Authors: Teresa McCullough,Zachary McCullough
Tags: #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Fiction, #Speculative Fiction
The First Enhancer
With Meg Baxter
The Slave of Duty
With thanks to Michael Giorgio
The characters in this book are fictional and have no relation to any people, living or dead.
Cover design by Zachary McCullough
Copyright © 2012 Teresa McCullough
All rights reserved.
courtesy of Tim Beach / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The last thing Arthur Saunders heard before falling asleep was someone saying, “If he’s famous, how come I never heard of him?” It was a common enough reaction to his Nobel Prize, and Arthur pretended not to hear. He woke to a loud clang, a jolt, and a whish of air. The airplane swerved to the right and descended rapidly. From his aisle seat, Arthur could see the stewardess plastered to the ceiling. Others reached for the oxygen masks, but Arthur reached under the seat for his life vest. The stewardess wasn’t in free fall and upward force was probably two or three G’s, meaning the plane was in a rapid, powered descent and would quickly reach a level where life vests mattered more than oxygen masks.
A baby was wailing and someone was having hysterics, but most passengers were intent on watching the drama of the stewardess who fell half on passengers and half on seat backs. The man in the aisle seat opposite Arthur was recording what was going on with a fancy camera. The plane leveled, but the air was freezing, even though they were flying in the tropics.
The man in the aisle, one seat in front of Arthur, was using his belt buckle to scratch something onto his tray table. Arthur heard a man yell, “Who are you?” and looked further forward. There was a man walking down the aisle. Two passengers tried to jump him, but were repelled by some kind of invisible shield. The intruder turned around and shot both of them with some kind of weapon. The sound it made wasn’t of a gun, but the two passengers fell as if fatally shot.
A second man picked up one body and dumped him in his seat. Arthur had an almost hysterical thought that they should clear the aisles, which was standard operating procedure for a plane crash. Arthur looked at the face of the man coming toward him and briefly thought he was John. He wasn’t of course, meaning he was one of Hernandez’ clones.
Why wreak death and destruction, when they could visit him in his home or office?
“What’s your name?”
“John Graham.” He paused and then added, “At least, that’s what they told me.”
“You still don’t remember?” The nurse was skeptical.
“I know what day it is, because I can deduce it from the date that was given to me yesterday. I can tell you who is president, and even the name of his dog. I have no personal memories beyond waking up here yesterday afternoon.” He wasn’t surprised by her skepticism, because his type of amnesia was rare.
The nurse examined a bump on his head, took his vitals, and was satisfied with his physical progress. How did he know she was satisfied? He thought it through and realized that he judged by the expression on her face, the way she held her body, and even by the way she was breathing. That when he looked at her chest, it was not for the usual reason males look at females’ chests. Well, at least not entirely for that reason. He also knew she doubted his amnesia. Again, the tiny clues piled up and let him make the deductions.
He didn’t have telepathy and could list the clues, but it took him longer to list them than to interpret them, which suggested he did this often. They never told him what he did for a living. What field would find that useful. Salesman? The idea didn’t appeal to him.
A tall black man with a shaved head entered the room and showed him identification as an FBI agent. John tried to control the panic he felt, wondering what he had done. Special Agent Wilson, in a pleasant baritone that exuded confidence and sympathy, asked, “What can you tell me about how you got in the hospital?”
. I woke up in the hospital last night and don’t remember anything before that,” John said, expecting an unpleasant interrogation but relaxed when he realized that Wilson accepted his answer and was less interested in him as a suspect than as a witness. Since John didn’t remember anything, he wasn’t useful in that capacity.
“What happened?” John asked.
“A bomb exploded in a school when you drove by. A security camera caught your car a few blocks earlier, so we know you drove there directly. There wasn’t a detonator in your car or on you. Sorry, we had to check. We have witnesses saying you stopped your car, then ran into the building without closing the door. You shooed some frightened children out and saved a couple of kids that were trapped in the debris. You returned twice, but the third time the ceiling collapsed on you.”
“I didn’t think I was that noble,” John observed.
“From what you’ve told me, you don’t know what you are, but yes, you were noble enough to go into a burning building to rescue children. I would like to think I would do that in those circumstances . . .”
“I think anyone would,” John said to reassure Wilson. Why was he automatically reassuring him? He didn’t care about him, and didn’t expect to see him again. “So you think I just happened to drive by? Where was I going?”
“To the McDonalds a couple of blocks from there, according to your GPS. You received a phone call at work and left, rather suddenly. Oh, we have your cell phone, because someone thought it might be the detonator. I’m sorry to say it may be a while before you get it back.”
“Who phoned me?”
“We don’t know.” John accepted Wilson’s statement as true, but mentally added the unspoken “yet” to make the truth more complete. While Wilson appeared to accept John’s story, John realized there was another unspoken “yet.” John wasn’t yet a suspect.
After Wilson left, John wished he asked him where he worked.
The nurse returned just as the pain medicine was starting to take hold. “You have a visitor. I think you used to live with her or something. Are you up to it?” It apparently didn’t matter if he was “up to” talking with the FBI.
“Of course. Maybe it will bring something back.” He used the bed control to raise himself to a sitting position because he didn’t like the idea of lying down for this interview. “Used to live with,” sounded as if there might be issues, and he didn’t feel he should play the victim. “Play the victim?” Was he an actor? He was told he was thirty-four, but he looked younger. His blond hair and slim muscled body might belong to an aspiring actor. He put these thoughts aside to observe the woman he used to live with.
She was moderately attractive and in her forties. No beauty, he thought dispassionately, but better than average. She looked out of her element. She also gave the impression that being out of her element wasn’t normal for her.
“Hello,” she said tentatively.
“And you are?”
“Mary Chen. They said you still don’t remember.”
“I’m sorry I don’t remember you.” He put the accent on the “you,” making it sound stronger than he felt. She must have hidden assets, because he felt no real attraction toward her. In fact, he felt she was somehow off limits. His sister? She was Asian and he wasn’t, but one of them could be adopted. Besides, she would have introduced herself as a sister.
She gave a start and a slight frown, but he couldn’t figure out why she had a negative reaction. He decided his amnesia gave him more leeway than he ever would have again, and he swiftly grabbed her tiny shoulder and pulled her toward him. She was short enough so he could reach her without effort. The kiss he gave her was not intended to be passionate, but he wanted a reaction. Everyone seemed to be pretty vague about who he was, and he was annoyed at the lack of answers.
She paused before pulling back, obviously startled. He already suspected that whatever they were before, they were not on kissing terms now. What surprised him was her surprise. The kiss was totally unexpected, as if they never kissed before.
There seemed no point in pretending. “The nurse said we lived together.”
“Not that way!” She was very flustered. “I never thought of you that way.”
“Am I gay?” He was pretty certain the answer was no, because of his reaction to the nurse.
“No. At least I don’t think so.”
“We lived together?”
“In the same house. My husband Arthur and I have this big house and when you went to medical school, he suggested we give you a room.”
“That seems, well, strange,” John said.
“I thought so too, at first. But you just disappeared into the background. Except you mowed the lawn, fixed meals, cleaned the house, and did a lot of the shopping and even helped with the kids. Then you went to your room, saying you had to study. When you
moved out, we spent six months trying to find people to do what you did for us, and then we gave up and moved to a condo. You were invisible, and I didn’t realize what you did until you left.”
“So I’m a medical student?”
“No. You are a resident.”
He frowned. “I don’t feel like a doctor.”
“Some people would say you aren’t. You are a psychiatric resident.”
He digested this, realizing that it was consistent with what he observed about himself. He saw she was uncomfortable and wanted to leave. He would give her an out.
“I’m feeling tired, but before you go, tell me where I live now.”
Mary appeared relieved as she consulted her cell phone and read an address containing an apartment number. She left.
He mentally kicked himself after she left for not taking advantage of the opportunity. Surely a few more questions wouldn’t hurt.
Dinner came, delivered by someone who spoke little English. He amused himself by speaking to her in Spanish, which he was surprised to discover he was fluent in. The conversation was limited to the unusually warm December weather, which meant little to him in his hospital room.
His room had a phone, but whom would he call?
The local news had the story, and he was featured as the hero. The third time he went into the school, part of it collapsed and came down on him. The child in his arms was barely injured because he shielded it with his body. It all sounded terribly noble and even suspicious. Was he that noble? As Wilson told him earlier, he didn’t know. The news story went on to say the explosion was probably a bomb, but no one was taking responsibility for it. Eighteen people had died, one teacher and seventeen children. Several other children were injured.
A reporter showed up and tried to interview him. Since he couldn’t remember anything, the interview was short.
His doctor came and examined him. She asked many questions which were designed to see if he understood what was going on in the world. “I’ll discharge you tomorrow, even if you don’t get your memory back,” she said. “Physically, you don’t need to be in the hospital.”
“Will probably come back soon. Oh, you’ll probably never remember immediately before the trauma, but you should be fine. Even if you don’t remember, you look like you can function. I understand there is someone here to see you who can tell you where you live and work.”
Shortly after the doctor left, a man came into the room.
“Hi, I’m Eric Schwartz.” He was perhaps sixty and looked very distinguished. He had the tan fitness of an outdoors enthusiast, but his demeanor indicated that the outdoors was only for recreation. He had a confident manner, which suggested he not only knew what he was doing, but you were completely safe if you trusted him with whatever was important to you. Yet John was sure he wasn’t a salesman.
“Do I know you?” John asked.
“Apparently not,” he said with a smile. “I’m your boss. Your doctor said you are physically fine. You can take as much time off work as you need, but if you want to come
back part-time, feel free. It might stir your memory.”