Carlos loved these conflicts, him being the best qualified, the "Top Gun, " The stakes, the Philippines. Constantly scanning for the enemy; long ago they stopped being so obvious, the last war being atypical. The French tried using anti-gravity belts to land on him... They always had bad tactics. The Japanese on the other hand, with their technology, made things more devious and harder to avoid.
Thinking about his wife, who was close to giving birth. Being in a safe house, they could not use her to get to him. He promised her he would be there when the baby came, Mother assured him he would be notified when the time came.
Carlos stopped walking, so rapped in his thoughts he almost missed it. the little dog steadily approaching him, the hairs on the back of his neck raised, he took out his sensor. It registered normal, but something wasn't right. He ducked into a doorway, the building sensors admitted him.
A mechanical voice came through some hidden speakers. "May we be of assistance? "
"No. Wait yes. Is there another way in? "
"Affirmative, there is a service entrance "
"Thank you, please order a car sent to me there."
"Your car is on the way. Will there be anything else sir?"
"Yes, show me the front."
A view screen came to life on the wall, showing the dog sniffing the building. He activated his com-link.
"Mother, 2XL here"
"The sensors are being beaten, stand by, sending a feed of it." He adjusted a dial and relayed the image to Mother.
"Okay, 2XL, got it. We'll work on it, and remember to stay clear. Midnight is not far off. We cannot afford to lose."
Rolling his eyes. "Yeah, I know. Duty, Honor Country, 2XL out. God, I hate war" he said.
" What is it"
"Your car is waiting"
" Show me"
The image on the monitor changed, to the rear of the building, nothing but the car. Satisfied, he went out the back and jumped into a waiting car.
A disembodied voice came to life "Destination, please. "
He thought for a moment. "Take me to the Syracuse Amphitheater. "He keyed in his credit code and relaxed as the car smoothly took off. He wanted to go there because he'll see anyone approaching, plus, with its view of the lake, made for a nice place to relax.
Thinking about his life, he didn't mind being a soldier (not much anyway). The prestige of being the best at avoidance, a wonderful bonus. His finely-tuned instincts, the most sought after throughout the world, though he can be a gamer for any country, Carlos loved America, he still recited the Pledge Of Allegiance. But now with his wife about to have their allotted child, left him wanting to retire. He saved enough credits for them to live comfortably for the rest of their lives.
"We are here sir. " The disembodied voice broke his train of thought.
"Apologies, but you did not request the scenic route. "
Grunting, "What the Hell is so scenic about Syracuse? " As he opened the door, he noticed birds circling overhead. A sudden uneasiness washed over him. Instinctively he knew the flock was the enemy, he slammed the door.
" Take off anywhere." activating the com link.
" Mother, come in damn it, Mother. "
"Yes, 2XL. "
"They are manipulating birds now, " Carlos said.
"We are downloading upgrades."
"Got it, now let's see if it works. " Tracking the fading flock, the reader confirmed what his senses told him, but the extent of the genetic manipulation controlling beasts staggered him.
"Mother, is what I am seeing correct? "
"Yes, we've been experimenting in the area ourselves, but I'm afraid they are a few years ahead of us. From the information obtained, as yet, no humans. We believe they need at least another generation to perfect it."
Carlos whistled. "That close huh?"
"Yes, but don't worry, we'll have something for it by then. Keep your distance from any creatures, Four and a half hours of war left. Afterward, it won't be an issue."
"Mother, I'm going deep."
"We understand," Mother ended the transmission.
"I want you to drive around the city in your tourist mode. Whenever possible I want you to avoid animals and people, and above all, do not stop for any reason, understood?"
Settling back in the leather seats, he had not slept nor rested much in the last two days. Four hours left, and it would be over. Carlos sighed, "War, right!" he found himself wishing for the old days when soldiers lived or died by their wits. Nowadays war is fought, with little attention by the public. One or two lines in the morning paper, at the end, when the loser relinquished some territory, or forfeit some debt. No destruction, no loss of life. Now the only time a soldier got hurt if he tripped over something.
"Better than the land and its people being ravaged, I guess"
"Sir?" The voice asked.
"Never mind, just talking to myself."
Carlos focused on a Mormon billionaire Vice President, who rose to the Presidency upon the death of the President. The people of this country, exhausted from multiple world wars, gladly adopted his executive orders halting or withdrawing from all world conflicts. When he proposed to the United Nations that engagements best be settled by a children's game, the world, also tired of wars, started taking his peaceful and environmental ideas seriously and within sixty years, they were fully adopted.
Looking at the time he saw that it was 4 hours till V-time, things were going to get hot
"Travel car" Carlos called.
"I want to go to the Erie Canal Museum in the old historic Syracuse district."
The adrenaline flowed, now at the end-stage. Things will turn more aggressive. When he arrived, Carlos told the car to return in twenty minutes.
He went into the building, which seems to come to life, in the foyer, a robotic voice spoke.
"Welcome to Erie Canal Museum "
He ignored the voice and the tour lights directing him, instead, he went up to the second level chamber. After keying in his access number, he went indoor closing behind him. He went to a scope like an item protruding from an opening and scanned his eye, a panel slid open to a keyboard, where he punched in the appropriate code. A back wall opens to another room. On the side of the door, a small glowing pad flashed red, he put a hand on the pad, and the flashing light turned green. The voice spoke.
" Please submit for voice identification."
"2XL, looking for support."
Once inside, the door shut behind him. Carlos eyed the safe house. He went to the wall with multi-screens. "Viewers on" They came to life. On them, views of all the entrances and corridors. One monitor showed two dogs sniffing around the doors. A car pulled up to the curb, a tall woman got out and walked toward the beasts, they turned and walked away as she approached.
"So I finally get to see one of them." he mused.
He went to a side unit and pushed a button. A closet opened, revealing an exact duplicate of himself. He fed in the activation program through a terminal and the man-droid came to life, a weirdness over took Carlos, he never felt comfortable with his countermeasures.
The man-droid stretched and yawned. "Well, well, well, look who needs me again." It spoke in what Carlos would describe as a most arrogant voice.
Carlos rolled his eyes, "Look cut the chatter, you're my countermeasure ."
"Well duh! Like you would activate me for anything else. I am the best after all"
"Yeah, like you'll ever let me forget. Get moving." Carlos ordered.
The man-droid went to the clothes simulator and came out wearing an identical clothing Carlos wore. It went to the mirror.
"Man you have to update your wardrobe."
The man-droid went to the exit slide. To Carlos: "Well Don't get tagged, you do not want me to look bad do you?"
"If you do your job right we will be sitting pretty."
"Like I could do anything less. Well like they say, Bonsai!" smiling the man-droid went down the chute. Carlos shook his head, never understanding why the man-droids personality differed from his, after all, they shared brain grafts. Once he asked a psyche-tech and was told the man-droid exhibited his repressed behavior patterns. He called him a quack.
Carlos tracked the man-droid as it walked out the building and into the vehicle, It took off as soon as the door closed. The woman ran out into her car and went after the Man-Droid.
Carlos smiled as he checked his chronometer. "Two hours left." His communicator went off.
"2XL here. What's up? I am supposed to be deep."
"Yes, Carlos, but I have some news. Your wife is going into labor. Are you clear?"
"Clearer than a baby's bottom."
"Ahem... Yes well, you better burn then. Mother out."
Carlos went to the chute, smiled sheepishly to himself, and yelled "Bonsai!" as he went down.
Carlos, deep in thought as he headed to the command medical facilities. Gene therapy; considered the most beneficial medical tool adopted by all nations. Splicing and altering (like plastic surgery in the twenty-first century) being all the rage of the twenty-second century. Families having traits and characteristics implanted in their children became the norm. But to program a being to be born with an instinct to obey, frightened him the most. Something else nagged at Carlos. What Mother said about them not being able to manipulate people until the next generation. He wondered...
Lisa smiled in between the contractions as her husband enter the stasis field.
"I thought you weren't going to make it. How's the war going?" She asked.
" Awesome as always. How's yours going?"
Another grunt. "Doing fine!" Carlos stepped into the room when the indicator cleared him from contaminants. He went up to his wife and took her hand, she winced as another contraction. "We turned into a bit of a narcissist haven't we?"
"Well, when you're..."
The med-tech entered the room cutting Carlos off in mid-sentence. "She will be having the baby in four minutes."
"You sure know how to set the mood don't you?" Carlos said.
"Three minutes and thirty-seven seconds."
Thought she was writhing uncomfortably, Carlos knew that she was not in pain, the synth-meds made sure of that. This was one advancement that Carlos had no problem with, he flinched inwardly as he thought of the time of yore when women had to endure the suffering of childbirth, and the clergy riots, trying, not only to halt the use of genetic manipulation but also the use of the synth-meds that spared woman the pain of childbirth, claiming that sparing the mother of that suffering, was in diffidence GOD"S edict passed down from the time of Eden... Pushing aside the thought, he reached for her offered hand as the Contractions cycles escalated. She squeezed, as the head crowned. As the med-tech managed the remover, the head started slipping out then the shoulders, quickly followed by the rest, and the baby boy was out. The med-tech supervised as the umbilical cord was cut, and after birth removed.
Carlos kissed her. "A son! You gave me a son! " The med-tech presented him with the baby, which Carlos accepted with glee. Suddenly the infant opened its eyes, and with a speed defying its newness, the infant took Carlos by the wrist and said "Tag... Our Endgame"
Carlos, froze, in what appeared to be shocked, then a slow, mischievousness smile settled on his face as he spoke." I beg to differ, the Endgame belongs to us, boy you guys are good, but not good enough. Cause I am better." He said Smiling as he reached up to the side of his head, pressing a hidden catch, his face sprung open like an old jack-in-the-box, revealing the micro webbing which made up his circulatory system. The baby stared dumbfounded, then started kicking as realization set in and went into a full fledge temper tantrum. Lisa stared in shock at who she thought was her husband. The man-droid shut his face and handed the newborn back to the med-tech. Lisa protested. " Who...What... " Confused not sure what to ask, she settled on"Where are they taking my baby?" She screamed releasing some hysteria building up.
The man-droid ignored her question "Mother, Carlos you can come in now."
Grabbing the man-droids arm Lisa screamed, repeating her question "WHERE ARE THEY TAKING MY CHILD?"
"Mother responded to her question. "We are taking the boy to isolation and deprogramming."
"Depro..." she stammered as the two hovered above. She stared at Carlos, then at the man-droid whose arm she held. The man-droid gently removed Lisa's hand as he spoke "Worked like a charm boss. The geek never saw what took him." Lisa exploded: GEEK! That so-called geek is my son, and I want to know what is going on? What deprogramming are you talking about?"
The Man droid started." We just..."
Carlos interrupted the man-droids. "If you don't mind I would like to bring my wife up to speed, thank you. Why don't you see if you can assist the med-tech."
The man-droid shrugged, "Touchy ain't we! No matter, sure I'll go help the tech." The man-droid winked at Lisa, turned and went over to the med-tech. Open-mouthed, Lisa watched him leave. "Who, or what is that?" Carlos reached down and took her hand. " That is my decoy."
Lisa glared sharply at Carlos. "Decoy! Just like me, a decoy? Just like your son, a decoy?"
Carlos started protesting. "No... No... it's not like that... Not like that at all..."
Mother, put his arm on Carlos's shoulder. "Why don't you let me explain." Mother went to the other side of Lisa's bed. "Lisa, I am very sorry about this, but it appears the enemy infected your child during the blastocyst stage of development. Its only purpose, Tag Carlos. Now with their failure, we believe we can reverse the effects." He turned to Carlos. "How did you figure out what they did to your son.
" A hunch mainly," Carlos replied.
"Just look at you two, patting yourselves on the back." Lisa snapped.
"Well, I'm telling you mister, either top gamer, world savior or my husband! Which one is it?"
Carlos looked at Mother somewhat embarrassed. Then back at his wife "Lisa please..."
Mother placed a hand on Carlos's shoulder. "Listen, son, maybe she is right. You've been avoiding for a long time, maybe it is time you retired.
"But who will replace me?"
"We've got a replacement who shows potential."
Carlos smiled down at Lisa, relief evident on his face. "Well, honey I guess it's decided!"
Mother turned to leave, at the door he turned and smiled back at the couple, as he walked out.
Mother sat at his desk going over some files when the intercom buzzed.
"Excuse me, sir, 3XL is here to see you."
" Send him in."
The door to the office whisked open. "What's up big cat?"
Mother glared up at the grinning man-droid disapprovingly. "I have asked you to stop calling me that, now please take a seat."
The man-droid rolled his eyes and slumped into a chair.
Mother inspected the facial features of the man-droid and nodded his approval of the surgery.
"Now we can get on with the briefing. Great Britain has declared war on the United States and the starting times are...."
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Richard Rodriguez.
Published on e-Stories.org on 10/23/2018.