SERIAL LIVING

(c) 2000

Chapter Five

By

Leta Nolan Childers







"Nostradamus?" Lynn asked. After the incredibly bizarre events of the night, for some reason it didn't seem too odd to be conversing with a severed head.



"Yeah, Phil Nostradamus," the Surgeon's head broadcast. "An email buddy from NASA-the Cape. Doc B and he had a bet that this bloody suit was invincible. It ain't."



"Errr-sorry to hear that," Lynn muttered.



"Oh, and about that bug in your thigh-instant death-knowing everywhere you go and everything you doWell, that was sort of a joke. See, even cyborgs have a sense of humor."



"Cyborgs?"



"Yeah, you knowrobots. Synthetic humans. That sort of thing."



"Well, I don't find it very humorous," Lynn grumbled.



"You'll note-for future reference-that I didn't claim cyborgs had a good sense of humor." Lights blinked in the head's eyes. "Buh-buh-buh"



"Buh-what?"



"Power source is f-f-failing. Couple more things before I die out all together," the head continued. "That blue line on your leg-ink. Made it with a Bic pen. Little soap and water will take care of it. Gunshot in the arm? Well, just a little trick we picked up from the dream team that does the Star Wars movies. The pain you felt was just the impact of the plastique that burst to make it look as if you'd been shot. You'll probably have a nasty bruise for a couple of d-d-d-days. Sorry."



Lynn grabbed her arm and rubbed vigorously. "Was it necessary to do that?"



"N-no, but it was fun."



Tapping her toe and planting her hands on her hips, Lynn grimaced down at the head. "Anything else you'd like to tell me before I drop kick your head into the next county?"



"Ummmmjust one thing. Even cyborgs are programmed to under-understand how important some foolish things are to women. You know what just happened to you-that docking you had with your companion over therewell, that never happened either. You were hypnotized to believe that you'd just made love-"



"Had sex," Lynn corrected. "I'd hardly call it making love. Ergo, one would have to have a feeling of love or deep affection for the other person involved in order to legitimately call it 'making love.' Actually, the Latin term would be coitus-"



"Know why they don't make cyborg lawyers?" The head managed to exert enough energy to raise one eyebrow. "Because we want to have a sense of humoreven a bad one.



"Now, can I get back to what I saying before I deplete all my energy?"



"Continue."



"Well, your companion in that hallucination is a cyborg, too."



This was too impossible. She'd felt his hands on her body, the intimacy of his exploring her previously uncharted territory. That couldn't be a hallucinationcould it?



"I can see that you're skeptical," the head continued. "But, it's the truth. I have no reason to lie now. Yeah, even cyborgs are programmed to lie. You'll notice that your companion is no longer here."



Lynn looked around the parking lot. Except for the odd body parts of the Surgeon and the talking head, she was alone.



"Wherewhere"



"See, total illusion. Quite proud of it actually," the head boasted.



"So, this is all a dream? I'm going to wake up, take a shower and then suddenly realize none of this has actually happened?"



"Not quite. Though, that has worked in the past. Well, at least on popular television programs. No, your car is still suspended between the third and fourth floors of your parking garage. And the man who forced you to flee with him does exist. That just wasn't the man you call 'Lou' with you just now. Actually, it wasn't anything but a figment of your imaginationand might I compliment you on a very vivid imagination. See, those romances you smuggle in your briefcase have provided you good material for your imagination."



Lynn tilted her head and narrowed her eyes as she looked down at the head. "Wait a minute. If you haven't really implanted a bug in my thigh capable of killing me instantly, just how did you know-"



"Let's just say as I was watching you from over here-just to make sure you'd recover sufficiently to allow you to go on your way-the impact of your submersion into the planted hypnotic episode was overwhelming."



"I thought you said there were no cyborg lawyers? Speak English, head."



"You moaned. You groaned. You wiggled on your belly like a snake. Oh yes, it seemed you were really enjoying the pseudo-sex."



Lynn felt the heat of a blush creep into her cheeks.



"So, I'm still"



"Bingo! Give the woman the prize. Yep, still a virgin. Though, I might add if you continue to allow strange men to force you into fleeing the scenes of crimes, grand theft auto, evading and eluding officers of the law and any number of misdemeanors, it's very likely that your virginity is on the endangered species list any way. So, there's still hope."



"So where's Lou?" Lynn demanded. It seemed incongruous that she should even care, but her womanly curiosity overrode the common sense to just walk away and walk away as fast as possible.



The head sputtered. The eyes blinked open and shut. The tiny lights seemed to fade away completely. Dead. Now she'd never know what happened to Lou. Well, it was probably for the best. She pulled back her foot, intent on sending this object of her misery one final blow that would still hardly even the score between them.



"Uh-uh-uhnot quite yet," the head said, as the eyes began to once again glow.



"Reserve power. Low, but sufficient.



"The man you call 'Lou' is indeed a scientist of remarkable intelligence. In fact, he's too intelligent to allow running free to build and create. In the naiveté of his genius, he's dangerous. There's simply no way to protect him from those who would seek his gift to create weapons of mass destruction. As inboom, bang, end of world as you know it."



"In other words"



"In other words, he's on ice at the office until we can figure out what to do with him. I speak, of course, in the editorial 'we.' I doubt if my homing device was even activated when I fell down this embankment. By the time the scavengers who frequent this part of town finish carrying off my bits and pieces there won't be enough to put back together again."



"Like Humpty Dumpty. All the king's horses and all the king's men"



"Well, this is still a democracy. To be accurate, all the president's men couldn't put me back together again."



"If you're such a hot shot cyborg, how'd you fall down the embankment?"



"I believe it was at that point in your programmed hallucination where you began shouting loudly 'Oh, LouOh, Loudo it againRide me you magnificent beastly stud.' It was the impact of your emotion. I fear my circuits began to overheat themselves and I stumbled. Unfortunately, I was standing at the precipice at that very moment."



"You meanI"



"Afraid so, Miss Lough. I am the victim of unprotected sex."



Lynn kicked at the dirt beneath her feet and lowered her eyes. "Then, I guess we're sort of even, aren't we?"



"No, you may still vent your frustrations by kicking me around. Though, I might suggest merely using the cab fare we tucked into your pocket and going home. Forget all this, Miss Lough. That would be the wise course of action," the head suggested.



Slipping her hand into her pocket, Lynn pulled out a neatly folded fifty-dollar bill. "I'm not that far from home. Sure you can afford this?"



"Tax deductible, miss. Not to worry."



"Well, then I guess" Lynn turned away and took two steps over the rocky terrain toward a distant street lamp. Then, she stopped and turned back.



"Nope, not without a souvenir," she muttered to herself, bending over and picking up the head. "Let's go, Seymour. I know just the shelf I'm going to put you on at home."



"Miss Lough, you know this would be theft of government property. Are you sure you want to add that to your list of crimes?"



"Sue me, Seymour. Just sue me."







"Bill, you can't just grab me off the street and not expect someone to notice I'm missing," Albert Einstein Longworth said, settling back in the easy chair before sipping his cappuccino. "You might want to become one of the men in black who slip in and out of the shadows, live off the government's dole and never know a real life, but I don't."



"It's for your own good," Bill Armstrong replied, planting his feet on top of his desk and settling back into his black leather chair. "We were dealing with some potentially deadly stuff back there. Stuff that could get us killed. We should thank those men in black for stepping in and saving us. Al-Kamir Feldman was closing in on us. His henchmen were ready to grab us, and the next thing we'd know, we'd be finding ourselves in some great lab in the middle of some desert. Great for a tan, but no women for a few thousand miles. Thanks, but no thanks."



"Who is this Al-Kamir Feldman?"



"The most notorious of terrorists. Half Palestinian. Half Israeli. All crazy."



"And his purpose is"



"Depends on the day. I understand he's bipolar with multiple personalities. There's a dossier on him that the guys will let you read. Pretty weird stuff. His mother was a Palestinian porno movie queen and his father was a rabbi. Who says love isn't crazy?"



Al shook his head and drained the cup of cappuccino. "It's an insane world, any way you look at it, Bill. But why us? Why now? We aren't the only ones working on this kind of stuff."



"No, Al. We aren't. But we were coming the closest. And that's why our value increased exponentially." Bill folded his arms behind his neck and grew serious. "Look, it was a win-win situation for Feldman. He grabs us and we'd be forced into working for him, giving him the advantage. And if we refused, we'd be killed. Nothing to him, but it would set back work in this area and slow progress for the good guys. So, he'd win that way, too."



"And are you so sure that it was the 'good guys' who grabbed us? And why did they destroy the lab?"



"Okayso probably there really aren't any 'good guys' in this world. But there is the lesser of two evils." Bill lowered his arms and pulled his feet from the desk. He sat up straight. "They had to destroy the lab because that was the perfect scenario to make it look like a simple lab accident lead to the deaths of two prominent scientists."



"This is going to kill my mother," Al groaned, burying his head in his hands.



"Could have been worse. These terrorists are crazy and worse than crazy, they really don't care how they hurt people. How long do you think your mother would last under some of their special treatment-treatment intended to bring your cooperation with them? Don't you think it's better for her that she's safe in Fairfield, even believing her son is dead than being tortured by lunatics?"



Lunatics. Lou. Lynn.



"I was with someonesomeone who helped me escape. Any idea what happened to her?"



Bill shrugged. "I'm sure she's okay. They turned her over to the psych unit. They'll erase any memory of you and let her go. You should see some of those cyborgs that work in that unit. Man, way beyond what we ever thought possible. And funnyman, they know all the best jokes around here."



"You sound," Al suggested, looking back up at Bill, "as if you've been here for a while. How long have you been helping them plan this? I thought we were more than partners, Bill. I thought we were friends."



"There's been a cyborg unit in my place for about the past six weeks. And you never noticed. That's how close we were as friends, Al," Bill replied bitterly. "You never noticed at all."



"I've been busy, okay?" Al defended himself. "So, if they could put a cyborg in your place, why couldn't they just put two in the lab and let Feldman take them?"



"Because then, dumbie, as soon as Feldman got them they'd know it wasn't really us. The jig would be up and our families would be placed in jeopardy all over again. Remember, you can't kill a cyborg. As soon as the cyborgs refused to comply with whatever Feldman wanted, he'd have them shot. And when they didn't die-"



"Okayokay. I understand. But stillwhat kind of life is this? You know, someday I wanted to find the right womanmaybe settle down and have some kids. Hell, what about Boomer? They didn't kill my dog, did they?"



"No, Boomer will be sent to your mother. They wouldn't kill your pet, for crying out loud."



Al snorted. "Oh, I don't know. It seems like they went to some pretty extreme measures. A cyborg copy of you. Burning down the lab. What makes you think they'd stop short of killing Boomer?"



"Not to mention the cyborg copy they made of you. And I might add, having seen him, that they botched it. He was far more handsome than you've ever been." Bill laughed, then became serious again. "I'm not saying it's going to be life as usual, Al. But, the powers that be promised me that we'll be able to work in a safe environment and that eventually we'll be able to have some sort of a normal life. And that's a whole lot better than being dead."



"For you, maybe. I'm not so sure about me."



"Think about it, Al. It was our only choice."



The steel office door opened and Al nearly laughed when he saw a square-chinned mammoth step through the door. The guy was totally dressed in black, from the tips of his shiny shoes to the crisply and precisely tied knot of his tie.



"Gentlemen, we have a situation that's developed. It seems that Feldman's men observed your momentary escape, Mr. Longworth. Intelligence reports that for some reason they believe that you were assisted in that by your girlfriend."



Al jumped to his feet. "Lynn. They haven't harmed Lynn?"



"Not as yet, Mr. Longworth. But, they are attempting to locate her. It seems for all our careful preparation, Feldman knows you're aliveand he's going after the bait to bring you out of hiding. Of course, we aren't going to let that happen."



"We aren't?" Al jumped to his feet, throwing his entire body weight into the punch that connected with the perfectly square jaw of Mr. Black Suit. The guy must have had a jaw of glass. The punch made him crumble to the floor. Al leaped over him, pausing only for a moment in the doorway. He turned back to Bill.



"This may be for you, Bill. But it's not for me. I've got to find Lynn and protect her. I owe her that much"



"Bring her back here, Al. It's the only safe place for either of you," Bill called at the disappearing figure racing down the hallway.




Chapter 6 by MaryJanice Davidson





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