Island Mine - Cover

Island Mine

Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik

Chapter 17


Marylee had made breakfast again. She had some idea that he should be eating healthier, but he hated her egg white only omelets. He didn't want to tell her that his cholesterol levels were probably better than hers or anyone else she could test.

While she wasn't looking, he splashed some Tabasco sauce on the egg whites and shoveled them into his mouth as quickly as possible.

She turned around and scrunched her nose, suspicious at his quick movements.

He gulped the last of the egg down and swallowed a mouthful of orange juice. He wiped his mouth, "What do you have planned for today?"

She put the dishtowel she was holding down, "Remy and Jaidee are taking me out on one of the boats. I'm going to get a bunch of new photos for the web site."

Waylon tried not to groan. That idea had really taken off with Marylee's return and Remy was just as excited. "Should Jaidee be doing that?"

"She's pregnant, not broken."

Waylon caught the towel that had been thrown at him, "What about the clinic?"

Marylee had brought back several diagrams of a new clinic layout that she wanted.

"Felix says it will only be a few days of carpentry work. What about you, what are you doing today?"

"More training."

Her only reply was non-verbal and Waylon knew he couldn't put that conversation off much longer.

His training session went well and he thought he was ready. One thing he and the AIs hadn't agreed on was mission duration. The AIs wanted him to stay up for at least a week. Waylon was aiming for four days, maybe five at the most. It was selfish, but he didn't want to be away from Marylee for that long. Besides, everybody left on Freehold would be stuck there until he returned. That would change after Arman and Felix earned their wings.

Waylon walked to the control center, drinking the AI version of a sports drink as he went. His diet would be a little different in orbit. They had different ideas about 'space' food. Barry told him that if he really wanted Apollo mission-like food paste, they would replicate it for him.

He sat at his desk and browsed news feeds. He'd given a huge amount of cash to several different human rights programs, but money didn't make their campaigns move any faster. He was disappointed by the lack of progress on that front.

"Have you decided what you will tell the female?" the android asked from behind him.

"Von, the female's name is Marylee," Waylon said.

"Have you decided what you will tell the female named Marylee?"

"No, I haven't, but I'm leaning toward the incremental approach."

"It is unwise to breach security and inform the unbonded of our existence."

"Well, we know where Von stands. How about you, Barry?"

Waylon could tell that the AI was debating about what to say.

"We have more experience with humans than the Defense AI. Yet we are also aware that our bonding with you was extremely fortunate. Another human may not have adapted as well."

"You mean another human might have gone crazy. So glad I avoided that pitfall."

"Your mental health is important to us, Waylon."

Waylon laughed. "Thanks, Barry. I really appreciate that."

Another morning and the rain had returned. Waylon woke and listened to it drum against the windows. He looked over and smiled when he realized that Marylee had been watching him.


"Think it's going to rain all day?" she asked.


He pulled her closer.

Marylee ran her fingers over his chest and played with his gold cross. He'd forgotten to take the necklace off.

"Tell me about your mother."

"She would have liked you, a lot. In fact, she would have said that you were way out of my league."

"I am way out of your league."

"Are you now?"

"Yes," she said, and pulled a hair on his chest.

He squeezed her in retaliation and she yelped. She rested her head on his chest and Waylon ran his fingers through her hair.

"She was tough," he said. "She hated complainers and she worked so hard to make sure I never went without."

"What was her name?"


"It's a lovely name."

"I don't know if she was happy though. I like to think that after I left home that she went out with friends and took the time to do all the things she couldn't before."

"You miss her."

He took her hand and looked at the golden cross as it lay across her fingers. "More than I ever thought possible."

She squeezed his hand.

"So, tell me about your folks."

"My folks?" she said. "My dad ... he would like you if he got to know you. He's a big old bear of a man. Gruff and strong, but he can be incredibly gentle too. Unfortunately, he's not your biggest fan at the moment."

"Because I stole his baby girl?"

"Something like that. My mom is the tough one in our family. She's a no nonsense kind of woman, but she's also the one who told me to follow my heart."

"I'll put her on the Christmas card list."

Marylee poked him in the ribs. "Are you going to tell me your secrets today?"

"I need coffee first. Let's get dressed and go to breakfast."

On a whim, Waylon took her to the garage and flipped on the lights. He pulled back the car cover and revealed his Dodge Charger. It really should be up on blocks, or maybe on display. That was a thought. He wondered if she'd tolerate him moving it into the house. He could take down the wall...

"It's a muscle car," she said. "It's gorgeous."

He was in love.

"It's a '68 Charger R/T, fully restored, triple black. That means the paint, roof, and interior are all the same color."

"But it has a red stripe," she said, confused.

"A pretty girl deserves a nice red bow on her ass."

Marylee shoved him playfully. "So, take me for a ride. Unless you're afraid to get it wet."

The rumble of the big Dodge's engine brought the breakfast crowd out despite the rain and Marylee made a dash for the building.

Rowen looked at the car and back at Waylon, "You know, if you're giving away keys to old cars of yours—"

"Keep dreaming, buddy!"

The morning meeting was run by Felix. The rain limited what could be done and he ran through a few general housekeeping duties on his list. "Marylee, you wanted to say something?"

"Yes. I need everybody to schedule a clinic visit. I need to collect some baseline measurements and vitals, and get a medical history on each of you."

There were a couple of groans.

"Also, I may have talked one of the doctors at Taaone Hospital in Papeete into agreeing to come here and do physicals and general checkups on a semi-regular basis."

Marylee ignored the grumbling, which seemed to be coming mainly from Rowen, "On a happier note, Remy and I have the Freehold web site ready to launch. We'd appreciate it if you looked it over and gave us feedback."

Remy moved around the room making sure everyone's tablet was looking at the right address on the island's network.

Waylon had to admit they had done a good job in a very short time. There was a map showing Freehold's position relative to the rest of the world and a brief 'frequently asked questions' section which made him smile. He wasn't so pleased with the contact page, but supposed it was a necessity.

The photos were the best. There was one of Omo tending to his vanilla plants; Arman and Rava walking on a beach, Deni sitting in a chair in front of her house, Remy and Felix helping Rowen pull in a big catch on one of their fishing trips, Jaidee hiding her pregnancy behind a counter as she held a colorful food platter, and there was a picture of himself catching a Frisbee during a party. Suspiciously absent was Marylee.

There were a bunch of her photos of the island taken the previous day. She really had a good eye for composition, he decided.

"Anybody else realize who's missing from these photos?" he asked.

Fingers pointed at Marylee.

"Okay, okay," she said. "How about a picture of me in the clinic?"

"How about something in a bikini?" Waylon asked.

A sugar packet from the coffee service bounced off his head.

All of the residents had comments. Remy and Marylee took notes. Deni wanted a more prominent display of the Freehold flag on the site. Others had only minor observations or suggestions. A few people wanted better photos of themselves.

It took a while, but Marylee was eventually ready to leave. He could tell she was torn between wanting to make immediate changes to the web site and visiting the hangar complex. Curiosity won out.

Waylon parked near the larger hangar and checked his watch. The rain had slowed to a light mist. He held Marylee's hand as they stood by the hangar doors. She looked at him, but was quietly eager to discover what they were waiting on.

The hangar doors squealed softly as they rolled open. When they had completely opened, a drone emerged from within and taxied toward the runway. They stepped inside and out of the damp. The drone continued its journey, making precise turns until it was finally in position. The drone held for a moment, and then accelerated down the runway and lifted off.

They watched, but it quickly disappeared in the grey overcast.

"Questions?" he asked.

"Was that all preprogrammed?"

"Got it in one. Come on, I'll show you the rest."

The hangar was mostly empty. One portion of the back wall was covered by a large, wide door that extended from the floor almost all the way to the ceiling. He took her to a human sized door next to it.

"Go on," he said.

The door has a sign on it that read, 'Push In.'

She struggled to push the door open as air rushed out from within. He helped her open the door and followed her in. The door closed quickly behind them.

"What was that?"

"Positive air pressure. We're in an airlock of sorts."

Next to them was a closet containing several sets of disposable protective suits complete with little booties and hoods. He helped Marylee step into hers and shrugged his own on. The next door took them into a viewing area, where she could see the orbiter through a large window. It was brightly lit and surrounded by a gantry which supported various hoses connected to the vehicle at different points.

The orbiter had been moved from the lock to the windowless building behind the hangar, and the entire set piece created based on research the AIs had done into the various space programs.

"It's a giant clean room. Want to get a closer look?"

She did, so he led her through another positive air lock door and onto the floor. Waylon realized that stuffing a big vehicle into a relatively small building really did something to your perspective. He was waiting for questions but she was mostly silent, taking it all in.

Suddenly, she grabbed his arm and pointed.

Waylon wrapped an arm around her stomach and stood behind her. The androids had been specially modified. In essence, they had been skinned and made to look more robotic.

The two that Marylee had spotted were carrying some sort of sealed containers. They walked, imperfectly, onto a lift that rose to the second level of the gantry. They proceeded across it and entered the vehicle at a hatch.

"What do you think?" he asked.

"You have robots working on your spaceship. Who's controlling them?"

"There's more to see before I answer that."

Marylee was a little unsteady on her feet. She couldn't stop looking around.

Waylon took her back inside the observation area where they ditched their protective suits. He walked her to a set of elevator doors. No sudden holes in the floor for this special guest.

He had to coax her onto the elevator.

She squeezed his hand on the short ride down and laughed nervously, "Elevator music?"

"Hey, it helps down here."

He walked off the elevator into a well lit area, but she hadn't followed him. The innocuous music echoed down the hallway. She stepped out of the elevator and glanced around. The first stop was at what could best be described as a robot assembly area. There were a number of models in different stages of construction with various and sundry pieces of equipment scattered about. The AIs had really gone all out.

"Want to see where I've been training?"

Marylee didn't say anything but nodded.

She walked slowly and he tried to put himself in her shoes. It was a lot to process. She was very reluctant to enter the simulator, but he got her in and put her in the pilot's seat. He hit a few icons and brought up a training scenario as he explained what the different readouts meant. The simulator windows projected a much more 'computerized' view than normal.

She relaxed a little, but was still tense.

"I could really use your help you know."

"With what?"she asked.

"We don't have a name for the orbiter. All the great ones have been used. I've thought about painting 'Marylee' across the nose. Maybe we could add some nose art? How about a painting of you in a short skirt riding a rocket ship?"

"You wouldn't dare!"

"So, help me come up with something better."

"I'll think about it," she replied.

"Come on, want to see the pool?"


"This way."

Waylon got her out of the seat and took her next door to the pool. The microgravity training room had been replaced with a large training pool.

Marylee was looking a little glassy eyed.

"How far down are we?" she asked.

"Pretty far."

She looked at him.

"We're about three hundred feet down, and you're perfectly safe."

Marylee shook her head.

"Look, this is the kind of pool they use in Houston to train astronauts. You put on the big space suit, go for a swim, and simulate microgravity conditions. Pretty cool, huh?"

"Waylon, there's no people here."

"That's right, it's all automated."

"That's insane. You're insane."

He hugged her, "I've been told that before."

"You could drown in that pool by yourself."

He took her by the shoulders, "Stand right there. I want to show you something."

He walked the edge of the pool. Her eyes followed him intently. Waylon picked up a yellow object, shaped a little like an extra-large dumbbell. It was filled with concrete. He tossed it out into the pool and it sank with a splash.

Marylee jumped when a piece of equipment by the wall moved. It was the size of a small credenza and had an aluminum roll cage. The thing was standing on small metal stilt-like legs. It bobbed toward the pool's edge on those little legs and went right over the side. With a blurp of air, it sank.

"What the hell is that?" Marylee cried.

"I call it a robot submarine lifeguard."

He walked over and took her hand, and pulled her toward the edge of the pool. He pointed down to the bottom where you could faintly see the robot moving. It started to rise, until it deposited the yellow dumbbell on a ledge about four feet below the lip of the pool. There was no shallow end. The robot floated to the surface and moved along the side of the pool until it reached a ladder.

Using tank tread like grippers it latched onto the two handrails of the ladder, rode the treads up the ladder, and flipped onto the deck. A lever pushed the rectangular shaped robot upright and it stood there dripping water.

"I need to sit down," Marylee said.

"Waylon, we are concerned about some of the readings we are getting from Miss Walker. Do you know if she had a problem with enclosed spaces?" AI Barry asked.

He could see beads of sweat on her lip and she was definitely a little shaky. He took her by the arm and slowly walked her to the control room. Waylon led her right to his desk and sat her in the chair.

"Waylon, she needs one of your sports drinks. She is on the edge of going into shock," AI Barry said in his ear.

Waylon hurried over to a small dorm sized refrigerator and took out one of the drinks and opened it. He put it in her hands and told her to drink. She wanted to stop, but he made her drink it all. She gasped for breath and still looked dazed.

He knelt down in front of her and put his hands on her legs. "Are you okay?"

She smacked him on the head with the framed picture he had sitting on his desk.

Waylon had to laugh. "It was bugged, but we fixed it. Besides, I like the picture."

"I can't breathe," she said, closing her eyes. "There's just too much ... too much of everything."

Waylon started to speak, but he wasn't sure what to say. He watched her. Her eyes were squeezed tightly shut and her breathing was labored.

"Marylee, are you claustrophobic?"

She took a deep breath, "Maybe a little."

He thought he could understand. He'd had his own problems early on with the thought of what was above his head, but that was ocean in the early days. The tons of island that was there now weren't something he thought about. He liked the facility and had long since grown accustomed the miracles wrought by the AIs.

He ran his thumbs over her hands as he held them. "Then we won't stay here. I wanted to introduce this to you slowly, and not overwhelm you."

"Waylon, we recommend against telling her about our origins at this time," AI Barry said. "A lot has changed for Miss Walker since leaving the safety of her home. The knowledge may be too much for her on top of the fear she is already experiencing."

"Do you think you can stand up?"

Marylee sniffed but was silent and shook her head.

"That's okay, baby. We'll stay here until you're ready."

"What about Penelope?" she asked.

"I'm right here," her voice echoed over the control room's speakers.

Waylon groaned silently. What happened to not freaking her out?

"Where?" Marylee opened her eyes.

"I'm all around," Penelope said.

Marylee frowned, "Penelope is what, some kind of program?"

"She's a sophisticated artificial intelligence."

"But, I like her!"

"And I like you too," Penelope said.

"I don't understand," Marylee whispered. "How can you ... do all of this?"

He kissed her knuckles, and rested his chin on her hands. His knees were uncomfortable from kneeling, but he'd stay there until she was okay.

"Imagine a big pile of legos. Can you do that?"

Marylee nodded.

"Each one of the legos in the pile is a little robot, and it's smart. One lego builds another. Then two legos build two more legos. Then four legos build..."

"Four more legos," Marylee finished.

"Exactly right. That's my secret, that and Penelope."

"Did you make it, or did you steal it from the military, the government?"

"Nothing like that. Let's say it found me. I'm trusting that you'll help me keep this secret, even from the others. They have plenty of questions, but for now it's best that they not know."

Marylee nibbled on her lip. "I don't understand why. If you can do all this, you should be a billionaire. You could buy the playboy mansion and stock it full of pretty girls. Why hide?"

"It's not a bad idea, where can I order these girls from?"


He sat back, still holding her hands.

"Imagine what would happen to governments, to industry, to the manufacturers big and small, if this became public knowledge. It would—"

"It would crash the world economy," Marylee said with a gasp. "People would ... Oh, Waylon, there would be chaos."

"—that's right.

"Why tell me such a dangerous secret?"

He looked at her, "Because I love you, Marylee Walker."

USS Ohio (SSGN 726)

The submarine was one of four unique veterans of the cold war that had been destined for the scrap heap. Instead, they were saved and converted to face the challenges of future conflicts. Gone were the ballistic missile tubes, replaced instead with vertical launchers for cruise missiles and accommodations for special warfare personnel. The SSGN (submarine, guided missile, nuclear) was a force multiplier in the truest sense. It could launch a maximum of one hundred and fifty-four Tomahawk cruise missiles or a mix of other ordnance, including autonomous drones when the technology matured.

The Ohio had prowled the target area for days. The ring barrier prevented the submarine from getting as close as it would have liked. There was also the problem of a Chinese AGI to deal with. Their close observations discovered that the Chinese vessel had a routine. At night it would withdraw to the northwest. It was now on the opposite side of the island from the Ohio.

The submarine came to periscope depth and did a quick surface sweep.

The mission was a go.

Lieutenant Pearson broke the surface of the water and looked around. The heads of his team members bobbed around him as they trod water. The seas were mild above the Ohio. It was raining and dark, perfect weather. SEALS loved the rain. It obscured noises and kept people inside. The men climbed aboard their zodiac and the muffled outboard started without a hitch.

Pearson was the team lead. His second in command for the adventure was a first class petty officer and a highly experienced operator. They all had team nicknames, but Pearson preferred using numbers over the radio; he was One, Two was his second in command, Three was a weapons specialist, Four was their medic, and Five was the intelligence and communications expert.

The mission was to go ashore and plant surveillance equipment. They would make a covert entry, if possible, to the airfield buildings and gather intelligence, and then withdraw without being detected. They trained for this and they had done it operationally many times since the War on Terror started, or whatever the politicians in Washington were calling it these days.

The SEALS had wanted to send two teams of four with two zodiacs, but their orders insisted on as small a reconnaissance team as possible. The lieutenant had reluctantly agreed to a five man team, because of space in the boat and the size and weight of the stay behind equipment they were carrying. He hoped like hell that they weren't going to miss the other zodiac. Backup plans were essential in his line of work.

There would be very little talking over their secure radios on this trip. The target may have been a small idyllic island in the South Pacific, but the threat briefing said they faced a group with a very high tech level and unknown defenses. The after action report from the Carl Vinson's encounter with the stealth drone made for interesting reading.

Five, the team's intel and comms expert, had already expressed his opinion. The mission was not being supported by a drone which he considered to be a major mistake. The powers that be claimed it was too big a risk should the reconnaissance platform be lost. In truth, the weather would have limited its capabilities anyway, but the mission already had the stench of a Washington boondoggle.

The faces of his team members were serious beneath their blackened faces as he glanced back in the zodiac. He looked at his second in command and gave him a quick thumbs up. Two checked the other men and returned the gesture. They lived for this shit.

The first obstacle quickly appeared. The ring barrier was trickier to cross in the dark than it appeared, and doing so exposed them more than the lieutenant would have liked. Mister Murphy could always decide to show his face.

The seas were even calmer inside the barrier, and they made excellent time toward their chosen beachhead. Their plan was to land opposite of the inhabited side of the island, toward the rear of the airfield complex.

There wasn't much light visible as they approached the isolated beach. They could see a few security lights around the back of the hangars, but nothing they couldn't deal with.

They beached and carried the zodiac into the dunes, hiding it as best they could.

The men quickly organized themselves and spread out in a lose trail line.

"Three, One. Scout ahead."

Three clicked his microphone in acknowledgement.

The men moved slowly, professionally. The rain wasn't helping their night vision gear, but even under the worst conditions the SEALS knew they had the upper hand.

Five signaled that he was ready to plant the first package. The remaining team members spread out in a security cordon while he planted the device. It took longer to make it look like nothing had been buried than it did to dig the hole.

They moved out and caught up to Three who had been scouting ahead. He signaled that the way was clear.

The reconnaissance team had reached the fence line. In planning they had opted against breaching the fence, and instead were going to follow it to the smaller hangar's side entrance.

They progressed down the fence line, getting ever closer to the rear of the hangar. Two had taken point, but stopped and squatted down. He signaled to hold position. The rest of the team was scattered in a loose line and got as low as they could.

Lieutenant Pearson was waiting for a report or a signal for them to proceed, when the night was shattered by high powered beams of light. The SEALS threw themselves to their stomachs and searched for targets. Maybe they had triggered some sort of motion sensor.

Pearson risked a quick glance. The lights were coming from ahead of them and from inside the fence line. His hopes of retreating were crushed when a beam snapped on behind them. With the rain, and the dark, it was difficult to see what had surrounded them. The beams stretched out in the dark, showing the rain trapped in the powerful lights. The ocean side was unblocked, but they'd expose themselves to a potentially withering crossfire if they made a break for it.

Pearson heard a whisper above them, and looked in time to catch a glimpse of a lawnmower sized drone slipping away into the night sky. A floater, that's just great, he thought.

A voice over a loudspeaker echoed off the nearby hangar wall, "Gentleman, we wish no violence, but it is dangerous to wander around in the dark."

The lights moved in, and Pearson saw that they were mounted on utility vehicles. They were silent running, electrical, he realized. A party of men fanned out, faces obscured by masks and head wraps. They held their weapons casually, but they were pointed in the team's direction.

"Fuck," one of the team members muttered.

The voice over the loudspeaker was closer this time, "We do not intend to harm you. If you will please leave your weapons and stand, you will be moved to a dry, comfortable place until we can resolve this misunderstanding."

Pearson exchanged glances with his second in command several feet away. The man was angry, and disappointed, but nodded. They were surrounded and their rules of engagement were clear. They were not on a suicide mission.

"Do it," the lieutenant ordered. The men shed their equipment and stood, one by one. They placed their hands over their heads and formed a line, anger burning from them at every move.

"There is no need to raise your arms," the voice said. "Please march toward the front of the hangar."

It was a miserable walk. There was silence, except for the rain. The only sound from the vehicles came from the tires in the wet sand. The troops guarding them were incredibly quiet and disciplined. Pearson would have marked them as ex-military from their movements. To a man, their faces were obscured.

They made the turn around the corner of the hangar.

The men stopped marching as they saw what was before them. The doors of the smaller hangar were open. The lights inside were on. About ten feet inside the hangar were two long folding tables set up end to end, last supper style. There were five plastic pitchers of water and a stack of red plastic cups on the tables. In front of them, were five evenly spaced chairs. Off to one side, near the entrance, was a porta potty.

The sub-orbital plane from their briefing materials was parked inside. It glistened in the light. Against the walls were a small handful of armed guards, their faces also covered. Two of the utility vehicles remained outside the hangar. They took up positions on either side of the open doors.

"Please take a seat. Someone will be with you shortly," the voice over the loudspeaker said.

The SEALS moved inside, slowly, but did not sit. They looked at each other and began examining their surroundings, looking for weaknesses and opportunities.

Lieutenant Pearson knew that most, if not all, of the men still had holdout weapons. His weapons specialist was certain to have a grenade or two secreted on his person. Together they could assemble a small arsenal. It was a mistake not to have searched them.

They stood there for several minutes, waiting.

At the back of the hangar, an office door opened and a figure walked out onto the hangar floor. As the man walked toward the table, the SEALS recognized him from the photos they had studied. He was carrying one of their secure radio units and its collapsible satellite antenna. He walked up to the table and deposited it with a clunk.

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