Summer comes to a crashing end…
Ten-year-old Kevin Taggert prefers to stay home with his video games, but his parents insist he join a summer sports program. Exactly on the day the Vordac raid Earth. With his little sister depending on him for protection, Kevin must find the strength and wisdom to keep them both safe.
Before they both end up dead, or even worse: as life-long slaves of the Vordac.
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Summer Crash (Zerralon 1.1)
Part 27: The Truth
Kevin swallowed hard. He slid the computer onto his father’s workbench and then forced himself to walk forward out of the safety of the garage and into the drizzling rain. To where Mr. Dale was wringing water out of the back bottom hem of his suit jacket. Not that it did any good. Not with his entire back wet. And his pants from the knees down. And one sleeve.
His mother turned, planting her hands on her hips to glare him down. “Kevin, what was that about?”
“I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to.” Kevin stopped, realizing he was stuttering.
“Care to explain?” his father asked in a calmer voice, but still one that demanded answers. His father pulled the robot away from the hovercar. Still in his Galactic Patrol dark-blue field uniform, he looked so dignified. So in control. A person to go to in time of need.
Everything Kevin wasn’t, and he wanted to be. Now he’d embarrassed his mother in front of him and her boss.
“No harm done,” Mr. Dale said, giving up on his suit.
“Kevin?” his mother prompted again.
Right. Explanation. Time to get it over with.
“I wanted to know more about robots. Thought it would help in case of another attack. It’s the broken house-bot. I got most of the errors cleared, but obviously I missed one. It should have gone only a short distance on the test command.” Kevin stopped, biting his lower lip. He couldn’t have explained it better? He sounded like a pathetic kid. But then, maybe he was. “It really should have only gone a few steps away.”
“I think I understood part of that,” his mother said slowly.
“Kevin, have you been having nightmares?” his father asked.
Kevin looked down at his feet. He’d dreaded that kind of question, and then to have his father ask right out? He didn’t want to answer. After all, it was his problem.
But, he found himself nodding, unable to keep the truth from seeping out. “But, they’re getting better.”
“Why do you think they are getting better?” his father asked.
Kevin just shook his head, his tongue now stuck to the roof of his mouth. Now that it was time to say it out loud, the reason sounded stupid. He didn’t want to sound more stupid.
“Kevin, take the robot inside. We’ll talk later,” his mother said, not sounding very pleased. But then, why should she? He’d really messed up.
Before he could back away, he felt a big warm hand on his shoulder. He looked up to find his father staring down at him, worry infusing his face. “Does working on this help?”
Kevin nodded. “The dreams aren’t as bad as before. And I’m getting it! I figured out most of the problems.”
A little more time and work and he was sure he could solve the rest. Even if it took wiping everything out of the robot core systems and reloading fresh from the open-source resources he’d found.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been home. But, now that I am, we’ll talk about this,” his father said.
“Nightmares?” his mother asked. “Why didn’t you tell me? Christy did.”
“I wanted to deal with it,” Kevin mumbled, staring down at his feet again.
“I’m proud of you, son. The way you saved yourself and Christy. I heard from the police-bot that took you to the shelter about how you were evading the Vordac. Very good job. I want to hear the whole story from you.”
Kevin looked up at that. His father proud of what he did? Even though he destroyed their other hovercar?
“Sounds like quite the adventure,” Mr. Dale said. He turned the house-bot around, looking at it from all angles. “A nice project to start out with. Did it function at all when you started?”
“No sir.” Kevin sighed. “And it’s still not right. There are a few more things I can try.”
Mr. Dale smiled, but not at Kevin. Instead, it was aimed at his mother. “Looks like you have someone following in your footsteps. You must be proud.”
Mr. Dale wasn’t upset? Thanks to Kevin and the house-bot, he’d landed back-first into running water.
“Honestly, I had no idea he had an interest,” his mother said, turning to regard Kevin. “How long?”
“I always liked watching you work.” Would for hours while he did homework. It reminded him of how games worked. Figured out how the pieces fit to make the whole. Use what he learned to get to the next level. Repairing robots felt the same.
“And would this be why I’m suddenly missing tools?” she asked. She laughed when Kevin gulped again. “I think the answer is yes.”
“I was going to ask you for my own. After I proved I could fix one,” Kevin said so fast that the words tripped over each other.
“Sounds like our Kevin. So methodical,” his father said, shaking his head. But, he smiled while doing it. That had to be a good sign, right?
“Methodical is what is needed with robotics. To ensure good quality.” To his mother, Mr. Dale added, “Is he in a summer program yet?”
She nodded. “He’s signed up for the sports program, but we haven’t heard when they start up again. Why?”
“Because the company sponsors its own summer program.” Mr. Dale smiled at Kevin, but Kevin didn’t know if that was a good thing or not. “Something you might find of interest? Introduction to robotic design and modification?”
“Not sports?” Kevin squeaked.
“Uh, no. Not sports. You would have to make a choice.”
To his father Kevin asked, “Robots? Please? Or do you really want me in sports?”
“Liam, look at him. Put the boy out of his misery,” his mother said with a laugh.
Yes, misery. Not that Kevin had any doubts which program his father would prefer him in. Which one he would still end up doing no matter how he asked. But, that didn’t stop him from asking… and hoping.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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