Chapter 1

Mike Gravel lit a match on the inside of his airplane, and used the match to light one of the two cigars in his mouth. He threw the match out the window, and then fixed his hands around the steering wheel of his plane. He had a steering wheel removed from a classic 1956 Ford Mustang --- without the owner being aware of such a thing...and then placed inside his custom hemp biofuel Lear Jet. It really wasn't very good at steering the plane, but Mike Gravel didn't care. He was in it for the thrill.

Below, a family of Basque shepherds lay on top of a barn, the disheveled remains of their picnic scattered around the roof. Mike Gravel decided to give them a thrill, and pushed the nose of his plane down, barreling towards the ground. The family screamed, and looked ready to jump from the barn onto the comfortable, downy soft piles of Alfalfa Hay below. Would it be a memory that the children would treasure forever, a moment when the beauty of life and the hot edge of the fear of death swirled together, like a novelty ice cream flavor that everyone would want to try, if only for bragging rights? Would they mention it on their college applications? Or were they used to being buzzed, out here in the woods?

Mike Gravel chuckled at the mysteries of life.
But it was not time for laughter, he thought, as the acrid stench of the cigar burned his eyes. A thick tear, as dark and disgusting as licorice, rolled down and stained his beard. He sneezed, and when he stopped sneezing, he was surprised to find he wasn't dead. At least, he wasn't aware of being dead. The confusion, like the smoke, was getting too thick. It was time to return home. He hit the afterburners until he found the deluxe landing strip he had built on a thermocline 15 kilometers off the coast of Inuvik. He skidded into a landing, his planes landing gear spinning around like a set of trolley wheels on a broken grocery cart at a tawdry dollar store. That reminded him, he had to pick up another few 500 packs of drinking straws. It didn't matter if they were cheap and tore --- he was tired of the guests at his parties drinking drinks too fast, and figured a leaking, cut-rate straw would slow them down.

When his plane stopped moving, he jumped out on the wing, and stripped out of his flight suit. It was cold here in the arctic, and so he rolled around in nothing but his Incredible Hulk underwear, feeling the warmth of the Lear Jet's wing against his body, while the cold nipped at him like a Pomeranian rooting through the beard of a passed out uncle who had gotten sloppy drunk while eating nachos. It invigorated him: invigorated him for the path ahead. He stumbled into his shack, a humble country home with turn-of-the-century four poster architecture, and also an aircraft/hangar robot factory where cauldrons of green fluid bubbled under piercing electrical arcs, but that was just for ambiance. Gravel stopped at the fridge, one of the many, to get himself his favorite beverage, which was just a tall glass of cold milk. While he drank it, he waited for a robot to approach. Not just any robot.

“Hello” the voice said, in tones that were human to all but the most trained ear. “Has our plan come to fruition, Mr. Gravel?” the eyelashes and eyebrows emoted in a way that is also human, again to all but the most trained ear. No one would know it is a robot.

“YEP THEY HAVE” Gravel shouted, because he had forgot how to use his inside voice, living in a noisy robot factory in the north woods of Alaska. Also, because he could. “WE JUST HAVE TO INFILTRATE YOU, SON”

The robot blinked and smiled, reassuringly. His face was youthful yet mature, somber yet full of cheer, and intellectual yet actioned. He would reassure those who saw him. He would become a great business leader, or a culture hero, or even a politician, and through that, Gravel, who always stunk of cigars and the spit therefore, in his beard, would have an “in” to the world that was denied him. At least, that was the plan...

Mike Gravel to the Edge of Panic, Chapter Two->->->

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