Castle Roland

Educating Max

by D'Artagnon



Published: 7 Dec 15

Codicil – Educating Max, 2 Days Later

It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. Sitting there, in that hospital waiting room with my parents, Cam's parents, my brother Mike and his once-again girlfriend Becky. Cam was in surgery. Mike had forbidden me from using my powers to "peek" into the minds of anyone in the operating room, warning me that I might influence their thoughts and actions, or confuse them at some critical moment. Reluctantly I agreed, but the anxiety was getting to me. You can only read the same outdated magazines, or play chess or cards so many times.

The conversations in the room seemed to pick up, sporadically, then die away to awkward, stilted silences. The couples in the room would sit together often, leaning on each other, holding, whispering encouragements. Cam's parents prayed twice. I didn't know they were Catholic. More things I keep learning about my secret boyfriend.

The secret part was beginning to get to me. I couldn't tell my parents or Cam's parents the truth about our relationship, new as it is. I didn't think that I would get into trouble or be ostracized if my parents knew. Something told me they'd be okay with it, even though I haven't tried to read their minds. And Cam's parents, they're just awesome. I don't think they'd hurt him or kick him out or anything like that.

I just wasn't sure I was fully ready to tell my secrets yet. I kinda like having secrets. Like my powers. This whole week's been such a spinny, floaty, crazy mishmash of crap all colliding right on top of me, wicked.

I mean, I've been shot at, mentally attacked, beaten, kicked, basically brutalized by adults. I've also had one night of amazing, sexy, sweaty fun with a guy who loves me and showed me a whole new world of what love can mean, both in my head and heart and with my boy business. And on top of all that, I've learned how to read minds, how to move stuff with my mind alone, how to fly, and how to tap into the power of the Earth itself to boost my power.

Well, I guess you can add to that the fact that some government guy somewhere sent soldiers and a satellite and another psychic kid after me and my big brother, Michael. I'm still not sure what to make of that. I certainly don't know how my parents would react to hearing about that. Come to think of it, I'm freakin' amazed that Mike hasn't had to answer any questions about how he suddenly got shot a couple days back. You'd think the 'rents would have gone mad ape poo about that one.

I suspect big brother is using tricks he hasn't taught me yet for that one. And for getting Becky back, after I shamed him into admitting he still loved her. Odd that he and she had to shame me into not breaking things off with Cam. I was just seconds from erasing his memories of me. I wanted to protect him from the guys coming after me and Mike and who knows how many others like us.

But it wasn't the right thing. Love is worth fighting for. Life is worth fighting for. I'm no killer, but if pushed… I dunno that I wouldn't take a life to save those I love. Especially if they did nothing wrong.

So, we sat, we waited. I got up and walked the halls. Funny, you don't really understand that expression until you find yourself doing it. Like, the waiting while sitting still was just too much, so I had to get up and move, even if I really didn't go anywhere. I even went to the bathroom, went through the whole process of unzipping and pulling out and standing in front of the urinal just for something to do, even though I didn't have to pee. And I certainly wasn't feeling any other urges in that part of my body. It all felt like going through the motions gave me something to do with the worried energy I had.

It must be like how firefighters feel when they first start that job. Waiting around for an alarm about something really bad happening and you can't really do anything to stop it from happening. Like, all you can do, for your job, is to stop it after it's already caused damage or hurt people, and then clean up afterwards. Funny, I wanted to be a fireman a couple years back, you know, when I grew up. Now, seems like it's a pretty depressing, if necessary job. Mad props to them! Takes a lot of guts to fight a losing battle all the time and get up every day ready to do it again. Total respect.

I still feel guilty about that. I keep thinking that maybe I could have done something to stop Cam from getting so badly hurt. I was the one they were after, even if I didn't know it yet. I was the one with the powers. I should have done something more. And because I didn't or couldn't, Cam was in the surgery, a complication from those injuries threatening his life.

An infection had taken place in Cam's kidney. I don't get all the medical stuff. Doc said it was serious though. A combination of tiny blood clots in the organ and a slight infection from all the kicks to his boy parts. Seeing him injured there after our escape had really shocked me. It was so swollen and when he peed, it had blood in the yellow. The doctors had to go in and do something immediately or else the condition would get worse. His other injuries would suffer greatly and take a lot longer to heal if they didn't do this operation, and it was possible that the infection could spread to other parts of his body and kill him.

Health class was not my favorite. I don't' even like biology much. So hearing doctors talk about stuff like this just confuses me and makes me feel like barfing. But when the doctor says something like "it could kill him if we wait any longer," that catches my attention.

All because I didn't protect my Eeyore.

We waited four hours. There were three other surgeries that were going on while we were waiting. All three began after Cam's started and ended long before the doctor finally came out. His scrubs had small spots of blood on them, and he wearily pulled the surgical hat off as he came through the double doors to the surgery ward. The mask that doctors wear was draped against his chest. Cam's parents stood up, together, hands clutched together. I stood as well, my parents coming to stand behind me.

"Doctor Marcus?" Cam's mom asked, expectantly.

"It was a lot worse than we thought. We found over forty small clots. And we found two blockages in the tubes leading to the bladder, which was probably how the infection began," the doctor began. "But it looks good. It looks real good. The tissues are strong, the infection is localized and we cleansed a lot of the toxins out. I feel Cameron will recover fully. He's a strong kid and I anticipate he'll respond well to the medications."

"Can we see him?" Cam's dad asked as his mom turned to his dad's chest, crying soft tears of relief.

"I'll allow it in a few minutes, but only for a short time. He will likely sleep through the night. The nurses are setting him up in the recovery room. So give them a few minutes to do their job, and I'll have one of them come get you so you can see him, briefly."

"Can we see him tomorrow?" I asked. The doctor focused on me and I could feel a myriad of emotions from him. There was curiosity, an appraisal of my appearance, you know, since I had all these cuts and scrapes and bandages. There was also a sense of wondering if I was Cam's little brother, until his eyes flicked over to see Michael and Becky standing beside my parents. There's an unmistakable family resemblance.

"He will be weak most of the day, so I will have to limit his visitors to family only. Be patient, young man. Your friend is in good hands, and you'll be able to see him soon. Day after tomorrow at earliest. I think you'll find him much improved then."

"Thank you, Doctor Marcus," Michael said, preventing me from asking other questions. I felt Mom's hand drop on my shoulder. I wasn't happy about it, but I realized that forcing the issue would not help me any. And would help Cam even less.

I could be patient. I could visit him in his dreams. I could be strong for Cam. I didn't like it, but I could be. Besides, it would give me a chance to reflect on all the crap that had happened so far. I had a bad feeling that it wasn't all the way over, yet.

Somewhere in New Jersey, near the Delaware state line.

Johnson didn't like his job, particularly. He felt that much of the people he dealt with had less than pure motives. Particularly that old crazy Nazi scientist. The man was brilliant at biology and merging it with modern technology. Johnson wasn't even sure the technology could be considered even modern anymore. So much of what Stamos had come up with seemed like bad science fiction clichés to the agent. The fact that the old loon was working for Dr. Conrad now didn't alleviate the weird feelings Johnson got around the man. If there was ever someone he worked with that deserved a bullet in the brain, it was the mad scientist Stamos.

He entered the office after checking his sidearm, noticing the armed security guards already in the room. I have a bad feeling about this, Johnson thought to himself. Dr. Conrad sat behind the big desk, looking less than enthused. A voice spoke from the speaker on his desk, and Johnson caught the tail end of a long string of curses. The most intelligible part he could discern was the phrase "fucking eighty million dollar spy satellite," and a terse "We need results, gentlemen, or I'll shut this whole party down."

"I understand, Director Cleese," Conrad said. "We are working on a contingency plan now." He motioned Johnson into the room with one hand, the other hand supporting his head as he took the phone based verbal abuse.

"It had better be good, Doctor," another voice said over the speaker. "Congressional oversight committee is about to come down on us harder than the ridiculous Benghazi hearings."

"You have my word, Senator."

"I'd better have more than your word, boy. There's a lot riding on this. I can't afford a scandal. If something goes wrong again, you're on your own. And I don't need to remind you what those fucking liberals will do when they find out about all the questionable research you boys have been up to."

"I understand," Conrad said, resignedly.

"No more screw ups!" the nameless Senator said, and then the line went dead.

"Well, that will about cover how deep in it we are," Conrad said, as Johnson took a seat. His glance to the left showed that the other wingback chair before Conrad's desk also had an occupant. Stamos looked almost pleased at the situation. The gleeful grin on the old man's face was less than cheerful, more like creepy. More like sadistic.

"Fellas, we really screwed the pooch on this move in Canterbury. Total waste of three important resources, no success and now the target has got media protection. If we make another move against him, even if we're successful, we risk exposure."

"So does that mean we are giving up on this?" Johnson asked. He was an agent, a doer. Let the policy makers decide what must be done, he was the method things got done. At present, he had no mission.

"You know we can't. There are things in the immediate future, plans, that require information. That require the sorts of advantages, quite frankly, that people like Max and Michael Perault bring to the table. But we are hamstrung by legal matters from approaching them directly."

"And with the psychic operatives we have been able to find disappearing, hiding from us, we are running out of time," Johnson agreed. "Sir, let me contact these boys directly. If they were aware of the situation, perhaps they'd be motivated by patriotism to help us."

"Oh, that would be so very ironic," Stamos said, his voice grinding like gravel under a heavy truck's tires on Johnson's nerves. "Just tell them that you've been secretly spying on them for years. That your goals are altruistic and pure. Tell them you didn't intend to kill them or beat that one boy nearly to death. Tell them these things. They'll see right through you. Or worse…" the doctor said, adjusting his glasses so that the reflective glare seemed to mock Johnson.

"Worse? What could be worse?" Johnson asked, his ire coloring his tone.

"They could just kill you with a thought," the old man grinned. "Oh, how I wish I had known about those two boys. I had thought my treatments hadn't affected their parents much at all."

"Yeah, well, apparently Herr Doctor, you don't have your science completely down. You've been surprised more than once with that whole Paul Carver incident. And your own private pet project has not only found ways to break your supposed control, but he's scrubbed the internet of your other information resources."

"My Jack is a brilliant piece of work, Mr. Johnson. Would you like me to adjust your son as well?" Johnson was out of his chair before the doctor could get his next words out. "Autism isn't a terrible condition, but with my technology…"

"You even finish that sentence, Doc, and I'll pull the trigger on you myself."

"Just offering you a way out."

"So am I," Johnson said, his brow drawing together in frustration. Stamos simply grinned, leaning back in the chair with his fingers steepled.

"Okay, enough of that. I need you two to work together," Conrad said, standing from his chair. He turned to look out the window behind his desk at the lights traveling on the highway below. "We're going back to Canterbury, right away. Dr. Stamos has identified a pattern that may yield results."

"Surely we aren't going after the same targets? They knocked out a satellite for Christ sakes," Johnson said. "And we still don't know how."

"Cool your jets, Agent Johnson. We will come up with an alternate plan regarding the Perault boys. For now, the good doctor here has identified another potential source of material for our efforts."

Stamos leaned in Johnson's direction and handed him a file folder. Johnson opened the file angrily, and was greeted with a picture of a teenage boy in a hockey uniform, proudly sporting the number 4 on his chest. Johnson quickly scanned the file, memorizing some of the details quickly, as was his training.

"Another child," Johnson muttered, ironically. "We are becoming kidnappers."

"Read," Conrad commanded, ignoring the jibe.

"He's a hockey star. So what? How does this make him worth our efforts."

"Because, Herr Agent," Stamos replied, still grinning. "His parents were both part of my experiments after the plague. They both received my treatments. And, if my calculations are correct, these scores and statistics regarding his play illustrate a clear statistical advantage. No other player is as gifted or as consistent."

"Now we're basing our plans on sports scores in a high school hockey league?"

"Johnson," Dr. Conrad warned.

"Sir, there has got to be better information to go on than this."

"How about the boy's medical records?" Stamos asked. "Never a broken bone, never a sprained ankle. He hasn't had any medical difficulties more dangerous than a nose bleed since he was a toddler. In his sport, that is inconceivable. All of these are indicators that my genetic procedures should have produced in the parents. Clearly, it didn't have a chance to express in the first generation. But I believe that their offspring, much like the Perault brothers, are breeding true."

Johnson looked over the edge of the open file at Stamos, his fingers moving pages around to see the other information they had on the boy. "His father is in economic free fall. Hockey isn't a cheap sport, even at the youth level. Where is the mother in all of this?"

"Dead," Conrad said, hands clasped behind his back. "A sad statistic, but a truth nevertheless."

"Too bad," Stamos nodded, almost sagelike. "It would have been interesting if we could procure her as well. Perhaps start a breeding program."

"You sick twist," Johnson muttered.

"You will select a small group of agents," Conrad said, staring out the window as the cars on the highway began turning on their headlamps in the gathering darkness. "Three days, train them to control the… what are we calling them, Doctor?" Conrad said, turning partly to glance towards Stamos.

"Kampfhunden," Stamos replied, looking towards Johnson. "It means war hounds," he explained.

"Wasn't that some sort of techno-zombie soldier project?" Johnson asked, feeling his anger and disgust rising as one.

"We take talented athletes and soldiers who have suffered either traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord and brain stem injuries, apply my technology and genetic therapies to them and have them programed to fight and hunt. We arm them with ceramic plate armor under ballistic fabric and close range weapons. No firearms. At close range they will be devastating, they will feel no pain and argue no command given them."

"I thought the goal was capture, not killing," Johnson stated.

"Either way, we will gain the information and samples we need. Besides, bringing them back dead is so much easier."

"Doctor," Conrad warned. "Antagonizing Agent Johnson is not in your best interest. He is to be your protector while you are in the field, supervising the Hounds and the capture of this boy."

"Sir, I must protest," Johnsons said. "Surely there is a better way to do this than to bring Stamos back to the field. He's not exactly unknown to the area, especially to the local law enforcement."

"But, he's the only one that understands the tech of the Hounds enough to be able to fix problems should things go wrong out there."

"Plus, I believe we may have more than just this one boy as a potential acquisition," Stamos inserted, adjusting his glasses.

"We are not going after your son or the Carver boy," Johnson said, firmly. "That's not the mission."

"Oh, those two can wait. I will have to break them both before we can use them, anyways," the doctor replied, a sinister edge creeping into his voice. "No Herr Johnson, I mean others of similar type."

"Explain," Conrad commanded.

"Using a simple check of marriage records, tax returns, hospital birth and medical records, I have determined there is at least a 40% likelihood that there are other similar children born in Canterbury. There were many of my initial patients who later married one another and had offspring. Many of them had extreme difficulty in bearing young, but those that survived early childhood, well…" The old man tossed a file onto Conrad's desk, then leaned back grinning.

Conrad turned and looked at the file, leafing through the pages, his eyebrows going back and forth between pushing together in concentration to lifting in surprise. "How accurate do you feel these numbers are?"

"The Perault boys are children of two of my patients. As is Paul Carver. As is this hockey player, Kyle Dakoon. His father actually served as my assistant during the plague treatments. I had thought his rapid recovery from the plague an indicator that it didn't affect him as strongly. Perhaps his mother's genetic input raised the stakes, so to speak."

"So you believe this is a repeating pattern?"

"Doubling the genetics, it seems, magnifies the results." Johnson hated the smug look on the old man's mug. He hated more how Conrad stroked his chin, reading on.

"If your numbers are correct, then there may be as many as fifteen to twenty-five significantly enhanced children in that area. Is that what I'm reading into this?" Conrad asked.

"Put simply, yes. And there is a high likelihood that in finding one, we may find others."

An uncomfortable silence reigned in the office for several seconds.

"Sir, I advise caution. If what Stamos…"

"Doctor Stamos," the old man corrected, with emphasis.

"If what this data purports is true," Johnson continued, bristling under the Doctor's gleeful grin, "we don't know entirely what we'll be walking into up there. I would feel better about any operation if we had some serious on the ground intelligence. Track the boy's movements, perhaps locate a place we could move in on him without having to engage with the Hounds. Keep things quiet. Covert."

"Bah! Where is your sense of boldness, Agent Johnson? Where is that American sense of adventure?"

"It is tempered by an American sense of restraint and common sense," Johnson countered. "Look, we screwed up once already, underestimating the abilities of one half grown teenager and a child. You underestimated your own son and a kid who you didn't even know existed."

"We have those experiences as motivation," Stamos replied. "And we have technology that needs not only field testing, but we need to know what limits both our new weapons have as well as these mutations the children may have."

"And let me guess, you want to incorporate whatever we find there with your kampfhunden?"

"You see, Dr. Conrad," the old man said, magnanimously, gesturing Johnson's way. "Every once in a while, you can lead even the slow horse to water and expect him to drink."

Johnson suddenly wished he hadn't relinquished his sidearm at the door. Conrad held his hand up towards Johnson to stifle a return.

"Three days, and I want you on site. Make your intelligence about the boy quick. I want to attempt a capture by the coming weekend."

"Is that your final word on this, sir?" Johnson asked.

"It is what we have to do, Johnson. Our backs are to the wall on this one. We need a win here. Can I trust you for this?"

Johnson looked from Conrad to Stamos, his face a stony mask etched with a scowl. "You can count on me, sir."

"Stamos is not to be captured. If things go bad, you are to protect him and get him back here. If he attempts to escape…"

"Escape? My dear Dr. Conrad, you are letting me continue my work. Why would I ever want to escape?"

"If he attempts to escape, you have permission to use extreme measures to keep him under control." Johnson smiled tightly at Stamos at that, his knuckles tightening with the happy thoughts of putting the old man into unconsciousness, so it would be easier to move him back into a holding cell. Stamos kept his maddening smile through it all.

"But he is in charge of the capture operations. His knowledge of what we may be up against and what the Hounds are capable of will be key to the capture operations."

"Can I have three intelligence operatives sent to Canterbury in advance, while I train the handlers for the Hounds?" Johnson asked.

"I will arrange it. You'll have your advance information, and I expect a plan forwarded to me by Thursday. We're under the gun here, gentlemen. Not just on time for this operation, but for the entire project. I need you two to cease fire and work together."

"I will, of course, cooperate," Stamos agreed.

"Johnson?" Conrad asked, giving his top agent a long stare.

"We will make this happen, sir," Johnson replied tightly. "If you will excuse me, I have to pick the two handlers and then get them to work with the Doctor here on working with the Hounds."

"Good to be working with you, Herr Agent," Stamos said, extending his hand. Johnson looked at the withered paw and then gave an equally withering stare to Stamos before walking out of the room.

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