Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hunting August Moon - Chapter 45

Chapter 45
"Well, that worked much better as a diversion than I planned," said Sam, smiling. He and Agnes trotted away from the sounds of the klaxon alarms echoing around the Bellagio.
Agnes smiled back. "Thank you, Sam. We should have left this place long ago."
Sam's face clouded. "I know, honey, but I wanted that formula. It's the key to the good life, you know." He waved his hand at the buildings around them as they moved down the sidewalk. "And I'll miss this place. It was home for a long time."
"Well, my home is wherever you are, Sam," Agnes responded, a tight note in her voice.
Sam chuckled. "Agnes, honey, that's exactly what I'm sayin'. You're my home now, so we head out of town, get away from this maniac …"
"…and the people that hate you here, Sam?" Agnes smiled, but the words still stung.
Sam sighed. "Yeah, them too. We'll head out to the SanFran Territory. Start over."
"I'm glad you gave up on that formula, Sam. The Doc would never have given it to you." Agnes frowned. "The whole blood wine thing would have been nice to have," she acknowledged, "since it is a high demand product."
"Oh, I didn't give up on it, honey. I finally realized something I should have known all along." Sam slowed his pace. "The car you found is right around the corner," he said.
Agnes reached down and raised the loading dock garage door with little effort. The white Cadillac sparkled in the sunshine coming through the doorway. "I was lucky to find it. I don't know why nobody else ever did, but I'm glad."
"I snuck over here last night and got her running like a top," smiled Sam. "It took a couple hours."
A frown crossed Agnes's face. "While I was locked up," she pouted.
Sam walked over to her and hugged her. "It'll never happen again, Baby. In a few minutes we'll be out of here." He kissed her on the lips, holding her close. After a minute, he stepped back, smiling. "And I have a surprise. I discovered something else here, too." He grinned, running to the warehouse door at the end of the loading dock. "I'll be right back."
Agnes didn't have to wait long for Sam to come back through the door, his right arm wrapped around Gary's shaking shoulders. "It's okay, Gary," he said soothingly. "We'll find another place with ice cream and frozen food."
"Are you sure," sniffled Gary, crocodile tears dropping from his eyes. He wiped his nose on his sleeve.
Agnes walked up to Gary's right side, putting her arm around his left shoulder and squeezing. "Sam will take care of us, Gary," she said, grinning over the top of his head at Sam. "He already told me about a great place where they have lots of frozen food and tons of ice cream." She squeezed his shoulder again. "The SanFran Territory…"
They led Gary to the Cadillac and settled him into the back seat. "Are you sure, Sam?" He looked at the two of them. "What if the Doctor needs me?"
Agnes leaned down and touched her lips to Gary's cheek. His eyes opened wide and he stared at her as she stepped back. "The Doc doesn't need you like we do, Gary," she said. She turned and walked to the passenger side of the car. Sam closed the back door and got behind the wheel.
"Are you sure it will be okay?" stuttered Gary as Sam started the car. "I'm the Doctor's hands…"
"Oh, we're sure, Gary," said Sam smoothly as he pulled out of the garage and headed west. "He has August now, so he'll be as good as new before long." Sam looked at Gary's face in the mirror. "Besides, Gary, you were the Doc's hands for a long time. You know lots of useful things, don't you?"
Gary nodded, staring out the car window. "I do, Sam. I'm very handy. The Doctor said so."
"I'll bet you even know how to make blood wine, don't you, Gary?" Sam smiled widely.
"Sure I do, Sam," said Gary looking at the profile of Agnes in the passenger seat. "I was his hands, you know."
"I know," Sam said. "I forgot for a while, but I remembered." Sam chuckled. "We're going to a great place, Gary."
"With ice cream?" asked Gary.
"Oh, definitely with ice cream." Agnes smiled.
~oo~

Next chapter, next Wednesday.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Hunting August Moon - Chapter 44

Chapter 44
"C'mon. You knew August would escape," Jed said, leading the small group toward the sounds of the alarm.
"I hoped he would escape. He has not yet done so." Lone Wolf frowned and grabbed Jed's shoulder, pulling him back into the shadows of the building. "I think we are here."
The parking lot in front of them had dozens of uniformed guards in small groups. More arrived from the Bellagio as they watched. Most had clubs and bats, but some had pistols and a few had rifles.
"So how many…" Jed asked, eyebrows raised.
"Oh, the Doc has about a hundred soldiers, but a lot of them are out of town gathering supplies," Rosa said. She squinted her eyes and looked around the corner. "So he has, maybe a little over fifty?"
"But he might have snipers on some of those rooftops," said Caru, pointing to buildings across the parking lot.
"Very few people are as good as you are, my friend," said Lone Wolf. "He might have one or two good snipers, but there are not many good locations for them." He pointed at a short building to the west. "If he has any snipers at all, that's the rooftop they'll be on."
"The Doc isn't well loved. Most of these soldiers are addicts and don't want to lose their supply of blood wine. He's the only source, so that's their motivation," Rosa added.
"Yeah, so take him out and the rest might fold," said Annie. She shrugged. "Well, most of them."
Jed's eyebrows raised. "Great. I thought this would be hard. Caru can shoot him when he shows up and we can all go home."
"You fools!  I need him alive and relatively unharmed."
They heard the voice and Jed looked more closely. "That voice is coming from, what? That big mechanical tank?" he asked. He pointed at a rolling vehicle, large weapons mounted on each side.
Annie glanced at the robot. "Yup. That's the Doc inside his personal tank. His robotic body is inside it. You should see him up close." She shuddered. "He's really creepy looking."
"Why would he have a robotic body?" whispered Caru.
"Well, the Doc is a …" started Annie.
The blare of the speaker interrupted her. "I don't care about the girl, though. You can kill her."
"What girl?" asked Maddie.
Lone Wolf grinned. "Fae," he said. Maddie's eyes opened wide. Lone Wolf raised his hand. "A long story. The short version is that she is quite capable, though untrained." He smiled more broadly. "And August is not alone, which makes me feel better."
"If you surrender, August, I'll spare the girl," the Doctor's metallic voice boomed. "I promise," he said.
"I hope August doesn't fall for that one," Rosa muttered. She tapped Jed on the shoulder. "Annie and I can go to those rooftops and remove any guards up there," she said.
"I'll go with them," said Caru. He looked at Lone Wolf innocently. "What? It's a good place for a sniper. You said so."
Annie straightened the front of her torn and patched dress. "I'll need a lot of help anyway," she said, deadpan.
"Take these." Lone Wolf handed his quiver of arrows to Caru. "You will make better use of them than I can."
"Send a signal when you secure the rooftop," said Jed.
Annie pulled her gold lighter from somewhere on her person. "I'll use this like a mirror," she said. Caru, Annie and Rosa jogged back the way they came so they could weave around the buildings and get to the rooftop.
Jed pulled the pistol from his holster and ejected the clip. "Let's see. Wilson left me twelve and …" He slid the clip back into place and checked the spare he had in his pocket. "Another twelve. So I have twenty-four shots."
Lone Wolf checked his gun. "I have eight. My gun is a nine millimeter or I'd give you the ammo."
Maddie didn't even check her gun and clip. "I have nine in the gun and two clips with another thirty. The wounded guard liked to be prepared, I guess." She looked at the small army in the parking lot. "I can get other weapons as we move into the crowd."
"I think you should take the guns and cover us from here," said Jed. "We're dressed in uniforms, so we blend in." He looked toward the rooftop. "Now we wait for the signal."
Lone Wolf scowled. "I wish someone would turn off that alarm. You can hear it a half mile away."
"It isn't like there are tourists to annoy, Lone Wolf," said Jed. "It looks like most of Vegas is right out there."
Maddie's face was grim. "Well, the ones we need to worry about, anyway." She sighed slipping the two other guns into her belt. "Too bad I didn't have a chance to get an army of my own together. There are a lot of people who would love to topple this little dictator."
Jed looked at the milling guards. Some wandered back into the Bellagio, trying to be unobtrusive. "What about his armor? I mean, how weird is that?"
Lone Wolf shrugged. "He didn't have that last time, but we didn't have to fight him either, so who knows?" He grunted. "He is brilliant, though, so don't underestimate him when we fight."
A faint voice came from the cinder block building on the other side of the parking lot.
Lone Wolf grit his teeth. "I couldn't hear that."
"Yeah, I could, clear as a bell," said Jed. "August said they're talking it over, but what assurances does he have that Fae will be safe?"
The Doctor's voice boomed from the small tank-like vehicle. "My word, August." There was a long pause, punctuated by static. "That's the best you'll get, I'm afraid."
"We have to move, now," Jed said. He kissed Maddie on the lips. "Wait for the chaos then join the fun. Don't be late."
"Not a chance," she replied.
Lone Wolf and Jed walked forward into the parking lot. The other guards barely glanced in their direction. "We should get closer to the Doc, you think?" whispered Jed.
Lone Wolf nodded. "As close as we can get to the head of the snake."
As they moved toward the small building the number of guards increased. Guards started giving them curious stares as they moved closer to Doctor Doctor.
A small glint of light flickered from the top of the building to Jed's right. He whispered to Lone Wolf. "I guess now…"
"You two need to move back, buddy." Lawrence's huge body blocked the sun as he moved toward them. "Only the guard gets this close to the Doc." He pointed at the red stripe on his sleeve. "You should know that."
He stared at Lone Wolf, looking closely at his face. "Hey, man. I never forget a face…"
"Neither do I. It's Corporal McKenna, isn't it?" asked Lone Wolf.
Lawrence reached for his gun, yelling over his shoulder at the same time. "Hey, Doc. We've got that other Indian guy…"
Lone Wolf hit him in the solar plexus, slapping the gun from his hand. Lawrence punched at Lone Wolf but he moved to the left. Another guard pulled a gun and aimed it at Lone Wolf, but Jed drove his elbow into the woman's neck. She dropped to her knees choking.
Shots rang out and guards near the other side of the parking lot started dropping, blood running onto the ground under them when they fell. Guards started to drop to the pavement, arrows sticking from their bodies. Chaos erupted.
Three guards came toward Jed, two of them vampires. They raised clubs to hit him, but he dodged under the first and punched the man in the chest. Bones cracked as the man flew backward into the guard behind him. Jed's hands didn't stop moving, as he spun through the crowd crushing chests and skulls with his fists, getting farther from Lone Wolf with each step.
Lone Wolf dropped two other guards before Lawrence advanced on him again, this time with a long club in his hand. "You cost me my stripe, you little bastard." Lawrence said, glaring at Lone Wolf.
Lone Wolf dodged the club, aiming at Lawrence's windpipe. Lawrence blocked it and stepped back a pace. "That was a long time ago, Mr. McKenna. I'd advise you to let it go. Unresolved anger can be a great burden," said Lone Wolf.
Two guards behind Lone Wolf advanced, the first dropping to the ground as Lone Wolf hit him across the neck with the side of his hand, and the second fell when Lone Wolf struck him with his foot in a straight kick. Lawrence caught Lone Wolf on the left shoulder with his club, the pain radiating down Lone Wolf's arm.
Lone Wolf stepped back, looking up at Lawrence with a calm visage. Lawrence advanced toward him. "My anger will be resolved by death, little man," he growled.
Lone Wolf looked at him sadly. "I suspected as much, Mr. McKenna." He stepped forward, crouching on one leg and sweeping the other under Lawrence, knocking him to the ground. Lone Wolf brought his right elbow down on Lawrence's windpipe, crushing it. Lawrence's eyes grew wide as he tried to draw a breath, his face growing more agitated, his hands clasping his shattered throat.
Lone Wolf sighed and moved on.
A man near the Doctor lifted his rifle, sighting it on Lone Wolf. An arrow appeared through his neck, the blood spraying onto the Doctor's robotic body. Other arrows dotted fallen bodies around the parking lot, most with guns near their dead hands.
Jed moved toward the large robot, weaving between blows and dodging the clubs swung at him. He had a club in each hand now, swinging left and right, crushing bodies and creating a swath of destruction as he moved. A bullet grazed his shoulder, but he didn't notice.
As he neared the robot, a large man appeared next to him, bodies flying in all directions.
"Hello, Jed," said August. "Nice timing."
"Hi, August," Jed said. He pointed toward the buildings. "Maddie is behind us shooting people."
"And Fae is back there somewhere, too," August said. "She thinks she's bulletproof."
A shotgun blast tore through the guards in front of them, blasting them to fragmented chunks of flesh. The speakers crackled again. "Did you think I developed the suit to keep me alive, August?" Laughter echoed from the robot. "No, I developed it to control this tank, to combat you, to be unbeatable."
"Careful or you might hurt me, Doc," yelled August. The guards around the machine were moving away from it now, looks of dismay on their faces.
The robot turned toward the retreating guards. "Capture him now! Overwhelm him or I'll blast you into kibbles and bits, too," the Doctor's voice boomed.
Thirty guards stopped their retreat and advanced toward August. The robot aimed a rifle at Jed, repeatedly firing. Jed dodged to the right, away from the bullets. "You idiots. Over there. Get him and kill him!" A robotic arm pointed at Lone Wolf. "And his little friend, too," the robotic voice shouted.
A bullet dropped another guard. "Would someone please find who is shooting us and take care of it?" The speakers crackled again. "Imbeciles. I'm surrounded by imbeciles." The doctor tried to whisper, but the speakers amplified his voice.
A large group of guards advanced toward August, clubs ready. August looked to the far side of the parking lot, where Fae was running through the guards, her swords a moving blur. Jed, another blur, moved deeper into the Doctor's army, away from August.
August pulled his pistol from its holster and fired rapidly into the oncoming guards. One after another dropped to the pavement. The others paused but continued moving forward as August holstered his empty pistol. August sighed and picked up two clubs from fallen bodies, waiting for the next wave of advancing guards. His eyes glared at the partly visible features of the snarling skull of the Doctor in his robotic carriage. He looked at the small cinder building behind him and thought of going back through the door, but that would mean leaving his friends to fight on his behalf. He squared his shoulders.
"Retreat is sometimes a wise option, August." Claire appeared at his side. "Though I see you don't plan to exercise that choice at this time."
"Claire? I thought you were back at Selah." The first of the large group reached them now, falling to August's clubs and Claire's sword. The rest tried to encircle them, but Claire and August dashed forward and cut them down.
"Was. Couldn't let you come here by yourself. Followed the sirens." She shrugged, slicing through another guard's neck. "After all, you owe me a story."
August glanced at her. "As do you, I think."
"Dammit!" The Doctor's voice screamed. "How many friends do you have, August? How many guards do I need to send against you?" His voice rose an octave. "Capture him and you can have a thousand gallons of blood wine!"
Claire looked at the skeletal visage behind the clear robotic casing. "Oh my god. What is that?"
"That's Doctor Davenfeld," said August. "The suit keeps him alive. He's a smart zombie."
Claire frowned. "Is there such a thing?" she asked.
"He thinks so," August answered.
More guards, spurred by the offer, joined the group attacking Claire and August. Maddie was with Jed, Lone Wolf and Fae on the fringes of the parking lot, fighting the endless streams of guards coming from the Bellagio. Dozens of guards separated the two groups of friends.
"Wow. You sure know how to show a girl a good time, big guy." Claire's face darkened as she saw the number of guards advancing on them.
"Maybe next time will be better," replied August, swinging his clubs in rotation.
The guards rushed toward August and Claire, but their momentum paused as a blaring horn sounded behind them. An old red truck jumped the parking lot curb and flew through the air, smoke belching from the tailpipe. It tore through the crowded group of guards at over sixty miles an hour, broken bodies flying through the air in all directions. Claire and August dodged to the side as it careened into the cinder block building, collapsing the wall over its shattered and bloody windshield.
"Ted!" Claire screamed as she moved toward the truck. The last half dozen standing guards looked at their fallen comrades and rushed August. The first died with a crushed skull from a forward swing of his right club. The second fell when the backswing of August's left club caught him across the bridge of the nose. The third and fourth died in similar fashion, after August dropped under their clubs and came up swinging both clubs at once. The fifth man died as August drove the end of the club through his chest, shattering bones as he did so. The last died when August hit him in the back of the head with his remaining club.
"No! No! No!" The tinny voice screamed like a train whistle, drowning out the other sounds. "This can't happen!" The robotic body pivoted, looking over the battlefield littered with his troops. Jed, Lone Wolf, Fae, and Maddie walked across the bloody parking lot toward August and his nemesis, dispatching the few guards that were brave or foolish enough to stand against them. Blood dripped down Jed's left sleeve. Fae limped with her right leg. Lone Wolf cradled his left arm against his body. Even Maddie had blood dripping from a sliced shirt.
The bloody skull inside the robot screamed, the echo hissing from the speakers. Spittle flew from Dr. Doctor's mouth, settling on the inside of his clear faceplate. "I'll kill you all!" Doctor Doctor yelled. He turned the robot carriage toward August. "I'll kill you first," he hissed loudly.
The sound of a small cannon blasted through the remaining noises of the battle, overwhelming the noise of the shrill alarm. Everyone paused for a moment as a crater appeared in the side of the mad Doctor's armored suit.
A loud voice rang out from the dim area near the trees at the edge of the parking lot. "Her name was Ellie!" The cannon sound roared again and sparks flew from a small box on the Doctor's left side as the man/machine turned to face the voice. "She didn't deserve to die." Another shot rang out and everyone could see the muzzle flash coming from a shadowy form crouched next to the broken masonry of a sign, a handgun with an impossibly long barrel braced on the top. "Nobody deserved to die like this, you crazy madman." Flames shot from the end of the barrel again, and sparks flew as the screaming slug slammed into the right side of the Doctor's chest plate.
The Doctor's voice rose in pitch, the speakers sparking as they transmitted his yell, causing it to echo from the walls. His robotic right arms hung limp at his side, but the left-hand sub-machine gun aimed at the figure by the trees. Fire sputtered from the barrel…
Another yell broke the silence that fell after the machine gun finished, the yell of a giant, a raging force of nature unleashed among men.
August stood on the eight-foot robotic form, his massive arms straining as he grabbed handfuls of wire and pulled, hoses and connections breaking apart under his onslaught. He grabbed one of the right arms of the machine and his muscles bulged for a moment, a great sound exploding from his lungs. The metallic arm tore loose with a shriek of metal and the scream of a madman coming from the speakers. August raised the arm above his head and brought it down on top of the robot. Again and again, he hammered the metal dome of the machine until it shattered under his attacks.
August reached into the cracked carriage and pulled a decayed lump of humanity from its cradle. He lifted the Doctor's zombie body above his head and crashed it down on the ground. Leaping after it he picked up the robotic arm and smashed it into the writhing creature. Concrete, blood and bone flew.
August dropped to his knees, the huge robotic arm slipping to the ground next to him. He closed his eyes, sweat and blood streaming down his face.
Claire looked at Lone Wolf, who nodded at her silent question. She moved forward and sat next to August, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. Fae ran forward on the other side of August and did the same.
"It's okay, August," Claire whispered. "He's dead. The Doctor is dead."
Jed walked to the edge of the parking lot, now riddled with bullets.
"Charlie? Holy cow, Charlie. Is that you?" Jed cradled the limp form in his arms, using a scrap of cloth to wipe the blood and stone chips from Charlie's face.
Charlie chuckled, bubbles of blood appearing on his lips. "Hey, Jed," he whispered. "Like my new gun?"
Jed stared at Charlie, trying to stop the free-flowing blood from his chest with his right hand. Charlie's face twisted, a grimace crossing his features. "You know," he said, "I hated you for being a vamp. When the big guy dropped me off, I headed west." Charlie coughed, spitting small drops of blood into the air. They landed on his face and Jed tried to clean them off. "There was this girl, a lady vamp. A bear got her. Isn't that funny?" Charlie's voice dropped to a whisper. "She's a vamp and a bear got her. I wanted to hate her for being a vamp, but I couldn't do it. She reminded me of Ellie. She was beat up and hurt and dying. So I sat with her. We ate the bear that killed her. That's irony, isn't it?" Jed leaned closer to hear Charlie's whispers. "She said she escaped from Vegas, that this crazy doctor lived here, did all sorts of experiments on people. That he made the virus." Charlie's voice dropped to a whisper, the bubbles of blood lessening as he spoke.
"So I hated the Doctor. Been waiting weeks to get a shot at him." Charlie's voice disappeared, his chest barely moving up and down, blood seeping from the chest wound. "Hate is funny. It gets to be a habit. When you don't have it any more, you sort of miss it."
Jed rocked him, tears flowing from his blue eyes. "Unless you replace it with something else, Charlie."
Charlie responded in a whisper. "Yeah, I guess so. I don't know. It's funny. I don't hate you anymore. I don't feel happy that all these vamps died. I feel…empty."
Jed didn't have any words.
Charlie's eyes opened wide and he grabbed Jed's shoulder with his left hand. "Do you think it will be a better place?" he asked in a suddenly strong voice, his eyes pleading with Jed.
Jed nodded. "Better than this? I'm sure of it." A tear from Jed's eye splashed on Charlie's forehead.
Charlie's eyes closed, his voice fading away. "I'm glad. This wasn't that good, anyway." Charlie's chest rattled and his body shuddered. Charlie died.
Maddie kneeled down across from Jed, reaching out to touch his hand. "He's gone, Jed."
Jed nodded. "Yeah, I know. From here, anyway." Maddie helped him lay Charlie down. Jed picked the pistol up and checked the chambers. "I only ever saw one fifty caliber pistol before. Quite the weapon…" He looked at Charlie's lifeless body. "Quite the man."
~
They put Ted's body next to Charlie's body, under the trees in the still green grass of the small yard next to the parking lot.
"Ted died saving us," whispered Claire. "I told him he could come, but to help me drive. I told him to wait in the truck for me."
"He followed your orders, Claire. He also followed his conscience. That's why he came, to protect you. To help us," whispered Jed, giving Claire a quick hug.
A tear rolled down Claire's cheek. "He was a hero, even if he wasn't transformed." She looked up at the distress in August's face and looked at the others in the small group. "You're all heroes."
"I am the cause of the Z-virus," whispered August. "I'm not a hero. I'm a monster."
Jed looked back at the parking lot, where birds now started to circle overhead. "No, August. The monster is dead. The hero killed it."
August said nothing, staring at the ground, his eyes full of pain.
Lone Wolf looked at the bodies of the two men. "We will take Ted home and bury him. We bury our own," he said.
Jed looked around at the small group. "We'll take Charlie, too," he said. "At the end, he was one of us, or close to it. We can bury him at the ranch."
The setting sun cast a red hue against the sky as they turned toward the Bellagio.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Name It and Claim It Ain't It



So many Pastors today preach a "name it and claim it" philosophy, and they back it up with Bible verses like this one:
"whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
The thing is, when you take pieces of the Bible you can use them to back up almost any belief you want to espouse. The Bible is a complete book, a picture of who God is, given to us to know more about God from a human perspective. You cannot take it in bits and pieces.

For instance, the quote above was something Jesus said directly to Peter. Pastors will tell you it applies to us all, but that does not mean we can decide what to do and Heaven will okay it with a big stamp of approval.

We don't bend God to our will - ever. That's not the purpose of prayer, that's not the reason to become or remain a Christian. God is not some Heavenly Grandfather peering down and winking at our indiscretions and looking for ways to bless us.

Yes, we have blessings, and God will pour them down on us. Micah 3:10 says clearly
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 
But that's out of context, too. This was a promise given to the people of Israel, after scolding them for robbing God. Yes, the promise reflects to us, but there is a condition to it. Give back to God what belongs to Him, and the blessings He has for us will be poured out.

That is still far from "name it and claim it" that is preached by some current churches.

Jesus says very clearly in Matthew 6:33 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." That IS a promise to us, but the "all things" are the things we need, not the things we want.

God supplies our needs. If God gives you more than what you need, look around. Maybe He wants you to help supply the needs of others.

It is more blessed to give than receive. That is from the Bible - from Acts 20:35.
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' "
Thanks for reading. God bless you.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Jeremiah



Darling asked me whether God delivered His promises from Jeremiah 29:11-14 to me.

First of all, God always delivers on His promises. The question is do we recognize them when we get them.

Sometimes the promises are conditional. We act, and God works.

Let's look at what He promised us here.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

These passages are full of God's promises.

Yes, this message is written to the exiled Israelites in Babylon, as shown by Jer 29:10: This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place."

Like so much of the Bible, though, God's word is given to His people at the time and reflected to His people throughout time. That's us.

So God has plans to prosper me, not harm me. Honestly, there were many times in my life when I felt God punished me - and hard. Two divorces, essentially the loss of my three children, the distance from my family, the loss of my baby brother... All these things hurt and I struggled.

Yet God gave me a hope and a future, and I am happier in my life now than ever before (much of it due to Darling). God did prosper me. Sixteen years ago I was financially destroyed from my second divorce, and had no hope for financial freedom, but God gave me that as well.

For decades now I sought God with all my heart. Not constantly - I'm not that good, but consistently, like the ebb and flow of the tides on the beach. God knows my weaknesses better than I, and I keep coming back. I do seek Him with all my heart. And I found Him!

Look, I'm not perfect, and I never will be, but God is. More than that, God is always faithful.

If you seek Him, you will find Him. That's a promise.

Don't you want to find God?

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Hunting August Moon - Chapter 43

Chapter 43
The lab felt more than deserted; it felt abandoned. August heard the hum of the flickering fluorescent lighting. Unconsciously he rolled his massive shoulders, a chill running up his spine.
"Hey, Doc. I brought him." Sam spoke at a moderate level, but his voice disappeared into the lab as if absorbed by the walls.
"August…" Speakers along the walls of the lab crackled with that single word.
"Hello, Doctor." August looked around the room. "Workers on strike? It's not as busy as I recall."
Sam nudged August with his gun. "So what about Agnes, Doc?"
The speakers buzzed. "I've already sent word to release her back to your room."
Sam cleared his throat. "Great. So about that other thing we talked about. When we left you said I could have the formula…"
"For the blood wine. I remember." The voice chuckled. "When you leave I'll give it to you, Sam. But you're not leaving yet."
Sam's face flushed. "Why, Doc? You said you didn't need me anymore."
"Sam, Sam, Sam. Until I get what I need from August, I want you to continue your travels and share your virus. As far as I can tell, you're unique, Sam."
"Yeah, I already know that, Doc. I'm like Typhoid Mary, an asymptomatic carrier, etcetera. But I brought you August," Sam pleaded.
"You are not asymptomatic," the speakers boomed. A hissing sound exploded from the speakers as the Doctor sighed. "Never mind, Sam. There's nothing to gain by explaining the subtle technical differences. You are the most useful virus mutation I developed," the voice explained.
"How about the one that spreads to rats, Doc? Isn't that useful?" Sam's voice rose in volume.
"Rats?" The voice paused. "That's new. I'll have to send that information to…people who might need to know that. I might have you carry that story personally, Sam."
"Gee, thanks, Doc." Sam looked around nervously. "So do you need me to watch him?" Sam pointed at August, who stood like a statue.
"Oh, no, Sam, I'm quite in control - and impervious to harm from August Moon." The voice held shades of subtle anger. "You may go, Sam."
Sam turned to face August, reaching out to shake his manacled hands.
"Told you, Sam," whispered August.
A low growl started in Sam's throat and August felt a small, cold piece of metal placed in his hand as Sam grasped it awkwardly. "Good-bye, August," Sam said loudly. "Good damned luck," he whispered. Sam disappeared out the door and August heard it click behind him.
"So, you still have bosses." August forced a tone of casualness into his voice.
A chuckle came from the speakers, echoing eerily across the empty lab room. "A few who think they are still higher in my chain of command, but they are not my superiors." The voice made a sharp snort. "I am the one who will get this right, August. And do you want to know why? Because I once again have you." The voice laughed. "It's good to have you back, August."
"So now what, Doc? Study me some more? Figure out how I live so long?" August asked.
The Doctor's voice rose in volume, a self-centered oration. "Now I finish what I started all those years ago. I created what emperors and kings, magicians and scientists throughout the history of mankind sought and failed to find. I created the pinnacle of genius, August Moon. The elixir of life. The true Immortality Elixir. From your blood." The voice paused, snarling. "I almost succeeded before you escaped August, almost had the perfect elixir. Now, I have you again and I will be the father of the new humanity, Immortal humankind."
August sighed. "It is you, isn't it? I was hoping the virus killed you off. If there was any justice, you would have been the first person someone bit."
"Bit?" The voice rose in anger. "Bit? You are such a lackwit. Where do you think the virus came from, August Moon? It started here, in this lab. You're the cause of the virus!"
August's eyebrows shot up. "What?" he stammered.
"I had to engineer a virus to create my Immortality Elixir, August. That's the genius, you see. A fermentation process using a retrovirus synthesized from your DNA. Did you think the virus came from nowhere?"
August shook his head, his eyes wide. "This virus creates zombies."
"You're much stupider than I recall. Despite my precautions, the virus went airborne. It escaped my lab and infected the guards and other workers here. It had a five-day incubation, August. The virus started in Vegas. That's why it spread across the world so fast."
August whispered. "I didn't cause this. You caused this."
The voice rose in anger. "Semantics. You are the source. I accidentally set it free before it was ready to transform the world." The Doctor laughed. "The retrovirus does what my Immortality Elixir does, August, but the virus is out of my control. The virus spread across the world. There are others like you now."
August grunted. "You think killing most of the people on the planet is transformation?"
"Of course," the Doctor continued smoothly. "Survival of the fittest. The infection killed the weak of our species. It created a new race." The voice rose in volume, gleeful. "I created a new race, an immortal race!"
August was furious. "Creating and spreading a pandemic that decimates the population of the world is monstrous."
The Doctor chuckled. "Not for those who are left. My original plan, my elixir, would have made me ruler of mankind, the wealthiest person alive." The voice held a trace of bitterness. "This isn't how I wanted to do it, but I still succeeded."
"You don't want to admit culpability for your actions. You're the greatest mass murderer that will ever exist." August raised his voice even louder.
The Doctor snorted again. "Collateral damage. Necessary sacrifices to evolve mankind, to allow us to live forever, even expand to the stars. I accomplished in a few years what would have taken nature a million years to achieve."
August shook with fury, his voice a tortured whisper. "You're insane."
"A small-minded, petty response," The Doctor said, chuckling, the speakers crackling even more. "Exactly what I'd expect from you."
"You are insane. You killed our species," August replied.
The voice sharpened. "What do you mean?
"We can't reproduce, therefore the species becomes stagnant, eventually becomes extinct." August ground his teeth. "You did that. Killed us all."
"Ah, I see," said the voice. "That's a misconception. You can have children. Well, maybe you can't, but the vampires can." The Doctor paused. "I know of a number of vampire children. Cross-breeding doesn't seem possible, but it could be."
August glared at the speakers. "I live with a Transformed couple, and she can't get pregnant."
"Did she have children before she became a vampire?" the Doctor asked clinically.
August frowned. "No."
The Doctor made a derisive noise. "Well, you're an idiot. That's the reason. Can a five-year old have children? A ten-year old? No. The body must reach maturity to have children. She isn't old enough."
August shook his head. "Of course she's old enough. She's at least in her thirties."
"Bah. A child by the new standards," said the Doctor.
August bit his lower lip. "So what is the new child-bearing age?"
"I suspect she needs to be three hundred or so. At least a hundred." August could hear the lack of interest over the speakers.
August's face became grim. "In that case, why are there other children? Was it the blood wine like Tomás said?"
Doctor Doctor laughed, the sound echoing from the speakers eerily. "Tomás is an idiot. He thinks blood wine is the solution to everything because he is addicted to it."
August shook his head. "Your logic is flawed. You say it isn't the blood wine, but some vampires have children. None are a hundred yet. You're not making sense."
"If they already had children when they became vampires, their bodies are ready." The Doctor's voice grew taut. "Weren't you listening?"
"I guess I didn't understand," he said.
"Of course not," the Doctor said, his voice suddenly tinny over the speakers. "You don't understand anything."
"So if you have it all figured out, Doc, why do you need me?" August asked.
"Why?" The voice rose. "I plan to perfect my Immortality Elixir, to prove I was right." The voice dropped to a whisper. "And I will use you to develop a cure for the virus."
"No one has ever found a cure for the infection, Doc," said August.
"No one is as smart as I am, August Moon. Nor as motivated," said the voice. August heard a motor, and one wall of the lab slid open.
"Motivated?" August turned toward the open wall. A metal machine entered the room, hoses and wires stretched across its frame, though encased in sturdy, combat-proof mesh. Red liquids flowed through tubes, in and out of small containers strapped to the sides of the eight-foot tall device. It turned toward August, the tracks on the bottom making grinding noises across the tiled floor. August noticed the scars on the floor indicating the same tracks traveled in this room often.
"Yes, August Moon. Motivated." The speakers in the room echoed precisely the voice coming from the machine. The metal surface of the machine gleamed, reflecting the fluorescent lights in the lab. A small light emitting diode switched on in the interior of the body of the machine.
A face covered with rotting zombie flesh stared at August through a glass pane, the decaying lips stretched back from the gleaming teeth that protruded from the visible white bone of the jaw. The jaw moved and the lips turned up in a grimace that might have been a smile.
"You are going to heal my body." The Doctor glared down at August, his piercing blue eyes shining from a bone skull partially covered with weeping, sore-covered skin.
August backed up from the horror staring at him, his eyes riveted on the unblinking stare of the white and blue orbs in the ravaged face.
One of the darkened rooms opened and five vampires stepped through, moving toward August, long metal clubs in their hands.
"I'm afraid I plan to use all your blood this time." The Doctor's voice cackled. "And it will hurt, August." The cackle turned to maniacal laughter. "It will hurt a lot."
~
August backed away from the main door, leading the five vampires toward the other end of the lab. "So, Doc, you expect to vacuum my blood off the floor?" August grinned. "Because I am not going without a fight."
The speakers crackled. "That's why there are five of them, August, with clubs instead of guns." The Doctor laughed, the eerie sound echoing from the speakers in his suit. "Even you can't defeat five vampires."
August rolled his shoulders and lifted his hands, dropping the cuffs to the floor. "Maybe not, Doc. But I can sure try."
"How did…" The Doctor's voice sputtered from his armor. "Sam did this," he snarled. The Doctor addressed the five vampires. "Get him cuffed and sedated. Every ounce of blood he loses is an ounce of blood wine you don't get."
The five vampires looked at each other, their faces grim, and they advanced toward August, moving into a semicircle.
"What? You guys don't want to do the kung-fu movie thing? Come at me one at a time?" August taunted.
"Just shut him up," yelled the Doctor.
August smirked as the five advanced toward him. "I know something you don't know," he whispered to himself.
The vampires started to charge August as the other lab door opened. A red blur moved into the room. The blade of a sword appeared in the chest of the vampire on the left, his mouth opened in surprise as he dropped to the floor.
"Hey August! You can use that sword," giggled Fae as the second vampire turned toward her. "Just pull it out of his back." She sliced the second man open from his right shoulder to his left hip and reversed her swing to cut across his neck.
"No!" screeched the robotic man. "No! Not again! Stop them!" The robotic body moved back through the sliding wall. The wall slid shut. Alarms sounded throughout the room.
August stepped into the reach of the vampire on his left, slamming his elbow into the man's ribs. The sound of cracking bones blended with the grunt of the man as he backed up. August followed the first blow with the palm of his hand against the man's chin and he toppled to the floor.
The two remaining vampires backed up.
"We work for the wine," one of them said, raising his arms.
The other shook his head and growled. "Which we don't get if you get away," he said, moving forward rapidly and swinging at Fae.
She moved aside gracefully, taunting them. "You guys move so slow…" She danced around the man and sliced the edge of her blade through his neck, stepping back to avoid the cascade of blood.
August stepped forward and hit the final man between the eyes with his massive right fist. The club dropped from his raised hand and the man's body collapsed to the floor.
"Hey, he surrendered," objected Fae.
"I know," said August, his face dark with rage. "I didn't kill him."
Fae pulled her first sword from the dead guard. "And I gave you a sword to use, you know." She glanced at August's pistol, holstered at her slim waist. "Did you want to use your gun, instead? I didn't think of that," she said.
August moved to the sliding wall and tried to pry his fingers in the edge, straining to make the wall move. "Come out of there, you maniac!" he yelled, his muscles bulging. He stepped back and slammed his fist into the wall, the skin from his knuckles cracking open, leaving bloody marks on the paint. "Come out!"
Fae moved behind August and wrapped her arms around his middle. "It's okay, August," she whispered. "It's okay. We can get him later."
August continued to slam his fists into the wall, a dark fury building inside his chest. "Come back here! Let's end this, once and for all."
Fae squeezed him tightly, a look of concern on her face. "C'mon, August. C'mon. We have to go find Maddie." She tugged harder. "Maddie needs us, August. We'll get the creepy doctor robot guy later."
August stopped hitting the wall and stepped back, blood flowing down his fingers from his ravaged knuckles. Streaks of red marked the mottled paint of the wall.
"Yeah." August took a deep breath, the fury uncoiling inside him. "Maddie. We have to find Maddie." He listened to the alarms. "And we have to hurry. He might be looking for her, too."
Fae cleaned her swords on one of the vampire's shirts. He groaned and she hit him in the head.
"He wasn't a dead one, you know," August pointed out, tearing a shirt into strips of cloth and wrapping them around his bloody knuckles.
"He had the cleanest shirt," said Fae, slipping the swords onto her back awkwardly. "I still have a hard time putting these swords on my back."
August shrugged as they moved down the hallway at a fast trot, buckling his pistol back on his waist. "You're getting better. They are elegant weapons."
Fae grinned. "Hey, I know that one. 'For a more civilized time,' right?"
August pressed the elevator button. "Civilized age," he answered, pulling her close and hugging her. "Thanks for the save, by the way."
The doors opened and August disabled the elevator. He stepped around the two bodies by the desk and raised his eyebrows at Fae.
"What?" asked Fae. "Sam left them here, as guards, I guess. They wouldn't surrender and I didn't have time to clean up after myself." She reached for the doorknob to the outside.
"Wait," said August. "That alarm has been sounding for a while."
He moved her to the side, against the cinder block wall. Standing next to the door, he reached over and turned the knob, letting a sliver of light into the room. Bullets hammered into the door.
"You fools!" The Doctor's strident voice lashed out over powerful speakers. "I need him alive and relatively unharmed." The Doctor paused. "I don't care about the girl, though. You can kill her."
August groaned.
"If you surrender, August, I'll spare the girl," the Doctor's metallic voice boomed. "I promise," he said.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Status

Just a quick note to let you know we're still around. I haven't written anything in two weeks because I'm SICK. Man, getting old is for the birds. I remember getting a cold when I was younger and I shook it off in a couple days. Now it takes two weeks.

Darling caught this bug from me, but with her it always moves to bronchitis, so she's really having a horrible time with coughing.

I did go see a specialist about my migraines. I'll keep you posted on that, thanks for asking.

And my monitor went bizarro on me, so I switched it with a spare from the other room.

In Starbound, I figured out how to make an Erchius reactor - everyone should have one. The same technique can be used to create healing water, which isn't useful since they didn't give us the ability to make potions with it, but it does glow a nice blue, so you can use it to highlight constructions.

Or use lava. Or both.

Thanks for reading. Back to my bottle of medicine and off to bed!


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Hunting August Moon - Chapter 42

Chapter 42
With scratches and dents, the brown cargo truck had seen better days. It sat backed up against the loading dock of a small building in a cul-de-sac.  The other buildings surrounding the area were boarded up and falling apart. One tall building stood opposite the area where they were loading, most of its glass windows still intact, though the missing ones gave it an air of profound neglect. A large bald man with a thick, old scar running across the left side of his head paused, wiping his face on his sleeve. His right eye drooped. The right side of his mouth didn't move when he spoke, but the left side turned up in a perpetual grin. "One more crate and we're loaded, Wilson," he said.
A man in a ragged, faded red baseball cap watched, his thumbs behind his belt. "Good, Abe. Let me know when you're finished." He looked around at the rest of the crew guarding the truck. "Get ready to move out, ladies." He shook his head. "I don't know where the Doc is going to get more bottles for this hooch. We're already using Mason jars and running out of lids."
One of the guards, a small, rail-thin man with stringy black hair stood smoking a cigarette. "He'll send some of the whiners to find more containers. They'll do it, too. They love this stuff." He cracked his oversized knuckles, the popping noises making the woman next to him flinch.
"They hate this wine, trust me, Neal. But it's a bitch to kick the habit and most of these whiners don't have the guts to go through the detox." She stood about five and a half feet tall, her left hand on the butt of her pistol, her eyes scanning the area. "It 'bout near killed me."
The big guy loaded the last crate and looked at her, mostly from his one good eye. "You were a whiner, Sarah? I've never met an ex-whiner…"
Sarah shook her head, her brown hair swinging and she sighed. "What did I just say, Abe?"
Abe paused. "Uh, that you used to drink the wine, but you don't."
"Put your gun away, Kiersa. This isn't a game," yelled Wilson.
A black guard with her hair in cornrows rolled her eyes and put her pistol back in her holster. "I only do this for the money, you know," Kiersa said.
Abe stepped down from the truck, the back end moving up as he did so. "I don't get no money," he said. He looked at Wilson. "I don't get a gun, either. Wilson, you said I'd get a gun..."
Wilson covered his eyes with his hand and shook his head. "Abe, I'll let you have a gun when we get back. Really. I just need to find the right one."
Kiersa patted Abe on his thick shoulder. "I was joking. I don't get money either, Abe." She grinned. "I do this job for the social standing."
Abe looked at her with questioning eyes and Kiersa giggled. "I do it for fun, like you."
Abe's face lit up. "Oh, me too." A slight pout formed on the left side of his mouth. "But I still should have a gun."
Sarah walked over and patted him on the back. "You can use mine in a little while. Then we'll find one of your very own."
Abe's smile returned. "Okay, Sarah. Thanks."
Neal piped up, cracking his knuckles again. "You know, Wilson, there's a lot of fifty-five gallon drums in those factories… I forget their names."
Kiersa grinned. "Hey, that's not a bad idea. It sure would make loading this stuff easier."
"Like you did any loading...," muttered Sarah.
"Fine wine in a drum," Neal laughed. "Beats a box, I guess."
"Or a bottle in a brown paper bag," Sarah laughed.
"It's above our pay grade, boys and girls. Our job is delivery," said Wilson.
"You're such a jerk, Wilson. Just because you were a corporal or something in Viet Nam doesn't mean you're the boss of us," said Neal.
"Yeah, in fact, it does," said Wilson. He waved his finger at Neal. "As a matter of fact…"
A screaming woman rounded the corner by the building on the left. She held the top of her torn blue dress up with her right hand, protecting her bare breasts. "Help! Help me. They jumped me. I think they're right behind me."
Neal stared at the woman's bare shoulders. "I would have jumped you too, chica," he sneered.
Wilson pulled his pistol from his holster and snapped, "Shut up, Neal. It's a trap."
Annie's face showed genuine distress. "What?" she yelled as she came to a stop next to Wilson. "They tore my dress…"
Wilson grunted, looking around. "It's a trap. Grab her and tie her up," he said to Neal.
Neal snickered as he grabbed Annie by the upper arm. "We might tear more than your dress…"
Sarah had her pistol out and she scanned the area. "Oh my god, Neal," she said. "Would you shut the hell up? I draw the line at rape, you stupid…"
"Yeah, I'm with Sarah on that, Neal. No rape," said Kiersa. She poked Neal in the side with her finger.
"Shouldn't I have a gun, too?" groaned Abe.
Sarah grabbed his arm and pulled him next to her. "You stand right there and protect me, okay?" she said.
Abe nodded and rolled his thick shoulders.
"Listen. Whoever you are, we're going to keep her with us until we get to the edge of town, so back off," yelled Wilson.
Neal yelled at the empty courtyard. "Yeah, and I'll cut her throat if you mess with us." Neal pulled a thick knife from a scabbard at his belt and waved it menacingly.
Wilson looked toward the corner where Annie came from and raised his voice again. "It was a nice plan, but we're not stupid, you know."
"A girl can hope," muttered Annie, her arm held tightly by Neal, her right hand holding the front of her dress up.
Around the corner of the building, out of sight of the truck and guards, Rosa sighed. "I hate when a plan doesn't work out," she said to Maddie.
"Plans rarely work out. Some less so than others, though. This one, not so much." Maddie stepped out and used her sling to throw a smooth stone at Neal. He saw it coming and moved to the side.
"What the hell? Throwing rocks at me? I'll…" Neal raised the knife toward Annie, whose face went pale.
Wilson grunted. "You'll do nothing, Neal. Kill her and we have to fight however many nutcases are out there. Besides, the rock missed you by a mile."
"Pretty pathetic, if you ask me. Throwing rocks at us…," muttered Neal.
"Let her go," yelled Maddie, staying hidden behind the edge of the building. "Let her go and we'll go away."
"You promise?" Kiersa sneered.
"Get in the truck, Kiersa," said Wilson. "The rest of you in the back and guard the cargo." He jerked his thumb toward Annie. "Aside from her, this is a routine mission." They started moving. "Bunch'a amateurs," Wilson muttered.
A rock flew through the air and hit Neal between the eyes, dropping him like a slaughtered bull. Annie, released from his grasp, ran for the cover of the corner of the building.
"Don't let her get away. They took out Neal," shouted Kiersa, raising her pistol to fire at Annie's back.
An arrow appeared in her arm and Kiersa dropped the pistol, instinctively pulling her arm close to her chest, blood flowing down her shirt.
"They're above us," shouted Wilson. He dropped to the ground and rolled under the truck.
When Sarah saw the arrow appear in Kiersa's arm she raised her hands and dropped the pistol. It clattered to the ground. "I'm unarmed," she yelled.
Annie ducked around the corner, hugging Maddie. "Thanks," she said, tying her dress behind her neck.
"That wasn't me…," whispered Maddie. Raising her voice, she yelled to the guards. "Drop your guns and walk toward my voice and we'll let you live."
"I don't have a gun." Abe said sadly. He looked toward the corner where Maddie was. "Can I come anyway?"
"Oh, for goodness sake, Abe! Walk next to me with your arms in the air," Sarah shouted at him.
A stream of curses came from under the truck as Abe, Sarah and Kiersa walked toward the corner of the building where Annie disappeared. Wilson's cursing continued as the other three guards moved around the corner and faced Annie, Maddie and Rosa.
Rosa wrapped cable ties around their ankles and around Sarah and Abe's wrists. Annie tore a piece of cloth from the bottom of her dress.
"This is gonna hurt, chica," she said, looking at Kiersa and nodding at the arrow. "You ready?"
Kiersa's eyes widened but she nodded her head. Annie broke the head from the arrow and pulled the shaft backward from the wound as blood poured out of Kiersa's arm. Kiersa screamed, tears flowing from her eyes.
"What the hell are you doing to them? You said they'd be okay," yelled Wilson. "You buncha cowards..."
"Says the guy under the truck," muttered Maddie.
"Thanks," grumbled Kiersa, as Annie wrapped the torn strip of cloth around her wounded arm.
"The dress was ruined anyway." Annie said. "I have to tie your hands, too," she added.
"A stinking arrow? Nobody can shoot an arrow from that high and hit someone in the arm!" Wilson started swearing again, getting more colorful and more loud. "And a rock! Who the hell can throw a rock that hard and hit someone between the eyes? That's what I want to know!"
Maddie jerked her head up and she looked at Rosa with tears in her eyes. "He's right. I only know one person who could do that."
Jed stood at the side of the building, a wide grin across his face. "That would be me."
Maddie's eyes glistened as she rushed forward. Jed met her halfway, lifting her from the ground, his lips pressed against hers.
Maddie nuzzled his neck, her arms wrapped tightly around him, her legs wrapped around his waist. "I thought you might be dead," she whispered, the tears flowing down her face into Jed's hair.
"Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated," said Jed, his mouth close to Maddie's ear. He chuckled and whispered. "I've waited my whole life to say that line." He inhaled deeply. "You smell amazing."
Finally Maddie and Jed stood apart from each other, Jed looking at her with admiring eyes. "Love the sequins," he said.
"Hi, I'm Annie." Annie stepped forward and held her hand out for Jed to shake, the top of her dress dipping dangerously low. "You'd be Jed." Annie pointed at Maddie's jeans. "I found those. Nice, huh?"
"Hate to interrupt, but what are you folks doing, and what do you want to do about the loud one?" Caru shook Maddie's hand. "Name's Caru, by the way." He looked at Annie and Rosa and smiled broadly. "You ladies can call me anything you want, any time you want to."
Lone Wolf rolled his eyes. "Even the great Achilles had a weakness," he muttered. He smiled at the two women and pointed to himself. "I'm Lone Wolf." He bowed.
"Hi," smiled Abe. "I'm Abe. You can call me Abe…" his forehead crinkled in concentration, "Well, 'cuz that's my name and I don't think I'd answer if you called me anything else."
"Oh, brother," muttered Sarah.
"Hello?" Wilson's voice was quieter now. "Is anyone out there?"