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Expedition westward, p.1
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       Expedition Westward, p.1

           Brian Bakos
Expedition Westward

  There’s fun at the end of the road

  Book 2, Robot Horizon series

  by Brian Bakos

  cover art: Rob Jones photography: Brian Bakos

  Copyright 2013, Brian Bakos / revised 2 - 2017

  Table of Contents

  What Happened Before

  Prelude: The Holy Temple

  Part One: The New Order Wilts

  Part Two: Pickle Lake Convulsions

  Part Three: The West Coast Beckons

  Part Four: Space Invaders

  Part Five: Love Comes to Town

  Reading Group Guide

  Next Book in the Series

  Connect with the Author

  Brian’s Other Books

  What Happened Before

  Editor’s Note

  Well, okay, if you don’t want to do that, here’s a thumbnail sketch of book one:

  As mankind finally succumbs to its follies and exits the world stage, scholar model robot, Winston Horvath, makes a perilous journey to Mech City, the place of his manufacture, bearing a vast internal database of human literature, history, and language. This had been programmed into him at the behest of his former master as the “Walking Library of Alexandria” project.

  But when Winston arrives on his mission to preserve the human cultural heritage, he finds Mech City to be in a downward spiral. The robotic inhabitants, who were never designed to exist independently, are deteriorating psychologically and turning to suicide or brigandage. He also meets Estrella, a.k.a. Star Power – the world’s only sexually functional female robot – and Iridium, a noble robotic wolf. Star and Winston immediately click, but Winston cannot satisfy Star’s robust sexual desires. She is on a “whole new level of creation” from him.

  Inspired by Star’s great beauty and kindness, Winston devises a plan to save Mech City – restore the derelict REX Hotel and turn it into the town’s fashionable “in” locale. This gives employment and purpose to the town’s residents. The suicides stop, Winston becomes Mech City’s most important and respected citizen.

  But things unravel when Nilo, a despised test bed robot, morphs into Fascista Ultimo and seizes control using the mech wolves and other robotic monstrosities that crazed human technicians had produced in their final months.

  As one of the “Humanite Master Race” model robots, Winston is sucked into the Roboto Fascist regime and becomes a key official. But, motivated by Star’s plight (F. U. wants her as a concubine) Winston comes to his senses and hatches a plot to bring down the tyrant. Winston is too discredited to be the new leader, however. Ajax, a recreation of a comic book robotic hero, is the only suitable choice. Problem is, Ajax’s head has supposedly been carried off by birds to a mysterious castle in the mountains, and he is barely functional with his auxiliary brain.

  On the basis of this fantastic story, Winston and Star set out to find Ajax’s head. Iridium joins them on the road and, after much tribulation, they finally get to Pickle Lake Castle where robotics technician and plague survivor, Dr. Edgar Rackenfauz, has set up shop. His mech birds had stolen Ajax’s head as a bizarre prank.

  Star learns form Rackenfauz about Dr. Jerry Che who created her as a robotic sex partner. Maybe Dr. Che has also survived the plague, thanks to Rackenfauz’s vaccines. He could be on the west coast. Star wants to find Che immediately and have Winston converted to full sexual functionality, but Winston wants to finish the mission to overthrow Fascista Ultimo first.

  They retrieve the head and return to Mech City. In a climatic battle, they defeat Fascista Ultimo. But Ajax has severe problems with his reattached head. Hailed as a hero, Winston agrees to serve as “interim mayor.” Once Ajax is fully recovered, Winston promises to travel westward with Star to find Dr. Che.

  Now, read further . . . .

  Prelude: The Holy Temple

  Devil’s Night, 15 years prior

  The mob flowed toward the REX hotel bristling with fire, like molten lava vomiting down the street. Hatred contorted every man’s face, and barbeque murder surged within every heart. They paused at the entrance to the derelict hotel, under the sign reading:

  Holy Temple of the Transcendent Vision

  “Come on,” someone shouted, “what are we waiting for?”

  “Let’s burn the sons of bitches out!” someone else yelled.

  The hundred-strong crowd began to move again, torches held high, but a commanding voice stopped it in its tracks.

  “Hold it right there!”

  A large, beefy police captain approached, brandishing a nightstick. A phalanx of uniformed patrolmen shoved the mob back from the hotel.

  “Get rid of them torches,” the police captain bellowed, “or I’ll bust your heads wide open!”

  He smacked the nightstick against a palm to emphasize the point. His bellicose, uncompromising stance brooked no opposition. The mob retreated, tossing their incendiary devices into the gutter where they hissed into smoky death.

  A grin of fierce satisfaction spread across the captain’s face. He reveled in the power of his unchallenged authority.

  “That’s better, gentlemen,” he said. “Now – ”

  A boy suddenly exited the REX hotel, moving into the disturbance with steely composure. A wave of cold seemed to precede him, much worse than the chill air of the October evening. Despite themselves, everyone shrank back – mob and police. Even the captain lost his self-confidence for a moment.

  Then a tall, thin woman with frizzy red hair exited the hotel to stand protectively beside the boy. Beneath the dim street lights she appeared ghastly pale. To the onlookers, it felt as if alien beings had arrived, or that the earth had cracked open to reveal some terrible mystery.

  The mob began to shake off its astonishment.

  “There’s the little creep!” someone yelled.

  The 13-year-old “messiah” regarded his adversaries with icy contempt. He stood barefoot on the cold pavement wearing nothing but shorts and a T-shirt, as he’d doffed his ceremonial robe moments before. He was thin, with stringy brown hair, in no way physically imposing. But his wide, dark eyes flickered with an eerie light that compelled and frightened.

  The messiah crossed his arms disdainfully over his chest. Other Visionists were swarming out of the hotel now, gathering around him – men and women, even a few children, about forty persons in all. They were unarmed and outnumbered, but burned with faith in their leader. One word from him, and they would spring into violent action.

  Things held in the balance. Then the police captain stepped into the vacuum.

  “Everybody stay calm!” he ordered.

  The captain seemed to be the very soul of legitimate authority. The messiah knew better, though. Mysticism was his stock in trade, but he recognized a practical threat when it was right before his piercing dark eyes.

  The chief acolyte, a tall, thin, balding man with fanatical eyes of his own spoke to his messiah in an urgent voice.

  “What shall we do, Father?”

  The boy scanned the mob contemptuously, hands on hips. Somebody flung a rock at him, but the red-haired woman batted it away.

  “Enough of that!” the police captain roared.

  He approached the rock thrower, nightstick raised. The thrower skittered to the center of the mob.

  “That police captain is demanding more protection money,” the messiah said in a low voice.

  “The unbeliever!” snarled the chief acolyte.

  “If we can’t pay, we’ll be cremated next time,” the messiah said. “I wouldn’t put it past him to whip up a mob himself.”

  “Then let us unleash holy war,” the chief acolyte said.

  The messiah shrewdly calculated the odds against him. A holy war at this time could have b
ut one outcome – the destruction of himself and all his believers. Everything he’d struggled for during the past year would be lost, his sacred mission would be dragged into the dust. He would prove unworthy of his great calling. It was high time for a vision, a little ‘holy deception,’ as it were.

  “I see it all!” the messiah yelled dramatically.

  He smacked a hand against his forehead and extended the other one toward the dark heavens. Off in that coldness, an airliner was passing by, lights flashing. His followers pressed in on him like groupies around a rock star.

  “What is it, Father?” they cried in unison.

  “A divine message!” the messiah intoned.

  “What vision do you comprehend?” the chief acolyte said. “Tell us, and we will obey.”

  The mob looked on derisively.

  “Get a load of that punk,” someone sneered.

  “I tried to ‘comprehend’ his vision once,” another man said, “but I couldn’t get my head that far up my ass.”

  “Silence, infidels!” The chief acolyte roared.

  He took threatening steps toward the loud mouths. He was not a physically powerful man, but the insane rage in his eyes frightened his tormentors. They shrank back as if the very devil was confronting them.

  The police captain interposed his bulk between the adversaries. Uniformed officers flanked him, reinforcing his authority.

  “All right, fellas,” the captain said, “everybody calm down!”

  He patted the nightstick against his palm with an assurance that indicated he wouldn’t mind cracking a skull or two.

  “Be at peace, brother,” the messiah called to his acolyte. “Those lost ones know not what they are saying.”

  The chief acolyte returned to his leader and fell upon his knees, rather enjoying the pain of impact on the concrete.

  “What is your command, Father?” he said.

  The messiah waved his followers in close. They stood around him now like a demonic football team in a huddle.

  “We must depart from these unbelievers,” he said in a harsh whisper. “They are not worthy of our continued presence.”

  “Amen!” his followers cried.

  Somebody in the crowd belched.

  “All right now, show’s over,” the captain said. “Everybody go home, before I start making arrests.”

  The crowd dispersed, grumbling. Already its leaders were planning another assault. Next time they would not fail; they would cleanse Mech City of this unholy menace. There would be more of them next time, better organized ...
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