Watch for Daily Installments of the Adventures of Od Zar and Dawne Patrolle, On the Road to Mars

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Episode 1, Part 1: Od and Veskit in the Underground Laboratory

The voice on the radio intoned with a heavy, dramatic voice, “Are they aliens? Are they Super Heroes? Or are they just a couple of very lucky people? Who are Od Zar and Dawn Patrolle?”

The white-haired man in the lab coat looked away from his work, and pushed a pair of complex looking eye-glasses up onto his forehead. He turned off the radio.

“Gotta make a note. Radio station is still playing that old advertisement. Dawne’s gonna pitch a bitch if I don’t get that changed.” He laughed. “Not that I mind. Her fits are more entertaining than most anything I see these days.”

He pulled the glasses down over his eyes again, and picked up the complex bit of gear on his workbench, then sighed and put it down again. “Veskit?”

“Yo, Boss.”

“Get on the horn to the radio station and tell ‘em to pull that ad.”

“Me? You want me to do that? You’re going to allow–”

“I can replace you with a PDA. It would be cheaper, it would take a hell of a lot fewer batteries, and–”

“I’m on it, Boss.”

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Episode 1, Part 2: Od and Veskit in the Underground Laboratory

In point of fact, there was no way Od Zar would trade in his most valuable tool, “Veskit.” He had spent too many years working out the details, creating the links between the various components, and tweaking the artificial personality.

It was true, Veskit made mistakes, plenty of them in fact, but he… it… seldom made the same error twice, however. And, while his ever-expanding personality routines were sometimes abrasive, his attitudes and habits were almost as entertaining as Dawne’s diatribes.

“Boss?”

“What is it?”

“Erm… could you take off the lab coat for a minute?”

“What? Why?”

“There’s something in your pockets that’s screwin’ with my WiFi.”

“Work it out.”

“Tried.”

“Don’t give me that. It’s been, what a minute since I told you to…”

“I’m a computer, Boss. I work faster than you do.”

 

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Episode 1, Part 3: Od and Veskit in the Underground Laboratory (Continued)

Od sighed again. It was true, Veskit was faster, much faster at most things than he was. He hated to be reminded of it, though. Still, even in his younger days he could not approach the speed that Veskit had. That wasn’t it, though. It was the principle of the thing. Od Zar was getting old and he hated it.

“Boss?” The plaintive tone that Veskit used when trying to wheedle a favor grated on Od’s nerves.

“Yes?”

“The coat? If you could just take it off for a min–”

“You are supposed to be the best AI on the planet.”

“Not supposed to be–”

“–and you can’t figure out how to–”

“It’s LEAD, Boss. You’ve got lead in your pockets.”

Od had not seen that coming. At least the device hadn’t said he had “Lead in his pants.” He might really have considered trading Veskit in for a comment like that.

 

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Episode 1, Part 4: Od and Veskit in the Underground Laboratory (Continued)

“All right, all right,” he said as he struggled out of the lab coat. In point of fact, it DID have a lot of lead in the pockets. Od had forgotten about it, ignoring the extra weight all together.

Veskit, a series of computer, sensing, and fabricating components distributed in the pockets of an old photographer’s vest, and cleverly networked, was never far from Od Zar. Most of the time he wore Veskit, nervous about being too far from his most valuable of instruments. On the rare occasions he was not wearing it, Veskit was hung carefully on a peg near the door to the underground laboratory.

“Ah. Much better.” The doop-doop sound of an old fashioned dial-up modem filled the room.

“Veskit??” Od’s voice was a stern warning.

“Sorry, Boss. Just kidding.  I don’t even have a phone line any more.  Anyway, I’ve pulled the ad.”

“Who did you speak to?”

“Speak? No, Boss, I didn’t speak to anyone. I just pulled the ad. It was easy-peasy to get into their system and wipe it.”

 

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Episode 1, Part 5: Od and Veskit in the Underground Laboratory (Continued)

“Speak? No, Boss, I didn’t speak to anyone. I just pulled the ad. It was easy-peasy to get into their system and wipe it.”

“Wipe? You wiped it? I loved that ad!”

“Chill, Boss. Take a pill. I kept a copy. I always keep a copy. It’s rule 14, remember? I just took it off of THEIR system. Next time they try to run it they’ll get something about a guy named “Dick” and his Viagra prescription. “

“What?”

“Kidding, Boss. Just kidding.”

“You know, sometimes I regret giving you a sense of humor.”

But, if the truth were known, and it was, both Od Zar and Veskit knew that was a lie.

Next time: Episode 2: Mysterious Doings in the Underground Laboratory

 

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Episode 2, Part 1: Mysterious Doings in the Underground Laboratory

Od Zar and his faithful, not to mention“wearable” assistant, Veskit were setting up for yet another important experiment. The walls of the huge room were banked in whirring, buzzing, blinking devices that it would take a genius to even recognize.

Od Zar knew each one down to the smallest switch. He had, after all, conceived, designed, and for the most part, built each and every piece of gear in the underground lab.

“On my mark, Veskit. In three… two… one… now!”

The lights in the underground laboratory went out.

“You expect that, Boss?”

“No lip from you, jacket.”

“Vest, Boss. I’m a vest, and by definition do not have lips.”

“Yeah, yeah. Do you think you can manage to bring up the generator? I’ll have to reset this blasted experiment. Restart it from the ground up.” The old man was clearly in a foul mood.

 

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Episode 2, Part 2: Mysterious Doings in the Underground Laboratory

From another part of the lab there was the sound of a generator coughing to life. The lights came on slowly, burning a dull and washed out yellow-orange. There was another cough, and once again the room was pitched into darkness.

“I’m not happy about this. What’s going on?”

“Checking, Boss. Ah.”

“Ah?”

“You forgot to pay the electric bill.   Again.”

“What’s that got to do with the generator? It’s gas-powered.”

“Erm, no. Not really. I changed it.”

“No. Don’t tell me…”

“Sorry, Boss, but the fumes weren’t good for some of my circuits. They were worse for you! It was for the best.”

“So you…”

“I had the generator converted to run on—”

“—I’m going to have you dry-cleaned—”

“—Electricity. See, I figured, we’d just plug it in whenever we need… Right. I’m going to call the power company.”

“Good idea. Get me power, and get it fast.”

In minutes the lights were back on, along with all of the various mysterious technical gear.

 

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Episode 2, Part 3: Mysterious Doings in the Underground Laboratory

“Veskit?”

“Boss?”

“Do I even want to know how you got me power so quickly?”

“I um, don’t know, Boss. I could tell you… I mean, if…”

“What did you do?”

“I erm… I told the Power Company’s computer to give us all the power we need, and…”

“And?”

“I erm… Well, then I convinced it that we’re actually a satellite power generator, and we’re sending rather than taking power…”

“And?”

“Well, now they pay us to give us power. I didn’t think you’d mind.”

“Hey, you’re the one’s gonna have to square it with Dawne.”

“Ah, no. I didn’t think about that. She’s not coming…”

“Yes, Veskit. She is. She works here. Remember? She works with me, and by extension–or is that by extension cord?– with you.”

“She hates me.”

“I’ll bet you get that a lot.”

“I’m not bad, Boss,” Veskit said in a fair imitation of Jessica Rabbit, “I’m just programmed that way.”

“Cute. I’d like to see you try that on Dawne. Now, set up the experiment again.”

 

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Episode 2, Part 4: Mysterious Doings in the Underground Laboratory

Now, set up the experiment again.”

“Working, Boss.” Several pieces of equipment spaced around the lab came to life. “All set, Boss.”

Od did a quick visual check. Everything was probably fine, but Veskit had been acting a little unusual lately, and that made him nervous. He sighed, straightened his lab coat, and said, “On my mark,

Veskit. In three… two… one… now!”

There was a low growling noise. It was, Od reflected, not unlike the sound of a tiger at the zoo when he spotted the handler coming with the evening meal. Low, throaty, and dangerous.

“Contact duration 1.5 seconds, this time, Boss.”

“And last time?”

“1.5 seconds. It’s always 1.5 seconds. Over a hundred times, now.”

“You getting bored, Jacket?”

“Come on, Boss. Give me a break.”

“No time for breaks. You’re sure no one else has noticed this?” Od Zar had a touch of hopefulness in his voice. “Anywhere? You’ve checked all of the journals?”

Veskit, being without a face, had no visual way of showing emotion so he, it if you will, had created a number of sounds to indicate certain “feelings”. The one he used now, a combination “tsk-tsk” and a sigh was used to indicate the state of “oh, please”.

“Of course I have, Boss. I’ve also read every article slated for publication over the next 30 days—they don’t often put new scientific discoveries off longer than that—for all specific and related—no matter how distantly—scientific journals.”

 

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Episode 2, Part 5: Mysterious Doings in the Underground Laboratory

“Have you checked the NET?”

Veskit sighed, or rather recreated a sighing sound.

Od continued, “and you’re really read every pertinent file on the–”

“Well, no, Boss. Not exactly.”

“I knew it! You’ve missed something!”

“I didn’t. What I meant was I didn’t JUST read every pertinent file on the NET. I read every bit of public text, related or not. I also analyzed the content specifically for references to compression.”

“You can do that?” There was a tinge of awe in Od Zar’s voice.

“Don’t be naive. The search routine is straight-forward. It’s just a matter of speed and capacity–”

“I see. And what kind of storage do you–”

Veskit actually sounded offended at this. “Do you mind?”

“Sorry.”

“Next, I re-evaluated the data looking for nuance, even hints about suggestions… Finally I examined the data by masking off everything that was known to NOT be connected to compression.”

“I didn’t know you could do that.”

“Really? But who better?”

“So?” Od asked.

“So?”

“So, what have you learned. Where have I gone wrong with your logic circuits? This should not be so difficult.”

“Well, Boss,” was Veskit actually whining? “You DO understand that this is really a lot of data, right? …and that it changes… dramatically… and constantly? …and that, un, remembering it all, well, sometimes I wonder if… you know… if I… can keep… can keep it up? I wonder how I can survive another… No. Just kidding, Boss. I’m fine. Really. Erm, did you want me to launch a missile or something?”

“You don’t have missiles. So, you got, what, nothing?”

“I got zip. But that’s good, right? That means YOU get the Nobel on this one, right? I mean, we need to put things into perspective, Boss, don’t we?”

 

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Episode 2, Part 6: The Evil Phone

They were interrupted by the sound of an evil phone ringing on the other side of the room.

“That phone sounds evil,” Od Zar remarked, as he walked over toward it.

“Yeah, Boss. Pretty cool, isn’t it? I had it installed. It’s for bad guys to call us. You know, challenges, threats, all that good stuff.”

“You’re a good man, er, vest, Veskit.”

“Thanks, Boss.”

Od Zar reached for the evil sounding phone.

Next time: The Ringer, Rob Banks, and Psychic Pizza

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