Sunday, June 22, 2014

It's All About the Game! - Chapter 2

Greeting, by dear readers.

I hope you will bear with me over the next few months. I will be posting just once a week, instead of twice as in the past. I am working on editing my latest book in The Farloft Chronicles editing the 7th in the Star Traveler Series and trying to get all the books up on Smashwords and CreateSapce so you can download and order them in any form you would like. All this 'marketing' stuff takes time so I need to focus and prioritize.

I do not want to disappoint all you loyal readers, so I promise I will give you something worth reading each weekend until the end of this latest Star Trader Update, which I started last week.

I hope you will take the time to jump over and read some of the past Star Trader Updates , if you haven't already and if you want to see what ignited them in the first place, check out the Star Traveler series on Amazon.

As a treat, I have put The Helavite War the first of the Star Traveler series on Smashwords - Free!
If you pick it up, review it and drop me your email address here, I will send you the second volume in the series Free! I promise not to use your address in any way other than to send you the next volume.

Hope you will enjoy our next saga here in the
Star Trader Series.

It was snowing and I really didn’t want to deal with this. Snow is fine if you are inside, wrapped in a lovely throw, sitting in front of a fire (artificial or not) with a cup of hot chocolate, but it is not fun when you are standing in it, spacer boot deep, being denied entry into your best friend’s house by what is the equivalent of  a Love Bot.

“I am sorry, but he is indisposed at the moment.” The Bot had the most irritating voice. High pitched and sing-song. Her candy ass stood blocking the door – all dressed in black with pink polka dots, ruffles at the shoulders and on the hem of her very, very short skirt. Her stockings were pink to match the polka dots and her hair, with pigtails that I was sure were supposed to be cute. I found her all and all, repulsive.

A love bot was certainly not going to stop me. I shouldered her aside. “He is expecting me,” I exclaimed as if I needed to make an excuse to this latest of Daniel’s indulgences.

The thing was not programmed to stop me other than by talking me to death. I had already passed Toland, Daniel’s Walhmite, AI bodyguard, at the gate. He would have been the one to put up a fight if Daniel really didn’t want anyone on his property.

Since the Valarian’s ‘gifted’ Daniel that wormhole clogging settlement of cash for the program he wrote that hacked their navigational beacons, life just hasn’t been the same around the man. He has built himself a small army of AI to protect and serve. He already had the crew of three seven foot eight inch tall Walhmites, Toland, Raland, and Gyiand. To those he has added several more including the obnoxious Love Bot. I know he is now worth a lot, hell he could buy his own planet, but I also think he is a bit paranoid. He needs to get out more, but instead stays in more than he did in the past. I don’t know what he does all day. Maybe he is building an army. The gods only know.

“Daniel!” I called. “Daniel!”

“You can’t come in here,” the bot whined.

I could hear her clacking along after me in her black platform shoes. Why Daniel loved all the Anime retro stuff ceased to amaze me. She looked like something out of a 21st century cartoon.

“Daniel!”

She grabbed my arm to stop me. “You need to go.”

I looked down at her hand on my arm then up into her face. “You need to let go of me or I will physically dismantle you,” I growled.

“He is indisposed,” she repeated.

“Did Daniel really program you this stupid?” I asked. The AIs aboard my ship were all programmed by Daniel. He’s my tech. He could make an incinerator spout Shakespeare. Ma-rye-a pilots my ship, Cassie has her fingers in every aspect of the web verse, Sam is my security, Moby a superb cook and Horus my second brain for decision making. I know Daniel can do better. He did make this one dumb on purpose and all of a sudden I felt sorry for her.

“What’s all the hollering about?” Daniel asked, as he appeared at the doorway to his bedroom. He was only half dressed, still minus his shoes and socks, his hair only towel dried. “3su,” he walked over and kissed me on the cheek. The Bot let go of my arm and fell back a few steps. “Have a seat. I’ll be back out in a minute.”

He disappeared back through the door.

“Can you get rid of this thing,” I called. I knew he would know I was talking about the bouncing Anime bubble head. I had encountered her on my first visit earlier this trip and actually rather rudely deactivated her.

“Zuri? Down!” he called from the bedroom.

The bot went to the corner of the room, sat on a stool, closed her eyes, and shut down. I sighed in relief.

“Help yourself to a drink,” he offered. “Or there are other refreshments in the box on the table.”

I can always pass on a drink, but a box, especially the ornate one on the table looked like something Daniel would have bought me in the past. He loves surprising me with the most exquisite chocolates and always displayed in elaborate packaging. I shrugged off my coat and I sat down on the cushion on the floor beside the low table. I leaned over to lift the lid of the box with anticipation making my breath catch.

OMG! It’s not chocolates…It’s full of drugs…from slightly questionable to wholly illegal…from Zat to Azur root, from Micro injectors to smoking paraphernalia and a plethora of pills in a rainbow of colors. What has my Daniel gotten himself into? I slammed the lid closed just as he walked into the room.

“Didn’t find anything to interest you? I could make some suggestions about some amazing combos,” he said. He went to the bar which was installed while I was away this past trip. He placed a glass mug embedded with gold flakes under the spout and said, “Muldavian Sunset, Hot!” The equipment spewed the familiar layered drink into the mug.

“Daniel, we need to talk,” I started. Obviously the dude needed a reality check. Bodyguards and Love Bots aside, the drugs were not where I wanted to see my friend go.

“Hold that thought,” Daniel said. He took a swig of his Sunset, set it down on the table across from me and went to a low, black lacquered cabinet against the far wall. He took out a round box about the size of a basketball. It was a vibrant pink with stripes of black ribbon running up to the top which was crowned with a huge black bow. It reminded me of the Love Bots dress. Ugh!

Daniel brought the ball over to the table. He shoved the drug box to one side and placed the round one in front of me. “Open,” he invited with a grin. He looked like he was already on something. His eyes were dilated and his pupils sparkled.

I really didn’t want to open it. I knew this one truly would reveal chocolates and I wasn’t in the mood to eat one, which said a lot about my mood. It takes something major to put me off chocolates. I pushed it to one side and reached my hand across the table to place it on his.

“Daniel, we need to talk,” I repeated.

“I don’t need another lecture,” he said and slipped his hand out from under mine. He picked up his mug and took another swig of the potent alcohol in his Sunset.

I hadn’t lectured him last time. I deactivated his Love Bot and I shouted a few testy phases, but that does not a lecture make. This time he was in for it. If he locked himself in his room like last time, I would scream at him through the door. Last time I hadn’t known he was doing drugs. This latest tidbit of knowledge took him from a paranoid I-have-to-talk-sense-into-my-friend case, into a he-must-see-sense-or-I-call-the-officials case.

“Daniel, you need to talk to someone - if not to me, then to a professional. You are not the same man you were a year ago. Look at this.” I waved my hand around his room. “You’ve had bars and shields installed on all the windows. You have amassed a small army to protect you. You never go out anymore even with bodyguards. And now this,” I flipped open the lid of the drug box. “I can’t believe this. Aren’t you the one who used to tell me this was a waste - that drugs fried your brain and killed any creative instincts?”

Daniel just sat silently. He was not that far gone that he couldn’t hear his own words thrown back at him.

“We used to have fun,” I said with encouragement. “The Valarian settlement seems to have changed all that. When was the last time you wrote a program, excluding security or ‘sweet cheeks’ over there,” I thumbed toward the Love Bot in the corner.

“A while,” Daniel admitted.

“You need to work again. You need to get out and be inspired. You need people around you not AIs you programmed yourself.” I sighed and reached for his hand again. “You are one of the wealthiest men in the solar system. You can have your pick of any woman you want. You just have to make the decision to leave this compound you’ve created. I thought the whole idea of having the funds from the Valarian program was to be able to have the freedom to travel, invent, to show case your talents, to have a ready buyer for your work,” I said. “That is not work,” I nodded toward the bot again. “This is not work,” I placed my hand on the drug box. “You need to refocus and get back to the Daniel I know and love. I am really worried about you.”

Daniel sighed and slowly came to his feet straightening his tunic. I wondered if he was going to toss me out or worse yet have the Love Bot do it. Our friendship had not needed many of these conversations in the past. In fact, I was on the receiving end of the last lecture when I was stuck burying myself in chocolates and old romance vids after the death of a lover.

Daniel surprised me. He grabbed the drug box, walked to the utility incinerator and tossed it in. He pushed the activate button and the machine whirled to life. The box disappeared leaving only a bit of ash which was sucked out by the vacuum tube. He walked back to the table and once again folded up his long skinny frame to sit across from me.

He pulled the ball box back over in front of me. “Let’s start over, shall we?” he asked. He reached up and pulled the bow on the top. When it came lose the ribbon on the sides fell away and the ball opened slowly like the petals of a flower. In the center sat an elaborate clockwork merry-go-round made of metal. It came to life with the music tinkling, the horses slowly moving up and down each one with an intricately wrapped package strapped to its back which I had no doubt contained a Muldavian chocolate sensation.

Daniel touched the flag on the top of the carousel and it came to a halt with a rearing horse in front of me. It pivoted on its post to make the presentation of the package on its back more accessible. I tugged at the ribbon holding it in place. The package came loose. I pulled the lid from the golden box, the sides fell down to reveal the exquisite chocolate inside.

I looked up at Daniel.

Don’t give up on me, 3su.”
 
“Never,” I said and put down the chocolate to take his hand.

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