Not your typical 11-year-old, Oswald Hamilton dreams world-shaking dreams and the smarts to make his dreams reality.
Other kids spent their days skating through life while Oswald plots to take over the world.
Not Earth. Not yet, anyway. Practice makes perfect.
For the mad scientist in our 11-year-old hearts, check out “Oswald Hamilton, Invader”
In late summer when the leaves on the trees look old, but haven’t yet started changing colors, when one day acts like summer with a hot sun that drives people to the Deschutes river to swim, and the next turns out drizzling and cool like fall has sudden tumbled out of the sky, that’s when Oswald Hamilton turned his thoughts to invading an alien world.
The flip-floppy weather patterns of the Early Global Warming Era, or E.G.W.E. as Oswald liked to call it, didn’t bother other kids his age. He saw them traipsing past his big blue multi-story, mostly wasted space, house with their backpacks and pre-paid, parental lock-broken cell phones and their department-store clothing. They didn’t care about the effects of the E.G.W.E. because unlike him they went to school. He watched two boys speed past on bikes, backpacks bouncing, helmet-less hair flying, laughter snatched from their lips as they jumped the sidewalk, swerving close to traffic, sending the traffic guard into a flurry of panicked flag waving. Brake lights lit up red and clueless sixth graders soared untouched across state highway 507 where it cut through town.
That could have been him down there, all brainless and having fun, heading off to start the sixth grade, not caring about anything except what he was wearing, what the other kids were wearing, whether or not the cafeteria had mini hot dogs or pizza on the menu, and what he and his friends were going to do after school.
It could have been him down there if he was a complete and total idiot like those kids.
Not Oswald Hamilton, soon to be conqueror of a whole other planet.
Oswald Hamilton, eleven years old, sitting by himself near one of the large windows that looked out toward highway 507 on the fourth floor of his house, technically his parents’ house, but they’d given him the entire fourth floor. He needed the space for all of his work. Homeschooling, they called it. He called it learning to conquer the world. Not this world, not the Earth, that’d just call unwanted attention to himself. He was only eleven years old after all and smart enough to know that you didn’t just jump into something like that. No, first you had to practice.
Eleven years old and given how smart he was and the fact that he was homeschooled, some might think that there was something physically wrong with him. A deformity that kept him locked up on the fourth floor of a bloated Victorianesque monstrosity built with his father’s riches from his software companies, but Oswald had no deformities.
No physical limitations. In fact, quite the opposite. His parents had always encouraged a vibrant exercise plan, one that kept him fit and healthy, a lean, muscular, happy-looking red-headed kid with a dimple on one cheek. Too cute to be handsome, but not too rounded in the face to really be called baby-faced. No, Oswald knew he could pass mostly unnoticed out in public, doing nothing to draw attention to himself, so long as he left his custom-made and tailored clothing behind and wore ill-fitting department store clothing that hid the fact that he wasn’t pudgy and weak like many kids.
Oswald turned away from the window. It was getting late and he had a world to conquer. He wanted to get that done before lunch, because his parents would expect him to join them downstairs. They always ate every meal together, unless either his mother who worked as a medical consultant for pharmacological companies or his father who was always creating some new computer startup to build up and sell off to the highest bidder, were on a trip.
He had already finished his assignments for the week. His parents knew that he was bright, brilliant even, but he hadn’t let on yet just how smart he was and he hadn’t shown them his inventions. Not the major ones.
Oswald knew better. Given the fact that his parents were both exceptionally smart themselves, compared to pretty much anyone, he thought they might actually have ideas about what to do with the technology. And he’d listen, really, he would, but after he got a chance to try it out himself.
Two years ago he had convinced his parents to give him the entire fourth floor of the house. Most of the walls had come down, giving it a large open studio feeling. He’d turned the couple supporting walls into bookcases and set up the rest for his experiments.
The machine that would let him take over the alien world filled the northwest corner of the room. Oswald walked across the cool hardwood floors, barefoot because he always went barefoot when he could since shoes were the culprits of a variety of muscle and skeletal ills. A gleaming trilobite crawled across the floor, mouth-brushes sucking up every little speck of dust. Two others scattered and scurried away from him. Oswald’s dad wanted to market the floor-cleaning trilobites but so far Oswald had put him off without telling him that the trilobites weren’t exactly trustworthy when it came to family pets. It wasn’t his fault, what happened to Snowball, the trilobites’ emergent behavior just wasn’t something he felt right about excising.
His world-conquering machine didn’t look that threatening. A large hi-def LCD monitor hung on the wall beside the window, a metallic tube two meters long pointed at the window, a variety of smaller monitors flashed data on the sub-components. The heart of the machine was a custom-built chair facing the hi-def screen. He loved that bit, his parents thought he had asked for it for his birthday because he loved watching old science fiction shows and wanted a captain’s chair to sit in while he played video games and watched movies. They actually thought that the tube pointed at the window was a homemade telescope and all the rest of this was his entertainment section.
It was entertainment, not the way that they meant, but he had hooked in a couple game consoles just to act as a camouflage for the machine’s true purpose.
Oswald dropped into his chair and swiveled around to face the screen. He tapped a couple buttons on the arm of the chair. “Activate view screen.”
A planet appeared on the screen, slightly to one side. At first glance the world might be mistaken as the Earth with its white clouds, blue oceans and obscured landmasses. Not by him, of course, but someone might if they didn’t pay any attention to the data or look at it for more than two seconds.
Circumference 1.23384 that of the Earth. Axial tilt at 19 degrees, .85 A.U. from its somewhat cooler G-type star. Neither the planet or the star had ever been the focus of any Earth-based study since they were located clear on the other side of the galaxy from the Earth. Oswald had already named it Planet X.
The image on his television was a real-time view of Planet X brought to him courtesy of his omniscope. That’s what he called it. Everything in the universe was information. When he was six he started wondering about quantum entanglement and the whole question of the underlying mechanism. He got obsessed about it the way other kids obsessed on collecting Pokémon.
Finding the answer was only a matter of time. The result? The omniscope, capable of seeing anything, anywhere in time or space. Actually seeing was too simplistic. Using the omniscope he could access information, any information. Any spectrum of energy, the state of individual atoms, the spin of quarks, or the sound of a lark perched on a branch. Even the thoughts of the kids he had watched outside his window. Whatever he wanted, he could dip in and check it out.
And Oswald Hamilton planned to use the omniscope to invade the world on his screen. The omniscope wasn’t read-only, after all. He could also write information.
Right now he had the omniscope locked in what he considered his fly-on-the-wall mode, an undetectable field in space-time that he could fly around like the ultimate remote controlled camera. He tapped a couple buttons on the arms of his chair and two flat screen panels the size of a cell phone slid up out of the ends of the arms. He touched the screens and they lit up with his touch controls.
It was time.
“Make it so!” Oswald cried. His fingers danced across the controls.
On the television the camera shot forward, zooming straight down at the planet without any regard to orbital mechanics. Nothing mattered to the field. It only weakly interacted at all with the surroundings, relaying back the information which was assembled by his software into the view on the screen.
In two point five seconds the planet went from an obvious sphere on the screen to a straight-down view of clouds far below. If the field was a spacecraft it would be interacting with the air molecules, heating up, burning up at the rate he was descending. With a tap on his screen Oswald activated the microphone functions and picked up the faint ambient sound of the atmosphere. It was quiet. Without any physical form the omniscope field simply didn’t interact with the air. Down lower he’d hear more.
The view dropped. White clouds dominated the screen, nothing below was visible. Then there was nothing but the clouds, a blinding whiteness on the screen. Oswald tapped the screen, freezing the descent. With no inertia to deal with the view came to an instant relative stop. He pinched and zoomed in until fine droplets appeared on the screen, magnified until each drop looked like a fist-sized ball of water with a bit of dissolved grit. Oswald gestured and the view zoomed in on one drop, swelling until it filled the screen. The omniscope focused in, swimming deep into the droplet until tiny wriggling single-celled organisms appeared on his television. Oswald flicked off several images for later study then double-tapped his view back to standard.
The descent continued. He ripped through the clouds at speeds that would have torn any aircraft to shreds. He burst out of the bottom of the clouds and at last could see the ground not far below at all.
A great city spread out beneath him, all gleaming towers and green parks. It could have been New York or Paris, London or Shanghai. Except the air was full of vehicles flying around like angry bees in a rainbow assortment of colors. On this world flying cars had become the norm, except they weren’t cars at all and clearly used some form of quantum shifting to move about. It was a storm of traffic that he would have ordinarily worried about navigating. Not with the omniscope.
Laughing, Oswald flew his viewpoint down into the city. A building filled the screen, too big to keep it all in view. A blue vehicle, shiny and iridescent, shot past and with a few gestures Oswald sent his viewpoint speeding after the pod. Software locked onto the vehicle and he relaxed, stretching out his arms, then he leaned forward to watch.
The city was beautiful, sparkling and wet from the recent rain but the clouds he had passed through were blowing away. Sunlight caught the steel and glass buildings, making them shine. The flying vehicles moved like schools of fish or flocks of birds, turning in mass. Not individually driven, Oswald hypothesized, more likely than not controlled by some sort of artificial intelligence with flocking behavioral routines. He had programmed similar routines into his marble bots when he was five. Or it was possible that the natives had evolved similar flocking behaviors during their ascent to intelligence and had retained those abilities in this technological society.
Invading a world was a lot of work, Oswald decided. He grinned. Fortunately he had recently finished his latest invention, the key piece that would make this world his.
He pressed a button and a hidden compartment slid open on the side of his chair. Oswald reached down and took out a smooth silvery band, a crown fit for the ruler of a world. Simple, without unnecessary jewels or ornamentation, it was the symbol of his rule and the instrument all in one. Oswald lifted it above his head, his eyes fixed on the bright blue vehicle that dove down between two narrow buildings.
“I crown myself ruler of this world!” Oswald settled the crown on his head.
He settled back in his chair. A couple taps and the view caught up to the vehicle, passed through the shell and into the compartment inside where Oswald saw the aliens.
It was a family. Three of them sitting on benches around the oval perimeter of the vehicle. The interior material was white, spotless and plastic-looking, lit by recessed panels. There wasn’t any view of the city outside but surely they must be able to display an exterior view if they wanted. As he had hypothesized the aliens were not driving the vehicle, merely riding in it.
Bilaterally symmetrical humanoids, that much was familiar, and the rest didn’t really seem all that strange after the various science fiction shows he’d watched over the years. Bright clothes, made of light, flowing, semi-translucent materials in layers that gave them an almost fluffy, feathered appearance. The adults were both large, bigger than a human and a quick calibration measure confirmed that they’d each stand about seven feet tall. They had big dark, canine-looking eyes, and beak-like mouths. Their skin was rough and leathery, tan-colored, like Dad’s favorite belt. Between the adults he couldn’t see anything to suggest a difference in gender but the one on the right did have a couple small backward-facing horns on its head that could potentially have a gender-based origin.
Oswald spun the omniscope view around and focused instead on the smaller alien in the cabin. It was dressed somewhat like the adults but only in one color, blue, and one layer of cloths. That made it easier to see how they were held together, it looked like they simply stuck together. A quick zoom and he could see the tiny hooks in the fabric. Each piece was octagonal in shape, and evidently wrapped and applied, sticking together at the connection points. He zoomed back out and focused in on the child’s head.
This was it. The test. The moment that he had worked for all these months. If everything worked, he could conquer this entire world. If it didn’t? Well, he could end up frying his brain.
Oswald’s heart rate increased.
He could run more tests. Reevaluate the safety protocols. Check the redundancies again.
Oswald licked his lips and leaned forward, studying the alien child’s face. The kid was looking at a screen, a tablet held in his four-fingered hand. The tablet could have been manufactured on Earth, it looked like a iPad mini playing a video of more aliens. A television show? Oswald chuckled. Here he was watching an alien watching television.
No. He’d worked for this moment. Now it was time.
He activated the crown and shoved the omniscope controls forward, taping the interfacing commands.
The omniscope had a read-only mode and it had another mode, one that could write information. In this case the crown scanned his head, interfaced with the scope, which locked onto the electrical activity in the alien child’s brain and established the connection.
One of the querlings squirming around his tongue flicked across the back of his throat, tasting of sweet ash. Oswald swallowed reflectively and clacked his beak in appreciation of the querling’s sacrifice.
“Honey, don’t swallow your querlings,” Mother-Mine scolded. “How are you going to keep your beak clean if you keep swallowing them?”
Okay, Oswald thought. That was worse than swallowing his toothpaste.
Toothpaste? Teeth? Revulsion made his gut shake.
Oswald bobbed his head respectfully. The merger had worked, the crown worked. His thoughts and those of the alien kid were now linked, shared together.
He knew that Mother-Mine and Father-Mine were on their way to work, the flit would drop him off at the crèche for the day where he’d have to fend off the battering of bigger kids. A quick recollection showed that the adults at the crèche didn’t intervene. Toughness and survival were considered essential lessons of growing up. Learning was self-taught, Oswald liked that part at least, but the rest of the memories he skated across showed him a kid that was weaker than the others, who survived by avoiding trouble. Even this kid’s parents had few expectations for him.
Oswald started to draw back. This kid didn’t matter, he was only a test case. There were bigger fish to fry on this world. He hardly thought about it and he knew who he needed. Trask, Leader Trask, governed the people. The kid wasn’t clear on the details, if Trask was the leader of the city, a country, state or whatever, but it was enough. All Oswald had to do was locate Trask, merge with him and then he’d be in charge. If there was someone above Trask then he could jump to that person. Eventually he’d locate the top alien, the biggest boss or the closest thing to one. Then the real fun would begin. He could direct the world the way he wanted.
The flit slowed. This was it. The crèche stop. Father-Mine opened his eyes. “Fight well, Child-Mine. Earn your name.”
Earn your name? Oswald suddenly understood. The kid didn’t have a name. Wouldn’t have a name until he left the crèche. If he survived and learned. Only the best kids survived. Oswald concentrated and realized that the kid felt a deep respect, tinged with a touch of fear, for his parents but no affection. And he didn’t expect any in return. Adults guided children, taught them if they proved themselves, but children were replaceable. After all, only the strongest should survive.
“I will, Father-Mine.” Oswald bobbed his head and jumped down when the flit door opened.
His parents didn’t even say anything as the flit took off into the flock. More flits descended and there was a crowd of kids moving along the landing platform into the gleaming building ahead. Oswald moved automatically with other children along the platform. There wasn’t any overt pushing or violence but he felt pressured by the body language of larger kids around him to move away from the center of the platform to the riskier edge.
No way Oswald was doing that. There wasn’t any railing and it was a long way down.
A kid nearly adult sized with three colors of cloth pressed close. “Move, youngling.”
Oswald stopped. He looked up at the bigger alien. He felt the agitation and shock in those around as they parted around the confrontation, none wanting anything to do with an odd youngling foolishly staring at the older kid. It was a great offense, that sort of eye-contact, Oswald realized. The sort of thing that would get the kid he was merged with killed.
He couldn’t let that happen.
“Go stuff yourself,” he said.
The older kid took a deep breath, his cloths fluttering in a display meant to intimidate.
Oswald reached out and grabbed a double handful of the older kid’s cloths. He ripped them free, basically stripping the older kid of any coverings on his front. Oswald threw them away across the platform, other kids scrambled to avoid being hit by the clothes.
“Now get out of my face,” Oswald said. “Before I make you move.”
They thought he was crazy. They all thought he had gone dangerously mad. There were rules and conventions, he knew all of that, but this kid wasn’t going to get anywhere by sticking with what was normal or expected. No, the only way this kid was going to survive was if he acted, well, alien.
The bigger kid scrambled after his discarded clothing, trying to catch it before the winds took it off the platform. Oswald turned and walked down the center of the platform toward the crèche doors.
Maybe being the absolute ruler of the world could wait. No way this kid could pull this off on his own. He was still there, Oswald could feel the kid’s panic and terror over what he’d just done. He didn’t understand, but already his brain was trying to rationalize, to come up with explanations and reasons. Given time the kid might learn something.
Heck, maybe they’d even get to be friends or something, Oswald thought privately. That might prove interesting. Running a world would cut into his other activities. If he worked with this kid, earned him his name, maybe this kid would end up running the place.
Oswald pulled back, separating their thoughts. The connection fell away. On the screen the alien kid paused on the platform. When he saw how the others moved away from him he puffed up, his single layer of cloths fluttering, and strutted on into the crèche.
Oswald Hamilton, invader, sat back in his captain’s chair and put his hands together. This was going to be fun!
This story is the 25th weekly short story release, written in October 2011. I never really know if a story works or not — I think that’s true for most writers. Even if we think a story works, it may not. You be the judge of that, either way I still have a fondness for Oswald.
I’m releasing each of these stories, one per week, here on my website. Eventually I’ll do standard e-book releases when I am satisfied that I can create the cover art that I want for the books. In the meantime I’m enjoying these weekly releases. Stories will remain until I get up the new e-book versions and at that point I’ll take the story down.
If you’re interested in longer works, feel free to check out my novels through the links in the sidebar or on the Books page. Check back next week for another story. Next up is a science fiction story with more aliens, It Takes a Crèche.