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Trouble Shooter


by Rik Hunik

2100 words

Published by Rik Hunik at Shakespir

Copyright 2015 by Rik Hunik

This story first appeared in The Fifth Di… Sep. 2014

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

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Chapter 1

Abe Lennard unholstered his six-guns and blazed away at the flashing lights, shooting them out as soon as they came on. He was a great shot here, and faster than he had ever been while he was alive, even better than when he did stunts and bit parts in those cheap western movies back when he was young.

“Periscope,” Abe said and a periscope slid into place, just like in submarines in WW II movies. Putting his eyes to it he saw the view through the web camera of his old computer.

His widow, Natalie, never used the web camera and never noticed when it was on, never had a clue that he was watching her sitting in the office chair in front of the computer, clicking the mouse repeatedly. Every time she clicked in realspace a light flashed in cyberspace, but Abe shot it out, deleting the command. That wasn’t anything close to a scientifically accurate explanation of what happened but it worked for Abe.

“Dammit, why don’t you print?” The printer remained idle. Natalie gave up and tried to send an e-mail to her daughter-in-law, Erica, the family computer whiz.

While she typed in the body of the text Abe reloaded, which he didn’t really need to do here in cyberspace, but it felt wrong if he didn’t. He didn’t need to use six-guns either, but his self-image as a gun-toting, western-hero-stereotype had always been a favorite fantasy, even if he didn’t stick to it all the time.

When Natalie hit “send” Abe shot, deleting the command. She clicked the mouse rapidly but Abe shot every signal, even though he had to shoot thirteen times. He blew the smoke out of both barrels and slid the guns into their well-oiled holsters.

Checking through his periscope, Abe saw Natalie scowling at her mouse and shaking it. She tapped it against the side of the desk and muttered, “Dammit, I think I need a new mouse.”

“That is a new mouse, Gramma,” said eight-year-old Clay, standing beside her chair, unfazed by her swearing, an indication to Abe that she did it too much. “You shouldn’t bang it like that.”

She placed the mouse carefully on its pad. “Then it must be a virus. Get your Dad.”

“He left yesterday on a sales trip. It’s just you and me here, Gramma. You’ll have to call Mom.”

“You’re right, but I can’t e-mail her and she hates it when I phone her at work. I’ll just have to wait until she comes to pick you up. Do you want to watch a movie?”

“Yeah. Yay Gramma.”

Natalie’s hand reached out to the main power switch.

Chapter 2

When the power was restored Abe saw his blonde daughter-in-law Erica sitting in the chair. Her hand fell on the mouse, adjusted it, and began a frenzy of clicking. Abe only got off one shot to every two or three clicks but it disrupted her signal enough that she couldn’t do what she wanted.

Erica pushed away from the keyboard and scratched her head. “It’s not responding properly. Something is interfering with the commands, but it’s not like any virus I’ve ever encountered before.”

Abe snorted. “So I’m a virus, am I?” Nobody heard him.

Natalie said, “But how could I get a virus in my computer? I only use the Internet to e-mail a few family members once in a while.”

Erica scratched her head again. “There is some risk every time you connect, but your your firewall is up to date and your antivirus scans regularly. I don’t understand how a virus could survive.”

Abe understood. He’d survived so many shoot-outs with the antivirus program that they were routine now.

“It probably came in on a disc. What have you been putting into it lately?”

“I’ve only been playing games with that simulation of Abe that you gave me.”

Abe snickered. So they still thought he was a simulation.

“Hmmmmm,” Erica said. “I did most of the work on that right here on this machine, and I used the disc that was already in it.”

“It was just a blank disc that had been in there for a long time because I never had to copy anything.”

Erica’s eyes focused on the keyboard, looked at the other old components. “How long have you had this relic?”

“It does everything I need it to do.”

Erica rolled her eyes upward for a split second. “That’s not what I meant. You bought it second hand four or five years ago, didn’t you.” She looked straight at Natalie. “It’s the computer Daddy died at, isn’t it?”

“So what?” Natalie said, but Erica caught the slight nod as she said it.

“I’m thinking I know someone who can help you. I have to make some phone calls.” Abe wondered what she was up to but she hurried from the room, out of his range.

Natalie sat down, moved the pointer to “print” and clicked the mouse. Abe deleted the command with a single shot. She sighed and sat back down on the couch at the edge of his field of view.

Erica called Natalie and Clay to her, leaving Abe with nothing to watch. Keeping one cyber-eye on the camera, he practiced his fast draw, spun the guns around on his forefingers and flipped them back into their holsters. When he got bored with that he accessed a chess program and started a game.

Chapter 3

He was on his third game, going for his second win, when Erica came back, followed by a small, wrinkled, white-haired woman. She walked slowly with a cane but she had the quick, bright eyes of a bird. Abe had never seen her before. Natalie and Clay sat on the couch.

“This is the computer I told you about, Mrs. Sylvanis.” Erica helped the old woman into the chair in front of the computer.

“Just call me Fay.” Abe was surprised how big her voice sounded, coming from such a small frame. Her hand found the mouse and she seemed to suck energy from it, perking up and leaning toward the screen. She tried several simple things in a variety of ways and Abe let her play, but when she tried to print he shot out the command.

Fay cocked her head and did some mundane things. Abe wasn’t sure what she was trying to accomplish so he took potshots just to screw her up. Then she abruptly tried printing again and he barely shot out the command in time, and he had to cheat with his guns to block her series of commands.

Fay sat back in her chair.

Abe blew the smoke off his six-guns and reloaded them.

Fay looked up at Erica. “You were right to call me. There is a spirit in your hard drive.”

Natalie gasped. “A spirit? You mean my computer is haunted?”

Fay sighed. “That’s not my favorite term, but yes.”

“And what are you? Some kind of computer exorcist?”

Abe panicked. He didn’t understand his existence here but he liked it. What could an exorcist do to him?

Fay laughed. “Don’t be silly, I’m just a telepath.” She laughed again at their startled expressions. “But only with inhabited computers. All I can do is figure out why the ghost in your machine is so mad at you and how to appease it.”

Abe let out a long sigh of relief that would have used several lungfuls of air if he actually had lungs. What she said sounded good but he didn’t believe it was possible. Who had ever heard of such a thing?

Natalie snorted. “You make it sound so easy.”

Fay shrugged her thin shoulders. “With my talent it usually is.”

Natalie raised an eyebrow.

Fay shook her head slowly. “You don’t believe me, and neither does he, but that doesn’t even matter, as long as you answer my questions honestly, here, in front of this camera.”

“Why here?”

“So he can see you and hear your answer.”

Abe saw a light dawn on Natalie’s face, and she cast a suspicious eye toward the camera, but couldn’t look directly into it.

Fay said, “Now tell me, what were you doing when your computer started misbehaving?”

“I was trying to print out some large-print Yahtzee© score sheets so I could play with Clay.”

Fay’s eyebrows rose. “Now why do you suppose a spirit in your computer would object to something as innocent as that?”

Natalie shrugged. She was being obtuse. Abe knew how good she could be at that.

Fay sighed. “Do you even know who the ghost is?”

Erica spoke up from where she stood with her arms folded. “I’m pretty sure it’s her husband Abe, my father-in-law. He died right here at this computer last year.”

Fay nodded. “You’re right.” She turned to address Natalie. “Did you play Yahtzee© with your husband when he was alive?”

Natalie nodded and nodded. “A lot.”

Erica said, “She played it on the computer after he was dead, too, with a simulation of Abe that I made. At least I thought it was a simulation.” She scratched her head. “But Abe must have been in there before I made her the simulation.”

“First the spirit needs a way into the computer, then there has to be a trigger, like you programming a simulation, but even after that it usually takes time for the spirit to become familiar with his environment and learn how to control it.”

Abe took in that information with a great deal of interest.

“And most important of all, there has to be a good reason for him to stick around.” Fay surveyed the family; Natalie and Clay on the couch, Erica standing. “How did he die?”

Clay looked down at his shoes, so Erica looked at Natalie, who was silent for several seconds. Then she said, “He was electrocuted at the computer, and it was too much for his heart.” Abe could still remember the overwhelming intensity of the pain but it was distant now, it couldn’t touch him here.

“Even Abe knows there’s more to it than that.” Fay cocked her head as though listening, then focused on the boy. “Clay, what did you do?”

Clay looked up, startled at the mention of his name. He blurted out, “I was aiming at the chimney but the slingshot was too strong for me. I’m sorry Grandpa. I didn’t mean to break the window and smash that flower vase.” He looked terrified.

Erica added, “And it wasn’t his fault the cat had chewed through the power cord insulation.” That was news to Abe but he had to admit it was a good point.

Natalie said, “The ironic thing is that it was actually Abe’s slingshot Clay used, though I don’t know where he got the rubber from.”

Clay grinned nervously. “Jimmy, the older boy from next door. He gave it to me after he made his own slingshot.”

Abe felt current singing through his cheeks. He was glad there was no one else to see how red he was getting. He was as much to blame as his grandson.

Fay clapped her hands together. “I told you this would be easy.”

Natalie leaned forward in her seat. “You mean you have it solved already?”

Fay rolled her eyes, like she’d heard that far too many times. Abe sympathized with her. His wife had always been good at making his eyes roll. Fay said, “Tell me, was Abe ever stubborn or cantankerous, perhaps unreasonable and even childish?”

Natalie nodded. “He could get that way sometimes.”

“That’s all he’s doing now.” Fay spun her chair and reached for the mouse. Abe’s face was hot again and he didn’t want to appear childish so he let her call up the Yahtzee© game. “Your computer was never malfunctioning, the ghost in your machine just wants to play Yahtzee© with you.”

Clay bounced off the couch. “Okay Grandpa, I’ll play with you.” Fay let him take the chair in front of the computer.

“Abe has even forgiven Clay,” Fay said.

“How much is this going to cost?” Natalie asked Erica, but Fay fielded the question herself.

“Just a pot of tea, in the kitchen, where you can tell me about Abe.” The three women moved in a group away from Abe’s camera eye. At the edge of his range he heard Fay say, “And I’ll tell you a few things about Abe that you don’t know.” She giggled and the other two women joined in.


If you liked this story please take the time to write a short review. Thank you.

Also, be sure to watch for another book from Rik Hunik every month, in your preferred format, at Shakespir and your favorite retailer, or take your pick from these

other titles by Rik Hunik: available at Shakespir.com/profile/view/rikhunik

Down Among The Hoodoos (atmospheric ghost story)

The Tale Of Orm’s Revenge (Viking sword & sorcery)

The Emperor Germanicus (time traveling to change history)

For Sakina (fantasy mystery with serial killer wizard)

The Hole Story (science fiction, space opera)

Widdershins (modern fantasy retelling of old English folk tale)

The Gold Watch (western ghost story)

Defiance (horror poem)

Reality Check (science fiction horror)

Easy Money (alternate history, fantasy, paranormal detective novel: 96,000 words)

Vacation Violation (dark science fiction)

Key Service (humorous contemporary fantasy)

On Full Moon Night (horror poem)

The Spirit Of The Game (horror) Things go wrong when a game designer makes a special game for his widowed mother so she can play cards with her deceased husband.

A Clone Of His Own (science fiction, fantasy)

The Hollow Idol’s Eyes (fantasy)

Incident In A Tomb (fantasy, horror, humor)

The Ghost In The Kettle (contemporary ghost story)

The Eruption At Mount Sarna (fantasy)

The Sitting (horror)

Worse Than An Orphan’s Curse (dark fantasy)

Joyride (fantasy, horror)

Green Eyes (horror)

Defiance 2 (poem)

The Treasure In The Monkey’s Fist (fantasy)

Good-bye Grandpa (science fiction, time travel)

Witch’s Skin (horror)

Goldbug (fantasy)

The Dark Gate (fantasy novel, sword & sorcery: 117,000 words)

Forces Of Evil: The Board Game (horror, humor, zombies)

Levels (science fiction)

Night Lures (science fiction)

Friday (horror)

The Hole (horror, joke)

Two Timing (time travel)

Double Time (time travel)

Winterland (science fiction)

Under The Shade Tree (ghost story)

Invasion (sf flash fiction)

How Kreg The Barbarian Became King Of Alencia (sword & sorcery)

Capital Punishment (science fiction horror)


About the Author: Rik Hunik was born in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada, in 1957, and has lived his entire life in BC, except for a few summers in Alberta, and a few days in Washington State climbing rocks. He has lived in Ymir, Wells, Quesnel, Prince George, Quesnel, North Vancouver, Quesnel, Burnaby, North Delta, and Quesnel. He lives with his wife Jo and a 17-pound (big, not fat), blue-eyed, white cat named Mister. He mostly constructs buildings to earn a living, but he’s also a photographer, artist, poet, RPG creator, and writer of dozens of stories, including fantasy, horror, sword & sorcery, mystery, humor, erotica, and science fiction, frequently combining genres. Over thirty have been published in small press magazines and e-zines. He has also published dozens of stories as ebooks at Shakespir, many available to the public for the first time.

Find him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/rikhunik

Trouble Shooter

  • ISBN: 9781310757433
  • Author: Rik Hunik
  • Published: 2015-10-31 08:35:06
  • Words: 2641
Trouble Shooter Trouble Shooter