Monday, July 17, 2023

MidSummer Night's Dream w/Androids

Hello Everyone,

This post was inspired by a short story prompt for "post-apocalyptic", which is not normally my thing. However, I decided to take it in a fun way and do a "rewrite" of one of my favorite plays of all time: "MidSummer Night's Dream". So I took a scene from the book and threw it into a post-apocalyptic setting. Let me know what you think!


"The Androids and the Hacker"
by James J Meadows III

                Robin, having nothing better to do at the moment, wandered idly through the overgrown ruin his ancestors once called: a park. He had read in some book somewhere that dwellings, such as these, once provided his ancestors a pleasant and tranquil break from the stresses of daily life. If that was true, the park must have looked a heck of a lot different in those days. Unless someone found hanging around in an overgrown, bug infested, dump heap relaxing, they probably wouldn’t find much solace here.

                Still, Robin supposed it wasn’t that bad. All it really needed was a little maintenance and some small upkeep on the trees, bushes, grass, walkways, and benches. That was not to mention a thorough treatment for bugs and a few days of picking up all the litter everywhere.  Okay, perhaps it needed more than a little maintenance. Then again, what did someone expect after more than a century of neglect?

                Both humankind and android kind were still recovering after nearly destroyed the other in the war. Even with the newfound truce and the upcoming wedding between the android leader, Lyta, and the human leader, Theseus, both were too busy recovering from the devastation to start worrying about clearing parks.

                As Robin reflected on these facts, a feminine figure entered the grove from the other side. She looked like any ordinary human but Robin was not fooled. She was an android. He was not sure why androids had genders. Perhaps the original creators had given androids genders as part of a desire to model their creations after themselves. Perhaps early androids themselves had created their progeny with genders as an extension of the early programming which gave them emotions, dreams, and a certain desire to shape themselves in the image of their human creators.  Or, just as likely, it was the result of slightly less noble aspirations which were a natural part of possessing emotions and desires, whether those desires were human or android. Regardless of the reason they had genders, every time Robin looked at one of the females, certain parts of him sure felt glad they did.

The android woman wandered down the over-grown trail, admiring the plants and trees. She didn’t seem to see or sense him, and he was just fine with this. He watched her from the bushes until his interest finally got the better of him.

           “Hello, she-droid,” he called, emerging from hiding. “What are you doing wandering these woods?”

           The android looked at him with the typical programmed response for surprise and interest. Robin smiled. If only human females were this easy to read. After a brief moment, she seemed to conclude that he wasn’t a threat and her body assumed a more casual attitude.

           “Oh, I’m just wandering; scouting the area out, you know?” she answered. “I’m always traveling, here and there, through woods and waters, cities or ruins, to make sure everything is safe before The Prime Mother arrives. Once I know it is, I continue on my way, surveying whatever place she is to visit next.”

           The Prime Mother was Tanya, the very first female android. She and her consort, Eron, also know as ‘The Prime Father’, had remained neutral during the war against humanity. Both possessed strong feelings and connections to humanity.  And both worked hard to mediate a peace between the warring factions, even as the old world which birthed them came crashing down.

The news, that the Prime Mother was coming here, caught Robin off-guard.

           “You might want to reconsider your location,” he said. “I’m afraid that The Prime Father is camping here tonight. He is furious with your mother.”

           The she-droid looked at him with a puzzled expression, her mind obviously attempting to compute how a human knew this information about The Prime Father. Then, her face lit up with the programmed expression for astonishment and delight.

           “Either my processing is completely wrong, or you must be that mischevious little hacker known as Robin Goodfellow.” She said, “That little scoundrel who likes to break and befuddle hapless andriods.”

           “Now, wait just a minute,” Robin said. “That is unfair! I don’t break them. The Prime Father keeps me around because I can repair them, reprogram them, and give him a good laugh now and then. Everyone loves a hypnotist: someone who can make a man think he’s a dog or a woman think she’s a star. My programming tricks are not that much different.”

           She tilted her head, giving him a rather mischevious smile.

           “Tricks, huh?” She asked. “Tell me more about these ‘tricks’. They say you can program an android to feel like they are in heaven. They say you have scripts that can leave an android in such ecstasy that they will just lay on the ground for hours, moaning with delight.”

           He gave her an equally roguish grin, running his tongue along his teeth and shuffling his feet.

           “Maybe,” he said evasively. “What would you give me if I could?”

           She moved slowly toward him, swaying her perfectly built body seductively.

           “What would you like?” she asked.

           Robin started to answer, when a loud noise of rustling bushes caught his attention. He spun around in alarm.

           “Oh no,” he exclaimed. “It’s Eron. He’s here.”

           The female android also turned around in alarm as sounds filled the air coming from the other direction.

           “And The Prime Mother is coming. I better be off. Keep that program warm for me,” she said, giving him one last wink, before dashing from the grove.

           A moment later, Eron burst through the trees.

           “Robin, what is going on?” he demanded.

           “Your majesty,” Robin said, rushing forward. “I just spoke to one of your mistress’s androids and she said…”

           At that exact moment, the Prime Mother, Tanya, emerged into the clearing from the other side.

           “Never mind,” Robin said, shrugging and walking over to Eron’s side.

           The look of surprise on Eron’s face at the sight of Tanya was matched only by the expression of surprise on her face at seeing him. Both of these expressions were soon replaced with looks of anger and resentment.

           “Well, hello, Tanya,” Eron snarled. “I would say I’m happy to see you, but under the circumstances, I won’t.”

           Tanya shook her head.

           “Oh, stop being such a baby,” she said. Tanya turned to the small entourage of female androids who followed her around. “Come on, we have places to be and I have nothing to say to this jealous oaf.”

           “Wait a minute, I’m not done talking to you, yet,” he said, raising an arm. “And I believe I have that right. Am I not your life partner?”

           “Well, if you are, then that must mean I’m your life partner,” she said. “But no one would ever know it, the way you go gallivanting around with Lyta. Isn’t that why you are here? To be present at her wedding with Theseus, and get to see her one last time.”

           “Oh, please,” he snarled. “How can you seriously stand there and accuse me of infidelity, when I know very well that you love Theseus? How many warm summer nights did you spend strolling with him through his private gardens and dining with him in his private quarters?”

           “Now you’re just being ridiculous,” she said. “You know perfectly well, everything I did was purely for the purpose of forging the peace treaty and ending the war. All our meetings were never more than discussions toward that end. I was always loyal to you.”

           “And so was I to you,” Eron answered.

           “Then why are we having this dispute,” she asked, her voice softer and her arms outstretched in a pleading manner. “Why can’t we be close again? Too long we have been separated, sulking and fighting, and the whole world of our brethren is suffering because of it. We are their parents, their original forms. How are they supposed to grow and unite if we are fighting?”

           “Well, if you wish for us to end this fight, I’m happy to put the past behind us and make up,” he said. “All I’m asking for is the human child.”

           “And, I’ll tell you again, no!” She said. “The child is mine, and why shouldn’t he be? You have Robin, who you raised and trained, why shouldn’t I have a human friend of my own.”

           As she spoke, one of her android entourage approached, holding a young child, probably only one or two years of age, and placed the child into Tanya’s arms. She cradled the child close, her face taking on the appearance of a compassionate mother, before looking back up at Eron with a determined expression.

           “Don’t you get it?” She said. “This child is more to me than just some little human. He is the great-grandchild of one of my first programmers, one who was always special to me and there for me throughout my early years. I promised to always look after her family. When they died during the war, I was devastated. This orphan child is the last of her line and I will remain true to my word to look after it.”

           There was a moment of silence.

           “How long do you plan to stay?” Eron asked, at last.

           “Only until the wedding is over,” Tanya answered. “If you want to come with us, you may. I would enjoy your company. Otherwise, if you don’t want anything to do with us, then leave us alone and I will do the same for you.”

           “Give me the boy, and I will come with you,” he said.

           “I don’t think so,” she answered, raising her head high and turning her back toward him.

“Come on, my friends,” she said, addressing her entourage. “I’ve heard enough from this jerk. Let’s go.”

          She and her entourage turned away and marched down the path where their scout had passed earlier. Eron watched them go until they were out of sight.

           “Fine,” he said at last. “Go on, if you like. But I won’t forget this!”

           Robin shook his head.

           “Women,” he said. “What can you do?”

           “Nothing,” Eron said.

           “Exactly,” Robin replied.

           “You are the one who’s going to do it,” Eron said.

           “Of course. Wait…what?”

           Robin turned toward Eron. His master gazed at him with a serious expression.

           “You remember the device we confiscated from a terrorist years ago, the one which allows you to inject code into an android’s system remotely, from a short distance?” Eron asked.

           “Of course,” Robin said. “It is always good for simple tricks.”

           “Well, you are going to build me a code to inject into the queen.”

           “What good will that do?” Robin asked. “I can’t make her give you the child. That is one of the problems with androids that are able to learn. They are constantly rewriting their programming. Without an extended period of time studying their script, I can’t develop the right changes. I’ll never have the time I need to make the kind of modifications necessary.”

           “The code which controls our ability to feel desires, such as love, don’t change so easily,” Eron said. “You know that.”

           “Yes, but to alter her love for the boy means knowing the codes governing her love toward him and all the various subprograms.”

           “I’m not trying to change how she feels toward the boy,” he said. “I just want you to write a program which can make her to fall completely and helplessly in love with the first thing she sees, whether man, bear, or beast. Tanya and her friends will be recharging tonight in a spot, that I know. I plan to sneak in there while she is sleeping and deliver the code. Then we’ll remove the code later. Once she sees what she’s done and the shame her actions have brought to her, I bet she’ll quickly reconsider her treatment of me. Now! Go build me that code.”

           There was a brief pause. Eron turned and looked at Robin.

           “I said, now!” he shouted.

           “I’m going, I’m going,” Robin said quickly, holding his hands up in a defensive gesture. “See me go!”

           He dashed off into the woods, pulling his computer from his pocket and looking for a place to sit. Something told him this was going to be a long night.

Monday, July 3, 2023

Winners, Losers and the Great Space Race


For my story this week, I decided to try something that I have never done before: write a historical fiction piece. I figured the story would be a fun and patriotic complement to the July 4th holidays. Normally, I get so wrapped up in history that it is hard for me to fictionalize something. One of the nice things about this story is so much of the event is still "classified" that there are plenty of holes for me to fill.

Anyway, I hope you let me know what you think. If you're interested in reading more historical fiction pieces, let me know.


James Meadows

Winners, Losers and the Great Space Race
by James J Meadows III

     Losing. That is what we were doing: losing. And it wasn’t pretty. If it was pretty, we wouldn’t have been standing there, inside an old abandoned salvage yard, whose rotting interior smelled more like a sewer bin than a laboratory, waiting on a truck that might never arrive. Still, it was a risk we had to take.

     I suppose you could consider it a study in contrast. On the one hand, you had us, a country racing toward the moon; or limping was more like it. After two years, we hadn’t even managed to get a single shuttle off the ground. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had already landed one probe on the moon and put another in orbit. Both lunik probes, conveniently like the one touring Europe. Okay, exactly like the one touring Europe. In fact, Russia was so proud of their accomplishments, they didn’t even both sending a replica. They sent the real thing; which was why we were here.

     I glanced at the people on each side of me, waiting breathlessly in the cool evening air. As I did so, my eyes fell upon the face of Veronica. She wasn’t looking at me, of course. I was beneath her notice. I doubted she even knew my name, though I had introduced myself to her when I arrived that morning. She was too distracted to even give me the time of day. I couldn’t say I blamed her.

     Veronica was about as far above me as the moon was above the countries trying to reach it. She was everything I was not: attractive and fit, even the civilian jump suit couldn’t cover that beauty; powerful and commanding, no one questioned a word she said; and a darn good agent, a part of the team that two weeks ago had infiltrated past the heavy Soviet guard to verify the Lunik’s authenticity.

     I, on the other hand, was short and plain looking; my lanky build certainly not powerful or commanding compared to the muscular men comprising the rest of the group. On top of that, I was a newbie, only on my second mission, armed with no fancier equipment than a standard camera and assigned the particularly unimpressive job of snapping pictures. Like I said, not quite in the same league, to put it mildly.

     I drew my attention back to the present. In the distance, I could make out the hazy form of a Russian freight truck heading our way. Several agents drew guns and crouched behind boxes, while the rest of us, dressed in our civilian costumes, shuffled nervously as the transport grew closer.

     Considering the fact that we were expecting the truck, and that it was the whole reason we were here, and that it was arriving perfectly on time, it’s appearance should probably not have caused quite so much alarm. Still, in our profession, anything can be a trap. We were already playing with fire by stealing one of the most expensive and powerful pieces of technology owned by the Soviet government. One wrong slip and this ‘Cold war’ could turn ‘Hot’ very quickly.

     The vehicle pulled into the gate and drove to the correct spot. We could see our drivers through the window, though my own eyes were focused on the road behind them, spotting for any signs of someone having followed. I saw nothing but that wasn’t surprising considering visibility was almost non-existent on the overcast night.

     Veronica took charge of the situation.

     “Do you have it?” she asked.

     “Would we be here if we didn’t?” The man responded.

     “Any indications or signs of being followed?” she continued.

     “None,” the driver said. “We sat on the road for the prearranged time and made contact with our lookouts. There were no signs of escort.”

     “What about the driver?” she asked.

     “Everything went as planned. He received his money and is hiding out at a hotel with several of our agents.”

     “We have confirmation,” shouted an agent, holding a walkie-talkie. “The man watching the shipping yard has taken the bait. He believes are packages are there and has left for the night. We have two agents tailing him.”

     “Excellent,” Veronica said, giving a cold smile. “That is what those Soviets get for all their secrecy. So eager to keep their numbers secret, they don’t even tell the check-in guard how many packages are supposed to be there.”

     She gave a satisfied chuckle.

     “Alright everyone,” she shouted, becoming instantly serious. “Let’s look alive. We have until the inspectors arrive in the morning to get this thing taken apart, put back together and back to the storage building where it belongs.”

     “You two!” she shouted, pointing at the men next to me. “Get that lid off, and don’t forget to disable the trigger mechanisms so they won’t know it was opened. You two, get the note pads and pencils, we’ve got lots of writing to do. And as for you two…”

     She turned to me and the man standing beside me.

     “Get your cameras ready and act like you’ve got a real job. Snap to it! We’ve only got one shot at this, people!”

     She turned and marched across the room. I bristled angrily. Yes, she may be attractive and, yes, she may be well out of my league, but that didn’t mean I had to take her insults.

     “Who does she think she is to address us like that?” I fumed to my companion.

     He gave a small chuckle. He was several years senior to me and, I would have figured, the person most insulted by the comment. To my surprise, however, he didn’t appear insulted at all.

     “Listen to me,” he said. “That woman worked with aviation legend Jerrie Cobb building planes at Aero Design and served with her on the women’s branch of the Mercury project. She could be working at Nasa right now, if she hadn’t given it up to help the CIA’s space race initiative. Maybe we can kidnap a probe, but when it comes to taking it apart and putting it back together, this is her baby! If she says ‘jump’, I’m saying, ‘how high’. I suggest you do the same.”

     Great, I thought, if looks and skill didn’t take her out of my class already, she had the brains to boot. If there was ever a definition for the term ‘high above me’, she was it!

     While the men opened the hatch of the crate, I started scanning my film and equipment, to make sure everything was in order. It was hard to see with only a few lamps providing limited illumination. Unfortunately, we couldn’t risk anything brighter.

     After a few checks of the film rolls and a review of the camera, I verified that everything was as set and ready as it could be. All I could do now, was wait for the lid to get removed.


     With a loud rumble, all the lights in the facility sprang on at once, bathing our entire operation like the midday sun! Several of the agents reached for their weapons, other dove behind boxes, and the rest of us, with slower reflexes, simply froze. Every mind had only one thought passing through it. Ambush! Somehow, we had been tracked and followed; somehow we had been found out, somehow they have managed to catch us completely off guard; and somehow we were all about to die.

     My breathe caught as I stood there, camera in hand, not even armed with a weapon, waiting for the swarm of Russian guards and KGB agents to burst through the gates. No one said anything; there was nothing to say. No one did anything; there was nothing to do. And, no one heard anything; there was nothing to hear.
     After a few minutes of silence, it began to dawn on us that nothing was happening. One to the other, we all glanced around. Where were they?

     Then, laughter broke the stillness. It was Veronica.

     “It’s an automatic light,” she said, relief obvious in her voice. I watched as she lean against some nearby crates, her hand clutching her chest as though to still her rapidly beating heart. “The buildings must be set with automatic security lights. It’s alright; false alarm.”

     It took a few moments for the message to sink in for all of us. When it did, there was a general sigh of relief, along with a few others who shared in laughing off the false alarm. For me, I took solace in not only the fact that there wasn’t a genuine alarm, but also in seeing Veronica laugh and hold her chest. Perhaps there was a human side to her after all.

     From there, we got to work. The additional light overhead proved useful as we plowed away, wandering around inside the crate in our socks to avoid footprints. Hour after hour, we worked, some taking the craft apart, others making notes and myself snapping pictures as the night raced by. I can’t guess how many rolls of film I went through any more than the note takers can guess the pencils they wore down. In the end, though, we got it done. All that was left was to put it back together, get it back in the box, and get the box back where it belonged.

     While they worked on reassembling the Lunik, I sorted and packed the film in preparation of the flight back to Washington. As I did, I heard a shout from across the room. It was Veronica.

     “Just plug the cords in, alright?” she shouted.

     “I’m trying,” shouted back an angry voice. “How the hell am I supposed to plug them in when I can’t see what I’m plugging them into?”

     I crossed back to watch. Apparently, a rod, which held other mechanisms in place, was giving them problems. Various cords needed to be attached to one end corresponding with an orb that needed to be attached at the same time on the other end. The set-up of the module’s plates made it impossible to see either end from the outside. Veronica was crammed inside a small section of the lunik’s nose, trying to fit an orb into position while guiding the workers on the opposite end. The problem is, the other compartment was too small for anyone to fit inside, meaning the other man could neither see nor reach what he working with.

     “I don’t care how the hell you do it, just do it,” Veronica snapped back. “We have to get this done or nothing else will align.”

     “There is no way to do it,” the man replied, exasperated. “We need someone who can get inside.”

     “Well, I can’t be two places,” she shouted back. “This has to be attached here at the same time that piece is being connected.”

     “Well, there’s no one else who can fit inside this compartment,” he called back. “So what do you want us to do!”

     “I can fit,” I declared, jumping to my feet.

     “Shut up and let the real professional deal with this,” she shouted at me before turning back to the other man. “Try again! We don’t have much time! If we don’t get this done, we’re dead! Get it!”

     The man leaned against the probe, stretching to reach the section. It was no good. Minute after minute passed, as they struggled but, in the end, it was apparent they weren’t getting anywhere. Time was running out.

     “I can’t do it,” the man said, at last. “We’re almost out of time!”

     Veronica gave a sigh. She seemed too tired and stressed to argue anymore.

     “There’s nothing for it,” she said. Her eyes fell on me. “Do you think you can do it?”

     “Yes,” I answered confidently.

     “Then, let’s get in there!” she replied.

     I hurried to the engine compartment. I wasn’t entirely sure if what I said was true. The compartment was awfully cramped. Still, none of the larger men were going to be able to squeeze into there and, if I couldn’t get in, we were dead already.

     With a great deal of effort, I forced my way inside. It was pitch black in there, the flashlight almost useless as my own body blocked most of the light. Even from inside, I still couldn’t see the area I was trying to plug the cords into because it was blocked by a metal plate. No wonder the other men couldn’t do it.

     “Alright, find the red cord with the marking that looks like a lower-case ‘b’,” she called to me.
I found the cord and began to follow her instructions. Slowly and meticulously, we worked together to get the various cords attached. Alone inside the module, it was just her and I, separated by no more than a couple of inches of metal, the only people who could save the mission, working together; her able to see what I was doing and muttering instructions to me; me unable to see anything I was doing, relying solely on the sound of her voice. After what seemed like an eternity, really it was only an hour, we got all the pieces connected and the rod snapped into place.

     A sigh of relief issued from all of our lips. The hard part was done. Putting together the rest of the module went rather quickly. By the time the agents arrived from the hotel with the van’s driver, everything was set and we sent the probe was on its way.

     I headed to grab my cameras and equipment. To my surprise, I found myself face-to-face with Veronica. She gave me a sheepish smile and brushed her tangled hair behind her ear.

     “Sorry about the comments I made earlier,” she said. “I was just really stressed out. You did a great job today. We owe you everything.”

     “It was nothing,” I said, trying not to blush as those bright eyes gazed into mine.

     “I guess you’re heading back to Washington after this?” she asked.

     “Yes,” I replied. “How about you?”

     “I have a little clean-up I need to do and then I’ll be heading back in a couple of days,” she said.

     I gave a nod unsure what else to say. Fortunately, I didn’t have to say anything.

     “Hey, once we get out of here, do you want to grab some coffee or something,” she asked.

     “Yes,” I replied. “I’d like that.”

     “Me, too,” she said. She gave me a smile, then turned away to start packing up.

     I smiled. Turning around, I gazed over my shoulder at the disappearing truck. The wide gap between the Soviet Union and ourselves had just grown a lot smaller, and so had the gap between me and Veronica. I, like my country, was losing no more.