse: as life-long slaves of the Vordac.

You can read the story serially on this website for free, or purchase and read it now in ebook.
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | DriveThruFiction | Google Play | Kobo | Omnilit | Smashwords | Xinxii

***

Summer Crash (Zerralon 1.1)

Part 19: Anything But Normal

Christy and his brothers kept Kevin busy for most of the day. Playing, talking with worried friends and family on the vidphone, watching news updates. All under the watchful eye of their mother. With all of them casting nervous glances out the windows and towards the sky.

But, the longer the day went on, the more antsy Kevin became. Closer to sleep, and he wasn’t ready for it. He didn’t want the dreams, but he didn’t know how much longer he could stay awake.

Looking up the hovercar manual online didn’t help as much as he hoped. He couldn’t sit in the hovercar and look at the exact placement of the controls and screens. With his mother doing her work on a pocket computer wherever they were, he didn’t have a chance to sneak back into the garage. Not without her knowing about it.

Even though he didn’t want it to, his mind ran over the raid again. Going over each part, even when playing a full-body video game that would usually take all his attention. On a normal day, that was.

“Enemy coming up behind you,” Greg said from the couch behind him.

Ugh. He had to say it that way? So many ways for the whole thing to have gone so much worse. He forced himself to think of the positive. To identify what he’d done right and where he could have done better.

Better? Knowing the hovercar, for one, but he couldn’t do more about that now. What else? Knowing the Vordac better?

Kevin worked the game controllers, one strapped to each hand, moving his body in the open area in front of the holovid. The spaceship displayed by the holovid flew in time with his movements, deploying shields and offensive weapons as needed.

Information wasn’t all that easy to find. When his father’s missions became more high risk a couple years ago, he’d tried to find out more. Most of what was out there was either generic, highly sensationalized, or guesses. Hard to tell what was true and what was fabrication or exaggeration.

“You really want that ship to blow you up, don’t you,” Greg taunted.

“Leave him alone. He’s doing great,” Christy said from the corner she’s set herself up for a indoor tea party.

Kevin managed to move the ship out of the way of a new missile volley just in time.

Right, weapons? He immediately put that out of his head. People on Earth just didn’t usually carry weapons around as a part of normal life. Certainly not a ten-year-old like him.

What else? Practice better aim at throwing things? Like the trash can lid?

He silently mocked himself at that. He could have accidentally hit Christy, and he doubted such an object would do much harm to a Vordac raiding robot. He’d been stupid to try. He could have made things so much worse.

The doorbell rang. Kevin jumped. In his moment of surprise, his spaceship crashed into an oncoming enemy ship.

Greg jumped up from the couch. “Dead as a doornail! My turn.”

Kevin pulled the hand controllers off, his heart beating fast at the surprise. “Not fair. I was distracted.”

“A turn is a turn.” Greg pulled the controllers on, flexing his fingers until they set right.

Sean grabbed the other controllers from the shelf as he came into the room. “I challenge you to a duel!”

“You’re on!” Greg reset the game. Where one spaceship once flew, now there were two side-by-side.

Not that they stayed that way for long. Sean and Greg jumped into the game with as much competitive spirit as they did in their sports. Complete with yelling and bumping into each other in an attempt to make the other mess up.

Their mother walked in with an unexpected smile on her face. “Look who found their way home.”

She stepped aside to allow the one following her to come into the room. Someone Kevin never really expected to see again, just like their other family hovercar.

Kevin’s mouth dropped open. Both Greg and Sean’s spaceships crashed before they’d even piloted them out of friendly space. Christy squealed in her surprise.

Nanny-Bot glided into the family room. Hovering over the floor like normal, her articulated eyes working as normal as she surveyed the room.

“Hello children. I hope you are all well,” Nanny-Bot said in her normal voice as she glided to a stop a short distance from the surface of the floor. “Kevin, please tuck in your shirt. I see we need to straighten the family room.”

Their Nanny-Bot back in their house, as if nothing had happened.

TO BE CONTINUED…

***

Come back for more reading! Look for the next exciting installment each Tuesday.

Support the story by throwing a tip my way if it makes you happy. Buy my other books for more reading joy. Comments have been known to result in warm fuzzies. Spread the word, tell a friend, or add a link to the story for even more. So many ways to gather warm happy fuzzies!

Part of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Challenge.

Summer Crash (Zerralon 1.1) – Part 18: Nightmare Aftermath

This entry is part 18 of 28 in the series Summer Crash (Zerralon 1.1)

Summer comes to a crashing end…

Ten-year-old Kevin Taggert prefers to stay home with his video games, but his parents insist he join a summer sports program. Exactly on the day the Vordac raid Earth. With his little sister depending on him for protection, Kevin must find the strength and wisdom to keep them both safe.

Before they both end up dead, or even worse: as life-long slaves of the Vordac.

You can read the story serially on this website for free, or purchase and read it now in ebook.
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | DriveThruFiction | Google Play | Kobo | Omnilit | Smashwords | Xinxii

***

Summer Crash (Zerralon 1.1)

Part 18: Nightmare Aftermath

“We’ll talk about this more later,” their mother said. She didn’t bring up the subject of canceling the summer programs for the rest of the night.

But, Kevin could tell she worried. How she barely let any of them out of her sight, even insisting Christy play downstairs on the main floor instead of in her room. How she kept looking up at the sky, but then they all did that.

The news, already on fire over a Vordac raid so deep into the core of the Peaceful Worlds Alliance, interrupted with something new. Word of the capture of the Vordac mothership.

Personalities debated what this meant on channel after channel. About Vordac expansion plans. Of a possible new outright war. Of the strengths and weaknesses of the Peaceful Worlds Alliance and Galactic Patrol.

Kevin relived the raid in minute detail in his dreams that night. It quickly descended into a nightmare of the mothership descending. Settling around Central City, surrounding it with vehicles, robots and Morde. An entire city trapped with no way to fight free. Of Galactic Patrol headquarters in smoldering ruins.

Kevin shot out of bed, blinking the sweat out of his eyes. He knew the dreams would come, but did they have to come with such intensity?

He went to the bathroom and washed off his face. After a drink of water he tried again.

It didn’t help. The next series of dreams involved the hovercar. Of not being able to get it going. Of it not flying where and how he wanted even once it started moving.

He didn’t try to go back to sleep after the second time, despite how tired he was. No point. He knew the nightmares would continue.

He got up and got ready, as if going to school, finding the familiar rituals comforting. Right down to going down to the kitchen to get himself a bowl of cereal.

Then he made the mistake of turning on the holovids. News still going strong, only now going through the names of those missing or those rescued.

He knew some of them.

Kevin turned off the holovid, casting the family room into silence. He swallowed hard.

Why did it make it somehow worse? To know some of the others? Ones who were there? Even if they were eventually rescued, he felt horrible about getting away with Christy. Not that it was easy. They almost didn’t make it.

He shook himself. They got away. They were now home. Galaxy Patrol chased and captured the Vordac mothership. That was what was important.

Even as the thoughts swirled around in his head, he found himself wandering towards the garage. The overhead lights turned on as he entered, illuminating the gray floor and shelves running along the outer walls. A garage that usually held two hovercars when the whole family was home.

Today it held one. The one their father usually drove. His mother must have brought it home via remote control while his father was out on his mission with Galactic Patrol.

But, he needed only one.

The door of the deep-red hovercar swung open at his touch. Inside he found several of their toys and Greg’s missing jacket. He ignored them and went to slip into the driver’s seat.

His insides quaked at being in the seat. One part of his mind relived his terror at not being able to get the hovercar to move when they needed. Like the other hovercar, this console was also dark, with only two spots illuminated.

The one on the upper right he knew well. That one would bring up the navigation controls. Ready and waiting to be told where to take the occupants. An easy way to get around, and not what haunted Kevin.

He touched the other spot on the wide screen of the console. The one marked ‘help.’

A menu appeared in the center of the console. Kevin took a deep breath and then set to going through each of the choices. One by one, he read through the online owner’s manual for the vehicle. How the various systems functioned. How to use them. Maintenance required.

He devoured all of it. If he was ever in the same situation, he intended to fly the hovercar as good as anyone. He would put Christy inside and just fly away in both real life and his dreams.

The information about a ‘response filter’ sounded interesting, if it remained functional during a malfunction. An adjustment to keep the manual controls from becoming too sensitive. They’d probably not been working when he’d been trying to fly the hovercar. At least, he hoped that explained the bad flying and not just his lack of skill.

“Kevin Bradley Taggert, what are you doing in there?” his mother demanded.

Kevin jumped, his fingers frozen over the top of the console. “Just reading.”

“A hovercar is not a toy,” she said, poking her head inside. She gestured at him. “Out. Now.”

Kevin swiveled out of the chair. As he climbed out, he muttered, “I wasn’t playing.”

His mother hovered over him. “What was that?”

“I was only reading the manual,” Kevin said louder. Then he waited for the lecture to start. How they weren’t supposed to touch certain things without an adult. Like the hovercars.

Instead, he found himself getting a tight hug. “I know you were scared, but really, no playing with the hovercar. Even just reading.”

“Okay, okay.” Kevin gave a quick hug back and then backed away. “Sorry.”

His mother looked him over, opening her mouth as if to say something else. Then she shook her head. “Inside. Breakfast is almost ready.”

Kevin went back inside despite already having eaten. No point in saying it.

No more studying the hovercar. Learning how it worked and how to make it fly better next time. Now what would he do about his nightmares now?

TO BE CONTINUED…

***

Come back for more reading! Look for the next exciting installment each Tuesday.

Support the story by throwing a tip my way if it makes you happy. Buy my other books for more reading joy. Comments have been known to result in warm fuzzies. Spread the word, tell a friend, or add a link to the story for even more. So many ways to gather warm happy fuzzies!

Part of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Challenge.