Chapter One

Tom Sottm opened his eyes for the first time.

Smoothly and quietly the storage chamber surrounding him unfolded and transformed into something more like a hospital bed. As it did Mary Mayking came over to examine him carefully. As she did so her lovely red hair cascaded over her shoulders and the lightweight nurse gown she wore hissed and crinkled lightly as it moved over her body. As she looked him up and down Tom could see that her eyes were a wonder, her makeup enhanced the deep set eyes and their sapphire blue. Her skin... white and clear like finest China. And she looked and moved like she was a young ballerina. He saw this and was delighted, and not at all surprised. Mary was someone he knew well and was very happy to know. Even though he had never met her before. After all, he had opened eyes for the first time just moments ago.

Yes, Tom was hot for nurse, but even hotter than for nurse, the passion burned in him to complete his mission successfully. He was going to be alive for seven days at most, and he knew it.

“Are you ready, Tom?” Mary asked him as she finished her examination. The voice was as dainty as her ballerina figure. He nodded.

“Get up, and we both need to get properly dressed.” she said and headed for the door leading to The Agency corridor. He got up quickly and agilely. The android engineers who designed him knew that he would be wakened in an emergency and time would be of the essence. He needed only a few minutes to adjust to being animated and that had happened while his storage tank was reviving him.

He didn't follow Mary. Instead he grabbed her, spun her around, and held her close to him as he felt her wondrously soft and compliant female body. For many seconds she complied and melted into his arms; her breathing quickened and she kissed back when he put his lips to her lips. But then he stopped. His sense of duty called loud enough to cool the passion. He released her, except for her hand, he continued to hold that gently.

When she regained her own presence, she lead them out into the corridor, pointed out a room for him, said, “Your clothes are in there. Get dressed, I'll be doing the same in the next room down. Meet me there.”

Tom did as Mary said. He knew from his programming that she was Mission Control for what was coming up.

He was not surprised that when he walked in she was still dressing. She was human. He was not surprised that she didn't startle when he did so. They both knew that while this crisis was brewing, speed was more important than propriety. He was dressed in a moderately nice business suit and she in a quick-to-slip-on summer dress.

She checked the time, then said, "It's 4PM Friday with 4th of July coming Monday. First off, you need to collect some mission essentials. Then we both need to get outfitted for the occasion."

"And what is the occasion?" Tom asked.

"Making a splash at the 'Big Texmex' casino in Macau. We need to attract the attention of a certain Hu Lu Chou, princeling billionaire gambler type, and become his guests as he takes his yacht to Hong Kong. While the cruise is in progress we... you... need to inspect Deck Two and give a general report on the contents."

"Hmm... fancy clothes, flash cash and a sub-orbital flight to Macau. Sounds like it's going to be a wild weekend!" he pulled her close to him again, "Have we got some time for a little afternoon delight before we run errands?" he kissed her again.

She kissed back, "The sub-orbital leaves at 11PM. I've already made reservations. Can we catch that?"

"Plenty of time." he said as he slipped her dress off.


Meanwhile in an office cubicle not far away...

At 4:15PM a young, enthusiastic delivery boy walks in on Ellen De Generite, co-worker of Mary.

"Hi there. I'm here about those stale super androids that are getting recycled."

Ellen says in a bored, almost-Five-on-Friday way, "Not my issue. You need to take that up with Mary Cullihain. She's in the next cubicle."


He heads to the next cubicle and announces over the wall, "She's not here."

"Umm... right. She's taking a long weekend vacation. You can see her next Thursday."

"OK... except I've got a problem today."

"What is it?"

"I'm here to pick up ten stiffs, but there's only nine on the shipping dock."

"RTA android, if you please, RTA -- Ready To Animate." Ellen facepalmed, then remembered something, "You were scheduled to pick those up Tuesday, weren't you?"

The delivery boy grins, "They ain't moving, they're stiffs to me." he winked and said, "And if they start moving they're zombies and I start running." He thought it was funny, Ellen didn't move, he sobered, "Yeah, I'm running ahead of schedule. If I get this done today then I don't have to show up at my work until noon on Wednesday."

"Still not my issue. Come back Tuesday."

"You said this Mary isn't going to be in until Thursday."

"Grrrr!" Ellen says to herself, and she hopes this kid suffers through a software upgrade that crashes his favorite video game for the whole weekend.

"OK, OK, Let me look into this..." She starts pecking at the keyboard, and comes up with an answer.

"OK, that last RTA android is up in an Animation Room... and has been animated... for a dry run." She looked up at the delivery boy, "You're not going to see it. You have your full load. We'll get the paperwork straightened out next week."

The delivery boy tipped his hat and headed out, Ellen got ready to head out for a long holiday weekend.


Meanwhile in a plush briefing room one floor up...

"Thank you for taking time ahead of your busy weekend, Senator Mandel."

"My pleasure, Mr. Harkins, the government is spending billions on this program. I figure if I'm going to serve my constituency well, I'd better know more about where these billions are going. What is your position here?"

"I'm Assistant Director of the super android section of the CERU unit -- Covert Emergency Response Unit. When a crisis calls for a particular kind of delicate, low profile response, we wake up one of our super androids and send him in to kick ass and take names... but very quietly. If the looming problem looks like it solved itself without outside interference, we've done our job well."

"Can you give me an example?"

"Well... you wouldn't recognize our best work," Harkins grins, "But one of the cases that didn't go so well was that of Abdul Abulbul Amir."

"You mean that terrorist chief no one could touch for ten years, who was beheaded by his jealous concubine? Served him right, and it couldn't have happened to a more deserving soul. ...You really were involved in that?"

"We call that one a five-slash-zero. The five is for mission accomplished with no innocent lives lost and little damage done. The zero is for the thick rumors of our involvement. Much as the public would like to believe otherwise, we aren't into myth making." he was still grinning.

Mandel looked impressed, "Show me more, Harkins, show me more!"

Harkins brought up the big display on the wall in the briefing room. It consisted of many little screens and graphs. He then explained, "These days the various ERU departments handle 99 percent of the nation's emergencies. The old FEMA, Homeland Security, various state organizations, and even the Red Cross and few other charities were combined into a centralized organization. Our motto is: When disaster looms, ERU is there to keep the loom from becoming gloom.

"That's the big group. We are CERU, and we're outside this main organization structure, and very low profile. Our parent organization was the CIA. We get called in when there's a disaster in progress that involves bad people, and the government wants it handled quietly, not publicly. For example when terrorists want to advertise their cause with violence, we come in to see that advertising never happens, and they were foiled by bad luck or internal screw ups."

"I see," said Mandel, "I guess that's why the Amir case gets the zero, eh?"

Harkins nodded, "The billions in expense is because this is an insurance policy. We don't know when our kind of disaster will come, so we have to always be prepared. This means steadily manufacturing a lot of androids. They have limited shelf-life so 95% of them are simply recycled when that life expires. The remaining 5% are routinely activated for dry runs. This insures that the infrastructure supporting the androids stays sharp. These missions are as close to real as we can make them, so they can cost tens of millions. A dry run like the Amir case might be to infiltrate a Somali war lord's security team and get one of the chief's body guards maneuvered into a compromising situation. We don't reveal we've done so, we don't take advantage. This is just a dry run, just to prove that our system is sharp enough to do it when a real crisis arises. About one percent of our activity involves a real crisis."

Harkins then took a moment to look at the big display to digest what it was revealing. The various screens were mostly empty, and the graphs quiet. He said, "It's just before the holiday weekend so not much is happening, but I do see one dry run being conducted. The super androids have monitors built in so we can watch their actions. Let's see what this one is up to..."

Harkins enlarged the screen showing Tom Sottm's activities. From his eye sensors they saw Tom looking down into the face of a ravishing looking woman Harkins didn't recognize who was clearly enjoying her position under him. Tom's physical readouts confirmed he was near the peak of having a real good time, too.

Harkins blushed, then reduced the screen again after just a few seconds. Mandel laughed, and said, "Dry run, you say. I don't think that run is going to stay dry much longer!"

Harkins finally found some words, "The super androids have to be prepared for all kinds of investigating."

The briefing went on a while longer, and Harkins vowed to have someone look into working up some kind of pornography alert on this main console display.