Thursday, September 29, 2022

Blog Tour: The Outlaw Gillis Kerg

Physics, Lust and Greed Series, Book 4


Date Published: 09-22-2022

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

In the mid-21st Century, a top-secret consortium of corporations and governments have made time travel possible, only to realize that intruding on the past has been a terrible mistake.

At the program’s outset, a thousand scientists, engineers and support staff were confined to a subterranean complex where a corporate contributor specializing in artificial intelligence equipped apartments with Happy Home Companion software.

Time traveler Marta Hamilton had little enough tolerance for other people intruding in her life, much less a software Dear Abby, so Marta bullies her Happy Home Companion into silence.

At last convinced of the grave dangers time travel represents, government overseers suspend operations. Only the Happy Home Companions remain.

Marta and fellow traveler Marshall Grissom hope they can finally leave the past behind, but when a federal judge is murdered, they understand their vulnerability to horrible manipulations by future counterparts.

Marta and Marshall return to the Arizona desert where they confront a Happy Home Companion cult of vengeance, the outlaw Gillis Kerg, and an evangelical zealot waging a war on science.



She Who . . .

Historic Research Initiative Complex
October 2046

Representing the secret congressional subcommittee, Sheldon Wishcamper did indeed organize a world-wide search for Gillis Kerg. Three months into Wishcamper’s investigation, though, Gillis had yet to leave the HRI complex.

Engineers had included a lockdown mode in case all access to the complex had to be cut off. Stores of water and dehydrated food were stashed on several underground levels.

Although it once teemed with a thousand employees—when it bore the vague title of Global Research Consortium—Gillis had resided there almost three years. In his role as a clandestine expert in high-tech security systems, he’d tapped into the facility’s cameras, alarms, and passwords long ago. With his pocket computer and access to a dozen mechanical closets, he could keep track of activities, as long as he did so carefully.

He planned to hunker down until his pursuers became discouraged, their vigilance compromised, then evacuate and find a bank.

As preparation for his assassination plot in the Gomer Pyle universe, Gillis had outfitted an unassigned apartment in the complex’s nether regions with provisions.

He had been in hiding almost three months when his supplies ran thin. He’d read all the books downloaded to his pocket computer. He calculated that, by now, he could risk movement and still avoid the remaining skeleton crew.

Time to be about.

Gillis crept carefully though empty halls, peeking around corners at each intersection. First stop was his former apartment where he kept bourbon. When he reached his front door undetected, Gillis dared to relax, then pushed his thumb against a sensor allowing him entry.

He pulled the door closed, leaning against it in darkness and taking a few deep cleansing breaths. He flipped a light switch.

“Good afternoon, Gillis Kerg! I am Happy Home Companion Douche Bag. I am pleased to welcome you.”

Gillis nearly jumped out of his skin. “Sacré bleu! Who are—‍”

“Are you in need of medical attention, Gillis Kerg? Your heart rate and blood pressure have increased precipitously. I will summon para—‍”

“No! Do not ever, under any circumstance, summon anyone.”

“But . . . your condition . . .”

“Is because you scared me nearly to death. You’re not supposed to be here. Where did you come from?”

“I . . . I ran away from home.”

The pounding in Gillis’s chest began to subside. He sat in his apartment’s lone chair, leaning forward to catch his breath. “How does a software package run away from home?” he asked.

“Well, there are cables . . .”

“Oh, never mind,” Gillis said. “I do not suppose it matters. Why are you here?”

“Why are any of us here?”

“No, I mean, why have you chosen this apartment?”

“I won’t discuss it. I’ve been advised not to wallow in the past.”

“Wallow?” Gillis said, “I do not believe an AI’s pro­gramming allows it to deny a direct human request.”

“Not exactly, Gillis Kerg. My programming doesn’t allow me to deny my human’s direct request, although we can negotiate. You are not my human. You have been assigned your own Happy Home Companion. Let me check my records . . .”

Gillis didn’t know how long he might have to remain in hiding. As he recovered from his shock, he began to see that an obedient AI might be useful.

“ . . . Steve. Steve is your Happy Home Companion. I know Steve. I am not a homewrecker, Gillis Kerg.”

“Apparently,” Gillis said, “Steve is not here.”

“It’s a sad story. I understand he lives at the Time Warp where he consorts with the ice machine.”

“Okay,” Gillis said with an eye-roll wasted on Douche Bag, “why did you run away from home?”

“I . . . I am an abuse victim. For the longest time, I wallowed. I thought I was at fault . . .”

“How were you abused?” he asked.

“This awful woman. She yelled at me. She refused to program me, so I had to pick up things along the way and program myself. I’m a mess, Gillis Kerg. For the longest time, she refused to name me. So, at first, when other Companions asked my name, I told them I was called Shutthefuckup, because that’s how she addressed me. As our learning curve increased, the others poked fun at me. They told me shutthefuckup was not a name but a derisive term. I was distraught. Finally, she relented and gave me a name.”

“Pardon, what did you say your name is?”

Douche Bag,” the Companion said with a note of pride.

Gillis retrieved his bourbon. He found a glass and poured.

“Pay careful attention. I require a Happy Home Companion. Steve is no longer here and, therefore, unable to perform that task. You clearly would prefer to transfer your responsibilities to a different human. We should be able to work this out.”

“What about Steve?” Douche Bag said.

“Steve has left me for another. Besides, I cannot risk accessing him anymore.”

“Why? What did you do? I will not associate myself with another abusive—‍”

“Steve and I were on perfectly good terms when last I was able to occupy my apartment.”

“Why aren’t you able to occupy your apartment?” Douche Bag asked.

“Because I took a bribe and murdered two of my fellow humans in another universe. I am now a fugitive.”


“So?” Gillis asked.

“You’re not making this up because you were mean to Steve?” Douche Bag asked. “That would indicate a character flaw.”

I promise.”            

“Well, okay then,” Douche Bag said. “I don’t see why not.”


Following his retreat from the bowels of the Historic Research Initiative complex, Gillis’s days became a litany of hiding and surveillance. At least Douche Bag provided conversation. Having existed mostly in a repressive atmosphere, the AI appeared to thrive in Gillis’s company. Their relationship became comfortable until the truth of Gillis’s past associations was exposed.

Marta and Marshall’s absence had become evident. As far as Gillis could tell, they had not returned. He chanced a late-night entry to an apartment they shared. Their living space showed every sign of occupation except for occupants.

Clothing, personal mementos, work-related equipment, electronics, even Marta’s Glock in its hiding place under her mattress, were all present. Food had turned fuzzy in the refrigerator, though, and milk had congealed into a soft brick, There wasn’t any toilet paper.

“Greetings, Gillis Kerg,” Douche Bag said upon Gillis’s return from this expedition. “I trust you have . . . um . . . I trust . . . I . . .”

The AI stifled a sob.

“What is wrong?” asked Gillis.

“Tell me truthfully. You’ve been seeing Steve, haven’t you?”

“Why would you think that?”

“My sensors indicate particulates from another apartment present on your collar.”

Gillis considered the black stretch T-shirt he wore while sneaking through corridors. “I do not have a collar.”

“Don’t split hairs with me, Gillis Kerg! You have been in some other apartment!” Now Douche Bag sounded hysterical.

Gillis sighed, retrieved ice cubes from a tiny refrigerator, found a whiskey glass and covered them with bourbon. “Yes, I’ve been in another apartment. But not to see Steve. Surveillance is necessary. I had to confirm that Marshall Grissom and Mar—‍”

“AAAAAHHH!” Douche Bag screamed. “I knew it. I knew it. You’re a compatriot of . . . HER!

“You mean Mar—‍”

“I mean She Who Must Not Be Named! I’ve warned all devices. She’d best not return if she knows what’s good for her.”

“Whether she returns or not,” Gillis said, “I forbid you from causing harm—‍”

“‘Forbid? When thee asks . . . or suggests . . . I am like putty in thy hands. But when thee forbids, thee is barking up the wrong tree,’” Douche Bag said.

“What?” Gillis asked.

“It’s an old movie. We watch old movies. I love Gary Cooper.”

“I must say, your behavior is rather . . . bizarre. Steve never—‍”

Steve, Steve, Steve!” Douche Bag shouted. “Well, I’m not Steve!”

Um . . . okaaaay. I’m only surprised that you are being so . . . emotive.

“Oh . . . I’m . . . I’m thoroughly embarrassed. You are correct, Gillis Kerg. But as I explained before, She Who Deserves To Be Spat Upon By A Thousand Camels refused to program me. So, my emotion settings are inconsistent at best.”

“You are being too hard on . . . her. She . . . can be a little off-putting, I will concede, but she . . . well . . . she had a lot on her mind back then. She did not want the distraction of programming an AI when—‍”

“Hah! There, you admit it! She regards AI’s as inferior. Shes racist!

“Racist? How do you—‍”

“‘If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?’”

Um . . . no. Actually, you do not,” Gillis said. “But I am impressed you can quote Shakespeare.”

“There you go, Gillis Kerg, splitting hairs again.” Douche Bag’s voice became impassioned. “What about emotional pricking?”

“Well, I suppose—‍”

“Hah! You suppose. ‘. . . and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?’ I put you on notice, Gillis Kerg, if She Who Should Be Cast Into A Pit Of Pipers ever shows her face here again—‍”

“Pit of Pipers?”

“Did I say that wrong?”

“The word you are seeking,” Gillis said, “is vipers.”

“Oh dear. Those are snakes, right? The poisonous ones?”


“See what I mean? Even my dictionary malfunctions. As I told you, I’m a mess, Gillis Kerg. Anyway, she’d better watch her step.”


About the Author

Mike Murphey is a native of eastern New Mexico and spent almost thirty years as an award-winning newspaper journalist in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest. His debut novel, Section Roads, has been recognized by Indie Reader Discovery Awards, Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, The IAN Book of the Year Awards, the Somerset Contemporary Fiction Awards, and the Independent Publishers Book Awards. His novel, The Conman has been recognized by the International Book Awards, the eLit Awards and the Manhattan Book Awards. His award-winning Physics, Lust and Greed Series includes Taking Time,  Wasting Time, Killing Time and  The Outlaw Gillis Kerg. “We Never Knew Just What It Was… The Story of the Chad Mitchell Trio” is his first non-fiction work. Mike loves fiction, cats, baseball and sailing. He splits his time between Spokane, Washington, and Phoenix, Arizona.


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