an old dirty pick up bumped and jolted over the rutted dirt road .
the 'CD' played mozart , and it was good to be back on the mountian .
anne never left the mountain unless the internet cable went down , she didn't need or want any contact with the world .
this was diffrent , peter had sent her a single egg .
she had stayed in a nice motel for the last five days .
been off her mountain for the last five days .
peter had deliver'd the egg in person , they had a nice breakfast ... and she was now done with the hard part .
this was the first time she and peter had ever met in person , but not likly the last time .
on the floor of her truck , there on the floor on the passinger side was a card board box .
...a very common , ordinary , unremarkable card board box ....
in its very bottom were blue plastic bags that were about 11o to 1o5 degrees , the rest of the box was filled with a fine
shredded paper .
at the very center of the box was a single chickens egg .
the egg rested on a 2 inch square of cotton , and surrounded by a loose armor of shredded paper .
a 12 volt computer fan mounted in the side of the box humms as it pushs air across the blue packs and up thru the paper
a single chicken egg .
but like no other egg in the world .
for peter was not nearly as clever as people beleive .
and anne was not nearly the person that any one in her world suspected .
peter had given her more than 30 such eggs in the past , only one had been successfuly hatched .
but of the hundreds that peter had infected with one virus after another , radition to clear away the weaker mutations ,
injections to slow groth for more complex cellular structures ... testing ... sequensing , computer modeling .
after all peter did , the real critical part was just surviving the hatch , getting the creature to hatch .
thats where anne came in to the picture .
she had dropped out of the world , dropped off the face of the planet , turned her back on titles and degrees , the job offers
, the publish or parrish , program grants and proposals , but understood what and who peter was .
in days , only days later ...
to see the flesh and soft bone creature after it emerged from an egg , you would never imagine the powerful , swift , strong
creature that it was to become.
its tiny arms seemed helpless balls of tubeing , tangled and in chaos.
its chest laboring to fill and expire with air , free at last from the tiny egg .
anne carefully pulled the four bundles of fleshy tubes that would be its arms into oppisite directions untangling them with
great care , she could tell this was quite painful to the little walker , but it had to be done , its two parabolic
reflector eyes watched every motion she made , recorded her every move .
she could hear and feel its pings , and knew just where it was looking from the ticking feeling of its powerful pings as they
touched her hand .
it did not see with light , it used sound to see , two tiny thimbel size cones that crain'ed and aimed at her hands as she
pulled the twelve strands of musclure tubes , three tubes for each arm , each arm with a tiny wrist and six finger'd hand .
she at last sat back , the long slender muscles were at last untangles , the walkers tiny fists held the rubber bands she
had put on the nails.
the four nails that she had put in the table top more than a week ago now seemed to close togather ... even two feet apart
, the heavy rubber bands seemed weak and near braking to the walkers powerful muscles .
she took a swift gulp of the cherry , then poured the mostly filled water glass of wine in the spray bottle , then sprayed
the walker with it .
only then did she reolise that this tiny being , her walker was pinging her breasts , nipples .
she could feel the pings right thru her tee shirt .
it pulled the rubber bands in rythemic rotations , one eye looking down one of her arms , and the other eye scanning her
neck and face .
anne knew that in a matter of an hour , this walker would know her as its mother , and from that moment on , she would
never be free of its devotion , love and protection .
she also knew , that the amantillado sherry she had just sprayed on it... would forever be , the single greatest reward
she could bestow upon it .
it was known that they had a love of wine , but that first taste would always its favirote .
egg whites would be the first meal , with a taste of honey and peanut butter to get it use to solide food as quickly as
she took a sirnge and knew this would be hard , for the last week she had dredded this moment , she took one of its eyes
and drove the shirnge in and pressed the contents into its tiny throat ... it would be weak and tired , and unable to
understand what she was doing this first time.
it would be a fight for ever after this first time .
she pulled back , sat back , and watched... it went well , a bit of shock , a tiny confused... "Oh my , your a good
little man " she said softly.
and her little man was a hungry little one .
' lets try again '
and she did , filled the shringe with the light brown soup and gave it another tummy full .
she sat back and sprayed her little guy with the water and sherry , and he seemed so totaly content and happy .
... she wanted to cry , the little guy was so tired , and seemed to just slip into a nap , as his hands let go of the 4
rubber bands , his parabolic eyes lay back , in some strange slumber .
like his brother , the dragon was just a collection of muscles .
carbon graphite tubes for bones , tan rubber bands , fine high carbon steel springs .
draco how ever , had a long nine foot musclar spine , a long slender chest the size of a mans , with a 11 foot wing span , and
two strong arms at the top of its chest .
with a single parabolic eye at the tip of its tail , as a weapon , and a large almond shaped head , like a leathery
featureless beak .
on either side of the slender head , what looked like blisters of meny colors , sizes , ages and shapes .
from under its jaw , to the top of its head , from its nose to the neck , it had hundreds of simple eyes of diffrent ages ,
use and types .
little more than pin hole camars , it had taken peter hundreds of attempts to give draco these simple eyes .
the highly sensitive little new ones , and the less sensitive larger old ones , draco could see with the fresh and newest , but
over time , the hard cover would brake off , where the skin had broken away leaving blue green spots , spots that could do
little more than give a sense of color or darkness .
oddly enought , this was criticaly important , giving a sense of direction , attitude and balance in flight .
draco was strong enough to lift himself into the air , but it took ever bit of him to do this .
flight was a great deal more difficult than walking , but flight was nearly the only thing draco wanted to do .
anne some times imagined him looking at her with those hundreds of eyes , but the single eye at the end of his tail was
actualy what he used for the most part .
draco would wrap his long snake like tail around his 3 foot in diameter spool that was covered on every surface with
carpet , and bolted to the floor for his use , and anne would hear inside her head " how is the little guy doing ? "
" I think he is napping again , poor little thing "
draco's tail aimed very rigidly and carefully at her head .
" he isen't going to die is he ? "
she smiles " no dear , did you eat ? "
" yes mama , I ate all , I did really good "
" good for you , you watch our little one , but don't ping him , you know what I told you , you be good draco , watch
our little one ."
" mama , are you going to go to sleep , your all tired ... and your afraid for him . "
" yes , I will , but I am afraid for us ... not for him draco "
" mama will he look like me ? "
" no draco , he will be very special , you have to becareful , and always help your brother ."
anne laid down , the danger was over , but this little guy was one of a kind .
in the world of artifical life forms , the two legged tetrahedrons were the most common .
they were stupid lab rat creatures . of the three or four thousand tetra's , most were blind and brainless .
maybe as meny as five hundred had voice level brain function .
peter said that of all two hundred dragons , all have voice level brains , nearly all never left the lab , most dragons had his
dotoral thesis eyes ,
but only draco , puff and smudge had wings.
and the illusion that draco really was inteligant was only her imagination .
at best , she could hope that draco would one day be as smart as a well behaved puppy .
frankly speaking , this was not real science . this was a hobby and no one took it seriously .
practicaly speaking , these creatures had no central brain , their whole nervious system was spread all over their body .
but this walker was diffrent .
anne knew this .
peter had told her , warned her that this little one would be remarkably diffrent .
when she woke , she would feed him , and for the next week he would grow at half the speed of draco ,
in a year , he might be as big as three pounds .
there was something diffrent with this one , after 90 minutes she got up . sprays her little guy with a fine mist of sherry
and water and feeds him , he was hungry , and she could feel his tiny ticks , looking her over , studing her .
this little guy was not at all like draco .
" mama , can I go play ? "
" yes draco , but stay close to the house "
" is he going to die mama "
" did you eat draco ?"
" yes mama , I ate all . I was good "
anne got up and openned the door for her dragon , that walked in gentle , graceful strides .
its powerful wings held tightly , folded against its body , just outside the door , the wings open , it takes three powered
leaps , reachs into the air and lifts , floating over the fence , touches the ground a moment , leaps and lifts into the air
and floats two hundred feet , feet find ground , bolts into the air for two hundred more yards and floats to earth , pushs
again into the air . leaping and floating , banking and jumping .
anne never could help but smiling to see her happy dragon running and leaping , soaring and floating .
then turned her attention to her little one ,
if this were a tetra , it would be in a critical care unit for a week , incubator for a month , and if it survived , they
might give it armor in three months .
draco was in armor in only a week , and it was to early for him ... she should have waited .
after draco came in and she fed draco and her little guy , she went out to the truck and got her little guys armor .
peter gave anne armor for the first three years , frankly speaking , she could tell it was second hand , some tetra's hand me
the sky was getting dark , draco was curled around his spool , and she asked him ,
" shall we see if he wants to move ?"
" yeah , you are smart , I was good ,yeah , he is not smart , he can do good , he needs to get dressed "
" your very good draco , you are very smart "
anne suddenly reolised something . it made her mind pause .
draco was pinging her , she could feel the tiny touch of his sound pings as they wandered over her skin .
this was not unusual or even remarkable ... what was odd... there were three pings .
one from draco , and two coming from her little guy .
what was startling ... she could tell the diffrence , she could tell which one was draco , because it was dull ,
soft and with just slightly less precsion .
her little guy was reading her like a book .
reading her , reading every move she made with great care .
" your quite the little reader aren't you "
" is he a reader mama "
" yes he is , he is our reader "
" is he gunna get dressed mama "
" do you think I should ?"
" yeah , he needs to get dressed "
draco knew just what he was saying , and she knew it .
her little readers "ears" were still tiny , soft and developing . if draco ping'd him even once , the damage would harm her
little reader forever .
if draco gave him a hard ping , it would kill him .
both she and draco , had already gone there .
draco had already done this to another little one , and he would do anything to keep that sadness from happening again .
anne knew draco would lisen to this little reader , let it ping him and snuggle and dance all over him .
and never ever ping her little reader .
but there was a empathic understanding happening here .
draco understood her little reader in ways she didn't .
draco knew just what he was saying , and she knew it .
she took out the twenty four little carbon fiber tubes from the box , ' this is way the heck to soon ' , and began slipping
them over the long muscles.
then carefully turning the springs over the first set of tubes... she sprayed reader down with sherry , when she finished
the first arm .then did the second arm , and sprayed him down again . sat back a moment , his little fingers pulled the rubber
bands moving inside the tubes and springs , opening and closing them with delight , almost like he understood why these tubes
were needed , or knowing what wonderful thing was about to occure .
her little reader lay very still as she fed him ,she fed him to relax him ... and then did the remaining two arms ...
slipping the tubes over his muscles , taping the slits on the sides of the tubing closed , connecting the two accuators
togather with hard rubber.
then sprayed him down with sherry , because he was being such a good boy .
she leans back in her chair ... her little reader was one step away from being whole .
reader was a common mutation that sometimes happened to tetra's when the first cell divided , but did not separate so that
you had two tetrahedrons connected at one edge .
these monsters came in two flaviors... one with the arms faceing forward and back , tangling them beyond hope of any
functional use .
or... like her little one... four arms pointing outward , two sets of arms , arms faceing right and left .
peter had placed the parabolic sound "eye's " at the top and bottom of the connected edge .
her little readers had , a right side and left side ,set of lungs and stomacs .
the right and left stomac's were connected , the left and right lungs were connected , and the left and right nervious systems
with the "eye's" and arms were all connected togather .
and two full nervious systems , fully connected to each other .
practicaly speaking , reader was two tetra's , and it was hoped twice as good as the best dragon .
peter wanted to think... he also had the best mom on earth for this experiment .
anne watched her little reader fade into his nappy time , with a full tummy , and the taste of sherry on his skin . then
as his fingers let go of the rubber bands she slipped the soft rubber off his wrists and took the thick fur off , then
gave the middle of his leg a 120 degree twist and wrapped a heavy rubber band around where the tubes came togather in two
places ... and then swiftly did the same thing to other three legs .
then the very last thing needed , two very powerful springs from sholder to elbow , elbow to wrist .
when anne was done . reader would wake up into a new and diffrent world .
it was dark out side , the fire burning in the black iron fire place . the old wood smell of comfortable dust and old
wood fires filled her space
, her place .. and reader stirred .
his fingers moved as his arms and legs pulled and drag over the table top .
he is not so large , than he could not fit in a space much larger then a soup can . a tiny little thing .
reader weighs as much as a baby chick , tiny !
anne watch's in wonder as her tiny little guy moved , first one arm and then the other , laying flatly against the table top
draco move behind her , she sees the motion in the corner of her eye , but never brakes her gaze.
then suddenly reolises , the two motions are syncronised .
she turns and sees draco moving , then turns , reader is doing something .
in her head she hears " he is not smart , he didn't eat all , then he will be a good reader , good like draco "
reader pushs his arms and stands , falls down , pushs , falls again , then pushs and stands very still .
he is so tiny , and he stands , she feels his tiny pings moving over her , then hears them on the table top .
anne knew that tetra's never fell down , they either stood , or didn't move at all .
draco , in all the time she had seen him had never fallen down . not once .
this little reader was special ! , one of a kind , the first of a kind , the only one on earth . alone with not one who could
say , it can be done ,
that thing is normal for us .
and here he stands ... so tiny , in such a large world ... helpless , dangers all around .
with care , she holds his tiny body , and feeds him , sprays him with sherry , and slowly helps her little guy explore what
has happened to him .
she knows that he has a walking cycle hard wired into him , he just needs to find it , learn how to find and use it.
this little guy is not a human baby , or a chick... or a tetra , or a dragon . what he is has never befor been see .
a humans nervious system weighs only 5 or 6 pound of our one hundred and forty or two hundred pound total body weight .
this little guy has a fifteen gram nervious system of a one hundred gram total body weight .
suddenly her little reader walked right at her ... and would have walked right off the table top had she not caught him.
her little reader wanted to do everything . look at it all .
when she put it on the floor it seemed stunned , and then boom , off it went .
all anne needed to do was move slightly and back ran reader to her .
everything was frightening , ever new thing was terrifing , every single thing was new , but by morning ... reader knew draco
is a good thing , and mama is a good thing .
draco is like me , and mama is just mama .
the fire place is not a good thing ... walking off the table is not a good thing... sherry means I did good , eating is
not good , but a full tummy is good .
by morning anne had a tiny little thing walking up and looking at things under its own power ... he is just so so tiny...
reader is so tiny following her . she had to move slowly , or let it grab on to her ... ride on her sholder .
poor little reader , he was always so afraid of everything .
for nearly a month reader didn't seem to grow at all ... she measured him twice a day , and frankly ... he seemed to like
the attention .
he lost 5 grams in the first 5 days ... then it came back and he added a gram a day .
then , after the first month , she never understood what happen'd ...but ... suddenly reader just seemed to relax , and
started to grow . draco seemed to change about that time also .
when reader was one year old and nearly 300 grams , she watched reader stand between draco's feet , and draco swiftly
flashed his tail with in inchs of her little reader ... then she watched draco power ping a squarrel from a tree , blasting
it again and again as it ran away in terror .
she called out to draco , asking him what was he doing . draco said inside her head , like a voice in her mind from 300
feet away , " bad thing to reader , is a bad thing to me . bad things need to go away . "
she was about to scold draco , then a thunder bolt of insight .
draco was showing reader " when I am here , nothing is gunna mess with my little brother ! "
not a fly in the room , not a squerral in a tree... nothing is safe from me , when you need me , I will take care of it ,
you just relax and get big .
anne knew that every sound , every word , everything around reader was being heard .
his power ping could give reader a rather complete image of her heart beating with in her chest as it happened , including
all the surrounding other tissues in the wave cone .
the only diffrence between a bat's radar and reader radar ,is that a bat would need to evolve for another 20million more years
to be as good as one of reader's eye's , and still not be quite as good .
anne sent reports and digital pictures of her little guy to peter on a nearly daily basis .
her little guy changed armor because he just wore the first and second set out .
the second set was far to big for him , but his first set just seemed to start to fall to peices.
he was really pretty strong for a being only the size of a very small chicken after the first year .
then he really started to grow .
is second year armor was aluminum , and that was still not tough enought , reader could easily carry 4 times his body weight
, and his muscles were getting so big ...
the forth year was the big one .
anne remembers the day he started talking... he had a few words at two years old , then suddenly , at four suddenly she heard
draco and reader talking to each other .
draco didn't understand a thing , and reader was calmly trying to say something... she didnt really understand ...
only then did she understand that reader and draco had been speaking to each other for over a year... but...
reader was shy .
of course reader was shy , afraid , and timide . he only came to her hip in height , not even a third as tall as she
but also , draco and reader could talk to each other in ultra sonic's , beyond her ablity to hear .
when reader did talk , his grama , was easily understood by draco , but imposable from annes point of veiw .
but as they talked more , slowly he became easier to understand .
then there was the bad year .
in april , she had to distroy his old armor to get him out of it , for the new thin wall steel .
his nakid weight was just less than 70 pounds, with his new armor he weighed 97 and it was designed just for him .
his power ping could kill any animal smaller than a large dog .
with armor designed just for him , the new armor he could easily carry four hundred and fifty to five hundred pounds .
for the first time in his short life , draco was his equal .
when he reolised this , something came between them , something ugly and strange .
draco never seemed to change , and reader was getting bigger and stronger and smarter .
anne kept them apart , and then suddenly it just seemed to pass .
she never really understood what it was , but suddenly draco was the loved brother again, who kept him safe , watched over
one evening as she talked to draco , reader told her for the first time .... something that had happened all those meny
years ago .
there were five flys in the house . reader knew where each was ... and they frightened him so .
to him , they were frightening monsters , large flying things , swift and deadly things .
for over a month they tormented him , and he was powerless to do anything but fed them off .
keep them back , make them stay back for a while .
when draco reolised what was frightening him. in what seemed like moments , draco killed them with carefully aimed pings .
... then suddenly , reader found that he could call on draco if ever he was afraid .
" ... mama , and I was always afraid . everything was so big , and I was so small ... but brother would just be suddenly
there to keep the bad things away . he would say to me ' badthings , will not be a thing for long ' and I would hear
his ping , and My eyes would ring with the thing exploding hard ... and I would know that mama loves me , and brother
loves me , and I am safe when he is with me... "
when reader was ten years old he got the heavy armor , he weighted over four hundred pounds , and peter was quite
frankly pushing material design limits to master the requirements .... reader would just need to be careful .
draco , had not really changed much in these ten years , but reader had changed totaly . seven feet tall , capable of
lifting three thousand pounds , either of his parabolic "eye's" could alone power ping a large animal to death . togather
they could create a sound blast harmonic with in nearly any material other than metal that would blow a hole .
reader could lisen to any sound and mimic them perfectly , see thru walls .
anne could have a remarkably adult conversation with reader , with out any difficulty .
suddenly reader was something more than a artifical life form , but something less than human .
more than a friend , less than a son ... not something owned , absolutely not a pet or live stock .
but at the same time , not free to be independant of her , nor did reader or draco ever want to be free of her .
it was hard to say how long they might live , and the danger of out living her was a real concern .
to call them a pet , live stock or property seemed vile .
but they were clearly not human .
and this is where the store begins .