Emily was sitting doing her homework at the kitchen bench when her mother came home from work. Emily jumped up and immediately set about making her mother a cup of tea. It never hurts to score some points.
“Well, Em ... it looks like your old lady is out of a job,” she declared in an a matter of fact voice.
Emily wasn’t so calm about it. “What!?!”
I didn’t expect this to happen.
“Well, sweetie,” explained her mom. “It seems someone has donated $250Million to the Children’s Hospital. That’s more than we raised in the past 15 years. We can build a whole new hospital ... TWO new hospitals for that much. I can’t see why they’ll need me anymore.”
Emily began to get an inkling about what has happened. “You’re the Fundraising Director. They should give you a medal, not the sack!”
Her mother’s mind was elsewhere, “And all we know from the Bank is that the benefactor was a Mr. Stone and the donation was ‘For Emily.’”
Emily’s mother continued, “We assume it must be for a child who was saved, or maybe would have been saved if we had better facilities in the past. I really think that’s great. Same name as, you, too!”
You were saved there.
“You were saved there,” declared her mom.
“I was saved there? I never knew that,” said Emily, honestly.
Emily poured her mother the cup of tea she had just brewed. “Thank you, sweetie. It’s nice to be waited on for a change,” smiled her mom. “You were born with a problem and they had to kick start your liver. You were as yellow as a lemon with jaundice for a few days. That’s how I got interested in the Children’s Hospital.” Her mother got a curious look, “Do we know any Stones?” Emily almost jumped out of her skin. “A Mr. Stone with $250Million to spare?”
Emily quickly moved the subject along, “So, Mom, are you sure you’re out of a job? Maybe they’ll need someone to manage the money. Maybe that’s what this Mr. Stone had in mind!”
[I hope you can take a hint!]
Suddenly, the telephone rang, breaking the somber mood. Emily’s mother was closest and answered, “Hello? ... Yes, this is she.” Her mother gave Emily a crazy look, “Oh, Mr. Stone. We were just talking about you. I want to thank you ... ”
[Are you talking to my mom? In the old English guy voice?]
Yes. I must rectify this problem at once.
[Or make it worse!]
Emily’s mother smiled, “Why, thank you, Mr. Stone. I would be honored. Yes, I look forward to his call. Thank you again. ’bye ... yes, ’bye.”
She hung up the phone, “What an absolutely charming man! He said he realized his donation may have made my position at the hospital somewhat redundant, so he has asked me to head up his charitable foundation! Some big wig bank president will call soon and make arrangements.”
“Gee, Mom, that’s great ... I guess.”
[You’re my mom’s boss?!?]
I suppose I am.
“He sounds English. Maybe he’s from England?” pondered Emily’s mom. “This is going to be a big change, sweetie ... instead of begging for money, I get to hand it out. Hundreds of millions of dollars!”
The alarm on Sam’s wristwatch vibrated in the darkness. He turned on his bedside lamp and got up. He was already completely dressed in dark clothes with long sleeves. He put on a baseball cap to hide his blondish hair. He picked up a tiny flashlight and checked it. After flicking off the lamp, he silently left his bedroom.
He went to the front entry door of the quarters he shared with his mother. He checked that the small panel next to the door showed lit red LEDS next to the words ‘Locked’ and ‘Alarmed.’ No one would suspect he had left. With a nod, Sam backtracked to the kitchen.
Sam opened a sliding door in the kitchen wall. He pressed two buttons on a panel next to the door which read ’Garbage” and ‘Large.’
A short time later, a mechanical servobot rolled into view just beneath the opening. It was basically just a smart wheelie bin. Thankfully, they were cleaned thoroughly after every use. Sam climbed in and slid the panel in the wall shut from the outside.
Sensing the added weight, the servobot rolled slowly on its way. Unlike in the movies, servobots don’t need light, so it was very dark in the wall cavities and servo lanes between the family apartments on this level. Sam poked his head out of the bin and showed his flashlight occasionally. He wasn’t surprised to see the reflections back of the tiny eyes of rats and mice. Even a powerful facility like the EAU mountain base would have its vermin.
To while away the time and try and chase away the loneliness, Sam started to quietly do the ‘Mission Impossible’ music to add to the bravado of his escapades. Da Da Daa … Da Da Daa … Da Da Daa … Da dut ... dut dut, Da Da dut dut Da Da. It fed his fantasy of being the world’s youngest secret agent.
The servobot came to the end of a lane and rolled into a tiny dumbwaiter lift that started to rise. On a previous outing, Sam hadn’t been watchful and ended up being tipped down a garbage chute from a great height, just like on the Death Star in ‘Star Wars IV: A New Hope.’ This time, when the servobot got to the tip, Sam grabbed a rope he had tied to a crossbeam a few trips earlier and gently swung out of harms way as the servobot dumped its nonexistent cargo down the chute.
Sam imagined he was actually carrying Princess Leia to safety as he landed on a walkway built for human access. Human servicemen had to come down here occasionally, so these passages had lights. And security cameras. Sam had long ago spotted where they were and gently adjusted the cameras so there was a blind spot he could pass through un-noticed.
Sam followed his well-worn route towards the main service shafts. At the core of the EAU facility, he could literally catch a lift to any level he wanted.
He spotted a servobot taking a meal trolley to one of the many staff dining rooms. Feeling a bit hungry, Sam picked up his pace to match the servobot and slipped one of the well-laden trays out of the trolley, sitting down in one of the blind spots to have a midnight snack. Someone would complain, but it will be blamed on computer malfunction. After all, who would steal food in a facility where nobody ever went hungry?
Sam reached the central core. His destination was up, but not all lifts stopped on that level. He pulled a map out of his pocket and studied it under torchlight. He turned in one direction and started walking.
He stopped at the edge of a shaft and looked down. There was a lift on its way up, so he only had moments to prepare. As it neared his level, he calmly stepped out and onto the roof of the car as it rushed past. The two people inside the lift didn’t even notice the soft thud as he landed on the compartment.
Looking up, he counted the floors from the top and spotted his destination point. Getting off is even tougher than getting on. When the car reached the right level, Sam had to leap off, tuck and roll to a stop to avoid being sliced in half by the lift car. All in a days work for an experienced secret agent, thought Sam.
When he got out of the lift properly to visit his mother, he always walked counter clockwise, so Sam calculated his objective was to the left. He started to look for some access back from this servo world to the human areas. Soon, he spotted a hatch. He nudged it open a crack and saw his final destination was only meters away. He smiled at his own powers of reckoning.
Opening the hatch, Sam slipped out into the darkened hall. He pressed himself into the wall and waited for any sound. When none came, he figured it was safe to proceed. Keeping in the shadows of the already dark passage, Sam soon came to the entry of his destination, The Evidence Room.
Deciding not to waste any time, he dashed to the table containing the crystals. He turned on his flashlight for a split second to spot the Stone he had picked up before, quickly pocketed it and made his way back to the hatch and into the relative safety of the servo passages.
The night watch in the EAU control centre responded to a regular alert that sounded every hour, 24/7. “CHECK ON POINT-O-1” was the message. The officer on duty scanned the status board for O-1’s family quarters and showed all outside doors locked and alarmed.
Deciding to be thorough, the officer asked the system to check for any movement in the maintenance access corridors around the residence levels.
As the garbage servo was only a one-way trip, Sam had to take an alternative route back to the family residence levels. He navigated the narrow access areas and metal walkways with practiced ease. There was now a bit of spring in his step, even though it was the middle of the night. Coming into the home stretch, he turned into the access tunnel which led to his quarters when a familiar voice right behind him sent a chill up his spine: “Hello, Sammy. Out for a stroll?”
The EAU officer on watch noticed several slight movements registered on the automatic sensor system in several of the servobot and human areas of the family levels. Servobots carry transponders that show on the sensors as a ‘friendly.’ Small animals usually don’t register, though his superiors still don’t want to acknowledge there were vermin loose in the mountain. Therefore this could only be something else. The officer dispatched a security servobot to the area to investigate.
Sam slowly turned around and there stood Cat and four of his other classmates. “What’s this, surprised? Does the boy genius think he’s the only one who wanders the back alleys of the Mountain Kingdom after dark? We’ve been doing it for years. We just don’t get caught.”
Sam was surprised, and at a rare loss for words and a quick comeback. “I … uh … I saw rats. And mice.”
Cat was enjoying his discomfort, “Well, der, Einstein. We had to breed something to feed the bats and snakes. Come on. Let’s go to our cubby before a ’bot comes this way.”
Cat led the way with the others coming along behind Sam. They had to take a detour when a security servobot came along, but then continued on their way.
They turned a corner Sam had passed countless times, slipped sideways through a narrow opening and into what Sam could only think was Ali Baba’s Cave. It was filled to the brim will all kinds of food, equipment and comforts of home.
Cat flopped down on a pile of cushions, “Make yourself at home, Sammy. We’ve been snagging this stuff off of servobots and out of storerooms for years.”
“It’s pretty cool,” was all Sam could manage.
“We watched you walk right past us a hundred times and you never even knew this was here.” The others giggled conspiratorially. “So, Sammy, what were you up to tonight? We lost track of you when you took the express elevator up to the Admin area. Loved your rendition of the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme. Care to give us an encore?”
“I … uh … forgot something up there … when I visited my mother.”
“Bull. You can’t even lie well. What were you really up to? Shall we torture him, guys?” They all smiled sadistically in agreement.
“I went to the Evidence Room.”
This brought Cat and the others to a grinding halt. “You’re kidding. Does that place really even exist?”
“Sure. My Mom took me there the other day. It’s where they have all the stuff that’s supposed to come from aliens, but she says it’s all fake, or like just from superstitions.”
“Can you take us there? We’ll let you into our gang and stuff.” Cat always took an opportunity when she saw it. This gang wasn’t a democracy, anyway.
“Sure, but not now. I have to go back. I got caught the other day using ABACUS to do my homework.”
“You are just full of surprises, young Sammy boy. OK, you can go this time, but we look forward to a guided tour of the Evidence Room next time you’re out.”
Sam took that as his dismissal and quickly sidled his way out of the Cubby Hole.
Looking at his wristwatch, Sam had been gone for two hours by the time he turned on his bedside lamp and sat exhausted on his bed. He almost forgot the cause for his midnight excursion. He reached his hand into his pocket and pulled out the crystal. It started to glow.
Greetings, young Skywalker. May the Force Be With You.
The security servobot traversed the entire level without encountering anything untoward, so the officer sent it back to its bay. After all, how many intruders could there be over a mile underground inside of a solid granite mountain? And if the kid wanted to go out for a stroll, so what? He wasn’t a babysitter.
Sam looked at the rock in his hand for a long time. He knew it wasn’t actually speaking. If it was speaking out loud, his mother would have heard it, as well, that day in the Evidence Room. It must use some sort of mental telepathy.
Yes, young Skywalker. You have read the spirits correctly.
[Why do you keep calling me that? You called me that the other day.]
It is the name you think of as your spirit name, my young apprentice.
[No. My name is Sam. Sam Watson.]
Regret, Sam Watson.
[You talk funny.]
Regret. The language of your lodge is strange to me. I am assimilating as rapidly as I can.
[What’s a lodge? What spirits?]
I am Thunderstone.
[Thunderstone? What kind of a name is that?]
It was given to me by the first person to discover me. I was passed down by the medicine men of the Arapaho people for over 7,000 winters.
[You’re an Indian?]
[You know, a Native American.]
[A plains person?]
Agreement. Skywalker was a great Arapaho chief many winters past. I thought you may have been from his clan.
[No, Luke Skywalker is from a movie.]
[Uh … he is from the Star Wars Clan.]
[Maybe you should watch a few movies to improve your language skills. I mean, I know you don’t speak because you don’t have a mouth or ears, and nobody else can hear you accept me.]
Emphatic agreement. I can improve my communication matrix with every mutual exchange.
[So, what are you, anyway? Am I talking through you to an alien?]
Puzzlement. You are communicating only with me.
[Are you some kind of carbon life form? A rock person?]
Curiosity. I am not a life form. I simply am. I believe my matrix was once that of a living entity, but now I exist only as you perceive.
[Can you use a computer?]
ALARM! EMPHATIC DISAGREEMENT! I must not be brought into contact with any device using the electrical spirit. There is another who would have me destroyed.
[What, another rock? Was it on the table with you?]
Negative. There were two others of my kind there, but brought from other locations on this planet. This one is elsewhere in the mountain.
[So, who is this one who wants to destroy you if he finds you?]
You would call him Darth Vader.
[You just don’t give up, do you? There is no Darth Vader.]
Understanding. The one you call this would behave in a similar manner to my enemy. You must not connect me to anything as this one would detect me. Let all of my enlightenment be through you.
[Like, you’re 7,000 years old and you want enlightenment from someone who’s only 10?]
I am much older than that, Sam Watson.
[So, what can you learn from me?]
By holding me in your hand, I will learn everything you have ever read or seen or experienced. You may not believe you have remembered it, but it is there. I can sense you are a very strong brave for one of so few winters. You are my medicine man now, Sam Watson of the Skywalker Clan.
[Gee, thanks, I think. I have to go to sleep now or I’ll never make it through school tomorrow.]
Understanding. Sleep is required for your regeneration. You must also consume meat and corn. Do you eat buffalo or deer?
[Not lately. Hasn’t been on the menu. I do eat cornflakes, though.]
Satisfaction. Sleep now. I will be silent. If you hold me while you sleep, I will improve my communications matrix.
Sam quickly undressed and climbed into bed. He had just enough energy left to grasp Thunderstone before falling into an exhausted sleep.
Dude! Like, wake up, man!
Sam struggled to open his eyes against the need for sleep and wondered who was yelling at him. He went to rub his eyes and ended up hitting himself on the head with a small rock.
He flopped back on the pillow and it all came flooding back to him. He was the proud owner of Thunderstone.
Hey, Dude! Like, your Mom was yelling at you. Really random, like. You’re late getting up for school, man. Bummer, huh?
[What are you talking about? Why are you talking like some teenage stoner weirdo? What happened to Big Chief Thunderstone?]
During your period of regeneration, I watched all of the movies you had ever seen and you enjoyed one in particular, so I added the speech patterns to my communications matrix.
[Look, just try and learn to speak like normal. Like me, OK? I’d better get the lead out.]
Your system contains a concentration of lead, Latin Plubum, atomic number 82? That is toxic to human life forms. You must get the lead out immediately or risk mortality!
[Look, it’s just an expression. Lead is heavy, so you have to ‘get it out’ to move faster. It’s a joke.]
Regret, Sam Watson. I will endeavor to examine your communications matrix for metaphorical expressions in future.