The Good Dr. Reed
He'd failed his family that one time, almost a decade past now. The ordeal of the kidnapping leaving Amelia but a flicker of the fiery red head he married well before he became the honored good doctor on the world stage. Only six at the time, his son Jason had since overcome the trauma of that abduction, excelling much as his father did during those same formative years before entering university, a math prodigy.
Yet for all the money and security resources at his disposal, it wasn't enough. What good was it now being voted most influential philanthropist of his generation by not only his peers in industry but all the major global media as well.
Could he ever do enough to thwart the Neo Luddites ? Or were all his efforts no better than a parlor magician's bag of tricks. That's what it all came to this morning, when he got word of four IEDs going off simultaneously at the Cal Tech biomechanics building he had funded and that bore his name engraved in granite - "Reed Hall". In those timeless breaths his heart dropped like a stone to the pit of his stomach and left him feeling as vulnerable as a shivering newborn. The thought of Jason, his only son, trapped under the rubble of mangled steel and blasted stone took him to a place he had done everything in his power to never again revisit.
The knock on his study door shook him out of the silent storm raging in his head, back to the firm wooden chair at his desk, all the surrounding plasma monitors dark. Whatever it was, especially a body bag, he couldn't stand to hear it in a NEWS broadcast, like just another cool occasion to titillate the masses always in need of distraction, amusement, always on the verge of boredom mingled worry.
Who else but Fitz and from his tight-lipped look, it wasn't good.
"I'm sorry Alan."
"Give me the worst of it, Fitz."
Reed stood up, walked around the desk to stand at arms length before his old friend and business partner.
"Both legs gone. That's the worst. Good news is no brain damage & spinal column 90% intact."
"Where is he now ?"
"I have him in route to Bethesda. Should arrive within the hour. What do you want to do from there ?"
"You tell Selene yet ?"
"No. Straight to you, Alan. What about Amelia ?"
"Thanks. No. I don't know how to tell her. You know her fragile state since the kidnapping..."
Reed turned to look out the frost crusted, spartan, bay windows. Peaceful, beautiful, a harvest moon in a white swirl that was still a light dusting. Forecast was it would start piling in heavy before sunrise, on the eve, making for the first white Christmas in half a dozen years.
"Have Sky Dancer ready to roll. She'll make it through the storm at its worst no problem. I'll get the prognosis at Bethesda first hand before I decide when to move him over to our Borg Unit at Synaptic Dynamic Research in Santa Fe."
"Good. I'll see to it."
Fitz got the door part way open before catching himself and closing it again, softly. He turned back to Alan, who had started pacing like a caged animal, the thick carpet absorbing his hard stride, not betraying an iota of his pent-up anger.
"Alan...we have that Camp David trip scheduled the end of the week. You know - the New Paradigm initiatives the President wants us to go over with his inner sanctum, Skull and Bones chums. You think you'll still make it with this situation in play ?"
"The New Paradigm", Reed thought to himself, "maybe it doesn't go far enough in dealing with those fanatical Luddites." These were misgivings he'd keep to himself for now, till he had a chance to sort it all out, then maybe he could share it with Fitz. But, maybe not.
Slowly nodding, he said:
"If you can handle it without me Fitz, I'd be grateful. I wanna stay focused on Jason's care. You understand ?"
"Sure. Of course. I'll just tell 'em the situation, they'll understand, then cover the ground we've rehearsed already. Piece of cake. Don't worry about it. Anyway I'll have 'em call you from the hangar when Sky Dancer is ready to fly."
"Thanks, old friend. Mind turning the light switch off on your way out ?"
Fitz nodded and left a darkened room in his wake.
Reed walked over to the window, stretched his arms to grasp the frame on either side.
Up here in the Catskill mountains the stars were always brighter, diamond hard, the constellations seeming somehow closer, as if you could reach 'em within a few hours travel and not a journey of many life-times.
He could make his son, Jason, whole again, stronger even. That was a certainty and it didn't trouble him as did those New Paradigm initiatives. They seemed too reactive now, too restrictive, too focused on chit after the fact.
Again he looked upon the stars for solace, unconsciously connecting the jeweled points of light that made-up the Huntress, the Bears and the Big Dipper. What he was witnessing had passed eons ago. What was it at this moment ? There was no way of knowing unless you could make the trip through a wormhole.
Yet something else was taking form in his head like connecting constellations except it was more like neural pathways, ganglia, axions & synapses.
What if, what if you could harvest enough COM data ?
These Luddites planned their acts, they communicated over time, layed the ground work, acted just a wee bit out of the norm and basically, unintentionally, left a trail of crumbs.
What if there were a global network of receptors & filters dedicated to looking for those patterns and when finding them, initiating a preemptive strike force ?
Of necessity, it would have to operate outside conventional law and order, even the Constitution. But this would surely be one of those rare exceptions, a case were most would agree the means justified the ends.
He would need access to the entire planet's COM LINKS. All of 'em, totally unrestricted. Outside civil law sure, but this was WAR and think of all the innocent lives saved, the mass destruction of critical infrastructure averted, it would be worth it. Yes, it would.
What was that saying ? The one 'bout getting stronger ? Ah, yes, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger.
He would have to think of a special name.
The phone played Moonlight Sonata.
"Speaker on. This is Reed."
"Dr. Reed, Sky Dancer is clear for take-off."
"I'll be over shortly."
A special name.
It would come to him. Things always came to him without having to toil through every step. He imagined it was the way The Bard wrote his sonnets.
Yes. Maybe this would be his real legacy in a world going to hell in a hand-basket and not those ever popular sexy domestic bots that made Synaptic Dynamics, Inc. the poster child for Wall Street investors, and him wealthier beyond anything he ever imagined at Cal Tech brainstorming with Fitz when they were just young egg heads.
He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out the ancient Roman coin. A gift from his father when he was Jason's age that he only set aside upon retiring to sleep. In time worn relief, the Roman god Janus of the two faces, of thresholds, of looking behind and looking ahead. He flipped it up, caught it, and without looking, clutched it, feeling the cut in his palm.
It was time.
Goth Zagog-Thou wrote:Oh WOW!
It's brilliant. Not just good brilliant - GREAT brilliant!
Can't wait for more. Awesome job, Rman!
Berg wrote:Preaching to the choir and or hopefully finding a new ear that has the ability to listen.
Slings and arrows. ha what folly
aubergine wrote:Awesome! Looking forward to the next installment
Jorzi wrote:This makes most other fan fiction look like illiterate rambling
I did have to google the word "luddite" though.
I can't help but think that some people would need it translated like this in order to fully understand everything you write.
The Wager Lost By Winning:
A tale of Jason Reed & Selene van Dyson
Uncle Alan had offered to send Sky Dancer to Washington DC and fly her straight to the Santa Fe facility but she decided the Mag Lev would give her the extra time her father urged her to take.
"Be prepared. He's not the same, my dear," were his exact words.
"I know, dad."
"Not really, my child. It's much more than the loss of his limbs and the exo-prosthetic replacements. His mind, his soul, have suffered deeper wounds than his flesh. Those will take longer to heal."
So many thoughts raced and clashed while she disembarked from the Mag Lev into the thick, high desert swelter. Boarding the dragonfly helo her dad had waiting outside the station gate, she was wisked to the Synaptic Med Research facility in the blood red mountains above Santa Fe. Being waved through all the security checkpoints she soon found herself in the Bio Mechanics ward, still unsure what her first words to Jason would be.
A short ride down a lift, she entered some tubular underground passageway, white on white and all curves, the only hard edge being where wall met floor. Rounding a turn she saw her black suited father standing in stark relief, obviously advised of her arrival and waiting.
Fitz looked at his daughter with tender pride as she strode towards him with grace and purpose. She possessed her mother's raven tresses, bright blue eyes & statuesque beauty, but it was more her sharp wit & confident intelligence that set her apart, made her standout in a crowded room of revelers. It would be difficult for her to accept Jason's altered disposition passively.
They embraced. Each parting hesitantly from the other.
"Is Uncle Alan still with him ?"
"Yes. Come, let's sit."
This part of the facility wasn't much like any med ward she'd ever been to with its plush gold carpet, sunny landscape murals, tapestries that looked like Pre-Columbian glyphs & furniture fit for a mansion. It had the Reed aesthetic touch visible everywhere.
"Try to remember, my dear daughter, what we spoke of before you came out. I know how spirited you are by nature but that will not serve you well in this situation, I'm afraid."
He touched her gently on the forearm. She looked at him with eyes pleading for more than that; for hope and absolute reassurance that it would all turn-out for the best. Instead there was caution and concern in his gaze and that wouldn't do to stem the welling glisten she felt of a sudden. Visibly, she stiffened. Pressed her lips. She would not allow tears. Not now. Later, when alone again, maybe then.
"Time. Give it time, Lena. Patience can heal. Simply let him know you're there for him. There's no more to be done now, truly."
It was Fitz who sensed his presence first, looking away from his daughter, to her right. Selene followed suit and when she saw who it was she sprang to her feet and rushed into his waiting arms.
"It'll be fine Lena. We'll make Jason strong and whole again. I promise."
Dr. Reed held her by the shoulders and even while exuding compassion his look was also searching for signs of weakness. He saw none.
"Can I see him, uncle ?"
Reed looked over to Fitz who nodded assent.
"Of course. I'll take you to his room."
If anyone could reach Jason, it would be Selene.
Though only separated by a year, and not related by blood, Jason had always been protective of her like any older brother his kid sister. She in turn idolized him. But maybe that wasn't enough now.
Maybe what they both needed now was something beyond taking-on the normal responsibilities they were groomed for in Synaptics Dynamics. Fitz had the New Paradigm project in hand for Selene and there was that mission in Berlize and the Yuccatan he was formulating as part of this new preemptive strike strategy. He wanted to roll it out as soon as possible and it could just be the challenge for Jason to sink his teeth into, get him focused beyond his losses. He would have to talk to Fitz about it. There could be no secrets between them, he decided, afterall.
When they reached the door, Reed knocked softly and said:
"Jason, it's Selene, come all the way from DC."
Not waiting for a response, Reed parted the door with one hand and gestured Selene to enter with the other.
As Selene stepped forward to enter she looked at Reed and he smiled, his eyes telling her this was a good thing to do. She went in, a barely discernable thud behind her, Reed letting the door close, leaving just the two of them.
The only light in the room filtered through the partly drawn blinds, creating a pattern of shadow slats along the far wall. Selene instinctively reached for the overhead light switch but at the last second caught herself and left it off. She also noted a faint vibration in the air, like a swarm of insects at a distance in an open field. That too she let slip away.
Jason was standing at the window seeming taller somehow, peering through the blinds, the bed between them, his back to her and wearing a nondescript light blue hospital gown that was grossly ill fitting from the waist down. She wasn't sure "bed" accurately described what she saw as it was massive and contoured-out like one half of a mold in vaguely human form, with a bay of instrumentation were you'd normally find a plane old headboard.
He didn't say anything but she thought she detected an ever so slight head shake as if his body were unconsciously responding.
She walked cat-like to the side of the "bed" furthest away from him before again speaking his name just above a whisper.
She could see the window open a sliver, allowing enough of a draft to cause the blinds to vibrate.
After a few heartbeats he responded coldly.
"Go away Lena. Please."
He could be stubborn. Usually it was some misguided sense of nobility. She would have nothing of that and stood her ground.
"We can get throught this together Jay, like we always have. Nothing can defeat us. Remember, we're the last defenders of Camelot. Aren't we ?"
At last he turned to face her. With the light behind him, his face was cast in deep shadow. She could not read his expression even just a few arm lengths away.
"We're not kids anymore, Lena. Not Merlin or even Arthur himself with all his noble knights at his side could deal with the chit we face in this crap world of ours..."
He was just down because of the loss of his legs. Understandable. It would pass.
"Jay, we can deal with the crap. You and me, we're a team. Nothing will ever change that."
He shook his head as if to say she had no idea.
"Lena, go turn on the light."
While she went to do it, she heard his movement. It wasn't light or sure footed and there was the unmistakable sound of pneumatics. With the over head fluorescences on she turned to face him.
"Does this look like it'll ever be the same for me, little sister ?"
With those words let lose he undid the hospital gown, shrugged it off his shoulders and let it drop to the floor.
She could not help but gasp and look askance.
"Not a pretty sight is it. Half man, half monster-machine..."
She forced herself to look him straight on.
"Your still the same inside, Jay. Your heart, your mind, your spirit. Those haven't been taken away. That's the truth and you know it."
Again he shook his head as he reached down, picking up the gown, putting it back on, taking a deep breath not out of exertion but something else.
"You don't understand, little sister. I can never be a man again."
It was with those words that it hit her full force, like a sudden smack across the face, and she could find no words, her mind a blank.
"You mean well, I know. But please, go away. Your making it harder."
She understood now and looking him in the eyes again she tried to lend him her strength without words but he turned away.
"Ok Jay. For now," she said and left.
Goth Zagog-Thou wrote:Great stuff, Rman. Looking forward to more whenever you find time to do it.
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