Chapter XXVI


It was time to try and wake up Frank.  I took the liberty to wait only 100 minutes hoping that Frank would be able to wake up earlier than estimated.  First thing I did was fish out his ButtonPort earbud and put it in his ear.  I spoke to him loudly over the earbud in Pig Latin and shook his shoulder firmly.  He was groggy and probably felt like going right back to sleep.  However, once he opened his eyes I started saying to him over and over again, “Ankfray, erethay isway omethingsay ongwray.”  I knew that our communication was probably being monitored.  We had basic encryption, but someone like Sir Terrance with access to dozens supercomputers our encryption was probably child’s play to decode.  And I don’t think he would be fooled by Pig Latin for more than a second. 

Frank kept staring at me as he tried to focus his mind.  Finally, he asked, “Where are we?”  I knew he wasn’t asking if we were still in the jet, that was obvious.  I answered, “My guess is we are circling roughly between the Norwegian and Greenland Seas.  We don’t seem to be headed to any destination.”

“What the fuck?” Frank said now stone cold sober and wide awake.

He looked over to the two robots and asked, “Hey GAICs, where are we landing?”  They did not respond.  Frank asked, “Hey Jerkface, when are we landing?”  They did not respond.  They just kept standing behind the counter and remained mute.  Frank looked at me and said, “Well, this is great.  Any options?”

Over the earbud I told him I did not think there were any.  I said I had no access to the Internet on the plane.  I said there were the Cirrus Escape pods, but considering we were in the middle of nowhere and the water temperature was about 32.3 degrees Fahrenheit our chances of surviving were questionable.  Assuming our host has not disabled them, especially the emergency satellite beacon, I do not know if they would keep us alive and warm until we were rescued.  Most likely, once I am out of this plane I could connect to one of the satellites that the Wall Street Journal uses, but they would have to go up channels to get us help and that could take too long.  One way to get into an escape pod is to say you need to go to the bathroom.  Both bathrooms double as escape pods which is nice as they are also designed for the handicapped.

Frank grumbled under his breath, “Great, so I get to freeze to death on a toilet.”  He turned and looked out the dark window.

Frank sat there for several minutes thinking about what I had said.  He picked up his drink and was about to take a sip of Jack Daniels but before I could warn him he must have remembered and threw the glass at the two stooges.  One of them picked up the pieces silently and threw them away.  Frank watched them clean up his rebellious gesture and then turned to me and whispered, “Are there any Emergency overrides on the auto-pilot?”

“Not on board, sir.”

“Shit, what about those two stooges, could we try to command them to override their instructions because of my safety?”

“It would be worth a try, sir.  I would join in your data demands, but if they have been programmed to ignore that they will do nothing.”

Frank got up and walked over to the two GAICs and said in as stern a voice as possible, “Gentlemen, I feel I am in danger.  This plane will soon run out of fuel and we will crash into the Arctic Ocean.  Help me.  Order the plane to land in London now.”

The two robots stood there like Fran was speaking Martian.  Frank got angry and picked up the bottle of Jack Daniels and smashed it on the head of the closest GAIC.  The only response was the Jack Daniel smelling robot told Frank, “Please take your seat, Mr. Huntington.”

The other robot started to pick up the pieces of glass on the counter and Frank tried to grab its arm.  The robot used its other hand and firmly separated Frank’s grip from his arm.  Frank let out a little whelp as the force applied by the robot had been such that no human could have resisted.  The alcohol smelling robot repeated the request/order again and Frank realized it was time to go and regroup.

Once he was seated he looked at me and said, “That was a waste of time.  Could you overpower them?”  In Frank’s earbud I said, “After watching them up close, I have decided they are really repurposed military robots.  Their markings are civilian, as is their communication ID, but from the sound of their arms and hands I can tell they are upgraded to combat strength.  I would be no match for them, sir.”

“When do you think this bird will run out of fuel?”

“In about another three hours, Sir.”

“Seems like an awfully expensive way to kill me.”

“Maybe they just intend to keep you up here for awhile and then land someplace before running out of fuel.  They could drop us off someplace in Iceland or Greenland.”

“But why?”

“Sorry, sir, I don’t have enough data to make a plausible theory.”

“Fuck, I could use a drink, but I don’t want to be asleep when I die.”

“Sir, I can check out your drink for most substances.”

“Fine go ask the two stooges for another Jack Daniels and test it for any shit.”

I went over to our hostbots and asked for a large glass of Jack Daniels.  They brought out a new bottle and pour a glass as requested.  I thanked them and brought it over to Frank.  I sampled it while bringing it over and found it was clean.

“As far as I can tell this is only Jack Daniels, Sir.”

Frank sniffed it and took a hesitant sip.  After waiting about two minutes he took a healthy drink and half the glass was gone.  I sat down next to my master and we both were quiet.  About every ten minutes Frank looked at his antique watch.  When he was finished with his drink Frank looked over at the two robots and said, “How about another drink and some food?  Being held prisoner makes me hungry.”

The two GAICs (or whatever their real model was) quickly prepared food and a new glass of Jack Daniels.  When they uncovered the plate I saw a lovely lobster tail smothered in a butter sauce and a filet mignon with a truffle sauce.  It looked well presented. On a separate plate was a baked potato with all the fixings.  If robots could envy humans I think the one thing we would envy is the ability of taste and enjoy fine food.  Human fuel often looked very elegant.  As a robot I felt nothing when I recharged.  It meant no more to me than walking or picking up a towel from the floor.

Frank had a slight look of surprise and said, “Not being the suspicious type, but I would say this almost look likes a last meal.”  I assume he was making an allusion to a condemned criminal about to face execution.  After I sampled the drink and did twenty random samples of the two plates of food I told Frank, “Go ahead, enjoy.”

Frank was finished with the lobster and about half way done with the filet when the auto-pilot came over the speaker, “Please take your seat and fasten your seatbelt.  We are about to refuel and may experience some turbulence.  About two minutes later I could hear the noise as the fuel port hatch was opened and the sound of another approaching air plane.  I looked at Frank and told him, “It seems doubtful that they intend to dump you in the ocean, Sir.  If they refuel us we will be good for another seven hours.”

Frank started to say, “I wonder how long they…” when I had to interrupt him.  I vocally said, “Sir do you want me to fetch you another glass of Jack Daniels.”  Over his earbud I told him, “Sir I can get on the Internet now.  The refueling plane’s network is open.”

He beckoned me to bend down and said, “Contact the Princess and ask for help.  Explain situation.”  Then he pulled his head back and said rudely, “More booze, damnit.”

I was able to send the following email to the Princess: “Dear Princess Marianne, This is a message on behalf of Frank Huntington.  Plane did not take us back to London and is circling the Arctic Ocean.  Frank held captive.  Please help.  Sincerely, Jack.”    I sent it while walking towards the two stooges and asked them for a refill on Frank’s glass.  Upon bringing it back to Frank and of course checking it for drugs, I handed it to my master and said, “Is there any other task you require, Sir.”  He only responded with a wink.

After about fifteen minutes the auto-pilot informed us we could now move about the cabin if we desired.  I had heard the fueling plane turn away from us about a minute earlier.  Frank finished his food and asked for another glass “for dessert”.  After that, he pushed back the chair and decided to take a snooze.  I didn’t blame him.  There was no one to talk to, at least freely, nor was there any entertainment.  Especially, the type of evening entertainment Frank was famous for.  I know some humans use robots for sexual satisfaction, but Frank never resorted to that.  He showed a 100% preference for real live women.  He seemed to be one of those humans who never was lonely.

Frank was still sleeping when the auto-pilot repeated the request for staying in your seat with your seatbelt on.  Frank had never removed his belt, so I just stayed in my seat.  A moment later I heard the same noises as before leading me to believe we were being refueled again.  I quietly checked the Internet again for headlines and for any new communications to Frank since I was still able to tap into the other plane’s open network.  There was one from Princess Marianne.  It read, “Dear Frank, I will see what I can do.  I am confused why.  Don’t worry, Marianne.”  Since the email had made it to the Princess I then knew that they were not bothering to monitor our earbud conversations.  I sent a brief response to the Princess.  It went, “Acknowledged. Frank Huntington.”  Again, after about fifteen minutes I heard the plane move away and the auto-pilot announcing we could move about again.  It was then that I woke Frank up from his sleep.  He woke up quickly this time.  I told him verbally, “Sir they just refueled us again. We are good for another seven hours.”  In his earbud I told him, “Princess responded.  She said she will try and help.  She was surprised at your situation.  I acknowledged her message.”

“Good, go get me some strong coffee and some cream if they have any.  Real cream, too.”

I got up and went to our robo-hosts and they were already boiling water to make some coffee in a French Press.  They allowed me to bring the tray with the French Press, a cup, and a creamer full of real heavy cream.  Frank let me pour a cup and add cream while I also ran several tests on both the coffee and the cream to see if they were clean.  I handed Frank the cup and said, “Enjoy Sir, it smells like your favorite brand.”

Frank quietly sat there drinking his coffee.  What was there to say?  He knew the cabin was probably bugged.  It was best to let sleeping giants lie.  I expected another long period of quiet until the next refueling.  I estimated if the plane had been serviced and the engines had no hours on them that we could stay up for over two weeks before regularly scheduled maintenance would become due.  Sooner if there were some hours on the engines.  At the very least the manufacturer required the lubrication schedule be done. 

Suddenly, there was the tone of the onboard phone signaling a call was coming through.  Frank got up and went and answered the phone.  The two stooges remained behind their counter.  Of course, I could hear what Frank heard and knew instantly it was the Princess.  This is what I heard.

“Hello” said Frank.

“Frank, this is Marianne.”

“Hi.  So what gives?” Frank said in a cool voice not showing any emotion one way or the other.  Her voice did not sound calm.

“I don’t know.  I don’t dare ask my husband.  Do you think he knows about us?”

“If he does he has an odd way of showing he is pissed off.  I think it is something else.  What that is I don’t have a fucking clue.  Can you get me back to London?”

“I’ll have to figure out where the controller program is and see if I can get in it.”

“Hurry, I need to get back to earth and figure this out.”

“Hold on, I found it.  Let me look at the flight plan.”  There was a silence until Frank finally said, “Are you still there Marianne?”

“Quiet, I’m trying to figure this out.  I don’t usually deal with stuff like this.”

After about a minute she was back, “Okay, it is set to just fly around for a week.  It will then fly you back to London.”

Frank quietly said, “Can you change it to come back to London now?”

“Yes, but that would take a little over three hours.  I think it would be safer to get you back to civilization faster in case anyone notices the flight plan has been changed.”

“Smart girl.  Where?”

“Reykjavik.  It is closest to where you are.”

“Perfect, I can catch an Icelandic Air to London.”

“Be careful, Frank.”

“Ditto, Princess.”

Frank hung up the phone and took his seat.  He pushed it back to an inclined position and shut his eyes.  A minute later I could feel the jet take on a new heading towards the southwest.  The Princess must have been able to change the flight plan.  My estimate was that we would be there in less than an hour.  Unfortunately, I would not be able to book a flight to London until we got off this plane.  Hopefully, the goon squad was not given separate instructions to keep us on the plane for the whole week.  If that was the case Frank would have to try and make a break for it while I tried to hold back those two robots.  I would not be able to delay them very long.  A few seconds at most before they would overpower me.  Just my luck I would end up in repair.  They could rip off my arm or head.  I would not feel any harm, but it would inconvenience my master.  At least he would not have to pay for the repairs as I am really the property of the Wall Street Journal.

About a half hour later the auto-pilot made the request for everyone to take a seat and buckle up.  Right after that I could sense we were losing altitude and speed.  It was obvious to me that we were on the final approach to the runway. 

Suddenly, the plane’s two jet engines revved up and the plane started to climb and bank.  A few seconds later we were still climbing but on a steady northeast heading.  Frank looked at me and said, “We are headed back.”  Then he did something really strange.  He doubled over in his seat and I could see his right arm go up by his face.  I could also see his mouth was wide open.  Then suddenly I heard a retching sound come from Frank and he sat up quickly and projectile vomited towards the two stooges.  He then stood up coughing loudly and manage to say the word “Bathroom!” between coughs.  The two robots just stared, but when Frank made for the bathrooms they stood aside and let him go.  I kept asking Frank, “Master, Master, what is wrong?  Master can I help you?” and followed him to the bathroom.  Once inside he turned to me and said “You idiot, go to the other bathroom and jettison out of here.”  I started to go and then he said, “On second thought you stay and I’ll go.”  He ran out slamming the door and I could hear the other bathroom door slam shut.  He yelled, “Sorry I puked all over you, Jack.”  Five seconds later I started the jettison procedure.  After pushing several levers a ten second timer started and I heard a robot voice warning that unless the “Stop” button was pushed the procedure would continue.  A second later I heard the same robot voice coming from Frank’s bathroom.  I also heard the two stooges coming towards us.  They started talking very loudly for us to go back to our seats.  Then I heard a loud knock on my door and a demand to open up.  I hoped that they did not break down the door because that could really mess things up.  I don’t know what would happen if they put a fist through the door when the rockets would try to push us away from the jet. 

The sound was very loud when the pod was jettisoned.  Exploding bolts, rocket engines and the sound of the parachute being deployed definitely got one’s attention.  I could hear Frank’s pod jettison about four seconds after mine did.  The next thing I noticed it became quiet.  I could hear the jet plane continue to climb and fly away from us.  Then a computerized voice informed the occupant to, “Sit down and buckle up.  Landing in 18 seconds.”  It would keep repeating the warning updating the time until landing.  I couldn’t see Frank’s pod out of the small window, but I would imagine we would land no more than five miles apart. 

The landing was hard, but not serious.  The voice repeated instructions on how to egress the pod and what to do if the pod lands in water.  It also said to stay calm and that help will be coming soon.  It gave instructions on where food and water were stored and asked if I needed any instructions on first aid.  I told it, “I am fine” and started to open the hatch.  

Once outside I scanned the horizon to see if I could find Frank’s pod.  It did not take long as it is hard to miss a bright orange parachute waving in the air.  We had luckily landed in a field.  There was about five inches of snow.  Frank was only three hundred and fourteen yards from me.  I ran towards the pod and as I approached the hatch opened up.  I could see Frank pull his sports coat closer to his body. 

“Sir, are you alright?”

“I’m great.  Where is a house or some place we can get warm?”

“There are a couple of buildings about a mile south of here.  Can you run?”

“Lead the way, Jack.”

And so we jogged at a steady pace.  Thankfully, the field was level and easy to run through the three to six inches of snow.  It only took us about nineteen minutes to get to the house.  It was early in the morning and like all good farms the farmer was already up.  When he opened the door I said to the farmer, “Hej, vi har brug for hjælp.  Vores fly styrtede ned.  Kan du give os en tur til byen?”  In English I said, “Hello.  We need help.  Our plane crashed.  Can you give us a lift to town?”

Frank asked, “What did you tell him?”

The farmer smiled and said with a Danish accent, “You American, yes?”

“Yes I am.  My name is Frank Huntington.  I’m a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.  It’s important I get to the airport.  Can you take us?”

“Of course, just as soon as I finish milking the cows.”

Frank had that “Oh My God” expression on his face, but I asked the farmer if there was something we could do to help.  He thanked us and then invited us into his house for some strong coffee and Øllebrød.  Once Frank saw the farmer pour Einstök beer over a bowl of rye bread pieces he gave the farmer a big smile and said, “Looks good.”

After Frank and the farmer, whose name we learned was Carl Soborg, finished breakfast I followed them into the barn.  He had me clean out the stall where the cows had been kept during the night.  Frank got to help wash the cows' udders and get them into the milking parlor.  It all went quicker than I thought.  In less than two hours we had eight cows cleaned, milked and returned to their stalls.  Once that was done we got into Mr. Soborg’s truck.  While milking I had booked the earliest flight I could get tickets to for London.  We had plenty of time before our flight.   

Once in the main terminal I picked up our boarding passes.  We had only two hours to wait.  Frank used the time to rent one of those mini suites to take a shower, shave, and get a change of underclothes.  He also called his editor and told him he was going to send him a time encrypted message that he was to open if he did not get back to him in a week.  After that Frank dictated the following message I was to send to his Editor.

“Perry, this is Frank Huntington.  I have proof that Sir Terrance Lutts was behind the religious events where everyone became an atheist.  That includes those nuns in Spain, the Buddhists in LA and what happened in Old Jerusalem.  I suspect he was testing his nano devices that somehow reprograms the brain to not be religious.  I believe he wants to use these nano things on the whole world.  I am going to try and stop him.  If you are reading this and not saying, ‘Sweet Jesus’ then you will know I failed.  Cheers, Frank”

Frank told me to send it immediately but encrypt it for a week.  I did so and then asked Frank if he really thought Lutts was going to do that.

“Yes, Jack, it all makes sense.  While I have no doubt he now can cure depression I realize that same technology can cure religion, if you know what I mean.”

“You’ve always hated religion.  Do you really care if he does that?”

“I don’t believe in forcing anyone to believe anything.  Religion sucks, but if we allow him to force atheism on the world, what other changes would he decide to do?  And you know, Lutts probably doesn’t want to do more than kill religion, but someone will figure out how to use his technology and force the world to do what they want.”

“You’d all be robots, Sir.”

Frank gave a small chuckle and said, “You’re right Jack.  We’d be just like you.”


Chapter XXVII




















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