By William A. Lasher
High in the Sierra Madre, in a remote corner of Chihuahua, Chip McLane is hard at work on his computer. He uses an eight-foot-tall Feature Screen as his monitor, opening numerous windows and organizing them as symmetrical blocks on his display. Chip’s a cyber multi-tasker, and he’s working hard at coming up with ways to defeat Winston February’s andys.
The winter had been tolerable, with a few inches of snow on the ground through December and January, and more on the high peaks. Oswaldo’s men kept the high-country cabins stocked with firewood and Chip didn’t have much to do but keep working. They kept the road into the 3,200-acre hideout open, and when he needed something like a new electronic gadget, all he had to do was ask, even if it meant Benito and Rodolfo had to drive all the way down to Culicán to find it.
Carlitos Navarro may be Oswaldo’s chief lieutenant, but Chip has more clout in the organization. He’s indispensable in planning the fight to retake Nogales.
He has an encrypted satellite link to the internet; he set it up so it can’t be traced. It’s Winston February’s andys that he’s worried about, not the police. After all, they’re in Mexico, and it’s easy for Oswaldo to keep the local cops content with the requisite sobornos.
The police are well paid allies, and if they encounter an unknown motorist venturing up the remote road that leads into the compound, they’ll turn the car around before it reaches the entrance gate. A traveler who makes it all the way is met by Oswaldo’s sicarios at the secured gate, and they’re armed with machine guns.
Chip has no idea how much Contreras is worth, but he’s sure it’s a large sum of money, probably over a billion in U.S. dollars, and Oswaldo pays him well. Far more than he ever would have made as an IT worker if he and Doug had stayed in school.
Instead, they’d met up with Eddie Dominguez and taken up a life of crime. He was running an online ad for computer techs and when he offered them a big payoff for very little work, both said yes. All they had to do was program a load of illicit andys, and they’d make enough money to move out of the stuffy little dump they shared on Speedway Boulevard in Tucson.
Chip volunteered to take the Mexican side of the operation. Doug thought it would be safer to stay in Arizona. Now Chip’s a 25-year-old millionaire and Doug’s facing hard time in prison. Nailed twice for conspiracy to smuggle blue caps, he’ll go on trial for multiple felonies when the federal prosecutors finally get around to it. His truck driving partner Jasper is in jail too, looking at the same list of charges.
Larry Andrews is the cocaine trafficker who introduced Eddie to Contreras. He came up with the money to bail out after the feds busted him in Cabo, and there’s something telling Chip he’ll never appear for trial. Not voluntarily, anyway.
And Eddie? The blue cap pandilla mastermind? He’s in Costa Rica with Heather, his ADU ultimate companion. Off the grid at his mountaintop hideout in the rainforest south of Pavones.
No one’s supposed to know where Eddie is, but Chip found him. He mass hacked retail security cameras in Costa Rica, and then ran the thousands of videos through facial recognition software. Finally, he found Eddie and Heather buying groceries in Pavones.
Eddie’s using the alias “Max Freestone” now and Chip located his hideout by hacking into the local real estate agent’s computer files. They’re riding horses into town for supplies; Eddie’s pickup is in a storage garage in Pavones.
When Oswaldo calls Chip a computer genius, he’s not kidding around. It’s the reason why the crime jefe pays him so much.
Lately, he’s been working on something he calls a matter materializer. The machine converts the live image of a material subject into binary code, and then the code is transferred to a mobile file. Next, Chip makes the live image appear at any location that he chooses. Theoretically, anywhere on the planet, as long as it has internet service.
The matter appears as a hologram, and Chip’s hoping it’ll give an animate being the ability to perceive its surroundings and communicate. In other words, he’s hoping he can create a holographic image of himself, move it to another location and not only see and hear where he is, but also communicate with whoever happens to be there.
After successfully materializing inanimate objects, he tries it with a laboratory mouse. He successfully creates a live image of the mouse in the next room, and the real mouse still exists in the same location where its code was copied.
Now he wants to try it on himself. Oswaldo and Olivia are sitting in the great room of the lodge. Chip’s in his cabin, about a hundred feet away. He sends his code file through the ether to the great room and has it materialize in an armchair next to where Oswaldo is seated.
“Chip,” he hears Oswaldo say through his headphones. “You did it. Your image is sitting here next to me. Plain as day.”
Chip can see Oswaldo and the great room on a window he brought up on his Feature Screen. He can look around the room and speak through his hologram by mentally willing it. In the great room, his cyber image communicates with the cigar smoking crime boss as if he were sitting there in the flesh.
“You’re a certified genius, Chip.”
“How far can you go with it?” says Olivia.
“You mean in physical distance?”
“It should be unlimited. Any location where there’s an airborne internet signal.”
He tests the machine further by entering the coordinates to a remote beach location on the Baja, a couple hundred miles away from the hideout in Chihuahua. He sends his code file and when it materializes, he can see the Pacific surf on his monitor, and hear the waves crashing in his headphones.
It appears that he can materialize his holographic image anywhere in the world, and when he enters the coordinates to an observation platform that’s next to the Great Pyramids in Egypt, the program works flawlessly. (He manages to startle a group of Japanese tourists when his hologram materializes within a few feet of them, and he responds by quickly terminating the connection.)
Chip thinks he’ll eventually be able to transport actual matter through the internet, not just a holographic image of it. If he keeps working at it, someday he’ll be able to convert his physical being to binary code, and then materialize himself at a new location.
La Pandilla del Río Grande is the only human-run drug cartel left on the border. They still control the plazas from Nuevo Laredo to the Gulf of Mexico, but the word on the street says February’s andys are planning a move on Nuevo Laredo. Rubén Badillo is the leader of the pandilla, and he’s requested a meeting with Oswaldo to discuss a possible alliance.
Oswaldo’s confident that the rival jefe’s intentions are sincere, and he agrees to attend a summit at Badillo’s horse ranch in Coahuila state, near the city of Torreón.
Chip’s wary of attending the meeting, and it’s not because he’s suspicious of Badillo. What’s bothering him is the possibility that February’s andys have cracked Badillo’s cyber security apparatus. He talks to Oswaldo about it, and together they decide that Chip and Olivia will remain at the hideout while Oswaldo and Carlitos travel to Torreón.
No roads cross the rugged mountains to the east of the high-country compound, so they’ll take a circuitous route down the coast to Mazatlán, and then turn back towards the northeast on Highway 40. They’re traveling in five full-sized SUVs, gasoline powered, in Mexico you can still buy fossil fuel at retail pumps.
Including Oswaldo and Carlitos, there’s twenty-eight El Culto al Lobo gangsters in the convoy. Contreras isn’t taking any chances with Badillo. He doesn’t think they’re driving into a trap, but it’s better to be over-manned instead of regretful that you left the back-up at home. A show of power is a commonsense precaution in the dangerous world of Mexican drug gangs.
His men are armed with machine guns, pistols, and a couple of rocket launchers. Oswaldo bought Annihilators on the black market in Phoenix, but they’re mounted on Chip’s jet powered drones back at the hideout in Chihuahua.
Chip thinks it’s possible that February’s andys are intercepting Badillo’s communications, but Oswaldo doesn’t think it’s worth worrying about. If they are eavesdropping on Badillo and know about the summit, he thinks it’s unlikely they’ll attack in Torreón. It’s a long way from the western border region, and well into the Mexican interior. He thinks it’s more likely they’ll make their move on Nuevo Laredo while Badillo’s gangsters are occupied in Torreón.
The first day out, the convoy travels through Sinaloa state, down the Pacific coast from Los Mochis to Mazatlan. On their way through a small town on the outsjkirts of Culicán, the last SUV in the group is pulled over for running a red light. When the driver tells the cop that Oswaldo Contreras is riding in the backseat of the third rig in the convoy, the cop abruptly hands the registration back to the driver, gives him a friendly warning, and actually bows before waving them on. Oswaldo’s driver is watching the exchange in his rear-view mirror, and when he relates what’s happening, Oswaldo and Carlitos laugh wickedly. The andys may have taken control of the border plazas, but the name Oswaldo Contreras still carries muy prestige along the Pacific coastline.
They stop for the night in Mazatlan. In friendly territory, Oswaldo takes the crew out for dinner. Later, they tour a couple of the resort city’s notorious strip clubs. The gangsters drink lightly and stay aware of their surroundings.
It’s another six hours to Torreón, and after sampling the breakfast buffet at a local casino, the convoy is back on the road. They pass a few automated electric sedans and levitation cycles on the rural highway, but most of the vehicles are gasoline powered, obsolete north of the border.
They cross the spine of the Sierra Madre, and on the eastern side of the massive mountain range they enter the Bolsón de Mapimí, an internal drainage basin. The rivers and streams that flow out of the mountains never make it to the Gulf of Mexico, instead the water evaporates in salty swamps and shallow lakes.
It’s a hot and windy day in the bone-dry desert. The drive through Torreón is uneventful, and before long, they’re closing in on Badillo’s ranch.
Chip’s on his computer back in Chihuahua when he receives an email from Oswaldo. He asks him to turn on the matter materializer and have his holographic image appear in the SUV. He thinks it’ll be a kick to watch Badillo’s reaction when Chip’s hologram climbs out of the rig. Mess with his mind a little bit. He doesn’t know it, but February’s andys have already wasted Badillo.
Oswaldo sends Chip their GPS coordinates, and he zeroes in on the SUV with his satellite imagery program. He activates the machinery, and his hologram materializes in the backseat. He’s squeezed in between Oswaldo and Carlitos.
“Hola, Chip,” says Oswaldo. “How’s everything in Chihuahua?”
“Good. How close are we?”
“Another couple of miles. We’ll be there in a few minutes.”
They’re crossing a rocky ridge within a mile of the ranch when the ambush starts. The KTs are armed with laser weapons, and Oswaldo’s gangsters don’t have a chance. They have no Annihilator weapons, just old-fashioned machine guns, and the KTs have bulletproof shells.
Chip has a good view of the mayhem on his Feature Screen at the hideout. It starts when the andys take out the lead SUV with a rocket launcher—the warhead blows it to bits. The rest of the drivers slam on their brakes and the gangsters pile out of their rigs with machine guns blazing. The andys are concealed behind boulders above the road, and they take out Oswaldo’s men one by one with their laser weapons. Like sitting ducks.
Chip watches in horror as a laser blast scores a direct hit on Carlitos, within inches of his hologram. When Oswaldo goes down, he terminates the connection.
He walks from his cabin to the lodge and finds Olivia sitting in the great room reading a book. She’s a beautiful woman, much younger than her now dead husband. At 28, she’s three years older than Chip.
“There you are,” she looks up from her book and smiles. “I was hoping you’d join me for dinner tonight.”
“Olivia, I have bad news.”
She can tell from the expression on his face that something terrible has happened. She closes the book and covers her eyes with her hand. “It’s Oswaldo, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. They were ambushed by February’s andys. With laser weapons.”
“All of them dead? The whole crew?”
“It looks that way.”
He was expecting a heavy emotional scene but instead, she stays remarkably calm.
“Chip, Oswaldo talked to me about what to do if he ever passed away. This is what he said—if something bad ever happens and he doesn’t survive, I should marry you right away.”
Chip’s stunned. “Oswaldo said you should marry me?”
“Sí, he left me everything in his will.” She holds up her hands. “All of this is mine now and I need you to survive. Marry me and half of his fortune will be yours.”
“Just like that? I’m not sure what to say.”
“If you want to think it over—”
He thinks fast and makes a snap decision. “No, you’re right. I guess you do need me now that Oswaldo is gone. It makes sense, and if that’s what he wanted, I’ll say yes. Let’s tie the knot.”
“Fantástico, I’ll have Mía cook something special for dinner, and we can get to know each other better later on.”
He goes back to his cabin and sits down. He leaves the computer turned off and takes a few minutes to organize his thoughts because his mind is moving fast.
Oswaldo is dead now and he just agreed to marry his wife after thinking about it for all of fifteen seconds. Holy crap! Olivia is gorgeous, and he hasn’t had a sexual liaison since they left Nogales, and that was with a call girl. It’s been one of the downsides of hibernating in Chihuahua for the last six months. Olivia and her servant Mía are the only women within fifty miles and Chip’s been taking care of things solo… And now suddenly he gets to bang Oswaldo’s trophy wife?!
Chip’s on the verge of panicking. He’s not at all what you would call a ladies’ man, plus he’s slightly under endowed and extremely self-conscious about it. Will she expect more than he can deliver? He has no idea what kind of a relationship she had with Oswaldo. He was decades older, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t perform in bed. He hopes she won’t be disappointed.
Once he gets through that part of it, he starts thinking about the rest of it. He’s suddenly become filthy rich and for the most part it’s drug money. Oswaldo made his money trafficking in hard drugs and it’s a rough business. How many killings was he responsible for? Will Olivia expect him to take his place in the drug business, because he really doesn’t want any part of it. They’ll have to talk about it as soon as possible.
He takes a shower and picks out an outfit he hopes will impress her—a pair of designer jeans and button-down shirt, jet-black with pearl snaps, and then he pulls on a pair of expensive alligator skin boots. He tops it off with a solid gold necklace and checks himself out in the full-length mirror. A skinny Tucson computer geek dressed up like a Culicán narco he thinks to himself as he combs his longish hair straight back with a dab or two of the Murray’s Pomade. He puts on more deodorant than normal and a splash of the expensive cologne he bought in Los Mochis.
“Here goes nuthin’,” he says out loud as he walks through the door.
On the way back to the lodge, he passes by Benito and Rodolfo, walking in the opposite direction. They’re both from Tijuana and seem inseparable. Chip thinks they’re gay. Not that it matters, he’s an open-minded individual.
Have they heard about the ambush? Probably not.
“Hey Chip, you’re looking sharp, mi hombre.”
“Thanks, Benito. Have you guys talked to Olivia at all today?”
“Uh, no. Why do you ask?”
He stops dead in his tracks to relate the bad news. “Oswaldo ran into trouble in Torreón.”
“Trouble? In Torreón?”
“They were ambushed by February’s andys.”
“Oh, no. How bad, Chip?”
“Wiped out. They hit ‘em with lasers. No survivors.”
Rodolfo and Benito are stunned by the bad news and remain quiet for a few seconds and then Benito speaks up. “So, what happens now? Oswaldo took most of the gang with him.”
“That leaves just us,” adds Rodolfo. “Benito and I are all that that’s left of the original El Culto al Lobo.”
“I’m having dinner with Olivia and we’re going to talk about it. Get this, she asked me to marry her.”
“Congratulations, Chip.” Benito holds out his hand and Chip shakes it, then Rodolfo does the same. “Let us know what you come up with. If you want us to stick it out, we will.”
“Sí,” agrees Rodolfo. “And you’re a lucky man, Chip. Olivia is an awesome woman.”
The lodge is the biggest building in the compound, and it’s built from hand hewn ponderosa pine logs with a two-story vaulted ceiling in the great room. Oswaldo bought the spread from a wealthy New Yorker, and the décor is outdoorsy Americana, even though they’re deep in the Mexican interior. There’s an authentic bearskin rug in front of the massive stone fireplace and an assortment of trophy mounts on the log walls, Mexican whitetail, wild boar, and a mountain lion.
“I think it’s strange how men take such joy in displaying the heads of the animals they’ve killed,” says Olivia. “What do you think, Chip?”
He’s on his second martini. “Honestly, I don’t know that much about it. I’m not a hunter.”
“Oswaldo loved the animal heads, but personally I think it’s disgusting to display them like that.”
“We could take them down if you want.”
“Maybe we should.”
Chip has taken her side in a past disagreement she’d had with Oswaldo, and he can tell it’s bringing her a small degree of pleasure. They’re sitting next to each other on a big, roomy sofa. She smiles and lays her hand on his thigh. He notices how beautiful her dark brown eyes look in the low evening light.
“How soon do you want to get married?” He says.
“We can go to Los Mochis tomorrow and find a church if you want. Are you Catholic?”
“To tell you the truth, I’m not sure. My parents aren’t religious. We never went to church when I was a kid.”
“You grew up in Tucson?”
“Yeah. Out on the eastside.”
“Are you close to your parents?”
“I email my mom occasionally. What about you?”
“I never knew my parents. I grew up in an orphanage in Nogales.”
Her expression turns sad, and he decides to change the subject. “I know that Oswaldo made all his money in drug trafficking, but it’s not something I’m all that comfortable with.”
“I’m so glad you said that Chip. Personally, I hate the drug dealing and all the violence that goes with it. Oswaldo and the Paloma brothers did some horrible things when they were building the organization.”
“Is there a reason why we should keep doing it? Why we need to keep moving the drugs?”
“No, absolutely not. We don’t need to keep doing it. Oswaldo was already one of the richest men in Mexico when I married him. He could have given up on it a long time ago, but with the narcos, it’s all a macho ego trip. They’re obsessed with the greed and the power and outdoing each other.”
“We have so much money. Maybe we could do some good with it instead.”
“Sí, Chip. Let’s be the good guys now.”
“Nogales has tremendous potential. With the money we have, we could help the city grow into something better. Become real estate developers. Build hotels and office space, and nice houses for the workers to live in.”
“That’s it. We’ll help the city become more prosperous instead of poisoning it with drugs and violence. We have the money to invest.”
“I like it, Olivia. I like where our conversation is going, but first we’ll need to run February’s andys out of town, and with Oswaldo and most of the gang gone now, we’re going to need some help.”
Though it’s possible to order an ADU ultimate companion with functioning sexual equipment, it’s not something Eddie Dominguez would ever dream of. Larry had asked him about it when they were drinking beer in Cabo, and he was surprised when Eddie took offense to the question.
Heather’s not a toy, he’d said to him. She’s a valuable weapon and survival tool. Her good looks are part of the package, because she can use them to distract and defeat an adversary.
Yes, he enjoys the company of the faux nineteen-year-old blonde, but she’s a machine and Eddie would never have sex with a machine. To him, it would seem vulgar.
Maybe Larry has one of those cheap Pleasuratronic sex robots in his bedroom closet, Eddie doesn’t know and really doesn’t care. Larry drinks constantly, and it’s a wonder he’s never drowned when he goes snorkeling half sloshed. For all Eddie knows, Larry could be sleeping with a sex robot every night, but that’s Larry’s affair not his.
Eddie’s in Costa Rica now, and he keeps Heather Jones close by his side like a gangster keeps a machine pistol close by his side, but the thing is, Heather doesn’t need a gun. She’s programmed as an expert in Taekwondo and can kill a man in seconds with a leaping sidekick known as the Leopard Strike. She moves so fast, it’s a visual blur.
Eddie’s not interested in sex with Heather, he’s interested in sex with real women. He’s a good-looking man and works at staying in shape. It’s just him and his android at his mountaintop retreat, so when they ride Esmeralda and Blackberry into Pavones, he keeps his eyes open. Pavones is a small town in a remote location, but with the world’s longest left breaking wave, it’s a popular spot for international surfers.
When Eddie and Heather are in town, and he initiates a casual conversation with an attractive woman in the grocery store or sitting at the open-air bar by the beach, it might appear that he’s spoken for, that she’s his significant other, and some of the women are put-off by it. But there’s others who are attracted to her, and more than once, Eddie has scored because of it. Because a bisexual woman was attracted to Heather.
She’s a gorgeous android, but like Nancy, she has no sexuality. That’s the answer to Larry’s question. He never actually said it, but it’s what he was getting at—does Heather have a snatch. The answer is no. Heather is a machine. The only thing she has between her legs is circuit boards and her AI has no sexual software.
Eddie’s hanging out on the deck at his place in the boonies. Heather’s inside, doing perfect housework, she never quits… cleaning the kitchen, polishing the windows and vacuuming the floor again—that rainforest mud keeps her busy. When she’s done, Eddie’s mountaintop retreat will be spotless, and she’ll ask him to take off his muddy shoes before he comes inside.
There’s an awesome view of the Pacific below him, a couple of miles away, and tall thunderstorms are building over the mountains. The only way in is on unmarked trails, one goes down to an isolated general store on the beach and the other goes over the hill to Pavones. Eddie’s electricity is generated by solar panels and a pair of compact windmills. His water comes from a spring on the steep hillside above the house.
The deck has an overhanging roof that provides both shade from the hot morning sun and cover from the afternoon downpours. He’s sitting in one of the slick mahogany chairs, and has his feet propped up on one of the empty ones. They came with the place along with the furniture inside and the library of hardback books.
Out of nowhere, Chip’s holographic image materializes in the seat that’s next to him.
He appears within inches of Eddie, who’s more than a little startled. Eddie kicks the chair away that he’s been using as a footrest, his muddy shoes hit the floor, and he reaches for the holstered .44 mag he keeps close by.
“Eddie. Chill, man. It’s me, Chip McLane.”
He can hardly believe his eyes. “Chip? You’re a hologram.”
“It’s a new program I developed. I call it a matter materializer. What you’re seeing is a computer-generated image that I’m transmitting from another location.”
“But how’d you find me?”
“Nothing to it. I used facial recognition software to scan security cameras. Picked you up in Pavones.”
“That’s not good. If you can do it, that means the feds can do it too.”
“Yeah, well, if they know to look in Costa Rica.”
“I feel like my cover is blown.”
“Lucky by me and not by them. Without plastic surgery you’ll have a hard time completely disappearing.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m at Oswaldo’s hideout in the Sierra Madre. High in the ponderosa pine forest, in the southwest corner of Chihuahua.”
“He’s dead, Eddie. Wasted by February’s andys.”
“That’s bad news. How’d it happen?”
“Rubén Badillo invited him to a summit in Torreón. They were ready to talk about forming an alliance, but the andys ambushed them with laser weapons. Most of what was left of El Culto al Lobo. We’re down to Benito and Rodolfo now. They’re all that’s left.”
“Laser weapons? That’s a new one on me. Did I miss something?”
“They’re the latest thing. I hacked into a government website and found information about military grade andys that the enforcement agents have been turning up. UGRs they’re calling them. Unidentified Generic Robots. More than likely from Robotamaton in Karachi. They’re keeping it away from the general public, so they don’t start a panic. The ones they busted were carrying laser weapons and now they’re turning up on KTs too.”
“Military grade androids? What’s next?”
“I’m not sure, but things seem to be evolving fast. Get this, I married Olivia in Los Mochis yesterday.”
“Congratulations, Chip. Did she inherit Oswaldo’s money?”
“It belongs to both of us now.”
“Oswaldo was loaded. That means you’re rich.”
“Filthy rich. More money than I could have ever imagined.”
“So, you just dropped in to chat, or is there more to your visit?”
“I have a business proposal for you. Come north and help us fight February’s andys in Nogales. I’ll pay you anything you want. I have Swiss bank accounts out the ass now, Eddie.”
“This was supposed to be my retirement pad.”
“It’s a beautiful spot.”
“Yeah, but you’ve got me worried now. If you found me so easily, it’s only a matter of time before the feds find me too.”
“Come to Chihuahua. I have an awesome cloak of cyber security set up. We have cabins with fireplaces in the woods, and the stream is stocked with trout, I know you’ll like it.”
“Okay, I’m going to say yes, Chip. I’ll put the house on ice and meet up with you in a few days.”
“Awesome. Rig up a couple of security cameras and give me a link. That way you’ll know if you get any unexpected visitors when you’re gone.”
Chip’s charged up. Eddie and Heather will be showing up in Chihuahua by the end of the week and together they can begin planning the fight to retake Nogales. With most of the gang gone now, his ability to manipulate technology is what’ll give them the edge, so he goes to work on the final phase of his mobile matter materializer, the ability to transfer actual matter from place to place, not just a holographic image of it.
He stays up late working on advanced mathematics formulas. He’s created his own computer science; the work is far beyond any of the classes he took at the university before he dropped out.
He’s up early the next morning drinking black coffee at sunrise and he thinks he has it. He tries moving an empty mug to the next cabin. He activates the machine, and the mug doesn’t move, but when he goes to the next cabin, he finds the same mug in the target location.
He carries the new mug back to his workstation and compares it to the original. They’re identical. Wait a minute, he says to himself, I didn’t just move matter, I cloned a new copy.
He tries it with a white mouse in its cage and has the same results. The original stays put, but in the next-door cabin, a carbon copy appears. It appears that he’s successfully developed a way to clone matter.
He goes to the lodge and finds Olivia watching satellite television in the great room. He’s supposed to be sleeping with her every night now, but was so busy the night before, he never made it back over.
“Good morning, Chip. I missed you last night.”
He bends over and kisses her lightly on the cheek. “Sorry about that, but I think I’ve made a breakthrough with my matter materializer.”
“Do you have time to eat breakfast with me? Mía’s making omelets.”
“Of course, but give me a couple of minutes.” He feigns checking his watch though his wrist is bare. “I’m going to walk over to my cabin, but I’ll be right back.”
Olivia continues to watch television and a few minutes later is startled by Chip materializing in the chair next to hers. Not a holographic image, but the real Chip. At least she thinks it’s the real Chip.”
“Chip?” she says tentatively.
“I’m not Chip. I’m Chip’s clone.”
“Then where’s the real Chip?”
“I’m right here,” he says as he walks through the door. “I wasn’t sure if my clone would mimic everything I do and say or if he would have independent logic.”
“It appears I have independent logic,” says the clone.
“Dios mío!,” exclaims Olivia. “I don’t believe it, you’ve duplicated yourself!”
“Yup, I did it. Do you mind if my clone joins us for breakfast?”
“You’re identical. How will I know which one is the real you?”
“I’ll have my clone wear a hat or something. Just ask if you don’t know.”
It’s easily one of the most revolutionary breakthroughs in modern computer science, and the technological knowhow belongs to just one man, Chip McLane. He’s ecstatic. He’ll keep it secret, but it appears that the discovery will allow him to create an unlimited number of weapons to fight February’s andys. He tries it with an Annihilator, and it works flawlessly, likewise with a jet powered drone and a levitation cycle.
He goes to work creating a stockpile of duplicated weaponry. Within days, the mammoth storage barn is filling up fast with brand new Annihilators and jet powered drones.
Eddie and Heather arrive from Costa Rica. They drove in his pickup using the fake Max and Susi Freestone IDs. He brought Esmeralda and Blackberry in a trailer, much to the delight of Olivia. She loves horses too, and Eddie owns a fine pair of Appaloosas.
Chip’s in his cabin showing Eddie and Benito how the machine works. “What about you, Eddie? You want me to make a duplicate Eddie Dominguez, espionage agent extraordinaire?”
“No way. Forget that idea fast, Chip.”
“We’re going to need more men to fight February’s andys, what about you, Benito?”
He shrugs his shoulders. “Yeah, sure. Why not.”
“What about multiples? How would you feel about more than one?”
Benito laughs. “I don’t care, Chip. Make as many as you want.”
Within a couple of days, the cabins are filling up with Benito clones. Every one looks the same, and he’s really not a bad looking man. That’s what Olivia says. Eddie wonders how they’ll be able to tell one Benito clone from the other and Chip says he’ll work on it.
Chip and Eddie have their army now, and it’s only a matter of time before they declare all-out war against Winston February and his legion of killer androids.