"And elsewhere in the news today, High Pastor Jackson, national head of the Reformed Evangelical Church of Christ, denounced the latest round of Congressional proposals to make his church a nationally recognized terrorist organization. According to Jackson, the 'actions of a few wayward souls acting in God's name' should not taint the entire organization. He 'deplores the illegal nature' of the 'so called action cells', but says that they 'should not be reviled for acting as the Word of God requires'. Above and beyond this, he claims that 'the First Amendment guarantees us our freedom of religion, regardless of the godless nature of the law'.
Despite this, law enforcement officials point to the large number of attacks in the last month, including three car-bombs placed in the cars of high-ranked 'pro-gay' government officials, as proof of the terrorist nature of the group. As one individual put it, 'the group as a whole may not be planting these bombs, but they sure aren't interested in helping to stop them!' "
"Hello, Doctor Parish!" Dorothy exclaimed as Tim was moved into the new room. The sound echoed softly off the tiled walls.
"Hello Dorothy, and please, call me Jeffery!" a male voice replied.
"Oh, yes Doctor Parish!" Dorothy answered. Tim couldn't see it, but he could hear the grin on her face as she twitted what sounded like an elderly gentleman.
"Alright, so we have an MRI for a beating victim?" Dr. Parish asked.
"Yes, I would have scheduled one anyway but..." the doctors spoke doctorese as their assistants proceeded to maneuver Tim from his gurney to what he could only assume was the MRI bench.
"Excuse me," Tim asked, "but can I get some earplugs before you turn the machine on?"
"Certainly," Dr. Parish answered, and a pair of earplugs were quickly inserted into Tim's ears. The test went quickly, though Tim could tell the doctors were constantly arguing every time they came in to adjust his position or inject him with something. He couldn't make the exact words out through the earplugs, but the general conversation was pretty clear: Dorothy was making sure only the 'right' stuff was injected, without being confrontational. And despite the plugs, the noise was making his headache worse and worse.
"Doc, I hate to interrupt," he asked at one point, "but can I get some pain meds? Plugs or no plugs, this is just making my headache worse!"
This set off another argument for a few moments before the doctor got around to injecting him with something that made his head stop throbbing. Another round of scans was started even as the painkiller was taking effect. Soon he was being wheeled from the room and back to the room he came from.
"Well, nothing came up too bad," Dorothy reassured him as they walked. "Definitely a concussion, and a nasty one at that, but nothing I wasn't expecting. No fractures or subdural hematomas."
"Good, good," Tim commented "Um..." He clutched his stomach as a sudden wave of nausea hit him. "Ur," he tried to warn the doctor as everything around him turned black.
"Shit! I need some help here!" Dorothy called as the darkness claimed him.
"The RECC..." Eddie whispered, shocked. Shaking his head as he slumped back in his seat, his mind raced to try and find a way out of what had suddenly become a dangerous situation. Turning on his parents was out of the question, but so long as he stood by them these bastards wouldn't hesitate a second to hurt him in ways that made him cringe just to think of it.
"What's wrong, dear?" Mrs. Cook asked. "You looked like we just turned into the Devil himself!"
"You did," Eddie whispered to himself a little too loudly.
"How dare you!" Mr. Cook shouted, bolting upright and slamming his hands onto the table.
Keeping his head down was no longer an option, so Eddie stood up slowly and brought his face up to meet his foe's. "I dare because while literally the statement is clearly false, figuratively speaking it's perfectly accurate. Your group is most definitely the handiwork not of God, but his opponent!"
"I will not tolerate such heresy!" Mr. Cook raged. "How dare you speak such filth!"
"I dare because of the filth and horror the RECC spews on a daily basis!" Eddie matched Mr. Cook's rage with his own, digging deep for the emotions he'd suppressed the previous evening. "I dare because of plots to frame good, decent people like my parents of crimes they have never committed simply because their idea of someone to love doesn't match your own!"
Mr. Cook's slap was far from unexpected, but the speed and precision with which is struck sent Eddie tumbling to the ground before he could react. Note to self: idiot is faster than he looks, he thought angrily. "Striking a child... for speaking the truth! See now the handiwork of your so-called religion!" Eddie spat out angrily as he struggled to his feet, head still spinning. Mr. Cook raised his hand, then slowly lowered it, rage clear on his face. Mrs. Cook's stormy look matched his, and Eddie's heart sank as he realized just how badly he may have overstepped himself.
"I will deal with this later!" Mr. Cook snarled as he stormed out of the room.
"Go to your room," Mrs. Cook ordered coldly, grabbing the remains of breakfast. "We will discuss your behavior at a later time."
Eddie left the room slowly and trudged up to the bedroom he'd been assigned. His thoughts spun in circles as he tried to assess the new information he'd just gained. It didn't make sense, no matter how he tried to arrange it. There was no way a group like the RECC should be able to get involved in this case. Even if you ignored their terrorist status, their anti-gay bias should keep them ten miles away from-
Oh, wait, this entire area shared the damned homophobic bigotry that the RECC enshrined as a primary tenet! Hell, this was probably one of the states that didn't count them as terrorists! "Fuck," he swore softly as he paced around the room. This was bad. This was really, really bad. Hell, there was no way to call home for help at this point, even if his friends could have helped him! Well, Jeremy's dad, maybe, but...
At this point, all he could do was try to wait this storm out. Somehow, he didn't think that was going to be very easy, especially after he'd screwed up so badly.
"I wasn't able to talk to Mr. Terrance, Frank," John told his client softly. The brick room they were in was well lit, and the guards were careful to stay well back from the bars and at least pretend they weren't listening to the client-lawyer conference. "He was going to talk to me after an MRI, but there were complications of some sort and he's back in the ICU, in a coma. Stable, or so I'm told, but in a coma."
"Shit!" Frank swore angrily as he rattled the chains holding him in the chair.
"Good news, insofar as there is any good news, is he isn't likely to suffer from another 'accident'," John continued. "The feds raided the place just an hour after things happened and turned it upside down. He just became star witness in an attempted murder case."
"What?" Frank blinked. "Wait a minute-" he started angrily.
"The situation is as under control as it's going to get, Mr. Wallace, and you need to get control of yourself!" John warned him harshly. "If the guards suddenly decide you're making an escape attempt, they're going to get violent. And I think they're just looking for an excuse."
"Gee, what a surprise there," Frank agreed bitterly.
"I'm already taking steps to improve the situation," John told him. "Including making absolutely certain the warden knows that several of my colleagues are desperately looking forward to handling your civil lawsuit."
Frank blinked for a few moments before chuckling. "In short, if the guards break the rules, they get to pay cold hard cash?"
"And they know it," John agreed. "I've contacted the ACLU to get some help as well, and called in a few markers from friends to get some more information."
"On?" Frank asked.
John pursed his lips. "Somebody is 'handling' this case, the fingerprints are all over the place if you know where to look. After I left last night, I started looking. Just to prove you wrong. And... I didn't. Which makes my own attitude even more suspicious, because the more I think about it the less like me it is."
Frank's eyes narrowed. "Someone 'handled' you without you even noticing?"
John nodded sharply. "If I catch the man in question, well... his ass is grass. Lawyer or no lawyer."
Frank's mouth quirked in a small grin. "If you need help in that dark alley..."
"You won't be providing it, you'll be safe at home," John ordered.
"Fine, I guess I can understand your attitude," Frank agreed sourly. "But if he's up in my neck of the woods when you find him..."
"If that happens, that happens," John dodged the implied question. "Now, for the moment, I need you to provide me with all the information you can on your original travel plans. The papers you had in your luggage have mysteriously vanished, and I strongly suspect that when they turn up they'll have been altered."
"Alright, what do you need to know?" Frank asked.
"Let's start with everything, and work our way out from there," John said.
Hector hissed as he rubbed another layer of the antibiotic ointment into the bleeding welts on his backside. His father normally avoided drawing blood, but this time had gone a little too far. Thankfully, as 'reward' for his injuries (Mother hated him bleeding all over her pristine house), he was allowed to stay in his room for a while. At least until the scabs weren't going to break open every time he moved. Wiping his hands, he turned the page on the King James' Bible he was studying again.
Sighing, he read aloud a passage that seemed appropriate. "But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul."
"When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; "
"(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them."
Bowing his head, Hector turned his heart and soul towards God. "Please, God, I try every day. Truly, I do. But I never seem to get it right; there is always a flaw in my efforts. Bless my parents' attempts to bring me to You, and bless their attempts to raise me right. Forgive me my inability to obey and be dutiful."
Hesitating, he added a line that his father would kill him for if he heard. "Please, God, aid me. I find in my heart that at times... at times I don't think they are right. Do not strike me down for that weakness, and aid me in purging myself of it."
"In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, amen."
Hector resumed his studies, hopeful that in reading and memorizing the Bible he was truly seeking God with all his hear and soul. Maybe then, someday, the pain would stop.
Soon he heard his parents thumping around outside as they led Edward to his shopping trip. Hector bowed his head and wished the boy well before returning to the pages he'd been assigned. If he couldn't at least explain their meaning, it would not go well for him. Thankfully his father had long since decided that expecting him to memorize more than twenty verses a day was excessive. He tried, really he did, but he was just too stupid to manage it.
<No...> a soft voice sighed.
"What? Whose there?" Hector glanced around the room. He could have sworn someone had just sighed at him...
<Agreed, time to be a little more obvious love...>
Hector looked around wildly for the speaker. It was below a whisper, so soft he almost couldn't hear it, but he was hearing it.
<Wait, he can hear us!>
Hector lifted himself out of bed and stalked around the room. Whoever it was was talking about him, but there was no one there.
"Alright Edward, I know we told you we were going shopping today," Mr. Cook told him as he walked in the door without knocking first.
"Don't you know how to knock?" Eddie snapped angrily. "What if I was changing clothes, or engaged in a 'personal moment' of some kind?"
"Excuse me?" Mr. Cook glowered. "How dare you address me in that tone!"
You think he'd learn not to ask that question, Eddie thought evilly. "I dare because it's completely reasonable to expect common courtesy out of people, especially adults who really should know better."
Mr. Cook inhaled angrily, then closed his mouth with a click. Eddie could just see the dammit, the boy is right type thoughts flickering behind his eyes. "Let's start this over, boy," he eventually ground out. Turning around and walked out the door, he closed it gently and then knocked.
For a good half second Eddie debated saying 'go away', but he'd had his victory for today. "Come in, it's not locked," he shouted.
"Thank you for deigning to speak to me," Mr. Cook said after a moment.
Eddie decided not to push things any further. "What do you want to talk about?" Hopefully the slight hesitation after 'want' wouldn't be noticed. Way too rude if Eddie wanted to make nice and not rock the boat any further.
"The shopping trip we planned for today is going to have to wait until Monday," Mr. Cook explained, "there was a change in the schedule of the psychiatrist you're going to be seeing. He's open all day today, and wants to see you in an hour."
"I see," Eddie answered. "What exactly am I going to be seeing him over? I'm not homesick just yet, and I'd say I'm coping with having my parents stolen from me by a bunch of bigoted assholes quite well." You can only avoid rocking the boat so far.
Mr. Cook's lips tightened as he declined to answer, "Be ready to leave in thirty minutes."
"Sir yes sir!" Eddie's voice rang out in a deliberate imitation of a boot camp response. Mr. Cook left the room, clearly missing the insult. Now that could be a fun game to play, Eddie thought before discarding the idea. Getting caught at it would not be a good idea, at all, and who knows how observant Mr. Cook really was, or wasn't. The whole deigning comment seemed to suggest he had some brains, after all... Even if he was stupid enough to join the RECC.
All too soon it was time to go. Eddie let himself be guided downstairs to the garage, and wordlessly sat in the back seat. The drive took them out of town and into the country, and Eddie started to fidget. "How much farther do we have to go?" he asked, annoyed.
"We're almost there, it's the turnoff up ahead," Mr. Cook answered as the GPS system warned them the turnoff was approaching.
They drove down the dirt lane for a while before cresting a hill. Hidden behind it was a building that Eddie almost took for a mansion before recognizing it as a plantation. An old plantation from the days of slavery, with a huge porch, windows, and a dark, brooding look. This building's time was long since gone, and what grace and beauty it yet possessed was a dilapidated mockery of it's former grandeur.
A worn, lean man stood by the stairs up to the porch, waiting for them. His haggard figure was accentuated by the worn, though very clean clothes he wore. "Hello," his deep voice rasped out as they got out of the car. Eddie frowned as his sharp ears picked up what sounded vaguely like a shriek of agony from inside the building. Danger Will Robinson, danger! his Pop's joke floated in and out of his mind without conscious thought. Danger was right, though.
"This the boy?" the man asked, voice rasping out the words in a dead, even tone. If it weren't for the imperfections in pronunciation, the threatening of a voice to fail, you might almost think a computer was speaking so emotionless and cold was the voice. Eddie's palms started to sweat as a chill ran up his spine.
<I'm here, I'll protect you. Be ready.>
Eddie stiffened and glanced around, even more nervous. The last time he'd heard that voice...
Eddie was happy Dad had finally decided to let him walk to the store by himself. At eight, he was hardly a little boy and he wanted to go alone! Besides, if he went by himself he could grab a chocolate bar and have ice cream for dessert tonight. He had enough money saved up to afford one without using the money he'd been given for milk.
He carefully looked both ways when he reached the intersection, even though the light was green for him to walk. Dad hadn't liked the idea of him going alone, even if Pop had convinced him, and Eddie wasn't going to mess up and not get to do this again. Seeing no cars, he started crossing.
He was most of the way across the street when a red sports car came barreling down the street, police sirens blaring behind it. Eddie turned to face the noise as he continued walking.
<_No! Watch-out!> a voice cried soundlessly, freezing Eddie in his tracks as the car sped for him. <Not on my watch!> Eddie felt himself yanked out of the car's path, thrown across the road by an invisible hand just as the sports car sped by so close the wind of it's passage sent him spinning. As he shook his head to clear it, Pop grabbed him tight and dragged him across the road to safety..._
It had taken Eddie years to realize that the only possible reason for Pop to be there was he was following him, but that didn't really matter at the moment.
What mattered was Mr. Cook handing over a white envelope to the strange man who'd greeted them. What mattered was the quick way the stranger riffled through the contents of the enveloped before hiding it in a pocket of his vest. What mattered was the cold gaze the stranger turned on Eddie as he approached.
"Hello Edward, I'm Dr. Riddle," the man introduced himself. "Follow me."
Eddie decided not to argue as he followed the 'doctor' into the building. The building was heavily worn, but Eddie saw signs of heavy renovation everywhere he looked. Boards not fully varnished, plaster dug up, the place was clearly being rebuilt. But what chilled him the most was the doors. He wasn't exactly familiar with this type of construction, but while heavy oaken doors might be normal, having them sunk deep into the walls most assuredly wasn't. Nor was the way the doors were constructed, with what looked like sound proofing around the edges, and large deadbolts.
And the faint screaming he could occasionally hear behind a door as they passed it most assuredly was not normal. And the faintness of those screams suggested the reason for the renovation. Eddie followed, blatantly ignorant of the scream barely audible on the edges of his exceptionally sharp hearing. As they walked, he stretched his senses to the limit. Discarding his normal human habit of focusing on any one object, he just opened his mind up and turned off all the filters.
The human brain is a fascinating machine, capable of operations completely outside the wildest dreams of computer programmers, but even it had it's limits. One of the things every human being learns, early, is the ability to filter out irrelevant information. To focus on the object of interest and ignore everything else around it, to look at the details they were interested in while seeing so much more. To listen to the person talking to them while hearing the music trying to blare him out. Eddie's parents had taught him the opposite of that, however, to listen and see and taste and touch and smell everything.
To do so for too long was impossible, as the strain was simply more than a normal mind could bear for long. Humans just don't operate that way on a daily basis, and trying to isn't natural. But for those that could do it, for however long, the situational awareness was unsurpassed.
And the sudden expansion of his awareness was even stronger than usual, as if some hand guided his mind from sensory input to sensory input as he cataloged sounds and smells and sights. Even in this state some sounds were just too low, too soft to recognize, but despite that it was the sounds that were most informative. Too many screams, bellows, cries, too much ranting and rage. And too low to recognize normally, too slight to smell even for him, but he sensed it. Whatever hand was guiding his thoughts took him by the scruff of his neck and shoved his nose into it until he smelled it.
Sweet, coppery, disgusting. Blood. He'd tasted it before, he smelled it now. It wasn't real, it was to slight, to mild to sense, but... <I don't know why you two are able to listen in to us now, but I might as well make use of it. Yes, I'm helping you, heightening your senses beyond normal. And no, that's not why you've always had such great senses, I'm pushing them even further for the moment. And providing you with extra information that even your enhanced senses can't pull out.>
The sound of the voice sent chills up and down Eddies spine. This time he clearly heard what he'd missed earlier. It was coming from inside, not out. Who are you? he thought at the corner of his mind that the voice was coming from.
<This is not the time for me to answer that question,> the voice answered sadly. <I'd love to, but there are rules I'm obliged to abide by.>
Rules? Eddie responded angrily. Who are you? What do you want?
<Dangerous questions, young one,> the voice answered with a laugh. <As long as you ask it, why don't you ask others... Where am I going? Who do I serve, and who do I trust?>
Eddie wondered for a second why those questions seemed so familiar before discarding it. Answer me! he ordered.
<Alright, I will give you one answer, to any question you demand. But if I may offer a suggestion...> the voice trailed off.
Yes? Eddie asked. Suddenly a corner of his mind noticed that the walk was taking longer than it should have. The house was big, but not that big.
<Took you long enough!> the voice laughed. <I'm playing with your perception of time, and this was the least traumatic approach. Having your body suddenly slow down to a crawl would have been quite a shock, probably panicking you. Holding you in place would have been worse.> Suddenly Eddie was frozen in mid-stride, breath stuck in his lungs. Even his heart was frozen mid-beat. If the voice hadn't provided warning, Eddie would have been in a gibbering panic. As it was, he spent a long second reassuring himself he wasn't going to die. <Good boy,> the voice told him with exactly the same tone one might address a dog who had just performed the desired trick precisely. Eddie could have screamed had he not sensed the slight hint of a laugh at the edge of the voice. He was being teased. <As far as my advice goes, your first question is the most important: can you trust me to tell you the truth.>
And the answer is? Eddie asked. Even as he asked, a part of his mind started wondering why he hadn't interrupted earlier.
<The answer is this: I swear to you by all I hold dear, by my position in the hierarchy of the Light, by my immortal soul, by my love for Ro-> the voice paused a moment before restarting. <By the love I hold for my spouse, and by the bond I swore to you years ago, I will never lie to you!> Eddie's mind rang with the sheer force of that statement, and the utter sincerity of it.
Spouse, huh? Eddie thought with a smirk. 'Ro' what, I have to wonder?
<Careful where you poke your nose, you might just loose it!> the voice warned as time resumed it's stately march.
Who are you? Eddie demanded, annoyed. He had his suspicions, but he'd really like an answer.
<Dangerous question, that,> the voice answered in a strange tone. <There's never a right answer.>
Eddie was infuriated as he realized the voice was smirking at him! Fine then, what should I call you?
<Well, you can't use my name, so... why don't you just call me Galen?> 'Galen' told him.
Galen? Eddie asked. Why Galen?
<Spur of the moment decision, really. I like the character... and you're certainly poking me the right way often enough!>
Character? Eddie asked, confused, as Dr. Riddle opened a door and ushered him in.
<You know full well who I'm... wait, you really don't remember, do you?> The voice laughed. <I was there when your parents made you watch Crusade, but I guess you weren't paying enough attention...>
Eddie sat down in the offered chair, and stared at Dr. Riddle as he sat down across the table. "Well, Edward, I suppose we should start from the beginning."
We'll continue this conversation later, Eddie told Galen.
<Good decision, now...> A sudden burst of information drilled it's way into Eddie's skull, leaving him blinking.
"Are you alright?" Dr. Riddle asked, feigning concern at Eddie's non-responsiveness. Eddie faced Dr. Riddle squarely and stared, leaning back comfortably in his chair as he tried to process all the advice he'd just been given. Still, he had to agree with Galen, the best defense was a good offense.
Even if it did run the risk of them using 'extreme measures' to break him. Eddie didn't know what those measures were, Galen hadn't included that info, but... 'He who will not risk, will not win.'
So he stared the Dr. Riddle down. It wasn't a traditional staring contest, he felt free to blink. But Dr. Riddle wasn't happy with being ignored. "Edward, playing silly games isn't going to help you deal with the current situation. You should simply accept my help."
Eddie ignored him and just kept staring. This should be a fun game to play! he commented.
<And it's exactly the kind of passive defiance that will convince him he's halfway to winning,> Galen answered. <Especially once you 'break down' and start engaging him...> Galen's grin could be clearly heard as he 'spoke' to Eddie.
Hector brushed his teeth carefully, thirty strokes on each side of each tooth. "Aren't you done yet?" his mother asked impatiently from the door.
Spitting into the sink to clear his mouth, he answered careful not to spit out onto the mirror, "Almost ma'am."
"Well, hurry up. Your father is going to be back soon with Edward." Mrs. Cook wandered off as Hector finished brushing and flossing. He dried his face carefully before turning to go to his bedroom.
"Hector, come here," Mrs. Cook ordered as he left the restroom. "The shrink Edward is seeing called after they left. He wants you to talk to Edward for a while, see if you can get him to talk from within a safe environment. Make nice, be friendly. Try and make him a friend, you get the idea." Hector nodded and waited for instructions. His mother sighed as she shook her head. "I wouldn't... according to Dr. Riddle it's necessary. Don't screw it up."
"I won't," Hector promised. "How do I do it?"
Mrs. Cook stared at him, shocked. "Maybe, just maybe, Pastor had a point..." she whispered to herself. "Just... be nice. Polite. Talk to him." She walked away, shaking her head and muttering.
Hector smiled and went to his room. Apparently, for once he'd done something right!