Alex The Inventor is a sci-fi adventure about an impoverished boy who wants to go in search of his missing father. To do so, he builds a spaceship with parts from a nearby abandoned scrapyard. But in the scrapyard lurk robotic creatures, both good and evil, and a mysterious girl not of this world.
Copyright © 2014 by G. Brynelson
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Printed in Canada
First Printing, 2014
Deep Sky Stories Inc. ©
Alex The Inventor (In The Fantastic Scrapyard)
Chapter I — Big Ben and the Boy
A blue-white light as bright as the sun flashed blindingly in the gloom of the evening. A whistling snap accompanied it, along with the low crackle of high-voltage electricity. Big Ben moved and worked slowly but with great power. Again and again the glaring star of searing light flashed and crackled, with molten hot drops popping away from it to glance off mighty arms or the heavy pieces of sheet metal that he easily held in each hand. Nothing matched his brawn, his tireless steel muscles as he held the two fifty pound steel plates at the proper angle while his third, welder arm moved delicately along the thin gap between them. Slowly and precisely it moved, fusing the two heavy, shaped pieces together with its super-heated voltage which arced off the long, melting stick of a welding rod. There seemed to be a boy, a child actually, who was hunkered down in Big Ben's middle and following every move that he made with his mighty steel arms. This was rather odd for the monster to accept, but he grudgingly
allowed the boy to remain there while he carried on with his task at hand. Every so often, Big Ben stopped working, even though he would rather not, and the boy would stop too and get out of his large, metal belly and walk over to a workbench where he bent over paper plans of some sort. Big Ben waited, patient and still, with the two heavy metal plates clamped firmly in his vice-hands.
The boy was rather thin and gangly, perhaps twelve years old, with longish brown hair falling over his eyes as he read over some technical blueprints which lay before him. Big Ben allowed this behavior to continue, with the boy hopping in and out of him at regular intervals to check a measurement or mutter to himself about a wiring connection. At every move he made, Big Ben felt the thin lad manipulate small, flexible hand controls within him, and push foot-pedals as well. This was slightly worrisome for Big Ben; could it be that the small, weakling of a boy was actually causing him to move? Big Ben's silent question went unanswered though, while his powerful hydraulic arms worked tirelessly on. A noisy, clattering pump kept the black fluid that was his life-blood flowing strongly through high-pressure hydraulic lines. They ran through his massive arms like rubbery veins, with the pressurized "blood" filling each piston cylinder at the proper time in order that an arm could move and bend to pick up another heavy object. Big Ben never grew weary of his work; in fact he could continue indefinitely, being a robot. The boy within him did seem to be tiring though, so Big Ben slowed his movements courteously so the lad could keep up with him. A small pile of short, spent welding rods had collected on the cement floor of the workshop, along with rusty pieces of discarded scrap-iron and welding slag-beads. It seemed that the day had long since ended yet still the young boy and Big Ben labored on. Finally, his mighty arms dropped, limply at his side and the huge robot wondered why he couldn't lift them, not even as much as a twitch. A soft weeping sound seemed to be coming from inside him and Big Ben sat there listening, dumbly, not knowing what to make of the strange sound. The boy stumbled out of Big Ben and shuffled slowly over to the workbench, but this time he slumped down on a little wooden stool and lay with his head in his arms over the musty, wrinkled blueprints. Quietly he rested there, still weeping softly. A single word came faintly back to Big Ben where he stood stiff and still in the deepening shadows of night-fall.
"Dad", the boy whispered, "oh dad, why did you have to go away..." Then all was truly silent in the workshop save for the boy’s soft, deep breathing as he fell asleep there. Not too long afterward, the door to the shed creaked open and another person entered. Big Ben stood guard nearby but he felt that nothing needed to be feared from the intruder. The larger person quietly took the boy in her arms and kissed his tired, weary little brow.
"There, there, Alex", she whispered, "that’s enough work for today, son." The single, bare light bulb went out as the workshop door clattered shut for the night and Big Ben, the large, powerful construction-bot stood silent and dumb, arms hanging at his sides while outside, crickets filled the still country night with their communal song. The machine that he and the lad were working on was the strangest looking thing Big Ben had yet seen in his many years of duty. A circular shaped vehicle of some sort was slowly taking form in the boy's workshop, and it had a single pilot's seat in the very center of the saucer. It was truly a sleek looking craft, built for extreme velocity both in and out of the atmosphere. Puzzling, thought the silently waiting robot. He had sat rusting and abandoned deep in the junk and trash of the scrapyard until being found by the boy who generously repaired Big Ben so he could see duty again in his aged, advanced years. The young human was clearly an inventive sort, with an assortment of various other fascinating devices and machines in his shop. Yet this particular saucer craft which sat half-finished seemed to command a keener concentration from the boy than had his other ingenious projects. The cricket-songs continued through the quiet autumn night in a soft, undisturbed chorus and Big Ben remained where he had been left for the day. He was, in reality, not much more than simple-minded bulldozer yet his dim perceptions and massive machine pride blinded him to the fact that the boy, not he was the actual controller of his actions. The crickets droned on until the witching hour approached, then one-by-one they fell silent till all became quiet outside. A mild night wind restlessly rustled the lazy branches of the surrounding trees and tangled underbrush which hid the boy’s home from the scrapyard beyond the fence. An uneasy silence hung over the countryside which, it seemed, would not allow the night to complete its dark hours toward the dawn until something significant was begun. Or perhaps, finished...
The silence remained so for another half hour until a new sound interrupted all else and drifted to the robot on the cool night air. The sound was like that of a small bell being tapped by silver and it came from not far away — out in the scrapyard, just outside the workshop door. It was where Big Ben and his little companion went in search of new parts and pieces to the machine they were building. Another sound from much farther away, replied to the first clear notes of the tiny bell in much the same fashion. A furtive scuttling of little legs was heard just outside the door and Big Ben, for all his power, tensed once more in the dark corner. "Legs", the little scavenger-robot that the boy had built himself, sat beside Big Ben in total sleep-mode and unaware of what was happening. All was silent again for a few more moments. Then, quite suddenly, there was a vicious exchange of small, sharp explosions and for a brief second the darkness was replaced by a bright blue flash light that penetrated through the cracks in the walls of the workshop. Something had hunted and something else had died just outside that door, and, from somewhere far away in the scrapyard, a child gave a triumphant cry as a warrior from long ages past would have after defeating a sworn enemy. As midnight approached, something among the stars shining down on the small town of Delta, moved ever so slightly, and it was not a star.
The Strangers Arrive…
Every community, no matter how small or boring, has at one time or other had some strange tale for the local town-folk to tell each other or to newcomers. Even people just passing through and stopping for a cup of coffee at the local diner might overhear some such urban myths or tall tales coming from the booth just behind them. The small farming town of Delta was no different than any other, except for one very striking difference: the tall tale actually did happen...or so the locals said. And they claim it happened not so very long ago... The story began, oddly enough, with the arrival in Delta-Town of several very large tractor-trailers. They arrived in a convoy of six trucks and were all painted dark gray, as if to hide them better in the night. The trucks came out of the darkness and all rumbled to a stop in front of Rosie's Diner, the only place in town that was still open that late. The few people who were still lingering for a last coffee or desert were taken aback and fell silent as the new arrivals filed through the door. All heads turned as the small diner quickly filled up as though it was suddenly the morning rush again. The first group to enter stood out in harsh contrast to the second smaller group who were long-haul truckers. What made the first group so noticeable was not only their hurried impatience but also their clothing, because they all wore long, white lab coats. More than one eyebrow was cocked suspiciously at the noisy intrusion of so many out-of-towners. The people became all the more uneasy because the twenty lab-coats all appeared to be agitated and in a great hurry as well. The truckers were just plain tired and hungry. To a man they had the bleary-eyed look of drivers who’d travelled a long way without the luxury of one break until that moment. Poor Rosie had sent most of her staff home as it was almost closing time; all except for her best employee, Elizabeth Faraway. Even she had been all but prepared to leave for the day but decided to stay and help a little longer when the new arrivals suddenly refilled the sleepy little diner. Rush orders were made and rather brusquely at that. Apparently the lab-coats were running late for something very important to them and their impatience was making them close to the point of rude to the two remaining women. Fresh pots of coffee had to be made and the grill reheated, Elizabeth was run off her feet taking order after order for meals and drinks from the anxious, impatient crowd. For their part, the truckers relished the hearty meals and fresh-brewed coffee and polished their plates clean – a few even had time for seconds, so quickly did they eat. Oddly though, one meal was ordered to-go on behalf of someone else. Apparently one of the members of the mismatched group had not wished to eat inside the diner. The order, when given by one of the white-coated men, seemed somewhat familiar to Mrs. Faraway too. Fifteen minutes had hardly elapsed when the tired yet hurried group lined up at the front counter to pay their bills and go. Wrist-phones jerked anxiously up and down while some of the lab-coats in the tight lineup impatiently prodded their comrades in front of them like rude children. Rosie’s considerable mastery in her kitchen had refreshed the truckers in the group as well because they left the diner with full stomachs and bade her many grateful goodbyes. As she rang in the totals for each meal, Elizabeth overheard bits and snatches of an urgent conversation.
"Wish we had more time to test it", one man whispered anxiously.
"Don't worry so much", another said, "most of the previous launches went off without a hitch...we're over the hump I tell you."
"Yeah, but this is out in the middle of nowhere", retorted the first, "you may be right, Sanders, still...I don't envy the people that we're strapping into that thing...and what about the Others? They said we should visit them tonight...said they found some problems with -"
"Shush, will you please keep your voice down, I'm paying", the second whispered harshly. Indeed, the tall, thin lab-coat had finally reached the counter and was in the middle of handing his payment to Elizabeth when he caught sight of the plastic nametag on her lapel. Something seemed to jog his memory and he did a double-take and froze in mid-step. His companion from behind who was in very much of a hurry stumbled face-first into his back — "Umph", he grouched, startled. "Elizabeth? Elizabeth Faraway", the man said with shocked astonishment. Elizabeth looked up, surprised that the stranger had spoken her name as if he knew her.
"Y-yes", she answered cautiously. But both men now were not looking at her but were instead staring out the diner window at one of the gray trucks that had already been started and was ready to leave. Elizabeth followed their gazes but only caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure in the cab of the truck. The interior light winked off quite suddenly, depriving her of a better look at the person inside. Before she knew what else was happening, the two men were hurrying out the door without even asking for their change. The last man was carrying the bag of take-out food for the unknown person who hadn't entered the diner that night. Something clicked in her memory and Elizabeth looked again at that particular order. It had seemed oddly familiar when she wrote it down earlier. Strange. That man knew her name, and something more. Now she understood! That order – it was her husband's favorite meal at Rosie's too! A sudden uneasiness gripped Elizabeth coldly in the pit of her stomach! Could John somehow be out there right now with those strange men and not want her to know? But, what possible reason would he have to behave that way? He did work with a group of rather secretive people at an old Air Force base, several miles away though. John was often gone for days at a time and Elizabeth had grown to accept that, but lately, his absences had become much longer. He was always quietly evasive about his work; “national security”, was the routine explanation he gave her when the questions became too searching. Her few seconds of hesitation cost Elizabeth any further answers because the long convoy of heavily-laden trucks began pulling away from the diner with the loud roar and clatter of powerful diesel engines. The line of trucks was already picking up speed and heading off into the unknown darkness as Elizabeth hurried outside calling her husband’s name, half frightened, half uncertain. "John, is that you?” “John?" With an almost guilty lurch, the truck shifted gears and sped up, rounding the corner at the end of the street. All six trucks with their unknown payloads and strange passengers headed for the deeper darkness of the quiet countryside and the forest beyond. A bright hail of beautiful falling stars lit the night sky overhead as silent, alien witnesses to the restless convoy below them.Except for what followed later that night, the anxious strangers were never seen or heard from again. Whatever shook the small farming community at twelve O'clock midnight though was so unusual that, everyone agreed, it must have had something to do with the mission that those tired, impatient men were so bent on finishing. Whatever deadline had been due on that rather frightful night had somehow been met on time. So the local folks said…