You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, a fantasy adventure novel available at Barnes and Noble Online.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Twenty Two Caliber Redemption-

He sat in silence on the worn park bench, sipping from a bottle in a paper bag and watching the dusk fall. He no longer had a name, and that gave him what little peace he knew. He left that name along with the family that was now just a suppressed and faded memory.

His eyes drifted from the sunset over the sooty city skyline to glance at his quarry. He was always astounded when something like a sunset awoke the vague echoes of pleasure that still clung to the edges of his empty self. His quarry took some money from a young man of about fourteen. The young man received something small in return, and ran off down the street.

The quarry made a few more sales, and then glanced around. Probably looking for the cops, or competition. The man put his bagged bottle to his lips, and took another sip. An empty man is invisible, and winos so common as to be of no more note than the pigeons in the park. He got up and followed slowly as the quarry headed toward a darkening alley.

He mumbled a bit, swinging his bottle about, and stumbled into the alley just a few yards behind his quarry. Slumping beside a dumpster, he took another sip. The quarry met a man at the back of the alley, and they conducted a little business. After the quarry left the alley, the man with no name slowly stumbled to his feet.

He followed. Down a block, a right turn. Another block. A left into another alley. The pusher's digs were not far ahead.

The stumbling wino gait gave way to purposeful strides. The hand not holding the bottle came up with practiced precision. The small caliber hand-gun barked three times. Sub-sonic twenty-two caliber rounds exited the muzzle and quickly found their new home inside the pusher's skull. The quarry dropped, dying even as he fell.

The man with no name walked on. He came soon to the chapel he had chosen. Entering, he looked around in the holy gloom. He did not touch the offered holy water, fearing that it would burn him. He went forward to an empty pew, knelt and prayed.

Here the memories flooded back. Backing out his daughter's car, to get it ready for a family outing. The muffled thump as he ran over something. His daughter's scream. Her, holding his now dead grandson beside the driveway.

"I have brought you another one." he prayed. An offering. A bit of cleansing. An attempt to buy redemption.

He knew in his heart that God had forgiven him. His family had forgiven him. They had struggled to bring him back to himself after the accident. They did not know that he was truly empty. He could not forgive himself.

He had wandered for years, now. The hurt his absence must cause his family simply added to his debt. He hunted those who poisoned children, hoping that somehow that would buy him peace. Perhaps someday he could once again claim his name.

The man with no name stood, and exited the chapel. He wandered toward the cheap room that would contain his dark dreams and muffled screams for the night. He would clean his gun, eat enough to keep his unworthy body alive, and seek a new town tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Television Commercials-

Some of the most entertaining material on television is the commercials. Just try and watch a half-hour of Hell Date, and then find a nice string of commercials. My bet is that you will find the commercials more entertaining.

The short stories I publish here are best classified as Flash Fiction. I keep the stories very short. They move very quickly to the pay-off. A lot like commercials.

I sometimes wonder if commercials would be as focused and entertaining if they were not simply vehicles to introduce us products and services, and keep those products and services fresh in our minds. I have to imagine a lot of energy (and money) goes into producing these very short commercial stories.

It would be interesting to visit the future, and find out how these little product positioning tales fare over time.

I have to imagine that some commercials will outlive their products. They may not always sell, but they will continue to entertain.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Stitch in Time-

A Stitch in Time-

Angela Jamestone sat at her sewing machine, making an adjustment. Angela knew her sewing machines. She had worn out four, and currently owned three more. She sat in the midst of fat quarters, pattern samples, bobbins and threads. Her sewing room was orderly and filled with color and creativity.

"Your mother makes great quilts." she heard, coming from the kitchen. Her sewing room was just off the kitchen, and she liked to keep the door open.

"Yeah, she does great work." That was her son, Carl. He and the neighbor girl, Tammy, must have come in for a drink from the refrigerator. Angela smiled as she finished her adjustment. She could hear pride in his voice.

"How long has she been sewing like this?" asked Tammy, amidst the clinking of glasses and bottles.

"All of my life." answered Carl. Angela heard the refrigerator door close, and a moment later the slam of the back door. Her adjustment finished, Angela once again began to sew. As she sewed, she remembered.

Angela remembered weeping. She sat on the porch, in the dark, and wept. She wept for the words of her doctor, who had informed her that her son would probably not live. She rubbed her round belly, weeping for the boy within. She stared out into the darkness, and wept.

"I wish I could do something." she said aloud, focused on one particularly bright star.

She heard a cough, a poorly covered belch, and an unrestrained fart from the gathered darkness below the tree in her front yard. She felt too miserable to be afraid, even as the unshaven man stepped out of the darkness and glared at her with bloodshot eyes.

"Something." he said. "Pretty damned general. Kind of a blank check, eh?"

"Who are you, and what do you want?" asked Angela. It was barely a whisper. There was still no fear, even though the man looked like he had recently resided in a dumpster. A particularly dirty and neglected dumpster.

"I am a fairy." he said. "No, not that kind. You know, magic and all that crap."

He belched again.

"You made a wish on my star. I am responding." he said, with the patience born of boredom rather than compassion. "So, what do you want?"

"I want my son to live."

"Huh. Cheat death and all that? That one is going to cost you."

"Cost me what?" asked Angela. She would give anything. He knew it. She knew he knew it.

"Hmmm. You like to sew. I know that from your profile."

"You fairies keep profiles?" Angela asked.

"No, we check the Internet."


"OK. Here's the deal. It's my job to find something you like, and use that to bargain with. I require you to do that thing so much, you come to hate it. In exchange, you get the wish."

"What kind of a good fairy are you?" asked Angela. She had become curious enough to have stopped weeping. This was just too weird.

"Who said anything about good? You picked the wrong star. I failed the test to become a demon, and this was the only job open." answered the unpleasant creature. "I hate this job, but what is a supernatural being to do? Now, do you want the deal, or no?"

"What deal?" asked Angela. "You haven't made any kind of offer, yet."

The fairy rolled his eyes. "Sheesh. OK, you keep sewing, the boy lives. That simple. You stop sewing, the boy dies. Pretty clear, eh?"

"Not really." Angela replied. "How much sewing? What kind of sewing? Do you have any perks to sweeten the deal? You know, assured success in life for my son. Good teachers. Good grades. Good job opportunities. A good wife. Oh, and a good fairy, should he ever need one?"

"Lady, you sure are pushy." said the reprobate fairy standing in her yard. "I don't know anything about sewing. Tell you what. I got a thing a bit later with an angel on vacation, if you know what I mean. You state the terms, and I will decide if they are good enough."

"Here's the deal. I have to always be working on a quilt. I must always start the next one before the one I am working on is finished."

The fairy nodded.

"I don't have to sew constantly. After all, I will soon have a baby to care for. However, I have to do something on my quilts every day. That can include shopping for material, studying patterns, and keeping my work space clean and orderly."

"Sure. Sure." said the fairy. He was obviously anxious to get going. "Don't forget, you are going to learn to hate all of this."

"Of course." said Angela. She hoped her face displayed what this creature would mistake for innocence and credulity. "Oh, and my son gets all of that good stuff I mentioned."

"Fine. Deal." said the fairy. He turned and started to walk away.

"Wait!" called Angela.

He turned around. He did not look pleased. Angela wondered how he could fail to become a demon with a face like that.

"Magic wand?"

The fairy grunted. He bend down, picked up a dirty stick, and waved it generally in Angela's direction. A muddy ball of energy drifted from the stick slowly toward Angela's belly. It enveloped her, and slowly insinuated itself into her distended abdomen. It was disgusting, but seemed to seal the deal.

"Happy now?"

Angela nodded, trying not to throw up.

The fairy turned left and departed Angela's reality.

Angela finished her stitch, and came back to the present. Carl was now a young teen. Angela thought back on the years of sewing. The friends. The contests. The prizes and awards. The life of her son.

No. She had not yet come to hate the task.

She hoped that damned fairy was miserable knowing that she was not.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reading for Young People-

I was just commenting on a blog where the issue up for discussion was summer reading for young people. Should the recommended/required reading lists be fun or "literary"?

Many people who are not readers perceive reading as work. Some people I have talked with find it actually emotionally traumatic to be required to read. I recall a comment on the bus I heard one time. I was using a small flashlight to read by, since it was dark and I had about thirty minutes to ride to my destination. Someone quipped, "Why is he doing that? Reading is hard enough anyway." Obviously not a big reader.

My comment on the blog I was reading regarded Dickens. His work is almost always included in a young person's list of things they must read. My introduction was "Great Expectations." Having read a lot of Dickens over the years, I would contend that an introduction to his works should begin with one of his lighter works. There is nothing wrong with fun being a part of someones education.

Compulsory introductions to poetry should not necessarily begin with Emily Dickinson, or Shakespeare. Too many people can only see poetry as something culled from Hallmark. An adventure in fun poetry should begin the exploration. Especially bringing "manly" young men into the presence of the poet.

Translations and transliterations don't necessarily hurt, either. "Canterbury Tales" is much more interesting when it is in a form that is readable by a modern reader. Having read the tales in an understandable format, the adventurous reader might just go back to the older form of English for a taste.

Literature should not be a mode of snobbery. It is, among some parts of our society. It ought not to be. It should not be bound by rules that confine the experience without enhancing it. Rules are fine, if they provide structure and focus. However, once they fail to enhance the experience, they fail in their purpose.

I must reiterate that the shift of attention from reading in a post-literate age does not necessarily mean a decline in culture. Preservationist must strive to keep literature alive, but it is not reasonable to expect everyone to be an avid reader in an age that provides alternatives to the written word for communication.

Today I could be expressing myself in a video, which I could publish as easily as this blog. I could easily aquire (though not necessarily easily master) animation software, and express myself that way. There are many options, beyond simply writing.

Perhaps that presents a challenge to those of us who value the art of reading. A challenge to use some of these alternative media to encourage people to read. The very tools that are available to provide options other than reading can also be used to share the joy of reading.

As always, a problem is not just a problem. It is a challenge, and an opportunity. It will be interesting to see just how the alternative media are used to encourage young people to read.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Bear Hunter-

The Bear Hunter

a short story by Michael R. Lockridge

George Quintana finished his breakfast, and rinsed the bowl in the sink. He looked around his new fifth-wheel toy hauler recreational vehicle with some pride. It had been reinforced to his specifications, so that he could haul it confidently behind his Ford F-450. The large diesel engine and four-wheel-drive were necessary to haul himself and his toys deep enough into the woods to suit his purposes.

He stepped back into the toy section of his ample mobile mansion. His creation sat silently in place, secured by the travel webbing. George hummed a bit to himself as he began breaking down the webbing to free his creation. Once the webbing had been removed and stowed, he disconnected the electrical power line and the air lines.

The huge exoskeleton sitting before him sucked light into its mat-black finish. He had gone to considerable trouble to reduce reflective surfaces on this model. Off-the-shelf parts had to be refinished or covered. Custom pieces, and there were many of these, had to be sent out for powder coating or other specialized finishes. George had machined much of the creation himself.

George reflected on his inspirations. His father tinkering in the garage, or cleaning and maintaining his several hunting rifles. Crabfu, the long-time mechanical genius who had resided on the Internet for decades. Thomas Edison. Leonardo Da Vinci. Walt Disney and his Imagineers. As he reflected, he adjusted various elements of his creation.

As he strapped himself into the behemoth, George remembered his father’s passion for hunting. A passion he had passed on to his mechanically inclined son. Rifle, bow, black powder and pistol hunting. They had done it all.

Remembering his father’s untimely demise from a heart attack gave George pause. He brushed away a tear, and then finished the process of enmeshing himself in his creation by inserting his arms into the arms of his colossus. He snapped five toggle switches inside the left arm with his left hand, and the colossus came alive.

Slowly, deliberately, he moved his left arm toward a robust button on the wall of his toy hauler. The servos within the behemoth’s left arm responded and moved to this command. With the back of his surrogate left hand he pushed the button, being careful not to foul the three sharp blades that extended from that mechanical hand like claws.

The rear door to his mobile home and shop began to descend into a ramp. The rail mounted seat on which his mechanical being sat slid forward. Once clear enough to stand, George did so. He checked the read-outs in his heads-up display. All systems were good to go.

He stepped forward, and moved away from the vehicle. The rail mounted seat retracted and the doors closed. George was now outside, equipped in his new creation, deep in bear country. George took a few steps, and again checked the display. The indicators were still good. He began walking into the woods, seeking his prey.

As he sauntered through the woods, he used the strength of his amended systems to clear the path. While the gyro guided balance system was robust, George still proceeded with caution. Taking time to move a downed tree or other interfering object would be less costly than causing his creation to tumble.

Getting up off of the ground in this thing had proved challenging in the lab. George did not want to test the process in the field. Not in the very heart of the realm of the brown bear. Anywhere else would be embarrassing. Here, it could be deadly.

George checked his shielding as he approached the first baited area. His arms and legs were fully encased. Forearms and lower legs were armored with a fairly heavy gage alloy. The upper arms and legs were somewhat lighter in gage, but reinforced by heavy bars. His torso was enveloped in a reinforced mesh, a compromise to allow for air flow and reduced weight. His head was encased in a helmet with a Plexiglas face plate, and flexible reinforcing columns along his neck.

The power for the unit was a combination of electrical and pneumatic systems. He carried enough compressed air to power his system for two hours at minimum use. The tanks and batteries resided in housings on his back, along with a small compressor. The compressor was powered by propane, and would be used after the hunt to renew his air pressure.

George found the first bait disturbed, but no bear was present. He turned toward his second bait, and moved slowly through the woods. Even before he entered the clearing he could hear the bear rooting about near the bait. George stepped quietly into the clearing, and watched his quarry.

The bear was confused and frustrated. The blend of bait scents George had concocted was intended for that purpose. So far his quarry had not noticed him. George watched the young male, assessing how the battle would go. He had not yet engaged a creature so magnificent in combat. This would be his first battle.

It was time. George spoke a gentle command into the microphone. From a speaker mounted in his chest guard the challenging bellow broke forth. A sound bite, but a well chosen one. A bear’s challenge.

The bear spun around like lightning, standing on his rear legs and looking quickly from left to right. He did not find the bear he was looking for. The strange contraption standing in the clearing caught his attention, but was not immediately perceived as threatening.

George stepped forward. The bear dropped to his four feet, and ambled forward. The creature appeared more curious than angry, but he tossed his head displaying his confusion and concern. George moved more quickly.

The bear reared and charged. George tucked down to keep his center of gravity low and hit the bear in the chest with a head butt. The bear swung with a paw and struck the shoulder of his strange enemy, then lost his balance and fell backward.

George moved in quickly, swinging his clawed left arm downward to disembowel his worthy opponent. The bear was quick, and rolled away back onto his feet before the blow could strike. The creature came around quickly, hitting the side of George’s helmet hard enough to cause a ringing in his right ear. The blow rocked the exoskeleton sharply to the side. Servos hissed and whined to keep the vehicle upright.

The bear turned swiftly and hugged George in the mid-section. The jaws and teeth dug and snapped, denting the wire mesh shielding that protected George’s mid-section. The vehicle stabilized, and George tried to clear his mind for the fight. The fierceness of the assault had overwhelmed his senses.

The bear grew frustrated with the resilience of his opponent’s belly. He reared back and dug in again. Something snapped, and George felt part of the meshwork protecting his flesh push against his stomach. Nearly in a panic, George forced himself to think.

Quickly he bent down and grabbed the bear’s rear legs. George lifted the beast, holding the huge creature upside down. What to do with it?

Both George and the bear stopped fighting for a second when there was another roar from behind the exoskeleton. It was a strange sound, incongruous in the situation. George recovered first, realizing that the compressor motor had started in order to renew the air pressure in his system.

Taking advantage of the bear’s confusion, George released the grip of his right hand and brought the claws on the back of his hand down in a swipe across the exposed belly of his enemy. The bear screamed in agony as the blades opened his flesh.

Overbalanced by the great weight in his left hand, George’s systems once again hissed and howled trying to compensate. Realizing that he might topple over, George released his grip on the bear.

Entrails dragging on the ground, the bear turned and again charged. George managed to get a grip on the creature’s shoulders, holding it away from his own torso. George had no idea how close the bear was to breaching the shielding on his own belly, but he was unwilling to let the animal test the matter.

The bear began to slow. Loss of blood was finally ending the struggle. Soon George realized that the only thing holding up the beast was his own exoskeleton. He tossed the beast to the ground, and drove the blades of his left hand deep into the animal’s throat. His final blow was met with a sluggish outflow of blood from the resulting wound. In moments the animal was dead.

George grabbed a foreleg of the beast, and began dragging it back toward his camp. He was almost within sight of his camp when the low-pressure alarm in his exoskeleton began chirping. Dropping the beast, he started jogging toward his camp. He hit the big button on the outside of the door to his rig, and waited for the door to drop and the seat to deploy.

He had just seated himself when he heard the next alarm. The compressor was out of fuel, and was shutting down. In moments he would have been operating on emergency electrical, with just enough power to move the unit a very short distance. He had cut this one very close.

Once the unit was safely inside his mobile shop, George initiated the shutdown procedure and began separating himself from his creation. He had some difficulty getting the guard covering his chest to open, and had a fleeting vision of starving to death, trapped inside the strange device.

Finally the guard sprung away, and George was free. He examined his creation, and found it largely intact. He could see that he had come very close to losing the battle due to a flaw in the chest guard design. George took a few pictures of the damage, already working on design improvements in his head.

George whistled as he worked. He plugged in the helmet camera to his main computer, and began downloading the images from the battle. He got everything connected, so that he could recharge the system. He still needed to go out and get his trophy.

While the vehicle recharged, George put on the tea kettle and then headed for the shower. He figured he had two hours before the system was ready to go. A shower and a quick meal. Nothing much, though.

Tonight George intended to feast on a very fresh bear steak.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


My wife, Linda, got the first in the Twilight Saga, by Stephenie Meyer. Titled Twilight, it is actually targeted toward young adults. However, the writing is excellent, and any lover of vampire tales will not be disappointed. It is quite suitable for all audiences.

How do I know that, when my wife is reading it? She finished on Sunday, and handed me the book. We are going soon to Texas to visit the kids and grand kids. My wife wanted to give the book to our daughter when we got there. I had a deadline.

I finished yesterday, which was late Tuesday. A marathon of reading. I don't mind. As I said, it is a good story. The sexual tension peculiar to young adult literature is a twist. So are some of the shifts in the mythology of vampires. The characters are interesting, and the tale holds together quite well.

The young female protagonist reminded me much of a young woman I knew long ago. She also reflected the female lead character in Piers Anthony's Mode Series. All three are young, complex, and endearing.

Will my next short story be a vampire tale? Not a chance. Stephenie Meyer also gave a twist to bear hunting. Yep. Bear hunting.

I hope to write it tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hacker's End

Hacker’s End

a short story by Michael R. Lockridge

Thomas McGuffin had been excited when writing the program. The power of programming was intoxicating for this otherwise small and unremarkable young man. He had been frightened by that power, when he released it into the Internet and it did his will. Millions of machines irreparably damaged. Billions of bits of data lost forever.

Elation. Intoxication. Fear. Deep emotions for an otherwise stunted personality. Tommy was overwhelmed by what he had done.

So was the world. Headlines called out the nature of his crime. The populace was irate. People called for him to be flayed, salted, drawn and quartered. They wanted him to suffer and die.

He was hiding in his smelly little room, eyes locked onto his computer monitor, when the voices called out and the door was kicked in. He did not resist when they dragged him away. He sat numbly in his solitary cell, coming out only for showers and court dates. He was finally sentenced.

The populace was angry. Only twelve years in federal prison for his crime. Twelve years! They wanted his hide.

Tommy just wanted his computer back, and access to the Internet. His life of confinement was empty without access. He thought he was dying inside.

Now, here he stood. Naked in front of some non-descript officer.

“Open your mouth. Lift your tongue.”

Tommy did so. A light shined into the resulting cavern.

“Lift your arms over your head.”

Tommy lifted his arms.

“Now lift your balls.”

He did so. He had done it enough times while in the county jail that it was no big deal.

“Turn around. Bend over. Spread your cheeks.”

Tommy did so. He could almost feel the invasion of the light from the officer’s flashlight.

“Lift your feet so I can see the bottoms.”

Tommy did that.

“Get dressed. Grab your issue and follow me.” said the officer. The voice was flat. Unemotional. The officers had all been polite, but distant.

Tommy got dressed in his prison garb. Non-descript blue cotton clothing. Sturdy. Cheap. He picked up his blankets and other issued items and followed the officer. Another officer followed.

They made their way through a warren of cells. Tommy heard but did not listen to the catcalls that followed him. He had heard them before, in jail and on the street when being taken to court. They were just the background noise of his new life.

The officer stopped. He snapped the key ring from his belt and produced a cell key. He did it with the automatic familiarity of many years handling keys. Tommy knew that the officer could probably put a man on the ground with similar ease and familiarity. Tommy would not test that. He was not built for physical drama.

“Your roommate is named Lars Vextman. He hasn’t been here very long.” said the officer.

Tommy started to move into the cell. The officer stopped him with a finger in the middle of his chest.

“Let me tell you about Lars.” said the guard. “He apparently became angry when a computer virus destroyed his collection of midget porn. Lars boasted to me that he had the most complete collection of midget porn in the world.”

Tommy swallowed. It was hard to do. His throat had become quite dry.

“He went on a rampage of crime. Assaults. Vandalism. Arson. It was the three bank robberies that got him put in here.”

Tommy began to quiver. A plastic cup shook loose from his issue and bounced across the floor. Someone down the hall called out, “Wino!” The guard bent down, picked up the cup, and put it back into the pile of issue in Tommy’s arms.

“Lars is not the only one who suffered due to that virus.” said the officer. Then he smiled. It was not very encouraging.

The officer motioned toward the cell. Tommy went in.

“Oh. We took the liberty of telling Lars you were coming.” said the officer, as the door closed with a resolute clang.

Tommy stood in the dimly lit cell. As his eyes adjusted he could see some kind of mass on the bottom bunk. A great, hairy, hulking mass. A great, hairy, hulking mass that shifted a bit. It farted.

“Make up your bunk.” said a surprisingly gentle voice. The sound emanated from the huge being huddled on the bottom bunk. It seemed incongruous. “Make up your bunk, and when you are finished, we shall discuss reparations for certain crimes against my person.”

Tommy trembled. It was going to be a very long twelve years.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sylvester the Cat-

His name was Sylvester. Sylvester II, to be exact. He didn't really know that, however. Neither did he know that he was so named simply because of the black and white coloration of his fur reminded people of a cartoon character, as had been the Sylvester before him.

Sylvester was, quite simply, a cat.

Well, perhaps not quite so simply. Yes, he was indeed a cat. He did have a remarkable similarity to his namesake. However, below the level of his complete set of cat instincts Sylvester had another layer of instincts. It was one of those deep instincts that had his ear twitching at this moment.

It was early morning at the jail farm, and Sylvester was beginning to wake. The inmates in the bunks around him were asleep, and the guards were at the guard station. The ear twitched a few more times, and then the eyes opened.

The eyes saw a row of bunks much like the one on which Sylvester lay. The inmate with whom he was sharing the bunk had curled his legs around Sylvester in a most accommodating manner. The cat stood up in that comfortable half-circle, stretched, and jumped to the floor.

He padded silently down the rows of bunks, hearing but not listening to the breathing sound, the snores, and the occasional moan. He started slightly as a baritone fart greeted him in passing, but did not slow his pace. As only a cat can, he accepted this place, these men, the food and the affection as his due.

Sylvester padded past the latrine, ignoring the rustling sound of a news paper page being turned somewhere in the enclosure that held the row of commodes. It did not occur to him to be curious or amazed at these creatures who shit in their living spaces, or the efforts they made to create systems to eliminate the resulting waste. He had a bit of similar business of his own to take care of, somewhere outside.

The cat padded purposefully out through an open back door, and wandered to a planter on the far side. He made a deposit in some soft dirt, and scratched some earth over the scat. His ear twitched again. Sylvester turned away from the dormitory and loped purposefully toward the dump next door. Through a hole in the fence he went, and then across an open space.

He went to a pile of discarded machinery that was rusting quietly along side a hillock of buried waste, and slipped through an opening in the debris. A tunnel wound deep into the heap of scrap, and opened into a small chamber. The chamber was clean, and free of rust. Several probes pointed toward a single point in the center of the chamber.

Sylvester walked to that point, and curled up there on the floor. The ear twitched twice, and was still.

Lart Kohln became fully aware of himself. He was sitting in his chamber, with probes aimed at him. Lart remembered himself. He was a multi-dimensional being, and this projection was called "Sylvester" in this particular dimension. He relaxed as the sensory data transferred from his projection into himself.

"One of them is aware." He said. The others in the chamber leaned forward. "One of the authority figures. He has somehow guessed that the projection Sylvester is an alien. There is not enough data to indicate how he knows. He has spoken of it several times to Sylvester."

Elder Da thought for a moment. He bathed his own awareness in the beam of a projector for a moment, and thought some more.

"He only suspects. It is a speculation. These creatures live largely in delusion, and he is no different. We shall continue the project. Sylvester will continue to live among these creatures, for a time."

Lart nodded. Sylvester's ear twitched.

"I am curious." asked Acolyte Simph. "Why do these creature remain in this place? It is a place of confinement, yet there are no fences. Still, they remain."

"That is why we chose this particular site to study these humans." Answered the Elder. "The situation is complex, and they are conflicted. There is a convenient concentration of the beings in this place, and the projection Sylvester is accepted among them."

"I have all of the current data." Lart said.

"Good." said the Elder. "Send the projection back to the facility."

"Elder, I have a question." said Acolyte Janz.

"Please. Let Lart rest up from projecting. He will be available for questioning later." said Elder Da. "Lart, we will be awaiting you in four saas."

Lart nodded, and waved his hand over a node in the wall.

Sylvester's ear twitched. He stood, and stretched. He then padded out of the chamber, through the small tunnel. He loped across the dump, through the fence, and across the jail parking lot. He sauntered in through the open door, and across the latrine.

The humans were eating. Sylvester sat next to his bowl. He only had to wait.

"Morning, Sylvester." said one of the inmates, as he deposited a bit of sausage and scrambled eggs in the bowl. As the cat began to eat, the man stroked the fur along his back. Sylvester accepted the food and the stroking as his due.

His ear twitched. He continued eating.