Empty Sky Chapter 11 – Dr. Lupicen and Ann

We have children so we can admire ourselves in someone else.

Read Empty Sky Chapter 10 – The Arctic Night


Dr. Capoçek Lupicen sat at his desk in the dark, an oversize computer screen’s dim afterglow lighting his face. His left hand arched over the keyboard, his long, thin fingers resting on a large red trackball. A switching panel stood to the right of the screen, its red lights reflecting off his glasses making it appear that an ovoid headed demon with large red eyes stared at him from his computer. Other labs had virtual displays and keyboards. Dr. Lupicen preferred the human touch keyboards, screens, and trackballs afforded him..

A small, old, worn, black and white photograph of two boys — one about ten years older than the other and with similar features — in a silver frame held pride of place, standing between his keyboard and screen. He’d check something on his screen then look at the two boys smiling out of the photograph, gently tap the older boy’s face, smile then return his gaze to the computer screen, as if confirming the screen’s information with the boy in the picture before continuing.

He cupped his narrow chin in his right hand and reread what he’d entered in his journal, evaluating every sentence, every thought. He’d release his chin and cup his ear, letting his fingers beat a mindless staccato on his short gray hair as words were considered, phrases whispered, accuracy determined. When a passage dissatisfied him he’d lift his glasses from underneath and massage his sharply etched pince-nez. Often he would adjust himself on his seat as if a slightly different position clarified his thoughts. The sharp citrus and pine aromas of laboratory cleaning solvents tinctured his nose and he’d exhale sharply. Sometimes the scent of the stronger, industrial solvents would waft through his lab and he’d pull back, hurry to pull a handkerchief out of his pants pocket before he sneezed, wipe his nose, absently return the handkerchief to his pocket and continue writing and editing.

Each night he came here to enter the day’s events into his journal. Each night, after all the postdocs and grad students and assorted degree candidates and research associates had left and the sun had set, he quietly unlocked the door and tiptoed in as if he had no right to enter the lab his research funded. He would look right then left then right again, looking first through then over his glasses as if the clear vision they granted might prove a lie. He never turned on a light, all old habits from an even older part of the world, from a place and time when silence and stealth were the secrets to life itself.

Satisfied with his entry, he sat back and put his hands in his lap.

Footsteps approached in the hall. That would be Mr. William Murphy — the janitor the students referred to as “Wild Bill” because he was often slightly drunk, dressed like a woodsman regardless of season or weather, and sang to himself quietly but offkey — working slowly, methodically, intentionally, all things Dr. Lupicen admired and approved of. Sometimes, when he’d finished making his entries early, he would invite Mr. Murphy in to chat, to sit and share some tea. Mr. Murphy was a good listener, smiled and nodded at things he couldn’t understand, then said thank you, cleaned, dried and replace his cup on the shelf above the sink, shook hands and went about his ways.

Lupicen appreciated the quiet friendship.

But not tonight. Dr. Lupicen sat motionless until the casters under Wild Bill’s wringer bucket, the sloshing water, swishing mop, and Wild Bill’s own nasally singsong voice and the sharp smells of his cleansing chemicals echoed away.

Lupicen turned his chair to look out his lab’s western facing windows. His lab was the largest in Vail Hall, in the last cluster of academic buildings on the north side of the Dartmouth campus, and occupied the entire west side of the second floor.

A few cars could be seen under the lights of the parking lot behind the building. Trees created a small woods extending past the parking lot down several hundred yards past some roads and eventually to the Connecticut River. Across the river he saw the glow of Norwich and Thetford, Vermont, and beyond them the eastern faces of the central Green Mountains.

The faces were lit by the moon rising over in the east. On the night his staff worked late he would take a moment from observing the people sleeping in the chambers he’d designed to watch the moon slide down behind those mountains.

The moon in the mountains.

Turning back to his computer, he tapped the trackball and the screen flickered to life. He logged out of his PC then toggled a switch on the panel beside the monitor. Its connection, along with the connections to the trackball and keyboard, went from the PC to the APS System 70v3 computer, resting like a plexus between the sleep chambers, its cables like the webbing of a fat, dark spider in the center of his lab.

His fingers moved the trackball as if he were cracking a safe. The screen lit up and a blue door appeared centered in a deep ocean background. He opened a drawer and pulled out a HUVRSA, a Heads Up Virtual Reality Sensory Accumulators helmet, two cybergloves and a cybersuit. He undressed and slid his mantis-thin body into the tight fitting head-to-toe cybersuit. His cybergloved left hand made a knocking motion in the air. On the computer screen his knocking became a cartoon balloon with the word “knock” repeated three times on the surface of the door.

“Ann? May I come in, dear girl? Hmm? May I come in?”

Nothing happened. He looked at the ’70’s dark display, then spoke directly into the HUVRSA’s voicelink. “Are you awake, Ann?”

***
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Empty Sky Chapter 10 – The Arctic Night

It may be cold but you’re not left out in the cold

Read Empty Sky Chapter 9 – Earl Pangiosi


Tom, Jamie, and Shem followed Jack through the upper level of the Lake Shore Limited’s SuperLiner Snack Coach. “Come on, gang, it’s not much further to the Viewliner. That’s where we’re sleeping.” Some five steps behind them, a nurse and two attendants followed sipping rootbeers and munching potato chips from crinkling cellophane bags.

Tom sneezed at a sudden whiff of diesel fumes. Everyone stopped. With no rhyme or reason to his narcolepsy, everyone prepared for another cascade.

“I’m fine, I’m fine.” His head fell forward and his eyelids fluttered. The attendants hurried forward as Tom straightened up. “Ha! Gotcha!”

The attendants smiled. Shem wagged his tail at the sudden activity. Jack muttered “Asshole” and Tom whispered back “Shithead.”

Jamie remained silent.

Jack reserved the last Viewliner rooms for the seven of them. The one closest to the rear door and the diaphragm-engulfed platform between cars — Jack explained it prevented people jumping or falling from the train when they moved between the cars — was a bedroom suite for the attendants, base medical and ambulance grade EMT supplies and equipment. Jack took the furthest in-train of the four, a standard bedroom. Jamie, Shem and Tom shared the next in-train, another bedroom suite. The nurse had the bedroom suite between the McPhersons and the attendants. The suite also contained a Lexicor MedTech NeuroSearch-24, 19 AC-coupled amplifiers, an Autonomy’s Frontalis recorder and more dedicated neuro diagnostics than most hospitals could afford.

Jack refused to take chances. When Tom slept he demonstrated intermittent trains of rhythmic spiked morphology waves. Tom’s body slept but not his brain. He closed his eyes and his fronto-orbital regions lit up like aircraft landing lights desperately seeking safe ground. When no such place appeared Tom’s brain turned the lights on brighter, intent that it existed and waiting to be found. That much neural horsepower required his autonomic nervous system to take over body functions completely. No distractions, nothing to interfere with making the search. Not Jack, his team nor anyone he shared the data with had seen anything like it.

Tom stopped at the door to his suite while Jamie and Shem walked in. He smiled at Jack. “Alas, to sleep. Perchance to dream.”

Jamie, already in bed with Shem beside him, watched Tom clean up and get under the covers. He listened for changes in his father’s breathing as Tom drifted off, wanting to be sure his father was there when he woke up, until the train’s steady ruddaRump ruddaRump ruddaRump rocked him to sleep, Shem curled up beside him.

***
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Hannah R. Goodman Questions Me Nine Times!

You publish an exciting SF Thriller about Recovery from Childhood Trauma and Everybody Wants to Interview You. That’s what I’m hopin’

Everybody’s talking at me…
I don’t hear a word they’re saying…

Okay, I do.

The inestimable Hannah R. Goodman, aka WriterWomyn (you gotta love it, don’t you? I keep seeing Linda Carter bouncing bullets off her wrists.
yeah, I’m that old) asked me nine, count ’em, nine questions about The Augmented Man, what do I read (lots of stuff. Ever gone through my Goodreads listings?), my influences, the worst advice I received about publishing, my theory on rejections (THE FOOLS!), and what I’d do on a stranded island (aside from make sure there’s always a full moon so I can read before going to sleep).

Hope you enjoy.

Dove Winters Interviews Me

Bearded Scotch Toes? In 50 words or less, too!

Dove Winters (of Ember of the Planet fame) invited me to take part in her Questions that Matter Interview series.

These were not the standard interview questions and I decided to have fun with them. I get to tell the story of meeting Susan (wife/partner/Princess), some fascinating aspects of my physiology that (so far) are unique to me, my dream circus job, my favorite pair of socks, and you get to read a 50 word flash piece by yours truly.

It was a trip.

The interview, not the flash piece.

Hope you enjoy.

Robins, Basho, and 20th Century Poetry

Three More Poems

I’ve written previously that poetry is not a form I go to readily. Such is still the case. I’ve been toying with sharing some of my poetry on Facebook. There’s a few gifted poets there – they hit more than they miss – and I sometimes feel the need for comradery.

Let me know what you think of these.

Do Robins Remember?

Do robins remember
They were once
Tyrannosaurs?

Do bluejays watch
Scurrying beetles
And remember
Brontosaurs falling to the grass?

Do cardinals hopping from seed
To seed
Remember being
Raptors chasing down their prey?

Or do they not care,
Their days being what they are,
Only hoping that tomorrow there is
A little more
Because memories fade
And tomorrows never last

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